Archive for January, 2014

January 20, 2014

Biology and religion

by Neil Rickert

Is there a biological basis for religion?

There has been some speculation about this, following a recent report:

In this post I will express my opinion.  I want to be clear that what I write here is opinion.

First, some comments on the Science Daily report.  It says:

“Religious belief is a unique human attribute observed across different cultures in the world, even in those cultures which evolved independently, such as Mayans in Central America and aboriginals in Australia,” said Deshpande, who is also a researcher at Auburn’s Magnetic Resonance Imaging Research Center.

January 16, 2014

Eye view philosophy

by Neil Rickert

I recently made a blog comment where I mentioned “God’s eye view philosophy,” which I contrasted with “Organism’s eye view philosophy.”  Here, I want to expand on that comment.

Roughly speaking, the idea of a God’s eye view philosophy, is that we should attempt to look at the world as we might presume that a God might see it.  It is important to note that one need not be religious to hold a God’s eye view philosophy.  It suffices to think of a metaphorical all-seeing God.  There need be no commitment as to whether such a God is possible.  One could be an atheist, and still hold to a God’s eye view philosophy.

With an organism’s eye view, we instead try to look at the world as it might appear to a biological organism.  So what we call “a bird’s eye view” would be a particular case of that, where the organism is a bird.  We humans are, of course, biological organisms.  So, in some sense, it must be that we really are taking an organism’s eye view.

January 5, 2014

Liberal Christianity

by Neil Rickert

Here’s a good description of liberal Christianity, from James McGrath:

Liberal Christianity, in a nutshell, is simply one form of Christianity that has existed for as long as Christianity has. It recognizes that the Bible is a collection of works by human beings and not written by God, and that there is a need to be open to other sources of information besides Christian or Biblical ones. Liberal Christianity seeks to do honestly and consistently what all Christians do, even if they do not admit it, namely decide what we should believe and do, considering not only Biblical texts or church hierarchies, but also other sources including our own reason. While some Christians claim to be based on nothing but “the Word of God” and to not pick and choose, that claim is never, ever true in reality. And so, while there is a long history of conservatives trying to put liberals on the defensive for “picking and choosing,” liberals should courageously point out that conservatives do so without admitting it, and often without a clear rationale. To be a liberal Christian is to seek honesty, consistency, openness, and breadth. And contrary to what conservative critics sometimes claim, it is not necessary to cease being a Christian in the process.

For the full post, see:


January 3, 2014

The humanities

by Neil Rickert

There has been a lot of hand wringing, of late, over the apparent decline of the humanities.  So I read, with interest, an article on that topic by Alex Rosenberg:

Early in the article, Rosenberg diagnoses the problem, with:

For the problems of the humanities are self-inflicted wounds well recognized by their colleagues in other faculties.

I am inclined to agree.  I recommend reading Rosenberg’s article.  In this post, I’ll just add some of my own observations.

January 3, 2014

The problem with philosophy

by Neil Rickert

The problem with philosophy, is its excessive obsession with logic.  I was reminded of this when reading a blog post by Massimo Pigliucci:

Massimo is actually discussing the urge to study meta-ethics, as providing a logical foundation for ethics.  And he explains why he is resisting that urge.

That’s good.  I never had such an urge myself, perhaps because I don’t see logic the same way that philosophers do.  The idea of a logical foundation for ethics seems to me to be a hopeless non-starter.

January 2, 2014

On David Gelernter’s rant

by Neil Rickert

It came to my attention, this morning, that David Gelernter has a strange rant on “Commentary” (h/t Uncommon Descent):

Gelernter is a well known computer scientist at Yale.

I already knew that Gelernter was a critic of AI (Artificial Intelligence).  Since I also criticize AI, that was no reason for concern.  One might hope for a thoughtful discussion piece, but this turned out to be little more than a rant.

On science

Gelernter writes:

That science should face crises in the early 21st century is inevitable. Power corrupts, and science today is the Catholic Church around the start of the 16th century: used to having its own way and dealing with heretics by excommunication, not argument.