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Intelligent Darwinism?

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Ron
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75 posted 08-10-2008 09:42 AM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

quote:
If here are a million blades of grass on a green probability suggests that the odds of a golf ball pitched from the edge of the green landing on any particular one of them is roughly a million to one. Common sense however dictates that the ball has to land on one of them which is why this one in a million occurrence isnít necessarily deemed a miracle.

Predicting the ball would land on a blade of grass would, indeed, be no miracle. That's simply an extension of conditional probability (one event leading to another) and set theory (you've included all possibilities in your set). That's not the same thing, however, as consistently predicting which blade of grass would get scrunched.

And one has to wonder, Grinch: What are the odds of that golf ball landing on a particular blade of grass if you have no one there to toss it?

quote:
Letís suppose that life was always going to appear, that it was as inevitable as the golf ball landing on a blade of grass, in that case calculating the probability of life appearing is pointless. It doesnít matter  how high the improbability is, the fact that it happened and the possibility that it was always going to happen makes the calculation useless.

While we're supposing, Grinch, let's further suppose that intelligence is just as inevitable as life. That makes my pocket watch equally inevitable. Calculating the probability of all those little bits of metal and plastic forming into gears and then falling into a configuration to become a timepiece would also be useless -- unless someone came along and started claiming the watch was not the work of intelligent design.

I must say, though, Grinch, your faith in the inevitability of life seems to be remarkably strong.


Grinch
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76 posted 08-10-2008 10:51 AM       View Profile for Grinch   Email Grinch   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Grinch


quote:
That's not the same thing, however, as consistently predicting which blade of grass would get scrunched.


I never said it was Ron nor would I, that would be single step selection - fortunately as Iíve explained evolution uses cumulative selection.

quote:
While we're supposing, Grinch, let's further suppose that intelligence is just as inevitable as life. That makes my pocket watch equally inevitable. Calculating the probability of all those little bits of metal and plastic forming into gears and then falling into a configuration to become a timepiece would also be useless -- unless someone came along and started claiming the watch was not the work of intelligent design.


Paleyís watchmaker argument works well for watches Ron but, as has been proved on numerous occasions, thereís no necessity to posit an intelligent designer when it comes to the diversity of animal life. Natural selection is the only process required.

quote:
I must say, though, Grinch, your faith in the inevitability of life seems to be remarkably strong


Thereís no faith required Ron - life appeared, the evidence is all around us - Iíd put all my quarters on that bet, whatever the odds.

Iíll say it again, probability isnít much use when it comes to the origin of life, because however improbable it is that life appeared we know that it did. Whether it appeared naturally or as a construction of a supernatural god the probability of either is a moot point that doesnít add any weight to either argument.
Essorant
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77 posted 08-10-2008 12:34 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

There is only one position in the solar system where life is most probable, and that is where earth is.  Any planet "caught" in this temperature-zone would eventually be able to afford life.  If you put Venus exactly where Earth is and Earth where Venus is, or put the temperature zone exactly where Venus is, then the weather on Venus would afford life, but the weather on Earth would no longer be able to afford life.  Therefore it is not the planet that foremostly determines life,  but this particular temperature-zone in conjunction with a planet being "caught" in it.  

Stephanos
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78 posted 08-10-2008 12:38 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

quote:
All we can say is that we donít know if William believed in god or not but either way that doesnít have a bearing on my use of his theory of parsimony.


Ockham wrote Theological works.  The uncertainty you propose (of whether he believed in God) is overstated, since he himself plainly professed so.  I'm beginning to doubt whether you believe in Darwin, despite your words.       

But you're right in saying that your use of his theory is allowed either way.  I just wanted to point out the mild irony you have to live with in using it.  After all, its author didn't begin to think that it discredited his own belief in God.  The razor cuts both ways.  An impersonal universe giving rise to amazingly complex life, and multiverse theories explaining exponentially improbable fine tuning, in the economy of Ockham get lopped off in my opinion.

Stephen
Ron
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quote:
Thereís no faith required Ron - life appeared, the evidence is all around us - Iíd put all my quarters on that bet, whatever the odds.

But it's not all around us, Grinch, at least not according to current evidence. It's not on the moon. There's no life on Mars, nor any found on Venus, our two nearest neighbors in the solar system. If there's life outside our system, it sure hasn't contacted us yet. What's with this "all around us" stuff?

Life certainly appeared in this infinitesimal tiny corner of the Universe, Grinch, there's no doubt about that. And, yea, I'll grant you the indomitability of life; once it appeared, it spread to every imaginable corner of the planet. That doesn't make its appearance inevitable. It certainly doesn't seem to have been inevitable any where else in this solar system?

You can still keep your quarters, though.

quote:
Therefore it is not the planet that foremostly determines life,  but this particular temperature-zone in conjunction with a planet being "caught" in it.  

Ah, so there IS life on the moon, Essorant?
Essorant
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80 posted 08-10-2008 01:03 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

I didn't mean there were no exceptions, such as the moon, but that the weather-condition is more determining.  There needs to be an accomodating temperature and weather first, before anything else may be accomodated.  That doesn't mean there aren't exceptions in the accomodating temperature though.  Not everything in the temperature zone brings forth or has life, but the temperature-zone is still what accomodates life most and therefore the planet "caught' in that particular temperaturezone, has conditions of its own that may afford life in response.

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81 posted 08-10-2008 01:29 PM       View Profile for Grinch   Email Grinch   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Grinch

Stephen,

quote:
The uncertainty you propose (of whether he believed in God) is overstated, since he himself plainly professed so.


As I pointed out earlier if faced with being burned at the stake as a heretic Iíd profess my belief until the cows came home, IĎd even sign my name to anything you like to confirm the fact. We donít know whether William believed in god any more than we can know whether Darwin believed in god, so why say this when talking about Darwin:

quote:
I think it could be argued that he was a disgruntled churchman, as it were, during a time when church membership was simply a part of cultural practice, with or without the inward belief. Of course I can't say for sure. There are, however, writings which might support that idea. Needless to say there is controversy surrounding the whole question of Charles Darwin's religious (or non-religious religious) beliefs.


And yet confidently assert this with regard to Ockham:

quote:
Ockham himself was a Franciscan Friar and a believer in God.


Ron,

quote:
What's with this "all around us" stuff?


As we were talking about life on earth Ron I thought my ďall around usĒ statement naturally inferred the target as earth. We could discuss life in other parts of the universe, oddly enough thatís when probability becomes very useful indeed.


Essorant
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82 posted 08-10-2008 02:24 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

When it comes to a larger condition, I will say a life-accomodating weather.  But what exactly within the life-accomodating weather was the specific transition of something nonliving to something living?  What were the specific conditions on earth that led to that transition?   That is something I am not able to answer with much strength.

Stephanos
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83 posted 08-10-2008 04:04 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Grinch:
quote:
As I pointed out earlier if faced with being burned at the stake as a heretic Iíd profess my belief until the cows came home, IĎd even sign my name to anything you like to confirm the fact. We donít know whether William believed in god any more than we can know whether Darwin believed in god ...

Conversion from fear alone may lead to half-hearted compliance, but not to an avid interest in Theology as evidenced by a body of writing.


I am not as familiar with Darwin's own works, though I've read some of "On The Origin of Species ...".  That quote of mine (in context of what we were talking about) had to do with whether Darwin's motives for his naturalistic paradigm were influenced by religion, NOT whether Darwin believed in God.  Did Darwin have an axe to grind with God and/or the Church?  That was what I said I was unsure about, though having my suspicions.

If you want to say that Darwin's theories were definitely tied to his religious (or anti-religious) views, then be my guest.  I was only giving you (who would surely call Darwin's motives more objective and unbiased than I) the benefit of the doubt by stating that it was somewhat speculative either way.  My agnosticism about Darwin was to your advantage, not mine.


The question of whether Ockham believed in God is not so speculative as that, since we have much more source material dealing with God.


Stephen    
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84 posted 08-10-2008 05:13 PM       View Profile for Huan Yi   Email Huan Yi   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Huan Yi

.


Life on Earth
is the miracle of the universe
and we are the miracle
within that miracle.


.
Bob K
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85 posted 08-11-2008 03:58 AM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K



     William of Ockham's getting a bad rap.  He was a believer.  He was excommunicated by, I believe, John XXII.  William's disagreement with the Pope was because William thought that a Catholic could stand up the Pope in matters of doctrine, as was, apparently, the tradition in the earlier church.  He believed that a Pope could be overthrown if He was tyrannical, as could be a King.   Some called him "the first Protestant."  His belief in God was never in question, however.  His views of the Catholic Church were at the time considered conservative, though today they'd be characterized as Liberal.

     Occam's Razoróthe spelling is an alternative oneóis often mischaracterized as saying that the simplest explanation is the best explanation.  As in, if you hear the sound of thundering hooves, it's more reasonable to think "horses!" than "zebras!"

     The actual principle is slightly different, and different in what many would understand to be a significant way.  The actual principle is an injunction not to multiply causes unnecessarily.  This makes much more sense.  The first version is frequently quoted by modern rather than traditional skeptics.  (The distinction being that a traditional skeptic is wisely trained to be skeptical first and foremost of himself and his own positions and thoughts, and then those of other people with almost as passionate a fervor.  The modern skeptic believes in being skeptical of pseudoscience and other people's irrational ideas.  Should anybody be skeptical of my characterization, the editors of, I believe, "The Skeptical Inquirer" print it at the beginning of every issue.  Perhaps it's "The Skeptic.")  

     Therefore it makes perfect sense for A Franciscan Friar to include a postulate including the belief in God along with whatever other minimum requirements would be required to assume the likelihood of horses as the first choice alternative for a sound of thundering hooves in Europe.  For William, though, I suspect God would have always have been one of the causes which could not have been reduced.

     Whether this is in fact true is a different discussion.  But the likelihood that William of Ockham thought it was true is probably  pretty darn high.

Sincerely, BobK.
Stephanos
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86 posted 08-11-2008 09:51 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Thanks Bob, that was what I meant to say.  
oceanvu2
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87 posted 08-14-2008 01:09 AM       View Profile for oceanvu2   Email oceanvu2   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for oceanvu2

All and sundry:  Surprised at the longevity of this thread and the intelligent responses.  Maybe I finally asked an interesting question.  Having gone through all the responses, and again, I've put up questions, not answers, I come back to this from a relatively early reply by Grinch:

"The bottom line, is that the appearance of design is a reality.  It is acknowledged by the staunchest of atheistic evolutionists, such as Richard Dawkins who tells us in his book The Blind Watchmaker, that "biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.".  But the assertion that things developed naturalistically without a guide or designer, is an untestable inference.  Only it is one which is counter-intuitive ... one that requires us to ignore any "appearance of having been designed".  In that sense, it is plainly a religious precommitment, which is apt to stand not in the lack of evidence of the alternative, but in the presence of evidence to the contrary.  That's what religions are expected to do ... to stand strong in dogma.  But to claim that such a non-religious religious belief is scientific, is misleading."

This seems to head toward the heart of the initial questions.  I repost it on the assumption that not everyone will wish to read the entire thread.

I reamain totally wishy-washy, not as bright, but in tune with Richard Dawkins.  I think it is his position that a "creative force" can neither be proved nor disproved. On the other hand, religious dogma of any sect is simply that, stories and rules which help us cope with an uber-notion of inevitable death, and prescrptions for leading a reasonable life in the interim.

Now, the PROBLEM with dogma lies in its abuse.  Dogma, past at least seven of the J/C ten commandments is nonsense foisted on the weak by the powerful in order to keep the powerful powerful and the weak, weak.  Anyone interested in Canonical prouncements, Shi'a/Sunni diversions from the Koran, or the thousands of the pronouncements by the hundreds of Hindu/Bhuddist sects, might wind up asking "What the heck is that all about, and why should we pay any attention to it?"

I certainly don't deny that there are "religious" tenets that are functional, if not god given, but I don't see where we need dogma to tell us how we should cut our hair, attend Mass, wear a burka, subject men or women to circumcision, scarify our bodies with knives, get religious tattos, dunked in a tank of water, or all the other nut-ball stuff that goes on pan-religiously here and around the world.

Well, this turned into more of comment than intended.  I hope it was not ofensive.  I don't CARE what anybody needs to believe in. If it works for them, OK.  Just don't send in the troops.  Or send the troops anyplace else on a mission from God.

Thanks for responding, Jimbeaux
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88 posted 08-14-2008 03:41 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Jim
quote:
I certainly don't deny that there are "religious" tenets that are functional, if not god given, but I don't see where we need dogma to tell us how we should cut our hair, attend Mass, wear a burka, subject men or women to circumcision, scarify our bodies with knives, get religious tattos, dunked in a tank of water, or all the other nut-ball stuff that goes on pan-religiously here and around the world.

Jim, wasn't Jesus speaking of this same observation when he said "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spicesómint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the lawójustice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former" (Matthew 23:13-23)?  

External religious forms ranging from Mass to how long you wear your hair, have to do with a basic human need for ritual.  Other cultures probably understand that need more than Americans since we are the true "melting pot" where such practices tend to get lost in the swirl.  So I would say that these are not necessarily bad things, until they become points of contention, division, or outright warfare.  (Then again how many 'good' things are ruined by our inability to possess them?)  That's probably why Jesus was more concerned that the Pharisees practiced the former in addition, rather than eliminating these practices.  But its no accident that the Jewish ceremonial law became dispensable in the Christian economy of things.  But other things remained universally binding, like loving "the Lord your God with all of your heart soul mind and strength, and your neighbor as yourself".  It's probably better to think of all of the ritualistic "nutball" things as mostly symbolic in nature, pointing to something beyond them.  

But I think there is a challenge for you in Jesus' outlook (which has commonality with yours).  Whereas you tend to make the "seven or so" (which you feel to be more essential) independent of a transcendent spiritual reality, Jesus could only see them as connected to a transcendent personal God.  Your approach might lead someone to ask why dunking in water can be dispensed with, but not the rest?  That was Nietzsche's basic question to everyone.  Why is Christian "morality" so important if God is dead?  If the ethical side is indispensable to anyone, I think it is because they are basking in a secondary radiance.  This "goodness" you acknowledge is not independent.  Nor is it (I would persuade you) merely an existentially blind grasp for significance in the face of coming oblivion.  You're more than an accident.

enjoying the thread,

your friend,

Stephen      
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89 posted 08-14-2008 05:19 PM       View Profile for Grinch   Email Grinch   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Grinch

quote:
William of Ockham's getting a bad rap. He was a believer.



Are sure he was a believer Bob?

Iím not, I didnít know him and donít presume to know the inner workings of his mind, I think he probably believed in god based on what Iíve read of his life but that doesnĎt make it true.

That would be like saying something is irrelevant actual making it irrelevant.

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90 posted 08-14-2008 06:53 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Grinch, all along we've been talking likelihood, not God-like knowledge of his mind.  Thinking (beyond reasonable doubt based on what we do know about him) that he believed in God.  If you yourself think so, then why such protest at my saying so to begin with?

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91 posted 08-15-2008 11:41 AM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K



Dear Stephanos,

          Grinch is twitting me about a discussion I'm having with Brad in another thread, and rightfully so.  I have been taking Brad to task for exactly the point he mentions.

     Grinch, I'm not as certain as I am that gravity will pull a penny to the floor at the bottom of a gravity well; but, like you, after having done some research, the point seems pretty well established.  The level of certainty you're talking about is perhaps achievable, though probably not historically, since we'd have trouble connecting a PET scanner and lie detector set up to somebody already dead.  But even if it wereóa large ifówe would only know that the person believed he was telling the truth, wouldn't we?

     I think what you'd rather have is something on the order of 100% certainty with money back guarantees, as, truth be told, would I.

     The best I can offer here is my assertion that the historical evidence, which is open to your examination as well as my own, indicates pretty overwhelmingly that Bill Believed.  That doesn't make it so, but it requires a strong and well built case to indicate otherwise with any kind of certainty.  Are you willing to offer such a case or information as to where you have clear indication that such a case may exist?

     That seems fair to me; how about you?

     And thank you for the twitting.  It's a signal for me that I'm sounding especially stuffed-shirtish and I need to say that I am never as certain about what I say as the way I sound when I say it, and I'm all too aware of how often I'm wrong.  Which is a lot.  Thanks for putting up with me as well as you do.

Sincerely yours,

Bob Kaven
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quote:
Grinch, all along we've been talking likelihood, not God-like knowledge of his mind. Thinking (beyond reasonable doubt based on what we do know about him) that he believed in God.


Thatís what you may have been thinking Stephen but itís not what you wrote.


quote:
I'm glad you winked when you said it, since Ockham himself was a Franciscan Friar and a believer in God. Don't grab that razor too quickly.


quote:
If you yourself think so, then why such protest at my saying so to begin with?


Because I read what you wrote.

Your argument seemed, at least to me, to be that my use of the razor was invalid based on the fact that Bill believed in god. There are two ways to argue against this, the first is to point out that using the razor isnít dependent on Billís beliefs (which I did). The second was to point out that even if it were it was impossible to prove what Bill really believed with sufficient certainty, which I added as an aside.

There then ensued the pointless argument about whether Bill believed in god.

My position is, and has always been, that he probably did.

Bob,

See above.

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93 posted 08-15-2008 02:52 PM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K



Dear Grinch,

           No, darn it;  I insist the number depends on the size of the freaking pin!  I don't care if you do believe they they can expand and contract to fit any size and can cite relevant scripture.  You haven't looked at the new translations of Plato by that Arab feller, what's-his-name.  And That, my friend, settles That.

Definitively yours,

Bob "The Human Pin Cushion" K
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94 posted 08-15-2008 03:02 PM       View Profile for Grinch   Email Grinch   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Grinch

Bob,

OK, OK, youíve convinced me. I know when IĎm beat - why didnít you just mention that Arab feller in the first place it would have saved a lot of time.



Craig
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95 posted 08-18-2008 04:00 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Grinch:
quote:
My position is, and has always been, that he probably did.

In your paradigm I thought you believed that ALL definitive statements are subject to this kind of probability ... yet you still say them as if certain.

"Will believed in God (beyond all reasonable doubt)".  

I don't think the parentheticals are necessary in this case, do you?

Stephen
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96 posted 08-18-2008 04:03 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos


Bob what thread is it you mentioned regarding you and Brad?

Stephen
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Stephen,

You brought about the questionability of  Billís belief when you tried to use it to counter my reference to Ockhamís razor.

If someone puts forward the notion that the reason we donít fall of the edge of the world is because the earth is a sphere Iím not likely to quibble and raise the fact that the earth isnít actually a sphere because, to all intents and purposes, it doesnít affect the plausibility of the argument.

If someone putís forward the notion that the circumference of the earth is the same distance at the equator as it is while circumnavigating pole to pole because the earth is a  sphere then Iím likely to question the assertion that the earth is a sphere because it affects the plausibility of the argument

Want to guess which category your assertion regarding Billís belief fell into?

quote:
Grinch

Improbable things happen all the time to varying degrees, thereís no evidence or necessity to presume supernatural involvement in any of them.

I think Ockham would have agreed with that.


quote:
Stephen

I'm glad you winked when you said it, since Ockham himself was a Franciscan Friar and a believer in God. Don't grab that razor too quickly.


What you were saying, in essence, is that my use of Ockhamís razor is ineligible because he believed in god, at that point the exact nature of Billís beliefs becomes important because it affects the plausibility of your argument. For the same reason that the spherical nature of the earth is important in my second example above.
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98 posted 08-18-2008 07:13 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Grinch:
quote:
What you were saying, in essence, is that my use of Ockhamís razor is ineligible because he believed in god, at that point the exact nature of Billís beliefs becomes important because it affects the plausibility of your argument. For the same reason that the spherical nature of the earth is important in my second example above.

Actually the totality of my argument does not turn on whether William believed in God or not.  Even if he didn't, explanations of an autonomous formation of order and life over time can be shown susceptible to his razor.  The fact that the astuteness of Ockham included (beyond all reasonable doubt) a belief in God, was simply an irony you must live with.  (don't get me wrong here ... we all live with ironies and tensions, which is why "yea or nay" is always related to faith and loyalty not crystalline knowledge.)  It certainly isn't a knock-down-argument on my part.  


But I would like to point out that you've changed your position somewhat.  At first it was plain to you that Ockham was driven by fear to say he believed in someone or something he didn't.  Subsequently, I pointed out that pretentious professions of faith (based on threat) do not lead to avid interests and passions (as evidenced by his body of writing).  Now you're saying that he "probably believed in God".  

If nothing else, we've had some clarification.


Stephen      
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99 posted 08-19-2008 01:36 AM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K



Dear Guys,

           Near as I can tell, both of you are in pretty substantial agreement.  The points that you're quibbling about, were the wind coming from a different direction and the order of the conversation started slightly differently, could well though not exactly have each been taken by the other because you're both bright and curious folks.

     Both of you know Bill was a believing Franciscan who in fact put his life on the line for the way he   thought people should be treated in the church hierarchy.  He was willing to get excommunicated for doing so at a time when the punishment was worse than the death penalty; even if you weren't a believer, the social consequences alone would have been ruinous.

     Bill actually thought his expansion of Aristotle meant something.  It's fairly clear he thought that God was one of the causes that went without saying, as did most of the people of his time.  Grinch, you've had some English education, haven't you?  In addition to teaching you have to debate, it's also taught you the value of research, so you understand the basics of this are true enough.  If you want to get into the fine details, though, each of you will be able to keep going fruitlessly forever.  You already have enough information to know that you''re both basically correct and that the areas you're grumbling about will need both of you to gather information about together to make any progress on, should the two of you find the subject interesting enough to follow up.  One of you alone probably would be able to do it.

     So what are the areas that the two of you actually want to get more real information on, and where would you get it?  I mean there comes a time when you've got to make a decision between argument and inquiry, guys, if only to find out where you want to take the argument next.  If you're really interested, why not do the research together?

He suggested very cautiously,

Bob K.
 
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