Archive for May, 2007

 

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Although I’d rather be quoting a British Prime minster, such as Churchill,who knew the price and experienced the isolation of standing against the consensus at time when it really mattered;remembering his warnings against appeasement of the British towards Nazi Germany,

I am however going to quote Robert F.Kennedy:

 

‘Few man are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues,the wrath of their society.

Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world which yields most painfully to change.’

 

With these quotes im thinking of people like Guillermo Gonzalez who has given precious few reasons for his university to deny him tenure,except one …his association with Intelligent Design Theory.

(For more details go here)

A waste of tears!

Posted: May 21, 2007 in Theo/Philo

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Sam Harris author of ‘Letter to a Christian nation’ wants the world to know that atheists love life and have good reason to do so.

In his little book he says:

Atheists believe life is meaningless…atheists tend to be quite sure that life is precious. Life is imbued with meaning by being really and fully lived’

Of course Harris doesn’t define what really fully lived means, it seems a weak premise upon which to base the value of life, especially if in the long run it is all meaningless.

For Harris what makes life precious is the quality of a life lived. How do you define what aspects of life go into to making a life really fully lived?

My experience of working with people with learning difficulties/disabilities (those often deemed to have lives of low quality) has been that in some cases (not all) their lives were and are very joyful, full and active, full of love, and in anyone’s definition, could be described as leading meaningful lives. The point albeit anecdotally, is it’s not obvious or easy to define what a meaningful,precious life is, let alone who should be qualified to define it.

Whenever someone has sought to define what a meaningful life is and isn’t, it has lead to a loss of the value of life practically. If the definition comes from the extreme right or left it makes no difference, the result is the same.

When the Judeo Christian consensus is lost, such as has happened in the west, what fills the vacuum always places a lower value on humanity than the aforementioned consensus would.

The most obvious example is to be found in Nazi Germany, using the pretext of war; Hitler began to flesh out his definition of a meaningful life in specific terms and images,at the same time as these positive images he also defined in images and terms those who were deemed subhuman.

From a beginning of forced sterilization there followed for the handicapped and mentally ill the final experience of being gassed. In all, between 200,000 and 250,000 mentally and physically handicapped persons were murdered from 1939 to 1945 under the T-4 and other “euthanasia” programs.

Anyway here’s what a few other atheists think about life’s precious quality (notice how all these opinions cannot be lived out practically):

Wiliam Provine:

No purposive principles exist in nature…No inherent moral or ethical laws exist, nor are there absolute guiding principles for human society. The universe cares nothing for us and we have no ultimate meaning in life’.

Richard Dawkins:

‘The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is ,at bottom,no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”

E.O.Wilson:

Human behaviour-like the deepest capacities for emotional response which drive and guide it-is the circuitous technique by which human genetic material has been and will be kept intact. Morality has no other demonstrable ultimate function”

Michael Ruse:

Our belief in morality is merely an adaptation put in place to further our reproductive ends…Ethics as we understand it is an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes to get us to co-operate (so that human genes survive)…Furthermore,the way our biology enforces its ends is by making us think that there is an objective higher code to which we are all subject”

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A totalitarian state is in effect a theocracy, and its ruling caste, in order to keep its position, has to be thought of as infallible”

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The Author Michael Crichton regarding consensus science:

“It is an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.”

This attitude is most easily seen in the peer review process, Mitchell J. Feigenbaum (inventor of chaos theory) writes of his experience which is not an uncommon occurrence, he says:

‘Both papers were rejected, the first after a half-year delay. By then, in 1977, over a thousand copies of the first preprint had been shipped. This has been my full experience. Papers on established subjects are immediately accepted. Every novel paper of mine, without exception has been rejected by the refereeing process. The reader can easily gather that I regard this entire process as a false guardian and wastefully dishonest.’

Peer review is used increasingly as a gatekeeper, rather than the role of scrutinising papers for quality assurance in terms of honesty and accuracy, it has been, and can be used to maintain the status quo; as such it is acting as a show stopper that maintains the consensus at the expense of research and development. Intelligent design is one such area where papers in support of the theory are seldom seen in front line journals, or in fact any journals as they lie outside of the consensus.

Dream Harder

Posted: May 3, 2007 in Intelligent Design

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“When any human thought can be discredited by branding it unscientific, inordinate power has passed over to science; hence science itself has become in its turn the greatest source of error”

M.Polanyi

The notion that at some point in history we stepped over in science from being an external observer of phenomena, to being part of the machine and so to being observed; leads to the question of how can we, who are surrounded and subject to forces and matter observe phenomena with objectivity? How can we who are now objects floating on the Brownian motion of subjectivity be as if we are external to the machine we study, objective and detached such that we can do science that’s truly objective?

Without an external standard who can tell what objectivity is? Who can tell when we are being objective and when are we being subjective? Without a straight line who can tell if another line is curved or not?

Are they mutually exclusive or can we be in both states at the same time? Of course we cannot be both subjective and objective in the same moment about the same thing–so how do we know when the subjective self is switched off and the led light dims, while the objective led glows bright? How can Science which is beginning to become disillusioned with its headlong rush to increasing reductionism, know when objectivity is being maintained? What warrant is there for sciences claim of exclusive objectivity in data collection and handling? If there is a weak warrant then human thought that is unscientific is as much an arbiter of truth.

I mention reductionism the notion that nothing is what it seems; everything can be reduced to its parts –because this is the force behind much of science, especially molecular biology. If we accept reductionism, then we must reject any phenomena that cannot be explained accept through reductionism. Subjectivity becomes one of several illusions which include the idea of self, personality and the appearance of design.

So much for subjectivity, we can be objective 24/7 according to reductionism, except for genetic and social determinism we are fully objective… full steam ahead science!

Not only is there the problem of determinism but reductionism takes no account of imagination. Much of current science would not exist if imagination and supposals (C.S.Lewis’s word) had not been brought to bear on problems. My favourite and the best known example of the part imagination has played in Science, is the discovery of the shape of the benzene ring by August Kekule ( the gent pictured above):

“I was sitting writing on my textbook, but the work did not progress; my thoughts were elsewhere. I turned my chair to the fire and dozed. Again the atoms were gamboling before my eyes…My mental eye, rendered more acute by the repeated visions of the kind, could now distinguish larger structures of manifold conformation; long rows sometimes more closely fitted together all twining and twisting in snake-like motion. But look! What was that? One of the snakes had seized hold of its own tail, and the form whirled mockingly before my eyes. As if by a flash of lightning I awoke…”

Michael Ruse understands the problem with being wedded exclusively to reductionism:

‘Why should a bunch of atoms have thinking ability? Why should I, even as I write now, be able to reflect on what I am doing and why should you, even as you read now, be able to ponder my points, agreeing or disagreeing, with pleasure or pain, deciding to refute me or deciding that I am not worth the effort? No one, certainly not the Darwinian as such, seems to have any answer to this …The point is that there is no scientific answer.’

Reductionism does not give the whole answer we are more than the sum of our parts.