Spiders Created The Universe?

Posted by Anti Citizen One on February 22nd, 2012

The BRAHMINS assert, that the world arose from an infinite spider, who spun this whole complicated mass from his bowels, and annihilates afterwards the whole or any part of it, by absorbing it again, and resolving it into his own essence. Here is a species of cosmogony, which appears to us ridiculous; because a spider is a little contemptible animal, whose operations we are never likely to take for a model of the whole universe. But still here is a new species of analogy, even in our globe. And were there a planet wholly inhabited by spiders, (which is very possible,) this inference would there appear as natural and irrefragable as that which in our planet ascribes the origin of all things to design and intelligence, as explained by CLEANTHES. Why an orderly system may not be spun from the belly as well as from the brain, it will be difficult for him to give a satisfactory reason. Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, David Hume

There is Power in an Individual to Change the World

Posted by Anti Citizen One on March 29th, 2011

Selective Intellectual Blindness

Posted by Anti Citizen One on July 16th, 2010

I recently had an infuriating conversation which revealed staggering selective intellectual blindness. I am reminded of the quote:

In certain pious people I have found a hatred of reason, […] But to stand in the midst of this rerum concordia discors [the concord of things through discord] and all the marvellous uncertainty and ambiguity of existence, and not to question, not to tremble with desire and delight in questioning, not even to hate the questioner–perhaps even to make merry over him to the extent of weariness–that is what I regard as contemptible[…] The Gay Science, Aph 2.

I am glad to get that off my chest.


ugghh feel ill

Posted by Anti Citizen One on May 18th, 2010

Reminds me of:

For a typical healthy person being sick can even become an energetic stimulus for life, for living more. This, in fact, is how [my own] long period of sickness appears to me now…it was during the years of my lowest vitality that I ceased to be a pessimist; the instinct of self-restoration forbade me a philosophy of poverty and discouragement. Nietzche

In Broken Images

Posted by Anti Citizen One on January 31st, 2010

He is quick, thinking in clear images;
I am slow, thinking in broken images.

He becomes dull, trusting to his clear images;
I become sharp, mistrusting my broken images,

Trusting his images, he assumes their relevance;
Mistrusting my images, I question their relevance.

Assuming their relevance, he assumes the fact,
Questioning their relevance, I question the fact.

When the fact fails him, he questions his senses;
When the fact fails me, I approve my senses.

He continues quick and dull in his clear images;
I continue slow and sharp in my broken images.

He in a new confusion of his understanding;
I in a new understanding of my confusion.

Robert Graves

Policies that ignore the realities of the world…

Posted by Anti Citizen One on November 4th, 2009

Policies that ignore the realities of the world we live in are doomed to fail. This is true for just about all the biggest issues that we confront, from energy and climate to criminal justice, health and immigration. I’m not arguing that science dictate policy; considerations such as cost, practicality and morality also have a role. But scientific evidence should never be brushed aside from the political debate. David Nutt

PoMo Musings: “Via Negativa”

Posted by on March 3rd, 2009

The Via Negativa (the way of negation) is a theological/philosophical position that emphasises a non-descriptive and negative series of terminology and concepts concerning God. It is the opposite of the Via Positiva (the positive way) which is generally the standard in scholastic works on the matter.

An example of the difference between the two ways is easily demonstrated:

Via Positiva “God is good”

Via Negativa “God is not not good”

The difference between the two is fairly obvious. The positive statement sounds very much like a proposition – this could therefore render it a testable hypothesis. For this to be so we must formulate a sense in which we can understand the terminology – what is God? and what is goodness? Many will argue that neither of these concepts are definable or testable therefore rendering the proposition nonsensical. If the proposition is meaningless then we must ask ourselves whether we ought to invest our time in it. In other words shouldn’t we simply abandon it and its constituent parts?

The Via Negativa very very simply can be defined as the approach to the Divine that considers the Divine by definition non-definable!

I.e. once we start to make definitive or positive statements about what the Divine is then we attempt to formularize the wholly abstract – and this inevitable leads to mistakes and errors and false propositions.

This has an interesting effect on discussions concerning Science and Religion. In a recent Channel 4 series of documentaries called “Christianity: A History” in the episode entitled “God and the Scientists” Neurobiologist Colin Blakemore discussed God-concepts (my terminology) and their relation to Scientific-Datum with Vatican Astronomer Guy Consolmagno.

Blakemore was fascinated to discover that here with Consolmagno was a Scientist and Jesuit brother who saw no contradiction in believing in God (as espoused by the Bible) and the scientific worldview. (His speciality is Planetary Astronomy and Meteorites). He found a belief in God and a belief that the world/universe is several billions of years old was reconcileable. That evolution was not as Dawkins later argued a primary reason to not believe in God. “The Bible is not a scientific book” he argued and it should not be treated as such!

But, Blakemore asked, if this is the new modern face of the Catholic Church (and therefore not representative of all of Christendom – i.e. intelligent design advocates, creationists, biblical literalists etc.) why does the Church have such a bad record in its historical relationship with science?

Consolmagno’s answer was refreshingly simple. The scientific method looks, describes and attempts to explain and predict the workings of the universe. And the scientific paradigm of hypothesis and experimentation provides a series of checks and balances that allow scientists (indeed anyone) to place greater “factual” authority upon certain of its propositions than other initiatives (i.e. theology) can do. Whereas Theology and Philosophy by virtue of its methods is interpretive, speculative and narrative – in essence it is a form of literature and therefore is subject to the same problems. Consolmagno stated quite happily: The Church as an institution (like any other) was comprised of intellectual men who didn’t like to be told they were wrong.

Consolmagno’s proposition then was that science provides the objectivity around which theology and philosophy can shape itself and its doctrines and not vice versa. He once famously declared: “Religion needs science to keep it away from superstition and keep it close to reality, to protect it from creationism, which at the end of the day is a kind of paganism – it’s turning God into a nature god.”

Blakemore though not convinced enough to suddenly want to adopt this rational religous approach, was somewhat pleasantly satisfied. But he had one nagging doubt: Isn’t your God then something of a plasticine God?

(In other words arent you just moving the goalposts in order to maintain your survival against insurmountable scientific evidence?)

Consolmagno responded that the Plasticine is not the divinity but the human mind. And this question and answer prompted this post and my speculations on it.

Blakemore assumed that the authority of scripture, the teaching tradition of the Church and centuries of theology rendered the God-concept solid. And that this solid concept – or objective ideal – was eventually challenged by scientific evidence. He wasnt altogether comfortable with the ineffability of God – which renders the God-concept outside of the scientific remit and which meant that rationalism could be reconciled with Faith to the extent that (as Steven Jay Gould argued) there could be partially overlapping magisteria (POMA’s) and there was no obstacle or contradiction to scientists having a religious belief, or that a religious belief must necessarily set one against the scientific worldview.

It seemed to me – and it would be an interesting (though ultimately futile) exercise to undertake – that some of the anti-religious sentiment expressed in certain quarters of the scientific world are based upon a God-concept that belongs to the Via Positiva and as such is a mistaken or error strewn objection. (If positive theology is meaningless then so too is a positive atheology). But the exercise would be futile on two grounds: 1) anti-religious fundamentalism as with all fundamentalisms is emotionally loaded, remove one reason for the sentiment and another will be discovered (i.e. my imgainary Dawkins may agree upon the abandonment of the Via Positiva but would still object to religion on other grounds, perhaps its tendency to group-think say). 2) As Gould acknowledged with his model of non and partially overlapping magisteria the scientific and religious laguage games are independent of each other, and as such a Via Negativa may (to use Wittgensteins phrase) Dissolve the question. But is this ever wholly satisfactory to the scientific worldview? If the God-concept is fluid then it is a question that can never be formulated, and ineffability doesnt sit easily with scientific rationalism.

The Via Negativa would seem to dissolve the debate and the controversy and allow a degree of freedom from this tedious culture war. It may or even ought to allow a synthesis of worldviews to flourish such as Gould hoped. But can the Via Negativa ever be reconciled with organised religion?

PoMo Musings: “Biblical Literalism”

Posted by on February 23rd, 2009

Here are two simple examples of why Biblical Literalism is slightly insane.

1) The Book of Genesis includes two completely different accounts of creation – thus a literal interpretation requires one to be abandoned – thus negating literalism.

2) The Gospels of Matthew and Mark relate the same story concerning the Jewish customs for divorce. One Gospel (Matthew) has Jesus uphold it (though differentiating between circumstantial permissibility and wholesale approval) and in another (Mark) he completely rejects it – thus a literal interpretation requires us to ignore one or other of the evangelists – thus negating literalism.

For the Postmodern reader of scripture the abandonment of literalism is not a problem. In fact it presents the reader with an existential choice – Jesus’s parables often end in a question to the listener – “What would you do in this situation?”

Much of Jesus’s ethical teachings orientate around the concept of “right-mindedness” rather than a strict adherence to a legalistic “right actions”.

For this Postmodern reader the fact that Gospel accounts vary and report the same story from different angles or even from contradictory ones adds to the narrative a hint of authenticity. Much like when reporting a motor accident the insurance company will take the accounts of as many witnesses as possible (aware of and indeed perhaps hoping for a subjective account – in order to give as broad a picture as possible) so too the New Testament accounts have the ring of subjective authenticity to them.

Perhaps most critical of all though for the Postmodern reader and indeed for any Christian – the trouble with Literalism is fundamentally laid bare in the Ten Commandments.

If we take the Bible to be literally the Word of God – including or ignoring its inconsistencies or contradictions – then we grant to it (as Creationists do) the power of objective and absolute infallibility. And surely the more closely we look at the human elements in the texts and the more we learn and can infer about the authors who contributed to it we should be concerned that any absolute literalism in biblical interpretation is in breach of the 2nd commandment that warns against idolatry. If we grant the text of the book absolute power and unquestionable authority – then surely this is a direct challenge to the authority that Christians attribute to God – and that would be idolatrous.

And this surely must be the most unpalatable contradiction of all in the worldview of Biblical Literalism.

PoMo Musings:- “History”

Posted by on February 11th, 2009

Written History is a subjective faction/fiction that is constructed according to the agenda of its author – who creates a narrative account that may or may not correspond to the facts-as-they-are.

The anxiety generated by an acknowledgement such as this – is that as the mists of time ever seperate us further from the events – so too are we further removed from that “evidence” which ought to be most compelling.