Thursday, 4 September 2014

etymology of first, former, and second.

It may have occurred to the reader that our ordinal series is rather odd.

Look; fourth, fifth, sixth, etc. make some sort of sense because they’re just the cardinal number followed by -th.

However, first, second, and to a lesser degree third, are odd.

Here’s the story.

Think of the word ‘former’; it means “what came before”, or something to that effect. It comes from Old English “Forman”, e.g. ‘forman sithe’ means “the first since”, or “the most recent”. So, by a bit of bad pronunciation, we can see that the fir- part of fir-st comes from ‘former’. Now, consider degrees of comparison; we have -st to indicate extremes. So; largest = most large; most = most more (more-est), fattest = most fat, etc. So, most former, formerest = first. Just a bit of bad pronunciation or laziness led to ‘first’ from ‘former’st’. Interestingly, Swedish has ‘först’ as well, pronounced the same.

Now, consider the Afrikaans word, ‘eerst’. It seems strange, but it’s not. In early modern English we have the word ‘ere’, meaning ‘before’. It survives in ‘early’ - meaning ‘before-like’. Similarly, ‘erstwhile’ - meaning ‘at first’ or ‘previously’. Erst being, then a combination of the extreme -st ending and 'ere.’  I seem to recall that the Old English was Aer. At any rate, why then did English favour ‘former’st’ rather than ‘erst’? I can’t tell. Perhaps ‘erst’ seemed too ambiguous?

Then let’s look at second. This one’s easy; it’s straight from Latin secundus. However, why would English have chosen that over, say, twoth, or twost? In German we have zweite, Afrikaans we have tweede, so we should have twoth or twooth or tweeth. But I suppose with the way we pronounce ‘two’ (too), it would sound like ‘tooth’, or ’teeth' and therefore be ambiguous. So it was discarded.

Then third. Again, this is easy. Vowels and R often swap around; consider OE “brid” (bird), or OE Thurh (Thru). So, ’thri’ (3) in old english, when made into an ordinal, became ’thrid’ or ’thri∂', which is easy to see how it would become ’third’. 

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

absence of evidence, gnostic atheism, and why the hiddenness problem needs an answer.

I think absence of evidence contributes to the Bayesian measure of the lower likelihood of theism. Theists have to answer the hiddenness of God given some kind of rationale that atheists would accept in order to disregard the absence of evidence. Indeed, it is precisely the absence of evidence that makes us atheists. Look: if there was any evidence, any whatsoever, we'd accept it was evidence and modify our beliefs... so... no. The absence of evidence is evidence that there's absence.

Regarding disproving god gnostically, here's a simple proof.
1. God is supernatural
2. The natural world and supernatural world by definition cannot interact (indeed, this was Descartes' problem with the pineal gland)
3. Therefore, God cannot interact with the world at all
4. Therefore either God does not exist or God is never causally efficacious.

Response:
1. The supernatural SO CAN TOO interact with the natural world, because I said so.

Counter-response:
1. Then distinguish, please, natural from supernatural.

The thing is, anything that is detectable within the natural world, makes use of natural-world media to exist and make its presence known. I realise this description is unduly anthropomorphic, but think about it without imputing personas. Take an example. Magnetism. We can’t see it directly. But we see its effects. It has an effect in the natural world. Must we assume magnetism is supernatural? No; it is merely invisible; like oxygen. So anything which can have an effect in the natural world is natural, even if it is invisible. Suppose God was able to change my destiny by performing certain actions; e.g. suppose I were crossing a road, and he decided that the bus heading towards me must be halted. He can presumably halt it because he is omnipotent. Suppose the bus does indeed stop, because God made it stop. He has caused a physical effect in the physical world. One must assume, therefore, that he used a physical means to do so; e.g. he used a strong magnetic field to pull the bus backwards, or he used electrostatics to cause the brakes to clamp down hard, etc. 

This brings us back to Descartes. Are spirits, like human souls, or God, or angels, or ghosts, etc., really supernatural? IF they can affect the natural world, they must be part of our space-time continuum and therefore natural. Therefore, they must comprise a form of energy and be in principle detectable to scientific measurement, since they are detectable via their actions to our unaided eyes. So, it follows, God and souls and ghosts are natural and material and detectable by science. 

Yet we fail to repeatably detect them. This bespeaks absence rather than causal inefficacy. Here’s the proposal:

1. Events in this world are caused by divine intervention or not.

2. Events in this world can be explained fully by mechanical means/physicalist means.

3. We have no strong repeatable evidence of divine intervention.

4. Divine intervention requires that the intervention be of a physicalist nature, since anything which can cause effects in this space-time continuum is by definition physical.

5. (3) and (4) jointly lower the probability of events being caused by divine intervention.

6. (2) shows that we do not require divine intervention explanations for all known cases.

7. Therefore, divine intervention most likely does not occur.

8. Therefore, again, either God does not exist or God does not intervene.

List of useful mac apps

This is mostly a note to self so that I can share with others when they ask which apps I recommend. Android File Transfer.app (*) get file...