Saturday, January 23, 2016

Quote Of The Day: Weak Emergentism

Many naturalists and materialists (not the same thing) favor reductionism over emergentism. Emergentism, some of them say, is a like having a magic wand that can simply declare higher levels of phenomena without having to really explain them; they just "emerge." But just like with scientism, there are strong and weak versions of emergentism. The quote below is from Sean Carroll in a Q & A he did with 3 AM magazine on what weak emergentism is, and why naturalists shouldn't fear it.

I think emergence is absolutely central to how naturalists should think about the world, and how we should find room for higher-level concepts from tables to free will in a way compatible with the scientific image. But “weak” emergence, not strong emergence. That is simply the idea that there are multiple theories/languages/vocabularies/ontologies that we can use to usefully describe the world, each appropriate at different levels of coarse-graining and precision. I always return to the example of thermodynamics (fluids, energy, pressure, entropy) and kinetic theory (collections of atoms and molecules with individual positions and momenta). Here we have two ways of talking, each perfectly valid within a domain of applicability, but with the domain of one theory (thermodynamics) living strictly inside the domain of the other (kinetic theory). Crucially, the “emergent” higher-level theory can exhibit features that you might naively think are ruled out by the lower-level rules; in particular, thermodynamics famously has an arrow of time defined by the Second Law (entropy increases in isolated systems), whereas the microscopic rules of the lower-level theory are completely time-symmetric and arrowless.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Question To Pro-life Conservatives


If every illegal immigrant female in the US became pregnant right now, what would you choose given only these two options:

(1) would you rather have 7 or 8 million more anchor babies born in the US nine months from now; or
(2) would you rather have all of them have an abortion


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Questions No One Knows the Answers to (Full Version)

This is a nice little video with animation asking some of the deepest questions in philosophy that we do not have definitive answers on, and frighteningly, for some at least, we might not ever.

Ted Cruz Is Wrong On "New York Values"

Presidential candidate and former Canadian national Ted Cruz recently said that his rival Donald Trump embodies "New York values" as a way to insinuate that Trump is out of line with most of America. When pressed on exactly what he meant by New York values Cruz said that it refers to liberal values like abortion and same sex marriage.

"[E]veryone understands that the values in New York City are socially liberal or pro-abortion or pro-gay-marriage, focus around money and the media," Cruz said in last week's Republican debate.

"They're not Iowa values," he said on Fox News, "and they're not New Hampshire values."

Oh really?

Are liberal "New York values" on abortion and gay marriage really all that different from the rest of the country? Actually, no. They're not.

Pew recently conducted a poll where 55% of Americans "Favor allowing gays and lesbains to marry legally."And Gallup conducted a poll where 60% of Americans said same sex marriage "Should be valid." This number is only going to get bigger and bigger given current demographic trends. Interestingly, New Hampshire was one of the earliest states to legalize gay marriage and did so even before New York.

On abortion, Gallup conducted a poll that showed 50% of Americans identify as pro-choice and 44% identify as pro-life. A Quinnipiac poll in late 2015 showed that 57% of Americans think abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and 40% think it should be illegal in most or all cases.

Most Americans favor legal abortion and gay marriage. New York values are American values, Ted.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Free Will, Science, and Religion Podcast - Ranting On Politics

On this episode of the Free Will, Science, and Religion podcast I rant and rave about the upcoming election and some of the problems with the republican field. This is what we call an "impersonal opinion" episode where we stray from the main topics that the podcast is about.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Thinker - A Novel (Chapter 1 Part 3) Bike Ride

I WOKE UP AROUND TEN-THIRTY IN THE MORNING. Being a natural night owl, I knew a pattern was slowly developing. Each day I’d wake up a little bit later than the previous day and would eventually be getting up at three in the afternoon and going to bed at seven AM. I didn’t want to let myself get that bad. Not for a while at least. I made myself breakfast, using the last egg that had probably been sitting in my fridge for a few weeks and some Italian sausages that probably weren’t much younger. I put some frozen waffles in the toaster and sliced up an avocado to add something a bit more healthy in the mix. As I sat and ate I watched the day’s news on TV and contemplated what I was going to do that day. Thoughts of work and getting fired were quickly fading away. Two days unemployed and I was nearing that point where I couldn’t give a shit anymore. My morale was quite high. I was excited about this journey and where it would take me.
     Since the weather was so nice and it was midsummer I decided that a bike ride was in store. I had an old red Raleigh mountain bike that was nearing its death but still ran decently. I greased the chain up with some WD40, pumped up the tires, put on my shades and my old cabbie hat and took off out into the summer sun. I lived in Queens but I had Brooklyn on my mind for some reason, and so Brooklyn it was.
     It felt so strange being out in the middle of the day on a weekday. It had been so long since I saw the city it this day and hour. The streets were lively and filled with people. Kids were out playing in the playground sprinklers; old men were playing bocce in the park; beautiful young women were walking their dogs. And all of this went on every day when I was slaving away at work. I crossed the John Jay Byrne bridge from Queens into Brooklyn. It goes right through that big industrial area bisected by Newtown creek. I headed south towards Williamsburg, hipster central. It was a favorite party area for me and my friends due to all the twenty-something girls and the abundance of bars. In the daylight it almost seemed like a sleepy neighborhood, far from its nighttime alter ego. I remember when the so-called “hipster” culture exploded in New York back in 2001. The Strokes had come out and reinvigorated indie rock and set off a new culture trend. They brought skinny jeans and mop-tops back. It slowly put a death curse on the angry rap metal that had permeated the culture for years up until that point. I was glad to see rap metal and nu-metal die. I never felt acquainted with its brashness and angry vitriolic lyrics and sound.

The Short Rebuttal To The Fine Tuning Argument

On atheism fine tuning is expected because only universes that can sustain life will have life capable of observing it. On theism however, a god could create life in a universe that had laws that were not capable of sustaining life, and keep that life alive through a perpetual miracle. If we had discovered that the laws and parameters of the universe were inhospitable for sustaining life, and yet life somehow existed in a way that was completely inexplicable by natural means, then that would actually be evidence of design, since atheism or naturalism could never account for that. The existence of life in such a case would literally be a miracle in the traditional Humean sense of a supernatural violation of the laws of nature in a way science could never explain.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Thinker - A Novel (Chapter 1 Part 2) The Plan


THE NEXT DAY WAS STRANGE. I didn’t have a job to get up early to go to. I could sleep in and consume the day at my own pace. This newfound freedom would allow me to cultivate the many non-professional interests I had. I had always been a deep thinking philosophical person who liked to contemplate all those cerebral dilemmas and mysteries that most of the populace so easily ignored while they instead preoccupied themselves with consumerism and mindless self-indulgence. I was different. It was around this time that I had started getting into the English-American philosopher Alan Watts. He was one of the most high profile propagators to Western audiences of Zen Buddhism back in the fifties, sixties, and seventies. Although I had never been a Buddhist myself, some of his teachings and interpretations of Zen resonated with me. I wasn’t necessarily a "spiritual seeker," per se—but more of a seeker and lover of wisdom and knowledge in the truest philosophical sense. Wisdom was my preferred currency. I had become obsessed with philosophy slowly over the past decade ever since I took my first introduction to philosophy course in college. And I now had all the time in the world to cognitively wrestle with these things and to seek answers to the questions raging in my head.

Sitting around my apartment that afternoon I peered out my window to the world outside. It was a Tuesday and I’d normally be at work. I now had time to do things during the day. There is a funny irony about life when it comes to work. Having a job provides you money, but little time to enjoy it; not having a job provides you all the time in the world, but no money to enjoy it. But money wasn’t a concern of mine. What was a concern of mine was being able to enjoy this newfound freedom that I had. I decided to call up Pete Hernandez, one of my best friends since high school who now worked as a waiter and who had Tuesdays off. He was surprised to get a call from me at this time and day because I was always working. I told him over the phone about getting fired and asked he if wanted to meet for some drinks. He agreed to meet me down by a local pub we sometimes used on Sundays to catch up on and debate philosophy. So I got dressed and made the ten minute walk over there in the warm afternoon sun. I had on my shades and my newsboy hat because I hadn’t done my hair or showered. There was no reason to now. Without a job there was no reason to look professional. It had dawned on me that I now had the freedom to look casual. I could now let my hair and beard grow out as long as I wanted, one of the many things my arduous job prevented me from doing in the name of “professionality.”


Thursday, January 7, 2016

Quotes Of The Day: The Silence Of Paul

The weather just got "cold" here in the big apple and I've been trying to adjust getting back to a working schedule for the past few days while trying to squeeze in reading time of Richard Carrier's book On the Historicity of Jesus. He's defending a thesis known as minimal mythicism. And integral to that thesis is to look at the New Testament in chronological order from the authentic Pauline epistles, through the gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John, which is the agreed upon order they were written by most scholars. If you read the NT that way, without any previous notion of Christianity—as if you were discovering Christianity for the first time, you will be able to notice that the story of Jesus goes from being very vague, and I mean very vague, to having more and more detail added to his life as you read the gospels in chronological order, exactly as a legend would develop. The silence of Paul's letters on any good detail of Jesus's life, ministry, and sayings is quite stunning. And many scholars and non-scholars alike have noticed this. Here's a quote from Billy Wheaton and Joy Fuller's book Hooks and Ladders: A Journey on a Bridge to Nowhere with American Evangelical Christians* that Carrier includes in his book:

Imagine for a moment that one of your friends writes you a twenty-page letter passionately wanting to share her excitement about a new teacher. This letter has only one topic, your friend's new teacher. [But] at the end of her letter, you still do not know one thing about her teacher. Yet, Paul presents the central figure of his theology this way . . . . It [seems] impossible to imagine how Paul could avoid telling one story or parable of—or fail I to note one physical trait or personal quality of—Jesus.

Noted New Testament scholar Gerd Lüdemann says of Paul:

Not once does Paul refer to Jesus as a teacher, to his words as teaching, or to [any] Christians as disciples. in this regard it is one of the greatest significance that when Paul cites 'sayings of Jesus', they are never so designated; rather, without a single exception, he attributes such sayings to 'the Lord'. . . . Paul thought that a person named Jesus had lived and that he now sat at the right hand of God in heaven. Yet he shows only a passing acquaintance with traditions related to his life and nowhere an independent acquaintance with them. In short, Paul cannot be considered a reliable witness to either the teachings, the life, or the historical existence of Jesus.**

It makes no sense at all, unless Jesus was to Paul a celestial deity who never existed on earth. There will definitely be more QOTDs inspired by Carrier's book in the upcoming months. Stay tuned.

*(Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, 2009), p. 31
**Gerd Lüdemann, 'Paul as a Witness to the Historical Jesus', Sources of the Jesus Tradition: Separating History from Myth (Amherst, NY:Prometheus Books, 2010), pp. 196-212

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Double Standards On Sex

Politically speaking, I'm a left-leaning independent populist and a progressive secularist who is socially liberal, especially on matters of sex. I'm a "feminist" in the sense that I believe in full gender equality, but I generally prefer to call myself a "humanist."

I've found that for many people, especially men, raised with traditional, old fashioned attitudes towards gender norms, one of the hardest things for them to accept—if they want to be a liberal progressive like myself—is the idea that women should be able to have as much casual sex as they want without slut shaming.

If it is perfectly morally acceptable for a man to be able to have casual sex, monogamously or non-monogamously, then it should be perfectly morally acceptable for a woman to be able to do the same. There should be no sexual double standard. This is logically entailed if you want to support sexual and gender equality, as most left-leaning progressive secularists claim they do. But, there are still those among us who call ourselves "liberals," or "feminists," or who openly claim to support an end to the "patriarchy," and who pay lip service to "gender equality," who still think it's proper that women should guard their sexuality in ways men shouldn't.

Why? I think for some men there are inherent fears that a true liberation of female sexuality will unleash the sexual beasts within them, and these women who engage in casual sex will spark inner fears of jealousy. Many of us, perhaps most of us, are prone to sexual jealousy. We're fearful of those we love or desire having sex with others. Similarly, some women who are more on the monogamous side of the spectrum are afraid that the sexual liberation of women will make it more likely that their male partners will cheat on them due to the abundance of having so many easy sexual prospects (and as Chris Rock said, men are only as faithful as their options). It of course goes without saying that many religions cause many of these attitudes and so traditional religions obviously have to go.

So what do we do about these fears that tend to make us hold onto traditional gender norms? Well, it's complicated. First, allowing women to have sex as much as they want without fear of slut shaming doesn't mean that all women will have to have casual sex. It means they should be able to if they want to. There shouldn't be any rigid gender norms imposed on men or women. Men and women should be allowed to have casual sex if they want to. Or not—if they want to. While I do think that the potential for female sexuality in the arena of casual sex or polyamory is greater than it is, I don't think it will be everyone. Second, we need to, as a society, learn to get over our sexual jealousy. I've known many men who in the same breath will complain about women not being easy enough to have sex with, and then complain that a certain woman is a slut or a whore for having too much sex. It's totally illogical and hypocritical. You can't slut shame women for having casual sex, while complaining that you're not getting enough casual sex from women. Third, we still need to respect monogamy for those who are monogamous and for relationships where there is an expectation of monogamy. I'm certainly not trying to advocate in this post that we all just cheat on everyone. Not at all. We should all be open and honest to our partners about who we're having sex with and whether we're monogamous or not. If you promise a partner you will be monogamous with them, then you should be monogamous with them. Period.

No doubt there will be lots of new complexities that arise from fully liberated sexuality and gender equality, but we'll deal with them, much like we dealt with the complications that arose from racial equality. Although, I'd prefer we take a much more rational approach.

Monday, January 4, 2016

AnticitizenX's YouTube Page

A YouTuber who goes by the name of "anticitizenx" makes some pretty well made videos. Check out some of his videos below on a variety of philosophical and theological concepts. He hammers away at some of the obvious (as well as not so obvious) flaws in common theological arguments, like one of my favorites to debate, the moral argument.

What is Truth?

No, Really, What is Free Will?

Philosophical Failures of Christian Apologetics, Part 1: Why God Matters

"Seven main reasons why I left Islam - Proof Islam is false"

In lieu of writing original content, I've decided to post some interesting YouTube videos that I've seen lately to fill in the silence. I will definitely be blogging in the near future on a wide variety of topics, including finishing up chapter 5 of The Last Superstition which I hopefully should have by February-ish. I will also plan on writing more about regressive leftism, which I've been thinking about a lot lately, and I plan to write some thoughts on Richard Carrier's On the Historicity of Jesus. A lot more as well.

Here's an interesting video I saw criticizing Islam. It is very important that we spread these kinds of videos so that (1) believing Muslims can be exposed to criticism of their religion and its truth claims, and (2) so that non-Muslims are exposed to some good reasons to think Islam is false, making it unlikely that they'll ever convert.


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