Archives For Intellect

 

You’ve likely heard the word, but many have no idea what it means. Settle in and watch as Anthony Weber unpacks what Postmodernism is, where it came from, and why it matters.

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Appraising Doubt

Anthony Weber —  June 12, 2012 — 11 Comments

In Praise of Doubt: How to Have Convictions Without Becoming a Fanatic, by Peter Berger and Anton Zijderveld, is an ambitious work aiming to alleviate some of the hostility between differing world views. As odd as the title may sound, it provides some ways of understanding how doubt is not always a bad thing.  But while offering some helpful ideas, it fails to lay a foundation that transcends the very problems it critiques (more on that at the end).

The book begins by noting the role of reason and science in eroding faith over the past 250 years.  Voltaire’s writings and the French Revolution ( which actually enthroned the goddess of Reason in a church in Paris) serve as iconic markers for the beginning of the Enlightenment.  Auguste Comte soon paved the way for a very influential empiricist science, as seen in the later philosophies of Mark, Durkheim, and Weber. The modern path to secularization seemed inevitable. When Neitzsche finally declared God was dead, many believed this would be the final nail in the religious coffin. Continue Reading…

From “Beware the Fausts of Neuroscience,” by George Walden:

“As a diplomatic specialist in Communism, in China and the Soviet Union I had witnessed at first hand the biggest live experiment in history, as more than a billion human beings, caged in their own countries like laboratory mice, were subjected to the parascientific creed of dialectical materialism and Marxism-Leninism. (The term parascience, nicely evocative of paranormal and la pataphysique, I borrow from Absence of Mind, essays on science and religion by Marilynne Robinson, Yale 2010.) Of the outcome — some hundred million dead, three million in China during 1966-69 the years I was there — there is little more to be said, except to recall how many Western scientists, some eminent, went along with the experiment in the face of the scepticism of Johnson’s common reader.

One example. Professor J.D. Bernal, a first-rank scientist, helped lay the foundations of molecular biology. Inspired by Nikolai Bukharin’s lecture on the Marxist roots of Newton, he had earlier endorsed the “proletarian science” of Trofim Lysenko, whose theory of plant genetics Stalin backed because it suggested that the acquired characteristics of the communist New Man could be transmitted in perpetuity. Bukharin was later shot in the show trials of 1938 after torture extracted a confession; Bernal survived till 1971, when he died peacefully, proud of his Stalin Prize, and with no confession.

As we contemplate the utopian claims of some branches of scientific inquiry today, the damage he and a generation of sympathisers and fellow travellers (including Joseph Needham, and to a lesser extent C.P. Snow) did to the reputation of science itself should not be forgotten.

All this comes to mind as I try to keep abreast of neuroscience. I am not saying this is the new Marxism, merely that experiments and theories that claim to revolutionise our understanding of ourselves deserve the common reader’s vigilance. Remarkable research is under way, but some in the neuroscience fraternity are not content with reinterpreting the world: they want to change it. “The return of political scientism, particularly of a biological variety,” Raymond Tallis has written, “should strike a chill to the heart.” It does to mine. Today Orwell’s Animal Farm would feature a cold-eyed, white-coated meerkat loading troublesome creatures into a brain scanner, before prescribing the necessary treatment.”

This is Part 3 in a series on Arguments for God’s Existence.  Read Part 1 (cosmological)  and part 2 (teleological).

The Moral Argument studies humanity and infers that our moral nature is evidence for a  personal God.  Basically, the argument states that humanity has shown remarkable consistency in its “oughts” across time and cultures. An appeal to a sense of “oughtness” suggests a Moral Law, which in turn suggests a Moral Lawgiver[1].  Just as a knock on the door implies someone is knocking, a demand on the conscience implies a person making the demand.[2]

C.S. Lewis’s popular explanation of the Moral Argument arrives at a Christian conclusion.  He says that there must be a moral law, or moral disagreements would be senseless, moral criticisms would be meaningless, and moral obligations would be unnecessary. Since there is a Moral Law, we must posit a Moral Lawgiver who is interested in our behavior and gives us laws accordingly.  Furthermore, this Lawgiver must itself be Good, or there would be no objective standard, and moral effort would be futile. Therefore, there is an absolutely good Moral Lawgiver.[3]

Unlike Lewis, Immanuel Kant viewed God’s existence merely as a “morally necessary presupposition” rather than a proof.[4]  His famous categorical imperative states that we desire happiness, and we are required to be moral; therefore, the uniting of happiness and duty is the highest good.  Since finite humans cannot achieve this perfection, and the moral necessity of something implies possible attainment, one must posit a being that has achieved this perfection.

A third form of the argument points out the degree to which people in very diverse cultures and epochs have reached an astonishing degree of agreement on moral judgments.[5] Continue Reading…

In condensed form, the Teleological Argument for God states that since the universe and all that is in it show teleological (from the Greek telos, or end) design – order, consistency, and unity – there must be a designer.

Though Anaxagoras, Socrates, and Philo all discussed this argument, Plato was the first to cite design in nature as a proof of theexistence of God.[1]   Aristotle referenced motion and contingency to bolster the teleological argument, thus using the cosmological and ontological to support the teleological.   Aquinas’s Fifth Way argues that even things lacking knowledge are moving toward an end result; as they are lacking knowledge, they must be directed toward this end much like an arrow is directed by an archer.

William Paley, archdeacon of Carlisle, used the analogy of a watch and a watchmaker to show the correlation between an intricately designed object and the necessity of an intelligence to bring about that design. He argued that human artifacts are products of intelligence; the universe resembles human artifacts; therefore, the universe is a product of intelligent design.  Since the universe is huge compared to human artifacts, the designer must be far more intelligent and powerful than we are.”[2]

F.R. Tennant later offered six signs of design: the intelligibility of the world; the adaptation of life; the conduciveness of the inorganic world to the emergence and maintenance of life; the aesthetic value of nature; the moral life of people; and the progressiveness of evolution.[3]

Scientists such as Isaac Newton spoke of the impressive stability of the universe to demonstrate that the universe as a whole also shows intelligent design[4].  This argument states that the world is a unified system of adaptations, and we can only give an intelligible explanation of this by believing the world was created by an intelligent being with a plan. Continue Reading…