My 6 year old enjoyed most of this book but the ending with the prayer tree was confusing and, to be blunt, a bit bit bent. The religious undertones oMy 6 year old enjoyed most of this book but the ending with the prayer tree was confusing and, to be blunt, a bit bit bent. The religious undertones of this book will appeal to those who indoctrinate their children with Christian theology. No thanks....more
The following is my Irreligiosity column from the October 1, 2011 edition of the Owen Sound Sun Times which was inspired by reading this book:
By now mThe following is my Irreligiosity column from the October 1, 2011 edition of the Owen Sound Sun Times which was inspired by reading this book:
By now most people are generally familiar with what has come to be known as the theory of intelligent design (“ID”). ID has become a favored concept among creationists and anyone having a religious persuasion that finds it hard to accept that life as we know it arose from inorganic matter. But what exactly is ID? In the words of one of its most famous proponents, philosopher/mathematician William Dembski, ID claims that: “there are natural systems that cannot be adequately explained in terms of undirected natural forces and that exhibit features which in any other circumstance we would attribute to intelligence".
The most typical example used to support ID is the bacterial flagellum which is a spinning hair that functions as a kind of outboard motor for bacteria. ID theorists will point to the fact that the theory of evolution is unable to explain how such an “irreducibly complex” system could arise. However, using ID as an explanation here makes as much sense as asserting the flagellum was teleported from another dimension. It is the very definition of an argument from ignorance: "I can't figure out a natural cause so I'll assert a supernatural cause".
Supporters of ID will tell you that biological systems are too complex to have arisen by chance and therefore must have been designed. The problem with this reasoning is that what appears to be a fluke might not be a fluke – perhaps we will soon discover that replicating proteins (the basic building blocks of life) arise naturally upon a confluence of certain as yet undiscovered factors and commonly arise on planets with earth-like conditions. Isn't lightning striking a primordial soup far more plausible than positing a magic wand?
Dembski has written: "... when we find specified complexity in nature which no embodied, reified or evolved intelligence could plausibly have placed there, it is a straightforward inference to conclude that some unembodied intelligence must have been involved." This logic fails – as physicists would say “it’s not even wrong”. What Dembski calls a straightforward inference, I call attributing ID as the cause for something he cannot yet explain. Do we rule out a designer? Of course not. But how does positing a designer further the inquiry and how does Dembski propose to rule out unknown natural causes/mechanisms? Also, why are ID supporters so quick to rule out other theoretical possibilities and rule in a supernatural wand waver? The answer should be obvious: ID fits in nicely with the Christian belief in an unembodied deity who was the first cause of the origins of life on earth.
If you want to have some fun with a supporter of ID, ask them a couple questions. First of all, if the designer was embodied, wouldn’t he/she/it have to be as complex as what they designed? If so, why doesn’t the supposed designer require a designer? [Removing the design requirement from the supposed “creator” is a textbook example of the logical fallacy known as “special pleading”] If the designer was unembodied, how would it interact with the natural world? If the ID proponent is honest, they will have to admit that they have no answers to these questions. I've found this same explanation in one of my favorite books: “Then he'll land in a fish bowl. He'll manage just fine. Don't ask how he'll manage. That's his job. Not mine”. Dr. Seuss , If I Ran The Circus (Random House, 1956).
Ultimately, the search for ID in biological systems is akin to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) in space or the science of cryptography which discerns intelligently specified information out of apparently indecipherable code. The problem for ID is that it is very difficult for its theorists to present testable hypotheses. What do they expect to find? The 10 Commandments encoded in our DNA? In any event, I encourage ID theorists to set up viable experiments to prove that the bacterial flagellum has an intelligent cause and is not the product of naturalistic causes.
Christian analytic theologian Randal Rauser has tidily summed up ID as follows: "ID is not a scientific theory. Rather it is a claim in the philosophy of science regarding what kind of causes can be appealed to in scientific theorization". This description hits the nail on the head. If ID supporters wish to speculate that a supernatural cause explains the origin of life on earth, they should go ahead and prove it. Work is well underway to prove otherwise.
I found this gem after the author had left several insightful comments on a philosophy blog that we both occasionally frequent. I ordered the book befI found this gem after the author had left several insightful comments on a philosophy blog that we both occasionally frequent. I ordered the book before it became available on amazon and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Elvene is the story of a coupling between Elvene, a Space Core officer from Old Earth and Myka, a young "primitive" Kiri tribesman from a life bearing planet in an unchartered sector of the universe. This story (which I won't give away here) has it all: the loyal shipboard computer, chasing robotic drones, tasteful sex scenes, vivid description and fluid storytelling. Here's just a brief sample:
"Marauders [i.e. the robotic drones], however, weren't always so predictable, and trying to second guess them was inevitably a gamble. By their very nature they evolved strategies in the same way that they evolved their own mechanisms. They had effectively become an independent species, spawned by humankind and now a menace to the colonised universe. It was a mistake to believe that they thought like humans; their creativity was blind but no less effective. They were an evolving form of machinery with the ability to form strategies, co-operate, use experience as their compass to the future, and most significantly of all, to survive by Darwinian domination of all other technologies. They perceived humans as another form of technology rather than another species of nature, hence the perpetual conflict and struggle for supremecy" (page 161).
Written largely while the author was waylaid in Montreal, Elvene will be a welcome purchase or gift for anyone who enjoys what I will describe as throwback sci-fi. Mealing is like a cross between Philip Jose Farmer and James Blish - I just wish he would write another one of these. ...more
A must read for anyone interested in the pursuit of truth. The author is a former postman who went on to attain his doctorate in philosophy. He now leA must read for anyone interested in the pursuit of truth. The author is a former postman who went on to attain his doctorate in philosophy. He now lectures at the University of London. His interests include philosophy of religion from an atheist perspective. In this provocatively titled new work, Law examines the strategies employed by proponents of ridiculous belief systems such as homeopathy, conspiracy theorists and some (but not all) religions. These strategies include “Playing the Mystery Card”, “Piling Up the Anecdotes” and what he calls “Pseudoprofundity”. The best parts of the book include discussion of the “Going Nuclear” strategy in which the bullsh*tter employs radical scepticism to attack all beliefs (after all, how do we know we aren’t all brains in vats?) in order to deflect legitimate criticism of their crazy beliefs. Law also skewers Young Earth Creationists (YECs) who artfully attempt to immunize their beliefs from falsification. In his chapter “But it Fits and The Blunderbluss”, he describes how YECs answer the question: How did Noah feed all his animals while they were at sea? Answer: they hibernated. How did polar bears and possums make it to Noah’s Ark? Answer: There were no separate continents and the force of the Flood broke them apart. Law continues by explaining how the same ad hoc manoeuvres employed by YECs could be applied by someone who insists that dogs are actually spies from Venus. Faced with the objection that dogs can’t speak, the believer could suggest that dogs just choose to hide their ability to speak from humans. When presented with the fact that no life can be observed nor sustained on Venus, the believer can respond by suggesting that the dogs live in deep underground bunkers ... and so on and so on. ...more