Boxing Pythagoras

Philosophy from the mind of a fighter

Archive for the month “April, 2014”

Alexandria: The Most Important City in History

In 332 BCE, Alexander the Great’s incredible military campaign advanced on Egypt. As his armies moved in, the people there regarded Alexander as a savior, hailing him as the Son of the Most High God, and declaring him Master of the Universe. The young conqueror quickly fell in love with the country, and in the following year, he founded a new capital city: Alexandria-by-Egypt. From its very inception, Alexandria was created to be one of the most important cities in the world. Its ports became a prominent trade destination, in the Mediterranean, and its culture flourished and prospered from a mix of disparate peoples, religions, and philosophies, even at its onset. The Lighthouse of Alexandria was an incredible and beautiful building, standing over 400 feet tall, regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. But, without a doubt, the most incredible and amazingly important feature of Alexandria was the Museum.

The Museum of Alexandria became, almost immediately, the center of knowledge in the ancient world. It was not a museum, in the modern sense, but rather more like a modern research university. Students went there to learn all they could about the sciences of the day, while the teachers and academics received state salaries to simply do research and increase the knowledge of Mankind. The Museum boasted an incredible library, one which would quickly become the largest collection of books in the Ancient World. A tradition was developed, in the city, whereby foreign visitors would allow any books which they brought with them to be copied, so that the Library’s stocks would continue to increase. Vast amounts of knowledge were developed and stored in Alexandria.

The Museum was destined to make Alexandria-by-Egypt the most important city in the history of the world. An inordinately large amount of our modern knowledge of mathematics and science is owed directly to men educated or employed by this institution. What follows are brief descriptions of just 16 such scholars.

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Hierarchies of Absurdity

I read an article, today, by Brian Doyle at The American Scholar which describes how his view of the peculiarities of Mormonism led him to reflect on those tenets of his own belief that others might find crazy. I had a very similar experience. One summer, some years back, I was having a discussion with a friend about the ridiculous assertions made in Scientology. At the time, I was still a Christian– and a Young Earth Creationist, at that. While I was opining about the absurdity of Xenu killing the citizens of his galactic empire using hydrogen bombs and volcanoes, one of my friends asked me, “Is it really that much weirder than claiming that Yahweh drowned the whole planet, then repopulated it by the inhabitants of a single boat?”

I was taken aback, for a moment. I realized, then, that the strange and miraculous stories embedded in my own faith sounded just as ludicrous to an unbeliever as Scientology had sounded to me. I fumbled together a reply, saying the authors of the Biblical text were more reliable than a crooked science fiction writer, but my friend once again befuddled me with his response: “Why?”

It was my search for the answer to that question which led me to lose my faith in Christianity.

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It’s elementary, my dear Wallace

Yesterday, I took Christian apologist J. Warner Wallace to task for his mishandling of “Two Hidden Science Facts” which he purported to exist in the writings of Luke and John. Wallace’s primary claim to fame is that he is a former cold-case homicide detective who uses the forensics skills he learned on the job to show that the evidence for Christianity is true. If yesterday’s article wasn’t sufficient to show that Wallace’s skills as a detective do not translate well to history, then today’s certainly will. I went back, a couple of weeks, through the PleaseConvinceMe.com blog, and found this article from April 7th, “Is the Bible True? The Cumulative Case for the Reliability of the Gospels.”

J. Warner Wallace is being entirely dishonest when he pretends that a dispassionate view of the evidence supports the case which he presents.

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You, sir, are no Sherlock Holmes.

J. Warner Wallace is a Christian apologist who used to work as a homicide detective. In his book, Cold Case Christianity, Wallace describes how, as a 35-year-old atheist, he began to look at the evidence for Christianity using the forensic principles he developed while working crime scenes. Incredibly, he came to the conclusion, based on this evidence, that Christianity must be completely true. Wallace went on to become a youth group pastor, and then a church leader. Now, he travels the apologetics circuit and maintains the website PleaseConvinceMe.com, where he blogs and provides “real answers, for a real faith, in the real world.”

Yesterday, Mr. Wallace posted an article to his blog entitled, “Two Hidden Science Facts in the Passion Week.” In the article, he describes how eyewitness testimony which may seem ludicrous or inconceivable, at first, can sometimes be corroborated by scientific facts, later on. He then purports to have located two such occurrences in the gospel accounts of the passion. It has the potential to be quite an interesting perspective, but it is marred by some very egregious errors. If this is demonstrative of Mr. Wallace’s ability to evaluate evidence, I can’t advocate much confidence in his skill as a detective.

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On the Resurrection

A few weeks ago, I posted an article about Why I Am Not a Christian.  My entry is one in a long line of similar declarations with that same title made by many people, from complete amateurs to inordinately famous philosophers. However, whereas most of these other declarations list whole litanies of reasoning behind their dismissal of the Christian faith, I mentioned only a single point of concern. I am not a Christian because I do not believe that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead.

In my article, I gave a quick overview of some of the reasons that I do not believe this claim. I pointed out that, contrary to stories often passed among Christian circles, there are almost no references to Jesus by non-Christians within 100 years of his death. I discussed reasons for doubting the claim that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses to the event. I talked about discrepancies between the Gospel accounts, with one another as well as with contemporary historical records. Of course, even some people who know about and understand these things still believe in the Resurrection. Some, particularly Christian apologists, even assert that Jesus’ Resurrection is the most reasonable account, given all the facts.

Given the recent Easter holiday, this tends to be the time of year where those Christian apologists lay out their arguments for the Resurrection in full force. In particular, I read an article which fairly typifies many of the usual claims made by apologists on the subject. It was written by a friend of mine named Ray Ciervo, who holds a Masters degree in Apologetics from the Southern Evangelical Seminary, and who operates a ministry called No Pat Answers. The purpose of the ministry, as declared on its website, is to help prepare Christians to defend their faith without resorting to “pat answers,” which he defines as, “trite, glib, shot[s] from the hip, that [are] not very well thought out.” The article in question was posted to the No Pat Answers blog a few days ago, with the title How Can We Be Sure of the Resurrection? Unfortunately, I do not find many of the claims made by the article to be overly defensible, nor the arguments to be very convincing.

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Mathematics: Natural or Supernatural?

Yet again, Dr. William Lane Craig’s weekly Reasonable Faith podcast discusses a topic with which I am keenly interested. Unfortunately (and unlike last week), I once again find myself in a state of disagreement with the famous apologist. Dr. Craig’s discussion, this week, is entitled “God and Math,” and centers around a claim that mathematics is “unreasonably” effective. WLC builds his argument off of an article published in 1960 by a physicist named Eugene Wigner, “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences.” Having mentioned the Wigner quote, Dr. Craig attempts to show that the mathematical foundation which underlies all of the natural sciences is not, itself, natural. He intimates that mathematics is a supernatural construct by which a deity composed the cosmos.

William Lane Craig does not understand mathematics.

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Having Faith in Our Definitions

I recently posted about WLC’s quibbles over the definition of “atheism.” In my opinion, when two people disagree on the definition of a term, the best way of resolving the issue is to go with the definition proposed by the person who self-identifies with the word. For example, in the case of Dr. Craig’s issues with the definition of “atheism,” we should utilize the definition claimed by someone who calls himself an “atheist.” Otherwise, any arguments that are made against that person’s atheism run the risk of becoming straw men, as they are based around false precepts. This week, Dr. Craig’s podcast once again attempts to wrestle the control of a word’s definition away from atheists. In response to Dr. Peter Boghossian’s new book, A Manual for Creating Atheists, WLC discusses what he views as a faulty view of “faith” raised up by opponents of religion.

And, in a marked twist for this blog, I actually agree with William Lane Craig, in this case.

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Dissecting “The Sacred Geometry Movie” (Part 1?)

Coincidentally, soon after I posted about Sacred Geometry and The Ancient Secret of the Flower of Life, one of the most popular purveyors of pseudoscience on YouTube, Spirit Science, decided to release a movie one hour and forty-five minutes long discussing the subject. The film is, predictably, full of baseless assertions, nonsense, bad math, and dishonesty. In this post, I will be dissecting “The Sacred Geometry Movie,” showing once again that the supporters of Sacred Geometry haven’t got a clue what they are talking about.

Before we get into my analysis, here is the actual video. All of my timestamps will be referencing this.

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Sacred Geometry is Neither

In recent years, there has been a movement which has been gaining popularity across the Internet, known as “Sacred Geometry.”  I’m not using this phrase in its historical context, mind, where it traditionally referred to the geometry and architecture found in churches, mosques, temples, and religious artwork. The context in which we’ll be discussing Sacred Geometry, today, is in the idea that the very fabric and origins of the universe are found in fairly simple shapes and patterns. So far as I have been able to deduce, this whole movement owes itself almost entirely to a man who calls himself Drunvalo Melchizedek.

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WLC insists that I am not an Atheist

I do not believe that any gods exist. As such, I usually self-identify as an Atheist. When asked about my beliefs, the word “atheist” offers a simple, one-word answer which is generally understood by those with whom I’m conversing. When I tell someone that I am an atheist, they usually understand it to mean that I do not attend a Church, Synagogue, or Mosque; that I do not cleave to any sacred texts, doctrines, or dogma; and that I do not believe in any gods. Philosopher and apologist William Lane Craig, however, disagrees with me, rather vehemently.  According to Dr. Craig’s Reasonable Faith podcast, this week, the fact that I do not believe in any gods is completely irrelevant. He insists that I should not be calling myself an Atheist.

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