Tuesday, July 30, 2013

C.S. Lewis and his dialectics teacher

After his unhappy time at Wyvern, Lewis studied privately with a teacher where the teacher resided.  This man was a dyed in the wool atheist and thorough dialectician.

This is the kind of thing he recalls about this relationship. He remembers being picked up by the man, hereafter the Great Knock, or Kirk, at the train station and walking from there.

"'You are now,' said Kirk, 'proceeding along the principal artery between Great and Little Bookham.'  I stole a glance at him.  Was this geographical exordium a heavy joke?  Or was he trying to conceal his emotions? His face, however, showed only an inflexible gravity.  I began to  'make conversation' in the deplorable manner which I had acquired ...  I said I was surprised at the 'scenery' of Surrey; it was much 'wilder' than I had expected.  'Stop!' shouted Kirk with a suddenness that made me jump.  'What do you mean by wildness and what grounds had you for not expecting it?'  I replied I don't know what, still 'making conversation.'  As answer after answer was torn to shreds it at last dawned upon me that he really wanted to know.  He was not making conversation, nor joking, nor snubbing me;  he wanted to know.  I was stung into attempting a real answer.  A few passes sufficed to show that I had no clear and distinct idea corresponding to the word 'wildness,' and that, in so far as I had any idea at all, 'wildness' was a singularly inept word.  'Do you not see, then,' concluded the Great Knock, 'that your remark was meaningless?'"
We see here the bewilderment that falls upon a person when they first meet their own professional dialectician to deal with.  It has happened to me.

"The most casual remark was taken as a summons to disputation.  I soon came to know the differing values of his three openings.  The loud cry of  'Stop!' was flung in to arrest a torrent of verbiage which could not be endured a moment longer;  not because it fretted his patience (he never thought of that) but because it was wasting time, darkening counsel.  The hastier and quieter 'Excuse!' (i.e, 'Excuse me') ushered in a correction or distinction merely parenthetical and betokened that, thus set right, your remark might still, without absurdity, be allowed to reach completion.  The most encouraging of all was, 'I hear you.' This meant that your remark was significant and only required refutation; it had risen to the dignity of error." 

I think this is pretty funny.  But it seems to have benefited all of us by making a great thinker out of C.S. Lewis from whom untold millions have learned.

I want to pursue this more, but don't have time today.

Monday, July 29, 2013

"Angry Atheists" / C.S.Lewis and Rex Murphy

In "Surprised by Joy" we hear about Lewis' faith or lack of faith state while at Wyvern Public School.

"I was at this time living, like so many Atheists or Antitheists, in a whirl of contradictions.  I maintained that God did not exist.  I was also very angry with God for not existing.  I was equally angry with Him for creating a world." (p. 115, Harvest Books, 1955)

When you go out on the internet as a confessing Christian and meet your first set of hard-boiled atheists, you notice at once the fierce anger, the immediate insults though you have barely said a thing to them.  In the beginning it strikes you as strange and ill, but by now it is a pattern.  

Does it stem from this "whirl of contradictions" in the soul?  Oh, sure, you can always find fault with religion, politics, culture, etc., but what is it really?  

Rex Murphy, a respected Canadian commentator, dissected the atheist mind-set and method and ferreted out a number of contradictions.  Here is the article.  It is a must read.  

He begins by highlighting the "unmanly" attack of Christopher Hitchens on Mother Theresa.  This seems to be a prime example of this "anger". 

Then he goes on to Richard Dawkins, Hichtchens' "grim, self-advertising equal". "Dawkins can be quite the toad, a kind of Don Rickles for unbelievers.  He appears not so much as a person who subscribes to a particular philosophy or worldview as someone who cannot abide the thought that others do not wish to think the same as he. There’s something almost fanatic about the intensity with which he derides and insults Christians and other faiths (but, it seems to me, mostly Christians)."

Then Rex has a brief look at the atheist "victim" mentality.  They deride religion vociferously and then complain that everywhere they look they are subjected to being reminded of it.  Then they complain about creches and such things.  "A strange posture" says Rex.

Then they complain that their "human rights" are infringed upon by having to witness such things.  What has this to do with "human rights"?   "Actually, of course, the comforts of religion, for believers, are not “human” rights at all, but the mercies of a benevolent God. Thankfully, these fall outside the reach of any tribunal to grant or grieve."  

So, whatever they derive from atheism should not be a matter of tribunals but of intrinsic value.   What substantial thing are you getting from atheism?  Do you really need to keep resorting to courts?

From here, Rex, launches into the very strange demand by atheists in the U.S. military for their own chaplain.  Why would an atheist need a chaplain?  "Very odd, to say the least. But, as usual, the professional non-believers see themselves as much put-upon and ignored. They claim, in fact, to be (within the Army) more numerous than 'Jews or Hindus or Buddhists or Muslims.'  It’s very telling they make this comparison, for here, as in much else of modern atheism, they betray the need to be seen in the very category of those they derogate: a religious one. Why should those who don’t believe at all clamour for the same structures, assists and services of those who in fact do believe? Funny, you never hear them wishing for their own Hell."

It is a contradiction that the very ones seeing themselves as atheists put themselves into in this kind of category.  

To bring the whole argument to a nice climatic conclusion Rex drives the argument to its end:  "After all, to chase the religious analogy to its limit, then they should equally be asking for prayer, the remission of sins, occasional fasts and Lenten exercises, and at least Sabbath and Sunday services. At which, under clouds of incense, they could intone from the works of George Orwell and Thomas Huxley and chant a hymn: Our Dawk, who art in the Guardian, and always on the BBC, hollowed be thy fame, thy royalties come, thy shill be done … “

The whole thing is "ludicrous", says he.

It does say something about our souls.  Atheism is indeed deeply contradictory, at least for many, as it was for C.S.Lewis.  And it does not work.  It does not work on an inter-personal level, nor an intra-soul level.  We are just not made this way. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

From C.S. Lewis, sins of the World

In the middle of the book "Surpirsed by Joy", C.S. Lewis explains in some detail his experiences at his school called Wyvern.  Wyvern made him into a "prig", he regets to say.   At Wyvern there seems to have been rampant "pederasty".  I didn't really know the term "pederasty" before, but I just read a longish summary of the practice, including in Athenian Greece, on Wikipedia.  The Greek situation is probably interesting and also to Lewis' other points, but we will leave this, just as he does.  Lewis' does not want to belabor the pederasty because it is not one of his vices or temptations.  He wants to talk about what polluted him and what tempted him.

     Spiritually speaking, the deadly thing was that school life was a life almost wholly dominated by the social struggle; to get on, to arrive, or, having reached the top, to remain there, was the absorbing preoccupation.  It is often, of course, the preoccupation of adult life as well;  but I have not yet seen any adult society in which the surrender to this impulse was to total.  And from it, at school as in the world, all sorts of meanness flow;  the sycophancy that courts those higher in the scale, the cultivation of those whom it is well to know, the speedy abandonment of friendships that will not help on the upward path, the readiness to join the cry against the unpopular, the secret motive in almost every action.  The Wyvernians seem to me in retrospect to have been the least spontaneous, in that sense the least boyish society I have ever known.  It would perhaps not be too much to say that in some boys' lives everything was calculated to the great end of advancement.  for this games were played;  for this clothes, friends, amusements, and vices were chosen.
     And that is why I cannot give pederasty anything like a first place among the evils of the Coll (Wyvern).  There is much hypocrisy on this theme.  People commonly talk as if every other evil were more tolerable than this.  But why?  Because those of us who do not share the vice feel for it a certain nausea, as we do, say, for necrophily?  I think that of very little relevance to moral judgment.Because it produces permanent perversion?  But there is very little evidence that it does.  ... And what Christian, in a society so worldly and cruel as that of Wyvern, would pick out the carnal sins for special reprobation?  Cruelty is surely more evil than lust and the World at least as dangerous as the Flesh. The real reason for all the pother is, in my opinion, neither christian nor ethical.  We attack this vice not because it is the worst but because it is, by adult standards, the most disreputable and unmentionable, and happens also to be a crime in English law.  the World will lead you only to Hell;  but sodomy may lead you to jail and create a scandal, and lose you your job.  The World, to do it justice, seldom does that.

Those are all good points and well put, and we are sad to hear that Lewis was polluted by the thinking.  And we should consider how we are also polluted by "worldly" considerations.

But then I can't quite go with any soft-pedaling of the  pederasty.  Other writers have been concerned with what to do with teenage lust and come up with various scenarios to indulge it before eventual marriage.  Let's leave that one for today.  Let's just say that today, with all our counselling and psychological and psychiatric culture we know how much damage is done to minors with unwanted sexual advances by those in positions of power.  But this is not Lewis' topic.  Maybe though, we can see how both issues are related.  The World and the Flesh are surely not completely separate entities.  If it had been his sin or if he had been drawn into the pederasty he might speak differently.  What he does want to show, however, is how the more subtle sins of calculating society get you to the top of the heap and how we are more likely to fall for them without noticing.  It happened to him and if the divine fisherman had not been out for him, he would have walked straight into hell will these sins and temptations.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

"Es kommt ein Schiff geladen" in English Translation by Brigitte

Please note, that the translation below has been made by myself, and, therefore, you may use it as you please.  Some attribution may be good so people can ask me questions if they need to.  My last name is Mueller.

A ship is coming
fully loaded to the very brim
bearing the Son of God, full of grace,
the Father's eternal Word.

The ship is moving steadily,
it bears a treasured freight,
Love is its very sail,
the Holy Ghost its mast.

And now the anchor touches ground;
the ship arrives on land.
For us, the Word becomes now flesh.
The Son is sent, for us.

In Bethlehem He is born;
in a stable He becomes a child.
He gives himself as lost on our behalf.
Let us praise Him! 

Whoever will receive this child,
embrace and kiss Him dearly, 
must also surely suffer with Him,
and endure much pain and torture.

After this, he must also die with Him,
and rise with Him spiritually,
in this manner to inherit eternal life,
just as happened with Him. 

Here is a modern performance of the hymn:


My hymnbook says that the hymn is by Daniel Sudermann, 1626, based on Johannes Tauler's work.  Johannes Tauler according to Wikipedia was:

Johannes Tauler (c. 1300 in Strasbourg – 15 June 1361) was a German mystic, a Catholic preacher and a theologian. A disciple of master Eckhart, he belonged to the Dominican order. Tauler was known as one of the most important Rhineland Mystics. He promoted a certain neo-platonist dimension in the Dominican spirituality of his time.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Paradise Lost

"Paradise Lost" by Milton is not something I have read, though there are excerpts in the English Poetry book I bought last Christmas in Banff.   The introduction to it was quite instructive and the excerpt was barely comprehensible to me on first quick reading.  The question about Milton is:  "Was he a heretic?"

Someone posted a link to this lecture below on Milton's book.  People say the lecture is excellent.  Milton is using Midrash and Midrashish method:  filling in gaps.  So explains the professor.  He uses the Old Testament and fills in the gaps from the New Testament understanding.  The Jews aren't totally happy, it seems.   Luther did that sort of thing, too, coming to the Old Testament in a Christ-centered way, and not everyone was pleased.  But you would think that the Jews would think it over, seeing the fulfilled prophecies and that their own kin is our Messiah.

What I like about the video is the professor's reading of the poem, out loud.  He stresses all the right words in the right way.  Even though he is rushing, he is capturing me there.  "All our Woe".  "Sing!"

But something in me fears that Milton is a heretic.  I have forgotten the reason,  but I got that impression from the Poetry book.


I like the picture.  It is very dramatic.  Usually, we just see pictures of the innocence in the garden with all the animals frolicking.  It makes me think about how this "woe" is our current state. It makes me think how God is worthy of love and respect.  It makes me think about how lightly we deal with his directives.

Idealism cannot be lived

While on the road, I read C.S. Lewis' "Surprised by Joy" for the first time.  I read bits of it to my travel companions but it seemed they found it tedious.  In the end, they were surprised I finished it in one day and wondered if I never did any light reading.  I don't know.  This is light reading to me.  Give me a Harlequin Romance and I won't get past the first chapter.  

Lewis tell the story of his slow conversion in this book.  Many details of his childhood and schooling are shared which really can help us understand many things in his other writings. We won't rehash this here.  What surprised me about "Surprised by Joy" was that is wasn't a book about how he became joyful when he became a Christian, but how the shafts of joy in his life, which he experienced here and there all along, even when life was very miserable, were a sign of God, shafts from the sun which helped him, led him, drew him, fished him (he talks of God as the great Angler) to faith in God.

So therefore we see that Joy was there all along.  And Joy really stands for God.  It became harder and harder for him to be an atheist.  When he decided to let the sun in, the snowman began to melt bit by bit.

     Really, a young Atheist cannot guard his faith too carefully.  Dangers lie in wait for him on every side.  You must not do, you must not even try to do, the will of the Father unless you are prepared to "know of the doctrine."  All my acts, desires, and thoughts were to be brought into harmony with universal Spirit.  For the first time I examined myself with a seriously practical purpose.  And there I found what appalled me;  a zoo of lusts, a bedlam of ambitions, a nursery of fears, a harem of fondled hatreds.  My name was legion.
     Of course I could do nothing--I could not last out one hour without continual conscious recourse to what I called Spirit.  But the fine, philosophical distinction between this and what ordinary people call "prayer to God" breaks down as soon as you start doing it in earnest.  Idealism can be talked, and even felt;  it cannot be lived.  It became patently absurd to go on thinking of "Spirit" as either ignorant of, or passive to, my approaches.  Even if my own philosophy were true, how could the initiative lie on my side.  My own analogy, as I now first perceived, suggested the opposite:  if Shakespeare and Hamlet could ever meet, it must be Shakespeare's doing.  Hamlet could initiate nothing.  Perhaps, even now, my Absolute Spirit still differed in some way from the God of religion.  The real issue was not, or not yet, there.  The real terror was that if you seriously believed in even such a "God" or "Spirit as I admitted, a wholly new situation developed.  As the dry bones shook and came together in that dreadful valley of Ezekiel's, so now a philosophical theorem, cerebrally entertained, began to stir and heave and throw off its gravecloths, and stood upright and became a living presence.  I was to be allowed to play philosophy no longer.  It might, as I say, still  be true that my "Spirit" differed in some way from "the God of popular religion."  My Adversary waived the point.  It sank into utter unimportance.  He would not argue about it.  He only said, "I am the Lord";  "I am that I am"; "I am."
     People who are naturally religious find difficulty in understanding the horror of such a revelation.  Amiable agnostics will talk cheerfully about "man's search for God."  To me, as I then was, they might as well have talked about the mouse's search for the cat.  The best image of my predicament is the meeting of Mime and Wotan...  Remember, I had always wanted, above all things, not to be "interfered with."  I had wanted (mad wish) "to call my soul my own."  I had been far more anxious to avoid suffering than to achieve delight.  I had always aimed at limited liabilities.  The supernatural itself had been to me, first, an illicit dream, and then, as by a drunkard's reaction, nauseous.  Even my recent attempt to live my philosophy had secretly (I now knew)  been hedged round by all sorts of reservations.  I had pretty well known that my ideal of virtue would never be allowed to lead me into anything intolerably painful;  I would be "reasonable."  But now what had been an ideal became a command;  and what might not be expected of one?  Doubtless, by definition, God was Reason itself.  But would He also be "reasonable" in that other, more comfortable sense?  Not the slightest assurance on that score was offered me.  Total surrender, the absolute leap in the dark, were demanded.  The reality with which no treaty can be made was upon me.  The demand was not even "All or nothing."  I think that stage had been passed, on the bus stop when I unbuckled my armor and the snowman stared to melt.  Now, the demand was simply "All."  

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Doctrine, life, witness, confession...

It is a law of intellectual life which applies also in the church, that only that doctrine can be passed on and planted in hearts which the teacher is absolutely convinced is true. A doctrine such as that of the Lutheran Church regarding the Sacrament of the Altar has to be borne witness to. If it is no longer attested but only presented as an historical antiquity, even though it be presented with great care and correctness, it dies.

Hermann Sasse

It is true that something can only be planted in hearts when the teaching is believed by the teacher.  You can see it in the face, in the mannerism, in the tone, in the eyes, and so on.  

Doctrine is considered by some to be dead.  But it is only dead if it is not believed.  It is only "calcified" if it does not live in the heart. 

The Supper as historical antiquity, just remembrance, does not have the power of proclamation. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Back from Lamp trip.

Back safe and sound from Northern Saskatchewan.  Lots of work.  Great trip.  Lovely children.

See site for organization:  LAMP

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Going North

I'm preparing to go North, again to serve in a community.  You may keep me and the team in your prayers, if you will.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Conjugal vs. commercial view of marriage and children / adoption/ in-vitro/ pets

A couple of posts ago we linked to a story of human rights and marriage and made a few comments.

Over the weekend I did have a chance to talk to my husband about it, and it threw up the predictable point about being adoptive parents, and then also in-vitro fertilization.  Personally, having gone through the fertility mill and having felt the full gamut of emotions associated with it, I would still say that I would not participate in in-vitro fertilization for the simple fact that the extra embryos have to be dealt with somehow.  Who or what are they?  Are they not also my children?  But they are good for disposal?  I want a child so badly that I will throw several out?  I couldn't do it.

In terms of adoption, I mentioned already that the adopted person has a right to an origin story better than "Oh, we wanted a child so badly and  God sent you to us."  The adopted person does not exist to make his or her parents happy.  This is not good enough. Similarly, gay couples who just have to have children in their lives, must have a better story than: oh well, so and so helped us have a  baby, how loving and caring of him or her. It is not human enough.  It disregards basic human nature, creation and need for meaning and attachment.

On the radio, today, I listened to several authors interviewed on the topic of attachment to pets.  One of the speakers believed that the current language and understanding of human to animal care is too often couched in language of "baby" or even "lover";  in any case, everyone seems to look for unconditional love.  As individuals mature they need to accommodate themselves to others and sometimes also get their ego's bashed in.  This does not happen with a dog. It is easier to love a dog.  People took different points of view on this and pointed out that dog love does not preclude human love and mature relationships.  Granted that, but the question is with our changes in family structure, everyone working, 50% divorce rates, etc. are we looking to love from pets rather than other sources?  And what does it say about our view of children and pets in comparison?  Do we view children as pets?  And do we view dogs as children?  It can happen and I think we would all say that this is disordered and we perhaps need to analyze our relationships a bit more deeply.

My point, our relationships to parent, spouse and children are fundamentally not like our relationships to pets.  There can be "love" and affection in these relationships, but "love" has to be more than a feeling.  "Love" has to have a story.  Love has to have sacrifice.  Love has be designed by the maker.  Love can never be a commodity.  And a new person needs to know the conjugal relationship that created him.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Singing is good / 3


"Vocal performances impose set breathing patterns, which regulate and synchronize heartbeats. According to the researchers, choral participation can thus improve well-being. It not only tones the cardiovascular system, but also produces the same relaxing effect as breathing exercises practiced in yoga. So music truly soothes the savage breast—or at least, the heart beating inside it."

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Good comments on marriage and human rights


"No, the argument against SSM is a natural law argument. Or, as Milbank says, for 'the individual, the experience of a natural-cultural unity is most fundamentally felt in the sense that her natural birth is from an interpersonal (and so ‘cultural’) act of loving encounter – even if this be but a one-night stand. This provides a sense that one’s very biological roots are suffused with an interpersonal narrative.'" 

I'll print it out and discuss it with my husband.  I need to get this point understood better.
My own thoughts so far are, as mentioned before in a post called "Children's Rights", are that
children are not like puppies.  They essentially belong to the couple who conceived them, flesh and blood and love and so on.

As an adoptive parent, I also know well what it is to raise a person who is not genetically your own child.  It is not hard to do.  It is very easy to develop a great devotion to someone not your own flesh and blood.  BUT for the child it is a different matter.  The child needs to know, needs to know her own father, her own mother, her own background.  It is a human right.  She needs to know why she was placed.  She needs to know that the reason was good and solid.  She needs to understand.  She needs to find out and accept.

A little boy or girl is a child conceived in human love.  A little boy or girl is not a pet.  We need to differentiate between the animal kingdom and ourselves.  We are different.  You could sneak a different egg into a bird's nest and the baby bird would never know that it wasn't taken care of by the parent bird. A human being has the right to know and the right to have a proper reason why he or she was not raised by genetic parents. Even off-spring from sperm-donations are looking for their fathers.  It cannot be denied.

We are not monkeys.  Darwin was wrong.  Does that come into play here?

HE made them Male and Female.  We are created to be superior in consciousness, rationality, emotionality, morality, language, soulfulness (see the last few posts on Nagel's Mind and Cosmos).  And not only are we human, not monkey, we are also male and female with significant differences.

Poetry and liberal Protestantism vs. Religion / Flannery O'Connor

Yesterday's Flannery O'Connor Quote from FB. 

"One of the effects of modern liberal Protestantism has been gradually to turn religion into poetry and therapy, to make truth vaguer and vaguer and more and more relative, to banish intellectual distinctions, to depend on feeling instead of thought, and gradually to come to believe that God has no power, that he cannot communicate with us, cannot reveal himself to us, indeed has not done so, and that religion is our own sweet invention. This seems to be about where you find yourself now. Of course, I am a Catholic and I believe the opposite of all this." - Letter to Alfred Corn, June 16, 1962

I think I have come across this.  
One can learn a few things from Catholic writers.  

It can happen.  

Poetry is fantastic 
and human life is sacred and deep.  
Therapy can be loving and profound. 
Wisdom, wit and wild abandon to art, freedom and joy 
can be ecstatic, bold and sublime.

Knowing me and knowing you,
stirs me in the deepest places.

Our spirit is 
so much more than
reductionist biology.

We can sense the divine.

And we can sense the evil.

We hope and we fear and we lose and we cry
and we falter and try again,
and seek the eyes of another.

We cannot be alone.

But God, who is he?  Does he hear me?
Does he really love me, like they say?

Poetry can't tell me. 
Therapy can't tell me. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Chronicle of Higher Education on William Lane Craig


Here is a current article on William Lane Craig "The New Theist".  I've watched William Lane Craig's debate in Mexico.  Three hours, available on Youtube.  There are other talks I should get to as time permits.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Mind and Cosmos / Finished

Let's finish Mind and Cosmos.

Nagel shows that many important things or concepts exist outside of our physical selves, such as reason itself, and values.  Something exists whether I perceive it or not.

"Thought and reasoning are correct or incorrect in virtue of something independent of the thinker's beliefs, and even independent of the community of thinkers to which he belongs.  We take ourselves to have the capacity to form true beliefs about the world around us, about the timeless domains of logic and mathematics, and about the right thing to do.  We don't take these capacities to be infallible, but we think they are often reliable, in an objective sense, and that they can give us knowledge.  The natural internal stance of human life assumes that there is a real world, that many questions, both factual and radical, have correct answers, and that there are norms of thought which, if we follow them, will tend to lead us toward the correct answers to those questions.  It assumes that to follow those norms is to respond correctly to values or reasons that we apprehend.  Mathematics, science, and ethics are built on such norms.

It is difficult to make sense of all this in traditional naturalistic terms.  Unless we are prepared to regard most of it as an illusion, this points to a further expansion of our conception of the natural order to include not only the source of phenomenological consciousness--sensation, perception, and emotion--but also the source of our active capacity to think our way beyond those starting points.  The question is how to understand mind in its full sense as a product of nature--or rather, how to understand nature as a system capable of generating mind. 

...But once we come to recognize the distinction between appearance and reality, and the existence of objective factual or practical truth that goes beyond what perception, appetite, and emotion tell us, the ability of creatures like us to arrive at such truth, or even to think about it, requires explanation.  An important aspect of this explanation will be that we have acquired language and the possibilities of interpersonal communication, justification, and criticism that language makes possible.  But the explanation of our ability to acquire and use language in these ways presents problems of the same order, for language is one of the most important normatively governed faculties.  To acquire a language is in part to acquire a system of concepts that enables us to understand reality. 

I am going to set aside at this point all the problems mentioned earlier about the probability of the origin of life and the sufficiency of random mutation and natural selection to account for the actual evolutionary history of life on earth.  The question I want to raise remains even if those problems can be solved for the evolution of plants and lower animals...  The problem has two aspects.  The first concerns the likelihood that the process of natural selection should have generated creatures with the capacity to discover by reason the truth about a reality that extends vastly beyond the initial appearances--as we take ourselves to have done and to continue to do collectively in science, logic, and ethics.  ...  The second problem is the difficulty of understanding naturalistically the faculty of reason that is the essence of these activities.  I will begin by considering a possible response to the first problem, before going on to the second, which is particularly intractable."  (Nagel, Mind and Cosmos, Oxford, pp. 72-74)

These are the main problems he wishes to explore and he does so in the remaining pages.  The last bit, following, is from his conclusion.

"Philosophy has to proceed comparatively.  The best we can do is to develop the rival alternative conceptions in each important domain as fully and carefully as possible, depending on our antecedent sympathies, and see how they measure up.  That is a more credible form of progress than decisive proof or refutation.

In the present climate of a dominant scientific naturalism, heavily dependent on speculative Darwinian explanations of practically everything, and armed to the teeth against attacks from religion, I have thought it useful to speculate about possible alternatives.  Above all, I would like to extend the boundaries of what is not regarded as unthinkable, in light of how little we really understand about the world.  It would be an advance if the secular theoretical establishment, and the contemporary enlightened culture which it dominates, could wean itself of the materialism and Darwinism of the gaps--to adapt on of its own pejorative tags.  I have tried to show that this approach is incapable of providing an adequate account, either constitutive or historical, of our universe.  

However, I am certain that my own attempts to explore alternatives is far too unimaginative.  An understanding of the universe as basically prone to generate life and mind will probably require a much more radical departure from the familiar forms of naturalistic explanation that I am at present able to conceive.  Specifically, in attempting to understand consciousness as a biological phenomenon, it is too easy to forget how radical is the difference between the subjective and the objective, and to fall into the error of thinking about the mental in terms taken from our ideas of physical events and processes.  Wittgenstein was sensitive to this error, though his way of avoiding it through an exploration of the grammar of mental language seems to me plainly insufficient.  

It is perfectly possible that the truth is beyond our reach, in virtue of our intrinsic cognitive limitations, and not merely beyond our grasp in humanity's present stage of intellectual development.   But I believe that we cannot know this, and that it makes sense to go on seeking a systematic understanding of how we and other living things fit into the world.  In this process, the ability to generate and reject false hypotheses plays an essential role.  I have argued patiently against the prevailing form of naturalism, a reductive materialism that purports to capture life and mind through its new-Darwinian extension.  But to go back to my introductory remarks, I find the view antecedently unbelievable--a heroic triumph of ideological theory over common sense.  The empirical evidence can be interpreted to accommodate different comprehensive theories, but in this case the cost in conceptual and probabilistic contortions is prohibitive.  I would be willing to bet that the present right-thinking consensus will come to seem laughable in a generation or two--though of course it may be replaced by a new consensus that is just as invalid.  The human will to believe is inexhaustible." (Nagel, Mind and Cosmos, pp. 127 and 128.) 

OK, I think that Nagel has made himself perfectly clear.  The man is so clear, I must love him for it.  And what could one add?

I have young persons in my life, strict atheists who study psychology and who insist that all of human life comes town to atoms and molecules.  I have people on the internet, who howl the moment you dare to contradict Richard Dawkins in the slightest.  I am a biology major and had the evolutionary concepts shoved down my throat.  However, none of those concepts stood up to learning about cell biology.  Just one single cell is a miracle above miracles.  If the stars and the universe have not make you shudder with reverence, then the single cell could do it.

Nagel gets all this and goes beyond it.  It is consciousness, language and rationality which are even more astounding, with all naturalistic explanations just as inadequate.  Basically, all of it is stupendously grand and our theories are insufficient or laughable.  Not that he has given up looking and thinking.

To most people all this serves to witness to the glory of the Creator, his mind, his wisdom, his language, his revelation, his love. Nagel did not go anywhere near love, and this is the very greatest thing to contemplate.  Of all the things that make us human we find that the best.  Certainly, there is the biological component, but hardly would we be satisfied with a mere biological explanation or purpose.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Atheist Monument Exposed For All to See in Florida

An atheist believes that a hospital should be built instead of a church. An atheist believes that a deed must be done instead of a prayer said. An atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty banished, war eliminated."

The Atheist Monument in Florida:

--that a hospital should be built instead of a church.  Who has built the hospitals? The universities? All that "institutional" stuff everyone despises these days. 
--or how about instead of a "mosque", an "ashram", a "drop-in-center", a "community hall";  why "church"?
--Since when does a prayer preclude a deed?  ANY THING that needs to be DONE, needs to be contemplated first.  More thoughtfulness and more prayerfulness would do us all a TON of good.  How I wish I were more prayerful.  I am trying to be more prayerful.  It really is a good life goal.  There are way too many deeds and not enough thinking.   Only in an emergency is it advisable to rush and do without much thinking and praying. 
--atheists strive for involvement with "life"? How about they build some hospitals and then they can perform the abortions and euthanasia in them and leave the poor Catholics and others alone?
--He (or must include "she", where is "she") wants disease conquered, poverty banished and war eliminated--Who for crying out loud does not want that?  And how is the atheist going to go about achieving this?  What is he going to do?

This is too inane for words.  All this fuss for this ridiculous bench.  It is hardy fathomable.  They should have put their money in a hospital that promotes life not death. 

I am finding that the news regarding this Florida monument deals much more with the uproar involved than the actual content of any words.  But with this kind of monument, as dumb as the inscription is, I am not too surprised that the pictures of the thing seem to be blurred and and the words hardly readable.   You want to put that alongside the 10 commandments and someone is going to find this wholesome, thoughtful and inspiring by comparison?  (That is a rhethorical question.)