Tuesday, July 24, 2007

There is no God

 
PZ found this first [Hide the guillotines, they're on to us!]. And you wonder why we call them IDiots?

The good part is that these people have finally realized that this is a fight between rationalism and superstition. At least I thought it would be a good thing before I saw this video. Who in their right mind would have associated rationalism with guillotines?

46 comments :

  1. Isn't it obvious that we are dealing with people who are not in their right minds?

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  2. Those people are obviously mistaken in their conclusion. It is completely obvious that whether there is a god or not, not everything is permitted.
    But they are right on pointing out that filling your mouth with reason is pretty darn cheap, and a good indicator of mental frivolity.

    Why some people think that hailing reason is of great use is beyond me . It simply adds nothing. "Rationalism" is stillborn and unproductive.
    There is no such thing as "the war of reason on superstition". That just makes you a "believer" of another intellectual dead-end trap that is very obviosuly too easy to fall into. Specially without much understanding of philosophy and the humanities. PZ, Larry: Time to read something form outside the anglo world, OK? Try Ortega y Gasset. He wrote against rationalism in the thirties and remains as good today, too (rationalism has not changed a bit)
    Maybe then you can move on from this default primitive state I once went through too haha.

    "Rationalism" deserves these quote marks as it is more of a travesti of reason. A trading of reason for arrogance, but, more interestingly, with a potential to develop into apologetics for the totalitarian imposition of crap as "the only rational thing".
    It is indeed quite likely that the rise of rationalism in the 30's is related to the rise of totalitarian regimes that ensued.

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  3. Who in their right mind would have associated rationalism with guillotines?

    Well, the guys who used the guillotines, for one:

    We must smother the internal and external enemies of the Republic or perish with it; now in this situation, the first maxim of your policy ought to be to lead the people by reason and the people's enemies by terror.

    - Maximilien Robespierre


    The people who ran the Terror were neither stupid nor insane. So that part is (sort of) fair comment on a decided failure of the Enlightenment.

    The unfair part is trying to extrapolate from that to all proponents of reason.

    ... Not to mention turnabout being fair play ...

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  4. It is confusing when you discuss different concepts of rationalism. The post is about empirically based rationalism, obviously. Other types of bounded rationalism, like positivism or platonism, doesn't fare well when they get contact with facts.

    A turnabout would be fair if guillotines were an indelible part of enlightenment. It isn't, while superstition is an indelible part of, well, superstition.

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  5. Sorry Torbjörn, I think you misunderstand me. The turnabout I meant would be to extrapolate about religious believers based on past deprecations of their kindred souls.

    As for Larry meaning "empirically based rationalism," he could, of course, have said that. I'm not so sure that qualification would have separated out Robespierre, however. But part of my point (and why I said the videos criticism was "sort of" fair) was that many claim to be rationalists, but few are chosen.

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  6. Wikipedia sez:

    Robespierre's desire for revolutionary change was not limited to the political realm. He sought to instill a spiritual resurgence in the French nation based on Deist beliefs. Accordingly, on 7 May 1794 Robespierre had a decree passed by the Convention that established a Supreme Being. The notion of the Supreme Being was based on ideas that Jean-Jacques Rousseau had outlined in The Social Contract. In honor of the Supreme Being, a great celebration was held on 8 June. Robespierre, as President of the Convention, walked first in the festival procession and delivered a speech.

    I haven't heard Harris or Dawkins touting a Supreme Being.

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  7. That is an important point about rationalims. As I said, it can be claimed by anyone, and IS claimed by anyone, such as the creationists.
    I sincerely think we should completeley remove "rationalims" from our discourse and fully trust that reason can speak for itself, without these unnecesary adornments and propaganda.
    Vacuous "rationalism" confuses us with the pseudoscientific and religious. If anything, we should denounce its vacuity.

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  8. I haven't heard Harris or Dawkins touting a Supreme Being.

    No, but what might they have done 200 years ago with the same sort of chance to change society? After all, Dawkins downplays the religiosity of people like Newton by saying they were people of their time. If Harris or Dawkins were people of the 1790s, they might well do the same as Robespierre (who was probably concerned about the effect on the "common people" if religion was banned outright). Certainly such deists/public Christians as Jefferson and Franklin can't be accused of being strangers to rationalism.

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  9. John Pieret:

    Sorry Torbjörn, I think you misunderstand me. The turnabout I meant would be to extrapolate about religious believers based on past deprecations of their kindred souls.

    Oh. Well, there is no connection between the specifics wrongdoings of an individual and the problems with their position. Groups are another matter. But I see no such allegations here.

    I haven't bothered to see the video, so I can't comment on the video's direct argument. Different bounded rationalities and their claim to empirical rationality (default on a science blog, btw) is a known problem.

    Certainly such deists/public Christians as Jefferson and Franklin can't be accused of being strangers to rationalism.

    What can be confusing (especially for black-and-white static fundamentalists such as IDiots) is that theism once was the best empirically based rationality known. What better "explanation" for observable complex events or structures than anthropomorphic deities did they have?

    But with the advent of science around the time you mention theism was found lacking since it is descriptive, not predictive. The development of new empirical methods and and new types of explanations meant "goddidit" was left outside of science and in time debunked.

    Deism however doesn't seem to have been good for anything. :-P

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  11. left outside of science

    Left outside as superstition, that is. We should track that aspect's change as well.

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  12. "That is an important point about rationalims. As I said, it can be claimed by anyone, and IS claimed by anyone, such as the creationists."

    But this implies that all "rationalisms" are equal. They're. Whether or not creationists claim to be "rationalists", the evidence favors evolution. You're trying to boil it all down to relativism.

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  13. "But this implies that all "rationalisms" are equal. They're. Whether or not creationists claim to be "rationalists", the evidence favors evolution. You're trying to boil it all down to relativism."

    Relativism my ass.
    I am not saying that anything said by a "rationalist" is wrong. And of course, all "rationalims" are not equal!!! That is precisely the point: hailing reason or Rationalism costs nothing: it does not relate to the truth or non-truth of what they say.

    Rationalists can uphold many true things. But when they incurr in the same kind of frivolous hails to reason that creationists use, they step down to avery superficial level as they do not seem to realize that creationsist can also do that because it does not connect in any significant way to actually using reason. Not to realize this I think is pretty stupid.

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  14. "Relativism my ass."

    Then what the hell do you call this? (Other than sanctimonious pablum, of course.)

    "Rationalists can uphold many true things. But when they incurr in the same kind of frivolous hails to reason that creationists use, they step down to avery superficial level as they do not seem to realize that creationsist can also do that because it does not connect in any significant way to actually using reason."

    You seem to be assuming that our claims to reason are equal to those of creationists. Creationists will often claim to be "skeptics" too, that doesn't in itself indicate that the claim bears even the slightest verisimilitude. If you think our claims to "rationalism" are false, dispute something we say with evidence. What you're doing right now is just inane chest-beating.

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  15. No, merely hailing reason is chest-beating. That is all I have to say. If you think that's relativism, geee... I think the absurdity of that is plain enough

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  16. You indeed have a better claim to reason than creationists!! but why just SAY so, if you can prove it wihtout saying it? To stop and say "I have reason" adds nothing or proves nothing. So stop it. It's a stupid, frivolous habit.

    Reason, you don't claim it. Reason, you use. Reason, you demonstrate. Claiming reason is for poseurs. Let the creationsists alone do it.

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  17. "Reason, you don't claim it. Reason, you use. Reason, you demonstrate. Claiming reason is for poseurs. Let the creationsists alone do it."

    I suppose we should drop the label "skeptic" too, since skepticism is something we demonstrate. Hey, maybe if we're going down that road, we should get rid of "pragmatist" too. This is just silliness.

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  18. OH my!! wouldn't that be a catastrophe!!! hahaha
    Again those labels can become much more about poseur pride than sound thinking.

    Think about it. Skepticism. To deny is much more easy than to create. One can be only cynical and come off as skeptical. In fact, skeptics usually have a problem of short-sightedness, do not take much conceptual leaps, and resist as a heresy what later becomes obvious truth. So no, I wouldn't stick my chest out because "I'm sooo skeptical".

    Don't even get me sarted on pragamatism. Oh, and by the way: relativims is nit a bad word. Solipsism is what you want to say. Relativism is one of the best things that has EVER happened to science.
    You are not alone, though. The pope doesn't like the word relativism, either.

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  19. "Think about it. Skepticism. To deny is much more easy than to create."

    Oh please, you started out just being silly but now you're in full-on quack mode (using all of their standard canards). Adhering to a philosophy of evidence with regard to extraordinary claims is hardly "denial". And "creation" isn't necessarily good either (science is conservative for a reason; there are many more loony and vapid ideas than there are good and meaningful ones).

    "Oh, and by the way: relativims is nit a bad word. Solipsism is what you want to say. Relativism is one of the best things that has EVER happened to science."

    1. Yep, relativism is the best thing ever to happen to science. It's brought us such important contributions such as What the %^&* Do We Know and shows like Proof Positive.

    2. I didn't mean solipsism. Solipsism refers to the denial of external reality; relativism, at least in the formulation I invoke, refers to notions of truth being not objective but subjective.

    "You are not alone, though. The pope doesn't like the word relativism, either."

    Poison the well much? I don't simply hate "the word", it's the concept I oppose. And the concept I oppose is different from the Pope's (he usually means "moral relativism", which is usually a catch-phrase for any non-theistic moral doctrine). Your attempt to imply guilt by association is laughable.

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  20. "Adhering to a philosophy of evidence with regard to extraordinary claims" is what "skepticism" is about, now? Whatver, your obsession with teh trm skeptic is a complete bore, and NOT a profound philosphical question.

    Relativism in science is all about realizing we can take intrinsically new, different starting points, without one of them being "the real one" and thus others being false.
    Things CAN be approached from radically different starting points. Which one will you use? Well, it depends!!! Ergo, relativism!
    None of them is the intrinsic truth, the "objective" reality. This is Godel in mathematics; Einstein in physics.
    Any framework's starting points will not only have its specific virtues, but also its intrinsic limitations and insufficiencies. Yet only a fool can think this implies we are incapable of making scientific progress. On the contray, to realize we can take different starting points has greatly enrichened science.

    What you need, buddy, is to wonder what on earth do you mean by "objectivity", as this is yet another word that poseurs bang the table with a with similar lack o content as they do for "reason"

    Don't get all worked out over the pope just because he happens to be areligious man you dislike.You DO have that thing in commmon: that you don't like relativism, means you are both absolutists. You both believe there that only one, true viewpoint of things can be the absolute truth, the "objective" reality. No such thing as many possible viewpoints; that would be the dreaded relativism.

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  21. Even you should be able to remember Dawkins "necker cube" metaphor. Two different viewpoints of reality can exists, without any of them being the only, objective reality.
    Mawkins made this case to argue that indeitfying th agent of selection as the gene, or rather the organism, were two equally valid yet different viewpoints

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  22. "Adhering to a philosophy of evidence with regard to extraordinary claims" is what "skepticism" is about, now? Whatver, your obsession with teh trm skeptic is a complete bore, and NOT a profound philosphical question."

    1. I'm using the term in the way that Paul Kurtz and others have defined it. You seem to have a problem with the notion that a single term can refer to multiple concepts.

    2. So the philosophical questions we're discussing have to meet some subjective standard of "profundity" to be relevant? So it matters whether whatever we're talking about is a "bore" to you or not? And I'm now "obsessed" with the term when I originally brought it up in an comparatively offhand comment and only responded to your nonsensical derision of the term? No wonder you find relativism so attractive.

    "This is Godel in mathematics; Einstein in physics."

    Goedel's IC theorems, for the uninitiated.

    1. In any axiomatic system capable of stating basic arithmetical truths about the natural numbers, a statement G can be constructed which is neither provable nor disprovable.

    2. The statement G(x) (in the axiomatic system) is equivalent to Con(x), a statement of the consistency of the formal system x.

    So the implication is that you cannot construct a formal axiomatic system that is both complete and provably consistent. Care to tell me how that implies this?:

    "Things CAN be approached from radically different starting points. Which one will you use? Well, it depends!!! Ergo, relativism!"

    Keep in mind several things:

    1. Goedel's IC theorems only have direct implications for set theory and contiguous disciplines (e.g., Category theory). We're talking about a priori reasoning (i.e., the inability to construct a complete and provably consistent set of axioms), not empirical reasoning.

    2. Einstein refers to physical facts. You have to actually explain why features of relativity (e.g., the impossibility of a universal reference frame) are inconsistent with a certain epistemology.

    3. As well as explaining why those concepts connect at all with your vague ruminations, I'd like a concrete example of what you describe happening.

    What you need, buddy, is to wonder what on earth do you mean by "objectivity", as this is yet another word that poseurs bang the table with a with similar lack o content as they do for "reason"

    Rendering one's ideas isomorphic to reality. It's really not that difficult of a concept, you're only trying your damndest to muddy the waters.

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  23. "Mawkins made this case to argue that indeitfying th agent of selection as the gene, or rather the organism, were two equally valid yet different viewpoints"

    This is internally incoherent. If Dawkins considered both paradigms to be "equally valid" he would not have devoted an entire book (two if you count The Extended Phenotype) to explaining the superiority of his.

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  24. Seems like the thing is a bit more complicated to discuss than what you thought, isn't it, Tyler. Hehehe.

    About Dawkins, well that is exactly how much of a relativist he can suddenly become. Remember he had to deal with influent figures of neodarwinism like Mayr and Ayala.
    But hey, ask your buddies and just look it up. It's also in the fat Gould book (They did not accept his argument, by the way. They kept considering it was just Dawkins that was wrong)

    Loved your definition of objectivity:

    "Rendering one's ideas isomorphic to reality"

    Man,
    this is some BUUUUULLSHIT!!! hahahah.
    What a Masterpiece. A little copy of the world, right inside my head!

    "It's really not that difficult of a concept, you're only trying your damndest to muddy the waters"

    It certainly is not difficult!!! . It's just happens to be unbelievably stupid!!! hahaha. full quack mode?

    We'd better see some progress here soon Tyler, hahaha

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  25. You probably know better examples yourself. Isn't there boolean mathematics, for instance? Is it "complete"? Can it be"proven" from beyond itself? If not, which are the "objective" mathematics? the regular o the boolean?
    I have already argued some concrete examples, if you want the details, look into what Niels Bohr had to say.

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  27. And btw, before you come back with your typical myspace-quality response, let me see if I can pin you down on this:

    "About Dawkins, well that is exactly how much of a relativist he can suddenly become. Remember he had to deal with influent figures of neodarwinism like Mayr and Ayala."

    Nice backpedal. You argued that he argued that both the gene-centric and organism-centric selection paradigms were "equally valid", I pointed out that such a proposition was nonsense since he spent and entire book arguing for it's superiority. I notice he also does not address this objection, instead preferring to spout irrelevant blather about how he had to argue against "influent figures". Sanders' posting MO is becoming more transparent by the minute.

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  28. "You probably know better examples yourself. Isn't there boolean mathematics, for instance? Is it "complete"? Can it be"proven" from beyond itself? If not, which are the "objective" mathematics? the regular o the boolean?"

    This is irrelevant. In case my reply wasn't clear enough, I was asking you how issues pertaining to mathematical syntax implied what you were saying about empirical science. The fact that different sets of axioms can followed to different conclusions is at as old as set-theory and long predates Goedel.

    So, from this, it would seem that your shameless namedropping of Goedel was, as I suspected, completely substanceless. You can prove me wrong by demonstrating how the conceptual issues in set theory, category theory, etc. imply the sort of relativism your expounding. Right now your only comparing a priori apples to a posteriori oranges.

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  29. Should be "at least as old as set theory" above.

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  30. Hey, I told you to look up Dawkins necker cube metapohor for yourself. So my advice is that you stop making an ass of yourself, OK?

    I was extra kind trying to help you out with an example of your own field. If it fails to wring a bell, or worse yet, you are going to dismiss the goedel example just because "it's not empirical". what can I say? do you think every mathematician would agree with you? I have discussed these points with physicist and mathematician friends. You are not representative.

    Anyway, since you have just disqualified your whole field as a legitimate source of examples, I already told you that to look up what Niels bohr had to say in the area of physics. I would discuss my own field, what Gould had to say about structuralism vs functionalism , but it would be long, and helping you is not worth it. Specially if you are just another poser dittohead of "rationalism" .

    Of course the neatest, most simple demonstration is philosophical (and old). But it's a waste to show ir to people who do not really acknowledge philosophy as legitimate argumentation.

    I think this the Byebye, Tyler.

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  31. "Hey, I told you to look up Dawkins necker cube metapohor for yourself."

    I remember it perfectly well Sanders, but what you said was clearly false. You said that he argued that they were "equally valid". That simply cannot be true when he devotes an entire book to explaining why his is superior. Given this incoherence, we can conclude two things:

    1. Dawkins mispoke.

    2. Dawkins was mistaken.

    3. You're misrepresenting Dawkins.

    And just to demonstrate why I think the third option is the most likely, here is an excert (by hand) from the prefact to the 1989 edition of The Selfish Gene:

    I now think this metaphor was too cautious. Rather than propose a new theory or unearth a new fact, often the most important contribution a scientist can make is to discover a new way of seeing old theories or facts. The Necker cube model is misleading because it suggests that the two ways of seeing are equally good. To be sure, the metaphor gets it partly right; 'angles', unlike theories, cannot be judged by experiment; we cannot resort to our familiar criteria of verification and falsification. But a change of vision can, at its best, achieve something lofter than theory. It can usher in a whole climate of thinking, in which many exciting and testable theories are born, and unimagined facts laid bare." -- page xi

    What he's saying there is not that the two interpretations are "equally valid", but only that they're not subject to experimentation. If your invokation of Bohr is along the same lines, I suspect you mean his commentaries on interpretation of quantum theory. Now, this may be somewhat iconoclastic among the physics types that dwell around these parts (especially coming from a math person), but I happen to think that most interpretational attempts at quantum theory amount to little more than handwaving. I appreciate the attempts of people like t'Hooft, for instance, to try to find a theory in that regard that predicts new or novel phenomena. But the absense of the former criteria I don't find the efforts fruitful.

    "do you think every mathematician would agree with you?"

    I don't know of any polling data, so everything I would say in this regard would be anecdotal. I will say that it would be fair to guess that my philosophic tendencies are far more nominalistic than those of most mathematicians, but I don't see why that is relevant to what I said.

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  32. "Two things" should be "three things" above. Damn keyboard fingers.

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  33. Well, I know that your assesment of me shamelessly dropping Goedel's name is not something any mathematician would agree upon. It's not based on your knwoledge as a mathematician, but on your "philosophical" views. So I just wanted to make that clear.

    Haha so silly old Dawkins later took it back, to say his view was better? Hardly surprising! Yes, the poor guy IS incoherent. You were right!

    I do hope though that you understand what Dawkins meent when he said there could be such a thing as two empirically undistinguishable angles... that he later decided gene selection vs organism selection was not such a case after all, is an entirely different matter.

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  34. "Well, I know that your assesment of me shamelessly dropping Goedel's name is not something any mathematician would agree upon."

    Yes, you know this because you did some hard hitting polling in your ass.

    As for me invoking philosophy, what do you expect? Goedel's results are widely accepted and uncontroversial, the philosophical interpretation of them is up for debate. I notice that you still haven't made an attempt to defend your particular philosophical interpretation. Specifically, I'd like a clear example of how they connect to empirical science in a meaningful way.

    (And just to add a disclaimer, I think calling myself a mathematician would be a tad presumptuous. I'm currently studying math, but as of now I have no intention of pursuing a research career.)

    "I do hope though that you understand what Dawkins meent when he said there could be such a thing as two empirically undistinguishable angles... that he later decided gene selection vs organism selection was not such a case after all, is an entirely different matter."

    "Empirically indisguishable" does not necessarily mean "equally valid". I think Dawkins words speak for themselves against your misrepresentation. And in any case, they don't demonstrate what you're claiming. They only demonstrate that our thinking can color our conclusions, something totally uncontroversial.

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  35. If empirically undistinguishable, you can't say which one is true. They remain equally valid.
    Now of course the necker cube is not the token example of relativism hahaha. More usually, both models contradict themselves, but each model is better then the other in handling different phenomenological domains. This does not happen with the necker cube.

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  36. I meant that models conradict each other, tnot themselves haha

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  37. "Yes, you know this because you did some hard hitting polling in your ass"

    No, all my statement required is that at least 1 matheamtician would agree with me; which I know is true

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  38. "If empirically undistinguishable, you can't say which one is true. They remain equally valid."

    And If I recall he spent the entire book explaining why one particular interpretation (his) was or could potentially be more fruitful than the other. You can see this particular dynamic at work with String Theory. So far String Theory is empirically undistinguishable from the standard model, but it's porponents hold it up as potentially fruitful.

    And, like Dawkins, whether they're right is not of particular importance to our discussion. It still doesn't imply the relativism you've been bosting thus far.

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  39. "No, all my statement required is that at least 1 matheamtician would agree with me; which I know is true"

    Well then this is something I misinterpreted:

    "No, all my statement required is that at least 1 matheamtician would agree with me; which I know is true"

    "Any" in the first paragraph should probably be "every". And I don't see the relevance of this particular facts, since Behe proves that not every biologist accepts evolution

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  41. I´ve deleted some offensive comments haha
    Of course set theory is old. Defining axioms is inevitable; and though one may suspect that doing this is somewhat arbitrary, then Goedel does a mathematical proof: that they cannot be proven, and that they are incomplete. And you are dumb enough not to see how this fits into relativism? As I said, "skepticals" are short-sighted. At convenience.

    Tyler, I want you to meditate on how the fact of being a poser rots the brain. If all you care is to appear as a winner, down to the petty issues, you will probably never do some real thinking. That is , you consider yourself right on the account of superficial reasons.
    For instance, you consider yourself satisfied with simply having an argumet to make things fit, even if that argument is a perfect piece of crap.

    Specifically so: Are you really going to hang on to that definiton of objectivity you served us up there?

    The absurdity of your defintion holds the key to the philosophical proof of realtivism.

    And that's enough help for now.

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  42. Sanders, a tip: don't go outside of your field of expertise. (hint: the idea of "proving axioms" is literally gibberish, and that has little if anything significant to do with Goedel's results).

    As for your help, I can do without it.

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  43. I think that more than my incapacity to express myself, it's your narrow-mindedness. I proposed a clear example, boolean vs regular mathematics and all you could do is whine "it's not empirical".
    Tyler: You can make your ideas isomorphic to my ass hhahaha

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  44. And yet you refuse to acknowledge the fact that mathematics is a syntax and thus set up according to rules and assumptions by definition. That's why it is methodologically distinct from empirical science. And yet now matter how many times I show that this is a false equivalence you insist on boosting it. And you insist on baldly insulting anyone who disputes your inanities.

    You've bored me long enough.

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  46. So if there is no empiricism, there is no objectivity in math, then. Math is irrelevant to the discussion of objectivity.
    Gee..and I thought that mathematical demonstrations were the MOST objective.

    Well, what happens is that your definition of objectivity, as we all know, sucks.

    Try out this definition of objectivity:

    Objectivity: When the same conclusion or observation is obtained from different angles (starting points, approaches, etc).

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