Sunday, February 17, 2019

Bad arguments on the simplicity of God

Touching the question of God's simpliciity, whatever is perfectly infinite in being cannot be built up from that which is finite in being. But parts of a thing must necessarily be finite. (James E. Dolezal, All that is in God, 48)

If God should be composed of parts, then these parts would be before Him in being, even if not in time, and He would rightly conceived of as existing from them, or of them. (Dolezal, 49)

In response to the first argument, it is not true that parts of a thing must necessarily be finite. It is mathematically possible to create a composite equation consisting of both finite and infinite components (And yes, parts CAN be infinite). In response to the second argument, why can it not be that the whole is prior logically, and the parts are discerned only when the whole is dissected? For example, a multi-dimensional tesseract is prior to the cube, since a cube is a 3-dimensional face of a n-dimensional tessarect. The tessarect is primary, yet we can break it down into 3-dimensional cubes for viewing, or even 2 dimensional squares. Therefore, this argument of priority is not sound.

May I suggest that Dolezal might benefit from actually learning mathematics (at the higher level) and science (also at the higher level), before making such arguments?

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Theology Proper and Mutualism (of any kind)

Previous post on this topic here.

First, it is incoherent to say that God is ontologically immutable while denying that He is absolutely immutable, unless one believe there are change in God that are not alterations of actuality or being (which is de facto ontological). But then these changes would not be the alteration of anything real, and therefore any cogent intelligibility of [Bruce -DHC] Ware's point collapses. (James E. Dolezal, All that is in God, 25)

Thus says Thomist thinker James Dolezal, against the idea that there can be changes in God as promoted by Bruce Ware. But is that a proper critique? I would assert not

Ware and others like him promote theological mutalism, a position that claims that God in His relations with his creatures enter into a "give-and-take" relationship with them. Now, theological mutualism does not seem to me to be correct because the give-and-take seems to be dealing with God in His essence. That would certainly affect the doctrine of immutability. Likewise, I am uncomfortable with any talk about God changing. However, it must be acknowledged that Ware's idea of change within God is not ontological, for that is after all what Ware himself states. To claim that Ware is promoting ontological change in God is therefore not an honest portrayal of his position.

If changes in God are not ontological, are there not real? That is Dolezal's argument against Ware. If non-ontological changes are not real, then to speak of them is to speak nonsense. But it is on this point that we must assert that, yes, non-ontological changes can be real. After all, in marriage, a man becomes a husband, but there is no ontological change in him, is there? When a son is born, does a man ontologically transmutes into "a father"? Is there some "father-ness" quality that is added to the man when his son is born? But it may be objected that these are mere external relations. Firstly, are they truly merely external relations? In the case of the birth of a son, surely the son partakes of the father, having half of his genome within him. Secondly, just because some of them are external relations, does it make them not real? Is the marriage covenant merely a arbitrary thing because there is no ontological changes that take place to both parties during marriage?

In the case of God, surely we can be concerned with any talk of change in God. But if someone states that any such change he is proposing is "non-ontological," may I suggest taking a more charitable approach and actually assume that he really means "non-ontological" when he says "non-ontological"? The problem then with mutualism is not that they are attacking immutability, but they are not ascribing the changes of God in the correct sphere. If they speak of the changes being "non-ontological," then they must at the very least be speaking of God in His workings ad extra, in His energies, not in His essence. And that in my opinion is what Scripture itself teaches, but that is for another time.

Natural theology and the issue of "being"

Classical Christian theism is deeply devoted to the absoluteness of God with respect to His existence, essence, and activity. Nothing about God's being is derived or caused to be. There is nothing beyond Him or outside Him that could increase, alter, or augment His infinite fullness of being and felicity. For this reason, He cannot subject Himself to changes because every change involves a cause that brings the subject an actuality of being that the subject lacks in and or itself. [James E. Dolezal, All That is in God: Evangelical Theology and the Challenge of Classical Christian Theism (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2017), 10]

14. God cannot give being to Himself since He cannot give what He does not have; and if already possess the fullness of being, He cannot receive it from Himself. No one is enriched in any way by what one already possesses. Such a notion of giving and receiving that of which one is already in perfect possession is trivial at best and nonsensical at worst. Enrichment requires addition of actuality. God can have nothing added to Him because He lacks no perfection of being and actuality. (Dolezal, 17 footnote 14)

[Before we start, let me just state that I hold to divine perfection, and the aseity, infinity, immutability, impassibility, and simplicity of God. That done? Let's begin.]

God is God. He is infinite, and His existence and essence is most certainly absolute. He is fully a se, and thus dependent on no one for anything. That all is true. However, it is truly fascinating how that can be used to translate into an argument for immutability. Worse still is how natural theology is retrofitted as something appropriate for the 21st century. It is shocking and disturbing how natural theology is making a comeback, as if Scripture alone is insufficient and nature sufficient to inform us about who and what God is in His fullness. It is almost as if we did not learn anything from Vatican I and the Thomisms that spawned from it, thinking that somehow a revival of Thomas Aquinas is beneficial to the Protestant church!

In God's providence, the conclusions about who God is as delivered through classical theism have been true to the Scriptures. But just as God can use crooked sticks to draw straight lines, so likewise just because God had used Aristotelian and Thomistic metaphysics does not imply that the tools used are somehow sacrosanct. There comes a time when, upon further reflection, we might see the limitations of these tools and how using them further would harm us and our knowledge of God. It is my opinion that such a time has come, as the attempt to revive Thomistic metaphysics in the modern day has resulted in more problems than it actually solves.

In Dolezal's book, the basic premise of the Ontological argument is rephrased and refitted into an argument for immutability. Since God has perfect infinite being, therefore there cannot be any changes in God. Utilizing Thomistic categories, God's infinite perfection must imply full actuality (purus actus) and immutability. The reason why infinite perfection implies immutability is because change implies potentiality, and any change is a change away from perfection, which shows that God is not infinitely perfect. But since God is infinitely perfect, therefore God must be immutable and is pure act.

From a natural theology perspective, we cannot smuggle in propositions from Scripture. So therefore, arguing from philosophy alone, why must we accept the argument that infinite perfection must imply that any change would be against God's infinite perfect nature? Dolezal argues that "there is nothing beyond Him or outside Him that could increase, alter, or augment His infinite fullness of being and felicity." Very true, only if we hold to aseity. But what about changes within God Himself? Here, Dolezal claims that "every change involves a cause that brings the subject an actuality of being that the subject lacks in and or itself." But this is not necessarily the case. "Perfection" apart from its biblical content can mean a lot of things, and it is not evident that "perfection" must imply the existence of some form of infinite good that is by definition unsurpassable by anything else. Likewise with the word "infinite." A black holes is an infinite singularity "cordoned off" from the rest of the universe by its event horizon, yet it has finite mass and occupies finite (3D) space. So what does "infinite" really mean?

Is there even such a conception as a "perfect being" rightly understood according to Platonism? In evolutionary biology, "perfection" does not exist, for an organism perfectly suited for its ecosystem can suddenly be ill-fitted when the world and its habitats change. So what is "perfection"? Static immutability is far from perfect in biology! So what exactly do we mean by "infinite" and "perfection" since we are defining it according to natural theology (which cannot be limited to only Thomistic natural theology, but is to refer to all attempts to think about God from a earthly perspective!)

Since such is the case, Dolezal's statement that "[God] cannot subject Himself to changes because every change involves a cause that brings the subject an actuality of being that the subject lacks in and or itself" is false according to the full version of natural theology. It is first false because "infinite perfection" can be defined as supreme adaptability to all forms of changes, as in biology. It is second false because all changes can be to the accidents and not the substance of being, as when wolves adapt to become various species of dogs yet they still are part of the wolf kind. [It may be objected that that is a denial of simplicity, but that is not part of Dolezal's argument, which claims that infinite perfection ALONE implies immutability and pure act.] Thirdly, it is false because change from within can come about through internal processes yet without affecting the ontology of the being itself, as when mental discipline can allow for humans to do some remarkable things like walking on fire and on needles, yet nothing is changed in the essence of the the person himself.

But, if Thomstic metaphysics can get us to what the Bible explicitly teaches (God as perfect, God as infinite, God as immutable), why should we be hung up over the manner we get to those? It matters because method is not neutral, and the method has the potential to lead us to an undermining of what the Bible teaches in other places. After all, the Bible does not teach Aristotle neither is the Summa Theologia the 67th book of the Bible. If we truly practice Sola Scriptura, then even concerning the doctrine of God which has been served rather well by classical metaphysics, we must hold the method critically at arm's length. From my perspective, I do not see any necessity of utilizing classical metaphysics besides historical theology, as I am confident that the Bible alone is sufficient to provide us the whole doctrine of God, utilizing classical metaphysics as the skeletal form to direct our theologizing, and nothing else.

Friday, February 08, 2019

The really "woke" person

Also, sadly, on the path to apostasy

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Book Review: Divided We Fall: Overcoming a History of Christian Disunity

Unity is something that God desires in his church (c.f. Jn. 17:21), yet the Christian church seems to be growing more and more fragmented. How then ought we to seek and fight for Christian unity in a divided world? Luder G. Whitlock Jr. had this question in mind as he wrote his book promoting Christian unity, in Divided We Wall: Overcoming a History of Christian Disunity, published in 2017. I have read the book and reviewed it in a book review here. An excerpt:

The history of the Christian church concerning the cause of Christian peace and unity has not been very glorious. Over the centuries, there have been many divisions within what is purported to be the one catholic and apostolic church. It is common among Roman Catholic apologists to attack Protestantism for all the divisions in the church ... [continue]

Time travel and the issue of autoinfanticide

In the first place, it is quite obvious that there are constraints on the timelike curves may act as loci for particular sorts of causal chain. The spatiotemporal interval between distinct events of a type of causal process if commonly determined by laws of physics. Second, any causal chain must be consistent with those chains which are located along intersecting lines.... Such systems [of self-defeating systems -DHC] are excluded by just those restrictions on causal chains and their interrelationships that ordinarily apply in open time. [Paul Horwich, Asymmetries in Time: Problems in the Philosophy of Science (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992), 118-9]

The problem with the possibility of time travel is that it opens up paradoxes. In particular, if one can travel to the past and alter history, could one kill one's infant self, thus result in an unresolvable contradiction? Or one can cause any change in world history, resulting in one not being born at all. There are a couple of possible ways such time paradoxes could be resolved. One way is for one to be threatened to be erased from time (and would be erased from existence) if one attempts to kill one's infant self or do anything which prevents one's being born (as seen in Back to the Future). Another way is one can kill "one's infant self" and realize when one returns that one has a different pedigree altogether (because of actions committed in the past), with perhaps even a different set of memories and life experiences when one returns (or having both sets simultaneously). Since nobody has ever witnessed time travel neither it is at present feasible to attempt time travel, anything we have now about time travel is mere speculation.

As a thought experiment however, thinking about time travel tells us more about one's philosophy of time. The philosopher Paul Horwich, in dealing with the problem of time travel and the problem of autoinfanticide, suggests that the nature of causal chains make it such that overlapping and contradictory timelike causal chains are impossible since "any causal chain must satisfy consistency conditions imposed by its surroundings" (p. 119). In other words, paradoxes such as autoinfanticide are impossible because consistency in spacetime conditions must be maintained, and therefore a subsequent causal chain cannot disrupt the former conditions in the spacetime environment, laid out in the causal chains that are already present there. When one attempts to kill one's infant self, circumstances will ensure that that would not be possible no matter how hard one tries to do so.

My question to such a solution to the paradox however is why we must state that circumstances must prevent autoinfanticide from happening, instead of conceding that a genuine paradox might occur in the timeline of the world. Postulating that a subsequent causal chain cannot disrupt previous chains because of "consistency conditions" is merely to answer the question with a restatement of the question in the form of an answer. "Why must another causal chain NOT disrupt previous chains," when analyzed, is the essence of the question "Why must one not be able to murder one's earlier self," which is our initial question. Horwich's claim that autoinfanticide is impossible it seems boils down to the assertion that it is impossible, which is not a good answer at all.

Subsequently, speculations about the physical and technological possibility of time travel are stated, and that might be true impediments to time travel. But arguments based upon human psychology (why would one wants to kill one's former self), and the strange physical inability to kill oneself, are unconvincing. Unless one rejects that man has free agency, man is naturally able to choose to do what one desires to do. It does not matter whether one wants to do action X or not. If man has the natural ability to choose action X, then the paradox remains. Likewise, postulating all manner of circumstances (gun misfire, fall ill on the day when one will try to kill one's former self) does not solve the problem because these contingent factors can be resolved to satisfaction in other possible worlds, and therefore the paradox remains.

It seems therefore that the paradoxes of time travel has not been well resolved in Horwich's book. The autoinfanticide paradox, as well as the time travelers' paradox, remain problems that seem to suggest the impossibility of time travel in this universe.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

McTaggart and Time

1. Events are located in a B-series, only if time exists. In order to see that McTaggart's first premise is correct, one must remember that it is not time in the Newtonian sense—an array of thinglike instants—whose reality is in question. Rather, the consequent of (1)—time exists—is supposed to be construed in a very broad way, as something like "the world exhibits temporality'. And in that case, premise 1 becomes a trivial truth. [Paul Howrich, Asymmetries in Time: Problems in the Philosophy of Science (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1987), 18]

The puzzling thing about the philosophy of time to me is why it is thought that a B-series is ontologically necessary. The idea of "earlier than," "later than" does not need a real B series to function, but rather they could be seen in a B series that is the projection of the movement of an A series. In other words, rather than looking at events according to "earlier than" or "later than," shouldn't it rather be looking at two events on the A series line, project them onto a B series, and only then can it be seen which is earlier and which is later? In other words, events are not located in a B-series, but projected onto a B-series.

Along the same path of understanding, the time words of "now," "past," "present," "future" should be understood as descriptive words not properties of any instance in time. It should be false to describe moment A as having the property "present" or "past" or "future," since whatever descriptor is applicable depends on the relation of moment A to the current "now." Since any one moment does not possess temporal properties of any sort, but rather everything is merely relation, the whole idea of any one moment A acquiring simultaneously the "properties" "past," "present," "future" as the "moving now" passes through that moment is without merit.

Time and fatalism

... By the same token, a thorough criticism of the 'moving now' conception must eventually deal with the tree model of reality. Let us therefore examine the reason that, following Aristotle, is most often cited as motivating this ontological asymmetry: the avoidance of fatalism.

The case for fatalism goes something like this: What was true in the past logically determines what will be true in the future; therefore, since the past is over and done with and beyond our control, the future must also be beyond our control; consequently, there is no point worrying, planning, and taking pains to influence what will happen. [Paul Horwich, Asymmetries in Time: Problems in the Philosophy of Science (Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1987), 28]

In his book on the issue of time, Paul Horwich attempts to show how we can understand time, which is seemingly unidirectional, as being a non-directional dimension that has inherent properties that result in the emergence of the flow of time as we know it. The book is an exercise in how time can be understood to exist in the universe if time is to be understood as a dimension of the universe, but in my reading I have not seen any reason stated why time is to be understood thus.

Horwich in the first main chapter (the second chapter of the book) attempts to deal with the issue of the directionality of time. Time moves forward for all of us, and thus it is taken as common sense by most people that the future is undetermined while the past which is already past cannot be changed. However, Horwich sought to undermine the concept that the past is actually fixed. The argument in this chapter is not that the past MUST be mutable, but that it CAN be changed, which is a weaker argument. To do this, Horwich extends the argument for fatalism from the premise that the past is fixed to the conclusion that either some act R's "future truth is now fixed and beyond our control, or R's future falsity is fixed and beyond our control" (p. 29). In other words, if the past is fixed, then logically, it means that the future is fixed as well. Horwich accomplishes this with a key step stating that the truth value of the statement "It was the case at past time p that S will be true at future time f" is necessarily the same as the truth value of the statement "It is the case that S will be true at future time f." Thus, given a B series, the end result is fatalism. Therefore, there are three choices Horwich gives to us:

  1. Abandon the plausible sounding view that the past is already determined and beyond our control ...
  2. Follow Aristotle by giving up the idea that all statements about the future have a present truth value ...
  3. Invite fatalism by agreeing that even future events are presently beyond our control

(Horwich, 29)

The first problem with Horwich's approach it seems is that there does not seem to be any recognition of the difference between determinism and fatalism. Fatalism is the view that everything happens regardless of what you or anyone does. In other words, in fatalism, if it is predetermined that person X will be walking along the road and be hit by a car at 11 pm and die, that will happen even if person X attempts to stay home at 11 pm and so avoid his fate. Determinism however only state that such and such a thing would happen. But one variation of determinism could state that the actions of individuals are factored into the future. In other words, if it is determined that person X have the same fate, person X will want to walk on that road and then he will be hit by the car on 11 pm and die. If person X learned that he might die and thus stayed home, the actual determined future is that person X stayed home and live. Fatalism allows for no personal agency of any actor to interfere with its determined future, while determinism factors in the personal agencies of all actors in its determined future.

Since such is the case, Horwich's aversion to fatalism and his rejection of it in favor of a mutable past does not seem wise. There is no reason why we must be open to the idea that the past is mutable, and fatalism is just as false as it always has been.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Conference: Remembering the Canons: After 400 Years

2019 is the 400th anniversary of the Synod of Dordt. Westminster Seminary California, my alma mater, had decided to commemorate the Synod of Dort in their annual conference on January 18-19, 2019. The sessions of this conference are as follows:

  1. Why Dort Happened, or Why Arminius Is Not the Hero of the Story (Part 1, Part 2), by W. Robert Godfrey
  2. A Real Atonement for Real Sinners, by Michael S. Horton
  3. Unconditional Election and the Free Offer of the Gospel, by R. Scott Clark
  4. Dort and the Holy Exercises of Piety, by Charles Telfer
  5. The Relevance of Dordt in Oprah's America, by Joel E. Kim

Saturday, February 02, 2019

Conference: Social Justice and the Gospel

The pre-G3 conference, "Social Justice & The Gospel: The God-breathed Hierarchy and the Postmodern Crisis within the Church," was on January16, 2019. The sessions have now been uploaded here. They are as follows:

  1. Introduction to the Social Justice and the Gospel Conference, by Michael O'Fallon
  2. Defining Social Justice, by Dr. Voddie Baucham
  3. Virtue Signaling: The New Evangelistic Strategy, by Phil Johnson
  4. An Exegetical and Historical Examination of the Woke Church Movement, by Dr. James R. White
  5. Brave New Religion: Intersectionality, by Dr. Josh Buice
  6. White Privilege: The New Original Sin, by Dr. Thomas Ascol

The conference then ends with a panel with the framers of the Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Time dilation, movement and eternity

Relativistic time dilation formula:

, where tS is Stationary Time, t' is relativistic time, v = subject's velocity, c = speed of light = 3 x 108 m/s

The theory of special relativity states that time is not fixed but rather relative to the speed of light. As an object moves closer to the speed of light, time slows down from their perspective, alongside other interesting effects. For example, someone traveling at the 0.8 times the speed of light for 180 seconds (from his perspective) will find that 300 seconds has passed in real life (i.e. the stationary observer). Time around him seems to slow down such that 1 of his seconds is longer than the 1 second of the observer. If he moves even faster, time around him will slow more and more. When he accelerates to 2.999 x 108 m/s, more than 0.99 times the speed of light, only about 7.7 seconds has passed while 300 seconds have passed for the observer.

Albert Einstein's theories of relativity (both special and general) show that time is not a fixed quality. Furthermore, if time is not a fixed quality, then perhaps time is a dimension just like our three-dimensional space (thus 4-dimensional space-time). Regardless of whether time is a dimension or not, I would like to look here at the implications of Special Relativity on the issue of eternity.

According to the relativistic formula of time dilation, the faster the speed of the object, the slower time flows around the object. Due to the Lorentz transformation, it is impossible for any object with mass to reach light speed, since any object approaching light speed will approach infinite mass and will require infinite energy to do so. But suppose an object were to reach light speed. What happens then? Well, the object will have infinite mass so it will collapse into a black hole. But as the object reaches light speed, the flow of time around the object stops. The object at the speed of light has reached timelessness, where t' equals 0. Time as perceived by the object has essentially stopped, and he can "travel" whatever distance he desires without time moving at all.

What does this have to do with movement and eternity? Well, actions involves movements, which means there is change over time. Timelessness and spontaneity in the physical world occurs for objects at the speed of light. However, if the object is timeless, then the object is stuck at that time (frozen in time). For any action done to take effect, the object has to exit the state of timelessness.

To speak of God as being "timeless" therefore is to create a deistic god, where the world is wound up and all the actions began at the singularity that is the beginning of the world. Something that is eternally timeless can only interact with time at the point of singularity, and anything that becomes timeless at time t1 can only interact with the world at time t1. Surely a god who is timeless, if he is to preserve timelessness, cannot cease being timeless even for an instant. Therefore, the only logical conclusion for a god who is timeless is that he does not interact with the world except to wind it up. Providence in this model is merely the unfolding of the decrees inbuilt within creation. There cannot be miracles, except the miracles that have been decreed to be worked out from creation. God cannot hear prayers, for a timeless god cannot be in time.

Needless to say, this is not the God of the Bible. Thus, the biblical God cannot be timeless, or at least he cannot be timeless in his interaction with the world. Timelessness can only be attributed to God's essence since His essence does not deal with us, but it cannot be attributed to God in His three persons, since Father, Son, and Spirit interacts with the world and with us. It is because of this that we must reject the classical theistic view of timelessness. God is eternal yes, and eternal time in his essence can be said to be "timeless." But God in His persons is not timeless neither does that even make sense. We are not supposed to be deists after all! The God of the Bible is portrayed as one who hears our prayers and acts on behalf of His people, whereas in a deistic system one can only say that this god began a process at creation to seemingly answer prayer even before the prayer has been uttered, and thus give an illusion that prayer has been answered.

It is because of this that God's eternity in His persons is everlasting "time," and not "timelessness." The Son in everlasting "time," in eternity past, submits to the Father in the Pactum Salutis to save His people. "Time" did not begin for God with the Incarnation, but it has always been present, as long and as eternal as the persons of the Trinity have their fellowship one with another.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Time, and the idea of the Time Stone

... he denies, like Leibniz does, that time is any sort of substantival entity over and above the phenomena that are located in time. [Paul Horwich, Asymmetries in Time: Problems in the Philosophy of Science (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press), 47]

In sci-fi/ fantasy movies, certain exotic scientific concepts are explored. Time travel is one such exotic concept, which is based upon a certain view of time (i.e. time is a dimension just like our three dimensions of space). But even more exotic concepts have to do with time manipulation in the here and now, including reversing time with everything going in reverse (e.g. raindrops gathering from the ground and moving up to the clouds). We see those concepts in play in Marvel movies like Doctor Strange and Avengers: Infinity War. In Doctor Strange, Doctor Strange uses the Time Stone to reverse time in an attempt to prevent Dormammu from entering the "Earth dimension," and when he was stopped from completing the time reversal, he used time loops to force Dormammu to retreat from the Earth . In Infinity War, the mad Titan Thanos used the Time Stone to reverse time in a small circle around the place where Vision was destroyed, reversing the Mind Stone's destruction so that he could take it from Vision and complete his Infinity Gauntlet. In both of these movies, we see the use of an artifact that uses energy to manipulate time. Time is depicted as a dimension that can be manipulated by someone, and that person must be situated outside of time when he manipulates time in whatever manner he desires.

The manipulation of time is somewhat problematic when one actually thinks about it. We are creatures of time, in that time moves all around us. We are born in time, grow up in time, age in time, and die in time. The movement of time is essentially movement. Without the movement of time, nothing moves in the world, for movement is after all change of position over time (e.g. meters PER second). Therefore, to say that one can manipulate time would mean that one must be outside of time. For otherwise, if one reverses time, does the process of reversing time reverses the action of the person who is trying to reverse time? Thus, in order to manipulate time, if it were possible, one must be at a position outside time.

But, if one is outside of time, then how can we speak of action at all? For timelessness implies a cessation of any and all actions. Thus, the purported time manipulator would be frozen in eternal timelessness and unable to manipulate time as he had intended (or was it "has" or "will be") [As an aside, this is why I reject timelessness as an understanding of God's eternity]

The only way to allow time manipulation, which comes from a 'B-series' view of time, is to see time as just another dimension of physics. In Einstein's special theory of relativity, space and time are relativized while the speed of light remains constant. In General Relativity, gravity is predicted to distort both space and time, such that time slows down near objects of great gravitational potential like black holes. Now, I do not know if Einstein's theories necessitates a 'B-series' view of time, but they certainly make it easy to see time as just another dimension that could be manipulated. If time is seen to be just another dimension, then the whole concept of time manipulation is at least plausible. But surely that does not solve the problem of time manipulation by an agent like Doctors Strange or Thanos, does it? No, it does not. Reversing time would be possible, but not having a person standing in the midst of a city while everything around him gets reversed except for him and Wong. Reversing time would be possible, but reversing time in a arbitrarily chosen sphere around Vision while time flows forward all around that invisible sphere, without a massive rupture of the space-time continuum around the sphere, is not.

But before we just say that movies are not meant to be taken as serious science, consider as a thought experiment whether such time manipulation can be conceived philosophically. If one holds to a 'B-series' view of time, then perhaps such specific time manipulation is philosophically plausible if one holds to more than one axis of time. What does this mean? Just as space has three dimensions (x, y, z), so likewise if time has more than one time dimensions, then perhaps time manipulation is plausible. Having three space dimensions means that if everyone has to move 3 spaces, someone can appear to be stationary along the x-axis because he moved three spaces in the y-axis, or he moved 2 spaces on the y-axis and 1 on the z-axis. The point here is that having more than one dimension means that one can be actually moving while appearing stationary in one particular axis.

Since action requires movement, and manipulation of time is an action, therefore time must move forward while time manipulation is happening. But if there are more than one time dimension, then the time manipulator can seemingly appear stationary while time all around him is reversed. Assume two temporal dimensions: t1 and t2, with t1 being the one we see. Everyone must move forward "in time" 2 minutes. With time manipulation, the entire earth could be moving forward 4 minutes in t2 while moving back 2 minutes in t1, whereas the manipulator moves +2 on the t1 axis and 0 on the other. Likewise, when Thanos reverse Vision's first death, all the molecules and whatever the Mind Stone is made up of shifts -10 on the t1 axis and +14 on the t2 axis.

This does not imply whatsoever that time manipulation is even remotely possible, but rather how one must understand time to operate if time manipulation is a possibility. Remember that we are not talking about merely slowing the passage of time, but about reversing time, and on a small scale without event horizons.

[Yes, I know that t1 and t2 would probably be vectors and are not be added and subtracted like scalars. The numbers are just there for illustration]

Sermon: Do all for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:14-33)

Here is the sermon I had preached a few weeks ago on 1 Corinthians 10:14-33.

Friday, December 21, 2018

The Kuhnian idea of theory, observation and incommensurability

Kuhn’s own emphasis on science as a puzzle-solving enterprise would lead one to interpret him in an instrumentalist manner. [Ernan McMullin, "Rationality and Paradigm Change in Science," in Paul Horwich, ed., World Changes: Thomas Kuhn and the Nature of Science (Pittsburg, PA: University of Pittsburg Press, 1993, 2010), 71]

His [Kuhn’s –DHC] argument that theories on either side of a revolution are incommensurable because the meanings of terms change so radically applies also, and perhaps more plausibly, to the names of disciplines (J.L. Heilbron, “A Mathematicians’ Mutiny, with Morals,” in ibid., 107)

Yet, to admit that observation is theory-laden is a long way from denying that there is a theory/ observation distinction. (Nancy Cartwright, “How We Relate Theory to Observation,” in ibid., 259)

The natural-kind terms current in an old science cannot be translated into natural-kind terms in a new science. (Ian Hacking, “Working in a New World,” in ibid., 278)

The world in and with which we work is a world of kinds. The latter changes; the former does not. After a scientific revolution, the scientist works in a world of new kinds. In one sense, the world is exactly the same. A change in the class of sets of individuals that correspond to scientific kinds of things is not a change in the world at all. But in another sense the world in which the scientist works is entirely different, because what we work in is not a world of individuals but of kinds, a world that we must represent using projectible predicates. (Hacking, "Working," in ibid., 306)

One word of describing this difficulty [concerning translation —DHC] is as a case of polysemy: the two individuals are applying the same name to different concepts. But that description, though correct as far as it goes, fails to catch the depth of the difficulty. Polysemy has a standard remedy, widely deployed in analytic philosophy: two names are introduced where there had been only one before. If the polysemous term is ‘water’, the difficulties are to be lifted by replacing each of the concepts that previously shared the name ‘water.’ Though the two new terms differ in meaning, most referents of ‘water1’ are referents of ‘water2’ and vice versa. (Thomas S. Kuhn, “Afterwords,” in ibid., 318)

Thomas Kuhn's philosophy of science can best be termed "instrumentalist," an epistemic antirealist position concerning science and scientific theories. The key thing to take note concerning Kuhn is that he is not a relativist or subjectivist, a label that is a better fit on philosophers like Michael Polanyi. Rather, Kuhn's method is a historical method looking at the history of the scientific enterprise, and wrestling with how previous generations of scientists have thought and worked on their theories.

One element of Kuhn's thought that had previously eluded me was his promotion of incommensurability, a term which seems to lead to a form of relativism. However, upon clearer reading, especially in this book edited by Paul Horwich, what Kuhn means by "incommensurability" has to do with theories and not the propositions of those theories. It is a term applicable at the meta-level, whereby different paradigms are so different that there is no way to translate one paradigm to another. Or, to put it perhaps in a way that may be easier to understand, it is impossible to translate a set of natural-kind terms to anther set of natural-kind terms, without losing some meaning or even most of the meaning in the process. In other words, it is possible to translate one paradigm into a set of propositions, and another paradigm into another set of propositions, but as a whole, the two sets are mutually incomprehensible and thus incommensurable.

There is no such thing as a "neutral" observation in science, something which sounds quite self-evident but is mostly lost to many scientists. Theory dictates what one looks for or what one expects to see, and this framing of the question makes observation in some-sense "subjective," or theory-laden. This is why incommensurability is so much more than merely interpretation of data, and why the word "incommensurability" is fit to describe the differences between two paradigms, instead of merely stating that they are differing interpretations of the natural world. Thus, in a sense, the world changes between paradigms.

Once all these are clear, then it is clear also why Kuhn's antirealism is not relativism, much less can he be used to promote the idea of science as a social construction. The natural world is objectively out there, but Kuhn's theory have to do with our knowledge of the world even to the point of observation. Now, if there is no transcendent external observer, then Kuhn's theory might lead to some form of relativism. But if Kuhn's theory is limited to humans, and thus an expression of human finitude in science, then Kuhn's theory is congruent with a belief in an objective world and absolute truth, insights which do not come and could not come from science.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Wang Yi: My Declaration of Faithful Disobedience

Pastor Wang Yi (王怡) of Early Rain Covenant Church (秋雨圣约教会), along with more than 100 of the leaders of the church, has since December 9th 2018 been apprehended by the Chinese authorities and charged with various crimes including the crime of sedition. In knowledge that he could be arrested at any time, Pastor Wang Yi had prepared a letter stating his stance on the truth of Christianity and against the unlawful (against God's law) persecution of the Chinese church by the Chinese authorities. The letter can be read here in English.

Here is the excerpt which I had read to conclude the sermon I had preached today:

... I believe that this Communist regime’s persecution against the church is a greatly wicked, unlawful action. As a pastor of a Christian church, I must denounce this wickedness openly and severely. The calling that I have received requires me to use non-violent methods to disobey those human laws that disobey the Bible and God. My Savior Christ also requires me to joyfully bear all costs for disobeying wicked laws.

But this does not mean that my personal disobedience and the disobedience of the church is in any sense “fighting for rights” or political activism in the form of civil disobedience, because I do not have the intention of changing any institutions or laws of China. As a pastor, the only thing I care about is the disruption of man’s sinful nature by this faithful disobedience and the testimony it bears for the cross of Christ.

As a pastor, my disobedience is one part of the gospel commission. Christ’s great commission requires of us great disobedience. The goal of disobedience is not to change the world but to testify about another world.

For the mission of the church is only to be the church and not to become a part of any secular institution. From a negative perspective, the church must separate itself from the world and keep itself from being institutionalized by the world. From a positive perspective, all acts of the church are attempts to prove to the world the real existence of another world. The Bible teaches us that, in all matters relating to the gospel and human conscience, we must obey God and not men. For this reason, spiritual disobedience and bodily suffering are both ways we testify to another eternal world and to another glorious King.

This is why I am not interested in changing any political or legal institutions in China. I’m not even interested in the question of when the Communist regime’s policies persecuting the church will change. Regardless of which regime I live under now or in the future, as long as the secular government continues to persecute the church, violating human consciences that belong to God alone, I will continue my faithful disobedience. For the entire commission God has given me is to let more Chinese people know through my actions that the hope of humanity and society is only in the redemption of Christ, in the supernatural, gracious sovereignty of God.

Here is the original in Chinese

Here it is in Japanese, and here in Italian