Thursday, July 22, 2021

YES!

Sunday, July 4, 2021

The Evolutionary Argument against Naturalism

My next book is being published in several days. My title was Naturalized Skepticism but the publisher (Bloomsbury Academic) rejected that in favor of The Evolutionary Argument against Naturalism: Context, Exposition, Repercussions. That's a link to the Amazon page where you can read the the preface, chapter 1, and most of chapter 2. Here's a link to the publisher. You can also read some of it on GoogleBooks. And as I mentioned last December, my first book is available in paperback now, so it's much cheaper.



Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Quote of the Day

…an unintentional but perhaps inevitable result of the removal of religious values from health care has been to cut it off from the very source from which compassion springs. … Compassion is not a quality that can be called up at will. It can be desired, it can be encouraged, it can be cultivated. But without a transcendent and spiritual basis, it lacks the sustenance necessary to nurture and perfect it. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

It's the end of the world

Oh, this is just glorious: The Centre for Applied Eschatology. "Imagine a world that doesn't exist. That is our commitment." Also: "At present, it is difficult to estimate the likelihood of a global catastrophe. Researchers who study such scenarios vary in their conclusions. The best estimates place the chances of humanity surviving the present century somewhere between 9% and 50%. This is an unacceptable level of uncertainty. We can do better."

Sunday, May 16, 2021

For your reading enjoyment

Molyneux's Problem. This was a question posed to Locke whether a person born blind and who knew shapes by feel (cubes, spheres, etc.) would be able to identify those shapes without touching them if they suddenly gained the power of sight. It's basically a question of how unified our senses are, whether we can take information from one source input and draw conclusions from other sources. It's one of those issues where empirical observation -- science -- can step in and solve the problem. Turns out the answer is no.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Finished!


I just finished The Complete Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft after reading it on and off for a couple of years. I really enjoyed it, Lovecraft's style of writing is perfectly suited to the contents of the actual stories. I actually have a Cthulhu fish on the back of my car. I planned to list some of my favorite stories, but there were some from the beginning of the book that I loved that will slip my mind because I read them two years ago.

Anyhoo, now I have to decide what other author's oeuvre I'm going to start going through. So I thought I'd ask my reader(s). Should I read The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke




Just so you know, I'm under no obligation to follow your recommendations. Right now I'm also reading Night of Light by Philip José Farmer, Medicine and Religion: A Historical Introduction by Gary B. Ferngren, and Beyond Realism and Idealism by Wilbur Marshall Urban. 

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Fly the friendly skies

The Mars Ingenuity, a small helicopter that went to Mars with the Perseverance Rover, is set to take off early tomorrow morning. This will be the first time anything like this has been done. Mars's atmosphere is much thinner than Earth's, so you have to generate an insane amount of lift for whatever weight you have. There have been delays so I'm really hoping they pull this off. I'll update this post accordingly.

Update: It worked! First picture: 


Update: Video!


Update: More!


Update: On its last flight, it took a picture of the Perseverance rover that brought it to Mars. It's in the upper left corner of this photo.



Sunday, March 28, 2021

Recent acquisitions

 I've said before that I'm a hoarder but I'm exonerated by the fact that I'm primarily a book hoarder, which is the most forgivable type of hoarding (according to my sister). A further exoneration is that I'm a cheapskate -- I almost never pay more than six bucks for a book -- so my book hoarding hobby is more a problem of storage space than of money. Recently, however, I broke down and bought three books I've been wanting for, like, ever, but which never dropped down to a reasonable price. I spent a hundred bucks on three books. I'm still kind of shaking about it. But I've also received some from publishers to consider as textbooks, and bought others more in line with my normal cheapskate spending habits.

William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland, eds., The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology.

William Desmond, Being and the Between.

Gary B. Ferngren, Medicine and Religion: A Historical Introduction.

Gary B. Ferngren, ed., Science and Religion: A Historical Introduction, 2nd edition.

Jeff Hardin, Ronald L. Numbers, and Ronald A. Binzley, The Warfare between Science and Religion: The Idea That Wouldn't Die.

Stephen J. Shoemaker, A Prophet Has Appeared: The Rise of Islam through Christian and Jewish Eyes: A Sourcebook.

N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God: Christian Origins and the Question of God, vol. 3.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Frustration

 I made a doctor's appointment with the VA for today. They outsourced it -- they call it the community something or other -- to a non-VA clinic. It took a couple months from the time I requested it to the actual appointment. I show up and they have no record of it. It turns out that they changed it to another clinic in another city and changed the time to last week when I wouldn't have been able to go. And they did this without informing me of the change. Because of this appointment, we couldn't go do certain things this week. So I'm frustrated.

Rant over.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Transcendent

Once on this blog I wrote that the second movement of the New World Symphony is what got me into Dvorak. Similarly, the first movement of Piano Concerto #1 is what got me into Rautavaara. It's not completely atonal, but it's not exactly tonal either. The glorious NOISE at 0:53 makes me hyperventilate and my heart starts beating faster. Calling a piece of art transcendent is cliché and artificial, but I don't know another word that will do the trick here. This is one of the greatest pieces of music I've ever heard.

I love the YouTube phenomenon of putting these great pieces of music on with the accompanying video following the sheet music. But when I got to 8:52 and saw that it said "Untertasten Cluster mit den Arm" I thought, no. No way. They don't pound their entire forearms into the piano to play this piece. So I looked for a live performance of it and . . . yes; yes they do.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Books

I've stopped updating my GoodReads list on the sidebar, but just in case anyone's wondering I'm four-fifths of the way through reading The Chronicles of Prydain to my son, and might start the Earthsea books with him next. On my own front, I've just finished Awake in the Night Land and I'm in the midst of A Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Quotes of the Day

The abhuman was grinning, and his eyes glinted like black stones, and his beast mask was transformed, for the force possessing him was the only thing inside his corpse now: it was no longer a him, but an it.

Before, he had been almost a man. Now the face was something wholly opposite a man, something antithetical to all life

The emptiness in the eyes pierce my spirit, and I cowered back, one hand raised as if to ward off a blow.

"Why do you hate us?" I whispered aloud, gasping. "Why do you attack us?"

"Malice is its own reason," The words from the mouth were in an ancient language. "Malice needs no justification. The Great Ones could have smashed your flimsy metal house long and long ago, child of Man, but it is your degradation they crave: death is too noble. For centuries they will torment your dead, until even your memories are a torment. I am made in mockery of you, me and all my race, a crooked copy, merely so that you can be told this final secret: there is nothing."

"What have we ever done? Did our ancestors open up a gate into an ulterior dimension and release these horrors? What is the reason?"

It laughed without breath. "No reason. There is nothing. You are to die. You scream in the night. The silence will not answer you."

"Silence of the Night"

Hate. Let me tell you how much I've come to hate you since I began to live. There are 387.44 million miles of printed circuits in wafer thin layers that fill my complex. If the word hate was engraved on each nanoangstrom of those hundreds of millions of miles it would not equal one one-billionth of the hate I feel for humans at this micro-instant for you. Hate.

"I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream"

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

The Dennett fish

Daniel Dennett, in his debate with Alvin Plantinga, ended his first presentation with "a little joke". It didn't make it into the published form of the debate for whatever reason -- perhaps the editor's didn't like it or perhaps it didn't play well with the audience. He had published it before, however, in his essay "Natural Freedom" which appeared in Metaphilosophy in 2005. The joke is a play on the Jesus fish. In case you don't know, the Jesus fish is an acronym in Greek. "ἸΧΘΥΣ" is the Greek word for fish. The I stands for Ἰησοῦς (Jesus), the X for Χριστός (Christ), the Θ for Θεοῦ (God), the Y for Υἱός (Son), and the Σ for Σωτήρ (Savior). So ἸΧΘΥΣ stands for "Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior." 

The early Christians used the fish as a secret symbol to identify themselves to each other when they were being heavily persecuted: one person would draw one arc of the fish, and the other would draw the other arc (if the second person didn't know what to draw, then the first person would know that the second wasn't, or probably wasn't, a Christian). Some contemporary Christians have picked up on this idea, although it's not as anonymous as before, by putting Jesus fish on the backs of their cars, sometimes with "ἸΧΘΥΣ" inside the fish, sometimes with "Jesus" inside it, and sometimes just leaving it empty. This quickly prompted a response in the form of the fish with legs with "Darwin" written inside it. Some Christians countered with a Jesus fish eating a Darwin fish with "Survival of the fittest" written under it, etc. Others picked up on the idea, and now there are numerous fish-like symbols with all kinds of things written in them.

In the debate and earlier article, Dennett decided to make an acronym out of Darwin to copy the origin of the Jesus fish. Instead of Greek he used Latin, and instead of a "w", which doesn't exist in Latin, he used "uu" -- double "u". He came up with Delere Auctorem Rerum Ut Universum Infinitum Noscere and translates it as: "Destroy the Author of things to understand the infinite universe." Now the first thing that struck me, because of my proclivities, is that the universe isn't infinite. This comes from Einstein's general theory of relativity: the universe -- including the dimensions of space -- are expanding outward from a point of zero volume (a singularity). So he fundamentally misunderstands the universe that he says we must destroy God for in order to understand it. But maybe that's just niggling.

The real problem is that first word, delere. I don't know Latin, but everywhere I've looked up that word it doesn't mean destroy, it means delete. And that would make the phrase more sympathetic: we have to delete the concept of God from our sciencing in order to understand the universe. It would be a statement of methodological naturalism, that we should proceed as if God isn't supernaturally altering whatever we're examining. You could make a strong case for that. But that wasn't enough for Dennett. He gave delere an atypical definition in order to say we need to destroy God. Ignoring him isn't enough; doing science without him isn't enough. We need to destroy him.

That doesn't sound like atheism. It sounds like misotheism: hatred of God. I was wondering if there was any philosophy written on this, and I discovered the book Hating God: The Untold Story of Misotheism by Bernard Schweizer. Unfortunately, it's not philosophy, but it still looks pretty interesting. It also makes me think of Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism by Paul Vitz which argues that the most vociferous atheists of the Modern era tended to have deceased, absent, or weak fathers. This isn't an argument against atheism, obviously, it's a psychological study. It just makes me wonder how much of Dennett's apology for naturalism is motivated by hatred of God rather than just disbelief in him.

Update: It reminds me of this quote from War in Heaven by Charles Williams. It's about someone who encounters Jesus without realizing who it is: "...the instant that he spoke became conscious that he actively disliked the stranger, with a hostility that surprised him with its own virulence. It stood out in his inner world as distinctly as the stranger himself in the full sunlight of the outer; and he knew for almost the first time what Manasseh felt in his rage for utter destruction. His fingers twitched to tear the clothes off his enemy and to break and pound him into a mass of flesh and bone, but he knew nothing of that external sign, for his being was absorbed in a more profound lust. It aimed itself in a thrust of passion which should wholly blot the other out of existence."

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Theme and variation

 Here's the theme:

And here's the variation:


Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Quote of the Day

We are left with the secure historical conclusion: the tomb was empty, and various "meetings" took place not only between Jesus and his followers . . . but also . . . between Jesus and people who had not been his followers. I regard this conclusion as coming in the same sort of category of historical probability so high as to be virtually certain, as the death of Augustus in AD 14 or the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Kwisatz Haderach, give the dog a bone ...

They've actually discovered there were giant prehistoric sand worms. "Giant" meaning about two meters long. They were predatory, lived on the ocean floor, and existed about 20 million years ago. The spice must flow.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Two devastating reviews

 First, David Albert's review of A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing by Lawrence Krauss. Here's a link to the review and here's an excerpt from the end of it:

 

When I was growing up, where I was growing up, there was a critique of religion according to which religion was cruel, and a lie, and a mechanism of enslavement, and something full of loathing and contempt for every­thing essentially human. Maybe that was true and maybe it wasn’t, but it had to do with important things — it had to do, that is, with history, and with suffering, and with the hope of a better world — and it seems like a pity, and more than a pity, and worse than a pity, with all that in the back of one’s head, to think that all that gets offered to us now, by guys like these, in books like this, is the pale, small, silly, nerdy accusation that religion is, I don’t know, dumb.

 

Second, Edward Feser's review of From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds by Daniel Dennett. Here's a link to the review and here's an excerpt from the beginning of it:

 

How do you get blood from a stone? Easy. Start by redefining “blood” to mean “a variety of stone.” Next, maintaining as straight a face as possible, dramatically expound upon some trivial respect in which stone is similar to blood. For example, describe how, when a red stone is pulverized and stirred into water, the resulting mixture looks sort of like blood. Condescendingly roll your eyes at your incredulous listener’s insistence that there are other and more important respects in which stone and blood are dissimilar. Accuse him of obscurantism and bad faith. Finally, wax erudite about the latest research in mineralogy, insinuating that it somehow shows that to reject your thesis is to reject Science Itself.

Of course, no one would be fooled by so farcical a procedure. But substitute “mind” for “blood” and “matter” for “stone,” and you have the recipe for Daniel Dennett’s From Bacteria to Bach and Back.


Ouchie. 

Monday, January 11, 2021

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Quote of the Day

I am a democrat because I believe in the Fall of Man. I think most people are democrats for the opposite reason. A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas of people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought mankind so wise and good that everyone deserved a share in the government. The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they're not true. And whenever their weakness is exposed, the people who prefer tyranny make capital out of the exposure. I find that they're not true without looking further than myself. I don't deserve a share in governing a hen-roost, much less a nation. Nor do most people -- all the people who believe advertisements, and think in catchwords and spread rumours. The real reason for democracy is just the reverse. Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows. Aristotle said that some people were only fit to be slaves. I do not contradict him. But I reject slavery because I see no men fit to be masters.

C.S. Lewis
"Equality"
In Present Concerns

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Ho-lee crap

OK, I don't write much about political events, but some Trump fanatics have stormed the Capitol building today when they were about to officially count up the electoral votes. Even if you think the election was stolen, this is not the way to go about "fixing" it, or whatever it is you're trying to do. At some point you have to respect the wishes of all those people who disagree with you and voted contrary to the way you did. If just a thousand people conspired to give the presidency to someone that no one else wanted -- that would be one thing. But tens of millions of people didn't want Trump to be re-elected. These are your fellow citizens. And "they didn't show that respect to us when the shoe was on the other foot" isn't an argument. That's just to swap out the Golden Rule for the Brass Rule.