April 19, 2015 § 37 Comments
I’ve been banned from the W4 thread on fractional reserve banking now, so to the relief of many I can get back to my blogging vacation. But for the record, I’ve preserved my two (additional) comments which were deleted. I leave interpretation of events in the thread to readers. I have all versions of the thread saved (up to the point of being banned) to prevent the “memory hole” effect, in case the thread is further “edited”, mainly because I wanted to preserve what I actually said. I’ll just post the full unedited thread somewhere here if more bits of it start disappearing there.
While the combative stuff may be amusing in a juvenile sort of way, the thread does contain quite a few comments from me explaining my perspective on fiat money, inflation, fractional reserve banking, and the like. So if you find those subjects of interest you might want to check it out.
Here are the two deleted comments, for the record:
The government has no special obligation to look after the welfare of citizens …
It is the government’s play thing to destroy as it wishes – as long as it does not engage in usury!
We should play a drinking game where every time Tony puts words in someone else’s mouth, everyone takes a drink. Except we’d all die of alcohol poisoning. Just from his last comment.
Posted by Zippy | April 19, 2015 5:54 PM
April 6, 2015 § 14 Comments
I’m not back, but I didn’t manage to get fully away, as I felt it would be inappropriate to just ignore the discussion in my friend Paul Cella’s kind review of my usury ebook. The discussion there may be of interest to readers of this blog.
Have a wonderful Easter season, y’all!
UPDATE: The discussion (seemingly inevitably) wandered into the domain of currencies, bank deposits, commodities, and the like, despite the irrelevance of theories about those kinds of things to the usury doctrine. My final comment on that (orthogonal to usury) subject is here (discussion starts in the original ebook review and spills over into that thread).
Note again that (even though I am right, hah!) one need not understand those subjects the way I do at all in order to understand what usury is and why usury is both morally wrong and economically destructive.
UPDATE 2: My comments in the second W4 thread are being edited. That is their perogative, but here are the last two in full, for the record:
February 24, 2015 § 8 Comments
The recent usury discussionfest, sparked by a comment thread at the Orthosphere, tossed a bit of a monkey wrench into my plans to take a break from blogging in the fall; so I’ll probably avoid even commenting on other blogs for the next while just to stay out of trouble. That’s an oblique way of letting y’all know I’ll be taking a break from blogging for a bit (and I really mean it this time, honest — so don’t say anything interesting, doggone it!)
For those who stumble upon the blog for the first time, it isn’t really ‘about’ any particular subject or subjects; but our discussions on usury, liberalism, positivism, democracy, torture, and game are probably the most ‘popular’ (or controversial). The first four are personal hobby horses of mine; the latter were more a matter of just going where the discussion leads. Feel free to browse around and make comments: I probably won’t be gone forever, since the sirens always seem to call me back; and the regulars may have something to say even if I don’t.
Speaking of the regulars – and you know who you are – in the words of the Prophet Bilbo Baggins, I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.
February 15, 2015 § 66 Comments
I haven’t written much on the “Intelligent Design versus Aristotlean-Thomism” debate since I became bored out of my mind by it several years ago. But recently I’ve taken it up again, if only out of a sense of masochism. (In reality it was probably because David Oderberg’s book Real Essentialism ended up synced to my newish Kindle Voyage, one thing leading to another — such is the whimsy of life).
The criticism of evolutionary “theory” which goes by the name “intelligent design”, the tip of the spear of which was Michael Behe’s book Darwin’s Black Box, has been subject to consistent and vocal attack by Aristotlean-Thomist critics over the past half decade or so. (It should be said that I have no idea how representative this cadre of vocal critics is of AT in general). This criticism depends crucially on the AT distinction between artifacts and natural objects, the latter which (on the AT metaphysical account) have substantial forms and the former which have merely accidental forms.
All of that can be stipulated without in any way giving rise to a legitimate criticism of Michael Behe’s inference to intelligent agency from the data of microbiology. (There may be plenty of legitimate criticisms; but the AT criticism based on the natural-artifactual distinction isn’t one of them).
Here philosopher and author Edward Feser clarifies his contentions about art versus cultivation in a fairly recent post:
… the distinction Aristotle is getting at here is really the distinction between substantial form and accidental form, and whether something came about through human interference or not is at the end of the day a secondary issue. For there are man-made things that have substantial forms and are thus “natural” in the relevant sense (e.g. new breeds of dog, water synthesized in a lab) and there are things that are not man-made but rather the result of natural processes that are nevertheless not “natural” in the relevant sense but have only an accidental rather than substantial form (e.g. a random pile of stones or dirt, qua pile, that has formed at the bottom of a hill). The usual cases of things with merely accidental forms are man-made, though, so that we tend (wrongly) to regard the man-made as per se “unnatural,” and the usual cases of objects that occur apart from human action are “natural” in the sense of having a substantial form, so that we tend (wrongly) to assimilate what is “natural” in the sense of occurring apart from human action to what is “natural” in the sense of having a substantial form or intrinsic principle of operation.
Whatever one thinks of the distinction between art and cultivation, it is simple enough to reframe Michael Behe’s design inference in a way such that the AT objection collapses on itself and goes away.
Suppose a living thing is found and examined, and it is determined that it is statistically ludicrous to suggest that this living thing occurred in unaided nature: the evidence clearly shows it to be the result of genetic engineering or tinkering by intelligent agents. Think of an apple tree which produces apples with “GMO Red Delicious, by the Secret Agent” embedded in the DNA of the apple. Or a tree that produces chairs. Or a bacteria that eats oil spills.
We may not know who the intelligent agents happen to be: that might remain hidden, a secret. But nevertheless we can tell, as a forensic matter, that they exist(ed) and must have tinkered.
The ID guys observe this ‘signature in the cell’ and infer that the (efficient) causes of the apple tree must include the actions of an intelligent agent. Just as the regular rows of corn in a farm imply a farmer, the signature in the cell implies a signer.
Now we can grant that the ID guys didn’t go out of their way to learn everything about AT metaphysics before studying microbiology, and pre-frame their writing on the design inference – its facticity as deduced from empirical evidence – in such a way as to avoid getting AT knickers in a twist.
But whose job is it to interpret factual claims through the lens of AT metaphysics? Is that the job of empirical fact finders, or is that really the job of AT metaphysicians?
ID (whatever one thinks of its veracity or plausibility as an empirical matter) is first and foremost a factual claim: a claim that the observed properties of life cannot be explained by (the efficient causes of) chance and the laws of physics, and that therefore, as a forensic inference, life could not be here absent the intervention of intelligent agency — not (necessarily), it is true, the creation ex nihilo of God, but the ordinary agency that slams us in the face with a hammer every time we observe human beings make choices.
When confronted with this factual claim, AT metaphysicians have two intellectually honest choices qua AT metaphysicians: they can dispute the factual claim, or they can go to work explaining how the factual claim is explicable through the lens of AT metaphysics.
The vocal AT critics of ID have done neither of these two things.
There were times when I thought they were disputing the factual claim. That can’t be the case though, because if it were the case they would be admitting the empirical falsifiability of their metaphysics.
And they certainly have not attempted to explain the empirical factual claim through the lens of AT metaphysics. Instead they have spent enormous energy arguing that ID is incompatible with AT.
So my conclusion is that they’ve spent years of attack dog articles avoiding the central issue and changing the subject.
February 13, 2015 § 30 Comments
In the comments of the post below I compared the putative theistic personalism of “intelligent design” to the putative anti-realism of quantum mechanics. Perhaps, we might propose, AT critics of ID are just insisting that “God does not play dice!”
But it isn’t as if Einstein could have coherently characterized quantum mechanics itself as intrinsically misguided, to wit:
“[X] is implicitly committed to metaphysical anti-realism, and is therefore a misguided attempt to make sense of reality.”
Replace X with “quantum mechanics” and it is a ludicrous statement. Replace X with “the Copenhagen interpretation” and it is at least arguable. The latter implicitly and explicitly makes much more concrete and specific metaphysical commitments than the former.
“[X] is implicitly committed to theistic personalism*, and is therefore a misguided attempt to make sense of reality.”
Replace X with “the design inference in Darwin’s Black Box” and it is a ludicrous statement (whatever one thinks of the design inference as an empirical matter or theistic personalism as a theological matter). Replace X with “Dembski’s interpretation” or “Torley’s interpretation” and perhaps it isn’t (emphasis on ‘perhaps’: I haven’t read all of the back and forth because it frankly is not relevant to my own interests).
* This could as easily be “a mechanistic conception of nature” rather than “theistic personalism”.
February 12, 2015 § 24 Comments
The big beef with William Paley’s watchmaker argument seems to be that it involves an inference to a watchmaker as opposed to a farmer or cultivator. Watches are artifacts while living things are not, and this (supposedly) invalidates Paley’s argument. I propose the following update to his argument to eliminate this objection:
In [exploring the moon], suppose I pitched my foot against a stone, and were asked how the stone came to be there; I might possibly answer, that, for anything I knew to the contrary, it had lain there forever: nor would it perhaps be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I had found a [crop of rice which, when its DNA was analyzed, revealed the (statistically impossible as random chance) message “Genetically modified by Monsanto for lunar cultivation” in the DNA code], and it should be inquired how the [rice] happened to be in that place; I should hardly think of the answer I had before given, that for anything I knew, the [rice] might have always been there. … There must have existed, at some time, and at some place or other, an [cultivator or cultivators], who formed [the rice] for the purpose which we find it actually to answer; who comprehended its construction, and designed its use. … Every indication of contrivance, every manifestation of design, which existed in the [genetically modified rice], exists in the works of nature; …—William Paley, Natural Theology (1802) [my updates]
February 12, 2015 § 15 Comments
I’ve always been – and still remain – puzzled by the hostility that contemporary Aristotlean-Thomist philosophers exhibit toward so-called ‘intelligent design’ theory. In the comments to an old post by my former blog colleague Ed Feser at What’s Wrong with the World, the possibility of cultivating living things from nonliving – not actually living – materials in the laboratory was addressed by the commenter Brandon:
Both Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas lived in times when spontaneous generation was considered not only possible but common; they thought nature itself created organisms “from non-living raw materials using electrical, mechanical, and chemical processes” — well, electrical would not have been on their list — every single day. That human beings can do the same thing would no more surprise them than that farmers can grow seeds into plants; and thus, naturally, there’s nothing in either of their approaches to nature that rules it out. What it would show is that there is some underlying intrinsic and natural facility for certain things to come together under certain conditions so as to be alive; and art can, of course, take advantage of such natural powers — there’s probably no natural capabilities human art can’t take advantage of, in fact. But, of course, precisely what is required by the hypothetical scenario is that exactly the same natural capabilities be involved in the laboratory case as in nature: what is done in the laboratory is, ex hypothesi, not the building of an artificial simulacrum but the cultivation of a natural organism by selectively accelerating/decelerating/encouraging/discouraging, etc., various processes by which natural organisms already can come about (whether they would actually do so rarely or for the most part makes no difference to the principle).
Basically, as long as the potentialities are there in the actually non-living matter, it isn’t a priori impossible to synthesize life from non-life in the lab. Stated that way it is pretty difficult to disagree: if the potentialities for X aren’t in the raw materials, we can’t build X from those raw materials. My read on it at the time was as follows:
If I understand Brandon’s comment … properly, an A-T philosopher who does not think it impossible to assemble life in a lab [Me today: if this is understood to be a priori impossible, it follows that the philosophy which asserts this a priori impossibility is in principle empirically falsifiable] can distinguish between Creator and Cultivator, if you will; and what ID is attempting to show is that a Cultivator was required to kick-start life. Life as we know it is empirically incapable of kick-starting without, not only a Creator, but a Cultivator. Nothing wrong with that, especially if it is true, and it does create stumbling blocks for the modern materialist.
This subject came up again in the comments to my recent post the other day.
It seems to me that the probabilistic arguments made by ID theorists like Michael Behe, which address the ‘whether they would actually do so rarely’ pivot in Brandon’s parenthetical – whatever one may think of those probabilistic arguments as an empirical matter – should be no more controversial to the AT philosopher than the observation that in order to grow rice on the moon, intelligent agency is required.
So why they be hatin?