Monday, 20 June 2011

Comments Policy Update

Did you make a comment on a post but you haven't seen it yet? Then you should read the new Comments Policy for this blog.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Mobile formatting is go!

I just turned on the mobile formatting for this blog. If you view it on a mobile device and have troubles with it, leave me a comment so I know whether to persist with the option.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Lennox Lennoxing

I've listened to two lectures delivered by John Lennox, both recorded by The Veritas Forum. Inasmuch as I normally despise apologetics, the titles of the two lectures intrigued me enough to take the time.

Lennox is, without doubt, a proficient and entertaining public speaker. Everything from his accent to his sense of humour to his subject matter make for an engaging talk. I can't help, though, think that these two lectures fell victim to similar problems as those I noticed in a talk by AC Grayling. Both lectures appear to have been preaching to the choir. They had all sorts of little quips in them, each belittling the arguments of his opponents with a lashing of sarcasm. Maybe that's just the way Lennox talks, though.

Most specifically, I wanted him to elaborate on his claim that the mind is more than neurological firings. He didn't, but he asserted it quite strongly. He's clearly opposed to materialism but I haven't yet heard him advocate for a position of idealism in which he explains consciousness or the mind, even in part.

The rest of his argument appears to be working in and around the teleological arguments for the existence of God. Instead of Paley's Watch, he talks about his Aunt's Cake. The arguments are much the same, but seem much more personable focused on a cake than the technical nature of sprockets and gears. It's hard to argue with the kindly old man and his kindlier older aunt over her cake than it is over the stuffy sounding fellow who tripped over a watch in a field.

The next step is to browse some of his books. Perhaps his writing is more revealing than his speaking.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Cultural Superiority

I was once in an argument (let's not insult anyone by calling it a debate) about multiculturalism. I took the position that no culture was really any better than any other, whereas my opponent insisted that there were still barbaric cultures in the world.

I've almost changed my mind.

But let me clarify. I still think that human cultures are flawed - all of them. There are social norms in every culture which are defective and loathsome, no doubt. Do some cultures have more of them than others? Or, more accurately, is the sum total of barbarity greater in some cultures than others? From the perspective of a kind of moral accounting, in which evils are quantified on a cosmic scale, we could actually create such a score card. It would be a kind of anti-utilitarianism. Rather than trying to quantify maximum happiness or satisfaction of preferences, it would be quantifying barbarity or unhappiness or prevention of preferences. Immediately we're left wondering how to quantify various acts or attitudes. Should we rate them on a 1-10 scale? Multiply them by population sizes? The task would have the same troubles as survey research, and then some. It's not impossible, but it has flaws and perspective problems.

Another way of looking at it is (no surprise here) Kierkegaardian. For Kierkegaard, every effort of humanity to build something is always met by a divine "No!" No matter the intent, every human system is flawed and, to paraphrase Romans, "falls short of the glory of God." Whether it's the Danish state church, the Soviet State or the capitalist free market, each and every instance is another attempt by humanity to create a system. Systems always produce hierarchies and these hierarchies mediate access between people and from people to God. Kierkegaard's solution is to insist on the subjectivity of the individual who encounters God without the mediation of systems or hierarchies.

In Kierkegaard's view, it doesn't matter if we can create a moral score card of cultures. What matters is that we recognise that no matter how good those cultures are, they are always an impediment to salvation, as well as the very thing that we need to be saved from.