Pharyngula

Somebody is going to have to declare Jerry Coyne an official member of the “New Atheist” club and send him the fancy hat and instructions for the secret handshake. He has a substantial piece in The New Republic that is both a review of two recent books by theistic scientists, Karl Giberson (who really detests me) and Ken Miller, and a definite warning shot across the bows of those who believe science and religion can be reconciled.

First, let’s consider the reviews of the two books — they’re less interesting, not because they’re poorly done, but because Coyne’s opinion is almost identical to mine. The main point is that both books shine when they’re taking on the misconceptions of the creationists, but are weak and unconvincing whenever they move on to religious apologetics.

Giberson and Miller are thoughtful men of good will. Reading them, you get a sense of conviction and sincerity absent from the writings of many creationists, who blatantly deny the most obvious facts about nature in the cause of their faith. Both of their books are worth reading: Giberson for the history of the creation/ evolution debate, and Miller for his lucid arguments against intelligent design. Yet in the end they fail to achieve their longed-for union between faith and evolution. And they fail for the same reason that people always fail: a true harmony between science and religion requires either doing away with most people’s religion and replacing it with a watered-down deism, or polluting science with unnecessary, untestable, and unreasonable spiritual claims.

Although Giberson and Miller see themselves as opponents of creationism, in devising a compatibility between science and religion they finally converge with their opponents. In fact, they exhibit at least three of the four distinguishing traits of creationists: belief in God, the intervention of God in nature, and a special role for God in the evolution of humans. They may even show the fourth trait, a belief in irreducible complexity, by proposing that a soul could not have evolved, but was inserted by God.

That last paragraph in particular sounds like Larry Moran, who puts the theistic evolutionists on the same non-science side as the creationists. It’s going to grate on the authors, I’m sure, because both have clearly been strongly outspoken against creationism, and I don’t doubt the sincerity or honesty of either in their repudiation of creationism in any of its Intelligent Design, young earth, or old earth flavors, but they are both pushing a different flavor, a kind of weak tea flavored brand of theistic babble that is notable only its reliance on a diffuse vagueness instead of strong claims about the nature of the universe. They are equivalent in being equally unsupportable. They are equivalent in requiring their proponents to walk away from evidence and rigor in order to suggest that a peculiar entity was critical in creating the universe, life, and humanity — while at the same time, Miller and Giberson at least declaim the importance of scientific thinking honestly (the creationists who are a real problem also declaim the importance of science dishonestly, as they are doing their best to consciously undermine it.)

I also thought their unfortunate praise for superstitious dogma was the key flaw in both books — and their attempts to pin the blame for creationism on secularism instead of religion was disingenuous at best. The same could be said for another author with excellent scientific credentials, Francis Collins, who was even more outrageous in the way his logic lapsed whenever he introduced his deity into the discussion.

Criticizing an unfortunate turn in their books is one thing, but Coyne wins his New Atheist oak leaf cluster for taking it one step further, and making the case that religion and science are antagonistic. Readers here will know that this is also a view I share, and that I also think this pattern of trotting out yet more scientists who go to church is growing old. It does not argue that science and religion are compatible at all — all the coincidence of these ideas in single individuals tells us is that human beings are entirely capable of holding mutually incompatible ideas in their heads at the same time. The question is not whether a person is capable of swiveling between the church pew and the lab bench, but whether religion can tolerate scientific scrutiny, and whether science can thrive under dogma. I say the answer is no. Coyne agrees.

It would appear, then, that one cannot be coherently religious and scientific at the same time. That alleged synthesis requires that with one part of your brain you accept only those things that are tested and supported by agreed-upon evidence, logic, and reason, while with the other part of your brain you accept things that are unsupportable or even falsified. In other words, the price of philosophical harmony is cognitive dissonance. Accepting both science and conventional faith leaves you with a double standard: rational on the origin of blood clotting, irrational on the Resurrection; rational on dinosaurs, irrational on virgin births. Without good cause, Giberson and Miller pick and choose what they believe. At least the young-earth creationists are consistent, for they embrace supernatural causation across the board. With his usual flair, the physicist Richard Feynman characterized this difference: “Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself. The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” With religion, there is just no way to know if you are fooling yourself.

So the most important conflict—the one ignored by Giberson and Miller—is not between religion and science. It is between religion and secular reason. Secular reason includes science, but also embraces moral and political philosophy, mathematics, logic, history, journalism, and social science—every area that requires us to have good reasons for what we believe. Now I am not claiming that all faith is incompatible with science and secular reason—only those faiths whose claims about the nature of the universe flatly contradict scientific observations. Pantheism and some forms of Buddhism seem to pass the test. But the vast majority of the faithful—those 90 percent of Americans who believe in a personal God, most Muslims, Jews, and Hindus, and adherents to hundreds of other faiths—fall into the “incompatible” category.

Coyne is admitting something that most of the scientists I’ve talked to (and I’ll openly confess that that is definitely a biased sample) agree on: we don’t believe, and we find no virtue in faith. At the same time, we’re struggling with an under- and mis-educated population that believes faith is far more important than reason. So what most scientists do is keep as quiet as possible about it all, or fall under the spell of ‘framing’…that is, lying about their position. That is changing.

This disharmony is a dirty little secret in scientific circles. It is in our personal and professional interest to proclaim that science and religion are perfectly harmonious. After all, we want our grants funded by the government, and our schoolchildren exposed to real science instead of creationism. Liberal religious people have been important allies in our struggle against creationism, and it is not pleasant to alienate them by declaring how we feel. This is why, as a tactical matter, groups such as the National Academy of Sciences claim that religion and science do not conflict. But their main evidence—the existence of religious scientists—is wearing thin as scientists grow ever more vociferous about their lack of faith. Now Darwin Year is upon us, and we can expect more books like those by Kenneth Miller and Karl Giberson. Attempts to reconcile God and evolution keep rolling off the intellectual assembly line. It never stops, because the reconciliation never works.

There is a way to make it stop, though…at least I believe it will work. And that is to stop hiding the facts, and show people that secular reasoning works and is far superior to faith-based delusions. Science will not and cannot adopt religious thinking without being destroyed, but citizens can learn about the power of secular reasoning, and become stronger and better people for it. That’s where our attention should be focused, not on trying to reconcile science with its antithesis, but on getting everyone to think.


I do have one quibble with the article. In it, Coyne defines four common traits of all creationists.

But regardless of their views, all creationists share four traits. First, they devoutly believe in God. No surprise there, except to those who think that ID has a secular basis. Second, they claim that God miraculously intervened in the development of life, either creating every species from scratch or intruding from time to time in an otherwise Darwinian process. Third, they agree that one of these interventions was the creation of humans, who could not have evolved from apelike ancestors. This, of course, reflects the Judeo-Christian view that humans were created in God’s image. Fourth, they all adhere to a particular argument called “irreducible complexity.” This is the idea that some species, or some features of some species, are too complex to have evolved in a Darwinian manner, and must therefore have been designed by God.

This is true for the vast majority of creationists, but it isn’t quite universal. I know a few atheist creationists, and they are just as incoherent as the necessary conflict between the two terms in that phrase implies. They do exist, however. There is a subset of creationists who are more like radical denialists: they reject evolution because the majority of scientists accept it, or in some cases because they are so egotistical that they reject anything they didn’t think of first, or because they have some other wild hypothesis that they have seized upon, or because, frankly, they’re nuts. Coyne’s generalization may be accurate in 99% of all cases, and is certainly true for the leadership of the creationist movements in the US, but saying “all” opens up the idea to trivial refutation when the DI makes a sweep of the local insane asylums or trots out David Berlinski to pontificate supinely.

Comments

  1. #1 strangest brew
    January 23, 2009

    Indeed…it would appear that any ‘good’ scientist would have to be telling one awfully big whopper about the veracity of a supernatural god …any god…!

    Science and Religion are by default different ends of a spectrum which however it is held cannot merge the two images into one inclusive whole…and ever has that been so…in fact it is only the religiously afflicted that think it can be…probably wanting a evidential basis to support their delusion…cos deep down they know the quicksands of reason are encroaching up to their sweaty armpits and it would be handy to have something to grab as they slip further down into the cloying darkness of logic.

    They need science more then science needs them…simple like so!

  2. #2 King Aardvark
    January 23, 2009

    It goes both ways too. Many Christians like to point to the existence of famous scientists who are religious as proof that science supports Christianity (or at the very least, you can be a scientist and still believe). They miss the essential point that no scientist has ever become a Christian because of the scientific evidence.

  3. #3 ProfessorChaos
    January 23, 2009

    Atheist Creationist?!? What rationale does an Atheist have to believe in creationism?

  4. #4 tony
    January 23, 2009

    Bravo!

    It never failed to amaze me that such cognitive dissonance could remain in such minds!

    Ken Miller especially is extremely lucid and clear thinking when discussing science, and has produced many extremely easily accessible science texts for general readers. But – he displays such a huge degree of idiocy whenever religion is involved, I thought that it must have been ME, and MY failure of interpretation.

    Thanks for the clarification!

  5. #5 Richard Harris
    January 23, 2009

    Science & Religion are non-overlapping Magisteria, & in some minds apparently, they can co-exist quite independently. Weird! The human mind can be quite strange in some cases.

  6. #6 Lycosid
    January 23, 2009

    I teach high school and the shift you mention towards secular reasoning is indeed happening. It’s slow in coming, but my kids (generally lower-level) don’t flinch when I don’t say “Under God” in the Pledge of Alliegance, they’re tolerant of homosexuality, accepting of evolution (except the infrequent homeschooled kid sent in to be socialized). Kids make fun of Jesus a whole lot too!

    What’s more amazing about this is that I teach within a half hour of Dover, PA.

    Thank you and all the scientists who work hard to disseminate their work, and rationality itself, to a society starving for both.

  7. #7 Nentuaby
    January 23, 2009

    I have run accross (not personally, via the ‘net) a number of atheist Xenocreationists. That is, those who believe life on Earth was created by UFO aliens.

    They either hate it when you ask where said aliens come from in term, or cheerfully accept that they evolved, but we couldn’t have. I give up at that point. The headache is deadly.

  8. #8 Nerd of Redhead
    January 23, 2009

    I couldn’t try to reconcile religion and science. Just thinking about trying to do it sends shivers of futility up my back. They are just opposites in thinking. That’s why I stick with science.

  9. #9 jynnan_tonnyx
    January 23, 2009

    Heads up, PZ! Ray Comfort just called you out!

    “Here now is a big mystery. He doesn?t know how the universe got here, but he somehow knows that the Creator wasn?t a ?who.? How does he know that? Does he have some inside information? I would like to hear it. Bring it on Professor Myers. How do you know that a “who” wasn?t involved in creation? Explain yourself. I’m calling your bluff. Even Richard Dawkins knows better. He?s a little more careful with his wording, with his: “Why There Almost Certainly is no God.””

    http://raycomfortfood.blogspot.com/2009/01/challenge-to-professor.html

  10. #10 Peter Ashby
    January 23, 2009

    The reviews remind of my opinion of Kity Ferguson’s The Fire in the Equations which was all fine and dandy up until the final quarter when she violates whole swathes of the good stuff that went before in making huge unsupported leaps of faith. it is sad really, all that good work gone to waste, like mixing apricot jam and sprinkles on a good, dark coq au vin. or building the meanest looking hotrod and then painting it pink and putting lace curtains in it.

  11. #11 heddle
    January 23, 2009

    It is as good a place as any repeat my challenge. The only propositions we should discuss as scientists are propositions that have measurable effects. If it ain?t so, it?s religion, not science. Science accepts nothing else except that which is measureable. Therefore if it is a scientific proposition that science and religion are incompatible, let?s put it to the test.

    Once again: I?ll give you (anyone) ten peer-reviewed scientific papers from first class journals. Five by atheists. Five by theists. You tell me which are which, with a credible and reproducible explanation for how you detected the difference. (If we weren?t in the age of Google, I would just accept a simple: these five are from the theists.) Either the posited incompatibility has a measurable effect, or it?s unfalsifiable hogwash. If the effect can?t be observed, the ?Moran Conjecture? if we can call it that, is indistinguishable from a unprovable religious assertion.

    So what is Coyne trying to sell? Science or voodoo snake oil? Maybe Jerry Coyne would take the challenge?

  12. #12 strangest brew
    January 23, 2009

    I think it very few actually adopt a theistic attitude while working in the lab!
    Seems that it is usually a never shaken immersion in dogma at an early age that has so trapped the logic centres of the mind that is clings on regardless of subsequent experience…
    It seems to become part of the hard wiring of the brain at an early…’impressionable’…age!

    Maybe that is one reason why home schooling is such a favourite abuse amongst the deluded…it might also explain why the creotards want their delusion to be in early school as well!

  13. #13 'Tis Himself
    January 23, 2009

    We all compartmentalize our beliefs.

    I have very few prejudices. People of other races? No problem. Sexual orientation? I could care less. Theist or atheist? I get along with both. I can discuss politics with conservatives without raising my voice. However, if a libertarian wanders by I react with ferocious rage. I compartmentalize this hatred (and I recognize it as a hatred) and keep it separate from my other reactions to people..

    Similarly, theistic scientists compartmentalize science and theism. Most of them don’t even see the compartmentalization. They’re rational when doing science and irrational when doing god.

  14. #14 Qwerty
    January 23, 2009

    I didn’t even get to the finish before I thought of David Berlinski and you said, “trots out David Berlinski to pontificate supinely.”

    I watched “Expelled” on Youtube (I wasn’t going to waste a dime on buying it.) and thought Berlinski was easily the most conceited and pompous asswipe I’ve even seen on film.

  15. #15 Zifnab
    January 23, 2009

    I know a few atheist creationists, and they are just as incoherent as the necessary conflict between the two terms in that phrase implies. They do exist, however.

    There’s the “aliens did it” theory, but that largely just replaces “god” with “aliens”, at which point the atheist creationist is little more than a Heaven’s Gate cultist.

    Simply defining yourself as an atheist doesn’t preclude you from believing in god. I mean, here I am, taking a moment and believing in god. And oh by the way, I’m an atheist. See? Easy.

    If you believe that some invisible hand guides evolution, but you don’t believe the invisible hand happens to be the Judeo-Christian (or Islamic or Hindu or Buddist or whatever) diety, you’re no more secular than your neighbor the Orthodox Priest. You’ve erected a black box with a big question mark on it and pronounced the box “impossible to open”, then declared that all life must have come out of said black box.

    Call the black box God or UFOs or Magic Faeries or Psychic Energy or any other pseudo-scientific bullshit and it all amounts to the same thing.

    Atheist creationists? Pfff. I disbelieve.

  16. #16 JackC
    January 23, 2009

    How nice of Ray to call Dr Myers out, and yet not provide a method for such a thing, should the good Dr. choose to do such an unworthy and ridiculous time-wasting task.

    He is not worth the effort.

    JC

  17. #17 H.H.
    January 23, 2009

    Heddle, your stupid challenge is irrelevant to the issue under discussion, and has been explained to you numerous times. PZ was quite clear on what claim is being made:

    The question is not whether a person is capable of swiveling between the church pew and the lab bench, but whether religion can tolerate scientific scrutiny, and whether science can thrive under dogma.

    So why do you keep bringing up that irrelevant challenge of yours? Oh, that’s right, because refusing to understand the question allows you to remain under the delusion that science and religion don’t conflict.

  18. #18 PZ Myers
    January 23, 2009

    Heddle, are you particularly thick today or something? Both Coyne and I would say your “challenge” doesn’t challenge anything we’ve claimed. I’m saying that the fact that some good scientists also go to church tells us nothing about the compatibility of science and religion — people are very good at encompassing contradictions. And in particular, a science paper is only going to pass muster with reviewers (with rare exceptions) if the author has confined him or herself to using secular reasoning.

    Do you somehow think we’ve said that people are incapable of both believing in sky fairies and in being able to set the crazy ideas aside to do work at a lab bench? If you do, you’re either illiterate or simply stupid.

  19. #19 Nemo
    January 23, 2009

    heddle, as PZ already pointed out, the existence of religious scientists merely demonstrates the existence of cognitive dissonance, not the compatibility of religion with science. So your “challenge” is completely pointless.

    Nentuaby, are you talking about Raelians? I used to like them… OK, so they’re crazy, but they’re pro-sex, anti-theism, and nominally pro-science. I thought, hey, maybe we can work with these guys. But then I found out they’re global warming denialists. :-p

  20. #20 E.V.
    January 23, 2009

    When will Comfort ever realize his mother was a hamster and his fathered smelled of elderberries. Ray, we collectively fart in your general direction, you flagrant son of a window dresser (and lying delusional hack, I might add).

    Suck it Jesus.

  21. #21 Qwerty
    January 23, 2009

    I didn’t even get to the finish before I thought of David Berlinski and you said, “trots out David Berlinski to pontificate supinely.”

    I watched “Expelled” on Youtube (I wasn’t going to waste a dime on buying it.) and thought Berlinski was easily the most conceited and pompous asswipe I’ve even seen on film.

  22. #22 Glen Davidson
    January 23, 2009

    I know a few atheist creationists, and they are just as incoherent as the necessary conflict between the two terms in that phrase implies. They do exist, however.

    I sympathize with Coyne here, however. Almost all categorical statements fail with a few dolts or cranks, and it seems too much to make exceptions for Berlinski (actually, he seems to be a Platonic mystic, not an agnostic as they’re usually understood).

    Tactically, though, I’d have to agree. Just putting “nearly” in front of “all” would be best, if only to avoid yet another supercilious letter to the editor from David Berlinski.

    I have more sympathy with the “religion and science are compatible” statements of the NAS than do Coyne and PZ. It’s not so much that most religious scientists aren’t being inconsistent–they are. The point is that the sciences, including evolution, are not inherently anti-religious. Science ends up being largely incompatible with most traditional religions, in fact, yet the scope of possible religions is vast, almost certainly well beyond science’s ability to be incompatible with them all.

    Yes, it might end up being little different from deism. Those of us who came out of religion honestly had to face up to the fact that just because science fatally undermined the Bible did not mean that it showed that god does not exist. Much philosophy of god has been predicated not upon any sacred texts, rather upon metaphysical matters which are not readily dispelled before learning a good deal of philosophy. That is to say, deism is a perfectly good religion with which to oppose any blanket denial of religion and its supposed merits, and many theists do not shirk from using such minimalistic “religion” to oppose secularism, no matter that they do not care at all for deism.

    Philosophically, I would say, it is important that science is compatible with real and hypothetical religions. This is not an unimportant fact to bring up when science is accused of having an agenda against religion. That emphatically is not the case.

    Practically, it can be disingenuous to tell someone who is deeply caught in a traditional religious worldview that science does not threaten religion. It certainly threatens the religion of most people in our society. Nevertheless, it remains important that evolution along with the rest of science is indifferent to religion as a whole, which is why Hindus and Shintoists have rarely had a problem with evolution.

    What we can’t do is to proclaim that Miller and Giberson have demonstrated any meaningful compatibility between their religion and science, at least not without their religious claims sinking into meaninglessness.

    It’s still not a trivial fact that science is not intrinsically opposed to religion, indeed it’s a crucial point to make in court cases. For, if science were simply an adjunct of a secular/atheist worldview, teaching science/evolution would be in jeopardy of the first amendment.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  23. #23 Paul
    January 23, 2009

    Heddle,

    How about a more relevant challenge? Why not show one, just one published and peer reviewed paper where a god is shown as the only possible cause for a scientific phenomenon?

    Science and religion do not mix. Scientists, however, are flawed beings and may be prone to delusion…regardless of how smart they may be. And that’s ignoring the fact that there’s a lot of money to be made by writing books as a religiously converted scientist.

  24. #24 Patricia, OM
    January 23, 2009

    Hurray! I’m not the only one that thinks Heddle is stupid.

  25. #25 JRD
    January 23, 2009

    “I know a few atheist creationists. . . . There is a subset of creationists who are more like radical denialists: they reject evolution because the majority of scientists accept it, or in some cases because they are so egotistical that they reject anything they didn’t think of first, or because they have some other wild hypothesis that they have seized upon, or because, frankly, they’re nuts.”

    Are you defining “creationist” as anyone who rejects evolution? That’s a false dichotomy that usually the other side makes.

  26. #26 heddle
    January 23, 2009

    PZ,

    If you do, you’re either illiterate or simply stupid.

    Are those my only choices?

    You wrote,

    [Coyne gets] Atheist oak leaf cluster for taking it one step further, and making the case that religion and science are antagonistic.

    Are those just words–philosophy if you will, or do they have teeth? If the only answer is “compartmentalization, compartmentalization, compartmentalization” something which is itself unmeasurable and for which there is no diagnostic test, then all this–your post, Coyne’s words, Moran’s, etc. are just masturbations. What does it mean that they are antagonistic, if the antagonism has no effect?

    I can make up stuff willy-nilly too. I could claim this: “Religion and Science are harmonious, because the theist seeks to uncover the mind of God.” Those words are no worse (or better) that Coyne’s drivel.

  27. #27 heddle
    January 23, 2009

    Nemo,

    heddle, as PZ already pointed out, the existence of religious scientists merely demonstrates the existence of cognitive dissonance, not the compatibility of religion with science. So your “challenge” is completely pointless.

    I may be illiterate and stupid, but at least I know the meaning of “cognitive dissonance”, which you apparently do not. It is when a person holds believes he understands to be in conflict (like Kurt Wise), not when you find them to be incompatible. But that’s a common switcheroo. If it were as you used it, virtually everyone would be cognitively dissonant in the eyes of everyone else.

  28. #28 James F
    January 23, 2009

    It is in our personal and professional interest to proclaim that science and religion are perfectly harmonious. After all, we want our grants funded by the government….

    Hold on. Who has been denied grants for holding anti-religious views? This seems like a particularly odd claim given that the vast majority of National Academy of Sciences members identify as atheists or agnostics. Does Coyne provide examples?

  29. #29 Marcus Ranum
    January 23, 2009

    While science is not unified, there is only one “science” – any attempt to get science and religion to coexist begs the question: “which religion?”

    Since religions are all both perfectly right and mutually contradictory, I submit that the bulk of the problem of coexistence falls to the faithful. And we’ve seen what a great job they do of sorting that out.

    The idea that science somehow needs to coexist with a bunch of myths that scream “the other guys are WRONG!” is really silly. Sweep them all in the dustbin.

  30. #30 Wowbagger
    January 23, 2009

    heddle wrote,

    Therefore if it is a scientific proposition that science and religion are incompatible, let?s put it to the test.

    No-one is saying religiosity prevents religious scientist from ‘doing’ science; it’s that religious scientists allow their religion to act as a wall between the two, with the science they’re quite happy to apply to everything else, as long as it isn’t used to question their religious beliefs.

    Here’s my test for you, heddle:

    Someone has designed (and found the required materials for) a purely scientific test for which the result would be indisputable confirmation or refutation of Jesus’ divinity. Would you, as a scientist, approve the test being done, and would you accept the result – even if it proved that Jesus was, in fact, not divine?

  31. #31 John Morales
    January 23, 2009

    Heddle:

    [PZ] Do you somehow think we’ve said that people are incapable of both believing in sky fairies and in being able to set the crazy ideas aside to do work at a lab bench? If you do, you’re either illiterate or simply stupid.

    Are those my only choices?

    Since you’ve addressed the second part, but not the first, I take your answer is “Yes, I do”, but you have another reason.
    What is it?

  32. #32 Helioprogenus
    January 23, 2009

    Of the latter group PZ mentioned, there are many contrarians who simply disagree with evolution because it is accepted by main stream scientist. They have an immense paranoia about the main stream, and therefore, everything outside it helps preserve their fragile psyche. I’ve even heard from rabid atheists (non deistic believers) that evolution is spread to keep us from recognizing the truth of the universe. These are the same denialists who insist on 9-11 being a huge convoluted conspiracy. Surely, the government was not exactly transparent, and there are still many facts that have been obfuscated, but you can’t assume that every aspect of it is completely hoaxed. It all comes down to falsifiability and critical thinking.

  33. #33 Mosasaurus rex
    January 23, 2009

    FYI- Coyne has a new book out:

    Why Evolution is True ISBN 0670020532

    It’s my weekend reading. And I’d say Coyne has already been sent the fancy hat and knows the secret handshake: there are endorsments on the dust jacket from E O Wilson, Steve Pinker, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens.

  34. #34 Barry
    January 23, 2009

    So, it?s all about trying not to fool yourself is it? Is this the same Jerry Coyne that studies fruit flies, but poses for his Chicago web page photo in front of dinosaur skeletons? If so, then I say look whose talking. His photo should show him holding a piece of rotting fruit covered with Drosophila.

  35. #35 llewelly
    January 23, 2009

    Jerry A. Coyne:

    The “science” is nearly always evolutionary biology, which is far more controversial than any area of chemistry or physics.

    Not quite true. Climatology is an area of physics, and it appears highly controversial to the poorly informed. Although almost all working climatologists agree that global warming is real, caused by humans, and quite dangerous, many pundits, reporters, businessmen, politicians, and others who have no expertise in climatology, claim insist that global warming is either not real, ending now, harmless, or even good for us. They claim the scientific evidence against them is the result of a terrible error, a hoax, or a vast liberal conspiracy. In this sense, the argumentation over AGW is quite similar to the argumentation over evolution and common descent.

  36. #36 kermit
    January 23, 2009

    Heddle, science and religion are like listening to punk rock and gardening. One person can do both in turn, but neither activity contributes to the other, and if one tries to do both at once the experience and success is likewise reduced for both. You yourself admit that these papers of your challenge are indistinguishable as far as religious attitude goes; what role then does religion play in them?

    On the other hand, imagine your neighbor invites you to his church; he points to the congregation and tells you that three of them are scientists. Do you think you could pick them out? Would they sing better, or tithe more enthusiastically, or radiate more brightly?

    The only relationship science has to religion is that the more educated one is in science, the less likely one is to be religious.

  37. #37 DanB
    January 23, 2009

    I’m so glad Coyne wrote this article. Like PZ said, more scientists need to come out and speak up about faith’s eroding effect on reason. I just got his excellent new book, “Why Evolution is True” – I encourage everyone to buy it! Also, the more press “new” atheist thinking gets the better. I’m convinced atheism just needs to reach a critical mass before it gains mainstream acceptance.

  38. #38 CJO
    January 23, 2009

    What does it mean that they are antagonistic, if the antagonism has no effect?

    The entire phenomenon of religiously motivated pseudoscience is evidence of the effect.

  39. #39 Leanstrum
    January 23, 2009

    This has really made me take a step back and think about my viewpoint. When ‘debating’ creationists in various circles I often find myself professing at least a possible harmony between science and religion – an opinion I don’t actually have. Maybe it’s because I’d got used to arguing from that angle genuinely, since I moved through the ‘compatibilist’ stage on my way to full-blown atheism.

    Coyne is right about me, except that it’s not funding I’m worried about losing: it’s the attention of those I’m vainly trying to save from the clutches of irrational fundie bullshit. I have my reasons, since I know that they almost invariably switch off if you say they aren’t compatible, and that to be a rationalist is to be an atheist. But at the same time, I feel like a huckster who holds back the gory details until he’s made the sale.

    I should really be more honest about it all. For all the good they do for the ’cause’, well-meaning scientists like Ken Miller betray science and faith equally.

  40. #40 Loudon is a Fool
    January 23, 2009

    PZ wrote:

    There is a way to make it stop, though?at least I believe it will work. And that is to stop hiding the facts, and show people that secular reasoning works and is far superior to faith-based delusions. Science will not and cannot adopt religious thinking without being destroyed, but citizens can learn about the power of secular reasoning, and become stronger and better people for it.

    There?s a lot of idiocy to unpack here. First, science has had a solid 500 years to trounce religion. And it hasn?t. Not even close. It might be worth contemplating why that is.

    Second, it?s not at all clear to thinking persons what ?Science will not and cannot adopt religious thinking with being destroyed? means because (i) people who are not thrown into demonic fits over the mention of religion don?t really know what ?religious thinking? is, (ii) acceptance of material and efficient causes significantly predates the scientific revolution, and (iii) plenty of scientists are authentically religious and yet perfectly capable of engaging in reasoning that would not cause PZ to wet himself.

    Third, I wouldn?t expect the readers of this blog to recognize it, but if that clause quoted in the paragraph above were read by a person who is not pathologically anti-religious (read: the normal, well adjusted persons who have constituted the significant majority of every culture throughout history), they will cluck and think maybe PZ needs some medication. ?Destroyed.? Really? No, really?

    Fourth, does the PZian horde really think normal people (that is to say religious people) have not been exposed to what is referred to by the ever intemperate PZ as ?the power of secular reasoning?? They have, and they accept it. They just don?t think it?s incompatible with religion. Instead, being mature and rational, most people (the aforementioned normal religious people, who can be contrasted with the abnormal folks who constitute the PZian horde) accept that there are circumstances where scientific progress will be in tension with authentic human happiness. You seem to think the existence of that tension means science has some how ?lost? to religion. Maybe you should lie on a couch for awhile and talk to someone about that. Or maybe cognitive behavioral therapy is a better option for the irreligious compulsion.

    But by all means move forward with this strategy. Exposure to the pathologically irreligious has two effects. First, it emboldens other persons who are pathologically irreligious to express their bizarre opinions. Second, it exposes the frightening mental disorders of the pathologically irreligious. Third, it scares normal people and causes them to pray more. Since prayer is good for the soul, the rant of the pathologically irreligious should be encouraged.

    On a more constructive note, I think a return to the acknowledgment of formal and final causes would be a much healthier development in the science-religion debate than this incoherent and irrelevant distinction between ?secular reasoning? and ?religious thinking.? It would strengthen both “religious” and “scientific thinkers” without diminishing science. Maybe Bacon and Kant were right that the focus on teleology was too large a brake on scientific thinking. But this isn?t the 1500?s and no one questions the results the scientific method. I don?t think a return to metaphysics poses any great threat to scientific advancement. Any rational person would agree. That none of you do is further evidence that this virulent strain of atheism that has popped up is some sort of mental disorder. It?s not going to destroy science, but it can?t be good for the poor souls who suffer from it.

  41. #41 Muffin
    January 23, 2009

    @7/Nentuaby:

    That we couldn’t have evolved, or didn’t? The latter position makes sense, at least, even though it’s of course not true…

  42. #42 Nerd of Redhead
    January 23, 2009

    Yawn, Loudon is boring.

  43. #43 Steve_C
    January 23, 2009

    Ummm… Loudon you blithering douche bag. Shut the fuck up.

  44. #44 heddle
    January 23, 2009

    kermit ,

    You yourself admit that these papers of your challenge are indistinguishable as far as religious attitude goes; what role then does religion play in them?

    None, at least none that I could detect. That’s why Paul’s challenge to me, in #23

    How about a more relevant challenge? Why not show one, just one published and peer reviewed paper where a god is shown as the only possible cause for a scientific phenomenon?

    is meaningless. Because I am not making the claim that atheism and science are antagonostic, or that religion is is necessary or beneficial to the scientist. If I were to make such a claim, then your question and Paul’s challenge would be relevant.

    Wowbagger,

    Someone has designed (and found the required materials for) a purely scientific test for which the result would be indisputable confirmation or refutation of Jesus’ divinity. Would you, as a scientist, approve the test being done, and would you accept the result – even if it proved that Jesus was, in fact, not divine?

    Yes and yes.

    kermit,

    Heddle, science and religion are like listening to punk rock and gardening.

    So would Coyne claim that listening to punk rock/gardening and science are antagonistic?

  45. #45 Margaret
    January 23, 2009

    Religion (for suitably abstract, “metaphorical” types of religion) does not necessarily need to be in conflict with science, but the vast majority of religions make claims that are in conflict with science.

    For example, Abraham Lincoln’s “religion” is not incompatible with science: “When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion.”

  46. #46 Marcus Ranum
    January 23, 2009

    science has had a solid 500 years to trounce religion. And it hasn?t. Not even close.

    Considering that religion dominated for – what – possibly tens of thousands of years? – and science has been revealing its falsehoods for 500 or so, I think that what you’re saying is suspiciously like the black knight’s “come on, I’ll kick your ass!” in ‘Holy Grail’

  47. #47 Wowbagger
    January 23, 2009

    heddle,

    Thanks for the honest answer. But I believe that sets you apart from the majority, who consider that such things are ‘beyond the reach’ of science – which is also the reason why we’ve never found any kind of evidence for the existence of God.

  48. #48 CJO
    January 23, 2009

    Because I am not making the claim that atheism and science are antagonostic, or that religion is is necessary or beneficial to the scientist.

    So, you’re taking a middle path, between compatibility and incompatibility? Because, to me, “compatibility” means more than uneasy coexistence. And the absence of compatibilty is sufficient to show incompatibility.

  49. #49 Wayne Robinson
    January 23, 2009

    Heddle,
    It is easy to compartmentalise cognitive dissonance. Everyone knows that the Earth orbits the Sun, but everyone in everyday language talks of sunrise and sunset, as if the Sun orbits the Earth instead. And they are complete opposites, not just “non-overlapping magisteria”.
    I wish David Berlinski hadn’t been mentioned. Just looking at a photo of him on Youtube was enough to produce severe nausea in me.

  50. #50 Paul
    January 23, 2009

    Heddle,

    I quote:

    Therefore if it is a scientific proposition that science and religion are incompatible, let?s put it to the test.

    My test was intended to posit the opposite, which is what you are implying by challenging that premise. My challenge gave you a simple, scientific way to show that science and religion are compatible. It’s relevant as a method of showing that religion is necessary to science; otherwise, why do we need to posit anything supernatural at all? We have not found any reason so far. It is just used by the ignorant because it’s a simpler, more convenient, unfalsifiable answer.

  51. #51 James F
    January 23, 2009

    One other point:

    Coyne’s generalization may be accurate in 99% of all cases, and is certainly true for the leadership of the creationist movements in the US, but saying “all” opens up the idea to trivial refutation when the DI makes a sweep of the local insane asylums or trots out David Berlinski to pontificate supinely.

    Judging by how he was billed in this debate, Berlinksi is trying to have his cake and eat it too:

    “The Great Debate,” as it was billed, was sponsored by St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Fort Worth, Texas. It featured a four-way roundtable format, with a participant from each quadrant of the atheist/theist and pro-ID/anti-ID axes. I was there along with some fellow members of the North Texas Church of Freethought primarily to see Dr. Lawrence Krauss (atheist/anti-ID) and also, somewhat guiltily, to see Dr. David Berlinski (theist/pro-ID) in action. The field was rounded out by Dr. Denis Alexander (theist/anti-ID) and Dr. Bradley Monton (atheist/pro-ID). The debate was held at the Will Rogers Memorial Auditorium, and I would estimate about 1000 people in attendance.

  52. #52 Photinus
    January 23, 2009

    So, we know how Herman Munster feels, but what about Grandpa Munster?

  53. #53 E.V.
    January 23, 2009

    Louden, you ignorant fucking doofus fool from Plano, Texas:
    Credulity and superstition will always be around -You are walking proof of that. It’s not the fault of scientists but your own fault (and your parents, and the schools and church, etc.) that you are an irrational religiotard. Just shut the fuck up, you compartmentalizing Texas hick.

  54. #54 Paul
    January 23, 2009

    I should specify that answering to my little challenge is not a prerequisite to showing that religion and science are compatible, and I am not under the impression it is. But the same can be said for Heddle’s challenge he has tossed out there a few times. Whether or not someone can pass his challenge says nothing about the compatibility of science and religion, or even whether religious people make better or worse scientists.

    I don’t think anyone has ever denied that scientists and religion are incompatible. They are, after all, only human. But just like all other scientists, they only do well if their experiments are successful and conform to the scientific method, whether or not they are “divinely” inspired.

  55. #55 Imcurious
    January 23, 2009

    @Heddle,
    I would agree that ‘antagonistic’ is a poorly chosen world, but then the context was pretty clear. Your test would fail because of peer review, not because of compatibility. The compatibility test we need is a body of scientific papers (or at least a couple) with some ‘religious’ content accepted by peer review. I think that was relatively common many years ago but not recently, and not just because is out of fashion. On the other hand you can find science knowledge in many religious publications easily. This for me implies that science can be compatible with (some) religion(s) but not the other way around.

  56. #56 Paul
    January 23, 2009

    I don’t think anyone has ever denied that scientists and religion are incompatible.

    No more corrections, promise!

  57. #57 Helioprogenus
    January 23, 2009

    @ Louden #40, so what do you suggest? We start embracing the notion of sky fairies just because science has not been able to definitively rule them out? You might as well embrace every stupid imaginary concept, just in case your belief might be a part of it. We might as well start believing in closet gnomes, that invisible mole on your back that continually transmits extra-dimensional data to your frontal lobes, the evil canary incarnate that lives in unoccupied woodpecker holes and continually absolves the inhabitants within 20 square kilometers of the sin of using a toilet to defecate. Well, you tell me why these are any less ridiculous than your idiotic assumption of sky fairies?

    Science has been proven to be completely incompatible with religion time and time again. Those who defend the incompatibility fall into two camps. You have the confrontational direct camp of the likes of PZ and Richard Dawkins, and you have the nuanced gradual assimilation of critical thinking camp composed of Phil Plait, Neil Tyson, etc. The common thread between all of these educators is the desire to show that critical thinking trumps anything else. Neither believes that religion is the key or the answer. Religion is just an artifice of our minds, an illusion if you will, and those who don’t recognize it are bound to be enslaved. A religion is no more real than those gray spots between the black and white checkerboard patterns, but you convince yourself of it because you need a warm fuzzy security blanket.

    There is nothing in your argument that shows you the validity of religion other than you believe it to be so. Take it to a bible study class where you’ll be amongst peers. Here in the real world, we use evidence to test the claims, and you have nothing other than an unimaginative mind and a toxic meme that has enslaved you.

  58. #58 Michael Fugate
    January 23, 2009

    What is the middle ground between atheism and theism? Belief in an imaginary god?

  59. #59 Ed Darrell
    January 23, 2009

    This is really a crisis of religion. The danger is that in trying to avoid going down in flames, trying to avoid a death by reason and reality, some religionists’ thrashings are enough to take down much of human society.

    Witness the Texas fiasco. Creationists, professing Christianity but not thinking hard about what that might mean to what they want, lost one big round in the Texas State Board of Education this week. But they came right back with amendments they hope will shore up their complaints against scientists. They have assaulted common descent, for one thing.

    Excuse me? That was one area where Christians used to agree with Darwin to a large degree — pedigree is important, breeding is important, and we can tell that traits carry through a family from one generation to the next. Common descent out the window? You mean — seriously? — that we cannot say for certain who our grandparents were with DNA? That’s where they’re headed.

    In Texas, of course, there are legal implications. Here in Dallas County, in the past year, we’ve taken 14 people out of prison who were wrongly convicted, the DNA now shows. Two came off of death row. If common descent isn’t accurate, if DNA can’t be counted on, we can’t make those calls. If they’re right, that common descent is unevidenced, they’re saying (a great insult in Texas) that we can’t say for sure who our grandparents are. Hell, they’re saying we can’t say for sure who our parents are. We’re all bastards!

    And beyond that, we can’t say for certain our great grandparents, or parents, were not of another species — we’re all sons of bitches to boot!

    Wholly apart from the reductio ad absurdum issues, can you imagine the effect possible from a state judge who believes, as a matter of faith, that DNA doesn’t work?

    How many other fields are the religious answers not only out to lunch, but also destructive? Petroleum geology for one, probably climate change and air pollution, food safety.

    Given a choice between religion, and a cure for cancer provided by evolution theory, does anyone doubt which would win most of the time?

    The only way to prevent that dilemma from occurring will be to stop the cure for cancer, so people won’t have to decide.

    Stopping stem cell research wasn’t so much about what it does to embryoes, I think, as it was fear about what it might do in the future to shatter foundational, erroneous religious beliefs.

    Ben Franklin, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson — three scientifically-minded people of a bygone era — thought reason is a more powerful tool than faith, and they assumed that all good, believing people who had a belief in God would see that, and celebrate reason as a tool from God.

    That was then. This is now, more than 200 years later. How many people of the rationality of a Washington are there at the top levels of government anymore?

  60. #60 Loudon is a Fool
    January 23, 2009

    I think, Helioprogenus, that I recommended a return to metaphysics. So the answer to you, specifically, is that instead of re-reading that tattered, stained (I hope that’s from a beverage, or, rather, beverages, Helio) copy of Swinging Siblings for the umpteenth time, you pick up Aristotle.

    And I think your “common thread” is less “a desire to show that critical thinking trumps anything else” (what religious person rejects critical thinking?) and is instead a pathological hatred of religion. Re-read your post (E.V. might want to try this too). Does your rant strike you as the reasoned musings of a sound mind? If you answer “yes,” go take your medication, wait for it to kick in, and come back and try it again.

  61. #61 Photinus
    January 23, 2009

    Given a choice between religion, and a cure for cancer provided by evolution theory, does anyone doubt which would win most of the time?

    What cure for cancer provided by evolutionary theory, hayseed? You are as addled as Hizzoner, Judge Jones. Chimpanzees make for poor test subjects because their immune systems are quite different from those of humans.

  62. #62 Nerd of Redhead
    January 23, 2009

    Loudon, always good to bore me. If you ever have anything of substance to say, stop back. But given your history, that should be never.

  63. #63 Sigmund
    January 23, 2009

    Heddle said,
    “I may be illiterate and stupid, but at least I know the meaning of “cognitive dissonance”, which you apparently do not. It is when a person holds believes he understands to be in conflict (like Kurt Wise), not when you find them to be incompatible.”
    There is no requirement for the person to consciously understand that the two beliefs are incompatible. According to the Merriam-Webster definition of the term, it is
    “psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously”.
    Listen to Francis Collins or Ken Miller talk about the miracles of Jesus and you will hear people quite able to accept the idea that the laws of physics can occasionally be suspended to allow miracles to occur. But isn’t that the primary point of creationists when scientists try to counter their stories of Noah, Adam and Eve, the age of the Earth etc?

  64. #64 frog
    January 23, 2009

    Why don’t the religionists get it? Stop making truth claims. You don’t need to argue that there really is a God, or that you’ll go to hell if you don’t eat halel (?).

    Just claim that these rituals are beautiful, or satisfying or some such claim about subjective affects. Just say “I live this way, and I invite you to share in this way”.

    Aesthetics motivates more of our lives than empirical facts — for 95% of our lives, the facts are less relevant than our experience of life. There are “two magesteria” — ‘cept no one really knows what that means: that religion must cease and desist immediately from magic, and restrain itself to satisfying the ritualistic and poetic needs of humanity.

    Of course they’ll never do it. Poets are poor, and con-men are rich.

  65. #65 E.V.
    January 23, 2009

    Louden, you waste everyone’s time. Several posters spent time to answer you on previous threads only to find out you are a troll version of Ray Comfort – a willfully ignorant poser who doesn’t want to deal in reality.
    We’ve met, jerkface. You are a disingenuous asswipe. So fuck you and the horse you rode in on.

  66. #66 E.V.
    January 23, 2009

    Louden, simply put, I do not suffer fools gladly.

  67. #67 spinetingler
    January 23, 2009

    whether religion can tolerate scientific scrutiny, and whether science can thrive under dogma.

    Why should either do either?

    Belief/faith and science aren’t even part of the same discussion (well, shouldn’t be).

    There are things science cannot explain (like the record sales of Celene Dion).

  68. #68 Helioprogenus
    January 23, 2009

    @ Loudon

    You’re asking me to seriously consider Aristotlean Metaphysics? What are you smoking man?

    Aristotle did not have the scientific tools that we have at our disposal to investigate the universe. He didn’t know any of the chemical elements, nor did he know the theory of natural selection, or a host of other concepts that we’ve come to embrace in the last 2300 years? Why are you still referencing a long dead philosopher, when his knowledge about the natural world was extremely limited? Is that all you have to go on is the metaphysics of the same guy who believed in the 4 elements? Are you kidding me? Please tell me you have someone of more significance in the last two millenia that actually have something substantial to say.

    The pathological hatred that you think we exhibit towards religion is only in your mind. I don’t think religion is absolutely useless, because it gives us an insight into how our brains work. I think buying into religion is useless because it doesn’t give us anything other than artificial comfort.

  69. #69 E.V.
    January 23, 2009

    Louden… The pathological hatred that you think we exhibit towards religion is only in your mind.

    Exactly. I don’t hate your religion, I detest you.

  70. #70 Sastra
    January 23, 2009

    Loudon is a Fool #40 wrote:

    Fourth, does the PZian horde really think normal people (that is to say religious people) have not been exposed to what is referred to by the ever intemperate PZ as ?the power of secular reasoning?? They have, and they accept it. They just don?t think it?s incompatible with religion. Instead, being mature and rational, most people … accept that there are circumstances where scientific progress will be in tension with authentic human happiness.

    It seems that you’re acknowledging here that religious beliefs are not based on reason, but on a desire for “authentic human happiness.” If so, then frog at #64 is right: there is no conflict between science and religion because religion isn’t pretending to say anything about the nature of reality. It’s about finding a narrative structure — any story — which helps a person feel better about their life, and inspires them to do good.

    But I don’t think you’re pushing religion towards being a form of personal therapy, or a hobby like knitting. Neither are Giberson and Miller.

    Sam Harris put the problem well. He pointed out that belief in God can be compatible with science — but it can’t be derived from science. And it should be.

    The universe was formed by a Personal Being which has a mind, but no body — unless it be a “spiritual body” — and it supports, moves, and creates matter and energy through the force of its willpower. It did not grow from simpler states, but existed as it is, always.

    Science can examine paranormal claims about ESP and PK. Neurology can look at mind/brain dualism. Evolution can explore how complex things like life, minds, and person come from mindless processes. Physics can deal with different forms of energy, and what they can and can’t do.

    God is a hypothesis, and it fails. It not only does nothing, but doesn’t fit in to background theories. Theistic scientists do not examine “God” as they examine other similar hypotheses. Instead, they stick it into areas like ethics, or meaning, or personal preference. They say that saying God exists is like exploring “what is a property?” or “What is existence?” It’s like believing that love matters. They dance around with category errors and fallacies in order to place it in some special area where science can’t go.

    If they did that with any other similar claim, I think they’d quickly see the problem.

  71. #71 'Tis Himself
    January 23, 2009

    …you pick up Aristotle.

    Aristotle claimed women had fewer teeth than men. Apparently it never occurred to him to look in Mrs. Aristotle’s mouth. He’s hardly someone to bring up in a discussion of science.

  72. #72 llewelly
    January 23, 2009

    Posted by: Michael Fugate | January 23, 2009 7:24 PM
    What is the middle ground between atheism and theism? Belief in an imaginary god?

    No, that’s theism.

  73. #73 Billy Budd
    January 23, 2009

    “I know a few atheist creationists, and they are just as incoherent as the necessary conflict between the two terms in that phrase implies. They do exist, however. There is a subset of creationists who are more like radical denialists: they reject evolution because the majority of scientists accept it, or in some cases because they are so egotistical that they reject anything they didn’t think of first, or because they have some other wild hypothesis that they have seized upon, or because, frankly, they’re nuts.”

    I knew there must be a place for me in there somewhere!

  74. #74 Zarquon
    January 23, 2009

    Chimpanzees make for poor test subjects because their immune systems are quite different from those of humans.

    SIV o’brien. You pig-fucking moron.

  75. #75 chickitychina
    January 23, 2009

    Not to take time away from some of the brilliant creationist and ID arguments here*, Jerry Coyne will be on Milt Rosenberg’s Extension 720 radio show tonight, 9pm Central time. He’ll be talking about the book Mosasaurus rex mentions back at #33. If you’re not in Chicago, there is a live stream at wgnradio.com. Should be good.
    *(In the spirit of Chief Wiggum: “Good work, boys”)

  76. #76 Helioprogenus
    January 23, 2009

    @’Tis Himself,
    Actually, you can’t fault Aristotle for that. It was probably from looking into his wife’s pre-dental hygene mouth that he came up with his theory of the fairer sex having less teeth. Those were pleasant times weren’t they? Before science and reason had a say in determining how society would progress. Where dental care was basically 10 of your family members holding you down as they use rusty archaic pliers to pull that abcess ridden tooth with an anesthetic called shut-the-fuck-up-and-take-it-like-a-man-you-pussy.

    In all seriousness though, that’s the ultimate problem with religion. After thousands of years of society progress, some people just refuse to break out of their ignorance. You can’t even fault credulous religious folks during the enlightenment, but these days, with all the tools at our disposal, there has to be a logical reason why people hold onto these clearly irrational concepts. Ultimately, that’s where the fascination of studying the neurochemical processes that ultimately result in the emergence of compartmentalization and denial that is the mainstay of religion. Someone like Frances Collins who can accept miracles because a magical book largely written by a jewish cult nearly 2000 years ago told him to believe it is a good example of these irrational notions leaving even distinguished scientists mumbling to the heavens for an imaginary fluff ball to save them.

  77. #77 Hambydammit
    January 23, 2009

    At the risk of shameless self promotion, I’ve written a very in depth “science for dummies” style piece on my blog. It’s in two parts, and I think it’s a good effort in trying to explain exactly why faith is completely, utterly, and in all other ways incompatible with science. I’ve taken a somewhat unusual approach in that I try to demonstrate that there simply is no such thing as “unscientific” knowledge. All that can exist is good science and bad science. I’m really interested to know what some of you science folks think about my approach, and would consider it an honor if you read through it and gave me your opinion.

    http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/2009/01/14/on-science-and-knowledge-part-i/

    http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/2009/01/15/on-science-and-knowledge-part-ii/

    Sorry again if this seems like self promotion. Thanks in advance to anyone who would be kind enough to give it a look.

  78. #78 Paper Hand
    January 23, 2009

    Spinetinger @ 67:
    There are things science cannot explain (like the record sales of Celene Dion).

    Hmm … that’s the first I’ve ever heard of the Celine Dion Argument for God … although, wouldn’t that be more of an Argument for Satan?

  79. #79 Photinus
    January 23, 2009

    SIV o’brien. You pig-fucking moron.

    Read the following as many times as it takes to sink in, you worthless pos:

    While human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection is associated with hyperimmune activation
    and systemic depletion of CD4+ T cells, simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infection in sooty mangabeys or
    chimpanzees does not exhibit these hallmarks.

    The finding that simian immunodeficiency viruses (SIVs) in
    their natural hosts replicate with high efficiency but do not cause AIDS-like symptoms has sparked significant interest.

    Bibollet-Ruche, McKinney, Duverger et al. 2008

  80. #80 Facilis
    January 23, 2009

    What the…
    I read that guys review and his logic is terrible. I suppose it would be convincing for someone who already shares his worldview , but no-one else.He just asserts that naturalism is true and anyone who believes in any other worldview is irrational. If he can provide some sort of evidence for naturalism he might have a point, but he is unable to provide any.
    I laughed when I saw “secular reason” though. What an oxymoron.(As proven by this thread- http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/01/im_in_good_company.php)

  81. #81 Zarquon
    January 23, 2009

    The finding that simian immunodeficiency viruses (SIVs) in
    their natural hosts replicate with high efficiency but do not cause AIDS-like symptoms has sparked significant interest.

    And this makes the non-human primates ideal model organisms. I knew you would be too stupid to understand this; pig-fucking rotted your brain.

  82. #82 Nerd of Redhead
    January 23, 2009

    Falicis the Fallacious Fool. What would you know about logic? You need to be jailed for your mangling of it. Your god doesn’t exist. Your bible is a work of fiction, and your opinion is worth less than zero to us. Your posts are nothing but amusement for us.

  83. #83 Facilis
    January 23, 2009

    Oh crap-Hambydammit worships at the altar of the self-refuting cult of scientism. Pick up some book on philosophy of science and the fall of logical positivism sometime.

  84. #84 Wowbagger
    January 23, 2009

    facilis,

    I laughed when I saw “secular reason” though. What an oxymoron.(As proven by this thread

    Excellent! Everyone, facilis has conceded. He agrees that Sideshow Bob is the source of logic and rationality. Welcome to my church, brother facilis. Your extra-long official church shoes will be in the mail.

  85. #85 Nerd of Redhead
    January 23, 2009

    Facilis, still needed to be jailed for bad logic. You will never get logic right until you free yourself from the bonds of religion, and allow yourself to become rational. Until then, you are delusional.

  86. #86 Facilis
    January 23, 2009

    [Ben Franklin, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson -- three scientifically-minded people of a bygone era -- thought reason is a more powerful tool than faith]
    “The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason: the morning daylight appears plainer when you put out your candle.” ~ Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1758, Chapter “On Virtue, Vice, God, And Faith”

  87. #87 Facilis
    January 23, 2009

    @wowbagger
    You haven’t produced any kind of objective revelation. I can’t take your claims seriously.

  88. #88 Nerd of Redhead
    January 23, 2009

    Facilis, will you ever get logic right? You had nothing, you have nothing, and you will always have nothing to offer until you give up the illogical concept of god. Only then, will you get rational.

  89. #89 Zarquon
    January 23, 2009

    Fallacycilis you ran away from that thread when you were proved wrong. Bringing it up here just makes you look stupider.

  90. #90 Photinus
    January 23, 2009

    Zarquon pos:

    A significant obstacle in HIV vaccine research has been
    the difficulty in developing an appropriate animal model.
    The only animals susceptible to experimental infection with
    HIV are chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes, and pigtail macaques,
    Macaca nemestrina. Both maintain low levels of persistent
    virus load and do not develop clinical manifestations
    of AIDS. African monkeys are the natural hosts to a variety
    of SIVs (SIVagm, SIVsm, SIVsyk, SIVcol, etc.), but
    do not appear to develop a clinical disease following infection
    with these viruses [102].

    A review of vaccine research and development: The human
    immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
    Girard, Osmanov, and Kieny 2006

  91. #91 Nerd of Redhead
    January 23, 2009

    Facilis, we can’t take your claims seriously. After all, you are proven liar, bullshitter, and mangler of logic. So everything you say is considered a joke. You have given us plenty of laughs, and are still doing that.

  92. #92 Wowbagger
    January 23, 2009

    I guess facilis has found himself a new master to plagiarise, cut-and-paste style. I hope this one’s a bit more resilient than the last one.

    Oh crap-Hambydammit worships at the altar of the self-refuting cult of scientism. Pick up some book on philosophy of science and the fall of logical positivism sometime.

    Why don’t you pick up a dictionary first? You’re still using a whole bunch of words you obviously don’t know the meaning of: ‘worship’, ‘altar’, ‘self-refuting’, ‘cult’, ‘scientism’, ‘philosophy’, ‘science’, and ‘fall’.

    And as for logical positivism – well, why am I not surprised that facilis dislikes a philosophy that is based on evidence and rationality, rather than one based on ‘okay, here’s something we can’t prove exists in any way, but if we admit that we don’t have an argument – so we’ll just pretend it’s irrefutable.’

    I don’t have Sideshow Bob with me right now facilis, but I know he’s awaiting your worship. How can you not believe he’s a god? By your logic he’s as much a god as Yahweh.

  93. #93 Sastra
    January 23, 2009

    Facilis #80 wrote:

    I read that guys review and his logic is terrible. I suppose it would be convincing for someone who already shares his worldview , but no-one else.

    I’m not sure, but I’m going to guess that both Giberson and Miller (whose books were reviewed) do share Coyne’s world view — on logic and reason being independent of whether or not God exists. Like most theists, they make evidential arguments. That’s a completely different approach than presuppositionalism. So your criticism doesn’t apply.

    I don’t think you won the other thread, either. On the contrary. But, of course, I would think that, according to your “world view.”

    Truth is, we share the same world, and are capable of seeing the same things in it. Reason and logic are necessary relationships which can’t be “justified.” The demand to do so is self-refuting. And positing “God” as security for the laws of logic actually creates problems where there were none before.

  94. #94 Facilis
    January 23, 2009

    [Someone has designed (and found the required materials for) a purely scientific test for which the result would be indisputable confirmation or refutation of Jesus' divinity. Would you, as a scientist, approve the test being done, and would you accept the result - even if it proved that Jesus was, in fact, not divine?]
    Seeing as you cannot account for science and knowledge apart from God this test would be self-refuting. It would be like a child crawling onto his father’s lap to slap him.

  95. #95 Nerd of Redhead
    January 23, 2009

    Facilis the Fallacious Fool, you have not accounted for you imaginary god, so your your claims are invalid, and will remain invalid until you actually show physical evidence for your deity, that can be confirmed by scientists, magicians, and professional debunkers as being of divine origin. Good luck.

  96. #96 Mike
    January 23, 2009

    Great stuff! Good coherent criticism of scientific lukewarmness in the mainstream press.

  97. #97 Alyson
    January 23, 2009

    “The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason: the morning daylight appears plainer when you put out your candle.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

    Yeah, actually, that pretty much describes it, though perhaps not in the direction that Ben Franklin wanted. Shut off your powers of reason, and then comes faith! It’s just that reason is the daylight and faith is the candle, not the other way around. Once you look up from your candle far enough to see that the sun has come up, the candle suddenly looks pathetic and useless. Why, yes, that’s an outstanding metaphor! That Ben Franklin was a genius, I tell you!

  98. #98 Wowbagger
    January 23, 2009

    facilis,

    Maybe you should actually read the posts on the thread you linked to. My revelation is posted there, and, as proven at the time, is no more or less objective than yours.

    If you think it’s not, why not? You’ve never managed to explain why the words that you claim as revelation have a greater claim to anything than the words that I typed and posted. So, until you can support your claim of superior revelation then you have no grounds to dismiss mine and not take it seriously.

  99. #99 Facilis
    January 23, 2009

    [And as for logical positivism - well, why am I not surprised that facilis dislikes a philosophy that is based on evidence and rationality, rather than one based on 'okay, here's something we can't prove exists in any way, but if we admit that we don't have an argument - so we'll just pretend it's irrefutable.']
    1)I dislike logical positive because its incoherent and self-refuting. (It also cannot account for the laws of logic ,reason and science)
    2)God is proven by the impossibility of the contrary

    [I don't have Sideshow Bob with me right now facilis, but I know he's awaiting your worship. How can you not believe he's a god? By your logic he's as much a god as Yahweh.]
    Again Sideshow bob hasn’t provided any kind of objective revelation. If I believed every kook in the mental hospital who claimed to have some sort of subjective revelation, I would not get very far.

  100. #100 LwPhD
    January 23, 2009

    I find this particularly interesting, regarding Jerry Coyne’s piece:

    Unfortunately, some theologians with a deistic bent seem to think that they speak for all the faithful. These were the critics who denounced Dawkins and his colleagues for not grappling with every subtle theological argument for the existence of God, for not steeping themselves in the complex history of theology. Dawkins in particular was attacked for writing The God Delusion as a “middlebrow” book. But that misses the point. He did indeed produce a middlebrow book, but precisely because he was discussing religion as it is lived and practiced by real people. The reason that many liberal theologians see religion and evolution as harmonious is that they espouse a theology not only alien but unrecognizable as religion to most Americans.

    This is notable because it is an explicit (if subtle and gentle) rebuke of Allen Orr, Jerry’s star pupil and accomplished Drosophila geneticist at Rochester. The “middlebrow” comment was used in Orr’s review of The God Delusion. Orr’s review was to me a disappointing bit of apologist pablum designed to strengthen his place as a “serious public intellectual” among the politically correct circles that we scientists often navigate. I’m glad Jerry can come out and at least publicly acknowledge that Orr’s review was, at the very least, missing the point on its most substantial charge.

  101. #101 Facilis
    January 23, 2009

    @Sastra
    But how is it possible for humans to know these necessary relationships according to atheism? I just can’t see any way to.

  102. #102 Nerd of Redhead
    January 23, 2009

    Facilis, your imaginary deity adds nothing to any explanation. It is simply not needed, so you have no argument whatsoever. You never had an argument, and trying to pretend you do just shows the whole blog how insane you are. You are doing a better job than we responders ever could of making yourself totally irrelevant.

  103. #103 Wowbagger
    January 23, 2009

    For facilis, yet again:

    Sideshow Bob’s revelation: ‘I Sideshow Bob, am responsible for the laws of logic and rationality.’

    Now, entertain us. Please explain to the nice readers why Yahweh has a greater claim than Sideshow Bob – using the laws of logic and rationality Sideshow Bob has given you.

  104. #104 Facilis
    January 23, 2009

    [Yeah, actually, that pretty much describes it, though perhaps not in the direction that Ben Franklin wanted. Shut off your powers of reason, and then comes faith! It's just that reason is the daylight and faith is the candle, not the other way around. Once you look up from your candle far enough to see that the sun has come up, the candle suddenly looks pathetic and useless.]
    Hmm- no reason is the candle and faith is the daylight.

  105. #105 LwPhD
    January 23, 2009

    @facilis

    Again Sideshow bob hasn’t provided any kind of objective revelation. If I believed every kook in the mental hospital who claimed to have some sort of subjective revelation, I would not get very far.

    So, Facilis, am I to believe that your God (Sideshow God?) has provided any kind of objective revelation that atheists, Muslims, Daoists, Buddhist and Hindus can agree to, as well as Christians? And if not, would it be fair to characterize your belief as analogous to those of kooks in mental hospitals?

  106. #106 Facilis
    January 23, 2009

    [Now, entertain us. Please explain to the nice readers why Yahweh has a greater claim than Sideshow Bob - using the laws of logic and rationality Sideshow Bob has given you.]
    It is very clear that you typed that “revelation”. If i believed every loon with a keyboard and access to the internet I would not get very far.

  107. #107 Nerd of Redhead
    January 23, 2009

    Facilis, faith the darkness of irrationality. Give up god and come to the light. Rational thought without god and religions is freeing to the soul. Besides, your god doesn’t exist, so to claim him you are deluded.

  108. #108 Wowbagger
    January 23, 2009

    facilis, you made a little error. I’ll fix it for you:

    But how is it possible for humans to know these necessary relationships according to atheism aSideshowBobism? I just can’t see any way to.

    Amen, brother! Use those Bob-given skills.

  109. #109 Facilis
    January 23, 2009

    [Rational thought without god and religions]
    But as I was saying it would be impossible to have rational thought without God. I am free to be rational because God made me in his image and gave me knowledge of immaterial abstract entities like logic and reason.

  110. #110 africangenesis
    January 23, 2009

    Tis Himself@14,

    Perhaps your hatred of libertarians is a defensive guilt reaction. You want to do unto them, but they don’t want to do unto you. Or perhaps it is just that they are trying to frustrate your power lust, you want to do unto others, and they think you shouldn’t be allowed to. Hmmm.

  111. #111 James McGrath
    January 23, 2009

    I think that one of the biggest problems (which Coyne, from the quotes provided, seems to avoid) is the assertion that all religion and all science are incompatible. He hits the nail on the head, it seems: any religion that makes claims about scientific facts is susceptible to having its views disproven, or at least rendered exceedingly unlikely, by scientific investigation. The same is true of history, and presumably many other areas of rational inquiry.

    I find it problematic, however, if anyone goes further and suggests that every aspect of every religion is about matters of science or history and can be proven or disproven using those methods. Nor is talking about “watered down Deism” helpful. Deism only seems watered down if one’s standard is the sort of anthropomorphic, supernaturalist theism that tends to be the mainstream of popular piety. But if one were inclined to be charitable, one could say that Deism is an “improvement” by comparison to superstitious forms of religiosity, finding it helpful to appeal to some sort of transcendent reality as the ground of the universe’s existence, but accepting the input of science and reason leading to the rejection of notions of supernatural interventions.

  112. #112 spinetingler
    January 23, 2009

    Spinetinger @ 67:
    There are things science cannot explain (like the record sales of Celene Dion).

    Hmm … that’s the first I’ve ever heard of the Celine Dion Argument for God … although, wouldn’t that be more of an Argument for Satan?

    I stand corrected.

    Hmm, I may have a book out of the Celine Dion Argument for God.

  113. #113 Wowbagger
    January 23, 2009

    facilis, using Bob-given rationality, wrote:

    It is very clear that you typed that “revelation”. If i believed every loon with a keyboard and access to the internet I would not get very far.

    Of course I just typed it; I do not deny it. Once again, I’ll ask you to support the claim that something I just wrote is in any way less valid than what you base your understanding of Yahweh’s revelation on? Was you bible not written by humans?

    Are you claiming the age of the revelation is relevant? If that’s the case, exactly how long are we supposed to wait? And what, exactly, do you base this revelatory ageism on?

  114. #114 Ian Andreas Miller
    January 23, 2009

    I still think that sometimes it seems that I am the only atheist in the world who does not support the Conflict Thesis (pertaining to the relationship between science and religion).

  115. #115 Nerd of Redhead
    January 23, 2009

    Facilis, you have thought without god. He doesn’t exist. Although, I have to admit your thought isn’t rational

  116. #116 God Retardent
    January 23, 2009

    Not on subject but Obams getting flack for mentioning non believers in his speach.
    http://news.aol.com/article/obamas-nonbeliever-nod-unsettles-some/316339?icid=200100397x1216995629x1201097429

  117. #117 castletonsnob
    January 23, 2009

    Flacilis smarmed:

    But as I was saying it would be impossible to have rational thought without God. I am free to be rational because God made me in his image and gave me knowledge of immaterial abstract entities like logic and reason.

    Citations, please.

  118. #118 Rat Bastard
    January 23, 2009

    Aristotle, for scientific reasoning?!? He was ANTI-experiment, ffs! People following that crap set science back centuries!

  119. #119 Alyson
    January 23, 2009

    2)God is proven by the impossibility of the contrary

    It’s like pressing a button, everyone! Tell Fallacious to give some evidence for God, and out comes his favorite line!

    You remind me of that one senator’s press secretary, who kept answering every question about his boss’s ethics with, “the senator has disclosed every gift he has ever received.” Seriously; he gave that same sentence to about two dozen questions just in one press conference, while all the reporters were sitting there going, “So answer the question, douche-nozzle!” It was hilarious.

  120. #120 Zarquon
    January 23, 2009

    In an earlier study, our group vaccinated rhesus macaques with vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) vectors expressing Gag, Pol, and Env proteins from a hybrid simian/human immunodeficiency virus (SHIV). This was followed by a single boost with modified vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA) vectors expressing the same proteins. Following challenge with SHIV89.6P, vaccinated animals cleared challenge virus RNA from the blood by day 150 and maintained normal CD4 T cell counts for 8 months. Here we report on the long-term (>5-year post-challenge) status of these animals and the immunological correlates of long-term protection. Using real-time PCR, we found that viral DNA in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) of the vaccinees declined continuously and fell to below detection (<5copies/10(5)cells) by approximately 3 years post-challenge. SHIV DNA was also below the limit of detection in the lymph nodes of two of the four animals at 5 years post-challenge. We detected long-term persistence of multi-functional Gag-specific CD8(+) T cells in both PBMCs and lymph nodes of the two protected animals with the Mamu A*01(+) MHC I allele. All animals also maintained SHIV89.6P neutralizing antibody titers for 5 years. Our results show that this vaccine approach generates solid, long-term control of SHIV infection, and suggest that it is mediated by both cytotoxic T lymphocytes and neutralizing antibody.

    from here.

    Why are these people using macaques, o’brien? Why are they using genes from SHIV o’brien? There’s decades of this evolution-based research out there, but you’ll never get it, will you? Pig-fucking is the only thing you understand.

  121. #121 Jimmy
    January 23, 2009

    Sounds a lot like a search for Kurt Vonnegut’s chronosynclastic infundibulum: The point in space and time where all opinions, no matter how contrasting, harmonize. Vonnegut claimed to live in one. Apparently he wasn’t the only one.

  122. #122 Sastra
    January 23, 2009

    James McGrath:

    But if one were inclined to be charitable, one could say that Deism is an “improvement” by comparison to superstitious forms of religiosity, finding it helpful to appeal to some sort of transcendent reality as the ground of the universe’s existence, but accepting the input of science and reason leading to the rejection of notions of supernatural interventions.

    Why is it “helpful” to appeal to a “transcendental reality as the ground of the universe’s existence?” I’m not even sure what that means, in real life. How would a universe without a transcendental ground look different than one with a transcendental ground?

    Is it really there — or is it only a byproduct of what happens when human beings contemplate their own existence, and the existence of everything? How would we check?

    It seems to me that such a thing would only be reassuring if it has some aspect of intervention in the world — it loves, it cares, it watches and worries and guides. Otherwise, it sounds pretty academic.

    If the only way to “improve” religion is to make its claims vaguer and less relevant — personally and scientifically, subjectively and objectively — that doesn’t say much for it.

  123. #123 JPS, FCD
    January 23, 2009

    God Retardant @ 116 links to a page with two polls, one in urgent need of Pharyngulization. The question is, “Do you believe in a higher power (yes/no)?” Yes has nearly 90% of the votes as of a few minutes ago.

  124. #124 Nerd of Redhead
    January 23, 2009

    JPS, yes has almost 300,000 votes. That is hard, even for us.

  125. #125 Gotchaye
    January 23, 2009

    Sastra, you’re misunderstanding James McGrath. It’s a long clause – Deists are the ones that find it helpful to appeal to a transcendental grounding of the universe (and as a statement about belief, this is undeniably true – they do find it helpful), and Deism is an improvement over more mainstream religions because it accepts the input of science and reason in cases where science is applicable, despite the fact that it still holds that there’s a transcendental grounding. James isn’t endorsing the transcendental grounding there.

    I basically agree with him. Deism is atheism in every way that matters. Yes, there’s an incoherent jumble of words tacked on to what we know about the world, but that’s all it is. It’s a functionally meaningless belief.

  126. #126 Silver Fox
    January 23, 2009

    Just checked in with my philosophy consultant, Vox Day. He has this long piece on “Chopping Down the Tree of Life”.
    He seems to be on the verge of declaring victory over all evolutionary biologists.

    This is how he ends his Magnus Opus:

    “By the mid-1980s there was great optimism that molecular techniques would finally reveal the universal tree of life in all its glory. Ironically, the opposite happened.

    I expect a similarly ironic discovery to eventually blow apart the greater part of the oft-revised theory because although biologists don’t like to admit it, every time a x-million year old “fossil” is discovered swimming or crawling around, it demonstrates how wildly inaccurate their theoretical model is. Daniel Dennett illogically tried to argue that we should trust biologists because physicists get amazingly accurate results, but what he should have concluded if he had followed the logic properly is that if a division of doxastic labor is justified in the case of science because it gets amazingly accurate results, then evolutionary biology cannot be science. Popper need not even enter into the discussion as one can very reasonably ask: what are the amazingly accurate results predicted by evolutionary biologists that justify a doxastic division of labor here?

    If anyone now thinks that biology is sorted, they are going to be proved wrong too. The more that genomics, bioinformatics and many other newer disciplines reveal about life, the more obvious it becomes that our present understanding is not up to the job.

    It is still far too soon to declare victory over the biology experts now, as they’re clearly not ready to junk the entire theoretical model yet. Biologists are still in the “drawing deferents and epicycles” stage in attempting to revise TENS in order to fit the observations. What they fail to grasp is that the more complex their model has to be, the more likely it is that the entire foundation upon which it is based will turn out to be incorrect.”

  127. #127 Nerd of Redhead
    January 23, 2009

    Silver Fox, you had no credibility after yesterdays fiasco, and now you quote VD, a know liar and bullshitter? There is absolutely no hope for you. You are terminally deluded. If PZ was kind to us, he would ban your ass.

  128. #128 melior
    January 23, 2009

    Just checked in with my philosophy consultant, Vox Day. He has this long piece on “Chopping Down the Tree of Life”.
    He seems to be on the verge of declaring victory over all evolutionary biologists.

    Hilarious, I guess that means he’s abandoned his most recent hobby of spectacularly FAILed political consultant. It was just a few months ago he was confidently predicting a McCain landslide.

    If a victory dance falls in the woods, and there’s no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?

  129. #129 Sastra
    January 23, 2009

    Gotchaye #125 wrote:

    Sastra, you’re misunderstanding James McGrath. It’s a long clause – Deists are the ones that find it helpful to appeal to a transcendental grounding of the universe (and as a statement about belief, this is undeniably true – they do find it helpful)

    Yes, I understand that positing a “transcendental ground” is helpful to Deism — but I still fail to see how such a Deism is “helpful” to anyone. Again: how would a universe without a transcendental ground look different than one that has a transcendental ground?

    If we can measure how much religion improves by seeing how vague and secularized it becomes, I’m not sure this admittedly improved religion is ‘saving’ religion from just criticism. It’s capitulating to it.

    I agree, Deism’s better on many fronts. Perhaps that is why we need to criticize it. After all, when we go after the silly or false religions, people wonder why atheists are avoiding the better ones. In science, a scientist is much more likely to attack a slightly different view, than go after someone from the lunatic fringe. It matters more.

  130. #130 Gotchaye
    January 23, 2009

    Wait, so Silver Fox’s lead-in wasn’t tongue-in-cheek?

  131. #131 africangenesis
    January 23, 2009

    Silver Fox,

    The shared genes among living organisms are the evidence that the organisms are related by common descent in the more complex organisms and by descent horizontal gene transfer in the single cell life forms. There is a thin veneer of complexity layered upon these simple observations. Fossilization is such a rare occurance over time, that while it is nice to find some that provide some insight into details of the past, gaps are actually to be expected based upon our understanding of the process.

  132. #132 E.V.
    January 23, 2009

    Silver Fox:
    Vox Day, again? You obviously have a very strong bro-mance going with Vox. You and ol’ Foxy Voxy just keep on trying “to blow apart the greater part of the oft-revised theory.” If you could actually find real flaws in the theory, that would be good science (because that’s the way science works, idiot). In the meantime, we’ll all remain amused by your posts, Argent Volpone.

  133. #133 E.V.
    January 23, 2009

    Good Night all. (Have fun slogging it out with the credulous cretins, tedious trolls, etc.)

  134. #134 africangenesis
    January 23, 2009

    A human propensity for religious belief exists and it is incumbant upon science which endeavors to understand reality to reconcile the existance of religious belief with evolution and other scientific theories. Perhaps religion will eventually be dismissed as a cultural artifact much like rights or government. None exist other than as concepts in the minds of believers and nonbelievers. Knowing the belief status of people in these concepts, assists in predicting their behavior.

  135. #135 Jason A.
    January 23, 2009

    Loudon said:

    what religious person rejects critical thinking?

    lol.
    I think I’m gonna have to answer ‘all of them’ – at least in regards to religion.

  136. #136 Gotchaye
    January 23, 2009

    Sorry, Sastra – it sounded to me like you were imputing the Deists’ belief to James.

    Phenomenologically, I imagine that a transcendental grounding is helpful to people because they’re convinced that they have an idea of what a transcendental grounding is. As with a lot of religious belief, children are taught to believe that they believe in the transcendental before they’re at all capable of giving a definition of it. In our culture, and perhaps in our species, it’s very easy to develop this kind of belief.

    I would imagine that it seems to Deists that transcendentality is just a basic idea, like redness or loudness. One could as easily ask what the world would look like without redness. There’s no answer except that it would be less red. There’s really no way to reconcile people who disagree as to what constitutes a basic idea in this fashion when the belief has no interpersonal effects, though I suppose there’s some hope of convincing them that, because the idea has no interpersonal effects and because significant disagreement exists around it, they might be fooled.

    And that’s exactly why we don’t often criticize Deism. It really can’t be done. You can go full-on positivist, but we all have unempirical groundings for our beliefs, and it’s proven very difficult to phrase a positivist critique in such a way as not to be self-defeating. We can only really criticize those beliefs which make claims about our interpersonal world. As long as someone is willing to embrace relativism, you can’t touch them.

  137. #137 Dave2
    January 24, 2009

    God is proven by the impossibility of the contrary

    The ontological argument? Otherwise I don’t follow.

  138. #138 Facilis
    January 24, 2009

    [The ontological argument? Otherwise I don't follow.]
    No the transcendental argument look at this thread
    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/01/im_in_good_company.php

  139. #139 Facilis
    January 24, 2009

    [And that's exactly why we don't often criticize Deism. It really can't be done.]
    I criticize deism because they cannot account for the aws of logic and reason.

  140. #140 Dave2
    January 24, 2009

    Facilis wrote:

    No the transcendental argument look at this thread

    Is that the one where the theist demands that the atheist solve every outstanding problem in philosophy while refusing to explain how the theistic solution is supposed to go?

  141. #141 Alyson
    January 24, 2009

    I’ve just finished reading Coyne’s review, and I am simply gobsmacked that Giberson not only typed this out loud but put it where the general public could see it:

    As a purely practical matter, I have compelling reasons to believe in God. My parents are deeply committed Christians and would be devastated, were I to reject my faith. My wife and children believe in God, and we attend church together regularly. Most of my friends are believers. I have a job I love at a Christian college that would be forced to dismiss me if I were to reject the faith that underpins the mission of the college. Abandoning belief in God would be disruptive, sending my life completely off the rails.

    Is this not one of the saddest and most transparent confessions we’ve heard from a person of faith? He admits in so many words that people would ruin his life if he no longer believed in God, or rather if he let them know he no longer believed in God, and we’re supposed to think his position of reconciling religion with science is still valid?

  142. #142 Jadehawk
    January 24, 2009

    dave, save yourself some braincells and stop talking to facilis. he thinks we’re all satan-worshippers because we refuted his idiotic “without god, there can be no laws of logic” insanity.

  143. #143 Zarquon
    January 24, 2009

    Sastra proved you wrong, Fallacycilis:

    Presuppositionalism is self-defeating.

    1.) If God is freely responsible for the laws of logic, then he could have made them other than they are.

    2.) Therefore, He could have made the law of noncontradiction false.

    3.) Therefore, He could have made it to be true both that God exists — and that He does not, and that the laws of logic depend upon Him — and that they do not.

    4.) But that entails that it is possible for God not to have existed, and for the laws of logic not to have depended upon Him.

    5.) But if the laws of logic depend upon God, then they must do so necessarily.

    6.) Conclusion: the laws of logic can’t depend upon God.

  144. #144 Facilis
    January 24, 2009

    [Is that the one where the theist demands that the atheist solve every outstanding problem in philosophy while refusing to explain how the theistic solution is supposed to go?]
    Well I explained my solutions.

  145. #145 Facilis
    January 24, 2009

    [1.) If God is freely responsible for the laws of logic, then he could have made them other than they are. ]
    I deny this p1.
    My position is that the laws of logic are a reflection of God’s consistent, objective ,invariant nature. God’s nature is necessary and the laws of logic are necessary also. God’s nature cannot change so it is impossible for the laws of logic to be different from what they are.

  146. #146 Wowbagger
    January 24, 2009

    I criticize deism because they cannot account for the aws of logic and reason.

    Good grief but you’re stupid. You don’t even know what it is you’re arguing against. More evidence you’re just mouthing a script you’ve appropriated from someone else.

    Can you explain why they cannot account for those laws? Why couldn’t the deist’s god have done exactly what you claim your god has done? You’ve yet to present any valid argument for your god being able to do something that any other god (or Sideshow Bob) cannot have done.

    I’ll simplify my point for you: Anything you can claim your god can do (or has done) is equally open to a claim from anyone else for their god (or, in my case, Bob) until you can provide an argument (a valid argument) that only your god could have done it. Your say-so means nothing.

    I seriously recommend you find a new line, facilis. If I think you’re getting boring I’ve little doubt our Bearded Overlord is too, and if he is I suspect that, a la the Far Side cartoon, his hand is hovering over the button on his keyboard marked ‘smite’.

  147. #147 Dave2
    January 24, 2009

    Facilis wrote:

    My position is that the laws of logic are a reflection of God’s consistent, objective ,invariant nature. God’s nature is necessary and the laws of logic are necessary also. God’s nature cannot change so it is impossible for the laws of logic to be different from what they are.

    So your view is that God’s will has constraints put on it by the rest of his nature?

  148. #148 Zarquon
    January 24, 2009

    My position is that the laws of logic are a reflection of God’s consistent, objective ,invariant nature. God’s nature is necessary and the laws of logic are necessary also.

    But this simply assumes your conclusion. It is a logical fallacy called petitio principii. Thus you have not proven anything.

  149. #149 Facilis
    January 24, 2009

    Can you explain why they cannot account for those laws? Why couldn’t the deist’s god have done exactly what you claim your god has done?

    The deist God has not provided any sort of revelation that we can examine.

    Let me spell this out to you. UNLESS YOU CAN PROVIDE SOME SORT OF OBJECTIVE REVELATION THAT YOU OR YOUR FRIENDS DID NOT WRITE, I cannot take you any more seriously than this guy who says he received a revelation while playing Gran Turismo.
    http://www.destructoid.com/blogs/Matthew+Blake/gran-turismo-proves-the-existence-of-god-wait-what–95964.phtml

  150. #150 africangenesis
    January 24, 2009

    Facilis,

    You have defined your position by the mere assertion of it. You haven’t proven it, or argued it, or shown any link to the concept of God in one of the religions. How do you propose to persuade without argument or evidence for your position? Arguing “from” your position takes you lots of places, but doesn’t carry anyone with you.

  151. #151 Facilis
    January 24, 2009

    It is a logical fallacy called petitio principii. Thus you have not proven anything.

    By what standard of logic and reason do you call my argument fallacious and does it NECCESARILY apply to me?

  152. #152 Zarquon
    January 24, 2009

    But you have no objective revelation, Fallacycilis. The Bible is indistinguishable from fiction, so it cannot be revelation.

  153. #153 Dave2
    January 24, 2009

    Facilis wrote:

    UNLESS YOU CAN PROVIDE SOME SORT OF OBJECTIVE REVELATION THAT YOU OR YOUR FRIENDS DID NOT WRITE, I cannot take you any more seriously than this guy who says he received a revelation while playing Gran Turismo.

    How exactly would it help explain the laws of logic to have religious texts authorized by God? What advantage does a theist with a book have over a nonreligious theist?

  154. #154 Facilis
    January 24, 2009

    How exactly would it help explain the laws of logic to have religious texts authorized by God? What advantage does a theist with a book have over a nonreligious theist?

    You see the laws of logic are universal and absolute.The only way to know this however would be to either have absolute knowledge or have a revelation from a being who does. ( I have the latter)

  155. #155 Craig
    January 24, 2009

    Damn, I was going to use “there aren’t any atheist creationists” as an argument against scientific creationism.

  156. #156 Zarquon
    January 24, 2009

    By what standard of logic and reason do you call my argument fallacious and does it NECCESARILY apply to me?

    Irrelevant. You have been proven wrong. Now fuck off.

  157. #157 Dave2
    January 24, 2009

    Facilis, if I’m not mistaken, you’re failing to distinguish (i) the truth of logical truths, from (ii) their normativity. For example, it is true that modus ponens is a valid argument scheme, but that is distinct from any normative questions concerning whether people ought to reason in accordance with it.

  158. #158 Wowbagger
    January 24, 2009

    facilis wrote:

    The deist God has not provided any sort of revelation that we can examine.

    So you’ve said, more than once. But it is as irrelevant now as it was the other times you wrote it. Let me spell it out for you:

    YOU HAVEN’T GIVEN AN EXPLANATION FOR WHY THE LACK OF A REVELATION ALLOWS YOU TO DISMISS THE CLAIM. WHY MUST A GOD PROVIDE A REVELATION IN ORDER TO HAVE CREATED THE LAWS OF LOGIC AND REASON?

  159. #159 Facilis
    January 24, 2009

    WHY MUST A GOD PROVIDE A REVELATION IN ORDER TO HAVE CREATED THE LAWS OF LOGIC AND REASON?

    Of course you can SAY that but there is no way you can KNOW it with any certitude unless you have a revelation.

  160. #160 Zarquon
    January 24, 2009

    The deist God has not provided any sort of revelation that we can examine.
    Actually, the natural world is the Deist god’s revelation. And in fact, it is the only revelation we can examine in any objective manner. Now, having been proven wrong again, go away.

  161. #161 Jadehawk
    January 24, 2009

    #159 = reading comprehension fail

    that’s a question, not a statement. now answer it.

  162. #162 Dave2
    January 24, 2009

    Facilis wrote:

    You see the laws of logic are universal and absolute.The only way to know this however would be to either have absolute knowledge or have a revelation from a being who does. ( I have the latter)

    First, presumably God could simply implant knowledge of logic in human minds without resorting to anything like religion.

    Second, which religious texts say anything at all about the laws of logic? Besides Dianetics, that is. And wouldn’t knowledge of the authority of a religious text have to come after knowledge of the laws of logic? Otherwise, how could one reasonably evaluate the authority of the text?

    Third, there appears to be no inconsistency in the view that human beings have the sort of intellect that reveals the necessity of logical laws to them, and yet that there is no supernatural God. This was the view of Spinoza, for example.

    Fourth, while it’s clear that you think nonreligious views (theistic and atheistic) are inadequate, it’s unclear whether you think they make laws of logic impossible or merely impossible to know. Is your point mainly one of metaphysics or one of epistemology?

  163. #163 Wowbagger
    January 24, 2009

    Of course you can SAY that but there is no way you can KNOW it with any certitude unless you have a revelation.

    Another assertion without any reasoning.

    Why not? The ancient Greeks had never heard of your god nor received your ‘revelation’; they were able to use the laws of logic and reason. Ergo, revelation is not needed to use logic and reason.

    Care to try again?

  164. #164 TheEngima32
    January 24, 2009

    I would agree that religion and science are incompatible. I would, however, disagree that faith and science are incompatible. Faith merely means believing; science means knowing according to all possible evidence presented before you. You can never “know” what you “believe,” and no matter how much science explains, there’s a good chance that there will always be that “why” question that can’t be explained, because the nature of the question doesn’t fit in with the types of questions that the scientific method is designed to solve – for instance, science can’t tell me why I exist. It can tell me how I exist, and where I came from, and where my physical, empirical body will go, but not why I’m here. This isn’t meant to belittle the scientific method at all, rather, it simply means that science is meant to solve the empirical, and that question and the problems posed by my question are certainly not empirical in nature. Faith is meant to answer questions beyond that; that’s the nature of belief. If you walk away with only one thing from this, know I stand on the side of science, but don’t think that it can be used to belittle faith – ultimately, validating faith by science or using science to try and destroy faith will result in the depreciation and ultimate destruction of both.

    Enigma

  165. #165 Facilis
    January 24, 2009

    First, presumably God could simply implant knowledge of logic in human minds without resorting to anything like religion.

    1st -Well of course I know God has revealed to me some thing innately as well as the things he has revealed in his book. But both these views are inconsistent with atheism.
    2nd

    Second, which religious texts say anything at all about the laws of logic?

    The bible does.
    http://www.fpcr.org/blue_banner_articles/reviewclarklogic.htm
    It is my position that God reveals some things to us innately and also gave us an objective revelation that comports with the subjective revelation.
    3rd Do you believe in Spinoza’s God? I would rather not debate views either of us hold.
    4th-my point i in both. i don’t see how atheistic naturalism can provide any sort of epistemic or metaphysical foundation for the immaterial, universal, objective laws of logic.

  166. #166 DL
    January 24, 2009

    The reason that science and religion are fundamentally incompatible is simpler than most express. It is a matter of first principles. In science, the fundamental first principles are:
    1. That which we observe represents the world.
    2. Anything that does not or cannot affect our observable universe cannot be said to exist in any meaningful sense.

    The primary consequence of scientific first principles is that if there is a conflict between a claim and observation of reality, the problem lies with the claim.

    The first principles of religion are:
    1. God exists.
    2. The Bible (or other similar literature) is the inerrant word of God.

    The primary consequence of religious first principles is that if there is a conflict between a claim and observation of reality, the problem lies with reality.

    That is why they are incompatible. The notion that the belief that something is true despite all observable evidence to the contrary, aka “faith”, is fundamental to religions. It is contrary to reason, and if a person chooses not to follow reason then the discussion cannot go any further. It is foolish to attempt to reason with somebody who is, by definition, unreasonable — and particularly when they see that as a virtue.

  167. #167 Facilis
    January 24, 2009

    The ancient Greeks had never heard of your god nor received your ‘revelation’; they were able to use the laws of logic and reason. Ergo, revelation is not needed to use logic and reason.

    No. God bestows his common grace to unbelievers, even if they deny him. This is why atheists can be moral or rational even if they deny the source of logic and morality. It is because of God’s common grace.

  168. #168 Facilis
    January 24, 2009

    I hold to the conflict thesis between science and atheism. Soon everyone will realise atheists can’t account for induction.

  169. #169 Zarquon
    January 24, 2009

    i don’t see how

    That’s your problem.

  170. #170 Facilis
    January 24, 2009

    In science, the fundamental first principles are:
    1. That which we observe represents the world.
    2. Anything that does not or cannot affect our observable universe cannot be said to exist in any meaningful sense.

    Where do you get these principles from?

  171. #171 Facilis
    January 24, 2009

    That’s your problem.

    I don’t have any problem. It was you who were unable to account for reason or solve the problem of induction.

  172. #172 Zarquon
    January 24, 2009

    You do have a problem. You said ‘I don’t see how’ that means you cannot prove induction incorrect, only that you don’t understand it.

  173. #173 Jadehawk
    January 24, 2009

    I don’t have any problem. It was you who were unable to account for reason or solve the problem of induction.

    your inability to comprehend basics of language and human development are not our fault or our responsibility; it’s your problem exclusively, and if you feel you don’t have a problem , stop bugging us with your ignorance. you’re already convinced we’re posessed by the devil, why are you still here, talking to us?

  174. #174 Dave2
    January 24, 2009

    Facilis,

    1. I brought up innateness to compare religious with nonreligious theism: remember, you claimed that revealed religion was necessary for logic. You appear to have conceded the point, which means your argument will, at its most successful, lead to nonreligious theism.

    2. That site is unspeakably appalling: “The very first verse of the Bible, ‘in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,’ necessitates the validity of the most fundamental law of logic: the law of contradiction (A is not non-A).” By this reasoning, logic is embedded in every minimally coherent book. With such a gossamer-thin connection between logic and the Bible, it is hard to see how your argument against nonreligious theism could possibly be sustained.

    It’s also worth pointing out, perhaps, that the reasoning of that site, bad as it is, rests on a contentious rendering of the Hebrew of Genesis 1:1?the NRSV translates it “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth…”.

    3. How can I evaluate your argument without considering all the views it claims to refute? In any case, Spinoza’s God is arguably perfectly acceptable to an atheist, since it is completely naturalistic. And leading Spinoza scholars like Steven Nadler argue that Spinoza was (as many of his contemporaries charged) an atheist.

    4. What would you say to a G. E. Moore-style atheist who accepted the laws of logic as real but sui generis and irreducible features of reality?

  175. #175 Wowbagger
    January 24, 2009

    No. God bestows his common grace to unbelievers, even if they deny him. This is why atheists can be moral or rational even if they deny the source of logic and morality. It is because of God’s common grace.

    Fair enough; I’ll give you that – it’s consistent at least.

    But it still doesn’t change the fact that you’re unable to explain why your god’s claim is greater than anyone else’s. All you’ve come up with is ‘lack of revelation’ but not attempted to justify it.

    What is the necessity for revelation? Surely the possession of the ability to reason makes revelation irrelevant – we don’t need a revelation if we can work stuff out for ourselves.

  176. #176 H.H.
    January 24, 2009

    Facilis wrote:

    You see the laws of logic are universal and absolute.The only way to know this however would be to either have absolute knowledge or have a revelation from a being who does. ( I have the latter)

    Actually, I have had a direct revelation from the one true god who told me that you have been deceived by demons this whole time. Yahweh is a false god. Seriously.

    Prove me wrong.

  177. #177 Tulse
    January 24, 2009

    How exactly is Deism a religion? If there is no personal god, and thus no being to make intercessions to, or who would react to praise, or respond to rituals, and there is in fact no current interaction of the natural world with the supernatural, then…what’s the point? How does that look anything like a religious belief?

  178. #178 Wowbagger
    January 24, 2009

    For those who are interested in John Davison or anything me2 has to say…oh, that’s right – there isn’t anyone.

    Carry on.

  179. #179 Tulse
    January 24, 2009

    To clarify for heddle the nature of the conflict between religion and science, it is not the case (and no one has claimed) that religion prevents scientists from doing their jobs in all instances. But what specific religious commitments do restrict are the domains in which such people can work scientifically. For example, a Young Earth Creationist can be a fine chemist or materials scientist, but could not work as a research geologist, or as a cosmologist. A fervent Catholic medical researcher would be hard-pressed to objectively assess evidence of healing from the waters of Lourdes. (For that matter, we can all recall how well the Church dealt with certain astronomical theories a few centuries back.)

    Religion constrains the scientific domains in which one can be rational. In that regard, it is incompatible with science in general.

  180. #180 Silver Fox
    January 24, 2009

    @147
    “So your view is that God’s will has constraints put on it by the rest of his nature?”

    God’s nature is united with itself in a union of unity.That being the case there can be no contradiction in
    God’s nature. A contradiction would be to lack perfection, not a constraint. In God that cannot be. There can be no “rest of his nature” because the nature is united with itself in a union of unity.

    @163

    “Is your point mainly one of metaphysics or one of epistemology?”

    It would be more epistemology than metaphysics. How does one, through the exercise of Faith come to certitude. It is not through scientific examination. Rather, the “revelation” is more on the order of knowledge of Modus Angelicus”, it is on the order of infused knowledge.

  181. #181 Tulse
    January 24, 2009

    God’s nature is united with itself in a union of unity.

    Using three words with the same root doesn’t actually explain much.

    Perhaps God is also unionized? Rides a unicycle? Has a unibrow?

    That’s the problem with theological claims — they devolve into gobbledegook.

  182. #182 Wowbagger
    January 24, 2009

    Tulse wrote:

    Perhaps God is also unionized? Rides a unicycle? Has a unibrow?

    Well, there are unicorns in the bible. I’d also like to think that he’d wear a unitard – ’cause that combines both ‘uni’ and ‘tard’, which explains his love of Christians.

  183. #183 Gott ist tot
    January 24, 2009

    You have to live before you can die. I thought everybody knew that.

  184. #184 SC, OM
    January 24, 2009

    Several months ago, heddle tried to argue that the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, which his church holds to, was compatible with science.

    Here’s a quotation from one of its articles – the one under discussion on that occasion:

    WE AFFIRM that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit.

    WE DENY that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.

  185. #185 Kel
    January 24, 2009

    Wow, I didn’t expect Coyne to be so blunt. Well written piece though.

  186. #186 me2
    January 24, 2009

    Primitive Italian atheists in 16 century thought that animals arosed by “chance”. Darwin added to this curious idea his own invention of “natural selection”. His followers consider mutual combination of both nonsense – read: “random mutation & natural selection” – to be “scientifical” explanation of the evolution. Nothing is more distant from the reality. John Davison is one of those who clearly disclosed the whole neodarwinian nonsense.

  187. #187 Wowbagger
    January 24, 2009

    John Davison is one of those who clearly disclosed the whole neodarwinian nonsense.

    When he gets his Nobel prize let us know. Until then, fuck off.

  188. #188 Kel
    January 24, 2009

    John Davison is one of those who clearly disclosed the whole neodarwinian nonsense.

    Last time Davison was mentioned, I was challenged to read some of his work. So I asked for Davison’s work that discredits all evidence relating to our comment ancestry with fish and got nothing. Is Davison anything more than a name that creationists appeal to in order to sound like their position has validity?

  189. #189 heddle
    January 24, 2009

    SC, OM

    Several months ago, heddle tried to argue that the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, which his church holds to, was compatible with science.

    Yes, that is because, by design, the Chicago Statement said nothing about the how and when and extent of creation and the flood. The fact that it didn’t specify six-day divine creation and global flood approximately 10^4 years ago is not a loophole they didn’t close, it was left open by design. Nothing was stated or implied, again by intent, regarding a literal interpretation. What’s left is this: that if you affirm this statement you are really affirming this: you have what you believe is interpretation of the creation account that is consistent with the bible. It’s OK whether or not it is also consistent with science, but the tail can’t wag the dog.

    They had old-earthers on the committee, so this is how they compromised.

    Now philosophically I think a better statement would have been: since scripture is God’s special revelation and creation is his general revelation, we acknowledge that ultimately the corresponding human disciplines of theology and science cannot be in conflict, ever.

    But I can live with what they came up with. And to prove me wrong you would have to demonstrate where my science, which would be the same as anyone else?s, teaches me something that I simply cannot reconcile with scripture. Good luck with that.

  190. #190 Kel
    January 24, 2009

    And to prove me wrong you would have to demonstrate where my science, which would be the same as anyone else?s, teaches me something that I simply cannot reconcile with scripture.

    lol, I suppose you also want SC to demonstrate that black is white. What people can reconcile with scripture is meaningless.

  191. #191 co
    January 24, 2009

    And to prove me wrong you would have to demonstrate where my science, which would be the same as anyone else?s, teaches me something that I simply cannot reconcile with scripture.

    How about, for a first step, you reconcile scripture with itself. Then you can work on getting it to agree with the real world.

  192. #192 Wowbagger
    January 24, 2009

    heddle wrote:

    And to prove me wrong you would have to demonstrate where my science, which would be the same as anyone else?s, teaches me something that I simply cannot reconcile with scripture. Good luck with that.

    Yes, but I imagine that that – particularly because you use the term ‘reconcile’ – says a great deal more about the art of apologetics than it does about anything else. Christians have been re-interpreting scripture to defend it for as long as there have been Christians.

    Kind of like how a good lawyer can get his or her client found not-guilty – even if the client did it.

  193. #193 heddle
    January 24, 2009

    Tulse,

    For example, a Young Earth Creationist can be a fine chemist or materials scientist, but could not work as a research geologist, or as a cosmologist.

    I mostly agree with that. One could not do so comfortably. One could not do so in good conscience. Or one would have to accept the cognitive dissonance that would be required. But it could be done. A less contentious example: A grad student doing String Theory could come, in the middle of his thesis research, to the belief that String Theory was garbage. But not only could he continue in the field, so as not to have to switch advisors if not universities and start all over, his work could ultimately be heralded as an important positive contribution to the field. In spite of the fact that if pressed, and perhaps lubricated with alcohol, he would acknowledge his position that his work did not reflect reality, Far-fetched but not inconceivable. It is quite possible to make contributions in a field your heart is not totally in. Not advisable, but possible.

    That is precisely why you must award a Ph.D. to an otherwise qulaified science student who outs himself as a YEC. In science, the product itself is the only relevant figure of merit.

  194. #194 heddle
    January 24, 2009

    Kel,

    lol, I suppose you also want SC to demonstrate that black is white. What people can reconcile with scripture is meaningless

    Maybe so?but that also enough to prove my point about the Chicago Statement.

    Co,

    How about, for a first step, you reconcile scripture with itself. Then you can work on getting it to agree with the real world.

    Yeah, I can do that to my satisfaction?in all but a handful of places (which would likely not be the ones you would come up with, unless you have studied the bible a lot.) None are related to science.

    Wowbagger

    Yes, but I imagine that that – particularly because you use the term ‘reconcile’ – says a great deal more about the art of apologetics than it does about anything else. Christians have been re-interpreting scripture to defend it for as long as there have been Christians.

    Again, maybe so. But it has nothing to do with the acceptance of the Chicago Statement being incompatible with science. Maybe the acceptance and reconciliation hinge on mental gymnastics with the exegesis. That?s a different debate. But the point is, had the Chicago Statement specified a YEC position, then I could not have affirmed it precisely because it would then be irreconcilable with science.

  195. #195 Kel
    January 24, 2009

    Maybe so?but that also enough to prove my point about the Chicago Statement.

    I guess what I’m getting at is that for some it doesn’t matter what is thrown at the bible, it’s going to take an interpretation and still be seen in the same light regardless. Though I find it really confusing as to how someone can hold an inerrant view of the bible and have no conflict with the history of the world – surely there is some basic geology, biology, and archaeology that tells a very different tale than to what’s in the bible at points.

    So I guess I’m trying to ask “how the fuck can you think the bible is inerrant in this day and age?”

  196. #196 SC, OM
    January 24, 2009

    It’s OK whether or not it is also consistent with science, but the tail can’t wag the dog.

    That’s the whole point! From a scientific point of view, it’s not OK. Beliefs have to be consistent with and supported by empirical evidence. You’re also being disingenuous, heddle. What does that sentence even mean? They specifically say “We further deny that scientific hypotheses [they won't even say "scientific evidence"] about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.” Scripture trumps science – could not be more clear.

    Here’s the whole thing, in case anyone thinks I’m giving that article a meaning that is absent in context:

    http://www.bible-researcher.com/chicago1.html

    They had old-earthers on the committee, so this is how they compromised.

    ! And the rest were YECs? I think that’s what you said back then. YECs. Are you suggesting that position is compatible with science?

    Now philosophically I think a better statement would have been: since scripture is God’s special revelation and creation is his general revelation, we acknowledge that ultimately the corresponding human disciplines of theology and science cannot be in conflict, ever.

    A) Theology is not a discipline. B) If that has any meaning, it’s not at all what the Statement is trying to say. The whole reason for it is to affirm Biblical inerrancy and infallibility. (And it should be noted that the Bible is in conflict with itself.)

    But I can live with what they came up with. And to prove me wrong you would have to demonstrate where my science, which would be the same as anyone else?s, teaches me something that I simply cannot reconcile with scripture. Good luck with that.

    Science teaches you that beliefs need to be supported by and consistent with evidence. As Coyne says:

    It would appear, then, that one cannot be coherently religious and scientific at the same time. That alleged synthesis requires that with one part of your brain you accept only those things that are tested and supported by agreed-upon evidence, logic, and reason, while with the other part of your brain you accept things that are unsupportable or even falsified. In other words, the price of philosophical harmony is cognitive dissonance. Accepting both science and conventional faith leaves you with a double standard: rational on the origin of blood clotting, irrational on the Resurrection; rational on dinosaurs, irrational on virgin births.

    And as I pointed out over the summer, you’re not doing work that touches directly on some of these questions. If you were an archaeologist or geologist or paleontologist or historian, however, your science could very well teach you something that even you with your mental acrobatics can’t reconcile with scripture. Just because you don’t work in these fields doesn’t mean the larger question of the lack of empirical support for, or evidence against, some of these beliefs can be ignored. Nor can the lack of evidence for the existence of your deity. Oh, but I forgot – Blessed are those who believe without seeing. Very scientific.

  197. #197 Wowbagger
    January 24, 2009

    So I guess I’m trying to ask “how the fuck can you think the bible is inerrant in this day and age?”

    Well, I don’t know what heddle’s answer might be – he’s not a fundamentalist – but if I’ve learned nothing else over the nine months or so I’ve been coming is there are are any number of answers to that.

    But I’ve also noticed they all add up to the same thing: where the bible gets science, history and biology etc. correct then those are the parts that are to be taken literally.

    But when the bible says something different: ? = 3.0; insects have four legs; rabbits chew their cud; bats are birds; the Ark is too small; the flood covers the whole world; the existence of cockatrices, unicorns, dragons; or the complicated ‘cure’ for leprosy in Leviticus which is basically a voodoo dance with lots of blood, oil and burnt offerings etc., well, that’s when it’s not to be taken literally.

    Then it’s obvious that what it contains is written poetically.

    Or, ‘Oh you silly atheist; you know we don’t take the whole bible literally – you know, you sound just like a fundamentalist, which I find very interesting.’

    Or we don’t understand it because it’s written in lots of different genres.

    Or that what Jesus said makes the old testament irrelevant, even though it doesn’t make all of it irrelevant, just the bits we don’t like – oh, and we know this even though he wasn’t any more specific about it than he was about a lot of stuff.

    Basically, it’s an exercise I like to call the sophist-shoe-shuffle. It’s a high-energy combination of mental gymnastics and tapdancing – complete with ducking, weaving, shucking, jiving, bullet-dodging and as much sleight-of-hand as the theist can manage.

  198. #198 Christian
    January 24, 2009

    Then it’s obvious that what it contains is written poetically.

    …and of course it was never meaaaant to be taken literally.
    Yeah, right.

    When they say that I have to chuckle because in my mind I automatically add “yeah, and we’ve always been at war with Eastasia.”

  199. #199 heddle
    January 24, 2009

    SC, OM
    No that is not how I read it. I read :

    We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.”

    as saying that ultimately science and theology (or exegesis of Genesis, if you prefer) must be compatible. I agree. They do not, however, specify whose exegesis. They are saying: whoever affirms this statement will not reconcile differences between science and Genesis by stating ?the bible is wrong.? I agree. They do allow you, if you want, to say that ?science is wrong.? But I don?t.

    That?s how I understand the statement.

    And the rest were YECs? I think that’s what you said back then. YECs. Are you suggesting that position is compatible with science?

    I think I said as clearly as I possibly can, on multiple occasions including in my previous comment, that it is not. As for the YECs on the committee, you?d have to ask them. The statement allows them the flexibility to ignore science, or to accept ?creation science?, but it also allows me the flexibility to accept real science, as long as it is not at the expense of biblical inerrancy?whatever my interpretation of scripture might me. It is really, to put another way, a denial of the not-uncommon statement: well, the bible isn?t a science or history book, so whatever it says on those subjects can be safely ignored.

    A)Theology is not a discipline. B) If that has any meaning, it’s not at all what the Statement is trying to say. The whole reason for it is to affirm Biblical inerrancy and infallibility. (And it should be noted that the Bible is in conflict with itself.)

    A) Yes it is. B) That’s why I said it would have been an improvement–though it is not incompatible with what they actually wrote. And if the bible is in conflict with itself, it is not because you “note” that it is, you have to demonstrate that it is.

    If you were an archaeologist or geologist or paleontologist or historian, however, your science could very well teach you something that even you with your mental acrobatics can’t reconcile with scripture.

    Maybe. We can speculate on any number of hypotheticals.

  200. #200 Nerd of Redhead
    January 24, 2009

    I see Facilis the Fallacious Fool was back. No logic per usual. He is nothing but a parrot, but not a well trained parrot. If that were the case he would recognize he is in over his head and leave.

  201. #201 Tulse
    January 24, 2009

    since scripture is God’s special revelation and creation is his general revelation, we acknowledge that ultimately the corresponding human disciplines of theology and science cannot be in conflict, ever.

    Disregarding the “the how and when and extent” of creation, the basic sequence of events as laid out in Genesis conflicts with science. For example, birds are created on the fifth “day” (Genesis 1:20), prior to any land creatures, which appear on the sixth day (Genesis 1:24). Genesis also makes clear that all creatures were vegetarian: “And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” (Genesis 1:30) — as much as we might laugh at the Creation Museum’s dinosaurs eating coconuts, that depiction is demanded by the Bible if one takes it at all seriously.

    That’s just Chapter 1 of the first book of the Bible. So unless your theology dumps even the basic outline of creation as presented in Genesis, I don’t see how you can say that your theology is not in conflict with science.

  202. #202 SC, OM
    January 24, 2009

    Well, I don’t know what heddle’s answer might be – he’s not a fundamentalist

    Well, he belongs to a church which ascribes to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, and he himself supports the statement. He’s just trying to spin it as saying something other than what it obviously says.

    Yeah, I can do that to my satisfaction?in all but a handful of places (which would likely not be the ones you would come up with, unless you have studied the bible a lot.)

    You may be interested in this radio-show podcast:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/11/radio_reminder_37.php

    None are related to science.

    Irrelevant. If it’s self-contradictory, it can’t be inerrant.

  203. #203 Nerd of Redhead
    January 24, 2009

    Watching Heddle trying to squirm his way out of the dilemma posed by trying to reconcile fundamentalist religious belief with science is always amusing. He just can’t recognize that the two are irreconcilable. I realized that 40 years ago. What’s taking Heddle so long to figure it out?

  204. #204 heddle
    January 24, 2009

    Tulse,

    I could point you in any number of directions. A good example being the so-called Framework Interpretation.

    The point being that this is an example of a view whose proponents (at least the ones of note, such as Meredith Kline) a) affirmed biblical inerrancy and b) believe this view is compatible with modern science.

    So you can, as one example, affirm biblical inerrancy, the Framework Interpretation, modern science, and the Chicago Statement.

    That’s just one example. The only rebuttal, as I see it, is if you say that the Framework Interpretation (or others, such as Day-Age) are not “fair.”

  205. #205 heddle
    January 24, 2009

    Nerd of Redhead,

    I realized that 40 years ago. What’s taking Heddle so long to figure it out?

    I’m just not as clever as you.

  206. #206 SC, OM
    January 24, 2009

    They are saying: whoever affirms this statement will not reconcile differences between science and Genesis by stating ?the bible is wrong.? I agree. They do allow you, if you want, to say that ?science is wrong.? But I don?t.

    That?s how I understand the statement.

    And you’re wrong. It doesn’t just allow you to say that (which would be bad enough), it demands that you do.

    I think I said as clearly as I possibly can, on multiple occasions including in my previous comment, that it is not.

    Our comments crossed.

    It is really, to put another way, a denial of the not-uncommon statement: well, the bible isn?t a science or history book, so whatever it says on those subjects can be safely ignored.

    Right. It’s explicitly saying that the Bible is making truth claims in science and history that should not be interpreted in some vague, idiosyncratic, metaphorical way, and that those claims trump the findings of modern science when these are in conflict.

    A) Yes it is. B) That’s why I said it would have been an improvement–though it is not incompatible with what they actually wrote.

    A) Again, no it isn’t. B) It is incompatible with both the letter and the spirit of what they wrote. And in any event it’s essentially a meaningless dodge. They can’t be in conflict? What does that even mean, if not that one or the other has to give way?

    And if the bible is in conflict with itself, it is not because you “note” that it is, you have to demonstrate that it is.

    See my link @ #203.

  207. #207 Wowbagger
    January 24, 2009

    I wonder, if there was to be another flood, how big an ark would be needed to keep safe all of the thousands upon thousands of books of apologetics written to keep people accepting the bible as inerrant.

    Because, by the sound of it, if they were relying only on the ‘good book’ itself, their religion – in the face of modern thinking – would have a shorter lifespan than a mayfly.

  208. #208 heddle
    January 24, 2009

    SC, OM,

    it demands that you do.

    No you are not reading carefuly. It only demands that you do so (throw science under the bus) in the face of irreconcilable differences. Since I see no irreconcilable differences I don’t have a problem. If I encounter an irreconcilable difference, then I will have to choose to jettison science or renounce my affirmation of the Chicago Statement. You’ll be the first to know if that happens.

    And this flexibility was their intent. Otherwise how do you suppose the OECs could sign the statement?

  209. #209 Nerd of Redhead
    January 24, 2009

    I’m just not as clever as you.

    I doubt if I’m significantly smarter than you, if at all. I was simply far less stubborn about acknowledging the problem. That statement is just an evasion of facing the truth. Your science and religion are incompatible.
    I’ve never understood why you post here. If you are trying to show one can be a fundamentalist and a scientist a the same time, you are failing miserably.

  210. #210 heddle
    January 24, 2009

    Nerd of Redhead,

    Wait a minute–Wowbagger in #198 stated:

    heddle is not a fundamentalist

    and then you write

    If you are trying to show one can be a fundamentalist and a scientist a the same time, you are failing miserably.

    Now which is it?

    Ah… but then again, maybe you are in agreement. Because since I am a scientist then, according to you, I cannot also be a fundamentalist–so that you agree with Wowbagger.

    Do I have that right?

  211. #211 Iain Walker
    January 24, 2009

    Heddle (#11)

    The only propositions we should discuss as scientists are propositions that have measurable effects. If it ain?t so, it?s religion, not science.

    Well, there’s a false dichotomy if ever I saw one. Or are you working with some arbitrary redefinition of “religion”, such that “All bachelors are unmarried” becomes a religious statement?

  212. #212 heddle
    January 24, 2009

    Iain Walker,

    Fair enough. A more precise statement is: The claim “science and religion are incompatible (antagonistic),” if it cannot be demonstrated experimentally but only argued with phliosophical musings, is no better than the statement “science and religion are gloriously harmonious” which can also be argued with phliosophical musings.

    Or, more bluntly: Science is incompatible with religion? Don’t tell me, show me.

  213. #213 Nerd of Redhead
    January 24, 2009

    Heddle, more mental gymnastics and evasions. If you believe the Chicago statement, you are a fundamentalist. You renounce it, you are not. Nowhere do you acknowledge, but just weasel around, that science and fundamentalist religion are incompatible. You are so funny when skating on the thin ice of weaseldom. I think your ego doesn’t like being laughed at. For that not to happen you have to acknowledge the truth. But I don’t see that happening. We will keep laughing at you though. Maybe you need to stay home so we don’t laugh at you.

  214. #214 SC, OM
    January 24, 2009

    No you are not reading carefuly. It only demands that you do so (throw science under the bus) in the face of irreconcilable differences.

    Since I see no irreconcilable differences I don’t have a problem. If I encounter an irreconcilable difference, then I will have to choose to jettison science or renounce my affirmation of the Chicago Statement. You’ll be the first to know if that happens.

    No, you’re not reading honestly (not intentionally so, I don’t think, but dishonestly nonetheless). First, if the people who wrote it saw no irreconcilable differences, they wouldn’t have bothered to write about that at all. But it really doesn’t matter. The whole point of that statement is that scripture always trumps the findings of science and history. Whether or not you personally see irreconcilable differences doesn’t matter. There could be none – this could all remain at the level of theory (which of course it doesn’t for the YECs or for those who don’t engage in the mental gymnastics you do) – and it would still be incompatible with science to hold that a (supposedly) sacred text takes precedence over scientific or historical evidence, just as it is to contend that it is acceptable to hold beliefs without or contrary to evidence. Why is this so difficult for you to understand?

  215. #215 heddle
    January 24, 2009

    Nerd of Redhead,

    If you believe the Chicago statement, you are a fundamentalist. You renounce it, you are not.

    Well, I’ll give you credit. I have never seen anyone propose such a precise litmus test for fundamentalism: The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. Affirm it and you are a fundamentalist, deny it and you are not.

    (Aside: I have heard YECs renounce the Chicago Statement because it does not affirm six-day creation. Does that mean they are not fundamentalists?)

    Nowhere do you acknowledge, but just weasel around, that science and fundamentalist religion are incompatible.

    So I should just acknowledge what I came to argue against, just like that? Why, exactly? What evidence has been presented? I don’t see any. Could you summarize for me:

    1) Why science and fundamentalist religion (as you have precisely defined it) are incompatible and
    2) How you demonstrate that experimentally. Not with an essay.

    Maybe you need to stay home so we don’t laugh at you.

    I am at home. I don’t hear the laughter so I am not disarmed or distracted.

  216. #216 heddle
    January 24, 2009

    SC, OM,

    The whole point of that statement is that scripture always trumps the findings of science and history

    No, not quite, read it again. The whole point of the relevant section is not that scripture always trumps science, but that science never trumps scripture. Once again, I can agree with it because it is in my view a statement about the null set. For those who don’t agree that it is about the null set, they can sign it happy that they can attack or ignore science at their pleasure. That’s their business. I can affirm it knowing (or at least believing) that it is (that section) much ado about nothing.

    Furthermore, affirming the statement has never:

    1) Caused me to decline participation in a nuclear physics experiement.
    2) Caused me to reject any experimental result in nuclear physics.
    3) Tempted me to explain any anomalous data by invoking the supernatural.

    So where the hell does this incompatibility manifest itself? You can repeat that it exists until the cows come home, but it?s just words, nothing more.

  217. #217 Walton
    January 24, 2009

    Heddle,

    I see your point; and I don’t doubt that, with an appropriately broad and non-literalist construction of certain biblical passages, one can reconcile a belief in the inerrancy of the Bible with modern science.

    But can you explain why you subscribe to a belief in Biblical inerrancy? What reasonable epistemic grounds do you have to reach the conclusion that the Bible is inerrant? The fact that any given belief can be reconciled with empirical reality does not mean that it’s sensible to hold said belief; otherwise one could just invent anything and believe it to be correct, so long as it didn’t contradict the the evidence.

    And I would also point out that the biggest problems with the Bible have not been identified by scientists of any discipline, but by historians. Why does the Book of Daniel refer to Belshazzar as the son and successor of Nebuchadnezzar, when in actual fact they were not even related by blood, and we know there to have been at least one other Babylonian king (Nabonidus) in between? And why does it assert that Babylon fell to a Persian army led by Darius the Mede, when in fact it was Cyrus the Great who annexed Babylon? Once one rejects inerrancy, there’s a clear answer to this question, which is that, according to most scholarly opinion, the Book of Daniel in its modern form was written a couple of centuries after the events it describes, and therefore contains a few errors and anachronisms.

    Likewise, how can we place absolute faith in the historical accuracy of the Torah narrative? The majority scholarly opinion – which is supported by the self-contradictions in the text itself, such as the two different and mutually incompatible creation myths – is that the Torah in its modern form was compiled from four separate traditional sources (the Jahwist, Elohist, Deuteronomic and Priestly texts) in about 900 AD, the reign of King Josiah of Judah; a time in which there was great incentive for the Israelites to write their own history in a partisan way, and to place God on their side in every war in which they’d been engaged. The Israelite genocide of the Midianites and Canaanites is, sadly, all too historically believable (such behaviour was the norm back then); but surely it’s much more plausible to presume that, having won these wars, they then, as most victors do, wrote history to claim that God was on their side?

  218. #218 Matt Penfold
    January 24, 2009

    Many, if not most, theistic scientists seem to believe that miracles are possible, and have taken place.

    A miracle involves the suspension of rules by which the universe works, so it follow a scientist who believes miracles can occur must think there are occasions when science ceases to work as an explanation for physical phenomena.

    Now once you have allowed for miracles to occur, how do you know how often they occur ? If you allow for the resurrection of Jesus to be a miracle, they how can you know with any certainty that any event was not the result of a miracle ? Some creationists claim that god created the universe with the appearance of age, which would seem to qualify as a miracle. Theistic scientists would no doubt take issue with such claims, but they have no right to. Not if they are honest. Once you allow for miracles to occur you cannot decide there is some limit on what god can do with them. In otherwords once you allow miracles, you cannot rule out any claims for miraculous events.

  219. #219 Matt Penfold
    January 24, 2009

    How can “The Bible” be inerrant when there so many different versions ? People who make such claims seldom specify exactly which of the original texts actually should form the bible, and almost as seldom never specify what version they consider inerrant. Given I doubt Heddle can translate the original documents, and relies (I suspect) on an English translation, then claims of inerrancy seem stupid. Why, for example, should an English translation be any more accurate than one in any other language ?

  220. #220 SC, OM
    January 24, 2009

    No, not quite, read it again. The whole point of the relevant section is not that scripture always trumps science, but that science never trumps scripture.

    If it’s talking about conflicts between the two, that’s saying the same thing. What about your rewording makes this meaningfully different?

    Once again, I can agree with it because it is in my view a statement about the null set.

    It doesn’t matter! It is incompatible at root. The affirmation that an authoritative text is to be believed over the empirical evidence is contrary to science, as is the contention that beliefs (about the existence of a deity, the inerrancy of the Bible, or its truth claims) can be justifiably sustained when they are lacking evidentiary support or contrary to the evidence. (You keep ignoring this latter part, which was one of Coyne’s main points.) I can’t imagine a clearer statement of fundamental incompatibility than your acknowledgement that in the event of what you perceived as an irreconcilable difference you will “have to choose to jettison science or renounce my affirmation of the Chicago Statement.” Either/or.

    Imagine a small country has a constitution that stated that all people had equal rights, and then a law is passed making it such that gay people do not. Then all of the gay people move out of the country or successfully conceal their sexual orientation. In practice, then, the law denies no one his or her rights. It’s still unconstitutional – contrary to the principle of equality stated in the constitution.

    Furthermore, affirming the statement has never:

    1) Caused me to decline participation in a nuclear physics experiement.
    2) Caused me to reject any experimental result in nuclear physics.
    3) Tempted me to explain any anomalous data by invoking the supernatural.

    So where the hell does this incompatibility manifest itself? You can repeat that it exists until the cows come home, but it?s just words, nothing more.

    Come on, heddle. Even if the fundamental incompatibility weren’t there, we all know this isn’t true in all fields of science (neuroscience, biology, archaeology,…). These beliefs have certainly caused others to deny scientific results, to avoid doing or reading about research that challenges Biblical truth claims, to avoid going into science at all, to do biased or shoddy research to support their beliefs, or to misinterpret others’ research results to suit their beliefs.

    But again, even if this were not the case, the fundamental incompatibility would still remain.

  221. #221 Iain Walker
    January 24, 2009

    Facilis (#145):

    My position is that the laws of logic are a reflection of God’s consistent, objective ,invariant nature.

    This highlights one of the problems of presuppositionalism, which is that it never makes clear just how the laws of logic are supposed to be an expected consequence of the existence of God. It’s always vague metaphorical terms like “a reflection of” or “part of” God’s nature.

    One might argue that it is part of God’s nature to think and act according to the laws of logic (a notion which is at least superficially intelligible), but to do so only acknowledges the independence of the laws of logic from God.

    God’s nature is necessary and the laws of logic are necessary also.

    Necessary in what sense? If you mean logically necessary, then your claim would appear to be self-contradictory. If the laws of logic are necessarily true, then their truth cannot be contingent on the existence of or nature of God. If their truth is contingent on the existence or nature of God, then they cannot be necessarily true.

    and from #154:

    You see the laws of logic are universal and absolute.The only way to know this however would be to either have absolute knowledge or have a revelation from a being who does. ( I have the latter)

    Except you need to be able to appeal to certain rules of inference and evidence (which are ultimately constrained by the rules of logic) in order to determine whether you do in fact have such a revelation. In other words, you need to assume objective standards of rationality (including logic) in order to justify your claim that you know that there are objective standards of rationality.

    and from #165:

    i don’t see how atheistic naturalism can provide any sort of epistemic or metaphysical foundation for the immaterial, universal, objective laws of logic.

    Even assuming that it makes sense to demand such a foundation, theism doesn’t seem to be doing much of a job providing one either.

  222. #222 Nerd of Redhead
    January 24, 2009

    Heddle, no use talking the deluded. If you don’t see the problem yourself, why all the weaseling? You do see it, but won’t admit it to yourself. No use talking to you.

  223. #223 Walton
    January 24, 2009

    It doesn’t matter! It is incompatible at root. The affirmation that an authoritative text is to be believed over the empirical evidence is contrary to science, as is the contention that beliefs (about the existence of a deity, the inerrancy of the Bible, or its truth claims) can be justifiably sustained when they are lacking evidentiary support or contrary to the evidence. (You keep ignoring this latter part, which was one of Coyne’s main points.) I can’t imagine a clearer statement of fundamental incompatibility than your acknowledgement that in the event of what you perceived as an irreconcilable difference you will “have to choose to jettison science or renounce my affirmation of the Chicago Statement.” Either/or.

    Interesting. So, as it were, the epistemology declared by the Chicago Statement – the Bible as an authoritative source of knowledge – is incompatible with the scientific method and with empiricism.

    But doesn’t this depend how one reads the Statement? You could read it as meaning “We don’t believe there are any contradictions between Scripture and established scientific knowledge”, rather than “In the event of a contradiction between Scripture and established scientific knowledge, we will choose to believe Scripture”.

  224. #224 'Tis Himself
    January 24, 2009

    Since there are contradictions between the Bible and science (the infamous ? = 3 comes immediately to mind) claiming that scripture trumps science is a denial of science. Which is what many of us, including Coyne, are saying.

  225. #225 SC, OM
    January 24, 2009

    Interesting. So, as it were, the epistemology declared by the Chicago Statement – the Bible as an authoritative source of knowledge – is incompatible with the scientific method and with empiricism.

    Of course.

    But doesn’t this depend how one reads the Statement? You could read it as meaning “We don’t believe there are any contradictions between Scripture and established scientific knowledge”, rather than “In the event of a contradiction between Scripture and established scientific knowledge, we will choose to believe Scripture”.

    Only if you’re not really reading it, ignoring the context of that article, and forgetting that most of the people who wrote it were YECs. It says: “We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.” I don’t see how this can be read the way you propose. That’s what heddle’s suggesting they should have said; it isn’t what they did say, as he acknowledges.

    And if they were saying that, what would it mean in practice – for people who worked in the relevant scientific or historical fields?

  226. #226 Walton
    January 24, 2009

    SC @#226: On reflection, having read the statement again, you’re probably right.

  227. #227 heddle
    January 24, 2009

    Walton,

    But can you explain why you subscribe to a belief in Biblical inerrancy?

    Not really. Intellectually I would say that if the bible is not infallible (as in the Chicago Statement) then how can we trust any of the promises it contains? Theologically I think it is because of faith, and that being a gift of God.

    Why does the Book of Daniel refer to Belshazzar as the son and successor of Nebuchadnezzar

    It does not. It refers to Nebuchadnezzar as Belshazzar’s father. That word, in Hebrew and in Aramaic, is also used for “predecessor.”

    As for Darius, that’s more complicated. It is true that the bible does not explain the relationship between Darius and Cyrus. And no non-biblical reference to Darius has been found, as far as I know. There have been various suggestions such as the two being one and the same, Darius being a name taken by Cyrus on the throne. Or that Darius was Cyrus’ commander.

    As an aside I would point out that not long ago the complaint would have been: there is no evidence that Belshazzar even existed. Now there is. This is ancient history. Some of it awaits new archeological work.

    Very good and interesting points though–much better than the usual “the genealogies of Jesus don’t agree.”

    such as the two different and mutually incompatible creation myths

    Personally I don’t think rises to the standards of your previous examples. Harmonious interpretations of Genesis 1 and 2 have been with us since antiquity.

    The Israelite genocide of the Midianites and Canaanites is, sadly, all too historically believable (such behaviour was the norm back then); but surely it’s much more plausible to presume that, having won these wars, they then, as most victors do, wrote history to claim that God was on their side?

    Sure, that’s always possible. Although what would be odd is that they wrote a particularly unflattering history of themselves.

    Matt Penfold,

    Now once you have allowed for miracles to occur, how do you know how often they occur ? If you allow for the resurrection of Jesus to be a miracle, they how can you know with any certainty that any event was not the result of a miracle ?

    Haven?t I answered that question from you more than once? Sigh. The business of miracles is tiresome. Also a bit odd for the following reason. To criticize a theistic scientist for accepting miracles seems to be a bit of zooming in way too far. The “theist” part already implies that the person believes God created the universe. The friggin universe. Compared to that, what?s the big deal of having Jesus walk on water or was resurrected or was birthed of a virgin? Those would be in the noise compared to creating the cosmos.

    As for why they won?t occur I’m sure I have also answered that many times. Miracles were not willy-nilly, they were exceedingly rare events that played important roles in God’s redemptive plan. But God’s redemptive plan is now finished, so personally I don’t expect they’ll be any more miracles. At any rate as a scientist I would never invoke one as an explanation. If God plays a trick on us in an experiment, then I’ll go to the grave attempting to explain the data by the normal laws of physics.

    How can “The Bible” be inerrant when there so many different versions ?

    That’s easy. No version is inerrant. Only the original autographs, of which none are extant.

    SC, OM,

    I can’t imagine a clearer statement of fundamental incompatibility than your acknowledgement that in the event of what you perceived as an irreconcilable difference you will “have to choose to jettison science or renounce my affirmation of the Chicago Statement.” Either/or.

    What’s the big deal? The same sort of possibility applies to you, and you’ll deny that it?s a problem for the same reason I do: because it is a hypothetical that you never expect to encounter. That is, if God appeared to you face to face you’d have to rearrange your beliefs. You don’t expect that, just like I don’t expect to encounter an irreconcilable difference between science and the bible.

    Come on, heddle. Even if the fundamental incompatibility weren’t there, we all know this isn’t true in all fields of science (neuroscience, biology, archaeology,…).

    Prove it. Show me where Collins? beliefs affected his work.

  228. #228 Silver Fox
    January 24, 2009

    @218

    “one can reconcile a belief in the inerrancy of the Bible with modern science.
    But can you explain why you subscribe to a belief in Biblical inerrancy? What reasonable epistemic grounds do you have to reach the conclusion that the Bible is inerrant?”

    The first statement is in reverse. It should be: Modern science will be reconciled with the inerrancy of the Bible.
    The inerrancy of the Bible rests in revelation. Recall that the Bible is a compilation of a panoply of literary genres; written stories, poems, etc. growing out of ancient oral traditions that were eventually put in writing on ancient manuscripts in several, now rather obscure, Near East languages. Taken literally, one would be hard pressed to find divine revelation. We have none of the original manuscripts, only a linage of translations. This poses a problem as to what the original author intend to transmit, how does the original language comport to current translations, how did the culture impact the manner of storytelling, the Sitz-en-laben, the time and place.

    So, what does that tell us about “inerrancy and inspiration”. Essentially it says that God reveals Himself through scripture and what God reveals is true. What is revealed? That’s the job of exegetes. Its obvious that this takes a great deal of talent and learning to be an exegete. Its not simply a question of any yahoo picking up a copy of the King James and saying I’m going to read the revealed word of God.

    What does all that say about revelation and science. Well, revelation is complete; the interpretation of scripture continues. There is not going to be any more revelation. Science is not complete; science is evolving day by day.
    When (if) science is complete and exegesis of scripture is complete then science and scripture are in absolute agreement.

  229. #229 heddle
    January 24, 2009

    ‘Tis Himself,

    Since there are contradictions between the Bible and science (the infamous ? = 3 comes immediately to mind) claiming that scripture trumps science is a denial of science.

    OMG I never noticed that! I couldn’t be more floored if the bible insisted that bats were birds.

  230. #230 Tulse
    January 24, 2009

    I could point you in any number of directions. A good example being the so-called Framework Interpretation.
    The point being that this is an example of a view whose proponents (at least the ones of note, such as Meredith Kline) a) affirmed biblical inerrancy and b) believe this view is compatible with modern science.

    This is done only by defining “inerrancy” in such a way as to render the notion vacuous and impervious to refutation. “If the Bible conforms with science, then that part is literally true, but if it doesn’t conform to science, that part is ‘a literary or symbolic structure designed to reinforce the purposefulness of God in creation and the Sabbath commandment’”. In other words, this approach makes the notion of inerrancy completely meaningless.

    Perhaps let’s put this another way — are there any circumstances that science would cause you to doubt the inerrancy of the Bible? Or is inerrancy a foundational premise that cannot under any circumstances be challenged by empirical data?

  231. #231 Iain Walker
    January 24, 2009

    Regarding the Chicago Statement:

    We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.

    One could argue that the expression “the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood” need not entail that the Genesis accounts are meant as literal, historical reports. If the “teaching” is a matter of theological/moral lessons derived from passages that are held to be mythological or allegorical in nature, then what the statement can be taken as denying is that it is appropriate to judge these passages by scientific standards (hence “may properly be used”), and nothing else. If the passages are meant literally, then science might have something to say about them. But if they’re allegorical, then scientific findings have no bearing on the matter.

    Sorry, but I think that Heddle may have a genuine get-out clause here, since the framing of the statement is sufficiently broad to allow such an interpretation.

  232. #232 Nerd of Redhead
    January 24, 2009

    The first statement is in reverse. It should be: Modern science will be reconciled with the inerrancy of the Bible.

    Silver Fox, are you ever going to get something right? First of all, your god doesn’t exist, and therefore the bible is a work of fiction. Therefore the bible has no absolute truth to it. Secondly, science shows the bible to be WRONG. So the bible needs to adapt to reality. Nothing else is the truth.

  233. #233 Walton
    January 24, 2009

    And no non-biblical reference to Darius has been found, as far as I know.

    Yes, it has – Herodotus? He recounts the history of the Medes and Persians in considerable depth, referring extensively to both Cyrus and Darius. And the reign of Cyrus the Great of Persia, a renowned king, is covered extensively both in Greek sources and in the Bible itself.

    As an aside I would point out that not long ago the complaint would have been: there is no evidence that Belshazzar even existed. Now there is. This is ancient history. Some of it awaits new archeological work.

    True, and I don’t doubt that the Book of Daniel is based on historical events; I wasn’t claiming it to be a complete fabrication. But the evidence indicates that it was written a couple of centuries after the fact, with corresponding distortions and errors.

    Remember, you’re trying to establish that the Bible is inerrant. I, therefore, only need to provide one counterexample – one point, however minor, on which the Bible is incontrovertibly wrong.

    Intellectually I would say that if the bible is not infallible (as in the Chicago Statement) then how can we trust any of the promises it contains? – Exactly; that’s why I, very reluctantly, stopped being a Christian. In the end, Christianity stands or falls by the historical truth or falsehood of one claim: that Jesus of Nazareth was a divine being who was resurrected from the dead. All we have, in terms of evidence, is four non-eyewitness accounts of unknown date and provenance, at least two of which (Matthew and Luke) drew on another (Mark) as a source, and which contain known inaccuracies (e.g. referring to a return from Tyre “via Sidon” when a glance at a map will show you that Sidon is north of Tyre, and further away from Israel).

    Theologically I think it is because of faith, and that being a gift of God. – That’s fair enough, but where does one draw the line, epistemically speaking? If you accept claims on faith – faith being defined as belief in a claim which one cannot, on a balance of probabilities, demonstrate to be likely to be true – then how can you know which claims to accept and which to reject? Why be an orthodox Christian and not, say, a Mormon, or a Muslim, or a Hindu, or a spiritualist, or a Zoroastrian?

    Take Mormonism as an example. I unequivocally reject the LDS faith, because of the vast number of anachronisms in the Book of Mormon and the fact that none of its claims about pre-Columbian America have come close to being archaeologically corroborated. Yet a lot of Mormons claim that “faith” and a feeling of the “presence of God” lead them to believe.

  234. #234 Feynmaniac
    January 24, 2009

    Facilis,

    I laughed when I saw “secular reason” though. What an oxymoron.(As proven by this thread- http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/01/im_in_good_company.php

    To save time on people’s reading I could summarize the conversion….

    Fallacious

    SCENE 1

    Facilis: Anyone who believes in naturalism is dumb. God is clearly responsible for everything.
    Pharyngulites: So, do you have physical evidence for God?
    F: Why does all evidence have to be physical?
    P: You are making a claim about the physical universe. You’d expect there to be some evidence of that claim. Since you are making the claim also the burden of proof falls on you.
    F: The burden of proof is on you to prove that the burden of proof is on me.
    P: Sigh, in other words you got nothing.
    F: No, I do.
    P: Alright, show us.
    F: I do have evidence.
    P: Okay then, what is it?
    F: HOLD ON….I’m searching the web for it. Alright, here it is….

    Dramatic music. Screen goes blank.

    [COMMERCIAL BREAK]

    SCENE 2

    P: Well, those were some interesting products. Anyways, facilis show us your evidence.
    F: God is rational,immaterial, universal, objective and absolute and logic is rational,immaterial, universal, objective and absolute. Therefore God exists.
    P: (silence) (jaws drop)….alright, that’s just a claim. You haven’t shown any proof of that claim.
    F: Alright, here, according to that website, is the proof:
    1. Let P=”Logic comes from God”
    2. Assume not P
    3. You can’t explain where logic comes from
    4. Therefore P.
    I have shown it through impossibility of the contrary.

    P: That’s not impossibility of contrary, AKA proof by contradiction. An example of such would be the proof that the square root of 2 is irrational (not irrational like your arguments but irrational by not being a ratio of two integers). You first assume it is rational, i.e. can be expressed as the ratio of two integers, and through some steps you get a contradiction (and if you are in math you will hear the anecdote of the fate of poor soul who first discovered this every semester by a different prof). What you provided is an argument through ignorance, specifically of the God of the gaps variety. Replace God with the Greek gods or Sideshow Bob and it’s quite clear the argument is fallacious.
    F: The Greek gods and Sideshow Bob aren’t immaterial, universal, objective and absolute.
    P: Well, let’s say someone did believe that they were…..
    F: But you don’t believe it do you?
    P: Of course not.
    F: Just stick to what we do believe.
    P: That’s arbitrary. It doesn’t matter if someone believes it or not it’s still a counterexample.
    F: Alright then, where’s your proof of logic?

    [COMMERCIAL BREAK]

    SCENE 3

    P: The idea of “justification” for logic is quite self-defeating. In order to “justify” anything you have to have rules of reasoning, AKA logic.
    F: So you have no idea where it comes from?
    P: Well, there are many interpretations of what “logic” is, perhaps to be more concrete let’s ask where do the laws of physics come from? Well, we don’t know. There are many speculations and hypotheses but at present it’s unknown.
    F: HA! So you guys can’t answer where logic comes from and I can! HAHAHA. I win, I win!! I have certainty on my side.
    P: Certainty doesn’t mean you are right. It is childish to believe so.
    F: Certainty is powerful. It can make me do things I wouldn’t be able to do without it. For example, if I ever questioned myself do you think I would be able to say it was right for God send two bears to kill 42 children merely because they made fun of his prophet for being bald?
    P: Yes, an another good argument against certainty. We live in a world of approximate answers and different degrees of certainty about different things but certainty rarely, if ever, enters into it.
    F: Can you prove your certainty about uncertainty?
    P: You know what? If there is a God and his chosen is an unbelievable stupid piece of shit like you then I’ll go with the enemy.
    F: Sorry, but you already sided with Satan when…
    FACILIS’ MOM: Facilis, dear…..
    F: Mom, I told you not to interrupt me while I’m doing my Missionary thing on the computer.
    F’s M: Yes, I remember. I was so glad when I found out “Missionary thing on the computer” didn’t mean….anyways, they say it’s important.
    F: Hey, who are you guys?
    POLICE: Facilis, please come with us.
    F: What is the meaning of this?
    POLICE: You are being arrested on charges of violating the Geneva Convention by torturing logic.
    F: But I thought I had immunity from…..
    POLICE: Nope, he left on Tuesday. Come with us, Jack Bauer.
    F: Can you prove he left on….
    POLICE: Don’t make me use my taser.

    THE END (?)

  235. #235 Nerd of Redhead
    January 24, 2009

    Feynmaniac, great recap of the Fallacious one. Clap, clap clap.

  236. #236 Tulse
    January 24, 2009

    I think that Heddle may have a genuine get-out clause here, since the framing of the statement is sufficiently broad to allow such an interpretation.

    Right, but only by rendering the notion of inerrancy meaningless.

    Which, I would note, is a rather anti-scientific notion in general — no domain of science would put up with the notion that a theory is a priori right, and that all data must conform to it. The Chicago Statement essentially says the bible is not falsifiable.

  237. #237 SC, OM
    January 24, 2009

    What’s the big deal? The same sort of possibility applies to you, and you’ll deny that it?s a problem for the same reason I do: because it is a hypothetical that you never expect to encounter. That is, if God appeared to you face to face you’d have to rearrange your beliefs. You don’t expect that, just like I don’t expect to encounter an irreconcilable difference between science and the bible.

    What? How is that analogous? That’s not the same sort of possibility at all. Believing in the existence of a deity based on evidence of a deity would be perfectly in keeping with my use of empirical science and evidence. There would be no fundamental contradiction in my position that such a situation would bring to the fore. You hold mutually-contradictory positions: the scientific view that beliefs should be based on evidence and the view that the Bible is the inerrant word of God that should be believed even without supporting evidence or in the face of contrary evidence and that, in case of a conflict, takes precedence over the evidence of science and history. The belief-without-supporting evidence part you’ve still not addressed (well, I guess “Intellectually I would say that if the bible is not infallible (as in the Chicago Statement) then how can we trust any of the promises it contains? Theologically I think it is because of faith, and that being a gift of God” was a partial pathetic stab at it). The second part you claim doesn’t come up for you personally, so the contradiction can be denied by you in the everyday practice of your particular research, but you’ve admitted that it’s there. It’s still there even if you refuse to recognize any substantive conflicts.

    Prove it. Show me where Collins? beliefs affected his work.

    How absurd. Are you and Collins the only scientists in the world? There are examples of this here and on the other science blogs all the time, not to mention the interference of fundamentalist non-scientists with the teaching of evolution. Are you seriously suggesting these beliefs have not interfered with doing science or with science education? What planet are you on? And again, it doesn’t affect the fundamental incompatibility of your beliefs and science even if the vast majority of theistic scientists are able to compartmentalize in this way.

    And way to avoid almost all of my post.

  238. #238 Facilis
    January 24, 2009

    @Sc

    From a scientific point of view, it’s not OK. Beliefs have to be consistent with and supported by empirical evidence.

    Could you provide empirical evidence for that statement please.

    Science teaches you that beliefs need to be supported by and consistent with evidence. As Coyne says:

    1)Coyne merely asserts his own worldview of naturalism. He never gives any reason as to why we should think virgin births are irrational and i see nothing wrong with them.
    2) I think atheists suffer from the greater deal of cognitive dissonance. They deny the existence of God and then steal from his logic and reason. They try to appeal to science when they cannot account for the validity of it in their worldview and make knowledge claims when atheism makes it impossible to have certain knowledge. Science, logic and reason are irreconcilable with atheism.

    Irrelevant. If it’s self-contradictory, it can’t be inerrant.

    Why are contradictions not allowed in your worldview?

  239. #239 Nerd of Redhead
    January 24, 2009

    Facilis the Fallacious Fool is back. Facilis, fail one: you must prove your case, but you keep trying to make us respond to you. That says you have nothing. Which we already know. Your whole argument has been thoroughly refuted. So you need to start again from scratch.
    You mangle logic so bad, we don’t care what you think. Because you obviously can’t think.

  240. #240 heddle
    January 24, 2009

    Walton,

    Yes, it has – Herodotus?

    Sorry I worded that badly. I meant there are no references to Darius in contemporary findings, such as cuneiforms.

    Remember, you’re trying to establish that the Bible is inerrant. I, therefore, only need to provide one counterexample – one point, however minor, on which the Bible is incontrovertibly wrong.

    That is very true, with the following caveats:

    1) That is not the same thing as finding something in the bible that I cannot explain.

    2) You have to allow, without crying foul, that there are translation errors, redactions (e.g., the Markan appendix) figures of speech, and different styles. Examples of the latter being that in ancient eastern literature numbers were imprecise (5000 cattle) and quoting someone meant to reproduce their intent, faithfully, not to reproduce their words accurately. It is also true that in ancient eastern literature genealogies were not chronologies.

    Furthermore, since ancient history is itself subject to revision you actually do need more than a single piece of evidence. You need a modest critical mass, or a piece of evidence for which no future archeological discovery could possibly, under any reasonable circumstances, cause a reevaluation consistent with scripture and with the caveats that I noted.

    Why be an orthodox Christian and not, say, a Mormon, or a Muslim, or a Hindu, or a spiritualist, or a Zoroastrian?

    I can only answer that theologically from the point of view of the Calvinist I am: I was regenerated by God into the Christian faith, not into the Muslim, Mormon, or any other faith.

    Tulse,

    Perhaps let’s put this another way — are there any circumstances that science would cause you to doubt the inerrancy of the Bible? Or is inerrancy a foundational premise that cannot under any circumstances be challenged by empirical data?

    Yes. Any experimentally confirmed cosmology that does not have a beginning would be incompatible with scripture, in my opinion. (So yes, there exist theoretical cosmologies that are incompatible with scripture. ) But you are right, there isn?t much, because the bible doesn?t say much about science, other than telling us to go do it.

  241. #241 Silver Fox
    January 24, 2009

    Nerd:
    “science shows the bible to be WRONG. So the bible needs to adapt to reality.”

    Scientists are not scriptural exegetes, so they couldn’t possibly know if the Bible is right or wrong.

    Science knows what reality is? Try the unification of all physical laws, a favorite pet rock of scientists not long ago; now its going down the drain faster than dirty bath water. Try string theory, another area ripe for backtracking.

  242. #242 Facilis
    January 24, 2009

    Why does the Book of Daniel refer to Belshazzar as the son and successor of Nebuchadnezzar, when in actual fact they were not even related by blood,

    (I recall back when biblical critics claimed that Belshazzar never existed at all)
    Anyway, the word does not necessarily mean literal “son”. There are other writings in the ANE that indicate it similar words could be used to mean successor.

    And why does it assert that Babylon fell to a Persian army led by Darius the Mede, when in fact it was Cyrus the Great who annexed Babylon?

    I heard an argument that Darius the Mede was a regal name for Cyrus the Persian but I can’t say anything definitve on this

  243. #243 SC, OM
    January 24, 2009

    One could argue that the expression “the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood” need not entail that the Genesis accounts are meant as literal, historical reports. If the “teaching” is a matter of theological/moral lessons derived from passages that are held to be mythological or allegorical in nature, then what the statement can be taken as denying is that it is appropriate to judge these passages by scientific standards (hence “may properly be used”), and nothing else. If the passages are meant literally, then science might have something to say about them. But if they’re allegorical, then scientific findings have no bearing on the matter.

    Sorry, but I think that Heddle may have a genuine get-out clause here, since the framing of the statement is sufficiently broad to allow such an interpretation.

    I think a major purpose of it was precisely to affirm that the Bible was to be considered a historical and scientific text. (This is consistent with its having been written by YECs and OECs.) From the Statement:

    Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God’s acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God’s saving grace in individual lives.

    …WE DENY that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science.

    BTW, also amusing are these:

    WE DENY that it is proper to evaluate Scripture according to standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage or purpose. We further deny that inerrancy is negated by Biblical phenomena such as a lack of modern technical precision, irregularities of grammar or spelling, observational descriptions of nature, the reporting of falsehoods, the use of hyperbole and round numbers, the topical arrangement of material, variant selections of material in parallel accounts, or the use of free citations.

    WE AFFIRM the unity and internal consistency of Scripture.

  244. #244 heddle
    January 24, 2009

    SC, OM,

    And way to avoid almost all of my post.

    Nothing personal. Please note that I am in an N on 1 situation. I have to pick and choose.

  245. #245 Nerd of Redhead
    January 24, 2009

    Silver Fox, still being as stupid as ever. Your god doesn’t exist, and your bible is therefore a work of fiction. What part of that reality don’t you understand? Time for you to get a life elsewhere.

  246. #246 Sven DiMilo
    January 24, 2009

    How bout them Stillers?

  247. #247 Matt Penfold
    January 24, 2009

    Haven?t I answered that question from you more than once? Sigh. The business of miracles is tiresome. Also a bit odd for the following reason. To criticize a theistic scientist for accepting miracles seems to be a bit of zooming in way too far. The “theist” part already implies that the person believes God created the universe. The friggin universe. Compared to that, what?s the big deal of having Jesus walk on water or was resurrected or was birthed of a virgin? Those would be in the noise compared to creating the cosmos

    As for why they won?t occur I’m sure I have also answered that many times. Miracles were not willy-nilly, they were exceedingly rare events that played important roles in God’s redemptive plan. But God’s redemptive plan is now finished, so personally I don’t expect they’ll be any more miracles. At any rate as a scientist I would never invoke one as an explanation. If God plays a trick on us in an experiment, then I’ll go to the grave attempting to explain the data by the normal laws of physics.

    No you have not answered. I will grant that you have tried, but all your attempts ended in dismal failure. You claim miracles are very rare, yet you have totally failed to support that assertion. Other theists disagree with you. I have no means of knowing if miracles are rare as you claim, or more common, as others claim. Absent evidence for them occurring at all the most rational option is to assume they do not occur.

    You claim that as a scientist you would not invoke a miracles as an explanation, but since you claim they do occur you therefore require other scientists to do so. A virgin birth may not be something for physics to deal with and thus claiming Jesus was the result of a virgin birth does not require physicists, as scientists, to invoke a miracle as the explanation but it does require that physicists who think it was a miracle to demand that biologists do so. I cannot therefore take your protestations seriously.

  248. #248 Iain Walker
    January 24, 2009

    Silver Fox (#229):

    What does all that say about revelation and science. Well, revelation is complete; the interpretation of scripture continues. There is not going to be any more revelation. Science is not complete; science is evolving day by day.

    Poor analogy, since you’re not comparing like with like. Science is more comparable to exegesis than to revelation – it’s a process of understanding something that is already there (i.e., the natural world). So the incompleteness of science is more akin to the incompleteness of exegesis, rather than something to be contrasted with the alleged completeness of revelation.

  249. #249 'Tis Himself
    January 24, 2009

    OMG I never noticed that! I couldn’t be more floored if the bible insisted that bats were birds.

    You’re the one claiming that the Bible in inerrant. One single example of error in your Bible shows that the Chicago Statement is so much hot air. Regardless of how you try to spin it, your and your fellow Christians are anti-science, or to be more precise, anti-reality.

  250. #250 Matt Penfold
    January 24, 2009

    That’s easy. No version is inerrant. Only the original autographs, of which none are extant.

    But other Christians claim the King James Version is inerrant.

    How can I tell which of you is telling the truth, if indeed any of you are. In otherwords, that is a factual claim on your part, for which I ask you supply evidence.

  251. #251 Facilis
    January 24, 2009

    @SC
    Do you believe in empircism (i.e. all information is gathered from the senses)?

  252. #252 heddle
    January 24, 2009

    Sven,

    It’s like a perfect storm. I can hardly believe we landed the Cardinals as an opponent. Although being the consensus favorite carries with it the risk of having to consume enormous quantities of crow for dinner–I’ll take it over facing the Eagles.

    Start chilling the Irn City.

  253. #253 E.V.
    January 24, 2009

    He never gives any reason as to why we should think virgin births are irrational and i see nothing wrong with them.

    Which indicates you are irrational and a buffoon.

  254. #254 Nerd of Redhead
    January 24, 2009

    Facilis, quit asking questions and present your proof. That is the only way to convince us.

  255. #255 Facilis
    January 24, 2009

    Which indicates you are irrational and a buffoon.

    So anyone who does not believe in your particular brand of naturalism/materialism is a buffon?
    Out of curiosity, by what standard of rationality do you call my post irrational.

  256. #256 Matt Penfold
    January 24, 2009

    Scientists are not scriptural exegetes, so they couldn’t possibly know if the Bible is right or wrong.

    The Bible makes factual claims. Claims are in the realm of scientists to investigate. Such investigations lead the conclusion that the Bible is not inerrant, in that it is not a factual statement of events. Once one is forced to conclude that one needs to interpret the Bible as containing much metaphor and allegory then it becomes impossible to arrive at any definitive understanding. Any interpretation can be considered as valid as the next, and there is no means of telling who, if anyone, has the best.

  257. #257 heddle
    January 24, 2009

    Matt Penfold,

    You claim miracles are very rare, yet you have totally failed to support that assertion.

    Well they are at least rare enough that I’ve never seen one.

    How can I tell which of you is telling the truth, if indeed any of you are.

    You can’t.

  258. #258 Facilis
    January 24, 2009

    I have presented my proof Redhead. The impossibility of the contrary. No atheistic worldview is able to account for the laws of logic and reason.

  259. #259 Nerd of Redhead
    January 24, 2009

    Facilis, you have offered no alternative because of your busted logic. So you can’t knock our way of doing things until you offer a logical alternative. Which doesn’t exist.

  260. #260 Matt Penfold
    January 24, 2009

    You can’t.

    So you have no means of backing up your assertions at all ?

  261. #261 'Tis Himself
    January 24, 2009

    No atheistic worldview is able to account for the laws of logic and reason.

    Except for the atheistic worldviews which do account for logic and reason.

    I knew that you’d offer ZERO proof for your assertions and yet declare victory over those people who have offered evidence that you’re wrong.

  262. #262 Nerd of Redhead
    January 24, 2009

    Facilis, your proof has been totally and thoroughly refuted. It no longer exists for this argument. What part of logic are you not seeing, except for your arrogance? You have nothing.

  263. #263 heddle
    January 24, 2009

    Matt Penfold,

    So you have no means of backing up your assertions at all ?

    Sure. I could launch into, for example, a long discussion as to why the KJV is inferior to more modern scholarly literal translations like the NASB or the ESV. But you asked how can you tell who is telling the truth? You can’t.

    (Although I would think that the mere fact that the KJV only types argue that the KJV is more accurate than the Greek manuscripts from which it was translated would make you a little suspicious.)

  264. #264 Matt Penfold
    January 24, 2009

    Sure. I could launch into, for example, a long discussion as to why the KJV is inferior to more modern scholarly literal translations like the NASB or the ESV. But you asked how can you tell who is telling the truth? You can’t.

    So essentially it is all a load of bollocks. I suspected as much. Glad you admit your opinions on this matter have no support at all.

  265. #265 SC, OM
    January 24, 2009

    From a scientific point of view, it’s not OK. Beliefs have to be consistent with and supported by empirical evidence.

    Could you provide empirical evidence for that statement please.

    Sure. Here, for example, is Wikipedia’s definition of science:

    Science (from the Latin scientia, meaning “knowledge” or “knowing”) is the effort to discover, and increase human understanding of how the physical world works. Using controlled methods, scientists collect data in the form of observations, records of observable physical evidence of natural phenomena, and analyze this information to construct theoretical explanations of how things work.

    Knowledge in science is gained through research. The methods of scientific research include the generation of hypotheses about how natural phenomena work, and experimentation that tests these hypotheses under controlled conditions. The outcome or product of this empirical scientific process is the formulation of theory that describes human understanding of physical processes and facilitates prediction.

    Are you claiming that scientific knowledge is not based on evidence – that claims unsupported by or contradicted by evidence are acceptable in science? Is your knowledge of physics based on something other than evidence?

    1)Coyne merely asserts his own worldview of naturalism. He never gives any reason as to why we should think virgin births are irrational and i see nothing wrong with them.

    I hope you’re more rigorous in your thinking when it comes to your own science. And believing that one occurred 2000 years ago with no evidence other than some old book that says it did (a book which you have no rational basis for considering infallible or inerrant) is irrational.

    2) I think atheists suffer from the greater deal of cognitive dissonance. They deny the existence of God and then steal from his logic and reason.

    Give me a break. You have no evidence that your deity exists. Reason is a capacity humans developed in the course of evolution.

    They try to appeal to science when they cannot account for the validity of it [???] in their worldview and make knowledge claims when atheism makes it impossible to have certain knowledge. Science, logic and reason are irreconcilable with atheism.

    Now you’re just flailing wildly. Certain knowledge is impossible, regardless of atheism. Human knowledge is supported by evidence.

    Irrelevant. If it’s self-contradictory, it can’t be inerrant.
    Why are contradictions not allowed in your worldview?

    Can you explain what you mean by that question and what it has to do with the truth of my assertion? And given that your own Statement sees fit to “AFFIRM the unity and internal consistency of Scripture,” I’d say it agrees with me.

  266. #266 Ken Cope
    January 24, 2009

    Do you believe in empircism (i.e. all information is gathered from the senses)?

    What else have you got? How do you propose to show us?

    Logic, Facilis style (come on kids, try this at home, where nobody can be heard laughing at you from the internets!):

    All logical arguments are a creation of the Christian God.
    This argument is a creation of the Christian God.
    Therefore, this argument is a logical argument.

    All arguments that refute Facilis are a creation of Satan.
    This argument is a creation of Satan.
    Therefore, this argument refutes Facilis.

  267. #267 Silver Fox
    January 24, 2009

    @257
    “The Bible makes factual claims. Claims are in the realm of scientists to investigate.”

    The Bible is neither science nor history. If scientists are “investigating” the Bible, they need to get out of the business of literary criticism unless they have their Ph.D in Near Eastern literature.

  268. #268 Monado, FCD
    January 24, 2009

    So, basically, you’re pointing out that, in the light of science, a rationalist says, “Here’s what we know — if you wish to believe in one or more gods or goddesses, here’s the space left where they might fit. On that we make no pronouncements, but there’s no actual evidence for any deity.”

    And the authors are saying, “I’ll bet there’s a deity in there somewhere.”

  269. #269 Feynmaniac
    January 24, 2009

    Facilis,

    I have presented my proof Redhead. The impossibility of the contrary. No atheistic worldview is able to account for the laws of logic and reason.

    Sigh…. Arguments from ignroance != Proof by contradiction (AKA reductio ad absurdum AKA impossibility of the contrary)

    The Wikipedia article even clearly says arguments from ignorance “should not be confused with the reductio ad absurdum method of argument”.

  270. #270 Matt Penfold
    January 24, 2009

    The Bible makes factual claims. Claims are in the realm of scientists to investigate

    I guess you read a different Bible to me. The one I read had all that stuff about God creating the world, about the parting of the Red Sea to allow his chosen people to escape Egypt, not to mention all that virgin birth and resurrection stuff.

    Tell you what. I am a fair man. Why don’t you go an get a proper copy of the Bible, read it, and get back to me. I will hold of calling you an idiot in the meantime. After all we can all find ourselves talking bollocks at times. Just look at Heddle. He does it ALL the time.

  271. #271 SC, OM
    January 24, 2009

    Hey Sven! Welcome back! How was your trip?

  272. #272 Matt Penfold
    January 24, 2009

    “Here’s what we know — if you wish to believe in one or more gods or goddesses, here’s the space left where they might fit. On that we make no pronouncements, but there’s no actual evidence for any deity.”

    There is, of course, a major danger for those who want to squeeze their god into the gaps. Those gaps keep closing. That leaves the believers with a couple of choices. They can either modify their views, which destroys any claims to inerrancy, or they can pretend the gap still exists, which just makes them dishonest.

  273. #273 Silver Fox
    January 24, 2009

    “So the incompleteness of science is more akin to the incompleteness of exegesis, rather than something to be contrasted with the alleged completeness of revelation”

    The revelation through scripture is complete. That was God’s work. The interpretation (exegesis) of scripture continues. Science is not complete. The “exegesis” of science continues. When the two “exegeses” are complete there will be no incompatibility between science and revelation.

  274. #274 SC, OM
    January 24, 2009

    When the two “exegeses” are complete there will be no incompatibility between science and revelation.

    OK. Go away and come back when that’s the case.

  275. #275 Ken Cope
    January 24, 2009

    The revelation through scripture is complete. That was God’s work.

    Show us your evidence that “scripture” is God’s work.

  276. #276 Nerd of Redhead
    January 24, 2009

    Silver Fox. Gobblety Gook. Get your mind from the asshole of religion and become sane by disbelieving in god. Until then, stay away from sane people, like those who post here.

  277. #277 Ken Cope
    January 24, 2009

    What’s worse, a minute ago, SF was claiming, “The Bible is neither science nor history. If scientists are “investigating” the Bible, they need to get out of the business of literary criticism.

    If the bible is neither science nor history, containing solely literary merits, how does claiming supernatural authorship add any value to it, if its claims about science and history are of no more use than any other work of fiction?

  278. #278 'Tis Himself
    January 24, 2009

    Although I would think that the mere fact that the KJV only types argue that the KJV is more accurate than the Greek manuscripts from which it was translated would make you a little suspicious.

    The KJV Onlyists claim the KJV is not only inspired in the original language, but also in the translation process. Basically, the common beliefs that define “KJV-only” are:

    • - the idea that there are no errors or problems of translation in the KJV.
      - the idea that there are no internal errors or problems in the text of the KJV.
      - the idea that any changes of words of the KJV constitutes changing God’s word (and thus no other English translations are “the word of God”)
      - God promised to preserve the Scriptures word for word throughout the centuries.
      - the idea that the KJV translators were divinely guided, and thus the words they used were given to them by the Holy Spirit to be implemented without any alternates.

    As an atheist I don’t buy KJV Onlyism, but they do have an answer to your objection to their doctrine.

  279. #279 Nerd of Redhead
    January 24, 2009

    SF doesn’t know what he says from one minute to the next. I think he hates atheists and evolution, and just being a concern troll to try to get us off our game. PZ has already asked him to leave once a few months ago for godbotting, but he recently returned. Meanwhile, I can mock his stupidity.

  280. #280 Janine, Leftist Bozo
    January 24, 2009

    Silver Fox, Facilis and heddle all at the same thread. The stubborn toxic stupidity is overwhelming. For the sake of all humanity, this thread should be poured into a lead lined box, placed into an other lead lined box and that placed into a third lead lined box. This package should then be shipped into the Pacific and dropped into the Mariana Trench.

    Flee in rational terror and step not into this forsaken and blasted land.

  281. #281 Walton
    January 24, 2009

    Silver Fox, Facilis and heddle all at the same thread. The stubborn toxic stupidity is overwhelming. For the sake of all humanity, this thread should be poured into a lead lined box, placed into an other lead lined box and that placed into a third lead lined box. This package should then be shipped into the Pacific and dropped into the Mariana Trench.

    Should I take it as a tacit compliment that I wasn’t included in that list? Or am I just too insignificant to be mentioned? :-)

  282. #282 H.H.
    January 24, 2009

    The basic theme with all the theists here is that their faith should count for something. It doesn’t. All empty assertions of knowledge through direct revelation are absolutely worthless. All it takes is for another individual to claim the exact opposite on the same flimsy basis and it becomes nothing more than a silly game of “my personal revelation trumps your personal revelation.” You would think someone who has nothing to offer but their own say-so would realize that they’re full of shit, so it just amazes me how often theists expect that it will fly.

  283. #283 Rick T
    January 24, 2009

    Note to heddle and the 2 trolls.

    There are NO autographs of any scripture whatsoever.

    For the dim bulbs this means that the original manuscripts are not available to determine whether or not they are inerrant. We only have copies and copies of copies. And, according to Bart Ehrman, there are no copies that are identical to any of the others. In fact, there are more discrepancies between the texts than there are texts themselves.

    Why you persist, heddle, in claiming an inerrant scripture is beyond me. First you would have to produce these supposedly error free texts and they have never been found, nor is it likely that they ever will.

    You are free to ignore this as you did the last time this subject came up. I know it’s hard to refute this logic. It is much easier to pretend that there is indeed a real “God’s Word” amongst this pile of copies of copies of scriptural contradictions.

    Just so you know that we all see through your facade, “you forgot your pants, Emperor.”

  284. #284 Ken Cope
    January 24, 2009

    2 trolls and a punchline: David “what cognitive dissonance?” Heddle.

  285. #285 Patricia, OM
    January 24, 2009

    If you have finally given up on religion Walton, then I rejoice for you. Welcome to the real world.

    Facilis must be a child, so he can be overlooked for arguing for his mommies opinions. Heddle has no excuse except his own opinion.
    Plain ass stubbornness doesn’t make religion true. The excuse used in the article by the man afraid to loose his family and job if he admits to nonbelief seems much more legitimate.

  286. #286 Nerd of Redhead
    January 24, 2009

    Walton, nobody appears to be grouping you with those three. You are just a regular poster I guess.

  287. #287 Facilis
    January 24, 2009

    @H.H

    ?All empty assertions of knowledge through direct revelation are absolutely worthless.

    How is it possible to have knowledge (ie epistemically certain beliefs) apart from direct revelation?

    All it takes is for another individual to claim the exact opposite on the same flimsy basis and it becomes nothing more than a silly game of “my personal revelation trumps your personal revelation.”

    See my response to the guys who claimed they had a revelation from sideshow Bob.

  288. #288 Nerd of Redhead
    January 24, 2009

    Facilis, your whole argument was trashed, so you need a new one. Trying to pretend the trashed argument still exists just shows your illogic. So you have nothing and no logic of your own.

  289. #289 Janine, Leftist Bozo
    January 24, 2009

    Posted by: Facilis| January 24, 2009

    See my response to the guys who claimed they had a revelation from sideshow Bob.

    HAHA! Facilis steps on the rake and gets hit in the face yet again. The poor schmuck does not understand satire.

  290. #290 Ken Cope
    January 24, 2009

    See my response to the guys who claimed they had a revelation from sideshow Bob.

    There is no reasonable basis for epistemic certainty that any direct revelation is the real thing, and not an astonishing simulation; direct revelation is either an astonishing simulation, epistemic certainty is no such thing, or, most likely, both.

    Fallacious, you strained and squeezed and grunted, and lo, there was a mighty clench, but no matter how proud you are of it, you have convinced nobody here that you pinch loaves of glittering gold. In future, endeavor to keep your turds in your own punchbowl.

  291. #291 H.H.
    January 24, 2009

    See my response to the guys who claimed they had a revelation from sideshow Bob.

    Yeah, you didn’t really have any answer except to point out that if you went around trusting everyone’s claim to a personal revelation, you wouldn’t get very far. But that’s precisely the point. Nobody else has any reason to trust your claim to a personal revelation either, because you might be deluded or insane. If you insist on arguing that your personal revelation is a valid measure of truth, then you must accept that everyone else’s personal revelations are equally valid for them. Your argument necessitates this condition.

    So all you have been able to argue is that you are sure that you are right. Great for you. It utterly fails to be a persuasive argument for anyone else. No one cares how certain you are, and we are all justified as waving away your certainty as a great example pitiful delusion.

  292. #292 SC
    January 24, 2009

    Ah. In my #265, I was confused and thought I was responding to heddle. I was wondering why his arguments had gone from simply delusional and unsupportable to wildly flailing and facilis-like all of a sudden. And now I return to ignoring the peabrain facilis, but for the occasional snark.

  293. #293 Wowbagger, Grumpy Minimalist
    January 24, 2009

    I’d argue it’s unfair to lump facilis, Silver Fox and heddle in the same category.

    The first is a just an idiot, a mouthpiece parrot with nothing of interest to say. I had some fun with him but he’s in the killfile now since he’s still insisting on repeating the same invalid non-argument, pretending he hasn’t had his ass handed to him on several levels by multiple posters on two threads. If someone indicates that he’s learned a new tapdance then I’ll unkill him.

    Silver Fox I just don’t take very seriously. His nonsense is sometimes so vapid that I start wondering about Poe’s Law. He’s got to lay off the Vox Day, though – that shit will rot your brain.

    heddle, on the other hand, is a more interesting character, and he’s from a different flavour of Christianity from the others. He’s also appears to actually read and contemplate what posters write, and I don’t think it’s fair to ask for more than that.

    It’s good to have a variety with which to engage.

  294. #294 Neil Bee
    January 24, 2009

    Again, there’s this false two-ways system of science v. religion and whether they can be compatible. But ultimate questions are also dealt with by philosophy, which does what it can with issues not directly open to empirical study. (The argument that something has to be empirically knowable to be worth believing or meaningful etc. is itself philosophy, there’s no getting away from big P.) Legitimate philosophy by definition is not derived from cultural traditions (other than necessary entanglement with “intellectual history” but that is unavoidable …) or claimed revelations. It works on whatever good knowledge there is and various reasoning processes to try and find answers.

    Hence philosophy has to be compatible with science – meaning no contradiction – but it deals with questions that may not be part of science (and of course, the question of whether there are such issue and what to do about them if anything.) Questions like, is the universe necessary or contingent, is there a necessary being and what is it, is it all that exists, is (drum roll ….) modal realism a cogent answer to the question of why one or some possible worlds exist and not others; etc., are not “religion” even though they deal with the same issues that religions do.

    I get tired of everything being put as these “two” sides, much like libertarians are sick of the liberal/conservative face off as if they didn’t exist.

  295. #295 Janine Of The Fixed Identity
    January 24, 2009

    Posted by: Wowbagger, Grumpy Minimalist | January 24, 2009

    I’d argue it’s unfair to lump facilis, Silver Fox and heddle in the same category.

    True enough, heddle seems like an intelligent person. But he argues for what I think is an untenable position. I threw those three together because they annoy me. But I an sure that my comment gave that one away.

  296. #296 Ken_Cope
    January 24, 2009

    Oh, FCC me, it’s Neil B, the Philosophical Zombie, who’s every bit as repetitively ineducable as fallacious. He’s had his ass handed back to him so many times by OMers here, despite the fact that his head is permanently lodged in it, that his sphincter must be a Möbius band by now.

  297. #297 Stanton
    January 24, 2009
    All empty assertions of knowledge through direct revelation are absolutely worthless.

    How is it possible to have knowledge (ie epistemically certain beliefs) apart from direct revelation?

    Facilis, please explain why the Bible is right in claiming that hyraxes, or rabbits, if you subscribe to the King James’ English translation, chew cud like cattle, even though simple observations of either hyrax or rabbit behavior shows that neither chew cud, and cursory dissection shows that neither are physically capable of chewing cud?

  298. #298 'Tis Himself
    January 24, 2009

    Neil Bee #294

    You make some valid points. Philosophy is compatible with science. Logic, inductive and deductive reasoning, and empiricism are philosophical tools used by science.

    However the argument isn’t about the compatibility of metaphysics with science. Rather the question is about how science interacts with metaphysics. The general consensus is that it doesn’t interact very much but there are some interactions.

    One part of the scientific method that isn’t mentioned much is honesty. Generally a scientist is considered to be honest unless shown otherwise. At one time Hwang Woo-Suk was believed to have cloned human stem cells. He had previously cloned a dog and was considered an authority on cloning. It wasn’t until a co-author of Hwang’s stem cell paper tried to remove his name from the paper that questions of Hwang’s scientific misconduct began to surface. Honesty is a metaphysical concept and Hwang was considered to be honest until it was shown that he wasn’t.

    Religion is bound to metaphysics. The supernatural is entirely metaphysical. If it wasn’t, then there would be physical, naturalistic evidence of god(s).

    So we have naturalistic science weakly connected with metaphysics and metaphysical religion either weakly connected with nature or not at all connected. It’s only when people claim that religion has a strong connection with nature (in some cases the claim is that religion has an overwhelming connection with nature) that there’s any dispute. That’s when people like Coyne and PZ argue that the two are incompatible.

    It’s not a clear, easily rectified situation. However, my personal feeling is that Coyne is right that religion and science are incompatible.

  299. #299 Stanton
    January 24, 2009

    “So the incompleteness of science is more akin to the incompleteness of exegesis, rather than something to be contrasted with the alleged completeness of revelation”

    The revelation through scripture is complete. That was God’s work. The interpretation (exegesis) of scripture continues. Science is not complete. The “exegesis” of science continues. When the two “exegeses” are complete there will be no incompatibility between science and revelation.

    So, does this mean that you support the idea that we should publicly stone unruly children to death, even with the advent of child psychology, or put people who eat pork, meat with cheese/gravy sauces or polyester to death because the Bible says that such things are unclean?

  300. #300 'Tis Himself
    January 24, 2009

    put people who eat pork, meat with cheese/gravy sauces or polyester to death

    Eating polyester is an abomination (although it’s high in fiber).

  301. #301 Nerd of Redhead
    January 24, 2009

    Eating polyester is an abomination (although it’s high in fiber).

    How does that compare to nylon 2?

  302. #302 'Tis Himself
    January 24, 2009

    I don’t know whether nylon 2 is as fibrous as polyester. Hey, I’s a pore, iggerant econimyst, not a textile chemist.

  303. #303 Nerd of Redhead
    January 24, 2009

    Tis Himself, proteins. Chemist with tongue in cheek.

  304. #304 Neil Bee
    January 24, 2009

    Ken Cope, every partisan thinks they’ve handed opponents heads to them, because they are validated by their own world view, so what. You didn’t ask an independent debate referee, I’m sure. But just to remind you of your and your friends’ inadequacy in e.g. the last big brawl about consciousness: I was reminded testily that there are four, not three, primary colors: red, yellow, green, blue. Well… the reason “yellow” is set apart as a ostensible fourth primary when only three (red, green, blue light) are needed to create all color sensations, is that yellow doesn’t look like a mixture of red and green. IOW, it’s subjective qualitative nature is not like a mixture for our experience. That is likely because humans are on the way to being true tetrachromats, and yellow sensation is the nucleus for a true separate primary (we’d need four phosphors then.) If the mix of blue and red didn’t look like something in between, then purple would be a “primary” and there’d be six of them.

    But you and your asshole tag team buddies like the hilarious Truth Machine didn’t get the irony of that. That’s a subtle mistake, here’s the proof of being moronic punks: you somehow had the idea that because Jaron Lanier ate too much, or supposedly (I never found evidence of that anywhere) stole IT ideas, his philosophical take down of your quack hero Dan Dennett (the BF Skinner of today) was irrelevant. You really made such a big deal out of how he eats pizza or whatever, I guess that’s the sort of trash you care about most.

    BTW denying the qualitative character of conscious experience is not at all like denying something unknown and not of this world like God. It is denying the essence of what we experience the world through. It is the worst form of foundational dishonesty. And you robogeeks can never explain or understand, for example why pain is something to fear if it is just “information.” But you will treat it like it is something to fear. So even though you pay lip service to the astonishing denial of subjectivity, you have to live a lie. Ironically, that’s just like Bible believers who can’t accept contradiction from experience.

  305. #305 Jadehawk
    January 24, 2009

    can someone explaing to me WTF Neil means with the rambling about colors…? by his logic, the sensation of “white” as NOT the mix of all colors would mean we’re on the way to perceiving white as an extra color (pentachromatic vision).

  306. #306 Stanton
    January 24, 2009
    put people who eat pork, meat with cheese/gravy sauces or polyester to death

    Eating polyester is an abomination (although it’s high in fiber).

    It’s hard to swallow that a person can argue for the inerrancy of the Bible, while simultaneously ignore, whether purposely or accidentally, the fibrously hidebound and laws in Leviticus, Deuteronomy and Numbers, with or without gravy.

  307. #307 Nerd of Redhead
    January 24, 2009

    Jadehawk, my understanding is with paint (reflective surface) the three primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. With transmission colors, like from a CRT, the three primary colors are red, green, and blue. Beyond this, we need an expert beyond my meager knowledge.

  308. #308 JakeR
    January 24, 2009

    A MODEST MEME PROPOSAL
    Note (by a liberal Christian, no less) from a list to which I subscribe follows. It is modest in that it asks little and extensive in that it helps end an irritation unbelievers so frequently experience.

    The current trend of U.S. political leaders closing their speeches with “God bless America” seems to me to be dismissive of those who don’t believe in God. If they feel the need to close with some sort of wish for the greater good, how about “May we all always be our best selves, for the sake of one another, the sake of our nation, and the sake of our world”?

  309. #309 JoshS, Official SpokesGay
    January 24, 2009

    I wish you the best of luck in your meme proposal, JakeR, but our rhetoric is so God-soaked it will never stick. It’s worth remembering, though, that 40-50 years ago, you didn’t hear “God bless America” at the end of every presidential speech. It’s a fairly recent development.

    As an unbeliever, it’s not irritating to me so much, or exclusively, because I’m an unbeliever, but because it’s just so much insincere, jingoistic, red-meat pandering. All reasonable people of goodwill – believers or not – can agree to the common goals you stated. Reactionary, mandatory God-bless stuff has cheapened our oratory, and cheapened our appreciation for goals that are lofty, commonly shared, and in deserve of praise.

  310. #310 Jadehawk
    January 24, 2009

    Jadehawk, my understanding is with paint (reflective surface) the three primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. With transmission colors, like from a CRT, the three primary colors are red, green, and blue. Beyond this, we need an expert beyond my meager knowledge.

    well yes, I knew as much, but i still can’t figure out WTF he’s talking about. yes, thinking that green and blue make yellow is counter-intuitive, but only because humans have always only dealt with pigment and that’s what we’re used to. it’s what kids get taught etc. most people find it equally strange that green and red (or orange and blue, for that matter) can make gray, but it’s true nonetheless

  311. #311 Jadehawk
    January 24, 2009

    JakeR, nice proposal, but too verbose.

  312. #312 Stanton
    January 24, 2009

    JakeR, nice proposal, but too verbose.

    Agreed: too many words when a simple Gesundheit will suffice.

  313. #313 Ken_Cope
    January 24, 2009

    Neil B. is boring and repetitive, blithering about quantum this and qualia that, and is both long-windedly and fractally wrong. Recently, another scienceblogger attempted to politely cordon off the blowhard with yellow caution tape until even his patience wore thin.

  314. #314 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 24, 2009

    Neil Bee. You feeling ok?

  315. #315 John Morales
    January 24, 2009

    Looks like Neil B. is using the example of “primary” colours to make a point about qualia being subjective.

    However, he seems to think those particular colors are specific, and I’m not sure how he thinks “humans are on the way to being true tetrachromats”.

    From Wikipedia: “Any choice of primary colors is essentially arbitrary; for example, an early color photographic process, autochrome, typically used orange, green, and violet primaries.
    [...]
    However, the human eye normally contains only three types of color receptors called cone cells. Each color receptor responds to different ranges of the color spectrum.
    Humans and other species with three such types of color receptors are known as trichromats. These species respond to the light stimulus via a three-dimensional sensation, which can generally be modeled as a mixture of three primary colors.”

    BTW denying the qualitative character of conscious experience is not at all like denying something unknown and not of this world like God. It is denying the essence of what we experience the world through. [...]

    I think by qualitative he means subjective, and strangely he seems to agree with rationalists that all subjective experiences must have some objective basis – I guess the point of dispute is what that objective basis is :)

  316. #316 Nerd of Redhead
    January 24, 2009

    OK, backing up a little, IIRC, the colors from the CRT were due to the minerals required to generate the color upon electron impact, which were usually lanthanide rare earths. They weren’t able to generate the yellow, so they settled for a green. Some rare earths are to rare in nature to be used industrially except for very high priced (DOD or NASA) applications.

  317. #317 Neil Bee
    January 24, 2009

    Jadehawk, the idea of yellow being a starter for tetrachromatism didn’t start with me. Also, there is a difference between the case of two colors mixing to produce either something that looks like a mix to us, or that doesn’t; versus the case of all three together. Our color sense uses opposition of complementary colors and that’s how they cancel out, so the result seems “neutral” to us. But there is clearly a distinction between blue-green, blue-red, and there not being a “reddish-green” (that’s why it’s not a phrase in the English language.) People err when they say “according to your logic ______” and forget that its limited to a context.

    Claim of “fractally wrong” is cute but empty. Most of our arguments are about how to interpret facts we already have. Note how he dodges my criticisms. As for that quantum measurement thread, Roger Penrose (I know, you guys like to bug on him but he does know his physics) makes many of the same complaints about decoherence. (I am better appreciated in this one: http://scienceblogs.com/pontiff/2008/11/everything_and_nothing.php#comments) Now, I would be impressed if Ken could actually defend Orzel’s views on decoherence against my criticisms, instead of relying on an argument from authority…

  318. #318 Neil Bee
    January 24, 2009

    John Morales and others: the point is the subjective nature of color perception, that it is qualitative, not the technical points of how to generate it with phosphors etc. It helps to understand this by considering yellow as “essentially” different in subjective quality from red and green, whereas the sensation produced by mixing blue and green light looks like a mixture of them. The whole subject of course is complicated by our habitual application of color terms without clear distinction to both stimuli (like 450 nm light, “blue”) and sensations (such as the appearance of violet light. The light is shorter wavelength than blue, contains no red light, but appears to us as a mixture of blue and red because it also stimulates the red light receptors.

    (Nerd, the use of red, green, blue is preferred to get the fullest range of color sensations. You can’t use just any set of three stimuli to make the sensations, they have to be separated enough. Try red, orange, yellow; that won’t work. But the subjective point is that there are four sensations that look fundamental, IOW not like mixtures of other things. How to stimulate them is another ball game

    ‘Chimp, I don’t know why to ask me that in particular. My writing isn’t as edgy or flaky as many around here. Are you offended that I don’t agree with some other commenters here?

  319. #319 E.V.
    January 24, 2009

    Oh Jeebus, the color analogy might as well be a musical pitch analogy.
    It’s all wavelengths. Dissonance (Tonal) is interference between near wavelengths even if they are octaves apart. A440 or A443, it doesn’t prove there is a deity and doesn’t support creationism. Neil your arguments are sophistry through lots of smoke in the form of jargon.
    As MAJeff would say: blah blah blah.

  320. #320 Ken_Cope
    January 24, 2009

    They weren’t able to generate the yellow, so they settled for a green.

    In pigment, yellow and blue make green, while in light, red and green make yellow. Green is most important to merchandisers, especially this time of year, because the most important color to get right is the football field. Nobody gives a rat’s ass about the redness of red or the greenness of green, Neil. Note that NB cites Roger Penrose to support his wanking, while criticizing arguments from authority. Penrose is great for being Hawking’s math monkey, but when it comes to NB’s favorite bloviation topics (quantum, qualia, pzombies, homunculi, how impressed NB is with himself and assorted wanking), Penrose has made himself a laughingstock with his platonist drivel, wedded to Stuart Hameroff’s nonsense about quantum mictrotubules being the source of consciousness rather than the brain.

    Neil B. is here, apparently, to complete the set of time-wasters that include heddle, facilis, and Silver Fox.

  321. #321 John Morales
    January 24, 2009

    F:

    How is it possible to have knowledge (ie epistemically certain beliefs) apart from direct revelation

    Within the domain of logic, analytical truths are epistemologically certain.
    In mathematics, proofs are also so.
    (And axioms in those two domains are definitionally so).

    I can’t think of any other cases, offhand, where epistemological veridity can be certain.

  322. #322 Wowbagger, Grumpy Minimalist
    January 24, 2009

    Let me get this straight – the argument Neil B (or Bee) is presenting is this: there are colours for which we don’t have words; ergo, there must be a god.

    I don’t know what to say. And that takes some doing.

  323. #323 Gotchaye
    January 24, 2009

    I don’t really understand what’s going on with the colors, but Neil’s first post didn’t seem to me to be unreasonable. I think atheists, myself included, do exhibit a bit of reflexive positivism when talking about religion, and it’s worth noting that there really are some meaningful questions that don’t have scientific answers. Whether they can be sensibly answered at all is another question, of course, but that question also doesn’t seem to have a scientific answer.

    In short, there’s a bit of a tendency to act as if philosophical argument is self-evidently worthless when most of the arguments advanced here against metaphysical claims are themselves philosophical.

    Still, can’t make heads or tails of the colors thing. I also haven’t seen any mention of God from him, so I’m probably missing something from past threads. Nothing he’s said here has struck me as particularly religious.

  324. #324 Jadehawk
    January 24, 2009

    ok, Neil officially fails color-theory. there’s no such word in the English language as “red-blue” either.

    the visual perception of which colors constitute which mixes (and I even messed it up myself in the above post; it’s red and green light that produce yellow, not blue and green light) is based fully on what humans learned from mixing pigments, and as such all colors can be made from the pigments for yellow, red, and blue. and mixing them all together makes black.

    with light, it’s different, counterintuitive (or i should say, counter-experiential), but no less physically real. the experience is subjective and dissonant only because our eyes “make colors” differently than pigments do. that’s the only reason we feel there’s an “essential” difference between yellow and its constituents (as opposed to aquamarine and its constituents).

  325. #325 E.V.
    January 24, 2009

    Just plug “Neil Bee” in the wayback machine search guide at the top left of the page. You’ll be enlightened.

  326. #326 Gotchaye
    January 24, 2009

    I do think he’s right that it makes sense to talk about our perceptions of color as different than the causes of color. We can imagine that our minds could be such that we interpreted the visible spectrum as ranging from violet to orange (that is, that every color except red spanned a slightly wider range than they actually do and that red was absent), but the wavelengths would all be the same. The color blind experience this all the time. It’s the fundamental point of the “if a tree falls in the forest, does it still make a sound” thing – yes, it creates pressure waves, but is something actually a sound when it’s not heard?

    Though I don’t really understand the relevance to the thread.

  327. #327 Ken_Cope
    January 24, 2009

    Nothing he’s said here has struck me as particularly religious.

    I’m busy home-roasting green coffee beans, so I can’t be bothered to argue qualia with NB, who worships nothing, so far as I can tell, apart from his own reflection. He’s here to remind us that philosophy trumps all, because he doesn’t particularly care to be constrained by observation and evidence, so he’ll usually prattle on about some flavor or other of Mysterianism with extra secret super spices of Anthropic Principle.

  328. #328 John Morales
    January 24, 2009

    Wowbagger, I don’t think that’s Neil’s argument.

    I make it that he considers that colour perception is subjective, yet based on an objective noumenon (whatever is the source of the phenomenon of light), and thus, analogically, all subjective experiences must be based on objective noumena (including those of divinity?).

    Alternatively, he might be trying to say that there are things science can’t answer yet are somehow real – I’m not sure. But it does seem rather Platonic.

  329. #329 E.V.
    January 24, 2009

    Oh, I get it! Rainbows (roygbiv) prove creationism!
    So Neil, what is your scintillating opinion of the specifically unnamed/undesignated wavelengths within infrared and ultraviolet spectra?

  330. #330 Nerd of Redhead
    January 24, 2009

    It appears I’m not the only one getting an aura of BS from Neil’s post. The problem of making a phosphor for CRT TV is complicated, and my understanding, which is admittedly at a distance, is that pure yellow phosphor requires a very expensive lanthanide rare earth. DOD and NASA can afford the pure color, but not the commercial TV makers. So they make do with what they can get at a reasonable price, which is a green phosphor. Then the other colors come from the juxtaposition of the three colors. The eye/mind playing tricks on itself.

  331. #331 Ken_Cope
    January 24, 2009

    The reason everybody here is trying to figure out WTF NB is prattling on about, is that he uses bafflegab to obfuscate rather than communicate, so he can stamp his fat little hoof and quack, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Elrond Hubbub, than are dreamt of in your philostophy,” and then complain about how nobody understands what is so special about his new brown clouds.

  332. #332 Neil Bee
    January 24, 2009

    No Wowbagger, you don’t know what to say since I didn’t claim our perception of colors is evidence for God, I said it’s evidence for their being qualitative and not just data structures. I don’t always argue about God – many of you only remember my arguments about that because you’re so obsessed with worrying about the topic.

    As for argument from authority, no I have read Penrose and can see that his complaints about decoherence are good ones, but Ken just sees Chad’s post and notes it’s about me with no insight.

    If color perceptions aren’t qualia, then describe them in terms of patterns or other constituents … There is no help for those who’d rather believe some partisan philsophical ideologue (like Dennett, falsely revered as was Skinner before him – and Dennett even wrote “Skinning Skinner”) than appreciate the essential character of their own senses.

    Sure, we don’t use the phrase red-blue so just forget language for awhile. The whole point is to get people to appreciate the qualitative nature of color perception. So I use “intuition pumps” like saying, how is it you appreciate a concept such as, “looks like a mixture” of X and Y versus “does not look like a mixture” of Y and Z – to wean you off thinking in terms of math and data. The data are just, mix of X and Y or mix of Y and Z, but we have the qualitative “looks like” distinction too. My thanks to those who are trying to talk about subjects like adults, agree or disagree.

  333. #333 Neil Bee
    January 24, 2009

    BTW Ken you are an absolute ignoramus about philosophy and how it works. Everything I am saying is constrained by evidence – the question is, what are the implications of it? And your I’m-so-humble and hate-elitists populist schlock: it reminds me of how dittoheads made fun of John Kerry: “Oh, he went wind surfing, not watching NASCAR like us ordinary Joe Blows… Who does he think he is?” ad nauseum.

  334. #334 Jadehawk
    January 24, 2009

    *sigh* the reason we can say “color x is (or is not) a mixture of colors y and Z” is a learned response.

    and your point with this discussion is exaclty what?

  335. #335 Gotchaye
    January 24, 2009

    Neil, I may still be missing your point, and I still don’t really understand where you’re trying to go with this (despite having taken EV’s advice and looking up some of your past comments), but I’ve always looked at consciousness as something that science doesn’t really have to address. When we think about ‘the world’, we make a bunch of assumptions that I’m sure you’re familiar with (uniformity of nature, etc). This has the effect of setting up a system in which consciousness doesn’t really exist in a meaningful way. Yes, if you want to get all phenomenological about it, all we’ve got are those immediate perceptions, but we move away from recognizing those when we start talking about an interpersonal reality. That may not make much sense, and it may not be relevant to what you’re talking about. I’d still appreciate more of an explanation of what exactly you’re getting at and why.

  336. #336 Neil Bee
    January 24, 2009

    E.V, note my comments about God. As for UV and IR, they are good to think about per distinction of real light versus light perception. There isn’t any “inherent” way that UV and IR look, if we could perceive them we’d either have to switch to something like “false color” (having a sensor switch from sensitivity to 600-700 nm to say 800-900 nm but cause the same color sensation that red does, or: have a new primary sensation that isn’t describable in terms of the others. The whole idea of representing actual wavelengths with arbitrary sensation markers (and the distinction between the two ideas) causes trouble for many, who can’t understand experiments about switched color sensors – as they showed in the thread Ken linked to. But at least they’re ahead of ordinary language dolts like Hillary Putnam, whom Ken agreed was an idiot.

    Guys – forget all the techno stuff about phosphors, OK? We’re talking about how many fundamental sensations there are, and what they are like. There are various ways to make them happen, I get that.

  337. #337 Neil Bee
    January 24, 2009

    Jadehawk, it is not a learned response. Are you saying, there really isn’t a basic pattern of “real” color perception? (And “some” cultural influence wouldn’t make that go away.)

  338. #338 Neil Bee
    January 24, 2009

    Gotchaye, I am saying that the nature of our experience is not comprised of “data” even if data are involved. Read up on David Chalmers. Some here won’t like him, but decide for yourself. I have to go …

  339. #339 John Morales
    January 24, 2009

    Neil @336:

    Guys – forget all the techno stuff about phosphors, OK? We’re talking about how many fundamental sensations there are, and what they are like. There are various ways to make them happen, I get that.

    Well, the post is about the compatibility of science and religion, you felt prompted to comment, your putative point is still obscure (and not just to me, apparently).

    Are you trying to imply that there’s knowledge to be gained via religion that can’t otherwise be gained via science, because science limits itself to methodological naturalism?

    If not, can you make whatever thesis you hold clear in succint and cogent and ordinary language?

  340. #340 Jadehawk
    January 24, 2009

    the basic patterns of color perception are the biological RGB patterns. those are different for people with various forms of colorblindness, but are otherwise identical enough so that I can point at something “yellow” and you’ll see it as “yellow” as well (well trained people can narrow this down a lot further, see ubiquitous color IQ tests on the net)

    the interpretation that “yellow” is not a mix of any colors is a learned response. Aquamarine looks no more green than yellow does, but we’ve been taught to see the connection and so we see the connection.

  341. #341 Ken_Cope
    January 24, 2009

    can you make whatever thesis you hold clear in succint and cogent and ordinary language?

    Cogency? It’s NB, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for validity, let alone topicality. Never mind, like Bluto in Animal House,
    ‘he’s on a roll.’ I’m off to catch up on Battlestar Galactica season 4.0, rooting for the robots.

  342. #342 Gotchaye
    January 24, 2009

    As I said, I don’t think one can ‘explain’ consciousness with science, but I don’t really think that it makes sense to ask it to – I don’t think it makes sense to explain consciousness in any interpersonal system. So I’m with Chalmers in a sense, but I don’t see the need to refer to something ‘real’ outside of the physical.

    But I wasn’t really asking you to clarify what you were saying – I didn’t and don’t understand why you were saying it. The talk about qualia seemed to come out of nowhere, and I’m not sure how it applies to PZ’s original post or to anything in the thread before it.

  343. #343 H.H.
    January 24, 2009

    John Morales wrote:

    I make it that he considers that colour perception is subjective, yet based on an objective noumenon (whatever is the source of the phenomenon of light), and thus, analogically, all subjective experiences must be based on objective noumena (including those of divinity?).

    Oh, man, if that’s where this is headed, no wonder everyone is jumping on Neil. That is such a stupid apologetic. Basically argue that no such thing as objective reality exists, that all experience is subjective, just so you can crowbar in your “god experience” as a legitimate perception of something “real.” But it’s a stupid argument. The voice in the little philosopher’s head will never be as “real” as the tree I can touch, no matter how many words he wastes.

  344. #344 Ken_Cope
    January 24, 2009

    As I said, I don’t think one can ‘explain’ consciousness with science, but I don’t really think that it makes sense to ask it to – I don’t think it makes sense to explain consciousness in any interpersonal system. So I’m with Chalmers in a sense, but I don’t see the need to refer to something ‘real’ outside of the physical.

    Then you are NB’s new BFF. What is so special about the emergent property of brains we call consciousness that makes it something science will forever have to regard as being made of unexplainiumTM?

  345. #345 Gotchaye
    January 24, 2009

    Put simply, because consciousness is subjective. ‘I’ don’t see the same things ‘you’ see. ‘I’ taste popcorn right now; ‘you’ probably don’t. I just don’t see where an interpersonal method of explanation can come to grips with the fact that, if we deny solipsism, there seem to be multiple minds out there that experience fundamentally different worlds. I think we reject consciousness as meaningless when we assume that objectivity is possible, and so there’s no point in talking about it.

    To put it another way – obviously we gain and lose a lot when we make the various assumptions that we make in order to make empiricism possible. I think that one of the things we lose is any way of meaningfully describing consciousness. I’ll note again that I’m not saying that this means that empiricism is wrong – I’m not willing to go full-blown skeptic and say that only my immediate perceptions are real. That would mean that consciousness would be the only thing that had any meaning at all. In order to live in an interpersonal world, though, we have to give that up.

  346. #346 Gotchaye
    January 24, 2009

    One clarifying point: we have no reason to suppose that consciousness has anything to do with brains at all. No one’s ever established that only things with brains are conscious, that all things with brains are conscious, that all humans are conscious, or even that any given conscious being can be made non-conscious by damage to its brain. Of course, this is all because science can never establish that anything is objectively conscious at all. I can only ever be aware of my own consciousness, and I can hardly prove that to you, assuming you exist.

  347. #347 E.V.
    January 24, 2009

    Um jeebus, has no one taken color theory?

    Within visible light spectra there are wavelengths that our (human) eyes discern as reds, oranges, etc. In the center of these bands are wavelengths we sort of agree on (See A440 vs A443 in music) to be purer (or uninfluenced) red, yellow, and blue which we determined to be primary colors. Why? because the blending of 2 of these colors produces secondary colors orange, green, and violet. If you blend secondary colors you do not get primary colors, you get tertiary colors (all those taupes and browns, like the usual range of treebark and dead flora). Artists speak of warmer and cooler shades of primaries due to the influence of corresponding primary color: oranger reds and greener blues are warm while bluer reds are considered cooler to our perception.
    It’s the frequencies that matter (& interference/dissonance) to produce grays, browns. Just as we respond to certain pitches and have emotional responses to certain keys and chords, we have strong responses to chroma because of our apparatus (eyes, ears). Cultural conditioning and life experience influences taste as well as deficiencies in our personal biology (tone deafness and color blindness).

    “Yellows” and “yellows into green” have different qualities than the other “colors” in that the lighter the hue, the stronger the chroma (to a point), That’s why a very limited high chroma “green” can read as “yellow” to our eyes.
    But yes, we can identify truer “reds”, “blue” and with more difficulty “yellows”.

  348. #348 Ken_Cope
    January 24, 2009

    I think we reject consciousness as meaningless when we assume that objectivity is possible, and so there’s no point in talking about it.

    I reject meaning as inhering objectively, we constellate it. Sure, my consciousness means a lot to me; like Terry Gilliam’s liver, I’d like to think that I’d rather not donate it because “I’m using it.” That doesn’t mean that what it consists of bears any resemblance to the useful fiction of a homunculus, linearly experiencing the world.

    we have no reason to suppose that consciousness has anything to do with brains at all.

    What do you mean we, Terry Schiavo? Oh, my, look at the time. My Battlestar Galactica ep just finished downloading.

  349. #349 John Morales
    January 25, 2009

    Gotchaye, I was careful to separate noumena from phenomena in my earlier interpretation of Neil’s post; your argument is based on “consciousness-in-itself” rather than “consciousness-as-a-process”.

    we have no reason to suppose that consciousness has anything to do with brains at all. No one’s ever established that only things with brains are conscious, that all things with brains are conscious, that all humans are conscious, or even that any given conscious being can be made non-conscious by damage to its brain.

    Rather, no consciousness has been observed without a substrate sustaining it, specifically a brain; in every observed case damaging the brain damages the consciousness and destroying the brain destroys the consciousness.
    Similarly, subjective consciousness and perception and cognition are shown to correlate with observable brain-states (empirically) (PZ recently posted about this).
    If true AI (an artificial consciousness) is ever achieved, it will merely show that the substrate can be different, not that one is unnecessary.
    Bottom line: consciousness is a phenomenon, and science specialises in explaining phenomena.

  350. #350 Gotchaye
    January 25, 2009

    I think you’re misunderstanding me, Ken. I know I’m misunderstanding your first paragraph; I can’t figure out what you’re trying to say there. I’m using ‘meaningless’ as ‘not understandable’, if that makes a difference – I’m not talking about placing value on it.

    For your second paragraph, I’m again a bit confused. I’m not arguing that consciousness resides in a soul that we all have. I’m just pointing out that we’re merely making assumptions when we say that there is such a thing as a world outside of our immediate perceptions and when we say that other people exist and are conscious. You seem to disagree, but I’m not sure why. What test do you propose for determining whether or not something is conscious, and how do the results of the test lead you to that conclusion? My point is that these assumptions prevent us from talking about consciousness in a way that makes any sense, and so it’s something of a waste of time.

  351. #351 Gotchaye
    January 25, 2009

    I agree with everything you’ve just said, John, given the basic assumptions we make that make science possible at all (good assumptions, I feel). Yes, science can explain consciousness insofar as it manifests as an interpersonal phenomena.

  352. #352 Gotchaye
    January 25, 2009

    *Phenomenon, obviously.

    To clarify: since Ken asked me that question, I’ve been giving my own views and not attempting to interpret Neil’s, which are still a bit unclear to me.

  353. #353 Ken_Cope
    January 25, 2009

    I hope I’m misunderstanding you, Gotchaye (curse Vista and running Amazon Unbox in XP2 emulation mode). How can a process be, in principle, not understandable?

    As for your second paragraph, solipsism is properly refuted Cheech Wizard style, with a swift kick to the nuts. I’d like to see where world as hoax/hallucination is as parsimonious or less otiose than acting on the assumption that it isn’t. Ineffability is a delightful topic, but I suspect neurophysiologists are too busy to consider it for much longer than it takes for the medicinal marijuana to make the appetite kick in.

  354. #354 John Morales
    January 25, 2009

    Science is a way of knowing, religion is an act of faith.

    For me, philosophy is the secular alternative to religion – I get all the psychological benefits and none of the downside.

  355. #355 Ken_Cope
    January 25, 2009

    Gotchaye, if we’re both agreeing with John Morales, I don’t understand why we’re misunderstanding each other. I blame substrate, and low bandwidth.

  356. #356 Gotchaye
    January 25, 2009

    And I think that that’s a perfectly appropriate response to solipsism. I do disagree that the world as hoax isn’t parsimonious, but that seems like a side issue given that neither of us are solipsists. I’m not saying that consciousness is in principle not understandable, but that consciousness-in-itself (thanks to John for reminding me of a better way of putting this) is a purely subjective phenomenon that can’t be explained in objective terms. Consciousness-as-process is an objective thing that can be studied and understood.

  357. #357 Gotchaye
    January 25, 2009

    To continue, I think that consciousness-in-itself is understandable, and that that’s some of what people like Hegel and Levinas were trying to do, but I find that kind of examination boring and useless, and it’s certainly not scientific (Heidegger’s claims notwithstanding).

  358. #358 Ken_Cope
    January 25, 2009

    As I dial down my snark, I see we are in more agreement. I doubt that consciousness-in-itself is anything more than a useful fiction to which we each, as individuals, are understandably attached. It’s much more useful to think of multiple processes and sub-processes working in parallel than of any measurable substance that should be called consciousness-in-itself. I’m with Minsky and Society of Mind in that respect.

  359. #359 llewelly
    January 25, 2009

    ‘objective’ is taking an observation with well-understood instruments, or doing a calculation with well-understood algorithms. ‘subjective’ is taking an observation with a poorly understood instrument – a human brain – or doing calculations with poorly understood methods – again, a human brain.

    If it becomes feasible to build highly accurate simulations of human brains, the difference between subjective and objective will erode quickly – and possibly disappear outside of studies using historical observations.

  360. #360 Gotchaye
    January 25, 2009

    I’ve never read that. I don’t really pay much attention to AI research, perhaps because I know that I’ll badly want to change fields if I find out too much. Does he dismiss the experience of an ‘I’ as a fiction?

  361. #361 Ken_Cope
    January 25, 2009

    ‘I’ as a fiction?

    Minsky, from Consciousness is a Big Suitcase:

    Let’s get back to those suitcase-words (like intuition or consciousness) that all of us use to encapsulate our jumbled ideas about our minds. We use those words as suitcases in which to contain all sorts of mysteries that we can’t yet explain. This in turn leads us to regard these as though they were “things” with no structures to analyze. I think this is what leads so many of us to the dogma of dualism-the idea that ‘subjective’ matters lie in a realm that experimental science can never reach. Many philosophers, even today, hold the strange idea that there could be a machine that works and behaves just like a brain, yet does not experience consciousness. If that were the case, then this would imply that subjective feelings do not result from the processes that occur inside brains. Therefore (so the argument goes) a feeling must be a nonphysical thing that has no causes or consequences. Surely, no such thing could ever be explained!

  362. #362 John Morales
    January 25, 2009

    I guess a good enough simulation of a brain could be very informative. That’s well beyond current human technology, unfortunately.

    I wonder if I’ll live to see it? :)

  363. #363 Gotchaye
    January 25, 2009

    Oddly, that -is- my field. I can’t imagine that that kind of complexity is more than a few decades off, though I do have some extra incentive to want it to happen in my lifetime – a guy I work with has tied his religious beliefs and partial creationism to the claim that we can’t possibly simulate a brain.

    Ken, I don’t know if that’s really an explanation of an experience of self. I can go as far as saying that feelings are the results of physical processes, but that’s not quite the same (or as strong as) explaining why ‘I’ see out of ‘my’ eyes and ‘you’ see out of ‘your’ eyes.

    I apologize for the apostrophes, and I loathe Derrida for the ‘writing under erasure’ thing, but I do think they add some level of meaning that’s ordinarily lost when writing and not speaking.

  364. #364 SC, OM
    January 25, 2009

    I’ve probably thrown this link out there before, but why not one more time? Here’s Novella on Chalmers and Dennett – “Ether of the Mind”:

    http://www.theness.com/neurologicablog/?p=309

    (By the way, Novella posted recently that he was interviewed by NPR about the evolution of consciousness, and it will be aired around Darwin Day.)

  365. #365 Feynmaniac
    January 25, 2009

    You know, there recently was a thread where many expressed their dislike of philosophy. If your only exposure to it were through people as obtuse and arrogant as Niel Bee or simple-minded, annoying and repetitious as facilis I could easily see how you would not only dislike philosophy, but also see it as a destroyer of minds.

    However, there are philosophers who are readable and have something worthy to say. Bertrand Russell, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris come to mind. Please don’t judge the whole field by fools like Neil Bee and facilis.

  366. #366 Ken Cope
    January 25, 2009

    Please don’t judge the whole field by fools like Neil Bee and facilis.

    Why should I judge any discipline by clearly incompetent wannabes?
    It isn’t philosophy I have a problem with so much as people who identify themselves as philosophers and then take ignorant shots at science.

  367. #367 Lee Picton
    January 25, 2009

    I actually read this whole thread, and yes, of the three lamest posters, only Facilis seems to be completely impenetrable, totally hopeless. The rest of you have tried valiantly to impart some wisdom, but he seems incapable of even considering it, unlike a few others. In the future, I shall just blow by his excrescences (thanks to PZ changing the poster’s name to the top of the comment). I’m an old lady and don’t have time for this crap. I am thinking he would be a good candidate for the dungeon.

  368. #368 Facilis
    January 25, 2009

    @ken Cope

    It isn’t philosophy I have a problem with so much as people who identify themselves as philosophers and then take ignorant shots at science.

    I hope you aren’t talking about me. I enjoy learning about scienceand scientific theories, because I can account for the validity of it according to my worldview. I also do because my worldview makes it possible for me to obtain knowledge and use reason. the atheists’ worldview does not allow for these things.
    Science, knowledge and reasoning (inductive and deductive) are in conflict with atheism, not Christianity

  369. #369 Nerd of Redhead
    January 25, 2009

    Facilis, still lying to yourself, so you lie to us. What else is new. You have nothing to offer us, except as an example of wrongness. Keep posting, so we know the opposite of what you say is correct.

  370. #370 Facilis
    January 25, 2009

    @Lee Picton
    You should look at some other threads I’ve commented on. These people aren’t even certain of their positions and have repeatedly failed to solve the problem of induction or affirm anything with certainity.
    They aren’t even certain of their claims. Tell me again why I should be trying to get “wisdom” from these folks.

  371. #371 spurge
    January 25, 2009

    Only the arrogant and ignorant are certain of their claims facilis.

  372. #372 Facilis
    January 25, 2009

    I could easily see how you would not only dislike philosophy, but also see it as a destroyer of minds.

    You can’t prove minds exist without philosopny

    However, there are philosophers who are readable and have something worthy to say. Bertrand Russell, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris come to mind.

    Sam Harris???
    Anyway, I would recommend people like Hume.His attacks on knowledge and reasoning that are commonly accepted are great and the cool thing is Christians are immune to many of his attacks because of revelation. Bertrand Russell’s failed search for epistemic certainty and his rejection of nominalism are good too.
    If you’d like to read some from my partical school of though you can check out John Frame, Cornelius Van Til and Greg Bahnsen. Bahnsen in particular has many lectures and writings aimed at laypeople.They do the transcendental arguments more justice than I could od in this small comment space.

  373. #373 Facilis
    January 25, 2009

    Only the arrogant and ignorant are certain of their claims facilis.

    Are you certain of this claim?

  374. #374 Nerd of Redhead
    January 25, 2009

    Facilis, all we have to do is to reverse what you say to get to the truth. So minds exist without philosophy. Sounds right. Your god doesn’t exist. Your bible is a work of fiction. Keep telling us what we should believe so we can use the inverse for the truth.

  375. #375 spurge
    January 25, 2009

    Yawn

    Same boring questions from fallacious.

  376. #376 Ken Cope
    January 25, 2009

    @368,

    No, Fallacious, you’re not a wannabe philosopher. You’re a relentlessly clueless godbot, an embarrassment to us all. I might be impressed if I learned that you’re really a grade schooler’s Turing bot, however, scripting a cutting and pasting facilis and running it in an environment like pharyngula would be a fairly elementary challenge, as SIWOTI syndrome is quite the malady.

  377. #377 Gotchaye
    January 25, 2009

    SC:

    I’ve probably thrown this link out there before, but why not one more time? Here’s Novella on Chalmers and Dennett – “Ether of the Mind”:
    http://www.theness.com/neurologicablog/?p=309

    I enjoyed that (I like Novella a lot), but it seems to me that Novella and Dennett are just assuming a mechanism for the sake of having a mechanism. I do agree that Chalmers is building castles in the air, but self as emergent property is just as untestable, if a hell of a lot simpler. It doesn’t seem to really explain anything; in many ways, it’s like an appeal to God as a grounding for the universe – yes, you’ve ‘explained’ the universe, but not usefully, and sometimes it’s better to just say that an explanation is unnecessary or meaningless (I have strong G.E. Moore tendencies).

  378. #378 Ken Cope
    January 25, 2009

    …Novella and Dennett are just assuming a mechanism for the sake of having a mechanism.

    The brain, while more elastic than it was once thought to be in response to trauma, consists of readymade mechanisms that don’t need to be assumed, a patch bay of reconnectivity for multiple inputs and iterative feedback loops, digital and analog and chemical. Modeling, or simulating, a brain is a reverse-engineering project, a task with multiple, pragmatic results. What does one do with a grant for sitting around claiming that whatever the work in the lab yields won’t be reallyandtrulysubjectiveconsciousnessTM, unless the grant is from the Templeton Foundation?

    If it turns out that one’s liver, with its quantum microtubules, is where the action is really at, then proponents of Strong AI will forever be haunted by the ghost of Terry Schiavo.

  379. #379 Owlmirror
    January 25, 2009

    heddle@#227:

    Why does the Book of Daniel refer to Belshazzar as the son and successor of Nebuchadnezzar

    It does not.

    It most certainly does.

    It refers to Nebuchadnezzar as Belshazzar’s father. That word, in Hebrew and in Aramaic, is also used for “predecessor.”

    This, however, may well be correct, although I would say “ancestor” instead.

    I just checked for the word “grandfather”, and the first hit was 2 Samuel 9:7 — but that’s not a literal translation; the original Hebrew, echoed in the other translations, says “Jonathan thy father (???????), and [...] Saul thy father (???????)”.

    Now, earlier in the text at 9:6, it does give his full genealogy as “Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul”, thus clarifying that the later occurrence of “Saul thy father” is not literal, but nevertheless…

    That also goes for Genesis 32:9 and other places where some translations have “grandfather”; the literal term is still “father”. It looks like biblical Hebrew did not have a specific term for “grandfather”, and did not clarify by specifying “father’s father” in every instance. Bah. How very imprecise.

    heddle, also @#227:

    But God’s redemptive plan is now finished, so personally I don’t expect they’ll be any more miracles.

    And also:

    heddle@#257:

    You claim miracles are very rare, yet you have totally failed to support that assertion.

    Well they are at least rare enough that I’ve never seen one.

    heddle@#240:

    I was regenerated by God into the Christian faith

    “I was regenerated by God” contradicts “redemptive plan is now finished”, “no more miracles” and “I’ve never seen one”. That is, “regeneration” is (allegedly) a direct action by God, which graces you personally with redemption, violates the natural order of things, and which you experienced directly. You did say you were an atheist prior to this “regeneration”, correct?

    Speaking of your “holy crap, I believe this stuff” moment, would you find reason to doubt that it was an actual miracle if it could be shown that you did have a temporal lobe seizure at that time?

  380. #380 Patricia, OM
    January 25, 2009

    Standing O for Owlmirror!

  381. #381 Nerd of Redhead
    January 25, 2009

    Standing O for Owlmirror!

    Amen sister. His bible knowledge can be very scary at times. I just love the way he goes to the original text.

  382. #382 Owlmirror
    January 25, 2009

    It is very clear that you [Wowbagger] typed that “revelation” [from Sideshow Bob]. If i believed every loon with a keyboard and access to the internet I would not get very far.

    *snrk*

    It is very clear that humans wrote that “revelation” called scripture. If I believed every loon with some vague approximation of literacy and access to ink and parchment (or later, printing presses), I would not get very far.

  383. #383 Sastra
    January 25, 2009

    Facilis #145 wrote:

    [1.) If God is freely responsible for the laws of logic, then he could have made them other than they are. ]
    I deny this p1.
    My position is that the laws of logic are a reflection of God’s consistent, objective ,invariant nature. God’s nature is necessary and the laws of logic are necessary also. God’s nature cannot change so it is impossible for the laws of logic to be different from what they are.

    If you reject premise 1, then you’ve made God’s existence unnecessary for the laws of logic. By admitting that they cannot be different than what they are, you’ve conceded that they are not “dependent” on anything. God is added in as a symbolic flourish. Even if God created them from His “invariant nature,” the fact that He could not have created them any other way limits God, not logic.

    It’s a bit like arguing that God was “forced” to create human beings through evolution, because that was the only way that He could have done it by working only through nature. A supernatural force that is limited to choose only one kind of nature — or one way of logic — is working within the constraints of a divine nature forced to mimic Nature in its absence.

    The Transcendental Argument for God is a pseudo-argument, because it contains a hidden premise that there are no atheists. Not that there are no “consistent” atheists, mind you — but that atheism itself is a disfunctional perversion. Since an argument is supposed to persuade those who don’t already accept it, then it’s not an argument. It’s a scold.

  384. #384 Patricia, OM
    January 25, 2009

    Wha? er…I thought Owlmirror was a girl. Damn it, now my mental picture is screwed. When I see the name I always think of the statue of Athena.

    So Heddle is a Calvinist. That tells me a lot. Odious bastards, the whole scaborus bunch of them.

  385. #385 Gotchaye
    January 25, 2009

    What does one do with a grant for sitting around claiming that whatever the work in the lab yields won’t be reallyandtrulysubjectiveconsciousnessTM, unless the grant is from the Templeton Foundation?

    I think that that criticism is misplaced, but I’m confused as to why you offer it all, since it seems like a similar criticism would apply to atheism.

    There’s a lot of complicated stuff in the universe, etc, and developing models and bettering our understanding of (parts of) the universe is a task with multiple, pragmatic results. What does one do with a grant for sitting around claiming that whatever the work yields won’t be reallyandtrulyagroundingforexistenceTM?

    It’s my understanding that no one has much hope of science proving that the universe is logically necessary. No matter what new thing physicists find, it’s always going to make sense to ask “well, why is that so?” But of course that doesn’t mean that we can wave our hands and say ‘God did it’, since that doesn’t really explain anything – it just moves the discussion back a step, and now we’re wondering as to what this ‘God’ is and why it should exist. This ‘consciousness is an emergent property of brains’ thing seems similar to me. It’s only offered as an explanation because we despair of ever really understanding what it is to experience ‘self’ in objective terms, but it doesn’t actually explain anything – it just moves us back a step so that we now start asking about how this mechanism works and why it ought to work the way it does, and it does this without giving us any useful or testable information about consciousness. It’s an empty statement. And sure, I guess it’s something of a waste of time to point that out, but no more so than arguing for other philosophical positions is (including atheism). I find it entertaining.

    To reiterate something from earlier, I’m not talking about consciousness-as-process here, which is what we seek to simulate with AI. I’m talking about consciousness-in-itself, which we all seem to have a rather direct experience of, and which experience seems to demand explanation. To say “oh, that’s just what brains do” is sloppy and empty, I think, just as “God did it” is a sloppy and empty explanation for our experience of the world.

  386. #386 Sastra
    January 25, 2009

    Gotchaye #335 wrote:

    This ‘consciousness is an emergent property of brains’ thing seems similar to me. It’s only offered as an explanation because we despair of ever really understanding what it is to experience ‘self’ in objective terms, but it doesn’t actually explain anything – it just moves us back a step so that we now start asking about how this mechanism works and why it ought to work the way it does, and it does this without giving us any useful or testable information about consciousness. It’s an empty statement.

    I don’t think it’s an empty statement — it’s a testable hypothesis which generates more research. Does consciousness cause brain activity, or does brain activity cause consciousness? That’s a very important question — particularly when it comes to religious claims. The first view is mind-brain dualism, and shuts off further mechanism, for mind is now irreducible. The second one is the model which modern neuroscience is using to allow us to ask good questions like how and why it works.

    And I’m curious — what sort of “explanation” for consciousness-in-itself would not be “empty?” I’m not asking you to give the right explanation (which of course you can’t know.) But give a few hypothetical ‘non-empty’ explanations, so I know what one would look like, for you, if you saw one.

  387. #387 Gotchaye
    January 25, 2009

    Part of what I was trying to communicate earlier is that I’m not sure that one can give such an explanation in an objective framework (such as science). In the same way, I don’t think we’re ever going to have an answer to “why does the universe (construed broadly) exist”. We can really nail down explanations of the universe-as-process and consciousness-as-process, and physics and neuroscience are very, very good at that, but I don’t see how physics can explain why there’s a process there to explain at all (one might properly call that meta-physics) or how neuroscience can explain why the experience of consciousness is there at all.

    Certainly, neuroscience can in principle tell us things like “exciting the brain in this way leads to these self-reported emotional states” or, on the other side, that “there are seeming violations of the conservation laws that take place within the brains of thinking things”, and I’ve said before that I agree with most here that consciousness-as-process is definitely open to scientific inquiry, and I’m reasonably certain that we won’t find violations of the conservation laws in human brains.

    But asking after consciousness-in-itself is just asking after why consciousness ‘feels’ as it does. And I’m enough of a positivist that I’m not sure that the whole thing isn’t angels on the heads of pins. Clearly, we do feel something – we can’t just say that there’s nothing there to explain – but I’m not certain that it’s reducible past that basic level of experience. I like the analogy to a ‘grounding of the universe’ – what’s a non-empty explanation of that? Some things we just have to take as given.

  388. #388 Feynmaniac
    January 25, 2009

    Facilis,

    You can’t prove minds exist without philosopny

    You can’t “prove” other minds exists period. Certainly the position that they do is consistent with observation and is reasonable but, like all empirical claims, it’s can’t be “proven”. Proof is for math.

    Since we are social creatures we are hard wired to have a theory of mind (barring a few exceptions, like Autistic people). In fact, we have tended to even personify things that quite clearly don’t have minds, like the weather, the sun, and logic. You don’t need philosophy to have a theory of mind.

    Sam Harris???

    Three question marks are a lot, but they still don’t make an argument. If you have an issue with Sam Harris and/or his arguments write it out.

    Honestly facilis, all you have offered are circular arguments, arguments from assertions, and arguments from ignorance. I have repeatedly tried to tell you that impossibility of the contrary != argument from ignorance, but you have yet to even respond. You think it clever to answer every response “How do you know that?” or “Can you prove that proof” but these pseudo-Socratic and recursive word games aren’t clever, just clear dodges. Finally, you think childish certainty is somehow a virtue. I suggest you read you bible:

    “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” – 1 Corinthians 13:11

    Wowbagger has said he has you killfiled and unless you put away your childish things I’ll join him.

  389. #389 Gotchaye
    January 25, 2009

    To clarify a bit, another similar case would be the rules of logic. We don’t feel the need to justify them or to explain why they are as they are – “A & B implies A is just the way things work, so deal with it” is about the best we can do. I can’t think of a non-empty explanation for why that should be so.

    We have a similarly basic perception of conscious experience – it impresses itself on us as “I think, therefore I am”, and it makes no more sense to explain that ‘I’ than it does to explain how you perceive a color or an emotion, again noting that that’s distinct from explaining the conditions under which you perceive a color or an emotion.

  390. #390 Owlmirror
    January 25, 2009

    [*looks embarrassed*]

    Speaking of scripture, though, reminds me that I had another point about the compatibility of science and religion, or rather, the lack thereof.

    I’ve already mentioned 1 Corinthians 1:19-23 as being an attack on both the philosophy of the Greeks and traditional Judaism itself, as it existed at the time. There are similar such attacks in 1 Corinthians, and 2 Corinthians as well.

    Another thing I noticed recently is that empirical testing is repeatedly denigrated. The story of doubting Thomas has him demand an empirical test that Jesus has resurrected… and it is in fact offered to him… but the segment ends with the line ?Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.?

    Those who believe with no evidence whatsoever are “better” than those who demand evidence?

    Another point is that some of the demands for evidence of Jesus having miraculous powers are put into the mouths of the most cruel and evil. In the passion narrative, Mark 15:29-32 and Matt 27:38-44 and Luke 23:35-39, the soldiers, passers-by and robbers also crucified are the ones who say that if Jesus is who he claims, he should simply leave the cross. I am nearly certain that early Christians were mocked with the same questions: If Jesus was who he claimed, why didn’t he just get off the cross?

    And of course, there’s also the business with Satan: He says that if Jesus is who he claims, he should be able to show this by flying. And Jesus cites a bit of the OT to say “No testing of God”, and refuses.

    Of course, the above contradicts the lines about all things being possible with God; with being able to move mountains. Not “a few” things, not “most” things, but “all things”. And yet there is no record of Christians using faith alone to do earthmoving projects, or indeed anything else.

    Given the anti-intellectualism throughout the bible (and, I think, the koran), I am fairly confident in saying that regardless of whether “religion” in general, however loosely defined, is incompatible with science, the monotheistic religions at their core are indeed incompatible with science.

    Indeed, I think it could even be argued that given that religion is a social construct, monotheism is a blatant social monopoly, which necessarily rejects the criticism of any empirical analysis and the competition of any philosophy or epistemology outside of itself. Nowhere in any monotheistic religious work does it say to study the natural world and relate what is found to other students of the natural world, and be willing to accept a current explanation of the world as false if there is good evidence in favor of a competing explanation. Rather instead, it demands social “purity”, with capital punishment for those who have differing ideas.

    Science has really only been able to progress when religious institutions were weakened enough to not only not punish dissidents with death, but even to allow competing ideas of all sorts — including other religions entirely, and also including no religion whatsoever.

  391. #391 Sastra
    January 25, 2009

    Gotchaye #387 wrote:

    We can really nail down explanations of the universe-as-process and consciousness-as-process, and physics and neuroscience are very, very good at that, but I don’t see how physics can explain why there’s a process there to explain at all (one might properly call that meta-physics) or how neuroscience can explain why the experience of consciousness is there at all.

    I’m going to suggest that the reason those ultimate “why” questions seem impossible to answer might be because we’re trying to analyze something which belongs in one cognitive system of the human brain using another cognitive system — what Feynmaniac above just called “theory of mind.”

    We have an evolved tendency to divide the world into intentional agents which are explained in social terms, and nonintentional objects which are explained in terms of physical causes. Asking ultimate “why” questions blur the distinction, because “brute fact” seems unsatisfying to us. It feels incomplete. Instinctively, we look for social reasons.

    If animals which are conscious are better at predicting the future, and predicting the choices of other agents, than those without it, then it would have been selected for. Asking “why” it feels the way it feels assumes that it could have been otherwise. And that’s when we look for purpose.

    It’s interesting. Ask why a volcano erupts, and the physical explanation is enough — until and unless there’s something about that volcano eruption which impacts our lives. Why did it erupt then and there, and kill those people? That’s a social question which one would ask if the volcano was an agent.

    We’re social animals. Because both the existence of the universe and the fact of consciousness impact our lives, our theory of mind kicks in, and we feel as if there should be deeper “why” than a physical description.

    Or, at least, some people do — and some people don’t. Thinking that “why is there something rather than nothing?” is a real, significant question may be as much a matter of personal ideosynchrocy as talking to the computer, and having a feeling it hears you, somehow. You know better, and yet you don’t.

  392. #392 Gotchaye
    January 25, 2009

    Yeah, I think that’s exactly right. And so I feel it’s something of a category error to say that one can meaningfully answer a question like this (“why do we have an experience of consciousness”) at all, much less with a scientific explanation.

    I think we understand each other. Our language is always so inadequate for this kind of thing.

  393. #393 SC, OM
    January 25, 2009

    [I'm well outside my areas of knowledge, so bear with me, please.]

    and which experience seems to demand explanation. To say “oh, that’s just what brains do” is sloppy and empty, I think

    Well, it would be, if anyone were actually saying that. Where did you read that in the post I linked to? It’s an active area of research.

    but I don’t see how physics can explain why there’s a process there to explain at all (one might properly call that meta-physics) or how neuroscience can explain why the experience of consciousness is there at all.

    Why are you so focused on physics? From the Wikipedia page on neuroscience:

    Such studies span the structure, function, evolutionary history, development, genetics, biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology, informatics, computational neuroscience and pathology of the nervous system. Traditionally it is seen as a branch of biological sciences.

    However, recently there has been a surge in the convergence of interest from many allied disciplines, including cognitive and neuro-psychology, computer science, statistics, physics, philosophy, and medicine.

    The brain is part of the human body. Biological studies in neuroscience can understand how the brain works (including through the study of different states of consciousness) and also how it, and with it consciousness, evolved. And this – “One clarifying point: we have no reason to suppose that consciousness has anything to do with brains at all” – makes no sense to me.

    I confess that I don’t understand why consciousness is singled out in this way as such a difficult problem. I guess it just makes sense to me that consciousness would have evolved. We can come to understand it in the same way we understand why the senses or whatever exist. Of course, if every question is going to revert to “why does anything exist rather than nothing?” then no, we’ll probably never know the answer to that. But you could do that kind of infinite regress with the question of why arms exist. What makes consciousness so different? How does this stuff about subjective experience make consciousness such a special case?

  394. #394 Sastra
    January 25, 2009

    Owlmirror #390 wrote:

    Given the anti-intellectualism throughout the bible (and, I think, the koran), I am fairly confident in saying that regardless of whether “religion” in general, however loosely defined, is incompatible with science, the monotheistic religions at their core are indeed incompatible with science.

    I forget which early theologian it was who asked “What has Athens to say to Jerusalem?”, but it highlights your point. The ‘attitude’ of science is very different than the ‘attitude’ of faith. One side requires rigorous demonstration from the person making the claim: the other side calls for a willingness to believe from the person hearing the claim.

    Just as simple religious morality equates “being good” with “obeying your parent,” faith is supposed to be good because it comes down to “believing your parent.” And, from what I’ve seen, non-monotheistic religions are not any better. The guru tells you what he saw in a mystical experience, and you’re supposed to believe him like a child. Not “how do you know?” or “could you be wrong?” But “am I ready to accept?” Challenging a because-I-said-so idea from a religious authority is seen as rebellion and reluctance to grow.

    The exact opposite of the scientific process.

  395. #395 SC, OM
    January 25, 2009

    Posted by: Sastra | January 25, 2009 5:03 PM

    Stop doing that! Or at least give me a chance to type faster!
    :)

    And so I feel it’s something of a category error to say that one can meaningfully answer a question like this (“why do we have an experience of consciousness”) at all, much less with a scientific explanation.

    No – if I’m understanding you correctly, I think you’re wrong.

  396. #396 SC, OM
    January 25, 2009

    The story of doubting Thomas has him demand an empirical test that Jesus has resurrected… and it is in fact offered to him… but the segment ends with the line ?Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.?

    Those who believe with no evidence whatsoever are “better” than those who demand evidence?

    I quoted that to heddle above (@ #196). He ignored it, and later proceeded to his assertion about how “the bible doesn?t say much about science, other than telling us to go do it.” heddle’s very frustrating.

  397. #397 Gotchaye
    January 25, 2009

    Well, it would be, if anyone were actually saying that. Where did you read that in the post I linked to? It’s an active area of research.

    Consciousness-as-process is, sure, but I’m unaware of any scientist trying to work with consciousness-in-itself. It’s an active area of research in philosophy, but that seemed to me to be Dennett’s position – Chalmers is saying that we need to posit a new law of nature to explain consciousness-in-itself, and Dennett is saying that it can be seen as an emergent property of brains (or other sufficiently advanced computers, presumably). There’s no conceivable test for that, and things seem to stop there.

    Why are you so focused on physics? From the Wikipedia page on neuroscience:

    This is me being a bad communicator. I was just using physics and existence as a more understandable analogy to neuroscience and consciousness.

    My clarifying point was just to point to the difference between consciousness-as-process and consciousness-in-itself, which terminology hadn’t occurred to me until John Morales used it, by looking at the standard solipsist/skeptical position.

    I think that we see consciousness as special because we have a direct experience of it. Observation of the physical world seems the appropriate way to examine the direct experience of our senses, but we also have non-sensory experiences like emotion, which it’s historically been very easy to see as very different from sensory experiences, and which give rise to concepts like ‘soul’ and which inform a lot of religion and philosophy. So, given that we accept that our sensory experiences are experiences of something outside of us, there are really only two big questions – “why an outside world” and “why an internal world” (as you say, a lot of other why questions eventually reduce to one or the other). God used to be the standard answer for both. We recognize that the outside world simply is at this point, which is what I was getting at with that example and with the example of the rules of logic. I think the same solution works for the internal world – there’s no explanation for consciousness; it simply is, and I don’t think it’s helpful to try to explain it (consciousness-in-itself) as a result of physical phenomena.

  398. #398 Patricia, OM
    January 25, 2009

    SC, OM – Heddle is ignoring you because you’re a woman. He ignores me because I’m the uppity property of another man. Calvinist 101.

    Right Heddle?

  399. #399 Gotchaye
    January 25, 2009

    I was interpreting Sastra through this:

    Thinking that “why is there something rather than nothing?” is a real, significant question may be as much a matter of personal ideosynchrocy as talking to the computer, and having a feeling it hears you, somehow.

    SC, I tentatively assume you’re saying that we ought to be able to answer that question?

  400. #400 SC, OM
    January 25, 2009

    Consciousness-as-process is, sure, but I’m unaware of any scientist trying to work with consciousness-in-itself. It’s an active area of research in philosophy,

    No – in science.

    My clarifying point was just to point to the difference between consciousness-as-process and consciousness-in-itself, which terminology hadn’t occurred to me until John Morales used it,

    It seems he used it somehow to try to distinguish what you were talking about from what Neil B was blathering about. Trying to make heads or tails of his posts or find their relevance is painful, so I’m afraid I still don’t understand what you mean by consciousness-in-itself (feel like I’m talking about Lukács). Could you define it for me? Do you just mean “why do we exist?” I’m just not seeing the distinction you’re making.

    Morales then went on to point out:

    Rather, no consciousness has been observed without a substrate sustaining it, specifically a brain; in every observed case damaging the brain damages the consciousness and destroying the brain destroys the consciousness. Similarly, subjective consciousness and perception and cognition are shown to correlate with observable brain-states (empirically) (PZ recently posted about this)…Bottom line: consciousness is a phenomenon, and science specialises in explaining phenomena.

    I think that we see consciousness as special because we have a direct experience of it.

    Still not getting it.

    So, given that we accept that our sensory experiences are experiences of something outside of us, there are really only two big questions – “why an outside world” and “why an internal world” (as you say, a lot of other why questions eventually reduce to one or the other).

    Leaving aside the first, the second is a question for evolutionary neuroscience. It’s a matter of understanding how our internal worlds developed in the context of evolving in, and navigating, an external world.

    We recognize that the outside world simply is at this point,

    Not really. Scientists are studying its origins and development.

    there’s no explanation for consciousness; it simply is, and I don’t think it’s helpful to try to explain it (consciousness-in-itself) as a result of physical phenomena.

    You keep asserting this. I can’t for the life of me understand why you don’t think so. You can’t keep ignoring the evidence from brain research and claiming that there are no rudiments and no possibility of an explanation. I’m sure we don’t know everything about how the immune system works, either, but it’s helpful to try to explain it biologically.

  401. #401 SC, OM
    January 25, 2009

    SC, I tentatively assume you’re saying that we ought to be able to answer that question?

    I think you’re missing Sastra’s point. Anyway, what I think about that would be relevant here only if that question were specific to the matter of consciousness. We have evidence that consciousness is something the brain does (and none that it’s based anywhere else), and we know that the nervous system evolved. There’s a great deal we can learn about how consciousness emerged and how it works, just as in any other area of science. Are you suggesting that if there’s no single scientific test for why the universe exists, all scientific research is pointless? If not, why are you singling out the study of consciousness?

    You seem to be saying that if we don’t know everything we can’t know anything, and any investigation is futile.

    [And the answer hasn't always simply been "God." Lucretius had much that was intelligent to say on the subject of the mind.]

  402. #402 Owlmirror
    January 25, 2009

    I forget which early theologian it was who asked “What has Athens to say to Jerusalem?”, but it highlights your point.

    Overcome by curiosity, I Googled and found that it was Tertullian, The Prescription against Heretics:

    http://history.hanover.edu/courses/excerpts/344tert.html

    Writing to the Colossians, he says, “See that no one beguile you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, and contrary to the wisdom of the Holy Ghost.” He had been at Athens, and had in his interviews (with its philosophers) become acquainted with that human wisdom which pretends to know the truth, whilst it only corrupts it, and is itself divided into its own manifold heresies, by the variety of its mutually repugnant sects. What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem? What concord is there between the Academy and the Church? what between heretics and Christians? Our instruction comes from “the porch of Solomon,” who had himself taught that “the Lord should be sought in simplicity of heart.”

    Away with all attempts to produce a mottled Christianity of Stoic, Platonic, and dialectic composition! We want no curious disputation after possessing Christ Jesus, no inquisition after enjoying the gospel! With our faith, we desire no further belief. For this is our palmary faith, that there is nothing which we ought to believe besides.

    Full version here:
    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0311.htm

  403. #403 Sastra
    January 25, 2009

    SC, OM #401 wrote:

    You (Gotchyae) seem to be saying that if we don’t know everything we can’t know anything, and any investigation is futile.

    No, I don’t think he’s saying that. I think Gotchaye’s pointing out that asking “why does consciousness feel as it does?” isn’t a question that science can answer, because it’s not a science question. It’s a meaning question — and meaning questions don’t seem to be answerable.

    My point was that they may be unanswerable because they’re category errors. Our brains tend look for ‘social reasons’ and don’t feel satisfied till we find them.

    Of course, the question “why do we have consciousness at all?” is also open to evolutionary explanations.

  404. #404 Gotchaye
    January 25, 2009

    I’ll be back to our disagreements in a bit, but I’ve got to step out soon, so I just want to correct your understanding of my motivations for now.

    Are you suggesting that if there’s no single scientific test for why the universe exists, all scientific research is pointless? If not, why are you singling out the study of consciousness?

    That’s not at all what I’m suggesting. I’m saying that there are some basic brute facts about our existence that simply are. You disagreed, but I don’t know that I’ve ever met anyone else who thought that science could ultimately explain why there is something rather than nothing – science starts, after all, with the assumption that an external objective world exists, so it can’t very well be brought to bear to investigate that issue. Likewise, our theory of mind starts with the assumption that consciousness inheres in people (or in things capable of certain kinds of complex calculations, if you prefer). And I didn’t single out consciousness – that was what Neil started talking about, which is why it’s been the central topic. And all along I’ve been bringing in examples of things that I think are very similar – the physical world and the rules of logic.

    You seem to be saying that if we don’t know everything we can’t know anything, and any investigation is futile.

    We can’t know everything, or at least we can’t have a system of knowledge that’s free from more or less arbitrary assumptions about reality. This is easy to demonstrate for logical systems in general – you need axioms, and you have to take them as given.

  405. #405 John Morales
    January 25, 2009

    As SC said.

    I don’t think that consciousness-in-itself is a meaningful concept, but rather a reification of the existence of the process of consciousness.

    (This reminds me of the concept of Élan vital)

  406. #406 SC, OM
    January 25, 2009

    No, I don’t think he’s saying that. I think Gotchaye’s pointing out that asking “why does consciousness feel as it does?” isn’t a question that science can answer, because it’s not a science question. It’s a meaning question — and meaning questions don’t seem to be answerable.

    OK, but that wasn’t the question under discussion (here or in the post I linked to to which he responded). In fact, I don’t think I understand it as a question, and certainly not the primary one. How consciousness feels is part of consciousness.

    Also, his question to me was about answering “why is there something rather than nothing?” so I’m unclear on what he considers questions that scientists can or should seek to answer.

    And he explicitly said

    And so I feel it’s something of a category error to say that one can meaningfully answer a question like this (“why do we have an experience of consciousness”) at all, much less with a scientific explanation.

    and

    One clarifying point: we have no reason to suppose that consciousness has anything to do with brains at all

    and

    it seems to me that Novella and Dennett are just assuming a mechanism for the sake of having a mechanism. I do agree that Chalmers is building castles in the air, but self as emergent property is just as untestable, if a hell of a lot simpler. It doesn’t seem to really explain anything; in many ways, it’s like an appeal to God as a grounding for the universe – yes, you’ve ‘explained’ the universe, but not usefully, and sometimes it’s better to just say that an explanation is unnecessary or meaningless (I have strong G.E. Moore tendencies).

    I’m still having trouble getting his point if it’s not what I was saying, and to be honest suspect an agenda.

  407. #407 E.V.
    January 25, 2009

    One clarifying point: we have no reason to suppose that consciousness has anything to do with brains at all

    Is this a Cartesian duality/ghost-in-the-machine rationalization for consciousness? Next you’ll be defending ESP.

  408. #408 Stephen Wells
    January 25, 2009

    Obviously the huge number of entities that are conscious and lack brains demonstrates that consciousness has nothing to do with brains… oh, wait.

  409. #409 heddle
    January 25, 2009

    Patricia, OM,

    He[ddle] ignores me because I’m the uppity property of another man. Right Heddle?

    No Patricia, I ignore you because you never actually want to engage in a conversation. You are all insults and no substance.

    For example, this:

    So Heddle is a Calvinist. That tells me a lot. Odious bastards, the whole scaborus bunch of them.

    What kind of response did you anticipate? Trading insults? That can be fun, I like “yo momma is so ugly” jousting, but I don’t get any vibe that you’d be very good at it.

    OwlMirror,

    “I was regenerated by God” contradicts “redemptive plan is now finished”, “no more miracles” and “I’ve never seen one”. That is, “regeneration” is (allegedly) a direct action by God, which graces you personally with redemption, violates the natural order of things, and which you experienced directly. You did say you were an atheist prior to this “regeneration”, correct?

    Sorry I assumed that the distinction between God’s routine interacting in the lives of men, to call, convert, sanctify and glorify them, compared with the much rarer, visible, and traditionally described-as-miracles such as Jesus walking on water and his virgin birth would be obvious. My bad for the overestimation. You are correct, all these things are supernatural. I generally do not use ?miracles? and ?supernatural? as synonyms. All miracles are supernatural, but not vice versa. I should have been more precise so as not to cause unnecessary confusion.

    Speaking of your “holy crap, I believe this stuff” moment, would you find reason to doubt that it was an actual miracle if it could be shown that you did have a temporal lobe seizure at that time?

    Yes.

  410. #410 SC, OM
    January 25, 2009

    That’s not at all what I’m suggesting. I’m saying that there are some basic brute facts about our existence that simply are. You disagreed,

    No, I disagreed with what you seemed to be implying – that if scientists accept the existence of something that’s the end of the story, and research on it is “useless.” I don’t understand why consciousness differs here from any other phenomenon based in biology.

    but I don’t know that I’ve ever met anyone else who thought that science could ultimately explain why there is something rather than nothing

    I didn’t answer that question at all. I pointed out that it’s irrelevant to the issue of the material investigation of consciousness and its value.

    - science starts, after all, with the assumption that an external objective world exists, so it can’t very well be brought to bear to investigate that issue.

    Of whether it exists? Actually, I’d say every experiment is an investigation confirming that it does exist. (And this is different than the question of why it exists.)

    Likewise, our theory of mind starts with the assumption that consciousness inheres in people (or in things capable of certain kinds of complex calculations, if you prefer).

    No, consciousness is an object of study. The existing evidence suggests clearly that it is based in the nervous system. That’s not an assumption; it’s an early part of a research program.

    And I didn’t single out consciousness – that was what Neil started talking about, which is why it’s been the central topic.

    Well, you responded to my link to the Novella post with your opinions on the subject. But then I have the same question: Is there some reason in particular that you believe consciousness is not amenable to scientific study or understanding?

    We can’t know everything, or at least we can’t have a system of knowledge that’s free from more or less arbitrary assumptions about reality. This is easy to demonstrate for logical systems in general – you need axioms, and you have to take them as given.

    Empirical science is not an abstract system, and it’s not based on arbitrary assumptions.

    In short: Why do you find the Dennett’s or Novella’s idea of consciousness as an emergent property of the brain unsatisfying? Why do you think this research program is useless? Why do you single out consciousness as something that “just is” and should be accepted as axiomatic without research into its origins, development, or functioning?

  411. #411 E.V.
    January 25, 2009

    Heddle@#409:
    Wow. You just aren’t going to let reality get in the way of your truth, are you?
    Please cite any empirically sound evidence for the existence of the “supernatural” ( if we’re talking about breaking the laws of physics).

  412. #412 Ken Cope
    January 25, 2009

    When OwlMirror asked heddle if he’d, “…find reason to doubt that it was an actual miracle if it could be shown that [heddle] did have a temporal lobe seizure at that time?” heddle said, “Yes.”

    In that case, my modest proposal, that what heddle interpreted as “…God’s routine interacting in the [life of heddle], to call, convert, sanctify and glorify [heddle],” was no more than heddle’s inflated sense of self-worth, in conjunction with a fairly common rarebit dream that the universe is a personal conspiracy on ones behalf, would (in contrast to OwlMirror’s more dramatic interpretation), be just a jump to the left.

  413. #413 heddle
    January 25, 2009

    E.V.,

    Wow. You just aren’t going to let reality get in the way of your truth, are you?
    Please cite any empirically sound evidence for the existence of the “supernatural” ( if we’re talking about breaking the laws of physics).

    Now that’s not fair. Remember the topic of this thread? I’ve been asking for empirically sound evidence that science and religion are incompatible. None has been provided. Seems unsporting to turn around and demand from me what I’ve been asking from you.

  414. #414 John Morales
    January 25, 2009

    SC, I’m tempted to be more charitable.

    Going back upthread, perhaps Gotchaye’s point was that some people consider science’s necessary assumptions have metaphysical meaning/transcendental grounding (i.e. they need telos), and others don’t?

    I think Gotchaye has perhaps used unfortunate phrasing in some comments, though.

  415. #415 Wowbagger, Grumpy Minimalist
    January 25, 2009

    Ken Cope wrote:

    …in conjunction with a fairly common rarebit dream…

    Ken, is that a Douglas Adams reference? My brain is telling me that it is, but I can’t be bothered digging through my book-boxes to check, and Google isn’t being helpful.

  416. #416 Sastra
    January 25, 2009

    heddle 413 wrote:

    I’ve been asking for empirically sound evidence that science and religion are incompatible.

    Depends what one means by “incompatible” — and which parts we’re looking at.

    If you look at religious claims as if they are factual claims, then saying they are ‘compatible’ with science is saying that science has drawn them as conclusions. Which it hasn’t.

    If you look at religious belief as a system which provides meaning, then saying it’s ‘compatible’ with science means that people within that system are capable of doing science the same way as people not in the system. Which they are.

    If you look at the religious method of faith itself, then saying it’s ‘compatible’ with science is to say that science proceeds by special revelation and trust. Which it doesn’t.

    Arguing that they’re compatible because you can separate religious beliefs from scientific ones and work two different systems isn’t what we mean by compatible. The systems are separate, the method is different, the conclusions are not the same.

  417. #417 Ken Cope
    January 25, 2009

    Wowbagger, if DNA used it, he was most likely referring to Winsor McCay.

  418. #418 heddle
    January 25, 2009

    Sastra,

    I appreciate your reply. But PZ wrote that Coyne made the case that religion and science are antagonistic.

    Antagonistic, incompatible, this meaning, that meaning, whatever. In any case, no evidence. Zilch point oh. Or put differently: The same amount of evidence as for the claim: theistic scientists have an advantage over their atheistic colleagues because they see their calling as quest to learn the mind of God.

  419. #419 Wowbagger, Grumpy Minimalist
    January 25, 2009

    Ken,

    Oh, okay. The snippet of text I have in my head seems to be the end of a sentence which goes something like ‘…and it turned out to be a dream brought on from eating too many Welsh rarebits.’

    I guess it could be Pratchett, since he and Adams have a similar liking for such turns of phrase. I guess I’m going to have to keep looking.

  420. #420 Sven DiMilo
    January 25, 2009

    Honest observations.
    Accurate logic.
    That is all that is required of “science.”
    If heddle can balance the pursuit of scientific knowledge with the woo-woo of religion, so what? Let him. Science is much more important than perceived “spiritual” differences.

  421. #421 E.V.
    January 25, 2009

    Ah yes! The Universe is a giant theatrical set and the earth was created solely as a testing ground in order to sort MANKIND into queues for either eternal punishment or eternal bliss. It’s all an impossibly elaborate playground JUST FOR US because a creator capable of fabricating billions of galaxies, with hundreds of billions of celestial bodies within them, needed companionship because he was lonely (Poor God)So we are that creation; beings who are susceptible to all manner of diseases, syndromes and disorders, and until the mid twentieth century, had an average life span of roughly 40 years, oh the infant mortality rates averaged to only 1 in 4 chances of making it to adolescence.

    So God sends a messiah in a time where mass communication is hundreds of years away and knowing about this savior just happens to be the key to staying out of the damnation line. With all the miracles, you’d think god would have given people the power of mass communication or even transportation capable of reaching distant lands in a reasonable amount of time (unlike Moses 40 year surly insistence that, “no, he did not need to pull over and ask for directions, godammit.”)

    It’s simple, just spread the word to everyone you know to accept Iron Age accounts about a man who was executed for being a dissident; now venerate him and call him “Lord” and believe his torture and execution somehow atones for everyone else’s transgressions -literally wipes the slate clean (Get out of Hell Free card) but only when you avow this and they dunk you or at least sprinkle you with a little “blessed” H2O. By dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, you get to be on the Heaven-bound Express when you DIE and live forever and ever! (In a new body, or a formless vapor -who knows, but it’s FOREVER *yay!*)

    Jesus-fucking-Christ-on-a-bicycle, that’s INSANE. (although I believed it once meself)

  422. #422 John Morales
    January 25, 2009

    Heddle @418:

    But PZ wrote that Coyne made the case that religion and science are antagonistic.
    Antagonistic, incompatible, this meaning, that meaning, whatever. In any case, no evidence. Zilch point oh.

    This is empirical evidence:”A letter published in Nature in 1998 reported a survey suggesting that belief in a personal god or afterlife was at an all-time low among the members of the U.S. National Academy of Science, only 7.0% of whom believed in a personal god as compared with more than 85% of the general U.S. population.[103] In the same year Frank Sulloway of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Michael Shermer of California State University conducted a study which found in their polling sample of “credentialed” U.S. adults (12% had Ph.Ds and 62% were college graduates) 64% believed in God, and there was a correlation indicating that religious conviction diminished with education level.[104]“

  423. #423 E.V.
    January 25, 2009

    Seems unsporting to turn around and demand from me what I’ve been asking from you.

    I’ll give you a hint Heddle. There IS no empirically sound evidence for the existence of the “supernatural” ( if we’re talking about breaking the laws of physics).

  424. #424 SC, OM
    January 25, 2009

    SC, I’m tempted to be more charitable.

    Yeah, me too. And Sastra was right above. I was just reading over Gotchaye’s comments again, and I made some incorrect assumptions (I apologize for the agenda bit – I think I had some of his comments confused with – gasp – facilis’).

    Anyway, I think he’s trying somehow to suggest that subjectivity and the individual experience of consciousness somehow renders it unsuitable for the emergent-property hypothesis and for scientific study, and stating this very strongly.

    He seems to be making a problematic distinction between how consciousness works and what consciousness is for individual people:

    Put simply, because consciousness is subjective.

    It’s partly subjective, but wouldn’t this be expected from any evolved capacity that is, after all, shaped by genes and environment?

    ‘I’ don’t see the same things ‘you’ see.

    ?

    ‘I’ taste popcorn right now; ‘you’ probably don’t.

    ?

    I just don’t see where an interpersonal method of explanation can come to grips with the fact that, if we deny solipsism, there seem to be multiple minds out there that experience fundamentally different worlds.

    If people experienced “fundamentally” different worlds, living together as human beings and concerted action would be all but impossible.

    I think we reject consciousness as meaningless when we assume that objectivity is possible, and so there’s no point in talking about it.

    As meaningless? What? Objectivity isn’t possible as a characteristic of individuals, but is increased in a social system of science.

    I can go as far as saying that feelings are the results of physical processes,

    Yes, in brains.

    but that’s not quite the same (or as strong as) explaining why ‘I’ see out of ‘my’ eyes and ‘you’ see out of ‘your’ eyes.

    Because we have different eyes, and different personal backgrounds. Still not getting the problem here.

    This ‘consciousness is an emergent property of brains’ thing seems similar to me. It’s only offered as an explanation

    Proposed explanation subject to research.

    because we despair of ever really understanding what it is to experience ‘self’ in objective terms,

    Huh? No – it’s at the heart of a research program. Understanding consciousness more generally is part of understanding individual subjectivity. I really don’t see any other way of approaching it.

    but it doesn’t actually explain anything – it just moves us back a step so that we now start asking about how this mechanism works and why it ought to work the way it does, and it does this without giving us any useful or testable information about consciousness. It’s an empty statement.

    What are you talking about?

    We have a similarly basic perception of conscious experience

    Indeed.

    - it impresses itself on us as “I think, therefore I am”, and it makes no more sense to explain that ‘I’ than it does to explain how you perceive a color or an emotion, again noting that that’s distinct from explaining the conditions under which you perceive a color or an emotion.

    Lost me again. It makes perfect sense. Explaining how (and this also involves social research) is what it’s about. That’s it.

    It’s ether/or. :)

    [I'm starting to think again that it would be helpful to avoid "to be" altogether, in this case just talking about consciousness as something brains/people do.]

  425. #425 Patricia, OM
    January 25, 2009

    Good reply Heddle. You proved my point. Your condescending remarks are exactly what I expected.

    To think I put up with that shit for 50 years. What a fuckwit I was.

  426. #426 John Morales
    January 25, 2009

    E.V. @421, nice!

    <claps>

  427. #427 Sastra
    January 25, 2009

    heddle #418 wrote:

    But PZ wrote that Coyne made the case that religion and science are antagonistic.

    They’re not antagonistic if you take my second approach — looking to see if those who hold a religious worldview can also do science. But both Coyne and PZ grant that.

    I would say that they’re antagonistic if you’re looking to see if science is demonstrating the existence of the supernatural or paranormal. If religious claims are taken seriously — as models which need to fit in with the rest of our background knowledge — then believing that Jesus rose from the dead is like believing that space aliens built the pyramids. Not impossible, but there’s a conflict with more plausible models, and a violation of Occam.

    I also think the methods are at odds. Faith is basically a moral commitment an individual makes to “spin” results to fit a conclusion. This is anathema to the process and attitude of science.

    In practice, it is very hard to believe in a “little supernatural.” There’s no obvious place to draw the line on what’s reasonable once faith is brought in as a value.

  428. #428 SC, OM
    January 25, 2009

    heddle,

    You obviously won’t accept the notion of a fundamental incompatibility as it’s been pointed out in the original post/article and to you repeatedly on this thread (and your ignoring it hasn’t helped you to be more convincing or made it go away). You insist that an incompatibility only exists if this leads scientists to be less capable of doing good science. Then for some reason it has to be specific to you, or to Collins:

    Come on, heddle. Even if the fundamental incompatibility weren’t there, we all know this isn’t true in all fields of science (neuroscience, biology, archaeology,…).

    Prove it. Show me where Collins? beliefs affected his work.

    Which I answered:

    How absurd. Are you and Collins the only scientists in the world? There are examples of this here and on the other science blogs all the time, not to mention the interference of fundamentalist non-scientists with the teaching of evolution. Are you seriously suggesting these beliefs have not interfered with doing science or with science education? What planet are you on? And again, it doesn’t affect the fundamental incompatibility of your beliefs and science even if the vast majority of theistic scientists are able to compartmentalize in this way.

    To which you never responded, I don’t think.

    So do you and Collins cancel this out? What empirical evidence is acceptable to you concerning outcomes, and why do you get to pick and choose? I mean, there were some Stalinist scientists who did good work. Doesn’t mean there was no incompatibility there.

  429. #429 Gotchaye
    January 25, 2009

    I do think I’ve badly miscommunicated something if SC is getting that out of my posts. I think we’re very much talking past each other, and I really doubt that I disagree with the people here to nearly the extent that SC and EV are imagining that I do (if in fact there’s significant disagreement at all). I’m going to try to go over some of what I think again, with clearer explanation (hopefully).

    I figure that most of the confusion has to do with my use of ‘consciousness-as-process’ and ‘consciousness-in-itself’. As I’m using the terms, consciousness-as-process is consciousness insofar as it impinges on the interpersonal world. It’s what neuroscience can study. Observations of consciousness-as-process are objective. If one person is in an MRI machine, and one person is sitting next to him, we can prick the first guy with a needle and make some observations – parts of his brain light up, he flinches, he self-reports pain, etc. In principle, human action can be understood entirely mechanically in this fashion, and likewise for the content of our thoughts.

    Consciousness-in-itself, on the other hand, is consciousness insofar as it is purely subjective. We have a direct experience of this – we can observe consciousness-as-process in ourselves and in others, but our observations are different when we’re the subject of an experiment. When something happens to someone else, I make some observations. When something happens to me, I make the same observations, plus some others (how the event ‘feels’ to me). Go back to the example I gave earlier. While they share many observations of the pin-jabbing, they each also make several observations which aren’t shared. The person in the MRI machine has a direct experience of pain that the other doesn’t (he ‘feels’ pain), for example, and each of them perceive themselves as being in a unique location. That is, each of them experiences a unique self that sees out of the eyes of a particular body that experience different sensations. Of course, we can’t say that without making some assumptions, such as that there’s an external world and that we’re not the only consciousness out there. But, by making this assumption, we’ve already granted that consciousness-in-itself is.

    What’s called the hard problem of consciousness is, as I understand it, the problem of accounting for our experiences differing based on whether or not something happens to us or to someone else – it’s the problem of explaining what it means to be an ‘I’ and how an ‘I’ can exist. Dennett’s position seems to me to be that there is no such thing as consciousness-in-itself, leaving him with the (to us obvious) claim that everything else can be explained physically. I can’t agree with him here (though he’s certainly more an expert than I am) because of what I’ve tried to explain above – understanding consciousness as identical to consciousness-as-process doesn’t seem to leave us with any way to explain differences in perspective other than the (I think empty) claim that unique perspectives are just what brains do, which makes it seem to me that he’s not rejecting consciousness-in-itself but just saying that it too can be explained physically (that’s what I get out of Novella’s thing, but wikipedia says that Dennett rejects qualia altogether).

    I don’t see what good such an explanation of consciousness-in-itself is, as opposed to an explanation of consciousness-as-process, which is very useful and has much explanatory power. However, I don’t think we need an explanation.

    To make science (and normal life) possible, we assume the existence of an objective world, among other things. This can’t be compelling justified next to the skeptical hypothesis (that we are constantly fooled, or are dreaming, etc), and it obviously can’t be tested in any way. But we do it anyway. And so we don’t expect science to ever compellingly explain what caused (or why) an objective world exists at all – we assume there is one as a necessary precondition of doing science. (aside: SC, you mentioned that you thought that experiments confirmed for us that there’s an external world – I’m never heard this before and don’t understand why you say this, and I’d much appreciate further explanation on this point).

    Likewise, when we develop a theory of mind we discard solipsism. We assume (it again isn’t testable) that these bodies we see walking around have minds behind them and aren’t just automata (we deny that there are p zombies). That is, we assume that when we jab them with pins and they say “ow”, they ‘feel’ something like we do when we get jabbed with pins. We assume others with subjective experience, or consciousness-in-itself, in much the way that we assume that our memories are generally reliable, that induction works, etc.

    And so we don’t have to try to explain why subjective experience exists. It’s enough to study consciousness-as-process, and we can consider our understanding to be complete with that. It’s just as in science where we don’t try to explain why anything objective exists at all. We’ve already assumed that objective things exist, and we’ve already assumed the existence of other subjective consciousnesses, as seemingly necessary preconditions of leading our lives.

    I do think that the rules of logic and reasoning provide a good example here. One can hardly justify A&B implies A, and the problem of induction is well known (but that doesn’t stop us from using it). These things simply are.

    Very very short version: G.E. Moore’s proof of an external world works just as well for explaining consciousness-in-itself. It simply is, and we need not posit a mechanism that causes us to ‘feel’ certain ways when our brains fire in certain patterns, nor is any hypothetical mechanism at all testable.

    I think that one way in which I’m failing to make myself clear here is that people are interpreting me as saying that we can’t talk about specific patterns of brain activity causing (or at least correlating perfectly) with the particular emotions we feel and the particular thoughts we have, etc. I’m not saying that. I’m just saying that it’s not necessary or possible to speculate on the mechanism behind that, and that there’s no sense in trying to get a deeper explanation than that.

    Hopefully that makes more sense.

    The last comment I saw before writing this was 414, so, refreshing the page, I see that more has been said, so I may have corrections to this in a few hours, provided people haven’t jumped on me for it by then.

  430. #430 E.V.
    January 25, 2009

    Gotchaye:
    Have you read any of Steven Pinker’s work? He organizes and articulates these concepts brilliantly. *cue the anti Pinker crowd*

    (Most of my stuff was directed at Facilis & Heddle)

    SC is wonderfully regimented in her logic and her grasp of these ideas. (She must be a great teacher because she is patient and succinct. She tried to get you to specifically clarify your analogies point by point and asks you to rearticulate them with a (?) rather than snark.)
    Sastra cuts to the heart of the argument as well.
    Carefully read their arguments and mull it over. And Pinker, don’t forget Pinker.

  431. #431 Ken Cope
    January 25, 2009

    I’m watching and learning, as ever, from SC and Sastra, who are articulating everything I was trying to say with more clarity and less snark. I’m mostly confused about the way Gotchaye is presenting his case, and what it is, although it sounds like he’s talking Chalmers where the rest of us are with Dennett.

    This may help: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greedy_reductionism

  432. #432 Nerd of Redhead
    January 25, 2009

    Heddle still can’t acknowledge the facts that have been repeatedly presented to him. He just refuses to see anything against his world view. So he is wasting our time, and we are wasting his.

  433. #433 Kel
    January 25, 2009

    Heddle wastes his own time by saying meaningless phrases like “the bible is inerrant” and insisting that the bible and science don’t contradict each other. It seems he’s making the bible a thoroughly useless document by admitting that any flaw is a flaw in interpretation. Usually when one says it’s inerrant, at least there is meaning that can be derived from the inerrant text.

  434. #434 Wowbagger, Grumpy Minimalist
    January 25, 2009

    Kel wrote:

    It seems he’s making the bible a thoroughly useless document…

    Oh, I’m fairly sure the bible is a thoroughly useless document even without heddle’s help…

  435. #435 Ken Cope
    January 25, 2009

    And Pinker, don’t forget Pinker.

    Dennett regards Pinker as a defector to Mysterianism…

    “It’s hard work solving the hard problem of consciousness…”

  436. #436 Patricia, OM
    January 25, 2009

    I’d love to stick around and type up about 50 examples of bible contradictions for that pompous ass Heddle, but I’m not going to miss watching ‘The Last Templar’.

    So good night sweethearts. If this is still going in the morning I’ll show him some of his inerrant bullshit.

    (Wow, he really pisses me off…I need to examine that.)
    Good night!

  437. #437 Kel
    January 25, 2009

    Oh, I’m fairly sure the bible is a thoroughly useless document even without heddle’s help…

    lol

  438. #438 Gotchaye
    January 25, 2009

    I’m looking over what SC is saying, and I don’t really disagree. I think I’ve horribly expressed some things (I freely admit to being a mediocre writer at best), but I’m not sure that we have much of a disagreement. If we do disagree, it seems to me to be over something that’s rather inconsequential, and probably isn’t worth the pages more it would take to hash out.

    To really try hard: I don’t have a much of a philosophical objection to saying that all consciousness is brain activity. My feeling is just that that’s not much of an explanation for some aspects of what we call consciousness (the subjective bits), but I don’t think that there exists a better explanation and I don’t think that it matters that it’s not a perfect explanation, so it’s just not a big deal.

    Thanks for trying to make sense of my writing, though.

    EV: I couldn’t tell you what Pinker thought about any given subject, but I know I’ve read things from him and thought that he had his head on pretty straight. I’ll try looking him up again.

  439. #439 Ken Cope
    January 25, 2009

    Why let heddle piss you off, Patricia, when it’s just as easy to point and laugh? In contrast to us hell-bound sinners, heddle thinks he was personally picked to be a co-conspirator in God’s supernatural shenanigans, but he isn’t 5150, like somebody who knows he’s on a mission from God would be, because he’s a scientist with faith! There is no conflict between science and religion (well, his religion, anyway) and the bible is inerrant! Cognitive dissonance is not for the elect.

  440. #440 SC, OM
    January 26, 2009

    (Wow – thank you so much, Ken and E.V.! Honestly, I’m really far afield. I usually don’t comment in these discussions, but I’m interested and a lot of what I keep hearing about consciousness just baffles me. I’m far too ignorant on the subject to be snarky.)

    It seems like a major problem is that this continues to be thought of as primarily a philosophical rather than an evolutionary-biological problem. Like Lucretius was a brilliant start for the biological understanding of consciousness, but then Christianity appeared and did away with that, and now it’s never returned to its proper sphere. I just don’t see why consciousness is any different from any other evolved human capacity, especially since we’ve seen how it’s related to brain functioning.

    I also don’t understand why so many people seem so interested in variation and seem to believe that it’s possible that our experiences of consciousness could be so vastly different. We evolved on the same planet and share the same basic sense organs, neuronal networks, etc. Why would anyone think that we’re living in some sort of independent realities?

    I figure that most of the confusion has to do with my use of ‘consciousness-as-process’ and ‘consciousness-in-itself’. As I’m using the terms, consciousness-as-process is consciousness insofar as it impinges on the interpersonal world. It’s what neuroscience can study.

    I don’t find this distinction useful or accurate. It strikes me as really exaggerated. We evolved as a species. Our subjective experiences of consciousness are not likely to be substantially different (barring drugs, brain damage, etc.). Our subjective consciousnesses are simply individual cases of the general capacity for consciousness which evolved in both a social context and in interacting with the physical environment. Why try to draw a line here?

    Observations of consciousness-as-process are objective.

    Seems to me they’re more like intersubjective. (But consciousness itself is intersubjective, developing in a sociocultural context.)

    If one person is in an MRI machine, and one person is sitting next to him, we can prick the first guy with a needle and make some observations – parts of his brain light up, he flinches, he self-reports pain, etc. In principle, human action can be understood entirely mechanically in this fashion, and likewise for the content of our thoughts.

    This seems simplified and strange, especially the addition of the last phrase, but OK.

    Consciousness-in-itself, on the other hand, is consciousness insofar as it is purely subjective.

    But it’s never purely subjective.

    When something happens to me, I make the same observations, plus some others (how the event ‘feels’ to me). Go back to the example I gave earlier. While they share many observations of the pin-jabbing, they each also make several observations which aren’t shared. The person in the MRI machine has a direct experience of pain that the other doesn’t (he ‘feels’ pain),

    Well, yes. I don’t know why you would put “feels” in quotes here, though, unless you’re suggesting that subjective experiences of pain are wholly idiosyncratic, but that doesn’t make sense. How do you think you in that situation understand what pain is and how not to apply too much?

    for example, and each of them perceive themselves as being in a unique location.

    Aren’t they?

    That is, each of them experiences a unique self that sees out of the eyes of a particular body that experience different sensations.

    Their selves may be unique, but that doesn’t mean that their consciousnesses have no relationship, either evolutionarily or in that particular context. You seem to think there’s something pure and isolated about subjective consciousness (even that defines it as such), but I don’t see it.

    Of course, we can’t say that without making some assumptions, such as that there’s an external world and that we’re not the only consciousness out there. But, by making this assumption, we’ve already granted that consciousness-in-itself is.

    I wouldn’t say these are assumptions, but reasonable beliefs based on the evidence we have.

    What’s called the hard problem of consciousness is, as I understand it, the problem of accounting for our experiences differing based on whether or not something happens to us or to someone else – it’s the problem of explaining what it means to be an ‘I’ and how an ‘I’ can exist.

    I see this as a problem for evolutionary biology (and other sciences), but as I said above, I don’t see what makes this so seemingly intractable. Again, I wouldn’t think it necessarily an unexpected development in evolution.

    Dennett’s position seems to me to be that there is no such thing as consciousness-in-itself, leaving him with the (to us obvious) claim that everything else can be explained physically.

    Is he really saying that? That there’s no such thing as the subjective experience of consciousness?

    I can’t agree with him here (though he’s certainly more an expert than I am) because of what I’ve tried to explain above – understanding consciousness as identical to consciousness-as-process doesn’t seem to leave us with any way to explain differences in perspective other than the (I think empty) claim that unique perspectives are just what brains do,

    Why do you see this as empty? Why do you see it as simply a claim at all, and not the basis for a research agenda?

    which makes it seem to me that he’s not rejecting consciousness-in-itself but just saying that it too can be explained physically (that’s what I get out of Novella’s thing, but wikipedia says that Dennett rejects qualia altogether).

    This sounds more correct, although I’m still not getting the “it too” – I’m not understanding which aspects of consciousness you don’t think can/can’t be explained physically and why.

    I don’t see what good such an explanation of consciousness-in-itself is, as opposed to an explanation of consciousness-as-process, which is very useful and has much explanatory power. However, I don’t think we need an explanation.

    On what basis are you separating these? Where does the useful program with the great explanatory power end and the area that doesn’t require or lend itself to explanation begin?

    To make science (and normal life) possible, we assume the existence of an objective world, among other things.

    I don’t think this is an assumption but a rational response to experience; and it doesn’t require any work – the external world has been the setting for the rise of consciousness. Dealing with it was presumably the reason for the emergence of consciousness.

    This can’t be compelling justified next to the skeptical hypothesis (that we are constantly fooled, or are dreaming, etc), and it obviously can’t be tested in any way.

    I don’t find such a hypothesis at all interesting. Is there any evidence for it?

    we assume there is one as a necessary precondition of doing science. (aside: SC, you mentioned that you thought that experiments confirmed for us that there’s an external world – I’m never heard this before and don’t understand why you say this, and I’d much appreciate further explanation on this point).

    I guess I just find this whole formulation kind of odd. Science engages with it – it doesn’t assume it. Are our shared interactions with an external reality not evidence for its existence? I mean, I can’t just assume anything I want about it at my whim, right?

    Likewise, when we develop a theory of mind we discard solipsism. We assume (it again isn’t testable) that these bodies we see walking around have minds behind them and aren’t just automata (we deny that there are p zombies).

    Why do you think we think (not assume) this? Why would we think otherwise?

    That is, we assume that when we jab them with pins and they say “ow”, they ‘feel’ something like we do when we get jabbed with pins.

    Isn’t this likely, given our shared physical characteristics? Beyond the fact that they can describe the sensation, we can study the underlying physiology in ourselves and others (and other organisms). This is a reasonable belief based on evidence rather than a simple assumption.

    And so we don’t have to try to explain why subjective experience exists.

    I don’t think you’ve shown this.

    It’s enough to study consciousness-as-process, and we can consider our understanding to be complete with that.

    It will be complete with that, because that’s what consciousness is. But this isn’t simple – it goes well beyond pinpricks. Why do you think we can’t find anything out about the sense of self?

    Very very short version: G.E. Moore’s proof of an external world works just as well for explaining consciousness-in-itself. It simply is, and we need not posit a mechanism that causes us to ‘feel’ certain ways when our brains fire in certain patterns, nor is any hypothetical mechanism at all testable.

    I am still not understanding why you’re insisting on this point. You appear to have a very reduced idea of what neuroscience is capable or potentially capable of.

    I think that one way in which I’m failing to make myself clear here is that people are interpreting me as saying that we can’t talk about specific patterns of brain activity causing (or at least correlating perfectly) with the particular emotions we feel and the particular thoughts we have, etc. I’m not saying that. I’m just saying that it’s not necessary or possible to speculate on the mechanism behind that, and that there’s no sense in trying to get a deeper explanation than that.

    Sigh. Than what? Why not? It’s not just speculation. It’s hypotheses about mechanisms based on research and themselves subject to research. There’s perfect sense in it.

    provided people haven’t jumped on me for it by then.

    Dude, this is Pharyngula.

  441. #441 Gotchaye
    January 26, 2009

    Dude, this is Pharyngula.
    Yes, I’m picking up on that.

    If you’re willing to continue this, I’ll certainly try to go line by line through that last response, though that’ll have to wait until tomorrow.

  442. #442 SC, OM
    January 26, 2009

    I’m looking over what SC is saying, and I don’t really disagree. I think I’ve horribly expressed some things (I freely admit to being a mediocre writer at best), but I’m not sure that we have much of a disagreement. If we do disagree, it seems to me to be over something that’s rather inconsequential, and probably isn’t worth the pages more it would take to hash out.

    Oh, sure – now ya tell me! :)

  443. #443 SC, OM
    January 26, 2009

    If you’re willing to continue this, I’ll certainly try to go line by line through that last response, though that’ll have to wait until tomorrow.

    Sure. I’ll leave it up to you.

  444. #444 CJO
    January 26, 2009

    SC:
    Is he [Dennett] really saying that? That there’s no such thing as the subjective experience of consciousness?

    No, he absolutely is not. It’s a cariacature, similar to creationists’ oh-so-clever straw man slogans for evolution like “goo to you.” Repeating it is basically a way that people (I’m looking at you, Neil B.) consider themselves absolved of the responsibility to read and make a good faith effort to understand what he’s saying.

    Gotchaye:
    wikipedia says that Dennett rejects qualia altogether

    He rejects the term “qualia” as archaic, useless and obfuscatory, and he makes cogent arguments for his position. He’s not denying that experience has a subjective element, he’s rejecting the properties that are traditionally ascribed to subjectivity by the various purveyers of the concept of qualia, and attempting to show the opposing view to be wedded to lingering dualist preconceptions about the nature of mind. He deals quite explicitly with the crude cariacature of his stance used by his opponents in both Consciousness Explained and Freedom Evolves.

  445. #445 heddle
    January 26, 2009

    SC, OM,

    You obviously won’t accept the notion of a fundamental incompatibility as it’s been pointed out in the original post/article and to you repeatedly on this thread (and your ignoring it hasn’t helped you to be more convincing or made it go away).

    Because either side of this question can be ?pointed out.? As I said, I can ?point out? why religious belief might be helpful to a scientist. I can ?point out? that maybe PZ or Dawkins would be better scientists if they converted to Christianity. Many things can be pointed out. I?m asking for the point to be demonstrated with evidence.

    How absurd. Are you and Collins the only scientists in the world?

    That is a very awful comeback. Collins was an example. As I said I?ll give you ten (or 20, or 30) modern peer-reviewed first-rate journal articles half of which are from believers (and not me or Collins) and you tell me which are from believers. I didn?t answer that ?just you and Collins?? because it was disengenuous.

    Are you seriously suggesting these beliefs have not interfered with doing science or with science education?

    You might be saying (I’m not sure): there are Dembski?s, etc. Which is true. But they aren?t acting as scientists. They have an anti-science agenda. There are also anti-science nuts on the left, post modernists, deconstructionists, Afro-centrists, etc. There is Sam Harris. I assume you would suggest that his mysticism will be detramental to his scientific carrer, if he ever has one? The Dembskis of the world are not scientists, they just have a science education. I?m talking about theist scientists who choose to do science?that is who chose to use the scientific method professionally.

    What empirical evidence is acceptable to you concerning outcomes, and why do you get to pick and choose?

    I suggested one test: pick out which papers were written by believers. I?m open to another experimental suggestion.

    John Morales

    This is empirical evidence:”A letter published in Nature in 1998 reported a survey suggesting that belief in a personal god or afterlife was at an all-time low among the members of the U.S. National Academy of Science, only 7.0% of whom believed in a personal god as compared with more than 85%

    No that is not evidence for the point in question. That might be evidence for the claim that unbelievers are smarter than believers, or that unfortunately many smart believers are steered away from science by Christian schools, or the disregard for science in many Christian colleges, or that really smart people are confident enough to proclaim their disbelief, or these and many other effects, but it has nothing at all to do with an incompatibility. Now take those 7% in the NAS that do admit their beliefs and demonstrate that their science is empirically different from the other 93%.

  446. #446 John Morales
    January 26, 2009

    Heddle, you cut off the relevant part of the quote that referred to the correlation. Tsk.

    Here’s another reference: Leading scientists still reject God.

  447. #447 heddle
    January 26, 2009

    John Morales,

    No you are missing the boat. Let?s grant that really smart people tend to be unbelievers. I never claimed there was the same percentage of believers in the general population of scientists as in the NAS. I claimed that (regardless of their representation) you cannot detect any ill effect of a theist scientist’s beliefs on his work. That statement is not related to the percentage of NAS believers.

    By the way if the percentage of blacks/women in the NAS is different than in the general population of scientists (I have no clue if it is) would you see that as evidence that blackness or femaleness is antagonistic to science? Or if those groups have a higher percentage representation in the NAS, that male waspiness is antagonistic to science?

  448. #448 John Morales
    January 26, 2009

    Heddle, the relevant factor in my links was educational level and scientific credentials, not intelligence – though I grant the latter is relevant to the former.

    You write

    I claimed that (regardless of their representation) you cannot detect any ill effect of a theist scientist’s beliefs on his work.

    PZ wrote

    The question is not whether a person is capable of swiveling between the church pew and the lab bench, but whether religion can tolerate scientific scrutiny, and whether science can thrive under dogma.

    They are different claims (unless you think theist scientists hold religion to scientific scrutiny, or that dogma does not contradict scientific claims).
    I certainly don’t dispute that theistic scientists can do top-quality science, despite their faith; this is because they can compartmentalise their beliefs within each domain.

    By the way if the percentage of blacks/women in the NAS is different than in the general population of scientists (I have no clue if it is) would you see that as evidence that blackness or femaleness is antagonistic to science?

    I might if that were the only relevant factor, but this is not the case. I see two salient issues here: first, beliefs are malleable upon exposure to further evidence and upon reflection, unlike gender or genetic phenotype – blacks/women cannot change that attribute*, unlike religious believers; second, I am under the impression that blacks/women are under-represented in the upper echelons of most professional spheres, due to historical social prejudice.
    I further note that, in the centuries since the process of science was established, the social prejudice has been against unbelievers, yet the evidence I referred to is that the proportion of such in that sphere is significantly greater than in the population at large.

    Do you really think this is of no significance?


    * Leaving aside sex-change operations! :)

  449. #449 heddle
    January 26, 2009

    John Morales,

    I might if that were the only relevant factor

    And you studied all the relevant factors that might contribute to underrepresentation of believers in the NAS?

    PZ wrote,

    The question is not whether a person is capable of swiveling between the church pew and the lab bench, but whether religion can tolerate scientific scrutiny, and whether science can thrive under dogma.

    That is just the same-old same-old red-herring, compartmentalization BS. It’s like a political editorial. If you already agree, you nod your head as you read. But PZ is dead wrong. The question really is whether a person can swivel between the church pew and the lab bench. That is the important question. That is the only question. Science is a meritocracy. There is no crying in science. What you believe doesn’t matter. Whether you bathe doesn’t matter. Whether you are a bad parent doesn’t matter. Whether you are addicted to porn doesn’t matter. Whether you are gay doesn’t matter. Whether you are a guru in eastern mysticism in your spare time doesn’t matter. Whether you are a drug addict doesn’t matter. Whether you believe what you are doing is not “true” doesn’t matter. All that matters is what you produce.

  450. #450 Stephen Wells
    January 26, 2009

    Heddle, pause to consider that we can only get any science done at all because of victories previously won against dogma.

  451. #451 heddle
    January 26, 2009

    Stephen Wells,

    Really, what victories are those? What victories were won against dogma in the US in the 19th and 20th centuries that were (demonstrably–not more editorializing) required for the advancement of science?

    Because unless you can make an actual case, I can counter with my own speculative dot-connecting, such as: The Protestant Work Ethic fueled capitalism and created the wealth needed to fund science on a large scale. It allowed people who would have been laborers to enter university and study science. The Protestant Work Ethic resulted from Calvinism. Therefore Calvinism was necessary for the advancement of science.

    I don’t believe that (too simplistic), but I don’t think you can come up with anything more falsifiable to back up your claim.

  452. #452 SC, OM
    January 26, 2009

    One clarification from above:

    Our subjective experiences of consciousness are not likely to be substantially different (barring drugs, brain damage, etc.).

    Of course, the effects on our subjective consciousness of drugs and different sorts of brain damage don’t seem to differ substantially across us as organisms It’s more evidence that consciousness is a species-property.

    ***

    Heddle!

    You obviously won’t accept the notion of a fundamental incompatibility as it’s been pointed out in the original post/article and to you repeatedly on this thread (and your ignoring it hasn’t helped you to be more convincing or made it go away).

    Because either side of this question can be ?pointed out.? As I said, I can ?point out? why religious belief might be helpful to a scientist…I?m asking for the point to be demonstrated with evidence.

    No, you’re simply avoiding the arguments that I and many others have made.

    That’s the whole point! From a scientific point of view, it’s not OK. Beliefs have to be consistent with and supported by empirical evidence.

    Do you disagree with this? If so, why? Do you think it’s limited to specific beliefs or types of beliefs? If so, which, and why?

    You hold mutually-contradictory positions: the scientific view that beliefs should be based on evidence and the view that the Bible is the inerrant word of God that should be believed even without supporting evidence or in the face of contrary evidence and that, in case of a conflict, takes precedence over the evidence of science and history. The belief-without-supporting evidence part you’ve still not addressed (well, I guess “Intellectually I would say that if the bible is not infallible (as in the Chicago Statement) then how can we trust any of the promises it contains? Theologically I think it is because of faith, and that being a gift of God” was a partial pathetic stab at it). The second part you claim doesn’t come up for you personally, so the contradiction can be denied by you in the everyday practice of your particular research, but you’ve admitted that it’s there. It’s still there even if you refuse to recognize any substantive conflicts.

    …Once again, I can agree with it [the Chicago Statement's assertion of Biblical authority in the case of conflicts with science and history] because it [the set of perceived conflicts] is in my view a statement about the null set.

    It doesn’t matter! It is incompatible at root. The affirmation that an authoritative text is to be believed over the empirical evidence is contrary to science, as is the contention that beliefs (about the existence of a deity, the inerrancy of the Bible, or its truth claims) can be justifiably sustained when they are lacking evidentiary support or contrary to the evidence.

    Do you disagree with any of this? Why? Does the evidentiary standard of science not apply to scriptural truth claims? If not, why not?

    Imagine a small country has a constitution that stated that all people had equal rights, and then a law is passed making it such that gay people do not. Then all of the gay people move out of the country or successfully conceal their sexual orientation. In practice, then, the law denies no one his or her rights. It’s still unconstitutional – contrary to the principle of equality stated in the constitution.

    Do you disagree with this? If so, why? Are you suggesting that if there are closeted gay people who are granted the same rights as everyone else, that renders the law compatible with the constitution?

    Then there’s this:

    How absurd. Are you and Collins the only scientists in the world?

    That is a very awful comeback. Collins was an example.

    Yes, an example you handpicked as a means of evading the issue of religious interference with science, after I pointed to the long history of it.

    Are you seriously suggesting these beliefs have not interfered with doing science or with science education?

    You might be saying (I’m not sure): there are Dembski?s, etc. Which is true. But they aren?t acting as scientists. They have an anti-science agenda.

    But that’s (one part of) the crux of the thing! You’ve merely excluded them by fiat from consideration in the matter of the relationship between religion and science so you can say that you see no conflict. Religion has an antiscience agenda. You can’t use a tunnel vision that reduces science to work published in peer-reviewed journals, as if that were all there was to the matter.

    There are also anti-science nuts on the left, post modernists, deconstructionists, Afro-centrists, etc. There is Sam Harris.

    Interesting – you’re acknowledging that religion is of the right? How so? Anyway, I’m not sure how you’re defining each of these groups/idea-systems (or why you’re suggesting they’re all necessarily of the left), but in any case you’re not helping your cause any. I’d be really interested to hear your explanation of precisely how one of these belief systems, as you define it, is incompatible with or antagonistic to science. If you did so, and I stipulated that this incompatibility existed, would finding, say, postmodernist scientists who do solid published work make the incompatibility disappear? Why not?

    I assume you would suggest that his mysticism will be detramental to his scientific carrer, if he ever has one?

    I don’t know much about his particular flavor of mysticism, and I have no idea what would be its effects on his career, but I do think many (all?) forms of mysticism are incompatible with the practice of science (I’m sure there are caveats here, but whatever). Heck, what I’ve been saying above about a scientific approach to consciousness – that it has been hindered by unscientific ideas and especially dualistic thinking – applies to all forms of this, not just those associated with Christianity.

    The Dembskis of the world are not scientists, they just have a science education. I?m talking about theist scientists who choose to do science?that is who chose to use the scientific method professionally.

    I know, and your method of displacing the question is illegitimate.

    What empirical evidence is acceptable to you concerning outcomes, and why do you get to pick and choose?

    I suggested one test: pick out which papers were written by believers. I?m open to another experimental suggestion.

    And that was my question: Why do you think you can pick and choose what is significant evidence and ignore everything else? Your suggestion is silly for several reasons – aside from the fact that no one is denying that theistic scientists (or some subset thereof) can compartmentalize, published papers have gone through peer review which weeds out the bad and the unscientific. Further, your little experiement excludes many of the cases I described above – religious people who don’t go into science at all or into specific fields because of their beliefs, or don’t do (or follow honestly) research in areas or on questions that directly impinge upon their beliefs, or accept and seek to publish findings that are at odds with their beliefs. Not to mention the interference of religious nonscientists and institutions in science.

    Furthermore, affirming the statement has never:
    1) Caused me to decline participation in a nuclear physics experiement.
    2) Caused me to reject any experimental result in nuclear physics.
    3) Tempted me to explain any anomalous data by invoking the supernatural.

    So where the hell does this incompatibility manifest itself? You can repeat that it exists until the cows come home, but it?s just words, nothing more.

    Come on, heddle. Even if the fundamental incompatibility weren’t there, we all know this isn’t true in all fields of science (neuroscience, biology, archaeology,…). These beliefs have certainly caused others to deny scientific results, to avoid doing or reading about research that challenges Biblical truth claims, to avoid going into science at all, to do biased or shoddy research to support their beliefs, or to misinterpret others’ research results to suit their beliefs.

    But again, even if this were not the case, the fundamental incompatibility would still remain.

    I ask again: Are you seriously suggesting this isn’t the case? That if we look over the past centuries of science we’re not going to see this all over the place? That religious beliefs and religious interference haven’t hindered the development of scientific knowledge or science education in numerous fields?

    [Please don't confine your response solely to these latter issues, which aren't as important as those raised at the beginning. By the way, have you listened to the radio broadcast about inerrancy? If so, what did you think?]

  453. #453 SC, OM
    January 26, 2009

    I can counter with my own speculative dot-connecting, such as: The Protestant Work Ethic fueled capitalism and created the wealth needed to fund science on a large scale. It allowed people who would have been laborers to enter university and study science. The Protestant Work Ethic resulted from Calvinism. Therefore Calvinism was necessary for the advancement of science.

    I don’t believe that (too simplistic),

    Also wrong. Even if you accept Weber’s argument, the capitalism/wealth-creation/science-promotion nexus doesn’t hold up under scrutiny, as Kropotkin explained a century ago and studies of the history of science make clear. But that’s a question for another time. Got anything else?

  454. #454 KnockGoats
    January 26, 2009

    I laughed when I saw “secular reason” though. What an oxymoron.(As proven by this thread- http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/01/im_in_good_company.php)

    Good grief. Moron Facilis actually thinks he won the argument because he was willing to go on repeating the same piece of crap indefinitely, despite numerous refutations.

  455. #455 SC, OM
    January 26, 2009

    As I said, I can ?point out? why religious belief might be helpful to a scientist…

    OK. Go ahead. You claimed above that the Bible tells people to go do science. Where do you find that? How do you square that interpretation with some of the passages and writings people have pointed to above, or with the larger message of faith without evidence? Are you just saying that people can find inspiration in their religious beliefs or ideas? Inspiration can come from anywhere, just as the drive to understand the universe has a number of sources. Are you suggesting there’s something specific to religion (or Christianity) that’s an advantage in doing good science, and that it nullifies the larger incompatibility issues raised above? How?

  456. #456 Sastra
    January 26, 2009

    heddle #449 wrote:

    PZ wrote,

    The question is not whether a person is capable of swiveling between the church pew and the lab bench, but whether religion can tolerate scientific scrutiny, and whether science can thrive under dogma.

    That is just the same-old same-old red-herring, compartmentalization BS. It’s like a political editorial. If you already agree, you nod your head as you read. But PZ is dead wrong. The question really is whether a person can swivel between the church pew and the lab bench. That is the important question. That is the only question. Science is a meritocracy. There is no crying in science. What you believe doesn’t matter. Whether you bathe doesn’t matter.

    No, the problem is not “whether a person can swivel between the church pew and the lab bench.” It’s whether the church pew can be harmonized with the lab bench. There’s one set of beliefs for religion, and a different set of beliefs for science — and yet they’re similar kinds of beliefs: fact beliefs about the way the world works.

    Is “the existence of God” a hypothesis? If so, does it stand up under scientific scrutiny?

    If not, then why not? Is the belief that the universe was created by a disembodied intelligence simply a matter of taste, or an aesthetic expression, or an attitude? Would the universe look exactly the same way if it was true, or false?

    The analogies you make to things like bathing and personality are not beliefs. A chemist who believed in homeopathy would indeed be in conflict — unless he was drawing a line. A line between standard chemistry, and what he knows to be true “for his own self,” so that an entirely different system of chemistry must apply to homeopathy — but effect nothing else in chemistry. This is inconsistent. It wouldn’t matter if this chemist can do stellar work in plastics, indistinguishable from his peers, as he swivels from his homeopath to the plastic lab. We’re looking at the larger picture.

    Religious scientists are not doing science “all the way down.” They’re exempting certain claims from the method that tells us to question ourselves, because they’ve got a personal investment and emotional stake in the results. We’re none of us supposed to do that. Scientists have specifically committed themselves to a system which is supposed to prevent them from doing that.

  457. #457 heddle
    January 26, 2009

    SC, OM,

    Tell me ? if beliefs have to be supported by evidence (or, presumably, they are detrimental to one?s science) ? whose beliefs are supported by evidence: a) liberal scientists, b) conservative scientists, c) libertarian scientists, d) Ayn Randian scientists, e) Communist scientists, ? Which of those groups hold beliefs that adversely affect their science?

    Does the evidentiary standard of science not apply to scriptural truth claims? If not, why not?

    It does. For example, regardless of one?s interpretation of Genesis scripture states that the universe began. If it didn?t begin there is a serious problem. Verification of a steady state universe would have been a death blow to those who hold a high view of scripture.

    Imagine a small country has a constitution that stated that all people had equal rights, and then a law is passed making it such that gay people do not. Then all of the gay people move out of the country or successfully conceal their sexual orientation. In practice, then, the law denies no one his or her rights. It’s still unconstitutional – contrary to the principle of equality stated in the constitution. Do you agree with this?

    I neither understand what you are asking nor see the relevance (perhaps I could if I understood it.). If you are asking: do laws that restrict rights to gays violate constitutional protections and guarantees of equal rights for all, I?d say yes. But I don?t see why you are asking.

    Religion has an antiscience agenda.

    No it doesn?t. You sound like your black-helicopter counterparts on the other side who think atheists hold cabals and plot against Christianity. I am in a somewhat rare position of having lived on both sides. I was unbelieving scientist before I was a believing scientist. In my former life I never attended a meeting where we plotted against Christianity. In my new life I never attended a meeting were we plotted against science. And I have taught staunchly pro-science extended adult Sunday Schools at two churches both of which affirm the Chicago Statement on biblical inerrancy, without getting excommunicated. You are imagining things. Some religious people have an anti-science agenda. Religion in toto is no more anti-science than your average unbeliever is anti-Christian. Remember in all movements the radicals get the press. The anti-science religionists like Ken Ham or Dembski or Wells are very much like the New Atheists: a vocal minority mostly preaching to their own choir. They do not represent the mainstream by any stretch of the imagination. You guys can crash polls. All that means is you are a modest sized fish in a small pond.

  458. #458 Nerd of Redhead
    January 26, 2009

    Heddle, still tap dancing like mad. Let’s just say you don’t agree with us, but you have no cogent argument to convice us you are right. In fact, all the evidence says you are wrong. Then what?

  459. #459 heddle
    January 26, 2009

    Sastra,

    Religious scientists are not doing science “all the way down.” They’re exempting certain claims from the method that tells us to question ourselves, because they’ve got a personal investment and emotional stake in the results.

    Which claims? What claim am I exempting? Certainly not the “does God exist” claim. No exemption there. I don’t know what experiment you can perform, but if you have one: go for it. Can religious belief be linked to mental illness? go for it. Cosmology? Test everything you come up with. Origin of life? I strongly support OOL research. So what is being exempted?

    As an aside, I would never claim to do science “all the way down” no matter if I am a believer or not. I don’t know exactly what it means, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t claim it.

    Just saying these things doesn’t make them true.

  460. #460 KnockGoats
    January 26, 2009

    Soon everyone will realise atheists can’t account for induction. – Facilis

    Look you fucking moron, it is well-known that induction is invalid – that is, the premises can be true and the conclusion false. So what the blithering shit do you even think you’re babbling about here?

  461. #461 Facilis
    January 26, 2009

    @Sastra
    The transcendental argument and its persuasion is really a matter of pride.. You see depraved sinners are at enmity with God and out of their pride they refuse to submit their reason to God.
    My job is just to show them how futile autonomous reasoning fails. But those who are prideful will probably not submit. I think there is an inherent hypocrisy in autonomous reasoning. Hume could not present any kind of solution to the problem of induction, but continued eating every day, inducing that food was good for his body.People here continue to make knowledge claims even though they said that atheism makes it impossible to know anything for certain. I just hope I get people to realise how self-defeating and inconsistent atheism is.

  462. #462 heddle
    January 26, 2009

    Nerd of the Redhead,

    Do you have anything beyond your repeated argument, an argument that consists of no more than small variations of this theme: heddle, we really smart people who comment on Pharyngula all know you are wrong. Why don’t you just admit it?

    If not, you can assume that I know you position.

  463. #463 Facilis
    January 26, 2009

    Look you fucking moron, it is well-known that induction is invalid

    But inductive reasoning is one of the backbones of the scientific method.So the scientific method is invalid?
    You have just denied all science knockGoats. Atheism is anti-science.

  464. #464 Facilis
    January 26, 2009

    And as to the people talking about faith, faith is merely trust in God and his revelation.
    “My faith justifies my reason; my reason justifies my faith”
    — Greg Bahnsen

  465. #465 Nerd of Redhead
    January 26, 2009

    Facilis, wrong per usual. So inverting your position, atheism is pro-science. Sounds about right. Maybe one of these days, when your brain actually starts working, will you get something right. Until then, you are our fool.

  466. #466 Alyson Miers
    January 26, 2009

    My job is just to show them how futile autonomous reasoning fails. But those who are prideful will probably not submit. I think there is an inherent hypocrisy in autonomous reasoning.

    Facilis the Fallacious is still serving up word salad! My job, meanwhile, is to point and laugh. “inherent hypocrisy in autonomous reasoning,” hee hee! *snorfle*

  467. #467 Facilis
    January 26, 2009

    @Gotchaye

    To make science (and normal life) possible, we assume the existence of an objective world, among other things.

    And this assumption is not justified according to your worldview.

    and it obviously can’t be tested in any way.

    neither can the “objective reality ” idea.

    But we do it anyway. And so we don’t expect science to ever compellingly explain what caused (or why) an objective world exists at all – we assume there is one as a necessary precondition of doing science.

    I elaborate on what this necessary pre-condition is in this thread
    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/01/im_in_good_company.php

  468. #468 Nerd of Redhead
    January 26, 2009

    Heddle, do you have any cogent argument, other than I know I am right? I think not either. We are unconvince of your tap dancing. So what is your point for continuing the argument?

  469. #469 Feynmaniac
    January 26, 2009

    Facilis,

    But inductive reasoning is one of the backbones of the scientific method.So the scientific method is invalid?

    Your ignorance continues to show. The ‘problem is induction’ is well known and hardly anyone in the sciences thinks inductive reasoning is valid. A lot, if not most, people subscribe to Falsifiability.

  470. #470 Nerd of Redhead
    January 26, 2009

    Facilis the Fallacious Fool. Your precondition has been disproven. Repeating it merely says you are stupid. Now, if you want to convince us that you have any intelligence, acknowledge the refutation.

  471. #471 Janine, Leftist Bozo
    January 26, 2009

    Dumb fuck at #464 is quoting someone that he never read. It is time to stop debating the fool, it is only a death spiral.

  472. #472 Sven DiMilo
    January 26, 2009

    heddle, as you know, I have many times defended your right and ability to do and teach exemplary science regardless of your personal beliefs. (I understand that there are scientists out there who actually root for the Browns; how anti-empirical can you get?)
    But I don’t understand this:

    What claim am I exempting? Certainly not the “does God exist” claim. No exemption there. I don’t know what experiment you can perform, but if you have one: go for it.

    The point about compartmentalization and doing science all the way down, etc. is not that you exempt the question of a god’s existence from scientific scrutiny (though it’s sophistry to both claim that you are open to evidence while asserting–correctly–that such evidence is impossible.)
    The point is that you belive in your particular god’s existence for demonstrably unscientific reasons, presumably some kind of personal revelation. That belief is not predicated on repeatable observations subject to logical analysis and is therefore unscientific. I feel certain that you admit to this. This is the sense in which religious belief and scientific method are incompatible. It is the religious belief itself that is fundamentally ascientific. But you are, of course, correct that ascientific beliefs need not interfere in any way with the pursuit of scientific knowledge. I also suspect that all scientists harbor some ascientific (in this sense) beliefs. Personally, i believe strongly that Miles Davis and Jerry Garcia were two of the finest musicians of my lifetime, though I do not claim that my personal musical preferences are scientific in any way.
    Agree with all of this and I don’t think there’s anything left to discuss.

  473. #473 SC, OM
    January 26, 2009

    Oh, for fuck’s sake, heddle. I’m tired of this. I’ve tried to respond fully and honestly to your posts. I asked you a series of questions, and you picked and chose a few out of the batch, evading the real issues. It’s really dishonest, and insulting to me after I’ve taken the time to put together detailed responses.

    Tell me ? if beliefs have to be supported by evidence…whose beliefs are supported by evidence: a) liberal scientists, b) conservative scientists, c) libertarian scientists, d) Ayn Randian scientists, e) Communist scientists, ? Which of those groups hold beliefs that adversely affect their science?

    According to the scientific approach, any fact claims about the world have to be supported by and consistent with evidence. This doesn’t end at the lab, but includes social and political claims, etc. You’ve given me a series of categories. Individuals in all of them, if they’re making truth claims in any context, have to support them with evidence. Any systems that hold that certain beliefs about the world or types of beliefs about the world are exempted from the evidentiary requirement or that so-called sacred or authoritative texts are above or immune to it are contrary to science.

    Does the evidentiary standard of science not apply to scriptural truth claims? If not, why not?

    It does. For example, regardless of one?s interpretation of Genesis scripture states that the universe began. If it didn?t begin there is a serious problem. Verification of a steady state universe would have been a death blow to those who hold a high view of scripture.

    And what about all of the other truth claims made in the Bible? Are you suggesting that only those that haven’t been shown to be wrong are actual claims “regardless of one?s interpretation”? How convenient, and how utterly transparent.

    Imagine a small country has a constitution that stated that all people had equal rights, and then a law is passed making it such that gay people do not. Then all of the gay people move out of the country or successfully conceal their sexual orientation. In practice, then, the law denies no one his or her rights. It’s still unconstitutional – contrary to the principle of equality stated in the constitution. Do you agree with this?

    I neither understand what you are asking nor see the relevance (perhaps I could if I understood it.). If you are asking: do laws that restrict rights to gays violate constitutional protections and guarantees of equal rights for all, I?d say yes. But I don?t see why you are asking.

    Are you being intentionally dense? I’m making an analogy to show you what I mean by a fundamental contradiction:

    constitutional principle of equal rights = principles of science

    anti-equal-rights-for-gays law = religious beliefs (faith without evidence, exclusion of domains from scientific consideration, belief in the authority of sacred texts above or without empirical evidence)

    gay people who’ve left or are hiding their sexual orientation = religious people who don’t go into science or certain fields due to their beliefs or working scientists who compartmentalize

    If you say “do laws that restrict rights to gays violate constitutional protections and guarantees of equal rights for all, I?d say yes,” then you’ve answered the question. Now you just have to acknowledge explicitly that they do so even if individuals can behave in ways that allow them to avoid dealing with or facing the personal consequences of this violation. Get it?

    Religion has an antiscience agenda.

    No it doesn?t. You sound like your black-helicopter counterparts on the other side who think atheists hold cabals and plot against Christianity…

    Now this really makes me furious. Of course that wasn’t what I was saying. You plucked that sentence out and spun it in the most bizarre manner possible. I was simply asserting that there’s a fundamental incompatibility, vs. your assertion that it’s merely a matter of a few kooky individuals. Ignore that sentence, and answer the freakin’ questions I asked. Please.

  474. #474 Ken Cope
    January 26, 2009

    Religion has an antiscience agenda.

    No it doesn?t. You sound like your black-helicopter counterparts on the other side who think atheists hold cabals and plot against Christianity.

    Stem cell research in America has been federally unfunded in a base appeal to the secular humanist population, and religious ideologues are underrepresented on school boards across the country, so America’s population leads the world in science education and science literacy.

    You go ahead and believe whatever the FCC you want to heddle, you and facilis. He’s one of yours. You’re on his side.

  475. #475 KnockGoats
    January 26, 2009

    Feynmaniac@234,
    Great! Molly-winning stuff.

  476. #476 E.V.
    January 26, 2009

    You guys can crash polls. All that means is you are a modest sized fish in a small pond.

    That’s it? That’s your beef?
    You want us to validate your irrationality or just shut up?
    Heddle, you compartmentalize contradictory points of view and then claim there is no conflict and then are livid when anyone else points out how irrational that is. I’ve figure it out, you just want to silence anyone who could expose that you to be naked in a cognitively dissonant sense.
    You’re faith is irrational by definition. You can believe in gods, miracles, elves and fairies -whatever, it is your right. But when you declare there is no conflict between faith/belief in the supernatural and science, which is rooted in the material world and has never been able to substantiate any claims of supernatural “miracles”, then you’re delusional or a con man.

    In essence, this is all just a big game of “take it back!” to you. “PZ and those other guys are saying I can’t have my cake and eat it too!” Actually, you can, but you have to acknowledge the fact that faith is merely belief without evidence and is in direct conflict with empiricism and rationalism.
    Provide extraordinary evidence for just one supposed religious miracle and scientists and science will change forever. Until then, go whine somewhere else.

  477. #477 Sastra
    January 26, 2009

    heddle #459 wrote:

    What claim am I exempting? Certainly not the “does God exist” claim. No exemption there. I don’t know what experiment you can perform, but if you have one: go for it.

    But that’s just the problem, isn’t it? If you approach “God exists” like similar hypothesese, then there would be evidence which counts for it, and evidence which counts against it. It would make testable predictions, or be eliminated as unnecessary. It would be derived from the practice of science, and objectively weighed against natural alternate theories.

    I think you grant that God’s a hypothesis, when you agree that a steady-state universe would and should falsify it. Or would it only falsify one version? Another version could always be invented by defining it around the new evidence.

    Science shouldn’t work that way, as you know. That’s what I mean by science “all the way down.” We’re accusing the theists of a form of Special Pleading.

  478. #478 KnockGoats
    January 26, 2009

    Although I would think that the mere fact that the KJV only types argue that the KJV is more accurate than the Greek manuscripts from which it was translated would make you a little suspicious. – heddle

    Indeed it would. But no more so than ludicrous claims that a virgin woman gave birth, people who were dead some days came back to life, etc., etc.

  479. #479 Sastra
    January 26, 2009

    Facilis #461 wrote:

    My job is just to show them how futile autonomous reasoning fails. But those who are prideful will probably not submit. I think there is an inherent hypocrisy in autonomous reasoning… People here continue to make knowledge claims even though they said that atheism makes it impossible to know anything for certain.

    I agree that “pride” is a large factor here, but I think it lies on the other side.

    Autonomous reasoning does not fail. It allows us to accept necessary relationships (as in logic and math) because they are clear, obvious, and impossible to refute without contradiction. A demand for their “justification” is inconsistent, because the process of justification itself assumes them, and anything else is less obvious. They’re rock bottom basic. You don’t explain something simple with something more complex than what is being explained. So atheists — just like theists — can know analytical truths like A=A, and A =/= Non-A.

    But that’s the only certainty we get. Empirical claims are always working theories, subject to revision, because humans can always be wrong. All humans. Even humans who think they’re following a God which can’t be wrong — because they can be wrong about that. The only way to KNOW that you’re in direct contact with God is to be God.

    Those who are prideful will refuse to recognize the epistemic distance that must lie between themselves, and God. In their hubris, they claim the certainty of God. They have to, in order to claim to know with certainty that God exists.

    Self-defeating and arrogant. Are you God? No? Then knock off the Transcendental Argument, because that’s where it comes to rest. We’re not going to look at you, and pretend that we’re looking at God, because you’re so small you disappear. It doesn’t work that way.

  480. #480 SC, OM
    January 26, 2009

    How did I miss Feynmaniac’s #234 before? Awesome.

  481. #481 heddle
    January 26, 2009

    Sven,

    The point is that you belive in your particular god’s existence for demonstrably unscientific reasons, presumably some kind of personal revelation. That belief is not predicated on repeatable observations subject to logical analysis and is therefore unscientific. I feel certain that you admit to this. This is the sense in which religious belief and scientific method are incompatible.

    Yes that is true. And if that is all that is meant by incompatible then we are in agreement. Two points: 1) that sounds a bit milder than language like ?antagonistic.? 2)?and this of course is my main point, as you point out?this type of incompatibility doesn?t mean much because it doesn?t lead to any deterioration of the scientist-theist?s quality of work.

    So at the end of the day exactly how does this type of incompatibility manifest itself?

    And of course the same criticism can be leveled at anyone?s philosophy?unless, I suppose, the person is a scientist 24/7. Our political views and ethics are not predicated on repeatable observations. What kind of repeatable observation makes someone pro life or pro choice? None. It?s a belief that one or the other is right. So by your definition, it seems to me, political viewpoints are incompatible with science. But I don?t think anyone really believes that liberals make better scientists than libertarians, etc.

    SC, OM,

    I told you I cannot answer all questions. I have no idea which I have ignored, but try asking me one question at a time. I don?t like parsing long posts hoping to pull out the question you are most interested in having me answer.

    And sorry, I still don?t get your political analogy. Just reading your explanation?

    constitutional principle of equal rights = principles of science
    anti-equal-rights-for-gays law = religious beliefs (faith without evidence, exclusion of domains from scientific consideration, belief in the authority of sacred texts above or without empirical evidence)
    gay people who’ve left or are hiding their sexual orientation = religious people who don’t go into science or certain fields due to their beliefs or working scientists who compartmentalize

    Well, analogies should be simple to understand, not so complicated. But you seem satisfied that I answered that question, so maybe that?s an end to it.

    Sastra,

    But that’s just the problem, isn’t it? If you approach “God exists” like similar hypothesese, then there would be evidence which counts for it, and evidence which counts against it. It would make testable predictions, or be eliminated as unnecessary.

    But there are many things I believe without evidence. I have a definite belief as to whether Obama?s trillion dollar stimulus will help or hurt. I have a definite belief on the morality of the Iraq war. I don?t approach ?God exists? like a scientific hypothesis, if for no other reason than I don?t know how to do that experiment or, for that matter, an experiment for any of the examples listed above.

    I think you grant that God’s a hypothesis, when you agree that a steady-state universe would and should falsify it. Or would it only falsify one version? Another version could always be invented by defining it around the new evidence.

    It would, for me, falsify scripture in way for which there could be no hope of reconciliation?which then meant that the promises in scripture are also suspect. And it would destroy, for me, the notion of a creator God. It would destroy my faith. As for others, I obviously cannot say.

    KnockGoats

    But no more so than ludicrous claims that a virgin woman gave birth, people who were dead some days came back to life, etc., etc.

    Fair enough, but in the limited question:

    * Proponents of the modern literal transitions argue that they are made with the benefit of a) improvements in scholarship and b) older manuscripts and so have an advantage over the KJV.

    * Adherents of the KJV-only view claim they are better than the manuscripts from which they were translated.

    You could, intellectually, make a judgment. Or you could just say ?they are all nuts so who cares?? Whatever floats your boat.

  482. #482 Nerd of Redhead
    January 26, 2009

    Heddle is still going tap-a-tap-a-tap-a. He can have a new career if he wants it, taking it on the road.

  483. #483 heddle
    January 26, 2009

    Nerd,

    He can have a new career if he wants it, taking it on the road.

    I don’t need a new career. Ever. Ain’t tenure a bitch?

  484. #484 Nerd of Redhead
    January 26, 2009

    Yeah, tenure can be a bitch. Now, is there a point to continuing the argument? I think everybody, including you, is tired of it, and no minds have been changed. Time for everybody to withdraw.

  485. #485 SC, OM
    January 26, 2009

    So at the end of the day exactly how does this type of incompatibility manifest itself?

    Is this starting to sound like “So at the end of the day where’s all of the evidence for evolution” to anyone else?

    I told you I cannot answer all questions. I have no idea which I have ignored, but try asking me one question at a time. I don?t like parsing long posts hoping to pull out the question you are most interested in having me answer.

    I think you answered one. I asked you to focus on the earlier ones, and you simply responded with a (ludicrous) question of your own. Which I answered.

    Well, analogies should be simple to understand, not so complicated. But you seem satisfied that I answered that question, so maybe that?s an end to it.

    I first used the analogy in a context that should have made its meaning clear to a reasonably intelligent person, I believe. You ignored it and the questions related to it at that time. As I said, you’ve only answered part of it – you’ve acknowledged that such a fundamental contradiction can exist (and I’ll note that this acknowledgement wasn’t based on any evidence of outcomes, in any realm, having been adduced). As I said, though, “Now you just have to acknowledge explicitly that they do so even if individuals can behave in ways that allow them to avoid dealing with or facing the personal consequences of this violation.” Do you acknowledge this?

    I don’t even care anymore if you respond to my other questions. Your evasion is tedious. I doubt I’ll see fit to engage with you in the future.

  486. #486 heddle
    January 26, 2009

    SC, OM,

    Is this starting to sound like “So at the end of the day where’s all of the evidence for evolution” to anyone else?

    Now you are being a jackass. I do not deny there is overwhelming scientific evidence for evolution. I deny there is any evidence for the claim “science and religion are incompatible or antagonistic.”

    “Now you just have to acknowledge explicitly that they do so even if individuals can behave in ways that allow them to avoid dealing with or facing the personal consequences of this violation.” Do you acknowledge this?

    I can’t parse it, so I don’t know if I can acknowledge it.

    I doubt I’ll see fit to engage with you in the future.

    That’s your choice.

  487. #487 heliobates
    January 26, 2009

    Facilis:

    I asked your buddy Sye T. and he couldn’t answer me, so maybe you’ll man up.

    Were is the full treatment of the Universal, Unchanging Laws of Logic and your full theory of truth? Where are they explicitly laid out, with full descriptions and proofs of each law (e.g. “the impossibility of the contrary”) including rules for inference?

    We, quite literally, cannot follow your reasoning without them.

  488. #488 Blake Stacey
    January 26, 2009

    SC, OM (#401):

    Lucretius had much that was intelligent to say on the subject of the mind.

    The more I read Lucretius, the more I respect the man. Lately, I’ve been putting my Latin to use in translating bits of De Rerum Natura; the introduction to Book Four contains a nuanced view of science popularization which certain present-day self-proclaimed authorities [*cough* Marquis de Coiffure *cough*] might do well to study.

  489. #489 SC, OM
    January 26, 2009

    But there are many things I believe without evidence. I have a definite belief as to whether Obama?s trillion dollar stimulus will help or hurt.

    And this, though “definite,” isn’t based on evidence of any sort. Brilliant.

    I have a definite belief on the morality of the Iraq war.

    While moral questions are not themselves the same as fact claims, evidence certainly has an important role to play in making moral judgments – evidence about the reasons people go to war, other options that were available, the historical circumstances leading to a war, who is benefitting and who suffering, how much death and destruction has occurred, etc.

    I don?t approach ?God exists? like a scientific hypothesis, if for no other reason than I don?t know how to do that experiment or, for that matter, an experiment for any of the examples listed above.

    Every empirical question doesn’t have to be investigated via “an experiment.” What a stupid thing to suggest.

  490. #490 heddle
    January 26, 2009

    SC, OM,

    Every empirical question doesn’t have to be investigated via “an experiment.” What a stupid thing to suggest.

    Every scientific question does (sooner or later–there may be a honeymoon–e.g., String Theory) or it is not science. What a stupid thing not to know. That is precisely why ID is not science.

  491. #491 Sven DiMilo
    January 26, 2009

    Beg to differ. Manipulative experiments are a very strong–perhaps the strongest–form of scientific reasoning, but by no means the only valid one.

  492. #492 Walton
    January 26, 2009

    While moral questions are not themselves the same as fact claims, evidence certainly has an important role to play in making moral judgments – evidence about the reasons people go to war, other options that were available, the historical circumstances leading to a war, who is benefitting and who suffering, how much death and destruction has occurred, etc.

    I think this raises an interesting (though only tangentially on-topic) question as to the rationality of political belief in general. All of us – theist, deist, agnostic or atheist – hold political beliefs which, in some measure, are not based on reason alone; because, when you boil any political philosophy down to its barest essentials, you are left with a normative, not a descriptive, statement.

    For example, we all – leftists and libertarians being equally guilty of this – throw around references to “rights” (sometimes “human rights”, or “basic rights”, or “natural rights”) as if “rights” were a real thing. In reality, of course, “rights” don’t exist; they’re just a social construct.

    What abstract concepts such as “rights” disguise is, in fact, a normative statement. A left-winger may state, for instance, that there’s a “fundamental right to healthcare”. I disagree; I don’t think anyone can have a “right” to any positive material benefit, since the enforcement of such a “right” must by definition involve taking property from others by coercive force (through taxation etc.) Neither of us is objectively “wrong” or “right”. Rather, we’re both taking a blank canvas – the abstract concept of “human rights” and imposing on it our own normative view about how the world should be, and how human beings should relate to one another.

    Indeed, while I value the Declaration of Independence for its sheer poetry, its most famous statement cannot, in fact, be rationally supported. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights…” In reality, of course, none of these things are “self-evident” – as evidenced by the fact that we can’t even agree amongst ourselves as to whether there’s such a thing as a “Creator” and whether men (or women) were “created” at all; and, if there is a Creator, there’s certainly no uncontestable evidence as to whether he wanted us to have any “inalienable rights” and, if so, what they are. I have the same problem with Bastiat – one of the greatest libertarian writers, but he goes on a lot about how certain rights are “God-given” and “natural”, without ever explaining how, exactly, he deduces from the empirical evidence that there is any such thing as a “natural right”.

    In the end, for example, if you boil my philosophy down to its most basic tenets, you get a normative statement: “I believe that what a person acquires through legitimate means is rightfully his to keep.” This encompasses self-ownership and the principles of private property. But I can’t rationally justify that statement. I can argue that it produces, when applied in practice, more prosperity for human beings than any other ideological paradigm (which I realise is debatable, and I’m not going to debate it here). But that begs the question “why do we believe that prosperity is a good thing?”

    Similarly, an ardent egalitarian might hold dear the principle that “all human beings must be as equal, in material terms, as possible”. I disagree with him, because I think liberty and prosperity are more important than equality. But neither of us is objectively “wrong” or “right”. So, while I can argue that capitalism produces more prosperity than any other economic system, it doesn’t follow that capitalism is objectively the “best” economic system – because it depends what you, personally, think a “good” economic system ought to achieve.

    So none of us should pretend that we’re completely “rational” and that we don’t hold any beliefs which are unsupported by evidence.

  493. #493 Ken Cope
    January 26, 2009

    Now you are being a jackass. I deny there is any evidence for the claim “science and religion are incompatible or antagonistic.”

    That is not a claim that heddle anywhere attempts to support with logic or evidence, a claim observably contradicted by every conflict science and religion has ever had, and continues to have.

    Just because heddle’s God is gonna smite you for being an unbeliever, SC, doesn’t mean he’s being antagonistic. Calling you a jackass must surely have been meant in a loving, religious way.

    Having shown himself to be every bit as obtuse and irrelevant as facilis (if only slightly more charming and engaging), I’m with Nerd of Redhead; there’s no point in waiting for a punchline–move along, nothing to see here.

  494. #494 SC, OM
    January 26, 2009

    Now you are being a jackass.

    Nope – still you.

    I do not deny there is overwhelming scientific evidence for evolution.

    I should hope not (unlike your Chicago-Statement pals, I’ll add.)

    I deny there is any evidence for the claim “science and religion are incompatible or antagonistic.”

    My point was that this denial is similar in form to that of the creationists’. Unless the evidence is in the form of the results of experiments [???] of your specification or approval (the flaws in which have been shown you repeatedly), you simply ignore it, continuing to claim endlessly that you’d change your mind if you saw the evidence.

    I can’t parse it, so I don’t know if I can acknowledge it.

    Gah! If all (in the extreme case) gay people in this society can live their lives in ways – leaving, hiding their sexual orientation,… – such that there are no superficially measurable effects of the law’s violation of the principle of equal rights, would you still say that the law is in violation of the constitutional principle of equal rights?

  495. #495 heddle
    January 26, 2009

    Interesting logic Cope:

    1) A claim is made that Coyne has made the case that science and religion are antagonistic.

    2) I come and ask for evidence.

    3) You respond by saying that I have not presented any evidence that they aren’t.

    Nice switch. (Not to mention that there is ample anecdotal evidence that they are not, namely all the theistic scientists doing quality work.)

    Sven,

    Do you have an example of something that has failed (after an ill-defined grace period) to make contact with experiment that is nevertheless regarded as science?

    Now Susskind, for one, has suggested that we might have to give up this notion of science as antiquated–but I don’t think it is going to go away without a fight.

  496. #496 Patricia, OM
    January 26, 2009

    Science and religion are incompatible. There is no proof of a god anywhere.

    Ken Cope – Why let Heddle piss you off, Patricia, when it’s just as easy to point and laugh? That’s a damn good point. I should do that.

    It’s just that I hate Calvinism so much. Belief in total depravity and predestination is worse than tom foolery.

    If anyone actually wants bible contradictions for Heddle the Ass to chew on I’ll be happy to bash out a pile of them.

  497. #497 Sven DiMilo
    January 26, 2009

    Do you have an example of something that has failed (after an ill-defined grace period) to make contact with experiment that is nevertheless regarded as science?

    Plate tectonics? A variety of measurements and observations serve as evidence, and hypotheses are tested, but (to my limited knowledge) nobody has experimentally manipulated crustal plates.

    But I was thinking more of the kind of ecological field biology that relies on logical analysis of observations without manipulating the circumstances of observation. It’s non-experimental but valid science. Of course, it’s very nice if those conclusions can then be tested experimentally, but it’s seldom possible to do so.

  498. #498 Ken Cope
    January 26, 2009

    Nice switch. (Not to mention that there is ample anecdotal evidence that they are not, namely all the theistic scientists doing quality work.)

    None of those theistic scientists are doing quality work in any federally funded programs involving stem cell research in the United States for ethical reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with religious antagonism to science, do they, heddle, you lying sack of crap.

    Piss off, you lying, steaming, sa

  499. #499 CJO
    January 26, 2009

    A claim is made that Coyne has made the case that science and religion are antagonistic.

    Incompatible. A lack of compatibility need not imply active antagonism. But uneasy coexistence in the same compartmentalized mind isn’t the same as compatibility either. I wish you would stick to the terms in which the initial claim was made; this slip into “antagonism” doesn’t illuminate matters at all.

    A working definition of “compatible” that the parties here could agree on might clarify.

  500. #500 Sastra
    January 26, 2009

    heddle #481 wrote:

    But there are many things I believe without evidence. I have a definite belief as to whether Obama?s trillion dollar stimulus will help or hurt. I have a definite belief on the morality of the Iraq war. I don?t approach ?God exists? like a scientific hypothesis, if for no other reason than I don?t know how to do that experiment or, for that matter, an experiment for any of the examples listed above.

    I don’t think those are good analogies. Is saying “God exists” like saying “God will help us?” No. Is saying “God exists” like saying “God is moral?” No. One could certainly examine what the stimulus package says, or whether there is a war in Iraq. You could also set up a way to test outcomes.

    Would a universe created by a God look exactly like one that wasn’t — in every possible way?

    It would destroy my faith.

    What’s the difference between destroying your faith, and changing your mind?

  501. #501 heddle
    January 26, 2009

    SC, OM

    Unless the evidence is in the form of the results of experiments [???] of your specification or approval (the flaws in which have been shown you repeatedly), you simply ignore it, continuing to claim endlessly that you’d change your mind if you saw the evidence.

    I don’t ignore it (clearly I have not ignored the statement: science and religion are incompatible. Far from it.) I treat it for what is is: a philosophical opinion, like a religious belief, or a political stand. Not a statement of fact. You may certainly hold to the opinion that they are incompatible. I may hold that they are harmonious. Neither of us can prove it.

    would you still say that the law is in violation of the constitutional principle of equal rights?

    Didn’t I already answer? In my opinion, yes.

  502. #502 Ken Cope
    January 26, 2009

    Sorry Patricia, I let myself get pissed off, while I was busy pointing and laughing. I’ll try harder to follow my own advice. Calvinists just squick me out–they put me in mind of the Brother Cavil model of Cylon, and my favorite scene–his most recent one with Lucy Lawless.

  503. #503 Patricia, OM
    January 26, 2009

    Nice link Ken! ;o)

  504. #504 CJO
    January 26, 2009

    If anyone actually wants bible contradictions for Heddle the Ass to chew on I’ll be happy to bash out a pile of them.

    Nah. Those are just like Soduko puzzles for heddle. (by which I do not mean that he more or less easily “solves” them to an objective standard, just that he finds the activity merely diverting, and not troublesome.)

  505. #505 heddle
    January 26, 2009

    Cope,

    None of those theistic scientists are doing quality work in any federally funded programs involving stem cell research in the United States for ethical reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with religious antagonism to science, do they,

    Not doing stem cell research is a moral choice. If that is what you mean by incompatible, if the fact that someone chooses for religious reasons not to engage in certain types of basic research and that means religion and science are incompatible, then by the same reasoning liberal politics and science are incompatible. Because I personally know scientists who have refused to work on basic research in nuclear weapons science for moral reasons. They work on something else, instead. No different from a Christian opting out of stem-cell research. If one case demonstrates incompatibility, then so does the other.

    CJO

    No, antagonistic, according to PZ.

    Sven,

    Plate tectonics? A variety of measurements and observations serve as evidence, and hypotheses are tested, but (to my limited knowledge) nobody has experimentally manipulated crustal plates.

    OK, I have to think about what you mean by manipulative. But surely we agree that plate tectonics has been experimentally tested.

    Sastra,

    What’s the difference between destroying your faith, and changing your mind?

    I don’t know.

  506. #506 Patricia, OM
    January 26, 2009

    I agree Ken, the basic doctrines of Calvinism make me want to pound my head against the wall like Dobbie the house elf.

    Total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints. It’s supposed to be shortened to TULIP, but I’d say FUNDIE. This must be embarrassing to those of you that actually are scientists.

  507. #507 Ken Cope
    January 26, 2009
  508. #508 SC, OM
    January 26, 2009

    How are you defining “experiment”? Does your definition include all manner of systematic empirical investigation and analysis? If not, it leaves out much of archaeology, anthropology, epidemiology,…

    Didn’t I already answer? In my opinion, yes.

    You had answered partially. So now you’re acknowledging that a fundamental conflict can exist between principles in the absence of evident effects. You didn’t say in that case, before coming to that conclusion, “Well, show me the evidence. Show me where gay people are being denied their rights on the ground. Do an experiment showing that you can tell who’s gay and who isn’t by the way people are treated in the workplace. Then I’ll believe their rights are being violated.”

    But of course that hypothetical was merely for the sake of argument. In that case it would be very difficult to show the violation in action. In the case at hand, there’s also a great deal of evidence of their incompatibility, even if some individuals can work around it. Sociologists and historians find evidence using a number of methods, and there’s much evidence of this conflict/violation in the world. Nonprofessionals evaluate such evidence all the time. We keep pointing you to it, but you keep denying it exists.

    What if I said “I have no problem with the Iraq war because there were WMDs found, and anyway only three people have died as a result”? Are all claims of equal value if neither side can perform a controlled “experiment”? The relative value of methods of data collection, of evidence, of methods of analysis in non-experimental investigation cannot be assessed, according to you, so it’s a free-for-all? I sincerely doubt you live your life like that.

  509. #509 KnockGoats
    January 26, 2009

    inductive reasoning is one of the backbones of the scientific method.So the scientific method is invalid? Facilis

    The problem is, you don’t know shit about logic, or you would know what “invalid” means when applied to a type of argument: it means it does not guarantee that if the premises are true, the conclusion is true. Now, suppose we have observed in numerous cases that our observations and experiments are compatible with some hypothesised law of physics, which has the form of a universal generalisation, as such hypothesized laws do. However many observations and experiments we have done, it is invalid (although of course not necessarily false) to conclude that the hypothesized law is true. All we can say is that all the evidence we have been able to gather is compatible with it. This is why, at least in the case of universal generalisations, science does not make claims to have proved its conclusions. Induction is a useful way of generating hypotheses – that is its place in the scientiifc method – but it never proves them. Got it now, shit-for-brains? (Don’t bother, I know the answer to that is “No”.)

  510. #510 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 26, 2009

    inductive reasoning is one of the backbones of the scientific method.

    Completely wrong. The scientific method is hypothetico-deductive: you make up a hypothesis (by induction, dreaming, throwing dice, or whatever you like), deduce predictions from it, and then look if the predictions are wrong. If they are, the hypothesis is falsified, and you have to repeat the whole process.

    Experiments are not necessary for science. Repeatable observations are. If you can arrange an experiment, great, because that (in the ideal case) allows you to observe one specific thing while everything else is controlled, as often as you like and whenever you like. That’s convenient. It’s not, however, necessary. Consider how exact a science astrophysics is, and how little of it can be experimented on.

  511. #511 Ken Cope
    January 26, 2009

    Not doing stem cell research is a moral choice.

    Not being permitted to do stem cell research because a Republican administration, in order to appeal to a science-hostile, religious voting bloc, has blocked federal funding for it, is a cynical and immoral choice, i.e., a religious one, to be redundant, which removes the choice to do federally funded stem cell research from any American scientist, Christian or otherwise.

    Because I personally know scientists who have refused to work on basic research in nuclear weapons science for moral reasons. They work on something else, instead. No different from a Christian opting out of stem-cell research. If one case demonstrates incompatibility, then so does the other.

    Thanks for ceding the point, heddle. The professed basis of those moral claims is (frequently, but not always) religious, so even though heddle offers a disjunctive claim, (their reasons are either moral, or religious) a moral opposition does not exclude a religious antagonism to science.

    From Hypatia to Giordano Bruno, from Galileo to Darwin, who feared to publish for fear of the personal consequences of the predictable religious response, religion and science have always been cordial best buds. Learning is hostile to religion. Seminaries turn out an appreciable number of apostates, who reject religion the more they learn about it. When faith is the last justification for a belief, it is definitionally outside and apart from science–unjustified belief is formally shunned by any scientist. So, it must have been reason, logic and experimental evidence that convinced heddle that God had supernaturally intervened in his life and personally invited him to tiptoe through the TULIP, because heddle’s judgment with respect to religious epiphanies, as opposed to self-indulgent brain-farts, is that of a scientist. See? No incompatibility at all.

  512. #512 SC, OM
    January 26, 2009

    Experiments are not necessary for science.

    And while we’re on the subject, they’re certainly not the gold standard in the social sciences. In fact, I don’t know or know of any sociologist who performs experiments these days. It’s really strange, then, to read heddle suggesting a sort of experiment (whose design is deeply flawed and which wouldn’t really answer the question at hand – it’s really just an odd, odd suggestion) as the only acceptable way to investigate this problem.

  513. #513 E.V.
    January 26, 2009

    Seminaries turn out an appreciable number of apostates, who reject religion the more they learn about it.

    Amen.

  514. #514 Tulse
    January 26, 2009

    Experiments are not necessary for science. Repeatable observations are.

    …otherwise we’d have to kick out of the science club such disciplines as astronomy, paleontology, much of geology, a lot of biology prior to the 20th century, etc. etc. etc.

  515. #515 heddle
    January 26, 2009

    Tulse,

    ..otherwise we’d have to kick out of the science club such disciplines as astronomy, paleontology, much of geology, a lot of biology prior to the 20th century, etc. etc. etc.

    They all do experiments. In Astronomy, for example, I measure and analyze spectra.

  516. #516 Sven DiMilo
    January 26, 2009

    So we are stumbling on a semantic problem, the definition of “experiment.” I thought so. For me, an experiment must involve directed manipulation of an independent variable together with control of other, potentially confounding or modifying variables.
    This seems to be the usual meaning.

  517. #517 windy
    January 26, 2009

    Neil B:

    But just to remind you of your and your friends’ inadequacy in e.g. the last big brawl about consciousness: I was reminded testily that there are four, not three, primary colors: red, yellow, green, blue.

    Actually in that thread almost a year ago(!) I reminded you (not that testily in that particular post) about OPPONENT PROCESSING. There are not really four “primary colors” but opponent processing creates four unique signals out of the three wavelength-groups detected by the cones. The reason we don’t see reddish greens is that the information is coded as ‘red minus green’!

    Ironically, you replied something about opponent processing being a “middle management red herring” with no relevance to the perception of unique colors. Since then your views appear to have evolved to appreciate opponent processing at least to the extent of getting the number of unique hues right.

    That is likely because humans are on the way to being true tetrachromats, and yellow sensation is the nucleus for a true separate primary (we’d need four phosphors then.)

    WTF? That yellow is perceived as unique is just due to the kludgy coding process in our nervous system. Maybe we would perceive even more “unmixed” colors if we had additional opponent channels, but it’s still just lossy compression of the original three signals. To become true tetrachromats we’d have to add a fourth cone (and the necessary wiring).

    Jadehawk:

    the interpretation that “yellow” is not a mix of any colors is a learned response. Aquamarine looks no more green than yellow does, but we’ve been taught to see the connection and so we see the connection.

    I’m sure that learning plays a role but that’s probably not all, if you consider the opponent system. But apparently our (or all primates’) visual cortex has ‘hue maps’ with neurons for a lot more different hues than three or four, including ‘aqua’, so maybe that’s why it’s not perceived as a mixture.

  518. #518 CJO
    January 26, 2009

    In Astronomy, for example, I measure and analyze spectra.

    The point being made is that experiments are a subset of systematic empirical observation; i.e. every such observation is not an example of an experiment as that term is commonly understood. Are you saying that the two are always synonomous?

  519. #519 Fortuna
    January 26, 2009

    heddle, to respond to an earlier comment, if I may;

    …this type of incompatibility doesn?t mean much because it doesn?t necessarily lead to any deterioration of the scientist-theist?s quality of work.

    Fixed that for you. It certainly leaves the door open, though.

    So at the end of the day exactly how does this type of incompatibility manifest itself?

    Creation scientists. ID’ers. Paranormal investigators. Anti-vaccers. Climate change “skeptics”.

    All people dedicated to injecting bullshit they feel to be true, deep down in their squishy places, into the realm of reason.

    And of course the same criticism can be leveled at anyone?s philosophy?unless, I suppose, the person is a scientist 24/7. Our political views and ethics are not predicated on repeatable observations.

    They’re certainly informed by them, or they ought to be. And since I, personally, try my best not to fool myself at all hours of the day, I am in fact a scientist 24/7, as far as that goes.

    What kind of repeatable observation makes someone pro life or pro choice?

    The observation that women are considered persons under the law, and as such have the right to dictate how their internal organs are used?

    So by your definition, it seems to me, political viewpoints are incompatible with science.

    It is true that political viewpoints are ultimately derived from what one values, as opposed to one’s perceptions about matters of fact (ie. science). That’s a long way from being “incompatible” with science, though. If my stated values include doing no unnecessary harm to human beings, then I certainly need to know what policies will or will not have that effect, and that is a matter for science to resolve.

  520. #520 SC, OM
    January 26, 2009

    windy,

    Would you mind giving me a quick summary of Neil’s position on the subject of consciousness and major arguments (especially how the color perception issue fits in)? I’ve read various exchanges with him, and I can never quite figure out what he’s getting at. If you have a chance. Thanks.

  521. #521 KnockGoats
    January 26, 2009

    KnockGoats

    But no more so than ludicrous claims that a virgin woman gave birth, people who were dead some days came back to life, etc., etc.

    Fair enough, but in the limited question:

    * Proponents of the modern literal transitions argue that they are made with the benefit of a) improvements in scholarship and b) older manuscripts and so have an advantage over the KJV.

    * Adherents of the KJV-only view claim they are better than the manuscripts from which they were translated.

    You could, intellectually, make a judgment. Or you could just say ?they are all nuts so who cares?? Whatever floats your boat.

    The point is, how can you, who accept so many ludicrous claims, dismiss anything whatever on the grounds of its implausibility? If you believe, as you do, that God is constantly performing supernatural acts to turn atheists into believers (by the way, is one of these needed for every conversion to Christianity, or only for those to the right brand?), why shouldn’t he have supernaturally caused the KJV to be better than any other version of the Bible?

  522. #522 heddle
    January 26, 2009

    CJO,

    Are you saying that the two are always synonomous?,

    No, my Ph.D. was in theoretical nuclear physics. I switched later to experimental, passing through accelerator physics along the way. I know quite well that some science is not experimental. I also know that if nuclear physics never made contact with experiment it would at some point cease to be considered science. The same is true throughout the sciences. The field must make contact with experiment.

    Sven,

    You may be right. So I am using experiment this way: measurements made to confirm, refute, or guide the theoretical side of the discipline. So I consider Astronomy an experimental (and theoretical) science. The theories on red-shift, for example, are confirmed by the observations (experiments) on spectra.

  523. #523 CJO
    January 26, 2009

    SC,
    not Windy, but…

    Neil strikes me as a classic crypto-dualist (or in Dennett’s terms, a Cartesian Materialist). He singles out Dennett and the Churchlands for particular scorn. He esteems the work of Chalmers, I think, but won’t honestly characterize the debates surrounding Chalmers’ ideas (which Chalmers himself mostly does). He invariably misrepresents materialist hypotheses about consciousness, and “naive realist” is his favorite term of abuse. He couches his stance in so much pseudo-philosophical bafflegab, and has such a tenuous grasp of recent neuroscience and its relevance to issues in Philosophy of mind, that I doubt it’s worth your while to sincerely engage.

    He mostly seems to enjoy baiting those he calls “robo-geeks.”

  524. #524 Neil Bee
    January 26, 2009

    Re the discussion about color perception and its role as intuition pump to appreciate “qualia”: the whole idea is to get that the experience itself is qualitative and not representable as “data” or math structures. It could, as accident of history, had various possible ways of being done by that isn’t the key point. Sure there’s a neurological correlate, it’s the relative nature of reality that there’s the way those processes are observed in various external ways, versus how they are “to” the system in which they occur. So there is a “kludgy” process in there, that for us is a “quality” that is not like a mixture. Ultimately one either accepts and admits to qualia or denies them, as part of epistemic ground I can’t show you except by your ably (IMHO) interpreting what you already have.

    Notably, and ironically, the strict logical view of things doesn’t even allow “substance” at all, much less two of them. (People make fun of my always bringing up modal realism, go ahead, but their logical critique is really unmeetable on rigorous grounds.) It doesn’t allow “real flowing time” either, nor true indeterminism (since math is of course a deterministic system.) A strictly AI-computational process cannot make a judgment that it is a “real mind in a real material world” instead of a platonic simulation, or in a world with “real time” instead of just a block universe (look that up) which is worse than brain in a vat IMHO. I call it the brain as a “fact” (platonic simulation) instead of a “substantive” brain.

    PS, Windy, tx for keeping it mature this time … ;-) BTW may I ask what you do? I can’t even give a simple answer to that, maybe you can.

  525. #525 Stephen Wells
    January 26, 2009

    Heddle, if your definition of experiment covers _all observation_, then all you need to do is work out in what observable respect a universe without a god would differ from a universe with one, and that would solve the whole problem empirically. So, what does your god do that wouldn’t happen without it?

  526. #526 CJO
    January 26, 2009

    heddle,
    I wasn’t necessarily talking about the theory/experiment divide (which, it seems to me, is more clearly delineated in physics than in most disciplines).

    I just think that ‘experiment’ denotes a subset of systematic observation, and measuring and analyzing stellar spectra, for instance, falls outside of that subset.

  527. #527 Tulse
    January 26, 2009

    I am using experiment this way: measurements made to confirm, refute, or guide the theoretical side of the discipline.

    Like Sven, I have always used the term “experiment” to denote observations involving the actual manipulation of variables, as opposed to observation without manipulation. We do both kinds of studies in psychology, and both kinds of data are useful, but it is also useful to distinguish between the kinds of studies.

  528. #528 SC, OM
    January 26, 2009

    Is heddle a native Spanish speaker? What’s with this definition?

    So I am using experiment this way: measurements made to confirm, refute, or guide the theoretical side of the discipline.

    Which demolishes the silly wall heddle’s built up to keep all other forms of evidence out of consideration. Even if we were to accept heddle’s claim that only social effects – practical effects on people’s ability to do good science – are relevant to the question of whether science and religion are incompatible or antagonistic, he would still have to allow social-scientific and historical evidence he’s been excluding. heddle loses again.

  529. #529 KnockGoats
    January 26, 2009

    the whole idea is to get that the experience itself is qualitative and not representable as “data” or math structures. – Neil Bee

    The notion that mathematics cannot express what is qualitative is laughable.

    Ultimately one either accepts and admits to qualia or denies them

    No, rather one shows (following Dennett) that the concept of qualia does no explanatory work, and hence should be dropped.

    A strictly AI-computational process cannot make a judgment that it is a “real mind in a real material world” instead of a platonic simulation, or in a world with “real time” instead of just a block universe

    Of course it could; it just couldn’t be justifiably certain it was right – just as we can’t.

  530. #530 heddle
    January 26, 2009

    CJO,

    Maybe by some precise definition as Sven proposed, but I am using it in way to include things like measuring (and analyzing) stellar spectra. Those scientists would, I believe, not object to the title “experimental Astronomer.” It is true, I concede, that you are not necessarily manipulating an independent variable (but possibly you are). Nevertheless you are making observations to test theories.

    Stephen Wells,

    I gave one example–a universe without a beginning. There are esoteric cosmologies without a beginning to time. According to scripture, there was a beginning to the universe. Other than that I’m not sure what you are getting at.

  531. #531 SC, OM
    January 26, 2009

    Thanks, CJO!

  532. #532 Stephen Wells
    January 26, 2009

    Heddle, I’m getting at this simple point: either there’s something which differentiates universe-with-god from universe-without, or there isn’t. If your god makes any difference, point out the difference.

  533. #533 Tulse
    January 26, 2009

    The notion that mathematics cannot express what is qualitative is laughable.

    How so? How does a formal system, for example, represent the subjective experience of pain?

    one shows (following Dennett) that the concept of qualia does no explanatory work, and hence should be dropped.

    Dennett is pretty much an eliminativist not just about qualia, but subjectivity in general, which seems darned nigh incoherent.

  534. #534 heddle
    January 26, 2009

    Stephen Wells,

    Nothing observational that I know of. (If I did, I’d apply for a Templeton grant.) Unless you happened to be somewhere when a miracle occurred. It would all be metaphysical or speculation–and you’d agree with none of it.

  535. #535 Owlmirror
    January 26, 2009

    heddle@#409:

    I generally do not use ?miracles? and ?supernatural? as synonyms.

    Well, I wouldn’t either.

    Of course, I’m a monist, so as far as I’m concerned, both “miracle” and “supernatural” are vacuous terms. But I do read fantasy with different magical systems, and I can cast my mind back to when I had vague and incoherent notions of what I later learned would be called dualist notions of things like “spirit”, “soul”, and of course, “God”.

    That having been said, why would it not be correct to call regeneration a miracle in the same sense as walking on water?
    It is not as flashy, or obvious to all viewers in the same way, but regardless, it is still an (alleged) action, by God, that has a direct causal effect on the physical world. As a dualist, you would presumably argue that it was your soul that was changed, but that just moves the cause back one degree; at some point, the change in your soul would have had an effect on your physical brain which would not otherwise have happened. At the very least, a theoretically perfect lie detector that scans the brain would detect differing responses to you saying “Yes, I believe in Christianity” (or whatever) before and after this event.

    Which reminds me: Can you confirm that you would characterize the event has having been sudden? That is, was it the case that the previous sermon you went to you would have been definite in your not believing, or would you have characterized yourself as an agnostic on the way to being convinced?

    A few more questions:

    Do you recall what the sermon was about when you had that moment?

    Was your wife with you at every one of these sermons?

    Were you making friends with other members of the congregation at the time? If yes, would you characterize these friendships as being strong ones?

    [Yes, I'm being nosy — but I'm trying to understand "regeneration" as both a subjective event and as something that might be analyzable. I have a hypothesis which is somewhat more complicated than "temporal lobe seizure" in and of itself...]

  536. #536 Owlmirror
    January 26, 2009

    heddle@#457:

    Verification of a steady state universe would have been a death blow to those who hold a high view of scripture.

    Would you consider verification of oscillating universes or a self-causing universe to be sufficiently equivalent to the steady-state model?

    Religion has an antiscience agenda.

    No it doesn?t.

    Hm. Did you read the quote by Tertullian above @#402? Would you agree or disagree with the final bolded sentences, which as best I can tell, reject the compartmentilization that you hold to? (“palmary”, as it turns out, is an archaic term meaning “preeminent; superior; principal; “)

  537. #537 Owlmirror
    January 26, 2009

    The transcendental argument and its persuasion is really a matter of pride

    Excellent! Human pride is stronger than God! Please, keep on blaspheming.

    My job is just to show them how futile autonomous reasoning fails.

    And you’ve succeeded admirably at showing that presuppositionalist reasoning fails. Good job! Keep it up!

    I think there is an inherent hypocrisy in autonomous reasoning.

    And all you’ve done is show the inherent hypocrisy in presuppositionalist reasoning. Oh, bravo!

    For the sane people, I am reminded of this:

    ? http://dresdencodak.com/cartoons/dc_031.htm

    Facilis is not a 10th-level apologist, but he sure does have a rhetorical hammer.

    Oh, and there’s also this; a sequel of sorts:

    ? http://dresdencodak.com/cartoons/dc_059.html

    ?P-Zombie: What’s your business in the Kingdom of Qualia
    ?Kimiko: Just passing through, admiring the immaterial sensations.
    ?P-Zombie: Lies! We can smell the physicalism on you from here!

    (and so on)

  538. #538 heddle
    January 26, 2009

    Owlmirror,

    That having been said, why would it not be correct to call regeneration a miracle in the same sense as walking on water?

    It is supernatural. But I don’t know that it could be witnessed. Walking on water could be observed.

    Would you consider verification of oscillating universes or a self-causing universe to be sufficiently equivalent to the steady-state model?

    Depends on the details. Oscillating models, probably. self-causing models, probably not–for they must be pregnant with something, even if it is a quantum fluctuation.

    At the very least, a theoretically perfect lie detector that scans the brain would detect differing responses to you saying “Yes, I believe in Christianity” (or whatever) before and after this event.

    That is possible. Although the change may not have been instantaneous –or maybe it was. It was like a realization. Nevertheless I agree that a lie detector test could observe the effect.

    Do you recall what the sermon was about when you had that moment?

    I do. It was about the repentant thief crucified with Jesus.

    Was your wife with you at every one of these sermons?

    That particular day she was not. She was not even on the same continent.

    Were you making friends with other members of the congregation at the time?

    No. I had some friends in that congregation but I am not very gregarious. Especially in that church, which was full of people with tremendous biblical knowledge (and I was a neophyte) and seemingly perfect kids (and my son is autistic and, at that time, a handful.) I generally kept to myself by choice.

    Would you agree or disagree?

    No. I am more (if not hard-core) Augustinian (the original Calvinist, if you don’t count Jesus and Paul). I assume you are aware of his statement regarding believers making fools of themselves pretending to know science. I agree.

  539. #539 KnockGoats
    January 26, 2009
    The notion that mathematics cannot express what is qualitative is laughable.

    How so? How does a formal system, for example, represent the subjective experience of pain?

    If I knew exactly how to do that, I’d be planning how to spend my Nobel prize. The fact that no-one yet knows how to do it is not an argument that it is impossible. No-one can yet automate everyday human reasoning either. In fact, however, my point was simply that calling something “qualitative” does not mean it is not mathematical. The distinction between connected and disconnected spaces, for example, is a qualitative one, as is that between prime and composite numbers.

    one shows (following Dennett) that the concept of qualia does no explanatory work, and hence should be dropped.

    Dennett is pretty much an eliminativist not just about qualia, but subjectivity in general, which seems darned nigh incoherent.

    No, he’s not. If that’s what you’ve understood from reading him, then you’ve misunderstood.

  540. #540 Stephen Wells
    January 26, 2009

    Heddle, if god doesn’t make any observable difference in the universe, it ain’t there.

    Yet you claim that a god acted directly to change your mind.

    Hmmm.

  541. #541 Tulse
    January 26, 2009

    No, he’s not. If that’s what you’ve understood from reading him, then you’ve misunderstood.

    In a nutshell, I understand him to say that subjective experience is an illusion. If that’s the case, then that seems a) eliminativist and b) incoherent (since illusions are subjective experiences).

  542. #542 Ken Cope
    January 26, 2009

    Then you’re misunderstanding him, Tulse. From my link @431:

    In Consciousness Explained, Dennett argued that, without denying that human consciousness exists, we can understand it as coming about from the coordinated activity of many components in the brain that are themselves unconscious. In response, critics accused him of explaining away consciousness because he disputes the existence of certain conceptions of consciousness that he considers overblown and incompatible with what is physically possible. This is likely what motivated Dennett to make the greedy/good distinction in his follow-up book, to freely admit that reductionism can go overboard while pointing out that not all reductionism goes this far.

  543. #543 Patricia, OM
    January 26, 2009

    If god’s power is so awesome, I wonder why there aren’t battles being fought in Ethiopia to seize the Ark of the Covenant? When I last read about it in 2007, it could still smite entire armies and crumble city walls. That would be pretty observable.

  544. #544 CJO
    January 26, 2009

    From Dennett’s Quining Qualia:

    Which idea of qualia am I trying to extirpate? Everything real has properties, and since I don’t deny the reality of conscious experience, I grant that conscious experience has properties. I grant moreover that each person’s states of consciousness have properties in virtue of which those states have the experiential content that they do. That is to say, whenever someone experiences something as being one way rather than another, this is true in virtue of some property of something happening in them at the time, but these properties are so unlike the properties traditionally imputed to consciousness that it would be grossly misleading to call any of them the long-sought qualia. Qualia are supposed to be special properties, in some hard-to-define way. My claim–which can only come into focus as we proceed–is that conscious experience has no properties that are special in any of the ways qualia have been supposed to be special.

    Bolding mine; italics in original

  545. #545 KnockGoats
    January 26, 2009

    Incidentally, the “subjective experience of pain” is not a unitary phenomenon: there is a specific condition, pain asymbolia, in which pain is perceived but does not cause suffering.

    Let me ask both you and Neil Bee: how would the world be observably different if there were no qualia?

  546. #546 Feynmaniac
    January 26, 2009

    Neil Bee,

    since math is of course a deterministic system

    It is very possible I’m misunderstanding you (since I have trouble making heads or tails of your word salads) but are you saying all math is deterministic? Have you ever heard of Probability theory ?

  547. #547 windy
    January 26, 2009

    SC:

    Would you mind giving me a quick summary of Neil’s position on the subject of consciousness and major arguments (especially how the color perception issue fits in)?

    In addition to what CJO and Neil himself said, I think his point is that color sensations are arbitrary and there’s nothing about a particular EM wavelength that logically requires the experience of a particular color. I’d guess that most people agree with him on this point, but not on his next logical leap, that the arbitrariness of color sensations somehow shows that they can’t arise from “just information”.

    And how arbitrary are color sensations really? Arbitrary if you mean they could have been different, but not arbitrary in the sense of any signal at all. Aren’t the following sensations:

    (red),(yellow),(blue)

    more similar to each other than:

    (red),(fart noise),(being tickled)?

  548. #548 windy
    January 26, 2009

    Neil

    Re the discussion about color perception and its role as intuition pump to appreciate “qualia”: the whole idea is to get that the experience itself is qualitative and not representable as “data” or math structures. It could, as accident of history, had various possible ways of being done by that isn’t the key point. Sure there’s a neurological correlate, it’s the relative nature of reality that there’s the way those processes are observed in various external ways, versus how they are “to” the system in which they occur. So there is a “kludgy” process in there, that for us is a “quality” that is not like a mixture.

    I’m not sure what this means. But you asked among other things “how many fundamental sensations are there” – at least for color vision that’s clearly a neurological question, so the details and history of the visual system are not just irrelevant plumbing.

    PS, Windy, tx for keeping it mature this time … ;-) BTW may I ask what you do? I can’t even give a simple answer to that, maybe you can.

    Evolutionary genetics, and related stuff.

  549. #549 Tulse
    January 26, 2009

    CJO, I take Consciousness Explained to be a long argument precisely about why subjective experience is an illusion, as I said in #541. Isn’t that what the rejection of the Cartesian Theater is all about?

  550. #550 thalarctos
    January 26, 2009

    How so? How does a formal system, for example, represent the subjective experience of pain?

    Measurement instruments can reflect patient self-reporting of pain, on a scale from 1-10 or 1-100 for example, as an ordinal[1] value, one that can be ranked in order.

    Of course, since the self-reported experience is subjective, you can’t compare one person’s “6″ to another “6″–the formal system only goes so far.

    From the FAQ at GraphPad:

    What is the difference between ordinal, interval and ratio variables? Why should I care? FAQ# 1089

    Many statistics books begin by defining the different kinds of variables you might want to analyze. This scheme was developed by Stevens and published in 1946.

    * A categorical variable, also called a nominal variable, is for mutual exclusive, but not ordered, categories. For example, your study might compare five different genotypes. You can code the five genotypes with numbers if you want, but the order is arbitrary and any calculations (for example, computing an average) would be meaningless.

    * A[n] ordinal variable, is one where the order matters but not the difference between values. For example, you might ask patients to express the amount of pain they are feeling on a scale of 1 to 10. A score of 7 means more pain that a score of 5, and that is more than a score of 3. But the difference between the 7 and the 5 may not be the same as that between 5 and 3. The values simply express an order. Another example would be movie ratings, from * to *****.

    * A[n] interval variable is a measurement where the difference between two values is meaningful. The difference between a temperature of 100 degrees and 90 degrees is the same difference as between 90 degrees and 80 degrees.

    * A ratio variable, has all the properties of an interval variable, and also has a clear definition of 0.0. When the variable equals 0.0, there is none of that variable. Variables like height, weight, enzyme activity are ratio variables. Temperature, expressed in F or C, is not a ratio variable. A temperature of 0.0 on either of those scales does not mean ‘no temperature’. However, temperature in degrees Kelvin in a ratio variable, as 0.0 degrees Kelvin really does mean ‘no temperature’. Another counter example is pH. It is not a ratio variable, as pH=0 just means 1 molar of H+. and the definition of molar is fairly arbitrary. A pH of 0.0 does not mean ‘no acidity’ (quite the opposite!). When working with ratio variables, but not interval variables, you can look at the ratio of two measurements. A weight of 4 grams is twice a weight of 2 grams, because weight is a ratio variable. A temperature of 100 degrees C is not twice as hot as 50 degrees C, because temperature C is not a ratio variable. A pH of 3 is not twice as acidic as a pH of 6, because pH is not a ratio variable.

    [1] Stevens SS. On the Theory of Scales of Measurement. Science. 1946 Jun 7;103(2684):677-680.

  551. #551 Gotchaye
    January 26, 2009

    SC:

    Sure. I’ll leave it up to you.

    In that case, I’ll leave you with the last word. I had fun, and I look forward to commenting more regularly around here. Tonight, though, is for jailbreaking an iPhone.

    Oh, and CJO – thanks for clearing up Dennett’s beliefs. I didn’t see the rejection of qualia in that post of Novella’s that was linked to, but I figured Wikipedia knew what it was talking about.

  552. #552 Tulse
    January 26, 2009

    Measurement instruments can reflect patient self-reporting of pain, on a scale from 1-10 or 1-100 for example, as an ordinal[1] value, one that can be ranked in order.

    And one could build a robot that, in response to damage, uttered such verbal reports. Heck, one could wire up a Furby to utter such reports. That doesn’t mean you’ve represented the subjective experience of pain, merely the report of pain.

  553. #553 Ken Cope
    January 27, 2009

    More Dennett, not denying subjective consciousness, rather what he regards as naive conceptions of it.

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

    After a hard night’s wanking on the autocerebroscope, who cleans up the cinemuck left behind by the homunculus in the Cartesian theater?

  554. #554 thalarctos
    January 27, 2009

    That doesn’t mean you’ve represented the subjective experience of pain, merely the report of pain.

    Yes, and I said as much. You asked how a formal system could represent the subjective experience of pain, and my answer is that you can formalize the self-reports of that subjective experience as ordinal values–that’s as close as you get.

  555. #555 CJO
    January 27, 2009

    I take Consciousness Explained to be a long argument precisely about why subjective experience is an illusion, as I said in #541. Isn’t that what the rejection of the Cartesian Theater is all about?

    I’m not sure how many ways there are to explain. I even let the man speak for himself in my #544, with a link to an essay that goes into qualia as a concept at some depth.

    But regarding the Cartesian Theater, the idea is not that conscious experience doesn’t exist, it’s that there’s no single organ or center of consciousness in the brain, no one place and time where it “all comes together”; conscious experience is the product of the simultaneous functions of a great many unconscious subsystems (within subsystems, etc.) creating a representation in as close to real-time as possible of the surroundings as well as the self based on the flow of sensory data through the system.

    Just to be more concrete, I’ll use a specific example . The model Dennett encapsulates with the term Cartesian Theater supposes a ‘central meaner’ for whose judgement a representation of the outside world is projected as a unitary ‘sensory field.’ So in special circumstances, such as the ‘blind spot’ where our kludgy optic nerve exits the retina, this view would say that some part of the visual system is responsible for ‘filling in’ the missing information since we don’t notice the blind spot under normal circumstances. But the fact is, there is never any ‘incomplete’ image to be ‘filled in’. Or, if you like, the image that we seem to see in our heads as a visual field is never complete; if ‘filling in’ goes on, then the whole thing is ‘filled in’ by the visual system. We don’t notice the blind spot because there are no receptors there: no part of the CNS has ever wondered, in its unconscious networked subsystems, what information ‘should be’ coming from there.

    Dennett treats this and many other examples in the book, but my point is simply that he illusion Dennett seeks to dispel is what he views as a faulty and naive characterization of subjective experience, not the thing itself. I’ve responded at length because I’m just baffled that people, having apparently read Consciousness Explained, will continue to repeat this assertion of the de facto absurdity of Dennett’s views. Disputing a given characterization of a phenomenon does not entail denying the reality of that phenomenon.

  556. #556 Tulse
    January 27, 2009

    CJO, thanks for the clarification. It has been about a decade since I read Consciousness Explained, and I clearly took (or remembered) the wrong message from it. I obviously have some reading to do, as my impression appears to have been illusory (so to speak!).

  557. #557 Ken Cope
    January 27, 2009

    my impression appears to have been illusory (so to speak!)

    It’s a fairly honest mistake, considering how often people misrepresent Dennett’s position, even after being called on it and corrected multiple times (cough NB cough).

  558. #558 windy
    January 27, 2009

    I’ve responded at length because I’m just baffled that people, having apparently read Consciousness Explained, will continue to repeat this assertion of the de facto absurdity of Dennett’s views.

    I was surprised to see even Christof Koch in the otherwise excellent Quest for Consciousness do this:

    In Consciousness Explained, [Dennett] argues that consciousness as most people conceive of it is an elaborate illusion…

    Having dental pain is about expressing, or wanting to express, certain behaviors: To stop chewing on that side of the mouth, to run away and hide until the pain has subsided, to grimace, and so on. These “reactive dispositions”, as he calls them, are real. But not the badness of the pain, according to Dennett. That elusive feeling doesn’t exist.
    [Koch commenting on Dennett's view:] Given the centrality of subjective feelings to everyday life, it would require extraordinary factual evidence before concluding that qualia and feelings are illusory.

  559. #559 SC, OM
    January 27, 2009

    Thanks to CJO, windy, and Ken for providing the information. I haven’t yet finished the piece CJO linked to above, but I’ve found it enlightening. I also appreciated that Gotchaye was willing to argue the matter in relatively plain language – part of the reason I had avoided discussions on the subject in the past was that they seemed so terminology-laden. So thanks, all!

  560. #560 Neil Bee
    January 27, 2009

    Belatedly, about the color perception issue: clearly there is an asymmetry in the handling of the human three color inputs (the cone cells roughly coding for what we call red, green, and blue.) Hence if there is an “opposition” of red-green that explains why we don’t experience a shade like that, that is an asymmetry since we do experience blue-green and blue-red (we don’t call it that, but the mixture looks like that.) As for the qualitative nature of the perception: it is not the mere fact that the representations are arbitrary that makes them special, it is “how they look to us”. By definition that is a subjective property and I can only hope you will appreciate that trait.

    Others: None of those distinctions in math are truly qualitative, you are using the word in a looser way. In the context, we mean some essential trait that is not structural, not about parts or arrangements – IOW, “indescribable” although that is an imperfect way to put it. Some of you aren’t going to like this but – it doesn’t have to be, that everyone intelligent is going to be able to “get” every foundational concept. That would be a “PC” type concept, not something necessarily true. In some peoples’ case it would be this sort of ultimate “qualitative” nature, for me maybe something I don’t get in essence that you do.

    Math: No, math really is deterministic. Probability math deals with chance by telling us the chances, the overall proportions of outcomes, not by generating actual examples of same – see?

    This is dumb: No, rather one shows (following Dennett) that the concept of qualia does no explanatory work, and hence should be dropped. Our first priority is characterization, “explanation” is a tougher nut and not always available. It would be their being like that that needed explanation, not them to explain something else. Can you prove the philosophical claim that all that matters is “explanatory work”, itself a metaphysical conceit that’s part of a school of thought and not a “fact.”? And BTW, the concept of a universe that exists independently, instead of a structure of empirical givens (a la Berkeley) doesn’t really do explanatory work eiter, ultimately, does it?

    Actually I don’t agree with qualia not being explanatory since it does allow us to talk easily of the way in which (sensations here!) yellow looks unlike red and green in a way different from how the mix of blue and green actually “looks like” blue-green mix. BTW, the modal realists say the whole idea of substance; material, mental, whatever, does no explanatory work. So are you a modal realist?

    Dennett: The reason his supporters can pretend that he doesn’t really deny conscious experience is that he says different things in different places, and they don’t all add up. One place he’ll say he won’t deny it and it’s real, another place he’ll say (of subjective content, the phenomenology) “there isn’t any.” Yes I did read his book, that’s why I do know how much he cheated. He goes way beyond just denying a central place for experience. As for Chalmers, sure I know he’s controversial in the same way that Paul Krugman is controversial because of all those conservative hacks.
    BTW I think highly of Pinker, he is maybe not a mysterian but far more honest and less an ideological crank than Dennett (maybe like George Will v. Charles Krauthammer…)

    That reminds me of naive realism (did that person presuming to explain my views know what it is?): Naive realists are so dumb, they think that the percepts formed when you open your eyes or even look through a telescope literally are the outside objects. How they hell they can experience a field of view with microscopic life in it, going in and out of focus, and still think that I don’t know. (Think: what is it that turns fuzzy when your eyes are out of focus? This is an IQ test that analytical philosophers flunk.)

  561. #561 Neil Bee
    January 27, 2009

    Ok, here’s a good way to stimulate thought:

    Windy asks:

    Aren’t the following sensations:
    (red),(yellow),(blue)
    more similar to each other than:
    (red),(fart noise),(being tickled)?

    OK, good, now in what way are they “more similar” or different? That’s to get you confronting the subjective idea of quality. And BTW it even does have a technically apt use, since it means you find such things “different” but can’t identify a difference in terms of structures or patterns (like ripples or numbers) as they are for you. Hence, a difference of “essence”.

    Word salad? I type very fast, I envy those who can compose well under the circumstances – maybe being 53 and in the wrong generation is part of it.

  562. #562 thalarctos
    January 27, 2009

    Others: None of those distinctions in math are truly qualitative, you are using the word in a looser way.

    No, you’re moving the goalposts.

    Qualititative mathematics has a long and distinguished history in modeling, statistics, and other domains; the fact that you’re unaware of it, and unwilling to grant the point, is irrelevant.

    In addition to the use of qualitative mathematics in categories of variables I referred to above, there are tons of other references; only a few of which I include below. I would include links, but then ScienceBlogs would gag on them; if you’re truly interested, it’s a short Google search away.

    [1] Spaces of ambivalence: Qualitative mathematics in the modelling of complex fluid phenomena/Espacios de ambivalencia: matemáticas cualitativas en la modelización de fenómenos fluidos complejos. Author: Rudolph, Lee. Source: Estudios de Psicología, Volume 27, Number 1, March 2006 , pp. 67-83(17)/ Publisher: Fundación Infancia y Aprendizaje

    Abstract:

    This paper sketches two classes of mathematical models. Both treat ambivalence and attentiveness as undefined terms. The first class, ambivalence-generated models, is finitistic and requires no ontological commitment to any mathematical construction as sophisticated as ‘real numbers’. The intended semantics suggests the axiom underlying topologists’ well-understood theory of finite simplicial complexes (FSCs). Semantically reinterpreted within psychology, this theory yields concrete, empirically testable hypotheses about human behaviour, which in turn suggest further axiomatic restrictions on the models. The second class of models treats attentiveness as a Morse function on some differential manifold, and uses its gradient flow to construct a lower-dimensional spine. Both classes of models have potential to capture much of the flexibility and concreteness that are attractive in qualitative methodologies, while retaining (by application of mathematical analysis) the formality of quantitative methodologies.

    [2] Wednesday, June 6, 2007: 8:00 AM-9:45 AM. Special Session – Qualitative Mathematics in Aquatic Ecology. Organizer: Desiree D. Tullos

    * The Paradox of the Plankton: Community Structure Promotes Blooms. Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta, Ph.D., Peter M. Eldridge, PhD, Phil A. Rossignol, PhD

    * Qualitative Models of Published Studies of Community Interactions: How Well Do They Agree? Hiram Li, Geoff Hosack, Philippe Rossignol

    * Qualitative Reasoning about Food Webs: Exploring Alternative Representations. Tim Nuttle, Ph.D.

    * A Qualitative Assessment of the Relative Effects of Bycatch Reduction, Fisheries and Hypoxia on Coastal Nekton Communities in the Gulf of Mexico. Donald M. Baltz, Ph.D, Hiram W. Li, Ph.D, Philippe A. Rossignol, PhD, Edward J. Chesney, Ph.D, Theodore S. Switzer, Ph.D

    * Modeling the Response of Benthic Communities to Nutrient Enrichment in a Coastal Embayment Using Qualitative Mathematics. Geoffrey R. Hosack, Keith R. Hayes, Jeffrey M. Dambacher

    * Dam logic: Qualitative reasoning simulations of benthic macroinvertebrate responses to dam removal scenarios. Desiree Tullos, Ph.D.

    * Beginning to see the whole picture: Reciprocal predator-prey interactions in riparian zones of the Oregon Coast Range. Judy Li, Hang K. Luh, Holly Ober, Amanda Robillard, Sharmila Premdas, Paula Graff, Nicolas Romero, Stephanie Hart, David Hibbs, Steven Perakis, John Hayes, Robert Gresswell

    Math: No, math really is deterministic.

    Better not google “stochastic calculus”, then; your head would probably explode.

  563. #563 CJO
    January 27, 2009

    That reminds me of naive realism (did that person presuming to explain my views know what it is?):

    It’s an artless term of abuse that describes no one’s actual views.

    Naive realists are so dumb, they think that the percepts formed when you open your eyes or even look through a telescope literally are the outside objects.

    Nobody thinks that. How could a “percept” be an “outside object”? It (our sensorium) is a more or less accurate representation of outside objects, though. What is your disagreement with that characterization? Talking about telescopes and microscopes is an utterly obvious red herring. Those prosthetic devices are in principle no different that the glasses I’m wearing to correct for myopia.

    How they hell they can experience a field of view with microscopic life in it, going in and out of focus, and still think that I don’t know. (Think: what is it that turns fuzzy when your eyes are out of focus? This is an IQ test that analytical philosophers flunk.)

    There are a lot of reasons why my vision might be out of focus, and just your use of “eyes” in your trivial “IQ test” suggests that you’re not dealing with the issues. As truth machine said, you’re the one who’s naive: you’re a “naive retinal realist.” Let’s take my myopia. When I take off my glasses, what is it that turns fuzzy? How does this condition differ from the condition I presume you’re talking about, when I let my eyes cross or go “lazy” to produce the “eyes out of focus” effect?

    Your problem, Neil, beside arrogance and generally ineffective communication skills, is that you’re arguing against the ridiculous position you wish your opponents were espousing, not the one they actually hold.

  564. #564 Feynmaniac
    January 27, 2009

    No, math really is deterministic. Probability math deals with chance by telling us the chances, the overall proportions of outcomes, not by generating actual examples of same – see?

    No, I don’t see. Let’s take a look at how math, specifically probability, is used in two system:

    (1) Deterministic systems – Let’s taking flipping a coin in a classical system. Now if we had complete information (e.g, the angular velocity of the coin after it left your hand, composition and exact shape of the coin, air pressure, etc.) then we could, in principle, tell you whether it lands heads or tails. However, we usually don’t have that knowledge so the best we can do is say with 50% certainty (or that 50% of the time, depending on that school of thought you subscribe to) that it will land heads/tails.

    (2) Non-deterministic systems- Now take quantum mechanics. Let’s say you have a particle with a half life of T. At time t=0, you have all the information you can have on the particle. Even with that information you can only say that there is a 50% chance that the particle will decay within time t=T.

    From what I gather you seem to think that math can only be applied to (1) but not (2). However that’s not the case.

    Perhaps I have misunderstood your arguments. Quite frankly, I find your writing difficult to read, and I don’t think I’m the only one. Please write clearer and define your terms properly.

  565. #565 Neil Bee
    January 27, 2009

    Thalarctos, thanks for the refs. Actually it would be ironically better for math to be able to deal with “quality”, since that would make the latter more respectable to some people …. I confess I haven’t checked it out yet, but I’m nearly willing to be that means using the math to represent the qualitative differences, not to describe the qualities directly – am I right? IOW, it would represent the three primary colors, talk about mixes and maybe how similar or different, but not distinguish that set of three “qualia” from another isomorphic set. Could it tell us what made the red different from green in our experience, actually “describe” the experience?

    As for math, you guys still don’t get the difference between representing probability outcomes on average, or inputting actual examples; versus generating literally different results from the same starting machinery (the meaning of genuine indeterminism.) The latter can’t be done. The example of QM is good, because we have two “identical” particles, and one pops off after awhile and the other one does so later. How can that be, if they’re “identical”? If there was a clockwork process inside them, we could watch it in principle and see the leading up to the decay, and both would particles would have to decay after the same interval. Note that it isn’t a loose issue of whether math can be “applied” to such things (I already said how it could be), but whether it can generate such things out of itself. You can generate a string of random looking numbers out of say sqrt(2) but they are the same ones every time, that’s what I mean by saying that math is deterministic.

    CJO, you must not have had philosophy courses in the 70s or earlier. “Naive realism” is the given, “official” term for a philosophical viewpoint not an insult I just made up. I know they think that because I slogged through the writings of idiots like Gilbert Ryle and know he claimed just that (unless his writing is even more confusing “than mine”, or Dennett’s about what he really meant.) And sure, a percept could not be an outside object, that’s how the rest of us know the NRs are wrong. I said: they confuse the percept and think they are beholding the objects directly, instead of being witnesses to the imagery formed out of retinal signals. It’s somewhat like a person who thinks a TV set is a window, not a screen. BTW, the way Dennett bitches about the Cartesian theater he seems almost that dumb himself, unless he just means the experiencer isn’t a “simple” center – I’m OK with that.

    And no, I am not a retinal realist, I know damn well our retinal images have better detail all across than we have in our representation (foveal detail), that our retinas process the raw image to sharpen, remove some effect of chromatic aberration, send signals to form those arbitrary color sensations that I’ve been writing about for days, etc. Don’t think I am such just because some idiot in a previous thread accused me of being one.

    Sure there are different reasons for the subjective image to be fuzzy, I meant that when confronted with such an image, only a person not fit for philosophy would say “that really is a paramecium, it just ‘seems to be’ big and fuzzy.” The analytical philosophers ply the NR racket by using “seeming” language as a smoke screen, to divert attention from the critical question “OK, what does that ‘seeming’ situation consist of? CJO, you can’t fool me about naive realists because I have read so much of their drivel with great dismay. OK, so what does turn fuzzy when you take your glasses off? Your retinal image gets more fuzzy, but your “mental image” of the world – the one that naive realists think just is that stuff out there – gets fuzzy. Even if you don’t believe in something weird between our ears, that’s still an image in some sense – even Dennett used the term “logical space” – and it is still our most direct empirical given. Naive realists are incompetent and wrong. OK?

    My writing – yes it is difficult, but jumping in and out of threads I don’t know if I can compose something like an edited book would be. My Flesch?Kincaid scale tends very high, sorry. You’d have to know some of the background on all these controversies in any case.

  566. #566 Feynmaniac
    January 27, 2009

    Neil Bee,

    My Flesch?Kincaid scale tends very high, sorry.

    Didn’t know what that was, so I looked it up and found this:
    http://www.editcentral.com/gwt/com.editcentral.EC/EC.html

    I did a quick test using people from this thread. I took samples of two people I thought I were effective communicators, Sastra and SC, OM (both Molly winners), and two people who I thought were less than effective communicators (you weren’t one of them Neil). Sastra and SC,OM consistently outscored the other two.

    I also took results from The Bad Writing Contest . Most of them actually managed to get a negative Flesch reading ease score!

    This may prove useful.

  567. #567 CJO
    January 27, 2009

    Ugh. SIWOTI syndrome… so tempting… so primal… must. resist.

  568. #568 thalarctos
    January 28, 2009

    Thalarctos, thanks for the refs.

    You’re welcome.

    Actually it would be ironically better for math to be able to deal with “quality”, since that would make the latter more respectable to some people ….

    Math deals with “quality” all the time, as does the entire field of qualitative research. “quality” != “qualia” in the sense you are using it.

    I confess I haven’t checked it out yet, but I’m nearly willing to be that means using the math to represent the qualitative differences, not to describe the qualities directly – am I right? IOW, it would represent the three primary colors, talk about mixes and maybe how similar or different, but not distinguish that set of three “qualia” from another isomorphic set. Could it tell us what made the red different from green in our experience, actually “describe” the experience?

    You are munging two things together; distinguishing things from each other disjunctively *is* distinguishing isomorphic sets (better, graphs, so that we can qualitatively describe not only entities by nodes, but relationships among those entities by vertices) but we may or may not get to that) from each other, and it certainly can describe what makes red different from green.

    No problem so far, but when you add “in our experience”, you add a confound that it cannot–by definition–do. But it’s not like you can do so, either. “In our experience” is a hard boundary for mathematical descriptions of quality, but your invocation of qualia does nothing to resolve the issue; like “goddidit”, it just kicks the can down the road.

    As for math, you guys still don’t get the difference between representing probability outcomes on average, or inputting actual examples; versus generating literally different results from the same starting machinery (the meaning of genuine indeterminism.) The latter can’t be done.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! That was genuinely funny, Neil! Thanks for the laugh.

    You can generate a string of random looking numbers out of say sqrt(2) but they are the same ones every time, that’s what I mean by saying that math is deterministic.

    What if I roll a pair of dice, and for each number generated, count down the string of sqrt(2) that many more numbers and take the number in that position for my new string? Are you saying those will be the same ones every time? Or are you saying that’s not using mathematics?

    I think CJO nailed it:

    Your problem, Neil, beside arrogance and generally ineffective communication skills, is that you’re arguing against the ridiculous position you wish your opponents were espousing, not the one they actually hold.

    If I read you correctly–and I will grant that may not be the case, because I, too, am finding it such a hard slog–I think you would like it if we were all arguing ridiculous, easily-debunked, simplistic mathematical positions.

    I think you would like for there to have been no qualitative math, because then you could make what you feel to be a strong case that math needs qualia to fill that gap. The fact that there already *is* qualitative math, and it does just fine without the need for qualia is, I think, the issue for you, and at the root of your resistance to the idea that qualitative math exists and is a part of several productive sub-disciplines.

  569. #569 Neil B ?
    January 28, 2009

    Hmmm – are you claiming the math can actually describe a single quale, not just the relational matrix? You and others keep saying “it can …” but you won’t actually give a demonstration of doing so. That’s because you don’t understand the different contexts and meanings of “qualitative” – and BTW there are different meanings of a given word, and the differences matter – just look at numbered dictionary definitions. You, like your moronic potty-mouthed predecessor ?Truth Machine? are the one munging it up: you think apparently (you never made clear how to get to the description of the quales themselves so I have to guess) that talking about the structural relationship ? like having three primaries A, B, C, and their mixtures, is equivalent to describing the A or B etc. individually. You never accomplished that, explained how it would work, etc., and just repeated the always empty claims of your sort that it can be done, or only the structuralism of it matters, whatever. Fuck it, show me or shut up asshole.

    This is pathetic: “What if I roll a pair of dice, and for each number generated, count down the string of sqrt(2) that many more numbers and take the number in that position for my new string? Are you saying those will be the same ones every time? Or are you saying that’s not using mathematics?? Uh, you cretinous puke, that is cheating by using an actual physical process and not the mathematics itself! The math can?t generate the randomness, it is utterly deterministic.

    As for this self-serving delusion:
    Your problem, Neil, beside arrogance and generally ineffective communication skills, is that you’re arguing against the ridiculous position you wish your opponents were espousing, not the one they actually hold.

    NO, what you sophomoric hacks really do say is fully awful as is. And I certainly don?t wish the positions were so ridiculous, I think it?s scandalous that they are and such a waste of time when I could be engaging some good thinkers (sometimes I do here BTW, but this crowd lately isn?t them.)

  570. #570 windy
    January 28, 2009

    Hmmm – are you claiming the math can actually describe a single quale, not just the relational matrix? You and others keep saying “it can …” but you won’t actually give a demonstration of doing so.

    Only recently people have started to do stuff like derive the properties of water from first principles. And that’s a mixture of identical molecules! Your whining that people should be able to produce you a mathematical derivation of a complex mental representation in an organism’s nervous system, before you’ll even consider the possibility, is beyond pathetic.

  571. #571 Ken Cope
    January 28, 2009

    Neil B: I can’t compete with you physically, and you’re no match for my brains.
    pharyngula: You’re that smart?
    Neil B: Let me put it this way. Have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates?
    pharyngula: Yes.
    Neil B: Morons.
    pharyngula: Truly, you have a dizzying intellect.
    Neil B: Wait till I get going!
    [pause]
    Neil B: Where was I?

  572. #572 thalarctos
    January 28, 2009

    This is pathetic: “What if I roll a pair of dice, and for each number generated, count down the string of sqrt(2) that many more numbers and take the number in that position for my new string? Are you saying those will be the same ones every time? Or are you saying that’s not using mathematics?? Uh, you cretinous puke, that is cheating by using an actual physical process and not the mathematics itself! The math can?t generate the randomness, it is utterly deterministic.

    Let me guess, you never find yourself in the finals for Teacher of the Year, do you?

    However, that tantrum does, in a perverse way, clarify your position in a way your ponderous writing wasn’t able to communicate.

    Now let’s see you refute stochastic calculus.

  573. #573 windy
    January 28, 2009

    A quote from Koch’s book…

    “The properties of living things are in some way attached to a material basis, perhaps in some special degree to nuclear chromatin; and yet it is inconceivable that particles of chromatin or of any other substance, however complex, can possess those powers which must be assigned to our factors or gens. The supposition that particles of chromatin, indistinguishable from each other and indeed almost homogeneous under any known test, can by their material nature confer all the properties of life surpasses the range of even the most convinced materialism.” [That was William Bateson in 1916]

    … Geneticists underestimated the ability of these nucleotides to store prodigious amounts of information. They also underestimated the amazing specificity of protein molecules, which has resulted from the action of natural selection over a few billion years of evolution. These mistakes must not be repeated in the quest to understand the basis of consciousness.

  574. #574 Neil B
    January 30, 2009

    Thalarctos, griping about a tantrum is a good dodge I suppose for failing to produce what I asked for. No substance from you or Ken can be expected it seems. Ken, a humbleness troll, thinks that putting up silly doggerel against presumed effete intellectual snobs makes up for not having a real argument. My criticism of the dice-rolling experiment stands. As for stochastic calculus: it operates upon random processes already given, it still does not produce them. Maybe you aren’t up to appreciating the difference.

    Windy: You still don’t get the point about the nature of subjective experience, not as patterns in brains but as how it feels to us. Deriving “properties” in the scientific context (like for water) means explaining its behavior. It isn’t enough to explain behavior to explain in the case of the nature of experience. Maybe you don’t understand the meaning of “qualitative” in the philosophy of mind. It means a structureless, irreducible essence. By definition, the quale itself does not consist of a structure of pattern. In our subjective experience (whatever parallel process goes on in the brain) it is unstructured, or we’d be able to describe it. Sometimes people like you and Ken deny that our experience is or can be like that, which is a different position from saying it is like that but can be explained.

  575. #575 John Morales
    January 30, 2009

    Neil B @524:

    the whole idea is to get that the experience itself is qualitative and not representable as “data” or math structures.

    Neil B @574:

    As for stochastic calculus: it operates upon random processes already given, it still does not produce them. Maybe you aren’t up to appreciating the difference.

    I’m up to appreciating that you’ve drifted from representing qualitative processes to mathematically generating randomness, and that you’ve been using qualitative and subjective as interchangeable.

    We get it, you’re a mysterian – care to clarify why you think this relates to the compatibility of science and religion?

  576. #576 E.V.
    January 30, 2009

    And John Morales trumps Neil B… again.

  577. #577 Neil B ?
    February 1, 2009

    E.V. you have no idea, and Morales totally blew it. You just like what he said because I’m in the “enemy tribe”, you can’t assess it. He doesn’t even understand (or pretends not to, as disingenuous way to needle a subthreader he doesn’t agree with) the natural innovation and drift that happens in threads as tangential topics come up and are argued about. Both randomness and qualitative nature have come up in the discussion, I don’t think they’re the same and any “drift” is just part of the flow of the argument as people come up with different examples and rebuttals to make their points – can’t you get that? And no, qualitative and subjective are not interchangeable, although the former is one gateway to understanding the latter. When I see sloppy muddles of attempted characterizations like that, I know someone is just building up hunches and impressions and not really trying. And note, neither of you nor my critics actually came up with any of the supporting argument or proof I asked for, they either blow-harded about it, or offered examples that any competent philosopher would immediately recognize as faulty (such as the pathetic attempt to circumvent the determinism of mathematics itself, by using a physical process!)

    Mysterianism: I am somewhat of a mysterian, but I don’t even claim that consciousness and the nature of experience (especially its qualitative aspect) cannot be explained. I say: go ahead and explain whatever you want, just don’t lie about it, like pretending we don’t have qualitative inner phenomenology. And if you don’t (like weasel Dennett, who says one place he won’t deny it and then does so elsewhere, etc.) think we do, why is pain something to be afraid of? Would you prove you mettle and devotion to the reductionist cause by letting yourself be exposed to very unpleasant sensations for a few hours, with no permanent harm, basking in your rational certitude that it’s “just a bunch of information processing”? I bet.

  578. #578 Neil B ?
    February 1, 2009

    PS: I mean Morales blew any “trumping me” if that’s what he was trying to do as E.V. implies, maybe he wasn’t. Scanning over your previous posts John, I see many decent questions and points, so I’m just denying you accomplished any “rebuttal.” It’s no put-down of your average. OK – I know you don’t have all day to peruse my often clunky blasts here, and as I thrash on the cuff I am not always clear, indeed (but I can write well given time and editing, as I know from “real customers” who need to have it!) It just took me aback that you seemed oblivious to the frequent and mostly accepted appearance of branched-off subtopics – kind of like mutation and natural selection, no? Now really though, meditate upon why you do or don’t like certain experiences, don’t buy into AI crap without a fight.

  579. #579 KnockGoats
    February 1, 2009

    Neil B.,

    Please:
    1) Explain what you mean by saying mathematics is “deterministic”. Mathematics is not an event or process, so I do not see what can be meant by calling it either “deterministic” or “non-deterministic”, although it can perfectly well describe processes of both kinds.
    2) Produce examples of the dishonesty you claim Dennett shows.
    3) Respond to my query above (or point me to your response if I’ve missed it) as to what observable difference it would make if we did not have “qualia”.

    It means a structureless, irreducible essence. By definition, the quale itself does not consist of a structure of pattern. In our subjective experience (whatever parallel process goes on in the brain) it is unstructured, or we’d be able to describe it. Sometimes people like you and Ken deny that our experience is or can be like that

    I most certainly deny that our subjective experience (actually, the “subjective” is unnecessary here) is unstructured, or indescribable. We describe experiences all the time. Colours, for example, certainly have structure: hue, brightness and saturation for a start (although these do not capture all the colour distinctions we can make). We also describe colours in terms of what they resemble or remind us of – which may be other things of the same or similar colour, or sounds, emotions, etc. We can also compare the colour discriminations we can make, and the judgements of similarity we make, with those of others.

  580. #580 Neil B ?
    February 1, 2009

    Briefly and out of my memories is all I have time for, so
    1. You can make a process out of a “thing” in math by taking things in sequence. Hence, to *simulate* “random numbers” that would come over a period of time you could pick say sqrt. 2 and use the digits in sequence instead of imagining them just sitting there “all at once.” It is deterministic because there isn’t something like sqrt (some number) that is not forced to produce a set sequence from the workings out of the process you use to derive the result – and it’s the same every time. There’s no math operation to get 1528734 … one time and 41112365… a second time unless *you* cheat by going to another number to take the root of, etc.

    My suggestion: talk to computer programmers and ask them about the deterministic nature of answers from computer programs, and how “random number generators” work,”pseudorandom”, reseeding, etc. Ask about the need to use a physical source for true random numbers (not to be confused with the physical substrate of the computer being a framework for the deterministic, purely mathematical calculations.)

    2. I’m not going to dig to find the pages but Dennett said early on in CE that he wouldn’t “feign anesthesia” and deny we had experiences, then later said about phenomenology, “there [maybe with "just"] isn’t any.” Those are real quotes.
    Again, relying on me isn’t good enough and you would have to read up on phenomenology and the significance thereof to appreciate why I consider that contradictory.

    3. Sure we describe color sensations with hue and chroma etc., but it is describing them to start with, not their use in turn to describe mixtures, that is the problem. I can appreciate describing as mix of R + G or G + B, but now what if I am asked to explain in what way B differs from G? That is the essence of the “quality” problem. To avoid regression, some qualities have to be just “given” but then we can’t “describe” them. I don’t see a problem with such being essentially to our experience, I am impressed over and over with the way the “look” of red or green is like that, but some people (usually AI types who want everything cut and dried into numbers or things they can grasp their way) despise the concept – to me it’s a prejudice, a lack of mature acceptance of things just being what they are.

    BTW note well that I did not originate any of this, look up “qualia” and “the hard problem” etc. I am defending Chalmers and others in this, not presenting a theory of my own. Even my writings about “God” are mostly an exegesis and defense of what Paul Davies wrote about in The Mind of God. This term “God” is used very loosely by him, me, and non-religious-based “philosophical theologians” as a place-holder for whatever uncontingent thing the universe is contingent on, should such exist – it may be mind-like (Platonic?) but still a far cry from the tradition-based “sky fairy” that many complain about here. BTW they are wrong about the alleged semantic need to adhere to original religious use and implications, because specialists borrow extant terms for looser or more precise use all the time. It is easier than making up whole new words. And BTW I don’t blame anyone for just not believing in what we have no evidence for, I just want to be more daring.

    Finally, I’m glad to be coming out of flu or whatever it was and of being so sloshed on phenergan and such. I should have stayed away from here for awhile but just couldn’t resist the occasional urge to needle the denizens. I hate to support their sniping, but under the circumstances I likely did pump out a good bit of rubbish …

  581. #581 windy
    February 1, 2009

    Would you prove you mettle and devotion to the reductionist cause by letting yourself be exposed to very unpleasant sensations for a few hours

    We’re doing it right now, by voluntarily returning to read your mendacious nonsense.

  582. #582 Neil B ?
    February 3, 2009

    Uh Windy, silly and so touchy (but not “feely” too, I gather?) girl, “mendacious” is supposed to mean given to lying. Get it, that means saying something the speaker knows isn’t true. It isn’t something you say to someone who espouses opinions you don’t agree with or even who proposes scary experiments to prove philosophical points. BTW some of the famous pharmacology experimenters voluntarily, without prodding, took things like LSD because they wanted to know what it was like. But you know damn well that challenge is to make a point, to embarrass tiny little arm-chair robo-geeks who prattle about information in the brain as if we didn’t have deeper concerns afoot.

  583. #583 John Morales
    February 3, 2009

    I’m confident windy knows what mendacious means.

    It’s being applied to you for wilful purblindness, most appropriately in my opinion.

  584. #584 Neil B ?
    February 3, 2009

    “Slow in understanding or discernment” – uh, aren’t you the folks having so much trouble understanding and/or applying concepts like qualitative, deterministic, etc? If what you really don’t like is my being argumentative, tenacious, or scrappy (like so many of you) just call me a bitch or something but don’t pretend I don’t understand you and your points, that is the farthest possible from the truth.

  585. #585 Nerd of Redhead
    February 3, 2009

    Yawn, what a pretentious pseudo-intellectual bore.

  586. #586 windy
    February 4, 2009

    Uh Windy, silly and so touchy

    Me? More amused and exasperated. Whereas you appear to be suffering from mood swings. What happened to Neil Bee?

    Look, we reject your premise that these qualia and feelings or whatever you want to call them can’t arise from “a bunch of information processing”. It has not been demonstrated either way. So when you keep parroting the “information processing” strawman at us, it makes you look either dishonest or obtuse. You wouldn’t conclude that if something is “just molecules” it must be worthless, I hope?

  587. #587 windy
    February 4, 2009

    Uh Windy, silly and so touchy

    Me? More amused and exasperated. Whereas you appear to be suffering from mood swings. What happened to Neil Bee?

    Look, we reject your premise that these qualia and feelings or whatever you want to call them can’t arise from “a bunch of information processing”. It has not been demonstrated either way. So when you keep parroting the “information processing” strawman at us, it makes you look either dishonest or obtuse. You wouldn’t conclude that if something is “just molecules” it must be worthless, I hope?

  588. #588 windy
    February 4, 2009

    Sorry for the late reply to heddle #240:

    Sorry I worded that badly. I meant there are no references to Darius in contemporary findings, such as cuneiforms.

    If you are talking about Darius I, the Behistun inscription is chock full of (self)-references (and was the clue to deciphering cuneiforms in the first place!). If you are talking about “Darius the Mede”, that’s the problem, isn’t it?

    And as for Cyrus adopting the name Darius, unlikely considering the “Cyrus cylinder”.

  589. #589 Neil B ?
    February 4, 2009

    Windy, the argument isn’t ultimately about whether or not whatever happens in our brains can make the sensations to be qualitative. I guess it has to, if they are like that! I am not denying those actual, real neural process can manifest such features, only that they can’t be modeled or described by information processing concepts (which are abstract models that fall short of being real things.) The more critical issue is whether a thinker will admit that our experiences are like that, in advance of trying to explain how they can get that way. People like Dennett don’t say, “Oh yes it is possible for being qualitative to come from physical yadda yadda inside us instead of requiring supernatural intervention to be that way.” Instead, he says “No, they aren’t like that because there’s no way for signals running around to literally be that way” (simplified argument.) So *he’s* the one saying our brain processes can’t cause actual qualitative experience, not us “property dualists” like David Chalmers who say it can, because of the universe’s relative aspects.

    See, I realize how confusing this mad dance about consciousness is, but I have studied enough quotes from the majors to know what they think. It is filled with ironies and you have to be clear just what distinction someone is making: is or isn’t, versus can or can’t be explained in such and such way, etc.

  590. #590 Neil B ?
    February 4, 2009

    Oh, Neil Bee is my Typepad identity, which I dropped when it wasn’t required any longer here.

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