Showing posts with label Skepticism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Skepticism. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Saving Atheists from the New Atheism
Why are the New Atheists such jerks? Case in point: Richard Dawkins’ continuing pursuit of Ahmed Mohamed, the Texas 14-year-old humiliated in school after authorities mistook his homemade clock for a bomb.
Jeff Sparrow
The new atheists are jerks because being a jerk sells better than rational argument. P.Z. Meyers had a good science blog that was lost in blog space until he started bashing Creationism and atheist women.  At that point views and ad revenues went up to the point that he left science blogging entirely to create "Freethought Blogs" which was anything but free thinking space.  Not that bashing Creationism and Ken Ham is a bad idea, but being a jerk about it accomplishes nothing except creating an us vs them religious point of view that should be anathema to atheism, or at least humanism which should be the basis for atheism.  

As most here know J'Carlin under various usernames on beliefnet© was a host of the Atheism Debate board and moderator of several Science and Religion boards including "Origins of Life" the forum for discussions of Creationism.  Origins was my first experience having to deal with belief based thinking directly.  It was with great dismay that I found that the culture of belief based thinking and misogyny had permeated Western culture to the extent that even atheists were falling into the cultural miasma.  One would have hoped for better thinking from the freethinkers.

There always was a rift in the atheist community between the Skeptics (note Cap) and the atheists.  But the New Atheists created a new rift between dogmatic atheists (There is no God. Period.) and more flexible atheists who could discuss God beliefs without rancor although the satire was frequently confused with rancor by the believers.  An amusing example of the rift can be found in the following 200+ post thread.  I have quoted my OP as a hook.

I did indeed READ Dawkins' trashy tract

in its entirety ...teilhard

I too have read Dawkins’ trashy tract.  Although not yet in its entirety.  It is sitting beside the loo where I can try to get through the last few pages while I am in an appropriate place not to notice the stink.    

Dawkins makes the same mistake of all fundies in seeing the world in black and white.  He for instance insists that indoctrinating children in anything that he doesn’t believe in is child abuse.  He has a whole chapter (9) in which he suggests that some of the worst cases of abuse, the lead one dating from 1858 stand for all indoctrination of children in religious doctrine.  Dawkins seems to believe that indoctrinating children in the beliefs of the child’s parents, and the society in which hesh will live is somehow abuse if they are not beliefs that Dawkins shares.    

I think Dawkins like PZ Meyers has completely discredited a lot of valuable evolutionary education material with their virulent anti-God tracts.  I greatly enjoyed and used Dawkins early books, particularly the Blind Watchmaker and Climbing Mount Improbable to help people understand how evolution “gets there” although of course there is no there there for evolution.  I can no longer do so, since Dawkins with his self-immolation as fundie has been thoroughly discredited as a reasonable scientist.  

(12.26.15)Until very recently there were no atheists. Or at least those who lived through admitting it. Deists, those "Endowed by their Creator." and those who "believed" in a personal God which may or may not have had any resemblance to any existing supreme being including the freemasons' one. An out atheist is probably a later development than an out homosexual. If you liked having friends and associates in fraternal organizations you went along with the rituals whatever they might have been.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Skeptical Conceptual Blocks

christine3:It seems most atheists here get a reaction when they read the words paranormal, supernormal, superconscious, supernatural.
Skeptical atheists are believers just like most people.  Their conceptual blocks are as impermeable as a fundamentalist Christian or a Republican.  The only real difference is their BS do not involve God. They are as capable of sticking their fingers in their ears and singing la, la, la I can't hear you when confronted with evidence of things like esp and other paranormal abilities as any Christian. 
May 20, 2015 -- 7:32PM, Blü wrote:
See #44

Okay, I've re-read #44.
No evidence of esp confronted me.
What did I miss?
May 21, 2015 -- 2:46AM, Trollish wrote:
Same here. Read #44 and encountered no evidence for paranormal phenomenon.
#44 says that you have never and never will encounter evidence for paranormal phenomena.  Your brain is incapable of processing evidence you may have encountered in the past or will encounter in the future.  It will always concoct an apologetic that certain things cannot happen in reality and if they appear to have happened that must be the result of something else.  Delusion, falsehood, or misinterpretation of the data. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

There Ain't no Fundy Like a Science Fundy.

Theist wrote:
If you believe so....

Skeptic wrote:

Have you ever changed your beliefs based on new empirical evidence? If not, then it's "you believing so".

Blü wrote:
I agree with skeptic.

The only way to find out if something's true in reality is to look at reality - the world external to the self, about which our senses can inform us. And to reason honestly from our perceptions.

There ain't no fundy like a science fundy.

Have you ever changed your beliefs based on an opinion piece? If not, why not? 

Is what you learn from a story that you did not observe from a reliable source true in reality?  Does it matter if the story was fictional, or fiction based on reality?  If no, why?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Spirituality, God and Skeptics.

there is nothing, not one single thing, in any of science as we presently understand it which does not point to how glorious God is.
 you're going to need a boatfull of empirical evidence to even scratch the surface of your conjecture. 

Quite the contrary every phenomenon that feeds the human sense of wonder, beauty, peace with life, and other "spiritual" desiderata may in fact be proof of the glory of God for a believer.  Just because I can explain the physics and draw the ray diagrams that make it necessary that I be the unique focus of every rainbow (you don't see the same one even if you are right next to me,) doesn't mean I cannot enjoy the spiritual gratification of being the special focus of that particular rainbow.  It is all in my head of course but neither you nor I can present a tight rational argument that God did not put it there. You are welcome to try, but boatloads of evidence works both ways.  Got any?

I know some extraordinarily intelligent people that believe in some God as the source of inspiration to keep trying in the face of adversity. I have convinced myself that I don't need one but I have no proof that that is a fact.  Maybe as long as I keep trying God doesn't care whether I believe in Herm or not.  If Hesh can put up with all the religious idiots, Hesh can certainly be amused by skeptics.   

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Atheism vs Skepticism

There is some confusion in the minds of many including religious skeptics as to the relationship of skepticism to atheism. I think it is fair to say that all skeptics are atheists. It is not true however, that all atheists are skeptics. There are atheists that are not skeptics in that they are agnostic about many of the gaps normally filled by God. Reiki, ESP, paranormal phenomenena in general other unexplained activities of the mind/brain are simply unexplained phenenomena which are not attributed to God, hence atheistic, but simply unknowns. A religious skeptic believes that since God cannot be responsible it must be false.

The religion of skepticism can be just as irrational as any other religion, and skeptical beliefs like beliefs in any religion are frequently strongly held and vigorously defended. It is amusing to some of the atheists here who do not believe in Randi to see the God like status in him assumed by skeptics. Randi says it. I believe it. That settles it.

I am one of the atheists here that has found convincing evidence that the mind or brain if you prefer has much more control over the working of the body and the social environment than can be presently explained by science. I do not use skepticism of the gaps to deny or argue against alternative medicine or any other unexplained observations about workings of the human mind.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Random Thoughts from The Believing Brain.

I have just started The Believing Brain by Michael Shermer. This post is a collection of quotes and reactions not to be taken too seriously. It is definitely not a review, and should not be quoted as such.
"The brain is a belief engine.
Beliefs come first, explanations for beliefs follow: Belief-dependent realism." p5
Pattern seeking certainly, but a belief engine? I think not.
"Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for nonsmart reasons." p36
Certainly true for many smart people that are not trained to be skeptical about beliefs in general. There may in fact be two types of people, believers and for lack of a better term philosophical non-believers. Or in Heinlein's terms learners.
I have no beliefs. Belief gets in the way of learning. Lazarus Long Time Enough For Love, Robert A Heinlein, 1973 p20.
Chapter 3 The journey of a believer from nowhere to religion to fundie skepticism. The will to believe will not be denied. I hope he does more with his thinking up to the conversion in 12th grade.
Chapter 4 Patternicity
People believe weird things because of an evolved need to believe unweird things. p62
He is assuming that there is no evolutionary pressure to sort out the weird things from the unwierd, since the cost of believing in weird things is assumed to be zero. This may be true for the evolutionary scenario for individuals, the theory being that there is no cost for being skittish of wind in the grass compared with the cost of a lion in the grass. But in a sense this is a Pascal Wager argument. If one shies at every odd movement, one will never get the hunting or gathering done. There must be a BS detector built into the belief system even at the primitive level.
The rest of the chapter is a series of experiments in pattern seeking in uncertain situations. In the Ono experiments the subjects were in effect told to find patterns. "If you do something you will get points on the counter." The Catania and Cutts experiment also created the impression of pattern possibility. Encouraging pattern seeking behavior involving the two buttons.
Chapter 5 Agenticity.
Typical of a skeptic believer Shermer picks extreme examples to mask the underlying reality of the natural duality of the human mind. As if you have to be in extreme conditions to be aware of the inner control segment of the mind. True most of us don't hallucinate doubles or OBEs or God for that matter, but the society imprints the necessary and life maintaining control mechanisms on the subconscious mind that we seldom are aware of. Including the necessary social controls necessary for getting along with "our people." It also takes care of the extreme staying alive situations by essentially shutting down the vaunted rational cortical control and going back to the basics of breathing and putting one foot in front of the other.

He includes the obligatory skeptical look at some of the weirder manifestations of this duality. Sort of like the cartoon ex-drunk sweeping the drinks off the bar. Too much time spent on paranormal psychic garbage, which are God substitute ways of staying in contact with and attempting to manage the inner control mechanism.
It was just one of many readings [of conversations with the dead] (at ninety dollars a pop) conducted [by one of the gurus for the psychic crowd.]
The position of shaman... is lovely work, if you can stomach it. Lazarus Long.

Chapter 6 Part 1. The neurological argument for the mind. He starts by demolishing a straw man argument of a mental force argument for the mind, weak argument weak rebuttal. The description of the working of neurons is detailed, and informative, about the right mix of science and gee whiz for the educated layperson who is the presumed target for the book. The discussion of dopamine as the belief mediator it detailed and persuasive. I am skeptical of experimental protocols using groups of skeptics and believers as subjects, as the skeptics seem to be believers in skepticism, that is ESP and the paranormal is crap. As a true non-believer, I wonder if some of the pattern finding activities might show different results for those with a finely honed pattern finding facility with an excellent BS detector as well. Apparently more to come on this issue. A nice few pages on patternivity, creativity and madness. Using 3 Nobel prize winners Feinman of A bomb fame, Mullis of Polymerase Chain Reaction fame, and Nash whose game theory equilibrium is certifiably crazy. Feinman sane and creative Nash Schizophrenic and creative and Mullis somewhere in the middle, a definite believer in weird things, but somehow able to sort out the weirdness useful enough for a Nobel. I am not convinced that the craziness is not in the eye of the beholder, Shermer in this case.
Chapter 6b Good discussion of mind-brain that makes me wonder about whether all monists are believers in the sense of either the mind belongs to God or it belongs to me as actions of the brain. Quot\ing Paul Bloom: "We are natural born dualists." He then goes on to defend monism as an unnatural state of affairs, which I find involved belief. He then goes on to explain the Theory of Mind (TOM) which is the way we think about how we think and how others think. Tying it all together with agency, mirror neurons, and story creation. According to Sam Harris experiment on 14 subjects some "believers" some not. We perceive all things as true and evaluation of falsity is a separate function. Even religious statements for believers and non alike p135-7 I wonder if any "real" non-believers, (acreds) that is non-believers unrelated to religious beliefs were a part of the experiment. I would be curious to see the raw data and see if there was an "anomalous" result that was thrown out. Probably not as I find acreds to be a very small segment of even the secular and especially the skeptic population.
P143-4 Making a lot of stew from the oyster of the Harris poll. Where are the unbelievers in the dthe 6 pretty well cover the waterfront. ata? Ok for believers in afterlife he gives some plausible reasons. Pick one and you can explain anything.

148-50 way too much attention and debunking given to ESP theory of the afterlife. To be expected from a believing skeptic. Lots of what is the mechanism and reliance on the data protocols of esp skeptics. Look for esp under the streetlight of heavy emotional content: Lovers and musicians and dancers.
P152-6 Long discussion of NDEs and drug induced OBEs which he as expected confirm his belief in monism.
It may be true that the brain is 9integral with the mind, but as I read the data a natural dualism explains things better.

Amusing but basically useless CNN panel including all of the usual suspects Depak Chopra, Sanjay Gupta, and a few NDE survivors and reincarnations for color. I won’t watch the replay.

The wrap up of the chapter is the counter argument that lack of afterlife simply makes this life important. As I use it all the time myself in almost the same words he has to be right.

It is nice to see that believers and acreds can come to the same conclusions occasionally.
P171 In his discussion of VMAT2 gene which seems to give 'Self forgetfulness' and "transpersonal identification" and "mysticism". The link to nicotine addiction seems plausible to me, absent other influences which was the basis for the study, the link to God p172 seems like a leap of faith. It would seem that eg Mormon eschewing of nicotine, caffeine, and other addictive substances, would lead to the opposite conclusion that VMAT2 would lead away from God belief to self actualization.
p 170 the link of DRD4 to risk seeking behavior seems unrelated to God belief to me, not sure what Shermer is trying to get to here. It would seem that risk aversion is more closely related to God beliefs, and therefore low DRD4=high dopamine fix naturally would lead to no risk belief in God.

I wonder about this psychobabble self-transcendence. "Becoming totally absorbed in an activity, feeling connected to the larger world, and an unwillingness to disbelieve in unfashionable things like ESP (my restatement of the last) sounds like simple rational intelligence to me not spirituality. Dopamine makes you feel good about the way you look at the world. If you look at it without beliefs or prejudices, and concentrate on things that make the larger world a better place of course you will get a dopamine high. Any relationship to God beliefs is clearly Shermers belief in a believing brain.

pp172-184 Conventional skeptical analysis of God belief as created by humans to fill a God hole in their brain. Certainly true for a large portion of the population who will disagree with the human creation part and assert a Creator.

p186 "It is time to step out of our evolutionary heritage and our historical traditions and embrace science as the best tool ever devised for explaining how the world works. It is time to work together to create a social and political world that embraces moral principles [Whose?]and yet allows natural human diversity to floursh." "Religion cannot ...." Although he denies it typical liberal skeptic BS.

Chapter 9. Conventional skeptical look at the alien as replacement for God. Now that religion has lost its elevated position. He uses it to buttress his premise that the belief comes first and justification later. It works just fine.

Chapter 10. Standard debunking of conspiracy theories focusing on 9/11. Not enough focus on why conspiracy theorists think the way they do.

Chapt 11 Politics. He begins with Jost's Meta-study of conservatives linking conservatism to psychological management of uncertainty and fear. I am less comfortable with the endorsement of inequality. Haight points out the group binding and support of essential institutions as part of the conservative pattern. He Lakoffalso mentions the Political Mind, Lakoff and The Political Brain, Weston p234 with the liberal trope (This God forbid) rationality, intelligence, & optimism. This conflicts with Shermer's belief bias toward Libertarianism. He confirms this by the association of university profs with liberalism. Duh they all are smart, flexible and rational enough to get a PhD. [Also at least in my experience they have left behind their religious beliefs if they ever had any. The selection process is reinforced by the conservative religious bias against education.] Interesting factoid, USA Today is the most centrist media. Probably due to its primary market in the hotel and travel areas where money talks and the well off are either liberal or successful conservatives generally at least well educated.

He then conflates p237-40 belief based morality with politics using Haight and Graham's 5 innate and universal moral parameters. 1. Harm/Care. 2. Fairness/Reciprocity. 3. In-Group/Loyalty. 4. Authority/Respect. 5. Purity/sanctity.

P 240 "Liberals question authority, celebrate diversity, and often flaunt(sic) faith and tradition in order to care for the weak and oppressed" ?????

"Religion and Government are the two systems for social control and watchdogs" to control the free riders. Shrmer then wastes a few pages with different studies using different words to confirm his belief that liberals weight H/C, F/R higher than G/L A/R & P/S with conservatives the opposite.

He then spends several pages setting up the justification for his Libertarian BS. (Which according to the thesis of the book came first.)

Chapter 12 101 ways our brains fool us into thinking we are right. He starts with one of my favorites post hoc odds. "A talk show you will never see: Our guest has had several dreams about the death of prominent people none of which have happened. Stay tuned maybe the next one will be confirmed" p260-1 describes a delightful experiment in which 15 Dems and 15 GOPs were wired up and presented statements by Bush and Kerry in which they contradicted themselves. The cognitive areas of the brain were out of the circuit, the emotional areas and conflict resolution areas were hot and everybody got a dopamine fix when their candidate was right.
He goes on to describe all the usual suspects Hindsight bias and self justification bias getting prominent attention, along with a host of other biases people use to avoid thinking about what they are observing.
The obligatory debunking of ESP. [not convincing] but a good discussion of the return to the mean fallacy. The SI Cover jinx is simply back to normal for the athlete after a flurry of good stuff that made the cover. Extraordinary things happen given enough time and attention. It is important to recognize they are just that: things on the tails of the bell curve.

I get the impression that in Chapter 13 Shermer is trying to justify his belief comes first in the face of the fact that the inductive paradigm of science has the potential to put the data before the belief in spite of our inherent tendency in his thesis of belief first. He properly points out that in Terra Incognata the absence of belief is liberating, and frees science to create de novo theories, unclouded by belief. But he seems a bit uncomfortable with this conclusion and points to belief based interpretations of data by Columbus and even Galileo in his interpretation of the Saturn data. It seems he is fighting a confirmation bias of his own Belief first belief. Which is threatened by the Scientific Method. He claims to be examining this in the final chapters. We shall see.

Chapt 14a Even astronomers can be victims of confirmation bias, but eventually science prevails, as a lead in to the orgins question.
Chapt 14b. Apparently an extended confirmation bias of Goddidntdoit. Shermer presents a bunch of origin of the universe theories as if they have more value than Goddidit. He messes around with the theist argument of the cosmological constants being just right for our existence as if there needs to be an explanation. Or as if no explanation is conceding the Goddidit argument. Amusing speculations to be sure as a confirmation bias that Goddidntdoit. But what is wrong with the universe exists, I exist, it all works. The only reasonable answer to why? is don't know, don't care.

From Beliefnet:"Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons."

—Micheal Shermer--"

In his most recent book The Believing Mind, Times Books, 2011 Shermer makes a strong case that the human brain is necessarily a belief engine. His case is that pattern seeking and assigning agency to the patterns is a survival trait built in to the brain. His claim is that we believe first and think about it later, if ever.

In my experience this is as true of atheists and skeptics (including Shermer) as it is for religious believers. As many will testify dragging a belief say about UFOs out and trying to ask whether the belief is justified or not is extremely difficult for most people. Whether you are for 'em or ag'in 'em can you really decide you just don't know? My experience is that most people can't on any belief based subject which is to say, if Shermer is right, all subjects. It as if "I just don't know" just doesn't have a home in the human brain. "That's right!" has many homes OFC and ACC and lots of reward mechanisms in the ventral striatum in the brain. P 260. This makes a lot of sense, in the modern world "I don't know" gets in the way of many necessary decisions. Which stock to buy, which way to bet on a business decision, etc, as they say, it is better to go with the gut, i.e. the belief systems in the brain, and just do it.

I of course can't speak for Shermer but one of the reasons I enjoyed the book is that he makes a hard scientific case, that is materialistic and rational, for woo-woo. Maybe I am belief disabled, or I had the wrong upbringing and went to the wrong school, but I have never been able to understand how extremely intelligent and rational people can believe weird things. I think I understand it better now, but I am still an outsider looking in.

Whew, finally done. Formal review on Thinking on the Blue Roads

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Dawkins - Literary prize winner or bigot or both.

Dawkins' Trashy Tract - Beliefnet
You've done a mostly decent job of trashing the man's book, but what of the author, himself?

J'C: "I have 5 books by Dr. Dawkins on my shelf which I think are excellent interpretations of evolutionary science for the reader of average or higher intelligence. I bought The God Delusion without reading reviews based on the rest of his books. As an evolutionary scientist and popularizer of his field I think he is exemplary. As an atheist I think he is a bigot. As a responsible person I feel a necessity to combat bigotry from whatever corner it comes from. As a responsible atheist I resent the fact that his bigotry is giving ordinarily responsible theists a hobby horse to ride roughshod over atheism and atheists.

Just as I hold responsible Christians accountable for speaking out against the bigotry of the Pat Robertsons and Fred Phelps of the Christian world. I think that responsible atheists are on the front line for combating atheist fundamentalism and bigotry. We are a small and politically marginal minority, and have to work intelligently under the radar to achieve the changes that are necessary. Strident hate, bigotry, and mindless fundamentalism does great damage to the cause of rationality and humanistic values in todays polarized world. Someone must pay attention."

As I noted on the eSKEPTIC blog promoting Dawkins for the Noble Prize
Polemics are not literature. If Dawkins could somehow get the brain fart of “The God Delusion” out of his bibliography he might have a chance. Unfortunately it is stinking up his name if not the excellent work he has done in explaining a difficult science to a skeptical world.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A skeptic's illusions of the gaps theory.

Don't Stereotype Atheists - Beliefnet Forums: "You are explaining OBE's, the God helmet presence, and NDE's as illusions, that is that the mind is fooled. All well and good, except that you have not explained the reality that is causing the mind to be fooled. Until you do that calling something an illusion is the same smoke and mirrors the magician uses to cause the scantily clad maiden to levitate."