Archive for October, 2006

More God Delusion

Posted: October 30, 2006 in Intelligent Design, Theo/Philo

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Dawkins is a relatively easy target-I have to admit it –his foot and mouth are close associates. Bearing that in mind, this is my last post regarding Dawkins new book, unless more illusions/inconsistencies float to the surface of that oozing bubbling stream the blogosphere.

From ‘Wired’ magazine, Gary Wolf presents the article:” The Church of the Non-Believers”, here’s a quote:

‘The New Atheists will not let us off the hook simply because we are not doctrinaire believers. They condemn not just belief in God but respect for belief in God. Religion is not only wrong; it’s evil. Now that the battle has been joined, there’s no excuse for shirking.

Three writers have sounded this call to arms. They are Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett. A few months ago, I set out to talk with them. I wanted to find out what it would mean to enlist in the war against faith . . .’

Michael Ruse wrote to Dawkins and Dennett, a few months ago about the wisdom of labelling certain groups as evil:

“I think that you and Richard [Dawkins] are absolute disasters in the fight against intelligent design – we are losing this battle, not the least of which is the two new supreme court justices who are certainly going to vote to let it into classrooms – what we need is not knee-jerk atheism but serious grappling with the issues – neither of you are willing to study Christianity seriously and to engage with the ideas – it is just plain silly and grotesquely immoral to claim that Christianity is simply a force for evil, as Richard claims – more than this, we are in a fight, and we need to make allies in the fight, not simply alienate everyone of good will.”

I have been a Christian for 28 years, and like any other group of individuals none are perfect few pretend they are, most Christians, like non Christians, are keenly aware of there own failings. I have to say the overwhelming impression I get of Christianity is not of evil but of good. I have known many Christians who have helped people in crisis all over the world and continue to do so, providing infrastructure and support.

I confess I’m confused about Dawkins use of the term evil, I don’t think he defines what evil is –so maybe I’m not the only one who’s confused?

Gary Wolf quotes Dawkins: “How much do we regard children as being the property of their parents?” Dawkins asks. “It’s one thing to say people should be free to believe whatever they like, but should they be free to impose their beliefs on their children? Is there something to be said for society stepping in? What about bringing up children to believe manifest falsehoods?”

So belief and politics do mix, are related? Apparently so, after all, atheism is a positive belief based on positive evidence that God is on holiday permanently, otherwise we are talking agnosticism.
It also appears that the consequences of Atheism according to Dawkins et al are a loss of freedom, at least for those evil religious people. Yellow star anyone?

I wonder what would happen, in ‘Dawkinsonia’, if atheistic parents imposed their creed on there progeny? Would that be ok, after all, it’s not a ‘manifest falsehood’-or is it? Those dam meme’s if only I could get them to shut up!

He understands perfectly well that there are practical constraints on controlling the spread of bad memes. If the solution to the spread of wrong ideas and contagious superstitions is a totalitarian commissariat that would silence believers, then the cure is worse than the disease.
Didn’t Stalin try this sometime ago? Aren’t China, North Korea, and Cuba still trying it now? Dawkins needs to get in line behind these fellas.

You can’t have any sense of goal directedness if everything is just a machine.
My experience of machines is that they are wholly determined.
I have always thought that if a worldview cannot be lived out consistently then it is wrong, at least in part.
Dawkins new book is called the ‘God Delusion’.
How can anything be deluded if there is no agency? Understanding something requires agency -in order to be deluded we must think, thinking is an act of intent not determinism. I do not think that the existence of a God is such a ridiculous possibility that it should be excluded from thought. I do not understand why God seems so anathema to Dawkins.

Dawkins has said in several interviews:

“Assigning blame and responsibility is an aspect of the useful fiction of intentional agents that we construct in our brains as a means of short-cutting a truer analysis of what is going on in the world in which we have to live. My dangerous idea is that we shall eventually grow out of all this and even learn to laugh at it, just as we laugh at Basil Fawlty when he beats his car.”

I believe if we do have an example of species that cannot comprehend the concept of blame and responsibility. I believe that such a species can be found in the zoo. Perhaps if we do grow out of such concept we might belong there as well.

Finally, Thomas Nagel in a critic of Dawkins writes:

‘All explanations come to an end somewhere. The real opposition between Dawkins’s physicalist naturalism and the God hypothesis is a disagreement over whether this end point is physical, extensional, and purposeless, or mental, intentional, and purposive. On either view, the ultimate explanation is not itself explained. The God hypothesis does not explain the existence of God, and naturalistic physicalism does not explain the laws of physics.’

It really does all boil down to Faith.

Human Shields and Hezbollah.

Posted: October 27, 2006 in Uncategorized

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Below is a release from Christian Solidarity  international-this organisation has its stated aim as:

CSI’s primary objective is worldwide respect for the God-given right of every human being to choose his or her faith and to practise it, as stipulated in Art. 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Here is the release-this report bucks a general trend which tends to vilify Israel while ignoring other offences such as the use of Human shields.
WASHINGTON, August 1, 2006: Hezbollah is using Christian villages to shield its military operations against Israel. Southern Lebanese Christian villages, such as Ain Ebel, Rmeish, Alma Alshaab, and others are being used by Hezbollah terrorists for launching missile attacks.

“Hezbollah is repeating the same pattern that it practiced against Israel in 1996,” says former South Lebanese Army commander, Col. Charbel Barkat. “Hezbollah is hiding among civilian populations and launching attacks behind human shields.”

A Christian from the village of Ain Ebel, who is nameless because he fears retribution by Hezbollah, discovered Hezbollah guerillas were setting up a launcher to fire Katyusha rockets from the rooftop of his home. Ignoring his pleas to stop, they fired the missiles. He immediately gathered his family and fled home, which indeed was bombed and destroyed 15 minutes later by an Israeli air strike.

In addition to having their homes commandeered for launching Hezbollah’s attacks, there have been attempts to obstruct Christians from fleeing their villages.

On Saturday, July 28, Hezbollah fighters fired upon several Christians fleeing Rmeish with their families, wounding two according to Christian sources in south Lebanon. Hezbollah has been the ruling power in the south since Israel withdrew from Lebanon six years ago. Christian villages suffer from extensive neglect of infrastructure under Hezbollah rule. Even though Christians pay the taxes for basic government services, such as road repair and other utilities, these services are rarely provided. On the other hand, Shiite villages supportive of Hezbollah do not pay taxes and benefit from infrastructure development and new residential and business construction. Once the majority, the Christian population in Lebanon since the civil war has declined to under 40% due to pressures by Islamic militias supported by Iran and Syria.

“Hezbollah is the issue,” warns Rev. Dr. Keith Roderick, Washington Representative of Christian Solidarity International and secretary general of the Coalition for the Defense of Human Rights. “A misrepresentation of the position of most Lebanese Christians is underway.” Roderick recently traveled to Lebanon to meet with the leaders of the Cedar Revolution and Lebanese activists.

Sami El-Khoury, president of the World Maronite Union, says that reports on Christian support for Hezbollah are misleading. “Contrary to Western press reports, indicating high percentages of Christian support for Hezbollah, 90% of Christians, 80% of Sunni and 40% of Shiites in Lebanon oppose Hezbollah,” says El-Khoury.

Christian Solidarity International (CSI) laments the destruction and violence inflicted upon the Lebanese country and acknowledges that the international community must play a role in Lebanon’s restoration. It also recognizes that if Hezbollah is not disarmed, the future of Lebanese Christians and all pro-democracy supporters will be bleak. “The Lebanese government should focus their rage against Hezbollah, not Israel,” notes Tom Harb, secretary general for the International Committee for UN Security Council Resolution 1559 (UNSCR 1559).

CSI calls for the U.N. to establish a politically independent commission to investigate Hezbollah’s violations of the Geneva Convention’s provision for the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol 1). This protocol prohibits the use of civilians as military shields. CSI also calls on the U.N. Security Council to deploy without further delay an international force in southern Lebanon and eastern Lebanon to facilitate a cease fire between Israel and Hezbollah, stop the flow of arms from Syria to Hezbollah, and assist the Lebanese government in fulfilling its obligation to disarm Hezbollah in accordance with UNSCR 1559.

‘The God delusion’ Book review

Posted: October 24, 2006 in Theo/Philo

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Richard Dawkins distinguishes himself with his latest Book release, and now has to live with the consequences.

Here is a a great review by Terry Eagelton, exposing the absurd simplistic nature of Dawkins approach towards Christianity. ‘The God Delusion’  seems full of caricature’s and propaganda -designed not to enlighten but to foster uninformed bias, a study In the argument not from logic but incredulity.

Here’s a snippet:

‘Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology. Card-carrying rationalists like Dawkins, who is the nearest thing to a professional atheist we have had since Bertrand Russell, are in one sense the least well-equipped to understand what they castigate, since they don’t believe there is anything there to be understood, or at least anything worth understanding. This is why they invariably come up with vulgar caricatures of religious faith that would make a first-year theology student wince. The more they detest religion, the more ill-informed their criticisms of it tend to be. If they were asked to pass judgment on phenomenology or the geopolitics of South Asia, they would no doubt bone up on the question as assiduously as they could. When it comes to theology, however, any shoddy old travesty will pass muster. These days, theology is the queen of the sciences in a rather less august sense of the word than in its medieval heyday.’

Dawkinsbot

Posted: October 21, 2006 in Intelligent Design, Theo/Philo

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Uncommon descent has a post regarding a radio debate between Richard Dawkins (professional atheist) and David Quinn (Catholic commentator and journalist).Check out the interview, here.This is a cracking interview; David Quinn doesn’t let Dawkins off of the hook and exposes his ideas as robust as a house of cards built using a flimsy, creased, second hand pack, placed on a plateau with gusting winds.One of the parting comments Richard Dawkins made was “I’m just not interested in free will; it’s not a big question for me.” This was a comment made in response to David Quinn’s understanding of naturalism that of determinism. Either environmental or more importantly for the ‘selfish gene’, chemical determinants are a consequence of Naturalistic evolution.I’m afraid Richard needs to know that this question is vital and needs to be dealt with, to ignore it, is tantamount to something Dawkins is fond of pointing out in others, namely Delusion! The problem of free will within a mechanistic worldview such as that expounded by Dawkins. 

Thomas Aquinas –Summa Contra Gentiles 1.13: ‘In an ordered series of movers and things moved, it is necessarily the fact that , when the first mover is removed or ceases to move, no other mover will move (another) or be (itself) moved.For the first mover is the cause of motion for all the others’ Aquinas is expounding the idea of agency –that ‘Man’ has causal powers –his decisions and actions are not determined by prior events or different states within the agent. 

In an exclusively naturalistic worldview there is no such thing as agency, this the evolutionists know full well. Daniel Dennett described his ‘Intentional stance’ as:‘A strategy for understanding an entity’s behaviour. When adopting the intentional stance towards an entity, we attempt to explain and predict its behaviour by treating it as if it were a rational agent whose actions are governed by its beliefs and desires.’ This stance is convenient as it allows those who consider the appearance of agency to be nothing more than an illusion, to treat it as if it were real.-however the naturalistic worldview  is not  consistent with reality-so naturalists are forced to invent terms that allow them to treat the world differently from how there beliefs would dictate.

 There is an experiential inconsistency a sure sign that the worldview is faulty and doesn’t fit with the real world. Yet again what we see another illusion within the cannon of naturalism, like the apparent illusion of design.No Agency means No understanding –to understand something involves beliefs and intent.No agency means no morals and no lawNo agency means no one is deluded-to be deluded or deceived we need intent. Where does that leave the title of Dawkins book ‘The God delusion’?

Angus Menuge in his book ‘Agents Under fire’ says:‘..Bas van Fraassen calls the ‘contrastive nature of explanations. Van Fraassen points out that explanations are intended to be informative. When we offer an explanation of the fact that x is F, we convey information because we explain why x is F rather than G, where G is something x might have been. For example, it is worth explaining why water is in solid form, because it might have been liquid. Explanations gain part of their point from the fact that the explanandum  is not a given. Water does not simply have to be frozen—if it did, we would be much less interested in an explanation of why it was….If everything only appears to be designed (as Dawkins contends) then by default a contrast class of actually designed items does not exist; thus , it becomes, at best, much less interesting to explain that something looks designed.But the problem is really more acute than this. If nothing is actually designed, then design is an illegitimate concept.

It then becomes a serious problem how the “intentional stance” , which attributes goals and designs to an agent, can be so successful In interpreting and explaining the scientists own behaviour in constructing theories and in designing experiments.’

Which are you?

Posted: October 18, 2006 in Theo/Philo

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In a consumer society there are inevitably two kinds of

slaves:the prisoners of addiction and the prisoners of envy.

Ivan Illich, Tools for Conviviality (1973)

The Miracles of Darwinism

 

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Marcel-Paul Schutzenberger, a French mathematician was interviewed shortly before his death in 1996 by La Recherche.

In this interview he states:

‘Organisms present themselves to us as a complex ensemble of functional interrelationships. If one is going to explain their evolution, one must at the same time explain their functionality and their complexity.’

Darwinian evolution can be briefly expressed as:

Random mutation + Natural selection + time = observed complexity.

Observed complexity includes: structure, function, homeostasis, developmental cascades, interrelationships of parts, in higher organisms, a suite of neural responses to stimuli, learning, immunity, and reproduction (sexual/asexual) mechanisms of sustaining informational fidelity, to name but a small few factors making up observed complexity.

Schutzenberger though not a biologist, felt the discipline of mathematics had something to offer the debate; this stance was encouraged by Biologist.

His branch of study was Combinatorics. I’ve never heard of it before –apparently it is the study of collections of elements and how they combined –they’re permutations, and the mathematical relations that characterize their properties. Clear? Good.

Schtzenberger further says:

‘We do not have at our disposal physical or chemical rules permitting us to construct a mapping from typographical mutations or modification to biologically effective structures…what is significant is the combination of their interacting. These cascading interactions, with their feedback loops, express an organization whose complexity we do not know how to analyse….Dawkins model (of cumulative selection) lays entirely to the side the triple problems of complexity, functionality and their interaction.’

Schutzenberger is asked to formalise a concept of functional complexity this for me is the most interesting quote, he says:

‘I would appeal to a notion banned by the scientific community, but one understood perfectly by every one else -that of a goal. As a computer scientist, I could express this in the following way. One constructs a space within which one of the coordinates serves in effect as the thread of Ariadne, guiding the trajectory towards a goal. Once the space is constructed, the system evolves in a mechanical way toward its goal.’

This final quote reminds me of the goal directed implication in Mike Gene’s front-loading idea.

A tantalising paper (I haven’t read) only seen a abstract of, is:

Ausio, J. 2000. Are linker histones (histone H1) dispensible for survival? BioEssays 22: 873-877.

Mike Gene puts it like this:

‘In this paper, Ausio covers a lot of evidence whereby histone H1, which functions to link nucleosomes and thus more efficiently package DNA in eukaryotes, is not essential for survival and reproduction in filamentous fungi. If we eliminate H1 function in Ascolobus and Aspergillus, the cells are perfectly viable with no deleterious consequence on the sexual reproduction cycle. The same results were previously seen in the protozoan Tetrahymena. However, in the fungi mentioned, elimination of H1 does result in the cessation of growth within a week or two. In other words, elimination of H1 does not affect viability or reproduction, but only the life-span of the individual organism (however, with Aspergillus, elimination of H1 does not even effect the life span of the organism and has no apparent effect).’

Front loading is goal directed and as such is a teleological theory still to be flesh out. Clearly not everything was front-loaded. Yet frontloading as a concept is goal directed.

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In this month’s ‘Scientific American’ Magazine, there is an article by professional sceptic Michael Shermer subtitled ‘Why Christians and conservatives should accept evolution’.It seems strange that Shermer should put Christians and conservatives together as if every Conservative is a Christian and every Christian a conservative-if only people would fit into our neat little boxes –life would be so much simpler.

Using stereotypes within the context of a debate is one way to cloud the issue and avoid the facts,leading over time to entrenchment and no way forward. Why would anyone want to avoid the facts? Progress is not served.

Shermer writes:

The watchmaker God of intelligent-design creationism is delimited to being a garage tinkerer piecing together life out of available parts This God is just a genetic engineer slightly more advanced than we are’.

I cannot find any reason why he would write this, I have been a Christian for over 20 years and I have never come upon anyone who thinks God made us from available parts like a kind of scrapheap challenge for the Divine.God is the author of all that exists –with the exception of nothing.

Where is God delimited within the precepts of either intelligent design or creationism?Intelligent design states one thing only –that design can be detected as a cause like chance and contingency. Detecting design as a cause says nothing and can say nothing about the designer .

The limited definition of ID makes it appealing to those of various faiths and those with none. Although the majority of adherents to ID have a faith.To say adherents have a faith is risking  stereotyping.

Creationism however, generally holds to the literal truth of the Biblical account of our origins –again nowhere in the Bible is God described as borrowing or not borrowing from other parts.Shermer perhaps is thinking about homology and morphological similarities between species.One other observation from Shermer is his use of the term ‘intelligent –design Creationism’, it seems he’s confused or he’s constrained by stereotypes .Its a common tactic to see the detection of design in nature as creationism. Not all proponents of ID support creationism.

Terms can be used in a political, psychological and sociological manner, in the same way as many tabloid newspaper headlines, provide propaganda for the ruling philosophical ideology.Stereotypes demonise opponents, associate one group with another.The primary source for Creationists is the Bible, science is a subservient secondary source (subservience does not imply contradiction) –therefore opponents of ID theory, characterise Id theorists as not interested in science either. ID is not science or has no rational component. Guilty by association.

However ID limits itself to methodical naturalism,where as creationism has no obligation to do so. When these tactics of propaganda are used it shows how unsophisticated the argument is.

Stephen Meyer writing in the telegraph said

…ID is not based on religion, but on scientific discoveries and our experience of cause and effect, the basis of all scientific reasoning about the past. Unlike creationism, ID is an inference from biological data.Even so, ID may provide support for theistic belief. But that is not grounds for dismissing it. Those who do, confuse the evidence for the theory with its possible implications. Many astrophysicists initially rejected the Big Bang theory because it seemed to point the need for a transcendent cause of the matter, space and time. But science eventually accepted it because the evidence strongly supports it.’