Thursday, May 30, 2013

Acts 27 test, 8e: Alcibiades, Socrates and Plato on the pitfalls of political ambition vs just and wise government and nationhood under God

NB: After a spot of trouble with, one of those browser hijack toolbars that somehow sneaked in (let's just say, when all else fails, reset the browser to default configuration), I can get back on track . . . .


CONTINUING from last time:

We were still sipping and munching when the familiar trumpet ringtone hit again.

I walked to the smart eye button (which, as usual, was watching protectively in guardian angel mode), and clicked. It popped up to large size and informed me that Alcibiades would be ready in a moment. Click the initiate trumpet.

The window popped up to a teleconference view of what looked like the visit area of a prison.

I guessed, this must be the vision conferencing system.

There was an angel in view, the other one of Gabriel's wingmen. And soon enough, a handsome but somewhat dejected looking Greek man came into view, escorted by the other wingman of Michael. The scorched wing seemed to be okay. (These angelic wingmen do seem to get around, and I guess the use of such obviously senior angels suggests that this is a priority matter.)

The angels discreetly withdrew off screen, but obviously remained in close reach.

Alcibiades sat down, and said, okay, I guess we can begin.


He said, first, I apologise for coming to you from here, but I could not bear the thought of going back to earth, and doing so like a prisoner on close guard escort.

So, since I could use conferencing, I opted for that.

Plato and Socrates, who had set aside cups and munchies, nodded.

Alcibiades said, maybe the hardest thing for me to face, was how much I ended up as a failure, after such promise and opportunity.

My pride and ambition betrayed me to arrogance, insulting the public, flight instead of facing trial for my irresponsibility, then betrayal of Athens by defecting to Sparta, then I had the bright idea to seduce and impregnate the wife of a Spartan king, then I abandoned woman and love child, going over to the enemy of all Greeks, Persia. And so on as the histories drearily recount, starting with Plutarch.

I even managed to return to Athens, but in the end, they would rather lose a battle on their own than trust my advice.

So, my behaviour led to ruin both for my city and myself.

I have had a long time to reflect on all of that, here in the torments of shame. Shame forever.

I want to at least apologise to history and ask forgiveness.

I also think that the apostle James had a very sobering word that would be helpful for all who imagine themselves to be the bright, clever ones who should hold power and want to do what they will with it and with others around them:
 James 3: 13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.  [ESV]

It is too late for me.

Maybe, however, I can at least help others avoid my mistakes.

The other day, Marx reminded me that he said that history repeats itself twice, once as tragedy, the next time as farce. He also sends his apologies to history and wants to assure the world that he had no intent or inkling of what would be done in his name.

Machiavelli was sitting by, and he added that the notion that the end can justify the means was one of his biggest mistakes.

He also begged to remind the world of this passage from The Prince, ch 3, which he said in the end, was one of his most important thoughts.

One, that would help our common civilisation to avert disaster in our day:
 . . . the Romans did in these instances what all prudent princes ought to do, who have to regard not only present troubles, but also future ones, for which they must prepare with every energy, because, when foreseen, it is easy to remedy them; but if you wait until they approach, the medicine is no longer in time because the malady has become incurable; for it happens in this, as the physicians say it happens in hectic fever, that in the beginning of the malady it is easy to cure but difficult to detect, but in the course of time, not having been either detected or treated in the beginning, it becomes easy to detect but difficult to cure. Thus it happens in affairs of state, for when the evils that arise have been foreseen (which it is only given to a wise man to see), they can be quickly redressed, but when, through not having been foreseen, they have been permitted to grow in a way that every one can see them. there is no longer a remedy.
He also warned that too often, the public today seems to have forgotten what he went on to say right after this: ". . . they knew that war is not to be avoided, but is only put off to the advantage of others."  His comment was, it is wiser to fight far away before the danger builds up and is close to home.

He then paused.

Your time is an age in which you have undreamed of, nightmarish weapons: poison gases of appalling power; invisible life forms, germs you call them, that  can inflict horrible, spreading diseases; bombs that can blow up whole cities. You have democracies. That means that your publics and those who shape opinions and trends need to realise that in such an age, you cannot play games with those who have a track record of deceit, selfish ambition, ideologically motivated or conscience-benumbed ruthlessness and destructive aggression or the promotion of terrorism. For instance, the only time to stop nuclear weapons getting into irresponsible or demented hands, is before they are developed.

(And by the way, a delegation of suicide bombers has asked me to tell all would-be bombers that making yourself a suicidal murderer is not going to get you into paradise. Just the opposite. So, ignore the lies being told to you in the name of religion by those who should know better.)

My concern also applies to many other things, as the saying about nipping dangers in the bud, speaks of.

And, Socrates, I must publicly apologise that I did not heed your attempts to nip the seeds and sprouts of tragedy in my life while they were in the bud. They did much harm to our city, and in the end cost both of us our lives.

Maybe, you could tell the story of how you tried to warn me.

Socrates said, I intended to do that, and this is as good a time as any to present it in the form of that dialogue, Alcibiades I, that is spuriously attributed to you, Plato, but it does capture the essence of the matter.

Plato chuckled, and said, go right ahead.

Socrates said, we don't need to go through it all, but Alcibiades, could you join me in voicing excerpts?

Alcibiades nodded over the vision conferencing link.

Socrates walked up to the screen and clicked the continue projects trumpet. (It seems the eye-button recognised him by sight! There must be a serious facial recognition module in there somewhere.)

Up popped a small window, and Socrates clicked a tab.

The window vanished and the following appeared at the foot of the screen -- and evidently on Alcibiades' end too, as he nodded at once.

 Socrates went back to his seat, and the two began to voice:
[ . . . ]
SOCRATES: You do, then, mean, as I was saying, to come forward in a little while in the character of an adviser of the Athenians? And suppose that when you are ascending the bema, I pull you by the sleeve and say, Alcibiades, you are getting up to advise the Athenians-do you know the matter about which they are going to deliberate, better than they?--How would you answer?
ALCIBIADES: I should reply, that I was going to advise them about a matter which I do know better than they.
SOCRATES: Then you are a good adviser about the things which you know?
ALCIBIADES: Certainly.
SOCRATES: And do you know anything but what you have learned of others, or found out yourself?
ALCIBIADES: That is all.
SOCRATES: And would you have ever learned or discovered anything, if you had not been willing either to learn of others or to examine yourself?
ALCIBIADES: I should not.
SOCRATES: And would you have been willing to learn or to examine what you supposed that you knew?
ALCIBIADES: Certainly not.
SOCRATES: Then there was a time when you thought that you did not know what you are now supposed to know?
ALCIBIADES: Certainly.
SOCRATES: I think that I know tolerably well the extent of your acquirements; and you must tell me if I forget any of them: according to my recollection, you learned the arts of writing, of playing on the lyre, and of wrestling; the flute you never would learn; this is the sum of your accomplishments, unless there were some which you acquired in secret; and I think that secrecy was hardly possible, as you could not have come out of your door, either by day or night, without my seeing you.
ALCIBIADES: Yes, that was the whole of my schooling.
SOCRATES: And are you going to get up in the Athenian assembly, and give them advice about writing?
ALCIBIADES: No, indeed.
SOCRATES: Or about the touch of the lyre?
ALCIBIADES: Certainly not.
SOCRATES: And they are not in the habit of deliberating about wrestling, in the assembly?
SOCRATES: Then what are the deliberations in which you propose to advise them? Surely not about building?
SOCRATES: For the builder will advise better than you will about that?
SOCRATES: Nor about divination?
SOCRATES: About that again the diviner will advise better than you will?
SOCRATES: Whether he be little or great, good or ill-looking, noble or ignoble-makes no difference.
ALCIBIADES: Certainly not.
SOCRATES: A man is a good adviser about anything, not because he has riches, but because he has knowledge?
ALCIBIADES: Assuredly.
SOCRATES: Whether their counsellor is rich or poor, is not a matter which will make any difference to the Athenians when they are deliberating about the health of the citizens; they only require that he should be a physician.
ALCIBIADES: Of course.
SOCRATES: Then what will be the subject of deliberation about which you will be justified in getting up and advising them?
ALCIBIADES: About their own concerns, Socrates.
SOCRATES: You mean about shipbuilding, for example, when the question is what sort of ships they ought to build?
ALCIBIADES: No, I should not advise them about that.
SOCRATES: I suppose, because you do not understand shipbuilding:--is that the reason?
SOCRATES: Then about what concerns of theirs will you advise them?
ALCIBIADES: About war, Socrates, or about peace, or about any other concerns of the state.
SOCRATES: You mean, when they deliberate with whom they ought to make peace, and with whom they ought to go to war, and in what manner?
SOCRATES: And they ought to go to war with those against whom it is better to go to war?
SOCRATES: And when it is better?
ALCIBIADES: Certainly.
SOCRATES: And for as long a time as is better?
SOCRATES: But suppose the Athenians to deliberate with whom they ought to close in wrestling, and whom they should grasp by the hand, would you, or the master of gymnastics, be a better adviser of them?
ALCIBIADES: Clearly, the master of gymnastics.
SOCRATES: And can you tell me on what grounds the master of gymnastics would decide, with whom they ought or ought not to close, and when and how?  To take an instance: Would he not say that they should wrestle with those against whom it is best to wrestle?
SOCRATES: And as much as is best?
ALCIBIADES: Certainly.
SOCRATES: And at such times as are best?
ALCIBIADES: Yes . . . .

SOCRATES: Then let me put the matter in another way: what do you call the Goddesses who are the patronesses of art?
ALCIBIADES: The Muses do you mean, Socrates?
SOCRATES: Yes, I do; and what is the name of the art which is called after them?
ALCIBIADES: I suppose that you mean music.
SOCRATES: Yes, that is my meaning; and what is the excellence of the art of music, as I told you truly that the excellence of wrestling was gymnastic-what is the excellence of music-to be what?
ALCIBIADES: To be musical, I suppose.
SOCRATES: Very good; and now please to tell me what is the excellence of war and peace; as the more musical was the more excellent, or the more gymnastical was the more excellent, tell me, what name do you give to the more excellent in war and peace?
ALCIBIADES: But I really cannot tell you.
SOCRATES: But if you were offering advice to another and said to him-This food is better than that, at this time and in this quantity, and he said to you-What do you mean, Alcibiades, by the word ‘better’? you would have no difficulty in replying that you meant ‘more wholesome,’ although you do not profess to be a physician: and when the subject is one of which you profess to have knowledge, and about which you are ready to get up and advise as if you knew, are you not ashamed, when you are asked, not to be able to answer the question? Is it not disgraceful?
SOCRATES: Well, then, consider and try to explain what is the meaning of ‘better,’ in the matter of making peace and going to war with those against whom you ought to go to war? To what does the word refer?
ALCIBIADES: I am thinking, and I cannot tell.
SOCRATES: But you surely know what are the charges which we bring against one another, when we arrive at the point of making war, and what name we give them?
ALCIBIADES: Yes, certainly; we say that deceit or violence has been employed, or that we have been defrauded.
SOCRATES: And how does this happen? Will you tell me how? For there may be a difference in the manner.
ALCIBIADES: Do you mean by ‘how,’ Socrates, whether we suffered these things justly or unjustly?
SOCRATES: Exactly.
ALCIBIADES: There can be no greater difference than between just and unjust.
SOCRATES: And would you advise the Athenians to go to war with the just or with the unjust?
ALCIBIADES: That is an awkward question; for certainly, even if a person did intend to go to war with the just, he would not admit that they were just.
SOCRATES: He would not go to war, because it would be unlawful?
ALCIBIADES: Neither lawful nor honourable.
SOCRATES: Then you, too, would address them on principles of justice?
ALCIBIADES: Certainly.
SOCRATES: What, then, is justice but that better, of which I spoke, in going to war or not going to war with those against whom we ought or ought not, and when we ought or ought not to go to war?
SOCRATES: But how is this, friend Alcibiades? Have you forgotten that you do not know this, or have you been to the schoolmaster without my knowledge, and has he taught you to discern the just from the unjust? Who is he? I wish you would tell me, that I may go and learn of him-you shall introduce me.
ALCIBIADES: You are mocking, Socrates.
SOCRATES: No, indeed; I most solemnly declare to you by Zeus, who is the God of our common friendship, and whom I never will forswear, that I am not; tell me, then, who this instructor is, if he exists.
ALCIBIADES: But, perhaps, he does not exist; may I not have acquired the knowledge of just and unjust in some other way?
SOCRATES: Yes; if you have discovered them.
ALCIBIADES: But do you not think that I could discover them?
SOCRATES: I am sure that you might, if you enquired about them.
ALCIBIADES: And do you not think that I would enquire?
SOCRATES: Yes; if you thought that you did not know them.
ALCIBIADES: And was there not a time when I did so think?
SOCRATES: Very good; and can you tell me how long it is since you thought that you did not know the nature of the just and the unjust? What do you say to a year ago? Were you then in a state of conscious ignorance and enquiry? Or did you think that you knew? And please to answer truly, that our discussion may not be in vain.
ALCIBIADES: Well, I thought that I knew.
SOCRATES: And two years ago, and three years ago, and four years ago, you knew all the same?
SOCRATES: And more than four years ago you were a child-were you not?
SOCRATES: And then I am quite sure that you thought you knew.
ALCIBIADES: Why are you so sure?
SOCRATES: Because I often heard you when a child, in your teacher’s house, or elsewhere, playing at dice or some other game with the boys, not hesitating at all about the nature of the just and unjust; but very confident-crying and shouting that one of the boys was a rogue and a cheat, and had been cheating. Is it not true?
ALCIBIADES: But what was I to do, Socrates, when anybody cheated me?
SOCRATES: And how can you say, ‘What was I to do’? if at the time you did not know whether you were wronged or not?
ALCIBIADES: To be sure I knew; I was quite aware that I was being cheated.
SOCRATES: Then you suppose yourself even when a child to have known the nature of just and unjust?
ALCIBIADES: Certainly; and I did know then.
SOCRATES: And when did you discover them-not, surely, at the time when you thought that you knew them?
ALCIBIADES: Certainly not.
SOCRATES: And when did you think that you were ignorant-if you consider, you will find that there never was such a time?
ALCIBIADES: Really, Socrates, I cannot say.
SOCRATES: Then you did not learn them by discovering them?
ALCIBIADES: Clearly not.
SOCRATES: But just before you said that you did not know them by learning; now, if you have neither discovered nor learned them, how and whence do you come to know them?
ALCIBIADES: I suppose that I was mistaken in saying that I knew them through my own discovery of them; whereas, in truth, I learned them in the same way that other people learn.
SOCRATES: So you said before, and I must again ask, of whom? Do tell me.
ALCIBIADES: Of the many. [--> Note, the cultural relativism that can enter here.]
SOCRATES: Do you take refuge in them? I cannot say much for your teachers.
ALCIBIADES: Why, are they not able to teach?
SOCRATES: They could not teach you how to play at draughts, which you would acknowledge (would you not) to be a much smaller matter than justice?
SOCRATES: And can they teach the better who are unable to teach the worse?
ALCIBIADES: I think that they can; at any rate, they can teach many far better things than to play at draughts.
SOCRATES: What things?
ALCIBIADES: Why, for example, I learned to speak Greek of them, and I cannot say who was my teacher, or to whom I am to attribute my knowledge of Greek, if not to those good-for-nothing teachers, as you call them.
SOCRATES: Why, yes, my friend; and the many are good enough teachers of Greek, and some of their instructions in that line may be justly praised.
ALCIBIADES: Why is that?
SOCRATES: Why, because they have the qualities which good teachers ought to have.
ALCIBIADES: What qualities?
SOCRATES: Why, you know that knowledge is the first qualification of any teacher?
ALCIBIADES: Certainly.
SOCRATES: And if they know, they must agree together and not differ?
SOCRATES: And would you say that they knew the things about which they differ?
SOCRATES: Then how can they teach them?
ALCIBIADES: They cannot.
SOCRATES: Well, but do you imagine that the many would differ about the nature of wood and stone? are they not agreed if you ask them what they are? and do they not run to fetch the same thing, when they want a piece of wood or a stone? And so in similar cases, which I suspect to be pretty nearly all that you mean by speaking Greek.
SOCRATES: These, as we were saying, are matters about which they are agreed with one another and with themselves; both individuals and states use the same words about them; they do not use some one word and some another.
ALCIBIADES: They do not.
SOCRATES: Then they may be expected to be good teachers of these things?
SOCRATES: And if we want to instruct any one in them, we shall be right in sending him to be taught by our friends the many?
ALCIBIADES: Very true.
SOCRATES: But if we wanted further to know not only which are men and which are horses, but which men or horses have powers of running, would the many still be able to inform us?
ALCIBIADES: Certainly not.
SOCRATES: And you have a sufficient proof that they do not know these things and are not the best teachers of them, inasmuch as they are never agreed about them?
SOCRATES: And suppose that we wanted to know not only what men are like, but what healthy or diseased men are like-would the many be able to teach us?
ALCIBIADES: They would not.
SOCRATES: And you would have a proof that they were bad teachers of these matters, if you saw them at variance?
SOCRATES: Well, but are the many agreed with themselves, or with one another, about the justice or injustice of men and things?
ALCIBIADES: Assuredly not, Socrates.
SOCRATES: There is no subject about which they are more at variance?
SOCRATES: I do not suppose that you ever saw or heard of men quarrelling over the principles of health and disease to such an extent as to go to war and kill one another for the sake of them?
ALCIBIADES: No indeed.
SOCRATES: But of the quarrels about justice and injustice, even if you have never seen them, you have certainly heard from many people, including Homer; for you have heard of the Iliad and Odyssey?
ALCIBIADES: To be sure, Socrates.
SOCRATES: A difference of just and unjust is the argument of those poems?
SOCRATES: Which difference caused all the wars and deaths of Trojans and Achaeans, and the deaths of the suitors of Penelope in their quarrel with Odysseus.
ALCIBIADES: Very true.
SOCRATES: And when the Athenians and Lacedaemonians and Boeotians fell at Tanagra, and afterwards in the battle of Coronea, at which your father Cleinias met his end, the question was one of justice-this was the sole cause of the battles, and of their deaths.
ALCIBIADES: Very true.
SOCRATES: But can they be said to understand that about which they are quarrelling to the death?
ALCIBIADES: Clearly not.
SOCRATES: And yet those whom you thus allow to be ignorant are the teachers to whom you are appealing.
ALCIBIADES: Very true.
SOCRATES: But how are you ever likely to know the nature of justice and injustice, about which you are so perplexed, if you have neither learned them of others nor discovered them yourself?
ALCIBIADES: From what you say, I suppose not . . . . [Socrates then corrected, it was not Socrates the questioner but Alcibiades the speaker who drew out his own ignorance and the ignorance of those he appealed to as his teachers.] . . .

SOCRATES: Then, Alcibiades, the result may be expressed in the language of Euripides. I think that you have heard all this ‘from yourself, and not from me’; nor did I say this, which you erroneously attribute to me, but you yourself, and what you said was very true. For indeed, my dear fellow, the design which you meditate of teaching what you do not know, and have not taken any pains to learn, is downright insanity.
ALCIBIADES: But, Socrates, I think that the Athenians and the rest of the Hellenes do not often advise as to the more just or unjust; for they see no difficulty in them, and therefore they leave them, and consider which course of action will be most expedient; for there is a difference between justice and expediency. Many persons have done great wrong and profited by their injustice; others have done rightly and come to no good.
SOCRATES: Well, but granting that the just and the expedient are ever so much opposed, you surely do not imagine that you know what is expedient for mankind, or why a thing is expedient?
ALCIBIADES: Why not, Socrates?--But I am not going to be asked again from whom I learned, or when I made the discovery.
SOCRATES: What a way you have! When you make a mistake which might be refuted by a previous argument, you insist on having a new and different refutation; the old argument is a worn-our garment which you will no longer put on, but some one must produce another which is clean and new. Now I shall disregard this move of yours, and shall ask over again,--Where did you learn and how do you know the nature of the expedient, and who is your teacher? All this I comprehend in a single question, and now you will manifestly be in the old difficulty, and will not be able to show that you know the expedient, either because you learned or because you discovered it yourself. But, as I perceive that you are dainty, and dislike the taste of a stale argument, I will enquire no further into your knowledge of what is expedient or what is not expedient for the Athenian people, and simply request you to say why you do not explain whether justice and expediency are the same or different? And if you like you may examine me as I have examined you, or, if you would rather, you may carry on the discussion by yourself.
ALCIBIADES: But I am not certain, Socrates, whether I shall be able to discuss the matter with you.
SOCRATES: Then imagine, my dear fellow, that I am the demus and the ecclesia; for in the ecclesia, too, you will have to persuade men individually . . . .

ALCIBIADES: I solemnly declare, Socrates, that I do not know what I am saying. Verily, I am in a strange state, for when you put questions to me I am of different minds in successive instants.
SOCRATES: And are you not aware of the nature of this perplexity, my friend?
ALCIBIADES: Indeed I am not.
SOCRATES: Do you suppose that if some one were to ask you whether you have two eyes or three, or two hands or four, or anything of that sort, you would then be of different minds in successive instants?
ALCIBIADES: I begin to distrust myself, but still I do not suppose that I should.
SOCRATES: You would feel no doubt; and for this reason-because you would know?
ALCIBIADES: I suppose so.
SOCRATES: And the reason why you involuntarily contradict yourself is clearly that you are ignorant?
ALCIBIADES: Very likely.
SOCRATES: And if you are perplexed in answering about just and unjust, honourable and dishonourable, good and evil, expedient and inexpedient, the reason is that you are ignorant of them, and therefore in perplexity. Is not that clear?
SOCRATES: But is this always the case, and is a man necessarily perplexed about that of which he has no knowledge?
ALCIBIADES: Certainly he is.
SOCRATES: And do you know how to ascend into heaven?
ALCIBIADES: Certainly not.
SOCRATES: And in this case, too, is your judgment perplexed?
SOCRATES: Do you see the reason why, or shall I tell you?
SOCRATES: The reason is, that you not only do not know, my friend, but you do not think that you know.
ALCIBIADES: There again; what do you mean?
SOCRATES: Ask yourself; are you in any perplexity about things of which you are ignorant? You know, for example, that you know nothing about the preparation of food.
ALCIBIADES: Very true.
SOCRATES: And do you think and perplex yourself about the preparation of food: or do you leave that to some one who understands the art?
ALCIBIADES: The latter.
SOCRATES: Or if you were on a voyage, would you bewilder yourself by considering whether the rudder is to be drawn inwards or outwards, or do you leave that to the pilot, and do nothing?
ALCIBIADES: It would be the concern of the pilot.
SOCRATES: Then you are not perplexed about what you do not know, if you know that you do not know it?
ALCIBIADES: I imagine not.
SOCRATES: Do you not see, then, that mistakes in life and practice are likewise to be attributed to the ignorance which has conceit of knowledge?
ALCIBIADES: Once more, what do you mean?
SOCRATES: I suppose that we begin to act when we think that we know what we are doing?
SOCRATES: But when people think that they do not know, they entrust their business to others?
SOCRATES: And so there is a class of ignorant persons who do not make mistakes in life, because they trust others about things of which they are ignorant?
SOCRATES: Who, then, are the persons who make mistakes? They cannot, of course, be those who know?
ALCIBIADES: Certainly not.
SOCRATES: But if neither those who know, nor those who know that they do not know, make mistakes, there remain those only who do not know and think that they know.
ALCIBIADES: Yes, only those.
SOCRATES: Then this is ignorance of the disgraceful sort which is mischievous?
SOCRATES: And most mischievous and most disgraceful when having to do with the greatest matters?
SOCRATES: And can there be any matters greater than the just, the honourable, the good, and the expedient?
ALCIBIADES: There cannot be.
SOCRATES: And these, as you were saying, are what perplex you?
SOCRATES: But if you are perplexed, then, as the previous argument has shown, you are not only ignorant of the greatest matters, but being ignorant you fancy that you know them?
ALCIBIADES: I fear that you are right.
SOCRATES: And now see what has happened to you, Alcibiades! I hardly like to speak of your evil case, but as we are alone I will: My good friend, you are wedded to ignorance of the most disgraceful kind, and of this you are convicted, not by me, but out of your own mouth and by your own argument; wherefore also you rush into politics before you are educated.  Neither is your case to be deemed singular. For I might say the same of almost all our statesmen, with the exception, perhaps of your guardian, Pericles . . . 

Socrates then paused. We could go on, but there is enough to chew on here.

 Alcibiades added, yes, it is one thing to be ignorant, and another entirely to be aware of the fact and willing to face it. It is a third to be able to persuade the public, and a fourth to be able to properly instruct while winning the respect of the public.

And yet, there is one thing that I would like to point out, now that I know better.

And, what is that, Plato asked.

Alcibiades then pointed out, that there is One we can and do learn from regarding justice and before the major themes of justice and delicately balanced debates on issues, conscience. The One John Locke pointed to when he said:

Men have reason to be well satisfied with what God hath thought fit for them, since he hath given them (as St. Peter says [NB: i.e. 2 Pet 1:2 - 4]) pana pros zoen kaieusebeian, whatsoever is necessary for the conveniences of life and information of virtue; and has put within the reach of their discovery, the comfortable provision for this life, and the way that leads to a better. How short soever their knowledge may come of an universal or perfect comprehension of whatsoever is, it yet secures their great concernments [Prov 1: 1 - 7], that they have light enough to lead them to the knowledge of their Maker, and the sight of their own duties [cf Rom 1 - 2 & 13, Ac 17, Jn 3:19 - 21, Eph 4:17 - 24, Isaiah 5:18 & 20 - 21, Jer. 2:13Titus 2:11 - 14 etc, etc]. Men may find matter sufficient to busy their heads, and employ their hands with variety, delight, and satisfaction, if they will not boldly quarrel with their own constitution, and throw away the blessings their hands are filled with, because they are not big enough to grasp everything . . . It will be no excuse to an idle and untoward servant [Matt 24:42 - 51], who would not attend his business by candle light, to plead that he had not broad sunshine. The Candle that is set up in us [Prov 20:27] shines bright enough for all our purposes . . . If we will disbelieve everything, because we cannot certainly know all things, we shall do muchwhat as wisely as he who would not use his legs, but sit still and perish, because he had no wings to fly.
And, Plato added, Paul before him, put much the same this way:
Rom 2: 13 . . . it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. [ESV]
Indeed, this was the point that Locke quoted Richard Hooker on from his Ecclesiastical Polity, which in turn was alluding to my pupil Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics:

. . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man's hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant . . . [[Hooker then continues, citing Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics, Bk 8:] as namely, That because we would take no harm, we must therefore do none; That since we would not be in any thing extremely dealt with, we must ourselves avoid all extremity in our dealings; That from all violence and wrong we are utterly to abstain, with such-like . . . ] [[Eccl. Polity,preface, Bk I, "ch." 8, p.80, cf. here. Emphasis added.]

So, Plato continued, in a sense, all men have access to knowledge of the true and the good, if they will listen to conscience guided reason and the evidence of their senses and experiences, rightly thought about. Unfortunately, it is easy for men to resort to living in a cave of misleading or outright deceptive shadow-shows. 

H'mm' could we call up the heaven end on this browser and see if Paul could pass on a few thoughts again?

Hardly had he said this, when the eye-button popped up and the initiation trumpet called for attention. I walked up, clicked and it said, pause a moment, then Paul will join you.

Just then, a sub- window popped up with Paul sitting on what looked like a rather nice park bench,  in a park surrounded by a very beautiful crystalline city. He was with Dr Luke, and it looked likethey had been enjoying themselves with some pigeons who were surrounding them and eating seed from their hands.

Paul said, Plato, what did you need me for?

Plato said, could you -- and Dr Luke since he is with you, kindly review the speech you gave in Athens at the Areopagus Council?

Paul glanced at Dr Luke, who then quoted:

Acts 17: 16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 

18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”-because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 

21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

 22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, 

‘To the unknown god.’ 
What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 

24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,2  25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for   
                    “‘In him we live and move and have our being’;3
            as even some of your own poets have said,   

                    “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

 29 Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 

30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

 32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul went out from their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them. [ESV]
Plato said, thank you, Dr Luke. 

Now, Paul, could you explain a bit about the concept of nationhood under God, and then on just government under God?

Paul smiled. All of us derive from one man, Adam. We are all brothers and sisters, cousins and relatives, no matter how different we may look in our races.

However, as there was a problem of coming together under the ambitious Nimrod in defiance of Deity, God intervened and scattered the families of man across the world, dividing languages.

So, we come to how nations were created by God as a restraint on the potential for unity in defiance of God.

At the same time, we are all children of God, and see a witness in the world around and in our own hearts and minds, that points to God, and calls us to live by the truth and the right in love. hence the voice of conscience, if we will but not stifle it.

Since in any community there will be men who refuse to heed that voice, and since in other communities such men may seize enough power to become pirates and invaders, God has created as well the civil authority as his servant to do good, bearing the sword of justice. But that is no excuse to turn tyrant and pirate. Likewise, there is no excuse to let the power of law making go to one's head and lead to defiance of the goodness of God. If a civil authority oversteps his bounds and demands under false colours of his authority or perverted law, we must obey God rather than men. Caesar is God's servant, and has no just power to usurp that which belongs to God.

Indeed, a ruler governs best, who understands that he is God's steward and servant, given a high calling of justice, and beneficence for the people. Where also, he is to remember that other nations are also his fellow children of God.

A ruler who defies such, is turning wicked, and maybe even tyrant.

The blessing of modern democracy is that it allows us to peacefully remove such rulers, through scheduled, regular elections.

And it is then the duty of the people in such a community, to seek out cometent, decent and if at all possible godly men to hold office.

But that did not mean that Nero was not a legitimate authority, to be respected, even though he was perverse, and became in the end a sad example and byword. I will say that in the early years of his rule, when he took the tutelage of Burrus and Seneca, his rule was wise and brought prosperity and benefits to the Roman world. Unfortunately, he then decided to kick over the traces, and got worse and worse.

Plato said, thank you very much.

I thought it important to give a bit of balance on the subject of sound government and the wider context of nationhood under God.

Socrates turned to Alcibiades, and asked: do you have anything further to add, as time is now all but spent?

Alcibiades, said, only this, thank you for the opportunity to at least make some amends for my faults.

Good bye.

And with that the conference terminated.

Then, Plato and Socrates said, the night is far spent, and we have covered much ground.

Perhaps, we too should be going. Thank you.

And they headed for the portal, and stepped through. From this angle, I could now see a shining city on a hill, beyond the wonderful field.

The angels at the door nodded greetings, and  closed the door.

The portal vanished, and in a moment so did the window and the eye too.

Quite a discussion, I thought.

And so, I rushed over and put this post together, to keep us in touch with the lessons the ghosts from our past have for us at a pivotal moment. I also had the feeling that this was just the beginning . . .  END

PS: Did I mention before, I discovered the HB interface on my personal laptop too? (But, it sure did not act like!)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Acts 27 test, 8d: Plato, Socrates, Paley -- and Steve Jobs' latest project -- as we learn to put first things (and first causes) first

A couple of nights after seeing off the C1 delegation and friends on a winged horse escorted home by a squadron of angels, I was startled in the middle of the night to hear of all things, a trumpet-call ring tone.

It was coming from the living room.

So, I tip-toed over, quietly.

A sketch of the HB start button
There, on the same wall that Godel had used for his presentation, was a sophisticated browser start button with a fish-eye, the iris glowing orange. The pupil of the eye was mobile, and it was looking at me, tracking me as I approached. Weird, but I had a sense this was more guardian angel on duty than Big Brother from 1984.

I pressed the eye (rather like modern PC start buttons), and the iris changed to green, while the eye jumped up to a larger size, with the topmost of the three trumpets expanding out of proportion and glowing as it emitted visible notes, with a faint sound of the trumpet ring tone. I touched the bell, just where the notes were coming from.

Up popped a video of Steve Jobs in a window that formed, looking a lot better than when we last saw him, saying, welcome to the Heaven's Browser interface.

(Now I know what he has been up to for the past year and half or so.)

He briefly explained features, explaining that it was a two way interface, and would do different things if I initiated it or the Heaven end initiated it. For instance, if I clicked on or touched the scroll, it would open up a study Bible, with the scroll handles triggering scrolling and related features, or a linked book or if I needed it the ordinary Internet.  The trumpets, top to bottom, were for different menus. The top one would take me to a start menu, the middle to a continue on projects menu and the bottom, to a closing off. The pupil of the eye would watch for me and would warn if security issues were popping up. And the iris would go to amber to alert of an initiation from the other end. In case of danger, the iris would go red and it would automatically switch over to the other end. For instance the scroll could pop up in a texting mode and would give me an alert message.

Then, the iris reverted to amber, and the scroll popped up, flashing.

Over to the Heaven end.

I clicked.

A text message popped up in a browser window next to the eye, saying that I should prepare to receive a delegation of philosophers from C5 BC with William Paley as an extra, in about a half hour. Meanwhile, click the termination trumpet. The eye and window vanished when I did so.

By half hour's time, I had dozed off.



The text scroll popped to the top, and I mentally clicked it, the iris went green and a message was there that I could read but also heard in my head. It said, first, that this was the private, no eavesdrop version of the HB, now internal and just a prayer for help away. But, it would not eliminate my need to study to show myself approved or to walk in the Spirit. As I deepened in these things, it would become more and more accessible and my confidence in the guidance of God rooted in the scriptures would deepen.

No short cuts to discipleship, I suppose. And, I bet my conscience just got an inner, visible alarm!

Then, even as I mused, I was told, go to the same wall now.

The start-eye was open, in the small size.

On clicking, the eye expanded and the scroll popped to the top.


The message window first said, yes, as you realise you have an internal interface too, and then it said, double click on the top trumpet, to open up a portal.

A portal?

A fictional Stargate (Wiki and TV series)
Is this Stargate SG1?

Where's MacGyver -- whatever they call him in that TV Sci Fi series -- and his Swiss Army knife? (BTW: Col. Jack O'Neill.)

I clicked the bell of the top trumpet.

Not only did a  6' x 4' software window similar to modern browsers open on the wall with tabs and the like, but a projection popped out of the wall unto the door.

A portal solidified -- if that's the right language.

Someone was knocking politely.

I walked across to the portal and opened.

A verdant pasture and beautiful blue skies beyond, with two very familiar angels on either side. One was one of Gabriel's wingmen. The other one was one of Michael's wingmen, the one  I had last seen with a smudge on his cheek a couple of nights past; and he quietly said, your guests will step through in a moment.

They did.

Paley's Fob Watch (HT: Wiki)
Plato was obvious from his broad shoulders.

Socrates, by deduction was the shorter man in Greek clothes, to whom Plato was quite deferential.

Accompanying them was a man dressed in late C18 English Parson's clothes, obviously the well known William Paley. Obvious, as he was carrying an old fashioned but rather elegant fob watch in hand. As in:

In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone, and were asked how the stone came to be there, I might possibly answer, that for any thing I knew to the contrary it had lain there for ever; nor would it, perhaps, be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. 
But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place, I should hardly think of the answer which I had before given, that for any thing I knew the watch might have always been there. Yet why should not this answer serve for the watch as well as for the stone ; why is it not as admissible in the second case as in the first? 
For this reason, and for no other, namely, that when we come to inspect the watch we perceive—what we could not discover in the stone—that its several parts are framed and put together for a purpose, e. g. that they are so formed and adjusted as to produce motion, and that motion so regulated as to point out the hour of the day; that if the different parts had been differently shaped from what they are, or placed after any other manner or m any other order than that in which they are placed, either no motion at all would have been carried on in the machine, or none which would have answered the use that is now served by it.
I have always thought that this pointing out of the distinction between nature and art by way of functionally specific complex organisation and/or associated information (FSCO/I is a useful abbreviation for that mouthful) is indeed a strong sign of purposeful contrivance.

But, I was also very aware of how objectors to Paley's watch argument are wont to highlight the reproductive capacity of organisms and the claimed powers of descent with modification through chance variation and differential reproductive success as a powerful point of dis-analogy.  So much so, that Paley's argument is commonly held up as a fallacy and other arguments to design are dismissed by comparing them to what is seen as Paley's failed argument.

How would Paley answer?

I guess, this evening, I would hear -- from the horse's mouth.

After brief introductions, and a brief explanation that this sort of visit was a lot quieter than the sort of fireworks of a few nights back (and yes, when Godel did his lecture, it set up the infrastructure for the HB interface), they got down to business.

A Holodeck (Wiki & Star Trek)
They said, indeed what I was seeing was real enough but by way of the HB equivalent of Star Trek's Holodeck. Only, these were not mere imaginary interactive images, they were real.

Alcibiades, in the end, would communicate by vision conference over the HB interface, he would not be coming through the portal.

(A bit hard to get him here from where he was. The impression was, not a great place to be. It says somewhat for him, that he was willing to speak even as an example not to follow. But, it did bring to mind that sad parable where Father Abraham told Dives that if men are stubbornly resistant to the words of authentic spokesmen of God and the scriptures, they will be unlikely to listen to one of the dead speaking in warning.)

Web access to Earth's Internet -- if needed -- would be by the portal they maintained in the Vatican in Rome; no need to worry about my own sometimes less than stellar DSL interface.

This felt a bit unreal, using a web interface developed by the recently dead Steve Jobs was bad enough, but here were C5 BC philosophers and a C18 clergyman taking it in stride,  Star Trek and Stargate technology and all. With nary a computer in sight.

But, it was time to stop gawking at technology and see what these ghosts had to say to us in this The Year of Our Risen, Glorified Lord 2013.


Plato said, I want to start my main case from my remarks on your major civilisational challenge, resurgent evolutionary materialism, from what I said in The Laws, Bk X. However, first, we need to understand the root of a major and in the end destructive cultural and intellectual tendency from Darwin's remarks in a pivotal letter of Oct 13, 1880.

He therefore walked over to the screen on the wall -- look Ma, no projector -- and triggered a tab that went to an Internet repository of Darwin's writings (I guess, via The Vatican in Rome):
. . . though I am a strong advocate for free thought [--> NB: free-thought is an old synonym for skepticism, agnosticism or atheism] on all subjects, yet it appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against christianity & theism produce hardly any effect on the public; & freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men’s minds, which follows from the advance of science. It has, therefore, been always my object to avoid writing on religion, & I have confined myself to science. I may, however, have been unduly biassed by the pain which it would give some members of my family [--> NB: especially his wife, Emma], if I aided in any way direct attacks on religion.

(He added highlights and annotations for the convenience of his audience. HB seems to be a bit of a researcher's browser.)

Plato briefly commented that this letter makes it utterly clear that a key background motive for Darwin's theorising on origins science was to put God out of a job, thus indirectly undermining the plausibility of believing in God.  In thinking and acting like this, Darwin probably believed that he was championing enlightenment and science-led progress in their path to victory over backward, irrational but emotionally clung-to beliefs. And so his strategy was to lead in a science that was in his mind showing just how outdated and ill-founded the Judaeo-Christian theism that had dominated the West since Constantine in the 300's was.

So, what you see happening in your civilisation is no accident, Plato noted. Indeed, it is notorious that Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin has summed up the matter all too aptly. And, he clicked up another excerpt:
. . . It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated . . . ["Billions and billions of demons," NYRB, Jan 1997. (--> No, this is not "quote-mined" cf. here.)]
A third witness was brought to the stand, the Board of the National Science Teachers' Association of the United States, showing how this ideology is being embedded in science education:
 Although no single universal step-by-step scientific method captures the complexity of doing science, a number of shared values and perspectives characterize a scientific approach to understanding nature. Among these are a demand for naturalistic explanations supported by empirical evidence that are, at least in principle, testable against the natural world. Other shared elements include observations, rational argument, inference, skepticism, peer review and replicability of work . . . .

Science, by definition, is limited to naturalistic methods and explanations and, as such, is precluded from using supernatural elements in the production of scientific knowledge. [NSTA, Board of Directors, July 2000. Emphases added.]

So, Plato  inferred, my remarks in The Laws, Book X, 2,350 years and more ago (in the voice of the Athenian Stranger), are still all too relevant -- never mind points where my then ignorance of the true God show up:
Ath. . . . [[The avant garde philosophers and poets, c. 360 BC] say that fire and water, and earth and air [[i.e the classical "material" elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art . . .  the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only. [[In short, evolutionary materialism premised on chance plus necessity acting without intelligent guidance on primordial matter is hardly a new or a primarily "scientific" view! Notice also, the trichotomy of causal factors:  (a) chance/accident, (b) mechanical necessity of nature, (c) art or intelligent design and direction.] . . . .

[[Thus, they hold that t]he Gods exist not by nature, but by art, and by the laws of states, which are different in different places, according to the agreement of those who make them; and that the honourable is one thing by nature and another thing by law, and that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made.- [[Relativism, too, is not new; complete with its radical amorality rooted in a worldview that has no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT. (Cf. here for Locke's views and sources on a very different base for grounding liberty as opposed to license and resulting anarchistic "every man does what is right in his own eyes" chaos leading to tyranny. )] 

These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. 

They are told by them that the highest right is might [[ Evolutionary materialism leads to the promotion of amorality], and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions [[Evolutionary materialism-motivated amorality "naturally" leads to continual contentions and power struggles; cf. dramatisation here],  these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is, to live in real dominion over others [[such amoral factions, if they gain power, "naturally" tend towards ruthless tyranny], and not in legal subjection to them.
I of course had Alcibiades and others like him in mind. But, we will hear from that once so promising but sadly flawed and in the end disastrously tragic young man himself in due course.

At this point, I would like to take a slightly different look than usual at my parable of the cave, from The Republic. Bringing up yet another tab, he said, I think this short video animation captures it well:

As you can see,  I envisioned a group of men, held prisoner from infancy in a cave, and so fastened that they can only look on an opposite wall. Behind them, by walking along a roadway and sticking up images above a wall, with a fire behind, a shadow-show is projected unto the wall of the cave -- and, a computer screen on a wall like this can easily become such a shadow-show in a cave, or a lecture-hall's chalk board and projectors, or a television station that has lost its way and does not respect its duty of care to truth and right. More or less, like this:

Plato's Cave (Source: University of Fort Hare, SA, Phil. Dept.)

The shadow show the prisoners confuse for the “real” world. Of course, I mainly had in mind issues on how much we can know true reality as a metaphysical challenge, but the aspect that we can and do have manipulation and those who profit from it, was always there.

Then, one prisoner breaks free and, with pain for the glare in his eyes, sees the parapet, the puppets and the fire behind. Then, he is forced up out of the cave through a process of genuine education and enlightenment, and by degrees comes to grip with reality outside the cave. Taking pity on his fellows, he returns, to inform and help liberate them. But, he is challenged, so -- even while he stumbles to adjust to the darkness that the denizens imagine is light -- he now has to defend himself. 

The fellow prisoners conclude that on being led out of the cave he was harmed and turned into a fool, and threaten to kill any who would set another one free.

Liberation by genuine enlightenment is hard, and is often unwelcome to the point where the liberator becomes a target. He paused, nodding to Socrates . . .

Socrates -- a grave, but pitying look on his face -- then added, aye, and that is why my Apology begins:
How you have felt, O men of Athens, at hearing the speeches of my accusers, I cannot tell; but I know that their persuasive words almost made me forget who I was -- such was the effect of them; and yet they have hardly spoken a word of truth. But many as their falsehoods were, there was one of them which quite amazed me; -- I mean when they told you to be upon your guard, and not to let yourselves be deceived by the force of my eloquence. They ought to have been ashamed of saying this, because they were sure to be detected as soon as I opened my lips and displayed my deficiency; they certainly did appear to be most shameless in saying this, unless by the force of eloquence they mean the force of truth; for then I do indeed admit that I am eloquent . . . . 

And first, I have to reply to the older charges and to my first accusers, and then I will go to the later ones. For I have had many accusers, who accused me of old, and their false charges have continued during many years; and I am more afraid of them than of Anytus and his associates, who are dangerous, too, in their own way. But far more dangerous are these, who began when you were children, and took possession of your minds with their falsehoods, telling of one Socrates, a wise man, who speculated about the heaven above, and searched into the earth beneath, and made the worse appear the better cause . . .
In vain did I plead with my fellow citizens to listen to what was right and true, however plainly put. They were bewitched by barbed rhetoric and hostile feelings, which warped their judgement. No wonder, Aristotle, who followed you Plato, said this in his The Rhetoric:
 Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds. The first kind depends on the personal character of the speaker [ethos]; the second on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind [pathos]; the third on the proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech itself [logos]. Persuasion is achieved by the speaker's personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible . . . Secondly, persuasion may come through the hearers, when the speech stirs their emotions. Our judgements when we are pleased and friendly are not the same as when we are pained and hostile . . . Thirdly, persuasion is effected through the speech itself when we have proved a truth or an apparent truth by means of the persuasive arguments suitable to the case in question . . . . [The Rhetoric, Bk I Ch 2]
Aye, and when one is bewitched by such rhetoric, it is hard to see the truth until it is too late. I know the Athenians came to regret what they had done, but it was too late for them to avoid doing injustice. 

And that raises the question: what is truth, and why we have a duty to it.

Since we have but little time, and it is not really my time to speak as yet, I will not detain our discussion with a chain of questions, as I am wont to do; but I will simply sum up what Aristotle said in Metaphysics 1011b:
The truth says of what is, that it is, and of what is not, that it is not.
It is as simple as that, and if we are to be just -- rendering to each his due, and to temper it with such mercy as brings glory to the one who judges and a blessing to the one shown such -- we must attend with all due diligence to the truth and to what credibly shows it to be so.

Plato nodded appreciatively, and then continued, I am not the only one to speak in such terms. Jesus, in his Sermon on the Mount, spoke like this:
Matt 6: 19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust5  destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! [ESV]
How blind can we become, when we have eyes only for gain. Or, for many other things, that distort our vision.

Paul, who was here a few nights ago (he sends greetings), brings out the challenge of reformation that springs from that:
Eph 4: 17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 

18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 

20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!- 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self,  which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. [ESV]
Aye, the peoples of many nations have allowed ever so many things to fill their eyes and pull them away from love of wisdom, truth, the Good. Thus, God, the true and First Good. So, if your civilisation (which has learned -- and forgotten -- so much from mine as well as from that of the Hebrews . . . ) is to be rescued, turning back from the brink even at the last moment, it must wake up to and love the truth and the right.

Which means, putting first things first, and what is second or more than second, after that.

That is why, in The Laws, I said in the voices of my characters:

Ath. Then, by Heaven, we have discovered the source of this vain opinion of all those physical investigators; and I would have you examine their arguments with the utmost care, for their impiety is a very serious matter; they not only make a bad and mistaken use of argument, but they lead away the minds of others: that is my opinion of them.

Cle. You are right; but I should like to know how this happens. 

Ath. I fear that the argument may seem singular. 

Cle. Do not hesitate, Stranger; I see that you are afraid of such a discussion carrying you beyond the limits of legislation. But if there be no other way of showing our agreement in the belief that there are Gods, of whom the law is said now to approve, let us take this way, my good sir.

Ath. Then I suppose that I must repeat the singular argument of those who manufacture the soul according to their own impious notions; they affirm that which is the first cause of the generation and destruction of all things, to be not first, but last, and that which is last to be first, and hence they have fallen into error about the true nature of the Gods.

Cle. Still I do not understand you. 

Ath. Nearly all of them, my friends, seem to be ignorant of the nature and power of the soul [[ = psuche], especially in what relates to her origin: they do not know that she is among the first of things, and before all bodies, and is the chief author of their changes and transpositions. And if this is true, and if the soul is older than the body, must not the things which are of the soul's kindred be of necessity prior to those which appertain to the body?

Cle. Certainly. 
Ath. Then thought and attention and mind and art and law will be prior to that which is hard and soft and heavy and light; and the great and primitive works and actions will be works of art; they will be the first, and after them will come nature and works of nature, which however is a wrong term for men to apply to them; these will follow, and will be under the government of art and mind . . . . when one thing changes another, and that another, of such will there be any primary changing element? How can a thing which is moved by another ever be the beginning of change? Impossible. But when the self-moved changes other, and that again other, and thus thousands upon tens of thousands of bodies are set in motion, must not the beginning of all this motion be the change of the self-moving principle? . . . . self-motion being the origin of all motions, and the first which arises among things at rest as well as among things in motion, is the eldest and mightiest principle of change, and that which is changed by another and yet moves other is second. 
[[ . . . .]

Ath. If we were to see this power existing in any earthy, watery, or fiery substance, simple or compound-how should we describe it?

Cle. You mean to ask whether we should call such a self-moving power life?

Ath. I do. 

Cle. Certainly we should. 

Ath. And when we see soul in anything, must we not do the same-must we not admit that this is life?

[[ . . . . ]

Cle. You mean to say that the essence which is defined as the self-moved is the same with that which has the name soul?

Ath. Yes; and if this is true, do we still maintain that there is anything wanting in the proof that the soul is the first origin and moving power of all that is, or has become, or will be, and their contraries, when she has been clearly shown to be the source of change and motion in all things? 

Cle. Certainly not; the soul as being the source of motion, has been most satisfactorily shown to be the oldest of all things.

Ath. And is not that motion which is produced in another, by reason of another, but never has any self-moving power at all, being in truth the change of an inanimate body, to be reckoned second, or by any lower number which you may prefer?

Cle. Exactly.  

Ath. Then we are right, and speak the most perfect and absolute truth, when we say that the soul is prior to the body, and that the body is second and comes afterwards, and is born to obey the soul, which is the ruler?

[[ . . . . ]

Ath. If, my friend, we say that the whole path and movement of heaven, and of all that is therein, is by nature akin to the movement and revolution and calculation of mind, and proceeds by kindred laws, then, as is plain, we must say that the best soul takes care of the world and guides it along the good path.

And so, I inferred from the careful and nurturing order of nature, that it points to the best Soul, as its guide and guardian. 

I have of course followed with interest the developments in the studies of the heavens, especially in your time. I notice that one of your greatest astronomers, Fred Hoyle (who also sends his regards), has for some years now, summed up the matter like this, highlighting the significance of of life from molecular level up:
Once we see that life is cosmic it is sensible to suppose that intelligence is cosmic. Now problems of order, such as the sequences of amino acids in the chains which constitute the enzymes and other proteins, are precisely the problems that become easy once a directed intelligence enters the picture, as was recognised long ago by James Clerk Maxwell in his invention of what is known in physics as the Maxwell demon. The difference between an intelligent ordering, whether of words, fruit boxes, amino acids, or the Rubik cube, and merely random shufflings can be fantastically large, even as large as a number that would fill the whole volume of Shakespeare’s plays with its zeros. So if one proceeds directly and straightforwardly in this matter, without being deflected by a fear of incurring the wrath of scientific opinion, one arrives at the conclusion that biomaterials with their amazing measure or order must be the outcome of intelligent design. No other possibility I have been able to think of in pondering this issue over quite a long time seems to me to have anything like as high a possibility of being true.” [[Evolution from Space (The Omni Lecture[ --> Jan 12th 1982]), Enslow Publishers, 1982, pg. 28.]
Robin Collins, likewise, highlighted the significance of cosmological fine tuning:
Suppose we went on a mission to Mars, and found a domed structure in which everything was set up just right for life to exist. The temperature, for example, was set around 70 °F and the humidity was at 50%; moreover, there was an oxygen recycling system, an energy gathering system, and a whole system for the production of food. Put simply, the domed structure appeared to be a fully functioning biosphere. What conclusion would we draw from finding this structure? Would we draw the conclusion that it just happened to form by chance? Certainly not. Instead, we would unanimously conclude that it was designed by some intelligent being. Why would we draw this conclusion? Because an intelligent designer appears to be the only plausible explanation for the existence of the structure. That is, the only alternative explanation we can think of--that the structure was formed by some natural process--seems extremely unlikely. Of course, it is possible that, for example, through some volcanic eruption various metals and other compounds could have formed, and then separated out in just the right way to produce the "biosphere," but such a scenario strikes us as extraordinarily unlikely, thus making this alternative explanation unbelievable. 
The universe is analogous to such a "biosphere," according to recent findings in physics . . . .  Scientists call this extraordinary balancing of the parameters of physics and the initial conditions of the universe the "fine-tuning of the cosmos"  . . .  For example, theoretical physicist and popular science writer Paul Davies--whose early writings were not particularly sympathetic to theism--claims that with regard to basic structure of the universe, "the impression of design is overwhelming" (Davies, 1988, p. 203) . . .  

[[essay on The Fine-tuning Design Argument (1998).  Cf. also here. Short summary here. Elsewhere, Collins notes how noted cosmologist Roger Penrose has estimated that "[[i]in order to produce a universe resembling the one in which we live, the Creator would have to aim for an absurdly tiny volume of the phase space of possible universes -- about 1/(10^(10^123)) of the entire volume . . ." That is, 1 divided by 10 followed by one less than 10^123 zeros. By a long shot, there are not enough atoms in the observed universe [~10^80 . . . 1 followed by 80 zeros] to fully write out the fraction. For a broader discussion, cf. here on.]
 It seems that the heavens do declare the glory of God and the firmament shows his handiwork. So, instead of hardening our minds and hearts with hostile rhetoric, we ought to take pause and give heed to Paul's point:
Rom 1:19 . . . what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made . . .  [ESV]
Already, our moral responsibility to evident truth and to what it calls us to, shines forth.

But some of the hostile rhetoric will want to highlight the presence of evil in the world as a disproof or at least a challenge. To such, we must immediately bring forth the argument in a nutshell by Boethius, even as he faced unjust execution, in his The Consolation of Philosophy:
Grief [at injustice] hath not so blunted my perceptions in this matter that I should complain because impious wretches contrive their villainies against the virtuous, but at their achievement of their hopes I do exceedingly marvel. For evil purposes are, perchance, due to the imperfection of human nature; that it should be possible for scoundrels to carry out their worst schemes against the innocent, while God beholdeth, is verily monstrous. For this cause, not without reason, one of thy disciples asked, "If God exists, whence comes evil? Yet whence comes good, if He exists not?"
Let him who would indict God for evils and use that to dismiss the reality evident to our eyes and hearts, ponder afresh. For, if he would cry that evil disproves God, he must then answer as to whence cometh his sense of justice, as that which is outraged. And, were such a one to soberly reflect on the recesses of his own hearts, he would see that the line between good and evil runs right through there, so let him first face that law written in his heart, that calls him to a Higher Country, and to its King. The law he is so wont to disobey, himself. 

Then, let him ponder how others who are as he is, may similarly struggle. After that, with dawning light, let him ponder these words from "the judicious [Anglican Canon Richard] Hooker]" that the justly famed John Locke cited as he set out to found the governing principles of what would become modern liberty and democracy:

. . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man's hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant . . . [[Hooker then continues, citing Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics, Bk 8:] as namely, That because we would take no harm, we must therefore do none; That since we would not be in any thing extremely dealt with, we must ourselves avoid all extremity in our dealings; That from all violence and wrong we are utterly to abstain, with such-like . . . ] [[Eccl. Polity,preface, Bk I, "ch." 8, p.80, cf. here. Emphasis added.  (NB: If one struggles with the many issues tied to the problem of evil, s/he may find here helpful.)]

No wonder, that Jefferson and the other American Founders wrote the following words that should be learned by heart by any who would be a friend to sound democratic self government and liberty, in the justly famed second paragraph of the American Declaration of Independence of 1776:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, [cf Rom 1:18 - 21, 2:14 - 15], that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security . . .
If you would restore your civilisation, even at the brink, you would do well to heed this, duly noting that a general election is meant to be a regular solemn assembly in the which the people of a nation may assess those who have ruled them, and by putting in place genuine champions of liberty and sound, restrained government, may peacefully reform government. 

However, if the citizens allow themselves to be bewitched, or lured by the prospect of being supported from the public treasury without troubling to be productive and law-abiding citizens and good neighbours, then a democracy will be easily wrenched off course by those who seek their own ambitions and are clever, ruthless and deceitful. But Paul and Luke already have spoken to you on what happened on their voyage to Rome in AD 59 and how that warns us all about how democracy misused can end up in shipwreck.

But, before we pause for a spot of tea (we have much more to address this evening), I think I should ask Mr Paley to speak in his behalf.

William Paley nodded, and thanked Plato for speaking to the cosmological issues.

He held up his fob watch, and said, let us note, the whole universe as we observe it moves with beautiful, clock-like precision, and shows every sign of being finely tempered together to form a fit habitat for life. That is, we have found our watch in a field, and we must ponder what such evident artifice points to.

I think the prophet Isaiah had something to say that we should ponder:

        Isa 45:8 ​​​​​​​​“Shower, O heavens, from above,
        and let the clouds rain down righteousness;
        let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit;
        let the earth cause them both to sprout;
        I the LORD have created it.

       9 ​​​​​​​​“Woe to him who strives with him who formed him,
        a pot among earthen pots!
        Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’
        or ‘Your work has no handles’?
      10 ​​​​​​​​Woe to him who says to a father, ‘What are you begetting?’
        or to a woman, ‘With what are you in labor?’”
      11 ​​​​​​​​Thus says the LORD,
        the Holy One of Israel, and the one who formed him:
        “Ask me of things to come;
        will you command me concerning my children and the work of my hands?

      12 ​​​​​​​​I made the earth
        and created man on it;
        it was my hands that stretched out the heavens,
        and I commanded all their host . . . .    

      18 ​​​​​​​​For thus says the LORD,
        who created the heavens
        (he is God!),
        who formed the earth and made it
        (he established it;
        he did not create it empty,
        he formed it to be inhabited!):
        “I am the LORD, and there is no other . . . 

Paley then said, the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows his handiwork. To those who will look, listen and ponder.

He continued, now, regarding the alleged disanalogy between living things and machines such as watches, I wish that my detractors and dismissers would simply read beyond Chapter 1 to Chapter 2 and acknowledge what I wrote there. For there, they would immediately find (their error is that patent):
Suppose, in the next place, that the person who found the watch should after some time discover, that in addition to all the properties which he had hitherto observed in it, it possessed the unexpected property of producing in the course of its movement another watch like itself—the thing is conceivable ; that it contained within it a mechanism, a system of parts—a mould, for instance, or a complex adjustment of lathes, files, and other tools—evidently and separately calculated for this purpose; let us inquire what effect ought such a discovery to have upon his former conclusion.

I. The first effect would be to increase his admiration of the contrivance, and his conviction of the consummate skill of the contriver. Whether he regarded the object of the contrivance, the distinct apparatus, the intricate, yet in many parts intelligible mechanism by which it was carried on, he would perceive in this new observation nothing but an additional reason for doing what he had already done— for referring the construction of the watch to design and to supreme art. If that construction witliout this property, or which is the same thing, before this property had been noticed, proved intention and art to have been employed about it, still more strong would the proof appear when he came to the knowledge of this further property, the crown and perfection of all the rest.

II. He would reflect, that though the watch before him were in some sense the maker of the watch which was fabricated in the course of its movements, yet it was in a very different sense from that in which a carpenter, for instance, is the maker of a chair—the author of its contrivance, the cause of the relation of its parts to their use. With respect to these, the first watch was no cause at all to the second: in no such sense as this was it the author of the constitution and order, either of the parts which the new watch contained, or of the parts by the aid and instrumentality of which it was produced. We might possibly say, but with great latitude of expression, that a stream of water ground corn; but no latitude of expression would allow us to say, no stretch cf conjecture could lead us to think, that the stream of water built the mill, though it were too ancient for us to know who the builder was. What the stream of water does in the affair is neither more nor less than this: by the application of an unintelligent impulse to a mechanism previously arranged, arranged independently of it and arranged by intelligence, an effect is produced, namely, the corn is ground. But the effect results from the arrangement. The force of the stream cannot be said to be the cause or the author of the effect, still less of the arrangement. Understanding and plan in the formation of the mill were not the less necessary for any share which the water has in grinding the corn; yet is this share the same as that which the watch would have contributed to the production of the new watch, upon the supposition assumed in the last section. Therefore,

III. Though it be now no longer probable that the individual watch which our observer had found was made immediately by the hand of an artificer, yet doth not this alteration in anywise affect the inference, that an artificer had been originally employed and concerned in the production. The argument from design remains as it was. Marks of design and contrivance are no more accounted for now than they were before. In the same thing, we may ask for the cause of different properties. We may ask for the cause of the color of a body, of its hardness, of its heat; and these causes may be all different. We are now asking for the cause of that subserviency to a use, that relation to an end, which we have remarked in the watch before us. No answer is given to this question, by telling us that a preceding watch produced it. There cannot be design without a designer; contrivance, without a contriver; order, without choice; arrangement, without any thing capable of arranging; subserviency and relation to a purpose, without that which could intend a purpose; means suitable to an end, and executing their office in accomplishing that end, without the end ever having been contemplated, or the means accommodated to it. Arrangement, disposition of parts, subserviency of means to an end, relation of instruments to a use, imply the presence of intelligence and mind. No one, therefore, can rationally believe that the insensible, inanimate watch, from which the watch before us issued, was the proper cause of the mechanism we so much admire m it—could be truly said to have constructed the instrument, disposed its parts, assigned their office, determined their order, action, and mutual dependency, combined their several motions into one result, and that also a result connected with the utilities of other beings. All these properties, therefore, are as much unaccounted for as they were before.

IV. Nor is any thing gained by running the difficulty farther back, that is, by supposing the watch before us to have been produced from another watch, that from a former, and so on indefinitely. Our going back ever so far brings us no nearer to the least degree of satisfaction upon the subject. Contrivance is still unaccounted for. "We still want a contriver. A designing mind is neither supplied by this supposition nor dispensed with. If the difficulty were diminished the farther we went back, by going back indefinitely we might exhaust it. And this is the only case to which this sort of reasoning applies. "Where there is a tendency, or, as we increase the number of terms, a continual approach towards a limit, there, by supposing the number of terms to be what is called infinite, we may conceive the limit to be attained ; but where there is no such tendency or approach, nothing is effected by lengthening the series. There is no difference as to the point in question, whatever there may be as to many points, between one series and another—between a series which is finite, and a series which is infinite.

A chain composed of an infinite number of links can no more support itself than a chain composed of a finite number of links. And of this we are assured, though we never can have tried the experiment; because, by increasing the number of links, from ten, for instance, to a hundred, from a hundred to a thousand, etc., we make not the smallest approach, we observe not the smallest tendency towards self support. There is no difference in this respect—yet there may be a great difference in several respects—between a chain of a greater or less length, between one chain and another, between one that is finite and one that is infinite. This very much resembles the case before us. The machine which we are inspecting demonstrates, by its construction, contrivance and design. Contrivance must have had a contriver, design a designer, whether the machine immediately proceeded from another machine or not. That circumstance alters not the case . . . [Natural Theology, Ch 2, 1806.]
With all due respect to Mr Darwin and his followers and successors, they have not answered the pivotal question. 

Namely, whence cometh the contrivances of life, from the cell on up

We know that designers can and do produce such selections and arrangements of parts conducive to specific functions, but we have no good evidence that the blind chance and mechanical necessity of physics in some warm little pond or the like, would be able to form a living cell, no matter how many eons and stages may be conceived. Mutually conflicting paper chemical models and plausible stories without actual evidence that the claimed powers of nature exist, do not do the job.

What is to be explained is a contrivance that greatly exceeds my watch. 

The living cell. 

The first one.

A metabolic automaton, with encapsulation, gating of proper intake and outgo. With a digital code based system for manufacturing proteins and a facility for self-replication that takes advantage of that code stored in DNA. With ever so many interacting capacities as Mr Mignea recently outlined:

Mignea's schematic of the requisites of kinematic self-replication, showing duplication and arrangement then separation into daughter automata. This requires stored algorithmic procedures, descriptions sufficient to construct components, means to execute instructions, materials handling, controlled energy flows, wastes disposal and more. (Source: Mignea, 2012, slide show; fair use. Presentation speech is here. A more comprehensive summary of the challenge is here on.) 

That, sirs, I submit, is very clever contrivance indeed; and thus, a strong sign of supreme art.

And that, at the very root of the tree of life, so that without the root, there can be no shoot, no trunk, no major branches down to the twigs we see today and in the fossil record. As the Smithsonian Museum inadvertently implies in this diagram of the tree of life:

Again I say: no roots, no shoots, no branches and no twigs and fruit.

Origin of Life is pivotal, and it strongly points to design.

Beyond that, it is easy to show that to create the major body plans, we need 10's to 100's of millions of bases, thus a similar number of bits, of genetic information. That is why for a first simple cell we may see 100,000 to 500,000 DNA bases in the genome, but for everything beyond, once we get to complex body plans, we see 10's - 100's of millions as the reasonable threshold.

That poses an insuperable blind search for a needle in a haystack search, if we for the moment rule out intelligence, skill, knowledge and art. 

That is, for just 500 yes/no decisions worth of information (think, 500 coins with Heads and Tails), 500 bits, we have about 3 * 10^150 possibilities, that is, 3 followed by 150 zeros. If the 10^57 atoms of our solar system were to work at fastest chemical reaction speed for a reasonable scientific estimate of the age of our solar system [about 4 - 6 billion years], the comparison would be to take a cubical haystack as thick as our galaxy -- light would take 1,000 years to traverse it, and superpose it on the galaxy in our neighbourhood. Then, blindfold yourself and go anywhere at random and pick a sample of size equal to one straw. That is all the searching our solar system could do in the set of possibilities for 500 coins.

With all but certainty, such a "search" would come up with only the bulk of the distribution, a straw, and nothing else. But, by the very nature of artifice and contrivance, many parts must be properly picked and correctly arranged and coupled together just so, to get things to work. Haphazard arrangements are by overwhelming likelihood, going to be non functional. 

A monkey typist (HT: WIKI)
We can see this by thinking of a common metaphor that used to be used at popular level to promote the notion that any contrivance we can come up with would, given enough time and resources, also be achievable by chance. Namely, a million or more monkeys at typewriters. Even for the equivalent of just 73 ASCII characters, this already fails, as we just saw. Not enough time or resources by a very long musket-shot.

Some have done the exercise by computer, and this is the result so far:

One computer program run by Dan Oliver of Scottsdale, Arizona, according to an article in The New Yorker, came up with a result on August 4, 2004: After the group had worked for 42,162,500,000 billion billion monkey-years, one of the "monkeys" typed,
"VALENTINE. Cease toIdor:eFLP0FRjWK78aXzVOwm)-‘;8.t"
The first 19 letters of this sequence can be found in "The Two Gentlemen of Verona". Other teams have reproduced 18 characters from "Timon of Athens", 17 from "Troilus and Cressida", and 16 from "Richard II".[24]
A website entitled The Monkey Shakespeare Simulator, launched on July 1, 2003, contained a Java applet that simulates a large population of monkeys typing randomly, with the stated intention of seeing how long it takes the virtual monkeys to produce a complete Shakespearean play from beginning to end. For example, it produced this partial line from Henry IV, Part 2, reporting that it took "2,737,850 million billion billion billion monkey-years" to reach 24 matching characters:
RUMOUR. Open your ears; 9r"5j5&?OWTY Z0d...
In short, dismal and predictable failure.

If life came about by universal common descent, it is patent that the best explanation of even such is that it did so by design, not by the blind and utterly inadequate mechanisms being proposed.

Why is all of this important to rescuing a civilisation at the brink?

Because, first, there is an issue of truth and genuine knowledge at stake. Tha tis worth the effort in itself.

However, it is also the case that evolutionary materialism -- which ever has the tendencies Plato pointed out -- has been held to be warranted by science and to be proved thereby. Never mind the sort of ideological question-begging we saw Mr Lewontin and the NSTA exposing for all with eyes to see and ears to hear, to take note of and understand.

Prof William Provine of Cornell helps us further see why this is vital. In the 1998 University of Tennessee Darwin Day keynote, he observed:

Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent . . . . 
The first 4 implications are so obvious to modern naturalistic evolutionists that I will spend little time defending them. Human free will, however, is another matter. Even evolutionists have trouble swallowing that implication. I will argue that humans are locally determined systems that make choices. They have, however, no free will . . . [[Evolution: Free Will and Punishment and Meaning in Life, Second Annual Darwin Day Celebration Keynote Address, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, February 12, 1998 (abstract).]
I must thank this gentleman for his candour, however, I cannot praise him for his line of reasoning.

If we have no freedom of mind and volition, we cannot choose to follow or accept a reasonable case. This is already self-referential and self-refuting. For, rationality itself is here undermined. 

Moreover, the foundation for morality is eroded, and we are left playthings of our impulses and our manipulators.  All, thanks to an imposition before the actual facts are allowed to speak, under pretence of being a suitably skeptical and successful definition of science. That opens the door to nihilism and to domination by the ruthless, by manipulation at first then by naked force.

And yet, all of this pivots on a begging of the question, not on ay genuinely decisive findings of fact about the origins of life and of the cosmos that supports life. 

Law professor Philip Johnson, in rebutting professor Lewontin, was apt:

For scientific materialists the materialism comes first; the science comes thereafter. [[Emphasis original] We might more accurately term them "materialists employing science." And if materialism is true, then some materialistic theory of evolution has to be true simply as a matter of logical deduction, regardless of the evidence. That theory will necessarily be at least roughly like neo-Darwinism, in that it will have to involve some combination of random changes and law-like processes capable of producing complicated organisms that (in Dawkins’ words) "give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose."  

. . . .   The debate about creation and evolution is not deadlocked . . . Biblical literalism is not the issue. The issue is whether materialism and rationality are the same thing. Darwinism is based on an a priori commitment to materialism, not on a philosophically neutral assessment of the evidence. Separate the philosophy from the science, and the proud tower collapses. [[Emphasis added.] [[The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism, First Things, 77 (Nov. 1997), pp. 22 – 25.]

Paley concluded: that is obviously correct, and it marks a good point to pause and reflect as we sip.

It is time to pause again, and to continue later. More to come. END

PS:  I posted an excerpt of the above, on Paley's defense, here at UD. In addition, overnight, I found that UD's VJT has an extensive, and spirited defence of Paley. 

Accordingly, I commented as below:
 Overnight, I noticed that UD’s VJT has made a considerable comment in defence of William Paley and his design argument here at his personal reference site; primarily in reply to Feser (e.g. here), but also to wider matters, including the same general strawman caricatures that I have in mind. (On seeing it, I vaguely remembered it being somewhere here at UD too — can someone help me find it?)
I find this remark by VJT particularly interesting:
Another popular undergraduate-level objection, that living things reproduce and watches don’t, is rebutted by Paley in Chapter II of his Natural Theology, in a devastatingly incisive fashion.
That, of course is what I have excerpted above.

It is worth the while to highlight a few of the myths VJT counters:
>> Myth One: Paley likens the world to a giant watch in his Natural Theology.
Fact: Paley explicitly rejected the analogy between the world and a watch, in his Natural Theology. He points out that when making design inferences, “we deduce design from relation, aptitude, and correspondence of parts.” However, “the heavenly bodies do not, except perhaps in the instance of Saturn’s ring, present themselves to our observation as compounded of parts at all,” since they appear to be quite simple and undifferentiated in their internal structure (Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XXII, p. 379). When discussing the movements of the heavenly bodies, he writes: “Even those things which are made to imitate and represent them, such as orreries, planetaria, celestial globes, &c. bear no affinity to them, in the cause and principle by which their motions are actuated” (Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XXII, p. 379) – the reason being that the mechanism of a watch requires that its parts be in physical contact with one another, whereas the gravitational influence exerted by one heavenly body on another is action at a distance.
Indeed, nowhere in his Natural Theology deos Paley declare that the world is like a watch. The closest statement I can find is his declaration, “The universe itself is a system; each part either depending upon other parts, or being connected with other parts by some common law of motion, or by the presence of some common substance” (Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XXV, pp. 449-450). To be sure, Paley does argue that “In the works of nature we trace mechanism” (Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XXIII, pp. 416-418), but he never declares that Nature itself is one giant mechanism. Rather, Paley’s proof of God was based on the existence of mechanisms (plural) occurring in the natural world.
What Paley does liken to watches are the biological structures (such as the eye) that we find in the natural world. For example, he writes that “very indication of contrivance, every manifestation of design, which existed in the watch, exists in the works of nature; with the difference, on the side of nature, of being greater and more, and that in a degree which exceeds all computation,” and in the same passage he adds that “here is precisely the same proof that the eye was made for vision, as there is that the telescope was made for assisting it” (Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter III, pp. 17-18).
Elsewhere, when discussing the example of the eye and other organs, he writes: “If there were but one watch in the world, it would not be less certain that it had a maker… Of this point, each machine is a proof, independently of all the rest. So it is with the evidences of a Divine agency… The eye proves it without the ear; the ear without the eye” (Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter VI, pages 76-77). >> . . .
>> Myth Two: Paley’s argument for a Designer in his Natural Theology is an argument from analogy.
Fact: Paley’s argument is not based on any analogy. He doesn’t say that the complex organs found in living things are like artifacts; he says that they are the same as artifacts in certain vital respects. In particular, these complex organs share several common properties with artifacts: “properties, such as relation to an end, relation of parts to one another, and to a common purpose” (Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XXIII, p. 413), or as he puts it elsewhere, “[a]rrangement, disposition of parts, subserviency of means to an end, [and] relation of instruments to a use” (Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter II, p. 11). Paley refers to the organs of the body as “contrivances,” precisely because they share these vital properties with man-made artifacts. (For the benefit of Thomist readers who may be wondering, I should point out that Paley is fully aware of the teleology of living things, and that he repeatedly refers to “final causes” in his Natural Theology.)
Next, Paley argues that intelligence is the only known adequate cause of objects possessing the combination of properties found in artifacts and complex organs. Our experience tells us that that no other cause, apart from intelligence, is capable of producing effects possessing these properties. Paley concludes that the complex organs of living creatures (such as the eye) must therefore have had an Intelligent Designer. In his own words: “We see intelligence constantly contriving, that is, we see intelligence constantly producing effects, marked and distinguished by certain properties; not certain particular properties, but by a kind and class of properties, such as relation to an end, relation of parts to one another, and to a common purpose. We see, wherever we are witnesses to the actual formation of things, nothing except intelligence producing effects so marked and distinguished. Furnished with this experience, we view the productions of nature. We observe them also marked and distinguished in the same manner. We wish to account for their origin. Our experience suggests a cause perfectly adequate to this account. No experience, no single instance or example, can be offered in favour of any other. In this cause therefore we ought to rest” (Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XXIII, p. 413-414).
For Paley, the inference to design, upon seeing a contrivance, is immediate >> . . .
>> Myth Three: Paley put forward an inductive argument for a Designer: because there are complex systems in Nature which resemble human artifacts, which are made by intelligent agents, we can infer that an Intelligent Designer made Nature’s complex systems.
Fact: Paley himself declares on several occasions that his argument for a Designer of Nature is a deductive argument. Thomist scholar Del Ratzsch, in his article on Teleological Arguments for God’s Existence in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, also acknowledges that Paley’s argument is a deductive one. Paley provides abundant confirmation of this fact in his Natural Theology. For example, he writes of “the marks of contrivance discoverable in animal bodies, and to the argument deduced from them, in proof of design, and of a designing Creator” (Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter IV, p. 67). Nowhere in his Natural Theology does Paley ever describe his argument as an inductive one.
The premises of Paley’s deductive argument are as follows. First, we know that intelligent agents are capable of producing effects marked by the three properties of (i) relation to an end, (ii) relation of the parts to one another, and (iii) possession of a common purpose.
Second, no other cause has ever been observed to produce effects possessing these three properties.
We are therefore entitled to conclude that if there are systems in Nature possessing these same three properties, then the only cause that is adequate to account for these natural effects is an Intelligent Agent. >>
–> There are others
What I find interesting is how, over literally more than 100 years, design-oriented arguments have been consistently strawmannised and marginalised then dismissed. Rather than being faced squarely and addressed on their merits or demerits.
It seems that this is going on again, in respect of functionally specific complex organisation and associated information [FSCO/I], broader specified complexity [CSI], and irreducible complexity [IC].
Given that we are here speaking about highly educated critics who have easy access to the real facts, not just he stereotypical half-baked, half-educated journalist or populariser or talking-point parrot, that says something.
And what it says is not a happy thing to have to think about.
Surely, we can do better than this, a lot better.
I think Paley deserves to be respected and rehabilitated, duly noting his genuine limitations.  As all merely finite, fallible, too often erroneous human thinkers have.