Archive for October, 2011

October 30th, 2011

An Update on my Brief Hiatus

by Max Andrews

As many of you know I’ve been in the hospital for five days due to some Crohn’s related problems.  I went in last Tuesday with pains that were very similar to my last flare up, which led to me to a major surgery that should have spared me 3-5 years.  Anyways, I’m in recovery mode from this most recent flare up though I’m not completely out of the woods yet.  I’ll be heading up to UVA in the next few weeks to have a procedure/consultation on how to treat this from here on out due to the still unknown spots on my liver.

I hope to be getting to some more blogging in the next week or so here.  I’m halfway finished with my review of Skeptic Magazine’s review of William Lane Craig in their recent issue.  Additionally, I’ll be lecturing in the next few weeks on fine-tuning, the multiverse, and the problem of evil.  I already have these lectures prepared from earlier lectures but I’ve been reading more papers on the multiverse and I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts on here. Aside from blogging, I’m a little behind in my research for my epistemology course.  I’m hoping to do research on the role of inference in belief formation and belief/paradigm change.  I’m also amidst my graduate research on fine-tuning and the multiverse as well as my research in my Thomas Aquinas course on Thomas’ thoughts on creation and time.

More to come later on, again, sorry for the lack of updates and posts.

October 24th, 2011

Kierkegaard’s Understanding of the Divine Telos

by Max Andrews

Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) believed that man lived on three different stages:  the aesthetic level, ethical level, and the religious level.  The self-centered aesthetic man finds no ultimate meaning in life and no true satisfaction, which leads finally to boredom and a sickness with life.  Kierkegaard recognized the objective standards of good and realized that one cannot live up to what the standard demands.  This results in a sickness, unhappiness, and despair.[1]  The religious stage is where reconciliation can be found.  He finds forgiveness of sins and a personal relationship with God, an overcoming of alienation, and a restoration of the two previous stages.

October 24th, 2011

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Understanding of the Divine Telos

by Max Andrews

In Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov (1821-1881), a story of four brothers in Russia is a grim description of the reality of what the world would look like if God were not to exist.  One brother, Ivan, an atheist, tells another brother that there are no objective truths, specifically that there are no moral absolutes.  Ivan’s brother then kills his father, an act that obtains no condemnation if God does not exist.

This can be understood as ☐(~Eg ⊃ ∀ϕ~Wϕ),[1] also known as Karamazov’s Theorem.  It is necessarily true that if God does not exist then any action cannot be wrong.  It may also be true if a conjunct of rightness is inserted into the theorem.  This ultimately leads to moral nihilism—a nonexistence of value.  Without God, everything is permitted.  Nothing can be praised and nothing can be condemned.  This world, as Dostoevsky understands it, is a world of nothingness.

Dostoevsky, like Camus, Nietzsche, and Sartre, acknowledges the absurdity that arises.  Every man must face the anxiety an absurdity that obtains in a world without God.  Dostoevsky’s response is that every man must face this reality and overcome this absurdity by trusting in and putting his faith in Christ.  Christ is the only one who can overcome the absurdities and relieve man’s anxiety.

Dostoevsky is Christianity’s Nietzsche.  Dostoevsky realizes the despair, guilt, anxiety, and absolute absurdity of a life without God, like Nietzsche; however, he does not self-construct his own teleology.  There is no higher state of being in a world of absurdity.  There would be no incentive to attain any state of being.  There could not be any differentiation between a higher and lower state of being since one would need an objective referent to make such a determination.  The only rational act a man could make in an unreasonable world would be to trust in the reconciling ability of God.  There would be no hope for any reconciliation in a closed system of absurdity—from absurdity only comes absurdity.


            [1] Let Eg represent the existence of God, ϕ for any action, and W for wrong.

October 23rd, 2011

J.M.E McTaggart’s Argument That Nothing is in Time

by Max Andrews

J.M.E. McTaggart provides an objection to the A series of time but suggesting that it may be true that past, present, and future are mere illusions of the mind.[1]  McTaggart dismisses the argument’s subjectivity of time by simply defining it out of existence.

McTaggart’s Argument:

  1. Anything existent can either possess the characteristic of being in time or the characteristic of not being in time.
  2. Anything existent does not possess the characteristic of being in time [due to subjective references, a lack of indexing events from moment to moment or changing, etc.]
  3. Therefore, anything existent does not possess the characteristic of being in time (time is illusory).

The objection to the A series by the subjectivity of the individual mind is not so easy to dismiss as McTaggart seems to do.  With advances in relativity theory this objection may have phenomenological credibility.  Though McTaggart’s rejection of the argument is correct, there are better reasons for opposing the argument of the mind’s subjective relationship to time.[2]

The special theory of relativity (STR) states that clocks in motion slow down.  This time dilation occurs with respects to the observer.  In the early 1900’s, Albert Einstein’s STR changed how physicists and philosophers viewed the previous Newtonian paradigm of absolute simultaneity.  If STR is correct, then an observer in motion will experience time at a slower rate than an observer at rest.  Perhaps, given STR, the A series of time is really illusory since the experience of time is relative to the subject (the object being the spacetime fabric).

STR may still permit an A series of time where the subject’s experience of objective becoming is supported by the object’s relation to the subject.  There are two concurrent ways this may be done:  Lorentzian simultaneity (from the physical approach) and God as the prime reality (from the metaphysical approach).  Hendrick Lorentz proposed the idea that time and length are absolute but there are no way these measurements could be made since the measuring devices are in motion.

Lorentz’s equations for local time and transformation may aid the A theorist in the subject to object relationship with the observer being the subject and spacetime being the object; however, if the object is changed to God then perhaps the observers experience of becoming is objective [or perhaps a metaphysical time].  Propositions that appear in the past tense are true if and only if that proposition was true and that moment it describes.  The proposition, “It rained yesterday on March 12” is true if and only if today is March 13 [or any later day] and it rained the day before March 13.  If the observer experienced an earlier-than, later-than sense of becoming respective to March 12 and March 13 what criteria would warrant a rejection of that sense of becoming?  If on March 12 the observer objectively experiences rain and then affirms the truth of the proposition “It rained yesterday on March 12” the next day it seems that the proposition is objectively true as it stands in relation to the event and the observer.  If the event experienced (absolute becoming) is objective and the proposition “It rained yesterday on March 12” is true on March 13 then perhaps the referent for temporal becoming is not mere spacetime but rather God.

Admittedly this makes pantheism and panentheism to be sufficient explanatory hypotheses but these are not the only hypotheses that may work.  If all reality is found in God, according to an Anselmian God, then conceivably the phenomenological experience of the observer objectively experiencing a temporal becoming is due to a noumenal projection or referent providing that objectivity.  This would be analogous to Kant’s phenomenal-noumenal split with regards to the categorical imperative.  Just as Kant antecedently accepts the categorical imperative as objective he consequently postulates God as the objective source.  The analogy fits in the same phenomenological/experiential sense as well as the antecedent-consequent relationship and postulation (as well as implying the reality of events and experiences having temporal characteristics).

The question of how God relates to the world will inevitably be raised in light of this hypothesis.  Explaining how God relates to the world, whether it is pantheistic, panentheistic, or God’s temporal relationship is a Lorentzian time, is not necessary to make the postulation as long as God is the Anselmian understanding of God (that God is the prime reality).  This explanation comes to the same conclusion that McTaggart came to except more credence is given to the subject’s relationship to the object (whatever the object may be).  If the object is spacetime then it certainly may be the case that temporal becoming is an illusion given STR.


            [1] J.M.E. McTaggart, “Time:  An Excerpt From The Nature of Existence” in Metaphysics eds. Peter van Inwagen, Dean W. Zimmerman (Oxford:  Blackwell, 2008), 118.

            [2] When is use past tensed verbs such as “experienced” or “rained” I am using them in a series-independent sense.  The English tenses may assume an objective difference in time but I am not giving credence to my argument by appealing or assuming verb tenses as being true merely because of linguistic limitation.

October 23rd, 2011

The Reality of Life if There is No God

by Max Andrews

If God does not exist then man lives in Bertrand Russell’s world of scaffolding despair.  Man is merely the product of pointless cause and effects with no prevision of the ends being achieved.  All the labors of the age, devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vase death of the solar system.  Man’s achievements are destined to be buried in the debris of the universe.  Only within the scaffolding of these [teleological] truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.[1]

If there is no God to provide meaning, value, and purpose, the only consistent option for humanity is suicide.[2]  Any becoming of life-affirming or life-denying acts are illusory.  Absolutely nothing can be a positive or negative act for the individual since there is nothing to determine a differentiation.  One is forced to face Nietzsche’s abyss and face the reality that no rope can scale the depth of nothingness.  One is only left with despair, guilt, and angst.  If one can determine that despair, guilt, and angst are not preferred then his only option is to eliminate such emotions and thoughts (if the implication, by any means, can be determined to be better).  If there is no God, the only remedy for absurdism is to participate in Nietzsche’s abyss of nothingness:  suicide.

(As a note, I want to emphasize that I am not advocating suicide.  I completely disagree with the starting premise that there is no God.  I believe the logic is sound but since there is a God, there is objective purpose, value, and meaning to life.  If you are struggling with the thought of suicide please tell someone.)


            [1] Bertrand Russell, Mysticism and Logic (New York:  Barnes & Noble, 1917), 47-48.

            [2] Here is where Sartre, Camus, and others disagree.  Because of absurdity, man’s only option is to choose suicide.  Death is the only means by which it can be overcome.  In a Christian context, God recognizes that death is the only way to overcome man’s absurdity.  The means by which God provides teleology is by means of death.  God becomes incarnate and overcomes absurdity by means of his own death, which may be imputed to humanity.  Here we find a paradox.  In order for there to be a genuine sense of teleology and becoming there must be death.  There must be death to bring about life, a life of becoming, relationships, and of teleological existence.

October 23rd, 2011

Nietzsche’s Paradox–Nihilism and Teleology

by Max Andrews

It would be an appropriate evaluation of Friedrich Nietzsche to state that his mere calling for the übermensch is a teleological claim.  To call for redemption of something and to set a standard model is a purposeful and meaningful proclamation.  The desire appears to be motivated by the very thing Nietzsche is often accused of, nihilism.  Nietzsche was in despair over the implications of Christianity with no God—that was nihilism, which was a catalyst to his philosophizing with a hammer.

Nietzsche never denied there being any meaning or purpose.  His qualm was that if Christianity continues without God, which would be meaningless and purposeless.  He understood that there had to be meaning and purpose.  The teleology, for Nietzsche, was a pursuit to overcome those things, which were life denying.  Christianity, God, idols, and false ideas were all life denying and life prohibiting concepts.  Nietzsche recognized the human nature and need for a teleology, but how?  In his pursuit for meaning and purpose he calls for the übermensch to do just that.

October 23rd, 2011

Talk Like a Theologian

by Max Andrews

By Mark Altrogge

I’ve been taking a Hebrews class all week with about 90 other guys taught by D.A. Carson at the Sovereign Grace Ministries Pastors College.

Dr. Carson is warm, humble, engaging, and very, very smart.  On top of that, there are a lot of very smart guys in the class.  I know this because I was an art major in college.  I can recognize smart people when I see them.

October 20th, 2011

Dawkins and PZ Myers on William Lane Craig– That’s It?

by Max Andrews

I was quite surprised as I checked my Twitter feed this morning to find out that Richard Dawkins released another statement declaring his obstinate refusal to debate Christian philosopher and theologian William Lane Craig.  To much disappointment, the only excuses were based in mockery, arrogance, and hypocrisy.

Dawkins’ arrogant mockery of Craig. Dawkins minimizes Craig for who he is in academia by suggesting that “maybe he is a ‘theologian.’” I can see the Oxford professor doing the air quotes and saying with his germane English accent.  He acts as if no one in academia has ever heard of Craig and that he’s the equivalent of a community college professor trying to make it big.  Craig doesn’t need anything added to his CV, it’s already quite extensive and accomplished (as well as his publications).  I’m not sure how he can honestly say that he has not heard of Craig (being that he shared a stage with him at Ciudad de las Ideas).  Obviously, he knows who he is now (at least some aspects of him) but he needs to stop playing the tune of not knowing who he is and this CV jargon.  All Dawkins mentions on his schedule is that he is promoting a film “No Dinosaurs in Heaven” for October 25 when Craig is to debate Dawkins (leaving an empty chair with dire hopes of Dawkins showing up).  Oh, by the way, don’t pay attention to William Lane Craig’s events listed on Dawkins’ schedule.  Evidently, Dawkins doesn’t manage his own schedule because, as you’ll recall, he doesn’t know who Craig is…

Dawkins’ hypocrisy.  Dawkins caricatures Craig’s position with his megalomaniac-of-a-God argument by suggesting Craig argues for a God of genocide.  Okay, make the claim that this is what Craig believes, which isn’t true, but he goes on to construct an argument against Craig in this press release.  Wait a second, is he engaging in Craig’s thought here?  If yes, then why not commit to a substantive dialogue focused on, say, divine command theory?  If not, then it’s quite hypocritical.  Additionally, the hypocrisy shines when he will debate Alister McGrath and John Lennox (who both believe in inerrancy and would [I believe] defend divine command theory) but not Craig.  Surely, atheists have to be seeing this.

PZ Myers’ tomfoolery.  Myers posted an article on his blog this morning titled “Standing up to William Lane Craig.”  Most people in the scientific and philosophical blogosphere familiar with this arena of thought understand that Myers is admittedly outspoken, rude, and angry.  Sure, that’s not my preference but okay, he can be that way.  I don’t care too much about that.  What I find interesting is that he supports Dawkins’ refusal to debate Craig and considers it a “terrific put-down.”  He goes on to say,

I was pleased to see that one of Dawkins’ points was one that is not made often enough:William Lane Craig is a nasty, amoral excuse for a human being.

My only reaction to this is simply laugh.  No serious academic or inquirer for the truth can take these comments seriously.  I think it’s an amazing demonstration of lack of substantive retort and refusal to dialogue.  Dawkins and Myers simply want to monologue and when someone wants to engage, shame on that fool for thinking differently.  So much for free thought, right?

The thing is, Craig has already taken on the leading atheists and to top Dawkins would be too much of a blow for the atheist camp. He is their last hope for saving face in the public sphere.  Now, I’m not going to suggest that atheism has been dismantled in academia, because it hasn’t.  The purpose of debating is to bring the issues to a public forum and let the premises and arguments, which underlie these competing worldviews, be heard, examined, matched against peers, and argued against (which helps prevent strawmen).  Debating isn’t an academic double-blind - journal and no one ever said it was.  I suspect Dawkins isn’t the most adept debater and that’s okay.  I would be content with him saying that he isn’t sufficient in a formal oral debate and would prefer more of an academic review/written debate (and leave formal oral debates to those who can).  That’s fine with me.

Paradoxically, I believe Dawkins’ lack of debate is a bigger defeat for new atheism then if he did debate Craig.  It says so much more than if they were to engage in substantive dialogue because it demonstrates the new atheists’ desire of monologue.  They want to shout on their blogs and books that there is no God (or on busses that there probably isn’t a God).  If you stand up to question them they have nothing to respond with but strawmen arguments.  So much for standing up to William Lane Craig, this is more of a stepping-to-the-side and getting out of his way.

October 14th, 2011

Resources on the Reasonable Faith UK Tour

by Max Andrews

William Lane Craig is starting off his UK Reasonable Faith Tour from October 17-26.  Below are some resources for information concerning the tour. (Thanks to drcraigvideos for the links and videos).

Websites on the UK Tour

http://www.bethinking.org/craig
http://premier.org.uk/craig

Facebook

http://www.facebook.com/ReasonableFaithTour

Interviews on the Tour

Interview with Justin Brierley at Premiere Christian Radio in the UK

Interview with Kevin Harris with the Reasonable Faith Podcast

New Articles/Stories on the Tour

Richard Dawkins accused of cowardice for refusing to debate existence of God (The Telegraph)

BBC on “No Dawkins” Oxford Bus Campaign (BBC)

British Humanists Take to the Bunkers (Be Thinking)

Christian Philosopher William Lane Craig Is Ready to Debate, but Finds Few Challengers (Fox News)

Dawkins defends decision not to debate apologist William Lane Craig (Christianity Today)

October 13th, 2011

Is Heisenberg a Defeater for an Evidentialist Epistemology?

by Max Andrews

(For further context on my epistemology see Einstein’s Impact on the Epistemic Method.  I would consider myself a moderate evidentialist.)

Scientific theology takes Einstein’s knowing and being and his understanding of reality as a whole and applies this method of theology in Christian theology.  If the world is indeed the creation of God, then there is an ontological ground for a theological engagement with the natural sciences.  It is not an arbitrary engagement, which regresses back to Newtonian engagement, but it is a natural dialogue, grounded in the fundamental belief that the God about whom Christian theology speaks is the same God who created the world that the natural sciences investigate.[1]

A major problem that presses my theory of knowledge is the Heisenberg Principle.  This principle states that an observer changes the current state of affairs being observed.  For instance, if I am measuring the velocity of a particle I cannot know the position of the particle and vise versa.  This is called uncertainty.  How this comes into the epistemic process is whether or not this principle is epistemic or ontic.  This uncertainty creates an epistemic limit.

If this principle is epistemic then what relationship does the nature of reality have on our epistemic faculty?  Heisenberg himself believed that this uncertainty was not merely epistemic but it was ontic. Back to the example of velocity and position, if Heisenberg’s ontic uncertainty is true then if an object that is not in an eigenstate[2] of position then the object does not have a position.  Position then becomes a potential property.  When the observer measures the position it is then actualized.[3]

If this principle is ontic then this may potentially be a defeater for my position.  By way of realism, there is a certain element of reality that truly is uncertain.  Causation is even worse than what Hume told us.  That is still not to say that causation does not occur, it must, but this ontic uncertainty may affect more than just the quantum world.  If all of reality is composed of particles then there is a certain extent to which properties of particle can be extrapolated to a set aggregate of particles.  It’s easy to see how this can affect evidence and meeting sufficiency for belief.  I do not believe that ontic uncertainty makes reality unknowable since, intuitively, there are some propositions that we do know to be true such as the reality and existence of the external world.  So, even if it were the case that there is an element to ontic uncertainty it would not affect my epistemic theory in a capacity that would render it void and untenable.  There may be minor nuances to my theory that would render this theory questionable but given epistemic charity or probability one may still be justified in believing any proposition that is onticly uncertain as true as long as it meets the criteria for sufficiency.


            [1] Both the natural sciences and Christian theology are to engage with the nature of reality—not deciding this in advance, but exploring and establishing it through a process of discovery and encounter.  Alister E. McGrath, The Science of God: An Introduction to Scientific Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004),  21-22.

            [2] An eigenstate is a state corresponding to a fixed value of a physical variable.

            [3] Jonathan Allday, Quantum Reality:  Theory and Philosophy (Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2009), 250-251.