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The art of the soluble - Comments

Diacanu's Avatar Comment 1 by Diacanu

Religion, by contrast, accepts the limitations of our senses and brains and posits at least the possibility that there is more going on than meets the eye -


No, that proposition is merely spirituality.

Religion claims to know the mind of God, and codifies it into laws, and threatens rather nasty punishments for breaking them.

Yet another pundit who can't distinguish deism from theism.
Man, does this crap get tiresome.

Sat, 08 Dec 2007 22:15:00 UTC | #91244

Russell's Teapot's Avatar Comment 2 by Russell's Teapot

It's like they all just pick their arguments out of a hat full of little paper slips; I must have read a thousand of these and not a single one of them seems to have an original thought.

Sat, 08 Dec 2007 22:51:00 UTC | #91248

Theocrapcy's Avatar Comment 3 by Theocrapcy

Put simply, science cannot disprove god so it is therefore not qualified to make the assertion of his existence or otherwise. BUt, as well all know, Richard states that the existence of god IS a scientific question. How is it that a religious person knows what cannot be proven? They claim to know what they possibly cannot know. How arrogant!

Teapots and spaghetti monsters shoot down this silly book in a minute.

Sat, 08 Dec 2007 22:54:00 UTC | #91250

ferfuracious's Avatar Comment 4 by ferfuracious

This article is self-reviewing:

"arguments are a disgrace: assertive without substance; demanding evidence while offering none; staggeringly unscholarly."

I am unsure who is the greater moron, Lennox or Tudge:

"if all the physical constants, from the magnitude of gravity to the mass of the proton, had not been exactly right. Of course, we can explain such consistency without invoking intelligence and purpose, but as Lennox shows, the arguments needed to do this are extraordinarily contrived."

Sat, 08 Dec 2007 23:10:00 UTC | #91255

dutchb0y's Avatar Comment 5 by dutchb0y

The "closed system" of sciences' tautology is not closed because the questions are carefully considered, to my mind, or closed at all. Science asks careful questions to make sure the answers (for or against) hold a precise meaning about a precise hypothesis, they need to be rather narrow and definitely testable. What science does right is *keep asking questions*.

Religion asks questions, but do they really shed much new light? Do the conclusions reached often become accepted? In some cases, yes. What is the basis for such decision? Fiat? Focus Groups? Charisma of a religious leader? What is the basis for rejection? Blasphemy?

Science can't "bury" God conclusively, but it doesn't have to. Science is intellectually honest enough to admit that you can't disprove something by it's mere lack of proof of existence. That doesn't mean that it exists, it's much closer to 99.999999% improbable than probable. If people want to live in that 0.000001% it's a personal decision, of course, but I surely hope they don't choose to kill each other over it.

Sat, 08 Dec 2007 23:12:00 UTC | #91256

ADH's Avatar Comment 6 by ADH

Excellent review, excellent book. I wonder when Lennox and Dawkins will cross swords again on British soil. Keep me posted if you get wind of anything.

Sun, 09 Dec 2007 01:37:00 UTC | #91296

Conrad's Avatar Comment 7 by Conrad

Horrible review and from what I've seen of Lennox I can easily assume it is a horrible book.

Everyone here knows sophistry of this kind as it has become old hat and has already answered it in six posts. Is this writer supremely ignorant or willingly dense?

The existence of a god who has any role in our physical universe is a scientific question. A god who by definition has no basis in our universe can be said to not exist. Either way the review is tired and boring for all the same old reasons. It's as if none of these people READ.

Sun, 09 Dec 2007 01:50:00 UTC | #91298

jbblack's Avatar Comment 8 by jbblack

The existence of a god who has any role in our physical universe is a scientific question. A god who by definition has no basis in our universe can be said to not exist. Either way the review is tired and boring for all the same old reasons. It's as if none of these people READ.


Maybe that's the problem. Perhaps we should start presenting our arguments in a form they'll readily understand. Maybe a book with LOTS of pictures and very few big words.

Or perhaps a movie. With lots of car chases and exploding things.

Sun, 09 Dec 2007 02:09:00 UTC | #91299

The Energist's Avatar Comment 9 by The Energist

How irritating. As Conrad says, do these people read? Every one of these arguments has been comprehensively dealt with, not least in The God Delusion but many times elsewhere too.

The thing that gets me is that even if the 'transcendental' were required to explain the universe, or the origin of life for example, this in no way indicates the existence of the Abrahamic God, which is what they are not-so-subtly insinuating.

Of course the universe could not function 'properly' if the physical constraints had not been 'right' but is it possible for them to be any other way? They are in balance with one another, keeping each other in check. And of course, suggesting a god of some sort carefully balanced them all at the beginning of the universe does nothing but push the question back onto this god.

As a scientist-in-training, it's the fact that there is still so much left to understand that drives me. We can only see such a small part of the electromagnetic spectrum with our eyes, and then you have the postulated dark matter and energy. In time and with effort these things will be better understood, and I expect they are more astounding than we can imagine, but there is no need to invoke the supernatural to explain them.

Maybe these apologists would get together and actually think up a novel argument instead of restating the same old stuff time and time again.

Sun, 09 Dec 2007 02:57:00 UTC | #91311

drive1's Avatar Comment 10 by drive1

It is perfectly rational to propose that the universe is indeed without purpose - that what we see is all there is.

There's your problem, Mr Tudge. You carelessly inserted the term 'purpose' and gave it a bizarre definition. This is how strawmen are created.

Sun, 09 Dec 2007 03:31:00 UTC | #91321

celestialtea's Avatar Comment 11 by celestialtea

*yawns*
It would save a lot of time if these people just used a number system for their arguments. Something like 1=argument from complexity, 2=non-overlapping magisteria, 3=personal revelation, etc. Instead of wasting our time and theirs, they could simply say, "1, 3, 7, 2, 1" (Maybe 7 is going too far), we could point them to the relevant chapters of TGD and leave them to it.

Sun, 09 Dec 2007 03:37:00 UTC | #91323

Diacanu's Avatar Comment 12 by Diacanu

The religites have no arguments left, and they know it.
So, I think they're going for a coordinated relay bombardment tactic.

Sun, 09 Dec 2007 03:43:00 UTC | #91324

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 13 by Steve Zara

They are in balance with one another, keeping each other in check


Sorry... are they? Does the charge on the proton somehow influence the strength of gravity?

Sun, 09 Dec 2007 03:51:00 UTC | #91326

briancoughlanworldcitizen's Avatar Comment 14 by briancoughlanworldcitizen

7. Comment #95695 by ADH on December 9, 2007 at 1:37 am
Excellent review, excellent book. I wonder when Lennox and Dawkins will cross swords again on British soil. Keep me posted if you get wind of anything.


You liked the review? I found it simply to be more of the same. I must confess to never having read the book, but based on the review I can't say I'm particularly motivated to.

What about this review impressed you? Perhaps you can help me to see what I'm missing:-)

Sun, 09 Dec 2007 03:52:00 UTC | #91327

alexmzk's Avatar Comment 15 by alexmzk

ouch, where to start?

Ironically, these arguments break the rule of parsimony - always opt for the simplest explanation - which lies at the heart of science itself.

it is simpler to assume that the laws of nature are responsible for themselves, which is what we see everyday, than to assume that an extra-physical dimension exists which we are unable to witness, yet which managed to (somehow) order our very normal realm of existence to an extremely specific degree. don't even start on how that extra-physical dimension started.

Sun, 09 Dec 2007 03:56:00 UTC | #91328

brian thomson's Avatar Comment 16 by brian thomson

Yet Atkins, as a professor of science, must be aware of Sir Peter Medawar's famous adage, adapted from Bismarck, "Science is the art of the soluble". Scientists study only those aspects of the universe that it is within their gift to study: what is observable; what is measurable and amenable to statistical analysis; and, indeed, what they can afford to study within the means and time available. Science thus emerges as a giant tautology, a "closed system". It can present us with robust answers only because its practitioners take very great care to tailor the questions.

Non-sequitur, anyone? Because we have practical limits on the amount of science we can do in a year, or a decade, that makes it a closed system? Does the author imagine that scientists actually wanted quantum theory, or Big Bang theory? They caused more problems than they resolved - even giving these fleas the gaps they try to exploit - but we have to work with them because they sprung directly from available evidence. This must be some new definition of "closed" that I was not previously aware of.

Sun, 09 Dec 2007 04:06:00 UTC | #91332

PrimeNumbers's Avatar Comment 17 by PrimeNumbers

Science, the process, can investigate any phenomena we can perceive. Are there things science can't tell us - yes. But does it matter? No, because religion and faith can't tell us anything at all useful. Religion mixes truth, if it has any, with human desires, in such a way that one cannot tell one from the other.

Any religious answer to a problem basically boils down to "godditit", and that is not an answer, but merely begs the question of "god?", and that is not answered by "godditit" unless you're postulating an infinite regress of gods.

Sun, 09 Dec 2007 04:14:00 UTC | #91335

briancoughlanworldcitizen's Avatar Comment 18 by briancoughlanworldcitizen

More specifically, Dawkins famously showed that it is possible to build a computer model that could generate huge complexity - analogous in an arm-waving way to the complexity of nature - just by applying an all-purpose rule, an algorithm, that simulated natural selection. Indeed, says Lennox. But the algorithm works only because it has been very carefully designed - by Dawkins.

Is this not the most breathtakingly inane comment? How else would Dawkins or anyone conduct experiments? The very nature of experiment is design, every single naturally occurring process we have determined with certainty as "natural" was determined by "designed" experiments.

This commentary implies that every incident of weather, lightening, earthquakes etc., etc. are "designed" too, when we know that this is nonsense.

It's just the same infinite regress as usual. Am I missing something here?

Sun, 09 Dec 2007 04:16:00 UTC | #91336

Diacanu's Avatar Comment 19 by Diacanu

PrimeNumbers-

Religion mixes truth, if it has any, with human desires,


And what a sad sorry bunch of desires they are.

Misogyny, patriarchy, dictatorship, conquest, subordination, repression, the desire for immortality, sadism, masochism, revenge, jealousy, sexual repression, conformity, out-group violence, out-group covetousness, solipsism, scapegoating, etc, etc.

Sun, 09 Dec 2007 04:23:00 UTC | #91337

mmurray's Avatar Comment 20 by mmurray

Indeed, atheism - when you boil it down - is little more than dogma: simple denial, a refusal to take seriously the proposition that there could be more to the universe than meets the eye.


This is such utter crap. Atheism is about refusing to take seriously the proposition that there could be more to the universe than meets the eye unless someone produces some evidence.

You have to figure these people type these kinds of reviews with only one hand on the keyboard.

Michael

Sun, 09 Dec 2007 04:47:00 UTC | #91340

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 22 by Steve Zara

This is such utter crap. Atheism is about refusing to take seriously the proposition that there could be more to the universe than meets the eye unless someone produces some evidence.


Well, I am perfectly open to there being more to the universe than meets the eye, just that I am just rather suspicious when someone claims to not know what that 'more' is, but that they speak to it.

Sun, 09 Dec 2007 04:56:00 UTC | #91342

smithyboy's Avatar Comment 21 by smithyboy

mmurray, are you sure it is their hand?

Sun, 09 Dec 2007 04:56:00 UTC | #91341

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 23 by Steve Zara

Is this not the most breathtakingly inane comment?


I would say it not just that - it is an astonishingly ignorant comment. We don't just assume some finely-tailored algorithm can produce complexity - we see it all the time in nature, and not just in living systems. The writer seems to want us to believe that life is a special case; too complex to have arisen from the laws of physics and chemistry. That is shameful for someone who is supposed to be a science writer.

Sun, 09 Dec 2007 05:05:00 UTC | #91343

smithyboy's Avatar Comment 24 by smithyboy

Who is Colin Tudge? He can't possibly be a scientist can he? Sounds like he has virtually no understanding of the 'algorithm' of natural selection.

If Dawkins could show how the algorithm that has produced the living world could arise spontaneously, then he would have gone a long way to making his point. As things stand, he has not begun even to address it.


What an extraordinary claim. All that is needed is things making imperfect copies of themselves, ie replicating. Once doing that, the living world eventually arises. This has clearly been shown again and again.

Sun, 09 Dec 2007 05:08:00 UTC | #91344

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 25 by Steve Zara

Who is Colin Tudge? He can't possibly be a scientist can he?


I am afraid so. Hard to believe, but he was trained as a biologist, and has been writing science books all his life. I can't see this review helping with that career.

Sun, 09 Dec 2007 05:13:00 UTC | #91346

Paula Kirby's Avatar Comment 26 by Paula Kirby

So scientists can't bottom out the mysteries of the universe by empirical experiment and investigation, but the religious can do it by closing eyes, lighting candles and singing Kum By Ya? Who wouldn't be convinced by such a strong argument?

Sun, 09 Dec 2007 05:29:00 UTC | #91350

scottishgeologist's Avatar Comment 27 by scottishgeologist

First came across reviews of this book on Amazon. You all might like to see what your old chum David "Wee Flea" Robertson (banned from this site I believe?) has to say about it- (its on this Amazon page, second one down):

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A17G1ZDVI3CXE1?ie=UTF8&sort_by=MostRecentReview



But just one point on that review above:

Religion, by contrast, accepts the limitations of our senses and brains and posits at least the possibility that there is more going on than meets the eye - a meta-dimension that might be called transcendental. Dawkins talks of religion not simply as "faith" but as "blind faith" - yet this, as Lennox points out, is a simple calumny. The greatest theologians, beginning at least as early as St Paul and continuing through Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas and Newman and again into modern times, have never been "blind". All have stressed the need to take account of the facts of the case (the thing that science is good at) and to engage the intellect: absolutely not to believe things blindly


This is rubbish. The story of Doubting Thomas makes it abundantly clear that "blind" faith is commendable. Thomas wanted to SEE the wounds in Christs hands and side. In other words to use his ocular sensors to empirically determine that what he was seeing was what he was getting!

If there is absolutely no way of measuring or evaluating something, how on earth are we meant to know that what we are being presented with is the "truth" and not some made up fairy-pish?

FFS, give me a hard surface, i need to bang my head....

Sun, 09 Dec 2007 06:31:00 UTC | #91357

Dr Benway's Avatar Comment 28 by Dr Benway

For all the great founders of modern science - Galileo, Newton, Descartes, Robert Boyle, John Ray and their Muslim predecessors - their research was itself an act of reverence.
This argument always annoys me. It suggests a failure to appreciate the scientific ethos. What is science if not a method for transcending subjectivity, for seeing the world from the vantage point of a generic everyman? The sex, race, or religion of the scientist may be of historical or social interest. But such particulars are meaningless from a scientific vantage point.

Boxers or briefs? Not relevant.
Pizza topping favorites? Not relevant.
Trinity or unity? Not relevant.
Honesty? Ah! Yes, relevant to replication and corroboration.
...if all the physical constants, from the magnitude of gravity to the mass of the proton, had not been exactly right.
Again with the fucking fine tuning. Yes, reason allows you a deist god-of-the-gaps for now, if you like.
But the algorithm works only because it has been very carefully designed - by Dawkins.
A second violation of the scientific ethos, I'm afraid. All equations, algorithms, and maps are man-made. Why the special pleading for natural selection? Why not: "Boyle's law only works because it has been very carefully designed - by Boyle."
If Dawkins could show how the algorithm that has produced the living world could arise spontaneously, then he would have gone a long way to making his point.
If Newton could show how the equation that governs planetary motion could arise spontaneously..."

Sun, 09 Dec 2007 06:38:00 UTC | #91358

scottishgeologist's Avatar Comment 29 by scottishgeologist

More Tudge stuff here:

http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/sciences/story/0,,1042375,00.html

This guy sounds liek some sort of liberal. Cant imagine his POV going down to well amongst the evangies...

Sun, 09 Dec 2007 06:41:00 UTC | #91359

Harko's Avatar Comment 30 by Harko

Anyone who describes the work of Daniel Dennett as "staggeringly unscholarly" obviously hasn't read a word of it!

It's so scholarly sometimes, it's painful :-)

Sun, 09 Dec 2007 06:47:00 UTC | #91360