Pharyngula

Comity and reconciliation

I commend Chris Mooney for being so open-minded that he was willing to guest-author a comic on Jesus & Mo.

i-17feaa067cfdd85f28930bc33fbef710-jmreconcile.jpeg

Comments

  1. #1 Free Lunch
    January 22, 2010

    That barmaid is a real troublemaker.

  2. #2 pjsouza
    January 22, 2010

    Well, hmmm, funny, but what pedophile priests have to do with this?

    Paulino

  3. #3 Alverant
    January 22, 2010

    We shouldn’t be too surprised about priests being pedos. The proto-evangelion of James (a biography of the life of the Virgin Mary) says she was visible pregnant when she was “not yet 13 summers”. That meant she could have been as young as 12 when she got knocked up. Plus last time I read the christian bible, I don’t remember Mary giving her consent to be impregnated. In fact she was told about it after the fact.

    With all that in mind, should we really be surprised to find out that some of god’s followers “like” children?

  4. #4 'Tis Himself, OM
    January 22, 2010

    Well, hmmm, funny, but what pedophile priests have to do with this?

    Science and religion are compatible in the same way that pedophilia is compatible with morality. This last is because of the assumption that priests, belonging to the organization which advertises itself as the most moral group on Earth, are moral.

  5. #5 Paul
    January 22, 2010

    Well, hmmm, funny, but what pedophile priests have to do with this?

    At risk of ruining the joke by explaining it, it points out the emptiness of the definition of “compatible” that the accomodationists use when they decide they need some hits and decide to bash New Atheists. They dilute the term to meaninglessness in the course of arguing that religion and science are “compatible”. Not to mention when they argue this, they ignore the fact that the people they are arguing against have never used the term “compatible” in that manner, and they continue to use it that way even after being corrected over and over again.

  6. #6 jphands
    January 22, 2010

    They could form a double act called “J-Mo”.

  7. #7 Glen Davidson
    January 22, 2010

    Of course the opposite sentiments are expressed when the No True Scotsman fallacy is brought up.

    Since religion has no firm basis in reality, there’s certainly some truth in the notion that, say, the Pope can declare science to be compatible with religion, and in a real sense it (or at least the Catholic version of it) therefore is. Pedophilia presumably could be as well, but it hasn’t been, so it isn’t compatible with religion in the same sense.

    A religion content to be a mere fiction without empirical traction may easily be compatible with science.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  8. #8 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawkizC4OJEQODw9Rn2-9Ccz5-1lYymHaqFs
    January 22, 2010

    The argument is: science and religion are “compatible” because there exist people who are simultaneously religious and scientific.

    This is a bogus definition. Those people could be holding conflicting viewpoints. Humans do that all the time. Just because you believe two things doesn’t mean they aren’t contradictory.

    You could likewise argue that being a priest and raping little boys are compatible ideas. They both exist in the same people, don’t they? Therefore it’s acceptable to call yourself a highly moral human being while abusing children.

  9. #9 cafink
    January 22, 2010

    I really liked when, in a podcast interview (I don’t remember which podcast it was, but I think it might have been the Pseudo Scientists), you dismissed the “science and religion are compatible because some scientists are religious” argument by asking whether the BTK Killer, a Lutheran Deacon and serial killer, demonstrated that Christianity and serial murder were compatible.

  10. #10 Sastra
    January 22, 2010

    It wouldn’t have to be pedophile priests. It could be any situation where someone who advocates one thing, buys into something which goes against the general principles of their first value — and yet they blithely insist that there is “no conflict” — because they’re not as bad as they might be.

    Example:
    A doctor who advocates a scientific approach who also promotes “Integrative Medicine” — using both science-based medicine and alternative medicine — because alt med can include things like diet, herbs, and exercise, and they, personally, think homeopathy and reiki are unscientific bunk. And, oh yeah, it’s very important that people have the freedom to choose and Western Science doesn’t have all the answers. As a general rule, though, use science. Draw a tighter line than strictly called for, in an area which scorns the idea of drawing lines, and has no rules for drawing lines — and that way you’re avoiding conflict.

  11. #11 sjburnt
    January 22, 2010

    You gotta love Jesus and Mo, truly one of the best web comics out there.

    Whoever the author is, Thanks!

  12. #12 Peter G.
    January 22, 2010

    The logic is based on a false premise. There exist religious people who claim to be scientists. There are also insects that mimic leaves.

  13. #13 Owlmirror
    January 22, 2010

    The logic is based on a false premise. There exist religious people who claim to be scientists.

    That’s going too far. The existence of psychological compartmentalisation is more parsimonious than the implication that all religious scientists are peudoscientists.

  14. #14 Owlmirror
    January 22, 2010

    …or even pseudoscientists.

  15. #15 Xenithrys
    January 22, 2010

    I find this question interesting because I have known a small number of fairly fundamentalist Christians who have science PhDs and whose job title is scientist. They all publish and have established reputations. However I’m sure I detect a serious difficulty with critical testing of ideas in every one of them. Rather, they tend to accumulate only the evidence that supports their hypotheses.
    I’m not sure how this would pan out in a larger sample, but I’m interested in observations from other readers. I guess my point is you can get qualified and employed as a scientist without actually thinking like one. And yes, I know this is limited, anecdotal, and subjective, but I think it might go some way towards explaining why the existence of religious scientists doesn’t falsify the notion that science and religion themselves are incompatible.

  16. #16 Peter G.
    January 22, 2010

    Owlmirror, what’s that biblical quote? “You cannot serve God and Logic”… or something like that. I would take the opinion of a “religious” scientist with a very large grain of salt. A scientist who admits they don’t think very clearly isn’t really much of a scientist are they?

  17. #17 heddle
    January 22, 2010

    While the cartoon is funny, nevertheless?tiresome analogy: FAIL. Being a priest carries with it an explicit prohibition against having sex with children. So having sex with children is trivially incompatible with the priesthood.

    Science, on the other hand, has no prohibition on believing in anything. You can have irrational (meaning held for no demonstrable reason) beliefs like animal testing is unacceptable or its exact opposite animal testing is acceptable and still be a scientist. Science only demands this: when you study the natural world, do it this way (roughly speaking the scientific method?not incessant blog writing.) If you don’t, whatever it is, it’s not science.

    Doesn’t matter how many times you repeat the incompatibility canard, the fact remains that the claim it self is unscientific, because you can’t demonstrate it with an experiment. (Shall I offer my two possibilities again??no, even I am sick of hearing them?unlike you, who never tires of being incredibly stupid on this issue.)

  18. #18 frog
    January 22, 2010

    By this logic, Judaism and Nazism are compatible.

    There have been Nazi Jews — if I remember, a particular case was the developer of “SeaMonkeys”. The guy was nutz.

    Therefore, since Jewish Nazis do exist, Judaism and Nazism are compatible.

    We can now disappear into our own navel — 1+1=3 and apples grow on orange trees.

    ===

    Anyone remember the old Chappelle show episode with the blind old black man who was a major Klan leader? Unfortunately for him, he gets informed that he’s black, and divorces his white wife for being an “N* lover”.

  19. #19 Paul
    January 22, 2010

    While the cartoon is funny, nevertheless?tiresome analogy: FAIL. Being a priest carries with it an explicit prohibition against having sex with children. So having sex with children is trivially incompatible with the priesthood.

    Heddle, you need to view it in context. The whole point is that people like Chris Mooney (who is attributed as “scriptwriter” for this piece) declare “There are religious scientists, therefore religion and accomodation are compatible”. Using the same definition of compatible gets you priesthood is compatible with pedophilia.

    Seeing as we godless atheists condemn that usage of “compatible”, it’s plainly obvious that nobody is arguing that priesthood and pedophilia are “compatible” in the way that you are taking it. You’re missing the whole point of the analogy. We condemn that meaning of “compatibility”, and only use these tiresome analogies because people keep using the tiresome, meaningless definition of compatible that we are calling out as useless/uninformative/obvious.

  20. #20 Peter G.
    January 22, 2010

    Heddle@17 Sorry I don’t buy that argument at all. Whether one believes animal testing is right or wrong is a moral judgment which is entirely subjective and has nothing to do with science.

  21. #21 bcoppola
    January 22, 2010

    Sorry if this has been asked before but: has the creator of Jesus & Mo ever been fatwa’d? I mean, holy FSM, if that Danish cartoonist could raise such a kerfuffle with just one unflattering depiction of the Prophet…!

    Great strip. Whoever the author is, sauce be upon him. With extra Parmesan.

  22. #22 Fortuna
    January 22, 2010

    heddle;

    Science, on the other hand, has no prohibition on believing in anything.

    I’m pretty sure scientists aren’t taken seriously by their peers if they insist on the reality of hypotheses which have been empirically disconfirmed, or for which there is insufficient evidence.

    You can have irrational (meaning held for no demonstrable reason) beliefs like animal testing is unacceptable or its exact opposite animal testing is acceptable and still be a scientist.

    I’m not so sure that anyone holds those beliefs for no demonstrable reason. If we take one at their word that they believe animal testing is unacceptable, presumably they really do loathe animal testing on consequentialist grounds, or what have you.

    Doesn’t matter how many times you repeat the incompatibility canard, the fact remains that the claim it self is unscientific, because you can’t demonstrate it with an experiment.

    Sure you can. Ask a peer-reviewed scientific journal if they’ll accept “divine revelation” in the “methods/materials” section of a proposed paper.

  23. #23 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    It’s a bad analogy.

    Religion is a belief-system and the priests were classified as paedophiliac not because they believed its acceptability, but because they performed the act. If the priest kept his positive thoughts about paedophilia to himself and never perfomed the act, no problem.

    Now if the comparison was a priest who was an active paedophiliac, and a meteorologist who prayed to Zeus in order to predict the weather it would work. Both run counter to the job description.

    If the meteorologist merely believed that Zeus was trying to help him find a girlfriend, and observed the normal meteorological standards on the job, then there’s no problem.

    The issue is what is meant by religion, and more importantly, how do the religious beliefs impact the scientist when he/she is doing science. In some cases the answer to the impact issue is: not at all.

  24. #24 pjsouza
    January 22, 2010

    Oh I get it, child raping old men pretending to be moral is the same level of dishonesty as delusional scientists that believe in god. Ok… yeah… good argument…

  25. #25 Steven Mading
    January 22, 2010

    No, pjsouza, you don’t get it. You fail at comprehension. The point of the comic is to point out that these two things:

    1. “Person exists who thinks both X and Y”

    2. “X and Y are compatible”.

    Are different claims. (They are different because human beings are capable of reconciling things in their mind that are not actually logically compatible. It’s called cognitive dissonance.) The whole point is to show how Mooney and the people who use the same dishonest argument as he is are trying to conflate those two things as identical when they’re not. You can’t prove that X and Y are compatible merely by pointing out examples of people who think both X and Y.

    I’m sure you’d agree that slavery is logically incompatible with freedom. And yet we have people like Thomas Jefferson.

    Get the point?

    (Probably not – since it was so obvious the first time I don’t think explaining it helps if you didn’t already get it.)

  26. #26 Ewan R
    January 22, 2010

    A scientist who admits they don’t think very clearly isn’t really much of a scientist are they?

    I dunno, having worked with a lot of scientists I wouldn’t neccessarily say that clear thinking and good science have to go hand in hand – admission that you may be wrong in your thinking is probably a good thing in science.

    I think where the problem lies is that a “religious scientist” isn’t admitting to unclear thinking, they’re just guilty of it.

  27. #27 Kausik Datta
    January 22, 2010

    “religious scientist”? An oxymoron if there was ever one. Science represents the ability and the willingness to apply the scientific method to any hypothesis – using the principles of falsifiability and parsimony. Religion (or the God Hypothesis) fails on both counts. It rots the mind. Where is the compatibility?

    Presence of scientists with deep-rooted religious beliefs only exemplifies the seemingly unfathomable human capacity for a massive cognitive dissonance.

    It’s not about the job; it’s about the thinking.

  28. #28 Darren Garrison
    January 22, 2010

    OT: For anybody who wants to see it, DVD and Blu-Ray rips of Creation are floating around on the usual sources…

  29. #29 pjsouza
    January 22, 2010

    Oh! Now I get it. By that analogy the cartoonist hoped to make the argument of philosophical (or inteletual if will) inconsistency more clear by comparing it with child abuse by a priest…

    It’s not only what you say that matters, but also how you say it.

    capice?

  30. #30 John Morales
    January 22, 2010

    pjsouza:

    Oh! Now I get it.

    As your following words clearly indicate, you do not.

    It’s not only what you say that matters, but also how you say it.

    That’s got nothing to do with the issue at hand; it’s the idea expressed in what one says that matters; the specific phraseology or the tone only affect its understandability or reflect one’s opinion thereof, respectively.

    capice?

    Capisce. You are (deliberately?) obtuse on this.

  31. #31 charley
    January 22, 2010

    Philosophically, the incompatibility is that science says evidence and reason are paramount, while many religious people say scripture trumps evidence and reason.

    In practice, Christian scientists are on a leash. They are only permitted to follow the evidence as long as their findings don’t contradict scripture or dogma. There’s no reason to discredit what they find within their limited range, but they’re missing a lot.

  32. #32 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    It’s not about the job; it’s about the thinking.

    It is about the job – in the analogy that was made in the post to which this comment thread is attached.

    Although the fact that practicing paedophilia is illegal throws things off a little further in the analogy.

    As far as the Catholic Church is concerned a priest having sex with anyone violates the job contract, and so that would have been sufficient to represent an irreconcilable situation. Just as a scientist not using scientific techniques to perform a scientific job would be violating a job contract.

    Anybody is capable of irrational thought, at some point, whether it is religion or self-serving wish-fulfillment or a random superstition.

    The best we can demand of people is that they not allow their irrational thoughts to have a negative impact on their jobs. What they do on their own time should be their own business.

    To believe that the world could ever be populated with entirely, persistently rational people is in itself irrational – or at the very least an expectation based on an acquaintance with a type of human being that I myself have never met. Where do you all hang out – Vulcan?

    The lot of you absolutists need to seriously get real.

  33. #33 Sastra
    January 22, 2010

    heddle #17 wrote:

    Science only demands this: when you study the natural world, do it this way (roughly speaking the scientific method?not incessant blog writing.) If you don’t, whatever it is, it’s not science.

    Why limit the study to the natural world? Why not look at all things that are, or might be, real — and include the supernatural? A consistent scientist would be curious, and not rule out anything in advance.

  34. #34 Sastra
    January 22, 2010

    nancymcclernan #32 wrote:

    Anybody is capable of irrational thought, at some point, whether it is religion or self-serving wish-fulfillment or a random superstition. The best we can demand of people is that they not allow their irrational thoughts to have a negative impact on their jobs. What they do on their own time should be their own business.

    This is a very pragmatic description of science; reducing it to what is done, and leaving out why it’s done. Would you then agree that superstition and science are compatible, as long as the lab technicians and theorists leave it at the door, when they come to work?

    I wonder how we would get them all to agree to do that — and not start getting the idea that maybe there was something to the superstition after all, maybe they should check it out and test it?

  35. #35 speedweasel
    January 22, 2010

    ‘Comedy and Reconciliation’ would work as well.

  36. #36 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    This is a very pragmatic description of science; reducing it to what is done, and leaving out why it’s done.

    I didn’t describe science in that call-out at all. What makes you think I did?

  37. #37 John Morales
    January 22, 2010

    nancymcclernan,

    To believe that the world could ever be populated with entirely, persistently rational people is in itself irrational – or at the very least an expectation based on an acquaintance with a type of human being that I myself have never met. Where do you all hang out – Vulcan?

    A nice demolition of a straw dummy.

    I don’t expect everyone to be rational, but I do expect that intelligent people could admit to being irrational when they are so, rather than to rationalise their religion or self-serving wish-fulfillment or a random superstition.

  38. #38 Sastra
    January 22, 2010

    nancymcclerman #36 wrote:

    I didn’t describe science in that call-out at all. What makes you think I did?

    The cartoon was dealing with the ambiguity in the concept of ‘reconciling’ science and religion. Does it only refer to a scientist’s religious beliefs having no impact when they do science? Or is there a wider context which gets to the heart of what it means to ‘reconcile’ two areas?

    I think that what science is, is relevant to answering this question. Your responses implied that you wanted to deal with it pragmatically, because that’s what’s relevant.

    How would you describe science?

  39. #39 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    but I do expect that intelligent people could admit to being irrational

    They could be, I suppose, but they often are not. What are your plans to address this situation?

  40. #40 John Morales
    January 22, 2010

    nancymcclernan,

    What are your plans to address this situation?

    I plan to post snarky comments on Pharyngula. ;)

  41. #41 speedweasel
    January 22, 2010

    Kausik Datta said,

    It’s not about the job; it’s about the thinking.

    It can be both, but it *should* be about the thinking.

    Are you an IDiot with a 40 year old PhD in chemistry working for the discovery institute? You will probably want call yourself a scientist.

    Are you an atheist skeptic with a 10 year history of debunking psuedoscience and promoting rational thinking to the masses? You’re not going to fill in ‘scientist’ as an occupation on the census, but you’re more of a scientist than the guy above.

  42. #42 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    The cartoon was dealing with the ambiguity in the concept of ‘reconciling’ science and religion.

    Is that what it was dealing with? Cause what I saw was a cartoonist delivering what he considered a smack-down to the concept of religion/science reconciliability by comparing the Catholic priesthood to science and pedophilia to religion.

  43. #43 David Marjanovi?
    January 22, 2010

    Sorry if this has been asked before but: has the creator of Jesus & Mo ever been fatwa’d? I mean, holy FSM, if that Danish cartoonist could raise such a kerfuffle with just one unflattering depiction of the Prophet…!

    One strip says Mo is a body double.

  44. #44 Brownian, OM
    January 22, 2010

    Cause what I saw was a cartoonist delivering what he considered a smack-down to the concept of religion/science reconciliability by comparing the Catholic priesthood to science and pedophilia to religion.

    You should spend more time on Vulcan. There they know how to read a comic.

  45. #45 Sastra
    January 22, 2010

    nancymcclernan #42 wrote:

    Is that what it was dealing with?

    Yes; most people would not say that Catholicism and pedophilia are ‘reconciled’ just because some priests are pedophiles. They’d recognize that a meaningful concept of reconciliation would have to involve the theology actually supporting pedophilia.

    In the same way, a meaningful reconciliation between science and religion would involve the science supporting religious claims. This is what the New Atheists are saying. Apply the scientific method, to religion.

  46. #46 speedweasel
    January 22, 2010

    Is that what it was dealing with? Cause what I saw was a cartoonist delivering what he considered a smack-down to the concept of religion/science reconciliability by comparing the Catholic priesthood to science and pedophilia to religion.

    The ‘paedophile priest’ might be considered a parody of the ‘religious scientist’ argument for the reconciliation of religion and science.

    Both arguments obviously prove nothing.

    Do we need to draw a Venn diagram or something?

  47. #47 Malcolm
    January 22, 2010

    Nancymcclernan #32,

    As far as the Catholic Church is concerned a priest having sex with anyone violates the job contract,

    Someone might want to mention that to the pope too.

  48. #48 John Morales
    January 22, 2010

    nancymcclernan,

    Is that what it was dealing with? Cause what I saw was a cartoonist delivering what he considered a smack-down to the concept of religion/science reconciliability by comparing the Catholic priesthood to science and pedophilia to religion.

    What you saw was a parallel construction, an argument where the form remains the same but the terms are different.

    I’ve taken the liberty of transcribing the cartoon: look at [1] and [6].

    That’s the point — to show the ridiculousness of that argument.

    — begin transcript —-

    [1] J: There may be philosophical problems in making science and religion compatible, but it is an undeniable fact that religious scientists exist.

    [2] J: It’s not really open to debate: science and religion are reconciled all the time by actual living, breathing human beings.
    You may not like it, but you can’t deny that it happens regularly.

    [...]

    [3] B: You should tell that one to the Pope.

    [4] J: Why?

    [5] B: He could use the same argument to reconcile priesthood with paedophilia.

    [6] M: It is an undeniable fact that paedophile priests exist.

    — end transcript —-

  49. #49 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    most people would not say that Catholicism and pedophilia are ‘reconciled’ just because some priests are pedophiles.

    I’ve already explained why I consider it a bad analogy.

    And you think that *most people* would not say that Catholicism and pedophilia are ‘reconciled…

    Just curious – what would the other people say?

    I thought the point of that Bertrand Russell video clip posting a few days ago was that the term “New Atheists” is a bullshit religion-friendly mainstream media appellation. Was I the only one who picked up on that?

  50. #50 Brownian, OM
    January 22, 2010

    As far as the Catholic Church is concerned a priest having sex with anyone violates the job contract, and so that would have been sufficient to represent an irreconcilable situation.

    Maybe on Vulcan. On Earth, as far as the Catholic Church is concerned a priest having sex with a child just needs a change of scene.

  51. #51 Kausik Datta
    January 22, 2010

    Cause what I saw was a cartoonist delivering what he considered a smack-down to the concept of religion/science reconciliability by comparing the Catholic priesthood to science and pedophilia to religion.

    Really? Wow! You and I must really inhabit different ends of the spectrum! What I saw was the cartoonist ridiculing the argument of forced compatibility between diametrically opposite ideas, merely on the premises that certain individuals exist with those ideas concurrently. Mo’s point was that the same untenable argument could be used to address an equally forced compatibility between priesthood and pedophilia, merely because pedophile priests are known to exist.

    You know what… Never mind. If this has to be dissected and explained, the Jesus and Mo humor is perhaps not for you.

  52. #52 Sven DiMilo
    January 22, 2010

    Is that what it was dealing with?

    It’s dealing with specific arguments that have been made by specific people in the last week. Look, a link!

    Cause what I saw was a cartoonist delivering what he considered a smack-down to the concept of religion/science reconciliability by comparing the Catholic priesthood to science and pedophilia to religion.

    A smack-down that deserved a call-out?
    He or she is not comparing priests to science or pedophilia to religion. The point is to mock Mooney’s stupid argument–essentially the meaningless sense of “compatible” he keeps insisting on–with a parallel construction.

    yeah, that’s right, you didn’t get it

  53. #53 John Morales
    January 22, 2010

    Kausik, allow me to remove the redundancy: “You know what… Never mind. If this has to be dissected and explained, the Jesus and Mo humor is perhaps not for you.”

  54. #54 Kausik Datta
    January 22, 2010

    Much obliged.

  55. #55 Brownian, OM
    January 22, 2010

    If this has to be dissected and explained because you haven’t bothered to read the explanation repeated in previous comments on this very thread, the Jesus and Mo humor discussion about the compatibility of religion and science is perhaps not for you.

    Fixed.

  56. #56 frog, Inc.
    January 22, 2010

    What funniness today! How many people can’t distinguish the formal parallel construction from the gratuitous (or not so gratuitous) insult?

    And yet they think themselves “clever”? Both are going on — one is the “point” of the cartoon, that a bad argument is used both in “reconciling” science and religion and “reconciling” Catholicism and pedophilia. And then there’s the insult — the simple association of Catholicism with pedophilia, because the cartoonist thinks that the RCC is an evil organization. The illogic is what drives the joke — otherwise, it’s just pedantry.

    You can have both — that’s where the humor lies. You know, if you don’t have a sense of humor, you’re really not clever.

    Actually, I think that the folks trying to attack the cartoon are much funnier than the original…

  57. #57 Steven Mading
    January 22, 2010

    Posted by: nancymcclernan Author Profile Page | January 22, 2010 5:08 PM
    [...]
    To believe that the world could ever be populated with entirely, persistently rational people is in itself irrational – or at the very least an expectation based on an acquaintance with a type of human being that I myself have never met. Where do you all hang out – Vulcan?

    The lot of you absolutists need to seriously get real.

    Sigh. Again, you people aren’t getting it, even though it was explicitly stated in text, and also what the subject of the cartoon was. The whole fucking POINT of this is that people ARE capable of being inconsistent and THEREFORE the argument that one can prove that two ideas are consistent by doing nothing more than showing that the two ideas exist in the same person’s head is a bullshit argument that does not work.

    It’s not us that are making the stupid claim that everyone is consistent in their thinking. It’s really the accomodationists we’re arguing against that are making that bullshit claim, every time they try to use “a person exists who thinks X and also thinks Y” as evidence that X and Y are compatible with each other. That would only work as proof of that claim if we knew that no inconsistent human thought existed.

    The reason we have to demand that religious scientists leave their religion at the door when they go to their job as a scientist, as in your post, is precisely because of the exact incompatibility we’ve been talking about here.

    You’re making the mistake of misunderstanding the argument – thinking it’s about whether people can hold religion and science in their brain at the same time. No, it’s about whether or not the ideas themselves are actually compatible, not about whether or not they can be stored in the same human brain. Human brains are capable of storing incompatible thoughts in them. It’s called cognitive dissonance. We, the anti-accomodationists, are the ones that recognize this fact. It’s the accomodationists that keep using arguments that would require human brains to be coldly logically consistent in order for the arguments to be valid.

  58. #58 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    What I saw was the cartoonist ridiculing the argument of forced compatibility between diametrically opposite ideas, merely on the premises that certain individuals exist with those ideas concurrently.

    Our views are not incompatible on what we saw – but my take on it was that it failed as ridicule because it was a bad analogy.

    Mo’s point was that the same untenable argument could be used to address an equally forced compatibility between priesthood and pedophilia, merely because pedophile priests are known to exist.

    I’ve already explained why it’s a bad analogy. But I suppose it’s more comforting to believe that I’m simply too stupid to get it.

  59. #59 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    Oh look, it’s Sven DiMilo – does this mean that I am no longer on your killfile list. What an honor.

  60. #60 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    So apparently pointing out that a cartoonist made a bad analogy means that you have no sense of humor.

    Because why – because it’s funnier if it IS a bad analogy?

    I guess that’s how things work on Vulcan.

  61. #61 Brownian, OM
    January 22, 2010

    I’ve already explained why it’s a bad analogy. But I suppose it’s more comforting to believe that I’m simply too stupid to get it.

    Comfort has nothing to do with it; bad analogy or not, you’ve demonstrated you completely missed the fucking joke.

    See? See? This:

    comparing the Catholic priesthood to science and pedophilia to religion.

    …is fucking wrong. If you saw this, then you are wrong. You are as fucking wrong as if you had written “comparing the Catholic priesthood to religion and pedophilia to science”.

    Believe whatever you want about what we think about your stupidity, but you missed the point of the joke.

  62. #62 heddle
    January 22, 2010

    Sastra,

    Why limit the study to the natural world? Why not look at all things that are, or might be, real — and include the supernatural? A consistent scientist would be curious, and not rule out anything in advance.

    By natural world I mean anything that registers a signal on my senses or detectors. Science is the thoroughly validated tried-and-true method for studying that which can be measured. If that “something” has a supernatural explanation (I have never seen such a phenomenon, as far as I know) then science will never determine its cause–but it will die trying, since there’s no other game in town.

    This is a very pragmatic description of science; reducing it to what is done, and leaving out why it’s done.

    Unpalatable as it is, why it is done is irrelevant. I can do science because I want to save the world–or I can do science because I want to destroy the world. You can like or dislike scientists for their motives, but the quality of their science is agnostic wrt those motives.

    In even uglier terms–Jonathan Wells claimed he wanted a Ph.D. in biology to disprove evolution. Of course he never did that or even tried (using science) as far as I know–but if he had gone into a lab and performed legitimate experiments with the hope and desire that the results of those experiments disproved evolution–he would have been a hugely unlikable scientist.

    That fact that science doesn’t care about the motives or believes of the practitioner is a feature, not a bug. It is not restricted to the pure of heart. It is a meritocracy.

  63. #63 'Tis Himself, OM
    January 22, 2010

    It’s actually an excellent analogy.

    There is a journalist named Chris Mooney. Mr. Mooney is of the opinion that there is no incompatibility between science and religion. As evidence for his claim he notes there are scientists who are religious, for example Francis Collins and Ken Miller. Since the same person can be religious and scientific, Mr. Mooney argues for the compatibility of science and religion.

    The cartoon argues against Mr. Mooney’s supposition by pointing out there are priests who are pedophiles. By Mr. Mooney’s argument since the same person can be a priest and a pedophile, therefore being a priest and being a pedophile are compatible. Few people, probably even Mr. Mooney, would hold to this compatibility.

    I think it’s a brilliant analogy.

  64. #64 Sven DiMilo
    January 22, 2010

    Well, registration changed your login name, don’tcha know. Happy to put you back.

  65. #65 Brownian, OM
    January 22, 2010

    So apparently pointing out that a cartoonist made a bad analogy means that you have no sense of humor.

    No, failing to get the joke means you have a poor sense of humour.

    I guess that’s how things work on Vulcan.

    Fuck me, but you are an idiot. Perhaps when you’ve demonstrated you can grasp abstract humour, you’ll have a leg on which to stand on while you criticise other people for being emotionless.

  66. #66 Margaret
    January 22, 2010

    nancymcclernan

    …comparing the Catholic priesthood to science and pedophilia to religion.

    The cartoon is NOT about comparing those things to each other, it’s about the form of the argument, not the items that are the placeholders in the argument. The added humor (and the insult) comes from mentioning the link between Catholic priests and pedophilia, but that’s not the actual point. The dig against Catholics is an added bonus, the actual point of the cartoon is a dig against accomodationists.

  67. #67 Caine
    January 22, 2010

    60:

    So apparently pointing out that a cartoonist made a bad analogy means that you have no sense of humor.

    Nothing wrong with the analogy at all. It’s spot on when it comes to Mooney’s reasoning about ‘framing’.

  68. #68 John Morales
    January 22, 2010

    Heddle,

    By natural world I mean anything that registers a signal on my senses or detectors.

    If by ‘senses’ you refer to your means of perception, then your self-perception (e.g. emotions and moods) is part of the natural world too by that definition.

  69. #69 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    No, it’s about whether or not the ideas themselves are actually compatible, not about whether or not they can be stored in the same human brain.

    In the cartoon, Jesus says:

    Religion and science are reconciled all the time by actual living breathing human beings.

    The response: the Pope could use the same argument to reconcile Priesthood with pedophilia.

    But if the Pope used that argument it would be silly – because the pedophilia (or any sex really) is a direct repudiation of the vows the Priest took in order to become a Priest. It’s a broken contract. And of course it’s illegal.

    It’s my understanding that scientists make no vows or contractual agreements on the subject of religion. But if anybody knows anything different, please share.

    And of course the analogy is further muddied by the fact that “pedophilia” is a pretty clear-cut thing, while “religion” is not at all. I’ve heard it defined as everything from “a feeling” to a complex intertwined set of laws. Don’t you have to define what you’re talking about? Or did everybody here except me get the memo on what is meant exactly by “religion.”

  70. #70 Sven DiMilo
    January 22, 2010

    I know! Let’s try it this way, Nancy:

    Vishnu: Science and religion are compatible, because there are religious scientists.

    Osiris: Somebody (not the Pope, obviously, in this case) could use the same argument to reconcile Evolutionary Psychology with feminism.

    See? equally bad “analogy,” but the point about the insipidity of the argument is the same.
    But, of course, not nearly as funny.

  71. #71 Brownian, OM
    January 22, 2010

    But if the Pope used that argument it would be silly

    If anybody used the argument that A and B are compatible simply because there is a person who is A as well as B it would be silly. That’s the fucking point.

    THE JOKE IS ABOUT THE VAPIDNESS OF MOONEY’S ARGUMENT. IT’S ABOUT MOONEY. THE POPE, THE PRIEST, AND THE PEDOPHILE ARE INCIDENTAL.

    Keep snarking about Vulcans though, idiot.

  72. #72 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    The cartoon is NOT about comparing those things to each other, it’s about the form of the argument, not the items that are the placeholders in the argument.

    The cartoonist is making an analogy:

    religion is (not) reconcilable to science

    as

    priesthood is (not) reconcilable to pedophilia.

    That’s an analogy. Do you seriously not see that?

    The dig against Catholics is an added bonus, the actual point of the cartoon is a dig against accomodationists.

    OK, you seriously thought you had to explain that. What was it, exactly that led you to the conclusion that I’m a blithering idiot? Please, quote exactly what it was I said that indicated to you that I’m kind of retarded.

  73. #73 Caine
    January 22, 2010

    69:

    And of course the analogy is further muddied by the fact that “pedophilia” is a pretty clear-cut thing, while “religion” is not at all. I’ve heard it defined as everything from “a feeling” to a complex intertwined set of laws. Don’t you have to define what you’re talking about?

    Jesus fuckin’ wept…stay away from comics, okay? Something like Pearl Clutching 101 or Advanced Density is more your style.

  74. #74 aratina cage of the OM
    January 22, 2010

    But if the Pope used that argument it would be silly

    Precisely. Mooney’s argument is silly. Pretty funny, isn’t it?

    “pedophilia” is a pretty clear-cut thing

    Not at all. We’ve had many long drawn out discussions regarding pedophilia because it is not well understood and defined differently in different academic and legal contexts.

  75. #75 John Morales
    January 22, 2010

    nancymcclernan @69: #48.

  76. #76 Sastra
    January 22, 2010

    heddle #62 wrote:

    By natural world I mean anything that registers a signal on my senses or detectors. Science is the thoroughly validated tried-and-true method for studying that which can be measured. If that “something” has a supernatural explanation (I have never seen such a phenomenon, as far as I know) then science will never determine its cause–but it will die trying, since there’s no other game in town.

    Presumably ‘God’ registers a signal on your senses, either directly or indirectly, or you would have no good reason to think there is such a thing.

    Why couldn’t science determine that something is supernatural, or paranormal, and real? For example, consider those silly “Ghost Hunter” shows on cable tv, where people skulk around in the dark with cameras and ectoplasm measurers or whatever the heck they do (I’ve never actually watched one, but from the clips I’ve seen they seem very high-tech-y and science-y.) Imagine that this wasn’t a lot of misattribution and nonsense, but reliable, verifiable, recordable, and demonstrable. Imagine that science actually finds God.

    If the whole counter to that would be that in that case ghosts, God, angels, spirits, magic healing energy, and higher realms of spiritual essences are all natural now, so science still can’t explore the supernatural, then big deal. A pyrrhic victory of words.

    Unpalatable as it is, why it is done is irrelevant. I can do science because I want to save the world–or I can do science because I want to destroy the world.

    No, I meant that science, as a process, is done in order to understand the nature of reality in as unbiased a way as possible. The motivations of individual scientists wasn’t my point.

  77. #77 WowbaggerOM
    January 22, 2010

    Of course religion can be compatible with science; it just involves religion changing its practices and definitions in order to accommodate the reality demonstrated by science – but, in doing so, it undermines any claims it might have on possessing anything resembling ‘revealed truth’.

    If this weren’t the case there’d be examples of science being amended to align with religious principles – and, while I’m no historian of science, I’m fairly sure that’s never happened.

  78. #78 Brownian, OM
    January 22, 2010

    Please, quote exactly what it was I said that indicated to you that I’m kind of retarded.

    This, for one example:

    Cause what I saw was a cartoonist delivering what he considered a smack-down to the concept of religion/science reconciliability by comparing the Catholic priesthood to science and pedophilia to religion.

    Wrong, retard.

    Here’s a second:

    The cartoonist is making an analogy:

    religion is (not) reconcilable to science

    as

    priesthood is (not) reconcilable to pedophilia.

    That’s an analogy. Do you seriously not see that?

    Wrong, retard.

    The cartoonist is not (“IS NOT” is the opposite of “IS”) saying that religion and science are not compatible.

    What he IS saying is that Mooney’s argument that science and religion ARE compatible SIMPLY because SOME scientists ARE religious is AS STUPID as the Pope saying Catholicism and paedophilia ARE compatible SIMPLY because SOME priests ARE paedophiles.

  79. #79 Sven DiMilo
    January 22, 2010

    The cartoonist is making an analogy:
    religion is (not) reconcilable to science
    as
    priesthood is (not) reconcilable to pedophilia.

    Still wrong.
    The cartoonist is making this analogy:

    [Arguing that that science and religion are compatible because there are religious scientists]
    is like
    [arguing that priesthood and pedophilia are compatible because there are pedophiliac priests]

    I do think you’re being kind of dense here, but it’s also true that this discussion has a specific context of which you are apparently ignorant.

  80. #80 'Tis Himself, OM
    January 22, 2010

    The cartoonist is making an analogy:

    religion is (not) reconcilable to science

    as

    priesthood is (not) reconcilable to pedophilia.

    Yes that’s the analogy. It shows that Mooney’s argument about the compatibility of science and religion is flawed.

    The dig against Catholics is an added bonus, the actual point of the cartoon is a dig against accomodationists.

    OK, you seriously thought you had to explain that.

    When you made it obvious that you did not understand what the point of the cartoon was, then yes, several of us tried to explain it to you.

    What was it, exactly that led you to the conclusion that I’m a blithering idiot?

    When you kept making it painfully obvious that you didn’t understand what the analogy was all about.

    Please, quote exactly what it was I said that indicated to you that I’m kind of retarded.

    When you said stupid things like:

    But if the Pope used that argument it would be silly

  81. #81 John Morales
    January 22, 2010

    nancymcclernan:

    What was it, exactly that led you to the conclusion that I’m a blithering idiot?

    I suspect that, like me, Margaret has read your comments.

  82. #82 SC OM
    January 22, 2010

    Nancy and heddle on one thread? Ugh.

  83. #83 A. Noyd
    January 22, 2010

    nancymcclernan (#58)

    I’ve already explained why it’s a bad analogy. But I suppose it’s more comforting to believe that I’m simply too stupid to get it.

    What would be a more appropriate analogy for the point the cartoonist is trying to make, then?

  84. #84 pjsouza
    January 22, 2010

    @ John

    That’s got nothing to do with the issue at hand; it’s the idea expressed in what one says that matters

    We obviously disagree here, so I guess I can call you obtuse as well. *TAG* You’re it!

    the specific phraseology or the tone only affect its understandability or reflect one’s opinion thereof, respectively.

    That was precisely my point, I have a much stronger opinion on raping priests, than on religious scientists. When one brings an argument to this level it looses strength and becomes shrill.

    Paulino

    Any other deconstruction of the joke to me and I’ll turn this into a drinking game…

  85. #85 SC OM
    January 22, 2010

    The cartoonist is making this analogy:

    [Arguing that that science and religion are compatible because there are religious scientists]

    is like

    [arguing that priesthood and pedophilia are compatible because there are pedophiliac priests]

    How fucking difficult is this to understand?

  86. #86 WowbaggerOM
    January 22, 2010

    Scientists can subvert their otherwise rational thought processes in such a way they don’t realise they aren’t applying them to their religious beliefs – or, alternatively, they can convince themselves they are applying them to their religious beliefs even when they aren’t.

    Avoidance of conflict ≠ compatibility.

  87. #87 Paul
    January 22, 2010

    I do think you’re being kind of dense here, but it’s also true that this discussion has a specific context of which you are apparently ignorant.

    I pointed out the relevant context in #5. I even pointed out the way the detractors are misreading the analogy in #19, as have several other people. The “but” clause is meaningless in that context. There is no excuse for ignorance when you have a whole thread of people pointing out the existence of that which you are ignorant about.

  88. #88 heddle
    January 22, 2010

    Sastra

    Presumably ‘God’ registers a signal on your senses, either directly or indirectly, or you would have no good reason to think there is such a thing.

    Don’t think so. The best you could do is detect changes in my brain when I think about God. But you could only demonstrate that I was thinking about God.

    Why couldn’t science determine that something is supernatural, or paranormal, and real?

    I guess that it depends on what you mean by real. If ghosts are real in that they create signals in detectors such as CCDs, then I guess science leads us to the conclusion of their reality–that is, something real is depositing energy in my equipment. But if they are supernatural beings, science will never demonstrate it. Science will simply fail, forever, to find an explanation.

  89. #89 Sastra
    January 22, 2010

    Maybe we can make the analogy using the nazis and evolution. That wouldn’t please Mooney either.

  90. #90 John Morales
    January 22, 2010

    pjsouza,

    I have a much stronger opinion on raping priests, than on religious scientists.

    I confess I’ve never given consideration to raping priests, though I’m rather appalled by rapist priests.

    Religious scientists, well, that’s common. There are doctors who are smokers, too¹ — but does that make smoking compatible with good health?

    ¹ Though not as many as there once were. :)

  91. #91 WowbaggerOM
    January 22, 2010

    heddle wrote:

    But if they are supernatural beings, science will never demonstrate it. Science will simply fail, forever, to find an explanation.

    How convenient that what you happen to believe also happens to be something that can never be measured.

    Perhaps you can explain to us the precise difference between something science cannot explain because it lies outside of the reach of science and something that science cannot explain because it simply does not exist.

  92. #92 Sastra
    January 22, 2010

    heddle #88 wrote:

    Don’t think so. The best you could do is detect changes in my brain when I think about God. But you could only demonstrate that I was thinking about God.

    This seems to suggest that God is a thought. But presumably it’s something else, and there are objective reasons you think it’s there — meaning, it’s not just an unaccountable whim on your part, or consciously adopted so you can have all the fun of church, or something.

    But if they are supernatural beings, science will never demonstrate it. Science will simply fail, forever, to find an explanation.

    At some point, “these are supernatural beings” becomes a better working hypothesis than the alternatives. Just as, in theory, God could demonstrate its existence so clearly that searching for other explanations truly would be perverse.

    The problem is with mechanism and components: if it’s supernatural, it would probably be some sort of “pure mind” or mind-power (or essence and essence-force) and not really reducible to the non-mental. But the issue wasn’t whether complete understanding was possible: just enough to make it part of the working model of How Things Are.

  93. #93 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    THE JOKE IS ABOUT THE VAPIDNESS OF MOONEY’S ARGUMENT. IT’S ABOUT MOONEY. THE POPE, THE PRIEST, AND THE PEDOPHILE ARE INCIDENTAL.

    You don’t understand what I’m saying, so you think I’m stupid. Yeah, that’s fair.

    I don’t know anything about Mooney except that he apparently said that science and religion are reconciled because some scientists hold religious beliefs.

    The cartoonist says that if somebody says that a and b are reconciled ANYBODY COULD ALSO ARGUE BY THE SAME REASONING that c and d are reconciled.

    But the relationship between a and b is not anything close to the relationship between c and d.

    And so the “reasoning” does not work, and Mooney, the Pope, Osiris or Zeus would be a fool to make such an argument.

    It looks to me as though the cartoonist has set up a deliberately bad analogy and then attributed it to Mooney.

    Do you see what I’m saying now?

  94. #94 Carlie
    January 22, 2010

    But the relationship between a and b is not anything close to the relationship between c and d.

    THAT DOESN’T MATTER. The relationship for the joke is that both beliefs are held by the same person. Period. It matters not what the belief pairs are, or what they may or may not have in common. The only point of comparison is that a single person holds both ideas in their head at the same time.

    It looks to me as though the cartoonist has set up a deliberately bad analogy and then attributed it to Mooney.

    No.

    Do you see what I’m saying now?

    You’ve been clear from the beginning. And always been the same amount of wrong.

  95. #95 A. Noyd
    January 22, 2010

    nancymcclernan (#93)

    And so the “reasoning” does not work, and Mooney, the Pope, Osiris or Zeus would be a fool to make such an argument.

    Well, that’s the whole fucking point but the way you go on, I can’t tell if you actually get it or if you happened upon it by accident.

    It looks to me as though the cartoonist has set up a deliberately bad analogy and then attributed it to Mooney.

    Again, what would be a better analogy?

  96. #96 Scott
    January 22, 2010

    If the purpose of this analogy is to give Chris Mooney the vapors, I’m all for it. ‘Framing’ as practiced by Mooney and Nesbit blurs a distinction that is worth preserving between ‘accomodation’ and ‘advocacy’. I’m in favor of neutral language in scientific discourse where religion is concerned, and I don’t think scientific organizations should pander to the religious. Our task as scientists is to propose testable explanations for observable phenomena, and let the chips fall where they may.

    On the other hand, if you think this analogy is actually a valid talking point against religion or any other belief system, please adjust your helmet. I am completely bored with ‘incompatibility’ arguments from people who routinely conflate their understanding of science with some metaphysical scheme. The best one can say about these stances is that they are from a certain point of view parsimonious.

    They are also completely unrealistic, and unnecessary. People with all sorts of belief systems seem to be able to ‘do’ science without converting it into a form of ideology, and I don’t see how arguments to the contrary benefit the scientific enterprise.

  97. #97 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    Here’s why the relationship between a and b is nothing like the relationship between c and d.

    Science = systematic approach to knowledge
    Religion = systematic approach to knowledge

    Priesthood = job within Religion
    Pedophilia = something forbidden to Priesthood

    Putting aside the issue of whether science/religion are reconcilable and priesthood/pedophilia are reconcilable – do you see why the CARTOONIST’S CLAIM that saying the first two are reconcilable is the same as saying the second two are reconcilable is wrong?

  98. #98 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    The relationship for the joke is that both beliefs are held by the same person. Period.

    But neither Priesthood nor pedophilia are beliefs. Priests hold beliefs. And a priest may be a pedophile and believe it’s wrong – but does it anyway.

  99. #99 John Morales
    January 22, 2010

    nancymcclernan,

    Do you see what I’m saying now?

    I doubt anyone fails to see what you’re saying; we’re saying it’s silly.

    The cartoonist says that if somebody says that a and b are reconciled ANYBODY COULD ALSO ARGUE BY THE SAME REASONING that c and d are reconciled.
    But the relationship between a and b is not anything close to the relationship between c and d.

    Sigh. The argument is that the compatibility of two beliefs is established if someone can simultaneously have both beliefs.

    (∃x:A(x) ∧ B(x) → A and B are compatible)

    The relationship between those two beliefs (A and B) is irrelevant to that particular argument, because it’s not included in it.

  100. #100 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    Again, what would be a better analogy?

    An analogy for what? The reconcilability or lack thereof between Science and Religion?

  101. #101 Alexander the Good Enough
    January 22, 2010

    Oy! All the shouting!

    If anyone is still listening, or reading, here’s a nice poll that could use some positive Pharyngulation on behalf of our friends J&M:
    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/comic-riffs/

    (BTW, it seems odd that “Pharyngulation” is not in the spell check’s database.)

  102. #102 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    But Priesthood/Pedophile are not beliefs.

  103. #103 BdN
    January 22, 2010

    An analogy for what? The reconcilability or lack thereof between Science and Religion?

    No, because it’s not about reconcilability or lack thereof but about the non-validity of the “simultaneously holding” argument. See the example given by John Morales about doctors.

  104. #104 John Morales
    January 22, 2010

    [1] But neither Priesthood nor pedophilia are beliefs. [2] Priests hold beliefs. [3] And a priest may be a pedophile and believe it’s wrong – but does it anyway.

    1. They’re attributes. Is a priest not priestly, and a pedophile pedophiliac, by definition? ;)

    2. Everyone holds beliefs. This is redundant.

    3. No, if a priest is a pedophile, they clearly don’t believe it’s wrong — they merely believe that they believe that it’s wrong.

    Actions speak louder than words, even words to oneself. All they are is in denial.

  105. #105 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    3. No, if a priest is a pedophile, they clearly don’t believe it’s wrong ? they merely believe that they believe that it’s wrong.

    People do things they believe they shouldn’t all the time – because they find a forbidden pleasure irresitable.

    Ask any dieter. Or someone trying to quit smoking. Or an alcoholic.

  106. #106 BdN
    January 22, 2010

    But Priesthood/Pedophile are not beliefs.

    The scientific method is not a belief neither.

    Let’s try this even the is no joke left anymore : catholic beliefs are not compatible with killing fellow human beings. But there are verses on rifles. Yeah, I know, still a bad analogy.

  107. #107 John Morales
    January 22, 2010

    [OT]

    Alexander tGE, there’s an open thread for that sort of comment, you know…

    PS Thanks! I voted for “The Order of the Stick” . :)

  108. #108 A. Noyd
    January 22, 2010

    nancymcclernan (#100)

    An analogy for what? The reconcilability or lack thereof between Science and Religion?

    No, an analogy for the failed argument Mooney is trying to make about how the ability for a single person to hold contrary positions makes those contrary positions compatible. An analogy that shows why Mooney’s “‘reasoning’ does not work.”

  109. #109 'Tis Himself, OM
    January 22, 2010

    Alexander the Good Enough #101

    I had problems with that poll. I’d never seen most of the webcomics. “Navy Bean” seems popular but I’ve never heard of it. There are several comics that I read and enjoy, like “The Order of the Stick”, “Schlock Mercenary” and “Sinfest.” I used to read “Pibgorn” but McEldowney seems to have lost his touch (I think the same is true of his other strip, “9 Chickweed Lane”). In the end I literally tossed a coin to decide between “Jesus and Mo” and “xkcd.” I finally voted for “xkcd.”

  110. #110 John Morales
    January 22, 2010

    nancymcclernan @105,

    People do things they believe they shouldn’t all the time – because they find a forbidden pleasure irresitable.

    Precisely. Now consider, does this make their behaviour compatible with their belief thereby?

  111. #111 Aquaria
    January 22, 2010

    Nancy:

    Here’s how the analogy works, in the context of the cartoon:

    Science isn’t a belief. It’s a practice. Religion in the context of the cartoonis a belief. Yes, we know it’s a practice, too, but that’s not the definition being used in the context of the cartoon.

    Regardless of how paedophilia is also a psychological impulse that needn’t be acted on, paedophilia in the context of the cartoon is a practice, while Catholicism in the context of the cartoon is a belief. The joke hinges on awareness of recent scandals regarding Catholic priests and sexual abuse of children.

    Now do you understand the analogy?

  112. #112 Paul W.
    January 22, 2010

    One of the better applications of Chad’s argument, (which Mooney says “nails it”) is this:

    Compatible only means you can do both things.
    Some scientists are Young Earth creationists.
    Therefore, science is compatible with Young Earth creationism. QED

    There’s been a couple of extended, utterly gruesome, slow-motion trainwreck threads about this over at the Intersection.

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2010/01/11/orzel-nails-it-on-science-and-religion/
    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2010/01/19/what-should-science-organizations-say-about-religion-answer-a-lot/comment-page-5/#comment-46515

    I’ve spent way too much time arguing over there lately, out of morbid and masochistic fascination with the virulent Dunning-Kruger epidemic among accommodationists.

    It’s astonishing how many accommodationists simply can’t understand the concept of validity or invalidity of an argument, or refuse to admit they do if they like the conclusion. They’re also remarkably resistant to the idea that a reductio ad absurdam can prove anything. Apparently it doesn’t count if it sounds like you’re making fun of people. That’s arguing irrationally! You should be ashamed of yourself! It’s ridiculous to make such an offensive analogy!

    (Orzel also dismissed crystal clear reductios as “schoolboy sniggering”—studiously ignoring the fact that they’re also strictly logical disproofs, and the fact that they’re hilarious is just a side benefit. Wow. This guy’s a physics professor?)

    After hundreds and hundreds of comments arguing and explaining this in Mooney land, and many direct questions to individuals, I’ve found exactly one accommodationist who would even answer the question of whether the argument is valid. (The answer was yes.)

    Jesus and Mo wept.

  113. #113 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    No, because it’s not about reconcilability or lack thereof but about the non-validity of the “simultaneously holding” argument. See the example given by John Morales about doctors.

    OK then, let’s take a look:

    Religious scientists, well, that’s common. There are doctors who are smokers, too¹ ? but does that make smoking compatible with good health?

    So some doctors smoke.

    He asks: Does that make smoking compatible to good health?

    The analogy is:

    Some scientists are religious.

    So I assume the question is:

    Does that make religion compatible with good science?

    *****

    But:

    Smoking may have bad effects on health, but not everybody who smokes is in bad health. Some people who never smoked get lung cancer, some people who smoke live to be 90 without lung cancer.

    So to keep the analogy going, religion may have bad effects on science, but not everybody who is religious does bad science.

    And that I think is probably the case – religion often does have a bad effect on science, starting with Galileo, – and you can say that the stronger the religion, the more likely it will have bad effects on science. But not every religious scientist does bad science.

    Any problems with that?

  114. #114 Aquaria
    January 22, 2010

    Oh, and Nancy, the use of Priesthood here is in their capacity as representatives of Catholicism, the belief. Before you try to weasel around that.

  115. #115 amphiox
    January 22, 2010

    But not every religious scientist does bad science.

    Quite true.
    And in the context of this argument, totally irrelevant.

  116. #116 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    Religion in the context of the cartoonis a belief. Yes, we know it’s a practice, too, but that’s not the definition being used in the context of the cartoon.

    How do you know that religion is defined as a belief and not a practice in the context of the cartoon?

    The phrase “Science and Religion” is used twice and nowhere are they defined or compared or dissected.

    Did you talk to the cartoonist?

  117. #117 Brownian, OM
    January 22, 2010

    Any problems with that?

    No, but that’s not the point the anti-accommodationists, the accommodationists, nor the cartoon is making or refuting.

    Anybody have a problem with granting Nancy part marks for being aware of the required reading? It’s not like she’s gonna pass the final anyway and office hours are nearly over.

  118. #118 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    Oh, and Nancy, the use of Priesthood here is in their capacity as representatives of Catholicism, the belief. Before you try to weasel around that.

    Oh don’t worry, I’ll devote all necessary consideration of each and every facet of your argument.

    Your amazing ability to read the cartoonist’s mind IN THE CONTEXT OF THE CARTOON is what fascinates me the most right now. Let’s talk about that first.

  119. #119 John Morales
    January 22, 2010

    Paul W.,

    I’ve spent way too much time arguing over there lately, out of morbid and masochistic fascination with the virulent Dunning-Kruger epidemic among accommodationists.

    You’ve earnt a lot of Brownie points thereby, or so I hear. :)

  120. #120 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    No, but that’s not the point the anti-accommodationists, the accommodationists, nor the cartoon is making or refuting.

    But that’s the point of the post I was discussing. Why do you have a problem with my focusing on that right now?

  121. #121 Brownian, OM
    January 22, 2010

    Your amazing ability to read the cartoonist’s mind IN THE CONTEXT OF THE CARTOON is what fascinates me the most right now.

    Yes. Being able to infer the intent of the writer of a joke from its context is called “having a sense of humour”. Do you want to talk about that?

  122. #122 Carlie
    January 22, 2010

    I’ve spent way too much time arguing over there lately, out of morbid and masochistic fascination with the virulent Dunning-Kruger epidemic among accommodationists.

    Your actions have been noticed and appreciated throughout the linked thread.

  123. #123 heddle
    January 22, 2010

    Sastra #92,

    This seems to suggest that God is a thought. But presumably it’s something else, and there are objective reasons you think it’s there — meaning, it’s not just an unaccountable whim on your part,

    Maybe there are no objective reasons. Maybe my belief in God is based on nothing at all. It has no bearing. Science doesn’t say I can’t have irrational beliefs. It says only that when I am engaged in science, I follow the rules. That is the only demand it makes. I don’t even have to like science to do science. I don’t even have to believe what I am doing. A researcher who thinks String Theory is bogus could, in principle, just for chuckles, be the who solves the most difficult problems of String Theory.

    At some point, “these are supernatural beings” becomes a better working hypothesis than the alternatives.

    Not for me. I’d never conclude that a supernatural explanation is in order. If I had video tape of Jesus walking on water, and if I wanted to investigate it scientifically, the final scientific conclusion, assuming it was supernatural, would be “I don’t know” not “It’s a miracle.”

  124. #124 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    Anybody have a problem with granting Nancy part marks for being aware of the required reading? It’s not like she’s gonna pass the final anyway and office hours are nearly over.

    Well judging by the comments here, one must excel in name-calling, derision, obnoxiousness, obtuseness, conclusion-leaping, arrogance and conformity in order to pass the test to become part of the in-group here. And I could never hope to match any of you on those skills.

  125. #125 A. Noyd
    January 22, 2010

    nancymcclernan (#120)

    But that’s the point of the post I was discussing. Why do you have a problem with my focusing on that right now?

    Because it looks like you’re dodging the issue of whether you understand what the cartoon is about. Now… why can’t you come up with a better analogy?

  126. #126 Sven DiMilo
    January 22, 2010

    And that I think is probably the case – religion often does have a bad effect on science, starting with Galileo, – and you can say that the stronger the religion, the more likely it will have bad effects on science. But not every religious scientist does bad science.
    Any problems with that?

    Well, I’d predate the bad-effects-of-religion-on-science thing back to Ogg the H. habilis, but otherwise no. No problem with that.

    The fact that you seem to think that any of your interlocuters here might have a problem with that, however, suggests once again that you don’t understand the discussion of which this cartoon is a part.
    That or you are lining up with Mooney and Orzel and those guys, who have to get it by now, because (in Mooney’s case anyway) they have been right in the center of it all along, but are (apparently) dishonestly and mendaciously pretending not to get it for some sort of strategic or political reasons or something.

  127. #127 Brownian, OM
    January 22, 2010

    But that’s the point of the post I was discussing. Why do you have a problem with my focusing on that right now?

    Yeah, because it’s obvious you’re shifting the focus to avoid having to own up to the fact that you missed the point of the joke.

    You may be fucking retarded, but we’re not and we can see right through your Gish Gallop, you fucking dishonest snizz.

  128. #128 BdN
    January 22, 2010

    Any problems with that?

    The same as before so it’s not worth repeating.

    But not every religious scientist does bad science.

    As far as I know, nobody ever said that.

    Let’s try another one : I know intelligent, rational people, knowing how to use statistics, etc., who, at the same time can’t help being convinced something bad is going to happen if they walk under a ladder. According to the “existing simultaneously in one person” definition, it would mean that science, or, more precisely, statistics, are compatible with superstitions.

    Anybody is capable of irrational thought, at some point, whether it is religion or self-serving wish-fulfillment or a random superstition.

    Of course. That doesn’t mean said irrational thoughts or random superstitions are compatible with science or logic.

    To believe that the world could ever be populated with entirely, persistently rational people

    Nobody said that neither.

  129. #129 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    Because it looks like you’re dodging the issue of whether you understand what the cartoon is about. Now… why can’t you come up with a better analogy?

    I can only do so many things at a time, and I’m being attacked by a bunch of people who apparently hate me, all at once. I don’t claim to be Bruce Lee.

    I see no need to come up with an analogy – I have no point to make on the issue of science v. religion that requires an analogy at this time.

    If you find the cartoonist’s analogy wanting, feel free to come up with one yourself.

  130. #130 Ichthyic
    January 22, 2010

    Maybe my belief in God is based on nothing at all. It has no bearing. Science doesn’t say I can’t have irrational beliefs.

    nor does it say whether we may judge whether those irrational beliefs, on the face of them, would be incompatible with the scientific method.

    don’t know why you even include the word “science” in your missives any more, Heddle.

    you’re so far away from being able to speak for it.

  131. #131 Sven DiMilo
    January 22, 2010

    Well judging by the comments here, one must excel in name-calling, derision, obnoxiousness, obtuseness, conclusion-leaping, arrogance and conformity in order to pass the test to become part of the in-group here. And I could never hope to match any of you on those skills.

    Aw.
    Well, see ya then.

  132. #132 SC OM
    January 22, 2010

    Science…says only that when I am engaged in science life – any epistemic activity, I follow the rules.

    Fixed. We’re adults here, heddle.

  133. #133 Brownian, OM
    January 22, 2010

    Well judging by the comments here, one must excel in name-calling, derision, obnoxiousness, obtuseness, conclusion-leaping, arrogance and conformity in order to pass the test to become part of the in-group here. And I could never hope to match any of you on those skills.

    Oh, you’ve got obtuseness down pat, fuckwit, and you were doing a pretty good job derisively name-called with your cute little ‘Vulcan’ comments.

    So sit and fucking spin, you hypocritical gobshite.

  134. #134 Ichthyic
    January 22, 2010

    Did you talk to the cartoonist?

    indirectly…

    that specific cartoonist does indeed know of this blog and it’s principle author.

  135. #135 heddle
    January 22, 2010

    Ichthyic,

    you’re so far away from being able to speak for it.

    You know this how? Do you follow me around the lab everyday, or when I am on shift during an experiment, and you can make a case that what I am doing there is not science? I’d like to hear it.

    No, as usual, you’re talking out your ass, probably trying very hard not to use your quiver’s sole arrow, the charge of “projection.”

  136. #136 Brownian, OM
    January 22, 2010

    I can only do so many things at a time, and I’m being attacked by a bunch of people who apparently hate me, all at once.

    I don’t hate you. I’ll leave that to the unfortunate people who have to deal with your dishonesty on a daily basis.

  137. #137 Sven DiMilo
    January 22, 2010

    I see no need to come up with an analogy…If you find the cartoonist’s analogy wanting, feel free to come up with one yourself.

    Feel free to steal mine; it was meant just for you after all.

  138. #138 John Morales
    January 22, 2010

    Heddle: While the cartoon is funny, nevertheless?tiresome analogy: FAIL.

    nancymcclernan: It’s a bad analogy.

    nancymcclernan:

    If you find the cartoonist’s analogy wanting, feel free to come up with one yourself.

    Good advice, Nancy!

  139. #139 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    You may be fucking retarded, but we’re not and we can see right through your Gish Gallop, you fucking dishonest snizz.

    I had a huge argument once with some religion-defender at Echidne’s place once and he kept complaining about how nasty people were at Pharygula. I thought he was a big whiner.

    Now I understand.

    What a bunch of vicious little group-think fucktards so many of you are.

    But come on – bring it fuckface. What’s your problem with me? I lost track – I can’t keep you all straight at this point, you are so interchangeably revolting.

  140. #140 Ichthyic
    January 22, 2010

    grr.

    it’s>its

  141. #141 Ichthyic
    January 22, 2010

    fucking dishonest snizz.

    did i miss a word?

    what’s a snizz?

    i like the way it sounds…

  142. #142 John Morales
    January 22, 2010

    Ichthyic @140, also, principle → principal.

    Who cares? :) We know what you meant.

  143. #143 Sven DiMilo
    January 22, 2010

    Several people disagree with Nancy’s almost humorously humorless misinterpretation of a cartoon and that makes them “a bunch of vicious little group-think fucktards.”

    Or, sorry, is it the tome that concerns you?

  144. #144 Ichthyic
    January 22, 2010

    What a bunch of vicious little group-think fucktards so many of you are.

    that’s the spirit!

    nice to see you at least aren’t a pearl-clutcher.

  145. #145 SC OM
    January 22, 2010

    Science doesn’t say I can’t have irrational beliefs.

    Yes, it most certainly does. As does morality.

    It says only that when I am engaged in science, I follow the rules. That is the only demand it makes.

    So, by heddle’s standards, all nonscientists are free to base their beliefs – however irrational – on any crap they can come up with. They’re not scientists, after all. No standards of reason or evidence apply.

    Oh…wait. Of course that’s what he’s saying. He subscribes to the Chicago Statement. Silly me.

  146. #146 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    I see no need to come up with an analogy…If you find the cartoonist’s analogy wanting, feel free to come up with one yourself.

    Feel free to steal mine; it was meant just for you after all.

    It was meant for me? But I just said I saw no need for an analogy. Did you read that part?

    And if you meant the Krisha one – it was completely lame anyway. But I can’t go after every bad argument here – there’s just not enough time.

    And there are so many of you, all reinforcing each other’s bad arguments and flinging shit at the outsider.

    Seriously, I hope that some anthropology student studies group behavior on comment threads. I know I find it pretty fascinating.

  147. #147 Ichthyic
    January 22, 2010

    You know this how?

    only by what you post HERE, Heddle.

    only that.

    getting a clue yet?

    @Svenn:

    is it the tome that concerns you?

    you mean tone?
    :P

  148. #148 John Morales
    January 22, 2010

    nancymcclernan,

    But come on – bring it fuckface. What’s your problem with me? I lost track – I can’t keep you all straight at this point, you are so interchangeably revolting.

    Tricky, I know.

    Hint: look at the label after the expression “Posted by: “.

    It may help even you to keep track of who’s who.

  149. #149 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    Posted by: Brownian, OM Author Profile Page | January 22, 2010 8:57 PM

    I can only do so many things at a time, and I’m being attacked by a bunch of people who apparently hate me, all at once.

    I don’t hate you. I’ll leave that to the unfortunate people who have to deal with your dishonesty on a daily basis.

    I think you are running away because you are a big chickenshit chickenface fucktard douchenozzle scumbag shitlicking shitface. I wave my private parts at your aunties.

    Come on – I can only really do any serious work on one of you at a time. I picked you Brownian.

    Come on. What’s the matter McFly? Chicken?

    Bock bock bock!

  150. #150 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    January 22, 2010

    The concern trollette is concerned. Yawn. Boring, insipid behavior.

  151. #151 Ichthyic
    January 22, 2010

    I think you are running away

    again, I think your analysis of events leaves much to be desired.

  152. #152 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    Tricky, I know.

    Hint: look at the label after the expression “Posted by: “.

    It may help even you to keep track of who’s who.

    Sorry John Morales, I already picked Brownian. You can be next after Brownian. Or you can be instead of Brownian if Brownian designates you as his/her champion. And being the chickenshit fuckwad that Brownian is, he/she has already bailed.

  153. #153 A. Noyd
    January 22, 2010

    nancymcclernan (#129)

    I see no need to come up with an analogy – I have no point to make on the issue of science v. religion that requires an analogy at this time.

    Any such analogy wouldn’t be appropriate since the cartoonist isn’t trying to make a point on the issue of science vs. religion, either. I want to see you come up with a substitute analogy that shows why Mooney’s “‘reasoning’ does not work.” Surely if you understand the cartoon as you’ve claimed, you would have no problem doing that.

    If you find the cartoonist’s analogy wanting, feel free to come up with one yourself.

    My imagination fails to grasp how you could think I am the one who has a problem with the cartoon’s analogy when your first four words in this thread were “It’s a bad analogy.” If it’s a bad analogy and you do understand the comic, then you can come up with a better analogy. If you can’t (or “won’t”) then tell us which you’d like to take back–your opinion of the analogy or your claim you understand the comic.

    (#139)

    What’s your problem with me? I lost track – I can’t keep you all straight at this point, you are so interchangeably revolting.

    The problem is you’re apparently criticizing the cartoonist’s analogy for failing to do something it wasn’t intended to do.

  154. #154 Brownian, OM
    January 22, 2010

    But come on – bring it fuckface. What’s your problem with me?

    Cute. You want to throw down. Sorry baby, but I don’t want any of your candy.

    Simply put, I don’t like people who have to be shown why they’re wrong multiple times and then, when finally cornered, try to weasel out by claiming they’re really talking about something else. I don’t like strawmen arguments. And I don’t like whiny, petulant little shits like you who start of ribbing and insulting other people and then cry when it’s directed back at them.

    I lost track – I can’t keep you all straight at this point, you are so interchangeably revolting.

    That’s it? That’s the best you got? “You guys are all groupthinkers, hurr hurr”?

    Yeah. Groupthinkers. You bet. Almost all of us agree that evolution is the best explanation for the history and diversity of life on Earth, that the planet is round not flat and revolves around the sun rather than the inverse, and that you’re a fucking idiot.

  155. #155 Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom
    January 22, 2010

    Voted for Girl Genius, which is pretty low down, but I can live with that. XKCD is winning at 17%. Least it’s not Jesus and Mo. That comic is awful and only can find merit based on its didactic message. It’s the Atheist equivalent of Left Behind.

  156. #156 Sven DiMilo
    January 22, 2010

    No, I meant tome.
    But that might have been kind of an obscure reference, I don’t know.
    If so, all your questions will be answered here.

  157. #157 Paul W.
    January 22, 2010

    Nancy,

    The point of the reductio ad absurdam is to show that the argument proves exactly nothing.

    If you can put true facts in one end, and get ridiculous falsehoods out the other, it’s a useless argument for actually demonstrating anything.

    If you try to salvage it by saying that you need to use a special sense of the word “compatible”—e.g., the odd sense you gave in which good health and smoking are actually compatible—that just shows that the argument is misleading at best. In some sense it might prove something, but it definitely does not prove nearly what it superficially seems to prove.

    This is especially ridiculous in light of Orzel’s second argument, which builds on that one.

    He claims that “science and religion are compatible” is simply a statement of fact, and that “a statement of fact cannot be unconscionable,”—i.e., no matter who says it, in what context, and how the audience will predictably (mis-)interpret it.

    So going with your example, we can say, according to Orzel-logic, that

    “smoking is compatible with good health”
    that “smoking is compatible with good health” is a statement of fact
    a statement of fact cannot be unconscionable
    therefore…
    a doctor flatly telling a patient that smoking is compatible with good health (with no qualifiers or explanations) is not unconscionable

    And that’s precisely the kind of thing he’s advocating with respect to religion and science.

    He’s saying that science organizations ought to tell people that science and religion are compatible, and that they don’t have to worry about how people will interpret that statement. If they get it wrong, and even if they systematically get it wrong—in a way that Orzel himself acknowledges is false—that’s fine.

    In other words, it’s just fine if science organizations spread information in a way that will systematically lead people to believe falsehoods, as long as the statements are “true” on Chad Orzel’s preferred interpretations of terms.

    His argument is amazing garbage from start to finish, and it is precisely designed to justify conveniently deceiving people while having plausible deniability because what they say is arguably “true” in some utterly non-obvious sense that no normal person would ever consider.

    I am totally amazed that a science professor could say something so consistently bogus, start to finish, and which so transparently excuses intentional deception by scientific bodies, of all things.

    Orzel is engaging in Dumptyism. Following H. Dumpty (as quoted by Lewis Carroll), he’s claiming that when he uses a word, it means exactly what he says it means.

    But Orzel, amazingly, is even going beyond Dumptyism.

    He’s not just claiming that when he uses a word, it means exactly what he says it means, he’s claiming that when other people use the word, it means exactly he says it means.

    I think this novel and amazing concept clearly deserves it’s own name, so for future reference I hereby dub it the Dumpty-Orzel Thesis.

    To heighten the hilarity, Orzel then claims that his hyper-Carrollian argument should not be made fun of.

    Lewis Carroll understood. Chad Orzel doesn’t.

  158. #158 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    Simply put, I don’t like people who have to be shown why they’re wrong multiple times and then, when finally cornered, try to weasel out by claiming they’re really talking about something else.

    So, you aren’t as big a chickenshit as I thought.

    But you lie. I was not shown wrong, and I did not weasel out of anything.

    I almost liked you better as a complete chickenshit.

    And to be thought as an idiot by a bunch of scared shit-flinging primates, huddling together for protection, does not bother me in the least.

  159. #159 Brownian, OM
    January 22, 2010

    I said I didn’t hate you; I didn’t say I wouldn’t rip you a new one.

    Here’s another think I don’t like about you: you’re clearly unaware of your inability to read.

  160. #160 John Morales
    January 22, 2010

    nancymcclernan,

    But come on – bring it fuckface. What’s your problem with me?
    [...]
    Come on – I can only really do any serious work on one of you at a time. I picked you Brownian.
    [...]
    Sorry John Morales, I already picked Brownian. You can be next after Brownian.

    Um. I know you’ve only got one face, and I hope you understand if respectfully decline your offer.

  161. #161 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    Posted by: Paul W. Author Profile Page | January 22, 2010 9:14 PM

    Nancy,

    The point of the reductio ad absurdam is to show that the argument proves exactly nothing.

    Sorry – take a number. Here you go:

    1. Brownian
    2. John Morales
    3. Paul W

    Who else wants a number?

  162. #162 Brownian, OM
    January 22, 2010

    And to be thought as an idiot by a bunch of scared shit-flinging primates, huddling together for protection, does not bother me in the least.

    Hey! I feel the same about you!

    See, we can find common ground!

  163. #163 Sven DiMilo
    January 22, 2010

    Paul W., you’re muddying the waters here with context. We wish to dissect the cartoon’s meaning and implications unencumbered by any knowledge of what it is actually about.

  164. #164 Ichthyic
    January 22, 2010

    let’s go back to Nancy’s first real argument by analogy that religion and science are incompatible modalities:

    in responding to ANOTHER analogy she said:

    Smoking may have bad effects on health, but not everybody who smokes is in bad health. Some people who never smoked get lung cancer, some people who smoke live to be 90 without lung cancer.

    which of course, TOTALLY MISSES THE FUCKING POINT.

    the point of course being, that since she doesn’t argue that smoking has bad effects on health, then it’s obviously in conflict to be representing a healthy lifestyle while smoking.

    yes, gish gallop indeed!

    seriously, don’t know what you think you are accomplishing here, but whatever it is, you aren’t making a coherent argument, hence, the sharks.

  165. #165 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    Posted by: Brownian, OM Author Profile Page | January 22, 2010 9:20 PM

    And to be thought as an idiot by a bunch of scared shit-flinging primates, huddling together for protection, does not bother me in the least.

    Hey! I feel the same about you!

    See, we can find common ground!

    But I’m not huddling. It’s just me, by myself against you and the shit-flinging mass.

    Is that all you got – a failed comparison?

  166. #166 Brownian, OM
    January 22, 2010

    So, you aren’t as big a chickenshit as I thought.

    So Nancy was wrong again. In other news, the sun came up this morning…

    seriously, don’t know what you think you are accomplishing here, but whatever it is, you aren’t making a coherent argument, hence, the sharks.

    Neither does she.

  167. #167 Ichthyic
    January 22, 2010

    …damnit, Paul W beat me to it.

    mine’s more succinct though.
    :P

  168. #168 Ichthyic
    January 22, 2010

    So, you aren’t as big a chickenshit as I thought.

    it’s the fact that your thinking was not even wrong to begin with.

  169. #169 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    January 22, 2010

    But I’m not huddling. It’s just me, by myself against you and the shit-flinging mass.

    You are also flinging shit, and IIRC, you started it. Here’s a hint. You are in over your head (read wrong). And have been logically for an hour or so. You need to back off. Do so.

  170. #170 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    Posted by: Brownian, OM Author Profile Page | January 22, 2010 9:22 PM

    So, you aren’t as big a chickenshit as I thought.

    So Nancy was wrong again. In other news, the sun came up this morning…

    But you are still a huddling little chickenshit – just not quite as big as I thought. But that still leaves room for plenty big.

    seriously, don’t know what you think you are accomplishing here,

    And the point is to demonstrate just exactly what a bunch of big brave fierce-fighting men they all are – when they got each others’ backs and it’s all of them against one.

  171. #171 Ichthyic
    January 22, 2010

    I was not shown wrong

    yes, you were.

    at least 4 times by my quick count.

    you seem to be suffering from selective blindness.

    There is no cure that I am aware of, unfortunately.

  172. #172 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    1. Brownian
    2. John Morales
    3. Paul W
    4. Ichthyic

    Who else wants a number?

  173. #173 Ichthyic
    January 22, 2010

    But you are still a huddling little chickenshit

    again…

    not.

    even.

    wrong.

    …and it’s all of them against one.

    persecution complex much?

  174. #174 Brownian, OM
    January 22, 2010

    Is that all you got – a failed comparison?

    I think I see (one) of your many problems. You see, two things don’t have to be exactly the same to be compared. In fact, if they are it makes the comparison kinda useless. (I’m sure you know what useless is. If not, find a mirror.)

    You see, the salient part of the comparison is that I don’t much care about what you think of me, which is similar to your claim that you don’t care what I think of you. (Even though that’s patently false, as you clearly asked “What’s your problem with me?” in post #139. Nonetheless, I thought I’d overlook your little bit of dishonesty and act as if you meant your comment in good faith. Clearly a mistake.)

    Shall I continue to teach you what words mean, or would you rather continue to trip over your own feet in an effort to show us you’re a tough little cookie too?

  175. #175 Celtic_Evolution
    January 22, 2010

    And the point is to demonstrate just exactly what a bunch of big brave fierce-fighting men they all are – when they got each others’ backs and it’s all of them against one.

    That’s quite the persecution complex you’ve got there… I think you should stop feeding it before it grows out of control…

    ooops…

  176. #176 Sven DiMilo
    January 22, 2010

    Can I have a number?
    Can it be 23?

    And to be thought as an idiot by a bunch of scared shit-flinging primates, huddling together for protection, does not bother me in the least.

    Nancy, please realize that huddling and shit-flinging evolved as adaptations in our simian ancestors for defense against dense, muddleheaded predators, and afterwards the helpless, huddling female simian ancestors would usually choose to mate with the cuddliest huddlers and most accurate shit-flingers among the patriarchical simian-ancestor males. Because (as evolutionary psychology tells us) our minds retain these hardwired ancestral adaptations, we simply cannot help ourselves. I hope you understand and aren’t taking this too personally. It’s just biology; simple stimulus and reflex response.

    I guess one thing you might try is to quit with the dense, muddleheaded stimuili.

  177. #177 A. Noyd
    January 22, 2010

    nancymcclernan (#161)

    Who else wants a number?

    Oy, pop me to the front of the line, eh? I’ve had the same request the entire time and you’ve avoided it since I first asked it in #83 (then 95, 108, 125, and 153). Alternatively, you can answer which you’d like to take back: your opinion of the analogy or your claim you understand the comic.

  178. #178 Ichthyic
    January 22, 2010

    Who else wants a number?

    I imagine if this were a debate in a bar, you would be holding a broken bottle in a corner about now, face contorted with rage, while the rest of us are still sitting at the table with our beers in hand…

    laughing at you.

  179. #179 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    January 22, 2010

    laughing at you.

    Yep. *swigs brewski*

  180. #180 Brownian, OM
    January 22, 2010

    And the point is to demonstrate just exactly what a bunch of big brave fierce-fighting men they all are – when they got each others’ backs and it’s all of them against one.

    I find Nancy’s scrappy little comments are best enjoyed with some background music.

    Nancy, as a personal favour to me would you please end each comment with “Adria-a-a-a-n-n-n!”?

  181. #181 IaMoL
    January 22, 2010

    Well Nancy definitely has a pair. Somebody buy her a drink and maybe she’ll realize it’s not the knife fight she thinks it is.

  182. #182 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    Posted by: Brownian, OM Author Profile Page | January 22, 2010 9:29 PM

    Is that all you got – a failed comparison?

    I think I see (one) of your many problems. You see, two things don’t have to be exactly the same to be compared. In fact, if they are it makes the comparison kinda useless. (I’m sure you know what useless is. If not, find a mirror.)

    Well finally, something besides shit-flinging from you Brownian.

    Things have to be reasonably similar in order to make an analogy work, especially if you are saying:

    The relationship between A and B

    is the same as the relationship between C and D.

    You’ve heard the expression “apples and oranges” right? Do you think that’s a completely nonsensical phrase, the concept of which you find entirely invalid?

    +++++++++++++

    And all the rest of you – please, you will have to be content with flinging shit from the sidelines for now. Once I am done with Brownian you will get your turn to demonstrate your rhetorical superiority over me. Talk amongst yourselves for now about how stupid I am, etc.

    .

    But maybe you have a different understanding of how analogies work. Please share.

  183. #183 Celtic_Evolution
    January 22, 2010

    Holy fuck… that nancymcclernan has gone absolutely Starfart…

  184. #184 A. Noyd
    January 22, 2010

    nancymcclernan (#182)

    Things have to be reasonably similar in order to make an analogy work, especially if you are saying:
    The relationship between A and B
    is the same as the relationship between C and D.

    Good thing that’s not what the cartoonist is trying to say, then, eh?

  185. #185 Brownian, OM
    January 22, 2010

    You’ve heard the expression “apples and oranges” right? Do you think that’s a completely nonsensical phrase, the concept of which you find entirely invalid?

    “Entirely invalid”?

    Here’s another of your many problems: an inability to think in gradients. Not all things are “entirely” one way or “entirely” another, just as suggesting that one might not simply let irrational thought modalities pass is not at all the same as “To believe that the world could ever be populated with entirely, persistently rational people is in itself irrational – or at the very least an expectation based on an acquaintance with a type of human being that I myself have never met. Where do you all hang out – Vulcan?

  186. #186 Janine, Mistress Of Foul Mouth Abuse, OM
    January 22, 2010

    Is Nancy supposed to be Bruce Lee?

  187. #187 Ichthyic
    January 22, 2010

    some background music.

    i was thinking more “Eye of the Tiger”

  188. #188 IaMoL
    January 22, 2010

    Is Nancy supposed to be Bruce Lee?

    I don’t know, but I have the feeling she moonlights at the Roller Derby.

  189. #189 Brownian, OM
    January 22, 2010

    Is Nancy supposed to be Bruce Lee?

    No, she’s clearly the balloon head being kicked by Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon.

  190. #190 Ichthyic
    January 22, 2010

    You see, two things don’t have to be exactly the same to be compared.

    is responded to with:

    Things have to be reasonably similar in order to make an analogy work,

    reading, FAIL.

    sweet plastic jesus on my dashboard… did you actually even stop to read what brownian actually WROTE before you went off?

    did you?

    Once I am done with Brownian you will get your turn

    just who the fuck do you think you are exactly?

  191. #191 Carlie
    January 22, 2010

    Wow, Nancy really went off the rails by 139, didn’t she? Having just watched most of the three seasons of Arrested Development, the analogy that comes to my mind is that Nancy is like GOB doing his chicken dance while the rest of us, like Michael, look on in resigned disgust at the irrelevant and non-understanding idiocy.

  192. #192 Brownian, OM
    January 22, 2010

    Anyways, I tire of this travesty, and as it’s Friday night I have beer to drink and people to see.

    If Nancy requires my concession before she can take on the next of all comers, I humbly and graciously proffer it.

    Nancy, it was a pleasure to be beaten by the best. My hat is off to you. Best of luck in Round 2.

  193. #193 Carlie
    January 22, 2010

    especially if you are saying:

    The relationship between A and B

    is the same as the relationship between C and D.

    Which again, as you have been told numerous times, is not what the cartoonist is saying. He is saying that calling A and B compatible just because one person can do or think both is as stupid as calling C and D compatible just because one person can do or think both.

  194. #194 IaMoL
    January 22, 2010

    he kept complaining about how nasty people were at Pharygula. I thought he was a big whiner.

    Now I understand.

    *laughs*

    You haven’t met TruthMachine&trade yet.

  195. #195 A. Noyd
    January 22, 2010

    Ichthyic (#190)

    Once I am done with Brownian you will get your turn
    just who the fuck do you think you are exactly?

    A superior knight with a mere flesh wound?

  196. #196 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    Posted by: Brownian, OM Author Profile Page | January 22, 2010 9:41 PM

    You’ve heard the expression “apples and oranges” right? Do you think that’s a completely nonsensical phrase, the concept of which you find entirely invalid?

    “Entirely invalid”?

    Here’s another of your many problems: an inability to think in gradients. Not all things are “entirely” one way or “entirely” another, just as suggesting that one might not simply let irrational thought modalities pass is not at all the same as

    I ask you if you think the phrase is entirely invalid.

    My asking you if you think something is entirely something does not mean that I think that everything is a dichotomy.

    I asked you a question. Why would you leap from my asking you a question to suggesting that the question is an indication of a character flaw of mine?

    I wanted to rule out if you thought it was entirely invalid. If you didn’t I wanted to find out how much you do think it’s valid – in other words, how much can something be different before it can no longer be used in a comparison.

    I feel that asking someone questions is better than simply making an assumption about what they think.

    Weird, I know. I guess you can chalk that up to my outsiderness.

  197. #197 Feynmaniac
    January 22, 2010

    Nancy,

    I think you are running away because you are a big chickenshit chickenface fucktard douchenozzle scumbag shitlicking shitface.

    LOL!!!

    Just get off the computer for 5 minutes and take a breather.

  198. #198 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    OK, I decided that I will address some of you in addition to Brownian now.

    But you have to begin your comment with:

    Would you please address my comment Mistress Nancy?

    Okeydokey?

    Thanks a bunch.

  199. #199 A. Noyd
    January 22, 2010

    nancymcclernan (#196)

    If you didn’t I wanted to find out how much you do think it’s valid – in other words, how much can something be different before it can no longer be used in a comparison.

    So you were asking a question to settle a point that you have already been told several times over is entirely irrelevant? And I really don’t know where you get off whining about someone not answering your question when you avoided mine five times over before you started handing out numbers.

  200. #200 'Tis Himself, OM
    January 22, 2010

    Would you please address my comment Mistress Nancy?

    No problem, Nance old girl, just as long as you address us individually as “Your most august and magnificent highness, name (with, of course, the OM honor as appropriate).”

  201. #201 SC OM
    January 22, 2010

    (as evolutionary psychology tells us)

    *raises eyebrow*

    Watch it, DiMilo. :)

    just who the fuck do you think you are exactly?

    AFAICR I’ve seen Nancy on three threads. I generally agreed with her on the first, can’t remember about the second, and think she’s an ignorant blithering fool on this. Substance aside, she generally opens her posts with such winning phrases as “Look, people,…” David M. thought it was simple social ineptitude, but I think it’s a special kind of dramatic arrogant ebullience only theater people can muster.*

    *Fortunately, Wowbagger seems completely immune.

  202. #202 speedweasel
    January 22, 2010

    nancymcclernansaid,

    Oh look, it’s Sven DiMilo – does this mean that I am no longer on your killfile list.

    You’re about to feature prominently on mine.

  203. #203 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    [crickets chirping]

    Hey, what happened to Brownian?

    So much for that old Brownian motion, eh?

    Har har. Physics joke.

  204. #204 lenoxuss
    January 22, 2010

    I’m seriously confused.

    It seems to me that all Nancy has done is disagree about the original analogy, and people are talking to her like she’s a YECer. Is there a history with her I’m not aware of?

    Anyway, if anyone is to win this thread, my vote’s for Scott. That’s the voice of reason here.

    I mean, I’m all in agreement that science and religion are incompatible. Duh. I’m just not sure what to do about that ? should the practice of science be legally or otherwise restricted to atheists? Obviously not.

    Are many, or most, scientists “religious”? Sure, but very, very few are religious in their practice of science. I mean, how many biologists are IDers? One, right? If religion is poisoning science, it’s been doing so very, very slowly ? so slowly it’s going backwards, giving the appearance of religion shrinking in science’s glow.

    When the same people are religious and scientists, doing science in a non-autocratic environment, the science seems to win out anyway, without any outside help. First, Zeus loses control of the clouds. Eventually, he loses control of love lives. But if the meteorologist went to his grave thinking otherwise, so what? Did it impact the accuracy of our forecasts?

    In a related note, I’m wondering whether, in the opinion of most Pharyngulites, scientists who believe in free will are simply contradicting themselves, living in delusion? What about those who believe in qualia? As far as I’m concerned, that’s not too different from the deism-in-all-but-name of most scientists.

    I do think that most “substantial” (as opposed to deistic) religious ideas overtly contradict other commonly held notions. For example, almost everyone who sincerely believes in Hell is in no position to condemn the Holocaust. (You can figure out my logic there.) But scientist-deism isn’t like that ? it’s just sort of “once upon a time, God made the universe exactly as though he hadn’t made it. Later, Jesus appeared and performed miracles, but miracles don’t ever happen anymore.”

  205. #205 Sven DiMilo
    January 22, 2010

    I was angling for a full-on starfart but she’s not taking the bait.
    *shrug* I gotta go.
    Thread summary:
    Obstinate just-don’t-get-it troll just doesn’t get it. Obstinately.

  206. #206 Caine
    January 22, 2010

    [crickets chirping]

    Hey, what happened to Brownian?

    So much for that old Brownian motion, eh?

    Har har. Physics joke.

    If you could manage to stop yapping constantly and read, you would have noticed #192. Beer is much more interesting and enticing than you are, little yapper.

  207. #207 Ichthyic
    January 22, 2010

    Har har. Physics joke.

    again, not even wrong.

  208. #208 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    Posted by: lenoxuss Author Profile Page | January 22, 2010 10:10 PM

    I’m seriously confused.

    It seems to me that all Nancy has done is disagree about the original analogy, and people are talking to her like she’s a YECer. Is there a history with her I’m not aware of?

    Well I mostly argue with some people here about Evolutionary Psychology. But yeah, I thought the cartoonist made an invalid analogy and attributed it to this Chris Mooney.

    Based in this delightful thread, it is clear that the group rule is that you must attack all “accommodationists” and anybody with any signs of accomodationist sympathies, and there is no insult so nasty that you should not fling it at one of those scum.

    I happen to know a few anthropologists, I am seriously going to get them to have a look at this thread and ask them for their thoughts on the group dynamics.

    It can be kind of fun too, to play around with them once they swing into high shit-swinging gear.

  209. #209 Carlie
    January 22, 2010

    I find it interesting that Nancy wants to paint herself as an “outsider”, I guess somehow feeling this gives her some kind of “lone wolf voice of reason trying to talk to the masses” status. She’s been around awhile, and even if she hadn’t commented before, this is a kind of popular place. Nancy dear, do you have any idea how many unique visitors this site gets in a day? Nobody blinks at a new name showing up, trust me. What is looked askance at is being willfully obtuse, purposely ignorant, and belligerent with nothing to back it up.

  210. #210 Brownian, OM
    January 22, 2010

    I asked you a question. Why would you leap from my asking you a question to suggesting that the question is an indication of a character flaw of mine?

    Sorry, I was still answering your first question from #139: “What’s your problem with me?”

    Since that was at least the second time you’d demonstrated that problem, I thought I’d point it out. Like you asked me to.

    Hey, what happened to Brownian?

    Hint: To find posts by me, look for the ones that begin with Posted by: Brownian, OM. I know it’s already been explained to you by John Morales in comment #148, but it bears repeating because if you’d been able to comprehend his comment, you clearly wouldn’t have missed my conciliatory comment #192 in which I explained I had other shit to do and so have to leave. (I came back to grab something and stopped in to see how your fight with Clubber Lang was going.) So that means you won by default, hon! Yay for you! Yay! Yay!

  211. #211 Ichthyic
    January 22, 2010

    Based in this delightful thread, it is clear that the group rule is that you must attack all “accommodationists” and anybody with any signs of accomodationist sympathies, and there is no insult so nasty that you should not fling it at one of those scum.

    based on your lack of insight, you mean.

  212. #212 A. Noyd
    January 22, 2010

    lenoxuss (#204)

    It seems to me that all Nancy has done is disagree about the original analogy, and people are talking to her like she’s a YECer.

    Maybe because, despite having it explained to her a million times why the analogy is appropriate if you understand what the artist is saying, she still doesn’t get it–nor understand what the artist is saying. And, quite like a YECer, rather than face up to her inability to understand, she’s tried (fairly successfully) to drag the thread all over the place. If she disagreed about the analogy based on a correct understanding of what the artist intended to convey, that would be something else entirely.

  213. #213 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    I guess you’re up John Morales.

    And the rest of you – remember what you have to say in order to receive a response.

    lenoxuss of course being exempt from that particular stipulation.

  214. #214 Ichthyic
    January 22, 2010

    I happen to know a few anthropologists, I am seriously going to get them to have a look at this thread and ask them for their thoughts on the group dynamics.

    …and when they tell you instead you should be talking to a psychologist about your persecution complex, will you deign to come back and tell us?

  215. #215 Brownian, OM
    January 22, 2010

    I happen to know a few anthropologists

    That happens to be one of my degrees. I look forward to meeting them.

    Have fun with John. Remember to read his comments before responding this time.

    Best of luck, sweetie. I’ll be cheering you on from the sidelines.

  216. #216 Brownian, OM
    January 22, 2010

    Okay, that wasn’t fair of me, saying I was leaving and then sniping a few last times. (I stopped to roll a quick pinner.)

    I’m sorry, Nancy. The thread is yours.

  217. #217 John Morales
    January 22, 2010

    nancymcclernan,

    I guess you’re up John Morales.

    Oooh, I’m all a-tremble! :)

    Actually, if you were to respond to my #48 and my #99, I’d know you’d at least read them.

    Not that you’ve responded to others who’ve made exactly the same point.

  218. #218 'Tis Himself, OM
    January 22, 2010

    And the rest of you – remember what you have to say in order to receive a response.

    Gang, remember to address all posts to Nancy with “hey dipshit.”

  219. #219 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    Posted by: Brownian, OM Author Profile Page | January 22, 2010 10:25 PM

    I happen to know a few anthropologists

    That happens to be one of my degrees. I look forward to meeting them.

    Have fun with John. Remember to read his comments before responding this time.

    Best of luck, sweetie. I’ll be cheering you on from the sidelines.

    Hey, I thought you left. But I appreciate that you remembered to contribute one more gratuitous insult. That’s the old Brownian I know.

    Anthropologists I know: R Brian Ferguson, Maxine Margolis, Jerry Milanich, David Price, H. Russel Bernard – although the last two I know mainly through Maxine and Jerry, (and they are FB friends) and I sent a transcript of Marvin Harris’s article to him, an article from “The Nation” called “Big Bust on Morningside Heights”

    I’ll ask them about you.

  220. #220 speedweasel
    January 22, 2010

    And there are so many of you, all reinforcing each other’s bad arguments and flinging shit at the outsider.

    Seriously, I hope that some anthropology student studies group behavior on comment threads. I know I find it pretty fascinating.

    Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by our reaction to your stupidity.

  221. #221 Carlie
    January 22, 2010

    Wait a minute, name-dropping – is Nancy really Kwok in disguise?

    Hey Nancy, what do you think of Frank McCourt?

  222. #222 Ichthyic
    January 22, 2010

    meh, anyone else can have my “place” in line.

    i have no real desire to debate anything with the vacuous vituperative vainglorious bimbo.

  223. #223 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    Posted by: John Morales Author Profile Page | January 22, 2010 10:30 PM

    nancymcclernan,

    I guess you’re up John Morales.

    Oooh, I’m all a-tremble! :)

    Actually, if you were to respond to my #48 and my #99, I’d know you’d at least read them.

    Not that you’ve responded to others who’ve made exactly the same point.

    Why are you a-tremble? Most of your team is still around. They totally have your back, ready with plenty of incredibly vicious insults as is their wont.

    I found this one to be a beaut:

    Posted by: ‘Tis Himself, OM Author Profile Page | January 22, 2010 10:33 PM

    And the rest of you – remember what you have to say in order to receive a response.

    Gang, remember to address all posts to Nancy with “hey dipshit.”

    In response to my obviously jocular suggestion – but I guess that only cartoons with lousy analogies qualifies as humor for most of this crowd – ‘Tis Himself actually calls out to the other members of the in-group instructing them the proper group-way to address the hated interloper.

    I’m just waiting to see how many follow along.

    But back to you, John Morales, it’s all about you now, you big stud.

    So pick a subject and let’s begin.

  224. #224 Caine
    January 22, 2010

    Yappin’ Nancy:

    (and they are FB friends)

    Oooooh, facebook! Oh my gosh, are we all supposed to clutch our pearls now? You’ve broken the lameness barrier here. *Yawns*

  225. #225 Carlie
    January 22, 2010

    “hated interloper”? Nancy, you really should see someone about this paranoia thing you have going. Again, there are no interlopers here – people chime in and out all the time. And so far I’ve seen people be frustrated at your refusal to address their substantive questions, slightly amused at your rather unhinged bouts of name-calling, and generally contemptuous of your inability to make a coherent argument, but nothing even approaching hatred.

  226. #226 John Morales
    January 22, 2010

    nancymcclernan:

    Why are you a-tremble?

    A-tremble with anticip……………………ation!

    So pick a subject and let’s begin.

    See my #217. Look at the penultimate paragraph.

  227. #227 Legion
    January 22, 2010

    Nothing’s more absurd or pathetic than a NDITG (Name Dropping Internet Tough Guy Gal) daring all comers, like a drunken loser, on a Friday night.

    It’s like watching a stumble-bum barroom drunk, who trips over his own feet and then dares the entire bar to “schtep oushide.”

    Thanks for the lulz, but seriously, Get. A. Life.

    It’s just the Internet.

  228. #228 Lynna, OM
    January 22, 2010

    Well, this was fun to read. Nancy should go to the endless thread and join the line for apologies. Expressions of “sorry”, plus beating of breasts are required. Line up, Nancy, and when it’s your turn, say,”I’m sorry”. Next, go to the back of the line, and start over. Repeat about fifty times. That should take care of the errors so far.

  229. #229 Ichthyic
    January 22, 2010

    Tis Himself actually calls out to the other members of the in-group instructing them the proper group-way to address the hated interloper pearl-clutcher.

    sorry, i made a mistake earlier.

    you ARE a pearl-clutcher.

  230. #230 SC OM
    January 22, 2010

    Social scientist namedropping? That’s about the only genre at which I could conceivably win. Eek.
    :)

  231. #231 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    Posted by: Legion Author Profile Page | January 22, 2010 10:45 PM

    Nothing’s more absurd or pathetic than a NDITG (Name Dropping Internet Tough Guy Gal) daring all comers, like a drunken loser, on a Friday night.

    OK I don’t know where all these charges of name-dropping come from. I wanted to write a bio of Marvin Harris and met a bunch of people associated with him. And I never implied that since 2 of them (out of 5) are FB friends it was a big deal – but if you hate somebody, especially if the group hates that person too and you want to be a bigshot in front of the group, what better way than to invent reasons to attack?

    Brownian clearly didn’t believe I knew anthropologists and I felt it necessary to mention their actual names. And really, it’s pretty unusual for someone who isn’t an anthropologist to know any anthropologists.

    I certainly wasn’t doing it to name-drop – in most of the circles I travel in – technology and theatre – nobody has ever heard of any of those people.

    And I certainly never intended to be a tough anything – as I said earlier I’m not Bruce Lee (clearly plenty of people don’t read my posts before commenting on my alleged character flaws) but when I am attacked by a big cohesive group with gigantic superiority complexes, well I guess I could have wimped out like that religion-loving guy at Echidne – but, sorry, I’m not a wimp.

    Oh and in case you’re all worried I might spend more time here – I’m only spending so much time now because I have a nasty cold and can’t go anywhere anyway.

    Sorry John Morales – I’m getting to you next.

  232. #232 Ichthyic
    January 22, 2010

    OK I don’t know where all these charges of name-dropping come from

    that would be 219, or do you fail to read your own posts as spectacularly as all others?

  233. #233 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    Posted by: John Morales Author Profile Page | January 22, 2010 7:54 PM

    nancymcclernan,

    Do you see what I’m saying now?

    I doubt anyone fails to see what you’re saying; we’re saying it’s silly.

    The cartoonist says that if somebody says that a and b are reconciled ANYBODY COULD ALSO ARGUE BY THE SAME REASONING that c and d are reconciled.
    But the relationship between a and b is not anything close to the relationship between c and d.

    Sigh. The argument is that the compatibility of two beliefs is established if someone can simultaneously have both beliefs.

    (?x:A(x) ? B(x) ? A and B are compatible)

    The relationship between those two beliefs (A and B) is irrelevant to that particular argument, because it’s not included in it.

    First – nice use of “sigh” – it’s the most concise way to express contempt for your intellectual inferior. I bet that was big win with the group.

    The argument is that the compatibility of two beliefs is established if someone can simultaneously have both beliefs.

    (?x:A(x) ? B(x) ? A and B are compatible)

    The relationship between those two beliefs (A and B) is irrelevant to that particular argument, because it’s not included in it.

    Do you mean A and B as Religion and Science here?

  234. #234 'Tis Himself, OM
    January 22, 2010

    Nancy, why do you think we hate you? We don’t. We pity you because you’re humorless and obtuse. We’re amused by your pugnaciousness. We’re (or at least I’m) mildly annoyed by your completely unwarranted arrogance and smugness. But hate? Don’t give yourself airs, girl. You’re not obnoxious enough to be more than a minor irritation.

  235. #235 Ichthyic
    January 22, 2010

    First – nice use of “sigh” – it’s the most concise way to express contempt for your intellectual inferior. I bet that was big win with the group.

    i really am beginning to think you need treatment for borderline schizophrenia.

  236. #236 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    Oops – somebody forgot the Rules of Addressing Nancy Unless Already in the Octagon.

  237. #237 Carlie
    January 22, 2010

    What color is the sky in your world?

    Brownian clearly didn’t believe I knew anthropologists and I felt it necessary to mention their actual names.

    No, Brownian clearly thought it amusing that you thought you would get some kind of magical analysis of a random thread from anthropologists, when he also happens to be one and therefore can interpret the thread in presumably the same way they would (and has already provided his view on it).

    And really, it’s pretty unusual for someone who isn’t an anthropologist to know any anthropologists.

    What? So anthropologists never get to know people who aren’t also anthropologists? What? I guess you might be claiming that anthropologists are rare, but in an awfully convoluted way (and I know some too, and I’ve never thought of them as a rare species).

    but when I am attacked

    You are not being attacked. You are being told that you don’t understand a comic strip. Perspective, you no haz it.

  238. #238 Lynna, OM
    January 22, 2010

    Brownian clearly didn’t believe I knew anthropologists and I felt it necessary to mention their actual names. And really, it’s pretty unusual for someone who isn’t an anthropologist to know any anthropologists.

    On Pharyngula, it’s not odd.

    Your specialness is noted.

    Sorry John Morales – I’m getting to you next.

    Excellent. That’s one “sorry” down and about 49 to go.

  239. #239 Janine, Mistress Of Foul Mouth Abuse, OM
    January 22, 2010

    Listen, you fuckfaced fool, you do not get to dictate how you are addressed. Get to you fucking point or fucking leave.

  240. #240 A. Noyd
    January 22, 2010

    nancymcclernan (#231)

    when I am attacked by a big cohesive group with gigantic superiority complexes, well I guess I could have wimped out like that religion-loving guy at Echidne – but, sorry, I’m not a wimp.

    Maybe you should spend a few minutes considering that we might be so cohesive and superior because you’re wrong and it’s obvious to everyone who isn’t you (or lenoxuss). Isn’t that just a hair more parsimonious than the notion we all “hate” you enough to “attack” you for disagreeing (or whatever the fuck you think you’re being “attacked” for)? Are you non-wimp enough to consider that honestly?

  241. #241 John Morales
    January 22, 2010

    nancymcclernan,

    Do you mean A and B as Religion and Science here?

    No.

    A and B represent predicates.

    They could be anything, without altering the argument’s logic.

  242. #242 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    Posted by: Janine, Mistress Of Foul Mouth Abuse, OM Author Profile Page | January 22, 2010 11:11 PM

    Listen, you fuckfaced fool, you do not get to dictate how you are addressed. Get to you fucking point or fucking leave.

    Yep, saw that coming – from the gang who shrieked insults at me for not finding a cartoon to be a laff-riot, they never even get it when somebody is yanking their chain just to goof around.

    Oh these special moments.

  243. #243 Feynmaniac
    January 22, 2010

    Nancy,

    Continue if you must but know that the only thing you will accomplish is to further embarrass youself.

  244. #244 Janine, Mistress Of Foul Mouth Abuse, OM
    January 22, 2010

    I know you pulled that joke a couple of times. I knew you were not fucking serious but, damn, it got less funny every time you used it. Meh. Your life must be filled with all kinds of special moments.

  245. #245 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    Maybe you should spend a few minutes considering that we might be so cohesive and superior

    Because I’ve seen you all gang up on other people too. It’s just what you do.

  246. #246 Caine
    January 22, 2010

    Yappin’ Nancy:

    from the gang who shrieked insults at me for not finding a cartoon to be a laff-riot

    There go the goalposts…

    No one cared if you found the comic funny or not; that was most definitely not what you were moaning about while wielding weapons-grade density.

  247. #247 Carlie
    January 22, 2010

    from the gang who shrieked insults at me

    Oh dear, now the voices in her head are shrieking at her. Nancy, seriously, re-read the thread and get a grip.

  248. #248 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    Isn’t that just a hair more parsimonious than the notion we all “hate”

    Have you read some of the vicious attacks – by people who I had had no prior exchanges with on this thread? Just because the group has designated me as the target?

    If this is how you talk to people you don’t hate, I would be fascinated to see what you say to people you actually hate.

  249. #249 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    The argument is that the compatibility of two beliefs is established if someone can simultaneously have both beliefs.

    (?x:A(x) ? B(x) ? A and B are compatible)

    The relationship between those two beliefs (A and B) is irrelevant to that particular argument, because it’s not included in it.

    When you say the relationships between those two beliefs – what beliefs are you talking about?

  250. #250 John Morales
    January 22, 2010

    Nancy, I don’t think you’re servicing me very satisfactorily.

    You’ve shown you’ve read #99 — even asked a question about it! What about #48?

    (Hint: they’re both saying the same thing, though expressed differently; as indeed is, for example, #85 and the post it quotes, among others.)

  251. #251 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    Wow John, more contempt – you are a master of all the styles.

    Yes, I am asking you questions because I’m not sure what you are saying.

    Of course I know that asking questions is a sign of weakness on this thread, but at this point I am pretty interested in the many variations of “you’re stupid and boring and unwanted” comments people can make. You’d think if I’m so manifestly stupid it wouldn’t be so necessary for the constant reiteration – but maybe that’s just a group-bonding thing.

  252. #252 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    To what are you referring to with the word “beliefs”?

  253. #253 Shifty
    January 22, 2010

    nancy, here’s another analogy you can complain about.

    A person walks into a crowded room and declares that 1 + 1 = 2,589. The person continues to hold that view after having its falsity demonstrated by many of the people there. The person then complains that there is some sort of group think going on and everyone is against them. Then becomes enraged.

    I’m sorry nancy, but wrong is still wrong.
    You may have a different sense of humour, you may take offense at the analogy, but at some point, when the whole room reads the situation differently, perhaps, just for a fleeting moment, you might consider that you are in error.

  254. #254 Lynna, OM
    January 22, 2010

    Uh-oh, this feeling of being “unwanted”, is this new? Are we adding something new to the persecution complex?

    Everybody wants you, nancy. At least, everybody wants you to understand Jesus & Mo humor. It’s a big push to enrich your life.

  255. #255 A. Noyd
    January 22, 2010

    nancymcclernan (#242)

    Yep, saw that coming – from the gang who shrieked insults at me for not finding a cartoon to be a laff-riot, they never even get it when somebody is yanking their chain just to goof around.

    No one gives a fuck if you find it funny or not. As I said back in #153: “The problem is you’re apparently criticizing the cartoonist’s analogy for failing to do something it wasn’t intended to do.” (Or is this your way of telling us you’re just out to get us riled up by pretending you’re too stupid to understand the comic?)

    (#245)

    Because I’ve seen you all gang up on other people too. It’s just what you do.

    And we do it when those other people are wrong because, well, they’re wrong. Being flagrantly wrong is pretty much the best way to get all of Pharyngula “ganging up” on you. It is not in any way news that this is “what we do” since hardly a day goes by without someone referring to his or her problem with SIWOTI.

    Anyways, if you’re going to reply to me out of turn, try coming up with a substitute analogy that shows why Mooney’s “‘reasoning’ does not work.” Or answer which you’d like to take back: your opinion of the analogy or your claim you understand the comic. Otherwise get back to failing to understand John Morales.

  256. #256 Janine, Mistress Of Foul Mouth Abuse, OM
    January 22, 2010

    Aaawwwwww… I think snukums needs a hug. She is not evil, she is just misunderstood.

  257. #257 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    You may have a different sense of humour, you may take offense at the analogy, but at some point, when the whole room reads the situation differently, perhaps, just for a fleeting moment, you might consider that you are in error.

    I haven’t seen any convincing arguments that the comparison of science/religion to priesthood/pedophilia is valid way to represent – or parody – the accomodationist point of view.

    I’ve seen LOTS of contempt, name-calling, derision, vicious insults, deliberate twisting of words, and general group mobbing behavior though. Which in itself is certainly an education.

    If viciousness was a convincing argument then certainly I would have been convinced by now.

    In case you haven’t noticed, I have created a situation here in which I mostly just address one person’s argument at a time in an attempt to avoid exhaustion in addressing 15 mobbers at once. (I don’t have enough self-control to keep to that strictly alas but what control I have had has certainly helped) The arguments are still ladled with heaping helpings of contempt of course, but it’s easier to deal with one at a time.

    And there is a group think going on – although that’s not unusual – it happens to most of these blogs where you have people who hang out all the time. They become the in-crowd and join together to aid those they consider a threat or an enjoyable target. Surely someone has studied this phenomenon by now – I’ll have to look it up.

  258. #258 John Morales
    January 22, 2010

    nancymcclernan @249, Sigh ← Exasperation, not posturing.

    Of course I know that asking questions is a sign of weakness on this thread [...]

    Rather the opposite, in general. And I think you meant ‘this site’ rather than merely ‘this thread’.

    [me] The relationship between those two beliefs (A and B) is irrelevant to that particular argument, because it’s not included in it.

    [you] When you say the relationships between those two beliefs – what beliefs are you talking about?

    It doesn’t matter what they are; what matters is the form of the argument, to wit: that if two beliefs/stances/positions are held concurrently by someone, the implication is that they’re compatible and thus reconcilable. This contention ignores the reality of the human capacity to compartmentalise and to double-think, and thus when applied to other, more apparently dramatic contrasting issues (e.g. priests and pedophilia) is shown to be specious.

    All I’ve done there is represent the argument in an informal symbolic form.

  259. #259 Sven DiMilo
    January 22, 2010

    oh, my. This doesn’t look like any fun anymore.

    Nancy, O Martyr Mistress of Misunderst[wait, what was it?...whatever], please do take the advice of these several good people who don’t even really know you and log off; read a book or something instead. You should.

  260. #260 Caine
    January 22, 2010

    Nancy:

    Have you read some of the vicious attacks

    You’re working with an interesting definition of vicious. Apparently, it’s not vicious nor an attack if you yell at people, call them names, accuse them of shit flinging, etc., however if people explain to you multiple times how and why you are wrong about something, it’s a hateful attack on you. Once again, you’re wrong.

    Someone saying you are wrong is not vicious nor is it an attack.

  261. #261 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    Sorry, typo:
    They become the in-crowd and join together to aid THE OTHERS IN THE GROUP AGAINST those they consider a threat or an enjoyable target. Surely someone has studied this phenomenon by now – I’ll have to look it up.

    ****

    To you haters, thanks you’re giving me something to do while waiting for John to get back.

    Although I sense a slight drop in the general viciousness – are you all getting tired? I mean, someone who calls themselves a mistress of foulmouth abuse certainly has a rep to live up to.

  262. #262 Antiochus Epiphanes
    January 22, 2010

    Holy crap. I hadn’t read any of this thread until just now, thinking to myself, what kind of conversation could this lowbrow artform inspire anyway? The cartoon is but a short step uphill from pantomime, after all. What might anyone possibly have to say about it?

    But on this thread is a lesson that I have learned many times before. Yet each time, I have forgotten. That lesson is this:

    I am always fucking wrong.

  263. #263 nancymcclernan
    January 22, 2010

    Sorry John, I know I’m going to hear about it – but I missed your post. I’m on it now.

  264. #264 nancymcclernan
    January 23, 2010

    It doesn’t matter what they are; what matters is the form of the argument, to wit: that if two beliefs/stances/positions are held concurrently by someone, the implication is that they’re compatible and thus reconcilable. This contention ignores the reality of the human capacity to compartmentalise and to double-think, and thus when applied to other, more apparently dramatic contrasting issues (e.g. priests and pedophilia) is shown to be specious.

    All I’ve done there is represent the argument in an informal symbolic form.

    You mentioned the word beliefs several times during your argument. There must have been a reason.

    So now that you’ve delivered yourself of the pompous lecture, why don’t you tell me what you are referring to, in your argument, by the word “beliefs.”

  265. #265 Janine, Mistress Of Foul Mouth Abuse, OM
    January 23, 2010

    and in the end
    the love you take
    is equal to the love you make

    As for me, I am watching Conan and watching an internet melt down.

  266. #266 John Morales
    January 23, 2010

    nancymcclernan:

    So now that you’ve delivered yourself of the pompous lecture, why don’t you tell me what you are referring to, in your argument, by the word “beliefs.”

    “Beliefs’ refers to cognitive content held as true.

  267. #267 A. Noyd
    January 23, 2010

    nancymcclernan (#257)

    In case you haven’t noticed, I have created a situation here in which I mostly just address one person’s argument at a time in an attempt to avoid exhaustion in addressing 15 mobbers at once.

    You haven’t technically addressed anyone’s argument yet because you don’t get what the argument is.

    Surely someone has studied this phenomenon by now – I’ll have to look it up.

    The phenomenon is that you’re wrong, everyone can see it, and several of us are masochistic enough to point it out repeatedly despite the evidence that nothing penetrates your massive shield of idiocy, egotism and hypocrisy.

  268. #268 nancymcclernan
    January 23, 2010

    Nancy, O Martyr Mistress of Misunderst[wait, what was it?...whatever], please do take the advice of these several good people who don’t even really know you and log off; read a book or something instead. You should.

    Sven DiMilo – I always imagine you as looking like a Swedish Wilfred Brimley, with a big walrus moustache, ever poised to tell those kids to get off your lawn.

    Don’t tell me otherwise – I like to think of you that way.

    And I gotta tell you, I really do have a hard time telling the difference among the many regulars on this site, they are all so stylistically similar, but you always manage to dish out insults and contempt, in severity, and concentration per message, at a rate that exceeds the others so I actually have a much better sense of you than the others.

  269. #269 Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom
    January 23, 2010

    Yep, saw that coming – from the gang who shrieked insults at me for not finding a cartoon to be a laff-riot, they never even get it when somebody is yanking their chain just to goof around.

    I compared it to LEft Behind and haven’t seen literally everyone breathing down my throat. I don’t think they really care whether or not you agree with the comic at this point.

  270. #270 Ichthyic
    January 23, 2010

    Nancy, I don’t think you’re servicing me very satisfactorily.

    “Greg, honey, is it supposed to be this soft?”

  271. #271 nancymcclernan
    January 23, 2010

    The phenomenon is that you’re wrong, everyone can see it, and several of us are masochistic enough to point it out repeatedly despite the evidence that nothing penetrates your massive shield of idiocy, egotism and hypocrisy.

    So if you happen on a retarded person, with a bunch of your friends on the street, do you all stand around in masochistic joy to watch them say stupid things?

    Brownian gave up before we got anywhere, after implying that I had a personality defect for asking him a question.

    That’s the level of discourse here so far. And sure, it’s all my fault. But that’s what scapegoats are for, aren’t they?

  272. #272 Ichthyic
    January 23, 2010

    Don’t tell me otherwise – I like to think of you that way.

    hmm, in addition to feelings of paranoia, do these symptoms of NPD seem familiar to you at all?

  273. #273 nancymcclernan
    January 23, 2010

    OK, let me try it this way:

    The argument is that the compatibility of two beliefs is established if someone can simultaneously have both beliefs.

    And you are saying that this is the argument of Chris Mooney, right?

    What do you mean by “compatibility” here?

  274. #274 Janine, Mistress Of Foul Mouth Abuse, OM
    January 23, 2010

    Normally, I have the scapechimp but you seem to be auditioning for a position. Interesting, please go on.

    By the way, Brownian did not give up. He had friends to meet up with. Legitimate reason as far as I am concerned.

  275. #275 Ichthyic
    January 23, 2010

    So if you happen on a retarded person, with a bunch of your friends on the street, do you all stand around in masochistic joy to watch them say stupid things?

    so, now you’re a retarded person, unable to shut up, and the rest of us are beating on you.

    interesting perspective.

    ….to laugh at.

  276. #276 nancymcclernan
    January 23, 2010

    It’s really funny – the ONLY reason some of you hang around is simply to snipe at me.

    Do you get points for the best insults? Like do you IM each other at the same time? Maybe trade tips on the insults most likely to provoke a response? I am becoming quite curious about you people as individuals – now that there are not quite so many to keep track of here.

  277. #277 Sven DiMilo
    January 23, 2010

    Wait, OK, now that I have your attention, here it is; no insults, no contempt:

    “The cartoonist is making an analogy: religion is (not) reconcilable to science as priesthood is (not) reconcilable to pedophilia.”

    Still wrong.
    The cartoonist is making this analogy:

    [Arguing that that science and religion are compatible because there are religious scientists]
    is like
    [arguing that priesthood and pedophilia are compatible because there are pedophiliac priests]

    This is the crux of this whole sorry episode, and I sincerely implore you to read that again. That is my message to you.
    OK Nancy? No bullshit here.

  278. #278 Ichthyic
    January 23, 2010

    And you are saying that this is the argument of Chris Mooney, right?

    read #157 for a detailed explanation.

    meh, why bother?

    you’ll not only not understand what Paul W wrote, but regurgitate strawmen of it anyway, thus furthering your floundering in this thread.

    I recall how this went in in similar fashion in a different thread, you thinking somehow you were having fun “plucking strings”, when instead all the while what we actually see is you huddling in the corner with a broken beer bottle in your hand, the rest of us at the table saying: “What the fuck is her problem?”

  279. #279 Peter McKellar
    January 23, 2010

    Mistress Nancy @97

    Here’s why the relationship between a and b is nothing like the relationship between c and d.

    Science = systematic approach to knowledge
    Religion = systematic approach to knowledge

    Priesthood = job within Religion
    Pedophilia = something forbidden to Priesthood

    I’ve waded through the thread and can’t believe no-one else hasn’t spotted the basic premise that has caused Nancy’s confusion, even when she stated it so explicitly.

    Religion != systematic approach to knowledge

    Religion and knowledge are incompatible – one works with faith (the denial of reality in spite of overwhelming evidence against the supernatural and zero support for).

    Religion relies on “revealed knowledge” which is not “knowledge” by definition, but may coincidentally match with reality from time to time (but never consistently or predictably). Most, if not all religions are dogma, science is pragma and provides “knowledge” of the best correlate with reality that we can discern at the time. Being pragmatic, science is continually refining our knowledge base and methods.

    That’s the knowledge part. As for “systematic approach”, I guess that adding to our knowledge base by fiat (when put in the context that the same ridiculous flawed process is always used) could be termed a “systematic approach”. The same would apply to continually following a complex procedure that does nothing (like say, worship). I am not surprised that Nancy cannot see that the analogy is 100% valid, if she credits religion with either “knowledge” or what we regard as the “systematic approach” to its accumulation.

    Wallace had natural selection “revealed” to him in a fever, but it came from his sub-conscious after years as a naturalist observing all the details. One lucky break does not equate with the volumes of evidence Darwin compiled over 20 years. Wallace’s “revealed knowledge” was unsupportable – there was nothing “systematic” about it and any number of fevers before or after would not necessarily lead to any other revelations that matched reality. Wallace’s subsequent occult pursuits simply confirm this – he was no more than one of those chickens dancing to a “grain god” they inferred must exist because a rain of grain once happened to coincide with the chickens’ dancing.

    Religion, as humanity’s first attempt to explain the world however has lost the ability to change by imposing its orthodox dogma on adherents (and persecutes, frequently to the point of genocide, those that disagree).

    Religion is not only incompatible with science, it is incompatible with reality, with reason and with the future survival of our species. As another poster pointed out, if something labeled “supernatural” is subsequently shown to exist it gets relabeled as “natural” and becomes a new subject of scientific study and scrutiny. If religion encounters something that contradicts dogma, then reality must be rejected as dogma may not. This generally requires that all evidence must be suppressed or destroyed – along with anyone that holds the knowledge and may spread it.

  280. #280 A. Noyd
    January 23, 2010

    nancymcclernan (#271)

    So if you happen on a retarded person, with a bunch of your friends on the street, do you all stand around in masochistic joy to watch them say stupid things?

    Wow, way to own yourself and fail at an analogy all at once.

    (Sorry if this double posts.)

  281. #281 Ichthyic
    January 23, 2010

    It’s really funny – the ONLY reason some of you hang around is simply to snipe at me.

    when you insist on presenting such a juicy target, and nothing else?

  282. #282 nancymcclernan
    January 23, 2010

    Posted by: Sven DiMilo Author Profile Page | January 23, 2010 12:23 AM

    Wait, OK, now that I have your attention, here it is; no insults, no contempt:

    This is the crux of this whole sorry episode, and I sincerely implore you to read that again. That is my message to you.

    I’m pretty sure I already addressed why your construction doesn’t work,

    In any case, I’m still on the John Morales line. I can’t do two at once. But I think some of the others dropped out so you can be next.

    But don’t you think John Morales is doing a good enough job?

  283. #283 John Morales
    January 23, 2010

    nancymcclernan:

    What do you mean by “compatibility” here?

    I didn’t introduce the term, I merely quoted it.
    Why not address the issue at hand — the comic featured in the post, and your contention that it’s silly because “It’s a bad analogy.”

    What you apparently fail to grasp is that the analogy applies to the logical form of the argument, not to its specific elements.

    Have you yet perused my #48?

    Look at the statements labelled 1 and 6.
    Look at my response to my quotation of you.

    Over 200 comments latter, you still haven’t addressed it.

    PS, FWIW, in normal discourse, compatibility basically refers to the capability of existing or performing in harmonious or congenial combination, but of course it’s a polysemous term.

    In the culture war, however, we’re using it in its sense of epistemic compatibility.

  284. #284 Ichthyic
    January 23, 2010

    what we have here, ladies and gents, is a perfect example of the drama queen.

  285. #285 aratina cage of the OM
    January 23, 2010

    Yep, saw that coming

    This is getting more pathetic by the minute. It is OK to be wrong and humorless, Nancy, but no amount of chest-puffing will make you right.

  286. #286 John Morales
    January 23, 2010

    Peter,

    I’ve waded through the thread and can’t believe no-one else hasn’t spotted the basic premise that has caused Nancy’s confusion, even when she stated it so explicitly.

    Oh, I spotted it alright. But it’s a second-order issue, I’m trying to get her to grasp the parallel construction first.

    (Though you might note I’ve alluded to it in my previous) :)

  287. #287 A. Noyd
    January 23, 2010

    Peter McKellar (#279)

    I’ve waded through the thread and can’t believe no-one else hasn’t spotted the basic premise that has caused Nancy’s confusion, even when she stated it so explicitly.

    No, we understand. We also know that it’s irrelevant. Just to take one person, check out John Morales’ post at #48. He acknowledges her basic premise and tries to show her why it’s wrong. He refers her back to 48 when she makes the same error at #69.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Ichthyic (#284)

    what we have here, ladies and gents, is a perfect example of the drama queen.

    I don’t think she rates quite that high. More like a drama chambermaid trying on the queen’s finery for herself.

  288. #288 aratina cage of the OM
    January 23, 2010

    Because I’ve seen you all gang up on other people too. It’s just what you do. -Observational Nancy

    Those fuckers deserved every bit of it, too, coming here and bloviating bigotry or chastising us for our beliefs or who we are. We don’t ask the trolls to come, but we do welcome a squeaky chew toy when we can get one.

  289. #289 Sven DiMilo
    January 23, 2010

    Honestly, I was trying to be nice, Nancy, because I’m sincerely of the opinion that you’ve been embarrassing yourself for a while here now. I actually felt kind of bad.
    But–you’re no wimp; we’ve established that–if you really want my frank opinion: I thought that John might have been using too many big words for you.
    I also suspected you might have been a little bit freaked out by the symbolic-logic thing.

    Your poor reading-comprehensiion skills and blissful ignorance of the rudiments of critical thinking were the first things I knew of you, in some thread* months ago. Based on our previous interactions, I feared that John was probably steering too deep, too fast. My only thought here was to try a quick end-run around John’s habitually erudite presentation with a simple, straightforward repeat of something I’d already explained as clearly as I could. Sometimes that works; a student just needs to hear it twice.
    *shrug*

    *actually, I remember: it was the epic Baby Bear thread of yore

  290. #290 WowbaggerOM
    January 23, 2010

    nancymcclernan wrote:

    Do you get points for the best insults? Like do you IM each other at the same time? Maybe trade tips on the insults most likely to provoke a response? I am becoming quite curious about you people as individuals – now that there are not quite so many to keep track of here.

    You think the posts addressing you have been insulting? Not even close. Trust me when I tell you that what’s been written about you so far is a gentle summer breeze compared to the obnoxious flaming shit-storms that constitute a real back-and-forth on this site.

    I’m actually surprised by the restraint.

  291. #291 nancymcclernan
    January 23, 2010

    Religion != systematic approach to knowledge

    Marvin Harris refers to both religion and science as a “way of knowing” – and I think that even though religion is clearly wrong, for the most part it is systemic. A wacky system yeah, but still…

    Here’s what Harris said in his introduction to “Cultural Materialism: The Struggle for a Science of Culture”

    We must recognize that there are many ways of knowing, but we must also recognize that it is not mere ethnocentric puffery to assert that science is a way of knowing that has a uniquely transcendent value for all human beings. In the entire course of prehistory and history only one way of knowing has encouraged its practitioners to doubt their own premises and to systematically expose their own conclusions to the hostile scrutiny of nonbelievers. Granted that discrepancies between science as and ideal and science as it is practiced substantially reduce the difference between science, religion, and other modes of looking for the truth. But it is precisely as an ideal that the uniqueness of science deserves to be defended. No other way of knowing is based on a set of rules explicitly designed to transcend the prior belief systems of mutually antagonistic tribes, nations, clases and ethnic and religious communities in order to arrive at knowledge that is equally probable for any rational human mind. Those who doubt that science can do this must be made to show how some other tolerant and ecumenical alternative can do it better. Unless they can show how some other universalistic system of knowing leads to more acceptable critera of truth, their attempt to subvert the universal credibility of science in the name of cultural relativism, however well-intentioned, is an intellectual crime against humanity. It is a crime against humanity because the real alternative to science is not anarchy, but ideology; not peaceful artists, philosophers, and anthropologists, but aggressive fanatics and messiahs eager to annihilate each other and the whole world if need be in order to prove their point.

    Rather more than I needed to make my point, but I just really like that passage.

  292. #292 A. Noyd
    January 23, 2010

    Er, for clarity’s sake, that should be “he…tries to show her why it’s beside the point” or something up in #287. It’s not that her premise is wrong, it that it has nothing whatever to do with the point the cartoonist is making.

  293. #293 Ichthyic
    January 23, 2010

    Marvin Harris refers to both religion and science as a “way of knowing” – and I think that even though religion is clearly wrong, for the most part it is systemic. A wacky system yeah, but still…

    still… you failed to even bother to read the rest of what he wrote, or what ANY of us wrote on the subject, of course.

    seriously, i think you are suffering from a mild form of NPD.

    you might want to get that checked out.

  294. #294 nancymcclernan
    January 23, 2010

    But–you’re no wimp; we’ve established that–if you really want my frank opinion: I thought that John might have been using too many big words for you.
    I also suspected you might have been a little bit freaked out by the symbolic-logic thing.

    Well we knew that “niceness” isn’t really your thing now, didn’t we?

    I’m not up on mathematics. But in fact I do have an excellent vocabulary. Do you think yours is better than mine? Seriously? On what grounds?

    But flinging unsupported, random, gratuitous insults at me is pretty much what you do, every time you address me. So why should this be different?

    If I am so stupid why do you even bother? Is the plan here now to insult me until I go away? Clearly insulting someone said to be stupid and worthless is an activity that is greatly enjoyed by people here.

    Seriously, do you point and laugh at retarded people on the street, too?

  295. #295 Ichthyic
    January 23, 2010

    I’m actually surprised by the restraint.

    It’s the growing boredom with her highness, the vapid drama queen.

    like she said about herself, it’s like teasing the retarded.

  296. #296 John Morales
    January 23, 2010

    Sven @289, FWIW I think you said it better than I, first at #79 and again recently. I even referred Nancy to SC quoting you on it.

    I wonder if this is Morton’s Demon at work (though not in the creationist, but rather in the compatibilist sphere)?

  297. #297 Kyorosuke
    January 23, 2010

    This thread is either the most hilarious or most tedious in recent Pharyngula history. Probably both.

    I mean, it’s such a huge blowup over something so stupid. If it was about something important, we would think it was a bit overwrought but reasonable. This, though, is one person making an enormous stink over the fact that they misunderstood a cartoon. I’m terrified to imagine what reading the funny pages is like in Nancy’s house.

  298. #298 Ichthyic
    January 23, 2010

    Seriously, do you point and laugh at retarded people on the street, too?

    only when they aren’t, but like to pretend they are, like you.

    but what would motivate one to pretend to be retarded, one wonders…

    better consult with one of your social anthropology buddies there, drama queen.

  299. #299 Ichthyic
    January 23, 2010

    I mean, it’s such a huge blowup over something so stupid.

    it seems trivial because it was presented in a cartoon, but the underlying arguments are far beyond trivial in nature, and have seen a continual shitstorm of argument over the last 3+ years online, and far before that when Gould was arguing for NOMA.

  300. #300 WowbaggerOM
    January 23, 2010

    Seriously, do you point and laugh at retarded people on the street, too?

    Hmm, if you think this is a serious parallel to what’s occurring here then I’m not really all that surprised you can’t grasp what’s being explained to you.

  301. #301 Peter McKellar
    January 23, 2010

    John, A.Noyd (and others), my apologies – you are correct, it is a second order item.

    I just couldn’t let something so blatantly incorrect be used as a premise for her argument (hence the lengthy and hopefully thorough coverage). I won’t even attempt a rational argument because I think Nancy does understand, she just refuses to acknowledge defeat.

    I like that Nancy will snark back, but I find the content becoming increasingly poor, deliberately trying to steer away from the topic at hand (eg anthropologists, group-think, blah, blah, blah) and what from almost the start appears to be an absolute refusal to acknowledge that the analogy was right on target.

    No need to give me a number Mistress “These boots are made for walking” Nancy – I’m talking about you, not to you.

  302. #302 John Morales
    January 23, 2010

    nancymcclernan,

    Rather more than I needed to make my point, but I just really like that passage.

    Um. Why do you quote something that explicitly supports our stance?

    “We must recognize that there are many ways of knowing, but we must also recognize that it is not mere ethnocentric puffery to assert that science is a way of knowing that has a uniquely transcendent value for all human beings. In the entire course of prehistory and history only one way of knowing has encouraged its practitioners to doubt their own premises and to systematically expose their own conclusions to the hostile scrutiny of nonbelievers. Granted that discrepancies between science as and ideal and science as it is practiced substantially reduce the difference between science, religion, and other modes of looking for the truth. But it is precisely as an ideal that the uniqueness of science deserves to be defended. No other way of knowing is based on a set of rules explicitly designed to transcend the prior belief systems of mutually antagonistic tribes, nations, clases and ethnic and religious communities in order to arrive at knowledge that is equally probable for any rational human mind. Those who doubt that science can do this must be made to show how some other tolerant and ecumenical alternative can do it better.”

    (my bold).

    That’s an anti-compatibilist stance, if I’ve ever seen one!

  303. #303 John Morales
    January 23, 2010

    nancymcclernan,

    But in fact I do have an excellent vocabulary. Do you think yours is better than mine? Seriously? On what grounds?

    Oh, dear.
    “The cardinality of my lexicon exceeds yours!”

    Well, at least it ain’t sexist…

  304. #304 Kyorosuke
    January 23, 2010

    Ichthyic @299:

    Oh, quite; I didn’t mean to downplay the significance of the accomodationism debate: It’s one of the more pernicious anti-atheist* canards which I, sadly, expect to only crop up more and more often, as it becomes less acceptable to just hate atheists just because.

    Even with that aspect in mind, Nancy’s (ongoing) tantrum is still absurd.

  305. #305 nancymcclernan
    January 23, 2010

    What you apparently fail to grasp is that the analogy applies to the logical form of the argument, not to its specific elements.

    Not at all – I’m sorry you didn’t get that. But maybe things look different from atop the high horse.

    I don’t have much training in any branch of math, but I think that English works OK.

    The relationship between Science and Religion is not the same kind of relationship as that between Priesthood and Pedophilic Act

    As the saying goes, apples and oranges. It’s a poor comparison.

    When the cartoonist says if you argue that Science and Religion are reconcilable because a person could maintain both – are we calling them “beliefs?” – then by the same argument the Pope could say that Priesthood and Pedophilic Act are reconcilable – do you think the cartoonist is in agreement with the Pope?

  306. #306 Ichthyic
    January 23, 2010

    Even with that aspect in mind, Nancy’s (ongoing) tantrum is still absurd.

    oh, indeed i fully agree.

    I tend to think she is doing this as an experiment for her class:

    Drama Queens 101

  307. #307 Caine
    January 23, 2010

    Ichthyic @ 295:

    It’s the growing boredom with her highness, the vapid drama queen.

    Yep. She went past boring some time ago. Yappity Nan is certainly convinced she’s the dog’s bollocks when she’s actually a tiring, repetitive parrot.

  308. #308 Ichthyic
    January 23, 2010

    As the saying goes, apples and oranges. It’s a poor comparison.

    annnnnddddd…

    back to square 1.

    lady, go to fucking sleep.

  309. #309 A. Noyd
    January 23, 2010

    John Morales (#302)

    That’s an anti-compatibilist stance, if I’ve ever seen one!

    I never got the impression she’s an accomodationist herself. I think she just doesn’t understand the difference between criticism of Mooney’s argument for compatibility and criticism of actual attempts to reconcile science and religion. But I might have missed something.

  310. #310 Janine, Mistress Of Foul Mouth Abuse, OM
    January 23, 2010

    Ichthyic, are you implying that the is a high drama professor who is giving students credit for online meltdown much like Demski gives credit to students for spouting creationist nonsense on evolution blogs. Damn but I wish I had a class like that. But we did not have the internet at that time.

  311. #311 TimKO,,.,,
    January 23, 2010

    @Kausik Datta 27
    “Religious scientist? An oxymoron if there was ever one. Science represents the ability and the willingness to apply the scientific method to any hypothesis”

    Science, yes; but scienTIST can just mean “working in a science field”.

    nancymclernan at home:
    “But it’s not a joke because a chicken would never let its feet touch the asphalt surface regardless of side-orientation. The joke teller obviously doesn’t know that a chicken is a domesticated fowl of the Galliformes order whereas the road is a hardened surface intended for the conveyance of vehicular traffic. Don’t you see? Walking across the road is NOT a flight system: the chicken can have beliefs but the road can not!”

  312. #312 Ichthyic
    January 23, 2010

    Ichthyic, are you implying that the is a high drama professor who is giving students credit for online meltdown much like Demski gives credit to students for spouting creationist nonsense on evolution blogs. Damn but I wish I had a class like that. But we did not have the internet at that time.

    if you ever managed to catch a series called “Mad TV”, you might recall the character that Stephanie Weir played…

    she taught a class called “Drama Queens 101″.

    …”where it’s all about… YOU!” was the class slogan :)

  313. #313 Peter McKellar
    January 23, 2010

    Thank you John.

    I was reading Sam’s quote for the 3rd time wondering what the fuck I had missed because it so clearly supported me.

    Unlike another poster above, I am not wrong ALL the time, just about 99%. Seems this was in the 1% category.

    As someone familiar with Sam Harris’ work, Nancy may have read his article on “The Evil Eye” and medicine which seems applicable to the whole accommodationist debate that is the real basis for this thread. (A quick search did not yield a link, apologies)

  314. #314 WowbaggerOM
    January 23, 2010

    Obligatory TvTropes* link: Don’t explain the joke.

    *I take no responsibility for any hours of your life lost browsing TvTropes. Yes, it is addictive, and seemingly endless. You have been warned.

  315. #315 Sven DiMilo
    January 23, 2010

    “Gratuitous”?
    If you would like, Nancy, I will provide evidence of your chronic inability to read for comprehension. It’s part of the first comment I ever made that addressed you and it wouldn’t me take long to find it. Beyond that, I try to take people as they come to me. I’m sorry to say that you have come to me consistently as somebody who’s full of shit. You demonstrably don’t know what you’re talking about but you’re too narcissistic or Dunning-Krugeroid to ever listen instead.

    Nothing anybody’s had to say to you here in this thread has been “gratuitous,” either. You just…don’t…get the freakin cartoon, everybody but you, Scott, and lexusxxx (or something) sees that clearly, again and again, every time you post, and tell you so, in various ways, some nice, some snarky, some patiently explaining…and yet you are either too narcissistic or dig-in stubborn or…fuck I don’t know; you’re obviously not stoopid stupid but jeez. You are consistently exasperating.

    [Bride of Kw*k! It's true!]

    But you have an excellent point. Why am I spending time at this at all? In part, I guess, because I am strangely fascinated by your combination of over-the-top arrogance, belligerent brickwall stubbornness, and purest wrongitude about the whole meaning-of-the-cartoon issue.

    But the addition of the paranoid persecution-victim thing really kind of sours the mix.

    And I really was trying to be nice there, for a second. Sometimes it’s my thing.

  316. #316 Feynmaniac
    January 23, 2010

    I mean, it’s such a huge blowup over something so stupid.

    Sayre’s Law: “In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the stakes at issue.”

    (While I don’t think this “law” is absolutely true I have seen many instances of apathy over matters of great importance and vehement disputes over trivial bullshit.)

  317. #317 John Morales
    January 23, 2010

    nancymcclernan:

    Not at all – I’m sorry you didn’t get that. But maybe things look different from atop the high horse.

    So… we’re in agreement that it’s the same argument, with different variables?

    I don’t have much training in any branch of math, but I think that English works OK.

    It’s logic, not mathematics, but yeah I believe you. However, Sven made exactly the same point in plain English (cf. #296) and you’ve still missed it.

    The relationship between Science and Religion is not the same kind of relationship as that between Priesthood and Pedophilic Act

    Wow, you’re reifying abstract concepts by capitalisation? Heh.

    Anyway, yeah, it’s not the same relationship. However, the relationship is irrelevant except to the extent that compatibility between the concepts can be established by their being held by (any number of) given individual(s).
    Which, really, is not at all, by my previous contentions and arguments which you have yet to directly address.

    As the saying goes, apples and oranges. It’s a poor comparison.

    Sigh. We’re not comparing that which is compared, we’re comparing the method of comparison.

    Besides, apples and oranges are both fruit, both pollinated by bees, both edible, both cultivated, have similar caloric content, etc etc. So, under a great many contexts, they are in fact comparable.

    When the cartoonist says if you argue that Science and Religion are reconcilable because a person could maintain both – are we calling them “beliefs?” – then by the same argument the Pope could say that Priesthood and Pedophilic Act are reconcilable – do you think the cartoonist is in agreement with the Pope?

    I consider that the cartoonist is in agreement with any logician or rational thinking.
    So, if the Pope adheres to logic and rational argument (an arguable proposition, I grant), then yes.

  318. #318 Janine, Mistress Of Foul Mouth Abuse, OM
    January 23, 2010

    Never watched Mad TV. But I understand the set up. I come from a large family, we all learned how to pull out the Drama Queen when we felt we needed the attention. Plus, I had a roommate who had the Trauma Du Jour.

  319. #319 nancymcclernan
    January 23, 2010

    (my bold).

    That’s an anti-compatibilist stance, if I’ve ever seen one!

    Harris says that religion is a way of knowing.

    He also says that science is a superior way of knowing.

    I agree with both – and there is nothing I said anywhere that would indicate I did not

    But let me get something straight:

    Are you saying that the issue is not whether a scientist can be religious, but rather that SCIENCE as a way of knowing and RELIGION as a way of knowing are irreconcilable?

    Because I doubt that anybody involved in science disputes that.

    Unless, as I said a million years ago, there are meterorologists who are substituting prayers for satellites, etc. when predicting the weather.

    The argument in favor of reconcilability as stated in the cartoon is that since a scientist can be religious, science and religion can be reconciled.

    And the counter argument made in the cartoon is that if you can say that, then you can say that being a priest and being a pedophile can be reconciled.

    Is that your understanding as well?

  320. #320 WowbaggerOM
    January 23, 2010

    Feynmaniac wrote:

    While I don’t think this “law” is absolutely true I have seen many instances of apathy over matters of great importance and vehement disputes over trivial bullshit.

    Never underestimate the power of SIWOTI. But if you just like to argue (and, let’s face it, many of us – myself included – would struggle to be found not guilty if on trial for that particular crime) then it’s not really that important what it is you’re arguing about, as long as you’re arguing.

    Heck, not that far back I spent a couple of days arguing with that guy (whose name eludes me) about how atheism can’t inspire behaviour. It probably bored anyone else reading it to tears – but I was happy.

  321. #321 John Morales
    January 23, 2010

    TimKO, LOL @home.

  322. #322 nancymcclernan
    January 23, 2010

    The relationship between Science and Religion is not the same kind of relationship as that between Priesthood and Pedophilic Act

    Wow, you’re reifying abstract concepts by capitalisation? Heh.

    It was a random style choice – do you really think it’s worth making an issue out of?

  323. #323 Ichthyic
    January 23, 2010

    It was a random style choice – do you really think it’s worth making an issue out of?

    ROFLMAO

    to hear YOU say that…

    glad my irony meter broke long ago, or i might be pulling splinters out of my eye.

    and on that note…

    have fun, Queen Under the Mountain.

  324. #324 Sven DiMilo
    January 23, 2010

    Are you saying that the issue is not whether a scientist can be religious, but rather that SCIENCE as a way of knowing and RELIGION as a way of knowing are irreconcilable?

    Yes!

    Because I doubt that anybody involved in science disputes that.

    Gah!!! You didn’t read any of those comments (to which you nevertheless seemed to respond defensively) about the CONTEXT of the freakin cartoon? About how people named Mooney and Orzel, two guys involved with science, had indeed recently and explicitly disputed that?

    The argument in favor of reconcilability as stated in the cartoon is that since a scientist can be religious, science and religion can be reconciled.

    yes, and again, this explicit argument has been made repeatedly and recently

    And the counter argument made in the cartoon is that if you can say that, then you can say that being a priest and being a pedophile can be reconciled.
    Is that your understanding as well?

    Yes!
    Yes!

    I smell breakthrough!

  325. #325 Peter McKellar
    January 23, 2010

    Wowbagger

    many of us – myself included – would struggle to be found not guilty if on trial for that particular crime

    I would dispute that, but I have to drive into town ;)

  326. #326 nancymcclernan
    January 23, 2010

    As the saying goes, apples and oranges. It’s a poor comparison.

    Sigh. We’re not comparing that which is compared, we’re comparing the method of comparison.

    But what is being compared is a critical factor in the validity of the conclusion – are the things different or the same?

    And which method of comparison are we comparing?

  327. #327 John Morales
    January 23, 2010

    nancymcclernan,

    Harris says that religion is a way of knowing.
    He also says that science is a superior way of knowing.

    He says a bit more than that — you might consider that guessing or examining entrails are also ‘ways of knowing’. He is being gentle, but his meaning is quite clear.

    Are you saying that the issue is not whether a scientist can be religious, but rather that SCIENCE as a way of knowing and RELIGION as a way of knowing are irreconcilable?

    Yes.

    The argument in favor of reconcilability as stated in the cartoon is that since a scientist can be religious, science and religion can be reconciled.
    And the counter argument made in the cartoon is that if you can say that, then you can say that being a priest and being a pedophile can be reconciled.
    Is that your understanding as well?

    I would express it slightly more rigorously¹, but yes.

    Well, I’ve had my turn, and congratulations on grokking me, Nancy. :)

    You might disagree, but at least I’m satisfied you get my drift.

    ¹ ‘if you can say that’ → ‘by the same reasoning’.

  328. #328 Feynmaniac
    January 23, 2010

    *I take no responsibility for any hours of your life lost browsing TvTropes. Yes, it is addictive, and seemingly endless. You have been warned.

    But it’s not ’17 Worst Haircuts in the Ottoman Empire’ addicting.

    (see http://www.xkcd.com/609/ )

  329. #329 John Morales
    January 23, 2010

    nancymcclernan,

    And which method of comparison are we comparing?

    The argument form; i.e. that if someone holds/believes/advocates/practices both X and Y, X and Y are perforce compatible and hence reconcilable. If this argument is valid, it’s valid for all X and all Y, by the rules of logic.

    (BTW, those rules are that if an argument is valid and its premises are true, then the proposition being argued (the conclusion of the argument) is true. In this case, the premises are given as true (i.e. that someone both X and Y).

    Since plugging in different Xs or Ys can lead to palpably false conclusions, it’s pretty clear even without formal analysis that the argument is invalid.)

  330. #330 WowbaggerOM
    January 23, 2010

    The problem with religion’s ‘ways of knowing’ is that there’s no consistent means to determine which parts are actually true and which were pulled out of someone’s ass two thousand (or so) years ago to enable to owner of said ass to have an answer to a question that would cost them their job to respond ‘I don’t know’ to.

    But, sadly, there are people who consider that ‘way of knowing’ to be equal to (and sometimes greater than) the knowledge gained via science.

  331. #331 A. Noyd
    January 23, 2010

    nancymcclernan (#326)

    But what is being compared is a critical factor in the validity of the conclusion – are the things different or the same?

    No, the point the artist is making is that the argument itself (that x and y are compatible because one person can do/believe both) is flawed. It doesn’t really matter what you compare. The priest/pedophile analogy makes the flaw easier to recognize because of the obvious absurdity.

  332. #332 WowbaggerOM
    January 23, 2010

    But it’s not ’17 Worst Haircuts in the Ottoman Empire’ addicting.

    I’d seen that strip before – but obviously it was prior to realising there’s a scroll-over pop-up comment in each one. But that’s true, too – I’ve got Cracked in my Twitter feed and it often leads to lost time.

  333. #333 Kel, OM
    January 23, 2010

    Just to fan the flames a little…

    I used to be on the incompatibility train, then I realised that science and religion aren’t incompatible, it’s just that the findings of science pretty much obliterate any need for an appeal to the divine. They are only incompatible in the sense that putting God into the world makes no sense ;)

  334. #334 nancymcclernan
    January 23, 2010

    The argument in favor of reconcilability as stated in the cartoon is that since a scientist can be religious, science and religion can be reconciled.
    And the counter argument made in the cartoon is that if you can say that, then you can say that being a priest and being a pedophile can be reconciled.
    Is that your understanding as well?

    I would express it slightly more rigorously¹, but yes.

    But if you agree that both science and religion are “ways of knowing” then:

    X + ((way of knowing A) + (way of knowing B)) = reconciliation

    <>

    X + (forbidden act) = reconciliation

    granted the above is my own primitive symbol system, so to reiterate in English:

    It does not follow that if you say that two ways of knowing, when practiced by one person, means that they are reconciled, also means that a priest – an official adherent of one way of knowing – can be reconciled with pedophilia – a sex act (along with all other sex acts) forbidden to priests as part of their job description.

    Although it was famously, scandalously NOT followed in practice, what was officially supposed to happen was

    Priest + act of pedophilia = Not Priest

    Are people here actually trying to say it should also be, officially

    Scientist + religious activity = Not Scientist

    ?

    That seems extreme.

  335. #335 Ichthyic
    January 23, 2010

    But, sadly, there are people who consider that ‘way of knowing’ to be equal to (and sometimes greater than) the knowledge gained via science.

    i believe that comes from a continued attempt in the US, at least, to teach kids that the source is at least as important as the message.

    it’s how preachers and con artists have gotten such huge followings there.

    and it was rather a bit of the central subject of this science paper, i have been amiss in quoting for several weeks now :)

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/316/5827/996

  336. #336 Ichthyic
    January 23, 2010

    Scientist + religious activity = Not Scientist

    strawman.

    you REALLY have problems listening to what people are actually saying, don’t you.

    it’s quite remarkable.

  337. #337 nancymcclernan
    January 23, 2010

    My not equal to was cut off:

    X + ((way of knowing A) + (way of knowing B)) = reconciliation

    <>

    X + (forbidden act) = reconciliation

  338. #338 nancymcclernan
    January 23, 2010

    Oh never mind it was an HTML thing… duh:

    X + ((way of knowing A) + (way of knowing B)) = reconciliation

    !=

    X + (forbidden act) = reconciliation

  339. #339 nancymcclernan
    January 23, 2010

    Scientist + religious activity = Not Scientist

    strawman.

    It was presented in the form of a question, not an argument. Is there a such thing as a strawman question?

  340. #340 Ichthyic
    January 23, 2010

    Are people here actually trying to say it should also be, officially

    you wouldn’t be asking otherwise, you dishonest snizz.

  341. #341 A. Noyd
    January 23, 2010

    nancymcclelernan (#334)

    Are people here actually trying to say it should also be, officially
    Scientist + religious activity = Not Scientist

    No. For fuck’s sake, you got all of it right in the last three paragraphs of #319. Your mistake is trying to take it further. You said yourself: “And the counter argument made in the cartoon is that if you can say that, then you can say that being a priest and being a pedophile can be reconciled.” Since we know we can’t say that about priests and pedophiles, we can’t say it about science and religion either. End. Of. Fucking. Story.

    But hey, since you think the analogy sucks, give us an example of a better one.

  342. #342 John Morales
    January 23, 2010

    nancymcclernan,

    It does not follow that if you say that two ways of knowing, when practiced by one person, means that they are reconciled, also means that a priest – an official adherent of one way of knowing – can be reconciled with pedophilia – a sex act (along with all other sex acts) forbidden to priests as part of their job description.

    Yes, it does, and I’ve expressly made it clear why (most recently @239).

    I note, parenthetically, that I don’t consider even the hypothetical first proposition to be plausible; are you seriously thinking that a scientist can propose a theory by saying “… and then, a miracle occurs!” when there’s something she can’t otherwise explain?

    (I’d paste the comic, but I’ve done it too recently to merit it again).

  343. #343 nancymcclernan
    January 23, 2010

    Posted by: Ichthyic Author Profile Page | January 23, 2010 2:21 AM

    Are people here actually trying to say it should also be, officially

    you wouldn’t be asking otherwise, you dishonest snizz.

    And you know this because you can read my mind? Is that reconcilable with your scientific beliefs?

    You leapt to that conclusion because you are looking for any reason to attack me. And I say this not because I claim to read your mind, but because you’ve done it consistently for the past few hours.

    I’m happy to amend it to = that seems extreme and it seems unlikely that this is what people want. Because no matter how hateful the group has been here, even I don’t think you’d believe that.

    But since you refuse to give me the benefit of the doubt ever, it seems likely you’ll twist this into another example of my deviltry.

    Let’s face it – I will never win with you – because I’m stupid, dishonest, a snizz, perverse – well I’m sure you’ll fill in the rest.

    Why you have anything to say to such a quintessence of worthless contemptibility as myself is a mystery with which, going forward, I will no longer concern myself.

    Have an nice life.

  344. #344 Janet Holmes
    January 23, 2010

    Well Jesus let’s all say a big “GET WELL SOON NANCY!!” and then maybe she’ll fuck off out of it!

  345. #345 A. Noyd
    January 23, 2010

    nancymcclernan (#343)

    Because no matter how hateful the group has been here, even I don’t think you’d believe that.

    Then why did you ask if we did?

    And what’s a better analogy?

  346. #346 John Morales
    January 23, 2010

    nancymcclernan:

    Scientist + religious activity = Not Scientist

    That’s incoherent, you’ve already said scientist in the first term in that expression.

    It’s also a strawman of our position..

    Why? Well, I’ll just quote Heddle, who is both a scientist and a devout believer: “Science doesn’t say I can’t have irrational beliefs. It says only that when I am engaged in science, I follow the rules. That is the only demand it makes.”

  347. #347 nancymcclernan
    January 23, 2010

    I note, parenthetically, that I don’t consider even the hypothetical first proposition to be plausible; are you seriously thinking that a scientist can propose a theory by saying “… and then, a miracle occurs!” when there’s something she can’t otherwise explain?

    (I’d paste the comic, but I’ve done it too recently to merit it again).

    I’ve seen the cartoon. It’s a classic.

    No I’m not thinking that – did you read the part were I mentioned a meteorologist? Did you see how the situation I described conveys what I consider the possible, workable fit between science and religion?

    And, BTW – would I call (what I consider) a possible workable fit reconciliation, or something else?

    We do agree that a scientist who practices religion is in a very different situation from a priest who practices pedophilia – yes?

    According to the numbering system on my page the bit above is #239.

    Posted by: Janine, Mistress Of Foul Mouth Abuse, OM Author Profile Page | January 22, 2010 11:11 PM

    Listen, you fuckfaced fool, you do not get to dictate how you are addressed. Get to you fucking point or fucking leave.

    Although it was fun to read that again. Ah these precious memories. I will cherish them always.

    In any case, could you just find whatever you made manifest and paste it in your response so there’s no doubt what it is?

  348. #348 nancymcclernan
    January 23, 2010

    That’s incoherent, you’ve already said scientist in the first term in that expression.

    It does not follow follow formal rules, I freely admitted it was idiosyncratic.

    But you must understand what I was trying to say, which is what matters to me, since you’ve determined that it was a strawman position.

    And as I explained elsewhere – I asked it in the form of a question. I did not say I thought that was the position.

    Why? Well, I’ll just quote Heddle, who is both a scientist and a devout believer: “Science doesn’t say I can’t have irrational beliefs. It says only that when I am engaged in science, I follow the rules. That is the only demand it makes.”

    Do you agree with this? Because what I said at #32 was:

    Anybody is capable of irrational thought, at some point, whether it is religion or self-serving wish-fulfillment or a random superstition.

    The best we can demand of people is that they not allow their irrational thoughts to have a negative impact on their jobs. What they do on their own time should be their own business.

    Seems to be pretty similar.

  349. #349 A. Noyd
    January 23, 2010

    nancymcclernan (#347)

    We do agree that a scientist who practices religion is in a very different situation from a priest who practices pedophilia – yes?

    It doesn’t fucking matter. What matters is that both exist but their existence doesn’t have any meaning when you try to reconcile science with religion or pedophilia with being a priest. Mooney is making the argument that a scientist who practices religion means science and religion can be reconciled. The comic is saying his argument (which is not, in this case, that science and religion can or can’t be reconciled) is wrong.

    If you still don’t agree that the analogy works to illustrate this, then give us a better analogy.

  350. #350 Anri
    January 23, 2010

    I’ll try…

    Someone is arguing that (A) and (B) are compatible, because it’s possible to be (A) and (B) at the same time.

    Someone else is saying that that’s not a good argument, because someone can be (C) and (D) at the same time, and those things are not generally regarded as being compatible.

    They are not saying that (A) and (B) are compatible.
    They are not saying that (A) and (B) are incompatible.
    They are not saying that (A) is to (B) as (C) is to (D).
    They are saying that the argument that (A) is compatible with (B) is just as spurious as the argument that (C) is compatible with (D).

    There’s the joke, in summary, generalized form.

    Questions?

  351. #351 John Morales
    January 23, 2010

    nancymcclernan,

    Seems to be pretty similar.

    Yes.

    I note that Sastra has already addressed that @34, as has BdN @128.

  352. #352 nancymcclernan
    January 23, 2010

    Posted by: Janet Holmes Author Profile Page | January 23, 2010 2:38 AM

    Well Jesus let’s all say a big “GET WELL SOON NANCY!!” and then maybe she’ll fuck off out of it!

    Why is it so important to you that I fuck off out of it?

    You don’t have to read what I write, or respond to it. If you think I’m deranged then surely you should feel compassion – or at least indifference to my presumed ravings.

    Am I preventing anybody from talking about anything else on this thread? Am I stopping anybody from spending their time elsewhere on Pharyngula?

    What is it about me that inspires so much vehemence and such a desire to – I guess drive me away is what you mean by fuck off?

    Why am I, a… let’s see, what were some of the suggestions? Stupid, schizophrenic, deranged, bad vocabulary, dishonest retard – of any consequence to your life whatsoever, because I am arguing with John Morales on the issue of whether or not a cartoonist made a valid analogy?

    My impression was that it was the general view here that retards such as myself should be laughed at, not taken seriously. If I’m such a source of good sport, why would you want to drive me away? And seems to me that many people derived a real sense of pleasure by abusing me. Do you want to deprive them of one of the joys in their lives?

    So you could go away and get that sweet relief from my existence, and the people who derive pleasure from abusing me would still get what they want. Doesn’t that sound like the best solution?

  353. #353 John Morales
    January 23, 2010

    Yeah, I stuffed up by transposing digits whilst typing and not previewing; I meant to refer to 329 not 239.

  354. #354 A. Noyd
    January 23, 2010

    nancymcclernan (#352)

    What is it about me that inspires so much vehemence and such a desire to – I guess drive me away is what you mean by fuck off?

    Your inability to understand that you’re wrong, much less why you’re wrong, even after a dozen or more people have explained it to you.

    Why am I, a… let’s see, what were some of the suggestions? Stupid, schizophrenic, deranged, bad vocabulary, dishonest retard – of any consequence to your life whatsoever, because I am arguing with John Morales on the issue of whether or not a cartoonist made a valid analogy?

    Can you lay off the strawman arguments for a few minutes and give me an analogy that makes the artist’s point better than a pedophile priest? If you really do understand the artist’s point, this shouldn’t be hard at all. And if you can’t manage that, just take back either your opinion of the analogy or your claim you understand the comic.

    Only a wimp would avoid my request an eighth (ninth?) time.

  355. #355 nancymcclernan
    January 23, 2010

    Posted by: John Morales Author Profile Page | January 23, 2010 3:07 AM

    nancymcclernan,

    Seems to be pretty similar.

    Yes.

    I note that Sastra has already addressed that @34, as has BdN @128.

    But what Sastra said was beside the point.

    Although what I said was similar to Heddle, there was an important difference – Heddle talks about what Science “asks” – I was talking about what society can expect from scientists. And so contrary to what Sastra claimed, I wasn’t describing science.

    Well, it’s 3:15 am here in NYC so it looks as though I myself will have to deprive people of a stupid, retarded, schizophrenic, dishonest etc. etc. etc. target on which to heap abuse for the thoughtcrime of arguing against an analogy.

    Sorry, but I do have a cold.

    With any luck I’ll return tomorrow for more entirely reasonable, not at all excessive or vicious, well-deserved abuse.

  356. #356 Scott
    January 23, 2010

    Sven De Milo (#315) wrote:

    You just…don’t…get the freakin cartoon, everybody but you, Scott, and lexusxxx (or something) sees that clearly, again and again, every time you post…

    Hey! Leave me out of this. Just because I am personally unpersuaded by the ‘incompatibilist’ position, doesn’t mean that I don’t understand the point of the cartoon’s analogy or that I’m sympathetic to ‘framing’. I said as much in my original post (#96)

    As for the obdurate Nancy, well, she seems unaware of the history of Nisbet and Mooney’s ‘framing’ business, and is probably more interested in getting attention than anything else. I mean, seriously, 300-odd posts here and most of it is based on a misunderstanding of an analogy in a gag strip? It can’t be the substance of the ‘argument’ that’s led to such a protracted donnybrook. It’s got to be something else.

    Good night all…Scott Hatfield, OM

  357. #357 Rorschach
    January 23, 2010

    I can’t believe it took 350 comments to sort out that Nancy is right that if the two arguments in the comic are combined it doesn’t work because it obviously constitutes some sort of fallacy of illicit process( lots of “some” in those premises !), and that on the other hand Nancy has it wrong in that the two arguments made are not meant to work together in the first place, since the analogy is only made to point out Mooney’s error of argumentation, which I reckon it does quite brilliantly !

  358. #358 BdN
    January 23, 2010

    Wow ! So much happened since I was gone out drinking a few beers myself !

    Someone else is saying that that’s not a good argument, because someone can be (C) and (D) at the same time, and those things are not generally regarded as being compatible.

    Well, I don’t think this would convince nancymcclernan since it is exactly why she thinks it is a bad analogy and what she’s been complaining about : “because someone can be (C) and (D) at the same time”. She’s saying that someone here is not C and D because when he begins to DO (and not “be”) D, he is not a C anymore so, of course, he is not C and D at the same time. Sorry for repeating, I know everybody got that already, just trying to get my thoughts together. If we push it a little further, that’s why I wrote that my analogy about being a good Christian while having verses from the Bible written on the rifle with which I shoot people : I am not a Christian at the exact moment I kill someone. Of course, I can get forgiveness and be a True Christian again. Of course, this kind of reasoning could also apply to the science/religion : the scientist is not being religious at the exact moment he performs an experiment (otherwise it is not science) but gets back to being religious when his shifts ends. And this only shows it IS incompatible since you cannot be both (or perform both, or be one and perform the other, etc.) at the same exact moment. That’s why I gave the analogy of a statistician being superstitious : it’s not about performing, being, profession, etc. It’s a clear example of science/irrational belief.

    But all of this IS irrelevant. Here it’s worth repeating what John Morales wrote at #329: “The argument form; i.e. that if someone holds/believes/advocates/practices both X and Y, X and Y are perforce compatible and hence reconcilable. If this argument is valid, it’s valid for all X and all Y, by the rules of logic.”

    Too much has been made about the analogy being good or bad or whatever. It doesn’t matter. It’s not about the analogy. You could put any X and Y in there. Eating chips and hunting. Being ugly and having a refrigerator. Believing in unicorns and collecting doorknobs. If those don’t show that these things are incompatible and don’t invalidate the argument, they indicate that using the presence of two things in one person to claim they are compatible means you are using a very, very weak definition of “compatible”. And your argument is so weak that it is useless.

    BTW, I’m a graduate student in anthropology (but the worst kind of it) and, of course, 3/4 of my friends are anthropologists (many of the good ones). How many internets do I get ?

  359. #359 Rorschach
    January 23, 2010

    Scott @ 356,

    As for the obdurate Nancy, well, she seems unaware of the history of Nisbet and Mooney’s ‘framing’ business

    Scott, i don’t think she has been obdurate on this thread, unaware of the whole accomodationist rubbish, more likely, and coming into this after the fact I can see how people have been talking past each other for 350 posts.

    and is probably more interested in getting attention than anything else

    Given her track record and very sporadic appearances here I doubt that very much.

  360. #360 Legion
    January 23, 2010

    Rorschach:

    I can’t believe it took 350 comments to sort out that Nancy is right that if the two arguments in the comic are combined it doesn’t work… and that on the other hand Nancy has it wrong in that the two arguments made are not meant to work together in the first place, since the analogy is only made to point out Mooney’s error of argumentation…

    Actually, this was obvious yesterday. What we have with this thread is a case of

    mental paralysis by over-analysis.

    PZ: Urgent….stop….we’re dying here…stop….send new post….stop….immediately…stop….before cannibalism sets in…stop…else….stop….post recipes…stop…for long pork…stop.

  361. #361 Knockgoats
    January 23, 2010

    What was it, exactly that led you to the conclusion that I’m a blithering idiot? – nancymcclernan

    All the comments you made on this thread up to that point, when I stopped reading your contributions. Up to now, while it’s been obvious you had a fairly substantial stick up your arse, I have thought you have made some useful contributions to the debates around EP.

  362. #362 jafafahots
    January 23, 2010

    wow. Just… wow.

    Missing the point, (such an obvious one too) so completely… and steadfastly. Refusing to see the point even when it’s been branded onto a 2×4 which you’ve then been bludgeoned with… thats…

    …damn, I think that’s quite possibly an art form. I mean, there’s almost a sort of perverse beauty to it. A symmetry, a kind of perfection. Not the opposite of perfection despite being wrong, not absolutely flawed, but more like perfection turned inside-out. So you can squint and see the print through it but it’s all alternate-universed somehow.

    I think my mind has actually been blown, here. And it’s not just my insomnia.

  363. #363 A. Noyd
    January 23, 2010

    jafafahots (#362)

    I think that’s quite possibly an art form. I mean, there’s almost a sort of perverse beauty to it.

    Maybe we need to make a new place on the scale of wrongness just for her. There could be “wrong,” “completely wrong,” “not even wrong,” and then “nancymcclernan.”

  364. #364 Matt Penfold
    January 23, 2010

    There does seem to be something about accommodationism that leads some people to suffer a major cognitive malfunction.

    Mooney is one such person. He simply cannot seem to grasp that accommodationism not simply about someone being a scientist and being religious. Nancy is clearly another such person. If we ignore the unpleasant idea that she is being dishonest, then we are left with the conclusion she simply cannot grasp the concept. Her brain does not seem to be able to do the required cognition to “get it”.

  365. #365 'Tis Himself, OM
    January 23, 2010

    I’ve just read the whole thread from the point I went to bed last night to Knockgoats’ last comment. Some thoughts:

    * Congratulations to the Australian contingent for showing SIWOTI syndrome is alive and well in Oz.

    * Ichthyic may well be right in his internet diagnosis of Nancy as having NDP. Her insistence that we all hated her because…well…because we all hated her despite assurances that we didn’t is a classic symptom of NDP.

    * I remember a thread a few months ago where Nancy accused Richard Dawkins of misogyny and continued to do so even after Dawkins explained that she was misinterpreting something he’d written. There was another thread last summer sometime when Nancy got into an argument with someone about race and gender. She does seem to relish being combative.

    * Nancy was a tone troll simultaneously with being a shit flinger. Several people commented on this apparent contradiction but that didn’t stop her from continuing to fling shit or playing martyr.

    * The concept that if a group of people disagree with you then perhaps you’re mistaken never occurred to Nancy. This is another symptom of NPD.

    This thread is one of the stranger yet intriguing ones we’ve had recently. It is one I’ll come back and reread in a week or two.

  366. #366 SC OM
    January 23, 2010

    I remember a thread a few months ago where Nancy accused Richard Dawkins of misogyny and continued to do so even after Dawkins explained that she was misinterpreting something he’d written.

    If you’re talking about the “Baby Bear’s Lament” thread, you’re misrepresenting it.

  367. #367 llewelly
    January 23, 2010

    I love these threads.

    Recognizing that two ideas are incompatible requires thinking about two ideas at the same time – and thinking about how they interact. It’s a moderately difficult task. But more importantly – if you have 4 ideas, and you want to check them all for pairwise compatibility, you need 6 comparisons. If you have 5 ideas, you need 15. For 6 ideas you need 21. For n ideas you need n(n + 1)/2 . I hope you can see where this is going. Even a dog needs more than 6 ideas to get through its day.

    Functioning humans – even if they are quite stupid by reasonable standards – necessarily have far more ideas than can be subjected to such brute force pairwise comparisons. There are all sorts of short cuts – groupings of similar ideas, hierarchies, and so forth. But finding and removing incompatibilities from one’s thinking is necessarily hard work. And most people have plenty of other work to do – so they don’t look for incompatibilities as a matter of course. Finding incompatibilities in one’s thinking is an important part of being a scientist – but not the only part, some scientists are not good at it, and some simply don’t do much of it outside their area of research.

    It is admirable, of course, that so many here do look for and remove incompatibilities in their thinking as a matter of course. But in some ways (both good and bad), the conversation here is akin to a conversation amongst a group of dedicated runners, who are so caught up in the world of running, that they are shocked and horrified to learn there are people who don’t run. And no runner does every kind of running, just like no-one finds every incompatibility in their thinking.

    (Of course, some religious scientists are really atheists using religion as protective coloration. That’s another issue.)

  368. #368 'Tis Himself, OM
    January 23, 2010

    SC OM #366

    If you’re talking about the “Baby Bear’s Lament” thread, you’re misrepresenting it.

    That may well be. I didn’t go back to look, I was going on what I remember.

  369. #369 Sven DiMilo
    January 23, 2010

    Damn it, Nancy slid back.

    Scott, I don’t think she has been obdurate on this thread

    Bullshit, Rorschach. The actual meaning of the cartoon was explained clearly and calmly and not-so-calmly to her, multiple times, as was the context of the cartoon, with links. Her choice to plow on ahead with her stupid me-against-the-horde wrongness = “obdurate” cubed.

    Scott, sorry to have lumped you in unfairly with Those who Just Don’t Get It. I guess I was reacting to your 2nd and 3rd paragraphs (@#96) which are apparently aimed at those who don’t get it. Or, wait…no, they’re aimed at

    people who routinely conflate their understanding of science with some metaphysical scheme.

    Well so there it is. All of these recent compatibility [I almost hesitate to call them] arguments are boiling down to the most important or appropriate meaning of the word “compatible” in this context.

    The position taken by Mooney, Orzel, Scott (btw I didn’t realize which Scott…registration has scrambled many a trusty username) and (what started the whole thing) the NAS and NCSE seems to be that the epistomological (hence ‘formal’) meaning is unimportant.

    Mooney has simply (and ludicrously) been pretending that the formal meaning doesn’t exist for literally years now. The recent dustup, though, results from a slight shift from denial to trivialization. Orzel condescendingly sneers at all philosophy of science with the deeply stupid Zeno’a Paradox comparison (and I say that as no friend, in general, of philostophy); Mooney waves off the formal meaning as–what was it?–”some grand philosophical way” of defining ‘compatibility.’

    Scott takes a slightly different tack. Instead of simply asserting that the trivial definition of ‘compatible’ is the only important one, he wishes to justify that conclusion by moving the semantic-definition game over to the word ‘science.’ The problem with the compatibility-denial argument, Scott suggests, is that it mistakenly views ‘science’ as “some metaphysical scheme.”

    I guess I should ask Scott exactly what he thinks science is instead (so here: I’m asking), but presumably he (and heddle, who thinks similarly on this issue) sees it as a toolbox rather than a worldview. You open up your toolbox and do science when that’s what you’re doing and when it’s approprite, and then when you’re done you close it up and approach life with some other “way(s) of knowing.”

    And if that’s what science is to you, then of course you’ll prefer to de-emphasize the formal sense of ‘compatible’. It doesn’t matter to you. And Scott, as a committed Christian science teacher, and heddle, and Collins and other scientist/theists are of course going to espouse this point of view, NOMA basically, because it is the mechanism by which they avoid cognitive dissonance.

    The anti-accomodationists feel differently. They see science as the only “way of knowing” with any reliability. A worldview, even. Basic principles of intellectual honesty and consistency undergird their contention of the fundamental importance of epistomologic incompatibility.

    Who knows about Orzel and Mooney. In the latter case it all seems to be an essentially cynical tactical decision. What’s not really clear is what his goal is: a more scientific America, better science education, shameless self-promotion, or a nicer, pleasanter, whiter-toothed blogosphere.

  370. #370 articulett
    January 23, 2010

    Nancy seems to be in the running for a Dunning-Kruger on analogies.

    Her imagined expertise is keeping her from understanding the analogy from those who might actually give her a clue.

    (The incompetent people are too incompetent to realize they are the incompetent people.)

  371. #371 Paul W.
    January 23, 2010

    Is it my turn yet? Is John gone or done?

    People keep cutting in line!

  372. #372 'Tis Himself, OM
    January 23, 2010

    Paul,

    Due to the reshuffling of numbers you are now #143.

    Now serving #8.

  373. #373 Lars
    January 23, 2010

    Whew. This thread gave me more than an hour of sick, masochistic pleasure, and I really don’t know if I’m ever going to be able to pull up my jaw again. SIWOTI? Not at all.

    Someone is not even not even (sic) wrong on the Internet. That’s SINENEWOTI for ya. Fractal fail.

    Epic.

  374. #374 eddie
    January 23, 2010

    It’s really quite simple. There are some people who believe that religion and science are compatible. These people are clearly deluded and stupid and wrong. Their belief that religion and science are compatible is just another example of their stupid and wrong delusion.

    The jesus and mo cartoon doesn’t address this. As John Morales has explained repeatedly, it addresses the secondary consequence of the delusion; thinking that believing that science and religion are compatible somehow makes science and religion compatible. It uses a reductio ad absurdum by giving an analogy between that belief and people who believe that priesthood and buggering kids are compatible.

    All nanvy seems to be is another apologist for raping kids. How dare we speak out for the victims of rape.

  375. #375 lenoxuss
    January 23, 2010

    For the record: when I read it, I thought the cartoon was hilarious, even though I wasn’t sure I agreed with it or not. Mo’s comment is excellent. “Was” is the key word here ? the whole thing’s kind of been killed at this point.

    So? is NWOTI? Yes, NHBWOTI, and perhaps N continues TBWOTI.

    I’m just not the sort of person who can give a crap about Wrongness in that abstract sense, to the point of verbal blows. I have (some) difficulty seeing how others do, just as I have (some) difficulty seeing how scientists reconcile their religious and epistemic beliefs.

    I guess I’m just a pragmatist in all that. To me, religion is wrong morally more than it is wrong intellectually, and the reason I want to slowly drain religion out of the world is moral, not intellectual.

    In a strange way, I see the existence of religious scientists as an excellent trend towards an ultimately non-religious world, because, as I said earlier, if the environment is conducive to free thought, the science always wins. People will say “Hey, that evolutionist is still a Catholic”, then become evolutionists, then secular Catholics, then agnostics, then atheists. That’s my dream.

    I never intended to defend Nancy as not being Wrong ? only that I don’t think Wrongness needs to be addressed with hostility. Like, ever. No matter how obdurate the other person is being, one should demonstrate unreasonable, super-powered, zen-like patience, and, if necessary, end the conversation. That’s just how I’m wired.

    I think we have a good answer to the age-old question, “Is the notion that science and religion are incompatible compatible with the notion that science and religion are compatible?” ;)

  376. #376 heddle
    January 23, 2010

    eddie,

    It’s really quite simple. There are some people who believe that religion and science are compatible. These people are clearly deluded and stupid and wrong. Their belief that religion and science are compatible is just another example of their stupid and wrong delusion.

    Wow. Thank you for simplifying the discussion just, just so. I don’t think I have ever read the the argument expressed as cogently as this. Brilliant. I am in awe.

    One question: do we have poopy pants too?

  377. #377 articulett
    January 23, 2010

    Some scientists read horoscopes; therefore (per Mooney’s reasoning) astrology and science are compatible.

    Is that a little easier analogy to understand, Nancy? It’s the reasoning accommodationists use to claim “compatibility” between two disparate fields that is problematic. They pretend that we don’t know that scientists can be religious. We DO know… just like we know priests can be pedophiles. We’d just never use such a loose definition of “compatible”.

    By that reasoning science can be said to be “compatible with” most every superstition and pseudoscience.

  378. #378 heddle
    January 23, 2010

    Some scientists read horoscopes; therefore (per Mooney’s reasoning) astrology and science are compatible.

    That is not the argument and I think you know it. The argument is not simply “Some scientists are religious therefore science and religion are compatible.” It is more like this:

    1) Some priests are pedophiles, therefore it is possible that being a priest is compatible with being a pedophile.

    2) HOWEVER–it is trivial to demonstrate that the requirements for priesthood preclude compatibility with being a pedophile.

    vs.

    1) Some scientists are religious, therefore it is possible that science and religion are compatible

    2) HOWEVER— however… this is no however. There is only Jerry Coyne et. al asserting an incompatibility, like old eddie in #374.

    The rules of the priesthood make it impossible to be a priest and a pedophile without breaking those rules.

    There are no rules in science that are violated when you are religious. Or when you are a pedophile. Or a communist. Or a libertarian. Or vote Republican. Or when you believe animal testing is acceptable. Or when you believe it isn’t.

    Once again the rules of science are simpler, much much simpler that the rules for being a priest. The rules are: when you study the natural world you follow the scientific method.

    Get it? In one case rules are violated, and in the other they are not. Therefore the analogy, though funny, is bad.

  379. #379 lenoxuss
    January 23, 2010

    Note: I wrote this to be sent immediate after my last comment. Indubitably, there have been many comments in between; I have not read them.

    I am now, and always have been, an anti-accomodationist, but only philosophically. I don’t see how anti-accomodationism can go beyond philosophy, really ? should Ken Miller be fired or something?

    There is science the toolbox and science the metaphysical scheme. The first is “compatible” with airy-fairy-not-quite-there-y religion, the second isn’t compatible with religion at all. I suppose a more sophisticated conversation would be on the question of whether scientists “ought” to hold a scientific philosophy, not just methodology. But then, how is that different from the question of whether everyone ought to hold a scientific methodology? After all, we all live in the same world, and it is ostensibly a rational, god-free, scientific one.

    I just noticed the term “tone troll” earlier and realized I accidentally confessed to being one. Whoops, sorry! What I meant was, let that horrible person Nancy have it.

  380. #380 Brownian, OM
    January 23, 2010

    One question: do we have poopy pants too?

    Only some of you, Heddle. It’s an issue of dogma.

    So, I just realised my roommate also has an anthropology degree, though neither of us went to Stuyvesant. Nobody tell Nancy, please; seeing a silverback gorilla in the wild is a rare and amazing experience, and if Nancy thinks anthropologist sightings are like that then who are we to take it away from her?

  381. #381 Anri
    January 23, 2010

    If we push it a little further, that’s why I wrote that my analogy about being a good Christian while having verses from the Bible written on the rifle with which I shoot people : I am not a Christian at the exact moment I kill someone.

    Unless, of course, it’s god that’s telling you to kill those people, presumably. Or, someone who’s been told by god to order you to kill those people. Or merely someone who’s been inspired by the word of god to go and kill people.

    Then you’re ok from a Christian standpoint.
    Yes?

    heddle sez:

    The rules of the priesthood make it impossible to be a priest and a pedophile without breaking those rules.

    So, when a priest breaks those rules, he’s no longer a priest? He loses, at that moment, his priestly powers?
    Because if not, than he is being both at the same time, which is the (poor) definition of ‘compatible’ used in the cartoon, which is the point of the joke.

    Also, I’d ask after a point of clarification here – are we talking about priests being pedophiles (desiring to have sex with children), or being child molesters (actually doing so)?
    I understand that in common parlance the two are interchangeable, and that in Christianity they are equivalent, but legally and morally speaking, from a humanist standpoint, they are massively different.

    In short, I’d like to know what’s being argued here – are we arguing over something that someone does that stops them from being a priest?
    Or just stops them from being a good priest?

  382. #382 Sven DiMilo
    January 23, 2010

    gah! It loses your draft comment when it times you out?! Fuck!

    OK, more briefly:
    The cartoon has a point and a joke. They are not the same. The priestly pedophilia is part of the joke, not part of the point.

    Alternate version for heddle: substitute “guy from McKeesport” for “priest” and “Browns fan” for “pedophile (also make any necessary grammatical adjustments).
    The joke is different.
    The point is the same. The point about the Orzel/Mooney argument.

    I realize, heddle, that you agree strongly with the original Orzel/Mooney argument, as you must to carry your religious baggage through your scientific life (and your scientific toolbox through your religious life), but please don’t defend the trivial sense as the only relevant meaning of compatibility here.

    We acknowledge that you exist. We are talking about something else. Do you join Orzel and Mooney in flippantly dismissing the something else as unimportant?

  383. #383 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    January 23, 2010

    IIRC, Pigmy Loris is an anthropologist. I think I’m missing another regular too.

  384. #384 lenoxuss
    January 23, 2010

    Oh, what’s with all these people saying that the moment a man has sex with a child, he is automatically no longer a priest? That’s, um, not true. The outrage over the whole thing was that the Church did not bar and turn in priests the instant they were known to be pedophiles, but instead shuffled them around. Ergo, pedophilia obviously is compatible with Catholicism, despite whatever church officials said; actions speak louder than words.

    (Whereas there is no equivalent hierarchy for science, so the science-vs-religion debates have a totally different flavor; that doesn’t mean accomodationism is right, just that there’s no 1-for-1 equivalency).

    Okay, maybe as with science as toolbox-versus-philosophy, one could draw the distinction between Catholicism as institution-versus-philosophy. Pedophilia is indeed incompatible with the philosophy of Catholicism, but quite compatible with the institution.

    I think it is to some extent reasonable for someone to fallaciously interpret the cartoon as equating pedophilia with religion ? in the same way it is reasonable to be fooled by an optical illusion. Humans aren’t perfect interpreters of language. And while I think the cartoon is funny, its message is maybe a little off.

    BUT IT’S STILL FUNNY. DAMMIT.

  385. #385 eddie
    January 23, 2010

    heddle @376 shows a deep level of ignorance in equating mental and physical disability. Does he think that victims of cerebral palsy are somehow stupid also.

    No. Of course, he believes they are sinful and being rightly punished by a just and loving god.

    Fuck you, heddle.

  386. #386 heddle
    January 23, 2010

    I suppose a more sophisticated conversation would be on the question of whether scientists “ought” to hold a scientific philosophy, not just methodology.

    But science doesn’t address what scientists “ought” to do when they aren’t doing science. If it did, maybe blogging would be high on the list of what we ought not do.

    There is science the toolbox and science the metaphysical scheme.

    I don’t know what “science the metaphysical scheme” means–but if you want to say “science the metaphysical scheme” is incompatible with religion I won’t argue–because I don’t give a rat’s ass about “science the metaphysical scheme” (whatever that is). I only know and love science: the systematic knowledge of the physical world gained through observation and experimentation.

  387. #387 BdN
    January 23, 2010

    Then you’re ok from a Christian standpoint.
    Yes?

    I agree with you. I was just pointing out that for the True Christians (the kind that says that if you did such and such, you were not really a Christian and stuff), it wouldn’t count. Of course, if it is a direct order from God through his earthly ambassadors, than, the analogy stands.

    Also, I’d ask after a point of clarification here – are we talking about priests being pedophiles (desiring to have sex with children), or being child molesters (actually doing so)?

    nancymcclernan was talking about child molesters, repeatedly mentioning that it was an action that automatically broke the contract.

  388. #388 A. Noyd
    January 23, 2010

    lenoxuss (#375)

    I’m just not the sort of person who can give a crap about Wrongness in that abstract sense, to the point of verbal blows. I have (some) difficulty seeing how others do…

    Up in 212 you said “It seems to me that all Nancy has done is disagree about the original analogy…” Even if you don’t care to partake in the futility of correcting her, do you see now that the problem isn’t that she disagrees but that she disagrees based on a mistaken understanding of the artist’s message and will not accept she’s missing the point? (If you don’t understand, try reading Anri’s breakdown of the issue in #350.)

    To me, religion is wrong morally more than it is wrong intellectually, and the reason I want to slowly drain religion out of the world is moral, not intellectual.

    On what basis is religion morally wrong? Is it that particular articles of faith explicitly encourage immorality? Or because it rests on a flawed epistemological foundation? Or something else? For me, intellectual wrongness leads to the moral wrongs, be it in religion or medicine or politics. Any system of belief that tries to ignore the fact that science works where all other “ways of knowing” fail leads to abuse.

    I don’t think Wrongness needs to be addressed with hostility. Like, ever. No matter how obdurate the other person is being, one should demonstrate unreasonable, super-powered, zen-like patience, and, if necessary, end the conversation. That’s just how I’m wired.

    Well, I’m wired to be combative and hostile. I also respond to it better than zen-like patience which I find exceedingly patronizing. So you can have your approach and I can have mine. Yours isn’t better just because you prefer it. It’s certainly better for arguing with some people, but as far as I’m concerned, nancymcclernan signalled that she was game for the combative approach with her attitude in #32 where she ended her post with a strawman argument, an attempted insult, and a scolding for a belief no one expressed. Even then, the corrections were fairly mild with no more snark than we direct at people we respect till Kausik Datta very understandably lost his patience at #51. People around here are really pretty good at reigning in the vitriol if the other person’s approach isn’t belligerent from the start.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*

    heddle (#378)

    The rules of the priesthood make it impossible to be a priest and a pedophile without breaking those rules.
    There are no rules in science that are violated when you are religious.

    Wrong. A priest can be a pedophile by having sexual desire for children and not act on that desire, therefore never bringing his pedophilia into conflict with the rules. Not raping children doesn’t make him not a pedophile because pedophilia is a desire as well as a behavior. (Oh noes, I’m doing the echo chamber thing with Anri!)

  389. #389 BdN
    January 23, 2010

    Damn! I should sleep more after a night in town… Sorry for all the mistakes…

  390. #390 articulett
    January 23, 2010

    Wrong Heddle.

    I don’t agree with anything you said. I prefer that people get my opinion from me rather than your garbled paraphrasing of what you think I said and what you think I mean. (Though, thanks for pulling me into the fray –I do find it a pleasurable diversion.)

    Your brain misses the obvious again and again just like nancy so you can pretend that your favorite superstition is more rational than the superstitions you find laughable.

    Moreover, you are confusing beliefs and facts. Being a priest and a pedophile is not impossible as you assert. How do I know? Because some priests ARE pedophiles. Q.E.D. And claiming to have knowledge of the supernatural (which is what theism is) is, at it’s core, anti-scientific (not to mention arrogant). Science doesn’t make claims of divine knowledge.

    If (as you accommodationists assert) a single person engaging in more than one human endeavor means that those practices are by definition “compatible” … then science is compatible with all crazy beliefs that any scientist holds– including astrology, exorcisms, Scientology, witchcraft, rain dancing, and reincarnation. You can’t separate your brand of superstition from those using Mooney’s definition of what is and isn’t compatible. Heck, even young earth creationism is compatible by that reasoning, since god made the earth look old. It’s ALL compatible if the only thing you mean by compatible is that a person can practice both!

  391. #391 Brownian, OM
    January 23, 2010

    IIRC, Pigmy Loris is an anthropologist. I think I’m missing another regular too.

    I’m not sure, but I bet Gyeong Hwa Pak, the Pikachu of Anthropology knows one or two.

    Oh, what’s with all these people saying that the moment a man has sex with a child, he is automatically no longer a priest? That’s, um, not true.

    Haven’t you heard? Christians aren’t perfect, only forgiven. It’s a relief to know that the world is full of assholes doing assholey things, but God’s only gonna punish some of them for it.

  392. #392 Sastra
    January 23, 2010

    Jeez, took me forever to read the rest of the thread — I had to leave last night, and there were obviously plenty who didn’t.

    Here is something to consider: can someone be an excellent priest — proficient and efficient in all his duties, careful and prompt and eloquent — and yet, from time to time, have sex with small boys? What if, when he does this, he mentally ‘puts off’ the fact that he’s a priest, and is careful to not allow it to effect his ability to perform the visible, public, communal, useful functions of a priest? Perhaps this priest is even a hero to his parish — performing above and beyond what is expected of him, and strengthening the faith of Catholics, and the welfare of the Church.

    He is a good priest. He is also a pedophile. He is both — just never at the same time. After all, he’s human. None of us are perfect; we should not expect human perfection. Certainly, Catholics don’t.

    I suspect many of those priests reasoned this way. But few people — Catholic or atheist — will let them get away with this. A priest is committed to being a priest all the time. You can’t violate the rules and morals at small little intervals and insist it doesn’t count, because the rest of it is done with impeccable skill. It’s not just a “job.”

    The goal is, to commit to consistency. It is not to come up with good rationalizations for why it’s not that important, as long as you get most of the job done.

    heddle #378 wrote:

    Once again the rules of science are simpler, much much simpler that the rules for being a priest. The rules are: when you study the natural world you follow the scientific method.

    People believe in God because they think the hypothesis best explains things which happen in the natural world. Theology and religion are supposed to be part of reality. If a scientist isn’t a scientist “for that part,” then there’s inconsistency. He ought to turn his scientific eye on his religion. Yet he won’t do that — because he can do the rest of the “job” anyway.

    Being a priest and pedophile are compatible in the loose sense — as long as you compartmentalize what happens in those small little intervals. Being a scientist and religious believer are also compatible in the loose sense. You have to compartmentalize the religious claims, from everything else.

  393. #393 heddle
    January 23, 2010

    Sven,

    I realize, heddle, that you agree strongly with the original Orzel/Mooney argument,

    If their argument stops at: religious scientists exist therefore they are compatible then I do not agree. It is necessary but not sufficient.

    If that is their argument then I agree they have not made their case.

    Yes there is something that is more important that such a simple argument ignores –the definition of what science is not. It is not “the exorcism of all irrational behavior and beliefs from anyone claiming to be a scientist.” If so, it would be incompatible with all humanity, not just the religious.

    Your analogy (Browns fan from McKeesport) is in fact a perfect, fair analogy. There is nothing about living in McKeesport that says you can’t be a Browns’ fan. Likewise there is nothing about science that says you can’t hold crazy irrational ideas about this or that. But there is something about being a priest that says you can’t be a pedophile.

    And that was my only point. The analogy fails. Your analogy doesn’t–but it won’t generate many chuckles.

    Furthermore, my argument has always been different from “there are religious scientists,” as I think you know. My argument has always been: the onus is on those theorizing an incompatibility to demonstrate an observable effect of the alleged incompatibility because, as scientists, we know that if you can’t measure it then your theory is bullshit.

  394. #394 Paul W.
    January 23, 2010

    Heddle,

    That is not the argument and I think you know it. The argument is not simply “Some scientists are religious therefore science and religion are compatible.” It is more like this:

    1) Some priests are pedophiles, therefore it is possible that being a priest is compatible with being a pedophile.

    2) HOWEVER–it is trivial to demonstrate that the requirements for priesthood preclude compatibility with being a pedophile. [...]

    You may be making this argument, and the distinction you make is a very good one, but it is definitely not the argument that Orzel is making and Mooney is praising. Your argument is much better. (It’s incomplete, and I think ultimately wrong, but it is not stupid and blatantly invalid like Orzel’s.)

    Notice that Orzel is not doing what you’re doing, at all, because he does not ackowledge that there are special compatibility requirements, as in your HOWEVER clause.

    He explicitly says that all compatibility means is that you can do both.

    That simple (and evidently wrong) notion of “compatibility” is what allows him to avoid actual discussion of the kind of real compatibility your HOWEVER clause is about; he dismisses that as mere “philosophy” and pre-emptively implies that anybody who quibbles about it is a “philosophical” loser who’s too stupid to get to work on time, and can be safely ignored.

    In other words, truth of the kind of thing you’re (correctly) talking about as compatiblity requirements is dismissed as irrelevant.

    Avoiding making your argument is designed precisely to avoid any discussion of what it would really mean for science and religion to be compatible.

    That’s the whole point of the Dumpty-Orzel Thesis (see my comment 157) that “compatibility” only means that you can do both, without any unimportant “philosophical considerations” like the logical contradictions between scientific and religious worldviews that other people might be concerned about.)

    (And which Chad himself claims do exist, and Chris seems to disagree, even if you don’t—that’s another reason they can’t make your argument, and argue instead that little things like contradictions don’t matter to compatibility.)

    It really is that ridiculous.

  395. #395 A. Noyd
    January 23, 2010

    heddle (#393)

    But there is something about being a priest that says you can’t be a pedophile.

    Only because you’re engaging in some serious special pleading and completly ignoring the definitions or situations that allow a priest to be a pedophile. The cartoon itself says it: “It is an undeniable fact that paedophile priests exist.”

  396. #396 Brownian, OM
    January 23, 2010

    But there is something about being a priest that says you can’t be a pedophile.

    I just realised to what Dana Carvey’s “Church Lady” was referring when she’d say, “Well, isn’t that special.”

    It’s pleading.

  397. #397 heddle
    January 23, 2010

    articulett, #390

    Moreover, you are confusing beliefs and facts. Being a priest and a pedophile is not impossible as you assert. How do I know? Because some priests ARE pedophiles.

    Oh brother. I hope you are only accidentally quote-mining me. Now if you want to argue that I am somehow oblivious to the fact that there are pedophile priests–if that gives you a sense of accomplishment, feel free.

    But what I in fact argued was quite different–it was that you cannot be a priest and a pedophile without breaking the rules.

    Whether or not you are actually a quote-miner–well we’ll see if you acknowledge that you misrepresented what I wrote.

  398. #398 Sastra
    January 23, 2010

    heddle #393 wrote:

    My argument has always been: the onus is on those theorizing an incompatibility to demonstrate an observable effect of the alleged incompatibility because, as scientists, we know that if you can’t measure it then your theory is bullshit.

    The observable effect of the incompatibility is that religious scientists do not turn their scientific scrutiny on their religion.

    Ray Hyman once set up a controlled experiment for applied kinesiology: when subjects thought they knew which substances were “supposed” to make their arm weak, they always reacted according to their presumed knowledge — never to the substance itself. The applied kinesiologist then turned to Hyman and explained that this was why they never did controlled experiments: the experiments were useless, because they didn’t work.

    He was all for science, of course. You just had to know where to apply it.

  399. #399 heddle
    January 23, 2010

    Paul W, #394

    Okay — maybe you are correct. (And maybe Sven is saying the same thing?) I read the cartoon this way:

    1) If the mere existence of religious scientists proves compatibility,

    2) well then, the mere existence of pedophile priests also proves compatibility.

    I think what you are saying is that the analogy is funny and purposely flawed (perhaps as I described) to point out why the religious scientist argument is way too simpleminded.

    If that is the case, then I stand corrected with regards to this cartoon.

  400. #400 Sven DiMilo
    January 23, 2010

    I don’t know what “science the metaphysical scheme” means

    That got lost in translation there…”grand metaphysical scheme” was Mooney’s sarcastic dismissal of the epistomologic incompatibility that we’re all actually talking about, except for those of us who are pretending we aren’t, and Nancy (who, of course, just doesn’t get it).

    To the people who disagree with you on this, heddle, it’s a matter of intellectual honesty, ethical consistency, and sincere desire to avoid hypocrisy. They think that your other ways of knowing are useless, invalid, illogical, and unsupported. Therefore they choose instead to stick with just the one. It’s science/skepticism as a consistent epistomology as opposed to one that you platoon in and out depending on circumstance.

    Again, I think I understand where you’re coming from with your worldview(s) behind you, and I have tried to explain where I think people like Myers and Coyne are coming from with theirs.

    It’s a semanticophilostophical argument that will never–can never stop. Which is too bad, because it’s already more boring than exasperating and more exasperating than illuminating.

    The real issue at hand, I’ll remind everyone at this point, is that the NAS and NCSE choose to feature a statement much like Mooney’s on official publications and press releases about evolution. People with the science-as-exclusive-epistomology viewpoint naturally take issue with this.

    That’s not going to stop either.

  401. #401 Anri
    January 23, 2010

    I have been informed that:

    nancymcclernan was talking about child molesters, repeatedly mentioning that it was an action that automatically broke the contract.

    So, she was setting aside the entire ‘if you think it, you’ve done it’ aspect of sin in standard Christianity? Nancy was informing us that sinful thoughts that one acts on are worse than mere sinful thoughts?

    Interesting.

    I wonder how many Christian apologists would agree with her on that…

    (And thanks for the heads-up, I had missed that aspect of her commentary.)

    heddle sez (in part):

    The onus is on those theorizing an incompatibility to demonstrate an observable effect of the alleged incompatibility because, as scientists, we know that if you can’t measure it then your theory is bullshit.

    Perhaps this:
    Science must, by definition, alter its postulates when they are found to be opposed to observation and experiment. When and where religion does this, and only then and there, is it compatible with science. In all areas in which religion has refused to alter its postulates when they differ with observation and experiment, it is in opposition to science.

    Does that work?
    Less an observable effect than a clarification of the nature and purpose of science, and the nature and operations of religion, demonstrating in what ways they are in opposition.

  402. #402 articulett
    January 23, 2010

    But Heddle… the rules are nebulous and you assert there are priest “rules” but not science “rules”… what are these “rules” and what happens when you break them… and how do you know… and why the tangent on rules?

    It’s like “compatibility”– you are just using words in a shifty way because you don’t like the obvious point of the analogy.

    Although, a priest with pedophilia is more odious than a religious scientists, they are both a contradiction in our understanding of the terms– a bit of an oxymoron. It’s not about “rules”, it’s about the word “compatible” and “reconcile”.

    Many scientists feel that the accommodationists are using the term “compatible” very loosely to imply that some superstitions (main-stream religion) are “more compatible” with science than others… even though the evidence does not warrant such a conclusion.

    I don’t think your religion is more “compatible” with science than astrology or new age philosophy. I don’t think it’s “less compatible” either. I just wouldn’t describe any of these things as “compatible” with science no matter how many people were able to “reconcile” such things in their mind. And I don’t care how you play with words or a how unfalsifiable your beliefs are.

    Nobody has made a case why scientists should be in the business of propping up some supernatural beliefs while educating people against others. It seems dishonest. But that is exactly what you accommodationists are arguing for!

    Sadly, “dishonest in the name of religion” is one of the terms that should be contradictory, but it’s becoming more expected.

  403. #403 SC OM
    January 23, 2010

    Yes there is something that is more important that such a simple argument ignores –the definition of what science is not. It is not “the exorcism of all irrational behavior and beliefs from anyone claiming to be a scientist.” If so, it would be incompatible with all humanity, not just the religious.

    Gaaaaaaaah! No. “Science” in the sense being argued is not the category of professional scientists; it is a means of arriving at beliefs based on evidence. This isn’t about scientists. Science has an epistemic incompatibility with any approaches that form and maintain beliefs irrationally – not on the basis of or in contradiction to empirical evidence.

    (I talked on one of the Coyne threads months ago about how, going with heddle’s silly scientist-focused view, it would be trivial to demonstrate that Stalinism was compatible with science, given that there were no doubt good scientists who did good scientific work while being diehard Stalinists. But of course that irrelevant, because that’s not the friggin’ argument being made about incompatibility.)

  404. #404 Carlie
    January 23, 2010

    But what I in fact argued was quite different–it was that you cannot be a priest and a pedophile without breaking the rules.

    So a priest isn’t allowed to have any ungodly thoughts, ever. Good to know. There goes the entire priesthood. Remember, being a pedophile simply means wanting to do it, not that a person actually has done it. Nothing in your Bible says people won’t be tempted, Heddle. In fact, it says quite the opposite, so your claim is unbiblical.

  405. #405 Brownian, OM
    January 23, 2010

    I think what you are saying is that the analogy is funny and purposely flawed (perhaps as I described) to point out why the religious scientist argument is way too simpleminded.

    Yep, that’s it Heddle. The cartoon is saying both cases of “A and B therefore A is consistent with B” are poor arguments.

  406. #406 A. Noyd
    January 23, 2010

    heddle (#399)

    I think what you are saying is that the analogy is funny and purposely flawed (perhaps as I described) to point out why the religious scientist argument is way too simpleminded.

    Well, we can disagree about whether the analogy is flawed because it doesn’t have to be an exact comparison. I’m glad you can see it’s beside the actual point, though.

  407. #407 SC OM
    January 23, 2010

    Science has an epistemic incompatibility with any approaches that form and maintain beliefs irrationally – not on the basis of or in contradiction to empirical evidence.

    Let me see if I can make this even more clear: It doesn’t matter who the people are who are employing or espousing such approaches. They don’t have to be scientists. They don’t have to be nonscientists. They don’t have to be religious (religion is simply one category of fundamentally-unscientific epistemic approaches). And they don’t have to do it consistently. But when they do, what they’re doing is incompatible with science. Fundamentally and irreparably.

  408. #408 BdN
    January 23, 2010

    @Anri

    You are very welcome. See for example her two very first posts @23 and 32 :

    “Religion is a belief-system and the priests were classified as paedophiliac not because they believed its acceptability, but because they performed the act. If the priest kept his positive thoughts about paedophilia to himself and never perfomed the act, no problem.

    Now if the comparison was a priest who was an active paedophiliac, and a meteorologist who prayed to Zeus in order to predict the weather it would work. Both run counter to the job description.

    “It is about the job – in the analogy that was made in the post to which this comment thread is attached.As far as the Catholic Church is concerned a priest having sex with anyone violates the job contract, and so that would have been sufficient to represent an irreconcilable situation.”

    And #69 just to make sure : “But if the Pope used that argument it would be silly – because the pedophilia (or any sex really) is a direct repudiation of the vows the Priest took in order to become a Priest. It’s a broken contract.

  409. #409 lenoxuss
    January 23, 2010

    I tend to skim when I read, and I admit I missed some of the more provking things Nancy said, like “The lot of you absolutists need to seriously get real.”

    Nancy could have just said “because this is Earth, not Vulcan?” instead of “Where do you all hang out?”, in the accusatory tone. (Still, I couldn’t help but agree that there is something vaguely “Vulcan” about insisting on the incompatibility of science and religion. Well no shit they’re incompatible, but what do we do about that? People are irrational.)

    So I take back my scolding of the scolding.

  410. #410 Sastra
    January 23, 2010

    Perhaps an interesting analogy that might have worked as well would be an atheist priest. If he keeps his personal views to himself, says all the right things, keeps his vows, performs his duties correctly, and behaves in exemplary fashion, then you could say that being an atheist is compatible with being a priest.

    Once again, a rather loose sense of ‘compatible.’

  411. #411 BdN
    January 23, 2010

    Still, I couldn’t help but agree that there is something vaguely “Vulcan” about insisting on the incompatibility of science and religion. Well no shit they’re incompatible, but what do we do about that?

    Well, maybe if the accommodationists stopped insisting they are compatible, people would stop insisting they are wrong ?

    If their argument stops at: religious scientists exist therefore they are compatible then I do not agree. It is necessary but not sufficient.

    If that is their argument then I agree they have not made their case.

    According to Paul W. @112 : “One of the better applications of Chad’s argument, (which Mooney says “nails it”) is this:

    Compatible only means you can do both things.”

    So yes, it would seem it stops there. Hence the fact that no analogy is even really needed since they claim “If a and b meets 1, then a and b are 2″. Which is obviously incomplete. As you state, 1 may be a necessary condition for 2 but it is not sufficient.

  412. #412 Paul W.
    January 23, 2010

    I think what you are saying is that the analogy is funny and purposely flawed (perhaps as I described) to point out why the religious scientist argument is way too simpleminded.

    I think so, but I’m not sure I understand what you mean.

    What’s not obvious to anybody who hasn’t been following the Orzel/Mooney thing—and some people who have, as I’ll explain in a second—is that the cartoon really isn’t an unfair presentation of their argument. Incredible as it may seem, they really do overtly make that patently invalid argument, and claim that they don’t need to make your argument, which at least addresses the real issue.

    If that is the case, then I stand corrected with regards to this cartoon.

    It does point up a weakness of the cartoon as a standalone joke. It’s an inside joke, because you have to understand that it’s actually not an unfair parody of what Orzel & Mooney say.

    It’s a fair criticism of an argument they actually make, and if you’re in on the joke, that makes it simply hilarious, because it’s so obviously “over the top”—as your incredulity demonstrates, unbelievably over the top—but still literally true, too.

    Another plus on the New Atheist side, the humor is all the sweeter because for once, those guys made a clear enough argument that it’s trivial to prove it’s way beyond stupid. Usually that sort of thing takes work because of all the intentional vaguery. This one’s a breeze.

  413. #413 SC OM
    January 23, 2010

    Well no shit they’re incompatible, but what do we do about that?

    Getting people to acknowledge this is important. It’s necessary for people to appreciate the nature of the problem before we can productively discuss how to address it.

    People are irrational.

    …and we’re rational. We’re selfish and we’re generous. We’re violent and we’re peaceful…. It isn’t utopian to think that it’s productive to work to encourage rational evidence-based thinking/practice in education, politics, and all of our institutions. And it’s immoral and dangerous to abandon people to the irrational (I think Marvin Harris in Nancy’s quotation above called it an intellectual crime against humanity).

  414. #414 WowbaggerOM
    January 23, 2010

    heddle wrote:

    But what I in fact argued was quite different–it was that you cannot be a priest and a pedophile without breaking the rules.

    Which is exactly the crux of the issue with science vs. religion – you can’t accept the claims of religion (in general) without breaking the rules of science, since a refusal to apply the rules counts as breaking them.

    But you don’t accept that; you’re happy to apply the rules of science to everything else around you, but your beliefs are exempt for no compelling reason other than you demand they should be.

    I have little doubt the actual paedophile priests are happy to say that they are a good Christian in those aspects of their life that don’t include raping kids; they’re just choosing to exempt kid-raping behaviour from the core principles underlying everything else they do.

  415. #415 A. Noyd
    January 23, 2010

    lenoxuss (#409)

    Well no shit they’re incompatible, but what do we do about that?

    Good question. I think a start would be making it less taboo to challenge people’s irrational beliefs. It’s currently more taboo to tell someone he’s being irrational than for him to share his irrational beliefs with people who did not ask him what he believes. Also we should be rigorous in teaching children the difference between knowledge and belief, the importance of removing bias in the search for knowledge, and the where the burden of proof lies. While we can’t be rational all the time, we could do a much better job of learning when we ought not forgive ourselves for being irrational.

  416. #416 heddle
    January 23, 2010

    WowbaggerOM,

    since a refusal to apply the rules counts as breaking them.

    Only when you are engaged in the activity for which the rules were designed. If I don’t apply the Marquis of Queensberry rules when eating French Toast, it does not mean that eating French Toast is incompatible with boxing.

  417. #417 WowbaggerOM
    January 23, 2010

    Only when you are engaged in the activity for which the rules were designed. If I don’t apply the Marquis of Queensberry rules when eating French Toast, it does not mean that eating French Toast is incompatible with boxing.

    Except that, to the intellectually honest, science, unlike the Queensberry (an outspoken atheist, funnily enough) rules applies to everything – including the questions we don’t like hearing the answers to.

    So it’s more like your French Toast falls out of your hand and onto the ground – but instead of accepting that gravity is what got it there you insist that it was the magic invisible dropping fairies (who hate French Toast) – but you refuse to test this because everyone knows that magic invisible dropping fairies exist outside of science.

  418. #418 Sastra
    January 23, 2010

    heddle #416 wrote:

    Only when you are engaged in the activity for which the rules were designed.

    A while back I read a couple books on the beginnings of the scientific method: Soul Made Flesh and Flesh in the Age of Reason. Both of them pointed out that it was common for the ‘natural philosophers’ of the 17th and 18th century to reassure the churches (and themselves) that their pursuits were not ungodly, because they would be sure to find evidence for supernatural and spiritual entities, and prove the existence of the soul.

    Short excerpt:

    The hope of proving the supernatural through science was no eccentric foible ? it was common to the age and central to the endeavors of none other than Robert Boyle, the so-called father of modern chemistry. .. His air pump experiments, for instance ? were assumed to confirm the presence of spirit in the atmosphere…
    (Boyle) later offered an ?apology for astrology,? which stressed the spiritual dimension: ?Our spirits are more near and more analogous to light than the air, so they must be more prone to and easy to be impressed than it is.?
    …Natural philosophers were thus in a cleft stick. Convinced that true science would disclose God?s agency in Nature (and thereby prove the soul), they sought to naturalize the spirit by bringing it under laboratory control. Via the air-pump and the test-tube, spirits could be made visible and so be rendered safe and effective: good spirits would toe the line. Reactionary and bigoted divines who charged science with atheism could thus be rebutted: were not experiments the best way to give proof of the supernatural and so win over unbelievers?

    (From Flesh in the Age of Reason, Roy Porter)

  419. #419 SC OM
    January 23, 2010

    Only when you are engaged in the activity for which the rules were designed.

    Are you suggesting that prohibitions against pedophilic behavior were designed specifically for priests?

  420. #420 A. Noyd
    January 23, 2010

    Damn you, Sastra, my reading list is long enough already. *cry*

  421. #421 A Relevant Haiku
    January 23, 2010

    @ 417

    WowbaggerOM
    Your post just reminded me
    of this Onion piece

  422. #422 John Morales
    January 23, 2010

    Heddle:

    WowbaggerOM,
    since a refusal to apply the rules counts as breaking them.

    Only when you are engaged in the activity for which the rules were designed.

    In this case, were not the those rules designed evolved for the purpose of discovering the truth about reality by examinining one’s beliefs about it critically and by testing them empirically?

    Are not religious beliefs purportedly about reality?

    If so, how then are they exempt?

    PS I’m actually rather impressed by the quoted Marvin Harris above.

  423. #423 heddle
    January 23, 2010

    Sastra,

    I would argue that you excerpt proves my point. If you want to investigate the supernatural, as we discussed before, you can use the scientific method. If you find an explanation, then it wasn’t supernatural. If it was supernatural, assuming there is such a thing, you won’t find an explanation. But there is no incompatibility–unless you invoke the supernatural “and then a miracle occurs” as the explanation for your data.

    In days of yore, trying to measure the weight change of a person at death (and hoping for a positive result) is a perfectly fine example of good science–assuming you recorded and reported the data accurately (i.e., followed the rules of science), even though they refuted your expectation of a supernatural effect. Again, no incompatibility.

  424. #424 SC OM
    January 23, 2010

    PS I’m actually rather impressed by the quoted Marvin Harris above.

    He was my favorite anthropologist when I was young. I really liked Cannibals and Kings. I don’t know everything about him, so he could have had a side I wouldn’t like, but not that I know of. Very interesting. Also lived, IIRC, on Cranberry Island, ME, which is very cool.

  425. #425 WowbaggerOM
    January 23, 2010

    heddle wrote:

    If you find an explanation, then it wasn’t supernatural. If it was supernatural, assuming there is such a thing, you won’t find an explanation.

    Better known as the ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ gambit – and just as transparent in its dishonesty.

  426. #426 heddle
    January 23, 2010

    John Morales

    Are not religious beliefs purportedly about reality?

    If so, how then are they exempt?

    They are not. For example, the YEC belief in a young earth is incompatible with science. Not because it invokes the miraculous, but because the miracle it invokes does not include: “and God gave the universe the appearance of age.”

    Put differently, we cannot investigate claims of past miracles–by definition they are singular events and alas no data were taken–but we can measure any lasting effects they might have had.

    As for deeper issues such as the existence of God–if you have an experiment that can be done–by all means do it.

  427. #427 SC OM
    January 23, 2010

    I would argue that you excerpt proves my point. If you want to investigate the supernatural anything…you can must use the scientific method approach it scientifically.

    If not, what you’re doing is incompatible with science. Same if you exclude areas of knowledge from this requirement, in whatever way and for whatever reason.

  428. #428 lenoxuss
    January 23, 2010

    In a lot of ways, I don’t really think of religious scientists as “actually” religious. I think of them as religious in a strictly cultural, root-for-the-team way. Which still has its own problems, but not the same as the problem of applying religious thinking to science, which, as far as I can tell, is not something actual scientists are guilty of; exceptions are countable on one hand.

    Instead, we see the opposite happen ? science applied to religion ? which is, all in all, a good thing. If all scientists were always atheists, they might not have bothered to test the efficacy of prayer. (Meh, they probably would have.) Once they did, it was confirmed that intercessory prayer doesn’t work. This is a very, very good thing for people to know ? life-and-death good. (Of course, we all know what phenomenon is responsible for people not simply accepting that truth and moving on.)

    A lot of this is similar to the question of whether someone can be “moderately” religious. To many atheists, it seems that, for example, the Bible either is literally true, or it was authored without any divine help (because God is said to be perfect). Yes millions somehow believe in a non-literally “true” Bible. I have no idea how they pull it off.

    I’m a pacifist who enjoys war games; I salute cognitive dissonance. This Alternet article gets at a phenomenon I’d like to see more of, and one that I think we are seeing more of in science, slowly but surely.

    Sometimes the only way to get kids to not fear the dark is a transitional night-light period. Maybe the metaphor doesn’t apply, though. Religion can tend to get kind of all-or-nothing? hmm? tough questions.

  429. #429 heddle
    January 23, 2010

    WowbaggerOM,

    Better known as the ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ gambit – and just as transparent in its dishonesty.’

    NO, you are missing the boat, as a thought experiment can attest.

    Suppose a donkey talked to you. Now suppose two explanations: 1) A clever magician’s trick and 2) God supernaturally made the donkey talk.

    What would be the scientific conclusion of a serious research effort?

    If the explanation is the clever magician, then your scientific investigation might uncover his trick. That is, you would have demonstrated it was not supernatural.

    If the explanation was God, then even after a lifetime of research into the problem the scientific conclusion would be: I don’t know.

    Which is exactly what I said:

    If you find an explanation, then it wasn’t supernatural. If it was supernatural, assuming there is such a thing, you won’t find an explanation.

    You can pretend its a “heads I win tails you lose” argument, but only if you don’t use your brain.

  430. #430 SC OM
    January 23, 2010

    I see heddle’s in broken-record mode. Again. I’ll go elsewhere for honest discussion.

  431. #431 truth machine, OM
    January 23, 2010

    So much stupidity in this thread. The cartoon is not intended to establish that science and religion are incompatible, and it does not contain a “bad analogy”. It is aimed directly at refuting a specific claim, made by that moron Chad Orzel and promoted by Chris Mooney, that ” science and religion are compatible– as they manifestly are, given the existence of religious scientists”. The cartoon illustrates the obvious — that the practice of both X and Y by a single individual does not alone make X and Y “manifestly compatible”. Period. Differences between pedophilic priests and religious scientists are irrelevant. Analogies must be judged by the relevance of the common elements, not the dissimilar elements.

  432. #432 A. Noyd
    January 23, 2010

    heddle (#429)

    If the explanation was God, then even after a lifetime of research into the problem the scientific conclusion would be: I don’t know.

    So… what’s the point of belief? How do you decide when to make a non-scientific conclusion without special pleading or god of the gaps or any other fallacy?

  433. #433 truth machine, OM
    January 23, 2010

    God supernaturally made the donkey talk

    An incoherent, nonsensical proposition — there are no supernatural causes, its an oxymoron.

    If the explanation was God

    “Goddidit” is the absence of explanation.

  434. #434 WowbaggerOM
    January 23, 2010

    If the explanation was God, then even after a lifetime of research into the problem the scientific conclusion would be: I don’t know.

    Except that this (and your argument in general) depends on the presupposition that your god’s intervention leaves no evidence – and the only reason you believe this is because no-one’s ever provided any evidence for god – circular reasoning at its finest.

    You can pretend its a “heads I win tails you lose” argument, but only if you don’t use your brain.

    But the result is the same – you still get to walk away with the coin, i.e. the claim that the supernatural must exist – because you’ve rigged the test.

    The only thing you’re using your brain for is intellectual dishonesty.

  435. #435 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    January 23, 2010

    The only thing you’re using your brain for is intellectual dishonesty.

    Then there is no reason to unkillfile Heddle…

  436. #436 heddle
    January 23, 2010

    A. Noyd,

    So… what’s the point of belief?

    You may assume: none whatsoever. Whether or not I have a reason for what I believe is not relevant for this discussion.

    truth machine, OM

    An incoherent, nonsensical proposition — there are no supernatural causes, its an oxymoron.

    If the explanation was God

    “Goddidit” is the absence of explanation.

    Leaving aside that I inserted a qualifier, if there is such a thing [as the supernatural], which you have conveniently ignored, and leaving aside that you have misrepresented my discussion as if I were proposing God as an explanation whether than discussing a hypothetical, you are begging the question. “The proposition of the supernatural is nonsense because there is no supernatural.”

    SC OM,

    Come back–I’m done. Mrs. Calvinist has summoned me.

  437. #437 John Morales
    January 23, 2010

    Heddle, it is indeed the deeper issues to which I refer. If they are beyond testability, surely you then concede you hold those beliefs on faith, not knowledge; and hence that they are no more and no less valid than any other beliefs based on faith (though they might be mutually contradictory).

    A fine state of affairs, where one considers people are equally justified in believing mutually-contradictory things.
    Yet, you don’t think this is incompatible with science!

  438. #438 Sastra
    January 23, 2010

    heddle #423 wrote:

    If you want to investigate the supernatural, as we discussed before, you can use the scientific method. If you find an explanation, then it wasn’t supernatural. If it was supernatural, assuming there is such a thing, you won’t find an explanation. But there is no incompatibility–unless you invoke the supernatural “and then a miracle occurs” as the explanation for your data.

    But you’re leaving out the possibility that the proper explanation is that the phenomenon was indeed supernatural. “Supernatural” is not necessarily a place-holder term for ignorance.

    Imagine a situation where a holy man (or wizard) claims that he can move objects with his thoughts alone, raise the dead, and make donkeys talk — and do this under controlled conditions. He can, and does. Again and again, scientists try to discover trickery, or find physical explanations, and, again and again, they fail. It appears that this person can exercize his willpower as a kind of force, and make things happen simply through the power of his intentions.

    You now have several options:

    1.) Say that science has confirmed the existence of a supernatural force.

    2.) Say that what was once thought to be a supernatural force is really a natural force, because science is able to test it.

    3.) Insist that there must be a perfectly natural explanation, and until there is, all science can say is “unknown.”

    Given the strength and extreme nature of the evidence here, I would say that #3 is a bit of a cop-out. The scientific conclusion can only be agnostic in the sense that all scientific conclusions are provisional.

    The second response is an empty response. Before it was tested, this was considered a supernatural force. It turns out to be real. So now it’s re-labeled a ‘natural’ force.

    Big whoopty-do. The term is insignificant. Changing it does nothing but make the scientists look like they’re saving face.

    Consider an atheist who claims that there is no God, because God is unknowable. Only nature is knowable. God then reveals themselves to the atheist, who admits that it happened, now loves, worships, and obeys this Creator Being — but calls it “Nature” because God is UNKNOWABLE. They’re still an atheist. See? Can’t prove God to him. There is no God. There’s only nature.

    After-the-fact word tricks.

  439. #439 WowbaggerOM
    January 23, 2010

    NoR wrote:

    Then there is no reason to unkillfile Heddle…

    There are people I killfile, but heddle won’t ever be one of them – it’s a combination of SIWOTI addiction and a genuine desire to understand (and devise refutations of) the different arguments for Christianity. I’ve only been doing this a year and a half (or so). Much of it is still new to me.

    My call of intellectual dishonesty isn’t a personal attack; it’s a criticism of the rationalisation process he chooses to use to shore up his beliefs.

  440. #440 A. Noyd
    January 23, 2010

    heddle (#436)

    Whether or not I have a reason for what I believe is not relevant for this discussion.

    Actually, it goes to the core of this discussion since we’re talking about epistemology. But even if you persist in pretending my question is irrelevant, would you answer it anyways?

    …you are begging the question. “The proposition of the supernatural is nonsense because there is no supernatural.”

    I knew you were going to have a problem with this. If we can’t know there is a supernatural, then simply saying there is no supernatural is the same as saying there might be one but we can’t know about it.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    John Morales (#437)

    Yet, you don’t think this is incompatible with science!

    Because he’s ignoring science as an epistemology and only recognizes science as a method, of course. He wouldn’t be wrong if everyone else limited science that way.

  441. #441 SC OM
    January 23, 2010

    In a lot of ways, I don’t really think of religious scientists as “actually” religious. I think of them as religious in a strictly cultural, root-for-the-team way.

    For many cases, you’re simply wrong. Francis Collins, for example, is actually religious in any meaningful sense of the term.

    Which still has its own problems, but not the same as the problem of applying religious thinking to science, which, as far as I can tell, is not something actual scientists are guilty of; exceptions are countable on one hand.

    Instead, we see the opposite happen ? science applied to religion ? …

    You appear to be falling into the error that people like heddle encourage you to – thinking about science and religion as areas of professional practice or organized activity in this context. “The institutions involved with scientific investigation” and “the community of professional scientists” are indeed two definitions of “science” useful in some contexts (same with religion), but that’s not what’s being talked about here. See my posts @ #403 and #407.

  442. #442 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    January 23, 2010

    it’s a criticism of the rationalisation process he chooses to use to shore up his beliefs.

    Which is why I killfiled him. He would never look at his religious beliefs with proper scientific scrutiny. His evasions became boring since he would switch over to religious mode responding. Interesting, but boring, disconnect (the disconnect, not the responses). Uninteresting repetitive responses…

  443. #443 'Tis Himself, OM
    January 23, 2010

    Then there is no reason to unkillfile Heddle…

    The only time I read heddle is when Wowbagger and Sastra quote him.

  444. #444 truth machine, OM
    January 23, 2010

    That is not the argument and I think you know it.

    That is “the” argument, jackass — the argument made by Chad Orzel and promoted by Chris Mooney and lampooned by this cartoon.

    The argument is not simply “Some scientists are religious therefore science and religion are compatible.”

    Yes “the” argument — the one made by Chad Orzel — is simply that, jackass.

    It is more like this:

    No, jackass, Orzel’s argument is not more like that.

    If that is the case, then I stand corrected with regards to this cartoon.

    Right, so from post #17 to post #393 you blabbered on about something you knew nothing about and attacked those who knew what they were talking about, fool.

  445. #445 SC OM
    January 23, 2010

    For many cases, you’re simply wrong. Francis Collins, for example, is actually religious in any meaningful sense of the term.

    Moreover, there is a real possibility that they will apply religious thinking to science, that their beliefs may affect science, especially when they attain positions in which they’re deciding on funding of research or education. As has been discussed here, there’s a very real danger of subverting science by willful neglect (my #427 should have read “investigation” where it says “this requirement”). This can include some of the most important and dynamic scientific fields, such as neuroscience.

  446. #446 WowbaggerOM
    January 23, 2010

    Damn it, I wanted heddle to respond to my #434. But I’m happy because I’ve always wanted to have a suitable response to the ‘god is outside of science’ dodge and now I think I have one.

    Anyway, I thought the original comic made perfect sense, but perhaps a better comparison would be with a corrupt police officer who commits crimes but doesn’t arrest him or herself for it – the ‘law-enforcing’ part of the brain gets switched off when it isn’t wanted, just like the ‘scientific method should be applied to everything’ part of the brain gets switched off for religious scientists.

  447. #447 articulett
    January 23, 2010

    Only when you are engaged in the activity for which the rules were designed. If I don’t apply the Marquis of Queensberry rules when eating French Toast, it does not mean that eating French Toast is incompatible with boxing

    So, you would say that eating French Toast is COMPATIBLE with boxing? Is it as compatible as astrology is compatible with science? As COMPATIBLE as religion is with science? Clearly people can and do practice both. Just like priests can practice pedophilia (I don’t think god made any rules about not doing so –it wasn’t mentioned in the top ten commandments anyhow.)

    And the problem with your “miracles can’t be proven” argument is that if science has no way to confirm something, then why should we think that anyone could (including your clergyman or holy book) –especially given human proneness to making such magical stories up when they encounter phenomena they don’t understand. (And before science there was a whole lot more things people didn’t understand.)

    You may as well make an appeal to “magic”. How is “goddidit” a better explanation than “it was magic”? How is it more “compatible” with science exactly??

    The truth about all you accommodationists is that you want to leave breathing room for your pet delusions–but you have no argument that doesn’t leave a wide opening for all those other crazy unfalsifiable explanations that you disregard with the wave of a hand. Goddidit is not a more scientific explanation than “astrological influences”. It just isn’t. It’s not more scientifically valid, nor more rational, nor more justified a belief.

    You can lie to yourselves, but don’t play those word games trying to get us to lie along with you. I don’t feel that any supernatural explanation of anything is compatible with science in any way but the most trivial way i.e.(there are people who practice both and don’t find them incompatible. Moreover, I think that those who say otherwise are lying to themselves and/or others.

    Goddidit is unfalsifiable… big deal… so is the matrix theory — and last Thursdayism…. that makes these ideas all equally unscientific in my book–equally “compatible/unccompatible with” science. (And, I believe, the Dover Judge came to a similar decision.)

    Your job (heddle) is to show us why your brand of religion should be treated differently by science then the superstitions you don’t adhere to. Don’t ask for special privileges for your woo that you wouldn’t give to the local Wiccan. Don’t pretend that your claims of “magic” are more compatible with science then other claims of magic you’d call “mythological”.

  448. #448 truth machine, OM
    January 23, 2010

    Leaving aside that I inserted a qualifier, if there is such a thing [as the supernatural], which you have conveniently ignored, and leaving aside that you have misrepresented my discussion …

    You’re an idiot and full of crap. I did not “misrepresent” your discussion — I didn’t represent it at all. I merely pointed to problematic phrases that you employed; one can draw what conclusions they will from that. Had I “represented” the discussion, I would have defended you against Wowbagger’s mischaracterization of “heads you win …” but I wasn’t interested in addressing that level.

  449. #449 truth machine, OM
    January 23, 2010

    P.S. Heddle, I way prefer your position over that of Sastra in #438, which I consider a complete ontological muddle — but I’ve had that debate with her before.

  450. #450 WowbaggerOM
    January 23, 2010

    Had I “represented” the discussion, I would have defended you against Wowbagger’s mischaracterization of “heads you win …” but I wasn’t interested in addressing that level.

    If you feel inclined I’d like to hear what the problem with it was – I thought it made sense in context; it was a good analogy for the kind of rigged test he was presenting with the ‘the supernatural exists but it’s either outside of science or what you’ve found wasn’t supernatural to begin with.’

  451. #451 truth machine, OM
    January 23, 2010

    ‘the supernatural exists but it’s either outside of science or what you’ve found wasn’t supernatural to begin with.’

    That’s not what he said, What he did say is trivially true: if we can provide a natural explanation then it isn’t supernatural, and if it’s supernatural (if there is such a thing) then we can’t provide a natural explanation.

  452. #452 Sastra
    January 23, 2010

    truth Machine OM #149 wrote:

    … but I’ve had that debate with her before.

    Yes, I remember. As I recall, it eventually came down to defining the “supernatural,” and problems with verifying irreducibility.

  453. #453 truth machine, OM
    January 23, 2010

    P.S. It helps a lot to have at least a minimal proficiency at propositional logic. Suppose there is nothing supernatural. Then Heddle’s statement reduces to “(natural explanation -> [true]) and ([false] -> no natural explanation)” which reduces to “[true] and [true]“.

  454. #454 articulett
    January 23, 2010

    That’s why any supernatural unfalsifiable claim is the equivalent of saying “it’s magic”. There’s no way to determine which such claim is more likely to be truer than any other and no way to distinguish them from someone saying “it’s magic”.

    I get tired of the woo using the fact that we can’t prove their woo wrong as evidence that it could be true. Sure, it COULD be– just as all the crazy other things that contradict their own faith COULD be true. But that doesn’t give a rational person any reason to consider it so.

  455. #455 Sastra
    January 23, 2010

    truth machine OM #451 wrote:

    What he did say is trivially true: if we can provide a natural explanation then it isn’t supernatural, and if it’s supernatural (if there is such a thing) then we can’t provide a natural explanation.

    That seems reasonable.

    But what about “if we can explain something as the result of a supernatural force, then it wasn’t the result of a supernatural force?”

  456. #456 truth machine, OM
    January 23, 2010

    it eventually came down to defining the “supernatural,”

    Yeah, I take “supernatural” to actually be, you know, supernatural — whereas you take “supernatural” to just be things that someone somewhere labeled at some time or another “supernatural”. Thus, in #438,

    The second response is an empty response. Before it was tested, this was considered a supernatural force. It turns out to be real. So now it’s re-labeled a ‘natural’ force.

    Wow, imagine that, “relabeling” real forces to be “natural”. Pardon my fully deserved snark. And you equivocate here over “was considered” — by whom? Not by ontologically astute scientists who don’t accept the existence of “a supernatural force”.

  457. #457 Sastra
    January 23, 2010

    articullett #454 wrote:

    That’s why any supernatural unfalsifiable claim is the equivalent of saying “it’s magic”.

    I think that many supernatural claims are falsifiable, in the scientific sense (meaning it’s not absolute.) Depending on how you define it, so is “magic.” They make predictions.

  458. #458 WowbaggerOM
    January 23, 2010

    Truth Machine wrote:

    That’s not what he said, What he did say is trivially true: if we can provide a natural explanation then it isn’t supernatural, and if it’s supernatural (if there is such a thing) then we can’t provide a natural explanation.

    Oh, okay. Thanks.

    SC wrote:

    Moreover, there is a real possibility that they will apply religious thinking to science, that their beliefs may affect science, especially when they attain positions in which they’re deciding on funding of research or education.

    I know heddle would deny this and cite himself as an example – his (stated) position is always to lessen his god to accommodate science; however, he rationalises this by claiming that his now-lessened god isn’t lessened at all – which is where the cognitive dissonance comes in and the tapdancing routine begins.

    Of course, heddle is (IIRC) a physicist, so even if he was secretly putting woo before reality it’s not going to have as much direct impact on human lives as it is would be if he was in something like medicine.

  459. #459 truth machine, OM
    January 23, 2010

    But what about “if we can explain something as the result of a supernatural force, then it wasn’t the result of a supernatural force?”

    Who are you quoting? Not Heddle. Regardless, there are no “supernatural forces” except in fiction — it’s an incoherent concept. An empirical explanation is necessarily causal, physical, and natural — else it isn’t a valid explanation, it’s just handwaving.

  460. #460 Sastra
    January 23, 2010

    truth machine OM #456 wrote:

    Yeah, I take “supernatural” to actually be, you know, supernatural — whereas you take “supernatural” to just be things that someone somewhere labeled at some time or another “supernatural”.

    No, I take ‘supernatural’ things to have rather specific features, which distinguish them from natural things.

    How do you define the supernatural? Could you give examples?

  461. #461 RamziD
    January 23, 2010

    Sorry if this has already been mentioned. I only made it to post #100 or so before I couldn’t take anymore of nancymcclernan’s insipidity.

    I wonder if it would help if the author of the “Jesus and Mo” cartoon would post what point he was trying to make about the cartoon. The analogy was painfully obvious to most of us, but for some reason, not to nancy (or pjsouza for that matter).

  462. #462 truth machine, OM
    January 23, 2010

    No, I take ‘supernatural’ things to have rather specific features, which distinguish them from natural things.

    There are no supernatural “things” — you are talking nonsense. As I said, you’re ontologically muddled.

    How do you define the supernatural?

    The supernatural is a fictitious incoherent notion of “nonphysical” causes or entities.

    Could you give examples?

    All examples are necessarily fictitious — deities, afterlifes, ghosts, souls, etc. Such things as ESP powers are not “supernatural” any more than is phlogiston or the ether — they are simply posited phenomena that don’t happen to exist.

  463. #463 Sastra
    January 23, 2010

    truth machine OM #459 wrote:

    Who are you quoting? Not Heddle.

    No, I’m not quoting anyone. I was trying to understand your position.

    Regardless, there are no “supernatural forces” except in fiction — it’s an incoherent concept.

    Is it possible that you could be wrong?
    If you were, what would have to happen, to change your mind?

  464. #464 truth machine, OM
    January 23, 2010

    P.S.

    me: “whereas you take “supernatural” to just be things that someone somewhere labeled at some time or another “supernatural”.

    Sastra: No, …

    Your “no” is contradicted by what you wrote in #438 — which is why I quoted it.

    As I said, we’ve had this debate before. I don’t want to have it again because it is almost certain to turn out the same way (for the same reasons). And I’ve got other things I’m supposed to be doing, so bye for now.

  465. #465 A. Noyd
    January 23, 2010

    truth machine (#451)

    What he did say is trivially true: if we can provide a natural explanation then it isn’t supernatural

    But doesn’t that presuppose that a scientific explanation is the same as a natural explanation? I don’t necessarily reject that. It works so long as people don’t try to claim to know anything about the supernatural. But how is it not problematic once people do claim to know about the supernatural? It’s not like they ever present any working alternative “way of knowing.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    RamziD (#461)

    I wonder if it would help if the author of the “Jesus and Mo” cartoon would post what point he was trying to make about the cartoon.

    He did. He mentioned Mooney as the “scriptwriter” and linked to the relevant Discover blog article.

  466. #466 articulett
    January 23, 2010

    I think most religious claims are unfalsifiable in that god could make things look any way he wanted to (he could make the earth look old, de plant bones to test us, etc.) I’ve heard that when you are reincarnated you forget your old life and that alien visitors erase your memory, and the matrix feels like real life but we are brains in a vat, etc.

    So, Heddle has a point in saying that we can’t prove his version of supernatural events didn’t occur… but, by the same token, we can’t prove Zeus never existed or that gremlins aren’t planting thoughts in peoples’ heads etc.

    We CAN’T prove miracles never occurred. However, that is a far cry from believing that certain particular ones did while others didn’t. I don’t even think there’s a rational justification for imagining consciousness can exist without a material brain or that immaterial immeasurable beings or forces can affect the material.

    And yet, every believer in the supernatural holds to some of these unfalsifiable claims while discarding others that conflict with the ones they believe in. I want to know what TOOLS they are using to distinguish the beliefs they hold from the delusions of people with conflicting beliefs.

    I want to know why science should treat their supernatural beliefs differently then they themselves would treat different supernatural beliefs. If religion is “compatible” with science… is that all religion? New Age stuff and reincarnation and Islam and Scientology? Or just “some”– who decides? What do you mean by compatible? If all you mean is that science can’t prove it wrong, and some scientist somewhere believes it, then that means just about every “woo-woo” idea is “compatible” with science. The term “compatible” has become meaningless– a way of allowing believers to hear what they want to hear without communicating any real information at all.

  467. #467 truth machine, OM
    January 23, 2010

    Is it possible that you could be wrong?

    About as possible as that there are married batchelors.

    If you were, what would have to happen, to change your mind?

    About the same — words would have to change their meanings.

  468. #468 Sastra
    January 23, 2010

    truth machine #462 wrote:

    The supernatural is a fictitious incoherent notion of “nonphysical” causes or entities.

    If it can be portrayed and depicted in fiction, then it must be at least a little conceivable — so it can’t be completely incoherent. People have a loose, general understanding of what it means.

    It seems to me that the ‘nonphysical’ cause is assumed to be a purely mental cause — or a mental type of cause (“Good” as a “force,” say.) It can be imagined.

    It took a lot of hard work — over many years — to realize that thought was a process in the brain, and not an immaterial ‘thing’ or a ‘power.’ Most people still can’t quite wrap their minds around their minds.

  469. #469 WowbaggerOM
    January 23, 2010

    TM:

    P.S. It helps a lot to have at least a minimal proficiency at propositional logic.

    I don’t – therein lies the problem. But I’m hoping to change that.

  470. #470 SC OM
    January 23, 2010

    I know heddle would deny this

    Like I care! :)

    and cite himself as an example – his (stated) position is always to lessen his god to accommodate science; however, he rationalises this by claiming that his now-lessened god isn’t lessened at all – which is where the cognitive dissonance comes in and the tapdancing routine begins.

    Of course, heddle is (IIRC) a physicist, so even if he was secretly putting woo before reality it’s not going to have as much direct impact on human lives as it is would be if he was in something like medicine.

    Yes, and I pointed this out to him on that Coyne thread way back when. It’s completely implausible that subscribing to the Chicago Statement wouldn’t have any effect on people’s choices and research as, say, archaeologists specializing in that region.* (Just want to emphasize that this is not a blanket statement and in any case not necessary to the basic incompatibility argument.) And when you start talking about administrative positions like Collins’… As I recall, he’s made statements about, among other things, the basis for morality that are worrying in terms of his support for research in related fields.

    *heddle seems to think he has an out by saying that he personally isn’t interested in scientific investigations of Biblical questions, but welcomes research in those areas. It’s painful.

  471. #471 truth machine, OM
    January 23, 2010

    But doesn’t that presuppose that a scientific explanation is the same as a natural explanation?

    As I said above, an empirical explanation is necessarily causal, physical, and natural — else it isn’t a valid explanation, it’s just handwaving. One can conclude this from a careful and detailed examination of the meanings of these words, but few people undertake that. If I get time later, I may post some further analysis supporting this claim.

  472. #472 Sastra
    January 23, 2010

    truth machine OM #464 wrote:

    As I said, we’ve had this debate before. I don’t want to have it again because it is almost certain to turn out the same way (for the same reasons).

    Possibly ;)

    And I’ve got other things I’m supposed to be doing, so bye for now.

    Bye.

  473. #473 articulett
    January 23, 2010

    If something was supernatural, there would be no natural means for any natural being to know about.

    I really don’t think there is a difference between calling something “supernatural” and saying “it’s magic”.

    What distinguishes the supernatural from magic?

    Even as a kid, I’d wonder how you are supposed to know which unbelievable story you were supposed to believe in and how you are supposed to know if you believe in the right invisible guy with the right fervency… (and if you didn’t, how were you supposed to remedy it?)

  474. #474 articulett
    January 23, 2010

    I thought the Jesus and Mo cartoonist is a she– Does anyone know for sure?

    Also, is heddle a young earth creationist?

    (and I’ll excuse your typos, pharyngulites, if you excuse mine–*damn, this lack of editing*)

  475. #475 Sastra
    January 23, 2010

    articulett #466 wrote:

    I think most religious claims are unfalsifiable in that god could make things look any way he wanted to (he could make the earth look old, de plant bones to test us, etc.)

    Agree; but that’s just one meaning of “unfalsifiable” — coming up with more and more implausible excuses for why what would normally falsify a claim, doesn’t really. Psychologically unfalsifiable, in practice — not conceptually so.

    The JREF tests dowsing in previously agreed-upon controlled conditions: the dowser gets no better than chance. So then oh, he thinks, I can explain: the moon wasn’t in the right phase … or he had a sudden headache … or, or, or.

    And yet, is ‘dowsing’ itself, as a hypothesis, falsifiable? Can it be tested? Could it, in theory, have passed the tests? Sure.

    In theory, it’s falsifiable. In practice, the dowsers are intellectually dishonest. They may even say “dowsing cannot be tested. It is beyond science.” After all, these sensitive forms of energy interact only through the aid of sensitive minds, they are inherently mental.

    I think the ‘supernatural’ is like dowsing. Falsifiable. Heck, someone even figured out they were in the Matrix, and we saw enough to convince us, as well. It’s only when the tests and predictions fail that people suddenly try to act as if they never expected strong, clear, empirical evidence in the first place. God is beyond science, outside of science, nothing at all that science could say anything about — for, or against.

    Unless the evidence would be for. Suddenly, all that nonsense about ‘untestability’ would be forgotten.

  476. #476 WowbaggerOM
    January 23, 2010

    Also, is heddle a young earth creationist?

    Nope. He’s a Calvinist (though I don’t if that and YEC are mutually exclusive) and pretty much accepts all scientific findings as true – he just twists how this applies to his religion to help alleviate the cognitive dissonance.

  477. #477 Sastra
    January 23, 2010

    Also, is heddle a young earth creationist?

    No, a theistic evolutionist. He argues against creationism and ID.

  478. #478 John Morales
    January 23, 2010

    Sastra:

    If it can be portrayed and depicted in fiction, then it must be at least a little conceivable — so it can’t be completely incoherent.

    A few comments on that:

    First, coherent ≠ conceivable.

    Second, coherency is a binary state: either something is coherent, or it’s not.

    Third, coherence in this sense refers to self-consistency; that is, that the parts of the whole are not mutually contradictory and that their relationships/dependencies are consistent.

  479. #479 SC OM
    January 23, 2010

    Also, is heddle a young earth creationist?

    No, absolutely not. However, he claims to subscribe to this:

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

    (See especially Article XII.) Compatible with science? No way. (But you wouldn’t believe the contortions he goes through to argue that it is.)

  480. #480 Sastra
    January 23, 2010

    John Morales #478 wrote:

    Second, coherency is a binary state: either something is coherent, or it’s not.

    Perhaps, but I think a lot will depend on what level of description or understanding is being required.

    If you were to ask me how a radio works, I could give a very vague yet coherent answer. Ask me to get into any specifics, however, and my description falls apart. It’s an incoherent mess, where I more or less make up stuff that sorta kinda sounds maybe right if you don’t know much about it and neither does your audience because you’re all using mental analogies to things you do understand a bit better.

    “Spirituality” is like that. Just coherent enough, to be wrong.

  481. #481 a_ray_in_dilbert_space
    January 23, 2010

    Sastra says, “If it can be portrayed and depicted in fiction, then it must be at least a little conceivable — so it can’t be completely incoherent. People have a loose, general understanding of what it means.”

    See, here’s where I start to have problems. A fictional portrayal doesn’t have to be well thought out. I can conceive of an occurrence that has a magical cause, but since I’ve no idea how such a cause might work, my mind just leaves out those inconvenient details. For instance, does magic obey relativity? Is it instantaneous, or is there a celestial speed limit.

    If Jebus makes water into wine, where the hell did the carbon atoms come from for the ethyl alcohol an sugars. Were they sucked out of the air, created from nothing? What?

    Likewise, if there is a spiritual realm, how does it interact with the physical. When two physical bodies interact, the force one exerts on the other is countered by an equal and opposite force? Is there a force of a physical body on a soul? Is it equal and opposite? What would that even mean for a nonphysical body without mass?

    Essentially, the only way to fill in these details is to make shit up! And that is inherently incoherent, because I could just as easily make different shit up tomorrow.

  482. #482 'Tis Himself, OM
    January 23, 2010

    No, absolutely not. However, he claims to subscribe to this:

    http://www.bible-researcher.com/chicago1.html< /blockquote>

    It was when he was defending the Chicago Statement that I killfiled heddle. The massive amount of intellectual dishonesty he spouted trying to support the silly thing just turned me off. Plus I find the Calvinistic god to be one of the most unpleasant deities ever invented.

  483. #483 John Morales
    January 23, 2010

    Sastra, I take it that by ‘perhaps’ you mean ‘depending on the level of description’.

    Do you disagree that, at any given level of description, an explanation is either coherent or not?

    Your response to tm was regarding the supernatural — at that level of description, it’s the notion that there exists something outside nature but which affects and is affected by nature (where nature is defined as all space-time and mass-energy and their relationships/interactions).
    How is that not incoherent?

  484. #484 Sastra
    January 23, 2010

    a-ray-in-dilber-space #481 wrote:

    A fictional portrayal doesn’t have to be well thought out. I can conceive of an occurrence that has a magical cause, but since I’ve no idea how such a cause might work, my mind just leaves out those inconvenient details.

    Right; ask a believer to describe what they mean by “spirit,” and they will happily start out with all sorts of vague phrases and simple analogies. Ask them to be more specific, and they fall apart; since they can’t get more detailed, they classify their vagueness as a type of humility, or the proper reaction to “mystery.” They skim on the surface, and see this as depth. Superficial is ‘good enough.’ Like in fiction.

    However, if there really were supernatural or magical forces, it might be possible to test them to see their limits, and get more specific on how they work, and under what conditions. I think though that they would always be dependent on, or related to, something mental — a feeling, or attitude, or intention, or wish. That’s what makes them supernatural.

    As mysterious as it is, nobody tried to claim that “dark energy” must be supernatural. That would have required linking it to love, or life, or consciousness — giving us a special place in a caring universe.

  485. #485 A. Noyd
    January 23, 2010

    truth machine (#471)

    One can conclude this from a careful and detailed examination of the meanings of these words, but few people undertake that. If I get time later, I may post some further analysis supporting this claim.

    What I’m trying to say is refusing to resolve into coherent sentences thanks to a week of insomnia. The gist of it is that what works for you because you are consistent in your rejection of the (or “a” or “any”) supernatural doesn’t work for heddle or other people who aren’t consistent. Apparently I can’t do better than that, so I give up.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    a_ray_in_dilbert_space (#481)

    A fictional portrayal doesn’t have to be well thought out.

    And tend to be better when they’re not. Or easier to suspend belief over. I get so tired of every writer’s clever attempts to explain some details while neglecting a whole bunch of others. Like a character who can turn herself invisible but has to take her clothes off because clothes aren’t a part of “herself.” Well, what about all the bacteria in and on her? Do dead cells count as part of “herself” if they’re within a certain range? The writer opened that can of worms and then left it sitting around with the lid off, dammit! (Of course, I’m equally irritated if the writer fails to consider all consequences of giving characters certain abilities or knowledge. So I’m pretty much impossible to please.)

  486. #486 A. Noyd
    January 23, 2010

    Er, that last parenthetical was about consequences in relation to the writer’s plot as opposed to reality. Brain no worky. *sigh*

  487. #487 John Morales
    January 23, 2010

    [OT]

    A. Noyd,

    Like a character who can turn herself invisible but has to take her clothes off because clothes aren’t a part of “herself.” Well, what about all the bacteria in and on her? Do dead cells count as part of “herself” if they’re within a certain range?

    And how does an invisible person see, with invisible eye lenses and retinas? ;)

  488. #488 WowbaggerOM
    January 23, 2010

    A. Noyd wrote:

    Well, what about all the bacteria in and on her?

    Oddly enough I wondered about that fact when it came to being ‘raptured up’ – is everything else meant to be (heh-heh) left behind, i.e. clothes, prosthetics etc. plus a pile of everything non-human that lives in/on us?

  489. #489 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    January 23, 2010

    Oh noes, you mean folks are nakid in heaven?????

  490. #490 Sastra
    January 23, 2010

    John Morales #483 wrote:

    Your response to tm was regarding the supernatural ? at that level of description, it’s the notion that there exists something outside nature but which affects and is affected by nature (where nature is defined as all space-time and mass-energy and their relationships/interactions).
    How is that not incoherent?

    When dealing with the concept of the “supernatural,” I usually don’t try to talk much about “inside nature” or “outside nature” — because those lines are too subjective and flexible. They move them all over the place, with no clear line of demarcation. As you can see. Your definition here contains contradictions — so I’d agree with you, it’s incoherent.

    People have a natural tendency though to divide reality into the physical, material, world of objects — and the immaterial, mental, world of thoughts and values — with this second world being “higher,” or better, or prior to, the first one. Sometimes they’re willing to grant that the spirit world is, or contains, its own kind of “energy” or “spirit substance” — though they don’t mean anything by the term “energy” that a physicist or an engineer will recognize. They mean force. Power. Intention.

    This has been my working definition:

    The Supernatural: Non-material, irreducible mental Being, beings, or ‘forces’ which exist apart from and above the material realm, outside of regular laws, and which effect the natural world through the power of intentions or values.

    From the perspective of a naturalist, that’s either incoherent, or wrong. But, I think that if you just slide on the surface of the concepts, it’s coherent enough to get the idea across, and imagine the sorts of things which would support it — or count against it.

  491. #491 articulett
    January 23, 2010

    I read through that Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy… or I tried. Wow. It reminds me of reciting the Apostle’s Creed as a kid. Or even the Pledge of Allegiance.

    I just think it’s so weird that humans write down what they are “supposed to” believe. It’s almost as if they think believing something can make it true.

    Or maybe, they feel like the invisible guy gives them bonus points for strongly believing in things that are unbelievable (thus proving their faith.)

    The nice thing about the truth is that it is the same for everybody no matter what anyone believes, and so you don’t have to reinforce the idea with repetition, credos, rationalizations, and word games. The earth was never flat despite the billions of people who perceived it as such and all the word games in the world can’t change that.

    I can see that heddle and nancy aren’t stupid– but they get “stupid” in order to keep from hearing what is actually being said when it challenges what they’ve come to believe.

    They want to apply the tools of science and skepticism to everything except the one thing they feel special and saved for believing.

    What I wonder is what do they tell themselves regarding their reasons for posting here. Are they trying to convert? Shore up their faith? Win some sort of mental game? Challenge themselves? Claim victimization? I post here and read here because I really like the people here. I learn a lot and laugh a lot. But why does heddle post here?

    He seems to need us to believe that his brand of religion is compatible with science, and yet I can see no argument for thinking his supernatural beliefs are any more compatible with science than belief in astrology, alien visitation, or reincarnation. But heddle clearly doesn’t think these notions are as compatible with science as his beliefs are, yet he cannot elucidate the difference except to some vagaries about rule following.

  492. #492 a_ray_in_dilbert_space
    January 23, 2010

    Sastra,
    Well, the thing about dark energy is that it influences matter and is in turn influenced by it–there is at least coherence to the idea. We can begin to enumerate the properties of this odd and mysterious entity in relation to how it interacts with more familiar matter.

    True story: When physicists were trying to figure out the physics of beta decay, they were puzzled because the combined energy of the nucleus and emitted beta particle (electron) didn’t seem to be conserved. Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg even went so far as to begin working on a theory where energy and momentum were only conserved on average!

    Wolfgang Pauli took a different approach–he posited the existence of a massless, chargeless particle, dubbed by Fermi the neutrino, or “little neutral one”. Pauli wrote in a letter, “I have committed the ultimate sin; I have introduced a particle that can never be observed.”

    And yet, within 30 years, the neutrino had been found and now we are on the verge of using them to peer into the hearts of supernovae. (Trivia: if you were in the vicinity of a supernova explosion, it would be the neutrino flux that killed you.)

    The point is that as long as anything interacts with matter PHYSICALLY, we can discover its properties. When you start allowing the nonphysical in–without having direct and repeatable experience thereof–then there’s not much we can do but say, “That’s nice,” and wait for their story to change.

  493. #493 John Morales
    January 23, 2010

    Sastra, yeah I think I get you, and I think you get me. Thanks.

    A very nice definition, though I have couple of quibbles, one grammatic (typo?), and one of omission:

    1. ‘effect’ → ‘affect’.

    2. The supernatural also is supposedly affected by the natural, no?

    </pedant>

  494. #494 John Morales
    January 23, 2010

    articulett,

    But why does heddle post here?

    He, too, suffers from SIWOTI syndrome. :)

    Also, I have no knowledge of whether Nancy is religious or not, but yes she does seem to have a problem with grasping certain concepts.
    (And a nice vocabulary!)

  495. #495 a_ray_in_dilbert_space
    January 23, 2010

    Sastra, OK you had me up to here:

    “…and which effect[sic] the natural world through the power of intentions or values.”

    First, grammar police–I think you mean affect (effect could work to if you mean “create”), right?

    If so, does the natural world also affect theri intentions and values. How much? Is the amount we affect them dependent on how much they affect us? Is the effect repeatable? Is it controllable by us? By others in the spirit realm?

    This is where the incoherence starts.

  496. #496 Scott
    January 23, 2010

    For Sven De Milo, who at post #369 wrote:

    Scott takes a slightly different tack. Instead of simply asserting that the trivial definition of ‘compatible’ is the only important one, he wishes to justify that conclusion by moving the semantic-definition game over to the word ‘science.’ The problem with the compatibility-denial argument, Scott suggests, is that it mistakenly views ‘science’ as “some metaphysical scheme.”

    Hmmm. I didn’t view this as a goalpost-shifting move, but I could see where it could be taken as such. For what it’s worth, I know that it’s possible to make an ‘incompatibility’ argument with respect to science and religion without referencing a metaphysical scheme. It’s just that in my experience that subtext is usually manifest in those who make the argument.

    I guess I should ask Scott exactly what he thinks science is instead (so here: I’m asking), but presumably he (and heddle, who thinks similarly on this issue) sees it as a toolbox rather than a worldview. You open up your toolbox and do science when that’s what you’re doing and when it’s appropriate, and then when you’re done you close it up and approach life with some other “way(s) of knowing.”

    I would say that science is more than just a toolbox, it is a systemic attempt to acquire and explain phenomena. But (unlike faith) science is emphatically not a belief system. Rather, I think that science is a value system. Strictly speaking, these values can be thought of as axioms which are accepted for the purpose of doing science.

    For example, one of the implicit axioms of science is that there are regularities in Nature (sometimes called ‘laws’) which can be discovered by careful investigation. We can’t actually prove that the Universe is ‘lawful’, but we would despair of making any long-term progress if we seriously considered the alternative, that the Universe is essentially chaotic, rather than lawful.

    Another axiom is that science values claims which are testable and based on evidence, and does not consider other sorts of claims, including (but not limited to) supernatural claims. Again, we can’t actually prove that the only things that exist are those which meet the former criteria, but our best course for the purpose of doing science is to firmly exclude them.

    Sven also wrote:

    And if that’s what science is to you, then of course you’ll prefer to de-emphasize the formal sense of ‘compatible’. It doesn’t matter to you. And Scott, as a committed Christian science teacher, and heddle, and Collins and other scientist/theists are of course going to espouse this point of view, NOMA basically, because it is the mechanism by which they avoid cognitive dissonance.

    Except, actually, I don’t endorse NOMA at all. I’ve blogged about why, here. I can’t pretend to speak for Heddle, but I know that I don’t share the same outlook as Frances Collins. I’m most sympathetic to Ian Barbour’s stance of dialogue.

    I would also like to firmly distance myself from being perceived as sympathetic to Nisbet and Mooney’s approach. I’m not, and I explain why here.

    Finally, with respect to the “accomodationist” flareup prompted by Coyle’s criticism of NCSE’s policies, I’ve actually proposed that NCSE adopt more neutral language with respect to science and religion, something like this:

    “Individuals privately hold a range of views on the question of the correct relationship between science and religion, debating the question of how they can be compatible, if at all. But scientists themselves have no question about how science should be conducted: by careful measurement, experiment and reasoning based on evidence, rather than faith.”

    I’ve discussed this here and on other blogs (including that of John Wilkins, who I immensely respect).

  497. #497 Sastra
    January 23, 2010

    articulett #491 wrote:

    But why does heddle post here?

    From what I can tell, he’s just interested in the topic of science and religion, and has a curious mind. It’s much more interesting to him to argue with people he doesn’t agree with, than just garner assent from people who agree. He teaches Sunday school to teenagers, I think. He also believes he has a strong position, and wants to see if he can persuade atheists that he at least makes a good case. Or, perhaps, see that they just can’t ‘get’ him. That’s my guess.

    I think he generally respects us, partly because we do put thought into our beliefs, and partly because we all work together on two of his favorite causes — against creationism and pro-science — and separation of church and state. But we frustrate the hell out of him.

    It’s probably the kind of frustration he can deal with, though. SIWOTI.

    I don’t remember nancy ever specifically saying what her religious beliefs were. I was working on the assumption that she was another atheist. Could have missed it, though.

  498. #498 Sastra
    January 23, 2010

    ARGHH;
    Affect. Not ‘effect.’

    Though I suppose it could be both…

  499. #499 Sastra
    January 23, 2010

    John Morales #493 wrote:

    2. The supernatural also is supposedly affected by the natural, no?

    Sometimes — depends who you ask. They are usually ‘related.’

    Think of it as your immaterial thoughts magically causing your body to move, through sympathy or intent. Now extend that invisible force outwards, in imagination. Imagine if the ability to imagine something, made it real. Don’t go into mechanism — the mechanism is the immaterial “force” of the mind.

    I think you’ve got the conceptual building blocks for everything from ESP, to karma, to cosmic consciousness, to God. Pure mind, or thought, or value, has real power.

    a-ray-in-dilbert-space #495 wrote:

    does the natural world also affect theri intentions and values. How much? Is the amount we affect them dependent on how much they affect us? Is the effect repeatable? Is it controllable by us? By others in the spirit realm?
    This is where the incoherence starts.

    No, this is where the questions start. If we actually had something to work with, we might be able to come up with objective answers on at least some of these questions.

    The fact that people who believe in the supernatural will go all over the place when they answer these questions (if they even try) doesn’t necessarily mean the concept itself is incoherent. It probably points to the fact that it’s wrong. There’s no possibility of consensus on details, because other than the general idea, they don’t have anything but their intuitions, guesses, and interpretations of other people’s intuitions and guesses.

  500. #500 'Tis Himself, OM
    January 23, 2010

    Sastra,

    Here’s a little hint on telling the difference between effect and affect. Effect starts off with an “ef”, the same as the word efficacious which is what we all know Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound is in every case. Affect starts with “af” which is an abbreviation for air force.

    Hope that helps.

  501. #501 Sastra
    January 23, 2010

    Scott #496 wrote:

    For example, one of the implicit axioms of science is that there are regularities in Nature (sometimes called ‘laws’) which can be discovered by careful investigation.

    Is that an axiom, or a working theory? If it were wrong — could we figure out that it was wrong?

    If I were to look for axioms of value in science, I’d go for truth-seeking, and truth-telling — and a commitment to avoid self-deception.

    As Jacob Bronowski says: ?This is the scientist?s moral: that there is no distinction between ends and means.?

  502. #502 truth machine, OM
    January 23, 2010

    If it can be portrayed and depicted in fiction, then it must be at least a little conceivable — so it can’t be completely incoherent.

    This is a trivial, basic, elementary error. ?Why, sometimes I?ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.? …

    1. The set of all sets that do not contain themselves (see Russell’s Paradox).

    2. The smallest positive integer not definable in under eleven words (see Berry’s Paradox).

    3. A planar map that requires more than four colors to avoid two bordering areas of the same color.

    4. A set of integers, a, b, c, and n, n > 2, such that an + bn = cn.

    5. A polynomial with pi as a root.

    6. An entity that is both omniscient and omnipotent.

    I could go on and on. That something can be portrayed, depicted, or imagined does make it coherent, nor “conceivable” as properly construed — that it can occur in some possible world.

    People have a loose, general understanding of what it means.

    Yes, “loose”, as in a vague description that cannot be fully fleshed out without some “miracle happens here” step.

    From the perspective of a naturalist, that’s either incoherent, or wrong. But, I think that if you just slide on the surface of the concepts, it’s coherent enough to get the idea across, and imagine the sorts of things which would support it — or count against it.

    What counts against it is that it’s word salad that does not and cannot have any actual referent. I would be embarrassed to offer up such woo-filled gibberish in a scientific forum.

  503. #503 truth machine, OM
    January 23, 2010

    Think of it as your immaterial thoughts magically causing your body to move, through sympathy or intent.

    But what is an “immaterial thought”, or an “immaterial” anything? That which exists is physical, natural, material — what isn’t physical doesn’t exist. This gets down to what the word “physical” actually means. And when we examine it carefully, we find that the claim that something “immaterial” exists is incoherent.

    And what does it mean for something to “magically cause” something? There are no truly magical causes — events magically caused are uncaused — or they are not caused by what purportedly caused them. This gets down to what the word “caused” actually means. And when we examine it carefully, we find that the claim that something was “magically caused” is incoherent (unless it just means that we don’t know what caused it).

  504. #504 Sastra
    January 23, 2010

    truth machine #503 wrote:

    And when we examine it carefully, we find that the claim that something “immaterial” exists is incoherent.

    You can only see that, though, when you examine it carefully. They don’t. Mental things feel immaterial. You can’t hold a thought like a physical object in the hand. So they slip it into a separate category.

    What you apparently find intuitive, is very hard work for most people.

    There are some definitions of God, or the supernatural, that are flat-out incoherent. Others, though, may only be wrong.

  505. #505 Feynmaniac
    January 23, 2010

    A polynomial with pi as a root.

    Such a polynomial can be construced (for example, f(x)=x2-?2). However if you add the condition “with integer coefficients” (or rational coefficients) then it can’t be. I gather this is what you had in mind.

    /pedant

  506. #506 truth machine, OM
    January 23, 2010

    For what it’s worth, I know that it’s possible to make an ‘incompatibility’ argument with respect to science and religion without referencing a metaphysical scheme. It’s just that in my experience that subtext is usually manifest in those who make the argument.

    No, that’s not your experience — at best it’s your selective perception.

    we would despair of making any long-term progress if we seriously considered the alternative, that the Universe is essentially chaotic, rather than lawful.

    What we “consider” has nothing to do with it. We would despair if the universe were essentially chaotic (actually, we wouldn’t exist in the first place), but since it isn’t (an observation, not an axiom), science is successful (that’s a fact beyond our “consideration”).

    Another axiom is that science values claims which are testable and based on evidence, and does not consider other sorts of claims, including (but not limited to) supernatural claims.

    You don’t seem to understand what an axiom is. The scientific method is such that it deals with evidence and testable hypotheses; something that doesn’t do that must go by different name. It would also have different consequences; we arrived at the scientific method because it’s effective in explaining our world; that’s not an axiom, it’s an observable fact.

    As for “supernatural claims”, that puts the cart before the horse. There are empirical claims that can be tested, and phenomena that can be explored. Any assertion of a “supernatural” nature is at best premature.

    We could avoid a lot of this nonsense if people didn’t have such muddled ontological notions; if they could grasp that “nature” is simply that which exists and “cause” is a relationship among things that exist.

  507. #507 MikeG
    January 23, 2010

    So what, then do we call the non-physical (forgive me, TM) ephemera like thoughts, dreams, emotions? Is there a noun that can be applied to describe them all, or should they be individually identified every time?

    You know what, never mind. This conversation is beyond me in my current beer-addled state. Besides, any admission of an “immaterial” side of the world will be snapped up by the woo-mongers like manna.

  508. #508 truth machine, OM
    January 23, 2010

    You can only see that, though, when you examine it carefully. They don’t.

    Well sure, but I thought we were talking about what is coherent, not what some people may think is coherent. Honestly, I think you’ve lost it here, and I think the reason lies in the answer to the question you directed to me in #463, as applied to yourself.

    There are some definitions of God, or the supernatural, that are flat-out incoherent. Others, though, may only be wrong.

    Like I said, you can always redefine the words to avoid being wrong. But your own definition of “supernatural” in #490 is quite incoherent.

    if you add the condition “with integer coefficients” (or rational coefficients) then it can’t be. I gather this is what you had in mind.

    Yup, thanks.

  509. #509 truth machine, OM
    January 23, 2010

    So what, then do we call the non-physical (forgive me, TM) ephemera like thoughts, dreams, emotions?

    How about angular momentum, or centers of gravity? These are all physical phenomena or properties.

  510. #510 articulett
    January 23, 2010

    I didn’t mean to imply that I thought Nancy was religious. From my reading she just didn’t get the joke and she thought it was because there was something wrong with the analogy and she was bent on telling us exactly what it was.

    But most of us got the joke and the analogy right away. There was nothing wrong with it– it’s interpretive and nancy just couldn’t interpret it. I’m guessing Nancy couldn’t “get it” because she’s a faitheist– she needs to see faith as something good or beneficial or not mock-worthy… which means we “new atheists” must be seen as unfair and mean and engaging in “group think” and so forth. That is the only version of events nancy could accept–no matter how carefully people explained the analogy-and they did an excellent job too. She could NOT accept that she just didn’t get the joke (a very simplistic and accurate analogy of Mooney’s argument)– and the closer her brain came to getting it, the angrier she got at everyone trying to explain it to her.

    I’ve seen Heddle around before, and I knew he was religious… I just wasn’t sure which brand-meme he was infected with. Now I know… I think.

    I don’t post at sites geared towards believers, so I have a hard time figuring out what makes them post here. (I’m glad they do, because I enjoy a rousing round of SIWOTI myself obviously.) I’d really be interested in hearing their version of why they post here. A lot of times they’ll tell us they came here to have a discussion, but to me, they seem like they are trying shore up a belief or opinion that is on shaky ground.

  511. #511 truth machine, OM
    January 23, 2010

    P.S. In a previous thread I likened running and turbulence to thinking — all physical processes.

    The ontology can get rather tricky, because we impose interpretations upon the physical world we perceive. Consider the browser window on your screen. There isn’t “really” a window there … or is there? In any case, it’s a physical phenomenon. Dan Dennett offers the examples of laps, smiles, and good health — these can all be observed, but they are odd sorts of “things”.

  512. #512 Sastra
    January 23, 2010

    truth machine OM #508 wrote:

    But your own definition of “supernatural” in #490 is quite incoherent.

    Well, (aside from the grammar blooper) I think it’s coherent with appearances, but the appearances are inconsistent with the actual facts. At that level of analysis, it’s no longer coherent.

    I’d like to know whether the theists here (heddle? Scott?) would accept the definition, or at least think it coherent. I’ve gotten agreement from at least some supernaturalists on other forums.

  513. #513 articulett
    January 23, 2010

    Though I once was a believer in supernatural things, I think my beliefs were at the core incoherent, but I could make sense of them in a fuzzy way and then leave the rest to “mystery” because it “felt” right.

    Now, I can’t make any sense of the term supernatural. I can’t distinguish it from “magic”. What does it mean to say that something (or some phenomenon) exists which has to measurable properties– none of the qualities we associate with existence. How does one distinguish such a thing from the imaginary?

    I can’t imagine a consciousness without sensory organs for input and a material brain for interpreting. When people give silly analogies like a horse talking (or whatever the example was above)–I’d want to know the physical details– Did it sound like it had human vocal cords? Was it like a parrot? Did others hear it? What was the expression on it’s face? Could it have been a misperception? Can a horse physically make sounds that sound like words? Did the words involve forming phonemes with the tongue and teeth? Etc.

    I would want to know how the purported “magic” thing interacted with the non magic natural world.

    So I was once as Sastra described… but now I’m much more like a _ray_in_dilbert_space and truthmachine. I cannot make coherent sense of anything supernatural. The more you examine such claims, the less coherent they seem-fairy dust and magic beans. Maybe believers spend so much time finding stuff wrong in the claims of others, so they never have to examine the basic incoherence in their own beliefs.

  514. #514 truth machine, OM
    January 23, 2010

    I think it’s coherent with appearances

    I have no idea what you mean by that. It’s incoherent because, as I’ve noted, it deals in oxymorons — nonsense about immaterial “things” that “cause” things to happen via “the power of intentions or values” . It’s woo-laden drivel, and it isn’t any less so because it’s you uttering it than some flake from Ojai (Ojai is the U.S capital of woo).

  515. #515 truth machine, OM
    January 23, 2010

    oxymorons

    Or perhaps I should say “category mistakes”. Intentions and values simply aren’t the sort of things that have causal powers, other than as properties of physical brains that are causal through physical interactions.

  516. #516 Diane G.
    January 24, 2010

    It does point up a weakness of the cartoon as a standalone joke. It’s an inside joke, because you have to understand that it’s actually not an unfair parody of what Orzel & Mooney say.

    It’s a fair criticism of an argument they actually make, and if you’re in on the joke, that makes it simply hilarious, because it’s so obviously “over the top”—as your incredulity demonstrates, unbelievably over the top—but still literally true, too.

    Or maybe it points up a weakness of just posting the cartoon itself here, without adding the author’s additional hint…For those who aren’t familiar with J & M, it quite often is drawn in response to a particular article/pundit/etc., and the cartoonist helpfully provides a link to explain the contest. See the above cartoon here:

    http://www.jesusandmo.net/2010/01/22/deny/

    http://tinyurl.com/ya82at2

    I realize PZ included a link to the strip, but suspect that many didn’t bother to click through, as the ‘toon was already posted here; and that many who DID click through wouldn’t have noticed the subtext hint…

  517. #517 truth machine, OM
    January 24, 2010

    I’d like to know whether the theists here (heddle? Scott?) would accept the definition, or at least think it coherent.

    I thought Heddle rejected this sort of nonsense from the very beginning of your conversation here.

    I’ve gotten agreement from at least some supernaturalists on other forums.

    Uh, so the eff what? You can get agreement from people on other forums that Obama is the antichrist. What the heck does it show if a bunch of deluded fools who believe in nonsense accept your nonsensical definition of the nonsense they believe in? I think most of my wacky science-illiterate friends in Ojai would accept it too.

  518. #518 truth machine, OM
    January 24, 2010

    I think my beliefs were at the core incoherent, but I could make sense of them in a fuzzy way and then leave the rest to “mystery” because it “felt” right.

    Which pretty well sums up Sastra’s nonsense
    in #468 about “at least a little conceivable”, “can’t be completely incoherent”, “a loose, general understanding of what it means”, “It can be imagined”. She says there

    It took a lot of hard work — over many years — to realize that thought was a process in the brain, and not an immaterial ‘thing’ or a ‘power.’ Most people still can’t quite wrap their minds around their minds.

    Well yes, certainly, but that’s no reason to suppose that thought could have been “an immaterial ‘thing’ or a ‘power’” — it couldn’t have been.

  519. #519 Diane G.
    January 24, 2010

    Speaking of xkcd screentips (and someone was, back awhile)–I’m really embarrassed to ask this, but…what am I doing wrong? They only appear for a few seconds for me, and so I can only read the very shortest ones in their entirety the first time I mouse over the ‘toon. Worse, they won’t reappear for me until I click to a new page and then back again…

    How can I be screwing up something this simple? (I don’t have this problem with other screentips).

    Sheepishly,
    –Diane

  520. #520 Scott
    January 24, 2010

    Re: #506

    Ah, TM. I hope you enjoyed PZ’s talk. I wish I could’ve attended.

    You write:

    We would despair if the universe were essentially chaotic (actually, we wouldn’t exist in the first place), but since it isn’t (an observation, not an axiom), science is successful (that’s a fact beyond our “consideration”).

    Well, here’s the thing. The observation of regularities and apparent lawfulness is not in itself scientific. In the West, this habit has a checkered history inspired by the notion of a Lawgiver. I’m assuming that we can agree that the latter is not demonstrated via evidence? If so, then historically the notion of lawfulness really predates anything recognizable as modern science. Even if, for the sake of discussion, we grant that today the lawfulness of all reality has been demonstrated beyond any doubt, I would still maintain that such hasn’t always been the case.

    Also, I have to point out that even today all we can confidently say is that, generally speaking, the phenomena within our visible horizon appears to be lawful, albeit incompletely understood. There are versions of both string theory and the many-worlds interpretation of QP that not only permit, but demand regions outside our power to observe that are not lawful in any sense that we could recognize.

    You don’t seem to understand what an axiom is.

    I’m not using it in the sense of something which is self-evidently true. I’m using it in the sense of something accepted as true without proof for the purpose of reasoning about something else. “Let us assume that ‘A’ is true. If so, what would we expect to find about ‘B’?” If you object to this definition, please explain.

    I am not a philosopher by trade, but it seems to me that just because the presumption of ‘A’ predicts a certain consequence ‘B’, it does not follow that the confirmation that consequence ‘B’ exists demonstrates the necessary existence of ‘A’. At best, it leverages the weight of evidence in favor of the existence of ‘A’ to the point where it is clearly productive to behave as if ‘A’ is true.

    I like what Gould says, that in science a fact can only mean, “confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.” In that sense, the apparent lawfulness of the universe is certainly a fact. But it is not a brute observation in and of itself, like the spectral lines of hydrogen. It is something that is generally assumed for the purposes of doing science because it has been productive, not because it has been directly observed in all cases.

    As for “supernatural claims”, that puts the cart before the horse. There are empirical claims that can be tested, and phenomena that can be explored. Any assertion of a “supernatural” nature is at best premature.

    I agree, but I made no such assertion here. I simply noted that science values evidence and testability, and is not well-disposed to consider claims without evidence, or claims that can’t be tested. The consequences of supernatural claims often fall into the former; the actual claim that the supernatural exists falls into the latter.

    I might also add that even if an alleged consequence (‘B’) of the supernatural’s existence (‘A’) is observed, that ‘A’ is not in itself demonstrated. The concept of the supernatural itself seems inherently incoherent; it is much more parsimonious, observing a natural consequence ‘B’ to assume a natural cause, which is to say, ‘not-A’.

    Let me finish by commending a somewhat different view. Richard Dickerson wrote a nice essay a few years back that appeared in the Journal of Molecular Evolution. You can read it as a PDF file here. I would be interested in your thoughts on it.

    Scott

  521. #521 John Morales
    January 24, 2010

    Scott, I submit that the axiom of the regularity of nature is self-evidently necessary for the scientific endeavour, unlike the axiom¹ that the supernatural exists or is a cause of anything.

    Deities are conceived as supernatural², and clearly are an unnecessary axiom.

    To employ unnecessary axioms is unparsimonious and unscientific; yet another way that science is incompatible with supernatural religious belief.

    ¹ you could speak of a premise, or of a presupposition, or of a postulate, but I get your meaning.

    ² that is, beyond nature. Certainly the Christian god is held by its believers to have created nature (i.e. “Creation”).

  522. #522 Scott
    January 24, 2010

    Sastra (#512):

    Since you asked, I have to say that I feel that the word ‘supernatural’ is something of a placeholder word for a lot of different things, many of which involve fantasy. It doesn’t seem to be consonant with the business of doing science, which seeks natural causes for natural phenomena. Yet, if we attempt to define the term in some operational way, we end up invoking nature. In this sense it is tautologous.

    Over the years, a minority of human beings have thoughtfully considered this state of affairs and concluded, with Laplace, that they have no need of this hypothesis. Considerably more people resist this conclusion, typically on intuitive rather than logical grounds.

    So, is ‘the supernatural’ coherent or incoherent? I have for several years held the opinion that the notion can not be squared with any attempt to give an objective account of reality. In that sense it is incoherent.

    At the same time, human beings do experience things that they don’t understand or can’t express in words, or both. For many, perceiving these experiences as somehow otherworldly gives them a sense of coherence that is more personally meaningful than the simple acknowledgment that something mysterious occurred.

    So, while it may be incoherent, it offers something like coherence to those who believe this or that. Is that what you’ve been getting at?

    If so, I sympathize. Tautologies are just like that. They are true by definition, and the fact that something is necessarily true seems to satisfy a certain part of the human mind.

    Others (like me) recognize that something is still missing from these accounts, and embrace the mystery as an object for wonder, awe and investigation. I’m cool with everyone who has this attitude, whatever their view of the supernatural. I feel sorry for those who are satisfied with less.

    This quote from Einstein (who of course was no theist) seems appropriate:

    I have found no better expression than “religious” for confidence in the rational nature of reality, insofar as it is accessible to human reason. Whenever this feeling is absent, science degenerates into uninspired empiricism.

  523. #523 Rorschach
    January 24, 2010

    If so, I sympathize. Tautologies are just like that. They are true by definition

    They are also meaningless as conclusions, and don’t say anything significant about the world.

  524. #524 Scott
    January 24, 2010

    John Morales (#521):

    Scott, I submit that the axiom of the regularity of nature is self-evidently necessary for the scientific endeavour, unlike the axiom¹ that the supernatural exists or is a cause of anything.

    Yes to the first part of your claim, but this is like saying that it is self-evidently necessary that baseballs must exist in order to play major-league baseball. It’s not the same thing as saying that baseballs themselves must self-evidently exist. In any case, I wasn’t using the word ‘axiom’ in that sense.

    I also agree with the second part of your claim, that it is not self-evidently necessary that ‘the supernatural’ exists. I would argue, however, that the axiom that supernatural claims must be excluded from science is almost certainly necessary for the scientific enterprise.

    To employ unnecessary axioms is unparsimonious and unscientific; yet another way that science is incompatible with supernatural religious belief.

    I believe that I pointed something like that out in my previous reply to Sastra. But it should also be clear that supernatural beliefs are not axioms. They are neither self-evidently true, nor held simply for the purpose of reasoning about something.

  525. #525 John Morales
    January 24, 2010

    Scott,

    But it should also be clear that supernatural beliefs are not axioms.

    I know¹ presuppositionalists disagree with that, and I suspect it’s not just them.

    They are neither self-evidently true, nor held simply for the purpose of reasoning about something.

    Indeed, and you’ve explained it well: “At the same time, human beings do experience things that they don’t understand or can’t express in words, or both. For many, perceiving these experiences as somehow otherworldly gives them a sense of coherence that is more personally meaningful than the simple acknowledgment that something mysterious occurred.”

    In other words, it makes them feel good to believe it. I guess you have no issue with believing arbitrary, incoherent things so long as they make one feel good.

    In that previous comment to Sastra, you wrote:

    Others (like me) recognize that something is still missing from these accounts, and embrace the mystery as an object for wonder, awe and investigation. I’m cool with everyone who has this attitude, whatever their view of the supernatural. I feel sorry for those who are satisfied with less.

    You seem to be tip-toeing around the issue.

    Do you or do you not believe in the supernatural?

    If you do, what utility does this belief have for you, other than making you feel less angsty or more content?

    Anyway, thank you for your pity.
    I, in turn, feel sorry for those for whom reality doesn’t suffice, so that they must make up wishful imaginings to console themselves.

    ¹ From interaction with a number of them.

  526. #526 Scott
    January 24, 2010

    Um, John (#525):

    I don’t know why you would thank me for pity. My brief “I feel sorry for those who are satisfied with less” was directed at people (many of them conventional believers) who are threatened by mystery and disinterested in asking the exciting and interesting questions.

    Since I don’t think you’re a fan of blind faith (or perhaps faith of any kind), then I don’t see why my comment would apply to you.

    Since you ask, as a theist I of course do believe in a personal God. I want to stress, however, that I did not post in this thread with the intent of talking up theism. I wanted to drop my two cents about the cartoon (which was droll) and secondly, the ‘compatibility’ question itself, which is interesting from a philosophy of science standpoint. If you thought I was engaging in some kind of stealth evangelism, my apologies. Not.

    As far as what my beliefs give me? Gee. Does taking any claim on faith in and of itself benefit anyone? I doubt that it benefits me objectively, since I’m not a politician or a preacher. And any subjective benefits that I might imagine I receive are not worth discussing in this forum, because feelings, strictly speaking, are not evidence.

    But I will say this: you say you feel sorry for those “for whom reality doesn’t suffice.” I understand what you’re saying, but you’re saying that their problem is essentially one of adding to reality. I don’t think that’s correct. I think, rather, that they are substituting their experiences and desires for an open engagement with the world as it really is, in effect subtracting any data from the real world that raises too many hard questions. They aren’t enriching their lives, they’re impoverishing them.

    May your reality be rich and stimulating!

  527. #527 John Morales
    January 24, 2010

    Thanks, Scott.

    If you thought I was engaging in some kind of stealth evangelism, my apologies.

    No.

    I guess I was being impertinently and combatively inquisitive because of my own dissonance when contrasting your evident rationality and intelligence with my awareness of your admitted theism.

    I think I was out of line there, and I therefore apologise. Thanks for your magnanimity.

  528. #528 windy
    January 24, 2010

    Sastra:

    Mental things feel immaterial. You can’t hold a thought like a physical object in the hand. So they slip it into a separate category.

    A wifi signal doesn’t “feel” material either, but I don’t see people doubting its physical existence. I’m not saying that people would put a thought in the same category as a wifi signal, but there are many “folk categories” of things: I’m not sure that equating the mental category with ‘supernatural’ really describes it.

    Scott:

    Well, here’s the thing. The observation of regularities and apparent lawfulness is not in itself scientific. In the West, this habit has a checkered history inspired by the notion of a Lawgiver. I’m assuming that we can agree that the latter is not demonstrated via evidence? If so, then historically the notion of lawfulness really predates anything recognizable as modern science. Even if, for the sake of discussion, we grant that today the lawfulness of all reality has been demonstrated beyond any doubt, I would still maintain that such hasn’t always been the case.

    Um, to put it bluntly: so what? There are countless fundamental observations about reality that precede modern science. To take another example, the description of species and their classification into nested hierarchies precedes modern evolutionary theory. And it was “inspired by the notion of” a Creator. Does that mean that it is somehow less a part of evolutionary biology because of that?

  529. #529 Carlie
    January 24, 2010

    Diane – I remember some browsers had problems with long alt-texts, and needed to have an add-on called “long extensions” or something like that put on to be able to read the full thing. If you just encounter it as a problem on xckd, though, you can go to the forums -> individual comic threads -> comic of interest, and on each the first post is the comic and the alt-text typed out.

  530. #530 Scott
    January 24, 2010

    Windy: (#528):

    It’s dangerous to join a line of reasoning mid-stream. I should know: I’ve stumbled more than once here.

    My brief regarding the origins of the notions of lawfulness was not intended to diminish its stature within science, as your reply suggests. My point is that (contra TM) ‘lawfulness’ was not originally derived on first principles from observation in the manner of science, but rather as a built-in assumption. I also tried to suggest that, properly speaking, that even today ‘lawfulness’ has not been rigorously “proved” for the Universe. It’s held provisionally, like all scientific generalizations.

    Science, to my way of thinking, is not a belief system but a system that values things like evidence, testability, tentativeness, etc. I fully embrace those values. The limits imposed by those values on what science can and can not say are often taken by laypeople as a sign of science’s weakness, when in fact it is a great strength of the whole enterprise….and it all starts with values, whose adoption as axioms for the purpose of doing science has proved so fruitful!

  531. #531 Sastra
    January 24, 2010

    Scott #522 wrote:

    Since you asked, I have to say that I feel that the word ‘supernatural’ is something of a placeholder word for a lot of different things, many of which involve fantasy.

    Okay, fine. Now define it.

    You didn’t really answer the specific question I asked. I am trying to get a clear definition of what people who believe in the supernatural, actually mean by the term. A definition of something ought to be allow someone to distinguish it from the things which it is not. How is something “supernatural” different than something which is simply unusual, unknown, or mysterious (dark energy, for example, or other dimensions in superstring theory.)

    Iow, how do YOU define “the supernatural?”

    Here was my definition:

    The Supernatural: Non-material, irreducible mental Being, beings, or forces which exist apart from and above the material realm, outside of regular laws, and which affect the natural world through the power of intentions or values.

    This definition is broad and general on purpose, because the category has to include supernatural things you believe do exist, supernatural things you don’t believe exist, and supernatural things you think are just plain silly or fantastic. (Also, if you object to the word “supernatural,” you are welcome to substitute the word “spiritual.” Or any word you like, frankly, as long as it addresses the issue.)

    Would you agree that my definition is more or less accurate, and at least tracks with your own?

  532. #532 Sastra
    January 24, 2010

    truth machine OM wrote:

    Or perhaps I should say “category mistakes”. Intentions and values simply aren’t the sort of things that have causal powers, other than as properties of physical brains that are causal through physical interactions.

    Exactly; I believe theists are making category errors by reifying abstractions, and accepting the superficial intuition from a nonreflective experience that mental activities are really immaterial things which have the power to act on the physical world, the way our desire to move our hand, can move our hand. They’re treating the cosmos as if it all were like a giant Mind, or story in a mind, and stopping themselves from asking any further questions about details or mechanisms.

    “It took a lot of hard work — over many years — to realize that thought was a process in the brain, and not an immaterial ‘thing’ or a ‘power.’ Most people still can’t quite wrap their minds around their minds.”

    Well yes, certainly, but that’s no reason to suppose that thought could have been “an immaterial ‘thing’ or a ‘power’” — it couldn’t have been.

    What if, when the human skull was opened, it had always turned out to be either empty, or filled with a plain, potato-like substance? No brain, nothing like a brain anywhere — just something that helps cool the blood in the head, perhaps. Wouldn’t this have made the hypothesis that thoughts are ‘immaterial things and powers’ more reasonable?

  533. #533 A. Noyd
    January 24, 2010

    Diane G. (#516)

    Or maybe it points up a weakness of just posting the cartoon itself here, without adding the author’s additional hint…

    PZ not only linked to the cartoon, he paraphrased the author’s hint. And Mooney was the subject of a post the day before, too.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Scott (#520)

    At best, it leverages the weight of evidence in favor of the existence of ‘A’ to the point where it is clearly productive to behave as if ‘A’ is true.

    That would be affirming the consequent. It doesn’t work, period. Pretending that it “kind of” rather than absolutely works is wrong.

    The consequences of supernatural claims often fall into the former [no evidence]; the actual claim that the supernatural exists falls into the latter [can't be tested].

    So you’re saying if there is a supernatural it is untestable and its consequences leave no evidence? On what grounds can you even give it such properties, then? Further, how do you know of something that’s untestable and leaves no evidence? And if you “believe” rather than “know,” then what do you use to choose one set of beliefs over another?

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    John Morales (#525)

    In other words, it makes them feel good to believe it.

    Not disagreeing with your point, but there are so many things that people believe that makes them feel bad. There’s something peculiar about belief that way.

  534. #534 Lars
    January 24, 2010

    What if, when the human skull was opened, it had always turned out to be either empty, or filled with a plain, potato-like substance? No brain, nothing like a brain anywhere — just something that helps cool the blood in the head, perhaps. Wouldn’t this have made the hypothesis that thoughts are ‘immaterial things and powers’ more reasonable?

    What if soup dancing in candlewax fish sang melodies of love behind each chance? unless in the evening after all! Pete.

    Wouldn’t this have made the hypothesis that thoughts are ‘immaterial things and powers’ more reasonable?
    ;)

  535. #535 Lars
    January 24, 2010

    What if God showed up, turned off gravity for a second just to get everybody’s attention, said “I AM THAT I AM” inside everybody’s head and disappeared again, leaving a tattoo with the letters “YHWH” on the forheads of all 6 billions of us.

    That would prove a lot of things. But fantasizing about this possibility brings us no truth. It’s just juvenile.

  536. #536 Sastra
    January 24, 2010

    Lars #535 wrote:

    That would prove a lot of things. But fantasizing about this possibility brings us no truth. It’s just juvenile.

    Hypotheticals don’t try to prove something is true; they help us explore what kinds of evidence would count for, or against, a particular claim.

    Since we don’t have a giant potato in our heads, but instead have highly complex networks of neurons and dendrites and axons, this counts against the idea that the mind is something “out there.” Why would we need something so unnecessarily complicated?

  537. #537 Scott
    January 24, 2010

    Sastra (#531):

    OK, sorry. I thought you wanted me to weigh in on the question of whether ‘the supernatural’ was incoherent, as opposed to defining it. Let me unpack your definition again:

    The Supernatural: Non-material, irreducible mental Being, beings, or forces which exist apart from and above the material realm, outside of regular laws, and which affect the natural world through the power of intentions or values.

    Hmm. At first glance it seems to be pretty close to what a lot of people mean. I have a few quibbles, though.

    #1 I’m not sure that all supernatural phenomena are irreducibly ‘mental’, and I’m not sure what is gained by adding that condition. In focusing on the reification of abstractions, are you trying to relate the concept of the supernatural to something like Plato’s ‘world of forms’?

    #2 Your definition doesn’t acknowledge the experience of the numinous except as a consequence of alleged beings or forces, but it is at the core of why so many people believe that ‘the supernatural’ exists

    #3 There is a conception of the supernatural as being in accord with natural law, rather than independent of said laws. Some people argue that this is just writing nature a bit larger and more mysterious. I’m sympathetic to that approach.

    But let’s say, arbitrarily, that we agree to your working definition. What would you like to do with it?

  538. #538 Sastra
    January 24, 2010

    Scott #537 wrote:

    #1 I’m not sure that all supernatural phenomena are irreducibly ‘mental’, and I’m not sure what is gained by adding that condition.

    I think it makes the definition more accurate, if you include mental products such as values and goals in the term “mental.” If you can reduce them to the physical, then you’re dealing with materialism again.

    Here is a quick list of purported supernatural phenomeonon:

    disembodied souls, ghosts, ESP, psychokenesis, magical correspondences, vitalism, karma, prana, God, cosmic consciousness, mind as “energy force,” a universal tendency towards the harmonic balance of Good and Evil, progressive evolution towards Higher States, mind/body substance dualism, holistic nonmaterialistic monism.

    What do they have in common? Every single one of them involves minds or values. Can you think of something that would be included in the category — and yet be unconnected to anything mental?

    In focusing on the reification of abstractions, are you trying to relate the concept of the supernatural to something like Plato’s ‘world of forms’?

    Not really, because Platonism, while it may reify abstractions, doesn’t involve the vital mental component of intentionality or values, and their interaction with the physical world. This may be why we don’t generally consider it a form of supernatural belief. Platonists don’t.

    #2 Your definition doesn’t acknowledge the experience of the numinous except as a consequence of alleged beings or forces, but it is at the core of why so many people believe that ‘the supernatural’ exists

    True, but I’m trying to be as generic as possible, and I’m not sure all supernatural beliefs include this. But perhaps I could add a modifier to the effect of “invokes a deep sense of awe and wonder?”

    #3 There is a conception of the supernatural as being in accord with natural law, rather than independent of said laws. Some people argue that this is just writing nature a bit larger and more mysterious. I’m sympathetic to that approach.

    I know; that’s why I tried to avoid making the crux of the distinction “inside nature” or “outside nature,” and was willing to go along with a change in the term. Too many times, people want to include the “supernatural” or “spiritual” inside Nature as a way of emphasizing holism, or goodness, or the way-things-ought-to-be. It’s a byproduct of — or maybe the cause of — the whole “natural is best” movement.

    But let’s say, arbitrarily, that we agree to your working definition. What would you like to do with it?

    Examine it in the light of modern science.

  539. #539 Scott
    January 24, 2010

    A. Noyd (#533) is troubled by my description of the status of a working argument in science:

    “At best, it leverages the weight of evidence in favor of the existence of ‘A’ to the point where it is clearly productive to behave as if ‘A’ is true.”

    He objects, as follows:

    That would be affirming the consequent. It doesn’t work, period. Pretending that it “kind of” rather than absolutely works is wrong.

    Sorry, but you are misled. If it were really this easy to rule out arguments like this on logical grounds, don’t you think some armchair philosopher would’ve torpedoed Darwin’s Origin 150 years ago? Because this is pretty much the sort of argument he employs throughout!

    This is the kind of philosophical observation that routinely annoys working scientists, and causes the latter to (incorrectly, in my view) eschew philosophy altogether. Philosophy is useful, because it provides tools to analyze scientific claims, but it does not dictate how science is practiced. A comparison may be helpful here.

    ‘Affirming the consequent’ is a logical fallacy with the following form:

    1. If A, then B.
    2. B.
    3. Therefore, A.

    Students learn about fallacies so they can appreciate when an argument’s logical structure does or does not guarantee the validity of its conclusion.

    But whether or not an argument’s conclusion is warranted can be uncoupled from the question of whether or not the argument’s conclusion is correct. Valid arguments can lead to conclusions that differ from reality if the premises are inadequate; invalid arguments can have conclusions that are confirmed by observation or experiment. In other words, right, but perhaps for the wrong reason.

    Here’s how the logic of a working scientist differs from the fallacy of ‘affirming the consequent’:

    1. If A exists, then (mountains of shit consistent with ‘A’ should be observed).

    2. Mountains of shit consistent with ‘A’ are observed!

    3. ‘A’ may not be true, but so far the shit’s in its favor. Let’s treat ‘A’ as it were true, but continue to test the shit out of it.

    In other words, the provisional nature of scientific claims means that there is no absolute ‘therefore’ at the end of the chain of reasoning, that some conclusion must be absolutely true, the only possible explanation, etc. Therefore, there is no logical fallacy…other than the conflating of the apples of science with the oranges of philosophy.

  540. #540 Scott
    January 24, 2010

    Sastra (#538):

    Examine it in the light of modern science.

    Fair enough. As far as I am concerned the previous were minor quibbles. I accept the definition. Lead on, Macduff!

  541. #541 Sastra
    January 24, 2010

    Scott #540 wrote:

    Lead on, Macduff!

    Oh my — at the end of a long thread! Okie doke.

    The Supernatural: Non-material, irreducible mental Being, beings, or forces which exist apart from and above the material realm, outside of regular laws, and which affect the natural world through the power of intentions or values.

    The hypothesis is that this exists.

    What sort of evidence do you think would count directly for it — and what would count against it?

  542. #542 articulett
    January 24, 2010

    And if you COULD know for certain whether something supernatural exists… would you want to know? Or would you prefer keeping your beliefs as they are?

  543. #543 Owlmirror
    January 24, 2010

    Too many times, people want to include the “supernatural” or “spiritual” inside Nature as a way of emphasizing holism, or goodness, or the way-things-ought-to-be. It’s a byproduct of — or maybe the cause of — the whole “natural is best” movement.

    Heh. That’s an almost supernatural definition of “Nature” there; as something prescriptive, based on intent, rather than something descriptive that results from falsifiable and parsimonious observation and analysis.

    From the perspective of metaphysical naturalism, I think it might be best summed up as the perspective that “nature” and “reality” are simply synonymous.

    The Supernatural: Non-material, irreducible mental Being, beings, or forces which exist apart from and above the material realm, outside of regular laws, and which affect the natural world through the power of intentions or values.

    Yet if these could be detected and demonstrated by science, would they not be part of nature?

    There would no doubt be science that studies them, perhaps as subbranches of psychology, or as a separate discipline of “spiritology” or something. There would be attempts to discover the limits of these phenomena, and perhaps even develop technologies based on them. Why not?

    What would distinguish them from the natural, if they were actually real?

    ====

    And if you COULD know for certain whether something supernatural exists… would you want to know?

    Sure. But I would also want to be sure that I was not being fooled — or fooled by someone who was fooling him/her self.

    Or would you prefer keeping your beliefs as they are?

    The only really necessary belief is that reality, as it actually is, is not a deliberate attempt to fool us.

  544. #544 Scott
    January 24, 2010

    Speaking as a Christian, if I heard another Christian made a claim of a supernatural experience, I would be skeptical. I would not automatically admit they had experienced the supernatural just because we both had similar beliefs about the supernatural.

    In fact, I have my doubts that a single piece of objective evidence for any subjective claim would be persuasive for me. All evidence would be presumed by science to be natural phenomena, and based on previous work, it would be non-parsimonious to argue for a supernatural origin when the opposite tack has proven so successful. I would tend to assume that the person who made the claim was misinterpreting some natural phenomena.

    I have to admit that I am impressed by your brief ‘the vital mental component of intentionality or values.’ This does seem to be essential, not just to distinguish the supernatural, but perhaps to test it. It’s not enough to find evidence for an ‘otherness’.

    No, I think the only thing that might count would be a clear, objective signal of purpose in some object that could not possibly be the result of human manipulation. I’m impressed by the 7.656 MeV resonance in carbon, for example. It can be predicted by anthropic reasoning, but the degree to which it is ‘fine-tuned’ can not. But even that is only evidence for a higher level of order, not a purposefulness operating completely outside the natural world we experience.

    Suppose at higher resolution than at previously available, that characters (say, the Hebrew tetragrammaton) were found inscribed on the non-functional side of the small ribosomal subunit, and that these characters were universally conserved across all taxa without any apparent function. This would certainly be a sign of the activity of what Fred Hoyle called a ‘superintelligence’ of stupendous power. But would that automatically mean that this purposeful being was ‘supernatural’? I don’t think so.

    I’m stumped. I can think of things that demonstrate that there are things outside our understanding, but I don’t seem to be able to imagine a way to rule out a natural explanation for any such phenomena. Even if it carried within it unbelievable amounts of new information demonstrating its power, even if it contained a claim that there was a supernatural realm, I don’t think that rules out a natural explanation.

    Do you have any suggestions?

  545. #545 A. Noyd
    January 24, 2010

    Scott (#539)

    If A exists, then (mountains of shit consistent with ‘A’ should be observed).

    Therefore, there is no logical fallacy…other than the conflating of the apples of science with the oranges of philosophy.

    All right, on rereading, you were careful to be a bit more provisional than I gave you credit for, but I took you literally where you used “consequence” in the singular in “just because the presumption of ‘A’ predicts a certain consequence ‘B’.” You said “at best” finding B true “leverages the weight of evidence in favor of the existence of ‘A’.” But where does the information come from to let you know whether you’ve got a best case scenario? All you can be confident of with the singular is you don’t have to discard A, nothing more. Yet now you’re condensing a large number of B’s into your “working science” version. I find that assumption just a wee bit disingenuous.

    Also, was there a reason you didn’t answer the questions in 533?

  546. #546 Sastra
    January 24, 2010

    Owlmirror #543 wrote:

    Yet if these could be detected and demonstrated by science, would they not be part of nature?

    The word “nature” is not all that important: as you say, we’re really dealing with the concept of “reality.”

    If such purely intentional forces are real, we’ve discovered that reality is very different than we thought it was — significantly different. Materialism is false, and has been falsified.

    You can divide reality up then into “nature” and “supernature,” or “material” and “spiritual,” or “physical” and “mental” — or whatever category labels you want, I think.

  547. #547 Sastra
    January 24, 2010

    Scott #544 wrote:

    I’m stumped. I can think of things that demonstrate that there are things outside our understanding, but I don’t seem to be able to imagine a way to rule out a natural explanation for any such phenomena. Even if it carried within it unbelievable amounts of new information demonstrating its power, even if it contained a claim that there was a supernatural realm, I don’t think that rules out a natural explanation.
    Do you have any suggestions?

    Look again at the definition, and list of supernatural claims:
    ——-

    The Supernatural: Non-material, irreducible mental Being, beings, or forces which exist apart from and above the material realm, outside of regular laws, and which affect the natural world through the power of intentions or values.

    Examples of supernatural phenomenon: disembodied souls, ghosts, ESP, psychokenesis, magical correspondences, vitalism, karma, prana, God, cosmic consciousness, mind as “energy force,” a universal tendency towards the harmonic balance of Good and Evil, progressive evolution towards Higher States, mind/body substance dualism, holistic nonmaterialistic monism.

    ————–

    This is balanced out against the materialist alternative — specifically, that mind is what the brain does, and all the above, though conceivable, are false.

    I think we could go through almost all of these claims and think of a scenario where they were, if not proven (science doesn’t deal in ‘proof’), then strongly supported. Many of them would support each other — or at least make it more plausible. (God, for instance, is often considered to be a disembodied Mega-Mind which manipulates matter and energy through its Willpower (psychokenesis) and communicates through a form of ESP.)

    And if there were strong scientific evidence for any of the above phenomenon, then material theories of mind are in very real trouble. Scientific evidence for mind-body dualism would count for the Supernatural, as has been defined.

    The lack of scientific evidence for the above phenomenon — coupled with positive evidence for the materialist alternative — would count against the existence of the supernatural.

    If the supernatural exists, then (mountains of shit consistent with the supernatural) would be expected to be observed.

    (Mountains of shit consistent with the supernatural) are not observed.

    The supernatural is unlikely to be true.

    One can then consider the fact that (mountains of shit consistent with natural, materialist views of mind) are observed, and take that as the working theory, easily falsified if those mountains move.

  548. #548 Scott
    January 24, 2010

    A. Noyd (#544:)

    Sorry, I didn’t address your earlier questions. Here we go, your original questions in italics.

    So you’re saying if there is a supernatural it is untestable and its consequences leave no evidence?

    It seems to be inherently non-falsifiable. This is kind of what Sastra and I are playing with right now.

    On what grounds can you even give it such properties, then?

    Ask Sastra. He’s the one who’s taking out a toy definition. I see the word as a placeholder for a lot of different ideas, as I mentioned earlier.

    Further, how do you know of something that’s untestable and leaves no evidence?

    Are you, by any chance, not living in a forest where the trees fall soundlessly?

    OK, just joshing. Untestable claims often have evidence associated with them, they just aren’t the kinds of things that can be independently corroborated. It’s evidence of a sort, but it doesn’t count for much.

    And if you “believe” rather than “know,” then what do you use to choose one set of beliefs over another?

    I reserve the word ‘belief’ for propositions taken on faith. There are lot of subjective criteria one could apply to these things, but one of my personal rules is to not to take a claim too seriously when it seems to contradict a large body of observations and experiments. That actually rules out quite a few things!

  549. #549 Owlmirror
    January 24, 2010

    Speaking as a Christian, if I heard another Christian made a claim of a supernatural experience, I would be skeptical. I would not automatically admit they had experienced the supernatural just because we both had similar beliefs about the supernatural.

    And yet, is Christianity itself not the result of some very specific claims of supernatural experiences?

    ===

    If such purely intentional forces are real, we’ve discovered that reality is very different than we thought it was — significantly different.

    Every scientific revolution does this — they falsify the previous model.

    And, actually, given how much people are given to the egocentric bias, it be more said to work exactly as they do think. “I always knew it was really all about me” (or “about us“, if they’re more species-centric rather than ego-centric).

    Materialism is false, and has been falsified.

    Hm. Only in the narrowest sense, I think.

    You can divide reality up then into “nature” and “supernature,” or “material” and “spiritual,” or “physical” and “mental” — or whatever category labels you want, I think.

    Sure; dualism. But is dualism coherent?

    If there is some identifiable substance that “spirit” is associated with (quintessence; vital fluid; ectoplasm; an all-pervading aether), why would it not just be added to our existing collection of concepts of basic forces, forms of energy, and states of matter?

  550. #550 SC OM
    January 24, 2010

    [Working somewhat backwards...]

    It seems to be inherently non-falsifiable. This is kind of what Sastra and I are playing with right now.

    It doesn’t rise to the level of being unfalsifiable. It’s incoherent and has (cannot have, in fact) evidentiary support. It’s garbage, and completely dismissable.

    Untestable claims often have evidence associated with them, they just aren’t the kinds of things that can be independently corroborated. It’s evidence of a sort, but it doesn’t count for much.

    This is so broad as to be utterly meaningless.

    one of my personal rules is to not to take a claim too seriously when it seems to contradict a large body of observations and experiments. That actually rules out quite a few things!

    Your personal rules should include dismissing those claims that can’t be formulated coherently and don’t/can’t have evidentiary support.

  551. #551 SC OM
    January 24, 2010

    I can think of things that demonstrate that there are things outside our understanding,

    Do tell.

    but I don’t seem to be able to imagine a way to rule out a natural explanation for any such phenomena.

    Then how do they demonstrate what you say?

    Even if it carried within it unbelievable amounts of new information demonstrating its power, even if it contained a claim that there was a supernatural realm, I don’t think that rules out a natural explanation.

    Do you have any suggestions?

    Yes. Stop being a Christian. It’s silly.

  552. #552 Scott
    January 24, 2010

    Sastra (#547):

    Ah. Now I see. The point of your definition is to conflate mind-body dualism with the supernatural?

    So, the argument takes the form:

    1) If the supernatural exists, it necessarily entails mind-body dualism

    2) The expected consequences of mind-body dualism have been, in large, falsified

    3) Mind-body dualism can be provisionally rejected: it is unlikely to be a correct theory of mind

    4) Therefore, the supernatural is unlikely to exist

    I think the logical structure of this argument (or however you want to phrase it) seems valid. Do you feel that something like premise #1 is required to make it go? That may be where the wrinkle lies.

    Also, even if #1 is demonstrated, is it really a good idea to reason from what we think we know about our minds to the general properties of reality? Eddington’s injunction that the universe may be queerer than we can possibly suppose is a call to epistemic humility. We actually can’t be certain that our local horizon is typical of every scenario permitted by string theory and the many-worlds interpretation of QP. The rules might permit, or even demand, other realms in which the rules are different, realms that interact with out local ‘bubble’ of space-time in ways that are not presently detectable.

    I apologize in advance if that seems like hand-waving, but keep in mind that multiverse or ‘bubble’ universe scenarios are being seriously advanced in theoretical physics, in part to avoid the aesthetic (and philosophical) problems entailed by a transcendent beginning to the present order. It’s not theists who are looking for ways to get around the ‘Big Bang’, it’s non-believers.

    Not that any of that troubles me much. As I mentioned, I’m sympathetic to the view that what we call the supernatural is actually a subset of the ‘natural’.

  553. #553 SC OM
    January 24, 2010

    You can divide reality up then into “nature” and “supernature,” or “material” and “spiritual,” or “physical” and “mental” — or whatever category labels you want, I think.

    Yes, if you’re dishonest and/or stupid.

  554. #554 Owlmirror
    January 24, 2010

    (adding a bit to my previous)

    Sure; dualism. But is dualism coherent?

    If there is some identifiable substance that “spirit” is associated with (quintessence; vital fluid; ectoplasm; an all-pervading aether), why would it not just be added to our existing collection of concepts of basic forces, forms of energy, and states of matter?

    And if there isn’t some identifiable substance — why wouldn’t these phenomena fall under the heading of some previously unidentified and/or unisolated behavior of the contents of the real universe?

  555. #555 Sastra
    January 24, 2010

    Owlmirror #549 wrote:

    And, actually, given how much people are given to the egocentric bias, it be more said to work exactly as they do think. “I always knew it was really all about me” (or “about us”, if they’re more species-centric rather than ego-centric).

    True — it would confirm our intuitions on what the mind “feels like” and how we think reality must be. But it would certainly change the views of the scientists of today. Significantly so. The theists, the woos, the paranormalists, the spiritual — they would all consider themselves rightly vindicated. Mind has real power, and the cosmos is not indifferent to us. Our concerns, are its concerns. Mind cannot be reduced to matter — it’s above matter. It can exist prior to it, or outside of it. And thus was can seriously consider that our death is not the end — from a scientific perspective. Science discovered the supernatural/spiritual/woo.

    Even if there was some kind of identifiable substance associated only with spirit — and spirit wasn’t completely irreducible — I still contend that this new understanding of reality would be so radically different than the current working theory of naturalism that just saying “it’s only a new form of naturalism” simply doesn’t do the change justice.

  556. #556 amphiox
    January 24, 2010

    What if, when the human skull was opened, it had always turned out to be either empty, or filled with a plain, potato-like substance? No brain, nothing like a brain anywhere — just something that helps cool the blood in the head, perhaps. Wouldn’t this have made the hypothesis that thoughts are ‘immaterial things and powers’ more reasonable?

    Not as a first step. The first step would be to re-evaluate the computational capacities of potato-like substances. The second step step would be to re-evaluate the computational capacities of other organs and organ systems.

  557. #557 SC OM
    January 24, 2010

    My brief regarding the origins of the notions of lawfulness was not intended to diminish its stature within science, as your reply suggests. My point is that (contra TM) ‘lawfulness’ was not originally derived on first principles from observation in the manner of science, but rather as a built-in assumption. I also tried to suggest that, properly speaking, that even today ‘lawfulness’ has not been rigorously “proved” for the Universe. It’s held provisionally, like all scientific generalizations.

    tm said nothing about “lawfulness.” He said it is an observation that the universe is not inherently chaotic. Leave out the word “lawfulness” – nothing you say here is at all relevant.

    Science, to my way of thinking, is not a belief system but a system that values things like evidence, testability, tentativeness, etc. I fully embrace those values. The limits imposed by those values on what science can and can not say are often taken by laypeople as a sign of science’s weakness, when in fact it is a great strength of the whole enterprise….and it all starts with values, whose adoption as axioms for the purpose of doing science has proved so fruitful!

    “Doing science” involves every area of life, every instance of fact claims. Are you suggesting that a person is only doing science if she’s working in her specific subdiscipline or discipline? Working in a professional context? Are scientists in their life outside their discipline or beyond the lab bench exempt from “things like evidence, testability, tentativeness” in forming or evaluating claims? heddle has already stated that he holds political/economic beliefs without evidence. Are you saying the same? Should no one but professional scientists be held to the epistemic standards of science, and they only in their fields and only during the hours in which they’re engaged in their professional activities? Would “The US needs to invade Iran because its government is planning to attack the US tomorrow” be acceptable to you without evidence? What about a supernatural claim – “The US needs to invade Iran because its population is possessed by an evil force bent on destruction”? This contains “untestable” elements. What do you do with it? Is such a claim compatible with science?

  558. #558 articulett
    January 24, 2010

    Scott, what do you mean when you say you are a Christian? Do you believe in heaven and hell? Do you believe that belief is necessary for “salvation”? Why do you believe whatever it is that makes you call yourself a Christian? Why would you extrapolate “the universe may be queerer than we can possibly suppose” to the notion that the universe is queer in EXACTLY the way you suppose (Christianity)? How is that different than Deepak Chopra using QM to justify his new age beliefs?

    How exactly have you reconciled your faith with the facts– or do you just not think very deeply about the subject? I mean, I’m glad that I can point to great skeptics and scientists who are religious to help calm the fears of those who would stop the teaching of evolution otherwise– it seems harmless and maybe even comforting. But I also wonder if you guys are just hanging onto the idea that you believe because you are afraid not to– a bit of Pascal’s wager.

    If there were no god, would you want to know? Or would you prefer to believe there was? If an invisible undetectable form of consciousness does and could exist, how do you distinguish them from gremlins, myth, and the other proposed entities that don’t?

  559. #559 Sastra
    January 24, 2010

    Scott #552 wrote:

    Ah. Now I see. The point of your definition is to conflate mind-body dualism with the supernatural?

    Not necessarily strict mind-body dualism: remember, my list included forms of idealistic monism (nothing exists but Mind.) I’m trying to be as inclusive as I can be, to identify variations. But I think the belief in pure mind — or the products of mind — as a kind of force or power lies at the heart of what people mean when they talk about supernatural or spiritual truths.

    1) If the supernatural exists, it necessarily entails mind-body dualism

    It necessarily entails that mind or its products somehow affect the material world through the power of intentions or values. I say this, because I think it a necessary part of the definition. I define it this way, because this is what I think people mean — what they’re really driving at — when they talk about the supernatural.

    I can’t think of a counter-example — a supernatural thing or being or force which has nothing to do with purpose, goals, love, justice, desire, intention, thought, good and evil, joy, personhood, or morality, as a fundamental aspect of its being or existence.

    Also, even if #1 is demonstrated, is it really a good idea to reason from what we think we know about our minds to the general properties of reality?

    Yes, I think it’s a good idea — it’s the usual assumption to work from what we know, unless there’s good evidence to change it. We assume consistency.

    As Dawkins has said, “Mental things, brains, minds, consciousnesses, things that are capable of comprehending anything — these come late in evolution, they are a product of evolution. They don?t come at the beginning. So whatever lies behind the universe will not be an intellect. Intellects are things that come as the result of a long period of evolution.” This is not conclusive — but it’s relevant.

    There’s also something else to consider: we can understand and explain why we might have a natural tendency to believe in substance dualism, even though it’s false, and anthropomorphise objects and events. The case against reincarnation is strengthened, for example, by studying the types of cognitive biases which would lead people to think it is true, even if it isn’t. Coupled with the lack of evidence, it helps to weave a unified explanation.

    The rules might permit, or even demand, other realms in which the rules are different, realms that interact with out local ‘bubble’ of space-time in ways that are not presently detectable.

    Uh uh. Maybe.
    That’s standard to all scientific conclusions — we might have to change them. They might be wrong. But we don’t throw them out or consider them dicey because of the maybe.

    I apologize in advance if that seems like hand-waving, but keep in mind that multiverse or ‘bubble’ universe scenarios are being seriously advanced in theoretical physics, in part to avoid the aesthetic (and philosophical) problems entailed by a transcendent beginning to the present order. It’s not theists who are looking for ways to get around the ‘Big Bang’, it’s non-believers.

    So? Nobody cares about a scientist’s motivations unless they’re trying to explain someone holding on to a view beyond reason. The astrophysicists and string theories are pursuing science properly — or getting properly called on it when they don’t. They are not whining about the need to have faith.

    I think you’re mistaken about the implications of the Big Bang and God, but if you’re claiming that the Big Bang challenges atheism, then I think you have to agree that science can say something about the existence of God. If it can support God, then it’s legitimate to measure the hypothesis against the evidence, to discredit it.

  560. #560 SC OM
    January 24, 2010

    And this concludes this evening’s episode of Explain Your Beliefs, Damn It!.

    Or not…
    :)

  561. #561 Owlmirror
    January 24, 2010

    True — it would confirm our intuitions on what the mind “feels like” and how we think reality must be. But it would certainly change the views of the scientists of today. Significantly so.

    I’ve also been considering this as a potential alternate universe, one where the discoveries mentioned are made early, and alongside the more traditionally considered scientific physical discoveries.

    Even if there was some kind of identifiable substance associated only with spirit — and spirit wasn’t completely irreducible — I still contend that this new understanding of reality would be so radically different than the current working theory of naturalism that just saying “it’s only a new form of naturalism” simply doesn’t do the change justice.

    It might seem so at first. But after the journal articles and and popular science articles and technical applications come out, I suspect that it might start to seem more like “business as usual”. OK, so there’s a new science of spiritology. So? It needs to account for why most people don’t usually have real, non-biased, psychic abilities and powers. It would not be something ubiquitously accessible. Woo-meisters and frauds would latch onto it, but they would no doubt get it as wrong as Deepak Chopra gets quantum mechanics. The technical apps would have associated risks and unintended consequences. Some people would want to use the new tech to spy on people; others would decry such abuse; still others would become horribly paranoid about being spied upon.

    And so on and so forth.

    It’s always one damn thing after another.

  562. #562 Owlmirror
    January 24, 2010

    I can’t think of a counter-example — a supernatural thing or being or force which has nothing to do with purpose, goals, love, justice, desire, intention, thought, good and evil, joy, personhood, or morality, as a fundamental aspect of its being or existence.

    I suspect that we hold different concepts of the potential supernatural.

    Posit, for example, an all-pervading aether that reacts to mind, and perhaps becomes part of mind — but is itself utterly neutral; a substrate that permits action at a distance, or resonating vibration to permit psychic communication (to grab some woo-speak). It may interact with people’s minds and affect the qualities you list, but it doesn’t really have any of those qualities inherent to itself, I would think.

  563. #563 Sastra
    January 24, 2010

    Owlmirror #561 wrote:

    It’s always one damn thing after another.

    Yup; like an eternal heaven, a top-down, spirit-infused, morally-attuned, enchanted universe is much better in the abstract, than it is when you try to get specific and concrete. That’s where you run into problems.

    Being spiritual means not having any of those kinds of problems.

  564. #564 A. Noyd
    January 24, 2010

    Scott (#548)

    I see the word as a placeholder for a lot of different ideas, as I mentioned earlier.

    Hm, I suppose I first need to ask if you consider your god is supernatural and if you agree with the “untestable/leaves no evidence” qualities of the supernatural. I’m basically trying to get at how you justify your theism at an epistemic level. Even if you keep it all at the level of belief, why are you preferential in your choice of beliefs?

    Untestable claims often have evidence associated with them, they just aren’t the kinds of things that can be independently corroborated.

    Yes, some things do, but I wasn’t asking about them. Maybe I should rephrase. How does anyone know of something that’s untestable and leaves no evidence? Though, if you don’t think anyone can know of something like that and you were only entertaining the idea for discussion with Sastra, don’t worry about answering.

  565. #565 windy
    January 24, 2010

    Windy: (#528): It’s dangerous to join a line of reasoning mid-stream. I should know: I’ve stumbled more than once here.

    Grrr… No Scott, I read the whole thread but I only replied to a small sub-argument that was interesting. Don’t be an ass.

    My brief regarding the origins of the notions of lawfulness was not intended to diminish its stature within science, as your reply suggests.

    No, I didn’t suggest that. But you seem to think it’s somehow significant if an observation is “not in itself scientific”, or if it precedes science: what’s the significance? I pointed out that many other “self-evident” observations, ideas and traditions were “grandfathered in” to modern science.

    My point is that (contra TM) ‘lawfulness’ was not originally derived on first principles from observation in the manner of science, but rather as a built-in assumption. I also tried to suggest that, properly speaking, that even today ‘lawfulness’ has not been rigorously “proved” for the Universe. It’s held provisionally, like all scientific generalizations.

    The last two sentences seem to undermine the argument you started out with, that lawfulness has a special status within science as a value axiom (whatever that is).

    And another thing, I don’t think you have considered how ‘lawfulness’ is necessary to all human activity. It’s not something specific to science: the assumption of lawfulness is essential to writing a cookbook. Like truth machine said, we wouldn’t exist in the first place without it. Think of it as an extension of the weak anthropic principle: science can only exist where beings capable of observation exist. Observers can only exist where the universe has enough regularity for life (and memory) to persist. So it’s a version of Douglas Adams’ puddle fallacy to wonder at the amazing fit of science and ‘lawfulness’. (IMO, it would be better to talk about “regularities” instead of “lawfulness”)

  566. #566 gould1865
    January 24, 2010

    @ 540. Lead on MacDuff? Oh God, it’s that corruption from American scouts on a hike. “Lay on MacDuff” meaning with your sword, says Macbeth. Not ‘Lead on MacDuff.’ You could claim the phrases are not related and that MacDuff is a common enough name and a three word phrase with it could begin with ‘Lead on’ and have nothing to do with Shakespeare’s ‘Lay on MacDuff’. You could claim that. No doubt the phrase is now a juvenile folkway for generations to come. I would just like to get it in proper perspective with its senior ‘Lay on MacDuff.’

    @ et. al.
    So I couldn’t stand it and entered here and wrote off topic.

    So I’ll add on-topic, something not mentioned. Perhaps a what are they thinking?

    Oh yes I?ll go with you. You will not be alone. Though you?re crazy as a loon I?ll be crazy too, with you. I saw on the steppes of Russia that a woman, her horses, and people her relatives or servants went with her. And the Indians of the old America went with their household leader, a wad of tobacco for narcotic and a rope twisted around their neck. A few declined. All that was something, loyalty, kindness, sacrifice, what the hell, still something. But us, we won?t leave at exactly the same time, likely. If you go first, I?ll be along later. So Jesus will have to go with you and keep you company till I get there, and when I arrive we can be together again. I will hold your hand now and promise to see you later. That?s our hope. Yes, I know it?s only a hope.

    Said the religious scientist.

  567. #567 Miki Z
    January 24, 2010

    At the risk of muddying the waters and being misunderstood, I’ll add that even if the universe is chaotic, that doesn’t mean that it’s unpredictable. Both deterministic chaos and stochastic chaos are observable (though some believe that stochastic chaos is only evident because of our limited observational powers).

    The entire ‘lawful’ or even ‘non-chaotic’ supposition is unnecessary to the fruitful pursuit of science. It is only necessary that there be some correlation between the present state and future states in order to do science. The better we get at understanding which portions of the present state affect the likely future state, the better the predictions we can make.

    If the correlation between past and future is inconstant and arbitrary, chances are not good for the existence of life at all, much less its continuance. We might go so far as to call these correlations ‘natural laws’.

    We then assume ‘lawfulness’ not because it’s convenient, but because without it there would be nothing which could be known. ‘Agnostic’ should only extend so far.

  568. #568 speedweasel
    January 25, 2010

    llewelly said @367

    For n ideas you need n(n + 1)/2

    Math isnt my strong point but I think you mean, n(n – 1)/2

  569. #569 Miki Z
    January 25, 2010

    There are some self-incompatible ideas, and you need n(n+1)/2 comparisons to include these. If you assume that any given idea is compatible with itself, you can go to n(n-1)/2.

  570. #570 Scott
    January 25, 2010

    Way, way, too much to reply to in a single post. Sorry, but the football today was compelling.

    Anyway, in no particular order….

    Articulett (#558) has a bunch of questions about the sort of things I take on faith. I don’t intend to spend time answering every one of them, there’s too many and that would end up being something like proselytizing. I’ve been down that road before, and it’s just doesn’t seem appropriate here. If you really want to grill me on my beliefs, you can go to my blog and look up posts with the label ‘Behind the Curtain’.

    Windy (#565):

    I hate to be an ass, so sorry if I was. But I still think you are misreading me. For example, you bring up Adams’s puddle fallacy. Questions about selection bias or why the universe seems to be lawful are interesting, but that’s emphatically NOT what I was addressing with TM. He was arguing that I was ontologically muddled in saying that science assumes the Universe’s lawfulness, like an axiom. I disagreed, on the basis of what I know about the history of science, that the notion of lawfulness wasn’t deduced on first principles from logic, but rather adopted as an assumption for the purpose of figuring things out.

    I also don’t understand your comment that acknowledging the provisional nature of scientific claims undermines the status of principles like ‘lawfulness’ within science. All claims in science are held provisionally. But not all claims have the same explanatory and predictive power. Without something like an axiom of ‘lawfulness’, science would mostly consist of descriptions of whatever we are observing at the moment, and precious little could be predicted and even less could be explained.

    gould1865 (#566) Guilty as charged. I massacred the Bard of Avon. Thou cream-faced loon!

    MikiZ (#567) You make a good point that the word ‘chaotic’ does not necessarily mean an absence of predictability, since regularities (presumably the result of laws) can be observed.

    My apologies for muddying the waters, but I have to point out I was just replying to TM’s usage of the word. It seemed better than to quibble and insist upon something like ‘absence of lawfulness.’

    You suggest that the imputation of lawfulness may not be necessary for the conduct of science and write, “It is only necessary that there be some correlation between the present state and future states in order to do science.”

    Meh. You are describing the sort of ‘science’ that could be done by a machine. As a general rule, people are not interested in correlations themselves. If a correlation presents itself, the wondering mind at the heart of science seems to want to know why this correlation exists. Sagan remarks in Cosmos that if we lived in a universe that was static, or if we lived in a universe that was not lawful, that there would be little impetus to do science. Fortunately, Sagan says, we live in an ‘in-between universe’ where things change, but in regular, predictable ways according to laws of nature and concludes, ‘we can do science, and we can improve our lives.’

    I think Sagan’s right. If we discovered correlations, but we didn’t assume that there was some regularity at the base of the correlation, we wouldn’t be that motivated to figure out what the regularity was. We would be curious in the sense that pre-scientific cultures were curious, but continue to embed any observations about the larger universe in some pantheon.

    A.Noyd (#564):

    How does anyone know of something that’s untestable and leaves no evidence?

    Ha! Ask the string theorists if the LHC doesn’t provide them with anything to hang their hat on.

    I’m not claiming that I could possibly ‘know’ that untestable things that leave no evidence exist. But it seems likely that there are things that exist, but which can not be detected. We only observe those things in the night sky which are in our event horizon, for example. We could, if we wanted to, pretend that this is all the stuff that exists. But we have good reason to believe that there are entire superclusters of stars that we will never be able to know anything about based on what we know about the general properties of the universe from the WMAP data.

    In any case, to me the word ‘belief’ implies taking propositions on faith, which means that ‘belief’ isn’t knowledge in the sense of being justified by independent, verifiable observations.

    Sastra (#559):

    Your approach really intrigues me, and I’d like to pursue it further. But this thread is getting cumbersome in length and in all the sidebars that are getting raised. I’d rather focus on that definition, and I would also like to review the literature on the mind-body problem before venturing an opinion. I took a philosophy seminar on consciousness about 12 years ago, but I’m rusty. If you want to continue this, how about dropping me a line at:

    epigene13@gmail.com

  571. #571 speedweasel
    January 25, 2010

    @Miki Z

    Bingo. I was assuming that no idea needs to be compared to itself. Thx. :)

  572. #572 Miki Z
    January 25, 2010

    I think I could have stated my point far more simply (at the risk of some ambiguity):

    Things don’t follow natural laws because they are the ‘law’. They are the ‘law’ because they make accurate predictions. The existence of the law is the effect of the behavior, not the cause of it.

  573. #573 A. Noyd
    January 25, 2010

    Scott (#570)

    In any case, to me the word ‘belief’ implies taking propositions on faith, which means that ‘belief’ isn’t knowledge in the sense of being justified by independent, verifiable observations.

    Well, that answers some of what I asked but doesn’t come close to what I said I was getting at–your epistemic justification for theism. What do you feel justifies such belief? What lets you choose one belief over another? Note that I don’t care about the precise content of those beliefs, so you shouldn’t worry about proselytizing.

  574. #574 John Morales
    January 25, 2010

    Scott, re:

    If you really want to grill me on my beliefs, you can go to my blog and look up posts with the label ‘Behind the Curtain’.

    I’m not thinking of grilling you, but I am curious.
    Alas, your link is malformed.

  575. #575 Diane G.
    January 25, 2010

    (Carlie–Thanks SO MUCH for the alt-text & xkcd tips!

    –Diane)

  576. #576 windy
    January 25, 2010

    Questions about selection bias or why the universe seems to be lawful are interesting, but that’s emphatically NOT what I was addressing with TM. He was arguing that I was ontologically muddled in saying that science assumes the Universe’s lawfulness, like an axiom. I disagreed, on the basis of what I know about the history of science, that the notion of lawfulness wasn’t deduced on first principles from logic, but rather adopted as an assumption for the purpose of figuring things out.

    Where are you getting this “deduced on first principles” stuff? I didn’t see anyone else suggesting it. And an assumption for the purposes for figuring things out may be derived from observation (and usually is).

    Meh. You are describing the sort of ‘science’ that could be done by a machine. As a general rule, people are not interested in correlations themselves. If a correlation presents itself, the wondering mind at the heart of science seems to want to know why this correlation exists.

    I think you misunderstood Miki Z, he didn’t say that science should stop at describing correlations.

    Sagan remarks in Cosmos that if we lived in a universe that was static, or if we lived in a universe that was not lawful, that there would be little impetus to do science. Fortunately, Sagan says, we live in an ‘in-between universe’ where things change, but in regular, predictable ways according to laws of nature and concludes, ‘we can do science, and we can improve our lives.’

    Either ol’ Carl was using a bit of poetic license here, or he didn’t consider the implications of his thought experiment. Since life at a minimum implies self-replicating patterns, it makes no sense to talk about LIVING in a universe where nothing ever changes (since nothing would grow or replicate) or where everything was random (since no pattern could persist).

    I think Sagan’s right. If we discovered correlations, but we didn’t assume that there was some regularity at the base of the correlation, we wouldn’t be that motivated to figure out what the regularity was. We would be curious in the sense that pre-scientific cultures were curious, but continue to embed any observations about the larger universe in some pantheon.

    How can a correlation exist without regularity? Even if it’s a spurious correlation there are usually some other unseen variables behind it acting regularly. At the very least, the observer jotting down the correlation exhibits regularity!

    And not to argue from authority, but the very next paragraph in Cosmos disagrees with you about pre-scientific cultures…
    (“Human beings are good at understanding the world. We always have been. We were able to hunt game or build fires only because we had figured something out.”)

  577. #577 Owlmirror
    January 25, 2010

    And not to argue from authority, but the very next paragraph in Cosmos disagrees with you about pre-scientific cultures…
    (“Human beings are good at understanding the world. We always have been. We were able to hunt game or build fires only because we had figured something out.”)

    I think this touches on the concept of evolutionary epistemology — humans have been good at figuring things out about observable things that directly impinged on their survival. But generalizing and abstracting to basic principles, or understanding things that are outside the immediate range of our senses — that took many thousands of years, and the creation and refinement of specialized tools.

  578. #578 Stephen Wells
    January 25, 2010

    On lawfulness: it’s worth bearing in mind that lawfulness is implied when we assume that we will still exist in a recognisable form in one second’s time. The problem of induction may be a logical issue but the problem of noninduction is much worse; absent the assumption that previous regularities continue into the future, there is no basis for doing anything or making any kind of decision or holding any belief, because there’s no reason to assume your own continued existence, or that of anything else in the universe.

  579. #579 heddle
    January 25, 2010

    articulett, #558,

    How exactly have you reconciled your faith with the facts– or do you just not think very deeply about the subject?

    Can’t speak for Scott, but as another Christian voice I would say that I think about these things very deeply and often. The present body of scientific knowledge poses no great challenge–in fact typically the more we learn the more secure I feel. However, I do wonder about things like discovering (not just postulating) parallel universes or extraterrestrial intelligent life or a complete and tested OOL model–I haven’t worked out how those would affect my faith.

    If there were no god, would you want to know?

    Again, can’t speak for Scott, but I’d certainly want to know.

  580. #580 Stephen Wells
    January 25, 2010

    Heddle, since the default assumption is that there are no gods- all the gods we know of are fictional characters- surely you should be more interested in finding out whether there is any such thing as a god.

  581. #581 Scott
    January 25, 2010

    #576:

    Read TM’s original post. He’s saying that the ‘lawfulness’ of the universe is an observation, rather than an axiom. Observations are incorporated into an explanatory scheme initially either by induction of deduction.

    Induction: “I see this regularity here, and another regularity here. I see a general pattern of regularity. The universe is lawful.”

    Deduction: “I observe a thing, and I observe the same thing at a different time. After many such observations, I conclude this thing follows a rule or law, and I can use this rule to guide my behavior.”

    Either way, you are reasoning from first principles to a notion of lawfulness. But I don’t think our prescientific ancestors had either of these conversations in a meaningful way with each other. More often than not, they began with the presumption of lawfulness:

    “The god(s) exist, and they are mighty. They have ordered the heavens. By looking at the heavens, we shall see the laws of the gods.”

    That’s still very clever, as Sagan says, but hardly science. I agree with Owlmirror’s subsequent comment (#577).

    A.Noyd (#573): The word ‘justified’ leads to a logical cul-de-sac when people define knowledge as ‘justified true belief.’ Justification, in turn, usually turns on claims which can be objectively verified. Faith isn’t like that.

    In a nutshell, I believe because of personal experience with belief. I am a Christian in part because my belief experience is embedded in a largely Christian culture, and in part because I feel there is something distinctive about the teachings of Jesus. But you see this is merely anecdote, history and aesthetics. There is nothing objective about it.

    #574:

    John, sorry about the bad link. Here’s my blog address:

    http://www.monkeytrials.blogspot.com/

  582. #582 heddle
    January 25, 2010

    Stephen Wells

    surely you should be more interested in finding out whether there is any such thing as a god.

    ?? Did I not write, in #579, that I’d want to know? I don’t understand your comment.

  583. #583 a_ray_in_dilbert_space
    January 25, 2010

    Scott, I would contend that the current thinking in science is more pragmatist than either inductive or deductive. Assuming lawfulness of the Universe has led to useful insights in cases A and B, so it is worth trying in case C as well. Now this is in some sense inductive, but rather than making statements about the Universe, one is making statements about utility.

  584. #584 Celtic_Evolution
    January 25, 2010

    Scott #581 -

    In a nutshell, I believe because of personal experience with belief. I am a Christian in part because my belief experience is embedded in a largely Christian culture, and in part because I feel there is something distinctive about the teachings of Jesus.

    I know you don’t say it, exactly, but I can’t help reading that and seeing “I believe because I really, really want to and am not sure I can imagine functioning happily in a world where I didn’t.”

    I once used nearly the same exact outward justifications for belief (in my mid- to late- teens, even after I realized that the science I accepted completely contradicted biblical scripture), but inwardly it was really more of a sincere desire for it all to be true coupled with a fear how I would cope if I accepted that it wasn’t.

    I don’t mean to insult or oversimplify for you… just recognizing a pattern I’m personally familiar with.

    But you see this is merely anecdote, history and aesthetics. There is nothing objective about it.

    Well, objectively, it is… except for the “history” part…

  585. #585 Stephen Wells
    January 25, 2010

    @heddle: you assented to the suggestion that if there were no god, you’d want to know. I’m just pointing out that it would be only rational to not suppose that any gods exist until there’s definite evidence for them. If there _were_ a god, I’d want to know; until such knowledge is available you shouldn’t assume there are any.

  586. #586 Owlmirror
    January 25, 2010
    If there were no god, would you want to know?

    Again, can’t speak for Scott, but I’d certainly want to know.

    So would you say that currently, you would classify your belief as being distinct from knowledge?

    Clearly, you experienced some change within your brain (or mind), and you know that you experienced it — but you don’t know that what you experienced actually was something real caused by a supernatural event and/or a supernatural being?

    The real problem with religious presuppostion — in contrast to a more conservative deistic presupposition — is the special pleading made for the belief. That is, not only do you believe in — presuppose the existence of — a God that is a person, but that this person is presupposed as all-powerful despite demonstrating no observable power, is presupposed as all-knowing despite demonstrating no observable knowledge, and (perhaps worst), is presupposed as benevolent despite demonstrating no observable benevolence.

    Presupposing a God is “merely” a violation of parsimony, but presupposing the existence of all of those attributes in the absence of the demonstrations of all of those attributes violates the definitions of those attributes; it is logically inconsistent.

  587. #587 Paul W.
    January 25, 2010

    I haven’t followed all of the “supernatural” discussion, so forgive me for barging in…

    It seems to me that Sastra is basically right and has been doing a bang-up job explaining why the concept of the supernatural is not incoherent in the trivial sense that some people think.

    This is important, because the accommodationists want to make it sound like supernatural concepts are simply unfalsifiable, such that religion has its own sphere that science can’t touch.

    That is crucially false, because in fact supernatural concepts are not generally unfalsifiable. They are systematically about things that have observable effects, because if they didn’t, humans wouldn’t find them interesting to tell and retell stories about them, or to build religions around. They are also systematically causal and predictable, in at least something like a statistical sense, because religion would not work if they weren’t.

    The appeal of supernaturalist (and supernaturalish) religion hinges on the supernatural being relevant to real people—prayers & sacrifices being effective, spiritual experiences actually connecting the mundane and spiritual planes, or the ability of people to introspect/meditate/whatever and realize experience a transcendent Ultimate Reality, or get a spiritual insight that All is One, and Atman is identical to Brahman, or something like that. Importantly at least some of these strange phenomena are supposed to reveal Deep Wisdom to at least some spiritually adept people, and that wisdom is supposed to be useful in guiding how you live your life.

    At least for the modern sense of the “supernatural,” the main issue is not whether the idea of the supernatural is incoherent in itself. In its most general form, it apparently isn’t—it’s too vague to say either way.

    The idea of the supernatural is not clearly wrong in terms of trivial philosophy, independent of empirical evidence. It’s just not a matter of simple dictionary definitions. (It’s a matter of the basic categories that people instinctively use for understanding the world.)

    It is wrong scientifically, in light of modern science, and that’s important, because the accommodationists don’t want to admit that science has anything to do with it. They want to assert or presuppose some NOMA-like distinction, and NOMA could not be more wrong.

    The idea that science and religion are about different things is pretty much the opposite of the truth—science has everything to do with religion. There is no place for religion to hide from science, because science doesn’t just tell us that we evolved over millions of years.

    That’s the least interesting thing on the table.

    Science has a lot to say about the central issues for religion—minds, morals, how to run a society, and religion itself, including religions’ claims to be a “way of knowing” that offer offers knowledge or “wisdom” that secular reasoning cannot.

    The supernatural is incoherent with the scientific conception of minds and mentation. Our minds evidently just do not work in the ways that would be necessary to survive death, or intuit Deep Truth through religious experiences.

    The scientific conception of the mind shows that thoughts, memories, desires, values, and personalities generally are basically very high-level computational phenomena that it doesn’t make sense to talk about outside a computational context.

    There’s no traditional soul that animates such a computer, and even in the supernatural realm you’d need something kind of computer made out of supernatural stuff to even be a mind with memories, etc. And if you understand what a computer is, it doesn’t matter what it’s made out of, so long as there are some low-level relationships (between some kinds of things or other) with certain formal properties, that can be used as computational elements. It turns out not to matter much whether a computer is made out of meat, like our brains, or little solid-state analog amplifiers (like current digital computers)—or even spirit-stuff.

    In light of cognitive science, presupposing a different set of laws for supernatural stuff turns out not to be incoherent per se.

    The fatal problem is that the alternative realm with its own rules turns out to useless for explaining anything the supernatural was invented to explain, and wildly implausible in terms of what we now know about what minds, matter, and the actual relationships between them.

    The accommodationists like to say that science can never disprove the existence of God or souls, so religion is compatible with science in some useful sense.

    The accommodationists systematically misrepresent science in two fundamental ways.

    One is that they are using a standard of proof that’s unrealistic and irrelevant. Science is simply not about proof in that sense. Never has been. Never will be.

    By their supposed standard of scientific proof, we never even disproved the idea that the sun goes around the earth. Seriously.

    You can always tweak a bad hypothesis to make it unfalsifiable, e.g., positing that the Sun goes around the earth in just such a way that it’s indistiguishable from the Earth going around the Sun.

    Such a hypothesis-saving theory doesn’t even have to be complicated, so that a simple application of Occam’s Razor clearly suggests that it’s false. For example, the geocentric theory can be salvaged by adding a couple of trivial relativizing axioms, and retaining the mathematical structure of the heliocentric theory. Not a major change, mathematically. It’s just crazy, and in particular antiscientific.

    Another fundamental way that the accommodationists misrepresent science is by misrepresenting the issue unfalsifiability as something that makes science neutral to religion.

    In science, we generally do not adopt a stance of agnosticism toward unfalsifiable hypotheses. If a hypothesis appears to be contrived to avoid falsification, we view it with great prejudice, and without very good scientific reasons to accept it, we generally guess that it is wrong. (Or worse, not even wrong.)

    That’s the take-home lesson from the Galileo affair. Some Catholic authorities suggested that Galileo could just tweak his geometric model very slightly to put the Earth back at the center of the universe and bring it into conformance with scripture.

    Galileo refused, because science just doesn’t work that way.

    The Catholic authorities rightly pointed out that the “slightly” revised theory was equivalent to his for “practical” purposes, and a minor tweak would keep science “compatible” with religion.

    And indeed it would have, except that in science, we are generally very suspicious of special pleading.

    We can’t rule a hypothesis out if it’s observationally equivalent to any other hypothesis we can’t rule out. The fact that we can’t logically disprove it doesn’t mean that we don’t provisionally rule it out—we generally do.

    When faced with a hypothesis that’s clearly contrived to avoid falsification, we provisionally rule it out with extreme prejudice, and even ridicule it.

    (IMO, that is the central first-order claim of the so-called New Atheism. It’s what it’s all about. There are a couple other practical points that are important, but this is what it’s all about.)

    The accommodationists who say that religion can be compatible with science, and we “can’t disprove the supernatural,” are doing exactly what some Catholic authorities did in trying to make the Galileo affair go away.

    They are engaged in special pleading for religion, to salvage certain hypotheses (God, souls) in the face of evident falsification.

    They are grotesquely misrepresenting the basic nature of science when they imply that their special pleading for contrived hypotheses means science is compatible with religion.

    The accommodationists often accuse the “New Atheists” of doing bad philosophy and being unscientific for claiming that science debunks religion. They say that we’re offering philosophical opinions above our scientific pay grade if we say that science proves there’s no God, or no soul. We are even unscientifically going beyond what the evidence can show.

    They could not be more wrong. By their standards, Galileo was doing all those things.

    In my opinion—and this is a common opinion among the scientists and philosophers in the relevant areas—we are in the midst of a great scientific revolution, comparable in importance to Galileo’s and Einstein’s. (And even more important in terms of implications for how normal people understand themselves, society, and their lives.)

    The emerging consensus among the scientific experts is what Francis Crick called “the astonishing hypothesis” that the mind is the operation of a machine made out of matter, and dualism is simply false.

    As Crick pointed out, this “astonishing” hypothesis is only astonishing to people who don’t know cognitive science or philosophy of mind. In those fields, it’s already the dominant view.

    If this hypothesis is true, almost all religion Eastern and Western inevitably goes out the window, scientifically speaking, and what’s left is not even clearly religion.

    Accommodationist like to pretend that the important science relevant to religion is evolutionary biology. They systematically avoid the real issue that evolution touches on—how evolution suggests that cognitive science is on the right track as viewing the mind as the operation of a certain kind of evolved machine, and nothing else.

    That’s what strikes at the heart of religion’s claims, especially its self-justifying claims about itself.

    The modern scientific conception of the mind strongly suggests that religion is systematically based on false presuppositions—not just that we have souls, but that we have an ability to figure things out by some magical or quasi-magical “spiritual” faculty.

    Cognitive science indicates that religion is a result of the failure modes of several cognitive biases, which evolved for other purposes:

    We are prone to dualistic thinking, seeing patterns where there are none, paranoia specifically about agents causing those patterns, and confirmation bias amplified by social biases.

    We are also prone to seeing things in terms of in-groups and out-groups, such that we denigrate the out groups and their beliefs, and use our shared in-groups beliefs to justify cooperation within the group and the exploitation of out-groups.

    In addition, we mostly suck at introspection, and understanding the source of our intuitions, the nature of our internal cognitive/emotional states, and how reliable our intuitive feelings are. In the absence of good reality checks, we tend to think that our extremely unreliable “experiences” and “intuitions” reflect access to some mysterious truth.

    (Anybody really interested in this, or the subject of what “supernatural” really means, should read Pascal Boyer’s Religion Explained. Scott Atran and Bruce Hood are also good. On naturalistic accounts of morality in particular, Mark Hauser’s Moral Minds is good, and Dennett’s Breaking the Spell does a pretty good job of laying out all of these issues. If you need background on cognitive science, a great place to look is the first two thirds of Steve Pinker’s How the Mind Works.)

    It’s important to note that these phenomena are well-established, and were not dreamed up to explain religion. We know that people have all these problems understanding themselves and their world.

    None of this is specific to religion, or to “evolutionary psychology” per se—although it fits very well with evolutionary science. This is really just established cognitive science, social psychology, and anthropology—but it’s also a recipe for a certain kind of popular delusion, suspiciously similar to religion.

    Given that, the informed scientific attitude toward contrived, unfalsifiable religious hypotheses is not agnosticism. It’s extreme skepticism.

    It appears, scientifically, that religious beliefs are the kind of thing that we’re prone to believing whether or not they’re true.

    That makes the hypothesis that they’re also true superfluous. It would complicate the model, and if you think about it, it would complicate the model a lot, in implausible ways.

    We may not have good evidence one way or the other as to whether there’s a creator “God” that created the universe, so long as that “God” is indistinguishable from any old alien intelligence-like-thing that might have done so accidentally, or maliciously, or more likely for reasons we are utterly irrelevant to, and which are irrelevant to us.

    The accommodationists are right, up to a point, about that. We can’t disprove such a minimal “God”, and we can’t even provisionally rule it out in quite as strong a sense as Galileo ruled out geocentricism.

    But of course such a remote, uninterested alien intelligence-like thing is just not what anybody in our culture really means by “God,” if they want to know whether science is really compatible with religion. Religion isn’t really about mere possibilities that a particularly dry form of Deism might turn out to be sorta right.

    Religion is about human interests, and about religions own self-justifications in terms of humanly usable knowledge, morality, and wisdom.

    That is, of course, the only reason anybody cares about religion. It’s supposed to be personally meaningful, socially important, and/or good for you—and typically somehow wise, if not strictly true.

    The mere possibility of an intelligence-like creator of our universe is just not something you organize a religion around. You need something it feels right to worship, or regard as a source of humanly recognizable and humanly usable wisdom. It has to be Good or Wise or Magical, and has to impart knowledge or morality or wisdom or at least goods or favors, or something else related to basic human interests.

    None of that seems likely in light of science.

    Modern science casts great doubt on religion’s most basic presuppositions—souls and/or deep spiritual Truth or Wisdom.

    It casts even greater doubt on religion’s self-justifying claims to be a source of anything at all, except systematically delusory claims.

  588. #588 heddle
    January 25, 2010

    Owlmirror,

    but you don’t know that what you experienced actually was something real caused by a supernatural event and/or a supernatural being?

    That’s right–I don’t know.

  589. #589 A. Noyd
    January 25, 2010

    Scott (#581)

    The word ‘justified’ leads to a logical cul-de-sac when people define knowledge as ‘justified true belief.’ Justification, in turn, usually turns on claims which can be objectively verified. Faith isn’t like that.

    I’m talking about the justification for making exceptions for religious beliefs. How do you justify relying on faith at all, and how do you justify your choice of one faith-based idea over another?

    I am a Christian in part because my belief experience is embedded in a largely Christian culture, and in part because I feel there is something distinctive about the teachings of Jesus.

    Why wouldn’t you try to reduce bias when examining religious ideas? Why not use the same standards here as for science? For instance, do you not realize you probably feel the teachings of Jesus are distinctive in large part because you were raised in a Christian culture? What have you done, if anything, to go about minimizing that?

  590. #590 Diane G.
    January 25, 2010

    Paul W: Wow. Filed away for future use. Hope it wasn’t wasted, coming so late in the thread…

  591. #591 truth machine, OM
    January 25, 2010

    What if, when the human skull was opened, it had always turned out to be either empty, or filled with a plain, potato-like substance? No brain, nothing like a brain anywhere — just something that helps cool the blood in the head, perhaps. Wouldn’t this have made the hypothesis that thoughts are ‘immaterial things and powers’ more reasonable?

    Why were you expecting thoughts to come from inside the skull? How would looking somewhere that doesn’t contain an apparatus for creating thoughts and not finding such an apparatus make it more reasonable that thoughts are immaterial things?

    Something that is logically incoherent (“immaterial things and powers”) cannot be made more reasonable by any failure to observe something.

    Science and logic: you’re doing it wrong — yes, even you, Sastra.

  592. #592 truth machine, OM
    January 25, 2010

    I haven’t followed all of the “supernatural” discussion, so forgive me for barging in…

    It seems to me that Sastra is basically right and has been doing a bang-up job explaining why the concept of the supernatural is not incoherent in the trivial sense that some people think.

    This is a particularly useless declaration. You not only don’t understand what is being debated, you haven’t bothered to read the discussion.

    The concept of the supernatural is incoherent in a technical sense: it entails a contradiction.

    That is crucially false, because in fact supernatural concepts are not generally unfalsifiable. They are systematically about things that have observable effects,

    You have here confused the concept of the supernatural with claims of the supernatural. Just because the concept of the supernatural is incoherent does not mean that every claim that is labeled “supernatural” is unfalsifiable or even false — people often call real, natural, observed phenomena “supernatural” — they are mistaken/confused/wrongheaded about the nature and cause of the phenomena, and mistaken about ontology and cause generally.

  593. #593 truth machine, OM
    January 25, 2010

    The word ‘justified’ leads to a logical cul-de-sac when people define knowledge as ‘justified true belief.’

    How absurd. Philosophers proposed “justified true belief” as a characterization of knowledge in an attempt to get at what we mean by “knowledge”.

    Justification, in turn, usually turns on claims which can be objectively verified.

    “justified” means “for good and appropriate reason”; it does not entail “objectively verified”. For instance, I believe that I am holding 3 pennies in my hand. Since that belief is based on visual and tactile confirmation, I believe it for good and appropriate reason. If there are in fact three pennies in my hand, then my belief counts as knowledge, despite the fact that it is unverifiable (there were no witnesses, and the pennies are no longer in my hand).

    Faith isn’t like that.

    Which simply means that faith claims are never knowledge claims — even if they turn out to be right (the “true” part), they weren’t right for good and appropriate reasons (the “justified” part).

  594. #594 truth machine, OM
    January 25, 2010

    Paul W: Wow. Filed away for future use. Hope it wasn’t wasted, coming so late in the thread…

    There is a lot that’s valid in Paul’s comment, but it doesn’t pertain to the debate between Sastra and myself et. al. He seems to think that he’s siding with Sastra, but in many ways not. e.g., he correctly says that

    The scientific conception of the mind shows that thoughts, memories, desires, values, and personalities generally are basically very high-level computational phenomena that it doesn’t make sense to talk about outside a computational context.

    Which is true, whereas Sastra says that, had we found the skull to be empty, it would “have made the hypothesis that thoughts are ‘immaterial things and powers’ more reasonable”. But the scientific conception of a mind does not depend upon a particular part of the human anatomy containing a grey mass — there are far deeper reasons that support the scientific conception than such matters of anatomy.

  595. #595 Sastra
    January 25, 2010

    truth machine #591 wrote:

    Why were you expecting thoughts to come from inside the skull? How would looking somewhere that doesn’t contain an apparatus for creating thoughts and not finding such an apparatus make it more reasonable that thoughts are immaterial things?

    There would be no brain — or anything like a brain — anywhere in the body. There would be no part that couldn’t be cut out, and leave the person’s mind and sense of awareness completely intact. This would then give us no reason to think that thoughts are the result of any physical process at all.

    Question: can you imagine yourself lying down on a bed, drifting out of your body, and looking back down at it? Could you imagine your disembodied conscious-self then drifting through space?

    (I’m asking because I have met other noncognitivists who have told me they can’t imagine such a thing — it contains incoherencies.)

  596. #596 truth machine, OM
    January 25, 2010

    There would be no brain — or anything like a brain — anywhere in the body. There would be no part that couldn’t be cut out, and leave the person’s mind and sense of awareness completely intact.

    How do you know? Why would you posit something impossible before entertaining the possibility that you missed the mechanism? And if there truly truly were no such thing — well, then you’re in the territory of #534 and #535 — you’re imagining impossible things.

    This would then give us no reason to think that thoughts are the result of any physical process at all.

    This is grossly ignorant; we have many reasons to think just that, without ever having opened a skull.

    Question: can you imagine yourself lying down on a bed, drifting out of your body, and looking back down at it? Could you imagine your disembodied conscious-self then drifting through space?

    We’ve already had this discussion — being able to imagine impossible things doesn’t make them possible. What the fuck does this “self” look with? How does seeing work for it? If it’s disembodied, how does it propel through space? Where is a disembodied thing?

    You just don’t understand how to think about these things, and you aren’t willing to learn (back to your self-serving question of what it would take me to change my mind). As I said before, this debate is a waste of time.

  597. #597 truth machine, OM
    January 25, 2010

    One more stab at it: in a previous thread I discussed horses and unicorns. Do you think it’s possible that horses are actually unicorns, but their horns are “unembodied” — drifting about above horses’ foreheads like these consciousnesses you imagine? Do you think that’s a meaningful claim? If you do, then you have a muddled ontology, a confusion about what “actual”, “real”, “exists”, etc. mean — the same sort of muddle ridiculed by the notion of millions of angels dancing on the heads of pins. Something is not real, or realizable, just because it can be voiced or imagined, and that goes for disembodied consciousnesses that can look at things and float through space.

    You can divide reality up then into “nature” and “supernature,” or “material” and “spiritual,” or “physical” and “mental” — or whatever category labels you want, I think.

    Yes, if you’re dishonest and/or stupid.

    Or deeply confused.

  598. #598 truth machine, OM
    January 25, 2010

    P.S.

    There would be no brain — or anything like a brain — anywhere in the body. There would be no part that couldn’t be cut out, and leave the person’s mind and sense of awareness completely intact. This would then give us no reason to think that thoughts are the result of any physical process at all.

    Not only would this absurd reasoning make “thoughts” not be physical processes, but the same would be true of all the brain’s other functions. Our entire nervous systems and hormonal systems would be controlled by magic, as would the size of our skulls — why did evolution impose such a pointless source of suffering on women? The question here is as foolish and meaningless as “What if magic were real? This would then give us no reason to think that anything is the necessary result of anything.”

  599. #599 Sastra
    January 25, 2010

    truth machine #596 wrote:

    You just don’t understand how to think about these things, and you aren’t willing to learn (back to your self-serving question of what it would take me to change my mind). As I said before, this debate is a waste of time.

    I think you’re right — but it seems to me that the underlying problem here isn’t knowing how to think about mind and brain: it may come down to a fundamental difference in how we think and visualize in general. You and I seem to conceptualize things differently. Not one way right, one way wrong — but differently.

    Whether mind is the activity of the brain, and therefore disembodied consciousness is physically impossible is a factual question, and on that we can (and do) apparently agree. That’s an empirical matter which is thrashed out through reason, evidence, learning, etc.

    But we’re disagreeing on what seems intuitively possible — and I don’t think we can work that one towards consensus. Perhaps it’s wiring. I seem to have the ability to think very sloppy and loose, fuzzy at the edges and skimming on the surface of appearances, and form it into a half-assed working concept — and you can’t go there. That’s okay.

    It’s a gift;)

    It would be interesting to know if there’s a consistent divide between people in general. And if any supernaturalists are noncognitivists. I’d guess not, but I don’t know.

  600. #600 SC OM
    January 25, 2010

    Sastra, I admit I haven’t been following closely every word of your discussion with tm, but I honestly have no idea what you’re on about. Would you mind terribly stating your argument in a few sentences for me?

  601. #601 Owlmirror
    January 25, 2010

    There would be no brain — or anything like a brain — anywhere in the body. There would be no part that couldn’t be cut out, and leave the person’s mind and sense of awareness completely intact. This would then give us no reason to think that thoughts are the result of any physical process at all.

    In this scenario, why would we have bodies at all?

    It sounds like you’re positing a disembodied soul-thing that uses a body like a meat robot; a protein cargo-loader, maybe.

    Well, why have all that extraneous biology if it isn’t necessary for experiencing and manipulating reality?

  602. #602 truth machine, OM
    January 25, 2010

    Not one way right, one way wrong — but differently.

    No, sorry, anyone who thinks so sloppily that they can talk about disembodied consciousnesses looking at things and drifting about without recognizing that they have just described something impossible is conceptualizing incorrectly. Again, you should ask yourself the question you asked me — if you are wrong, what would it take to change your mind?

  603. #603 Sastra
    January 25, 2010

    truth machine #597 wrote:

    One more stab at it: in a previous thread I discussed horses and unicorns. Do you think it’s possible that horses are actually unicorns, but their horns are “unembodied” — drifting about above horses’ foreheads like these consciousnesses you imagine? Do you think that’s a meaningful claim?

    Ok, one more stab: yes, I think it is a meaningful claim, in that it is logically and conceptually possible. I think it is empirically wrong. It isn’t incoherent.

    The question here is as foolish and meaningless as “What if magic were real?

    It is a foolish question, yes. But not meaningless.

    I don’t know. Maybe we just mean something different by the term “meaningless.”

  604. #604 Sastra
    January 25, 2010

    SC OM #600 wrote:

    Would you mind terribly stating your argument in a few sentences for me?

    tm and I are disagreeing on whether the concept of “disembodied minds” is incoherent nonsense that doesn’t and can’t mean anything — or just wrong.

    Owlmirror #601 wrote:

    Well, why have all that extraneous biology if it isn’t necessary for experiencing and manipulating reality?

    Right. That is a good argument against substance dualism.

  605. #605 truth machine, OM
    January 25, 2010

    It sounds like you’re positing a disembodied soul-thing that uses a body like a meat robot; a protein cargo-loader, maybe.

    And without any explanation for how this disembodied soul-thing interacts with the physical. The complete and utter inability of anyone to come up with any explanation of how such an interaction could occur is why Cartesian/substance dualism is dead in analytical philosophy.

    Well, why have all that extraneous biology if it isn’t necessary for experiencing and manipulating reality?

    Somehow, it doesn’t dawn on Sastra that this is an excellent reason to suppose that the mind is a physical process — that the inability to find a brain in the head would not negate such reasons.

  606. #606 Sastra
    January 25, 2010

    truth machine OM #62 wrote:

    No, sorry, anyone who thinks so sloppily that they can talk about disembodied consciousnesses looking at things and drifting about without recognizing that they have just described something impossible is conceptualizing incorrectly. Again, you should ask yourself the question you asked me — if you are wrong, what would it take to change your mind?

    I can’t be wrong about whether or not I can conceptualize something, and imagine it. Not all concepts need to be detailed.

    I agree with you that such a thing is physically impossible; we learned that. But it’s not incoherent as such. The contradictions and category errors only come in after we have the empirical knowledge that refute it.

  607. #607 truth machine, OM
    January 25, 2010

    I can’t be wrong about whether or not I can conceptualize something, and imagine it.

    Now you have descended into the stupidest of strawman; I of course did not say you could be wrong about that.

    But it’s not incoherent as such.

    You’re wrong, just as wrong as someone who thinks that the set of of all sets that do not contain themselves is not incoherent.

  608. #608 SC OM
    January 25, 2010

    tm and I are disagreeing on whether the concept of “disembodied minds” is incoherent nonsense that doesn’t and can’t mean anything — or just wrong.

    Thanks. In that case, you’re wrong.

  609. #609 Sastra
    January 25, 2010

    truth machine OM #605 wrote:

    Somehow, it doesn’t dawn on Sastra that this is an excellent reason to suppose that the mind is a physical process — that the inability to find a brain in the head would not negate such reasons.

    No, I already agree that this is an excellent reason to suppose that the mind is a physical process.

    The supernaturalists claim that the brain and body are just conduits for consciousness — like a radio or tv set. They also vaguely handwave an explanation that the nonphysical-physical interaction relies on the “force” of our thoughts moving our brain and body around. The more detail they get into, however, the more the whole “explanation” falls apart. It’s not a real explanation: it’s an intuition which they’re trying to back up with empirical facts and can’t, because their intuition is wrong. The facts are against them.

    But their intuition is broadly conceivable — solid enough for us to make cogent arguments against it by bringing in those pesky facts. If it were totally incoherent, we wouldn’t be able to do that.

  610. #610 Sastra
    January 25, 2010

    Perhaps we’re working from different meanings of the term “incoherent.”

  611. #611 truth machine, OM
    January 25, 2010

    tm and I are disagreeing on whether the concept of “disembodied minds” is incoherent nonsense that doesn’t and can’t mean anything — or just wrong.

    Sigh. Are you being willfully dense, or it an inherent condition? I repeatedly have noted that “incoherent” means “logically impossible”, not that it can’t mean anything. Again, from my previous examples, “the largest prime” means something, but it’s incoherent. The same with a planar map that requires more than four colors. We don’t need any empirical knowledge to determine that these things are impossible.

  612. #612 Sastra
    January 25, 2010

    truth machine OM #611 wrote:

    I repeatedly have noted that “incoherent” means “logically impossible”, not that it can’t mean anything.

    And I’ve noted that “disembodied mind” is only logically impossible given the facts of the matter. Without being aware of these facts, it is conceivable, and possibly true.

    We argue against it then, by pointing out the facts. It’s an empirical argument: not a philosophical one.

  613. #613 truth machine, OM
    January 25, 2010

    No, I already agree that this is an excellent reason to suppose that the mind is a physical process

    You repeatedly say “no” in direct contradiction to what you already wrote. Here you wrote that finding no brain (or similar organ) “would then give us no reason to think that thoughts are the result of any physical process at all”. As I said before, that’s WRONG. Here you admit that it’s WRONG.

    Perhaps we’re working from different meanings of the term “incoherent.”

    How many times do I save to say that merely being able to imagine something doesn’t make it possible? Logical possiblity is the sense I’m using, and it’s the only sense that matters. No one claims that people talking about the supernatural are incoherent in the sense of “speaking in tongues” — uttering nonsense syllables, meaningless gibberish. “An entity that is both omniscient and omnipotent” is meaningful, but it’s not coherent — it contradicts itself.

    Perhaps we’re having this having this debate because someone keeps missing the point, contradicting herself, and generally acting foolishly.

  614. #614 SC OM
    January 25, 2010

    This has been my working definition:

    The Supernatural: Non-material, irreducible mental Being, beings, or ‘forces’ which exist apart from and above the material realm, outside of regular laws, and which effect the natural world through the power of intentions or values.

    From the perspective of a naturalist, that’s either incoherent, or wrong. But, I think that if you just slide on the surface of the concepts, it’s coherent enough to get the idea across, and imagine the sorts of things which would support it — or count against it.

    If you slide on the surface of words or concepts (“natural,” “forces,” “affect,” and so on) and leave their meanings open to redefinition, it’s impossible to determine what’s incoherent, since effectively you’re not claiming anything at all. It’s like taking a sharp photograph and intentionally blurring it, then saying it was impossible to determine what was shown in the original. And now you seem to be sliding on the surface of and trying to redefine incoherence, so the conversation can’t really make any progress.

  615. #615 Sastra
    January 25, 2010

    truth machine OM #613 wrote:

    You repeatedly say “no” in direct contradiction to what you already wrote. Here you wrote that finding no brain (or similar organ) “would then give us no reason to think that thoughts are the result of any physical process at all”. As I said before, that’s WRONG. Here you admit that it’s WRONG.

    Ah, you’re right. There would still be some reasons to think that mind is a physical process. I think it would be a weaker case, but I’ll admit I was wrong there.

    If the lack of any sort of brain was coupled with strong evidence for ghosts, OBEs, NDE’s, and other evidence for a mind which does not need a physical body to ‘get around,’ I think the case for mind-body substance dualism would be considerably strengthened.

  616. #616 truth machine, OM
    January 25, 2010

    And I’ve noted that “disembodied mind” is only logically impossible given the facts of the matter.

    You seem to have no idea what “logically impossible” means. That which is impossible because of the facts of the matter is contingently or nomically impossible, not logically impossible.

    Without being aware of these facts, it is conceivable, and possibly true.

    You are wrong. A “disembodied looker” or a “disembodied drifter” is semantically incoherent, a category mistake, a mistaken application of the words “look” and “drift”.

    Again, being conceivable in the sense of “imaginable” does not make something possibly true; for something to be “conceivable” in that sense, it must be the case in some logically possible world. But there is no possible world in which there are disembodied lookers and drifters, any more than there is a logically possible world in which there are married bachelors.

  617. #617 SC OM
    January 25, 2010

    But there is no possible world in which there are disembodied lookers and drifters,

    Sastra, could you describe one?

  618. #618 truth machine, OM
    January 25, 2010

    If the lack of any sort of brain was coupled with strong evidence for ghosts, OBEs, NDE’s, and other evidence for a mind which does not need a physical body to ‘get around,’ I think the case for mind-body substance dualism would be considerably strengthened.

    Sigh. You just acknowledged that the question of why we have “all that extraneous biology if it isn’t necessary for experiencing and manipulating reality” is a good argument against substance dualism. Evidence that a mind doesn’t need a body to get around doesn’t provide an answer to that question. It also doesn’t touch on the fundamental problem with substance dualism — how does the non-material “substance” have physical effects, and how is it affected by the physical (how does a disembodied consciousness “look”)?

    One can always strengthen a case by merely imagining a set of evidence that is not in fact coherent — that entails a logical impossibility.

  619. #619 Sastra
    January 25, 2010

    But wouldn’t identifying a category mistake depend on a prior analysis of the facts? We have to point out how and where they are making a category error — and they will argue that it’s not a category error at all, because they’ve got evidence that the phenomenon is in a different category, than we think it is.

    Substance dualism is a different sort of mistake than a “married bachelor” or a “square circle.” It’s an error — a confusion — that starts at the level of intuition.

  620. #620 Sastra
    January 25, 2010

    SC OM #617 wrote:

    Sastra, could you describe one?

    Such a world would be one where “consciousness” is a thing, a “force” that exists prior to its embodiment — and it would be a world of woo and enchantment.

    tm wrote:

    It also doesn’t touch on the fundamental problem with substance dualism — how does the non-material “substance” have physical effects, and how is it affected by the physical (how does a disembodied consciousness “look”)?

    It would “look” invisible, presumably. As for the questions on the mechanics, one can easily answer them with “I don’t know.” That’s how they have to answer them — though I’ve seen some interesting attempts to explain it all with “science.” They’re better off without the pseudoscience.

    (btw, I have to go. Will look back later…)

  621. #621 articulett
    January 25, 2010

    I see Sastra’s point… she’s saying that from a believer’s perspective, it “seems” coherent… just like the earth “seems” flat. It’s an illusion, but a very persistent one in the human mind. We have to remind ourselves that it’s not true… that there is no real “up”– just tangents off of planet earth. (Which makes the idea of “rapture” particularly funny.)

    Religion rides upon the fact that we are prone to this dualism illusion because we feel like we are a “mind”. Anyone who was ever a believer in the supernatural must have experienced this sort of illusion. We don’t have the mind to imagine ourselves without consciousness.

    But the more you understand about science, the brain, matter, etc. the more you understand that dualism is just one of those human delusions–consciousness cannot exist without a material mind. To me, now, a disembodied form of consciousness seems as incoherent a concept now as sound without matter. But it took a while to get there. For a while (embarrassingly) new agey sorts of beliefs “felt” true. I guess I wanted to believe they were. They made more sense to me then the religious stuff I could never make sense of.

    Most people on this forum understand that dualism MUST be an illusion–that it’s “incoherent” at its core, and we don’t want any part of “accommodationism”– because it feels dishonest–as if we are supporting the lie. To me it feels like I’m enabling people who have come to believe that the emperor is wearing magical robes, and they are wondering why they can’t really see them.

  622. #622 SC OM
    January 25, 2010

    Such a world would be one where “consciousness” is a thing, a “force” that exists prior to its embodiment — and it would be a world of woo and enchantment.

    You’re just throwing around words now. How is that possible?

    It would “look” invisible, presumably.

    I really hope that was a joke.

    I see Sastra’s point… she’s saying that from a believer’s perspective, it “seems” coherent… just like the earth “seems” flat.

    That’s what I thought before, and I couldn’t understand why she was bothering with that. But no, she’s suggesting something more – that it isn’t fundamentally incoherent. (But then, sometimes, she seems to be saying it isn’t if you just slide on the surface of it, which is closer to what she seemed to be arguing originally. It’s all very muddled.)

  623. #623 articulett
    January 25, 2010

    It’s weird to me and, I’m sure, to others, that Scott, Heddle, Ken Miller, Francis Collins, etc. understand science –or seem to… and yet they hold beliefs about invisible forms of consciousness (beings that do that think, feel, remember, have volition, etc.) that have no measurable input or processing devices–in fact, these beings (triune gods, souls, angels, demons, etc.) have NO MEASURABLE PROPERTIES AT ALL; they are indistinguishable from non-existent and/or imaginary versions of themselves.

    And yet these people believe in some such beings. And we would like to know how they reconcile their science with these supernatural beliefs. But they just get fuzzy in regards to exactly what they believe and the details are incoherent. They pull out the “Goldilocks universe” explanation, and they avoid the tough questions.

    And, as Sastra, intimates, they are probably doing this to maintain a degree of coherence in their head regarding their beliefs– because once they try to give voice to it, the incoherence becomes obvious–to others as well as themselves. They don’t want to think how the supernatural might interact with the natural or what it means to exist but have none of the properties associated with existence. They don’t want to explain how they or others would come to know of such undetectable things.

    And I think they do this for the same reasons many of us did this. It takes time to allow oneself to understand the implications of “no supernatural”. And some people would just rather believe in supernatural then accept the fact that the supernatural things they believe in are no more supported by evidence than the supernatural things they dismiss. People are very good at seeing how others are fooled, but it takes them a long time to admit that they may have been similarly fooled.

    Accommodationism just drags on the process and keeps people from growing up and understanding the many fascinating things we humans are discovering about ourselves and our universe.

  624. #624 Feynmaniac
    January 25, 2010

    tm,

    Just how exactly does the concept of the supernatural lead to a contradiction?

  625. #625 windy
    January 25, 2010

    Perhaps we’re working from different meanings of the term “incoherent.”

    Or different meanings of the term “disembodied”. At least, you haven’t explained yours. I think TM and SC are interpreting it as having no physical existence – that’s what makes it incoherent. If it’s “disembodied” like a Star Trek-type energy being or an ectoplasmic ghost, it could be considered logically possible.

  626. #626 Miki Z
    January 25, 2010

    I’ll throw in one suggestion on coherence vs. incoherence, using truth machine’s example of a planar map requiring more than four colors:

    I agree that this is incoherent, provided that you have a large enough perception to be sure that it is really a planar map and not just a graph embedding into a smooth manifold. If it is just a smooth manifold, you might discover yourself needing seven colors, as in the case of a torus.

    Education is the solution here. If people believe that they live on a donut, you’ll never convince them that they only need four colors without first convincing them that they live on a sphere (topologically speaking). Their misapprehension of reality renders coherent something that is incoherent to empirical observation.

  627. #627 truth machine, OM
    January 25, 2010

    But wouldn’t identifying a category mistake depend on a prior analysis of the facts?

    Category mistakes are semantic errors. Ryle’s original example was about seeking among the colleges of Oxford for the University — but the university and the colleges are in different categories. This is about what “university” and “college” mean, not about empirical facts.

    Substance dualism is a different sort of mistake than a “married bachelor” or a “square circle.” It’s an error — a confusion — that starts at the level of intuition.

    False dichotomy — mistakes can be of more than one sort simultaneously. Those two mistakes, along with “there is a planar map that requires more than four colors” and “there is a largest prime” all entail logical errors, but some are easier to discern than others.

  628. #628 truth machine, OM
    January 25, 2010

    You’re just throwing around words now. How is that possible?

    Indeed she is, and that’s the question.

    ‘It would “look” invisible, presumably.’

    I really hope that was a joke.

    I fear it’s not — Sastra actually seems not to have understood that I used “look” as a verb.

    But no, she’s suggesting something more – that it isn’t fundamentally incoherent.

    Indeed, she is claiming that it could have turned out that way had the evidence been different. That not only can one imagine drifting out of one’s body and looking back down on it, of having or being a “disembodied conscious-self”, but that it could have been the case if our skulls had turned out to be empty, among other things. However, this would require a “disembodied conscious-self” to have a location, a means of propulsion, and to do cognitive processing of photons that bounce off one’s body — all while being non-physical. I say that this is a category mistake — these aren’t the sorts of properties that non-physical “mental substance” can have.

    It’s all very muddled.

    Yes.

  629. #629 Owlmirror
    January 25, 2010

    Is the word “disembodied” itself necessarily incoherent?

    I have a certain sympathy for what I think Sastra might be trying to articulate, because I’ve personally had weird lucid dreams and sleep paralysis, and because of reading about weird neurological effects and brain states.

    If someone was sufficiently naïve and/or uneducated; not really even aware that the brain was what processed sensory input and could be fooled, would it not make “sense” to them that dualism might be true; that there was a soul that was distinct from the body?

    Thomas Willis, and other early brain anatomists, probably should have figured out, from their analyses of the brain and body, that there was something wrong with dualism. Yet the fact remains that so far as we know, as Sastra mentions above, most remained remained devout believers in some sort of disembodied soul.

    The discussion of bodies with empty heads reminded me of this (which did retain a fragment of brainstem, so it’s not quite there):

    http://enwp.org/Mike_the_Headless_Chicken

  630. #630 truth machine, OM
    January 25, 2010

    I agree that this is incoherent, provided that you have a large enough perception to be sure that it is really a planar map and not just a graph embedding into a smooth manifold.

    Sorry, but I referred explicitly to planar maps — the whole set of them; there is no “it”.

  631. #631 Owlmirror
    January 26, 2010

    However, this would require a “disembodied conscious-self” to have a location, a means of propulsion, and to do cognitive processing of photons that bounce off one’s body — all while being non-physical. I say that this is a category mistake — these aren’t the sorts of properties that non-physical “mental substance” can have.

    Or, as I understand metaphysical naturalism, if there were some mental substance that could interact with the physical world in a meaningful way (as usually posited by dualists), it would be physical, in some sense.

    I think “dualism” may very well be incoherent.

  632. #632 truth machine, OM
    January 26, 2010

    would it not make “sense” to them that dualism might be true

    Again, for something to be incoherent does not mean that it is meaningless or makes no sense — “the largest prime” makes sense but is an impossibility; likewise with “omniscient omnipotent entity” (which must have the power to falsify what it knows).

  633. #633 Miki Z
    January 26, 2010

    Sorry, but I referred explicitly to planar maps — the whole set of them; there is no “it”.

    3. A planar map that requires more than four colors to avoid two bordering areas of the same color.

    from post 502.

    The same with a planar map that requires more than four colors.

    from post 611.

    In fact, the first occurrence of “planar maps” appears in post 630.

    Planar map does mean that a planar embedding into a sphere is possible, but if someone cannot distinguish between a sphere and a torus, they can find a “planar” map which will require more than four colors. To them, this will be indistinguishable from you being wrong, and appeals to the definition of ‘planar’ will be entirely unconvincing in the face of their more fundamental error.

  634. #634 truth machine, OM
    January 26, 2010

    Or, as I understand metaphysical naturalism, if there were some mental substance that could interact with the physical world in a meaningful way (as usually posited by dualists), it would be physical, in some sense.

    Yes. Which gets to the answer to Feynmaniac’s question, that I’ve answered previously — “Just how exactly does the concept of the supernatural lead to a contradiction?” When you carefully examine the concepts of “natural”, “physical”, “causal”, “real”, “exists” (in the real world, not just set inclusion as in “there exists a least prime”), they are all coextensive. If anything labeled “supernatural” turns out to exist, then it is natural, physical, causal, and real.

  635. #635 truth machine, OM
    January 26, 2010

    In fact, the first occurrence of “planar maps” appears in post 630.

    The “a” in “a planar map” is an indefinite article; as I said, it refers to the whole set, as in “for any m, where m is a planar map, …”.

    if someone cannot distinguish between a sphere and a torus, they can find a “planar” map which will require more than four colors.

    Whatever “planar” map they find, they will not find a planar map that requires more than four colors. We know this because there’s a deductive proof.

  636. #636 Owlmirror
    January 26, 2010

    Again, for something to be incoherent does not mean that it is meaningless or makes no sense — [...] likewise with “omniscient omnipotent entity” (which must have the power to falsify what it knows).

    Sometimes, in order to address the above paradox, I make the effort to qualify “omniscient and omnipotent” as being shorthand for “the maximum levels of knowledge and power that are not logically contradictory”.

    I am not sure that that works either, but I think it at least tries to acknowledge that “all” or “omni-” can be used very sloppily in natural language, which may in turn spill over into problems with overly-simplified logical propositions.

  637. #637 truth machine, OM
    January 26, 2010

    Sometimes, in order to address the above paradox, I make the effort to qualify “omniscient and omnipotent” as being shorthand for “the maximum levels of knowledge and power that are not logically contradictory”.

    That would be satisfied by a God that can do just about anything but doesn’t know squat, or who knows everything but can’t do squat. You can’t maximize both variables simultaneously.

  638. #638 Miki Z
    January 26, 2010

    truth machine,

    Are Lychrel numbers coherent or incoherent? What about even integers larger than 2 which are not the sum of two primes?

    Can an increase in knowledge move things from the realm of the coherent to the incoherent (or vice versa), or are there things which are neither coherent nor incoherent? Can anything be probabilistically coherent in your system?

  639. #639 Owlmirror
    January 26, 2010

    but if someone cannot distinguish between a sphere and a torus, they can find a “planar” map which will require more than four colors.

    If someone cannot distinguish between a sphere and a torus, then they have bigger problems than allocating the budget for the number of crayons they need to color their maps.

    Clearly, they have a hole in their mind.

  640. #640 Miki Z
    January 26, 2010

    If someone cannot distinguish between a sphere and a torus, then they have bigger problems than allocating the budget for the number of crayons they need to color their maps.

    Clearly, they have a hole in their mind.

    Or a blind spot in their “intelligently designed” eye.

  641. #641 truth machine, OM
    January 26, 2010

    Are Lychrel numbers coherent or incoherent? What about even integers larger than 2 which are not the sum of two primes?

    Since the sense of “coherent” I am using — and that is relevant to this discussion — is “logically possible”, we don’t know yet. Whether something is coherent or incoherent is something that must be discerned — like with the set of all sets that do not contain themselves, which at first blush seems coherent.

    Can an increase in knowledge move things from the realm of the coherent to the incoherent (or vice versa)

    “things” don’t move, our judgments about them do, and those judgments of course depend on knowledge.

    or are there things which are neither coherent nor incoherent?

    “coherent” and “incoherent” as I’m using them applies to propositions or descriptions — there are certainly things that aren’t either of those.

    Can anything be probabilistically coherent in your system?

    I suppose that one could make a Bayesian assessment of whether, for instance, there are any Lychrel numbers, if that’s what you mean. Otherwise, I don’t know what you mean.

  642. #642 Owlmirror
    January 26, 2010

    That would be satisfied by a God that can do just about anything but doesn’t know squat, or who knows everything but can’t do squat. You can’t maximize both variables simultaneously.

    They can’t both equal infinity simultaneously, but why can’t there be a curve of non-infinite but arbitrarily large values for both, where each tends towards zero while the other tends towards infinity?

    Basically some sort of rectangular hyperbola, I think.

  643. #643 truth machine, OM
    January 26, 2010

    why can’t there be a curve of non-infinite but arbitrarily large values for both, where each tends towards zero while the other tends towards infinity?

    There can, but that leaves us not knowing wtf the religionists are claiming.

  644. #644 Paul W.
    January 26, 2010

    Sastra & TM,

    And I’ve noted that “disembodied mind” is only logically impossible given the facts of the matter.

    You seem to have no idea what “logically impossible” means. That which is impossible because of the facts of the matter is contingently or nomically impossible, not logically impossible.

    I think “logically impossible” is a trickier idea than you’re acknowledging, in light of mid/late 20th century philosophy of language. (Especially Saul Kripke & Hilary Putnam.)

    Consider the Morning Star and the Evening Star, which turn out to both be the same object, the planet Venus. That’s just what they are, so any correct definition would say that.

    We can say that it is logically impossible that something is true of the Morning Star but false of the Evening Star, because if you actually know what those things are, you know they’re the same object, and any claim like that is incoherent.

    But what if you don’t know that they’re the same object? What if nobody knows that they’re the same object, yet? (Imagine some time in the distant past where they didn’t.)

    You could say—and it sounds like this is what TM would say—that even then, it was logically impossible that something be true of the Morning Star but false of the Evening Star, because they are by definition the same object, even if nobody knows the definition yet.

    Confusingly enough, I think that’s quite right in an important and deep sense. The problem is exactly that people did not have proper definitions of the morning & evening stars. What they had was incomplete descriptions, but not real unambiguous definitions, with necessary and sufficient conditions. They literally didn’t know what they were talking about, so they didn’t notice that what they were saying was logically impossible.

    (Does that sound about right, TM?)

    Even if we use “logically impossible” in that harsh way, holding people responsible for definitions that they don’t and maybe can’t know yet, we can’t necessarily say that their beliefs are incoherent.

    So, for example, suppose one of those Venus-ignorant people thinks that the Morning Star spins but the Evening Star doesn’t.

    That’s “logically impossible,” given the (unknown) definitions of things, but it is not incoherent. It’s just empirically wrong.

    That is, there are imaginable, consistent states of affairs under which the claim could be true—where the two “stars” are different objects, and one spins but the other doesn’t.

    To most people, it seems natural to equate that logical coherency with logical possibility, and say that it is (or was) “logically possible” that one spins but the other doesn’t, but it turned out not to be true.

    If I recall my Phil. of Lang. terminology correctly (and I may not)…

    what we have here is a case of “a posteriori analytic” knowledge.

    It is analytic because the truth or falsity can be determined by logical analysis of the definitions of the terms. (Like a bachelor being unmarried, by definition.)

    On the other hand, it’s “a posteriori” because the proper definitions of the terms depend on empirical knowledge.

    (E.g., what the Morning and Evening Star actually are. The Morning Star and Evening Star are necessarily Venus, because that’s what the word always referred to, even if people didn’t understand what they were looking at. Nothing could be either of those things without being the other. You could imagine a different world in which there were Morning and Evening stars that were distinct objects, but then they would be THE Morning and Evening stars that our words have always referred to, whether we knew it or not. Weird, huh?)

    I think some of the confusion about whether something is “logically possible,” like Sastra’s potato head example, hinges on that subtlety.

    If we use the term “logically possible” as above, (such that it’s not logically possible that one star spins and the other doesn’t), then it is also not logically possible that a potatohead could think, unless it’s somehow connected to something computer-like that does thinking.

    However, if you don’t know what thinking is, and do think there’s some mysterious soul thing that does the thinking, that’s not necessarily incoherent, even if it is in fact “logically impossible” given what minds and thinking actually are. (Sastra, is that part of what you’ve been getting at?)

    Again we’d have a case where the proper definitions of terms (like “think”) is not known, so that while we might say it’s actually logically impossible, it’s not necessarily incoherent to believe it. It’s just empirically false.

    I think it’s pretty understandable if people get confused about this. Philosophers were confused about it for thousands of years, even Kant, and it’s still kinda confusing when you don’t make clear which empirical facts are to be considered necessary parts of a definition, and which are considered contingent.

    Unfortunately that happens a lot when discussing science, because most of our terms refer to things in the world, which we often don’t understand well enough to accurately describe in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions for membership in a category.

    Consider the term “photon.” The best scientific “definitions” of “photon” in the 19th century the century turned out to be wrong in the early 20th.

    However, we didn’t stick to definitions. We didn’t say that those things we’d been calling photons turned out not to be photons, because photons were by definition simply particles. Instead we changed the “definition.” That’s because we generally don’t use real definitions with necessary and sufficient conditions. We just use partial descriptions (which may even be partly wrong) to refer to real things in the world, and assume that we’ll find out what they a really are later.

  645. #645 Sastra
    January 26, 2010

    Paul W #644 wrote:

    What they had was incomplete descriptions, but not real unambiguous definitions, with necessary and sufficient conditions. They literally didn’t know what they were talking about, so they didn’t notice that what they were saying was logically impossible.

    I would agree: without the knowledge that mind is an activity, and not a thing, conceiving of mind as some kind of special mental ‘substance’ would seem reasonable. It’s a reified abstraction and a logical contradiction, but not an apparent one.

    what we have here is a case of “a posteriori analytic” knowledge.
    It is analytic because the truth or falsity can be determined by logical analysis of the definitions of the terms. (Like a bachelor being unmarried, by definition.)
    On the other hand, it’s “a posteriori” because the proper definitions of the terms depend on empirical knowledge.

    Yes; this is part of the point I was trying to get across.

    However, if you don’t know what thinking is, and do think there’s some mysterious soul thing that does the thinking, that’s not necessarily incoherent, even if it is in fact “logically impossible” given what minds and thinking actually are. (Sastra, is that part of what you’ve been getting at?)

    Yes.
    I’ve also been trying to describe the clash between the top-down approach of sloppy intuitions, and the bottom-up approach of analytical science, in understanding and describing the relationship between mind and brain — the “soul thing,” or ghost in the machine. Supernaturalists are reifying abstractions, and treating them as if they were concrete objects. Because this approach involves top-down thinking, they don’t think it needs any reductive analysis.

    This is the whole “we get love from a Love force, we get reason from a Reason source, we get life from a Life force, we get morals from a moral source, and we get Mind from Mind” level of explanation you get with religious thought. There’s no real analysis; things just are, what they are, as irreducible essences. The ideas weren’t built by cranes, so asking how a ‘disembodied mind’ works, or how it interacts, or what it’s made of, or any reasonable question you’d ask of a phenomenon you’re trying to understand just isn’t supposed to be relevant. You understand it through experience — not reason.

    And then they bring in all the analogies. Spirit? It’s like light. It’s like air. It’s a kind of energy. But it’s non-physical. Conceptual mess, but only when you examine it clearly. They don’t. It feels like your thoughts are things that make your body move by their intentions. Full stop. You don’t look for the foundations of a sky-hook.

    This is why science is so devastating for religion. It’s not just what we’ve found out about how complicated things like minds and morals and emotions and brains and bodies grew up from things that were not complicated, and not “mind-like.” You can’t get away with “essences.” It’s the entire cranes-on-cranes approach to understanding, and the rejection of egocentrism.

    As for whether there could have been — or be — good evidence for mind-body substance dualism, I still think there could be, in the sense that we could have found out that the Morning Star and the Evening Star were different stars, if they really were. If things were different, then they would have been different.

  646. #646 Paul W.
    January 26, 2010

    TM,

    God supernaturally made the donkey talk

    An incoherent, nonsensical proposition — there are no supernatural causes, its an oxymoron.

    No, it isn’t. You can make sense of the concept of the supernatural, even if it doesn’t exist.

    You seem to be assuming that the “supernatural” is by definition not “natural” in the sense of being the kind thing science can study.

    That’s just not true. The popular conception of the supernatural was around for thousands of years before the scientific definition of “natural” was thought up.

    Even now, the somewhat different popular conception of the supernatural does not respect the same natural/nonnatural distinction as we commonly talk about when discussing the scope of science.

    You seem to be arguing a fallacy of four terms, dependent on running together two quite different sense of the word “natural.”

    That’s a very bad move, IMHO. It’s a move that the accommodationists want us to make, to claim that the supernatural intrinsically unfalsifiable and is therefore beyond the reach of science, so that religion can be about the supernatural and science has nothing to say about it. Of course that actually makes no sense anyway, but it’s a handy trope for them.

    More importantly, it’s just not true. The natural/supernatural distinction has always been about a very different concept of “natural” than any modern concept of what science can study empirically. (Except in certain kinds of apologetics and simplistic philosophy.)

    There are several related senses of the word “natural” even in modern scientific parlance.

    For example, if I’m running a genetic algorithm and letting it run without interference, I can talk about how a certain phenomenon emerges “naturally” from the regular operation of the algorithm. If I interfere with the simulation, by hand-tweaking a genome and seeing what happens, I’m intervening, and the results aren’t a natural consequence of the basic setup.

    (I have sometimes used the term “natural” in exactly that way in refereed scientific papers, and nobody has ever batted an eye. It’s just obvious what it means, and that it’s a valid distinction, in context.)

    That illustrates an important thing about the word natural—it’s really not making a particular distinction, but a kind of distinction.

    In general “natural” implies some normal situation with normal things and normal processes going on, which is not interfered with by something from outside or “above.” (Or just a qualitatively different category of thing that we can usually ignore in that context, either because it doesn’t interfere, or because it does it in such a regular and consistent way in that kind of context that it’s qualitative weirdness that matters in other contexts isn’t an issue.)

    Consider the distinction between natural and artificial. It’s the same kind of distinction. We can study artificial compounds that are not “natural”—they don’t occur in “nature”—using the methods of natural science, because the for the latter purpose, substances that are “not natural” are natural in the relevant sense.

    The concept of the supernatural is similar. It’s assumed that there is a normal category of “natural” stuff, plus a special category of “supernatural” stuff that works by qualitatively different rules.

    There is no assumption that the supernatural isn’t more or less lawful, or that it doesn’t interact with the natural—in fact, it generally is assumed to be fairly lawful and is assumed to have observable effects in the normal “natural” world, which is what makes it interesting to people who believe in it. (Or even to people who don’t, in fiction.)

    Supernatural entities and events are generally qualitatively distinct from “natural” ones in that they do generally involve certain kinds of fundamental category mistakes, but those category mistakes are not generally due to simple conflicting definitions that we know about without doing science.

    Science-ignorant people have always been (and still are) dualists. Dualism is not intrinsically incoherent, at least not in any obvious way, as long as you don’t conflate different senses of “natural”.

    (Actually, the ancients were often not just dualists, but triplists or quadruplists, believing in several qualitatively different but fairly internally coherent sets of phenomena—e.g., brute matter common to living and nonliving things, a life force common to living things, a kind of animal spirit common to to all animals including humans, and an additional distinctively human spirit. Typically those things were arranged in a a more or less hierarchical way, with the vital essence being able to override the properties of dumb matter to some extent, the animal spirit being able to override that in basic volitional ways, and the human spirit being able to override that with distinctively human control over an underlying animal nature. I’ll mostly ignore that complexity.)

    There’s nothing trivially contradictory here; it’s just empirically wrong. Living things turn out to be made out of the same stuff as nonliving things, animals turn out to be made out of that, too, with no extra soul-thing, and humans are just animals organized a bit differently.

    If we get all harsh about what’s “logically possible,” we can say that it’s logically impossible for these supposed spirits or essences to do their jobs.

    For example, it turns out that being “alive” just isn’t a matter of being infused with special stuff—it’s a matter of functional organization of brute matter, and there’s nothing left for a “vital essence” to do. In light of what life really is—any true definition rather than an inaccurate description, it’s logically impossible. It’s a category mistake, but we only know that empirically, now that we have a much clearer idea of what life actually is.

    Likewise, I think that in your sense (if I understand it) it’s logically impossible for there to be a human soul that’s distinct from the functioning of the brain (and is the thing that does the thinking and/or feeling and the being-you thing). The brain does all that, and now that we know that’s what it means to think and feel and be you, a dualistic soul would be useless; it wouldn’t have a job to do, and it wouldn’t matter if you had one. Since that’s clearly not what a soul was supposed to be, souls evidently do not exist.

    But again that’s not a matter of simple a priori definitions and incoherence between them. The big conflict a matter of incoherence between prescientific a priori assumptions and a posteriori scientific facts.

    It’s science that tells us we don’t have souls, not simple philosophy.

    That doesn’t mean that dualism and supernaturalism weren’t philosophically problematic before modern science told us they were wrong. Certainly specific ideas were often pretty clearly bogus because they didn’t really explain anything, and just put issues off a step. Also, various specific dualist/supernaturalist concepts contradicted each other, or with empirical facts. (E.g., basic confusions about free will.)

    I don’t think that means that dualism or supernaturalism generally was demonstrably wrong due to a conflict between basic a priori definitions, at least not in any simple way. (Hard to do, because it’s a vague general framework.) It’s at least much simpler to show that they’re wrong in light of more complete and correct a posteriori definitions.

    (Sastra, is this pretty much what you were getting at?)

  647. #647 truth machine, OM
    January 26, 2010

    Snore. You two continue to attack strawmen and to ignore what I previously wrote. Enjoy.

  648. #648 truth machine, OM
    January 26, 2010

    It’s science that tells us we don’t have souls, not simple philosophy.

    That doesn’t mean that dualism and supernaturalism weren’t philosophically problematic before modern science told us they were wrong. Certainly specific ideas were often pretty clearly bogus because they didn’t really explain anything, and just put issues off a step. Also, various specific dualist/supernaturalist concepts contradicted each other, or with empirical facts. (E.g., basic confusions about free will.)

    This is so confused. Science does not and cannot tell us that we don’t have souls. What science can do is to get us thinking in ways that allow us to realize the fundamental mistakes in certain notions — philosophical mistakes. But science isn’t necessary for that; contradictory concepts are contradictory regardless of empirical discovery. When Descartes proposed that mind and matter where different substances, some philosophers pointed out that this was incoherent because it demanded that non-physical stuff directs physical stuff and receives information from physical stuff but a boundary between the two where such an exchange can occur is inconceivable — the notion can only be entertained by ignoring the problem of interaction. Descartes responded, but his response was such nonsensical gobbledegook that he is rarely credited with it.

  649. #649 truth machine, OM
    January 26, 2010

    It’s science that tells us we don’t have souls, not simple philosophy.

    That doesn’t mean that dualism and supernaturalism weren’t philosophically problematic before modern science told us they were wrong. Certainly specific ideas were often pretty clearly bogus because they didn’t really explain anything, and just put issues off a step. Also, various specific dualist/supernaturalist concepts contradicted each other, or with empirical facts. (E.g., basic confusions about free will.)

    This is so confused. Science does not and cannot tell us that we don’t have souls. What science can do is to get us thinking in ways that allow us to realize the fundamental mistakes in certain notions — philosophical mistakes. But science isn’t necessary for that; contradictory concepts are contradictory regardless of empirical discovery. When Descartes proposed that mind and matter where different substances, some philosophers pointed out that this was incoherent because it demanded that non-physical stuff directs physical stuff and receives information from physical stuff but a boundary between the two where such an exchange can occur is inconceivable — the notion can only be entertained by ignoring the problem of interaction. Descartes responded, but his response was such nonsensical gobbledegook that he is rarely credited with it.

  650. #650 Sastra
    January 26, 2010

    Paul W. #646 wrote:

    (Sastra, is this pretty much what you were getting at?)

    Yes, but it doesn’t appear to be what poor truth machine was addressing.

    I’ll try to go back some time and see if I can figure out what I’m missing, or not getting. TM has been very patient.

  651. #651 truth machine, OM
    January 26, 2010

    You could say—and it sounds like this is what TM would say—that even then, it was logically impossible that something be true of the Morning Star but false of the Evening Star, because they are by definition the same object, even if nobody knows the definition yet.

    Sigh. Definitions are conventions, not intrinsic properties — it’s meanigly gobbledegook to say that two things are the same “by definition” but “nobody knows the definition yet”.

    It would only be logically impossible for something to be true of “the Morning Star” while false of “the Evening Star” if those two terms are designated as having the same referent, not merely because they have the same referent contingently.

    Kripke and Putnam aren’t isn’t the final word on these matters, but you don’t even have them right; you certainly have no clue what I would say about various things.

  652. #652 truth machine, OM
    January 26, 2010

    It’s at least much simpler to show that they’re wrong in light of more complete and correct a posteriori definitions.

    But this is all that matters. When we say that nice people aren’t necessarily stupid, we are using those words according to what they mean today, not according to what they meant back when “nice” meant “stupid”. When I wrote #433, I wrote it in the modern day, in response to someone writing in the modern day. When I said that Sastra’s #438 is ontologically muddled, I was referring to a post made in the modern day, using language and concepts of the modern day. (Not that I think that going back to previous ages with more vagueness and less knowledge would make it any less muddled, but it’s silly to use this a posteriori notion as a dodge.)

  653. #653 Sastra
    January 26, 2010

    truth machine #649 wrote:

    When Descartes proposed that mind and matter where different substances, some philosophers pointed out that this was incoherent because it demanded that non-physical stuff directs physical stuff and receives information from physical stuff but a boundary between the two where such an exchange can occur is inconceivable — the notion can only be entertained by ignoring the problem of interaction.

    The “problem of interaction” is only a problem from the bottom-up perspective of science (and philosophy), which try to reduce, analyze, and explain.

    Top-down systems of thought, which rely on folk physics and folk psychology, simply take note. They observe, and record, and accept. It’s all very intuitive.

    Instead of proposing the pineal gland as part of the solution, Descartes could have resorted to either “I don’t know” — or the less honest and more vacuuous “It just does — non-physical stuff can exercise force on physical stuff because it’s ‘A Force.’” Or maybe, THE Force. Done.

    Not just wrong, but sloppy wrong — and in a system which considers sloppiness a kind of virtue.

  654. #654 truth machine, OM
    January 26, 2010

    You seem to be assuming that the “supernatural” is by definition not “natural” in the sense of being the kind thing science can study.

    You make a lot of wrong and foolish claims about what I “seem” to be doing. As I have said before, “natural” is what is real, causal, existent, physical … what science can study is a different issue.

    That’s just not true. The popular conception of the supernatural was around for thousands of years before the scientific definition of “natural” was thought up.

    Sigh. From http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=supernatural

    supernatural (adj.) Look up supernatural at Dictionary.com
    mid-15c. (implied in supernaturally), “above nature, transcending nature, belonging to a higher realm,” from M.L. supernaturalis “above or beyond nature,” from L. super “above” (see super-) + natura “nature” (see nature). Originally with more of a religious sense; association with ghosts, etc., has predominated since c.1799. The noun is attested from 1580s.

    “above nature, transcending nature, belonging to a higher realm” — this is an incoherent concept from its inception … “Originally with more of a religious sense” — rooted in religous notions of ontology.

  655. #655 truth machine, OM
    January 26, 2010

    The “problem of interaction” is only a problem from the bottom-up perspective of science (and philosophy), which try to reduce, analyze, and explain.

    Top-down systems of thought, which rely on folk physics and folk psychology, simply take note. They observe, and record, and accept. It’s all very intuitive.

    Yes, if you’re just willing to blather stupidly, then anything can be accepted. It’s only a problem if you try to be accurate.

    Sigh.

    Instead of proposing the pineal gland as part of the solution,

    That’s not the response I was referring to.

    Descartes could have resorted to either “I don’t know” — or the less honest and more vacuuous “It just does — non-physical stuff can exercise force on physical stuff because it’s ‘A Force.’” Or maybe, THE Force. Done.

    Less honest and more vacuous just like your posts throughout this thread.

    Feh.

  656. #656 Sastra
    January 26, 2010

    What about this:

    There is only Nature. Nature is what is real, causal, existent, and physical. It is composed of two parts:

    1.) Lower Nature — the material, inanimate objects
    2.) Higher (Super) Nature — minds, values, and their forces (souls and spirit)

    The essences in the spirit-world of Higher Nature are real, causal, existent, and of a very fine, rarified, different type of ‘physical’ stuff.

    Higher Nature is, of course, a category error based on combining an intuitive folk psychology with ignorance of how “Lower Nature” works.

    Is this less incoherent — and more wrong?

  657. #657 truth machine, OM
    January 26, 2010

    Finally, I will go back the the original statement that I said was incoherent, Heddle’s “God supernaturally made the donkey talk”. What does “supernaturally” mean in that sentence? If it means “non-causally”, then there’s a simple contradiction with “made”. If it means “non-physically”, then there’s a less simple contradiction — “the physical” is causally closed. Just because it sounds like it says something, and just because people think that they “understand” what is being said, does not mean that there’s anything coherent being said.

    Saying that people who talk like this “observe, and record” is stupid and wrong. Saying that “it’s all very intuitive” suggests the worthlessness and wrongheadeness of their intuitions. Saying that it’s “sloppy wrong” is correct, but that’s been my point all along.

  658. #658 truth machine, OM
    January 26, 2010

    Higher Nature is, of course, a category error based on combining an intuitive folk psychology with ignorance of how “Lower Nature” works.

    Again, category errors are semantic errors.

    The problem with your division is that it’s completely arbitrary and baseless — a mere language game; “very fine, rarified” — what’s that, less dense?

    Descartes made a division based on properties; e.g., physical things like bodies have extension through space whereas mental things like the will do not. The problem with that is that it cannot be made to logically cohere — no workable description of the interaction between the two sorts of things can be given; it’s inconceivable.

  659. #659 Sastra
    January 26, 2010

    “God supernaturally made the donkey talk”.

    God made the donkey talk through hitting the donkey with his Intention-Energy. It changes not only the shape, but the nature of objects, as easily as your thoughts can change the ideas in your imagination.

    It’s not just physical — it’s SUPER physical!!!

  660. #660 truth machine, OM
    January 26, 2010

    God made the donkey talk through hitting the donkey with his Intention-Energy.

    And what makes “Intention-Energy” — whatever that is — supernatural? If it’s supernatural, how does it “hit” something?

    Also, what makes this “Intention-Energy” “his”? What is the relationship between the two? Why isn’t there just “Intention-Energy” — what need is there of the “God” hypothesis?

    It changes not only the shape, but the nature of objects, as easily as your thoughts can change the ideas in your imagination.

    This is a different subject, but you’re confused about the causal effects of thoughts and the contents of consciousness. You might as well say “as easily as your thoughts can change the thoughts among your thoughts”.

    You say “it changes …” … why can’t we just say that the nature of objects changes spontaneously; couldn’t the donkey have just started talking as a raw fact? What’s the distinction between that and this imagined “Intention-Energy” “hitting” the donkey with the result that the donkey starts talking?

    It’s not just physical — it’s SUPER physical!!!

    In what way is it not physical? What distinguishes the two, other than ad hoc labeling?

    Do you suppose that dark matter, dark energy, the Everett’s multiple worlds other than this one, Lisa Randall’s rolled up universes are supernatural or super physical or should be referred to in that way? Can you discern the difference between those things and what people do in fact label “supernatural”? Can you discern the difference between the sorts of causal models that scientists develop and “God supernaturally made the donkey talk”?

    We could go on about this for several more days, but I really don’t have the time.

  661. #661 truth machine, OM
    January 26, 2010

    A comment about why this thread is so frustrating and why SC called Sastra’s position a muddle:

    I would agree: without the knowledge that mind is an activity, and not a thing, conceiving of mind as some kind of special mental ‘substance’ would seem reasonable. It’s a reified abstraction and a logical contradiction, but not an apparent one.

    The question has never been whether the contradiction is apparent, but whether there is one. My position is that there is.

    I’ve also been trying to describe the clash between the top-down approach of sloppy intuitions, and the bottom-up approach of analytical science, in understanding and describing the relationship between mind and brain — the “soul thing,” or ghost in the machine. Supernaturalists are reifying abstractions, and treating them as if they were concrete objects. Because this approach involves top-down thinking, they don’t think it needs any reductive analysis.

    There has never been any question of whether people employ sloppy intuitions, reify abstractions and treat them as if they were concrete objects, or don’t think it needs reductive analysis — these simply aren’t points of dispute; they are strawmen, and they are a deflection from the error that you — not supernaturalists — make — the claim that the supernaturalists could have been right if only the evidence had been different. My objection is to the nonsense in #438, where you say that

    you’re leaving out the possibility that the proper explanation is that the phenomenon was indeed supernatural. “Supernatural” is not necessarily a place-holder term for ignorance.

    and

    You now have several options:

    1.) Say that science has confirmed the existence of a supernatural force.

    2.) Say that what was once thought to be a supernatural force is really a natural force, because science is able to test it.

    3.) Insist that there must be a perfectly natural explanation, and until there is, all science can say is “unknown.”

    Given the strength and extreme nature of the evidence here, I would say that #3 is a bit of a cop-out. The scientific conclusion can only be agnostic in the sense that all scientific conclusions are provisional.

    The second response is an empty response. Before it was tested, this was considered a supernatural force. It turns out to be real. So now it’s re-labeled a ‘natural’ force.

    Big whoopty-do. The term is insignificant. Changing it does nothing but make the scientists look like they’re saving face.

    That’s stupid. Scientists never label anything a “supernatural force” in the first place, so they aren’t “re-labeling” anything or saving face. You’re an equivocator — you say “what was once thought to be a supernatural force” — but it wasn’t thought that by scientists, certainly not the ones who, upon verifying it, call it a natural force. Science has come upon all sorts of bizarreness, like quantum entanglement and dark matter and dark energy, but they never call any of these things “supernatural”, and not because they are trying to save face.

  662. #662 truth machine, OM
    January 26, 2010

    More about #438:

    Imagine a situation where a holy man (or wizard) claims that he can move objects with his thoughts alone, raise the dead, and make donkeys talk — and do this under controlled conditions. He can, and does. Again and again, scientists try to discover trickery, or find physical explanations, and, again and again, they fail. It appears that this person can exercize his willpower as a kind of force, and make things happen simply through the power of his intentions.

    No competent scientist would conclude, from this evidence, that “willpower” is “a kind of force”, natural or not. The correct response is “we don’t know how to account for this evidence”. Science constructs causal models, and there simply isn’t enough information here to formulate or validate such a model.

  663. #663 A. Noyd
    January 26, 2010

    truth machine (#593)

    “justified” means “for good and appropriate reason”; it does not entail “objectively verified”.

    Thanks for unraveling that far better than I managed.

    (#643)

    There can, but that leaves us not knowing wtf the religionists are claiming.

    As if they do themselves? Isn’t that a huge part of the problem already? Hehe.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    articulette (#623)

    And, as Sastra, intimates, they are probably doing this to maintain a degree of coherence in their head regarding their beliefs…

    Hmm, is there a word for this superficial, fake sense of coherence? Anyone?

  664. #664 Sastra
    January 26, 2010

    truth machine OM #661 wrote:

    Science has come upon all sorts of bizarreness, like quantum entanglement and dark matter and dark energy, but they never call any of these things “supernatural”, and not because they are trying to save face.

    No, they don’t call them that because they don’t resemble anything supernatural. So far, none of the bizarreness has had anything mind-like about it, relating to humans and their desires, and giving us and our ‘consciousness’ a special place.

    If a scientist were to claim that his discoveries show that quantum entanglement means that “material existence is something that is solidified, if you will, by being observed by consciousness,” (actual quote from quantum woo-ist), then he’d likely be told by his peers that that’s a supernatural claim — or that’s woo — or that’s spiritual nonsense, etc.

    If he manages to make his case, they’d say they were mistaken two times over; change their views, and change the term. I am suggesting that they would only need to do the first.

  665. #665 John Morales
    January 26, 2010

    Paul W,

    Consider the term “photon.” The best scientific “definitions” of “photon” in the 19th century the century turned out to be wrong in the early 20th.

    Interesting point, but bad example.
    There was no term (or concept of the) photon prior to the 20th Century.
    As per Wikipedia:
    “[...] Later, in 1905 Albert Einstein went further by suggesting that EM waves could only exist in these discrete wave-packets. He called such a wave-packet the light quantum (German: das Lichtquant). The name photon derives from the Greek word for light, ??? (transliterated phôs), and was coined in 1926 by the physical chemist Gilbert Lewis.”

  666. #666 Sastra
    January 26, 2010

    A. Noyd #663 wrote:

    Hmm, is there a word for this superficial, fake sense of coherence? Anyone?

    Sure. “Holism.”

    :PPPPP

  667. #667 Paul W.
    January 26, 2010

    John,

    Crap. How about “electron,” before and after discovery that they too are not “really” particles, deep down, but wavicle things with particle-like manifestations. (I’m no physicist, so that might be wrong too.)

    I actually wrote about “electrons” first, changed it to photons because I thought it would be clearer. (More people know about wave/particle duality for photons.) I’d forgotten the history of the name “photon.” oops. My bad.

    Thanks for the correction.

  668. #668 John Morales
    January 26, 2010

    A. Noyd,

    Hmm, is there a word for this superficial, fake sense of coherence?

    Rationalisation, in one of its senses, comes close.

  669. #669 truth machine, OM
    January 26, 2010

    No, they don’t call them that because they don’t resemble anything supernatural. So far, none of the bizarreness has had anything mind-like about it, relating to humans and their desires, and giving us and our ‘consciousness’ a special place.

    You’re such a bullshitter. There’s nothing inherently “mind-like” in the meaning of supernatural — “not existing in nature or subject to explanation according to natural laws; not physical or material”. From you we have

    Here is a quick list of purported supernatural phenomeonon:

    disembodied souls, ghosts, ESP, psychokenesis, magical correspondences, vitalism, karma, prana, God, cosmic consciousness, mind as “energy force,” a universal tendency towards the harmonic balance of Good and Evil, progressive evolution towards Higher States, mind/body substance dualism, holistic nonmaterialistic monism.

    What do they have in common? Every single one of them involves minds or values.

    “values”? What sort of crap is that? How are vitalism, prana, or “a universal tendency towards the harmonic balance of Good and Evil” “mind-like”?

    Turn #463 back upon yourself.

  670. #670 Sastra
    January 26, 2010

    truth machine OM #669 wrote:

    There’s nothing inherently “mind-like” in the meaning of supernatural — “not existing in nature or subject to explanation according to natural laws; not physical or material”.

    The “in nature” and “out of nature” distinction isn’t really useful, and doesn’t track with use; I think the real crux of the distinction has to do with giving a special realm and powers to the mind.

    “values”? What sort of crap is that? How are vitalism, prana, or “a universal tendency towards the harmonic balance of Good and Evil” “mind-like”?

    Vitalism (or prana) have to do with the idea of an “animating force” which is special to life, giving it intention and purpose. Good and Evil are values. If the universe really did work so that doing an evil deed always resulted in a punishment, then the cosmos would be fundamentally moral.

    Can you give an example of something that people have called “supernatural” that wouldn’t fit the definition? I’d reconsider.

  671. #671 John Morales
    January 26, 2010

    Paul, electron has a similar problem, you probably should use ‘electricity’, which at one time was thought to be a fluid, but then was discovered to be quantised.

    [I note all matter exhibits particle-wave duality (cf. de Broglie).]

  672. #672 truth machine, OM
    January 26, 2010

    How about “electron,” before and after discovery that they too are not “really” particles, deep down, but wavicle things with particle-like manifestations. (I’m no physicist, so that might be wrong too.)

    It’s irrelevant. That our physical models were or are incomplete has no bearing on the logical possibility of souls. And that the terms “Morning Star” and “Evening Star” turned out to both refer to Venus was not a necessary truth; there are possible worlds in which all the same observation-statements involving “Morning Star” and “Evening Star” were made but it turned out that they did not refer to the same object. Another classic example is “the thief jumping over the fence is not my uncle” — this is not logically impossible just because it turns out that the thief jumping over the fence is my uncle.

  673. #673 John Morales
    January 26, 2010

    Sastra,

    Can you give an example of something that people have called “supernatural” that wouldn’t fit the definition? I’d reconsider.

    Easy. The magical law of contagion.

  674. #674 truth machine, OM
    January 26, 2010

    The “in nature” and “out of nature” distinction isn’t really useful, and doesn’t track with use

    That’s absurd bullshit.

    Vitalism (or prana) have to do with the idea of an “animating force” which is special to life, giving it intention and purpose.

    That’s ad hoc bullshit; an “animating force” does not entail intention or purpose.

    If the universe really did work so that doing an evil deed always resulted in a punishment, then the cosmos would be fundamentally moral.

    So what? The conception of karma is that the universe is “just”, but not that it is “mind-like”.

    I’d reconsider.

    No, you would just find a way to interpret it as “mind-like”. For instance, your “magical correspondences” include numerology and astrology, which are not “mind-like” but you would find some way to invoke it anyway.

  675. #675 Paul W.
    January 26, 2010

    TM may think I’m a moron, but I’m going to go n explaining for anybody who does care, like maybe Sastra…

    What science can do is to get us thinking in ways that allow us to realize the fundamental mistakes in certain notions — philosophical mistakes. But science isn’t necessary for that; contradictory concepts are contradictory regardless of empirical discovery.

    No. You really need to read up on the causal theory of reference and natural kind terms. You appear not to understand how meaning and reference work, and need to read some important post-1950 philosophy, like Kripke’s Naming and Necessity and Putnam’s “The Meaning of ‘Meaning’”.

    (I realize that Kripke and Putnam aren’t the last word, BTW. I just think they got some things basically right, even if they were simplistic about it.)

    Proper names (like “The Morning Star”) are typically not just disguised definite descriptions, as Russell thought. They are basically referential and heuristic—they’re partial descriptions assumed to pick out an actual thing, or (an actual kind of thing) in the real world.

    Meaning isn’t all in the head. Sometimes words mean things that the speaker does not or even cannot know, or even things that nobody yet knows.

    For example, suppose that I hand somebody who doesn’t know about atomic numbers a lump of gold, and I tell them it’s real gold. What does that mean to them? It doesn’t mean, in their heads, that I handed them a lump of an element with an atomic number of 79, which we now realize is what being gold is. (It turns out that something is gold if and only if it has an atomic number 79.)

    The person I’m speaking to doesn’t know what it really means for something to be gold, as I do. Most people don’t, and yet the word still refers to the same stuff, which they don’t know the definition of. They rightly assume that my statement has a definite meaning—that the stuff I handed them is real gold, whatever that really is, and whether or not either of us knows what the definition of gold is.

    For thousands of years, everybody was more or less unclear on the concept of gold, with ambiguous and incomplete “definitions” like “a rare heavy yellow metal.” (How heavy? Is it always yellow? What’s a metal, really, anyway, and is it always that? Is it an element, or can we make out of the right mix of Earth and Fire? Can we extract it from gypsum or wood if we find out how?)

    We were nowhere near having a real definition of gold, because we didn’t really know about elements, or whether gold was one, or if so, which one. (We didn’t even know if it was actually rare, or all around us in some hidden form.)

    And yet, for thousands of years, people correctly assumed that whatever gold really unambiguously is, there are some things that are really gold, and others that are really not.

    And they were right. It was a good guess.

    The meaning of the word “gold” hinged on the assumption of there being an empirical truth that that various samples of heavy yellow metals that people had encountered were the same stuff in some as-yet-unknown and perhaps never-to-known sense. (And not really all the samples, just most of them.)

    So the closest thing to a “definition” of gold was something bizarre like

    1. An apparently rare, usually heavy, usually yellow, usually “metallic” substance…

    2. that many people have encountered and agreed is the same stuff…

    3. assuming that they’re right and there is something we’d recognize as making it the same stuff, and agree on that criterion…

    4. if we knew enough about it…

    5. and which we have frequently referred to before as “gold”, assuming that’s mostly one kind of thing in some way that we could, in principle figure out…

    6. although we may not ever actually do so.

    This “definition” isn’t an logical definition at all, a priori. Not even close. There are no known necessary or sufficient conditions except that purported gold be the same stuff in some unknown sense as actual gold that people have actually encountered, and have several heuristics for identifying, none of which they entirely trust.

    What you have is not a definition, but a loose description of what would count as a real definition. (And that turned out to be element number 79.)

    Given that, there are were a lot of statements about gold that you couldn’t say were analytically true or false, or even coherent, without waiting for confirmed theory of what gold really is, that we could agree on.

    However, many of those statements were in fact meaningful, and we can now see not just what they mean, but whether they’re true.

    For example, if somebody said 600 years ago that “gold is a unique element,” that statement was meaningful, and it turns out to be true.

    In fact it’s an analytic statement, but nobody had an actual logical definition of gold, so they couldn’t do the logical analysis; they couldn’t even tell whether it was an analytic statement, because they not only didn’t know if gold was one element, and one element only, they didn’t yet know if that was exactly what it meant to be gold—they didn’t know that that was what most alleged gold would turn out to have in common, that actually made it seem like a particular kind of stuff.

    The statement that “gold is a compound of Earth and Fire,” on the other hand, was meaningful and turns out to be analytic—any true definition of gold will tell you it’s not a compound—and it’s false.

    Note that none of this is simply a matter of convention, like the a priori definition of ‘triangle.’ It all hinges on empirical facts about actual stuff in the real world.

    Some definitions are a priori, like triangle. They’re matters of convention. Others are not, like “gold.” It’s a natural kind, i.e., a category of real thing we’ve encountered in the real world, and have to learn the necessary and sufficient conditions of a posteriori, i.e., empirically.

    Sometimes this sort of thing doesn’t work right. The assumption that a term makes sense and denotes a particular thing (or kind of thing) doesn’t pan out.

    For example, for a very long time, people assumed that arthritis was a particular kind of disease, or at least, that most things people called arthritis were the same basic thing in some vague sense we would agree on, if we better understood what was really going on.

    Then they realized that some cases of “arthritis” seemed distinctively different from most cases of arthritis, so they guessed that they were something else, and they came up with different names for those things, like “bursitis,” without ever really understanding either in a deep enough way to make clear sense of the distinction.

    Later some of those distinctions panned out, but others didn’t.

    And then people realized that “arthritis” still referred to two basically different kinds of thing, both common, and both traditionally called arthritis. (Ostearthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.) It wasn’t clear what we should consider real arthritis vs. something different that only looks like real arthritis.

    Once we understood arthritis well enough, we realized that there was no clear winner—there was no one set of criteria that would keep both kinds and still rule out other things we’d decided were not arthritis. So we still call them both arthritis, but we distinguish them with adjectives to denote two different “natural kinds.”

    The assumption that there’s a real kind of thing in the world that we’re talking about sometimes just turns out to be wrong—once we understand the real facts, we realize that our assumptions were so wrong that our rough-and-ready categories were not even approximately right.

    So, for example, phlogiston was hypothesized to be some substance, produced by animals breathing and fires burning, that smothered both fires and living animals in sufficient concentrations. That was a vague description of a presumed natural kind, not an analytic definition. If we’d found not one thing like that, but two, both produced by animals and fires, but one only killing animals and the other only smothering fires, we’d have had to seriously re-think the name(s) and description(s) of our categories, to avoid an arthritis-like situation.

    But it was even worse than that. It turns out that what suffocates animals and smothers fires, which phlogiston was hypothesized to explain, isn’t a substance at all—it’s an absence of a substance, namely oxygen.

    Before we realized that, our “definition” of phlogiston would have been something like

    0. a substance
    1. that is a unique substance (one kind of thing)
    2. that’s emitted by breathing animals and burning fires, and
    3. somehow suffocates/smothers both animals and fires when too much of it accumulates

    This is so far removed from anything that we actually found that we didn’t just regard it as a somewhat incorrectly-defined category.

    In this case, we say that the term “phlogison” turned out not to refer to anything real. Phlogiston was supposed to be a natural kind of a certain general sort, a substance to be defined more precisely later, but the real phenomenon turned out not to involve a novel substance at all. Back to the drawing board.

    IMHO, that’s the basic thing that happened with the supernatural.

    Like “gold,” it was never a category with mostly necessary and sufficient (or strictly logical) conditions—there’s some wiggle room in several dimensions. It was always pretty vague in certain respects, but with a central intuition. (I basically agree with Sastra that irreducibly mind-like properties are typically important, but it’s a little more complicated than that.)

    But like “phlogiston,” “the supernatural” turns out to have no referent in reality. Nothing in the real world turns out to be close enough to our preconceptions that we can say we found it.

    What those preconceptions are is interesting, and that’s why Pascal Boyer’s cognitive anthropology of religion and supernaturalist beliefs is important.

    In an earlier comment, I mentioned that the ancients were often not just dualists, but triplists or quadruplists. That complicates things, and Boyer’s general cross-cultural concept of “the supernatural” takes that into account.

    I wasn’t planning on going there, but I think it may help refine what Sastra’s saying so that it makes clearer sense.

    More on that later if there’s interest.

  676. #676 Sastra
    January 26, 2010

    John Morales #673 wrote:

    Easy. The magical law of contagion.

    Magic assumes that things are connected through networks of meaning and intention, with symbols and values having the ‘power’ to impress themselves on objects.

    In the Golden Bough Frazer wrote

    If we analyse the various cases of sympathetic magic … we shall find, as I have already indicated, that they are all mistaken applications of one or other of two great fundamental laws of thought, namely, the association of ideas by similarity and the association of ideas by contiguity in space or time. A mistaken association of similar ideas produces homoeopathic or imitative magic: a mistaken association of contiguous ideas produces contagious magic.

    The world is assumed to work like a mind works, putting similar things together without any need for physical connection. Real contagion is not like magical contagion.

  677. #677 truth machine, OM
    January 26, 2010

    TM may think I’m a moron

    No, I just think you’re wrong, and mired in essentialism, as “Sometimes words mean things that the speaker does not or even cannot know, or even things that nobody yet knows” — this is absurd, and your treatment of it is riddled with mistakes.

    You appear not to understand how meaning and reference work, and need to read some important post-1950 philosophy, like Kripke’s Naming and Necessity and Putnam’s “The Meaning of ‘Meaning’”.

    I have read them, jackass. You need to read some Quine.

  678. #678 Sastra
    January 26, 2010

    truth machine OM #674 wrote:

    The conception of karma is that the universe is “just”, but not that it is “mind-like”.

    The concept of “justice” makes no sense without sentient beings with goals, who interact. In a universe with no life, what would “justice” even mean?

    As with numerology and astrology, ‘karma’ assumes a cosmos which cares, and is very sensitive to what happens to human beings in their social and personal lives. The ‘forces’ are not dead and indifferent, but involved. They’re mind-dependent.

  679. #679 Sastra
    January 26, 2010

    Paul W #675 wrote:

    but I’m going to go n explaining for anybody who does care, like maybe Sastra…

    Yes, please — I’m enjoying your explanations (and tm’s also). Though I am cutting out for now … bbl

  680. #680 truth machine, OM
    January 26, 2010

    The world is assumed to work like a mind works, putting similar things together without any need for physical connection.

    Predictably, Sastra simply equates the supernatural (“without any need for physical connection”) with “mind-like”.

    At http://www.thesupernaturalworld.com one can find a lot of examples of things that people consider “supernatural” but are clearly not “mind-like”. The first one I noticed was bad luck from having a black cat cross your path.

  681. #681 John Morales
    January 26, 2010

    Sastra, re magical contagion, the effect is supernatural, and it is the magician’s will that makes use of it; however, in itself it’s quite independent of mind or purpose. Hence, it’s outside your definition, because it’s neither a force (it is a linkage) nor is it mindful.

    I must agree with tm here, No, you would just find a way to interpret it as “mind-like”.

    For mine, I think you need to either add an additional clause to your definition of the supernatural to account for all its interpretations, or just generalise and remove the ‘mind’ component.

    PS As an extemporaneous ad-hoc definition, I’d give something like “The supernatural is that part of reality which consists of causes, effects and relationships that cannot even in principle be explained by science”.

  682. #682 truth machine, OM
    January 26, 2010

    Meaning isn’t all in the head. Sometimes words mean things that the speaker does not or even cannot know, or even things that nobody yet knows.

    Just a note on this, because Paul W. seems to have wrongly ascribed to me a belief that “meaning is [] all in the head”. That’s false, but even more false — downright absurd — is that meaning is in words. Words are tokens which are exchanged by language users. Meanings are intended by speakers, but words can only imperfectly communicate them — “getting” someone’s meaning requires inference. When we say that a word “means something”, it’s a mistake to separate this from the person to whom it means something. A word cannot “mean things [to the speaker] that the speaker does not or even cannot know”, although it might mean something to the recipient of the speech. Under no circumstances can a word mean “things that nobody yet knows” — mean them to whom? That the word “gold” refers to a certain sort of stuff does not entail that it means all of the attributes of that sort of stuff, any more than that the phrase “the thief jumping over the fence” means “my uncle” just because the thief jumping over the fence happens to be my uncle.

    Unfortunately, the world of philosophy tends to truck heavily in this sort of essentialism, treating words as having inherent meanings; it’s a major hurdle to overcome.

  683. #683 truth machine, OM
    January 26, 2010

    “The supernatural is that part of reality which consists of causes, effects and relationships that cannot even in principle be explained by science”.

    I think that gets at an important element of people’s conception of it.

  684. #684 Paul W.
    January 26, 2010
    The “in nature” and “out of nature” distinction isn’t really useful, and doesn’t track with use

    That’s absurd bullshit.

    No, it isn’t. What’s bullshit is conflating senses of “natural,” and assuming that the supernatural is the complement of the natural in a broader and irrelevant sense.

    Vitalism (or prana) have to do with the idea of an “animating force” which is special to life, giving it intention and purpose.

    That’s ad hoc bullshit; an “animating force” does not entail intention or purpose.

    No. It’s not precise, but definitely there’s something to it. The life force does the kinds of things that we now know are done by complex regulatory mechanisms.

    Prescientific people weren’t entirely stupid, and they did recognize that living things generally had some mind-like properties. Even plants “know” how to grow toward the light and around obstacles, when to change colors, when to blossom, how to reproduce, how to heal after an injury, etc. They “know” things in some vague, poorly defined and rudimentary sense. They are somehow teleological.

    That’s not terribly stupid. Even today we people like you and me express similar thoughts when we talk about a “smart” printer or a “smart bomb” or whatever. We know that theres something special going on that distinguishes a smart (seemingly goal-oriented) printer or bomb from a dumb one, even though we know it’s just information processing, by brute matter arranged in particular ways, of a low enough order that you wouldn’t call it a mind. Such things really do have certain mind-like properties.

    In prescientific (and unscientific) belief systems, there is a chronic tendency to attribute at least rudimentary mind-like properties to things, with no clear understanding of what that would actually entail. (E.g., the kind of information processing that goes on in genetic regulatory networks to control growth and development.) Many things have mind-like properties while overtly having no minds, without a recognition of the contradictions there, because people don’t understand what minds are, or what properties like teleology or just luck entail.

    In particular, they often don’t realize that the information processing required is complicated, and generally have no clue that it could be done by brute matter. So that’s what the life force, the animal soul, and the human soul are for—they are basically unanalyzed black-box entities hypothesized to explain “teleological” things that are clearly getting done by something.

    If the universe really did work so that doing an evil deed always resulted in a punishment, then the cosmos would be fundamentally moral.

    So what? The conception of karma is that the universe is “just”, but not that it is “mind-like”.

    I think you’re missing the point. The point is not that people necessarily think that supernatural entities have minds. (Some do, some don’t.)

    The point is that when you look at things that people consider supernatural, they generally have properties that would in fact entail having something like a mind—sometimes just a rudimentary goal-seeking mechanism that’s not, but sometimes quite a high order of intelligence plus a whole shitload of knowledge.

    Take Karma, for example. What karma allegedly is isn’t a mind. It’s just a mechanism, or a regularity, or an inexorable law, or something, and explicitly isn’t a person or anything with a mind; it’s impersonal.

    But look at what Karma does. Karma is functionally equivalent to something like a superintelligent superniscient being, which can see everything you do and can tell if you’ve been bad or good, and figure out what you deserve, and give it to you.

    Somehow, mysteriously, it does things that would actually require a mind capable of recognizing high-level concepts like harm and benefit, selfishness and benevelonce, justice and injustice, and what would count as reward or punishment.

    In Pascal Boyer’s framework, there’s a common characteristic of supernatural concepts, cross culturally, that they are generally based on basic categories we use to understand the real world, but combining (mostly) features of one category with extraordinary features of another.

    That’s what makes the supernatural comprehensible and interesting.

    We can understand karma as an exaggeration of something we understand intuitively using our usual categories we apply to people—it’s basically a wise justice-enforcing person, to the nth degree—with one extraordinary feature: it’s not a person, but an impersonal phenomenon!

    The concept is incoherent, if you have any idea what justice and deserts really are—they’re extraordinarily high-level phenomena that can’t be accomplished by any mindless low-level thing. It takes a mind. (Or possibly some non-mind thing designed to be equivalent to one in very sophisticated ways.)

    The addition of something from one category to someting in another category is part of what makes supernatural entities tick. They are understandable, because you basically understand them as one kind of thing, but they’re interesting because there are one or a few exceptions, which you can quickly enumerate. Those exceptions may be features that are exaggerated or left out, or things grafted in, typically from another category.

    Supernatural concepts basically have to be that way, or they’d be too hard to understand. If they took equally and randomly from two categories, for example, it’d be hard to remember which categories they inherited which features from, and way too hard to reason about the feature interactions. You couldn’t apply your off-the-shelf reasoning patterns that you’ve developed for thinking about basic categories of things like brute matter, tools, living things, animals, and people.

    Often those category mixings do embody category mistakes, but it’s typically not obvious if you don’t actually understand the categories at a deep level anyway.

    For example, if you don’t know what life, animation, or minds really are, it’s hard to see why you can’t graft an isolated life- or animal- or mind-like feature onto something with with a lower order of “intelligence.”

    Likewise, if you think that life and animation and mentation are done by distinct things from normal matter and bodies, it’s not obvious why you can’t put a human-like mind in an animal body, or vice versa, or graft a particular ability onto a completely inappropriate object. (Like a tree that can remember and repeat stuff said near it.)

    The basic idea is that what makes something a “supernatural” concept is mainly how it’s constructed from other concepts, not not some picky distinction about what’s “material” vs. “immaterial” or anything like that. Those are secondary issues that result from the characteristic mangling of concepts.

  685. #685 John Morales
    January 26, 2010

    Paul,

    Prescientific people weren’t entirely stupid, and they did recognize that living things generally had some mind-like properties. Even plants “know” how to grow toward the light and around obstacles, when to change colors, when to blossom, how to reproduce, how to heal after an injury, etc.

    Remember Matthew Segal? :)

    He went further, as I suspect prescientific people did, and surely it’s not just “living things” that they considered had “some mind-like properties” — the whole conceit being summed up in the concept of telos.

    Water “knows” to flow downhill no less than plants “know” to grow toward the light.

  686. #686 truth machine, OM
    January 26, 2010

    It’s not precise, but definitely there’s something to it. The life force does the kinds of things that we now know are done by complex regulatory mechanisms.

    What the heck does that have to do with Sastra’s contention that vitalism, or the elan vitale, is “mind like”? It only is by ad hoc assertion.

    I think you’re missing the point. The point is not that people necessarily think that supernatural entities have minds. (Some do, some don’t.)

    No, you are missing the point, addressing strawmen left and right.

    What Karma allegedly is isn’t a mind. It’s just a mechanism, or a regularity, or an inexorable law, or something, and explicitly isn’t a person or anything with a mind; it’s impersonal.

    Quite, and this flatly contradicts the assertion that it is “mind-like”.

    But look at what Karma does. Karma is functionally equivalent to something like a superintelligent superniscient being, which can see everything you do and can tell if you’ve been bad or good, and figure out what you deserve, and give it to you.

    Fallacy of affirmation of the consequent. That “a superintelligent superniscient being” could do what karma supposedly does, does not make them “functionally equivalent” — there are clearly many attributes of minds that are not attributes of karma, or of a universe in which karma holds.

    When people start claiming that numerology and astrology and “magic correspondences”
    in general are “mind like”, they have left the arena of intellectual honesty.

  687. #687 John Morales
    January 26, 2010

    Um, I don’t think I made my point very clear above. I meant to say that, in pre-scientific terms, things act “in accordance to their nature”, and this doesn’t imply mindfulness.

  688. #688 truth machine, OM
    January 26, 2010

    the whole conceit being summed up in the concept of telos.

    Right, but this ascription of intent is not fundamental or necessary in prescientific conceptions. For instance, the bad luck that supposedly follows from walking under a ladder is not due to having angered the ladder gods — it’s just a raw causal relation. The assertion that this, or astrology, “assumes a cosmos which cares, and is very sensitive to what happens to human beings in their social and personal lives” is utter horseshit and the sort of sophistic thinking that characterizes apologetics; It’s we who care, and thus we tell these causal tales about people — but we could just as well imagine that a car or a piano that passes under a ladder will soon meet destruction.

  689. #689 truth machine, OM
    January 26, 2010

    I meant to say that, in pre-scientific terms, things act “in accordance to their nature”, and this doesn’t imply mindfulness.

    I received an email today from the Sierra Club, a review of Avatar, that included this statement: “The final battle scene reminds us that if we don?t respect the power of nature, it retaliates with destructive force.”

    Despite the anthropomorphic “retaliates”, it does not necessarily imply mindfulness, and I suspect that the author does not think of it that way. I do have to wonder if the folks who sent this out stopped to think about what it implies about Haiti (see (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/24/opinion/24wood.html).

  690. #690 Feynmaniac
    January 26, 2010

    Kripke’s Naming and Necessity and Putnam’s “The Meaning of ‘Meaning’”.

    I have read them, jackass. You need to read some Quine.

    I love Pharyngula.

  691. #691 Scott
    January 26, 2010

    Let’s see:

    It seems to me that there are a lot of good points here. Sastra clearly wants to make ‘the supernatural’ as rooted in some sort of theory of mind, typically (but not exclusively) dualist.
    The payoff, one supposes, is that you can end up with a less flabby target, a ‘supernatural’ that is potentially subject to falsification. This certainly gets the attention of this naive theist, and I applaud her for making an argument I haven’t heard before.

    However, I thought TM’s observation that she would predictably go to great lengths to preserve that strategy to be pretty telling: it’s clearly a pet toy. I remain unpersuaded that everything ascribed to ‘the supernatural’ necessarily implies a theory of mind, but I am certainly willing to play along and see where this definition leads.

    Paul, you get the prize for length and ambition in this thread. I don’t think I can unlatch your philosophical sandals. I think you are right that many ‘accomodationists’ use a naive version of falsification to shield their pet belief system from scientific scrutiny. Claims have predicted consequences, and we can argue from their falsification that is parsimonious to reject claims which can not be directly tested.

    I also think Paul is right when you say that terms like ‘the supernatural’ “are basically unanalyzed black-box entities hypothesized to explain “teleological” things that are clearly getting done by something.”

    Why wouldn’t I agree with that? As previously stated, I think the word ‘supernatural̵