Beyond Belief (or the Lack Thereof)

Salvo readers, the new issue (#26 Fall 2013) will be mailing out soon. You will notice that included with this issue will be the special Salvo supplement on Science & Faith. Check back here and at the Salvo website for more info. For now, please take a look at this article (one of five or six) available online. A good way to keep up with Salvo is to join our mailing list. See the sidebar on any page of www.salvomag.com.


Science Philosopher Bradley Monton Looks Past His Atheism to Objectively Assess Intelligent Design

You don’t have to believe in God to acknowledge the merits of intelligent design. University of Colorado philosophy professor Bradley Monton is a case in point. In his book Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design, Monton explains why he thinks the hypothesis has value, despite his conviction that its conclusions are ultimately incorrect. Here, he does the same before discussing what sort of scientific discovery it would take to make him finally abandon his skepticism and embrace the existence of a creator—a breakthrough that he would actually welcome, if only to end the longstanding uncertainty surrounding the origins of life.

What makes you take intelligent design (ID) seriously?

ID investigations are part of a long tradition in philosophy called Natural Theology—of looking for evidence in the natural world for the existence of God. Intelligent design has prima facie merit in being part of this long philosophical and scientific tradition. That’s one reason why I think it should be taken seriously. The other is that I find the arguments of the opponents of ID too emotionally driven and not as intellectually robust as one would hope. I get upset with my fellow atheists who present bad arguments against intelligent design and then expect everyone to believe that they have somehow resolved the debate with these bad arguments.

Why do you think some scientists refuse to take intelligent design seriously?

That’s a hard question to answer because it’s almost an issue of human psychology and sociology. But I would say that some atheists exhibit a fundamentalism that prevents them from even imagining that someone reasonable, rational, and intelligent could hold views different from their own. Others believe that science is the end-all and be-all—that it can answer all of the important questions about reality. There are even scientists out there, such as the theoretical physicist Steven Weinberg, who proclaim that neither religion nor philosophy can tell us anything important about the world. I totally disagree. Philosophy is actually an important field of inquiry. It can figure out the nature of ethical truths and what specific truths might be. Philosophy can also be used to investigate the existence of God in a way that science cannot.

Read the entire article.

 

Daycare in the News

by Marcia Segelstein

Posted today at MercatorNet, one of Salvo’s partner organizations, is a piece called “Dangerous Daycare?” It cites a recent study conducted at Boston University which reveals that children in daycare centers are at an especially high risk for contracting a particular respiratory infection. The pathogen is reported to contribute to inner ear infections, sinusitis, and even pneumonia.  The piece, originally published at The Family in America, notes that despite such research “advocates of maternal employment will continue to give assurances about the well-being of children in daycare.”

In Salvo 21 we reported on other dangers parents should know about when it comes to daycare.

Finding Evidence

A highlight from a recent interview with Steven King on NPR :

On his belief in God and whether it has changed over time

“I choose to believe it. … I mean, there’s no downside to that. If you say, ‘Well, OK, I don’t believe in God. There’s no evidence of God,’ then you’re missing the stars in the sky and you’re missing the sunrises and sunsets and you’re missing the fact that bees pollinate all these crops and keep us alive and the way that everything seems to work together. Everything is sort of built in a way that to me suggests intelligent design. But, at the same time, there’s a lot of things in life where you say to yourself, ‘Well, if this is God’s plan, it’s very peculiar,’ and you have to wonder about that guy’s personality — the big guy’s personality. And the thing is — I may have told you last time that I believe in God — what I’m saying now is I choose to believe in God, but I have serious doubts and I refuse to be pinned down to something that I said 10 or 12 years ago. I’m totally inconsistent.”

These remarks here have sparked some very intense responses…

From a National Geographic Blog:
Evolution is Wonderful

“But King’s quote represents a snobbish and pervasive belief that those who see no evidence of gods are somehow impoverished in their lives.”

From Patheos:
Stephen King: If You Don’t Believe in God, You’re Missing Out on Sunrises, Sunsets, and the Stars

See what I mean. Touchy, touchy. I’m pretty sure when Mr. King said “‘Well, OK, I don’t believe in God. There’s no evidence of God,’ then you’re missing the stars in the sky and you’re missing the sunrises and sunsets and you’re missing . . . ” he was simply saying that what someone is “missing” is some evidence for God. He was not saying that someone who fails to acknowledge a god is missing out on the ability to enjoy a sunset.

I can see why a nature devotee would be upset having it suggested that he didn’t love or could not appreciate nature because he’s an atheist, but that’s not what happened, and I think that Mr. Backpacker was reading into the comment waaaaay too much. Plus it seems to me that atheists spend a lot of time proclaiming that if someone believes in God, that person is basically akin to a child seeing recognizable shapes in the clouds and can’t possibly have an interest in science or reality, so I have a hard time sympathizing with atheists as victims here. By the way: 50 Nobel Laureates and Other Great Scientists Who Believe in God.

I’m curious about where this hostility comes from. Are atheists worried that Mr. King, with his very ambiguous, “totally inconsistent” (random) beliefs about “god” is going to convert all of these NPR-listeners and nature-lovers over to deism. . . or even worse, to have them consider the possibility that nature actually does exhibit intelligent design?!

Liberty Is No War on Women

Here’s a book I wanted to bring to your attention. The description from Amazon:

The Left has accused supporters of limited government of waging a “War on Women.” In Liberty Is No War on Women, Lukas and Schaeffer take this charge apart. They demonstrate that liberals’ recipe for ever-bigger government backfires on women by eroding opportunity and true financial security, and explain how returning power to the people is the real key to women’s freedom. As Lukas and Schaeffer conclude, the “War on Women” rhetoric is fundamentally insulting to independent women and should be soundly rejected by all Americans.

Salvo had an interview with Ms. Carrie Lukas a while back. It’s well worth your time.

In the chapter “The Myth of Having It All,” you examine why it is that some women have been deceived—or have deceived themselves—into thinking they can have both a career and a strong family. Are these expectations the result of our culture actively promoting female supremacy?

Certainly much of the culture creates unrealistic expectations and a sense of entitlement. But the problem women face is that we often have conflicting desires. I talked to a lot of college women in the course of writing my book, and it was very common for these intelligent and ambitious young people to tell me that they expected to be both full-time moms and CEOs of major companies. Now, I’m not saying that no woman can accomplish both of these goals, but she’s going to have a tough time doing so. Often, “women’s studies” classes and groups like NOW [National Organization for Women] make it seem as though the problem women face in balancing work and family is caused by bad public policy or men who won’t do their share of the housework. But the real problem is simply a consequence of being human: We can’t be two places at once, and there are only 24 hours in a day. This means that we are going to face tough decisions and real tradeoffs when allocating our time.

On Thomas Nagel

There’s a great article in The Weekly Standard about Thomas Nagel. He’s the atheist philosophy professor who wrote the book Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False. He is really feeling the heat from those who have no choice but to cling to their superstitions about the universe. You know, it’s basically a combination of Star Trek (the multiverse) and X-men (punctuated equilibrium).

The Heretic: Who is Thomas Nagel and why are so many of his fellow academics condemning him?. I suggest you give it a read at The Weekly Standard website, but here’s a bit of it that I found particularly insightful.

Nagel’s reliance on “common sense” has roused in his critics a special contempt. One scientist, writing in the Huffington Post, calls it Nagel’s “argument from ignorance.” In the Nation, the philosophers Brian Leiter and Michael Weisberg could only shake their heads at the once-great philosopher’s retrogression from sophisticated thinking to common sense.

“This style of argument,” they write, “does not, alas, have a promising history.” Once upon a time, after all, our common-sense intuitions told us the sun traveled across the sky over a flat earth. Materialistic science has since taught us otherwise.

Not all intuitions are of the same kind, though. It is one thing for me to be mistaken in my intuition about the shape of the planet; it’s another thing to be mistaken about whether I exist, or whether truth and falsehood exist independently of my say-so, or whether my “self” has some degree of control over my actions. Indeed, a person couldn’t correct his mistaken intuitions unless these intuitions were correct—unless he was a rational self capable of distinguishing the true from the false and choosing one over the other. And it is the materialist attack on those intuitions—“common sense”—that Nagel finds absurd.

Coincidentally, the new issue of Salvo has articles on both Nagel and on academia’s disdain for “common sense.”