Friday, November 27, 2009

I Heart Irenaeus

Irenaeus explaining the teaching of the Gnostic Valentinus:
"He maintained that there is a certain Dyad (two-fold being), who is inexpressible by any name, of whom one part should be called Arrhetus (unspeakable), and the other Sige (silence). But of this Dyad a second was produced one part of whom he names Pater, and the other Aletheia. From this Tretrad, again, arose Logos and Zoe, Anthropos and Ecclesia. These constitute the primary Ogdoad .... There is another, who is a renowned teacher among them, and who, struggling to reach something more sublime, and to attain to a kind of higher knowledge, has explained the primary Tetrad as follows: There is [he says] a certain Proarche who existed before all things, surpassing all thought, speech, and nomenclature, whom I call Monotes (unity). Together with this Monotes, being one, produced, yet not so much as to bring forth ... the beginning of all things, an intelligent, unbegotten, and invisible being, which beginning language terms "Monad." With this Monad there co-exists a power of the same essence, which again I term Hen (one). These powers then--Monotes, and Henotes, and Monas, and Hen--produced the remaining company of Aeon."

Irenaeus--why I love him:
"Iu, Iu! Pheu, Pheu!--for well may we utter these tragic exclamations at such a pitch of audacity in the coining of names as he has diplayed without a blush, in devising a nomenclature for his own system of falsehood. For when he declares: There is a certain Proarche before all things, surpassing all thought, whom I call Monotes; and again, with this Monotes there co-exists a power which I also call Henotes,--it is most manifest that he confesses the things which have been said to be his own invention, and that he himself has given names to this scheme of things, which had never been previously suggested by any other. It is manifest also, that he himself is the one who has had sufficient audacity to coin these names; so that, unless he had appeared in the world, the truth would still have been destitute of a name. But in that case, nothing hinders any other, in dealing with the same subject, to affix names after such a fashion as the following: There is a certain Proarche, royal, surpassing all though, a power existing before every other substance, and extended into space in every direction. But along with it there exists a power which I term a Gourd; and along with this Gourd there exists a power which again I term Utter-Emptiness. This Gourd and Emptiness, since they are one, produced (and yet did not simply produce, so as to be apart of themselves) a fruit, everywhere visible, eatable, and delicious, which fruit-language calls a Cucumber. Along with this Cucumber exists a power of the same essence, which again I call a Melon. These Powers, the Gourd, Utter-Emptiness, the Cucumber, and the Melon, brought forth the remaining multitude of the delirious melons of Valentinus .... If any one may assign names at his pleasure, who shall prevent us from adopting these names, as being much more credible [than the others], as well as in general use, and understood by all?"
--Against All Heresies 1.11

It's the "Iu, Iu! Pheu, Pheu!" that did it for me. Booyah.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

WDTD (Who Made God)? A Response to a Response to a Response to a...

...Response to Theism and the Causal Principle.

For whatever reason, the following YouTube video caught my attention annoyance. Perhaps it is because this person is speaking so close to his webcam that his face nearly fills out the entire screen forcing the viewer to constantly gaze upon his John Travoltesque chin and/or that being so close to the camera gives the feeling that he is literally in-your-face to go along with his rant that is most certainly in-your-face. Triviality--let's deal with the subject at hand.

This video, made by James (a.k.a. DasAmericanAtheist), is a response to William Lane Craig's response to Richard Dawkins' response to the philosophy of the Causal Principle as used by many Christian theists to argue for the existence of God. Dawkins asks 'Well, if the universe was designed, then who designed the designer?' which is the same as asking "Then who made God?" Watch the video below:

(relevant portion begins at :53)

James leads with Dr. Craig's statement, "In order to recognize an explanation as the best, you don't need to have an explanation of the explanation," to which he flashes the question "Why not?" At this point, asking 'why not?' betrays a key misunderstanding of what Dr. Craig is saying. By asking 'why not?' I think James is suggesting that Dr. Craig is saying 'The Christian theist is not obligated to his audience to give a defense of the explanation that God is the designer of the universe.' In other words, "don't need to" is equated with "not obligated to his audience." This is not Dr. Craig's position.

Dr. Craig is stating a rule in the philosophy of science; the statement above is about in part the procedural requirements for identifying a cause. Now read this slowly: what he is saying is that an explanation of an explanation of a cause is itself not part of the explanation of the cause. That is why it is 'not needed' in the philosophical treatment of the issue at hand and is not necessary to conclude that a certain explanation of a cause is the best explanation. What this means for Richard Dawkins is that his question "Then who designed the designer?" is completely beside the point.

This is evident, as Dr. Craig elaborates in the following example (paraphrased): "If archaeologists were digging in the earth and came across objects shaped like arrowheads, pottery shards, and tomahawks, can you imagine one of them saying "Look how the processes of metamorphosis and sedimentation have formed these uncanny objects!" Of course not. They would recognize that these were products of intelligent design by some unknown people group in the past. Now, in order to recognize that this explanation is the best explanation for these artifacts, the archaeologists don't need to explain the origins or details of the people group in question."

So, specifically to Dawkins' question, the theist does not need to answer 'then who designed the designer?' or, in other words explain the origin of God, in order to legitimize the statement that God is the best explanation for the cause of the universe's design.

James says that he doesn't recognize an argument here, which is exactly my point. Dr. Craig has simply stated the parameters of the philosophy of science on the question of the causal principle in order to refute Dawkins' mistaken notion about causes and origins (an irrelevant question that demonstratively leads to a [potentially] infinite regression of irrelevant questions of causes and origins). This is why Dr. Craig says that such a mode of inquiry is the end of science.

James asks: "How is it, that from among competing hypotheses, you can establish that a given explanation is the best explanation?" [Let me interject a minor aside here by suggesting that perhaps he doesn't like the word "best," as it might erroneously connote that some explanation is "best" as in "best by subjective determination." Perhaps, then, we should use the term "most plausible" rather than "best," if that makes the atheist more comfortable. I have no problem with that.] Back to his question: This sounds like a misdirection, given the context in which he is asking. Going back to Dr. Craig's example of the archaeologists, how applicable would James' question be toward identifying a cause of the artifacts in the ground? What kind of competing hypotheses should we consider to the idea that the artifacts are products of intelligent design? While one could invent a variety of hypotheses, we would easily establish that most, if not all, other hypotheses would lack adequate explanatory power and explanatory scope compared to the explanatory power and scope of intelligent design as the most plausible explanation. But we don't even need to ask such a question in the first place, because it is evident that it doesn't apply to our example. Likewise, neither does it apply to identifying God as the designer of the universe. Now, I do not mean to say that James' question is wrong in and of itself. It is a perfectly fine question to ask in general when beginning a deductive inquiry to establish one's parameters (hey look, we just reaffirmed the scientific method). In the issue at hand, however, the deduction that God is the most plausible explanation of the design of the universe is the conclusion drawn at the end of the Design Argument.

So while James can ask his question at the beginning of the Design Argument (which is then answered in the argument), he cannot ask the conclusion to the argument why it is considered the "best"/most plausible explanation as if it is part of the argument itself. That would be the beginning of a separate inquiry.

James reiterates: "Wouldn't supporting a given hypothesis with evidence or argument be explaining an explanation?" Well, so far James has been using the terms "hypothesis/es"and "explanation" somewhat interchangeably, and it hasn't been a problem until this latest equivocation. A hypothesis is NOT an explanation, even though in the previous context the terms were related enough to let it go. Here in the next question, a hypothesis is a proposition to which the evidence or arguments must either support or disprove. An explanation is a conclusion arrived at through an argument. If we apply this question to the core topic here, then he would be demanding in effect, 'Give an argument for the argument that concludes that God is the designer of the universe.' Well, the Design Argument is the argument that leads to the conclusion 'God is the designer of the universe' as the most plausible explanation of the facts. So, the answer is "no," because his question doesn't make sense.

The last few statements invoking gremlins, I think, is gratuitous...and ad hoc. The possibility of gremlins isn't even worth discussing, except for this: if James is willing to define 'gremlin' as a timeless, immaterial, powerful, and transcendent personal being who created the universe from nothing, then perhaps there could be a future dialogue somewhere in that.

I'll conclude this post with another clip that shows Dr. Craig's explanation of why philosophically we don't need an explanation to explain who designed the designer (well looky there, we found what Dawkins asked for afterall!). And, James, if you're reading this, I hope this straightens things out for you on this point. And, please stop eating your webcam.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Manhattan Declaration

The Manhattan Declaration

Not just any pro-life, pro-family, pro-ethics statement, the Manhattan Declaration is a call to civil disobedience if (when) the government legislates that people of conscience support abortion, eugenics, and same-sex marriages in their professions and with their tax dollars.

The last paragraph of the declaration states:
"Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s." (emphasis mine)

The question is, where will liberty lie when the leftist elites are drafting the laws of the land? The shoe has been on the other foot for almost a year; let us see what becomes of civil disobedience now. Any thoughts?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Fly-By (11.1.09)

1. Plastic Surgeon Weds Woman for "Potential," Performs 8 Surgeries on Wife. If there is anything redeeming in this story, I challenge anyone to find it. Otherwise, barf.

2. And the Messianic references just keep coming, only it's not who you think it is. Hint: he might walk on water, but he ain't gonna make me drink it.

3. What's in that new miracle skin cream? YOU'D BETTER CHECK THE INGREDIENTS, NO JOKE. Neocutis, a cosmetics company, is now marketing an anti-aging cosmetic made from tissues derived from an aborted fetus. Apalling and sick.

4. You don't have to convert away from Islam for your father to go all 'honor-killing' on you anymore. UPDATE: The daughter of this man is reported to have now died from her injuries. Just as an observation, I notice that the AP called the murder an Iraqi honor-killing, instead of an Islamic honor-killing. How one can really avoid the obvious Islamic etiology of the "honor-kill" is baffling. I'd like to know: the next time a Catholic priest is reported to have molested a boy, will journalists scrub that story out of all references to "Catholic" and "priest?" Fat chance.

5. This one just leaves me with more questions than answers, like "What happens to the girl who 'type' is the girly-man?"