Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Something for Everyone

Senator Clinton has her bases covered:


Kurt G�del

Students of math and science among our readers will probably have heard of Kurt G�del, one of the premier mathematicians and logicians of the 20th century. G�del was brilliant. It also turns out that he was a committed theist. Hector Rosario has an interesting article on G�del's theism at Metanexus. Here's a part of it:

Kurt G�del, the preeminent mathematical logician of the twentieth century, is best known for his celebrated Incompleteness Theorems; yet he also had a profound rational theology worthy of serious consideration. "The world is rational," asserted G�del, evoking philosophical theism, "according to which the order of the world reflects the order of the supreme mind governing it."

G�del was a self-confessed theist, going as far as developing an ontological argument in an attempt to prove the existence of God. He chose the framework of modal logic, a useful formal language for proof theory, which also has important applications in computer science. This logic is the study of the deductive behavior of the expressions 'it is necessary that' and 'it is possible that,' which arise frequently in ordinary (philosophical) language. However, according to his biographer John Dawson, he never published his ontological argument for fear of ridicule by his peers.

An important aspect of G�del's theology - one that has been greatly overlooked by those studying his works - is that not only was he a theist but a personalist; not a pantheist as some apologetic thinkers may portray him. To be precise, he rejected the notion that God was impersonal, as God was for Einstein.

"Spinoza's god is less than a person; mine is more than a person; because God can play the role of a person." This is significant since a god who lacks the ability to "play the role of a person" would obviously lack the property of omnipotence and thus violate a defining property universally accepted as pertaining to God. Therefore if God existed, reasoned G�del, then He must at least be able to play the role of a person. The question for G�del was how to determine the truth value of the antecedent in the previous statement.

Atheists and agnostics usually portray their philosophy as rational, discarding the theist conclusion as a mere psychological refuge of the ignorant or self-deceiving. Nevertheless, ultra-rational thinkers like G�del, Leibniz, and Descartes have reached the theist conclusion. Is there an apparent disconnect between rational thinkers and rational thought, or is it that the theists' view is the rational conclusion, even if often embraced by fanatics in unimaginably irrational ways?

Many scientists would argue that even though they cannot completely (or partially) explain the origin of the universe - or the origin of life, or the nature of consciousness, or the nature of time - the answers would certainly not involve God. They have placed their faith in their cognitive processes and in their colleagues. They submit to those authorities; but faith they have, nonetheless.

Rosario concludes the article with a discussion of G�del's version of the ontological argument.

HT: Telic Thoughts


The Ugliness of American Politics

American politics has grown exceedingly ugly in the last ten years or so. It is no longer, if it ever was, a contest of ideas about how best to achieve mutually agreed upon ends. It has morphed into a battle to destroy the other side, to destroy as many careers as possible and discredit the other side to whatever extent one can.

Thus we find ourselves mired in perpetual charges of scandal: We are told that the administration lied to get us into war, that the administration illegally eaves-drops on our enemies, that the administration illegally detains enemy combatants, that prisons like Guantanamo Bay are hell-holes, that our troops are less than ideally equipped and outfitted for their mission, that Dick Cheney didn't immediately report a hunting accident, that a CIA agent was illegally "outed" for political reasons, and the current outrage du jour, that federal district attorneys were improperly dismissed.

None of these are genuine scandals. In each case the charges are either trivial, untrue or, if true, there was nothing illegal or improper in the administration's actions. Yet the Democrats and their media mouthpieces daily demand human sacrifice: Destroy Don Rumsfeld. Hang Scooter Libby. Get Karl Rove. Ruin Dick Cheney. Impeach George Bush. It's a mob mentality based on hate and deceit, driven by a lust for power, and it's destroying our politics and paralyzing governance.

Not that there are not genuine scandals in this White House, but the real scandals are ones in which the Democrats are complicit. The biggest is Bush's feckless approach to securing our borders and stopping illegal immigration. His insouciance about this problem is a dereliction of his duty as commander in chief and is negating, in the minds of many Americans, much of the good he has wrought.

The good includes his liberation of more people from tyranny than any other president in history, his steadfastness in the war on terror, the appointment of quality Supreme Court and federal jurists, tax cuts which have given us one of the best economies in the last sixty years, and his resolve to stay the course in the war on terrorism despite the howling and shrieking of his enemies both foreign and domestic.

Bush could have been a great president. Despite the tragic mistakes that were made in the post-invasion phase of the Iraq war, he could have emerged from his tenure in the White House with Reaganesque stature, but his handling of illegal immigration is a disgrace that will be very difficult for him to overcome no matter what happens in Iraq. His failure is sad for what it will do to his legacy, and it could well be calamitous for the country.


Socs Rocks

Any teacher who has ever been evaluated by his or her students will find much that sounds familiar in these student evaluations of Socrates' teaching abilities.

HT: No Left Turns