Saturday, February 26, 2011

Live Action, lying, and natural law

Several people have asked me to comment on the Live Action controversy.  If you’re not familiar with it, Live Action is a pro-life organization founded by activist Lila Rose (pictured at left), which has carried out a number of amateur “sting” operations intended to expose employees of Planned Parenthood as complicit in providing abortions to minors without parental consent and willing to overlook statutory rape and sex trafficking.  Many conservative Catholics have applauded Live Action, but many others have been critical of their deceptive tactics.  I haven’t followed the story closely, and I am rather sick of the topic of lying given the four long posts I devoted to the subject not too long ago (here, here, here, and here).  But my position should be clear from those posts.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Can we make sense of the world?

Is reality intelligible?  Can we make sense of it?  Or is the world at bottom an unintelligible “brute fact” with no explanation?  We can tighten up these questions by distinguishing several senses in which the world might be said to be (or not to be) intelligible.  To make these distinctions is to see that the questions are not susceptible of a simple Yes or No answer.  There are in fact a number of positions one could take on the question of the world’s intelligibility – though they are by no means all equally plausible.

Friday, February 18, 2011

To a louse

O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!

Robert Burns, “To a Louse”

It never ceases to amaze how Richard Dawkins, P. Z. Myers, and their clones in the blogosphere routinely display exactly the sort of ignorance and bigotry of which they haughtily accuse their opponents.  How might one get them to see themselves as others see them?  Perhaps the way Nathan got David to see that he was guilty of adultery and murder.  Let’s give it a try.  If you’re a “New Atheist” type, consider the following hypothetical exchange between a scientist and a science-hating skeptic:

Thursday, February 17, 2011

And boy, are my arms tired…

Just flew in from Spokane, and have been offline for several days.  Regular posting, replying to the usual mountain of emails sitting in my inbox, etc., will resume shortly.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Why are (some) physicists so bad at philosophy?

In his book of reminiscences “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”, Richard Feynman tells the story of a painter who assured him that he could make yellow paint by mixing together red paint and white paint.  Feynman was incredulous.  As an expert in the physics of light, he knew this should not be possible.  But the guy was an expert painter, with years of practical experience.  So, ready to learn something new, Feynman went and got some red paint and white paint.  He watched the painter mix them, but as Feynman expected, all that came out was pink.  Then the painter said that all he needed now was a little yellow paint to “sharpen it up a bit” and then it would be yellow.

I was reminded of this story when I read this foray into philosophy by physics professor Ethan Siegel, which a reader sent me, asking for my reaction.  Do give it a read, though I’ll summarize it for you:  

Arguments for God as cause of the universe rest on the assumption that something can’t come from nothing.  But given the laws of physics, it turns out that something can come from nothing. 

Here was my reaction:

Saturday, February 12, 2011

UFL Conference at Notre Dame

Frank Beckwith informs us that the 21st annual University Faculty for Life conference will be held this year at the University of Notre Dame on June 10-11.  Paper submissions are due April 3.  See Frank’s site for more information.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

TLS at Gonzaga

Readers in the vicinity of Spokane, WA might be interested to know that I will be speaking on February 15 and 16 at the Faith and Reason Institute at Gonzaga University.  The lectures will be based on themes from The Last Superstition.  Details can be found here.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Putnam on causation, intentionality, and Aristotle

For the last three centuries a certain metaphysical picture suggested by Newtonian or Galilean physics has been repeatedly confused with physics itself.  (More recently, metaphysical pictures suggested by biology and by computer science have been confused with those subjects themselves, in much the same way.)  Philosophers who love that picture do not have very much incentive to point out the confusion – if a philosophical picture is taken to be the picture endorsed by science, then attacks on the picture will seem to be attacks on science, and few philosophers will wish to be seen as enemies of science.

Hilary Putnam, Renewing Philosophy (p. 19)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Hot for Hayek

This chick really digs F. A. Hayek.  Too bad for her he’s already got a Companion.

Friday, February 4, 2011

TLS on radio (Updated)

Frank Turek of interviewed me today about The Last Superstition for his radio show.  The show airs Saturday morning from 9 – 10am Central on the American Family Radio network and will be rebroadcast on Sunday morning.  You’ll also be able to hear the podcast at the show’s website.  (You can find links to some of my earlier radio interviews here.)

Update 2/8: The podcast is now up at the website.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Oderberg on natural law

Over at his website, David Oderberg has posted his important recent paper “The Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Law.”  (Bonus: If you scroll to the bottom of the main website, you’ll find video of Oderberg’s presentation of an earlier version of this paper at Catholic University of America back in 2005, followed by a Q&A session.)