Tag Archives: science

Atheism and the Mind – chapter 1

Over at The Road To God Knows Where, Brendano posits a challenge for atheists. He has a list of interesting questions to be answered. And I intend to step in on the line of duty, and try it out.

Brendano’s questions are, in order:

1. Why is the human mechanism better or more deserving of respect than any other mechanism … a lawnmower or a cat?
2. Whence do concepts such as human dignity, human rights, personal morality, right and wrong, good and evil arise, and what is their justification?
3. Why should anyone be held responsible for their actions, given that these are caused by chemical reactions in the brain, and chemicals have no sense of right and wrong?
4. Why do you have the concept of a quasi-separate ‘I’, as in ‘my body’, if you are just your body?
5. How can volition be anything other than an illusion?
6. Why should feelings, emotions, etc. have any importance if they are mere artefacts of chemical reactions?

I will answer in a different order, and I also intend to tamper with Brendano’s phrasing. Iam also afraid that this will take more than one post.

But first of all let me point out one huge and terrible blander, of which I hereby blame Brendano. He seems to think that these questions pose a difficulty for atheists alone. That is utter baloney. These are, and always have been, the greatest philosophical questions of all time, wrestled with by many religious thinkers. And if you think that any of these problems are even  remotely addressed by any conceivable religious dogma in existence, you are dead wrong. They certainly are not solved. Not through Christianity, Islam, Judaism, or any far-east religion in existence.

I short, then:

I do not know, but neither do you.

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Brother, can you spare me a viable Economic Theory?

Prof. Robert Nadeau, through Scientific American claims that current economic theory is a severe (and irrational) hindrance to fighting global warming.
(the exact link is:
http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=brother-can-you-spare-me-a-planet ).
The claim is:
  1. Current (neo-classical) economics is based on false premises.
  2. These false premises include this important premise: That nature is irrelevant to economic growth (and that natural resources are boundless).

Because the irrelevance of nature is a premise of Economic Theory, it is not surprising that it pops up as an outcome of Economic Theory. Given the type of models they work with, economists have to claim that fighting global warming is economically inviable. And when they do so, it’s a tautology – what they are actually saying is: “since we assume that nature is irrelevant to Economics, no action to save natural reasorces could possibly be cost-beneficial”. A claim which is, of course, absurd.

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Astrology – why it used to be resonable and why it ain’t so anymore

Once upon a time, Astrology was a big thing. Astrologers ruled the world. Now they clatter in the back pages of second-rate magazines. Why were they so big and what’s happened to them?

We shall begin by following a line of thought that was very strong in many parts of the classical world. So strong, it was reason enough to deport Anaxagoras from Athens (he was advocating the stars were nothing but “hot stones in the sky”). The Epicureans made the fight against this view a focal point of their moral philosophy.

So, imagine you live in a society with a technology which is less than modern – there are no cars, no planes, etc. Now, observe: what things have “innate movement” (to borrow the Aristotelian term)? Living things, of course. Only living things can move without being moved by an external force.

Our second observation is this: all living things decease (given enough time).

All? Well, look at the sky – there you will find heavenly bodies moving perpetually in well-ordered paths. If living things are the only candidates for self-induced movement, then the heavenly bodies must be alive. They are also perpetual, hence immortal. They also seem to be moving in a nice circular fashion; hence they must be highly intelligent sentient beings (they know geometry! And circles are the most perfect of geometric forms).

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