Archive for August, 2012

August 15th, 2012

Word of the Week Wednesday: Flavor (Particle Physics)

by Max Andrews

Word of the Week: Flavor (particle physics)

Definition: The property that makes the distinction between one quark and anthers. Quarks come in six flavors: up, down, strange, charm, top, and bottom.

More about the term: The term is sometimes extended to describe different flavors of a lepton; in that case, the varieties are electron, electron neutrino, muon, muon neutrino, tau, and tau neutrino. For more about the term and related information please see John Gribbin’s Q is for Quantum (London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1998), 141.

August 7th, 2012

The Contingency of Commands

by Max Andrews

The ethical realist objector [to DCT] claims that it is possible for God to command rape in some possible world, or in an impossible world close to the actual world, making it obligatory for all moral agents, whereas rape is still morally bad in that same world, thus, making DCT arbitrary and is defeated.

The nonstandard semantics objection to the arbitrariness of DCT suggests that there is an impossible world, however close to the actual world, in which God commands rape or the torture of innocent children.  Approaching the objection from an explanandum-driven consideration, would a contingent command be an adequate objection?

Consider the following contingencies of a command:

(CONTCOM)   ∀ϕ[(◊~Cgϕ) ∙ (◊Cgϕ)]

(CONTCOMʹ)   ∀ϕ[(◊~Cg~ϕ) ∙ (◊Cg~ϕ)]

The objector to divine command theory assumes that ϕ can be any command and could thus look like:

(CONTCOM″)   ∀ϕ[(◊~Cgϕ ∙ ◊~Cg~ϕ) ∙ (◊Cgϕ ∙ ◊Cg~ϕ)]

(CONTCOM‴)   ∀ρ[(◊~Cgρ ∙ ◊~Cg~ρ) ∙ (◊Cgρ ∙ ◊Cg~ρ)]

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August 7th, 2012

The Arbitrariness Objection to Divine Command Theory

by Max Andrews

The proponent of divine command theory (DCT) claims that whatever God commands to any moral agent becomes a moral obligation.  Formulations of the commands are given symbolic form by David Efird as:[1]

(RIGHT)                     ∀ϕ☐(Rϕ ≣ Cgϕ)

(WRONG)                  ∀ϕ☐(Wϕ ≣ Cg~ϕ)

(PERMITTED 1)       ☐(~Eg ⊃ ∀ϕ~Wϕ)[2]

(PERMITTED 2)       [(∃ϕ☐Cgϕ ∙ ∃ϕ☐Cg~ϕ)] ∙ [(∃ϕ☐~Cgϕ ∙ ∃ϕ☐~Cg~ϕ)]

The arbitrariness objection claims that [for example] if God commanded moral agents to rape then the action of committing rape would be obligatory to all moral agents.[3]  The objector assumes an inference in the form of the argument stating that ∀ϕ☐(Rϕ ≣ Cgϕ) may also be applicable in the sense that ϕ could refer to rape (ρ). 

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August 6th, 2012

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]

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August 4th, 2012

The Social Darwinian Revolution

by Max Andrews

Evolutionary Theories of Marriage and Mating

“All those who have most closely studied the subject, and whose judgment is worth much more than mine, believe that communal marriage was the original and universal form throughout the world, including the intermarriage of brothers and sisters.”  Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, Book II, pp. 358-358

The Kinsey Revolution (Alfred Kinsey)

  • Grew up in South Orange, NJ
  • Classmates predicted as “second Darwin”
  • Earned doctorate from Harvard, majoring in animal and plant taxonomy
  • Early work on gall wasps, but switched focus to human sexuality in 1930’s
  • By 1940’s received funding from the National Academy of Sciences and Rockefeller Foundation for study of human sexuality
  • Sexual Behavior in the Human Male released in 1948.
  • Reduced sexuality in the “human animal” to the product of normal mammalian biology
  • Claimed his research was neutral and value-free, but his comments undercut this claim
  • Kinsey’s unorthodox personal life
  • Pressured associates to engage in mutual sex
  • Engaged in masochistic sexual activities
  • Pressured students to submit to invasive interviews
  • Hated religion
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August 3rd, 2012

The Edge of Evolution

by Max Andrews

Darwinism is a multipart theory.  Some parts may be right, others may be wrong.  It’s important to distinguish what is right and what is wrong.

  • Common descent (interesting, but trivial)
  • Natural selection (interesting, but trivial)
  • Random mutation
  • The critical claim of Darwinism is the sufficiency of random mutation

The problem of rugged evolutionary fitness landscape

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August 3rd, 2012

The Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom Contra William Hasker

by Max Andrews

William Hasker is deeply committed to the position that man holds some level of libertarian freedom.  In his section on “Freedom, Necessity, and God,” Hasker takes the libertarian to task by challenging him with free will’s compatibility with divine foreknowledge.[1]  Hasker proposes an argument suggesting that divine foreknowledge is just as inconsistent with free will as predestination.[2]  Consider his argument:

1.  It is now true that I will have a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow.  (Assumption)
2.  It is impossible that God should at any time believe anything false or fail to believe anything which is true (Assumption:  divine omniscience)
3.  Therefore God has always believed that I will have a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow.  (Inference from 1 and 2)
4.  If God has always believed a certain thing, it is not in my power to bring it about that God has not always believed that thing.  (Assumption: the inalterability of the past)
5.  Therefore it is not in my power to bring it about that God has not always believed that I will have a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow.  (Inference from 3 and 4)
6.  It is not possible for it to be true both that God has always believed that I will have a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow, and that I do not in fact have one.  (Inference from 2)
7.  Therefore it is not in my power to refrain from having a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow.  (Inference from 5 and 6) So I do not have free will with respect to the decision whether or not to eat an omelet.[3]

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August 2nd, 2012

The Argument from Mind

by Max Andrews

Abraham Varghese examines five mental phenomena with three preliminary comments: 1) These are not proofs but transcendent necessary conditions 2) These are not probabilities or hypotheses but “fundamental realities that cannot be denied without contradiction” and 3) Immediate experience of these phenomena are sufficient evidence.

The general argument: Materialism can never produce these phenomena–a mind is the only necessary and sufficient explanation.

Phenomenon 1: Rationality

The universe is rational; it has an inner logic that we are capable of understanding. There is a correlation between the workings of nature and our abstract description of those workings.  Atheists cannot account for this on the basis of natural laws nor on the basis of something coming from nothing.  Nothing has no properties.

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August 1st, 2012

The Origin of Sin

by Max Andrews

Where did the original sin come from? It may be a little easier to understand how it is that Adam could have sinned being that he was tempted by another agent, Satan.  However, it may be more difficult to understand why it is that Satan chose sin.  Satan was not tempted by anything or anyone else.  Some find it problematic and an argument against free will, that is, that there is no reason why Satan would choose sin from the beginning.  Satan had to have been determined to sin.  I can understand that it is problematic, or unresting, in understanding the first sin, but I would rather understand the first sin as having its origin from the created being.  One of the tenets of soft-libertarianism is that all choices are not causally determined but are internally originated from the agent.  Causal relations may influence the soft-libertarian agent, but it does not cause him to do anything.  I would rather have the trouble explaining/speculating as to why a sinless free agent chose to sin rather than explain/speculate how a holy and perfect being can cause sin.  This is just a thought that came up in discussion earlier.

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