Monday, June 27, 2011

Subverting Science

I have just published the following comment on Network Norwich and Norfolk: (See here)

As I have already indicated, I do not accept YEC attempts to make a fundamental distinction between sciences which they try to undermine with the quip “You weren’t there” and those present tense continuous sciences like physics. Since all information arrives at our observational door via circuitous routes in space and time the “You weren’t there” quip could be damagingly applied across the board and, if pressed, subvert the whole domain of science and history.

In this connection the following blog post of mine may be of interest:

The above post links to a post on atheist PZ Myers’ blog where he criticizes to the “You weren’t there” philosophy. The exact circumstances involve Myers criticizing an eleven year old girl who had been taught to parrot this quip by YEC ministries. Myers writes a gentle open letter to the eleven year old.

Myers letter is in my opinion very reasonable; he completely understands that the “You weren’t there” philosophy undermines not just the historical sciences, but the whole of science. (In fact ultimately it even undermines the Bible) PZ Myers is basically assuming the world to be rational and coherent and it is on the basis of that assumption that “You weren’t there” nihilism is prevented from frustrating all science. Where I would disagree with Myers is that the coherent ontology that permits science to prosper is taken for granted by him as axiomatic; for him the highly coordinated patterns of a rational cosmos are just descriptive brute facts of nature; end of story. However, I would want to push the boat out further and suggest that the coherent patterning in nature is not just descriptive but prescriptive, with all the connotations of a guiding a-priori complex intelligence that the term “prescriptive” entails (i.e. God)

My main reason for bringing this up is that in spite of disagreeing with Myers on ultimate origins I’m entirely at one with him on the assumption of the intelligibility of our world, an intelligibility that is undermined by a thoroughgoing application of “You weren’t there” nihilism. Hence I support Myers’ stand against implicit YEC nihilism. What I would like to point out is that in spite of Myers reasonable and gentle open letter to an eleven year old the YEC response to Myers was all but hysterical, triggering off a frenzy of spiritual recrimination. He was accused of all sorts of heinous sins such as “viciously attacking a little girl”, and being “an instrument of Satan” amongst other self righteous fulminations.

Although I differ with Myers’ on many things, in this instance I believe he has been unfairly treated by those who profess to be Christians. My own opinion is that those professing Christians should apologize to Myers for their treatment of him. This, I suppose, is too much to ask, but the least they could do is engage dispassionately with his perfectly reasonable argument rather than unfairly assassinating his character.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Cloistered Academics vs. Christian Punks

The Irony of a Cloistered Academia

I have recently been hammering it out with a couple Young Earth Creationists on Network Norwich (See the discussion thread found here). One of the issues I touched on was the YEC claim that because “we were not there” we are unable to disprove the YEC view that the cosmos was created a mere 6000 odd years ago. Here is an edited version of what I wrote in response to this view:

Science and repeatability: We need to get this straight as a matter of principle: No experiment is ever exactly repeatable as in principle it may be subtly modified by the effects of time, place and circumstance. Interestingly, Jason Lisle of AiG exploits this fact with his Anisotropic Synchrony Convention “solution” for the start light problem and yet here is a YEC telling us that experiments are for all practical purposes repeatable! All experiments are ultimately plagued by the “You weren’t there” syndrome and the “water under the bridge” effect of time passing. If YECs can grasp this they might have a little more humility about so called “operational science” which only differs from evolutionary science in degree and not in fundamental quality.
The canard about us not being a witness to something actually applies to every theoretical construction we conceive; not just ancient history, but to the whole of science. Viz: I wasn’t present for the testing of the laws of physics so how then do I know they are valid? We weren’t present at the writing of the Bible so perhaps its makeup had nothing to do with God’s choreography of events. The “You weren’t there” argument, if pressed, ultimately erodes our confidence in the whole of God’s revelation. Fundamentalist attempts to distinguish between “operational science” and history is an arbitrary construction that tries to stop the nihilist rot, but ultimately fundamentalism subverts science by undermining the information which the grace of providence has pleased to send us from the cosmos. (See: "Beyond Our Ken")

The motive behind the “You weren’t there” argument is to undermine the historical sciences. But the YECs want to have their cake and eat it; they won’t challenge physics (Unless you’re AiG's Jason Lisle, or a geocentrist) because that would really make them look silly and so they attempt to make an artificial and sharp demarcation between testable science and untestable science.

Interestingly enough PZ Myers tackles this same issue in response to Ken Ham congratulating a child for using the “You weren’t there” quip that Ken’s ministry teaches its following to use. PZ Myers’ excellent response, for which I’ll give him full marks, can be read here. Also of interest is PZ’s post here which makes the likely point that the Bible’s perspective (at least in the early OT) is in fact one of a flat earth and a geocentric cosmology. This perspective is valid for arcadian man but industrial age ultra-literalists have used it to delude themselves and marshal a gathering of gullible “punk” followers by exploiting the latter’s disaffection with the agnosticism of an ironically cloistered academic establishment.

It is very appropriate that Ken Ham relates the story of a child challenging the scientific establishment with the quip that his Ministry had taught the child, for really it is a child’s argument; one that’s easy to remember and understand and yet one that can leave even scientifically literate adults baffled for a moment as they grope for a simple one-liner riposte. As is so often the case children’s questions probe things that adults have long taken for granted and forgotten why they know them, but as soon as a little thought is applied the question crumbles at the touch. That this “you weren’t there” argument is so easily and uncritically swallowed by AiG’s gullible clientele is far from a recommendation for the mentality of that organization’s following. It reveals that shrewd fundamentalist ministries like AiG are based on a financial platform largely supported by scientifically illiterate punks who are disaffected with the profane academic establishment. AiG’s high profile has little to do with academic expertise, but instead exploits what the academic establishment refuses to give, and that is faith.

STOP PRESS 26/06/11
In this post PZ Myers tells us about to Ken Ham’s response to the above matter. Without engaging PZ’s very reasonable criticism of the “you weren’t there” quip, Ken and his correspondents put a very dark spin on the matter. They achieve this by piling on the emotive anti-superlatives: “Atheist attack”, “vile blogs” “shake their fist at God”, “an attack of the enemy”, “viciously attacking a little girl”, “instrument of Satan”. “How low they can go?”

And yet there is no attempt to engage PZ’s points and instead we get a tirade of deep, deep (self) righteous indignation. However, this response is not unexpected for it is inextricably bound up with their world view which tells them “If you are not with us you are against us; if you are against us you are against God, and if you are against God you must be evil”. The consequence is that these people have a very dark view of those not with them. Even Christians are treated with a deep suspicion if they don’t follow the YEC line and they will genuinely believe that such Christians are engaged in some kind of deep seated sin and compromise with Satan. I know because I have met many Christian sect members in my time; they look at you sullenly unable to establish normal cordial human relations with outsiders because they see them as at best apostate and at worst Satan’s scheming minions. I myself have been accused by the members of these sorts of sect as a “lover of lies”. No surprise really because they just cannot conceive that somebody can reject their position and still have a good conscience. They see the behavior of outsiders in a jaundiced light and therefore readily read the slightest criticisms as an ad hominem attack. They have no compunction about implicating outsiders  in heinous sin and yet they will put on a great show of (self) righteous indignation at trivial name-calling. Their consequent outlook on the world is a kind of pathological group think; for any reasonable and sane person could hardly construe PZ’s response as “viciously attacking a little girl”.

Polarisation passion feeds. Passion polarisation breeds. Polarisation is passion's cause, for crusade and holy wars.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

“Church in England Spiritually Dead” According to Ham.

Ken Ham: Flying in the Teeth of the Evidence

Ken Ham has obviously read James Knight’s latest Network Norwich & Norfolk’s article. Ken quotes a large chunk of it on his blog here. Ken is a little upset about James calling AiG a “cult”. Ken is also not very complimentary about state of the church in England, or even in America for that matter:

Oh, by the way, look at the state of the church in England: it is all but spiritually dead. I’ve ministered in England about 15 times now and have met with countless church leaders there. I’ve seen for myself that this once-Christianized nation is pagan. Most of the next generation doesn’t even believe in God. Yes, that is the outcome of this heretical teaching, which sadly not only pervades the church in England but is also infecting the church now in the USA. Sadly, academics like Peter Enns and those from Calvin College (and others as quoted in the Christianity Today article) are leading generations of church leaders to undermine the authority of the Word instead of standing uncompromisingly upon it as we must do!

As far as I’m aware the church in England is far from spiritually dead; what Ken means, of course, is that a church rates as all but spiritually dead, or at least compromised by heresy, if it doesn’t accept YEC teaching and ministry. Thus, as far as Ken is concerned that puts the great majority  of the English church well beyond the pale of God's pleasure! No wonder he sees the English church as dead; so very little of it swallows AiG's flintstone travesty of palaeontology, hook line and sinker. And am I glad: The last thing we want in this country is an expensive outsized wooden toy boat dominating the shore of an undersized ornamental lake; it would be an affront to both atheist and Christian scientists in this country. It is this sort of doctrinaire sectarian perspective by Ken and AiG  that ticks one of my cult check boxes.

As I’ve said before I have a reserved view toward evolution and I have a lot of respect for many of the anti-evolutionist correspondents on Uncommon Descent. I can even understand how your average Joe and Josephine Pugh, puzzled and confused by the times they are in, are looking for something that narrows the domain of cognizance thereby taking the strain off their creaking epistemic resources. For them a literal interpretation of early Genesis provides a myth that makes sense of reality and suits them just fine; at the very least it cuts down the vertiginous time dimension to anthropic proportions, if not the agoraphobic spatial dimensions of the cosmos.

I have to say that in spite of being potentially sympathetic I have a great deal of trouble trying to summon up respect for AiG and what it stands for with its “Our Word is God’s Word” ethos. But the rampart “dead cert” fundamentalism of AiG is not the only problem I have: Frankly, when it comes to technical subjects commentators like Beyond Our Ken Ham lack competence and aptitude. Give me William Dembski, or Hugh Ross any day – but not Ken Ham. Ken’s expensive Theme Park projects are just a little too kitschy and sentimental for me. Ken really needs to sort out his PR even in America before he brings his anti-science circus and far right Christian extremism over the pond.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011


The following post is an essay I wrote on Postmodernism in 2001

Singularly Askew: "It was an incomprehensible interlacing of bars and tubes, oddly awry, heeling over into the black shadows as if to elude our scrutiny" (From an early version of H. G. Wells' "The Time Machine")

The following contains some of my thoughts and reflections on the subject of postmodernism. The contents are not a summarised compilation of the enormous amount of data on this subject, but really represent some back of the envelope theorizing as I search for the kind of underlying, unifying, simplifying and universal principles that are anathema to extreme postmodernism itself. Theorising is a risky business, especially with something like postmodernism which, with its tolerance of contradiction, fragmentary discourses, irrationality, schizophrenic analyses, and extreme pragmatism, affects to defy all categories by its very definition. Postmodern philosophers dislike any attempt to categorise their philosophy and may be highly evasive about just what they believe, and, in fact, may prefer to be thought of as believing nothing at all.

The Rational Cosmos
                I am a great believer in the inherent grand rationality of our world, a rationality that makes that world comprehensible and controllable, thus providing the foundation for all forms of rational philosophy, mathematics, high science, and technology. It is with a certain amount of affection that I look back to the time when these things started to take a firm root in Western Civilisation. Although there are precursors, it is the period called the "enlightenment", (roughly the 18th Century) which is usually regarded as the time when Western Civilisation started to exploit the deeply rooted cosmic order for all it was worth, giving extra impetus to commercial and industrial growth. Since then mathematics, science, and technology have burgeoned to become the hallmarks of modernism and the fuel of industrialisation and there seems to have been no looking back. Or has there? Nerds and techno freaks might feel at home and in control with science and technology but not everyone does. For many, especially the postmodernists, the apparently grandiose and obliging truths of mathematics and rigorous science are intimidating and may even be regarded as an oppressive form of chauvinistic intellectual imperialism. As a professor of humanities has remarked: "Humbled by the mathematical language of science, I become speechless and relapse into my tribal dialect ...." (*1)

A Long history of disaffection
                It seems to be a historical fact that Western culture goes through periodic times of crisis in confidence, times when doubts about the trappings of modernism and where it is going start to advance like the glaciers of the ice ages. Although separated by relatively warmer "interglacials", periods of disenchantment, like the glaciers themselves, may never disappear completely. These fluctuations in our cultural weather system can be traced throughout modern times; in fact crises of confidence seem to surface even during the enlightenment itself. Moreover, since the 18th century one could draw attention to various historical waypoints in support of a theory of waxing and waning confidence. I won't describe them in any detail here but merely name them: Nietzsch's nihilism, the collapse in confidence at the end of the nineteenth century, the "Dada" art coming out of World War 1, the extreme anthropocentrism of existentialism, relativism, gnosticism, and so-called postmodernism. In many of these cases one can hear the same echoes: A self undermining scepticism, a disaffection with high rationality and the powers that be, a turning to mysticism, irrationalism, and anthropocentrism, an emphasis on the "inner voice", a glorification of juvenility and sometimes insanity. One could characterise these things as a complex cluster of symptoms caused by a kind of recurring social nervous break down of varying severity.

When did it start?
                In one sense it may true to say that "postmodernism" is better called "paramodernism" as it seems to be a manifestation of a concomitant of modernism; a disaffection with the latter that waxes and wanes and perhaps never disappears completely. Postmodernism may, in fact, really be an emerging into consciousness, (through popularisation and commodification) of things that have been there on and off for a long time; a new manifestation of an old problem. However, I suppose that postmodernism slowly emerged as a philosophy with a name and conscious identity from about the sixties and seventies onward as various academics and intellectual commentators, like Focault, Lyotard, Derrida, Buadrillard (these are the names that hit you first - definitely a French connection there) articulated and crystallised its key ideas. The central paradox presented by postmodern intellectuals is that they are theorists who have generated a grand and general theory asserting that one cannot annunciate grand and general theories!  In so doing they have done what they do best, namely, contradict themselves. But contradiction is precisely what extreme postmodernism affects to live with. One commentator remarks on two postmodern analysts (Deleuze and Guattari) for whom the schizophrenic in their "scheme of things becomes some kind of ideal model of human behaviour"(*2). Insanity is a recurring theme in extreme postmodernist expressions. I find it difficult to answer the question as to whether philosophical postmodernism grew out of more general “postmodern” social trends or whether it helped fuel those trends; most likely some sort of feedback relation couples them and the two probably go hand in hand.  One thing to note however; postmodernism is not pandemic; many people, especially those who have large stakes in the technocratic complex, are quite happy with the enlightenment paradigm, thank you very much.

What is Postmodernism?
                Academics may have given it name and an identity but it is impossible to catalogue all the cultural vernacular that goes under the heading of postmodernism in folk philosophy, much of which is a mere hint and flavour of the postmodern ethos, and often amount to benign stylistic renditions of a more extreme philosophy. The core ideas of philosophical postmodernism seem to revolve around the belief that one can no longer believe in all-embracing theoretical generalisations (or "grand narratives" as some postmodern intellectuals call it), so typical of modernism, whether it is in connection with morality, politics, theology, sociology or science etc.  For the postmodernist the cosmos is too complex, irrational and hostile a place to allow itself to be encapsulated into a few succinct universal principles amenable to human understanding. In contrast the postmodern concept of truth is thoroughly pragmatic and the breath taking theoretical vistas sought for by the "enlightenment project" are replaced with fragmentary disposable ideas that one can hold as long as they are useful or desirable. Thus, hard postmodernism is deeply suspicious of anything thing that has pretensions of being an over arching timeless truth and the universality of the majestic Christian message would certainly fall into this category. Side by side with the loss of belief in a deeply rational cosmos is the demise of any optimistic utopian vision or a belief in incremental historical progress - surely no surprise as both require control and control requires a benign and deeply rational world; the hard postmodernist believes in neither, and probably has a deep seated guilt complex about the whole notion of control; may be because in our world it is here that things have so often gone wrong; a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing and the steward so easily becomes the control freak in search of hegemony. The postmodernist, therefore, has little faith in the authorities.
                How these core philosophical ideas of postmodernism relate to the wider social nexus is debatable and it is at this point one could spend years studying the subject. There is a postmodern take on everything, whether it is science, literature, theatre or art etc., and there is claim and counter claim as to what ranks as "postmodern". Tracing all the connections, associations and allusions requires an expert. Typical of the postmodern mindset is the attitude to "simulation". Postmodernism blurs the distinction between reality and the "simulations" of the media (e.g. films, stories, computer games etc.). In fact the postmodernist Buadrillard claimed that the Gulf war, (a war we saw through the lens of target cameras, thus making it resemble a computer game), was a simulation. This was really a provocative way of saying that the media is so pervasive and real that its products now constitute a reality in their own right. There is grain of truth here: We see so much of our world through the media that distinguishing between simulation and reality can be difficult. For example, some people claim the moon landings were simulations. The televised O. J. Simpson case became its media representation.  For many who saw the televised attack on the World Trade Centre the immediate impact was of something as unreal as a science fiction film. In postmodernism appearances count for a lot and any effort to get round the superficial interfaces of our world to a deeper, universal and obliging logic is not taken seriously. Appearances don't deceive the hard postmodernist because he believes there is no deeper meaning to be deceived about. For the postmodernist meaning is subjective and everyone lives in their own private world of meaning unable to fully communicate; least of all with language because its ambiguities allow each to interpret it differently. And the postmodernist is unlikely to have much regard for "high tech" theoretical tools like probability, randomness, information theory, association networks etc. which help address the paradoxes of communication and language.
                Postmodern cultural products tend to focus on the irrational, the chaotic, the inconsistent, the bizarre, the nihilistic, the retrograde, the bleak or the hostile. If you see buildings mixing and matching a variety of clashing architectural styles (sometimes called pastiches) then you are probably looking at a postmodern design. Media productions and writings that jumble styles, time and space, allow fact to intrude upon fiction and vice versa, are also postmodern as are productions where performance and reality are mixed (e.g. the Jerry Springer show). Films that otherwise accept the logical rationality of our world but which have a bleak moral and social outlook (e.g. Terminator, and Alien) are also postmodern; gone is the idea that evolution, social and biological, is a progressive process in favour of humanity. Postmodernism also has a fascination with "self referencing" scenarios; e.g. a person plays himself in media productions; to what extent does his "real" persona become the role he plays and should he feed that back into the role? i.e. should he play himself playing himself ? The postmodernist is fascinated with such logical conundrums because they seem (superficially) to transcend all logical analysis, reinforcing his faith in an unknowable confused world resistant to human understanding, a world of shear appearance where simulation and reality blend together into a depthless world that Baudrillard calls the "hyper reality".
                Like other philosophies the general ethos of postmodernism is imbibed and exhaled by the populace and makes itself felt in a drift toward a variety of preferences, attitudes and styles. In particular, postmodern minds are receptive to consumerism, mixing and matching, transience, hyper reality, and a disconnected hotchpotch of ideas and perceptions. But the hard postmodernism of the philosophers must be distinguished from "soft" postmodernism; the term "postmodern" has been mobilised as a kind of catch-all category describing the general trends of the social milieu including anything which seems to capture the mood of postmodernism. e.g. brainstorming, fuzzy logic, eclecticism, chaos theory, proliferation of choice, quantum mechanics, theories of historical retrogression etc, etc, all of which really amount to a sophistication of concept or method but which do not strictly fall outside the rational paradigm. The term is also used rather loosely to label any movement in society that expunges some of the crass optimism of modernism, and modernist assumptions of an incremental progressive historical drift. In fact, the prefix "post" is often used when the preliminary "hype" that may greet new and modern ideas gives way to sobriety and reality: For example, with the demise of the "dot coms" one might say that we are now in a "" period. In fact I have heard claims we are now passing into a "post-postmodern" period. That's no surprise to me; postmodernism has not only been "bandwagoned" and hyped, but it also suffers from the very ills it diagnoses and has logical limits on how far it can be developed.
                Whilst one must always be aware of the operation of social feedback loops much of the immediate responsibility for the philosophical state of our society is down to its intellectual leaders who through sins of omission fail to give a lead or through sins of commission lead in the wrong direction. Those who control the media are usually influenced by the philosophies of the day, and they in turn may be found supplying the fragments of postmodern texts and narratives by which the average person can dress and justify a life style of extreme pragmatism, individualism and a world of private meaning. But hard postmodernism has one last devastating message: With its thorough going scepticism of any deep rationality or benevolence in order to things, postmodernism leaves humanity wide open to the ultimate dissolution of the personality; for it must even question whether we are mistaken about the very concept of individuality and personal identity. Hard postmodern is so deeply logically flawed and cognitively unstable that its whole structure slips and slides toward a chaotic metamorphosis as it undermines even its own implication of individualism and the distinction between the sane and the insane is then ultimately lost.

The Causes
                On the causes of Western postmodernism the following are probably relevant:

1) Big anonymous machine like societies committed to investment and growth leading to communal fragmentation, and heartless change. Inequalities and exploitation. Many high and unfilled expectations. Demystification of authority.
2) The own goals of hi-tech society: Ecological stress. Control freak approach to the environment (probably a sign of insecurity). Warfare on an industrial scale. Nuclear energy gave us fear in the form of the bomb but never generated the promised "too cheap to meter" energy etc, etc.
3) A deep alienation from the highly analytical approach of science and technology. Science has revealed things difficult to make anthropic sense of: Cosmic history. The spectre of machine intelligence and alien life forms. Cosmic sizes. Atomism. A paradoxical blend of randomness and determinism. An exclusively "emergent paradigm" that disregards context, contingency and providence.
4) Physics, the science of fundamentals, is passing into a very abstruse and difficult stage, barely understood even by its intelligentsia, thus helping to consolidate the notion of an incomprehensible cosmos.
5) Science and technology has a relatively high proportion of nerds and techno freaks. That these social inadequates have one over on the rest of the population is often more than the socially competent can bear.
6) There are profound and unanswered questions over goals, purpose and meaning that the "emergent paradigm" of contemporary folk philosophy cannot address, and indeed may regard as meaningless.
7) Counter Reactions: A strong affirmation of the exclusively human: e.g. emotion, irrationality, sensuality. Affirmations of otherness: gnosticism, new age, “cargo” cults. Clutching at any hints of the supernatural. Alternative versions of history (e.g. Atlantis), medicine, and science.
8) Scepticism is a healthy enlightenment attitude in as far as it is an urge to test, demonstrate and prove, but if pressed too far it is like a digestive system that in its lust for food starts to digest itself.

                No doubt much could be made of these lines of inquiry and more. However, once alienation and disaffection sets in, for whatever reason, there seems to be no philosophical backstop to halt it. By way of illustration there is one theme above (8) that I would like to pick up briefly.

The 2001 Syndrome
                Ever since enlightenment times questions have been raised about how, without God, we have any right at all to expect a secure authoritative foundation to epistemology and ontology ( = know-how) whether it be in connection with science, social order or morality: Without God as underwriter, why should we be favoured with know-how beyond what is immediate, pragmatic and needed for short term survival? Attempts to place human know-how on a firm footing without the assumption of a Divine underwriter often resemble that famous self referencing problem we see when a dog chases its own tail. One might chase up the foundations of human know-how in order to secure its place in the museum of human achievement, but the cognitive and epistemic mechanisms doing the chasing are the very things being chased. If man seeks to secure a logically self-sufficient agnostic foundation to epistemology and ontology such a target may be unreachable because the very foundation sought for must be secured with that self same foundation. To the thoroughgoing scepticism of extreme postmodernism this is further evidence that there is no absolute foundation at all; a conclusion that is itself contradictory. The fact is that there will always be inherent instabilities and deep contradictions in human cognition whilst it affects to adopt a thoroughgoing scepticism either about its own make-up or of the world of which it is part. Those contradictions may remain hidden for a while but from time to time will resurface in recurring crises of confidence.
                To me, extreme postmodernism smacks of machines gone wrong; human machines stuck in a vicious self-referencing feedback loop: 2001 with its pathological HAL9000 has arrived. One might construe this as the just deserts for the abuse of providence by a self-congratulatory modernism that credits its socio-technological successes to anything but providence. As the proud "control freakery" of modernism seeks to put the foundations of human affairs on a Godless base it soon finds there is no such base and runs into self-referencing problems. Loss of faith in the deeply coherent structure of cosmic rationality may be a consequence. To the extreme postmodernist life is a simulation, an interface that can change as quickly and irrationally as the TV screen of the channel surfer. The perception is that the players and entities in this skin deep world have bit parts with no extensive background history or story that can be exhaustively tested and probed. But to me exactly the opposite is true; our world has the touch and feel of reality precisely because its coherent, consistent and replete rationality cannot be faulted by any test known to man. As such it can be likened to the kind of machine intelligence proposed by Alan Turing; that is, as a player that performs flawlessly and rationally under all conceivable probes, interrogations and tests (*3). Likewise, the players in our world whether they be sentient or material are not fakes, facades and bit parts; they do not have a mere "appearance of history" but have full blown life stories; they are not mere interfaces but have real mechanisms behind the facade.  Thus, in every sense they go beyond appearance. Any self-conscious being knows what I mean.
                If postmodernism serves any useful purpose at all it may do so as a vehicle for raising questions where there should be questions and sometimes one gets the feeling that the term “postmodernism” is used simply to refer to “modernism with humility”. But we must not forget that the kernel of philosophical postmodernism is its contradictory "antifoundational" philosophy and this antifoundationalism becomes apparent in the evasive shifting answers postmodernists give as to what they believe because to do so is to admit some kind of absolute foundation. Scepticism in measure is healthy; after all it was good old-fashioned enlightenment scepticism that brought me to faith. But the absolute scepticism of extreme postmodernism ultimately destroys itself in an unstable feedback loop.

It is fundamental to human nature to attempt to understand the world of which it is part. Even postmodernism comes to its own perverse, nihilistic and anarchistic conclusions. However, one cannot take for granted that the complexities of the Cosmos can be encapsulated in relatively few simple principles. Encapsulation of human know-how is a kind of data compression and this can happen only if, firstly, there is something about cosmic data allowing it to be so compressed, and, secondly, there are the cognitive resources available to compress it. But in a graceless world neither contingency need be granted. The giveness of these contingencies is dependent on the grace of providence and we can only exploit them if we are willing to accept that grace.

                                                                                                                                                                T.V. Reeves November 2001
*1 See reference 2, page xi
*2 See reference 1, page 7
*3 Alan Turing, Bletchley Park computer pioneer, suggested that the condition for true machine intelligence would be fulfilled if a machine can converse at an indistinguishably human level. Without commenting on the sufficiency on Turing`s condition, it serves as a useful illustration of what is meant by "in depth rationality"; that is, as something which can never be revealed as a facade by all the conceivable the tests and probes available to finite beings.
1. The Icon critical dictionary of Postmodern Thought: Editor Stuart Sim. Icon 1998
                A compilation of essays on the cultural effects of postmodernism. Includes a useful index of terms.
2. The Enlightenment. Norman Hampson: Penguin 1976
                Records and analyses some less well known aspects of the enlightenment.            
3. Introduction to H.G Wells' Time machine: Jonathan Benison, Cideb 1994.
                Benison cites the "irrationalism of  the Decadent era of the 1890s"
4. At the Edge of History/Passages about Earth: William Irwin Thompson. Lindisfarne press 1990
                An eloquent critical appraisal of technocratic society.
5. How to know you know you know it.  Knotes by T.V.Reeves 1993. Unpublished
                A short study on "self reference" in human knowledge.
(See here for the latter reference