Archive for September, 2006

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Ok… Ok I know it’s been a while since I posted.

Here is another instalment in my notes on Francis Schaeffer’s Book ‘He is there and He is not silent’For the previous instalment please go here.

Last time, we looked at what a philosophically adequate personal beginning looked like, today we are looking at the Moral Necessity.

I have to admit it I’m shrinking, a continual process of apoptosis is reducing my stature, cell by miserable cell is giving up the ghost and leaving me less likely to be allowed onto those really scary rollercoaster rides, currently I am ok, at a shade off of six foot tall but who knows how much longer I can nonchalantly walk past the height barrier?

Mans sense of finiteness demonstrates itself in our failing capacities and the sense of loss we feel when a friend or loved one dies.It is this characteristic of finiteness that shows us that Man alone in an impersonal world is not enough to give an adequate foundation for living.Within a conversation between two people there is an agreed shared meaning applied to the sounds that are made by each person. That meaning is our reference point, our dictionary .Schaeffer puts it like this’ as finite beings there is no reference point big enough and there are no morals by the same token. With an impersonal beginning we cannot talk about what is really right or wrong.’We need a reference point outside of ourselves, external and eternal for there to be any meaning.Assuming an impersonal beginning ‘Man’ has by chance become a being with aspirations, including a moral capacity  for which there is no ultimate fulfilment in the Universe as it is. 

  “Without love, what are we worth? Eighty-nine cents! Eighty-nine cents worth of chemicals walking around lonely…” (Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce, M*A*S*H 4077)*

 These Moral motions (as Schaeffer puts it) have no meaning, if all is ultimately reduced to down to the materialistic what does it matter what our morals are? 

 With the impersonal there is total Silence regarding Morals.

 The French philosopher Marquis de Sade adopted a materialistic determinism out of which this statement came: ‘What is, is right’.I am so glad that De Sade –who’s only reference point, was himself, has finally lost his reference point…being dead,  because his morals stink!The only morals open to a subscriber to a closed universe is moral relativism that’s the belief that behaviour and the value of Human beings have no absolute reference.Moral relativism is handcuffed to make no judgment upon anything because the judge making that judgment will one day cease to be –so what value that judgment?Sociological relativism the rule of the 51% is just as fleeting, what societies deem acceptable constantly changes as history demonstrates. Abortion was illegal and considered (quite rightly) a sin, now it’s considered a right.This is just skating the surface of moral relativism.Next time in this series we will look at Mans cruelty and God.

* Hat tip to Holopupenko

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Pope Benedict

Posted: September 18, 2006 in Theo/Philo

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I have come upon a great article in the NY Sun by Daniel Johnson,I recommend this as it shows great insight into why the Pope said what he did:

Johnson writes:’Like his great Polish predecessor, this “German shepherd” has the courage of his convictions. Thank God he does: Without convictions, our courage will surely fail us.’

Here is the link to the article please read it .

Hat tip to Shrinkwrapped

Ignorance is bliss

Posted: September 11, 2006 in Uncategorized

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Morpheus: “Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real?”Morpheus:” What if you were unable to wake from that dream, Neo? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?”

‘The Matrix’ presents the all encompassing illusion, so ubiquitous and convincing was this illusion that release from it was considered dangerous for people over a certain age.How do we know reality from a dream? This has been the daily diet of Philosophers down the ages.

In the Matrix they made the point that some are aware of reality but don’t want to live in it, preferring illusion. Consider Ciphers’ deal with Agent Smith:Cipher:” You know, I know that this steak doesn’t exist. I know when I put it in my mouth; the Matrix is telling my brain that it is a juicy and delicious. After nine years, do you know what I’ve realised? Ignorance is bliss.”It seem ’s to me that there is no basis in a purely materialistic world such as that afforded by Darwinian Evolution for everyday phenomena like that of rationality, purpose or a sense of wonder.Like Cipher this nonexistent foundation is ignored by the Darwinian faithful, ignorance is not only bliss, it is absolutely necessary.

J.B.S.Haldane expounds on the materialistic basis for rationality “If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain. I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true…and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms”

Where does purpose come from? How can purpose arise out of a purposeless random atomic blender such as our universe? Purpose is an illusion –it must be! If the most fundamental physical component (such as a quark) of our existence is purposeless then from a materialist perspective so must we.Richard Dawkins (defender of the Faith) says this:” All the great religions have a place for awe, for ecstatic transport at the wonder and beauty of creation. And it’s exactly this feeling of spine-shivering, breath-catching awe – almost worship- this flooding of the chest with ecstatic wonder that modern science can provide. And it does so beyond the wildest dreams of saints and mystics.” (Is Science a Religion? The Humanist 57, no.1)

The greater question isn’t how awe struck someone gets every time a new gene is discovered but what is the foundation for that experience. If all of reality is finally just a rearrangement of atoms and molecules then what is the basis for Dawkins ecstatic transport of Wonder? Surely even that is just an illusion?

From a materialists point of view maybe ignorance is bliss?

Fake Plastic Trees

Posted: September 6, 2006 in Uncategorized

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One of my favourite albums is ‘The Bends’ by Radiohead.

This is high praise, as I am a hardcore U2 fan closely followed by ‘The Waterboys’. So I love this album, ’The Bends’ and in particular the song ‘Fake Plastic Trees’, which has many associations for me.

And tonight I was reminded of it again. For tea tonight I headed towards Burger King, I’m not a fast food guy normally, but this evening convenience won out.

While sitting there chewing on an Ex-clucker in a roll I noticed in the corner a palm tree. Upon closer inspection I noticed that the trunk of the tree was originally in two parts now put together but not aligned properly so that part of the trunk made a flat ledge .It was a fake plastic tree. Fake fronds, fake trunk and fake soil.

All that would be needed was for a BK employee to try and water the palm.

Why have plastic trees in a restaurant? What does it say about BK? More importantly what does it say about how Customers are seen?

What attitude are customers supposed to have, that prompts plastic palms to be poorly constructed and dotted about a restaurant?What kind of customers enjoy the plastic palm ,what is the ground of the plastic plant industry,how does it make the world better ?Why is it there?Someone needs to find this stuff out!

I hazard a guess; is it gullibility, stupidity, appreciative of plastic, haters of chlorophyll, haters of Oxygen, lovers of polymers?

What advantage does a plastic tree have over the real deal, how much maintenance can a palm need… really? Even plastic palms gather dust.

Am I meant to be convinced its real, if that’s the case at least put it together so that no straight edges are shown.

Give me the real palm tree, its beauty and complexity, its changing appearance growing and dieing –good grief!

I have another association with Radioheads song ‘Fake plastic trees ‘in 2003 on January 16th I was working a night duty shift, and watching Nasa TV.

At the end of the shift I went to bed and awoke at about midday, I fired up my pc and checked out Nasa TV to see how the crew of the Columbia mission were doing, I logged on in real time just as telemetry disappeared .The crew of STS-107 was lost as the shuttle was torn apart at mach 18 upon re-entry.

Commander Willie McCool was part of that crew and each crew team was woken daily by ground control sending up music that had personal meaning for someone on the crew, for Willie it was Fake Plastic Trees (see here) .Watching the loss of telemetry that lunchtime was emotional as I had watched the crew during that week’s night duty it was the last thing anyone expected.

Whenever I hear ‘The bends’ I think of Willie and Rick, K.C, Ilan, Laurel, Mike and David and those they left behind.

Finally the song itself, made all the better by Thom York’s amazing voice, is a comment on the false, mass produced, uninspired ,ill fitting lives that we live with.

Here’s a sample:

She lives with a broken man
A cracked polystyrene man
Who just crumbles and burns.
He used to do surgery
For girls in the eighties
But gravity always wins.
And it wears him out, it wears him out
It wears him out, it wears him out.
She looks like the real thing
She tastes like the real thing
My fake plastic love.
But I cant help the feeling
I could blow through the ceiling
If I just turn and run
And it wears me out, it wears me out
It wears me out, it wears me out.

Nuff said!

The Chair

Posted: September 5, 2006 in Theo/Philo

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Imagine for a moment that only things which comprise of material exist, nothing else exists, only space time, matter and energy.

Imagine that every phenomenon that has ever been or is to be can be explained by a physical cause and effect, through the application of scientific method. There are no events that cannot have a physical origin, and so all is open to investigation.

Imagine knowing this information gives a unity to your life, everything can potentially, eventually be explained, including your existence and why you are like you are -every detail of your life has explanation potential, down to plank scale.

Imagine knowing that there are other people who are misguided, mistaken and in error all of there lives, 24/7, because they have not understood the truth of there reality, for them matter and energy are not the whole story, they believe in phenomena that defies explanation, they believe in the black box, they believe in explanations and causation which are above the natural, which are super-natural.

Imagine that these Black Box believers are not aware or do not accept that they are infected with a physical entity, that they are hardwired to believe as they do. So even there beliefs have a physical explanation. Its DNA, Its neurology, its molecular.

What would a society in this imaginary world be like?

At the risk of setting up to knock down a straw man, I will boldly go forward to explore unknown worlds like this imaginary one.

Every human being on Earth is made up of nothing but atoms and energy, this fact is common to all and unifies us. But in this imaginary world we see diversity, we see personality. The conveyor belt-based assembly-line factory production produces the same identical product time after time without exception, which is its purpose yet with other physical products like say… Us, we see differences-how do we explain this diversity-within our exclusively physical existence?

If personality is an illusion then it doesn’t exist, how do we explain our differences? If our differences are as a result of physical processes then our choices, our loves and hates are the result of necessity or dumb numb chance. Do we treat the results of our choices in this way? To do so would empty the prisons.

Other problems are yet to be explained, (the scientific method I’m sure will come to the rescue) -such as why in this imaginary world we make a distinction between Humans and other objects?

What, for example, is the reason for treating a chair differently from the way we would treat other people? Apart from the functional characteristics of a chair, which constrain our approach to it as an object, what is the basis for according Humans with so much more value than an object?

Surely our exclusively physical nature provides us with a reason for unity -this unifies people, but if there is only the physical then we are equally unified with all physical objects, if not then we must have a reason to make the distinction, a distinction which does not include the physical, our reality is we are made of atoms, the same atoms that may of once been apart of a chair, so what is the basis of our distinctiveness? but our imaginary world has only the physical?

There are many other problems yet to be explained, -become a scientist-the market demand won’t dry up yet.

If truth is an expression of an exclusively physical entity then  our truth is suspect,it is not  in any way objective,but subject to the tidal  forces that  selection and  random mutations produce.

We have been doing a lot of imagining, of course that’s impossible, we are physical, how can we imagine? How can one physical bit be about another physical bit? What is the physical explanation for numbers, for maths-where do numbers exist physically?

Again we have the problem of our origin, our experience is that nothing can not produce something, an infinite regress will not do -but I know… scientists are working on it

The Drifters

Posted: September 1, 2006 in Theo/Philo

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Some of the most dangerous traps are the ones that are known.The ache in the knee that is persistent and becomes something we ‘put up with’ and do nothing about, the background noise of life that isn’t heard. As a kid I lived near a railway line and never really heard the trains going by.

We select naturally and unconsciously what to focus on; otherwise we would get overloaded with information and choices.Unlike background noise or a familiar ache, the opinions and attitudes we take on are not without the option to question.Where there is no self criticism, that’s where we are in danger.G.K.Chesterton said “A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.” – Everlasting Man, 1925.

Francis Schaeffer has spoken about Christians being in the world (The dominant culture) and not letting the opinions of the world mould us. He likens this pressure as ‘being in the mud and trying not to get dirty’.To not realise how casually attitudes are picked up, and to remain passive against this osmosis is something Socrates commented on when he said’ An unexamined life is not worth living’.

Recently I was reading ‘The Screwtape Letters’ a book by C.S. Lewis’s, concerning the correspondence between a senior demon called Screwtape and a junior demon called Wormwood.Each demon has a patient that they influence in order to remove the possibility of the patient becoming a Christian, or to reduce the influence of Christ on a person’s inner and so outer life.Regarding church life for Wormwood’s patient, Screwtape writes:‘I have been writing hitherto on the assumption that the people in the next pew afford no rational ground for disappointment. Of course if they do-if the patient knows that the woman with the absurd hat is a fanatical bridge player or the man with the squeaky boots a miser and an extortioner-then your task is so much the easier. All you then have to do is to keep out of his mind the question ‘If I, being what I am, can consider that I am in some sense a Christian, why should the different voices of those people in the next pew prove that their religion is mere hypocrisy and convention?’ You may ask whether it is possible to keep such an obvious thought from occurring even to a human mind. It is, Wormwood, it is!’The truth of something is not dependant on how it is presented or experienced, yet we all act as if it is, what a mistake!