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The Terrible Power of Prayer

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The case of Dale and Leilani Neumann is desperately sad. Their daughter died from a treatable form of diabetes because of their belief in the healing power of prayer. Because of their strong faith in a god, they trusted that prayer would cure her condition, so they didn't take her to a doctor. That's a huge burden for any parent to bear.

Now they've been sentenced to one month in jail each year for the next six years and a further ten years probation, with their surviving children subjected to regular checks. They are appealing their conviction.

This is a very stark case and will surely arouse very strong emotions. One of the problems with the case is that the parents exercised their rights to believe in a god and act in accordance with the requirements of their religion. But the consequence was fatal for their child. The judge, also clearly a believer, described them as "very good people" who had acted recklessly. He said that "God probably works through other people, some of them doctors."

This effort to coax them towards a more rational approach to medicine is laudable but does not really address the most important issue. Most people, whether religious or not, would accept that prayer will not cure a child of diabetes, any more than it will heal a fracture. Many would agree with the court that to rely on prayer is reckless. But some would argue that it just might help.

This optimistic expectation of religion is very pervasive. Although all the evidence indicates that nothing fails quite like prayer, many still entertain the idea that it can affect the real physical world. The belief that a supernatural being is watching over us, looking after our interests, guiding us, protecting us even, is psychologically very comforting. Of course, there is no evidence for any of this, but the belief itself, particularly in the US and Islamic countries, is very strong.

Many who would not subscribe to such fundamentalist views as belief in faith healing nevertheless share in the underlying irrationality. Faith healers are simply further along the belief spectrum, more irrational than those nearer the pragmatic end, which is the real world of cause and effect.

When the judge suggested to the Neumanns that their time in jail would give them an opportunity to reflect on what God wanted them to learn from this tragedy, he is reinforcing the same irrationality that led to the catastrophe in the first place. It is unfortunate that the judge's own beliefs should interfere in the sentencing, and in doing so, perpetuate the irrationality that led to such a tragedy.

We can all feel for the family that has lost a child. They will also feel a heavy sense of guilt and responsibility. One can only hope that they will reflect on the dangerous irrationality of believing in a supernatural being as the source of medical care. It should make all believers sit up and think about the irrationality of their own religious beliefs. Private inner contemplation is one thing, but expecting a real consequence from belief in a supernatural being is another. Just how far would you trust your god?

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About Bob Lloyd

  • ambassadorphantom

    I am not sure about this one. The prosecution based this on the assumption of “a legal duty to take their daughter to a doctor.” They have a legal duty to not harm or abuse their children, but this presupposes that the state can mandate certain kinds of treatment and not others. Would relying on a homeopath, accupuncturist or chiropractor be much different? Moral implications aside, it seems like slippery legal ground but that’s not my area…

    I am asking as a believer who also feverently believes in the God-given gift of modern mainstream medicine. As a Catholic, my Church runs 12% of the hospitals in the United States and is the country’s largest single health-care provider. So I’ve never quite understood the problem some religious people have with life-saving medical treatments such as transfusions, etc.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    One wonders why the courts didn’t override the parents’ wishes and intervene sooner, as has happened a number of times, for example in the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses who refused to allow their children to receive blood transfusions.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    If a child has a chronic disorder that has obvious causes, and which can be controlled chemically so as not to harm the child, it is incumbent upon a parent to take the child to a doctor to obtain the chemical treatment and to teach the child to administer the treatment himself, as the occasion requires. In this category would fall such disorders as narcolepsy, epilepsy, diabetes and asthma or bronchiolitis.

    Having done this, it is healthy, IMHO, to pray for the child’s full recovery from the disorder; though it should be noted that sometimes, perhaps more than sometimes, the disorder may have very positive effects in the long run that are impossible for either child or parent to see or perceive.

    But, there is a whole category of “disorders of convenience” where “educators” seek to drug children just to shut them up. I ran into this in the States with a son of mine who has a mild case of CP. All sorts of idiots at hais school were trying to get us to have him take Ritalin therapy for no good reason at all. I’m sure there are many other parents in this position in the States.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    I’m not a lawyer but it is interesting that there is a conflict between the rights of the parent to bring up their children believing anything they choose, even at the risk of grossly misinforming them and inculcating very questionable values, and at the same time a duty of care which can result in a charge of reckless homicide.

    The parents in this case apparently still don’t accept responsibility for their action – God moves in mysterious ways, and all that stuff. Religion makes it very easy to shirk the responsibility for our own morality, depending instead on the assumption that our morality comes from a supernatural being. Even the acceptance of free will is done so inside a supernatural world-view in which one or more omniscient beings can overrule the laws of nature.

    When considering what counts as acceptable treatment, we have to use some measure of efficacy. Prayer is not a treatment. The various attitudes are exposed very easily by comparing different gods. Devout Christians may well entertain the idea of the power of prayer, but they would balk at the idea of praying to Zeus, or Odin, or Ganesh.

    It’s the irrationality that’s the problem and wherever you are on the faith spectrum, you’ve already made compromises with rational thinking.

    Ambassadorphantom raises the question whether it would be different relying on clinical medicine rather than acupunture, homeopathy, etc. Well, yes it would be different, fundamentally different. Because, for all its faults, clinical medicine can demonstrate effective treatments and provide clinical trials data as evidence. The others can’t. It’s a choice between treatment and non-treatment.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    I’m not a lawyer but it is interesting that there is a conflict between the rights of the parent to bring up their children believing anything they choose, even at the risk of grossly misinforming them and inculcating very questionable values, and at the same time a duty of care which can result in a charge of reckless homicide.

    The parents in this case apparently still don’t accept responsibility for their action – God moves in mysterious ways, and all that stuff. Religion makes it very easy to shirk the responsibility for our own morality, depending instead on the assumption that our morality comes from a supernatural being

    When you live in a society that DOES NOT believe that believers (i.e. the Children of Israel) are all resopnsible for one another, you can come up with such a distorted world view. In my own culture, parents have a responsibility to do what they can to insure the survival of their children (or their spouse or themselves), and that responsibility trumps all but three commandments in the Torah; not to murder, not force someone else to murder, and not to commit rape or sexual immorality.

    But the underlying meme that insures that common sense instead of fanaticism is what is followed is that sense of common responsibility for all Israel. You Americans, and most of the rest of you reading this as well, lack this meme in your societies – thus, such idiotic choices are allowed.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    As it happens, I’m not American but my nationality is, of course, irrelevant to the argument I’m making.

    That a religious view of morality relies for its justification on commandments, does indeed imply that its moral authority lies outside of personal decisions. That’s exactly the point I made – religion provides some other responsible agent for moral choices, namely some god.

    The fact that it appears possible to “trump” commandments indicates that nonetheless, people will override such strictures when it becomes socially and morally more correct to do so. Religious morality validates itself against social values in practice, despite what theologians might argue in theory.

    Far from being a distorted world view, the position I’ve presented respects very much the social formation of ethical and moral values, endorses that essential opt-out clause that all religions seem to have, and applauds those situations when people stop following commandments and take responsibility for their own morality and ethical decisions.

    The more you look into this, the more you see that any religious morality necessarily has to compromise with social values in order to remain ethical and moral, or else has to break significantly with the use of dogma to justify moral stances. Islam is a good example of ossifying morality because dogma is not allowed to change. In all cases, the most orthodox of all the leading religions have no qualms about overriding even the most stringent commandments when they feel their interests are threatened. That itself is a convincing demonstration that they themselves adjust their morality to their perceived needs.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Bob,

    I haven’t seen words like belabour in your comments (or maybe I wasn’t looking carefully enough), so I assumed you were American. My bad.

    My point, which you miss entirely is that the concept that “all Israel is responsible for one another” IS a commandment from G-d, and we are expected to view fellow Jews and other Children of Israel as brothers. Do you really have any such expectations where you live?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos/ Christine

    This is so sad and if the parents knew anything about the Bible and Jesus, they would know that one of His disciples, Luke, was a physician, although it is unclear what type.

    As a Believer, this really frustrates me…

    Jesus showed that there are protocols to healing, case in point, when He told the “blind guy” to put mud on his eyes. Even for Christians, prayer is only part of of the protocol to all healing and should always be coupled with the proper medical procedures, medicine, and/or lifestyle adjustments.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    Christine, it’s clear that the parents had a very detailed knowledge of the Bible and that’s the problem. It’s so contradictory, that almost any interpretation can find extensive support from the text. Their mistake was to think that prayer could have a physical effect at all.

    Jesus was living in a time when medicine consisted of a mixture of potions, prayers and sacrifices. The idea of putting mud on eyelids and trusting in prayer is of course not accepted today BECAUSE we don’t need the mythical beliefs as we now understand enough about the human body to treat it effectively in many cases. Prayer, even if it’s part of a faith, has no place in medicine. It’s an unnecessary and ineffective thing to do in treating individuals.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    Ruvy, that very selective category “all Israel” is at best problematic, and at worst seriously prejudicial as is seen in the relationship between Israeli and the Palestinians whose land they have occupied. We don’t need to get into the legitimacy of the land claims to know that belief in such a commandment is the ultimate justification for land seizure and occupation. It’s the religious justification for such claims that undermines any moral legitimacy. For example, historically, you’d include in Children of Israel, all of the palestinian peoples as well.

    The secular equivalent belief, of inclusion of all peoples as “brothers” is widespread in declarations such as human rights, democratic institutions, equality of treatment and access, and so on. That’s a widespread secular principle that requires no commandments because it is already validated against social values.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Luke, was a physician, although it is unclear what type.

    I always kinda thought Luke would have been a good veterinarian.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/fran-parker/ Fran

    I think the more important question is not persecuting or prosecuting parents who thought they were doing right by their God and their child, and now have to deal with that grief, in addition to additional distress by the state. But what about all those who have lost children due to things like cancer where treatments are available but are very costly, and where they couldn’t afford the treatment, or HMOs that won’t cover due to pre-existing conditions, or unproven treatments for conditions where there may not be hope otherwise.

    There are a lot of inequities in this world. Using the courts as a hammer on grieving families is, in my opinion, in bad taste at best.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    “unproven treatments for conditions where there may not be hope otherwise”

    It’s amazing that so many people assume that where the treatment is unproven, that somehow equates to hope. If the proposed treatment is not yet proven, then it actually offers NO hope. To make it useful, the proposed treatment needs to be tested and demonstrated to have some efficacy. Then it might offer some hope.

    You have to question the values of a society that denies cancer patients effective treatment on the grounds of their ability to pay, which then leads them to base their only hope on untested treatments. Their desperation is understandable, but unfortunately their hope remains unjustified.

  • Irene Wagner

    “It should make all believers sit up and think about the irrationality of their own religious beliefs.”

    Sorry, Bob. I’m missing the connection between my reflection on the Neumann case and the sudden shocking realization that my religious beliefs are irrational.

    What I am “sitting up and thinking about” is the church-going and church-eschewing Americans who feed their kids a diet characterized by a French Fry to Fresh Vegetable ratio of about 75 to 1.

    I am sitting up and thinking about how the testimony of a common bricklayer or a waitress is enough to convict a man in a court of law but the same people bearing witness to their own miraculous healings are told that they are lying or mistaken. Why? Because miracles can’t happen…because…miracles can’t happen. Pshaw.

    What evidence do you have that any of the accounts here are falsified? I could list many others, but Akismet would throw out my comment.

    And when answers to prayers for healing, attended or not by appeals to the white-coated Gods of Almighty Western Medicine, receive a “No” answer? I am sitting up and thinking about how death is a part of life. Thousands of people dying together in a tsunami say no more or less about the goodness of an omnipotent God than thousands of people dying thousands of different kinds of deaths individually.

    I’m sitting up and thinking about the wonder of a scientifically-minded man, who, in the absence of personal evidence (or acknowledgment of the same) of a caring God to be thanked for the food he eats, the air he breathes, and the ears with which he hears music–most UNSCIENTIFICALLY assumes that no one else on the planet has any evidence of that either.

    There are many color-blind people (I speak metaphorically) who weren’t born color-blind. They’ve gouged out their own rods and cones. Bring out your cut-and-pasted lists of “Bible Contradictions” and “Horrors Committed Against Mankind by People of Faith.” It’s not incumbent upon me to make you see colors you squeeze your eyes shut to avoid seeing.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Hi, Irene. Long time no see.
    You do understand that science is a form of religion, no?

  • Wonderer

    If science is a form of religion then it must be the greatest religion and all others should be thrown aside.

    Science can explain how a car engine works and why the sun rises in the east. Science has proven much better at explaining, predicting and controlling the world than any other religion.

    Therefore, science is the King of all religions.

    If you would seek understanding then throw aside your bibles, torahs, korans, etc., and start reading physics, chemistry and mathematics.

    All others are blasphemous.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Bob,

    Please do not embarrass yourself publicly with your ignorance. Children of Israel is a term from the Tana”kh, the Hebrew Bible, and has nothing whatever to do with the current conflict going on here between the Children of Ishmael (Arabs) and that portion of the Children of Israel known as Jews.

    This conflict is indeed a religious conflict, with Jews misreading the Qur’an, and the with Arabs misreading the Qur’an as well. The chief cause of Arabs misreadxing the Qur’an has been Europeans and Americans interfering in Arab affair so as to put the worst of Arab heretics, the trash of ibn-Saud, into power in Arabia. This action by western bankers and oil men has caused much of the unnecessary deaths which have occurred in this region of the world. As for Jews misunderstanding the Qur’an, much of that misunderstanding – but not all – is built on secular Jews refusing to recognize that many of the condemnations of Jews are condemnations of Jews who are hypocrites – like secular Jews who refuse to follow their own law.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Irene, the accounts you link to are simply anecdotes and don’t amount to proof of anything. The rest of your post is simply incoherent.

    Roger, that’s drivel; there is no way that science is even remotely a form of religion. I’d stick to your philosophical musings if I were you…

    Ruvy, as you routinely embarrass yourself with your public displays of ignorance and arrogance, which is a particularly ugly combination I hardly think you’re in any position to criticise anyone else at all.

    This conflict is based upon various cliques that believe in fairy stories squabbling over whose understanding of the story is the right one. It is embarrassing to all of us that we are letting such immaturities ruin our planet.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Missing the point, Mr. Rose. It wasn’t a drivel on my part. The reference was made to the manner in which our Bob here regards science: with religious like adoration.

    Ergo . . . to him it is a religion.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    ” I’d stick to your philosophical musings if I were you…”

    But you’re not me, Mr. Rose. So, are you suggesting here, perhaps, that you should be given the whole floor, or is just a snotty remark?

    So which is is?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    “So which is it? – sorry)

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Roger, if you think Bob is regarding science with religious like adoration, then you are mistaken.

    It isn’t a snotty remark to suggest you should stick to the fake science of philosophy. As you don’t appear to be able to think in a sufficiently clear way to deal with real science, it is simply good advice.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Well, your expressing but your own ill-informed opinion. Philosophy doesn’t pretend to be a science, or vice versa, and I made no indication whatsoever that such is the case. You must have gotten that idea elsewhere.

    Secondly, I haven’t the faintest what Bob regards science as, with adoration nor without. I think we should let Bob answer THAT question, because you don’t know either – unless you’re his twin or have telepathic powers.

    And thirdly, I don’t think any scientific subject matter has been raised thus far in this rather general discussion – like the gravitational field, or the status of the quantum theory – for you to be pronouncing a judgment regarding my ability or inablity to discuss subjects scientific – so let’s just shelf this matter until the right occasion present itself.

    So forgive me if I won’t take your advice at this time. But I’ll always be open to suggestions.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    you’re …

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    inability . . .
    shelve . . .

    (Rushing to damn much.
    “Take your sweet time, Roger. He can wait. Now he’ll hold it against your for being a horrible speller, an uneducated moron.”

    A reminder to myself.)

  • Irene Wagner

    Did Christopher Rose just say something to me? I recognized my name, but the rest was just gibberish.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Oh my God!

  • Irene Wagner

    Here Roger, you can give this to him if he comes back.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    See, that’s what happens when you don’t respond tout de suite.

    The comment was addressed to you, for your specific understanding. Now it had become public property – just the opposite of my intentions. And YOU are to blame.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Oh, that’s cute. I kinda knew I was onto something. No wonder everybody’s objecting. Nobody wants a bad rap.

  • Irene Wagner

    Fallin’ down on my online commitments, I was, Roger.

    My great aunt had a medically confirmed miracle. Doctors had told her to go home and ‘get her stuff togetha’ because they couldn’t do anything more for her stage 4 cancer. I was away at school at the time but my mom and dad told me they’d never seen anybody so ready to “go home,” so at peace with God and enjoying her last days with her family. Then wooden ya know, the doctors had to confirm a medical miracle. Kind of weird that one was, God healing someone who was so looking forward to Heaven. I met her years later when I visited her in Kentucky. She was a corker at 85, and had reluctantly just relinquished her driver’s license.

    I’ve heard of other medical miracles, and what I’ve noticed is that a lot of them happen to people who can’t afford medical care. I went to church with a Korean family that had a lot of doctors in it. A group of physicians from this family went to a remote area to attend to the needs of the people there. They underestimated how many people would be coming to them from miles around for help. The medicine ran out. The doctors believed that Jesus could heal even without medicine. And he did.

    There appears to be some sort of communication problem between His Spanish Maj the Comments Editor and me. You can tell him, Roger, that I am well aware of the fights that go on between believers about whose version of the God Story is the right one. The Bible says this is what will happen among people who all love God: Romans 13, John 17, the story of the contention between St. Paul and Mark.

    Apparently God thought it was more important for people to learn to love God and one another in spite of differences. Maybe part of the vagueness is there for a reason, and that’s why God gave them a guidebook for spirituality, instead of a cookbook for it.

    We’re meant to learn about God from one another.

    So…off I go.

  • Irene Wagner

    Thumpity thump thump thump. I meant 14 not 13.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    12 and 13 together.

    Bob,

    Fran may correct me if I am wrong. But, I believe she may be at least in part referring to treatments that show some medical evidence of working, but have not necessarily been tested for the requisite time…or are otherwise determined by insurance companies to be experimental.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    You know, the sort of treatment or procedure that, if you owned the insurance company, your loved ones would definitely have as an option.

  • Irene Wagner

    14. End of 12. 25 or 6 to 4.
    One expects “the government(13)” to protect us from crooks and punish them.

    So there’s a need for some sort of regulation–and Cindy has probably spent some time thinking about this, as she’s investigated charlatans. On the other hand, attempts to separate us from cranks can also separate us from healing approaches that, without having the cachet of effectiveness proven by modern double-blind trials, have worked for thousands of years. Will US practitioners of ancient Eastern methodologies be forced out of business through competition with a government who decides which kind of medicine is legit and going to get the monies?

    This question is entirely apolitical.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Irene,

    Yes, I have looked at a lot of ways that people can be hurt by other people. Still, I am not looking for govt for protection via regulations. Their protection racket doesn’t suit me.

    Someone else trying to make my (or anyone else’s) decisions is abhorrent to me. I know this probably means that once again, I don’t have all the answers to support my position, but oh well. I don’t like to see people hurt. I am not at all sure there are any ways of entirely preventing that.

    The woman whom I employ to run the business with me had a grueling ordeal involving a lot of pain. It went on for months. She told me that she found an herbal cleansing capsule that she discovered she could reduce to a dose of one per week and it solved everything. She was now cured. How ridiculously selfish would I have to be to open my mouth and even try to take that away from her?

    I happen to love a lot of different people who believe in a god. I often find I have more in common with some who believe in a god than I do with some who do not. I think Einstein said something about the staunch atheist who presumes, without evidence, to insist for others that no god could exist. Sort of unscientific, I think.

  • Irene Wagner

    Thanks for your comments Cindy. I was hoping you WOULD have a plan for how one could regulate and still provide for choices in medicine, because I’m certainly stumped.

    We’d probably agree, the solution has something to do with the patient, or many in the patient’s community, knowing and caring about and overseeing, as peers, the people who grow the herbs or grind the powders and fill the syringes. And vice verse.
    Utterly utopian and idealistic, but aim for the sky and you might just clear the hedge.

    As to your friend and her experience, the prevalence of colo-rectal cancer leads me to believe that whatever it takes to clean out that gut, whether it be cleansing capsules, or a three day cabbage only fast, or…Roto Rooter, can only do a person good. I’m not poo-pooing chemo, but an ounce of prevention…

    As for god, or gods or God or G_d, God bless you, Cindy. Goodnight. Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite. :)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Good show, Irene.

    I was going to comment on the logo – “Faith is a problem,” but I’m certain an opportunity will present itself.

    But just out of curiosity, Bob, since I’m on topic, is that your personal opinion or a scientific type of statement? And since I can safely assume it’s not the latter, then which is it:

    a) your personal opinion (which is to say, Bob Lloyd’s opinion as a person qua person

    OR

    b) your professional opinion as a scientist.

    I think it’s only fair that we get clear on this before proceeding further. And take your time. No hurry.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Addendum to 36: I would add that I did check to make sure that none of the ingredients of her herbal cure were associated with any risk. This was something I did have to tell my sister-in-law about black cohosh, which she’d taken every day for 10 years as it was associated with liver problems (natural as it might be). She did stop taking it, but was subsequently diagnosed (3 years later) with non-alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver. Who knows if it was the herb or the Tylenol she’d also consumed daily. Taking doctors advice she is cleared of the problems and is considered almost normal again.

    Had the woman who works with me failed to take the usual medical tests (colonoscopy) I would have definitely recommended that in addition to her herbal supplement. However, the herbal supplement came after all standard investigation demonstrated there were no medical findings of any problem.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    There is that anecdote of the guy stranded on the desert island and god saying I sent you three helicopters. You know that one?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/fran-parker/ Fran

    Cindy (33, 34) – thank you. Just got back to this topic. Yes, that is exactly what i meant. Sorry i wasn’t more clear, Bob.

  • Irene Wagner

    My version, featuring a flood, a guy stranded on a roof, turning down Divine assistance in the form of a rubber raft, a bass boat, and a guy on a Skidoo, is the correct version, Cindy.

  • Irene Wagner

    I truly better go to bed. LOL.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Don’t be a stranger.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    This conflict is based upon various cliques that believe in fairy stories squabbling over whose understanding of the story is the right one. It is embarrassing to all of us that we are letting such immaturities ruin our planet.

    In your perverted way, you have agreed with me, Chris. That’s nice to see. A glimmer of intelligence from the Sage from the Isle of Wight!

    Considering how much the English (or Brits) contributed to the continuation of this conflict here, it would be sagacious for you to show some more intelligence – and keep your trap shut about things which you know next to nothing.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    Wow, I turn my back for a day and all the sand is thrown out of the playpen. Lot’s of personally silly stuff that I won’t respond to and obviously some petty criticisms amongst a few of you which I also won’t comment on. But there were some serious and useful comments and questions too which I will respond to.

    Firstly, do I regard science as a religion, and do I adore it. I view science as a method, a very systematic method which allows us to distinguish very well between what we believe or think happens in the world, and what in reality actually does happen. It’s practice is refined into methodologies which open it’s theorems and hypotheses to public scrutiny in a way that separates the findings from the personal views of the people putting them forward. That’s a systematic way of removing bias and personal belief from the accumulation of knowledge. The rigorous testing of the predictability of theories allows scientists to identify the wrong ones and put them right.

    So science is a practice, a systematic way of obtaining reliable knowledge, which is INDEPENDENT of the beliefs of the scientists themselves. Theories stand on their consistency and supporting evidence. So science is NOT a belief system, and it is absolutely NOT a religion. Religious people systematically and repeatedly misunderstand this. No scientist has to believe anything but they do have to understand how to reason with evidence. I don’t adore science but I do very much appreciate its power of explanation and it’s use in increasing our knowledge. If someone comes up with a better systematic method, we’d use that instead – but no-one has.

    Secondly, should governments decide which is an acceptable treatment and which isn’t? It’s certainly the case that charlatans selling an invented therapy to the gullible is morally reprehensible, and any responsible government would take steps to limit it. They typically do that by some kind of consumer legislation. It doesn’t generally work with Woo merchants because they are selling to believers rather than skeptical customers. I think that there should be a restriction on the use of the terms therapy/treatment/cure in products such that there should be reliable evidence before those claims can be made. It should at least open up a debate about evidence.

    Just one further comment about that: anecdotal evidence is NOT unbiased evidence. I’ll say it again in case the message doesn’t immediately get home: anecdotes are NOT reliable evidence. Someone who says “I went to this toe wiggler and now I don’t have a headache” is only reporting how they feel, not what ACTUALLY happened. To find out what actually happened, we need scientific trials which eliminate bias. Someone who has just spent a lot of money is psychologically predisposed to justify the purchase – science can eliminate that bias and find out what, if anything, really happened. Anecdotes about prayers, Reiki, acupuncture, homeopathy, and all the other branches of Woo are inherently unreliable and that’s not just opinion, it’s demonstrable fact.

    Lastly, and apologies for the length of the post. Faith is a problem. That’s an opinion but backed up by a huge amount of evidence. The number of religiously inspired actively violent people testifies to the power of faith to create violence. That’s a problem. We can reduce the scale to the individual and see cases where faith is so strong, that they are led to actions which do untold harm. In my view, the encouragement of irrationality through faith undermines our ability to reason clearly. Most of the time, for most people, it doesn’t do them noticeable harm, and where their religious values accord with social morality and ethics, it’s pretty benign and may even lead them to do good things. But it will mislead them significantly about how the world works. A classic case is the religious rejection of evolution, which just happens to be the most criticised and most successful scientific theory of all time, with more evidence than it knows what to do with.

    Apologies for the length of the post. I don’t want to get into, or respond to silly personal or snide comments so let’s try and stick to the arguments and avoid any ad hominem attacks. I’m sure most guys on this site would agree with that.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    “Considering how much the English (or Brits) contributed to the continuation of this conflict here, it would be sagacious for you to show some more intelligence”

    It’s equally revoluting to hear the holocaust denials from islamic politicians as it is to hear the Israeli denial of the ethnic cleansing taking place in palestine and unfailing support for it from orthodox religious leaders. See for example this for a scholarly and detailed account by an Israeli widely respected historian. All the religions in the middle east have appalling records in this respect and all claim justifications for their actions from religious sources. That really IS a problem. But of course the conflict has very strong commercial roots as well – oil and land interests typically trump any kind of religious morality for the large commercial interests.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Roger, if there is one thing you’ve done, it is demonstrate that you are not remotely open to suggestions…

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Irene, I’m not surprised you didn’t understand my comment as it was lucid and coherent, which aren’t qualities we associate with faithists.

    As to miracles, aka things that happen that we can not yet explain, they happen all the time. Personally, I’m comfortable accepting that there doesn’t appear to be an explanation for it yet, whereas the logically challenged seem comfortable attributing it to the action of an unseen superbeing.

    Cindy, I can only assume that spending as much time chatting with Roger as you have has diluted your previously clear thinking. It isn’t a matter of insisting for others that no god could exist, nor have I ever said anything remotely resembling that.

    What I have said is that I don’t mind whether there is a god or not, but that there is no evidence to support the contention of faithists that there is. You’d think that after thousands of years of trying, there’d be at least a little evidence, but there isn’t.

    In summary, I have the humility to say I don’t know, prove it; whilst faithists have the arrogance to say there is no evidence but believe it as a matter of faith. I’ll stick with the humility…

    Ruvy, how about you take your own advice and just keep your own trap shut as you clearly know nothing about everything from science to love to politics?

    Bob, you have the patience I used to have in explaining things. Now let’s see you keep it up for a few years..!

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Bob,

    I’m going to be polite this time, Just a short rejoinder and take your time, please, no hurry.

    Let me point but at two contradictory statements; and if you don’t think they are, then perhaps you can enlighten me and all and sundry as to why they are not.

    1) “I regard science as a religion, and do I adore it.”
    — #46 (second paragraph)

    2) “Faith is a problem. That’s an opinion but backed up by a huge amount of evidence.”
    –#46 (the penultimate paragraph)

    I presume from #1 that your attitude towards science could be characterized as form of belief. Which is to say, you are not only commenting on what the sciences have accomplished thus far but but have good reason (based on all the available evidence), yes, let’s use that dirty word “believe” that it will continue to do so; indeed, why should it stop producing all of a sudden. (So perhaps “believing” is not such a dirty word, Bob, as I have originally supposed but captures rather an important and quite understandable aspect(s) of human experiences – be they scientists like yourself, Bob, or general hackers like me. Enough said.

    Now to point #2. Being an Englishmen, Bob, you should be aware that faith and belief are related (I shan’t go into the finer points as regards the essential difference between the cognitive content and emotional state(s), but I’m certain you’re sharp enough, Bob, to get my gist: if not, just holler.)

    And so, for the argument’s purposes, let’s effect this vulgar reduction and treat “faith” as just another mental state – in this case, a mental state comparable to the mental state of “believing.” Ergo, “faith,” for our purposes here, can redefined as “believing.” (Notice, I’m using here the verb form of “belief,” not the noun, to keep the intended parallel going.)

    Consequently, I’d appear, Bob, that by #2 you’re condemning yourself for the manner in which you regard science – in that it is a problem.

    Now, I’m not certain that you’re ready to flaggelate yourself for this mortal sin or whether your were simply unaware you were committing it. Either way, it’s decision time, Bob. I’ll be waiting.

    PS: You may of course consort with your countrymen when drafting the appropriate response, but let’s set the rules straight: only you shall speak for yourself, unless you appoint a representative, in which case I’d require a prior notice. Being an Englishman, I’m certain you’d agree it’s only fair.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Roger, how on earth are you so comprehension challenged? The first quote from Bob was him posing a question, which he then proceeded to answer.

    Having misunderstood what Bob wrote, everything else you wrote was meaningless waffle, a quality you are becoming quite famous for. DO try and pay attention…

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    “Roger, if there is one thing you’ve done, it is demonstrate that you are not remotely open to suggestions…” (#48).

    Be serious, Chris. A suggestion that I stay away from this conversation because I am too ignorant and apparently too biased (in your opinion) to contribute to it and may be liable therefore to contaminate it? And that I ought to leave the floor to all nonesuch as you? Again, you can’t really be serious.

    You must have meant something else therefore, so perhaps you can refresh my memory.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Chris,

    I suggest let Bob answer for himself, or you are liable to create the impression that you are his double, or vice versa. And for your information, when I will need lessons in English comprehension, you’ll be the first to know.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Roger, you are simply babbling now. You clearly misunderstood. So, yes, you do need lessons in comprehension, plus grammar and spelling. Stop pouting and calm down…

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Bob,

    You really disappoint me in that you take a traitor like Ian Pappe seriously. The man is a deluded self-hating Jew who has fled Israel. His “scholarship” is trash. I’d rather read Arab propaganda than his garbage. At least the Arabs are doing themselves a favor of sorts. Pappe only shoots his own people in the back.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I’ll give you this, Mr. Rose. Your capacity for self-deception and for insisting that white is black and black is white is indeed more than phenomenal.

    Tell you what. Until you ready to owe up to the fact that you’ve ever been wrong, God forbid – and I don’t mean about silly little things like misspellings – but in your opinions, Chris, yes, your sacred opinions (and they are sacred to you, Chris, more sacred than you imagine, because they’re untouchable insofar as you’re concerned), there is no point in any further exchanges between you and I.

    So if you stay out of my hair, I’ll stay out of yours.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    Roger I’m afraid I agree with #51 from Chris. You didn’t read what I wrote carefully enough. I posed the question which was raised in an earlier post, then answered it.

    Perhaps you could re-read it? Faith and belief, incidentally, are not the same. One is contingent as in the case of scientific beliefs that a current theory is correct. A faith would not permit falsification. There are plenty of places where you can study this stuff. No need for you to get snide or patronising and I won’t either.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    “Roger, you are simply babbling now. You clearly misunderstood. So, yes, you do need lessons in comprehension, plus grammar and spelling. Stop pouting and calm down…”

    All I see from the above is a lot of hot air from someone who, when at a loss for words, resorts to all manner of stratagems to hide their own insecurity in not being able to hold their part of the argument . . .

    Anyway, no more responses to you, Chris, because you’re gonna exercise your Editor’s option and keep on getting my comments deleted. So for your and everybody else’s information, no response will be dictated from now by prudential considerations. Mr Editor wins.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    Ruvy, I’ll let others decide. Plan Dalet is now accepted as both real and evidenced by genuine documents. We can let the historians and politicians argue about their significance but their existence is not in doubt. I appreciate that you don’t like the guy.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Bob, rather than hiding behind Chris or anybody else, why don’t you explain yourself then in your own words.

    Of course I was being somewhat facetious in posing the questions to you – sort of by way of trap – but not quite a trap. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Nor can you fudge with words indefinitely. So if you have a clearer meaning to suggest, than come out with it, man. Spit it out. Don’t hide behind shadows of other persons but speak for yourself. Let’s hear it.

  • Irene Wagner

    ….it was lucid and coherent, which aren’t qualities we associate with faithists….

    …I wonder when His Maj is going to get the hang of that humility thang. Or maybe it wasn’t a royal “we,” but a generous nod to the opinions of the rational pet mouse in his pocket..

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Of course I didn’t, Bob. Of course I picked what I wanted to pick out of your remark for my own purposes. Why would you assume I wound’t do precisely that? I’m aware that you can go a ways trying to defend the skeletal position I sketched in my caricature of a criticism – but the point was and is to stimulate the discussion, not to shut it down. So you are only showing a lack of sophistication when your only response is of the nature: “you misread me, or you misunderstood me, or your comprehension is lacking.” Come on, Bob, you’ve been to graduate schools, so why do you take me for a fool. Of course I was baiting you. I’m not surprised (actually I am) that Mr. Rose takes everything at face value, but you have three or four degrees, so you say. You ought to know better. Don’t just assume because you’re posting on BC that everybody here is a dummy.

    Yes, I was misreading you on purpose.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    Roger, this is just trolling. I don’t respond to aggressive demands and accusations. I have presented my views and opinions with reasons, fairly and openly and I don’t feel any responsibility to justify myself to you personally. The arguments, just like science, stand on their coherence and evidence. I really don’t mind what you think of them. You have already shown that you have not read my posts carefully and I don’t mind that either.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Roger, I’ve been wrong more often than I’ve been right – and have no problem with that. Unlike you however, I learn from my mistakes, whereas you just keep right on repeating them in that I’m proud of my ignorance kind of way you do so well.

    Of course you only see hot air, because to do otherwise would require the kind of intellectual and personal honesty you don’t appear to have the capacity for.

    Your remarks to Bob about him hiding behind me are ample evidence of that, as there is nothing at all to suggest he is doing that.

    I think it would be for the best if you did stop posting for a while because you are losing the plot quite terribly and I am coming round to Bob’s point of view that what you are doing IS trolling.

    Irene, I’ll ignore your second personal attack on me in this thread because you clearly lack the ability to respond to my points with anything of substance. Maybe you and Roger should get together and form the Jabberwocky Conversation Group?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Cool, Bob. I was hoping you would respond to the good old academic challenge, in the best tradition of a hearty, college debate. I’m sorry to hear that you’re lacking in the spirit. Well, so be it.

    Just for general clarification, Bob. This is not an argument about science, or about the nature of science – so I will not let you distort the issue and wiggle your way our of. The questions I put to you had to do precisely with your attitude(s) toward science (in light of your earlier remarks about belief/faith). So let this point stand clear.

    Let it also stand clear that whatever Bob Lloyd writes from now on stands on its own two feet and is therefore in no need of any examination or interpretation.

    Good show, Bob. I hope that neither Oxford nor Cambridge ever get a whiff of you, or they’d surely revoke your degrees.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Well, I’m glad in that case, Chris, and I really mean it. And no, I’m not being facetious, believe me. It’s just that that’s the kind of image/impression you happen to create in many of your comments.

    As I stated in the comment above, yes, I did pick and choose from Lloyd’s remark for my purposes – it was an intentional misunderstanding on my part. You may disapprove of my purposes or the means employed, but it’s not such an unusual tactic in the course of an argument or debate – whether in ordinary or academic settings. So forgive me if I took objection to your comments questioning the quality of my understanding or my level of reading comprehension – but I really, really didn’t presume that you’d choose to read my comment to Lloyd at its literal value.

  • Observer

    Gosh, it looks as though the learned discussions here have turned into personal infighting. I guess that it has always been so.

  • Irene Wagner

    I’m going to be honest about what I DO mind. You took the case of the Neumanns, and used it to showcase your contempt for people of faith in general, in an attempt to generate more of the same in your readers.

    The passion of Dawkins et al against “faithists” is becoming increasingly acrimonious, and threatens to become as violent as the passion of a Torquemada or an Al Quaeda terrorist. Programs of generating hatred toward a particular group, via circuit tours of college campuses, have historically resulted in that sort of thing.

    There’s already been talk, right here on the threads of BC, of taking children away from parents who want to bring them up in a faith, and of legally barring believers from certain professions. Good thing Euler and George Washington Carver did their lifes’ work when they did, because this exclusion is already a reality in many branches of academia.

    That’s a problem.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    “Gosh, it looks as though the learned discussions here have turned into personal infighting. I guess that it has always been so.”

    That’s what happens, Observer, when such learned persons, like the author of this article, are stopped in their tracks when challenged. They’ve never learned the game of debating or have forgotten in. (Probably the latter, because success in professions may lead to indolence of the mind, especially when people get overly impressed with themselves).

    What’s worst, since they’re learned in one area or another, they presume to be learned in all fields. Just like MDs who claim to know better than their financial advisors. It’s the arrogance of expertise.

  • Irene Wagner

    It was actually the third personal attack against you, Chris. One of them must have gone over your head. :)

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Irene, please supply examples of anti-faithists threatening violence on a par with Torquemada or terrorists, because I’ve never seen that.

    I have seen Dawkins speaking calmly and charmingly in support of his views though.

    It would be going too far to take children away from their parents who want to bring them up in a faith but there are clearly certain occupations where there is a potential for conflict between the requirements of a job and the views of a faithist.

    You wouldn’t want someone who didn’t believe in medical treatment working as a doctor or someone who believed in the end times or hated Jews or Muslims having access to nuclear weapons for example.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Irene, the day anything you say goes over my head will be a very strange day indeed. Obviously your idea of an attack is somewhere around my level of a fly buzzing around my head ;-)

    You might want to try responding to the the conversation though, because right now you are looking immature and way out of your depth.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    Irene, I think you are being a little unfair. What I did in talking about the Neumann case is to show where faith can lead, if the belief in a healing god is allowed to override rational understanding of how cures are effected.

    There are very many religious people who do not drop that rational understanding. They will go to a doctor and get proper treatment.

    Arguing that religious faith in a god is irrational is not at all the same thing as showing contempt for people. People who criticise IDEAS and BELIEFS are not criticising the people themselves. I can perfectly respect individuals who have religious beliefs at the same time as arguing strongly that those beliefs are irrational.

    It becomes a problem for people of faith when they take such questioning as a personal affront. This is entirely analogous to someone being personally affronted when a contrary political opinion is expressed. It’s unreasonable to view counterarguments as affronts in this way.

    There is no hatred implied in opposing religious teaching on the grounds that it is irrational and confuses children, any more than it would be if someone opposed political indoctrination.

    On the subject of Dawkins, it’s always alleged that he is aggressive and intolerant and yet in all of his TV appearances, and writings, he expresses himself with moderate language and consideration for those he is debating with. He does though present hard-nosed arguments.

    I raised the issue of the Neumann family because it perfectly illustrates the consequences of total faith in a divine healer, which is just further along the belief spectrum than many other believers would put themselves.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    In all fairness, Irene, you should moderate the following statement:

    “I’m sitting up and thinking about the wonder of a scientifically-minded man, who, in the absence of personal evidence (or acknowledgment of the same) of a caring God to be thanked for the food he eats, the air he breathes, and the ears with which he hears music–most UNSCIENTIFICALLY assumes that no one else on the planet has any evidence of that either.”

    “Evidence,” as you use it in the last instance, is rather strong term and I don’t think it carries the weight you intend for it to carry. Matters of faith or personal belief are not, normally speaking, subject to evidentiary kind of proof (again, going by the sense in which “evidence” is usually employed). I was going to comment on this earlier, but for the subsequent distraction(s).

    There is, by the way, an excellent account of the value of testimony as a kind of evidence. It’s article by C.A. J. Coady, “Testimony and Observation,” in Epistemology: Contemporary Readings, Michael Huemer, ed. (Routledge: 2002). It’s the most lucid and challenging presentation I’ve ever come across.

    If I locate a pdf file of the article or its summary, I’ll provide the link.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I haven’t been able to locate a pdf file thus far, but you might take a look at the following.

    Testimony. A Philosophical Study,
    C. A. J. Coady

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    The following is a general overview:

    Epistemology of Testimony.

    Source: The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

  • Irene Wagner

    Thank you for taking the trouble to find the link, Roger.

  • Irene Wagner

    Evidence, to me, means “something that provokes my interest in following something that appears to be an artifact of something else to its source.” That’s what happens when one smells something good coming from the kitchen-side of the house, and stirs himself to investigate. It might be bacon-scented air freshener. Or it could be something else.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    To tell the truth, Irene, I’d gotten through a great part of Coady’s article a while back but haven’t finished it. But this discussion provided the needed impetus, and so I shall.

    There’s good to be derived from all situations.

    (Reminiscent of a line from Braveheart when Edward the Longshanks is presumed to say that it’s up to the king to find goods in every situation.)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    #78,

    I understand that, but you can also see why the methodology of science, shall we say, precludes such a use. What you’re talking about is what leads you to suspect causality. Evidence, in the strictest sense, would be something that would go toward validating that relationship; moreover, it presupposes a consensus of sort as to what counts as evidence and what does not – a consensus within a community.

  • Irene Wagner

    Bob, you could have more winningly expressed your concern that believers avail themselves of regular colonoscopies etc, by citing the “God sending three boats to rescue the guy on a stranded on a desert island” joke to which Cindy (an atheist) referred. Instead, you invited us, on page two, to sit up and consider the irrationality of our faith in general.

    You’re at cross purposes.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    I would like to speak on behalf of anecdotal evidence. I would like to know, why (in 2008 and I have no doubt still) science still cannot conclusively find a part of the female anatomy. Science in the past has sought to override female anecdotal evidence in favor of its own ‘evidence’. You will have to look at the history for yourself to discover how women were impressed by science to believe that part of there own anatomy did not exist, never mind what this might say about women who made such claims that it did (perhaps it was all in their head).

    Secondly, in defense of anecdotal evidence is my own experience being interested in psychology. I am a big fan of scientific method. I think it is the best way we have of obtaining important information about the world–even in the social sciences. However, evidence is subject to interpretation. A variety of theories can be applied to the same evidence, in many cases, especially in the social sciences. It is becoming evident that the observer is biased–even when performing seemingly straight up and innocuous tasks. Reality (what one sees) is in part determined by what one believes.

    Anecdotal evidence is making a stand in the social sciences that wasn’t permitted when I was in school. It was all about objectivity then, removing yourself from the content. People have pushed right past the theory that anecdotal evidence and personal perspective are valueless. I’m glad they did. Point of view says quite a bit about how results are obtained and how they are interpreted. There is a problem with the ‘religion of science’ in the social sciences.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Is believing in our democratic institutions or in the virtues of the market economy irrational?

    The way things are going, perhaps so, But there was a time when it wasn’t irrational (for a great many people) to believe in such things. In fact, there are still many die-hards who continue believing in both.

    So now, how is “having faith in our democratic institutions” different from “believing in them”?

    So it’s not “believing as such” or “having faith in something” necessarily irrational, is it now? Our good old Bob here apparently does believe in science, he made no bones admitting it.

    What is at stake of course for Bob and all sundry is that certain objects are legitimate objects of “believing in” or “having faith in” whereas others are not. Ergo – scientific enterprise is an object of the first kind, whereas other objects of believing or having faith in do not pass the muster, for which reason, believing or having faith in all such is irrational.

    Of course, Bob could have responded to an earlier challenge and put his best foot forward – namely, clarify his meaning. For reasons of obtuseness, or whatever other qualities of mind, he took the high road of not having to answer any challenges or objections to his enlightened view, presupposing thus that all ordinary mortals should be able to intuit his meaning.

    Well, it’s OK, Bob. I’ve just done the dirty work for you – the work you should have done yourself, except that your arrogance was too much of a stumbling block.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Social sciences would not be a good example for the likes of Bob, Cindy. They’d be relegated to the category of “philosophical musings,” so I don’t think your example will carry the intended weight.

    I’d like to be surprised as regards the above and proven wrong, but somehow I don’t think I will.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Well, I am not necessarily engaging Bob, per se. I am just putting out my own view. However, I am implying that limits of the human observer have an effect on interpretation of seemingly objective data.

    Also, I don’t think the female anatomy falls under social science. I think anecdotal evidence is the best evidence in that case, for example.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    No problem. To add however, in many respects social sciences are much more difficult than the physical sciences precisely because of the status of the observer (himself being a part of the field of study). It can get really tricky.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    86 – You bet. Unfortunately, that is not always how researchers are taught to view it. Being driven hard toward accepting objectivity, without recognizing this flaw, is to be in danger of believing that this sort of objectivity is possible.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    It’s an old problem, first recognized and addressed by Max Weber. Let me see if I can find the right link.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Here’s a brief introduction:

    Verstehen.

  • Ruvy

    I’ll give you this, Mr. Rose. Your capacity for self-deception and for insisting that white is black and black is white is indeed more than phenomenal.

    Quoted for truth.

  • Irene Wagner

    We’ve been through this before, Christopher Rose. Richard Dawkins HAS suggested that children be taken away from parents who attempt to pass their faith on to them.

    This is just a hunch. Look for more articles like this in the future, not because parents are keeping their kids away from vaccinations or doctors at a higher rate than they did formerly, but because highlighting their cases suits the purposes of those trying to promote the idea that kids are better off not being with believing parents.

    Not all atheists are marching to Dawkins’ drumbeat, though.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Looks like Dawkins has an agenda then beyond science. I hope not.

    But it wouldn’t be the first time that scientists and/or pseudo-scientists have tried to use their prestige to result in a worldview – such as Social Darwinism in the name of Darwin (via Herbert Spencer), or it would be Dawkins this time – in name of genetics.

  • Irene Wagner

    Absolutely, Roger. Science is no sacred cow. Religion isn’t either, although one tends to associate monasteries with dessert liquor and illustrated manuscripts, and Nazi-war-criminal-staffed scientific laboratories with products rather more explosive.

    Bad and good have come from scientific people and from religious people.

    Well, Bob Lloyd, you’ve given us all a lot to talk about. I should have at least one complimentary comment to you before I’m on my way again.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    This has got to be one of the most uncivil threads (revise that: one of the most uncivil threads not involving Archie or JOM!) I’ve ever read here on Blogcritics.

    Even Irene has been far from her usual gracious self.

    Roger (I do pride myself on possessing a rather efficient bullshit detector but you’re welcome to explain exactly how I’m mistaken) the way it looks from here is that you did spectacularly misread what Bob was arguing, then tried rather ineptly to cover up when your error was pointed out to you.

    Irene, your great-aunt’s miracle is joyful and uplifting but it strikes me that it’s just as easy (although not such a good story!) to find instances of people one knows who did not make a miraculous recovery from a mortal illness. My own mother, for instance (to use an anecdotal example), who succumbed – at excruciating length – to cancer in spite of her very strong faith.

    This – to answer one of Roger’s points – is one reason why anecdotal testimony is not good evidence. It’s also what makes scientific data-gathering so robust in contrast. Millions of non-miracles happen all the time; a single incidence of the sun not rising in the morning would cause the dismantling of a quite frightening number of scientific theories. But who’d bet on that happening?

    Chris, what can I say? Um… my approach is most certainly not the same as yours!

    Now be nice, people… :-)

  • http://www.indyboomer46.blogspot.com Baritone

    I have chosen NOT to read through all of the blather above as it apparently devolved into a pissing match.

    I liked a lot of what Cindy had to say, though. If I read her correctly, she makes a very sound argument for the scientific method and how it can and should be applied to as many issues as possible. Removing the “self” from most any equation is likely to aid in providing accurate answers to many of the problems we face. Not all, assuredly, but many.

    But, getting back to the original focus of the article, I liken the situation to the joke about the guy who is trapped on his roof in a flood when he is approached by people in boats & helicopters and whatever, refusing their help each time saying no, that god would save him. Of course, he is swept away and drowns. When entering the pearly gates he confronts good ole god asking why he didn’t save him. God answers saying that he DID try to save him by providing a boat and a helicopter, etc, etc.

    I’m sure most of you all have heard that before, but it is I believe, apt in this situation. Even if one is devout in her or his belief in whatever god, it is absolutely idiotic to turn away from modern medicine and technology. It should be presumed that god DID intend for us to fly, so we invented the airplane. God DID intend for us to prowel below the sea, so we invented submarines. God DID intend for us to go into space… yada, yada, yada.

    I am no believer in any god. But it seems so ludicrous to me that so many “believers” turn away from the modern world when it is the world that their god placed them in to explore, and it is the human mind that their god gave them along with their sense of curiosity that prompts them to seek out answers to all those things which puzzle us all. Denying the power of our minds, denying our curiosity is unnatural. The whole thing about biting the apple of knowledge as the source of our original sin is simply a bogus tool of those in power to keep the uninformed, uninformed.

  • Irene Wagner

    The suffering in my own life has not sufficed to “erase” the impact of the joyful miracles. It must have been very hard to watch your mother die like that, Dr. D, but I do not consider my suffering—and I will not consider my death–to be “in spite of” my faith. I don’t know anything about your mother, but I’d hazard a guess she felt the same way.

  • Ruvy

    Irene will not answer anything I say. I’m on her permanent shit list, it seems. So be it. That’s HER problem.

    But her general outlook on things is similar to mine. There are miracles, there are miracle cures, there are things that we do not know about medicine, and considering that most “medicines” are merely concentrates of herbs used in previous centuries/millennia, there is such a thing as “natural medicine”.

    I do not worship doctors as gods. They have huge egos, and their huge egos do not hide their terrible limitations, and one of thos limitations is their general refusal to recognize, much less deal with, the spiritual side of such mundane things as grass and wheat.

    Obviously, the example used by Bob Lloyd is a cherry picked one, one designed to tar religion with the brush of irresponsible murder or negligent homicide. Any BELIEVING Jew will go to a doctor to treat an illness, or failing that go to an acupuncturist (a practice with many millennia of its own traditions). THEN, he will pray to G-d to heal the sick in Israel.

    I assume that Irene would do something similar to this.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    Cindy, you raised some important points which I’d like to respond to. Firstly, the matter of anecdotal evidence and particularly the value of first person accounts in areas like psychology, is really important. The majority of source data for psychology consists of first person accounts and the problem, as with assessing any data, is to check its accuracy.

    When people report things they believe, or believe happened to them, they may be telling it truthfully, they may be mistaken, they may be lying, they may placing undue emphasis, they may simply be delusional. The problem is to be able to tell which.

    In a scientific context, we’d look for corroborating evidence, we’d try to control the environment of the experiment so that we can tell. We’d introduce controls, we’d double-blind the trials (so that no-one could influence the results from prior knowledge), and we’d randomise them. They’re techniques which are very useful in eliminating bias in evidence. Unfortunately, such techniques cannot be applied to first-person evidence, namely the anecdotal account.

    That’s why they remain biased and untrustworthy. That doesn’t mean we don’t listen to them and take them seriously. If someone reports that they are “anxious”, unless we have reasons to believe they might be dishonest or delusional, we consider that as a form of evidence. It’s poor evidence by scientific standards but in the case of psychology, it’s often all there is. Most psychologists look for confirmation from many directions when making a diagnosis. They don’t assume that the anecdotal account as correct.

    You make the point that every observer is biased and you are absolutely right. This video is a fantastic demonstration of that. You are supposed to count the number of passes. Then play it again and see what else you see…
    video

    It is precisely because observers can be unreliable that experiments have a very strict protocol, have to be repeatable by other people, have to have control groups, have to expose their data to scrutiny, etc. That’s how science takes account of the fact that observation can be unreliable.

    Finally, one point that is definitely incorrect. “Reality (what one sees) is in part determined by what one believes.” It isn’t reality itself that is determined, but our perception of it. That’s a very important distinction. Reality isn’t determined by what be believe. Reality doesn’t care what we believe and doesn’t know about it. It doesn’t matter what we believe, what is still two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen.

    It’s a common fallacy to think that because our perceptions are different, that therefore we all have a different reality. We have different perceptions and thoughts and beliefs, but the underlying reality of the external world is still the same for all of us.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    Ruvy, I’m not cherry picking examples. My argument was, and is, that the family who relied on their god rather than medicine to cure their daughter is an example from a belief spectrum. Those who believe, put their faith in an irrational solution, rather than a rational one. Despite the fact that some believers would retain a sense of the rational and use medicine, that is contrary to a full belief in the healing power of a supernatural god and faith that it will cure them.

    People often retreat from the implications of their faith in this way and there’s a spectrum in which irrationality (faith in a supernatural being) vies with rationality (we need a doctor). Most pragmatic people will tend towards the rational end of the spectrum.

    Some, perhaps more towards the irrational end, will go for acupuncture or some other traditional medicine, for which the evidence is either missing altogether or shows no efficacy (as in the case of acupuncture). They believe anecdotal accounts and repeat the traditional practice.

    So far from cherry picking, this case is illustrative of the spectrum of irrational belief. That’s why it’s called the terrible power of prayer – because in some measure or other, it suspends rationality and the consequences can be dire.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Those who believe, put their faith in an irrational solution, rather than a rational one. Despite the fact that some believers would retain a sense of the rational and use medicine, that is contrary to a full belief in the healing power of a supernatural god and faith that it will cure them. People often retreat from the implications of their faith in this way and there’s a spectrum in which irrationality (faith in a supernatural being) vies with rationality (we need a doctor). Most pragmatic people will tend towards the rational end of the spectrum.

    One of the problems with your reasoning is that is no more nuanced (did I use that word? I should slap myself up silly) than a light bulb switch. It’s all either/or. Life is not either/or – only certain crises are.

    Ther most famous Jewish rabbi and scholar, haRav Moshé ben Maimón the Ramba”m, known to you as Maimonedes. was a doctor! Further, as a scholar, he insisted that his students have a good grasp of mathematics and cosmology, and speaking as a rabbi, he stated that when science disagreed with Scripture, that Scripture was not properly understood.

    That claim, 1,000 years old, has stood the test of time. Scripture, properly understood, ratifies the claim that the universe is some 15 billion years old, that man was not alone when Adam received the first neshamá, or spirit that communicates with G-d. Science, when read properly with Scripture, ratifies the claim that ther was a huge primeval flood, that there was a huge disaster that overcame Egypt associated with the leaving of a people, and that there was an Egyptian vizier who saved the country from famine.

    You don’t have to like any of these things, but they are all true. Science and religion work in confluence, rather than in conflict, and work in a partnership, rather than with one or the other suppressing or denying the reasoning of the other.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Sometimes you’re just as obtuse, Dreadful, as any of them. I happen to think this is not your normal quality, however, because most of the times you’re a lucid kinda fellow and quite a pleasure to chat with. [Personal attack deleted by Comments Editor]
    So let’s take the following quote:

    “Roger (I do pride myself on possessing a rather efficient bullshit detector but you’re welcome to explain exactly how I’m mistaken) the way it looks from here is that you did spectacularly misread what Bob was arguing, then tried rather ineptly to cover up when your error was pointed out to you.”

    [Personal attack deleted by Comments Editor]

    So let me parse it for you:

    a) assumption as to my bullshiting
    b) assumption as to my misunderstanding
    c) assumption as to my subsequent cover-up.

    So what are you saying now? That I wasn’t baiting Bob and only after being “found out,” concocted a scheme to wiggle myself out of it? And on what basis, if I may ask, have you come to this enlightening insight? Because Chris Rose was speaking of it first and so you then readily picked it up?

    [Edited]

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    Ruvy, I think you missed the bit where I said, twice, that it was a spectrum, not all-or-nothing. Life certainly isn’t either or. If that was the case, theology wouldn’t exist because there’d be nothing to amend or reinterpret in religious dogma.

    The case of Maimonides is interesting because he was grappling with the contradictions between science and religious faith. He argued that you cannot make positive statements about a deity. So he got into trouble for refusing to say that god is omnipotent, limiting himself to the rather tortuous “god is not not omnipotent”. That he himself had to produce a negative theology is testimony to the contradictions between scientific progress and religious faith. To his credit, he stayed with the scientific method and revised the theology accordingly.

    The myth of Adam and Eve has already been effectively dealt by the wealth of evolution studies. Just a simple question about the DNA that Adam was supposed to have had, illustrates the enormous conflict between what science has shown, and what fundamentalists believe. Dawkins’ new book on the vast evidence for evolution goes into this in a lot of scientific detail. And even the Victorian Lyell’s work was enough to dispel the idea of a flood. So alas, these ideas haven’t stood the test of time.

    Science works independent of religion, and historically religion has always had to adjust its theology to remain relevant. I don’t think that will change any time soon.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Bob,

    So little you know of Judaism! Centuries before the boys with the lab-coats came up with the dates for the beginning of the universe, Jewish scholars had it estimated out. It was no lucky guess either. They knew.

    Long before anybody came up ith a Big Bang theory, a Jewish scholar living in France (I think), known to me as the Ramba”n, and to you as Nachmanides, came up with the basic description of the Big Bang.

    There is so much you do not comprehend at all with your own misperceptions of Scripture. And unfortunately I do not have tthe time to set you on a better and more intelligent path.

    But you can go here, and buy the books on offer there to attempt to understand…. I don’t really expect you to. But the option is open to you nonetheless.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    Ruvy, the point is not coming up with such ideas, but being able to demonstrate their truth. In amongst the ones that turn out to be correct there are very many that are not and the point is to be able to distinguish between them. Post hoc justification is not the same as explanatory theory based on evidence.

    Looking backwards and choosing those theories that seem to fit what we know, is not the same thing as obtaining genuine knowledge. Are you seriously suggesting that Nachmanides, a 13th scholar, actually had the means to calculate and demonstrate the age of the universe? Why not choose another ancient scholar who chose the wrong answer?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Bob,

    You’re still a frickin’ naive realist, no matter with what level of sophistication you’re trying to hide the fact.

    If you will explain to me the extent to which your believing in science is different from other forms of belief – without reference now, mind you, to the object, only as regards the mental/emotional state as such – then we can move on to bigger and better things.[Personal attack deleted by Comments Editor]

  • Irene Wagner

    It’s not my problem, Ruvy. It’s ours. I did in fact speak to you since we had our discussion about Sudan, when I thanked you for not ripping on me when I was asking people to sign a petition for Gao Zhisheng. You may not have seen that comment, though, or maybe you thought I was being sarcastic. I can see how you might have.

    You’re right about how I’d deal with sickness. I don’t presume on God for miracles, and when He does them, I don’t try to explain them away. I thank Him. That’s just common courtesy, and we agree that the Lord deserves at least that.

    Now, if I don’t respond to any other comment you make here, it will be because I just didn’t see it. My last word to you for now will be Shalom.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    Roger, you lack of self-control, hectoring manner, and attempt at bullying is thoroughly objectionable.

    Until you can show at least some hint of civility I don’t care at all what you think of epistemology, external reality, nor whether you think I’m capable of discussing them. At the moment, you are demonstrating an inability to conduct a civil discussion. Your posts a full of invective and anger and are bordering on the incoherent.

    I strongly urge the editors to consider the effect your posts have on the quality of discussion because your bullying and aggressive contributions will put off very many potential readers and contributors.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Bob,

    Don’t try to put a slant on what I posted which sin’t there. I wasn’t any lack of self-control. I posted precisely what I wanted to post and in the form in which I did.

    But you see, Bob. You will not be able to pontificate on all these matters ex cathedra as though they were all resolved in the mind of Bob. Yes, I do see you as having an agenda, and if you don’t know it, than I suggest you had better look at it more closely. Your attack on religions and on faith is an example of the intolerance of the worst kind, Bob. So no, you’re not going to get the pass you want.

    It is precisely my point, Bob, in posting here, is to alert the potential readers and contributors to the kind of dogma you’re espousing under the banner of scientific truth. I would be reticent in what I consider my duty to my fellow bloggers and all sundry no remain silent and not alert them to your obvious display of intolerance and unwillingness to engage in a spirited debate.

    So here is goes again, Bob: the challenge I had put to you earlier on. But be mindful now, so long as you keep on ducking the questions I posed to you, you give me the right to call you as I see you: and thus far, the picture which emerges is one of a demagogue.

    I really don’t want to think this of you, but so far I have no reason to believe I’m wrong. So prove me wrong, and let’s deal with the questions I posed.

  • http://blogcritics.org Lisa McKay

    It is precisely my point, Bob, in posting here, is to alert the potential readers and contributors to the kind of dogma you’re espousing under the banner of scientific truth. I would be reticent in what I consider my duty to my fellow bloggers and all sundry no remain silent and not alert them to your obvious display of intolerance and unwillingness to engage in a spirited debate.

    Perhaps, Roger, your fellow bloggers (and any other visitors to the site) are quite capable of reading Bob’s article and drawing their own conclusions (which may, in fact, be quite different from your own).

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    “I strongly urge the editors to consider the effect your posts have on the quality of discussion”

    Is this a call, Bob, to silence me down, because if it is, Bob, then it certainly goes a long way to validate presuppositions I made concerning your extreme intolerance of views which aren’t your own.

    The editors have a perfect right of course to delete parts of comments which constitute “personal attack” as per BC policy, but are you suggesting now that there should be censorship besides as regards the content?

    I hope not.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Whatever, Lisa, but my point still stands. More than you and Bob, I believe in people making up their own minds. Nonetheless, I have a perfect right to challenge Bob to a debate on a number of what I deem critical issues, and his ducking it is cause enough for me to keep on harping.

    Sorry.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    Roger, post #46 has adequately answered the only real questions you have raised. The rest has been abusive trolling.

    You make a succession of demands that I should follow your agenda and answer your questions. You insult me to pressure me to do so, and make accusations as a means of feeding your unreasonable anger. You tell me I’m a religious freak, that I’m hiding, and put a condition on civility that I have to conform to your demands first. All of this adds up to, in my view, unacceptable behaviour on your part.

    You have shown yourself to be inattentive in reading my posts and yet you demand that I do what you say. Alas, I never give in to bullying and I don’t encourage behaviour such as yours.

    I’ll leave it to others to judge the quality of your contributions and resist any temptation to drop to the lamentable level of personal insult and abuse.

  • http://blogcritics.org Lisa McKay

    More than you and Bob, I believe in people making up their own minds.

    I have no idea what kind of back-handed remark that is, Roger. I am advocating that people make up their own minds.

    You certainly have a right to challenge Bob’s points, and I’ve seen him duck nothing other than your attitude, which is condescending at best.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Not backhanded, Lisa. But when you argue that Bob should be presenting his case here without opposition, and then say in the same breath “people are free to make up their own mind,” that’s kind of double-talk, ain’t it so.

    Reread the thread, Lisa, with the critical eye and yes, I have not been exactly at my most polite side, and then tell me whether Mr. Lloyd responded at all. No he just took an attitude to my attitude. Well, so be it.

    Thanks for the input.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    Science does not presuppose any particular belief on the part of scientists. Indeed a great deal of effort is spent ensuring that experiments are free from bias.

    When people theorise about social institutions, their theories may be derived from data, for example economic data, but they are rarely if ever in the position of being able to conduct controlled experiments, for ethical reasons. Therefore the methods available for scientific analysis of society are much more restricted than for example, in physics. Instead they often have to rely on statistical inference.

    People may have particular beliefs about how social systems work, but they don’t have the opportunity to establish the truth or falsity using controls, and experiments. They make predictions, collect often contradictory data, and argue about the interpretation. Economists and social scientists work very hard to get as close as possible to scientific control of data, trying to eliminate bias, make statistically significant comparisons, etc.

    Scientists and others don’t believe in science, they use it. Science is not a belief in anything. But this point has already been made in #46 and here it is explicitly made again.

  • http://blogcritics.org Lisa McKay

    But when you argue that Bob should be presenting his case here without opposition, and then say in the same breath “people are free to make up their own mind,” that’s kind of double-talk, ain’t it so.

    That’s not what I said, Roger, but then you seem to have a knack for responding to what you think people say.

    Once again, I responded to this part of your comment #111: It is precisely my point, Bob, in posting here, is to alert the potential readers and contributors to the kind of dogma you’re espousing under the banner of scientific truth. I would be reticent in what I consider my duty to my fellow bloggers and all sundry no remain silent and not alert them to your obvious display of intolerance and unwillingness to engage in a spirited debate.

    In short, I find it offensive that you think you need to alert anyone to anything. Our readers are intelligent enough to read Bob’s article and come to their own conclusions (i.e. think for themselves). I never said that Bob should present his case without opposition, nor did I suggest that you shouldn’t challenge his opinions. I did suggest that you needn’t think on behalf of the rest of us.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    Roger, you are killing any chance of a discussion here. Your own agenda has more to do with aggression and confrontation than the topic of the thread.

    If anyone else is interested in making a comment, I’ll of course take it seriously as the author of the original article, but as of now I’m not going to waste time responding to Roger. He’ll claim a victory of course – I’ve no doubt he always wins this sort of troll contest. But it’s not a real discussion and I think everyone else can see that.

  • http://www.indyboomer46.blogspot.com Baritone

    Wow! One hundred and nineteen comments on a “Culture” article. That must be some kind of record.

    Of course virtually all of the above commenters are regulars from “Politics” and the topic of the original post has definite political elements. I suppose it didn’t hurt that Roger got on this thread and essentially pissed everybody off, as he often does so well. Good job Rog.

    But, it’s a step in the right direction, no?

    B

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Roger, I have decided that you need a little while to calm down from your over-stimulated condition so I have decided to delete all your comments until such time as I think you are in a more sober mood.

    You don’t understand what people say and presume far too much about your role. So far today, it conveniently rhymes with troll, so off under the bridge with you for a while.

    Christopher Rose
    Blogcritics Comments Editor.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Most psychologists look for confirmation from many directions when making a diagnosis. They don’t assume that the anecdotal account as correct.

    We’ll, I’ll have to give you a little objection to that and say that you have a whole lot of faith there in what most psychologists do. That in itself, should demonstrate that you are, in fact, using anecdote to ‘witness’ the validity of your scientific ‘religion’.

    I just made an important point about how our own biases create ‘reality’, Bob. I just want that to stand out starkly before I comment on anything else.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Cindy, as I pointed out to you yesterday, I think you’ve spent too much time under the Nowosielski effect and have lost your mental discipline. Sober up, woman!

    As Bob has previously pointed out, nobody creates reality, only perceptions.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Christopher,

    Disambiguation: I put reality in quotes; I probably should have said, ‘truth’. ‘Truth’ being that which a culture takes to be ‘reality’. For me the salient factor is the effect this has, not the exact definition. If one acts like something is ‘reality’ it has the effect of bias, but the credibility of objectivity. While I don’t think this extends to the data collected in hard sciences. I do think it applies to the biases of those who collect that data. I have a further comment, to Bob, with an example.

    Actually, Roger hasn’t influenced my thinking so much as he had introduced me to reading things that illuminate what I have found to be true.

    So, Roger and I are two different people. And we don’t see things in the same way, regardless of casual appearance. Not that you personally confuse that, but some might. I personally see him, in some senses, as coming around to ideas I already have. Though I don’t think that applies to this topic.

  • Doug Hunter

    “nobody creates reality”

    In most relevant areas, politics and culture included, they do. If I perceive you to be a robber and shoot you, you’re no less dead than if you’d been a robber all along.

    There is an excess of perception shaping reality and a shortage of reality shaping perception. The object of science is to reverse that trend.

  • Doug Hunter

    Chris, my #123 didn’t elaborate enough on the robber situation. To be more clear it should read like this: If you’re a door to door salesman and I perceive you to be a robber and shoot you…

  • http://www.indyboomer46.blogspot.com Baritone

    My immediate perception is that I will think twice before trying to sell Doug a Filter Queen or Fuller Brushes by knocking on his door.

    B

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Doug, you have either missed the sense in which the concept was being discussed or wilfully translated it into a different context…

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    I don’t know anything about your mother, but I’d hazard a guess she felt the same way.

    Your guess is correct, Irene. But my intent was not to devalue miracles by suggesting that either my mother or I were/are pissed off by one failing to happen to her.

    I suppose I picked a bad example, but I would like to know why a marvellous recovery from an adverse situation is considered a miracle, and all credit given to God, when the reverse is not true. For example, if an apparently fit and healthy young athlete suddenly drops dead from Long QT syndrome

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Obviously, the example used by Bob Lloyd is a cherry picked one

    Ruvy, a degree of cherry-picking is entirely necessary in order to begin any discussion at all. Several sections of Blogcritics would not even exist if that were not the case.

    In this instance, I do think a more useful discussion would have been the question of whether the Authorities should have intervened earlier on behalf of the child who died, and indeed whether they should have at all.

  • Irene Wagner

    Re: 127 I have done this. Ruvy HAS given credit to God when the reverse was true. He said as much in an earlier post when discussing the case of a child who is taken to the doctor, and prayed for, but the illness remained.

    That’s not just Ruvy talking. It’s the book of Job. “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away…Blessed be the name of the Lord…”

    There’s a whole raft of hymns designed to help people praise God in just such times. “Every joy or trial, cometh from above, traced upon our dial, by the Sun of Love…” “SOmetimes when Eden’s bowers bloom, sometimes mid scenes of deepest gloom, where’ever I go, where’er I be, still tis his hand that leadeth me…”

    I’m not suggesting you adopt that outlook on life before you’ve learned to thank him for the patently good things he’s blessing you with.

    But you need to understand that you’re wrong when you say I don’t thank him for the hard things, too.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Science does not presuppose any particular belief on the part of scientists. Indeed a great deal of effort is spent ensuring that experiments are free from bias.

    And yet, time and again — almost universally — science is corrupted by politics or by money to produce a result in service of a particular interest or agenda.

    As an example, consider the current state of climate science, where political pressure is brought to bear to produce specific results and if you deviate from the party line and actually demand objective inquiry you lose your job and are hounded out of your profession.

    Or if you don’t like that example, consider the process by which drugs are tested before they go to market, where studies are routinely corrupted and manipulated because of pressure from the drug companies who finance the studies on which the approval and ultimately profitability of their drugs is based.

    Like almost anything, science is rarely objective. Scientists have their theories and they stick to them with a fervor which is stronger than mere science. It may not be faith. More likely it’s because of a personal investment in being right and pure ego, which runs rampant among those of high intellect.

    If you don’t believe me, read up on the feuds between various paleontologists over warm blooded vs. cold blooded dinosaurs or extinction vs. evoultion. Or the current resurgence of neo-lamarckians in opposition to Darwinian theories of evolution.

    Dave

  • Irene Wagner

    Roger Nowosielski, you left a thanks to me in some comment back there.

    Thank you. If it ever WOULD come to the point where Dawkins’ idea of having the children of believing parents taken away (for more than the few hours that might be required to give them life-saving medicine if the parents were illegally preventing that) then I’m pretty sure that there would be atheists–I could name about five from this site, but I won’t embarrass them– who would raise Holy Hell.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Bob,

    Pay careful attention to Dave Nalle’s post above, #130. Dave is an atheist. Note how he skewers scientists over their own very human failings.

    Now, go to Gerald Schroeder’s Site and pay attention to how he describes the universe. He ia a physicist: when speaking as a scientist, he stops and does not make claims that a scientist cannot make. But when speaking as a believing Jew, he can connect the scientific conclusions he does reach to the religious principles he studies. The connections are many, and the convergence is a strong force – often resisted by scientists whose ego will not let them see further than the conclusions they themselves are willing to reach.

    In short, scientists are no better than theologians, and just as human. But Bob, don’t bother responding to me until you have given Dr. Schroeder’s site a good look-see. It’s not worth your while or mine.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    I’d be one of those atheists, Irene. Being an atheist does not mean being a statist as well. And the fact that atheists or at least secular humanists have been behind some very troubling movements like the expansion of the power of Child Protective Service agendies and Eugenics is very disturbing.

    If anything I think atheists should adhere to an even higher standard of ethical conduct than those deluded by faith.

    Dave

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Dave,

    Whilst individual scientists can make mistakes for a variety of reasons, their work is always open to peer review and further testing.

    As you yourself have pointed out on more than one occasion, there are plenty of scientists who disagree with what you call the “party line” in climate science.

    The problems with the drug companies is more symptomatic of the problems associated with capitalism without adequate checks and balances, whilst that of paleontology is due to the fact that there is a paucity of genuine evidence, which allows for a certain amount of creativity of interpretation.

    So it isn’t actually the case that science is usually corrupted by vested interests. Over time, the manipulators are exposed by the facts.

    Irene, although there are people who don’t share your unproven ideas who would defend your right to believe and live by them, and I am one of them, it is people like you who ought to be embarrassed by the fact that they believe such superstitions and feel able to pretend to themselves and the wider world that they are based on anything respectable, true or even decent.

    Personally, I would be ashamed to allow myself to be taken in by such implausibilities, but I don’t have enough conceit to maintain that kind of belief system in the face of all that contradicts it. To do so takes a certain kind of dogged arrogance and indifference to logic and reason that is just beyond me.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Ruvy, I just wasted a few minutes of my life by visiting Schroeder’s site and experienced one of the most unpleasant manglings of science and logic I have ever had the misfortune to endure.

    If that is the kind of reasoning that goes on in your head it explains a lot about why you are so irrational.

    I’m going to have a wash now, I feel kind of dirty.

  • Irene Wagner

    ….coffee spit take….

    The problems with…paleontology is due to the fact that there is a paucity of genuine evidence, which allows for a certain amount of creativity of interpretation.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Irene, when you’re done with the weak comedy, do you actually have a point?

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    The connections are many, and the convergence is a strong force – often resisted by scientists whose ego will not let them see further than the conclusions they themselves are willing to reach.

    That describes you to a “T”, Chris. Feel better after your shower. Don’t let the possibility that you may be wrong stain the purity of your thoughts….

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Ruvy, I have said many times, as you full well know, that I (and, indeed, all other people who don’t subscribe to magical thinking) am wrong many times. It is that very process of making mistakes and learning from them that is at the heart of actual learning.

    Let’s contrast that with your approach, which is based around the fixed idea of a monotheistic god for which there is no evidence. Who then is the one that actually can’t admit that they might be wrong?

  • Irene Wagner

    I did have a point, Christopher, but I forgot what it was.
    Something to do with a paucity of genuine evidence and tee shirts, I think.
    Ruvy, I saw your #97, and I answered in #106. I don’t have permanent lists like that, but you warned me that you had a long memory…

    Permanent lists are a problem.

  • Irene Wagner

    Laters.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    I know what you say, Chris. I do wish you would actually learn occasionally….

    Laters… I have work to do.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    Dave, it’s a common mistake to criticise the practice of particular scientists, for example those who may unreasonable claims for commercial products, and thereby try to discredit science as a whole. There is a distinction between the principles of the scientific method, which are the best we have for obtaining reliable knowledge about the world, and the particular practice of science carried out by individuals.

    The criticism of the practice of scientists is an essential part of the scientific method, and most respectable scientists work very hard to maintain very high standards of evidence, openness, and honesty in their work.

    Where there are areas where particular scientific practice is shady (and again I would absolutely agree that big pharma is a major culprit, closely followed by those scientists who endorse untested and unproven alternative therapies, diet Woo and cosmetics), their claims and evidence should be challenged and exposed. Scientists have no problem with this method, indeed they undergo training so they can apply it effectively.

    So whilst science does not depend on belief, individual scientists may be more or less honest and open about their work. The more venal should be exposed by the more principled of course.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    Ruvy, I’ve just looked at the Schroeder site and I’m staggered by the randomness of it. It’s is absurdly irrational and seems to be a sort of magpie approach – pick anything that looks shiny and arrange it with the others.

    He starts from where we are, then delves into the past to find people who made predictions which were largely right. That’s like finding someone who won on a horse race and claiming they were prescient.

    Sorry, not even vaguely convincing because it’s too fanciful for words.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    Irene, the issue of child protection is very sensitive. I’m sure you would agree that it is unfair to children to subject them to intensive political indoctrination, and most parents would not consciously do this.

    You would, I guess, also object to intensive religious indoctrination. For example, if a muslim child from the age of five was educated in a madrassa to devote their life to jihad, to perceive everyone else of another faith as infidels, and to devote their lives to extending the faith (non-violently), you would presumably feel that was a very unfair treatment of the child.

    I would agree with it, and I feel the same way about children indoctrinated into all religious faiths including the Christian one. The question is at what point it becomes more than unfair, and becomes a question of the child’s welfare.

    I don’t have the answer to that but where children are brought up to be hostile to those with different beliefs, to the extent of being unable to relate to them, there is a case that this is not in their best interests. At that point, child welfare becomes an issue. How it is dealt with if of course, a very difficult question.

    Where children are intensively schooled in religious beliefs, the question arises as to what extent it is brainwashing. Similar techniques applied to political beliefs are well-established with the constant repetition of slogans, ritual denunciation and cricism, etc. Mao’s China comes to mind. Replace Maoism with fundamentalist Christianity or Islam and similar questions arise about the treatment of the individual.

    Of course, Christians wouldn’t see it that way, because they believe their faith is true. Convinced Maoists would argue the same way.

    To me the issue revolves around the ability of the individual to reason for themselves. Taking a child of five and getting them to belief Bible stories is, to me, indistinguishable from getting them to accept certain political positions. Both are inculcating beliefs about how the world is.

    If we are opposed to one form of indoctrination, shouldn’t we also be opposed to another form of indoctrination? Religious people of course think it’s not indoctrination, but teaching. And that’s where we should be involving evidence.

    For example, we can prove that the earth is 4.6 billion years old, and that the universe is between 13.5 and 14 billion years old. So it is simply false to tell children that the earth is 6000 years old. That’s not education, that’s getting them to believe something which is demonstrably false.

    So the question really is about how far you are prepared to let children be inculcated into the beliefs of their parents? Children are not like pets, owned by their parents, available to be trained and taught tricks. Our societies all give them certain rights. It’s a difficult question how to protect those rights in some cases against the actions of parents.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Ruvy, let’s take turns; when you show me you’ve learned something, I’ll do the same.

  • Irene Wagner

    I think I’d prefer to watch Christopher Rose and Dave Nalle talk this one over with you, Bob Lloyd. Together.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Bob,

    When it comes to this phony issue of “child protection”, what your argument boils down to is that you do not object to a child learning the faith of his forefathers – so long as he is taught that it is a pack of bullshit so he can ignore it at will.

    Fortunately, I live in a country where such indoctrination by G-d hating atheists can be fought and beaten down. I do not have to tolerate such garbage as some atheists would suggest be imposed. I have taught my children religion. They, like their father, are iconoclasts who ask tough and mean questions that are not easy to answer.

    Irene, by contrast, does live in the shadow of such trash, in a society that is becoming more and more fascistic by the month. So, she has to work harder than I to protect her children from this “child protection”. I will not comment on Europe – I might enjoy the schadenfreude of the situation too much….

    I’m sorry you found Dr. Schroeder’s site so hard to comprehend, and the writing so hard to comprehend. But thank you for checking the site out. I appreciate that you did.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    Ruvy, it really doesn’t boil down to what you claim. It does mean that teaching children things that are demonstrably untrue should make us question what that does to the child.

    Teaching children that the earth is 6000 years old is dishonest. It’s as dishonest as telling them the earth is flat, or that the sun moves around the earth. If we feel they have a right to education, we are morally obliged to make that education as factually correct as we can.

    We can of course teach them that their forefathers thought the earth was flat, that the world was only 6000 years old, etc, but we should also tell them that we now know better, and why.

    This isn’t “indoctrination by G-d hating atheists” but simply respecting the princple of education that says we should be honest about teaching factual material to children.

    In the past, there have been very many erroneous beliefs held to be true but we obviously don’t insist on teaching children those too.

    My own view is that matters of religious faith should be left for the child themselves to adopt over time if they so choose to do, as and when they are old enough to consider such issues. They should understand and be able to weigh up the alternatives and be educated to adopt a critical stance to ideas and knowledge. They should be able to assess evidence and consider religious faiths in the light of what is known about the world. They should be able to reject any ideas that they themselves see as unreasonable, but be open to convincing argument and evidence.

    Religious people are often uncomfortable with this stance and like you, get rather vituperative and start talking unreasonably about fascistic societies.

    I don’t see what is at all fascistic in a society that questions religious belief, any more than one that questions other claims to knowledge.

    I do see though why religious institutions require access to children to inculcate the ideas in them at an early age. Not only does it instill in them those values that religious people hold dear, but it also encourages them to be resistent to the critical evaluation of those beliefs. The former, where those values are generally accepted by secular society, are generally benign, but the latter often produces individuals unable to criticise the articles of their own faith, and that can make people quite closed-minded.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Ruvy, in which meaning of the word iconoclast do you consider yourself to be one? Is it the original meaning of “a destroyer of images used in religious worship” or the more modern one of “one who attacks cherished beliefs”? I am rather surprised as I thought you were the exact opposite of an iconoclast.

    And why are you misrepresenting Bob Lloyd’s opinion of the Schroeder site? He didn’t say it was hard to comprehend, he said it was “absurdly irrational”.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    My own view is that matters of religious faith should be left for the child themselves to adopt over time if they so choose to do…Religious people are often uncomfortable with this stance and like you, get rather vituperative and start talking unreasonably about fascistic societies.

    I don’t see what is at all fascistic in a society that questions religious belief, any more than one that questions other claims to knowledge. I do see though why religious institutions require access to children to inculcate the ideas in them at an early age. Not only does it instill in them those values that religious people hold dear, but it also encourages them to be resistent to the critical evaluation of those beliefs.

    Bob,

    Proper training for a Jew has the young boy learning to read and pray at age 5, memorizing the Torah by age 10, memorizing Tana”kh (the Hebrew Bible) by age 13, and then embarking on learning Talmud in his teens. In learning Talmud the student can draw on his knowledge of Torah and Tana”kh to comprehend why concepts are argued the way they are, synthesize a massive amount of data, and come to his own conclusions. Mind you, this does not exclude learning history, arithmetic, logic, mathematics and science.

    I know products of this educational system and they are intelligent, far more so than I, and can hold forth intelligently on a myriad of subjects.

    I didn’t have this proper training. Frankly, if I had, I wouldn’t be even writing here at all. I wouldn’t see the point.

    The examples you use of religious indoctrination are the fools who talk about a “young earth”, citing a literal reading of the first chapter of b’reshít/Genesis, and similar idiots. And in my opinion, they are idiots because in order to prove their ideas, they need to make up all sorts of bullshit. But idiotic as they are, the basic concept of religious freedom allows them as parents to ruin the minds of their kids. The problem, Bob, is that you cannot come up with anything better that would not be authoritarian oppression. I could, but you would jump up and down in a frothing rage screaming that religion was being shoved down your throat.

    At present, freedom of religion does not mean freedom from religion, and any attempt to impose freedom from religion will bring out real lovers of liberty, like the atheist Dave Nalle, in opposition to you and those like you.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    “The problem, Bob, is that you cannot come up with anything better that would not be authoritarian oppression.”

    An open secular education which kept religion teaching out of the classroom would be a significant step forwards because it would enable children themselves to come to a critical understanding about beliefs, including religious beliefs, without necessarily having to adopt them.

    Far from arguing for freedom from religion in society, I think everyone should be free to adopt whatever religious beliefs they choose. But I do think that inculcating religious beliefs in children at an age when they lack the critical faculties to judge the rationality of those beliefs, is at best a gross disservice to them.

    Secular education should include knowledge about religion, and to my view should focus on multicultural ethics, namely those ethical values that society as a whole values. That would doubtless be a matter of debate within the classroom, an exercise which would be vastly more fruitful than learning scriptures by rote.

    So far from freedom from religion, I argue for secular education and the free adoption of religious beliefs. In such a climate, I strongly expect that religion itself would lose it’s appeal.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    You see, Bob, you have no understanding of what religion really is. It is not a bunch of fairy tales or restrictive rules. It is not a cereal you buy at the store, deciding what you want by looking at the most attractive box. Religion is a way of life.

    This is as true for Jews, Christians and Muslims who love G-d, as for Hindus who worship a godhead, and Buddhists who do not even deal with the question of the existence of G-d.

    For all of us believers, religion is a way of life. For you, it is just an abstraction, or a product to be sold and bought like an alcoholic beverage. When you scratch the skin of every atheist or secularist, you find a fellow who is pissed off about having to adhere to one religion or another – and who is in rebellion (even at an age when teenage rebellion should be a dim and distant memory). I know. I used to be one of those atheists.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Bob,

    I have been trying to pare down all I’ve written, to express it more succinctly (something, I’m not very good at, I’m afraid). So, you’ll be better able to taylor your responses, if you have any, more productively, I’ll say that I’m familiar with scientific inquiry–have designed and implemented one study and have experience in their critique. I’m also familiar with skepticism–attended the school, got the diploma and spent some time waving it around for awhile.

    My argument here goes beyond wether the use of scientific method is the best way to gain knowledge. I think it is–where it is appropriate. I am a science-based person. But hopefully, no longer much of a scientistic one, and to the extent I have been, I have come to think I was wrong.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    The criticism of the practice of scientists is an essential part of the scientific method, and most respectable scientists work very hard to maintain very high standards of evidence, openness, and honesty in their work.

    Adding to the presumption about what psychologists do, I’ll point out that this is another bit of anecdotal evidence of a religious (or faithist) flavor. I’ll try to find the reference that demonstrates that merely because science is supposed to work a certain way, does not mean that it does.

    But this idea is one I regularly put forth myself as a ‘skeptic’.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Dave, it’s a common mistake to criticise the practice of particular scientists, for example those who may unreasonable claims for commercial products, and thereby try to discredit science as a whole. There is a distinction between the principles of the scientific method, which are the best we have for obtaining reliable knowledge about the world, and the particular practice of science carried out by individuals.

    If abuse is widespread enough then it taints the entire scientific community. There is no scientist who is above suspicion when there are so many forces working to corrupt them, including their own egos.

    The criticism of the practice of scientists is an essential part of the scientific method, and most respectable scientists work very hard to maintain very high standards of evidence, openness, and honesty in their work.

    I find this to be an enormously naive statement. Like everyone else, scientists are looking for a paycheck, for sponsorship, for a grant, and they taint their work by tailoring it to that need.

    Scientists have no problem with this method, indeed they undergo training so they can apply it effectively.

    Except that they do in fact have a problem when their work is challenged or when other scientists disagree and they become defensive and in some cases go so far as to try to destroy and discredit those who dare to challenge them.

    So whilst science does not depend on belief, individual scientists may be more or less honest and open about their work. The more venal should be exposed by the more principled of course.

    Which is difficult to do when the scientific community tends to band together to defend the orthodox and attack the dissidents.

    Dave

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Ruvy, earlier in this thread you were complaining about cherry-picking but now you are the one doing that.

    Not only are you ignoring perfectly reasonable – and reasonably expressed – questions put to you, presumably because you have no answer that even makes sense to you, but you are also apparently able to divine what people think and even believe (ha ha!).

    I doubt there is anybody on the planet that is not aware that a religion is a way of life. The point is that the underlying logic of that lifestyle is not based upon anything of substance but ancient and outdated explanations of the world around us.

    It is the effort to sustain those erroneous explanations that appears to drive people to such extremes as you are apparently willing to embrace.

    Not the least of those errors is to constantly ascribe to people positions they don’t adhere to, possibly in an effort to make your vainglorious exertions seem worthwhile.

    The latest example of that is your claim that “When you scratch the skin of every atheist or secularist, you find a fellow who is pissed off about having to adhere to one religion or another”. I would like to know how you would set about supporting such an assertion, because my experience of people who don’t share in the faithist position is not remotely like that.

    Cindy, I don’t quite see what point you are trying to make or what the link you posted has to do with anything in this discussion.

    As far as I can tell, you appear to be trying to make some kind of case against the ways and means of science in order to protect some things that you see as being outside of or of being unable of being explored or explained by a process of reasonable enquiry, but it seems to me that it is you that is being presumptious…

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    Dave, I agree with pretty much all of what you say but not the cynical conclusion. Despite the tainting of science by the bad apples, the scientific method remains the best we have, and the open peer review system, controlled trials, evidence-based research, etc, all continue to produce results.

    I agree that working scientists are subject to all sorts of commercial pressures, and the commodification of science through grants, and research institutes owned by commercial interests, adds to the weight. That’s definitely a case for a political response.

  • http://mizbviewsfromthetower.blogspot.com Jeanne Browne

    Well! This has been a thread I’d dare not pull on for fear of unraveling (and thereby releasing it into the atmosphere…), that special blend of venom, stubbornness and superiority that seems to accompany most “discussions” between believers and non-believers. Very unfortunate and not the least bit helpful.

    First, to get way, way back to Bob’s original message, it is indeed insane that parents would cause the death of a child because they don’t “believe” in the legitimate curative powers of modern medicine. The fact that the parents meant no harm does not excuse the fact that they certainly did great harm: the kid is dead!

    It seems to me that when matters get down to the level of life-and-death, secular law should intervene and override both faith and science: no adult should have the legal right to prevent a minor child from receiving what would appear to be life-saving medical treatment. If the parents are distraught by this, tough. Teach your children whatever it is you believe in, and when they’re of legal age, they can choose to embrace the family’s faith or not. If an adult chooses to risk death rather than take advantage of medical assistance, that should be his legal/moral/religious right; and if he dies, he dies, he made a choice. But society’s secular laws have a responsibility to protect minors.

    No fair and honest person can deny that fervent religious faith has (ironically and shamefully) been the core basis for eons of violence, persecution and hatred — and I think this is the primary reason that non-believers are so stalwart and vociferous in their rejection of religion.

    However, non-believers use the words “faith,” “believer” and “religious” as if they are synonyms; they are not.

    Indeed, not all those who espouse the virtues/tenets of a particular religion actually “believe” in anything regarding spirituality or ethics, but instead merely cling to the culture, tradition and trappings of their religion, because it gives them an anchor for survival (or a reason to stop asking questions and/or think about anything; take your pick).

    And not all those who “believe” or have “faith” believe or have faith in the same things, whether within a specific religion or outside it.

    Finally, all religions are more about social power & control than they are about belief systems. To a certain extent, that may serve a positive social purpose. But it’s mind-control by any rational assessment and another reason scientists and other rationalists reject it so fiercely.

    None of this has anything to do with the millions/billions of people who have a genuine, non-violent, personal belief in whatever form of spiritual guidance and tradition that gives them comfort, and a sense of place in the universe. Most important, not all people who believe in something, whatever it is, reject the facts of science. Most people I know who have a faith of any kind have no problem whatsoever with what science has proven, achieved, and seeks to answer.

    The issue becomes an argument when fanatical believers incorrectly see a conflict between religion and science, as if one nullifies the other, which ain’t necessarily so. Similarly, things get heated when scientists show disregard and disrespect for anything that cannot be confirmed by scientific methods.

    IMHO, it shows great hubris, cowardice, and lack of imagination to assume that either faith or science contain 100% of the answers to life’s questions, both those already resolved and those yet to be answered. Faith can invigorate. Science can prove. Together (whether combined or working separately), they can motivate humankind to continue its explorations of all things.

    Not everything should be taken on faith (that’s called gullibility), and not all of life’s mysteries can be explained by science. It’s beyond me why people can’t look beyond their personal perspectives and allow for unimagined possibilities and amazing surprises — both scientific and spiritual.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/fran-parker/ Fran

    IMHO, it shows great hubris, cowardice, and lack of imagination to assume that either faith or science contain 100% of the answers to life’s questions, both those already resolved and those yet to be answered. Faith can invigorate. Science can prove. Together (whether combined or working separately), they can motivate humankind to continue its explorations of all things.

    Not everything should be taken on faith (that’s called gullibility), and not all of life’s mysteries can be explained by science. It’s beyond me why people can’t look beyond their personal perspectives and allow for unimagined possibilities and amazing surprises — both scientific and spiritual.

    Thank you Jeanne Browne!

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    @ #156, 158:

    There is a particular scientific topic on which the preponderance of available evidence is at loggerheads with Dave’s political views, and this explains his line of argument here. (Bet you can guess what that topic is.)

    Every attack on science I’ve seen – and Dave’s is no exception – ends up being an ad hominem against scientists rather than attempting to find fault with the scientific method. I wonder why?

  • Irene Wagner

    Because there’s nothing wrong with the scientific method but something wrong with scientists?

  • Irene Wagner

    Lately, Dr Dreadful, I’m never quite sure if your questions are rhetorical or actual invitations to communicate. :P

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Well, yes, Irene, it was rhetorical, but communicating is always good. (Actually, I can think of instances in which it might not be… To Catch a Predator springs to mind… anyway – )

    Actually, yes, the scientific method is about as sound a tool as humans have devised – as long as it is applied correctly and as long as one recognises its limits.

    For instance, science cannot prove or disprove the existence of a god. Such is a matter of faith and lies outside its province. However, if someone were to claim that they have absolute, concrete proof of the existence of God, then that proof could be scientifically tested.

  • Irene Wagner

    I think I’m zeroing in on the nature of the difficulty of this kind of conversation Dr. D. It has to do with different “modes of knowing” I think.

  • Irene Wagner

    …the difficulty encountered in this kind of conversation, I meant.

    I don’t think I have absolute concrete, scientifically verifiable proof that my husband loves me. But I know he does.

  • Irene Wagner

    The evidence that convinces me of my husband’s love for me, and the evidence that convinces me that God not only loves me, but is speaking to me about changing this thing or that in my life, is very personal and wouldn’t mean too much to you. And of course you’d have no way of knowing whether or not I were telling you the truth.

  • Irene Wagner

    But for others to say that I AM lying, or am crazy, for saying that there is a God I love in this way…

    …it hurts. It’s rude, I think.

  • Irene Wagner

    To Catch a Predator…lol..I’m winding down, now, Dr. D…not to worry.

  • Irene Wagner

    I guess I’m done, pretty much.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    I hope you come back whenever it is that I make my next post Irene.

  • Irene Wagner

    Cindy, things like that just seem to happen when there supposed to, friend. :) I was just musing this afternoon about how I’d enjoyed reading Greg Boyd and then got distracted and lost track of him, until you (of ALL people !:P) brought him back to my remembrance in an entirely different context.

  • Irene Wagner

    Keep very well, Cindy. Night.

  • pablo

    hi Cindy

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Hiya pablo :-)

    Nite nite, Irene :-)

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    I don’t think I have absolute concrete, scientifically verifiable proof that my husband loves me. But I know he does.

    Exactly, Irene. It isn’t absolute or concrete, so the question of whether your husband loves you is outside the province of science – as, indeed, is the question of the very existence of love, unless we are to reduce it to theories of hormonal attachment.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    Jeanne, loads I can agree with in your last post though there are a few things that I think are problems.

    You describe the circumstance in which secular law should override both faith and science, to ensure that the child gets “life-saving medical treatment”. The fact, surely, is that far from overriding science, secular law needs to insist on it. The medical treatment you want to guarantee is precisely the application of science, clinical diagnosis and clinical treatment.

    Faith and science are not equivalent. Faith relies on a belief system, and science (I have to keep repeating and demonstrating this over and over), is not a belief system.

    It’s a popular misconception of science that it represents a community of believers. It isn’t. Science doesn’t rely at all on what the scientists believe, and that’s its strength.

    You say there is no conflict between science and religion and yet this case demonstrates in the starkest terms that there is. Science provides the means for medical cures, religion doesn’t. Insistence on the letter of a religious faith can, and in this case did, result in dire consequences.

    Some people like to think that science and religion occupy disjoint areas, non-overlapping magisteria, as Stephen Jay Gould put it. This case demonstrates that the interface between religion and science, in society itself, contradicts that non-overlapping view. Religion does indeed come into conflict with science, over and over. The insistence on the religious view of how the world is almost always comes into conflict with how we can demonstrate the world actually is, from claims about the age of the earth, right up to the neurobiological basis of consciousness and the “soul”.

    The other point I’d make is that ideas and beliefs do not deserve respect, people do. We can perfectly well criticise, and even demolish ideas and beliefs, demonstrating them to be contradictory, wrong, irrational, whatever, without it being disrespectful of the individual. There has been an increasing move to protect religious opinion, and even to dress it in legal protection through blasphemy laws, on the grounds that ideas should be respected. This is quite totalitarian and if anyone suggested that racist opinion be similarly protected, there would be a world-wide outcry.

    It’s very important to accept that ideas do not deserve respect. The moment we start privileging religious ideas, or any other opinion, free speech and open debate are critically compromised.

    Sorry for the length of the post, by you’ve raised some really important issues.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Doc & Irene, my understanding is that it is not the case that science can not explain the processes of love, although there still remains much to be done in that field.

    I would also disagree with the Doc’s contention that “the question of the very existence of love” might be outside the province of science. I’m not sure that anything is.

    And whilst Irene might be convinced that her husband loves her based on his behaviour and I have nothing but happiness at the thought of that, because love, like compassion, is one of the most radical and profound human qualities, I still can’t find a kernel of sense in her insistence that there is “evidence that convinces me that God not only loves me, but is speaking to me about changing this thing or that in my life”.

    I’m sure we could circle around this for ever but, wishful thinking or cultural indoctrination aside, there is nothing in all of human history, which is far older than the emergence of the notion of this particular deity, which indicates that it exists.

    On the other hand, there is a plausible case to be made for a natural human sense of spirituality and unity, not least because it is quite literally true that there is a fundamental commonality not only between all living things but also with our planet and the wider universe in which we exist.

    You can choose to attribute whatever it is that you experience to the notion of a monotheistic entity, Irene, but that does not mean it is true.

    I’m told you are actually quite intelligent and I shouldn’t be too hard on you, both of which are probably true, so please accept my apology for the latter if I have. However, I would have thought that a little more contemplation and consideration would make it more apparent to you that a genuine spirituality and reverence can exist outside of the implausible notion of a simplistic and literally incredible theism.

    We tend to think that we live in the modern world and that concepts like monotheism are more evolved or something than more primitive, both literally and chronologically, beliefs.

    I rather suspect that we actually live in something more akin to the Middle Ages and – if we are lucky – maybe a real renaissance lies not too far into the future. It may not be too optimistic to think that a more reality-based spirituality will then have evolved out of our contemporary chaos.

    If it does, I fully expect that science, which can already induce the apparent direct experience of an encounter with “god” by the simple process of applying stimulation to certain areas of the brain, will play a significant part in the evolution of that understanding.

  • Irene Wagner

    Well bless your rational little pet mouse.

    ….and I shouldn’t be too hard on you, ….so please accept my apology for the latter if I have.
    Christopher Rose, I enjoy attempting to match your snark occasionally. There is nothing you’ve said that’s been TOO hard on me yet….But apology accepted just the same.

    There was a lot in your post to disagree with, and much common ground there, too. I read and thought about it all, though.

    What’s Pablo doing here? Hi Pablo. Bye all, I’m late…

  • irene wagner

    Think of humor in deathly serious conversations such as this as a bit of “cosmic relief” Christopher Rose.

    Quite truthfully, the implications of what Bob Lloyd suggested to me in his comment yesterday morning made me physically ill. I left it to you and Dave Nalle to address him, as both of you assured me earlier that you would, should any one come ’round suggesting that the parental-child relationship be tampered with by “authorities” on the grounds of ideological differences those authorities had with the parents. They were, Dave did, and you didn’t, Christopher Rose. But there’s still time.

    IP address change due to arrival at work destination, and I must turn my attention there now. And no, wonderers, I am not Pablo, or Zedd.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    I would also disagree with the Doc’s contention that “the question of the very existence of love” might be outside the province of science. I’m not sure that anything is.

    This is the dividing line, as I see it–those who think that scientific inquiry (method) could possibly ultimately explain everything and those who think that there are things which do not lend themselves to such inquiry. I found the skeptic community to be in the first camp. This belief is also held by such prominent people as Stephen Hawkings. I adopted their stance in relation to hard science outcomes, ultimately this position was competing with my own experience in the social sciences.

    Is the theory, itself, that all social reality could itself be the subject of scientific inquiry, testable via scientific method? For me, as well as for many in the various fields of the social sciences, it has been tested and there is enough evidence to suggest the trial has resulted in a body of knowledge that is riddled with error.

    Historically, the idea that everything could be reduced to quantification was a big deal in the early 20th century. Social scientists jumped on board partly to gain the status and credibility of the physical scientists. The result was both the rise of the authority of the ‘expert’ and the removal of personal experience from the study of social realities. The ‘expert’ became valuable to government and business alike and was held up as a sort of ‘god’ by the popular culture, as well. The weight of the authority of this ‘expert’ has resulted in the fabric of our society being developed on a faulty base.

    Unfortunately, this ‘knowledge’ once entered into the operations of society is not that easy to change. There has been a trend to reject the applicability of scientific method to all social reality for the last 60 years. But, there is a huge lag in the progress between understanding something and implementing change, once the cake has been baked. It is as if the information just doesn’t make it into the mainstream once minds have been made up and a system has been established as the ‘norm’ for thinking. There is still the camp in social science that barges on, not seeing the problems and there is now a resurgence with the skeptics who seem more familiar with hard science, and don’t appear to have looked at the story the results in social science tell. This is unfortunate, as the knowledge–the erroneous knowledge–is used to affect the real social realities of actual human beings.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Sorry, Hawking…I have a habit of doing that. It only took me until 46 to spell separate correctly–someone told me there was ‘a rat’ in it. :-)

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Cindy, I think the dividing line is between those who think everything will be understood sooner or later and those who, for a variety of reasons, not all of which are dishonourable, like to think that some things can’t be explained.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Probably, Christopher. I’d better understand with an example of how you mean that. Are you thinking about an explanation–like in the idea above–‘what is love, itself?’ If the explanation comes from biological sciences then I could see the possibility of there being one eventually. It’s hard for me to imagine, but I recognize I can’t know what is possible to know through future biological science.

    But I would say that there are probably more places than one to draw dividing lines. I am just using mine to describe one particular division that took place in the social sciences. There are others that took place that seem they might look more like your version.

    But, one thing, I am looking specifically at the study of social sciences (not the physical or the biological sciences) and how they were effected by those who thought the whole realm of the social could be studied via the scientific method. There was a wholesale move to try to reduce humans down to something measurable. This was accomplished, for example, by the development of theories; like behaviorism, where all human behavior was reduced to nothing more than stimulus-response patterns. The residues of this move resulted in many problems in many areas. An example of which, in education, are those associated with standardized testing and its associated problems.

    The trouble is most of my thinking comes from a lot of personal observation and experience mixed in with the thinking and research of others–but without a solid understanding of the complete history. So, I don’t have the benefit of an indepth understanding of ALL the different contentious camps in the social sciences and how they emerged and changed to accommodate criticism. There is Objectivism-realism, Constructionism, ‘Post-So&So’ etc. I am dealing with the division I am familiar with. There’s much more I have yet to understand.

  • Irene Wagner

    Cindy, I assume this is the comment you wanted me to see. I’d been hearing the phrase “power of story” in so many contexts for the last couple of years and had wondered about it. Sounds like it might be part of the effort you’ve been describing–an attempt to turn around a very big ship!

    ==============
    As to dividing lines,
    Edgar Allen Poe was a person who thought, for reasons not altogether dishonorable, that some things could not (or should not) be explained:

    Sonnet — To Science
    by Edgar Allan Poe

    Science! true daughter of Old Time thou art!
    Who alterest all things with thy peering eyes.
    Why preyest thou thus upon the poet’s heart,
    Vulture, whose wings are dull realities?
    How should he love thee? or how deem thee wise?
    Who wouldst not leave him in his wandering
    To seek for treasure in the jeweled skies,
    Albeit he soared with an undaunted wing?
    Hast thou not dragged Diana from her car?
    And driven the Hamadryad from the wood
    To seek a shelter in some happier star?
    Has thou not torn the Naiad from her flood,
    The Elfin from the green grass, and from me
    The summer dream beneath the tamarind tree?

    Sure, there are some explanations that, while exciting, carry a bit of “aw gee there’s no such thing as Santa Claus” baggage. Falling in love is more about chemistry and subconscious responses than moon in June stuff. (Staying in love, on the other hand….)

    I don’t see science as threatening. Much as the understanding of the very precise mathematical underpinnings of music does not “break the spell” of music for me, but instead makes me see more beauty in math AND music than I saw in either one before I understood their relationship, so I feel it will be with the deepest discoveries about the universe that are yet to be made.

    PS For a couple of years, I’ve known about the nasty electrode-paste covered chair wherein encounters with God are simulated. I’d pay big bucks to watch either one of you in that contraption. :P

    I’ll be quiet again, now.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    Irene, I just re-read my comment to you and can see absolutely nothing there to offend, and certainly nothing to make anyone feel physically sick. I was, and am, interested in how you distinguish between inculcating a small child into the beliefs of a religious faith, and beliefs of a political nature. We’d call the latter indoctrination.

    It’s an important question because if we are willing to sanction religious indoctrination, we have very little grounds for opposing political indoctrination. On the other hand, if we want to ensure children are able to distinguish critically between political positions before expecting them to make any choice (for example, in voting), we ought, surely, to insist on similar safeguards in the case of religion.

    There is nothing in religious ideas that gives them a special status, outside of the scope of critical evaluation. When the teachings of a religion conflict with fact, for example in the case of evolution, children should be taught the facts.

    Whatever is there in that to make anyone feel physically sick? Religious sensitivity? Then how is that different from political sensitivity?

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Cindy, just because errors may have been made in a particular field of scientific research doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be researched; indeed, it means that more research should be done. This is how we learn, and science is all about learning.

    Irene, judging by the poem you posted, what an old whiner Poe was!

    I’m delighted that you see a relationship between Maths and Music and that that relationship adds to the beauty of it all. That is exactly the kind of augmented understanding that science based approaches can and/or should bring to all things, including spirituality.

    I don’t see why you choose to use the word nasty in relation to that god-inducing research, unless it is because it makes you feel a little jittery about the exact nature of your belief in theism. Personally, I’ve had enough induced experiences for my taste and don’t really see the benefit in having that particular illusory one.

    The whole area of how the application of mild voltages in various areas of the brain is fascinating. It offers the very real prospect of helping people with previously untreatable diverse conditions like depression, Alzheimer’s, Autism and many more, to say nothing of the spinoffs from that such as enhanced memory and learning. Bring it on, I say.

    Bob, you are never one to shirk the tough questions. Although I tend to agree with you in principle, how that could be actually implemented in practical terms is potentially more challenging.

    I don’t think it is possible – and probably not desirable – to prevent parents passing on, or at least trying to, any cultural values in the context of family life.

    Even in the relatively conservative culture of the USA, religious belief is on the decline. It seems to be a pattern with these things, almost like a fashion or craze; notions catch on, spread like wildfire and then fade away. The problem with religious ideas is that they are so intimately connected to profound human issues of existence, identity, spirituality and death, they tend to linger on.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    “I don’t think it is possible – and probably not desirable – to prevent parents passing on, or at least trying to, any cultural values in the context of family life.”

    Chris, I didn’t say that and wouldn’t argue it. What I was querying was how people can have one set of principles which control political indoctrination but operate with different principles when it comes to religion.

    I think that it is really important that parents instil into their children, socially acceptable values, along with a critical appreciation of diversity, and an understanding of different beliefs. That’s very different from inculcating in them specific religious beliefs, some of which are factually incorrect, such as the belief that the world is only 6000 years old, or that evolution doesn’t happen.

    There is a common core of ethical values which are secular and which all religions agree on, but there are also strictly religious beliefs too. As I said, it’s a difficult issue and I don’t have the answers, but I think it’s important to open up consideration of the transmission of religious ideas as being on a par with the transmission of political beliefs.

    Maybe parents need to become more aware that by inculcating religious faith in their children, they are not just passing on generally acceptable social values, but also perhaps encouraging their children to be less critical of beliefs than they should be.

  • Irene Wagner

    LOL Chris–take it easy. The article where I first read about the research you describe (and I DO think it’s fascinating) began with a humorous description of the irony of the absolute filthiness of this “holy chair” the subjects of the experiments sat in, all covered with electrode paste drippings.

    What would happen if Christopher Rose were hooked up to such a contraption? I’m guessing he’d start lisping something like “…it’s a beautiful blue but it hasn’t a hood, oh God bless nanny and make her good…(A.A. Milnes)”

    That doesn’t mean God exists or He doesn’t. IT would just show that your brain still retains memories of times you did believe in God, and that the experience held in that memory–in ANY memory can be “virtually” recreated through electric stimulus.

    And I’ll butt out now and let you continue your discussion with Bob Lloyd which conversation I am following with great interest.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Bob, I’m not sure that people do have principles against political indoctrination, just certain kinds of it, like in the USA against Communism and in some other countries against Capitalism.

    Personally, I’m against political parties in general as they always become almost as dogmatic as religions. A quick hop over to the Blogcritics Politics section is all that is needed to be reminded of that! ;-)

    Do schools in Western countries teach religion as such any more? I thought not, but haven’t been in a school for some time.

    Irene, I obviously didn’t read the same article as you and, as you didn’t explain your remark, it seemed to be a contextualisation from yourself.

    I don’t understand how you come up with the notion that the machine isn’t inducing the experience but re-creating memory. As I recall, it was actually creating a direct religious experience, not re-creating memory, and I’d like to see where it says otherwise.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    “Do schools in Western countries teach religion as such any more?”

    In the UK now, schools are being increasingly privatised into trust schools which are “sponsored” by private interests. In almost every case of these make-over schools they become “faith” schools, in which the church takes a leading role. So although the UK education system is officially secular, in reality, many schools are being sold to churches. Parents in areas where this has happened have the option of secular education removed from them.

    There’s a programme in the UK called Building Schools for the Future in which private capital contributes to the refurbishing and building costs, and control of the school via the governing body includes representatives from the sponsors. Invariably that includes the church.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    187 – Christopher (and perhaps Bob, since this is working on arguing against his contention that we do not create reality)

    I agree, we should study the social. The question is, does it best lend itself to being studied. Via scientific inquiry (method)? That is, is it best reduced to a methodology of quantification? I say, no. Before I make any more assertions maybe you’ll consider this:

    Have you (or someone you know) ever experienced a disconnection between what you need and what it is presumed you need in an institutional setting? If not, have you ever taken a survey that did not adequately cover all possible answers, so that you were frustrated that the response you wanted to make was missing? Not so bad when you are taking a survey about something inconsequential, not so good when one is talking about assessments that will be used to determine your human needs during the rest of your life in a nursing home or why you will experience what is now understood to be hospital psychosis. Have you ever felt like the actual needs you had were not considered when faced with a situation where you were at a power disadvantage? Been somewhere where the style of care didn’t seem to match the actual needs? This is a disconnection between your pov and the ‘expert’s’ pov. It results from trying to study social reality via quantifiable scientific method. It does not have to be there had anecdotal methods been employed.

    This is most evident in relationships of unequal power:

    the elderly hospital patient
    the nursing home resident
    the physically/ mentally handicapped
    school children
    the mentally ill
    the prisoner
    subcultures
    disadvantaged groups
    outsiders (other cultures)
    children in state care
    the homeless

    I am suggesting that anecdotal evidence is the only kind which will break this disconnect. Had other means than scientific inquiry been used in the first place these disconnects might not be weighing so heavily on the experiences of all the groups I listed above. I realize at this point I have not provided evidence for my claims. Nor have I clearly spelled out the argument in the social sciences over these issues.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    That idea about the power of story, Irene, that sounds just right. Story or narrative. And it is a huge ship.

    There are those who have realized that reality does not jive with what has been stated. Those who claim it works one way are the ones who have a hold of the schools, the prisons, the institutions.

    Despite their fine job of things so far (barf), the movement in the social sciences is growing toward a better way of getting a grip on things. We should have a complete change in, oh say, 50 more years. Entrenchment of bad ideas caused by the creation of ‘experts’ is a challenge. ‘Authorities’ have all become ‘experts’ now–looking the wrong way down the telescope.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Cindy, those kinds of situations don’t result from scientific approaches but either bad or incomplete scientific processes.

    Science is always a work in progress and, as I said in an earlier comment, we are living in what will come to be seen as something more akin to what we call the Middle Ages, not a wonderful modern world.

    If we’re lucky, we are just at the beginning of a new and more pervasive renaissance, if we’re not, then it will happen not too long after we have all died, assuming we don’t kill ourselves off beforehand.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    Cindy, one way to think about those questionnaires you mention is that they are inaccurate accounts of need, much like anecdotal accounts in general.

    An anecdotal account may well be deficient in exactly the accurate statement of what actually happened. It would still sound genuine, and may well be believed, but it wouldn’t be accurate. It’s like the questionnaire that doesn’t contain all of the possible answers.

    A scientific approach would check for evidence that it was correct and accurate. Looking at those questionnaires, it would check that all possible responses were catered for – and find that they were badly designed, and correct them.

    Your examples are not generic faults in science, but simply poorly designed questionnaires. A difference between assumption and fact. Science can help identify the difference.

  • Irene Wagner

    Cindy- we barf in unison :) Christopher Rose — I only have 5 minutes before I have to flee. So I will let you look up the article YOU read and refresh your memory. Hindus saw goddesses, Christians experienced Jesus. The experience under electric stimulation matched an experience that was stored in memory.
    I would like to know how a laboratory experiment is able to produce a “goddess” religious experience for a Hindu, and a “Jesus” religious experience for a Christian, if memory is not involved.

    I don’t know where you read that this experience is “proof” or even merely “evidence” that a Christian’s, or a Hindu’s experience of the spirit world can be recreated in the laboratory, and is therefore synthetic.

    Could it be, that he or she was guilty of a serious assault against critical thought?

    It wouldn’t have been Richard Dawkins.
    spreading that meme, would it? Or was it another New Atheist guru?

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Irene, actually Cindy & you misunderstand in unison.

    And you find that because Hindus saw goddesses and Christians experienced Jesus that means it was memory? If there is an assault on critical thought here, it is you mounting the attack…

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Christopher and Bob,

    Actually, I don’t think I’m misunderstanding. I think I’m disagreeing and my argument is being dismissed because it is seen as anathema to the beliefs you think are beyond question. Here is what it looks like from where I sit:

    I’m suggesting that there is a debate about this issue in all the wider fields of the social sciences–all of them. (social geography, political science, education, anthropology, psychology, sociology, etc) I feel that you are both dismissing that, as if there is no other argument. As if I just don’t get your one truth.

    It would be one thing if you understood my position and disagreed. But it is as if you are such faithists about science, neither can conceive of even the existence of the another argument. Yet, there it is filling up the world of journals and debate for years and years.

    It looks to me like both you both have a hypothesis about social reality, presuming it to be something objective rather than something created (my word) the actual word in use is constructed*. Second, it looks as if you also have a hypothesis that social reality is best tested via scientific method.

    I am only seeing repeated assertions, as if I just don’t understand the ‘facts’. I am not seeing any scientific evidence put forth for either of these hypotheses. It strikes me you believe they are facts, not beliefs. I suggest you would be wrong and are actually guilty of criticizing the beliefs of others whilst holding your own beliefs up as fact.

    *…so I have recently learned. And thank you for taking up this argument, because I have never actually read the arguments. Much of my argument comes from my own looking, testing, and experience. It made me go out and look at the field more closely and discover once again that much of what I have suspected has already been suspected before and well-described. I almost feel the need to write down all my ideas before I find out how much they’ve already been expressed.

  • Irene Wagner

    Cindy didn’t say unison, she said barf.
    And I agreed with her.

    …and I’m mounting an attack on critical thought because….????

    What, are there Shiva and…The Elephant One…et al…impressions present in the neural connections of neonates from the Asian subcontinent, whereas babies born in lands where Jesus’ name is known are programmed, at birth, to envision a guy who looked like: a regular Middle Eastern Jewish guy, or alternatively, a kitschy picture with a see-through chest featuring a heart with thorns coming out the aorta…

    …these things are LEARNED Christopher Rose. They’re stored in memory. But I’m sure I’m not telling you anything you don’t know already. You are being…*clears throat*…WILFULLY IGNORANT.

  • Irene Wagner

    Remember, Cindy. It’s a BIIIIIIIIIIIG ship. ;)

  • Irene Wagner

    And what is a religious experience? Is it all emotion?

    An autobiographical record of one of the most profoundly intimate and fruitful friendships with God in the last 100 years is so dull it would put a glass eyeball to sleep.

    I’m not exactly sure WHAT George Muller’s reaction to being hooked up to that chair would be Christopher Rose, maybe he’d start writing a boring book. His “religious experience” was a quiet continuum of listening and obedient response, and watching the unfolding of miracles which he recorded, in a dry as dust manner, day after day, year after year. And 600,000 orphans worldwide ended up being fed, cared for, educated in matters academic and in a trade, LOVED! without Mueller having to ask anyone for a single penny to help out.

    Well I guess I got carried away, there, Christopher. But you know, somebody else might be kind of into it. So it won’t bother me if you’re not.

    But you must admit YOU started it. Must go now.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Actually, I don’t think I’m misunderstanding. I think I’m disagreeing and my argument is being dismissed because it is seen as anathema to the beliefs you think are beyond question.

    Bingo! Right on the money! Your ideas are being dismissed. That is the Christopher Rose philosopy in a nutshell; add some perfume and flowers, and you have Bob Lloyd (or even DD). Dave Nalle is the diplomat here, pointing out the human foibles and huge egos that scientists have, probably because he ran into both in the groves of academe….

    That leaves you with “vicious and unthinking primitives” like Irene and me, who are “besotted” with our “magical thinking”. I have trouble with your politics and its disconnects, Cindy, but I’ll listen to your philosophical arguments and try and understand as best I can (you know that primitive G-d besotted brain of mine can handle only so much – you’ll have to spoon feed me the porrage)….

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    Cindy, I don’t think your ideas are being dismissed. They are being taken seriously and they’re being questioned and challenged. You don’t argue against ideas you are dismissing.

    When someone reports a religious experience, they are utterly convinced of what they saw and experienced. The question is not about whether they believed it to be such a religious experience, but about distinguishing it from mistakes, delusions, confusions, inaccuracy, and so on.

    For example, if we see something moving in a tree, and you happen to be in the UK, you will expect to see either a bird or a squirrel. You won’t expect to see a monkey. So an indistinct impression of something moving will prime you to interpret it as either a bird or a squirrel, even though it is indistinct.

    Similarly, if you have an experienced perception of an image of a religious symbol, be it Christ or Shiva or anything else, and your cultural upbringing provides you with the means of making links to those images, you are more likely to interpret it in that way. So with the same experienced perception, both the Hindu and the Christian will interpret their experience in their own way. In that sense, we create the reality of our interpretation. The mental events, the neurochemistry, the functioning of the synapses, etc, is the underlying external reality. That underlying external reality can be manipulated using lab equipment to produce the visions which are duly interpreted by the subject.

    The problem is in telling the difference between the bird, the squirrel, the monkey, and any other constructed interpretation.

    The idea that religious perceptions accurately reflect actual reality is very common but not justified. If we allow that people construct their interpretations, there automatically arises the question of how we distinguish between those experiences and other similarly reported visions. Why would we acccept one interpretation rather than another? It’s not insulting to say that they cannot be distinguished from the visions seen by schizophrenics. In their case, they too see things vividly and utterly believe them. That is not at all to say that religious people are schizophrenics, just that we can’t take anecdotal accounts to be automatically true reflections of what is happening.

    The fact that visions can be produced at will which will give rise to a feeling of religious experience is evidence of a neurological basis for such events. And in the spirit of open-minded science, we ought to explore that and its implications.

  • Irene Wagner

    From 1 unthinking primitive to another, it’s “porridge.” and

    “porridge”. is the British variant
    ^
    *****
    Christopher Rose, I thought you were saying that Cindy and I misunderstood the phrase “in unison” which is why I said Cindy didn’t say ‘in unison’ she said ‘barf'” So I guess I actually did end up misunderstanding, but not in unison with Cindy, who was, I think, the misunderstood, rather than the misunderstander.

    ****************

    Bob Lloyd, now that Christopher Rose has finished talking to you about the things I asked him to discuss with you, I will answer your question:

    I did once *hangs head in shame* read to my then ten-year old son, Beloc’s “Of Matilde Who Told Lies and was Burnt to Death” but only because it was what was up next in the (thoroughly secular) children’s poetry anthology we were reading together.

  • Irene Wagner

    I don’t feel I owe you, or anyone else, any further description of how my husband and I have decided to attend to the spiritual development of our children. You may rear yours as atheists. It’s really none of my affair.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    “I did once *hangs head in shame* read to my then ten-year old son, Beloc’s “Of Matilde Who Told Lies and was Burnt to Death” but only because it was what was up next in the (thoroughly secular) children’s poetry anthology we were reading together.”

    Irene, can you give me a clue as to what question of mine this answers? :)

  • Irene Wagner

    LOL. Bob, I got work to do.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Cindy, I don’t have beliefs; that’s the province of the faithists of this world.

    I get that you are saying that there is a debate going on in the social sciences, but without some kind of process to deal with information, all you have is a load of pointless philosophical waffling.

    As far as I have understood, you are saying that there is a problem with trying to deal with social science in this way and that you want there to be social sciences without any science involved, which just sounds wacky to me.

    I think you are misunderstanding social reality. Social reality is surely a blend of physical facts and the multiple cultural interpretations going on in a society. All of that is open to analysis and definition, which are scientifically derived processes, so I still don’t see what you are objecting to.

    Anecdotal material is fine as far as it goes, but I don’t see how a system that has to serve many different people can be created based on that kind of information.

    Irene, as far as I can tell, you seem to be trying to suggest that because people have artificially created religious experiences in a form that reflects their culture, it means it must be based on memory and therefore true.

    I am suggesting that it difficult to see how anybody could experience such an induced condition in any other form than their own culture’s ideas about religion.

    Furthermore, if there actually was a deity that created all things, one would reasonably expect that the induced religious experience would be similar for all humans that had that experience, rather than reflecting cultural differences.

    I don’t think you are remotely making a case that I am being wilfully ignorant, whereas I think it is pretty clear that you are wriggling on a logical hook you can’t escape from due to your presumption that there is a god.

    In case you, like Ruvy, are wilfully ignoring a statement I’ve made many times, I’ll repeat that I genuinely don’t mind either way if there is a god or not. Indeed, I can see a lot of potential benefits to humanity if there was.

    That said, I still fail to see that there has ever been any evidence of such a creature’s existence, whereas there is a massive amount of evidence for the unity of all life, indeed all things, which is the one thing that seems to be at the core of religious experience in all cultures.

    I think that kind of experience is quite valid and literally true, but the attribution of the nature or cause of that experience to one theism or another is quite false.

    I don’t see how the example of George Muller has any relevance to this discussion.

    Ruvy, Once again, the massive resentments and hostility you carry around with you, heavy loads that are probably having a bad effect on both your physical and spiritual well-being, are warping your perception.

    If Dave is a diplomat, I’m from Alpha Centauri. He is somewhat of an enigma though, always paying lip service to one thing whilst acting in service to something else entirely.

    I don’t see Irene as vicious, even though she does lash out occasionally. You aren’t vicious either, you just have a nasty set of attitudes and a relentless conviction that you are right. I’d expect you to respond that that is what you think I do, so let me save you the bother by stating, yet again, that I am following the evidence and am happy to go where it takes me. This is in stark contrast to you, who already knows the destination and is bending the geography of information to take you there.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Thanks for the correction in spelling porridge, Irene.

    Chris,

    YAWWWWWWNNNNNN…….

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Actually, porrage is an acceptable, if rather old fashioned, way of spelling the word.

    That’s right, Ruvy, sincerity, openness and honesty bores you.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Chris,

    I know what you declaim your beliefs to be on the one hand – and what you actally say on the other. It’s an old act and rather boring. Sincerity, openness and honesty delight me; pretended sincerity, openness and honesty bore me. And frankly your sincerity, openness and honesty is as real as a paper Rose….

  • Mark

    By His works you will know him…cuts both ways

    Until we humans get over our need to weaponize everything in sight, the scientific method should be shelved.

    You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    “Until we humans get over our need to weaponize everything in sight, the scientific method should be shelved.”

    Shouldn’t that read “the partisan political control of science should be shelved”?

    There’s no reason to blame the scientific method for the political direction imposed on certain technologies.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Until we humans get over our need to weaponize everything in sight, the scientific method should be shelved.

    Mm-hmm. And when that hypothetical time comes, how do we measure whether humanity has indeed overcome that compulsion?

    You little provocateur you…

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Someone made porridge/porrage and didn’t invite me? hmmmm, maybe that is not such a bad thing.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Irene: Think of humor in deathly serious conversations such as this as a bit of “cosmic relief”

    Ooh, I love a little bit of cosmic relief. How about these:

    1. Guy falls off a 250-foot cliff. Halfway down his flailing arm grabs a small shrub growing out of the rock. But the plant isn’t very deeply rooted, and the man can feel his weight steadily pulling it away from the cliff. In desperation he cries out, “Help – is there anybody there? I’m falling – please help me!”
    There is a thunderous but strangely soothing voice from the heavens. “Hello, my child, this is God. I am here and will help you. Just let go of the shrub and everything will be all right.”
    There’s a short silence.
    Then the man cries out, “…Is there anyone else there?”

    2. Guy out hunting. He’s had a very good day and has shot several deer. In fact, he’s had such a good day that it isn’t until he sees the 800 lb grizzly bear charging towards him that he realises he’s run out of ammo. In desperation he cries out, “God, I know I haven’t been to church all that much recently, but I promise I’ll be a good Christian if you’ll just make this bear believe in you too.”
    Instantly the grizzly drops to its knees, puts its paws together and says, “For what I am about to receive…”

    :-)

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Ruvy, your bitter cynicism is very revealing. Unfortunately, it doesn’t reveal anything good, but cuddle up to it if it makes you feel better. I’ll stick with the progressive, constructive forces of optimism, hope and love over your old testament myopic destructiveness and thirst for vengeance and revenge over your perceived enemies 999 times out of a 1,000.

    If we’re doing religious jokes, this one made me laugh:-

    Q. How do we know that Adam and Eve were Mennonite?

    A. Who else would be alone in a garden with a naked woman and be tempted by a piece of fruit?

  • http://jetspolitics.blogspot.com/ Jet Gardner

    Chris you’re trying to get into a battle of wits with an unarmed man?

  • irene wagner

    Some Atheist Knock Knock jokes are starting to assemble themselves in my mind, but they’re not done yet.

    Well, Ruvy, Merriam Webster does not like porrage. But some other dictionary may. And yes, I agree Cindy serves up some interesting intellectual porridge porrage.

    And Christopher Rose no. My intent was to show that the “induced religious experience” experiment proves EXACTLY NOTHING about the existence or non-existence of God, or of the authenticity or bogus-ness of religious experiences in general. The results only show that if someone has had the perception that he or she is having a religious experience, then the responses associated with that perception can be recreated via electrical stimulation later on.

    Why did I bring up
    George Mueller in comment 201?
    The article IS about the Terrible Power of Prayer, after all. :) I think of “terrible” in a GOOD way when I read about George.

    All right, you’uns, I’m out of here.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Christopher and Bob,

    As far as I have understood, you are saying that there is a problem with trying to deal with social science in this way and that you want there to be social sciences without any science involved, which just sounds wacky to me. (Christopher)

    Cindy, I don’t think your ideas are being dismissed. They are being taken seriously and they’re being questioned and challenged. You don’t argue against ideas you are dismissing. (Bob)

    That is okay then. I can live with saying things that sound wacky and also with arguments against what I’m saying. I’m not looking to convince or asking for agreement, only attempting to arrive at clear understanding. And I am a disadvantage to explain my position easily, both because of my lack of skill and because I didn’t arrive at it by reading about it, but by observing the world. I am now busy, thanks to my argument with you both, trying to catch up with what other people have already said so that I have a more efficient way of explaining. But there is jargon to understand and often my understanding is developing as their explanations provide new insights and meaning.

    So, I hope you understand that it is a very big deal to me. A big deal I am partly at a loss to communicate–yet. But if there is an open dialogue, then we (at least Christopher and I and maybe you Bob if you hang around) have years to come to understand each other’s views. On the other hand, it could be tomorrow. :-)

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    “An atheist walked into a bar, but seeing no bartender he revised his initial assumption and decided he only walked into a room.”

    An atheist walks into a bar and asks “did anyone see a priest and a rabbi come in? I was supposed to meet them outside to start a joke.”

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    From 1 unthinking primitive to another, it’s “porridge.”

    From a social constructionist (at least, so far, I think) it’s whatever we agree it is.

    And, from an anarchist–our own opinion on that agreement is a valid as anyone else’s–lest we chain ourselves to living according to the social constructions of others.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Do schools in Western countries teach religion as such any more?

    The law may have changed since (and Bob’s #191 suggests that perhaps it has), but when I was at school in England in the 70s and early 80s the only subject that it was compulsory for state schools to teach was religious education. They didn’t even have to teach mathematics or English if they didn’t want to.

    Most schools (and particularly the one I went to, which drew from a very multicultural population) got around the requirement by teaching comparative religion – a fascinating subject, but also the one which the majority of students took the least seriously and felt able to goof off in – there was the kid in my class who wrote an essay explaining that the bar mitzvah was a Jewish coming-of-age ceremony which required a boy to read the Torah whilst being circumcised; and the wag who, faced with an exam question asking him to use the word ‘atonement’ in a sentence, wrote “I went to see my music teacher and he told me what a tone meant”.

    State schools were also, at that time, mandated to hold a religious assembly every morning – a law which my school ignored completely.

    It’s one of those strange dichotomies of the world that in Britain, which has an official state religion – the Church of England – faith plays very little part in civic life; whereas in the US, where the establishment of religion is expressly prohibited by the supreme law of the land, a significantly larger number of people are religiously active and there is much debate over the extent to which it should be allowed to intrude into government.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Mark,

    (This thread is winding down and I think this comment belongs here rather thatn at the other thread.)

    Now that I am reading about social constructivism, it’s a little easier to say what I mean about changing people. My intuitive understanding was of a divide between realities, that needs to be bridged. Thus, my excitement about Pratt. So, yes, I agree it is about chnaging myself. Changing myself into what I want that reality to be, yes. But also changing myself in another very specific way. That is to enter other social realities. Then once that is accomplished in the particular instance, the information can be put in the context best understood by the other person. At that point, they are free to use it or not. But without being able to put it in terms of their context, it is just noise. So rather than ‘changing people’ I would rather say, being able to bridge the reality gap to speak in the language of their voice.

    Do you see what I mean?

    I am also sensing that positivism is the means of domination. It’s tenets allow a certain model of social reality to dominate. And if it were not for this belief being embedded in the culture, that very attempt to dominate and control truth would fall apart. Thus, the dominating culture uses positivism to keep its ideas in place. That’s why the myths have the force of reality. If social reality is seen as nothing but an interpretation through perception of some objective reality, then the myth that one reality can best reflect the truth can be indoctrinated and maybe followed by other myths. Objectivist positivism realism (whatever it is best called, still struggling with jargon) is inherent in all our institutions. The results of its inquiries have informed our institutions about what they need to be. Positivism is the means power uses. This is my connection with Foucault.

    And this is upsetting, because, for now, all the groups I mentioned in # 192 are stuck. If all were constructionists, there would be a recognition of this.

    If we were all anarchists we would respect the various social realities. I am thinking these two things go hand in hand–anarchism and social constructionism. And that it may only be possible to change the world by bridging realities (accidentally or unintentionally, say by changing ourselves and letting that effect the world or intentionally, as with Pratt and my conception of teaching as creating a space for all realities to be put forth).

    I am also thinking that this has implications that target audience to direct ideas of anarchism are those who are already social constructionists. And maybe that is why I practiced anarchism personally long before I looked close enough to take it seriously.

    What do you think? Can you recommend something to read to move my thinking along?

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    “social constructivism” in the first should be constructionism…(interference by related jargons)

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    Cindy, the whole idea of a construction of reality is really about the construction of a representation of reality, not reality itself.

    For that reason, you can’t construct or change the speed of light, the structure of DNA, the chemical composition of salt, the boiling point of water, etc. Reality itself doesn’t know or care about opinions about it. That’s one important reason why science is not based on belief. It really doesn’t matter what scientists think, reality is unchanged by their beliefs.

    Whatever you decide about how you represent or think about reality, reality itself doesn’t change. The postmodernists argued that science was nothing more than another discourse with no more claim to truth than any other narrative. They attacked positivism because they saw it as constraining and restrictive. That was incorrect – it wasn’t positivism that was constraining and restrictive, but the real world itself. The real world decides what is, and not someone’s ideas about it. The speed of light constrains us, gravity constrains us, the chemical composition of biological molecules constrains us. Call yourself a positivist, an empiricist, a postmodernist, or a mystic. You are still constrained by the same external reality.

    The massive postmodernist mistake was based on ignorance of science amongst the literary critics and philosophers and it was corrected very thoroughly by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont. Sokal has recently written a very clear treatment of the whole business of postmodernism.

    Before throwing out science as just another viewpoint, which it emphatically is not because it is always tested against the real world, you might like to have a look at the review I did of Sokal’s book here. I hope you decide to include the book itself in your reading.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Interesting Bob, I will get Sokal’s book. But I have to ask some questions. What is the relevancy of “the whole business of postmodernism” to what I am saying? Is their even any such thing as one “whole business” of postmodern thinking? I don’t even comfortably understand postmodernism and what different people did, yet. But, the likelihood that some might take similar ideas farther than I might and some not far enough for me–I see as quite natural. What some postmodernists did–what does that say about my ideas? Maybe some were pushing the envelope, maybe some were running with scissors, maybe some were deluded by their own beliefs, maybe Sokal ignored some…maybe, maybe…I don’t know, yet. Is claiming postmodernism is a “whole business”, and then knocking it over, a stawman argument?

    So, I am not defending ‘postmodernism’. I have very little understanding of what it even means. I am talking directly from experience. Here is where I am coming from: I have made observations, had experiences, drawn conclusions–relatively independently, that is–without having read anything about social construction, post-modernism, etc. It is not very likely, to me, that my own very interested and therefore analyized and catalogued accounts–across all of the fields I have looked at, and all of the individual experiences I have, and the many observations I have made under varied circumstances, and my understanding of the deficits of many of the social science studies I have consumed–just coincidentally happen to magically agree with something I now discover oodles of people have seen before me.

    That these oodles don’t all see it the same way, that some might be right and some wrong and some might be beyond what is–what does that say about my ideas? It seems quite likely and natural.

    (again, I have written so much…I will address the rest of your post separately and try to narrow down my ideas to the best of my ability–attempts seem to keep resulting in more ideas and more writing rather than less. :-)

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Oh, in addition to the problems with many of the studies I consumed, I would like to add that I also saw a deficit in the one study I designed and implemented. And to further state that it was not because of a design flaw. I argued vehemently with the professor that there was something wrong if the study I designed resulted in anything legitimately truthful. He assured me that I was wrong, and that that IS the way it is done.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    And, yes, I do understand why you would think that if my study was replicable, then that is the way to get to the ‘truth’. But, in my experience it is beyond that. I will try to say why, coherently. I can’t promise anything.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    Cindy, it’s probably best that you a read a bit of Sokal and see how the postmodernist view of science was fundamentally mistaken. The reason I responded to your comment about postmodernism is because you also seemed to see science as just one narrative amongst many, and that’s quite mistaken.

    There’s a problem with going with the crowd on an issue so even if all around you believe something, it still might not be right. Crowd politics is notoriously fickle, and it’s the same in science. That’s why there has to be objective evidence. But the postmodernists distrusted the very idea of evidence.

    Postmodernism really did become a big (academic) business with whole departments resting on it, major publishing houses basing their lists on it, conferences, journals, professorships… it was an intellectual fad that spread like the flu. But I think it’s fair to say that it didn’t generate anything at all of value, even in philosophy.

    I hope you enjoy Sokal.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Bob,

    Okay, you’re talking to me about discrediting some text deconstructionists; I’ll definitely have a look and see.

    Can I ask you a couple questions? How do you conceptualize this world of perceptions in relation to what you are calling reality? What are customs, for example? What are norms? How do norms become norms? Why do norms vary from culture to culture? What results when each of our ‘perceptions’ about all these things results in different personal meaning? What is the creation of this meaning?

    You say reality is out there, the rest is perception of reality. But what are my ideas about your ideas? Are they perceptions of reality?

    Can you get a feel for what I’m asking?

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    Cindy, these questions are not as mysterious as you seem to think. They’re not difficult to answer. Our ideas about the world are exactly that, ideas. Our norms, are those practices and beliefs that we share by consensus. They vary between cultures because each culture, typically based on a geographical region, has a distinct history, and different challenges which give rise to different shared values. Because much of our existence involves shared common challenges, most societies develop similar values – those values are historically and socially determined. For example, sharing, mutual protection, cooperation to produce food and shelter, etc, arise because of the common challenges facing people.

    The beliefs that develop in different societies are actually quite diverse but have common themes, for example belief in supernatural beings as a way of explaining facts about the world that aren’t yet understood. When reality is understood (for example, the germ theory of disease), the mythical explanation (god is punishing people) is dropped in favour of the theory that accurately describes the facts. Anthropology is the study of just the way in which these different beliefs arise.

    Different people of course perceive things differently but there is general agreement precisely because the reality doesn’t depend on any particular perception, or conception. A tree is still a tree (wood, trunk, leaves, branches) even if everyone calls it’s a camel. And, more to the point, the tree doesn’t care what it’s called. (A lot of philosophers anguished over this naming problem and it even led Wittgenstein to argue that philosophy was pointless.)

    Of course, we could all decide to call the tree something different, and as long as we all agreed, we could communicate about it. Different languages, after all, have different words. But the fact that across languages, there is an incredible correspondence of meaning, indicates that different ideas do not mean different realities.

    Personal beliefs are of course different, and they vary. But the underlying reality doesn’t. We try to get our ideas of reality to correspond as close as possible to reality itself which is why we produce theories we can test, rather than just accepting a ideas at face value.

    It’s important not to rely on supernatural explanations precisely because they take away any chance to test the ideas against reality, and therefore establish their accuracy. A supernatural explanation is no explanation at all.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Bob,

    I probably asked too many questions and was asking to broadly, which made my questions unclear. This was the part that would probably be more to the point:

    What results when each of our ‘perceptions’ about all these things results in different personal meaning? What is the creation of this meaning?

    You say reality is out there, the rest is perception of reality. But what are my ideas about your ideas? Are they perceptions of reality? (me)

    “Our ideas about the world are exactly that, ideas.” (you)

    Our ideas are just that–ideas? Does that mean something? Our ideas could very well be social constructions (which implies how we arrive at them and use them to add to our world view and create meaning) and to simply say they are ‘just ideas’ says, to me–you’re fudging. I’m asking you, if you say that what I am calling social construction you are calling perceptions, based on reality, then:

    a) what do you call the bit that we do with those perceptions?
    b) what are perceptions of other people’s perceptions? Are they perceptions of reality? Do we actually perceive something besides what you are calling reality, in other words? What do you call my perception of your meaning?

    Your replies seem in part an attempt to defeat the supernatural. It seems to keep rearing its ugly head even when I thought we cleared that issue. I don’t believe in the supernatural. You bring up things like postmodernism (you actually said I brought this up, which was strange) then you attempt to discredit it.

    I am puzzled and this is not really what I had in mind. Whether someone defeated all of some theoretical stand (that I know not much about) or part of it is beside the point, to me. I am trying to get to actual experience–yours and mine. I see certain experiences as best explained by social constructionist theory. I was hoping to ask you to directly make a better explanation based on your position, if you could. That would be what I call a meaningful discussion, if you could better explain experience than I can. To continue to argue some broad ideological positions seems fruitless. They’ve been argued by other than us and much more skillfully.

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