Archive for June, 2007

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Dr Francis Crick:

‘Nonetheless, you must realise that much of the political thinking of this country (the United States) is very difficult to justify biologically. It was valid to say, in the period of the American revolution, when people were oppressed by priests and kings, that all men were created equal. But it doesn’t have biological validity. It may have some mystical validity in a religious context, but when you ask what you mean by all people being created equal its not the same as saying that they should all have equal opportunity. Its not only biologically not true,its also biologically undesirable.

If you had a population in which everybody was the same, any biologists would say that it was a bad situation,that it was too homogeneous.

You must have variety in biological situations. Yet, this is not the sort of thing that is regarded as particularly tactful to say. But sooner or later people have got to be saying these things.

We all know, I think, or are beginning to realise, that the future is in our own hands, that we can , to some extent, do what we want.’

Council of Europe are you listening?

(see here)

HT:Uncommon Descent

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Erised

Posted: June 26, 2007 in Theo/Philo

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Harry Potter and the philosophers stone:

 

 

“‘It shows us nothing more or less than the deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts. You, who have never known your family, see them standing around you. Ronald Weasley, who has always been overshadowed by his brothers, sees himself standing alone, the best of all of them. However, this mirror will give us neither knowledge or truth. Men have wasted away before it, entranced by what they have seen, or been driven mad, not knowing if what it shows is real or even possible.'”

 

 

 

There’s a great drive within the sciences to unify all knowledge, so that everything can eventually be traced to a few laws and equations., that ‘everything’ includes you and me!

There must be a worldview that explains everything,we just need to find it! E.O.Wilson wrote a book called ‘Consilience’ the drive of this book was to find a theory of knowledge that explains everything (The theory of everything; TOE) from a naturalistic point of view, this,IMHO will fail, because we cannot go from particulars to universals. Meaning flows in one direction; top down.

The result of the theory of everything including ‘man’ will be to loose sight of meaning not to gain it.

 

As an example of this, co discoverer of the structure of DNA ,along with James Watson and Rosalind Franklin, Francis Crick has said:

“We’d like to know more about mental health-how much is genetically determined and how much depends on the environment.”

Of this statement Francis Schaeffer says :

‘It is not clear,here,how man suddenly disappears? There are only two factors: (1) heredity and (2) environment. It is 90 of one and 10 of the other ? Or 10 of one and 90 of the other ?

It makes no difference. Either factor or both together are no more than mechanical. In your stream of conciousness , if you think in psychological terms the person isn’t there…it isn’t just God who is dead, man is as well, because he becomes simply the product of the original impersonal with only the addition of the equally impersonal time and chance.’

 

The assumptions of a theory of everything include:

  1. ‘Man’ is indistinct from other phenomena.

  2. ‘Man’ has gone from being the investigator to the investigated,yet we retain our role as investigator. With TOE the assumption is that we are determined, as Crick says,yet we are also able to be objective with our choice of what evidence to collect and our interpretations of evidence.

  3. Nothing exists except that can be measured.

Can the  unifying theory of everything be realised, or are we  building our theory on  assumptions  based on nothing but wishful thinking ,caught in the mirror of erised?

 

I’m reading ‘rollback’ by Robert Sawyer, a sci-fi writer,of whom I cannot recommend enough.

Along with Clarke and Scott Card ,Sawyer has the knack of making the reader think, while simultaneously providing a world to inhabit.

I read this passage in Rollback (page 172):’”…Well, I,m an evolutionist-you know that-but I don’t agree with the testimony that the scientists on the evolution side keep giving. They keep saying that science cannot admit supernatural causes, by which they mean that any scientific explanation has to, by definition, be limited to causes intrinsic to this universe.”

What’s wrong with that?”

Everything is wrong with it” she said. “That definition of science prevents us from ever concluding that we are the product of the work of other scientists, working in a reality above this one. It leaves us with the cockeyed mess of having a scientific worldview that on one hand freely acknowledges that we will eventually be able to stimulate reality perfectly, or maybe even be able to create daughter universes, but on the other hand is constrained against ever allowing ourselves that we ourselves might exist in one of those things.”…”Technology gives species the power to prevent life, to create life , to take life on scales small and large; technology ultimately gives the power to be what we call Gods, and, even if our definition of science is blind to it, it raises the possibility that what we are is the result of the work of some other being that would, by virtue of having created us, also deserve that term God.”This a pertinent question,as we become more technologically advanced ,it is not inconceivable that we will be in a situation to create entities that are correctly described as intelligently designed.

For instance Craig Venter has been in the news recently ,trying to get a patent on synthetic life dubbed ‘designer microbes’ his group are working on, designed to produce biofuels, see here.

I remember Schaeffer saying something like; our morality cannot keep pace with our technology,likewise the results of our methodology it seems cannot be consistent with the philosophy that under girds it, that of methodological naturalism.

If we can accept Craig Venter as creator in principle; what then stops us accepting our own existence as attributable to design by another designer?

Yes, we can see Venter, but we can also perceive design, as Dawkins apparently admits, in nature .

Defined in Wiki as:

“the adoption or assumption of philosophical naturalism within scientific method with or without fully accepting or believing it … science is not metaphysical and does not depend on the ultimate truth of any metaphysics for its success (although science does have metaphysical implications), but methodological naturalism must be adopted as a strategy or working hypothesis for science to succeed. We may therefore be agnostic about the ultimate truth of naturalism, but must nevertheless adopt it and investigate nature as if nature is all that there is.”The assumption of methodological naturalism ,is itself without foundation, as far as I can see.

There is the notion that admitting non naturalistic causes and effects will be disastrous and a show stopper for science, but considering that the origin of science was due in part to a Christian consensus, it seems this show stopper is little more than spin.

Its not often I am impressed with new technology -but this has to be seen  to be believed.

This new software can be tried out here

Diagnosis: Schizophrenia

Posted: June 1, 2007 in Theo/Philo

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Glancing through a book that caught my eye with the snappy title ‘The End of Faith,Religion,Terror and the future of reason’ by nu-atheist Sam Harris.

I came upon this claim on page 19:

 

‘…most fundamentals live by the light of reason …,its just that their minds seem to have been partitioned to accommodate the profligate truth claims of their faith. Tell a devout Christian that his wife is cheating on him, or that frozen yogurt can make a man invisible, and he is likely to require as much evidence as anyone else, and be persuaded only to the extent that you give it.

Tell him that the book he keeps by his bed was written by an invisible deity who will punish him with fire for eternity if he fails to accept its every incredible claim about

the universe, and he seems to require no evidence whatsoever.’

 

Hmm I think Sam has forgotten or never been told about theology,or specifically Presuppositional apologetics. I think he’s forgotten or never been told about the evidences for theism?

What amazes me is Harris’s ability to know the mind of all fundamentalists, such they he can diagnose a schizophrenia for all of them.

Its an interesting choice that he chooses to point out Gods punishment rather than the central message ,the good news,the gospel, the message of grace ,forgiveness and restoration through the substitutionary death of Christ.

The Bible is written as a testament to events,constantly pointing to evidence ,witnesses and logic.

Unlike the orbiting chocolate tea pot or the spaghetti monster ,we are not expected to make a Kierkegaardian leap in accepting the propositions of the Bible. We are not jumping in the dark.

Francis Schaeffer wrote regarding the Bibles emphasis on real events :

 

‘Mount Sinai is one of the most important sites of the entire Bible. It was here that the Hebrew people came shortly after their flight from Egypt. Here God spoke to them through Moses, giving them directions for their life as a newly formed nation and making a covenant with them.

The thing to notice about this epochal moment for Israel is the emphasis on history which the Bible itself makes. Time and time again Moses reminds the people of what has happened on Mount Sinai:

You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness. Then the Lord spoke to you out of the fire . You heard the sounds of words but saw no form, there was only a voice.”

Deuteronomy 4:11,12 ‘

 

The emphasis is on being eye witnesses .You heard you saw.

Again Schaeffer writes regarding the new testament as a record of history :

 

‘This emphasis -that faith is not contrary to reason-is presented in both the old and the new testaments. The entire Bible makes plain that the history it records is to be seen as real history. Consider the apostle Paul in Greece. Paul visited Corinth and stayed there for a year and a half.

There he met a Jew named Aquilla, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks…so Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching then the word of God.

Acts 18: 2-4,11.

 

The Roman biographer Suetonius tells us more about the expulsion of the Jews, and the occasion can be dated from another source to the year AD 49.

From this scripture we are placed into a definite time in history recognised from external sources; we are also given information about ordinary uncommon events such as Paul’s occupation,Aquilla and Prisilla’s occupation and why they left Italy.

Schaeffer makes the point that the supernatural events are couched in the ordinary everyday and are not some otherworldly trip that cannot be expressed in words but are expressible and able to be witnessed.

Regarding Biblical accuracy:


There are more than 24,000 partial and complete manuscript copies of the New Testament.
These manuscript copies are very ancient and they are available for inspection now.

There are also some 86,000 quotations from the early church fathers and several thousand Lectionaries (church-service books containing Scripture quotations used in the early centuries of Christianity).

Comparison with other Books

It is worth comparing the manuscript witnesses to the text of the Bible with the manuscript witnesses to the text of other ancient books. The following table contains details of some ancient works.

Work

When Written

Earliest Copy

Time Span

Copies

Caesar’s Gallic Wars

100-44 BC

900 AD

1,000 yrs

10

Plato’s Tetralogies

427-347 BC

900 AD

1,200 yrs

7

Tacitus’ Annals

100 AD

1100 AD

1,000 yrs

20

Pliny’s Histories

61-113 AD

850 AD

750 yrs

7

Herodotus’ History

480-425 BC

900 AD

1,300 yrs

8

New Testament

40-70 AD

180 AD

120 yrs

24,000

In spite of the superior numbers of Biblical manuscripts and the closeness of these manuscripts to the original writing of the Bible, no-one seriously questions the text of the other works.

Sam Harris’s accusation of a mind divided by the need to believe in the supernatural ,is as a consequence of the dominance of the scientific method,such that stretching the point too far ,science becomes the exclusive arbiter of all truth, rightly described as Scientism.

The a priory assumption of scientism is a closed universe,where nothing except what can be measured exists. The reason for this assumption is unfounded -what empirical evidence is there to prove this assumption?