Monthly Archives: June 2008

Would a Liberal Send Troops into Zimbabwe?

The Zimbabwean despot Robert Mugabe was sworn into office to take on his 6th term as president of Zimbabwe an office he doesn’t legitimately hold. He used violence and coercion to drive his opponent out of the competition; it is a travesty of Democracy and denial decency for this man to be accepted as the rightful president of Zimbabwe.

The very first thing that needs to be done by the international community is to refuse to recognise him as the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe. This should send him the message that the World is not going to accept his presence at any international events. There should be a worldwide travel ban enforced against him, do not allow him to leave the country. This will be a lot easier to get agreement on in the West but, problems seem to arise in the neighbouring African countries. Western Nations should make it clear to any Nation that gives aid or comfort to the despot will not enjoy the friendship of the West.

Trade Unions have called for a grass roots blockade of the tyrant no one should serve him or his staff in any capacity. He should be denied service at airports and in shops. This is at least a symbolic gesture of solidarity with the People of Zimbabwe.

I began to wonder how my liberalism might fit into my opinions on World dictators do we, the World Community, have a role in the internal affairs of a Sovereign Nation? I think that there are many circumstances that should result repudiation of their Sovereignty. One such criterion for the forfeit of autonomy is when the de facto ruler of a Nation engages in acts of genocide.

It may require a UN decision to send in peace-keeping troops into Zimbabwe to stop the Genocide and to prosecute Mugabe for crimes against Humanity in the International Criminal Court.


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Filed under africa, civil rights, genocide, human rights, opinion, politics, right to vote, united nations, zimbabwe

Ireland’s Bigot Senator

With news that Ireland is to have civil union for its citizens soon Senator Jim Walsh is trying to stop same-sex unions because of his bigotry.

FF Senator leads move to deny gay couples right to register

MARK HENNESSY, Political Correspondent

A GROUP of Fianna Fáil TDs and Senators is seeking to reverse a Government decision to allow gay and lesbian couples register their relationships with the State.

A party motion put forward last night by Wexford-based Senator Jim Walsh demanded that nothing should be done in the upcoming Civil Partnership Bill that would in any way lessen the “special status” enjoyed by heterosexual marriage under the Constitution.

The issue is to be discussed at next week’s meeting of Fianna Fáil’s parliamentary party, and the Government is likely to ask the parliamentary party’s justice committee to consider it.

Last night, senior backbench TDs and Senators said they believed that between a dozen and 30 members of the parliamentary party had signed Senator Walsh’s motion. The Senator himself did not return calls from The Irish Times last night.

The language used in the motion, which focused on the need to maintain the special place of heterosexual couples, has been deliberately chosen in a bid to ensure that the signatories can reject allegations that they are seeking to discriminate against same-sex couples in any way.

“The motion would have considerable support from the more conservative sections of the parliamentary party,” said a senior Senator last night, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“I don’t see any great need to legislate in this area. I have my own views on it. Let people do what they want, but I don’t see the need to be putting things into the statute book,” said another, who equally would not be quoted by name.

Under the parliamentary party’s rules, motions for debate for meetings have to be lodged with the group’s chairman, Louth TD Séamus Kirk, by the previous Thursday.

The Cabinet cleared the heads of the legislation last Tuesday, and a full Bill should be ready to go before the Houses of the Oireachtas in six months and to be law within about a year.

The Civil Partnership Bill would give gay and lesbian couples greater rights and control over pensions, inheritance and tax, but it would not allow same-sex couples to adopt.

http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/frontpage/2008/0627/1214516624201.html?via=mr

I am disgusted by his closed mindedness. I am urgeing people to not vote for him or anyone that supports his motion in the next election. I am also asking everyone to contact him and inform him that you do not support what he is doing.

Contact him at:

086 8139971  Mobile

01 6183000    Office

Address

Mountgarrett Castle
New Ross
Co. Wexford.

Email

Jim.Walsh@oireachtas.ie

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If I Fall From Grace…

IF only there was some magic being that could have seen this fall soming and sent some of his magic friends to stop it falling.

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Ontological Argument


This is the third argument about god’s existence that I am going to look at. Of the last two arguments this is perhaps one that might be a bit of a head ache. Unlike the last two arguments this is what is called a priori—meaning an argument where the knowledge is gained independently of experience.

Descartes’

Imagine god as being perfect—what are all the qualities of perfection? Would you include existence as one of these qualities? Surly if something is perfect then is exists or else it is not really perfect because, it doesn’t have the quality of existence. It might have all other great qualities like beauty and kindness but, if it doesn’t exist then it is not perfect because things that exist are better than it. If I said to you do you want an imaginary cake or real one which one of them is better?

So the argument goes:

  1. God is perfect;
  2. Existence is a quality of perfection;
  3. Therefore if god is perfect he exists.

Well what is to be said if we say that he doesn’t exist? Well theists will say then what you are thinking of is not god because god is perfect and has to exist because he is perfection. This is called an argument!

Let us then define a thing called a ‘shunicorn’ it is exactly like a unicorn except we also say it is perfect therefore shunicorns exist[1]Shunicorns do not exist they are just made up and defined like this but this is the exact same argument used to ‘prove’ god exisits.

There is also argument about if Desecrates can use existence as a property of something. If I say ‘Mary is nice’ you assume that she exists because if she didn’t she couldn’t be nice—things that do not exist do not have properties. All existing things by nature exist we do not have to give them the property. There is a much more detailed attempt at what I have tried o say in this paragraph in Everitt’s[2]book—I am not going to try and do justice to it here.

Anselms’

Think of a something in which nothing greater can be thought of—now think of that thing existing—that is greater than what you were thinking of before; hence god exists.[3]

Right really not much to say on this one. Gaunilo[4] had a retort to this argument. Think of the greatest tropical island perfect in every way; now think of it existing wouldn’t that be better? Don’t pack your bags just yet!


[1] Everitt, N., “The Non-Existence of God” (Routledge, 2004) at p38

[2] Ibid.

[3 Plantinaga, A., “The Ontological Argument from St. Anselm to Contemporary Philosophers” (Macmillan, 1968)

[4] Everitt, N., “The Non-Existence of God” (Routledge, 2004) at p33

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Silvio Berlusconi: What is he at?

Silvio Berlusconi’s ‘iron fist’ laws approved

Soldiers could be sent into Italy’s cities, illegal immigrants will be imprisoned for four years and all non-serious court cases will be frozen for a year under new measures approved by Italy’s senate.

The senate voted 166 to 123 to approve a wide-ranging package of measures which will allow Silvio Berlusconi to govern Italy with an iron fist.

Mr Berlusconi, 71, will now be able to use as many as 3,000 soldiers for up to six months in order to fight crime. Previously, the use of the army had to be agreed by the parliament beforehand. The first destination for the troops is likely to be Naples, where Mr Berlusconi faces violent opposition to his plans for dealing with the city’s rubbish crisis.

The perma-tanned billionaire will also no longer have to worry about his ongoing court case for allegedly corrupting David Mills, the husband of Tessa Jowell, the Olympic minister. Mr Berlusconi is accused of giving Mr Mills £350,000 in order to stand favourable witness in a separate trial. Both men deny wrong-doing.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/2186369/Silvio-Berlusconi%27s-%27iron-fist%27-laws-approved.html

The European Union is apparently in trouble because Ireland has voted no to its treaty which would reform the EU institutions. I think that the EU is in more trouble with this guy ruling one of its members. The State of Italy seems to me to be heading frantically towards the type of member that we can’t have in the EU. We cannot allow States to act in ways that are clearly violations of human rights. There needs to be a very serious look taken at what is happening in Italy and we need to make it clear what is expected of them as members of the EU.

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Teleological

The second argument I am going to deal with on the existence of god is called the teleological argument. Teleology is the philosophical study of design and purpose. For a list of the Arguments of god’s existence see here)

Imagine you were walking along on an alien planet somewhere far away and you stumbled across a pocket watch on the ground—you pick it up and look at how intricate it is and you say to yourself that it must have been made by something intelligent. Now we are more complicated than a watch—we look like we were designed ergo we were designed by a creator. Fred Hoyle’s idea of a whirlwind blowing through a scrap yard and making a Jumbo Jet from the parts he says is a demonstration that complex things need a more complex creator and cannot be created by accident because it is statistically tantamount to impossible. This idea is both wrong and right. Let me explain; we all know that a jumbo jet being created by chance would be more-or-less impossible the same goes for humans as we are more complicated than jets but the fact is this analogy doesn’t apply to our creation because we aren’t suggesting we were created by chance. Anyone that suggests evolution is a process that is similar to a whirlwind in a scrap yard either doesn’t understand evolution or is trying to deceive you.

Evolution does not rely on chance to create complex systems like us. How evolution works is that a simpler organism when reproducing (replicating) will have random mutations if these mutations mean that the new mutated organism is fitter then it spreads its jeans and then the process goes on again. The big difference is that it is not all happening at once no one thinks that a simple organism went to a very complex one all at once like the jumbo jet—what is happening is it is gradually getting more and more complex and it is not just randomly getting like this nature is picking the best one and of the random changes. It is important to see the distinction between random changes and randomly evolving—if five random mutations happen the ones that get passed on to the next generation are not randomly picked—nature picks the best ones. How can nature pick the best ones it’s not alive? Well, by pick I don’t mean consciously choose it is blindly choosing—the ones that aren’t as good at passing their genes around will lose out to the ones that are—so you see it is not a random choice on which ones will get passed on it is the best ones that will get passed on and what is more we don’t need any conscious being to choose the best ones.

This argument is of no real merit now that we can explain how things are they way that they are by using scientific methods and not have to resort to dulling our own intelligence by providing a story of creation as a fact when it has no evidence to support its magic claims.

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Cosmological Argument

The first substantive argument I am going to deal with is the fanciful named cosmological argument. Many people that first read this argument are taken in by the simplicity that it conveys itself—on a cursory glance it seems quite an attractive premise. How did the universe come into existence? This is really what is being dealt with by this argument.

Contemporary scientific understanding is that the universe came into being about 14 billion years ago as a singularity called the big bang—this is a bit of a queer concept—it says that the distance between anything in the universe was zero also the universe was infinitely dense and infinitely hot. What happened nearly instantly after this singularity came into existence was it began to expand very fast and it still expanding to this day. Thinking that time and space were both created is so odd to our heads that we find it hard to conceptualise.

What has all this got to do with god? Well, the cosmological argument basically tries to trace things back to their root. St. Thomas Aquinas is perhaps the most cited in terms of this argument—he has written extensively on god’s existence—in his Summa Theologiæ he lists five—what he calls ‘proofs’—I am going to group the first three under the heading of Cosmological because they all deal with the idea of tracing things back to a beginning.

First Cause
The first two of Aquinas’ proofs are nearly exactly the same—he says that the universe as it is now was caused by how it was a moment ago and how it was a moment ago was caused by how it was two moments ago and so on. Basically everything has a cause and every cause has a cause. The second is basically the same but instead of causes it’s motion. So what Aquinas does is to trace everything back and say that they cannot go back into an infinite regress—they must have a terminator i.e. a first cause and Aquinas conveniently calls this terminator ‘god’.
There a number of reasons why this argument can be undermined. The first one is the assumption that there cannot be as a matter of logic an infinite regress. Why not? The argument goes that without a start something cannot have reached the present—it could not have gotten started—well that’s the whole point of infinite—it didn’t start it has always been going—to suggest that it needs a start is therefore not allowing it to be infinite.

If we accept that there can be nothing without a cause all we need to show is a prior cause not the first cause—if we say that the regress is infinite then for every cause we pick we can point to one previous. Where Aquinas is mistaken is using his mind’s experience of events like if we imagine a chain hanging from the sky with a bell on the end we cannot see the top but we ask what is holding the bell up? The last link—yes, but what is holding the last link up? The second last link. But the question goes to what is holding the whole thing up? In our experience there are no chains that are infinite so we cannot imagine one but, causes are not chains there is nothing to put a limit on things going back forever.

There is no philosophical limit or paradox in infinite regress however, there is a practical one at least as applied to this universe insofar as modern scientific understanding says that the universe had a beginning some 14 billion years ago—therefore time cannot stretch back infinitely. Does this mean that the universe as a whole needed a cause? Well we have been accustomed to seeing things as requiring a cause—there is no dinner without a cook; there is no house without a builder—however, the development of quantum mechanics does provide explanations that refute this very idea—however; quantum mechanics is a very difficult concept to grasp it has been said of it that “anyone that says they understand quantum mechanics doesn’t understand quantum mechanics” if that doesn’t give you much hope in quantum mechanics understand that the results of predictions made on the basis of quantum mechanics are extremely accurate Richard Feynman is quoted as saying the precision of quantum mechanics “is equivalent to predicting the width of north America to within a human hair’s breadth”.

However, what about the universe as a whole—could that have a cause? First, I have to say that at the creation of the universe everything was created: matter; space and time. So before the big bang was created there was nothing—no matter; no space and no time—so to say that the universe had to be created doesn’t make sense there was no time before the universe so when did it happen? It is like asking what is north of the North Pole —it is not a valid question to say what was before the big bang?

But let’s indulge for a moment and contemplate what was before the big bang. Is it what Aquinas suggests it is i.e. god? The reasons for suggesting it is a ‘personal god’ are thus; it goes that where there are two different options that are equally likely that is the existence of the universe or not then this choice must be made by a personal agent that chooses one over the other. This is not a logical statement—they are mutually exclusive either one occurs or the other one does—if a free agent chooses neither then one of them will occur as a matter of logic. Obviously that kind of logic really doesn’t hold any water.

Now ignore all that again so we can suppose how a creator can be excluded from the idea that everything must have a first cause. What is his first cause? The theists’ answer is that god has a different kind of existence—outside of time—because we know that he cannot exist in time because time is in the universe and god cannot be in the universe and also cause the universe—and also be excluded from needing a creator.

The Argument from Contingency
Aquinas’ third ‘proof’ tries to deal with that—it says in basic terms that everything in contingent on something else that is the bell is contingent on the last link in the chain and the last link is contingent on the second to last and so on—he applies this to the universe that everything in the universe in contingent on something else therefore the universe as a whole is contingent e.g. all parts of a chair are contingent therefore the whole chair is contingent. Since conceivably the universe as a whole might not have existed because it was contingent on something else existing then that means that there is something that exists that doesn’t need a cause—Aquinas calls this god Aristotle calls it the ‘uncaused cause’.

We are expected to take it that the uncaused cause doesn’t need a cause just because it is necessary. Furthermore the qualities of the uncaused cause need not have traditional god-like powers e.g. goodness, omnipotence or even sentience. Why does it even have to be just one could there not be more than one? Why couldn’t it be a cosmic force or something rather than a ‘living’—for want of a better term—thing?

We also need some explanation of how this being created the universe—it is not fair to say that we have contingent things on one hand and god on the other and he causes the contingent things. Theists’’ answer to this is that god had a choice he could have created another universe or none at all—‘[god] is a being that exists of necessity but which creates this universe as an act of free will’

OK, well then does this god exist in time? He cannot exist in time because as we have said how can he create time and exist in it? So he must exist out-of-time—well then how can he make a choice? Choices need to take place in time—I must choose to bake a cake before I bake a cake—surly the same can be said of universes. “But”—you might say—“maybe the creator can make a non-temporal choosing—he doesn’t need to do it in time”—well then if he chooses to create the universe he is doing it at no time so he doesn’t make it occur. But again it gets worse remember we said that we let the uncaused cause be god because he is making a choice to create a universe rather than not? Well part of that choice has to be why he chose to create the universe when he did. He cannot choose when to create it if there is no time.

As you can see this argument really is not much help when you really get a good look at it. It can be kind of a head wrecker. There is lots of counter-arguments to what I have said but I have read a lot of them and do not think that they are valid counter arguments.

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