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Archive for February, 2006

Fine-tuning

February 28, 2006 4 comments

For whatever reason, I’ve been thinking about the fine-tuning argument for the existence of God. Normally that means I got a letter in my ongoing religious discussion with a relative or that it was brought up in some forum I visit, but not this time. I really don’t know why I’ve been thinking about it.

As you probably know, the argument is that certain properties of our universe are exactly the values needed for life and the probability of this is so low that there must be a creator god. In my review of Strobel’s book, I pointed out a big problem: we don’t know the probability of a god creating the universe. This is pointed out in some form here and here. More specifically, if you want to say that the universe is too improbable to have happened naturally, you are implicitly comparing that to the probability of a supernatural cause. However, the mere existence of God seems beyond calculation, not to mention calculating the probability of Him creating this exact universe. God’s pretty complex, isn’t he? Doesn’t that make Him improbable? Here we get into strange territory.

As far as I can tell, Christian theologians for the most part see God as infinitely simple, though he appears infinitely complex to us. I can attest to the second part. If He is that complex, the fine-tuning argument falls apart; it seems obvious that the probability of an infinitely complex (or something close to infinite complexity) being is much less probable than our complex, but finitely so, universe. The idea of divine simplicity doesn’t lend itself to such quantification, though. The laws of probability would seem to go out the window (then again, the same thing may happen in the infinitely complex situation). I haven’t asked, but I don’t think a Christian would believe calculating the probability of God is possible or even coherent. So the fine-tuning argument seems to compare two incomparable things. At best, it compares one reasonably calculated (though, I should point out, often exaggerated) probability with a completely unknown one and decides the unknown one is more probable.

I find this objection very obvious. I’m actually surprised more skeptics don’t use it. The most popular objection is the multiverse. That seems to be a valid objection, but we really don’t know if we’re in a multiverse or not. There are a few decent reasons to think so, but we’re on shaky ground. The objection I outlined above is much better. Maybe the multiverse idea seems more conclusive. It’s hard to say that the probability of God is lower than the probability of the universe, which is more conclusive than saying we don’t know the probability of God so we can’t make the comparison. Plus, the multiverse is an attempt to answer the central problem brought up by the fine-tuning argument: how can our universe be this fine-tuned? If we have these probabilities that border on the absurd, there has to be some explanation, right? The objection I outlined rids us of God as an explantion, but doesn’t give us an actual explanation. It’s a bit unsatisfying.

Objections to my argument are welcome. I can think of one possible one, but it may require its own post.

Categories: Religion, Science

But that's my favorite section

February 28, 2006 Leave a comment

Curiously, after the minor redesign of the Chronicle’s site, there doesn’t seem to be a link to the Opinions/Letters section. Now it even appears that the old URL is broken. I find this rather annoying.

Categories: Montana, The media

I have an announcement

February 28, 2006 1 comment

“Netroots” is a stupid word.

That is all.

Categories: Silliness

Slight changes

February 27, 2006 Leave a comment

As some will recognize, I’ve jumped on the K2 bandwagon. I think I’ve got it styled pretty much the way I want. Maybe a few things left that I could change the color of. I’m not entirely sure about the border on the current page tab. The way it overlaps the header border is kinda weird.

I’m also wondering why AJAX commenting doesn’t seem to be working.

UPDATE: Looks a bit fucked up in IE.

UPDATE 2: Fixed it, more or less.

Categories: Blogging

Morrison

February 27, 2006 Leave a comment

Since I don’t really have anything else to write about, and I’m busy playing with K2, a website I’m building (for money, no less), and a paper that’s due Thursday, I thought I’d write up my (brief) thoughts on John Morrison. He gave a little talk and answered some questions last night for mostly college students over at Columbo’s.

First the shallow stuff. He seems likable enough, spoke well, etc. You’d sort of expect that. His short speech wasn’t bad. It certainly didn’t come off as Republican-lite, like some suggest. Then again, he was speaking to a group of college kids at an event sponsored by MSU College Dems. Anyway, he was asked why we should support him over Jon Tester and his answer was basically that he can raise more money and get support from important people/groups that might not ordinarily support a Senate challenger. He did say he probably agrees with Tester on most things, but it is sort of disappointing that he didn’t point out any real differences between himself and Tester on the ideas side of things.

I’m still a bit disappointed that he didn’t answer Intelligent Discontent‘s questions, like Tester and Richards, but I’m not really holding that against him. There also seems to be a lot more information on the Internet about Tester. That’s also a bit disappointing, but hopefully he’ll rectify it soon.

I look forward to seeing Tester do the same sort of the thing for us. It’s way too early and I’m currently way too uninformed for this to mean much right now, but I am leaning towards Morrison at the moment.

Categories: Montana

Atheists and evolution

February 24, 2006 1 comment

Once again we’re having this debate. Do outspoken atheists hurt the promotion of evolution?

I’m all for atheists being vocal, but I can imagine how it hinders the acceptance of evolution when the two are associated. Some of the objections to saying it hurts seem to be along the lines of it’s unfair to try to make atheists be quiet. That’s not a very useful objection, though it is true.

I have to say, though, I agree with this:

And scurrying to suggest that PZ — or whichever atheist evolutionist is third in the line of succession — tone down his or her remarks is granting victory to the other side. It’s letting the opposition define the terms of engagement.

For the most part, people like Dawkins are not saying that you can’t be a Christian and believe in evolution at the same time. They’re simply outspoken proponents of evolution and atheism, allowing the other side to conflate them. Giving in to that is giving in to dishonesty, which is simply not a useful strategy.

My general position is this: when directly promoting evolution, try to keep the religious talk to a minimum. That applies to Christians and atheists (and whatever else you might be). Have people with a wide range of religious views promote evolution. If someone wants to object about the religious views of some proponent of evolution, point out the people who have a different belief.

Now, that’s basically what’s happening now, I think. I don’t see outspoken atheists as the problem for us. I think our problem is that scientists are not out there enough showing people exactly where creationism is wrong and doing in a fashion that people understand and isn’t off-putting. Solutions to that? I don’t know.

Categories: Religion, Science

Music!

February 24, 2006 Leave a comment

Rapture – [The Silent Stage #02] The Past Nightmares
Anathema – [Alternative 4 #08] Regret
Opeth – [My Arms, Your Hearse #04] Madrigal
In Flames – [Come Clarity #10] Versus Terminus
Blackfield – [Blackfield #09] The Hole in Me
Soilwork – [Stabbing the Drama #09] Fate in Motion
Tool – [Aenima #08] Intermission
Vehemence – [Helping the World to See #01] By Your Bedside
Pain of Salvation – [12:5 #05] Brickwork, Pt. 1: V (Leaving Entropia)
Nevermore – [Dreaming Neon Black #08] The Lotus Eaters

Categories: Music

Failure of the press?

February 23, 2006 1 comment

I have mixed feelings about this column. For the record, I like Dershowitz. I assume you can imagine my feelings about Bennett.

This part is good:

We two come from different political and philosophical perspectives, but on this we agree: Over the past few weeks, the press has betrayed not only its duties but its responsibilities. To our knowledge, only three print newspapers have followed their true calling: the Austin American-Statesman, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the New York Sun. What have they done? They simply printed cartoons that were at the center of widespread turmoil among Muslims over depictions of the prophet Muhammad. These papers did their duty.

I read somewhere that newspapers aren’t publishing David Irving’s comments when reporting about that story, and no one is calling for them to, which is something of a double standard regarding the cartoons. That doesn’t fly, though, seeing as articles have described his writings and quoted previous comments of his. That’s enough for us to understand the story. Cartoons are slightly different. You just don’t get an adequate understanding of a cartoon from someone describing it.

These parts are less than stellar:

The Boston Globe, speaking for many other outlets, editorialized: “[N]ewspapers ought to refrain from publishing offensive caricatures of Mohammed in the name of the ultimate Enlightenment value: tolerance.”

But as for caricatures depicting Jews in the most medievally horrific stereotypes, or Christians as fanatics on any given issue, the mainstream press seems to hold no such value. And in the matter of disclosing classified information in wartime, the press competes for the scoop when it believes the public interest warrants it.

What has happened? To put it simply, radical Islamists have won a war of intimidation. They have cowed the major news media from showing these cartoons. The mainstream press has capitulated to the Islamists — their threats more than their sensibilities. One did not see Catholics claiming the right to mayhem in the wake of the republished depiction of the Virgin Mary covered in cow dung, any more than one saw a rejuvenated Jewish Defense League take to the street or blow up an office when Ariel Sharon was depicted as Hitler or when the Israeli army was depicted as murdering the baby Jesus.

I don’t recall the mainstream press publishing anti-semitic cartoons. Even if they have, we should remember that it’s apparently a tenet of the Islamic faith that Mohammad is not to be depicted graphically. There is no similar prohibition regarding any figure in Christianity or Judaism that I’m aware of. It may be ridiculous to believe that tenet should apply to everyone, Muslim or not, but it seems obvious that it’s a different level of offensiveness than depicting Christians as terrorists. The comparison to depicting Ariel Sharon as Hitler isn’t valid. In my mind, more apt comparisons would be homosexuality or abortion (that one might be iffy, I guess) and Christianity. We’ve seen very ugly rhetoric and violence from Christians on those issues, though not on the scale we’ve seen from the cartoon riots. I can’t think of anything regarding Jews, though. So, while Christians have certainly acted better on the whole, using them as a comparison isn’t all that informative.

When we were attacked on Sept. 11, we knew the main reason for the attack was that Islamists hated our way of life, our virtues, our freedoms. What we never imagined was that the free press — an institution at the heart of those virtues and freedoms — would be among the first to surrender.

I expect that kind of nonsense out of Bennett, not Dershowitz. Eventually, we’re going to start taking suicide terrorism seriously and discard that ridiculous rhetoric about them attacking us because we’re free.

Categories: Civil liberties

50k

February 22, 2006 1 comment

I just passed 50,000 visits this morning. Other blogs may get that in a day, but it’s certainly a lot more than I expected out of this one.

No more posting today, probably; I have a job interview in Helena this afternoon. Hopefully it won’t be too painful.

Categories: Blogging

Quick points

February 21, 2006 1 comment

Bottled water is glorified tap water, but buying it in America doesn’t cause water shortages in India. It’s bottled in several places and you get water from a source in the U.S.

Having high school students read Girl, Interrupted is equivalent to having them read Playboy. I understand immature high school students, but immature parents?

Proselytizing four year-olds? What’s the world coming to?

I’m a bit unsure about this port thing. Off the top of my head, it seems like it’d be easier for a member of al-Qaeda to infiltrate that company, but is it? Deserves some debate. There have already been accusations of racism, so we may not get much of a debate.

“Dissent from Darwin” reaches 500. There are an awful lot of engineers (no offense) on it. I prefer Steves, myself.

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