Friday, March 09, 2018

Should Christians be compatibilists?

I debated someone who said that "No Christian should be a compatibilist." I argued that all Christians should be compatibilists because compatibilism agrees with both scripture and reason. My opponent didn't complete the debate, but I thought I said some things that were worthy of a blog post. Most of the stuff here, I've probably already said somewhere else on this blog, but maybe not as succinctly. Here's my opening statement.

Thank you for coming to tonight's debate.

I'm going to assume a shared burden of proof. That means Pro will have to defend the resolution, and I will have to defend the negation of the resolution.

Also, Pro did not define "libertarian freedom" and "compatibilism," so I better do that as well.

Libertarianism is the view that when a person acts freely, they could have done otherwise even if everything about the universe, including their internal mental states, had been exactly the same prior to and up to the moment of choice. There are no conditions inside of or outside of a person prior to and up to the moment of choice that determine what that choice will be. That is not to say that prior conditions can't influence a person's choice; just that those prior conditions are not sufficient to determine the person's choice.

Compatibilism is the view that all of our acts are determined by the sum total of our mental states prior to and up to the moment of choice. "Freedom" is defined differently in compatibilism than it is in libertarianism. Whereas in libertarianism, freedom refers to an act being free from any determining factors whatsoever, in compatibilism, freedom means acting out of your own desires, motivations, inclinations, preferences, etc.

The debate is essentially over which view is more consistent with Christianity. I'll be arguing that compatibilism is more consistent with a Christian worldview than libertarianism is.

According to compatibilism, all of our acts are determined by our strongest desires and motivations when the sum total of our mental states are taken into account. According to Jesus, all of our acts are determined by the condition of our hearts. In Matthew 7:16-18, Jesus explained that you can recognize a false prophets by their fruits, i.e. their actions. A person's actions reveal what is in their hearts. Jesus went on to say that "a good tree cannot produce bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot produce good fruit." This only makes sense under compatibilism. If people were free in the libertarian sense, then their goodness or badness would not determine their actions. A good tree could produce bad fruit if it had libertarian freedom.

Jesus elaborated on these same points in Matthew 12:33-35. He made the point that "the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart," which was in answer to his rhetorical question: "How can you being evil speak what is good?" They can't because they can only speak what is in their hearts. Again, our actions are determined by what is in our hearts.

Luke records essentially the same points made by Jesus in Luke 6:43. There, he says that no good tree bears bad fruit, no does a bad tree bear good fruit, and the reason is because "The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil"

These passages are inconsistent with libertarian freedom since under libertarianism, the condition of your heart does not determine whether your actions are good or bad.

Jesus also said in John 6:44 that "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him." This passage is also inconsistent with libertarianism. If people were free in the libertarian sense, then they could choose to come to Jesus without the Father drawing them.

Finally, Jeremiah 13:23 says, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good who are accustomed to doing evil.” The implication is clear. Whatever a person is accustomed to determines their actions, so Jeremiah teaches compatibilism, too.

Contrary to the resolution, all Christians should be compatibilsts because that's the Biblical view. But I want to also argue that Christians should be compatibilists because it is more agreeable to reason and common sense than libertarianism.

Libertarian freedom violates the principle of sufficient reason (PSR). According to the PSR, for everything that happens, there is a sufficient reason for why it happens. But under libertarianism, there is never a sufficient reason for why a person acted one way rather than not since no matter what the prior circumstances, the person still could have done otherwise.

In this regard, libertarians frequently speak as if they were compatibilists. If you ask a person, "Why did you eat that donut?" they will respond, "Because I wanted to." That answer makes sense under compatibilism because a desire to eat donuts is a sufficient explanation for why the person ate them. Whenever people state a reason for why they acted as they did, they are speaking like compatibilists.

Under libertarianism, no prior reason, motive, desire, etc. is sufficient to explain why a person acted as they did since they could have done otherwise even given those reasons, motives, desires, etc. What libertarians ought to say is, "I acted partly because I had a motive and partly for no reason at all." But libertarians never say that because they are inconsistent, and they are inconsistent because, contrary to Pro's claim, there is no innate knowledge of libertarian freedom. We are all compatibilists in our day to day lives because we all think and speak like compatibilists.

It is agreeable to our common notions that any act for which we are responsible must be an act that is done on purpose rather than on accident. To act on purpose is to act out of some prior inclination. To act on accident is to act apart from or contrary to any prior inclination. Libertarian acts are essentially accidents since they can be made apart from all prior inclinations. Compatibilist acts are the very essence of acts done on purpose since they are determined by a person's own prior inclinations, desires, motives, etc.

It is also agreeable to our common notions that a person who does exactly what he wants is acting freely whereas a person who acts spontaneously apart from their desires is not acting freely. A person whose legs and arms spontaneously move apart from the person's own desires is said to have an involuntary reflex. The very act of volition requires that a person's own mental faculties be engaged, and any deviation from the person's own mental inclinations is an involuntary act. So choice is only possible under compatibilism, not libertarianism.

So Pro is quite wrong in saying that knowledge of libertarianism is innate.

Pro also claims that libertarian freedom is the only solution to the problem of evil. But that is not so. The problem of evil can be solved by the mere possibility that God has a morally sufficient reason for allowing or causing evil to happen. And we see Biblical examples where this is the case. Although it was an evil thing for Joseph's brothers to sell him into slavery, God nevertheless meant for it to happen because he had a morally good purpose in it (Genesis 50:20). So there is some evil that God intends to happen because it serves a good purpose. I could cite other examples if there were room.

Finally, Pro claims that libertarian freedom is necessary for us to reason and believe. That claim is mistaken for two reasons. First, because our beliefs are not under the direct control of the will. You can't simply by an act of volition decide to believe one thing rather than another. Just try it. Choose to believe right now that there's a pink elephant flying around outside above you. Even if I offered you a million dollars, you couldn't simply choose to believe it. Our beliefs are caused.

And the fact that our beliefs are caused is precisely what makes them reasonable. Our beliefs can only be reasonable to the degree that they are determined by arguments and evidence. The more hand evidence has in bringing about our beliefs, the more rational those beliefs are, and the less hand evidence has in bringing about our beliefs, then less rational we are. It follows that we are most rational when evidence determines our beliefs, and we are least rational when are beliefs are arrived at apart from evidence.

Thank you.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Ad hominem fallacy revisited

In the past I used to say that insults are not necessarily ad hominems (see ad hominem, no true Scotsman, an arguments from authority) Insults are just insults. They only become ad hominems when they are meant to cast doubt on the other person's position. For example, if I say, "You're an idiot," I may be insulting you, but I'm not committing the ad hominem fallacy. It's only the ad hominem fallacy if I say something like, "You're an idiot; therefore, you are wrong."

I've changed my mind, though. Ad hominem just means "against the man." As long as your comment is against the man rather than against the argument, that's an ad hominem. Since that's exactly what personal insults are, then person insults are ad hominems.

A comment doesn't have to be a mistake in reasoning in order to be a fallacy. Red herrings are also considered fallacies even though they are not mistakes in reasoning. A red herring is a fallacy of distraction. It's meant to draw somebody's attention away from the main point. Insults do the same thing, so insults can be considered red herrings. Ad hominems of this type fall under the general category of red herring. They are fallacies because, like all red herrings, the fallacy lies in the fact that they suffer from irrelevance.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Hallucination revisited

In my post on the hallucination hypothesis I came up with a thought experiment in which you imagine seeing somebody alive standing in front of you who you know to be dead, especially somebody close to you like a family member or friend. Then I asked you to imagine what you might make of it and said there were just a few possibilities:

1. You're dreaming.
2. You're hallucinating.
3. You're seeing a ghost.
4. The person never died to begin with.
5. The person has risen from the dead.

Well, today I thought of two more:

6. They've become a vampire.
7. They've become a zombie.

I don't know why I never thought of that before. Of course a lot of internet trolls out there like to call the risen Jesus a zombie, but that is incorrect. A person who rises from the dead really is alive and typically likes to eat fish (Luke 24:42-43) rather than brains or human flesh. Zombies are the undead, not really alive, and they eat human flesh, especially brains if they are classic zombies. So there.

Friday, January 05, 2018

A short short resurrection debate

Lately I've been reading Ed Feser's book, Five Proofs of the Existence of God. I've been thinking about writing a review of each argument, but I'm not entirely sure I'm understanding them fully. I'm on the fourth argument, and so far I don't find the arguments persuasive, but where they appear to go wrong is precisely where I'm unsure whether I'm understanding them correctly. So we'll see.

What does that have to do with the resurrection? Nothing. I was just giving you an update on possible future posts.

So let's talk about the resurrection of Jesus. I had a debate back in 2013 with a really short word limit. It was a challenge to make the best argument I could with as few words as possible. I've been thinking lately about how maddening verbal conversations can be, especially when they involve arguments, because arguments almost always require the use of more than one sentence, but it's hardly ever the case that anybody will let you use more than one. It seems rare for me to even be able to complete one sentence before being interrupted and responded to as if half a sentence was all I had to say in defense of my position.

While thinking about that this morning, it occurred to me that even though my defense of Jesus' resurrection might not be robust, it might still be useful to somebody just because it's so short. I'm sure anybody who has attempted to defend the resurrection in a verbal conversation has struggled with how to be succinct without sacrificing too much meat in their argument. My opening statement is about as succinct as I know how to be, so here ye go. . .

The full debate: It can be proven that Jesus rose from the dead

My opening statement:

Def. Prove: To demonstrate the truth of something by the use of evidence and argument.

The argument

My argument is that the resurrection of Jesus is the best explanation for why Jesus' movement survived his death. I'm going to explain why the survival of his movement requires an explanation and press Con to come up with a better one than mine.

Why we need an explanation

We should expect Jesus' death to have ended his movement.

According to the Old Testament, God made a promise to always have a man on the throne of David.[2] David's dynasty ended near the beginning of the Babylonian exile. The prophets explained that God would fulfill his promise by re-establishing David's throne.[3] The messiah is a king who will sit on the throne of David and rule forever.

According to all the unambiguous messianic prophecies, the coming of the messiah was to be marked by the reunion of Judah and Israel, a full return from exile, national sovereignty, expulsion of oppressors, and everlasting peace and security for Israel.[4]

Instead of fulfilling these expectations, Jesus was killed by the very people he should have prevailed against--the Roman occupiers. To any Jew living in the first century, that would've proved that Jesus was not the messiah after all. N.T. Wright writes, "Messiahs were supposed to defeat the pagans, not die at their hands. Worse, dying thus actually demonstrated that one was not after all the Messiah; follwers of a Messiah who was then crucified knew beyond question that they had backed the wrong horse."[5] Marcus Borg agrees, saying that a "crucified messiah" was "perhaps an impossible combination of terms."[6]

Consistent with this observation, Paul tells us that "Christ crucified" is a "stumbling block to Jews" (1 Corinthians 1:23). Luke tells us that some of Jesus' disciples were initially disillusioned (Luke 24:20-21). There were several messianic movements in the first and second centuries, and every one of them ended when the supposed messiah was killed. Wright says, "Nobody in 71 C.E. said that Simon bar Giora was the messiah, or even a great prophet; nobody in 136 C.E. continued to believe that Simeon ben Kosiba really was Bar-Kochba, 'the son of the star.'"[7]

The explanation

The best explanation for why Jesus' movement survived his death is the one given by Jesus' followers themselves--that they saw him alive. Unless he was alive, he couldn't have been the messiah. This is such a powerful explanation that it has lead most scholars to conclude that the disciples saw something, though they differ on what they saw. E.P. Sanders writes, "That Jesus' followers (and later Paul) had resurrection experiences is, in my judgement, a fact. What the reality was that gave rise to the experiences I do not know."[8]

Imagine a dead relative standing before you. There are five possibilities:

You're dreaming
You're hallucinating
You're seeing a ghost
They didn't really die
They have risen from the dead
With these options, the last thing you'd conclude is that they had risen from the dead. According to Luke, the disciples initially thought they were seeing a ghost (Luke 24:37), but then Jesus ate in front of them. Thomas wanted to actually touch Jesus (John 20:25). 1 John begins with "what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands..." The emphasis on touching makes sense because otherwise they wouldn't have concluded that Jesus had risen from the dead. So the best explanation for the survival of Jesus' movement is that he really did rise from the dead.


1. The Resurrection of the Son of God by N.T. Wright.

2. 2 Samuel 7:16, 1 Kings 2:4, 2:45, 8:25, and 9:5.

3. Jeremiah 33:14-17, Isaiah 9:7, and Ezekiel 37:25.

4. Jeremiah 23:1-8, Ezekiel 37:15-28, Isaiah 9:2-7, 16:4-5.

5. N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, p. 609.

6. Marcus Borg, Meeting Jesus Again For the First Time, p. 116.

7. N.T. Wright, Jesus: Two Visions, p. 102.

8. E.P. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus, p. 280.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Are there brute facts?

The argument from contingency depends on the principle of sufficient reason (PSR). The PSR states that for anything that exists, there is a sufficient explanation for why it exists rather than not existing. The explanation can take one of two forms--either the explanation is that it exists by necessity (i.e. it's impossible for it to not exist), or it is contingent. If it's contingent, then the explanation will be found in something else that exists and which serves as the basis for, reason for, or cause of the existence of the contingent thing under consideration.

But then there are brute facts. A brute fact is something that happens to be so, and there's no reason or explanation for it. If there are contingent things whose existence are brute facts, then the PSR is false because in that case there would be contingent things for which there is no sufficient reason for their existence.

So what reason is there to think there either is or isn't any such thing as a brute fact? I'm not going to go into all the reasons, pro and con, in this post. I only want to address something I heard a few weeks ago. Ben Shapiro interviewed Ed Feser on his new book, Five Proofs of the Existence of God.

At around 7:40 in the interview, Shapiro brought up the subject of brute facts. Then at about 8:10, Feser began to respond to it. He said there were two problems with it. The first problem is that it's arbitrary and is brought up for no other reason than to avoid the existence of God. There's no independent motive or reason for suggesting brute facts. The second problem with brute facts (9:07) is that it eats away as all explanations in general because if all explanations ultimately rest on a foundation of brute facts, then that takes down the explanatory force of every other explanation. It's all just arbitrary.

While I can see the rhetorical force of Feser's two arguments, I don't think either one of them really undermines the existence of brute facts. The fact that a person might be motivated in an inappropriate way to postulate brute facts doesn't mean they're wrong. To say that they're wrong by pointing to their inappropriate motives is to commit the genetic fallacy. At best, I think this argument only tells us that there is no good justification for believing in brute facts. If there's no rational reason for them, and there are only pragmatic motives for suggesting them, then that does entail that brute facts are nothing more than unjustified hypotheses.

In the second argument, Feser uses an analogy to explain himself. There's a book on a shelf. The shelf is held by brackets. The brackets are held but other brackets. But those other braackets aren't attached anywhere. They're just brute facts. Well, if they're not attached to anything, then the shelf with the book will all fall down. It can't all be held up by brute facts. In the same way, all explanations collapse if they rest of a foundation of brute facts.

I don't think they collapse in the same sense that a book shelf collapses. All that would follow is that you can't give an ultimate explanation for anything. Ultimately, there's no reason for anything. What would Feser say to somebody who bit the bullet and said, "Okay, so there are no ultimate explanations. Everything is, by extension, a brute fact." It seems to me there's something missing in Feser's argument. He's attempting to make a reductio ad absurdum argument against brute facts, but he hasn't explained why the logical consequence of brute facts is absurd.

While I don't think what Feser said amounts to an argument against the existence of brute facts, I do think he successfully undermines rational belief in brute facts. It seems to me that it's unreasonable to postulate brute facts because of Feser's second argument, and brute facts do seem rationally unjustified because of Feser's first argument. That is unless there's some rational reason aside from motivations for brute facts that Feser didn't mention and that I'm unaware of.

Is the universe contingent?

Over the years I've had two reservations about the argument from contingency. The first reservation comes from the possibility that there are brute facts. The argument from contingency depends on the principle of sufficient reason which states that for anything that exists, there is a sufficient reason for why exists rather than not existing. If there are brute facts, then it could be that some things exists for no reason at all. They're just there, and that's all there is to it.

I am highly skeptical of brute facts, but I haven't been able to rule out the possibility completely. But supposing there are no brute facts, that brings me to the second reservation about the argument from contingency. Is the universe a contingent thing? It's hard to say.

If there is a necessary being, and the universe is it, then there would be no need to postulate anything beyond the universe to explain the existence of the universe. But if the universe is contingent, and there are no brute facts, then there must be something beyond the universe that explains the existence of the universe.

Ultimately, if there is anything at all that's contingent, then there must be something that exists by necessity. Ultimately everything contingent that exists must be traced back to something that exists by necessity. In other words, there must be something that exists, and it's impossible for it to not exist.

While I have no problem deducing the fact that there is at least one necessary being, I have a hard time wrapping my mind around anything actually being a necessary being. Whenever I mull over whether any given object is a necessary being, I do two things. First, I try to conceive of it not existing. Second, I try to see if there is any contradiction in the supposition that it doesn't exist.

Although I can see that there must be a necessary being of some sort, whenever I try to imagine such a being, it's just as easy for me to imagine it not existing. God, of course, is the being I think is necessary. But unless I stipulate from the get-go that God is necessary, there's nothing else in the concept of God other than the stipulation that prevents me from imagining his non-existence. So apparently, conceivability cannot help me answer the question of whether or not any given entity is a necessary being or not. The mere fact that I can imagine the universe or God not existing doesn't entail that either is a contingent thing.

But neither can I deduce a contradiction in the denial of the existence of the universe or God. It seems, at least prima facie, that there is a possible world in which God exists, but the universe does not. It also seems, at least prima facie, that there is a possible world in which the universe exists, but God does not. It even seems, prima facie, that there is a possible world in which nothing at all exists. The only way I can see to deduce a contradiction from the non-existence of any named entity or being is to add propositions to it that we have reason to think are true.

We can deduce that God is a necessary being by adding the proposition that God is the source of everything else that exists. If God is the source of everything else that exists, and everything must be traced back to some necessary being, then it seems to follow that God is the necessary being that everything is traced back to. Since the necessity of God would follow from these premises, then the denial of the existence of God would entail a contradiction.

Or, if we add the proposition that only the material world exists, and everything contingent can be traced back to a necessary entity, then it would follow either that the universe is a necessary entity or else some part of the universe is necessary. Since the necessity of the universe or some part of the universe would follow from these premises, then the denial of the existence of the universe would entail a contradiction. (Notice I didn't add "or some part of the universe." That's because if we deny the existence of the whole universe, then we would be denying the existence of every part of the universe as well.)

So what reason is there to think the universe might be contingent that wouldn't just as easily apply to God? Or what reason is there to think God is a necessary being that wouldn't just as easily apply to the universe? Even if we all agree that all contingent things have their origin in something that's non-contingent, we've got to figure out where we're going to halt our explanatory regress. And it can't be arbitrary. There's got to be a good reason for halting it where we halt it, whether we halt it with the universe or with something beyond the universe.

I've been thinking about that over the last two days, so I thought I'd share my thoughts with you. There are two things I have to say about it. First, I think it is plainly evident that anything composed of parts must be a contingent thing. The reason is because if something is composed of parts, then it can be disassembled. For example, my desk is composed of atoms. If those atoms were separated from each other and spread throughout the galaxy, then my desk would no longer exist.

However, it could be that while my desk, as a whole, is contingent, the individual parts that make up my desk might possibly be necessary. Ever since the pre-Socratic Greek philosophers, on down to modern day physicists, we have been trying to find out what the most fundamental thing in physical reality is. Many of the Greeks, like Lucretius and Democritus, said the most fundamental things are atoms. Fast forward a couple thousand years, and our physicists called the basic constituents of elements "atoms." But then we discovered that atoms are composed of protons, neutrons, and electrons. Then we discovered that protons and neutrons are composed of quarks. Now, some physicists think the most fundamental entities are tiny vibrating strings. Some think the most fundamental entities are quantum fields, like the electric field or the Higgs field. There's a field for every particle.

So while I can confidently say that atoms, stars, and people are contingent things, I've got to question whether or not the most fundamental thing (or things) that atoms, stars, and people are made of are also contingent things. If there is some fundamental, non-reducible, physical thing out of which all other physical things are composed, then whatever it is, it is not composed of divisible parts. It is simple in some sense.

That brings me to the second thing I had to say. Supposing the most fundamental things are strings or something yet undiscovered or even hypothesized, it would seem to be the case that there is some particular number of them. Maybe it's 10^500. Who knows? Whatever that number is, if we suppose these entities are non-contingent (i.e. they are necessary), it would follow that the number of them is also necessary. After all, if each one of them is necessary, then it's impossible for any one of them to not exist, and if it's impossible for any one of them to not exist, then there couldn't possibly be fewer of them. Also, if they are necessary, then there couldn't possibly be any more of them either. The reason is because there could only be more if more came into existence. But if something comes into existence, then there had to have been a state of affairs in which it didn't exist, in which case it couldn't have been a necessary thing. So if the fundamental particles, strings, or whatever of physical reality are necessary entities, then there is a fixed number of them, and whatever that number is, it is necessary that it be that number.

Doesn't that strike you as odd, though? That there would be some fixed number of strings, and that there couldn't possibly be one more or one less? While I can't prove it, I am inclined to think the number of fundamental particles/strings/whatever is not necessary. It is contingent. If it's even possible that there could be one more string or one less, then at least one of these strings is contingent. But if one is contingent, why think any of them at all would be necessary? How could we distinguish between contingent strings and non-contingent strings? If we suppose half of all strings are contingent, and the other half are non-contingent, then we're faced with the same issue. There would still be a fixed number of necessary strings.

So I have a hard time believing that any given number of things could be necessary. I have a much easier time believing that if something is necessary, then there's only one of its kind. It's easy for me to imagine that all contingent things have their origin in one necessary thing, but if you suppose that all contingent things have their origin in a multitude of things, say 5, 50, or 10^500, then I'd be left wondering why there has to be just that number and not one more or one less. I would be inclined to believe that the number is contingent, in which case we haven't traced everything back to something necessary yet. We would have to keep going until we traced everything back to one thing before I'd be satisfied.

It is hard for me to explain why I'd be satisfied with one necessary thing that is the source of everything else, but I'll try. We couldn't suppose that there was one less thing, because then there'd be nothing at all, and it wouldn't be the case that everything contingent is traced back to something non-contingent. Rather, everything would be contingent, and that doesn't even seem possible to me. But if we suppose there might two things rather than one, it's hard to see why "two" is a necessary number and why there couldn't be one more or one less. So one necessary thing is the only thing that really resonates with me. I don't know how to explain it any better than that.

If some physicist could show that the most fundamental physical reality is just quantum fields, and if that physicist could somehow show that there's only one quantum field (i.e. that the various fields we now suppose exist can somehow be unified), then I would be hard pressed to find any grounds to argue that the universe is a contingent thing. At that point, I'd probably be 50/50. I might wonder about the properties of the field, though, and whether those properties were necessary or contingent. It seems to me that for anything in motion, each state of that thing is contingent. But I don't think it would follow that the whole thing is contingent.

But supposing the universe is composed of irreducible strings or some other particles, then I would be strongly inclined to believe that the whole universe was contingent. And if the whole universe is contingent, then the explanation for the universe must be something beyond the universe. Now we're getting into God territory. Of course one can always suppose that the universe has it's origin in something else that is contingent, but even if so, that contingent thing would ultimately have to trace its origin to something non-contingent. You can't escape the existence of something non-contingent no matter how many contingent things you put before the universe. Whatever that thing is, and I'm strongly inclined to think it's just one thing for the reasons I've already given, it would have to be god-like. It would be a non-physical necessary being that is the origin of everything else that exists. I think we can attribute those properties at a minimum with a fair degree of certainty. We might be able to infer various other properties, but in that case I think we'd be on less firm ground and we'd be venturing into speculation.

So where do I stand on the argument from contingency? Well, I think the argument from contingency shows with a high degree of certainty that there is a necessary entity, probably just one, that is the source for everything else that exists. It falls short of certainty to the degree that brute facts are possible. This argument, by itself, doesn't show that YHWH exists, although the conclusion of this argument could be used as a premise in a larger argument for the existence of YHWH. For me, this argument could be strengthened if I had better reasons to think the universe is contingent. While I strongly suspect the universe is contingent, I don't really have a strong argument for it. Well, let me back up. I think Kalam-type arguments give us strong reasons to think the universe is contingent, but I'm trying to evaluate the argument from contingency as a stand-alone argument without invoking other theistic arguments to prop it up.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Melinda Penner

I just found out a few minutes ago that Melinda Penner at Stand to Reason had a bad accident a few days ago. She is still in bad shape, so if you're the praying sort, please remember her in your prayers. Thanks!

Monday, December 04, 2017

Cancer and cataracts

I saw this Ted talk recently where this guy was talking about taking white blood cells out, re-engineering them to kill cancer cells, then injecting them back in. They managed to completely cure a little girl of leukemia.

I googled around and found that this treatment is FDA approved, but only for treating leukemia. The reason is that it can't kill tumors. When it attacks the cells on the outside of the tumor and they all die, it creates a wall that the white cells can't get through, so they can't kill the rest of the tumor.

I also read that once you've had some of your white blood cells engineered and re-injected, it's for life. All of your white blood cells will forever be able to fight cancer. It seems to me that if that's true, then this technology ought to be able to be used as an inoculation against cancer. It may not be able to destroy a tumor, but it ought to be able to prevent a tumor from ever forming. I'll have to do more googling around about that. If this were FDA approved for inoculation against cancer, I'd be first in line!

In other news, I'm starting to get old man eyes, which makes it harder to focus on things close up. From what I read that happens to pretty much everybody because the lens in your eye hardens so that it can't change shape as easily. The solution is reading glasses, bi-focals, or interocular lens (IOL) implants. Lens implants are usually for people with cataracts, though.

I started reading around about lens implants and watching YouTube videos. Most implants will only allow you to focus on one distance, but now they have multi-focal lenses that allow you to see clearly both close up and far away. Insurance usually doesn't cover those, though.

There are all kinds of multi-focal lenses now. The coolest one I've seen anywhere is called FluidVision 20/20. It's a liquid IOL that works pretty much like your natural lens. Well, it does the same thing, but not exactly in the same way. Anyway, it supposedly allows you to see 20/20 at every distance. Check this out.

I seriously want that! It's not FDA approved yet, much less will insurance pay for it. I would gladly volunteer for a clinical trial, though. I've been wearing glasses since I was 20, and I've never gotten used to them. I only wear them when I drive. I hate hate hate wearing glasses! Wouldn't it be awesome to have 20/20 vision even when you're old without glasses or contacts? I can't even wear contacts. I tried two or three years ago, but neither I nor the doctors could get them in. I would pay oodles and doodles for FluidVision if I could.