Monday, October 20, 2008

If Philosophers Played Soccer

A student commends this Monty Python video to his fellow philosophy students:


Without God (III)

In this third installment of our series comparing the explanatory power of theism and atheism we'll consider two more facts about the world that are more easily accounted for on the assumption of theism than on the assumption of atheism.

The first is the existence of biological information. The biosphere is information-rich, a fact which raises the question where this information came from and how it got here. The naturalist's answer is that information, such as we find in DNA and cellular processes, resulted from blind mechanistic forces acting purposelessly and randomly over eons of time. Such a feat is within the realm of the logically possible, of course, but if we're going to limit ourselves to the lessons of experience, as scientists should, we must acknowledge that information whose provenience we can ascertain is always the product of an intelligent mind, never the result of chance.

Random processes can produce highly improbable structures (like the particular pattern of rocks in a field) and they can produce very specific recognizable patterns (like the repetition of a single letter typed by a monkey), but we've never observed a random, non-teleological process generate both (such as an instruction manual). Yet that is precisely what we have in the genetic code.

There may someday be a satisfactory naturalistic explanation for the origin of biological information, but until that day arrives the obvious existence of that information suggests that an intelligent agent lurks somewhere in its history.

Another fact about the world that comports better with the assumption of theism than with atheism, particularly atheistic materialism, is the existence of human consciousness.

How does it happen, for example, that mere matter can produce qualia (e.g. the sensation of red or the taste of sweet)? How do electrochemical reactions in our neurons produce a value, a doubt, gratitude, regret, expectation, or frustration, boredom, or disappointment? How does material substance produce forgiveness, resentment, or wishes, hopes, and desires? How does it appreciate (e.g. beauty, music, or a book)? How does it want, worry, have intentions, or understand something? How does matter come to be aware of itself and its surroundings? How does matter come to hold beliefs?

These are vexing questions for those holding an atheistic view of the world and materialists have no answer to them. It may be that if we put the proper chemicals in a flask under the appropriate conditions the flask would become aware of itself, but we have no idea how it could do so, and the belief that it could is simply an article of materialist faith.

In other words, on the assumption that matter is all there is consciousness is inexplicable. Its existence suggests that material substance is not the only constituent of reality, which may be one reason why some materialists (called eliminative materialists) just embrace the very odd belief that consciousness doesn't exist at all. I say it seems an odd belief because presumably one must be conscious in order to hold it.

At any rate, the problem posed by consciousness is an embarrassment to the materialist, but the theist can simply point out that our consciousness is bestowed on us by God who is Himself a conscious being. Human consciousness derives from God's consciousness, but it's very difficult to account for in a universe without God.


Low Life

From Pajamas Media:

While the Democrat-leaning media continues to scare undecided voters with bedtime stories about some mythical angry McCain supporter whom nobody has seen, here is a real district attorney's complaint documenting an unprovoked assault by an enraged Democrat against a McCain volunteer in midtown Manhattan: "Defendant grabbed the sign [informant] was holding, broke the wood stick that was attached to it, and then struck informant in informant's face...

But you probably knew about this because it happened a month ago and it's been all over the media. Or maybe not.

The attacker was a paunchy middle-aged male and the victim was a woman. The writer of this post, Oleg Atbashian, speculates that the media reaction would have been considerably different had a male McCain supporter hit a female Obama supporter. As it is all we've heard from the MSM about this episode is the sound of snoring.

There are details of the assault at the link and a photo of the perp. I have to say that he looks like he knew what he was doing when he picked on a woman to assault rather than a man.