In 2004, Sam Harris published The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason which became a major bestseller. This marked the first of a series of series of bestsellers that took a harder line against religion than has been the custom among secularists: Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris (2006), The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins (2006), Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon by Daniel C. Dennett (2006), God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science (...) Shows That God Goes Not Exist by Victor J. Stenger (2007), and God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (2007) by Christoper Hitchens. (shrink)
Many theists regard the claim that certain fundamental constants of nature are fine-tuned for life as the best scientific argument for the existence of God since Paley’s watch. Even atheist physicists find these so-called “anthropic coincidences” difficult to explain naturally and many think they need to invoke multiple universes and the so-called “anthropic principle” to do so. Certainly if there are many universes, fine-tuning is simple. Our universe is not fine-tuned for life. Life is fine-tuned to our universe. While multiple (...) universes are expected from modern cosmological theories, theists and some scientists object that invoking the unobservable is not science. Of course, God is unobservable too, so the best theists can claim is a standoff. (shrink)
Taking a Harder Line “The New Atheism” is the name that was attached, often pejoratively, to the series of six bestselling books by five authors that appeared in the period 2004-2008.[i] Since then many have joined the movement, with an upsurge in books, freethinker organizations, and an exponential expansion of the blogosphere spreading the word on atheism to thousands. The message of new atheism is that it is time to take a far less accommodating attitude toward religion, including moderate religion, (...) than had been exhibited in previous years by atheist authors and, in particular, non-believing scientists. Science, in the United States, is locked in a battle with conservative Christians over the teaching of evolution and creationism in the schools. While 87 percent of scientists accept evolution by unguided, purely natural processes, only 32 percent of the public does.[ii] Belief in unguided evolution among mainline Protestants and Catholics is about the same as among the general public, while only 10 percent of Evangelicals and 19 percent of Fundamentalist Protestants acknowledge this view. (shrink)
For years theists have claimed that the constants of physics had to be finely tuned by God to the values that have for life in the universe to be possible. In my column of June, 2009 I showed that many of these claims are based on an improper analysis of the data. Even some of the competent scientists who write on this subject commit the fallacy of holding all the parameters constant and varying just one. When you allow all to (...) vary, you find that changes to one parameter can be easily compensated for by changes to another, leaving the ingredients for life in place. This point is also made nicely in a recent Scientific American cover story by Alejandro Jenkins and Gilad Perez. In this column I will discuss perhaps the most cited example of claimed fine-tuning, the Hoyle resonance. In 1953 the famous astronomer Fred Hoyle calculated that the production of carbon would not occur with sufficient probability unless that probability was boosted by the presence of an excited nuclear state of C12 at a very specific energy. In what appeared to be a remarkable victory for anthropic reasoning, Hoyle proposed that this previously unknown state must exist at about 7.7 MeV. (shrink)
D’Souza claims that near-death experiences (NDE) suggest that consciousness can outlive the breakdown of the body and cannot be explained as the product of dying brains. These experiences can be found in situations where a subject is not near death and have all the characteristics of hallucinations caused by oxygen deprivation. Despite thousands of cases, no one has every come back from an NDE with information that could not have been in their heads originally.
is conscious of a beginning and end calls change time. But in reality there is no time, there is only change. The universe had no beginning and has no ending, it just is. Time to man is an illusion. Just as man once thought that the world was flat, that Earth was the center of the universe, that the sun rose and set and that he had free will, so he thinks that there is a beginning..
Since the beginning of the scientific revolution, believers have had to reconcile their beliefs with science. This has always proved difficult. If an all-perfect God created the universe and its physical laws, why would he have to step in to perform miracles and answer prayers? If, as all the evidence indicates, the universe, including humans and their brains, is matter and nothing more, how can we possibly live forever? Theologians try hard, but never come up with satisfactory answers.
If a God exists who plays an important role in the world and in human lives, then that God should be detectable by his actions. We should see evidence for his existence in physics and cosmology. We do not. We should see evidence in biology. We do not. We should see evidence in people’s lives. We do not. In no case is it necessary to introduce an immaterial, spiritual element to explain the universe. All our observations of the (...) class='Hi'>world look just as they should look if there is no God. (shrink)
The claim that certain fundamental constants of nature are fine tuned for life and that this provides strong evidence for supernatural design is perhaps the best scientific argument for the existence of God since Paley’s watch. Even atheist physicists find these so called “anthropic coincidences” difficult to explain and need to invoke the Weak Anthropic Principle and multiple universes to do so. Certainly if there are many universes, fine tuning is simple. Our form of life was fined tuned to our (...) universe by evolution. While multiple universes are expected from modern cosmological theories, theists and some scientists object that invoking the unobservable is not science. Of course, God is unobservable too, so the best theists can claim is a standoff. This is the first in a series of columns based on a book in the works that attempts to show that the apparent fine tuning of fundamental constants can be understood from basic physics without invoking multiple universes. In some cases the explanation is provable. In other cases, it is not provable but plausible. Fine tuning by design is a God of the Gaps argument. The proponent has the burden if proving that no possible natural explanation can be found. Thus a plausible natural explanation is sufficient to defeat the argument. A list of thirty four parameters that seem to be fine tuned has been assembled by Rich Deem on the God and Science website. Several of Deem’s constants, such as the speed of light in a vacuum, c, Newton’s constant of gravity, G, and Planck’s constant, h, are just arbitrary numbers that are determined simply by the unit system you are using. They can be set equal to any number you want, except zero, with no impact on the physics. So no fine tuning can possibly be involved, just as the number p is not fine tuned. I will focus first on the five parameters that have the most significance because, if interpreted correctly, they seem to pretty much rule out almost any conceivable kind of life without fine tuning: · Ratio of electrons to protons · Ratio of electromagnetic force to gravity Expansion rate of the universe · Mass density of the universe · Cosmological constant I will admit that the features a universe would have for slightly different values of these parameters, all other parameters remaining the same, would render unlikely any form of life even remotely like ours, that is, one that is based on a lengthy process, chemical or otherwise, by which complex matter evolved from simpler matter. Let me discuss each in turn, with the last, the most difficult, reserved for a future column.. (shrink)
A majority of Americans say they are Christians. In fact, when you ask what they really believe about God you find that almost half are really deists. Let’s look at the data. A 2006 Pew survey reports that about 50 percent of Americans are Protestants and another 25 percent Catholics, which would indicate a strong Christian majority of 75 percent. Like most such surveys, however, Pew simply asked people to state their religious affiliations. A 2005 survey by Baylor University tried (...) something different and questioned people about what they actually believe. The results were surprising and have great significance in properly comprehending religious belief in the U.S. For some reason, they have received little attention. (shrink)
In 1687, Isaac Newton published The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, now referred to simply as Principia, which many scholars say is the greatest work of science ever produced. Until the twentieth century, Newtonian mechanics appeared to provide the means, at least in principle, for predicting the motion of every body in the universe with, in principle, unlimited precision. All you need to know is the mass of the body, its initial position and velocity, and the net force acting on (...) it. Then the laws of motion allow you to calculate the position and velocity of the body at any later (or earlier) time. (shrink)
The story is frequently told about how with the publication of De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres) in 1543 Nicolaus Copernicus (d. 1543) looked beyond the vanity of human self-centeredness and perceived that Earth was just one of several planets revolving around the sun. In doing so, he triggered the modern scientific revolution as people began to look at themselves and their place in the universe in a more objective light.
On March 21 a suit was filed in Federal District Court in Hawaii asking for a temporary restraining order prohibiting the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva from turning on the world’s largest particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), this summer. The suit contends that the collider could produce a tiny black hole or an exotic object called a “strangelet,” either of which might swallow up Earth and perhaps more.
The Dutch health care system is developing a two, or multiple, tier system. How can moral principles be of help in assessing whether this is the right track? Instead of dismissing as unhelpful the principles that have been suggested so far and exchanging them for other, usually more complex, principles, it is suggested that the methods of moral inquiry be reconsidered. Keywords: diversification in health care, health care financing, public and private responsibility in health care CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this?
Part of the success of the hardcover edition of this book can no doubt be attributed to its fortunate timing, appearing just when the public was becoming aware of the corrosive effects extremist religion has had on society in recent years. Readers have welcomed the opportunity to learn about the alternative to theism—looking at the world as it is, without having to create a place for God in it. Fine authors such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens have (...) contributed to a growing popular literature on atheism. In the context of this movement, God: The Failed Hypothesis addresses head-on the question of the existence of God from a scientific perspective. (shrink)
What are the laws of physics? -- The stuff that kicks back -- Point-of-view invariance -- Gauging the laws of physics -- Forces and broken symmetries -- Playing dice -- After the bang -- Out of the void -- The comprehensible cosmos -- Models of reality.
This paper describes the work of the Polish logician Jan Kalicki (1922?1953). After a biographical introduction, his work on logical matrices and equational logic is appraised. A bibliography of his papers and reviews is also included.
Susan Okin read Robert Nozick as taking it to be fundamental to his Libertarianism that people own themselves, and that they can acquire entitlement to other things by making them. But she thinks that, since mothers make people, all people must then be owned by their mothers, a consequence Okin finds absurd. She sees no way for Nozick to make a principled exception to the idea that people own what they make when what they make is people, concluding that Nozick’s (...) theory of entitlement must be false, and that entitlement must instead be rooted in people’s needs. I say Okin misreads Nozick’s Libertarianism. In fact, its fundamental principle is that, simply by being persons, people are entitled to the maximum negative liberty compatible with a like liberty for all persons. Further, Nozick, and Jan Narveson, who has taken on the advocacy of Libertarian ideas, analyze liberty as freedom to interact with things, and analyze being entitled to or having property in something, as freedom to interact with it, to determine what may be done with it. People therefore have such freedom to do what they want with themselves, and such freedom to do what they want with other things, as is compatible with all persons having similar freedom. The former is what self-ownership amounts to, the latter, ownership of other things. Libertarianism’s fundamental principle therefore both grounds and delimits entitlements in ways entailing that mothers don’t own persons by dint of making them. Otherwise, since it would then be the prerogative of mothers to determine what shall be done with the persons they made, the persons made would lack equal liberty, this violating the fundamental principle. (shrink)
By his critical reflections on the crisis of modern civilization, Jan Patočka, phenomenologist of the Other Europe, incarnates the critical consciousness of the phenomenological movement. He was in fact one of the first European philosophers to have emphasized the necessity of abandoning the hitherto Eurocentric propositions of solution to the crisis when he explicitly raised the problems of a “Post-European humanity”. In advocating an understanding of the history of European humanity different from those of Husserl and Heidegger, Patočka directs his (...) philosophical reflections back to sketch a more profound phenomenology of the natural world insufficiently thematized in Husserl and absent in Heidegger’s Sein und Zeit. By virtue of its emphasis on the structural characteristics of movement, of praxis, and of the disclosure of the abyssal nature of human existence and of the original nothingness as the (non-)foundation of the phenomenal world, Patočka’s phenomenology of the natural world constitutes an opening towards the reception of Others and other cultures, in particular that of Chinese Taoist philosophy. (shrink)
Organized around the central concept of struggle, this paper is an introduction to the later thought of the Czech phenomenologist Jan Patočka (1907–1977), with attention to the circumstances of his life. The first section of the paper presents Patočka’s description of the “three movements” of human existence, with emphasis upon the second, the movement of defense, work, and survival. The second section examines his later conception of philosophy, where he reprised elements of classical Greek thought (the Heraclitean notion of polemos (...) and the Socratic notion of “care of the soul”) for their relevance in the modern world. (shrink)
As regular readers of The Pluralist are aware, there appeared in 2008 an issue devoted to Jan Olof Bengtsson's The Worldview of Personalism.1 The issue included five articles, each concerned with a different aspect of the book; and after each article, there was a "Reply" by Bengtsson. In what follows, I shall say something about Bengtsson's reply to my own contribution, "Absolute and Personal Idealism." However, first let me briefly describe that article's argument.In "Absolute and Personal Idealism," I examined the (...) personalist attack on absolutism as formulated by Andrew Seth Pringle-Pattison in two works: Hegelianism and Personality and The Idea of God in the Light of Recent Philosophy. In the first section of .. (shrink)
This paper presents a short biography of Jan Patočka, as well as biographical data of the author in connection to the life and work of Jan Patočka. The paper describes Patočka’s academic activity at Charles University between 1968 and 1972, how he continued by giving private underground seminars in the dark years of 1972 to 1976, and how his engagement culminated in the dissident movement Charter 77. The author explains how the unofficial underground Patočka Archive was established on the very (...) day of Patočka’s death, even before the terrible events around his funeral. Before the official Patočka Archive was founded on the 1st of January, 1990, many volumes of his works were edited secretly during the period of 1977 to 1989. This made it possible to continue successfully publishing the series of the Complete Works of Jan Patočka after 1990. (shrink)
The aim of the present study is (1) to show, on the basis of a number of unpublished documents, how Heinrich Scholz supported his Warsaw colleague Jan ?ukasiewicz, the Polish logician, during World War II, and (2) to discuss the efforts he made in order to enable Jan ?ukasiewicz and his wife Regina to move from Warsaw to Münster under life-threatening circumstances. In the first section, we explain how Scholz provided financial help to ?ukasiewicz, and we also adduce evidence of (...) the risks incurred by German scholars who offered assistance to their Polish colleagues. In the second section, we discuss the dramatic circumstances surrounding the ?ukasiewiczes' move to Münster in the summer of 1944. (shrink)
Common Sense and Logic in Jan Smedslund's 'Psycho-logic'. This paper is about the efforts the norwegian psychologist Jan Smedslund made in analyzing and checking philosophically his theory called 'Psycho-logic'. I am going to reconstruct and discuss the debates between Smedslund and several critics, which have been going on since about 1978, mainly in the "Scandinavian Journal of Psychology". A result will be that the kind of modal logics Smedslund uses - a type with realistic semantics and epistemology - is not (...) the proper one for the analysis of 'Psycho-logic'. (shrink)
In this article the author attempts to establish whether we can find a “theory of appearance” in the philosophy of Jan Patočka. The “appearance” for Patočka is basically composed of two elements. First there is a “primeval movement” which accounts for an infinite possibility of phenomena. The second element is the relation of this movement with an “addressee”, the subjectivity. If we begin to analyse the unity of these two elements we fundamentally come across three problems: what is it that (...) appears, when appearance presupposes a certain totality of appearance; how does this total appearance come forth; and, finally, is this whole “structure of appearance” taken as a free movement, kept once and for all within the boundaries of phenomenology, which is founded on a precise and positive term of “appearance” — or do we have to stipulate a special “experience” as the starting point of a phenomenology, which accepts the abyssal impossibility to control its frame? (shrink)
Existuje překvapivě málo knih, které by se pokoušely o syntetizující pohled na analytickou filosofii. Je ovšem pravda, že ve druhé polovině našeho století se soubor filosofů, kteří se k analytické filosofii hlásí nebo kteří k ní bývají řazeni, stává natolik různorodý, že se jakákoli syntéza stává problematickou; překvapivě málo syntetizujících prací existuje ale i o ‘klasické’ analytické filosofii, to jest o analytické filosofii období zhruba od konce devatenáctého století do poloviny století dvacátého. Dejnožkova kniha je jednou z těch mála, které (...) se o něco takového pokouší, a to je třeba přivítat. Dejnožka se ovšem nesnaží podat všestranný rozbor názorů klasiků analytické filosofie; soustředí se pouze jeden aspekt jejich učení, totiž na jejich ontologii. Hned v úvodu své knihy k tomu vysvětluje, jaké opodstatnění může mít hovořit o ontologii u takového druhu filosofie, která se programově distancuje od metafyziky. Podle něj je tomu tak, že i když se někteří analytičtí filosofové někdy více či méně úspěšně vyhýbali otázkám metafyzickým (to jest otázkám po nejzákladnějších kategoriích bytí), ontologickým otázkám (to jest otázkám po povaze bytí jako takového) se v podstatě vyhnout nelze. A Dejnožka se snaží ukázat, že klasikové analytické filosofie se těmito otázkami zabývali mnohdy velice do hloubky. To je patrné zejména u Frega a Russella, kterým autor věnuje největší pozornost; avšak k těm, kteří podle Dejnožky berou ústřední otázku ontologie za svou, řadí Dejnožka i Wittgensteina i Quina (jimž se však věnuje na pouze velice omezeném prostoru - každému asi na dvanácti stránkách). (shrink)
This article explores some indications in the texts of Patočka that point towards a concept of language which no longer takes it to be a derived layer of an original perceptive basis: he disassociates intuition from origin, and establishes a co-origin of language and perception. It is this co-origin whose meaning and limits this article seeks to determine.
Jan Österberg (Self and Others, 1988) argues that the most defensible form of egoism should not only tell each of us what to do but also tell us what we ought to do. He also claims that collective norms should take precedence over individual ones. An individual ought to do one's part in an action pattern that is prescribed for the group - provided that other members of the group do their part. question This paper questions Österberg's claim that Collective (...) Egoism, unlike other forms of egoism, avoids violations of the principles which he takes to be analytical adequacy criteria for ethical theories: the principles of "deontic consequence" and "joint satisfiability". Furthermore, it questions his argument that Collective Egoism yields the "right" prescriptions in its main test-case: Prisoners' Dilemma. The improved version of Collective Egoism is able to deal with the two-person Prisoners' Dilemma, but it still misbehaves when we move to the many-persons cases. A certain type of "free rider"-problems proves to be especially troublesome. (shrink)
We reproduce here the text of a lecture held by Paul Ricoeur at Naples in 1997. Ricoeur sees in Patočka’s work an elliptical movement with two foci: the phenomenology of the natural world and the question of the meaning of history. Ricoeur evidences the new features of Patočka’s a-subjective phenomenology compared to Husserl’s transcendental idealism and Heidegger’s existential analytics. The transition from the phenomenology of the natural world to the problematic of history suggests in any case a substantial dialectical thread (...) that starts from the phenomenology of the movement of life, weaves through the problematic and tragic character of history and ends in the idea of the solidarity of the shaken. (shrink)