Sunday, 30 September 2012

Daughter's Questions: Creation Ex Nihilo

In our experience, everything that is made, is made from something, or by some means. This leads quickly to a difficult question which my daughter asked recently: when God made the universe, how did He make it? what did He make it from?

An interesting but (due to my daughter's age) difficult discussion followed about the distinction between "made from nothing" and "not made out of anything".

How would you answer this one?

Friday, 21 September 2012

Daughter's Questions: On Eyes

Philosophers are aware that "emergent" properties are philosophically puzzling. Similar puzzlement seems to have prompted something like the following from my daughter:

Atoms can't see, but if you bung a whole load together to make an eye, how can that eye see ?

How would you approach this question? I think whatever I said, I'd want to begin by saying that eyes can't see. People see, using their eyes. In many ways this may be mere pedantry, but I think it's fairly clear that as remarkable as eyes are, the wonder of sight happens somewhere "behind the eyes".

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Daughter's Questions: How does lightning make thunder?

The heading of this one says it all. It's a good question. Intuitively, it's very hard to see how a bright flash can cause a loud noise.

I had to confirm my hunch on this via the magic of the internet. You might like to look it up yourself and/or post your own answer in the comments.

Two "Liberal" Stances: Abortion and Obligations to Future Generations

I've recently been musing about the relationship between the ethics of abortion and our obligations to future generations.

It's often supposed that our responsibility to look after the environment comes from our duties towards future generations. However, according to liberal stances on abortion, we don't have obligations to a fetus that (who) is not yet a person; the person simply doesn't exist at that stage, so there is no question of them having a right to life or any such thing.

So, can we have duties towards people who don't exist (yet)? If not, is there some other way to understand environmental ethics? If so, can we really justify abortion on the grounds that the relevant person simply doesn't (yet) exist?

I can see various ways in which the tension here can be reduced, but I'm not convinced it can be eliminated without serious revision of one of the two stances.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Daughter's Questions: Other Religions

Here's another of my daughters recent questions. As you may have gathered from other material on this blog and the associated website, my wife and I are Christians, and are raising our daughter accordingly, but with complete freedom to ask any awkward questions she cares to raise.

The words here aren't hers, but the question very much is:

People in other countries believe in different religions, and think we're wrong. Do we know we aren't wrong? If we do, how do we know?

Monday, 3 September 2012

Daughter's Questions: Rainbows

This is the first post in a series.

Our young daughter asks lots of difficult questions, and while I think we do quite well answering them, I'd be interested to know how others would have answered the same questions. To stop answers getting muddled up together, I'll just put one question in each post.

Our daughter is currently six years old, and recently asked something along the following lines:

If a raindrop is like a prism and can make a mini-rainbow all on its own, how come we see one big rainbow in the sky and not lots of little ones?