Archive for April, 2015

April 26, 2015

ID vs. evolution

by Neil Rickert

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).

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April 23, 2015

Today is open secular day

by Neil Rickert

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.

Teaching

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.

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April 14, 2015

Philosophy of mind is weird

by Neil Rickert

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.

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April 5, 2015

Three for Easter

by Neil Rickert

For Easter, I’ll comment on three blog posts that relate to religion (to Christianity).

Jason Shaw

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.

Jerry Coyne

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.

Michael Egnor

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.