The Templeton Foundation honors another gullible apologist


Marcelo Gleiser has been awarded the Templeton Prize. When asked what he’d done to deserve it, his answer was his belief in humility, which is pretty darned unhumble, if you ask me. Especially since he then goes on to make some arrogant pronouncements.

I honestly think atheism is inconsistent with the scientific method. What I mean by that is, what is atheism? It’s a statement, a categorical statement that expresses belief in nonbelief. “I don’t believe even though I have no evidence for or against, simply I don’t believe.” Period.

But he has no problem with those people of faith, like the Templeton people who awarded him this great lump of money, who think, “I do believe even though I have no evidence for my beliefs, simply I do believe.”

He also gets atheism wrong. Of course there are a lot of dogmatic atheists who are all about simply refusing to believe and think that is sufficient, but a lot of us are instead making a point that is implicit in Gleiser’s own words: that evidence is important. An idea must have concordance with our observations of the world. An atheist is simply someone who has certain expectations and standards for sweeping declarations of how the universe works, and rejects the poorly supported assertions of religion…and further, sees no hope of progress in understanding from the mystical approach.

It’s a declaration. But in science we don’t really do declarations.

Oh, bullshit. Here are some declarations.

Vaccines are effective in the prevention of disease.

The Earth is a sphere, moving through space in compliance with laws of celestial mechanics.

“There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

“I honestly think atheism is inconsistent with the scientific method.”

We say, “Okay, you can have a hypothesis, you have to have some evidence against or for that.” And so an agnostic would say, look, I have no evidence for God or any kind of god (What god, first of all? The Maori gods, or the Jewish or Christian or Muslim God? Which god is that?) But on the other hand, an agnostic would acknowledge no right to make a final statement about something he or she doesn’t know about. “The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” and all that. This positions me very much against all of the “New Atheist” guys—even though I want my message to be respectful of people’s beliefs and reasoning, which might be community-based, or dignity-based, and so on. And I think obviously the Templeton Foundation likes all of this, because this is part of an emerging conversation.

No, the Templeton Foundation likes that because they favor and promote the hypothesis that there is a god, and agnostics like you are a useful tool for making excuses that their beliefs are rational and supported by the evidence.

A scientist (and an atheist) can make the declaration that a particular hypothesis is incoherent and unsupported by any plausible evidence. We do all the time. Those “New Atheist” guys are all happy to say that all you have to do is clearly define what you mean by “god” (first point of failure: no religion does) and provide reproducible evidence for this being (second failure), and they’ll listen and revise their beliefs accordingly. That the godly have consistently failed spectacularly in accomplishing either of those aims is actually pretty good evidence that they’re making it all up.

Gleiser is willing to admit there is “no evidence for God or any kind of god”, but he is too chickenshit to draw any rational conclusion from that. He’s also unwilling to ask the next question that follows — “So why do you believe in a god?” — and drill down into what the actual mechanisms behind this unsupported belief might be, which makes his unwillingness to pursue the truth incompatible with the scientific method. I’ve always thought that method involved questioning everything, but he seems to think it stops at the point where it makes big-money donors uncomfortable.

Comments

  1. says

    “I don’t believe even though I have no evidence for or against, simply I don’t believe.” Period.”

    Whereas, if you were honest, or just observant, you would depict atheism in general as “I don’t believe because I have no evidence for.”

    The used-god salesmen of the world are intent on depicting those that don’t buy their wares as being just as irrational and dogmatic as those that do. I have to wonder if they’ll ever realise that this doesn’t make them or their pitch any more convincing, or make them look any cleverer.

  2. says

    “There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one”. At the risk of the harpies of atheism descending that sounds like a pretty religious statement by Darwin. It begs the question; Who or what is doing the breathing?

  3. consciousness razor says

    I don’t get how somebody can think his stale old bullshit is worth a million fucking pounds. They don’t have anything better to do with the money?

    Also, don’t sell us too short, PZ. We’ve got evidence against a benevolent deity: we would look around and see something like a benevolent world, if that were the case, but that does not describe our world. If there were a flying spaghetti monster, pastas would play a much more prominent role, etc. And the same for deities who hate masturbating lesbians or whatever the fuck it might be: they would have views/motivations/etc. and the ability to act on them, but we have tons of evidence that no such things actually occur. All we actually see is just a lot of believers playing pretend and saying things that make no sense.

    The remaining options are no better…. If we’re supposed to make some other kind of inference about the claims theists make, that means these claims aren’t to be taken realistically, that they shouldn’t be thought to have such implications. But of course there is no problem with rejecting a non-serious claim which its proponents insist does not (or could not) have any implications about reality — they have already done most of the rejection for you, whether they realize it or not. Basically all you have to do is say “right, so let’s scrap that idea … are you done talking now?”

  4. Sastra says

    This positions me very much against all of the “New Atheist” guys—even though I want my message to be respectful of people’s beliefs and reasoning, which might be community-based, or dignity-based, and so on.

    Translation: “We should never tell anyone their religious beliefs are wrong — because that assumes religion has to do with facts and explanations instead of being deeply-held personal beliefs coming out of ones desires, community, values, and so on. But it’s okay to tell people they’re wrong if they’re telling people they’re wrong — because fuck those arrogant wankers. So clueless; the facts are against them and their explanations aren’t as good.”

  5. says

    What people such as Gleiser might be trying to say — although he isn’t at all clear about it — is that they can’t rule out the possibility that some entity we might understand as intelligent created the universe intentionally. Said entity however is not evidently intervening in its creation — we don’t see any credible examples of suspension of the ordinary workings of nature, although again, can’t rule out that they do happen but we haven’t noticed. Those are pretty weak claims and my response to them is basically “who cares”? We go on trying to understand more about the universe using our senses and our reason. This speculation is pointless, or at least it certainly isn’t an important enough point to distance yourself from people who don’t find it interesting.

  6. ikanreed says

    Oops, you didn’t say “oblate imperfect spheroid” so you’re just as wrong as the as the flat earthers and god is real.

    I don’t make the rules.

  7. zetopan says

    It is painfully obvious that Marcelo (the Reason Mangler) still hasn’t read the memo about religious apologetics having being expelled from science four centuries ago! What an ignorant jackass.

  8. says

    consciousness razor@#3:
    We’ve got evidence against a benevolent deity: we would look around and see something like a benevolent world, if that were the case, but that does not describe our world.

    Other evidence against: conservation laws. “Souls” and “prayers” and “omniscience” and “omnipotence” violate various conservation laws. A believer who wants to argue there is a god needs to stop saying “Darwin made mistakes!” and explain a theory of godness that is consistent with observable reality. Here is another one: let’s hear a theory of ensoulment. We let the faithful walk around assuming that there’s this very important thing called a “soul” but none of them have any idea what it is, other than “a form of energy” which is problematic because we know the electromagnetic spectrum and souls ain’t on it. How does omniscience work – does it allow observation at speeds above that of light? Can god “see” into a black hole?

    We not only have evidence against a benevolent diety, there is a great deal of physical law that says a god is impossible.

  9. Kevin Karplus says

    As an agnostic, my take on the debate is pretty much that it doesn’t matter to me whether there is a god (or gods) or not. There is no evidence one way or the other—one can build a consistent model with or without a god (the models without a god are easier to make useful predictions from, which is why so many scientists are atheists, but the models with gods can have more entertaining stories). The problem comes from people insisting that their model is reality or that there is something seriously wrong with people who have different models. (OK, some models are ludicrously inconsistent, which makes their adherents look more than a bit gullible.)

    For many societies, religion serves a useful role in providing a framework for authoritarian ethics. Other ethical frameworks are possible (even other authoritarian ones), but there must be a fairly widely accepted ethical framework in order for a society to function. Where New Atheism seems to have failed is in getting its adherents to agree on an ethical framework or even on the need for one. One of the reasons I continue to read this blog (other than the spiders and occasional cephalopod) is the PZ Myers is trying to get atheists to adopt an ethical framework, even if he has not articulated the basis for the framework very clearly yet.

  10. mnb0 says

    “I’ve always thought that method involved questioning everything.”
    Then you should finally begin to question what “evidence for god” is supposed to mean. See, evidence by definition is taken from our natural reality, while gods are supposed to reside in a supernatural reality. Smells like a category error and begging the question. – probably because it is.
    Disclaimer: I’m a 7 on the scale of Dawkins. Just not for this superficial reason, that merely shows that atheists don’t question their own views either. PZ’s thinking is hardly better than Gleiser’s on this topic (and several others).

  11. says

    Gleiser is willing to admit there is “no evidence for God or any kind of god”, but he is too chickenshit to draw any rational conclusion from that…I’ve always thought that method involved questioning everything, but he seems to think it stops at the point where it makes big-money donors uncomfortable.

    OK, first, it’s not 100% clear he admitted that. He was saying an agnostic would say something like that and that he is an agnostic. So is he an agnostic that would say that??? He may even be too chickenshit to commit to not having evidence for any kind of god. But, assuming he is such an agnostic, he then seems to also stop before asking why these donors are giving him money. According to the article, “the award from the John Templeton Foundation annually recognizes an individual ‘who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension.'” So if he is indeed one of those agnostics that would say they have no evidence, then what “exceptional contribution” has he made? I think we know the answer. It’s like PZ said, “agnostics like [Gleiser] are a useful tool for making excuses that their beliefs are rational and supported by the evidence.” I wish someone would give me that much money for making excuses!

  12. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    No pronouncements, eh? Well how about, “I have no need of that hypothesis.”

    Shouldn’t it tell people something when the degree to which a concept (gods) is consistent with the evidence is in inverse proportion to the influence the concept has on the evidence?

  13. willj says

    I don’t believe even though I have no evidence for or against, simply I don’t believe

    I don’t have evidence for or against a whole lotta things, like elves and fairies, although it might be kinda cool if they existed. That’s why we read fantasy novels. But if I actually believed in them, and acted on those beliefs, I might get locked up. Not so with Jehovah, or the Nephilim, or the Rapture, or the appontment of Trump by God (who must have been taking a nap when Obama was elected).

  14. consciousness razor says

    Then you should finally begin to question what “evidence for god” is supposed to mean. See, evidence by definition is taken from our natural reality, while gods are supposed to reside in a supernatural reality.

    It makes no difference where the thing is supposed to “reside.” You can take evidence (for or against) from the natural world, like I did, like Marcus Ranum did, like people have been doing for thousands of years. You’re not completely done at the evidence-gathering stage: you can then derive conclusions by thinking about such things, but that is also something we can do in the natural world, without having to visit a supernatural fucking residence. It’s almost funny … I don’t know how you managed to convince yourself that any part of this process is impossible, but it definitely isn’t.
    It’s possible to cook up (hypothetically) a supernatural entity that has no logical connection with natural things or events. Then it would not be constrained by evidence. But this is not the sort of entity religions are concerned with — believers think it does stuff, which has some consequence in our world, like creating it or otherwise intervening in it.

  15. whywhywhy says

    Folks have also looked at whether there is any evidence of something guiding the direction of evolution and every test comes back that evolution happens and there is no evidence of a destination, there is no deviation from randomness except in response to natural causes.

  16. says

    consciousness razor:
    It’s possible to cook up (hypothetically) a supernatural entity that has no logical connection with natural things or events. Then it would not be constrained by evidence.

    It would also be very hard to make any assertion about such an unknowable thing. It’d be harder to learn anything about than dark energy (which at least has a measurable interaction with the universe). I find many faithful attempt to shield their belief by claiming god is very mysterious – which eventually invites the question “then how do you know anything about it at all?” You can’t say an unknowable mysterious energetic nebulosity “loves me” – what does that even mean?

    My favorite is claims that god is infinite. Oh? Really? Barring some kind of proof by induction, how does a finite human being convince themself god is infinite? The end of god could be right around the corner!

    “Tell me what you know about god?” Then “how do you know that?” Those are the fun questions.

  17. petesh says

    PZ’s thinking is hardly better than Gleiser’s on this topic (and several others).

    Pro tip: the final parenthetical all by itself pretty much ensures that no reasonable person will take you seriously. Either specify and justify, or leave out the random insults.

  18. says

    Hmmm. I’ve been told that evidence doesn’t apply to the supernatural, but I can’t figure out how this proposition doesn’t count as special pleading.

  19. Rob Grigjanis says

    Marcus @9: That’s just as much gibberish as any goddist nonsense. I don’t believe in souls, etc because there is no compelling reason to do so. But when you say they violate conservation laws, you have to show your work. Go ahead and show it. An equation would be useful.

    Conservation laws and symmetries are properties of a theory*. Saying that X violates the conservation laws of a particular theory requires that you know how X fits into your theory. When a deist or theist proposes such a model (I’m not holding my breath), you can then make statements about violations. But until then, you’re just countering their nonsense with your own.

    we know the electromagnetic spectrum and souls ain’t on it

    Neither are teacups. The em spectrum is just a range of frequencies of em radiation.

    *If your theory is nonrelativistic quantum mechanics, you would say that the number of electrons in the universe is conserved. If your theory is quantum electrodynamics, you would say that the number of electrons minus the number of positrons is conserved, not the number of electrons. If you add weak interactions (with neutrino oscillations), you can only say that the number of leptons minus the number of antileptons is conserved. And if you subscribe to some Grand Unified theories, even that gets chucked out.

  20. Sastra says

    Joseph Zowghi #19 wrote:

    I’ve been told that evidence doesn’t apply to the supernatural, but I can’t figure out how this proposition doesn’t count as special pleading.

    It ought to also be counted as a contradiction. People who believe in the supernatural always do so because they think the supernatural explains a situation or experience better than it could be explained without it. They had a mystical experience; an event occurred which was too interesting or convenient or unlikely to ‘ just be a coincidence; life or love or consciousness or the universe suggests or requires an explanation which goes beyond the physical world; and, of course, the entire catalogue of apologetics — ranging from Aquinas and the kalam, to “ how do you explain a flower?” to “You do SO believe in God, your sinful nature is in denial, liar.”

    All of those reasons ( except maybe the last one) involve evidence of some sort in the natural world. The supernatural will no longer be proclaimed “outside of science’s domain” as soon as something confirms it. Then, they’ll spin on a dime.

  21. DonDueed says

    Agnostic: “There is no evidence either for or against the existence of God or any god.”

    Templeton: “So you’re sayin’ there’s a chance?” … Here, have $1M.

  22. willj says

    Sastra #21:

    life or love or consciousness or the universe suggests or requires an explanation which goes beyond the physical world

    Just curious – what is there about consciousness that’s physical (assuming you believe consciousness even exists)? It seems to be correlated with physical events, and yet it’s not an objectively observable property of anything, even in principle. That would make it unscientific. As far as I know, unobservable properties don’t emerge from observable systems.

  23. unclefrogy says

    while gods are supposed to reside in a supernatural reality.

    is there any evidence for such a thing as supernatural reality or is that a continuing question? it is for some. What might a supernatural reality be in any case? Would it be just an older name for the multiverse for which there is no evidence at all (as far as I know)?

    It’s possible to cook up (hypothetically) a supernatural entity that has no logical connection with natural things or events. Then it would not be constrained by evidence.

    well yes you could but it would by definition have no baring on normal reality at all and it might as well not exist. Even if a god existed in some supernatural “level” how would that answer any question at all about this experience of living in the world/existence we can describe and not just pushing the question of with a because statement, like panspermia does not in any way explain evolution but simply moves the question to some other place.
    The only “realm” I am aware of that exists in the real world and has any connection with supernatural existence resides in the ideas of the mind and the depth and breadth of that land has is yet to be discovered.
    uncle frogy

  24. Sastra says

    willj #23 wrote:

    what is there about consciousness that’s physical?

    As with ‘sight,’ a strong, unbroken correlation with physical events strongly suggests it’s an evolved property or phenomenon rooted in matter, energy, pattern, motion, and time. If it were instead a fundamental aspect of reality which happened to manifest itself in the natural world in small degrees as brain-like organs became more and more sophisticated — but not as a product of physical brains — I think we would expect to see more examples of things being conscious without having the commensurate material substrate.

    And, in fact, many of those who argue that consciousness requires a supernatural explanation invoke purported examples of consciousness-unconnected- to the material — NDEs or ESP or ghosts. If the claims of the paranormal could be substantiated scientifically, I think that would indeed create an opportunity for supernatural explanations.

  25. consciousness razor says

    Just curious – what is there about consciousness that’s physical (assuming you believe consciousness even exists)? It seems to be correlated with physical events, and yet it’s not an objectively observable property of anything, even in principle.

    I’m a physical object, consisting of matter that moves around in space, the type of thing which is the object study in physics. One of the things you can say about an object like me (or you) is that it is conscious. This is something we can know, your assertions notwithstanding. I didn’t need to go hunting for some abstract thing “about consciousness” which makes me think this … I considered specific things which are conscious (humans), and those were physical. Is there something you think is missing?

    What could “objectively observable” mean, if subjects are the types of things which do observations? I don’t know, but like I said we’re done, so it won’t matter.

    Continuing….

    […] and yet it’s not an objectively observable property of anything, even in principle. That would make it unscientific.

    1) How do you know it’s not? If it’s the case that I can’t tell you’re conscious, then what am I doing instead, when I’m somehow led to believe that I’m learning this about you? If you could give a coherent account of what’s really going on according to you, then maybe it would be worth a closer look. No guarantees that it would be an improvement, but it would be something. However, at this point, I have no clue how it would go.
    2) How did you determine your criteria which specify what makes something “scientific”? If that’s not the best we can come up with, then we would be wasting our time worrying about that. It might be a waste of time even then, but hopefully a bit less wasteful.

    As far as I know, unobservable properties don’t emerge from observable systems.

    They don’t? (Or you may mean that, as far as you know, they can’t…. I’ll work with it either way.)
    Let’s take a nice wide view of things, to start with. We have the observable universe. That’s a physical system, limited in scope by practical considerations of what we human beings, here and now, are able to observe. (It’s worth emphasizing that it wouldn’t refer to the same thing, for other observers at other times or places.) We have cosmological theories, which do not indicate that this is the entirety of the physical universe. There is plenty of reason to believe that there is yet more universe out there, which is of course unobservable. It is implied by the evidence that we have. (This isn’t “emergence,” but the terminology you chose isn’t my concern.)
    So you can consider that a single counterexample, and we would be done, since that is enough. But there’s a more general point. It is not the case that our observations are incapable of having implications about other stuff that we can’t observe (practically speaking, or in principle). There is no apparent evidence or reasoning underlying this assumption — it was just your assumption. We could go through various examples showing why that assumption is incorrect, if that’s what it would take, but hopefully that’s unnecessary.

  26. raven says

    “I don’t believe even though I have no evidence for or against, simply I don’t believe.” Period.

    Marcelo Gleiser is a serial killer.
    Of strawpeople.
    That isn’t what atheists think or believe.

    There is a huge amount of evidence that the gods don’t exist.
    Every testable claim of the xians has been falsified!!!

  27. willj says

    As with ‘sight,’ a strong, unbroken correlation with physical events strongly suggests it’s an evolved property or phenomenon rooted in matter, energy, pattern, motion, and time.

    My consciousness is strongly correlated with watching a movie, growing old, and taking drugs. Does that mean they generate consciousness? The fact that no one in hundreds of years has come up with a “mechanism” for generating consciousness is instructive. There is no mechanism for generating unobservable properties.

    I think we would expect to see more examples of things being conscious without having the commensurate material substrate.

    More examples of things being conscious? You mean apart from behavioral inferences? Consciousness is not observable, except (perhaps) in yourself.

    And, in fact, many of those who argue that consciousness requires a supernatural explanation invoke purported examples of consciousness-unconnected- to the material — NDEs or ESP or ghosts. If the claims of the paranormal could be substantiated scientifically, I think that would indeed create an opportunity for supernatural explanations.

    If they could be substantiated scientifically, they wouldn’t supernatural. A word game. Scientists can’t test anything beyond the scientific.

    I make no claims about the supernatural, nor do I defend them. However you could argue that if 1) consciousness is real and exists, and 2) its not an objective property of anything, that 3) it’s located in a another world or universe. That’s dualism, and we’re back to Descartes. And its only one of a number or scenarios you could argue, due to the inadequacy of science in this domain.

  28. Owlmirror says

    @willj:

    Sastra:

    And, in fact, many of those who argue that consciousness requires a supernatural explanation invoke purported examples of consciousness-unconnected- to the material — NDEs or ESP or ghosts. If the claims of the paranormal could be substantiated scientifically, I think that would indeed create an opportunity for supernatural explanations.

    If they could be substantiated scientifically, they wouldn’t [be] supernatural. A word game. Scientists can’t test anything beyond the scientific.

    You’re using “supernatural” in the epistemological sense, while Sastra is using it in the ontological sense, as something irreducibly mental. So you’re talking past each other.

    No, there’s no evidence for the existence of the irreducibly mental, and arguably evidence contradicting the existence of the irreducibly mental. But it avoids the problem of the supernatural being eternally “untestable”.

  29. Sastra says

    Biologists, cognitive scientists, neurologists, brain surgeons, and anesthesiologists study the mechanisms of the brain which involve whether someone or something is conscious. It’s not a black box. I think you’re trying to get to qualia.

    If they could be substantiated scientifically, they wouldn’t supernatural.

    You seem to be using a definition of the supernatural which isn’t very useful. Science studies reality. If repeated tests were to discover that dualism is true, and it became part of the scientific model of reality, I would have no problem admitting that I was mistaken in my Naturalism and that the supernatural exists. I think a good definition ought to be capable of allowing that.

  30. consciousness razor says

    I make no claims about the supernatural, nor do I defend them. However you could argue that if 1) consciousness is real and exists, and 2) its not an objective property of anything, that 3) it’s located in a another world or universe. That’s dualism, and we’re back to Descartes.

    Lots of confusion for me here…. Descartes’ version of mind-body dualism has nothing whatsoever to do with things located in another world. He thought there was material stuff on the one hand, and on the other there was mental stuff. This distinction tells you what kind of stuff it is (different “substances” if you’re old school), not where it would be found.
    A multiverse of some sort makes no appearance in this. None. That isn’t dualism. So, in fact we wouldn’t be back to Descartes, if it were true that your conclusion (3) follows from those premises.
    Your conclusion does not follow from those premises. There is nothing about “being located in another world” which suggests that it’s not an objective property of anything.
    (A) It’s real and exists, in another world, by hypothesis.
    (B) Things in that world, like others including our own, could have objective properties, since there is simply nothing contradictory about that.
    (C) It could be one of those things that does, as a matter of fact, have objective properties, in that world, wherever the fuck that may be.
    So how would failing to be an objective property (which you’ve taken as a premise) lead you to believe that it’s in another world? Things there could have objective properties just as well things here, so that is not a characteristic which would somehow hint at being in another world. (You should also establish that this is a genuine characteristic of consciousness, one that gives you these hints, before you pull even more wild conclusions out of your hat.)
    It is of course possible to argue tons of shit, even shit that makes no sense and is totally unsupported. I will not dispute that “you could argue” this or whatever you like. But you may not be satisfied with that, since it doesn’t establish anything interesting.

  31. DanDare says

    The default position in science is ‘I do not yet accept that hypothesis’.
    When sufficient evidence accrues the hypothesis becomes of interest. If all competing hypothesis for the same evidence are eliminated then it is tentatively acceptd.
    So “The god hypothesis” is currently not accepted. It has no supporting evidence that is not covered by more acceptable hypothesis.
    That is science and atheism.

  32. Owlmirror says

    @Sastra:

    The supernatural will no longer be proclaimed “outside of science’s domain” as soon as something confirms it. Then, they’ll spin on a dime.

    I’ve had the hunch for a while that the epistemological sense of “supernatural” was actually invented by religious people, seeing the success of science in finding out more about the observable universe, and the failure of religion and spiritualism in accurately and honestly doing anything at all. Every time that spiritualism or religions made empirical claims that were demonstrated to be hoaxes or mistakes left those who believed in it with little recourse but to retreat to “Well, the real thing isn’t testable by science”.

    Figuring out if my above hunch is correct would involve some lengthy historical linguistic investigation, though.

  33. John Morales says

    Ah, the intellectual cowardice of the so-called “agnostic”. They purport not to believe, but also not to not believe. Pitiful.

    If one is a theist, one believes the veridical existence of a theistic deity; conversely, if one does not, one is an atheist. A privative definition, I know, but the only one encompassing all varieties of atheism. Which includes agnosticism, and yes, deism.

    It’s a holdover from when atheists were persecuted and vilified — prudence at the expense of honesty.

  34. DanDare says

    Huxley coined the term agnosticism as a rejection of claims to knowledge. It’s not an in between of beliefs.

  35. John Morales says

    DanDare, fine; then that term should not be applied to belief, but to knowledge. But the featured specimen is indeed applying it to belief, specifically, to belief in at least one theistic deity.

    It’s not an in between of beliefs.

    That’s what I wrote; it’s an evasion. One don’t believe, and one doesn’t disbelieve.

    But alas, it doesn’t work, and it’s still a second-order belief: the belief that you have no belief and no disbelief. Which is very silly.

    (Care to attempt to elucidate the distinction between disbelieving and not believing? Because when it comes to the proposition that theistic deities are veridical, there is no functional distinction)

  36. says

    Owl Mirror at 35
    “Figuring out if my above hunch is correct would involve some lengthy historical linguistic investigation, though.”
    Don’t hold your breath waiting for $1million from Templeton.

  37. willj says

    #31 Sastra

    #31 Sastra: Biologists, cognitive scientists, neurologists, brain surgeons, and anesthesiologists study the mechanisms of the brain which involve whether someone or something is conscious. It’s not a black box. I think you’re trying to get to qualia.

    They only study correlates of consciousness, which ultimately boils to down asking someone what they experience. Consciousness, thoughts, feelings, qualia – it’s all they same as far I’m concerned. And yes, they’re a black box in the sense that they can’t be actually be detected.

    #32 Consciousness Razor

    So how would failing to be an objective property (which you’ve taken as a premise) lead you to believe that it’s in another world? Things there could have objective properties just as well things here, so that is not a characteristic which would somehow hint at being in another world.

    I assume things in other worlds or universes are not objective to us. Otherwise they wouldn’t be other universes. So it’s a possibility you could argue for. Since I would classify stuff in other universes as another “substance”, it is indeed dualistic. Many scientists seem to believe our universe is made up entirely of things which are, at least in principle, publicly observable. Consciousness isn’t, at least in this universe. Anything we observe would be a correlate at best.

    (You should also establish that this is a genuine characteristic of consciousness, one that gives you these hints, before you pull even more wild conclusions out of your hat

    Wrong. I don’t see non-objectivity is a necessary a property of consciousness in all universes. In this world, yes. But in another universe – a spirit world, for example – observing someone else’s consciousness is at least conceivable.

  38. says

    Not being convinced gods are real (not believing in gods) is the minimal atheist position. Very curious that people still argue that and maintain agnosticism as some kind of fuzzy (and importantly, polite) halfway house.

    Nobody I’ve ever seen or read has professed “agnosticism” over fairies or alien visitation or the bunyip, in fact they’re happy to say they don’t believe in them.

    The presence of the god factor still seems to, in some people, inspire irrational reverence for the concept, even when they don’t accept it. It’s almost as if “I’m agnostic” is a lite version of Pascal’s Wager, with the agnostic-who-doesn’t-believe-in-gods-but-isn’t-atheist™️ hedging their bets, if not with God, then with the mostly-believing society that surrounds them.

  39. consciousness razor says

    willj, #40:

    I assume things in other worlds or universes are not objective to us. Otherwise they wouldn’t be other universes.

    You seem awfully satisfied with simply assuming things.
    What does the phrase “not objective to us” mean? I’m not sure how to make sense of “objective” as a relative term. In my experience, nobody uses it that way.
    I’m also not following your reasoning, that another world wouldn’t be another world, if it were the case that you assume something inscrutable about it….

    So it’s a possibility you could argue for.

    Well, no, not me, since I have no clue what the fuck you’re talking about. Maybe you could, someday, but so far you haven’t actually provided any coherent arguments.

    Since I would classify stuff in other universes as another “substance”, it is indeed dualistic.

    No, it is indeed something that you would classify as such. But again, that is not how anybody else uses these terms.

    Many scientists seem to believe our universe is made up entirely of things which are, at least in principle, publicly observable.

    So? If that’s the case, it wouldn’t be the first time that many scientists have been wrong.

    Consciousness isn’t, at least in this universe.

    Again, all you’re doing is making an assertion. I can assert things too. Let’s try one on for size: Shakespeare’s plays were authored by a purple unicorn. This does not get us anywhere useful.
    There’s also a general issue with coherence, or the lack thereof….
    You claim the consciousness of things in this universe, like me or you, isn’t observable.
    So, you somehow think that means it’s in another universe.
    Let’s consider that for a moment.
    How did it move from this universe (in your premise) to the other universe (in your conclusion)? What made it do that … the potential for someone to observe it made that happen?
    If my consciousness were observed here, would I be in that other universe or would I still be here in this one, while my consciousness (a property that I have) is elsewhere? How would that work?
    What the fuck could it mean for a property of something to be located in another world than the thing it describes?
    – Suppose there’s a red chair in world #1.
    – Nobody can see that it’s red, although they know it’s a chair.
    – It is in fact a red chair, whether or not we know this about it.
    – The chairness is in world #1 where the object is.
    – The redness is in world #2 where there is no such object, only that property of it floating in a void.
    That’s the kind of situation you’re describing. So what exactly is that property doing there, and how does that make any sense to you?
    Much of this depends on the fact that we don’t know something. But that simply doesn’t tell us what’s true independent of our (obviously limited) knowledge. What if somebody wanted to ask about the latter? What exactly would you tell them?

  40. Sastra says

    willj #40 wrote:

    They only study correlates of consciousness, which ultimately boils to down asking someone what they experience. Consciousness, thoughts, feelings, qualia – it’s all they same as far I’m concerned. And yes, they’re a black box in the sense that they can’t be actually be detected.

    Why privilege consciousness and other aspects of mind over sight, color, heat, light, and virtually everything else? We can only study their physical correlates. Scientists can watch animals which behave as if they “ see things” — but that’s just inferred from their behavior. You can’t look at eyes under a microscope and view anything called “ sight.” Therefore, sight is not a scientific concept. It’s never directly observed — except our own, of course.

    There are several terms for this fallacy, or group of fallacies. One is “ greedy reductionism” — skipping layers and levels of complexity and explanation in order to fasten the explanation for a thing only to its physical foundation (“There’s only the brain so ‘emotions’ don’t exist.”) I think you’re also reifying abstractions (“if something is real then it must be an irreducible substance”) and there might be a slight whiff of Solipsism in there, too (“If all real things are detectable and I can’t really detect anything outside of myself — it’s all just inference and unprovable assumptions — then I am the Cosmos.”) That may not be what you’re saying, but it could be where you’re eventually going.

  41. KG says

    Since I have other things to do today, I’ll just thank consciousness razor for sparing me the feeling that I really should respond to the nonsense (and I mean “nonsense” literally) from mnb0 and willj – and I’m sure doing it a lot better than I could. Consciousness is observable – we observe it whenever we meet other people (unless they are asleep or comatose), and in ourselves.

  42. willj says

    Sastra #43You can’t look at eyes under a microscope and view anything called “ sight.” Therefore, sight is not a scientific concept. It’s never directly observed — except our own, of course

    Same thing with color. To quote the old example: you can’t know whether someone else’s red is the same is the same as yours. You can study visual systems, properties or neurons, and how they, behave, etc. Those are objective. In the case of head and light, they’re also objectively measurable.

    here might be a slight whiff of Solipsism in there, too (“If all real things are detectable and I can’t really detect anything outside of myself

    Correction: I can’t really detect consciousness outside myself. That’s doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

    KG #44Consciousness is observable – we observe it whenever we meet other people (unless they are asleep or comatose), and in ourselves.

    LOL. What a stupid thing to say. Repeat after me: Behavior isn’t consciousness.

  43. consciousness razor says

    Same thing with color.

    Therefore, color and other secondary properties are in another universe, if they’re real at all. And that means they’re different substances, but also properties, but not objective ones to us, which is a statement about us, except that it’s not, but you could argue that it is, even though you won’t, not really.

    Sure, we’d have to be just plain stupid to disagree with that. It’s all so simple. But maybe you’d be willing to grant that this is a somewhat convoluted way to give us no explanation for why you reject naturalism. Couldn’t you have just said that you do and left it there?

  44. willj says

    give us no explanation for why you reject naturalism

    Hey, you wanna solve the Hard Problem, when no else has a clue? Be my guest, smart guy. You’ll be on the front page of all the science journals. Tell us how a bunch of objective matter and forces come together and subjective experience magically emerges.

    Or can take the easy way out and call it an illusion. Good luck with that.

  45. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Actually, there are physical manifestations of consciousness–at least in the sense that we can see various aspects of consciousness fade as parts of the brain become damaged. In that sense, consciousness may be an emergent phenomena, arising–perhaps even by accident–as a combined product of the functions carried out by those portions of the brain.
    Indeed, the experiences of prison wardens who supervise prisons where prisoners are kept in solitary confinement suggest that consciousness is anything but subjective. They’ve talked about how they see the “humanity” of prisoners fading away as human contact is withheld. It may be that at least some aspects of consciousness may be inherently social rather than solitary.

  46. says

    Rob Grigjanis@#20:
    Neither are teacups.

    Why did you edit off the beginning of my sentence, which correctly framed the “energy spectrum” question as being relevant if someone said a soul was a form of energy? I can’t tell if you’re being dishonest or if you just can’t be arsed to read carefully. But, since you commented, I assume you did read what I wrote.

  47. Rob Grigjanis says

    Marcus @49: A teacup is a form of energy as well. WTF does that have to do with it being “on the em spectrum” or not? For that, what the hell does “being on the em spectrum” even mean? Is consciousness a “form of energy”? Is it “on the em spectrum”?

    I can’t tell if you’re being dishonest or if you just can’t be arsed to read carefully.

    Right. It would never occur to you that maybe you just don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about. Must be my dishonesty, or some other shortcoming on my part.

  48. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To Rob Grigjanis in 20
    To defend Marcus:
    We’ve had this discussion many times. There are serious respectable physicists and cosmologists who make exactly the same argument that Marcus made. I still don’t know why you don’t like the argument. Last time, you said that you were too tired to explain it to me.

    Here’s the link again for the benefit of everyone else – the argument by Sean Carroll.
    https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/physics-and-the-immortality-of-the-soul/

    For a slightly different line of argument, I would also cite several other seminal works in this area:

    PZ Myer’s encounter with Thor is one of my favorite essays on the topic.
    https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/03/03/thor/
    There is maybe room for a mouse, but we’re talking about a mouse. We know that the great enemy is not there.

    Also, the standard garage dragon essay is incredibly valuable.
    http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/Dragon.htm
    Even Carl Sagan says in the essay that believing in garage dragons is a delusion, e.g. patently false.

    And finally, the esteemed “How Not To Attack Intelligent Design Creationism” peer-reviewed paper.
    https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10699-010-9178-7

    To sum up the more-general argument: In the long history of science, we’ve had plenty of supernatural e.g. non-materialist proposed explanations, and not a single one has been confirmed, and many have been falsified and replaced with natural models. At this point, the accumulation of evidence to fit the trend is overwhelming: Supernatural explanations are always wrong. In other words, the supernatural does not exist, and we can assert that affirmatively and positively.

    To sum up the more specific argument: As typically envisioned, a soul is some amalgamation of stuff outside of the Standard Model (i.e. Cartesian dualism), but the soul is also composed of stuff that can causally interact with particles of the Standard Model, i.e. particles in the human brain. We know this is false because of the earlier argument – this is a supernatural explanation, and we know that all supernatural explanations are wrong.

    However, we can also make the specific argument that the existence of such things is inconsistent with the existing math of the Standard Model. As Sean Carroll argues in the above link, if you assume that the general mathematical model of quantum field theory is correct, then the soul must be composed of something like quantum field(s), and with certain interactions with the electron field, quark fields, or the like, and it must do so at energies and distances relevant to the human brain, and therefore we would have detected it already in existing particle accelerators. Because we have not detected it in particle accelerators, therefore the soul as typically envisioned cannot exist inside anything like the Standard Model and quantum field theory. So, you either have to radically adjust one of the best scientific theories ever, or you throw out this soul nonsense.

    Again, I know you don’t like this argument, but I still have no idea why. It seems like a good argument to me, and I have a respectable physicist, Sean Carroll, also making the argument, and therefore I’m not just going to take your word that it’s a bad argument. If you want to try to explain why you think it’s a bad argument, I’ll listen.

  49. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Ack. Missing a not:

    There is maybe room for a mouse, but we’re not talking about a mouse. We know that the great enemy is not there.

  50. Rob Grigjanis says

    EL @51:

    Last time, you said that you were too tired to explain it to me.

    I believe the “too tired” comment was on a thread about nuclear power, in which others made the points I would have made anyway. As for Carroll’s “argument”, we’ve had at least two prolonged exchanges on the subject, in which you demonstrated industrial levels of obtuseness. Probably more later, when I’ve had a couple of coffees.

  51. Rob Grigjanis says

    EL @51: OMG, I unearthed a couple of those threads, and I ain’t going down that rabbit hole again. Anyone who gives a shit can delve into those nightmares starting here and here.

    I know you’re not satisfied with my answers there, EL, but I simply don’t care anymore.

  52. consciousness razor says

    It’s not just an argument from Sean Carroll,* for what that’s worth. The interaction problem for dualism has been discussed and dissected for quite a long time, as you may know. I think you would agree that dualism fails (thus far) to give a satisfactory account of mental phenomena. Some dualists simply don’t provide the information needed to even start evaluating it as a coherent and substantive proposal, apparently thinking they don’t need to do so…. They just have faith, and/or some obscure religious doctrine, which they believe is sufficient. But of course that’s not good enough.

    *No need for the scare quotes: in fact, he made quite a few arguments, whether or not you find them compelling. It remains to be seen whether your dismissiveness will carry the day, or whether it will be our obtuseness.

  53. leerudolph says

    consciousnessrazor@15: “visit a supernatural fucking residence”
    They have those? I may have to reconsider my epistemological strictures against the supernatural!

  54. consciousness razor says

    Rob, there’s a basic question about whether or not mental stuff is fundamental. Naturalism (or physicalism) says that it isn’t, and of course that doesn’t imply that there is no mental stuff. It just isn’t the fundamental stuff. If there’s something in the real world which doesn’t reduce to physical stuff, then naturalism is false. That’s more or less the view, whether or not you endorse it.
    If not everything can (practically speaking) be represented in the equations we have now, that’s okay (and hardly surprising). The issue is what would need to be represented in them, at a fundamental level, in order to give a complete account.
    Your standard “I don’t have a compelling reason to believe…” attitude isn’t quite coming to grips with this. The question isn’t about your reasons for belief. It could be that some things don’t reduce to physical stuff (souls or gods or whatever they may be), and yet you personally would still not have reasons to believe they exist. It’s a possibility, but in any case it’s irrelevant, when we’re talking about the types of things which do in fact exist and the types that don’t.

  55. Rob Grigjanis says

    cr @55: I’m not interested in “carrying the day” on this turdpile of a topic. I said all I have to say about Carroll’s bullshit more than two years ago, and life is too short to keep banging one’s head against the same fucking wall, over and over again. As I’ve mentioned to you before.

  56. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To John
    Yes, yes. I know. We’ve had this discussion many times. I will simply say that empirical reasoning and science is inherently based on inductionistic reasoning, and that’s why all empirical and scientific conclusions are tentative, because tomorrow you might find that black swan.

    However, with this ridiculous accumulation of evidence, I’m going to worry about being wrong about supernatural stuff to about the same degree that I worry that the fundamental rules of physics will change and the sun will turn off tomorrow and plunge the Earth into cold and darkness – it’s just not going to happen.

  57. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To Rob Grigjanis
    Ok. Sorry for making you upset – that was never my goal.

  58. John Morales says

    Anyhow. I’ve yet to have seen any description of a plausible god-like entity that is not deistic.

    (Which is why I consider deism be a sufficient form of atheism; no point to beliefs, prayers, or deeds, no incoherent expectations of some afterdeath)

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