Tuesday, November 17, 2009

For PZ Myers 2

Regular readers may not be aware that, as a result of a mention by Andrew Sullivan, my For PZ Myers post has attracted many comments from the US Bile Belt. (Thanks, incidentally, to Peter Burnett whose analysis of Myers' debating style caught Andrew's eye.) Many of the bileists points out that I resorted to cheap abuse rather than engaging with Myers' points. This is true and has evidently freed those who loathe me so much to resort to the same tactics. I didn't take Myers on in detail because I don't have the time and I honestly don't believe he is capable of understanding a certain nuance of my position, which is, in truth, all of my position. As I said, I took part in the filming of a Dinner with Portillo last night - BBC4, probably in January. The subject was science and its place in the world. Though half the people at the table seemed to be on my side - this never normally happens - I did notice that there was one argument I could not get across. At one point I snapped at Portillo for being 'deliberately perverse' in not getting it, but, in fairness, he had to get a lot of other material into the recording. Finally, there was one glorious moment when Sir Mark Walport seemed to get it and, having been highly suspicious of my presence, suddenly realised he also agreed with me. The point is not especially difficult, but, somehow, I can never quite put it across persuasively. I will not try to do so here and now as I am working on a project that is, in effect, a new way of saying it. Anyway, go and check out the bile, it's all good.

137 comments:

  1. Yes, but what was the food like? (Was it pheasant?)

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  2. Horrible, Brit. Carlton Club. First course was a tiny bird that was not made for eating, main course sensationally overcooked fish.

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  3. oh dear. (the myers thing).

    I find it perverse to want to watch other people eating; I can't watch. I don't get this format. Is it an intellectual's version of big brother? Plain debate not a big telly draw, then.

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  4. One of the problems here is that Bryan has an adverbial and instrumental approach to the truth; he's interested in the aesthetic and cultural connotations and implications of an idea, as much as its correspondence with reality. This is always going to clash with the semantic and logical sensibilities of most scientists and philosophers.

    When some of Bryan's claims are convincingly refuted, his response often sounds both complacent and aloof, along the lines of 'This is rather tiresome; I can't be troubled to respond.' One suspects that in many such cases, no response is forthcoming because there simply is no adequate response available.

    To understand Bryan intellectually, however, you need to understand his roots in the English public-school+Oxbridge, literary-ecclesiastical environment.

    On one level, such individuals often recognise the irrationality of religious belief, yet on another level their cultural affiliation with religion is so deeply inculcated, that they construct an ever more elaborate and contorted intellectual scaffolding to provide a post-hoc rationalisation or justification of religion.

    This typically requires the use of what psychologists call 'confirmation bias', the selective cherry-picking of ideas which confirm one's pre-conceptions, and the neglect of ideas and facts which refute them. One manifestation of such confirmation bias is the distortion or mis-interpretation of Darwinism.

    In effect, Dawkins, Myers, and company, are standing at the base of the literary-ecclesiastical cultural scaffolding, and violently shaking it to and fro. Little wonder, then, that Bryan, clinging to one of the upper girders, should become fearful and angry, and begin hurling insults down upon the atheists below.

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  5. Pity you wrote that comment, Gordon. You seemed to be inching back from beyond the pale.

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  6. Didn't go to public school, did not grow up in literary-ecclesiastical environment, do not have adverbial-instrumental approach to truth, not aware of anything being shaken. I do have confirmation bias but not as extreme as yours, Gordon. Don't always respond to refutation because I have written my responses repeatedly for 20 years now. Am concerned about your categories which seriously damage your rationality

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  7. Oh and the childhood environment was entirely scientific and nbot of a kind that revelled in the sad oppositions that you seem to do Gordon. Ask yourself, why are you and all these others shouting so loudly? What is it about? Scientists did not used to be like this

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  8. You are wrong about everything, but, as you yourself assured us, that doesn't matter because you can write well.

    It just occurred to me that this is the way I should read you: enjoy the superficial beauty of the text without paying too much attention to the truth of it.

    Sorry for my horrible prose, I'm more a science-kind-of-guy.

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  9. Gordon: what a bizarrely reductive and materialist explanation of Bryan's position. But perhaps all of a piece with some other applications of the scientific approach to subjects that are not amenable to it?

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  10. Paul Zachary Myers and Richard Dawkins represent the last spastic twitches of Darwin's Victorian fantasy. Unable to defend their shared convictions they now viciously attack the only conceivable alternative which is a planned, purposeful phylogeny which I believe has terminated with the present biota.

    http://www.jadavison.wordpress.com

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  11. This is how wars begin, your take on life is crap.
    Oh no it isn't
    Oh yes it is.

    Mabel! hand me that effing club.

    Ain't education a thing of great wonderment.

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  12. I'm the product of a 5' 10" father, a 5' 4" mother, a bad comprehensive weighed down by socialist thinking of the 1960s, being forced to wear home-made trousers in the 1970s, occasional bullying in the 1980s, a panic about the state of modern cricket in the 1990s, and general waywardness since the turn of the millennium. None of which explains why I'm sitting waiting for the postman to deliver a new duvet.

    But that's the problem with science. And should they ever discover why I do what I do, I don’t think I'd want to know.

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  13. Phew Gordon, when you kick a man you really kick him. However, I'm not sure that Bryan, or his "approach", is amenable to being engaged in the manner you would want to. He won't fit into the Petri dish for a start.

    A little more 'maybes', 'mights', 'coulds', possiblys' and 'I thinks' and rather less ironclad certainty might also have made your criticism less risible.

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  14. Problem, of course, is there's nuts on both sides. All you need to do is wave a post labelled "God v Darwin" into the blogosphere and along come the crazies, splat splat splat like pests to flypaper.

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  15. [My comments don't seem to be getting through, so I'll try this one again...]

    I’m the product of a 5’ 10” father, a 5’ 2” mother, a bad comprehensive weighed down by 1960s socialist thinking, being forced to wear home-made trousers in the 1970s, occasional bullying in the 1980s, a panic about the state of modern cricket in the 1990s, and general waywardness since the turn of the millennium. None of which explains why I’m sitting waiting for the postman to deliver a new duvet.

    But that’s the problem with science. And should they ever discover why I do what I do, I don’t think I’d want to know.

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  16. Just did as you instructed, Bryan, and looked at the comments on the PZ post. All good normal, knockabout, how very dare you stuff.

    But. But. But. It moves beyond acceptability when someone decides to base his criticism on the fact of your Englishness - you know who you are 'Pete'. Loins become girded. Bowstrings are tautened and blood is summoned up.

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  17. Eric Cartman from South Park considers himself a champion debater, as when anyone disagrees with him, he screams "Screw you guys, I'm going home!", and storms out of the room.

    Appleyard seems to be using a similar tactic, except that "Screw you guys" has mutated into "I honestly don't believe he is capable of understanding a certain nuance of my position".

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  18. "I didn't take Myers on in detail because I don't have the time and I honestly don't believe he is capable of understanding a certain nuance of my position, which is, in truth, all of my position."

    nuance, there is no nuance just regurgitating the same old creationist crap we’ve heard again and again and again.

    Wrysmile

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  19. "Many of the bileists points out that I resorted to cheap abuse rather than engaging with Myers' points. This is true and has evidently freed those who loathe me so much to resort to the same tactics. "

    So you have a problem with commenters adopting your own style of argument?

    It is somehow wrong to answer cheap abuse with cheap abuse?

    You should at least own up to the fact that you were shown to be catastrophically wrong in your first article, in stead of repeatedly refusing to relate to the meat of mr Myers blog post on you.

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  20. "Many of the bileists points out that I resorted to cheap abuse rather than engaging with Myers' points. This is true and has evidently freed those who loathe me so much to resort to the same tactics. "

    So now you heap cheap abuse not only on mr Myers but also on commenters on your blog.

    Furthermore you seem to deplore that others debate you on your own level - by using cheap abuse.

    The difference between you and mr Myers is that while he resorted to cheap abuse, most of his post was a thorough refutations of the many factual mistakes you made in your article.
    You on the other hand have now made two replies, neither with any substance what so ever.

    Perhaps you think yourself a better writer than mr Myers. Perhaps you are right on that point. But it seems clear that on the matter of science you are much inferior.

    Your debating skills seems lacking, since you have not shown yourself capable of supplying substance to your arguments, only - to use your own words - cheap abuse.

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  21. "Your Majesty is a grotesque affront to science!"
    "How dare you, Wilde!"
    "I merely meant, Your Majesty, that like the sun the dazzling light of your mind confounds our best hypothesis."
    "Oh, very witty."
    "I wish I'd said that, Wilde."
    "You will, Dr McCabe, you will."

    Etc. My understanding from a post here the other day is that most blogs - all blogs? - are no more than a bunch of crazies in a white Ford Transit lost somewhere on the M11. Arguments on the Internet are a bit yesterday, perhaps. It's more fun when you can see the whites of real eyes.

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  22. Wrysmile

    "creationist".

    I could just say......?!?!?!?!?!?...... but then that would just be to assume that you had actually read anything written here rather than come on other to join the drive by.

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  23. One of the major benefits to be gained from manufacturing scaffolding made of girders and not the usual scaffold tubing is its total resistance to shake, whether from wind (whatever the source) or subsidence caused by certain types of termite. The length of time taken to produce is more than compensated for by its practicality.

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  24. Well done, everybody. This thread makes me so proud to be British!

    Whilst those Americans demean themselves and their nation with these taunts and insults directed towards Bryan, we Englishmen are above making cheap shots at Mr. Myers, who doesn’t even understand the fundamental principles of shoulder strap padding!

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  25. "US Bile Belt"

    "Many of the bileists [sic] points"

    "I didn't take Myers on in detail because I don't have the time and I honestly don't believe he is capable of understanding a certain nuance of my position, which is, in truth, all of my position."

    In Myers' defense, getting "a certain nuance of your position" may be difficult. What would help? Try writing in clear and plain English. Have a point, too. Readers beyond your "atta boy" circle tend to enjoy posts with a point. Finally, avoid cutesy-isms like "bile belt" and "bileist," which aren't even clever.

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  26. I agree with the above point. I also hate cutesy-isms such as 'cutesy-ism'.

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  27. My God, Uncle Dick. The man has a beard. And not even a Commodore's proper Pepper and Salt beard either. I don't think there is anything else that really needs to be said, is there?

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  28. Really, it's the photo that keeps on giving.

    Button down shirt. What, really, is that about. It has no practical purpose and is an aesthetic abomination. Next thing you know he will be donning a baseball cap.

    Doubt there are a pair of Lucchese's down below.

    I know. This is all very ad hominem, but it is Uncle Dick's fault for linking to that photo.

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  29. Let me profusely apologise for the flagrant inaccuracy of my claim:

    It was grammar school, not public school.

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  30. The Myers/Dawkins dynamic duo are the last feeble spastic twitches of the greatest hoax ever perpetrated and then perpetuated in the history of science, the absurd notion that the animate world has resulted from the natural selection of randomly generated variations of biochemical events. Natural selection is today what it has always been, anti-evolutionary, preserving the status quo for as long as possible, a strategy doomed to certain failure as the fossil record has proved time and time again.

    I am convinced that creative evolution is finished and we are the ultimate products of a planned sequence. The present biota, like all those that preceeded it will probably also become extinct but, unlike extinctions in the past, there will be no replacements. That much is already clear as a new genus has not appeared in 2 million years and not a new true species in historical times, this during a period when man has violently altered the environment of the earth as never before. Creative evolution is finished.

    The fewer that agree with me, the better I like it because -

    "All great truths begin as blasphemies."
    George Bernard Shaw

    and

    "Every great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute rejection of authority."
    Thomas Henry Huxley

    jadavison.wordpress.cm

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  31. Larry, please listen to British accents more often.

    Bile = heating a pan of water.

    PS, Britain, it's a longish looking small island to the left of Europe.

    Europe, big lump of land stuck onto Russia.

    Russia, thumping big country next to China.

    China, the country that in the next five years will have you lot in a right two and eight.

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  32. Recusant, I was merely pointing out that, as gentlemen, we're above such things.

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  33. Again, I can't believe you "thanked" Peter Burnett for his complaint that in debates about science P.Z. Myers produces too much evidence.

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  34. Still Mr Appleyard, you really did screw up with that post on Darwinism that got Mr Myers so riled up. It was a shockingly awful piece of work, and his rebuttal, though long winded and not a little bit boring, nailed you pretty good.

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  35. Saying that there is a nuance to your position at the same time spouting creationist nonsense such as that the eye is irreducible shows a certain lack of... honesty? I think that at the very least that you should attempt to understand science before critiquing it.

    But I will continue to read your blog as I find your writing quite interesting... usually. XD

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  36. If only we'd known PeeZee was going to be in London. We could have met up for pie and mash, and we could have admired his shoulder strap, and he could have explained to us exactly why we are so stupid and wrong about everything.

    (But thank goodness we have the internet, so that kind strangers like Larry and Hyperdeath and Anonymous can do it for us remotely, the better for us to stop worrying and enjoy our lives.)

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  37. Bryan Appleyard

    Since I am ignored here, my usual fate in the blogosphere, I will now seek another venue to infect with my heresies. I have little more to offer here.

    Thanks for letting me hold forth, a rare exerience for this evolutionist.

    You are definitely welcome to participate in my weblog.

    jadavison.wordpress.com

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  38. I do only read this blog for the feel and style - I hardly ever understand a word, but thats the way God made me! xx

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  39. Wow, yes. I really enjoyed Peter Burnett's comment that Andrew Sullivan picked up on (and P.Z. Myers as well). Peter is my blog hero of the day for sure.

    For anyone who's trying to argue that there is no substance to Bryan's argument or the nuance therein, or would like to pick up and argue some variation on Myer's assertions that "poor Mr Appleyard is simply left mostly speechless," he has promised us all a book.

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  40. Dear Mr. Davison

    I have just visited your website. Very interesting. Are you acquainted with the works of Mr. De Selby?
    You may take some comfort in the knowledge that sanity is purely democratic. It is, after all, simply what most of us happen to believe. There may well be a man, probably locked away in an asylum somewhere, who is the only one who can see the World as it really is.

    That man could be you.

    On the other hand ..........

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  41. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  42. Okay, I'm not as bright as the rest of you, so I can't talk science. I know more about poetry than I do about genes. However, I find myself perplexed by this argument.

    In any normal set of affairs, I would be on the side of science. I believe that Darwin was correct and undoubtedly a great man, one of our finest scientists, and second only to David Attenborough in my affections. Similarly, I don't dislike Dawkins. Put him beside any hook-handed cleric and I'd be rolling up my sleeves to defend the Professor. Much of what Dawkins says makes sense; his instincts and intentions appear entirely good.

    However, this argument, as far as I can see it, doesn’t have much to do with attacking science in the way that many of the anti-Bryan brigade seem to suggest he's in league with the fundamentalist creationists. I don't know why they salivate themselves silly because somebody could even question Science. The debate, as I see it, isn't about science as much as it's about fanaticism, which any right minded person should dislike and distrust in any guise. And wasn’t this the point about what it means to be a gentleman? Isn’t it even the very old definition of true conservatism which doubts ideology and works through an almost evolutionary process of gradual change and the selection of the most pragmatic adaptations?

    The reason I read this blog – it remains, I think, the only blog I read as regularly now as I read it three years ago – is that it reminds me of an school of scholarship I tasted at university. Not the modern, preachy, sit on the edge of the stage in their casual slacks young tutors who wanted to be hip and talk bullshit. I mean those rare professors who would retire to the pub at 1pm where they would actually debate the things that mattered. For me, these thought experiments tread a middle path between science and art which is often paradoxical and will usually infuriate advocates of both schools. It’s about knowing how to bait your hook and enjoy the satisfaction of watching these small little fishes come and bite.

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  43. We truly should be thoroughly grateful as that thread indeed illustrated the point of the post more vividly than anything else could have.

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  44. You're right, Willard. Scrolling through his prolific, obsessive blog it appears that, in the tone of his argument, PeeZee draws no distinction between creationists and those who are merely non-atheist; or between Intelligent Design theorists (misguided folks admittedly) and those who merely report what Intelligent Design theorists say, in a newspaper. They all get the same hysterical, clumsily sarcastic treatment. This is fanatacism. It's also self-defeating, since if you scream at maximum volume all of the time, you have nowhere to go when somebody says something that really is stupid, and nobody will take you seriously.

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  45. Well said, Willard. Summed up my thoughts.

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  46. Willard wrote: I don't know why they salivate themselves silly because somebody could even question Science.

    Why did you capitalize science?

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  47. "It's also self-defeating, since if you scream at maximum volume all of the time, you have nowhere to go when somebody says something that really is stupid, and nobody will take you seriously."

    You can always turn it up to 11.

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  48. FishyFred: Oh, I don't know why I used a capital letter. But isn't that just so bloody typical? I bet you're one of those raging nutters who deny a chap the right to capitalise any word they like. Bloody fundamentalist capitalisers. The thing I hate about you small-caps apologists is that you never want to admit the basic science of the Caps Lock key. Oh, you're happy to flaunt your capital letters when you need them in an emergency but you still like to hang on to your outmoded notion of the capital letter as only being used in proper nouns and for the title of railway stations.

    Look, I'm above picking an argument with you. If you want to be big about this, I'll give you satisfaction on the field of combat at dawn. I'll bring my capital 'S' and you can bring any damn lower-case letter you like.

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  49. PZ Myers might well be one of the best propaganda weapons the anti-evolutionists have. I wonder if he's an undercover Creationist agent.

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  50. Willard: Look, I'm above picking an argument with you.

    Well then why did you just bait me for an entire paragraph?

    The capitalization doesn't matter so much to the topic, but when I read it in that context, it sets off a red flag about you personally: "This person thinks science is also a religion and is trying to paint it as one." If you don't understand the distinctions between science and religion, then I daresay that your definitions of those words are misguided at best.

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  51. FishyFred: Bait you? Are you saying that you thought I was being serious? Oh dear... If I wasn't laughing, I think I'd be angry.

    In fact, fuck it. I think I will be angry. I happen to use a capital 'S' and you say that it sets off a red flag about me? Well, I also scratch my arse with the little finger of my right hand and I believe in the hypnotic power of owls on moonlit nights. How many more red flags does that set off for you?

    What on earth makes you think I don't know these distinctions or that you can make these huge judgements about me? Your ability to pick a fight over what was meant as a tongue-in-cheek parody of the ridiculous ways that people pick fights makes my point better than ever I could.

    With people like you defending science/Science, I think I'd rather jump ship and see if Jesus wants me for a sunbeam.

    Praise the Lord!

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  52. If Willard has ever been anywhere near Amherst Massachusetts, he can capitalize all he wants. Here's Emily Dickinson--(You can't argue with Emily Dickinson about Religion, Science, or Capitalization--And if you want to attack her use of the Emdash--as some have dared--well, I wouldn't go there either, as those who have are one by one being Edited out of History--)--

    70

    "Arcturus" is his other name--
    I'd rather call him "Star."
    It's very mean of Science
    To go and interfere!

    I slew a worm the other day--
    A "Savant" passing by
    Murmured "Resurgam"--"Centipede"!
    "Oh Lord--how frail are we"!

    I pull a flower from the woods--
    A monster with a glass
    Computes the stamens in a breath--
    And has her in a "class"!

    Whereas I took the Butterfly
    Aforetime in my hat--
    He sits erect in "Cabinets"--
    The Clover bells forgot.

    What once was "Heaven"
    Is "Zenith" now--
    Where I proposed to go
    When Time's brief masquerade was done
    Is mapped and charted too.

    What if the poles should frisk about
    And stand upon their heads!
    I hope I'm ready for "the worst"--
    Whatever prank betides!

    Perhaps the "Kingdom of Heaven's" changed--
    I hope the "Children" there
    Won't be "new fashioned" when I come--
    And laugh at me--and stare--

    I hope the Father in the skies
    Will lift his little girl--
    Old fashioned--naught--everything--
    Over the stile of "Pearl."



    ~~~~~

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  53. In effect, Dawkins, Myers, and company, are standing at the base of the literary-ecclesiastical cultural scaffolding, and violently shaking it to and fro. Little wonder, then, that Bryan, clinging to one of the upper girders, should become fearful and angry, and begin hurling insults down upon the atheists below.

    I feel as if I should apologize, because I thoroughly respect and admire our host, but I found this to be a brilliant observation. I spent decades worshipping as a Christian because, in the culture with which I wish to identify, good people are understood to be people of faith. In my old age, I've about had it with you people.

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  54. With people like you defending science/Science

    Good show, Willard. These people who defend science/Science are even more tiresome than the ones who defend god/God.

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  55. Recusant: try reading my comment again. I wasn't basing my criticism on Bry's Englishness, just pointing out that his attitude is somewhat typical amongst the, ahem, intellectual English writers I've read. Even without that observation, I think my comment stands, yes?

    Still, at least I've since learned that the reason Bry doesn't respond to Myers' actual arguments is from the sheer ennui from being right lo these 20 years. Right-ho Bry!

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  56. Appleyard certainly knows how to generate heat. Where many other blog owners fail to create a single spark as they furiously rub together verbal sticks, he walks by and casually chucks in a couple of paras soaked in kerosene and bang! Before you know it, the extremists from both side of an argument are throwing themselves on the fire.

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  57. Kynefski:

    Really? I thought Gordon's comment was the stupidest, most misdirected pile of pompous twaddle I've ever seen on here. And there's some competition, belive me, I've had a few goes myself. Sad thing is McCabe used to be alreet but he's swallowed some horrible bitter pill somewhere along the line. And "people of faith"? You've wholly misunderstood this (non)debate.

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  58. Lest I seem ungrateful, I should acknowledge that Bry has provided me with the perfect come-back (please let me know if that hyphen is misplaced) for the next time a tiresome creationist tries to engage me in an argument: "I refuse to debate you because my philosophy is too nuanced for you to comprehend, you sack of shit!"

    Lovely.

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  59. Science (scientific method) proceeds by making working predictive models of the physical world. It cannot form a complete model - there are too many independent variables - so it removes as many variables as possible & observes what happens if you vary one of the remainder. This has produced some very accurate models, Ohm's law being a good example.
    We call these models 'laws' because they have worked every time they have been applied. There is no guarantee they will ever work again.
    As science has developed it has produced bigger & more complex models. This increase in complexity has resulted in a decrease in accuracy of the results obtained. We now tend to deal in probabilities rather than certainties.

    What makes science so overwhelmingly important is that it is inextricably tied up with survival in the physical world. I would suggest that all sentient life forms have a world model contained within them. For very simple creatures this would be a very simple, hard-wired set of chemical responses. Higher life forms have more developed world models with the ability to respond to a variety of environmental conditions. Finally we arrive at a brain, which has the capability to project likely scenarios resulting from the various courses of action that the organism might take.

    So I regard this whole science vs. religion debate to be pretty daft. Science is only concerned with one thing, i.e. finding the most complete physical world model possible - & accepting that it can only be a model. Religion is after something beyond the merely physical.

    Until somebody finds a religion that predicts the course of future physical events as accurately as science can, then no religion can expect to have dominion in the physical world. Unfortunately they always do.

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  60. Pe-te:

    And I trust you'll be prefacing it as Bryan did with: Okay, I'm prepared to accept that I may be wrong about everything - I wake up every morning thinking just that - and PZ may be right, but...

    Yes?

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  61. Uh-oh. So much of this argument massively overplays the significance of Dawkins and co.

    Why? I see behind it whingeing calls for Max Res. In this regard, some scientists are behaving in exactly the same was as clergymen and aristos used to behave. No one is due respect ex officio, unless holding it indicates unusual qualities in the first place. Sorry to disappoint you boys but respect comes from who you are, what you say and what you do. It looks as if a fair dose of this misapprehension was behind Professor Nutt's resignation. Not enough Max Res. No crowds parted on hearing the call "Let me through, I am a scientist". The poor dear.

    I wouldn't be very surprised if PZ Myers and his acolytes turned out to be the creation of one of the editors of The Onion. They seem to have a wicked jones for Max too. As a put-up job come honeypot, complete with a total irony bypass, his website is a class act.

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  62. Willard: It doesn't really matter if you were being serious. Your sarcasm came through loud and clear. You scooped it on very thick. It's that sort of attitude that, absent any context or substantive argument, really tends to annoy. It's the equivalent of shouting "neener neener" at me. You're so full of yourself that you don't think it's necessary to even have a discussion. You're engaging in the same sort of tactics that Peter Burnet accuses PZ of using.

    And Peter Burnet: At least there are good reasons to alternate between "God" and "god." If you're discussing a specific deity whose name is "God," then it makes sense to refer to it that way for the sake of clarity.

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  63. FreddyFish: But I thought I had made a point, as substantive as my general ignorance on this subject allowed. I thought then and I still think now that much of this argument hasn't to do with the hard science but good manners and people's unwillingness to allow others to explore an interesting intellectual territory that lies somewhere between science and art, art and religion, and science and religion. People are so 'up for a fight' that it's ridiculous in the extreme. I tried to be funny and clearly failed. I'm sorry. My sense of humour is not one of my strong points and people have often remarked as much.

    Perhaps I shouldn't have got angry with you but then you did attempt to analyse me through my use of a single letter. It was all getting very 'Life of Brian' (or even 'Life of Bryan'!)... However, I hope I'm enough of a 'gentleman' to apologise for resorting to those tactics. I will quietly withdraw from the debate and allow you the field.

    As for being 'full of myself', well there you have me again. I am indeed pretty arrogant. I can't help it. Tough day and I'm a bit menopausal. Being one of the few women who read this blog, I sometimes try too hard. I also work in telesales and sometimes my character just spills out onto the web. It's something I've attempted to fix but it's so hard. So for that too: I'm so very sorry.

    In fact, I want to say sorry to everybody but particularly Bryan.

    Sorry.

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  64. Religion is after something beyond the merely physical.

    I am so far behind in my efforts to understand the merely physical that I'm afraid I may never even get to glimpse what is beyond it, but I'll take your word that it is interesting.

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  65. Okay, I would not have apologized as Willard has.

    I'll ask a question now. Why, FishyFred, did you say this:

    The capitalization doesn't matter so much to the topic, but when I read it in that context, it sets off a red flag about you personally: "This person thinks science is also a religion and is trying to paint it as one."

    Let's go back to the context, and we'll see that as I read it, that could not have been the case, unless you were wanting to bait anyone who has a smidgen of religion, to call them a fanatic. Here's the context, what Willard said:

    However, this argument, as far as I can see it, doesn't have much to do with attacking science in the way that many of the anti-Bryan brigade seem to suggest he's in league with the fundamentalist creationists. I don't know why they salivate themselves silly because somebody could even question Science. The debate, as I see it, isn't about science as much as it's about fanaticism, which any right minded person should dislike and distrust in any guise.

    Point nicely made, whether we mean science or religion, and it was made in a rather witty post. Note the first lower case "science" followed by the change in context, followed by the upper case "Science." The capitalization of Science is well put and well received, and has to do with a blogger's fanatical view filtering through what they know of science. The fanatics are the ones who make it a capital letter in context.

    Where, FishyFred, do you see Science being made out to be religion, or should I say Religion?

    I will play some of the potential argument out, to say that if you believe the arguments are already won, between those who think the present evolutionary lines of thinking are correct, by those holding the banner of Science, then indeed the capitalization ought to take place in such context. That's fanaticism. There would be no more discussion, but fundamentalist thinking along the lines as we have today in atheist-insistent China.

    Second question, which will probably follow from your response to the first question: what aspect of religion do you object being conferred onto science, such that you would wonder so about what "This person thinks?"

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  66. So I regard this whole science vs. religion debate to be pretty daft. Science is only concerned with one thing, i.e. finding the most complete physical world model possible - & accepting that it can only be a model. Religion is after something beyond the merely physical.

    and what will science do when it exhausts all possible permutations and says, 'this is it, this is the ultimate theory, we can go no further everything is known, we are triumphant.'
    Will it put away its computers, colliders, retorts and chalk, lock the door and walk away? if not, what?

    Will it like many before turn to more spiritual matters, having saved the human race it will have a legitimate claim to the name God, will it not.

    Science is a tool, an important one but still just a tool. It is a shame that it sometimes forgets this, plain folk may think that it is claiming the title God before it has earned it.

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  67. "Ask yourself, why are you and all these others shouting so loudly? What is it about? Scientists did not used to be like this."

    Hi Brian,

    Might I suggest that scientists have decided to shout because the have witnessed how, with the advent of the internet, those with evangelical and fundamental supernatural beliefs have been able to breathe new life into their battle against the Enlightenment and rational thinking.

    All those who are afraid that their personal beliefs, prejudices and biases are at risk of being shattered by evidence, reason and logic have been given a limitless gold mine of pseudo-science, misinformation, logical fallacies and lies by the internet to fight their battle.

    Climate change denialists, AIDS denialists, anti-vaccers, 'alternative' medicine charlatans, astrologers, psychics and NIMBYs the world over can cherry pick from the internet anything that confirms their bias, regardless of the wealth of knowledge that may contradict what they want and choose to believe.

    That there is an army of scientists and other rational thinkers out there who see the danger of misinformation, who can see through the disingenuous 'I just want to start a debate' shtick, who are willing to stand up for critical thinking, who are willing to say 'no I don't have to respect your extraordinary claims when you can't support those claims with testable evidence' is a great thing.

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  68. Sexitoni:

    No doubt that is the party line, but I'm beginning to sense this goes beyond science v. religion because the same kind of scathing dismissal is meted out to dissenting scientists. Dennett served up a plate of sneer for atheist evolutionist Jerry Fodor that would leave the reader thinking Fodor owned a creationist theme park. Bill Maher was an anti-religious hero and poster boy who was presented the Dawkins athiesm award (given for bile) by the great man personally, but he has blotted his copybook on vaccinations and PeeZee is gathering a lynch mob on his site. Perfectly reputable scientists who question climate change orthodoxy mysteriously become quacks and "science-deniers". Scientists who muse about whether hard data allows natural selection to explain what it claims to explain are instant creationists. Natural selection is straining badly from overreach and the Collge of Cardinals is not amused by the heresies. They are the ones on Gordon's scaffolding.

    The stereotype of the modest, diffident scientist was always a bit of a professional myth. After all, we are talking of people who are convinced they are uniquely qualified to pronounce on what is real and what is not and are the only ones who know how to tell the difference.

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  69. The point of my apology, Rus, is that it seemed the right thing to do. I don't want a fight.

    You see, I don't actually blame American scientists for getting snappy on this subject, though I'm surprised that those in this country seem to be sharing their paranoia. It's as Sexitoni points out. America has a problem with creationists getting their nonsense back onto the school curriculum, along with a whole raft of quacks having more influence in culture than the scientists. Here in Britain, we haven't yet succumbed to Scientology (though people believe celebrities more than they do experts) and, I think, we are a whole lot more sceptical about religion. We aren't so uptight and perhaps have a more open attitude to questions posed by religion (or art) not answered by science.

    Myself, I don’t have any religion but I did start out in science only to move to the arts where my interest has always been the moral case for art. It might be some old division between the heart and the head, and science might explain it by some chemical imbalance or a yearning for the mother's teat, but none of this helps us advance ourselves in the everyday world. My belief is that we exist through science but we live through art, though Byron puts it better in 'Manfred' when he says that 'The tree of knowledge is not that of life.'

    It's the other moment of literature that I hold close. The end of 'Heart of Darkness' when Marlow must choose between the truth and a lie. One expresses the state of the universe (of Kurtz's nihilism) whilst the other made living better. Religion is the lie that makes living feel better. The problem occurs when some people can't live with this inner paradox and forget that it is a lie.

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  70. Malty said:

    "and what will science do when it exhausts all possible permutations and says, 'this is it, this is the ultimate theory, we can go no further everything is known, we are triumphant.'
    Will it put away its computers, colliders, retorts and chalk, lock the door and walk away? if not, what?

    Will it like many before turn to more spiritual matters, having saved the human race it will have a legitimate claim to the name God, will it not.

    Science is a tool, an important one but still just a tool. It is a shame that it sometimes forgets this, plain folk may think that it is claiming the title God before it has earned it."

    Science is the application of scientific method, i.e. the making of predictive models. That's it.
    As you say, it's a tool. A tool to provide the best possible answer to that most pressing of questions: what happens next?

    I think you might be confusing this with the claims of some scientists - "knowing the mind of God" etc. Naff all to do with science.

    There can never be an ultimate theory. There are only theories, necessarily incomplete because we cannot know everything. Even if we did, we wouldn't know it! (elementary set theory tells us this).

    We don't have to invoke the metaphysical to realise there are pretty obvious limitations to science. Low event phenomena: if it doesn't happen very often, it's bloody difficult to form a pattern leading to a testable theory. Ghosts & UFOs fall into this category.
    Extreme complexity: the advent of computers has increased our ability to model highly interactive situations, but the probability of getting it right inevitably drops as more constituents with more degrees of freedom enter the scenario. Weather forecasting & economics spring to mind.

    Science can never claim to "save the human race". It doesn't 'do' anything. It simply provides us with the best available knowledge about the physical world.
    What we do with that knowledge is up to us.

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  71. All of which is true, Traherne - obviously, almost trivially so, if all things were equal and science operated in a vacuum.

    But, as Peter has pointed out, science is actually practised in the real world by scientists, who are human beings and therefore subject to all of humanity's sorry foibles, including arrogance, professional jealousy, the desire for fame etc.

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  72. "All of which is true, Traherne - obviously, almost trivially so, if all things were equal and science operated in a vacuum.

    But, as Peter has pointed out, science is actually practised in the real world by scientists, who are human beings and therefore subject to all of humanity's sorry foibles, including arrogance, professional jealousy, the desire for fame etc."

    Absolutely. But the wonderful thing is, anyone is at liberty to dispute any scientist's theory - by producing a theory which works better (or showing that the data has been fabricated).

    Interestingly (well, to me), this is all tied up with sanity & democracy.

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  73. Where do you rank PZ Myers on the sanity chart?

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  74. But the wonderful thing is, anyone is at liberty to dispute any scientist's theory - by producing a theory which works better (or showing that the data has been fabricated).

    More of the party line. Leaving aside to-the-death internecine squabbles among scientists, that shibboleth is often nothing more than a hamfisted argument from authority designed to make us cower. There is absolutely no reason why anyone doubting the latest scientific pronouncement should be obligated to come up with an alternative theory. Plausibility, coherence, experience, etc. can be perfectly justified reasons to dissent.

    My favourite just-so story (and I've got a lot) is of the dude who got press with his "research" suggesting women evolved blond hair to compete for a dwinding supply of mammoth hunters to care for their offspring. He managed to be racist, sexist and preposterous all at once. Are you suggesting I'm under some obligation to give such nonsense credence until I can come up with an alternative theory?

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  75. "More of the party line. Leaving aside to-the-death internecine squabbles among scientists, that shibboleth is often nothing more than a hamfisted argument from authority designed to make us cower. There is absolutely no reason why anyone doubting the latest scientific pronouncement should be obligated to come up with an alternative theory. Plausibility, coherence, experience, etc. can be perfectly justified reasons to dissent.

    My favourite just-so story (and I've got a lot) is of the dude who got press with his "research" suggesting women evolved blond hair to compete for a dwinding supply of mammoth hunters to care for their offspring. He managed to be racist, sexist and preposterous all at once. Are you suggesting I'm under some obligation to give such nonsense credence until I can come up with an alternative theory?"

    Yes

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  76. Where do you rank PZ Myers on the sanity chart?

    With this fellow.

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  77. Hi Willard,

    The point of my questioning FishyFred, was to get to his points.

    Science, by the way, has only been able to deal with what is physical, and has a hard time approaching the spiritual. It simply cannot get there and maintain to apply scientific method. Thus, it is very impotent. The spiritual is what we are, what we are made of. The physical is what we observe from what we are.

    Yours,
    Rus

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  78. Rus said:

    Science, by the way, has only been able to deal with what is physical, and has a hard time approaching the spiritual. It simply cannot get there and maintain to apply scientific method. Thus, it is very impotent. The spiritual is what we are, what we are made of. The physical is what we observe from what we are.

    It doesn't have a hard time, it has no time & can say zip about it. To say "the spiritual is what we are, what we are made of" is not very helpful; if the spiritual can be detected in the physical world then we can examine its effects & form some conclusions about it, if not it remains an assertion for which you can claim any property you like.

    One idea of Wm. Blake's that never ceases to blow me away is:

    "Man has no Body distinct from his Soul; for that called Body is a portion of Soul discerned by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age."

    It's a fantastic idea that turns the notion of the soul as a little wispy thing trapped in the body completely upside down.

    But I promise I won't kill you if you don't believe it .....

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  79. Forgive me if what follows sounds naive and I know I risk sounding like I have religion, which I repeat I do not. However, I have to ask: does science deny the existence of the spiritual? I would assume that it would. Read a poem which moves you in certain ways and it's certain neurons firing, chemicals released, psychological processes beginning... Does this knowledge then help us read poetry? Applied to religion or ethics, does this knowledge help us make moral decisions?

    If so, then a machine complicated enough to replicate these physical processes would surely have intelligence, self-awareness, morals, and even a soul.

    I don't ask this out of a sense of knowing the answer or forwarding a position but simply from the point of view of being interested in your answers.

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  80. Thanks Traherne. You've answered my question before it's even been posted. That's helpful.

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  81. A word of advice: If you wish to avoid being mistaken for one of the pseudoscience crowd, you should be judicious in use of the phrase party line for received science. It's kind of a mark.

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  82. Plausibility, coherence, experience, etc. can be perfectly justified reasons to dissent.

    Actually, no, they aren't. Otherwise Einstein's Theory of Relativity would have been thrown out the window. But the example you gave is absurd because it isn't a scientific theory. It is one guy proposing an idea without any supporting evidence. It is no different than if I proposed that I wrote all of Shakespeare's plays and my wife wrote all his sonnets. Great, but what evidence do I have to support this theory? There is no reason that you must propose an alternative theory. You only have to show that I have no evidence or that the evidence I do produce is wrong. If this guy's theories about blondes are absurd TO YOU, that is great but rejecting his theory on those grounds is not science. Examining his evidence and showing that his evidence doesn't hold up is science.

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  83. and what will science do when it exhausts all possible permutations and says, 'this is it, this is the ultimate theory, we can go no further everything is known, we are triumphant.'

    In the words of Douglas Adams, "There is a theory which states that if ever for any reason anyone discovers what exactly the Universe is for and why it is here it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another that states that this has already happened."

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  84. Thanks Willard
    I was really hoping for some genuine spirit of enquiry on here - looks like you are too

    "If so, then a machine complicated enough to replicate these physical processes would surely have intelligence, self-awareness, morals, and even a soul."

    Couldn't resist a silly joke here:
    "That rings a bell 'T-u-uring! T-u-uring!'"
    Apologies.

    But yes, absolutely. There is the possibility that man is an extraordinarily complex machine. (I do have problems with arts graduates who tend to think a fridge & a tv are both just "mere machines" & therefore equally trivial - incidentally, have you ever seen the clip of Bjork dismantling a tv? Brilliant!!)
    In fact, it may be possible to form a useful mechanistic model of a man at some future time, although I doubt it.

    I think I am, at bottom, a mystic. I don't believe we can possibly "know" the physical world any more than the metaphysical (Schopenhauer's 'things in themselves'?).
    I have a strange duality about the World - which is ironic, because wave/particle duality is one of the reasons I can't swallow present physics (although it works).
    I think it may be conceivable that, since the Big Bang, all interactions were inevitable. This means no free will & no morality - I do actually believe we should replace morality with something more useful.

    BUT I suspect there's something entirely different going on ....

    Bryan, what's happened to my sanity of PZ Myers entry??

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  85. Religion is the lie that makes living feel better. The problem occurs when some people can't live with this inner paradox and forget that it is a lie.

    This is spot-on as you Brits say. The problem when you forget it is a lie, of course, is that it only makes living better for the people who believe the same as you. The rest get burned at the stake or blown up by suicide bombers.

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  86. If so, then a machine complicated enough to replicate these physical processes would surely have intelligence, self-awareness, morals, and even a soul.

    It's an interesting idea but since so many of us go through life and deny those qualities exist in our fellow humans, why do you think we would give them to a machine?

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  87. Yes, that's my main objection to Dr Rowan Williams - too much stake-burning.

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  88. Otherwise Einstein's Theory of Relativity would have been thrown out the window.

    No, Einstein's theory would have had to await empirical evidence that ordinary people could witness before being generally accepted, which it did at Hiroshima. People didn't come to accept germ theory because they were lacking a full-blown alternative theory based on cutting-edged research or they were wowed by lab experiments and scholarly papers, but because their antibiotics and vaccinations worked. Advocates of natural selection seem to expect it will be bought holus-bolus because they are screaming louder and disdaining naysayers.

    I think that these angry evolutionary biologists are suffering a bit from a Rodney Dangerfield syndrome. Dawkins at the start of his current book asks us to imagine a Latin scholar forced to field challenges to the "theory" that Rome existed. His point presumably (as with Russell's celestial teapot) is that no self-respecting scientist should have to waste time responding to such twaddle. He seems to have completely missed the significance of the fact that no one has ever believed in a celestial teapot or denied the existence of Rome.

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  89. Funny thing that business about a soul. I might have mentioned this before but I was reading about Peter Molyneux's work to create the Milo demo for the new Xbox Natal hardware which tracks physical movements. He wanted to make it lifelike and have the best AI responses as possible. His solution was to use lots of clever tricks such as a magician might use, such as misdirection, to give the illusion of intelligence rather than real intelligence. So, instead of answering a question, you ask a question of your own. Apparently, the hardware can recognise some facial expressions, so the character comments on your mood, etc. Apparently, it worked surprisingly well.

    I suppose poets would claim to have 'special' souls but, then again, reading much modern verse, they also have lead ears. But you make me wonder how many people have a genuine soul. So much of our behaviour is instinctive, based on repetition, constrained by social niceties, forced into narrow corridors of the expected. I could see an AI living as a commuter. It's those flights flights of fancy, like the armour clad angel in 'Brazil', I doubt they could do well. But then, perhaps they could. That's where I find it all gets a little frightening. Reminds me of Roger McGough's 'Poem', a program on my BBC Model B computer when I started out. It claimed to write unique poetry each time it ran. I always felt reassured that it was unique but hardly poetry.

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  90. traherne 'I think you might be confusing this with the claims of some scientists - "knowing the mind of God" etc. Naff all to do with science.'.
    You may have noticed that I deliberately used the word science and not scientists, lets call the scientific community 'the corporation' made up like any other of the good, bad and indifferent. This corporation is more and more drifting away from the person on the Clapham omnibus, it's company logo 'we are the way' its product the mantra.
    'only we have the knowledge, all else is false.'

    The bemusement that this causes is the very reason for this post, isn't it.

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  91. He seems to have completely missed the significance of the fact that no one has ever believed in a celestial teapot or denied the existence of Rome.

    And your point is what? It isn't scientists who are rejecting evolution. It is Joe Blow on the school board. Or a PhD in economics who read in Genesis about Noah. The fact is that there are people who insist that dinosaurs and humans existed at the same time and dinosaurs died off because they missed the boat (literally). So how should a scientist have to respond to this?

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  92. I might add that being expected to test your authority against the empirical reality of everyday life before demanding universal approbation from the general public is a good standard to hold religious authority to too. It also explains why that pesky old doctrine of free will remains robust and healthy despite the concerted efforts of tens of thousands of psychologists, marxists, biologists, sociologists, neuroscientists and even Calvinists to deny it.

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  93. Does a person in a coma have a soul? If I make a machine that perfectly reproduces the behavior of a person in a coma, does it have a soul?

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  94. The fact is that there are people who insist that dinosaurs and humans existed at the same time and dinosaurs died off because they missed the boat (literally). So how should a scientist have to respond to this?

    That they are wrong. But he shouldn't then pretend that Bryan or anyone else who challenges Darwinist orthodoxy or the scope of scientific materialism is in that camp or anywhere near it.

    Then perhaps he should ask himself why he even cares what they believe.

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  95. But he shouldn't then pretend that Bryan or anyone else who challenges Darwinist orthodoxy...

    Corrrect me if I'm wrong, but it's my understanding that neither Bryan nor his associates here have ever challenged "Darwinist orthodoxy" in the sense of rejecting features of conventional evolutionary theory. They just think that a lot of Darwinists are dicks. Do I have that right?

    Then perhaps he should ask himself why he even cares what they believe.

    Ah, yes, if you naturalists don't believe in anything more than this, you have nothing and, therefore, should care about nothing. Speaking of party lines!

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  96. Then perhaps he should ask himself why he even cares what they believe.

    He cares about what they believe because they sit on the school boards and decide what is going to be taught in our schools. He cares because they insist that their beliefs should be in the science text books. When what is truth is determined by popular vote then what they believe is very important.

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  97. But he shouldn't then pretend that Bryan or anyone else who challenges Darwinist orthodoxy...

    Bryan has gone beyond that. Bryan is quoting creationist claims such as that the eye is irreducible as if it is truth. Bryan is wrong and anyone with 15 minutes and a web browser should be able to figure that out. Bryan may not be sitting next to the guy who claims that humans and dinosaurs existed together but Bryan is sitting at the same table.

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  98. Bryan has gone beyond that. Bryan is quoting creationist claims such as that the eye is irreducible as if it is truth.

    I'm going to say that I don't believe you. Show me links to Bryan uttering such nonsense.

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  99. This is for traherne, whoever that is, who imagines that he has disposed of me on November 18, 11:49 AM, 2009.

    If I am daft then so are the following who have provided me with the raw material for a new hypothesis of organic evolution, one that recognizes that there has never been a role for chance in either ontogeny or phylogeny. In roughly chronological order and only a partial list:

    St. George Mivart, Robert Owen, Henry Fairfield Osborn, William Bateson, Reginld C. Punnett, Leo Berg, Robert Broom, Richard B. Goldschmidt, Otto Schindewolf and Pierre Grasse, each a leader in his field and not one an atheist or religious fanatic.

    Now if you want to take exception to my position you are welcome to do so on my weblog. However, to be heard you will have to register and drop your cowardly alias.

    Now you may go back to dominating this website with your hostile, meaningless, egocentric drivel.

    http://www.jadavison.wordpress.com

    "A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemostrable."

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  100. By the way traherne, whoever you may be. It is not Mr. Davison. It is Dr. Davison who earned his Ph.D. in zoology at the University of Minnesota in 1954. I won't inquire as to your credentials because if you had any they would have become public long ago and you wouldn't have to hide behind an alias.

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  101. Tom P.:

    The vagaries of U.S. constitutional law on education policy are interesting, as is your penchant for asking lower court judges to rule on the origins of life, but they really don't have a lot to do with philosphical objections to scientism or theoretical limits to natural selection.

    Bryan buggered up the eye? The horror!! If you don't nip this one in the bud, we'll all be practising voodoo next year and Bryan will be running an auto-da-fé.

    My gawd, man, listen to yourself. Why in the world do you get so excited when a non-scientist makes what you consider a mistake about some aspect of micro-evolution? What menacing heresy are you seeking to stamp out? Is there a table you would condemn me to sit at if I blew some detail of quantum mechanics?

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  102. traherne said:

    One idea of Wm. Blake's that never ceases to blow me away is:

    "Man has no Body distinct from his Soul; for that called Body is a portion of Soul discerned by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age."

    It's a fantastic idea that turns the notion of the soul as a little wispy thing trapped in the body completely upside down.

    But I promise I won't kill you if you don't believe it .....


    I too am a mystic. And yes, so was Blake. And yes, the whole thing should be turned upside down.

    To believe wholeheartedly in the physical world as the root of all, and then become scientific about it (or vice versa), can lead to a denial of God based on assumptions. Sure. Hopefully God can take care of his own side of the argument for the time being anyway.

    What it also does is subtract people from the equation, you and me, whether we are in the form of souls or selves, or whatever. We spiritual beings do not exist for all our spiritual worth, we become observed beings. Our subjectivity is downgraded (we subjective people who observe), as we become subjects being observed. Worst case scenarios occur when soldiers become mere pawns for the benefit of those in power, and the case of Nazi doctors. Things can get mighty bad for us when we become mere subjects. And this new movement using the banner of science is attempting to subtract us from the equation altogether except as the dust and the ashes we come from and go to. It is not so much the problem that thusly blinded science does not believe in God, but that it does not believe in Us.

    Someone at work today made a comment that elephants at first need to be strapped to a poll so that they will not wander. Then after time, they no longer wander, as if they are strapped to a poll. This psychology can be applied to those who strap themselves to the physical world, for study or hobby. There is discipline that is needed, the strap as it were, for the sake of science. But life is bigger than that.

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  103. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/science/article5488488.ece

    "I'm going to say that I don't believe you. Show me links to Bryan uttering such nonsense."

    The article linked above has Bryan "uttering such nonsense." The odd thing ab out your comment is that this whole discussion is about that article. It is that article that Dr. Myers tore apart in his blog.

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  104. "Is there a table you would condemn me to sit at if I blew some detail of quantum mechanics?"

    Bryan did not "blow some detail" of evolution. He quoted an argument of creationists as if it was true in order to cast doubt on evolution.

    Dr. Myers tore Bryan's article apart. Bryan's article deserved to be torn apart. End of story.

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  105. Hi Rus

    Thanks for your comments. The problem with souls & the like is that, because their properties aren't testable, you can make them anything you want. They belong in the realm of the imagination - which does not mean they do not exist; after all, any scientific theory started off in someone's imagination, but a scientific theory which isn't, even in principle, testable in the real world (the one we can all agree upon) is meaningless.

    I suspect most of us have had moments of epiphany, moments when we feel as if we are looking "through" this world at something else, something beyond words. For me, this is bound up with Love. However, I am not going to use this as a basis for actions contra the way the physical world has been shown to work, & I would certainly not use it as a means of persuading others to follow a particular course of physical action.

    I also wonder if we are not being greedy; is a World, which can be so full of beauty if we only let it be so, really not enough?

    Oh, & apologies to Dr. Davison. I'll just go over here .....

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  106. as if it was true in order to cast doubt on evolution.

    No, in order to cast doubt on random, non-teleological, uncaused and undirected mutation by natural selection. Not the same thing at all. Your argument is typical of the Dennetts, Myers, etc. You quite understandably take on the biblical literalists who actually do deny science as having any accuracy or authority at all, but then conflate them with scientists who simply doubt whether unguided natural selection can do the work you claim it does. So an uneducated biblical literalist, an IDer like Behe positing underlying design (in other words, a modern Paley, who was much admired by Darwin) and a profound thinker and materialist like Jerry Fodor questionning the drivers all get lumped in together as some kind of devil-worshippers who will corrupt young minds.

    I hold no brief for Behe, but here is something I don't get at all. If I were a biologist training young minds, I would want to immerse them in Behe's arguments, if only to show how they can be countered. That's what someone truly confident in his theory would do. But even studying what the man has to say seems like attending a Black Mass for you. Evolution is indeed a fact, but the engine(s) that drive it are not. You seem to have talked yourself into a dangerous anti-intellectualism that is the antithesis of what science boasts it is about. Myers certainly has, you can tell by the screams.

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  107. Not only is THE eye irreducible, ALL eyes are irreducible. In the vertebrates alone, several means for achieving focus exist none of which can be derived from another. The whole notion of evolution collapases when we come to the origin of basic structures both intracellular and extracellular. The feathers of Archaeopteryx are indistinguishable from the feathers of a modern pigeon.

    The notion of evolution as a gradual process of transformation flies in the face of everything we know from the fossil record. Otto Schindewolf left no doubt about his position -

    "The first bird hatched from a reptilian egg...We might as well stop looking for the missing links a they never existed."
    quoted in Richard B. Goldschmidt's Material Basis of Evolution, page 395.

    It is only the "mechanism" by which evolution took place (past tense) that has ever been in question. The Darwinian scheme is totally inadequate

    There is no way that Darwin's fantasy can ever be reconciled with the testimony of the fossil record or the expermental laboratory. Only atheists refuse to come to grips with that conclusion. They are trapped in a congenital deficiency disease which renders them immune to reality, a malaise for which there is no known cure. They will never be able to accept a universe both animate and inanimate that was planned from beginning to end. They are pathetic.

    "A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five."
    Groucho Marx

    http://www.jadavison.wordpress.com

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  108. Hi traherne,

    You said:

    Thanks for your comments. The problem with souls & the like is that, because their properties aren't testable, you can make them anything you want. They belong in the realm of the imagination - which does not mean they do not exist; after all, any scientific theory started off in someone's imagination, but a scientific theory which isn't, even in principle, testable in the real world (the one we can all agree upon) is meaningless.

    If what we mean by my soul is that spiritual stuff that makes me me, then even though it is true that the properties are not testable, that doesn't mean souls, if you have one too, are in the realm of what we would term "imagination." That would mean that the reason I exist is that I am imagining me. That also puts the entire testable physical world into the realm of the imagination, because that is "observed" by me, who is self-imaginary in the first place. That "observed" is placed into quotes, because the "physical" world (what we also call the "real world") would be created by me through my imagination.

    It may be true that we create the physical world, and that we sustain it each and every moment as it derives from us. But our selves also may come from some larger Self, or pool of soulstuff. We can never quite "touch" the physical world (if it exists as such) because it must be "turned" into its mental aspects for us first, so that we can perceive it. The physical world seems more a degraded reflection of what makes us up, but yet it is how we are able to share each other with each other. It contains only those aspects of each other that we could each possibly perceive from each other, what aspects of all of us intersect.

    If you call such an spiritual world "imaginary" and the resulting physical world "real", then the imaginary tales primacy over the real. So it is best not to call our spiritual selves "imaginary", and leave that word for what we the perceivers are able to dream. Such a definition gives meaning to the real world as the physical world.

    You said:

    I suspect most of us have had moments of epiphany, moments when we feel as if we are looking "through" this world at something else, something beyond words. For me, this is bound up with Love. However, I am not going to use this as a basis for actions contra the way the physical world has been shown to work, & I would certainly not use it as a means of persuading others to follow a particular course of physical action.

    I'm not taken to evangelism either. Unless I am inspired to write a poem, I would not describe heaven. However, if I have a mystic experience such as has been categorized by William James, then I will say, yes, that happens to us, whether tube-testable or not. And by the latter, I also add, whether it is explainable by any secondary explanation, such as what science, with its limitations to the physical renderings only, could provide.

    Yours,
    Rus

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  109. There were gaping holes in his argument. He knew nothing of genes and he had not shown how perfection emerges. It’s all very well to talk of small mutations changing an organism, but how do such changes make, for example, an eye? Without all its bits and pieces, an eye does not work. It is, in the terms used by the biochemist Michael Behe, author of Darwin’s Black Box, “irreducibly complex”, beyond the reach of blind, random mutation.

    What this suggests to me is that Bryan finds Behe's con game to be useful, not that he's actually been taken in by the "design inference."

    There's a difference between being unable to understand the evidence, and being able to understand the evidence but choosing to act dishonorably.

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  110. Hi Rus:

    you said:


    If what we mean by my soul is that spiritual stuff that makes me me, then even though it is true that the properties are not testable, that doesn't mean souls, if you have one too, are in the realm of what we would term "imagination." That would mean that the reason I exist is that I am imagining me. That also puts the entire testable physical world into the realm of the imagination, because that is "observed" by me, who is self-imaginary in the first place. That "observed" is placed into quotes, because the "physical" world (what we also call the "real world") would be created by me through my imagination.

    It may be true that we create the physical world, and that we sustain it each and every moment as it derives from us. But our selves also may come from some larger Self, or pool of soulstuff. We can never quite "touch" the physical world (if it exists as such) because it must be "turned" into its mental aspects for us first, so that we can perceive it. The physical world seems more a degraded reflection of what makes us up, but yet it is how we are able to share each other with each other. It contains only those aspects of each other that we could each possibly perceive from each other, what aspects of all of us intersect.

    If you call such an spiritual world "imaginary" and the resulting physical world "real", then the imaginary tales primacy over the real. So it is best not to call our spiritual selves "imaginary", and leave that word for what we the perceivers are able to dream. Such a definition gives meaning to the real world as the physical world.

    Hmm. I don't follow the bit in bold. Yes souls may or may not be imaginary, but the principal reason I believe in my existence is that other people confirm this, as I confirm their independent existence &, similarly, the independent existence of a multitude of other physical objects.
    Now, there is the problem of solipsism (how to get round it). It used to trouble me greatly, but I think I've found a way round it.
    First question: what do we know? First mistake. The question should be: what is known? i.e. what is there that cannot be denied. Answer: not a lot. It comes down to:

    something is happening

    Whoopee. Not very promising. So what are the possible explanations for these happenings? I can only think of two
    1) There is only "me". This is all a dream, from which I may wake at any moment.

    Row, row, row your boat,
    Gently down the stream.
    Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
    Life is but a dream.

    2) There exists a world independent of myself, with properties I can characterise. If I were to be removed from this world, it would carry on much as before.
    Thus begins the concept of objective reality, & science is born.

    I can see no way of disproving 1) BUT I have realised that, by a Turing test sort of process, it doesn't really matter; I can easily demonstrate that the apparent world is not under my conscious control (I am not as rich as Warren Buffet & the face I see in the mirror is not that of Paul Newman). OK, so my unconscious mind may be running things, completely disconnected from my conscious mind.
    In which case, does it matter? If the behaviour of my imaginary physical world is governed by something beyond my control, it doesn't matter where it is. Best simply to get on with it.

    "If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thru' narrow chinks of his cavern."

    Yours
    Traherne

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  111. Aaarghhh! Somebody stole my italics!
    They were there in Wordpad.
    Anybody know to do it?

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  112. I agree with our host, Brian Appleyard, about this dog and pony show -

    "This is wonderful."

    It is hard to believe isn't it?

    Not at all. It is a matter of record.

    I love it so!

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  113. Traherne - an i in pointy brackets, then your text, then /i in pointy brackets.

    ----

    Kynefski, I think, makes the most pertinent point: Corrrect me if I'm wrong, but it's my understanding that neither Bryan nor his associates here have ever challenged "Darwinist orthodoxy" in the sense of rejecting features of conventional evolutionary theory. They just think that a lot of Darwinists are dicks. Do I have that right?

    You do. My view, and I said this on here at the time, was that the article in the ST was cut in such a way as to be too generous to Behe. But it was only an article in the ST, there's no reason to be a dick about it. PeeZee was a dick about it, which proves our point about the dicks.

    But that's just PeeZee being PeeZee, ie. a dick. He can't help it. The worst offender in this saga is Doc McCabe, who has been here long enough to know that Bryan is neither a creationist nor an ID theorist, and therefore should know better than to be such a dick about it.

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  114. But it was only an article in the ST, there's no reason to be a dick about it.

    So articles in the ST don't count? Was Bryan crossing his fingers when he wrote it? If Bryan is going to quote creationist arguments and claim they are correct then Bryan should expect to get some mud thrown on him. Dr. Myers is not going to swoon because the author is THE Bryan Appleyard. Bryan's article helped to dumb down the public. He should be ashamed of it and apologize for it.

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  115. Oh get over yourself, Tom P.

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  116. I think what we are witnessing here Brit is the inexorable march of volume.
    Thos P, a Manky ex grammar school boy with a prose dependency habit, semi resident in Norfolk and recently accused of heresy may prefer to have mud thrown at him, rather than on him, the difference is subtle, a commodity that seems somewhat lacking the further I scroll down this post.

    Style Uber Alles

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  117. And when Tom P demands an aplogy, he won't be satisfied with half-hearted measures:

    I, Bryan Appleyard, hereby acknowledge and admit that, although being of sound body and mind, I did willfully and intentionally quote a biologist named Behe on the historical genetic mutations and evolution of eye, knowing that the said Behe is not only considered to be in error by the Holy Darwinist Order, but an enemy of Science and a member of the heretical sect known widely as creationsts. I confess I did so recklessly, contumaciously and within earshot of children. I swear before Almighty..err...in the name of phenotypes everywhere that I will never write about evolution again without first submitting such work to Dr. McCabe and PZ Myers for approval and authorization, in order to better ensure young biologists stray not off the Darwinist path and further advance happiness and progress across the land. Let this unreserved apology be read three times in science classes throughout the nation as a warning to all spiritual deviants and science-deniers.

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  118. What I find most amusing is that when you claim "Bryan would never write anything like that" and then when I point out the article in question I become some sort of persona non grata. I guess it is much better to go through life in ignorance rather than being shown that your idols are mere humans.

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  119. You don't have to be a religious fanatic to recognize the absurdity of the Darwinian proposition.

    I hope others will join with me by challenging the Dawkins/Myers dynamic duo to public confrontation on their turf or mine or anyone else's who recognize them for what they are, a pair of intolerant, hatemongering, self absorbed intellectual disasters neither of whom has ever contributed a scintilla to the only question which has ever been in doubt - the "mechanism" of a long ago terminated organic evolution.

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  120. Many people share a conviction that theism is foundational to our cultural morality, and wish to see it sustained. They may observe that, over the past 150 years, Darwinian evolutionary theory has had the effect of corroding support for theism, and wish to limit that corrosion by confronting evolutionary theory. The endeavor may be intellectually dishonest to the extent that its purveyors fabricate "controversies", or suggest that the depravities of the twentieth century can be attributed to a scientific theory. But, hey, we're talking about the foundation of our cultural morality here. What's a little intellectual dishonesty?

    I can understand how these protectors of our civilization would find Paul Myers hopelessly naïve when he says, The lesson should be, "Don't lie to your kids," not "Silence the people who would reveal that you lied to your kids," or worse, "Lie harder."

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  121. And when Tom P demands an aplogy...

    Perhaps you don't appreciate how gratifying we find your tone.

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  122. Not enough, Peter the confessor, Dr Strangecabe is demanding the deff penalty, allegedly a trial run was carried out after Strangecabe visited the SummerIsle with a group of open minded coven dwellers from CERN, Rowan was in attendance, much to the surprise of Sergeant Neil Howie.

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  123. Hi traherne,

    I will pick up where you say "Yes souls may or may not be imaginary . . ." Even if our souls are created through what can be the imagination of some larger pool of self-stuff, it does not help matters to call us imaginary. That would mean that the only perceivers of some physical world would be imaginary.

    Imagine having a dream in which you have an imaginary friend. That imaginary friend is not perceiving a real world, but an apparition. Now, we should not term the dreamer as being imaginary, even if each of us comes from an imagination. Souls or selves, therefore, should not be termed as imaginary, without begging for conflation. We need to start somewhere, that something actually exists: our spiritual, perceiving selves. I begin with me, as you begin with you. Everything else can be argued to be an apparition, including our bodies, and we may not be what we appear to be soul-wise, but one thing is for sure, I am spiritual and I exist.

    I do not need you or anyone else to confirm that I exist before I know that I do. That the philosophy of solipsism works 100%, which it does, means that you may not exist other than in my imagination. The game we play, the game that I play in my even discussing this with you, is to assume that solipsism is not the case, and, unless autistic, we each decide to believe in each other. It's a fool's bet, but that's life.

    I have decided to take you at "face" value, and so address you. There being a you sharing this reality with me, all I can perceive about you is that which intersects with what I am. If you are a greater being than me, I am unable to perceive that. I am limited by the minor being that I am. The physical world serves the function of allowing us to intersect with each other, and in fact may project from us or through us.

    You said:

    If I were to be removed from this world, it would carry on much as before.
    Thus begins the concept of objective reality, & science is born.


    If we each were to die, then without any perceivers to perceive it, the lights may go out, and the universe disappear. While we are "here", we may share a concept of objective reality, until the omega person. We created science to study this concept.

    To note, if a hypothesis cannot be tested, it is cast aside by science and considered philosophy--or even "real". With this line of thinking, if there are no scientists, then there is no science, and no reality.

    Let's say there are two identical twins, Bill and Theo, who were born within a rare second of each other, and who have always been in the same area doing the same things, eating, sleeping, going to school, playing outside. They have been raised as identically as two people can be socialized, opting out of any activity that would mean different points of view.

    The time comes for them to get jobs. There are none available for the two of them together. There is an opening for a biologist, and one for a theologist. So Bill takes the biologist position, and Theo becomes a theologist.

    Bill becomes a dedicated scientist, with no time to discuss anything that cannot be tested. He seeks out hypotheses that he can test, and does so. If you ask him about string theory or if there is a God, he replies that he cannot at this time believe in such things, because they cannot be tested. He believes in plants and animals, and genes. In twenty years, he gets the Nobel Prize.

    Theo is doing the same across town, believing in G-d and the spiritual side of life, prayer, mystical experiences, and how scripture and teachings have benefited us. He looks for the right path, and works for peace. If you ask him during his busy daily routine about whether there is evolution, or the cure his brother is close to, ors of string theory, he has no time for that. He too receives the Nobel Prize the same year.

    The twins retire on their prize money, and go on as they were before, with the same beliefs for the rest of their time on this crazy planet. And yes, they die together, with the same fate.

    Yours,
    Rus

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  124. Wrong again, Tom P.

    My only idol is Enderby and Malty's idol, as we all know, is AA Gill. I'm fairly sure that Peter's idol is either GK Chesterton or me.

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  125. kynefski:

    And the cock crowed thrice! You may not like my references to party lines, but you have won the trifecta in your 9:51pm post. You see, at bottom, your case hangs on the proposition that scientists are almost a different--pardon the expression- species than the rest of us. Over here, confused and troubled souls with humanities degrees are worried more about defending something called cultural morality, which of course rests on a plinth of superstition and irrationality, than they are about knowledge. The fossil record be damned, young people are simply getting too much these days and it's all Dawkins's fault! If we have to tell the kids a whopper or two, well, it's only for their greater good. But over there pure and selfless minds have been cleansed by Biology 101 and speak only unvarnished eternal and empirical truth, preferably with a becoming tone of resignation and wistfulness. Heavy hangs the head that holds the microscope, no?

    You may see yourself as a follower of Darwin, but you are slipping into a rather vulgar Freudianism that mysteriously only seems to apply to the little people.

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  126. Perhaps you don't appreciate how gratifying we find your tone.

    And how hard do you have to rub the speakers against the monitor to get my tone?

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  127. And how hard do you have to rub the speakers against the monitor to get my tone?

    I believe you will find, Tom, that the comment, referring to a manner of expression in writing, was addressed to another, by whom I have been properly upbraided, and to whom I would point out that cultural morality most decidedly does not rest on superstition and irrationality.

    In any event, do you live to be offended, man?

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  128. In any event, do you live to be offended, man?

    No, but fooling others into thinking I am offended is the only thing that makes life worth living.

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  129. Hi Rus

    I've been going round in ever decreasing circles (with the inevitable consequence!) & ultimately this is all I can come up with:


    What you seem to be proposing is a sort of 'super-solipsism', where a group of souls call into being a physical world which does not exist independently of themselves.
    This means that the universe had no physical existence until an observer came into being. No stars, no planets, nothing. It sounds like the old argument about the leaf falling in the forest. On the grounds that I can build a useful predictive model about the behaviour of deciduous trees in winter, I think the leaf fell.

    I have no problem with the concept of a soul, but its existence remains an assertion, & different people assert different things about it. So, for me, it remains a wonderful idea, which, since I cannot provide physical evidence for it, I would not expect to influence anyone else's physical actions.

    Cheers
    Traherne

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  130. Hi traherne,

    What I propose is simply one way of looking at who we indeed are, one possibility, and much more reasonable than that the physical world exists and soulstuff oozes or gets generated from it to make us. We've looked in the brain and never found such a generating plant. We'd need to see the subatomic version of that theory, or the supernova one. It turns quickly into malarkey. So since that doesn't work, what are we left with? We are left somewhat alone with our individual solipsisms, since it is the physical world that we share, not our spiritual. We cannot really read each others' mind or minds.

    Sure, you cannot find physical evidence for the soulstuff that makes you up. It has been futile trying these past centuries. Whether the evidence that it is what you are made of changes anything you do, is up to you.

    Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one. ---Albert Einstein

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  131. Charles Robert Darwin was monumentally ignorant in mathematics, any language other than English, and the history of evolutionary thought prior to his own disastrous proposition. He was a joke, a persistent disgrace to British science. That such an intellectual lightweight became a cult leader for congenital atheists is without question the greatest mystery in the history of human communication.

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  132. Oh how I wish that Paul Zachary "random ejaculations from a godless liberal" Myers would "take me one." Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.

    I am confident that the nasty little character assassin dares not leave the confines of his hideous little ghetto. He is the consummate schoolyard cowardly bully. Without his herd of anonymous, foul mouthed, sycophantic, sickofans he is a zero, a non entity, an intellectual parasite of absolutely no value whatsoever to the progress of science and a potent obstacle to it. He and Dawkins are already zombies in the serious evolutionary literature, neither ever having contributed a scintilla to our understanding of the only matter which has ever been in question - the "mechanism" by which organic evolution once took place.

    "Aren't our plants, our animals lacking some mechanisms which were present in the early flora and fauna?"
    Pierre Grasse, Evolution of Living Animals, page 71.

    Note the contradiction between Grasse's statement and the title of his book.

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  133. The arrival of John A. Davison in any thread discussing evolution is a universally understood sign that the discussion has run its course and we should all retire to more pleasurable and productive endeavors.

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  134. I am confident that the nasty little character assassin dares not leave the confines of his hideous little ghetto.

    If you had the ability to read, you would know that Dr. Myers frequently appears on radio programs with creationists. In fact, he frequently appears on creationist radio programs. As to the University of Minnesota, Morris being a "ghetto" I am fairly certain that no one has described the university in those terms.

    As to "taking you one" I am sure Dr. Myers would be more than happy to make a fool out of you (although you do this very well yourself).

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  135. Bryan Appleyard

    I am disappointed that you allow anonymous character assassins prevail here. That renders your blog unacceptable for me as a venue for any participation. Fairwell and good luck. Before I leave, I offer you the following appraisal of the Darwinian fairy tale -

    http://jadavison.files.wordpress.com/2008/12/wwwd.pdf

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