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WHY ARE THE LAWS OF NATURE MATHEMATICAL?

Few scientists stop to wonder why the fundamental laws of the universe are mathematical; they just take it for granted. Yet the fact that “mathematics works” when applied to the physical world–and works so stunningly well–demands explanation, for it is not clear we have any absolute right to expect that the world should be well described by mathematics.

—Paul Davies, The Mind of God, 150 (Simon & Schuster 1992).

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THEISTIC EXPLANATIONS


But what if God actually did it?

“The butler did it” is a bad explanation unless, well, the butler did it. Does that mean that we, as rational people, are condemned to not believing the truth because to accept a true explanation would be to accept an unacceptable explanation?

Are there any limits on the ban on theistic explanations?

—dangerous idea blog

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A Dose of Philosophy

TO BE?

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What are the grounds for our certainty of the realness of God? It is clear that we cannot submit religion to scientific logic. Science is not the only way to truth, and its methods do not represent all of human thinking. Indeed, they are out of place in that dimension of human existence in which God is a burning issue.

God is not a scientific problem, and scientific methods are not capable of solving it. The reason why scientific methods are often thought to be capable of solving it is the success of their application in positive sciences. The fallacy involved in this analogy is that of treating God as if He were a phenomenon within the order of nature. The truth, however, is that the problem of God is not only related to phenomena within nature but to nature itself; not only to concepts within thinking but to thinking itself. It is a problem that refers to what surpasses nature, to what lies beyond all things and all concepts.

The moment we utter the name of God we leave the level of scientific thinking and enter the realm of the ineffable. Such a step is one which we cannot take scientifically, since it transcends the boundaries of all that is given. It is in spite of all warnings that man has never ceased to be stirred by ultimate questions. Science cannot silence him [man], because scientific terms are meaningless to the spirit that raises these questions, meaningless to the concern for a truth greater than the world that science is engaged in exploring.

God is not the only problem which is inaccessible to science. The problem of the origin of reality remains immune to it. There are aspects of given reality which are congruous with the categories of scientific logic, while there are aspects of reality which are inaccessible to this logic. Even some aspects and concepts of our own thinking are impregnable to analysis.

– Abraham Joshua Heschel “God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism” pages 101-102

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MEANT TO BE HERE

I cannot believe that our existence in this universe is a mere quirk of fate, an accident of history, an incidental blip in the great cosmic drama. Our involvement is too intimate. The physical species Homo may count for nothing, but the existence of mind in some organism on some planet in the universe is surely a fact of fundamental significance. Through conscious beings the universe has generated self-awareness. This can be no trivial detail, no minor byproduct of mindless, purposeless forces. We are truly meant to be here.

—Paul Davies, “The Mind of God,” 232 (1992)

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RICHARD DAWKINS ON SCIENCE AND RESPONSIBILITY

From the page:

“But doesn’t a truly scientific, mechanistic view of the nervous system make nonsense of the very idea of responsibility, whether diminished or not? Any crime, however heinous, is in principle to be blamed on antecedent conditions acting through the accused’s physiology, heredity and environment. Don’t judicial hearings to decide questions of blame or diminished responsibility make as little sense for a faulty man as for a Fawlty car?

“Why is it that we humans find it almost impossible to accept such conclusions? Why do we vent such visceral hatred on child murderers, or on thuggish vandals, when we should simply regard them as faulty units that need fixing or replacing? Presumably because mental constructs like blame and responsibility, indeed evil and good, are built into our brains by millennia of Darwinian evolution. Assigning blame and responsibility is an aspect of the useful fiction of intentional agents that we construct in our brains as a means of short-cutting a truer analysis of what is going on in the world in which we have to live. My dangerous idea is that we shall eventually grow out of all this and even learn to laugh at it, just as we laugh at Basil Fawlty when he beats his car. But I fear it is unlikely that I shall ever reach that level of enlightenment.”

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This page has an interesting discussion by Richard Dawkins on whether the ideas of human responsibility and culpability make sense from a scientific point of view. Dawkins points to the example from the British comedy “Fawlty Towers” of a man beating his car when it won’t run. The more logical thing to do, obviously, would be to examine the car, find the defect, and fix it.

Dawkins then suggests that we ought to take the same approach with persons. Rather than assigning blame when a person robs or murders, we ought to treat them as we would a car: examine them physiologically, figure out what is wrong, and fix/treat them.

There is one problem with this analysis – it assumes that we know when a person has acted wrongly. In other words, Dawkins tacitly acknowledges that robbing and killing are wrong (or at least defective behaviors) for human beings. How does he know this?

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