May 2, 2015
In an earlier post (almost three years ago), I asserted that I am not a materialist. I have had people argue with me about that, and suggest that I was being disingenuous.
In the debates between Rupert Sheldrake and Michael Shermer, Shedrake’s opening statement includes a bunch of questions related to materialism, that he poses to Shermer. So I thought I would give my answers to those questions. And then you can decide for yourself whether I should be considered a materialist.
Sheldrake’s first question: Is nature mechanical?
I have never thought so. I take biological organisms to be an important part of what we mean by “nature”, and biology has always seemed very different from mechanics. Rocks, earthquakes, etc — yes, I consider those to be mechanical. But not living things.
May 1, 2015
“Through the months of May, June, and July of 2015, TheBestSchools.org is hosting an intensive dialogue on the nature of science between Rupert Sheldrake and Michael Shermer.”
That’s quoted from “Sheldrake-Shermer, Materialism in Science, Opening Statements“. I found it an interesting read. I plan to keep my eye on this debate over the next few months. Perhaps I’ll post something based on what I read.
April 26, 2015
In a recent post at his blog, Jason Rosenhouse wrote “Truly, ID is dead.” In response, Vincent Torley (vjtorley), at Uncommon Descent, has posted “Is Intelligent Design dead?“.
Rosenhouse was mainly commenting on his observation that the UD blog has deteriorated to the point where it is posting some rather silly arguments. In his response, Torley doesn’t actually say much about that. Instead, he gives some of the tired old arguments that evolution is impossible (never mind the evidence for evolution).
April 23, 2015
It’s still Wednesday in Chicago. But blog time is UTC, so for the blog it is Thursday April 23, which is Open Secular Day.
People who have been following this blog will already know that I am not religious. I have never tried to hide that. Here, I’ll describe what it means to me.
As an educator, I have endeavored to keep religion out of the classroom. (My teaching was at university level in mathematics and computer science). I don’t think most of my students would have had any inkling as to my religious view. Perhaps, for my last few years of teaching, some might have seen my blog and worked it out from there. But I have never mentioned this blog in class either. For that matter, I have also kept my political views out of the classroom.
April 14, 2015
More correctly, philosophy of mind seems weird to me. Perhaps that’s because I think more like a scientist than like a philosopher.
I have been reading “Intentionality and Myths of the Given: Between Pragmatism and Phenomenology” by Carl Sachs. In the first few chapters, the author reviews the positions taken by a number of philosophers, and I am already seeing weirdness.
Take this quote:
Perceptual experience is passive as opposed to active, in McDowell’s vocabulary, because he follows Kant in thinking of `activity’ in terms of freedom. I can freely endorse or withhold assent from judgements, but I cannot freely endorse or withhold assent from perceptual episodes — if what I see is a salt-shaker on the table, then I cannot not see that there is a salt-shaker on the table. My concepts of `salt-shaker’ and `table’ are passively actualized in the shaping of sensory consciousness as it relates to the objects experienced. (Kindle location 3164)
And that seems weird.
April 5, 2015
For Easter, I’ll comment on three blog posts that relate to religion (to Christianity).
I’ll start with the easy one. Jason Shaw suggests that peer pressure is behind both smoking and religion. There may be some truth to that. I’m reasonably resistant to peer pressure, which is probably why I never did take up smoking and why I found it not too hard to drop religion. It was parental pressure that got me started in religion, and that’s a bit harder to resist.
I disagree with Jerry Coyne. I don’t go as far in criticizing religion. He objects National Geographic having an article on Francis Collins and religion. I don’t see the objection. National Geographic has a tradition of articles on cultural anthropology, so why not one on that of western Christians.
Coyne also criticizes Collins for defending religion as compatible with science. I’ve never seen the point in that argument. For sure, science is compatible with some forms of religion, such as that involved in YEC creationism. But I don’t see that as an essential incompatibility. Many scientists find a way of maintaining their Christianity without compromising their science.
This is where I disagree the most. Egnor disagrees with Coyne, but for different reasons. According to Egnor, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” is a fundamental question about ultimate purpose.
Perhaps Egnor is right, that Coyne misunderstood the question to be mechanical rather than teleological. But I see the question as foolish and pointless. There is no useful answer that we could ever give to that question. Any answer that is suggested will be one made up by humans to satisfy their own psychological needs.
March 20, 2015
I had to laugh at this:
While most Bill Nye-fans — myself included — enjoyed his wacky experiments and corny jokes, few if any realized there was another side to Bill, one that he didn’t start unveiling until just the past few years: Nye advocates a hardline, intolerant, and divisive atheistic worldview view that stands diametrically opposed to the values shared by most Americans.
That’s from Casey Luskin at Real Science vs. Bill Nye the “Science” Guy.
I guess Casey doesn’t like it, that Bill Nye is honest and describes science as it is, even when that science is incompatible with the wacky ideas of creationists and ID proponents.
March 19, 2015
In a recent post at his
blog site, Jerry Coyne writes:
Based on statements of some compatibilists, I realized that one reason philosophers spend so much time trying to define forms of free will compatible with determinism is because they see bad consequences of rejecting all free will.
Obviously, Jerry is a mindless mechanical moron, meaninglessly mimicking a memorized message.
Well, actually, I don’t believe that about Jerry. Rather, I take it that Jerry has free will, in spite of his repeated insistence to the contrary.
I’m quite puzzled about what Jerry Coyne means by “free will”. I take it to mean only that we are not mindless morons, that we do participate in making decisions. I doubt that Jerry thinks he is a mindless moron, yet he seems to insist that he has no free will and that his decision making is illusory.
Jerry starts his post with:
I’ve long been puzzled by the many writings of “compatibilists”: those philosophers and laypeople who accept physical determinism of our choices and behaviors, but still maintain that we have a kind of “free will.”
I consider myself a compatibilist, but I do not accept physical determinism. The evidence seems to be against it. If there were physical determinism, then, as I see it, we would all be mindless mechanical morons. Yet we don’t seem to be that, so I doubt physical determinism. Continue reading
March 18, 2015
At the ID blog Uncommon Descent, there have been several recent posts that attempt show that the 2nd law of thermodynamics (or 2LOT) poses a serious problem for proponents of biological evolution.
ID (intelligent design) proponents claim that theirs is a scientific program. Yet they undermine that claim of science when they demonstrate their misunderstanding of 2LOT. It is well known among physicists that 2LOT does not pose any problems for the existence or evolution of biological life.
It is, of course, well understood that random motion of molecules is not life. Living things are not random. They extract energy from elsewhere (food, sunlight, etc) and use that energy to maintain their organization. 2LOT allows this. But this is what the ID proponents are arguing against.
Granville Sewell, in his post, shows photographs of Moore, OK before and after the tornado that destroyed the town.
It is certainly true that we observe that designed things decay over time. Sometime the decay is catastrophic, as with a tornado. Sometimes it is more gradual, as with the erosion damage to Mt. Rushmore.
We see this with all designed things, from your automobile to your computer, from your hand knit sweater to your house. There are no known exceptions. Using induction or abduction (the preferred “scientific” methodology of the ID proponents, we can reasonably conclude that all designed things decay over time.
This ought to pose an enormous problem for the proponents of intelligent design.
March 10, 2015
Here is my paraphrase of the letter from 47 Republican senators, including the parts that were unwritten but implied:
We understand that you are ignorant and stupid people who do not understand how the US government works. So we are going to explain it to you.
The reason we don’t want you to reach an agreement with our government, is that we want an excuse to be able to go to war against you.
Apart from being borderline treason, this was a stupid thing for Republicans to do.
Link for relevant news report: Republicans Warn Iran — and Obama — That Deal Won’t Last