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  #1  
Old 11-12-2011, 02:17 AM
Bloggingheads Bloggingheads is offline
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Default Science Saturday: The Impractical Beauty of Nature (John Horgan & David Rothenberg)

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  #2  
Old 11-12-2011, 09:42 AM
SkepticDoc SkepticDoc is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Impractical Beauty of Nature (John Horgan & David Rothenberg)

Thanks for a great diavlog!
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  #3  
Old 11-12-2011, 09:56 AM
harkin harkin is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Impractical Beauty of Nature (John Horgan & David Rothenberg)

One of the great joys we get when we visit our place in the Rockies is the bird experience.

You know you're back when you hear the calls of the w meadowlark and the red-winged blackbird.

Every summer the swallows build their mud condominiums.

Every evening the common nighthawks (maybe nature's most graceful fliers) come round to pick off flying insects.

And there's a HUGE horned owl that has been terrorizing local rodents (when he's around even the barn cats lay low) for years.
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  #4  
Old 11-12-2011, 10:24 AM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Impractical Beauty of Nature (John Horgan & David Rothenberg)

I have always wondered about this beauty thing. I doubt that beauty exists objectively but rather that we make things beautiful. We put the canvas together based on what we notice and how we name it as beautiful or ugly. I find it interesting that almost universally we think that nature is beautiful. I wonder why that is.

I think attributing joy to an animal is quite anthropomorphic. What is joy and do animals feel it? Those are questions which might have answers. But thinking that birds flying apparently willy nilly are doing it for the joy of it is really a stretch.

I adore mockingbirds.
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  #5  
Old 11-12-2011, 11:11 AM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Impractical Beauty of Nature (John Horgan & David Rothenberg)

Quote:
Originally Posted by harkin View Post

And there's a HUGE horned owl that has been terrorizing local rodents (when he's around even the barn cats lay low) for years.
An owl cruising by you at night is really spooky. It makes no noise except for the air it disturbs. You get to feel how large and graceful it is.
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Last edited by badhatharry; 11-12-2011 at 11:21 AM..
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  #6  
Old 11-12-2011, 11:49 AM
harkin harkin is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Impractical Beauty of Nature (John Horgan & David Rothenberg)

Quote:
Originally Posted by badhatharry View Post
An owl cruising by you at night is really spooky. It makes no noise except for the air it disturbs. You get to feel how large and graceful it is.
Large owls disturb a lot of air. Every year the barn owls nest in our stacks of pea straw. Hearing them tear by as they zero in on a vole can rattle you.

I climbed up and took a pic a couple years ago while mama was gone. The chicks hiss like vipers.



The sound of birds cutting through the air is something to experience. We once camped at a dunes above Panamint Springs and ravens were gliding over us at dawn, the sound was very unique and beautiful. Right up there with it is the sound I heard as coyotes came across myself and my dogs in our cornfield on a moonlit night, they split up and went past us on both sides......very trippy.

And I have a friend who lives on the N CA coast. They have a hawk's nest in a redwood above their deck and if you go out and look long enough through binoculars the hawk will stare back......but if you look away and stay there it will dive bomb you. No one believes this till they go out and experience it.
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  #7  
Old 11-12-2011, 12:10 PM
miceelf miceelf is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Impractical Beauty of Nature (John Horgan & David Rothenberg)

Quote:
Originally Posted by badhatharry View Post
I have always wondered about this beauty thing. I doubt that beauty exists objectively but rather that we make things beautiful. We put the canvas together based on what we notice and how we name it as beautiful or ugly. I find it interesting that almost universally we think that nature is beautiful. I wonder why that is.
I think that's true. Although, to modify it slightly, I suspect that there are things that humans are more likely to be drawn to, for good survival reasons.

I suspect that when we think of nature being beautiful we are thinking of some things (mountains, flowers, etc.) and not others (rotting carcases, maggots, squid):

http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/ani...k-of-evolution


Quote:
Originally Posted by badhatharry View Post
I think attributing joy to an animal is quite anthropomorphic. What is joy and do animals feel it?
I wonder if the reason we are so predisposed to anthropomorphize has to do with the adaptation to form attachments to animals. Domesticating dogs and horses was as much an adaptation for humans as it was for the dogs and horses.
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  #8  
Old 11-12-2011, 12:46 PM
Florian Florian is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Impractical Beauty of Nature (John Horgan & David Rothenberg)

I agree with David: birdsong, like everything else that strikes us as marvellous and beautiful in nature, is difficult to explain in purely adaptationist terms.

Shelley got it right in "Ode to a Skylark"


Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!
Bird thou never wert -
That from Heaven or near it
Pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.


Higher still and higher
From the earth thou springest,
Like a cloud of fire;
The blue deep thou wingest,
And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.


In the golden lightning
Of the sunken sun,
O'er which clouds are bright'ning,
Thou dost float and run,
Like an unbodied joy whose race is just begun.


The pale purple even
Melts around thy flight;
Like a star of Heaven,
In the broad daylight
Thou art unseen, but yet I hear thy shrill delight -


Keen as are the arrows
Of that silver sphere
Whose intense lamp narrows
In the white dawn clear,
Until we hardly see, we feel that it is there.


All the earth and air
With thy voice is loud,
As, when night is bare,
From one lonely cloud
The moon rains out her beams, and Heaven is overflowed.


What thou art we know not;
What is most like thee?
From rainbow clouds there flow not
Drops so bright to see,
As from thy presence showers a rain of melody: -


Like a Poet hidden
In the light of thought,
Singing hymns unbidden,
Till the world is wrought
To sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not:


Like a high-born maiden
In a palace-tower,
Soothing her love-laden
Soul in secret hour
With music sweet as love, which overflows her bower:


Like a glow-worm golden
In a dell of dew,
Scattering unbeholden
Its arial hue
Among the flowers and grass which screen it from the view:


Like a rose embowered
In its own green leaves,
By warm winds deflowered,
Till the scent it gives
Makes faint with too much sweet these heavy-wingd thieves:


Sound of vernal showers
On the twinkling grass,
Rain-awakened flowers -
All that ever was
Joyous and clear and fresh - thy music doth surpass.


Teach us, Sprite or Bird,
What sweet thoughts are thine:
I have never heard
Praise of love or wine
That panted forth a flood of rapture so divine.


Chorus hymeneal,
Or triumphal chant,
Matched with thine would be all
but an empty vaunt -
A thing wherein we feel there is some hidden want.


What objects are the fountains
Of thy happy strain?
What fields, or waves, or mountains?
What shapes of sky or plain?
What love of thine own kind? what ignorance of pain?


With thy clear keen joyance
Languor cannot be:
Shadow of annoyance
Never came near thee:
Thou lovest, but ne'er knew love's sad satiety.


Waking or asleep,
Thou of death must deem
Things more true and deep
Than we mortals dream,
Or how could thy notes flow in such a crystal stream?


We look before and after,
And pine for what is not:
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.


Yet, if we could scorn
Hate and pride and fear,
If we were things born
Not to shed a tear,
I know not how thy joy we ever should come near.


Better than all measures
Of delightful sound,
Better than all treasures
That in books are found,
Thy skill to poet were, thou scorner of the ground!


Teach me half the gladness
That thy brain must know;
Such harmonious madness
From my lips would flow,
The world should listen then, as I am listening now.
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  #9  
Old 11-12-2011, 02:58 PM
Abdicate Abdicate is offline
 
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Default concerning Richard Dawkins

Rothenberg's criticism of Dr. Dawkins is unfair; I was saddened to observe John seconding it. Dawkins takes on his critics courageously and honorably--and doesn't issue blanket, mindless attacks, pace Rothenberg and Horgan.
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  #10  
Old 11-12-2011, 05:08 PM
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Impractical Beauty of Nature (John Horgan & David Rothenberg)

Quote:
Originally Posted by harkin View Post
One of the great joys we get when we visit our place in the Rockies is the bird experience.

You know you're back when you hear the calls of the w meadowlark and the red-winged blackbird.

Every summer the swallows build their mud condominiums.

Every evening the common nighthawks (maybe nature's most graceful fliers) come round to pick off flying insects.

And there's a HUGE horned owl that has been terrorizing local rodents (when he's around even the barn cats lay low) for years.
That's a hobby I could pick up easily. Rather than bird watching it should be bird listening. It's truly magical.

Thank you for the links to bird songs.
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  #11  
Old 11-12-2011, 05:27 PM
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Default Re: concerning Richard Dawkins

Quote:
Originally Posted by Abdicate View Post
Rothenberg's criticism of Dr. Dawkins is unfair; I was saddened to observe John seconding it. Dawkins takes on his critics courageously and honorably--and doesn't issue blanket, mindless attacks, pace Rothenberg and Horgan.
I'm pretty sure that Dawkins has courageously and honorably survived much worse criticisms from others. Many people share this opinion about Dawkins' (and others') stance in terms of their making fun of religion and people who believe in them. I don't see why it would be considered unfair.

If you go around throwing stones at people, even if done with honorable intentions, it is to be expected that some stones will be thrown your way. Some call it karma, I call it human nature.
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  #12  
Old 11-12-2011, 05:42 PM
Ocean Ocean is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Impractical Beauty of Nature (John Horgan & David Rothenberg)

I liked this diavlog very much.

However, I felt torn at times. My science oriented mind kept thinking about how we define beauty, how that relates to our own adaptation. I kept thinking about our own development of esthetics, art, and music, and how difficult it is to find a simplistic evolutionary "fitness" model to explain them. Why not animals then? Perhaps the fitness is in creating a state of mind (neurological balance) that optimizes other adaptive behaviors or the way the individual relates to its peers.

And then I would come back to the actual diavlog, and realize that the whole science explanation is besides the point. David issues an invitation to appreciate and understand these beautiful manifestations of nature without reducing them to simplistic preconceived models. There may be "good" in beauty without fitness mediation. We, creatures of nature, may all crave the pure harmony of sight and sound and feel in its multiple expressions, without any other end but itself. Why not? Perhaps we are destined to become Homo Glorious Celebratoris.

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  #13  
Old 11-12-2011, 06:35 PM
sapeye sapeye is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Impractical Beauty of Nature (John Horgan & David Rothenberg)

Quote:
Originally Posted by harkin View Post
One of the great joys we get when we visit our place in the Rockies is the bird experience.

And there's a HUGE horned owl that has been terrorizing local rodents (when he's around even the barn cats lay low) for years.
Have you tried calling in owls with a tape recording of their calls? It really works. They will come in quite close. I love to hear their haunting calls from deep in the wilderness night.

One of my favorite bird's calls is the loon. In the same way you know you are home when you hear the meadow lark, loon calls tell me I'm back to the wild lakes. I used to think that loons have only three calls (the mournful wail, the yodel, and the lunatic cackle) but after spending a lot of time with them I've learned that they have many more. Once while paddling my canoe parallel to a loon swimming, we sang to each other for quite a while. He not only sang, but also changed key from time to time. They have a specific call for when they see an eagle, especially when they have chicks with them. Each time I hear that call I scan the sky and sure enough there is an eagle in sight -- sometimes so far away it's a mere speck in the distance. Since loons will lunge up to drive off an eagle swooping on their chicks, I'm not sure if that call is to warn other loons of the eagle's presence, or to let the eagle know that it's been spotted.
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  #14  
Old 11-12-2011, 09:27 PM
harkin harkin is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Impractical Beauty of Nature (John Horgan & David Rothenberg)

Quote:
Originally Posted by sapeye View Post
Have you tried calling in owls with a tape recording of their calls? It really works. They will come in quite close. I love to hear their haunting calls from deep in the wilderness night.
My neighbors are big-time hunters and can call in everything from a bull elk to a hungry coyote but I never even thought about calling in owls.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sapeye View Post
One of my favorite bird's calls is the loon. In the same way you know you are home when you hear the meadow lark, loon calls tell me I'm back to the wild lakes.
I got a good firsthand lesson in the loon call when I worked in MN a few years back. Beautiful. In CA you see them in the ocean much more than in freshwater settings.
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  #15  
Old 11-13-2011, 01:27 AM
consider consider is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Impractical Beauty of Nature (John Horgan & David Rothenberg)

I have my problems with some of Horgan's less scientific thinking. cf. why fusion and string theory shouldn't get much funding and his logical disconnect on free will.

But his interviews are excellent.
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  #16  
Old 11-13-2011, 10:56 AM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Impractical Beauty of Nature (John Horgan & David Rothenberg)

Quote:
Originally Posted by consider View Post
I have my problems with some of Horgan's less scientific thinking. cf. why fusion and string theory shouldn't get much funding and his logical disconnect on free will.

But his interviews are excellent.
I think strong assertions regarding the existence of free will are silly and unfounded. I don't agree with Horgan's views on string theory, though I'd say calling them "unscientific" is a little strong; but that notwithstanding, I generally agree with this.
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  #17  
Old 11-13-2011, 02:18 PM
sapeye sapeye is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Impractical Beauty of Nature (John Horgan & David Rothenberg)

I generally liked this conversation although they could have covered the ground in about half the time. It became repetitious and somewhat tedious in places. I always appreciate perspectives that challenge strictly functionalist explanations, and Rothenberg does a good job of it. His proposed reasons for the existence of beauty are compatible with Maturana and Varela's notion of "natural drift" (not genetic drift).

I particularly liked the part about anthropomorphism. Most biologists are adamant about not projecting human qualities onto the organisms they study, and rightly so, I think. But instead they often seem to see living creatures as skin-draped stimulus-response machines. Why would we want to either attribute human qualities onto animals or insist that they have no capacity for feelings or appreciation of beauty? Perhaps because its hard to live with ambiguity. Its easier to believe that animals feel as we do or to turn them into automatons with no sense of self or feelings at all. Its much more difficult to live with the mystery that they have their own lives we will never know except to some degree through empathy, intuition, and quiet observation of their behavior.
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Old 11-13-2011, 03:39 PM
Abdicate Abdicate is offline
 
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Default Re: concerning Richard Dawkins

In my previous comment, I dingalinked to Rothenberg's claim that Dawkins' position--vis--vis believers--is 'I am rational; you are idiots.'

I did not claim that Rothenberg's characterization constitutes an exceptionally filthy attack on Dawkins. I merely called it 'unfair'--and expressed sadness to see Horgan chiming in with support.

When someone puts forward words impugning someone else, a commenter is free to assert that the charge is unfair.

If you believe the defender's Unfair! claim to be untenable--it is then your job to defend the original attack.

In the present to-and-fro, a person objecting to my previous comment should defend the proposition that it is fair to summarize Dawkins' attitude towards the religious as 'I am rational; you are idiots.'

Points will be deducted from your status if you--as Ocean sadly does--publish any sentence such as Many people share this opinion. (In our effort to pursue truth via upright public discussion, we care not for the mood of the mob.)

I have not observed Dr. Dawkins 'going around throwing stones at people.' If you disagree with me and believe, with David Rothenberg, John Horgan and our dear Ocean--that Dr. Dawkins is at bottom a nut--you should be able to present some credible evidence in defense of your belief.
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  #19  
Old 11-13-2011, 04:02 PM
sapeye sapeye is offline
 
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Default Re: concerning Richard Dawkins

Quote:
Originally Posted by Abdicate View Post
I have not observed Dr. Dawkins 'going around throwing stones at people.' If you disagree with me and believe, with David Rothenberg, John Horgan and our dear Ocean--that Dr. Dawkins is at bottom a nut--you should be able to present some credible evidence in defense of your belief.
For instance: www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYigmGyN2RQ[/URL]
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  #20  
Old 11-13-2011, 04:16 PM
Ocean Ocean is offline
 
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Default Re: concerning Richard Dawkins

Quote:
Originally Posted by Abdicate View Post
In my previous comment, I dingalinked to Rothenberg's claim that Dawkins' position--vis--vis believers--is 'I am rational; you are idiots.'

I did not claim that Rothenberg's characterization constitutes an exceptionally filthy attack on Dawkins. I merely called it 'unfair'--and expressed sadness to see Horgan chiming in with support.

When someone puts forward words impugning someone else, a commenter is free to assert that the charge is unfair.

If you believe the defender's Unfair! claim to be untenable--it is then your job to defend the original attack.

In the present to-and-fro, a person objecting to my previous comment should defend the proposition that it is fair to summarize Dawkins' attitude towards the religious as 'I am rational; you are idiots.'

Points will be deducted from your status if you--as Ocean sadly does--publish any sentence such as Many people share this opinion. (In our effort to pursue truth via upright public discussion, we care not for the mood of the mob.)

I have not observed Dr. Dawkins 'going around throwing stones at people.' If you disagree with me and believe, with David Rothenberg, John Horgan and our dear Ocean--that Dr. Dawkins is at bottom a nut--you should be able to present some credible evidence in defense of your belief.
Wow, some of Dawkins' irrational counterparts in the astrology camp may believe that there's some retrograde planet in my personal horoscope which is determining so much antagonism from commenters in BhTV.

I think that my previous post was pretty clear about the fact that Dawkins has probably heard the same criticism so many times, that I doubt he would feel hurt by it. He has an aggressive attitude against religion and this kind of attitude (right or wrong, I'm not making any judgments about that), usually elicits aggressive counters.

I never said that Dawkins is at bottom a nut. Where did you get that from? I personally disagree with his strategy, but I don't think he's a nut at all.

As to whether we could summarize Dawkins position as 'I am rational; you are idiots.', I don't know, but it seems pretty damn close to the substance of what he says. Is that all he says? Of course not. How do you want me to prove this? Should I cite all his books, public appearances, interviews, or what?

If we are discussing this issue, I will assume that we are both somewhat familiar with what Dawkins has said repeatedly and also with the public interpretation of what he has said. It isn't about the mood of the mob, but rather the most common interpretation of his message. Neither Rothenberg, nor Horgan (I don't even know how strong his agreement with the statement was, really, other than agreeing mostly with Rothenberg praising Wilson) nor I are expressing some idiosyncratic interpretation of Dawkins' attitude.

As an aside, abdicate, I don't know where you're from, or your cultural background but referring to your interlocutor as "our dear Ocean" gives a very bad signal and is rather condescending. I will encourage you to refrain from using that style of language, especially when you are addressing women. I'm not too sensitive to that kind of language myself and over the years have become rather immune to it, but I know that it doesn't sit well with others.
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  #21  
Old 11-13-2011, 04:46 PM
T.G.G.P T.G.G.P is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Impractical Beauty of Nature (John Horgan & David Rothenberg)

This guy is annoying. He's not a scientist and is using stuff like "joy" as a semantic stop-sign. Scientists need to understand WHY birds enjoy songs rather than saying "Because the songs are enjoyable". That is the problem with anthropomorphism. And yes I will side with the behaviorist caricature and say scientists should not "anthropomorphize humans".

I haven't finished listening to the whole interview, but has he mentioned the prevalence of diahrrea among peacocks? That's relevant when it comes to having a large (but clean) tail.

Regarding Neanderthals not having music: that's an older idea, less common now that we have their genome and detected FOXP2.

Many humans are not creative. They are still human.

The fact that signals can be dishonest is a pretty important part of adaptationist theory. A common phrase is "mimicry", and of course there is an arms-race involved in cycles of deception and detection. And one of Cosmides & Tooby's most famous studies is on how we are more perceptive when trying to detect deceptive rule violation than solving some Bayesian puzzle without that element.

Last edited by T.G.G.P; 11-13-2011 at 05:02 PM..
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Old 11-13-2011, 05:09 PM
Abdicate Abdicate is offline
 
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Default Re: concerning Richard Dawkins

I looked at your link, Sapeye--and it doesn't boil down to 'I'm rational; you're idiots.' Dawkins puts forward an evidence-based criticism of theists; that's very different from idle name-calling.
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  #23  
Old 11-13-2011, 05:40 PM
Abdicate Abdicate is offline
 
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Default Re: concerning Richard Dawkins

Is it fair to characterize Dr. Dawkins' central position as I'm rational; you're idiots?

The question doesn't require us to speculate on Dr. Dawkins' feelings. Whether Dawkins has commonly received similar criticism doesn't matter.

Is the charge fair or unfair?

If you believe that Dawkins' position equates to 'I'm rational; you're idiots' then I think you view Dawkins as a nut. I am happy to pursue this facet of our dispute--though such delving would appear unfruitful with Ocean, as she explicitly makes no judgment on Dawkins' irreligion.

If, with Ocean, one makes no negative judgment on Dawkins' attitude towards religion, then one departs abruptly from Rothenberg--who considers Dawkins crankish. If one doesn't at all consider Dawkins a crank, one should disagree with those who believe his central message I'm rational; you're idiots.

Were one to attempt to defend Rothenberg's characterization, I think a quotation or two would help. (Dawkins hasn't made your job easy, however--as I don't recall him having made any such point.)

Last edited by Abdicate; 11-13-2011 at 05:44 PM.. Reason: punctuation
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  #24  
Old 11-13-2011, 06:45 PM
Ocean Ocean is offline
 
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Default Re: concerning Richard Dawkins

Quote:
Originally Posted by Abdicate View Post
Is it fair to characterize Dr. Dawkins' central position as I'm rational; you're idiots?

The question doesn't require us to speculate on Dr. Dawkins' feelings. Whether Dawkins has commonly received similar criticism doesn't matter.

Is the charge fair or unfair?

If you believe that Dawkins' position equates to 'I'm rational; you're idiots' then I think you view Dawkins as a nut. I am happy to pursue this facet of our dispute--though such delving would appear unfruitful with Ocean, as she explicitly makes no judgment on Dawkins' irreligion.

If, with Ocean, one makes no negative judgment on Dawkins' attitude towards religion, then one departs abruptly from Rothenberg--who considers Dawkins crankish. If one doesn't at all consider Dawkins a crank, one should disagree with those who believe his central message I'm rational; you're idiots.

Were one to attempt to defend Rothenberg's characterization, I think a quotation or two would help. (Dawkins hasn't made your job easy, however--as I don't recall him having made any such point.)
I think that Sapeye's link is sufficient. If you don't think that was a good example of Dawkins ridiculing religion by drawing the contrast between the claims of science and the wording used for religious claims while making fun of the latter, then I don't really know what we're talking about.

It looks like you want to define "nut" as someone who says 'I'm rational; you're idiots'. It is your definition and your criteria.

I wouldn't call someone who in essence says that, a nut. Perhaps I would think that the person is somewhat arrogant but not a nut (meaning crazy or eccentric). It may be, in fact, that Dawkins is rational, and "idiot" being a very subjective term, perhaps applies to some of the people whose ideas he objects to.

Moving on to his attitude towards religion, there are two aspects to it.

One is what Dawkins himself thinks about religion and religious beliefs, his reasoning and arguments that support his lack of belief. I happen to agree with him on all those counts, since I'm not religious, and although I label myself as an agnostic, I do it for the same reasons that Dawkins mentions in his writings (a technicality of being unable to prove the nonexistence of the most abstract concept of god).

The second aspect is his attitude towards religious people. Here is where I depart from Dawkins' style. He tends to be aggressive, antagonistic and ridicules religions and believers. This is what I object to the most. There have been quite a few debates here about this topic. Some people seem to believe that this attitude is helpful for people who are on the fence, and who will respond to this style by taking the step of departing from religion. I admit that it's difficult for me to see this possibility because I've never really been on the fence about this topic. But, I can see how it may, indeed, be helpful to some.

However, there's a vast majority of people who are actually religious and who only feel insulted. In turn they may become more radicalized and less sympathetic to atheism as a result of this kind of attitude. If they were presented with the facts, the information without the mockery, it would be more likely that they would be more receptive.

Ultimately it is the latter point that Rothenberg referred to during this diavlog while drawing a contrast between Wilson and Dawkins.
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  #25  
Old 11-13-2011, 07:44 PM
sapeye sapeye is offline
 
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Default Re: concerning Richard Dawkins

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ocean View Post
However, there's a vast majority of people who are actually religious and who only feel insulted. In turn they may become more radicalized and less sympathetic to atheism as a result of this kind of attitude. If they were presented with the facts, the information without the mockery, it would be more likely that they would be more receptive.

Ultimately it is the latter point that Rothenberg referred to during this diavlog while drawing a contrast between Wilson and Dawkins.
What seems equally important to me is that by being so sure that he is Right and they are Wrong, Dawkins closes himself to the possibility that religious people might, in fact, experience something (possibly trans-rational) valid and valuable that he, himself, does not. This is, in my view, similar to the tunnel vision many religious people suffer that prevents them from understanding and rationally responding to scientific challenges to their literal acceptance of the Bible
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Old 11-13-2011, 07:52 PM
sapeye sapeye is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: The Impractical Beauty of Nature (John Horgan & David Rothenberg)

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Originally Posted by T.G.G.P View Post
Many humans are not creative. They are still human.
Whoa! This seems like a very radical claim based on a narrow notion of creativity. What human is not creative moment by moment in their daily life, in their generation of basic language, in generating the world in which they live, or, for that matter, in wiping their butt? It seems to me that everything we and all other organisms do demonstrates creativity. Evolutionary history is an endless story of creativity as forms and behaviors that hadn't previously existed appear and become established.
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Old 11-13-2011, 07:53 PM
Abdicate Abdicate is offline
 
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Default Re: concerning Richard Dawkins

Sapeye's link in no way strengthens the case--and so if that's where you want to leave it, I will sleep soundly tonight.

Polemicists can stay in my good graces while employing occasional ridicule. If a disputant's considered position can be summarized as 'I'm rational; you're idiots' then I am calling the person a nut--which for me means a person whose views are eccentric enough that they may be disregarded by upright people who care about pursuing truth.

Dawkins does not positively affirm the non-existence of 'god[s]'; he argues that there is no credible evidence for such a belief--and that the known arguments in favor of such belief are unconvincing and logically flawed. I have not witnessed Dawkins ever claiming 'to prove the nonexistence of the most abstract concept of god'.

If believers feel offended by Dawkins' words, I would like to see the specific quotation. Until then, I am unsympathetic to their predictable I'm offended caviling. Alternatively, I don't see atheists taking refuge in their wounded feelings at the hands of religious people.

Were I to learn Dawkins was about to dramatically soften his rhetoric so as to hurt religious people's feelings less, I would be severely--lo, mortally--offended.
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Old 11-13-2011, 08:08 PM
Ocean Ocean is offline
 
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Default Re: concerning Richard Dawkins

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Originally Posted by sapeye View Post
What seems equally important to me is that by being so sure that he is Right and they are Wrong, Dawkins closes himself to the possibility that religious people might, in fact, experience something (possibly trans-rational) valid and valuable that he, himself, does not. This is, in my view, similar to the tunnel vision many religious people suffer that prevents them from understanding and rationally responding to scientific challenges to their literal acceptance of the Bible
I've been merely defending a very basic point, what I consider to be the most common criticism that Dawkins receives regarding his strategy to approach religious belief.

The level of argument that you suggest would be even more inaccessible to discussion at this point. I can't make judgments on Dawkins inner experience, so I can't tell whether he has "trans-rational" experiences. For example and to come back to the original topic, appreciation of art at an emotional level doesn't seem to be mediated by reason. So I have to imagine that there are realms of experience that we all, including Dawkins, experience, that have nothing to do with rationality since they belong to a different set of psychological functions.

But if we are going to address the topic as you suggest in your last paragraph, the "tunnel vision" aspect, the bottom line is that there is a hierarchy of psychological constructs that we protect. Some constructs are so intimately built in our psyche, that challenging them abruptly threatens the internal integrity- coherence of the individual. As any existential threat such challenge would be immediately rejected. Those constructs have become part of one's identity, and unless the person has successfully mastered some form of Buddhist non-attachment, such identifications are above reason or challenge. These core beliefs are the ones that Dawkins challenges in people who are religious, while his own comfort in rationality may be threatened by the hint of an unknown trans-rational experience.

Interesting topic when there isn't a radical disagreement about the terms of discussion.
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Old 11-13-2011, 08:19 PM
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Default Re: concerning Richard Dawkins

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Originally Posted by Abdicate View Post
Sapeye's link in no way strengthens the case--and so if that's where you want to leave it, I will sleep soundly tonight.
Restful it will be then.

Quote:
Polemicists can stay in my good graces while employing occasional ridicule. If a disputant's considered position can be summarized as 'I'm rational; you're idiots' then I am calling the person a nut--which for me means a person whose views are eccentric enough that they may be disregarded by upright people who care about pursuing truth.
Your definition of nut, not mine.


Quote:
Dawkins does not positively affirm the non-existence of 'god[s]'; he argues that there is no credible evidence for such a belief--and that the known arguments in favor of such belief are unconvincing and logically flawed. I have not witnessed Dawkins ever claiming 'to prove the nonexistence of the most abstract concept of god'.
Perhaps I didn't communicate this accurately or you misunderstood. I agree with your statements about Dawkins above. My point was that I consider myself an agnostic for the very same reasons that you argue here. It's a technicality. In practice I live my life as an atheist.

Quote:
If believers feel offended by Dawkins' words, I would like to see the specific quotation. Until then, I am unsympathetic to their predictable I'm offended caviling.
Are you saying that you're not aware that religious people feel offended by Dawkins mockery of them? That's surprising.

Quote:
Alternatively, I don't see atheists taking refuge in their wounded feelings at the hands of religious people.
This is surprising too. Many groups of atheists are exactly about venting their frustration and getting validation because they have been hurt by religious people who reject them. Are you saying you're not aware of this or am I misunderstanding you?

Quote:
Were I to learn Dawkins was about to dramatically soften his rhetoric so as to hurt religious people's feelings less, I would be severely--lo, mortally--offended.
I'm certainly not a Dawkins' expert, but I have some vague memory of having seen Dawkins softening some of his arguments in certain more recent (in the last few years) debates. If I ever come across any of them I'll be glad to pass on the link.
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Old 11-13-2011, 08:32 PM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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Default Re: concerning Richard Dawkins

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Originally Posted by Abdicate View Post


I have not observed Dr. Dawkins 'going around throwing stones at people.' If you disagree with me and believe, with David Rothenberg, John Horgan and our dear Ocean--that Dr. Dawkins is at bottom a nut--you should be able to present some credible evidence in defense of your belief.
Far be it from me to ally myself with dear Ocean, but I listened to the clip and unless my hearing is failing me, Rothenberg did not say at bottom, Dr. Dawkins is a nut. Is there another occasion we should be looking at? He seemed to be saying that Dawkins has an antipathy to those who have religious beliefs. Is this in dispute?

Here's an interesting video in which Dawkins is discussing his new book. At around 8:00 he says pretty clearly he thinks religious people are stupid. This seems to line up nicely with Rothenberg's observation whose larger point is that people like Dawkins won't engage with religious people and their beliefs at any level.

I know there are some people who think that scientists need to woo the religious to get them to be more open to scientific explanations for the phenomenon that religion previously explained. It seems that Rothenberg, right or wroong, is in this camp and is correct that Dawkins would never approach the issue this way.
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Old 11-13-2011, 10:42 PM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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Default Re: concerning Richard Dawkins

PS. This might qualify as Dawkins throwing stones. Here he is responding to a story about Rebecca Watson.

Posted by: Richard Dawkins | July 2, 2011 11:11 AM

Dear Muslima

Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and . . . yawn . . . don't tell me yet again, I know you aren't allowed to drive a car, and you can't leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you'll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.

Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep"chick", and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn't lay a finger on her, but even so . . .

And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.

Richard
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Old 11-13-2011, 10:48 PM
Abdicate Abdicate is offline
 
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Default Re: concerning Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins has not suggested that the healthy human psyche be made up of reason alone; we all acknowledge the area of the irrational, variously defined. A paragraph isn't required for us to agree that Dawkins would readily acknowledge non-rational aspects of consciousness. Your argument founders for failing irritate anyone.

That long-long concluding paragraph, above, is incomprehensible to me, I admit.
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Old 11-13-2011, 11:24 PM
Abdicate Abdicate is offline
 
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Default Re: concerning Richard Dawkins

Okay, I acknowledge the Muslima posting was Richard at his petulent worst. Like Dawkins, I feel unsympathetic to Rebecca Watson's position, in elevatorgate, though I've never momentarily felt the need to engage in ridicule (unless it is cruel and funny). Dawkins gaffe revealed a previously-shielded level of contempt, for Watson, and one isn't advised to openly reveal unattractive psychic features--so it is too bad he published the comments. Any true friend would have shoved him away from the keyboard. That said, Rebecca Watson's position was not commendable.

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Old 11-13-2011, 11:43 PM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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Default Re: concerning Richard Dawkins

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Originally Posted by Abdicate View Post
Okay, I acknowledge the Muslima posting was Richard at his petulent worst. Like Dawkins, I feel unsympathetic to Rebecca Watson's position, in elevatorgate, though I've never momentarily felt the need to engage in ridicule (unless it is cruel and funny). Dawkins gaffe revealed a previously-shielded level of contempt, for Watson, and one isn't advised to openly reveal unattractive psychic features--so it is too bad he published the comments. Any true friend would have shoved him away from the keyboard. That said, Rebecca Watson's position was not commendable.
hmmm, but do you now cede that he was throwing stones? as opposed to:
I have not observed Dr. Dawkins 'going around throwing stones at people'
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Old 11-14-2011, 07:52 AM
Ocean Ocean is offline
 
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Default Re: concerning Richard Dawkins

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That long-long concluding paragraph, above, is incomprehensible to me, I admit.
I admit that it's obscure. I directed the paragraph to Sapeye and for some reason I thought he would figure what I was talking about.

But here:

Quote:
But if we are going to address the topic as you suggest in your last paragraph, the "tunnel vision" aspect, the bottom line is that there is a hierarchy of psychological constructs that we protect.
Sapeye mentioned tunnel vision. He referred to religious people who can't accept scientific explanations for those events that their religion has explained in other ways. He also speculates that for Dawkins it may be equally difficult, due to the same tunnel vision, to conceive of a line of thought or experience that bypasses what we consider rationality.

Quote:
Some constructs are so intimately built in our psyche, that challenging them abruptly threatens the internal integrity- coherence of the individual.
My response was that this tunnel vision has the function of protecting some core beliefs that are essential to our psychological integrity. If someone comes and challenges one of those core beliefs, the threat is so great, that we automatically reject the idea without much consideration or reasoning.


Quote:
As any existential threat such challenge would be immediately rejected. Those constructs have become part of one's identity, and unless the person has successfully mastered some form of Buddhist non-attachment, such identifications are above reason or challenge.
Same thing as above, those core beliefs are part of our identity. When they are challenged, it is our entire self that feels at risk of disintegration. This process isn't conscious, but the person mostly experiences massive anxiety and strong rejection of the challenging idea. My reference to Buddhist non-attachment was really unnecessary for this topic, but if you're curious, it only refers to the fact that in Buddhist philosophy, the idea is that we strongly identify with our own thoughts and beliefs, when in fact we are not one and the same with them. If we can manage to separate ourselves from our beliefs, see them as some accessory aspect in our lives, but not central to our psychological balance, then we wouldn't be threatened when our ideas are challenged.

Quote:
These core beliefs are the ones that Dawkins challenges in people who are religious, while his own comfort in rationality may be threatened by the hint of an unknown trans-rational experience.
After elaborating on how core beliefs are highly protected because a direct challenge to them places the person who holds such beliefs in existential / risk of disintegration alert, I mention that Dawkins goes directly at those core beliefs and that's why he encounters such strong rejection from believers. On the other hand, if we were to talk about experiences that people may have, which bypass our ability to analyze them rationally, Dawkins (perhaps) may reject them forcefully for the same reason. Those concepts challenge his strong core belief in rationality as the only way of decoding experience.

Sorry for the long explanation, but you kind of asked.
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Old 11-14-2011, 01:38 PM
Abdicate Abdicate is offline
 
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Default Re: concerning Richard Dawkins

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hmmm, but do you now cede that he was throwing stones? as opposed to:
I have not observed Dr. Dawkins 'going around throwing stones at people'
Dawkins' Muslima comment was unusual and out-of-character--not in keeping with his other public statements. Rebecca Watson had got under Dawkins' skin. He was irritated.

As it happens, Watson's elevatorgate position was silly--and deserved fair-minded, polite refutation. It is too bad Dawkins fired off his ill-considered comment, fueling Watson's subsequent grandstanding. That said, I don't think it represents Dawkins' overall message; it's a one-off.

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Old 11-14-2011, 01:47 PM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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Default Re: concerning Richard Dawkins

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Originally Posted by Abdicate View Post
Dawkins' Muslima comment was unusual and out-of-character--not in keeping with his other public statements. Rebecca Watson had got under Dawkins' skin. He was irritated.

As it happens, Watson's elevatorgate position was silly--and deserved fair-minded, polite refutation. It is too bad Dawkins fired off his ill-considered comment, fueling Watson's subsequent grandstanding. That said, I don't think it represents Dawkins' overall message; it's a one-off.
I don't like little Rebecca either. But in her defense, she was only whining to her friends. We all do that.

So this was an out of character throwing of stones? I guess I'll have to dig deeper. I like Dawkins, BTW, but believe he is known for being pretty insulting in the high-brow,intellectual way that Hitchens is. They both have an agenda they're promoting.
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Old 11-14-2011, 01:57 PM
Abdicate Abdicate is offline
 
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Default Re: concerning Richard Dawkins

Watson wasn't simply complaining to her friends--her commentary on elevatorgate was public and widely-discussed. I responded at length, with notable quality.

btw: What does it mean 'to have an agenda'? Can you give me an example of a person without an agenda, among the heads we've seen on Bloggingheads.tv? Would it be a Good Thing not to have an agenda?
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Old 11-14-2011, 02:20 PM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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Default Re: concerning Richard Dawkins

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Watson wasn't simply complaining to her friends--her commentary on elevatorgate was public and widely-discussed. I responded at length, with notable quality.

btw: What does it mean 'to have an agenda'? Can you give me an example of a person without an agenda, among the heads we've seen on Bloggingheads.tv? Would it be a Good Thing not to have an agenda?
I did look into this at the time and what Ms Watson did was post a video to her fangirls about what she did at the atheist conference. The bit about the elevator man was pretty brief and I agree with someone (maybe PZ Meyers) that the comment was meant to show the irony of the guy approaching her after all she had said that night. That it became widely discussed had to do with Dawkins' reaction, I think. What came after is beside my point. I admit to not having followed the controversy that carefully.

I suppose a person who is suffering from frontal lobe dementia doesn't have an agenda. But I agree that it's pretty common amongst all homo sapiens, maybe even all sentient beings. I was going to add to my prior post but since this has come up, I'll say this. I think both Dawkins and Hitchens have the agenda of being famous. They make money by being famous, probably more than they would were they not.They have achieved that status because of their intellects but also because of the power of their personalities. I think it is in their best interests to be both intellectually rigorous and interestingly controversial. That would be an agenda.

PS. I only glanced at your post but was curious as to why you enjoy listening to Amanda Marcotte. Personally, I can't get past her surly attitude and can't quite figure out what her agenda is. (probably because I can't get past her surly attitude)
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Old 11-14-2011, 02:57 PM
Abdicate Abdicate is offline
 
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Default Re: concerning Richard Dawkins

Rebecca Watson's vlogpost [skip to 4:30] was published on June 20 and would have generated enormous comments/discussion even without Dawkins' July 2 Muslima comment. Dawkins' comment, regrettably, enabled Watson's supporters to assert 'case-closed'--that we were witnessing a simple case of good vs evil, that anyone opposing Watson's perspective must be a misogynist.
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