Sunday, January 28, 2007

Responses To Some of Yesterday’s Comments

Posted by olvlzl.

And olvlzl, is the "tunnel" thing the only argument you can make for an afterlife?

- Please read through the piece, do you see an argument made for an afterlife anywhere in it? Given that I said that the reported “near death experiences” were, by their very nature, personal experiences, that the nature of the experiences reported couldn’t be known, I don’t think that they can be part of an argument of any kind.
Perhaps I'd be less skeptical of "the meme" if it's believers didn't have such a bad habit of not being able to read what's sitting there right there in front of them.

You make a very long-winded rational sounding but pretty weak argument olvlzl. You obviously haven't understood a word in Dawkins' book.

- I understand that he didn’t honestly present the range of religion as practiced and professed by religious believers. He does what so many people do, he not only stacked the deck, he excluded cards he didn’t want to come up. Why is that all right when he does it but wrong when other people do it? If I’d written a paper for my Senior seminar in music history like that the faculty would have flunked me.
I do think that I have sufficient knowledge to have made the assertions I did about “the meme”, “smart genes”, the role of biological determinism in some of the horrors of recent centuries..., if I’ve made an error, please point that out.
As for being long winded, well.... the evidence is there for anyone to see. Guilty as charged.

The main problem I have with the argument that Dawkins shouldn’t be commenting on religion because he is not an "expert" is this: all the experts will come to the conclusion that there is a god because they are in the god-buisness already....

- I didn’t make an argument that Dawkins shouldn’t be commenting on religion because he isn’t an ‘expert’. I would never say that someone shouldn’t comment on anything. I’m saying that a responsible scholar doesn’t write a long book without mastering the subject matter and presenting it honestly. I will add that people who don’t think that Dawkins should come up with the goods would tend to support my contention that his defenders sometimes do so by applying double standards.

Perhaps there is a “skepticism business” as well as a “god-business”. In fact, there is and Dawkins, Harris, Randi, Blackmore, Jillette, and Hyman are all part of it. All with varying levels of rigor in applying the tools of skepticism to their own activities at different times. I could also say, that at times professional skeptics are guilty of distortion, suppression of information and of outright fabrication. They are, in the end, only human.

As to contentions about abandoning reason, please tell me where I have done that or why it is relevant to my points above. I’d have thought I was calling for standards of reason and evidence that skeptics insist on being applied to them as well. In fact, I think I’ve gone farther than they usually do in applying reason to the nature of what can be known. What is unreasonable about that? The piece, from title to the end of the last footnote, is about the reluctance of self-defined skeptics to accept their own standards.

The only deviation from that throughout the piece was when I said that people should be able to believe as they pleased when falsification of their experience was impossible. Now that is something that really does bother me about Dawkins et al. They seem to think that peoples’ experiences, their beliefs, their opinions, their thoughts need the imprimatur of the professional skeptic. They seem to have a deep, profound and angry resentment when people go on believing what they will without their permission. They ridicule anyone who doesn’t toe their line and parrot their assertions. Apparently when it was announced that God died they applied for the position.
Perhaps I should have linked to the piece I wrote a week ago in which I said that what people believed isn’t very important but what they actually did was. I really don’t care what people believe, that is their business. It is when they act that their business becomes other peoples’ business. I’m calling for freedom, not blind acceptance of anything including the claims of the professional skeptics.

But this is not true in mathematics. Providing the logical steps are ok then the job is done. Fully. For example, it's possible to prove that the angles of every triangle add up to 180 deg (equivalently, that the sum of the angular measures of two triangles equals the angular measure one circle)....

- Of course, you are correct, I love mathematicians. They really know how to use the language. And you are correct that discrepancies in different branches of geometry can exist and be assumed to be part of a larger unity as of yet undiscovered.

Also, essentially calling all atheists liars is a good way for you to look like a hopeless jackass in our eyes.

Ok, quote where I said this or its equivalent. I'm looking and don't even see the word "atheist" in this post. This is a lie and I do ask you to retract it as soon as you confirm that it is not true. The piece isn't even strictly about atheism, it's about skepticism. How do you know I wasn't slamming professional magicians and social scientists, if there's much of a difference in some cases.