leave the personal abuse out
I wish he would too. Unfortunately he doesn’t, and I’m human enough to think that that matters. His attacks on Edward Wilson are seriously unprofessional.
And evolutionary biology is falsifiable.
I’d like it to be true because it seems logical, but there’s been plenty of criticism of it as being determinist based in very scanty evidence of there being agreement on on how much biology affects human behaviour or the predominance of social organisation – er, “culture” – versus biology.
Anyway, dropping the snark, I agree that – as I said – we’re well-adapted to comprehending the world in a certain way, as evo psych says. Too well, when we start looking beyond the veldt.
sorry for a late and extremely schematic reply. In fact, it’s a placeholder – I have some major workload issues at the moment.
Um, in no particular order…
Possibly Huxley is my touchstone.
I want to put as much space as possible between myself and self-declared atheists such as Richard Dawkins because (A) he’s acting like a dick and I don’t want to be compared with him and (B) it’s unscientific to make definitive assertions based on information under Empirical strictures, can’t positively prove a negative and blah blah Popper blah blah.
I’m a bit disturbed by the “we believe in what is rationally proven.” “Rational” is a subset of “true”, not its entirety. Coriolanus is “true” as a description and explication of a certain kind of personality but “rational” analysis tells us nothing worthwhile about the play or the person or dramatic character of Caius Martius. Still, I will watch the drama and say to myself, “this is true”. Now only a naive person would not say so, but say “but that’s not what I meant…” We can all agree – I hope – that Coriolanus is true in one way and not other ways, but that is itself significant. “Rational” assessment of facts, data and their significance or utility is not a useful tool for understanding the truth of that drama.
Science, you must remember, is essentially utilitarian, hence its reticence in dealing with imps from the fifth dimension or fairies at the bottom of my garden (or damp, grassy cliff in reality). Rationality, as represented by science has nothing to say about Coriolanus , but to suggest that it should, could or would is absurd… and yet that is surely no indication of the inadequacy of science, instead it’s an assertion of its discipline. It’s truthfulness in the sense that it has discipline.
Oddly, I’m driven very much too by hyper-rationalist writers and philosophers who argue that the brain of a creature well-adapted to the African veldt is not inherently equipped to comprehend the universe as it really is, so that even the most rigorous system of observation and interpretation must be assumed to be merely contingent. That’s not “wrong”, but “best available”.
That’s one angle of it. The other is this. In conversation with my Christian and Muslim acquaintances, I have the impression that their experience of faith is not dependent on being able to see a distinct entity at work in cause and effect (“God exists and he made the world this way”), but as seen by a largely faithless (which is an literal translation of the word “agnostic”) person such as myself as less an expression of empirical belief so much as a way of articulating their understanding of how they sit in the world.
One interpretation of the meaning of “Islam” for example is “submission”, while another is “safety” or “assurance”, which is not assertion, but acceptance. French revolutionaries, while denying the institution of religion (specifically the Catholic religion), used the euphemism “providence” for something that was in effect structurally everything that “God” was, but without the assumption that it was a distinct entity. A Christian friend tells me that God decides what shoes she wears – she doesn’t get emails or texts, but finds that her choices can be found to be open to interpretation not in the immediate utility of her “choice” but in what she was able to derive from it. She might not have been “told” to wear a particular pair of shoes, but she became aware that wearing certain shoes made definite sense one day.
I can’t say that I would agree in any literal way, but I am intrigued by how she is able to function by seeing her choices and consequences of her choices in this way. This is a person who is, in psychoanalytic terms, “high functioning” i.e.., there is no obvious disability. With a record of over a dozen years as a successful aid worker in impoverished parts of the world, I have good reason to take her justifications as at least positive adaptations to her environment. Her epistemology works.
I know that she, as a Christian, believes that there is an distinct God, and I cannot find it in myself to say the same at all, but I would go beyond simply saying that this monkey seems to have adapted well to its environment.
Faith in this context becomes not the belief or assumption that there is a distinct entity but rather an articulation of one’s relationship with a Cosmos (Cosmos in the classical sense meaning a lawful universe). This is something between an existential and an aesthetic stance, not an empirical one.
In practical day-to-day terms, I am always an atheist, but deeply respectful of people who are not atheists. My position could be described as a form of scrupulous reticence, combined with a kind of aestheticism.
I’m sorry if that seems vague and rambling (it’s certainly overlong for a blog), but I insist on ambiguity as a virtue. To quote Yogi Berra, when I see a fork in the road, I take it.
Well, eclectic anyway.
It's always a good moment.
Popper doesn’t go so far as to say things that are unscientific are false.
No, I agree, indeed. Having qualifications and personal income from both sides of the engineering/humanities epistemological fence* I'm aware that there's more than one way to skin a cat, or a right way to skin a cat and a right way to stuff a badger... or whatever. I think I need a better idiom.
*Monday mornings, I'm saying "So Orwell's use of a dog in "A Hanging" allows him to indicate the repressed emotions of the policemen, emotions barely repressed and threatening to break out, so they cling desperately to procedure, hence the superintendent's noting the lateness of the time", Monday afternoon it's, "Last year a student designed a building cantilevered forty metres, which was manageable if the structure was thought of as a box beam, but that put the far end too far from the fire escapes, so we thought that the inflatable slides used in airliners could do the trick... " Then on Monday evening it's "Yes, you see, if you're looking at gender, fashion and movement, the concept of the gaze is significant, first look at Tschumi's Manhattan Transcripts, but also have a look at Beatriz Colomina's writing on Adolf Loos and Josephine Baker - and a bit of Foucault won't go amiss. Discipline and Punish would be your best bet there." Mix that up, add a rich seasoning of ums, ahs and Monty Python references and half-bake it and you have my portfolio of jobs.
And my reference to dice wasn’t meant to be about physics, particularly, just the whole idea of gambling.
I don't have absolute confidence in my own arguments here, so sometimes I'm just being obtuse... damn, did I just say that out loud? Ahem, I mean those were examples where physicists dabbled in, if not metaphysics, epistemology anyway.
No (no). As I implied by my ridicule, I feel that Pascal’s Wager is foolish.
To elaborate, from those I know who practice faith, the compulsion of belief or the compulsion of avowal of belief is the very antithesis of faith.
Same thing, I suppose – there’s no positive evidence for either fairies in my garden or Mr Mxyzptlk nor is there an experiment that could prove their existence or nonexistent, so the hypothesis that they might exist is unfalsifiable and therefore unscientific. Therefore I don’t keep myself awake at night worrying about them.
Those who think science is just another religion
Is anyone actually saying that?
OK, creationists are fools and nasty people, but one should not be morally compelled into accepting or rejecting a position because it might give aid and comfort to the enemy. Whether or not a creationist can use - or rather appropriate and distort - an argument should not be a reason for putting forward an argument or opinion. I could say that I have lint in my navel and they'd use that as "proof" of divine creation.
you think God plays dice, Kracklite?
Einstein didn't, but it appears that Niels Bohr did and Stephen Hawking quipped that not only does he play dice, he throws them where they can't be seen. As for me, I'm not a quantum physicist, but I'm siding with the most recent.
morally acceptable (or even possible) to believe in something because you’re being threatened?
No (no). As I implied by my ridicule, I feel that Pascal's Wager is foolish.
To me, it seems strange to insist on being “agnostic” on the existence of Mr Mxyzptlk.
Hmmm, maybe a sliding scale of probabilities, with a threshold perhaps? (Semi-joke). You know of Pascal's Wager? Essentially it's "There are two variables - I believe in God or not and there is a God or not, but, but the risk of not believing in God when God actually exists and therefore facing eternal damnation (trapped forever in a burning lake of sulphur while Rebecca Black and Justin Bieber perform duets at me and Keanu Reeves reads from Hamlet ), any sensible risk analysis makes belief in God preferable, no matter how silly it may seem."
That's simplistic, of course. "Sorry, the Jews were right" as Rowan Atkinson put it in his Satan sketch rather complicates the calculation. How can I be sure, after reading Pascal, that I'm believing in the right God? Hopefully this hypothetical entity is willing to acknowledge that it's the thought that counts.
Still, Mr Mxyzptlk, I think falls below the threshold of reasonable belief. There is a probability that he might exist, but it's so vanishingly small that Pascal would probably say, Soprano-style, fuggedaboutit.