Sunday, April 18, 2010

50 blogs on disbelief - What I Believe

50 Blogs on Disbelief
My thoughts on the book, 50 Voices of Disbelief, Why We Are Athiests, edited by Russell Blackford and Udo Schuklenk. Written as I read them in no particular order. The page number of the essay is provided at the top of each entry.
p. 50 Graham Oppy – “What I Believe”

Okay, this has nothing to do with the radio program of the same name. Instead it is a list of 20 items, sometimes it reads like an essay, sometimes like a list. Some of them build on each other and he says, “given #4 and #5, therefore” and things like that.

The items are about causation, momentum, energy, physical reality, spatio-temporality, etc. Not everyone’s cup of tea. He uses Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity to prove that there is no being in our universe that is either omnipotent or omniscient (since everything is limited by the speed of light, there is no way to have complete knowledge of our vast universe). I was a little disappointed when he gave a proof that it is not possible that a world exists that is identical to ours, except populated by zombies.

He does leave some room for philosophers when he states that, “of course, this is not to say that we already know everything that there is to know about human agency, human freedom, human consciousness, and the like”, well that’s a relief. He builds on some earlier points to rule out that quantum mechanics somehow supports intelligent design, it doesn’t. Mind is not a “ground-level ingredient” of the universe. So, forget about that. It finally gets a little interesting when he says,

“But, of course, it simply does not follow from the fact that there is no underlying meaning to the existence of the universe that the individual lives that people lead are meaningless, and that the sum of the lives that we collectively lead is meaningless

Well, that’s a relief. And it gets better,

“Moreover, the supposition that every possible universe has an entirely physical constitution gives us no reason to suppose that there is nothing to be learned from the ways in which other people in other times have answered the question of how best to live: tradition can be an important source of information and instruction even in universes that have entirely physical constituions.”

I’m starting to really like this guy. He closes with a couple statements about how everything he has said cannot be said with certainity and that he has only offered a framework. He thinks it is a very good framework of course. I can’t really argue with that.


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