Boxing Pythagoras

Philosophy from the mind of a fighter

Archive for the month “March, 2014”

Heathen Apologetics, Part 2: The Argument from Design

Today’s post marks the second installment of my Heathen Apologetics series. For those of you who may have missed the first entry in this series, I recommend checking out my initial post on the matter to get a better understanding of my motivations and purpose in writing these– also, so you can see the Heathen version of Pascal’s Wager. Today, however, I’ll tackle another popular argument for God’s existence. This argument is known in scholarly circles as the teleological argument. But despite the complex name, it’s so commonly argued that you’ve probably heard such an argument, before, without realizing what it was called.

The universe contains patterns, complexity, and order which must have been intentionally designed by the gods.

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Why I am not a Christian

As I was flipping through the radio stations while driving home, last night, I stopped on a local Catholic broadcast. It was right around 7:00pm, which meant that Catholic Answers was being aired– a program dedicated to apologetics and engaging the questions that people, both within and without, may have about Catholicism. Last night’s episode was specifically asking for non-Christians to call in and share the reasons they have, if any, for not being Christian. I was extremely tempted to call in, myself, but I had other plans which took precedence, unfortunately. So, instead of engaging with the apologists on Catholic Answers, I will have to content myself with laying out my reasoning, here.

In 1927, the very famous 20th Century philosopher and logician, Bertrand Russell, presented a lecture to the National Secular Society in South London which was entitled, “Why I Am Not A Christian,” a lecture which would later become widely reproduced and wildly famous. In the essay, Lord Russell lays out nearly a dozen different topics to explain why he did not adhere to the faith so widely practiced throughout the West. My own list is quite a bit shorter than Russell’s– in fact it consists solely of a single topic:

“…if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:14 (NRSV)

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WLC’s Time, Part 2: Einstein the Verificationist

Originally, I had intended my first article on William Lane Craig’s Theory of Time to be a one-time affair. I stated the basics of my position, laid out my conclusions, and was ready to move on. My final thought, in the article, was that WLC’s Theory of Time is circular: he adheres to the Tensed Theory of Time due to his acceptance of Lorentzian Relativity, and he accepts Lorentzian Relativity due to his adherence to the Tensed Theory of Time. However, on his podcast released this week, Dr. Craig addresses a similarly founded accusation of circular argumentation which was given by a blogger who calls himself, “A Counter Apologist.” While the claim from A Counter Apologist deals specifically with the Kalam Cosmological Argument, he does so by addressing WLC’s Theory of Time as it conflicts with Relativity, in much the same way as my article approached the subject. In his response, Dr. Craig claims that his support of the Tensed Theory of Time is supported by more than just his preference for it, and that he has laid out his arguments for this in his published works. It occurred, to me, that perhaps I was being unfair. My first article was based on a seminar which I had seen Dr. Craig give, rather than on his books. Perhaps, in his written work, I would find that WLC provides greater support for the Tensed Theory.

I’m starting with the arguments presented in Dr. Craig’s book for the popular audience, Time and Eternity: Exploring God’s Relationship to Time (Crossway, 2001).  If I don’t find this work convincing or satisfactory, I’ll try to continue into his more scholarly works on the subject, The Tensed Theory of Time: A Critical Examination (Springer, 2000) and The Tenseless Theory of Time: A Critical Examination (Springer, 2000).

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Philosophy from the Mind of a Fighter

Pythagoras was a boxer. Plato was a wrestler. Xenophon was a soldier. Marcus Aurelius directed armies. There is a rich history of philosophers who were also fighters– or perhaps fighters who were also philosophers. And these two seemingly disparate endeavors have much more in common than most people realize. When people think of philosophy, they often conjure images of frail intellectuals discussing lofty ideals and contemplating nigh incomprehensible trivialities with like minded men. When people think of fighters, they often imagine brutish lugs thrashing at one another with neither thought nor civility. Both of these stereotypes are false. Philosophers have been some of the most brash, combative men in history; and I have personally known fighters who are absolutely brilliantly intellectual and incomparably kind. The truth is that neither philosophy nor fighting is really what most people believe them to be, and that these two concepts share a great deal more in common than most would realize.

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Is Intelligent Design faith-based? A response to Melissa Cain Travis

Many people are aware of the debate which has been ongoing between naturalists and theologians since Darwin first published on his theory of Evolution by Natural Selection. Unfortunately, however, since it’s always the squeaky wheel which gets the grease, most people only ever hear about this subject in terms of science-denying Young Earth Creationists standing opposed to godless heathen anti-theist scientists. The truth is that there exists quite a spectrum of middle ground, on the subject. There are theists who keep strict separation of their scientific peanut butter from their theological chocolate, and there are atheists who believe that there does exist some metaphysical design to the universe. One such middle premise which has been gaining immense public popularity, in the last few decades, is the Intelligent Design movement. Proponents of Intelligent Design say that it is an open and objective scientific study based on the hypothesis that at least some of the complexity of the cosmos is better explained by the intercession of an intelligent entity than by blind, natural processes. Opponents say that it is just faith-based Creationism cloaked in a pseudoscientific cowl.

In her blog– Science, Reason, & Faith— a Christian apologist named Melissa Cain Travis responds to some critics of ID. According to Ms. Travis, these sources (which apparently include the Huffington Post) jumped on the fact that an Intelligent Design presentation was hosted by a church in order to claim that ID is therefore religiously motivated. Ms. Travis rightly corrects some non sequitur argumentation which she has perceived in these sources. However, I will contend that even with such correction, Melissa Cain Travis is wrong to claim that Intelligent Design is not a faith-based movement.

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Star Light, Star Bright

Stars are not just static, twinkling lights in the sky, as Mankind thought in antiquity. Stars are giant, dynamic balls of plasma, nuclear furnaces which are constantly changing and churning. Stars have a “life cycle,” much akin to what we find in organisms on Earth: they are born, they mature, they grow, and they eventually die. A star’s light is not just a constant, unchanging beam pointed at the Earth. Starlight tells a story. It communicates to us tales about the life of that star, every photon like one letter in a massive epic poem.

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Addendum to my Cosmos Review

In my previous post, I gave a short review of the first episode of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, the re-imagination of Carl Sagan’s beloved series which has been brought to us by host Neil deGrasse Tyson and producers Ann Druyan and Seth MacFarlane.  My initial impressions, immediately after watching the show, were incredibly positive.  It was visually stunning, well-written and directed, and highly emotional– in short, everything I could hope for in a new documentary designed to attract the general public to science.  While I remain ecstatic about the series, I need to revisit that first episode, as I have come to learn a few things. In my review, I referred to the Giordano Bruno segment as “particularly inspired,” because it educated the public about a lesser-known piece of history while serving to show that Cosmos would not shy away from offending religious sensibilities in its depictions of the universe.

I now have to retract that portion of my review.

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A Short Review of “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey”

The first episode of “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” aired, last night, on FOX.  The show, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson and produced by Ann Druyan and Seth Macfarlane, is a 21st Century re-imagining of Carl Sagan’s incredible effort to bring science to the general public. I have been very excited for this premiere since I first heard whisperings that a new “Cosmos” was in the works, and I am very glad to say that I was not disappointed.

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William Lane Craig’s Theory of Time

William Lane Craig is one of the most noted, well-known, and respected Christian apologists in the world. He is an accomplished philosopher and theologian with a very broad knowledge base and a particular acumen for public debate. He presents his positions with clarity, and he deftly anticipates most of the arguments which his opponents might present. Dr. Craig prepares his work with exceptional forethought and thoroughness, in order to present rational, cogent, and coherent arguments for his case. I have a great deal of respect for William Lane Craig and his work, despite my disagreement with it.

That said, I find myself inordinately perplexed that WLC maintains his death-grip on the idea of a Tensed Theory of Time.

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Heathen Apologetics, Part 1: Pascal’s Wager

When I was in high school, I took a class called “Myths, Dreams, and Cultures” (or MDC, for short). Now, I attended a fairly upscale private Catholic school, and all but a very few students came from Christian upbringings. As such, one of the main goals of MDC was to open the students up to the understanding that we were a product of our culture, and that other cultures often had very different pictures of the world. To that end, we would play a game called “Stump the Aborigine.” Our teacher took on the role of an idealized traditionalist Native American, living off the land, completely divorced from modern, American culture. Our job was to be the representatives of Modern America in order to convince this “primitive” of the superiority of our way of life. If anyone could succeed at convincing the aborigine to leave his culture for the one we were selling, our teacher promised to buy that student a brand-new car.

It did not take long for me to realize that the game was rigged.

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