News Bits

by Luke Muehlhauser on May 19, 2010 in News

Bibledex: a short video documentary on each book in the Bible.

Richard Dawkins performed admirably on this hour-long Q&A panel.

Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking (2010) is a science documentary series with amazing visuals, great music, and a massive budget.

Engineers vs. philosophers.

The force is strong with this one. A 12-year-old Matthew Bellamy. Grab him while you can, Universal!

Guys: Is your religion one of the 6 Manliest Religions?

Dr. Craig’s answer to a common question about about the fine-tuning argument is quite good.

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Beelzebub May 20, 2010 at 12:09 am

I love the expression on most of the girls’ faces behind Matthew Bellamy. I think I’ve seen it before when my cat met a kitten and looked like it couldn’t make up its mind whether to love it or scratch its eyes out.

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Beelzebub May 20, 2010 at 1:55 am

Enjoyed the discussion with Dawkins, though he didn’t quite have the panache to pull off expressing the depravity of vicarious redemption. Unfortunately Hitchens wasn’t available to step in at that particular moment. Of course, he’s right though. Jesus atonement is the piece de resistance, the maraschino cherry atop the whole sad sundae. What better way to enslave generations of people than to not only tell them that they’re shit, but shit beholden to person who made them that way — the religious version of making someone eat crap cake and be happy doing it.

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Jeffrey Shallit May 20, 2010 at 3:47 am

Dr. Craig’s answer to a common question about about the fine-tuning argument is quite good.

No, it isn’t. The idea of “independence” is incoherent, as Wesley Elsberry and I have explained in detail in our long critique of Dembski’s work, easily available online.

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John D May 20, 2010 at 5:02 am

Yeah I have to concur with Jeffrey. Speaking of which his article with Wesley Elsberry is top-notch. I recommend it to anyone.

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John D May 20, 2010 at 5:05 am
RedKing May 20, 2010 at 5:50 am

I’m still having a little bit of trouble understanding Craig’s response here. Could anyone please expand on:

a) what exactly he means by “independently given pattern”
b) how “life-permitting conditions” are an example of this, and
c) how it actually addresses the objection raised

And, if the answer to some of this is in Shallit’s article, is there any particular section I should be looking at?

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Ben May 20, 2010 at 5:51 am

Love the comic.

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aehelmke May 20, 2010 at 10:16 am

My favorite part of the Dawkins Q&A was when he took criticism for just simply stating what happens in the New Testament. Yes, it is quite shocking when you put it in those terms, instead of sugar coating it with Christian catchwords. I think the others were offended because he struck a chord with the religious audience, and that’s what happens when you turn religious views into outside statements such as Dawkins did. A great moment in the Q&A.

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Lorkas May 20, 2010 at 10:59 am

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Jeffrey Shallit May 20, 2010 at 11:27 am

According to Dembski, “independently given” means Pr(E|H) = Pr(E|H&K), where E is the event in question, K is the “background knowledge”, and H is the hypothesis that E is “due to chance”. In practice, he never actually computes these probabilities and shows that they are equal; he just asserts it. We discuss this in Section 8 of our paper. I think it’s fair to say that Dembski’s account of independence has not achieved wide acclaim.

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Paul May 20, 2010 at 1:22 pm

With regard to Dr. Craig,

In the beginning of his response he refers to Collins making the case that FT in theism is >> then FT in ASU. I don’t have the book mentioned. Would someone elaborate on how the probabilities were determined. I am curious about the possibility of the calculations having been done with some ad-hoc values. Seems to that for some values we may not have sufficient data to plug in a proper number.

Further he makes the following comment – “—unless you’re thinking it to be naturally impossible, in which case such a miraculous phenomenon would be evidence of theism.”

This seems odd. Why would what someone thinks be a factor? Maybe I misunderstood his point.

He A bit later says
“Now in the case of intelligent life, the pattern of life-permitting conditions is given independently of and, indeed, long before, cosmologists’ discovery of the fine-tuning of the initial conditions of the universe. So the fine-tuning seems to exhibit just that combination of enormous improbability and an independently given pattern that tips us off to design. Thus, in so far as fine-tuning is concerned, it is not the case that “the rules about royal flushes are being made up only after the hand has been dealt.”

I think what his is saying here is this – for intelligence life to exist then conditions A, B, C,… have to be met. This was determined independent of cosmologists discovery of the FT of the initial conditions of the universe. Furthemore, conditions A, B, C,… are individually improbably and collectively even more improbable.

Now Dr. Craig believes that (life?) intelligence can also exist immaterially – and one day he will too. Thus intelligence (life?) can exist in at least two (different) ways and in one of them conditions A, B, C,… are no longer required. I think the counter would be that for physical life then A, B, C,… are required. Fair enough. However, his God is able to work within the physical universe so conceivably our non-physical forms could be allowed to do the same. So in his worldview conditions A, B, and C are not actually requirements for intelligence in this physical world. Though this does not negate the FT case he is making. But would it be an invalid argument if taken in conjunction with some other arguments he makes. I am asking about the potential for contradiction. Meaning the proper application from a conclusion of one argument would negate another.

Additionally there seems to be a bit of bias in selecting life as the pattern of importance. He tries to make a case at the end in making an analogy with regards to crystal. But that left me a bit underwhelmed.

Going off on a tangent for a bit.

If God is immaterial and omni-potent. Say this god created the material could not this God also create something else. If God is able to conceive of the material should not God also be able to conceive of some other type of realm. I hesitate in my usage of the word immaterial to describe God because whatever he is he was before material existed. God is A and our material world is something that is Not-A. Seems to me that the number of potential Not-A may be infinite. I hope readers will give me some leeway if I use improper terms. I am not a philosopher. Though I am learning.

Anyway, in the set of Not-A is there any reason that many of them would not be able to sustain their own life forms?

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Paul May 20, 2010 at 2:33 pm

I thought the following was kind of cool – even if I don’t fully understand the ramifications.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/space/20100518/sc_space/whyweexistmatterwinsbattleoverantimatter

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Justfinethanks May 20, 2010 at 8:00 pm

This is probably the most over the top video dedicated to a philosopher ever. It’s William Lane Craig shooting some guys and riding a horse before he pumps some iron and debates a couple atheists.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uf49RAj4Cr4

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Lee A.P. May 20, 2010 at 9:08 pm

As far as his debates show, William Lane Craig seems robotic. I realize I am not a friend of his and maybe he is not this way with the people who know him. But the way he comes across publicly is often odd given that his atheist opponents seem more “real” than he is (even if he “beats” many of them in debate). You would think the theist would seem more full of “spirit”. He seems like the preprogrammed robotic evangelical geek boy genius android of God, with every voice inflection and cadence seemingly rehearsed/programmed.

In this video he is more emotional that I have ever seen him and he comes across as a whiny little smug bitch. He seems every bit the smug asshole, if not much more so, than Dawkins.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gpJuztzOH4

“Dawkins is popular cuz peeple are stoopid! I am so smart and right and they are so stoopid!”

And what is so RICH is that he knows what he knows because a goddamned ghost tells him he is right! And this guy is probably objectively a genius in may ways! Could the world be more odd? Shit, you could come up with a more plausible argument that we are in the MATRIX than you can Craig’s “a ghost, THE HOLY Ghost, THE proper supernatural agent talks to me and gives me knowledge.

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noen May 20, 2010 at 10:15 pm

The comic badly misrepresents the purpose of the thought experiment. But it is fairly typical of the scientism of the New Atheists that they, like engineers, worship received truth.

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Mark May 21, 2010 at 2:56 am

The comic badly misrepresents the purpose of the thought experiment. But it is fairly typical of the scientism of the New Atheists that they, like engineers, worship received truth.

*facepalm*

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Lorkas May 21, 2010 at 8:50 am

The comic badly misrepresents the purpose of the thought experiment. But it is fairly typical of the scientism of the New Atheists that they, like engineers, worship received truth.

Humorless troll is humorless, I see.

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noen May 21, 2010 at 12:51 pm

“Humorless troll is humorless, I see.”

No, the comic isn’t funny. It misrepresents an important philosophical thought experiment so that the engineer in the comic can be an arrogant prick.

Engineers, like the New Atheists, trend toward scientism because they are over educated in a narrow field. They think that their expertise in say mechanical engineering translates into expertise in other fields. You can see this same phenomenon on both sides. Many of the top Creationists, Intelligent Design advocates and Climate Change denialists are engineering types.

So it is also on the other side of the fence. Most New Atheists I’ve met have next to zero understanding of philosophy. They just regurgitate canned arguments to be used against Fundies and other low hanging fruit and then declare victory because after all that is all that exists in their world and all that matters is wining.

Science is not a monument of received Truth. The New Atheists act as if it is. That is the heart of my objection as should be abundantly clear by now.

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Lorkas May 21, 2010 at 4:50 pm

That’s the joke, noen. The comic is lampooning people who have expertise in a particular field and then believe themselves qualified to pronounce judgement on questions from all fields.

Not unlike lawyers, engineers, and pastors who make pronouncements about the theory of evolution without even taking an introductory course in zoology, or comment-board trollers who declare comics unfunny despite their personal lack of humor-sense. The funniest thing is that the comic makes the precise point that you’re making to object to the comic. You and the comic agree but you’re too busy acting smug to pay enough attention to the comic to understand it.

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noen May 21, 2010 at 8:33 pm

Lorkas
“That’s the joke, noen. The comic is lampooning people who have expertise in a particular field and then believe themselves qualified to pronounce judgement on questions from all fields.”

I don’t see your reading as being correct at all. It’s the other way around. The engineer is presented as the level headed common sense guy who skewers the pointy headed elites with one answer. In truth it is the engineer who is the fool out of his depth.

I don’t know exactly which thought experiment the comic artist has in mind but I suspect that it is Parfit’s fission paradox. It seems clear to me that the intent is to ridicule the philosophers in that strip.

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Justfinethanks May 22, 2010 at 5:07 am

I don’t know exactly which thought experiment the comic artist has in mind but I suspect that it is Parfit’s fission paradox.

That’s a good candidate. The first thing that came to my mind was Leibniz’s law. That is, two entities can be called the same if they have all the same properties.

Also, the comic is funny and you’re a humorless troll.

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Lorkas May 22, 2010 at 8:12 am

Yeah noen, I just reread and and I’m pretty sure the intention is to show how engineers often lack philosophical subtlety.

But to be charitable, let’s look at both and assume the comic is sufficiently vague to allow both readings.

Reading 1: Engineers lack subtlety and fail miserably when talking to philosophers. This reading lines up with what you’re always saying, and actually makes for a humorous comic.

Reading 2: Philosophers are sophists who engage in pointless rhetoric, and engineers are the heroes who bring them down to Earth. Reading it this way makes for an unfunny comic, but it allows you to feel smugly superior to the comic writer (and anyone who thinks the comic is funny) and ties loosely into your favorite topic to discuss, which is how stupid those damned New Atheists are.

It seems to me that the only reason for preferring reading 2 is that it lines up with your hypothesis that you’re smarter and cleverer than everyone else, while reading 1 shatters the facade of emo-lonely-superiority that you’ve built by showing that someone else not only makes the same points you do, but does it in a funny way that you could never do yourself.

Unfortunately for yourself, it’s transparently obvious that reading 1 is intended, because reading 2 commits the unforgivable sin of being unfunny.

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