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Bradley Monton's new book

13 posts in this topic

Posted

Those who have followed the on and off discussion here about intelligent design, and the discussions about the philosopher Bradley Monton

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Posted

Given that Monton is a member here and has been interviewed for the library, maybe he could be prevailed upon to discuss his book here at TGL.

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Posted (edited)

Thanks for letting us know about the book. The blog post linked to in Monton's response to Young's review made for some depressing - albeit unsurprising - reading. I wish I had an archive of all the pseudo-criticism and invective we got at various blogs a few years ago when we were trying to discuss ID and creationism in philosophical terms.

Feel free to try PMing him. I'll send an email.

Edited to add: Btw, if anyone wants to know why it might be a good idea to avoid talking about these subjects altogether, have a look at the comments to Young's review, which Monton is going through here and here.

Edited by Hugo Holbling
Links added.

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Posted (edited)

Edited to add: Btw, if anyone wants to know why it might be a good idea to avoid talking about these subjects altogether, have a look at the comments to Young's review, which Monton is going through here and here.

I read some of them prior to your links Hugo, and it is annoying, or a more suitable word would be ironic, that the so-called rational, scientific minded people (those that commented in the review at least) which see themselves in opposition to the irrational religious, or ID proponents, people, are very uncritical and very fallacious.

But I think we should not refrain from discussing this topics, even though responses are vulgar and silly most of the time, I suspect that here in the library none of that will occur, unless we are planning to invite some dawkinians crusaders?

It would be fun though, albeit I am an agnostic atheist, I find an incredible delight in showing dogmatic (uncritical) atheists or scientism devotees how wrong they are (probably because I find them arrogant sometimes, I dont know :p).

For anyone not being able to get the book Monton recommends reading his paper Design Inferences in an Infinite Universe.

I am going to do that, first, because I cannot buy the book, and two, because I am eager to discuss about this controversial topic; there have been many good debates and talks before in the library on this topic and I never was a participant of them, because I was not here yet, now I want to be in :-D (plus, I hope this take me off from my procrastinating status).

P.d: David, if it is not much of a pain, can you do an overview, or review, or a summary of the central points, arguments of the book?

Edit: Hey, that Monton is a vegetarian! I like him more now. :)

Edited by Paulus

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Posted

Paulus, I haven't had a chance to read the book yet, but I have read all the philosophical papers of his on which the book is based, and until I get a chance to read it, I'd be happy to discuss those with you.

Here is a list of Monton's online philosophical works.

And here are his works at the Philosophy of Science archive.

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Posted

I read the blog posts, reviews and "Design Inferences in an Infinite Universe." To be honest (or cynical), I'm not surprised at the kneejerk negativity that the, er, "rationalists" have to his works - I've encountered many people who think they're rational because they're atheists - but going from the "Design Inferences" paper, that reaction is completely unjustified. In fact his conclusion seems broadly similar to the view of ID that I've posted here (although he is more articulate). I may have to pick up the book from the library sometime soon.

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Posted

Well, I would like to begin a discussion, but about what aspect of ID? Should we wait for Monton accepting your invitation (if you are planning t invite him to discuss this controversial, fun topic)?

Meanwhile, here is a featured article in wikipedia (quite elaborated):

Intelligent Design

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Posted

Paulus, I will try to get some stuff up later today.

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Posted

As a bit of an aside, I thought it might be worth looking at the criticism (of Monton) that it's a mistake to consider ID in philosophical terms or aside from the political context in which it is active. In particular, this concerns the political and/or religious motives of some/many/all ID proponents and the infamous Wedge document. While I agree with Monton's analyses and have argued similarly before (see one short example here), here's where I think the invective he receives is - in part - coming from:

Where Monton and Laudan alike fall short of understanding what is going on, perhaps, is their failure (indicated by their public comments, at any rate) to appreciate that it is through "hollow phrases which only do emotive work" that minds are changed and decisions won. It seems to me that the wider problem is the amount of "you're either with us or against us" rhetoric involved in public debate and the failure of philosophers of science to engage it. After all, it has been known for many years now that demarcation does not work (certainly not in the kindergarten fashion Jones and most other commentators use it) and yet large groups of people are clearly unaware of this and quite convinced that the term "pseudoscience" is meaningful. If philosophers of science know the shortcomings of demarcation criteria and yet they are still influencing legal proceedings and the content of public education, who are the fools? Those who will bet their lives that a theory has to be falsifiable for it to be science, or that methodological naturalism defines science, have (temporarily, at least) had their way and if anyone is going to change this then it seems most unlikely to be the philosophers of science who lament the decisions taken but do not ask how to make it known that some phrases are hollow and should be dropped from discourse.

I wrote this a while ago: I'm pretty sure Monton does appreciate this stuff and chooses to discuss ideas on their own terms because he wants to and because it's interesting; anything that is straightforwardly ad hominem doesn't really need to be considered, unless interesting itself. The point is many non-religious people are heavily invested in fighting ID and perhaps with good reason: I'm not sure I'd want to live in a theocracy and if that's a genuine (or, more importantly, genuinely believed) possibility then I'm glad some people are objecting and criticising. What we have to understand, though, is that at the moment there's little place for careful analysis that's conducted without regard for consequences. If a person believes ID to be a political threat, regardless of its scientific or philosophical merits, then philosophical discussion of it can probably be expected to have little impact upon this belief.

The real threat, it seems to me, is that we allow these concerns to shape dialogue in such a way that it becomes permanently conducted in emotive fashion, with ideas and arguments useful only insofar as they advance a position and dissent unwelcome. The irony is that the supposed institutionalisation of dissent within science via falsificationism, from which we derive a critique of choice against ID, is meant to be something we welcome and aid. No doubt we can reply that there already is plenty of debate within biology and that there simply isn't enough time or money to support every challenge to a theory, especially ones motivated by religious commitments, but this doesn't really address the problem: if we don't support alternatives, whatever their perceived merits, then how could we ever arrive at a potential refutation? Moreover, the support could - as a bare minimum - consist only in not opposing those who want to elucidate and work with the strongest form of a particular challenge, rather than burdening them with ad hominem objections or trying to bring them within the rhetoric and motivations shaping the rest of the debate and discussion. If we don't allow this process to take place, or if we hinder it, then the merits of our best ideas and the shortcomings or failures of their challengers become self-fulfilling and we learn nothing.

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Posted

Yes, could Bradley Monton please post here? (I have just this minute ordered his book, so he's achieved one more sale because I joined this site ! )

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Posted

I wrote to Brad: he's happy to do another interview for the site about his new book and he's sending me a copy to review, so that would be two additional resources. Hopefully we can provide a counterpoint to some of the other "discussions" of his ideas. :)

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Posted

My review of Monton's book is now available here. If you want to help suggest some questions for the interview, perhaps based in part on my review (so you can see what he argues in his book), please post them here.

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Posted

Here are some questions that occur to me. Unfortunately since I haven’t read the book yet (haven’t even been able to find it) it’s difficult to pose questions that deal more precisely with the book’s content.

1. Were you surprised at the intensity of reaction to your book from some scientists and atheists? Much of the attacks on you were quite personal. What does that vehemence say about the quality, or lack thereof, of these sorts of debates?

2. I think I recall you writing somewhere that a potentially fertile approach for intelligent design advocates would be the hard problem of consciousness. Did you address this route in your book? Are you aware of any intelligent design advocates pursuing this line of inquiry?

3. What is your opinion of the so-called “New Atheist” movement, which seems to be exemplified by a general hostility toward all religious belief?

4. With respect to your argument that a spatially infinite universe implies that life will arise at least once, and probably infinitely many times, no matter how unlikely the origin of life might be a priori, couldn’t the theist simply contend that the odds of life arising without God would be zero? Indeed, couldn’t the theist just respond that the odds of anything at all existing would be zero, absent a necessary ground of existence (God)?

5. How strong do you find the Kallam version of the cosmological argument to be?

6. What are your thoughts on the various ontological arguments for God’s existence?

7. I wonder if your God/Morse code example misses the mark a bit. It seems to me that when scientists say “supernaturalism is not allowed in science,” they are saying something to the effect that you can’t posit an ineffable “Goddit” solution to any problem and then stop. But surely if God began communicating with us in Morse code, scientists would pay attention and would not rule out this state of affairs as impermissible for scientific inquiry?

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