Help Shannon on the road to recovery

By Phil Plait | May 16, 2007 8:31 pm

This is important. Please take five minutes and read it through to the end.

Last Saturday, I blew it.

I wrote a blog entry which I meant to be focused on how we ascribe supernatural causes to statistical events, and how the words we use tend to wriggle into our brains and take on a reality they don’t deserve. The motivation for this was a newspaper article about a young women who suffered a horrific car accident, and despite her statistically remote chance of survival, she has been making a remarkable recovery. The words "miracle" and "luck" were used many times, and I wanted to talk about those words and how I think they get misused.

Somewhere down the line, though, for whatever reasons, my writing took on a snarky tone. I will give no excuse for it, except to say that it was stupid of me. It had several repercussions: it distracted people from what I was trying to say, lessening the impact of the actual content. It riled up people needlessly, as well, of course. But the dumbest part of all this was that somehow, I forgot that at the other end of that article was a real human being who was going through a personal version of hell that I can’t even imagine.

Sometimes you need a kick in the butt to see the obvious. That kick came when Shannon Malloy, the woman who had the accident, left a comment on my blog (and her friend Twyla also left several salient comments). And yes, I was skeptical as well, but through various means I have determined it was in fact Shannon who left the comment.

The sense of my own stupidity that hit me was palpable. It is so easy to be a keyboard commando, as they say, and write whatever you want and not think of the repercussions. But I have always tried to be above that, to be at the very least polite. It’s not always easy, of course, when dealing with the kind of stuff I do. And I’ve slipped a few times, sure, but never like this. I was really disappointed in myself.

I updated the blog entry, and issued an apology in the comments. But there are over 100 comments there, and mine got lost in the crowd. It deserved its own entry, so here it is.

Science, skepticism, and critical thinking are all about admitting when you’re wrong, and taking action to correct them.

I was able to track down Shannon’s mother and send her a note expressing my regrets over my own callousness. It turns out that she is a gracious and warm woman, and we resolved our issues in a friendly and I dare say upbeat manner. It’s ironic, but after feeling so miserable, I now feel just the opposite, knowing that there really are good people out there. Even better: today I talked to Shannon on the phone as well! We only talked for a few minutes, but it’s clear that she has a lot of gumption and strength. It is no exaggeration to say that she is an inspiration.

I see an onslaught of bad thinking, histrionic attacks on reality, personal insults (like you can’t imagine), and other assorted bile every day. It can be difficult. But seeing what Shannon and her friends and family have gone through, I can handle my own load better now. I think I’ve learned my lesson, and I’m stating so publicly.

And now, after all this, I want to do something positive for Shannon. Her mom told me that she has a vast amount of surgery left to go through, and it’s expensive. Very expensive, six figure expensive. Saturday’s blog post got over 100 comments, which means a lot of people read it, which means, I think, a lot are reading this.

So: got any spare cash? A donation fund has been set up in Shannon’s name at the Denver Wells Fargo bank to help her pay for medical bills. If you want to donate to it, send a check to Wells Fargo. Make it out to "Shannon Malloy Benefit Fund" and put the fund number in the memo field: 303 666 0508. The address is

Wells Fargo
7150 Leetsdale Dr.
Denver, CO
80224

But I can make it even easier. I have a PayPal account, and if you send money to that, I will collect it and send it to Wells Fargo myself. I will of course keep your info secret; I won’t disclose who sent how much. Since I am moving next week, and expect I’ll be busy, I’ll leave the button up on the top of this blog at least until next Wednesday, May 22. If donations are still rolling in, I’ll keep it up until after my move.

Here you go. Give.

Update (Sept 15 2007): Donation button removed.

ADVERTISEMENT

Comments (195)

  1. I for one am proud of you for admitting error and seeking to rectify it through various means. I was quite disappointed with the original post, but opted to more or less ignore it as the reaming in the comments seemed to say it all. I’ll donate as soon as my Paypal funds transfer finishes (which will be before 5/22).

    And for the record, I understood what you meant to say the first time around, but you picked a poor example. Nevertheless, I was glad to see this post and trust that you’ll apply the lessons learned from this experience. Bravo!

  2. Christian Burnham

    It’s nigh impossible not to make mistakes like this on the internet, and the more widely your page is read, the worse the embarrassment and/or the offense caused.

    That’s not an excuse, but we do need to be reminded from time to time that everyone can and will read any personal comment. I know I’ve upset authors with cruel reviews. As far as this case goes- Shannon did not ask to be the center of a media blitz. She’s not a politician or a professional opinion writer or selling a product.

    I’m of the opinion that Phil’s original article was more of a mistake in style than of substance. Style is hard, and it’s especially hard to get across any shades of subtlety over the internet. It may not be much of a consolation, but the intent behind the article was to analyze the press-coverage, and in no way to belittle the people involved.

    I’m also painfully aware that grievous mistakes were made by us posters. Some of us really did go too far. I hope Shannon can forgive them- we all make mistakes, and some really poor mistakes were made.

    I think this has been a ‘learning experience’ for us all and we all wish Shannon well.

  3. Quiet Desperation

    Oh, cheer up. You’re only human, and humans are imperfect. I think that’s something the religious and non-religious can agree upon. :)

    We all make errors. I’m pretty sure a flippant comment of mine about Final Fantasy IV on an early Japanese RPG message board led to the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

  4. Feeling the Abyss staring a hole into you is NO FUN at all.

  5. Wayne

    I have to say I was almost willing to stop reading this blog after the original entry, but as usual you have handled the situation with grace and style. Too often skeptics can come across as arrogant or callous, but this blog (and your book) have always seemed more down-to-earth and humble while at the same time not pulling punches about bad thinking. There’s a reason this blog is so popular, you’re GOOD at this.

    PS. Once you get moved, I hope you have time to do another movie review. I love those. Spiderman 3 has some classic Bad Astronomy, it should be a fun one.

  6. PennyRice

    I agree with the posts above: Good for you for going public with your apology. People often accuse scientists, particularly scientists in the ‘hard sciences’, of being arrogant and cold. You have shown yourself to be the opposite of that image. I’ll be sure and donate.

  7. Once in a while we drop the ball…. Well, we just have to pick it up again and continue the game.

    Good comeback BA.

  8. A couple of years a go my brother was in a pretty bad accident which should have killed him or at least left him mentally impaired. After minor brain surgery followed by a month or so in a coma, he woke up with all of his faculties intact. People are still praising god about his recovery and testifying about the miracle. His response: Highly trained doctors and nurses saved his life with medical science. God didn’t have anything to do with it.

    At the worst point during his coma, a priest came in and asked if he could pray over my brother. I explained that we were not really believers, but didn’t see any reason to forbid him from trying to help. He crossed to the bedside and began to pray. “In the name of the father, the son, and the holy spirit..” At this point my brother began coughing violently, disloging his tracheal tube and spraying spittle into the face of the priest. He calmly wipe his face, looked up at me and said, “I swear I didn’t cause that.” and finished his prayer. Seemed like a pretty cool guy.

  9. Bill Bones

    Forgive my stupidity… but, if Shannon needs this surgery to recover, why it’s up to her family to pay? I can’t imagine such a thing happening where I live. Someone needs badly surgey, and it’s up to charity? Nobody else (State or some insurance company) is responsible? So if they can’t gather those 6-figure dollars, she’ll be left as she is now… and nobody will be held responsible? It sort of puzzles me. Charity, for Christ’s sake, as if she was asking money for a breast surgery! She NEEDS it… Can’t understand it. Can’t.

    I hope that they gather all the money ASAP and she can recover to the full of her possibilites.

    Oh, and Phil… it takes just a fool to spoil it big, but a gentleman to apologyze. 😉

  10. Darren Moore

    Where I come from there is a phrase “manners make the man”. I think it’s fair to say that in this case Phil has proved beyond all doubt that he has both the manners and proved himself the better man.

    Respect where due!

  11. Rather than going back to the original blog, would it be in order to continue here as Christopher seems to have set a precedent.

    Recap, strictly speaking a miracle was a sign or wonder where natural law was suspended. New birth or surviving an accident, not a miracle. A pen falling up to the ceiling in violation of the natural law of gravity – a miracle, albeit not a very useful one (note falling up, not sucked up or pulled up by magnatism).

    There is a concept in the faith world, which I apologise for not mentioning, which allows both the sceptics and the faith people to be right at the same time. This concept is called “providence” (Not the town near Rhode Island). OK so medical science in the form of skilled medics saved a person, Shannon in this case. The survival had a low probability, but can happen. Bring in providence from the faith perspective and you get a gentle guidance of events, still with in natural law bringing about a fortuatous outcome. The sugeons just happened to be on duty that night or some factor just happened to be so, although non miraculous, the person survives, because providence meant that they were able to get the care from the trained medics who could use science to help out. God’s hand in the aftercare could have been there, without any miracles needed. When Christians pray, it should not be for miracles, but providential outcomes.

    I have a good example of a providental outcome where a prayer was answered. One of our church members needed to hand in a dissitation, done on Word. Some how the file was not opening and he thought he would have to do every thing from scratch the night before it had to be submitted. He mentioned it at the Bible class and there were prayers that it could be fixed or he could remember everything. I had a more upto date copy of Word and got him to email it across, and I was able to do Open and Repair, recover his disitation, re-save it and email it back and confirm that the re shipped file was OK. He then went and printed it out. His prayer was answered, and I was the person who was used, this was some months after my system had got blatted and the engineer had given me that better copy of Word.

    Not a single miracle involved, just pure providence

    Science and Faith need not conflict, we just need to get our terminology right

    PS Get Well Soon Shannon

  12. I don’t understand why you feel the need to apologise. Sure, Shannon Malloy has had a horrific accident, and is in the middle of an extremely long and painful rehabilitation. But that was not the point of the article. In fact, in her comment, Ms. Malloy re-iterated her misguided opinion that she has been the beneficiary of divine intervention. Your original statement that she is crediting a God for her survivial but not blamimg a God for her original accident is still as valid as it was when you first made it. Your point was clear when you wrote the first article, and is still as clear and as important, today. “She should have died. The doctors usually discover this injury during an autopsy.” As you said in the OP, she is simply ascribing supernatural reasons to her happening to fall in an extremely small statistical grouping.
    So Shannon was insulted and hurt by what you wrote. So what? My teenaged son is insulted and hurt when I correct him, too. Does that mean I should allow him to think and do whatever the hell he wants? Of course not. Correcting mistaken and misguided thinking is what we do here in the skeptical blogosphere. It is a difficult and uncomfortable position, being the responsible parent, but that doesn’t prevent us from disciplining our children when they need it. Likewise, we should not shy away from pointing out credulous and uncritical thinking when we come across it.
    Shannon Malloy, you need to get over your initial surprise and hurt over seeing your name discussed in the greater blogosphere, and try to read and comprehend the actual message in Phil’s words. It’s for your own good.

  13. gopher65

    Just remember The GIFT. The Greater Internet F***wad Theory. Normal Person + Anonymity + Audience = Total F***wad.

    NSFW:
    http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/03/19

    I have this happen to myself sometimes (often):P. It is hard to control. I find that the best way to stop it is to try and maintain complete neutrality in any statements I make, and to not refer to any other person by name. If I make a statement, it should be able to stand up on its own without an “I disagree!” attached to it. Obviously that wouldn’t work well for a blog format of posting, but it works for me:).

  14. But the thing with the concept of providence is that both sides can be “right” or to put it another way there is no conflict between the two sides.

    With Providence, being the beneficiary of divine intervention does not require miracles, it can be the care given by the trained professionals mentioned and the accumulation of medical science that Phil mentioned. From the faith point you can ask what motivated each professional to go into that profession and what breaks they got to follow that course to the point their lives intersected Shannon’s. You can even investigate how they came to be on duty that day.

    As a side point, we do usually not blame God for things, because of this thing called free will, which is another can of worms for another place and time.

    The sceptic sees only probability and the skill of the surgeons, but with the faith world, providence does not contradict with that assessment, but uses it.

    We do not have to fight here, just be careful with our terms, that is all.

  15. gopher65

    Paul I agree (broke my own rule here:P), but it wasn’t Phil’s message that was in question. I completely agree with his message. It was his delivery and condescending tone of voice (errr writing). It came across in some ways as if he was picking on an individual person, which is not a good thing. Picking on an individual person will lead to resentment and an irrational of that individual’s actions, as it did here. Dissecting and attacking the concept, the core IDEA behind these cries of “miracle” is what needs to be done instead.

  16. gopher65

    *irrational defence of that individual’s actions.

    These comments need an edit feature:(.

  17. The other expression that encompasses providence is “There but for the Grace of God…”

    I hope this helps

  18. Gnat

    This is the first time I’ve ever left a comment on a blog, but I’ve read BA for years. I just wanted to say that I was very impressed with your apology, not only does it show a lot of class, but humanity as well. I did think the original post was harsh, but being able to admit when one has crossed the line is (sadly) a dying occurance in our society. While I don’t always agree with what I read, Phil, your grace, humor, intelligence, and love of life will always bring me back!

  19. spacewriter

    Good on ya, Phil. You, of course, are right to be annoyed at this indiscriminate use of “miracle” when it was clear that excellent medical science saved the day. But, you are also correct that the language used in OP was a bit strong.

  20. I’m just sad the apology was necessary. The first post wasn’t making fun of her, or wishing her harm. The fact that you need to apologize for talking about the situation around the aftermath of her accident is just audience politics.

    You didn’t do anything wrong in the first post, unless you count “not fawning” as “wrong”. Sure, she took it bad. That’s not uncommon: she’s having a rough time, and people get defensive and irritable when times are rough. They (we) expect that everyone should pay attention to our plight. But it’s not your fault she’s having a bad time, and you never wished her harm.

    Sure, help her if you like. But it should be noted that the point of the original essay is still important: don’t cherry-pick your data.

  21. Josh

    Man, this is why I don’t hang out with the skeptics crowd. Some of you are just as easily offended as the religious wackos. God forbid I say “It’s a miracle!” Oh wait, I said “God.” Give me a break. I don’t believe in God but I say “God forbid” all the time. Who cares?

    I’m all for promoting rationality, the scientific method, and empirical, objective thought; but at what point do you get the right to be condescending and pretentious? Our message would be heard much more clearly if it were spoken with compassion and understanding.

    Phil, I commend you for getting off of your holy dais to apologize. I was actually going to unsubscribe from your feed after that post. And to Shannon Malloy, I sincerely hope your recovery is speedy and as painless as possible. We’re lucky to have you with us still… and it doesn’t matter how you define “luck.”

  22. Parris

    I don’t think you did anything wrong. But I can understand not wanting to possibly have any hard feelings.

  23. Phil

    I did feel your attack on using the word “luck” was a bit harsh but it’s refreshing to see someone stand up and say “I was wrong”.

    And it’s even better to set up a fund on Paypal which I am about to donate to!

  24. GUNNERCLAY

    You’re a good man Dr. Plait!

  25. Gary Ansorge

    There is of course a very good reason the Catholic church is so conservative about approving the use of the term “miracle”. It can open a real can of worms, with attendant prayers to saints, etc. The word has been so abused in the popular media it has lost most of its real meaning, which is an expression of awe and gratitude over a mystery.

    The “how” of reality is the province of science. The “why” of reality may never be known, if indeed there is a “why”, but seeking to know is what we do.

    Are there woo-woos who reject any rational explanation of events? Of course. Should they be slapped up alongside the head with brutal facts? Sometimes, but a little compassion goes a long way toward defusing rejection of critical thinking.
    We must remember that the evolution of sentience is not a universal progression. For some, the world may remain a magical place for a very long time. For some, the world is still flat. Our objective must be to minimize the social impact of such wishful thinking, that the species may continue to evolve toward competant sentience. The awareness that we are not the penultimate consciousness in this universe, that we have a long way to go in our comprehension of mystery, should keep us a little bit humble.

    Believe what you wish, but don’t base your life on an arrogant presumption of superiority, in the certainty of the existence or non-existence of god. For some belief systems, certainty will not come until we’re dead, and maybe not even then,,,

    Be compassionate toward those less able, for we are all one family,,,

    GAry 7

  26. Kristophe

    I don’t think the “attack” on the word luck was harsh, nor do I think the BA was wrong for pointing it out. People all too often ascribe bad or unfavourable events to human causes or actions, and ascribe good or favourable events to luck or divine intervention.

    But if the BA’s tone actually caused this woman’s suffering to be increased, then he’s also right to apologize for it, and I’m glad he brought it up publicly. It allows some of us out here to also see the repercussions, and to learn from them.

  27. Nolwe

    I’d love to contribute; however, I’m presently unable to contribute due to my being a college student with almost no income.

    Shannon, being non-religious, I can’t say that I’ll pray for you, or anything along those lines. I will not forget about you, though, and if you are still in need a few years from now, which I hope you’re not for your own sake, I should be making at least a little more money & I will be more than happy to contribute to this fund.

  28. Mark UK

    I have to admit I did not think at all the original post was harsh. I do think the big difference is this time that the individual who was part of that story got involved and it changes things. Whenever we get confronted with the individual behind a story it becomes more difficult not to be affected.

    To be affected I think is a sign of normal human being. I think free trade is a good thing for the planet and if we can manufacture more efficiently elsewhere we should. The lost jobs will be replaced by other jobs. Voicing that behind my keyboard is really quite easy. Sitting across from someone who has just lost his job to a guy somewhere in China, gets a bit more complicated…

    I hope Sharon will do well. I wish her all the best for the future. It sounds like she was very lucky to me. In a totally atheistic, skeptical and scientific way….

  29. Calvin

    >>>Bad Astronomer, Phil – you see? Now you get the point? Being skeptical – YES, overzealousness and intolerance – NO. Criticizing the language – well, why not, another thing is making mockery of someones beliefs (im not talking about all the crooks and liars, just regular good olk with their set of values and beliefs). Be tolerant.
    Do not be infantile in this “fight”.
    I was quite surprised by the tone your writing took in that blog entry, I thought you were someone who is analytical, not hysterical. And now this post – well, we’re all humans, not everyone has the guts to admit to a mistake. Nice.

    Take heed of the late great Carl Sagan – he always seemed polite, tolerant, understanding, easy going and yet he could get his point across, with great results. He was the man. And i guess you like him too :)
    You’re a great guy, good luck (oops).

  30. Phil,

    It’s good to see that your heart is as big as your… telescope. 😉

  31. gopher65

    Joshua owes me a new keyboard :).

  32. L Ron Hubbub

    Wayne said:
    Too often skeptics can come across as arrogant or callous

    In my experience, callousness and arrogance are the default attitudes of skeptics. I’m glad Phil took the time to apologize for his rant, but the level of intolerance shown routinely on skeptic forums is particularly wearying to me personally. Can’t we all just get along?

  33. Xenu

    Ron, go back to work making human-robots, when they’re all converted – they’ll get along 😉

  34. Daffy

    “Forgive my stupidity… but, if Shannon needs this surgery to recover, why it’s up to her family to pay? I can’t imagine such a thing happening where I live.”

    Welcome to the only industrialized nation that does not provide health care to its citizens (the only one I know of, anyway). Its a national embarrassment.

  35. Twyla

    Phil,

    You are amazing with words! Thank you!!! Shannon & I couldn’t stop talking about you yesterday. I hope your move goes well & we would love to meet you face to face when you get to Boulder. Thank you also to everyone posting on here. We may have gotten off on the wrong note, but this is a wonderful group of people. I’ll post an update soon.

    ~Twyla

  36. I commend you Phil, for expressing your thoughtful apology. I think it illustrates some of my ideals of science. When you gather new information or begin to see things differently, you revise your position just as publicly as you made your first position known. Acknowledging mistakes is important in science and academia. It reminds us all that our ideas and data are fallable and subject to revision.

    I also appreciate your apology and change of tone as you reached out to Shannon and those involved. I knew it was there all along, but doing so blatantly showed your sensitivity and empathy with your fellow human (I happen to think you are opposed to irrationality precisely *because* you care about your fellow humans). Those qualities can get lost in the quagmire of opposing antiscience (though I never read your original article as opposing Shannon in any way).

    I agree with others that sometimes scientists and skeptics can come off as pompous and dismissive. For those who are unwittingly “wrong” in their beliefs, receiving the message that there is another way of thinking about things can be lost when delivered in a tone that makes them feel defensive. The message can get lost, as you acknowledge happened for some people with your original post.

    I spoke with Joe Nickell of CSICOP about this a few years ago. I wish more people challenging pseudo- and antiscience would take a polite, empathic tack. I’m not saying it is easy. It can be frustrating or even infuriating when someone is doing something you are opposed to. But if your goal is to get your point across and have it seriously considered by the largest number of people as possible, then possibly being friendly is more effective than being snarky or belligerent (I’m not saying *you* are).

    Of course, my suggestion is not empirically based. I don’t know that being polite is a more effective way of getting the message across. It is my sense. If it happens to be that ranting, and making fun of people are more effective, then I guess that’s an answer. But I doubt it. I suspect you probably do to.

  37. I agree with Josh, Paul, Craig, and Kristopher, there was no reason for an apology of this sort . Phil you did nothing wrong. You CORRECTLY pointed out an irrational response to a lucky situation. I’m sorry Shannon is having a rough time of it, but frankly, the alternative is that she would be dead. If she (and anyone else) insists on believing in miracles then how can they demand sensitivity about their situation? According to them its a miracle isn’t it?

    Is saying so harsh? Yes it is, but it was her PUBLIC words that were found insulting in the first place. What was said and the response to them where focused around the idea of miracles, not what condition Shannon is in. Regardless of who or what condition she is in, her comments where incorrect and blatantly ignorant of rational thought. To not say anything suggests acceptance.

    It just seems to me that the one under attack here is Phil for voicing an opinion. His own humanity has been used against him and it appears as if he has not only backed down for his original statement, but has been forced into a form of reparation. Once again rational thinking has been forced into taking these crazy beliefs seriously and respectfully simply because we feel sorry for the situation surrounding the people that flaunt them. But because I disagree with what she believes then I’m branded cold, inhuman, or non-feeling.

    If Phil’s words and the comments of the people responding to the blog make Shannon feel uncomfortable then maybe that is good. She (and anyone else with similar superstitious beliefs) should be embarrassed for what they present to the public when if flies in the face of reason and logic. If Shannon feels bad because someone challenges her claims of miracles then too bad. They are silly.

    I have a great deal of empathy for her condition and the very rough times ahead of her, but that empathy does not include her ridiculous beliefs and I shall never apologize for that.

  38. Daffy

    Interesting. I recall when my late wife was very sick with cancer (dying) a lot of her Christian friends kept telling her she was being ridiculous by not sharing their faith. They were quite hurtful (blaming the disease on her lack of faith) and also felt they should not have to apologize.

    I guess by and large people are people whether skeptic, Christian, or whatever.

  39. Nolwe,

    You say you’d like to contribute to Shannon’s fund but you’re a struggling college student. Don’t sweat it. You just donated. I doubled my donation.

  40. There are already too many comments here to be able to reply to them all, but let me say that there was indeed a need to apologize. My tone in that post was over the top, pure and simple. There was no need for it. Like I said, even if it hadn’t hurt Shannon, it would have been wrong because it distracted from the message.

    This is a big issue with me, and one I will think about more. There are many arguments in the skeptical community about how to approach discussing religion, beliefs, antiscience, and the rest. Some are very aggressive, some are insulting, some are supportive, some are empathic. I actually do think there is room for all of this– when someone’s religious belief motivates them to kill people, then I think a little anger is called for. Sometimes a more nurturing disposition is needed.

    This issue won’t go away any time soon, and it’s worth discussing.

  41. Grizzly

    Rick, I guess I’m still in the dark about what was insulting in calling something a “miracle”.

    Just because you CAN say something doesn’t mean you should. Was there something inherently wrong with what Phil said? Perhaps not. The tone was off, and that leads me to question why he needed to say it at all?

    There’s a law of diminishing returns on some of our stands and however righteous we might feel about defending some point, at times you have to look at the bigger picture. Phil did, and I applaud him.

    While I am a sceptic, I am beginning to see that there are extremists on this side of the fence and that extremism in the defense of rationalism can be a vice. This isn’t in reference to Phil’s comment, but to an intolerance that is becoming more and more evident in our community as a whole. Just what we need, more intolerance.

  42. I read the original newspaper article just today, and went back and read Phil’s initial response to the article about Shannon. I didn’t go back and read all the comments in response.

    What I read was Phil taking the writer of the original article to task about the general tone of the article and the use of the word “miracle.” And it turned out later that the original writer made other factual errors – there’s no way a chiropractor would be involved in that sort of emergency care (Shannon might need one in the future, but that’s a different matter). What Shannon believes is, frankly, up to her. If religious belief helps get her through this arduous time, I’d be the last person to argue with her. Those of us who are atheists and those of us who aren’t do need to try to live together in harmony or become the next Iraq, Israel, Palestine…

    I wholeheartedly agree with Phil’s original posting on this point, but also with his apology to Shannon. The only person he should never apologize to is the original writer of the newspaper article.

    I was raised as a liberal Protestant, but my mother could have been a Catholic with her constant use of the word “miracle.” My mother is a very dear person, but statistics have never been her strong point. So my youngest brother, born perfectly well despite my mother having had German measles early in her pregnancy, was “the miracle baby.” When he was found to have a heart murmur that caused him no problem, it was another miracle. When he survived a car accident, it was another miracle. And so on. So I’ve been a strong skeptic about the use of the word “miracle” all my life.

    Despite my atheism, it is a miracle that Shannon survived. And I don’t mean it in the “touched by God” kind of thing. A miracle of nature, if you will. A miracle of her having the accident near an excellent trauma center. It is an amazing thing that she survived at all. What are the odds – 1 in a few hundred million? If that’s not a miracle, what is?

  43. Roy Batty

    Sometimes it’s hard to discuss the general lack critical thinking skills that abound without introducing specifics. Anyway, having now read all of the blogs/comments I’m glad it’s all worked out ok in the end.
    I’ll add my best wishes for a speedy recovery as well!

  44. Super Mario

    I don’t see why you should apologise for anything. It’s your blog, you can say whatever the hell you want. I see this apology as a public relations move to to try to win back those who threatened to stop reading after the original post. The type of people who stop reading over one post they disagree with are the type of people I wouldn’t want reading my blog anyway.

  45. What does this have to do with science? All I can tell is that you offended someone and you didn’t intend that. The fact that you regret it doesn’t mean that you’re “wrong,” and has nothing to do with science or skepticism. Even the most credulous person can still be a nice guy.

  46. I’m not sure you did anything wrong, Phil, but I have to admit, what you wrote before was harshly worded – certainly moreso than you had intended at the outset and with the advantage of hindsight, I think you see that too. Once in a while, we all pop off on the internet. The Cephalopod Conjecture states that, when seated at a keyboard, everyone loses 30-50 IQ points. This can cause anyone to do things on the internet that they may regret later, and because not everyone has the IQ points to spare, can result in phenomenal idiocy (Rene… or that Time Cube guy).

    Glad to see you can take it as well as dish it out. I don’t want to see the core idea of your original message lost, however. Your premise was spot on, even if it could have been better worded.

  47. In any case, I wouldn’t stop reading as the result of one post. People have to have thicker skins than that…

  48. Evolving Squid wrote:
    The Cephalopod Conjecture states that, when seated at a keyboard, everyone loses 30-50 IQ points.

    I love that!

    Not to mention, another 50 points if alcohol or crack is involved…

  49. It’s difficult to look at such a tragedy in an objective, logical manner. You were simply trying to show how such an accident and its outcome were from statistics and probability and not from some magical forces such as luck, divine intervention, or other hogwash. I don’t see that you really did anything wrong. Was it insensitive? Sure, but that was the point. It didn’t say “Oh Shannon, deal with it”; there wasn’t a human element involved with the analysis of the tragedy. It is the same with law, where we remove the emotion and look at the pure hard facts when we make our rulings. I don’t think you insulted Shannon, you weren’t talking about that. You were talking about how the odds just played out so wonderfully in her favor and that she survived. How many in similar circumstances did not survive? You were just trying to attribute survival to the reality of probability and deflect it from superstition.

    I’m glad she survived and I will donate to help her out, it’s the least any of us can do.

  50. Phil, you are a gentleman and a truly caring human being. But I do want to say, as someone who has just been through a horrific car accident (and still recovering from it), that I didn’t take any offense at your original entry. In fact, I found it most apropos and thought-provoking, and not at all heartless.

  51. wright

    Well done, Phil. We all screw up from time to time; not all of us admit it and do what we can to correct the consequences of our mistakes.

  52. DrFlimmer

    Congratulations! This is one of the best enteries I ever read here. Not because it’s scientific, no, it’s human. And your many comments about “luck and faith” sometimes seemed very cold.
    But this apology is nothing like that. I hope this will help you in the future when you write again about something like that. Because I think, there is no need to “critisize” everything in the world that has a tone of “supernaturality”. Luck is something that is maybe statistical but feelings are not. And the feeling beeing lucky or haveing some bit of luck is sometimes more important than being “always rational”.

    Well. Enaugh!
    Once again: Congratulations and thank you.

  53. Grizzly, the insult is people so blithely take away the efforts of their fellow humans and apply it to the work of some supernatural reason. As Phil pointed out, it really is just a matter of statistics and probabilities that some very impossible seeming things happen on occasion.

    I find it interesting now that the new defense is to declare “extremist”. The discussion here was whether what happened was a miracle or not. As I said, I l sorry for the pain that Shannon has suffered, but that does not excuse the spreading of ‘miracles’ as fact. Call me an intolerant extremist if you like, but I’m simply looking at the situation and basing my conclusion on the facts. I simply feel that what Phil pointed out originally is now being buried in all the touchy-feely empathy of her situation. “How dare you say such mean things to that poor girl!?”

    Empathy for her condition and opinion of the “miracle” are 2 separate topics and to try and blend them together seems like a tactic designed to lose the initial point in all the confusion of who is humane and inhumane. So I guess I am an intolerant extremist because I refuse to allow my empathy for her condition to effect my feelings of her declarations.

  54. darth

    “There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.”

    Albert Einstein

    I prefer the second way.

    –darth

  55. RAF

    The Bad Astronomer wrote: I was disappointed in myself.

    I was disappointed too…

    NOT for what you originally wrote…but for the apology.

  56. I saw this post, today, and then went back to read the rest of the comments on the previous post.

    I am truly sorry if anything I said was taken personally, as none of it was meant against Shannon or any other individual. Everything I said was in general, and conditional. I was going on the limited information I had. I did a search, actually, to see if I could find the cause of the accident, but couldn’t, anywhere. Generally, if the media wants to put a positive spin on a story, they leave out anything negative. Since the cause had been left out, I was left to assume that it was her fault. People can attack me for making an assumption, but I tried to make it clear that it was just that. My assumption. I even said why I came to that conclusion – which I guess makes it more of a hypothesis.

    Anyway, I can explain myself as much as I want, and it won’t matter. Nothing I said was meant to hurt anyone. I’m glad that Shannon is recovering, and hope she continues to do so. Anything else I have to say on the matter is moot, so I will leave this at a simple apology.

  57. I read the news story elsewhere and had exactly the same reaction you did, Phil, and concur with your view entirely.

    later that day I read in a book about formula one auto racing that a head decelerated at 80Gs produces a half ton of force on the neck it’s connect to.

    The fact that Shannon survived such a force isn’t a miracle, it was physics and biology with a big dose of probability.

    Regardless, I’m sure glad she survived even if her understanding of why, and her physicians choice of words, is sad.

  58. Jarno

    This is why I see skepticism as a virtue – skeptics aspire to being open to being shown wrong and to openly admit to being wrong if and when that happens. And instead of sweeping our mistakes under the carpet, trying to foget them as quickly as possible, we try and draw lessons out of them, to do better in the future. This is the ideal of skepticism, at least. We may not always succeed in achieving that ideal (we are falliable people, after all), but we aspire to it.

    It always warms my heart to see this sort of integrity in action. Phill, you’ve got class! :)

  59. james

    Woman has accident

    Report is written about accident

    Blog writer makes an entry based on report

    Blog writer, being popular, supercedes original report

    Nearest and dearest have issue with blog entry

    Blog writer searches heart, issues apology, and arranges donations to help woman.

    Funny how things turn out, isn’t it?

  60. Troy

    Add to the list of callous and uncaring as attributes of skeptics: cheap (and/or) poor. I bet the pot doesn’t break $50.

    In addition automobile insurance normally pays for this kind of thing. Most of what you pay in your premium is for injuries. Attorneys like Geoffrey Fieger (Kevorkian’s attorney etc.) and John Edwards (the senator not the psychic) made their vast fortunes in cases exactly like this.

    Now if you want something a bit more miraculous, cut a starfish into five arms and a body and each arm grows a new body now >that’s

  61. james

    For those that criticise BA for apologising, you have only my deepest contempt.

  62. Stupendous Man

    Phil, you are truly a gentleman.

  63. Grand Lunar

    This happens to the best of us. We say something that gets a bit out of hand, then cause others grief. I ran into this once myself. Fortunately, I was able to correct the misunderstanding.

    I would very much like to contribute, but as a future unemployed student, I can not. All I can donate is my best wishes. I’ve had a family member suffar an accident (not one on the road, but at home) who was no so fortunate to live.

    I’d also like to point out that I know some people (no names please) that would not find it in themselves to apologize as Phil did.

  64. Grand Lunar

    “What does this have to do with science? ”

    Not everything in Phil’s blog has to do with science. He’s making a public apology.
    Could you do the same in this exact situation?

  65. RAF

    james Says: For those that criticise BA for apologising, you have only my deepest contempt.

    As you have your opinion, I have mine, however, why would you “feel contempt”?

    I feel no contempt for those who agree with the BA for apologizing, and would certainly not chastise anyone who would share that opinion.

  66. DenverAstro

    Two Comments:
    1. Troy Said “Add to the list of callous and uncaring as attributes of skeptics: cheap (and/or) poor. I bet the pot doesn’t break $50.”

    Bite me you creepy jerk, I can tell you that the fund is $300.00 richer as of 5 mins ago. People like you make me sick.

    2. Phil, yer a good guy and even tho I had no problem with the original post, I certainly can appreciate your sense of humanity and honor. When you get moved to Colorado, I would consider it an real pleasure to buy you dinner and have a great conversation on the value of skeptisizm. I know a small group of amature sky watchers who would love to meet ya and make you feel welcome to our part of the country. I actually mean it, so if you’re interested, let me know :o)

  67. Phil

    Any word on the total of the fund, BA? I would really like to know how big skeptics hearts really are.

  68. Miranda

    There’s a great lesson here. I think people who take up the torch to passionately and publicly debate things they believe in (because the evidence supports them) will eventually rally a field of supporters and as such, will find themselves, if you can forgive a slightly ironic analogy, preaching to the choir. Unfortunately, holding arguments with like-minded people can make us complacent, forgetting that there are still countless people who haven’t traveled as far down the road as we have. I think it’s this complacency that results in comments that sound snarky and close-minded, even when that’s not the intent.

    The lesson (for me) is that despite how many times we reaffirm to ourselves that the evidence supports us or how tiring it becomes to hear the ‘same old, same old’ regarding unscientific reasoning and beliefs, it doesn’t serve to educate the masses if we forget that the debate, for most people, is still just beginning. And I think the objective with a site like this is indeed education.

    I just want to thank you, BA, for this post. It is a reminder of a lesson I personally was in need of.

  69. Troy

    Regarding:
    DenverAstro Says:May 17th, 2007 at 4:15 pm
    “Two Comments:
    1. Troy Said “Add to the list of callous and uncaring as attributes of skeptics: cheap (and/or) poor. I bet the pot doesn’t break $50.” Bite me you creepy jerk, I can tell you that the fund is $300.00 richer as of 5 mins ago. People like you make me sick.”

    I’ll say one thing I wish I could give away $300 and think nothing of it (why not $500 or even $1000), though nothing I said was unbecoming as what you said. I only offered the truth, and like many gullible the truth makes you sick. I don’t think I’m being totally baseless here who would have more trouble raising funds Peter Popoff or James Randi? One offers eternal life or healing on a regiment of checks the other would tell you the truth (that he keeps being sued).

  70. John Phillips

    RAF: Having just read the OP again I agree with you, whether others like James feels contempt for me or not, as I still don’t see why BA need apologise. Unless it is public relations exercise, damn there is that cynic again. As the original post said nothing much about Shannon herself or the accident beyond commenting on the accuracy or otherwise of the use of some of the words in an article about her accident and survival. Though there were a few replies to BA’s OP that could be considered insensitive and I have seen some of them apologise for that here.

  71. Christian Burnham

    Can I use my credit card or cheque number on Paypal?

  72. Christian Burnham

    Ah OK, I answered my question.

    My excuse is that I’m waiting for a new debit card in the post, but I’ll donate within the week.

    I’d like to see the BA select other deserving causes from time to time in the future. I’m guessing that he makes quite a good fund raiser and he’s got a generous readership- even though the students amongst us are relatively dirt-poor.

  73. autumn

    As an aside, do people truely feel such depths of emotion as “contempt” for strangers commenting on another stranger’s feelings about a third stranger, who none of the previously cited will ever talk to?
    Having empathy for fellow humans is probably a good thing.
    Having contempt for those to whom you have never personally spoken is much more probably a bad thing.
    Language matters. The fact that, in this case, the language mattered only to a few dozen people does not absolve one from accepting criticism of the language, and being greater for acknowledging its error.
    What was originally said may be valid, but it was said about living humans. When those humans are vital enough to interject with their opinions, said opinions should be considered, and the individual persons involved should, in any free market-place of ideas, be allowed to criticize as they see fit.
    I believe that in this case the criticism was honestly given, and thoughtfully recieved, and that the best scenario has played forth on our little interweb stage.

  74. Christian Burnham

    Troy: Don’t be a troll. There’s a place for biting sarcasm and this page isn’t it. Also, don’t assume that because someone can generously donate 300 dollars, that the person is rich and the donation is Mickey Mouse money to them.

  75. Stuart

    Of course Dr Plait’s apology is all a public relations exercise! If people leave this blog in droves, he will lose the $3.15 a month profit he makes in running this blog. And that would be devastating!

    For crying out loud, people, this is a private individual running a free, not-for-profit blog, for personal enjoyment and as a service to the community. He’s not making money on it, nor is he (as far as I can tell) some sad egotist who weeps tears of despair if his traffic drops off. He could care less if someone states “I will never read this blog again!”

    So his apology is genuine. I’m the biggest cynic out there, and I can see that.

    Sheesh.

  76. Stuart

    Argh! Argh! “He couldn’t care less!”

    I shall now commit Grammar Sepuku, before the Grammar Police on this board get to me. It’s the easier, less painful way to go…

  77. Frank

    Of course I feel with Shannon (in the abstract kind of way that you can feel with people you’ve never met and never will meet), but setting up a PayPal account to help with her surgery displays the same lack of statistical thinking that you rightly criticized in your original post. There must be hundreds (thousands?) of people who narrowly survive horrible accidents each day, and each of them needs our compassion and most of them would need our financial support.
    To donate money to one individual just because her case was taken up on a blog one sometimes reads is a substitute action that is not rationally defensible. It will make us feel better because first, we can tell ourselves that we have helped a fellow human being and second, it may satisfy our superstition that if we help others, others will help us when *we* need it. However, in reality, first, the extent to which we have reduced the sum of human suffering is so small it is not even worth mentioning, and second, nobody keeps account to make sure we will be repaid in kind when it is our turn to suffer. It would be more useful to donate to some organization that provides medical care more widely for people who cannot afford it.
    I pray to a God I don’t believe in that nothing as horrible as Shannon’s accident ever happens to anyone close to me. Should it happen anyway, I will do anything to find the money to help them. Literally anything — I would rob a bank or steal luxury cars if there was no other way, and I certainly would not think twice about shaming strangers into donating money. I would even be grateful for their donations, but I would be perfectly aware that I have exploited people’s inability to think in statistical terms.

  78. Oh, please. “Could care less” is a well-established idiom. “modal + less” has such strong negative polarity that an overt negative marker is no longer needed. (Cf “pas” in French which no longer needs its “ne”) Is it “logical”? No. But language rarely is. And the definition of “idiom” is that you can’t figure out its meaning by knowing the meanings of the constituent words…

    I happen to agree with Phil’s original point – I hate people giving the credit to God especially when, for instance, the rescue was the product of well-trained people with great technology working very very hard. But tone is important, too. If the people involved were hurt, an apology for tone isn’t out of line.

  79. Gary Ansorge

    Frank: If only one person in 6.5 billion is helped thru a tough time, that is NOT an insignificant contribution to the reduction of human suffering.

    Every journey begins with the first step.

    GAry 7

  80. There is of course the story of the brother and sister walking along the beach after a storm where a load of jellyfish (or starfish) had been wash ashore and were slowly dying. Every so often the boy would throw a creature back into the sea, and thus another chance to live. The sister asked why he was doing it as there were thousands driven ashore and he could not save them all, so what does it matter. The boy threw another creature back into the sea and said, “well it mattered to that one.”

  81. MO Man

    We here in cow country seem to always get this blog long after the crowd that doesn’t do any milking, so my comments may never be seen but I sure would like to respond to old grinchy Frank. Statistically, our donations may not make much of a difference, but with his reasoning it seems that we should just abandon all charity and efforts to help others. Now, I suspect that Shannon will somehow get through her ordeal, with financial pain to match her physical pain. As a cancer survivor, I can tell you that the scum sucking insurance companies will deny everything they can, and most of us end up paying most of the bills from our savings. Still, compared to the third world, we are more likely to get by, and that is why instead of donating to Shannon’s cause I will instead go straight to Children International where a few dollars buys a lot of food for malnourished children, not another set of clubs for the surgeon. All in all, the comments from the skeptical crowd were most unskeptical and full of love and compassion and understanding. But I’m biased, being one of them.

  82. Kat

    I think that people’s beliefs should be respected, so long as they’re not harmful. If a woman who’s barely survived death believes she was saved by a miracle, luck, or whatever, it’s hardly going to harm anyone and I fail to see why a bunch of randoms in cyberspace should be angsting over it. Well done to Phil for his apology, it takes real guts to admit to yourself that you were wrong, much less admitting it to anyone else.

    As for some of the others on here… whatever happened to live and let live? Some of the militant skeptics and atheists out there seem utterly oblivious to the hypocrisy of their words, when they so undeservingly deem another’s beliefs “ridiculous”, “misguided”, “stupid” etc. You would be in hysterics if some arrogant Christian or such were to say the same of your own beliefs and opinions! Frankly, anyone who is unable to respect and tolerate another person’s beliefs (and incapable of telling when “free speech” is just being tactless and insensitive) is just as nasty and self-righteous as any other – be they Jerry Falwell, or some of the skeptical schmucks commenting on this blog.

    My father survived a car accident 3 years before I was born, in which he suffered what is known as a ‘Hangman’s fracture’. He should have died. Yet, his neck muscles spasmed at the precise moment it broke, preventing his spinal cord from injury. He wasn’t even paralysed. Horrifyingly, his injury went unnoticed by the first doctor who treated him and wanted to immediately send him home from the small town hospital to which he’d been taken, without even an x-ray! Like Shannon, he required surgery and a similar halo brace. I have no idea what it was that saved my father at the moment of fracture and later from the moronic doctor, whether it was God, some kind of guardian spirit, luck, or merely a very fortunate but entirely un-supernatural chain of events… but I’m rather glad it happened. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be sitting here typing this.

    Oh, and for the record: I’m not a Christian.

  83. Frank

    MO Man, I respect your personal history and I feel with you as far as that is possible between total strangers. I also agree with your evaluation of insurance companies and I have seen friends suffer needlessly and terribly because their insurance companies would not fulfil their end of the bargain. However, your statement that one “should just abandon all charity and efforts to help others” does not in any way follow from what I wrote and it does not reflect what I believe. I think those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to afford it should give freely to others. However, I don’t think that fundraisers for individuals who happened to be noticed by the media/blogosphere/whoever are the right way of giving. Instead, I personally believe that one should give to organizations who can ensure that the money is spent fairly on everyone who needs it, not just a few celebrity victims (and I practice what I preach). Of course, it would never cross my mind to tell other people what to do. If, for example, DenverAstro (above) wants to donate $300 to an individual stranger, this certainly shows that s/he is a very generous and compassionate person. We should all be lucky to have friends like him/her. However, it also shows that s/he has a major cognitive bias of the same kind that is displayed by people who had something terrible happen to them, survived it by pure chance, and then believe that they were somehow important enough to “God” to make “Him” save them by a miracle, while at the same time they see no contradiction in the fact that the same “God” allows thousands of people to starve, soldiers to die in senseless wars, children to be killed in random accidents, leaving behind parents who will never recover.

    As for stories of little boys rescuing starfish and journeys that begin with the first step – puhlease! Are you going to start quoting scripture at me next?

  84. Ken G

    Well put Kat, I completely agree. There is an important difference between scientific thinking, which is a communal activity for the advancement of science, and personal reflection, which is a subjective experience that is part of what each person has the right to judge for themselves. Each have their place, and neither can infringe on the other and still be true to themself and their own purpose. Skeptics should recognize that skepticism, as they practice it, is itself a personal belief system.

  85. RAF

    Ken G says: skeptics should recognize that skepticism, as they practice it, is itself a belief system.

    And just WHY should skeptics “recognize” this???

    How is requiring conformational evidence BEFORE accepting a new idea a “belief system”???

  86. Ken G

    If that is indeed what self-styled skeptics actually did, then you would be right– it would not be a belief system. But that is not what they do, and counterexamples are quite trivial to find on any page of a “skeptic” website. What they in fact do is promote a particular belief system, which philosophers would term “positivism”. A true skeptic would be doubtful of positivism as well.

  87. Dulouz

    No right-minded person would be anything but delighted that this girl survived, but I don’t see why you have to apologise.

    There is a movement of the offended in the West, mostly from the religious, that is using the “I am offended” routine to stop criticism of others and hence stop open debate. In this case we cannot criticise this woman’s choice of words because she is offended.

    Well so what? I personally, and genuinely wish her all the best and am happy she is still here and survived a horrific ordeal, but we will all suffer in life. In fact all over the world at this very moment there are millions of real people starving, being butchered, raped, tortured and so on. Even in our own lives we will lose children, suffer terrible hardship and probably die in pain and misery. In most cases those doing the butchering are those who shall not be offended.

    Maybe you should not have used a specific person, and you have shown decency in your response, but we must have the right to offend or else we have closed debate.

  88. Vega

    Twyla, Phil, you truly are good persons. People like you make the world a better place.

  89. james

    Ken G, Yay! Someone on this blog does understand the difference between ‘belief system’ and ‘religion’. In a discussion on the original Shannon comments I chanced on the term ‘worldview’ as a less charged term.

  90. Larzluv

    Firstly, this just shows – AGAIN, AS ALWAYS!!! – that Dr. Plait is a kind, honorable, nice, warm, caring, gentile man.

    *I* don’t think his apology necessary, but peace isn’t always brought from “necessary” things. Sometimes those things necessary for peace are their own necessity. This seams to have smoothed most (all by my count, but I may have missed a couple) of the ruffled feathers.

    *BA* thought it necessary. Shannon + Company thought so (and/or at least appreciated it). What more is necessary?

    If nothing else, thanks for posting the “fund” info. I KNOW (not “believe” 😉 that everybody wishes Shannon and her family/friends the best recovery.

    One snarky comment, though: “303 666 0508”

    Am *I* the only one chuckling…? :>

  91. Larzluv

    It’s not cold or callous to speak the truth. BA was commenting on a “news story”. Unless one seriously thinks he wants the subject of the story to suffer, or to come to harm, why should he have to preemptively start out with something like: “This is something I can’t imagine going through… I sincerely hope she has as good a recovery as possible. I know what it would be like to have a loved one of mine were to suffer so. I’m sure her family takes comfort in that she survived so relatively unharmed, and, while a difficult road lay ahead, their love and companionship can go on through the surgery and rehabilitation ahead…”?

    Why can’t you politely assume that -anyone-, including me, feels this way. We -are- all human. Really. And if, before you -choose- to take offense due to the omission of something akin to the above, perhaps you could take a look around a person’s site/blog and get a feel for “them”. People need to think before they react/write: blogs are like long conversations, between the author and we the readers. What was discussed before isn’t suddenly lost, null, and/or void. Opinions and thoughts shared before are still valid. Plus, as exemplified in this specific instance, Dr. Plait wasn’t talking to the affected, to the wrong. He was talking to -us-, The Converted; preaching to us, The Choir. If he were speaking -to- Shannon, it would have been broached differently – IF AT ALL! (Not due to cowardice, but to that “sensitivity” so many of you were quick to condemn him, and the rest of us, of not having.)

    It’s like you walk up to a couple on the street discussing this same story. You walk in at the part where the guy says, “It’s wrong for people to attribute statistically improbability to a miracle. It was unlikely, not impossible…”

    Sure, I know fights in public places spring up from less, but that doesn’t make it any more “right” or “logical”.

    Websites, like any media, tends/trends to like-minded people. So, generally speaking, conversations are apt to be lacking in gratuitous frivolities and cut to the nitty gritty. Even speculation, based on experience, thought, whatever. A saying my great-grandmother used to always say applied to this sentiment: “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.” Especially on BA’s site. It attracts a bit more cerebral crowd. We might say something that’s 100% wrong, but not unlikely. And without further facts, we might openly conjecture. But not to fabulous conclusions; rather, logical ones. But we may be incorrect compared to the facts. (Provide some FACTS and allow us to be corrected, to -be- correct.)

    And before you truly “compassionate” and “caring” believers/defenders go out of your way to belittle others – like me – for not being so, perhaps you could put in the effort to listen, read, and pay attention to us. Be honest. If cut, we also bleed.

    And even Spoc cried…

  92. Larzluv

    Someone who talks to a newspaper/TV reporter is in the spotlight. Especially -today-. The WWW was ’90, “caught on” around ’94/’95. It’s been over 10 years. We all know what we say publicly (including to The Press, who will publish it [on the Web, too]) will be on the Internet within hours. And it never goes away.

    If you put yourself out there, or allow yourself to be, you must know you -may- be talked about. Not “talked to”, but -about-.

    You -may- get used as an example of what someone is trying to say, or is talking -about-.

    If BA had researched and found Shannon’s mother, called her up, smooth-talked his way into getting Shannon’s number, called -her- up, and then told her she was stupid for believing in miracles, that’d be one thing.

    But that never happened.

    He quoted the relevant points from a news website to illustrate his point.

    And, like it or not, it’s a valid, and true (to we thinking, rational, folks):

    We have no testable examples of “miracles”, nor “luck”.

    This situation is no exception.

    Improbability != Impossibility

    The injured in this story calls her situation a miracle. That’s incorrect.

    The doctors parrot that sentiment. Not only in correct, but disturbing.

    If a god changed the outcome – produced a “miracle” – by allowing Shannon to not be dead/paralyzed, he must also be given credit for -causing- the accident, too. It’s not intellectually honest to pick out things to give praise for.

    I don’t believe (even when he says such in his latest apology) that BA “forgot” or “didn’t realize” there was a HUMAN BEING at the heart of this story. After all, that was the point. This HUMAN BEING chose to consider some mystical power/influence changed her life for the better. Just like BILLIONS of other HUMAN BEINGS do every day. Ignoring the accident that happened (was allowed-to happen; was caused by; whatever) beforehand.

    That’s bad thinking. It’s dishonest. That was his point. He made it plainly. So he didn’t preface, or wrap-up his post with platitudes. (Again, even a cursory browse of BA’s site would demonstrate he’s a good, nice, caring guy.) That wasn’t the point. The illogic dishonestly many people – even out of habit – succumb to.

    That’s what he was writing about.

    Not whether she “deserved” to live. Or have a speedier recovery. Or should suffer.

    That all wasn’t the point.

    It’s at least as intellectually dishonest to chastise him so when these truths are so plain (look around his site; hell, just ASSUME he’s a basic human himself!).

    It’s intellectually dishonest to bemoan him for “picking” on Shannon. He didn’t. Shannon put herself out there – EVEN IF SHE DIDN’T THINK ANYBODY WOULD TALK ABOUT THIS, OR CARE – by speaking to reporters. You wanna gripe at somebody?? Give the TV station hell for trying to make their nightly “warm and fuzzy human-interest story/make the christians happy” quota. (Do us all the favor of not arguing that that’s exactly what this piece was about to them. I thank you in advance.)

    What kind of world have we wrought when one must water down what one says so as not to “offend” another. So as not to “shock”? “Pick on”? Make to “feel bad”? John Adams, “1776” movie (SEE IT): “This is a REVO-LUTION, dammit! We’re going to have to offend SOMEbody!” Hypersensitivity, especially when used to stifle commentary, is at best hollow, and at worse it diminishes us all.

    The -truth- is BA (I of course agree) believed, and believes that Shannon is incorrect in her thinking. If she’s offended, that’s her choice. If her friend, Twyla, wants to be offended -for- her, Twyla’s choice. Other readers/commentators wish to feign offence, that’s their choice. But that quite obviously was not BA’s goal, nor purpose.

    It was to point out illogical “thinking”…

  93. james

    RAF,
    Apologies, (like ‘please and thankyou’ rituals, birthday cards and smiling/nodding to someone you know to acknowledge that you have seen them) are without cost to the giver, but of great value to the reciever.
    I have little concern for someone that does not observe these social rituals, or even for someone that choses not to use them for reasons of logic (ie not saying ‘bless you’ to a sneeze)
    However, I cannot accept someone criticising someone else’s apology (unless it is a ‘politician’s apology’)

    If you would like an illogical trigger for my emotion on this one:
    my mother criticised John-Paul II for apologising for the church’s inaction during the Halocaust. Her reasons: JP was not empowered to apologise for the decisions of past popes, and that by apologising he was bringing the church into disrepute by drawing attention to the original failure.

  94. Troy: I wish I had seen your comment earlier. You lose that bet. :-)

    Frank: There is a wonderful scene in M*A*S*H, when BJ is trying to help a Korean family that has been hit hard by the war. Hawkeye chastises him, saying "You can’t save the world!" BJ replies, "Nope. Just one little corner of it."

    larzluv: Nope. I laughed out loud when the Wells Fargo person read that number to me. :-)

    And to everyone else who says I didn’t need to apologize… you’re wrong. I did. The content of what I said was accurate, but I shouldn’t have said it the way I did. It’s just that simple. There are people whose feelings I don’t mind hurting because they essentially ask for it; they’re guilty of some sort of willful act (think Ken Hamm, think George Deutsch, think Bart Sibrel). I call those like I see ’em. But Shannon didn’t deserve the snark, and so I apologized. That’s it. And hey, here’s a chance to do some actual good.

    I can’t save the world, but I can damn well try. I know I can save my corner of it, but there are a lot of corners, and if no one tries, nothing will ever get done.

  95. RAF

    Ken G says: if that is indeed what self-styled skeptics actually did, then you would be right-it would not be a belief system. But that is not what they do.

    What do you mean “that is not what they do”? Have you studied ALL skeptics to arrive at your conclusion??

    Your stereotypical comment is not relevant to this discussion.

  96. RAF

    The Bad Astronomer says: And to everyone else who says that i didn’t need to apologize… you’re wrong, I did.

    WOW!! Was it your intention to make that sound so “judgemental”??

    What’s wrong with the expression of personal opinions?

  97. james

    autumn,
    Sadly yes, I do feel contempt for complete strangers on the basis of a few words in the comments. Words have great weight.

    Just as I feel contempt for the Governor that I know only from his quote ‘I hope to be the first person in my state to legaly kill a wolf!’.

    I feel contempt for the faceless swine that thought up the Nestle babymilk scam.

    Many things cause the bile to rise, mainly demonstrated lack of concern for other people. In this case I feel that BA demonstrated greatheartedness and humility far in excess of what I could in the same circumstance, and that criticising him for it was small-minded in the extreme.

    PLEASE NOTE: I DO NOT CLASS THOSE WHO STATED THAT THEY FELT BA HAD NOTHING TO APLOGISE FOR AS CRITICISING HIM!

  98. james

    RAF, what is it about BA’s apology that offends you so much?

  99. RAF

    RE-READ my post, I said I was disappointed…

  100. james

    Disappointed: felt sad because you expected better.

    I would class telling someone that you are disappointed by something they do as an act of censure.

    In fact a very skillfully delivered act of censure.

    Your suggestion of a judgmental tone in BA’s last post also suggests that you are on the defensive.

    Finally, there is nothing wrong with stating your opinion.

    When someone else questions that opinion and you defend it, then we have a discussion.

  101. Larzluv

    There -are- many skeptics who are condescending, arrogant, and/or give off an air of superiority. Dr. Plait’s never struck -me- as one, however.

    Bewildered. Aghast. Unable to fathom what others were “thinking” at the time. But never “superior”.

    At least not in the “you can -never- think as well as I can”. At worst, more like “why don’t you THINK as well as **you** CAN!?!?”

    And “callous” or “cold”? EXPECIALLY not “callous” -or- “cold”!

    But even those who -are- “rude”… that doesn’t negate their point.

    Also, there’s an interesting point that just because someone makes a -statement- that another doesn’t -like- doesn’t make the writer/speaker “rude”. “You are wrong.” is a clear statement of (perceived) fact. “You’re wrong, you stupid git!” is almost certainly meant to be rude.

    It’s intellectually dishonest to disregard the message due to the messenger.

    Unless, of course, one is simply not up to the task of discerning between the two. And/or hasn’t the patience, and/or mentally clarity and/or ability to actually make out the message.

    The tragedy is there are those who think the above sentence is “condescending”…

    In the immortal words of Pooh: “Oh, bother!”

  102. Larzluv

    Josh (and others like him):

    “Man, this is why I don’t hang out with the skeptics crowd. […B]ut at what point do you get the right to be condescending and pretentious? Our message would be heard much more clearly if it were spoken with compassion and understanding.”

    [1] Could you (or anybody else) explain to -me- what the OP had as “condescending” (“to descend to a less formal or dignified level; to waive the privileges of rank” or “to assume an air of superiority”) and/or “pretentious” (“making usually unjustified or excessive claims; expressive of affected, unwarranted, or exaggerated importance, worth, or stature” or “making demands on one’s skill, ability, or means”)? Quote directly, and explain it to me in small words, please. I just -re- looked up both words at webster.com and I must be understanding them differently than you use them… Unless you (and others like you) simply think disagreement is “condescending”. Perhaps having the gall to -say- so…? And/or to point out incorrect statements and back those corrections up with facts? Seriously, folks, I’m confused…

    [2] Please (and/or anybody else like-minded), BELL THE CAT! How would **YOU** have made the same points as the OP, but with “compassion” and “understanding”? (Perhaps I’m being unreasonable, but since an argument point that BA raised in the OP was “here’s a real-life example of what I’m talking about”, a scenario where you don’t use the actual account/article is automatically disqualified.)

    [3] You further said: “…your holy dais…” Again, please quote directly and explain to me what BA did that was “holier than thou”. (That’s what I take what you wrote as implying; am I wrong?)

    [4] “We’re lucky to have you with us still…” Do you KNOW her? If not, aren’t YOU (and those like you) being **pretentious**?

    Personally, I find the entire argument disingenuous; you fault BA for pointing out a real person who does what he’s talking about, AND for him pointing out what he’s talking about, but consistently neglect to say how YOU would have done it (more “perfectly”)…

  103. Shannon Malloy

    Phil, I want to thank you sooooo much for all you have done for me. It was a pleasure speaking with you the other day and would love to meet you face to face when you get to CO.
    For the record, doctors have called me a medical miracle, I am not a religious person and use the word without meaning divine intervention.
    As for the woman who said something like good, one less Christian, thank you for your apology, as I do not say that I am a Christian and no one deserves to die.
    Semantics are a funny thing, aren’t they?
    Phil, thanks again for all your support, and to everyone who has donated, thank you so much for your support. I just ask that everyone, religious, skeptic, atheist, scientist, or whatever, send me positive thoughts in my long recovery.

  104. Christian Burnham

    Just for the record- this is not an atheist forum. Christians and people from any faith are invited to contribute. Of course, religion is a topic that leads to heated debates and if you bring religion to the table, be prepared to defend your beliefs.

  105. Ken G

    To RAF: Your point that my reference to “skeptics” does not apply to *all* skeptics is quite illogical. I referred to “skeptics web pages”, and there are a few of those that any reasonable person would agree qualifies under my remark. So let’s play a game– you cite a clearly well known skeptics web site, and I’ll see how long it takes me to find a positivist (i.e., nonskeptical) belief system expressed on that website. I’d go back to Phil’s original blog post but he’s retracted that so it would be inappropriate. As for the relevance to the current discussion, of course it is relevant, people should be aware when they express opinions that they label “skeptical” if they really are skeptical opinions, or if they are simply touting their own beliefs over someone else’s. Isn’t that what this whole thread is about?

  106. I’m not sure where you could ever find me saying something based on belief here, and by belief I mean faith without evidence. The whole point of science is making conclusions based on evidence. If there is *any* matter of faith in science, it’s that the Universe behaves according to rules, and that we can figure those rules out. But even then, that’s not faith– we’ve seen it work. We have space probes going to other planets based on Newtonian gravity, we have nuclear power based on quantum mechanics, and I’m typing this on a paragon of the culmination of at least a dozen disciplines of science.

    I hear, many times, people saying scientists are using a belief system, but I’ve never seen any evidence of it. Ironic.

  107. Saganfan

    Just donated.

    Thank you for doing that. Soylent green are people. 😉

  108. Dulouz

    Shannon,

    Why do you not have a website? Not only would people be interested in your progress and your thoughts, it would be a positive project for you and may help you financially in some way.

    I know there are nasty people out there, but most people would like to see and help you get better in whatever way you can.

    I am sure there are many people who could easily set something up for you.

    Good luck x

  109. Bildungsroman

    I’ve spent far too much time reading everything related to this issue, and I must say that I’m completely dumbfounded. Dr. Plait seems adamant that he did something wrong, but I’m going to have to join the apparent minority of people that think the opposite.

    I’m all for compassion, politeness, and all that other good stuff, but this is a bit too much for me. People choose to be offended and we’re not responsible for their emotions, especially when they’re not our intended audience. There’s nothing that makes me get my hackles up more than people telling me how I should feel about a situation, as if there’s a rule book somewhere concerning the correct application of empathy.

  110. Ken G

    To clarify the belief issue, I also did not say that scientists use a belief system, because calling them “scientists” make the implication that they are doing science. But scientists are also humans, and they are not doing science 24/7– in fact, they are not doing science when they use their scientific-inspired belief system to make statements about other people’s beliefs, and other people’s lives. It’s all about understanding the line about when one is doing science, and when one is just imposing their belief system on someone else. Not always an easy line to see, but to be true to science we must try to keep track of that line.

  111. Ken G

    P.S., let me sum up the point by quoting a post by jack butler on the BAUT forum thread about the proper limitations of science when applied in the domain of individual human trials and triumphs. He was spot on when he said, ” I feel that reverence in the face of mystery is preferable to hubris, and that reverence is not ignorance but respect. “

  112. RAF

    Ken G says: people should be aware when they express opinions that they label “skeptical” if they really are skeptical opinions, or if they are simply touting their own beliefs over someone else’s.>

    A subtle, yet obvious (at least to me) attempt to invalidate skepticism as “only” a belief system.

    If you like to present evidence that what you say is valid, then by all means present that evidence, but I’m not going to play any “games”.

  113. Twyla

    Dulouz,
    I’m trying to figure out a website, note I said Trying…LOL Until then Shannon hopefully will be writing a daily blog on Channel 7 news (Denver site) although that isn’t set up yet either.

    If anyone would like to go to Shannons MySpace page the link is:
    http://www.myspace.com/shimmyshock

    ~Twyla

  114. RAF

    No comment really…just pointing out the obvious.

  115. RAF

    No comment really…just pointing
    out the obvious.

  116. RAF

    The “obvious” being that someone earlier posted that Shannon was not seeking out the media…

    Appearently that is no longer so…

  117. Twyla

    RAF…

    Shannon is not seeking out the media, the media has sought her out. If you saw the amount of debt up until this point (and continuing) you wouldn’t be so quick to point out the obvious. Shannon still can’t swallow & the surgery is VERY expensive, if media attention can help her to be able to get the GI tube out, so be it! There is also a surgery for her eyes (2nd priority after swallowing) that too is a lot of money. It’s sad to think that someone who was always a hard worker & so independent now has to hope for the kindness of others, but we all do what we have to do to survive, right?

    Ask yourself: What would you do in this case?

    Shannon may not ever be the Shannon we knew before, but I hope she can get as close as possible. I know she wants to swallow & eat again! I want to make it clear though, I did not start posting on this thread in an effort to raise money. I started posting on here in an effort to stand up for my friend. Thank you to everyone on here!!!

  118. Troy

    I lost the bet? I’m not unhappy about it! :-)

  119. james

    It is my contention that no single person can have a sufficiently comprehensive understanding of scientific endevour, backed up by falsifiable experiments they have personally carried out, to honestly say that they do not have to resort to faith in the validity of an authoritative given in order to carry out experiments in the higher reaches of reasearch.

    In other words, we all have to stand on the shoulders of giants at some point.

    Yes or No?

  120. james

    Belief System = Worldview; the explanations that are placed upon the content free data supplied by our senses, and the narrative framework that connects these explanations.

    The term ‘belief system’ can also be used more narrowly as a term for ‘religion’.

    I’m not sure how much more clearly we can say this

    ALL RELIGIONS ARE BELIEF SYSTEMS; HOWEVER NOT ALL BELIEF SYSTEMS ARE RELIGIONS.

  121. RAF

    You assume that I have no idea how much medical care (primary care, ICU, specialists and rehabilitation) cost. You would be wrong in that assumption.

    There is something worse than having staggering medical bills because a loved one is sick/injured, and that is having staggering medical bills and you’re loved one has died.

    aside…has it been determined who was “at fault” in the accident??

  122. RAF

    My above post was in answer to Twyla’s statement about rising medical costs, (If I saw the debt…), but for some reason I can’t seem to post quotes. :(

  123. James, again, it’s not faith that those people before me did things correctly. It’s trust, trust in the system. People do repeat experiments, and we have experience that when things cannot be replicated, the original idea gets trashed or amended or something. Look at cold fusion as a perfect example.

    So again, if you define “belief” as faith without evidence, then science is not a belief system. It is a system based on evidence.

  124. Christian Burnham

    I said this before, but since some of you may have escaped my incredible words of wit and wisdom, I’ll repeat it

    Science is not a ‘belief’ system. It’s a ‘I’ll believe-it-when-I-see-it’ system. It’s an ‘unbelief’ system.

  125. Twyla

    RAF,
    I’m not in any way trying to start a debate. I think I’m overly tired. I wasn’t meaning that the way I typed it, I apologize.
    As far as “Fault”… All I can say is, Shannon was not driving, Drugs and/or alcohol were NOT a factor, & it was a single car accident. Shannon gets on here still so I will leave the rest to her. Good night.
    ~Twyla

  126. Larzluv

    Ken G (and other like-minded):

    “It’s all about understanding the line about when one is doing science, and when one is just imposing their belief system on someone else. Not always an easy line to see, but to be true to science we must try to keep track of that line.”

    Is it “imposing [our] belief system on someone else” to say they’re *wrong* if they believe fairies make the morning dew? A rainbow is really a beautiful, but natural and predictable interaction between light, humidity, and one’s position in space(-time)? That the Earth orbits the Sun, and -not- vice versa? (Well, okay, *technically* minutely vice-versa AS WELL, but… ;))

    No?

    Then why is it so to say one’s *wrong* for ascribing to divine intervention (even casually) that which was (obviously) -possible- (though -improbable-)?

    Is the funky notion that “2+2” -always- “equals 4” based on “faith”? Is someone who doesn’t “believe” that notion “okay” to -feel- that way?

    I’m confused…

    And the quote you quoted: “I feel that reverence in the face of mystery is preferable to hubris, and that reverence is not ignorance but respect.”

    Except that complex systems *appear* chaotic, and therefore life’s minutiae are “unpredictable” to us, individually, I don’t see how – as the specific example we’re all discussing – Shannon’s ordeal was any sort of “mystery”. That she – based on statistics – “probably” should have died, or at least have been paralyzed doesn’t make the fact she’s not being either a “mystery”. If we had the data from the array of (perhaps near-infinity number of) sensors, and a boatload of computing power to do the simulations, I’m quite confident the “reason(s)” she was spared either (more) horrible fate would be readily apparent. She wasn’t a product of the impossible, but that “1 in a million/billion”. (**SOMEONE** would have to be…!)

    “Hubris”?? The knowledge that something’s (*obviously*) _not_ “impossible” isn’t arrogance. Nor presumption. It’s simply fact.

    “Reverence”?? “Respect”?? BOTH of those sentiments require humility to another party…

    “god” perhaps…?

    “Mysterious Mother Nature”…??

    It’s one thing to be -happy- (often alternately [but “technically incorrect” if you’re not a faith-person] phrased “thankful”) to be alive after a bad thing.

    It’s quite another to feel a compulsion to attribute “thanks”, “respect”, and/or “humility” toward an imaginary (or at least imperceptive-directly, un-provable) deity.

    Not the least of which, TO REPEAT: the OP was *not* about what to say to the individual involved, specifically “Shannon”. It was a discussion of the misguided ways of (especially our) society, generally speaking. Furthermore, it was obvious a “club meeting speech”, not a “print this out and have your wrong-minded friends/relatives read it: it’s sure to get THEM to RECONSIDER their wrong-minded ways”.

  127. Larzluv

    I don’t believe ANYBODY reading, who has written so far, or who will write in the future

    WANTS Shannon to be worse off. I’ll go out on a limb and assume WE ALL would have wanted

    the accident to never have happened.

    But it did.

    So, now, stuck in this reality, I’ll again state I’m sure we ALL want her to make as

    complete, short, and pain-free recovery as ever there was. Even MORE complete, SHORTER, and

    ABSOLUTELY PAIN-FREE.

    That her medical costs will grow to HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of dollars is offensive.

    That we, America, still don’t have medical coverage for all that would negate Shannon from

    needing a FUND to pay for it…

    THAT is the rudest thing about this whole ordeal.

    May Shannon live long and prosper with her family and friends (including, “again”?? Twyla).

    And not be indebted the rest of her life for it. (In my view, she’s paid more than enough

    already, with more physical payment to go unfortunately… Unfortunately there may be those

    who think *I* am wrong here… UGH!)

  128. Ken G

    Larzluv (and those like-minded):
    When you ask me is it *wrong* to believe in fairies, or, let me choose the even more obvious example, is it *wrong* to believe that 2+2=5, I’m afraid that, as a scientist, I simply cannot answer your question. It is ill-posed, because you have not specified the methodology I should use to ascertain the “rightness” or “wrongness” of either assertion. If the methodology will be science, then of course the first answer is “yes”, that’s quite easy. If the methodology is arithmetic, then of course the second answer is also “yes”, also easy. But failing to specify a methodology with either question exposes the important fact that you are making the assumption that the appropriate methodology is implicit in the question. This is the mistake that people who think like this always make– when you make that assumption, you are simply assuming that which you claim to be proving. Finding the answer, given a methodology, is very easy– the challenge is in choosing the right approach to the question, which also depends on the goals of the questioner, and the interpretation by the aswerer. For these questions, the distinction is trivial, but they are just examples– for the real questions this thread is about, the distinction is not only nontrivial, it is at the very core of what humans find most important in their own lives.

    The true skeptic, the intellectual high-ground skeptic, asserts that no truth is independent from the means used to arrive at it, and only a literal thinker believes that any truth is absolute. You choose your truths when you choose your means, because the means leads to the answer in fairly short order in most cases. That’s really not a problem if you think about it, we all choose arithmetic when adding because it gives an objectively verifiable result, and that’s generally our goal. But don’t forget we are simply assuming that an objectively verifiable result is indeed the goal there! The point is, the goal is up to the individual to judge, and an objectively verifiable result is not the goal in all situations, so the choice of method is subjective. We can all agree that the choice of science is appropriate in many situations, like building a bridge or trying to help Shannon with medical procedures, because an objectively verifiable result is clearly the goal in both situations. But whether or not Shannon needs to frame her experience in terms of a miraculous event that inspires her to bring out every ounce of her strength and resolve, or simply a matter of scientific probability, is simply not a question that requires she choose the perspective of science, and is certainly not an answer that anyone else can force down her throat along with the intubing. Had she died, would we all agree that statistical probabilities is not what her loved ones would like to talk about, and they certainly might prefer to choose a completely nonscientific approach to dealing with their agony. That she did not die is terrific, but the same may still be said.

    Bottom line: science is a tool that we choose to use when we choose to use it, because we are educated in what it is good for. But it is still a choice, and when we make it, we plug into all that science has accomplished, and when we do not make it, it is because we see greater value somewhere else, to plug into something different. So many people seem to miss this pretty obvious point– human thought systems are our servants, not our masters. Whether or not science itself counts as a belief system is a very secondary issue here, it depends on if you define a belief as something you accept without objectively verifiable evidence, or if you define it as anything you accept based on whatever you decide is sufficient grounds for you to do so. What is clear is that it is a thought system, so the real question is, do people have the freedom to make that choice, once they are educated in what the various options mean? Do we have faith in the educated mind to choose a rational course to their own truth, or do we legislate the means that must be applied to any question, thereby legislating the truth? I say all we can do is establish what benefits may be associated with what mental processes, and leave it to the individual to decide where the greatest value lies for them, as long as they are clear to others and to themselves what choice they are making and why. That’s true libertarianism, true democracy, and yes, true skepticism, all rolled into one.

  129. Ken G

    Hi Ken,
    What are you doing on the Baut Forum in the middle of the night in Buffalo. 😉
    JW

  130. RAF

    To Twyla…neither do I intend to debate you, I was simply curious. Thanks for the info.

    To Larzluv…very good post with fine analogies as to why skepticism IS NOT a belief system.

    To Ken G…more word salad please. I find it quite tasty.

  131. There seem to be quite a few unfeeling Vulcans commenting here.

    If you found a turtle upside-down while walking on a beach, would you:

    1. Leave it to die and say that this is only what happens in nature constantly and helping one will not make a big difference?

    2. Turn it over and although realising that this is only what happens in nature constantly and helping one will not make a big difference, you still managed to help one?

    Either way, the turtle will never realise that it has been left to die by you or that it has been given a helping hand and will not thank you (although one has been caught on film uttering the words: Goodnight Ned). You still made a difference.

  132. Ken G

    RAF: funny how whenever someone who is completely devoted to their own point of view but cannot offer any logical rebuttal simply resorts to ridiculous arguments like saying other points are “obvious” or “word salad”. Very scientific, those. Tell me, why do some people who seem to put so much stock in scientific thinking abandon it so completely when they don’t know what else to do?

  133. RAF

    Ken G says: Whether or not science counts as a belief system is a very secondary issue here, it depends on if you define belief as something you accept without objectively verifiable evidence, or if you define it as anything you accept based on whatever grounds for you to do so.

    You are attempting to make this more about your personal philosophy than about science…sorry, but I don’t “do” philosophy…

    Bu-bye…

  134. Larzluv

    Thomas Siefert: THANK YOU SO MUCH for the (I presume ;)) Thres Amigos ref! :)

    But, to answer your question: 2.

    While there are certainly many who chose “1”, *my* experience is that more persons of strongly asserted “faith” (so as if to try to convince -me- of their convictions) are the literalistic, “Man is special, the ‘lower’ animals are so much fodder”, and thus disproportionately feel fine with this “worldview”.

    *My* experience is that skeptics/atheists/agnostics/”non-denominational, we don’t accept *your* books/religion ‘spiritualists'” tend toward #2.

    We may know/acknowledge that it doesn’t really make a hill’s-beans different in the cosmos… but, then again, neither do **WE**… still, we can always try to better our tiny bit of it… :)

    Cheers,
    -Larz

  135. Ken G

    The over-arching point is that some issues are personal in nature, and it is absurd to tell someone else what the *right* choice is, in either direction. Why would we want it any different– there is a piece of this thing we call existence that is entirely our own.

  136. Larzluv

    Ken G: (part 1 of 6)

    My question was “ill-posed”? Why, Sir?

    Your reply is ill-posed!

    Or can’t you as a “scientist” come down from your tower long enough to acknowledge the

    common vernacular of “right/wrong” as used to translate directly to “accurate/inaccurate”?

    “Wrong-to believe”, as a turn of phrase is a matter of philosophy. There may, or may not be

    anything “wrong” – as in a problematic and/or poor outcome to oneself and/or others – with a

    fallacious belief.

    If you “believe” that chicken blood and incantations can restore the severed finger you’re

    about to give yourself just to prove your “belief” is true… if you expect a pleasant

    outcome, there *will* be something “wrong” with that belief. Both factually, as well as

    “harm to oneself and/or other(s)”.

    Is it “wrong-to” believe in Santa Claus? Ordinarily it’s a quite harmless fantasy. But it

    *is* _wrong_ to believe there *is* a Santa Claus (complete with all the sundries trotted out

    e’er winter).

    A belief being wrong as in “inaccurate”, “fact-less”, and/or “unsupported by reality” is not

    “wrong” to assert.

    Whether there’s personal and/or societal “harm” in _holding_ that belief is, indeed open to

    interpretation.

    But you’re insincere at best to say you were confused as to my meaning.

    And there -is- harm to holding such views of “miracles”. As expressed by Dr. Plait in the

    original post, as well as numerous commentors there, as well as here.

    You split hairs incredulously, causing sound and fury, signifying nothing…

    Methodology? Vis “science”? Vis “arithmetic”? Exercising your vocabulary can be

    self-educating, but overindulgence amongst others, while simultaneously hoping they’re not

    savvy enough to notice AND not actually making a point makes one a fool.

    The appropriate methodology *is* implicit in the expression! Unless I’m to continuously

    assume you’re an extraterrestrial lacking a working knowledge of common American “English”

    (in deference to the poor Brits who constantly have to see us malign it online :)).

    It’s obviously up to, a responsibility of the writer, the “teacher” if you insist, to

    understand where the student is coming from in order to tailor the lesson for best results.

    For most adults, even in America with our “failing schools”, I did assume that certain

    concepts inherent in the rhetorical posit, “does 2+2 ALWAYS =4?”

  137. blf

    I’ve also messed up — got the tone badly wrong — whilst trying to make a point in postings (to an e-mailing list), and, like the BA, after being roundly criticised for a poorly considered tone, apologised. This same sort of thing having happened to me, I understand how BA may have made the mistake. And even if a similar situation had not happened to me, I fully concur that an apology was in order. And respect him for it.

    And may Ms Malloy continue to improve!

  138. Ken G

    Larzluv:
    I already told you why your question was ill-posed, you simply made an unconscious assumption that your question automatically comes with a clearly defined mode for answering it. In some cases, this is an innocent oversight, as in the case of 2+2=4– it’s pretty clear from the notation that here we are assuming we shall use the rules of simple arithmetic to establish the truth of falseness of that statement. What I’m telling you is that even though this implicit assumption is natural to make, it is still quite important to recognize that we are making it– that the means to answer the question is being chosen right along with the question. All your post is doing is assuming that we are looking for an objectively falsifiable result, like the reattachment of a finger, and then stating that we can test whether or not certain things work, independently of what we may believe. But you see, I already know that, everyone knows that. What I am talking about is the simple fact that there are a wide array of thought processes that humans use every day of their lives that have nothing to do with objectively falsifiable results. I think this is what Lewis Carroll was trying to tell you when his Red Queen thought several impossible thoughts every morning. But if your entire argument will begin and end with that which is objectively and repeatably demonstrable, then you have already made a choice that others need not have made, and you have nothing to tell me that I don’t already know, nor are you in a position to comment on the thought processes of those who have simply not made that choice.

    As for the harm in believing in miracles, that is a valid issue for education, but education is for liberating the mind with options, not enslaving it by fiat or dogma. Certainly people should be educated in the possible harm in believing in miracles, along with the many benefits and powers associated with the scientific mode of thought, just as they are also free to explore the benefits they find in believing in anything they find value from. What irks me is the downright weak logic of thinking that because you can choose a scientific mode of thought to analyze a situation, based on the benefits that you accrue from doing so or simply because it makes sense to you do so, that this choice for you somehow invalidates the choice of someone else who, understanding the same benefits of science that you understand, nevertheless chooses a different mode of reflection that they feel will provide them with greater value and inspiration. That is just what this thread is all about– the simple recognition that our brain is our servant, and we can use it to do a lot of things but ultimately we decide where we find the greatest usefulness in each situation. That is precisely how we’ve used our brains from the moment we were born, and indeed, this is essentially the only thing our brain is even capable of, whether we are choosing to use science or not.

    Now, your highly nonscientific claim that the “right” methodology is implicit in the question is just obviously wrong– in fact the choice of methodology is quite a fundamental step as it determines the answer one will get, and must be tailored to the intent of the questioner. But you don’t care the intent of the questioner, you hear a question about miracles and you export your own intent, as if that had any relevance whatever to the person for whom the issue is raised. It is quite trivial to come up with common, important, valid questions that are quite open to apply any of a number of methodologies to attack, and it is done all the time, under the name “academic discourse”. Perhaps you’ve heard of it– or are you surprised to hear that universities contain departments other than science?

  139. Larzluv

    Ken G: (part 2 of 6 – UGH!! Sorry for the previous formatting… :()

    That 2, 2, and 4 are “numbers”, for example.

    What “numbers” are, in fact.

    What “addition” is.

    What that “=” sign signifies.

    What the “point” is with “addition”.

    The mechanics involved with employing something called “addition”.

    Perhaps I assumed too much with you?

    If you like, I’d be happy to explain the concepts involved so that not only a typical causal adult observer on The Web could manage to consider the subject, but make it so that it was accessible to even a “scientist” such as yourself.

    Otherwise, you’re wasting time hoping using a lot of words may cloud the issue(s) with enough fog nobody will notice your arms flailing whilst nothing actually becomes of it.

    I charge you a rogue, and throw down the virtual gauntlet! For, if you were sincere in your post, you wouldn’t bloviate about “YOUR post, Larry, exposes you don’t know how to properly ask your question… but ***I*** do, neener, neener!” Instead you’d’ve followed that diatribe up with what *you* found to be the “correct” way to ask the questions I mistakenly assumed the audience possessed both the intelligence, experience, wisdom, and maturity to “get”.

    Put *that* in your cap and call it macaroni…!

    You -almost- come out with your point when you state that the question of the validity of the topic being herein discussed – the “correctness” or “incorrectness” of labeling a statistical *improbability* as a “miracle” – is “non-trivial”.

    Truly?

  140. Larzluv

    Ken G: (part 3 of 6)

    A “miracle”, if I may define it simply, as is most commonly conceived, is an event that has an outcome that defies the laws of physics, reality, and/or the natural order.

    As I’ve said before, surely if we had enough data points, we would be able to (at least eventually) see clearly that no laws of physics, reality, NOR the natural order were disobeyed by Shannon’s ordeal.

    Or do you contest differently? As a “scientist”, perhaps?

    If one considers it a probability that the above statement would, indeed, bear our foregone truth, then saying it was a “miracle” **IS** “wrong”, as in “inaccurate”.

    If you, or anybody else, wishes to contest that this MAY not be the case, please provide an example of ANY OTHER (accurately) RECORDED AND (fully) EXAMINABLE EVENT IN HUMAN HISTORY that goes out of bounds on nature and its laws we each readily experience ever picosecond of ever day of our entire existence.

    Too bad “wishes” don’t make things so…

    Snarkily awaiting your reply… [CRICKETS CHIRPING…]

    Confusingly – for a “scientist”, at least, to me – you continue to (attempt to) conflate “philosophy” with “reality”.

    “The true skeptic, the intellectual high-ground skeptic, asserts that no truth is independent from the means used to arrive at it, and only a literal thinker believes that any truth is absolute.”

    “Truth” is *philosophy* in ANY use other than a narrow one equated with “fact”.

    “The ball *is* red.” “Is” is truth, as in fact. (Nit-picking which *shade* of red is an exercise for those with so much time on their hands that they feel a need to bother.) No “opinion” or “point of view” need apply.

    “The ball is *nice*.” An opinion. A philosophy.

    Minds have gone literally mad pondering the “possibility” of our existence. Are you a figment of my imagination? Am I yours? Are “we” even “here” really?

    Not to be lazy, but merely honest, we have no choice but to go forward assuming the “reality” we perceive is, indeed, “real”. To question that most fundamental premise lies madness. And/or suicide. (After all, even the question of “Why go on?” is irrelevant if I don’t even exist. And I *do* so *want* to exist!)

    But I can only concede so far and then you veer off again. “That’s really not a problem if you think about it, we all choose arithmetic when adding because it gives an objectively verifiable result, and that’s generally our goal.”

    Pray, tell, good Sir, just *what* other “choice” exists to “add” “2” and “2”? What *other* “goal” is there to “adding” two numbers other than to get “an objectively verifiable result”?

    Expiring minds wanna know…!!

  141. Larzluv

    Ken G: (part 4 of 6)

    I would call most of the rest of what you wrote long-winded hyperbole. Nondescript, uncommitted, intellectually dishonest hyperbole.

    Or am I just being too picky for a comment in a blog done on a skeptic’s slant…?

    “Why” Shannon’s accident happened is to *some* a matter of philosophy.

    We “cold, cruel” skeptics, rationalists, realists stuck in this live we like to think of as “reality” presume, lacking evidence to the contrary, lacking ANY EVIDENCE TO THE CONTRARY IN *ANY* OTHER EXPERIENCE OF LIFE, matter-of-factly presume there *is* a logical, factual, within-the-laws-of-physics-and-reality explanation.

    “Why did this happen to me?” is how one tries to comfort and/or excuse oneself. (Or other[s].)

    It may be what the issuer needs mentally, emotionally, in order to cope. But it’s not a accurate way to judge events. And there’s the rub.

    “Things” don’t “happen” to you or me. *I* do, or not do, something. Other people, plants, animals, natural forces and objects (wind, fire, plate tectonics, meteors, etcetera ) have influence, too.

    An animate thing may have a “reason” (whether reasoned well, thoroughly, or at all [reactionary versus reasoned]) for doing something with, to, and/or for us.

    But to invoke Santa Claus, who has yet to be physically discerned (and, therefore, at the very least, has no ability [thus-far detected] to influence physical reality), is mental cowardice, deceit, laziness, and/or ignorance.

    This has *never* been about whether Shannon and her doctors had a “right” to believe in Santa Claus.

    It was, and is, how it’s a belief invoked of wishes and fears, but devoid of factual reality.

    To wit, you and your post: you waste much space pretending (not *pretending*? which would be worse??) to not pick up on that nugget. Inviting me to waste even MORE space with my retort. (Fun though it’s been.) YOU comment that we are being incorrect in our position while proceeding to debate another topic entirely. It’s NEVER been about “Shannon” (despite many trying to make it such.) It’s ALWAYS been about the fallacy in Shannon’s words, and the society we have that plants, nurtures, and encourages such illogic (whenever it conveniently suits).

    YOU, Sir, are being intellectually and otherwise dishonest…

  142. Larzluv

    Ken G: (part 5 of 6)

    Certainly, BA, NOR ANYBODY ELSE would presume to try to fight with *Shannon* specifically, and especially while engaged in rehabilitation. (In a few years is she were ready, willing, and able… that’d be HER choice!) It was a comment that her, and her doctors’, words were illogical and inaccurate, and, on a societal level, *MAY* in some circumstances be harmful (though, I don’t think any of “us” things that the case in this specific example). SHE was merely the EXAMPLE of such expletives and reasoning. (Though she’s since said she doesn’t think she was a literal “miracle”, nor believes in such things. If she says so, who am I to know any better. That -still- doesn’t negate the generic example-of. [SURELY at least ONE of her docs/caregivers sincerely believes there was Kris Kringle intervention?])

    Therefore, your statement (and repeated sentiment [parroted by many, sadly]) of “[the illogic and fallacy of attributing this to a ‘miracle’] is certainly not an answer that anyone else can force down her throat”.

    I call “B.S.”! Straw man, anyone…?

    YOU don’t have an argument when resorting, again, to the “niceties” of the fantasy of “[H]ad she died” and her family, what?, attributed it to a god’s-will?

    We were never talking about whatever it takes for others to sleep through the night. We’ve probably ALL made up falsities, lies, and fairy tails to make ourselves feel better about one thing or another. That doesn’t make any of them true (as in, for your benefit, “actually existing and participatory in reality”)!

    Nor would it make it wrong to state factually that hoping her (thankfully non-existent) death was per someone “greater than us all”‘s plan *make* it so.

    But, sure, it might help family/friends cope.

    But, that’s an entirely different matter entirely.

    (Really, tell me you didn’t already know that.)

    Last(-ish-)ly:

    “[S]cience is a tool that we choose to use when we choose to use it”.

    You’re legitimately *trying* to be funny here, right?

    That’s akin to suggesting that “breathing is a tool that we *choose* to use when we *choose* to not suffocate”.

  143. Larzluv

    Ken G: (part 6 of 6)

    Sure, for the christian-wrong-party, science, facts, and honest observation, reporting, and examination may be “optional” to life, decisions, policy, honesty, and reality.

    But I assert that ANYone who decides to be honest with themselves, others, and the world around us, never “chooses” to use science, the scientific method, critical thinking, logic, and honesty. We simply -do- it.

    Tell me you mean to throw-down the *philosophical* topic contained in “human thought systems are our servants, not our masters” and I’ll humor it with a response.

    [BLATHERING ABOUT…]

    “Do we have faith in the educated mind to choose a rational course to their own truth, or do we legislate the means that must be applied to any question, thereby legislating the truth?”

    Say it with me, class: “strrraw maaaaannnn….!”

    Puh-leeze! Tongue get tied around your eye teeth so’s you couldn’t see what you were saying? You’ve mixed so many metaphors here that I wonder if you’re drinking something else “mixed”.

    “Scientist”? At this point I *have* to go with PHYLOSOPHY, because I can’t even grant you PSYCOLOGY any more…!

    NOBODY (that *I’ve* read; perhaps I missed s/he/them? please, do, quote and link!) has EVER suggested that people don’t have a “right” to be *wrong*. We’re just stating factually that they are, in point of fact, W-R-O-N-G…

    “That’s true libertarianism, true democracy, and yes, true skepticism, all rolled into one.”

    That’s true straw man, true straw man, and yes, true straw man, all rolled into one!

  144. Ken G

    Now that’s what I call longwinded hyperbole. I missed where there was a single shred of scientific argument anywhere in there, just a list of your personal beliefs about truth. And by the way, the 2+2=4 example was just that– a trivial example to make the point that one must indeed assume that simple arithmetic is implied. I did not need you to tell me this is a natural assumption to make, I was pointing out only that it was a necessary assumption. Now you need to go back and look at all the assumptions you are making above, and how without those assumptions, which are far from necessary, your post amounts to nothing at all.

  145. Larzluv

    Ken G: (part B1 of 6)

    “All your post is doing is assuming that we are looking for an objectively falsifiable result… that we can test whether or not certain things work, independently of what we may believe. But you see, I already know that, everyone knows that. What I am talking about is the simple fact that there are a wide array of thought processes that humans use every day of their lives that have nothing to do with objectively falsifiable results.”

    Are you a troll? (I’ve read too many of your posts over time to believe that.) Do you actually believe what you wrote?

    Surely, you jest!

    As one putting forth the contention, I challenge *you* to deny:

    (Do us the courtesy that we’re generally discussing *christianity*; change the specifics to fit other faiths if you see feel the need.)

    “Believers” feel the bible contains *facts*.

    Their “faith” is based on belief in these “facts”.

    Their “faith” would escape them if these “facts” could be disproved to their satisfaction.

    Just because there are those who *chose* to ignore actual facts that contradict their “faith” doesn’t negate the fact that they hold their faith based on the (incorrect) “facts” they continue to cling to.

    Human beings don’t believe something in a vacuum. As always, it’s disingenuous for you to suggest (which you do, continually; the above quote being only a more recent example) that they do.

    As ironic as it is to *me* (whenever I think about the notion, I have a grand old chuckle at their expense :)), people of “faith” who “believe” certain things do so because they “believe” in the facts that back up other, presumably provable parts of their works of faith.

    The bible is replete with stories of historical significance and (potential – perhaps “someday”, they pray) verifiability. This is a classic ploy of propaganda: admit/provide proof of facts, and that lends credence to ones lies (or, to be generous, “faith”).

  146. Larzluv

    Ken G: (part B2 of 6)

    The MORE insidious subject you broach is that it’s okay, acceptable, for persons to hold a belief that fits them, even if it flies in the face of reason, logic, and/or *fact*.

    Again, I’m not arguing the “harmlessness” of belief in Santa Claus. It’s the harmFUL baggage of what comes along with such worldviews that is just to disdain. Big lies only withstand if build upon the strong foundation of supported little lies.

    That one is too mentally weak (your allusion) to survive events in, or even generally life itself, without such fairy tails is not my fault. I also contend that it’s not some insurmountable hurdle, either. I feel no compunction to allow them the crutch simply because they *want* it.

    Again, this isn’t about their *right* (as in human-) to “believe” in hogwash.

    It’s about hogwash being farced by society as to be seen as sparkling drinking water.

    “nor are you in a position to comment on the thought processes of those who have simply not made that choice.”

    Why not? (Or is *that* pompous and arrogant of me to even ask?)

    The thought process is exceedingly simple, to the effect of: “I *want* to ‘believe’ in divine intervention in **THIS** case (because it had a fortunate outcome for my team), irregardless of the facts and/or reality at hand.”

    That’s a ludicrous position to say the least! And rude or not, it’s correct to say so!

    Does one have the “right” to ignore reality? AGAIN, YES!!! But that doesn’t make your “view” “right”, or “acceptable”.

    I could come up with plenty of examples of incorrect thinking that many would find not only factually wrong, but “wrong” to hold such idea(l)s:

    Persons with dark skin are inferior to those with lighter skin.

    Women should be subservient to men.

    Simply being president makes one automagically “right”, and thus unquestionable.

    The war in Iraq was -ever- a “good ideaer”.

    One is ALWAYS, and forever ought to be, -allowed- to hold these silly, dangerous, and/or offensive notions.

    But that has NOTHING to do with the rest of us having to -accept- them, nor listen to the rantings of those who hold them.

    Furthermore, “believing” in them doesn’t make them so. (Sorry, Dumbya…)

  147. Larzluv

    Ken G: (part B3 of 6)

    “What irks me is the downright weak logic of thinking that because you can choose a scientific mode of thought to analyze a situation […] that this […] invalidates the choice of someone else who […] chooses a different mode of reflection that they feel will provide them with greater value and inspiration.”

    That eastern reincarnationists who hold that the more “good” we do in this life, the closer we are to becoming one with the universe, and if we do more “bad” we come back as a lower creature to try to climb up again is fine. That someone, anyone, uses it to convince themselves to NOT do harm, “bad”, is WONDERFUL.

    But that doesn’t make it “correct”, only convenient. That it produced a good outcome doesn’t indicate (nor detract from) its invalidity. Is it “useful”? YES! Does one have the *right* to *use* it? YES!! But that doesn’t make it THE WAY THINGS ARE.

    Either you know what those who say things like I do are saying, agree, but chose to whack at the hornets’ nest because it’s “fun”, or…?? You constantly champion the *right* of someone to *feel* a certain way, to have *faith*. NOBODY IS SPEAKING OF RENIGGING **RIGHTS** HERE!!!

    Someone is “allowed” – yea, even by ME – to believe in whatever they want. I’m not invalidating that choice. I’m contesting what they chose was incorrect. Your language belies your insistence that a *philosophy* that works for them works for them. No kidding.

    But that doesn’t make it correct, right, valid, accurate, nor valuable in and of itself. It only has the value they give it. Only the strength they give it. Only the validity they GIVE it.

    Scientific fact stands on its own even if you don’t believe in it.

    Faith only exists if you think it does.

    There are no correct philosophies, only just ones. And justice is as defined by the one dealing it – though not if they’re honest. Think it just to murder your neighbor? Really? And would it still be just if the tables were turned? We all have an inherent sense of justice, but funny how it stems from how WE would chose to be treated. Hmmm… Anywho…

    “Now, your highly nonscientific claim that the ‘right’ methodology is implicit in the question is just obviously wrong– in fact the choice of methodology is quite a fundamental step as it determines the answer one will get, and must be tailored to the intent of the questioner.”

    Your splitting hairs again.

    SOME problems do, indeed, have multiple paths to reason. SOME even have multiple facts you can try to glean from them.

    But to contend that certain problems as presented don’t have implicit boundaries, assumptions, and methodologies.

    Please, again, I beg of you: SHOW ANY OTHER methodology to attempting to confirm/deny that “2+2 ALWAYS =4”.

    Seriously. If you can show one that doesn’t involve mathematics I’ll PayPal you $5!

    Otherwise, stop using classic, often effectual, but intellectually dishonest debate tactics. Like, say, “don’t make -your- case when you can (attempt to) negate your opponent’s.” (Which, by the way, despite you repeating yourself profusely, you constantly fail to do.)

    “But you don’t care the intent of the questioner, you hear a question about miracles and you export your own intent, as if that had any relevance whatever to the person for whom the issue is raised.”

    Is the “questioner” me, you, or the one proclaiming “MIRACLE!”? I’ll assume it’s the latter (correct me if I misunderstand).

  148. Larzluv

    Ken G: (part B5 & B6 of 6 – above was actually 3 *&* 4; it let me post longer than I thought! ;))

    “Intent” is a well-chosen word. “Who knows the heart of man…?” Indeed. Neither I nor anybody else can do more than take the speaker at face value: this fact they declare a “miracle”, a “miracle” being an event that was *impossible* but happened anyway.

    That they -want-, “need” to believe in them is irrelevant. They proclaimed it. Others, including myself, correctly point out… “Uh, no, not ‘impossible’, merely ‘improbable’. Sorry… Next candidate for ‘miracle’ please…!”

    Or perhaps there’s some “nuance” of (American) English you’d care to enlighten us with that clears up our misinterpretation…?

    “… export your own intent…” What, like taking them at their words? THAT “intent”? Saying that either their choice of *word* was poor (they knew it wasn’t literally a “miracle”, but that it was “a highly unlikely, but extremely fortunate outcome”), or their choice of *belief* was wrong. (Ad nauseum: no “miracle”, simply “improbably event”.)

    How fragile must persons of faith – and their apologists – feel their faith is when it can’t stand up to scrutiny, criticism, or open debate? “Don’t say my ‘ligion’s wrong, it hurts me, and it’s *my* choice!” Bummer for you you on point 1, no sh!t, Sherlock, on the 2nd…

    NOBODY has suggestion anybody shouldn’t be ALLOWED to be 100%, totally, completely, utterly, and in all ways WRONG.

    We merely express, yes, YET AGAIN!, our exasperation at the lack of education, thought, logic, and honesty inherent in common “consideration” and “thinking” abounding in society, and point out yet another example if it alive and well in the system.

    Yeah, if we had *our* way, it wouldn’t be so. But not due to some brainwashing, “forcing down the throat”, or other coercive, violent, forceful, and/or UN-FREE actions, policies, or practices.

    We simply hope that education (“Yes, Virginia, though highly unlikely, it really WAS a possibility after all…”) and a demand of public and intellectual honesty will “breed” bad thinking out.

    And most of us are typically not forthcoming in the “intellectually honest” part. We need a bit of holding to the flames of truth.

    Discussions like this are a small, tangent part of that effort.

    “‘academic discourse’. Perhaps you’ve heard of it…”

    There is not “academic discourse” in the “impossibility” of Shannon’s outcome. None. Not one. Certainly none credible or honest. It’s an obvious fact.

    “Academics” deal in facts. She lived. Fact. Obviously there WAS **a** chance for her to survive. She’s living proof.

    “Philosophers” deal in the “Why?” Factually: because she didn’t die, simply due to an unlikely, but obviously possible, series of events.

    “Believers” deal in the “See! This *PROVES* god!” They disregard the reality, and *insert their own intent*: GOD DID IT!

    “… or are you surprised to hear that universities contain departments other than science?” What, like “Art”, “Philosophy”, and “Anthropology”?

    Uh, no.

    Are *you*…?

  149. Ken G

    Larzluv:
    I have no interest in discussing hypothetical errors in logic exhibited by particular individuals, I am talking about what is the truth about truth, and what are the errors in logic that you specifically are making. I’ll just pick out the core problem in your entire position. You said: “The MORE insidious subject you broach is that it’s okay, acceptable, for persons to hold a belief that fits them, even if it flies in the face of reason, logic, and/or *fact*.”

    The problem with this remark is that at its simplest level, it is nonsense, and at a deeper level, it is far more insidious than anything I’m doing. The reason it is nonsense at a simple logical level is that it is a trivial matter to come up with a disproving counterexample. It is certainly OK for a person to hold a belief that fits them, this falls under the heading of common human decency and human rights. If a terminally ill patient wishes to believe that they have a chance of surviving their illness, even though logic, reason, and what you would define as “fact” argue extraordinarily strongly against it, then you would be a monster to take that belief away from them. Not false hope, mind you, I am not saying that people should not be educated in what reason dictates. Indeed, I already said that education is the crucial piece. So the terminally ill person is told the facts, but if given all that, they still choose a belief that suits them, more power to them, and if they were someone I cared deeply about, I would certainly block you from trying to shove your reason down their throats by any means short of harming you. It is simply a matter of when do you, and when do you not, have the right to think for someone else (and note the crucial difference between “educate” and “think for”– all educators must learn how to draw that line). Last time I checked, our brains were our own.

    But that’s child’s play to point out, most people could see that much just using common sense. The deeper and more insidious element of your mistake is that you are assuming the conclusions of “reason” and “the facts” have been established by some unimpeachable means. This is simply your assumption, despite the vast array of “facts” that get impeached all the time. A true skeptic is well aware of the problem with the concept of “fact” the way you use it, which is really no more than “that which I believe to be true based on a methodology that has proved highly reliable in the past in analogous situations”. But it is still your chosen belief, and your chosen methodology. It is a methodology that all should be educated to use, because much of what we do as humans rests on it, and all that is objectively and repeatably verifiable in a general way that applies to everyone. The problem is, that does not apply to all things that matter to all individuals, not by a long shot (again, common sense). The insidious part is that by simply assuming that it does, you mandate the most important step in the process– the part where an appropriate methodology is chosen. Mandating people’s choices of thought process is totalitarian, in the worst way, and just because you happen to favor that choice does not justify mandating it. To do so is insidious enough, but it tops the scale when you do and claim that you are not.

  150. Larzluv

    Ken G:

    I think you mistake “common sense” with “common courtesy”. Once again, you’re arguing the point that one has a *right* to believe.

    No debate here, nor anywhere else.

    “It is certainly OK for a person to hold a belief that fits them, this falls under the heading of common human decency and human rights.”

    Are you -really- “confused” as to my position, meaning, and statements, or just being disingenuous… again…? Perhaps in my tired stupor, when I wrote “[It’s not ‘okay’] for persons to hold a belief that fits them, even if it flies in the face of reason, logic, and/or *fact*.”

    I meant “okay” as in, “Beyond an inherent, inalienable human right to hold to falsities, it’s not okay to give it reinforcement by either coddling nor silence.”

    I assume that would come through, again and again, as I’ve repeated the sentiment repeatedly. I could be wrong. I do apologize. For the last time, if I may: PERSONS HAVE A *RIGHT* TO BELIEVE IN SOMETHING, BUT THAT DOES NOT MAKE THE BELIEF FACTUALLY CORRECT.

    You constantly resort to your fall-back “shove down their throat” statement. Please, identify where I, or anybody else, was advocating, let alone attempting.

    BRAVO, though! Few could reconcile:

    “If a terminally ill patient wishes to believe that they have a chance of surviving their illness, even though logic, reason, and what you would define as ‘fact’ argue extraordinarily strongly against it, then you would be a monster to take that belief away from them.”

    with

    “Not false hope, mind you, I am not saying that people should not be educated in what reason dictates.”

    I find the logical acrobatics involved amazing. You have my awe (and condolences).

    Or is there really a communication breakdown between us? Perhaps you misunderstand me. Again, mea culpa, please forgive. I thought I’d repeated myself repeatedly, but in case I was obtuse: PERSONS HAVE A *RIGHT* TO BELIEVE IN SOMETHING, BUT THAT DOES NOT MAKE THE BELIEF FACTUALLY CORRECT.

    Pray, tell, what would “I” be doing to be a “monster”, according to you? How would I “take that belief away from them”?

    By saying they were “terminally ill”? By deferring to the opinion of their physicians and accepting they were “terminally” ill? (I’m no medical professional, so what else do you think I could/would do?)

    I, for one, wouldn’t, and morally couldn’t, do anything otherwise. Certainly not attempt to “shove [my] reason down their throats”!

    What dishonest skeptic peed in your Corn Flakes when you were a kid? Really. You must have some amazingly warped, low opinion of all we inhumane jerks. Does that preconceived notion about us cloud your eyes and mind so much that you can’t accept, acknowledge, and/or actually -read- what we type?

    “I have no interest in discussing hypothetical errors in logic exhibited by particular individuals, I am talking about what is the truth about truth, and what are the errors in logic that you specifically are making.”

    You often “talk about” much with me and others, but rarely come out and -say- anything. ESPECIALLY when you constantly insist you have “no interest” in doing so.

    Since the one topic you chose to rub my nose in is, at best, a non issue, a matter of miscommunication (I’ll grant you via my assumption of such), seriously do me a favor. Help me become a better person (which to you it seems wouldn’t take much): point out a different one, and then EXPLAIN TO ME:

    the “hypothetical errors in logic” – you could start by explaining what this phrase even means

    what -is- the “truth about truth” – that (philosophically speaking) nobody can ever know if any of this really is real? (I believe I, and others, have relented that point; what more can an honest skeptic do??)

    “this remark is that at its simplest level, it is nonsense” (refer to OP above) – made sense to me; perhaps you could enlighten the rest of us…?

    “The reason it is nonsense at a simple logical level is that it is a trivial matter to come up with a disproving counterexample.”

    Show of hands: how many others find the example given was “disproving”…? (Perhaps you could explain as to why… again, are you arguing with me about your misunderstanding/my misstating of my position?)

    “It is simply a matter of when do you, and when do you not, have the right to think for someone else.” [1] *I* certainly feel there’s never a right I have to ever think for someone else. (ACT on their behalf if they’re truly incapacitated, but that’s a whole ‘nother issue.) [2] When did I, or anybody else, say we were trying to think for others? Barring that, what did we write that – in your opinion – is us attempting said act?

    If we constantly CHAMPION the right of others to be wrong (especially in their thinking; is there any other way? :)), how could you accuse us of doing so?

    “Last time I checked, our brains were our own.” What makes you think I, or anybody else, feels any differently? (Straw-man-sense tingling again…)

    “But that’s child’s play to point out, most people could see that much just using common sense.” Like… the “child’s play” involved with -reading- what I’ve written (repeatedly) and knowing what you corrected and admonished me for was a non-issue. THAT kind of “common sense”…?

    “The deeper and more insidious element of your mistake is that you are assuming the conclusions of ‘reason’ and ‘the facts’ have been established by some unimpeachable means. This is simply your assumption, despite the vast array of ‘facts’ that get impeached all the time.”

    Firstly, once again I challenge you to bell the cat, in this case YOUR cat: list a handful of “facts” that have been impeached recently. (We’ll thank you for not wasting our time with false “argument points”: “scientific” facts only, please.)

    Secondly, you presume too much (about me, to say the least). Some things are “facts” of reality: the earth ’round sol, for example. Short of outside influence, like a black hole whizzing by (which keeps physics intact, it could simply negate the accepted “fact” of our orbit), and/or the laws of physics going screwy all of a sudden, the simply are. Others are theory, with associated probabilities. More-established, better-studied, better-understood facts get massaged. But the “reality” of reality hasn’t changed much in the past hundred years. (We’ve observed more since then, which has required newer models, etc., and those models evolved, but most major “facts” of reality remain unscathed.) I never claim that a mere premise posited by one guy is The Way Things Are. But given enough data, enough scrutiny… I’ll bank on peer-review and info I can examine myself, yeah. But I -never- think -all- things theorized are “facts”, nor do I blindly accept those edicts as “unimpeachable” (nor the means said theory was built or tested).

    I’ll leave that to persons of faith.

    “A true skeptic is well aware of the problem with the concept of ‘fact’ the way you use it, which is really no more than [YADDA YADDA YADDA].” And, I, being a true, and also honest skeptic already know this. But thanks for repeating what has already been said repeatedly before. (Including by yours truly.)

    “But it is still your chosen belief, and your chosen methodology.” You keep trying to make hay with this straw man of yours. “Reality” is only a belief system if by “belief” you mean we accept (or at least “believe” “we” “accept”) that which we (*think* we) experience as “reality”. I’ve readily volunteered this. Repeatedly. (As have others.) And “science” is only a “chosen methodology” for working with “reality” insofar as there’s no other honest “methodology” for doing so.

    Or would you like to (FINALLY! SAY IT, SAY IT!!) enlighten all of us with (your) “truth”…?

    “because much of what we do as humans rests on [science and the scientific method]” – truly! What that we humans do DOESN’T rest on it??

    “The problem is, that does not apply to all things that matter to all individuals, not by a long shot (again, common sense).” “Common sense” as you use the term… makes me feel *dirty*… I feel I’m again repeating myself again: no kidding, people ignore reality all the time in order to force their *wants*, *needs*, and *desires* onto the universe all the time, but WISHING DOESN’T MAKE IT SO. They have the *right* to do so (deja vu, anybody… ANYBODY??) but that doesn’t make their choice correct.

    People believe in things that they pretend are backed up by (enough to them) “evidence”. Some verifiably factual, some speculative, but reasonable. That allows for the (dishonest, but acceptable to them) leap in faith of believing the demonstrably incorrect items, and/or the untestable ones.

    People choose to believe primarily for 3 basic reasons:

    1) I don’t want to cease to exist when I die.

    2) I want to see my family/friends (beloved pets) when I die, so I don’t want to believe THEY ceased to exist when THEY died.

    3) A desire for sense of justice in the universe. “I’m suffering now, but it’s Ala’s will/I’ll see a better day in the hereafter.” “If ever there was a reason for hell to in fact exist, it’s [Hitler, Stalin, Dumbya, etc., etc.].”

    But wishing doesn’t make it so. On points where reality gets in the way of faith, it’s dishonest to keep believing (in said point). It’s dishonest to pick-and-choose what to: thank/ascribe to god; be thankful for; accept as fact within my chosen holy books; adhere to, with regard the commandments of my deity of choice; etc., etc., etc.

    Yet, in the end, ONE ALWAYS HAS THE *RIGHT* TO BE WRONG/DISHONEST.

    Dr. Plait’s original post simply spoke of the insidiousness of a society that panders in the illogic of proclamations of miracles (of the supernatural kind).

    It’s never been about the *RIGHT* to be *WRONG/DISHONEST*.

    “Mandating people’s choices of thought process is totalitarian […] and just because you happen to favor that choice does not justify mandating it. To do so is insidious enough, but it tops the scale when you do and claim that you are not.”

    Are you mistaken or dishonest when you accuse me of this straw man position?

    Quote-and-link where I did so. Otherwise, it tops the scale when you accuse me of doing so when I obviously have not…

  151. Ken G

    Larzluv: Well, we are starting to make some progress, when you admit that your claim “The MORE insidious subject you broach is that it’s okay, acceptable, for persons to hold a belief that fits them, even if it flies in the face of reason, logic, and/or *fact*” was only something you’d say in a “tired stupor”. I can accept that we all say things we wish we could unsay. Unfortunately, you go exacerbate the “stupor” by suspending all your experience in the real world to pretend that you find it to be “logical acrobatics” for me to “reconcile” the statement:
    “If a terminally ill patient wishes to believe that they have a chance of surviving their illness, even though logic, reason, and what you would define as ‘fact’ argue extraordinarily strongly against it, then you would be a monster to take that belief away from them.”
    with
    “Not false hope, mind you, I am not saying that people should not be educated in what reason dictates.”
    From all this, I gather that you see things in a very black-and-white way– there’s the truth, and there’s delusion, but there’s no such thing as a human mind making a choice about how it will frame what it is attempting to cope with. Astonishing, apparently it has not occured to you that I just described the primary function of a conscious brain! More, this is the only thing a conscious brain is even capable of, it is what you and I are doing at this very moment, and it is all you ever did with your conscious mind in your entire life.

    You seem to, quite unscientifically, view humans as kinds of logic machines, alternately reaching either valid conclusions, as judged by you of course, and self-delusions that don’t fit into your own world view. You have my condolences for such an absurdly cut-and-dried view of what the human mind is. Personally, I have not even the tiniest difficulty reconciling the statements I made above, and I wager that neither would the majority of most families in times of tragedy or crisis. I will thus try to explain what you either miss, or pretend to miss to create your tidy view of thought: logic is a tool, hope is a tool, faith is a tool, and all come under the heading of “thought” and can even mean “reason” depending on crucial differences in how one defines that very word. We, as conscious individuals, select the appropriate tool for every situation. One is never “right” while the other is “wrong”– rightness and wrongness appear only after the tool is selected. Even simple logic dictates this– the capable logician is perfectly aware that she has chosen logic as her means to address a problem, only the casual thinker fails to notice that choice.

    It is only you who think that any mode of human thought is “one size fits all”– and your size, to boot. The truth is, there is no such thing as absolutely correct human thought– even logic cannot actually be applied in its formal form in any real situation, a level of fuzziness is unavoidable, and the decision to tolerate that fuzziness is part of the choice of applying logic. We make that choice because it works quite often– not because it’s “right”. How can I explain to you the simple mathematical truth that even the very rules of reason are choices of the human mind?

    I call it a mathematical truth because mathematics is a perfect example. If this is still not clear to your literal way of framing all of existence, then answer me this: is the origin of mathematics in the human mind, or can there be mathematics independently of any mind? All your above arguments are essentially analogous to requiring the latter answer be the “correct” one, but you will give yourself fits attempting to supply a useful definition of mathematics that can make that true. On the other hand, it follows from simple consideration of what mathematics is to say that mathematics is a choice of rules fashioned by the human brain because it achieves great validity in much of our experience, or at least in much of the experience that our limited minds can actually make sense of, in no small part thanks to the invention of mathematics. Such is logic, and such is the result of applying logic to this question. I’m sorry if it doesn’t fit into your cookie-cutter true of what is “true” and what is “false” about reality.

  152. Ken G

    Larzluv: Well, we are starting to make some progress, when you admit that your claim “The MORE insidious subject you broach is that it’s okay, acceptable, for persons to hold a belief that fits them, even if it flies in the face of reason, logic, and/or *fact*” was only something you’d say in a “tired stupor”. I can accept that we all say things we wish we could unsay. Unfortunately, you go exacerbate the “stupor” by suspending all your experience in the real world to pretend that you find it to be “logical acrobatics” for me to “reconcile” the statement:
    “If a terminally ill patient wishes to believe that they have a chance of surviving their illness, even though logic, reason, and what you would define as ‘fact’ argue extraordinarily strongly against it, then you would be a monster to take that belief away from them.”
    with
    “Not false hope, mind you, I am not saying that people should not be educated in what reason dictates.”
    From all this, I gather that you see things in a very black-and-white way– there’s the truth, and there’s delusion, but there’s no such thing as a human mind making a choice about how it will frame what it is attempting to cope with. Astonishing, apparently it has not occured to you that I just described the primary function of a conscious brain! More, this is the only thing a conscious brain is even capable of, it is what you and I are doing at this very moment, and it is all you ever did with your conscious mind in your entire life.

    You seem to, quite unscientifically, view humans as kinds of logic machines, alternately reaching either valid conclusions, as judged by you of course, and self-delusions that don’t fit into your own world view. You have my condolences for such an absurdly cut-and-dried view of what the human mind is. Personally, I have not even the tiniest difficulty reconciling the statements I made above, and I wager that neither would the majority of most families in times of tragedy or crisis. I will thus try to explain what you either miss, or pretend to miss to create your tidy view of thought: logic is a tool, hope is a tool, faith is a tool, and all come under the heading of “thought” and can even mean “reason” depending on crucial differences in how one defines that very word. We, as conscious individuals, select the appropriate tool for every situation. One is never “right” while the other is “wrong”– rightness and wrongness appear only after the tool is selected. Even simple logic dictates this– the capable logician is perfectly aware that she has chosen logic as her means to address a problem, only the casual thinker fails to notice that choice.

    It is only you who think that any mode of human thought is “one size fits all”– and your size, to boot. The truth is, there is no such thing as absolutely correct human thought– even logic cannot actually be applied in its formal form in any real situation, a level of fuzziness is unavoidable, and the decision to tolerate that fuzziness is part of the choice of applying logic. We make that choice because it works quite often– not because it’s “right”. How can I explain to you the simple mathematical truth that even the very rules of reason are choices of the human mind?

    I call it a mathematical truth because mathematics is a perfect example. If this is still not clear to your literal way of framing all of existence, then answer me this: is the origin of mathematics in the human mind, or can there be mathematics independently of any mind? All your above arguments are essentially analogous to requiring the latter answer be the “correct” one, but you will give yourself fits attempting to supply a useful definition of mathematics that can make that true. On the other hand, it follows from simple consideration of what mathematics is to say that mathematics is a choice of rules fashioned by the human brain because it achieves great validity in much of our experience, or at least in much of the experience that our limited minds can actually make sense of, in no small part thanks to the invention of mathematics. Such is logic, and such is the result of applying logic to this question. I’m sorry if it doesn’t fit into your cookie-cutter beliefs about what is “true” and what is “false” in reality.

  153. Ken G

    Oops, my regret for the multiple posting, I thought I was editing.

  154. Larzluv

    “I can accept that we all say things we wish we could unsay.”

    I never wrote I regretted anything. I wrote, I thought obviously – again, was I wrong?? – sarcastically, that I regretted I must have been unclear. For you. For *you* either took my meaning incorrectly, or chose to ignore what I wrote, and, with conscious consideration, presented a straw-man.

    I’d regret to “give up” and give you the satisfaction of presenting the situation as “another ‘skeptic’ whithers away when presented with due argument.” But it’s tiring – and wasting copious amounts of bandwidth to boot – to carry this on when you either are incapable of at least giving the courtesy of replies to direct points, questions, and/or examples, or, which as this continues seems regrettably more likely, deliberately avoids such items and rather chooses to argue points of which there is no contention, or “contradicts” that which has (repeatedly!) been agreed (since the BEGINNING!). Ah, but I repeat myself yet again. I do hope to keep to this oath: I shall do so no longer here. (Unless you change your spots. Won’t hold my breath, though…)

    And the rest of this, regrettably, is more of the same.

    YOU proclaim that it’s proper thinking, and therefore the actions based on that thinking likewise, to believe in a point when [1] there’s no evidence for it, and [2] noticeable evidence to the contrary.

    When pressed about this, YOU change the argument to one of “rights” – that I and others are railing against the *right* of one to do so.

    It’s tiring to push a rope. And your rope has no merit, is devoid of honesty, and even I’ve hit beyond my limit of going in circles with such a mendacious person.

    I welcome open debate, especially lively ones. I willingly engage, and appreciate a good spar. I’ve humbly requested you enlighten, illustrate, and correct me numerous times. Instead, you conveniently choose to ignore them. And repeat the same points. As always, as if they’re either at risk from-, or at odds with-, what I and others are saying.

    This is an example of such: “From all this, I gather that you see things in a very black-and-white way– there’s the truth, and there’s delusion, but there’s no such thing as a human mind making a choice about how it will frame what it is attempting to cope with.”

    There *is* truth/fact, and then delusion. Some truth/facts have higher/lower percentages of certainty. Delusions are opinions held in the absence of, or contrary to, evidence.

    But your real point, what YOU obviously can’t see at the end of your own nose, is that nobody, including and especially myself, makes any sort of claim that the second portion of your statement makes.

    There *is* such a thing. And everyone *does* have such a right. And, *sometimes*, it’s only a delusion (the framing they choose).

    They who accept that delusion, who *hope* it’s true, don’t get a free pass because of the magic codeword “faith” or “belief”.

    *I* can say so if they ask. If they didn’t ask me, I doubt there’d be a time where I’d “push it down their throat” as you so willingly want to prejudge me and others as being want to do.

    Again, continually, you attempt to confuse one’s “right” with one *being* right. Do us all a favor: don’t demean either yourself or us with continuing to do so…

    You stated: “You seem to, quite unscientifically, view humans as kinds of logic machines, alternately reaching either valid conclusions, as judged by you of course, and self-delusions that don’t fit into your own world view.”

    Again, sadly it is you who refuses to see, or genuinely misses, that you’re corrupting together two different, and not necessarily related, nor mutually-exclusive ideas. Brains *are* logic machines. They *do* reach either valid conclusions or delusions. BUT, not as judged by “me”, but by “reality”. They are also chemical factories. And chemical machines reacting to chemicals from elsewhere in the body. Oh, how the delusional like to think “love” is more than a combination of memory, experience, logic, and chemical interactions. (As is “hate”, “anger”… all emotion.) Somehow it’s feared that making us merely machines takes away our humanity. How can you take away what simply *is*. Ah, that’d be pride and fear, eh? Funny, regardless of these facts, I still “love” my mom, and it makes me “feel good” to have that reciprocated. *I* don’t feel any less “human”. But, then how could I…?

    You refuse to acknowledge simple, obvious, illustrative examples – like “to believe dropping an apple will make it fall up” – as being unrelated and different than belief in god, divine intervention (which is what the original point was, after all), etc.

    Belief in spoon-bending, mind-reading, talking with the dead… the list of such subjects is nearly limitless. Unlike the evidence -for- any of them. The preponderance of evidence comes down against them in each and every case.

    But people still believe in them. Because they “need” to. “Want” to. “Think they really do exist” DESPITE the evidence. The reality.

    If these aren’t delusions, please. Tell us. YOUR definition. YOUR all-knowing mind. WHAT IS A “DILLUSION”!?!?!?

    But the pot-shot of “that don’t fit into your own world view” – please, spare me/us. As if Santa’s existence hinged simply on one’s “world view”.

    I support your right (despite the regrettable illegality) to partake, but put the bong down on occasion. Like when joining in on this topic of discussion.

    Okay, really are you a “scientist” of liberal arts? I mean, how did you skirt around having to pass a basic logic course? “Personally, I have not even the tiniest difficulty reconciling the statements I made above, and I wager that neither would the majority of most families in times of tragedy or crisis.” [1] I’m sure *you* don’t, as you make them. But your utterance, as well as your “defense” of them is, per usual, misguided at best, dishonest more likely. (At least when posed to “contradict” anything I have said.) [2] “Families in times of tragedy or crisis” for the most part, especially the closer to “Time Zero” one is, don’t give a rat’s ass about “fact”, “reality”, or “truth”. They’re scared, worried, and/or grieving. Many grieving loved ones would likely believe in anything you were to sell them if it were sold well enough. They likely already hold their own bought beliefs. (And/or had them reinforced, if only to have for the moment more “hope” and/or “ease the burden/mind”.) But that doesn’t make it so. And one’s CHOICE doesn’t change REALITY.

    Call me all the cold, cruel, heartless names you like. Doesn’t change facts. And facts aren’t *my* fault.

    Is it “reason” or “desire” that might lead one to pursue a gal who in no uncertain terms told one “NO!”? “[L]ogic is a tool, hope is a tool, faith is a tool, and all come under the heading of ‘thought’ and can even mean ‘reason’ depending on crucial differences in how one defines that very word.” As always (deja vu-to-infinity?), you tie two disparate themes together, as if they need, should, or have to be. Yeah, yeah, “all tools”. Blah, blah, blah. Not only do “we” get that, “we” never argued that point. BUT… “Hope” is not a thought, nor reason, but a wish. A fondness. Of course, not necessarily devoid of *possibility*. (“1 in a million.”) “Faith” is not thought, it’s blind acceptance, based on potentially absolutely nothing, so you and others insist. (Then why care if “Noah” really existed? OH, I GET IT! They want their “faith” backed up by “facts”! [Even if those “facts” are false/different…]) Otherwise it wouldn’t be “faith”, but “likeliness.” “Probability.” Oh, and “science”.

    “We, as conscious individuals, select the appropriate tool for every situation. One is never ‘right’ while the other is ‘wrong’– rightness and wrongness appear only after the tool is selected.” AGAIN, you wed – via shotgun – two independent trains of ideas: one has a right to feelings versus one’s feelings being how reality actually is.

    I *feel* (dark) green is the most neat-o color in the world! And, indeed, there’s no “rightness” or “wrongness” to it.

    I *believe* I will not suffer any injury if I jump off a 100 foot cliff onto the rocks below. IF ONLY WISHING MADE THAT TRUE, BASE JUMPING WOULD BE SO MUCH LESS DANGEROUS AND EXPENSIVE! (And even I might try it!)

    I believe you’re too irrational and/or too dishonest to do so, but I’ll ask anyway: just post (separately for ease of reading/replying, thanks 😉 a scenario that YOU think shows a way, not based on logic but rather on hope and/or faith, of addressing a problem in life.

    Though you didn’t bite last time, I’ve got **$20** I’ll PayPal you if I can’t show, sooner or later, that one makes decisions on the situation based on LOGIC and REALITY, not HOPE or FAITH, UNLESS ONE MADE THE DESCISION TO IGNORE LOGIC/REALITY.

    A terminally ill person who wishes to fight the disease in every way, but doesn’t feel they can do so if they accept the “terminality” of their situation. That would be a poor example, as they’ve decided to ignore facts and work on delusion. (I don’t know anybody who’d be so cruel to TAKE that from them, however.) And the fundamental argument is that they may WANT things to not be so, but WISHING DOESN’T CHANGE ANYTHING. (Also, it doesn’t change the fact that what saved them was improbable remission and/or new treatment, not “faith” or “hope”. Faith/hope may have changed their mindset – yeah, yeah, which has beneficial endorphins, but that still doesn’t make it “god”, but rather “natural”! – but the THING(S) believed in were not the key.)

    Anyway, I waste my fingers again, I just know it…

    “How can I explain to you the simple mathematical truth that even the very rules of reason are choices of the human mind?” Since you insist there is no “truth”, I guess you can’t. (Despite this being YET ANOTHER straw-man I don’t have a quarrel with…)

    “If this is still not clear to your literal way of framing all of existence, then answer me this: is the origin of mathematics in the human mind, or can there be mathematics independently of any mind?”

    There is no “existence” with out acceptance of this literal reality. We have no other frame of reference. No other basis of comparison. Perhaps you do…?

    “Puff, puff, PASS, man!”

    Our structure, literature on the subject, wordage, symbolic language, and means of working with “math” is, obviously, a human framework.

    But if two coconuts are already at the base of a palm, and two more drop, in the end there are 4 (count ’em, FOUR!) whether we “believe” it, or not. Whether we existed, or not.

    The thought riddle, “If a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound?” is less about “does the sound exist” than about “would it matter?”, or even “would the universe ‘know’ it?” But, again, that’s philosophy. It has nothing to do with the *fact* that the tree crashing to the ground produces pressure waves which, when we animals are within range, *we* perceive “sound”.

    But the “sound” existed despite us, not because-of.

    Relationships of triangles exist, even if *we* didn’t exist to formulate geometric musings about them.

    “All your above arguments are essentially analogous to requiring the latter answer be the ‘correct’ one, but you will give yourself fits attempting to supply a useful definition of mathematics that can make that true.” Should I be in convulsions yet… because I swear I feel fine…

    “…because [mathematics] achieves great validity in much of our experience…” Hmmm. You got me there! Could you provide a few examples of the lack of *absolute* validity in *any* of our experience?

    Again, “Puff, puff, PASS, man!”

    “Mathematics” is the worst possible choice for you to work with. Stick to your Liberal Arts – err, “Science”. (Nothing wrong with, but I don’t expect you to be keen on quantum theory, either.) “Mathematics” could be defined as our human-readable books, posits, and images of how to -describe- numerical relationships. But, then even “numerical” can be confounded into philosophical limbo. Again, we either accept “existence” and move forward, or get stuck simply debating it. But really, “math” exists even without us. The human-readable form is for OUR benefit, it doesn’t “create” math, numbers, relationships thereof.

    “I’m sorry if it doesn’t fit into your cookie-cutter beliefs about what is ‘true’ and what is ‘false’ in reality.” You’re not “sorry”, nor genuine or honest. And yet who’s the more foolish: the fool, or the fool who follows him (me)? Obviously, “me”… I’m curious, perhaps you or anybody else could offer this most elusive thing: PLEASE give me an example of a “fact”, a “truism” that is only true “from a certain point of view”. (Again, class: “fact” != “opinion”. Oh, how I do wish you’d reply on THIS point, if no other! :P)

    “Oops, my regret for the multiple posting, I thought I was editing.” Honest accidents happen, no need to apologize for that. But you COULD do so for constantly posting without saying anything – either “new”, “contradictory”, or “addressing points brought up”…

    If the best you have to offer is that people have a “right” to believe in (literally) nonsense, you have nothing to offer.

    If you further have to offer that we don’t “know” if anything exists, or if the laws of reality as we’ve seen them will *always* be this way, gosh, YOU’RE RIGHT! But, none of us can deny that, nor have tried. We can only go along this reality. Oh, and accept it as “reality”.

    But that doesn’t make wishes come true, Santa come down chimneys, nor make a supernatural influence – “miracle” – in a statistically *possible* event the way things actually are.

    Get back to us when you have something to actually inform or debate.

    Or when pigs fly… without the assistance of DNA manipulation…

  155. Ken G

    I only got as far as your first paragraph, because it rang so false I hardly needed to go further. So first you made an obviously absurd claim that is was “not OK” for someone to believe something that they find value in, then you said it was a “tired stupor” that generated that statement, and now you say that actually you meant it but I somehow misinterpreted it? Sorry, “not OK” means “not OK”, and if you aren’t sorry you used those words, I question your competence to make any further judgements about anything of importance to humanity.

  156. Larzluv

    How typical. But because you seem unwilling to be honest, and for posterity…

    I wrote:


    The MORE insidious subject you broach is that it’s okay, acceptable, for persons to hold a belief that fits them, even if it flies in the face of reason, logic, and/or *fact*.

    Again, this isn’t about their *right* (as in human-) to ‘believe’ in hogwash.

    It’s about hogwash being farced by society as to be seen as sparkling drinking water.

    You wrote:


    The problem with this remark is that at its simplest level, it is nonsense, and at a deeper level, it is far more insidious than anything I’m doing. The reason it is nonsense at a simple logical level is that it is a trivial matter to come up with a disproving counterexample. It is certainly OK for a person to hold a belief that fits them, this falls under the heading of common human decency and human rights.

    Seems you’re either dishonestly arguing a straw-man, or honestly missing my point. AGAIN. Which was MADE PLAINLY. (See above, since you seem to be too lazy to do so on your own.)

    So… I replied:


    Are you -really- ‘confused’ as to my position, meaning, and statements, or just being disingenuous… again…? Perhaps in my tired stupor, when I wrote ‘[It’s not “okay”] for persons to hold a belief that fits them, even if it flies in the face of reason, logic, and/or *fact*.’

    I meant ‘okay’ as in, ‘Beyond an inherent, inalienable human right to hold to falsities, it’s not okay to give it reinforcement by either coddling nor silence.’

    I assume that would come through, again and again, as I’ve repeated the sentiment repeatedly. I could be wrong. I do apologize. For the last time, if I may: PERSONS HAVE A *RIGHT* TO BELIEVE IN SOMETHING, BUT THAT DOES NOT MAKE THE BELIEF FACTUALLY CORRECT.

    To which you wrote:


    Well, we are starting to make some progress, when you admit that your claim [quoted above] was only something you’d say in a ‘tired stupor’. I can accept that we all say things we wish we could unsay. Unfortunately, you go exacerbate the ‘stupor’ [by saying more stuff…]

    I never said it was something I’d “only say” when in a lower mental state. It was a poetic way of giving you the benefit of the doubt that you misunderstood my meanin’. EVEN THOUGH IT WAS MADE PLAIN (see quotes above).

    It’s regrettable you have no interest in integrity nor honesty in this discussion. You’re obviously intelligent enough to be able to do so. Perhaps your intelligence hampers your ability to argue for which you say you believe in; perhaps it disallows you to actually hold your beliefs, so you find it impossible to argue competently for them…

    Perhaps it’s little more than the issue is too personal, too emotionally charged for you to muster the honesty and reflection to discuss it.

    I cannot know your mind nor your heart, so I cannot say.

    But I can say that based on your most recent reply, it’s plain you have no interest in genuine discourse.

    How sad… but at least typical… for “the other side”… 😉

  157. Breaking into a dialogue between Ken G and Larsluv here, but…

    I am glad to read this apology, because my original heated reply in the original thread was based on the snarkiness in the post. And contrary to the opinions of some who comment here, religion and science are not diametrically opposed. Fundamentalism and reason are, though. I happen to belong to a Christian denomination where you are not required to check your brain at the door, and teach at a Catholic school (even though I am a Protestant) where we are quite free to teach evolution and other actual scientific principles.

    Anyway, my appreciation to the Bad Astronomer, a man willing to right a wrong, even one he made himself. Too rare a quality in this world, for anyone of any world view.

  158. Ken G

    Thank you Shawn, for a ray of reason against a shadow of ignorance in the name of science.

  159. Ken G

    larzluv: Lame position. You claim that it is “not OK” to believe “falsities”. And pray tell, who determines what is false, and in what context? Of course you mean you, so the translation is, “it’s not OK not to think like me”. Lame. What you could have said was, “when one believes something, one must understand the full ramifications, such that one can see both how they benefit from the belief, but also what other benefits they sacrifice”. Had you said that, you would have been making sense. But your mind is too linear, too “truth vs. hogwash” to see such subtle but important distinctions. It’s OK, I’ve seen it before in literal thinkers, it’s nothing too surprising.

  160. Larzluv

    Such a distinguished, rational thinker such as yourself… and the best you can muster is “lame”…?

    Thanks for the compliment, but you’ll need to correct/remind me: just when was *I* consulted as to the validity – nee, “rightness” – of such topics as “gravity”, “mathematics”, or “biology”?

    I must admit, it’s personally embarrassing – emphasis on “bare-assing” – for such to have slipped my mind…

    But I allow myself to be distracted by shiny things. Sorry.

    It’s startling: I think you actually believe what you’re saying. You’re saying that “real” or “unreal” is subjective? Sake’s alive! I never knew that simply having a different point of view could make my bills disappear!

    How trite – and still oh-so-dishonest, pity you can’t allow yourself to admit it. On the one hand, you’re “of course not” saying that “reality” is subjective. But then, on the other, you’re championing that “of course” people are valid, correct, and right in believing such is so.

    I know, I know… too “linear” of me. But really, surely if you could convince yourself – who you yourself say thinks sooo much better and more clearly (and more honestly) than I – that both can be valid at the same time, you could explain it to those like me, we “too linear” people: why isn’t it acceptable to fail to deal with facts and reality in “real life”, but quite adequate to disregard facts and reality when fantasizing about the “after life”? At the same time?

    But, please, give us logic and reason in your response. Not the same old tired straw-man of a “human right” (to be wrong).

    In the end, the best you’ve given is such a weak point: that if a belief “works for me”, regardless of the basis, that makes it actual. Therefore you should accept it, too.

    Funny, I’m *still* not arguing whether one has the *right* to hold an erroneous belief. I’m saying that the beliefs of others are incorrect, and therefore should not be believed in.

    Funny how you’ve never acknowledged, let alone addressed, the obviously bad positions that “everyone” can agree are wrong (except those who “everyone else” knows to be loons). So you don’t have to exert any actual effort in your “efforts”, allow me to quote for you:


    Persons with dark skin are inferior to those with lighter skin.

    Women should be subservient to men.

    Simply being president makes one automagically ‘right’, and thus unquestionable.

    The war in Iraq was -ever- a ‘good ideaer’.

    Please other than the argument that one has the *right* to hold these wrong beliefs (which I AND OTHERS HAVE NEVER ARGUED ABOUT), please share with us how they are – ever, in any way – true, factual, and therefore “acceptable”. Hell, forget the factuality of any, and simply state clearly how they are acceptable positions to hold REGARDLESS of their validity. (You can ignore the last “gimme” rabble-rousing one-liner. I already know some people are delusional. I believe we’re having a discussion on that very thing…)

    [CRICKETS CHRIPING]

    Well, then, stop with the pretense and go buy some honesty. Your intellect could use it. (I know ours could…)

  161. Irishman

    Wow, it’s hilarious to watch you to guys going at it. It would be funny if it weren’t so painful to see you talking past each other.

    Lazrluv, quit with the insults. They don’t help you make your point, they’re annoying, and they’re against the Bad Astronomer’s rules for discourse.

    Ken G, you state numerous times that it would be trivial to come up with examples of such and such, so when Lazrluv asks for one, you then fail to provide any. If it’s so trivial, then supply the requested examples. Remember, Lazrluv does not have the benefit of having read the numerous pages of discussion on the BAUT thread about science and religion and the middle ground, nor any of those other debates that went on endlessly where you tried to express the same point. If you couldn’t get through to people there, what makes you think you’ll do better here, in blog response format? Distill what you are saying. Explain the difference between objective and subjective reality. Because Lazrluv is talking about objective reality and you are talking about subjective reality, and you at least should have the awareness that you are talking about different things. That is not coming through in this conversation.

    Either read what each other is writing and respond in a civil manner, or both of you shut the **** up!

  162. Larzluv

    Irishman:

    I’d not want to have another front, as it were, so please understand I’m not picking a fight. Just talking here… (Uh, aren’t we all…??)

    I know it sounds typical – that one in the midst can’t see the forest, etc. – but I don’t believe…:

    That I’ve been “insulting”. I have not resorted to ad hominem abuse. Passive aggressive? Sure. Coy? You bet. But I call it like I see it – even with qualifiers! (I’m only human, I’m fallible, I can be mistaken.) If one’s being dishonest, I’ll say so. That’s only an “insult” if you (a) think you’re not (correct me, then) or (b) simply don’t like being called on it. I can only speak to what I know, and I only know what’s been written. Beyond that, I’ve not mentioned parentage or the like… *although*, I have rhetorically sniped about subjects broached by another; simplistic rough example: indirectly claiming that one with a mind of a “scientist” couldn’t be such a simpleton as I. Sure, I retorted. With sarcasm and facetiousness. But with “insult”? Perhaps I should block-quote myself eternally with [TONGUE-IN-CHEECK][/TONGUE-IN-CHEECK]?

    That I’ve been annoying (to most). But accept I’ve been so to some. I *hope* not to “most”… but any audience is a fickle thing. I (attempt to) write with wry humor and wit, perhaps others see it as “rye”…? 😉

    Have I been snippy? Oh, yeah. It doesn’t excuse, only explain: it’s hard to not get frustrated when direct questions and comments are blatantly ignored, and what is said misrepresents and misquotes.

    That I’ve spoken “past” Ken G: I’ve tried to explain myself plainly, to the point of being self-conscious of repetition and oral diarrhea (as I am with this post, too), but I prefer to speak/write assuming *I* am at fault for being vague or confusing, and/or try to be as plain/informative as I can be from the start (to avoid misunderstanding[s] if at all possible). I think I’ve been speaking as plain as I can think *to* him, not “past”. Since you lump us both together, I do of course take umbrage: perhaps you’d give me an example of how *I* have been talking “past” Ken G? (Again, not to belabor the point, but to understand what you’re talking about with regards myself.) (As always, show me how, anybody, and I’ll accept I’m wrong. :)) Nor do I think he’s spoken past me: he’s been obtuse and evasive, even dodgy, surely, but other than that… :/

    I’ve been an on-again/off-again reader of badastronomy.com for many years (off-again due to time/life constraints, and regrettable, let me assure you). I never checked out other links on the main page, as – again, due to finite time, not lack of interest – thinking I’d be able to get to them “some day”. I didn’t realize that there was a whole ‘nother world lurking behind ba.com – BAUT. (The announcement seems to have been during one of my “off-again” periods.) I’d seen it brought up elsewhere in the past few days/weeks, but YOUR post enticed me to see what it was. I’d thought, in the prior context, that it was a (an unrelated) religion/science/philosophy forum. Something I’d love to investigate, but, alas, yet another item to “check out later”. (Life’s too danged short!) A Google search later… “boy, do *I* feel sheepish”… eh, live and learn (more)? :)

    So, I’m trying to find relevant (for now, to “this” specific topic) thread(s) to get caught up on. I’ve *not* tried to be presumptive, nor pretending this isn’t a “rehashing” of a topic long-put-to-rest. From my perspective, points were raised – some by me – and I replied. I’ve expressed my thoughts. And, with respect, expecting the same, figurative demands of backed-retort. If I’d known there was a “better place” to voice this (and/or move it to), I would have. If I’d known I was repeating others, or that I was rudely requesting Ken G repeat -himself- (/others), I wouldn’t have done so.

    I would have appreciated someone mentioning this before, too. Specific links to points to be made, but not wanting to be verbosely repeated, would have been G*R*E*A*T!!!

    As for BA’s “rules for discourse”, after finding BAUT, I found these, too. [1] While they say they apply to ba.com, I found no link/mention of them on the ba.com site directly. I’m -not- being defensively evasive: a direct link would be useful. (I -had- made a cursory look to see about any formal “rules” for posting many months ago when I posted for my first time, but didn’t find any. Ignorance may not be an excuse, but it’s not like I never tried.) [2] With *my* writing/speaking style, *I* never felt I was being insulting (unless my summation of the facts makes the shoe fit… but then is that really an “insult”, or “matter of fact”…?), and believe I was (am) engaging in sincere and honest debate. (And, with apologies, LONG WINDED.) *I* don’t believe that “civility” requires “etiquette”, but merely honesty. Yeah, that can make me brash. (But never “boring”…?) Obviously, since this is NOT MY forum, nor board, I have no problem accepting others’ definitions. Accept my apologies, but do note I didn’t do it with malice or disregard, merely ignorance.

    Specific links to what you (and indirectly Ken G, too, if he/you likes?) are referencing would be greatly appreciated. I’ll be trying to get “caught up”, and then maybe there would be a thread there to continue-with that would be appropriate (or start a new one; I’d need some time to get up to speed with that entirely different system, too) – if, that is, Ken G (or anybody else) wishes to move further…

    Regards…

  163. Ken G

    Thanks for putting some perspective onto this, Irishman. You are of course right (though I’m not terribly surprised larzluv wouldn’t see that, quite frankly). There has been a lot of semi-intentional misunderstanding for the purpose of rhetorical mileage, and in truth I have only read about half of larzluv’s incredibly long and repetitive posts (you read them all?). I just couldn’t get past the opinions framed as truths, and would tend to stop and respond to what I did read. As for examples, I guess I missed the part where he asked for them in all the verbiage. If there are any examples he wants, I’d be happy to provide– if he can ask without burying the question in complaints. But one thing I’m quite clear on is that I’m sure larzluv hasn’t the least idea what I am saying, and I think I know his position quite well, it isn’t terribly subtle.

    You (Irishman) have certainly put your finger on the central issue here– every time larzluv uses the word “reality”, he means “as established by repeatable and objective observation”. In short, he is a positivist who deludes himself into thinking he is a skeptic, I see it all the time. His entire position rests on the circular argument: “I only believe in what is objectively determinable and so I call that ‘reality’, and I recognize that science is designed to probe what is objectively determinable, so I view science as the sole means of accessing my own concept of reality. This is my proof that anything outside science is outside reality.” Indeed, so fervent is he in this belief of his, that he actually ridicules, even in his last post, the idea that reality might have any aspects that are inherently subjective. I’m sorry, I have little patience for such shallow thinking that merely assumes what is claimed to be proven, it is simply weak logic. larzluv, let me sum it up by giving you two descriptions as I see them, and asking you a question:

    skeptic: someone who requires evidence to form beliefs, but who further understands that all evidence requires subjective examination, and thus the skeptic is doubtful that knowledge can be arrived at in an absolute way, but rather seeing knowledge as a tool with limitations.

    positivist: someone who assumes that all that is real is objective, and therefore assumes that only science has any validity in the examination of reality– all else being essentially delusional.

    The question: which do you think you are? And note– it is impossible to be both, they are not compatible philosophies. Science cannot be used to determine if all that can be considered real has to be objective, and simply defining reality to be that renders all your arguments circular, and all your ridicule just ridiculing your reflection in the mirror of your own definitions.

  164. Irishman

    Larzluv said:
    > I’d not want to have another front, as it were, so please understand I’m not picking a fight. Just talking here… (Uh, aren’t we all…??)

    Yes, just talking.

    >… but I don’t believe…That I’ve been “insulting”. I have not resorted to ad hominem abuse. Passive aggressive? Sure. Coy? You bet. But I call it like I see it – even with qualifiers! (I’m only human, I’m fallible, I can be mistaken.) If one’s being dishonest, I’ll say so. That’s only an “insult” if you (a) think you’re not (correct me, then) or (b) simply don’t like being called on it.

    Not to dwell on the negative, but a few examples of what I mean:

    It’s regrettable you have no interest in integrity nor honesty in this discussion.

    Okay, really are you a “scientist” of liberal arts?

    “Puff, puff, PASS, man!”

    Well, then, stop with the pretense and go buy some honesty. Your intellect could use it.

    Okay, admittedly there’s some gray in what you said. No epithets have been flung, no use of words like “flaming moron”. I’ll even grant the first one I quote is a summary of your opinion of Ken G’s behavior, and as such is not intended as an insult per se. Still, your tone at times makes remarks like the other three a bit too far on the rude side.

    > Have I been snippy? Oh, yeah. It doesn’t excuse, only explain: it’s hard to not get frustrated when direct questions and comments are blatantly ignored, and what is said misrepresents and misquotes.

    I understand the frustration.

    > That I’ve spoken “past” Ken G: I’ve tried to explain myself plainly, to the point of being self-conscious of repetition and oral diarrhea…

    Yes, I know you’ve been trying to explain your position. But it strikes me that you’re not grasping Ken G’s position, and have latched on to something he isn’t saying as much as you accuse him of latching on to something you are not saying.

    > Since you lump us both together, I do of course take umbrage: perhaps you’d give me an example of how *I* have been talking “past” Ken G?

    Fair enough. Since I chastised Ken G for not providing examples when requested, it is hardly fair for me to duck myself. 😉 When I say that, I don’t mean so much that you are not trying to express yourself clearly, but rather that you fail to follow what Ken G is saying and respond to your mistaken impression. Which, admittedly, is all any of us can do, speak to our own understanding of what the other person is saying, whatever they really mean. Still, there appears to be a lack of attempt to grasp his true intent. It seems you have jumped to the conclusion of what he is saying. Of course, he has not helped by not reading your entire posts, so he can’t respond to requests you make for clarification. In that, Ken G is at fault. Thus it is hard to completely fault you too much for your mistaken understanding of his intent.

    Which is a shame, because usually Ken G does a good job of making clear, at least to me, what he is really trying to say, and has a fair amount of patience for dealing with posters who are not following his intent. I suspect part of the problem is the blog software itself that limits formatting, making the visual layout and readibility more cumbersome. Be that as it may, let me try to address the fundamental gap.

    What you call reality is the objective, physical universe. This is the concrete world where science is a method that has consistent and effective results. This is the world of existence. I am stressing the objective nature of this world. Ken G is not debating or refuting the existence of this objective reality, or the effectiveness of science in understanding it. But what Ken G is trying to talk about is the world of subjectivity, of personal meaning. This is the internal world of each of us where we try to make sense of how we feel, what is important to us, etc. This is the world of experience, of admiring beauty, of feeling love. What Ken G is trying to say is that this subjective realm is as much a part of the entirety of “reality” as the physical world. The difficulty is the connection between the two parts of reality, how does subjectivity tie in to objectivity. Some of the problem is a terminology problem. The word “reality” conveys to many of us the physical, objective world. Subjective world is not, by our definition, “reality”. However, from Ken G’s perspective, the subjective world is a part of our lives, our experience, and is thus “real”. It’s a definitional argument of what “real” means.

    It is this objective/subjective split that is the root of the miscommunication. When you make examples such as “no matter how much I believe, I can’t keep gravity from dropping the rock on my foot,” you are addressing only the objective reality. Well, Ken G does not contest the objective part, and does not disagree with you. His comments about belief fall explicitly into the realm of meaning and value. Ken G has a broad, contextual, metaphorical use for “exists”. When speaking of the existence of God, he defines existence very differently from you. You are sticking to the objective reality, whereas Ken G is opening up the subjective meaning realm into the world of “existence”.

    I’ve argued this with Ken G myself, am not happy with his use of the terminology, but I think I understand what he is trying to convey, and so at least in that manner the words are serving the purpose – communication. Ken G is not being dishonest, he is trying to express concepts that are wider philosophically than concrete reality. Thus the distinctions he is making between a skeptic and a positivist.

    Regarding the BAUT forum, I did not mean to imply any fault in you for not reading the threads there. Rather, my intent was to suggest to Ken G that he consider what he is saying on this thread independent from any previous debates, and thus either needing to be self-contained or link back to those discussions. But given the length of those other threads, self-contained is the option I’d strive for.

    As for the rules here, they aren’t exactly posted (that I recall). But Phil has made clear that discussion must be civil, no ad homenims, and he has enforced that in the past to the best of his ability. I felt a reminder was in order because I felt the tone of some of your remarks was crossing the line, and that the frustration with non-communication was leading to a trend toward the “dark side”.

  165. Larzluv

    Thanks for your response, Irishman! :)

    You know, I re-read all my posts last night. (Oy! 😉 ) I’d picked out a few items to ask “is this like you’re talking about”, but thought patience and silence were the better part of valor; if I’d put my foot in my mouth before, why think then any differently? 😉

    Yeah, items like the first are my interpretation. (See my “a” and “b” in prev post for my position on this type of stmt.) The second was more what I would have quoted myself; I wasn’t saying his mother was a hamster, nor that his father smelled of elderberries, but I -was- rhetorically questioning his “scientist-hood”. On that post, particularly, my patience was frazzled. Again, I’m sorry. The third, though: I love “fun”, laughter, and comedy; this was (well, both such references) a meager attempt to lighten the conversation. I _love_ a great debate, but hate “fighting”; life’s too short. The the effect, “Are you *high*!?!?” But not literally, but jokingly. My humor may not fit others; YMMV… 😉 And the last, a matter of frustrated opinion, being given nothing else to work on (like clarity/restatement). I certainly understand how it could be seen as “merely an insult”. I say none of this, of course, to “fight” about it, simply to inform – this is the kind of person I am, and what was going on in my head…

    Oh, and thanks for “un-ducking”! HA! 😀

    Despite verbosity, I’ve obviously failed to explain myself satisfactorily anyway! :( 😉 Thanks for explaining/expounding upon Ken’s position! :) But I understood/knew that. (I even *tried* to sum-up, so he could confirm/deny I “knew where he was coming from”.) Admittedly, I was always making an end run back to literal, objective, tangible reality. THAT was laziness/short-sightedness on my part.

    But I felt I did not only admit/respond to his points, I addressed them from my position:

    — The primary basic reasons most of us *want* to believe in “something”: desire to not cease to exist, wish to see other/past loved ones, desire for basic justice in the universe (not everyone deserves heaven, but many *deserve* hell), it’s one’s heritage.

    — That we don’t “believe” things in a vacuum; even though we take some things on “faith”, it’s because, to those who believe, there is (“enough”/”believable”) “evidence” to a certain point and/or to (“enough”) other points, that they follow whatever they chose to. But it is, in the end, based on “evidence”, just often not actual evidence (the claim[s] can be scientifically disproven). And there’s the rub.

    — The other side of faith not being in a vacuum: persons of faith receive their tenants from others. It’s not a subjective act, but an objective one. People don’t just believe “anything”; they have reasons, based on physical reality. (Even though they conveniently may chose to ignore physics whenever necessary.) People don’t come to internalized realizations about their faith on their own, but are given them from those who came before.

    I accept Ken’s saying there is a purely subjective, personal view of things, and that people believe them for their own, intangible purpose(s).

    And that’s what I’ve (also) tried to contest: *I* submit that there is no such, and can not ever truly be such a thing as “purely subjective”. (Not even accepting “mostly”, versus the seemingly dishonest rhetorical argument point of “purely”.) *All* interpretations, and thus “belief”, in things is “subjective” – even our own actual existence. But I challenge that *every* time a human mind takes a leap of faith, no matter how great or small, s/he does so based on evidence, indirectly and/or directly. So it follows that if a belief point, being based on evidence, can be shown to be incorrect, it is incorrect. And the house of cards must surely fall.

    Indeed, not everyone allows the cards to fall where they may. And that’s another rub entirely. To that, granting basic human rights, each must seek his own path. But in the end, some of us recognise you’re doing so intellectually dishonestly. And there may be times when the conversation comes up that we’ll call you on it. (Be prepared!)

    I fully agree that we each make our own “meaning” out of life. But this really doesn’t have anything to do with “faith”. “Faith” may change the meaning we take-from/give-to life, but that’s not -why- we have our particular faith. Chicken-and-egg. We rationalize our faith, and then our faith grants certain “meaning” to aspects of life – even to life itself. That may indeed be a catalyst for one to believe even in the face of counter evidence. But one still -rationalizes- their faith.

    Ken contends we – at times, at least – can be genuinely “irrational”. I contend right back that even in those times, we’ve each still “rationalized”. (Just, perhaps, poorly/incorrectly.)

    For exaples…

    In the 19th century, one could hold simply that the human mind perceives “beauty” in some intangible, obscure, “irrational” way. But today, after much study, every time we’ve examined the question of “why do we find things beautiful”, every time we look, we find that “beauty” is, indeed, in the eye of the beholder, but it’s always based on logic, rational, though sometimes subconscious and involuntary, -reason-; symmetry, ancillary benefits, genetic predisposition, etc.

    PHILOSOPHICALLY, we love to think of “love” as intangible, unexplainable. But upon close inspection, it resolves to logic, reason, genetic, chemical, etc.

    As always and again: it’s not my fault that scientific inquiry can cut us apart and explain away “intangibleness”. Some are frightened that that strips us of our humanity. But to me, if you felt “human” yesterday before you knew better, why on Earth (or any place else for that matter) would you feel any differently today? Knowing that hormones kick in when we see a person who meets our predisposed, genetically hard-wired (either for physical traits and/or mental/emotional ones) tick-list, and that those hormones serve no purpose other than to entice us to procreate, does that remove “love” from the picture? It may change what love “is”, but doesn’t remove it. (And indeed, nobody who’s feeling it cares of what it’s made.)

    Regarding Ken’s distinction between “skeptic” and “positivist”, other than picking nits, I can’t see a real distinction, especially in our current context…

    skeptic: “One who instinctively or habitually doubts, questions, or disagrees with assertions or generally accepted conclusions.”

    positivism: “A doctrine contending that sense perceptions are the only admissible basis of human knowledge and precise thought.”

    Again (always? 😉 ) a matter of philosophy? For me, it is more simple: why would one be “skeptical” of a faith, if not for “positivism”, for how else can one be convinced? (And, as I state, people don’t arbitrarily believe intangibles without tangibles to back them up; we’re chasing our tail again…)

    To reign myself back in: I understand that Ken’s point is all people have “subjectivity” – some more than others – and it’s a very internal, personal matter. I simply disagree, based on observation and study of The Human Animal: what we fantasize about as being “intangible” is -always- grounded in the tangible. (Or at least we tell ourselves it is.)

    (And I know I constantly spoke about one’s “right to be wrong”; it may have obscured that I understood Ken’s other points. But this seemed to be the one he was especially harping on in this thread, and I desperately want it to be put to rest: for those who take offense [or apologize for-, as Ken seems to be doing] at non-believers for “pushing” our non-beliefs, we’re not. You have the same rights today as yesterday. We just hope you’ll no longer have ignorance as the crutch you steady your faith on.)

    As far as “the rules”, I just want to restate, and expand, on my appreciation of both The Rules themselves, as well as one’s right to have them (on YOUR site – well, BA’s – after all! 😉 ) Furthermore, one of the things I’ve always liked about this site (and other “homey” ones) is a sense of community and shared responsibility: indeed, the host is merely one person. That a member of the larger community weighs in when necessary (as this case), is admirable. Thank you! (Though *I* never wanted to be the cause/receiver of it… 😉 )

    Thanks, again, Irishman!

  166. Larzluv

    Ken G:

    Sorry, I missed your reply before Irishman’s…

    “[I]n truth I have only read about half of larzluv’s incredibly long and repetitive posts”.

    “[I] would tend to stop and respond to what I did read.”

    “But one thing I’m quite clear on is that I’m sure larzluv hasn’t the least idea what I am saying, and I think I know his position quite well, it isn’t terribly subtle.”

    Wryly: Hmmm…

    “I just couldn’t get past the opinions framed as truths”.

    Wryly Rhetorical: Aren’t all “truths” in the end “opinions”…?

    “As for examples, I guess I missed the part where he asked for them in all the verbiage. If there are any examples he wants, I’d be happy to provide– if he can ask without burying the question in complaints.”

    You could forget what I wrote and give examples for what you wrote.

    “His entire position rests on the circular argument: [READ ARGUMENT IN POST ABOVE].”

    I addressed, and tried to make myself, and my position, as clear as I can muster. You chose to not read why I wrote, yet you still feel justification in liabling me…? Anywho…

    *I* am not alone. I contend that all who “believe” (in anything, even “existence”) do so based on “evidence” and “logic”; I challenge that there is no “subjectivity”, as you tend to use it.

    Nobody has any “proof” of *anything*, philisophically speaking. I’ve stated as much.

    But, for those of us who move past that point, we accept the game as-is, and “believe” in it. That others chose to – when convenient/desired – disregard “objective reality” to hold points of faith, when they base those points (directly or indirectly) on evidence, is dishonest. And an attempt at self-delusion.

    But *I* didn’t make the rules that we all play by. (It’s not my fault.)

    “Indeed, so fervent is he in this belief of his, that he actually ridicules, even in his last post, the idea that reality might have any aspects that are inherently subjective.”

    I have clearly stated as such: *all* reality is “subjective”.

    With regards skeptic/positivist: both your definitions, and your framing of your question, are crafted and rhetorical. You’ve loaded both sides. But…

    Skeptic: the first part of your statement is all that’s necessary – “someone who requires evidence to form beliefs” – but then you interject philosophy. This isn’t “wrong”, but it does skew. “[A]ll evidence requires subjective examination” – really? Philosophically, absolutely. But, in the end, we’re back to the fundimental thought-debate: are we really here? From positing that that is *in question*, flows the “honest” view as stated: “subjective examination”. Of course all observations are “subjective”. But that doesn’t change certain things from being, truly, “objective”. With enough data points, it’s reasonable to assume (oy, that word!) that all reasonable, honest persons will “see” the “same thing” in an observation. Latitude only comes from lack of data points. Again, I’m not debating that observations are “subjective”, but, in my opinion, you use this as a dodge to insist that therefore all observations are then open to philisophical subjectivity. Technically correct, but dishonest. A skeptic may, indeed, acknoledge that we don’t “know” if we’re here, but then he moves on. One has to. There’s no other way to function. (Assuming we actually do “function”…) And, therefore, there -are- “absolute” truths, knowledge, and both can be arrived at “in an absolute way”. While it’s fun to ask, “just because *I* observe the moon is a sphere, does that make it so?”, but it’s interestingly rather self-centric: I observe, therefore it exists. As if it needed my help to exist.

    Positivist: While the definition you stated is correct, it’s obviously loaded. (People tend to take more offense to being called “delusional” rather than “incorrect”, though, with the right context, they’re both equivelant.)

    Your question: part of it is in my post to Irishman, above. But still… A circle is an elipse, but not all elipses are circles. By your definition, if I were “merely” a skeptic, I “couldn’t” therefore be a positivist. But the other way around works just fine: I see reality as objectively testable (“science”), -and- I require evidence to form beliefs (skepticism), understanding that “evidence” is obtained – technically – “subjectively”, but, while one may never “prove” or “disprove” reality, we chose to acknoledge and move on…

    “[T]hey are not compatible philosophies”. Even by your definitions – which _strain_ – they’re not incompatible. You’ve added the burden of “philisophical honesty” to skepticism, yet denied that “the other side” acknologes the same thing.

    “Science cannot be used to determine if all that can be considered real has to be objective”. By “real”, I assume you equivocate “true”. “Truth” as in “purpose”, a “reason why”; this is philosophy. Indeed, personal, but not existing in a void (see my above post to Irishman for more from me on this). While it may seem (as Irishman pointed out) that I don’t “get” that “truth” is just as much a part of “reality” as tangibility, I do.

    I just argue that there are *reasons* why we hold “truths”, and, if one digs below the surface, *objectivity* was used to arrive at “subjectivity”. The more we look, the more we find that “subjectivity” is a simple matter of objective reality: hormones, experience, genetics, etc.

    I don’t hold that to be circular logic. But, yeah, it’s “objective”…

  167. Larzluv

    Ken G:

    Sorry, I missed your reply before Irishman’s…

    “[I]n truth I have only read about half of larzluv’s incredibly long and repetitive posts”.

    “[I] would tend to stop and respond to what I did read.”

    “But one thing I’m quite clear on is that I’m sure larzluv hasn’t the least idea what I am saying, and I think I know his position quite well, it isn’t terribly subtle.”

    Wryly: Hmmm…

    “I just couldn’t get past the opinions framed as truths”.

    Wryly Rhetorical: Aren’t all “truths” in the end “opinions”…?

    “As for examples, I guess I missed the part where he asked for them in all the verbiage. If there are any examples he wants, I’d be happy to provide– if he can ask without burying the question in complaints.”

    You could forget what I wrote and give examples for what you wrote.

    “His entire position rests on the circular argument: [READ ARGUMENT IN POST ABOVE].”

    I addressed, and tried to make myself, and my position, as clear as I can muster. You chose to not read why I wrote, yet you still feel justification in libeling me…? Anywho…

    *I* am not alone. I contend that all who “believe” (in anything, even “existence”) do so based on “evidence” and “logic”; I challenge that there is no “subjectivity”, as you tend to use it.

    Nobody has any “proof” of *anything*, philosophically speaking. I’ve stated as much.

    But, for those of us who move past that point, we accept the game as-is, and “believe” in it. That others chose to – when convenient/desired – disregard “objective reality” to hold points of faith, when they base those points (directly or indirectly) on evidence, is dishonest. And an attempt at self-delusion.

    But *I* didn’t make the rules that we all play by. (It’s not my fault.)

    “Indeed, so fervent is he in this belief of his, that he actually ridicules, even in his last post, the idea that reality might have any aspects that are inherently subjective.”

    I have clearly stated as such: *all* reality is “subjective”.

    With regards skeptic/positivist: both your definitions, and your framing of your question, are crafted and rhetorical. You’ve loaded both sides. But…

    Skeptic: the first part of your statement is all that’s necessary – “someone who requires evidence to form beliefs” – but then you interject philosophy. This isn’t “wrong”, but it does skew. “[A]ll evidence requires subjective examination” – really? Philosophically, absolutely. But, in the end, we’re back to the fundamental thought-debate: are we really here? From positing that that is *in question*, flows the “honest” view as stated: “subjective examination”. Of course all observations are “subjective”. But that doesn’t change certain things from being, truly, “objective”. With enough data points, it’s reasonable to assume (oy, that word!) that all reasonable, honest persons will “see” the “same thing” in an observation. Latitude only comes from lack of data points. Again, I’m not debating that observations are “subjective”, but, in my opinion, you use this as a dodge to insist that therefore all observations are then open to philosophical subjectivity. Technically correct, but dishonest. A skeptic may, indeed, acknowledge that we don’t “know” if we’re here, but then he moves on. One has to. There’s no other way to function. (Assuming we actually do “function”…) And, therefore, there -are- “absolute” truths, knowledge, and both can be arrived at “in an absolute way”. While it’s fun to ask, “just because *I* observe the moon is a sphere, does that make it so?”, but it’s interestingly rather self-centric: I observe, therefore it exists. As if it needed my help to exist.

    Positivist: While the definition you stated is correct, it’s obviously loaded. (People tend to take more offense to being called “delusional” rather than “incorrect”, though, with the right context, they’re both equivalent.)

    Your question: part of it is in my post to Irishman, above. But still… A circle is an ellipse, but not all ellipses are circles. By your definition, if I were “merely” a skeptic, I “couldn’t” therefore be a positivist. But the other way around works just fine: I see reality as objectively testable (“science”), -and- I require evidence to form beliefs (skepticism), understanding that “evidence” is obtained – technically – “subjectively”, but, while one may never “prove” or “disprove” reality, we chose to acknowledge and move on…

    “[T]hey are not compatible philosophies”. Even by your definitions – which _strain_ – they’re not incompatible. You’ve added the burden of “philosophical honesty” to skepticism, yet denied that “the other side” acknowledges the same thing.

    “Science cannot be used to determine if all that can be considered real has to be objective”. By “real”, I assume you equivocate “true”. “Truth” as in “purpose”, a “reason why”; this is philosophy. Indeed, personal, but not existing in a void (see my above post to Irishman for more from me on this). While it may seem (as Irishman pointed out) that I don’t “get” that “truth” is just as much a part of “reality” as tangibility, I do.

    I just argue that there are *reasons* why we hold “truths”, and, if one digs below the surface, *objectivity* was used to arrive at “subjectivity”. The more we look, the more we find that “subjectivity” is a simple matter of objective reality: hormones, experience, genetics, etc.

    I don’t hold that to be circular logic. But, yeah, it’s “objective”…

  168. Larzluv

    ACKKK! SORRY for the double-post. I could SWEAR I canceled the submit in time… Obviously, I was wrong. (Just ignore it the first time; my fingers tend to fly too danged fast, and I do tend to rely on computers to chuck my spilling! 😉 )

    Sheepishly slinking to the nearest dark corner… 😛

  169. Ken G

    Thank you Irishman for returning civility to the discussion, and also for your excellent summary of my position– it is very much what I would have said but I lacked the patience. To larzluv, I must say that my lack of patience is not entirely your fault, I have had to point out the central circularity in your position to so many people by now I wish you could all just see your own argument as clearly as you think you see the flaws in others’. But you did include some specific points in your previous post, so I will attempt to address them directly, as that was probably the missing element in our rather unproductive discussion so far. To wit:

    larzluv:
    – The primary basic reasons most of us *want* to believe in “something”: desire to not cease to exist, wish to see other/past loved ones, desire for basic justice in the universe (not everyone deserves heaven, but many *deserve* hell), it’s one’s heritage.

    Me:
    Identifying “why” people believe something is (a) difficult, (b) overgeneralized, but most of all (c) irrelevant to identifying whether or not it is “true”. The very first thing you need to understand is that there is no such thing as “truth” independently from a method for establishing truth. So you cannot speak of truth, you can only speak of truth according to your method. If you don’t recognize that, I just can’t help you to see it.

    larzluv:
    – That we don’t “believe” things in a vacuum; even though we take some things on “faith”, it’s because, to those who believe, there is (”enough”/”believable”) “evidence” to a certain point and/or to (”enough”) other points, that they follow whatever they chose to. But it is, in the end, based on “evidence”, just often not actual evidence (the claim[s] can be scientifically disproven). And there’s the rub.

    Me: This is precisely the point I’ve been making– you unconsciously identify “evidence” with what can be scientifically shown. Do you then find it at all meaningful to claim that science is the only path to truth? This is pure 100% assumption on your part, and is central to all your ridicule-mistaken-for-argument.

    larzluv:
    – The other side of faith not being in a vacuum: persons of faith receive their tenants from others. It’s not a subjective act, but an objective one. People don’t just believe “anything”; they have reasons, based on physical reality. (Even though they conveniently may chose to ignore physics whenever necessary.) People don’t come to internalized realizations about their faith on their own, but are given them from those who came before.

    Me:
    Once again the above is not an argument, it is a list of assumptions and generalizations about other people and how they think. And you call that a scientific position? In fact, every one of the above statements not only has no evidence to support it, it is obviously false, because it is framed as a sweeping truth for all people all the time. And you think scientific reason works that way?

    larzluv:
    I just argue that there are *reasons* why we hold “truths”, and, if one digs below the surface, *objectivity* was used to arrive at “subjectivity”. The more we look, the more we find that “subjectivity” is a simple matter of objective reality: hormones, experience, genetics, etc.

    Me:
    OK, in my view this is the first thing I’ve seen from you that actually made an argument, not just listed opinions and assumptions posed as conclusions. Perhaps I just missed it, but here we have it, so let’s look at what you are saying here and see how well supported by science it is. Note that there’s nothing wrong with you holding these opinions, the question is, can you label them as conclusions from science. Let’s start with your association of “reasons” with “objectivity”. I really missed where you made that leap– are you really going to claim that there is no such thing as a subjective reason that is not based in something objective? I think you are assuming a lot more than is known about the functioning of the human mind, but if you have actual evidence for that claim, please collect your Nobel prize. And your claim that “the more we look” this is established is an obviously illogical point– the more we look using science, the more we see that science can see. That is all that can be said. Right?

  170. Ken G

    And when you respond to this, larzluv, please stay focused on the fact that none of this discussion is about what you believe and your right to believe it, or even whether or not you can convince some others to think similarly (although I doubt any not inclined to think similarly would find themselves persuaded by simpling listing your opinions in lieu of logic). What this has always been about is whether or not you can claim to speak in the name of science when you legislate proper and improper thinking. My main point is, good science says “here is the model, and here are the observations that justify the validity and usefulness of the model”. That’s all, period, that’s science. But you do not say that, you say “this is the truth because my tiny experience in the world coupled with what I can extrapolate from the science I know tells me it’s true, and anyone who thinks differently is simply deluding themselves because they prefer to”. Am I wrong, is this not the core of every single post you have entered above? So that is the part you need to justify– using science. Don’t try too hard though– it is logically impossible for science to make claims about its own limits, because science is a choice, a way of thinking. Good science knows that, right from the outset– you apparently do not. If I’m wrong in that conclusion, please show me where I have improperly summarized your assumptions– where is your logic that allows your position to arise as a conclusion without plugging in at the outset?

  171. Ken G

    Let’s consider a more concrete example to help things along. In the year 1800, essentially every physicist in the world would have inferred from Newton’s laws that all motion was completely deterministic, would they not? This was because deterministic models worked great. But the nonscientific pieces comes from extrapolating the usefulness of that model into claims about how reality works. By 1900, it was widely thought that all of physics, and by extension all understanding of fundamental reality, was pretty much completed, the rest was detail. Surprise– the folly in taking science and making it a philosophy was exposed in the next century as essentially all of physics was replaced, piece by piece, by exquisitely more profound theories. Newton’s approach is now seen primarily as a projection of limited information, not a philosophy of reality. The continuing error is to think that anything in physics is any different, or that physics itself is about understanding the absolute truth, rather than what it is– making useful models, and judged by the context.

  172. Larzluv

    Now don’t I feel like a heel. I fully wish to continue, but life presents one of its challenges to me. Unfortunately I won’t be able to get back to this for probably a couple/few weeks. I certainly hope to be wrong, but doubtful.

    However…

    “What this has always been about is whether or not you can claim to speak in the name of science when you legislate proper and improper thinking.”

    legislate: to make or enact laws; to mandate, establish, or regulate by or as if by legislation.

    As far as I’m aware, I, nor anybody else here was/is advocating making wrong thinking illegal.

    Anywho, I hope to revisit this “sooner rather than later”. I do apologize! :(

  173. Larzluv

    Since I feel so guilty and bummed about this, I thought I’d at least offer this for now. Something to chew on…? Also, I’ll see if I can spend a little time to reply to what you wrote above, Ken G… (just “Ken”? :) )

    I write and speak with flourish. Poetically. Hyperbolically. Jovially. I have a technical mind, but prefer to interact with other human beings in a more colorful way. This can be off-putting, but also opens me up to critique. Since the point to me is the heart of the matter, I’ll try to keep the embellishments to a minimum. As I’ve stated before, essentially: please don’t argue the tools of the messenger, but rather the message he relays.

    Science can only be used on objective reality. I’ve never questioned, nor denied this. If my statements before have led to this conclusion, then ignore them, and let’s start anew..

    What is “real”? You submit that there are objective and subjective components, and together they both make up “reality”.

    The inclination this allows for is that religion, faith, belief, being subjective, are all therefore possible, reasonable, and outside the purview of “science”.

    While that may be true in a puristic sense, I challenge that:

    — There is no example of “subjectiveness” that you (or anyone, I feel so confident to wager) can offer that cannot be leveled to literal objectivity. I challenge that your belief that there is such a thing as a “purely subjective” belief (to disqualify from scientific scrutiny it would, indeed, need to be “pure”) is subjective, and does not stand up against continuing study and understanding of both consciousness and human psychology. (I saw the irony of this previous statement, but chose to leave the wording alone; I thought it was funny.)

    Though anecdotal evidence isn’t, I suggest an honest examination of the humans around us, let alone ourselves, easily proves this out. Feelings (and other subjectives) are merely the firings of synapses – physical, modelable, knowable objects – based on other synapses (“memories”/”experiences”), chemical signals/hormones, and the input of the senses, etc..

    I know this thought seems base, but take me on my challenge: give me an example, and I’ll (attempt to) rationalize it to objectivity, to objective reality…

    The days of the survival of this idea are as numbered as the Ptolemaic system.

    — Persons of faith believe claims due to (among other reasons):

    —— Wants, needs, and desires they hold and impose upon their faith, which their faith self-servingly grants them. (How else could it survive?)

    —— Facts – perceived or otherwise – that allows for rationalization of the faith.

    —— Lack of questioning on a believer’s part, whether deliberate or de facto.

    These points on their own slide a belief from the realm of the subjective into the objective. Believers did this, not I. And once it’s done, science can examine it.

    The question at hand is not whether a god(s) could exist, but whether the religions, faiths, and beliefs actually practiced today, by real people, are “true” as in self-honest. They present themselves as objective – though parts get dressed in subjectivness – and therefore scientifically dissectable.

    It is immaterial that one “wants” or “needs” their faith. If it is a hollow shell, it is not wrong to say the emperor has no clothes. Of course, when that is made plain, the emperor is still free and welcome to dance around naked. (Just be honest about it.)

    There is no debate from me that persons have a right to believe, nor that they take comfort, joy, satisfaction, solace, life-lessons, or a million-billion other things from their faith. But this is beside the point.

    Their faith is tangible to them, even when they dress it up in intangibles. And therein lies science’s right – and ability – to examine.

    To the consternation of believers everywhere, when this happens, science tends to offer judgement, and not in the favor of faith.

  174. Larzluv

    It is, indeed, difficult to identify why a person has faith: we can only go on what we know about ourselves, and what they share about themselves. Philosophically, we never truly know. But honestly, we have no option but to acknowledge and move on.

    “Identifying ‘why’ people believe something is … irrelevant to identifying whether or not [their belief] is ‘true’.” How so? It goes to my argument that people (also) tend to have faith based on their imposition upon the universe, versus vice versa. My point being: if they didn’t have these needs/wants, would they still accept/hold their faith? Or, contrarily, if their faith didn’t offer what the needed, would they still hold it? (I submit, “No.”)

    Unless by “true” you’re going back to personal benefit/value. In which case it has no relevance to the question of their faith being factual, but rather fulfilling. This is a point of philosophy and human rights. Never in question. And irrelevant to this entire discussion. (At least to my argument.)

    Why do you consider – believe? know?? – identifying “why” people believe in something is “overgenrallized”? While this may be – please illuminate.

    I, for one, for example, would categorize “I think poppies are so incredible that a god must have created them!” as generally “Obviousness of Design”. I would find that acceptable. And you?

    Your perfectly valid point that determining one’s reason for faith is difficult doesn’t invalidate the reasons most commonly given. Among these are:

    — Universe is Unexplainable
    —— The universe is so perfect/complex, it must have been designed by God.
    —— Lack of explanation of something == God did it.

    — Things *I* Can’t Explain
    —— Unusual experience and/or apparent miracle.

    — Parental/Authority Aspects
    —— It’s comforting to believe that someone is taking care of me.
    —— Fear that without religion, there’d be chaos, no morality, etc..
    —— Desire for justice in the universe.
    —— Deference to Authority: my parents, leader, book(s) tell me so.
    —— Being told what to do and what to think comforts me/is easier.
    —— Belief/part-of “something greater than myself” gives me purpose/meaning.
    —— Like to belong/sense of community.

    — Self-Centered Goals/Fears (blends with Parental/Authority)
    —— Experienced the presence/”touch” of God.
    —— Having a bad life, looking forward to the afterlife…
    —— Don’t want to cease to exist.
    —— Finite life in this world is meaningless unless there’s a hereafter.
    —— Experiencing bad times and desperate for a miracle.
    —— Notice death’s approaching; age.

    — Following a Good Example
    —— The example of other believer(s) inspire you; they’ve been there for you when you needed it.

    If you dispute any, or feel any (major ones; ones not includable in those already above) are missing, please let me know.

    Why does it matter? Because it shows that faiths are held for reasons, objective logic, rationalizations. That very nature removes subjectivity and makes faith objective, therefore open to science, therefore able to be factually “highly unlikely” or “highly likely”. The “highly” part being relative, but typically closely approaching 100%. (Indeed, there may be that teapot in orbit, but it’s practically 100% impossible. [Your Mileage May Vary])

    “The very first thing you need to understand is that there is no such thing as ‘truth’ independently from a method for establishing truth. So you cannot speak of truth, you can only speak of truth according to your method.”

    Are you meaning “truth == fact” or “truth == personal value/meaning”? Just to be safe, I’ll address both.

    As for verifying factuality… Science may be used to ascertain the likelihood of a thing. When that likelihood passes a certain threshold, the matter is considered laid to rest. Unless new, better, contradictory, or otherwise, evidence is obtained. Then it’s revisited. At any point in time, the likelihood is a particular accepted probability – through open peer review and debate by anyone who wishes, including laypersons. Some have a lower threshold – I still hope to see the teapot in orbit. Some have a higher one – barring some unforeseen galactic (or supernatural) event, I’m rather sure the sun will “rise” tomorrow.

    Establishing value/meaning… As one who contends that such things are purely subjective, wouldn’t you say there is no way to establish such…? (I hold that it’s based on objectivity, and if one knows enough about the person – experiences, biochemistry, genetics – this could even be repeatably knowable with a high degree of accuracy. [I’m not suggesting we’re there yet for more trivial things, but even anecdotally: ever known the “perfect gift” to get someone? How did you know such an abstract, subjective thing…?)

    In the end I say, while your statement is factually correct, it belies a red herring: it implies that some things are unknowable, and/or, specifically about faith, that some things which may prove “untrue” via one method prove “true” to another. Objectively – and I posit all things boil down to objectivity – this has not proven the case so far, and I don’t expect this to change. Not from “faith” but from historical experience.

  175. Larzluv

    “This is precisely the point I’ve been making– you unconsciously identify ‘evidence’ with what can be scientifically shown.”

    evidence: A thing or things helpful in forming a conclusion or judgment; Something indicative; an outward sign

    Both in dictionaries and colloquially, “evidence” is used with regard to objective things, facts.

    I accept you philosophically believe there’s more to reality than objectivity. (Or at least you argue that point.) But “evidence” as I, and generally most people, use it is all about objectivity.

    So, yeah, I do “identify ‘evidence’ with what can be scientifically shown”, but not unconsciously, rather conscientiously.

    “Do you then find it at all meaningful to claim that science is the only path to truth?”

    Again, “truth == fact” or “truth == personal value/meaning”? Either way, please see above.

    “This is pure 100% assumption on your part, and is central to all your ridicule-mistaken-for-argument.”

    [1] That it is *not* is 100% pure assumption on your part. So we have a tie.

    [2] I’ve made plenty of arguments in my life that include ridicule; please show where I’ve simply made a statement of ridicule without either being bumpered by my argument, or contained within it…

    As an aside: you’ve repeatedly labeled me one who ridicules.

    ridicule: words or actions intended to evoke contemptuous laughter at or feelings toward a person or thing

    Perhaps I’m not as sensitive as some? But while I might say much in jest, even poke fun at, I’ve certainly never advocated ostracization, incited violence, nor suggested prejudice. Saying taking as fact something written in an ancient book with little or no evidence (I’m thinking of an event or other such fact) is ridiculous doesn’t seem to me to be “ridicule”. Perhaps I’m more sensitive and find “ridicule” a harsher word than some…?

  176. Larzluv


    larzluv:
    – The other side of faith not being in a vacuum: persons of faith receive their tenants from others. It’s not a subjective act, but an objective one. People don’t just believe “anything”; they have reasons, based on physical reality. (Even though they conveniently may chose to ignore physics whenever necessary.) People don’t come to internalized realizations about their faith on their own, but are given them from those who came before.

    Ken G:
    Once again the above is not an argument, it is a list of assumptions and generalizations about other people and how they think. And you call that a scientific position? In fact, every one of the above statements not only has no evidence to support it, it is obviously false, because it is framed as a sweeping truth for all people all the time. And you think scientific reason works that way?

    Is this the Jeopardy Complaint? I didn’t state my answer in the form of a question? Risking an ad hominem here, but do you feel that’s an honest way to debate? But, as we’re starting anew:

    I assert that the vast majority of “persons of faith” receive said faith from others who came before, they do not come to independent, internalized realizations about their faith – let alone invent an entirely new one – on their own.

    Few persons have made original statements of a faith; most who have done so have been generally derided and ignored; a few have had their statements of faith outlive themselves and become a reasonably well-followed religion.

    Therefore, generally speaking about the vast majority of persons of faith, they receive their tenants from others.

    I further assert that acceptance of a faith is not a subjective act, but an objective one; humans who, possessing what could generally be accepted as “sound mind”, don’t just believe “anything”, they have reason(s), based on physical reality, if one follows the logic used to arrive at said acceptance through to the source thoughts/ideas used as a basis for that faith.

    Therefore, generally speaking about the vast majority of persons of faith, all parts of faith are objectively rationalized – at least eventually, whether directly or indirectly or by proxy, and therefore “science” may be used to ascertain if the logic used to arrive at a point of faith, and even the point itself, was probably honest and actual or highly improbable.

    There’s a better fleshed-out set of more complete statements. I assumed the fluff and pomp weren’t necessary to move the conversation forward. I apologize that I assumed too much.

    With regards: “In fact, every one of the above statements not only has no evidence to support it, it is obviously false, because it is framed as a sweeping truth for all people all the time.” While I’ve seen, after moving back to the Mid West, more than I’d hope would, I like to still believe that most people, especially and including myself, know that “all absolutes are (probably, in all likelihood) false”. My debate style ignores hyperbole and argues the basic premise presented by my opponent; I find this to be both an honest way, as well as a conducive-to-progress method… I may be wrong…

  177. Larzluv


    larzluv:
    I just argue that there are *reasons* why we hold “truths”, and, if one digs below the surface, *objectivity* was used to arrive at “subjectivity”. The more we look, the more we find that “subjectivity” is a simple matter of objective reality: hormones, experience, genetics, etc.

    Me:
    OK, in my view this is the first thing I’ve seen from you that actually made an argument, not just listed opinions and assumptions posed as conclusions.

    Technically, of course, you’re correct. But, addressing the meat of my statements, I don’t see how there’s any difference in this one you quoted and the other three… except I actually used the word “argue” in it… hmmm…

    “assumptions posed as conclusions” – especially since you hold close to the notion that – philosophically, of course – we don’t really know if we exist… aren’t *all* conclusions “assumptions”…?

    “I really missed where you made that leap– are you really going to claim that there is no such thing as a subjective reason that is not based in something objective?” Well, I’m just glad you’ve caught up with me! And, yes, I really am.

    “Note that there’s nothing wrong with you holding these opinions, the question is, can you label them as conclusions from science.” As “science” is a method of disprovance, disprove me. Or are you merely assuming, imposing your assumptive view-of-reality upon reality…?

    “I think you are assuming a lot more than is known about the functioning of the human mind, but if you have actual evidence for that claim, please collect your Nobel prize.” [1] In order to believe my point false, aren’t you assuming at least as much? [2] If only merely having that evidence were enough for the ‘bel… there’d be thousands of neuroscientists – finding just such evidences regularly – who could use that item on their resumes.

    There’s copious amounts of evidence of how our brains process information on a physical/chemical level – regarding subjectivity – pointing to my position. Scientists from various fields have conducted research, surveys, etc., and turned up just my position. I didn’t arrive at my position in a vacuum. And I don’t take it upon faith.

    And as you deny it, cite your sources of studies/findings that run counter to my claim. (It’ll take me a while when I can get back to this but I’ll try to do the same for you; you could help me out and find some for me… but then, of course, that would be counter productive for your position. Sorry, rather rude of me to suggest. 😉 )

    “And your claim that ‘the more we look’ this is established is an obviously illogical point– the more we look using science, the more we see that science can see. That is all that can be said. Right?”

    And here’s your coup-da-gracey: you’re contending that science shows us nothing other than science exists? We can draw no conclusions, find no facts, understand no principals… we can merely “see that science can see”?

    Going back to the philosophy of “do we really exist”, are we? None of us can honestly argue that point.

    But if we accept this reality is real, and we move on, then I counter that, no, rather: the more we look using science, the more we understand how things work.

    I challenge to say otherwise must rely on finding a dubiousness in “science”, stemming from dubiousness of “objective reality”, in which case you have no argument, as you don’t even exist. (So why keep trying…?)

    That’s all I can muster for now, sorry. Actually, it’s *more* time than I should have taken, but felt it only polite to try this much… until later (but I hope to read replies in the mean time, if nothing else! :) )… -Larz

  178. Larzluv

    Okay, I thought I should address your other posts, too. THEN I **MUST** go…!

    “And when you respond to this, larzluv, please stay focused on the fact that none of this discussion is about what you believe and your right to believe it…”

    I never knew I gave the impression that I was concerned about this. I certainly am not. Sorry if I’ve been confusing.

    “…or even whether or not you can convince some others to think similarly (although I doubt any not inclined to think similarly would find themselves persuaded by simpling listing your opinions in lieu of logic)”

    All debates are an attempt to (a) convince the other to accept your position, (b) be convinced by the other to accept his, or (c) realize you’re both partially right/wrong (translate to as non-absolute words as you need to) and consider changing one or both positions. Otherwise, isn’t it just a waste of time? (I’ve read my own writing before, and my fingers don’t need the exercise… now if only I could get a StairMaster hooked up as a keyboard… :) ) I’m not saying there must be a winner, but hopefully both parties come to the table open and honest and in the end walk away from it more enlightened.

    I have stated many opinions of mine without explaining them, let alone justification. I did so not because I simply assumed them correct, but assumed their background could readily be ascertained or, since this is taking place *on* the Internet, a Google window could be opened for the curious/”I never realized that!” person. But I, obviously, never knew any of them to be “illogical”.

    Do list some of my statements of opinion that were illogical, please. I’d love to learn…

    “… What this has always been about is whether or not you can claim to speak in the name of science when you legislate proper and improper thinking.”

    (See my above post regarding “legislating”…)

    And I thought this has always been about whether Shannon’s survival and lack of more serious injury was in fact a “miracle”.

    Perhaps this list of comments has gotten so long you’ve forgotten…? 😉

    Seriously, while I may have misrepresented my position, or stated it unclearly, let me rephrase:

    (DISCLAIMER: All this is, of course, speaking about the vast majority of “persons of faith”, not literally EVERY SINGLE ONE…)

    – People base faith upon reason

    – People accept intangibles based on a house-of-cards, founded upon reason/(perceived) fact

    – Reason which falls back upon objective reality

    – Such claims can be scientifically judged

    – When science relegates said claims to “highly improbable (at best)” it’s intellectually dishonest to continue to hold them

    – Furthermore, people (also) take/keep faith due to what faith promises

    – People use circular reasonings to delude themselves with self-fulfilling fulfillment

    – Wishing a faith is The Way Things Are won’t make it so

    … and I’m probably forgetting points, but I’m both tired, and feel I’m only re-re-re-repeating myself…

    That “proper”/”improper” thinking I’m talking about is intellectual honesty. Not human rights. Not personal fulfillment. Just self-honesty.

  179. Larzluv

    “My main point is, good science says ‘here is the model, and here are the observations that justify the validity and usefulness of the model’. That’s all, period, that’s science.”

    Sure “good science” never says anything about “conclusions”…?

    Sure “good science” never bases higher-level concepts on those “conclusions”…?

    Indeed, *honesty* requires a lack of absolutes; honest science/scientists only work in probabilities. But ask a good statistician about “only probabilities” when the odds against approach zero.

    “But you do not say that, you say ‘this is the truth because my tiny experience in the world coupled with what I can extrapolate from the science I know tells me it’s true, and anyone who thinks differently is simply deluding themselves because they prefer to’. Am I wrong, is this not the core of every single post you have entered above?”

    EVERYONE can only speak from the trappings of the prison of our own minds; our experiences and the knowledge we gain from the shared experiences of others.

    Is that your argument: that since none of us is omniscient, none of us can ever truly know?

    Again, philosophically, sure, we’re not sure we even exist. But I’ve moved on from that. I think you have, too. So why keep going back to that?

    I assert most people don’t deny objective reality, don’t accept faith arbitrarily or abstractly, but rather concretely as I’ve said before: basically due to what they’ve reasoned – based on objective (perceived) facts. Do they use this as the foundation for the rest? Sure, but the creation myth in Genesis, for example, isn’t why people believe it; I say it’s because of the logic that “we’re here” and it had to start some how. The more knowledgeable/sophisticated a person is, the more facts they’ll need to back up Genesis, but nearly everyone needs more than simply that to chose to follow faiths based upon it.

    And it’s not about people thinking differently than I. It’s about them choosing not to think at all. To the effect of: “Well, that doesn’t fit with my faith, so I’ll keep my faith. I reject your reality and substitute my own…!”

    Oh, yeah, and they *do* prefer to delude themselves.

    “So that is the part you need to justify– using science.”

    “Science” has nothing to do with me reasoning my posit. And I feel I’ve already offered much reason. Now it’s up to you to deny my reasonings…

    “Don’t try too hard though– it is logically impossible for science to make claims about its own limits, because science is a choice, a way of thinking.”

    In your writings you regularly write about the limits of science. How does one come to the conclusion, I wonder, that science has limits without using science itself, if even indirectly; in that, therefore, “science”, empirically, does indeed make claims about its own limits…?

    Indeed, “science” can’t investigate the purely ethereal. But I never contest that. I contest continually: (most) persons of faith hold their faith based upon reason, based upon (believed) facts, which can be tested. Science can test those. Faith held onto in the face of counter evidence is dishonest. A delusion at best.

    Also, irrationality “is a choice, a way of thinking”. One may have the right to be that way, but that doesn’t make that way right. Nor does it put teapots in orbit, or invisible elves in my garden…

    “Good science knows that, right from the outset– you apparently do not.”

    Socrates posited: The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.

    But I don’t think “science” can “know” anything; “knowledge” is a faculty of mental ability.

    Of course, I’m nit picking the way you posed your statement, not the underlying statement itself. Sorry. I must have picked up that dishonest and annoying habit from someone… lemme think… who… who… who…?

    Anyway, see my above statement that goes counter to your assertion…

    “If I’m wrong in that conclusion, please show me where I have improperly summarized your assumptions”. (SEE ABOVE.)

    –

    “…where is your logic that allows your position to arise as a conclusion without plugging in at the outset?”

    [1] Flip the statement around in the mirror: where’s yours?

    [2] Perhaps my expansive posts above will clarify enough that you realize finally that I’m not arguing the possibility of a god, but arguing against the religions known to man at this point, and the intellectual dishonesty of those who follow them. It’s a logical progression: I’m exposed to faith, I rationalize it, therefore I believe. General society would never believe someone could genuinely believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster without some sort of severe mental disability.

    What, other than the *perceived* rationality and “facts to back it up” could explain otherwise rational people accepting that “Jesus is Lord”?

    Therefore within the purview of science, therefore science can determine it to be highly improbable (at best), therefore maintaining said faith is dishonest.

    That is my argument. It’s not circular. It’s not illogical.

    Or show me how it is…

  180. Larzluv

    “In the year 1800, essentially every physicist in the world would have inferred from Newton’s laws that all motion was completely deterministic, would they not? This was because deterministic models worked great. But the nonscientific pieces comes from extrapolating the usefulness of that model into claims about how reality works.”

    But Newton’s laws still work today; they only “break” at very small, or very large distances.

    If you want to back the train up to the philosophy that “science doesn’t really know ‘why’ things fall toward the center of the earth”, okay, you got us!

    But that doesn’t change the fact that things don’t fall up.

    The model is merely a way of (relatively) accurately describing reality. For the benefit of predicting.

    It has nothing to do with “believing in gravity”. That’s simple matter-of-fact.

    As always, god may throw that big gravity switch off tomorrow. But I suppose science would simply come up with a new model. But that still wouldn’t prove/disprove a god did/didn’t throw said switch. (Or there was/wasn’t a switch.)

    But I don’t wish to get distracted into a different debate. You’ll note I don’t argue against these points. See my prior posts for what I -do- argue…

    “By 1900, it was widely thought that all of physics, and by extension all understanding of fundamental reality, was pretty much completed, the rest was detail. Surprise– the folly in taking science and making it a philosophy was exposed in the next century as essentially all of physics was replaced, piece by piece, by exquisitely more profound theories.”

    Nee, the prior, well-tested models, theories, and equations still stand. But they’ve been augmented, enhanced, enlarged, and had finer details added. Sure, some have been made superfluous, but they still *work*.

    The same can’t be said for Greek mythology.

    Quantum mechanics doesn’t negate Newtonian physics. While QM was expanded to cover NP, it was started to model/explain sub-atomic levels. Newton’s laws still work, are still taught, and are still used. Moon shot, Mars rovers, even the paths of artillery.

    “[A]ll of physics” wasn’t *replaced*, it was augmented. Yeah, given more “detail”. Funny, that.

    And the “model” of either a Newtonian or Einsteinian universe is (generally) only important in certain specialized circumstances, otherwise either is effective.

    Still, neither is “how things really are”, as, again, we may never know.

    But the models we get from science merely explain. They don’t make reality the way it is, nor make it happen. One either accepts that reality is knowable and rational, or one doesn’t. But, given one’s prior experience, and the collective experience of history (unless you find the believability of yesterday or last year dubious) why start doubting now, or be selective in your acceptance?

    Science is *still* a philosophy: it can only be used if one assumes the universe exists and it’s discoverable.

    “Newton’s approach is now seen primarily as a projection of limited information, not a philosophy of reality.”

    ALL past science is limited in scope by available information.

    Newton took the limited available knowledge and made a model, sure. But his new knowledge vis this new model was profound: motion and things falling isn’t magic. It’s predictable. It’s rational. (Thank you Galileo, and others, too!)

    And that *is* a philosophy of reality. And it, and others, keep reinforcing: the universe is rational and knowable.

    “The continuing error is to think that anything in physics is any different [in that it constantly changes], or that physics itself is about understanding the absolute truth, rather than what it is– making useful models, and judged by the context.”

    Doesn’t the first part of your statement force an assumption that one can’t honestly make: that there will NEVER be a time when we can know/have an accurate model for, everything?

    Which definition of “absolute truth” are you dealing with here…?

    Taking a leap that your talking about fact/objective reality: again, don’t you assume this *can’t* be known, so therefore we won’t ever know it?

    What science do you use to back up either of these claims?

    But your argument belies another red herring: the models aren’t (necessarily) meant to show the “absolute truth”, but the rationality and predictability of the universe.

    And make conclusions based on that.

    “Faith”, all of which (not including a few modern reinterpretations) were invented thousands of years before modern science, was built in a time when a made-up story could suffice to offer explanation of how, and of why. One by one the explanations given have fallen to scientific knowledge. All that’s left is the “untestable” parts.

    But then, other than delusions and wishful thinking, why keep one faith over another? Again, there are rationalized (even if irrational) reason(s) people hold their faith.

    A part of my argument.

    To simply state that science doesn’t know everything is rhetorical. To imply that therefore religion may be right, as if it exists in a vacuum, is dishonest. Or delusional.

    Plus, don’t be fooled into equating “science doesn’t completely understand the universe” with “science can never completely understand the universe”. As one so keen to point out the fallacy of absolutes, I’d hate for you to get sucked in by that one…

    Okay, really, now I may not post for quite a while yet. Cheers…! :)

  181. Ken G

    Let’s look, scientifically (not subjectively) at larzluv’s beliefs-claiming-to-be-facts:
    There is no example of “subjectiveness” that you (or anyone, I feel so confident to wager) can offer that cannot be leveled to literal objectivity.
    How about: consciousness. Science has never done an experiment that supports your contention in regard to conciousness– or I missed the citation. Can you give it to me?

    Let’s just start there, and see where it leads.

  182. Larzluv

    I do apologise again, as I shouldn’t even be writing this, but felt you deserved me to since I misspoke. (Mis-typed?) It was late. I was rushing. But enough of excuses! I meant “subjective beliefs”, but anywho…

    Even with “consciousness”, it’s a cunning argument to say we haven’t “solved that problem”, and/or “we don’t know everything about it”, but one could say the same thing about gravity, light, and every other well-understood (and taken as “fact”) phenomenon.

    Philosophically true. Rationally dishonest.

    If all roads appear to be leading to Rome, there’s high probability that’s indeed the case.

    While we don’t have the knowledge or understanding to produce an artificial (and therefore reproducible) “consciousness”, all research to date that’s examined the brain/brain function shows it’s indeed the organ of reason.

    Perhaps you can cite sources that contradict this? (I’ll gather a few references to post when I get back, but – as per usual – a cursory Google should offer plenty of support in my absence.)

    But what gives evidence that consciousness is subjective, rather than objective?

    And based on every other field of scientific study – vast “experience” and “evidence” – so far we’ve not found any unexplainable, unimaginable, undiscoverable, unknowable things. Obviously “objects”.

    So far, so good. What reason, what logic, could one have to claim that “maybe just this once…!”?

    Philosophically possible. Rationally dishonest.

    It seems unreasonable to presume that “consciousness”, the controller of each of our intellects, is a supernatural force, devoid-of and separate-from objective reality. When various parts of a brain are used for reason, why would it be reasonable to presume that reason itself could/would not be a product of the same grey matter?

    Philosophically possible. Rationally dishonest.

    Various brain injuries show that, indeed, physical parts of the brain are responsible for not just functions of consciousness, but aspects of it as well – temperament, for example.

    Without vastly more powerful simulation devices – computers of some sort, probably – we have an ethical barrier to much more in-depth study of the *human* brain; research on other simians has its own downsides, and lack of feedback – detailed communication between subject and observer.

    But I challenge that what we have discovered already points to Rome: that the “whole greater than the sum of its parts”, “consciousness”, is an incredible, but not unknowable consequence of the objective stuff – tissues and chemicals – we’ve identified.

    Perhaps you could cite reference(s) that contradict my assertion of high probability?

    Or are you simply “keeping your mind open”?

    Philosophically possible. Rationally dishonest.

    But the subject at hand is faith.

    And my assertion is that faith, as practiced/believed by most, is founded on (at least perceived) objectivity. Thus open to science. And when science contradicts those foundations, what’s left is crumbling. To keep it is then dishonest.

    As always, indeed: there may be something(s) “supernatural” in existence, but there’s been no evidence to that point. The world’s religions are based on objectivity, and are regularly shown to be false. So THEY don’t have the answer(s).

    That an individual wishes to take (as most do) “some” of a religion and relegate the rest to the dustbin is well within their rights. But it’s rather dishonest.

    But obviously “science” can’t *disprove* the parts they still believe in.

    I welcome any/all response(s) from you on all things I’ve written – this dialog is fun to me, after all! – but I do wonder why, now that my position is hopefully truly clear, that you’d consider yourself in disagreement to me.

    Put more succinctly: do you hold that it’s *not* dishonest for one to hold a faith, based on a body of work, when one picks-and-chooses what to believe in?

    I feel that’s truly the only point to this whole discussion. (Though, again, I enjoy the rest, too.)

    Also, I’d not be so harsh on me as to say I state “beliefs-claiming-to-be-facts”; more, I state reasonable presumptions based on evidence. Just like I’d be willing to sing “the sun’ll come out… tomorrow!” It may not, but based on past experience and evidence and understanding of the cosmos, this seems a reasonable presumption.

    To me, making an unreasonable presumption based on feelings, fears, wishes, “open-mindedness”, that goes against past experience and/or the current evidence at hand is dishonest. Sure, there’s “always the possibility”, but the odds are slim-to-none (at best).

    Ta…!

  183. Ken G

    larzluv, as an exercise in formal logic, I’m afraid this debate is like shooting fish in a bucket. Consider this position of yours:
    “Even with “consciousness”, it’s a cunning argument to say we haven’t “solved that problem”, and/or “we don’t know everything about it”, but one could say the same thing about gravity, light, and every other well-understood (and taken as “fact”) phenomenon.”

    Now, that’s all very nice in terms of a personal belief for you that science will eventually solve conciousness, but unfortunately it was supposed to support your contention that not only is it clear that the subjective experience of consciousness must arise entirely from the objectively measurable function of the brain, but furthermore, anyone who thinks otherwise is to be ridiculed– as there is simply no other possibility. That is precisely the way you framed you position– and I’m afraid if you think the quote above logically supports that position, you are sadly mistaken about how logic works. Instead, it is support for the position that science *might* someday solve consciousness, or that all that is subjective *might* arise from the objective. Can you deny it, is your logic that weak?

    And if that logic wasn’t off target enough, you continue with:
    “If all roads appear to be leading to Rome, there’s high probability that’s indeed the case.”
    Um, exactly what type of logic is that? First of all, your position has never been that the subjective stems from the objective “to high probability”, as that would certainly allow any rational person to think otherwise– just betting on the underdog. But even that is not logically supported– it is merely your claim that “all roads lead to Rome” here– again your idea of a logical argument is simply assuming what it is you claim to be showing. Show that all roads lead to Rome in this case, and you might have something. Oh, and don’t forget to collect that Nobel prize on the way.

  184. Ken G

    Let me continue, as I will now proceed to show that every single paragraph in your previous post contains a major logical error that compromises it as an argument in support of the quote I focused on above. To wit:
    “While we don’t have the knowledge or understanding to produce an artificial (and therefore reproducible) “consciousness”, all research to date that’s examined the brain/brain function shows it’s indeed the organ of reason.”
    To show the logical flaw here, I must remind you the claim this statement is meant to support: that all that is subjective is a subset of all that is objective. I think what you have overlooked is that “all research to date” is conducted objectively– you are talking about objective research. Correct? So you think it supports your position that all objective research has identified objective elements of the thought process? This circularity is rife throughout your argument, it will appear again. Let’s continue:

    “Perhaps you can cite sources that contradict this? ”
    Interesting logical sleight of hand here. Note you are now adopting the position that when someone is challenged to “show they are right”, it is appropriate for them to respond “show I’m wrong”. Hmmm, fascinating– I thought your beliefs were supposed to rest on a solid foundation of evidence.

    “I’ll gather a few references to post when I get back, but – as per usual – a cursory Google should offer plenty of support in my absence.”
    That of course depends on what you are claiming to “support”. Remember, what we are talking about is that all that is subjective, including consciousness, arises entirely from what is objective. I can Google this, you think? I rather think you mean I can Google that the brain has something to do with consciousness, but I’m afraid that odd numbers have something to do with integers too– it does not logically follow that all that has to do with integers has to do with odd numbers.

    “But what gives evidence that consciousness is subjective, rather than objective?”
    Um, how about the subjective experience of being conscious? This is really too easy. Your turn: find a meaningful definition of consciousness that does not refer to this property, and is not simply “acts in all discernible ways like someone who has this property: me”.

    “And based on every other field of scientific study – vast “experience” and “evidence” – so far we’ve not found any unexplainable, unimaginable, undiscoverable, unknowable things. Obviously “objects”.”
    Oh my, there’s that core circularity again: we use objective study to find out about objective things, and this is going to be your argument that all that is subjective arises from the objective? I’m sorry, that’s poor logic.

    “So far, so good. What reason, what logic, could one have to claim that “maybe just this once…!”?”
    Um, maybe there are other kinds of situations than the narrow view you’ve taken here?

    “Philosophically possible. Rationally dishonest.”
    I just love how you claim ownership of all that is rational, despite the countless logical fallacies I keep pointing out in your arguments.

    “It seems unreasonable to presume that “consciousness”, the controller of each of our intellects, is a supernatural force, devoid-of and separate-from objective reality. ”
    More interesting logic. I said that the relationship between all that is subjective and all that is objective is unknown, yet you think I must claim that it is both “devoid” and “separate” of same. Not. Also, it is clearly unreasonable to “presume” *anything*, in the absence of more understanding/

    More to come.

  185. Ken G

    Let’s continue to follow the argument presented:
    “When various parts of a brain are used for reason, why would it be reasonable to presume that reason itself could/would not be a product of the same grey matter?”
    Um, to analyze the logical content of this remark, simply read it again, let’s make some simple substitutions to see if it could fly in other situations:
    When various odd integers are used for arithmetic, why would it be reasonable to presume that arithmetic itself could/would not be a product of the same odd integers?

    Gotta go now.

  186. Ken G

    This one’s especially important because it is a concrete example:
    “Various brain injuries show that, indeed, physical parts of the brain are responsible for not just functions of consciousness, but aspects of it as well – temperament, for example.”
    OK, so now we are to associate temperament with consciousness, as though it was a fundamental property of same. Funny, I thought consciousness had to do with awareness, whereas temperament was judged by behavior. Again you are mixing the the subjective and the objective. Bees can be “angry”, a temperament, without being conscious of it. Conversely, I can imagine something that is conscious but has no temperament. So finding a physical connection with temperament is a secondary concern here.

    Other examples, you mean perhaps?

  187. Ken G

    And continuing, we find this gem:
    “Without vastly more powerful simulation devices – computers of some sort, probably – we have an ethical barrier to much more in-depth study of the *human* brain; research on other simians has its own downsides, and lack of feedback – detailed communication between subject and observer.”
    OK, now that’s simply an apologetic for science. You are saying research has not yet shown, what you already know, because of ethical conundrums. This suffices for an argument in your neck of the woods?

    Then:
    “But I challenge that what we have discovered already points to Rome: that the “whole greater than the sum of its parts”, “consciousness”, is an incredible, but not unknowable consequence of the objective stuff – tissues and chemicals – we’ve identified.”
    A classic example of argument by assumption. You assume that because progress has been made, we are on the “road to Rome”. And if I increase my vertical leap, I’m “on the road” to jumping to the Moon? Same logic.

    Then comes a personal favorite:
    “Or are you simply “keeping your mind open”?
    Philosophically possible. Rationally dishonest.”
    To which I respond, at exactly what point did it become “dishonest” to “keep an open mind”? Perhaps you might wish to review the history of science.

    More later.

  188. Ken G

    To continue, we must be thorough in our evaluation:
    “And my assertion is that faith, as practiced/believed by most, is founded on (at least perceived) objectivity. ”
    So now we have argument by assertion? And exactly by what authority do you expect to be able to assert this? Why is anyone supposed to think this is an educated remark, are you perhaps an expert in world religions? A theology major? Or did you have a friend once who went to church? Furthermore, why on Earth did you insert the phrase “at least perceived”? If we are discussing whether all that is subjective arises entirely from all that is objective, why on Earth would anyone’s “perceptions” make a hill of beans of difference? You have lost me there.

    Then:
    “As always, indeed: there may be something(s) “supernatural” in existence, but there’s been no evidence to that point.”
    To make sense, this remark must only be referring to *objective* evidence. This is of course merely a return to the same circular logic I’ve already exposed as such.

    More later.

  189. Ken G

    Now we move to a simply absurd point:
    “That an individual wishes to take (as most do) “some” of a religion and relegate the rest to the dustbin is well within their rights. But it’s rather dishonest.”
    If that were true, there would be a heck of a lot of dishonest scientists out there. Or are you not aware that all scientists do precisely the above when they consider various options for theories to apply? The real issue is what subjective basis is applied to make that choice, as I’ve pointed out many times. In science, that subjective basis eventually does become objective– but that’s because science has objective goals and is all about obtaining objective knowledge. Religion is simply not in that position, the issues are too difficult and quite likely too subjective.

    So in summary:
    “I welcome any/all response(s) from you on all things I’ve written – this dialog is fun to me, after all! – but I do wonder why, now that my position is hopefully truly clear, that you’d consider yourself in disagreement to me.”
    I’d say that’s a pretty arrogant claim, given that I have above clearly demonstrated a major logical flaw in *every single one* of your paragraphs! So yes, I’m afraid I stand quite unconvinced by this parade of illogic. And it doesn’t help much when you trot out obvious strawman arguments like:
    “I state reasonable presumptions based on evidence. Just like I’d be willing to sing “the sun’ll come out… tomorrow!” It may not, but based on past experience and evidence and understanding of the cosmos, this seems a reasonable presumption.”
    It may come as a surprise, but I actually have lived in this world, so I do know that making presumptions based on past experience is often helpful. Indeed I’ve never said otherwise. What I said is that this model of human cognition might not actually be the only way to go in all situations for all people. There might actually be perfectly rational uses of a human mind that don’t fit that description. As you claim to refute that, you certainly cannot simply provide an example of when past experience is a useful guide for future objective predictions. No, that would be quite a logical shortfall to think that’s a real argument– it’s just a strawman. Now, I’ll bet you’ve pointed out a few strawman arguments in your day– why do you think you’d now stood to one yourself? The crumbling problem again?

    Still, there is hope, as you close with:
    “To me, making an unreasonable presumption based on feelings, fears, wishes, “open-mindedness”, that goes against past experience and/or the current evidence at hand is dishonest. ”
    The most important words in that sentence, and probably your entire post, are “to me”. Perhaps you finally do get it, after all.

  190. Twyla

    Update on Shannon:

    There is a Benefit planned for June 30th. If you would like information let me know. Shannon wanted to say “THANK YOU” to everyone who donated. As of today, The money has not been recieved in Shannons Fund account, but as soon as it is we will let you know how much was raised! Shannon started therapy on her throat & hopes to be swallowing by the 4th of July. Your charity will help her achieve that! Thank you again,
    Twyla
    tat2baby@msn.com

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+