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Comments by foundationist

Go to: A lawsuit too far?

foundationist's Avatar Jump to comment 16 by foundationist

I think this lawsuit is somewhat stupid. Of course it all depends on the exact circumstances, the way the songs were presented, the reason they were selected etc.

Being german, I know only one of the mentioned songs, "He's got the whole world in his hands", which I actually really like. Yes, it repeats itself alot, but it has a very catchy tune, one of those songs that makes you want to sing along and that sticks in the head.

Many of the American spirituals and gospels are great for chorus singing, in particular for children and beginners. "Oh when the saints go marching in" has in my opinion the best and most cheerful tune anyone ever came up with and it would be a real tragedy if American school children would have to have music lessons leaving out what is arguably one of the most influencial music styles in American history. The blues and ultimately all modern rock and pop music stems from these roots.

Long story short, in my opinion this is akin to eliminating the word "nigger" from Mark Twain novels.

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 22:37:53 UTC | #950905

Go to: Manila floods an expression of God's wrath?

foundationist's Avatar Jump to comment 10 by foundationist

Comment 5 by scottishgeologist :

According to an article in The Times, Dow is a specialist in exorcism, explaining in a leaflet entitled Explaining Deliverance that “There is a view that both oral and anal sexual practice is liable to allow entry to spirits

No, I must say I agree with Dow in that respect. Gets my spirits up every time.

Wed, 15 Aug 2012 09:28:24 UTC | #950809

Go to: Indonesian atheist faces long jail sentence for posting "God doesn't exist" on Facebook

foundationist's Avatar Jump to comment 29 by foundationist

Comment 22 by prettygoodformonkeys :

This one is worded well. It sends five emails.

Thanks, that´s an excellentl petition. Please remember to change the subject line before sending the mail. Annoying and inconveniencing decision makers is one of the most important goals of petitions like this.

Fri, 04 May 2012 07:16:04 UTC | #939572

Go to: Indonesian atheist faces long jail sentence for posting "God doesn't exist" on Facebook

foundationist's Avatar Jump to comment 28 by foundationist

Comment 18 by AtheistButt :

That particular petition mentioned by Zeuglodon @15 begins 'We are Indonesian citizens ...' so I don't think it is appropriate. There is another here, but the wording doesn't make much sense.

That´s just the first group of people mentioned in the introduction. It is worded a bit exhaustive I admit.

Fri, 04 May 2012 07:03:25 UTC | #939569

Go to: Indonesian atheist faces long jail sentence for posting "God doesn't exist" on Facebook

foundationist's Avatar Jump to comment 9 by foundationist

Petition calling for the immediate release of Alexander Aan and that all charges against him be dropped:

Thu, 03 May 2012 21:22:03 UTC | #939440

Go to: Great tits join mobs with neighbours they know

foundationist's Avatar Jump to comment 32 by foundationist

Comment 30 by Anvil :

Sorry, Just re-read it. Apologies for the long post.

No, not at all, you have a gift for story telling. I could really envision the scene.

As for your question of inter species cooperation, I don't think that that is what you saw. I'm a complete laymen in these matters, but I would rather assume that the birds only attack stronger birds of prey when the odds are in their favor, so if you see a hawk in trouble in your own territory you try and take him down. That's close to inter species cooperation, but the difference is that the birds don't cooperate with those of the other species, they just take advantage of the situation those birds created. If the hawk had been attacked by kids throwing rocks they might have done the same.

Thu, 26 Apr 2012 11:09:39 UTC | #937441

Go to: It’s Time for the US To Finally Sign the Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty

foundationist's Avatar Jump to comment 5 by foundationist

Comment 2 by mordacious1 :

If you want to watch something scary, watch this:

All nuclear blasts since 1945.

Wow, that was intense. Thanks for the link, a useful illustration so that we don´t forget what we are really talking about. The cold war really got so far out of proportion that the scale of the problem really is beyond human comprehension.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 23:07:58 UTC | #937362

Go to: Great tits join mobs with neighbours they know

foundationist's Avatar Jump to comment 21 by foundationist

Comment 11 by Anvil :

I see this all the time from my office window - how lucky am I!.

Watching the interactions of birds, both resident and migratory is taking up more and more of my working day. One only hopes I win the lottery soon as something has to pay for me turning into a twitcher.

Yeah, I know how you feel. Only yesterday I spent a good fifteen minutes watching two magpies ganging up against a crow they were trying to chase away from their tree. Then a second crow landed on the tree and although it didn´t show any signs of joining in, the magpies immediately ceased to attack and fled after the first crow made a minor move in their direction. A trivial observation, but still full of drama and interest when it´s right in front of you.

The most scenic air-battle I witnessed up to now was a group of crows ganging up on an eagle who was circling over the Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto at dusk.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 20:53:44 UTC | #937328

Go to: Following the Crowd Isn’t Just for Teenagers

foundationist's Avatar Jump to comment 9 by foundationist

Comment 1 by Red Dog :

Are Orangutans roughly equivalent to Chimps as far as general intelligence goes?

That´s a tricky question, because there is no single meter for as complex and multi-facetted a quality like inteligence. If I remember correctly Orangutans are worse than Chimps at self-recognition, but the only great Apes (except us) who are able to solve the puzzle were a treat is placed behind one of two transparent doors in such a way, that if the door is opened, the treat will fall into a trap (I hope you understand that description, its hard to do without drawing, the solution is to reach through the second door, i.e. chose the indirect route to a treat that´s lying in plain sight in front of your eyes).

On other measures for inteligence, like being able to rotate geometric figures in their head, dolphins are the most inteligent creatures on this planet. They are even better at this than we are.

Fri, 20 Apr 2012 07:06:01 UTC | #935970

Go to: Easter: A day of renewal, from many points of view

foundationist's Avatar Jump to comment 18 by foundationist

Happy Easter to all of you.

In Germany we don´t have Cadbury´s cream eggs, but I´ve heard good things...

On the other hand we have a tradition that is one of the best holiday traditions for children ever invented. The Easter Bunny supposedly hides chocolate eggs somewhere in the garden or in the park and parents go with their kids to look for them. If you have small children who are not good with numbers and are trusting enough to let you carry their egg basket, your kids can find the same egg up to three times...

Tue, 10 Apr 2012 07:25:29 UTC | #933569

Go to: Despite oppression, Black atheists fight to be heard

foundationist's Avatar Jump to comment 30 by foundationist

All the best Sean, we feel for you!

The discussion here is quite interesting, both on the question of racism/labeling and on the historical development of the high level of believe among African Americans.

On the racism point: I once read of a psychological effect that throws a somewhat dubious light on our ability to overcome racial prejudice anytime soon. I forget the name of that effect but it has to do with how we recognize and memorize faces. Apparently we take an average of all the faces we see during our early years or even just months to store an image of "the normal human appearance". We then memorize faces by the deviations from this average. A long nose means longer than the average, small and fat means smaller and fatter than the average etc. Especially with superficial aquaintances we only memorize the two or three most striking deviations. Since most of us spend our childhood in an environment where we are mainly surrounded by people of one ethnic group and one facial type we later experience the infamous "all Chinese look the same" effect. And since individuality is a measure of humanity we automatically dehumanize people with other face types or skin colors. I think as long as races are still largely distributed unevenly in the world and even within countries or cities we will have to struggle with this.

On the point of religion among African Americans: Has anyone ever looked at the relative amount of believers among different social groups of African Americans? Since religious believe is strongly correlated with both income and education, a lot of the high religiosity among blacks is probably an epiphenomenon caused by the fact that poverty and poor education is much more widespread among black Americans. Are the poor working class blacks really more religious than the poor working class whites? Are black scientists from rich upper class families more likely to be religious than their white colleagues?

Wed, 04 Apr 2012 21:03:17 UTC | #932433

Go to: Three articles by Steven Pinker, Russell Blackford and John Gray

foundationist's Avatar Jump to comment 27 by foundationist

Very interesting article by Pinker. I´m gonna buy that book for sure. Have any of you actually read it? Do you know wether Pinker took the warrior age effect into account? That means, since serious violence is almost exclusively done by men between 13 and 30 you have to divide the relative violence in a society by the relative size of that group to see wether the trend is not just due to the fact that thanks to advances in medicine we now have more people who are just not good with a baseball bat. This should have a considerable effect in particular over the last two or three centuries, during Pinkers third significant decrease in violence? Has he corrected for this?

Fri, 30 Mar 2012 09:26:12 UTC | #931319

Go to: Untrue Reason -- re Naturalism

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Comment 19 by JoxerTheMighty :

If you don't mind explaining, isn't the Multiverse(which many accept as plausible) the hypothesis that there are indeed "knobs", and that each twist of each knob produces another universe/reality, according to our model? How come the multiverse then isn't considered a fallacy?

The multiverse hypothesis was not primarily considered as a solution to the fine tuning problem, the existence of many universes follows form certain theories about the nature and the beginning of our universe, its a consequence of certain aspects of quantum field theory. And the footing of this hypothesis is rather poor compared to the attention it gets. I think the best answer to the question why the fundamental constants are the way they are is "We don't know. Yet."

I wouldn't advice any theist younger than 70 to write a book based on the fine tuning argument, because there is a large chance he will live to see at least part of it come apart, when we start understanding it.

Wed, 21 Mar 2012 17:17:06 UTC | #929337

Go to: Untrue Reason -- re Naturalism

foundationist's Avatar Jump to comment 18 by foundationist

Yes, I know there are those who want to define the Supernatural out of existence, but you can't do that without complete knowledge of the Universe.

As a member of the fraction that does define the supernatural out of existence (coincidentally we were just having a discussion about this here) I object to that. Defining the supernatural out of existence doesn't imply that, say, people can't walk on water, it just says we are always entitled to ask the question how people walk on water and try to find an answer to that. That's of course just semantics, but I find it important.

That's why I have a certain respect for medieval theologians. They were the first to try to make sense out of a mythological world view. One might disregard them for holding this world view in the first place, but if you believe in the existence of angels, then the question what they are like, or, more poetically, how many of them can dance on a pinhead, is a very good question. Indeed, I think that we owe a lot of the breakthroughs of the enlightenment to these folks. You can only realize that it's impossible to square the circle of making sense of a worldview that was never intended to make sense of anything when you try and fail.

Wed, 21 Mar 2012 15:00:00 UTC | #929298

Go to: Supernatural? What does that even mean?

foundationist's Avatar Jump to comment 49 by foundationist

Comment 39 by Schrodinger's Cat :

Oh dear. Illogical semantics do get me so riled. I guess that comes from being simultaneously alive and dead. Let's deconstruct the illogic.......

Clearly, if one defines everything that exists within nature as natural, and nature as encompassing the entire universe, then by definition 'the supernatural' does not exist.

That is not a so many seem to think it is..... that things 'defined as' supernatural do not exist. It is simply a proof that if something defined as supernatural does exist then it is a natural phenomenon and not a supernaural one.

Thus it is not logical to argue 'ghosts don't exist because the supernatural does not exist'. It makes no sense to argue that something doesn't exist solely by virtue of you shoving it into a category that semantically means 'doesn't exist'.

It is a valid argument to say 'ghosts don't exist because there is no scientific evidence that they do'......and I wish people would just say that rather than confounding the whole issue with 'the supernatural'.

That was precisely what I was trying to say in posting this. I am fairly certain (99.99%) that ghosts don´t exist because of the lack of evidence for their existence, the fact that all we know about the workings of the universe speaks against the existence of ghosts and that the amount and nature of evidence we have for ghosts is exactly what we would expect given the nature of the human psyche.

But by using my definition of nature they would be part of nature and if I were ever to be convinced they did exist I would imediately jump to the question how they work. What are they made of? How does their consciousness work? etc.

I recently discovered a nice pastime for idle hours. Take a "supernatural" claim, like a miracle from the bible, and try to imagine how you would work it even if you could violate physics. My favourite at the moment is the walking on water bit. Even if I could alter fundamental physical laws and properties it´s far from trivial.

Wed, 21 Mar 2012 12:03:56 UTC | #929246

Go to: Supernatural? What does that even mean?

foundationist's Avatar Jump to comment 30 by foundationist

Comment 29 by Eyem4Christ :

Well, you can’t do that, for instance, with consciousness. You can’t make an experiment to prove whether or not I am actually conscious, and I can’t make one to prove you are conscious. We just have to take it on faith.

Cognitive scientists, AI researchers and the neural sciences do precisely that. In my opinion the best experiment to prove consciousness is the famous Turing test, proposed by Alan Turing. If nobody is able to tell the difference between a conscious being and a computer program, that program is conscious.

Tue, 20 Mar 2012 09:17:52 UTC | #928881

Go to: Supernatural? What does that even mean?

foundationist's Avatar Jump to comment 28 by foundationist

Comment 23 by Eyem4Christ :

For instance, justice is not a physical thing. So, you can't set up a labratory to study justice. You can't do experiments on justice. Justice is a mental concept, nothing more. But it is considered a real thing.

Justice is not a rock. It is a construct, that by and large is an expression of our sense of morality. The question how morality arises, both neurologically and evolutionary, is being studied by many scientists as we speak. Bot in laboratories and computer simulations. The same goes for the question as to how our mind makes up concepts. All of it is subject to scientific investigation.

Tue, 20 Mar 2012 08:41:53 UTC | #928870

Go to: Supernatural? What does that even mean?

foundationist's Avatar Jump to comment 21 by foundationist

Thanks to Eyem4Christ for making my point for me. To just declare certain things to lie "beyond physics" or having "nothing to do with physics" is precisely what I´m talking about. Even intelligent people like John Lennox make the same mistake. Love and consciousness - the latter, of course, being the prerequisite of justice - are the most commonly used objects of "supernaturalism".

I´m fairly certain (about 99.99%) that both consciousness and love can be explained by already known physics, chemistry and biology. Since they are both rather complex phenomena, the explanation is going to be very intricate and multi levelled, but cognitive scientists and neurobiologists are making progress by leaps and bounces. Whoever says these things lie beyond science is betting against two complete branches of science, not a smart move in the long run.

However, even if it would some day turn out, that the human mind does not arise solely from the biochemical processes in brain and body, but really was a sort of otherworldly wisp, we could still try to investigate and understand it. It would fall into my definition of nature as given above, and we could attempt to work out, how it can control neural activities or what its inner structure is. "Beyond physics" is always just a lazy surrender.

Tue, 20 Mar 2012 07:43:56 UTC | #928858

Go to: A Challenge to Make Science Crystal Clear

foundationist's Avatar Jump to comment 12 by foundationist

I think Richard Feynman put it most beautifully: The light from the flame is recycled sunlight! The sunlight is transformed into chemical energy by the process of photosynthesys, the energy is then used to split carbon dioxide into carbon and oxygen, which are energetically less stable, so the energy is stored in these two separate objects, the carbon in the wood and the oxygen in the air. When you set fire to wood you just give the system a little shove and tit goes back into its more stable state, CO2. The stored energy is then released as light again, so it really is second hand sunlight.

Sat, 17 Mar 2012 23:41:15 UTC | #928172

Go to: Scientists Last Supper

foundationist's Avatar Jump to comment 59 by foundationist

Comment 58 by Kevmem84 :

Where are Feynman and Bohr?

On the next table. Together with Euclid, Euler, Copernicus, Gauss, Albertus Magnus, Archimedes, Keppler, Gödel, Maxwell, Heisenberg, and Gutenberg.

Sat, 17 Mar 2012 19:34:02 UTC | #928130

Go to: Scientists Last Supper

foundationist's Avatar Jump to comment 51 by foundationist

Comment 50 by veggiemanuk :

I see calls for Tesla, I would love an explination as to why one would want to include this pseudoscience inducing character.

Well, that would exclude Newton. He was very much into alchemy. And he had an even worse character than Edison.

Fri, 16 Mar 2012 13:24:46 UTC | #927796

Go to: Scientists Last Supper

foundationist's Avatar Jump to comment 49 by foundationist

Comment 43 by blitz442 :

I thought that Maxwell's equations did that.

No, they just formulate the interconnectedness, not account for it. The Lorentz force is the calculated as F = q v x B, this means that if you have for instance an electric current in a wire that creates a circular magnetic field and a test charge q moving in a direction v parallel to the wire it will experience a Force F perpendicular to the wire (either towards it or away from it, depending on the sign of q, B and v). But wait a second, if all motion is relative, then you could make the same measurement in the rest frame of the test charge, where v=0 and you don't have a force. So one observer would see a movement of the test charge perpendicular to the wire, the other one wouldn't. That is obviously nonsense.

Einstein postulated the Lorentz contraction of space, that contracts space depending on how fast you move relative to the measured object. Let's for the sake of simplicity assume that the wire is a semiconducting one, so that the current consists of negatively charged electrons moving in one direction and positively charged holes moving at the same speed in the opposite direction. In the rest frame of the wire, both types of charges have the same distance and the wire is electrically neutral. But in the rest frame of the moving charge, the electrons move with a different speed than the holes and, hence the Lorentz contraction and ergo the distance between them is different. The wire becomes electrically charged and the test charge experiences a force perpendicular to the wire. In Einsteins 1905 paper "Von der Elektrodynamik bewegter Körper" he demonstrated that the Lorentz force is exactly equal to the effect of the Lorentz contraction due to the movement of the test charge.

This also explains why the vacuum speed of light appears in Maxwell's euqations (1/squareroot(epsilon0*my0)=c). A constant velocity appearing in fundamental physical laws makes no sense in Newtonian physics, were all movement is truly relative. That's why physicists postulated the ether, it was supposed to be the universal frame of reference that makes sense of that constant velocity. Einstein did away with all that.

Fri, 16 Mar 2012 09:14:37 UTC | #927743

Go to: Scientists Last Supper

foundationist's Avatar Jump to comment 42 by foundationist

Albert Einstein – Besides owning a chain of bagel stores, Einstein was a Theoretical Physicist. His contributions include Special Theory of Relativity which proposed that all motion is relative and that there is no absolute state of rest.

That´s not true. The fact that all motion is relative and that there is no absolute state of rest is part of Newtonian Physics. It´s the discovery that the speed of light is not relative that is the basis of Special Relativity. From this then follows that time and space are relative and depend on the relative motion of the observer and the observed objects. It also explains the Lorentz force and the interconnectedness of electricity and magnetism, which were not accounted for in pre-Einsteinian physics.

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 22:01:40 UTC | #927613

Go to: Does Conservatism Have to Be Synonymous With Ignorance?

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Comment 14 by danconquer :

"Does Conservatism Have to Be Synonymous With Ignorance?"

It's a good, pithy question. And the answer I suspect is that, yes, there is degree of inevitability in the two being synonymous.

Conservatism takes the natural human desire to conserve certain things and turns it into an almost fetishistic position against change, against evolution in human relations and behaviours. One seeks, by default, to prevent evolution in culture, in ideas, in techniques (unless, of course, those changes happen to permit personal enrichment, at which point monetarist selfishness suddenly trumps any desire to conserve).

How can seeking to maintain something solely because 'that is how things have always been' possibly not lead into blind-alleys of ignorance? Trying to hold back the mutation of ideas and cultures is about as pointless and self-defeating as trying to prevent the mutation of genes. Just look at all the things that even European conservatives were opposing a few hundred years ago (opposition which is never apologised for nor mentioned today) to get a flavour of the sort of ignorant stagnation that unchallenged political conservatism leads to.

I never thought that I would eventually end up defending conservativism, but I don't think that's nessecarily true. Smart conservativism can check ideas for their merrit and embrace them when they are worth embracing. A smart conservative is then merely a person who is all in all happy with the status quo and thinks that the current state of society is a good one and largely deserves to be preserved.

Of course in reality conservative groups have always had their share of reactionaries who desired to hold on to traditions just for the sake of tradition, but on the other hand the progressive groups have always had their share of revolutionaries, who despised almost everything in the status quo so much they wanted to throw it all away just because it was the present state of society. Just think of the New Soviet Man or the French Revolutionary Calendar.

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 11:07:25 UTC | #927412

Go to: Sean Faircloth talks about Catholicism at Notre Dame

foundationist's Avatar Jump to comment 4 by foundationist

Was there a question session after this talk? I´d very much like to hear that.

Tue, 13 Mar 2012 23:31:44 UTC | #926796

Go to: Science book delayed when someone notices it's written by creationists

foundationist's Avatar Jump to comment 31 by foundationist

Comment 3 by Alan4discussion :

$179 for pure crapology! I can get better biological information from composted lawn-mowings!

That´s not saying much. Composted lawn-mowings can give you more biological information than even very well-made research papers....

Sun, 11 Mar 2012 20:27:05 UTC | #926241

Go to: Petition: Guarantee human rights in Tunisia’s new constitution

foundationist's Avatar Jump to comment 13 by foundationist

Comment 12 by Alan4discussion :

Starting a civil war was never a basis for improving human rights!

Well, not exactly never. There are numerous examples in history where starting a revolution and overthrowing an oppressive regime has improved human rights by leaps and bounces. The example nearest to hand is of course the USA, but there are many others, like Haiti or India, even Russia, both in 1917 and 1991, and Gemany in 1918.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 20:56:39 UTC | #925966

Go to: Petition: Guarantee human rights in Tunisia’s new constitution

foundationist's Avatar Jump to comment 3 by foundationist

Comment 2 by AtheistEgbert :

I consider any Islamic involvement in the state, especially Islam, as eventually leading towards a radical and fundamentalist Islamic society. I don't know of any stable and successful Islamic country that has progressed independently towards its own Enlightenment.

Yes, that is a very worrying prospect, and I surely hope that the final draft of the constitution won't have any requirements of religious affiliation for holding a particular office, and if it did that would be a real evil that we should campaign against.

But I think every item on the list drafted by AI that's going to make it into the final costitution will be a step in the right direction, so let's hope for the best.

Thu, 08 Mar 2012 20:36:06 UTC | #925457

Go to: Afghan clerics' guidelines 'a green light for Talibanisation'

foundationist's Avatar Jump to comment 40 by foundationist

Comment 39 by tchatzenbuhler :

The situation is quite sad when this is considered as a positive aspect of Karzai's edicts:

The situation is quite sad. This denouncing of forced marriage is a red herring. They are not against arranged marriage, and consent is generally assumed. And if the daughter doesn´t consent, then she is a bad girl and deserves some disciplining. But forced marriage, oh no, we are of course against that! It just makes you wanna puke.

Wed, 07 Mar 2012 17:36:31 UTC | #925177

Go to: Afghan clerics' guidelines 'a green light for Talibanisation'

foundationist's Avatar Jump to comment 25 by foundationist

The problem with the war in Afghanistan is that, although politicians of all parties involved constantly went on and on about the importance of civil reconstruction efforts and the strengthening of Afghan civil society, the amount of money put into this is practically nil compared to the ridiculous sums spent on weapons and bombs, many of which were handed out to criminal warlords, corrupt fascists and their respective militias.

More care in the choice of our allies and way more effort and money spent on fighting corruption together with a program to reduce the horrific number of weapons in this country would be a start.

How can you hope to construct anything resembling a stable society if you make allies of the scum of the earth (General Rashid Dostum springs to mind here) and make fundamental human rights negotiable? A more principled approach, which would have shown the people in Afghanistan, and, for that matter, the people here in the West, that the coalition was really fighting for the values that the war propaganda said it was, might have done the trick. But defeating the enemy was again the sole priority of the war and everything that accompanied it.

Wed, 07 Mar 2012 12:12:26 UTC | #925108