The Christian and Certainty: A Psychological Malaise

There is no reasonable way a Christian can be certain of his or her faith. And yet in a recent post we see many believers claim this to be the case. It's a psychological malaise, as Valerie Tarico shows in The Christian Delusion. You can see some of what she argues for in that book here, and also here.

113 comments:

Ken Pulliam said...

John,

In the type of evangelicalism that I used to be a part of, "knowing" that you were saved was a very important thing. One of the favorite verses was 1 John 5:13. If one had doubts, it was because they were doubting the Word of God. Some people seem to have no trouble just accepting at face value what they were told and what they read and they never doubted. Others struggled constantly with doubts and I did quite a bit of counseling with these folks. At the time, I was pretty naive about psychology and knew nothing about neuroscience (actually there probably wasn't anything to know back then since its such a new discipline).

A fascinating book that I read yesterday is by Robert Burton, MD a neuroscientist entitled: On Being Certain: Believing You are Right Even When You are Not. He explains how neuroscience now understands that certainty is a feeling of knowing , it originates in a different part of the brain than where logical reasoning is done. This explains to me why many people will claim they are certain about Christianity and their salvation even though they cannot give any reasons or certainly no good reasons why.

Ken Pulliam said...

BTW, some of Burton's book can be read on-line here

Unknown said...

Mr. Loftus

Would you be willing to participate in a panel to present atheism to a community? Could you give me an email where I can write to you?
Thank you
Philippe

Anonymous said...

Philippe Orlando, my email address can be found by clicking on my Blogger profile in the sidebar. Cheers.

Unknown said...

Hi John, I'm excitedly awaiting a copy of your book to be delivered to my door in the next several weeks :) But in the meantime I have been keeping up with my blog reading and stumbled across this interesting blogpost - http://epiphenom.fieldofscience.com/2010/04/why-religion-can-lead-to-racism.html - which summarized several recent and interesting research articles.

I am a graduate student in psychology and I have been aware of some of these studies/findings for a while and I have always wanted to send them to you and/or Dawkins et al

Not only are these studies fascinating but they bring many of the moral claims of religious folks into the empirical dimension. When a religious proponent claims that god gives them morality, we as atheists can say.... "well, that's and empirical claim you are making and we can test/check that. And although you may feel that that claim is true for you and yours, the available evidence shows us that it is fact not true in general.... In fact X, Y, and Z study shows that religious people are far more likely to endorse X, Y, and Z horrible things etc. etc.". I don't know if the chapter in your new book written by the psychologist touches on these issues already, but if not, I think incorporating some of this into future work would be a great idea.

I also want to recommend that you check out anything and everything by Bob Altemeyer, a Canadian psychologist at the University of Manitoba who has pioneered the research into right wing Authoritarianism, religious fundamentalism, and even atheism.

-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Altemeyer
-http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/
-http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_1?_encoding=UTF8&sort=relevancerank&search-alias=books&field-author=Bob%20Altemeyer

If you have any interest in checking out some of the published manuscripts from the academic journals (i.e., the ones cited in the blog post at the start of this email, or ones by Altemeyer and friends) but have difficulty accessing them I would be more than happy to send you pdfs of anything you can't access (alas, not all of academia is open access yet).

One final note relates to an unpublished 'half-assed' undergrad BA thesis of mine that investigated religious fundamentalism and 'evidence deficient health beliefs' that I could send you if you are interested (it includes a brief review of some of the fundamentalist literature). I say 'half-assed' because I didn't find any significant results and it was my first attempt at research, but parts of it are interesting enough ;P. Simply contact me if you want me to send this to you as an attachment.

Anyways, cheers John, keep up the brilliant work

Pat

Paul said...

I've had similar thoughts. It seems that within every community of believers - Christian or otherwise - a small minority claims to know what the others only believe.

Long story short is that while you can't absolutely disprove that someone else has special knowledge of divine or supernatural realms, there are a whole lot of grounds for doubt that such people actually know what they're talking about...

Anthony said...

For anyone interested in the material by Bob Altemeyer that Patrick Welch mentioned, you can visit his site here. There you can download the book, The Authoritarians, for free. Since I have not read any of the material I cannot vouch for any of it.

DavidA said...

Something to consider regarding the idea of 'knowing' at the root of the Christian tradition. It's about intimacy and connection, not logical persuasion. Ironically, the idea of being persuaded rationally lies liquistically in the definitions of the word 'faith.'

Biblically speaking, 'knowing' something means to see or experience something in an intimate manner. Even in the 1st John verse quoted above, although that usage pertains mostly to the Greek concept of ontology.

The Blogger Formerly Known As Lvka said...

I'm certain of my faith because the Holy Light descends each year in the Tomb of the Saviour (the Holy Sepulchre).

I'm certain I have black hair because I looked in the mirror.

I'm certain of my faith because the Jordan river reverses its course each year on the day of Christ's baptism (Psalms 114:3).

I'm certain that I'm 1.73 meters tall because I've measured myself once.

I'm sure my faith is true because the bodies of many reposed saints don't decay, some not even in the extreme heat of the desert.

Maybe my mirror's not trustworthy, maybe I'm a daltonist and don't know it yet, maybe I have memory problems and don't recall things correctly, maybe I'm lying to you, maybe your eyes are just playing tricks on you and this comment doesn't even exist (don't be so sure it exists just because someone else confirms it: remember folie a deux?). Etc.

So, yes, we can't be absolutely sure and super-certain, ... but why impose criteria on certain aspects of reality, but not on others? (Double standard?) :-\

Chris Jones said...

Many of the very conservative Southern Baptist churches I attended in my pre-enlightenment days were rife with "certainty". As Ken has mentioned above, "knowing" that you were saved was indeed very important. I can't count how many sermons included phrases such as, "if you're not absolutely CERTAIN that <>, you're not right with God and you probably need to come down here right now and <>" ...

And of course the Southern Baptist preachers are never satisfied if they didn't manage to get SOMEONE to pop down for a tearful admission that they're in need of a saving, hence the sometimes 3rd or 4th time through "Just As I Am" until it is obvious that it's time to call the game and send the team home.

But the certainty thing does pervade pretty much all of the doctrinal statements in churches such as these. I'd been prone on occasion to ask "can I really be SURE this or that doctrinal position is really true?" only to be reminded just how the more conservative Southern Baptist churches tend to be unable to entertain members who aren't certain of these things.

Unknown said...

Valerie Tarico:
"When we overstate our ability to know, we play into the fundamentalist fallacy that certainty is possible. Burton calls this “the all-knowing rational mind myth.” "

Yes, I'm familiar with the New Fundamentalist Atheism.

"There is no reasonable way a Christian can be certain of his or her faith."

As the link to Valerie shows, there is also no reasonable way an Atheist can be certain either.

Solipsism is very tempting isn't it?

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

And Valerie's material is nothing to hail as any kind of home run material for atheism. She offers material damaging to your case. look:

Conversely, when certain brain malfunctions occur, it may be impossible to experience a sense of knowing no matter how much evidence piles up.

"brain malfunctions"...basically it can be said following her reasoning, that since YOU the atheist, don't believe in spite of the evidence for Christianity which has been instrumental in many atheists converting from atheism to Christianity, your brain is malfunctioning??? Are you willing to concede your inability to be certain regarding the evidence of Christianity is tantamount to a "brain malfunction"???

She says this also:Burton says that the “feeling of knowing” (rightness, correctness, certainty, conviction) should be thought of as one of our primary emotions, like anger, pleasure, or fear. Like these other feelings, it can be triggered by a seizure or a drug or direct electrical stimulation of the brain.

Now here she equates the cause and effect in the manipulation of normal functions to the cause of other certain functions stating that because certain "convictions" can be artificially produced that they must be on the same level as certain emotions because emotions can be artificially produced through the same type of stimuli?

What's wrong with that picture? I mean how many things can be manipulated by means of artificial stimulation, produce the same general effect but yet be totally unrelated?

OK if I artificially stimulate my nervous system to give me the sensation that I have to go to the bathroom and artificially manipulate my bladder to create the same sensation, do I automatically assume that my bladder is my nervous system or vice-versa?

I mean does anyone see the logic that is being sold as valid here??? This is snake-oil...In addition Christians didn't experience electroshock when they saw Jesus

John what you are saying is that we can only be certain about material things (ie: materialism) because you are a metaphysical naturalist. What about things we can't see? If the criteria is only seeing them or being able to measure the physical presence of anything...Can we be certain about the air since it's invisible? You say we can measure it's physical properties but is that what convinces you that the air exists, or is it your experience with it that convinces you? I mean none of us carry a particle or molecule analyzer to see what the air consists of...

Are we not simply certain of things which we are convinced about? Evidence is not a criteria for certainty. Evidence is only a criteria (one criteria) for belief in what is certain.

You basic premise is unreasonable and as Lvka says a double standard.

Unknown said...

"I mean does anyone see the logic that is being sold as valid here???"

I'm agnostic and I agree totally with you. This kind of cognitive behaviorism is deeply flawed and as I indicated above it borders on Solipsism.

Is my certainty that 2 + 2 = 4 dependent on my brain being in the "right" chemical balance? Maybe, maybe not but I'm pretty... ahem... 'certain' that the truth value of the proposition does not.

Anonymous said...

I'm not too sure what to make of this sort of argument, so I'll ask two simple questions in the interests of clarification. (Disclaimer: I haven't yet read Tarico's full essay in "The Christian Delusion.")

Let's grant that I cannot be 'certain' that Christianity is true, and that instead of certainty, we have to speak in terms of, say, degrees of confidence. (Tarico must herself assume something along these lines, since she argues that we cannot be certain from premises she obviously believes to be true, and since she obviously trusts the validity of her reasoning from those premises to her skeptical conclusion.) Let's even grant that I can be more confident that certain scientific conclusions are true than I can that Christianity is true. So, here's my first question:

Can I be as confident that Christianity is true as I can that, say, a particular political position I hold is true, or that a particular moral position I hold is true?

Note that people take political and moral positions seriously enough to die for them, and that most of us tend to agree that they warrant this level of seriousness and commitment. Note also that the arguments for theism are, in many cases, as strong as or stronger than the arguments that can marshaled to support political and moral positions. And note that John's argument for the Outsider Test, which rests on sociological and psychological data, applies equally well to moral and political beliefs. Finally, note that Tarico herself ends her article with a moral conclusion that is neither argued for nor entailed by the science to which she adverts:

"As scientists learn more about how our brains work, certitude is coming to be seen as a vice rather than a virtue. Certainty is a confession of ignorance about our ability to be passionately mistaken. Humans will always argue passionately about things that we do not know and cannot know, but with a little more self-knowledge and humility we may get to the point that those arguments are less often lethal."

So, (and here's my second question), if we grant that I can be as certain about my religious conclusions as I can about my political and moral conclusions, and if we grant that almost all of us rightly treat our moral and political positions as seriously as we do any of our positions, what excludes moral and political positions -- including her own moral conclusion -- from Tarico's skeptical critique?

(I'm assuming that Tarico's argument isn't intended to apply to moral and political conclusions with the same force as religious conclusions. My reasons for this assumption are (1) Tarico ends her article with a moral admonition, and this would make little sense if her critique were meant to moral conclusions, and (2) the whole debunking Christianity 'movement' is driven by moral concerns concerning the ultimate value of truth, the evils of religion, etc.)

Unknown said...

"As scientists learn more about how our brains work, certitude is coming to be seen as a vice rather than a virtue."

Is she certain about that?

Cognitive behaviorism, which is the view that consciousness *is nothing but* behavior, is not a tenable intellectual position.

Eric J.S. said...

From an Eric to an Eric, I think I would like to clarify how knowledge theory can be related to political and moral theory.
First, you have deductive logic. Most people do not disagree about the basics of deductive logic. 2+2=4 stuff like that is all knowable and certain. Now deductive logic can show a contradiction. For instance, if knowingly sacrificing one's child is barbaric, then the Abraham and Issac story, Jephtah story (Judges 11-12:7), the the Passion of Christ story would not be moral. SO either sacrificing children to God is either right or wrong, and it cannot be both. Politically (and Biblically), either the Judea's God (Elohim) or the Israel's God (Yahweh) is right about government. One wanted a city-state and the other wanted a monarchy. Both are the basis of the Old Testament God. Deductive logic would should that something is not right here. Those two cannot be both right, but they can be both wrong allowed that republican and democratic and socialist and communist governments are still possibly "right" government for achieving the purpose or goal of government.

Induction theory is much more difficult and has a long history of development. First, one has raw perceptions. From applying concepts and relationships, we filter our raw experience into descriptions of the external world. After collecting more data, we can find the five basic types of patterns, classifications, forecasts, theories, priorities, and policies. The five patterns can then be used to make generalizations about things we do not know deductively. For instance, I cannot see the future, but I can guess that certain species of birds (a classification) will migrate (a forecast). A generalization cannot be too narrow because you end up saying everything about nothing or too broad because you end up saying nothing about everything.

Eric J.S. said...

How does inductive knowledge theory apply to skepticism? First, there is an essential logical gap between my senses and my environment. Everything I know comes through my senses, so I (at least by David Hume's standards)have no direct knowledge. I also cannot predict if the laws of nature, which I derive from raw experience careful application of the flaw searching scientific method or modern induction theory.

How does the induction theory of knowledge skeptics use apply to morality, politics, and God? Knowledge about the external world is used in its most overriding purpose to benefit or promote the well-being of a certain population of human beings. The degree of which moral or political choices benefit or harm the population determines their good value.

First, you might of heard about IPDE or other forms of it in Drivers Education or First Responder training. I means identify, P means predict, D means decide, and E means execute. Sometimes S for scan can be included before I. Basically, by being aware (scanning), identifying important variables and values in the environment, predicting how those variables and values affect a future event, (assuming you have the capacity to affect this future event) deciding on a course of action, and actually executing it, one effectively acts in the basics of induction theory.

Why do atheists and theists see the world differently? Concepts are the lenses in which the world is seen through. Because many theists already, and prematurely, claim God exists, faith (or taking claims without evidence) is good, and all other religions are wrong, they view evidence all in the light of what they believe, expect when they are doing non-religious stuff like engineering or something. Most people, even atheists, hear what they want to hear and disregard the rest. When a person listens to an argument of someone, with whom they have already committed themselves to disagreeing, they look for that one thing they can argue about and forget the rest. Atheists can and often do start from doubt and move out from there. There are many different views about things from there. I personally hold some philosophical views and idealogical views for which I have to debate.

Now I could continue and write a whole book on inductive logic and how we use it to make moral decisions and policy, but I just hope you, the other Eric, understand this High Schooler from Texas (aka me). I also do not speak for all atheists.

And if anyone like this post, reference me, so I know I am at least being listened to by someone.

Eric J.S. said...

I am sorry other Eric, that I have not yet read the Christian Delusion. WHen I, a poor High schooler, get the time and the money to purchase it, I will. ANd if you still care, I will give an answer to any questions I can personally clarify about my interpretation of the arguments presented therein. Until then, you will just have to deal with my personal arguments.

Ken Pulliam said...

I think some of you are misreading Dr. Tarico. Her observations are based on sound neuroscience. For example, see On Being Certain by Robert Burton, MD.

Chuck said...

Brenda,

Are you sure you are an agnostic? You seem like a run-of-the-mill Christian apologist (probably schooled in the Ravi Zacchirias literature).

I was challenged to consider my certainty of historical pretense within my faith when a friend posed a simple question, "has anyone in Christianity ever used the concepts of Heaven and Hell as anything more than a carrot or stick to get people to behave?"

I don't know why that stopped me and challenged my certainty but, it did. Maybe it was the accuracy of the observation to my experience and how such a premise contradicts a sense of freedom. I don't know. It started me towards a slippery slope where what I took as fact I now see as nothing more than culturally driven cognitive bias. It has led me to comfortably affirm I am an agnostic atheist within the "friendly atheist" model.

Unknown said...

"I think some of you are misreading Dr. Tarico. Her observations are based on sound neuroscience."

Her conclusions do not seem to me to be sound. As I said, behaviorism has some serious philosophical flaws.

"Are you sure you are an agnostic? You seem like a run-of-the-mill Christian apologist (probably schooled in the Ravi Zacchirias literature)."

I've not a clue who that person is. Yes I am quite "certain" that I am agnostic. I argue against theists and atheists alike. Such is the polarization in our culture today that when I argue against them atheists almost always assume that I must be a Christian and visa versa for theists.

"I was challenged to consider my certainty of historical pretense within my faith when a friend posed a simple question, "has anyone in Christianity ever used the concepts of Heaven and Hell as anything more than a carrot or stick to get people to behave?" "

You say that like it's a bad thing. Is it? I think the whole purpose of religion is for us to become better people. I think it has next to nothing to do with the truth value of propositions on the existence of some god.

Are heaven and hell Biblical? They aren't really mentioned in the Bible as I recall. Just something about Sheol and "I go to prepare many mansions". Seems to me the concepts of heaven and hell are fairly modern and only loosely based in Biblical reality.

Chuck said...

Brenda,

My personal concept of Heaven and Hell contradicted the assertions I made to liberty within my Christian identification and therefore made me pause and examine my beliefs. Cognitive dissonance demanding I notice my cognitive bias. I'll have to take your word on you non-apologetic standing but, many of your arguments fall in line with the standard Evangelical Christian strategies. You might actually be an Evangelical Christian without knowing it or maybe an Agnostic Christian. I sometimes think of myself as an atheistic christian (I love the inducements to social justice and love but can't have faith in divine command ethics).

Ken Pulliam said...

Brenda,

I don't think Tarico would consider herself part of the behaviorist school, at least not after the mode of B. F. Skinner. And I am quite certain that Robert Borton is not a behaviorist. I suggest you read his book and then reassess the matter.

Unknown said...

"I'll have to take your word on you non-apologetic standing but, many of your arguments fall in line with the standard Evangelical Christian strategies. You might actually be an Evangelical Christian without knowing it or maybe an Agnostic Christian."

You don't know my arguments. In the previous post we were asked to imagine as a hypothetical how we would view the Bible if Christianity were true. So I imagined a fairly esoteric Christianity.

I can debate a position I don't really believe in... and do rather well I might add.

But the idea that I might be Evangelical is too funny. I was raised ALC Lutheran fer crimminy! We were already apostates! HA! No... I am agnostic but I do reject today's New Atheism. I also reject their division of people into two camps, theists and atheists. I don't think that works.

I'm also not a materialist, which people sometimes find surprising. But by that I mean I'm not a philosophical materialist and not the common usage.

And finally I'm not a believer in the current fad in the cognitive sciences. People don't realize just how radical Daniel Dennett really is. I think he is leading a large number of atheists and others down a rabbit hole.

Anonymous said...

"From an Eric to an Eric, I think I would like to clarify how knowledge theory can be related to political and moral theory."

Hi Eric J.S.

I appreciate your response, but I don't think you understood my questions. I was referring specifically to the application of Tarico's argument to moral and political positions, and not to the general epistemology of moral and political propositions.

DavidA said...

Brenda,

You're right. It's a rabbit hole driven more by emotion than reason or logic; and as with most extremes, in the end they prove to be inferior philosophical products propped up as sophisticated arguments dressed as truth.

Chuck said...

Brenda can you be specific when dismissing Dennett? Why is cognitive science a "rabbit hole"? Your "agnosticism" continues to look like a poorly constructed Trojan Horse. You continue to argue in defense of theism.

Chuck said...

Brenda can you be specific when dismissing Dennett? Why is cognitive science a "rabbit hole"? Your "agnosticism" continues to look like a poorly constructed Trojan Horse. You continue to argue in defense of theism and bloggers with hidden profiles are suspect here.

Russ said...

Brenda said,

No... I am agnostic but I do reject today's New Atheism. I also reject their division of people into two camps, theists and atheists. I don't think that works.

Reject away, Brenda, but atheism has been with humanity throughout its history. The New Atheism is distinctive from the Old Atheism only in that the religious are less frequently socially supported in their executions of those differing from the status quo, so today we atheists are not forced underground. Religions have been permitted to persist unchallenged for far too long. For most of the last two thousand years, open dissent could easily result in imprisonment, torture or execution at the hands of the church. Only recently have people in the West been free to follow their convictions, their knowledge and their experience to conclude and openly voice what is observed: gods are imaginary; prayer is superstition; and, the rest of supernaturalism - ghosts, demons, witches, etc - is simply malarkey.

That you perceive the New Atheists as dividing people into two camps, atheists and theists, suggests that you have failed to understand them and their work. That you've failed to understand is further reinforced by your statement,

People don't realize just how radical Daniel Dennett really is. I think he is leading a large number of atheists and others down a rabbit hole.

Really? Realize that Dennett's audience is quite unlike religious believers. I, for one, have carefully read all of Dennett's books and have thoughtfully considered them. He doesn't force people to comply by tradition, authority, or revelation and all who read him are free to disagree with him. Very unlike religion. If "he is leading a large number of atheists and others down a rabbit hole" I count myself among them for the insightful analyses he presents. Understand that his insights have led to many well-defined hypotheses and spawned much useful research. Dennett's rabbit hole is a very fruitful one.

You say,

I'm also not a materialist, which people sometimes find surprising. But by that I mean I'm not a philosophical materialist and not the common usage.

I am a materialist, a complete materialist. No data and no arguments have convinced me to move from my complete materialism, and I am far better informed than most. I am also a philosophical materialist in that I live my life under the assumption that the material universe is all there is. Thousands of years of trying by those justifying gods through their own ignorance have produced nothing to alter that assumption.

You ended saying,

And finally I'm not a believer in the current fad in the cognitive sciences. People don't realize just how radical Daniel Dennett really is. I think he is leading a large number of atheists and others down a rabbit hole.

Please explain what it means to be a "believer in the current fad in the cognitive sciences." If what is currently is being explored in the cognitive sciences works, it will be retained; if not it will fade away. That's the nature of science. MRI works; we'll keep it. Creation science is hokey dreck, so it gets assigned to the dustbin. Radiochemistry with neurotransmitters works; we'll keep it. Intelligent design is useless so it's warehoused with the other failed intellectual relics. Even though creation science and intelligent design both have "believers," they do not fit into science. So, really, you not being a "believer" is of no consequence.

Let me join Chuck in asking that you be explicit about the various misgivings you have. If you're not explicit, you can simply go the way of creation science and intelligent design.

Anonymous said...

"He [Dennett] doesn't force people to comply by tradition, authority, or revelation and all who read him are free to disagree with him."

I don't necessarily agree with this. Dennet's work on consciousness is replete with appeals to authority with respect to his dismissal of dualism. He says that dualism is "deservedly in disrepute today," talks about "dualism's embarrassment," and says that materialism is "the prevailing wisdom" today; he describes dualism in terms of Casper the friendly ghost, and suggests that dualists are intentionally dishonest as they attempt to keep the mind "so mysterious that is keeps science at bay forever." He claims that dualism is "fundamentally antiscientific," and that scientists and philosophers "have achieved a consensus of sorts in favor of materialism." He says that brain researchers "would never dream of mentioning the mind or anything mental in the course of their professional duties." Dennet claims that there is "widespread agreement among scientists and philosophers that dualism is -- must be -- simply false." Finally, Dennet says all this without addressing the arguments dualists make; as he says, he cannot "give a knock down proof that dualism, in all its forms, is false or incoherent," but, since dualism is antiscientific, and thus "defeatist," he adopts the "dogmatic rule that dualism is to be avoided at all costs."

As Alvin Plantinga has famously noted, this amounts to, "If you're a dualist, a lot of smart philosophers and scientists will laugh at you; therefore, dualism is false." So, at least in this context, Dennet does appeal to the authority of contemporary science.

Anonymous said...

Here's another Dennet quote, for good measure:


"Dualism (the view that minds are composed of some nonphysical and utterly mysterious stuff) . . . [has]been relegated to the trash heap of history, along with alchemy and astrology. Unless you are also prepared to declare that the world is flat and the sun is a fiery chariot pulled by winged horses — unless, in other words, your defiance of modern science is quite complete — you won't find any place to stand and fight for these obsolete ideas."

Chuck said...

Eric,

You wrote, "So, at least in this context, Dennet does appeal to the authority of contemporary science."

And how is that an appeal to authority. Contemporary science seems like a pretty trust-worthy agency.

Anonymous said...

"And how is that an appeal to authority. Contemporary science seems like a pretty trust-worthy agency."

Hi Chuck

Russ wrote,

"I, for one, have carefully read all of Dennett's books and have thoughtfully considered them. He doesn't force people to comply by tradition, authority, or revelation and all who read him are free to disagree with him."

I responded by saying that I don't necessarily agree with this since, for example, Dennett's arguments against dualism are chock full of appeals to the authority of science. Now, I'm not saying, "Dennett uses scientific data, hence he appeals to science"; rather, I'm saying, "Dennett presents his arguments in such a way that disagreement with him implies disagreement with the entire contemporary scientific enterprise," and that's clearly an attempt on his part to latch onto the cachet of modern science to make his own conclusions seem more palatable. In other words, some of his more flamboyant formulations are meant to imply that a disagreement with Dennet is a rejection of science, and this, aside from its patent falsity, is obviously an appeal to the authority of science.

Chuck said...

Eric

Dennett is stating conclusions of useful science. If you feel pressured by that maybe you need to examine and adjust your superstitions. Dualism is the province of ghost hunters not legitimate science. So yes if you disagree with Dennett then you disagree with useful science.

Anonymous said...

"Dennett is stating conclusions of useful science. If you feel pressured by that maybe you need to examine and adjust your superstitions."

Chuck, did you even read the quotations I provided? Dennett is doing far more than "stating the conclusions of useful science." That's point one.

Point two: Dennett's criticisms of dualism only apply to versions of substance dualism; I'm not a substance dualist, but a hylomorphic dualist, so Dennett never even addresses my position. If you think he does, show me where he does it.

Here's my third point: In fact, roughly 40% of all scientists, and 45% of all philosophers, are not materialists/physicalists, so Dennett is misrepresenting the "consensus" among philosophers and scientists. But note that this doesn't stop him from appealing to the authority of science to defend materialism.

Now for my fifth and final point: it's not even clear that the issue is a scientific one. I concede that it may be, but Dennett is committed to the notion -- the dogma, as he calls it -- that is *must* be. So contrary to your claims, I'm perfectly willing to follow the science wherever it takes us; Dennett is not *if* it takes us to the conclusion that this issue is beyond science.

Chuck said...

Eric

Whoopee you hold to a form of materialism that was the standard for medieval theologians. Do you believe is spontaneous generation too? Also please cite your source for the percentage of scientists that are non-materialist. Are you including political scientists in your sample? Like I said, join the modern age and drop your superstitions if you feel pressured by contemporary science or, stay in the middle ages. Your choice.

Anonymous said...

"Whoopee you hold to a form of materialism that was the standard for medieval theologians. Do you believe is spontaneous generation too?"

(I had written an equally insulting and irrelevant comment, but...)

"Also please cite your source for the percentage of scientists that are non-materialist."

Where have you been? Professor Edward Larson's and Larry Witham's study concluded that roughly 40% of scientists believe in a personal God -- which, by definition, would make them non-materialists.

"Like I said, join the modern age and drop your superstitions if you feel pressured by contemporary science or, stay in the middle ages. Your choice."

Um, precisely where did I evidence feeling any pressure whatsoever from contemporary science? Please, try to limit your remarks -- and your unnecessary and unbecoming insults -- to what can be supported by the facts, eh?

Chuck said...

Eric,

The study you cite is old data. According to the a study conducted by the National Academy of Science in 1998 (a year after the study you cite) the study of a better controlled sample of top scientists indicated that 7% of scientists believe in a personal god and 93% were atheist or agnostic. I see you are leaning on Francis Collins' work in citing Larson and Witham's Scientific American article. The results are dubious because access to their methodology and sample were not published. It would be interesting if Dr. Collins were so certain in the type of medieval phenomenon you favor why he didn't just seek revelation in mapping the human genome. Or, why he didn't bump into the code for the Holy Spirit when mapping it.

And pardon me if I misunderstand your argument but your line of reasoning seemed premised on the fact that Professor Dennett's argument to contemporary science somehow pressured someone such as you to a position of illegitimacy because you hold to a world-view that offers duality as a reasonable proposition.

There is no appeal to authority with Dennett. He just chooses to practice intellectual honesty by not offering scientific malpractice with an appeal to superstition.

You shouldn't lie Eric. Jesus is watching.

Anonymous said...

"The study you cite is old data. According to the a study conducted by the National Academy of Science in 1998 (a year after the study you cite) the study of a better controlled sample of top scientists indicated that 7% of scientists believe in a personal god and 93% were atheist or agnostic."

Right. A 1996 study, in 2010, is 'old' compared with a 1998 study...Oh, and the second study wasn't conducted *by* the NAS, but was *of* the NAS *by* the same researchers who conducted the study I cited! Now, you did notice the crucial difference, didn't you? I specifically referred to "scientists," not "top scientists." You, on the other hand, go from a study of "top scientists" to "scientists" in general ("the study of a better controlled sample of **top scientists** indicated that 7% of **scientists** believe in a personal god")!

"There is no appeal to authority with Dennett."

You're just stamping your feet here and repeating what you've already said.

"You shouldn't lie Eric. Jesus is watching."

Okay, I see I can't reason with you. You prefer childish insults.

Have you bothered to read the comment's policy here?

"This blog is open to comments by anyone interested, provided: (1) the comments are civil in tone...This is not a site for grade school level arguments. First finish High School, take a few college classes and then come back after doing so."

Chuck said...

Eric,

I said it was old data. A study conducted in 1997 is older than one conducted in 1998. And yes, a study of top scientists represents the universe of practicing scientists better than a random cross sample that is not identified by practice.

I work with sampling data and attitudinal studies all the time. If one wishes to understand the psychology of practicing scientists than one should sample those that would be most likely to practice, publish and shape the contemporary scientific debate.

Your selective use of old and sketchy data is indicative of the kind of lying many people perform to ensure their prior conclusions are affirmed.

And yes, I'd expect something better from someone who is a defender of Christianity.

I don't see me calling you out for your medieval thinking and poor understanding of how to make an argument from data is indicative that I've broken in comment policies.

Anonymous said...

"I don't see me calling you out for your medieval thinking and poor understanding of how to make an argument from data"

Really, all I have to do is quote you here to demonstrate to any impartial observor who it is who has a "poor understanding od how to make an argument from data":

"And yes, a study of top scientists represents the universe of practicing scientists better than a random cross sample that is not identified by practice."

Res ipsa loquitur.

Anonymous said...

"Observer," even.

Chuck said...

Eric,

You cited that 40% of scientists believe in a personal god.

I showed you that you were wrong.

You hold to a worldview that was the common standard of examining reality by medieval theologians.

I find that to be a silly standard.

Now, you resort to applying pretentious terms as commentary to my quotes. The only thing that speaks for itself Eric is that you chose to lie about the state of the scientific community when trying to make a case for duality and an inability in how to present an argument from data.

We know, you study philosophy and love verbose Christian apologists. Neither credentials make you qualified to present sample data or understand how one would devise a study to understand a population's relevant attitudes.

Do you have an argument?

Do you stand for any ideas outside of the defense of your superstitions?

Dennett argues against duality because people who pursue such ideas offer little benefit to others. They often live in the comfort of their imaginary control beliefs and misuse or twist data (like you) to pretend their neurotic imaginings offer use to society.

You are an agent of entropy seeking the comfort of tradition rather than a true intellectual identifying standards that help others better understand reality.

Anonymous said...

"You cited that 40% of scientists believe in a personal god.
I showed you that you were wrong."

You did no such thing, but the fact that you think you did speaks volumes. Please, show me the contradiction here:

(1) 40% of all natural scientists believe in a personal God

(2) 7% of scientists in the NAS believe in God

I'm sorry, but (1) and (2) are perfectly consistent.

"The only thing that speaks for itself Eric is that you chose to lie about the state of the scientific community when trying to make a case for duality"

This is a waste of my time. Can you read, Chuck? Where did I "make a case for duality [sic]"? And since when is citing a popular, widely reported study necessarily "lying," especially when I was careful (in a way you were not) to make it clear I was referring to scientists as such, and not to top scientists (while you, on the other hand, made the patently fallacious move from "top scientists" to "all scientists," and then had the gall to claim you work with statistics! Talk about lying...).

"Dennett argues against duality because people who pursue such ideas offer little benefit to others."

No, he argues against dualism because he thinks it's false. You don't even understand Dennett.

"Do you stand for any ideas outside of the defense of your superstitions?"

Have I defended any "superstitions" in this thread? I raised an issue about Dennett's appeals to the cachet of science to bolster his arguments, and his derision of those who disagree as anti-scientific. I also provided quite a few quotes from Dennett to support my claim. And you've yet to respond with anything more substantive than, "Did not!" while you insist upon insulting me and questioning my ability to reason (I believe that's called "chutzpah").

"You are an agent of entropy seeking the comfort of tradition rather than a true intellectual identifying standards that help others better understand reality."

And, as you demonstrate quite clearly here, you think that insults, hasty generalizations, unevidenced claims and non sequiturs pass for good reasons.

DavidA said...

Dennett doesn't appeal to science so much as the science and the scientists that agree with him. He neglects the numerous scientists that have won Noble prizes or written articles contrary to his world view. People like Feynman who get a A+ plus score for saying, "Philosophy of science is as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds."

Feynman has a point. But so does Schrodinger's essay entitled, "What is life?" So does Freeman Dyson, so does Paul Feyerabend, so does just about anyone who isn't an idiot.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge outlined the problem with some naivity: One is either born a Platonist or an Aristotelian. The problem isn't the science or the metaphysics. It has been an always will be dichotomous thinking.

Chuck said...

Eric

What Natural Scientists are sampled in that study? Engineers? High school teachers? You insinuate a popularity for a personal god within the scientific community by citing a dubious measurement of that community. The NAS sample represents a more specific metric of contemporary science's attitudes towards a personal god. Face it, you looked to refute my claims that contemporary science rejects your medieval worldview by using a blinded sample population. That is called obfuscation. It is dishonest.

Also, why does Dennett lump dualists with Astrologists if not to illustrate their uselessness to anything other than their superstitions?

Both points are much more than saying "did not".

Lastly, your attempt at mischaracterizing Dennett's point by laying claim to an appeal to authority is a transparent effort at poisoining his argument as a means to legitimizing your medieval superstition.

David, neither Plato nor Aristotle understood cognitive science and the reality that the mind is the product of the brain. Citing philosophy may be intellectually engaging but it is not science.

Anonymous said...

Chuck, this is tiresome. Larson and Witham, in the study to which I referred, chose only among those scientists mentioned in 'American Men and Women of Science.' A key criterion for inclusion in that reference work is a scientist's having made "a significant contribution in [his or her] field of endeavor," and the wiki reference says that "'American Men and Women of Science' is a biographical reference on leading scientists in the United States and Canada."

So, again, nice try, but "leading scientists" who have made "a significant contribution" to their field works rather well as a population sample if what you're interested in is what scientists in general tend to think about such and such. But perhaps if you'd actually read the study you didn't hesitate to criticize (heck, you didn't even read the study you cited very carefully, confusing who it was of and who it was by), you'd know this...

johnthomas didymus said...

on the topic of christian certainty as psychological malaise: it would seem to me that "debunking Christianity" or any religious belief, for that matter, is not as important as knowledge we stand to gain about human nature(ourselves) from a study of human religious behavior.

QUESTION:why do we humans believe as we do? why do we defy all reason to superimpose fantasy on reality in our religious systems?

ANSWER: a deep rooted dissatisfaction with the human condition face-to-face with the straitjacketing constraints of reality is the consequence of a human mind which can entertain thoughts of alternative and more aesthetically pleasing realities.

It is a human "malaise" and not that only of the "religious" individual. I am never impressed by the apparent cavalier attitudes of atheists and agnostics to other peoples' faith. I have seen combat in military service and have heard selfproclaimed atheists cry "O jesus!" just before being blown up to pieces. My platoon commander once said cynically: there are no atheists under fire. if you believe in god, good!--you will need him when the bombs begin landing.

Religious people don't believe the cock-and-bull fairy tales of their religions because they really think they are true but because they need to believe something for encouragement in this seemingly meaningless existence thrust on us without our consents.

The psychological compulsion of religious faith is a topic that has for long fascinated me and spurred private research and recently, a publication.

DavidA said...

"David, neither Plato nor Aristotle understood cognitive science and the reality that the mind is the product of the brain."

Well what else could it be the product of? What we have however with the mind is a product that is greater than the sum of its parts.

"Citing philosophy may be intellectually engaging but it is not science."

Neither is painting paper pulp green and stuffing it in our wallets. And yet, there's hardly a force with more organizing properties than the economy guiding the hands of human beings. That force even plays a role in determining which science gets funded and which science gets shelved. It's all connected brother, and its foolish to dismiss it just because it operates under the other team's jersey.

Chuck said...

Eric,

From "American Men and Women of Science"

"Scientists from the entire range of sub-disciplines
are included, from physical, biological, computer and health sciences to engineers and mathematicians."

Not a very discrete sampling of a population affecting the contemporaneous authority on scientific knowledge.

This sample population would most likely be consistent with a random sample of the entire population.

If you want to define a predictive feasible space then you should pick variables that more accurately address your concern.

The NAS sample does that. This one does not.

If you don't want to look stupid, I'd suggest you look less pompous and maybe take a beginning market research class to understand sample population hygiene methods.

Chuck said...

David,

Aristotle thought that heart is where sensation happened because touching the brain did not cause any sensation.

Plato believed in a soul with three parts located in the head, the heart and lungs, and the liver and guts.

Also, when you say, "Neither is painting paper pulp green and stuffing it in our wallets. And yet, there's hardly a force with more organizing properties than the economy guiding the hands of human beings. That force even plays a role in determining which science gets funded and which science gets shelved. It's all connected brother, and its foolish to dismiss it just because it operates under the other team's jersey."

It's obvious you don't engage with the scientific method nor the strictures science demands for truth claims.

I work with data that must meet both NICE and FDA standards of clinical efficacy before it can be considered true. Go ahead and practice your Philosophy of Science, it's cute. Dealing with real science is grown up and worrying if one is an Aristotelean or Platonic are not end points I have ever encountered.

Chuck said...

Eric,

What would be interesting is to field a survey amongst your sample and gauge how valid your hylomorphism is in relation to the practice of their disciplines.

We could ask a simple question like, "When approaching a null hypothesis, how often do you weigh the soul of a form prior to addressing a material solution?"

What do you think the positive response rate would be to that one?

Chuck said...

tolu

I submit the Texas Board of Education as refutation to your claim that religious people don't believe in the literal truth of their fairytales. Your statement is naive.

johnthomas didymus said...

your view of mind and how it functions is naiver. the capacity of the human mind to hold "truth" at a level and yet subconsciously admit, in constantly nagging background of doubts, that this is just a dream is the point i am making. i have never met a christian, who does not admit to moments of doubtcrisis. but where there is a will to believe there is always a way out of doubt. The compulsion to cling on to our fantasies in the face of reality's negative feedbacks is a central mechanism for maintaining what has been termed "psychoaffective homeostatis." A fact which has led some psychoanalysts to conclude that the primary goal of the religous-philosophical mind is its homeostatic wellbeing rather than "truth"(whatevr "truth" might be).The obsession with objective verification of religious belief is a relatively unique manifestation in western cultures in which scientific standards of truth pose a challenge to tradition religious beliefs. Traditional cultures freely spin mythical-religious belief yarns without worrying about distinction between the objective and the subjective.

Chuck said...

tolu

Is naiver a word? So you don't think the good Methodists and Calvinists of Texas take their bible literally?

Chuck said...

tolu,

Also, you said, ". . . where there is a will to believe there is always a way out of doubt," which seems like a good definition of a delusion.

Your perspective doesn't seem like it is anything more than Jamesian pragmatism overlaid on Christianity as a culturally accepted control belief. Big deal.

johnthomas didymus said...

ok you've made a point: I overlooked placing "naiver" in quotes: but i suppose that "naiver" communicates its intended meaning: i do not find it necessary to be "wordperfect" in what i consider an informal discussion.

read my contribution carefully: i am discussing the way the mind functions, in its belief systems, across the boundaries of the conscious and subconscious levels of its storeyed structure.
The human mind is more complex than you seem to think: oh yea! "savages" really do believe in their gods! but in moments of sober reflection(after the failure of a prayer to the gods, for instance) someone would put in a word of "wisdom": self reliance avails more than a thousand gods!(quoting an african proverb).

johnthomas didymus said...

i agree with evolutionists like Steven Pinker who argue that the human mind is not a machine for computing in objective detachment to the truth. religious fantasies can best be understood in the context of quest of the mind system for psychoaffective homeostatic wellbeing. The human mind is an affective equilibrium seeking system. if it feels good to believe that the lord rose from the dead, so be it! And the mind will resist vehemently all atheistic-agnostic attempts to disturb or "debunk" its cherished psychoaffective equilibrium. People turn to drugs in cultures where religious beliefs and traditional fantasies loose the power to instill the feelgood condition of mind.

Chuck said...

Provide me access to your paper. I'll read it.

I don't think we disagree. I concede the brain seeks pattern in the face of randomness and humans construct superstitions to create an illusion of causation and control. I fail to see how this psychological observation leads to the necessity for risibility which allows the superstitious to see their belief as non-predictive or artificial. See Eric in this thread as an example of how a superstition (e.g. The Soul) goes from control belief to brute fact regardless if it fails a predictive standard. He thinks it is real because he needs it to be real to minimize his cognitive dissonance despite the theory offers no predictive value.

johnthomas didymus said...

As far as superstitions(e.g. The Soul) go,contributions to this blog remind me that mind theorists like Dennet do have a large following out there. A mind theorist who would state such with jehovisitc dogmatism that dualism has been consigned once and for all to the trashbin of history is one whose philosophy i will view askance. I have observed a tendency amongst mind theorists overanxious to identify themselves with trendy "scientific" nondualistic philosophies to pretend that the problems Chalmers christened "the hard problems" of consciousness do not really exist. Dennet is in the forefront of such mind theorists, who would rather hide their head in the sand than admit the reality of "hard problems" of consciousness. Human sentience may yet succumb to nondualistic explanations but for now we need to honestly admit that a funeral song for dualism is premature while the "hard problem" remain to be explained.

Chuck said...

How does your criticism of materialist explanations to mind support your premise that christians do not literally believe their "fairytales" (your word). Your word choice would imply a non-dualistic understanding of mind yet your appeal to "hard choices" indicates an apologetic for non-material realities. Which is it?

johnthomas didymus said...

The philosopher Chalmers who first formally elucidated the notion of "hard problems" of consciousness was not a dualist either. He was merely pointing out to mind theorists like Dennet that there might be "more under the sun than you ever dreamed of in your philosophies". The popular view amongst mind theories who hold a materialistic notion of mind is that the computational theory of mind fully accounts for mind function, yet, as the MIT experimental psychologist Pinker admits, we are yet to conceive even in the sketchiest theoretical terms how a computational process might define human consciousness, and sentience, for instance. Yet mind theorists like Dennet would call on us all to hold dogmatic monistic views on mind function when we know that as yet too little is known about mind-brain relationship.
in my view the best position to take about mind function at the moment is a thoroughgoing agnostic position(i.e. the frank admission that we are still largely in the dark concerning mind as a natural phenomenon). For all we know dualism in some form other than the "old superstition of the soul" may yet triumph in the future when we begin coming to grips with the "hard problem" of phenomenal consciousness and sentience.

Chuck said...

tolu,

Makes sense. Thanks for the conversation. I agree that provisional (vs. absolute) truth should be the standard.

Is your paper finished? I'd like to read it. If so, you could send it to coconnor1017@mac.com

DavidA said...

"It's obvious you don't engage with the scientific method nor the strictures science demands for truth claims."

No Chuck, that's not obvious. What is obvious though is that you don't engage outside them.

Consider that "cute" little philosopher of science who happens to be very well respected by parties on either side of the ideological divide, Ian Hacking. When discussing something like gravity, he turns to a fellow in your camp and uses his own words to define part of the problem --

"Mathematically each of the three different formulations, Newton’s law, the local field theory and the minimum principle, gives exactly the same consequences. What do we do then?

You will read in all the books that we cannot decide scientifically on one or the other. That is true. They are equivalent scientifically. It is impossible to make a decision, because there is no experimental way to distinguish between them if all the consequences are the same. But psychologically they are very different in two ways. First, philosophically you like them or do not like them; and training is the only way to beat that disease. Second, psychologically they are very different because they are completely un-equivalent when you are trying to guess new laws. (Feynman, 1967)."

Pretending that you are capable of operating outside of a philosophy of science is nothing more than a case of the Emperor strutting around in his new clothes.

I guess should you ever reach the bottom of your own personal rabbit hole, and pause long enough to look what took you in that direction, you'll start reading some philosophy of science as you retrace each step.

Chuck said...

David,

"Pretending that you are capable of operating outside of a philosophy of science is nothing more than a case of the Emperor strutting around in his new clothes.

I guess should you ever reach the bottom of your own personal rabbit hole, and pause long enough to look what took you in that direction, you'll start reading some philosophy of science as you retrace each step."

I'll make sure I operate with this type of navel-gazing when I approach the Phase III clinical trial data regarding the indication for Glioblastoma I am facing. If we are successful we will be able to extend quality of life in a 100% termincal cancer.

You think your field of study has huge importance in the practical application of science when it doesn't.

It is a nice little academic realm of mental masturbation that more than not stands in the way of human progress for the sake of metaphysical preference.

Philosophy of science is a cute distration (sor of like that Krista Tippet program on NPR) but I find it dangerous and evil when it is used by theistic apologists to stand in the way of necessary scientific advancement.

I deal with applied science in the hope of alleviating real suffering, you deal with mental games to feel important.

I'd say the substance of my endeavours are more real and you are the one flapping his ass in the wind with his pretense to importance.

DavidA said...

Kudos on your research Chuck, and I wish you well in spite of the fact that it read like an "Ode to My Self-Importance."

What's unfortunate however is that you seem to believe people aren't capable of holding two positions on anything at any given time. That for whatever reason, any person who cares philosophy or metaphysics is naturally inferior to the morally evolved research in which you're engaging.

I hope you do find a cure, sincerely. Once you do, it will be up to the pesky economic moralists to decide who can afford it and they'll be using that darn old immaterial masterbation when they start attaching price tags... the same sort of thinking they did when your research got funded.

It's the teat beneath which you are permitted to suckle, and the bottle that holds the milk you dispense.

To pretend it isn't important is both terse and childish.

But I suspect I'm wasting both our times.

Best of luck,

DA

Chuck said...

David,

Please educate me. Where in the real world does "Philosophy of Science" play?

The only places I see it playing out are within Christian apologetics institutions (e.g. BIOLA and the Discovery Institute) using it to deny useful science.

Help me understand why it is useful in a practical way.

Health economics uses econometric models that are based on predictive modeling. Philosophy of science does not come into play.

DavidA said...

Chuck,

There are numerous places, but I already put one of them above. Feynman's own quote (he's in your camp under your flag btw, and so in Hacking, a philosopher of science).

He spelled one way out clearly: "They are equivilant scientifcally...(but)they are completely un-equivalent when you are trying to guess new laws." Embedded in each methodology is a door to another discovery. Once you start down a path, you continue can follow that path through another door to another path and never violate a law of science in the process. A practical example of this is found in the science of the stem cell, and the science of the reverse engineered stem cell.

Other areas include ethics. It is possible to sterilize a person and never violate a single axiom of the scientific method. You might find a cure for cancer, another might find a cure for homosexuality. Potentially neither would violate anything about the scientific method in doing so, but the latter researcher would violate the core of scientific ethics.

You might have a million economic models for your research -- from inception to application. But even those are rooted in the the assumptions, foundations, methods and implications of exactly what it is you're doing in the lab. And that is by definition a philosophy of science.

Anonymous said...

Chuck, this will be my last response to you, so you can have the last word. I'm certain that anyone whose opinion I have any business caring about can see how incredibly ineducable you are.

Your claim reduces to this: Computer scientists who make a significant contribution to computer science, and doctors who make a significant contribution to medical science, and engineers who make a significant contribution to the science of engineering, are not scientists, so, if a study of "what scientists in general believe about X" includes them, it is not in fact going to give us an idea of what scientists in general think about X. Rather, a survey of what elite scientists alone think about X, in core disciplines only, is going to give us a better idea of what scientists in general think about X.

(We could set up all sorts of scenarios to demonstrate, by parity of reasoning, how ridiculous your position is: For example, we could include only Oscar winning actors in a study of the income of "actors in general"; or, we could look only at the top 10% of students at elite universities to determine how much time "students in general" spend studying; or we could poll only published atheists about their political beliefs to determine the distribution of political positions among "atheists in general"; or we could poll only those Christians with a PhD and over 30 publications in peer reviewed journals to determine what "Christians in general" think about evolution; etc.)

Please tell me you can see how utterly absurd that is.

Now, either you're genuinely too ignorant to see the absurdity of your position, or you're not at all concerned with the truth here, but with defending your position at all costs. Either way, you're not worth my time. So, go ahead, have the last word; if what you've written so far is a reliable guide, it will be little more than insults and foot stamping anyway.

Chuck said...

David,

Thanks for the clarification.

I was presumptious and therfore was wrong.

What reading do you recommend in this area (layman's level to start).

Chuck said...

Eric,

The sample you cite has no standard benchmark to define a person's focus or experience. Therefore the head of IT at the healthcare company I work for could be on that list regardless if he is running experiments or not(he isn't).
One can make contributions to a field without doing meaningful research in that field. The sample you linked to has many scientists who fit that definition.

If I were to run a study assessing the leadings attitude held by contemporary scienctists I would draw a sample from scientists who would be on the leading edge in practicing science. That would be the NAS not, any directory that any person could put their name in simply by being a professional within a given sceientific field.

You presume too much when you expect the population of the sample you cite is actively engaged in meaningful research.

One can be an awarded professional within a given scientific profession without furthering that profession with meaningful research. To use your sample and gain insight into leading attitudes in the realm of science one would need to scrub the list and remove those who might be bright people but are not advancing the knowledge whatsoever.

I am not ignorant. I have to design these types of studies all the time. The data set you reference while advantageous to your argument is less accurate in weighing the attitudes of contemporary scientific practitioners than the NAS sample.

And yes it would be perfectly legitimate to use a sample of elite actors (with a surrogate variable being oscar winning actors) to measure particular attitudes germane to the question at hand.

I don't see why you fail to see this.

As it is, the leading scientists working in contemporary science are not god believers. (7% believe)

A minority of the general population working in various fields of science are not god believers (40% believe).

Basically, the majority of leading scientists and a general population of scientists don't believe in god.

What is your argument again?

And I am ignorant?

Russ said...

Hi Eric,

From your response, you are clearly free to disagree with anything Dennett has to say without fear of statutory - or mob - enforcement of dictates against dissent. Of course there will always be the philosophical pedant's wild-goose chase approach to such seemingly innocent statements, but practically speaking what I said stands: you are in no way compelled to agree with whatever Dennett says.

Dennett's own statements and approach to research demonstrate that his writings are mostly thought provoking speculations and conjectures. He understands far better than most the primitive state in which the cognitive sciences find themselves. Dennett's only compelling is what a teacher's dreams are made of: that an interested party, especially an eager student, will accept his ideas as a challenges to be confirmed or disconfirmed empirically. While Professor Dennett would enjoy having evidence supporting his ideas, he fully understands that falsification of an hypothesis often provides just as great a stride forward.

Yet, even in its primitive state, the cognitive sciences have a sound footing for a cornerstone: all the science points to the mind, including consciousness, being no more than the content of the brain matter. Atomic theory grew by leaps and bounds once science provided us with both the knowledge that the core functional component of the world is the atom and the tools to work with them. Science of mind is a bit beyond the bare bones knowledge that the sole functional component of mind is the neuron, but the tools and methods, while progressing, are not yet geared up to allow for the rate of advancement that atomic theory enjoyed after its first breaths. The tools will come, but we must be patient since probing a functional mind demands a bit more finesse than probing a functional atom does.

I really don't have a lot of time to meander off into Philosophy Swamp with you, Eric, but I would like to address a few things you said while using Dennett's rejection of dualism to contest a point I didn't try to make.

You seem to be equating relying on well-established results from modern science with an appeal to authority. They're not the same. Further, you seem to equate that same relying on well-established science as being coercive. It's not. To be sure pulling out all the stops in a game of semantic subtleties - a common ploy, I might add, among those wielding philosophy as a weapon - would allow us to show that an ear of corn is an apple and that 1 + 1 equals Bolivia. While you haven't gone quite that far, you're definitely playing a word game to reach a desired conclusion, rather than giving an honest reading to what I wrote.

Let's assume you're not a flat-earther. Let's further assume you have not personally been in space to witness that as the earth turns before your very eyes its profile is always round. Surely, then, if you are discussing the shape of the earth with one who claims the earth is flat, you will rely on the results of contemporary science in supporting a spheroidal shape, will you not? Why might you do that? It works. You would be justified in asking your interlocutor for evidence supporting his position, which you would no doubt reject. I'd guess that you'd also reject his appeal to religious authority along the lines of, "My god always makes the earth appear round, but really it's flat." You would not accept his ignorance as evidence and you would reject his appeal to authority.

Russ said...

So it goes with dualism. There are mountains of evidence that demonstrate that physical and chemical interference with neurons in the physical brain can change everything from perception, to physical capabilities, to mental faculties, to beliefs, wants, desires and proclivities. Now, just like you might inquire of a flat-earther, where is your evidence? Will you appeal to ignorance? Will you appeal to religious authority? Will you appeal to philosophical authority and try to cajole me further into Philosophy Swamp?

Realize that a slick argument can never get you farther than what the starting assumptions can support, and what's more, that empirical results can, and often do, nullify millenia of mistaken assumptions and failed conclusions. For instance, today, flat-earth arguments are failed arguments; geocentrism arguments are failed arguments; demon theory of disease arguments are failed arguments. All of these have enjoyed their philosophical heyday when disagreeing with the philosophical arguments were dealt with through violence. Put philosophy to work all you like in arguing for the best way to drive disease-causing demons from the body, and what do you have? More philosophy proven completely useless by empirical results. Prove philosophically that your god would only make circular orbits for his planets and you again have more philosophy proven completely useless by empirical results. Maybe philosophy really shines only when the notions are unfalsifiable. Are we really expected to accept the conclusions you like despite the existence of myriad countermanding arguments? Will dualism ever be resolved through philosophy? No. How about science? Quite likely. I consider there to be sufficient evidence at this time completely reject dualism.

Understand, Eric, that philosophy ain't giving us no reliable answers about nothin'. Roman philosophers were every bit as certain of the claims made for their pantheon of gods as today's philosophers are for their mono and poly gods. Same goes for the Greek philosophers and their brood of deities. Philosophy gives us an overabundance of victuals rather than a more wholesome food for thought. It's a smorgasborg where a well-considered entree would be more appropriate. Most of the concerns in which philosophers ensnarl themselves have little or no relevance to day-to-day life, and they are rarely if ever resolved. Today's philosophers cherry-pick other philosophers in much the same way that Christians cherry-pick the Bible and their favorite apologists. In philosophy with its lack of a standard for correctness one opinion is quite literally every bit as good as any other another. Philosophy's continual inbreeding of the ideological gene pool mostly breeds bastards and chimera which eventually wind up stillborn, orphans or very short-lived.

Your Plantinga quote is all nice and philosophical, but again, there exists no good reasons to accept dualism. Yes, I know there are lots of them, and they are all nice and philosophical, but none of them advances our understanding of our human selves. Many contradict one another...yes, I know that if I look at the ones you like you will have chosen them, in part, for their non-contradictory character. In the scientific spirit, however, I choose to reject material that is unfalsifiable and contradictory. If we look at all the data, rather than handpicking the bias we want induced, we see contradiction and incoherency is rampant. Dennett was right. Thousands of those arguments litter the Philosophy Swamp.

Anonymous said...

Hi Russ

This is what I was responding to:

"He [Dennett] doesn't force people to comply by tradition, authority, or revelation and all who read him are free to disagree with him."

You replied with:

"From your response, you are clearly free to disagree with anything Dennett has to say without fear of statutory - or mob - enforcement of dictates against dissent."

If that's all you meant, then I of course agree. I'm also free to disagree with the Mormons, the Catholics, the Jews and the Muslims. Now you may rightly say that at certain times and places I would not be free to disagree with various religious precepts, but the same is true of atheism (though of course the time scale differs).

"You seem to be equating relying on well-established results from modern science with an appeal to authority."

Absolutely not. In fact, when clarifying my position to Chuck, I said, "Now, I'm not saying, "Dennett uses scientific data, hence he appeals to science"; rather, I'm saying, "Dennett presents his arguments in such a way that disagreement with him implies disagreement with the entire contemporary scientific enterprise," and that's clearly an attempt on his part to latch onto the cachet of modern science to make his own conclusions seem more palatable."

"Further, you seem to equate that same relying on well-established science as being coercive."

If by "coercive" you mean "using force to settle disputes," which is what you say you were initially referring to, then no, of course that's not what I'm saying. But you and I both know that there's more than one way to act coercively. If you attempt to color certain positions with an unwarranted triple coat of "anti-science," then you are attempting to bring the authority of modern science to your side of the debate, and we all know how much weight that carries in all sorts of disputes today. In some cases, this "anti-science" charge is clearly warranted (e.g. young earth creationism); in other cases, such as the one before us, it's clearly not. Dennett's primary objection to dualism is that, according to him, it removes questions about the ultimate nature of consciousness from the realm of scientific inquiry. Now this in itself is false: no dualist rejects any of the findings of modern science (can you name one, and one finding he rejects?), and no dualist is in any sense against further scientific research into the nature of consciousness (again, can you name one?). Rather, dualists tend to believe, on philosophical grounds, that however far we take this scientific research, we'll never find an answer because it's not ultimately a scientific question, but a philosophical one. (Note, I'm not defending dualism here, but showing that Dennett's characterization of it as "anti-scientific" is false, whether you understand "anti-scientific" to mean (1) a denial of any findings of modern science, or (2) a desire to see scientific research stopped).

"you're definitely playing a word game to reach a desired conclusion, rather than giving an honest reading to what I wrote."

No, that's not true at all. I did not think your point was that if you disagree with Dennett, he's not going to hunt you down and beat you up, or send his henchmen to do it. But apparently that was your point -- one I agree with.

"There are mountains of evidence that demonstrate that physical and chemical interference with neurons in the physical brain can change everything from perception, to physical capabilities, to mental faculties, to beliefs, wants, desires and proclivities."

None of which any dualist denies.

Anonymous said...

"Put philosophy to work all you like in arguing for the best way to drive disease-causing demons from the body, and what do you have? More philosophy proven completely useless by empirical results...Understand, Eric, that philosophy ain't giving us no reliable answers about nothin'."

I'm not quite sure you understand the sorts of questions philosophy does and doesn't address. And I'm not quite sure you understand the inescapable nature of reaching philosophical conclusions, even in the gritty, empirical world of modern science.

"Most of the concerns in which philosophers ensnarl themselves have little or no relevance to day-to-day life,"

This is patently false. Take the ethical and political questions I mentioned in my first post on this thread. But even aside from that, you would be amazed to discover how much of what you think you only think because the work of some obscure philosopher has worked its way down into the popular culture.

"and they are rarely if ever resolved."

Well, this is true in one sense, but false in another. Philosophical problems may not be "resolved" in the sense that every philosopher who encounters such and such a problem agrees with the solution (though you might be surprised to learn about how much agreement there is about certain issues), but even science cannot meet this standard. I agree in the sense that the truly big questions remain open, but, and this is important, it's often the case that many approaches to those questions are ruled out, and that others are strengthened. So we have definite progress even though we lack a consensus.

"In philosophy with its lack of a standard for correctness one opinion is quite literally every bit as good as any other another."

This is so obviously false that I'm not sure how to respond. How about this: if what you say is true, come up with a novel approach to a philosophical question, write it down, and try to get it published in a peer reviewed academic journal of philosophy. If what you say is true, it should be no problem.

"In the scientific spirit, however, I choose to reject material that is unfalsifiable and contradictory."

No you don't: in the very posts I'm responding to, you expound at length upon philosophy while asserting sundry conclusions that are unfalsifiable!

Gandolf said...

Chuck said...."I was challenged to consider my certainty of historical pretense within my faith when a friend posed a simple question, "has anyone in Christianity ever used the concepts of Heaven and Hell as anything more than a carrot or stick to get people to behave?" "

Brenda said to Chuck....You say that like it's a bad thing. Is it? I think the whole purpose of religion is for us to become better people. I think it has next to nothing to do with the truth value of propositions on the existence of some god.

...............................

Oh i see ..... so by people telling a whole load of religious bullshit,by your judgement it is supposedly likely to do a whole lot towards leading humans to become better people???

Your making a great argument for promotion of the New Atheists ,Brenda.

Brenda said....."I think the whole purpose of religion is for us to become better people"

Oh yeah..Sure.... religions are just great at making Christians bigoted against the Islamists .....And Isralies hate and fight Palistianians, and vice versa, over the stupidity of things like religious grounds.And wonderful at making the pope be much more worried about matters of tarnishing his faith,rather than being worried about some justice! for those sexually abused by chatholic priests......Who have long deserved some proper honest justice

Brenda are you sure you are not slightly religiously biased and faithfully blinded??.

Maybe it might actually take some radical Islamist indoctrinated in the idea of the availability of 70 virgins in some afterlife etc,to personally come to your house placing a bomb! directly under your bed! ...Before you`d ever be likely to be able to understand

Gandolf said...

Russ said to Brenda......"That you perceive the New Atheists as dividing people into two camps, atheists and theists, suggests that you have failed to understand them and their work."

Yeah Brenda get this ...Who is actually suggesting any atheist should actually need to be in any certain camp?.

Is there some special death threat of eternal damnation etc,for any atheists not following certain suggested rules?...Do certain atheists suggest other atheists will maybe end up eternally dammed,if they dont agree to follow?

No there isnt this happening, is there Brenda.

Russ is correct,you have failed to understand matters.Yes sure some atheists may try and suggest there is only two camps,while others will think differently.Some may be very anti theist,why others wont be.Some will maybe suggest taking action against theists,while others will maybe suggest we keep on simply discussing matters.

And no, there is not only two camps of atheist at all.Many atheists think differently.

Eric ....You need to try to understand,Chuck is explaining if somebody actually feels pressured by the athourity of say Dennett for instance, to feel they have some need to be agreeing with him....Then maybe these peoples problems more likely still lay within a faith type thinking ......Dennett cannot damm anybody to any hell for instance can he?,so if people feel pressured by the science he promotes ....Then maybe these people really need to be visiting a psychiatrist!.

Gandolf said...

Eric said ...."If that's all you meant, then I of course agree. I'm also free to disagree with the Mormons, the Catholics, the Jews and the Muslims. Now you may rightly say that at certain times and places I would not be free to disagree with various religious precepts, but the same is true of atheism (though of course the time scale differs). "

Yes with most all religious faiths there is a THREAT suggesting you MUST agree with the idea of heaven and hell etc, or risk dammnation ...Suggestions of people ending up in hell,if they dare to disagree etc.And no!! if your family is Mormon or Jew or Islamic Muslim,it may be that you MAY NOT ! be allowed to disagree with them.

Atleast try to learn to be a little honest Eric,if being completely honest youd have to admit to knowing, that disagreeing can all to often cause your family to need to become seperated and excommunicated etc.So even as a Mormon,Jew,or Muslim etc ,you may not! always have the right to disagree.

Now Eric what can you suggest we could ever compare as the same type threat from this bloke Dennett ?.

Eric said ..."I'm saying, "Dennett presents his arguments in such a way that disagreement with him implies disagreement with the entire contemporary scientific enterprise," and that's clearly an attempt on his part to latch onto the cachet of modern science to make his own conclusions seem more palatable."

Dennett making his own conclusions seem more platable and suggesting that disagreement with him implies disagreement with the entire contemporary scientific enterprise ,is still far from him using some form of threat or force like faiths beliefs often used on us.

Chuck said...

Eric,

You state that your position is not contrary to science but proudly claim yourself to be a hylomorphic dualist.

Now, I know you believe that throwing around intricate philosophical terms can obscure a conversation and provide you the aroma of intellectual liberty but, appealing to a hylomorphic dualism as a scientific (rather than Christian theological position) just stinks.

Hylomorphic dualism, no matter how hard Christians try to make it the irreducible complexity of brain science, does not advance practical brain science.

I'd love for you to explain how the personality changes of a closed-head-wound patient are an example of a mind-body dilemma. Or better yet, how about you tell that family watching their loved one dwindle into the half-light of Alzheimer's disease that there is no material basis for Grandma's dementia. While you are at it you can console them with your hylomorphic dualism as an apology for why stem-cell research would never offer a viable scientific solution to her problem since the disease is more than material and the ineffable substance of an embryo matters more than the cognitive function of their family member.

Your position is so wrought with dishonesty that you can't even smell your own bullshit.

You occupy the same space as a creationist but, you do so in the dishonest way of the Discovery Institute by dressing up your Christian Theology in Aristotelian philosophy to make it appear scientifically useful. It isn't.

Your form of duality only has use in defending the non-falsifiable and superstitious presuppositions of your faith and, as such, serves that idea while offering obstacles to the advance of human comfort and dignity.

Advances in science that will end human suffering around cognitive disease deal with the mind as a product of the brain. A material model has given us anti-convulsives, SSRI, anti-psychotics, Brain Resection, and stands on the threshold of attacking tragic neurological problems like Parkinson's Disease and Alzheimer's Disease. The latter two diseases could go the way of Polio with apt science as long as the dualists of your stripe get the hell out of the way and stop arguing for the defense of souls in petrie dishes.

Your entire worldview currently and historically stands in the way of science because it over-values traditional revelation as an arbiter for truth when evidence is a better gauge.

zenmite said...

I found this tidbit of info informing:

In a 2006 Time magazine poll, 64 percent of Americans declared that if science disproved one of their religious beliefs, they'd reject the science in favor of their faith.

I think that tells it all. The distressing part is that they then try to pretend their decision is rational or try to paint science as just another belief system on par with all the whacko beliefs of religion.

Chuck said...

Good get Zenmite.

The King of the Christian Fan Boys, William Lane Craig essentially admits the same thing when he argues that biblical authority should trump reason if the two conflict.

Christian adherents commit on-going intellectual suicide when they seek to make universal their neurotic control beliefs.

Unknown said...

Having been away a few days I don't think I can respond to every criticism. I'll just have to pick out a few. I do have to say though that I am disappointed at the level of ad hominem coming from the atheist camp. I take it as a sign of the weakness of your position. I find it highly ironic that as (apparently) the only woman here I remain the most logical and rational of the lot of you.

You men are such emotional creatures. ;)

Chuck O'Connor said...

"Brenda can you be specific when dismissing Dennett?"

As I understand him Dennett is a Rationalist. I find that to be philosophically weak sauce.

"Why is cognitive science a "rabbit hole"?"

Because it is based on a false conception of consciousness. As I understand him Dennett is still claiming the computational model, which has been debunked.

"You continue to argue in defense of theism and bloggers with hidden profiles are suspect here."

I am sure it appears that way to you. I don't have a profile because I don't blog.



Russ said...
"That you perceive the New Atheists as dividing people into two camps, atheists and theists, suggests that you have failed to understand them and their work"

No, I think I understand very well. I am often told by the New Atheists that atheism is a-theism or not(theism). I think that does indeed divide all of humanity into two camps just as if I claim that there exists only people with blue eyes and those with not(blues eyes). Are you unfamiliar with logical operators?

"I am a materialist, a complete materialist. No data and no arguments have convinced me to move from my complete materialism, and I am far better informed than most. I am also a philosophical materialist in that I live my life under the assumption that the material universe is all there is."

The refutation of materialism is fairly easy.

Materialism ---> (implies) Reductionism
Reductionism fails
Therefore Materialism fails.

However I am sure that you understand that the above does not imply that I am a dualist. You'd have to be pretty ignorant to think that and you tell me you are well informed.

"Please explain what it means to be a "believer in the current fad in the cognitive sciences." If what is currently is being explored in the cognitive sciences works, it will be retained; if not it will fade away."

The current fashion that I hear from Dennett et al is that the mind does not exist. This is clearly false. Other fads such as functionalism and computationalism are equally suspect. You are correct though, they will fade away to be replace with something else. Your mistake is in thinking that the only options are whatever is currently a hot research topic or creationism. I beg to differ.

Eric said...
"He [Dennett] says that dualism is "deservedly in disrepute today," talks about "dualism's embarrassment," and says that materialism is "the prevailing wisdom" today; he describes dualism in terms of Casper the friendly ghost, and suggests that dualists are intentionally dishonest as they attempt to keep the mind "so mysterious that is keeps science at bay forever.""

Dennett is correct about dualism but incorrect to compare the mind to a ghost. That only reveals his Rationalist assumptions.

"Dennet claims that there is "widespread agreement among scientists and philosophers that dualism is -- must be -- simply false.""

Yes, that is correct. Dualism is false and the reasons why are well known. Dualism cannot answer several challenges that are fatal to it without assuming the existence of god.

"Dennett's arguments against dualism are chock full of appeals to the authority of science."

Hence my dislike of Dennett. Nevertheless there are actually arguments to be made here. They are fairly common and easily found.

Unknown said...

(continued)
Russ said...
"You seem to be equating relying on well-established results from modern science with an appeal to authority. "

Well actually yes, that really is an appeal to authority. It's not even argument.

"So it goes with dualism. There are mountains of evidence that demonstrate that physical and chemical interference with neurons in the physical brain can change everything from perception, to physical capabilities, to mental faculties, to beliefs, wants, desires and proclivities."

This is a poor argument against Dualism, one that even Descartes could handle easily.

Gandolf said...
"Oh i see ..... so by people telling a whole load of religious bullshit,by your judgement[sic] it is supposedly likely to do a whole lot towards leading humans to become better people???"

The parts of religion that are up for debate, the existence of god, the reality of miracles and so on, are not the parts that have a social function of strengthening community or enforcing moral standards.

"religions are just great at making Christians bigoted against the Islamists .....And Isralies[sic] hate and fight Palistianians[sic], and vice versa, over the stupidity of things like religious grounds."

I see only failed humans no different than other failed humans. Nor do I see Atheism as having a solution. The officially atheist state of the USSR engaged in the genocide of 50 million, the officially atheist state of Maoist China is also guilty. Here on this blog I see atheists who are just as hateful, bigoted and full of rage as any theist.

Might want to attend to that log in your own eye first.

"Russ is correct,you have failed to understand matters.Yes sure some atheists may try and suggest there is only two camps,while others will think differently."

Fortunately I never said that all atheists divide other atheists into two camps. I said that the majority of New Atheists divide all people into two camps.

Anonymous said...

"Nevertheless there are actually arguments [against dualism] to be made here. They are fairly common and easily found."

Hi Brenda

I agree that such arguments are easily found, but so are the well developed responses to them. And don't forget that some of the most popular and thus easily found arguments against dualism in general, such as those making use of the interaction problem, don't apply to all forms of dualism (such as my own hylomorphic dualism, or Chalmers's naturalistic dualism).

Unknown said...

"easily found arguments against dualism in general, such as those making use of the interaction problem, don't apply to all forms of dualism (such as my own hylomorphic dualism..."

Form has no causal efficacy and therefore could never function as an ontology.

Aristotle and his philosophy is dead.

Chuck said...

Brenda

An appeal to the concensus of provisional scientific authority is not appeal to authority. Dennett is not appealing to a single person.

Your dependence on the old evangelical chestnut of making atheism a worldview akin to Divine Comman religions by tethering it to Maoism and Stalinism is the fallacy of equivocation.

Your hubris is slapstick.

Anonymous said...

"Form has no causal efficacy and therefore could never function as an ontology."

Brenda, there are quite a few problems with this, but I'll focus on three.

First, you seem to be appealing to a post-Humean conception of causation. Is this accurate? I'll let you respond before I continue with that particular line of thought. But -- and I'll include this here since it will lead to a related question -- whatever your conception of causality is, it's obvious that you reject final causation (given the relationship between form, formal causation and final causation in Aristotelico-Thomistic metaphysics). So, let me ask you a question: what do you think about contemporary philosophical research on dispositions?

Second, one of the defining properties of abstract objects is that they lack causal efficacy, yet many secular philosophers have concluded that they fit quite well in their ontology. So, your premise is not obviously true. Can you provide an argument to support it?

Third, and finally, your premise supposes an inaccurate account of "form" in Aristotelico-Thomistic metaphysics. Formal causes are determined by final causes, and without final causes you can't make sense of efficient causes (what I take you to mean by "causal efficacy"). So form, rather than lacking causal efficacy, is an essential element of causal efficacy.

Unknown said...

Chuck said...
"An appeal to the concensus[sic] of provisional scientific authority is not appeal to authority."

Huny, that's the very definition. Do you decide the truth of the statement 2 + 2 = 4 by consensus?

"Your dependence on the old evangelical chestnut of making atheism a worldview akin to Divine Comman religions by tethering it to Maoism and Stalinism is the fallacy of equivocation."

This sentence is incoherent to me, seriously.

Eric said...
"First, you seem to be appealing to a post-Humean conception of causation. Is this accurate?"

Is my philosophical understanding less that 300 years old? Why yes! It is!

"whatever your conception of causality is, it's obvious that you reject final causation (given the relationship between form, formal causation and final causation in Aristotelico-Thomistic metaphysics)."

Uh.. yeah, so does everyone else not a Jesuit.

"what do you think about contemporary philosophical research on dispositions?"

Apologetics bores me to tears. I would prefer to use the term intentionality to describe beliefs that I hold while asleep.

"Second, one of the defining properties of abstract objects is that they lack causal efficacy, yet many secular philosophers have concluded that they fit quite well in their ontology. So, your premise is not obviously true. Can you provide an argument to support it?"

Well this is obviously wrong isn't it? The shape or form of a statue bears no causal relation to how it came to be made if one has a better than 3rd grade understanding of how the world works.

"Third, and finally, your premise supposes an inaccurate account of "form" in Aristotelico-Thomistic metaphysics."

Well that's because I have no idea what your private pet theory (hylomorphic dualism) would be like. I had to guess.

"Formal causes are determined by final causes, and without final causes you can't make sense of efficient causes (what I take you to mean by "causal efficacy"). So form, rather than lacking causal efficacy, is an essential element of causal efficacy."

Ok, this is seriously effed up. Your ideas about causation are 2000 years out of date and simply *wrong*.

Anonymous said...

"Apologetics bores me to tears. I would prefer to use the term intentionality to describe beliefs that I hold while asleep."

Huh? Contemporary research on "dipositions" has nothing whatsoever to do with "apologetics." See Heil, Cohen, Nolan, Bird, Yablo, Choi, Mumford, etc.

And I can't see how you confused dispositions with intentionality. We can think of beliefs in terms of dispositions, but your confusion of the two as synonymous is beyond me.

"Uh.. yeah, so does everyone else not a Jesuit."

See my previous reference to dispositions, since they are closely related to final causation, which is why I asked, in reference to a remark you made about form (and given form's relationship to final causation), what you think about dispositions.

"The shape or form of a statue bears no causal relation to how it came to be made if one has a better than 3rd grade understanding of how the world works."

Okay, you have no idea what role "form" plays here.

"Well that's because I have no idea what your private pet theory (hylomorphic dualism) would be like. I had to guess."

Now I see why you have no idea of the role form plays in the metaphysics that informs my understanding of consciousness: you're just guessing here.

"Ok, this is seriously effed up. Your ideas about causation are 2000 years out of date and simply *wrong*."

Perhaps, but aside from pointing out their age -- chronological snobbery, anyone? -- you've yet to present either your conception of causality, or your critique of my conception.

Unknown said...

"you're just guessing here."

And it appears that I will have to keep guessing.

"you've yet to present either your conception of causality"

Probably because that would very far off topic.

"or your critique of my conception."

Which remains UR SEKRIT that pwns all heretics!

"See Heil, Cohen, Nolan, Bird, Yablo, Choi, Mumford, etc."

All the really smart people drop names because that is how them een-tell-leck-U-alls do it.

Unknown said...

"you have no idea of the role form plays in the metaphysics that informs my understanding of consciousness"

If you think that form has anything to do with consciousness then you have no understanding of consciousness.

Chuck said...

Brenda,

You are showing your foolish pride again. You are an arrogant boor. How about you learn what logical fallacies are before you start acting as if you know what they are. There is nothing wrong with Dennett appealing to scientific methods that have provided useful technologies.

Here you go from the Online Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Dumb ass)

Appeal to Authority
You appeal to authority if you back up your reasoning by saying that it is supported by what some authority says on the subject. Most reasoning of this kind is not fallacious. However, it is fallacious whenever the authority appealed to is not really an authority in this subject, when the authority cannot be trusted to tell the truth, when authorities disagree on this subject (except for the occasional lone wolf), when the reasoner misquotes the authority, and so forth. Although spotting a fallacious appeal to authority often requires some background knowledge about the subject or the authority, in brief it can be said that it is fallacious to accept the word of a supposed authority when we should be suspicious.

Example:

You can believe the moon is covered with dust because the president of our neighborhood association said so, and he should know.
This is a fallacious appeal to authority because, although the president is an authority on many neighborhood matters, he is no authority on the composition of the moon. It would be better to appeal to some astronomer or geologist. If you place too much trust in expert opinion and overlook any possibility that experts talking in their own field of expertise make mistakes, too, then you also commit the fallacy of appeal to authority.

Example:

Of course she’s guilty of the crime. The police arrested her, didn’t they? And they’re experts when it comes to crime.

Chuck said...

Brenda,

Your "defeater" to Gandolf's argument that Abrahamic religions cause divisions goes like this.

Islam, Judaism and Christianity are worldviews that cause division atheism has been sanctioned by worldviews like Maoism and Stalinism that have caused division therefore atheism is a worldview that causes division.

Atheism holds no dogma and as such is not a motivating worldview.

It is a fallacy of equivocation to link the Divine Command religions with atheism using the implied world-view equivalent in this way.

It is also a garden-variety tactic of most Evangelical Christian apologists to do this. I continue to see you as one.

Unknown said...

"There is nothing wrong with Dennett appealing to scientific methods that have provided useful technologies."

It's not argument.

You said:
"An appeal to the concensus of provisional scientific authority is not appeal to authority"

I said, yeah, that's an appeal to authority. To which you said:
"You appeal to authority if you back up your reasoning by saying that it is supported by what some authority says on the subject."

So... an appeal to authority is not an appeal to authority as long as my appeal is to the proper authorities.

I'm the one who doesn't understand fallacies?

Look, it may be acceptable practice to cite the consensus of scientific opinion when discussing scientific matters but we are not doing that here and Daniel Dennett is not a scientist. We are discussing the philosophical justifications for certain positions on the nature of consciousness. In philosophy it really is not ok base your argument on authority. It is ok to cite scientific facts within the course of an argument but that is not what I understand is being discussed here.

"Your "defeater" to Gandolf's argument"

I made no such claim. I simply made a counter argument but it is interesting that you continue to project your own issues onto me. I wish you would stop that.

"Atheism holds no dogma and as such is not a motivating worldview."

Of course it's a worldview. It's dogma is that it holds no dogma and it's belief is that it lacks belief. All that is necessary for something to be a worldview is that it function as one and boy oh boy does it ever. All that is necessary for something to motivate a worldview is that it's members share a collective intentionality that these are the beliefs we hold in common. You've just enumerated a couple of them.

zenmite said...

"Of course it's a worldview. It's dogma is that it holds no dogma and it's belief is that it lacks belief."

Yes, and insanity is just another form of sanity while black is a form of white and not collecting stamps is just another hobby. You can make sentences like this but they have no meaning. That clinched it for me. There's no doubt you are a christian in drag.

Perhaps you could share your views on the nature of consciousness now.

Chuck said...

Brenda,

You're cute.

Come out of the closet and admit you are an evangelical.

You don't understand the fallacy known as appeal to authority either.

A noted Philosophy Professor who has done research in brain science and teaches at Tufts University is not appealing to authority when he declares contemporary science considers supernatural duality dead. He has the credentials to do so.

And yes, you were trying to make a defeater to Gandolf's argument by appealing to the standard equivocal line most evangelicals use.

Let's see, someone shows up with a handle we've never seen before, has a blinded profile, and employs sloppy reasoning using standard apologetic tactics (while making sure to proclaim she is an "agnostic"). Brenda you are not what you say you are.

Anonymous said...

Of course atheism itself isn't a worldview, but no atheist is *only* an atheist. All atheists have a worldview. And since atheism minimally involves the lack of a belief in God or gods, and at most involves the positive denial that God or gods exists, it's no surprise that atheists tend to be naturalists (aka physicalists or materialists; some philosophers make careful distinctions among these categories, but most people use them interchangably in informal settings such as this), and naturalism is a worldview. Naturalism also entails atheism, though atheism doesn't entail naturalism. Still, the path isn't always from naturalism to atheism; often it's the reverse. And, of course, if you listen to many atheists speak about their atheism, you'll frequently discover that they don't draw as clear a line between atheism and naturalism as they might imply exists when they tell you correctly tell you atheism isn't a worldview (Dan Barker is guilty of this in just about every debate).

So, technically speaking, yes, atheism is not a worldview, and many atheists are careful to make this distinction and stick to it. But practically speaking, many atheists are naturalists, and naturalism entails atheism. Further, many atheist who are naturalists blur these categories so frequently that, in such cases, atheism-as-naturalism can be properly labeled a worldview.

Chuck said...

Atheism is not a worldview that motivated Mao's or Stalin's mass murder, unlike Sharia that kills women for showing their hair or Christianity that motivated Calvin to burn people at the stake who disagreed with him.

Unknown said...

zenmite said
"Yes, and insanity is just another form of sanity while black is a form of white and not collecting stamps is just another hobby. You can make sentences like this but they have no meaning."

Almost there hun, black really is just another form of white isn't it? Black is not(white) and neither are colors. Humans are able to do this, it's in our nature. X equals Y under conditions C. That's all there is to it. We can make any X perform as a Y when it suits our purposes to do so.

Chuck said
"A noted Philosophy Professor who has done research in brain science and teaches at Tufts University is not appealing to authority when he declares contemporary science considers supernatural duality dead."

Is that what you're talking about? It's not what I was talking about. I don't disagree that dualism is dead. My understanding is that Dennett holds the computational model for consciousness and it is there where I disagree. Why have you been talking as if I believed in dualism?

"Let's see, someone shows up with a handle we've never seen before, has a blinded profile, and employs sloppy reasoning"

I don't know what a blinded profile is. I don't have a blogger account and my personal details are not open to any damn fool on the internet. Deal.

Eric says:
"a bunch of stuff that I more or less agree with."

Chuck said
"Atheism is not a worldview that motivated Mao's or Stalin's mass murder"

History ain't yer strong suit is it? The idea that atheistic materialism held no sway over the political ideologies of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao is laughably ignorant. But anyway why should you care? Why does it matter to you if it did or not? Atheism is not a "thing" right? It has no dogma, no beliefs no nothing. In fact, according to most atheists I've spoken to they would almost say that atheism does really even exist.

So why so defensive?

If I'm an evangelical then you must be a secular fundamentalist.

Chuck said...

Brenda

My listing of Dennett's credentials was to debunk your notion that he was engaging in a logical fallacy.

Moving the goal posts like you just did is another classic evangelical tactic.

Can you please list the atheist "dogma"? Thanks.

If you are an American citizen than you are a secular fundamentalist as well. Secularism is a fundamental of our Constitution.

Connect the dots for me please and make an argument how the theories of the writers you cited justified the killings of Stalin and Mao based in atheism. You will first have to define atheism's dogma.

Chuck said...

Brenda,

One last question; when you call me "Hun" are you saying that I am a fifth century nomad originating near Volga or, are you using a condescending pejorative indicative of your over-inflated sense of self? Thanks.

Unknown said...

chuck said..
"Moving the goal posts like you just did is another classic evangelical tactic."

No it isn't, it's called a misunderstanding.

"Can you please list the atheist "dogma"?"

The primary atheist dogma is that it has no dogma.

"If you are an American citizen than you are a secular fundamentalist as well."

Not as I am using it. In my sense a secular fundamentalist is someone who sees everything in terms of either/or or in black or white. I place most everything on a dialectic. I do not think in terms of absolutes as most atheists and religious fundamentalists do.

"Connect the dots for me please and make an argument how the theories of the writers you cited justified the killings of Stalin and Mao based in atheism."

What? You are unaware that Marxism depends on it's atheistic analysis of history? Their justification was partly moral, that the rich are parasites, and partly historical, that the end of history will come when capitalism fails and communism reigns supreme.

You might disagree with their analysis, I certainly do, but you cannot disagree that they were atheists.

Unknown said...

chuck said:
"One last question; when you call me "Hun......""

No, you've pretty consistently attributed things I've said to others as being directed to you. So I used "hun" when I replied to zenmite, not to you, but you think I did and you also come up with an extremely bizarre reading of it. Really, it's just an attempt to get people to relax and calm down.

Chuck said...

Brenda

Reread your comments. You called me "Hun" when you ignorantly tried to school me on the fallacy of Appeal to Authority. My description of your arrogance was a sarcastic jab at your pretension.

Chuck said...

Brenda please explain how atheism, a "worldview" with no dogma as dogma could motivate any concerted action? Attributing the genocides of Mao and Stalin to atheism would be like attributing them to the fact that each man was Chinese or Russian. An incidental description of each man is far from an argument that such a description is a motivating cause for action.

zenmite said...

Brenda, I'm having a hard time understanding your definition of a 'worldview'. There are 2 other atheists in my extended family. One is a grandmother who has been abusing drugs for decades. (She used when she was a believer too) She decided she no longer believed in god but is in the closet and doesn't want me to tell anyone in the family. The other atheist has never used any drugs and is a staunch republican who despises president Obama. I don't have much in common with either of them politically or socially. But you classify us as having the same 'worldview.'

I don't even think theists necessarily hold the same worldview as other theists. Osama bin Laden and George W. Bush are both theists. The Hare Krishna ringing bells at the airport and the Pope are both theists. I fail to see that it means much to assert that they all share the same worldview or dogmas.

Most of the East believes in Karma. We could easily call those who do not believe in karma 'akarmaists'. Does this mean those of us who are akarmaists all share a worldview and dogma....the dogma that there is no karma? I don't believe in astrology, I am an a-astrologist. There are likely serial killers who do not believe in astrology. I'm sure there are many fine citizens that also disbelieve in it. Do we all share a unified worldview and dogma? If you indeed assert this, then you are using such terms in a way that renders them meaningless. The Dalai Lama is atheist (as are most buddhists) and so are his antagonists in China. One can be a theist marxist (there were many in south america) or an atheist marxist. Presumably neither you nor I are marxists...we are A-marxist. Does this mean we too share the same worldview and dogma?

It is very difficult to completely give up irrational belief, dogma and ideology. Most of us simply substitute one ideology for another. The commited Christian (Stalin was a seminary student) becomes a marxist. The hindu becomes a christian, etc. It seems nearly impossible for ideologues and dogmatists of any sort to even imagine that it is possible to live without these props. Therefore, like you, they tend to perform all manner of mental gymnastics and psychological projection in order to classify non-belief as another belief, nonadherence to dogma as another dogma.

If you are an 'independent' politically, should democrats and republicans pigeonhole you as a member of an 'independent' party? This is not the case. They would be deluded if they imagined that independents share some overarching ideology and hold political dogmas in the same way that dems and repubs do. Independents are not necessarily members of any party at all and do not necessarily share any one ideology with other independents. They are alike only in rejecting membership in the established political parties. You seem to make the same mistake with atheists. We are alike only in rejecting the god idea as being likely at all.

Ryan M said...

At best, Theism and Atheism can only be part of a worldview.

Unknown said...

Zenmite said:
"I'm having a hard time understanding your definition of a 'worldview'."

This is elementary stuff but I've found that most atheists are pretty ignorant of even the most basic philosophy.

Weltanschauung
"The framework of ideas and beliefs through which an individual interprets the world and interacts with it."

When I hear atheists claim "we have no beliefs or dogmas" I hear that as the claim "we have no interpretive stance through which we interact with the world." This is impossible because it's like trying to be in the world without being in the world. The brute fact that you are a being in the world demands that you place oneself in relation to the world. To claim that you have no such relation is equivalent to claiming that you do not exist.

I'm a child of the seventies and in that time the big thing was to rebel against the establishment, against dress shoes and three piece suits. As a result everyone conformed to a universal dress code of a T-shirt, jeans and sneakers. Their rebellious worldview of anti-establishment non-conformity lead directly to a rigid conformity in dress and behavior.

Just like atheists do now.

"It is very difficult to completely give up irrational belief, dogma and ideology. Most of us simply substitute one ideology for another."

You bet it is. In fact, a lot people will even go so far as to claim that they have no dogma, no ideology, no beliefs even though they still do. They're just in denial and have repressed conscious awareness of the tremendous gap between what they say and what they do.

They say they have no dogma while demanding rigid conformity. They say they are open minded and tolerant while screaming in spittle flecked rage at their opponents. They say they worship no gods while genuflecting at the altar of Science.

Today, only an Atheist can truly believe.

"Therefore, like you, they tend to perform all manner of mental gymnastics and psychological projection in order to classify non-belief as another belief, nonadherence to dogma as another dogma."

You continually try to divide the world up into binary states and maybe that even works a little in the physical world, though I doubt it, but it sure doesn't work in human society and social interaction. Humans are not finite state machines in which every decision can be reduced to a series of yes/no choices.

Belief is not merely the assertion of the truth value of a proposition in the predicate calculus. Dogma is not just the values you say you adhere to.

The human subject is split, broken. Who we say we are is not who we are. The reason that atheists are charged as arrogant is because they make an inhuman claim. They think when they look in the mirror they see themselves whole, and they are not.

Chuck said...

Brenda

Nice rhetoric but you said that atheism's dogma is that it has no dogma so, how does a non-entity provide causation (e.g. the mass murders of Mao and Stalin)?

Paul Rinzler said...

Brenda, people have worldviews, and can be atheists, and atheism can be part of an atheist's worldview, but atheism is not a worldview.

johnthomas didymus said...

we humans sometimes underestimate the power of language: it so easy to get unwittingly caught in the quagmire of semantics. what is atheism? do atheists have a dogma? is atheism a worldview or part of a worldview? the semantic content of these arguments seem to me to come thicker than the real conceptual content.

Gandolf said...

Brenda said....."The parts of religion that are up for debate, the existence of god, the reality of miracles and so on, are not the parts that have a social function of strengthening community or enforcing moral standards."

What???....You are telling us promotion of what might very possibly be considdered missinformation and now days even continued promotion of utter lies and deceit....By your calculations likely has absolutely no effect on strength of community or moral standards or social function etc?.

Surely,you must be, bloody joking right Brenda??.

Where is your head at?? ...Even the suggestions of supposed existence of some place called hell ,where supposedly some people it is said, will likely be punished eternally etc .....Must surely have some effect on some human social function !!.

Brenda please....lets atleast keep it real.

Brenda said....."I see only failed humans no different than other failed humans. Nor do I see Atheism as having a solution. The officially atheist state of the USSR engaged in the genocide of 50 million, the officially atheist state of Maoist China is also guilty. Here on this blog I see atheists who are just as hateful, bigoted and full of rage as any theist.

Might want to attend to that log in your own eye first."

Seeing failed humans doesnt nessarily simply equal any need for any of us to go and invent, and try to impose! some stupid guess work of a faith belief, does it?.....And history has also proved time and time again! just how much harm this utter stupidity can OFTEN cause!.

Should non believers not then have some good reason for some rage against this utter stupidity!?,yes Brenda they sure do!.....So no Brenda you cannot suggest this rage is so much born of anything bigoted,as it is obvious it is happened for some good reason!.... that of being well earned through disgust of religion and faith, and so it is actually deserved.

No log in my eye at all,like you try and suggest.....You instead need to pull your head out of your faithful arse,and open your eyes for once and finally simply atleast have some decency to admit,there is good reasons people have dislike of faiths.....And it simply dont really matter if you happen to be from China or even the USSR for that matter.

For instance,its very likely Stalin had good reason for much hate of faith and religion.As his education was done at religious schools where he was taught and suffered much abuse from his nasty bigoted religious teachers....And had to put up with and was looked down on, by the snobby children of all the local priests and church goers etc.

Brenda it was this nasty experience of religion and faith that STALIN ACTUALLY EXPERIENCED that helped (form Stalins attitude)of his feelings towards faith and religion....you trying to suggest maybe it possibly had something to do with his atheism ...Is just an old !!!! tired !!! sad arse feeble excuse,the faithful in such dishonesty often try using.

Any log that you suggest might be stuck in my eye,also like with Stalin was placed there also through my bad experience of religion and faith.

My anger then is not so much through matters of any bogotry like you tried to suggest,its obviously much more about me merely stating some actual facts about what ive actually experienced.

Facts which you as a pitiful sad arsed febble faithful person looking to hopefully find some sort of excuse for,find hard to be little honest about! and swallow, because of your false sense of pride of your faith.

Brenda ....please please dont try to blame us ...that your faith has been tried, and been so very often found very lacking, hollow, and wanting !

Doing that, seems kind of very lowly and extremely gutless

Gandolf said...

Chuck O'Connor said..."Brenda

Nice rhetoric but you said that atheism's dogma is that it has no dogma so, how does a non-entity provide causation (e.g. the mass murders of Mao and Stalin)?"

Yes the rhetorical Brenda,just cant quite understand or maybe doesnt dare to let themself considder, that yes! maybe very likely there was actually some very "GOOD REASON" for Mao and Stalin to have a great dislike of religion and faith etc.Funny that,considdering matters of faith! should we really be so very surprised?? .

Brenda might like to considder that by these wrong false placed calculations Brenda`s been wrongfully using....It could maybe also be tried to be suggested maybe peoples dislike! of smoking, thats of lates also`s been proved to all to often be the cause of cancer and even death ...might be caused by some sort of type of bogotry

But the fact remains, the dislike of humans smoking like the dislike of faith, actually grows for some "GOOD REASON",not so much through any bogotry.

The good reason being humans have some dislike of the harm its caused.Specially if it happens to also harm their loved ones