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  #41  
Old 07-06-2009, 02:31 PM
popcorn_karate popcorn_karate is offline
 
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Default Re: Losing respect for Bob - he is dishonest

your answers are not answers to the question bob asked, they are reformulations precisely to avoid answering the question.

better luck next time.
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  #42  
Old 07-06-2009, 03:00 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: Percontations: Cage Match of God (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

Quote:
Originally Posted by harkin View Post
I realize that standard form here when you disagree with Hitch is to call him a drunk, which is the accuser's way of saying they don't want to address substance. The fact that most of the people CH debates come off as much more likely to be under medication (Galloway, Ritter, Danner, Hannity, Tharoor etc) just adds to the legend of his almost Churchillian ability to think and speak better than his opponents whether he's had a few or not.
Well put, and thanks for saying so. It bugs me, too, when people use this when they have a problem with something Hitchens has said.

As Lincoln is said to have replied when getting a report that one of his generals was a boozer, "Send the rest of them a case of whatever Grant is drinking."
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  #43  
Old 07-06-2009, 03:02 PM
MikeDrew MikeDrew is offline
 
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Default Re: Percontations: Cage Match of God (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

Bob, yes, sentience was not necessary for life to evolve. That is the non-divine miracle of the evolution first of life and then of consciousness (sentience) within life. There is no problem, and nothing less amazing, about the notion that life, consciousness, sentience, feelings, senses, and all the rest evolved from the random, unthinking interactions of particles of physical matter than that they were guided by a designer of any kind.
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  #44  
Old 07-06-2009, 03:29 PM
LordBaltimore LordBaltimore is offline
 
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Default What Dennett meant is

Bob, I love your books, and I'm going to buy this one too, but your obsession with Dennett's so-called concession is getting increasingly embarassing. Here's what I think Dennett "meant":

1. Wright is not going to shut up about this question which he finds incredibly fascinating and I find totally uninteresting until one of us dies, which since I'm older, will probably be me, or he gets some sort of answer which satisfies him.

2. If I make appropriate wishy-washy, agreeable-sounding noises which don't actually constitute agreement, maybe that'll satisfy him and we can change the subject to something interesting.

I think if you roll the tape again, you'll find my take pretty convincing, especially if you really study the expression on Dennett's face as you keep pounding away; an expression which to me pretty clearly indicates that he'd actually stopped listening well before he make those agreeable-sounding noises.
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  #45  
Old 07-06-2009, 03:38 PM
thprop thprop is offline
 
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Default Re: What Dennett meant is

Quote:
Originally Posted by LordBaltimore View Post
Bob, I love your books, and I'm going to buy this one too, but your obsession with Dennett's so-called concession is getting increasingly embarassing. Here's what I think Dennett "meant":

1. Wright is not going to shut up about this question which he finds incredibly fascinating and I find totally uninteresting until one of us dies, which since I'm older, will probably be me, or he gets some sort of answer which satisfies him.

2. If I make appropriate wishy-washy, agreeable-sounding noises which don't actually constitute agreement, maybe that'll satisfy him and we can change the subject to something interesting.

I think if you roll the tape again, you'll find my take pretty convincing, especially if you really study the expression on Dennett's face as you keep pounding away; an expression which to me pretty clearly indicates that he'd actually stopped listening well before he make those agreeable-sounding noises.
Could not agree more except I will not be buying this book - I have made the same point -
Quote:
The more Bob talks about directionality, the more respect I lose for him. And Bob, Daniel Dennett did not agree with you. Listen to that interview - he got sick of your badgering and said "maybe" to get you to shut up.
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  #46  
Old 07-06-2009, 04:27 PM
Jay J Jay J is offline
 
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Default Re: John: Please make your philosophy as sophisticated as your glasses!

Bloggin,

I wish I had written that post.

Matter of fact, I don't have the patience or long-suffering attitude required to hang in and make these arguments, so I think I'll just start adding, "I'm Jay J and I approve this message," to what you post.

Seriously its a relief that you bring clarity here; I think one of the psychological facts about me is that I'm not cut out to provide this service, at least not without losing my sanity.
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  #47  
Old 07-06-2009, 04:41 PM
Markos Markos is offline
 
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Default Re: Percontations: Cage Match of God (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

So John believes that the standard by which to measure morality is the degree of personal "enjoyment" that our actions result in.
"If it feels good, do it."
What if Hitler enjoyed killing Jews, which he apparently did?
Does his enjoyment justify his actions morally?
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  #48  
Old 07-06-2009, 04:53 PM
BornAgainDemocrat BornAgainDemocrat is offline
 
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Default Re: Measuring the good vs. bad of religion

Arguably the contemporary world of democratic capitalism would not have emerged in the absence of the religious beliefs and ideas of our ancestors. Not only do our ideas of liberty, justice, and basic human rights have largely Biblical origins, but many of the material sacrifices made (and, yes, crimes committed) in order to lay the foundations for universal affluence, leisure, and modern science and technology, have been at least partly motivated by religious beliefs, as Weber argued in his classic book on the subject, Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (even if it unfairly minimized the contributions of Catholics and Jews).

Clearly the abolitionist movements, both in Britain and the US, were to a large extent motivated by Christian sentiments, as was a lot of fighting on the Union side during the Civil War.

If our liberal values and the social realities they underwrite endure through enough generations, and if they eventually spread throughout the world, then it would be hard to argue that there was anything bad in our human past, whatever its source, that could outweigh them, as most people (including most people who ever lived) will eventually agree.

Last edited by BornAgainDemocrat; 07-06-2009 at 05:08 PM..
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  #49  
Old 07-06-2009, 04:53 PM
thouartgob thouartgob is offline
 
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Default Re: Percontations: Cage Match of God (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

Quote:
Originally Posted by moth View Post
Wasn't it on another science saturday or free will where maybe joshua knobe talked about how if we take cosmologists seriously that the universe is infinite it means that there everything quantumly possible is happening somewhere? If there is infinite space then there are an infinite number of planets and then an infinite number of earth-like and earth-unlike planets on which infinite versions of humans are leading civilization down infinite iterations of its history (and note that this doesn't really on any sort of multiverse). Sorry for the mouthful.
In the infinite tapestry of reality why not think that this world is ACTUALLY the creation of a judeo-christian god, that creationists are right, or scientologists and we live in a universe where the laws than govern it really do reside in the 10 commandments or the laws of dianetics.



Quote:
Originally Posted by moth View Post
This leads me to ask whether or not Bob has seriously considered the anthropocentric ? We value certain moral directions because specific social structures helped us survive, so of course to us it seems like our history is teleological.
I think there is a logical reason for the anthropic principle and that reason isn't either logical or reasonable enough for most people to cleave to.


Quote:
Originally Posted by moth View Post
If we extend Bob's natural selection metaphor further, isn't it likely then that there is a similar selective process being acted out on an even grander scale? In other words, interstellar civilizations are being selected for until they reach some higher level of organization, but just as with evolving organisms, it's just as possible that we're not one of them because the social structures we've evolved to value aren't the most fit?
I was wondering what kind of "higher level organization" is being talked about. I like the thought of basic premise and so would Bob since he does seem to posit something to that effect.
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  #50  
Old 07-06-2009, 04:57 PM
themightypuck themightypuck is offline
 
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Default Re: Percontations: Cage Match of God (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

I think my last sentence overstated things and contradicted my first few. I retract it. It seems to me that there are some people who see evidence of purpose (like Robert Wright) where others do not (Daniel Dennett). Skipping quite a few steps, I think people who see purpose need to see it to underpin their ideas of morality while people who do not are more comfortable with a morality that simply emerges. There is no question, it seems to me, that the scientific answer is that purpose is unnecessary and therefore unlikely. The philosophical answer is more complicated.
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  #51  
Old 07-06-2009, 05:05 PM
themightypuck themightypuck is offline
 
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Default Re: Measuring the good vs. bad of religion

Religion sure took it's time. Given that the Christian Bible was put together sometime in the 3rd century, it is also plausible that religion was simply coincident with abolition.
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  #52  
Old 07-06-2009, 05:08 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: Measuring the good vs. bad of religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by BornAgainDemocrat View Post
... our ideas of liberty, justice, and basic human rights have largely Biblical origins ...
Uh huh. And where do you suppose the ideas came from, to be written into the Bible?
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  #53  
Old 07-06-2009, 05:14 PM
thouartgob thouartgob is offline
 
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Default Q: To: John Horgan: Do you believe/have faith in Free Will

First of all let me say that I have been looking forward to this diavlog since it was suggested and I was rewarded, I think that it gets into the territory of Sean Carrol and David Albert's diavlog on quantum mechanics.

You have pondered this question before and I apologize for not taking the time to find it in the archives but I seem to remember you having an issue; Your "head" says no to free will and "heart" says yes.

You had a great example about the friend on prozac and you introduced the quandary of telling people a "truth" that has negative consequences and a "lie" that has positive consequences. What can be said for the concept of Free Will ? Is that a valid concept to hew to even though you can find enough scientific justification to state that it doesn't exist ?
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  #54  
Old 07-06-2009, 05:33 PM
uncle ebeneezer uncle ebeneezer is offline
 
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Default Not Feeling the Spark of the Electron Analogy!

First off, kudos to John for asking many of the questions that the skeptics had yet to ask Bob (at least directly on video), and to Bob for being willing to expand on his views.

One point that I was surprised that John did not raise in regards to the electron analogy (though he alluded to it before they went on a tangent) is the difference between the observability and testability of the theory that electrons exist. Even if our brain can't accurately imagine electrons precisely the way they are, we have every reason to believe that something physical is down there causing shit to happen. We can look at chemical reactions where there is interaction between different molecules and predict based on the amount of these imaginary things (electrons) what the results will be as far as electrical charge and the way that molecules will bind or repel etc. We can vary the amount of these hypothetical particles and subject them to experiments for measured results. We can even conceive of areas with electrons vs. areas of spacial void (no electrons) even if that might be very difficult to observe. In contrast, we can't look at certain areas of the world and say that we have more God, or less God. And the "observable" tendencies that Bob uses to show moral progress, are very much a matter of opinion based on anthropocentric presumptions (ie- what we have defined as "moral progress.") Sorry, I'm not presenting my thoughts very clearly, but I think it's quite appropriate for John Horgan to raise the alarm bell when Bob tries to make the electron analogy.

Great diavlog. I enjoyed it immensely.

PS nice shirt John.
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  #55  
Old 07-06-2009, 06:04 PM
Ocean Ocean is offline
 
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Default Re: Percontations: Cage Match of God (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

Quote:
Originally Posted by thprop View Post
John has a chapter in his book titled Prozac and Other Placebos. A lot of the focus is on therapy (pushed by psychologists who cannot prescribe drugs) versus psychopharmacology. He builds up his argument. There is no single AHA! moment. I really don't buy his argument. See if you can get the book at the library. You probably don't want to buy it. It is interesting but I think ultimately flawed.
Thank you for the suggestion. I have the book and read it quite some time ago. Some parts of the book were great and memorable, others weren't.
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  #56  
Old 07-06-2009, 06:24 PM
themightypuck themightypuck is offline
 
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Default Re: Not Feeling the Spark of the Electron Analogy!

I think John would have talked more if Bob had let him. In any case, the finger in the socket refutation of Bob's point seemed good enough. Bob likes to play fast and loose with analogies it seems. He (from the Dennett interview) thinks that the fact that the unfolding of history looks like the development of an organism provides evidence that history has a purpose (and presumably future scientists will find the DNA of history somewhere). Likewise he seems to think that our ability to believe in electrons should map to an ability to believe in moral truths. I don't think there is an easy answer here since Bob and John have profoundly incompatible world views and I can't imagine a convincing argument Bob can make beyond "you have irrational beliefs therefore you should believe my irrational beliefs." If you put beliefs on a spectrum with God on the one side and Popperian falsifiability on the the other with say String Theory somewhere in the middle you can see how far away from God John is--he can't even get halfway there.
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  #57  
Old 07-06-2009, 08:18 PM
cragger cragger is offline
 
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Default Re: SSRIs

Quote:
Originally Posted by claymisher View Post
The placebo effect is mostly a late 20th century medical myth.
Must be the graphs and charts you post that bring these replies on. What does that data say?

The data shown, and the text in your links indicates that you are at least as guilty in overstating your case as you accuse John Horgan of doing. The graphs show an improvement in "Depressons per hour", or whatever HRSD is a measure of, for placebos, as well as showing a greater improvement for whatever particular drugs were used in the various studies. Ocean's summary elsewhere in this thread that 1 of 3 respond to placebos, and 2 of three to various drugs sounds reasonable, looking at the data you link to.

From your links:

Quote:
For example, in one of the Prozac studies (line 5 of Table 1), there were 297 people in the "drug" group, who began the study with an average HRSD score of 24.3, and ended with an average HRSD score of 15.48, for an average change of 8.82. There were 48 people in the "placebo" group, who began with an average HRSD of 24.3, and ended with an average of 18.61, for an average change of 5.69.
That study indicated the placebo was 64% as effective (in terms of Depresson reduction, or whatever). One of the many features of statistics of course is that there are lots of ways to look at data, and depending on the data and the questions at hand that are good ways that aid and bad ways that obstruct the acquisition of understanding. I don't know off the cuff whether this way is better, but again from the source that supplied your graphics we have:

Quote:
But these are the average results -- of course there was a great deal of individual variation. So it makes sense to divide the average change in HRSD score by the standard deviation of the change in HRSD score, producing what the authors call a "standardized mean difference".

If we do this in the cited case, then the effect size for the drug group is d=1.13, which is quite a large effect. But the effect size for the placebo group is d=0.72, which is also very respectable. And the difference in effect sizes between drug and placebo is d=0.41, which just misses the d=0.50 level that the British National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has suggested should be the standard threshold for "clinical significance".
which again suggests both a significant placebo effect and, in that particular manner of analysis notes that the difference between placebos and the drugs under study in the data under discussion is in fact short of being "clinically significant".

Aside from the question of conclusions reasonably supported by the presented data, a couple points to consider in possible defense of the assertion of ineffectiveness given in the diavlog. Your links include certain studies. It being reasonable to me to consider that Mr. Horgan was honest in claiming he had looked at relevant data in penning the chapter of a past book he was talking about, it is likely that the studies he was considering showed a smaller clinical advantage to the drugs in question vs. placebos. This could possibly indicate that either he or the source you quote are selectively cherry picking data. It could involve your source incuding data that post dates his book.

The discrepancy could also involve his inclusion of data which he suggested is often rejected by the drug companies who tend to run and finance many drug studies, and who have a strong financial incentive to bias toward positive results. Consideration of this might lead one to question for example why, in the first text linked above, the study reports data on 287 takers of Prozac and only 48 takers of placebos.

Completely outside the data presented by any particular anti-depressant drug trial data, I speculate that there is probably a bias toward positive results from any study. Depression is by definition a psychological state, and studies pre-select toward inclusion of those who seek to change that state. The very decision to do so seems likely to have value for some. Psychological state tends to affect decisions about what to do, and what one does tends to affect psychological state. Getting off your butt, going out and doing things, engaging with people, getting exercise, all tend to produce positive effects. Moping around the house because you feel depressed is .. depressing.

Hmm, what percentage of BH forum posts engender which effects upon reading? Study anyone?
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  #58  
Old 07-06-2009, 09:30 PM
claymisher claymisher is offline
 
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Default Re: SSRIs

Quote:
Originally Posted by cragger View Post
Must be the graphs and charts you post that bring these replies on. What does that data say?

The data shown, and the text in your links indicates that you are at least as guilty in overstating your case as you accuse John Horgan of doing. The graphs show an improvement in "Depressons per hour", or whatever HRSD is a measure of, for placebos, as well as showing a greater improvement for whatever particular drugs were used in the various studies. Ocean's summary elsewhere in this thread that 1 of 3 respond to placebos, and 2 of three to various drugs sounds reasonable, looking at the data you link to.

From your links:



That study indicated the placebo was 64% as effective (in terms of Depresson reduction, or whatever). One of the many features of statistics of course is that there are lots of ways to look at data, and depending on the data and the questions at hand that are good ways that aid and bad ways that obstruct the acquisition of understanding. I don't know off the cuff whether this way is better, but again from the source that supplied your graphics we have:



which again suggests both a significant placebo effect and, in that particular manner of analysis notes that the difference between placebos and the drugs under study in the data under discussion is in fact short of being "clinically significant".

Aside from the question of conclusions reasonably supported by the presented data, a couple points to consider in possible defense of the assertion of ineffectiveness given in the diavlog. Your links include certain studies. It being reasonable to me to consider that Mr. Horgan was honest in claiming he had looked at relevant data in penning the chapter of a past book he was talking about, it is likely that the studies he was considering showed a smaller clinical advantage to the drugs in question vs. placebos. This could possibly indicate that either he or the source you quote are selectively cherry picking data. It could involve your source incuding data that post dates his book.

The discrepancy could also involve his inclusion of data which he suggested is often rejected by the drug companies who tend to run and finance many drug studies, and who have a strong financial incentive to bias toward positive results. Consideration of this might lead one to question for example why, in the first text linked above, the study reports data on 287 takers of Prozac and only 48 takers of placebos.

Completely outside the data presented by any particular anti-depressant drug trial data, I speculate that there is probably a bias toward positive results from any study. Depression is by definition a psychological state, and studies pre-select toward inclusion of those who seek to change that state. The very decision to do so seems likely to have value for some. Psychological state tends to affect decisions about what to do, and what one does tends to affect psychological state. Getting off your butt, going out and doing things, engaging with people, getting exercise, all tend to produce positive effects. Moping around the house because you feel depressed is .. depressing.

Hmm, what percentage of BH forum posts engender which effects upon reading? Study anyone?
I appreciate the vague skepticism, but just because you can throw out concerns doesn't make them real. Like I said, this was well-covered last year. It's in the links. But if have a bias against SSRIs that you gotta defend, knock yourself out.

As for your last point, I guess that's why they do controls, huh?
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  #59  
Old 07-06-2009, 10:59 PM
claymisher claymisher is offline
 
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Default TF

BTW, did Bob trick John into doing a Templeton Foundation event with this one?
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  #60  
Old 07-06-2009, 11:09 PM
Jack McCullough Jack McCullough is offline
 
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Default Re: Percontations: Cage Match of God (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

John is uncharacteristically missing the point.

I'm talking about the question he poses to Bob at about 27:00, where Bob praises him for being so far ahead of other atheists simply for asking the question.

My reaction is that the question is entirely beside the point. Earlier in the diavlog John talks about it as a courtroom, and in the courtroom, as in this debate, the question is simple: what is the evidence? Even if we were to agree that belief in some god makes people happier or better off than they would be without it, that wouldn't justify lying to them (my strong interpretation) or just believing in something without evidence (possibly Bob's less pejorative interpretation).
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  #61  
Old 07-06-2009, 11:36 PM
themightypuck themightypuck is offline
 
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Default Re: TF

Is John on record as opposing TF funding?
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  #62  
Old 07-06-2009, 11:54 PM
unhandyandy unhandyandy is offline
 
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Default Re: Percontations: Cage Match of God (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

Quote:
Originally Posted by moth View Post
This leads me to ask whether or not Bob has seriously considered the anthropocentric fallacy? We value certain moral directions because specific social structures helped us survive, so of course to us it seems like our history is teleological.
Exactly! I haven't heard Bob address this criticism (but I'm only on page 230).

Another way to put it is that Bob's argument for the existence of God (which admittedly he doesn't really endorse) seems circular. Bob sees that the vast course of social evolution has led to ever improving formulations of morality, but only because his notion of "improvement" is itself the product of that evolution. If genocide and rapine had turned out to be effective strategies then Satanists could see their faith affirmed.
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  #63  
Old 07-06-2009, 11:57 PM
themightypuck themightypuck is offline
 
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Default Re: Percontations: Cage Match of God (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

A bit hard on Satanists there. And Ayn Rand.
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  #64  
Old 07-07-2009, 12:24 AM
Bloggin' Noggin Bloggin' Noggin is offline
 
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Default New glasses -- next step, a more up-to-date Philosophy of Science

At this John says that truth is something that science discovers. He seems to regard science as a criterion of objective truth:
(1) Inquiries can be divided fairly neatly into science and non-science
and
(2) The subject-matter of non-sciences is never objective truth.
(3) Ethics is not a science
(4) Therefore there is no objecive truth in morality (the subject-matter of Ethics).

Our philosophers of science just recently pointed out that the positivist hope of finding a bright line between science and non-science has failed to pan out.
But (2) is really tremendously implausible. History is not a science. It's possible to claim that history could some day become a science. But it's quite easy to imagine a world (possibly the actual one) in which it could never become a science. If sciences by definition discover general laws, we can easily imagine that history has no general laws (at least not of any interest), and that therefore it could never become a science.
Yet the subject matter of history is objective fact. Did Richard III really have the princes killed? There may be compelling reasons on both sides, or perhaps it will ultimately be possible to find some kind of smoking gun -- some decisive evidence one way or the other. But Richard either did or did not order their deaths, whether or not enough traces of that past time remain in the present for us to determine whether he did or not. It is a matter of fact one way or the other, even if we cannot ascertain that fact. And even if we can establish the fact one way or the other, that doesn't make history a science.

Science cannot be the criterion of objective truth, and even if Ethics is not and never will be a science, it doesn't follow that there are no ethical truths which are true independently of what people believe about them.

John, it's time for your philosophy of science to catch up at least to the latter half of the 20th century. Karl Popper and AJ Ayer are dead and their philosophy of science is is even deader.
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  #65  
Old 07-07-2009, 12:36 AM
claymisher claymisher is offline
 
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Default Re: New glasses -- next step, a more up-to-date Philosophy of Science

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bloggin' Noggin View Post
John, it's time for your philosophy of science to catch up at least to the latter half of the 20th century. Karl Popper and AJ Ayer are dead and their philosophy of science is is even deader.
I have almost zero interest in the philosophy of science (I'm a big believer in muddling through. Is that pragmatism?) but since we're lucky to have a professional philosopher among us, I gotta ask, who's got the answers on the philosophy of science nowadays?
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  #66  
Old 07-07-2009, 01:15 AM
themightypuck themightypuck is offline
 
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Default Re: New glasses -- next step, a more up-to-date Philosophy of Science

What specifically about Popper don't you like?
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  #67  
Old 07-07-2009, 04:19 AM
Francoamerican
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Default Re: Percontations: Cage Match of God (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

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Originally Posted by themightypuck View Post
There is no question, it seems to me, that the scientific answer is that purpose is unnecessary and therefore unlikely. The philosophical answer is more complicated.
Certainly modern science operates with the assumption that purpose (teleology) is unnecessary---physics being the paradigm of modern science. Biology, on the other hand, has always had difficulty dispensing with the idea of purpose (by which I don't mean "design" in the clockmaker sense) because living organisms and especially living organisms endowed with consciousness, i.e. us, are difficult to understand in mechanistic terms.

As for history, I don't see how anyone can fail to see that the idea of purpose is indispensable, whether at the level of individual action or at the level of la longue durée.
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  #68  
Old 07-07-2009, 05:42 AM
Francoamerican
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Default Re: Percontations: Cage Match of God (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

Quote:
Originally Posted by holyworrier View Post
Bob sez: "I believe there is evidence of a larger purpose with a moral direction unfolding through the material workings of the natural world".

"When purpose is seen, it suggests something special about the process that created it. It doesn't mean an intelligent being created it."

(Close paraphrases)

This is a variant of religious naturalism, which finds purpose in natural processes, unless I'm totally missing something.

What do the words"purpose" and "special" mean to you, Bob? Are they value-neutral? Subjective? as in "the process by which I came into being was special because its purpose was to make Me!"?
It is possible to think that a process is purposeful (=aims at something) without necessarily thinking that the individuals who carry on the process are themselves the purpose of the process, i.e. that they are "special" in the sense that the monotheistic religions suppose that every soul stands in a direct relation to a transcendant God, the creator and designer of the world.

Since the early 19th century there have been many attempts to see history as a process in which, for example, "the realization of freedom" (Kant, Hegel) is the goal (purpose) of history and individuals merely the temporary vehicles, as it were, of a process that transcends them.

But then, didn't Jesus say, "the kingdom of God is within you?"
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  #69  
Old 07-07-2009, 09:27 AM
thouartgob thouartgob is offline
 
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Default Re: Not Feeling the Spark of the Electron Analogy!

Quote:
Originally Posted by uncle ebeneezer View Post
First off, kudos to John for asking many of the questions that the skeptics had yet to ask Bob (at least directly on video), and to Bob for being willing to expand on his views.

One point that I was surprised that John did not raise in regards to the electron analogy (though he alluded to it before they went on a tangent) is the difference between the observability and testability of the theory that electrons exist. Even if our brain can't accurately imagine electrons precisely the way they are, we have every reason to believe that something physical is down there causing shit to happen....

In contrast, we can't look at certain areas of the world and say that we have more God, or less God. And the "observable" tendencies that Bob uses to show moral progress, are very much a matter of opinion based on anthropocentric presumptions (ie- what we have defined as "moral progress.") Sorry, I'm not presenting my thoughts very clearly, but I think it's quite appropriate for John Horgan to raise the alarm bell when Bob tries to make the electron analogy.

Great diavlog. I enjoyed it immensely.

PS nice shirt John.
I have been hanging around with the electron analogy for a while now and it still is a bit of an issue. I think Bob might be asking the analogy to do to many things at once. One strand that seemed to come up in the diavlog is that whether or not there is a god ( personal or otherwise ), if we are able to conceptualize this thing called god in a way that makes it easier for a human being to live a moral life ( a common sense approach ) then what is the problem ? I use the word conceptualize to attempt to finesse the problem of taking GOD too literally and reduce the chances of having that belief turn into something ugly.

Another way to look at it might be that we embrace the concept of free will even it it turns out the consciousness is superfluous. Like the electron, free will is something that might not exist but we should be able to make use of it and we actually might not like to live in a world where people don't believe it. Free Will like God, is something that humans would have come up with no matter what and it is a concept that will probably follow us ( despite data that says otherwise ) for quite a while. Might as well find a use for it.

I also agree that this was a great diavlog and a snazzy shirt.
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  #70  
Old 07-07-2009, 10:49 AM
Cain Cain is offline
 
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Default Wright and God

I watched this yesterday, and didn't think much of it, but I have to come back and say that Wright, even though I agree with him more often than not, admire his sharp intellect and so on... sometimes he's such a dick, especially in the case of pimping that Dennett nonsense. What's worse is Wright's shockingly hypocritical behavior: all too often he's hopelessly wishy-washy in giving an answer to the God question, which is why Horgan knows to preface his query, "OK Bob, point blank, do you believe..."

He also has bullying tendencies when his friends join him in a diavlog, perhaps because he knows their limits, but when Tyler Cowen came on to discuss the book some weeks ago, Wright made certain to kiss ass at the very beginning and extended a gentleness that he should do more often... (except in diavlogs with Kaus).
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  #71  
Old 07-07-2009, 12:06 PM
Francoamerican
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Default Re: John: Please make your philosophy as sophisticated as your glasses!

Bloggin, I agree with most of your points. But if I may play devil's advocate, I have a question about:

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Originally Posted by Bloggin' Noggin View Post
(Objectivity) There is a truth of the matter about many moral questions -- a truth which is not changed by how many people believe one side or the other. (For example, it doesn't matter how many people believe that torturing children for the sheer pleasure of it is morally permitted -- it can still be wrong, even if everybody thinks it's the best thing to do.)
Maybe you were carried away by your example, but how exactly would you know that torturing children is objectively wrong if EVERYBODY thought otherwise? It is true that we recoil instinctively at causing gratuitous harm or suffering, especially to children and other vulnerable creatures. This seems to be a feature of our evolutionary heritage, our inborn emotional makeup. Is it more than that? When a scientist, or a philosopher like John inspired by science, speaks of an "objective" truth he/she means more likely than not that it is factual, causal, mathematical or some combination thereof.

In the case of a moral judgment how do you go beyond intersubjective agreement to fullblown objectivity?
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  #72  
Old 07-07-2009, 01:27 PM
cragger cragger is offline
 
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Default Re: SSRIs

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Originally Posted by claymisher View Post
I appreciate the vague skepticism, but just because you can throw out concerns doesn't make them real.
What strikes as vague here is your non-responsive dismissivness. I have thrown out no concerns, real or unreal, merely pointed out that the data you presented does not support your contention that the placebo effect is a myth.

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Originally Posted by claymisher View Post
Like I said, this was well-covered last year. It's in the links.
Indeed it is in the links. Your links are the sources of the quotes I included above on the relative effectiveness of placebos and the drugs under study.

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Originally Posted by claymisher View Post
But if have a bias against SSRIs that you gotta defend, knock yourself out.
Your defensiveness overcomes your reading comprehension in leading you to this conclusion. I said nothing to indicate a bias against any class of antidepressant drugs, and noted that the particular data set you presented indicates they are more effective than placebos. I merely pointed out that the same data you presented also contradicts your presented bias against the existance of a placebo effect.

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Originally Posted by claymisher View Post
As for your last point, I guess that's why they do controls, huh?
In these studies as the data was presented, the placebo group is the control group.
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  #73  
Old 07-07-2009, 02:14 PM
uncle ebeneezer uncle ebeneezer is offline
 
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Default Re: Not Feeling the Spark of the Electron Analogy!

That reminds me. John did raise a good counter with the electron analogy when he mentioned sticking your finger in a socket. Even if our harnessing of electricity somehow happened despite our imaginary scenario of electrons being inaccurate or incomplete, every living human being who tried the socket test would feel something. What they feel would be incredibly similar to the sensation that the next guy felt and in short, everyone would agree that something is clearly happening. One of the big problems with Bob's outlook is that the main evidence is "moral progress" which is hardly something that everyone would agree is happening because it is such a subjective phrase.

I also don't understand why Bob feels like John, or any other atheist, has to run a detailed analysis of the virtues and costs of religion versus atheism for determining which has the more "positive" balance, yet he doesn't believe that defenders of religion who feel that it has been better on the whole, face the same analytical requirement...including himself.

And one final nit to pick. Bob, please, enough with the atheist genocides lecture. You know full well that the biggest difference between secular dictators of the 20th century and more religious ones from the past, is technology. If you don't think guns and missiles would have inflated the total numbers lost during the Crusades, you need to go stare at some more weeds.
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  #74  
Old 07-07-2009, 02:54 PM
Wonderment Wonderment is offline
 
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Default Re: Wright and God

Quote:
I watched this yesterday, and didn't think much of it, but I have to come back and say that Wright, even though I agree with him more often than not, admire his sharp intellect and so on... sometimes he's such a dick, especially in the case of pimping that Dennett nonsense.
I don't think Bob is ever a dick. I like him a lot and greatly appreciate the BHeads phenomenon he's created.

Quote:
What's worse is Wright's shockingly hypocritical behavior: all too often he's hopelessly wishy-washy in giving an answer to the God question...
I don't detect any hypocrisy in his views on God. I'm ultimately not persuaded by his argument, but calling him a hypocrite is just a gratuitous insult.

I do agree that he needs to let go of the Dennett claim.
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  #75  
Old 07-07-2009, 02:56 PM
stephanie stephanie is offline
 
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Default Re: Not Feeling the Spark of the Electron Analogy!

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Originally Posted by uncle ebeneezer View Post
I also don't understand why Bob feels like John, or any other atheist, has to run a detailed analysis of the virtues and costs of religion versus atheism for determining which has the more "positive" balance, yet he doesn't believe that defenders of religion who feel that it has been better on the whole, face the same analytical requirement...including himself.
Based on this diavlog, at least, Bob is not saying that anyone has to do such a comparison in the abstract. He is saying that someone who makes an argument based on the alleged costs of religion has to have some basis to claim that the costs are greater than the virtues. Presumably if someone started arguing for religion based on the supposed virtuous effects, he would make the same argument, but Bob himself is not arguing for religion based on positive effects.* Bob's view seems to be that it's, in fact, unmeasurable and, probably, a neutral (given that Bob seems to point to other factors as the explanation for why religion is interpreted to support a bad thing or a good thing at various times and in various different circumstances).

Of course, I haven't read the book yet (plan to, just no time yet), so that could change my mind.

*Both also are problematic arguments, since they require agreement on what positive and negative effects are.
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  #76  
Old 07-07-2009, 03:02 PM
stephanie stephanie is offline
 
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Default Re: Wright and God

I haven't been paying attention to the Dennett thing, so no opinion on that. However, I have a different take on:

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Originally Posted by Cain View Post
What's worse is Wright's shockingly hypocritical behavior: all too often he's hopelessly wishy-washy in giving an answer to the God question, which is why Horgan knows to preface his query, "OK Bob, point blank, do you believe..."

He also has bullying tendencies when his friends join him in a diavlog, perhaps because he knows their limits, but when Tyler Cowen came on to discuss the book some weeks ago, Wright made certain to kiss ass at the very beginning and extended a gentleness that he should do more often... (except in diavlogs with Kaus).
I enjoy it when Bob debates friends, because they seem to be able to joke around and call each other on things and so on. I don't see it as bullying at all, because it's clearly friendly (with Mickey too).

That relationship is also what lets someone like John say to Bob "stop avoiding the question and tell me what you think on this point." I don't think Bob is trying to avoid the question, but he seems to have some internal conflict or nuanced views that are difficult to explain, so it's easier to talk about the intellectual arguments surrounding those, which no doubt inform it. I find this entirely understandable, although perhaps I'm projecting some.
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  #77  
Old 07-07-2009, 03:03 PM
Wonderment Wonderment is offline
 
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Default Re: Not Feeling the Spark of the Electron Analogy!

Quote:
I also don't understand why Bob feels like John, or any other atheist, has to run a detailed analysis of the virtues and costs of religion versus atheism for determining which has the more "positive" balance, yet he doesn't believe that defenders of religion who feel that it has been better on the whole, face the same analytical requirement...including himself.
I thought Bob's point was that it was impossible to do such an analysis, so that a claim either way was essentially absurd.

Bob has made clear that religion can go either way -- to promote nonzero outcomes or to be destructively zero-sum.

Gandhi and King are examples of people who read the scriptures to promote peace, social justice and inclusiveness; Bin Laden, the God-hates-fags preacher and the Israeli Settlers provide examples of using scripture to promote violence, injustice and exclusiveness.
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  #78  
Old 07-07-2009, 03:05 PM
uncle ebeneezer uncle ebeneezer is offline
 
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Default Re: Not Feeling the Spark of the Electron Analogy!

Stephanie, you're right that he doesn't make the "religion is good" argument in this diavlog, but I'm pretty sure he has suggested something very close to it in other diavlogs, Meaningofloife, or written statements. I agree that analyisis of this sort id a pipe-dream, so I do agree with him there.
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  #79  
Old 07-07-2009, 03:08 PM
uncle ebeneezer uncle ebeneezer is offline
 
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Default Re: Wright and God

Totally agree. The Bob/Mickey, Bob/JohnH and Bob/Joel Achenbach diavlogs are all some of the best, and probably for that reason. John/Chip, obviously has no hesitation to press Bob when he feels the need to.
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  #80  
Old 07-07-2009, 03:23 PM
Francoamerican
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Default Re: Wright and God

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Originally Posted by stephanie View Post
I don't think Bob is trying to avoid the question, but he seems to have some internal conflict or nuanced views that are difficult to explain, so it's easier to talk about the intellectual arguments surrounding those, which no doubt inform it. I find this entirely understandable, although perhaps I'm projecting some.
Brilliant insight Stephanie. You are truly a clairvoyante.
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