Presented without comment:
Presented without comment:
PZ has a new post up about a group Atheists for Liberty which proudly announces its embrace of Enlightenment values. Turns out it is a creature of Peter Boghossian, someone whose work I’ve criticized harshly in the past right here on this blog and whose ethics, clearly, are lacking.
Let’s be clear. “Enlightenment values” suck. Sure, Enlightenment philosophers actually move epistemology forward quite a bit. They also provided hugely important arguments for more widespread literacy and education on diverse topics. They developed a contractarianism sufficiently complete to found a country from Hobbes’ proto-contractarianism where “consent of the governed” had more Machiavellian meanings almost entirely limiting it to the practical advice to rulers not to encourage the masses to take up torches and pitchforks because those torches and pitchforks, in addition to being official notice of revocation of consent, were also a bit dangerous to the ruling class.
So, you should read RS for the new post up on the incoherence of TERF philosophy and/or ideology, it’s well done. But I want to single out and emphasize one particular bit. HJ Hornbeck excerpts a Medium article credited to a number of folks1 and proceeds to challenge it on a number of points. While I don’t have more than a few quibbles with what HJ wrote, HJ acknowledges that there is much more that could be challenged than was covered in the Reprobate Spreadsheet analysis. This is a place where a bit more of that challenging will happen.
Here, I want to emphasize a point that HJ made briefly that I believe could use more attention, add a couple of points original to me, and then allow you to get more from HJ’s original analysis. Here is the section I wish to reanalyze, a smaller portion of HJ’s first excerpt2:
the view that the category of ‘woman’ is correctly defined as ‘adult human female’. Biological essentialism is a position about whether certain traits of women are biologically produced by sex category membership. Womanhood itself is not a genetic ‘trait’ and no-one on either side of the dispute thinks it is conceivably biologically produced in the way that, arguably, emotional intelligence or maternal instinct is supposed to be.
So, apparently some folks have known about this for a long time, but I just came across a reference to orca gathering together several members of a pod who then swim, dive, and surge synchronously to produce a wave displacing several tons of water.
Why would they do that? Well, it turns out it’s a good way for orca to wash prey animals who rest on ice floes – mainly seals – off the safety of their floating islands and into the open water where the orca can eat them.
Here’s one video which culminates in three orca using the strategy:
However, there are others. I came across a 45 minute TV program that would be inconvenient to use in demonstrating the tactic. Still if you’re willing to scan through and find it, you can see five orca swimming, diving, & surging synchronously to form a massive wave. While synchronized action isn’t unusual in the animal kingdom (think of birds migrating in V formations or schools of fish turning in near-unison among other things), this involves not only planning, but very possibly also either communicating a plan to one’s companions or, even more spectacularly, a theory of mind where the means to communicate a plan are absent, but other orca recognize what one orca is attempting to achieve in the future, then thinking about how to enhance the success of that other animal’s plan. Thinking from that other animal’s perspective, if that’s what’s happening, is a stupendous intellectual feat.
It would not be the only time one can see theory of mind operating in non-human animals, but the operation of theory of mind is rare.
And yet, the thing that completely disarms me intellectually is the thought that in this instance, the very water in which they swim has probably been rendered into a tool, which would challenge the very definition of the word. Wikipedia’s discussion of tool use by animals has a brief discussion of the difficulties inherent in defining “tool”. The first example they present, though, is sufficient to the point:
The external employment of an unattached or manipulable attached environmental object to alter more efficiently the form, position, or condition of another object, another organism, or the user itself, when the user holds and directly manipulates the tool during or prior to use and is responsible for the proper and effective orientation of the tool.
Is the seawater an “environmental object” or the orca’s environment itself? I’m not sure, but this is an incredible bit of cooperative hunting a raises a great many questions about orca, their intelligence, and even the nature of tool use itself.
I find this completely bizarre.
Jason Thibodeau has a “new” argument against the resurrection over on The Secular Outpost. I say, “new” because even if the argument hasn’t gotten widespread attention before, I cannot possibly imagine that it has not been previously advanced by someone. JT isn’t vouching for this argument per se, but rather he wanted to “present it [there] and solicit the thoughts of the Secular Outpost community”.
What is this grand argument? I copy it verbatim:
(1) God is completely rational.
(2) Any action that God performs is undertaken on the basis of some good reason.
(3) There is no good reason for God to resurrect Jesus from the dead.
(4) God did not resurrect Jesus from the dead.
Premise (1) follows from the fact that God is perfect and (2) is a consequence of (1). Therefore, the soundness of the argument depends on the truth of (3). We can defend (3) by considering possible reasons that God might have for resurrecting Jesus and rejecting them. It is probably impossible to consider all possible factors that might count in favor of God’s resurrecting Jesus. However, that need not undermine the argument. Suppose we are not certain that there is no good reason for God to resurrect Jesus from the dead. We can issue a challenge to any person who believes that God did resurrect Jesus. That challenge would be to provide the good reason for God to resurrect Jesus. In the absence of any such account of God’s reason, we ought to be skeptical that there is such a reason.
So someone from the UK asked me a question about postmodernism’s relationship to metaethics. I probed a little more deeply, and the question ultimately turned on the assertion that postmodernism denies the existence of truth, including moral truth. When that was probed, it turned out that this person had been listening to reporting people had been doing lately on Aleksandr Dugin.
So, I’m terribly tired of the Kalam Cosmological argument, as I imagine are many of you. But I’m particularly tired of people who use the Kalam in the service of a larger argument not merely that the universe is caused, but also that the cause of any universe/multiverse/sum-of-existence must be something timeless.
This idea of a timeless god is, in my opinion, too infrequently and too insufficiently challenged. If people accept the Kalam, they should also accept that anything outside of time is infinitely impotent:
Though the two apologists in the title of this post are both Christians*1, there is a general problem for those asserting knowledge based on religious texts that is frequently a motivation*2 for epistemological inconsistency and even epistemological dishonesty.
The problem is this: all religious texts diverge from reality at multiple points. When this occurs, it becomes obvious that either one must compare text to reality to determine the truth of the text, or compare reality to the text to determine the truth of reality. Sye ten Bruggencate takes the position that reality is to be compared with the text to determine the truth of reality. Where reality differs from text, reality is wrong. Though ten Bruggencate would prefer to phrase this as “we are wrong about reality,” for him there is no evidence, there is nothing about reality that could ever be contradictory of the text. The text is the standard against which all else must be compared.