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Category Archives: apologetics
There are some excellent questions raised in this movie.
[HT Wintery Knight]
Some deny that Jesus ever existed and I find that odd. Bart does too and Bart isn’t a Christian! I believe people deny the existence of something (God, Jesus, the soul, etc.) when they don’t want to study it and/or deal with the ramifications of their study.
Here is an excellent example of the McGurk effect:
My interpretation of this effect is based on the physics of both sound and light waves. Based on Shannon’s theorum, light carries more information than sound so it makes sense that our minds would, when presented with conflicting information. So it is understandable why many people operate on the principle of “seeing is believing”. However the McGurk effect should serve as a warning to us that when faced with problems of interpreting information, what we are seeing may be masking the truth of what we are perceiving.
In this talk I attempt to explain the distinctive features of human civilization. Animals have forms of social organization and communication but they do not have money, property, government, and marriage. Why not? Human institutional facts are created and maintained by a specific type of linguistic representation that I call a “status function declaration.” This operation can be performed over and over again on a wide range of subjects. It creates and maintains systems of deontic power: rights, duties, obligations and empowerments of various kinds. These provide the glue that hold human society together. They do that by providing humans with desire independent reasons for action, that is, reasons for doing things that are independent of their immediate inclinations.
Here is a textbook example of how to discuss what it means to “teach the controversy”. Casey Luskin does a great job of diffusing the “anything other than accepted Darwinist dogma is religious in nature!” argument that is rather common among the high priests of Darwinism.
Sam Harris, in his book “The Moral Landscape”, defines good as that which moves away from “the worst possible misery”.
Once we conceive of “the worst possible misery for everyone” then we can talk about taking incremental steps towards this abyss. -Sam Harris, Moral Landscape, pg 39
While listening to Sam’s opening speech in his recent debate with William Lane Craig (audio, video), it occurred to me that by “misery”, Sam means, “physical misery”. That made me wonder, what about nonphysical misery? It seems that Sam’s dedication to physical materialism could prove to be a great hinderance here.
The best example of non-physical pain in my estimation is phantom pain experienced by amputees. In this case its the memory of a limb is the source of pain. I’m sure physicalists would argue that the neurons in the brain which supposedly constitute memories are the physical source of pain in this instance, but it seems like a stretch to think that memories themselves could be the source of pain since, in our memories, our limbs are still in tact. Phantom pain is not only the recollection of a limb that no longer exists, but an extrapolation from there that the body must be in pain since the limb is no longer providing feedback to the nervous system.
Next to phantom pain for non-existent limbs would be psycogenic pain, ie mental disorders. Mental anguish is one of the most common forms of pain we experience all the time. From mild discomfort (ie small insults or slights) to insurmountable pain (ie the loss of a loved one).
In conclusion I believe there is sufficient evidence for the claim that metaphysical pain trumps physical pain in
- Duration – it is not possible to remove metaphysical pain through medication or amputation.
- Intensity – while both metaphysical pain can be mitigated somewhat through medication, its intensity is not limited by natural constraints.
- Capacity – physical pain does end at some point. Nerves get overloaded and either shut down (become numb) or the body builds a tolerance or the body itself shuts down (ie the person passes out). Metaphysical pain is bound by none of these physical constraints.
So if the greatest possible pain is not confined to physical states of affairs, it follows that any solution to the problem of pain would need to entail a metaphysical component to it if it is to be a complete and coherent. Sam’s solution is simply incomplete. It fails to adequately address metaphysical pain which would still exist even under the most ideal physical circumstances. And since it is possible for the metaphysical to effect the physical, and not vice versa, it also follows that any solution to the problem of pain should come primarialy from a metaphysical source, not a physical one.
So while I agree with Sam that morality would entail the transition from a state of pain to a state of pleasure, I find Sam’s solution to be shallow and incomplete. The greatest possible pain is not physical, its metaphysical. So the solution we ought to be looking for, if we are serious about looking for an exhaustive solution, should be metaphysical, not physical.