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← Whither Eagleman?

Tord M's Avatar Jump to comment 8 by Tord M

I agree completely with Sam Harris on this one. I just wish Harris wasn't so polite. "Possibilianism" is such a "feel good", "inspiring" word. There is nothing wrong with feeling good or inspired, of course, but to me "possiblitianism" sounds just like very positively charged, but completely useless, superfluous and meaningless word. His TEDx speech probably gives many people a feeling of enthusiasm, but did he actually say anything useful about anything?

Eagleman's own description of possibilianism (from his web page):

Our ignorance of the cosmos is too vast to commit to atheism, and yet we know too much to commit to a particular religion. A third position, agnosticism, is often an uninteresting stance in which a person simply questions whether his traditional religious story (say, a man with a beard on a cloud) is true or not true.

What is "commit to atheism" supposed to mean? Are there really people who "commit to atheism"? What atheists usually say is that we have no reasons or evidence to believe in gods or the supernatural, while there is loads of counter evidence for all testable theistic claims, so therefor we simply don't believe in them. I wouldn't call that "committing to atheism", I would call it "committing to reason", and I hope Eagleman is not opposed to committing to reason, but maybe he is?

And he goes on:

But with Possibilianism I'm hoping to define a new position -- one that emphasizes the exploration of new, unconsidered possibilities. Possibilianism is comfortable holding multiple ideas in mind; it is not interested in committing to any particular story.

Is the "exploration of new, unconsidered possibilities" really a new position? Isn't that what science has been doing for centuries? And if you are doing science, then of course you should be able to "hold multiple ideas in mind", and you should not initially "commit to any particular idea or story", and you should always be prepared to reconsider. But even if it's good to keep an open mind, I see nothing wrong in feeling committed to reason and evidence, and surely there are more reasons and evidence for some stories than for others, and some stories just have so much evidence and and so many reasons going against them, that they are no longer worth keeping in mind. They would just take up useful space and brainpower. Religions are the prime example of such stories.

Eagleman obviously has some talent as an inspirational speaker. I just wish he has something worth saying.

Wed, 31 Aug 2011 19:12:21 UTC | #865969