Friday, April 29, 2011

Crude versus the Infinite Multiverse Proponent - Strawman Version

IMP: ..And anyway, Crude, there are no compelling arguments for God's existence.
Crude: Sure there are. Plenty of 'em in fact.
IMP: I disagree.
Crude: Not really.
IMP: What?
Crude: You believe in an infinite number of universes, such that all physical possibilities are realized, right?
IMP: Yes.
Crude: Alright. So there's an infinite number of you, all throughout these universes.
IMP: Okay.
Crude: Well, plenty of you encountered these arguments and immediately found them compelling. So, no, you don't really disagree. You're just experiencing a kind of multiverse hiccup.
IMP: Plenty of me wouldn't find it compelling, though!
Crude: Sure, we're dealing with a lot of hiccups here.
IMP: And plenty of you don't find the arguments compelling!
Crude: Nah, I'm skeptical of the existence of multiple universes.
IMP: ... Anyway, they don't agree because of the force of the argument. It's just due to physical necessity.
Crude: Let's run with that. You're no different, of course.
IMP: Fine, if that's what it takes, then so be it. But the upshot is that I can still say there are no compelling arguments for God's existence.
Crude: Because compelling arguments do not exist on your view. All that compels are brute physics, ultimately aimed towards nothing in particular. There's an infinite number of yous drawing every possible conclusion in response to a wide variety of arguments. But you're telling me with confidence you know for certain whether or not an argument is compelling because, what... you're sure you're in the lucky universe where you're making a correct inference on this question?
IMP: That's not fair. All I can say is what I think the be true and try to give arguments to that effect.
Crude: And, what? Assume you're correct, despite having every reason to doubt you're correct?
IMP: Yes.
Crude: And I suppose all your other "you"s, including the ones who disagree with you, get that assumption too don't they?
IMP: ... Even if they did, it's a practical necessity. You can't go through life doubting everything you think.
Crude: Funny, I think you could go through life being skeptical of the claim that there are no compelling arguments for God.
IMP: But I should be skeptical that there ARE any compelling arguments for God too!
Crude: Granting your view of reality, perhaps. But that'd be one hell of a difference in your current attitude. Shifting from claiming there are no compelling arguments to claiming an inability to evaluate the question is a big shift. It's like going from saying there's no evidence for X, to admitting you wouldn't know evidence for X if it bit you on the ass.
IMP: ... Maybe I'll just regard what you say as a puzzle to figure out in the future, but in the meantime work with the assumption that my beliefs are right.
Crude: Gonna grant that sort of consideration to everyone else while you're at it?
IMP: ...
Crude: What I'm saying is, you have a metaphysic which mandates serious skepticism, and the only ways to improve it would be to impart directionality and finality to an infinite number of universes. And the more you do that, the more your view of reality will look like a creation rather than the happenstance, purposeless thing you need it to be. And really, stick with it if you want. But at least do me the favor of not talking about serious intellectual questions with me as long as you hold this view. It's a waste of time on your metaphysic, and only amusing for so long given mine.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Racism and the Presidential Election

So apparently racism is the advance reason Obama may have trouble during his re-election. Granted, he successfully won the presidency, but damnit, this time the racists are actually coming out to vote! Or, perhaps, the racists have made huge gains and have converted millions to their cause since 2008. Hard to say.

I have trouble even getting charged up about this sort of thing anymore. I suppose there's something to be said for being outraged - OUTRAGED - at the insinuation that one is racist for opposing Obama. But I'm coming closer to reacting to the mere charge of racism with a shrug and apathy. If, say... mere and simple opposition to Obama is enough to raise the charge of racism - even warrant the label of racism - then what has been accomplished is to make it justifiable to support someone who is racist.

I want to be clear what I mean: If "racist" has been redefined to mean, oh... "opposing Obama's health care plans"... if that act alone, as stated, is somehow now an example of what it means to be a racist, that's fine. But if opposing Obama's health care plans is justifiable, even while that interesting redefinition of "racist" has taken place, then the result is this: An act of racism is now justifiable. There are now situations where it's okay to be a racist.

Now of course the sort of person making the racism charge in a hypothetical situation like that probably isn't trying to say that a racist act can be justifiable. No, they're probably hoping that by calling such an act racist, they are doing much to discourage it. But communication doesn't always work out the way a single party hopes. See how "Brights" was intended to mean "more-intelligent-than-average, free-thinking individuals", but the actual result was closer to a dictionary entry of "Brights: See "loud, annoying assholes"."

Monday, April 25, 2011

In praise of Leibniz

Leibniz more than any other philosopher gets the short end of the stick, doesn't he? The man was a genius. He invented binary code, and so many other things. He had all kinds of interesting philosophical ideas. An intellectual powerhouse by any measure.

But some pseudonymous prick makes fun of him for one eccentric (though in my view, surprisingly defensible) belief, and that's what he's remembered for. "Oh, he believed we live in the best of all possible worlds, what an idiot!" What did deist Voltaire ever do other than be the enlightenment, deist equivalent of Christopher Hitchens? Screw him and his poetry, on this count.

Mind you, Voltaire is leaps and bounds beyond the gnus who worship him. But he'll always have a demerit for heaping scorn on a man who was his better.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

Nothing more for now!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Problem of Pain: A Confession.

I admit, one aspect of criticisms of Christianity that strikes me as naive is the idea that a good God would not allow torment or pain in the world.

The problem is that Christianity seems like the one major religion where a criticism like this is ridiculously out of place - what with the crucified God and all. The crucifixion, to me, highlights the very real possibility that perhaps we as humans are making a mistake when we regard pain as "something a good God would never allow", or is somehow out of place in a created world.

This is an undeveloped thought right now, but I think there's something to be said purely by comparing the claim - "It is a surprise, counterintuitive, that the Christian God would allow pain and harm in the world" - to the bare image of God crucified.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Programs Without a Programmer

Physical science shows that a designer is not needed to account for design in physical nature in the same way computer science shows that a programmer is not needed to account for design in software.

Put another way: The fact that I don't (and shouldn't expect to) find Will Wright somewhere in my PC when I play a game of Spore does not mean A) Will Wright plays no role in explaining Spore, B) that Spore was not designed, or C) that Spore, in and of itself, cannot strongly point towards the existence of some designer.

I honestly wonder if and suspect that many of these 'advances of science that show God isn't necessary as an explanation' are essentially of the same form as assuming that for Will Wright to design Spore means I'd better find him in my PC, whatever that would mean. In other words, a kind of explanation even the most sloppy, anthropomorphic theists weren't typically expecting.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Is Strong Emergence Vitalism?

Huh. Never made this connection, myself.

A refinement of vitalism may be recognized in contemporary molecular histology in the proposal that some key organising and structuring features of organisms, perhaps including even life itself, are examples of emergent processes; those in which a complexity arises, out of interacting chemical processes forming interconnected feedback cycles, that cannot fully be described in terms of those processes since the system as a whole has properties that the constituent reactions lack.

That's one hell of an interesting way of looking at it, especially when strong emergence is trotted out as (somehow) a physicalist reply to, for example, the hard problem of consciousness. Of course, that would suggest quite a rewriting of science history.

Whether emergent system properties should be grouped with traditional vitalist concepts is a matter of semantic controversy.

Oh, I think there's more going on here than semantic concerns.

Emmeche et al. (1998) state that "there is a very important difference between the vitalists and the emergentists: the vitalist's creative forces were relevant only in organic substances, not in inorganic matter. Emergence hence is creation of new properties regardless of the substance involved."

So a key problem with vitalism was that it was too conservative?

"The assumption of an extra-physical vitalis (vital force, entelechy, √©lan vital, etc.), as formulated in most forms (old or new) of vitalism, is usually without any genuine explanatory power. It has served altogether too often as an intellectual tranquilizer or verbal sedative—stifling scientific inquiry rather than encouraging it to proceed in new directions."[17]

Of course, what makes the vitalis "extra-physical" anyway? We've revamped our definition of physical in the past. It seems likely we will in the future. Sounds like regarding vitalism as extra-physical is a semantic concern, eh?

On the flipside, let's say something akin to strong emergence or vitalism is possibly true. Then is it really "stifling scientific inquiry" to entertain the possibility, or even be persuaded by it? Or are some conclusions always to be rejected in science?

Ah, wait, I know the answer to that one.

A Government Atheist

Does believing that most of the problems in life could or should be solved by government constitute a form of theism?

I think the instinct is to say no, that's hyperbole. And yeah, perhaps it is. On the other hand, I do wonder if it is in theory possible to worship government as a god. And if it is, then would I be an atheist with regards to that god?

People can worship nature as god. Or natural things. Why not government? How would I know if they were doing this thing?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A favorite quote, recorded.

From Epictetus:

What else can I do, a lame old man, but sing hymns to God? If I were a nightingale, I would do the nightingale's part; if I were a swan, I would do as a swan. But now I am a rational creature, and I ought to praise God. This is my work. I do it, nor will I desert my post, so long as I am allowed to keep it. And I ask you to join me in this same song.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sun Tzu's Art of Brief Commentary

So I downloaded Sun Tzu's Art of War onto my iPad, since the ebook was free.

Either I'm misunderstanding something, or this is a shockingly short book. I mean we are talking SHORT. 50 pages maybe? If that?

It's more like Sun Tzu's WarFAQ or something. Why did I always get the impression this book was huge?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Yet more pointing out of the obvious.

One the one hand, theists get accused of being utterly arrogant in their belief. Thinking that they and they alone know the truth about the universe. Where's there skepticism? Where's their admitting that maybe they're wrong? (Nevermind if they do, in fact, admit as much. Better to act as if every religious believer is really the caricature numerous atheists make them out to be.)

And then, right after denouncing the arrogance of thinking one has all the answers, turning around and admonishing people for not accepting the wilder speculations coming from certain scientists (Evolutionary psychology, natural selection as the primary driver of evolution, string theory, multiverses, etc) as answers that are beyond questioning.

Skepticism and qualification (or even suspension) of belief is, as ever, only laudatory when it's of a belief people don't like anyway.