June 22nd, 2012
This is the subtitle to a new book, Mind and Cosmos, by Thomas Nagel with Oxford University Press. Nagel is a materialist, not a theist or creationist. You’ve probably heard of his famous 1974 paper, “What is it Like to be a Bat?” Many atheist philosophers are starting to doubt the Darwinian paradigm. For instance, atheist philosopher of science Bradley Monton has written extensively on intelligent design while promoting it as an atheist. Here’s the description of the new book given by Oxford University Press:
The modern materialist approach to life has utterly failed to explain such central features of our world as consciousness, intentionality, meaning, or value. This failure to account for something so integral to nature as mind, argues philosopher Thomas Nagel, is a major problem, threatening to unravel the entire naturalistic world picture, extending to biology, evolutionary theory, and cosmology.
In Mind and Cosmos, Nagel provides an insightful analysis of the Darwinian world view, offering a perspective quite different from that found in such books as Richard Dawkins’ The Blind Watchmaker. What we know about how mind and everything connected with it depends today on our ideas about the origin and spread of living organisms as a result of the universe’s evolution. But Nagel states that “it is prima facie highly implausible that life as we know it is the result of a sequence of physical accidents together with the mechanism of natural selection.” What is the likelihood that self-reproducing life forms should have come into existence spontaneously? What is the likelihood that, as a result of physical accident, a sequence of viable genetic mutations should have occurred that was sufficient to permit natural selection? Nagel’s skepticism is not based on religious belief or on a belief in any definite alternative. He does suggest that if the materialist account is wrong, then principles of a different kind may also be at work in the history of nature, principles of the growth of order that are in their logical form teleological rather than mechanistic.
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May 18th, 2012
In 1991 L. D. Rue confronted the issue of absurdity and boldly advocated that man should deceive himself by means of a “Noble Lie” into believe that the universe still has value. By denying any objective teleology, self-fulfillment becomes radically privatized: each person chooses his own set of values and meaning. One has no choice but to embrace some Noble Lie that will inspire one to live beyond selfish interests. The Noble Lie “is one that deceives us, tricks us, and compels us beyond self-interest, beyond ego, beyond family, nation, [and] race.” “Without such lies, we cannot live.”
Rue’s Noble Lie does not appear to solve the notion of absurdity. Why should one sacrifice self-interest for a fiction? The Noble Lie is the greatest placebo that accomplishes its feat of illusion. Rue’s problem, as for anyone who constructs any Noble Lie, is that he values deeply personal fulfillment and wholeness. This would include objective values, which according to his philosophy do not exist. The Noble Lie option thus affirms what it denies and so refutes itself.
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May 16th, 2012
It would be an appropriate evaluation of 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 it 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.
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May 2nd, 2012
The ‘bad-design’ objection is from observing the natural data and claiming that it could not have been designed because there are some things that lack proper function or there could have been a better way for a certain [i.e. organ] to function. This objection is often made by many theistic evolutionists, though, still non-theists object as well, is based on an inappropriate and misconceived understanding of design. The design hypothesis merely states that there is intelligent causation that permits the existence of life (a probability factor). Optimality of what has been designed is not a criterion for design. Motor vehicles break down and computers crash. With comparing motor vehicles to design, there is a natural decay and effects of heat, friction, and weather decay.
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April 1st, 2012
During the VT debate on the existence of God one of the atheists quoted a section of my blog concerning the issue of teleology and suicide. The quote read:
If there is no God to provide meaning, value, and purpose, the only consistent option for humanity is suicide. 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 there is no God, the only remedy for absurdism is to participate in Nietzsche’s abyss of nothingness: suicide.
This was taken from a previous post of mine on how God provides meaning and purpose. In this quote I had a footnote reference to elaborate on one of these points. This footnote (17) reads:
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March 27th, 2012
Below is a brief outline of David Hume’s criticisms of the teleological argument found in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion] and responses to them.
- The argument doesn’t get us to God, at most it just gets to a designer.
- This is not arguing for God, just an extremely intelligent mind, which exists apart from the universe.
- Constructive empiricism
- You can only use analogy to argue for things that are similar, but the universe is unique.
- As long as the two things being compared are relevantly similar in the properties under consideration, they can be analogized. Everything is unique in some way; however, we can still compare things where they are similar. The universe is not unique in all its properties for it shares some properties with other things (design).
- You can only use analogy about things you have empirically experienced, but no one experienced the origin of the universe.
- Scientists infer the existence and operations of empirically inexperienced entities on the basis of analogizing from what they do know from experience (i.e. particles)
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