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Comments by Kasterfin

Go to: Important Research into Sophisticated Theology

Kasterfin's Avatar Jump to comment 31 by Kasterfin

Although I scored mostly 2's, I felt like I should give my own answers more fully (and seriously);

The Archbishop of Canterbury, leading theologian of the Church of England, describes his faith as a “silent waiting on the truth, pure sitting and breathing in the presence of the question mark”.

This is really typical theological evasion. Though I don't really know what this means, I guess it's referring to the way believers are expected to live with 'mystery'. Julian Baggini wrote an excellent piece on this particular quote.

Sophisticated theologian John Haught can transcend the religious/science debate over a cup of tea. He says (in a debate with Jerry Coyne) “a simple example would be a teapot. Suppose a teapot is boiling on your stove and someone comes into the room and says, explain to me why that's boiling. Well, one explanation would be its boiling because the water molecules are moving around excitedly and the liquid state is being transformed into gas. But at the same time you could just as easily have answered that question by saying, it's boiling because my wife turned the gas on. Or you could also answer that same question by saying it's boiling because I want tea.”

This isn't as stupid as it looks, surprisingly. What Haught is trying to say is that intentional explanations and physical ones can be separated. But, while this is superficially the case, it isn't true if you really wanted to analyze it. In the end, it all comes down to physics, after all. With enough psychology and neuroscience you could explain the behavior of the wife wanting a cup of tea.

Top theologian and darling of philosophical theology William Lane Craig thinks that the Israeli soldiers sent to butcher all that was alive in Canaan should receive psychological counseling (my emphasis) “So whom does God wrong in commanding the destruction of the Canaanites? Not the Canaanite adults, for they were corrupt and deserving of judgment. Not the children, for they inherit eternal life. So who is wronged? Ironically, I think the most difficult part of this whole debate is the apparent wrong done to the Israeli soldiers themselves. Can you imagine what it would be like to have to break into some house and kill a terrified woman and her children? The brutalizing effect on these Israeli soldiers is disturbing"

Many people are mystified as to how an intelligent and apparently humane (since he’s on the other end of 3000 years worth of social progress, democracy and secular enlightenment) person like Craig can sincerely believe these vile rationalizations, and what's more hold them up as an example of a morally good act. The flaw in Craig’s thought is very simple - Divine command ethics is absurd. If you really do believe that morality stems from God, literally, then the vilest acts of genocide become good the instant God orders you to do them. Divine command ethics is nothing more than submission to the most powerful of all the bullies - not the Dear Leader, or the Führer, but the omnipotent Authority. And it's no more justifiable. When I read Craig's absurd excuse for morality, I see what Thomas Nagel meant when he said

It isn't just that I don't believe in God and, naturally, hope that I'm right in my belief. It's that I hope there is no God! I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that

-

That splendid fellow, the Archbishop of Canterbury, describes god as a very complex being.

Dr Williams clearly hasn't thought it through. I don't know the context so I can't really comment.

Ubertheologian Alvin Plantinga quotes Aquinas in describing god as a very simply being: “… is God complex? According to much classical theology (Thomas Aquinas, for example) God is simple, and simple in a very strong sense, so that in him there is no distinction of thing and property, actuality and potentiality, essence and existence, and the like”

This is just the classic mistake of assuming a disembodied mind is simple. I would refer Plantinga to Darwin's Dangerous Idea.

Sat, 31 Dec 2011 12:46:54 UTC | #904032

Go to: Afterword from Lawrence Krauss' New Book - A Universe From Nothing

Kasterfin's Avatar Jump to comment 20 by Kasterfin

Whilst I will definitely be buying Krauss' book merely for the Physics, and for Krauss' excellently clear and incisive writing, I still feel that there is a role for the 'armchair philosopher' in this final vanquishing of the supernaturalist. Unfortunately, it is not true that quantum gravity, or any such theory, leaves absolutely nothing unexplained. There will have to be some very minimal brute fact somewhere down along the line - the existence of the initial singularity, the timeless state the universe existed in 'before' real time took over from imaginary time (in the hartle-hawking model), the space-time foam etc, as theologians gleefully point out.

However, this initial 'something' really is an uncaused cause; we know this because at the 'moment' of creation our concepts of space and time break down. Despite the insistence of some physics-ignorant theologians, there is NO TIME in which a creator can create the universe.

It is not true to say that we atheists believe that 'being arises out of absolute non-being' (as WLC once said in his debate with Krauss), merely that the universe IS (there was no time at which it didn't exist) and performed 'the ultimate bootstrapping trick' (as Dennett says) - assembling itself away from very nearly nothing, but only nearly nothing.

Needless to say, this 'nearly-nothing' is a far, far, easier brute fact to accept than an alternately timeless and not timeless disembodied omnipotent mind. The mistake all theologians make, and which philosophers like Hume pointed out long before we actually found the real explanations, is in thinking of 'mind' as something simple and fundamental that can be a cause, rather than a very complex effect that has to be explained.

Sat, 31 Dec 2011 12:06:04 UTC | #904025

Go to: Royal Society journal archive made permanently free to access

Kasterfin's Avatar Jump to comment 3 by Kasterfin

Have just downloaded a PDF of the first scientific journal ever published - amazing!

Wed, 26 Oct 2011 15:48:11 UTC | #884309

Go to: It's much better to let a Somalian die

Kasterfin's Avatar Jump to comment 1 by Kasterfin

Ugh... What can you say? Other than this is one of the most extreme examples of religion-driven ethical myopia.

Mon, 15 Aug 2011 11:41:24 UTC | #861259

Go to: William Lane Craig - for children

Kasterfin's Avatar Jump to comment 26 by Kasterfin

@ Comment 24

I'm not very good with these things - could you spell it out?

Thu, 11 Aug 2011 12:31:32 UTC | #860046

Go to: William Lane Craig - for children

Kasterfin's Avatar Jump to comment 23 by Kasterfin

Oh dear... Apologetics- even the name shows that it's nothing more than logical and philosophical tricks-of-the-light that do nothing more than rationalize.

He sent me a stack of the worksheets which the children had completed in their childish handwriting, and they were so precious to read!

"PRECIOUS"! Yuck. Would you let this man within ten yards of any child you cared for?

Richard

It is a very unusual choice of words, indeed.

I do think we do need to divert some resources to a rather rigorous debunking of Craig's arguments. Richard didn't deal specifically with Craig pet Kalam argument in the God Delusion (other than a remark right at the end of chapter 4), as Craig gleefully points out at every opportunity.

Let me have a go;

Craig advertises the argument as 'very simple'; 1) Everything that begins to exist has a cause 2) The universe began to exist 3) The universe has a cause

Now, it doesn't stay simple for long, as premises 1 and 2 both use fifth century assumptions about causality and extend them way beyond their breaking point. But I'll skip this as it's been done to death by physicists like Stephen Hawking.

The most apparent flaw is in fact the use of 'conceptual analysis' to identify the 'cause' with God - a personal, omnipotent being. It's just nonsense to automatically identify the cause with God, but just where is the trick card being played?

The hidden assumption goes something like this;

'A mind's ideas may be complex, but a mind itself is a remarkably simple thing, being an immaterial entity not composed of pieces or separable parts.'

What champions of the Kalam argument do is assume that 'mind' deserves a place right at the base of reality along with space, time and so on. For example, Craig's 'conceptual analysis' argument includes the claim that because the big bang occurred at a particular time there must have been an intelligent, timeless 'agent' who 'freely chose' to create the universe. (this was in his 'refutation' of Richard's arguments in the god delusion) There is no such thing as a 'freely choosing' agent in the sense of an immaterial thing that creates causes without effects.

We don't have any such agent sitting in our own minds, as Theists tacitly assume, so there's no reason to grant God one. If the mind really worked like that, I would probably be a Deist. That's why, if we demystify the mind we will show that you cannot assume 'mind' as a thing without backup in the physical world. Then no-one can claim that a mind created the universe.

Thu, 11 Aug 2011 11:11:25 UTC | #860030

Go to: There can be no evidence for God (revisited)

Kasterfin's Avatar Jump to comment 65 by Kasterfin

Here's where the new agey BS enters into the argument. They view the physical universe as a result of Consciousness. (That ghost in the machine.) Love is eternal and divine mind is eternal. The state of Oneness of mind (you together with that Redwood tree and everybody) is the true reality. The view is that without the physical world, MIND would still exist. Christians to an extent also buy into this idea since Heaven and Hell exists in a different realm. This to me is the most dangerous view because many with an apocalyptic wish either directly or indirectly view consciousness as existing beyond the physical. With the New Agey view, space and time are an illusion thus eliminating the problem you clarified. Get rid of the problem by saying that it is not real and that reality is somewhere else and now your the one with the reality problem. Get it?

Science and many arguments have effectively shown that God cannot be some being outside in the sky somewhere. Ultimately the only way to truly get rid of all concepts of God is to recognize that consciousness is dependent upon brain functions and cannot exist beyond the physical.

@QuestioningKat - exactly what I said;

Comment 14 by Kasterfin :

Divine command ethics is accepted by every philosopher who has ever come up with an alternative (everyone I can think of - william lane craig and the ancient christian philosophers) as an ethical @DIV/0 error. As for if there can be evidence for god - when you look at apologetics arguments like the design or Kalam cosmological ones , you can see that they don't give evidence, but try to fit the evidence and say the 'best explaination' is a divine design, but they always fall into the same trap . one example; the 'kalam' argument;

1) Everything that begins to exist has a cause 2) The universe began to exist 3) The universe has a cause The flaw is the use of 'conceptual analysis' to identify the 'cause' with God - a personal, omnipotent being. The hidden assumption goes something like this;

'A mind's ideas may be complex, but a mind itself is a remarkably simple thing, being an immaterial entity not composed of pieces or separable parts.'

What champions of the Kalam argument do is assume that 'mind' deserves a place right at the base of reality along with space, time and so on. For example, Craig's 'conceptual analysis' argument includes the claim that because the big bang occurred at a particular time there must have been an intelligent, timeless 'agent' who 'freely chose' to create the universe. There is no such thing as a 'freely choosing' agent in the sense of an immaterial thing that creates causes without effects. We don't have any such agent sitting in our own minds, as Theists tacitly assume, so there's no reason to grant God one. If the mind really worked like that, I would probably be a Deist. That's why, if we demystify the mind we will show that you cannot assume 'mind' as a thing without backup in the physical world. Then no-one can claim that a mind created the universe.

Because they see 'mind' as central to the universe, theists interpret normal evidence to fit that picture

I don't think you can be that quick to call a drug induced sense of oneness a delusion. Isn't it a fact that we are, despite our usual sense of being something more than merely physical, actually just a physical being and aren't we in fact totally connected to the rest of the physical universe? How do you know the drugs aren't actually destroying an illusion of seperateness rather than creating a delusion?

Because all the other evidence points in the opposite direction.

Mon, 01 Aug 2011 09:38:12 UTC | #856506

Go to: There can be no evidence for God (revisited)

Kasterfin's Avatar Jump to comment 14 by Kasterfin

Divine command ethics is accepted by every philosopher who has ever come up with an alternative (everyone I can think of - william lane craig and the ancient christian philosophers) as an ethical @DIV/0 error. As for if there can be evidence for god - when you look at apologetics arguments like the design or Kalam cosmological ones , you can see that they don't give evidence, but try to fit the evidence and say the 'best explaination' is a divine design, but they always fall into the same trap . one example; the 'kalam' argument;

1) Everything that begins to exist has a cause 2) The universe began to exist 3) The universe has a cause The flaw is the use of 'conceptual analysis' to identify the 'cause' with God - a personal, omnipotent being. The hidden assumption goes something like this;

'A mind's ideas may be complex, but a mind itself is a remarkably simple thing, being an immaterial entity not composed of pieces or separable parts.'

What champions of the Kalam argument do is assume that 'mind' deserves a place right at the base of reality along with space, time and so on. For example, Craig's 'conceptual analysis' argument includes the claim that because the big bang occurred at a particular time there must have been an intelligent, timeless 'agent' who 'freely chose' to create the universe. There is no such thing as a 'freely choosing' agent in the sense of an immaterial thing that creates causes without effects. We don't have any such agent sitting in our own minds, as Theists tacitly assume, so there's no reason to grant God one. If the mind really worked like that, I would probably be a Deist. That's why, if we demystify the mind we will show that you cannot assume 'mind' as a thing without backup in the physical world. Then no-one can claim that a mind created the universe.

Because they see 'mind' as central to the universe, theists interpret normal evidence to fit that picture .

Sun, 31 Jul 2011 14:39:17 UTC | #856218

Go to: Hitchens on the Catholic Church

Kasterfin's Avatar Jump to comment 73 by Kasterfin

Keep it up, Hitch!

Tue, 26 Jul 2011 13:04:14 UTC | #854225

Go to: 'A Universe From Nothing' by Lawrence Krauss, AAI 2009

Kasterfin's Avatar Jump to comment 132 by Kasterfin

Where has mr atheist lover gone?

Tue, 19 Jul 2011 19:35:22 UTC | #851469

Go to: 'A Universe From Nothing' by Lawrence Krauss, AAI 2009

Kasterfin's Avatar Jump to comment 129 by Kasterfin

You love money are not you :-)

(non-sarcastically) I would really like to know what you mean by that? Are you implying atheists generally are materialistic (in the bad sense of being shallow, uniformed consumerists)?

Tue, 19 Jul 2011 19:09:18 UTC | #851455

Go to: 'A Universe From Nothing' by Lawrence Krauss, AAI 2009

Kasterfin's Avatar Jump to comment 128 by Kasterfin

@http://www.iloveatheists.com/ From your website

Forget 'ape to man', consider the impossibility of 'matter to mind'. Are we merely matter in motion? Nothing more than warm-blooded evolved animals? Advanced apes capable of manufacturing lethal weapons, designing nice ties, sporting designer suits and propogating fictional theories about macro-evolution?

Just shows how wrongheaded your thought is; have a look at anyone in a huge band of neurologists, psychologists and philosophers who can show how mind comes from matter. Read 'Darwins Dangerous Idea', or 'Consciousness Explained' by Daniel Dennett for starters.

As an aside, what are your specific arguments against 'macroevolution' - which you presumably define as change that's 'just too much'.

Tue, 19 Jul 2011 18:57:52 UTC | #851452

Go to: 'A Universe From Nothing' by Lawrence Krauss, AAI 2009

Kasterfin's Avatar Jump to comment 127 by Kasterfin

Sure. Although I already did. But will say it again, maybe in more different terms. Your very existence is evidence that there is God. When you look at painting on the wall, you say without any doubts "there must be a painter who painted this painting". Why do you say that? Because you see the product of his painting. I asume you have cellphone on you. You will say without doubts, "there must be a sellphone maker who made this toy". Why? because you see the product - cellphone itself. Who made you, universe? The universe Maker. Just like picture or your phone were visible to you and you recognized painter and phonemaker involved, so when you looke at the sky (especially through telescope), you will see how beautiful, magnificient, powerful, intricate, complecated.... our universe is. Which make our Creator Absolute. that is all.

I shall try to contain myself.

This is Skyhookery in the extreme - even if we had no explanation for the existence of anything in the universe, postulating an uncaused, unexplained mind to just ACT is no good at all. 'Sellphones' and paintings are created by things more complex than themselves - our own minds - only because the minds themselves have been slowly built up from non-minds by evolution and culture, whose biology was in turn built up by evolution, chemistry, then nucleosynthesis and so on all the way down to the big bang. The world just doesn't go the other way - the world goes from simple to complex. Picking a local creative principle of painters making paintings and applying it to the whole universe is so bad an argument that every Philosopher from David Hume onwards realised it's stupidity. Geddit?

Tue, 19 Jul 2011 18:55:12 UTC | #851451

Go to: 'A Universe From Nothing' by Lawrence Krauss, AAI 2009

Kasterfin's Avatar Jump to comment 126 by Kasterfin

Comment 44 by I love atheists :

Nice topic folks.

Agree something can't come from absolute nothing. Let put this way. Sientists (most of them) agree that universe was shrank into "singularity" or "misterious point". by the way that "point" did not have time or space. What? it did not? how come. "i dWhat if something was created by infinite being from absolute nothing? ha?on't know"

Hear me right folks. Our existence here is evidence of someone or something that always existed. Who would disagree with me on that? If what scientists call "point" made big bang, logically thinking that "point" must be infinetly powerful. Why? because it infinetly existed. Why? because if it was not then you and me were not here. And because we are here that "point" infinetly existed and was infinetely powerful. Now I can't tell you how complex and well intellegent our universe is. That "point" scientists are speaking must be infinetly intellegent. :-) Hey folks. These are just few very atributes of God, whos you are trying to ignore. Predict your reaction. Still love you.

thank you!

Right, as far as I can tell, you're claiming that there is an extremely close analogy between the current interpretation of how the universe started and the idea of an omnipotent creator. Though there is some superficial similarity in the language, in reality they are very different. One postulates an infinitely complex, uncaused, unexplained infinite mind that just WAS, as an unnecessary add-on to the physical picture. The other postulates an ultimately simple, physically describable event that gave rise to everything. Also, just what is 'infinitley existed'

What if something was created by infinite being from absolute nothing? ha?

An addon that isn't just unnecessary, but makes the whole picture a lot messier. A typical tactic of Skyhookers

What do people you think about Victor Stenger's notion that the question "Why is there Something rather than Nothing?" is flawed and carries the assumption that nothing is more "natural" (whatever that is) and we should ask "Why should there be nothing rather than something?"

If we're talking about the philosopher's notion of 'nothing', then yes, nothing in physics touches on it and 'why not' is as good as answer as we'll ever get. (FAR, FAR SUPERIOR TO 'GOD DID IT'). But physics get's you so close to the bottom - just chaos without space or time, that it doesn't matter.

Tue, 19 Jul 2011 18:47:22 UTC | #851446

Go to: 'A Universe From Nothing' by Lawrence Krauss, AAI 2009

Kasterfin's Avatar Jump to comment 125 by Kasterfin

Comment 93 by Peter Grant :

Comment 89 by Stevezar

Comment 81 by I love atheists :

Comment 79 by Stevezar

Stevezar, sorry if I may miss understand what you just said. Question: Are you saying there is no Absolute Truth? thank you

No. Relativity theory = Einstein and physics, has nothing to do with philosophical discussions of "absolute truth".

It may not have anything to do with Relativity, but it is an interesting question nonetheless. All observations are made relative to the observer, true objectivity just isn't possible because the observer is always a part of the subject. On what could one base "absolute truth"? I don't see how such a thing can exist.

Relativity includes as a premise the idea that there is no privileged reference frame for motion and it's derived quantities (momentum etc.). It has nothing at all to do with truth.

Tue, 19 Jul 2011 18:40:55 UTC | #851444

Go to: 'A Universe From Nothing' by Lawrence Krauss, AAI 2009

Kasterfin's Avatar Jump to comment 124 by Kasterfin

Comment 121 by All About Meme :

Comment 119 by Alex, adv. diab.

RE: Dan Dennet's "Breaking the Spell"...

It's on my "to-do" list. Dennett's book Darwin's Dangerous Idea was life-changing for me.

I think Darwins Dangerous Idea is the best Nonfiction book i've ever read. If civilization was ever destroyed in some catastrophe, it's one of the books I'd like saved.

Tue, 19 Jul 2011 18:38:58 UTC | #851443

Go to: 'A Universe From Nothing' by Lawrence Krauss, AAI 2009

Kasterfin's Avatar Jump to comment 123 by Kasterfin

Comment 1 by Schrodinger's Cat :

No, the science doesn't say the universe came 'from nothing'. Nothing is the complete absence of anything at all, including the laws of quantum mechanics. There is no theory of how the universe arises from absolutely nothing. I do wish people would stop this 'nothing' nonsense when it quite simply isn't true that they have such a theory.

A theory of creation from absolutely nothing is quite possibly a logical impossibility........as absolute nothingness excludes any reason for anything to happen at all.

Too true, but theories of Quantum Cosmology (if they are true) reduce everything from here to infinity onto a no-sized no-area of no-space with only a few laws and formless chaos. How much more reductionism do you want? Going all the way to utter nothingness isn't needed, despite what Skyhookers might claim.

Tue, 19 Jul 2011 18:37:41 UTC | #851442

Go to: Godlessness has doomed Britain

Kasterfin's Avatar Jump to comment 52 by Kasterfin

Comment 51 by reebus :

@ comment 49

Quickly looks up 'sociobiology' :D

:) I was referring to his glib comments implying our genes were sitting in the centre of our minds, 'working the controls' and ordering us to court the richest person around.

Comment 53 by Robert Howard :

Britain today has become one of the most godless societies on Earth

Were any other Brits reading this statement as offended as I was by it? Our influence in the world may have diminished and the sun may have long since set on the British Empire, but we are not one of the most godless societies on Earth, Rabbi Boteach; we are the most godless society on Earth.

Mrs Trellis, North Wales

It would be nice to think so, but the current title is held by some scandinavian country (I forget which one)

Tue, 05 Jul 2011 18:08:42 UTC | #846541

Go to: Godlessness has doomed Britain

Kasterfin's Avatar Jump to comment 49 by Kasterfin

How can anyone, least of all one of Britain's most senior religious figures, spout such ridiculous, philosophically and historically ignorant, (offensive?) rubbish.

BOTEACH, why don't you pick up any book of decent, secular philosophy, any-when from 700BC to 2011, and you'll find a wealth of ethical guidance on the 'good life'.

Either that or just look at the utterly phenomenal improvements in quality of life, decreases in violence and bigotry that have resulted from SECULAR, ENLIGHTENMENT thought; while your bronze-age lucubrations have failed at every turn.

Oh, and to rectify your utterly Horrendous lack of knowledge about the implications of sociobiology to human ethics, I'd recommend 'Darwin's Dangerous Idea' again, and 'The Expanding Circle' by Peter Singer.

Tue, 05 Jul 2011 18:00:56 UTC | #846531

Go to: Godlessness has doomed Britain

Kasterfin's Avatar Jump to comment 45 by Kasterfin

How can anyone, least of all one of Britain's most senior religious figures, spout such ridiculous, philosophically and historically ignorant, (offensive?) rubbish.

BOTEACH, why don't you pick up any book of decent, secular philosophy, any-when from 700BC to 2011, and you'll find a wealth of ethical guidance on the 'good life'.

Either that or just look at the utterly phenomenal improvements in quality of life, decreases in violence and bigotry that have resulted from SECULAR, ENLIGHTENMENT thought; while your bronze-age lucubrations have failed at every turn.

Tue, 05 Jul 2011 17:41:29 UTC | #846521

Go to: Down with Secularism!

Kasterfin's Avatar Jump to comment 32 by Kasterfin

Comment 3 by Steve Zara :

Rights and freedom are things that dignify humanity. you get rid of them and there no dignity left as you deny the different opinions.

Absolutely. People should be free to express their beliefs and worship as they wish. What I'm against is there being any special consideration of religion. Someone should be as free to worship Jesus Christ as they are to worship Justin Bieber. But we don't either ban mention of Bieber in government institutions and we don't prevent criticism of Bieber-loving.

I believe that secularism is anti-freedom. It prevents people from treating religious beliefs as like any other kind of belief. It prevents atheists from dealing with religious issues, and it prevents certain expressions of religious belief by believers.

Secularism also gives power and significance to groups, as against individuals.

Secularism DOES NOT GIVE SPECIAL CONSIDERATION TO RELIGION. In the form espoused by bodies like the national secular society, or AC Grayling, it treats religions as interest groups like any other, entitled to no privilege but able to 'have their say'. I don't know what you think secularism means, but it's practically identical to your 'rationalism'.

Sun, 19 Jun 2011 12:02:11 UTC | #640401

Go to: UPDATE: Fashionable Nonsense?

Kasterfin's Avatar Jump to comment 450 by Kasterfin

Comment 438 by Alex, adv. diab. :

I hold four science degrees

Lol

@Kasterfin

and whatever's being observed at CERN. The standard model, however, is fudged together and unsatisfactory, but it's based on QED + QCD

The standard model so far is a near perfect and extremely predictive description of the universe without gravity. That might change in a few weeks, but it has lasted 30 years with very minor modifications. Whether it feels too fudged together to you is a point about aesthetics. a point that can serve as a justification to search for more unified descriptions - but as a scientific theory, it works almost insanely well. It is plain wrong to call it a fudged combination of QED and QCD. It's certainly not an example for how wooey and badly understood modern physics is, exactly the opposite.

The standard model does produce (very good) predictions based on it's various component theories, but the theory itself is considered by many to be 'clumsy'. For example, the masses of Fermions and the W and Z have to be 'accepted as observed', renormalisation is used capriciously despite it being a mathematically dodgy strategy. QCD and QED (+weak force) are combined so that they don't influence each other, but their is no overarching GUT yet that explains QCD, QED and weak theory together. The standard model is perfectly good for now, but there is very clearly a lot more work to be done.

Sun, 19 Jun 2011 09:14:47 UTC | #640342

Go to: Down with Secularism!

Kasterfin's Avatar Jump to comment 22 by Kasterfin

Secularism is not really about 'respect' for religious beliefs - what it upholds is the rights of people to believe insane things should they want to. Your 'rationalism' is a good strategy for governments to use on ethical, environmental, educational or economic matters, and religious groups should be relegated to the status of any other interest group. But that does not give you the right to literally force religion out of society altogether.

Sun, 19 Jun 2011 09:07:20 UTC | #640339

Go to: UPDATE: Fashionable Nonsense?

Kasterfin's Avatar Jump to comment 429 by Kasterfin

But I have never yet encountered a concise or clear definition or explanation of ‘post modernism’ or ‘post structuralism’. My scepticism is reinforced by books such as Gross & Levitt’s Higher Superstition, Levitt’s Prometheus Bedevilled, and Sokal & Bricmont’s Intellectual Impostures (published in America as Fashionable Nonsense). I look forward (very sincerely) to hearing a convincing disproof of the working hypothesis that these phrases mean nothing at all and that academics who identify with them are charlatans.

Richard, you're basically correct - it's not entirely false to say that postmodernism 'means nothing' though. The whole field is so confused and full to the brim with sophistry that all you can really say to describe it is that postmodernism is an attitude which seeks to knock down any claim to objectivity. The idea of deconstruction is one example of a postmodernist strategy - it seeks to show that any particular body of knowledge, favorite targets being non-postmodernist philosophies or areas of science, is self-contradictory and a product of unconscious desires, chauvinism etc. Psychoanalysis is another demolition strategy co-opted by postmodernists.

The deconstructive attitude is being applied to totally the wrong targets today - reason, science, the idea of progress, they all deserve a place in our Ontology. The early attempts to demolish in this way were more valuable - Nietzches 'genealogy' of Christian morality picked a worthy target - something that really did need to have it's confidence smashed.

One example of an unusually clear postmodern text is 'Philosophy in the Feminine' (I think it's the one you quoted in A Devil's Chaplain concerning fluid mechanics), lays clear the objectives of one of it's patron saints (a literary theorist, not a philosopher) - Luce Irigaray. It's only available as an image file. Notice the disparaging references to 'Scientific Ideology' and 'Rationalism', and the constant use of 'Psychoanalytic' dismissals of philosophical topics - as opposed to real engagement.

I've had a look at the few attempts made to defend postmodernism - if what you want is a detailed philosophical refutation, I can only refer you to 'Truth', by Simon Blackburn. But I think in most cases it's good enough to laugh it off, or perhaps bring out this short quote from Thomas Nagel;

Reason is universal because no attempted challenge to its results can avoid appealing to reason in the end--by claiming, for example, that what was presented as an argument is really a rationalization. This can undermine our confidence in the original method or practice only by giving us reasons to believe something else, so that finally we have to think about the arguments to make up our minds.

Automatic defenses like the above should be spread as wide as possible as a defense against postmodernism.

This thread on postmodern metabollocks has now gathered nearly 300 comments. There have been a few gallant attempts at apologia, and if you are convinced by them you will not sympathize with what I am about to say. Good luck to you. But for the rest of us, I wonder whether we could turn to considering possible courses of action.

I agree that postmodernism is a problem for universities, especially because it deeply undermines the credibility of the humanities (it was probably a factor in the governments decision to only fund STEM), But I think postmodernism is the tip of the iceberg, an expression of a certain element in modern culture which is relativistic (I really hate to have to agree with the Catholic church on anything). As to what to do, the best tactic would be a combination of bringing back the real humanities - what politics and ethics, for example, can do to help us solve the problems of the world, and turning to the present 'analytic' tradition of philosophy populated by such valuable figures as Peter Singer, AC Grayling and Daniel Dennett. And a few exposes of the true idiocy of postmodernist 'metabollocks' (the term is well deserved), such as Sokal's brilliant hoax, are also great help.

Sat, 18 Jun 2011 08:45:43 UTC | #639919

Go to: UPDATE: Fashionable Nonsense?

Kasterfin's Avatar Jump to comment 428 by Kasterfin

Comment 426 by Tryphon Tournesol : Reminds me of a teacher on aerodynamics I once had, he jokingly said "with a really good knowledge of this theory, one can prove that a working bee is to fat to fly, but since we observe hem flying.."

I'm not sure where the bee idea comes from. There's nothing unexplained in their flight mechanism.

Sat, 18 Jun 2011 08:42:50 UTC | #639918

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Kasterfin's Avatar Jump to comment 425 by Kasterfin

Comment 416 by mmurray :

Comment 399 by Tryphon Tournesol :

The latest models in physics don't differ one bit in their 'mathematicality' or 'assumptiousness' from Newtons infinitesimal calculus as a language trying to describe the real world. As long as they DO describe that world without being faulted. It is an empirical science! ..for real, I'd like to add..

Actually the whole of quantum field theory lacks a rigorous mathematical underpinning a bit like Newton's calculus when he first invented it.

Michael

QED and QCD are, on their own, consistent and provide an excellent description of the electromagnetic and strong forces over submicroscopic scales, and produces predictions like the lamb shift and whatever's being observed at CERN. The standard model, however, is fudged together and unsatisfactory, but it's based on QED + QCD

Sat, 18 Jun 2011 07:22:16 UTC | #639901

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Kasterfin's Avatar Jump to comment 34 by Kasterfin

The whole field is so confused and full to the brim with sophistry that all you can really say to describe it is that postmodernism is an attitude which seeks to knock down any claim to objectivity. The idea of deconstruction is one example of a postmodernist strategy - it seeks to show that any particular body of knowledge, favorite targets being non-postmodernist philosophies or areas of science, is self-contradictory and a product of unconscious desires, chauvinism etc. Psychoanalysis is another demolition strategy co-opted by postmodernists.

The deconstructive attitude is being applied to totally the wrong targets today - reason, science, the idea of progress, they all deserve a place in our Ontology. The early attempts to demolish in this way were more valuable - Nietzches 'genealogy' of Christian morality picked a worthy target - something that really did need to have it's confidence smashed.

One example of an unusually clear postmodern text is 'Philosophy in the Feminine' (I think it's the one you quoted in A Devil's Chaplain concerning fluid mechanics), lays clear the objectives of one of it's patron saints (a literary theorist, not a philosopher) - Luce Irigaray. It's only available as an image file. Notice the disparaging references to 'Scientific Ideology' and 'Rationalism', and the constant use of 'Psychoanalytic' dismissals of philosophical topics - as opposed to real engagement.

I've had a look at the few attempts made to defend postmodernism - if what you want is a detailed philosophical refutation, I can only refer you to 'Truth', by Simon Blackburn. But I think in most cases it's good enough to laugh it off, or perhaps bring out this short quote from Thomas Nagel;

Reason is universal because no attempted challenge to its results can avoid appealing to reason in the end--by claiming, for example, that what was presented as an argument is really a rationalization. This can undermine our confidence in the original method or practice only by giving us reasons to believe something else, so that finally we have to think about the arguments to make up our minds.

Automatic responses like the above should be spread as wide as possible as a defense against postmodernism.

Fri, 17 Jun 2011 17:59:24 UTC | #639683

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Kasterfin's Avatar Jump to comment 400 by Kasterfin

Comment 399 by Tryphon Tournesol :

Comment 396 by AtheistEgbert :

Comment 393 by Jay G :

Did you just lump theoretical physics together with creationism?

Subatomic physics has become highly mathematical and abstract to explain things that we don't fully understand. Quantum mechanics, string theory, multiple universes, physics has become more speculative because we're reaching the limitations of what is observable. I think that leads to a lot of woo and irrationality, such as in books like Tao of Physics.

Well, as I wrote earlier..any brainfart/speculation is allowed as long as one is willing to put those ideas to he test (that of them being a workable model in the real world).

The latest models in physics don't differ one bit in their 'mathematicality' or 'assumptiousness' from Newtons infinitesimal calculus as a language trying to describe the real world. As long as they DO describe that world without being faulted. It is an empirical science! ..for real, I'd like to add..

It depends on what you mean by the 'latest models in physics' - Quantum Mechanics is 'weird' but it is no less speculative than Newtonian mechanics or Maxwell's theory because it produces a whole load of predictions, from the double-slit experiment to the Lamb shift, and they have all been verified to an enormous degree. String theory, M-theory, Quantum Cosmology and so on haven't been tested, and they are quite speculative - but they are still 'science', even if rather iffy science - because they are testable in principle (with the possible exception of M-theory).

Fri, 17 Jun 2011 17:45:11 UTC | #639680

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Kasterfin's Avatar Jump to comment 397 by Kasterfin

But I have never yet encountered a concise or clear definition or explanation of ‘post modernism’ or ‘post structuralism’. My scepticism is reinforced by books such as Gross & Levitt’s Higher Superstition, Levitt’s Prometheus Bedevilled, and Sokal & Bricmont’s Intellectual Impostures (published in America as Fashionable Nonsense). I look forward (very sincerely) to hearing a convincing disproof of the working hypothesis that these phrases mean nothing at all and that academics who identify with them are charlatans.

Richard, you're basically correct - it's not entirely false to say that postmodernism 'means nothing' though. The whole field is so confused and full to the brim with sophistry that all you can really say to describe it is that postmodernism is an attitude which seeks to knock down any claim to objectivity. The idea of deconstruction is one example of a postmodernist strategy - it seeks to show that any particular body of knowledge, favorite targets being non-postmodernist philosophies or areas of science, is self-contradictory and a product of unconscious desires, chauvinism etc. Psychoanalysis is another demolition strategy co-opted by postmodernists.

The deconstructive attitude is being applied to totally the wrong targets today - reason, science, the idea of progress, they all deserve a place in our Ontology. The early attempts to demolish in this way were more valuable - Nietzches 'genealogy' of Christian morality picked a worthy target - something that really did need to have it's confidence smashed.

One example of an unusually clear postmodern text is 'Philosophy in the Feminine' (I think it's the one you quoted in A Devil's Chaplain concerning fluid mechanics), lays clear the objectives of one of it's patron saints (a literary theorist, not a philosopher) - Luce Irigaray. It's only available as an image file. Notice the disparaging references to 'Scientific Ideology' and 'Rationalism', and the constant use of 'Psychoanalytic' dismissals of philosophical topics - as opposed to real engagement.

I've had a look at the few attempts made to defend postmodernism - if what you want is a detailed philosophical refutation, I can only refer you to 'Truth', by Simon Blackburn. But I think in most cases it's good enough to laugh it off, or perhaps bring out this short quote from Thomas Nagel;

Reason is universal because no attempted challenge to its results can avoid appealing to reason in the end--by claiming, for example, that what was presented as an argument is really a rationalization. This can undermine our confidence in the original method or practice only by giving us reasons to believe something else, so that finally we have to think about the arguments to make up our minds.

Automatic defenses like the above should be spread as wide as possible as a defense against postmodernism.

This thread on postmodern metabollocks has now gathered nearly 300 comments. There have been a few gallant attempts at apologia, and if you are convinced by them you will not sympathize with what I am about to say. Good luck to you. But for the rest of us, I wonder whether we could turn to considering possible courses of action.

I agree that postmodernism is a problem for universities, especially because it deeply undermines the credibility of the humanities (it was probably a factor in the governments decision to only fund STEM), But I think postmodernism is the tip of the iceberg, an expression of a certain element in modern culture which is relativistic (I really hate to have to agree with the Catholic church on anything). As to what to do, the best tactic would be a combination of bringing back the real humanities - what politics and ethics, for example, can do to help us solve the problems of the world, and turning to the present 'analytic' tradition of philosophy populated by such valuable figures as Peter Singer, AC Grayling and Daniel Dennett. And a few exposes of the true idiocy of postmodernist 'metabollocks' (the term is well deserved), such as Sokal's brilliant hoax, are also great help.

Fri, 17 Jun 2011 17:32:09 UTC | #639674

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Kasterfin's Avatar Jump to comment 145 by Kasterfin

Comment 92 by DoctorChristian :

Postmodernism is the questioning across a range of intellectual disciplines of the assumptions and attitudes which were becoming entrenched (in a largely un-examined way) in the industrialised world in the period up to the first half of the 20th Century.

There you go Richard.

To be honest I don't see what all the fuss is about. I largely agree with Ballardian that postmodernism is something real and meaningful. It is a real intellectual movement that began to question attitudes and assumptions that were becomng entrenched in the industrialised world. I personally find it easy to understand in this broad sense.

I think one of the difficulties in pinning it down is that it is multidisciplinary. In terms of specifics it means different things to different people depending on which discipline they were trained in. Academics in particular fields will give explanations of it steeped in the jargon of their particular disciplines, making it difficult to compare these explanations across disciplines.

This difficulty may give rise to the misleading impression that 'no one knows' what postmodernism means. I personally feel I understand what it means in a holistic sense, and as far as I can see postmodernism is something real and meaningful. It is just a multidisciplinary 'questioning' of establishment. No biggie.

The problem is not so much the general questioning of preconceptions (Nietzsche's attack on Christianity was well deserved, for example), but when postmodernism becomes self-enhancing and runs away from itself, doubting utterly everything, including any mechanism that could defeat their arguments (reason), then it becomes a problem. I would point you to 'Truth' by Simon Blackburn; an excellent philosophical defense of a limited but sustainable concept of Truth, which allows us to talk with confidence and not ignore the science and ethics we are concerned about.

Tue, 14 Jun 2011 17:25:34 UTC | #638488