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Comments by Mark Smith

Go to: Believe It or Not

Mark Smith's Avatar Jump to comment 226 by Mark Smith

Does anybody know why Scissor Augustus was banned? I don't see much point in posting here when the persona I am talking with could well be banned at any moment.

Mon, 26 Apr 2010 06:00:00 UTC | #462932

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Mark Smith's Avatar Jump to comment 216 by Mark Smith

Scissor

iow, the prerogatives of superior power is your morality, no? how is any other kind of morality possible in a naturally selected cosmos?

First, do you see the irony of that question coming from somebody espousing theistic morality?

Second, are you planning to answer any of my questions at any point?

Third, I think you mean 'how is any other kind of enforcement of morality possible' don't you? Or in other words, you need to distinguish between what a person considers to be moral and how societies work.

Sun, 25 Apr 2010 20:47:00 UTC | #462818

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Mark Smith's Avatar Jump to comment 215 by Mark Smith

If we're about to get in to the juvenile "because my god sees everything" rationalisation, we may need some popcorn :)

The strange thing with that rationalisation is that apparently the deity sees all the laws and agrees with them. As far as I know, deities (except when they are cult-deities) never tell their followers 'There's no need to pay your taxes'.

Sun, 25 Apr 2010 18:48:00 UTC | #462749

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Mark Smith's Avatar Jump to comment 212 by Mark Smith

Scissor Augustus

What is it that makes any law something you as an atheist should follow?

Er, the consequences. If I don't obey the law, I get locked up.

Same as what it is that makes any law something you as a theist should follow. Or do you have some other reason for obeying laws?

Sun, 25 Apr 2010 17:56:00 UTC | #462725

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Mark Smith's Avatar Jump to comment 209 by Mark Smith

Scissor Augustus
You appear to be criticising atheist views on the basis that non-theist morality can't be anything more than a cultural artifact. By which I take it you think theists have got something more. So say there is some man with a gun roaming the streets killing people for fun. How do you suggest society should deal with him other than by bringing to bear that cultural artifact otherwise known as 'the long arm of the law'? Are you going to bypass it and ask your deity to strike him down with lightning? Which do you think is the more effective?

Sun, 25 Apr 2010 15:20:00 UTC | #462679

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Mark Smith's Avatar Jump to comment 46 by Mark Smith

Iswanson

my point was not to argue the validity of creation over evolution, but to highlight the fundamental inconsistency of evolution with the message of the gospel

If you are right, then here are some other things that are 'fundamentally inconsistent' with the message of the gospel:
the earth going round the sun
gravity
modern medicine
the nature of stars
etc etc etc

You can't cherry pick: if you don't like where rational, scientific thought leads in the area of evolution, you shouldn't like it in any other area either.

Sun, 18 Apr 2010 10:38:00 UTC | #460693

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Mark Smith's Avatar Jump to comment 947 by Mark Smith

Hokusai still hasn't offered any corrections to my description of his position in post 1189.

Why would I want to do so?

I'm not going to speculate.

But in the absence of any corrections I am going to assume it is an accurate description. I consider presuppositionalism a dead end, and therefore I conclude your position is a dead end. I think most other readers of this thread may agree.

Thu, 01 Apr 2010 13:03:00 UTC | #454909

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Mark Smith's Avatar Jump to comment 942 by Mark Smith

Hokusai hasn't offered any corrections to my description of his position in post 1189.

Thu, 01 Apr 2010 12:29:00 UTC | #454883

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Mark Smith's Avatar Jump to comment 929 by Mark Smith

OK, Hokusai isn't going to set out his argument (or series of conjectures, or however he perceives it). So I'll do it for him. It's a version of presuppositionalism:

You've got to presuppose there are immaterial minds in order for human thought and communication to make sense. So there must must be immaterial minds.

Perhaps I should write the book first and take all his sales. Won't make much money though, because you can't sell a one page book for much.

Thu, 01 Apr 2010 11:16:00 UTC | #454832

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Mark Smith's Avatar Jump to comment 831 by Mark Smith

Hokusai

(2) What 'evidence' has been put to me? Please point me to it. I've seen arguments which may be summarised as "consciousness must be material becasue we say so, and if you want to say any different you'll have to prove it . . .", but that isn't exactly evidence.



Comment #473670 by Mark Smith on March 28, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Hokusai
I'm back after watching an exciting game of boys football. A fine 5 - 3 victory!


What does the word "me", above, mean?

The answers given by others above pretty much cover it for me also: 'me' is a (very useful) construct of the brain. 'You' on the other hand are the animal which my brain posits as the reason for various words which keep appearing on the screen in front of me.

It would seem that you are suggesting that I should reflect on my self-consciousness and conclude from it that there is something more to 'me' than mere brain activity. I would agree that the sense of self is very strong, and I can see why people conclude as you do. But there is plenty of evidence to suggest they are wrong to do so. To give just one example, for a number of hours every day 'I' disappear or dissolve away. That disappearance appears to correlate with reduced brain activity during certain periods of sleep.

Do you have anything more than intuition to support your view that 'me' is more than brain activity?

I gave 'just one example' because plenty of others have been given elsewhere: brain tumours, drugs, magnets etc etc all altering sense of self. Each time such things are brought up you fail to engage other than with an argument from authority (you know the answer because you are a doctor who worked in the field and because you are clever) and an argument from prevarication (you will get to it in a moment).

Wed, 31 Mar 2010 18:34:00 UTC | #454508

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Mark Smith's Avatar Jump to comment 823 by Mark Smith

Hokusai

Do you know, there's one thing you won't find anywhere on this thread?

"Martin, I understand what you're driving at, but I don't agree with what you've said about . . . because . . ."


Coughs. Er, how about(and it wasn't the only one) my post 876?
I get that you have, by defining it appropriately, made a space in your own thinking for a conjecture (namely immaterial mind) that doesn't need to answer to the rigours of science. I also get that you differentiate what you conjecture from similar immaterialities (such as ghosts and fairies) on the basis that you have direct experience of it.

What I don't get is why you refuse to address the evidence and reasoning that has been put to you to explain your direct experience in entirely material terms.

You are like somebody who is shown an optical illusion and the explanation for it, and who yet continues to believe it is real.

If certain optical illusions are well enough done, even when you are absolutely certain that they are an illusion they still seem totally real when you look at them. Why is consciousness any different?

Wed, 31 Mar 2010 17:58:00 UTC | #454492

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Mark Smith's Avatar Jump to comment 727 by Mark Smith

Bonzai

This is a real condition we are in.

Just as when we see an optical illusion we 'really see' whatever we see. Eg in the example Quine gave earlier, we really see dots. Yet the dots don't exist anywhere in front of our eyes. Whatever is 'real' is real in our subjective experience only.

If science cannot answer the questions it poses

With the optical illusion science shows exactly why the brain experiences it as real. So why not for the sense of self also?

Tue, 30 Mar 2010 20:50:00 UTC | #454160

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Mark Smith's Avatar Jump to comment 699 by Mark Smith

Hokusai
I get that you have, by defining it appropriately, made a space in your own thinking for a conjecture (namely immaterial mind) that doesn't need to answer to the rigours of science. I also get that you differentiate what you conjecture from similar immaterialities (such as ghosts and fairies) on the basis that you have direct experience of it.

What I don't get is why you refuse to address the evidence and reasoning that has been put to you to explain your direct experience in entirely material terms.

You are like somebody who is shown an optical illusion and the explanation for it, and who yet continues to believe it is real.

If certain optical illusions are well enough done, even when you are absolutely certain that they are an illusion they still seem totally real when you look at them. Why is consciousness any different?

Tue, 30 Mar 2010 17:49:00 UTC | #454100

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Mark Smith's Avatar Jump to comment 579 by Mark Smith

hokusai

But if we don't, we are doing no more than describing (say) the results of an experiment in chemistry which we happen to be observing.

("How many 'Jews' did you say were gassed at Sachsenhausen? Really? How interesting. Write it up, why don't you?"}

I see why you think this must be a problem for non-theists and non-'soulists'. I think it is one of the most common reasons why people take the position you do.

In essence you are saying there is no justification for claiming an animal (a human animal) has done wrong if that animal is just a collection of molecules. This turns on your definition of wrong-doing. It seems that for you, wrong-doing is only that which is done by things with 'immaterial substances' ('souls', as it were). Without wanting to get into an extended discussion of morality, the fact is that wrong-doing does not have to be defined this way. For me, wrong-doing is an act by a human animal which [and then add in here various qualifiers about the nature of the act]. There is no need for such an animal to have a soul.

Sun, 28 Mar 2010 15:55:00 UTC | #453363

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Mark Smith's Avatar Jump to comment 573 by Mark Smith

hokusai

If we, along with Richard Dawkins, truly believe his materialist statements, then this is what has just happened:

-- a collection of elementary particles, some of which are arranged as a bunch of neurones, some as arms and legs, etc [...snip ...]

Yes, to a reasonable approximation that is indeed what happened.

You then tried to say that is not an adequate explanation because we will want to ascribe some moral meaning to what you did and to readers' responses, and to do that we need to have some additional element, something 'more than just molecules'.

The obvious question is why? We can account for morality and for moral meaning on the basis that we are social animals. We feel anger because we have evolved to do so in certain situations. We ascribe moral meaning to certain actions because that enables our social constructs to operate more effectively. There is no need to add in some immaterial substance to explain them.

Sun, 28 Mar 2010 15:26:00 UTC | #453354

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Mark Smith's Avatar Jump to comment 563 by Mark Smith

Hokusai
I'm back after watching an exciting game of boys football. A fine 5 - 3 victory!

What does the word "me", above, mean?

The answers given by others above pretty much cover it for me also: 'me' is a (very useful) construct of the brain. 'You' on the other hand are the animal which my brain posits as the reason for various words which keep appearing on the screen in front of me.

It would seem that you are suggesting that I should reflect on my self-consciousness and conclude from it that there is something more to 'me' than mere brain activity. I would agree that the sense of self is very strong, and I can see why people conclude as you do. But there is plenty of evidence to suggest they are wrong to do so. To give just one example, for a number of hours every day 'I' disappear or dissolve away. That disappearance appears to correlate with reduced brain activity during certain periods of sleep.

Do you have anything more than intuition to support your view that 'me' is more than brain activity?

Sun, 28 Mar 2010 13:55:00 UTC | #453328

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Mark Smith's Avatar Jump to comment 539 by Mark Smith

Hokusai
Got to go out now - taking my son to football. So an answer to the 'me' conundrum will have to come later I'm afraid.

Sun, 28 Mar 2010 10:48:00 UTC | #453277

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Mark Smith's Avatar Jump to comment 537 by Mark Smith

hokusai

Upon what, in your view, does it depend?

This could take some time. I specified in my answer what it depended on, namely, which particular firings you are asking about. To try and move things along, I'll offer an example. There have been some firings in my brain this morning. Those that accompanied my drinking of coffee gave me pleasure (or perhaps were my pleasure). So that was a good thing for me.

Sun, 28 Mar 2010 10:29:00 UTC | #453273

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Mark Smith's Avatar Jump to comment 535 by Mark Smith

hokusai
I answered it at 584 above.

Sun, 28 Mar 2010 10:09:00 UTC | #453270

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Mark Smith's Avatar Jump to comment 530 by Mark Smith

Hokusai
You say you are going to

provide some argument for the existence of both the human soul and God.

Could you get to it please. I've got to go out in a while.

If it helps, I'll answer your question:
Is the firing of a neurone, or of a group of neurones, a 'good thing', a 'bad thing', or neither?

It depends. Which particular firings are you asking about?

Sun, 28 Mar 2010 09:04:00 UTC | #453259

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Mark Smith's Avatar Jump to comment 519 by Mark Smith

COPY FROM ALT THREAD JUST IN CASE

Hokusai

I am not trying to convince you that there's a God.


But you did say:
So, you give me your evidence for claiming that no such person as I have described exists, and then I'll provide you with my reasoning as to why he does.


I gave you my evidence. If you are discussing in good faith you will now keep your part of the bargain.

I am looking for some evidence that I might be wrong here.


I gave you my evidence, but you said:
that may be evidence for you, but of course it cannot be for me


Hmmm.

Oh, and, yes, I am still collecting information for one of the later chapters in my book; and chapter headed "Is Atheism A Religion?"


Will that be the sort of evidence that is 'evidence for you'?

Answer, so far: Yes, it seems to be, though not one which makes its adherents noticeably happy.


Aah. You must have an advanced copy of Windows 8. I had heard it could detect the emotional state of its users.

[Edit for quotes]

Sat, 27 Mar 2010 22:29:00 UTC | #453165

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Mark Smith's Avatar Jump to comment 515 by Mark Smith

Hokusai

I am not trying to convince you that there's a God.

But you did say:
So, you give me your evidence for claiming that no such person as I have described exists, and then I'll provide you with my reasoning as to why he does.

I gave you my evidence. If you are discussing in good faith you will now keep your part of the bargain.

I am looking for some evidence that I might be wrong here.

I gave you my evidence, but you said:
that may be evidence for you, but of course it cannot be for me

Hmmm.

Oh, and, yes, I am still collecting information for one of the later chapters in my book; and chapter headed "Is Atheism A Religion?"

Will that be the sort of evidence that is 'evidence for you'?

Answer, so far: Yes, it seems to be, though not one which makes its adherents noticeably happy.

Aah. You must have an advanced copy of Windows 8. I had heard it could detect the emotional state of its users.

Sat, 27 Mar 2010 22:19:00 UTC | #453161

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Mark Smith's Avatar Jump to comment 510 by Mark Smith

Hokusai

I accept nobody's received wisdom. Not the Pope's and not yours.
No, it's a conclusion I reached -- many years ago -- through the exercise of pure reason.

So, you give me your evidence for claiming that no such person as I have described exists, and then I'll provide you with my reasoning as to why he does.

Okay?

Well, I didn't claim that no such person exists. I just asked why you thought it did.

I could give you reasons why I don't think certain fairly well-described deities don't exist. Yours isn't particularly well described at the moment. But it does have a number of features that are suggestive. So I'll have a bit of a try. (We are going for evidence of non-existence, not proof, right?)

You say there is a person which is maximally powerful. My evidence against such would be: I've never met such a person. The same goes for a maximally good person, and for one which knows everything. This perhaps isn't very strong evidence against, but it is far (infinitely so) stronger than any evidence I have for. But perhaps that will change once you have given me your reasoning for?

Sat, 27 Mar 2010 19:52:00 UTC | #453115

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Mark Smith's Avatar Jump to comment 506 by Mark Smith

Hokusai

But the idea that these 2 components were brought about by a person - where is your evidence for that?

Where is your evidence against it?

Answering a question with a question?

Anyway, I'll give it a go: Remembering that the 2 components are: (1) physical bodies
(2) the 'souls' of such bodies
An alternative means by which it was brought about would count as evidence against it. In respect of (1) I offer you evolution by natural selection. In respect of (2), I do not believe souls exist (other than as a figment of very many peoples' imagination), so they were not 'brought about', with the result that there can be no evidence about what or who could have brought them about.

Sat, 27 Mar 2010 19:26:00 UTC | #453106

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Mark Smith's Avatar Jump to comment 489 by Mark Smith

COPY FROM ALTERNATE THREAD:

hokusai

has arranged that every sentient being he has created has two components:
(1) a physical (material) body and
(2) an immaterial essence, soul, being, persona or whatever term we may care to use here.

Reading through the thread, I understand how you arrive at the second component (though I don't agree) and the first is uncontroversial.

But the idea that these 2 components were brought about by a person - where is your evidence for that?

And why do you think this person has the properties you assign to it (him)? What makes you think it must be 'maximally good' and 'maximally powerful'? I'm guessing it is because this is the received wisdom of those who believe in such a being, but perhaps you have other reasons, such as direct experience of it?

I'll put a copy of this in the main thread in case you want to answer there.

Sat, 27 Mar 2010 16:20:00 UTC | #453042

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Mark Smith's Avatar Jump to comment 488 by Mark Smith

hokusai

has arranged that every sentient being he has created has two components:
(1) a physical (material) body and
(2) an immaterial essence, soul, being, persona or whatever term we may care to use here.

Reading through the thread, I understand how you arrive at the second component (though I don't agree) and the first is uncontroversial.

But the idea that these 2 components were brought about by a person - where is your evidence for that?

And why do you think this person has the properties you assign to it (him)? What makes you think it must be 'maximally good' and 'maximally powerful'? I'm guessing it is because this is the received wisdom of those who believe in such a being, but perhaps you have other reasons, such as direct experience of it?

I'll put a copy of this in the main thread in case you want to answer there.

Sat, 27 Mar 2010 16:18:00 UTC | #453041

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Mark Smith's Avatar Jump to comment 485 by Mark Smith

hokusai
Can I suggest you come up with an alternate term to 'God'. 'God' carries a great deal of baggage with it that you apparently want to jettison.

Can you also give whatever term you choose some sort of (presumably provisional) definition, so we know what it is you are claiming to exist?

Sat, 27 Mar 2010 12:32:00 UTC | #452980

Go to: An Apology

Mark Smith's Avatar Jump to comment 51 by Mark Smith

I'm glad Richard has made this statement. I didn't contribute in the forum, but I think he underestimated the importance of the community there and the value it had/has. I hope that will not be lost because of this, whether it continues here or elsewhere.

Sun, 28 Feb 2010 21:01:00 UTC | #444969

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Mark Smith's Avatar Jump to comment 84 by Mark Smith

njwong
Thanks for the link to Thomas Sheehan's lectures. I've had a listen to the first and second and they seem extremely useful. (And as a bonus for me, he references one of my old professors!) If you are interested in the current scientific historical consensus it is well worth listening to.

Sun, 21 Feb 2010 19:16:00 UTC | #442832

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Mark Smith's Avatar Jump to comment 71 by Mark Smith

Sciros
Cheers. See you around.

Mon, 15 Feb 2010 19:43:00 UTC | #441616