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  #1  
Old 07-05-2009, 07:51 PM
Bloggingheads Bloggingheads is offline
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Default Percontations: Cage Match of God (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

An afterthought from Bob:

Contrary to the promise I made early in this diavlog, John and I never got around to discussing what I mean by a "larger purpose unfolding through the workings of nature." But here's a five-year-old video conversation with Daniel Dennett in which I lay out what I mean. Dennett seems to accept my logic, agreeing, albeit reluctantly, that (a) my argument about what kind of evidence would corroborate the hypothesis of higher purpose is sound; (b) some of the evidence I invoke in that regard seems valid (though he's clearly not acknowledging that I've found nearly enough such evidence to convince him of higher purpose). However, Dennett later denied that he had accepted my argument, insisting I'd misunderstood him. This denial struck me as implausible, and the more he protested, the more implausible it seemed. (Here is my exegesis of the whole controversy, in case you've got lots of free time on your hands.) But maybe one of our commenters can enlighten me as to what Dennett could mean here other than what I claim he meant. I'll give a free copy of my book--complete with elaborate inscription--to the commenter who comes closest to convincing me that my interpretation is wrong. (And if you actually *convince* me, you get two books, one of them--uninscribed, alas--by Dennett!) In order to qualify, entries have to be less than 125 words and begin, "What Dennett meant is…." You can send them to evolutionofgod@gmail.com. Please put 'What Dennett meant' in the subject heading. Godspeed.

Last edited by David; 07-05-2009 at 07:56 PM..
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  #2  
Old 07-05-2009, 08:14 PM
uncle ebeneezer uncle ebeneezer is offline
 
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Default What Is Bloggingheads All About?

http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/209...1:34&out=01:37
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  #3  
Old 07-05-2009, 08:46 PM
claymisher claymisher is offline
 
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Default Re: What Is Bloggingheads All About?

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Nice.
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  #4  
Old 07-06-2009, 12:48 PM
thouartgob thouartgob is offline
 
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Default Also Bloggingheads more recent history

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Originally Posted by uncle ebeneezer View Post
I am only half way through but:

I think this one is at least as true

And John Horgan agrees
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  #5  
Old 07-05-2009, 09:19 PM
nautirony nautirony is offline
 
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Default Re: Percontations: Cage Match of God (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

Recorded on July 29th?? God may make Bob time travel but how did John got there?
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  #6  
Old 07-06-2009, 08:29 AM
ogieogie ogieogie is offline
 
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Default Re: Percontations: Cage Match of God (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

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Originally Posted by nautirony View Post
Recorded on July 29th?? God may make Bob time travel but how did John got there?
John and Bob were both already there (it is futureJohn talking with futureBog). God merely inspired a bloggingheads technician to send the compiled diavlog back to us here in the past as a sign of His Mercy. (He pitied our shortage of Bob's-new-book-inspired godtalk, apparently.) (God and Bob both like to inundate us with this stuff. They're alike in that way.)
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Old 07-05-2009, 09:26 PM
themightypuck themightypuck is offline
 
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Default Re: Percontations: Cage Match of God (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

Bottom up no-designer design is quite different from top down design. If you see things as being bottom up, "purpose" doesn't really add anything to the discussion and gets sliced off with Occam's Razor. If you are a conscious being it seems almost automatic that you would see purpose underlying your existence. It is the great insight of science that there isn't any.

Last edited by themightypuck; 07-05-2009 at 09:30 PM..
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  #8  
Old 07-05-2009, 10:51 PM
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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
Bottom up no-designer design is quite different from top down design. If you see things as being bottom up, "purpose" doesn't really add anything to the discussion and gets sliced off with Occam's Razor. If you are a conscious being it seems almost automatic that you would see purpose underlying your existence. It is the great insight of science that there isn't any.
I agree although I don't think science addresses the question of purpose. As you point out, there is a problem with purpose in that it implies intention/ volition. Perhaps Bob means something else but he is calling it purpose. I haven't read his book yet.
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  #9  
Old 07-06-2009, 08:01 AM
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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
Bottom up no-designer design is quite different from top down design. If you see things as being bottom up, "purpose" doesn't really add anything to the discussion and gets sliced off with Occam's Razor. If you are a conscious being it seems almost automatic that you would see purpose underlying your existence. It is the great insight of science that there isn't any.
And how does natural science reach the conclusion that there in no purpose to a distinctly human consciousness which invents natural science (among many other things--such as religious mythologies) to help it cope with a harsh and cruel universe and, sometimes to discern, however dimly, that its inventions provide evidence for a moral purpose?

Natural science would have to show that the purely physical processes leading up to consciousness, and the freedom from determination by physical causality that consciousness permits, are the result of physical causality.

I don't know about you, but I find that a bit hard to swallow.

Last edited by Francoamerican; 07-06-2009 at 08:03 AM.. Reason: grammar
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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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  #11  
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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Old 07-12-2009, 05:59 PM
themightypuck themightypuck is offline
 
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Default Re: Percontations: Cage Match of God (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

I think consciousness doesn't become any less difficult if you toss in the idea of a "purpose". One could say that purpose is an artifact of consciousness and consciousness is an artifact of replication. I can't prove this and I can't prove there is a purpose. Nevertheless, the former seems more likely to me just as the latter seems more likely to you. I wouldn't be surprised if our differences on the issue boiled down to some physical difference in our brains. I think the same may hold true for Wright and Horgan.
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Old 07-13-2009, 04:42 AM
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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
I think consciousness doesn't become any less difficult if you toss in the idea of a "purpose". One could say that purpose is an artifact of consciousness and consciousness is an artifact of replication. I can't prove this and I can't prove there is a purpose. Nevertheless, the former seems more likely to me just as the latter seems more likely to you. I wouldn't be surprised if our differences on the issue boiled down to some physical difference in our brains. I think the same may hold true for Wright and Horgan.
Except, as I tried to argue in my exchange with Bloggin Noggin, there is a whole realm of reality (what Popper called World 3) which is external to the mind while being the creation of the mind: human history. This includes language, culture (including science), institutions etc. Call all these things artifacts of consciousness if you like; it would be difficult (in my opinion impossible) to explain them by reference to neurophysiological events. The mechanistic model simply won't work.

But I know that physicalists and materialist monists are impervious to argument! Which, by the way, corroborates my point: saying yes or no to an argument is a non-physical event if ever there was one.

Last edited by Francoamerican; 07-13-2009 at 06:26 AM.. Reason: clarification
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Old 07-05-2009, 10:57 PM
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Default Re: Percontations: Cage Match of God (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

And everything was going so well until John decided to throw his anti-antidepressant speech. Where is his data coming from?

The rest was really fun. I think even Bob enjoyed it. And so did the audience.
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  #15  
Old 07-06-2009, 12:30 AM
thprop thprop is offline
 
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Default Re: Percontations: Cage Match of God (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

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And everything was going so well until John decided to throw his anti-antidepressant speech. Where is his data coming from?

The rest was really fun. I think even Bob enjoyed it. And so did the audience.
Breaking out my copy of The Undiscovered Mind, on page 116 -
Quote:
First, Prozac is not more effective at treating emotional disorders than older anti-depressants, such as tricyclics. In 1996, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported results of a comparison of Prozac to the tricyclics desipramine and .....
All I felt like typing at this time.
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Old 07-06-2009, 07:25 AM
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Default Re: Percontations: Cage Match of God (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

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Breaking out my copy of The Undiscovered Mind, on page 116 -


All I felt like typing at this time.
Thank you for the quote. But that isn't what John said. He said antidepressants are no better than placebo. What studies show, over and over, is that approximately 1/3 of people with depression respond to placebo which by itself is a very interesting finding. For those who are treated with any of the commonly used antidepressants (tricyclic, MAOI, SSRI, SNRI, and others) 2/3 "respond" (get better), and about 50% get well (back to normal). People that don't respond to one antidepressant may respond to another or to a combination, which increases the numbers of patients who end up getting benefit from this modality of treatment. As a result, saying that these medications don't work or that they are no better than placebo doesn't accurately reflect what we know by research and by clinical experience about them.
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Old 07-06-2009, 08:59 AM
thprop thprop is offline
 
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Default Re: Percontations: Cage Match of God (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

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Originally Posted by Ocean View Post
Thank you for the quote. But that isn't what John said. He said antidepressants are no better than placebo. What studies show, over and over, is that approximately 1/3 of people with depression respond to placebo which by itself is a very interesting finding. For those who are treated with any of the commonly used antidepressants (tricyclic, MAOI, SSRI, SNRI, and others) 2/3 "respond" (get better), and about 50% get well (back to normal). People that don't respond to one antidepressant may respond to another or to a combination, which increases the numbers of patients who end up getting benefit from this modality of treatment. As a result, saying that these medications don't work or that they are no better than placebo doesn't accurately reflect what we know by research and by clinical experience about them.
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.
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Old 07-06-2009, 06:04 PM
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Default Re: Percontations: Cage Match of God (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

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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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  #19  
Old 07-05-2009, 10:58 PM
JonIrenicus JonIrenicus is offline
 
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Default Re: Percontations: Cage Match of God (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

Ok, so far a couple topics have come up that I feel a deep need to talk on and enlighten the world. You can thank me now.


Moral truth. Does it exist?

Answer, no. There is NO such thing as universal moral truth, constant throughout the universe.

So, does this mean I am a moral relativist? Yes and no.

To the question of absolute moral truth constant throughout the universe, I reject that idea, so in a universal sense, I am a moral relativist.


BUT. Within smaller subsets, I do hold there are objective moral truths. One of my "smaller subsets" is the human population. I do believe that there are certain things that are objectively better or worse when it comes to human well being and human morality.

The things that are universal within the human subset may be far smaller than most people think, but I maintain that there are some things that are virtually constant throughout the entire human population in terms of ethics.

There is no society on this earth where toleration of open murder produces better results compared to societies that do not tolerate open murder.

What are better results? What are the metrics by which such a thing is determined?

Health, prosperity, total happiness, total suffering and misery.


These are just some of the metrics by which I make an OBJECTIVE case that the practices of one society are BETTER or WORSE. Not just different like a castrated relativist might claim, actually BETTER or WORSE.


So when I brush up against a society that treats women as second class citizens, tolerates honor killings, hangs gays, I have a perfectly fine basis to judge them as less moral, in an objective sense as it pertains to a set of metrics that can be measured.

And by the way, this is a completely Secular foundation by which to measure the good with the bad, a way for the secular soul to bring a non relativist fire of condemnation beyond "it's just what I think, but who am I to pass judgment on another culture."


One of my biggest problems with secular formations of ethics are that they are often toothless and feckless when it comes to ascertaining the good vs the bad. Some actually see this as a non issue, it is a disaster. A gaping wound, a weakness that leaves the ethical framework so crippled as to be a comical joke.

I would infinitely prefer a decent religious person with theological beliefs I consider nonsensical, to a secular person with such a confused tangled ethics.

And that is my main break with Hitchens/Dawkins types of atheists. I have no care to wipe the earth clean of religion, or delusion that if that was done the problems they associate with religion would magically disappear.

I do not care if people have nonsensical beliefs, I care that they act decently. I want to promote the effects of good religion, and minimize the effects of bad religion, and as to removing superstition from humanity, why not ask to remove emotion from humanity, it cannot be done without changing the nature of man.

It will always exist, so why try and sweep the desert clear of sand as opposed to minimizing the harmful effects of the dust, and promoting the good effects.


So much more to say, but that is enough for now.


EDIT:

After hearing Johns diatribe about no objective moral truths, I need to elaborate on the metrics.

To the extent that people suggest that their view of things produce MORE human prosperity, LESS suffering, MORE happiness, we can make assessments as to how effective their view of things works on those metrics.

And I do not believe a society that tolerates slavery will produce results higher than another that does not in terms of human happiness as an example.


Now, you may counter that some societies might prefer less happiness, and more misery, fine. This is the curse of the anthropologist, so versed with the cases of man bites dog that they lose all sense of reality.

I do not require 100% of the population to agree on what the better metric is for me to consider it objective enough.

Take smell.

Dung smells like shit to human beings. This is not a universal truth, constant throughout the universe. But it IS true within the human subset.

It is an OBJECTIVE truth that dung smells bad to human beings.

Objection: But wait a minute, this one tribe in mud hut Uganda thinks dung smells good !!!!!

Answer: SO WHAT !!!!!!!!

We can still make a true claim that for virtually the entire human population, dung smells bad.

And so I make a similar case with some ethical claims. The existence of a society of sociopaths (who by the way are genuinely wired differently and likely produce a different ethical subset from the main human population) does not negate the existence of what works for the whole.

Last edited by JonIrenicus; 07-05-2009 at 11:28 PM..
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Old 07-05-2009, 11:07 PM
Wonderment Wonderment is offline
 
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Default My scorecard on the bout

Bob,

I would love an autographed copy of your book, but reading Dennett's mind and mood are beyond my (and your!) powers. For "God's" sake, stop beating that dead horse. It is NOT the gotcha moment you've insisted (for years) it is.

On the conversation with John: Although I'm an atheist, I am sympathetic to your argument in the Afterword that religious faith, including prayer to a personal god, can bring people closer to moral truth than they otherwise might be.

I also think you boxed John into the corner of claiming there is no objective evidence of his moral superiority to Hitler.

But John wins the electron argument handily, although he did look weak on the "fun" criterion for the meaning of life.

Note to John: Public displays of euphoria are immoral. Makes me want to resort to Prozac. Seriously, the Prozac story did illustrate a difficult moral dilemma, which I think Bob skated around, although he did provide some practical advice.
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  #21  
Old 07-06-2009, 12:02 AM
nautirony nautirony is offline
 
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Default Re: Percontations: Cage Match of God (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

Some thoughts based on the conversation:

When we discuss God, we are indeed talking about a particular religion's God. I would say that people who talk about God from a non-religious point of view are really talking about either nature as God or an 'Unknowable Something' (whose purpose is equally unknowable and thus cannot be assumed to be neither good nor bad). Any other conception of God is highly individualized and nobody else may agree... Not only that, if you are talking about God in any other sense, you need to write a rather long thesis clarifying what you mean by God and what God's characteristics are before saying anything. I haven't read Bob's book but, based on the various conversations at BhTV, Is Bob implying that 'moral improvement of humanity as indicated by religion' to be God or does he have other definitions for his God? :-)

What do moral dilemmas say about the absoluteness of moral truths?

Bob appears to ignore that most moral coins have two sides. To give an extremely simple example, when I brush my teeth, I am killing bacteria but it is a good thing for me. Bob's God appears to be very simplistic and human-centric.

Electrons cannot be compared with Bob's God (if I understand him). The effect of electrons (on a large scale) is predictable. We call the underlying conception that produces such effects to be an 'electron' (though we may not be able to completely comprehend it). The effect of God does not have the same predictability so we cannot name the 'purpose of the universe' (if there is such a purpose) to be God as Bob appears to imply...
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Old 07-06-2009, 12:04 AM
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Default Re: Star Trek/bloggingheads - Amok Time fight scene

This and this are not all that dissimilar.
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  #23  
Old 07-06-2009, 12:07 AM
thprop thprop is offline
 
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Default Losing respect for Bob - he is dishonest

Bob seems to think that it is important to see if the good done in the name of religion outweighs the bad. He says Christopher Hitchens never addresses that issue. But Hitchens does both in his book and at every stop when he promotes the book. Hitchens actually asks the relevant question -
Quote:
Here is my challenge. Let Gerson name one ethical statement made, or one ethical action performed, by a believer that could not have been uttered or done by a nonbeliever. And here is my second challenge. Can any reader of this column think of a wicked statement made, or an evil action performed, precisely because of religious faith? The second question is easy to answer, is it not? The first -- I have been asking it for some time -- awaits a convincing reply. By what right, then, do the faithful assume this irritating mantle of righteousness? They have as much to apologize for as to explain.
Bob also points out that atheists killed more people in the 20th century than believers - I assume the reference is to Stalin and Mao. Hitler was a roman catholic - and never excommunicated. The only Nazi who was excommunicated was Himmler (or maybe Goebbels) - for marrying a protestant. But neither Stalin nor Mao killed in the name of atheism. They killed in the name of their pseudo-religious totalitarianism. Believers have and still kill on behalf of their faith.
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Old 07-06-2009, 01:26 AM
JonIrenicus JonIrenicus is offline
 
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Default Re: Losing respect for Bob - he is dishonest

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Bob seems to think that it is important to see if the good done in the name of religion outweighs the bad. He says Christopher Hitchens never addresses that issue. But Hitchens does both in his book and at every stop when he promotes the book. Hitchens actually asks the relevant question -


Bob also points out that atheists killed more people in the 20th century than believers - I assume the reference is to Stalin and Mao. Hitler was a roman catholic - and never excommunicated. The only Nazi who was excommunicated was Himmler (or maybe Goebbels) - for marrying a protestant. But neither Stalin nor Mao killed in the name of atheism. They killed in the name of their pseudo-religious totalitarianism. Believers have and still kill on behalf of their faith.

The problem with Hitchens challenge is that the removal of religion does not get you anywhere alone. Wicked things will not go away simply because a religious spark is removed.

He seems to see religion as tender to a fire. But removing that tender is in my view impossible, and even if it were would simply be filled by other things. Superstition is simply too tied to human psyche in my view.

Take a gander at all the people who are not religious but "spiritual"

Or saving that, have a desire to protect gaia in some sort of transcendent way.

He seeks to purge the irrational from humanity, Yes, if it could be purged, that would be a plus, but it cannot. So best shape its form into more benign constructs, however irritating they can be.
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Old 07-06-2009, 01:44 AM
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Default Re: Losing respect for Bob - he is dishonest

"Wicked things will not go away simply because a religious spark is removed."

good quote. i think that sums it up pretty well and that's probably why most of us atheists instinctively back off from where hitchens ventures. i'm definitely not going to try to stop him but his position just isn't logical in this general sense.
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Old 07-06-2009, 08:44 AM
thprop thprop is offline
 
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Default Re: Losing respect for Bob - he is dishonest

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The problem with Hitchens challenge is that the removal of religion does not get you anywhere alone. Wicked things will not go away simply because a religious spark is removed.
The Hitchens challenge seeks to identify the religion effect - which is what Bob tries to identify. Bob wants to see where the scales land - good done in name of religion minus bad done in name of religion. I think the Hitchens approach is better - good done in name of religion minus the good done in the name of religion that could not be done without religion. That number is zero. Then you have the bad done on behalf of religion that could not be done without religion. That number is greater than zero.

Even if you disagree with this approach, Bob says that Hitchens and the other "new atheists" (I hate that term) never address the good versus bad issue. They do.
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Old 07-06-2009, 01:58 PM
JonIrenicus JonIrenicus is offline
 
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Default Re: Losing respect for Bob - he is dishonest

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The Hitchens challenge seeks to identify the religion effect - which is what Bob tries to identify. Bob wants to see where the scales land - good done in name of religion minus bad done in name of religion. I think the Hitchens approach is better - good done in name of religion minus the good done in the name of religion that could not be done without religion. That number is zero. Then you have the bad done on behalf of religion that could not be done without religion. That number is greater than zero.

Even if you disagree with this approach, Bob says that Hitchens and the other "new atheists" (I hate that term) never address the good versus bad issue. They do.
There is a problem with that formulation. Yes, it is true that there is no good in this world that could not be done without religion.

But the more important consideration is all the good that in this world that IS not done without religion, on the same scale in the same percentages (beyond the fact that more people are religious).

His point goes to principle, mine goes to practice. And currently, one of the biggest shortfalls with a more secular world view is the ragged ethical framework held by so many in the secular space.

We got an example with John in this very log.

http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/209...4:16&out=55:10

The fact that a more benign religious outlook gives the answer that we CAN say that Hitler was objectively worse is a net good.

You CAN have a secular framework that achieves the same results, but too often you don't have that framework within the secular population at large, as evidenced by John just there.

Now, I happen to believe religious ethics are essentially ethics on training wheels, its basis is essentially, "because GOD said so." A secular formulation that achieves the same results is possible, but it takes more work, and even if the attempts at a solution to the problem like I posted in that mega post earlier were adopted by some, it would not pervade the bulk of secular people, there is no uniform code, so the secular populations ethics are all over the map.

I would LOVE to have the training wheels taken off, I really would. All the upside of good religion and NONE of the downside? Sold! But if the result is the crippled ethical mess linked in that clip, then no, keep them on.

Do NOT try and tear down the foundations of religion and the good it does until you first build a secular framework that not only can, but DOES fill the hole left by a benign religious influence.

Last edited by JonIrenicus; 07-06-2009 at 02:15 PM..
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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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Old 07-06-2009, 08:54 AM
thprop thprop is offline
 
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Default Re: Losing respect for Bob - he is dishonest

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Originally Posted by JonIrenicus View Post
He seems to see religion as tender to a fire. But removing that tender is in my view impossible, and even if it were would simply be filled by other things. Superstition is simply too tied to human psyche in my view.

I assume you meant "tinder". No one denies that there are other superstitions that lead homo sapiens to behave badly. I think the effect on the human psyche of superstition can be reduced and the effort must be made - starting with the most pervasive superstition out there, religion.

Take a gander at all the people who are not religious but "spiritual"

Or saving that, have a desire to protect gaia in some sort of transcendent way.

He seeks to purge the irrational from humanity, Yes, if it could be purged, that would be a plus, but it cannot. So best shape its form into more benign constructs, however irritating they can be.
I assume you meant "tinder". No one denies that there are other superstitions that lead homo sapiens to behave badly. I think the effect on the human psyche of superstition can be reduced and the effort must be made - starting with the most pervasive superstition out there, religion. Maybe all we can do is make it more benign. But who says it cannot be purged or significantly marginalized. Religion has persisted through most of history of human existence - it started as an explanation for natural events. Science is a recent development. The Greeks tried to explain things scientifically. I would argue that serious science began when Newton and Leibniz came up with calculus 300 years ago. Give it some time.
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  #30  
Old 07-06-2009, 09:42 AM
stephanie stephanie is offline
 
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Default Re: Losing respect for Bob - he is dishonest

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Originally Posted by thprop View Post
Bob seems to think that it is important to see if the good done in the name of religion outweighs the bad.
I don't think that's what he said. He simply said that the problem with that argument is that the people using it just assert it, and don't really attempt to measure it. He didn't say precisely, but I suspect he believes what he claimed John had conceded -- that there's no way to measure.

I also suspect that he believes (based on the premise of his book) that the religious effect is neutral.

The Hitchens approach that you discuss doesn't contradict Bob's argument. First, in asking "could it be done without religion," Hitchens seems to be sidestepping the real question, which is would it have been done/be done without religion. We don't know the answer to this.

Similarly, re the bad stuff was done in the name of religion that would not have been done in its absence, that's not proveable either. It assumes that similar sorts of violence would not have happened just as often for non-religious motivation if religion didn't exist and provide the reason. (Bob would say the underlying reason in either case, if I understand him correctly, is really the zero sum view of others as a threat.)
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Old 07-06-2009, 12:45 PM
thprop thprop is offline
 
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Default Re: Losing respect for Bob - he is dishonest

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Originally Posted by stephanie View Post
I don't think that's what he said. He simply said that the problem with that argument is that the people using it just assert it, and don't really attempt to measure it. He didn't say precisely, but I suspect he believes what he claimed John had conceded -- that there's no way to measure.
Listen to the diavlog again - particularly to the John vs. Bob on whether religion does more harm than good section. Bob goes after the "new atheists" for not considering the good done by religion against the bad. He tells John that he is "far in advance intellectually of other atheists" for even considering the question. Then he says the question is unfathomable. So which is it Bob - a good way to criticize Hitchens or unfathomable?

Hitchens' gives a very good simple approach to this issue that Bob does not even consider. But Bob criticizes him for not attempting to address an unfathomable question.

To me, the worst thing religion has done is suppress knowledge and science. A specialty of the catholic/xian churches. Not just Galileo - but things like the murder of Hypatia and the destruction of the Library of Alexandria. Lives were short, brutish and cruel for a longer period than necessary. Until 1800, for all of human history, economic growth was zero - it was a zero sum world. Xianity was a factor in this by suppressing knowledge - all there was to know that was in the bible. The Reformation was not about expanding knowledge - protestants limited even further to salvation by faith alone (sola fide). Catholics wanted faith and works - conveniently you could pay for the works by buying indulgences.

Fortunately, fighting between the religious gave room for humanists to launch the Renaissance and end the Dark Ages. Yes, the Dark Ages - brought to you by the catholic church. Don't do anything useful - just pray, give us money and wait for the second coming. And watch Rome go from a magnificent city of 1.2 million to a malarial ridden swamp surrounded by 40,000 people.

How can that suffering be quantified? Until the Enlightenment, no economic growth; short, brutish and cruel lives. How much suffering could have been averted in the church had embraced learning rather than suppressed it.

Bob's unfathomable question is stupid to even consider. Hitchens' formulation is excellent.
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  #32  
Old 07-06-2009, 01:24 PM
stephanie stephanie is offline
 
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Default Re: Losing respect for Bob - he is dishonest

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Originally Posted by thprop View Post
Listen to the diavlog again - particularly to the John vs. Bob on whether religion does more harm than good section. Bob goes after the "new atheists" for not considering the good done by religion against the bad. He tells John that he is "far in advance intellectually of other atheists" for even considering the question. Then he says the question is unfathomable. So which is it Bob - a good way to criticize Hitchens or unfathomable?
I think if you consider the context Bob's argument was clear. John made the comment (while pursuing another argument, really) that he was anti-religion because he was concerned about the effect of religious ideas on people generally. Bob leaped on that as if it were the Hitchens or new atheist argument (which didn't really seem where John was going, actually) and demanded that if he was going to make that argument against religion -- the argument that the effect of religion on society was bad -- how he took into account the counterbalancing good effect. Had he analyzed that or attempted to?

John acknowledged that he had not and was not aware of any such attempt and Bob seemed to see him as saying that it couldn't be done (which I'd guess is Bob's view).

So Bob wasn't saying that it's important to consider the good effect of religion in the abstract, but that the argument that religion has a net bad effect is a bad one, unless you can demonstrate how you did the analysis.

Therefore, no conflict in Bob's argument, and I think he's right that it's rather a pointless avenue, as there's no way to answer the question.

Quote:
Originally Posted by thprop View Post
Hitchens' gives a very good simple approach to this issue that Bob does not even consider.
Why Bob does not think Hitchens' approach addresses the question is implicit in his comments and is what I said in my last post. Basically, Hitchens is using a different standard to measure the two -- bad effects are based on just the explicitly given reasons, with no consideration of what would have happened in the but for world, whereas good effects are based on the underlying reasons that in theory could be used by someone as a reason to take the action in question. It's entirely inconsistent and logically flawed. Bob is right that it's not even a serious attempt.
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  #33  
Old 07-06-2009, 01:41 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: Losing respect for Bob - he is dishonest

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Originally Posted by stephanie View Post
The Hitchens approach that you discuss doesn't contradict Bob's argument.
How I would love if we could get Christopher Hitchens on to debate the ideas in Bob's book and the bordering-on-unhinged jihad Bob has embarked upon concerning Hitchens, Dawkins, Dennett, and Harris.

I'd say of course that I'd be delighted to hear any of them engage Bob; I say Hitch because he has been on Bh.tv already, which makes him seem most reachable for the booking department.

Actually, given that Sam Harris is closest to Bob in at least one way -- they both have had some sort of profound experience while on a meditation retreat -- they might even be better paired; i.e., they have this as common ground, and it would be interesting to hear how they diverge from there.
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  #34  
Old 07-06-2009, 01:49 PM
thouartgob thouartgob is offline
 
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Default Re: Losing respect for Bob - he is dishonest

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Originally Posted by thprop View Post
Bob seems to think that it is important to see if the good done in the name of religion outweighs the bad. He says Christopher Hitchens never addresses that issue. But Hitchens does both in his book and at every stop when he promotes the book. Hitchens actually asks the relevant question -


Bob also points out that atheists killed more people in the 20th century than believers - I assume the reference is to Stalin and Mao. Hitler was a roman catholic - and never excommunicated. The only Nazi who was excommunicated was Himmler (or maybe Goebbels) - for marrying a protestant. But neither Stalin nor Mao killed in the name of atheism. They killed in the name of their pseudo-religious totalitarianism. Believers have and still kill on behalf of their faith.
From Hitchens: "Let Gerson name one ethical statement made, or one ethical action performed, by a believer ..."

I am taking editorial liberties here for a point. I believe that the self-immolation of the monks in Vietnam was an ethical statement beyond what I think a non-believer would think to do. I'll leave you to ponder what you believe about what is behind the ellipses.
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  #35  
Old 07-06-2009, 12:31 AM
holyworrier holyworrier is offline
 
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Default Re: Percontations: Cage Match of God (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

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!"?

Last edited by holyworrier; 07-06-2009 at 12:39 AM..
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  #36  
Old 07-07-2009, 05:42 AM
Francoamerican
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Default Re: Percontations: Cage Match of God (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

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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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Old 07-06-2009, 12:36 AM
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Default Re: Percontations: Cage Match of God (Robert Wright & John Horgan)

dang, bob, you're really gettin' desperate with dennett there! i think he just got confused because he didn't want to shoot you down and because you were hedging so much. i still don't see the point, though, because it's exactly like saying "everything happens for a reason." hawking's response to this is that if you have absolutely no idea what the reason is then why say that? i'd just drop it and if we see a ghost or if god writes something in the sky then we can start believing in ghosts or god. maybe you can just tell your brain to turn off those couple of genes that make you slightly different from us atheists.
the real question is: should i buy a hp touchsmart laptop? if not, why? why are they cheaper than a laptop that's not a touchscreen? is it because they have vista instead of windows 7? see, these are the true questions about life.
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  #38  
Old 07-06-2009, 12:36 AM
claymisher claymisher is offline
 
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Default placebo

The placebo effect is mostly a late 20th century medical myth. From "Study Casts Doubt on the Placebo Effect":

Quote:
Dr. Hrobjartsson and Dr. Gotzsche said they began their study out of curiosity. Over and over, medical journals and textbooks asserted that placebo effects were so powerful that, on average, 35 percent of patients would improve simply if they were told that a dummy treatment was real. The investigators began asking where this assessment came from. Every paper, Dr. Hrobjartsson said, seemed to refer to other papers. And those papers referred him to other papers. He began peeling back the onion, finally coming to the original paper. It was written by a Boston doctor, Henry Beecher, who had been chief of anesthesiology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and in 1955 published a paper, "The Powerful Placebo" in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

In his paper, Dr. Beecher, who died in 1976, reviewed about a dozen studies that compared placebos with active treatments and concluded that placebos had medical effects.

"He came up with the magical 35 percent number that has entered placebo mythology," Dr. Hrobjartsson said.
It's not so much that the placebo effect has been debunked as it is that it was never established in the first place. But placebo can effect your subjective perception of pain, for good and bad. I'm surprised John isn't on top of this one.
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Old 07-06-2009, 12:48 AM
claymisher claymisher is offline
 
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Default SSRIs

John also totally blew it on antidepressants. They absolutely do work! This was in the news a lot last year. Language Log has the best round-up. The great Robert Waldmann led the attack (summary here, full links here)

But it's easiest to just look at the graphs:



Looks better than placebo to me.



The triangles (SSRIs) are better than the circles (placebo). The x-axis is a measure of how depressed folks were. The graph shows that SSRIs are more effective in people who are more depressed, and placebos aren't. That green area is the 95% confidence interval, which is good, but not magical. If you were sick you'd take the 80% c.i. treatment.


I think John Horgan's the best, but he blew it badly on two important points that an A-list science journalist ought to know.

Last edited by claymisher; 07-06-2009 at 12:55 AM..
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  #40  
Old 07-06-2009, 01:04 AM
pampl pampl is offline
 
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Default Re: SSRIs

Haven't finished yet, but a technical note: I think Wright could be more specific/accurate than describing his position as moral realism. IIRC moral realism just means that the truth and falsity of moral statements (e.g. "killing dogs is bad") can be evaluated. That includes moral relativism though, where the truth of a statement is contingent on who's speaking it. The way Bob talks about transcendent moral truth and order leads me to think he believes specifically in moral objectivism, that moral statements are either true or false regardless of who is making the statement. OK that's all the nits I have to pick.

I think I'd be sympathetic to Bob's electron stuff if I were reading him laying out but expressed through the medium of diavlogue it sounds a little kooky.

Unrelated note: Moon is a pretty sweet movie. Go see it, especially if you like sci fi.
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