Monthly Archives: February 2016

God and Evidence

I made a drive-by comment on a recent Stefan Molyneux video, which caused an avalanche of responses, most of which I didn’t read. I did make one more comment that clarified/reworded the original. I don’t know if it helped. It probably didn’t.

In reading the video’s description, the philosophical assumptions are apparent:

Question: “I consider myself a scientific thinker, and like to dabble in some philosophy, I have also worked hard to maintain my Christian faith while doing this (an effort which most of my colleagues have seemed to abandon for one reason or another).”

“I’m looking to challenge myself by talking to you. The scope of the conversation, I would prefer to revolve around the question “how can someone be both logical and a Christian” as this question seems to come up in my day to day life to whomever is unlucky enough to ask me; but if we divert, we divert. In what ways does having a Christian faith preclude a person from being scientifically minded?”

The “solution” is easy: be scientifically minded about scientific things, be metaphysically minded about supernatural things—much like a bricklayer is in “bricklayer mode” when laying bricks, but goes into “dad mode” when he goes home at night and roughhouses with his kids. The atheist’s claim of “no god” is non-falsifiable, just as the theist’s claim that there is a god. But the atheist who explicitly frames the dilemma as such is working with a very non-scientific presumption, a presumption the theist rejects: that the only things that are knowable are epistemically falsifiable. As I’ve said before, the only purely rational position on God’s existence is the agnostic, when he claims that the question is unanswerable using just material evidence.

EDIT: Fixed some incomplete and half-worded sentences. I really need to get my head more tightly around proofreading.

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God’s Nose Wiggles

If you didn’t hear, scientists discovered some unusual gravitational waves emanating from two black holes. It’s a big deal since it strongly bolsters Einstein’s space-time theories.

Mike Duran quoted astrophysicist Hugh Ross on Facebook:

“The existence of gravity waves is an important prediction of Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Einstein’s theory of general relativity is a critical component of the spacetime theorems which, if general relativity is a true theory, implies that a Causal Agent beyond space and time must have created our universe of matter, energy, space, and time. The Gods of the non-biblical faiths create within space and time. The God of the Bible creates independent of space and time. Thus, increasing evidence for general relativity yields increasing evidence for the biblical account of cosmic creation.”

I don’t know what it is about Christian scientists and their careless language with respect to divine attribution. Yes, yes, I know: God did it all—somehow, but Christian scientists need to make any scientific discovery, that may kinda sorta weakly imply “God did it,” into a “God said ‘poof!’ and it totally ‘poofed.'” They reach out and wiggle God’s nose, Bewitched-style, for Him. Don’t do that; He’s perfectly capable of doing it Himself.

Additionally, these gravitational waves don’t even imply this Most Holy Wiggle, since the direct cause, or chain of causes, could still be material. If there are multiverses, the waves could have come from them. Or any manner of unknown, pre-our-universe, mechanism. Again: yes, God sure as sugar did it, but that’s not an excuse for cutting out the sciencey stuff that could’ve happened in between, especially if it’s your job to assume those causes exist.

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Umberto Eco Just Died

RIP, Eco. I haven’t read The Name of the Rose, his most well-known book, but it’s currently in the “to read” stack. I did see the movie version, with Sean Connery and Christian Slater, but I was too young to really appreciate it.

I’ve only read Foucault’s Pendulum (free PDF here). I liked it so much that an earlier version of this blog was titled “Foucault’s Vacuum.” The idea of a group of writers inventing a conspiracy theory cobbled from existing, “our world” conspiracy theories, was fascinating.

Eco’s description of the Parisian auto museum in the early few chapters had me hooked. It was like Ballard finally got over his drugged-out fetishization of mechanics and got on with the story (though there are some scatological references here):

I didn’t have much time: they closed at five-thirty. I took another quick look at the ambulatory. None of the engines would serve the purpose. Nor would the great ship machinery on the right, relics of some Lusitania engulfed by the waves, nor Le-noir’s immense gas engine with its variety of cogwheels. In fact, now that the light was fading, watery through the gray window-panes, I felt fear again at the prospect of hiding among these animals, for I dreaded seeing them come to life in the darkness, reborn in the shadows in the glow of my flashlight. I dreaded their panting, their heavy, telluric breath, skinless bones, viscera creaking and fetid with black-grease drool. How could I endure in the midst of that foul concatenation of diesel genitals and turbine-driven vaginas, the inorganic throats that once had flamed, steamed, and hissed, and might again that very night? Or maybe they would buzz like stag beetles or chirr like cicadas amid those skeletal incarnations of pure, abstract functionality, automata able to crush, saw, shift, break, slice, accelerate, ram, and gulp fuel, their cylinders sobbing. Or they would jerk like sinister marionettes, making drums turn, converting frequencies, transforming energies, spinning flywheels. How could I fight them if they came after me, instigated by the Masters of the World, who used them as proof—useless devices, idols only of the bosses of the lower universe—of the error of creation?

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Three Apologetics Videos

Please excuse the lack of substantive posts lately. I’ve been busy doing clean up work in the aftermath of Pale Blue Scratch’s release. Things will be back to normal soon…whatever that means.

My friend Ben Smith did a series of talks/lectures on philosophy and basic apologetics. I haven’t listened these all the way through, but so far I like them. I used to be super keen on evidentialist apologetics, but I’ve since moved on from it. I think some of the presuppositions (pun intended) of the movement, like that we could reason someone into a proper belief, is totally off, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some use for it. I’m not about to tell you what your interests should or shouldn’t be, with respect to what God has given you.

I think the best use of apologetics is to bring about a kind of null set: pomped-up goofs who think material reasoning is a reliable method of determining metaphysical truths should conclude that their presuppositions aren’t all that grand if similar reasoning can conclude opposite propositions. By redirecting their own methods against them, it can make it obvious to discerning minds, who happen to eavesdropping, that the naturalists’ case isn’t closed by any means. “Obvious” is relative here—the fact there are reasonable (heh) counterarguments at all hints at a crumbling foundation of assumptions, but admitting that is hard when you have so much invested in your own intelligence.

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Pale Blue Scratch Is Now Available

A quick note. If you hadn’t noticed the new navigation link or the book cover images on the sidebar, Pale Blue Scratch is now available. Go here for all the buying options.

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I Didn’t Record a Podcast But I Might As Well Have

So, something new. My friend Seth W and I recorded our semi-structured conversation the other day, and we decided to publish it.

Seth talks about Offscreen Magazine
I possibly misuse an economics term
I forgot the name of the Metal Made Flesh graphic novel Kickstarter
Seth talks about the Star Wars book Death Star
I talk about Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, based on the short story Any Friend of Nicholas Nickleby Is a Friend of Mine (which I forgot)
We talk about Brompton Bikes, Chrome Industries bags and tell a bike story

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A Politician Says Stuff About Boobs

How did I miss this? I ignore the news, but every now and then a breastfeeding story comes up, usually because of some uppity Victorian-types making lots of noise. If the Victorian-type is a politician, all the lefty sites will be all over it. Why wouldn’t they? It’s outrage red meat.

New Hampshire State Rep. Josh Moore said on Facebook that men should be allowed to grab the nipples of breastfeeding mothers if the law banning women exposing their breasts did not pass.

I don’t care either way if a woman breastfeeds in public spaces—though it’s really up to the property owner to allow/disallow as they see fit. Most people, I think, don’t care all that much, but the eternally offended tend to also be the eternally obnoxious, so a kind of spotlight fallacy shines bright in this context. I suppose my vague apathy rises to some level of de facto support, but that’s not for me to decide.

I can suggest an alternative proposal for Moore—one that isn’t so sexual assaulty: if women get to do publicly breastfeed without reprisal, then men can assume permission to manspread and mansplain (one privilege per breast) where a reasonable person would deem it appropriate. #EqualityForAll

Additional thought: in reality, breastfeeding is going to discourage nipple-grabbing. No dude, unless he’s on bath salts, is going to force his way onto a woman’s boob when there’s a baby attached to it. How in the world is that scenario more probable than a random grope of a breast or two? Can’t this guy factor some quick logistics into this?

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