Friday, April 08, 2005

Readworthy

Most but not all are theological in nature:

* Foolish and Slow at "Blogging Pastors"

* Understanding Genesis 2:15 at "Ralph the Sacred River"

* Messiah: The Talmud on Messianic Prophecy at "CADRE Comments"

* "The Logical Meme" discusses the philosophical thought of Karol Wojtyla.

* Dominican Iconography at "Cnytr". How to turn a generic picture of a Dominican into just about any Dominican saint you can imagine. The Aquinas icon is particularly useful; have a nice day.

* The discussion on personhood continues. See Soulless Materialism at "Philosophy, etc." and Person as an Analogous Term at "Vomit the Lukewarm". I've enjoyed this discussion, by the way; the primary reason for this weblog is to work out my thoughts more clearly, and this discussion has forced me to do so. [UPDATE: Also see Ghost in the Machine at "North Western Winds".][UPDATE 2: Chris responds at "Mixing Memory" to my last response in Higher Brain Death and Personhood Revisited.]

* "Vomit the Lukewarm" also has an argument that certainty presupposes a divine mind in The First Certain Things.

* An interesting editorial on science and ethics in Nature (reflecting on scientific work in Nazi Germany), called Uncomfortable Truths. (hat-tip: 3 Quarks Daily)

* An interesting discussion at Pharyngula sparked by an editorial in Science called "Twilight for the Englightenment?" This sentence from the editorial gives me a headache, though:

We owe this tradition [of acceptance of skepticism and of confidence in science] in part to the birth of the Scottish Enlightenment of the early 18th century, when the practice of executing religious heretics ended, to be gradually replaced by a developing conviction that substituted faith in experiment for reliance on inherited dogma.


So the practice of executing heretics was replaced by a conviction that substituted faith in experiment for reliance on inherited dogma; that's a lot of substitution going on, and I'm not seeing any clear historical line of causality here. In what way were they replacing the execution of religious heretics with a developing conviction? And where are the rationalists and the French in all this? And why would one think the Scottish Enlightenment didn't rely on inherited dogma (since Hume is only an ambiguous representative of the movement)? And was the Scottish Enlightenment really so important (even as a partial cause) to growing faith in experiment? Yes, I know; I quibble. But as I said, the discussion is interesting. One thing that really worries me about the premise of the editorial, though: one can argue that the popularity of design arguments are an Enlightenment product. The favored arguments of the Middle Ages were mostly causal arguments that have a different structure than any modern design argument; even Aquinas's Fifth Way, which is sometimes incorrectly treated as a design argument, is not a design argument, but an argument about the structure of causality itself. Most of the intimations of design arguments prior to the Renaissance are not put forward as arguments that there is an intelligent designer. They are put forward as presupposing that we've already proven or are assuming that there is an intelligent cause; they are then used to argue that this intelligent cause is involved in the operation of the world. [UPDATE: See here for a partial qualification of this last claim.] Design arguments were made popular, I think, by Newton (that it was Newton who made it popular is possibly one of the reasons why Hume's criticism of design arguments is so ambiguous -- Hume considers himself a Newtonian in a broad sense), and this was extended in the English-speaking world by Paley. (But this is certainly not the whole story; there have to be many different threads of thought constituting this historical path. Hume himself may be in part responsible, to the extent that his criticism may have produced counter-responses that otherwise would not have been developed.) The period we tend to describe as "the Enlightenment" produced and developed a lot of things, some of them very admirable, and some of them, like the concept of total war (i.e., the idea that war is not between governments but between nations), not admirable at all. Perhaps what needs to be done is to distinguish between "Enlightenment" taken as a historical label, and "Enlightenment" as an ideal, which was advocated by a handful of intellectuals in this period (the most notable and influential being Kant). But the latter possibly has much more to do with intellectual independence than with faith in experiment.

UPDATE: * John Paul II, Authority, and the Left at "In Medias Res"

* The Ways Christians Can Influence Others at "Rebecca Writes"

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