Monday, November 19, 2012

The Discovery Institute Presents the Case for Magic

Here's a propaganda video produced by the Discovery Institute. It's based on a book called The Magician's Twin edited by John G. West. John G. West is "a Senior Fellow at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute (DI), and Associate Director and Vice President for Public Policy and Legal Affairs of its Center for Science and Culture (CSC), which serves as the main hub of the Intelligent design movement."

In other words, he's one of the chief IDiots.

The video is interesting for several reasons. Not only does it have the look and feel of a 1950's American propaganda film but it mimics the same utter lack of critical thinking that characterized that genre of film. Perhaps this is intentional since the goal is to attack rationality and critical thinking and the last thing you want to do is be accused of using the very tools that lead to evils such as eugenics, evolution, atheism, and Marxism. (But see "doublethink," below.)

The film is about C.S. Lewis and his views of science and scientism. C.S. Lewis, you might recall, is famous for two things: writing about religion and writing science fiction. (Maybe that's only one thing.) He died almost 50 years ago but that's practically modern as far as the IDiots are concerned. What could possibly have changed in only 50 years?

Watch the video to see the worst examples of Intelligent Design Creationism in action. Here are a bunch of people who think they're intellectuals but in fact what they're doing is demonstrating in public that they have nothing to offer beyond some whining about how the scientific way of knowing is blowing them out of the water and making them living anachronisms in the 21st century.

George Orwell is mentioned in the video and that brought to mind the idea of doublethink from his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.
To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget, whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself – that was the ultimate subtlety; consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word 'doublethink' involved the use of doublethink."

The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them... To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just as long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies – all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.
No wonder the IDiots are afraid of people like George Orwell.



208 comments:

  1. Wow. The only step further in the direction of being openly anti-science that you can take is to publicly declare it to be "lies straight from the pit of hell".

    How do they expect to be able to claim they're actually doing science after this? And not just that, this is also making political statements and it isn't even trying to hide that

    Favorite quote:

    "Lewis did not accept the idea that science was a special form of knowledge that was immune to inspection"

    Would be funny if it was harmless but it is not...

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    1. a special form of knowledge that was immune to inspection

      Meaning "to be accepted regardless of empirical evidence"? I thought they called it religious dogma.

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    2. I wish their dogma would quit shitting on my carpet...

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  2. Went to youtube to read the comments and, surprise, surprise, ratings are disabled and comments are set to approval only.

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  3. But these people are not afraid of Orwell. They firmly believe that scientists who aren't blatantly amoral monsters are exercising doublethink, surreptitiously relying on God to save themselves from instantly plunging into moral anarchy for fear of the consequences, only to blank Him from their consciousness when they aspire to Godlike power.

    Also, skepticism is also opposed to scientism (see Massmio Piglucci et al.) Otherwise they would just be philosophical materialists. The gut feeling of incredulity at the notion that human intelligence evolved is skepticism. The notion that evolutionary theory as a scientific explanation means we know better may be called naturalism. But when all is said and done, naturalism means that we regard science as the only way we really know anything about the world, i.e., scientism.

    The video explicitly accepts the sciences so long as their results are integrated by reason. Many skeptics hold the same view. The notion that skepticism rests on naturalism (or materialism, as the tactless call it,) is not true. I think this because skeptics repeatedly quarrel over the status of philosophy (and along the way, logic and mathematics.) Those who do not agree with explicitly anti-scientistic stance of other skeptics cannot win the argument, and I think usually tacitly concede.

    Most importantly, even skeptics less interested in fighting scientism do not regard the issue as important enough to separate from the others. I conclude therefore that skepticism is not just opposed to some sort of extreme materialism, but pretty much any version of scientism.

    And again, this seems to be pretty obvious. Why else be a skeptic rather than just a materialist?

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    1. I actually don't know anyone who is "just a materialist" who, when pressed to reflect on the subject, isn't also a skeptic.

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    2. Skepticism is in opposition to philosophical materialism. Many skeptics are naturalists, but then, "naturalism" is a separate term preferred over philosophical materialism as a way of disassociating themselves from materialism. This appears to be an objection to scientism.

      I think that there is in fact such a thing as knowledge; that science (broadly considered a range of activities beginning with everyday activities and skills to the most sophisticated professional experiements and models) is the only way we've found to achieve knowledge; that science describes reality; that corrigible does not mean provisional or probable; that other aspects of human life, such as law and philosophy, or logic and rhetoric, cannot refute anything by pure reason but must conform to reality to be meaningful, much less useful.

      Etc. Etc. I'm pretty sure that most of these propositions would be bitterly contested by the vast majority of skeptics. In any event, why does anyone prefer to call themselves skeptics, save that they do not wish to be deemed philosophical materialists? I cannot find any hint of consensus on what "skepticism" offers as a difference, other than a distaste for scientism. The difficulty is that there is still no hint of an explanation of how scientism is different from mere science.

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    3. To me you seem to be ranting, I consider myself a skeptic but I would also agree that the only way of gaining knowledge is through application of the scientific method. This is not to say I absolutely claim there is nothing but a material world out there(nor that the knowledge gained through science is the "true, actual world"), but that it's the best we've got and the alternative is ridiculous.

      Once you open the door to pure philosophy as a "way of knowing", you lose a method of checking and verifying claims. There are no "checks" that can be done against observations. There is no method for preventing someone from just inventing and defining entities into "existence"(if that term even makes sense) using pure philosophy. Everything is up for grabs, and noone seems to be able to apply it in anything remotely like gaining useful insights with predictive capability about the world that's outside their heads.

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    4. At first I thought we really agreed. Then you lost me at the notions that there might be something besides a material world out there. You yourself say the alternative is ridiculous, but that appears to be no obstacle. I also don't think science tells about anything but the true, actual world. But your belief that I'm ranting appears to be an essential part of skepticism.

      As to your larger point, that people like me are opponents, this must be true. You would know your friends, and those who aren't, after all. Thanks for the enlightenment. Bye.

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    5. @S Johnson

      You're not making much sense here mate. I'm not saying I believe there's "something more" out there, I'm saying while we can't prove that there's not, there's no good reason to waste our time taking a mere possibility seriously.

      Yes, I say the alternative is ridiculous, I have no idea what you mean by obstacle in that respect.

      I don't actually believe science tells about "the true actual world", I belive it makes useful approximations, and that this is good enough. I don't lie awake at night at the mere possibility that these approximations aren't the ultimate truth, they work very well and following the work of science through the ages is emotionally and intellectually fulfilling for me. I couldn't ask for much more than that, and a few worthwile moments in the sun with people I care about.

      As to your rant about people like you being "opponents", I've said or meant no such thing(whatever you mean by that crap), you seem to be having a discussion with an imaginary entity holding opinions I have neither intended or expressed.

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    6. If I make a post that says materialism regards science as the only way we really know anything about the world, writing your first sentence to say all materialists are skeptics is not discussion. It's merely contradiction. Your second sentence of course merely dismisses everything I wrote as a rant. I have correctly read your intentions.

      Any pragmatic Christian can agree the science makes "useful approximations," even as they dismiss evolution as a "mere possibility." I know this because I've seen and heard them do this. And while you may know what you mean by "ultimate truth," I don't. You have not actually expressed any opinions.

      All I can figure out about skepticism is that it is hostile to materialism and scientism. I cannot find any other meaning as expressed in the practices of its adherents. And all I can find out about scientism is that at its core it holds that materialism is true, and this is deemed bad by those who therefore oppose scientism.

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  4. Holy fucking crap, a straight up assault on science. I did not expect this level of fevered halluscinatory propaganda even from the IDiot institute.

    Mindblowing.

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    1. I guess that after they failed in getting their product labelled as science, they feel spurned and want nothing further to do with it.

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  5. LM writes,
    "Perhaps this is intentional since the goal is to attack rationality and critical thinking"


    No.

    That is not the goal.
    It IS heavy handed and propagandistic, but your assessment is wrong. But I would be happy to see your slam dunk demonstration that the goal IS to attack rationality and critical thinking. We watched the same half hour of film. Please tell me what I 'missed'.

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    1. ah, nice. So then you admit that the goal of the film ISN'T to attack rationality and critical thinking, and you just wrote that.
      I see. Sorry I missed that.
      Is that like when you call people you disagree with IDiots, stupid, kooks, etc? That's also mere sarcasm and should likewise be taken with a grain of salt?
      When you compare the conflict between religion and science to a 'battle', call appearance of design in nature 'sloppy', etc?
      The reason I 'miss' your sarcasm is that it is so obviously agenda-based, and consistent. You attack ideas that you don't like, and people you don't like (for holding ideas you don't like). And if your rhetoric stretches, say, WAY far of the truth, you claim sarcasm.

      You are a propagandist TOO, Larry.
      Or maybe I'm just being sarcastic when I write that.

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    2. On further thought, I would like to invite Larry - or anyone here who basically agrees with him that the video we watched, in his words, "mimics the same utter lack of critical thinking" of postwar propaganda films, and is itself 'propaganda' - to specifically list a few examples from within the film that best make that case.

      Deconstruct it, critique it, and point out how exactly it fits the characterization LM has provided.

      I am confident that with a bit of research back into the archives of Sandwalk, I can produce examples from LM's own commentary here which correspond nearly precisely to each of the criticisms that anyone wishes to make against the film (albeit toward a different target, obviously).

      And that the examples I produce would be such that any fair and open minded reader would agree that I have made a valid case.

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    3. andyboerger: "I would like to invite Larry - or anyone here... to specifically list a few examples from within the film that best make that case."

      A suitable place to do that would be the comments section at YouTube. Oh that's right, they disabled comments over there.

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    4. andyboerger asks,

      On further thought, I would like to invite Larry - or anyone here who basically agrees with him that the video we watched, in his words, "mimics the same utter lack of critical thinking" of postwar propaganda films, and is itself 'propaganda' - to specifically list a few examples from within the film that best make that case.

      Parts of the video feature ominous music designed to reinforce a feeling that something bad is being discussed.

      The video features selective scary quotations from scientists implying that all scientists think like that. It begins with a speech by the evil black President of the United States.

      There are many variations on "reductio ad Hitlerum"—the association of an idea you don't like with well recognized evils such as designer babies, missiles, surveillance cameras, fallout shelters, Marxism and Stalin (4:07), the Nazis (4:22), racism, etc. etc. It's one of the main themes of the video. We teach in my course that this is the opposite of critical thinking.

      Contrast these with pictures of a pleasant forest, a sailing ship, Narnia, and Harry Potter when the anti-science view is being discussed (6:13). This is immediately followed by clips from a black and white H.G. Wells film from the 1930s depicting the evils of science.

      How many people realize that the celebration of Darwin Day is evidence that science is a religion (8:42)? Is that an example of critical thinking?

      The video features ...

      Angus Menuge; "My interests now are in promoting Christian teaching and scholarship ..."

      Victor Reppert, a Christian apologist who's famous for the "Argument from Reason" (sic).

      Jay Richards, a theologian and Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute.

      John G. West, "Senior Fellow at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute (DI), and Associate Director and Vice President for Public Policy and Legal Affairs of its Center for Science and Culture (CSC)."

      Michael Aeschliman, an English professor.

      In my course we teach that critical thinking demands that both sides of an argument be presented fairly. It suggests to me that the views of at lest one scientist might have been appropriate. He/she might have been able to address the claim that science is a religion (5:45).

      We also teach that the first step in critical thinking is to define your terms. In this case, it means explaining what "science" means and what "scientism" means to those who are accused of it. I must have missed this in the video.

      I could go on but I'm finding it way too painful to watch the video again.

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    5. Thank you, Larry, for responding. I will also re-watch in order to be able to respond to your points better.

      First, as I said that I would be able to cull things from your own writings on Sandwalk, I don't suppose I can argue against your point about the ominous music directly.
      Like you, I also dislike that technique. It has become basically an industry standard for films of this kind. I think it was Michael Moore, in some ways the guru of these types of films and their current trendiness, who can be 'thanked' for that. From 'Bowling from Columbine' onward the same droning, techno sound has been used to create a sense of disquiet and dread during particular moments. I think of films such as 'Iraq for Sale' and 'Food, Inc'. I also think of Dawkins, who used it in portions of his 'Roots of All Evil' series . Many, many political advertisements use it. I do not find the film we are discussing to be particularly egregious in this regard.

      Frankly, my own personal wish, which I share with you, is that filmmakers would simply do away with that technique altogether. But I can assure you that they won't. The people who made this film had to rely on the support of sound engineers, sound editors, etc. Just as the makers of the films I mentioned above did, including Dawkins. They work with them, they take their advice, they leave some things up to them. And these sound engineers know from experience that this technique 'works'. Just like with negative ads in political campaigns, one side won't stop doing it if the other side doesn't because of its effectiveness.
      I find this very unfortunate, and will admit that I hold it against this particular film, but no more so than I do the films of Moore, Dawkins, and the host of other similar, strong message oriented, films of this kind.

      With that explanation aside, I will attempt to focus from now on parallels from your own site with the other criticisms you have made, in future posts.

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    6. There is even a Facebook page devoted to this trend, titled 'Ominous music behind people's voices in documentaries is lame'
      and subtitled
      'Documentary filmmakers: Please stop putting ominous sounding music behind people's voices, as if what they are saying isn't really that interesting or important in itself.'

      No, I didn't create the page ;) - but I wholly endorse the spirit behind it.

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    7. LM writes,
      'How many people realize that the celebration of Darwin Day is evidence that science is a religion (8:42)? Is that an example of critical thinking?'

      Actually, the above words from you, themselves, are not 'an example of critical thinking'.
      First, you ask a question that the film doesn't supply an answer to. It DOES draw parallels with celebrating and elevating the stature of Darwin to, in the speakers words, 'the trappings of religion'. This is not the same thing as claiming that it IS a religion.
      But they have a point in that it does substitute for many people the same desire for meaning and belonging that others find in religion. There is a FB page called 'I Fucking Love Science!' and people who visit there frequently bash religion. Pointing out parallels is not the same thing as calling one thing another thing.

      Hence you have employed, as is a pattern with you, the trick of oversimplifying what your opponent has said, putting words in his mouth, in order to argue against him more easily.
      I didn't even have to look for the archives here. Your charge, I assume, is oversimplification; i.e., because people celebrate Darwin's birthday that doesn't mean they worship him.
      And you have oversimplified. Because the film draws parallels between Darwin boosterism and love of science with the hero worship and adoration one traditionally finds in religions, you say they are presenting that as 'evidence' that 'science is a religion'.
      Is that an example of critical thinking?
      No, it is not.

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    8. LM writes, 'There are many variations on "reductio ad Hitlerum"—the association of an idea you don't like with well recognized evils...'

      ...while also writing, ' It begins with a speech by the evil black President of the United States.'
      Now, the words 'evil black President' stick out like a sore thumb, and beckon critique.

      The quote from the president fits in perfectly with the overall message of the film. There is no reason whatsoever to suspect that the filmmakers a.) consider the president 'evil', or b.) object to the color of his skin.

      And yet Larry is clearly insinuating that. If he has OTHER evidence that the makers of the film are racist, the onus is on him to produce that. To merely insinuate racism on the part of the filmmakers is unfair, and is a feature of propaganda. Racism is a 'well recognized evil', and here we have Larry associating an idea he doesn't like, with it. In short, doing the exact thing he objects to where it appears in the film.

      Once again it was unnecessary to search through the archives of this site for rebuttal material, as LM's response alone has thus far provided me with sufficient material to support my contention.

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    9. andyboerger says,

      I find this very unfortunate, and will admit that I hold it against this particular film ...

      Apology accepted.

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    10. andyboerger says,

      Because the film draws parallels between Darwin boosterism and love of science with the hero worship and adoration one traditionally finds in religions, you say they are presenting that as 'evidence' that 'science is a religion'.
      Is that an example of critical thinking?
      No, it is not.


      You asked for examples of the lack of critical thinking in the video. I gave you one. Now you are moving the goalposts by accusing ME of not thinking critically.

      Do you or do you not think that the video fairly makes the case that science is a religion? Does it present and refute the arguments against their proposition?

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    11. andyboerger says,

      The quote from the president fits in perfectly with the overall message of the film. There is no reason whatsoever to suspect that the filmmakers a.) consider the president 'evil', or b.) object to the color of his skin.

      It could have begun with a similar quote from Ronald Regan, Richard Nixon, or George Bush (I or II), but it didn't.

      I think there's a high probability that the makers of this film didn't vote for Obama and that using his voice at the beginning (with ominous music) plays into the scary warning that science is destroying religion. I think most of the intended audience will not hear these words as an endorsement of everything that's good about science.

      I doubt that everyone involved in making this film is racist but I don't doubt for a minute that they are exploiting the dislike of Obama to make their point. Do you?

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    12. Did you read my full comment? After asking you (or any other reader) to state your objections to the film, I continued;

      "I am confident that with a bit of research back into the archives of Sandwalk, I can produce examples from LM's own commentary here which correspond nearly precisely to each of the criticisms that anyone wishes to make against the film (albeit toward a different target, obviously).

      And that the examples I produce would be such that any fair and open minded reader would agree that I have made a valid case."

      There has been no moving of goalposts. I stated from the start that I would use the objections and criticism offered in order to make the case that this site, and you, it's author, engage in the same, or very similar, propagandistic behavior.

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    13. andyboerger says,

      I stated from the start that I would use the objections and criticism offered in order to make the case that this site, and you, it's author, engage in the same, or very similar, propagandistic behavior.

      Sorry. I missed the fact that you moved the goalposts to the tu quoque fallacy.

      I was still responding to your original challenge where you said ..

      On further thought, I would like to invite Larry - or anyone here who basically agrees with him that the video we watched, in his words, "mimics the same utter lack of critical thinking" of postwar propaganda films, and is itself 'propaganda' - to specifically list a few examples from within the film that best make that case.

      Deconstruct it, critique it, and point out how exactly it fits the characterization LM has provided.


      Delete
    14. I think it is highly debatable whether it was a 'fallacy' to point out that the very things you find objectionable in the film can frequently be encountered here at Sandwalk, in your own writings. At most, it seems a hollow victory. The question remains,
      If you object to propagandistic behavior, why do you engage in it?

      Furthermore, it is erroneous to refer to my 'original challenge', because my ACTUAL original challenge included all four paragraphs of the earlier post. That challenge, in other words, being:
      point out where you see the film as propaganda, and I will make a convincing argument (to 'a fair and open minded reader') by citing passages found here, that it is no more so than this site.
      Assuming that you don't refer to a tray of cake batter that has yet to be placed in the oven an 'original cake', I don't think you can call only the first part of my challenge 'original'.

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    15. Larry writes,
      'I doubt that everyone involved in making this film is racist but I don't doubt for a minute that they are exploiting the dislike of Obama to make their point. Do you?'

      Yes I do. I may be wrong, but your insinuation hardly makes the case. If you have more evidence for your assumption, then the right thing to have done would have been to have presented that alongside your comment about a 'scary black president'.

      Taken as is, that line is propaganda.

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    16. LM writes,
      'We also teach that the first step in critical thinking is to define your terms. In this case, it means explaining what "science" means and what "scientism" means to those who are accused of it. I must have missed this in the video.'

      Yes, you must have. You can find it between 2:19 and 3:59.

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    17. andyboerger says that the video defines "science" but it doesn't. It does, however, offer two definitions of "scientism" so I stand corrected. Here they are ...

      scientism: a particular metaphysical approach which wanted to reduce everything that we could learn scientifically to materialistic causes, blind and undirected causes (Angus Menuge)

      scientism: this idea that the method or methods of natural science should be the bar by which every other intellectual discipline must be held (John G. West)

      The first one sounds like methodological naturalism even though they use the word "metaphysical.". Methodological naturalism is a position that most creationists support. They think that's how science is supposed to be done.

      The second one depends on what you mean by "the method of natural science." If you mean evidence and rationality then the statement simply says that the "bar" is set at the level of requiring evidence and being rational. I think it's self-evident in the 21st century that science represents a standard that all of disciplines hope to achieve. Most creationists spend a lot of time trying to reach that bar.

      Does that mean that "scientism" has won the day?

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    18. LM, putting words in andyboerger's mouth, writes
      'andyboerger says that the video defines "science" but it doesn't'.
      Actually, what I wrote was 'You can find it between 2:19 and 3:59', referring to the definition of 'scientism' that Larry says the film doesn't contain. Technically, he is right in that they don't offer a specific definition of 'science', but what they DO, very importantly, in that segment of time, is take pains to distinguish scientism from science. That should be enough, assuming that most people have a ready working definition of science in their minds that they carry around, and considering that the title of the film is 'C.S. Lewis and the Case Against Scientism' -meaning that is the word they are responsible to provide their audience with a definition of.
      Larry may not realize this, but when an organization produces a film of this kind, they don't produce it in house. They have to work with film companies, sound studios, etc. It all costs money. It takes them two minutes out of a thirty minute film to define 'scientism'. It would perhaps take the same amount of time to differentiate it from 'science' to Larry's satisfaction (if indeed, Larry can even BE satisfied in this regard), and that would perhaps cost some thousands of dollars. Given that most people are pretty comfortable with their own definitions of science, and that the writers of the film DID make a point of distinguishing it from 'science', they have done their job, and were right to save the expense. Period.

      Furthermore, Larry accuses me of using a 'tu quoque fallacy'. Because I so rarely get to use this word, allow me to label his accusation poppycock.
      It is true, that, IF I were trying to defend the film itself, it would not be a valid argument to bring up the fact that 'Larry does it too'. However, that is not what I am doing. I have agreed all along (read my OP for proof) that the film is 'heavy handed and propagandistic'. The whole point of my further commentary here has been to point out just how equally, if not more, heavy handed and propagandistic this site is.
      I have done that, and so far it hasn't even been necessary to consult the archives. Larry has provided me with a surfeit of riches in terms of choice passages on this very thread that help me make my case.

      If he chooses to settle for the hollow 'victories' of saying that I am using logical fallacies or writing things that aren't true, fine. Whatever floats ones boat. If he wants to counter my central argument that SW is a propaganda site, he will have to do considerably better.

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  6. LOL, argument from old-timey science fiction

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  7. I think you've misunderstood what "critical thinking" means. It means, eg, being able to appraise arguments on their merits, and not, eg, just to be able to think up critical cheap shots and direct them at targets you personally dislike.

    It is also very hard to see how a critical thinker could be a materialist/naturalist, since when these isms are examined they turn out to be either false or empty.

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    1. "It is also very hard to see how a critical thinker could be a materialist/naturalist, since when these isms are examined they turn out to be either false or empty."

      Please feel free to enlighten us.

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  8. It is also very hard to see how a critical thinker could be a materialist/naturalist, since when these isms are examined they turn out to be either false or empty.

    Funny you should say that. I think it's very hard to be a good critical thinker and still believe in god(s).

    I suspect we agree on the basic rules of critical thinking but we probably disagree on our evaluation of the "merits" of an argument. All that means is that only one of us is "good" at critical thinking and the other one does it badly.

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  9. I think we can see who does it badly by your first sentence. Off topic at best, and potentially fallacious any number of ways (depending on how exactly it is supposed, if at all, to relate to anything I said).

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    1. So you don't believe in god(s) ?

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    2. Not in any conventional sense. There are, however, I think, various conceptions of God(s) for which a reasonable case can be made. And some of these, fwiw, make the question of belief an inappropriate one - a bit like asking if you believe in English, or in Japanese, and if both, which is the one true language? But this is fairly involved stuff, and I don't see the purpose in changing the subject in this way.

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    3. I think your previous claim that materialism/naturalism is inconsistent with critical thinking segues quite appropriately into the topic of whether one believes in non material beings.

      But perhaps it's all too involved for me.

      And speaking of your previous claim, are the premises of materialism/naturalism empty, false or both ?

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    4. I don't think materialism/naturalism really means anything until we cash it out a bit more, but as soon as we do, and depending on how we do it, it becomes false or empty. That is, firm it up enough that we can actually have some idea what it might mean and it becomes false, or leave it open enough to not be false and it's pretty meaningless/empty.

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    5. So in your opinion, what is the 'ism' of choice for the discerning critical thinker that has 'cashed out' on materialism/naturalism, finding them to be false/meaningless/empty ?

      I think you are being evasive on whether you actually believe in non material beings, when you say things like you believe in a 'conception' of gods and make strained analogies to languages.

      I suspect that you do have an invisible friend, and probably in a pretty conventional sense, and are of the sort that resort to ontological arguments for it's existence, having tacitly conceded that there is no actual evidence for invisible beings other than a really strong hope and desire on your part that they do exist.

      Your sniping runs on evolution specifically and evidence based rational inquiry in general are a good indication that you are a godbot in disguise using a facade of scepticism in a vain attempt to make your position appear respectable.

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    6. If you're training to be a mind-reader, don't give up the day job.

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    7. Hei Luther, I still fail to see any argument on your part. I think that the criticism some people have given you here are valid, in the sense that you are making statements without backing anything up with any arguments. If you come here and make statements like that you should at least be abble to justify them. People here may not agree, but at least we could discuss the arguments. As it is all you're doing is making empty statements.

      This is not an attack on your beliefs or you personaly, by the way, so don't take it that way.

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    8. First point: nobody has offered any criticism of what I said, so it's hard to see how the non-existent criticisms could be valid. All that has been offered, by contrast, are some vague suggestions - followed by some direct statements (false, fwiw) - that I believe in God and must therefore, in some unexplained way, be wrong.

      Re materialism, then, what on earth is it supposed to mean other than simply that the materialist will call whatever turns out to exist "material"? As such it is a thesis about what a person will do in the future rather than a thesis about the nature of anything. The problem being: a) that it is not admitted as such, and is falsely said to be about the world; and b) that no meaning - nothing beyond spelling - can be given to the term "material" that does not turn out to be false right now. In this respect, then, it is either false or an empty thesis which tells us precisely zero about the world.

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    9. Criticizing what you have said would be like nailing jello to a wall and then trying to stop the slime from oozing through your fingers.

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    10. Not at all, I just gave a very explicit objection to materialism above. You, on the other hand, have managed to produce nothing but petty insults and farcical claims about my religious beliefs. Move along, you're out of your depth.

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    11. An argument from incredulity and a straw man definition of materialism ?

      Is that it ?

      I would claim that materialistic science is the only system that generates true knowledge.

      I suspect your beef with materialism is that it rules out spooks and put the boots to dualist theories of the mind and free will.

      You're just not honest enough to admit this.

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    12. It's hardly an argument from incredulity! And it's not a straw man either. Anyway, since you can't think of anything sensible to say, but desperately want to disagree, you're just throwing out accusations of fallacies without the slightest understanding of what they even mean. Move along.

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    13. I'm going to let you have the last word in this exchange.

      In fact, I insist.

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    14. I'd imagine that's because, as you're a one trick pony, who's just performed his one trick twice - to zero effect, you have little else to offer.

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  10. Professor Ian Hutchinson, physicist at MIT has a great video explaining scientism:

    Here:
    http://www.youtu.be/ZRxxcsNdqkk

    And Dr. Hannam has a great lecture in how religion founded science

    Here:
    http://www.youtu.be/I-k24Q01vck

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  11. How is it possible that scientists can attack these people when the scientific community is even more dogmatic backward than any other group of people has EVER been. Just try and publish an article, with mathematical proof, that Dirac's equation is wrong, and see what happens. ALL physics journals reject it out of hand without giving ANY reasoned argument based on experiment and logic why it is wrong.

    I find religious people far more open-minded when it come to science than the scientists who are supposedly objective and open-minded. The real modern bigots are the theoretical physicists who believe in supernatural, and superstitious concepts like "wave-particle duality" , "participatory Universe", "Multi-universes", "the present changing the past" etc. etc. etc. The real crackpots are thus not the members of Discovery Institute; you rather find them in control of Institutes like the Royal Soc. of London, Nature, AAAS, APS, IOP, etc. etc. etc.

    I am a physicist and can state that most of the closed-minded IDIOTS I have met in my life all had PhD. in physics.

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    1. Do you have a better explanation? Do you have a substitute theory for Quantum Mechanics? Did you come up with good alternative solutions for String Theory? Did you submit a paper to scientific journal with proof that Dirac's equation is wrong and got it rejected?

      I don't think you are presenting the case fairly. The physicists I know are perfectly aware that Quantum Mechanics works very well but that it is not necessarily a reflection of the deep reality. It's a *model* thet works really well, just like Relativity works extremely well but we have no proof that gravity is for a fact spacial distortion. The same for Quantum Field theory, in which electrons, quarcks, etc are all described as fields instead of waves or particles. They all MODEL what we see, they are not necessarily what reality is.

      If you have alternatives, feel free to enlighten us.

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    2. @johafprins

      Sounds like a load of crap to me. "Just try and publish an article, with mathematical proof, that Dirac's equation is wrong, and see what happens. ALL physics journals reject it out of hand without giving ANY reasoned argument based on experiment and logic why it is wrong."

      Just a quick suggestion here: Try and submit your mathematical proofs to mathematics journals first, before you start applying them to physical phenomena. Get a few mathematicians on board to check your stuff before you submit it. Last I checked, maths is pretty rigorous so if you get rejected in math journals that's usually a pretty good hint right there.

      Regarding superstitious beliefs about "wave-particle duality" etc. etc. Are your intuitions dictating to reality now? Does your philosophical wibblings take presedence over experiment?

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    3. Just in case someone doesn't know this, the mathematical requirements on the Dirac equation are that it be relativistically correct, i.e. Lorentz covariant. Are you claiming that Dirac 4-spinors are not Lorentz covariant? You have a proof of this? What is wrong with all the proofs in the literature that the Dirac eq. is Lorentz covariant? If you have an answer, you don't need physics journals, publish it on your website and the world will beat a path to your door.

      The physics requirement is that Dirac agrees with Shroedinger in the non-relativistic limit. Which it does, unless you are right and everyone else is wrong. Then there is the iceing on the cake, the Dirac eq. not only includes the electron's spin, it also correctly predicted the existence of anti-particles 6 years before Anderson discovered the positron, the first known anti-particle.

      If you are a Poe, you are a stupid one because nobody on this site cares about your physics rant. And if you aren't a Poe, you are an ignorant idiot.

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  12. These people reek of entitlement. If science is replacing religion as a solace for people's "spirchul needs" then doesn't that mean that science is better than religion? In fact how can science, which is as close to truth as we can get, NOT be better than making things up, which is all religion is?

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  13. Larry

    Do you teach preposterous quote mining like you did here

    "I find this very unfortunate, and will admit that I hold it against this particular film ...

    Apology accepted."

    as part of your critical thinking (lol) course?

    I should also point out that in every complaint you have made the issue is spun out of all proportion and/or cut from whole cloth. The "evil black president" stuff, for example, is pure invention by you - the guy's the president after all, and their point, at that point, is just to give a general overview of what they are talking about - as such it seems a reasonable example.

    As for the claim that they are trying to say science is a religion - do you also teach deliberate obtuseness/misrepresentation in your critical thinking (ahem) course? How about this: science is not a religion per se, but it can/has become very like a religion for many people (you, for example). That seems to be their point, and they are at pains to point out, many times in the opening segment, that that is their point and that the target is scientism, not science. That is, science as an ideology/religion.

    They also provide copious examples, drawn from all over, to support this contention - thus all the stuff about Darwin day. On that point, why no big deal about Einstein day, or Newton day? It's because these people's theories have not the ideological/religious baggage that has attached itself to the theory of evolution - a theory where almost all the big name proponents are fanatically anti-religious ideologues, who intertwine their science with their religious views as if they were the same thing.

    It seems, then, that what you took for a lack of critical thinking by the documentary makers is nothing more than your own dislike for their conclusions/argument. A dislike so strong that you have to twist their words in order to pretend to yourself that they are saying something they are not.

    And finally, you seem to imagine that anyone who makes a documentary has some requirement to make a finely balanced piece. No such requirement exists. It is perfectly permissible to make an opinion piece, and making one in no way shows a lack of critical thinking - a term which, for you, seems to mean whatever you want it to mean.

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    1. "why no big deal about Einstein day, or Newton day?"

      This video is the first I've ever heard of Darwin day, so I would also suggest that it is no big deal. Einstein/Newton day could have easily been used to make the same point, and I agree with you that Darwin was probably selected because of the "ideological/religous baggage".

      But, the point that the video makes from the example is that science (or scientism) is turning into a religion. They do this by implying that scientists are singing songs analogous to religious hymmes, and are essentially worshiping Darwin. But that's simply not true. Scientists aren't in the lab praying to Darwin to explain something. They're doing experiments and interpreting their own conclusions. The experiments reveal new things, and scientists make new interpretations, changing existing dogmas when required. Does that sound like religion? It doesn't sound like religion to me, and hence this video unfairly represents scientism.

      And your right, a documentary isn't required to make a finely balanced piece. That requirement is restricted for good documentaries - this one was boring.






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    2. When you say "science (or scientism)" and then use these terms almost interchangeably by, for example, claiming the documentary is unfair to scientism when your defence is entirely a defence of science and not scientism, you completely miss the point. There is no need to proceed from science to scientism. They are not the same thing. Nothing like it. Their point in the video is purely about scientism, and one of their points is the way scientism is becoming more and more like a religion. It is. And no amount of claiming that science is not a religion will make the slightest difference to that point.

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    3. I think you know what I meant. My definition of scientism is essentially explaining all we know about the universe with science. I guess I could look up a proper definition and argue off it, but I really don't think the definition of scientism is that important for the point I'm making here.

      The difference between my argument and yours, is you say "their point is the way scientism is becoming more like religion". That's fine with me, I said the same thing. But, from there you accept that scientism is becoming more like religion. "It is", I believe was your evidence.

      Well, for my premise I looked at the evidence they present for their point. The guy basically says celebrating Darwin Day, having concerts, singing science songs etc is something scientist do (or followers of scientism, whatever you want to call them) to give meaning to their life - making scientism more like a religion.

      I don't celebrate Darwin day, but I suspect those who do don't celebrate it to give their lives meaning, or because they are showing respect to scientism (as a religion). I think that's a reasonable assumption, do you?

      If I had to guess, I think they are probably celebrating Darwin day to shove it in the face of religious people. They're basically saying "look how easy it is to create a religious-like celebration, hence religion could easily have been made up".

      But really, that's just me speculating. And that's what their evidence is also, pure speculation. (And incredibly misguided)

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  14. It's because these people's theories have not the ideological/religious baggage that has attached itself to the theory of evolution -

    It hasn't attached itself to it. It has been attached by religious bigots who do not like what it has to say about the origin of our species. I suppose if evolutionary theory was about the origin of fish, fruit flies, funguses and ferns but left Man out as a special case, bigots could live with that. When biologists discuss biology in journals, at conferences, in classrooms or in lecture halls, religion is never mentioned at all. It becomes an issue only when creationists pay them a visit -- not in a scientific/academic context but out there in social life, when science comes under attack from outsiders.

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  15. It's clear that some religious people (bigots, as you call them) have attached more anti-religious baggage to the theory of evolution than the theory actually has, but they have been greatly helped in their endeavour by some anti-religious people (bigots as we may as well call them) who have rarely missed an opportunity to rub religious people's faces in it.

    Whoever is to blame, and surely there is blame all round, the theory has become ideologically/religiously charged to a significant degree - it has become something akin to a political-football - and that's never a good thing to happen to a scientific theory.

    It has also, however, become a central plank in certain naive scientistic ideologies, and this is why, albeit stemming from a very different source, I have a lot of sympathy with the core points made in the Magician's Twin.

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  16. It's clear that some religious people (bigots, as you call them) have attached more anti-religious baggage to the theory of evolution than the theory actually has...

    It has none at all. No university handbook of evolutionary biology mentions God or religion anywhere. Research articles in biological journals don't say a word about religion, creationism, intelligent design, Genesis; neither do they try to disprove any of those things or promote atheism. Why should they? In the normal everyday life of the scientific community those issues simply do not exist. What you perceive as anti-religious bigotry is some scientists' allergic reaction to attacks on science by people who do not like the consequences of scientific research because those consequences clash with their beliefs. The reaction has no effect on their research work. They don't write journal articles to prove that God does not exist. They don't bloody care, as professionals.

    If science were not interested in studying humans as a biological species, religious bigotry would probably be much less radical than it is. Most religious people have come to terms with the fact that the Universe is not a cosy little place with the Earth in the centre. They would have accepted the idea of animals, plants, fungi, bacteria and viruses being the products of natural evolution. Nobody would need irreducible complexity and intelligent design, YEC and Biblical literalism, if only an exception could be made for Homo sapiens as the one living thing specially made and protected by God. But science has to go where the evidence leads it, and the same arguments that demonstrate evolution in the rest of the living world can be applied to man. So you either have to accept it all or reject it all.

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    1. Re your first point, yeah, but you have people like Richard Dawkins etc (and I could list many others) who are constantly connecting evolution with atheism. Moreover, it is simply false to claim that, eg, Dawkins hostility to religion is caused purely by religious attacks on science. There is clearly a political agenda at work whether you choose to see it or not.

      And, fwiw, an exception does need to be made for humanity, because humans, unlike any other animal we know of, are not a purely biological entity. So while we have a biological/evolutionary origin, we have another origin as well - and it is what originated from this other origin that really marks us out as human. Perhaps if scientists could come to terms with this obvious fact there would likewise be less animosity to evolution.

      One point to note here as well, is that I have not, as you seem to imagine is necessary, accepted or rejected it all. I have walked an altogether more subtle path. Fancy that!

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    2. "Perhaps if scientists could come to terms with this obvious fact there would likewise be less animosity to evolution."

      And what "fact" is that, Flint?

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    3. an exception does need to be made for humanity, because humans, unlike any other animal we know of, are not a purely biological entity

      I knew you were a godbot from the get go.

      Why is it that you religious idiots can't just state your bias, announce your god soaked agenda and take your licks ?

      Why this dishonest attempt to sneak it in as an bogus opposition to materialism and scientism (whatever the fuck that is) when at the end of the day it's all about spooks.

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    4. Why promise to shut your mouth if you have no intention of doing so? And this has nothing to do with spooks or god, it's just 15 levels above biology.

      And, it doesn't really strengthen your position any to admit you don't know what scientism is. It just marks you out as an arse. Move long.

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    5. Does the number 15 have a special significance in your mythology ?

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    6. Yes, it's number of times cleverer than you currently are that arses like you would have to be to say something of interest.

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    7. I ask because it's the first actual fact that has escaped from one of your screeds.

      Given that you can quantify your "theory" perhaps you could provide some details on this "subtle" and "fairly involved" explanation of reality.

      Or is this some sort of numerology or kabala type gig ?

      Feel free to talk down to your audience and don't forget to play the paranoia, conspiracy theory, indulgent but increasing impatient sage and prophet in his own land angles.

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    8. It's not that difficult, the point is that there's no way to explain humanity purely by reference to biological evolution because we have transcended it in many different ways. And the fact that your religious commitments mean you have to deny this obvious fact is neither here nor there.

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    9. How about the other primates with whom we share many characteristics (altruism, sense of fairness, sociability, language, tool use), have other primate species also "transcended" biological evolution ?

      How is this "transcendence" any different from culture and why do you feel the need to invent a new (and not very descriptive) term ?

      What evidence do you have for this "transcendence", what peer reviewed journals have you published your work in and how often has you work been referenced by researchers in this hitherto unknown (at least by me) field ?

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    10. Well, when a chimp gets round to writing Hamlet or building a space station or other similar things without any change in its biology then we can say it too has transcended it's biology in the way we have. What for example, is the nearest thing to Hamlet any primate has produced? See the difference?

      As for evidence, Hamlet and space stations from a starting point of nothing like those things without any biological evolutionary change. What more would you like?

      As for peer-reviewed journals - lol, what difference would it make to these common sense points if they came with a big "it's ok to believe this" sticker. Do some thinking for yourself, and do some studying, all this stuff has been said a thousand times.

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    11. We started doing all those things after hundreds of thousands of years of slowly accumulating simple cultural innovations until they reached a critical mass necessary for more complex interactions. It's common knowledge. No-one denies it or needs to be told that we have managed to overcome some of our biological limitations thanks to effective cooperation and communication. There's still nothing new here, nothing that we haven't known all along. This "transcendence" is every bit a natural process. It's also evolution, by the way, only happening in a different medium.

      Have you, personally, ever written a five-act tragedy in iambic pentameter or built a space station? No. You cannot even convey your ideas about "transcendence" coherently. What exactly is this transcendence? Where does it come from? Is it just a word, or does it have some semantic content? Until you start explaining some of it instead of engaging in terminological wanking and straw-man tactics, I'll assume that you are one more woolly thinker and withdraw from this pointless conversation.

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    12. We could also add that our brains are quite different from a chimps brain, it develops in a diferent way, our capacity for language has a genetic basis and a strong impact in culture development, etc. I don't get were Flint gets the idea that what humanity achieved has no connection to biology. And as Piotr mentions, Homo Spaines didn't appear one day in a cave and wrote the Eddas or projected a space station. We are all aware of the differences between the cultural and intelectual achievments of humanity, but at the end of the day this talk of "trancendence" is just semantics bulshit. Maybe if Flint actualy came up with a well structured analysis of what he means instead of pulling adjectives out of his ass we could actually have a meaningful discussion.

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    13. Piotr
      Perhaps I haven't written a tragedy or built a space-station but I've come a lot closer than any other non-human animal ever has. In any event, the point was that humans are not describable in terms of their biology to an extent vastly different to everything else we know. Thus it is reasonable to say that humans are the only entities to have transcended biological evolution. Thus when you say it's still evolution, only not in the same medium, you make my point for me. That's right, it isn't any longer in the biological medium. In other word, the biological medium has been transcended.

      I also see you are still fixated on the idea that I am somehow arguing for the supernatural, I'm not - unclear why you can't get that through your thick skull. I guess it's because it's the only card you have left to play - your other arguments having been shown to be nonsense. There is much much more to human that what biologically evolved. Deal with it.

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    14. Pedro
      I don't get the idea that what we do is not "connected" to our biology from anywhere, you just made it up. It has nothing whatever to do with any point I am making. My point is that humans - as understand the term - have a dual origin - on the one hand biological but in the other cultural, for want of a better word. And it is this cultural factor that means we have transcended our biology in a way that nothing else has even come close to doing. Thus if you want to explain humans, you're going to have look at more than biology (because it's been transcended). Look up the word "transcend", btw, no strange use here. Transcend, also has a nice ring to it don't you think. Unclear why you take such offence at such a straightforward use of such a straightforward term.

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    15. I also see you are still fixated on the idea that I am somehow arguing for the supernatural, I'm not - unclear why you can't get that through your thick skull.

      I have no idea what you are arguing for because you are not making your point clear despite repeated requests. You are putting the cart before the horse if you claim that the human species has a cultural origin. Our modern culture has evolved much faster than anything biological, so it's clearly wrong to say that we owe our origin to it. You winced when I mentioned emergent phenomena (though emergence is quite well understood and omnipresent in the Universe), but it seems it's fine and dandy when you repeat "transcendence" as if it were something different from emergence (if it is, please explain how).

      What status do you claim for culture? Why should it be regarded as an active force creating H. sapiens rather than the other way round?

      Of course to explain what we do as social beings we do not use biology. We have other specialised disciplines developed in order to handle the relevant phenomena: cultural anthropology, linguistics, psychology, communication theory, art and literature studies, etc. You needn't tell me that, I'm a linguist, not a biologist. There are so many disciplines studying man because we are understandably interested in our own species. It's our cognitive bias, not a reflection od some special role on man in the Universe. Likewise the fact that we have the science of "geology", which studies just one planet out of the billions that exist in the Milky Way alone, simply reflects our self-centred point of view. We live on this planet, so it's more interesting to us than others (as well as being easier to study).

      Other animals also have cultures and non-genetic transfer of heritable information structures. Some can make simple tools and pass the knowledge how to make them to their conspecifics. Some are capable of partial acculturation to humans (and I don't mean just chimps; there are parrots that really speak rather than imitate human-made noises). There are also aspects of animal social life that are better handled in terms of communication theory and animal sociology than "just biology". I do not see why you insist our origin was somehow special and involved forces that play no role in any other species. Hence my suspicion that you have a hidden creationist agenda. I may be wrong, but you are so evasive that I simply fail to see what (if anything) you are driving at.

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    16. The point is very clear. Humans have transcended their biology. There is a new, non-biological, force at work shaping us. There is no similar force at work anywhere else in the animal kingdom. We are no longer limited by time and space in the way other creatures are. This is why telling the story of how our bodies came to be the way they are is only one part of the story.

      And I didn't wince when you said "emergence", I just pointed out that using such a term in no way diminishes the importance of the phenomenon. Something has emerged in humans, something that is changing us. and it's not biology.

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    17. OK, Flint, I understand what you mean. But we are discussing a matter of "degree" not a fundamental and unique aspect of humans. You can't describe, say, a chimp based on biology either, because biology doesn't explain mommy chimp teaching baby chimp how to use a stick to catch ants. That's learned behaviour that falls into what we could call culture too. So humans did achieve a much more complex level of cultural evolution, but at it's core it's not unique to humans. Different chimps in different regions of Africa show clear cultural differences too that are not based on biology. Therefore, I can't agree with you in this point.

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    18. You don't seem to understand what unique means, or culture. And even if we accept your absurd definition of culture, there are still vast amounts of elements within human culture that have no obvious counterpart in the animal kingdom and are thus, on almost any account, unique.

      In any event, if you can't describe even a chimp in biological terms then so much the worse for biological evolution as an account of all the variation we see in nature. And so even if you want to pretend you can't tell the difference between humans and chimps, biology has still been transcended.

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  17. And, fwiw, an exception does need to be made for humanity, because humans, unlike any other animal we know of, are not a purely biological entity. So while we have a biological/evolutionary origin, we have another origin as well - and it is what originated from this other origin that really marks us out as human.

    All this is totally meaningless unless you can identify that "other origin" and offer some evidence for it. As far as science is concerned, we are exceptional only in the sense that we have developed a highly complex culture, systems of symbolic communication, and -- as a result -- lots of other things that make us "human" (by the way, this adjective is tautological when applied to the human species). It's a unique achievement but there's no compelling reason to suggest the involvement of any supernatural forces in it.

    Perhaps if scientists could come to terms with this obvious fact there would likewise be less animosity to evolution.

    You can't expect science to buy an "obvious fact" that isn't backed up by a scientific argument. Scientists are not likely to do so just in order to placate the people who dislike evolution. Anyway, in most countries such people don't form organised pressure groups and can't cause any real harm in areas which are vital for the future of science (such as the educational system). Their animosity to scientific ideas is their own personal problem.

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    1. Who, other than you, was talking about supernatural forces? (That old (meaningless) chestnut again.) The fact is that these things - the things that make us human - have all happened without any further biological change, and thus we have, in a strong sense, transcended our biological origins in a way nothing else in the animal kingdom has. I see, then, that you are aware of this obvious fact but have not yet come to terms with what it means. That is, in a strong sense, humanity did not merely biologically evolve.

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    2. Yawn... Vanity and self-congratulatory narcissism, as usual. How human!

      If not not just biology and not supernatural intervention, what "other source" has produced us? Why not identify and describe it, if you have any scientific pretensions? Culture is "not just biology" only in the sense that we have specialised scientific disciplines for every major class of emergent phenomena (likewise, chemistry is "not just physics", biology is "not just chemistry", etc.). This compartmentalisation is the artifact of the way we study the Universe, one level of description at a time. There would be no culture without biology, though. Biology -- and only biology -- provides the substrate.

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    3. Yaaawn... self-loathing and denialism as usual, how scientistic!

      Anyway, to answer your question - culture seems as good as word as any. The point being that, for want of a better way of describing it, the software/hardware distinction has become meaningful for the first time with regards to an entity - us. There is simply no way to capture humanity by reference solely to our biology. Deal with it.

      As for your biology not just chemistry and chemistry not just physics stuff, well yeah, and humans, unlike every other animal on this planet as far as we know are manifestly far more than just biology. And, fwiw, giving something a fancy name like "emergent" doesn't make it less so, or less important.

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  18. Anyway, to answer your question - culture seems as good as word as any.

    You have discovered culture? Congratulations. Now if culture is not an emergent product of biology, what is it and where did it come from? Will you just beat about the bushes forever?

    The point being that, for want of a better way of describing it, the software/hardware distinction has become meaningful for the first time with regards to an entity - us.

    So other animals have got no brains, and if they have, their brains are "just biology" and not "software vs. hardware".

    There is simply no way to capture humanity by reference solely to our biology. Deal with it.

    A straw man. Who told you I was trying to capture humanity by reference to biology? It would be like trying to capture, say, bird songs by reference to chemistry, or trajectories of cannonballs by reference to quantum mechanics.

    For example: biology enables us to acquire and use spoken language, it constrains our articulatory and auditory capabilities, as well as information storage and processing, but does not determine the vocabulary and syntax of our mother tongue. Language (as a mode of communication) has biological underpinnings but a language is transmitted culturally, has its own "laws" and therefore linguistics is not a sub-field of biology.

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    1. I've not discovered culture, I'm pointing out it's not the same as biology, as you seem to ludicrously think despite your claims to the contrary.

      No, other animals have brains, but what those brains do is largely the same as what they did when they first developed biologically. What we do isn't the same at all.

      You are trying to capture culture biologically. If you weren't, then why say there is nothing more to us than biology.

      And given that you claim to know all this, why the worship of evolution? Why not just do away with evolution and go straight to chemistry, or physics? And if you can't, why object to higher levels than biology.

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    2. No, other animals have brains, but what those brains do is largely the same as what they did when they first developed biologically.

      What's this supposed to mean? Other animals are also capable of transmitting information via culture. They do so less efficiently than we do, so they don't write books and build spaceships, but the difference is one of scale. For 95% of our history so far we were hunters-gatherers with a relatively simple social structure.

      As for the rest: a whole army of straw men. What fucking worship of evolution? What fucking denial of levels higher than those describes than biology? I neither equate culture and biology nor worship anything. I'm not going to the nearest Darwinian chapel today to sing hymns in praise of Natural Selection just because On The Origin of Species was published on 24 November 1859 (how many scientists are celebrating a "atheist holiday" today?). You just keep reinventing the wheel (different levels of complexity exist!) evading my original question: why do you think science fails to account for the origin of man? What's that "another source" you mentioned? It can't be culture, since culture didn't make us -- we made it.

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    3. describes than biology

      described by biology

      Post in haste, correct at leisure

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    4. The difference may be one of scale, but the difference in scale is vast.

      As for us making culture. No, we are in a relationship with it. We make it and it remakes us, then we make a bit more of it and remakes us. Thus is in stark contrast to anything seen in the animal kingdom. Moreover, by utilising writing and other methods of recording thought we have extended ourselves in time such that someone who painted a cave 20,000 years ago can speak to me today. There is no non-human equivalent. And with the introduction of new technology we have extended ourselves in space too. I can, eg, speak to someone in Australia - though whether I would want to is a different matter.

      We are, then, in a very straightforward sense of the word, the first cyborgs. That is, we are no longer bound by our physical/biological limitations, instead we have become mechanically extended in space and time. In that sense as well, then, we have transcended our biology. We now live a significant part of our life in hyperspace-time. But of course, all this can be seen to a lesser extent in the animal kingdom. Why only yesterday I saw mouse using the phone to tell other mice it had found some cheese.

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    5. I thought we were talking about the origin of our species, and you keep telling me how awsome the modern civilisation is. As for transcending our physical/biological limitations, we'd have to think of a different way of reproduction. Good old animal sex is fun but if we don't give it up, selection and drift will continue to affect us. It would also be nice if culture could extend our maximal lifespan rather than just help us to die a little older. Talking of being "no longer bound" by biology strikes me as premature.

      http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2007/01/have-humans-stopped-evolving.html

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    6. Species? How quaint. How 19th century. I am talking about the origin of humans - you know the ones. And I'm not saying we are completely free from biology, just that there is another important aspect to us. In that respect we have transcended our biology and are also being changed by non-biological processes. That's why I always talk about a dual origin. Evolution is only one part of the story. A part's still a part though - or is that too difficult for you as well.

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    7. Which ones? Those like you, or those like the !Kung hunter in the Kalahari desert? If you believe that it's culture that makes us "human", you should go ahead to conclude he's much less human than you are. He isn't a cyborg "extended in time and space", and his society even now consists of nomadic groups of 10-30 people. He's never seen used a mobile, a car, a computer, never read a newspaper or paid for anything with money, never mind a credit card. His culture "trancends biology" to a much smaller extent than yours (come to think of it, two-thirds of the world's population don't use the Internet, and I suppose 90+% have never flown on a plane). The 19th century approach was just like that: the "savages" weren't quite like "us", and in some places colonised by "us" it was acceptable practise to shoot "them" on sight.

      So "species" is a quaint 19th-century notion? We are not a species, really, are we?

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    8. "Moreover, by utilising writing and other methods of recording thought we have extended ourselves in time such that someone who painted a cave 20,000 years ago can speak to me today. There is no non-human equivalent."

      "Why only yesterday I saw mouse using the phone to tell other mice it had found some cheese."

      I see dogs and cats leaving messages to each other that last for months. They pee their messages instead of painting them on caves or using mobile phones, though.

      Again, we are talking about degrees fo phenomena, not uniqueness of said phenomena. You're using language that carries too much ideological/emotional bagagge to try to strenghten your case. When talking science, stick to the point. This isn't poetry.

      As I said before, we are discussing a matter of "degree" not a fundamental and unique aspect of humans. You can't describe, say, a chimp based on biology either, because biology doesn't explain mommy chimp teaching baby chimp how to use a stick to catch ants. That's learned behaviour that falls into what we could call culture too. So humans did achieve a much more complex level of cultural evolution, but at it's core it's not unique to humans. Different chimps in different regions of Africa show clear cultural differences too that are not based on biology. And we could even extend this talk to gene-culture coevolution, in which culture influences evolution and vice-versa, in a feedback. Anyway, I'm out of this discussion, since we'll just walk in circles from now on.

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    9. There is a unique aspect to our communication. We can download any given message into various media such that our messages are capable of multiple physical realization. No other animal does this.

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    10. @Piotr

      Of course the !Kung hunters in the Kalahari desert are cyborgs. And no were not merely a species - which is a biological term. We are a species plus something else. And the plus something else is so vast in our case compared to any other animal that it is preposterous to try to play it down and claim there is not something new at work in us. This is one of the problems of scientism - it always has to reduce things. Both in the sense of reducing them to their constituent parts and reducing them in terms of their importance by likening them to other quite different things. Thus, eg, Pedro can't tell Coriolanus from cat's piss. Can you?

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    11. Thus, eg, Pedro can't tell Coriolanus from cat's piss. Can you?

      How shall I respond to a question like this? By asking you to explain more clearly where "that something new at work with us" came from? What you have revealed so far is less informative than a cat's urine mark, I'm afraid.

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    12. Where it came from is not nearly as important as noting its existence. This is particularly so when many want to deny, aren't aware of, its existence. You, for example. That is, if you don't want to deny, and are completely happy with, the obvious existence of this other thing then why the constant demand to know where it came from? The point here is that it exists and that it is not biology (any more).

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    13. If after all this discussion you get the impression that I am not aware of the existence of culture or deny it, you are an an idiot. I'm asking you a simple question: where did it come from, in your opinion? The reason why I'm asking it is that you seem to believe that, rather than being made possible by biology as an emergent epiphenomenon (which, in your opinion, but certainly not in mine, would somehow reduce its importance), it represents "something different". When pressed for details, you try to weasel out of giving a clear answer. How did we acquire culture, then? Was it brought to earth and given to us by UFOs?

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    14. I've already said biology underlies it, but it is not itself biology. As for it being an epiphenomenon, lol, that's just more ideologically driven nonsense. Exactly the kind of ideologically driven nonsense that shows why people need to be reminded of its existence and of our complete inability to understand it in reductive terms.

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    15. I've already said biology underlies it, but it is not itself biology.

      Did I say something else?

      As for it being an epiphenomenon, lol, that's just more ideologically driven nonsense.

      Whatever. What is it, then, apart from "not being biology"? I hope by now it's obvious to everybody you are just chasing your tail in tight circles. Have fun, I'm out of this silly word game.

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    16. It's not a word game. The fact is, culture exists, and is not reducible to biology. But your ideology does not permit such things, so you use loaded terms like epiphenomenom and emergent to pretend to yourself you can connect it to biology strongly enough to allow you to think all's well with your materialist paradigm. Well, whatever helps you sleep at night. Bye bye.

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    17. No Luther, you regard culture as something non biological. However, Piotr was very clear, without the foundational biology the cultural aspects, the storing information in places other than our DNA, our inheriting such information through the pictographic, the written, the digital-computer media, et cetera, wouldn't be possible. So, while I would call those new ways of inheritance to "transcend" I do not see why would you be arguing as if everybody else is mistaken, as if it truly is not biological at all (only to then back up and say that yes, biology has something to do with it). Also, as much as I like the word "transcend" in this case, I recognize that it leads to confusions such as yours who thinks that only humans have done so (or only humans to the extent we have done so perhaps). After all, the original photosynthetic bacteria "transcended" "their" biology by provoking unintended, large-scale, effects (accumulation of oxygen), thus taking biology itself (and that of their descendants) into previously unknown and impossible realms. There is such a concept as the extended phenotype after all, and we can explain culture in the same terms we explain other extended phenotypes. But I would agree that such would not be enough to describe humanity. I would agree that we need other things to describe humanity. But that does not undermine science, and the biological basis, one bit.

      But I shall not discuss. I think that you go too far into judging the rest of the commenters here rather than listening carefully. So I am out because if you start accusing me of having a religious zeal about science or biology I will tell you to go fuck yourself. I am not in the mood for that, so adios.

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    18. I've always said that biology exists and has something to do with being human. My point is just that it's not all there is, and if you want to know what a human is you're going to need to know a lot more that biology will ever tell you. Moreover, given the way humans have changed without any further biological change, it is clear that evolution is only a partial explanation of our origin. It's also far from clear that science will ever be able to account for these things within its reductive framework. It's unclear, eg, if any reduction of Hamlet is possible.

      Anyway, I see you're leaving as well. Bye bye then.

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    19. Hey Luther,

      I was checking a conversation with Andy and saw this, and think that one more post might be reasonable.

      it is clear that evolution is only a partial explanation of our origin

      I doubt it. What else would explain our origin if not biology? I agree that biology alone cannot completely describe humanity, but nothing else you have talked about is about our origin, unless you have a very weird definition of origin. As important as Hamlet might be in human literature, even perhaps in humanity's history, it has nothing to do with human origins.

      It's unclear, eg, if any reduction of Hamlet is possible.

      Science is not always about reduction, but I have no intention of reducing Hamlet. Whatever that might mean.

      See ya!

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  19. The last point that Larry raises, to charge the film with being propaganda that discourages critical thinking, is this:
    'In my course we teach that critical thinking demands that both sides of an argument be presented fairly. It suggests to me that the views of at lest one scientist might have been appropriate.'

    So, the question becomes, does Larry present both sides of an argument fairly on this site? The obvious answer is, 'of course not', but there are some contingent features to address.
    This site DOES frequently feature posts which present the views of people Larry disagrees with.
    But.
    These views are always presented with derisive commentary. Larry is not above using insults such as IDiot, stupid, etc. to 'discourage critical thinking' about the opposing views he presents. This is called 'poisoning the well' and it is a hallmark of propaganda.
    Why does Larry do this? He has written:
    'My audience is not the creationists I'm debating, it's the readers who might not have made up their minds about Intelligent Design Creationism. They will read the vicious attacks of these creationists on scientists (Darwinists) and wonder whether there's some truth behind them. I could reply with polite phrases like "rationally indefensible" "unsupported by evidence" and "empirically refuted" but that would be like bringing a flyswatter to a gunfight.

    The general public needs to hear what passionate scientists really think of these IDiots. The best way to do that is to fight fire with fire. The idea is to plant in the public's mind the notion that these creationists are crazies and kooks, not respectable scientists with a different, but scientifically valid, opinion. We tried treating them politely for several decades and what did it get us? It got us leaders and politicians in many countries who think it's perfectly respectable to believe that evolution is false.'

    In other words, Larry has chosen to propagandize. As an excuse, he protests that he 'tried' to be polite (and truly, I find this exceedingly difficult to imagine) but he found himself getting nowhere. So he chose to do away with trusting his audience enough to think critically, and decided to start loading the dice. In other words, propaganda.

    This raises a question I asked earlier, and he has yet to answer:

    If you object to propagandistic behavior, why do you engage in it?

    And, its obvious counterpart,

    If you DON"T object to propagandistic behavior, why do you fault others for engaging in it?

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    1. There is a portion of Larry's quote above that deserves to be highlighted, as it gets to the gist of this whole discussion and particularly the two questions I wrote at the end.

      "....The idea is to plant in the public's mind the notion that these creationists are crazies and kooks,....."

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    2. @andyboerger,

      You are attacking a strawman (as usual).

      I have never denied that in the real world we have to use all the tricks up our sleeve in order to change society. In other words, I don't play fair. Playing fair doesn't work in the real world because your opponents aren't bound by rules of rationality or critical thinking.

      That means that I don't have to refrain from pointing out their most egregious errors from time to time and mocking them for their stupidity.

      Do you honestly think that anything I've written on this blog remotely compares with the stupidity and bias in that ridiculous video? Do you honestly think that I would publish a video about scientism and fail to present the case of those who think it's bad? Would I only show scientists in white lab coats praising the wonders of science? Would I compare religious opponents of scientism to crusaders, nazis, and Islamic terrorists in order to discredit them?



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    3. so now I'm 'attacking a strawman'. Rii-ght.
      The charge itself is ludicrous, and even more so the gratuitous addition of 'as usual', as if I make a habit of attacking strawmen (I do not), but you are welcome to explain just how using your own words to make my case (and in no case have I selectively edited them; to do so is not my habit - you may even note that I corrected a spelling mistake of yours - I score my points fairly) adds up to attacking a strawman. I challenge you to convincingly explain how and why you make that accusation, as I welcome the opportunity to disprove it.

      Or, better yet, you can bring in a referee. I believe you teach your course on critical thinking with a partner instructor, correct?
      I wrote in my original challenge - that would be my FULL original challenge, not the first portion of which - that:
      'the examples I produce would be such that any fair and open minded reader would agree that I have made a valid case.'

      I welcome, and encourage, you to show this entire thread/discussion we have engaged in to that instructor, and let him/her comment as to whether or not I have presented a valid case.

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    4. You've made your case in a very straightforward and successful manner. Larry has been unable to produce anything to back up his claim that the documentary makers displayed a lack of critical thought in anything like thee way he claimed. In each and every case his complaints were found to turn on blatantly distorting, or inventing, points not actually made in the documentary (eg, evil black president - made up; no definition - there are actually three; the implication all scientists think a certain way - not even close, they are pains to reject this again and again; and so on). His complaint about the music was especially risible - I mean, the music displayed a lack of critical thinking! What on earth could that even mean?

      Thus you have also made your secondary point: that when it comes to a lack of critical though and the churning out of propaganda, this blog has it in spades. All justified, of course, become in the blogger's mind, TRUTH (TM) is on his side.

      And, fwiw, the subtitle of the video makes clear that what is being presented is a person's views (those of CS Lewis), and those views are not all that controversial in the first place. That is, science can lead to bad things as well as good - obvious; there is a danger with elevating science above and beyond its areas of expertise, eg, politics and morality - obvious; and this is just as pressing a concern now, indeed perhaps more so, than it ever was - almost certainly true. It is almost certainly true because, eg, one only need look at the scientistic garbage being spouted by members of the self-styled critical/evidence based thinking community to see it. Need I prepare a list?

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    5. Luther, thank you for your reply. The point in your third paragraph is quite good - since the focus of the film was on a particular individual and his views (obviously shared by the film's makers) there was never a need to provide Larry with his wish list for how to have made a more fair and balanced film.

      I would say that, compared to Michael Moore's films (and I generally agree with MM's POV on just about everything - but would hardly call his films fair), this film is no more than a propaganda pipsqueak. ;)

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    6. Indeed, one might argue - the documentary makers would no doubt argue - that the message of scientism is put forth so widely, and without any seeming restraint, that the contrary case needs to be made. Moreover, given that the message of the documentary is so straightforward, it's hard to imagine what balance would be needed. They say, eg, that science can do good and bad - who is going to dispute that? How would we balance such a claim? It is already balanced - good AND bad. The problem with disciples of scientism, is that they have a very hard time seeing how unbalanced their own crackpot views and so when someone points out such trivial truths as science can also do bad, they get all upset and lash out rather than, as a balanced thinker might, understand that it is indeed true and then consider what might be done to mitigate that potential for harm. But they don't because they're too busy thinking uncritically about the utopia science would surely have delivered us into if only it hadn't been for those meddling kids.

      The moral being: crackpots will always see balance as unbalanced. And thus people here see a documentary which, as a self contained piece, was about as gentle as it gets, as some kind of fanatical diatribe.

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    7. Andy,

      the examples I produce would be such that any fair and open minded reader would agree that I have made a valid case.

      I completely disagree. I think that the main problem was that you made an improper request, and that Larry did not notice and then tried to give you definitions and examples of what makes the film propagandistic (which it clearly is). It is not enough to describe characteristics, which is bound to have its problems. That you can make Larry's comments and posts look similar to definitions used to describe the film as propagandistic is just part of the art of rhetoric. I would have started by decomposing your request and to show how making similes could make almost anything into anything before offering any explanations as you asked. In other words, your request was a loaded question fallacy (remember that I am not saying that you engaged into the fallacy out of malice). At the moment Larry answered he was already accepting that the way you decided to go about his descriptions would be valid. He was accepting your premises because he did not see them clearly. That's the very problem with loaded questions.

      I let you think about it because I don't have the energy now to decompose the problems with your request much further.

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    8. NE, I will write more later, but are you suggesting that my request was 'improper' because I didn't write something like

      "WARNING! This challenge contains TWO parts! Please do NOT only read the first paragraph, and answer it ONLY! PROCEED WITH CAUTION" ?

      ;)

      I trusted the intelligence of Larry and all other readers here that I felt no need to preface my request in any such manner. It is true that Larry somewhat gift wrapped his response to me by only reading the first part, but I take no responsibility for that.
      All it really did was save me time. I remain confident that I could have come up with similar examples by going through this blog's archives, which is what I intended to do, you will note.

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    9. NE, I am very interested to hear why you find my request improper. Moreover, why you refer to the 'art of rhetoric' and 'loaded questions', as if my whole purpose here is to score a point.

      That is not my intent. I would feel cheap if I needed to twist a word or phrase in order to make it appear that I was saying more than I actually am.
      We are dealing with the realm of ideas, are we not? The video inhabits that world, as does Sandwalk, as do my responses here, as does this very discussion you and I are having. I don't see anything at all improper about challenging ideas.

      My question was never loaded. I accepted all along the general consensus here that the film is propagandistic. The only passage of mine where I defended it, somewhat, was in regard to the ominous music. I also explained that I felt the film had done all it needed to in defining 'scientism', and said that while I agreed with Larry that the film may have oversimplified during its Michael Moore-esque bit about Darwin's birthday, it did NOT label science a religion. That's it. Pretty basic stuff.

      Larry, on the other hand, has attacked the film. It is a valid, not loaded, question to point out that he engages in the same behavior, and then ask him why he faults the film for behavior he himself engages in. Is it because, essentially, 'he is right and they are wrong'? If so, that is not a good answer, and I am sure you can see why.

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    10. Hey Andy,

      As I said, I did not think you were maliciously posing an improper question, maybe improper is not the best word either. It is more that the request is a wrong request. One requiring clarification rather than being answered. Otherwise it works as a loaded question.

      as if my whole purpose here is to score a point

      Well, one thing requiring clarification would be the purpose of the request, wouldn't it? I have to run, but some more later.

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    11. So, Andy, if we are to understand, then what's the purpose of that request for descriptors that make the video into propaganda and your promise to showing that you can "use" them to qualify some of Larry's posts?

      Why I ask: you are implying something, that something could be that Larry engages in propaganda. Is that what you are implying? Is there any other purpose to the question?

      If you already agree that the video is propaganda, then why make this request for descriptors? You were able to define it as propaganda yourself. So why the request? Why not just go for it and show that you think that such a post by Larry was propaganda as well? Wouldn't that be, as Larry said, a tu quoque fallacy in the making? In other words, an attempt to justify or minimize the effect of this video in our opinion of the IDiots because, after all, by your implication, Larry engages in such things as well? (That's what that fallacy is about.)

      I am asking Andy. Not accusing. I just wrote things that come to mind given your request.

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    12. NE, I get that you are asking, not accusing. I appreciate that and think it's a good question.
      First of all, no attempt to mitigate the propaganda aspects of the film. Although my personal view is that it is not as OTT as Larry makes it out to be (he views it with a hypercritical eye - witness the 'scary black president' remark), I don't see how it could be either fruitful, or very likely successful, to try to change anyone else's mind about it. Thus, no tu quoque fallacy.

      Why word it as I did? Well, in one sense simply to illustrate the point that one who lives in a glass house should not throw stones. Hardly inspired, I know.
      In another sense, because I DID write earlier, "You are a propagandist TOO, Larry." - and he didn't respond. I wanted to press him on that issue, because I think it is valid to ask him why he chides others for behaving in a manner he himself engages in.

      Larry has written that he is trying to 'change society'. Well, in a sense I am too. For one thing, I don't think I am entirely comfortable with ALL the ways that people like Larry and Dawkins and Harris, etc. are trying to change society. I welcome the idea of getting religious indoctrination out of schools, but I don't welcome a world that has been denuded of reverence, where people are openly laughed at for sensing a sacred quality to this world, etc. I don't welcome a world where ANY such experience will be squeezed into the one-size-fits-all template that makes it easier for closed minded people to laugh at, call the person expressing it a 'godbot', etc. You may have noticed that happening here from time to time. :)

      Science may or may not be the most important thing to Larry, but there seems little doubt that he sees it as the most important tool with which to 'change society'.
      I disagree. I think that communication is the most important tool to change society. And that involves understanding and mutual respect. Propaganda works against understanding, no matter which side of the aisle it emanates from. And so I challenged Larry for its profligate usage here. Because like Larry, I want to live in a better world, and each must do his part as he or she feels called, and according to his or her highest visions for what that better world will be like.

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  20. You make an interesting point about the heavy handed responses to ID leading people to suspect they might have a point. That is indeed what I think. Take Behe's point about irreducible complexity. For around 15 years now Ken Miller has been systematically misrepresenting Behe's claim in order to claim it is not a good argument. And add to that the fact that virtually nobody in the scientific community (Larry seems to be an exception here btw) has really called out Miller for this preposterous behaviour. In such a case, one an only wonder what exactly it is they have to hide.

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  21. "You make an interesting point about the heavy handed responses to ID leading people to suspect they might have a point. That is indeed what I think."

    After reading this on your blog ( http://all-ontologies-blazing.blogspot.co.uk/#!/2012/11/evolution-i-view-from-wicked.html ), especialy the part entitled "Problems with B to C", it doesn't surprise me that you do think so.

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    1. You will note, though, that nothing there says anything about design. On the contrary, that argument deals only with the kind of critique of evolution some ID theorists use as a small part (the negative part) of their argument for ID. You will also see, if you care to look, some stuff elsewhere that would probably not sit too well with ID advocates. Apologies for not being a fanatical ideologue.

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    2. Quite the contrary, I didn't accuse you of beying an ID proponent, so your defensivness is unwarrented. What I pointed out is that you apparently don't understand why Behe's arguments are flawed. As Moran has pointed out, some of Behe's arguments do make sense if all you assume is that any change needs to be positivly selected, and that has been shown to not be needed at all. So Behe is being diceptive, misrepresenting what we know (and don't know) about evolutionary processes every time he makes that kind of assumption. Behe goes as far as publishing a recent paper in the Biocomplexity "journal" in not understanding the concept of gene duplication and divergence from a common ancestor, instead discussing what are the probabilities of gene B originating gene C without realizing that both genes diverged from a common ancestor. It's like discussing what the probabilities are of you evolving from your cousin. I'm pretty sure he actually understands what he's doing, but he had to write some nonsense to keep his buddies happy.

      What I don't understand is how after spending so much time (I suppose) reading the literature and having access to good criticism in e.g. Panda's Thumb and Sandwalk, you still don't get what's wrong with Behe's criticism. I can only come to the conclusion that you just don't want to. In that sense, you're apparently just like the IDiots minus God.

      As for being a fanatical ideologue, I'd agree with you if NS was all that we knew about evolution, like the early days of Neo-Darwinism and some adaptationists even today. But that's not all we know about evolutionary processes. Behe criticises a view of evolution that is adaptationist and that has no room for genetic drift and neutral evolution. If he was criticizing this view of evolution, like many evolutionary biologists do, we would not be here discussing Behe. Point is, Behe got stuck in a view of evolution that made sense up until Kimura, but not today. So, his criticism is crap. He reminds me of a YEC that was trying to show what was wrong with geology by criticizing a 150 years old geology book. And it follows that since you made the same arguments in your blog, what you state there is crap too. Unless what you wanted was to critisize those Neo-Darwinistic notions of molecular evolution, in which case it would be good for you to make it clear so in your article, which you don't.

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    3. I'll accept there's something wrong with Behe's criticism when I see someone do justice to his argument and then explain why it doesn't work. I've never seen anyone really take on the main challenge of Behe's argument.

      So let's hear what's wrong with Behe's criticism that the kind of IC systems we see pose a challenge to the current theory of evolution.

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    4. You can start by reading all of the following (shouldn't take long to digest):

      http://sandwalk.blogspot.fi/2012/11/my-posts-on-michael-behe.html

      What exactely didn't you understand or do you think is wrong?

      There are also many analysis of Behe's papers and books at Panda's Thumb. Can you point out to us what are the failures of those criticisms?

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    5. A brief look at Pandasthumb suggests that exactly the same misrepresentations and point-missing are being trotted out constantly. The problem being that once people have demonstrated themselves to be inveterate liars re the stuff I do understand, there is no reason to believe they are not doing exactly the same about the stuff that I don't understand.

      And exactly the same point can be made about this site. That is, everywhere one looks one sees name-calling and duff arguments from self-styled champions of rational thought. Just look at the lies and distortions (eg, "evil black president") in this thread. Why should I believe a word of what is said about matters that would require me to study for several years to check out for myself? Am I supposed to believe these people suddenly stop lying through their teeth the instant they reach the edge of my understanding.

      And, I might add, this extraordinary dishonesty extends all the way to the limits of my understanding even where that exceeds theirs. And so, eg, when Moran contends the Krebs cycle IS irreducibly complex, and they have a DAMN GOOD IDEA how it evolved (something I do not know about), I have no reason to believe that it is not just more bluff and bluster like all the other stuff that I do know is bluff is bluster (eg, the claim Behe's argument is an argument from ignorance).

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    6. So basicaly, you admit you don't know what you're talking about. In that case why did you write an article "explaining" how low the probabilities are of going from sequence A to B and the failure of modern molecular evolution in explaining it if you admit you don't understand it?!? And then you complain that other people are misrepresenting Behe's case?!?

      Fur fucks sake, Flint. If you don't know what you're talking about by your own admitance then how the hell do you know Behe's case is being misrepresented?!?!? The argumets are clear. Why don't you point out what misrepresentation is that? Please point out for all of us to see what was the misrepresentation of Behe's case in all those articles. Please point out what it is in Behe's argument that molecular evolution can't explain.

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    7. I never said I don't know what I'm talking about. I said that there is a limit to my understanding, but that that limit extends well enough to know that what I said about evolution theory as it currently stands is true. I know this because I can read, and understand, reasonable summaries of the state of play, and those summaries are very different from the bluff and bluster that is put out when someone challenges the theory from a different perspective.

      And I know Behe's case is being misrepresented by, say, Kenneth Miller because he claims that Behe says things Behe clearly does not say. Thus Miller lied, and has been lying for 15 years. And I am disinclined to believe people who I know to be inveterate liars.

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    8. I don't know about Miller, I never read anything by him. I took a look at his webpage and read a bit about his articles on "IC". I didn't see any lie or misrepresentation of Behe's claims there, but maybe I missed it. If you could point out specific examples I'd be thankful.

      I'd also be thankful if you could show me, as I asked before, what were the misrepresentations in the various criticisms of Behe's works on Panda's Thumb that you say you spoted. What did they lie about?

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    9. Miller says Behe says that no part of any IC system can have any function. Behe doesn't say this. Indeed, Behe talks at length about the functions of parts of IC systems.

      At Pandas thumb they can be seen, eg, crowing about the Dover case. But the Dover case is a shameful episode because it was in large part won because of Miller's lies. My point being, firstly, I don't really care if Behe's argument turns out to be the worst argument in the world, it's not wrong because of anything Miller says. And any supposed scientific group that doesn't call Miller on this is equally guilty. And if they won't come clean about that, I don't believe a word they say.

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    10. I didn't read Miller's statements in the Dover case. Maybe he lied, maybe he didn't. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. The only thing I'm sure of is that Behe does misrepresent molecular evolution. And my feeling is that he knows what he's doing, so basicaly he's lying.

      My piece of advice to you is that before you write nonsense like your blog article "A View from the Wicked" that you actualy learn enough about molecular evolution to make up your own mind. Right now it's clear you're still wearing diepers as far as these matters are concerned. Maybe it makes you look smart and sofisticated among your friends but for anyone with a good grasp of molecular evolution that article just makes you look stupid. It's in your hands to learn about it. You own it to yourself to learn the science so that you can make up your own mind. You don't need to trust this or that person. Just learn the mathematics involved, neutral theory, genetic drift, neofunctionalization, population genetics, basics of molecular genetics and protein science. That's all you need. If you gave yourself the trouble to write that article than you have no excuse not to learn the science yourself. Either that or don't write them and don't critisize what you don't understand.

      And with that I'm out of this discussion, I've already lost too much time with this. I have actual research to do tomorrow morning. I honestly whish you good luck in your future studies. I hope you take them honestly, and above all be honest to yourself as well as others.

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    11. I have learned enough to write what I wrote. The points are very straightforward. B is uncontroversial - nobody has a clue how life arose. So is C inasmuch as we can't describe cats and we don't yet know how think about consciousness thus we don't know what mechanisms could produce such unknowns. B to C is what really bugs you I suspect, but I checked up as best I could about how proteins came to exist and beyond tweaking ones that already exist nobody has a clue about that either. Thus B, B to C, and C are profound mysteries which may need revolutions in thought to resolve. And given the nature of revolutions in thought we have no idea how they will impact what we currently take ourselves to know.

      Which part of that do you disagree with?

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    12. Although I personaly don't share your opinion in some aspects of your article, I don't have a problem in general with your skeptiness (is this a word?) regarding evolution of life. I think that they are hypothesis that we don't know much about at all and I don't see much of a resolution any time soon.


      So you are right, the part that bugs me is essentialy the "B to C" part. More precisely, its the genetic sequence/protein evolution part. It's not even remotely a good presentation of what is known in modern molecular evolution. I think that Behe did have a point if molecular evolution amounted to have sequecial mutations upon which natural selection had to act positively at every mutation that occurs. But this is an adaptationist view that got stuck in the 60s. Most people working in molecular evolution are perfectly aware that we need to incorporate genetic drift and neutral theory. Hence Behe's misrepresentation. He doesn't present his case fairly and so his criticism is meaningless. He's ignoring decades of modeling and research into mechanisms like genetic drift and neutral theory to make his case. And no matter how many times this is pointed to him he just ignores it. So he either doesn't understand it (unlikely) or he intentionaly ignores it to attempt to make his case (likely). He is aware of the nonsense, I believe, but he is not attempting to convince molecular evolutionists, he is preaching to the choir. In my opinion, you fell for it. Very basicaly, since you can search the internet, articles and books that explain these things, the thing is that the moment you take into account genetic drift and neutral theory you don't need step-by-step mutation in which every mutation needs to be selectively positive. Most mutations are neutral or quasy-neutral (about 75-80% according to recent directed mutation studies), so most mutations wont be deleterious at all. Even in cases where they are somewhat deleterious, the gene duplication will many times spread through a population due to chance alone (genetic drift), or even get fixed in the population. That duplication is free to accumulate mutations, there is no need for sequencial positive selection. Thus, the chance of achieving a new product, including new functionality, is within the reach of random mutation. There is no need to invoke directed mutation (like in Robert Shapiro's "natural genetic engineering") or of a god. I have no doubt that our models and theories will go through many changes as science develops, but our present understanding of molecular evolution is solid enough to make it clear that there is no probabilities that are unsurmountable by the mechanisms. Notice that we talking here about organims that already have genetic components and proteins, in which new genetic programs arise by change of genetic material. How we got that genetic material in the first place (origin of life) is little more than informed speculation based on limited experimental knowledge and chemistry theory. So, back to your example of molecular evolution of genetic sequences and the problem of chance, it is flawed to the bone, as is Behe's. He got lost in the 60's. Don't do the same mistake. And by the way, don't think that every evolutionary biologist out there agree with what Dawkins says. Most molecular evolutionists actualy don't. His views are not representative of what most people working in molecular evolution think. Natural selection alone is limited in power without genetic drift and neutral theory.

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    13. As for cosnciousness, I think most people would agree that we know next to nothing about the phenomena. We don't even know how many species on this planet are "conscious" (whatever that means). I do think, however, that we have no good reason at the moment to invoke that chemistry and physics won't be abble to explain the phenomena. We should continue to take it that way unless strong evidence or a conceptual breakthrough comes along that shows a clear path of research that can take us in diferent directions unimagined so far. But so far we have nothing of the sorts and we have to work with what we have. I don't think bringing some kind of "metaphysics" to the problem is going to help solve it.

      Anyway, I need to stop this discussion. Just learn as much as you can and make up your mind regardless of what X or Y says you should believe.

      Best whishes, Flint.

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  22. Let me just answer some of your remarks you made above, for the sake of not having to wade through this wall of posts:

    "You don't seem to understand what unique means, or culture. And even if we accept your absurd definition of culture, there are still vast amounts of elements within human culture that have no obvious counterpart in the animal kingdom and are thus, on almost any account, unique."

    No one has denied that human culture is far more complex and involved then anything else on the animal kingdom that we know of. As for "my" definition of culture, it's not mine. Many antropologists, specially those working with great apes, would disagree with you. I could change my mind if you presented a good comprehensive argument in the form of an article on your blog showing what is wrong with those antropologists' views. Right now all I have from you is that "my" definition of culture is "absurd". Note that you even admited that "The difference may be one of scale, but the difference in scale is vast." So what is it, is culture unique to humans or is it a matter of scale?



    "In any event, if you can't describe even a chimp in biological terms then so much the worse for biological evolution as an account of all the variation we see in nature. And so even if you want to pretend you can't tell the difference between humans and chimps, biology has still been transcended."

    But I never stated that biological evolution explains all of culture. What I said is that the underlying biology shapes much of culture, not that culture is completely reducible to biology. You're confusing my argument with someone else's. My problem is that the way you present the human case you apparently are trying to present it as something inerently "special". But that "specialness" is an arbitrary attribute. I could just as well say that cyanobacteria, like someone pointed above, are "special" because they have "transcended" their biology to actively modify atmospheric composition and surface geochemistry, changing themselves a posteriori in the process to take advantage of those changes brought by themselves. The first terraformers, and they didn't even need a brain! So I can invoke "specialness" for anything I want. What's the point? The way make your statements I can't shake the image of a Black Monolith somewhere in the african planes beying touched by our ancestors and bringing the "specialness" of our culture to be.

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    1. By the way, maybe you would like to read this:

      Wild Cultures: A Comparison between Chimpanzee and Human Cultures (Boesch, 2012).

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    2. You could call cyanobacteria special. And you could call everything a "thing", and refuse to admit that any differences exist on that basis. But it would be hard to resist the conclusion that you were doing so because you found the idea of specialness, or difference, unpalatable for some reason. And by doing so you would, like science currently is, be blinding yourself to what exists. And thus you would, like Boesch and co, come to the conclusion that there are "deep similarities" between humans and chimps when in fact it's far truer to say that chimps are nothing like us at all. The point being, I guess, that science has to be alive to the differences, and until it is, its explanations will look ridiculous for the simple reason that they are. Humans are special, we are extraordinary, there is nothing even remotely like us, and to reject these simple truths demonstrates a ludicrous ideological stance.

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    3. @Luther Flint

      Science is, unlike you, limited by it's refusal to make stuff up.

      (http://www.jesusandmo.net/2008/12/17/edge/)

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    4. ""Humans are special, we are extraordinary, there is nothing even remotely like us, and to reject these simple truths demonstrates a ludicrous ideological stance."

      OK, then. We will be just wasting both our times in this discussion.

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    5. Do you deny humans are special? And what have I made up? My points are for the most part straightforward facts - eg nothing like Hamlet exists anywhere else in the animal kingdom. That you refuse to admit it is different from cat's piss is what shows why we are wasting our time.

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    6. @Steve

      No, disciples of scientism are limited, unlike me, by their refusal to acknowledge the existence of things they can't yet explain but which are staring them straight in the face. Eg, just because we have no scientific explanation of consciousness - nor any way to think scientifically about it - does not mean, as disciples of scientism think, that it can't be counted as an obvious fact of the world. And no amount of third-rate cartoons poking fun at Jesus will change that.

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    7. Luther, it is not only things such as Hamlet, of course. I think what in many ways might be even more interesting is the awareness of true outliers, such as savants. The character in the movie 'Rainman' knew the exact number of toothpicks that had fallen onto a floor, a second or two after they fell. His character was based on a true person, Kim Peek, who seems to have memorized, or nearly memorized, the contents of 12,000 books.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kim_Peek

      It is very difficult to imagine just how the human brain developed such a capacity, even for one in perhaps a billion people - particularly someone like Kim, who was developmentally disabled - in a purely mechanistic way that was largely influenced by the environment and the needs of hunter gatherers in the jungles or on the savannah. How did blind forces end up resulting in this sort of meta-knowing?
      Let whoever wants to be be satisfied with their blah blah blah chemistry explanation. Chemistry and time do everything for people who wish to see the world that way.

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    8. Savants are very strange. Like the guy who can remember pi to 50,000 places because he sees coloured shapes rather than/along with numbers, and who can learn languages in a week! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPHv9KqpgqM

      This is why I think, and it is just my opinion, that once we get closer to understanding these things, virtually nothing we currently think we know will look the same. And this for me is one of the problems with the evolutionary/materialist paradigm - it has been developed primarily on the basis of a bottom-up analysis of the world - start with rocks, move onto molecules and so on. But as we come up the levels these modes of thinking yield less and less and other things need to be brought to bear. Nonetheless, the old reductionist thinking which frames the whole inquiry is hard for some to shake. And so despite the fact that we can't really reduce anything at any of the higher levels to the levels below, the idea we can still pervades the thinking and determines the kind of materialist worldview that currently holds sway. I suspect we are in for a bigger surprise than we can imagine.

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    9. I meant start with atoms move onto molecules. The rocks were from somewhere else. :)

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    10. LF writes, " I suspect we are in for a bigger surprise than we can imagine."

      I suspect the same thing. And I imagine that one of the things that will be discovered is that the reliance on the linear past-to-present-to future perception of time that current evolutionary theory demands will be challenged. There is more to time than we are capable of comprehending now. As Einstein wrote, "...for us physicists believe the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one."

      Things like the meta-knowing that a savant shows could be imagined in that light as an indication of where evolution is GOING, how the future is drawing it forward. The current theory accepts no such possibility. It IS just speculation, but speculation that is more compatible with how Einstein saw time as TRULY being, rather than how we are, pun intended, EVOLVED to perceive it currently.

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    11. Things like the meta-knowing that a savant shows could be imagined in that light as an indication of where evolution is GOING, how the future is drawing it forward.

      In brief, there's a hope for IDiots savants.

      Andy, why do you attribute "meta-knowledge" to savants? They can memorise impressive amounts of serial data, they can perform certain kinds of calculations in their heads, but why call it meta-knowledge? To learn a series of thousands of digits of "pi" by heart is an impressive feat of memory, but how does it increase knowledge? Somebody has to generate that series first, using a computer. Savants can't do that. If brainpower consisted in storing, systematising and retrieving impressive amounts of raw information, your laptop would be smarter than you.

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    12. The history of science (as well as many other things) is littered with savants. Savants who generated new knowledge, radical breakthroughs, revolutions/revelations in thought.

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    13. Yep, but now you mean savants in the ordinary French sense of the word, not savants "like the guy who can remember pi to 50,000 places".

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    14. Piotr, I am not in any way suggesting that savants will replace scientists or other generator of knowledge; I am referring to some of the more extraordinary outlying aspects of the human brain.

      Try this. Look at your had right now. You 'know' that you are seeing five fingers. Now cross one hand over another to create a crisscross pattern. Still, you 'know' that you are seeing ten, or perhaps eight or nine fingers, but it doesn't appear obvious to you. Even that small patchwork causes your brain to need to count. In the movie Rainman, the Dustin Hoffman character, based on an actual savant, 'knows' that there are 246 toothpicks scattered on the floor in a similar patchwork, and he knows this in around the same time than it takes you to confirm whether you are seeing nine or ten fingers. He tells the Tom Cruise character that he 'sees' this.

      That's why I use the word meta-knowing, because it goes beyond our conventional means of knowing something. Imagine if every scientist had this power that he has. How much more quickly might some fields advance?

      And yet, this incredible power, virtually non-existent in our species and almost completely untapped, evolved as a potential in our brains at some point in the last ten or fifteen million years or so when we diverged from other apes (or longer, if we can imagine that some apes are also savants, which is not unreasonable - how would we know?)

      It serves no real purpose; it doesn't help us be better hunters and gatherers if only one in a few million of us have it and most of them can't function well in society (and our population was so low at that point in our history that there possibly weren't ANY savants, and doubtful that they would have produced offspring). It could just be an accident, but why such an extraordinary accident? Why did our brains evolve an extraordinary power that we can't even use?

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    15. No, I mean savants in exactly the sense of the guy who can remember pi to 50,000 places.

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    16. "Why did our brains evolve an extraordinary power that we can't even use?"

      Because that's the stuff of evolution; produce different allelles, new genes, new genetic combinations, new development pathways. They are "accidents" (so to speak) on which NS may or may not act. If it brings a strong benefit in a particlar environment than NS will act to keep those that carry that variation, assuming that it can be easily inherited.

      Maybe such capabilities could be very useful for hunter gatherers, but since at least in this case the changes in brain structure also carry problems in sociability and motor control it looks like it would be difficult to keep in the population. It also seems that few people throughout history carry this kind of cabability, maybe because it is related to developmental problems and who knows what kind of mutations in what genes or allelle combinations would be needed. "Extraordinary" as it is for us, I fail to see what this has to do with some kind of "direction" in evolution. It doesn't have to have a "purpose".

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    17. Pedro, that's your story, and you're sticking to it!

      :)

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    18. Of course I'm sticking to it; I don't see any reason to invoke something else for the time being. "Savants" don't conflict with what we think are the evolutionary mechanisms. If they did then we would need to come up up with something else.

      :)

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  23. @Andy: That's why I use the word meta-knowing, because it goes beyond our conventional means of knowing something.

    You assume that a real-life savant would really be able to "see the number" of 200+ toothpicks the moment they land on the floor. Dustin Hoffmann's acting is convincing, but the character is still fictitious, even if based on a real person. It's savant skills magnified by Hollywood, larger than life.

    Imagine if every scientist had this power that he has. How much more quickly might some fields advance?

    Do you really think they would advance faster if scientists were able to memorise logarithmic tables or digits of п, or count toothpicks quick as a wink?

    Humans in general are very good at remembering things. An enhanced working memory is what we need for tasks like handling syntax at several levels of recursion, planning complex actions or figuring out the feelings and thoughts of other people around us. A good episodic memory means that we are able to learn from personal experience quickly and maintain a consistent "autobiography". Before writing was introduced, people relied on their memory to an extent that seems really impressive today. The Iliad, the Odyssey, the hymns of the Rigveda and the Mahabharata (200 thousand lines of poetry plus some passages in prose) had to be memorised by poets or priests and transmitted orally through many generations (scores of generations in the case of the Rigveda). Old Indic grammatical treatises (highly formal scholarly stuff) were likewise composed orally and converted into a mnemonic form with the help of students who sat round their professor and served him for living notepads. They were not savants, but they had well-trained memories and little else to do.

    One of the original purposes of poetry was to give culturally important messages a highly structured form that was easier to remember. It still works. I'm definitely no savant, but I learnt "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and E. A. Poe's "Raven" by heart simply by reading them aloud a few times. Most of us remember a few hundred poems and songs without any special training. Actors memorise whole plays, and there are non-savants who store mebabytes of legal regulations, whole chapters of the Bible, etc. in their heads. Chess masters may remember all the moves in hundreds of celebrated games. There's nothing superhuman about it. Memory is relatively cheap compared to processing power. Scientists typically remember tons of facts they need for doing their job, while savants are good at remembering totally useless stuff like whole pages from the telephone directory.

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    1. Piotr, I don't reject your argument out of hand. I do think there is somewhat of a 'weak link' to it, though. I would like to suggest that both you and I (but I won't press you, of course) do a little research into ACTUAL savants, not the way they are portrayed. If either one of us finds that there is nothing out of the realm of possibility that Dustin Hoffman does in the movie Rainman, then it seems to me your argument "magnified by Hollywood, larger than life" would fall by the wayside, correct?
      So I will do a bit of research on that and get back to you. I will be happy to concede the point if it turns out you are correct.

      As for your other point, yes. Music is obviously one of the things that helps us remember, and I suspect that all the epic poems you mention had some musical quality to them (as Zen Sutras do in Japan). For example, music makes it possible for me to remember a ton of Beatles songs, and nearly all of my own as well. The music seems to 'glue' the lyrics into my brain. The brain is fascinating, HOWEVER it came into being!

      But what about time? Do you accept, or reject, Einstein's quote that "the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one"?
      If so, how would REAL evolution, not our theories about it, be bound by the way WE see it? Would it HAVE to move from a past, to present, to future, that ultimately don't even exist except in how we, and probably many other species, perceive it? It wouldn't, obviously. My personal belief is that the future just doesn't sit around waiting for the past and present to catch up to it. I believe that time behaves altogether differently, and the 'future' is capable of influencing the 'past' no less so than vice versa. In that scenario, the powers of the savant may be showing us an evolutionary trait that our descendants may experience much more commonly than we do now. And, obviously, this notion flies in the face of current evolutionary theory. So feel free to hack at it as if with a machete. ;)

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    2. Putting to rest Piotr's argument that the Rainman character is 'savant skills magnified by Hollywood, larger than life', Pt 1:

      Please check this site
      http://www.neatorama.com/2008/09/05/10-most-fascinating-savants-in-the-world/

      In it you will learn that the character that served as the basis for the D. Hoffman character could " reads two pages at once - his left eye reads the left page, and his right eye reads the right page. It takes him about 3 seconds to read through two pages - and he remember everything on 'em."

      You will also become acquainted with Leslie Lemke, who couldn't walk until he was fifteen, but at sixteen, ".....bloomed. In the middle of one night, May woke up to find Leslie playing Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1. Leslie, who has no classical music training, was playing the piece flawlessly after hearing it just once earlier on the television."

      Then there is Stephen Wiltshire, a mute, who nonetheless can " draw an accurate and detailed landscape of a city after seeing it just once!"
      I have seen his Tokyo, I live in Tokyo, and I am an artist. And I couldn't in my wildest dream capture it the way he has after one helicopter ride, though I wish I could!

      So, not so Hollywood after all.

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    3. But what about time? Do you accept, or reject, Einstein's quote that "the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one"?

      If you look carefully at Einstein's maths instead of loosely interpreting his obiter dicta, it's quite clear that "backwards in time" causation is ruled out by the properties of space-time. The Einstein quote comes from a letter of condolences to the family of Michele Angelo Besso, a friend of his, so don't take it too literally. Had Einstein said something similar in a different context, he might have meant that things like the observed simultaneity of events were relative. Events simultaneous in one inertial frame of reference but happening at a spacial distance from each other will not be simultaneous in any other frame of reference, hence "the present moment" is a local notion that you cannot extend to the rest of the Universe. An observer moving relative to you may even see the events in question in the reverse order in time. However, if A can cause B, A will precede B in every frame of reference (note that if events A and B are simultaneous for any observer, neither of them can cause the other). Physics is an exact science, so even if the flow of time and simultaneity are relative, it doesn't follow that "anything goes".

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    4. So, not so Hollywood after all.

      Still anecdotal. You will find different stories about Kim Peek on the Internet, mostly undocumented ones. The Net is even worse than Hollywood. From what I've read, he was really able to read a page in 8-10 seconds and remember most of it, but memorising two pages simultaneously in the way described sounds so extraordinary that it calls for extraordinarily solid confirmation.

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    5. It's unclear, though, what the relationship is between physics and the higher levels of existence in the universe.

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    6. Events simultaneous in one inertial frame of reference but happening at a spacial distance from each other will not be simultaneous in any other frame of reference...

      Self-correction, on second thoughts: they will be simultaneous in certain other (carefully selected) frames. This doesn't affect in the least the argument that simultaneity is a relative concept.

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    7. Take Wiltshire discussed above. The guy was filmed drawing an extraordinary picture of Tokyo. What evidence would you like? The picture is there - you can see it online. Are you suggesting he sneaked some photographs and kept looking at them as he was drawing. Or take Peek, he knows all the days of the weeks for dates, all the US zip codes, etc, etc, etc. Are you suggesting this is some sort of trick? Perhaps he has a team of collaborators who communicate with him via an earpiece to fool us.

      It seems, then, that you are the one making the extraordinary claim, and you need some evidence, any evidence, for why we should not believe what is obviously the case with regard to these cases. You don't even have an anecdote - just an unsupported doubt. So what?

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    8. Luther: It's unclear, though, what the relationship is between physics and the higher levels of existence in the universe.

      The laws of physics are not enough to predict what happens on those higher levels, no dispute about that. Whatever happens there, though, does not violate known physics. Internal complexity does not allow you to move faster than light or create energy out of nothing. Jump out of the window and try changing the gravitational relationship of your mass with that of the Earth before you hit the ground. Or guess the winning numbers in the next nine-figure Powerball jackpot.

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    9. See my response to Pedro below. As I said, this needs explaining.

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    10. Piotr writes,
      "Still anecdotal."
      Hee hee. Which is why I called it "Part One". I'm still looking. ;)

      The day I get you to actually concede a point, Piotr, I'm going to treat myself to vodka martini at one of Tokyo's swankiest bars.

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    11. I'll go to my local simultaneously and have one too - shaken not shtirred obvioushly.

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    12. Take Wiltshire discussed above. The guy was filmed drawing an extraordinary picture of Tokyo. What evidence would you like? The picture is there - you can see it online. Are you suggesting he sneaked some photographs and kept looking at them as he was drawing.

      There's a lot of difference between what you can see online or in a TV documentary and what can be achieved in controlled circumstances. I'm not saying that eidetic memory is a myth. After all, my camera has it (and I know for sure no magic is involved), so why not a human? However, note the following:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eidetic_memory#Skeptical_views
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eidetic_memory#Claims_of_eidetic_memory

      Or take Peek, he knows all the days of the weeks for dates, all the US zip codes, etc, etc, etc. Are you suggesting this is some sort of trick? Perhaps he has a team of collaborators who communicate with him via an earpiece to fool us.

      Where did I say extraordinary memory skills did not exist? But while we're at it, calendrical calculations do involve a few elementary tricks with modular arithmetic and if you master them, you can do them mentally even if you are no Kim Peek. The British mathematician John Conway invented the so-called Doomsday algorithm and (after some practice) uses it himself to determine the day of the week for any given date in less than two seconds.

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    13. So do you believe the guy painted Tokyo in anything like the way it was presented, or do you suspect there was some hoaxing going on?

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    14. The day I get you to actually concede a point, Piotr, I'm going to treat myself to vodka martini at one of Tokyo's swankiest bars.

      All I'm asking for is some credible documentation of the most sensational claims. I don't dispute people's ability to memorise large amounts of raw information. I just prefer to remain sceptical if the evidence is clearly anecdotal.

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    15. So do you believe the guy painted Tokyo in anything like the way it was presented, or do you suspect there was some hoaxing going on?

      I don't know. Why should I definitely "believe" it or not? He may be a genuine case of a true photographic memory, or he may have been helped a little. To know for sure, one would have to test his abilities in strictly controlled conditions.

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  24. "But what about time? Do you accept, or reject, Einstein's quote that "the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one"?"

    I have a little bit of time right now so I hope you don't mind some speculation on my behalf on this discussion. :)

    I'm not sure your question is framed correctly: do you need to have a yes or no answer? The way I see it we can't know if Einstein is correct or not. Maybe he is, maybe he isn't. We can't say for sure, so personaly I can only sit on the fence eating popcorn and seeying where physicists/cosmologists lead us. There is one cosmological model that represents the universe like a flat rectangle that contains all there was, is and will be. The perception of time would simply be like a stripe moving along said rectangle, giving us the perception of time running. This is more or less along the same lines as Einstein talked about. Problem is, we have no way at the moment to verify any of this, so for me it's not about agrreing or disagreeing.

    But lets assume that is what is happening. Does it mean that evolution is directed in the sense that you are implying? I think not necesserily. The future is already "there" but that doesn't mean there is some "metaphysical" force leading evolution to a particular outcome. It means simply that whatever it leeds to is already there but there is no force directing it. So, evolution still works, for all practical purposes, by ramdom events acting on what came before and acted upon by selection, genetic drift, etc. Imagine it this way: tomorrow I'll throw the dice 100 times. What will come up on the dice is predetermined, but does that mean it's "directed"? No, the nature of the dice throwing process is still random, it's just that the outcome has already "occured" as far as the future is concerned. I'm not sure I'm being clear here in what I'm trying to say so be free to refrase what what I said if you feel the need to clarify.

    So basically, there is no direction that is taking humanity to "savantism". There is no "metaphysical force" actively "pushing" things in that direction. Whatever the results of evolution are, even if the future was already dictated, the nature of the process would still fit the current models. The existence of a pre-established future doesn't necessarily imply that there is an unknown "force" directing evolutionary processes beyond randomness and NS, Drift, etc. Think about the dice above again. The evolutionary process is still the same, it's just that the outcomes would already be established, like someone coming from the future and saying what the results were.

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    1. Pedro, I see that your scenario, of the future being 'there' but having no power to influence the past, as plausible, in the sense that it could be true.

      However, that is not how I see time. Nor am I arguing for a strictly 'deterministic' nature of time, as Tolstoy speculated upon in 'War and Peace'. I hold a much more fluid view of how what we call future, past and present interact. In my way of looking at the world, what we think of as, in your words, "random events acting on what came before and acted upon by selection, genetic drift, etc." will not always look that way to us. The fact that it does now is not convincing.

      I am not sure there is any way to prove this, and I am certainly not the person who COULD prove it. Whether or not it is a 'metaphysical' force is beside the point, I feel. We, at our current level of understanding, may refer to it as metaphysical whereas in the future it may accord perfectly to the laws of an advanced physics.

      I'm betting on that. And if I'm wrong, well, it will hardly be the first time. But if I am right, there may come a time when I will be able to gloat to you about being so, either in this life or the next. :)

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    2. "In my way of looking at the world, what we think of as, in your words, "random events acting on what came before and acted upon by selection, genetic drift, etc." will not always look that way to us. The fact that it does now is not convincing."

      I don't see any point in invoking anything else. What we know now explains (in general terms) what we see, so I don't see your point.

      Anyway, we'll see (maybe) how it turns out, but I think no matter what our future versions of evolutionary theory will be you'll still be disappointed ;)

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  25. If there was a pre established (or even determined, or even random/determined)future then you should be able to guess what it is in a way you can't. Take, for example, an excel worksheet - it has around 17 billions cells. I am going to colour one black, and you have to guess one of the ones it will not be and then tell me your guess. If it is already determined which one will be black, how come you can't guess a non-black cell when you would appear to have 16,999,999,999 chances of being right and 1 chance of being wrong. By repeating this experiment we can generate as close to probability 1 as we want and yet you still get it wrong time after time after time. By contrast, I can predict correctly every time even though the probability, if this is not determined by me - a free agent, is virtually zero.

    Three points: this needs explaining; this is why determinism is false; this shows we have free will.

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  26. But I'm not arguing that there is a pre-established future. I was saying IF there was one that would not necessarily imply an unknown force taking us into whatever direction. It would just be outcomes that had "already occured". We are discussing different things. As for determinism, that has gone the way of the dodo since quantum mechanics was established, unless there is a determist fundamental reality underlying quantum phenomena like Einstein believed. If there is, we haven't caught a whif of it yet.

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    1. And I showed there couldn't be a pre-established future thus "if" is unnecessary since we know the answer's no. Also, quantum physics doesn't resolve the problem because, as this shows, what is happening is not probabilistic - in any meaningful sense of the term - either. That is, what happens is determined by me - a free agent.

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    2. In that case you have to tell that to Andy; he's the one asking for the "consequences" of a predetermined future to evolutionary theory. My point was that there would be none.

      I'm personally not particularly interested in the question of free-will (I know, SHOCKING!) so I have nothing else to add to the discussion if it goes in that direction.

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    3. Since when does determinism equal predictability?

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    4. "Three points: this needs explaining; this is why determinism is false; this shows we have free will."

      I'm not sure I understood your example correctly. I choose one for black. Now you know my answer and obviously you select the same for black, thus meaning that I did not predict which one you would choose. But how can you say that my choice and yours weren't both predetermined already? Am I missing something?

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    5. Pedro writes,
      "In that case you have to tell that to Andy; he's the one asking for the "consequences" of a predetermined future to evolutionary theory."
      That's not exactly what I'm asking for, as I wrote in another reply to you. I am speculating not so much upon a predetermined future, which I don't believe in, as upon a much more dynamic and fluid nature of time, that ultimately renders what we now think of as past, present and future as, in Einstein's words, illusory.

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    6. Sorry Andy, didn't see your post. This thread is becoming quite unmanageable.

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    7. Think of it this way: the laws of physics determine which excel cell will be black - and they did so millions of years ago. You have to try to guess - out of an almost infinite number of states of the universe back then, one state the universe was NOT in - the state that would lead to me selecting cell A1 for example. You therefore have an almost infinite number of correct answers and only one wrong answer, and yet the laws of physics seem to have conspired to make you guess wrongly and to pick the very state of the universe that corresponds to the cell that turns black. But this makes no sense unless we attribute consciousness to the laws of physics. We have to see them as some kind of devious prankster otherwise you should be able to guess one of states that correspond to a non-black cell almost every time - exactly the way you would if you didn't tell me your guess.

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    8. Hum, that's an interesting point. As I said before, I'm quite agnostic (and not particularly interested) when it comes to the question of free will, so I have no inbuilt preference for one or the other, but I'd like to see other arguments both pro and con. Anyone?

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    9. Here's a fuller version of the argument.

      http://all-ontologies-blazing.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/why-determinism-is-false.html

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    10. Thanks, I'll read it tomorrow when I get back from work (won't have time today).

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    11. If there was a pre established (or even determined, or even random/determined)future then you should be able to guess what it is in a way you can't.

      You're pulling that claim out of your backside just like every other claim that you have made.

      I can't predict which spreadsheet cell is black because I am not privy to all of the inputs. And in fact neither are you.

      Your arguments are all based on having some sort of privileged position in the universe.

      You are just a bunch of particles subject to the laws the physics, your next state is a function of your current state.

      Quantum physics is not a free will get out of jail card, it merely says that some of the inputs may be truly random, it does not change the fact that the output state is completely described by the inputs.

      That we can not in practice and most likely in theory ever be able to model the universe is not an argument for free will, it is just a childish refusal to recognize our non special place in the universe.

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    12. Luther: this needs explaining

      What needs explaining? You simply misunderstand probability theory. Imagine there are two players, A and B, and a worksheet with N cells. A "guesses" that a cell chosen by him will be non-black, and B colours one cell black. If A and B make *independent* choices, the probability of an incorrect guess equals 1/N. But if the choices are *not* independent, the probability is conditional. Let P(X, n) mean the probability that player X chooses cell number n. The probability that A guesses incorrectly equals P(B, n|A, n) = 1 for every n if B knows A's choice and simply follows it. No need to invoke free will: you can use a (pseudo)random number generator to make the choice unconscious. If you happen to live in a universe (apparently unlike ours) where everything is strictly deterministic, so is the fact that A chooses cell number n, as well as the fact that B follows A's choice.

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    13. Nobody is trying to guess which cell will black. They are trying to guess what the state of the universe was 100 years ago. And nothing I do now can change the state of the universe 100 years ago. The problem being, how can your guesses about the state of the universe 100 years ago be so bizarrely wrong?

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    14. Also, probability has nothing to do with it, because whatever you say the probability is, I can make it be whatever I want. That is, I can make your guess be correct 0% of the time, or 100% of the time, or anything in between to any number of decimal places I choose. And in such cases claiming the thing is probabilistic is meaningless. That's because I decide what happens, and I can do that because, within some very loose boundaries (such as not going faster than the speed of light) I have free will.

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    15. That's because I decide what happens, and I can do that because, within some very loose boundaries (such as not going faster than the speed of light) I have free will.

      Bollocks. If the future is predetermined, what you mistake for the result of your free choice was already predetermined 100 years ago. It was also predetermined that you would *believe* you were exercising your free will.

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    16. But if it was predetermined by the state of the universe 100 years ago, how come you are unable to ever guess the state of the universe 100 years ago no matter how we load the dice in your favour. That is, there is only one state the universe can actually have been in with regard to which cell will be black and nothing I do now can change that. How, then, do you manage to get it wrong every time when all you have to do is guess one state - out of billions - that the universe was NOT in. That is, time and again you guess the very state the universe happened to be in. And what's worse, if I want to I can tell you in advance exactly how many times your guess will be right. Looks like the previous states of the universe dance to my tune.

      I do like the way you offer these one word descriptions of what you are about to write though. "Bollocks" captured it perfectly.

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    17. That is, there is only one state the universe can actually have been in with regard to which cell will be black

      How can you be so dense? "Cell number n is black" is not a state of the Universe. It is a state of cell number n, nothing more. The rest of the Universe, including you and me, can be in any number of states, each corresponding to different initial conditions. I can refuse to tell you which cell I have chosen, or lie to you, or prevent you from editing the worksheet. I don't have to play by the rule -- either because I exercise *my* free will in that way or (if there's no free will) because it was predetermined that I should deceive you or tell you go fuck yourself. Don't blame me, it was on the cards.

      Looks like the previous states of the universe dance to my tune.

      What is your tune? "Diary of the Madman"?

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    18. Firstly, look, if the states of the universe at some time in the past determine how the states of the universe had to be now, then the the fact that, say, cell A1 is black now means that the universe in the past must have been in the kind of state that would lead, deterministically, to cell A1 being black now. Thus we can categorise previous states of the universe in terms of their effects. Thus we can say that the universe at time t-minus 100 years was in a cell-A1-is-black-at-time-t state if cell A1 is black at time t. Whereas, if cell B1 was black at time t then the universe must have been in a cell-B1-is-black-at-time-t state at t-minus 100 years. The problem being, why can you not guess the state of the universe at t-minus 100 years?

      Also, of course you could lie, or destroy the spreadsheet etc, but if someone was to play by the rules we would still need to explain how their guesses were wrong each and every time. That is, if they are trying to pick a state the universe wasn't in but they keep picking the very state the universe was in (at billions to one against) then we need to explain how that is possible. Note how different it would be if we used a random number generator to pick the cell. In that case you would guess correctly exactly as chance would suggest. But throw a human into the mix and suddenly all bets are off. This difference needs explaining - and the explanation is that people are agents and are not determined by previous states of the universe.

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    19. Note how different it would be if we used a random number generator to pick the cell. In that case you would guess correctly exactly as chance would suggest.

      Suppose that I am replaced by a random number generator which "guesses" that cell D761 will be white, and you are replaced by a mindless automaton which colours cell X black if the number generator picks that cell. The effect is the same: the generator's guess will never be correct.

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  27. Several point:

    1. I can predict which cell will be black. I can predict it every time. Take a slightly different version: at the end of this post a number between 1 and 1,000,000,000,000 will appear. I predict it will be 428,546,111,759. Let's see if I get it right.

    2. If I was determined by physical states of the universe then each potential state of the universe in the past (say, 100 years ago) can be associated with one number appearing below. All you have to do, is try to guess one of the billions of states the universe was NOT in. That means you have 999,999,999,999 chances of being right and only one chance of being wrong (ie, guessing by accident the state the universe actually was in). How do you explain the fact you would get this wrong every time?

    3. Deal with the argument rather than just spouting some grand statement of your demonstrably false faith.

    Demonstrably false because, oh, look at this

    428,546,111,759

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    1. Thus your demonstrably false faith seems like some childish refusal to accept what's before your eyes on the basis of something you desperately want to be true. I guess it helps you sleep at night to blame physics for the shit which pours from your mouth on daily basis. Unfortunately though, it is you, rather than physics, that is responsible.

      Also, if physics really was responsible, then what are you having a go at me for? Take it up with Einstein.

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