Skip to comments.Announcing a New Book by Alamo-Girl and betty boop [Update at #329]
Posted on 11/13/2006 7:34:14 PM PST by betty boop
Table of Contents
The so-called Cartesian SplitAppendix
What is all that there is?
Pure, blind chance?
First reality and second realities
What is knowledge?
Does science have it in for God?
Is Intelligent Design science?
What is matter?
What lies at the beginning of all that there is?
Aristotles Four Causes
What is randomness?
First Adam, Second Adam
Is science killing the soul?
The Public Square: a values-neutral zone?
What is science?
What is the universe?
What is life?
What is reality?
Nuts and Bolts* * * * * * *
Numbers Big and SmallMyths and Speculations
Combinatorics, Probability Theory, and the Observer Problem
Shannon Information and Complex Systems Theory
On Complementarity: A Tale of Two Friends
Cosmology Ancient and Modern
The Metaxy: Platos Model of Psyche
The Condicio Humana
On Liberty and Human Dignity
For the past year-and-a-half, Alamo-Girl and I have been collaborating on a book about Western culture, which we recently completed. The book, titled Dont Let Science Get You Down, Timothy: A Lighthearted (But Deadly Serious) Dialogue on Science, Faith, and Culture, is written for the intelligent generalist reader interested in informing him/herself about key issues in the on-going culture war.
Indeed, the culture war seems to have come to FreeRepublic in recent times, with a huge blow-up on certain science threads. The allegation raised in this case was that FR is anti-science. Alamo-Girl and I both firmly believe that nothing could be further from the truth. It seems to us that FR is anti-abuse of science. A case can be made that certain popular scientists use their trade as a vehicle to promote a social- and political-change agenda. It seems clear they thus depart from the practice of science.
An excerpt from the Authors Foreword will indicate our overarching theme, the subject matter, and our reasons for writing Timothy:
Western civilization is the unique product of an astonishing synthesis of faith and reason. The roots of Western order can be traced back to three historical cities: Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome. Each of these cites in its time of maximum flourishing was the scene of tremendous spiritual and intellectual outbursts that transformed the world of their day, and which continue to shape the Western mind in modern times. Indeed, their lasting influence is unparalleled in human history, giving rise to the magnificent achievements of systematic science, of advanced modern technology; of the flourishing of the arts and literature, of philosophy and theology, of political theory; and of widespread economic prosperity.
Consider the experience of the United States of America. The United States is unique in the historical community of nations because it is the only sovereign nation whose founding was sui generis: self-created in a single act. This act was the ratification of the United States Constitution, completed on June 21, 1788.
The Framers of the Constitution believed they had faith that their construction was eminently reasonable. You can see that in the constitutional architecture they designed, evident in the separation and balance of powers, of the ubiquitous checks and balances built into the system, so to disperse the consolidation of lawless power over a people who would be free. They had such confidence in their idea of ordered liberty that it is now fashionable to regard them as children of the Enlightenment.
This characterization is fair but incomplete. What is frequently overlooked in our own day is the fact, made plain in the Declaration of Independence, that the Framers were the brilliant inheritors of a tradition far older than that of the Enlightenment philosophes of 18th-century Europe which was a spiritual outburst, too, though evidently of a different sort. For the philosophes seem to have been dedicated to the project of moving the universe from a God-centered to a man-centered conceptual framework.
For the Framers, human reason itself was understood as a gift of God. Such men as Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, Jay, Hamilton et al. believed that God is the Creator of the universe, and of man; and that God made man imago Dei, in his image; that is, possessing reason and free will as his natural birthright. On this understanding the Framers believed that the human person is innately endowed with certain inalienable rights preeminently life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that may not be violated, abridged, nor tampered with by any other man or temporal authority with impunity. The heritage of Jerusalem and Athens Judeo-Christian theology, together with its appropriation and synthesis of classical metaphysics is the philosophical rock on which the Constitution was built.
The Framers and their generation were also people of faith. It took a whole lot of sheer faith to forge a new nation conceived in Liberty, one dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal because they are all equally the children of God.
And thus the idea of a dynamic rule of law of, by, and for a sovereign people under a system of equal justice for all men, not an arbitrary rule of kings exercising their authority over other (unequal) men by divine right, was born.
The Framers and the educated public of their time were people of faith and reason. By their time reason had been definitively formed from ancient and classical sources, preeminently by classical Greek philosophy, principally by Plato and Aristotle.
Plato and Aristotle set the very foundations of modern science, from roughly the fourth century before the coming of Christ. Before them such notable pre-Socratic natural philosophers as Democritus and Heraclitus were already speculating about some of the greatest questions of science that are still being investigated today; i.e., atomic theory and thermodynamics respectively.
Educated people of the time of the American founding resonated to other sublime sources from the ancient world as well, that is to the Holy Scriptures above all, and also to the great epics, myths, tragedies, and histories (Israelite, Greek, and Roman) whose essential concern was ever the human person and his condition, understood as universal to all men and women of all times.
Rome early in its history was organized according to republican principles, and flourished. Yet historically literate Americans of the founding period well understood how fragile republics can be, when their people fail to uphold the norms, values, and ethics that conduce to the republican ideal and thus to human liberty: When these fail, tyranny must follow. Rome and Athens, too are the classical object lessons of how great societies, great human cultures, great political orders, fail and fall, with all the disorder that inevitably follows in the human sphere when such catastrophes occur.
The Framers in their time were vitally attentive to new developments in philosophy and science then breaking in Europe. Indeed, Benjamin Franklin was regarded in Europe as well as America as one of the leading scientists of his day. Still one imagines these gentlemen might have taken the following observation of the brilliant French mathematician Marquis Pierre-Simon de Laplace (17491827) with a grain of salt:
Given for one instant an intelligence which could comprehend all the forces by which nature is animated and the respective positions of the beings which compose it, if moreover this intelligence were vast enough to submit these data to analysis to it nothing would be uncertain, and the future as the past would be present to its eyes.The Framers to a man might have thought: This Laplace desires to ascend to the very throne of God himself. For the observer he describes must be divine to instantaneously comprehend all the forces by which nature is animated and the respective positions of the beings which compose it, let alone possess an intellect vast enough to submit all such data to analysis.
The Framers, however, well understood that men were men, flawed mortals not angels, let alone omniscient gods. They believed, in the full light of reason, in the dignity and sanctity of the individual, and that a rule of equal justice under divine law is indispensable to the thriving of free human beings, and to the free political and social communities and institutions that free human beings are enabled to form together for the common good.
Evidently Laplace believed that once the human mind was freed of superstition, then human knowledge could become exact, objective, and thus certain. Yet in order for there to be certainty of human knowledge, it would be necessary for the human observer to magically detach himself from his necessary condition as part and participant in the universal whole, so to find some Archimedean point outside the universe from which to view the totality of all that exists as if he were completely independent of it. In effect such an observer, or intelligence, would have to escape the constraints of four-dimensional space-time entirely in order to occupy such a vantage point.
But such a goal must be unmet, for it is strictly impossible: We never can step outside the universe so to view it entire in all its contingent, ceaseless flux. Furthermore, the operations of the human mind itself are irremovable participating events in the structure that we observe.
Laplaces model of the universe was mechanistic, a clockwork universe. He took his cues from Newtonian mechanics, but apparently thought that Sir Isaac Newtons theological speculations were irrelevant to problems in science. This in all likelihood was simply an unwarranted dismissal on Laplaces part, of things that werent relevant for him, given his aims.
Newton himself evidently thought that the physical laws were elucidations of divine intent with respect to creation: It was this belief that principally motivated his search for the fundamental physical laws. Later he worried about increases in natural disorder occasioned by the regular operation of the mechanical laws he had discovered, thinking that God might have to step in every now and then to set things aright again in the natural world. Newtons reveries on these matters seemingly are not recalled in modern scientific textbooks.
Unfortunately, it seems the roots of Western and American civilizational order are not much taught in any systematic way these days, neither in the taxpayer-funded public schools nor in the colleges and universities. Instead, it seems a Laplacean style of thought logical positivism is relentlessly promulgated, which seeks to rationalize all of nature by presuming it to be wholly physical and mechanistic, thereby draining it of metaphysical or spiritual extensions or implications. In this way it is thought that science can attain complete objectivity.
And yet as Dean Overman has pointed out, complete objectivity in science is an illusion. To say that all of nature is reducible to accidental material causes is itself a metaphysical or spiritual statement, belief in which is in essence an act of faith. Yet this is a statement that must be made, if we are to dispense with what Laplace called the God hypothesis, of which he confidently claimed he had no need at all: Reason, logic, and the materialist presupposition are all that is required to unlock the secrets of nature.
But as noted, this is a faith statement, not a scientific one. A practical question instantly arises: If the universe is material and essentially accidental in its origin and evolution, then how do we account for logic and reason? If logical thinking is an accident, then how can we depend on it to be trustworthy? And if logic is not trustworthy, then how can we regard science itself as trustworthy, since it is preeminently a grand edifice raised on the foundations of logic and reason?
What Laplaces methodology mainly boils down to is the denigration of faith, the assertion that it be regarded as an obstacle on the path of valid knowledge. As if faith and reason could ever really be separated: Indeed, Laplace couldnt separate them even in his own case.
Thus we think that faith and reason ought best to be understood as mutually complementary, not as mutually exclusive. This understanding is the fundamental thesis of this book.
We chose to use the dialogue form for the main narrative, because that allows different characters with different perspectives to come on stage and argue with each other. We like that sort of thing ourselves. We have four characters in the main narrative, each expressing his/her own experience, expertise, and point of view. Our hope is that the reader will regard himself as the fifth member of this dialogue.
None of the issues addressed by the characters is settled as far as we can see not in science, nor in philosophy, nor in cosmology. So we dont tell truths here, we dont propose final answers to the questions broached in these pages. We are not system builders by any far stretch of the imagination. Rather, we prefer to point out certain things we have noticed that seem of critical importance to us, invite the reader to go look, and then make up his/her own mind. It seems to us the greatest questions about the universe and of mans place in it are ever open questions. For the truth of reality is never a final possession of mankind, but an ever-ongoing, human quest of millennial duration (so far). Your own insights into these questions help constitute the record of that quest.
* * * * * * *
Anyhoot, the book is done; now all we have to do is figure out how to get it into the hands of interested readers. Were working on it!
Before closing, we want to mention that we had two splendid contributions from our dear friend and fellow FReeper, marron: the Appendix article On Liberty and Human Dignity, and the Afterword. These are works of deep penetration, intelligence, humanity, and magnanimous spirit. Simply put, they are beautiful. We are so grateful to marron for allowing us to include them in our book. Thank you, dear friend!
And thank you, dearest Alamo-Girl, for making all of this possible in the first place.
Congratulations to you both.
I can't wait to get my copy!
FreeRepublic is one of the most influential and diverse web sites on the Internet, in which lively, well-informed discussions of science, philosophy, religion, and culture all flourish, every day. Well miss the contributions of our departed friends.
Others were banned. Long-time FReepers have seen this before. The last major eruption of this sort was followed by an exodus of Young-Earth-Creationists.
In both cases, disaffected FReepers left and established alternative websites, from which they lobbed disparaging attacks on FR at will DesignedUniverse, and Darwin Central respectively, both of which seemingly draw audiences of the like-minded only. In any case, we trust that folks eventually realize that it is unwise policy to burn your bridges behind you.
In any case, no one can say that Jim Robinson isnt fair-minded and even-handed. The DU cases ought to be proof enough that he doesnt target Darwinists or methodological naturalists for his displeasure. It seems clear to me that almost all points of view are welcome here, provided people behave themselves in civilized manner, and do not undermine the purpose for which this wonderful Forum exists: the defense of our free republic, of our national sovereignty, and of our American way of life.
It hardly needs saying that we were delighted to discover how very much Jims comments anticipate our own analysis of the current cultural situation, as we document it in Timothy in a lighthearted but deadly serious way.
Congratulations on completing such a work!
Seems I'll have to check into this book...
When and where can I buy my copy?
Well, I've GOT to get this -- you two are among my all-time favorite FReepers.
Looks like an interesting book!
Now you've gone and done it, watch the Eastern Rite Catholics come out of the woodwork for weeks. Whaddabout Antioch, Alexandria, and Constantinople, what are they, chopped liver?
Congrats on the new book!
Congratulations and thanks for letting me know. Keep us posted on where to find copies.
Congratulations to both of you!!
My highest regards to both of you.
Congratulations, it looks good.
Well, I have to second that. Please put me on your list when you get a publisher. (But I respectively ask no other lists. I am overloaded now with obligations.) The subject of your book sounds like something I am very concerned about.
It sounds like a good read.
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