Archive for February, 2014

February 26, 2014

Coming out of the woodworks

by Neil Rickert

The title refers to creationists.

Checking the comment moderation queue today, I found a message waiting for approval.  It was a comment on an older post about Newton.  The comment seemed off topic.  But, to be fair, there was another comment rating Darwin as more important than Newton.  So I suppose the creationist comment was a reaction to that.

I thought it was worth a laugh.  But, I wouldn’t want to have all the fun myself, so I decided to share that comment.  So here it is:

DARWIN WAS A DAMNED FOOL! HE HAD FAIR ABILITIES AS A NATURAL SCIENTIST IN OBSERVING AND NOTING DETAILS CONCERNING PLANT AND ANIMAL LIFE FORMS. HIS DEVELOPMENT OF THE THEORY OF NATURAL SELECTION, AKA EVOLUTION, WAS A TOTALLY MISGUIDED JUDGEMENT OF HIS DATA. DARWIN TO THIS DAY IS THE GREAT PROPONENT OF “BOGUS SCIENCE”, BS FOR SHORT. DARWIN DOES NOT EVEN BELONG ON THE LIST OF THE TEN THOUSAND GREATEST SCIENTISTS WHO EVER LIVED. HIS FOOLISH CONJECTURES HAVE HELD TRUE SCIENCE BACK EVER SINCE HE FIRST PRESUMED TO PUBLISH HIS ABSURD NONSENSE. – XXXX XXXXXXX / 6443

I “X”ed out the name, though you can find it at the actual comment.

So there we have it.  All capitals, and pretty much fact free.

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February 23, 2014

On David Snoke on Nagel’s book

by Neil Rickert

Physicist David Snoke has written a review of Thomas Nagel’s book “Mind and Cosmos” (h/t Uncommon Descent):

In this post, I shall discuss Snoke’s review.  I suppose that makes it a review of a review.

I have previously discussed Nagel’s book on this blog — you can find those posts with a search on the main blog page.  I clearly disagreed with a lot of what Nagel wrote in his book.  By contrast, Snoke seems to like the book.

While I disagree with Snoke about the book, I do think Snoke’s review is well worth reading.  Nagel’s book is not to everyone’s taste, and some might find it a hard read.  Snoke, in his review, gives a synopsis of what he sees are some of the important parts of the book.  So I’ll recommend that you read the Snoke review, particularly if you want to get an overview of what Nagel was arguing.

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February 19, 2014

On Jerry Coyne on free will

by Neil Rickert

Jerry Coyne has yet another post on the topic of free will, which he thinks we do not have.

There are some points in that post that warrant a reply, so this will be my response.

Am I banned?

Normally, I would respond by posting a comment at Coyne’s site.  However, my last few attempts to comment there have failed.  It sure looks as if Coyne has banned me from commenting, though I have no idea why.  Yes, I have disagreed with Coyne in the past, but I have never been belligerent or excessively argumentative in that disagreement.  It is Coyne’s site, so within his rights to ban me.  But it seems surprising.

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February 16, 2014

Individuals and categories

by Neil Rickert

If I say “there’s a stray dog in our garden,” you will understand “dog” as referring to some member of the dog category, rather than to a particular dog.  Of course, it is referring to the particular dog that is in the garden, but it is only its being in the garden that makes it particular.  We might say that it is a reference to a member of the category of dogs in the garden.

At another time, I might say something that seems to single out a very specific entity, so I might seem to be talking about a particular individual.

In this post, I want to argue that most ordinary language use is really about categories rather than about individuals.  And, moreover, when it seems to be about an individual, it is really about a very small category.

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February 15, 2014

From nihilism to knowledge

by Neil Rickert

I’ve been planning to post this for a while.  However, I have been struggling with exactly how to present it.  So I guess I should just blurt it out, and not worry.  The reason for my hesitation, is that I know it will be misunderstood by some readers.

This is related to earlier posts on convention and posts on categorization.

I shall be quoting two short segments from Genesis 1.  There is no religious reason for this, and I will be giving a non-standard reading of what I quote.  My reason for quoting is that the quoted text will be familiar to many.  And it happens to fit with the topic.

Epistemic nihilism

There’s a kind of epistemic nihilism, in which a person’s head is full of facts but he does not believe any of them.  This sometimes explored as a way of investigating the extremes of skepticism.

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February 4, 2014

On vjtorley on ID, religion, metaphysics

by Neil Rickert

Vincent Torley, who posts under the handle “vjtorley” at Uncommon Descent, has a longish post on Intelligent Design and related topics:

I encourage you to read the full post by vjtorley.  Here, I want to give my reaction to only some of the issues that he raises.  I’ll note that his post grows out of an online discussion with theologian James McGrath, and is a followup to an earlier thread about that discussion.

Torley says, of McGrath:

As far as I can tell, Dr. McGrath doesn’t necessarily think God created the laws of Nature; nor does he believe in miracles. As might be expected, he doesn’t believe in the Divinity of Christ.

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