19 January 2012

The trouble with Michael Ruse

Michael Ruse, a philosopher from Florida State University, is known for his efforts in trying to compromise christianity and evolutionary theory. He describes himself both as an atheist and agnostic. But he likes to keep the other side happy. Many people claim that his knowledge is insufficient and his arguments confused. Here is an example (Ruse defends adaptationism), and here is another (Ruse on the nature of morality).

But one does not need to go to great philosophical depths to realize that Ruse's views are flawed. For very simple reasons. Let me explain one. Look at this 6.5 minute video where Ruse describes what he thinks is the trouble with Richard Dawkins. He says that Dawkins is too simplistic and that he spends no time in trying to understand how christians think. "Come on", says Ruse, "no Christian really believes in the old testament literally. The god of the old testament may very well be an ethnic cleanser, as Dawkins points out, but learned christians (St Thomas) would never consider this seriously. If you find a christian who wants to sacrifice his child because god told him so then you would take him to a psychiatrist".

Now, all that is true. I think (and hope) that only a very small minority of christians (and jews and muslims) would take all aspects of the Bible literally. But, in this case, I'd like to ask Michael Ruse, why has the Bible (or the offending parts of it) not been banned yet by the religious folk, the church, the Rabbis, etc? At which point of time has any religious leader stood up to say that parts of these texts contain gruesome, unethical, disturbing stories and, implicitly or explicitly, suggestions? If nobody believes in them or if they are not taken seriously, then they should be removed.

But last time I went into a church (a Presbyterian church to be precise), I looked in the Bible, turned to my favourite Deuteronomy and saw that the gruesome parts were still there.

Yes, nowdays, christians do not behave in the same way they did 400 hundred years ago. I can say and teach Newton's mechanics and their consequences for the motion of celestial rocks (planets, ...), without fearing that I will be burned. There have been changes, thank god [sic]. But these changes were not changes that were initiated by the church. Rather, they were natural consequences of the way people live nowadays. Church had to accept the changes, but it was not its choice.

So, this is the trouble with Michael Ruse. He doesn't see that the reconciliation he is defending is one-sided.When he describes the trouble of Dawkins, he doesn't see that there is a big trouble in what he is saying.

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What measure theory is about

It's about counting, but when things get too large.
Put otherwise, it's about addition of positive numbers, but when these numbers are far too many.

The principle of dynamic programming

max_{x,y} [f(x) + g(x,y)] = max_x [f(x) + max_y g(x,y)]

The bottom line

Nuestras horas son minutos cuando esperamos saber y siglos cuando sabemos lo que se puede aprender.
(Our hours are minutes when we wait to learn and centuries when we know what is to be learnt.) --António Machado

Αγεωμέτρητος μηδείς εισίτω.
(Those who do not know geometry may not enter.) --Plato

Sapere Aude! Habe Muth, dich deines eigenen Verstandes zu bedienen!
(Dare to know! Have courage to use your own reason!) --Kant