Wednesday, 30 November 2011

A222-Exploring Philosophy : Change of Plan

Ah, I'm off abroad with work for two weeks with limited access to Internet which is far from ideal, as the TMA is due before I get back - may have to ask for an extension as I'm not sure if I'll be able to submit the essay even if it is written.

This wasn't really part of the plan :-(

Ho hum

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

A222 - Exploring Philosophy : Evolution of Religion

After listening to Open University audio on the course website for week 9 titled ‘The Modern Argument from Design’, I think I can see undeniable evidence of the evolutionary process at work within the Christian explanation of ‘God's’ role in the creation of our world .

i. At first it was belief in the explanation of the creation of life as told in the bible's book of Genesis, and espoused by Aquinas. 

Belief in this explanation was encouraged through the torture and murder of unbelievers after being accused of the crime of Heresy. Obviously this sort of behaviour, by the church, could not go on for ever, but it did go on for over 1800 years (that's eighteen hundred or one thousand eight hundred years) with the last known heretic executed by sentence of the Roman Catholic Church being Cayetano Ripoll in 1826 (Wikipedia). With more and more people free to question the obvious inaccuracies and flaws in the biblical account, this belief had to evolve.

ii. The original belief  therefore evolved to ‘well your obvioulsy not supposed to take the bible literally, but God did made everything - honest' as put forward by Cleanthis.

This held ground for a while until people now getting used to the ability to question the church without fear of recrimination asked why some bits of the world were just a bit crap.

iii. Belief then underwent a form of natural selection when Paley decided that only the selected good bits of the world were made by God. But he didn't explain who made the bad bits though. 

Then with the growing mountain of evidence for Darwin's theories, and evolution now being taught in schools the next big step was the evolution of Creationism to Intellegent Design.

 After the 1987 Edwards v. Aguillard decision in which the U.S. Supreme Court barred the required teaching of creation science from public schools but allowed evolutionary theory on the grounds of scientific validity, some creationists felt that new strategies and language were necessary to return religious notions to science classrooms.The supplementary school textbook Of Pandas and People was altered to change references to creationism to use the term intelligent design. (Wikipedia) 

iv. So the 4th step in this evolutionary process is 'Intelligent Design' within the evolutionary process described as ‘irreducible complexity’ by Behe. 

In Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, the first direct challenge brought in United States federal courts to an attempt to mandate the teaching of intelligent design on First Amendment grounds, Behe was called as a primary witness for the defence and asked to support the idea that intelligent design was legitimate science. Some of the most crucial exchanges in the trial occurred during Behe's cross-examination, where his testimony would prove devastating to the defence. Behe was forced to concede that "there are no peer reviewed articles by anyone advocating for intelligent design supported by pertinent experiments or calculations which provide detailed rigorous accounts of how intelligent design of any biological system occurred and that his definition of 'theory' as applied to intelligent design was so loose that astrology would also qualify. Earlier during his direct testimony, Behe had argued that a computer simulation of evolution he performed with Snoke shows that evolution is not likely to produce certain complex biochemical systems. Under cross examination however, Behe was forced to agree that "the number of prokaryotes in 1 ton of soil are 7 orders of magnitude higher than the population [it would take] to produce the disulfide bond" and that "it's entirely possible that something that couldn't be produced in the lab in two years... could be produced over three and half billion years."

So Behe’s irreducible complexity of the flagella was shown to be just plain wrong, so this 'belief' then mutated. 

v. The new mutant belief was that 'the infinite complexity of physical set-up' such as the complexity of DNA and RNA proves God's existence, as suggested by Meyer.

However this 'belief' also suffers from the fact that with the earth being an estimated 4.5 BILLION years old, there has been plenty of time of things to get complicated. Some theists have said that the chances of a protein molecule forming are infinitesimally small, they liken it to trying to through a six with a dice a 1000 times in a row - pretty unlikely I'm sure you'll agree........

..........and it would be but for the fact that evolution is an iterative process and so all you have to do is throw a 6 (that's 1six) then you could throw 2,3,4,6 (that's 2 sixes) 1,4,3,2,2,6 (that's 3 sixes) 2,3 6 (that's 4 sixes) - do you see where this is going......

....... so in the 4.5 BILLION years since the earth formed, I think you could imagine throwing over one thousand sixes without any problems at all.

So to the latest version of the explanation of God's involvement in the design of the earth..... 

vi. 'Fine Tuning  - The Goldilocks Principle', everything in the universe had to be ‘just right’ for life to form, and then it sort of cracks on best it can. 

This description doesn't seem to leave much room for the Christian God of the bible to be recognisable as the grand designer. It seems that there is a constant rear-guard action by Christians to try and keep the explanation of God's design ahead of the scientific discoverys that are debunking religion.........

It also seems to have gone full circle to Aquinas' second way that 'something started it all and we, in the absence of  fact or knowledge, shall call this God'.

There is an interesting alternative theory from Naturalists that says that RELIGION is actually part of the Human evolutionary process that Man will transit through. Man created religion and as we evolve so does it, so like the tail and body hair that we all once had, religion will be shed when it is no longer necessary......... I think this time will be soon upon us :-)

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

A222 - Exploring Philosophy : Should we allow Creationists to vote

This course has encouraged me to challenge my preconceptions and try and look at the 'Philosophy of Religion' from both sides. However, I am finding that choosing which Creationists or Intelligent Design  publications to read is an almost impossible decision, there are simply too many of these nutters on the internet.

Luckily, help was at hand. Dave Gorman wrote in his book 'Googlewacking' (which I highly recommend, its a great read) about meeting a Dr Gish, who was a 'famous' Creationist. Dave Gorman is a comedian, so I accepted his description of Dr Gish as you would with any comical creation - enough truth to hold the humorous fiction together. But was I in for a surprise, this guy really exists.....and he is as mental as described....

Reading the website and looking at the books he's written, I realise Dr Gish is not a comedy character dreamed up for our amusement - far more frightening that that, he is actually exactly as described.

These are just some of his books and ideas.....

"the strong Biblical theme makes it unique among dinosaur resource books. Offers plausible explanations for believing that man walked with dinosaurs."

"With devastating facts and logic, Dr. Gish documents in detail, from the writings of evolutionists themselves, the complete absence of any true evolutionary transitional forms among the billions of fossilized animals in the earth's sedimentary rocks. Indeed, the fossil record offers compelling evidence for the special creation of man and each basic kind of plant and animal."

"Having challenged the humanistic religion of evolution, creation scientists have frequently endured the vicious attacks of those who endorse the theory of evolution. Creation's most respected debater examines the major arguments for and against special creation. In so doing, CRS board member Dr. Duane Gish, defends creation scientists against the distorted, inaccurate attacks of evolutionists."

"In six days God created the world and all therein! He has woven into His creation undeniable evidence that He alone is the author and sustainer of life. From dinosaurs to DNA, the story of creation is truly AMAZING!
At times, it presents a humorous look at the predicament in which evolution finds itself trying to explain that which only God can do.

Suggested level, 4th grade - adult."
This would be hilarious if it wasn't true.

This guy has a PhD in Biochemistry and was at Cornell University..... the same University Greg Graffin, of Bad Religion, went to and teaches at (see previous post) - it would certainly be interesting to know if the two met.

The creationist claims just get more and more bizarre, The Institute for Creation Research ( has an article "Did Humans Cause Dinosaur Extinctions?" in which they write,

"Thus, it stands to reason that if humans primarily cause the current extinctions of megafauna, then they may have caused past extinctions as well. That could help explain the plethora of legends, found in all cultures, of heroes killing dragons, which were probably dinosaurs in many cases.
Why did the dinosaurs go extinct? One very likely factor—among others, such as climate changes after the Flood—is the same reason the black rhinoceros and so many other megafauna have died out: People moved in and eliminated them."

I do not know how to even begin to discuss the origin of the planet with people who can hold and believe in such statements....... where would you start when it is impossible to argue from a position of well established fact. They seem to be hanging this 'theory' (its not really a theory) on myths and legends of made up monsters (of which we have NO fossil remains), to argue that dinosaurs (of which we have carbon dated  fossil remains) were made extinct by humans (which by all known fossil remains did not exist when the dinosaurs did).

The facts are that Humans did not co-exist with dinosaurs, the Flintstones is a child's cartoon not a documentary, it is not based on fact.  

So if creationists are this 'stupid', you have to ask yourself is it at all sensible that they are permitted to vote.

Monday, 21 November 2011

A222 - Exploring Philosophy : Classic Arguments from Design

The first part of the text book looked at arguments supporting the existence of God starting with Aquinas. Aquinas’ second way states that 'something' must have started the series of events that got us to where we are. That is a statement which is easy to accept, however Aquinas says that the 'something' that started this series of events is what “everyone calls God”. Aquinas offers no definition, explanation or proof of what “God” is, so his “second way” could be equally be describing a deity or an event of quantum physics such as the big bang.

So, this week's reading is the 'Classic Argument from Design: Cleanthis & Paley'.

David Hume used the character Cleanthis to argue in favour of the existence of God. Cleanthis' argument equates the world to a complicated man-made machine or object – which is a poor analogy.

Cleanthis talks about the world being a machine with an “accuracy which ravishes into admiration all men”. However the world is far from perfect and Cleanthis has no explanation for inclusion of famines, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, disease and volcanoes within the design of this great precision machine.

Should any man-made machine found to be so poorly designed, I think you would find that nobody would own up to designing it – so perhaps Cleanthis is actually correct, and this explains the absence of god – he’s like a stroppy builder and has simply walked of the job in disgust.

Cleanthis also suggests that the cause of the natural world is the same as the cause of man-made machines ( i.e. designed ), but this would only hold true if the natural world could be replicated multiple times to the exact same plan/design. So this sub-conclusion is false or at least unsubstantiated.

But even if Cleanthis’ shaky main conclusion, that the world was caused to exist through an intelligent designer is accepted, it still  suffers from the same problem as Aquinas in that the final answer, God, is undefined and could equally be an event created through quantum physics  (the big bang) as an intelligent designer, as depicted in the Abrahamic religious view of God.

Paley's argument is a refined version of the argument put forward by Cleanthis. Paley says those structures in nature that have precise organisation and functionality must have had a designer. This begs the question who designed the structures in nature that are less perfect, also many of the structures he referenced as complex in the late 1700s can now be explained through evolution, reducing the need for his designer.

The next chapter is on the modern Intelligent Design 'theories' - I can't wait.

Intelligent Design seems to be a bit of a rear guard action for 'Creationism', as Christians who realise that the 'explanations' given in the bible are gradually unraveling and being proven to be nonsense, for example the cartoon below.......

Adam And Eve


Go on..... have a look.....its an interesting website !!!!

Friday, 18 November 2011

A222 - Exploring Philosophy : End of Week 7

Philosophy of Religion : Evolution v Creation

This has been a long week. Partly because I started this part of the course early after submitting TMA01 and partly because I was then waiting on the TMA to be marked - it always seems to take ages even if it is returned reasonably quickly.

Then there was the challenge of dealing with a subject I'm having difficulty engaging with. If I have learned anything about myself in the last week, its that I was a lapsed atheist - and this is very deliberately writen in the past tense. This doesn't seem to have been a big part of my life except when I come into contact with ideas that twist science and fact to support superstition, and then it just really annoys me. Creation / intelligent design versus evolution is such a subject.

Anyway, time to engage with the course material and work towards answered the second TMA question which is,

‘The modern theory of evolution demolishes the design argument for the existence of God. Does it? 

My initial thought is yes it does and no it doesn't.

Those who believe in science and observable evidence will understand the explanation and evidence of the theory of evolution and will discount 'creationism', even under the guise of 'intelligent design'.

Those who believe in a supreme being, who intervenes in our world and has 'designed' all that is around us are not going to accept the theory of evolution because it is contrary to the teaching of the bible. Although these people may now have to admit that the earth is not flat, that it is not the center of the universe and that it is older than 6000 years - I doubt they are really to admit that the theory of evolution explains things far better than a grand designer.

Anyway, you can only imagine my delight at discovering that Greg Graffin singer with one of my favorite bands 'Bad Religion' has now written a book "Faith, Science and Bad Religion: In A World Without God". Doctor Graffin (@DoctorGraffin for those on twitter) has a PHD in Zoology from Cornell University and lectures there in evolutionary science and biology.

His song lyrics are always intelligent and interesting so I'm looking forward to reading the book - especially to see if there are some relevant quotes for TMA02. It is only available via Amazon in the USA at present so not sure when I'll get the book delivered.

Below are three short interviews about his book......

and how you may better recognise him.....

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

A222 - Exploring Philosophy : TMA01 Marked & Returned

It would appear that there is a bit of a gulf between Level 1 and Level 2 courses, or maybe between Social Science and Philosophy, or maybe I just had a very lenient tutor for my first course, but for whatever reason I just managed to scrape a Pass 2 on this TMA.

Some very encouraging feedback and valid points from my tutor, so some positives and suggestions to think about. So, need to crack on with the next one and improve my critical thinking.

I asked my tutor for a bit more feedback on where I lost marks, and they looked at my TMA and decided that they had possibly marked harshly and agreed to remark, which I hadn't asked for but seems very a very reasonable and fair thing for them to do. So, as well as getting some additional info about where I had lost marks (my essay wandered off of the question asked at one point), my essay was re-marked as mid-70s, which feels a bit better.

Monday, 14 November 2011

A222 - Exploring Philosophy : Facebook Group - A222 Exploring Philosophy Oct 11 start

There is a friendly and supportive Facebook Group for those studying A222 at,

It is useful for fresh perspectives, rather than be confined to the regional tutor groups on the OU website.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

A222 - Exploring Philosophy : Religion without objectivity !

I’ve only read to page 23 and listened to the first two chapter audios, and I might being missing something, but I am already somewhat underwhelmed by the rigour of the arguments and discussion in the course text and learning materials – it appears, so far, somewhat less than objective.

At the bottom of page 20 the author says,

‘Have a go at making yourself believe this:
Custard is really spaghetti’

And from this ‘experiment’ makes the huge and illogical leap to the statement that,

‘So it is hard to see how you would be able to make yourself believe that God exists, unless you think that there is good evidence that God exists.’

I am missing something here.

This appears to me to be ridiculous, the experiment would have more value to me if he’d said,

‘Have a go at making yourself believe this:
Custard is really spaghetti knowing that…..

You have been told all your life by authority figures, parents and teachers that Custard is really Spaghetti and you were initiated in to this belief as a baby without any conscious choice in the matter, and this belief has been re-enforced all your life by custom and culture.

In every town you visit there is a big building devoted to the belief in Spaghetti Custard. There are many books on the subject of Spaghetti Custard, and history tells us that in the past some people did question the whole custard spaghetti thing, but burning them at the stake seemed to dissuade others from voicing similar opinions. There are festivals to Custard Spaghetti dotted round the year in which we give gifts and thanks for a yellow and al-dente future, although the Custardy Spaghetti message is lost somewhat in the marketing.

If you are good when you die you go to a sweet, warm and yellowy heaven, if your bad you suffer continued Penne-tence . There are other people, in other lands, who believe in a different carbohydrate based sweet or pudding, and wars have been waged in their name. Lastly, tradition and culture dictates that the three major milestones of birth, marriage and death are marked through Spaghetti Custard rituals.

Now would you believe that Custard is really Spaghetti without any real evidence…… I’d have to say…..yes you probably would.

I see the same problem in the audio ‘debate’. The theists are all sincere, intelligent and no doubt good people, but they all talk about their faith as though they came to the decision to follow their particular faith from a ‘blank canvas’ after much examining of the facts and testing of truths in a completely open and objective manner. Then having examined every possible position and religion they then made the decision that the faith they chose was right for them.

However, I suspect (although I have no proof) that they were actually born in to their faith and it is the same as the rest of their family. Social situation and cultural expectations must surely be a major factor in determining the faith they follow, and so the influence of accident of birth is the biggest factor in which faith you follow rather than pure belief in a truth, and surely this cannot be discounted.

A222 - Exploring Philosophy : Week 7

12 November

Book 2: THE PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION Chapter 1, Introducing the philosophy of religion

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

A222 - Exploring Philosophy : FSM & The Open University


I have to be honest, I'm not looking forward to this part of the course. I'm a believer in the quote (sorry don't know who) 'Where knowledge ends, religion begins'. 


I can understand that humans needed an explanation of why things happen, and this led them to believe in gods of whatever type. Having somebody to blame for crop failure, earth quakes, eclipses is fine - until you understand why these things happen - then your divine being is pointless.


Religion has been used through the ages to subjugate the poor and prop up oppressive rulers - and it continues today. Nearly all scientific steps forward were retarded by the church, as every scientific explanation chips away at the reasons for belief. From the working of the solar system to the explanation of the earth being a sphere the church has persecuted those with ideas that did not fit with their teachings, I could go on but that is not what prompted this post. 


Having sent in my assignment I decided to look at the next chapter and as usual checked out the End of Chapter Quiz to get an idea of what is coming up.


Question 1:

Option a. a giant spaghetti monster.


Great ! I thought this book may actually be written from an objective point of view which considers religion from every conceivable angle, and actually looks at the alternative ideas of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It must do, I thought, its the answer 'Option A'.


But then I though that the lack of capitalisation for the Flying Spaghetti Monster was just disrespectful, and also is said 'a' Flying Spaghetti Monster, implying that there is more than one - when it should surely have been 'the' FSM, as there is only the one true FSM. You'd think an academic 'specialising' in the philosophy of religion would have known that!!!


This was troubling indeed.......


I searched the electronic version of the course text book for the terms Flying, Spaghetti and Monster in a mixture of cases and found only two hits - both on the same page, one referring to the other.

In case you can't read it is says,


Unreasonable Hope : If I say ' I do believe in fairies' often enough and loud enough, the Flying Spaghetti Monster will bring Tinker Bell back to life (see Figure 3.8).


This is a ridiculous thing for an academic to write. How can he possibly know this is unreasonable.... and why choose to use a metaphor with a fictional character (Tinker Bell) to test reasonable or unreasonable hope.


The statement would have been equally true had he used other deities such as Budda, Bramha, Vishnu, Shiva, Allah, Waheguru and even, may I suggest, Jesus Christ.


 Try it for yourself.......


Unreasonable Hope : If I say ' I do believe in fairies' often enough and loud enough, (insert your god)  will bring Tinker Bell back to life (see Figure 3.8).


Each religion substituted in the statement above results in the same outcome, proving all religions are equally valid or invalid..... there, I feel a bit better now, as according to the Open University text book on Religion, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is as relevant as any other major religion - at least as far as the resurrection of Tinker Bells goes - but then we all know resurrection is a load of nonsense anyway.......

For those who don't know about Pastafarianism, please have a look at the video below and also visit 



Spaghetti, Wenches & Metaphysics: Episode 1—The FSM from Matt Tillman on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

A222 - Exploring Philosophy : TMA01 Submitted

Just under 1900 words, and even that took a bit of pruning, but it has gone in now.

It seemed easy to head off on tangents on this essay, and at one point I had written paragraphs on Hume and Parfit that had nothing at all to do with criticizing Locke's views, although I obviously did not notice this at the time of writing.

I spent some time setting out Locke's stall, person, man, soul, and mentioned several of his thought experiments, then focused on criticism or expansion of his ideas by Reid, Hume, Parfit, Butler, and even managed a passing mention of Kant.

The last part was drawing on aspects of personal identity not catered for in Locke's writing and then brought it all together with the conclusion.

Writing for a Philosophy course is probably very different to writing for the Social Sciences. I thought with Social Science that putting in enough effort would result in an appropriate mark, and that approach seemed to work, but I'm not sure sheer effort on its own will be enough this time round so I just hope I have been able to add enough of my ideas in and that they were of value..... Just have to wait for the mark now.

As with the last course, for some reason when I start writing in draft, it is always the second paragraph that ends up being the core of the Introduction and the first paragraph disappears in the editing process.

On to Book 2 in which we study the Philosophy of Superstition, the next part of this course could be a struggle, god help me !!!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

A222 - Exploring Philosophy : Writing TMA01

Good weekend's works so far and well into finishing the first draft of this TMA.

It has been quite an 'easy ride' in so far as there is great material and supporting text for this part of the course, so it has not been too difficult to find content. I suppose the difficult part is presenting it clearly and properly answering the question.

I've enjoyed this part of the course more than I thought I would, and David Hume has certainly struck a chord with me, especially his implied critique of the 'woolly thinking' behind the blind acceptance of religion.

Hume wrote

"If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask,
Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number?
Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? 
Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion."

This was pretty brave of him at the time he wrote this, as religion does not willingly tolerate intellectual scrutiny, especially in the 18th Century.

Had be been alive today I can't help feeling that David Hume would have been a fan of modern 'philosopher' and song writer Greg Graffin who among his writings wrote,

"Now we all see, religion is just synthetic frippery,
unnecessary, in our expanding global culture of efficiency"

Enjoy the clip below.....
Graffin, G. (2009) "God Song", in Bad Religion's Against the Grain, Epitaph Records, Los Angeles,

See more Bad Religion at

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Friday, 4 November 2011

A222 - Exploring Philosophy : End of Week 5

This weeks reading was about the writing of the modern philosopher Parfit.

I have to say that I was far more interested in David Hume's writing and ideas than Parfit's. I think Parfit's 'thought experiments' are too far fetched and require that certain assumptions are accepted in order for them to work - for example that we have a soul.

The Open University audio even describes Parfit's experiments as 'crazy though experiments', which doesn't fill me with confidence. I think I am a bit grounded in logic, fact and science  to be able to fully immerse myself in what is nonsense experiments.

Obviously, I won't be writing that in the TMA, I will have to spin a more thoughtful narrative full of critique and referencing.......

                                             ........... which reminds me, I'd better get writing this TMA.

The Intermittent Student now on Twitter

Thought I'd better investigate what twitter is all about, can't continue to just ignore this fad..... It might be important :-)

This blog will now publish updates as @Theintermittent and will try and hash-tag as #A222 for the time being. Hopefully an interesting and educational dip into another strand of social networking.