Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Two Short Robot Films

Sometimes when you come across something impressive, it's nice to share it.  This is one of those
Recently, I came across two video shorts on  The quality of the special effects is generally spectacular in both cases.  For those who prefer to be forewarned, both films contain varying degrees of violence. 

The first, Keloid, is like a preview for a dark and rough sci-fi film in which future police responsibilities are given to robots with artificial intelligence.  It appears that the intelligent robots have take matters into their own hands. What I like about it is the way the robots move -- both fluid and mechanical all at the same time.  It is just spectacular.  And the background music powerfully complements the imagery.
Watch it here.


The second short, The Gift, is a series of fast moving action scenes that has a more polished look than Koloid.  There's a lot of unanswered questions and intrigue built around this high velocity film: What's the unicorn and why does everyone want that box?  From the identification by way of saliva "fingerprint" on -- everything about this fast paced short makes you want to know more.
Watch it here.

The Gift

Koloid was uploaded about a week ago, and The Gift has been around for about a year.  I'd love to see both of them worked into feature length films. Congratulations to the creators of both of these projects for such quality work.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Double-Plus Geekified Gaming: Thief 4

This news is awesome!

My all-time favorite gaming franchise is back for a fourth installment: Thief 4Not only did the first installment of this PC game introduce the world of gaming to one of the earliest and best examples of the the stealth genre, it was also my first exposure to the steampunk aesthetic (or at least one vision of steampunk).

Most video games involve blowing stuff up and wreaking havoc with atomic-punches, heavy artillery, and crazy shooting skills.  However, Thief: The Dark Project (1998) -- and it's expansion pack, Thief: Gold -- was a a different kind of gaming experience.  It was more along the lines of crouching silently in dark corners and sneaking around in order to avoid detection.  If you were spotted or heard by anyone, your demise was probably immanent.  While this may sound dreadfully boring, avoiding detection by undead creatures and hammerite cult members delivered some of the most intense gaming experiences in all my gaming years.  Here is the opening movie sequence for the first installment of the game (and here is the game trailer).

The game ended up with an ultra-dedicated fan base, as well as some of the coolest fan websites featuring fan-created missions, fan art, fan fiction (like Correspondence of Thieves), annotated maps, discussion forums, mission walk-throughs and guides, and other stuff  (e.g., the Thief universe timeline).  Websites of particular note include Thief: The Circle and The Circle of Stone and Shadow.

The second installment of the game takes the protagonist, Garrett, into scenarios where he has to deal with a new faction, the Mechanists and their infernal robots.  Here's about 20 minutes of gameplay from Thief 2: The Metal Age (2000).  The Metal Age trailer can be found here.

With the release of Thief: Deadly Shadows (2004), the third installment was not only playable on the PC, but was available on the X-Box as well.  The trailer for that installment can be found here.

Then the franchise died ...  until 10 years later... when it was resurrected with the announcement that Thief 4 will be released in 2014.  Sometimes... life can be good. 

The Thief 4 trailer looks great.  More information here.

Friday, March 15, 2013

80's Gaming Geek Alert: Tempest

Way back in the 1980's there were some fun games tucked away in the mall arcades -- and one of them was a little number by the gaming company, ATARI, called "Tempest."  With neon style electric-like pulses hurtling towards you out of the void, it featured an awesomely fast spinning nob instead of the standard arcade game joystick.

An online flash-version of the game can be found at the Atari website (and at the IGN games website here).

Here are a couple of Youtube videos concerning the game.  The first is a demonstration of the game (in which you can see the spinner control in action) given by a guy that built an arcade in his basement (and he also gives a nice discussion on the difference between raster monitors and vector monitors).  The second is someone showing off his gaming chops on a PC version of the game that replicates the arcade version pretty well.

The word "ATARI" means something to the effect of "to hit the mark."  If you're interested, an interview with one of the game's designers can be found here.

The game was released in 1980.  The ATARI logo can be seen briefly in the movie Blade Runner (1982).  As a result, this game and the movie are linked together in my mind (even though the game itself doesn't appear in the movie) -- perhaps, as some of the British empiricists would describe it (e.g., John Locke and David Hume), it is a mere association of ideas.

Blade Runner, Deckard, with the ATARI logo in the back.

 Here's an image of an long exposure of of the game screen (from Dan Zuccarelli):

The game has no background music, but the following should be suitable music to listen to while you play (even though it's associated with another game and movie).

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Gasking’s Proof for the Non-Existence of God

Grey on the Ontological Argument
Douglas Gasking
photo credit

In October of 2000, William Grey, in an article entitled “Gasking’s Proof” (Analysis, 60: 368-370), wrote the following about Anselm’s ontological argument:

“The ontological ‘proof’ of the existence of God devised by St. Anselm (1033-1109) is a captivating argument.  God, Anselm notoriously proposed, is not merely great, but a being than which a greater cannot be conceived” (page 368).

I’m willing to grant that the argument may be captivating.  However, proposing this about God strikes me about as notorious (that is, disreputable) as proposing that red is a color or proposing that two is an even number – that is, it isn’t notorious at all.  It should be obvious to anyone who knows how to use the relevant words that God is the greatest conceivable being.  Be that as it may, Grey goes on to assert the following:

“To conceive of God as non-existent is therefore to conceive a lesser God than the one which Anselm had in mind, for the God which Anselm had in mind is the God that exists in reality.  God is just too good not to exist; his non-existence is simply unthinkable…  A sophistical argument, but brilliant sophistry.”  (page 368)

Grey is right when he says that the argument he describes is sophistical, but he is wrong to attribute this sophistical argument to Anselm.  One could write volumes about how badly and inaccurately Anselm’s argument for God’s existence gets presented – both by its defenders and its detractors. It is always easier to knock down a straw man version of Anselm’s argument rather than taking the trouble to figure out what the argument is.  Grey has simply provided us with another example illustrating this point.  The most that one can say here is that Grey has concocted a bit of captivating sophistry which bears a superficial resemblance to Anselm’s actual argument.  However, a precise and accurate statement of Anselm’s argument will not detain us here, because the reason that we’ve turned our attention to Grey is that he is the conduit through which an anti-ontological argument has come down to us. 

Gasking’s Ontological Argument for God’s Non-existence

Grey goes on to explain that the Australian philosopher, Douglas Gasking, produced an ontological argument that is an “a priori argument for the non-existence of God” (page 368).  Gasking himself may have considered his argument as a simple bit of mental amusement – but others have taken the argument more seriously.  As it turns out, Graham Oppy provides a restatement of Gasking’s Proof on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy website.  Oppy begins:
“A relatively recent addition to the genre is described in Grey…  It is the work of Douglas Gasking, one-time Professor of Philosophy at the University of Melbourne (with emendations by William Grey and Denis Robinson).” 

Oppy goes on to restate the argument (using the Australian spelling for “marvelous”):

1.     The creation of the world is the most marvellous achievement imaginable.
2.     The merit of an achievement is the product of (a) its intrinsic quality, and (b) the ability of its creator.
3.     The greater the disability or handicap of the creator, the more impressive the achievement.
4.     The most formidable handicap for a creator would be non-existence.
5.     Therefore, if we suppose that the universe is the product of an existent creator, we can conceive a greater being—namely, one who created everything while not existing.
6.     An existing God, therefore, would not be a being than which a greater cannot be conceived, because an even more formidable and incredible creator would be a God which did not exist.
7.     (Hence) God does not exist.

While we have some reason to think that Gasking didn’t take this argument too seriously (given that he never published the argument himself), there are many of the new atheists who are (unsurprisingly) impressed by the argument and present it as a serious argument for atheism.  For example, the Iron Chariots website (recommended by the internet atheist, Matt Dillahunty) reproduces the argument verbatim while conveniently omitting Oppy’s objections to the argument. The argument is also mentioned by Richard Dawkins' book, The God Delusion, not as a successful argument but as a successful counterpoint to Anselm’s original argument (which I take to be further evidence that Richard Dawkins is the Ray Comfort of atheism).  Again, the argument is presented as a serious argument on the Nathan Dickey Blog and on The Not-Quite-So-Friendly Humanist blog (in articles illustrating that the respective authors have precious little idea of what the ontological argument actually is or how it is supposed to work).  However, despite the growing popularity of the argument, Gasking's argument is certainly unsound.

Problems with Gasking’s Proof

In summary, Oppy provides two objections to Gasking’s proof.  First, he questions the veracity of premise (1).  Oppy inquires, “But what reason is there to believe that the creation of the world is ‘the most marvellous achievement imaginable,’ in the sense which is required for this argument? Surely it is quite easy to imagine even more marvellous achievements—e.g., the creation of many worlds at least as good as this one!”  His second objection, offered as a mere side note constitutes an objection to premise (4).  He writes, “Of course, one might also want to say that, in fact, one cannot conceive of a non-existent being's actually creating something: that is literally inconceivable.” So, in short, Oppy holds that there are achievements that one can easily imagine that are better than the creation of the world and that the idea of a non-existent being creating anything is incoherent. 

There are other objections to the argument in addition to the ones mentioned by Oppy.  First, premise (2) is false insofar as it ignores the extrinsic qualities of an achievement.  In this premise we are told that the value of an achievement is determined by considering the intrinsic quality of the achievement and the ability of the one who brought about the achievement.  However, this seems to be wrong.  It ignores the fact that the merit of an achievement can also be determined (at least in part) by the results of achievement.  Perhaps this problem can be obviated by modifying the premise to say that “The merit of an achievement is the product of its intrinsic quality, its extrinsic results, and the ability of its creator.”  In any case, we will set this difficulty to one side in order to consider a more pressing problem with the argument.

Premise (3) – according to which the greater the disability overcome in order to achieve something, the more impressive the achievement is – would be true if it were about an existent thing with a real handicap. For example, a real person who has the handicap of a wooden leg running a five-minute mile is more impressive than a otherwise healthy (but real) person doing the same thing without a wooden leg.  However, the premise is false insofar as the “creator” in this premise is taken to be non-existent.  A non-existent being cannot possess an existent handicap.  Understood in this way, the premise reads: “The greater the existent handicap of a non-existent being, the more impressive the achievement.”  This, is of course, completely wrong.  So, premise (3) is false, because an existent (or real) handicap can only be possessed by an existent (or real) being; but the premise is supposed to be about a non-existent being.

We can put this point in a slightly different way.  Recall that, according to the original statement of the third premise, “The greater the handicap of the creator, the more impressive the achievement.“  Given that the achievement is real (since the universe is an existent thing), there are only four available ways that the premise can be interpreted, and all of them are either false or incoherent – namely:
Reading (a):  The greater the imagined handicap of the real creator, the more impressive the achievement.
Reading (b):  The greater the imagined handicap of the imagined creator, the more impressive the achievement.
Reading (c):  The greater the real handicap of the real creator, the more impressive the achievement.
Reading (d):  The greater the real handicap of the imagined creator, the more impressive the achievement.
Now, it becomes clear what has gone wrong.   On (a), the statement is just false, because imagined handicaps do not make the achievements of real creators more impressive.  On (b) and (d), the statement is incoherent because (as Oppy already pointed out) it is incoherent to suppose that imagined creators bring about real (or existent) achievements – with or without handicaps.  On (c), the statement is false, for the reasons given in the previous paragraph – that is, it would be true if it were about an existent thing with a real handicap; but, ex hypothesi (i.e., by the hypothesis), the premise must assume that the creator is non-existent.  So, interpretation (c) is ruled out by the argument itself.

Another serious problem with the argument is the attempt to use the words “great,” “impressive,” “marvelous,” “merit,” “incredible,” and “formidable” as synonymous terms.  They are not.  This is very sloppy and probably renders the argument invalid (due to its committing the fallacy of equivocation).  The only way around this is to simply pick a term and apply it consistently to all the premises as follows:

1.     The creation of the world is the greatest achievement imaginable.
2.     The greatness of an achievement is the product of (a) its intrinsic quality and (b) the ability of its creator.
3.     The more severe the handicap of the creator, the greater the achievement.
4.     The most severe handicap for a creator would be non-existence.
5.     Therefore, if we suppose that the universe is the product of an existent creator, we can conceive a greater being – namely, one who created everything while not existing.
6.     Therefore, an existing God would not be a being than which a greater cannot be conceived, because a creator that is even greater would be a God which did not exist.
7.     Therefore, God does not exist.

While this does help the argument avoid the fallacy of equivocation, it certainly doesn’t make the premises any more plausible or coherent – as all of the original objections to the truth and coherence of the premises still apply.  Take premise (1), for example.  It is no more plausible to say that “creation is the greatest achievement imaginable” than it is to say that “creation is the most impressive achievement imaginable” – which is just to say that it isn’t plausible at all. Again, in the previous objection to premise (3) simply substitute “the greater the achievement” for “the more impressive the achievement” for readings (a) through (d) above, and one can easily see that one will get the same results.  Similar considerations apply to the other objections.  In short, the argument is logically valid but unsound (due to its multiple false premises). 

Moreover, given how one understands what it is to have a handicap, there may be problems beyond those already mentioned.  For example, it would seem that premises (3) and (4) are in tension with one another.  In other words, if God could create the world while being non-existent (as the argument supposes), then it seems that there would be no reason to think of non-existence as any kind of handicap (and this creates problems for the fourth premise) – and if non-existence is an insurmountable handicap on the ability of a creator, then there would be no achievement -- great or otherwise (and this would constitute a problem for the third premise). 

Finally, this last objection I owe to three of my philosophy students (Biesel, Smith & Wyma).  If a handicap is the subtraction of being from something and if non-existence is a handicap, then saying this would seem require that being be subtracted from an already non-existent being.  That seems problematic at best. 

In sum, it is erroneous to think that Gasking's argument provides one with a successful demonstration of God's non-existence (as they seem to think over at Iron Chariots).  Moreover, given that Gasking's argument is not parallel to Anselm's, it is simply wrong to say that Gasking's argument provides one with a parody of (or counter-argument to) Anselm's argument capable of demonstrating the failure of the latter (despite what Dawkins, Nathan Dickey, and others hold).  It is disappointing to see what was probably just philosophical amusement on Gasking's part being put to such poor use.

(Thanks to Tami Perkins, Christopher Benson, Barb Isbell, and Stephen Shipp for looking over earlier drafts of this post.)


Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Mariner Books, 2006), pages 82-83. 

William Grey, 2000, “Gasking's Proof”, Analysis, 60: 368–370.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Chesterton's The Hunting of the Dragon

The Hunting Of The Dragon (1915-20)

When we went hunting the Dragon
In the days when we were young,
We tossed the bright world over our shoulder
As bugle and baldrick slung;
Never was world so wild and fair
As what went by on the wind,
Never such fields of paradise
As the fields we left behind:

For this is the best of a rest for men
That men should rise and ride
Making a flying fairyland
Of market and country-side,
Wings on the cottage, wings on the wood,
Wings upon pot and pan,
For the hunting of the Dragon
That is the life of a man.

For men grow weary of fairyland
When the Dragon is a dream,
And tire of the talking bird in the tree,
The singing fish in the stream;
And the wandering stars grow stale, grow stale,
And the wonder is stiff with scorn;
For this is the honour of fairyland
And the following of the horn;

Beauty on beauty called us back
When we could rise and ride,
And a woman looked out of every window
As wonderful as a bride:
And the tavern-sign as a tabard blazed,
And the children cheered and ran,
For the love of the hate of the Dragon
That is the pride of a man.

The sages called him a shadow
And the light went out of the sun:
And the wise men told us that all was well
And all was weary and one:
And then, and then, in the quiet garden,
With never a weed to kill,

We knew that his shining tail had shone
In the white road over the hill:
We knew that the clouds were flakes of flame,
We knew that the sunset fire
Was red with the blood of the Dragon
Whose death is the world's desire.

For the horn was blown in the heart of the night
That men should rise and ride,
Keeping the tryst of a terrible jest
Never for long untried;
Drinking a dreadful blood for wine,
Never in cup or can,
The death of a deathless Dragon,
That is the life of a man.

I love the line in this poem: "We knew that the clouds were flakes of flame" -- and how the poem pulls from within the ordinary the reality of the extraordinary.

Thanks to the American Chesterton Society for putting this on their Facebook Page.
Image Credit: HERE