Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Science Fiction, Space, and Phenomenology

I have always enjoyed science fiction. Although, as the years have gone by, I am less and less convinced that life exists on other planets. At least complex life (see Ward and Brownlee, Rare Earth, Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe (New York: Copernicus iiBooks) 2000, 2004.

The main premise of most works of science fiction concerns life on other planets, and I simply don't find much credibility with this premise. Science, if anything, has disproven the possibility of life existing on other worlds. Science fiction, good science fiction, can certainly be done apart from the notion that life exists on other worlds (see the works of Philip K. Dick), but most sci-fi stories have to do with life on other planets.

Considering the vastness of the universe, it seems reasonable to us that some other intelligent life forms must exist somewhere out there, but there is no scientific evidence of this. Many sci-fi stories also deal with similarly unbelieveable notions, such as life existing on planets that have two suns, or two moons. Can you imagine the gravitational influence of two moons? or of two suns? (Not to mention, the heat coming from two suns?)

I say this in order to bring up a point: Why do people continue to believe that space is a sort of final frontier, in which other worlds, like our own, will be discovered? It is very unlikely that any such worlds will ever be found (the distances between the stars and their planets alone make such discoveries virtually impossible).

Television shows like Star Trek, The Next Generation, are certainly entertaining, but are hardly believeable. Yet people persist in their belief that they are not alone in the universe. Maybe the vastness of space is what provides the hope that somewhere out there exist beings like us.

If complex life does exist somewhere in the universe, besides earth, it must look a lot like us, and that would make for rather boring science fiction. Strange beings and strange creatures are very entertaining, and yet their existences are very unlikely, due to the fact that, for complex life to exist at all, a very select combination of chemical events must occurr and must arrange themselves in a very precise order. In other words, any other worlds with complex life would be virtually identical to the earth.

But the fantastic belief in life on other worlds persists. Perhaps what drives this hope is simply the hope that there is no Creator-God, that the world is a random occurrence, in a random universe, where random things just happen.

Friday, December 26, 2008

New Ideas in Theology and Philosophy

You can check out some of my new theological and philisophical ideas by going to my website and reading my book: The World Perceived.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Download A Free Book Concerning Theology and Phenomenology

My book, The World Perceived, A Theological and Phenomenological Approach to Thinking, Perceiving, and Living In-The-World has yet to be published, but you can download the PDF version for free.

Simply visit my web site and click on the download PDF version link:

http://www.geocities.com/ajmacdonaldjr/TheWorldPerceived.html

Monday, December 15, 2008

Space and Time, Phenomenology Style

Space and time have more to do with our perceptual experience of motion than anything else. Our understanding of space and time come from our perception of motion through space, without motion we couldn't perceive time. Modern science thinks of time and space as being tangible things: the fabric of spacetime. Some scientists believe that time is an illusion: "It seems that a choice has to be made between two irreconcilable notions of time. I argue that the only satisfactory solution is to abolish time altogether. " (Julian Barbour, see: http://www.platonia.com/index.html )

Time, it seems to me, is simply motion perceived; and space is simply that which material objects appear to occupy and move through.

Neither time nor space can be totally divorced from subjective perception, but neither can they be totally divorced from objective motion: they are a synergy of the two (perception and motion). As is everything else in the world. What we really know best is our experience of the world, and of ourselves.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Writing and Printing a Book, Today

Writing and printing a book (or having your writings printed) is easier than ever today. With the aid of the personal computer and the internet, it is very easy to write, edit, and print your own book (or to have your book printed).

I started writing three years ago, and I wrote about the things I had been thinking about for the previous ten years: God, phenomenology, the Bible, the way I perceive the world, reality, etc.

When I began writing, I used a pen and a spiral notebook. It took me quite some time to write-out what I was thinking, and it took a long time to arrange the book so that my thoughts were presented in a logical order.

Over a year after I had begun writing, I was far enough into it (I was finished with a very rough draft) I bought a computer, and I began to copy what I had written (adding to that, all of the things I knew I needed to say, but had put-off writing until I got the computer).

For the next two years I worked the writings into a manuscript, wrote and re-wrote the entire things many times over, edited, corrected, etc., until I was finally finished.

I found CreateSpace on the internet while searching for publishing, pubilishers, printing, ect., and decided to use their print-on-demand services. I did the layout for the book in Word, did the book's cover in Powerpoint, and used the "Save As PDF" function in Word (it's a free add-in you can download from Microsoft. See http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=4d951911-3e7e-4ae6-b059-a2e79ed87041&displaylang=en ).

I used these files to create the print files I needed to upload to CreateSpace. I had gotten the Adobe Acrobat free trial download earlier, but it had expired by the time I need to create the print files. So, since I knew what to do from my experience with Acrobat, I went to Kinkos and used their computer, which had Acrobat, to create the files.

I uploaded these files, and I had a proof copy of my book within a week or so. Total cost to me: $5.00 to use Kinko's computer.

This, to me is incredible. Sure, the book will not be distributed by Ingram (which, I know from having worked at Barne's and Noble, distribute most books to the bookstores) and it will only be available online at Amazon, but, to me, this is revolutionary in the world of writing and printing.

If you think about the history of printing, this computer, internet, POD thing is pretty incredible.

The cost to me for the blog and the web site: $0.00.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Antitheists, Science, and Faith

I think the antitheists, also known as The New Atheists, are in a virtual panic. If their theory of evolution isn't scientifically demonstrable, they fear that the creationists will have the upper hand. I find very little evidence to support the theory, excuse me, the fact, of evolution. In the 150 years since Darwin, very little evidence for it has ever been brought forward. Evolution is made up mostly of conjecture, bare assertions, and a "we can't let the creationists win" attitude.

And it's not just evolution that's in trouble. So is physics and cosmology.

The antitheists have tried to construct a view of the world that excludes the Creator of the world. And their view is failing to impress people. Especially intelligent young people.

Are we to suppose that the world has no Creator? That the cosmos is without intelligence? Except for us? Where did our intellect come from? From the random collisions of matter/energy in the void?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Science cannot disprove the existence of God

From the book...

Science cannot disprove the existence of God because it’s not logically possible to prove that God doesn’t exist. As the limited beings we are, we simply don’t have the ability to search out the entire universe in order to make a case against God’s existence. In logic, assertions such as “God does not exist” or “Science has proven there is no God” are logically fallacious (known in logic as the fallacy of The Universal Negative). Besides the fallaciousness of this sort of argument, it’s not the place of science (or of scientists) to attempt to either prove or disprove the existence of God, or of anything else that might exist beyond the natural world, because science is natural philosophy. Modern science has quite enough to do in trying to understand and explain the natural world, which is the proper role of science, without trying to explain (=disprove) the existence of the supernatural, which is not its role. Modern science isn’t even able to fully explain the physical world we can observe, let alone a supernatural realm we cannot observe. Many phenomena in the world exist without having any agreed upon scientific explanation, but we don’t doubt their existence. And it’s quite reasonable to believe many phenomena might exist that are beyond the abilities of science to investigate and explain.

To the scientist, if a phenomenon can’t be quantified, it doesn’t exist; despite the fact that such a phenomenon might be experienced by conscious observers. Yet experience itself is the very key to gaining knowledge and understanding of our world. Apart from our experience of our perception of the appearances of phenomena we could have no knowledge of the world whatsoever. Science can assert theoretical explanations for the unexperienced causes of what we experience, yet science cannot prove the purely objective existence of these unexperienced causes (of experience) because science itself can never go completely beyond (or behind) conscious human experience. The scientist is limited by experience just as everyone else is: every scientific observation is a conscious human experience. Likewise, a supernaturally based theological/biblical view of the unexperienced causes of experience cannot prove supernatural experiences are supernaturally caused: the biblical/theological view can only assert such explanations based upon supernatural revelation.

That the world we experience was created as-it-appears to us is a matter of theological reflection. Phenomenology is helpful to us here because phenomenology is concerned with how the world as-it-appears presents itself to the conscious human observer. Modern science is concerned with the unperceived causes underlying these appearances and downplays (or discounts) these appearances by telling us that appearances are deceiving: the sun only appears to move across the sky; life only appears to have been designed; time only appears to flow at the same rate for everyone. Reality, to modern science, is that which gives rise to appearances and not the appearances themselves. But what, to us, is more real than that which appears to us as-it-appears to us?

Modern science takes the existence of the physical world as a pre-given assumption: the very existence of the world/cosmos is the great unquestioned and presupposed starting point of all scientific investigation. The philosophical view of phenomenology seeks to go beyond the scientific assumption of the world as pre-given, as a-thing-already-there to be investigated. Phenomenology questions the appearance of the thing itself (in this case, the world) and asks: What presuppositions are we bringing with us when we experience the world? How would the phenomenon of the world appear to us if we could approach it without any presupposed notions about it?

In developing a theology of appearances, phenomenology can help us attempt to view the world as-it-appears and as-it-presents-itself to us before our biblical/theological presuppositions enter into our thinking about the world. We can observe phenomena, we can have a conscious perceptual experience of phenomena as-they-present-themselves to us, and we can utilize this as-presuppositionless-as-possible view of the world of appearances as the starting point of our theological inquiry. A theology of appearances should incorporate and build upon three important truths: 1) The world as-it-appears to us (i.e., philosophical and phenomenological truth); 2) The knowledge of the Creator, which has been revealed to us through the created world of phenomenal appearances (i.e., natural revelation); and 3) The revealed knowledge of our Creator that has been given to us in the Bible (i.e., supernatural revelation).

The most important benefit of doing a theology of appearances is being able to begin our theological investigations with the world as-it-presents-itself to us in our everyday experience. This makes for a very practical theology, without the need of theological, philosophical, or scientific abstractions. Our starting point is simply the world as-we-observe-it and as-we-experience-it. The world appears to us as a world filled with myriad phenomena: light, people, water, trees, animals, darkness, clouds, flowers, mountains, rain, wind, rocks, etc. We observe these phenomena as-they-appear and as-they-present-themselves to our conscious human experience. Our observations of these phenomena reveal that they are of many and various types; that is, they present themselves to us as distinctly observable wholes with each phenomenon being observably distinct from every other phenomenon. These phenomena appear to us as functional in their various forms as-they-appear to us, the world/cosmos itself appears to be functional as-it-appears to us, and all phenomena appear to us to be in their proper places in order for the world to function as a whole. The world appears to us as more than simply the sum of its many parts: the world appears to us as a world created with the purpose of functioning as a unified whole.

We depend upon these phenomena (e.g., water, plants, air) to live our lives in-the-world, and we are also caught-up in-the-world living as phenomena among phenomena experiencing both the world of phenomena and our own phenomenal selves. We ourselves, like the phenomena we observe, appear to be amazingly functional in-the-world and the world/cosmos we experience is all we really know; there is, in fact, no other world of living experience that is even imaginable to us. Modern science likes to break the world (including people) down into their various constituent elements, telling us how that everything we observe is made up of the same fundamental stuff (matter/energy) in different forms; but what really matters is not the basic universal stuff (matter/energy) itself, but the various forms that it has taken, which appear to us as particular phenomenal forms. If reality is anything, it is certainly not a particle of matter/energy; reality is that which is before us at every moment: the forms of phenomena in-the-world as-they-appear to us.

For example, it’s of little use breaking a person down into her constituent parts, as if that’s what a human person really is (i.e., 61% oxygen, 23% carbon, 10% hydrogen, 2.6% nitrogen, 1.4% calcium, 1.1% phosphorus, 0.2% potassium, 0.2% sulfur, 0.1% sodium, 0.1% chlorine, plus magnesium, iron, fluorine, zinc, and other trace elements). People are not simply human beings (i.e., Homo sapiens), and people are also far more than just the sums of their matter/energy chemical parts. Modern science alone can never tell us what—in reality—a human person is. We have a better sense of what a person is by simply observing people as-they-appear to us: as almost limitless horizons of thought, beauty, passion, strength, mystery, complexity, intellect, compassion, love, and countless other phenomenal qualities, which express to us who they are. The reality of a person’s existence presents itself to our conscious experience as a person, with all of the complexities that go with being a person.

Modern science explains the existence of human persons by proposing that lifeless matter/energy, by natural causes and chemical processes, without any purpose or direction, eventually resulted in what we observe to be human persons. This is the modern scientific explanation for the existence of everything; even living things. Yet denuded of any teleological influence, brute matter/energy has no goal toward which to strive in its supposed development (i.e., evolution) from inorganic chemicals to living organisms; and it’s hard to believe that all living things came to exist (as they have) without the benefit of some sort of teleological and developmental end-goal.

The word evolution is, in fact, a teleological term, which comes from the Latin word: evolvere, meaning: to unroll. Despite the Darwinian evolutionist’s claims to the contrary, any theory making use of the term evolution must (by definition) incorporate some sort of teleological, purposeful, functional, directional end-goal. In the final analysis, what we call Darwinian evolutionary theory must logically conclude with the teleological “hydrogen-to-human mind” or “gas-to-genius” theory of the evolutionary theorist and philosopher Herbert Spencer; and not Charles Darwin. A theory proposing that nonliving matter/energy could eventually (somehow) become human is actually quite an incredible and unbelievable hypothesis; especially if you really think about it. And thinking about the world is supposed to be what scientists do best.

However, even before the scientist can begin thinking about the world, both the scientist’s (subjective) conscious experience of the world and the (objective) world of phenomena are found to be pre-given. The scientist finds herself alive and in-the-world even before she attempts to make sense of the world of phenomena in which she finds herself. Our experience of the world and our experience of being-in-the-world is the inescapable lived-experience that is our existence in-the-world as human persons. The scientist has no choice about which world or which experience of being-in-the-world she will study: there’s no world but this one; and there’s no other lived-experience she will ever have but her own.

Prescientific peoples based their knowledge of the world largely upon the way the world appeared to them. Likewise, those of us who are not scientists (as well as the modern scientists themselves) live our lives in-the-world as though the world is exactly as-it-appears to us to be. We are not aware of any ultimate, underlying, elemental reality that makes up what we observe (directly) in the world; we are aware of things existing as-we-find-them and as-they-appear to us. When the scientist observes (indirectly) what she believes to be the most fundamental particles underlying and giving rise to the appearances of phenomena, she is engaged in an experience of the world as-it-appears. The idea that reality and appearances are not the same is illusory: reality appears to us when we observe the world at any level. We are inescapably bound to our conscious, human, lived-experience of phenomenal reality.

The real issue here is whether or not the reality directly observable to most people (i.e., non-scientists) is any less real than the reality indirectly observed by the scientists. Or, to put it another way, is the reality scientists observe any more real than the reality non-scientists observe? In my opinion, when a scientist observes a phenomenon the rest of us are unable to observe (because we lack the technical means to do so) such a phenomenon is certainly real, but when scientists assert that this privileged scientific observation is more real, or is the only reality (as opposed to what the rest of us observe as being real), then the scientists’ assertion is wrong. And science is especially off the mark when it asserts as reality that which is only a theoretical, intellectual-play hypothesis. It’s erroneous to speak of a hypothetical reality as though it were a true reality.

Modern science is not the final authority to which we must defer for the definition of reality. Modern science presents its own particular view of reality because it has a particular framework (or conceptual scheme) that it uses to make sense of the data gathered from its observations of the phenomenal world. And like any conceptual scheme, the modern scientific scheme is not perfect; the world is far too complex to be reduced to a catalogue of data arranged by conceptual schemes. The world is an on-going synergic matrix of objective/subjective reality, as is our conscious, human, existential, lived-experience of living our lives in-and-through the world.

Living in-the-world is what living beings do: they experience life. Of all the wondrous phenomena we observe in the world, life is the most wondrous, the most complex, and the most interesting. Life is, therefore, the most difficult phenomenon to study and to attempt an understanding of. Modern science, using its theory of biological evolution, is attempting to make sense of, understand, and explain (naturalistically) the phenomenon of life—with all of its complexities—and modern science is finding it increasingly difficult to persuade intelligent people into accepting its belief that life is simply the blind consequence of chemical law. Modern science, in choosing to explain the complexities of living organisms naturalistically has, I think, bitten off far more than it can rationally chew. And when it comes to tying to understand the origins of life from the naturalistic evolutionary perspective, modern science is at a complete and total loss for any rational explanation.

For example, according to the well known evolutionist Ernst Mayr, it should be obvious to any intelligent, educated, thinking person that all living organisms have evolved from non-organic matter/energy: “Many more years of experimentation will likely pass before a laboratory succeeds in actually producing life [from non-living matter/energy]. However, the production of life cannot be too difficult, because it happened on Earth apparently as soon as conditions had become suitable for life, around 3.8 billion years ago.”[1]

How did this development of organic life from non-organic matter/energy occur? Mayr says “…the production of life cannot be too difficult, because it happened…”, but what Mayr is asserting here is the very existence of organic life as proof that organic life arose from non-organic matter/energy. It must be Mayr’s philosophical naturalism leading him to make this assertion because it certainly can’t be his analysis of any observable and (supposedly) neutral scientific facts (Mayr’s admission in the quote above that organic life has never been produced by experiment in the lab actually falsifies his own theoretical conclusions). Mayr’s assertion here of the existence of life as proof that non-organic matter/energy produced organic life is not scientific, his reasoning is fallacious (in logic: the fallacy of Affirming the Consequent), and he gives us no knowledge of the world whatsoever.

Mayr would like for us to believe that the bare assertion of an expert scientist is knowledge when in fact it is just the opposite: an admission of ignorance masquerading as knowledge. Mayr’s assertion of the existence of life as proof that life had non-organic origins is no different from my asserting the existence of organic life as proof that God created it. But assertions aren’t science. Science is supposed to give us knowledge of the natural world, but making assertions based solely upon a faith commitment to a theory is neither knowledge nor good science. Our experience of living in-the-world cannot possibly lead us to Mayr’s conclusion about the origins of life. One can only come to Mayr’s conclusion if one has already presupposed a philosophically naturalistic view of the world before one even attempts to begin making sense of the world. Actually, most scientists live out their lives as if their naturalistic presuppositions didn’t exist, but scientists (and those who are enamored with science) can easily allow their naturalistic presuppositions to influence their everyday perceptions of (and their thoughts about) the world.

We all experience the world on a daily basis, and yet we all view the world differently; we all view the world through the lens of our own, particular, presupposed notions about what we think the world is.

[1] Ernst Mayr, What Evolution Is, (New York: Basic Books, 2001) p. 43

Saturday, December 6, 2008

My Experience with CreateSpace...So Far

Just a few thought on my experience with Create Space so far. I used Word 2007 to create the interior file and PowerPoint to create the cover (I found PowerPoint to be very user friendly in cover design). I also used the free thirty day trial install of Adobe Acrobat to convert and render my files, which I then uploaded to CreateSpace. They passed, I ordered my proof copy, and the copy looks exactly like the files.

Since my thirty day trial version of Acrobat expired, I have been using the free "Save As PDF" add in, which I downloaded from Microsoft. I recently reworked both the interior and cover files of my book, coverted them to PDF, and created the "Print" files new I needed to upload to CreateSpace by using a computer at Kinco's FedEx (which took me about 15 minutes and cost me like $5.00).

As of today, i received notice that I uploaded my cover file to both fields (interior and cover) and that I need to upload my interior files. I had already done this, and was emailed by CreateSpace notifying me that my interior files had been successfully uploaded. The system was acting buggy the day I uploaded the files, so perhaps it's a glitch. I uploaded the interior files (again) today. My cover file was approved, but it was pointed out that some of the resolution in the photos may not be clear (the image was said to be set at 96 to 97 DPI. I don't know why, as far as I know I set everything to 305-320).

Over-all my experience with CreateSpace has been good thus far. For what I'm paying into this (i.e., nothing), it's being a pretty good set-up for me. I don't know about you guys, but I have been working on my book for the past three years; and it's nice to see a copy of it in print for only $6.00 plus shipping (the actual price of my proof copy was $6.66. I know, creepy right!).

To me, this sort of POD set-up is revolutionary in the history of printing. I know that I'm not the only person who has written a book and who is considering using CreateSpace to get it into print, and this means there will be many more books in the future than there ever has been in the past. I realize I will not be making money by doing this, but at least my ideas are getting out there.

If you would like to see the book, I have uploaded the pdf files of the book to a web site. You can see the files exactly as they will print out in the (next) proof copy, which makes the files something of a free online e-book).

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Print On Demand

Just some thoughts on print on demand book publishing. As I have only written my first book, and since I have virtually no academic credentials for writing the sort of book I have written, I am considering self publishing (via Amazon's CreateSpace) my book. There are, of course, many downsides to doing so, but there are upsides as well.

On the downside, the book will not be considered a real book. That is, a book requires that it be published by a reputable publisher who will print it and distribute it in bookstores. That is what being published is all about. Unfortuantely, this is a long, drawn-out process. Submitting printed, double-spaced manuscripts by mail, and waiting four months for a reply (probably a rejection) is rather discouraging. But success (i.e., being published) does come to those who wait, and to those who perservere. If accepted by a publisher, the book will be in the bookstores in as little as eighteen months!

The upside of print on demand is that my book can be available in a very short period of time (only as long as it takes me to get the files ready and submitted for publication). I've recently been pursuing the POD avenue and I have found it to be quite satisfying. I enjoy working with the files, getting them laid out in book format (including the footnotes, which I prefer, but which publisher no longer seem to approve of). After three years of writing, it was very nice to hold a copy of my book (the proof copy) and to see it just the way I wanted it to look.

The best, and most appealing, aspect of POD is that the financial cost to me has been zero. In the past, self publishing and finally seeing my book in print would have cost me about $5,000. This, to me, is revolutionary. The fact that I can write a book and have it available on Amazon cost-free is amazing. Of course the book isn't yet available on Amazon, but if I do decide to go the POD route, it can be very soon.

Another amazing phenomenon is that my book is available online in a very readable PDF format, which looks exactly as the printed book does. That, to me, is very cool. The only reason I ever wrote the book in the first place was so that the ideas within it could be made available to those who would be interested in them. Haveing the book available online for free, and having the book available in print on Amazon ($16.00) would accomplish that goal to a degree. I would rather have the book properly edited by a publisher and available in bookstores, but with self publishing the ideas are at least out there. And the book can always be published by a publisher at some future time, because, by self publishing, I still retain all of the rights to my work. I hate to think of a publisher publishing the book, only to bury it after a short run. Never to be seen in print again. With POD the book could stay in print virtually forever.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Adobe Share

I have uploaded my book to Adobe.com and you can view it as a virtual book in your web browser. It's really cool, you can turn the pages!

Check it out at:

https://share.acrobat.com/adc/adc.do?docid=a5c8f896-6b4f-4168-82fd-85f8d0e3be03

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Publishing

Just some thoughts on publishing my book: The World Perceived. I am thinking about self publishing through Amazon's CreateSpace print-on-demand book service. There are several reasons for why I am exploring this option: 1) it's my first book, 2) I don't have the academic credentials normally required by publishers in order to write this kind of book, 3) I have control over the design and layout of the book (including the use of footnotes, which I prefer over endnotes.

The downside of POD self publishing is mainly the distribution factor, or the book's lack of availability in the major bookstores. The book would be on Amazon, but that's the only place one could find and purchase it. Besides the fact that a writer is not considered "published" unless the book is published by a publishing house. But at least a POD book is in print and available, which is why I am considering the Createspace option. Plus, I can sell the book as a POD book and I still get to keep the rights to my work. With the subject matter of my book being as obscure as it is (the book is subtitled: A Theological and Phenomenological Approach to Thinking, Perceiving, and Living In-The-World) a publisher would not be looking at a runaway bestseller.

I'm actually enjoying doing the layout for the book myself, and CreateSpace managed to print me a proof copy of the book which looks just as I designed it to look (mistakes and all). I will probably go the POD route, although I haven't decided yet. Let me know what you think.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The World Perceived

I have recently completed my book: The World Perceived, which concerns a theological and phenomenological approach to thinking about, perceiving, and living in-the-world, and I have also uploaded it for viewing.

I hope to have the book published soon (either by a publisher or as a print-on-demand book), but for now the book is only available on the web. You may download the book by clicking the link on the right side of this page. Please feel free to print out one copy of the book and to provide me with any feedback (positive or negative) that you may have.