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SkepticDoc
03-22-2010, 06:27 PM
The Moral Landscape

The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values (http://www.ted.com/talks/sam_harris_science_can_show_what_s_right.html)

Please feel free to comment on the TED website and to forward this link as widely as you can. I am very eager to get this conversation started.

Best,
Sam

JonIrenicus
03-22-2010, 07:14 PM
I like it so far, but then Sam was never one of those who advocated no objectivity in our formulations of ethics.

It's the kind of ethical framework I prefer to go along with. Unlike unthinking cultural relativism formulations it preserves the capacity to pass judgments, to make distinctions between better and worse actions. And that based on our common wiring, we CAN make broad statements about these distinctions that are Objective across the human population (save the exceptions that are wired differently - i.e. crazy) if not absolute across the universe.



You want to know why I have far fewer issues with passing judgment on the moral differences in societies like ours and radical islamic cultures? Because I hold the above to be true, I Reject an egalitarian model of ethical claims across cultures. I see some attitudes and beliefs are better or worse, more or less productive in achieving happiness and prosperity.

Me&theboys
03-23-2010, 11:37 AM
The Moral Landscape

The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values (http://www.ted.com/talks/sam_harris_science_can_show_what_s_right.html)

Thanks, Doc.

SkepticDoc
03-23-2010, 01:14 PM
Addition:

http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/FaceOff/

Look for "Nightline Face-Off: Does God Have a Future?"

cragger
03-23-2010, 01:59 PM
The talk seemed pretty light in real content, and heavy on rather vague generalities. The titular premise - that science can determine (good sets of) human values - appeared to consist entirely of defining the range of moral values to encompass things affecting "flourishing", itself a concept admitting multiple definitions and solutions with undefined boundaries to be subjectively determined.

Rather than offering any concrete relationship between science and morality, or method by which science might illuminate a choice between competing moral feelings, Harris offers trite examples: "serial killers are bad", "murdering rape victims is bad". For all its value as a cheap applause line, an undefined scientific approach to morality leads him to the profound conclusion that "optimum flourishing must be somewhere between" burqa wearing and T&A magazine covers. Really? Pretty deep stuff.

Through our widespread agreement about a few extreme examples, Harris implicitly invites us to project our particular moral feelings in general onto the world and consider that we are objectively right, with scientific factual backing, and that those who disagree with us are objectively wrong. The title of the talk notwithstanding, he relies heavily on the repeated emotional appeal that "We all agree that this is bad and wrong", and offers essentially nothing in terms of an objective toolset with which to examine moral feelings and values beyond group consensus. Specifics on how science can determine human values were conspicuously absent.

Ocean
03-23-2010, 05:35 PM
The talk seemed pretty light in real content, and heavy on rather vague generalities. The titular premise - that science can determine (good sets of) human values - appeared to consist entirely of defining the range of moral values to encompass things affecting "flourishing", itself a concept admitting multiple definitions and solutions with undefined boundaries to be subjectively determined.

Rather than offering any concrete relationship between science and morality, or method by which science might illuminate a choice between competing moral feelings, Harris offers trite examples: "serial killers are bad", "murdering rape victims is bad". For all its value as a cheap applause line, an undefined scientific approach to morality leads him to the profound conclusion that "optimum flourishing must be somewhere between" burqa wearing and T&A magazine covers. Really? Pretty deep stuff.

Through our widespread agreement about a few extreme examples, Harris implicitly invites us to project our particular moral feelings in general onto the world and consider that we are objectively right, with scientific factual backing, and that those who disagree with us are objectively wrong. The title of the talk notwithstanding, he relies heavily on the repeated emotional appeal that "We all agree that this is bad and wrong", and offers essentially nothing in terms of an objective toolset with which to examine moral feelings and values beyond group consensus. Specifics on how science can determine human values were conspicuously absent.

As much as I would like not to, I do agree with your comment. It could be argued that science can inform moral choices by providing data, if appropriate, on what kinds of outcomes could be expected. However, how much weight is given to each choice, or what gets sacrificed for some ulterior "good" continues to rely on a system of values that are separate from science. It's an important tool, but not the main executor of choice.

SkepticDoc
03-23-2010, 06:11 PM
We have to place a TED lecture in perspective, it boils down to a 15-20 minute "brain teaser" idea it is not a doctoral dissertation. Michael Shermer has written extensively on the subject, more than Harris, who cannot escape the "Islamic Obsession".

The purely materialist scientific approach can be a slippery slope, Medical Scientists have infected and killed higher Primates that are not that much more different from us, it takes a "spiritual" component to consider other H. sapiens that look different from us our equals.

How can we overcome our "hard-wired" tribalism instincts?

cragger
03-24-2010, 03:30 PM
Doc,

I have no problem with the fact that limitations of the format prevent extensive detailing of proof, etc. I just didn't hear anything at all that could be expanded upon. Harris's approach was to say "we widely agree about certain things" (his serial killer examples and so on) and then to jump to the conclusion that this proves morality is objective and those who disagree with us where we have consensus are as factually wrong as someone who holds silly opinions about facts of physics they don't understand. Somehow this comparison makes his thesis "science-y".

However much one may tend to agree with the extreme examples he selected to illustrate moral consensus, the idea that such consensus demonstrates objective reality is completely false. Halfway through US history one could have easily filled a lecture hall with folks who would agree that Africans were just farm animals, not human beings, or that women are too weak-minded to work in a professional capacity, run a business, or vote. We may have consensus regarding certain objective realities, but consensus itself does not indicate objective reality.

Harris's idea that things that promote "flourishing" are therefore good is just a vague expression of consequentialism/utilitarianism. We might agree that such philosophic systems are at least more rational than the theistic "because Odin says so!" systems he disparaged. But Harris offers no suggestion as to how the scientific method of determining repeatable, observable results might inform us as to the desirablity of such results in the face of competing moral feelings, how to resolve conflicts between the utility of consequences and categorical morality regarding acts (i.e. killing a healthy person to harvest the organs to save two lives) and so on. He offered no indication as to how science might be employed at all, nor any philosophical or other insights toward advancing either morality or the understanding of it. It's a rather harsh review to be sure, but had he just walked out and said "don't we all agree some things are bad?", the audience could have yelled "Hell yeah!" and he could have left the stage to a standing ovation having provided a rather equivalent amount of information and insight.

SkepticDoc
03-24-2010, 03:36 PM
I can only encourage you to post your questions and comments on the TED site, I think Sam will have some answers at the same time that he will raise more questions for all of us!

Starwatcher162536
03-24-2010, 03:42 PM
Finally got around to watching this one. My main complaint is that Harris seems to be conflating universality with objectivity. Even if every human agreed that X is evil, that does not mean X is objectively evil.

A mere survey does not change the universe. If humans evolved in a different environment that gave us a different set of actions that are considered bad, should that triviality force the entire universe to change? Can anything that relies on the whims of humans be considered objective?

At best, Harris will only be able to put together some form of analog to the luminosity function for morality. Just a survey.

SkepticDoc
03-25-2010, 06:40 PM
This a direct link to Sam Harris:

http://www.samharris.org/ted_talk/

Ask Sam directly!

JonIrenicus
03-26-2010, 02:45 AM
Finally got around to watching this one. My main complaint is that Harris seems to be conflating universality with objectivity. Even if every human agreed that X is evil, that does not mean X is objectively evil.

A mere survey does not change the universe. If humans evolved in a different environment that gave us a different set of actions that are considered bad, should that triviality force the entire universe to change? Can anything that relies on the whims of humans be considered objective?

At best, Harris will only be able to put together some form of analog to the luminosity function for morality. Just a survey.


If every human being agreed X was immoral, does that make X objectively immoral in an absolute sense throughout the universe or to a non human being wired a different way?


No.


But that is OK. We CAN say that for the human subset, such moral claims that are agreed upon by the vast majority of human beings is objectively moral within that subset.

Objective in a universal sense? no Objective in a human population? Yes.

I think such claims DO exist, and that is the basis of an objective formulation of ethics, an ethics which can stand against the charge of different cultural interpretations. An ethics that has the capacity to decide whether something is actually right or wrong, better or worse without being limp, feckless, and useless in terms of passing judgments.

popcorn_karate
03-26-2010, 03:22 AM
Objective in a universal sense? no Objective in a human population? Yes.

no. you re confusing "popular" with "objective". they actually mean different things.

bjkeefe
03-26-2010, 03:38 AM
Addition:

http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/FaceOff/

Look for "Nightline Face-Off: Does God Have a Future?"

Gotta love this image (http://a.abcnews.com/images/Nightline/abc_ntl_faceoff_04_100322_mc.jpg) next to this text:

http://a.abcnews.com/images/Nightline/abc_ntl_faceoff_04_100322_mc.jpg Michael Shermer clashes with Jean Houston and [Deepak] Chopra on new age rhetoric.

bjkeefe
03-26-2010, 03:40 AM
[....]

A good critique, especially in the context of how the talk was advertised; i.e., by its title and Sam's opening remarks.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed it quite a bit, even if all I can say is that I had a sense he was right. Perhaps we can think of it as laying down some of the foundation for a more ... rational? ... discussion of questions like how much we should, say, try to change how other cultures mistreat their women and girls. In any case, I didn't think it was quite as vague/superficial/banal/whatever as you did, cragger.

I am always just a bit uneasy when I listen to Sam go on in this vein, though, because no matter how much I think, "Yes, this makes sense to me," I can't stop imagining how his work (words) could be misappropriated by someone looking to "fix" another country. A eugenicist of culture, perhaps. And I do think Sam is just a tad overwrought when it comes to threats from the Muslins, although maybe he is more sincere in caring about all of humanity, as opposed to US/Western security, than I think.

That aside, I'd be happy if Sam's thinking about moral questions at least provided a counterweight of sorts to cultural relativism run amok. I am not sure how much of a problem this actually is -- e.g., I sometimes get the feeling that people who mouth phrases like "we must respect their culture" are just giving a convenient bumper sticker response to someone who is advocating invading a country and using dubious "human rights concerns" to bolster the position -- but it's probably not no problem at all.

Thanks for the link, Doc.

JonIrenicus
03-28-2010, 05:43 AM
no. you re confusing "popular" with "objective". they actually mean different things.

Objective is probably the wrong word, but so is the notion of it simply being "popular"


It is deeper than that, less.. fickle.



Is it wrong to torture a little girl?

Yes. This is commonly agreed upon across different cultures. If you want to dispute that then we can get more specific.


Is it wrong to torture a little girl for sexual pleasure?

Again, the answer is yes, there is no breathing room to bring in exceptions that call up greater good arguments. Yes in a universal sense? No, yes in the human reference frame? Yes.


The fact that such an act is universally seen as wrong, cross culturally, is more like an observation that humans see in color than an observation that says humans like chocolate more than vanilla.


Exceptions like the color blind to not disprove the rule. In a similar way, can we not make a case that there is some common basis for certain ethical judgments that go deeper than culture? That is more wired than learned?


Can we not make a case that based off things we know about human well being and happiness that certain behaviors and beliefs are more effective at producing happiness?


Basically, I expand the common ethical framework beyond the individual or culture, I assert that there is some common pool or ethics that all of humanity appeals to on some hard wired level.

bjkeefe
03-28-2010, 08:45 AM
[...] Basically, I expand the common ethical framework beyond the individual or culture, I assert that there is some common pool or ethics that all of humanity appeals to on some hard wired level.

Though I am often inclined to think that almost all of what is considered moral or ethical is dependent on the particular culture at the particular time, I agree with this -- the key word is almost. It does seem as though there some things that are universally true for humans, across cultures and different times.

Ocean
03-28-2010, 09:18 AM
Although there may be some behaviors that have been considered wrong during much of our history, first, we don't know for certain that they have always been considered wrong, and second, how many acts can we include in that group?

Torture, murder, rape were (and still are) considered acceptable behaviors under certain circumstances. How extreme or specific do you have to get to find any universally condemned acts?

Morality has developed over time and it tends to be communicated from culture to culture. You can argue that there is a set of moral principles that are agreed upon by the majority, by they are a convention, contingent and change over time.

Again, some acts may be biologically repulsive and more ubiquitous, but perhaps not too many.

bjkeefe
03-28-2010, 02:08 PM
Fight, fight! Start here (http://twitter.com/seanmcarroll/status/11201233209).

JonIrenicus
03-28-2010, 02:12 PM
Although there may be some behaviors that have been considered wrong during much of our history, first, we don't know for certain that they have always been considered wrong, and second, how many acts can we include in that group?

Torture, murder, rape were (and still are) considered acceptable behaviors under certain circumstances. How extreme or specific do you have to get to find any universally condemned acts?

Morality has developed over time and it tends to be communicated from culture to culture. You can argue that there is a set of moral principles that are agreed upon by the majority, by they are a convention, contingent and change over time.

Again, some acts may be biologically repulsive and more ubiquitous, but perhaps not too many.

It's probably true that even when rape and torture was more tolerated, it was still cause for anger and revenge for kin. I don't think human beings were ever indifferent if it was happening to them or someone they knew and cared about, or were simply related to.


Knowing this, the idea of expanding the sphere of concern beyond basic kin seems like a useful strategy. It works on something built into our wiring and exploits it to get a better benefit to more people outside our inner circles.

That having that type of strategy is a superior way of minimizing conflict and vice and violence etc. etc.


And we also need to be able to say clearly, that when individuals or societies are behaving in a way that divides people, that dismisses their humanity and places no worth in them, they are behaving badly.


Not just "differently" than we do, but WORSE than we do. We do not need to cede all the ethical weight and force behind our condemnations to the religious who appeal to an ancient desert God. So far, too many secular people have in the name of a relativistic ethical framework that makes NO distinction between better and worse.

So while it is harder for secular people to come up with rationales as they cannot appeal to the simplistic "because God said so" we need to.

Ocean
03-28-2010, 02:22 PM
Knowing this, the idea of expanding the sphere of concern beyond basic kin seems like a useful strategy. It works on something built into our wiring and exploits it to get a better benefit to more people outside our inner circles.



Expanding the circle is a notion that can be followed as a rule of thumb. But it needs to be well understood and refined, because the most difficult moral dilemmas arise from encountering contradictory sets of moral values. Which set will prevail and which will get sacrificed doesn't necessarily follow from the expanding circle which would include both.

SkepticDoc
03-29-2010, 06:18 PM
Sam's response:

http://www.project-reason.org/newsfeed/item/moral_confusion_in_the_name_of_science3/

bjkeefe
03-29-2010, 06:24 PM
Sam's response:

http://www.project-reason.org/newsfeed/item/moral_confusion_in_the_name_of_science3/

Heh. I was just about to post that same link. You must follow him on Twitter, too!

SkepticDoc
03-29-2010, 06:27 PM
Heh. I was just about to post that same link. You must follow him on Twitter, too!

Scary...:)

cragger
03-29-2010, 07:33 PM
That link is a pretty painful mass of words to wade through. A lot of shotgun attacks against what may or may not be straw men, since I haven't read every comment he may be atempting to refute, considerable use of what I consider false equivalances, and nothing that expanded on his TED talk in terms of presenting any sort of coherent position beyond the insistence that there just must be objective moral reality because, well, there just must be - Ted Bundy! Burqas! Yet again. The more extreme the examples, the more emotional agreement reached, and so what? Overall, the linked post reminds me of, what do they call it, the Gish Gallop?

His insistence that this is somehow science seems to rest entirely on his insistence that some subset of our moral intuitiions relates to wellbeing. All of which still sounds like consequentialism/utilitarianism poorly expressed and dressed up in fervent insistence that he has found a Great Truth. If there is anything to his thesis that expands upon existing moral philosophy he has again failed to express it, or I have again failed to hear it.

I heard and read nothing that would incline me to buy the book he is pitching in the hope that he has anything new to say, or a clearer or more persuasive way of re-arguing existing philosophies. Sorry to dump on someone you two apparantly like, but wheew. I need to go bake some fish just to recover from reading that link.

popcorn_karate
03-29-2010, 07:39 PM
That link is a pretty painful mass of words to wade through. A lot of shotgun attacks against what may or may not be straw men, since I haven't read every comment he may be atempting to refute, considerable use of what I consider false equivalances, and nothing that expanded on his TED talk in terms of presenting any sort of coherent position beyond the insistence that there just must be objective moral reality because, well, there just must be - Ted Bundy! Burqas! Yet again. The more extreme the examples, the more emotional agreement reached, and so what? Overall, the linked post reminds me of, what do they call it, the Gish Gallop?

His insistence that this is somehow science seems to rest entirely on his insistence that some subset of our moral intuitiions relates to wellbeing. All of which still sounds like consequentialism/utilitarianism poorly expressed and dressed up in fervent insistence that he has found a Great Truth. If there is anything to his thesis that expands upon existing moral philosophy he has again failed to express it, or I have again failed to hear it.

I heard and read nothing that would incline me to buy the book he is pitching in the hope that he has anything new to say, or a clearer or more persuasive way of re-arguing existing philosophies. Sorry to dump on someone you two apparantly like, but wheew. I need to go bake some fish just to recover from reading that link.

same here, except that i'll be making fish tacos. mmm mmm

JonIrenicus
03-29-2010, 07:53 PM
That link is a pretty painful mass of words to wade through. A lot of shotgun attacks against what may or may not be straw men, since I haven't read every comment he may be atempting to refute, considerable use of what I consider false equivalances, and nothing that expanded on his TED talk in terms of presenting any sort of coherent position beyond the insistence that there just must be objective moral reality because, well, there just must be - Ted Bundy! Burqas! Yet again. The more extreme the examples, the more emotional agreement reached, and so what? Overall, the linked post reminds me of, what do they call it, the Gish Gallop?

His insistence that this is somehow science seems to rest entirely on his insistence that some subset of our moral intuitiions relates to wellbeing. All of which still sounds like consequentialism/utilitarianism poorly expressed and dressed up in fervent insistence that he has found a Great Truth. If there is anything to his thesis that expands upon existing moral philosophy he has again failed to express it, or I have again failed to hear it.

I heard and read nothing that would incline me to buy the book he is pitching in the hope that he has anything new to say, or a clearer or more persuasive way of re-arguing existing philosophies. Sorry to dump on someone you two apparantly like, but wheew. I need to go bake some fish just to recover from reading that link.



The Bundy case was an example people might use to discount a more or less objective intuition of basic moral commonality (i.e. murdering someone and having sex with a corpse = distasteful and bad).


A case where the "well being and happiness" is actually gained by acts that go against the vast majority of how normal human beings are wired.


And the people who bring him up are both right and wrong. Right in the sense that there is no universal measurement of right and wrong, not everything makes all human beings, let alone all sentient creatures in the universe happy or contented.


The counter, and why such people are wrong in a practical sense, is that we CAN say that certain actions and behaviors are bad for the health and well being for the majority of human beings on this earth. That MOST human beings are not wired like Ted Bundy, that there is SOME common set of shared intuitions put in their by our biology and that that can be a sort of foundation for common moral intuitions.


This is NOT a grand ethical theory, simply a foundation more stable than complete air like many secular people base their ethics on, whatever a culture says. As if the human animal is a blank slate of ethical parchment that can have ANYthing written into it with equal ease, as if ALL ethical frameworks produce the same outcomes in terms of happiness and wellbeing and justice and etc etc.


THAT is wrong. And THAT is something that can be informed from a more detailed analysis of the brain and yes, competing theories of better ethical models.


It allows us to have more force when we say that treating women in a culture as a slave class is a WORSE than a system with more parity, that on certain metrics of happiness and other things cultures and societies SAY THEY WANT, NOT all strategies and norms are equally efficient and beneficial.

That is the gist of his argument, though he is surprisingly more nebulous in making it than I am, which is not an easy thing.


And in that I think he is right.

bjkeefe
03-29-2010, 07:57 PM
Sorry to dump on someone you two apparantly like, but wheew.

As far as I'm concerned, don't worry about it. This aspect of his thought doesn't do much for me, either. I like him as an outspoken atheist and critic of religion, that's all.

SkepticDoc
03-29-2010, 07:57 PM
I think Sam would make an interesting diavlog, would Bob be the best partner?

Ocean
03-29-2010, 08:27 PM
That link is a pretty painful mass of words to wade through. A lot of shotgun attacks against what may or may not be straw men, since I haven't read every comment he may be atempting to refute, considerable use of what I consider false equivalances, and nothing that expanded on his TED talk in terms of presenting any sort of coherent position beyond the insistence that there just must be objective moral reality because, well, there just must be - Ted Bundy! Burqas! Yet again. The more extreme the examples, the more emotional agreement reached, and so what? Overall, the linked post reminds me of, what do they call it, the Gish Gallop?

His insistence that this is somehow science seems to rest entirely on his insistence that some subset of our moral intuitiions relates to wellbeing. All of which still sounds like consequentialism/utilitarianism poorly expressed and dressed up in fervent insistence that he has found a Great Truth. If there is anything to his thesis that expands upon existing moral philosophy he has again failed to express it, or I have again failed to hear it.

I heard and read nothing that would incline me to buy the book he is pitching in the hope that he has anything new to say, or a clearer or more persuasive way of re-arguing existing philosophies. Sorry to dump on someone you two apparantly like, but wheew. I need to go bake some fish just to recover from reading that link.

I honestly gave it a try but couldn't read it all. Perhaps on a day other than a Monday. The premise seems to be that we can't trust our moral intuitions or moral consensus, so we need an external agent of checks and balances and that would be science because it can at least show a path to better outcomes. I'm just guessing. Truly.

popcorn_karate
03-29-2010, 09:01 PM
I honestly gave it a try but couldn't read it all. Perhaps on a day other than a Monday. The premise seems to be that we can't trust our moral intuitions or moral consensus, so we need an external agent of checks and balances and that would be science because it can at least show a path to better outcomes. I'm just guessing. Truly.

he says:

Everyone also has an intuitive “morality,” but much intuitive morality is wrong (with respect to the goal of maximizing personal and collective wellbeing) and only genuine moral experts would have a deep understanding of the causes and conditions of human and animal wellbeing.

so in Sam Harris' fantasy, you should suppress your own moral instincts in favor of the current scientific vogue.

Ocean
03-29-2010, 09:24 PM
he says:

Everyone also has an intuitive “morality,” but much intuitive morality is wrong (with respect to the goal of maximizing personal and collective wellbeing) and only genuine moral experts would have a deep understanding of the causes and conditions of human and animal wellbeing.

so in Sam Harris' fantasy, you should suppress your own moral instincts in favor of the current scientific vogue.

Let's analyze that statement.

The first part of his sentence is correct ("much intuitive morality is wrong"). He is not saying that all moral intuitions are wrong, but some.

Then he gives a definition (or a mission) for morality, which is what cragger was getting at as utilitarianism. He defines it in function of "maximizing personal and collective wellbeing". This is a key and questionable aspect of his proposal but he takes it for granted, without discussion, that it is the appropriate method for morality.

Then he introduces the idea of "genuine moral experts" who are in charge of having "a deep understanding of the causes and conditions of human and animal wellbeing." I guess these would be scientists measuring those conditions and establishing standards. Again, this is a possible tool that would inform moral choices, but it's questionable how practical it would be. It would have to be able to predict long term consequences of moral choices and it doesn't resolve moral dilemmas.

Don't know. SkepticDoc should be happy with all the discussion from these poor brains. Or at least my poor brain.

SkepticDoc
03-29-2010, 11:23 PM
"Be careful what you wish for, you may get it"

As I understand the scientific method, it relies on objective measurement of facts, theories to explain the interactions of the facts that can be subjected to experimentation for verification and replication of experiments by different independent scientists/researchers.

How are we going to define morality? ethics?

How about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

How are we going to prevent some conclusions like Peter Singer's elaborate ideas of animal rights, is that the scientific method's fate?
Would it be still ethical to conduct vivisection and animal experimentation?
Can we advance Medical Science without animal experiments?

Would we end up with the same Religious Institutions that have survived in our brief recorded history?

JonIrenicus
03-30-2010, 02:19 AM
"Be careful what you wish for, you may get it"

As I understand the scientific method, it relies on objective measurement of facts, theories to explain the interactions of the facts that can be subjected to experimentation for verification and replication of experiments by different independent scientists/researchers.

How are we going to define morality? ethics?

How about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

How are we going to prevent some conclusions like Peter Singer's elaborate ideas of animal rights, is that the scientific method's fate?
Would it be still ethical to conduct vivisection and animal experimentation?
Can we advance Medical Science without animal experiments?

Would we end up with the same Religious Institutions that have survived in our brief recorded history?


I think people are reading too much into this idea. It is not going to replace any ethical theories, or supplant peoples arguments about why X behavior is better and more ethical than y behavior.

All it aims to do is strengthen the idea of our common ethical intuitions into something slightly more universal than opinion slapped onto a blank ethical slate. Something less trivial and interchangeable than ones favorite flavor of ice cream, which seems to be what many cultural relativists conceive of as human ethics and morality.


In fact the problem is infinitely WORSE if you don't have some common framework of ethical intuitions at a deep level. Because if we do not, on what basis can our claims of right and wrong behavior in the world have any force? What does it mean to say genocide is wrong no matter who does it compared to simply when we do it?

Does this precept not have any weight beyond our own culture? Does it not apply across all cultures no matter what they may say or give as an excuse?


No? (not surprising why more secular people tend to be more tepid on criticizing bad behavior and attitudes from other cultures while a fractional offense from our own inspires a response 10 times as strong)


Such a crippled, limp wristed, feckless ethical framework should not be enough, and yet it is for far too many.

Ocean
03-30-2010, 07:21 AM
"Be careful what you wish for, you may get it"

As I understand the scientific method, it relies on objective measurement of facts, theories to explain the interactions of the facts that can be subjected to experimentation for verification and replication of experiments by different independent scientists/researchers.

How are we going to define morality? ethics?

How about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

How are we going to prevent some conclusions like Peter Singer's elaborate ideas of animal rights, is that the scientific method's fate?
Would it be still ethical to conduct vivisection and animal experimentation?
Can we advance Medical Science without animal experiments?

Would we end up with the same Religious Institutions that have survived in our brief recorded history?

You're mixing up so many topics above that I'm not sure where to start. But, first, science can inform morality (studying the biological, psychological and social origins of moral intuitions and values, as well as possible outcomes of moral decisions), and morality (ethics) can provide guidelines to scientific inquiry (limits to experimentation). Beyond that "right" and "wrong" are human, language constructs which are too ill defined to be subject to scientific inquiry. Cultures define right/wrong concepts. You can study how these concepts emerge or how they change over time. That's all. When you move on to decide what to do, how we should act, what's right or wrong now, that deliberative process has stepped out of science.

That's the core of the argument.

SkepticDoc
03-30-2010, 07:50 AM
The establishment of Social Groups has preceded "Science", I am fairly confident saying that that humanoids and higher primates have never used the scientific method to direct their behavior, packs of dogs and wolves have a sort of "society".

Is our interpretation of animal behavior tinted by our own ideas of ethics?

All Religions have been involved in War, murder and even genocide, they have been part of Human "Evolution" with all its failings, not even Buddhism has escaped the stain. ( argument in defense of Buddhism (http://flappingmouths.blogspot.com/2007/09/hitchens-zen-is-not-great.html) )

How are we going to reconcile the absence of facts for the foundations of all or most religions? Is Sam's latest idea an attempt for the "coup de grace" on all Religions, concentrating first on Islam?

Ocean
03-30-2010, 02:04 PM
How are we going to reconcile the absence of facts for the foundations of all or most religions? Is Sam's latest idea an attempt for the "coup de grace" on all Religions, concentrating first on Islam?

Even if I wanted to agree with your statement above, I wouldn't word it that way, since I don't see Sam Harris in a position of power to kill any religion. If your larger point is whether his position is consistent with an attempt to find foundations of morality outside religion, then I may agree.

When moral values are accepted because they are prescribed by a higher authority (read God and representatives), which can't be questioned or challenged, there isn't much that can be done to improve it, change it or adapt it to different circumstances. Perhaps Sam is trying to find a more rational moral authority in Science. I think that ultimately, we will have to accept that we are on our own to find an acceptable path to moral values, which can be informed by multiple other sources, including science, intuitions, contemplative practices, and the universal principles that have been articulated through religious writings. But the responsibility is ours and ours only to figure out what we want to call right and wrong.


Secular Humanism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secular_humanism)

Humanist Manifesto II (http://www.americanhumanist.org/who_we_are/about_humanism/Humanist_Manifesto_II)

Perhaps we can ask Bloggingheads TV to bring in an expert to talk about these. Have we had anyone on this topic?

SkepticDoc
03-30-2010, 04:30 PM
Sam is one of the "four horsemen":

http://evolutionarymiddleman.blogspot.com/2008/01/four-horsemen-of-atheism.html

Another viewpoint:

http://www.jewcy.com/post/four_horsemen_new_atheism

Ocean
03-30-2010, 04:39 PM
Sam is one of the "four horsemen":


I know that. But, please, don't take it literally...


http://evolutionarymiddleman.blogspot.com/2008/01/four-horsemen-of-atheism.html

Another viewpoint:

http://www.jewcy.com/post/four_horsemen_new_atheism

I'll take a look at those. What's your point?

SkepticDoc
03-30-2010, 04:46 PM
The "four horsemen" are on a literal crusade against religion.

It may be more effective to pursue the separation of Church and State and eliminate the tax exempt status of the churches, just like Capone went to prison for tax evasion, the "Reason Crusade" may be more effective addressing the "money" issue, we could also apply it to "the family" and the "C street church/house"...

Ocean
03-30-2010, 04:50 PM
The "four horsemen" are on a literal crusade against religion.

It may be more effective to pursue the separation of Church and State and eliminate the tax exempt status of the churches, just like Capone went to prison for tax evasion, the "Reason Crusade" may be more effective addressing the "money" issue, we could also apply it to "the family" and the "C street church/house"...

Yes, I agree. Happy?

SkepticDoc
03-30-2010, 04:58 PM
All the time! :)

Ocean
03-30-2010, 05:17 PM
All the time! :)

I just read the article by Gordon Haber who is a detractor of the Atheists. If you filter the parts of the comments that are just anti-atheist and keep the summary of the books by the four authors, it does provide a glimpse of the main arguments that each presents. Hitchens points out the detrimental aspects of religion, Harris in his anti-religion wars crusade (sounds contradictory doesn't it?), Dennet and the natural origins, development and future of religious thought as an adaptive (in the past) phenomenon, and Dawkins with his atheist neo-materialism of sorts.

Since I grew up hearing some version of all of the above, I'm not particularly moved by them. I tend to like Dennet, it seems to have some internal balance that I can relate to.


Any of them are going to be upsetting to very religious people, and the more religious, the more upsetting. I tend to find that aspect as the most problematic, since part of the reason these books are written (one may think) is to present arguments that can persuade people of the negative aspects of religion. However, when the arguments are presented in a way that doesn't allow the ability to rescue some aspect of religion, and they rather ridicule them, it defeats that purpose. Perhaps, the books are not written to persuade but to feed arguments to people that are already atheists. In that case, they are to be enjoyed but not shared.

I don't have anything else to say. Perhaps you want to provide your own opinion or just give up on your religious uncertainty... ;)

bjkeefe
04-03-2010, 06:46 PM
Fight, fight! Start here (http://twitter.com/seanmcarroll/status/11201233209).

Sam's response (http://www.project-reason.org/newsfeed/item/moral_confusion_in_the_name_of_science3/), as promised in the above. Sean's response (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2010/03/29/sam-harris-responds/) to Sam's response.

Also good: Julian Sanchez's post (http://www.juliansanchez.com/2010/03/29/grasping-reality-with-our-gelatinous-meatsacks/) (via Sean).

bjkeefe
04-05-2010, 06:32 PM
More Sam (http://www.samharris.org/faq/full_text/how-can-you-derive-an-ought-from-an-is/): 'How can you derive an “ought” from an “is”?/A response to David Hume (or the Hume of popular imagination).'

I'm bored with this, but I figured I'd pass this last link along in case anyone else still has an interest.

listener
04-05-2010, 07:58 PM
All Religions have been involved in War, murder and even genocide, they have been part of Human "Evolution" with all its failings, not even Buddhism has escaped the stain. ( argument in defense of Buddhism (http://flappingmouths.blogspot.com/2007/09/hitchens-zen-is-not-great.html) )


Just jumping in in the middle here -- I don't know anything about Sam Harris or his TED talk, but I just read the excellent article you linked to here, SkepticDoc. Among the many things that annoy me about Hitchens' antireligious diatribes, one is that he seems to fail to sufficiently distinguish between his main targets --Christianity, Judaism and Islam -- and the many other concepts of "religion" (for lack of a better word) that exist elsewhere in the world. I think Derek nailed Hitchens pretty thoroughly there. As he quotes Einstein at the end of his post:

"Buddhism has the characteristics of what would be expected in a cosmic religion for the future: it transcends a personal God, avoids dogmas and theology; it covers both the natural & spiritual, and it is based on a religious sense aspiring from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity"

listener
04-05-2010, 08:21 PM
Any of them are going to be upsetting to very religious people, and the more religious, the more upsetting. I tend to find that aspect as the most problematic, since part of the reason these books are written (one may think) is to present arguments that can persuade people of the negative aspects of religion. However, when the arguments are presented in a way that doesn't allow the ability to rescue some aspect of religion, and they rather ridicule them, it defeats that purpose. Perhaps, the books are not written to persuade but to feed arguments to people that are already atheists. In that case, they are to be enjoyed but not shared.

Well put. You are not going to persuade anyone by ridiculing them. Rather, as the saying goes (ironically), you are just going to be preaching to the choir.

And there's a place for that, too. Heck, from time to time I enjoy watching Olbermann ridicule conservatives, but I'm under no illusion that he's making any converts out there.

bjkeefe
04-05-2010, 10:55 PM
Well put. You are not going to persuade anyone by ridiculing them. Rather, as the saying goes (ironically), you are just going to be preaching to the choir.

And there's a place for that, too. Heck, from time to time I enjoy watching Olbermann ridicule conservatives, but I'm under no illusion that he's making any converts out there.

I disagree with your view that it's only preaching to the choir. There are a lot of people out there whose minds aren't made up, because they're still young enough to be flexible, because they've recently started feeling some misgivings about the way they were brought up to think, or because they're on the fence for other reasons. In Internet forum parlance, we call these people "lurkers," and as I understand the term, it's not pejorative at all -- it means, to me at least, people who are hanging back and observing. It is among these people that a strong argument has a chance to have some persuasive effect.

I'm not saying that being in your face is the only way to go, but I think it is one route that does net out to a positive contribution. And that is independent of what specific position is being advocated.

In the case of promoting atheism, maybe a guy like Hitchens isn't to your taste. That's fine. But you should be aware that he and his comrades have no end of stories of people coming up to them at talks, or writing to them, to tell them how much they had been moved to takes some steps, or encouraged to come out, etc.

Plus, as the old saying goes, sometimes it's good to preach to the choir, because that's how you get them to sing.

listener
04-05-2010, 11:44 PM
I disagree with your view that it's only preaching to the choir. There are a lot of people out there whose minds aren't made up, because they're still young enough to be flexible, because they've recently started feeling some misgivings about the way they were brought up to think, or because they're on the fence for other reasons. In Internet forum parlance, we call these people "lurkers," and as I understand the term, it's not pejorative at all -- it means, to me at least, people who are hanging back and observing. It is among these people that a strong argument has a chance to have some persuasive effect.

I'm not saying that being in your face is the only way to go, but I think it is one route that does net out to a positive contribution. And that is independent of what specific position is being advocated.

In the case of promoting atheism, maybe a guy like Hitchens isn't to your taste. That's fine. But you should be aware that he and his comrades have no end of stories of people coming up to them at talks, or writing to them, to tell them how much they had been moved to takes some steps, or encouraged to come out, etc.

Plus, as the old saying goes, sometimes it's good to preach to theOl choir, because that's how you get them to sing.

Yes, I may have been oversimplifying things a bit, and figures like Hitchens and Olbermann (and as you imply, Dobson and Hannity too) do have some sway with fence-sitters, no doubt. And for young people who harbor unusual or unpopular outlooks or beliefs, such figures can be very affirming. For me, as a preteen in 1968, Frank Zappa was such a figure.

(However, I feel compelled to add that Hitchens' supercilious demeanor just pisses me off, and I find his arguments unconvincing, even when I agree with him -- he picks battles that are too easy. Atheism needs a better spokesman than that.)

Anyway, your points are well taken. But the main point I was trying to make, in response to Ocean's post, was to agree with her that if your aim is to persuade those who actively disagree with you, ridicule is not going to get you anywhere (though as Ocean points out, maybe that's not the aim of Hitchens et al.)

bjkeefe
04-06-2010, 12:10 AM
[...] Anyway, your points are well taken. But the main point I was trying to make, in response to Ocean's post, was to agree with her that if your aim is to persuade those who actively disagree with you, ridicule is not going to get you anywhere (though as Ocean points out, maybe that's not the aim of Hitchens et al.)

I disagree with your view about ridicule, as well, in terms of not only the fence-sitters who I referred to earlier, but indeed, with respect to those who "actively disagree."

I'm not saying it works all the time, and sure, there are some people who only ever react to being laughed at by digging their heels in deeper, but there are times when humor, satire, mockery, or whatever shade it takes, can be effective. I know it has been with me, and not just on the delivery end, but on the receiving end, as well. I have thought, If what I'm saying is so easily skewered, and I don't have a good comeback, maybe I need to think about this some more.

listener
04-06-2010, 03:10 AM
I disagree with your view about ridicule, as well, in terms of not only the fence-sitters who I referred to earlier, but indeed, with respect to those who "actively disagree."

I'm not saying it works all the time, and sure, there are some people who only ever react to being laughed at by digging their heels in deeper, but there are times when humor, satire, mockery, or whatever shade it takes, can be effective. I know it has been with me, and not just on the delivery end, but on the receiving end, as well. I have thought, If what I'm saying is so easily skewered, and I don't have a good comeback, maybe I need to think about this some more.

Brendan,

First, please do notice that I did agree with you after all about the "fence sitters."

As to what you wrote about the "active disagreers," I absolutely respect the validity of your personal experience of feeling "skewered" having led you to reconsider your own viewpoint (and I'd be most interested in hearing about an example of one of those experiences). And I give you props for being openminded enough to allow that to happen.

As to the proportion of those for whom ridicule causes them to "dig in their heels" as opposed to those for whom ridicule causes them to open their minds, that is a question that neither of us can resolve to the level of proof.

To that end, I do notice the extent to which, on this website, you ridicule those whose arguments you deem not worthy of serious response. And I admit that my feelings are mixed when I read those responses of yours. As someone who generally tends to see things the way you do, part of me wants to cheer you on for going after them so mercilessly; yet at the same time, part of me wonders if it is ultimately doing more harm than good.

Ultimately, I guess we will never know for sure in which direction the balance tips. But as someone whose disposition falls in one direction, I respect someone like you, whose disposition falls in the other. All perspectives are needed to balance each other out. To quote our mutual friend Ocean:

"The Harmony of Opposites"http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_AamuZnUlDWc/SZ7OfDKPMRI/AAAAAAAAAVg/QfuWPcJFNFw/s400/Tai-Chi-Symbol.jpg

Ocean
04-06-2010, 07:30 AM
I'm not saying it works all the time, and sure, there are some people who only ever react to being laughed at by digging their heels in deeper, but there are times when humor, satire, mockery, or whatever shade it takes, can be effective. I know it has been with me, and not just on the delivery end, but on the receiving end, as well. I have thought, If what I'm saying is so easily skewered, and I don't have a good comeback, maybe I need to think about this some more.

Hey! Thank you for the tip! ;)


Well, just kidding. My opinion on this subject has been expressed too many times. And I don't think there would ever be enough practice that would make me a good executor of ridicule. And in the receiving end, I'm clearly in the heel-digger camp.

Ocean
04-06-2010, 07:34 AM
Thank you, listener.

I certainly agree with your sentiments about the Ridicule-Method-of-Persuasion.

There is a way of using ridicule that can be used effectively with the heel-diggers. But, I'm not going to give that away. :)

bjkeefe
04-06-2010, 08:03 AM
[...] All perspectives are needed to balance each other out. [...]

That's really the only point I wanted to establish. I found your earlier statement ("You are not going to persuade anyone by ridiculing them.") too absolutist.

SkepticDoc
04-06-2010, 08:10 AM
Listener, you are intelligent and insightful, how can we convince you that the Alternative Medicine treatments are wasteful, and in the case of cervical spine manipulation, plain deadly?

(I know I'm going out on a limb here, I am assuming that most of the participants in the forum trust and practice critical thinking and the scientific method!)

listener
04-06-2010, 05:32 PM
Listener, you are intelligent and insightful,

I appreciate the flattering comment (but always hate when it's a setup for the other shoe to drop, i.e.):

how can we convince you
Hmm, what is this "we" of whom you speak who desire to convince me? It makes me feel like a gaggle of Jehovah's Witnesses is about to show up at my door. :)

that the Alternative Medicine treatments are wasteful

Really, all alternative medicine treatments? Wow, that's a vast generalization. Besides, it seems that many physicians do not subscribe to that view. According to some studies, a substantial minority of physicians (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2146582/) currently employ some sort of "alternative" treatments (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1710702/) in conjunction with orthodox Western medical treatment.

But that's all probably a bit off-topic, because my guess is that your question really had to do with what I have written elsewhere on this site about my experiences with certain specific forms of energy healing.

So when can you convince me that those are, as you put it, wasteful? Well, I guess that would be when you can convince me to dismiss years of my own personal experience, and to chalk up what I have witnessed and experienced to coincidence or wild flights of imagination. And if you grant my intelligence and insightfulness, then you might also grant that I am not merely credulous, but capable of intelligently and discerningly evaluating what I see and experience.

and in the case of cervical spine manipulation, plain deadly?

Do you mean by that, chiropractic? If so, I must tell you that I experienced debilitating chronic back pain for years, and after going from one M.D. to another to no avail whatsoever, I finally gave up on that route and reluctantly turned to so-called "alternative" therapies, including chiropractic. I have been free of back pain for about 20 years now. (My guess is that you'd probably say that's just coincidence, though.)

On the other hand, if by cervical spine manipulation you mean something else, then it's something I'm ignorant of and I am not in a position to say anything about it one way or the other.

But no matter -- you and I are obviously not going to agree on this subject. So let's just be friends, okay?

listener
04-06-2010, 05:41 PM
As he quotes Einstein at the end of his post:

"Buddhism has the characteristics of what would be expected in a cosmic religion for the future: it transcends a personal God, avoids dogmas and theology; it covers both the natural & spiritual, and it is based on a religious sense aspiring from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity"

Which reminds me of the old riddle:

Q: What did the Buddhist say to the hot dog vendor?

A: Make me one with everything.

Ocean
04-06-2010, 05:47 PM
Which reminds me of the old riddle:

Q: What did the Buddhist say to the hot dog vendor?

A: Make me one with everything.

You're on a roll, aren't you?


:)

listener
04-06-2010, 05:52 PM
You're on a roll, aren't you?


:)

Anything to make you laugh, dear.

(Did I use it correctly that time?)

popcorn_karate
04-06-2010, 06:07 PM
I appreciate the flattering comment (but always hate when it's a setup for the other shoe to drop, i.e.):


Hmm, what is this "we" of whom you speak who desire to convince me? It makes me feel like a gaggle of Jehovah's Witnesses is about to show up at my door. :)



Really, all alternative medicine treatments? Wow, that's a vast generalization. Besides, it seems that many physicians do not subscribe to that view. According to some studies, a substantial minority of physicians (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2146582/) currently employ some sort of "alternative" treatments (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1710702/) in conjunction with orthodox Western medical treatment.

But that's all probably a bit off-topic, because my guess is that your question really had to do with what I have written elsewhere on this site about my experiences with certain specific forms of energy healing.

So when can you convince me that those are, as you put it, wasteful? Well, I guess that would be when you can convince me to dismiss years of my own personal experience, and to chalk up what I have witnessed and experienced to coincidence or wild flights of imagination. And if you grant my intelligence and insightfulness, then you might also grant that I am not merely credulous, but capable of intelligently and discerningly evaluating what I see and experience.



Do you mean by that, chiropractic? If so, I must tell you that I experienced debilitating chronic back pain for years, and after going from one M.D. to another to no avail whatsoever, I finally gave up on that route and reluctantly turned to so-called "alternative" therapies, including chiropractic. I have been free of back pain for about 20 years now. (My guess is that you'd probably say that's just coincidence, though.)

On the other hand, if by cervical spine manipulation you mean something else, then it's something I'm ignorant of and I am not in a position to say anything about it one way or the other.

But no matter -- you and I are obviously not going to agree on this subject. So let's just be friends, okay?

your good-natured reply to that is truly impressive.

a tip of my hat to you, sir.

Ocean
04-06-2010, 06:13 PM
Anything to make you laugh, dear.

(Did I use it correctly that time?)

Ahem... anything, dear?

listener
04-06-2010, 06:14 PM
your good-natured reply to that is truly impressive.

a tip of my hat to you, sir.

Thanks, popcorn. I do try to abide by the advice of my signature (see below) as much as I can. (And I put it there as much so that it may be a constant reminder to myself as for anyone else's benefit.)

bjkeefe
04-06-2010, 06:39 PM
You're on a roll, aren't you?

I caught that. Frank-ly speaking: well done.

Ocean
04-06-2010, 06:42 PM
I caught that. Frank-ly speaking: well done.

;)

listener
04-06-2010, 06:48 PM
I caught that. Frank-ly speaking: well done.

;)

Boy, do I feel like a weenie for having missed that reference!

SkepticDoc
04-06-2010, 06:53 PM
By "We" I meant the scientifically literate forum members.

Chiropractic care for lumbago is just as effective as any traditional medical care, that is it, no more, no less. If you want to treat bacterial infections with chiropractic care, be my guest, you probably are aware of the "Darwin Awards".

For the "joke" distraction:

How many chiropractors does it take to change a light bulb?

Only one, but it takes 20 visits...

Ocean
04-06-2010, 07:02 PM
Boy, do I feel like a weenie for having missed that reference!

Better late...

:)

listener
04-06-2010, 07:41 PM
Chiropractic care for lumbago is just as effective as any traditional medical care, that is it, no more, no less. If you want to treat bacterial infections with chiropractic care, be my guest, you probably are aware of the "Darwin Awards".

For the "joke" distraction:

How many chiropractors does it take to change a light bulb?

Only one, but it takes 20 visits...

Ooh, did I say I wanted to treat bacterial infections with chiropractic care? Gosh, I must have missed that. And if you want to treat chronic back pain with antibacterial drugs, you just feel free to go right ahead and do that, too.

Sorry, that bit of snark just popped right out. But to be more serious, as I hope I've made clear elsewhere in my comments around these parts, I'm well aware that orthodox Western medical practice has many virtues and I'm fully respectful of that. I would not want to live in a world without it. If I had a bacterial infection, I would seek out an M.D. for treatment.

Regarding what you wrote about traditional medical care (and by that I take it you mean the A.M.A.-sanctioned type) being just as effective as chiropractic in treating lumbago, I imagine that your statement is based upon statistics that come from research studies. Not to denigrate the value of such statistics, but when it comes down to decisions one must make as an individual, and when one experiences results such as those I described (that is, several competent practitioners of traditional medical care utterly failing, over a period of time, to make the slightest dent in easing my debilitating pain, and then experiencing complete and lasting relief of my symptoms after trying alternative methods) -- well, to quote the great philosopher Chico Marx, "Who you gonna believe? Me or your own eyes (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/priceless/201001/who-are-you-going-believe-me-or-your-own-eyes)?"

And now for the traditional joke distraction:

Q: How many doctors does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Nurse!

SkepticDoc
04-06-2010, 08:08 PM
From a different thread:

listener posted:

(On the off-chance that you may be interested, you can take a look at what Wikipedia has to say about polarity therapy and craniosacral therapy (and I'm sure you can also find them on quackwatch.org or any of the many medical “debunking” sites that though useful to some extent, tend to blanketly dismiss all non-Western healing modalities). I am fairly sure none of it will convince you of anything, but at least it will give you something of an answer to your question, “what energies are those?”)

Until next time... ciao.

What will be next?

Ayurvedic?
Aromatherapy?
Crystals?
Magnets?
Therapeutic touch (http://www.google.com/search?source=ig&hl=en&rlz=&=&q=therapeutic+touch&aq=6&aqi=g10&aql=&oq=therapeu&gs_rfai=)?

FYI:

http://www.pointofinquiry.org/simon_singh_-_trick_or_treatment/

http://www.pointofinquiry.org/dr_stephen_barrett_watching_out_for_quackery/

If it helped you, good for you!
Just don't promote it like a religious belief and don't ask the Government to pay for it either.

listener
04-06-2010, 09:28 PM
From a different thread:

listener posted:


What will be next?

Ayurvedic?
Aromatherapy?
Crystals?
Magnets?
Therapeutic touch (http://www.google.com/search?source=ig&hl=en&rlz=&=&q=therapeutic+touch&aq=6&aqi=g10&aql=&oq=therapeu&gs_rfai=)?

FYI:

http://www.pointofinquiry.org/simon_singh_-_trick_or_treatment/

http://www.pointofinquiry.org/dr_stephen_barrett_watching_out_for_quackery/

If it helped you, good for you!
Just don't promote it like a religious belief and don't ask the Government to pay for it either.

Hmm, based on the tone I think I perceive coming through your comments, I seem to have struck a nerve. And I understand that you have strong opinions about "alternative medicine."

But please, SkepticDoc, make sure that if you wish to argue with me, that you are arguing with ME, and not with some imaginary person whose views you may be conflating with mine.

For example, if you can find some instance where I have promoted alternative healing, please show me the evidence. As far as I can tell, I have been careful to speak only from the standpoint of my own experience and have not made any recommendations, implicit or explicit, for anyone else. As for the "like a religious belief" part, spare me the hyperbole. Likewise, if you can find some instance of my advocating that the Government pay for "it," show me the evidence. The Government (nor any insurance company) has never compensated me one penny for any of the money I have expended on non-A.M.A.-sanctioned treatment, and I have never uttered a single word of complaint about it.

As for the conversation I had with Ocean that you dug up in which I linked to Wikipedia articles about craniosacral therapy and polarity therapy -- I provided those links only in response to Ocean's query about "what those energies are." My intent (as hopefully my words in that post made clear) was informational, not proselytizing. To that point, you will notice that neither of the links were to "house organs" advocating those therapies; rather, both of them were neutral and quite clear about the controversies surrounding the therapies, and the questions raised about them. So to interpret that post as some sort of advocacy is... well, let me put it this way: if by providing those links I was intending to be an advocate, that would make me a pretty crappy advocate.

So again, if you are going to argue, argue with me and not some straw man. This is the second time in a row I've had to point this out in order to counter what appeared to me as a mischaracterization of my views (the last being the "treating bacterial infection with chiropractic" argument).

Again, to be clear: I have described my experiences only (and that only came up here in the first place because Ocean had asked me to expand on a casual remark I had made in a previous conversation about suspecting I had more of a mystical side than she did -- otherwise none of this stuff would have even come up here). I am not a proselytizer for anything. In fact, the only reason we are even having this conversation now is that you wanted convince me of something that you believed! I am not trying to convince you, or anyone, of anything.

Once again, you and I are obviously not going to agree on this subject. So let's just be friends, okay?

Ocean
04-06-2010, 09:51 PM
Isn't it wonderful that we all have such different personalities? We agree in a multitude of topics and yet there's always the point of divergence! And we can still be friends.

Yes, indeed, my good friend SkepticDoc has taken on the responsibility of keeping the rest of us informed about medical issues, and also pointing at good evidence-based medicine. As a zealous keeper of those principles, he may at times get carried away in his skepticism when he suspects the rest of us are heading in the "wrong" direction. Would you blame him for caring? I tend to think of him as an overprotective brother, and I surely have been mad at him more than once for that. He knows it. I haven't been short in expressing it... And yet, we are friends, okay?

:)

listener
04-06-2010, 10:14 PM
Isn't it wonderful that we all have such different personalities? We agree in a multitude of topics and yet there's always the point of divergence! And we can still be friends.

Yes, indeed, my good friend SkepticDoc has taken on the responsibility of keeping the rest of us informed about medical issues, and also pointing at good evidence-based medicine. As a zealous keeper of those principles, he may at times get carried away in his skepticism when he suspects the rest of us are heading in the "wrong" direction. Would you blame him for caring? I tend to think of him as an overprotective brother, and I surely have been mad at him more than once for that. He knows it. I haven't been short in expressing it... And yet, we are friends, okay?

:)

Ah, Ocean my friend, I had a hunch that you were out there following along with this little conversation. ;)

I appreciate your words (though I suspect that S.Doc doesn't need an apologia from anyone, eloquent as yours was). I assure you I harbor no ill will toward him and have been glad of the opportunity our exchange has provided me to sharpen my mind and my wits (as our own previous exchange had done for me as well).

I'm just grateful that, as a mere layman (I'm a just a musician, for crying out loud!) I'm not having to fend off two M.D.'s at once!!

Ocean
04-06-2010, 10:16 PM
... as a mere layman...

Heh.

bjkeefe
04-06-2010, 10:17 PM
Boy, do I feel like a weenie for having missed that reference!

If not a mus-tard.

SkepticDoc
04-06-2010, 10:24 PM
Let's see if I can recapitulate our friend listener's position:

1) he/she suffered back pain that was relieved with chiropractic care

2) he/she just mentioned "polarity" and "craniosacral" therapies as examples of "alternative" medicine.

3) the comment:
So, no, as far as the Western medical and scientific establishment is concerned, all those energetic healing methods are still relegated to the fringes of kookery and quackery. But I believe that is slowly changing. Certainly the fact that our American-trained, hospital-associated pediatrician referred us to an energetic healer is a sign of things moving in a different direction. And not to say that this is a totally equivalent comparison, but how long did it take hand-washing in hospitals to become accepted practice after it was first discovered to be efficacious in preventing massive, needless disease and death? Answer: over 40 years, after being dismissed time and again as hogwash by medical authorities.
does not reflect any belief in alternative medicine's role in infection control, but rather the belief in "energetic healing" because a doctor referred the family?

Have I misquoted or misrepresented anything?

listener
04-06-2010, 10:25 PM
Heh.

...what? (damn written communication, there's no way I can convey the inflection of that word, so I'll have to describe it as a plaintive, drawn-out, almost bisyllabic "wha-at?" spoken with a descending cadence, accompanied by a slight shrug of my shoulders and my palms turned upward -- as in "what do you mean, 'heh'"?)

bjkeefe
04-06-2010, 10:28 PM
...what? (damn written communication, there's no way I can convey the inflection of that word, so I'll have to describe it as a plaintive, drawn-out, almost bisyllabic "wha-at?" spoken with a descending cadence, accompanied by a slight shrug of my shoulders and my palms turned upward -- as in "what do you mean by 'heh'"?)

No. Heh is an appreciative laugh, a little less of a guffaw than LOL.

listener
04-06-2010, 10:29 PM
No. Heh is an appreciative laugh, a little less of a guffaw than LOL.

Damn written communication again -- by "that word," I meant my "...what?", not Ocean's "Heh."

bjkeefe
04-06-2010, 10:30 PM
Damn written communication again -- by "that word," I meant my "...what?", not Ocean's "Heh."

OIC.

In that case, prefer WTF?

;)

listener
04-06-2010, 10:35 PM
OIC.

In that case, prefer WTF?

;)

Yes, that would be in the right spirit, though I was going for something a little softer...

Ocean
04-06-2010, 10:38 PM
Let's see if I can recapitulate our friend listener's position:

1) he/she suffered back pain that was relieved with chiropractic care

2) he/she just mentioned "polarity" and "craniosacral" therapies as examples of "alternative" medicine.

3) the comment:

does not reflect any belief in alternative medicine's role in infection control, but rather the belief in "energetic healing" because a doctor referred the family?

Have I misquoted or misrepresented anything?

I'll let the two of you fight it out. My previous intervention is more than enough.

Heh. As if anyone was going to believe that...

There is clearly a disagreement about the effectiveness of alternative medicine. You and I, as medical doctors, stay within the boundaries of orthodox Western medicine. We consider that part of our professional responsibility. Listener doesn't because he had a personal experience that made him (as a consumer) think differently. He is freer in expressing his opinion because he is not bound to the same constraints of professional responsibility that we have.

Ocean
04-06-2010, 10:43 PM
...what? (damn written communication, there's no way I can convey the inflection of that word, so I'll have to describe it as a plaintive, drawn-out, almost bisyllabic "wha-at?" spoken with a descending cadence, accompanied by a slight shrug of my shoulders and my palms turned upward -- as in "what do you mean, 'heh'"?)

Luke 14:10: "But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, 'Friend, move up to a better place.' Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests."

listener
04-06-2010, 10:50 PM
Luke 14:10: "But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, 'Friend, move up to a better place.' Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests."

Oh Christ, now you're getting all Biblical on me! But I guess my exegesis of that quotation would lead me to conclude that I should feel honored by your "heh."

In which case, I am deeply appreciative of your monosyllabic response.

listener
04-07-2010, 02:25 AM
OMG, I used the words "bisyllabic" and "monosyllabic" in the same day!

"Dear Diary," (switch to red ink...)

listener
04-07-2010, 05:52 AM
If not a mus-tard.

Well, I'm in a kind of 19th-century RC mood today, so I feel more like a Leo-tard (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Leo_XIII)

listener
04-07-2010, 04:01 PM
Ahem... anything, dear?

Well... anything within legal limits ;)