YOUR HOST: Onward, With A Caveat

Stan, in a prior post, looks at the recursive nature of human thought ('we think about thinking about thinking,' ad infinitum...) as suggestive of the poverty of a strict materialism. Hey, I'll buy that, but I'm not sure it proves what he thinks it proves.

Before I go on, though, I should point out it's been nearly two weeks since this last post and I have to apologize for my silence. In my defense, I preached at my church the previous weekend and had a test in my Wednesday night class this week, so this has been an exceptionally busy last week. Going on....

Anyway, Stan writes:

Since thoughts and speech are predetermined, they are not reflective of any personal volition of the owner. As such, the events have no meaning, either to the owner or the listener, and the results of such thought and speech events should also have no meaning.

I'm just not sure that follows. One could reject a strict materialism (as most philosophers, even atheist ones, do) without necessarily concluding that naturalism was false. Many people recognize that there all sorts of emergent properties which do not lend themselves to a reductive explanation, since knowing what atoms are made of or how they tend to bond does not in itself predict anything about complex phenomena which are produced by an interaction between other complex objects. Living things exhibit apparent design, as in the neural networks that manifest recursive thought, but the engineering metaphor breaks down. A good source to read on this would be John Holland.

Anyway, for the sake of discussion, let's go forward from this point, Stan, as long as you understand that I don't think you've ruled out naturalism with this move.



Good news, and the fight continues, both in the Sunshine State and elsewhere.

Betcha the DI and the 'Expelled' folk wish they'd 'joined forces' sooner so they would've had more time to get their misleading 'Academic Freedom' argument out there. I'd crow more, but a 4-3 approval with a sop to those who murmur 'just a theory' is not entirely compelling.

Still, well done, Florida.



Another Ph.D comic that tells the truth. If you're a teacher, don't click if you're in the middle of grading a bunch of papers. Fortunately, I didn't see this little jewel until after I had decided (after grading) to not count 30 percent of my most recent Chemistry test.


The futurist and inventor Ray Kurzweil is the 21st century's answer to Tesla, with his now semi-annual (and very optimistic) pronouncements on strong AI. Kurzweil, the author of 'The Age of Spiritual Machines', has another one of those pronouncements here.

Despite owning a Kurzweil keyboard, I do not share Mr. Kurzweil's breezy optimism about machine intelligence. If human ability could be simulated by machines, the Kurzweil company would not have had changed hands several times. There is a huge disconnect between the quality of their product and their ability to service and market their product, and that difference, I think, reflects the role of human (rather than machine) intelligence.

By the way, after several years of excellent service, my PC2X is becoming dodgy. But there's no one who services these instruments, officially, in the entire state. And the promised PC3X advertised on Kurzweil's home page, like seemingly every other Kurzweil product, takes forever to reach the market and when it does is not supported by major retailers like Guitar Center. Their products are brilliant. The rest is maddening. I conclude that Kurzweil is a similarly brilliant fellow, whose vision of the big picture is maddeningly at odds with what is out there now.

Kurzweil, interestingly enough, also sees immortality is in the tea leaves, while remaining either indifferent or oblivious to the social and environmental costs of a world in which radical life extension becomes possible.

While I don't share his optimism about immortality, I believe very strongly that life expectancy amongst the privileged is about to escalate dramatically. Cardiovascular disease and cancer are the two biggest killers in North America, but the former can be prevented by lifestyle choices. If we couple superior nutrition and exercise with 'intelligent drugs' that actually purge the body of HDL on a regular basis, we can probably add 20-25 years to the average well-to-do person's life.

Which would be great, if you were one of those well-to-do people.



I'm a Certified Lay Speaker in the United Methodist Church, and from time to time I bring presentations to churches or small groups. This Sunday, in a sort of belated Darwin Day, I brought a message to my home congregation. I won't bore you with the whole thing, but here is a bulleted list of questions that I asked some children as sort of a prelude to the sermon.

Some points for the ‘Children’s Time’:

● The story you heard about Adam, Eve and the snake is sometimes called ‘The Fall’. In the story, Adam and Eve defy God’s will. They do what they’ve been told not to do, and because they’ve broken God’s law, they can no longer stay in the beautiful Garden of Eden. They are kicked out of Paradise, and now they will always struggle. Life is hard! How do you think they feel?

● In the story, God asks Adam why he ate the apple. Who does Adam blame?

● Eve doesn’t take the blame, either. Who did she blame?

● The snake in the story also gets blamed. But if someone you know, someone at school asked you to do something that you knew was wrong, would it be OK to do it as long as you have someone else to blame?

● If we know the difference between right and wrong, we have to accept responsibility for bad choices. Do you think snakes know the difference between right and wrong? Have you ever met a talking snake?

● Here are some different kinds of snakes. Many people don’t like snakes, but I think many of them are beautiful to look at. They come in lots of different sizes and colors. Some live in the desert, some live in the forest. Some are poisonous, and some are not. But, interestingly enough, none of them talk. There don’t seem to be any talking snakes! What holiday did we just celebrate?

● Hearts on Valentine’s Day are a symbol for love and caring for each other. We don’t actually take our hearts out of our chests, all gooshy and beating, and give them to each other. It’s just a symbol. In the same way, the snake in the story of the Fall is a symbol...for temptation.

● It’s important to remember that the story of the Fall is not a history lesson. It’s not a science textbook. It’s a traditional story that tells us something true: human beings make mistakes, and sometimes we do the wrong thing. When that happens, we feel ashamed and separated from God, just like Adam and Eve did.

● But the Bible tells us that there’s more to the story. God didn’t give up on Adam and Eve. In fact, God never gives up on any of us. His love is really greater than any of us can understand. Christians believe that God’s love is bigger than any of our mistakes—which is a good thing, because we make a lot of them. Even when things seem really hopeless, God still loves us. That’s why he sent Jesus, to show us the Way, so that we can know his love and overcome the temptations of this world. You might say that Jesus is God’s way of giving a Valentine to the whole world.