Open thread on episode #829: The kinder, gentler AXP »« Open thread on AXP #827, with guest, Rob Poole, MB BS, FRCPsych

Comments

  1. says

    In regards to the “God doesn’t require intelligence” caller… I’ve said that the god definitions that I’ve encountered fall into one of two categories – undemonstrated, or useless.

    To strip “intelligent being” from “God” makes as much sense as insisting that Submarines don’t necessarily have to be submersible… or “airplane” doesn’t include the requirement that it can fly. He’s effectively castrated this “god” concept from orbit, warping it beyond recognition.

    It’s a bait-and-switch, trying to get us to acknowledge one definition, only to slip in another later. To say “that for which created the universe”, we could apply that to the Big Bang, but we don’t consider that “God”, because it’s not an intelligent being. When atheists/theists are having this discussion, that’s what we’re talking about.

    He may as well say:

    1) Unicorns are beginnings of universes.
    2) The universe has a beginning, and we can call that a unicorn.
    3) Therefore, unicorns exist.

    That’s that vapid.

    • John Kruger says

      I have been kicking the idea around lately of calling this kind of defense “label trolling”. As much as apologists love to do all sorts of amazing verbal acrobatics all about why their concept of god is so amazing and how clever and wise one has to be to have come to understand it, you always get a weird dismissal or dodge when you ask them to give a meaningful definition of the central concept. What is god? Mysterious! Unknowable! The beginning of the universe! A metaphor! Anything they need it to be (or even need it not to be) at any given moment. But whatever god is, it can never be anything specific enough to be put to the test.

      The same kind of trolling goes for the word “religion”. Only atheists seem to try to take a stab at giving a solid, all-encompassing definition. The religious like to let it just hang there without ever spelling out exactly what religion is, so that it can keep being everything they want it to be. “Spiritual” is the same way. The people who want their concepts to be rigorously testable and demonstrably true have definitions that border on the tediously complex in their exact precision. People insulating their ideas by keeping them nebulous, and in the end meaningless, tend to have no real interest in verifying those beliefs to be true because it would risk them being wrong.

      I also see this kind of hand waving going on with some philosophers, going on and on about things they never want to precisely define. Topics like “free will”, “justice”, “morality” or “that special something that atheists are missing out on” seem to also suffer from the same tactic. This is not to say all discussions about these things are useless, but only that there is a certain tendency to rest upon unknown meanings when the meaning of the concept is challenged.

      • Lord Narf says

        What is god? Mysterious! Unknowable! The beginning of the universe! A metaphor! Anything they need it to be (or even need it not to be) at any given moment. But whatever god is, it can never be anything specific enough to be put to the test.

        And in the next breath, the mysterious, unknowable, metaphorical, beginning-of-the-universe knocked up a virgin girl to give birth to himself and hates gay people.

        • John Kruger says

          Yeah, they are not shy at all about what to do once you give god the verification pass. He may be unknowable, but it is certain that he is very concerned about what you do with your genitals. Go figure.

        • says

          Let’s not forget anyone who doesn’t believe in him as well, like atheists, witches or others who believe in some other god(s). This megalomaniac god doesn’t even give a shit about his own son being innocent and dying in his own place. He’s such a hypocrite he can’t even forgive his own enemy for insulting his pride.

          • rocket says

            sir real , you may be confusing him with Milton’s main character in ”Paradise lost”. that seems to happen alot .

  2. Adam Callaway says

    It’s been my experience in one on one conversation with believers, that none of them actually believe in the god of their holy book. They believe in mysteries, and rename it god. Purely god of the gaps thinking.

    The thing that makes it stick though, is that they feel that if we understand something through the scientific process it somehow takes all the magic or wonder from their lives. They would rather be ignorant of reality. Also, they personify this “god” with their own image and nature. If a question arises they use their own judgement and attribute it a “god” that “speaks” to them.

    I think the reason it’s so hard for people to let go of this method of thought is because when they personify the mystery with themselves, if they give in an accept reality ( science ), they feel they lose some of theirselves with the woo.

    Luckily all we have to open their eyes to is that, with science, for every one discovery we make there are many more questions that arise because of it. The only concept of infinity I’ve ever felt comfortable with is how it deals with knowledge. The more you know, the more questions there are. I think it’s beautiful and so does every Believer I’ve shared it with.

    • says

      It’s been my experience in one on one conversation with believers, that none of them actually believe in the god of their holy book. They believe in mysteries, and rename it god.

      It’s this strange phenomenon where the word itself is what’s important. They don’t want to abandon the G-word, for example, so they’ll roam around and attach it to anything that hasn’t been disproven or discredited yet. I see this often with “spirituality” and “faith” too.

  3. The Super-Duper Party Trooper says

    That last guy seemed not to understand how most people use the word “god/God”. The second that you remove consciousness from the list of a “god’s” properties, you’re talking about something that’s different from what most people are. My personal “minimum definition” of a god is, “A conscious entity with supernatural powers.” Anything that isn’t a subgroup of that, I don’t call a god.

    Someone once asked me if that means that I thought that the Hulk (provided it was real) would be considered a “god” – I said that, if his super-strength were not a result of his cells mutating due to exposure to gamma radiation (ignoring all the bad science inherent in that) and were instead a product of magic, then yes, he’d be a god, albeit a not very impressive one. The character Merlin was a god. Werner Heisenberg was not.

    • Russell Glasser says

      By an amazing coincidence, Lynnea and I just played Arkham Horror over the weekend with Azathoth as the main bad guy. We stopped him from waking up. You’re welcome, world.

      • Lord Narf says

        You should try A Touch of Evil. It has a very similar feel and game progression, only with greatly simplified game mechanics. I like Arkham Horror, too, but it gets rather bogged down, at times.

  4. mike says

    Re Aaron from NJ its telling that he claims that all the callers into the show are “idiots” then he goes on to demonstrate himself to be an idiot or at least ignorant of the bible he supposedly read and believes. Its sad to see a 16yr old so obviously brainwashed with cherry picked portions of that horrible book called the bible

      • Lord Narf says

        Eh, he wasn’t as bad as most of the theistic callers we get. At least he was honestly questioning. His questions were a little vapid, but what do you want? He’s 16, and he obviously hasn’t deeply studied his holy book or his beliefs about his religion. Give him a few more months, and he might be able to come back with something a bit more coherent.

        • Danny W says

          I thought his call was fine, but his claim at the start was poorly judged. He is 16 though, so it’s fair enough.

          • Lord Narf says

            Yeah, I imagine there are still areas in which you can get highly insulated kids, who never really hang out with anyone who is a challenge to the worldview into which they were indoctrinated. Churches actively promote in-group association, so a teenager’s friends might mostly go to the same church. Hell, until you get your drivers license and possibly your own car, it’s difficult for you to even hang out with someone if your parents sufficiently disapprove of the person.

            The internet greatly reduces the incidence of this sort of thing, but plenty of kids aren’t even cut loose freely on the internet until they’re 11 or 12. It might take several years until it even occurs to them to investigate alternative worldviews, outside of the lies told to them by religious proponents. This call might represent part of the first investigations that this guy is making into skepticism and atheism.

        • TxSkeptic says

          I was actually quite happy with the conversation with the 16 y.o. He did seem to be honestly questioning, and we all have heard Matts story of what happens when you do that.

    • says

      Yeah, I almost asked him which category he thought he’d be in at the end of the call – the 90% that he regards are idiots or the rest – but I didn’t want to derail a potentially productive conversation. I’m comfortable chalking that statement up to the hubris of youth. At least he’s asking questions and challenging himself, which is more than you can say for most kids in his circumstances.

      • jacobfromlost says

        It was ironic when he claimed he was speaking from his own thoughts/opinions, and then immediately started riffling through pages to find out what he thinks.

          • Corwyn says

            Or possibly had someone coaching him. It sounded to me like he was occasionally talking to someone else (either himself or someone with him).

          • Lord Narf says

            Possible. It could be him and a friend who were calling in together.

            It could also be his father who put him up to it and wanted to use his teenage son as a shield, figuring the evil atheists would be nicer to him. I see evangelists like Jehovah’s Witnesses sometimes bring along a child for those purposes, too. They’re wrong that I’ll hold back anything I would say, just because their child is there, but they still do it. If anything, I might be even more likely to bring up morally reprehensible things about their holy book, if there’s a child there to hear it.

            I wouldn’t assume anything of the sort, in this guy’s case, though. There are so many possible explanations.

          • jacobfromlost says

            “Or possibly had someone coaching him. It sounded to me like he was occasionally talking to someone else (either himself or someone with him).”

            Very possible, but that would be highly ironic also–ie, to claim you are giving your own, independent thoughts on a matter and then palming the bottom of the phone so you can ask the person next to you what you independently think.

            But it isn’t like it hasn’t been done before. Remember Dale? When he posted his end of his call on his youtube page, at one point you could clearly hear someone tell him what to say, and he repeated it word for word. Not sure if it is still on his page, but it was left up for some time with commenters on that very vid pointing out the prompting (I’m not sure Dale reads that much on his vids or thinks too much about how things look).

      • says

        Perhaps I’m in the minority but I thought that was a rather articulate presentation for a 16 year old. Yes, he’s paroting things he’s been told at school and at church but he is asking the right questions and engaging people like TAE. He probably won’t still be a fundamentalist Christian by the time he’s 23.

        • Lord Narf says

          I’m with you there. He is rather poorly versed for someone who’s been immersed in the theism/atheism debate for a long time, as most of us are. Why the hell would we hold him to those standards, though, when he’s probably still just getting his feet wet?

          • says

            I probably would have sounded about the same (though probably wouldn’t have made the call or done so well under the pressure) at 16. It’s hard for outsiders to understand how insular these Evangelical communities can be. They are often homeschooled or go to a “Christian Academy” and never talk to anyone who doesn’t believe the same things they do. At least in my day I had friends who were Catholic and Methodist and Lutheran. Most of them don’t even have that. Yes, they could find things on the Internet but they have been told since birth that even asking some of those questions is a sin so they mostly aren’t asking online. When the same idea is reinforced from every direction in your life it’s hard to question it more than once. If everyone else believes (or at least claims to) and you don’t, then the problem must be with you. It takes breaking out of that environment for most people to confront their own doubts and questions, which is exactly why so many fundamentalist churches do everything they can to keep that from happening.

  5. addiepray says

    Matt referred to “fellow Jews” in the first call when talking about slavery and the bible. A technical point- Judaism is a religion based on the rabbinic tradition, ie. centuries of interpretation of Torah. I was always taught that it was not “Jews” who were enslaved in Egypt and made exodus, they were Israelites. I’m not arguing for the veracity of the story, just addressing nomenclature. Matt’s point about in group vs out group slavery still applies, of course.

    • Lord Narf says

      Yeah, it’s a bit of a cluster@#$% when you get back to determining who was which group and where. There is one Jewish scholar who put together a rather good case that pretty much everything before the rule of Josiah, I think it was – the boy-king who was trying to unite Judah and Israel under his rule – was made up or stolen from surrounding mythological cultures, as propaganda to legitimize his claim to ruler-ship of the whole. That sort of possibility makes things even blurrier than they already were.

      • says

        I think it’s more likely that this is a collection of a mostly oral tradition which may or may not be partially based on fact (I feel the same way about the gospels) with some editorial filling in to make a (not very good) narrative. Some of it may have existed in written form of some sort. It’s clear from internal evidence that it was written by different people at different times and cobbled together by some sort of editor (some scholars ascribe different authorship to different passages in Genesis, for example).

        Also, in the pre-post-modern world, no one was much interested in historical accuracy. Sources are highly unreliable. Even into the 19th century authors notoriously make up biographical material when they don’t know or when it makes for a better story. (Stendhal’s biography of Giacchino Rossini is a good example of this.) It never occurred to the author that anyone would take any of it literally.

      • Lord Narf says

        Yeah, that and there’s the fact that their god and myths are a conglomeration of those of the pantheon of the previously-existing culture. There no reason to think that the Israelites came from anywhere other than Israel, in any culturally-traceable way.

      • addiepray says

        As I said, I’m not arguing for the veracity of the story. It’s pretty clearly a myth- I meant in the context of the story only.

          • addiepray says

            Yes- Judaism is a religion developed over centuries by the rabbis through layers of interpretation of the torah. The people who received the commandments and wandered in the desert are the precursors of the Jews (yes, yes, it is all myth, I know) but they did not become “Jews” until later. Not that there was a magic point where “now you are Jews!” or anything, but that what we consider “Judaism” today and for the last couple of millennia is dependent on the centuries of rabbinic derivation from the bible- unlike the Protestant tradition, as I understand it, which supposes the bible as the direct communication between God and man, and hence anyone can be fully Christian merely by reading and believing in the bible, no later interpretation or Talmudic debate necessary or desired.

            Jews definitely see a continuity between Israelites and Jews- the passover seder refers to “When we were slaves in Egypt” and there is emphasis on saying “we”, but the distinction, I think, still matters. I suppose it could be seen as a line between the mythical people and the real ones, though devout Jews would no doubt take issue with that formulation.

            I’m just a layman and don’t claim any in depth knowledge of these things, but as a Jew (albeit a liberal and atheist one) I was always taught the aforementioned distinction. If there are any scholars of such things who can set the record straight, I’d be interested to listen.

          • addiepray says

            not to mention, obviously the characters concurrent with the events recounted in the torah didn’t have the torah themselves, and no torah=no jews, since nothing so defines the concept of “jew” so much as the torah.

          • says

            addiepray.

            I use to know how the puzzle works but I don’t remember exactly and I don’t want to check to verify.
            But at the basic they weren’t no Jews nor Israelites but they were Hebrews. Jews were in Juda and Israelites were in Israel, was two different countries near one another was kind of two rival Hebrews gangs. Israelites were named to be the gang of the character named Israel (the new name of the character Jacob, who supposely was in Egypt, etc) as for the Jews, I guess they were the ones who stayed in Israel/Juda.

            Sorry not to be informed, that is a topic that I am not super interested in, but for a fact I know they were Hebrews and then split in 2: Jews and Israelites. Good research.

          • says

            when I said “as for the Jews, I guess they were the ones who stayed in Israel/Juda. ” I meant as for the Jews, I guess they were the ones who stayed in the territory “Israel/Juda” while Jacob “was” in Egypt. I think it is when Jacob now called Israel came back to, let’s call it Palestina (lol), that the problems started between Hebrews (Judeens (Jews) vs Israelites) and were divided in 2 clans and two countries..

            Ok, I am off now.

          • rocket says

            Addiepray — you say no jew without the Torah . i disagree . there are Rabbinic Jews who keep Torah , and then there are Messianic Jews who follow Yeshua ( Jesus ) as Messiah who dont keep Torah . the difference between Rabbinic Judaism and the Messianic Judaism of Jesus is that the former does not see the need for human nature to be transformed even when one is practicing Mitzvahs . Messianic Judaism views human nature as being flawed and must be transformed thru grace and faith in Messiah .

            A Jew does not need to become a Gentile Christian ( qoute /unqoute ) or be like the Goyim …. to hear from God . The can simply be Messianic by following the Messiah who said ”The Kingdom of Heaven is within you ”. that is the good news. For in Messiah all are equal . there are no jews or gentiles , male nor female , etc..

            all the best.

  6. Aaroninmelbourne says

    The number 888 is seen as very lucky in Chinese numerology because it’s a tripling of the lucky number eight, so maybe that could be a good segue for a show on superstitions and religious beliefs in Asian cultures?

    • Lord Narf says

      If they had any effect on us, yeah. You don’t get many far-eastern religions trying to impose upon us. Aside from some wacky new-agers out on the west coast, you never see much of that sort of thing, in this country.

  7. jaytheostrich says

    Wow Russell, I just played AH with some friends too, and Azathoth was our pick of enemy as well! Unfortunately with 2 expansions we ran out of time to play.
    I guess the stars were almost right.. and we dodged super-nuclear annihilation! Whew!

      • says

        It’s a common superstition in some Asian cultures that the number four is unlucky, because it sounds like the word for death. Basically, it’s their version of 13.

        • Lord Narf says

          I knew there was a single-digit number that was associated with death. I could have sworn it was another number, though. Hmm. Thanks.

        • says

          I think Jen described very well the concept of ad hominem attacks, the problem is people will continue to use it all the time instead of actually providing good arguments for their cases. Since we’re dealing with issues that stir emotions and address deep existential and psychological problems, folks will always respond irrationally, violently, unjustifiably, whatever – they will shut firmly like clamshells when their beliefs and perceptions are threatened. But that’s one kind of ad hominem attacking. The other one is deliberate, cold and calculated, and it comes from professional cons, like televangelists, that use christian superstition as a profitable business. Or looney bins who are either seriously disturbed individuals, essentially attention whores (i.e. venomfangX) or people who try to stay relevant because they actually suck at what they do, like Kirk Cameron who went on to prove that a bad actor can actual be just another glorified douchebag.

          • rocket says

            i think that ad hominum has no place in civilized dialogue . no matter where someone is coming from , if they attack a person it shows that they cant defend their position very well . the main thing isis that we are not our ideas. that is important to keep in mind in dialogue , discussion , and debate.

  8. thebookofdave says

    John of Hollywood mentioned an atom in his first-cause argument, probably the ‘primeval atom’ first proposed in Georges Lemaître’s cosmic expansion hypothesis. One of the show’s more entertaining callers, John was so excited by his idea, almost tripping over himself in his eagerness to share, it was almost painful to anticipate Matt bursting his bubble. Almost.

    Then, with John showing no signs of losing steam, the show ended their exchange. He’ll probably return soon and try his pitch for God on another host.

  9. KsDevil says

    What would convince me god existed?
    Well, if god had always existed in our lives as since the beginning of time as an obvious manifestation of every day life, then I guess I would be convinced…but then I really wouldn’t need to be convinced of the obvious so that makes the question moot.
    Since someone feels the need to ask such a question then that makes this god person’s existence already suspect since it is not obviously apparent to everyone.
    And surely if there was a god he/she/it would not be unknown to all.
    So I am going to claim that guy who asked that question is really asking others to validate his assertion in order to validate himself and his existence even if he doesn’t really understand that is what he is looking for.
    Since I have no evidence to support my stance I will simply ad hominem him ;)

  10. HighVoltage says

    This is in relation to the second caller. Perhaps my bible knowledge is incomplete, but does it state explicitly that the sacrifice of Jesus was to absolve humanity of the original sin, or of just all sin/sin in general? If it is only the latter I don’t see the necessity in a metaphorical Adam/Even Genesis being the hole that kills a literal Jesus.

    • says

      I don’t think the bible itself speaks on this point. It’s more a matter of specific Christian theologies.

      The “original sin” bit is important because Jesus said (John 14:6) “No one comes to the Father except through me.”
      If sin is what keeps us from heaven, then presumably if you were righteous enough, you might avoid sin altogether and get to heaven without Jesus, proving the quote false. Original sin ensures that nobody can make that argument; no matter how good you behave, you’re a sinner, just because you’re human.

      Incidentally, some Christian sects don’t think that Jesus absolved all sin. E.g. Calvinists believe that Jesus atoned for the sins of the elect, but not everyone else.
      In 1st Corinthians 15, Paul states that “…Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures…” with no further explanation. It doesn’t clarify which sins or whose sins. There’s a lot of possibilities and not enough information, so it’s back to the bible as “the big book of multiple choice.”

      However, the idea that Jesus atoned for Original Sin is pretty widespread among Christians. You can probably find sects that disagree, but it’s a common position.

    • rocket says

      the origianal sin debate is complex.

      Pelagious took the position of origional innocence . Augustine took the position of origional sin .

      if we lok at this from Aristotles cause and effect , they both are right .

      ok –a baby is born as Locke said ”Tabula Rasa ”. so in the actual that baby is sinless . pure.
      but according to Aristotle actuality changes when potentiality enters the game . so though the baby in the actual is without sin , its eventual act will be to sin against God . ..for as Paul said ”all have sinned , adn fallen short of the glory of God ”.

      since there is no time in God , the actual and potential are going on all at the same time . therefore — the baby is both innocent and guilty . Hence –Christ comes to save all.

  11. Ernesto Rymer says

    I like to hear belivers saying: I will pray for you. I usually translate it into: I despise you with all my heart.. So I answer: Fuck you.

  12. Transhumanist says

    In this show, yet again, the issue of “first cause” came up. I just read up on “Argument from first cause” on the Iron Chariots wicky to see if I had missed something in my own conclusions. Instead I think it is you who may have missed at least one important thing.

    Sure, you say you do not agree there needs to be a first cause, but I think you can go further and say “There is no need for a first cause” and disqualify all claims related to it!!!

    Case 1: If caller invokes the words “cause and effect” or “causality”:
    Causality implies cause and effect. A first cause implies an effect without a cause so clearly a first cause is not compatible with causality.

    Case 2: We agree there is a “beginning”
    2) Even if we can agree that there is a “beginning” (whether big bang or GOD or something else), in the sense of nothing before it, you need not assume that the chain of cause and effect is finite.
    Consider this: In calculus you work with “infinitely small” steps. Imagine events that are not of 0 length, but infinitely small which is as close to 0 as you can get without 0. There could be an infinity of those leading back closer and closer to the “beginning”. Or how about an infinite series of event becoming shorter and shorter but still non-0. Does it make your head hurt? Think about it. What you then have is an infinity of cause and effect and a beginning at the same time. How does it work? Because what you call the beginning is is then in fact nothing but a lower limit that can never be reach, just be approached closer and closer. How about that? (and I’m not even a mathematician…)

    Now, please trash my argument to the best of your ability!

    • rocket says

      it all depends if you are talking in terms of the Ancient ideas of causility in the west or the modern . or how about the universe without begining like the Eastern thought teaches. Headaches abound indeed.

  13. Miltown High says

    Great show, thanks Jen and Matt.

    Regarding the second (I think) caller’s questions about how the Catholic church reconciles their acceptance of evolution / science with its core tenet of Adam & Eve / original sin, here’s an explanation from a more-or-less expert source:

    http://www.catholic.com/tracts/adam-eve-and-evolution

    Here’s a quote from this: “[church} allows for the possibility that man’s body developed from previous biological forms, under God’s guidance, but it insists on the special creation of his soul.” The page goes on to say that “The story of the creation and fall of man is a true one, even if not written entirely according to modern literary techniques.” This is all based on a paper by Pius XII, who died in 1958.

    This goes through a lot of doubletalk and excuse-making, some of it rather verbose, and it’s likely to annoy the more rational reader. Still it is worth a read if one wishes to understand how the church tries to reconcile science and religion.

    • rocket says

      Miltown , the best stuff to read on seeking to reconcile the church with science came from Teliard de Chardin , a Jesuit Preist and Palenotologist . the stuff he wrote in the 40s is brilliant and daring .

  14. deesse23 says

    You have made two mistakes the theists always fall for too.

    1) There is a beginning, according to: “before” and “after”, aka. time does exist and is linear.
    We already know from einstein that time and space are not separate but there is a “time-space” which must have broken down during the big bang (when and because space was near zero). So the point about asking for a “beginning” doesnt make sense under those conditions.

    2) cause and effect
    We as humans understand this concept in the classic newtonian sense, yet Quantum mechanics clearly demonstrate that a cause does not need to have a deterministic effect, but rather a “chance” of something to happen. Also, a Cause can “preceed” the effect (please someone correct me if i am wrong here)

    Since we are talking about infinitesimal small space during the big bang, it seems sensible to me to apply quantummechanics rather than our newtonian one. So, from my understanding, there doesnt even need to be a “cause” for the big bang, there could have been something which just had the “possibility” of creating the big bang rather than absolutely causing it (like the waveform of light breaking down while you are making a particle experiment). So in essence the universe IS possibly a “coincidence” (nanana na na nah to all theists! :-P )

    One sidenote if i am allowed:
    what always bugs me with theists is that they stick to newtonian principles like time and space being separate things as if Einstein never wrote something down that has been DEMONSTRATED over and over and over in the meantime. That they debate (many of the professional Jerks – if i am allowed to call them so-) not about “reality” but seem to try to do linguistic or logical “pushups”. They seem to forget that – like it or not- the real world (of relativity and quantum mechanics) does not (always) work in such a simple way.
    So why should the big bang or anything else have?

  15. says

    I’m very glad to see what deese23 pointed out, I was about to make exactly this observation, that religious people tend to use simplistic concepts, common sense, inductive reasoning from experience and resort to old empirical tools and paradigms, in order to bolster their claims.

    In contrast to that I think atheists have to be better educated and free of biases, so that they demonstrate the fallacy of theological claims and assertions. Nevertheless, exactly the same level of skepticism and incredulity must apply when we approach scientific matters as well.

    I point this out because we live at times when there is clearly a major shift in how humans perceive reality thanks to our latest scientific discoveries, especially in cosmology, computational systems and bioengineering. There are new scientific propositions that are simply too early to evaluate, and often cause divisions and controversy among scientists themselves.

    A characteristic example is the study of matters that would qualify as “fringe” science. It is quite often that fervor atheists often fall into the same trap of resorting to sterile mechanistic and deterministic views of the world, in order to reject any notion that there might be much more than what we perceive as physical reality.

    Already science has demonstrated that if there is an objective reality, we’ll never perceive it as humans, simply because our sensory faculties are limited and no matter how advanced our technological tools are, we’ll always have to make analogies and process mathematical data, to make heads and tails of what’s actually going on around us.

    We have to admit that science itself is far from perfect in it’s organization and methods. Science too has to change perspective, abandon dogmatic positions set by academic tradition and escape the grasp of corporate dominance. Many people already regard science as religion, which is equally wrong as believing in God. Hostility, arrogance, biases and the notion of a militant stance, undermine a cool headed, rational approach.

    If science itself does not evolve, it is fatal that it will end up censoring its own voice and act dogmatically. What good is it then?

    • says

      A characteristic example is the study of matters that would qualify as “fringe” science. It is quite often that fervor atheists often fall into the same trap of resorting to sterile mechanistic and deterministic views of the world, in order to reject any notion that there might be much more than what we perceive as physical reality.

      You just set off five separate bullshit detectors in my head. I hope you realize that this kind of talk, especially when coupled with the extremely vague language that follows, makes you sound like a crank.

      If you’re not, I would suggest that you be a lot more specific, e.g. concerning how you expect science to change.

      • rocket says

        Lamros struck a nerve here. and that is this — science is not fallable . this is a threat to those who deem it is . Lambros is my kind of heretic . he is the Orthodox Heretic .

        Science has its witch hunts like the Church has . it has its taboo subjects too. people in power and privalidge seeking to retain their position . they blacklist anyone out on a limb that is really trying to do something . they did it to Darwin .

        • says

          Lamros struck a nerve here. and that is this — science is not fallable

          Of course it isn’t and nobody with any sense would claim so. Indeed, it’s one of the central points of science to recognize that in order to avoid mistakes we must constantly be ready to update our point of view in accordance with new information.

          Science has its witch hunts like the Church has . it has its taboo subjects too

          Bullcrap. It’s not a witch hunt to reject ideas that aren’t supported by evidence and enforcing a taboo is not the same as simply recognizing that certain language tends to be used by people with bogus ideas.

          It’s a heuristic: If in the past everybody who has been using the word “spirit” have turned out to be full of shit and along comes another person using that word, what’s the rational preliminary position?

          they blacklist anyone out on a limb that is really trying to do something . they did it to Darwin .

          Bullcrap, again. You’re confusing blacklisting with the entirely proper skepticism to a new idea. A new idea should not be accepted too quickly. It should be analyzed, criticized and generally given a good thrashing. If the idea is correct, then it will win through any criticism and end up accepted, just like Darwin’s.

          Historically, we can see this pattern; an idea is proposed, met by initial skepticism. Over time, research continually confirms the idea and finally it wins broad acceptance.

          Or research shows the idea to be flawed, scientists generally reject it and a small group of people stubbornly hold to it in spite of all data, claiming that the scientific community is engaged in a witch hunt against them, because their idea is too “taboo”.

    • Lord Narf says

      I’m right behind LikeX. All sorts of pseudoscience and non-science proponents chafe at the “dogmatic” rigors of science. Do you think we should accept the findings of bigfoot scholars, reiki practitioners, the transcendental meditation nuts, and others whose claims are not shown to be scientifically demonstrable? Those types would love to shove their unscientific beliefs into mainstream science, with statements similar to yours, Lambros.

      You have to have a demonstrable effect and a working model, if you want real scientists to take you at all seriously. There’s very good reason for that. There are too many charlatans and con artists out there, pushing ancient myths and superstitions as fact, when there’s no good reason to accept any of it.

      How do you think we should expand the reach of science? Your talk of dogmatism is the favorite sort of language of pseudo-science practitioners.

  16. says

    Hey, guys timeout, why did you jump on me like that? I’m no scientist, just a simple guy. And you didn’t have to use extreme examples, I certainly don’t see around me bigfoots or aliens. All I wanted to say was that science should be more independent and research should be somehow more detached from beneficial technological applications that benefit corporations.

    And the reason that gray areas of “fringe” science must be investigated is that whatever unsubstanciated claim is floating out there with no concrete and valid scientific proof, it’s just ripe for every opportunist to base his crazy theories.

    And I think it’s not just a matter of methodology, but of cultural differences and even semantics. Why do you think there’s this surge of quasi-scientific systems from the Far East, like Deepak Chopra’s? Because it has an allure to it, the promise of “mystical oriental esoteric knowledge” mixed with a yet unproven quantum theory. Some people can see right through it, some can’t. For me it’s not enough to dismiss it just because he spews the words “spirit” and “spiritual” left and right. It’s not the lingo he uses, or the association with eastern philosophy, but the fact that he takes scientific work from others and jumps to fantastic conclusions, so that his system has scientific legitimacy. But some people freak out when they hear “spirit” and raise red flags all over the place. If someone is hung up so much on labels and doesn’t bother to really examine the claim, he’s an idiot.

    And it bothers me because, in this case, Chopra says his system is based on Penrose research, who is a brilliant scientist, perhaps has hit a dead end at this time, but nontheless you can’t call him a fraud. And then I go and read in forums people bashing Penrose too, just because he is associated in this way with Chopra. Now, some scientists, particularly young ones who have a career to build, would see this and prefer to select more “politically correct”, or “mainstream” field of research, just because they’ll get healthier grants and avoid ending some sort of black sheep.

    Another example is the taboo of research of mind-altering drugs for medical purposes and research on the functions of the brain, and the nature of human consciousness. I think that’s another field of study that should be more examined. If I support that, does it make me a hippie, a whacko?

    So, guys, just because I say that science should be constantly evolving like everything else, you jump to the conclusion that I’m backing up crazy ideas? I’m against scientism, not science. Science has a social aspect too, not just making theories and giving us better smartphones.

    • says

      All I wanted to say was that science should be more independent and research should be somehow more detached from beneficial technological applications that benefit corporations.

      That I can agree with. Certainly, I support a broad base of not-for-profit research that can pick up on subjects that aren’t obviously profitable; something that corporations are unlikely to do.

      So, to clarify, I take you to mean that you don’t want to revise the epistemology of science as much as how we as a culture approach it and how scientists interact with various institutions. Is that correct?

      For me it’s not enough to dismiss it just because he spews the words “spirit” and “spiritual” left and right.

      I don’t dismiss people just for using the word “spirit”. I become very suspicious of people who talk about “spirit” because experience tells me that 99 times out of a hundred, people who talk about spirit are full of shit. It’s not about the word itself, it’s about the correlation between the word and people talking crap.

      And then of course there’s the problem that “spirit” doesn’t actually mean anything. If anyone intends to use “spirit” in any serious discussion, I would first ask them to define it. In my experience, the conversation usually stalls out at that point, much like when you ask people to define “god”.

      If I support that, does it make me a hippie, a whacko?

      No, but you didn’t mention anything about that. You were extremely vague about what your point was, while also using buzzwords shared by the nutbags. It’s not our fault that we couldn’t read your mind and tell what you really meant. This post is a big improvement.

      I’m against scientism, not science

      What do you mean by “scientism”? Because that’s another one of those words.

      • Lord Narf says

        And then of course there’s the problem that “spirit” doesn’t actually mean anything. If anyone intends to use “spirit” in any serious discussion, I would first ask them to define it. In my experience, the conversation usually stalls out at that point, much like when you ask people to define “god”.

        Ditto. I think that’s one of the most useless words in the English language, if you want to communicate a point with precision. I’ve never encountered anyone who could give me a scientifically-useful definition of the word.

    • Lord Narf says

      Heh, that’s why we mostly attacked the language you used in your post. I could have perhaps used a few more conditionals, but the general sentiment is the same. If you’re not as familiar with the general discussion on atheism and skepticism, perhaps you haven’t encountered the language of the new-age woo and conspiracy-theory crowds. You used a lot of their favorite trigger words, apparently quite innocently. They do a lot of obfuscation, using words that could be honestly questioning, but aren’t, the way they use them.

      That’s one of the things you’ll pick up around here, after a while. You learn to tighten up your language a bit and avoid potentially misleading terms. Dogmatic materialism, dogmatic scientism, and similar-sounding phrases pepper the language of the new-age and fundamentalist-Christian apologists. The reason I went to such crazy, extreme examples as bigfoot and chakras is that the proponents of those subjects say things that sound a lot like a few of the things you said.

      I’ll still jump on your language a bit, when you say something a bit vague or dodgy, but I’ll try to be a bit more descriptive and helpful in the future. I’ve been engaging with someone deliberately obfuscant, over near the bottom of the http://freethoughtblogs.com/axp/2013/07/24/god-is-real-author-writes-back post, so I’m perhaps a bit punchy, at the moment.

      • rocket says

        Narf , not so fast here . What about Sam Harris stating that one can be a good atheist and beleive that consciouosness lasts after the grave ? Harris is refering to Nick Bostrums work at Oxford ..sort of like we are all possibly digitized like in the Matrix or the movie ”the 13th floor ”. My atheists freinds here on campus that i go out to eat with are ready to dump Harris becuase of this .

        so …. you may be letting Lambroes off the hook , but i am not letting you off the hook . LOL …………..what about Harris ? is he a unicorn new ager too ?

    • Lord Narf says

      Another example is the taboo of research of mind-altering drugs for medical purposes and research on the functions of the brain, and the nature of human consciousness. I think that’s another field of study that should be more examined. If I support that, does it make me a hippie, a whacko?

      Depends how good your stuff is and whether or not you’re sharing …

      • says

        Thanks guys, truth be told I took a look at my first comment and it was definitely in a trajectory out of this planet :). English is not my native language and I overcomplicate my delivery sometimes.

        I’m totally with you when you suggest that, usually, when someone rides this new-age wave of radical concepts, he believes ALL of them, from ufos, to telepathy and all sorts of crazy stuff.

        Anyway, it’s the first time I’ve decided to follow an online discussion, cause I need to get in contact with other atheists who have a better angle and perspetive. I’m trying to navigate alone but it’s not enough to have my own “baloney detector”, one always needs help how to use it, to discern and reject all this bullshit that’s coming from all directions. Again, thanks guys!

        • Lord Narf says

          Heh heh heh, yeah, the language thing is another component that I forgot to take into account. That should have occurred to me as a likely compounding factor, since your chosen name sounds like a real name but isn’t the sort I would expect from an English-dominant country. We get people from all over the world on here, after all.

        • Narf (the abdicator) says

          Why would I care? Sam Harris makes good arguments, most of the time, but sometimes he goes a little off the rails, about Eastern mysticism.

          This is one of the big things that you don’t seem to understand about skepticism and atheism, and why you fail so badly. It’s not an authoritarian system. It’s neither based upon the authority of individuals, nor is it a system. The arguments stand or fall on their own.

    • rocket says

      Lambros ..i am behind you 100 percent . Penrose got a bad name for going out on a limb . Collins too . Paul Davies , etc.. the difference between open inquiry science and scientism is night and day .

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