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Time to be skeptical about “skeptics”?

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Further to New science organization offers to set science free from materialism and ID and “Manifesto for a Post-Materialist Science”:

We’ve all encountered these “skeptics.” Typically, despite massive evidence, they don’t accept that the universe is fine-tuned for life, and many choose to advocate an evidence-free multiverse instead. Some of them even campaign against falsifiability in science.

But many do sign on to a litany of poorly sourced causes bound together by progressive politics. See, for example, Journalist wonders, why Creation Museum inspires rage, whole foods scams don’tThen there is the litany of causes accepted on weak evidence, warm feelings, and threats against those who doubt.

So becoming skeptical about “skepticism” might be an idea. And here indeed is Skeptical About Skeptics:

… dedicated to countering dogmatic, ill informed attacks leveled by self-styled skeptics on pioneering scientific research and researchers.

Healthy skepticism is an important part of science, and indeed of common sense. But dogmatic skepticism uses skepticism as a weapon to defend an ideology or belief system, and inhibits the spirit of inquiry.

Most self-proclaimed skeptics are believers in a materialist worldview, and dismiss any evidence for phenomena that do not agree with their assumption that minds are nothing but brain activity confined to the inside of heads.

Members of militant skeptical organizations often think of themselves as defending science and reason against superstition and credulity.

These are worthy aims, but we at Skeptical About Skeptics think that science and reason are best served by considering the evidence for unexplained phenomena scientifically rather than assuming that these phenomena do not exist because they do not fit in with materialist assumptions. More.

Materialist assumptions will not work for life forms because the principal difference between life and non-life is the high level of information, which is not a material phenomenon.

It might be a good idea to make SAS a regular stop, at least for now.

One certainly  won’t hear evidence against materialism from Big Hair, whose idea of breaking news is politician Scott Walker’s views on evolution, and he is nowhere near as interested in  any office-seeker’s/holder’s views on other science subjects, even pressing ones.

Any view of science becomes a straitjacket when contrary evidence cannot be considered. Then, “skepticism” is just turf protection. But that suits a dullwitted guy with a job in science and a talent for second-hand invective just fine, as we see.

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rvb8: 1. Again you show ignorance of the reality of America on the ground. Fox News is the only one of the major American television networks that is not dominated by the elite consensus of which I have spoken. Indeed, its rise from obscurity to massive popularity is due precisely to the fact that it gives a voice to the sentiments of the masses and of the politically conservative that the other big networks have ignored. 2. Your football game example (and I doubt you've ever been to an American football game, if indeed you mean the same thing by "football" that Americans do) is irrelevant. No one has the "right" to social approval or popularity, and if an atheist loudly shoves his atheism in the face of people in a football game (where people want to concentrate on sport, not religion), and finds that people don't approve of his religion, so what? No fundamental human rights or civil rights of his are violated by the fact that his neighbors don't like his religion, and indicate it by frowns or glances or arguments against atheism. There is no fundamental human or civil right "not to have your views disapproved of by others." It is only if an atheist loses a job or rental housing etc. because he is an atheist, or if he has to listen to a school prayer in a public school, that his human rights or civil rights are violated. And I've already indicated that I would take the atheist's side in such cases, as I would take the Christian's side in cases where the reverse is happening. You, on the other hand, from what I can tell, are not likely to take the Christian's side in cases such as the example I gave. If I'm wrong, if you are even-handed and fair in not wanting Christians any more than atheists to be offended by what is taught in schools, I look forward to email posts from you the first time an American court rules that Christian parents have to either submit their children to anti-Christian teaching about same-sex marriage or else take their children to a private school. 3. Despite your inflated rhetoric, Christianity's 2000 years have not been all about creating victimhood (you really should learn some history), and in fact the track record of Christianity at expanding the notion of human rights (Wilberforce, etc.) is better than that of any other religious tradition (with the possible exception of Buddhism, but even that is dubious). And in any case, where Christians have in fact victimized others, I have already indicated that they are rightfully criticized for that. 4. Your remark about "political correctness" is revealing. I suspect you are far too young to have been around when the term was coined. If so, let me say that unlike you, I was there. In fact it is a perfect term to describe the reality to which it points. It was invented as a term of mockery, to cover those situations where it was no longer fashionable (and increasingly, in some cases no longer even legal) to state what was true according to historical or scientific or other evidence; one was expected to substitute a more palatable falsehood, to avoid "offending" certain groups. Thus, for example, the science of psychology established that the brains of men and women had quite different developmental patterns, going through their spurts of growth and differentiation at different ages and in different sequences; but when certain psychologists said that in public, they found themselves angrily attacked by feminists for promoting "sexism." (You see, in the strange contortions of radical feminist "logic," if one grants that women's brains are in any way biologically different from those of men, it is only a matter of time before some male sexist pig [or some females duped by such a sexist pig] will declare that women should be consigned to social roles different from those of men; so the differences, however real and scientifically documented, must be denied, or at least not spoken of in public.) So it was scientifically correct, but not "politically correct," to teach about differences between male and female brain development. No term could be more appropriate for this sort of Orwellian censorship of language and thought. So I don't "loathe" the term but embrace it. From the late 1970s or early 1980s onward, the phenomenon of political correctness became widespread, and soon, predictably, the social and economic penalties for saying the "politically incorrect" thing were such that even where no publisher or university or state organization was censoring your expression, you started to self-censor, because if you offended the wrong people (even by saying things that were scientifically or historically correct), there could be serious consequences for your employment and career advancement. Amusingly enough, the "political correctness" which you seem to go along with (though you call it "politeness" instead) started in your horribly right-wing America! At first other English-speaking countries, with their better linguistic breeding rooted in the Oxbridge tradition, resisted it. But slowly American linguistic habits were pressed upon every country, especially since Americans increasingly owned a good percentage of organs such as the Oxford Press. Now you can find the same mouthy, bossy political correctness in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and all the other former Commonwealth countries. The American left-liberals who originated political correctness, who originally were (and still are) a minority in their own country, have triumphed globally. This is not "paranoia" -- it's history. I lived through it. In one case in the 1980s, a world-class Australian scholar, in writing the preface to his translation of a German commentary on Genesis, lightly chided the publisher for insisting, against his own judgment regarding the English language, that "man" not be used anywhere in the book as a generic term; he indicated that the publisher insisted on this because the publication was aimed in large measure at an American audience. The implication was that the change would not have been thought necessary to make for British, Australian, etc. audiences. That shows the direction in which political correctness flowed, from America to the rest of the world. But it is worse than that, actually, because the publisher's insistence was based on a lie about the expectations of the American reader at the time. In actual fact, in the early 1980s "man" was still very widely used as a generic in American popular speech and popular writing, and even in academic writing; one could hear it used by radio announcers, in talks by public intellectuals, in sermons, in everyday conversation, and one could see it in newspapers, magazines and books by most publishers until the mid-1980s, when there was an abrupt volte-face and a very sudden drop in the number of appearances of the word in published works. Did the vast majority of American writers wake up one morning in the mid-1980s and suddenly and mysteriously all agree that "man" was sexist and should not be used, and from that point on write differently? If you believe that, you can believe anything. What happened, in fact, was *not* that the American language had greatly changed, with publishers merely following the trend; rather, the majority of academic and trade publishers changed their policies *well in advance of any large change in general usage in the population*. Most publishers (there were a few holdouts, for a while, who still believed in the traditional American principle of "I may disagree with what you say but I would defend to the death your right to say it," but most caved in during the 1980s and early 1990s) ordered all their writers to use "inclusive" language (and of course the definition of "inclusive" was in the hands of left-liberal ideologues, not of the average American on the street), and the writers either conformed (because if they didn't conform, they couldn't get published, and therefore wouldn't eat or have a roof over their heads), or ignored the instructions, in which case the editorial staff simply changed their language without consulting them. (In some cases writers' language would be changed by independently acting and autocratic editorial staff, even where the publisher had not issued a policy on the matter.) This determination of a select group of academics, journalists, editors and publishers to actively crusade for a change in the language of Americans is amusing and self-contradictory, since normally liberals are dead against "prescriptive" as opposed to "descriptive" dictionaries; their normal attitude to language is, "if it's used, then it's a legitimate word," and therefore their attitude to "man" should have been, "if people frequently use it as a generic, then it is a legitimate generic." But consistency of philological principle -- consistency of *any* intellectual principle -- has never been a trait of liberals, leftists, or feminists. At any rate, it's easy to tell the difference between a natural change in the language of a nation -- which typically takes place gradually, over many years if not many decades, and therefore is hardly noticed until after the process is complete -- and an ideologically-engineered change in the language of a nation -- which takes place suddenly, and begins in official organs run by the intelligentsia, against the protests of many writers and thinkers, and is received only reluctantly by the masses. One can see such intelligentsia-generated linguistic changes in many other cases; e.g., the substitution of "Afro-American" or "African-American" for "black" in official American speech and writing was a project of the intelligentsia, not a swelling ground-level phenomenon proceeding from the black -- er, sorry, African-American -- masses. At the time that "African-American" was being pushed as the new de rigueur term by university professors and a few activist leaders, American blacks typically referred to themselves as blacks, not as African-Americans. Political correctness has nothing to do with politeness. Politeness is something voluntarily engaged in by neighbors and citizens in order to create friendship and avoid unnecessary friction. Political correctness, on the other hand, involves self-censorship, a deliberate decision to refrain from using certain words or expressing certain ideas, not because one thinks those words are defective or those ideas are wrong, but because one is being bullied by self-righteous, self-appointed guardians of "inclusiveness" who think that people have "a right not to be offended," even if what offends them is in fact the truth. I wouldn't call blacks "niggers," because in my experience all blacks find the term "nigger" offensive; but I have no evidence that more than a tiny percentage of "African-Americans" were offended by the term "black," until such time as "their consciousness was raised" (right!) by intellectuals from the black (and even more from the white) intelligentsia. And even now, after a decade or two of steady propaganda from the intelligentsia against the term "black," I very frequently hear, on the radio and television and internet, black people calling themselves and other people "black." So, while I refrain from using "nigger" out of politeness (not that I would naturally use the term anyway, but even if I was inclined to do so, I would still refrain out of politeness), I refuse to say or write "African-American" when "black" is several syllables shorter, fits more easily into the rhythm of speech and writing, and offends mainly university-trained intellectuals with chips on their shoulders, rather than the average black person I am likely to encounter on a bus or in a shopping mall. I don't take any pleasure in offending everyday folks, but I rather enjoy offending self-righteous Ph.D.s and self-righteous leaders of radical feminist organizations and of other special interest groups, because I know that their histrionics about being "offended" are feigned in most cases, or at best, when they really are "offended," that the sense of offense has been ideologically inculcated, and such people need to be shocked out of the over-sensitive ideologies that they have unthinkingly embraced. George Orwell wrote that totalitarian ideas were (in 1948) taking hold of the minds of men everywhere. That is certainly true, and the spirit of totalitarianism, which requires the control of thought, and the control of thought through the control of the language available to express thought, is alive and well in the left-liberal-feminist intelligentsia of the USA and all other "advanced" Western countries. If your younger generation is not concerned about this, if it is content to be told what is "proper" language and thinking by academic and journalistic ideologues and by the leaders of special interest groups and by the state-employed designers of the curriculum of the public school system, then I greatly fear for the future of democracy and of free societies everywhere. Timaeus
Hangonasec @55 I was thinking less about man kinds ability too build civilizations with out God, for sure God is not required for that! I was thinking more about the 10 spiritual principles (commandments if you prefer) and the principles behind civilization under Gods rule. Ones view of the Roman Empire would vary depending on where you were in the structure of it. Certainly if you were a slave with no rights you would see it differently than if you were in the middle class. If you look carefully at Gods law, although it may seem harsh in places, it is pro life, pro justice and pro good community. It benefits those that are committed to harmonious action. It also asks more of its leaders than of the followers (holds them to a higher standard) hence its unpopularity with global elites except where/when they have been able to pervert its message. A very important principle behind Gods law is that it is unchanging. The 10 commandments stay regardless of who is in charge. Now executing that turned out to be more tricky than the Israelites could manage. They don't seem that complicated do they!? Also more about the influence of Jesus Christ on the individual which would be hard to quantify however a healthy love and fear of God can do wanders for the grounding and importing of moral standards with sufficient force to change your life! The removal of the idea that this life is all there is can do wanders for your actions and thought life. (that is just my own personal experience) Power with out control is a dangerous thing for man. The idea that those at the top will answer to God (YHWH, if they believe it sufficiently) can keep the inevitable power that comes with civilization in check This is why we are going to be in so much trouble if a global government and a one world leader gets into power. The Bible warns us of this. DillyGill
Despite the wrongs of the church in history I would dread to think what sort of state the world would be in if it had not been for Israel and Jesus Christ. My bet would be much much worse. I would go so far as to say a hell hole.
OK, the BC Roman Empire had its failings, but a hell-hole? "What have the Romans ever done for us?". :D Hangonasec
rvb8 @53 says 'If you stand up at your average football game in your average High School and say loudly your a new follower of Christ, chances are you’ll be cheered and back slapped. Stand up and proclaim your atheism and see the result. Atheists by their nature are quiet which is the reason it’s so difficult to count them.' It is exactly the reverse in the UK 'Please, leave off victimhood, after 2000 years of creating victims it doesn’t suit you' That has to be your most stupid comment to date. Despite the wrongs of the church in history I would dread to think what sort of state the world would be in if it had not been for Israel and Jesus Christ. My bet would be much much worse. I would go so far as to say a hell hole. DillyGill
Is paranoia your personal foible or is it a national trait? No one is teaching the fear mongering excessive lefty doctrine you fear, or if they are be sure the religious are present and pointing out how put upon they are. America is a country which is dominated by Christianity, your megaphone is the media you hype as being Left. Fox News and their endless fear mongering about a lost Christmas, politically correct language (that by the way, is a term I loathe, I never use politically correct language I just be polite to all minorities; works well)and the end of American exceptionalism is one media megaphone that always backs your position. Why play the victim? The imaginary atheist girl is infinately braver in the climate of intolerance against atheists in the US. If you stand up at your average football game in your average High School and say loudly your a new follower of Christ, chances are you'll be cheered and back slapped. Stand up and proclaim your atheism and see the result. Atheists by their nature are quiet which is the reason it's so difficult to count them. Please, leave off victimhood, after 2000 years of creating victims it doesn't suit you. rvb8
rvb8 (51): It's more complicated than you are making out. The whole constitutional argument of atheists regarding religious indoctrination in the *public* schools of the USA is that an atheist pays taxes for the support of those schools just like a religious believer, and is a full citizen just like a religious believer, and therefore should not be made more uncomfortable in those schools than a religious believer. Sure, the atheist's parents could take the little girl out of the school and put her in a private school more conducive to atheism. But they won't get their tax money back that they paid to the public school system -- at least, not all of it. So in order to protect their little girl from Christian messages, they will have to pay twice for her schooling -- once to the private school, and once to the public school that she is no longer attending. The Christian students in your hypothetical public school do not have to make that choice; hence the inequality, hence the constitutional challenge. (And I would support the atheist girl's parents in that constitutional challenge, by the way.) Now apply that logic to the Christian girl whose parents are offended by the soon-to-be-standard secular humanist teaching regarding same-sex marriage in the public school. They, too, can pull their child out from a classroom where the moral and spiritual atmosphere are in their view offensive. But they, too, will end up paying twice for their daughter's education -- once to the Christian private school they move her to, and once through taxes to the public school she is no longer attending. In contrast, parents who *agree* with the new same-sex marriage teaching and want their kids to be exposed to it, won't have to move their kids out of the schools and will only pay taxes once. (Just as the conservative Christian parents in your imaginary school where they do illegal school prayers are happy with the prayers, so they don't have to take their children out.) So there is the exactly the same inequality as in the case of your little girl, the same injustice. The *difference* is this: every court in the USA will rule *against* the teacher and public school board that has the Christian content, but -- I make a prediction -- the first time a Christian parent protests the new health curricula celebrating same-sex marriage, and takes the school board to court for slyly teaching religious values (by implicitly undermining Christian values), the parent will *lose* the case. The judge will uphold the public school system's right to teach a sexual morality that is offensive to millions of traditional American Christians. The judge will rule that there is no entanglement of the state in religion in that case. (Even though of course statements about sexual morality inescapably have religious dimensions for a Christian and therefore can directly offend a Christian, in a public institution such as a school where a Christian should be free of such offense.) Now my point here is not to condemn same-sex marriage or homosexuality as such. My point is about who has the power in the USA. The lawyers and judges are university-educated people. Both in law school and in their undergrad pre-law education the majority of their teachers were left-liberals sympathetic with non-traditional values and causes. Their values have been shaped by that education and they think as part of the wised-up, left-liberal, bourgeois educated class. They will uphold those values. No judge will tell a state school system that it cannot teach sexual values offensive to traditional Christians. But every judge will tell a state school system that it cannot express religious values offensive to atheists. It will be considered constitutional to offend the 60% traditional Christian population in a Georgia school to the point where they have to switch to private schooling at great personal inconvenience and expense; it will be considered unconstitutional to offend a 2% atheist population in the same Georgia school to the point where they have to switch to private schooling with the same inconvenience and expense. This tells you where the power in the USA lies. It lies with the secular and liberal intelligentsia. The masses may yell and shout and thunder, and call for a return to the religious America of the past, but in the end, the values of the self-appointed elite will win out over the values of the majority of tax-paying Americans. I am not saying that it is always a bad thing for courts to stand up for unpopular measures. What I am saying is that your belief, and the belief of many others, that the USA is a country where major policy decisions are controlled by fundamentalists and that atheists have their rights trampled on by Christians, is simply a false portrait of life on the ground in the USA. The likes of Al Gore have ten times the social and political influence of the likes of Ken Ham. Ken Ham makes more noise, and has a bigger populist following, but the laws and university curriculum and court decisions reflect the values of Gore, not of Ham. That's the American reality. Europeans and New Zealanders who think otherwise are judging America by sensational isolated news items featuring the opinions of conservative religious leaders; but those religious leaders are beaten down time and again in the schools, the legislatures, and the courts. Timaeus
Courage in denying state mandated 'sexual education' or 'gender orientation' is a non-point. If in a state school in the US (or here for that matter) a student finds the teaching of the acceptance of same sex culture offensive, for what ever reason (let's say religion) then they opt out. That was my point! The little girl opts out, as she finds religious indoctrination by tax funded state run organisations offensive, and in America, really quite unconstitutional. Phinehas, all I can say to your obscurity is that we have judges, and we have law, and once religion was removed things improved immeasurably. If you mean what is right, and what is wrong, and how do we determine this then I say remove the emotive, the emotion, and let the facts determine the outcome, and only the facts. By your writing and its ending I see you a decidedly emotional, which is fine, but I won't look to you in any field to judge anything. rvb8
skram: I never intended that Darwin should be studied *instead of* modern evolutionary theory, or that Newton should be studied *instead of* contemporary physics. However, I do think that every scholar or scientist should be interested to some extent in the history of his or her discipline. To regard present theorizing as the only thing worth studying is to trap one's mind in the discourse of the present. Historical study is liberating in that it provides a constant stock of alternative ideas that might be refurbished, and a constant check on our tendency to pay undue reverence to the currently reigning view. So, while Lamarckianism is no longer tenable in exactly the form given by Lamarck, the kind of person who has some idea of what Lamarck argued, how he differed from Darwin and later Darwinism, etc., has an alertness to alternatives that the hardcore Darwinian does not. For example, Weismann set forth what became the dogma of 20th-century biology: the absolute separation between the genes and the environment. If the genes changed, that was an internal affair; the only role for the environment was to determine which genetic changes would be fruitful and which destructive, depending on how the genetic change affected the organism's function in the environment. Once neo-Darwinism became triumphant in the 1930s, it was almost impossible to think outside of this doctrine, and it ruled the roost in academic and popular evolutionary theory alike. But, now, surprise, surprise for the worshiper of "consensus science," for the kind of person who says with the tone of argument-settling finality that "the science is in" (gee, where did I hear *that* phrase before?), it seems that sometimes the environment can contribute *directly* to the reorganization of the genome -- shades of Lamarck! The grad student or post-doc or untenured professor who (with his eye on pleasing the Weismannians in charge of releasing the grant money) is in the habit of learning and defending the established theory with zeal, is shocked by this and resists it; but the student or scientist who knows the history of evolutionary theory, and of science generally, who is used to old ideas resurfacing in new forms, is more intellectually flexible and is willing to accept this new quasi-Lamarckian notion, and may even have anticipated the possibility years before his more conventional colleagues. An interesting side-point here is that the earlier, allegedly "purer" Darwin, who was more opposed to Lamarck, turns out, with Weismann, to have been wrong, whereas the later, more Lamarck-tinged Darwin, turns out to have been closer to the truth regarding the relationship between genetic material and environment. Yet he wrote a generation before Weismann. This tells us that the later theorist is not always more correct than the earlier one -- again a lesson for the clever young scientific bucks of 2015 who mock the practice of citing journal articles more than 20 years old. The worship of the present theory, and the idea that past theory is old, outdated, and obsolete, and therefore has nothing to teach us, is not a good thing for a scientist -- or academic of any kind -- to indulge in. It is based too much on the model of technological change. No one would go back to a manual typewriter now, and rightly so, because a word processor can do all that a typewriter could do, and more. But in theoretical matters "progress" is more elusive and ambiguous than that. Those who know the history of their disciplines are the most keenly aware of that. The fully educated scientist will know something of the history of his discipline. Timaeus
I did not say that you need to read Newton to know what later Newtonian physics said. But you do need to read Newton if you want to verify for yourself what *Newton* said. Similarly, you don’t need to read Darwin if your goal is to learn what Ernst Mayr said, or what Gould said, or what Futuyma said; but you do need to read Darwin if your goal is to learn what Darwin said.
I am not disagreeing with this. I am merely pointing out that what Newton said is largely of historical, rather than scientific, interest. If one wants to do history of science, reading Newton is obligatory. If one wants to do science itself, reading Newton is neither necessary, nor sufficient. In fact, it is downright counterproductive. Same with Darwin. Evolutionary biology as science has moved way past its founder. Studying what Darwin said gives you a tiny window on what evolutionary theory is. In fact, lots of things are extraneous and some are plain wrong. If one has a goal of understanding theory of evolution, one is better off reading a modern textbook rather than On the Origin of the Species. skram
kairosfocus: Thanks for your kind remarks. We are in agreement re your 46. There is certainly room in an undergraduate science program for students to fit in a one-semester course in either the history or philosophy of science, or the history or philosophy of the particular science in which they are majoring. It would give biologists a much broader perspective on their subject if they were exposed to bits of Aristotle, Paley, Owen, Darwin, Agassiz, Lyell, Lamarck, Linnaeus, Cuvier, or later writers on the phenomenology of life such as Hans Jonas, Bergson, etc. They would then be inclined to say fewer foolish things about Darwin and the intellectual reception of Darwin; they would not make the typical ignorant mistakes they often make, e.g., to think that the "religious" people were all against Darwin and the "scientific" people were all for him, and to think that Darwin won the scientific day almost right away, when in fact he was heavily criticized on scientific grounds from the get-go, not for "common descent" (for which his arguments were accepted) but for his heavy emphasis on natural selection (which was widely challenged). Similarly, it certainly would not hurt physicists to have read some Plato, some Aristotle, some Epicurean and Stoic texts on nature, a few selected texts of Scholastic science, some writings of Bacon and Descartes, the Newton texts you have mentioned, and the dialogues of Galileo, and parts of Boyle's writings on nature, the Leibniz-Clarke correspondence, Burtt's *Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science*, and some things by Eddington, Bohr, Heisenberg, Hoyle, etc. The point of such study is not of course technical, but broadening; a university education is not supposed to be merely technical, but enriching in a broad way. A university grad should not only know lots of "stuff" about his/her subject, but should have a broad and deep sense of the subject, including its place in the general intellectual life of the human race. If all a university graduate knows is masses of data, and mathematical techniques, and lab procedures, and how to get 10-page technical articles on exceedingly narrow subjects published, the graduate is trained -- maybe very well trained -- but not educated. Part of the difficulty of these debates is that the leading voices in the anti-ID crowd -- at least on the internet --are often trained, but not educated in the broad sense that I'm talking about. A merely "trained" biologist will try to eliminate any possibility of teleology or design by an instinctive professional reflex; a philosophically reflective biologist will think about why teleological language keeps slipping even into biology papers written by atheists and materialists, and will wonder if there isn't something in the subject-matter of biology that warrants a teleological treatment that isn't warranted in, say, physics or chemistry. Such a biologist won't react with knee-jerk fury against ID notions, but will want to hear them out; and if he finds fault with them, before offering any public rebuttal, he will first present those notions at their strongest, not in straw man form so that he can easily knock them down. And when he reviews an ID book, he will (unlike many Amazon reviewers) actually read the book before denouncing it, and will include positive as well as negative remarks in his review, because his intellectual habits are those of balance and fairness, not those of partisanship in the service of a particular theory. All of these are hallmarks of the truly educated man, as opposed to the merely trained technician. Timaeus
Being an atheist means I don’t need your self inflicted fetters and guilt.
Freedom isn't doing what you want. Freedom is not having to do what you want. This is a freedom not available to the atheist. We all have guilt. Not the feeling, but the status. Even those who deny the existence of a Judge routinely judge others guilty. If they are honest enough to judge themselves by their own standards, they cannot escape guilt. And if they are not so honest, can self-deception absolve them? Denying guilt doesn't make it go away. Only forgiveness can. Blessed is the man whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sin is covered. I am a blessed man. Phinehas
T, some very good thoughts again. And yes, not only in uni but high school levels, there does seem to be a lack of deeper contextual reflection. It may have to do with the need to cram in technical content, back it up with requisite math, add in linked science (I learned a fair deal of Physics from the year one year long "big" Chem course I did though organic chem labs nearly killed me . . .) and do all in a short span. I think a little backing off and a gen ed course with a title like Science and Civ or Sci in Soc, or Sci foundations or maybe a better title with deeper reflections on methods, worldview and epistemology issues, ethics, some key cases may be of help. So long as it does not become another excuse for indoctrination -- and, who will teach such? Also, actually reading Newton brings up surprising things, e.g. his general scholium to Principia or that query 31 in Opticks. KF kairosfocus
skram: Thanks for your comments. You don't need to remind me that most scientists don't read the classics. I'm well aware that most scientists are woefully neglectful of the history and philosophy of science. I did not say that you need to read Newton to know what later Newtonian physics said. But you do need to read Newton if you want to verify for yourself what *Newton* said. Similarly, you don't need to read Darwin if your goal is to learn what Ernst Mayr said, or what Gould said, or what Futuyma said; but you do need to read Darwin if your goal is to learn what Darwin said. For example, in the many popular science presentations of Darwin's thought that I read in my youth, it was always stressed how Darwin differed from Lamarck. And this was not entirely wrong. But when one actually reads Darwin, especially the later editions of the Origin, one becomes aware that Darwin allowed for Lamarckian explanation; i.e., the actual historical Darwin was not the "pure" Darwin of modern textbooks, but Darwin tinged by Lamarck, so to speak. So "Darwin" did not always offer a classical "Darwinian" explanation. Now you may say that this is only of historical interest, since evolutionary theory has moved on since then. Yes and no. I grant that we don't need to read Darwin to discuss the location of a certain gene along the DNA chain. But following Darwin's thought-process is still good training. Unlike the majority of practicing biologists, I have read a great deal of Darwin, and read him closely, and I find that not only his writing is far superior to that of many modern scientists (who are barely literate from my humanities perspective), but even his thought-processes are richer. If Darwin were alive today, with our modern knowledge available to him, I would far rather study biology under him than under the likes of Nick Matzke, Kevin Padian, Donald Prothero, Jerry Coyne, P.Z. Myers, etc. He was just a smarter, more thoughtful, more reflective, more balanced individual than most of his modern acolytes. And he avoided the low polemics which so many of them seem to relish as a kind of sport. He is a better model of what a scientist should be: a better communicator, fairer in debate to opponents, more tolerant of intellectual dissent, etc. St. John's College is an undergraduate school, so it is not trying to train Ph.D.s. It's not fair to ask it to do so. Second, they not only read the classics of science there, but actually do some of the classic science experiments. Most modern people just accept on faith, from books, the results that Galileo etc. allegedly obtained; at St. John's they duplicate some of those experiments. I have known people from St. John's, and I have known people with graduate physics degrees from great "research universities." On the whole (there are of course individual exceptions) I can have a deeper and richer conversation about the foundations, methods and meaning of the natural sciences with people trained in the St. John's way. I find most Ph.D.s in the sciences to be very narrow specialists who are not very bright at all outside of their subfield of science, and I find them to be historically ignorant generally, even of the history of their own discipline beyond about 30 years back; I also find them to be almost exclusively technical and non-reflective in their thinking. They also frequently hold to a very naive "warfare" view of the relationship between science and theology, a view that no one who had gone through St. John's Great Books curriculum could possibly hold. Undergrad science education could use a touch of the St. John's approach. It is just standard in most "arts" subjects that, in addition to the contents of the subject, students reflect on the origins and methodological limitations of the subject. The typical undergrad sociology program will contain discussion of notion of a "scientific" sociology -- what is meant by "science" and how far sociology can and cannot be one; the typical history program will have a required course on "the nature of history" in which the historically fluid nature of the historian's conception of his task is discussed; the religious studies major reflects on the various methods -- sociological, historical, philosophical, philological, anthropological, etc. -- employed in understanding "religion" and how those different approaches alter the way the phenomenon is conceived; anthropologists, political scientists, and in some places even economists are forced to come to grips with the history and methodological presuppositions of their disciplines. But in the natural sciences, there is almost no undergraduate program known to me that makes such historical/philosophical/methodological reflection a compulsory part of undergraduate education; this may explain why science graduates are less able to sustain a long conversation about the nature of their subject (as opposed to the latest views on a particular gene's effects or the latest measurements of red shift) and less self-critical of their own project, than are graduates from the humanities and social sciences. Of course, despite the lack of philosophical perspective in undergrad science education, there are always thoughtful scientists who rise above that to ask the big questions. We see Gould doing this for his own discipline in The Structure of Evolutionary Theory. Heisenberg and Bohr etc. had an interest in the relationship of physics to theology and philosophy. Of course there are always scientific specialists who will mock such efforts. I still recall some physics Ph.D. students speaking condescendingly of a Nobel winner at their school, indicating that his recent speculations about the nature of matter etc. were subscientific because too philosophical; how like the technical rank and file in any discipline to belittle the truly great members of the discipline who rise beyond mere technical triumphs to deeper reflection! They all ran off, after their Ph.D.s, to their various research-institution jobs; none of them, last I heard, had won a Nobel Prize, like the man they were belittling. But I'm sure they have adequate citation indexes and so on. Anyway, between them and the man they were criticizing, I know which one I would rather have a long lunch with. Timaeus
T, there is a cluster of remarks above that are well worth headlining and pondering. KF kairosfocus
As for your question about Darwin, how can someone know whether or not the evidence for Darwin’s theory is good, if they don’t know what Darwin’s theory was? And how can they know what his theory was without reading what he said? Should they trust a summary of his argument, which might be written by someone who did not understand what Darwin meant, or was deliberately misrepresenting him? Shouldn’t they go to the original?
You attempt to approach science with the methodology of philosophy. That's a mistake. Virtually no student of science goes to the original texts. Undergrads don't wade through Newton's Principia to learn Newtonian mechanics. It would be a phenomenal waste of time: the text is tedious and written in an archaic way. You won't find F = ma anywhere in the book. No calculus is used for the most part as Newton's contemporaries had not yet learned it. Instead, he relies extensively on geometrical constructions. Needless to say, this way of learning mechanics would be extremely inefficient. In science, generation after generation of scientists digest and reformulate successful scientific theories. In the process, they express the original ideas in a much clearer and illuminating ways. Often a new way of looking at the same theory arises that leads to further scientific breakthroughs. A good example of that would be Minkowski's reformulation of special relativity as geometry of spacetime, a unified 4-dimensional space with three spatial and one temporal coordinates. Counterintuitive Lorentz transformations between inertial frames became familiar rotations, albeit in Minkowski space. Although that development was not new physics, just a mathematical reformulation of Einstein's theory, it played a crucial role in paving the way for general relativity. Einstein "merely" had to switch from Minkowski's flat geometry to a more general case of Riemannian geometry of curved spaces. That's how science works, Timaeus. We don't just parrot the lines uttered by dead guys. Reading the classic works represents historic interest, but it is one of the worst ways to learn science. There are a few places that do that, notable St. Johns College in Annapolis and Santa Fe. I am not aware of any great physicists that came out of there lately, though. skram
rvb8: Thank you for finally answering the question you could have -- and should have -- answered a long time ago about the little girl, instead of letting several others defend your position for you on that thread. (By the way, the word you want in your second paragraph is "impugning.") If your only point was that the hypothetical little girl has courage, I don't disagree, but your wording was ambiguous, and could easily have been read as a claim about an actual case, or, worse, about something which *generally* or at least *frequently* happens in the USA. And in my original objection I made it clear that this was my concern, so why you chose to drag out the process of answering, when you could have saved us both trouble by immediately clarifying, I have no idea. But of course this can be turned around. Recent US court decisions regarding same-sex marriage mean that school textbooks etc. will inevitably be changed, and that health teachers (among others) will be forced to teach (as part of the legally-mandated state curriculum for public schools) that same-sex relationships are every bit as moral, right, and proper as opposite-sex relationships. What about the health teacher who does not agree with this, out of deep religious or moral conviction? Should he/she be fired if he/she refuses to teach the new material? And what about the student -- say your little girl -- who does not agree with it, because she sincerely believes what she has been taught in church and at home? If this little girl speaks out against the new politically correct teaching which the public schools insist on battering her with, will you call her courageous? Note that I am not asking you to *agree* with such a little girl on the issue; I am merely asking you to be consistent in your awards of courage. If it takes courage for a young atheist girl to stand up against religious pressure from Christian teachers and students, it will take equal courage for the young Christian girl (or teenager, more likely, though they are teaching sex ed. earlier and earlier nowadays) to resist bullying from her teacher. It takes courage for anyone to resist authority figures, and to resist peer pressure. It takes courage to argue for cosmic ID in an astrophysics department where everyone is trying to bully you out of your view, or to argue for biological ID in a biology department where everyone is uttering veiled threats about your tenure chances if you persist. I'm all for praising people who have the courage to resist majorities, or the elite, or colleagues, or the "experts," or the "consensus." As for your question about Darwin, how can someone know whether or not the evidence for Darwin's theory is good, if they don't know what Darwin's theory was? And how can they know what his theory was without reading what he said? Should they trust a summary of his argument, which might be written by someone who did not understand what Darwin meant, or was deliberately misrepresenting him? Shouldn't they go to the original? Or if you want to modify the theory from that of Darwin to that of neo-Darwinism, how can they know if the evidence for neo-Darwinism is good, if they don't know what neo-Darwinism says, because they haven't bothered to read Mayr, Dobzhansky, etc.? What would you have people do? Look it up on Wikipedia, that paragon of scholarly excellence, and decide that, because Wikipedia says neo-Darwinism is true, it must be true? You would call that critical thinking, healthy skepticism? What reading is *your* decision to endorse Darwinism based on? Wikipedia? Blog sites written by doctrinaire neo-Darwinians? Popular writings by Hitchens or Sam Harris? Are you critical of the sources you read? Do you make a conscious effort to read sources that *disagree* with neo-Darwinism, to gain a balanced picture? Your generalization about why the death penalty was removed from the books (and you don't even specify what country, as if the reasons are automatically the same in all countries, which is not necessarily the case) is a great simplification. Where the death penalty has been removed it has been removed by a group of legislators, and each legislator has had his or her own set of reasons for voting as he or she did. The factor you mention was one consideration, but not the only one or even the decisive one in all cases. If you think you know otherwise, then you must have read a detailed account of why every single member of Parliament in a given country voted the way he or she did. Have you read such an account? Or are you simply inferring that the legislators had the same reasons that you would have in that situation? I do not agree that the death penalty is in itself cruel or inhuman -- though it can be carried out in a cruel or inhuman way. The consideration about executing innocent people has more weight with me. Nonetheless, I have read many books and articles by anti-capital punishment writers, and it is quite clear to me that even if there were an ironclad guarantee from God that no innocent person would ever be put to death, those writers would still be against capital punishment. They think that capital punishment is wrong in itself, even if no error is ever made. So from a philosophical point of view, that is where the main argument on both sides has to be made. In any case, since you accuse me of responding to some things and ignoring others, note that you ignored my point, i.e., that many people have argued that capital punishment has no deterrent effect, even though they have only secondhand or thirdhand knowledge of any studies that supposedly show it. My point was that so-called educated people are often as credulous and uncritical in accepting conventional wisdom as religious people were in the Middle Ages or in Puritan New England. That was the major burden of my last post, and you pretty well ignored all that I said; thus, I have no idea whether you would grant any of the points I made or examples I used. By the way, the word you want in your last paragraph is "err" (not "ere"). It will be interesting to read your reply to me (if you ever give one) on the Suzan Mazur thread. I wonder if you will openly declare exactly what you have and have not read of her work, so we will know the basis for your sweeping dismissal of it. Timaeus
Why do you need to read Darwin to believe in the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis; most Christians haven't read the bible, does that invalidate their position as Christians? The imaginary girl I conjured up was just that imaginary. How impuning the values of some small town people is translated by you into an anti-American position is mental gymnastics on your part. My question which neither you nor Denyse attempted to answer was; Is this imaginary atheist child brave for not reciting the Pledge or other psudo-Christian babble, or is she a coward for denying Christ? For me the answer is plain she is a sceptical hero. By the way how well do atheist children fare in small town USA? The death penalty was consigned the way of all such barbaric practices in 1956 in my country. Polls in NZ show even in crimes of brutal rape and multiple murder more than 70% of NZers still don't want it back. Now listen closely because I can tell you're a highly selective reader responding to some things and completely ignoring others: The death penalty was removed from the statute books not because it's cruel and inhuman (although it is), it was removed because there had been cases of executing innocent people. That is, we ere on the side of the defendent, because a conviction may be wrong we would like the prisoner around so that s/he can be freed. Hard to do you if you've topped them. rvb8
rvb8 (37): Well, if you aren't anti-American, you can prove it by admitting that you simply fabricated the story about the little atheist girl sitting out in the hall, and apologize to the Americans here for implying that they discriminate against atheist children in that way. Yes, I'm certainly skeptical of the official statements given by politicians and rulers of all countries. What moral absolutes did I pronounce? Any that a liberal or socialist would not agree with? E.g., do you have any problem with my saying that what Hitler and Stalin and Mao did to "regressive" elements in their countries was WRONG? Do you disagree with my view that it is not healthy, and is dangerous to freedom of thought and expression, for a country -- or a university department or discipline -- to be run by people with one monolithic view that tolerates no dissent? What makes you say that I have no skepticism regarding religious claims? Did I not already indicate that I find troubling certain Biblical statements about God commanding the slaughter of civilian populations? Did I not already indicate that I did not accept the claims of Medieval theologians and inquisitors that it was justified to torture people's bodies in an effort to save their souls? And do you think I am uncritical of the Mormon claim about golden tablets? Or of the claims of Scientology? I actually find most modern, middle-class, university educated people to be very credulous, hardly skeptical at all, except regarding certain things (such as religion) that they are expected to be skeptical of, to show off their sophistication. 90% of university-educated people today will probably tell you that Darwinian evolution has been "proved," but when you ask them if they have actually read Darwin, you find that almost none of them have; and if you ask them for the scientific evidence for Darwin, they will (I'm speaking here not of those who are specialists in biology, but of educated people generally) trot out the "horse series" (completely uncritically accepting the doctored-up pretty diagrams in popular science books, not having bothered to look things up and discover that the tree is much messier than those diagrams indicate), the peppered moth (even though the pictures of it on tree trunks are fraudulent), the Haeckel diagrams (even though they were fraudulent, and evolutionists like Gould have denounced them), etc. And while they might be able to give you the rough argument about how the giraffe's neck could get longer due to random mutations and natural selection, when you ask them whether such purely quantitative changes can be safely extrapolated to major qualitative changes such as new body plans, you can tell by the response that they haven't thought much about that -- which shows lack of skepticism, or even of respectable intellectual curiosity. It's the same with global warming. Most middle-class people who read the New York Times, etc. will say that the science behind AGW is beyond dispute -- whether they actually know any math or science themselves or not. Not exactly a skeptical attitude, is it, to take an opinion like that on faith, without investigating? Especially when the opinion was being used to pressure Western governments into wrecking their own economies by adopting far stricter emissions standards than India or China. One would think that even a moderately skeptical person would raise questions about an international accord, allegedly aimed at stopping a global climate catastrophe (predictions of coastlines being swamped in 9 feet of water by 2060, leaving millions homeless, etc.), which allowed the greatest polluters to keep on polluting. (So it's OK if the coastlines only end up in 6 feet of water by 2060, because only America and Europe had to control their emissions?) One would think that someone might suspect that there was at least as much international political motivation behind such an accord as genuine climate science. But I didn't hear much skepticism on that front from most journalists, most professors, most educated people generally. But if you tell those same middle-class B.A.s about visions of Mary or faith healings, they will do hours and hours of research trying to debunk such claims. They won't take anything on faith, they way they take "the science is settled" on faith. So they are credulous, not skeptical, when someone with alleged credentials in "science" says something, and skeptical only when someone representing "religion" says something. Similarly, most middle-class, university-educated people are confident that capital punishment is not a deterrent. Now whether or not they are right is not the issue here; the issue is, why do they believe that? They believe it because they have heard it somewhere, or read in some opinion column somewhere that some study somewhere proved it. Almost none of have actually taken the time to read the studies that supposedly proved the fact. Again, this is credulity, taking the word of authority-figures (and curiously enough, this easy acceptance of rumor and hearsay corresponds to what most university grads want to believe for moral/political reasons). You can make a modern "educated" person believe anything, just by giving superficially plausible-sounding arguments, if it is something he/she is already inclined to believe. And if the person shows some resistance, you just say "the science is in" to indicate that there can be no further debate, and they will back down, not because they are convinced but because, not knowing much about science, they fear seeming like ignoramuses. It is much harder to make a stubborn old-time small farmer, with no university education, or a self-made businessman with no formal education, to believe something than it is to get a Sociology grad to believe it. The sociology grad is trained to respect "experts" and defer to them. The sociology grad worships "studies," especially studies he has not read. So you quote -- no, you don't even have to quote, just mention -- a study that is on your side, or better, several studies, and the sociology grad will start to cave in. After all, we mustn't go against "studies"; we must be "scientific." (Never mind that the methodology behind the studies hasn't even been checked out; surely the experts would not use a faulty methodology, would they?) I once had a conversation with a female social work student. She said that 80% of men beat their wives. This was of course entirely untrue. But she believed it, because she had been taught it in a class. Later she backed down to admit that the men didn't actually "beat" their wives, but only "abused" them; but of course the definition of "abuse" wasn't what the normal person on the street would mean by the term, but what bitter feminist social work professors mean by it, i.e., "abuse" includes every raising of the voice even a little above normal volume and every kind of expression of momentary exasperation which routinely occurs in the lives of married couples, and even normal criticism, in a non-raised voice, concerning practical matters of the household. But my skeptical questions on this front seem not to have occurred to my women's studies/social work friend -- or to her professors. Apparently unvetted statements of an extreme kind were the stock-in-trade of teachers in these types of classes, and apparently 22-year-old women with 13 years of public school education plus 3 or 4 years of undergraduate education were inclined to accept such statements uncritically. The conception of the history of science held by most "educated" people today is the "warfare" conception, i.e., that science and religion have always been locked in a struggle for power, but fortunately, science is now winning. Galileo of course is painted as a martyr for science, even though actual study of the Galileo case shows that 95% of what people believe about Galileo is not historically true. And the "warfare" thesis has been discredited in serious academic history for decades now; indeed, there is now a consensus that in many ways religion played a positive role in the rise of modern science; but the educated lay opinion still thinks in terms of a warfare, because educated people today have been trained by ideological professors to accept oversimplified polarizations, such as science versus religion or left versus right or innocent, nature-loving Indians versus rapacious, nasty white settlers, etc. In my view, there isn't nearly enough skepticism in the world today. I'd like to see more. But of course, those who hold up the status quo have a way of belittling skeptics. If you are skeptical of AGW, you aren't a "skeptic" but a "denier" (the latter term being polemical, and implying the person is not being honest with himself); but if you are skeptical of ID, you aren't a "denier" of the evidence for design in nature, but just properly skeptical. Right. How convenient, this new distinction between "skeptic" and "denier." The skeptic rightly questions the the views of the masses and of the political and social conservatives and the religious folks; the denier wrongly questions the views of the atheists, materialists, reductionists, "experts," and meritorious elite. Uh-huh. Got it. Timaeus
Timothya @22 Yes it is a big if. When defending the Bible against people who are attacking it as if it were true (using the Bible to 'convict' itself) then I must insist that for the sake of a good argument I should be able to defend it by what it says (as if it were true with out having to insert that caveat at every point I make i.e. I know you are suspending your disbelief for the sake of the argument) . So it would require you to suspend your disbelief. I will not have a debate where you say 'but the Bible says such and such... how ridiculous' and then I say 'but here it says such and such' and then you say 'but its not true anyway'. Either we debate the Bible and let the Bible have authority for the sake of the argument or there is nothing for you and I to say. If there is evidence for God and if the Bible can be proven true are separate, although sometimes intertwining debates. Also as for the evidence you want, if you have read all the fantastic posts they do here, read the detailed debates around fine tuning, complexity of biological systems and where did all the information come from arguments and yet you are still unmoved, you have not seen good reason to pause for thought then I have utterly nothing to offer you by way of more convincing evidence. This is it, this is as good as it gets, the universe is shouting design and the power and glory of God, the complexity in biological systems is shouting his amazing creativeness and intelligence. if you can not see that then how can I hope to change your mind. Only God can do that now. The good people here have tried to breakdown your blindness. I know I can not do it. Is there any evidence for God? is definitely the right question to answer. That is why the ID movement is a great idea. It does not ask you to believe the Bible it just makes an argument from design. ~But to turn the tables a fraction, if I were to say to you forget the argument from design, lets look at the age of the fossil record. That fossil that they found blood and soft tissue in, that can not be 67 million years old, the very best evidence (the fossil itself) tells us, by observable repeatable forensic science that particular fossil is much younger than previously thought, and yet you lay the best evidence to one side. So lets not pretend that your arguments are 'all' about the evidence!! DillyGill
rvb8 (17): "Once again, scepticism is rather a new trick." Are you perhaps unaware that the notion of "scepticism" comes to us from a school of ancient Greek philosophers? That makes it somewhat over 2,000 years old. Of course the Sceptics/Skeptics of old were the real thing; they were skeptical of *all* knowledge claims. Most of the modern people who pass for "skeptics" are not skeptics in that full sense at all. The modern "skeptics" are the 21st-century equivalent of what were called "Freethinkers" in the early 20th century, and their "skepticism" is a curiously directed one, mainly focused on religious beliefs of various sorts. Thus, modern "skeptics" such as Michael Shermer give prima facie implausible scientific theories such as Darwinian evolution (and I'm stressing the "Darwinian" not the "evolution") a free pass from any serious critical analysis, while levelling cannon, tanks, and nuclear missiles at belief in afterlife, belief in God, belief in miracles, etc. I actually think the ancient Skeptics contributed something valuable (albeit negative) to the Western tradition. But these new "skeptics" are pretty much a one-sided lot. Timaeus
Timaeus, 'I see that you are left liberal and anti-American'. Second thing first. I am most certainly not anti-American, I believe that the Constitution is perhaps, no IS, the single greatest document on government ever produced. The fact most Americans only know the Second Ammendment, which clearly states, "I have the right to be insane", is me being SCEPTICAL about its relevance today. I love the modern culture America has left as a prosperous legacy to all mankind, I find it very reassuring that Russian crackpots did not survive the Cold War. I love Coke, and eat McDonalds. When America takes moral stands I mostly think it is for the right reasons. BUT! I am hugely "SCEPTICAL" about America, their motives, and China and its reasons, and Russia and their considerations; aren't you? You are bent on your moral absolutes aren't you? Such and such can do no wrong because they are such and such. This book is infallible etc. There is no SCEPTISISM in the religious, they are by design non-sceptical. Even when Jesus does things patently absurd (cursing a Fig tree for not having figs; very godlike), you nod, smile, and point to this event as teaching us something. What exactly? That the soil lacked phosphate thus meaning the poor fig tree could not produce figs? That the soil lacked other trace elements? That there was a dry spell and the evolutionary response of the tree was to avoid wasting valuable water on fruit? A crackpot curses a fig tree and that doesn't cause you to be SCEPTICAL about his divinity? First thing; I'm not a left-liberal, whatever twisted childish American non-speak that is; I'm a Socialist! Have fun! rvb8
Folks, pardon a footnote. I suggest the issue is not critical awareness, acknowledging the possibility of error (including one's own) or the need for careful warrant and acknowledging limitations of deductive and inductive thought. Instead, hyperskepticism, in global form is self defeating, e.g. in a simple example imagining one knows knowledge is impossible. But more relevant is SELECTIVE hyperskepticism, which projects an unjustifiable demand for a degree of warrant for what one is inclined to reject, that is not applied to similar cases that one is inclined to accept. That double-standard is what is ever so revealing. And in reply to the notion that "EXTRAORDINARY claims require extraordinary evidence" the obvious reply is that is little more than an excuse for ideological bias and question-begging. The simple answer is that adequate, consistent warrant and willingness to acknowledge provisionality and limitations in knowledge claims should be enough. Even, when the claims are dressed up in a lab coat. KF kairosfocus
Rbv8: Being an atheist means I don’t need your self inflicted fetters and guilt. Right, because atheists have no moral compass. You just admitted it. Your atheism allows for your moral standards—whatever they may be—to be subjective. To change. And not be based on anything written or said. The old, ‘atheists have no moral compass’ argument doesn’t work on me and my fellow atheists. Actually, it does. You can feel free to ignore it all you want, but it’s there nonetheless. You see there are more Pastors behind bars than atheists. Actually if you check the prisons I’m sure belief is rife. And these pastors—were they pastors when they went in? Christian groups do proselytize in prisons. Many Christians behind bars now were atheists when they went in. Or are you deliberately being disingenuous? Provide some statistics to back up your assertions. Without statistics I think its safe to say white collar and blue collar crime are committed more systematically by believers than atheists. Prove it. Use facts. Atheists, statistics inform us, have happier marriages (the wifey in the kitchen thing drives us insane, we prefer a sincere equality as apposed to religious gender division medievalism), they are more educated, and they commit less crime. Where are such statistics to be found? Atheists might have happy marriages, but they are also less likely to marry in the first place (living together without being married). And your pathetic characterization of Christian wives shows how little you know about Christian women. Try reading Proverbs chapter 31 sometime. Or talk to actual Christians. Oh, and our sense of humour is infinately superior to dour religious types; Life of Brian, brilliant! I love Monty Python. Did you have a point to make…? So I really don’t care about your personal god preferance,just don’t expect me to swallow your ludicrous stories about loaves, fishes, and animal husbandry on boats. Your so-called arguments fail even the most elementary debate standards. Try again. Barb
rvb8 (19): I see that you are as reflexively left-liberal and anti-American on global warming as on many other subjects. The issue is not whether there has been a rise in temperature over the past 100 years or so. Everyone agrees that there has been a rise of a degree or two. The issue is (1) how much of that warming is due to CO2 emissions, and (2) how much more warming we can expect. There is disagreement among competent scientists on the latter subjects. The cliche of five years ago -- that "the science is settled" -- (a cliche of course accepted uncritically by the leftist journalistic and academic establishments, many of whom are "artsies" who can't even multiply one-digit numbers without a calculator, let alone criticize complex global warming models) -- is no longer available, as there has been increasing criticism of that supposedly settled science, not just from oil companies, etc., but from some very good scientists who formerly supported the consensus but now have doubts. At the very least, many scientists are saying, we should be allowed to discuss climate change at academic conferences without the politicized atmosphere which both camps have generated, so we can get to the bottom of the many complexities of measuring and predicting climate change. If the US wants to build its ships in such a way as to allow for a possible decrease in Arctic ice, that is simple prudence. It does not follow that everyone in the US Navy agrees with the apocalyptic global warming scenarios that have been offered by extreme AGM advocates. It means merely that, given the uncertainty about the future of Arctic ice, the ships built should be able to handle either more or less ice cover. That is sensible, non-ideological, pragmatic thinking. The world needs more of that, and less ideological mantra-chanting. By the way, the US is *not* alone regarding AGM; Canada too announced a few years ago that it would not be meeting its original Kyoto targets. And of course the original Kyoto agreement was not about climatological science at all, but about left-wing global politics, about transferring jobs and wealth away from the developed West and to originally Kyoto-exempt countries like China and India. Naturally, the Western intelligentsia would support any policies which undermine the West, since they have hated their own Western culture for 50 years or more now, and have vilified it on every occasion which presented itself. And naturally enough, jealous intellectuals in New Zealand, France, etc. would like to see the American economy and American influence in the world further weakened. This ressentiment is nothing new, though it is rather ungrateful, considering how many times America has pulled the cookies of some of those countries out of the oven. Timaeus
DillyGill says to rvb8 @20 'you know the argument' Turns out I am wrong as at rvb8 @25 The argument is not why are atheists moral despite their lack of belief in God because the Bible explains that we have a God given conscience (gift of creation) and the knowledge of good and evil (gift of the fall) so like John Lennox always acknowledges 'I know plenty of atheists more moral than I' The argument is if we can ground morality if there is no God and the answer is no, it comes down to personal preference. Under your world view where there is no designer there is nothing outside of us, nothing higher than us, no higher power or higher authority. Might makes right. I make no argument that you have 'no moral compass' just that with out God then it is not grounded therefore your God given moral compass becomes nothing more than what suites you at that time or as the Bible puts it 'doing right in his own eyes' Please feel free to share your sources on the stats you quote, a link will do nicely. Thanks. The question would be what they believed at the time of committing the crime, not what they believe after being in prison a while. So I don't really care about your non God preference, just don't expect me to believe your ludicrous stories about how life can spontaneously generate itself and a universe can come from nothing. DillyGill
A 'skeptic' who believe that "dirt did it" is no skeptic but someone who suffers from Credulous Personality Disorder. Box
Skeptics who are not skeptical about their own asinine position are not skeptics. Joe
"Time to be skeptical about “skeptics”?" What, global warming skeptics, vaccination skeptics, evolution skeptics, that kind of thing? (Read, read, read ...). Ah no, just the wrong kind of skeptic. The not-skeptical-of-the-right-things skeptic. Funny, when you repeatedly type it out, it appears to lose all meaning ... Hangonasec
timothya: "Is that what you mean?" Yes. gpuccio
Timothya I responded to RVB8 directly did I not? Andre
Andre. Thank you for your religious testimony. I am impressed that your partner accepts you as the head of your house. I understand that you believe it is what you are made for. Could you please explain how your experience relates to the original post? timothya
rvb8 I was an atheist for 34 years, my wife and I almost divorced twice we did the we are all equal and nobody makes any decisions hippy atheist nonsense...., I slept around and cheated on my wife more than I can remember, nothing wrong with a good F#$% when I'm out of town now is there? Well I'm going to stop you in your tracks with your insane ramblings, when I became born again, my wife suggested we model our marriage on Biblical principles, I was loathe to let go because I did not want her to be below or be subjected to me as many people mistakenly believe. I was so wrong I was very wrong! Being the head of the house is not a means to boss people around or subject people to you, it is a blessing as the custodian and protector, and the ultimately responsible for my family's well being! You should try it because it really highlights and brings out what we men ought to be! A Husband a father and a man! Please stop saying stuff you know buggerall about, nobody oppresses you and you are free to choose who and what you want to be, as for me I thank my wife for suggesting this, we are happily married now, there is total trust (I trust myself now too) total commitment and like I said I cherish the blessing bestowed on me to be the head of my house! It is an honour and it is a privilege and as a man that is what we have been made for! Andre
Actually DillyGill I'm not giving away or selling atheism, I'm not attempting to proselytize, preach or in any way convert you away from your god, stick with him, have fun. Being an atheist means I don't need your self inflicted fetters and guilt. The old, 'atheists have no moral compass' argument doesn't work on me and my fellow atheists. You see there are more Pastors behind bars than atheists. Actually if you check the prisons I'm sure belief is rife. Without statistics I think its safe to say white collar and blue collar crime are committed more systematically by believers than atheists. Atheists, statistics inform us, have happier marriages (the wifey in the kitchen thing drives us insane, we prefer a sincere equality as apposed to religious gender division medievalism), they are more educated, and they commit less crime. Oh, and our sense of humour is infinately superior to dour religious types; Life of Brian, brilliant! So I really don't care about your personal god preferance,just don't expect me to swallow your ludicrous stories about loaves, fishes, and animal husbandry on boats. rvb8
Gpuccio says this: "I am very proud to think with my own mind. I can see no reason to be “skeptic”, because, whatever the word can mean, it will always be some form of prejudice, and therefore a bias." Let me get this straight. You are saying that a "skeptic" is biased by definition. Is that what you mean? timothya
I am very proud to think with my own mind. I can see no reason to be "skeptic", because, whatever the word can mean, it will always be some form of prejudice, and therefore a bias. Cognitive choices are complex things, and they imply one's whole personality and experience. Intellectual confrontation is only part of them, but at least that part should be managed with honesty. gpuccio
DillyGil wrote this: "If we accept the Bible as true and that it is the designers’ (the author of life who is obviously pro life, pro justice, pro goodness, pro humility, pro love in a way that seems to be missed by many hence why so few seem to understand the OT) manual of life then we can see that there is a check and balance to the human inclination for domination and control and utter wickedness and evil." Wow, that is a big entailment. The problem lies in the "If" part of your proposition. Do you have any evidence (outside of biblewords) that would lead a person to accept your if-proposition as reasonable. PS. "Reasonable" in this context means "something that can be reasoned about using commonly accepted mental tools". timothya
Because rvb8 that is what you are selling here, a tool to sear the conscience. Fortunately people here are not buying it even though you are prepared to give it away for nothing. Praise God. You are going against the author of life. Causing disquiet against him, that is the abundance of your trade. DillyGill
rvb8 @ 17 The crimes of the RCC in the middle ages 1) With holding the Bible from the common man 2) Killing people for 'crimes' against the RCC 3) Selling forgiveness (indulgences) for crimes against God There are three to get you going! (the list is much longer) I would agree that religion can be perverted, indeed the Bible is a book of patterns and types and given how wrong the Israelites got it, that is to say they had a strong religious establishment that Jesus called the synagogue of Satan, there is no reason to assume that the Church is immune to such things. So religion (not the Bible) can be a 'vehicle' for evil. If we accept the Bible as true and that it is the designers' (the author of life who is obviously pro life, pro justice, pro goodness, pro humility, pro love in a way that seems to be missed by many hence why so few seem to understand the OT) manual of life then we can see that there is a check and balance to the human inclination for domination and control and utter wickedness and evil. That is why the RCC with held it from the common man. We should be able to have a religious system that is not perverse however because man kind trusts so well in his God given abilities the tendency is to focus more on doctrine (the Jews called it tradition and that is what Jesus was attacking them for) rather than the Bible. Not that doctrine is necessarily bad however an over dependence on it results in man made wisdom (and corruption) So whilst you celebrate ' Once again, scepticism is rather a new trick' and 'I have said before that today’s sceptics are merely expressing a new found freedom, which hither to, was buried under a mound of religious doctrine and intolerance. Sceptics (and I am very proud to call myself one) no longer need fear religious intolerance as we can say, ‘I have no desire, need, or reason to follow your now discredited faith.’ ' You fail to realise there is no check or balance for you (save your own conscience which is God given and under your world view is just a result of a blind purposeless process so carries no grounding... you know the argument) and there is no check and balance of any authority for the scientific establishment who may decree what ever it likes as good for humanity and if it has sufficient might to effect it then it can, regardless of the anti life sentiment it may contain. Thus making your world view the perfect 'vehicle' for evil because it has no restraint. So trusting in your own wisdom and the good of humanity (both of which are floored, you can not even concede design in life making you a fool and mankind has a long history of the abuse of power) you undermine the Bible, pronounce God evil and proceed to dismantle the fabric of our society, bathing in the honeymoon period of your scepticism. You declare triumphantly 'That’s a good thing, it means one more of humanities shackle is being undermined' failing to realise that whilst there are problems in religious systems all is not going to be well under the new freedom. And indeed these shackles of restraint you mention could be the shackles that have kept the very worst kind of evil from us and that is unrestrained evil. Man with a seared conscience. You are not wrong that religion has bought great difficulties to humanity. That is the fault of man (if you remove religion from history do you really think it would have been people living in peace and harmony??) and with the Bible as a check and balance it has been gotten wrong, how much worse under your would view will it be when the check and balance is science which has no foundation for morality????? I would guess you own a copy of John Lennons' 'Imagine' LOLOLOL DillyGill
Most people are conservative here and would therefore take the word of an organisation that is a conservative bastion; the US Navy. The USN is launching there new carrier fleet, and these Gerald Ford Class carriers are designed with global warming in mind, their bows are strengthened in the anticipation of polar melting. The USN has scientists and weather experts that pay no attention to the squabble in some parts of the US (largely the US, the rest of the world is on board; sorry), they are simply motivated to produce the safest most effective weapons platforms, and that means anticipating areas of future contention; the arctic. I don't know this Soon person, but he would not be hired by the US Navy. rvb8
REC...."I suggest you shut the **** up." Hilarious, on a thread where the blog owner and WJM are commiserating on the utter incivility of those sparring in debate with them. Then again, Barry sets the tone with insults, most recently "sniveling cowards," I believe. I'll take your incivility as notice I've scored a win here, and move on.... REC
Once again, scepticism is rather a new trick. For most of human history being sceptical of power was not only frowned upon it was actively rooted out. The Church in the West was the obvious power base, and with its intimate marriage with nobility kept sceptisism well away; power doesn't like to be questioned. I have said before that today's sceptics are merely expressing a new found freedom, which hither to, was buried under a mound of religious doctrine and intolerance. Sceptics (and I am very proud to call myself one) no longer need fear religious intolerance as we can say, 'I have no desire, need, or reason to follow your now discredited faith.' That's a good thing, it means one more of humanities shackle is being undermined. But it is most important to remember that as a sceptic you must have reasons for your sceptisism. Science is a good place to start, and science web sites; there are many, and most are free. rvb8
REC, I agree that we all should be skeptical of Soon's work. But, not for the reason you point us toward. But for the same reasons we should cast a skeptical eye on any and all researcher's work. Your reason is nothing more than an instance of the genetic fallacy piled upon an ad hominem . If you cannot skeptically look into his methodology, data collection, analysis or conclusion and point us toward some short coming, then I suggest you shut the **** up. If Soon violated some rule or code which he agreed to as part of his employment or funding then he deserves to suffer the repercussions. However, if he uncovered some truth, it is still truth, whether he violated some rule or not. Deal with that and let his overseers deal with his impropriety, if such exists! Stephen SteRusJon
It should not matter where the funding comes from as long as the science is sound- ie can be verified by other impartial or opposing scientists. Joe
REC the strategy of climate change alarmists is also well documented. There isn't any global temperature. We know the climate changes regardless of us. We know there are many factors that determine weather- the climate dictator. Get the jet stream to maintain its current east-coast killing pattern and you will see real climate change and a rise in orange prices. Joe
WJM, just so. As I've noted on the pages before, the denizens of The "Skeptical" Zone (irony quotes intentional), are skeptical of everything but their own beliefs, which they hold with a quasi-religious fervor that would have made a medieval churchman blush. And their beliefs are well within the cultural mainstream. Indeed, I have never read anything on that site that would make any of the occupants of the average faculty lounge the least bit uncomfortable. Barry Arrington
The "skeptics" we're used to, and many who elsewhere call themselves skeptics, are not really skeptics at all; they're ideologically fanatical bullies that employ ridicule and personal attacks as an emotional bludgeon to empower their narrative. Ridicule is not a tool of skepticism, science or logic; it is a tool of intellectual fascism. When you see a group constantly employing ridicule towards other views, they're not really interested in an open exchange or honest debate of ideas. William J Murray
Joe @8-Same non-sequitur. They can fund 'research', but it is the policy of journals and most institutions that researchers disclose conflicts of interest. Soon didn't. He lied. Joe @10-The tobacco industry strategy adopted by climate change skeptics has been well documented. They even collaborated together on "Centers for Sound Science" Old news. http://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/legacy/assets/documents/global_warming/exxon_report.pdf REC
Tobacco has a connection to climate change? Joe
Exactly, Joe. Like the tobacco companies before them. skram
LoL! Of course fossil fuel companies are going to fund research into their products' alleged connection to climate change. Do you really think they are just going to sit around and let people try to shaft them without doing anything? Really??? Joe
OldArmy.....what a total non-sequitur. A warming 'skeptic' has been receiving $$$, and he failed to disclose the conflict of interest on his publications and advocacy. Your reply: yeah, but Greenpeace raises money, also. REC
REC, Let me see your "energy industry and conservative foundation" and raise you multiple global warming advocacy groups: Two environmental activist groups – Greenpeace and The Nature Conservancy – raise more than $1 billion cumulatively per year. These two groups raise more money than the combined funding of the 91 conservative think tanks identified in Brulle’s paper. Just as importantly, these two groups raise money solely for environmental causes and frequently advocate for global warming restrictions. Their $1 billion is not diluted addressing issues such as economic policy, health care policy, foreign policy, etc. Five environment-specific groups alone raise more than $1.6 billion per year (Greenpeace, The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, National Wildlife Federation, and the Sierra Club). All five focus solely on environmental issues and are frequent and prominent advocates for global warming restrictions. When global warming activists claim global warming skeptics receive the lion’s share of funding in the global warming debate, they are lying through their teeth. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamestaylor/2014/01/02/dark-money-funds-to-promote-global-warming-alarmism-dwarf-warming-denier-research/ OldArmy94
I don't even like the word "skeptic" because it is tainted by selective misuse. "Investigator" is a better term because it is much more neutral and less-loaded. OldArmy94
I know one skeptic favored here that we should all be skeptical of: "The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) has launched an inquiry into one of its researchers, solar physicist and global warming sceptic Willie Soon, following the release of documents that detail research funds he and the institution received from the energy industry and a conservative foundation." http://www.nature.com/news/documents-spur-investigation-of-climate-sceptic-1.16972 REC
As to being 'properly' skeptical, this following article is very interesting:
Could classical theory be just as weird as quantum theory? - Feb. 23, 2015 Excerpt: Quantum mechanics is often described as "weird" and "strange" because it abandons many of the intuitive traits of classical physics. For example, the ideas that the world is objective, is deterministic, and exists independent of measurement are basic features of classical theory, but do not always hold up in quantum theory. But what if it turns out that these intuitive ideas are not true features of classical physics, either? Would classical theory be just as weird as quantum theory? In a new study published in Physical Review Letters, physicists Radu Ionicioiu, et al., have shown that the three apparently reasonable classical assumptions mentioned above—objectivity, determinism, and independence—are mutually incompatible with any theory, not only with quantum mechanics. The scientists show that, while any two of the three assumptions are compatible, all three are not. All told, our seemingly reasonable classical assumptions may not be so reasonable after all.,,, In the new work, the researchers questioned the usual assumption that classical ideas, even if incompatible with quantum mechanics, are consistent. Here, objectivity is defined as a photon being either a particle or a wave, but not both. Determinism means that the outcome (whether the photon is a particle or a wave) can be determined if all information about the scenario, including any hidden variables, is known. Independence means that the outcome does not depend on the specific experimental setting. As the physicists explain, because the photon demonstrates both particle and wave behavior in the two different experimental setups, then trying to satisfy all three requirements makes it impossible to have any experimental result at all. As long as different experimental setups yield different types of behavior, then the three intuitive ideas are incompatible, no matter what kind of theory is used.,,, Because any two of the three ideas are mutually compatible, the physicists suggest that it seems most natural to drop the objectivity assumption, while keeping determinism and independence. This choice requires that wave-particle duality be accepted, regardless of its counterintuitive nature. However, knowing for sure will be a subject of future research. http://phys.org/news/2015-02-classical-theory-weird-quantum.html Determinism, Independence, and Objectivity are Incompatible. - 2014 http://journals.aps.org/prl/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevLett.114.060405
Wow if materialism is all there is then someone better call up this 57 year old social worker that just had a veridical nde that was verified to have happened during the time that he had no brain function. Gosh darn it, how do you have conscious awareness without a brain Wilbur ? Duhhhhhh , errr maybe consciousness isn't caused by a material brain but by a material soul jim bob ? Nahhhhh, only idiotic believers believe this . Lets follow the atheists Wilbur because they scream the loudest and I love the way they ridicule believers . http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/11144442/First-hint-of-life-after-death-in-biggest-ever-scientific-study.html The largest ever medical study into near-death and out-of-body experiences has discovered that some awareness may continue even after the brain has shut down completely. One man even recalled leaving his body entirely and watching his resuscitation from the corner of the room. Despite being unconscious and ‘dead’ for three minutes, the 57-year-old social worker from Southampton, recounted the actions of the nursing staff in detail and described the sound of the machines. “We know the brain can’t function when the heart has stopped beating,” said Dr Sam Parnia, a former research fellow at Southampton University, now at the State University of New York, who led the study. “But in this case, conscious awareness appears to have continued for up to three minutes into the period when the heart wasn’t beating, even though the brain typically shuts down within 20-30 seconds after the heart has stopped. “The man described everything that had happened in the room, but importantly, he heard two bleeps from a machine that makes a noise at three minute intervals. So we could time how long the experienced lasted for. “He seemed very credible and everything that he said had happened to him had actually happened.” But Wilbur wasn't doctor parnia a darling of atheist conferences 6 years back . Yea jim bob he was but for some reason he is no longer invited to atheist conferences . Jimbob I bet it was a conspiracy by those wacky Christians. They brain washed him To lie . Oops sorry guys , just thinking out loud . wallstreeter43
as to:
"Most self-proclaimed skeptics are believers in a materialist worldview, and dismiss any evidence for phenomena that do not agree with their assumption that minds are nothing but brain activity confined to the inside of heads."
here is a humorous quote and photo that gets that particular point across quite well:
"Hawking’s entire argument is built upon theism. He is, as Cornelius Van Til put it, like the child who must climb up onto his father’s lap into order to slap his face. Take that part about the “human mind” for example. Under atheism there is no such thing as a mind. There is no such thing as understanding and no such thing as truth. All Hawking is left with is a box, called a skull, which contains a bunch of molecules. Hawking needs God In order to deny Him." - Cornelius Hunter Photo - "of all the things I've lost, I think I miss my mind the most" http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-H-kjiGN_9Fw/URkPboX5l2I/AAAAAAAAATw/yN18NZgMJ-4/s1600/rob4.jpg

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