Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Everybody please post your thoughts on yesterday's class, the Doubt Quiz, etc., and on Goldstein (whose 36 arguments will occupy our next two classes). Propose questions for discussion, depending on which argument(s) your group has delegated to you. Also, any factual questions about Hecht & Goldstein you think would be good candidates for the exam.

Th 19 Goldstein, 36 Arguments (Arguments 1-6 , Cosmological Argument through Argument from the Beauty of Physical Laws; 7-12, Argument from Cosmic Coincidences through Argument from the Hard Problem of Consciousness;  13-18, Argument from the Improbable Self through Argument from Free Will; 19-29, Argument from Personal Purpose through Argument from Human Knowledge of Infinity;  30-36, Argument from Mathematical Reality through Argument from the Abundance of Arguments.
 Again, Group #1 gets arguments 1-6, Group #2 7-12 etc. Critique the critiques...


  1. My first thought on yesterday's class is simply that it was too short! Time really does fly when you're having fun.

    About the quiz...it started so good. The first seven questions are straightforward and unambiguous: do you believe this or not? Answer yes to any of them, and you have at least a tendency towards theism. Answer no to all of them, and you find yourself out of step with the overwhelming majority of religious people in the United States. Simple enough.

    The remainder of the questions seemed to be phrased in order to draw out some uncertainty about the limits of our knowledge about the universe, which has traditionally been religion's stomping ground. The god-of-the-gaps approach has done a *tremendous* amount of heavy lifting in the service of religious belief, and of course still does. But, any honest assessment of the gaps in our knowledge filled by god over the last few thousand years will find that the supernatural is losing the war of explanation.

    If the purpose of questions 8-13 was to highlight the fact that we cannot unequivocally answer every question about our universe with complete certainty, then mission accomplished. To me, however, this misses the point. I see no reason to believe that one or another religion will suddenly be vindicated by our increasing knowledge of the cosmos. Quite the opposite, in fact. I expect them all to be reduced to the authoritative status of a renaissance fair when it comes to scientific questions.

    Could some currently obscured deity be pulling the cosmic strings? Of course. Do I believe this to be the case? Of course not.

  2. I found, with the quiz, that I would have likely answered "no" to most, if not all of the questions. The reason I did not, and ended up labeled an "agnostic" was the word SURE in the "not sure" choice. I'm not "sure". I think that sure is a harder word to define than good. Hell, I'm not sure I am who I am doing what I'm doing right this second. That second being gone, I'm now only sure that I'm not the same as I was when I wrote that last sentence.

    Anyway, I'm an agnostic, according to the quiz, but, I wouldn't be so sure...

  3. The questionnaire is a good starting point. I think the best philosophical exercise would be--in the spirit of Socrates--to examine the reasons WHY one believes their answers to be true and subject them to critical enquiry. Theist or non-theist, I don't think "It's just what I believe." is and acceptable answer in the pursuit of knowledge and deeper understanding of the world around us--especially in the halls of the JUB. We need to stop hitting the dogmatic-slumber button on our epistemological alarm clocks.

  4. "The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction..." (Dawkins continues- http://delightsprings.blogspot.com/2012/01/outrageous.html)

    1. Nothing outrageous there, except in the whitewashing of it by the majority of believers.

  5. Although I haven't any possible exam questions just yet, a discussion one has been on the mind.
    Religions across the globe have their own stories of the past to teach the individual a moral lesson, or of some other monumental point in history that relates back to an omnipotent power..and these 'golden-rule' stories remain important in so many lives today. Yet beside the fact that they raise the question of where you'll spend eternity on a pretty tall pedestal, I haven't seen much else discussed about the future- only examples set centuries ago. Sure, history has a lot to say about our past, but it's also capable of having a few tricks up its sleeves. Our world and the universe are ever-changing; are we missing important 'lessons' about ourselves and what could be? Other worlds, other populations, etc. It's highly probable they're out there-do they wonder the same things? Hm. Maybe I'm just obsessed with planets or something; perhaps my ideas are still bouncing off of my group's talk on black holes, ha so thank you guys. Got my mind reeling and I love it.

  6. @Rachel You should be especially excited with all the new planet discoveries coming out of the Kepler mission, eh? The Drake Equation is looking substantially less bleak these days.

  7. Maybe this will help feed your obsession: Scientists Prepare to Take First-Ever Picture of a Black Hole

    Here's the link and a quote: http://uanews.org/node/44218

    “If we find the black hole’s shadow to be oblate instead of circular, it means Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity must be flawed,” he said. “But even if we find no deviation from general relativity, all these processes will help us understand the fundamental aspects of the theory much better.”

    Your group may already know about his but I thought it would be a good idea to post it for the others.

    We need to inject Lawrence Krauss's book "A Universe from Nothing" when we get into the cosmological argument.