Sunday, October 01, 2006

Quentin Skinner

faculty page

Who else is an expert in the history of political thought?

(Annabel Brett)

Statement of Catholic-Orthodox Commission

Statement of Catholic-Orthodox Commission

Franciscans Prepare for 800th Anniversary

Franciscans Prepare for 800th Anniversary

Chapter Reflects Vocation of Order

ASSISI, Italy, OCT. 1, 2006 ( Some 150 Franciscan friars concluded an extraordinary general chapter that will serve to prepare the order for the celebration of its 800th anniversary in 2009.

In the letter convoking the chapter in Assisi, the minister general of the Order of Friars Minor, Father José Rodriguez Carballo, said that the participants reflected on the document "The Order's Vocation Today."

The document was written in response to the Second Vatican Council's invitation to "return to the sources," said Father Rodriguez.

Those who attended the meeting, which ended today, also prepared "a path of discernment and renewal of the order," said the letter.

"It is a spiritual chapter," continued the general minister, "a celebration intended to be a living memorial of the path followed by the Friars Minor in the course of the centuries."

Among the friars in attendance were the three most recent ministers general: Father John Vaughn, Father Hermann Schaluck and Father Giacomo Bini.

At present, the Order of Friars Minor has more than 2,400 monasteries in 107 nations throughout the world.

For links to the texts of the meeting see:

Dignity of Human Embryo Underlined

Dignity of Human Embryo Underlined

Cardinal Castrillón Monitors Videoconference

ROME, OCT. 1, 2006 ( God loves every human embryo from the first moment of its existence, concluded the most recent videoconference organized by the Vatican Congregation for Clergy.

The Sept. 27 conference, held over the Internet, attracted some of the Church's leading theologians to discuss "Bioethics: The Human Genome and Stem Cells," including Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

The discussion was opened and closed by Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy.

He presented the mystery and dignity of the human embryo with the words of Psalm 139:13-14: "You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother's womb. I praise you, so wonderfully you made me; wonderful are your works! My very self you knew."

"These words on the transcendent nature of the human person and his very high dignity acquire a richness of particular significance when we enter the new horizons opened by biology, genetics and molecular medicine," said the Colombian cardinal.

"They are scientific horizons that open astonishing knowledge on man's biological life and delicate ethical questions for human freedom," he added.


In conclusion, Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos said at the end of the discussion, "we have heard the reaffirmation of the inviolable character of the biological nature of every man, as he forms a constitutive part of the individual's personal identity in the course of the whole of his existence."

In the different addresses, he added, it was theologically argued that "genetic manipulation, when it is not therapeutic, that is, when it does not tend to the treatment of pathology of the genetic patrimony, must be radically condemned."

In that case, he clarified, "it pursues modifications in an arbitrary way, inducing to the formation of human individuals with different genetic patrimonies established according to one's discretion. Eugenics, the creation of a superior human race, is an aberrant application."

Based on the theologians' interventions which had just been heard, the cardinal underlined that "the project of human cloning represents a terrible deviation which a science without values has reached."

"To halt the project of human cloning is a moral imperative which must be translated into cultural, social and legislative terms," he affirmed.

The videoconference, part of a monthly series, brings together theologians from around the world.

The intervention of Cardinal Hoyos can be downloaded in Italian from

Human hands emit light

Human hands emit light

Implifications for the glorified body?

Thanks to Dappled Things.

Jay Wexler, professor of law at BU

Judging Intelligent Design

He was at the Boisi Center last Thursday to give a critique of part of the Dover decision by Judge Jones. Click on link to see abstract, which lays out his major thesis well. Apparently Professor Wexler got a B.A. in East Asian Studies at Harvard. Center for Science and Culture coverage.

1. He didn't address the question of whether the Constitution prevents states from establishing religion--perhaps he goes along with a more centralist interpretation of the Constitution. I suspect it would not have gotten anywhere...

Dalbert (1972?) -- establishes Federal rule of evidence--how is scientific evidence to be presented and weighed, etc.

2. Apparently the court must decide whether there is an agenda of promoting a religion--they need to look at various things and guess. Now, if Christians wanted to promote the teaching of philosophy and "philosophical" proofs for the existence of God (along with the counterproofs) in public schools, would the implementation of that program count as a "violation" of the First Amendment? And how does the court distinguish between religion and philosophical theism? Does an atheist have to be the one advocating such a program? So Christians would not be allowed to advocate the study of their intellectual patrimony in a public school? If this is the case, do we need any more evidence to show that the public schools are not only secular, but hostile to religion and to authentic Western culture, as those in control are being unreasonable?

Malcolm Pringle, who's doing research over at MIT and was present last week for Dr. Behe's talk was also at the lucheon colloquium. He argued that it's the job of science teachers to teach students how to think, not the conclusions.

Uhhuh, give them critical thinking skills. What teacher doesn't emphasize this, especially in a statement of teaching? And what teacher actually has taken a step back to examine whether they have these critical thinking skills, and if they are justified?

What else could critical thinking skills be but the art of logic? And both formal and material logic?
How many people are really qualified to teach logic, as opposed to their own system of drawing conclusions? Can they evaluate the certitude of propositions?

The hypothetical-deductive method surely requires a critical look, along with the principle of falsifiability. Should not one also discuss "scientific" positivism? (If one says this is proper to the philosophy of science and not science I ask then why one should accept the scientific method as it is, and see what sort of fallacious arguments are presented, including the old stand-by of pragmatic value.)

Can it be shown that something that is posited as a formal or efficient cause is insufficient for the task? And can it therefore be evidence that there must be something greater? (But would it be going to far to suggest that this something greater is God? Only if the thing requires something less?) How can one show that the explanation does not meet the principle of sufficient reason?

Principle of sufficient reason
"Principle that there must be a sufficient reason - causal or otherwise - for why whatever exists or occurs does so, and does so in the place, time and manner that it does."

Quentin Smith, A Defense of a Principle of Sufficient Reason

A Restricted Principle of Sufficient Reason and the Cosmological Argument

Alexander R. Pruss

Should secondary schools really be teaching science? And if it's only teaching the "method," and not the conclusions, how does one measure whether a school is doing an adequate job? Standardized tests don't judge critical thinking skills (unless it happens to be something like the logic section of the GRE, which was done away with).

Besides, what if some of the conclusions are actually wrong, though assumed to be true and unchangeable dogma? How does a teacher know if he is guiding a student to a true conclusion, as opposed to the conclusion that he endorses?

Personally I do think public schools should get out of teaching science--there aren't enough qualified individuals to staff all of the public high schools in the United States. (And it is the case that very few academic scientists or research scientists have looked at their method of reasoning critically. This might be left to the philosophers of sciences, but how many scientists pay attention to them?) Better to leave students in ignorance then to indoctrinate them with opinion that is not critically examined and to foster a sense of pride, when they actually don't know that they don't know. But this isn't going to happen, because too many people have a lot at stake.
If they should try to teach anything, it should be logic, but that would still be problematic, since modern logic is so dominant. (As it is, not many public secondary schools teach logic.)

Note: Eric Rothschild's arguments for the plaintiff are not to be found online, as far as I know. Dr. Behe claims that a comparison of those arguments with the decision written by Judge Jones will reveal a lot of "similarities."