Friday, November 30, 2007

Stir the stew

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On October 30th I posted some thoughts on Gordon Clark's criticism of scientific induction and its connection, in my mind, to James F. Ross's argument for the immateriality of the intellect from the incommeasurability between formal operations and physical instances of them. Clark's criticism of scientific induction is that it commits the fallacy of "affirming the consequent", or, "If p, then q; q; ∴ p." As Clark says,

A simple argument of verification proceeds as follows: The given hypothesis implies certain definite results; the experiment actually gives those results; therefore, the hypothesis is verified and can be called a law. Obviously, this argument is the fallacy of asserting the consequent; and since all verification must commit this fallacy, it follows that no law or hypothesis can ever be logically demonstrated.

Well, one reader took great exception to Clark's comments and replied at some length, a rarity from him which I appreciated. So I replied:

Hey Michael,

Thanks for stepping up this time and making some sustained comments. I will say you are off-base on a number of points, but I haven't the time now to go into details. If you think no one has used Newtonian mechanics to refute theism, you'[v]e thereby turned a blind eye to your own Enlightenment-legacy. Do the names Laplace, de la Mettrie, d'Holbach, et al., mean anything to you?

In any case, do you think I actually agree with everything I post at FCA? Clark is an operationist [about the philosophy of science], which I am not (bei[n]g a realist), so I disagree with his radical severance between science (as a laboratory method) and truth, though I give him his fundamental point: unless you can say methodical science gives you truth, rather than just contingent "results", you can't use its findings as proof (ie., truth) against religious claims. Even Nietzsche said, Just because something works doesn't mean it's true [or, just because it makes you happy and successful, doesn't mean it is true]. Of course, I believe you have a very dim view of something called "truth", so it probably doesn't matter to you whether man can grasp it or not.

The bottom line, which you consistently enjoy hovering over, is that induction does commit a basic logical fallacy, so your typically snide dismissal of Clark's statement about verification is just that: a mere snide dismissal. It does [no] good, logically, to say hypotheses are descriptive predictors of experimental subjects based on standing models, since the models themselves are only drawn on the basis of a string of induction. A model is but a coherent set of "affirming the consequent" statements. It doesn't matter how many times you say, "if p, then q; q; thus, p," since each instance is itself a fallacy.

I would like to have a look at Giere's books, thanks. I can pick up mail at the Shuinan Catholic Church, 17 Chong Ching Road, Beitun (406). 水楠教堂在北屯區17中清路. The nán should actually be "a yuènán de nán" with a water-radical at left, but it's an obscure third tone character I can't find on my Mac.

I only drag this back up a month later because I have not heard anything back from Michael and perhaps he missed my reply in the combox.

The seductive power of adjectives

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Reading Jonathan Kirsch's God Against the Gods last night I spotted an especially peculiar use of historical sources in his discussion of the tumultuous fallout of Constantine's death in 337. The only descendants and male relatives of Constantine left alive after Constantius II's purge, were his brothers, Constantine II and Constans, and his young cousins, Gallus and Julian (later known as Julian the Apostate). Kirsch notes how systematically Constantius II purged possible competitors for the throne, and comments on how he ended up splitting the empire with his brothers, who co-reigned in the west, while he reigned in the east. At some point, Constans battled and killed Constantine II but was murdered in a coup by the Germanic general, Magnentius.

Kirsch notes that the only people completely spared in Constantius II's purge were Gallus and Julius. He says that, according to a "fanciful story preserved by Christian sources, … one or both of them were spirited away by a sympathetic [Catholic] priest through a secret passage" (p. 196), but then he proceeds to say a "more plausible explanation is that the two young boys … were so frail and young that neither was regarded as a serious threat" by Constantius II (Ibid.). Not only is this not in keeping with Constantine's precedent, whereby he killed his own wife and baby son, but it is also sheer and utter conjecture. Are we really to imagine, without any documentary support, that Constantius II was too squeamish to have Gallus and Julian dispatched? Moreover, Constantius II had both boys raised as Christians in his palace, so he could have easily killed them once they matured into politically sensible (and cunning) young men on the always tempting threshold of the throne. I found it incredible Kirsch would pretend a move like that is good history. In effect he's saying, "I know what the extant historical records actually say, but, come on, surely there's a more 'plausible' account. Anything but taking a Christian story at face value!" In Kirsch's book, I guess, intriguing plausibility trumps actual evidence.

The trick is to use alluring adjectives which paper over his historical conjuring act. We can see how hollow his scholarship is on this point if we transform his claims from flair to prose. "According to a fanciful Christian tale…. A more plausible explanation is…." becomes "According to the historical record…. An intriguing but totally unsubstantiated alternative explanation is…." I seized on this example because it is indicative of Kirsch's entire method in God Against the Gods. He's a lawyer, so he knows making a psychologically compelling case is always superior to sticking to the bare facts. As such, time and again, he presents the documented "Christian" account of the facts, and then challenges them with a sexier, more sinister plausibility. If not documented NOT to have happened, I suppose Kirsch thinks any plausibility is thereby rendered most likely. Presumably, only if an 'objective' pagan source had explicitly stated Constantius II had in fact ignored Gallus and Julian as threats, would Kirsch take the "fanciful Christian tale" for what it is: concrete historical evidence.

Such is the fallen mind at work. Enclosed within the present, fallen aion (Greek: age), the fallen mind can only clutch at historical straws to reconstruct any coherent picture of the past in the absence of incontrovertible evidence. Incontrovertible evidence is, of course, a philosophical assumption, based on an uncritical assumption in the coherent goodness of the world, despite a lack of pure evidential support for it, an assumption, moreover which can only hold if rooted in a transcendent faith in an all-good Creator and Pilot of the historical world. If history is truly everything, which is what naturalism amounts to, then there is no 'higher perspective' from which to look at history (or wave functions) to give it (or them) integral coherence. From a sharp oblique angle, Shakespeare on the page looks like black smears; but from above, he looks like, well, Shakespeare. Much the same goes for history. From within the page, as we look across the printed field of history, everything can feasibly be read as a meaningless smear or as a beautiful epic. Kirsch can barely stifle his divinely implanted instinct for historical transcendence, which is why he feels free to overstep the limits of sheer evidence in order to float plausible counter-narratives, as if the evidence could be reinterpreted based on a grander knowledge of, or about, History. Presumably, history proves people are not as nice as the priest who protected Gallus and Julian, and, presumably, history proves purges stop only out of laziness or distraction. But this is a meta-historical claim which tries to give a secondary layer of meaning to the facts of history. Only if there is, first, a realm of being beyond the page of history, and only if, second, agents in that realm have intervened on the page, can we hope to discern and propagate transhistorical meta-narratives. We can give this much to postmodernism: there really can be no secular meta-narratives.

Such, then, is the value of Revelation in historical terms: it is the plane of truth which gives an essential extra dimension to history, so that humans, in history, may have a depth of vision by which, and a lens of knowledge through which, to interpret history. A dogma like the Assumption of Our Lady is not an historical truth, but a revealed truth in history. Of the dogma of the Assumption, Pope Pius XII says the following:

From the universal agreement of the Church's ordinary teaching authority we have a certain and firm proof, demonstrating that the Blessed Virgin Mary's bodily assumption into heaven––which surely no faculty of the human mind could know by its own natural powers, as far as the heavenly glorification of the virginal body of the loving Mother of God is concerned––is a truth that has been revealed by God. … Various testimonies, indications, and signs of this common belief of the Church are evident from remote times down through the course of the centuries…. (Munificentissimus Deus, §12–13, emphasis added)

The point is that, while there are verifiable historical 'echoes' of God's revelatory acts in history, the truth of revelation is not coextensive with, or reducible to, the bare facts of history. All that history can do with revelation is show that something certainly did not happen; it cannot prove revelation could never happen. Moreover, history does not prove a miracle did happen, which is why Pope Pius XII could spend so little time enumerating the "hard evidence" for the Assumption. The supposed failure to provide hard historical evidence for the Assumption is what leads Protestants to deny the Assumption. This rejection is, alas, based on a deeper flaw in the Protestant (historically positivist) conception of revelation and divine authority. If history were adequate to reveal God to humanity, there would be no need for revelation. De fide dogmas do not profess to be historical truths, only to be truths which enlighten other surrounding historical data from within.

Revelation can illuminate history, as a filament brightens the bulb, because it is formally, but not materially, distinct from history. As Xavier Zubiri put it:

…[I]t is essential to underline that the concept of tradition we have used here is not an historical concept; it is a theologic concept. From the point of view of a historical science[,] tradition is understood as the continuity of a documentary proof. Is there a tradition that Pythagoras may have discovered the mathematical theorems attributed to his name? Not an extensive one, some have said no, and others have said yes. However, they are in the Elements of Geometry of Euclid, and clearly we do have an historical continuity of this. However, this is not the concept of tradition we are discussing here. The concept of tradition here is purely theologic; it is the reactualization of the revealed deposit. …

[W]ith hindsight anything can be fitted into a syllogism, including reading these pages. But this does not mean it was the way to discover it. The great masters of speculative theology did not admit the Immaculate Conception. On the other hand, a few poor Franciscans felt the devotion to the Blessed Virgin as the Immaculate Conception. And it is there where the truth of the deposit of revelation was. The revealed deposit, and therefore, the progress, is inscribed in a situation of the whole man, and also in a religious situation.

(Christianity Copyright 2001-2005 by Joaquín Redondo, used with permission granted on his website) [I added this paragraph and quote on 14 Dec 07]

As bizarre as these ideas may seem, the truth is, we ourselves are all revealed beings. Our identity is, analogously, a revealed dogma to ourselves, which we carry each day as an article of faith. Who we strive to be and who we believe are, as sacramental embodiments of our moral ideals and highest truths, is not reducible to the facts of our past. Rather, the dynamic, ever-present coherence of our Self is that which gives an inner light, a coherent structure, to the disparate facts of our past. Who we are, like what the Church, as the historical-mystical hypostasis of Christ, teaches, is not based on history, but is only a dramatic synthesis of a handful of facts which hang together in connection with a higher, trans-factual center of value and beauty. Dogma is not simply the "glue" that holds together the Church's historical (and geographical) appendages; dogma is not simply the story the Church tells itself to fall asleep at night. Rather, because all personal identity exists only in conjunction with an other-identity––the I, Thou, We dynamic of human nature––, the Church's dogmatic self-identity is an endowment given by its sacramental receptivity to the Word (immanent Voice) of God. We do not simply patch an ego together from our experiences, and neither does the Church. We, like the Church, which is the iconic ideal for our own lives in Marian terms, discover and perfect who we are in connection with our neighbors (which in the Church's case, are the Divine Persons). The voice we hear in our own head––or, the voice of the Magisterium in the Church––only makes sense because it receptively converses with the voices outside our heads––or, the pneumatic self-disclosure of God in worship and in word.

In huge areas of our lives, we are quite literally subject to what others tell us about ourselves. Such interpersonal subjection is the basis for the Church's paradoxically weak stance as an autonomous authority on sheer (autonomous, naturalistic) grounds, and its rock-like infallibility as a vessel of truth disclosed to it by God. We do not and cannot know ourselves without others, and we certainly cannot speak about ourselves or what we know outside the field of collective language. In a similar way, the Church does not and cannot speak for itself, about itself or otherwise, without the "input" of God and the divinely inspired "field of discourse" provided by the Scriptures and Tradition. Who we are is by and large not subject to a critical deconstruction of what we can certainly know about our past, and this, because who we are is not in fact based on only what we certainly know. Revelation is the agent-driven, value-ascribing force in history that gives a sufficiently personal (hypostatic-narrative) shape to history so that humans can reasonably say and feel they "fit" in history. Without a transcendentally personal dimension in, and over, history, which Divine Revelation proclaims there is, humans are perpetually alienated from themselves, both as members of an inexplicably exceptional species in a cold, inhuman cosmos, and as personal, social beings in an impersonal, amoral historical record. Ultimately it is a question of which adjectives we live by: unrevealed plausibility or revealed truth, impersonal amorality or personal transcendence.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A comment on Presbies and predestination

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A reader left a comment on my post called "Differences between Catholicism and Presbyterianism":

The part about Catholics believing in Predestination is false. As a Catholic I understand what St. Thomas Aquainas [sic] was saying and it really isn't predesitination [sic]. We determine our own fate. For example all of us can choose sin or rightousness [sic] freely. But because we are human and we sin, we must rely on the grace of God to get to heaven. Nothing to do with predesintation[.] [sic]

In that post I said Catholics "believe in the absolute necessity of God’s grace alone for our salvation prior to any of our own efforts." As a Catholic I differentiate between (Calvinist) 'predetermination' and (Thomistic) 'predestination'. Calvinism denies any freedom of the will (aside from 'free agency' among predetermined options, based on predetermined proclivities), so it can only argue for a 'one-to-one' correspondence between God's absolute decree and a person's ultimate destiny. By contrast, the Catholic Church teaches that God predestines all of creation **in conjunction with actual human freedom**. The central issue is the primacy of grace, not the absence of human freedom, which is why 'grace' for Calvinists is really more a default necessitarianism rescue from or consignment to perdition, given the lack of human freedom.

The Church officially ended dogmatic debate about the issue in the Congregatio de auxiliis under Pope VIII, which means predestinarian Thomism, versus Molinism, is a legitimate theory, if not construed as the only adequate doctrine and a rule of faith. "The pope's decree communicated (5 September, 1607) to both Dominicans and Jesuits, allowed each party to defend its own doctrine, enjoined each from censoring or condemning the opposite opinion, and commanded them to await, as loyal sons of the Church, the final decision of the Apostolic See. That decision, however, has not been reached, and both orders, consequently, maintain their respective theories, just as any other theological opinion is held." Cf. the Catholic Encyclopedia at .

No one is predestined to damnation without the complicity of their own free will. No one is predestined to eternal glory without the grace-enabled synergy of their own free will. Both claims are not only in accord with the Catholic teaching on predestination but in fact integral to it. I will quote from a number of sources to support my claim that predestination is not a non-Catholic doctrine.

"The causality of reprobation is unlike that of predestination. For predestination is the cause both of what is awaited in the future, namely glory, and of what is received in the present, namely grace. Whereas reprobation is not the cause of present fault, but of future result, namely, of being abandoned by God. Fault is born of the freewill of the person who deserts grace."

-- St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, I, 23, 4, as cited in "Do Catholics Believe in Predestination?" at

"[Predestination] is every Divine decree by which God, owing to His infallible prescience of the future, has appointed and ordained from eternity all events occurring in time, especially those which directly proceed from, or at least are influenced by, man's free will. … Between these two extremes [i.e., of Calvinism/Jansenism and Semipelagianism] the Catholic dogma of predestination keeps the golden mean, because it regards eternal happiness primarily as the work of God and His grace, but secondarily as the fruit and reward of the meritorious actions of the predestined."

-- The Cath. Enc. at

"1. God knows all things, including those who will be saved (THE ELECT). 2. God's foreknowledge does not destroy, but includes, free will. 3. God desires all men to be saved. 4. Jesus died to redeem all men. 5. God provides sufficient grace for all men to be saved. 6. Man, in the exercise of his free will, can accept or reject grace. 7. Those who accept grace are saved, or born-again. 8. Those who are born-again can fall away or fall into sin. 9. Not everyone who is saved will persevere in grace. 10. Those who do persevere are God's elect. 11. Those who do not persevere, or who never accepted grace, are the reprobate. 12. Since we can always reject God in this life, we have no absolute assurance that we will persevere. 13. We can have a moral assurance of salvation if we maintain faith and keep God's commandments (1 John 2:1-6; 3:19-23; 5:1-3,13)."

-- Cf. "PREDESTINATION, SALVATION, AND DAMNATION: Calvinism and Catholicism Contrasted", from an article by Jim Burnham (edited by Phil Porvaznik) at

"The Catholic Church, following St. Augustine (e.g., Grace and Free Will, 1,1; Sermon 169, 11,13), accepts predestination of the elect to heaven, but also affirms the freedom of the human will, thus staking out a position distinct from Calvinism. Predestination to hell, in Catholicism, always involves man's free will, and foreseen sins, so that man is ultimately responsible for his own damnation, not God (double predestination is rejected). The Catholic Church affirms predestination as a de fide dogma (the highest level of binding theological certainty), while at the same time affirming free will and the possibility of falling away from the faith. But, there is no official teaching on how exactly this comes into play."

-- Cf. "Predestination and the Catholic Church" by Adam C. Kolasinski at

I also refer the reader to James Akin's "A Tiptoe through TULIP" at


Dave Armstrong's "Molinism, Middle Knowledge, & Predestination: Suarez, Congruism, & the Elegantly Ingenious Solution of Fr. William G. Most" at .

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The All in all things…

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Busy tilting at the windmills which I take to be the hulking giants of philosophical acumen, I devised a little argument-form, and tried it out on free will and God. Recently at Processions, I was fortunate enough to ponder a quote from Gregory Palamas (pardon the missing "St."––but I'm a Roman Catholic, for Peter's sake!) which tied in well with what I was tryin to say about God in that runty argument-from. To wit:

God both is and is said to be the nature of all beings, in so far as all partake of Him and subsist by means of this participation: not however by participation in His nature - far from it - but by participation in His energy. In this sense He is Being of all beings, the Form that is in all forms as the Author of form, the Wisdom of the wise and, simply, the All in all things. Moreover, He is not nature, because He transcends nature; He is not a being, because He transcends every being; and He is not nor does He possess a form because He transcends form.

“Topics of Natural and Theological Science”, Philokalia Vol. 4 [emphasis added]

This is something of what I was getting at when I called God "that which exists as the ground of conceptual and ontological relationality (i.e., as the transcendent conceptual and ontological 'limit value') for all things".

Diaphonous wings, diaphoric world

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Some weeks ago, I was rhapsodizing on the pain that is pleasure from reading head-bending books, particularly, Alexei Nesteruk's Light from the East. Well, while I alluded to the book's content, I did only allude to it. Just now, however, while I was stopping by Energetic Processions, I happened to emit a brief summary of the book's thesis. It came in reply to the following quote from Michel Barnes:

While Gregory [of Nyssa] is regularly described by scholars as a “Platonist’, in fact he contrasts the inherent certainty of sense knowledge with the inherent uncertainty of abstract knowledge (or in Gregory’s terms, knowledge of sensibles verses knowledge of intelligibles). Sense knowledge is clear and certain; knowledge by intellect alone is neither. This positive evaluation of the world of sensibles leads Gregory to see creation as a trustworthy sign of its Creator; indeed, one striking feature of Gregory’s theology is the confidence with which he believes that the evidence of creation bears out his theology. This confidence depends on Gregory’s theological shift from the one Creator reasoning to the one God reasoning I have outlined, but in Gregory’s case this shift is supported by his definite sense of the veracity and the virtue of material creation.

Dunamis in Gregory of Nyssa’s Trinitarian Theology, p. 254.

I was struck by the beauty––and potency, vis-à-vis the threat methodical naturalism poses to science––of this passage and replied thus:

A. Nesteruk, in *Light from the East* (on Orthodoxy and science), sheds some good light on this train of thought, going through a number of major issues in big science to show how each one ends up at an antinomy (Kantian style) which can only be “resolved” by seeing the tension itself as a divinely mandated pointer towards the diaphora in all creation. The universe, in other words, points to God not only because it is coherent, but also because it is incoherent (in se); as these two premises clash antinomically, they point even deeper to the very nature of Nature as diaphoric (split) between realities manifest to dianoia and the logoi, rooted in God, known by the nous by grace.

I hope that helps whet your appetite for Nesteruk's book.

Incidentally, the contrast between the veracity of sense knowledge and the corrigibility of abstract knowledge, while certainly not looking like my cup of tea prima facie, suggests interesting directions for the whole perspicuity/infallibility of qualia debate in cog sci and phil of mind.

Ah, but: memento mori!

On God and free will…

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I wanted to clarify––partially for my own sake––what I've been up to with the two recent, brief posts on free will and God. I was able to do so to some small degree while at Energetic Processions.

…On my blog I’ve recently been tinkering with a kind of argument (for free will and for the existence of God) which, while I highly doubt is original with me, is something I can only call “defining into existence”, or maybe the “fallacy of an all too apt definition.” As long as I appropriately set up the meaning of “free will” and “God”, I can syllogize them right into existence. Much the same goes for Ostler’s quasi-divine analysis. If he can argue around that the one troubling aspect of divinity––namely its being DIVINE–– then he can certainly posit a “coherent” view of a corporeal God. It may be coherent but, as Perry said, is that relevant to the debate as the term is understood historically and contextually?

My own frank diffidence about my “definition” arguments on my blog are not to say I deny the existence of free will or God (on the contrary, I’d like to think their form, if not their content, is of some obscure merit); it is simply to acknowledge how devilishly tempting it is to tweak established terms for our own ends; and it is to acknowledge the limits of doing so. This kind of lowest common denominator thinking is rampant in much Artificial Intelligence boosterism, which M. Taube saw 40+ years ago by calling it a vicious circle. I know just the trick: If machines can’t be engineered up to human levels, let’s reduce man down to machine levels. Turing did so explicitly, arguing for a multitude of kinds of rationality, whereby clunky machine thinking is ‘just as good’, ‘in its own way‘, as conventional, and therefore chauvinistically favored, human thinking. This practice (known in some circles of a darker hue as “changing the joke to slip the yoke”) is not without merit but must be handled carefully in philosophy.

This is more of lark on testing how definitions work as criteria for truth. Socrates said, by his actions at least, that to be able to define something is to understand it. The "arguments" I make for God and free will are, truth be told, not meant primarily as arguments, but as lab runs of an argument-form. I took free will and God to be two of the most obvious, most interesting things to test the form on. I know multiple other definitions of God and free will could be posited, all probably with just as good results, but what I sense is that unless a definition of those two "things" can be stated AND THEN shown to violate known reality, the form of argument as I've made it has some kind of heuristic value. This is pure philosophical intuition.

Now, an objector might say, "I can define a unicorn as that which makes it rain, and then see it rain, but that doesn't mean unicorns exist." But aside from the fact that such is NOT a normal definition of unicorns, and therefore begs the question why "a winged, one-horned horse" is not used instead, this objection also misses the point of my argument-form. Defining a unicorn into existence based on its putative role in rainmaking is not DEFINING a unicorn at all; the definition collapses into a number of meteorological entities/forces, which renders the definition useless; it tells us nothing about unicorns as such. A definition should be able to uniquely "pick out" one thing from many others, literally defining the boundaries of one thing versus another as we make our way through life. We CAN say water is "that which gets people wet", or "that which people drink when thirsty", but no such definition is really a DEFINITION. Water is dihydrogen monoxide. Is there, in turn, in fact something that is made up of two hydrogen molecules covalently bonded with an oxygen molecule? There is! Therefore, water exists.

The point of my argument-form is to see if a definition of something not collapsible into something else, has probative value. My argument is not that people make choices, THEREFORE they have free will. Rather it is that no other thing can be rationally conceived of as free will AND be seen to occur in life. Brain states are not what affects the changes I mentioned in my first premise, since brain states do not always affect such changes, whereas the deliberation, concomitant with brain states, ALWAYS produces such changes. Without that deliberative agency, numerous changes would not be affected. Brain states can produce a number of different behaviors without really producing a "choice", since the very concept of choice includes deliberation; only deliberative action produces what preserves the meaning of the word "choice." Hence brain states are a material but not formal cause of deliberative action; they are a necessary but not sufficient ground for such actions.

Likewise with God. No other definition is coherent AND present in life as experienced in the categories discussed in that argument. This is not, of course, to say NO OTHER formulation of the definition, or no other definition of God from another perspective (e.g., moral), could work. The argument-form is more modest, saying 1) the definition-premise is coherent and 2) there appear to be part of life that "fit the bill" for that premise; hence, that thing exists as the very mechanism at work in the realities mentioned in the middle premise.

This thinking seems all too waxy, I know. But I wonder if there are not some things––indeed, many things––that fit this kind of bill. How else do scientists come to agree on purely theoretical things like hadrons and fermions? They don't SEE these things. Rather, they posit (i.e., hypothetically define) them as a certain kind of entity, see if such a definition makes sense of known data, and then conclude tot he existence of the subatomic particles. It seems there is a point at which defining a thing any less aptly than what "fits" the inquiry is not to solve the inquiry but to give up on solving it for fear of forcing the definition to the evidence. The point of this argument-form is to press the question, "Is there, for example, anything else besides free will which coherently accounts for deliberate effects and, for example, anything else besides God which coherently accounts for the total relative integrity of the cosmos?"

Again, this little project is much less ambitious than the first two topics might suggest. But this argument-form, even were it picked apart and burned at the stake by a sharp philosophical eye, tickles my mind…

"Natural selection" is the mechanism by which random phylogenetic changes are increased or decreased in a gene pool based on environmental pressures over time.

Phylogenetic changes fluctuate over time in accordance with environmental pressures.

Therefore, natural selection exists.

Monday, November 19, 2007


2 comment(s)
"God" is, minimally, that which exists as the ground of conceptual and ontological relationality (i.e., as the transcendent conceptual and ontological "limit value") for all things, such that they exist as conceptually and ontologically coherent, discrete-yet-relative entities.

All things exist, transcendentally, in conceptual and ontological relation to all other things as discrete "co-entities" in the total field of being. Indeed, even the total field of being is a coherent "entity" only insofar as it transcendentally relates to non-being––being so radically existent as to transcend the categories of finite being––for its very definition (in both the conceptual and ontological sense of 'definition').

Therefore, God exists.

(This borders on viewing God as the observer which collapses (collapsed?) the quantum wave which brought our universe into actual existence, but I refrain from going there at this juncture, and perhaps at any juncture.)

Two ScIn posts…

1 comment(s)
…afore I forget.

1) Where does all the blood go in engorged mosquitoes?

2) How do you–yes, you!–use an abacus?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Free will

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"Free will" is that which effects a change, relevant to human interests, pursuant to deliberation of possible goods and evils connected with that change.

Changes are consistently affected by people pursuant to their deliberation of possible goods and evils.

Therefore, free will exists.

Cats and dogs

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Joshy: "The reason I like owning dogs more than cats is because cats have too much mobility, too much freedom."

EBB: "Yeah, cats are what happens when AI droids get too smart. Dogs are just-right AI bots. Not too dumb. Not too smart. Not too powerful."

Friday, November 16, 2007

Hell is...

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"Hell is what happens, forever, when you realize you're hungover. And, yes, you crashed your car, and survived… but the other guy didn't.

Heaven is what happens, forever, when you realize you know what drunk people mean by 'drunk' without a single drop."

-- Elliam Fakespeare

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


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Savor these words from my patron saint, Francis de Sales (c/o phatcatholic's "Daily with De Sales"). St. Francis' writings and patronage top the list why I would want to learn French. Oh, and he's also among the top factors in my flailing efforts for holiness.

Turning to my most gracious and merciful God, I desire to serve Him and to love Him now and forever. But if, through temptation by the enemy or human frailty, I should chance to transgress in any point, or fail to adhere to this my resolution and dedication, I protest from this moment and am determined, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, to rise as soon as I perceive my fall and return again to God's mercy without any hesitation or delay whatsoever.
-- INT. Part I, Ch. 20; O. III, p. 60

Friday, November 9, 2007

My sozzled dash for a grasp of subatomic physics…

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Granted, it doesn't help I grabbed and condensed all this off Wikipedia after three bottles of beer. But here's to latent memory! If only I could handle these little subatomic beasties, then I might really have a chance at retaining my knowledge of them! I need a diagram for these little beasties. Any takers?

  • A) boson: subatomic particle w/integer spin
  • B) fermion: subatomic particle w/half-integer spin
  • B1) lepton: fermion sans strong nuclear force
  • C) hadron: strongly interacting subatomic part (baryon or meson)
  • C1) baryon: strongly interacting fermions
  • C2) meson: strongly interacting boson of quark & antiquark; a hadron w/integral spin

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

New posts up at ScIn!

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Can you help me crack the mysteries of soap warts and atomic formal logical operations?

Scandendum Inscitia

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"The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance -- it is the illusion of knowledge." ~ Daniel Boorstin

"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe." ~ Albert Einstein

"Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance." ~ Will Durant

"Before we work on artificial intelligence why don't we do something about natural stupidity?" ~ Steve Polyak

"Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects." ~ Will Rogers

"Not ignorance, but ignorance of ignorance, is the death of knowledge." ~ Alfred North Whitehead

"If ignorance is bliss, why aren't there more happy people?" ~ Author Unknown

"Timendi causa est nescire." (Ignorance is the cause of fear.) ~ Latin proverb

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Well, there you go…

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I am not surprised at my diagnosis, but I hope I can beat the prognosis…

"You have escaped damnation and made it to Purgatory, a place where the dew of repentance washes off the stain of sin and girds the spirit with humility. Through contrition, confession, and satisfaction by works of righteousness, you must make your way up the mountain. As the sins are cleansed from your soul, you will be illuminated by the Sun of Divine Grace, and you will join other souls, smiling and happy, upon the summit of this mountain. Before long you will know the joys of Paradise as you ascend to the ethereal realm of Heaven."

The Dante's Inferno Test has sent you to Purgatory!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Extreme
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Low
Level 2 (Lustful)High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Low
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Low
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very Low
Level 7 (Violent)High
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)High
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Low

Take the Dante Inferno Hell Test

Monday, November 5, 2007

On the Earth…

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A short script I'm working on, on a lark.

Mostly Two-Way Dialogues on the Earth
and off the Wall

by Elliot Bougis

Bertus: What is this I hear about wasting water?

Ernius: What do you mean?

Bertus: Well, these people… these Fangoreans…

Ernius: What is a Fangorean?

Bertus: It's a fan of Gore.

Ernius: Brother.

Bertus: These people… they tell me… I hear on the news, in those posters, not to waste water.

Ernius: Yes.

Bertus: Not to flush the toilet and wash your hands.

Ernius: Well, no, just not to waste water when doing those things.

Bertus: Waste water?

Ernius: Yes. We need water to live.

Bertus: Who's wasting water? Where does it go? Does it stop being water? Am I really to blame?

Ernius: Well, okay, yes, the water is still there, but…

Bertus: …but?

Ernius: But if you waste it, if you flush it and use too much in the sink, it puts a burden on the water company.

Bertus: Water is a burden on the water company? They're the water company!

Ernius: Yes, but they have to handle it and that's the ecological burden.

Bertus: Since when has handling water been such a bad thing? Give me a sieve, lots of bleach, huge boiling kettles and lots of paper towels, and I'll handle the water. I know poo and the pee in the water ups the handling aspect, but it's still water. Just in a funk.

Ernius: That's disgusting. Haven't you heard of economics before?

Bertus: What does my college background have to do with Ma Earth? I may not be good with money but I'm 70% water and I've made it this far, so give my hydrocybernetic hunches some credit.


Bertus: And all this garbage, what's the worry?

Ernius: Are you joking? Garbage is an obvious problem. It rots on the ground, ruins the surroundings, and poisons the soil for centuries to come.

Bertus: I'd be honored to do anything for centuries. Here's to garbage!

Ernius: On top of that, landfills take up huge amounts of land. Even if it weren't pollution, it's still horribly inefficient.

Bertus: Well, if space is a problem, I know just the place–––

Ernius: You're opening a restaurant?

Bertus: –––space!

Ernius: Right. Space. We're probably decades, even centuries, from living in space.

Bertus: Which is exactly my point: we let the garbage live there first.

Ernius: You want to just throw our garbage in to outer space?

Bertus: No, no, no, who's talking about just throwing? I've got aims. Send it straight to the sun. Why are we spending all this money on sending men into outer space?

Ernius: That's one of the frontiers of space science.

Bertus: Why send men into space when they just want to come right back? I say, send the garbage up and it won't bother us again. One man's garbage is another man's gold. I say we make one planet's garbage some star's aperitif. One big rocket of garbage and the landfills are as good as golf courses. If we can outsource operators, can't we outsource their McDonald's wrappers?

Ernius: Well what if the rocket blows up in the atmosphere?

Bertus: Are you always this negative? We're talking about NASA. It is exactly rocket science! If you can think of it, they can plan for it too. Launching from the sea–––we'll christen it the SS Muck–––should keep any bad spills safely off of people's heads.

Ernius: And then you've polluted the entire ocean!

Bertus: Ah, but would the fish really mind? After all, they evolved all this way on to land just for a taste of stationary garbage. If you're trashy doomsday scenario did ever happen, we just lay out a biggish net to catch the fallen and try again for the next election. We could take bets on if rocket would blow up. And when. And over what country. The gamble of a generation.

Ernius: Typically human–––

Bertus: Said the human.

Ernius: –––saving your own neck by sweeping your garbage under the rug.

Bertus: It's the rug. It's the universe. I don't think it will gulge when guests come over. Besides, if the garbage insisted on hurtling back down upon us in an apocalypse most unsanitary, I know it would sell like hot cakes on eBay. "Space Garbage! High enough and it may float again!"

Ernius: You're not happy we've polluted the earth, you also want to pollute space?

Bertus: Now, now, you shouldn't worry so. Infinite voids have a way of staying clean. At least nothing would rot out there. It would be a Kubrickian epic of man's past lives tumbling in a subzero sea of radiation. Just what the likes of garbage deserves.


Ernius: So that's your solution for the garbage problem? Do you know how many rockets it would take to remove all the garbage we've accumulated so far?

Bertus: No.

Ernius: Well, then…

Bertus: Do you?

Ernius: How many rockets? … No.

Bertus: Bloodied but unbowed I remain, then.

Ernius: Look, I'm not a scientist, but I know it would take hundreds of rockets, which would be extremely expensive. Besides, even if we did "outsource" all the garbage, it still wouldn't fix the long­term problem of greenhouse gases.

Bertus: You would kick a man when he's up? First you shoot down my rocket, idea, with your icy pessimism and now you put me on the rack with your clamoring for a Final Solution.

Ernius: Well, my mom always said, Don't go in the kitchen if you're not ready to cook.

Bertus: Yes, and my uncles always said, Don't assume the throne unless you're ready to deploy the troops, but that never stopped them from trying again after dessert.

Ernius: Troops? Your…

Bertus: It's a Greek thing, don't ask. Very Greco-Greco. Hold me now, I'm getting all Zorbic.

Ernius: You're getting all off the point. Rockets are a comic-book solution to a real crisis for the people of earth.

Bertus: Klaatu, barada, nikto.

Ernius: Huh?

Bertus: I fly like a bee in the bonnet of your perfectionism and sting like salt on the paper cuts of your pessimism.

Ernius: No, it's…

Bertus: Now who's off topic!

Ernius: I… You…

Bertus: Yes, where was I? Garbage. Garbage is a foul thing.

Ernius: I've known jokes more foul.

Bertus: A mere buzzing of flies I hear. … Garbage, being such a woe for the People of the Earth (patent pending), you are right, does need more than one solution. Shakespeare said the world is not enough and you tell me the sun isn't either–––

Ernius: Leave the dead in peace.

Bertus: –––which is why I have another idea. Something very domestic. And I do leave the dead in pieces.

Ernius: All right, what is your other idea?

Bertus: Garbage homes.

Ernius: All of a sudden nostalgic?

Bertus: Buzz, buzz. I see it as plain as I see the dandruff on your shoulder: homes built from processed garbage. We remove the organic matter–––banana peels, tomatoes, SPAM, wings, toupees, and the like–––sterilize the rest with some kind of spray or radiation treatment, and then crush the rest into huge blocks. We can call it post-prefab.

Ernius: I don't think they give Guggenheim** grants for "some kind of spray" proposals.

Bertus: Again with the negativity. Between us we make a magnet.

Ernius: No, but between us only one of us makes sense.

Bertus: May I go on?

Ernius: How can you?

Bertus: We can crush garbage into almost any hydraulically tortured shape and size. And then we can just dip them, the bales of waste, in recycled, hardened Styrofoam for insulation and strength.

Ernius: Do you think people would really want to live in houses made of garbage?

Bertus: Why not? At least then they'd always have an excuse for clutter around the house: there's already clutter all the way around the house. Better yet, they're stockpiling for an addition, maybe a patio.

Ernius: People in Cairo do live in garbage houses.

Bertus: Visionaries! I've been beaten to the punch. Or punched to the beatin'?

Ernius: They live there because they are poor. It's a form of necessity. They can't afford to live any where else so they retreat to the city's landfills.

Bertus: I've already explained that landfills have no place on earth in the rocket age.

Ernius: Be that as it may, your garbage-house idea is an insult to the world's poor.

Bertus: How's that? Give me their numbers and I'll be their real estate broker. My clients have already got houses, so it's just a matter of trading up. Movin' on up! I've already got the perfect slogan: "Success–––it's just over the next heap!"

Ernius: Absurd. Even if you found funding, they'd be the ugliest houses on the planet. Inside and out!

Bertus: I think your standards are too high. Have you seen some of what is happening in the suburbs? Or, worse, in federal housing?

Ernius: Are you insinuating the federally subsidized live in garbage?

Bertus: I'm simply saying, why should people already on a hard streak have to smile and sign on for houses that are in fact just the government's leftovers? Calling a dump a housing project is miles away from calling garbage a house. At least my buyers would know exactly what they were getting. As it is, they have to smile for the camera when Uncle Sam says cheese.

Ernius: Having a home is a huge step towards freedom for many, many people.

Bertus: Exactly. Which is why garbage housing gives the owner more autonomy than ever. If you don't like the house, just take it back to the dump. I'm sure they can keep a little off the weekly rocket for a new edition.