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Sunday, April 13, 2014

America is Not the Greatest Nation in the World

“Usually, we tend to measure countries based on GDP or narrow economic measures.” Prosperity Index program director Nathan Gamester says. [10] “Most people would intuitively agree that “prosperity” is not just about money but also about quality of life.” [8] “GDP alone can never offer a complete view of prosperity.” Jeffrey Gedmin, President and Chief Executive of the Legatum Institute, a London-based public policy institute and publisher of the Legatum Prosperity Index, stated. [1] “The Index defines prosperity as both wealth and wellbeing, and finds that the most prosperous nations in the world are not necessarily those that have only a high GDP, but are those that also have happy, healthy and free citizens.” [8] “The Index values the need for a country to promote high levels of per capita income, but also advocates the need for countries to improve the subjective well being of its citizens.” Gedmin said. [2] “It encompasses traditional measures of material wealth, as well as capturing citizens’ sense of wellbeing—from how safe they feel to their perceived personal freedom.” The Legatum Prosperity Index assessed and ranked the wealth and wellbeing in 142 countries, covering 96 of the world’s population, based on eight subcategories: economy, entrepreneurship and opportunity, health, governance, education, safety and security, personal freedom and social capital. “Our attempt here is to quantify potential prosperity or multidimensional prosperity.” Gamester says. [10] “We believe that by measuring the quality of education, healthcare, social capital and opportunity, our Prosperity Index gives the clearest view of how countries are prospering today and how they are likely to prosper in the future.” “The Legatum Prosperity Index allows us to paint a comprehensive picture of what makes a country truly successful.” Gedmin said. “Since the inaugural Legatum Prosperity Index, the world has seen a continuous increase in prosperity with citizens in many countries experiencing improving wealth and wellbeing.”
According to Legatum’s system, the top ten most prosperous nations on Earth are dominated by Western Europe: Norway, Denmark, Finland, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, Canada, Switzerland, Netherlands, and the United States. [8] Switzerland, Norway and Singapore topped the economy sub-index. Switzerland also topped the rankings for best government, followed by New Zealand and Denmark. Legatum said the highest marks for education went to New Zealand, Australia, and Canada, and that Canadians, New Zealanders, and Australians enjoy the most freedom. [9]
“In an unprecedented fall, America drops to twelfth position in the worldwide prosperity rankings—with weakening performance across five of the Index’s eight sub-categories." The six-year old Institute, the public policy branch of the Legatum Group, a Dubai-based private investment company founded by New Zealand billionaire investor Christopher Chandler in 2006, stated. [1] [12]  “Despite performing relatively well in a few sub-indices…Good education alone will not keep prosperity afloat.” According to the Index, while the United States ranked 2nd in health and 5th in education, the U.S economy has deteriorated to beneath that of 19 of its rivals. [6] [9] According to the report, the ideal of the American dream may very well be in flux: “As the U.S struggles to reclaim the building blocks of the American dream;” The research group writes; “The latest findings from the Legatum Institute’s Prosperity Index reveal that the American Dream is in jeopardy;” And that: “The national ethos of the U.S. is under threat.” [1] [2] [6] [9] [12] 
The Institute stated that the U.S. drop in the rankings: “Reflects the fact that economic growth has been largely absent from Europe and North America since 2008.” [2] According to the study, the recession that hit America and Europe in 2008 left its mark in the form of unemployment, underinvestment, and decreasing export competitiveness. [2] According to Legatum, overall prosperity in Europe has increased in spite of the economic crisis—with the Netherlands, Ireland and Germany climbing the rankings into 8th, 10th and 14th position respectively, though, plagued by the Euro-area debt crisis, two thirds, of European nations, 24 out of 33, have witnessed a decline in their scores in categories analyzing economic development since 2009: Greece recorded the biggest drop, falling 10 places to 49th. [9] [12]
The Institute pegged the U.S.’s precipitous drop to a decline in consumer and voter confidence, along with a bleak economic and entrepreneurial outlook: “This drop in ranking was caused by the following variables: gross domestic savings, high-tech exports, access to adequate food and shelter, confidence in financial institutions and overall satisfaction with standards of living.” [2] The report finds that its government’s approval rate, its citizens’ respect for government, has fallen to 39% from 42%, only 37.5% of Americans say that they “have confidence in financial institutions”, 72.4% of Americans say they “are satisfied with their living standards”, four percent fewer Americans, 89%, “believe that hard work gets you ahead”, gross savings in the U.S. is at 11.1%, its business startup costs as a percentage of Gross National Income have doubled in the past two years, and it’s the export of high-technology products is dropping. [1] [6] [9] [10]
The 2013 Prosperity Index also saw many of the countries in Asia’s region overtake European countries in the economy sub-index. [2] Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan all ranked in the top ten for their economies and the top 20 overall. [9] A new generation of so-called Asian “Tiger Cub” countries, Vietnam and Indonesia, also rose, with Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia all performing well. Indonesia experienced the largest gain of any country, jumping 26 positions since 2009 to 63rd. The U.K Remained 13th, and Legatum predicted it would overtake the U.S. by 2014. [9] 

References Cited:
1.     Berlinger, Joshua. “U.S. Crashes Out Of The Top 10 In World Prosperity Index”. Business Insider. November 5, 2012. http://www.businessinsider.com/us-crashes-out-of-the-top-10-in-world-prosperity-index-2012-11
2.     Boghani, Priyanka. “U.S. Prosperity Ranked Below Canada’s and Australia’s: The United States Ranks 11th In Legatum Institute’s 2013 Prosperity Index, And Dropped Out Of The Top 20 In The Economy Sub-Index”. Sydney Sun. Tuesday October 29, 2013. http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/131028/legatum-prosperity-index-united-states-ranks-11
3.     Browne. Lauren. “Japan Tops List of Healthiest Countries: Japanese Citizens Are Still The Healthiest People In The World, A New Study Found”. ABC News. December 13, 2012. http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2012/12/13/japan-tops-list-of-healthiest-countries/
4.     Craggs, Ryan. “World Freedom Index 2013: Canadian Fraser Institute Ranks Countries”. The Huffington Post. January 14, 2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/09/world-freedom-index-2013_n_2440620.html
5.     Dusen, Allison and Ferrey, Ana. “World’s Healthiest Countries”. Forbes. August 4, 2008. http://www.forbes.com/2008/04/07/health-world-countries-forbeslife-cx_avd_0408health.html
6.     Epstein, Eli. “The World’s Top 10 Most Prosperous Countries”. International Business Times. November 5, 2012. http://www.ibtimes.com/worlds-top-10-most-prosperous-countries-859412
7.     Gayomali, Chris. “The 10 Healthiest Countries In The World For Both Men And Women: Japan Leads The Way For Both Genders. The Asian Country Is The Healthiest Across The Globe For Both Men And Women. America? Not Even Close…” The Week. December 13, 2012. http://theweek.com/article/index/237831/the-10-healthiest-countries-in-the-world-for-both-men-and-women
8.     Ghosh, Palash. “Norway Is World’s Most Prosperous Country; Zimbabwe is the Poorest”. International Business Times. January 24, 2011. http://www.ibtimes.com/norway-worlds-most-prosperous-happiest-country-zimbabwe-poorest-unhappiest-258659
9.     Kennedy, Simon. “U.S. Prosperity Slides In Index That Ranks Norway Number 1”. Bloomberg. October 29, 2012. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-10-30/u-s-prosperity-slides-in-index-that-ranks-norway-no-1.html
10.  Kurtzleben, Danielle.  “U.S. No Longer Among 20 Most Economically Prosperous Countries: A New Report Says The U.S. Trails Thailand, Norway When It Comes To Prosperity”. U.S. News And World Report. October 29, 2013. http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/10/29/us-no-longer-among-20-most-economically-prosperous-countries
11.  Novak, Sara. “Top 10 Healthiest Countries In The World For Both Men And Women”. Discovery.  September 1, 2013.  http://blogs.discovery.com/dfh-sara-novak/2013/01/healthiest-countries-in-the-us-wheres-the-us.html
12.  Sedghi, Ami. “Global Prosperity Index 2012: The Latest Global Prosperity Index Is Out And The U.S. Has Dropped Out Of The Top Ten For The First Time: The U.S. Have Dropped Out Of The Top Ten Of The Latest Prosperity Index With The Economy Rank Falling To 20th Place”. The Guardian. Tuesday October 30, 2012. http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2012/oct/30/global-prosperity-index-usa-economy
13.  Su, Reissa. “New Zealand In 5th Place In 2013 Legatum Prosperity Index”. International Business Times. October 31, 2013. http://au.ibtimes.com/articles/518381/20131031/world-prosperity-imf-new-zealand-legatum-index.htm#.Uxu1Yv1ZUeE
14.  Tsuno, Yoshikazu. “World’s Healthiest Countries”. Foreign Policy. October 15, 2007. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2007/10/14/the_list_worlds_healthiest_countries?wp_login_redirect=0
15.  Tuccille, J. “U.S. Slipped In Four Freedom Rankings This Year.” Reason. November 5, 2013.  http://reason.com/blog/2013/11/05/us-slipped-in-four-freedom-rankings-this

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Anyone Perfect Must Be Lying: The Earth’s Magnetosphere and Geomagnetic Polar Tr...

Anyone Perfect Must Be Lying: The Earth’s Magnetosphere and Geomagnetic Polar Tr...:
Though there is little scientific or academic disagreement as to the reality of the existence of geomagnetic polar shifts and reversals, there is much speculation and theorizing as to what the hypothetical impacts and effects of such an event would be; and still more controversial is just how hypothetical such an eventuality actually is.
The magnetic field waxes and wanes, poles drift and, occasionally, they flip. Every so often, our planet’s magnetic poles reverse polarity. Earth’s magnetic field reverses every few thousand years at low latitudes, a geologist funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) has concluded. Reversals take a few thousand years to complete, and during that time—contrary to popular belief—the magnetic field does not vanish. 
However, we still don’t know for certain how the Earth’s magnetic field is generated and maintained. The origin of the magnetic field and its reversals is one of the oldest problems in physics, and one of the most active areas of research in geophysics today. Scientists believe Earth’s magnetic field is generated deep within our planet. 
Roughly speaking, Earth is like a chocolate-covered cherry—layered, with liquid beneath the surface and a solid inner core. Beneath the planet’s relatively thin crust is a thick solid layer called the mantle. The inner core has its own ocean: a very deep layer of liquid, believed to be composed of swirling convection flows of molten iron and nickel, known as the outer core. The Earth’s magnetic field is understood to come from this ocean of iron, which is an electrically conducting fluid in constant motion. The Earth’s magnetic field is created deep within our planet’s outer core through what is known as the geodynamo. There, the heat of the Earth’s hot solid inner core churns the liquid outer core sitting atop it like water on a hot stove. These complex motions generate our planet’s magnetism through a process called the dynamo effect. The churning acts like convection, which generates electric currents and, as a result, a magnetic field. This idea that turbulent activity at the outer core of the planet generates its magnetic field currently dominates scientific thinking. 
Our planet’s magnetic field varies with time, indicating it is not a static or fixed feature. Instead, some active process works to maintain the field. That process is most likely a kind of dynamic action in which the flowing liquid material in the outer core generates the magnetic field, geologists believe. 
Most scientists believe Earth’s magnetic field is sustained by a complex self-sustaining interaction known as the “geomagnetic dynamo”. The term describes the theoretical phenomenon believed to generate and maintain Earth’s magnetic field. According to general accepted theory—the dynamo theory—interactions between the churning convecting flow of molten iron in the Earth’s outer core and the magnetic field generate electrical current that, in turn, creates new magnetic energy that sustains the field. It is known, however, that the mechanism of magnetic field generation is related to Earth’s rotation. The rotation of planets may be among the necessary conditions for the formation of their magnetic fields. However, rotation alone is insufficient for the creation of a planetary magnetic field.  
Figuring out what happens as the field reverses polarity is difficult because reversals are rapid events, at least on geologic time scales. A major uncertainty, however, has remained regarding how long this process takes.  
Scientists have been observing changes in the direction of Earth’s magnetic which took place recently as well as in the distant past. The study of Earth’s past magnetism is called paleomagnetism. The magnetic field has exhibited frequent but dramatic variation at irregular times in the geologic past: It has completely changed direction. The geological record confirms that magnetic field reversals have occurred in the past. Earth’s magnetic field has flipped many times over the last billion years, according to the geologic record. 
It is not only the direction but also the strength of the magnetic field that is a concern. Earth’s magnetic field—the force the protects us from deadly radiation bursts from outer space—is weakening dramatically. While nobody quite knows why this is occurring, the weakening of Earth’s magnetism is believed by many of the most respected scientists in the field of geomagnetism to be one of the factors predictive of a pole realignment, a precursor, and perhaps even a forecaster, of magnetic polar reversal sometime in the near future. 

Anyone Perfect Must Be Lying: Yellowstone and Supervolcanoes Definition, Mechan...

Anyone Perfect Must Be Lying: Yellowstone and Supervolcanoes Definition, Mechan...:
Hidden Beneath the Earth’s surface lie one of the most destructive and yet least understood natural phenomena in the world—supervolcanoes. A supervolcano refers to a volcano that produces the largest and most voluminous kinds of eruptions on Earth. Only a handful exist in the world but when one erupts it will be unlike any volcano humanity has ever witnessed.  An event as massive as a super-eruption would change the Earth and human society forever. Though there is no well-defined minimum size for a supervolcano, there are at least two types of volcanic eruption that have been identified as supervolcanoes. The actual explosivity of these eruptions varies, but the sheer volume of extruded magma and gas is immense enough to radically alter the landscape and severely damage global climate for years, with a cataclysmic effect on life. It’s difficult to predict the full devastation that would follow. Such an eruption erases virtually all life in a radius of hundreds of kilometers from the site, and entire continental regions further out can be buried meters deep in ash. And it would devastate the planet. Experts say such an event would have a colossal impact on a global scale. Such a giant eruption would have regional effects such as falling ash and short-term (years to decades) changes to global climate. We know there would be great loss of life and ill health, changes to our planet and major economic losses. The fallout from a super-eruption would cause a volcanic winter, devastating global agriculture and causing mass starvation.
Granted, it’s not the typical volcano, either in scale (it’s huge), appearance (it’s a vast depression, not a single mountain) or frequency of eruption (at least hundreds of thousands of years apart). Supervolcanoes differ from normal volcanoes in many ways. The main feature is a large magma chamber, which is an underground reservoir filled with flowing hot rock under enormous pressures. A supervolcano also differs from a regular volcano in that there is often no mountain peak associated with it. The stereotypical volcano is a towering cone, but supervolcanoes form in depressions in the ground called calderas.
About forty supervolcanoes are dotted around the globe. Although they’re called “super”, most people would have trouble spotting a supervolcano. Other supervolcanoes would likely include the large caldera volcanoes of Japan, Indonesia, and South America. There are other supervolcanoes on Earth, some of which erupted in prehistoric times, and could erupt again. 
Other new information is being uncovered all the time. 
Volcanologists with the U.S. Geological Survey believe that supervolcanoes are likely to give decades, even centuries, of warning signs before they erupt. The scientists think those signs would include lots of earthquakes. Massive bulging of the land, an increase in small eruptions, swarms of earthquakes in specific areas, changes in the chemical composition of lavas from smaller eruptions, changes in gasses escaping the ground and, possibly, large-scale cracking of the land. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Anyone Perfect Must Be Lying: Philosophical Essay: Dialogues Concerning Natural ...

Anyone Perfect Must Be Lying: Philosophical Essay: Dialogues Concerning Natural ...In order to understand why it is that I find both Cleanthes’ arguments for intelligent design and Philo’s arguments against the traditional concept of god so profoundly and thoroughly unconvincing, it is first necessary to recognize the gulf in the exponential growth human knowledge about the universe that exists between Hume’s late-18th-century Scotland and my own early-21st-century America: At the time that Hume wrote his Dialogues, science had yet to discover any of its present knowledge of the electron or the atom.
The scientific discovery that single-handedly renders very nearly Hume’s entire Dialogues pointless philosophical hand-waving was made in the mid-19th century with the devising of the fist law of thermodynamics: the law of the conservation of energy. Carl Nave, Associate Professor of Physics at Georgia State University, states the law this way: “Energy can neither be created nor destroyed.”[33] Since the act of creation has been rendered a physical impossibility, all of Philo and Cleanthes’ debate on whether or not the universe was created for life and whether life was created for a purpose is set as to naught.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Philosophical Essay: Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, David Hume (1779)

A physico-theological argument from intelligent design is any type of argument purporting to demonstrate the existence of an intelligent agent of or orderer by citing as evidence the appearance of an ultimate design, intention, or purpose in the natural world. Scottish philosopher, historian, economist and essayist David Hume is widely cited as having articulated the argument for design through the character of Cleanthes in “Part II” of his 1779 philosophical work Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion as follows:
Look around the world…You will find it to be nothing but one great machine, subdivided into an infinite number of lesser machines…All these various machines, and even their most minute parts, are adjusted to each other with an accuracy…The curious adapting of means to ends, throughout all nature, resembles exactly…the productions of human contrivance; of human design, thought, wisdom, and intelligence. Since therefore the effects resemble each other, we are led to infer…that the author of nature is somewhat similar to the mind of man…By this argument a posteriori…do we prove at one the existence of a deity, and his similarity to human mind and intelligence.[1]
Hume’s character of Philo, however, warns that such an analogy is not philosophically sound[2]:
What peculiar privilege has this little agitation of the brain, which we call, thought, that we must thus make it the model of the whole universe? Our partially in our own favor does indeed present it on all occasions; but sound philosophy ought carefully to guard against so natural an illusion.[3]
Hume recognizes that an argument against design that the two cases are too dissimilar to support an inference that they are like affects having like causes[4]; that is to say that they are so dissimilar as to disallow analogy; through an examination of the nature of analogy[5] is not sound without the relevant rule of analogy, which he states:
The exact similarity of the cases gives us a perfect assurance of a similar event; and stronger evidence is never desired not sought after. But wherever you depart, in the least, from the similarity of the cases, you diminish proportionably the evidence; and may at last bring it to a very weak analogy, which is confessedly liable to error and uncertainty.[6]
In the teleological argument it is assumed that everything in nature fits so well and functions so perfectly that we must assume that the universe is being directed to achieve some end purpose. Cleanthes likens the universe to a manmade machine, but Hume suggests that the cosmos much more closely resembles a living organism than a machine[7]:
The experimental reasoning, which we possess in common with the beasts,…is nothing but a species of instinct or mechanical power that acts in us unknown to ourselves.
Likewise, Cleanthes argues that no one can be so stupid as to reject the view that the universe resembles an artifact[8] in having “an accurate adjustment of the parts to each other” and “an adaptation of means to ends”[9], and that a “purpose, intention and design strikes everywhere the most careless, the most stupid thinker.”[10] Cleanthes argues that things that are very familiar and present to us need no reason to establish the truth, and that it is perverse and unnatural to deny that the various parts of the body and the way in which they are suited to our environment, such as the knowledge that food nourishes the body, are “incontestable proof of design and intention”[11]. However, Hume rejects the analogy between the universe and any particular human artifact[12], arguing that nature and the various things in it exhibit substantial difference from human artifacts.[13]    
Physico-theological arguments proceed by implying that all of the sophistication, intricacy and interconnectedness we observe in things in nature are intelligible only if we suppose the involvement of a human-like creative mind.[14]  Cleanthes goes on, in “Part II” of Hume’s Dialogues, to state that the only rational argument for god’s existence is one based on experience. Hume, however argues that this is incompatible with Cleanthes’ own previously articulated teleological analogy because unlike with manmade objects, we have not witnessed the creation of a world. Therefore, he argues, we obviously lack adequate justification for the a posteriori claim that the universe has an intelligent cause[15] because, according to Cleanthes’ statement, we would need to have experience with the design of universes in order to know whether the material world was the result of design.[16] He puts this objection into the mouth of Philo:
If we see a house, Cleanthes, we conclude…that it had an architect or builder; because this is precisely that species of effect, which we have experienced to proceed from that species of cause. But surely you will not affirm, that the universe bears such a resemblance to a house that we can with the same certainty infer a similar cause, or that the analogy is here entire and perfect. The dissimilitude is so striking, that the utmost you can here pretend to is a guess, a conjecture, a presumption concerning a similar cause.[17]
In “Part V” of his Dialogues, Hume builds on Philo’s analogy of architectural construction to point out a further fault in using the argument from intelligent design to prove that the god of classical theism exists: there is nothing about the sophistication of the material universe to suggest that there exists only one designer:
What shadow of an argument…can you produce, from your hypothesis, to prove the unity of the deity? A great number of men join in building a house or ship, in rearing a city, in framing a commonwealth; why may not several deities combine in contriving and framing the world?...By sharing the work among several, we may so much further limit the attributes of each, and get rid of that extensive power and knowledge, which must be supposed in one deity, and which…can only serve to weaken the proof of his existence. And if such foolish, such vicious creatures as man, can yet often unite in framing and executing one plane, much more so those deities or demons.[18]
It should be noted at this point that Hume was by no means alone in pointing out the fallacious nature of builder variation of the intelligent design argument. Nearly a century after the posthumous publication of Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, English naturalist and geologist Charles Darwin would write, in a June 17, 1860  letter to British lawyer and geologist Sir Charles Lyell:
I have said that natural selection is to the structure of organized beings, what the human architect is to a building. The very existence of the human architect shows the existence of more general laws; but no one in giving credit for a building to the human architect, thinks it necessary to refer to the laws by which man has appeared. No astronomer in showing the movements of the planets are due to gravity thinks it necessary to say that the law of gravity was designed that the planets should pursue the courses, which they pursue. –I cannot believe that there is a bit more inference by the creator in the construction of each species, than in the course of the planets.[19]
Hume then backs up the argument even further, pointing out that even if  something like the stated conclusion were established[20], that is if the resemblance between the universe and human artifacts justified thinking they have similar causes[21], and even if the universe is indeed designed, it is unreasonable to justify the conclusion that the designer must be anything like the traditional concept of an omnipotent, omniscient, all-perfect god. To illustrate this point, Philo argues in “Part V” that the designer may have been defective or otherwise imperfect and suggests that the universe may have been a poor first attempt at design:
A man who follows your hypothesis is able, perhaps, to assert, or conjecture, that the universe, sometime, arose from something like design: But beyond that position he cannot ascertain one single circumstance, and is left afterwards to fix every point of his theology, by the utmost license of fancy and hypothesis. This world, for aught he knows, is very faulty and imperfect…and was only the first rude essay of some infant deity…it is the work only of some dependent, inferior deity…it is the product of old age and dotage in some superannuated deity; and ever since his death, has run on at adventures, from the first impulse and active force which it received from him…these, and a thousand more of the same kind, are Cleanthes’s suppositions…From the moment the attributes of the deity are supposed finite, all these have place. And I cannot…think that so wild and unsettled a system of theology is…preferable to none at all.[22]
In a way, this extrapolation of the human-like properties of the orderer recalls the Greek origins of teleology. Hume also argues in “Part V” that any number of alternative possible explanations could be given of allegedly designed entities of nature[23], for instance chance or the saturation of the relevant state space of possibilities[24]:
Many worlds may be botched and bungled, throughout an eternity, ere this system was struck out; much labor lost, many fruitless trials made; and a slow, but continued improvement carried on during infinite ages in the art of world-making. In such subjects, who can determine, where the truth…who can conjecture where the probability lies, amidst a great number of hypotheses which may be proposed, and a still greater which may be imagined.[25]
Previously in “Part IV” Hume, through Philo, pointed out that other analogies might suggest very different inferences and conclusions[26]:
If reason I mean abstract reason, derived from inquiries a priori be not alike mute with regard to all questions concerning cause and effect, this sentence at least it will venture to pronounce, that a mental world, or universe of ideas, requires a cause as much, as does a material world, or universe of objects; and if similar in its arrangement, must require a similar cause. For what is there in this subject, which should occasion a different conclusion or inference? In an abstract view, they are entirely alike; and no difficulty attends the one supposition, which is not common to both of them.
Back in “Part II” Hume, in the voice of Philo, argued that it is impossible to infer the perfect nature of a creator from the nature of his creation:
But surely, where reasonable men treat these subjects, the question can never be concerning the being, but only the nature of the deity. The former truth…is unquestionable and self-evident. Nothing exists without a cause; and the original cause of this universe whatever it may be we call god; and piously ascribe to him every species of perfection…But as all perfection is entirely relative, we ought never to imagine, that we comprehend the attributes of this divine being, or to suppose, that his perfections have any analogy or likeness to the perfections of a human creatures. [27]
This is at least partially in response to, and is in a way in agreement with, Hume’s character of Demea, who argues that although god clearly exists, we cannot come to know the nature of god through reason. Demea claims that every thing about god’s nature and attributes is beyond the capacity of human understanding; that god’s nature is “unknown and unintelligible”. Again, we find Hume’s views mirrored closely in the writings of another, in this case  English philosopher Thomas Hobbes more than a century before Hume, who wrote in his 1651 book Leviathan that “the narrow limits of our fantasy” put knowledge of god beyond the scope of human understanding[28]:
Whatever we imagine is finite. Therefore there is no idea or conception of anything we call infinite. No man can have in his mind an image of infinite magnitude, nor conceive infinite swiftness, infinite time, or infinite force, or infinite power…and therefore the name of god is used, not to make us conceive him for he is incomprehensible, and his greatness and power are inconceivable, but that we may honor him. Also because whatsoever…we conceive has been perceived first by sense…a man can have no thought representing anything not subject to sense.[29]
It is at this point, in “Part VII”, that Philo at last feels justified in responding, fairly directly, to Cleanthes’ original assertion of the teleological argument back in “Part II”, interestingly enough utilizing much identical terminology:
You need only look around you…to satisfy yourself with regard to this question. A tree bestows order and organization on that tree which springs from it, without knowing the order; an animal in the same manner on its offspring; a bird on its nest…To say, that all this order in animals and vegetables proceeds ultimately from design, is begging the question; nor can that great point be ascertained otherwise than by proving, a priori, both that order is, from its nature, inseparably attached to thought; and that it can never of itself, or from original unknown principles, belong to matter.[30]
It is assumed in the physico-theological argument that the exquisiteness of structure and incredible intricate detail of the universe as a whole and of some phenomena in the world in particular could not have occurred by chance.[31] In  “Part IX”, Demea explains that the world operates on a system of cause and effect, so there must be an original cause to have started the world in motion. Having apparently abandoned the analogy of the universe as a whole to a particular manmade machine, however, Cleanthes demurs:
In such a chain, too, or succession of objects, that which preceded it, and causes that, which succeeds it causes, each part…but the whole, you say, wants a cause. I answer that the uniting of these parts into a whole, like the uniting of several distinct counties into one kingdom, or several distinct members into one body, is performed merely by an arbitrary act of mind, and has no influence on the nature of things. Did I show you the particular cause of each individual in a collection of twenty particles of matter, I should think it very unreasonable should you afterwards ask me, what was the cause of the whole twenty. This is sufficiently explained in explaining the cause of the parts.[32]
However, unlike with French philosopher, mathematician and writer Rene Descartes’ 1641 philosophical treatise Meditations On The First Philosophy; wherein the cosmological argument in Descartes’ Third Meditation, “Concerning God, That He Exists”, that something cannot arise from nothing leads to the ontological argument in his Fifth Meditation, “Concerning The Essence Of Material Things, And Again Concerning God, That He Exists”, that god must necessarily exist; Hume draws the conclusion, in “Part IX” of his Dialogues, that the words “necessary existence, have no meaning; or what is the same thing, none that is consistent”[33].
So dangerous is it to introduce the idea of necessity into the present question! And so naturally does it afford an interference directly opposite to the religious hypothesis.[34]
In “Part XI”, Hume even goes so far as to reject that it is absurd to deny that there must be a cause for everything that comes into existence[35]:
To oppose the torrent of scholastic religion by such feeble maxims as these, that it is impossible for the same thing to be and not to be, that the whole is greater than a part, that two and three make five; is pretending to stop the ocean with a bulrush.[36]
In the same passage, Hume also rejects the claim, articulated in Descartes’ Meditations, that it is impossible for any effect to have perfections that its cause lacks.[37] In “Part XI”, Philo again replies to Cleanthes’ teleological argument in “Part II” by mirroring it:
Look around this universe. What an immense profusion of beings, animated and organized, sensible and active! You admire this prodigious variety and fecundity. But inspect a little more narrowly these living existences, the only beings worth regarding. How hostile and destructive to each other! How insufficient all of them for their own happiness! How contemptible or odious to the spectator! The whole presents nothing but the idea of a blind nature, impregnated by a vivifying principle, and pouring forth from her lap, without discernment or parental care, her maimed and abortive children![38]
The conclusion that Hume comes to, via Philo, in “Part, XII” is that, while the physico-theological argument might constitute some limited grounds for thinking that “the cause or causes of order in the universe probably bear some remote analogy to human intelligence”[39], it establishes nothing else whatsoever[40]:
In the whole of natural theology…resolves itself into one simple…at least undefined proposition, that the cause or causes of order in the universe probably bear some remote analogy to human intelligence: If this proposition be not capable of extension…If it affords no interference that affects human life, or can be the source of any action or forbearance: And if the analogy…can be carried no farther than to the human intelligence and cannot be transferred with any appearance of probability to the other qualities of the mind…what can the most inquisitive, contemplative, and religious man do more than give a plain, philosophical assent to the proposition…and believe that the arguments on which it is established exceed the objections which lie against it?[41]

Hume makes his criticism of revealed religion very clear in “Part XIV”: that even if religion does not put itself “in direct opposition to morality”, it nevertheless puts forward a “frivolous species of merit” that suggests “a preposterous distribution” of praise and blame based upon a perverted moral standard that is disconnected from any real human needs and interests.[42] He argues that the existence of evil poses a problem for the traditional view of god:
The more exquisite any good is…the sharper is the evil, allied to it…The sprightliest wit borders on madness; the highest effusions of joy produce the deepest melancholy; the most ravishing pleasures are attended with the most cruel lassitude and disgust; the most flattering hopes make way for the severest disappointments…no course of life has such safety for happiness is not to be dreamed of as the temperate and moderate, which maintains…a mediocrity, and a kind of insensibility, in every thing. As the good, the great, the sublime, the ravishing are found eminently in the genuine principles of theism; it may be expected…that the base, the absurd, the mean, the terrifying will be equally discovered in religious fictions and chimeras.
Hume was far from the first to extol the virtues of moderation. In 325 BCE, the Greek philosopher and scientist Aristoteles wrote about his “Doctrine of the Mean” in his book Nichomachean Ethics:
Again, it is possible to fail in many ways (for evil belongs to the class of the unlimited…and good to that of the limited), while to succeed is possible only in one way (for which reason also one is easy and the other difficult—to miss the mark easy, to hit it difficult); for these reasons also, then, excess and defect are characteristic of vice, and the mean of virtue; for men are good in but one way, but bad in many.[43]
Nor was Hume by any means the first to grapple with the problem of evil. The conclusion that Philo drew back in “Part X” was that “the course of nature tends not to human or animal felicity”[44]—which brought us back to “Epicurus’ old questions” which remain “unanswered”[45]:
And is it possible…that after all these reflections…you can still persevere in you anthropomorphism, and assert the moral attributes of the deity, his justice, benevolence, mercy, and rectitude, to be of the same nature with these virtues in human creatures? His power we allow is infinite: whatever he wills is executed: but neither man nor any other animal is happy: therefore he does not will their happiness. His wisdom is infinite: he is never mistaken in choosing the means to any end: but the course of nature not to human or animal felicity: therefore it is not established for that purpose...In what respect, then, do his benevolence and mercy resemble the benevolence and mercy of men? Epicurus’ old questions are yet unanswered. Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?[46]
The “old questions” to which Hume  is referring here are attributed to ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus by the author Lucius Caecillius Firmianus Lactantius, advisor to Roman Emperor Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus, in his De Ira Dei [On the Anger Of God] in 318 CE:
God, he says, either wants to eliminate bad things and cannot, or can but does not want to, or neither wishes to nor can, or both wishes to and can. If he wants to and cannot, then he is week and this does not apply to god. If he can but does not want to, then he is spiteful which is equally foreign to god’s nature. If he neither wants to nor can, he is both weak and spiteful, and so is not a god. If he wants to and can, which is the only thing fitting for a god, where do bad things come from? Or why does he not eliminate them?[47]

In order to understand why it is that I find both Cleanthes’ arguments for intelligent design and Philo’s arguments against the traditional concept of god so profoundly and thoroughly unconvincing, it is first necessary to recognize the gulf in the exponential growth human knowledge about the universe that exists between Hume’s late-18th-century Scotland and my own early-21st-century America. At the time that Hume wrote his Dialogues, science had yet to discover any of its present knowledge of the electron, the atom, or the cell. For perspective, at the time that Hume’s Dialogues was published, the man who first classified the human species as belonging to the family of great apes, Carolus Linnaeus, had died only the year before[48], and the man who discovered the force of universal gravitation, Sir Isaac Newton, only half a century before that. No one in the world would hear of Charles Darwin or the theory of natural selection for another three quarters of a century.
However, as thoroughly as the natural and biological sciences, especially micro-biochemistry, have been shown to debunk the claims made by the argument from design, the scientific discovery that single-handedly renders very nearly Hume’s entire Dialogues pointless philosophical hand-waving was made in the mid-19th century with the devising of the fist law of thermodynamics: the law of the conservation of energy.
Doctor Carl Nave, Associate Professor of Physics at Georgia State University, states the law this way: “Energy can neither be created nor destroyed.”[49] Tom Chandler, an Adjunct Assistant Professor and Associate research Scientist at the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University phrases it similarly: “Energy cannot be created nor destroyed.”[50] Mike Farabee of the General Geology Faculty at Maricopa County Community Colleges states: “Energy can be changed to one form or another, but it cannot be created or destroyed.”[51]
Of course, as was the case with Hume, the concept of conservation was by no means an originally 19th-century proposition. In the 5th century BCE, the Greek pre-Socratic philosopher Empedocles wrote in his poem On Nature that:
The elements…do not come to be or perish…nothing comes to be or perishes.[52]
Therefore, since the act of creation has been rendered a physical impossibility, all of Philo and Cleanthes’ debate on whether or not the universe was created for human life, and whether life was created for a purpose, is set as to naught.

I do, however, find myself in strong agreement with Philo’s criticisms of the amorality of religion and the dangers of blind faith.  I consider Epicurus’ age-old questions [“Is god willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?”[53]] to be perhaps one amongst the most damning challenges ever posed to organized monotheistic religion as we know it today.  Hume, however, is not easily fooled, and correctly makes the observation in “Part X” that “Polytheism or idolatry was, and must have been, the first and most ancient religion of mankind.”:
The heroes in paganism correspond exactly to the saints in popery, and holy dervishes in Mohammedanism. The place of, Hercules, Theseus, Hector, Romulus, is now supplied by Dominic, Francis, Anthony, and Benedict. Instead of the destruction of monsters, the subduing of tyrants, the defense of our native country; whippings and fasting, cowardice and humility, abject submission and slavish obedience, are become the means of obtaining celestial honors among mankind.[54]
In driving a wedge between religious belief and morality, Hume effectively argues, in “Part XV”, that atheism is morally preferable to theism:
Hear the verbal protestations of all men: Nothing so certain as their religious tenets. Examine their lives: You will scarcely think that they repose the smallest confidence in them. The greatest and truest zeal gives us no security against hypocrisy: The most open impiety is attended with dread and compunction. No theological absurdities so glaring that they have nor, sometimes, been embraced by men of the greatest and most cultivated understanding. No religious precepts so rigorous that they have not been adopted by the most voluptuous and most abandoned of men.[55]
In what I believe to be by far and away his most scathing and contemporarily relevant criticism of the religious, he echoes, at least in word use, Philo’s earlier warning against leaping to conclusions such as intelligent design:
What a noble privilege is it of human reason to attain the knowledge of the Supreme Being; and… enabled to infer so sublime a principle as its supreme creator?…Survey most nations and most ages. Examine the religious principles, which have…prevailed in the world. You will scarcely be persuaded, that they are any thing but sick men’s dreams: Or perhaps will regard them more as the playsome whimsies of monkeys in human shape, than the serious…dogmatic asseveration of a being, who dignifies himself with the name of rational.[56]




[1] Swede, Jason K. “Hume’s Articulation Of The “Argument From Design”. Lake Superior State University. 2008. http://www.lssu.edu/faculty/jswedene/Hume_ArgumentFromDesign.htm
[2] Echelbarger, Charles. “Hume’s Tacit Atheism”. Religious Studies Vol. 2 (Cambridge University Press, 1975), pp. 19-35. 1. http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/charles_echelbarger/hume-atheism.html
[3] Manson, Neil A. “Anthropocentrism And The Design Argument”. Religious Studies. 36. (Cambridge University Press, 2000). 163. http://home.olemiss.edu/~namanson/Anthropocentrism.pdf
[4] Himma, Kenneth E. “Design Arguments For The Existence Of God”. Internet Encyclopedia Of Philosophy. December 23, 2003. http://www.iep.utm.edu/design/
[5] Pecorino, Phillip A. “The Teleological Argument”. Philosophy Of Religion Chapter 3: Proofs For The Existence Of God. Queensborough Community College. 2000. http://www.qcc.cuny.edu/socialSciences/ppecorino/INTRO_TEXT/Chapter%203%20Religion/Teleological.htm 
[6] Archie, John. “The Reading Selection From Natural Religion”. Reading For Philosophical Inquiry: A Brief Introduction To Philosophical Thinking, Ver. 0.21, Chapter 15: Critique Of The Design Argument By David Hume. Lander University. 2011. http://philosophy.lander.edu/intro/introbook2.1/x4211.html
[7] Ratzsch, Del. “Teleological Arguments For God’s Existence”. Stanford Encylclopedia Of Philosophy.  Metaphysic Research Lab, CSLI, Stanford University. Friday June 10, 2005. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/teleological-arguments/
[8] Russell, Paul. “Hume On Religion”. Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy. Metaphysics Resarch Lab, CSLI, Stanford University. Tuesday October 4, 2005. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/hume-religion/
[9] Echelbarger, 1975
[10] Priest, Graham. “Hume’s Final Argument”. History Of Philosophy Quarterly. Volume 2, Number 3, July 1985, pp 349-352. http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/27743734?uid=41084&uid=3739976&uid=2134&uid=2&uid=70&uid=3&uid=41080&uid=67&uid=5912232&uid=62&uid=3739256&sid=21102922227791
[11] Garrett, Don. “What’s True About Hume’s “True Religion”?”. The Journal Of Scottish Philosophy 10.2  (Edinburgh University Press, 2012): 215. http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/philo/faculty/garrett/papers/What's%20True%20About%20Hume's%20'True%20Religion'.pdf
[12] Himma, 2003
[13] Ratzsch, 2005
[14] Pecorino, Phillip A. “The Teleological Argument”. Philosophy of Religion. City University of New York. July 30, 2001. http://www2.sunysuffolk.edu/pecorip/SCCCWEB/SS620/TELEOLOGICAL_ARG.htm
[15] Himma, 2003
[16] Beebe, James. “The Design Argument For The Existence Of God”. University of Buffalo. 2002. http://www.acsu.buffalo.edu/~jbeebe2/design.htm
[17] Speaks, Jeff. “Hume’s Criticism Of The Design Argument” 1. University of Notre Dame. January 24, 2006. Pp 15-21. http://www3.nd.edu/~jspeaks/courses/mcgill/201/Hume-Dialogues.html
[18] Archie, 2011
[19] Miles, Sara J. “Charles Darwin And Asa Gray Discuss Teleology And Design”. PSCF 53 (September 2001): 196-201. http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2001/PSCF9-01Miles.html
[20] Ratzsch, 2005
[21] Himma, 2003
[22] Beaudoin, John. “On Some Criticisms Of Hume’s Principle Of Proportioning Cause And Effect”. Philo, Volume 2, Number 2 (1999). http://www.philoonline.org/library/beaudoin_2_2.htm
[23] Ratzsch, 2005.
[24] Pfau, Thomas. “Teleological Arguments For God’s Existence”. Teleology. June 3, 2008. Page 3. https://web.duke.edu/secmod/encyclopedia/Teleology.pdf
[25] Epstein, Mikhail. “The Art Of World-Making”. Philosophy Now. Issue 98. September/October 2013. http://philosophynow.org/issues/95/The_Art_of_World-Making
[26] Russell, 2005
[27] Andre, Shane. “Was Hume An Atheist?”. Hume Studies Volume XIX, Number 1 (April, 1993) 145. http://www.humesociety.org/hs/issues/v19n1/andre/andre-v19n1.pdf
[28] Russell, 2005
[29] Rickabay, John S.J. “General Metaphysics” Third Edition (1898) Chapter VI: “The Finite And The Infinite Being”. Longmans, Green and Co. 1921. http://www3.nd.edu/Departments/Maritain/etext/gm06.htm
[30] Stempel, Daniel. “Coleridge And Organic Form: The English Tradition”. Studies in Romanticism Vol. 6, No. 2, winter, 1967, pp. 89-97. http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/25599680?uid=41084&uid=3739976&uid=2&uid=3&uid=41080&uid=67&uid=5912232&uid=62&uid=3739256&sid=21102923506471
[31] Ratzsch, 2005
[32] Smith, Quentin. “Internal And External Causal Explanations Of The Universe”. Philosophical Studies Volume 79 (1995) pp 2383-310. III. http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/quentin_smith/universe.html
[33] Russell, 2005
[34] Echelbarger, 1975
[35] Russell, 2005
[36] Hanvelt, Marc. “Polite Oratory: Hume’s Concept Of Rhetoric”. Canadian Political Science Association. April 2006. http://www.cpsa-acsp.ca/papers-2006/Hanvelt.pdf
[37] Russell, 2005
[38] Korsgaard, Christine. “Just Like All The Other Animals Of The Earth”. Harvard Divinity Bulletin. Vol. 36, No. 3 (Autumn 2008). http://www.hds.harvard.edu/news-events/harvard-divinity-bulletin/articles/just-like-all-the-other-animals-of-the-earth
[39] Vink, A.G. “Philo’s Final Conclusion In Hume’s “Dialogues”. Religious Studies, Vol. 25. No. 4 (December 1989) pp 496 http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/20019372.pdf?acceptTC=true&acceptTC=true&jpdConfirm=true
[40] Pfau, 2008
[41] Gaskin J.C.A. and Skorupski, J. “Hume’s Philosophy Of Religion” Mind. Vol. 89, n. 353 (January 1980) pp. 135. http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/2253513.pdf?&acceptTC=true&jpdConfirm=true
[42] Russell, 2005
[43] Ross, W.D. “Chapter 4: Virtue As The Mean Between Two Extreme States”. Aristotle: Nichomachean Ethics. Minnesota State University Moorhead. 2007. http://web.mnstate.edu/gracyk/courses/web%20publishing/AristotleVirtueAsMean.htm
[44] Tweyman, Stanley. “Hume’s Dialogues On Evil”. Hume Studies Volume XIII, Number 1 (April 1987). 77. http://humesociety.org/hs/issues/v13n1/tweyman/tweyman-v13n1.pdf
[45] Russell, 2005
[46] Chaves, Eduardo. “Logical And Semantical Aspects Of The Problem Of Evil”. Critica: Revista Hispanoamericana De Filosofia, Vol. 10, No. 29 (August, 1978), pp. 3. http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/40104106.pdf?acceptTC=true&acceptTC=true&jpdConfirm=true
[47] Anderson, Erik. “Epicurea: Selections From The Classic Compilation Of Herman Usener (1834-190)”. Epicurean Philosophy Online. 2006. http://www.epicurus.info/etexts/epicurea.html 
[48] Waggoner, Ben. “Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778)”. Berkely Natural History Museums. 2006. http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/history/linnaeus.html
[49] Nave, C. Rod. “Conservation Laws”. HyperPhysics. Department of Physics and Astronomy, Georgia State University. 2012. http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/conser.html
[50] Chandler, Thomas “Conservation Of Energy”. The Secret Lives Of Energy. Community Science Action Guides. 2002. http://fi.edu/guide/hughes/energyconservation.html
[51] Farabee, Michael. “Laws of Thermodynamics”. Estrella Mountain Community College. 2001. http://www2.estrellamountain.edu/faculty/farabee/BIOBK/biobookener1.html
[52] Janko, R. “Empedocles, On Nature I 233-364: A New Reconstruction of P. Strasb. Gr. Inv. 1665-6”. University of Michigan Program in Ancient Philosophy. 17. http://ancphil.lsa.umich.edu/-/downloads/faculty/janko/empedocles-nature.pdf
[53] Kryvelev, I.A. “On The Evidence Of The Existence Of God”. Scientific Atheism. 1998. http://www.atheism.ru/old/KryAth2.html
[54] Taylor, Kelly. “The First Obscure Traces Of Divinity: An Analysis of Hum’s Natural History Of Religion”. Philosophy of Religion. September 26, 2001. http://crowdog.net/hume.html
[55] Gieben, J.C. “An Old World And A New On”. The Light And The Dark: A Cultural History Of Dualism, Volume XXVI, Chapter III Part 1: Elements Of A New Paradigm”. Gopher Publishers. 2008. http://home.wanadoo.nl/piet.fontaine/volumes/vol26/index4.htm?vol26_ch3_part1.htm
[56] Russell, 2005