a more free will

Physics, chemistry and biology (and culture) seem to set up a kind of bell curve of freedom over the course of any individual human life.  The capacity for self-determination seems to emerge from invisibility, develop, climax, decline and disappear as we journey from zygote, foetus, infant, toddler, adult, mature adult, and finally at death.

The bodily equipment we possess does not provide us with complete and total freedom.  We will never be free to do anything.  Being fully human doesn’t need that anyway, it only needs freedom to do things that embody full humanness.  But at any rate, human nature and human culture have not combined to get us to perfect freedom.  The top of the bell curve may be a bit higher in some lives than others, but it never gets to perfection.

In this context, the question ‘do we have free will’ is easily answered: of course not.  We are slaves – at least to some degree – to all manner of things, both in our nature and in culture.  Processes, limitations, desires, needs, others, etc.

In Christianity, there is the tension between slavery to ‘sin’ and slavery to ‘righteousness’ (or Christ).  The great irony is that the more ‘enslaved’ we are to the latter, the more free and truly human we are.  The more you ‘chain’ yourself (through practicing and creating habits of mind and heart) to, for example, loving others as yourself, the more free you are to be human.  Like all kinds of growth, growing in slavery to Christ is a process.  Freedom, like all other aspects of salvation, is not experienced fully in the here and now.  Every habit created, every neural pathway nudged – and re-nudged, is one more step toward the hope and goal of full freedom in a freed and recreated cosmos.

…because the creation itself also will be delivered from the slavery of corruption into the glorious freedom of the children of God. (Romans 8:21)

dust in the wind?

“All we are is dust in the wind”, said Socrates.

In reading about sin and human nature for my mini-thesis, I’ve dipped into the nature/nurture and determinism/free-will discussions.  I tend to think that the biblical view of humans takes both sides of these conversations quite seriously.  We are limited by our nature/genetics in what we are capable of, and yet we are capable somehow of transcending our current neuro/bio/physio-logical states.

In other words, the biblical view of humans is that we are continually taken from pretty raw material (the dust of the ground) and formed and freed to be human by the Spirit (the breath of life).  Perhaps Socrates would agree.

methodological indifference

I’m beginning to wonder if so-called ‘methodological naturalism’ ought to be critiqued on purely philosophical grounds (i.e. not as a sneaky pre-apologetic move).

It seems that many people (against the evidence) are under the impression that ‘science’ supports naturalism (All-is-Nature) more than it supports theism (Nature caused and sustained by Supernature).  But if our scientific observations are to be truly objective, then we must admit that when we look at any particular thing or set of things (or any particular process or set of processes) in what we call the world, we do not find accompanying labels or name-tags that tell us “Made by YHWH” or “Purely Natural: No God Required”.  One must go beyond the evidence (though not leaving it behind!) to make such statements.  The theist knows she is doing this, though she will rightfully claim that she has followed reason in doing so.  The naturalist, however, seems to not often admit that they ‘go beyond the evidence’ to their Naturalism.  Why is this?  Do they think the world screams “not made by any God at all”?  If so, why?

I (in all my lack of importance for both science and the philosophy of science) propose a new term: methodological indifference!

disability

Some disconnected thoughts re disability:

  • If Dawkins is right that she is blind, pitiless indifference, then Nature knows nothing: in particular, the difference between ability and disability.
  • Nature also does not distinguish between ‘successful’ species and ‘failed’ (extinct) ones; or between anything… this successful species and that successful species… this or that anything… between self and other…
  • Blindness is the disability to see.  As far as Nature is concerned (or not concerned), organisms which can see and survive are not ‘more evolved’ than those who cannot, as if evolution (or Nature) had a mind with intentions and/or goals.
  • Nature has no compassion on or understanding of people with any disability… or people with ‘abilities’
  • Some might hold out hope that all the above is wrong: that a currently unknown part of Nature actually does know, care, and/or have compassion/understanding, etc.  A bit like those who believed (or still do believe) in various kinds of nature-gods. The only difference being that they give them names based on what we know from human experience; oh wait, what name could we ever give to such a thing than that from human experience?  Some just sound ‘scientific’ and others sound ‘superstitious’.
  • In spite of the indifference and unconsciousness of Nature, the language of ‘disability’ is still, however, properly basic.  It is simply true that we (not Nature) can recognise and name not only the various species, but the various abilities (or lack thereof) they have.
  • Is the seeing ability of a (sighted) human a ‘disability’ in comparison to that of, say, a bald eagle?  Why would we restrain disability to being only defined within species?  What about non-living objects?  Are we ‘disabled’ for not being as ‘able’ as a star, which (if our modern theories are correct) are ‘able’ to produce solar systems?
  • Are we all not ‘disabled’ in at least some way?  I find this idea to be quite equalising, humbling and right.
  • I went to a Benny Hinn healing meeting a few years ago, so that my criticism of him would have actual experience behind it.  I despise this kind of prosperity crap, and was enraged at how the machine works, but I particularly angered that those in wheelchairs were utterly ignored the entire time.
  • Our ‘disability’ to love as we have ‘ability’ to (now there’s a juxtaposition if ever there was one) must be humanity’s most debilitating ailment.
  • The Incarnation and Resurrection of Jesus, means, among other things, that (as the cliche goes) God meets us where we are at, namely in our disability and rebellion, and will not leave us there.

unnatural realism

If I had to provide a name for my infantile photography style, it would have to be unnatural realism.

‘Realism’ in the sense that I find myself growing intolerant of hyper-edited shots that look nothing at all like the world.  Over-highlighted, over (or under) exposed and saturated, shadows removed, etc.  All to just make it more ‘exciting’.  I find myself gravitating to the normal, the mundane, the ‘boring’.  I try to capture the wonder of the everyday that we so often skip over so quickly because of our… wait, my busy schedule.

And ‘unnatural’, because I think all photography, like all art, is a startlingly unnatural thing, in the sense that nature doesn’t care what it looks like.  Nature doesn’t say “ooh, this will make a good shot, get this angle…”  To mash C.S. Lewis and Richard Dawkins into one assessment, Nature is a blind, pitiless, indifferent and dumb witch.  Imagine (if you dare) every single angle and distance/zoom combination you could take of a given object in the world.  Now imagine every object in the world – the ones that get attention (i.e. Auckland Skytower), and the ones that don’t (i.e. a simple blade of grass by your sidewalk).  Take it into movies/film.  How boring would a 100 minutes of raw footage from a still camera in my back yard be?  The point?  We cannot overstate how selective we are in what we choose to record, and how we choose to the post-process it.  Insanely unnatural.

Anyway, those are some thoughts that have been rattling around my brain whilst I carry my camera around.

the nature of nature

Most popular level ‘arguments for God’ are based on the ‘art/artisan’ analogy, which is probably dismissed a little to easily at times.  But nature can still quite rightly and easily seen to be God’s creation even if it was not ‘artificiallydesigned.  Artifacts are designed by an artisan, and ‘natural’ things have a mystifying yet lawful and consistent character of having ability to do what they do.  The question is: why is nature like it is?  Even a complete understanding of abiogenesis would still leave the question: how did those things get the power to come together and become living?  Which reminds me of a striking question to put to the so-called ‘design theorists’: Wouldn’t God be smart enough to make a nature that could actually do stuff?

mother nature as killer

The notion is reflected commonly in popular discourse.  Humans wreck the planet and the earth, the universe, or nature ‘fights back’.  Noah’s flood, local or global is nothing compared to what our angry step-mother-nature will do if we don’t change our ways and look after the planet better… Makes an entertaining novel, movie, etc.

Because in our culture, we are quite OK with the idea of nature (which has no personality, intentions or consciousness!) being the judge of humanity; but as for God (who is personal, intentional and omniscient), that is simply not acceptable…

natural law?

There is a division between the thing itself and the laws which govern it.  Unless, of course, one holds that it is self-governed or autonomous (Gk: auto, self; Gk: nomos, law), which seems just as assumptive as claiming it is ruled by an ‘other’.

If nature is governed by laws, then those laws themselves are not themselves the thing they are governing, and are therefore not ‘within’ (Lat: intra) nature.  This could only mean that they are other than, outside of or ‘above’ (Lat: supra) nature.

science & causality

Causality is a scientific question.  We look at the world of nature and uncover mechanisms at work which cause the world to function and appear as it does.

Having said this, when it comes to the philosophical distinction between primary and secondary causes, science not only cannot, but need not know whether its subject – the natural world – is secondary or not.  Science can still uncover natural mechanisms whether the universe is self-caused or ‘other’-caused.

…but then again; technically, the assumption of nature’s regularity (that the same experimental conditions, subjects and controls, etc. will always yield the same experimental result) is a way of being aware of primary causal factors beyond the actual subjects of study themselves.