Archive for November, 2006

Be Afraid!

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

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Time and again the media prove the same point -that propaganda is the news of the victor. The news of the dominant worldview.Noam Chomsky wrote a book entitled ‘The spectacular achievements of propaganda’ where he outlines how opinion control and manipulation are achieved through the mass media He states: ” propaganda is to democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state”.

Further to this means of manipulation is what Walter Lippman calls ‘the bewildered herd’ a notion that is represented by the majority of society, who are spectators rather than active participants -who need diverting, entertaining in order to make sure that a stampede is avoided.Using fear tactics seems to be fashionable; fear of terrorism, fear of WMD’s.fear of theocracy, fear of recession, fear of taxes and fear of death.

Francis Schaeffer talks about an idea not unrelated to ‘the bewildered herd’ notion, he comments on the use of fear, particularly fear of loss as a mean of anesthetizing people. He says people have a desperate desire to attain and maintain personal peace and affluence, so desperate are we for this that we will put up with anything, absolutely anything so long as our personal peace and affluence is not compromised. We are the bewildered herd garrisoned by threats of war and disease, economic crashes, nuclear terrorism, religious fundamentalism, etc.This general desire to maintain our personal peace and affluence means we are interested in opposing anything that threatens to rock the boat and destroy the current status quo.With this in mind I have been looking at the recent flurry of articles regarding the UK and ID.

This sudden interest by the media in ID is prompted by a group called ‘Truth in Science’ who sent out information packs to teachers in the UK , overwhelmingly the response from teachers to this material (according to the TiS website) is positive, 63% of all recipients valued it, while 19% were negative, 18% other.The most obvious and least sophisticated argument is to associate one community with in this case a scientifically less rigorous community such as Creationism.ID is in one respect related to the idea of Creation in that design implemented is creation, but that is just semantics .

The tenants of creationist are more numerous and take not scientific data but Biblical interpretation as the final arbiter of truth. There’s much to say about the limits of science and the limits of Biblical interpretation. My personal stance is with Francis Schaeffer on this -see his small book ‘No final Conflict’.ID and creationism is constantly being confused and deliberately so, this does not serve to further the debate.For instance from the BBC report: ‘The chairman of the parliamentary science and technology committee, Phil Willis, said using the packs in science classes “elevated creationism” to the same level of debate as Darwinism and that there was no justification for that. ‘

Next from the same report is an accusation from the British Humanist Association:“Young people are poorly served by deliberate attempts to withhold, distort or misrepresent scientific knowledge and understanding in order to promote particular religious beliefs.” In both cases outlined above there is either a deliberate or unintentional attempt at misinformation or equating Creationism with ID.If the only sources you go to are ones which support your own view then you begin to report bias as fact, visiting anti ID sites will possibly lead some to concede that ID and Creationism are one and the same.If that is the case , why then do we see Creationist distancing themselves from ID? (See ‘design is not enough!’ from Dr Henry Morris)Robert Wright writing in Time magazine said:

“Critics of ID, which has been billed in the press as new and sophisticated, say it’s just creationism in disguise. If so it’s a good disguise. Creationists believe that God made current life-forms from scratch. The ID movement takes no position on how life got here, and many adherents believe in evolution. Some even grant a role to the evolutionary engine posited by
Darwin: natural selection. They just deny that natural selection alone could have driven life all the way from pond scum to us.”

My experience of ID does not include misrepresentations or withholding of information;  although the majority of those prescribing to ID are Christians, there are many others of different beliefs and some of none, that prescribe to  design  as a far more credible explanation of why we see the complexity in the form and function that is becoming increasingly so obvious.

Caricaturing the ID movement as closet rightwing Christian fundies with a hidden agenda of take over and slap down to the wayward, is easy to do and an effective way of avoiding the basic issue which is, simply does Naturalism fully describe the complexity we see?The alternative Naturalistic Neo Darwinian explanation that dumb blind luck produced the level of complexity we now see is, for me, unable to pull the rabbit out of the hat.

Hiss

Posted: November 27, 2006 in Theo/Philo

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Because there is no meaning or purpose to be found within Atheistic/Naturalistic worldviews, that does not mean Atheists/Naturalists cannot lead meaningful and purposeful lives, does it?

They are allowed to be inconsistent aren’t they? Or is it that there is the temptation to consider the particulars and avoid the implications?

 The great thing about reductionism for example is its disdain for the bigger picture, and its disdain perhaps for any implications?

“As far as consistency of thought goes, I prefer inconsistency.”  Said composer John Cage, who can blame him, when the implications of a worldview lead to loss.

Specifically the loss of the personal, of form and function and most importantly the loss of intent.

Francis Schaeffer in his book ‘The Church at he end of the 20th Century’, has this quote which follows on from the previous post:

John Cage and hissing oneself:

‘The Irony of such a situation is played up by an event that happened to John Cage, the modern composer who writes music from a theory of chance, random selection. Leonard Bernstein once offered him the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. After Cage directed some of his own chance music, he started to take his bows and he thought he heard steam escaping from the steam pipes. Then he realised that the musicians were hissing. As John Cage explains it, it must have been a traumatic experience. But I have often thought about what I would like to have said to the musicians there that night. I am sure that if one had had an hour with those musicians, one would have found that most of them really believed philosophically exactly what John Cage believes-that the universe begins with the impersonal plus time plus chance. Why were they hissing, then? They were hissing because they did not like the results of their own position when they heard it in the medium to which they were sensitive. They were hissing themselves.’

 

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Information is everywhere. ‘Man’ distinguishes himself from all other living creatures in the slug like trail of information that is left (to mix metaphors) in his wake.

No other creatures produce information like ‘Man’. Databases are filled; articles published, songs sung, pictures painted, plays produced, computer games coded for. Where once people laboured day and night in mills, collieries and factories to produced items of hardware now they labour 24/7 to produce information. The result of this industry is disseminated at the speed of light, courtesy of your local and not so local optical network.

All this information production is a curious characteristic of a society (the west-especially Europe) that is increasingly Materialist in outlook, considering the chief end of man to be consigned to a meaningless jumble of molecules.

Benjamin Wiker and Jonathan Wit have recently produced some more information in the shape of their book ‘A Meaningful World’, which I have only started reading, its shaping up to be great a read.

They say:

‘Can a scientist be a scientist if the universe is ultimately meaningless? Science itself, by its very activity, reveals at least one level of meaning in the universe: Intelligibility is found in the nature of things themselves, in the regular form and order of things accessible to scientific investigation, even in regard to our understanding of chance.’

Scientist are labouring at the information mill, they grind out theories based on repeatable results-the fact that an experiment is repeatable shows order in the universe.

Why should the universe be ordered? Or as Einstein mused why is the universe knowable?
Of all the states the universe could be in why should it be amenable to description through mathematics for instance? Why isn’t the universe a state of constant flux, where nothing is stable and no predictions are made, where events, cause and effect are unrelated and ultimately unexplainable?

To believe that the universe has no purpose and there is no reason for any activity whatsoever, which is the inescapable conclusion of Naturalism and yet to carry on regardless in some pursuit or other –must cause logical inconsistencies in the mind of the naturalist unless that is something you just live with -a supressed thought?Any worldview, which produces logical inconsistencies, is suspect.

Wiker and Wit quote Nobel Prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg, who seems aware of the inconsistencies of a purely naturalistic approach, he says:

‘It is almost irresistible for humans to believe that we have some special relationship to the universe, that human life is not just a more-or-less farcical outcome of a chain of accidents reaching back to the first three minutes (after the big bang), but that we were somehow built in from the beginning. As I write this I happen to be in an airplane at 30,000 feet, flying over Wyoming en route home from San Francisco to Boston. Below, the earth looks very soft and comfortable- fluffy clouds here and there, snow turning pink as the sun sets, roads stretching straight across the country from one town to another. It is very hard to realize that this all is just a tiny part of the overwhelmingly hostile universe. It is even harder to realize that this present universe has evolved from unspeakably unfamiliar condition, and faces a future extinction of endless cold or intolerable heat. The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.’

At another time he says:

‘But if there is no solace in the fruits of our research, there is at least some consolation in the research itself. Men and women are not content to comfort themselves with tales of gods and giants, or to confine their thoughts to the daily affairs of life; they also build telescopes and satellites and accelerators, and sit at their desks for endless hours working out the meaning of the data they gather. The effort to understand the universe is one of the very few things that lifts human life a little above the level of farce, and gives it some of the grace of tragedy.’

Wiker and Wit make an analogy with John Nash as portrayed in the film ‘A beautiful mind’ where Nash suffered with Schizophrenia –he believed he was intercepting and decoding secret messages during the cold war era sent from Soviet Russia.

We can compare the Labour Nash pours into decoding these messages and Naturalists like Weinberg trying to decode the mechanism of the universe.

From a naturalistic point of view both men are engaged in the same fruitless pursuit Nash because of his schizophrenia and Weinberg because –what else is there to do ? Why does Weinberg et al labour to research when the end of this activity is endless cold or intolerable heat?

This situation is as Weinberg says is sadly farcical.

Rewind back 2000 years to one of the most influential minds of any age Paul and see what he wrote to the Christians in Rome:

Romans chapter 1 verse 18 –20 & 25

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.

Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them (those without the Bible); for God has shown it to them.

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.

Verse 25:

Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the creator, who is blessed forever.’

This snippet of Paul’s letter shows that God reveals his creation to us through knowledge. Yet there are those how hold the truth in unrighteousness (in a wrong relationship with truth) or suppress the truth, instead preferring a lie that is not consistent with there own sense of significance. Numerous times the Bible  describes natures role as testimony to the fact that we are truly creatures who have been created, as an act of will, not accident –we are, because we are wanted
As a Christian I know History is headed in a certain direction, information is nature testimony to a God who is there..

Oh by the way “Happy Thanksgiving” to everyone stateside!

An Image in your head.

Posted: November 18, 2006 in Intelligent Design, Theo/Philo

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After reading Angus Menuge’s excellent book ‘Agents under fire’ plus a paper he produced available at http://www.iscid.org/papers/Menuge_DennettDenied_103103.pdf.

(I have started a thread over at ARN regarding Agency to see what thoughts others have)

My thoughts are regarding agency, which for me can be defined as goal directed behavior (either intelligent or otherwise) or the presence of intent.

  1. That agency and Naturalism are incompatible.
  2. That agency could not be produced from a random purposeless process, agency requires agency in order to exist.

3.   The other issue is plainly this –if agency or goal directedness is an illusion,(as some naturalists claim) such that the reality of the situation is that all entities including us are really determined (however tightly or loosely) either by a combination of factors or just chemically-then how can we claim to be objective or for objectivity to exist? If agency is a lie then science has no foundation in objectivity.

Menuge again:

‘..if intentionality is a real characteristic of human cognition, then there is significant reason to think that design is exemplified by reality. This is so because among the things one can conceive of is a future project; some plan of action; or an idea for a book, proof strategy, or a new experiment. But such conceptions are precisely designs, and the empirical fact that human actions are correlated with these designs provides excellent and abundant evidence for the existence of designed objects.’

The burden of proof is with the naturalists to explain why only chance and contingency  are the accepted categories within Science, both of which are goalless  yet we see how effective and ubiquitous  goal directed activity is.

As Angus Menuge’s says in his book and quoting Daniel Dennett ‘…natural selection is never directed at non-existent states of affairs, but only makes a “choice” after the fact between actually existing alternatives. So natural selection does not exhibit intentionality, and this is why there is no warrant for attributing representations to it.’

The representations Menuge speaks of are the ability to mentally represent various alternative choices and there respective outcomes, take the pink pill or the green one? No representations mean no intention means no goal directedness as options cannot be represented or acted upon.

So where did the ability to represent choices mentally come from?

The presence of agency cannot be explained in naturalistic/reductionist terms. There exists no explanation of subjectivity of experience or personal intent.
In fact as Menuge has said ‘To adopt an explanatory stance toward something is to seek to understand its behavior, by showing how it falls under certain kinds of concepts. Even adopting the physical stance requires us to understand a system in terms of its physical constitution and operation, but this is to view it in a certain way and to adopt an intentional attitude (understanding) toward it.’

Goal directedness doesn’t infer consciousness as long as proxy agency is used to explain design. By Proxy agency I mean at some point a conscious inferring agent can program another agent to produce goal directedness –for instance a computer programmer producing a program

How can intentionality/goal direct behavior or agency in general be part of our experience, unless we have been designed by an agent the source of our agency?
I happen to think that the simplest explanation is the right one and the simplest explanation for why we see goal directedness/agency/intentionality is that these phenomena are a product of design.
Evolution is not goal directed /does not see possible outcomes prior to there happening/cannot plan and as such is no different from a body of water finding the lowest point on a terrain.

How can undirected causality produce directed causality?

Whose Orthodoxy?

Posted: November 14, 2006 in Intelligent Design, Theo/Philo

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The New Scientist has an article this week entitled ‘Preach your children well’ quite a snappy title. In this article is a sorry tale of subversion using phrases such as ‘well organised movement’ ‘empowering parents to teach Creationist Biology’ ‘unorthodox’. Home schooling apparently represents ‘a new front’ in the culture war; a war between those committed to an exclusively materialist meta-narrative and those opposing this with a religious worldview, commonly evangelical.

To there credit ‘The New Scientist’ have avoided using less subtle expressions, in their attempt to unsettle and energise the scientific elite.

The gist of the article is that Home schooling within the US is now so widespread that it possibly threatens State sponsored schooling –(funny that… the article didn’t use the phrase ‘state sponsored’).

What has prompted the growth of home schooling? An article published in 2005 from fox news has this quote from a group of home schoolers:

‘We’re fighting because the institution of public schooling forces us to, by permitting only one government-sanctioned explanation of human origins. The only way for one side to have its views reflected in the official curriculum is at the expense of the other side.’

I not a homeschooler, but I can understand the motives of parents with a religious point of view to become home schoolers, especially in the light of well published frequent tirade from the priest finder general himself Richard Dawkins who has said such things as:

Parents who indoctrinate their children into a religion should be charged with child abuse. “I thank my own parents,” he writes, “for taking the view that children should be taught not so much what to think as how to think.”

Here I find myself at least partly agreeing with Dawkins as perhaps home schoolers the world over also would –we all want our children to know how to think, home schooling doesn’t mean that desire is not fulfilled.

However a note of caution, I challenge my children to test their belief, if it does not make sense, then I can’t see how we can believe in it. My Children go to state run schools that teach Evolution and quite possibly don’t even mention Intelligent design or any other competing ideas, as such the story they are taught is at best incomplete, my children have me to challenge these point of views, but I don’t prescribe what they should believe.

If naturalistic evolution is so compelling then surely competing ideas could be used as a foil to further enhance the naturalistic worldview?

I don’t think naturalistic evolution has as much explaining power as its proponents like to make out, as a narrative. Its true light is kept under a bushel.

For instance in how many state schools do teachers of Naturalistic evolution get to explain that this is a philosophy as much as a Scientific theory?

Do they explain to the students where personality comes from? Where purpose came from? Where information comes from? How life originated? Where matter, energy and movement come from?

I believe Christianity is rational as God is rational –the very basis upon which Science was founded. I also believe like Dawkins, that Children should be taught to think, my experience is that learning to think is squeezed out of the curriculum –especially in the UK. This means the ruling worldview is the default taught position, I just hope that Children are challenged to think through the implications and the body of  evidence for, against, and that which is missing or expected but  yet found for naturalism.

A poem by Wilfred Owen :

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Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! — An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under I green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, —
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Vision On!

Posted: November 11, 2006 in Theo/Philo, Uncategorized

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All of us are looking to be comfortable, witness the correlation between the growth in labour saving devices with a proliferation of bloggers, all that spare time!

When it comes to apparent contradictions, we have a need to keep a cosy, fireside glow of consistency; from this universal need logic sprang.

This urge drives us either to look at apparent contradictions to our worldview and face them head on; or to grow a pair of contradiction avoiding goggles. These goggles can be purchased most readily at your local 24-hour postmodern outlet; contradictions are ok as long as they work for you.

Everyone has a worldview –the filter (as Schaeffer puts it) through which we view our lives. It can be unsettling to see appearing on the horizon, what looks for all the world, to be gaps or jarring problems in a cherished worldview. Just ask the physist’s about the effort in trying to tie all of physics together, into a nice bundle of equations –the search is currently on for the theory of everything (TOE).

Sadly for much of Christendom over the last 60 years or so there has been a tendency to don the contradiction avoiding goggles and not face up to the challenges, mainly intellectual, that have been pitched towards it, leading to a withdrawing from society and an ever narrowing definition of what Christianity is concerned about.

On numerous occasions, within a Christian setting I ‘ve been told don’t think just experience, a symptom of the withering hand of Christian intellectual pursuit.

J.P.Moreland in his book ‘Love your God with all your mind’ outlines 5 impacts on the church that an anti-intellectual attitude has spawned they are:

1.A misunderstanding of faith relationship to reason.(as if faith needed to be blind-it doesn’t)

2.The separation of the secular and the sacred.

3.Weakened world missions as a consequence of a weakened Christianity

4.Anti-intellectualism has spawned an irrelevant gospel-it is more than addressing felt needs.

5.A loss of boldness in confronting the idea structures in our culture with effective Christian witness.

Part of the desire for a narrative that fits the facts and our experience, can be expressed in a sense of alienation and exasperation that some feel, most readily those whose experience won’t afford them the luxury of contradiction avoiding goggles.

It’s as if we are creatures from another world somehow placed into this one. Swimming round and round the goldfish bowl –not quite realising that this bowl isn’t our natural environment – we have a sense of something missing.

That missing ingredient is most aptly described in the book of Proverbs chapter 29 verse 18 : Where there is no vision, the people perish. (kjv)

For me that sense of something missing is dulled when I look and see that the predictions my worldview makes are seen in my everyday experience.

This concept of a worldview as applied to Christianity means that there really is no such thing as a secular –spiritual divide, there is no such thing as full time ministry –because every Christian is a Christian all the time no matter what Job they do.

Christianity touches all of life and is so encompassing to be properly described as a worldview. In the U2 song ‘I will Follow’ Bono sang ‘Your eyes make a circle I see you when I go in there’, he recognised that God encompasses everything; no part of a Christians life is left untouched. We are surrounded –come out with yer hands up.

This all-encompassing nature says something perhaps, about how we see the propositions and kinaesthetic teaching that the Bible affords us?

Is there truth only in matters of religion or can the Bible be relied upon to give more truth more than that?

Francis Schaeffer in an address at the University of Notre Dame in 1981 said:

‘Christianity is not a series of truths in the plural, but rather truth spelled with a capital “T.”

Truth about total reality, not just about religious things. Biblical Christianity is Truth concerning total reality- and the intellectual holding of that total truth and then living in the light of that truth.’

Nancy Pearcey in her excellent book ‘Total Truth’ says: ‘…Dorothy Sayers, who said that if religion does not speak to our work lives, then it has nothing to say about what we do with the vast majority of our time-and no wonder people say religion is irrelevant!

“How can anyone remain interested in a religion which seems to have no concern with nine-tenths of his life?”

For a worldview to be useful guide, it needs to be all encompassing –having something to say about all of our experience.

It needs to be consistent both intellectually and experientially, through predictions about the world and in minimising that sense of alienation.

 

Psyche says in C.S.Lewis great book ‘Till we have Faces’:

“Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back. All my life the God of the Mountain has been wooing me”