Pharyngula

I usually like Cornelia Dean’s science reporting, but this recent collection of book reviews put me off from the opening paragraph. She begins with the tired old claim that “scientists have to be brave” to embrace religion. Malarkey. I’ve never heard a scientist bring up the subject of religion, pro or con, at a scientific conference or associated informal gathering. You can be as devout as you want to be with no risk to your professional career (you may even find yourself an icon for the compatibility of science and religion!), and as for your personal life, being religious in a country in which 90% of the residents self-identify as religious, and in which religiosity has become a defining character of our political leadership, is hard to characterize as boldly bucking a trend. The rest of the review is an exercise in credulity.

Dean briefly touches on Dawkins’ and Dennett’s recent books that are critical of religion—they are called “unsatisfying,” and she even uncritically accepts this absurd canard:

In any event, as Dr. Gingerich argues, in simultaneously defending evolution and insisting upon atheism, Dr. Dawkins probably “single-handedly makes more converts to intelligent design than any of the leading intelligent design theorists.”

Yeah, right. The real danger is that Dawkins is converting fence-sitters to fervid Christianity, but Robertson and Falwell and Haggard and every small-town fundamentalist minister? They can preach anti-intellectual, anti-scientific nonsense all they want, and it’s OK, they’re ineffectual. Dennett’s tent-revival atheist-evolutionist ministry is converting people by the thousands, and Dawkins’ televangical broadcast network is raking in the millions. C’mon, Ms. Dean, think. Does that claim make any sense at all? The people who claim that Dawkins convinced them that evolution is false are poseurs who had their mind made up before—and are merely doing their bit to demonize an effective opponent.

Furthermore, if Dawkins and Dennett are “unsatisfying,” what about this?

In “God’s Universe,” Dr. Gingerich, an emeritus professor of astronomy at Harvard, tells how he is “personally persuaded that a superintelligent Creator exists beyond and within the cosmos.”

This absurd comment does not elicit so much as a raised eyebrow from Ms. Dean, it seems. I should like to see the evidence that Gingerich marshals to support this remarkable conclusion. I have a strong suspicion that if it were viewed by someone not predisposed to believe in gods by tradition, upbringing, indoctrination, and ignorance, it would be…unsatisfying.

As is the conclusion to the article.

This is where the scientific method comes in. If scientists are prepared to state their hypotheses, describe how they tested them, lay out their data, explain how they analyze their data and the conclusions they draw from their analyses — then it should not matter if they pray to Zeus, Jehovah, the Tooth Fairy, or nobody.

Their work will speak for itself.

Exactly. We do not trot out Zeus, Jehovah, or the Tooth Fairy to prop up scientific hypotheses. Science does not use the ideas of religion, period. Religion is a failed paradigm.

Here’s a simple thought experiment, though. If some prominent scientist came out with a book in which he claimed that his keen analytical mind and training in science had led him to support the idea of the existence of Zeus or the Tooth Fairy, how would book reviewers and scientists react?

I think the reviews would be very different than if they wrapped themselves in the mantle of conventional piety, as these scientists have done, and decreed that the heavens rejoice in the love of Christ. A scientist arguing for the existence of the Tooth Fairy would prompt concerns about his mental well-being, and much tut-tutting about a good mind lost to senility, and the book would be remaindered as a sad curiosity. Prop up a different mythical figure, one that is dunned into the populace’s communal brain day by day and hour by hour, though, and very few reviewers and readers will even pause to think, “this is nuts!”

The reviewers might even call the author “brave.”

Comments

  1. #1 LBFS
    July 25, 2006

    Thank you for saying what needs to be said about these lunatics! I often find myself sputtering with rage, which prevents me from being as articulate as you are.

  2. #2 Carlie
    July 25, 2006

    I read this article this morning – I’m surprised that you didn’t comment on the one sentence that made me sputtering mad.

    “Also, people who read these books will realize that it is impossible to tar all scientists with the brush of amorality.”

    Right. Because not being religious AUTOMATICALLY makes one amoral. It was just slipped in there as a matter of course, that amorality is equivalent with atheism, so only the religious scientists aren’t amoral.

  3. #3 Steve LaBonne
    July 25, 2006

    WTF is up with the Times these days??

  4. #4 GH
    July 25, 2006

    I would just add that the 90% of people being religious is abit hyped. By all indicators non religious is the fastest growing group in America and those that do claim religiosity are by and large a ‘spiritual’ type religion. At least according to polls some people of another branch of religion found discomforting.

  5. #5 PZ Myers
    July 25, 2006

    I agree that there is more agnosticism and general freethought than is usually acknowledged…however, even there, those liberal semi-religious people aren’t going to make life difficult for a scientist who goes to church regularly, so there isn’t much bravery to declaring your religiosity.

    Even if the country were 90% hardline atheist, like me, the worst such a person would face is excessive eye-rolling.

  6. #6 Marc Buhler
    July 25, 2006

    Three years ago I attended the XIX International Congress of Genetics in Melbourne and there was a special opening session with Sydney Brenner, Charles Yanofsky, Seymour Benzer and others being feted (James Watson was not able to attend and Francis Crick sent a video message). During that session, the panel – the guys who made many of the basic discoveries of that time – spoke scathingly and at length of those who deny the clear evolutionary basis of biology (the “religious right”). Imagine being one of these guys, having helped to decipher the basic facets of genetics, and someone turns to you and says you and your whole life’s work are wrong because it isn’t what the bible says. http://www.geneticscongress2003.com/ (I was also lucky enough to have my abstract selected for a talk at this meeting.) All the fundamentalists’ ears should have turned red.
    (signed) marc

  7. #7 Ian H Spedding
    July 25, 2006

    If Dean wants “brave” she should look to the high school science teachers. “Brave” is being a lone voice trying to provide a good education in the basics of science in the face of unremitting hostility and intimidation from students, parents and even professional colleagues and supervisors.

  8. #8 Uber
    July 25, 2006

    I appreciate that Ian. I am one of those HS biology teachers. Fortunately I also am one of the most popular teachers which has a few perks. One of which is a general immunity to most BS. Doesn’t stop all of it, but it does slow it. I start my year with evolution and changed my lesson plans to do so last year. I felt it was a good way to unify all the biological information and detail how science works.

    Now the teacher beside me is an out and out creationist who says there is no evidence for evolution all the while believing voices speak to her. A very sweet lady but not a person well grounded in science. Many of her students come to me to discuss evolution as she simply won’t discuss it other than a basic presentation of the material.

  9. #9 Will E.
    July 25, 2006

    “Dr. Dawkins probably ‘single-handedly makes more converts to intelligent design than any of the leading intelligent design theorists.'”

    When will the correlate be true–“Stop talking about God, or you’ll turn everyone into atheists!”?

  10. #10 Steve LaBonne
    July 25, 2006

    And Gingerich, being a scientist, can back up his claim about dawkins with evidence. Right?

    (Actually Gingerich hasn’t really been a scientist for very a long time, even before he retired. Even way back when I was an undergrad at Harvard he was pretty much strictly a historian.)

  11. #11 DragonScholar
    July 25, 2006

    PZ,

    You make a point I’ve not thought of – it’s apparently acceptable to speaking of science in pseudo-Chritian terms and get plenty of defenders. However, if one was to choose a less popular religion, one would likely be derided for it – OR outright ignored.

    For instance, I don’t see a lot of IDers out there talking about Anicent Astronaut theories, Zecharia Sitchin, etc. Funny, that.

  12. #12 CrazyChemist
    July 25, 2006

    P.Z.: I disagree with your comment on how if the roles were reversed, religious people would be treated better than atheists are treated now. I think the only reason why atheism is generally a pretty moral philosophy for life is because most people who are atheists are also progressive, educated and intellectual, things that would likely make you a decent and kind person on their own. There’s no way you could maintain that sort of correlation if the majority of people did not believe in a god.

    I’m sure it’s not hard to find examples of atheists who are no more tolerant of religious people than religious people are of atheists. The only difference is that those sorts of atheists don’t belong to the sort of herd that religious people do, and so aren’t able to bring the sort of discrimination forward that they’d like to. Believe me, I’ve met a few people that make Dawkins and Dennet look like religious apologists.

  13. #13 Alexander Vargas
    July 25, 2006

    Dean says
    Dr. Dawkins probably “single-handedly makes more converts to intelligent design than any of the leading intelligent design theorists.”

    And PZ says
    Yeah, right. The real danger is that Dawkins is converting fence-sitters to fervid Christianity, but Robertson and Falwell and Haggard and every small-town fundamentalist minister?

    PZ, she said converting them to ID, not to fundamentalist christianity.
    We are not talking here about the conversion of non believers or normal christians into fundametalists. No, we are talking mostly about people with religious feelings converting to ID.
    I agree with her. Dawkins has increased the number of people opposing evolution (of course, not as much as a Behe, mind you, but still so)
    And the way it works is very simple. Dawkins first makes some fallacies that are evident to any smart religious person, like equating religion to superstition. And he quite obviously wants to force people into a fallacious decision: It’s either science or religion.
    Since most people are religious, dawkins leaves them witht wo options: 1) Trust me on everything!! I am a SCIENTIST, reason itself incarnated!!!! Have faith in ME and abandon religion!!! or 2) the religious person may consider that Dawkins’s can be wrong and his evolution, just bad science. Which way do you think things will tilt if they realize that some of Dawkins arguments against ireligion are unfair?

    The religious person (which, as we know, is the majority of people all over the world) by only getting a wiff of Dawkins can sense a biased hostility towards religion and wonder whether his evolutionary beliefs are just a part of that, and not honest science.

  14. #14 Steve_C
    July 25, 2006

    I’m tired of the anti-dawkins crowd and their lamebrained theories.

    Hmmm. Who’s more believable… Dawkins or Robertson?

    If a fence sitter can’t see it… then they’re already a lost cause.

  15. #15 j
    July 25, 2006

    I don’t know about that, Alexander Vargas. ID/creationism is religion behind a flimsy façade. Can ID/creationism and religion really be separated? Can anybody argue against ID/creationism without arguing against religion?

  16. #16 Steve LaBonne
    July 25, 2006

    CrazyChemist, religious believers have never been persecuted except by believers in other religions (inclusive of non-theistic ones like communism).

  17. #17 Alexander Vargas
    July 25, 2006

    “Can anybody argue against ID/creationism without arguing against religion?”

    Certainly, and even for entirely religious reasons. For example, these tendencies wish to substitute faith for some kind of “logical conclusion” where no personal choice is possible. Its against the mysticism that is the true core (and joy) of any sincere religous belief.

    ID , of course, is relgiously motivated, but truly, it is too much of a “sciency” subject for most religious people, who would normally care much about jesus, the bible etc… unless of course a “social movement” becomes notorious that invokes evolution to say all their religion is BS…THEN, they will begin to care, and become vocal about favoring ID.

  18. #18 Scott Hatfield
    July 25, 2006

    PZ:

    Here’s a thought. I agree: few, if any readers are going to turn to religion because of their distaste for Dr. Dawkins. That’s because, no matter how odious some might find it, at the end of the day, it’s just an idea in a book. It’s not a manifesto for a religious or political movement.

    But I don’t think the same thing is true for a Pat Robertson or a Jerry Falwell! Why is the percentage of free thinkers in North America growing, as many posters here seem to indicate? I think, in part, as a negative reaction to the ideas of the fundamentalists and the manner in which their spin on ancient texts is being pushed in the schools, the courts, the legislature. They are pushy in a way that Dr. Dawkins could never be.

    So, I think there’s merit to the sort of argument that Gingerich uses. I just think he’s got the wrong target. I wish people like him would show more interest in the fundamentalists, who truly are in the business of ‘taking liberties’, rather than the strongly-held views of one particular scientist.

    Sincerely…Scott

  19. #19 Steve_C
    July 25, 2006

    What social movement would that be?

  20. #20 GH
    July 25, 2006

    Dawkins has increased the number of people opposing evolution

    Evidence for this statement please? His books are so widely read I think the contrary is much more likely.

    evident to any smart religious person, like equating religion to superstition

    Shouldn’t any smart person be able to see that religions are superstitions with a structure built up around them. How is that offensive if it’s obvious? Whats wrong with pointing that out?

    Why can one simply not just see the overwhelming probability that the religion you practice is what was thrust upon you as a child and admit as such.

    oh and:

    ) Trust me on everything!! I am a SCIENTIST, reason itself incarnated!!!! Have faith in ME and abandon religion!!!

    Only an idiot sees that in what Dawkins writes given his oft repeated statements about evidence and the scietific method. He never asks or says anything that you are saying. Your building a strawman.

  21. #21 Steve_C
    July 25, 2006

    What social movement would that be?

  22. #22 valhar2000
    July 25, 2006

    Well done, PZ! (Not that I would ever expect anything less from you)

    It was about time that some-one pointed out that religion is highly developed superstition, and that there is no more irrationality involved in beleiving in the tooth faery than there is in practicing religion. As a matter of fact, if there was nto such a huge and overwhelming bias in favour of religion all over the world, religious fundametalists would be classed as insane and committed to mental hospitals (since, without the religious bias, religion and mental disease are indistinguishable; I’ve seen both first hand).

  23. #23 Alexander Vargas
    July 25, 2006

    Steve, not a social movement wearing a badge or anything formally organized, but just a noticeable set of opinions usually from an “intellectual” segment of the population

    “Dawkins has increased the number of people opposing evolution
    Evidence for this statement please? His books are so widely read I think the contrary is much more likely.”

    Dawkins is popular precisely because he exploits a simplistic notion lots of people can come up with: a dichotomy between religion and science, with religion being wrong and bad as a scientific conclusion. He sells lots of books, because he peddles an easy, unoriginal idea that people can latch onto to feel like true warrios of reason, fighting the good fight.

    And because he IS quite widely read, religious people cannot always ignore him or his fans. If Dawkins forces religious people into a decision, most of the times it will be that they will start rejecting evolution rather than abandon faith
    (in this I disagree a bit with Scott, though I agree with him that the pushiness and silly staments of the religous fundies is what is bringing them down… NOT Dawkins, NOT guys like PZ).

    “Shouldn’t any smart person be able to see that religions are superstitions with a structure built up around them. How is that offensive if it’s obvious? Whats wrong with pointing that out?”

    Well you are just rocking on your wooden horse here. If someone does not agree that religion is, in essence, superstition, he must not be smart, huh?
    Superstition is anecodtal and unprofound. Walking under the ladder or breaking the mirror are just not comparable with, for instance, moral and ethical reflections that were first produced within religion (not science) on humanistic tiopics like “do unto others” or the relation between destruction and creativty of the hindus, etc. Just equating relgion to superstition is simplistic and ignorant.

    “Why can one simply not just see the overwhelming probability that the religion you practice is what was thrust upon you as a child and admit as such.”

    Not that overwhelmingly. People can switch religious beliefs or abandom them, sometimes massively as documented by history.

    “Only an idiot sees that in what Dawkins writes given his oft repeated statements about evidence and the scietific method. He never asks or says anything that you are saying. Your building a strawman”

    I´m not saying that Dawkins says that explicitly, but thatbthis is the option relgious people feel that he is giving them, and I do think Dawkins feels he “represents reason”, but he has major, quite noticeable flops, both scientifically and in his ideas about religion.

  24. #24 Steve_C
    July 25, 2006

    http://onegoodmove.org/1gm/1gmarchive/2006/07/murder_did_i_sa.html

    You’re hemming and hawing just like the white house.

    Is there are movement or not?

  25. #25 Alexander Vargas
    July 25, 2006

    Steve, good grief. Your a cheerleaadr. You never give me something to think about!!! All you do is “be partisan” ARGUE!! dammit

  26. #26 George
    July 25, 2006

    Dawkins doesn’t ask people to have faith in Dawkins, he points to the science and points to the religion and makes perfectly valid points about the wackiness and danger of religion and the credibility of the scientific enterprise.

    Responding to Dawkins’ attacks by being even more pig-headedly pro-religion is just more proof of the religious person’s basic inability to critically examine their religious beliefs.

    Dawkins is a very effective proselytizer for science and atheism and more of his kind are sorely needed in a world swamped by kooky proselytizers for religion.

  27. #27 j
    July 25, 2006

    “Can anybody argue against ID/creationism without arguing against religion?”

    Certainly, and even for entirely religious reasons. For example, these tendencies wish to substitute faith for some kind of “logical conclusion” where no personal choice is possible. Its against the mysticism that is the true core (and joy) of any sincere religous belief.

    Are you saying that it is preferable to use a religious argument against ID, or are you just giving an example?

  28. #28 Mong H Tan, PhD
    July 25, 2006

    Greetings, Everybody, Mind, and Spirit! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Specifically, Dr. PZ Myers: Contrary to your conclusion above, I think Ms Cornelia Dean has had presented a fairly good survey of the several new books on Science and Religion, to be (or have been) published by the prominent scientists in the US and the UK.

    And, her conclusion on the negative effects that Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett have had brought upon to themselves, is especially critical and acute, from her global view of the affair–ie, Religionism vs. Scientism in general, and Neocreationism vs. Evolutionism in particular–an important debate that I have had also a chance of observing and commenting on, since after the publication of my own book Gods, Genes, Conscience in January 2006, online; and at a time which was coincidental to the 30th anniversary celebration of the British renowned atheist Dawkins’ bestseller The Selfish Gene (1976)!

    Recently (also as contrary to your arguemnets above) I discovered a new posting (May 18) that came after my (April 2) posting in the GuardianUK, in opposing to the idea of enlisting The Selfish Gene therein, as a science canon!

    For your convenience, let me present all these postings (including one that I responded on June 1) herein, with minor editings (as there are several US keystrokes are incompactable with the GuardianUK files); and I would like you all be the judge, scientific and religious, in this matter of importance and consequences–especially as far as Science education and integrity in the UK is concerned; let alone the now worldwide phenomenon, whereupon we are increasingly facing the rise of religious fundamentalism (Religionism and ID neocreationism) as well as Scientism and Evolutionism, as exemplified by the work of Dawkins’ above, and the US Tufts philosophy professor Dennett’s bestseller Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (February 2006), which I’ve had also characterized as an anti-Darwinism, Scientism, as well as anti-Religionism–wherein Dennett has had implied Religion as a parasitism, blindly in attempt to resurrect the faulty theory of meme (or myth that I would prefer to call), in the metaphysical wordplay that was initially conceived by Dawkins in his first book The Selfish Gene, over 30 years ago!

    ————————————————————

    To the Editor [Comment is free GuardianUK; April 2]:

    I read Ian McEwan’s article A Parallel Tradition with great interest (Guardian Unlimited, April 1); and couldn’t resist to post my relevant responses in this Sue Blackmore’s column The selfish gene’s birthday hereunder. Subject: Apologia for Scientism

    What an Apologia for the Richard Dawkins’ scientism propagated in The Selfish Gene, by equating Dawkins’ modern evolutionism to the tradition of good science literature! Didn’t McEwan realize that The Selfish Gene has had spawned a scientistic groupie of ibots–intellectual robots–who has had since lost their own critical and scientific thinkings? Obviously McEwan is one among them!

    What Dawkins has had created is a modern evolutionism, or a genetic determinism to be exact, that if Charles Darwin could have had found out, he would have had turned over in his grave!

    Darwinian biology is based on the traditional science of taxonomy and material empiricism; whereas genetic determinism is merely based on Dawkins’ metaphysical thinking and definition and wordplay that he misconceived over 30 years ago as a result of his training in ethology–the study of animal behaviorism–while later he decided to venture into modern biology and molecular genetics, instead.

    These academic misadventures have had created Dawkins a genetic determinist in his pure intellectual and literary pursuit, while without realizing that his blind (without any scientific basis or empiricism) pursuit of genetic determinism, has had been likened to his throwing out of the baby (evolutionary biology) with the bathwater (the scientific spirits of Charles Darwin or Darwinism)!

    Therefore, like the self-defeatist Intelligent Design neocreationism of today in the US, Genetic Determinism is anti-Darwinism! If McEwan could list The Selfish Gene as a traditional science canon, we might as well throw James Frey’s bestseller A Million Little Pieces into the mix of good English-language literature!

    Thank you for your kind attention and cooperation in this matter.

    Sincerely, Mong 4/2/6usct3:55p; author Gods, Genes, Conscience (iUniverse, January 2006) and http://www.GodsGenesConscience.blogspot.com (February 2006).

    ————————————————————

    Subject: Selfish Genes are killing science [Comment is free GuardianUK; May 18]

    Fearing a US-style revival of religion as an alternative to science, the Royal Society recently decided to oppose the teaching of Creationism and intelligent design in UK schools. Some of the same celebrity scientists backing this position are also speaking out against the closure of university science departments, despite evidence that there is an ongoing decline in the number of school leavers wanting to study their courses. It is time they saw the connection.

    A few years ago, a professor in a UK university contacted my research team to see whether we could help reform their increasingly unpopular physical science undergraduate degrees. We suggested what we felt were some common sense reforms making the relevance of the science to social and environmental problems explicit from the first lecture, and sacrificing some of the rote-learning of “basic” facts for a more problem-based synthetic approach.

    Our proposals were never acted on. We heard reports that les eminences grises had dismissed them as a step backwards. They would rather stick to the traditional approach, and hope the students eventually saw the light. This year their Vice-chancellor announced that recruitment had nose-dived further, and that their whole department was to be closed.

    Though the lack of attractive and well-paying careers may be one cause, the fall in demand for science courses is also linked to a sense among young people of a moral emptiness in traditional science.

    For much of the twentieth century new generations struggled, often against the odds, to have a career in science because they believed that more science would mean greater social progress. Today’s youth see a political system that seems unable to address rising poverty or runaway climate change. They rightly conclude that solving scientific puzzles or inventing new gadgets alone is unlikely to save the world. This is where religions such as Christianity and Islam, with their strong emphasis on social justice, are coming back to haunt the rationalists.

    The teaching of Biblical accounts of humanity’s origins as having an equal factual basis to biological evolution is, as Britain’s teachers voted this spring, nonsensical. Yet few of the sofa scientists acknowledge the need to understand the causes of the revival of Creationism, not merely condemn its consequences.

    The quasi-religious belief in the selfish gene by the political class in the UK also helped lay the ground for a return to Creationism. Richard Dawkins justifies unfettered free-market capitalism as if it naturally follows from the laws of nature; and despite New Labour’s tinkering, these ultra-Darwinists have helped create a culture that values the pursuit of individual gain above all else.

    So should young people believe that selfishness or solidarity is at the heart of humanity? In contrast to their prominence elsewhere, I didn’t see many selfish gene advocates taking a leading role in Make Poverty History last year. Like the then-editor of Science, Daniel Koshland, maybe they think poverty is “in the genes.” Economics used to be called the “dismal science,” but now it seems biology is in danger of joining it.

    Too many academic scientists who make a virtue of the amoral nature of scientific inquiry when appearing in the mass media. Yet most young people realise that science conducted without a valuing of the very un-selfish concept of universal human rights ultimately leads to programmes such as eugenics and the cold logic of Nazi gas chambers. All sciences will have to become less dismal, and more moral, if they are to inspire young people again.

    There are some exciting new initiatives that seem to be moving in this direction, such as the University of Plymouth’s Holistic Science degree, or the University of Strathclyde’s collaboration with the Centre for Human Ecology. Even the Hippocratic Oath for scientists recently launched by the Council on Science and Technology was a small step in the right direction.

    Some among a new generation of scientists give me hope about the future of our profession. They are modest about the certainty of their knowledge and open to including broader perspectives in their judgements than those that come out of the laboratory. But by living out the saying that “it is not new ideas that triumph, but old professors who pass away,” Britain’s celebrity spokespeople for science are holding us back. They are making the public think that nothing fundamental about the way we do science needs to change.

    Tom Wakeford is Director of Co-Inquiry at the Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences Research Centre, University of Newcastle. His latest book Liaisons of Life (Wiley) explores alternatives to ultra-Darwinism.

    ————————————————————

    Subject: Rescind Scientism and Evolutionism Now! [Comment is free GuardianUK; June 1]

    Thanks to Tom Wakeford, now, I know that I was not the only proverbial little boy, who could see that our Emperor in Darwinism actually has no clothes! (see my post above)

    Recently I tried to review the World of Richard Dawkins on his selfish robotic genetics and memetics, but to no avail. Apparently his web pages have had been delisted. Whereas in the Guardian archives, there are still 2 silly nilly statements, that may well become the proverbial nails to his mindless, emotionless, robo-genetic Determinism or Evolutionism coffin, so to speak, and quoted as follows:

    1) We admit that we are like apes, but we seldom realize that we are apes; and
    2) Life results from the non-random survival of randomly varying replicators.

    As I analyzed above, these lines of scientistic thinking ring hollow in the name of Science; and they certainly run counter to the scientific empiricism of Charles Darwin, or Darwinism, intellectually and spiritually. That is why the US Intelligent Design neocreationists love Dawkins Evolutionism turned anti-Darwinism as anti-Religionism!

    As such, I hereby request that both Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett rescind immediately their armchair Scientism–their misusing Darwinism as anti-Religionism–as they have had been propagating in their respective bestsellers The Selfish Gene (1976) and Breaking the Spell (February 2006). In fact, as any hands-on hard-working scientists and philosophers can attest, that Science–as a transparent means of truth knowledge seeking method–will not and should not quarrel with any Faiths of the world; only Scientism and Evolutionism as relentlessly and myopically pursued by Dawkins and Dennett, will!

    Furthermore, in order to move on and beyond these senseless Scientism vs. Religionism in general, and Evolutionism vs. Creationism in particular, I have just started a new forum/thread with the Physorg.com entitled Let’s begin the Dialogue and Reconciliation of Science and Religion Now! (also listed in my very simple blog http://www.GodsGenesConscience.blogspot.com), so as to stimulate ourselves to see if we can all evolve to be a better and wiser humanity worldwide–especially in the post 9/11/2001 world today and beyond.

    At your convenience, please feel free to comment on the above forum/thread. Thank you all for your kind attention and cooperation in this matter. Happy reading, thinking, and scrutinizing!

    Sincerely, Mong 6/1/6usct1:49a; author Gods, Genes, Conscience (iUniverse, January 2006) and http://www.GodsGenesConscience.blogspot.com (February 2006); a freelance philosopher of mind, whose work is based on current advances in interdisciplinary science and integrative psychology of Science and Religion worldwide; ethically, morally.

    ————————————————————

    Thank you all for your kind attention and cooperation in this matter. Happy reading, thinking, scrutinizing, and enlightening! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Best wishes, Mong 7/25/6usct12:42p; author Gods, Genes, Conscience and Gods, Genes, Conscience: Global Dialogues Now; a cyberspace hermit-philosopher of Modern Mind, whose works are based on the current advances in interdisciplinary science and integrative psychology of Science and Religion worldwide; ethically, morally; metacognitively, and objectively.

  29. #29 Steve_C
    July 25, 2006

    I’m just saying your answer was a non-answer.

    You claim there’s a movement forcing people to ID. And you point to Dawkins as the apparent leader. Then you say you didn’t really mean a “movement” per se. And that Dawkins doesn’t actually SAY anything to force people to ID. It’s just his attitude.

  30. #30 Alexander Vargas
    July 25, 2006

    ID is bad for religion and for science. This is an example why it is silly from a religious point of view. ID is also plainly dishonest and unsincere to anyone because guys like Behe act like they are unclear about common descent (when what the really want to say is “no common descent”) and also say its “just about science” (when they know they want “god”, and knowing also the supernatural is unavoidable for ID theory)
    Scientifically, as we all know, ID provides no mechanism and is thus vacuous, worthless to science.

  31. #31 Zac, PhD
    July 25, 2006

    Dear Mong, PhD

    Your ideas are intriguing and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

    Sincerely Zac, author Gods, Genes, Conscience and Nature’s Simultaneous 4-day Time Cube

  32. #32 Schrodingers Gnu
    July 25, 2006

    CrazyChemist – Take a visit to Sweden. IIRC, about half the country characterizes themselves as “not religious”, and only about 10% goes regularly to church (well, technically, I think more people go to the mosque than the church, these days, as Sweden has a fairly large proportion of muslim immigrants).

    Yet Swedes are quite nice people. Honest, generous, peaceful. It contributes more to the UN and to international aid than almost any other country as a percentage of GNP. It has a social security system that is usually the envy of other nations (even though it is faltering). Sweden hasn’t been in a war since 1848. All qualities I’d equate with a “moral society”, even though most swedes aren’t liberal academics…

    Although, admittedly, your thought might have the merit of we extend the thought to entire societies instead of individuals. If we refer to Sweden as a highly enlightened society, then it makes sense that it would also be non-religious.

    And I kind of like the tag-line “Sweden – the liberal academic of the western world”

  33. #33 Steve_C
    July 25, 2006

    hey MONG.

    No one cares! That’s annoying. Post a link not an entire thread. Geeze.

  34. #34 Steve_C
    July 25, 2006

    Oh great. Another Time-cuber.

    They’re crawling out of the woodworks,

  35. #35 j
    July 25, 2006

    Maybe I should start all my comments with “Greetings, Everybody, Mind, and Spirit! 🙂 🙂 :)”; it’s kind of catchy.

  36. #36 Steve_C
    July 25, 2006

    Greeting everybody from the Conscious and subconcious within the TimeCube!

  37. #37 Scott Hatfield
    July 25, 2006

    Dr. Mong:

    I’m afraid I must disagree rather strongly with your characterization of Dr. Dawkins. I myself am a believer, but in my reading of and personal dealings with the holder of the Simonyi Chair I find nothing that would indict him as a practicioner of ‘armchair scientism.’ The charge is ridiculous, as the way you claim to demonstrate this would indict my practice as a high school biology teacher.

    Evolution is a fact. My students deserve respect for their individual views, but they also deserve candor, and I do them no service if I pretend that evolution does not pose a challenge for organized religion. Teaching this in no way turns science into a religion, and Dr. Dawkins, in my estimation, provides believers an invaluable service by clearly demonstrating the problems that an evolutionary worldview presents for theodicy.

    Further, finding intellectual fulfillment in atheism, as Dawkins describes is manifestly not the same thing as having faith. Skepticism is a necessary condition for evaluating claims, not an item of dogma in a belief system. Nor would any careful reader of his work see his ideas as being proscriptive for doing science, nor yet as a manifesto for reform. One might as well indict David Hume.

    Sincerely,

    Scott

  38. #38 George
    July 25, 2006

    From the article: “Of course, just as the professors of faith cannot prove (except to themselves) that God exists, the advocates for atheism acknowledge that they cannot prove (not yet, anyway ) that God does not exist.”

    For me, that says it in a nutshell:

    No evidence for God, but I’m going to go ahead and believe anyway

    vs.

    No evidence for God, so why should I / how could I make claims for his/her/its existence?

    One person’s lack of evidence is grounds for faith, another person’s lack of evidence is grounds for scepticism.

    Those who go the faith route gain the ability to make a lot of stuff up.

    Those who go the scepticism route have no reason to believe the claims of the faithful – it’s all made up.

    And never the twain shall meet.

  39. #39 Dan
    July 25, 2006

    Alexander Vargas:

    Well you are just rocking on your wooden horse here. If someone does not agree that religion is, in essence, superstition, he must not be smart, huh?

    In essence, yes. Religion, pretty much by definition, is nothing more than formalized, ritualized, fetishized superstition. The fact that most religions are so ancient that their superstitious bases are so encrusted with “tradition” so as not to be immediately obvious doesn’t change that.

    All religions are, at their core, just as simplistic and ignorant as silly modern superstitions. Just because you’ve got incense and magic crackers or recite special poems and are led by sexually frustrated closet-cases wearing funny clothes won’t make you special in that regard.

    Superstition is anecodtal and unprofound. Walking under the ladder or breaking the mirror are just not comparable with, for instance, moral and ethical reflections that were first produced within religion (not science) on humanistic tiopics like “do unto others” or the relation between destruction and creativty of the hindus, etc. Just equating relgion to superstition is simplistic and ignorant.

    Your assertion is anecdotal and unprofound. It is just as likely, and in fact probably more so, that these “moral and ethical reflections” you cite, being for the most part rather logical outgrowths of some pretty basic biological imperatives or simple observations of the natural world, were formulated first and that religions were later built up to justify them a posteriori once humanity developed a capacity for abstract, imaginitive thought. Human ancestors were working together for the common good of their little societies long before they started burying their dead, a fairly unambiguous indicator of religious or proto-religious ideas.

    Furthermore, silly modern superstitions like “step on a crack, break your mother’s back” are relatively recent developments. Most are less than 200 years old, and those that are older (tarot, kabbalah, etc.) have already noticeably acquired some of the trappings of organized religion (rituals, slogans, social heirarchies, etc.). Given another 5000-7000 years, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see an agglomeration of silly modern superstitions develop into a full-blown religion of its own.

  40. #40 Scott Hatfield
    July 25, 2006

    j writes: “Are you saying that it is preferable to use a religious argument against ID, or are you just giving an example?”

    I don’t know whether it’s preferable or not, but MY GOODNESS in my dealings with IDevotees and other creationists the arguments that absolutely INFURIATE them are theological, rather than scientific. And, I might add, they get REALLY mad if you point out that you’re a believer who accepts evolution, much more so in my experience than if you don’t.

    So, since some of you guys seem to enjoy infuriating these folks, the irony is that you might get more satisfaction by employing religious arguments.

    Coyly….Scott

  41. #41 Torbjörn Larsson
    July 25, 2006

    This article sets off people on various things. I was offended by the faulty comparison between science and religion. So, to let off some steam:

    “whether faith in God can coexist with faith in the scientific method.”

    One of my pet peeves. Faith connotes unquestioning a priori belief, while truth connotes confidence gained a posteriori with consistent outcome. In effect Dean compares a religion with a tool. This is even more stupid than denying the basic conflict between the two world views of science and religions.

    “But these sermons, which the authors preach with what can fairly be described as religious fervor, are unsatisfying.”

    Now judging between science and junk science, or proposing a testable explanation for a phenomena, are “sermons” that are “preached” with “religious fervor”? Not only is Dean making the invalid comparison again, she feel obliged to suggest this especially for the atheist authors. This is offensive, which no doubt was the point. An unbiased book review is so boring, after all.

    And finally Dean puts her own belief out there:

    “Of course there is no credible scientific challenge to Darwinian evolution as an explanation for the diversity and complexity of life on earth. So what? The theory of evolution says nothing about the existence or nonexistence of God. People might argue about what sort of supreme being would work her will through such a seemingly haphazard arrangement, but that is not the same as denying that she exists in the first place.”

    Of course the only way this argument works is by making the teleological assumption. The physics of a universe may never allow abiogenesis and evolution, and evolutionary mechanisms could result in any sorts of life within the constraints of physics.

    But Dean makes also the completely opposite but again faulty assumption, that scientists has necessarily a simplified view on religion:
    “Coming as they do from a milieu in which religious belief of any kind is often dismissed as little more than magical thinking, this is bravery indeed.”

    It is true that religion is based on magical thinking and that is the basis for the conflict between science and religion. But it is itself a common and simplified view on what any person may think on religion. Religion as a social and philosophical phenomena is a large subject.

    Allowing herself to make so many faults, maybe Dean was trying to be “brave” too. 🙂

  42. #42 Alexander Vargas
    July 25, 2006

    “these “moral and ethical reflections” you cite, being for the most part rather logical outgrowths of some pretty basic biological imperatives or simple observations of the natural world, were formulated first and that religions were later built up to justify them a posteriori once humanity developed a capacity for abstract, imaginitive thought.
    Human ancestors were working together for the common good of their little societies long before they started burying their dead, a fairly unambiguous indicator of religious or proto-religious ideas”

    Thats fine, but the fact that these abstract and imaginative thinking, however “a posteriory”, have been developed, kept and reinforced in religious frameworks, should be enough for you to realize that religion cannot be reduced to superstition, even if you may argue there is a “superstitious” component.

    “Given another 5000-7000 years, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see an agglomeration of silly modern superstitions develop into a full-blown religion of its own”

    Nonsense. You mean that black cats, broken mirrors and stuff like that will just condense into a religion in the future? No. Anything that is to develop into a full-blown religion must provide an existencial framework that fits into the needs of a society at a given historical moment.
    Right now,the huge amount of truly impressive knowledge accumulated in science contrastsstrongly with its failure to succesfully or convincingly provide an existential framework, that people have become disappointed, they have turned their back on science. They are bored with atoms, neurons, molecules, and planets that however wondrously and perfectly known, they cannot feel they relate it in any significant way to the quite real problems of their own personal lives and of the ongoing problems of humanity at large. They seem just like some huge almanaque, a guiness book of useless knowledge whose bulk itself emphasizes its uselessnes.
    People expected high scientifi development to bring nothing less than a peaceful, enlightened and rational society, where existence would be fulfilling. And scientist can only respond by invoking that it IS going to come, yes, only it is STILL in the future…
    But people have to deal with their lives NOW

    And therefore, they may turn to religion, of course

  43. #43 George
    July 25, 2006

    “They are bored with atoms, neurons, molecules, and planets that however wondrously and perfectly known, they cannot feel they relate it in any significant way to the quite real problems of their own personal lives and of the ongoing problems of humanity at large.”

    I’m generalizing, but I would argue that most people don’t have a clue about atoms, molecules, and planets. They haven’t had nearly enough exposure to the science of the world around them. That’s why they fall for religions so easily.

  44. #44 ctw
    July 25, 2006

    Ms dean’s review of dennett’s book calls into question whether she read it or just started with some preconceptions, found a statement or two supporting them, and moved on to the next book.

    “Dennett … refers again and again to the “brave” researchers (including himself) who challenge religion.”

    after two readings of the book, I don’t remember any significant number of instances, which is probably a commentary on my reading retention but is nonetheless suggestive that it wasn’t repetitive to the point of being noticable. and altho certainly the integrating theme of ms dean’s review, it wasn’t at all a theme of the book.

    “Dawkins and Dennett sound two major themes: a) the theory of evolution is correct, and creationism and its cousin, intelligent design, are wrong; and b) a field of research called evolutionary psychology can explain why religious belief seems to be universal among Homo sapiens. … these sermons, which the authors preach with what can fairly be described as religious fervor, are unsatisfying.”

    and a) is noteworthy because?? the converse theme would be, but this just establishes their rationality. and in the case of dennett, b) is flat out wrong. his discussion of EP (late in the book, so maybe ms dean did read it) is replete with caveats about the embryionic state of the field. ms dean is clearly trying to play on the “science is religion” ploy – not very impressive for a science writer.

    “which leads one to ask, who are these books for?”

    well, if ms dean had made it to the introduction of dennett’s book, she would have discovered the answer – see below.

    “… filled as they are with denunciation not just of their [religious people’s] ideas but of themselves”

    this highlights a problem that all critics of religion face. dennett’s book is for the religious; he literally begs the religious reader to give him a fair hearing; he makes no dawkins-style inflammatory claims; but he necessarily has to confront some uncomfortable (for the religious) truths. and that, to the apparently hyper-sensitive ms dean, constitutes “denunciation”, a catch-22 theme prominent in the book. ie, she missed the whole point.

    that even a potentially supportive reviewer so misunderstands and/or misrepresents dennett’s book is reason to doubt that it – or any other so themed – can have the intended effect of opening a rational dialogue.

  45. #45 Alexander Vargas
    July 25, 2006

    Truly so, they may not have a clue, but they for sure can tell that in fact a great deal IS known, with complexity and detail. Eb¡ven if they do not understand it. the fact they cannot understand it is a testimony of how much there actually is to know.
    And that is all what is takes to feel the a huge contrast between that great knowledge, and the fact that utopia has not come closer, that scienc si not providing an existential framework. He begins to suspect that science cannot be the answer.

  46. #46 Steve LaBonne
    July 25, 2006

    If they had a $&^%*# clue what their lives would be like without science, they’d start to care a hell of a lot more…

  47. #47 Steve LaBonne
    July 25, 2006

    …assuming they would be alive at all, since among other things the population the earth could support would be a whole lot smaller…

  48. #48 Alexander Vargas
    July 25, 2006

    I think they can acknowledge what science does for them, but they feel it is insufficient, that they need a more social and immediate existential scheme that science may not be able to provide.

    This makes me think what Lewontin says about the causes of cholera. We may localize it to a bacteria, we may develop a medical treatment… yet despite these scientific advances, people continue to die of cholera, basically becuase they don’t have running water, becuasethey cant afford the medicines…that is, there is more than a bacterial cause… there is a social cause, too…and how the rise in life expectancy in the 20th century was more a result of the social-political elimination of bad labor, economical and general conditions…interesting

  49. #49 Koray
    July 25, 2006

    What the heck is an existential framework? If an existential framework exists, does it exist because there is yet another existential framework making it possible? You may your own answer more satisfying emotionally, but logically it is a fallacy.

    Re: Dr. Hawkins. I don’t think he’s doing any harm. On the contrary, he’s just marking the start of a new thread. There is no point for a scientist to be quietly secular. They are in fact going to be more and more aggressive. Put yourself in his position: would it not drive you mad to be surrounded by people that you consider delusional?

    Anybody who accepts ID just because Dawkins is an atheist is certainly letting his stereotypes do the thinking for him instead of looking at the actual evidence and argument. It’s just another form of belief.

  50. #50 George
    July 25, 2006

    YIKES! Forget Gingerich:

    Curiously, Gingerich’s lectures have sometimes evoked more criticism from fellow Christians than from his secular colleagues. His scientific perspective often elicits criticism from “young earth” creationists, who are uncomfortable with the 20 billion years of cosmic history the scientific account of creation now implies.

    Yet Gingerich avoids the temptation to respond dogmatically to his critics. He says, “I think that it might be possible, the ultimate truth is, that the universe was created only 6,000 years ago. But since, in my view, the Creator has filled it with marvelous clues pointing back to something like 10 or 20 billion years, I would be content to do my science by building up this coherent view of a multibillion-year-old creation.”

    http://www.arn.org/docs/meyer/sm_owengingerich.htm

  51. #51 Dan
    July 25, 2006

    Vargas:

    Thats fine, but the fact that these abstract and imaginative thinking, however “a posteriory”, have been developed, kept and reinforced in religious frameworks, should be enough for you to realize that religion cannot be reduced to superstition, even if you may argue there is a “superstitious” component.

    This argument is like saying that because modern pop/rock “cannot be reduced” to the blues, that it did not develop directly from the blues. Your claim is not just illogical, it’s objectively counterfactual. But you’re missing the point completely, anyway. I’m not saying that we can reduce religion to mere superstition, I’m saying that religion developed from mere superstition. These are two very different things.

    You’re trying to shift the “irreducible complexity” objection from the biological realm to the sociological realm, but you need to understand that it’s just as invalid here as it is there.

    Given another 5000-7000 years, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see an agglomeration of silly modern superstitions develop into a full-blown religion of its own

    Nonsense. You mean that black cats, broken mirrors and stuff like that will just condense into a religion in the future? No. Anything that is to develop into a full-blown religion must provide an existencial framework that fits into the needs of a society at a given historical moment.

    Will “just” condense into a religion? No, of course not. And I never said that it would. Religions don’t just appear out of nowhere all by themselves. But if people start to build an metaphysical framework around those silly modern superstitions, you bet your ass they’d eventually develop into a religion. Whether or not that ever actually happens is quite beside the point. And as I already said (and you conveniently ignored), that is already happening with things like tarot, kaballah and UFO cults, just to give a few examples.

    This is not just idle speculation or pontification, Alex. I am talking about real phenomena that are actually happening as we speak.

  52. #52 quork
    July 25, 2006

    Here’s a simple thought experiment, though. If some prominent scientist came out with a book in which he claimed that his keen analytical mind and training in science had led him to support the idea of the existence of Zeus or the Tooth Fairy, how would book reviewers and scientists react?

    Alan Sokal, check your messages.

  53. #53 Sastra
    July 25, 2006

    What both Dawkins and Dennett point out in their books is that evolution is a particularly clear example of what our scientific approach has revealed — that complex things come from simpler things, and there is no built-in heirarchy which sets humans and their values apart. Religion works on the opposite assumption. And the world looks different than we should expect if the complicated assumptions of religion were true.

    Evolution is bottom-up. It can only be “reconciled” with the top-down approach if you compartmentalize and poeticize, and get rather vague and slippery. God isn’t a science theory. Well, why not? Shouldn’t we take it seriously? Or do we put it in the same category as tastes, values, and personal forms of therapy, making bad metaphors all the way.

  54. #54 GH
    July 26, 2006

    Vargas your arguments are, well, not so good.

    I asked you for evidence that Dawkins is hurting the cause of evolution. You give none. A really weak retort but none. In his home country and throughout Europe evolution is widely accepted. It is not Dawkins who is the problem over here. We need more of him not less.

    Nonsense. You mean that black cats, broken mirrors and stuff like that will just condense into a religion in the future? No. Anything that is to develop into a full-blown religion must provide an existencial framework that fits into the needs of a society at a given historical moment.

    But that framework is based on the same mentality as other superstitions. One could create a religion out of black cats and broken mirrors also. How is saying a roseary or using a cross or any of the other endless religious rituals any different at all? Your just playing word games.

    Not that overwhelmingly. People can switch religious beliefs or abandom them, sometimes massively as documented by history.

    To abandon them is the greatest. But all statistics point to the fact that if your born Baptist your 98% likely to die Baptist. Your just wrong about these mass conversions. Except for the ‘forced’ ones at the end of a sword.

    And you still haven’t shown where Dawkins is even remotely wrong about religion. Just some ad hoc junk.

  55. #55 G. Tingey
    July 26, 2006

    “Dawkins first makes some fallacies that are evident to any smart religious person, like equating religion to superstition.”

    But – religion IS superstition – and blackmail …..

    And “Mong” is plainly off his head…..
    He puts up ANOTHER strw Man – the bogey of a supposed “scientism” being “pushed” by Dawkins and Dennett – who are merely (merely!) saying….
    PLEASE look clearly at the facts, nothing else.

    And this gets you called rude names by the believers, because they want beliefs, not facts.

  56. #56 ConcernedJoe
    July 26, 2006

    I constructed this in response to a General saying the ever popular “there are no atheist in foxholes” BS. I think it is apropos here… as in response to the ever popular “good science and religion are not irreconcilable” BS. So for all those “rational” believers out there allow me this rant (again prompt was a Army General and the “foxhole” declaration):
    _____________________________________

    If your God is so important, so powerful, so merciful, if you believe in his love and care and protection so much, why not rip off your armor, throw down your arms, stop all offensive, defensive, and evasive moves, lift up your hands to heaven and ask god, who promised NEVER to forsake you as a believer, to deliver you and your buddies from evil and harm? Why not?

    Hey at home, why not refuse medical care for your beloved child and put your precious child’s fate in the hands of god who PROMISED to heal all sickness if you believe? Why not?

    Let me tell you why you (assuming you are sane and knowledgeable) do NOT simply rely on god in critical situations: IT’S BECAUSE YOU ARE AN ATHEIST! Plain and simple; a spade being called a spade!

    Yup — for every bloody excuse you give like “god doesn’t work that way” etc., etc., I say that you are just running from your ATHEISM!!! Oh deny it if you have to; call me silly, foolish, the devil, or whatever. BUT actions speak louder than words and FACE IT “BELIEVERS”: when the chips are down you believe in the power of god about as much as I (an HONEST atheist) do!!!! Because you know deep down that for all your prayers and worship and affirmations of faith, I (an honest ATHEIST) get the same bloody odds and results you do for any given action in a particular situation!! True believers go figure how that can be?!?!

    Again, I’m honest – you just think you are honest, “believers!”

    Get HONEST!!! You are god invoking god praising ATHEISTS at the core!!!

    My take for what it is worth. But think about it.

  57. #57 Alexander Vargas
    July 26, 2006

    “This argument is like saying that because modern pop/rock “cannot be reduced” to the blues, that it did not develop directly from the blues. Your claim is not just illogical, it’s objectively counterfactual”

    C’mon, Dan that’s silly. Check your logic. Not because pop/rock cannot be reduced to punk does it mean that it originated from punk.

    “But you’re missing the point completely, anyway. I’m not saying that we can reduce religion to mere superstition, I’m saying that religion developed from mere superstition. These are two very different things.

    You’re trying to shift the “irreducible complexity” objection from the biological realm to the sociological realm, but you need to understand that it’s just as invalid here as it is there”

    Jeez, dan. You get worse. I’m not proposing the ID of sociology. You may want to realize that not because you may argue that “superstition” is part of religion, does it mean that religion originates from mere superstition. I find that silly. If you ask me relgion originated in a midst of thinfgs, that included useful knowledge, and others that we would now, a posteriori, of course, qualify as “mere superstition”.
    and of course, even if it did originate from “superstition” it does not mean it IS superstition…like pop n rock isn’t blues anyomere, right? Thats why we call it somehing different. Thats why it is facile and simplistic to say religion is “just” superstition

    “Will “just” condense into a religion? No, of course not. And I never said that it would. Religions don’t just appear out of nowhere all by themselves. But if people start to build an metaphysical framework around those silly modern superstitions you bet your ass they’d eventually develop into a religion.”

    Then you admit that a full blown religon is not mere suoerstition but requires a metaphysical framework.

    “Whether or not that ever actually happens is quite beside the point. And as I already said (and you conveniently ignored), that is already happening with things like tarot, kaballah and UFO cults, just to give a few examples.
    This is not just idle speculation or pontification, Alex. I am talking about real phenomena that are actually happening as we speak.”

    You may find this diffcult to understand, but black cats, broken mirrors and other mere superstitions are categorically different from these trends you talk about. Ufology like raelians for instance specially fits with the existenial framework of our historical moment there is almost no topic it doesn’t try to fagocite!! It has a “scientific” patina, which many wnat. It talks about the coming ecological dissaters, provides some solutions and explanations, etc.
    Tarot is an extremely loose thing, anyone can latch onto it. It is just a mystical outlet. No full blown organized religion coming from there.

    I don’t know jack about cabala but see, even crap like scientology is not “just” superstition, it has a theory, and an existential proposal.

  58. #58 Steve_C
    July 26, 2006

    Hey Vargas;

    read this and maybe you’ll understand what we’re up against. but I doubt it.

    http://pandagon.net/2006/07/25/crazies-go-after-kansas-bb-owner-for-flying-rainbow-flag/

  59. #59 George
    July 26, 2006

    Alexander, I have an existential proposal (subject to revision, depending on my mood):

    “The universe is just a macabre joke.” [thank you Owen Gingerich]

    One element of the macabre joke is the fact that many human beings go through life believing a bunch of religious tripe because a) they want to go along with everyone else in the neighborhood, b) they are too lazy to question their beliefs, and c) they can feel superior to people who know more than they do.

  60. #60 Alexander Vargas
    July 26, 2006

    “I asked you for evidence that Dawkins is hurting the cause of evolution. You give none. A really weak retort but none. In his home country and throughout Europe evolution is widely accepted. It is not Dawkins who is the problem over here. We need more of him not less.”

    You want a statistic? Great, I want one for how he has reduced the amount of religious people. You will find he has done barely a scratch to that eternal, monolithic majority. But there is one ything we can all be certain: ID creationism is a biger problem than it once was. And Dawkins has been plainly unable to stop that, and as I say, by peddling caricaturized versions of both science and relgion, he feeds the problem.

    Let me remind you, and have no doubt about it: Dawkins, who most fills his mouth about enlightending reason, as a scientist is BAD. His selfish gene stuff is totally unhinged. Little research by biologists uses anything similar to his framework, and when it does, guess: Its always “controversial”. Evo-devo, phylogenetics, paleontology, you know, TRUE reliable data, is what rocks.
    Dawkisn has sold lots of paperbacks but has made no unequivocal contribution to evolutionary biology. Contrast him with a great american: SJ Gould. Punctuated Equilibrium. His book ontogeny and phylogeny practically started off the renaissance of evo-devo. Exaptation. Constraints. He spearheaded a very much needed facelift for evolutionary biology.

    “One could create a religion out of black cats and broken mirrors also. How is saying a roseary or using a cross or any of the other endless religious rituals any different at all? Your just playing word games.”

    You distrust words, huh? No philosophical complications for the Dawkinoid who has everything already crystal clear. No muddles admitted!!

    The rituals you point out are charged with mysticism and are inserted as symbolizations, physical reminders of the general metaphysical framework. While you can argue that it is similar to superstition because objects are involved, the resemblance almost entirely stops there.

    “Your just wrong about these mass conversions. Except for the ‘forced’ ones at the end of a sword”

    Take Japan after WW2. They stopped believing in hirohito as an incarnated god, but they did not stop beliving in buddhism. Take the switch from catholicism to protestantism, Martin Luther. Take anglicanism.

    “And you still haven’t shown where Dawkins is even remotely wrong about religion. Just some ad hoc junk.”

    Hahaha Sure, GH. He isn’t “even remotely” wrong about religion hahaha its just, you know “the root of all evil”!!!!
    jeez, not another blind follower madly in love with Dawkins…

  61. #61 Alexander Vargas
    July 26, 2006

    George, that phrase is quite silly. Its like saying that the universe is rosy happiness, but in an inverted polarity. Please. No goth whiners admmited on my lawn.

  62. #62 Steve_C
    July 26, 2006

    I don’t think anyone here said that Dawkins has spread atheism.

    I think that the argument can be made, and that it’s a strong one, that Religion and the fostering of ignorance and unquestioning devotion MAY be the root of all evil.

    If you recall… the title of his series has a question mark on the end.

    The QUESTION has to be made by someone. The argument is made consistently that satan loving Atheist are the cause of the worlds moral decline. Whether that decline even exists is a question. The religious have spent the last 2000 plus years killing each other. What decline? It’s the same bullshit over and over.

    I guess you would rather the question be phrased “Is religion the solution to the world’s problems?”

  63. #63 Alexander Vargas
    July 26, 2006

    Simple questions are easy

    Is religion the root of all evil?

    No

    Is religion the solution to the world’s problems?

    No

  64. #64 Steve_C
    July 26, 2006

    You’re forgetting the BUT.

    The idea is to start a dialogue. To make a proposal to the religious…

  65. #65 Steve_C
    July 26, 2006

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Root_of_All_Evil%3F

    And Dawkins himself thinks that the question itself is ridiculous.

    The BBC wanted to stir up controversy.

  66. #66 Steve_C
    July 26, 2006

    http://archive-a02m01.libsyn.com/aXdueJl2nHiTfpZ4anRvomurZHHH/podcasts/pointofinquiry/2-10-06.mp3

    Dawkins interviewed about the 2-part series in a “Point of Inquiry” Podcast.

  67. #67 George
    July 26, 2006

    Alexander, since you are a majoritarian (give the majority what they want), a permanentist (religion is a permanent feature of society so get used to it), and an egalitarian (everyone is entitled to their belief), do you see any reason to believe the world will become a more enlightened place one day or are we stuck with more than half the population living in the equivalent of the dark ages?

    Is it ever okay to challenge people on their superstitious and religious beliefs, and if so, when?

    I don’t understand why someone like Dawkins is supposed to stop harrassing religious people and religious people are just supposed to be allowed to spout their idiocy. That doesn’t seem fair.

  68. #68 George
    July 26, 2006

    It’s almost like you want a society to educate its citzens with its hand tied. Give ’em what they want, it makes ’em happy. Doesn’t matter if it’s wrong. They need it.

  69. #69 Steve_C
    July 26, 2006

    Dawkins once wrote an article called Athiests for Jesus.

    He thought he was a good man, ahead of his time and one who should be emulated.

    “I think we owe Jesus the honor of separating his genuinely original and radical ethics from the supernatural nonsense that he inevitably espoused as a man of his time.”

  70. #70 Alexander Vargas
    July 26, 2006

    “Alexander, since you are a majoritarian (give the majority what they want)”

    I have pointed out a fact, without that meaning that I am apologetic about it. Truth is, even when majorities are wrong, they always determine social realities you have to deal with that are AS REAL as this screen and any object you find around you.

    “a permanentist (religion is a permanent feature of society so get used to it)”

    I think people will always be able to make up religions, there will always be people going through mystical ideas (and notice I do not say this is a necessarily bad thing. A religious movemnt could, for example, help overthrow an atheist tyranny)

    But please take note. religion, though always present can be more or less attractive to society and thus, more or less pervasive within it.

    “and an egalitarian (everyone is entitled to their belief)”

    Why not? It is a delusion to think that people are somehow NOT the complete owners of their beliefs. Even if you repress them; it makes no difference

    “do you see any reason to believe the world will become a more enlightened place one day or are we stuck with more than half the population living in the equivalent of the dark ages?”

    Sure, there have already been more enlightened times, and notice this: In these more enlightened times, a “secular” government, or a religious government may reign, but religion is not bent against science, nor is science bent against religion.

    Unfortunately times like that are usually kinda short…but lots of progress is made

    Take the golden age of islam, for instance, or the blossoming of philosophy within the church at the 14th century (however brief both of them were)

    “Is it ever okay to challenge people on their superstitious and religious beliefs, and if so, when?”

    It is ALWAYS OK, but try to understand people: if you don’t place yourself in the shoes of that person, he does not really exist for you as a person. You will simply “deny” him, for instance, through insults. That is, he/she is not a person, but an “idiot” or other “discardable” category.

    “I don’t understand why someone like Dawkins is supposed to stop harrassing religious people and religious people are just supposed to be allowed to spout their idiocy. That doesn’t seem fair.”

    It is not unfair, they are giving us the opportunity to take the higher ground.Lets not miss it. Idiocy harms those that uphold it. Nothing to imitate or envy. We should not want and much less demand to do the same.

  71. #71 Dan
    July 26, 2006

    This argument is like saying that because modern pop/rock “cannot be reduced” to the blues, that it did not develop directly from the blues. Your claim is not just illogical, it’s objectively counterfactual

    C’mon, Dan that’s silly. Check your logic. Not because pop/rock cannot be reduced to punk does it mean that it originated from punk.

    I’m sorry, Alex, but just because you can string a set of words together in a certain order doesn’t mean that they actually say anything. What the fuck are you talking about, here?

    But you’re missing the point completely, anyway. I’m not saying that we can reduce religion to mere superstition, I’m saying that religion developed from mere superstition. These are two very different things.

    You’re trying to shift the “irreducible complexity” objection from the biological realm to the sociological realm, but you need to understand that it’s just as invalid here as it is there

    Jeez, dan. You get worse. I’m not proposing the ID of sociology. You may want to realize that not because you may argue that “superstition” is part of religion, does it mean that religion originates from mere superstition.

    Yes, Alex, you are in fact proposing the sociological equivalent of “irreducible complexity.” The fact that you don’t think that’s what you’re doing is your problem, not mine.

    I find that silly. If you ask me relgion originated in a midst of thinfgs, that included useful knowledge, and others that we would now, a posteriori, of course, qualify as “mere superstition”.

    Well, there’s the point, isn’t it? I didn’t ask you, because I don’t really think you know what you’re talking about.

    and of course, even if it did originate from “superstition” it does not mean it IS superstition…like pop n rock isn’t blues anyomere, right? Thats why we call it somehing different. Thats why it is facile and simplistic to say religion is “just” superstition

    Painting an apple blue doesn’t mean that it’s not an apple anymore. Slapping a boogie-woogie bassline onto a blues tune doesn’t mean that it’s not the blues anymore. And accompanying your superstitions with magic words and a silly dance doesn’t mean that you’re not engaging in superstitions anymore.

    Will “just” condense into a religion? No, of course not. And I never said that it would. Religions don’t just appear out of nowhere all by themselves. But if people start to build an metaphysical framework around those silly modern superstitions you bet your ass they’d eventually develop into a religion.

    Then you admit that a full blown religon is not mere suoerstition but requires a metaphysical framework.

    A superstition with a metaphysical framework is still a superstition.

    Whether or not that ever actually happens is quite beside the point. And as I already said (and you conveniently ignored), that is already happening with things like tarot, kaballah and UFO cults, just to give a few examples.

    This is not just idle speculation or pontification, Alex. I am talking about real phenomena that are actually happening as we speak.

    You may find this diffcult to understand, but black cats, broken mirrors and other mere superstitions are categorically different from these trends you talk about.

    They’re different because they haven’t developed a metaphysical framework around them. The basic category — actions with consequences that are not causally related — is absolutely identical in every possible way.

    Black cats crossing your path and walking under ladders are not categorically different from prayer in any way. All three are irrational beliefs that future events are influenced by specific behaviors or circumstances, despite the absence of an objective causal relationship between them. Only the context is different.

    Ufology like raelians for instance specially fits with the existenial framework of our historical moment there is almost no topic it doesn’t try to fagocite!! It has a “scientific” patina, which many wnat. It talks about the coming ecological dissaters, provides some solutions and explanations, etc.

    Tarot is an extremely loose thing, anyone can latch onto it. It is just a mystical outlet. No full blown organized religion coming from there.

    I don’t know jack about cabala but see, even crap like scientology is not “just” superstition, it has a theory, and an existential proposal.

    Well, I’m gathering that you don’t know jack about tarot, either, if you think it’s “just a mystical outlet.” But you’ve just admitted that things like UFOlogy and Scientology have developed metaphysical frameworks around their superstitions. Your disconnect with reality is in failing to understand that they are, in fact, nothing more than superstitions with metaphysical frameworks.

    But at any rate, my confidence in your ability to speak authoritatively about this subject is waning rapidly.

  72. #72 Dan
    July 26, 2006

    I’ll add that Scientology is categorically different, since we already know that it was invented whole cloth, with no natural developmental process whatsoever.

  73. #73 PZ Myers
    July 26, 2006

    I’ll add that Scientology is categorically different, since we already know that it was invented whole cloth, with no natural developmental process whatsoever.

    Unlike, say, Rael, or Mormonism, or Lutheranism, or Catholicism, or Christianity? I think they can all be traced back to a time when one or a few people simply sat down and made a few things up and built themselves a profitable religion.

  74. #74 George
    July 26, 2006

    A few points, Alexander:

    1) The level of antagonism between religion and science is only going to get worse as science continues to advance. Religion looks a lot more absurd today to more people than it did a hundred years ago. There’s nothing wrong with expressing that sense of absurdity.

    2) Past eras of peaceful religion/science co-existence can’t be compared to the situation today because the science today is on firmer foundations than it was in the past.

    3) Today in the U.S., the antagonism comes to the fore because religious people are spouting more extreme forms of their religion more publically. Mockery is called for! If they didn’t spout so loudly, Dawkins wouldn’t have to respond so forcefully.

  75. #75 Caledonian
    July 26, 2006

    Scientology is a fusion of older religious traditions that most certainly have undergone rigorous selection — and I’ve heard that the doctrines are slowly changing as a result of widespread exposure. The memes appear to be evolving.

  76. #76 Steve_C
    July 26, 2006

    I challenge anyone to listen to Dawkins’ interview in the podcast posted above and argue that Dawkins is an extremist. Dawkins is not an idiot. And he is not arrogant. He is however unflinching in his beliefs and is steadfast in challenging religion.

  77. #77 Alexander Vargas
    July 26, 2006

    Dan, you should be able to tell you have a serious confusion.
    That systems are not reducible to any of their isolated parts is not false. What is patently false is that systems, like machines, are a mere sum of the parts. Emergent properties do exist. This is what systems theory and cybernetics has been deling with, long before silly old Behe.That behe has tried to make this into a patently false argument that systems can’t change and evolve, is none of my concern. I’m not going to declare a truth false because someone misuses it. And I advise you not to do the same, ’cause you just end up playing pathetically right into the confusion, upholding a naïve and false reductionism and then comparing sensible ideas to ID. By defining yourself by opposition to Behe, you end up being equally foolish.

    And I repeat. Religion may have a superstitious component, but that is not where its power resides, even if you (wrongly) argue it to be its origin. If you think it is mere superstition, you dont explain why does it continue to become socially important, nor will you see it coming, and will fail to confront it adequately (you will just screech it is “mere superstition!!!”)
    And the point resides in the abstract, metaphysical framework for existence down to the personal level that religon provides. Hardly discardable as mere “superstition”.
    This whole supersition labeling thing is so patently biased and wishful thinking I seriously fail to understand how anybody can find within himself the energy to thump the table with it.

    Let me indulge your silliness. If you paint an apple blue, is it still really in essence and apple? You can’t eat it. But you can adorn a crystmas tree with it. It is no longer useful as fruit, but as an ornament. You don’t need to answer that. Just think how banal it is to refute that kind of example.

  78. #78 Gh
    July 26, 2006

    Great, I want one for how he has reduced the amount of religious people. You will find he has done barely a scratch to that eternal, monolithic majority. But there is one ything we can all be certain: ID creationism is a biger problem than it once was. And Dawkins has been plainly unable to stop that, and as I say, by peddling caricaturized versions of both science and relgion, he feeds the problem.

    I don’t know the effect he is having on the amount of religious people. BUT he has succeeded in getting people talking about his points. which i suspect has been his goal as a necessary first step.

    So basically you can’t answer the question so you just keep saying stuff like the above.

    No philosophical complications for the Dawkinoid who has everything already crystal clear. No muddles admitted!!

    Dawkinoid? You haven’t refuted a single thing the man says, you attack him personally and professionally and then call others Dawkinoids? Weak unfounded arguments you make and then you go to the name calling. Actually being in a camp with Richard is pretty good companty even when you disagree with him some as I do some.

    Take Japan after WW2. They stopped believing in hirohito as an incarnated god, but they did not stop beliving in buddhism. Take the switch from catholicism to protestantism, Martin Luther. Take anglicanism.

    These are quite accurately called exceptions with special circumstances. This has little to do with what this discussion is about. By statistic 98% of the people are born and die in the religion they are born with. And Catholic to Protestant is still Christian. They didn’t leave the religion but rather changed sects.

    He isn’t “even remotely” wrong about religion hahaha its just, you know “the root of all evil”!!!!
    jeez, not another blind follower madly in love with Dawkins

    Number 1 I don’t follow anyone. I look at their arguments and he makes far more valid points than he misses. I don’t think that religion is the ‘root of all evil’ but he makes a compelling case for faith being a big chunk of it. Religion is then the vehicle for this idea. It’s a compelling thought that is well documented in conflicts around the world. The question you need to ask is why are you so blind to this?

    And I’m in love with Dawkins because I happen to see his points as valid? You are quite bizarre.

  79. #79 Mechanophile
    July 26, 2006

    Ah, Vargas… Dan seems to be handling your religion/superstition line of arguments, so I’ll go over some of the others.

    Truth is, even when majorities are wrong, they always determine social realities you have to deal with that are AS REAL as this screen and any object you find around you.

    Well, obviously. I mean, just look at the US civil rights movement from the 60’s, or the suffragettes. It’s a good thing they accepted the social realities of their time, right? Oh wait…

    I think we all agree that discrimination and religion are social realities. Where we differ is in our responses to it, especially in this case: we want to change the status quo, while you, Vargas, seem to want to pander to the religious, because ‘that’s the way it’s always been’. I would point out that the same argument could have been made about racism in the 60’s, or women’s suffrage back in the day. If we accept things as social realities, then those things will always be social realities.

    “Is it ever okay to challenge people on their superstitious and religious beliefs, and if so, when?”

    It is ALWAYS OK, but try to understand people: if you don’t place yourself in the shoes of that person, he does not really exist for you as a person. You will simply “deny” him, for instance, through insults. That is, he/she is not a person, but an “idiot” or other “discardable” category.

    Someone can be both a person and an idiot, Vargas. It’s not an either/or proposition. And no matter how much I empathize with a fool, he’s still a fool.

    “I don’t understand why someone like Dawkins is supposed to stop harrassing religious people and religious people are just supposed to be allowed to spout their idiocy. That doesn’t seem fair.”

    It is not unfair, they are giving us the opportunity to take the higher ground.

    Oh yes, let’s not miss our opportunity to take the moral high ground, people! We can all be just like Neville Chamberlain!

  80. #80 Alexander Vargas
    July 26, 2006

    I heard the interviews. Dawkins lays his “evolution leads to atheism argument” by in fisrt place completely accepting a most silly and clasically creationist assumption: That we live surrounded by improbable things.

  81. #81 JimC
    July 26, 2006

    This whole supersition labeling thing is so patently biased and wishful thinking

    wishful thinking? Why would anyone wish that?

    Religion may have a superstitious component, but that is not where its power resides, even if you (wrongly) argue it to be its origin.

    So it now does have a supersitious component, huh. Of course its at it’s origin. How you can deny the obvious is pretty wierd. No one denies it has structure but that structure is built upon a framework of superstition. Heaven, sins, magic, etc.

  82. #82 Mechanophile
    July 26, 2006

    Hm, more stuff…

    Vargas:

    What is patently false is that systems, like machines, are a mere sum of the parts.

    Oh, Vargas… Please, do talk some more about the emergent properties of mechanical systems. I could use a good laugh, and that’s actually in my area of expertise.

    And:

    Let me indulge your silliness. If you paint an apple blue, is it still really in essence and apple? You can’t eat it. But you can adorn a crystmas tree with it. It is no longer useful as fruit, but as an ornament.

    To answer your question: yes, it’s still an apple. I’m not sure what sort of philosophical argument you’re trying to make here.

    Anyway, no time to address you more thoroughly. Will attempt to do so in a bit.

  83. #83 j
    July 26, 2006

    Please, please don’t let this thread turn into another “Rapture rubbish and apocalyptic asininity”-like thread of monstrous proportions.

  84. #84 Alexander Vargas
    July 26, 2006

    Quite simple, mechanophile. You can make two very different machines, using the exact same pieces. Is this beyond your understanding, that the properties of the machine will therefore not be a mere sum of the properties of its components?

  85. #85 George
    July 26, 2006

    Alternative A:

    Shove their stupidity in their faces

    Alternative B:

    Understand their existential situation

    Alternative C:

    Do both A and B [I understand where you are coming from, dude, but you are talking like nothing has happened in the last 2,000 years to undermine the idiotic belief that some guy could rise from the dead and come back some day to judge humanity. Dude, that’s nutty!]
    OR
    [Dude, that’s some awesome spiritual stuff you are talking. I have some magic jesus crystals you might be interested in. $10.99 each. Good for the soul. Want one?]

    I would arguwe that a lot of the religious leaders take the latter tack (cynically sell gullible people something, based on their existential situation).

  86. #86 j
    July 26, 2006

    I’ll take TWO magic jesus crystals!

  87. #87 j
    July 26, 2006

    Oh, and tax-free, right?

  88. #88 George
    July 26, 2006

    j, I also have some authentic bible pet rocks in stock, brought straight from the holy land, where Jesus walked. Interested in adopting one? Pebble size: 29.99. Golf ball: 49.99.

    I package them specially in pages of the New Testament. When you unwrap the rock, you will receive a special Bible message meant just for you.

    Supplies limited.

  89. #89 Alexander Vargas
    July 26, 2006

    you guys always stray off into non-thinking and pack reassurance jokes,huh? Totally boring

  90. #90 Steve_C
    July 26, 2006

    Alex prays at the Church of No-Sense-of-Humor.

    Maybe he’s german. hehe.

  91. #91 Alexander Vargas
    July 26, 2006

    no, I eman this is reassurance, not funny…well maybe J no taxes comment.. at most. i wan arguemnets, dammit!!! not this premature decay… maybe I should add some ruthless sting

  92. #92 j
    July 26, 2006

    Honestly, though, while I can imagine there are many who exploit religion (and the blind faith that religion requires) for personal gain, it is really difficult for me to imagine that anybody is gullible enough to believe the swindlers. I really can’t imagine it.

  93. #93 George
    July 26, 2006

    When the existential situation gets very desperate, the desperate go shopping.

  94. #94 Alexander Vargas
    July 26, 2006

    or get funnier

  95. #95 Steve_C
    July 26, 2006

    You’re arguments for religion and it’s apparently harmless impacts on society are never going to fly here.

    Neither are your “don’t be such a meanie” arguments.

  96. #96 j
    July 26, 2006

    When we argue with you, Alexander Vargas, it is inevitably about how we should handle (or view) creationists and religious people in general. But because you are not familiar with the creationists and fundamentalists of this country, I imagine that it is difficult for you to understand the situation that we face. From all that you have written about Chile, it sounds like a utopia of religious harmony.

  97. #97 Alexander Vargas
    July 26, 2006

    hahahah no, not at all. I know religious fanatism form quite close up. And chile is a pretty fucked up country…though not as much as it was

  98. #98 alexander Vargas
    July 26, 2006

    maybe this is why I am more aware that fundies are human than you guys, who dehumanize them all the time

  99. #99 George
    July 26, 2006

    Maybe it’s the religious leaders who are doing the dehumanization.

    A lot of them are well-educated, they should know better than to serve up the pap they offer for public consumption. They treat people like simpletons.

  100. #100 AC
    July 26, 2006

    Religion may have a superstitious component, but that is not where its power resides, even if you (wrongly) argue it to be its origin.

    Um, its power resides in the kinds of superstitions it embodies at its core – the existential frameworks, as you put it. The nature of our existence has plagued humans for as long as we have existed.

    Science doesn’t provide an existential framework, but it damn well supports one with hard evidence. Two of the features of this framework are:

    1) Human consciousness is a product of our brains – and nothing more. Changes to the brain change the consciousness, and when the brain dies, the consciousness is obliterated.

    2) Popular notions of “god” are utterly unsupported by scientific evidence. Furthermore, people believe in such things purely for emotional and psychological reasons.

    This contradicts two of our most precious superstitions: Enduring Consciousness and Cosmic Justice. In their place, it substitutes Mortality and Responsibility. These are two things people just do not want. They terrify us. We will rend our minds asunder with all manner of fantasy to deny them. But they remain true.

    Wouldn’t we be better off living by the truth of existence, rather than by the fantasies we weave to deny it? What say you, Mr. Vargas?

  101. #101 Alexander Vargas
    July 26, 2006

    yeah, the kooks over here can be very inhuman. But its wearing them out. They are way too stupid. If they keep it up maybe american society will get a bit sick of religion

  102. #102 Steve_C
    July 26, 2006

    Problem is they almost always get a free pass.

    Do you know how many fricking shows there are on just mainstream cable
    and network tv that cater to the christians here?

    The only place where religion is allowed to be questioned is on comedy shows.
    Everyone else is too chickenshit.

  103. #103 Alexander Vargas
    July 26, 2006

    I’m all for carrying out a consciously mortal and heroic existence.

    But I’m not calling anyone silly for not believing in god. I think this kind of behavior has been the reaosn why we have had problems.

  104. #104 Alexander Vargas
    July 26, 2006

    oop s I mena I’m not calling anyone silly for believing in god; and people can, still, belive or not, be moral and responsible within a religious framework… good people, guys

  105. #105 Steve_C
    July 26, 2006

    We don’t disagree.

    But is the Rapture not silly? Is the Resurrection not looney?

    C’mon.

  106. #106 George
    July 26, 2006

    Okay, say we respect the person and we don’t call the religious person silly but only question their belief in a fantasy god. We try to be respectful.

    Does it work the other way? The religious person respecting the non-Christian? Can you explain your theory to Pat Robertson, please?

    “It is interesting, that termites don’t build things, and the great builders of our nation almost to a man have been Christians, because Christians have the desire to build something. He is motivated by love of man and God, so he builds. The people who have come into (our) institutions (today) are primarily termites. They are into destroying institutions that have been built by Christians, whether it is universities, governments, our own traditions, that we have…. The termites are in charge now, and that is not the way it ought to be, and the time has arrived for a godly fumigation.”–Pat Robertson, New York Magazine, August 18, 1986

  107. #107 Mechanophile
    July 26, 2006

    Not to take this off into another tangent, but I wanted to respond to this:

    Quite simple, mechanophile. You can make two very different machines, using the exact same pieces. Is this beyond your understanding, that the properties of the machine will therefore not be a mere sum of the properties of its components?

    Vargas, let me clarify something for you: there is no property of any mechanical system which is not a direct result of one or more properties of one or more components of that system.

    The fact that you can use the same components to make several different machines does not show that there are any magical emergent properties involved in mechanical design; changing the way components interact will bring different properties into play, and will therefore change the end result of those interactions. If I take an electric motor and reverse the wiring, so it functions as a generator, there are no mystical ‘motor’ or ‘generator’ properties that are exchanged; the components just interact differently, so they do something different. How does that support your idea of emergent properties?

  108. #108 Alexander Vargas
    July 26, 2006

    Mechanophile: if you think that emerging properties are “magical”, you are living with your head buried deep in your ass. Sorry. Sad, but true. This is science, mechanofile.

    New properties can emerge by componing two elements, that are not a mere sum of the properties of these components. This is why the sequence in which chemical components encounter each other are relevant to the outcome of a reaction. This is why you have to follow a recipe.

    It is obvious that any machine is made possible by its components and their properties. Without them it simply does not exist. But the way the machine works is not specified in its components, but the way these componets interact with each other, this network of interactions or system that we may call its organization, is a fundamental part of understanding how any machine works, and how any organism works.

    Anyway, these ideas do not show up in most paperbacks of popular science, so I guess you can be forgiven. Why dont you read Mayr or Gould (seriosu evolutionary biologists, that is). They knew organisms are chock-full of emergent properties and will spell it out for ya.

    O yeah, and they did not believe in magic hahaha

  109. #109 Steve_C
    July 26, 2006

    Alex:

    Is the rapture and the resurrection silly and or looney?

  110. #110 Alexander Vargas
    July 26, 2006

    Steve: not much more loonier than thinking that genes created us body and mind and that we are lumbering robots controlled by them. jeezuz what a stinking crap

  111. #111 Mechanophile
    July 26, 2006

    But the way the machine works is not specified in its components, but the way these componets interact with each other, this network of interactions or system that we may call its organization, is a fundamental part of understanding how any machine works, and how any organism works.

    Vargas, please explain to me how the way two components interact is anything but a function of the properties of those two components. Saying that some unpredictable property will appear if we combine A and B just means that you don’t understand enough about A or B.

    And please, you’re the one making cracks about ‘a naïve and false reductionism’. If you don’t believe we can predict the outcome of a system given enough information about the individual components of that system, you’re arguing for magical emergent properties.*

    *I realize that there’s some debate over how far reductionism can go, but on the scale of mechanical systems? I’m sorry, but if you’re designing a machine, you have to be able to tell what it will do based on its components, or else you have no business designing machines.

  112. #112 Steve_C
    July 27, 2006

    Vargas. What did create us?

    If DNA isn’t the blueprint what is?

  113. #113 Alexander Vargas
    July 27, 2006

    Mechanofile:

    “If you don’t believe we can predict the outcome of a system given enough information about the individual components of that system, you’re arguing for magical emergent properties.”

    1)You cannot predict what a machine will do based on its components, for the simple fact, that I said above, that you can make SEVERAL machines with those components. There is something else, and that is the network of interactions, the organization. There is no 1:1 relationship. This is trivial to understand and there is NOTHING magical about it.

    “Saying that some unpredictable property will appear if we combine A and B just means that you don’t understand enough about A or B”

    That new properties emerge that are more than the commutative sum of A and B does not require for them to be unpredictable at all. It can be predicted. Water has properties that are only possible when hidrogen and oxigen come together, and its not because we “don’t know enough” about water or oxigen. Non-commutativity is a fact. This is trivial, stupid shit, mechanophile.

  114. #114 Alexander Vargas
    July 27, 2006

    BLUEPRINT???? jeez. The “nucleotinci” code? I hope you guys realize that’s messed up. If you unthinkingly accept that kind of metaphorical crap, you’re ripe for ID.

    No entity created us, Steve. Life emerged as a result of specific conditions.

  115. #115 Steve_C
    July 27, 2006

    dude.

    what biological mechanism turns an inseminated egg into a human baby?

  116. #116 Alexander Vargas
    July 27, 2006

    Nothing like the readout of a blueprint.

  117. #117 thwaite
    July 27, 2006

    What Vargas is implying, and what Dawkins had said explicitly, is that the *much* better metaphor than ‘blueprint’ for DNA’s role is that of a ‘recipe’. The cook for the recipe is the developmental process including its environmental perturbations; the resultant cake (organism) is dependent upon the recipe, the ingredients used, and some of the perturbations during growth.

    (Dawkin’s probably first wrote this in the EXTENDED PHENOTYPE – his little-read sequel to SELFISH GENE, a sequel which deserves a wider readership.)

  118. #118 Alexander Vargas
    July 27, 2006

    Blueprint, recipe, whatever. They are all analogies to INSTRUCTIONS being interpeted and carried out. Which is no what occurs in organisms. Not at all!!!!!

  119. #119 Steve_C
    July 27, 2006

    I know it’s more complex than that.

    But the 23 genes in the sperm and the 23 in the ovum are all that’s needed to instruct the developement of the cells into a human baby.

    Is that silly? Looney?

  120. #120 Steve_C
    July 27, 2006

    He’s arguing about semantics.

  121. #121 thwaite
    July 27, 2006

    The blueprint/recipe distinction implies significant differences: not only does a blueprint imply a full preformationism, one should also be able to fully reconstruct a blueprint from the completed construct. A recipe implies neither of these – it is a different kind of instruction. And organisms do resemble their parents – some kind of instructions are inherited.

    (I found Dawkins did say this in EXTENDED PHENOTYPE – in 1982.)

  122. #122 Alexander Vargas
    July 27, 2006

    Yes it is silly. You guys think that cytoplasm is some amorphous putty that genes use to perpetuate themselves, huh?
    And its not about semantics, it is a pretty serious matter: The belief in metaphor at literal value

  123. #123 Steve_C
    July 27, 2006

    Sinple ways of explaining what genes do is not the same as the fucking rapture.

    Period.

  124. #124 Alexander Vargas
    July 27, 2006

    But despite the differences the concept of instruction that is carried out is at the root of both and reamins profoundly inadequate. And the notion that inheritance implies instruction is quite a gymanstic leap. It means that the same things happen again: This in not equivalent to the concept of instruction.

  125. #125 Alexander Vargas
    July 27, 2006

    1) Its not simple, its simplistic. Big difference
    2) No, it does not explain at all what genes do. It is a crappy general overhanging metaphor with no heuristic value as to research on developmental mechanisms. It provides actually no mechanistic insight at all on development.

  126. #126 Steve_C
    July 27, 2006

    Ok so instruction might be the wrong word.
    Modular software? Nope. Code is wrong.

    Please Alex come up with the SIMPLE metaphor so we can move on.

    I understand that some traits I have are from my parents and some aren’t I get it.
    What happens is incredibly complex. I get it.

  127. #127 Alexander Vargas
    July 27, 2006

    Incredibly complex does not mean we muts accept bad simplifications or it is otherwise unassailable. No, we can come up with smarter ideas
    Some points
    1) The level of complexity in a life cycle never goes below that of an entire cell
    2) The structure of the initial stage (say the fertilized ovum) allows development to ocur but does not dtermine it (the homunculus is fallacy)
    3) Inheritance, the transreproductive repetition of developmental pathways, is the result of the repetition of aspects of the initial structure, and of aspects the environment

  128. #128 Alexander Vargas
    July 27, 2006

    BTW, thwaite, the extended phenotype is nothing but a bad argument to collapse the organismal level that exists between gene and environment.

  129. #129 Steve_C
    July 27, 2006

    Metaphore please.

  130. #130 thwaite
    July 27, 2006

    the notion that inheritance implies instruction is quite a gymanstic leap. It means that the same things happen again: This in not equivalent to the concept of instruction.
    Please expand on this – it’s too compact for me (at least) to understand as is. And I do tend to think of sperm as very little more than mobile DNA.

    But the basic perspective reminds me of Linnda (sic) Caporael’s citing of Susan Oyama in a somewhat recent review of evolutionary psychology:

    “The gene is not viewed as a privileged source of information containing blueprints or programs for phenotypic formation. Rather, the information emerges through the reliable recurrence of components (including the products of development itself) that in the past have produced a viable system in a specific environment (Oyama 89; Oyama et al 00)

    I had my students read Caporael’s review but also require them to contrast it with Helena Cronin’s spirited defense of a gene-centered view in the Quarterly Review of Biology (2005). It seems an apposite reply (though not designed as such).

    If you’re interested the two articles are at my old course web site:
    Caporael
    Cronin

  131. #131 thwaite
    July 27, 2006

    So you reject reductionism in analyzing DNA’s role in inheritance (offering instead a litany of unsupported holistic assertions), but you can reduce Dawkins’ EXTENDED PHENOTYPE to “nothing but a bad argument to collapse the organismal level that exists between gene and environment.” I thought “nothing-but” arguments were a bad thing, smelling intrinsically of reductionism?

    Why is the book a bad argument? Dawkins seems to think EXT.PHEN. is probably the most innovative thinking he did. It’s certainly a candidate for most nuanced and sophisticated of his expositions.

    This is of course a huge topic, so I’ll understand if you want to fry the other fish first.

  132. #132 Steve_C
    July 27, 2006

    Nah. He just can’t come up with a simple metaphor.

    And he used my CRAZY blueprint metaphor against me.

    Yup. I’m as bad as the demented fuckwits that believe in the coming Rapture.

  133. #133 Mechanophile
    July 27, 2006

    Vargas, what the hell are you arguing? Are you saying that you can’t model machines by looking at individual components, a la your quip about ‘naive and false reductionism’? Or are you saying that the function of a machine depends on how it’s assembled?

    If you mean the first, you’re an idiot. If you mean the second, all you’ve shown is that machines are the non-commutative sums of their parts, a point which has never been disputed. You have yet to demonstrate that machines are anything more than this non-commutative sum.

    You cannot predict what a machine will do based on its components, for the simple fact, that I said above, that you can make SEVERAL machines with those components. There is something else, and that is the network of interactions, the organization.

    This is like saying that given two masses, you can’t determine the gravitational acceleration they exert on each other without knowing the distance between them. Is that an emergent property of a two-body system, then?

  134. #134 Mechanophile
    July 27, 2006

    Steve_C: “…Yup. I’m as bad as the demented fuckwits that believe in the coming Rapture.”

    You know it, Steve. When you talked about genes being a blueprint, I know I figured you meant that there were literally assembly lines in women’s uteruses working according to schematic diagrams. I could just picture the little sperm foreman with his hard hat, coordinating the uterine construction workers in baby-construction.

    And of course that’s very wrong and not at all helpful in evolutionary research, so you’re just as bad as Falwell and Robertson.

  135. #135 Alexander Vargas
    July 27, 2006

    Steve, I avoid metaphors like they are the plague. There are always all to fundamental differences with the real thing. Never see physics relying for metaphors at the core of their schemes, huh?

    Thwaite

    The notion that inheritance means that the same things happen again: This is not equivalent to the concept of instruction.
    Please expand on this

    Very simple. Inheritance is conceivablel without the notion of instruction. A set of phenotypic traits is repeated generation after genration, implying the conditions that lead to their development are repeated. This is the unquestionable structural fact.
    Now what yiu are doing, is going beyond this fact and saying that this in this process consists in the the progeny “receiving” instructions from its parents, much like people may receive instructions on a note of paper.

    And this is false. Instruction means arbitrarily defined symbol and thus an intelligence that assigns them a meaning. If not that, what it actually is, the term “instruction” is used as a mushy concept applicable to any mechanism or structural correspondence. My key has the instruction to make the car run, the parts of the car contain the instructions that make it work, the surface of the sperm has the instructions to penetrate the egg. Loose definitions of “instruction” add up to pure crap.

    An simplistic idea like the extended phenotype is nothing but what it intends to be, quite different from saying a system is nothing but ione of its components. This kind of confaltion argumnet, is tedious and detestable. Don’t try to find my insconsistencies under whatever excuse. Think about biology, dammit.

    The points I made are not in the least “a litany of unsupported holistic assertions”. That is a stupid, facile assertion, Thwaite. “holism”? Like holistic medice, like the butterfly effect? No, Thwaite. Read them again. Think about them. It is just the way it is. Structural realities. Not like the false, useless and ideological simplicisms of Dawkins.

    If you are unfair and dismissive, I lose what little motivation I have to answer back.

  136. #136 Alexander Vargas
    July 27, 2006

    “You have yet to demonstrate that machines are anything more than this non-commutative sum”

    Aw, we start with the tweaking now?? A machine is no more than a NON-COMMUTATITVE SUM ….

    Another day you can explain to us what is this incredible thing such that machines are “but a sum” but whoa, a NON-COMMUTATITVE sum!!!!!! hahaha

    Nothin emerging there but the properties of the components, huh? Thats all there ver was, all there ever is. They can just sum up.

    I´m done with your false simplistic thinking, mechanophile.

  137. #137 Steve_C
    July 27, 2006

    So that’s a pass.

    Not very creative are ya.

  138. #138 Alexander Vargas
    July 27, 2006

    No Setve, its an aclaration: Metaphors are CRAP. Metaphor is no good answer. I will never strive to answer anything by metaphor: Its not an option. leave that to sloshy science and ideology. Like Dawkins, who relies heavily on a thousand stupid metaphors.

  139. #139 Alexander Vargas
    July 27, 2006

    So much for the science of internet religion bashers…

  140. #140 GH
    July 27, 2006

    . Not like the false, useless and ideological simplicisms of Dawkins.

    You keep saying this weak stuff, but what does he say that is false?

  141. #141 Steve_C
    July 27, 2006

    Like I said. Not creative at all. Pedestrian in fact.

  142. #142 Alexander Vargas
    July 27, 2006

    Ok, you guys can just live on in a “science” made of cheesy metaphors. If you don’t realize what is wrong with metaphors, there is no hope whatsoever. Its just the level of lack of thinking that I would expect from mere religion bashers.

  143. #143 Steve_C
    July 27, 2006

    Yup. We’re exactly like those that believe that the world is going to end.

  144. #144 j
    July 27, 2006

    Is that why you’ve been arguing about reductionism and blueprint metaphors? Because Alexander Vargas is comparing you to the rapture freaks?

    Good God. I think I just got that.

    It was as if a lightbulb suddenly went off in my head.

    Oops, was that a metaphor?

  145. #145 PZ Myers
    July 27, 2006

    Ho hum. It really doesn’t matter what I say in this argument, I know.

  146. #146 Alexander Vargas
    July 27, 2006

    I’m just pointing out that sure, rapture is batshit crazy but hey, genes controlling the lumbering robots, while not at the same level, is beliveing in something that’s not too bright either, that is false. What I´m pointing out is that most religious bashers aint precisely rocket scientists either. They can belive some pretty silly stuff, eclectically accept the worst metaphors.
    There IS plenty of silliness in biology, which combined with the façade of rational and objective infallibility contributes to make things just worse.

  147. #147 Steve_C
    July 27, 2006

    But you aren’t even willing to call people who believe in the Rapture demented fuckwits.

    And you fail to see the difference that I DO UNDERSTAND that the developement of a person from a sperm and ovuum is INCREDIBLLY complex and that DNA is REQUIRED for that development. I just used an apparantly bad metaphor. Whatever.

    There’s a big difference.

    But you were willing to call me on it but willing to let the religious slide.

  148. #148 Mechanophile
    July 27, 2006

    Well, to be fair, I’m arguing with Vargas because of his weird holistic view of machinery.

    The points I made are not in the least “a litany of unsupported holistic assertions”. That is a stupid, facile assertion, Thwaite. “holism”? Like holistic medice, like the butterfly effect?

    Um, Vargas? Try reading what you wrote:

    What is patently false is that systems, like machines, are a mere sum of the parts.

    This is pretty much a definition of holism, and it’s what I’ve been arguing with you about.

    Aw, we start with the tweaking now?? A machine is no more than a NON-COMMUTATITVE SUM…
    Another day you can explain to us what is this incredible thing such that machines are “but a sum” but whoa, a NON-COMMUTATITVE sum!!!!!! hahaha
    Nothin emerging there but the properties of the components, huh? Thats all there ver was, all there ever is. They can just sum up.

    Please don’t complain to me about the inadequacies of your own damn metaphor. Using the ‘machine as math’ thing, machines *are* non-commutative, in that arranging components differently will change the result. You yourself pointed this out, Vargas. Why do you believe that this will create new properties in the resulting assembly?

    Using the math analogy, matrix multiplication is generally non-commutative. Do we say, then, that a matrix product is anything more than the product of two components? If not, why do you think the situation is any different for machinery? Changing the orientation of components will change the result, but again, the fact is that there is no property of any machine that does not directly result from properties of the components. Why can you not see this?

    And you have yet to tell me whether you think a simple two-body system has emergent properties, since the attraction between the two bodies depends rather heavily on their relative locations.

  149. #149 thwaite
    July 27, 2006

    Thanks PZ for the link to your earlier discussion – I confess I don’t read everything here! West-Eberhard is always provocative in useful ways. I note that in your first comment there on early developmentalists you also praise Bateson (William, I presume) ; his cousin’s grandson Patrick Bateson turns out to be the source of the ‘recipe’ metaphor as Dawkins acknowledges. Jeez, those British families of biologists… (and Dawkins’ PhD was under Niko Tinbergen, one of the half-dozen founders of ethology – it’s safe to say Dawkins knows his biology as well as his metaphors, and appreciates that a recipe metaphor implies DNA is not a program).
    A popularizer of Developmental Systems Theory I’ve found useful is John Dupre, Director of the carefully titled “Center for *Genomics* in Society” at U. Exeter – he avoids the word *genetics* here to emphasize the systemic focus. But even he is careful to accept studies that require DNA for protein production, though nothing more definite (p.29 of Dupre’s 2001 HUMAN NATURE AND THE LIMITS OF SCIENCE).

    There, there, vargas – I’m not intending to be dismissive. I AM interested, enough to explicitly request clarification. You’ve seen far harsher here, I’m sure – and I’m impressed with your tenaciousness. So I’ll omit further blog-ish rhetorical flourishes and thank you for your efforts .

    I need to go away for a while, and will also need time to peruse PZ’s thread. Perhaps more later.

  150. #150 Alexander Vargas
    July 27, 2006

    Holism is usually used for mushy new age crap like the butterfly effect, new age and hippie shit. What I am talking about here is science: systems theory. I’m not saying that everything is connected. That would be as absurd as the other end: The reductionism which wants us to belive that when we see a system, all we see is parts and their properties.

    The most basic principle of systems theory is that the combination can be more than the sum of the parts. Emerging properties do exist and there is nothing miraculous about it. They are TRULY NON EXISTENT but EMERGE only when elements are ACTUALLY combined. The fact that they cannot be reduced to any of the separate components or do not , in fact preexist in them their does not imply any violation of the more basic properties of the components and their rules. The point being that the parts constrain and allow the possible systems, but do not specify it, the system is not encapsulated in the parts.

    Thatt many different systems can be made with the same components, once gain, plainly smashes the false expectative that “its all about the parts” that is, reductionism. Analytical thinking, taking pieces apart, knowing the components, is all fine and necessary. But it is not the belife of reductionism. This is an entirely different thing.

    And what happens with you, mechanophile, is a typical mistake that has been repeated a million times. The idea that reductionism= only possible scinetific attitude. That if it is not “just all in the parts”, its “magical”, “scientifically inapproachable” “unexplainable”.

    Pure prejudice, mechanofile. A flatout denial of reality in the name of the desire that “we already know” any whole because “we know the parts” and “that’s all we need to know”. The old frivolous scientoid triumphalism raising its ugly head once more to stop thinking. Bullshit. We have a gigantic task ahead to properly understand biology. We have known all that we need to know about atoms and physicochemistry for quite some time now…

    Of course, reductionists crackpot physicists exist who have these quark theories of evolution, consciousness and well, shit, just all of biology!! Isn’t it amazing we still have our jobs?? We should all just turn to study the smallest particles!!!!! These are, after all, those parts whose porpeties can explain everything else from there upward!!! Isn’t that so, mechanofile (hahaha). What a waste of time, looking at birds, plants and embryos.

  151. #151 Alexander Vargas
    July 27, 2006

    Uh, yeah, BTW you can get the same result form multiplying different matrixes, right? So its is more than the product of two componets, since it can be the product of sevral pairwise combinations of different matrixes.

    AH!!! Which bring me to the other implication of systems theory that you should be able to figure out…should I give you a chance??

    Aaaw, we’d just die of old age waiting.

    That two operationally identical systems, can be constructed from quite different parts.

    This is nicely documented in biological examples. Of course, the kind that Dawkins would naturally keep away from your fragile little eyes.

  152. #152 Alexander Vargas
    July 27, 2006

    And I’m not talking about convergence

  153. #153 Mechanophile
    July 27, 2006

    The definition of holism, Vargas: the theory that the parts of any whole cannot exist and cannot be understood except in their relation to the whole. Please explain to me the difference between this and your views, ie.

    The most basic principle of systems theory is that the combination can be more than the sum of the parts.

    They seem kind of similar, wouldn’t you say?

    Emerging properties do exist and there is nothing miraculous about it. They are TRULY NON EXISTENT but EMERGE only when elements are ACTUALLY combined.

    Please, give me an example of such a property.

    Of course, reductionists crackpot physicists exist who have these quark theories of evolution, consciousness and well, shit, just all of biology!! Isn’t it amazing we still have our jobs?? We should all just turn to study the smallest particles!!!!! These are, after all, those parts whose porpeties can explain everything else from there upward!!! Isn’t that so, mechanofile (hahaha). What a waste of time, looking at birds, plants and embryos.

    Ah, I was wondering how long it would be before you trotted out this argument. Now, reading carefully, point out where I have ever said the reductionist approach was always preferable. Please note the difference between ‘possible’ and ‘preferable’.

    Uh, yeah, BTW you can get the same result form multiplying different matrixes, right? So its is more than the product of two componets, since it can be the product of sevral pairwise combinations of different matrixes.

    Wow, Vargas… just wow. What weird metaphysical definition of ‘more’ takes you to that conclusion?

    Also, I take it then that you do in fact believe that gravitational attraction in a two-body system is an emergent property.

  154. #154 Alexander Vargas
    July 27, 2006

    “That the parts of any whole CANNOT EXIST and CANNOT BE UNDERSTOOD except in their relation to the whole”

    Is quite plainly different from

    “the combination can be more than the sum of the parts”.

    And you say “explain to me the difference”????? What, do you think I’m stupid enough to waste my time like that? I know you are not THAT retarded.

    “Please, give me an example of such a property”

    You really can’t visualize any on your own, huh.
    Solvent capacity of water as bipolar molecule in contrast to oxygen and hidrogen by separate

    “where I have ever said the reductionist approach was always preferable. Please note the difference between ‘possible’ and ‘preferable’.

    yeah, its always possible like any crappy pseudoscientific ideology. Well now that at leats you have admitted that reductionism is “non-preferable” for biology, you can proceed to explain to us WHY.

    “What weird metaphysical definition of ‘more’ takes you to that conclusion?”

    This defintion: More than two. Yeah, I know that’s very metaphysical to you (haha)

    “Also, I take it then that you do in fact believe that gravitational attraction in a two-body system is an emergent property”

    I’d say no…I can’t figure how non-commutativity is present there… both bodies have their gravitational fields regardless, right?
    Before you finally die, do tell us how you are planning to use this example to prove that “its all about the parts” .

  155. #155 Mechanophile
    July 28, 2006

    Solvent capacity of water as bipolar molecule in contrast to oxygen and hidrogen by separate

    And the properties of water as a bipolar molecule depend on… what? Oh yes, the individual properties of hydrogen and oxygen. What special property of the water ‘system’ can we not derive from sufficiently detailed knowledge of the properties of hydrogen and oxygen?

    yeah, its always possible like any crappy pseudoscientific ideology. Well now that at leats you have admitted that reductionism is “non-preferable” for biology, you can proceed to explain to us WHY.

    Because it can be very inefficient. I can determine the deflection of a cantilever beam under load using mechanics, or I can load it into a finite element analysis program; both methods will give me roughly the same answer, but the finite element analysis will take a hell of a lot more time and effort, so it’s not usually worth it. Just because I don’t do it, though, that doesn’t mean there’s anything stopping me.

    And to be accurate, I never ‘admitted’ it was non-preferable for all of biology. That’s your argument, remember? Personally, I’m sure there are some situations where a reductionist perspective would be helpful, and there are others where it would simply create unnecessary work. I’m not a biologist, so I can’t judge what those situations are. You’re the one making blanket generalizations about the applicability of reductionism, not me.

    What weird metaphysical definition of ‘more’ takes you to that conclusion?
    This defintion: More than two. Yeah, I know that’s very metaphysical to you

    Oh dear, Vargas seems to have proven that 4 is greater than the product of 2×2! I mean, since you can express 4 as a product of 1×4, too…

    You see why I was trying to get you to clarify what you meant by ‘more’? Either you mean the matrix product above is literally greater than the product of two components, or you’re using some metaphysical definition of ‘more’, in which case you need to be more precise.

    Also, I take it then that you do in fact believe that gravitational attraction in a two-body system is an emergent property

    I’d say no…I can’t figure how non-commutativity is present there… both bodies have their gravitational fields regardless, right?

    Ah, but the motion of the system depends on the distance between the two bodies. Since your definition of ’emergent property’ seems to include anything that will change depending on the arrangement of the parts, I would think it’s a textbook example for you.

    And…

    Before you finally die, do tell us how you are planning to use this example to prove that “its all about the parts” .

    Because it shows how baseless your argument is. Your whole argument about emergent properties is based on the idea that a machine is more than the sum of its parts because it depends on the arrangement of those parts. When I point out another, far simpler system, the motion of which *also* depends on the arrangement of its parts, you say that this simpler system does not possess ’emergent properties’. So which is it? Do only complex systems have emergent properties? If so, why, and how complex does something have to be do merit emergent properties?

    One final question: is a system that’s not activated somehow fundamentally different from the same system once it’s activated? For example, is a deactivated engine somehow different from one that’s running? I mean, since ‘the system isn’t defined by its parts’, and they produce different outputs, you must think they’re different systems, right?

  156. #156 Alexander Vargas
    July 28, 2006

    “What special property of the water ‘system’ can we not derive from sufficiently detailed knowledge of the properties of hydrogen and oxygen?”

    again you don’t seem to understand that the fact you may realize how two things together have new properties that are inexistent in the separate parts does not relate to whether we can forsee or not that possibility from our knowledge of hydrogen and oxygen. Its a plainly stupid and now a repeated attempt to conflate emergent properties with the unknown-magic. Stop it, cause I ain’t answering again to this silliness.

    AND… you deceive yourself badly if you think it does not help to study water itself , that looking hard at hydrogen and oxygen is just as good. That’s retarded. Some time ago I remember the physicists were very happy because they had confirmed that hydrogen existed, you know, they figured out how it could actually be stable. The chemists were laughing their asses off, but the physicists were happy.

    Of course once you look at the system you see what properties of the parts are involved in making it possible… what you do is a posteriory, act like if it all had been a clear prediction form the components ..bullshit. Components make it possible, mech, but they do not specify the system, drill that into your hard skull.

    I make blanket generalizations againts the philosophical belief of reductionism, as I would of holism. They are wrong. You confuse reductionism, an invalid epistemology, with the valid practice of analyticial thinking.

    Why does gravitational atraction depend on the arrangements of the parts? The gravitational attraction of both masses combined is a commutative sum of each, no?

    You may continue to deceive yourself that example proves something againts the reality of emerging properties or the importance of the arrangement of parts. It doesn’t. And I want you to reflect on how you stick up accusations of magic and metaphysics that are pure crap. In the end you come off as if you cannot tell magic and metaphysics from science (in fact, you can’t). A very, very bad problem. I’d be a bit more careful before opening my piehole like that.

  157. #157 Mechanophile
    July 28, 2006

    again you don’t seem to understand that the fact you may realize how two things together have new properties that are inexistent in the separate parts does not relate to whether we can forsee or not that possibility from our knowledge of hydrogen and oxygen.

    Here is the nub of it, Vargas. You’re arguing against the idea of reductionism, which means that you believe we cannot foresee the properties of water based on a detailed enough knowledge of hydrogen and oxygen.

    you deceive yourself badly if you think it does not help to study water itself , that looking hard at hydrogen and oxygen is just as good.

    Again Vargas, you fail to understand my argument. Did I say it didn’t help to study water itself, and that we should all just become physicists? No, I didn’t. What I said was that it is *possible* to infer the properties of water, given detailed enough knowledge of hydrogen and oxygen. You don’t seem to disagree with that in principle, and yet you’ve spent most of this argument talking about the evils of reductionism.

    Of course once you look at the system you see what properties of the parts are involved in making it possible… what you do is a posteriory, act like if it all had been a clear prediction form the components

    If you know enough about the components, and you know which components are interacting, it will be a clear prediction! That’s the whole point I’ve been trying to convey to you!

    I ask again, Vargas, what the hell are you arguing? I agree with you that a system will depend on the arrangement of its components, and what’s more, will also be affected by its environment. Where I disagree with you is in your insistence that this organization of components somehow makes the machine ‘more than the sum of its parts’. A machine is the ultimate reductionist fantasy, because it’s a complex system, the behaviour of which can be described in terms of much simpler components. There is no need for an ’emergent property’, ie. ‘a novel property that unpredictably comes from a combination of two simpler constituents’, to describe that system. Anything a system can do will be specified in the components, as long as you know enough about the interactions to be able to tell which component properties will come into play.

    Why do you think this makes a system anything more than a certain arrangement of parts?

    Why does gravitational atraction depend on the arrangements of the parts? The gravitational attraction of both masses combined is a commutative sum of each, no?

    Ah, but two-body system A will accelerate differently from two-body system B, if the distances between bodies are different, ie. the output will change based on the arrangement of the parts. According to your definition, that means that gravitational acceleration is an emergent property of the system. Which is foolish, but there you go.

  158. #158 Mechanophile
    July 28, 2006

    You may continue to deceive yourself that example proves something againts… the importance of the arrangement of parts.

    ARGH! I agree with you that the arrangement of parts in a system is important, damnit! The fact that a system is really only a certain arrangement of certain components has no bearing on the applicability of reductionism to that system, nor does it mean that there is anything ‘more’ to the system than the parts themselves! A system doesn’t become irreducible just because you have to know which components interact in order to describe it in terms of those components!

    You tell me that you aren’t talking about some metaphysical ‘more’, but unless you believe that a system is literally, physically made up of more than its components, then you are talking about a philosophical, non-literal meaning of ‘more’.

  159. #159 Steve_C
    July 28, 2006
  160. #160 AC
    July 28, 2006

    The peculiar properties of the water molecule are due to the bonding geometry of two hydrogen atoms and an oxygen atom. So detailed knowledge of the hydrogen and oxygen atoms, plus detailed knowledge of covalent bonding, would allow one to predict water’s peculiar properties.

    I recall there being more to emergent properties than this….

  161. #161 Alexander Vargas
    July 28, 2006

    Mechanofile

    1) Let me just warn you that by saying emergent properties SIMPLY DO NOT EXIST you are plainly pissing against the wind with what in biology is ackowleged as just a fact. I already told you to turn to Mayr, to Gould to hear it put in these very same words.

    2) arrangement is not substance. It has been well known for quite some time already that interactions are not substances. You argue as if anything that is not some kind of matter or substance doesn’t exist or is magical. That’s a pretty archaic approach to science.

    3) You seem to demand that any emergent property that can be predicted is not an emergent property if prediction is possible, and you ASSUME that prediction is possible “because we know the components in sufficient detail”. This is totally false. In first place, that an emergent property can be predicted by no means implies this is done by detailed knowledge of the combined elements. Rather, it is usually done by visualizing by having emergent properties in mindto gbegi with, and then visualizing which components can satisfy the conditions that, may intercat and make it possible.

    In other words: To predict an emergent property, most knowledge of the components and their porperties may be perfectly unnecessary. All we need to know about them are those properties RELEVANT to the higher-level, emerging interaction we have in mind. WITHOUT these emrgent porperties and higher level interactions IN MIND, no matter how hard we stater at the separate ellemnst , we will just not figure what would be possible.

    Let me put it more plainly still: of a given compoent, I may not care that it is metallic, plastic, melting temperature, conductivity. All that I care is that it has a circular shape to act, for example, as wheel. Or that it has the shape to fit into another piece.
    And then again if I am thinking of antehr machine, it is othe rpoperties that I will care about the compoents, becuase I have other emerging , higher level interactions in mind.

  162. #162 Steve LaBonne
    July 28, 2006

    I think the “more” is merely a matter of the system being so much larger, and the interactions between its multitudinous parts so much more complicated, than a water molecule that even in principle you couldn’t do that kind of microsopic calculation. (Try to imagine the complete Schrodinger wave function of a human being! I assume it would take far longer than the age of the universe just to write it down.) Attaching some bullshit metaphysical significance to that is just a cheap rhetorical trick.

  163. #163 Mechanophile
    July 28, 2006

    The peculiar properties of the water molecule are due to the bonding geometry of two hydrogen atoms and an oxygen atom. So detailed knowledge of the hydrogen and oxygen atoms, plus detailed knowledge of covalent bonding, would allow one to predict water’s peculiar properties.

    I recall there being more to emergent properties than this….

    Well, alright, fair enough. To be totally accurate, detailed knowledge of the components and their methods of interaction are necessary in order to predict the outcome. I was sort of rolling ‘properties of interaction’ into ‘component properties’ for the sake of simplicity, since interaction types are specified by components and their locations.

    And you’re right, ’emergent property’ means something more than that to me, as well. I’m still not sure what it means to Vargas, though… I doubt he believes there is some literal, physical ‘system’ quantity, but then I go back to his ‘a machine is more than the sum of its parts’, and it just gets fuzzy.

    Beh. To Vargas: in the interests of being cordial, let me try to clarify something. A system is defined as: a group of interacting, interrelated, or interdependent elements forming a complex whole. You say that you can’t know what a system will do without knowing A) the components of the system, and B) the arrangement of those components within the system. I agree with this.

    In addition, it seems like you were trying to say that the arrangement of the parts within a system gives that system certain overall properties, and that those properties would change depending on how you arranged the parts. Again, I agree with this.

    I disagree with you in two areas, though: 1) you use the term ’emergent properties’ to describe the overall properties of the system, and 2) you try to use these ’emergent properties’ to show that reductionism is wrong.

    1) ‘Emergent property’ has some fairly woo woo connotations to me, Vargas, although I can’t speak for others. To me, when you use ’emergent property’, you’re talking about ‘a novel property that unpredictably comes from a combination of two simpler constituents’. It’s the sort of thing that woo woos use to argue that life is special somehow, that biological systems can’t be explained by science since our individual components lack the ‘spark’. It’s expressly anti-reductionist when used in that sense, but even they don’t generally try to apply it to machines. This is why I’m a little confused as to your use of the term, because on the one hand, you expressly oppose reductionist thinking, but on the other, I *think* you’re sensible enough that you don’t believe there is anything magical that creates properties in systems that aren’t already present in one or more components.

    Do novel properties come from combinations of simpler constituents? Yes, certainly. Are they unpredictable? Given a good understanding of components and interactions, then no. There’s (ideally) nothing unpredictable about operating a gas turbine or a car engine, because we understand the properties of their components and the interactions between them.

    This brings me to 2), your hatred of reductionism. You say that because (for example) biology is better at describing biological systems than physics, reductionist thinking is therefore foolish and wrong. You ignore my point about why we don’t all study physics, ie. that it’s generally inefficient to reduce everything to that level, and you try to draw some distinction between reductionism and analytical thinking.

    Let me ask you something, Vargas: why is reductionist thinking invalid? If we look at a complex system, why can we not break that system down into a bunch of smaller, simpler components interacting with each other? Is there anything actually preventing us from breaking biological systems down and explaining them in terms of physics, aside from our lack of understanding of the complex interactions involved?

  164. #164 Mechanophile
    July 28, 2006

    … Aside from lack of understanding and feasibility of computation, rather.

  165. #165 Greco
    July 28, 2006

    Hey at home, why not refuse medical care for your beloved child and put your precious child’s fate in the hands of god who PROMISED to heal all sickness if you believe? Why not?

    A LOT of people do that. They call it “faith healing”. When a parent does it to a child, the judge calls it “murder”.

    Take Japan after WW2. They stopped believing in hirohito as an incarnated god, but they did not stop beliving in buddhism.

    The emperor’s divinity has nothing to do with Buddhism, ignorant. It’s from Shinto.

  166. #166 Alexander Vargas
    July 28, 2006

    “1) When you use ’emergent property’, you’re talking about ‘a novel property that unpredictably comes from a combination of two simpler constituents”

    Fourth time: You CAN predict it with only a few properties of the simpler constituents. all you need to take into accunt are the properties that are relevant to the emergence of the new property. That is enough to predict. We don’t care about any other detailed descriptions of the components and their properties. READ THIS AGAIN!!!!AGAIN!!!!THINK!!!!

    “It’s the sort of thing that woo woos use to argue that life is special somehow, that biological systems can’t be explained by science since our individual components lack the ‘spark’.”

    But you end up being as stupid as the woowoo. A woo woo, or anyone, can realize that reductionism is false. But just because the woowoo says this means that biology can’t be explained by science doesn´t mena you have to play into his false game. Unfortunatley, you and the woowoo are closer than what you think. Both of you belive that if there is no reductionism, there is no science. You think the woo woo is basically right.

    Its as simple as that, mechanofile. I know EXACTLY what’s wrong with you.

    “It’s expressly anti-reductionist when used in that sense, but even they don’t generally try to apply it to machines”

    Right: This is an important difference between me and the woowoo. The woo woo only questions reductionism to assert something magical. He knows it is silly to convice anyone that a machine cannot be explained scientifically. He therefore totally avoids criticizing reductionsim by means of example with machines, while I belive they are just perfect. Specially becuase different machines can be made from the same parts. This is a very simple and efficient way to convey that “its all about the Parts” is a false statement.

    “I *think* you’re sensible enough that you don’t believe there is anything magical”

    Hahaha mechanofile, you foool. You think I’m a church-lover? Look man, I dont give a shit of what a woowoo may say. You in turn seem scared or insecure. You have distorted your good thinking just to keep away from the false dichotomies the woowwo has placed in your brain.

    “Do novel properties come from combinations of simpler constituents? Yes, certainly. Are they unpredictable? Given a good understanding of components and interactions, then no. There’s (ideally) nothing unpredictable about operating a gas turbine or a car engine, because we understand the properties of their components and the interactions between them”.

    Let me turn it the other way round. Can you predict all the properties of the components from the operation of a system? The answer is no. All the propertiesof the componenets that are irrelevant to the operation of the system can be whatever and cannot be predicted fform the system. That is, I cannot predict what the properties of all the compoenents of a car engine will be. there is lost of things that may vary about them and theengine would work just fine.

    “Is there anything actually preventing us from breaking biological systems down and explaining them in terms of physics, aside from our lack of understanding of the complex interactions involved?”

    This is silly question. Without the complex interactions involved we aint gonna understand jackshit fo biology. Oh and by the way isn’t their any modern physicist or physicochemist around here? Cause it just so happens sytems theory is currently hot spot for spawning research in these fields.

    Anyway, I will try to come up with a good way of explaining what I know: that emerging properties, not unpracticality, not the feasibility of computation, is the reason why reductionism is not a scientific alternative for studying organisms.

    Goodbye for the weekend, folks

  167. #167 kaVri
    July 28, 2006

    Hmmm… a friend directed me to this particular episode of Pharygula…having read through all the comments, a few thoughts:

    Vargas…
    I found you had some good points early on (that a hardline science=athiesm will alienate some christians, that people shouldn’t just be ‘dismissed/denegrated), but your hardline against Dawkin is no better than some scientists who totally dismiss and disparage “Religion” and all it’s adherents. Pot and Kettle? I also agree with what a number of people here have said…currently the particular brands of “Religion” that have a lot of adherents right now that are truly frightening, that being the extremist Muslims, and the right-wing/conservative/fundamental (mostly Southern Baptist) Protestants. For good measure, one could throw in the ultra-conservative anti-Vatican 2 Roman Catholics as well. These groups are far more dangerous and problematic than those in the field of Science that go a bit overboard in their assertions or are a bit arrogant or are ‘hard’ on the above mentioned groups. One of the main reasons, is that unlike your position that it is a matter of ‘religion’ for ID, ID and all the other agendas of those three groups has much more to do with Power: political and monitarly for the most part, but also to do with psychological elements as well.

    Next up, you don’t hold to your own convictions very well. You say that those that believe in religion shouldn’t be called silly…that science should take the high moral ground… and yet you quite quickly descend to insults far lower than any tossed at you. In particular you continually are snide and crass with Mechanophile, who for the most part has been calm and cordial. Also, you call people stupid and retarded. I don’t see how you are making much of a case for the science minded to be gentler with the religion believers, when you yourself repeatedly stoop to personal attack.

    Then there is the small problem of you totally denouncing metaphors and never using them, when you yourself introduced the machine metaphor in the first place, which also is a poor metaphor if your objective (as you show later) is to do primarily with biological systems.

    Next up, you don’t seem to grasp the politics of the situation when it comes to ID/creationism/science…but, that is a point I’m making below addressed to everybody.

  168. #168 kaVri
    July 29, 2006

    Everyone…

    I find it rather strange that the science crowd has thrown around ‘Religion’ without bothering with a) a definition of some kind and b) sticking to any coherent group when using it.

    I’ve seen ‘Religion’ mentioned, followed by examples that are expressly ‘Christian’. I’ve seen ‘Christian’ and ‘Religion’ used as a label for what is clearly ‘Right Wing Conservative Fundamental Protestant’

    Where is the rigor? *deep sigh*

    Also, lets get this ‘superstition’ vs ‘religion’ out of the way.

    Religion is a term that covers a lot of ground.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion

    Religion is a human phenomenon that defies easy definition. It is commonly understood as a group of beliefs or attitudes concerning an object (real or imagined), person (real or imagined), or system of thought considered to be supernatural, sacred, divine or highest truth, and the moral codes, practices, values, institutions, and rituals associated with such belief or system of thought. It is sometimes used interchangeably with “faith” or “belief system”[1] In the course of the development of religion, it has taken many forms in various cultures and individuals.

    Occasionally, the word “religion” is used in the more restrictive sense of “organized religion” — that is, an organization of people supporting the exercise of some religion, often taking the form of a legal entity (see religion-supporting organization).

    Sociologists and anthropologists see religion as an abstract set of ideas, values, or experiences developed as part of a cultural matrix. Primitive religion was indistinguishable from the sociocultural acts where custom and ritual defined an emotional reality.

    Other religious scholars have put forward a definition of religion that avoids the reductionism of the various sociological and psychological disciplines that relegate religion to its component factors. Religion may be defined as the presence of a belief in the sacred or the holy. For example Rudolf Otto’s “The Idea of the Holy,” formulated in 1917, defines the essence of religious awareness as awe, a unique blend of fear and fascination before the divine. Friedrich Schleiermacher in the late 18th century defined religion as a “feeling of absolute dependence.”

    The Encyclopedia of Religion describes religion in the following way:
    “In summary, it may be said that almost every known culture involves the religious in the above sense of a depth dimension in cultural experiences at all levels — a push, whether ill-defined or conscious, toward some sort of ultimacy and transcendence that will provide norms and power for the rest of life When more or less distinct patterns of behaviour are built around this depth dimension in a culture, this structure constitutes religion in its historically recognizable form. Religion is the organization of life around the depth dimensions of experience — varied in form, completeness, and clarity in accordance with the environing culture.”
    (Winston King, Encyclopedia of Religion, p 7693)

    Okay…so, I think for the conversation going on here, we can safely say that the biggest concern is ‘Organized Religion’ ie ‘The Church’…the entity that is formalized, and in particular the groups that are of a fundamental/conservative/extremist nature.

    Now, I know that a bunch of the science crowd are going to either want to say that they all lead to horrid anti-science ends, and/or that all of it is the same as believing in the tooth fairy…but for arguments sake, let’s just keep it that while you might be right about those assertions, the Organized Religion of the fundamental/conservative/extremist bent is our most pressing problem.

    Superstition

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superstition

    A Superstition is the irrational belief that future events are influenced by specific behaviors, without having a causal relationship.

    In the academic discipline of folkloristics the term “superstition” is used to denote any folk belief expressed in if/then (with an optional “unless” clause) format. If you break a mirror, then you will have seven years of bad luck unless you throw all of the pieces into a body of running water. In this usage, the term is not pejorative.

    Supersitions are based on general, culturably variable beliefs in a supernatural “reality”. Depending on a given culture’s belief set, its superstitions may relate to things that are not fully understood or known, such as cemeteries, animals, demons, a devil, deceased ancestors, the weather, gambling, sports, food, holidays, occupations, excessive scrupulosity, death, luck, and/or Spirits. Urban legends are also sometimes classed as superstition, especially if the moral of the legend is to justify fears about socially alien people or conditions.
    Superstition, as of today’s understanding, is thought to derive from the both meanings of Latin ‘superstes’ composed on super (over, beyond), -sto (to stand):
    • one who attends, can witness
    • one who survives

    The ‘superstitio’ was the gift of narrating events as if one had attended and survived them. This capability of the ‘superstitiosus’ was associated with divination, which when not performed by a regular augur, was held in contempt as charlatanism. As a result, the superstitio became synonymous with “despisable religious beliefs”, as antithetic with ‘religio’, the accepted official or traditional religion.

    Thus, the English word “superstition,” as understood from its original Latin meaning, implies a religion-like belief that stands outside the bounds of clerical religion.
    In modern English, the term “superstition” is also used to refer to folkloric belief systems, often with the intention of casting negative, derogatory, or belittling scorn upon another culture’s concept of the spiritual world.

    @@@ Okay now, we can see that a) Superstition is used to denote those with beliefs outside the accepted Organized Religion. and b) it has been used as a derogatory dismissal of any religious or supernatural belief.

    If we go to a more sociological view of tribal superstition, than we are basically moving into the ‘religion’ definition Wikipedia provides…in which case, one could make a cogent argument that all Organized Religions started out as a superstition.

    If we take the rather narrow definition of Wikipedia (narrow mostly because other wider aspects of superstition of the tribal kind have been included in the Religion entry) then equating Organized Religion and Superstition is wrong, and to say that all Organized Religions started from this kind of superstition would be insupportable. However, that superstitions were part of the process of the belief systems that became an Organized Religion is likely.

  169. #169 kaVri
    July 29, 2006

    I think it’s reasonable to toss in a definition of Philosophy about now:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Definition_of_philosophy

    Philosophy can be distinguished from empirical science and religion. The Penguin Encyclopedia says that philosophy differs from science in that its questions cannot be answered empirically, i.e. by observation or experiment, and from religion, in that its purpose is entirely intellectual, and allows no place for faith or revelation. Modern Thomistic Philosophy says philosophy does not try to answer questions by appeal to revelation, myth or religious knowledge of any kind, but uses reason, “without reference to sensible observation and experiments”. By contrast, Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy states that “the late 20th-century… prefers to see philosophical reflection as continuous with the best practice of any field of intellectual enquiry.”

    @@@ I think what everyone is forgetting as they bash ‘religion’ and any belief in supernatural, is that they see it as in opposition to science…rather than perhaps that as the field of science has grown, we’ve outgrown many, but perhaps not all, of our ‘need’ or ‘desire’ for spirituality.

    (yes…more Wikipedia quoting)…

    Spirituality

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spirituality

    Spirituality is, in a narrow sense, a concern with matters of the spirit. The spiritual, concerning as it does eternal verities regarding Man’s ultimate nature, is often contrasted with the temporal or the worldly. The central defining characteristic of spirituality is a sense of connection to a much greater whole which includes an emotional experience of religious awe and reverence. As with some forms of religion, the emphasis of spirituality is often on personal experience. It may be an expression for life perceived as higher, more complex or more integrated with one’s worldview, as contrasted with the merely sensual.

    @@@ The problem is that while Spirituality opens up the realm of holding onto some beliefs without having to support ‘organized religion’…it also opens the door for every woo-woo version of anything out there that someone dreams up.

    I think that the science crowd needs to root up the noxios weeds of creationism and ID at their roots, which isn’t to do with ‘religion’ or ‘spirituality’ at all…It has to do primarily with Power and Control. Much of where the USA is right now in terms of the fundamental/conservative/extreme crowds in Christianity and Judaism come from political agendas. The ‘Right to Life’ movements, the ‘Family Values’ and ‘anti-drug’ agendas….are fuelled by politics.

    It does little to try and talk to the hardliners, you won’t sway them…the ‘followers’ would need careful discussion, case by case, and there isn’t time for that…the goal should be to claim back a secular government and to keep ‘Religion’ out of public places, public funds, public education, etc.

    @@@ Vargas is right, there are a lot of good, kind, intelligent believers out there….some are privately unceretain about their beliefs, some are firm in their beliefs even as they hold conflicting views between what their religion says and what science says. Some are firm in their beliefs, but don’t believe all aspects of their chosen religion.

    To peg all these people as ‘insane’ or ‘stupid’ or ‘unscientific’ does a disservice to them, but also to the ultimate cause of trying to get the power of the conservative/fundamental/extremists squelched. Those that are liberal, uncertain, etc …will tend towards more conservative views if they feel threatened/bullied… if your try to take away a person’s faith, their natural inclination will be to hold on tighter. What one needs to do is to educate and discuss (not necessarily debate/argue) with those with beliefs so that at the very least, they are not holding on to crank science or are burying their heads in the sand.

    Please remember that many people, out of their religious and spiritual beliefs are doing much good in the world. Does this make up for the atrocities done in the name of Religion? NO. Do the atrocities done in the name of Religion give us free reign to treat all believing persons like the worst of the worst of them? NO.

    @@@ To the originating post. Cornelia Dean isn’t terribly bright. PZ makes sound cases for why she isn’t. However, I do think she has at least some merit for using the word ‘brave’…because so many in the science crowd lump all religions together as equal, and that lump sum is the value of the worst of the lot, it is difficult for someone in science to try and posit religious/spiritual views without aspersion and many jumps to conclusions that aren’t justified. That said, I do think that those trying to stand up in the face of ID/Creationism/Organized Religion of the fundamental-conservative kind have the worst end of it….especially because they are standing up to a powerful majority who do not want that power base taken from them.

    Finally, I think PZ is wrong to go so far as saying “Religion is a failed paradigm.”… I think Organized Religion is a failed paradigm that is now evolving into a Spirituality that is based in the human condition and humanism and ethics and ‘being’. There are huge movements towards Buddhism/Yogic teachings/Presence that have nothing to do with a ‘pie in the sky’ god, or a god/dess/es at all… but have to do with trying to align ones self to ethics, nature, and presence… one might even get away with not calling it a spiritual movement, but a psychological one, one where people are opening their minds to new paradigms in order to let go of a failed organized religion, but that still speaks to the human condition: how should we live our lives? how do we deal with pain? what do we owe our fellow humans?

    @@@ Back in the day, it wasn’t like ‘Religion’ was some seperate entity for primitive people…as soon as people started to survive in groups larger than family units, the process began to try and answer questions that occurred to them…. and to come up with rules and reasons for them. In fact it was ‘life’ and included all the things we now put in seperate categories…. science, religion, history, arts, etc.

    Stories and rituals and objects had meanings that were for any number of reasons: social control, explanations, community building, comfort.

    Actions such as charting the solar system, the occurence of equinoxesx and solstices…the use of fire elements in ritual…were parts of science that were religion for them. There is nothing ‘unscientific’ about charting the sun and moon…even if the reasons for it are born out of spirituality…it makes the charts no less correct. Eating and cleanlines prohibitions, marriage and death prohibitions…much of it was based on observations and much of it was in the interests of the people at the time they were instituted. There are psychological and political reasons why not only religion was promoted, but also why people took to it so easily.

    @@@ To expect that Science in a few hundred years can replace the deep seated beliefs stemming back millenia is a bit premature. It is however, easy to see that the conservative/fundamental/extremist beliefs being on an increase are the dying gasps of an outdated system and the rallying cry of a scared and uncertain people.

    I don’t devalue the human nature in us that does not want to be alone, that aspires have an ethical/moral code, that wants reassurance, that struggles with the death, despair, pain, and wants answers to what the meaning of life is.

    That the answer is not in organized religion is becoming apparent to a number of people, but as they move away from organized religion, there is a backlash, because the next generation has no compass/structure, and they often turn out to be more conservative then their predecessors, the next generation with more science with more understanding, moves away from organized religion. I think that the USA is a bit of an exception case, in that they seem stuck in a conservative/fundamental/extremist bubble. Much of the rest of the world has far lower stats when it comes to narrow views and adherence to an organized religion.

    I hope that some of this gives you a bit more information about where religious/spiritual people coming from, and to realize that they aren’t all cut from the same cloth.

  170. #170 Alexander Vargas
    July 31, 2006

    I don’t think your intervention is very interesting, kavri, but I do want to make a point clear. I have not disparaged Dawkins nearly as much as Mr. Mong, for instance, who claims that Dawkins is ruining biology. Fortunately Dawkins has no such power. Within actual evolutionary biology his extremism, both ultradariwinian and reductionist, has been disparaged by people who have unquestionably made much more imortant contributions to the field, like Gould and Mayr. He is but a passing social phenomenon, a man that as a “scientist” has gone out of his way to say that evolution must lead to atheism. To disparage him is by no means comparable to people who want to disparage religion in general, but the adequate comparison is to the religious extremists who equate believing in god with rejecting evolution. Dawkins validates their logic. Both are closer than you may think.

  171. #171 Alexander Vargas
    August 2, 2006

    Other points: If I am not snide and crass with mechanofile, how will I convince him that I am not a holistic mystical hippie? I adjust my language to whom I am speaking to. And no, mechanofile has not been nice at all and I am righteously angry that he conflates studying emerging properties, a well known, crucial element of biology, with being a woowoo. You can understand that this dichotomy he plays, that we all bow to false reductionism or be woowoos, is not only an insult to science but also feeds ID- creationim and therefore, gets me pissed. I expect more from supposedly science oriented people.
    Don´t whine for Mechanofile. Rather, ask yourself why mechanofile does not want to whine for himself. I dont think he minds at all. I am not seducing. I’m not sure if I care that mechanofile changes his mind. I am cahllenging him so I can test my arguments.

    Oh, and this: I have not used the machine as a metaphor, but as a literal example of how reductionism is false in organized systems. This does not requiere we be talking of organisms. Machines also fit the bill.

  172. #172 thwaite
    August 3, 2006

    Vargas,

    For the biological argument, you might find this slightly more recent thread on DNA->protein causality of interest, although it’s also now quiescent.

    I still think DNA is the basis of Weismann’s ‘river of heredity’ between generations – I don’t think any ‘recurring environments’ suffice for this role, whether cellular or larger (see the essay by Cronin which I provided a link for earlier, for a discussion of how organisms and ultimately genes define their environments, not vice versa). And it’s historically true that it’s a reductionist search for a physical basis of heredity which led to the discovery of DNA – recall Avery & Hershey & Chases early work with T2 phage DNA, motivated largely by physicist Schrödinger’s disciplined speculations in his book WHAT IS LIFE, culminating in the structural study by Watson & Crick. Systems theory, cellular or otherwise, did not inform this process of discovery.

    I’m interested if you can recommend good introductions to the systems view applied here. I’ve encountered several lists of claims and philosophical assumptions (e.g. the Caporael link I provided above, which seems similar to yours), but not a substantive exposition. Am I missing something obvious in Susan Oyama’s or (say) Francisco Varela’s bodies of work?

  173. #173 Alexander Vargas
    August 3, 2006

    Beautiful ideas, though simplistic and ultimately false, can drive research.

    Genetics would have never been possible if Mendel and Morgan payed much attention to what they could not explain about heredity. And much work may have not been carried out nor research money collected without the enthusiastic belief and message that by knowing these components, the genes, we were “decoding the program that builds organisms”. And we all collect the fruits of this research, regardless of whether the aspirations that drove it were false or not. Does this make my criticism cynical, a roadblock to science?

    No. On the side, problematic data has always existed but it has been ignored. Truth is, while a group of observations has been reinforced, another is badly neglected. People end up thinking that genes is all there is.

    I think this is at lest in part the reason why you fail to recognize the importance in the recurrence of the environment, which is in fact a quite empirical thing. If you want you may check the importance of the environment in the book by West-Eberhard commented by PZ. Genes are not that powerful.

    Reductionism leads to a pragmatic attitude that spews data all the time (although little true integration of this data is seen). This is very much rewarded in science and a basically work-oriented society. That is, pragmatic reductionism is not endangered. It needs no protection. It is theoretical and integrative thinking that is gravely insufficient.

    We are now paying for this lack of theory. What reductionism cannot explain has left a gap that has been used by the people of intelligent design to get in by the back door. And most scientists don’t know how to handle it very well. While many insist at almost literal value on the metaphor thatthe organism is programmed in the DNA, creationists are demanding to know: who wrote the code?.

    Take the human genome project. A mighty, important pragmatic endeavour.Full of work. And undoubtedly, useful work. A great database. All those who spearheaded this effort, that collected the money and made arrangments, were explicit reductionists. There were telling us all the ime that here we had the “book of life” for the human organism. And then the director of all the project came ot of the closet, saying he belives in god, and that when he goes through pages and pages of seuences, he thinks god wrote it. Does this invalidate the empirical data he worked so hard for? No. Does it mean we must accept his motivation and interpretation? No.

    Maybe these writings can help… try also some Stuart Kauffman for a person closer to the anglo traditions of thought:

    Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela. 1980 Autopoiesis: The Organization of the Living. In: Autopoiesis and Cognition. Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science

    Cecchi C, Vargas A, Villagra C, Mpodozis J. 2004 Answering Cuvier: Notes on the systemic/historic nature of living beings. Cybernetics & Human Knowing, Volume 11, Number 4 pp 11-19

  174. #174 thwaite
    August 3, 2006

    Vargas,
    Thanks for this considered and helpful reply. I’ll peruse some of this as I’ve time to review it – I know I can get Kauffman, and Maturana & Varela‘s book ( having glanced at it long ago ) but it might be helpful if you have a web link for your own co-authored paper, something like what I provided for the papers by Cronin & Caporael (which I still encourage perusing).

    It seems appropriate to move this thread over to the ‘too stupid’ thread about DNA->proteins (for its subject matter, not the title!), you think?

  175. #175 Alexander Vargas
    August 4, 2006

    Hi Thwaite
    Unfortunately I don´t have a pdf of that article. What I like most of it is the refutation of the idea of a “genetic programming” of development.
    I have dropped another comment at the dna-protein thread

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