The latest installment in Salon's Atoms and Eden series on science and religion is an interview with Ken Wilber. Steve Paulson says that Wilber "may be the most important living philosopher you've never heard of." I admit up front that my familiarity with Wilber's work is limited (I've never read any of his books), but of all the people I've known who considered Wilber to be worthwhile, only one was someone whom I respected intellectually. Now that I've laid out my biases, maybe somebody who is into Wilber can tell me whether I'm mistaken to be so dismissive towards him. I would similarly encourage anyone who wishes to confirm me in my suspicions.
April 2008 Archives
The by-line to this article in the New York Magazine: "The fastest-growing faith in America is no faith at all. And now some atheists think they need a church."
Given the topic, I found the headline to be a bit ironic simply because one of the groups Nietzsche is critiquing in his parable of the madman is those atheists who believe that the Enlightenment project and the sciences can continue just as they were without the theistic metaphysics that underlay them.
Otherwise, it's an interesting article that covers some of the history of atheistic "religious" organisations and thoughts by luminaries in the contemporary movement on how to make it mainstream and compensate for the lack of community among atheists that one often finds within the life of an organized faith.
Here's a news story for those of you who do not particularly like The Beatles and think you will not particularly like Expelled. (In other words, it is a post for me, everyone else in humanity that died before The Beatles, and no one else?)
If you're too lazy to click:
John Lennon's sons and widow, Yoko Ono, are suing the filmmakers of "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" for using the song "Imagine" in the documentary without permission.
HT to PZ.
I just received a notice from Blackwell about the new book in the Great Debates series featuring a debate between Alvin Plantinga and Michael Tooley on Knowledge of God. I noticed that one chapter by Plantinga is called "Can Robots Think? A Reply to Tooley's Second Statement."
I have two questions: (1) Can someone tell me what Plantinga's position on artificial thinking is? (2) Can someone give me any good reason why robots will not be able to think in the future?
Theists in general are quite hostile to the possibility of genuine artificial intelligence, but I have yet to hear a good reason why. Suppose that substance dualism is true. This means that you and I do our thinking with a non-physical mind/soul. The fact that we do our thinking with a non-physical mind/soul doesn't show that thinking can only be done with a mind/soul. Compare: The fact that birds do their flying with feathered wings does not mean that feathered wings are required for flying. Helicopters, plants, rockets, etc. fly without feathered wings. So, I can't see why the truth of dualism would preclude AI. And I'm not sure what other good reasons there are.
I'm going to teach a course on Science and Religion in the fall for the first time. The course presupposes no (or very little) prior background in philosophy. I was amazed at the number of interesting books that resulted from a search on Amazon using the keywords 'science' and 'religion.' It's hard to know where to begin to sort them out. If some of you could recommend texts on science and religion that you think are excellent, I would appreciate it.
I'm happy to announce the 5th Biennial University of Rochester Graduate Epistemology Conference.
It will be held Friday-Saturday, October 10th-11th on the beautiful campus of the University of Rochester, hosted by the Philosophy Department.
The main speaker is Alvin Goldman and Richard Feldman will be commenting.
The call for paper is here.
Many people have difficulty with God's acts in the Bible because God seems to be committing or commanding immoral acts (e.g., when God commands the Israelites to wipe out certain people-groups, including children). I think that many of these charges can be alleviated if some good justification can be given for the claim that it is morally permissible for God to kill people as he does in the Bible.
One step towards arguing for the claim that it is morally permissible for God to kill people is to argue that people do not have the right not to be killed by God. I may have the right that you not kill me, and vice versa, but
The following three steps are fairly standard (I've seen the third step in a talk this year by Wes Morriston--does anybody have an earlier source?).
Step 1: Consider the conditional:
- Even if God had commanded it, you shouldn't torture the innocent.
Step 2: Because of God's nature, God cannot command torture of the innocent.
Step 3: Let's grant this. Still:
- Claim (1) is a non-trivially true per impossibile counterfactual.
- From (1) and (2) it follows that right and wrong are not defined by God's commands.
Now here is where I want to add a new step to the dialectics:
Step 4: One should deny the conjunction of (2) and (3). The first approach is this. Consider the statement:
- Even if it were right, you still shouldn't torture the innocent.
- Even if the categorical imperatives required it, you still shouldn't torture the innocent.
Final remark: I find myself with some intellectual akrasia here. I still find (1) a plausible argument against divine command metaethics, despite the criticism. This suggests that there is something about (1) that I am not managing to capture here.