Thursday, October 20, 2005

Gilbert Goose, the arrival of a pen pal

One day I was minding my own business, and a person emailed me and said they'd stumbled across a long-dead link of my lectures from the 90s in philosophy. The link worked, apparently restored from a disk reinitialized from our IT department. He said he enjoyed them an wondered if I had other material and if I'd want to enter into some discussion of religious matters. Works as a legal assistant of some sort. Reads widely and seems very intelligent. Too good to pass up, I say! So here I begin, the Gilbert Goose chronicles (not his real name). And thus a letter I've recently sent him:

Gilbert Goose:

0. I'm glad you enjoyed the lectures, and I figured you would move right to the evolution one, as it is a hot topic for Christian intellectuals. You noted correctly that I am well versed in science. This is partially because my Doctoral dissertation was on Split brain patients, and this demanded research in the history of brain development and neural processing. Moreover I teach a class titled, Philosophy of Science on regular rotation with the physics department here. Also I have a background in signal processing and electronics from the military. Finally, I read weekly in general science and do research in what is called 'genetic algorithms' and data mining. So the combination of all of these areas does allow for broad reading in the sciences. I also regularly review for Science and Theology News in the areas of cognitive science and philosophy of mind, so usually I'm up on the more recent developments in the field.

1. As I think I alluded to in the evo. lecture, I am not particularly taken by intelligent design. It too often is a dressed up version the argument from ignorance. Such an argument may assume that since something has not been proven true, it is therefore false. Take for instance this version: it's not been proven (or scientifically supported) that so-n-so complex mechanism could have formed step by step (say in a cell), so it's false that this complexity formed by evolution. There are other versions, but this is the one that get's dressed up most often. We also have no good criteria for detecting design, i.e. we have no mathematical methods for so doing; hence, we are certainly not in a position to detect Grand Design, much less design by You Know Who.

2. As for theology, the whole enterprise is distasteful to me, since it too readily relies on metaphor rather than argument. But I do have positions. Here are a few, which I'm sure you'll find uncontroversial:

2.1. God exists.
2.2. The resurrection, though seemingly crazy relative to our experience, appears the best explanation among contenders for why the Church came into existence early in the first century.
2.3. God created all that is other than God.
2.4. God knows the physical possibilities, indeed ALL the physical possibilities, for what might happen within that creation.
2.5. Freewill is a cooperative effort by humans in the ongoing creation of God.
Those are the things that come immediately to mind. For the sake of inquiry, what would you add to that list concerning yourself, if anything?

3. I'm pretty sure I'm not an advocate of Molinism, as I feel the concept of middle-knowledge is either outright false, or muddled. (middle-knowledge =def. Total knowledge of how any possible free agent would act in any and all circumstances) Note how I alluded to 'physical possibilities' in 2.4. That actually excludes much of what the Molinist position leverages, what I take to be 'counterfactual logical possibilities.' Even so, Molinists differ among themselves regarding the ground for middle knowledge and the doctrines of efficacious grace and predestination. Perhaps this is too much esoteric metaphysics to worry over for the successful living of one's faith.

4. I'm neither liberal nor conservative, and I like what the Libertarians say, though I think that issue of abolishing a personal income tax is absolutely insane. Granted, it could be a whole lot less than what it is, but I have no problem with a personal income tax when the money is spent wisely (e.g. on space exploration and basic research).

5. Here's some off the cuff opinions w/o arguments. Think of these as polite introductory remarks:

  • > William Lane Craig — loves having disciples, and loves being somebody perceived as intellectual and religious.
    > N.T. Wright — hates the things I hate, so that's good. Not so taken by his evidence for certain orthodox doctrines as he is.
    > C.S. Lewis — first author I read upon conversion. nice entry into Christian philosophy.
    > Chesterton — good writer, but overrated as a thinker.
    > Schaeffer — important early influence in my life, but a good program in philosophy soon allows one to outgrow him. I used to like Nancy Drew mysteries when I was a kid, but I've put a way childish things and now watch Law and Order. Same with Schaeffer.
    > Plantinga — smart, respected, looks like Abe Lincoln and might have some version of the epistemology I can live with.
    > Pascal — not overly aware of him, need to reread his biography. Ain't done that since seminary. Used to complain bitterly about his medical ailments to his personal physician, Descartes, the latter of which would kindly and patiently bear the complaints.
    > Peter Kreeft, my wife — don't know these people.
    > Mexican food — when the mood hits.
    > Free audio lectures — I'm a junkie and a user.
    > Good movies — varies with the exact definition of "good".
    > Jesus — whose?
    > Liberal theology — whose?
    > Jesus Seminar guys — very interesting issue here. Much of how one evaluates these guys depends on what the expectation is of the Bible's role in Christian Faith and history.
    > hard Calvinism — Calvinism, like all illegal drugs, is bad in both its 'hard' and 'soft' varieties, both of which I am intimately familiar with.
    > Overly conservative theology — whose?
    > Jesus myth theories — see 'Jesus Seminar guys' above.
    > Acharya S — Had to do a bit of reading here. Something like the dark side of the force which, I take it on your view, has recently started affecting the Jesus Seminar guys.
    > materialism — false on my view.
    > relativism — ditto
    > anti-foundationalism — ditto
    > Word-Faith theology —
    > TBN — the radioactive power source of much Christian stupidity.
    > Lucifer — over-rated, possibly non-existent
    > reality television — see Websters under 'oxymoron'

I'm on fall break until Monday,



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