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“The tide is turning!” — Nagel and Plantinga at OUP

Passed by and noticed Dr Hunter’s post on Nagel’s forthcoming book.  (And, objectors, Nagel is a serious philosopher of mind, writing in his area of expertise.  As in, author of “What is it like to be a bat?”)

Going to the Oxford University Press [OUP] book page, I noticed another name popping up: Plantinga.

As in, the man who blew away the logical form of the problem of evil.

Passed by my thread on It’s Friday, but Sunday is coming, and saw Axel’s comment. Clipping:

. . . while on the subject of the materialists’ desperation to quash any theistic assumption from scientific consideration, surely the proven precedence of mind over matter in physics points unequivocally to a personal God.

One may want to debate that, but Nagel and Plantinga put their fingers on two sore spots: the failure of evolutionary accounts of mind and the problem of a priori methodological naturalism jiggering the supposedly empirically based explanatory process. As in what materialist objectors have been so desperate to dismiss when raised by design thinkers, for years now. (We need not pause too long on the trifecta fallacy: red herrings –> strawmen –> soak in ad hominems and ignite, choking, clouding and polarising the atmosphere.)

I commented to Axel, and think it is worth sharing as a headlined post:

____________

>>Something is cooking, as we can see from two books at OUP:

Nagel:

Mind and Cosmos
Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False
Thomas Nagel
OUP USA [upcoming Nov 2012]

. . . . In Mind and Cosmos Thomas Nagel argues that the widely accepted world view of materialist naturalism is untenable. The mind-body problem cannot be confined to the relation between animal minds and animal bodies. If materialism cannot accommodate consciousness and other mind-related aspects of reality, then we must abandon a purely materialist understanding of nature in general, extending to biology, evolutionary theory, and cosmology . . . An adequate conception of nature would have to explain the appearance in the universe of materially irreducible conscious minds, as such. No such explanation is available, and the physical sciences, including molecular biology, cannot be expected to provide one.

–> Author of What it is like to be a bat?

–> HT, CH.

Plantinga:

Where the Conflict Really Lies
Science, Religion, and Naturalism
Alvin Plantinga [Feb 2012, sold out]

. . . . Plantinga examines where this conflict is supposed to exist — evolution, evolutionary psychology, analysis of scripture, scientific study of religion — as well as claims by Dan Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Philip Kitcher that evolution and theistic belief cannot co-exist. Plantinga makes a case that their arguments are not only inconclusive but that the supposed conflicts themselves are superficial, due to the methodological naturalism used by science. On the other hand, science can actually offer support to theistic doctrines, and Plantinga uses the notion of biological and cosmological “fine-tuning” in support of this idea. Plantinga argues that we might think about arguments in science and religion in a new way — as different forms of discourse that try to persuade people to look at questions from a perspective such that they can see that something is true. In this way, there is a deep and massive consonance between theism and the scientific enterprise.

–> The guy who decisively answered the logical form of the problem of evil

When you got two philosophers at that level on your case at the same time, in Oxford U Press, that is a serious sign that the tide is shifting decisively.>>

____________

When two heavy-hitters like that weigh in so explicitly, that is a sign that it looks a lot like an early Spring Sunday Morning, just before dawn, North side of Jerusalem, AD 30.

Some ashen-faced guards are heading into Jerusalem, and some women are coming out, bearing burial spices. They hardly notice each other in passing.

The tide is turning. END

 

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8 Responses to “The tide is turning!” — Nagel and Plantinga at OUP

  1. “When two heavy-hitters like that weigh in so explicitly, that is a sign that it looks a lot like an early Spring Sunday Morning, just before dawn, North side of Jerusalem, AD 30.”

    North side of Jerusalem, just before dawn! What a contrast with ‘west of the Pecos, east of the moon’, where you guys had been relegated to by that bunch of know-nothings!

  2. Ah Axel

    Do you notice the conspicuous silence of the objectors?

    Studious avoidance is a significant sign when joined to the weight of the two voices selected above. (You can bet your bottom dollar that if the above could be easily disposed of [even, by strawmannising], we would long since have seen no end of objections.)

    In short, sometimes, silence speaks quite loudly indeed.

    Let me underscore the force of what is on the table by picking up a “famous” Nagel quote, here from Good Reads:

    In speaking of the fear of religion, I don’t mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility toward certain established religions and religious institutions, in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence. Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehoods. I am talking about something much deeper–namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers.

    I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that. [”The Last Word” by Thomas Nagel, Oxford University Press: 1997]

    Notice, OUP again.

    And, here is his reply in Times of London to a scathingly dismissive letter on his commendation of Meyer’s Signature in the Cell as a highly significant book:

    Sir, – Stephen Fletcher objects to my recommending Stephen C. Meyer’s Signature in the Cell in Books of the Year. Fletcher’s statement that “It is hard to imagine a worse book” suggests that he has read it. If he has, he knows that it includes a chapter on “The RNA World” which describes that hypothesis for the origin of DNA at least as fully as the Wikipedia article that Fletcher recommends. Meyer discusses this and other proposals about the chemical precursors of DNA, and argues that they all pose similar problems about how the process could have got started.

    The tone of Fletcher’s letter exemplifies the widespread intolerance of any challenge to the dogma that everything in the world must be ultimately explainable by chemistry and physics. There are reasons to doubt this that have nothing to do with theism, beginning with the apparent physical irreducibility of consciousness. [--> Notice this] Doubts about reductive explanations of the origin of life also do not depend on theism. Since I am not tempted to believe in God, I do not draw Meyer’s conclusions, but the problems he poses lend support to the view that physics is not the theory of everything, and that more attention should be given to the possibility of an expanded conception of the natural order.

    THOMAS NAGEL
    29 Washington Square, New York 10011 [Read the exchange at the TLS site, here.]

    In short, we have here one of the most eminent Christian Philosophers (Plantinga) and a plainly Atheist one (Nagel) at the same time in the press of one of the top ten most prestigious Universities in the world — some would say one of the top two, Oxford and Cambridge — both weighing in and saying that design thought ought to be taken seriously and in a positive sense.

    Those women walking out of Jerusalem with spices for a judicially murdered prophet — “How long will they kill our prophets while we stand aside and look? . . . ” [Bob Marley, Redemption Songs] — and wondering who is going to open the tomb for them so they can do one last duty of mourning for the preacher who meant so much to them and delivered them from so much, haven’t got a clue what is about to hit them!

    But, they are about to walk into one of the pivotal moments in history, and it is going to change the course of humanity.

    For the good.

    KF

  3. Thanks, kairosfocus; a very uplifting post from start to finish. But, especially, the finish…!

    It’s this disregard for logic when it leads where they would rather not go, that gets me. “Quo vadis?” A better man than them or any of us, was reluctant to follow the truth into pain, I suppose.

    However, in a court of law, the argument for theism arising from the centrality of the observer, the precedence of mind over matter, and other findings of more or less modern physics – some of it actually almost 100 years old – would be considered not ‘persuasive’, but ‘binding’, since the logic of the mathematics takes no bye-roads or detours.

    The only agency able to design this ‘centrality of the observer’ set-up must be omnipotent and clearly also personal.

  4. As for their silence speaking louder than words, yes, and routinely changing the subject comes to them very naturally. Reminds me a bit of Question Time; how Dimblebee swiftly moves on when someone raises a contentious point concerning our imperial, Americo-Anglo geopolitics, for example.

    Audience member:

    “If the Americans invaded Grenada to save its people from tyranny (of the Communist persuasion), why didn’t they invade Haiti and replace Papa or Baby Doc?”

    Dimblebee, swiftly moving on: “Yes, you, the gentleman in the grey pullover.”

    Of which, I was reminded by the joke: “Doctor, Doctor. People keep ignoring me..” Doctor: “Next!” Life at the margins, eh!

  5. Hi Axel

    The silence seems to be continuing. Meanwhile the hit count continues to climb.

    On Grenada, the situation had reached a crisis, with Hudson Austin and Bernard Coard et al — who had been advised by J’can Communist leader Trevor Monroe — leading a coup against the radical but populist and far less extremist Maurice Bishop, ~ 4 1/2 years after he had himself become PM through a coup against the eccentric Eric Gairy. 140+ people had been killed by the Coup faction at a public protest that tried to release Bishop from arrest, and a 24/7 shoot on sight curfew had been put in place. Bishop and several other leaders were massacred, and the location of their bodies has never been acknowledged or discovered.

    BTW, the Coup leaders were tried and gaoled, several being sentenced to death for murder. When appeals were exhausted, the portable gallows was brought to Grenada and a hangman brought in with it. The democratically elected post-Coup prime minister, leading the restored constitutional government decided that he had no stomach for such mass hangings and commuted to life in gaol. Last I heard, Phyllis Coard, wife of Bernard, and a Jamaican radical, was on medical leave from prison in Jamaica, dealing with I think it is cancer. I think, too, she has written a book.

    That is the context in which CARICOM worked with the US to intervene in 1983. The majority of resistance came from 600 Cuban “construction workers” organised in obviously military fashion. We heard in Jamaica, later on, that one of the multitude of Cuban advisors who had come to Jamaica under the radical socialist Michael Manley’s government in the 1970′s, who was a neighbour, was one of those who died in Grenada.

    I took a far more serious view of the coup when I met, 3 years later, in UWI Cave Hill, a Christian student leader who told me how he had been on an execution list and was alive because of the intervention. He was listed because, as a teacher, he had not gone along with the ideologisation of education and the bringing in of foreign Communist staff.

    Years later, many of the Coup participants in gaol, were still hard line communists who saw their actions as ideologically correct. I suspect, that the family of Bishop, who still do not have a grave for their father, would disagree.

    When fairly similar circumstances obtained in Haiti, in the 1990′s and again some years ago, there was intervention. Intervention was resented and has been sharply derided in the international media.

    Of course about 80 years ago, the US went into Haiti and was there for 20+ years. That has been resented as an imperialist adventure. Some of the backdrop for that was the French imposition of a massive payment after the revolution whereby the Haitians had to pay France for the lost property value, including heir value as slaves, based on an agreement made under the guns of 17 French warships. Which means too that the British were complicit, as there is no way that a French fleet of that size would be permitted in Caribbean waters so soon after the Napoleonic wars without British tacit support. And indeed the British had in effect co-operated with the French in the context of opposing the slave uprising in Haiti, even while the Napoleonic wars were ongoing.

    This is the context of the crippling debt that started deforestation of Haiti [they cut down the first growth Mahogany to help pay it: think, 7-foot diameter logs of fine grained straight, aromatic glowing reddish brown wood capable of taking smooth, mirror finish polish and fine detailing, maybe 15+ ft long], of the indebtedness that lasted well into C20, and the post Earthquake request for US$ 21 billion reparations, the current value of a reasonable slice of what was forced on them.

    In short, there is a reason why Haiti is a notoriously failed state, and it is not just internal incompetence and corruption.

    There are indeed some serious sins of Christendom to account for and expiate.

    When it comes to the underlying current ME etc conflict, I would suggest that Blair came from a traditional anti-colonialist party, and Bush 43 was intent on being an education president when WW IV caught up with them. (Remember how he was in FL reading a story about a Goat to a primary school class when the news of the attack came?)

    We must not ever underestimate the determination of the IslamISTS to reinstate the caliphate and how they look to global hegemony in this century. They eschatologically expect mahdi to emerge from the direction of Khorasan at the head of the black flag invincible army that will subjugate the ME, will defeat and slaughter the Jews — hence the gharqad tree hadith in Hamas’ covenant Clause 7 — then set up rule in Jerusalem, in effect leading a global IslamIST revolution as the final Caliph before the end of days. Somewhere in that process he will hook up with Prophet Isa, a version on Jesus. They will jointly establish global Islamic rule, suppress Christianity (converting Christians to Muslims, perhaps with the aid of predicted archeological findings and texts), eliminate Judaism, kill all pigs, and this will then lead on to the end of days.

    This is a crude sketch in outline of IslamiST eschatology.

    That sets the context in which Iran sees itself as the vanguard of Mahdi, and is determined to acquire nukes to arm the Black Flag army. Khorasan is E Iran and east thereof. So it is unsurprising that Al Qaeda and the Taliban have appealed to this sort of apocalyptic sentiment.

    I see a wild and bloody ride for the ME and the wider world in the days ahead.

    And, a great many people are determined not to see what is staring us in the face.

    Which is nothing new, if you know history, e.g. that of the 1930′s.

    The problem we have is to arrive at a fair and balanced view, given the way the spin doctors have been distorting reality in service to various agendas.

    Christendom has its sins, that is the common lot of humanity and civilisations. The issue is not perfection or to compare an ideal with the messy realities of any state or history or movement. Reality cannot match perfection given human finitude, fallibility, fallenness and too often ill-will. But, we are capable of repentance and reformation that can help change cultures for the good.

    That is what we need to look at for our time, and on the design issue, we have ideological imposition on and corruption of science to correct.

    Which is the point of the remarks by the two eminent philosophers.

    The tide is turning, but the question is, whose report will we believe, why: the women coming back from the tomb in a basically incoherent state of mingled amazement, joy and fear, or the bribed guards spending serious money in the equivalent of the Caribbean’s rum shops and their sponsors.

    I believe the women.

    KF

  6. You have the encyclopaedic mind of a polymath, kairosfocus – and a beautiful sense of wonder – to soothe the mind of the reader, just as he’s beginning to feel a cerebral overload.

    We’ll get’em!

  7. Axel

    The kind words are appreciated.

    I should explain a bit why I know a bit about the above things:

    a: The Grenada [Pron GREN-AY-DAH, first A as in A-pril] revolution story played out across my days as a Uni student, undergrad and early post grad. I remember wading across rain-flood waters barefoot on the UWI campus, to get the first newsmags on the Invasion.

    b: It was also the key test case of a communist revolution in the Anglophone Caribbean. Its playout was the darling of the progressives, and so of great interest to those of us who were not enamoured of Communism or radicalism. I assure you there were some serious spin games de-spun in the summary I just gave you, which is also backed up with personal discussions with Grenadians who knew facts that were not in the news.

    c: Haiti is a 200+ year Caribbean sad story. Here is my post-quake discussion proposal for doing something real to help Haiti.

    d: The islamISM issue is of course a currently playing out global issue and challenge, again one heavily spun by a plainly irresponsible media. I have given my in a nutshell overview of the relevant parts of the matter.

    e: The sins of Christendom issue is a major point of contention in our civilisation today, being one of the wedge issues pushed by the new Atheists, which allows them to distract attention from what radical secularist and secularist-neopagan regimes did to liberty and to people unfortunate enough to live under their domination over the past 100 years. (Ever noticed how there is the standard talking point about how if you challenge the want of an objective basis for morality in evolutionary materialism, you will predictably be smeared as claiming or implying that all atheists are wicked? In fact, all PEOPLE face the moral hazard of being human, that is why it is so vital for us to have a coherent and sound basis for moral thought and action in our lives, institutions and communities, which is why ideologies that undermine same find it so hard to restrain those who would let loose the war-dogs of nihilism.) Every educated Christian needs to know something about such and how to respond, cf the just linked.

    f: I am of course an educated Christian. So, the Easter story is part of my bones, including the subtleties of how this was playing out against a revolutionary ferment in light of expectations of the liberating Davidic King. Cf how I have handled this in the context of eschatology here on in context.

    g: All of this is of course backdrop against which I address the design theory issue. And, since I saw how Communism fell apart, live, it gives me a different feel for how things are playing out with the Design theory culture wars. I know how radicals operate, and I know how establishments and communities gone bad operate.

    I hope this helps.

    KF

  8. Did anything come of your Schools of Hope proposal for Haiti, Kairos? It seemed very imaginative and detailed to this layman.

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