Boxing Pythagoras

Philosophy from the mind of a fighter

Archive for the category “Science”

On Time, Aristotle, and Relativity


As I have noted many times over the years, I believe Aristotle’s metaphysics to be every bit as antiquated and outmoded as are his physics. I have expressed wonderment at the fact that everyone seems to have rejected his notions that the Earth is the center of the universe, that heavy things fall faster than light things, that the sky is composed of aetherial spheres, and a great many other things; and yet there are philosophers who ardently and doggedly remain attached to the ideas of hylomorphism, finitism, and– particularly– act and potency.

This latest notion has been a topic of discussion on Boxing Pythagoras very nearly since the start. One of my earliest articles was on William Lane Craig’s Theory of Time which is not explicitly Aristotelian but which is nonetheless predicated upon similar notions to act and potency. This has factored into my discussions on a range of other topics, including the Kalam Cosmological Argument, which explores the implications of the temporal finitude of the universe; the Grim Reaper Paradox, which purports to give good logical reasons to doubt the existence of actual infinities; Free Will and Determinism, regarding how to reconcile the notion of free-will with wholly extant Time; Infinity and Eternity, wherein I discuss how even a universe which does not extend infinitely into the past can be eternal; and most germane to our discussion today, Thomas Aquinas’ Five Ways, in which the eminent 13th-Century philosopher attempted to demonstrate the necessity of God’s existence explicitly through the Aristotelian notion of act and potency.

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A review of the Dillahunty v. Jones debate, Part 1

As anyone who has read much of Boxing Pythagoras will likely already know, I am rather fond of debate. I quite enjoy listening to, reading, and watching debates between two people on a great variety of subjects– all the moreso when the subject happens to be one with which I am heartily interested. Recently, two YouTubers got together for just such a discussion. Matt Dillahunty is the president of the Atheist Community of Austin and one of the hosts of a broadcast called The Atheist Experience. Michael Jones is a Christian apologist who created a YouTube channel called “Inspiring Philosophy.” Both men are very intelligent and I have greatly enjoyed listening to both, in the past. When I heard that they were going to debate the topic, “Are there good reasons to believe in God?” I was quite excited to give it a listen.

Unfortunately, I was very let down by the debate. I spent a great deal of the two-hour long discussion cringing and yelling at my computer. While it might be easy for one of my readers to think my discomfort was caused by the Christian conversant, the truth is that it was the atheist who had me so upset. This was honestly one of the worst debate performances on the part of Matt Dillahunty which I have ever seen.

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WLC doesn’t understand cosmology

Over the past few months, I have been listening to Dr. William Lane Craig’s Excursus on Natural Theology, which is a course designed to introduce an audience to reasons for accepting the positions of theism. From time to time, I find that Dr. Craig says something so egregiously wrong that I feel I should address it, here, at Boxing Pythagoras. In two previous articles, I have discussed Dr. Craig’s misconceptions in regards to the mathematical concept of infinity, from parts 9 and 10 of his Excursus. Today, I want to focus on Part 16 of the Excursus in which Dr. Craig talks about the Fine-Tuning problem of cosmology.

Unfortunately for our esteemed theologian, his understanding of cosmology seems to be just as poor as his understanding of mathematics.

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WLC on the Speed of Light

I’ve been listening to a series from William Lane Craig’s Defenders podcast entitled “An Excursus on Natural Theology,” over at the Reasonable Faith website, of late. Needless to say, I have a lot I would like to say about almost the entirety of the series. However, today, I’m going to focus on a minor point which Dr. Craig makes in Part 6 of the series. Now, to be completely fair, this point is only tangential Dr. Craig’s overarching claims. By no means am I attempting to imply that the problems with this one issue somehow refute his whole Excursus– I’ll be dedicating a whole new series of posts to that, in the future. However, I chose to focus on this very minor point made by Dr. Craig for another reason entirely.

Once again, William Lane Craig has demonstrated himself to be rather ignorant in regards to the science which he attempts to discuss.

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WLC on Time, Part 6: Did the Universe Begin?

William Lane Craig has dedicated a good portion of his career to the concept of Time. Unfortunately, he has not invested the time necessary into learning the mathematics and physics which are necessary to discuss the concept cogently. Dr. Craig is a philosopher of religion, not a philosopher of science. He is a theologian, not a scientist. So, when William Lane Craig posts a podcast to his Reasonable Faith website in which he upbraids someone who is an accomplished and well-respected scientist for that person’s understanding of science, I have to say that I am more than a bit skeptical.

In the podcast, Dr. Craig is responding to an interview of Dr. Sean Carroll, a prominent cosmologist, by Robert Kuhn for the program, Closer to Truth. If you would like to see the relevant portions of this interview, you can find them here, along with several other clips. Dr. Craig’s podcast makes specific reference to the clips entitled What would an Infinite Universe Mean? and Did the Universe Begin?, but I recommend the other clips, as well– particularly, Is Time Real?, as it is closely related to our topic at hand.

William Lane Craig has a very poor understanding of the science which he attempts to discuss, and as a result, he once again leaps to false conclusions.

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Proof that π=2√3

There is an inherent danger attached to blindly accepting the word of someone who sounds like they are presenting a rational, scientific claim. Too many people are willing to accept a proposition solely because they’ve heard it from someone who bears the appearance of intelligence. The line of thought seems to be, “Well, he’s smarter than me, so he must be right!” Unfortunately, this sort of fallacious reasoning goes largely unchecked, and often becomes formative in the common understanding of entire groups of people.

For almost the entirety of your mathematical education, you have been taught that the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, which we affectionately refer to as π, is something close to 3\frac{1}{7}, or about 3.14; however, today I’m going to show you that your math teachers were wrong. In actuality, the value of π is exactly 2√3, or about 3.46.

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A Finely-Tuned Deception

William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith website released a new video, yesterday, highlighting the Fine-Tuning Argument, another extremely popular topic which is quite commonly discussed in modern apologetics circles. If you are unfamiliar with the argument, feel free to watch Craig’s video, below. You can also read the transcript for the video here, if you (like me) would like to digest its claims in a more easily referenced format.

I’m sure this won’t come as much of a surprise to anyone familiar with this blog, but I find that the video is wholly unconvincing. In fact, the entire Fine-Tuning argument is nothing more than a God-of-the-Gaps which has been camouflaged behind a screen of pseudoscience.

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On Avialan Theropod Dinosaurs

I saw my favorite species of dinosaur, yesterday. Don’t let those science books fool you! Contrary to popular belief, dinosaurs were not wiped out in a massive extinction event, 65 Million years ago. They have lived side-by-side with humanity throughout our entire history, and even today, they’re still around. I saw one, yesterday, and it was beautiful. As I was driving over to the gym, preparing to teach the five-o’-clock Kids’ Jiu-Jitsu class, I saw it pacing along the side of the road as it stared at the carcass of a recently roadkilled deer. As soon as the traffic had cleared, enough, I saw the raptor bound towards its meal on two scaly, talon-footed legs which tensed with powerful muscles. Diving face-first into the fresh meat, the creature tore away chunks of flesh, gobbling them down with efficiency and zeal. However, as my car approached, the magnificent beast suddenly became apprehensive. Spreading its glossy black wings, the dinosaur leapt into the air and flew away.

My favorite species of dinosaur is Corvus corax, the common raven.

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On the Kalam Cosmological Argument

One of the most popular arguments for the existence of God is known as the Kalam Cosmological Argument. In general, the “cosmological” family of arguments attempt to show that some initial condition necessarily pre-exists the universe, and declare this initial condition (or its cause) to be God. There have been many different versions of the cosmological argument, but the Kalam is particularly popular because it is composed of a very simple syllogism with premises that many people find self-evident. This simplicity makes the KCA very easy for laymen to remember and explain, while professional philosophers love the hidden nuances and depth which underlie the seemingly simple premises. The KCA was first developed and refined by medieval Muslim thinkers like Al-Kindi, Al-Ghazali, and Averroes in the time when the Arab world stood at the pinnacle of Western philosophy and science. Today, arguably the most avid and scholarly proponent of the KCA is Christian apologist, William Lane Craig (whose work has been a frequent focus of this blog), and it will be Dr. Craig’s particular formulation of the KCA which I will be discussing.

The argument is as follows:

  1. Anything that begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

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On the Origin of Intelligence

Quite often, in recent months, I have found myself caught in the middle of heated debates between proponents of special human creation, on the one hand, and astronomical optimists, on the other, in regards to the existence of intelligent extraterrestrial life. Proponents of special human creation quite often argue that human consciousness and intelligence could not possibly have arisen naturally, that it is impossible for such things to be properties of solely physical processes, and that they are therefore justified in claiming that it is entirely inconceivable that intelligent extraterrestrial life could exist in the universe. You can find this view very commonly espoused by Young Earth Creationists, Old Earth Creationists, and Intelligent Design proponents, alike (for example, check out this recent article by noted Young Earther, Ken Ham). On the opposite side of the fence, you’ll quite frequently hear both amateur and professional astronomy enthusiasts proclaiming that the physical cosmos is so inordinately vast that it is absolutely inconceivable that intelligent extraterrestrial life doesn’t exist in the universe. Such advocates often spout off statistics regarding the number of stars in the observable universe, facts about the abundance of the primary chemical building-blocks of life, and various iterations of the Drake Equation.

Almost invariably, I find myself getting yelled at by both sides of these arguments, because I disagree with both of their positions.

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