Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Logorrhea in the cell

In a recent post I commented on a remark made in one of the comboxes by a reader sympathetic to “Intelligent Design” (ID) theory.  At the ID website Uncommon Descent, Vincent Torley has responded, in a post with the title “Hyper-skepticism and ‘My way or the highway’: Feser’s extraordinary post.”  The title, and past experience with Torley, led me to expect that his latest piece would be short on dispassionate and accurate analysis and long on overheated rhetoric and misrepresentation.  Past experience with Torley also led me to expect that it would simply be long, period, indeed of gargantuan length.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Marvel Team-Up: Spider-Man and The Patriarchy

It isn’t news that fathers are often portrayed as doofuses in pop culture.  An interesting aspect of the Spider-Man movies is how aggressively they buck this trend.  The theme of fatherhood and its responsibilities absolutely permeates the series.  The noblest characters are almost all either father figures or those who honor father figures.  When father figures are portrayed negatively, it is always because they have failed to live up to the responsibilities of fatherhood, which the series clearly honors.  Indeed, once you first note this aspect of the series, you start seeing it everywhere.  The Spider-Man movies constitute one big patriarchy-fest.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Signature in the cell?

In the combox of my recent post comparing the New Atheism and ID theory to different players in a game of Where’s Waldo?,  a reader wrote:

One can run a reductio against the claim that we cannot detect design or infer transcendent intelligence through natural processes.  Were we to find, imprinted in every human cell, the phrase "Made by Yahweh" there is only one thing we can reasonably conclude.

I like this example, because it is simple, clear, and illustrative of confusions of the sort that are rife in discussions of ID.  Presumably we are all supposed to regard it as obvious that if this weird event were to occur, the “one thing we can reasonably conclude” is that a “transcendent intelligence,” indeed Yahweh himself, had put his “signature in the cell” (with apologies to Stephen Meyer -- whose own views I am not addressing here, by the way).

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Where’s God?

Here’s an analogy that occurs to me as a way of thinking about some of the main issues debated here on the blog over the years.  Suppose you’re looking at a painting of a crowd of people, and you remark upon the painter’s intentions in producing the work.  Someone standing next to you looking at the same painting -- let’s call him Skeptic -- begins to scoff.  “Painter?  Oh please, there’s no evidence of any painter!  I’ve been studying this canvas for years.  I’ve gone over every square inch.  I’ve studied each figure in detail -- facial expressions, posture, clothing, etc.  I’ve found plumbers, doctors, dancers, hot dog vendors, dogs, cats, birds, lamp posts, and all kinds of other things.  But I’ve never found this painter of yours anywhere in it.  No doubt you’ll tell me that I need to look again until I find him.  But really, how long do we have to keep looking without success until people like you finally admit that there just is no painter?”

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Back from Berkeley

Got back last night from the very fine DSPT conference on the relationship between philosophy and theology in Berkeley.  The main presenters were Msgr. Robert Sokolowski, Linda Zagzebski, Fr. Michael Dodds, John Searle, Fr. Michał Paluch, Allred Freddoso, John O’Callaghan, and me.  Responses to these talks were given by Fr. Richard Schenk, Fr. Bernhard Blankenhorn, Fr. Simon Gaine, Steven Long, Fr. Michael Dodds, Matthew Levering, Fr. Thomas Joseph White, and Fr. Michael Sherwin.  There were also many excellent talks given during the breakout sessions.   

My paper was titled “From Aristotle to John Searle and Back Again: Formal Causes, Teleology, and Computation in Nature.”  Some photos taken during the talk can be found here.  Photos from the other talks can be found by scrolling down here.  My understanding is that conference papers will be published in a forthcoming volume.  Fred Freddoso’s paper “The Vindication of St. Thomas: Thomism and Contemporary Anglo-American Philosophy” is available at his website (along with a great many other works by Fred that you should read).  Many thanks to the Dominicans for their warm hospitality!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

I link, therefore I am

This week: DSPT conference on philosophy and theology in Berkeley.  See you there.

John Searle, who will be speaking at the conference, is interviewed by Tim Crane.

Does Darwinism eliminate teleology and intentionality, or does it explain teleology and intentionality?  Some major naturalist philosophers hash it out in a new anthology reviewed at Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.

Philosopher Stephen Mumford tweets that he is “really enjoying” and “finding it hard to put down” my book Aquinas.  Thanks, Stephen!  (Stephen’s book Laws in Nature, to which he refers in one of the tweets, is highly recommended.)

Less than three weeks left until Guardians of the Galaxy.  Here’s the extended trailer.  And the flick’s got a cool soundtrack.  (But it’s not all fun and games.  Check out “The Glory and Tragedy of Rocket Raccoon” for the sad story of Rocket’s co-creator Bill Mantlo, who could use all the help his family can get.)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Clarke on the stock caricature of First Cause arguments

W. Norris Clarke’s article “A Curious Blind Spot in the Anglo-American Tradition of Antitheistic Argument” first appeared in The Monist in 1970.  It was reprinted in his anthology The Creative Retrieval of St. Thomas Aquinas: Essays in Thomistic Philosophy, New and Old, which was published posthumously in 2009.  I only just read the essay, and I did so with embarrassment and gratification.  Embarrassment because I found that something I’ve been harping on for a few years now had already been said by Fr. Clarke over 40 years ago.  Gratification because I found that something I’ve been harping on for a few years now had already been said by Fr. Clarke over 40 years ago.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Carroll on laws and causation

People have been asking me to comment on the remarks about causation made by atheist physicist Sean Carroll during his recent debate with William Lane Craig on the topic of “God and Cosmology.”  (You’ll find Craig’s own post-debate remarks here.)  It’s only fair to acknowledge at the outset that Carroll cannot justly be accused of the anti-philosophical philistinism one finds in recent remarks by physicists Stephen Hawking, Lawrence Krauss, and Neil deGrasse Tyson.  Indeed, Carroll has recently criticized these fellow physicists pretty harshly, and made some useful remarks about the role of philosophy vis-à-vis physics in the course of doing so.