A new book on nature and “The drive-by Dawkins diss”

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Reader Diane G called my attention to a piece in the New York Times about David Haskell, an evolutionist and ecologist at The University of the South: “Finding Zen in piece of nature” (the author of the piece is James Gorman).

Over a year, Haskell monitored 13,000 acres of woods owned by his university and has produced a book (The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature) in the tradition of lyrical nature writing.  A snippet of his observations, these about an emergence of 13-year cicadas:

But to him, the noise is biological alchemy, sunlight into sound. “These guys have been feeding on roots for 13 years. And so it’s 13 years of combined Tennessee forest productivity being blasted out.”

It is this kind of perception, halfway between metaphor and field note, that makes his voice a welcome entry in the world of nature writers. He thinks like a biologist, writes like a poet, and gives the natural world the kind of open-minded attention one expects from a Zen monk rather than a hypothesis-driven scientist. He avoids terms like “nature deficit disorder” and refuses to scold the bug-fearing masses. His pitch is more old-fashioned, grounded in aesthetics as much as science.

“You can live a perfectly happy life never having heard of Shakespeare,” he says, “but your life is in some ways a little diminished, because there’s such beauty there.

“And I think the same is true of nature. Much of it is useless to us, and that’s O.K. It’s not true that every species that goes extinct is like another rivet off the plane and the plane’s going to crash. We lost the passenger pigeon and the U.S. economy did not tank. But we lost the passenger pigeon and we lost some of this remarkable music made out of atoms and DNA.”

Although I haven’t seen the book, I appreciate Haskell’s emphasis on the intrinsic value of nature rather than trying to sell it by arguing for its pecuniary value to humans. The analogy to literature is apt.  We don’t need to show people how saving the rain forest will make them healthier or wealthier to justify conservation. That is one reason, of course, but animals and plants have intrinsic value, both aesthetically and simply because they have a right to live. We have no right, as just one evolved species, to destroy every other species on our planet.

Sadly, though, about halfway through the article comes what Diane calls “the drive-by Dawkins diss,” in which someone attempts to gain credibility by denigrating the prominent biologist/atheist:

Dr. Haskell wanted to tell the story of forest ecology and also to refresh himself with a kind of natural history meditation, as opposed to goal-directed scientific research. He has a daily practice of sitting and concentrating on his breathing (he doesn’t use the word “meditation”) of no specific religious bent. He does, however, set himself apart from crusading atheists, like Richard Dawkins, saying he harbors a “deep suspicion that the world is more than atoms rearranging themselves.”

Written By: Jerry Coyne – WEIT
continue to source article at whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com

84 COMMENTS

  1. Apart from his opinions not being “centrist”, does anyone have anything specific to bring up against Professor Dawkins’s ideas? If people would just admit there’s nothing automatically wrong with your opinion not being in the middle of whatever spectra may exist, authors such as Haskell wouldn’t feel the need, after clearly at least partly agreeing with RD, to add that they don’t fully agree (which may not even be true). 

    It’s a pretense which, as soon as you try to elucidate it, looks so silly I have to doubt the sincerity of such downplaying anyway. I’d love to know, for example, what there is to reality besides particles’ activities (or, more generally, the activities of the fields of which particles are an emergent consequence). Surely Haskell would admit our scientific knowledge doesn’t leave much wiggle room for him to insert any candidate answers. What’ll he put in there – a soul?

    Note in particular that this technique is used only to distance one’s self from the “New Atheist” views, rather than the far more ridiculous notions at the other “extreme”. When did you last read a blatantly pro-religious piece saying, “oh, but I’m not like the extremists because I think there’s more to life than obeying God’s rules or trusting scriptural doctrines”? It happens far less often than “I’m not like RD” comments.

    Indeed, the “drive by” description of it is apt, because references to RD seem to be inexorable in every single religion-discussing op-ed these days (with the exception of most accounts of news events), no matter how unrelated he is to them. I once say an article which defined atheism as a view defended in his TGD, which hilariously put the horse before the cart; it smacked of a desperate need to somehow bring him into a news story that he wasn’t involved in. Imagine if every politics article these days gave Rush Limbaugh as an example of a conservative, even if he was personally irrelevant to the discussion.

  2.   He has a daily practice of sitting and concentrating on his breathing
    (he doesn’t use the word “meditation”) of no specific religious bent. He does, however, set himself apart from crusading atheists, like Richard Dawkins, saying he harbors a “deep suspicion that the world is more than atoms rearranging themselves.”

    He seems to have mixed up his meditative introspection with his scientific studies and then had a swipe at Richard’s objectivity.  Perhaps he was a late comer to studying nature.

    In my early childhood, I lived at the edge of a village, next 80 acres of woodland, where I often sat in the sun as it filtered through the trees, by a stream: -  watching the water molecules rearranging themselves, while insects skimmed the surface and small  fish swam below.   It all seemed perfectly natural to me. 

    No “deep suspicions” that some magic was needed to make it work. 

    Just the gravity which pulled the water down the waterfalls and the sandbanks and stones which caused eddies and ripples interacting with the flow.

     At other times we would bring toy boats or boat models we had made – wearing wellies to be more interactive.

  3. “There is nobody on this planet who has awakened more awe and appreciation at the products of evolution than Richard Dawkins.”

    How true!

    However, as much as I do love nature I don’t see how we can ever ascribe intrinsic value to it. I suppose conscious creatures have intrinsic value, but only to themselves and perhaps to other conscious creatures as well.

  4. The important point is this is the reviewer’s crack, not Haskell’s.  Dawkins himself has many times spoken with similar poetry about how wonderful the universe is, as it is, without decorating it with tawdry religious superstitions. 

    The reviewer is metaphorically the sort of person who would hang plastic Jesuses on forest bows to improve it.

  5. “I personally stop short of a the kind of full-blooded philosophical certainty that Dawkins has used in his writing.”

    To what philosophical certainty are you referring? Dawkins is an agnostic atheist.

  6. [The piece] has inflamed some sensitive nerves

    I’ve read quite a few criticisms of the piece, but none seemed to fit this description. Such unsubstantiated accounts of criticisms seem to arise frequently in responses to them. I have written one such criticism myself, and now I’m posting another; did either bear the alleged features?

    Jerry Coyne has taken issue with a so-called “drive-by diss” of Richard Dawkins (the Dawkins Foundation site [sic] has reposted Coyne’s attack)

    Had Haskell’s reading of Coyne’s post been more attentive, he would know the quoted term originated with a woman named Diane G. This is one of two places Haskell shows he has not carefully read that which he discusses, a point which will matter later. It also makes what comes next hypocrisy:

    Coyne says that he has not read the book, so I would expect maybe just a touch more humility in his questioning of my ideas

    Coyne criticised an anti-Dawkins stance of Haskell’s which he did read, even if he didn’t read the book as a whole. This entitles him to give his views on it.

    I’m disappointed that an honest and non-aggressive expression of a difference of opinion about a difficult philosophical question — the nature of the universe — should be greeted with such a vigorous and contemptuous slap-down.

    How does Haskell tell that his writings aren’t aggressive while others’ responses to them are vigorous, contemptuous or indicative of sensitive nerves having been inflamed? As I have said above, all we really know is who has disagreed with whom about what. Further, Haskell mind-read himself when he suggested he had inflamed sensitive nerves; how is that unlike Coyne guessing Haskell’s motives?

    I stop short of a the kind [sic] of full-blooded philosophical certainty that Dawkins has used

    This is Haskell’s second failure to properly read someone else; Dawkins explicitly discusses the probability of scenarios throughout his books. His arguments for and against specific mechanisms for the formation of biological adaptations have always discussed probability, and in The God Delusion he explained why there “almost certainly” is no god; it was even explicit in a chapter title. Dawkins also introduced a 7-point scale, of which two points involve certainty, to emphasize his not being at either of those positions.

    Drive-by diss indeed

    Let’s draw an important distinction between how detailed Coyne and Diane’s criticisms were and how incidental was Professor Dawkins as a topic in the promotion of Haskell’s book. I explained what was wrong with the latter in my previous post.

  7. forest floor one yard diameter

    Wonder if he got the inspiration from a Nat Geo article entitled ‘One Cubic Foot” – E O Wilson.

    Research funded in part by Templeton Foundation?!? By accident or design ? (pun intended)

  8. It seems “drive by diss” is about all the religios can offer.  They can’t support their views with testable evidence or experiment, so what else  to do but have a go at the opposition. But don’t hang around too long, in case you have to explain yourself!

    If they make the mistake of entering the “drive in diss”, they may find themselves subjected to logical argument! A fatal mistake for theists!

  9. OP  It is this kind of perception, halfway between metaphor and field note, that makes his voice a welcome entry in the world of nature writers

    I suppose it might if you are a Beatrix Potter fan! –

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T

    He thinks like a biologist, writes like a poet,

    Which is it?  Emotive introspective poetry or objective science?  They don’t mix!

    and gives the natural world the kind of open-minded attention one expects from a Zen monk

    The the open mind like a bucket with no lid, creating introspective verbal artistry, based on personal feelings rather than any connection to the observable physical world!

    rather than a hypothesis-driven scientist.

    Nothing to do with actual forest ecology then!  Just emotional reactions to a natural forest environment!

    .. ..  refresh himself with a kind of natural history meditation,

    Perhaps:  “A Year’s Zen Meditation in the Woods” would be a better title!

    (from criticism response) I’m disappointed that an honest and non-aggressive expression of a
    difference of opinion about a difficult philosophical question — the nature of the universe — should be greeted with such a vigorous and contemptuous slap-down.

    Whimsical delusion reigns in this one!
    What does the “nature of the universe”, have to do with a year of (allegedly)  watching forest ecology on Earth??? (Unless you are a real science-free god-did-it freak)  Forest ecology is not even 0.000000000000000000000000000000000000001% of the universe, while  the introspective wooist meditations  of the observer, add nothing to the understanding of the science of ecology anyway!

  10. What’s Haskell’s motive in taking a swipe at RD?
    One would have thought that someone like Haskell would want to be regarded as a colleague friend of Prof RD.
    Making such peevish references in his own book makes one wonder as to why?

  11. Underground906
    Do not criticize our Glorious Leader (pbuh).

    … or anyone else -  unless you have some constructive rational criticism to make, rather than a cheap bit of vacuous sniping. 
    Irrational attempts to dissociate views on natural reality from authors of evidenced science by people posturing as scientists, (or atheists) does tend to attract ridicule!
    Those who lump together the views posters at one site because they are too dim to recognise a diversity of views – likewise!

  12. The point was abundantly clear. If rationality was being applied – that is to say, to think through one’s position and to honestly self-reflect, that would be obvious.  Instead the point is dismissed out-of-hand with a few pithy, self-defensive remarks.

    There is, so very obviously, some kind of hero worship at play here – of the the type usually reserved for religious deities, prophets and left-wing mass-murderers –  and it’s very disappointing to witness on a place such as this. Especially from a respected author and serious, credible scientist like Coyne . 

    Excitable and fairly emotive personal attacks and imputation of  sinister motives onto someone for expressing a differing outlook on the certainty of  scientific orthodoxy? Leave that kind of anti-intellectualism to the liberals. Out of the whole book a quote, which wasn’t exactly fawning but far from wholly antithetical to Dawkin’s position, is pilfered from the work and the author demonized on the scant basis of a few remarks.

    This, frankly, is stupidity writ large.There are questions in science that are still left to be answered. And it is that very curiousness that there is more to know that will be responsible for the scientific exploration and breakthroughs of the future. That curiousness is not simply disguised I.D, but valid scientific curiosity. However, according to some, science has answered every one of them already. There is no more elbow room allowed for further curiosity or exploration right? This is an irrational and anti-scientific stance, bought on by very slight disagreement  to a popular  figures like Dawkins, where it seems any criticism is – prima facie – basis for an out-pouring of condemnation and insinuations of nefarious intent without evidence.

    I know there are valid questions to be asked regarding the ”deep suspicion that life is more than just the interplay of atoms and particles” remark (I paraphrase), but the rest, such as the aggrieved tone and personal barbs embedded in the criticism from Coyne, the suggestion Tallis is an I.D advocate and certain vitriolic replies on this thread, along with the  removal of certain links I posted (that also referenced the cult-worship aspect and were therefore relevant, not gratuious) do indeed appear to smack of some kind of quasi-religious veneration by shameless sycophants instead of a level-headed, rational, open-minded and proportional response.

  13. Underground906
    The point was abundantly clear.

    Really???

    If rationality was being applied – that is
    to say, to think through one’s position and to honestly self-reflect, that would be obvious.  Instead the point is dismissed out-of-hand with a few pithy, self-defensive remarks.

    Perhaps you should read the comments before commenting!  My rational analysis was perfectly clear, making specific points about separating objectivity from emotive reactions.  You seem to be having difficulty in  recognising rational analytical comments.

    Here:- http://richarddawkins.net/news

    and here:-

    http://richarddawkins.net/news

    There is, so very obviously, some kind of hero worship at play here – of the the type usually reserved for religious deities, prophets and left-wing mass-murderers - 

     

    You really need to work on your analysis skills, rather than “ink-blot-perception” of preconceived notions.  There is no group think on this site, as is evident to those who actually read the discussion threads.  

    Jos also gave a very clear analysis here:- http://richarddawkins.net/news

    and it’s very disappointing to witness on a
    place such as this.
    Especially from a respected author and serious, credible scientist like Coyne .

     

    You do seem to regularly miss the point!  The inaccurate gratuitous dissing, was obvious to most of the rest of those posting.

    This, frankly, is stupidity writ large. There are questions in science that are still left to be answered.

    Well spotted!!  The investigation & pursuit of unanswered questions is generally known as “THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD”, which has nothing to do with stupidity, or silly childish  assertions of stupidity.

    And it is that very curiousness that there is more to know that will be responsible for the scientific exploration and breakthroughs of the future. That curiousness is not simply disguised I.D, but valid scientific curiosity.

    No one has suggested that science knows everything, but it certainly does know many things to a high degree of certainty, and successfully applies them in technologies.

    However, according to some, science has answered every one of them already. There is no more elbow room allowed for further curiosity or exploration
    right?

    Wrong! – But such assertions are usually made by ignoramuses who want to claim parity of view, by suggesting that science is as ignorant as they are!

    This is an irrational and anti-scientific stance, bought on by very slight disagreement  to a popular  figures like Dawkins,

    Nope!  It is a strawman which you have invented.

    where it seems any criticism is – prima facie – basis for an out-pouring of condemnation and insinuations of nefarious intent without evidence.

    Gazzzoing!!!! Do I take it from these unevidenced outpourings, you are looking in a mirror and mistaking the projection ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P… ) for a view of others.

    Your last paragraph and the deleted link seem to confirm this.

  14. ”Really???”

    Three question marks? Over-egging the pudding I think and a bit too desperate to deny the criticism I leveled. Yes really, Alan. It was a satirical remark drawing a comparison to the kind of knee-jerk and aggressive attacks on a one sentence disagreement with Dawkin’s certainty on an issue that are very reminiscent of other cult-worship types of the religious variety, simply because the criticism is leveled at a certain person. Whereas if the same criticism had been leveled at someone less venerated, it would certainly have not gained the same response.

    ”I’m not sure what relevance this has to his thesis, nor what his evidence is that “the world is more than atoms rearranging themselves,” which is an explicit denial of materialism. If he’s not religious, what more is there than “atoms rearranging themselves”? Granted, the way those atoms have arranged themselves, though the process of natural selection, has created structures that inspire wonder and awe—an awe, by the way, that I suspect is expressed much better by Dawkins than by Haskell’s breathless lucubrations.”

    To me, the above from Coyne is a fair and valid response to the journo’s article.

    This though, not so:

    ”What galls me is the increasing desire of people to gain credibility by a drive-by snipe at Dawkins’s materialism and atheism. There’s no need for that here, and no need to mention the man. Haskell is going for readership, pure and simple, and wants to get it by criticizing a well known atheist.

    It’s totally gratuitious, and spoils an otherwise okay article. There is nobody on this planet who has awakened more awe and appreciation at the products of evolution than Richard Dawkins.’

    There is an emotive, personal quality to the above reaction to criticism. Which, according to Coyne, is based on the supposed sinister motives of the author – the rationale of these supposed motives founded on pure supposition and prejudice from Coyne and zero evidence. When people are so convinced when they make accusations of this kind without evidence, and come to see them and assert them as fact, then I see no difference between science and religion in this kind hero-worship or defense of a sainted figure.

    Dawkins supposedly being a figure who’s beyond reproach and any disagreement, no matter how small, is blasphemous.

    ”Perhaps you should read the comments before commenting! My rational analysis was perfectly clear, making specific points about separating objectivity from emotive reactions. You seem to be having difficulty in recognising rational analytical comments.”

    Obviously some comments and criticism had merit. I said as much in my post. Specifically that Coyne’s question about what evidence exists that the world is more there is than atoms were logical and valid ones. However to call such scepticism, or, in the author’s words – ”deep suspicion” – an explicit denial of materialism isn’t accurate and a false argument. An explicit denial would be ”I think Dawkins is totally wrong in his certainty about materialism.”

    I didn’t class everyone as being guilty of the same kind of reactionary hero-worship. I said that was at play here. And it is in some quarters, quite frankly. That there was some criticism that was solely on the points of the statement and not simply ad hom doesn’t refute what I was saying. It just shows your misunderstanding of what I said.

    ”You really need to work on your analysis skills, rather than “ink-blot-perception” of preconceived notions. There is no group think on this site, as is evident to those who actually read the discussion threads.”

    This is ignorance talking. Pure ignorance laced with contemptuous remarks about my so called lack of analytical skill. This theme, out-right and passionate denial mixed with derogatory personal jibes about my so called lack of any reasonable standard of reasoned analysis is a constant one with you and shows a particular aversion and insensitivity to any criticism. Rather making my point.

    ”You do seem to regularly miss the point! The inaccurate gratuitous dissing, was obvious to most of the rest of those posting.”

    This is quite risible and makes my case more than anything I think. The ”inaccurate, gratuitous dissing” was simply an author expressing a difference of view in terms of the certainty that one prominent, in fact the most prominent, figure representing materialism holds.

    It speaks volumes that this is simply framed as a kind blasphemous and calculated remark labeled a gratuitous and inaccurate diss and worthy of scorn and character assassination of the the author.

    ”Well spotted!! The investigation & pursuit of unanswered questions is generally known as “THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD”, which has nothing to do with stupidity, or silly childish assertions of stupidity.

    Exactly. So why are there so much of that in this critique? That was my point. Lot’s of multiple exclamation points and use of all caps, doesn’t exactly suggest a rational, objective, inquiring scientific mindset by the way. But rather speaks of dogmatism.

    ”No one has suggested that science knows everything, but it certainly does know many things to a high degree of certainty, and successfully applies them in technologies.”

    There is a suggestion that everything is known and that Dawkins is the one who possesses sole propriety and is therefore beyond question or doubt.

    ”Wrong! – But such assertions are usually made by ignoramuses who want to claim parity of view, by suggesting that science is as ignorant as they are!”

    It’s neither here no there that some people do that, and that you and others have come to label anyone who is aware of that fact as being in that category. But it is still a point of fact, regardless of that. And prejudging everyone who’s doubt of current orthodoxy based on the fact that there is still mysteries that science seeks to understand, and which might be paradigm shifting when discovered, is a flaw in reasoning.

    ”Nope! It is a strawman which you have invented.”

    Nonsense.

    ”Gazzzoing!!!! Do I take it from these unevidenced outpourings, you are looking in a mirror and mistaking the projection ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P… ) for a view of others.

    Your last paragraph and the deleted link seem to confirm this.”

    My point was based on the projection and imputation of motives, without evidence, on the author that are quite easily evidenced if you care to look. No false projection or strawmen involved.

  15. Underground906

    Whereas if the same criticism had been levelled at someone less venerated, it would certainly have not gained the same response.

    This is simply you reading your preconceptions into the discussion! – Which is precisely why there were extra ??s and !! s.

    “the world is more than atoms rearranging themselves,” which is an explicit denial of materialism. If he’s not religious, what more is
    there than “atoms rearranging themselves”?

    There IS nothing more than particles and energy rearranging its self, so why make vague wooist comments in a scientific work?  The criticism OF THE REMARK is perfectly valid.  He is using vagueness to avoid being called out on the assertion.
    Your position is one of confused gapology!

    There is a suggestion that everything is known and that Dawkins is the one who possesses sole propriety and is therefore beyond question or
    doubt.

    This is utter nonsense !!!  You claim to have read his books, and they make his position abundantly clear!
    In case you have not noticed there are lots of scientists posting here, who have a very good grasp of scientific methods and of these subjects.

    It’s neither here no there that some people do that, and that you and others have come to label anyone who is

    aware of that fact

    as being in that category.

     

    I see you have moved from denying unevidenced made up strawmen, to adding made-up “facts”!

    ”Gazzzoing!!!! Do I take it from these unevidenced outpourings, you are looking in a mirror and mistaking the projection ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P… ) for a view of others. 

    No false projection or strawmen involved.

    Simple denial, adds no evidence or credibility to your simply asserted position.

    Lot’s of multiple exclamation points and use of all caps, doesn’t exactly suggest a rational, objective, inquiring scientific mindset by the way. But rather speaks of dogmatism.

    You seem to have missed the point that it is commenting ON your irrational dogmatism!!! Assertions of rationality do not equal rationality, while silly claims about the rationality other people’s rational presentations of arguments, only illustrate a lack of grasp of the subject.

  16. Do calm down Alan. The strenuous use of triple exclamation marks after every remark seems a little unhinged and zealous. And looks like completely desperate attempts to dismiss all criticism. There’s no need for it. And it’s not as if they will ever make a false assertion a true one. 

    ”This is simply you reading your preconceptions into the discussion! – Which is precisely why there were extra ??s and !! s.”

    What preconceptions exactly? I made my case over the course of the whole previous post but you ignore all that in full context. I made a clear distinction between the warranted criticism and questioning of the statement on the one hand and the kind of wanton character assassination and demonizing of an author holding dissenting opinion that appeared to criticize Dawkins on the other, with alot of the ire for the remark stemming from somebody having the audacity to criticize him as a public figure (evidenced in the tone and insinuations from Coyne that the author was trying to ride on the coat-tails of the Great Icon and gain some notoriety and cache from it and a book he hasn’t read must be inferior to any of Dawkins work).

    If you fail to comprehend or ignore that distinction, one being concerned with the inherent challenge to strict reductionism in the remark and professionally addressing that and one being a personal attack on the author for his supposed motives and reasons for having the sheer gall to mention Dawkin’s at all, then this is pointless and you are just on a defensive tirade and not willing to engage in honest discussion.

    ”There IS nothing more than particles and energy rearranging its self, so why make vague wooist comments in a scientific work?  The criticism OF THE REMARK is perfectly valid.  He is using vagueness to avoid being called out on the assertion.
    Your position is one of confused gapology!”

    That remark was/is certainly worthy of  question and contention, obviously, and if you were in any way, even begrudgingly, civil enough not to grossly ignore what I said, you would have recognized I said as much – saying it was logical and valid to address that. So how can my position be one of confused gapology?  I’m curios as to what he meant myself but perhaps such scepticism isn’t necessarily borne out of woo or religious conviction but could equally, and more likely in this case given the scientific nature of the book on the whole , be one of scientific curiosity of what else there is to discover and add to our current knowledge and how that might change the current paradigm and our current understanding, and could be no less scientifically minded than theoretical physics is now.

    But even so, I am in no way making the cult-worship comparison with those who follow that line of thought or criticizing him for that aspect, and that aspect solely.

    You are being completely disingenuous trying to imply otherwise. Being scientists should, but does not necessarily, exclude them from seeing Dawkins as beyond reproach and anyone differing from him as committing heresy or acting like that has occurred. However, I have to make clear yet again, I was not referring to everyone who took umbrage with the author.

    ”This is utter nonsense !!!  You claim to have read his books, and they make his position abundantly clear! 
    In case you have not noticed there are lots of scientists posting here, who have a very good grasp of scientific methods and of these subjects.”

    Damn I must be seriously wrong on that one to incur THREE exclamations marks.  I don’t know why you see fit to mention that there are scientists posting here in response to what I said? This non-sequitur seems like clear evidence to me that you aren’t actually reading what I say fully before launching into adolescent punctuation mode and admonishment just because a criticism has been leveled back at some people for their response.

     Quite clearly I never said Dawkins sees himself in that way. The point was some of those rushing to the defense of Dawkins anytime he is criticized goes beyond simple professional and scientific agreement and into fawning sycophancy and cult-worship. 

    You cherry pick certain points to show this isn’t so because you haven’t grasped the simple point I made that SOME people display that, not everyone on this site, nor indeed anyone who intervenes on Dawkins behalf to protect the integrity of his work.

    ”Simple denial, adds no evidence or credibility to your simply asserted position.”

    I provided evidence, after drawing a distinction between valid professional criticism and rebuttal to going beyond that. I could show more from the comments and the oft-predicable responses that aren’t just rebuttal to the comment but sycophancy and personal abuse, but I’m tired of your weak game of tit-for-tat reverse psychology you insist on playing and it would be pointless and ignored anyway. 

    ”You seem to have missed the point that it is commenting ON your irrational dogmatism!!! Assertions of rationality do not equal rationality, while silly claims about the rationality other people’s rational presentations of arguments, only illustrate a lack of grasp of the subject.”

    This is beyond ridiculous. I made clear the character assassination and imputation of sinister motive onto the author that was without evidence. I take it that is acceptable to you and completely rational and just, given that you have completely ignored it and instead blather on with this kind of arrogant denial and defensiveness?

    Well there we disagree, and there my argument is made most strongly, if indeed that is something you defend as appropriate to unleash on a biologist whose crime is to be deeply suspicious of the kind of hard-line materialist reductionism that Dawkins is the most well-known advocate for.

  17. Underground906
    The strenuous use of triple exclamation marks after ever remark seems a little unhinged and zealous. And completely desperate in attempts to dismiss all criticism. There’s no need for it.
    And it’s not as if they will ever make a false assertion a true one.

    ”This is simply you reading your preconceptions into the discussion! – Which is precisely why there were extra ??s and !! s.”

    What preconceptions exactly?

    Err – these ones:-

    The point was some of those rushing to the defense of Dawkins anytime he is criticized goes beyond simple professional and scientific agreement and into fawning sycophancy and cult-worship.

    My criticism of the author as with others, is because of his unevidenced pseudoscientific assertions and his criticism of scientific objective rationality, which in this case coincidentally, he has gratuitously linked to Richard Dawkins.
    I am also a biologist, and I take considerable exception to people who bring science into disrepute by their asserted ignorance, while presenting themselves as scientists.

    If this author is pig-ignorant of the second law of thermodynamics, he should either study and learn, or keep his ignorance to himself!

    When scientists condemn incompetence personified, sniping at the competent, this is not a cult following.  It is part of the normal peer-review process which upholds scientific standards.

    If you have not yet worked this out,  -
     I really do not like pseudoscience posturing, or emotive drivel, which pretends that objective science is some sort of cult !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Psychological projection and vacuous asserted conspiracy theories are not  endearing features either!

  18. The point was some of those rushing to the defense of Dawkins anytime he is criticized goes beyond simple professional and scientific agreement and into fawning sycophancy and cult-worship.

    ”My criticism of the author as with others, is because of his unevidenced pseudoscientific assertions and his criticism of scientific objective rationality, which in this case coincidentally, he has gratuitously linked to Richard Dawkins.”

    Fair enough if you had been making the case that you weren’t engaging in the kind of sycophancy I was alluding to. I wasn’t referring to you in particular anyway nor certain other posters and didn’t assume that ALL criticism was simply due to a creepy kind of us/them sycophancy. The qualifier ‘some’ should suggest that.

    What unevidenced pseudo-scientific assertions did he make? I missed them. I saw him say he has deep suspicions about the world being more than just the interplay of random atoms and particles, but no assertions being made. Could you point me to those assertions and the outright dismissal of scientific objective reality? 

    Gaining clarification of what he meant would be good here. Perhaps he takes such a strict  reductionist metaphor to be neglectful of suitable considerations of the emergent properties from that interplay, such as consciousness and self-reflection, in purely a metaphorical sense. Life is more meaningful to us humans than random interactions of things and there does seem to be more to the reality we live in our daily lives than such a metaphor of reality suggests. No transcendent, supernatural reality need come into. Perhaps his thinking runs along the lines of Stuart Kaufmann (it certainly would seem similar to that: http://www.edge.org/3rd_cultur….  Or perhaps with Dawkins putting himself at 6.9 on the atheist scale, perhaps the author is at about 6. 

    It could just be that he was making assertions and wholeheartedly denouncing Dawkins and his work, as some of the the rhetoric suggests, and that I haven’t yet read them and have only seen someone express a deep suspicion toward an attitude of certainty regarding a position.

    ”I am also a biologist, and I take considerable exception to people who bring science into disrepute by their asserted ignorance, while presenting themselves as scientists.”

    If you see it that way, fine. I rather gravitate towards people like Feynman when it comes to scientific enquiry and the point of certainty, and tend to think those with more humility to allow occasion to  think outside of certain orthodoxy and retain an intellectual curiosity often advance scientific understanding for the better, and that expressing such uncertainty needn’t be seen as bringing science into disrepute.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v

    I disagree that he is in this case, unless the rest of the book had been an argument trying to refute everything about materialism and reductionism or the pertinent work of Dawkins himself. 

    ”If this author is pig-ignorant of the second law of thermodynamics, he should either study and learn, or keep his ignorance to himself!”

    Please show me where the author explicitly expressed ignorance of that law or seeks to refute it? 

    ”When scientists condemn incompetence personified, sniping at the competent, this is not a cult following.  It is part of the normal peer-review process which upholds scientific standards.”

    Personal attacks and assumptive imaginings without evidence transferred onto the author is part of the scientific peer-reviewed process? Where it is, it isn’t a display of competence and sharp, precise rational thought. Again I remind you of the distinction between professional disagreement and unnecessary  ad homs and character assassination on non-technical points. 

    I don’t think so. But I do get your point in that disagreement is not simply sycophancy and there are valid reasons to criticize. And I haven’t claimed otherwise.

    ”If you have not yet worked this out,  - I really do not like pseudoscience posturing, or emotive drivel, which pretends that objective science is some sort of cult !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

    It is you who hasn’t worked out or can’t seem to grasp the fact that I never equated all disagreements in science as being due to a cult-mentality. However, if you think none exists in that field, you have some very narrow blinkers on and aren’t being honest with yourself. 

    ”Psychological projection and vacuous asserted conspiracy theories are not  endearing features either!”

    Precisely. Which is exactly the point I was getting at when I drew the comparison between the two paragraphs from  Coyne that I quoted in a previous post to you and why I said the second paragraph and the tone was uncalled for. A protective paranoia about any mention of Dawkins, even if stated  in terms of  even the most gentle disagreement is instantly taken as someone trying to make their name of the back of a hero-figure like Dawkins.

    I think your anger often gets the better of you, and preciseness of thought suffers badly for it. It’s truly pointless if you can’t tone down the over-excitability.

  19. I think your anger often gets the better of you, and preciseness of thought suffers badly for it. It’s truly pointless if you can’t tone
    down the over-excitability.

    Still projecting!

    At least you have at last tried to present an argued case with some reasoning.

    Life is more meaningful to us humans than random interactions of things and there does seem to be more to the reality we live in our daily lives than such a metaphor of reality suggests. No transcendent, supernatural reality need come into.

    This is simply a false dichotomy.  The material nature of living things and human aspirations to personal meaningful activities, are not mutually exclusive. 
    This is almost invariably a claim which comes from supernaturalists whose mental view is blinkered by the limitations of their own simplistic reversed god-centred image of reality.  Understanding enhances rather than diminishing perception.

    Personal attacks and assumptive imaginings without evidence transferred onto the author is part of the scientific peer-reviewed process? Where it is, it isn’t a display of competence and sharp, precise rational thought.. Again I remind you of the distinction between professional disagreement and unnecessary  ad homs and character assassination on non-technical points.

    You just don’t get science do you! 
    There is nothing personal in calling incompetent statements, incompetent statements, although those with no evidence and no convincing argument often make such claims as a diversion, and then shuffle about when called.

    Scientists debunk incompetent assertions about scientific investigations along with any false conclusions. 
    That is why the scientific method gives us the most reliable route to confirmed knowledge, which has been built up over centuries.
    Introspection tells us about our self image and our imaginings, with a track record of producing numerous erroneous fanciful notions.

    Introspective meditation has nothing to do with forest ecology & is a grossly incompetent method of studying it.  Taking a swipe at a biologist who uses objective methods only compounds the stupidity!

    Learning about forest ecology comes from field-work and diligent follow-up investigations, not navel gazing.

    All you have done is incompetently ASSERT that constructive criticism is equivalent to an ad hom attack!  It isn’t!  Learn some science! 
    I have already from my early posts, clearly explained his inappropriate mixing of emotional meditative states with rational scientific investigations IN HIS QUOTE AT THE OP.

    Why do you have difficulty in understanding this simple fact?

  20. Still projecting!

    Not at all Alan. That’s what I think based on what to me is sufficient evidence. You do indeed get angry at certain things by your own admission and copious use of !!!!!!!!! and ALLCAPS. And that is has inhibited precise thought to me is quite apparent in the way you seem to response to me as if you didn’t even look at my post, let alone read it for any sort of basic comprehension before replying.  

    This is simply a false dichotomy.  The material nature of living things and human aspirations to personal meaningful activities, are not mutually exclusive.

    We have a different understanding of what a false dichotomy is. I made no suggestion that they are mutual exclusive and it’s case of one or the other, otherwise I’d be positing a supernatural element that would indeed set up a dichotomy.  A false one it would be if I had, I agree. I made the point that the metaphor  ”that the world is more than atoms rearranging themselves”, which Haskell expressed deep suspicion over, doesn’t suffice to all of us because frankly, through observation of the emergent phenomena, there is more natural complexity of the kind stated here by  Stuart Kaufman:

    I would like to begin a discussion about the first glimmerings of a new scientific world view — beyond reductionism to emergence and radical creativity in the biosphere and human world. This emerging view finds a natural scientific place for value and ethics, and places us as co-creators of the enormous web of emerging complexity that is the evolving biosphere and human economics and culture

    http://www.edge.org/3rd_cultur

    I made clear they needn’t be mutually exclusive, but that the current metaphor is simply  incomplete to some of us, and for scientific reasons, when stated in those simplistic terms as the sole explanation for totality of everything in existence, and misses much, regardless of the reality of the interplay of atoms being a fact. Many prominent scientists are of the view they are not the only things to be considered regarding the world and everything in it and fall short of explaining everything. And we are not at that stage yet. 

    This is almost invariably a claim which comes from supernaturalists whose mental view is blinkered by the limitations of their own simplistic reversed god-centred image of reality.  Understanding enhances rather than diminishing perception.

    Granted, many supernaturalists use that trope to then engage in gapology as you referred it. You are not breaking any new ground with me there and why there is such suspicion of any challenge to reductionism due to that. But to dismiss any challenge to contemporary reductionism as being of the same kind and having no scientific basis behind it is erroneous and inaccurate. 

    You just don’t get science do you! There is nothing personal in calling incompetent statements, incompetent statements, although those with no evidence and no convincing argument often make such claims as a diversion, and then shuffle about when called.

     

    Going over this again and attempting to get you to draw a simple, rational distinction between warranted scientific criticism and the kind of non-peer reviewed, personal, wholly assumed and unsubstantiated, not to mentioned absurdly immature, arrogant  and prejudice, remarks about why the author allegedly ”dissed”  Dawkins (and which going by the article there was good reason to  doubt or non-committal that he did as it quite easily could have been the Times reporter making the link) that have nothing to do with science has been a  waste of time thus far.  

    I do get science and the scientific process, yes. I get that it is founded on obtaining  empirical evidence through rigorously, objective testing of a  given hypothesis. It is you who is forgetting that here and conflating what is more akin to ludicrous pseudo-science (if it was in the vicinity of anything approaching science, which, for all but one shot at a scientific rebuttal, it isn’t, and far more concerned with Dawkins being ”dissed”) with formal peer-reviewed, valid science.
    Putting the science angle aside here, as your  lecture about it is beside the point here as my point was about rationality, or lack thereof, and this  meant to be place that champions reason, and let’s look at the reasoning and the superior scientific competency at work:

    Coyne decides to critique an article sent to him by one of his readers, Diane – who seems to display the kind of Dawkins groupie traits I was referring to by taking exception to a seemingly unflattering  comment about Dawkins and ascribing to it the juvenile moniker of the  ”Dawkins drive-by diss’  - based on the unfounded assumption that is was the author himself who referenced deliberately targeted Dawkins and not the journalist making the Dawkin connection. When this is pointed out to Coyne, based on no solid evidence whatsoever he contends that he is sure, all but convinced apparently, that  the comment came from Haskell. Only later thinking to double check when the opportunity to communicate directly with Haskell presents itself to Haskell directly ”if he dissed RD”. 

    If he dissed RD. Think about that for a second. The affirmative to which would presumably be self-satisfied validation for the withering scorn in itself.  Dissing RD is cause for the scientific peer review process to be enacted and that’s exactly what happened according to you? And it was just the scientific review process at work. Nothing ludicrously unscientific about the whole premise that dissing Dawkins in any way is serious affront? 

    Coyne then misquotes a direct quote from Haskell, leaving out the important ”deep suspicions that” that preceded the rest of the quote ”the world is more than atoms rearranging themselves” to then make the accusation that it was an explicit denial of materialism – which couldn’t be credibly asserted had he quoted him honesty and with no selection bias present. 

    Proceeding on the shaky assumption that Haskell was indeed the originator of the ”diss”, the further harmful accusation is made that the supposed intention of the ”diss” was an attempt to gain credibility of by denigrating Dawkins, that it was merely gratuitous and that ”Haskell is going for readership, pure and simple, and wants to get it by criticizing a well known atheist”. This is the overriding concern of the article, defending Dawkins from a supposed a diss. 

    Remember he had no concrete evidence that the ludicrously titled ‘diss’ even originated from Haskell. 

    This sophomoric analysis and argumentation actually comes from a truly talented evolutionary biologist whose book really clarified my understanding of evolution and expanded my understanding of it immensely.

    Scientists debunk incompetent assertions about scientific investigations along with any false conclusions.  That is why the scientific method gives us the most reliable route to confirmed knowledge, which has been built up over centuries. Introspection tells us about our self image and our imaginings, with a track record of producing numerous erroneous fanciful notions.

    Introspective meditation has nothing to do with forest ecology & is a grossly incompetent method of studying it.  Taking a swipe at a biologist who uses objective methods only compounds the stupidity!

    I see some merit in the reasoning behind his  approach to science and a more integrated and contemplative approach, particularly given how validated the contemplative approach was for Einstein in his thought experiments, which I’m sure many purists would have sneered at the time before it bore fruit. If it can add to science in a meaningful way and yield new insights and still be true to the scientific method then it would not be a grossly incompetent method of study and analysis. Here’s his take:

    “Science,” he writes, “deepens our intimacy with the world. But there is a danger in an exclusively scientific way of thinking. The forest is turned into a diagram; animals become mere mechanisms; nature’s workings become clever graphs.”

    Learning about forest ecology comes from field-work and diligent follow-up investigations, not navel gazing.

    He isn’t advocating doing away with the scientific field work but combining it with a more aesthetic and integrative approach in his own case. I think it’s fair to say that that is what gives him the deep suspicion of reductionism. Nothing woo in it. Just differs from – I will say it after this exchange – the dogmatic orthodoxy.

    All you have done is incompetently ASSERT that constructive criticism is equivalent to an ad hom attack!  It isn’t!  Learn some science!  I have already from my early posts, clearly explained his inappropriate mixing of emotional meditative states with rational scientific investigations IN HIS QUOTE AT THE OP.

    This is truly incredible in it’s aggressive and stubborn ignorance. How can you continually miss my repeated and extensive effort to draw the distinction between valid criticism and ad hom, after saying some had valid criticism and contained themselves to that and others didn’t?

    If you think the scenario I gave about above all the crap about ”dissing RD” is constructive criticism  instead of  trashy little episode of egotistical, ingratiating sycophancy bought about because someone dissed Dawkins than it truly besmirches the principles behind the Foundation for Reason  and Science if that is what is considered exemplary examples of it. 

    Coyne’s only question on Haskells blog was to ask did he diss Dawkins. Nothing else after that, complete ignoring the civil and courteous explanatory reply from Haskell as obviously now Coyne is riding around America basking in Dawkins reflective glory, and is one of the boys, he doesn’t need to descend to the level of defending his hasty, unprofessional  hatchet job or reciprocating the courteousness shown to him. 

    One thing that comes across most strongly to me in this is that the while the scientific method is hands down the best means of acquiring knowledge and understanding of the world, scientists themselves are nowhere near as trustworthy and dependable.

    Why do you have difficulty in understanding this simple fact?

    I  assure you that is not me with the difficult in understanding here.

  21.  
    Underground906
    He isn’t advocating doing away with the scientific field work but combining it with a more aesthetic and integrative approach in his own case.

    Objective scientific field work and aesthetics do not mix.
     I am quite capable of producing aesthetic art work or scientific field reports, (and have done so in the past) but mixing the two produces fudged irrational rubbish!

    I think it’s fair to say that that is what gives him the deep suspicion of reductionism. Nothing woo in it. Just differs from – I will say it after this exchange – the dogmatic orthodoxy.

    Fudged nonsense is undoubtedly different to orthodox scientific methods and results.  That is why scientists identify it as pseudoscience based on flawed methodology. 

    There are many aspects of science which are proved beyond reasonable doubt.  The applications of them would not work otherwise.

    There is a common fallacy that because science does not know everything it knows nothing!  I explained this on another discussion here:-
    http://richarddawkins.net/disc

    FOREST ECOLOGY is the biochemical reactions of atoms and molecules, in living organisms  in the environment, in the organisms themselves, and in the atoms and molecules of the physical environment, all interacting with each other.
    These are powered by energy,  governed by the scientific laws of thermodynamics.

    If you have EVIDENCE  in support of the  incompetent claim at   @OP:disqus that “something more” is required, PLEASE PRESENT IT NOW.

    (I am well aware of the verbose mental contortions of some people, who are ignorant of physics and neuroscience, in trying to circumvent this issue. )

    I  assure you that is not me with the difficult in understanding here.

    Oh dear!  – Still in denial and projecting!

    Got evidence??

  22. The least defensible part is Gorman calling Dawkins a “crusading atheist”.  The word “crusading” has militaristic overtones, and plays right into the “militant atheist” stereotype.  As Jos Gibbons and Jerry Coyne point out, bringing him into the discussion in such an irrelevant fashion is pointless unless he has an interest in impugning him.

  23. A further reminder to refrain from making personal comments about users who disagree with your position. Please focus on the arguments and issues and not the perceived flaws in other people commenting on the site. Thank you.

    The mods

  24. Thanks for connecting here. I sure did say that I *suspect* that the universe (multiverse?) may consist of more than atoms re-arranging themselves. (If inherent value and “rights” exist, as you say in your post, then you’ve perhaps agreed — neither of those are made of atoms and both are pretty hard to pin down.)

    This is a poor position to hold for a scientist.  Human brains are constructed of atoms through and through, so whatever goes on in them is “made of atoms” by definition.  Ethics and notions of right and wrong came from our social instincts and their evolutionary history.  Social instincts follow a logical system based on benefits and costs to individual organisms and to genetic interests, which manifest as feelings and urges to do specific things, which in turn give rise to our formal discussions on ethics.  Values and rights are tied to this system just as fact-finding and thinking are, for instance by our consciences and ability to empathize with others.  Knock out the right bits of the brain, and a person can become utterly amoral and incapable of considering others’ interests.  To point out the fallacy of Haskell’s example, evolution and tactics are not “made of atoms” either, and yet it is not “more than atoms re-arranging themselves”.  He’s fallen for the faulty idea that abstractions have an existence independent of matter, rearranging or not.

    And if neuroscience has taught us anything, it’s that all the thinking and feeling goes on in nervous systems, especially brains, and that these are made of atoms from the bottom from the spinal cord to the top of the prefrontal cortex.  There’s literally no room for anything else, and anyone claiming “more” than that needs to provide tangible justification for such a claim, not a personal “suspicion”.  In addition, “pretty hard to pin down” does not mean “does not consist of atoms re-arranging themselves”, so it’s an irrelevant comment to make.

     I also said that I do not buy the full Dawkins position on atheism. To suggest that this was an attempt to get readers is absurd — I had a multi-hour conversation with Jim Gorman about the book and biology, so of course we talked about the big questions in evolution and the world of ideas. Dawkins has outlined MANY of those big ideas and so I don’t think it is unreasonable for me to say that I disagree with him on some of them. Surely we’re allowed to have disagreements without getting slammed for being desperate book-sellers, bad writers, etc, etc. Especially when those disagreements are about things with such a history of being quite difficult.

    Indeed you are allowed to have disagreements — this is a free speech society — but unless you’ve been slandered or libelled, you can’t say others can’t reply, however much you dislike their means of doing so.  As for “the full Dawkins position on atheism”, the later comments are especially revealing:

    “We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.” R. Dawkins in The God Delusion. Dawkins is very clear about his position and I respect that position. I just don’t have his level of certainty. Apparently, that counts as a diss these days. Thin skin.

    This “level of certainty” is quite simply a crude caricature of Dawkins’ position, as he made it clear in the same book that he ranks on his own 7-point scale as a 6 or 6.9 and set out the criteria necessary to convince him: evidence for the claim that a deity exists.  The real question is why there should be any certainty for the idea that a deity exists, however meagre, and Haskell deals with this by being evasive and woolly.  When asked about this in the comments, Haskell does not put himself on the scale and replies:

    My position is: I do not know the answers. To get called out for “dissing” someone for saying that seemed off base.

    Presumably, he is an agnostic of the “both sides are equally valid” position, which means he thinks at some point that “god exists” can be justified.  Never once does he justify it, so as far as anyone is concerned he might as well be indulging a fantasy.  Without this justification, he has no case.

    He seems to be under the impression that agnosticism and atheism are incompatible, and tries to sell his non-atheistic agnosticism as reasonable.  But not once does he suggest why this is reasonable, and the disagreement over ethics (which is the only time he ventures to explain what the “more” represents) amounts to an appeal to ignorance and personal incredulity.  Frankly, it’s not too hard to believe that Templeton are supporting him — Templeton being an institution for reconciling religion with science — because his comments are about claiming to be a scientist but not a materialist (a case of having your cake and eating it), as Coyne points out:

    I’m not sure what relevance this has to his thesis, nor what his evidence is that “the world is more than atoms rearranging themselves,” which is an explicit denial of materialism.  If he’s not religious, what more is there than “atoms rearranging themselves”?

    People who criticize the materialist view virtually never propose a viable alternative, and the most prominent critics end up being either religious people or people with a soft spot for religion, such as agnostic accommodationist apologists.  And Coyne is aware of the “crusading atheist” attribution, at least now:

    I suspect that the “crusading atheists” part, and the mention of Dawkins, came from Haskell. I doubt that the author of the article simply brought in “crusading atheists” himself; that was almost certainly Haskell, and from there it’s not a stretch to envision Dawkins who, after all, is almost universally named when such gratuitious criticisms arise. And even if Haskell didn’t say that, which I doubt, the author of the piece felt incumbent to bring it in. Regardless, it’s a gratuitious slur.

    In short, I think Coyne has grounds for suggesting Haskell is making “a drive-by snipe at Dawkins’s materialism and atheism”, though I wouldn’t put it in those words, and the comparative comment about his writing style and calling the comment a “diss” were out of order.  Haskell’s reply, for all that he insists Dawkins is an inspiration to him, consists of the usual “Dawkins has too much certainty” fallacy (yet failing to justify his own woolly agnosticism), an appeal to ignorance and personal incredulity when it comes to ethics, and the fact that Dawkins had to be invoked at all not because of biological issues but to set up the materialist discussion before going on about a “more” that he hasn’t justified.  This marks him out as yet another woolly accommodationist.

  25. Objective scientific field work and aesthetics do not mix. 
     I am quite capable of producing aesthetic art work or scientific field reports, (and have done so in the past) but mixing the two produces fudged irrational rubbish!

    Scientific writing on nature that contains an aesthetic appreciation of the nature world being studied is hardly new or pseudo-scientific. Dawkin’s himself has edited a volume called the Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing that contains many excellent examples of it and which are far from fudged, irrational rubbish. Carl Sagan was not adverse to contemplation of the universe. And, of course, neither was Einstein.

    The author melded the two together to write the book, hoping to impart an aesthetic appreciation of nature onto his lay readers alongside the hard scientific data he observed.

    He hasn’t fudged the two together in his actual field studies. This  attempt to dismiss him as a completely incompetent pseudo-scientific fraud who wants to do away with hard objective science  is, to use a word you keep throwing around with little regard for its literal definition, a projection on your part, considering how little you go on in terms of evidence and how much of it is imagined. Or it appears that way and the weight of evidence contradicts it. 

    Here’s what E. O. Wilson says of the book: 

    David George Haskell leads the reader into a new genre of nature writing, located between science and poetry, in which the invisible appear, the small grow large, and the immense complexity and beauty of life are more clearly revealed.

    This was the effect the writer was after in his approach to his work. To vivify his work with an aesthetic appreciation of what he was studying, instead of a dry, dispassionate  technical treatise . 

    Do you actually believe he should have made a compendium of his scientific field-study notes and published them as is? And that in not doing so, it was complete rejection of objective science? He was writing a book for the lay public, not a study for a journal. 

    Fudged nonsense is undoubtedly different to orthodox scientific methods and results.  That is why scientists identify it as pseudoscience based on flawed methodology. 
    There are many aspects of science which are proved beyond reasonable doubt.  The applications of them would not work otherwise.
    There is a common fallacy that because science does not know everything it knows nothing!  I explained this on another discussion here:-http://richarddawkins.net/disc
    FOREST ECOLOGY is the biochemical reactions of atoms and molecules, in living organisms  in the environment, in the organisms themselves, and in the atoms and molecules of the physical environment, all interacting with each other.These are powered by energy,  governed by the scientific laws of thermodynamics.
    If you have EVIDENCE  in support of the  incompetent claim at    that “something more” is required, PLEASE PRESENT IT NOW.
    (I am well aware of the verbose mental contortions of some people, who are ignorant of physics and neuroscience, in trying to circumvent this issue. ),

    Another strained strawman. When you beseech Got evidence??, my answer is yes, and the above is clear evidence that you constantly fail to understand points on the merits put to you and instead bastardize  them to suit your position.  This ”fudged nonsense” you reference  is non-existent. A fabrication of your own mind because it is yet another strawman based on a failure to understand an argument even on basic level before attempting to refute it. Also, I asked you to refer to specific ”assertions” made by the author previously. You presented nothing. Because there wasn’t any. 

    There was just a deep suspicion on behalf of the author of there being more to the world we observe than the minimalist metaphor of the ”rearrangement of atoms”. There is no abject denial that atoms exist or interact, or of the laws of physics, but there are questions or suspicions within the scientific community over whether it suffices as the sole explanation for everything. Valid naturalistic, scientific ones. 

    You categorize any objection such as this as being a nod to ”something more” in the sense of it being an allusion to some supernatural element, as something ‘other than’, something completely exclusionary and exempt from the random interactions of atoms , even though I corrected you on the assertion that a dichotomy like that was not being drawn and why it wasn’t necessary to make one.

    Please understand the difference between that line of thinking and saying while undoubtedly part of the explanation, is incomplete as a universal description of everything is gets heralded as, and is at least open to further exploration and scientific enquiry because of the scientifically valid questions that arise from it.

    You hit first, and ask questions later. But at least you have asked for evidence, even though the demand is for evidence proving the silly notion you have of a ”something more” in a supernatural sense, which I can’t provide as that is not what I am claiming.

    I will provide a paper that backs up my actually point that the reductionist explanation of reality just being ”a (deterministic) interplay of atoms” is seen as an  incomplete, simplistic explanation by some within science that fails to address certain aspects of reality, but that intellectual and scientific opposition to reductionism it is not irreconcilable or mutually exclusive from it. 

    I’ll provide one more paper on scientific arguments against the monopoly of orthodox reductionism on scientific thought. I don’t hold out much hope that more constructive and informed discussion will result from it though. 

    http://complexsystems.org/publ

  26. Gaining clarification of what he meant would be good here. Perhaps he takes such a strict  reductionist metaphor to be neglectful of suitable considerations of the emergent properties from that interplay, such as consciousness and self-reflection, in purely a metaphorical sense. Life is more meaningful to us humans than random interactions of things and there does seem to be more to the reality we live in our daily lives than such a metaphor of reality suggests. No transcendent, supernatural reality need come into. Perhaps his thinking runs along the lines of Stuart Kaufmann (it certainly would seem similar to that: http://www.edge.org/3rd_cultur….  Or perhaps with Dawkins putting himself at 6.9 on the atheist scale, perhaps the author is at about 6.

    I don’t think you understand reductionism very well, or Dawkins’ own view of it.  The basic tenet is that something can be explained by examining its parts and the interaction between those parts.  Biology, for instance, “reduces” to chemistry, which “reduces” to physics, which “reduces” to quantum mechanics, and so on.

    The reductionism you talk about is, simply put, a straw position.  While everything is potentially explicable by referencing atomic interactions, for example, no one is suggesting that biology should be explained only in terms of physics, but with its own concepts and explanations that are the products of all those smaller interactions among smaller parts.  The very notion of emergent properties follows from this view, and is not opposed to it.  This is known as hierarchical reductionism, a view that Dawkins himself proposes in The Blind Watchmaker, which was published in 1986. If emergent properties were all this was about, then you and Haskell are late to the party by 26 years.

    However, in invoking ethics and discussing theism, he’s suggested that these are distinct from the material world in a way that physical bodies, evolution, and tactics and strategies and other things of the material world are not, and in so doing he’s made a claim that requires justification if he wants it taken seriously.  The very notion of a god is generally considered supernatural in the sense that it is meant to be distinct from the natural world in principle.  To argue otherwise is to suggest a means for science to investigate it, in which case he’s got to justify the claim.

    As for the 6.9 scale business, Dawkins is simply conceding the same way that Feynman is: allowing some doubt is OK and scientific because future evidence might require us to rethink the discoveries of science.  What’s not OK is being any more confident of a claim than that without justification.

  27. Alan, I said I couldn’t provide evidence for that silly notion of ”something more required” because that wasn’t what was being claimed. 

    Show me the claim or assertion that there was ”something more required” that the OP was supposed to have made in regard to forest ecology.  

    Drop the rest of the aggressive BS, and just show me the explicit claim that there was something other-worldy that was stated to be required.

  28. I don’t think you understand reductionism very well, or Dawkins’ own view of it.  The basic tenet is that something can be explained by examining its parts and the interaction between those parts.  Biology, for instance, “reduces” to chemistry, which “reduces” to physics, which “reduces” to quantum mechanics, and so on.
    The reductionism you talk about is, simply put, a straw position.  While everything is potentially explicable by referencing atomic interactions, for example, no one is suggesting that biology should be explained only in terms of physics, but with its own concepts and explanations that are the products of all those smaller interactions among smaller parts.  The very notion of emergent properties follows from this view, and is not opposed to it.  This is known as hierarchical reductionism, a view that Dawkins himself proposes in The Blind Watchmaker, which was published in 1986. If emergent properties were all this was about, then you and Haskell are late to the party by 26 years.

    I know what reductionism is in the general sense, even I don’t know every scientists particular argument for it.  And it is that general sense I am referring to. Not Dawkins particular position on it.

    I don’t know  who expressly stated it in those terms, but if I have given a straw position then it is in regards to Jerry’s one, where apparently any suspicion of the world being more than just the atoms rearranging themselves is, to him,  an explicit rejection of materialism. 

    I objected because I don’t think that is the case, that the scientific arguments against such a strict reductionist metaphor aren’t an outright explicit rejection of materialism itself (rejecting the false dichotomy), and are not irreconcilable with reductionism. But for explanatory purposes it is necessary addition to it to be comprehensive as an explanation of the world.

    To save me the time it would take going over the arguments myself  I gave links to scientists who make the case as to why it is necessary and why that paradigm is seen to be lacking. 

    However, in invoking ethics and discussing theism, he’s suggested that these are distinct from the material world in a way that physical bodies, evolution, and tactics and strategies and other things of the material world are not, and in so doing he’s made a claim that requires justification if he wants it taken seriously.  The very notion of a god is generally considered supernatural in the sense that it is meant to be distinct from the natural world in principle.  To argue otherwise is to suggest a means for science to investigate it, in which case he’s got to justify the claim.

    I don’t recall him discussing theism. On the point of where he qualified his suspicions he mentioned values and rights. Then also said he disagreed with Dawkin’s take on Atheism and some of the positions he takes. 

     He didn’t make any claims though, strictly speaking. Since when did being an agnostic alone require having to explain yourself? If he is making scientific claims and assertions on the basis of that agnosticism, then yes, he would have to justify his claim in order for those claims to be credible. 

    You conflate the mention of ethics with theism (or his disagreement on Dawkin’s take on atheism, which he didn’t expound on) to then say he made claims that need to be justified. I don’t think that is accurate. And I often think a lot of fellow atheists are far too concerned with the personal beliefs of others even when it isn’t their business.

    I don’t personally care if David Attenborough, for example,  personally thinks that evolution is not incompatible with a belief in a  God when I watch a nature documentary presented by him. It’s irrelevant. Unless he started to making supernatural claims about the natural world when presenting and asserting them as fact, it makes no difference to his presentation of the natural world he is commentating on or interferes with his ability to do his job well. Same with Newton, and his fixation with alchemy not being relevant to his scientific work.
    This was a personal conversation with a journalist where Haskell was candid about his personal beliefs but he made no bold scientific claims as such that would warrant him having to support them with evidence.

    As for the 6.9 scale business, Dawkins is simply conceding the same way that Feynman is: allowing some doubt is OK and scientific because future evidence might require us to rethink the discoveries of science.  What’s not OK is being any more confident of a claim than that without justification.

    To be honest, I don’t know why the author personally disagreed with him on that. I don’t see Dawkins being comparable to Feynman in terms of being comfortable with uncertainty, though. But I understand the  need for taking such a firm position in Dawkin’s case because his public position warrants him being certain and firm on the issue so as to defend evolution and science against religious and supernatural claims.

  29. I know what reductionism is in the general sense, even I don’t know every scientists particular argument for it.  And it is that general sense I am referring to. Not Dawkins particular position on it. I don’t know  who expressly stated it in those terms, but if I have given a straw position then it is in regards to Jerry’s one, where apparently any suspicion of the world being more than just the atoms rearranging themselves is, to him,  an explicit rejection of materialism.

    Since material refers to those self-same atoms, and allowing for quanta, energy, and the four fundamental forces, a suspicion of the world being more than just the atoms rearranging themselves is an explicit rejection of materialism by definition.  You brought up emergent properties as a counterexample, but since hierarchical reductionism involves emergent properties, then this is not really a counter at all.  If you or Haskell are going to argue that there’s more, and then bring up something like values and rights (as Haskell does), then you and he are making a specific non-materialist claim.  In any case, other people’s straw positions don’t justify your own.

    I objected because I don’t think that is the case, that the scientific arguments against such a strict reductionist metaphor aren’t an outright explicit rejection of materialism itself (rejecting the false dichotomy), and are not irreconcilable with reductionism. But for explanatory purposes it is necessary addition to it to be comprehensive as an explanation of the world.

    This would be fine, except that there was no argument against such a “strict” reductionist “metaphor” because it isn’t a “metaphor” and the word “strict” means virtually nothing without further explication.  Haskell was reported to have said that he disagreed with Dawkins and thinks that there’s “more than just atoms rearranging themselves”.  It’s not just that this is an explicit rejection of materialism, which is sceptical of there being “more” beyond atoms and their rearrangements (and which is more readily justified by current scientific knowledge).  When invited to explain further, he points to values and rights, but gives no real convincing argument for why they should be considered exempt from atoms rearranging themselves any more than, say, evolutionary processes or ecological systems are.  

    To save me the time it would take going over the arguments myself  I gave links to scientists who make the case as to why it is necessary and why that paradigm is seen to be lacking.

    Fair enough, but I had a look at the last one’s abstract, and it isn’t telling me anything I haven’t already heard before.  There’s nothing odd about “emergent properties”; biological organisms are examples of such emergent phenomena in relation to chemistry.

    I don’t recall him discussing theism. On the point of where he qualified his suspicions he mentioned values and rights. Then also said he disagreed with Dawkin’s take on Atheism and some of the positions he takes.

    To discuss atheism is to implicitly discuss theism, just as commenting on someone’s lack of belief in fairies, especially to disagree with it, is to implicitly talk about belief in fairies.  Haskell makes it clear that his qualifying “more than atoms” has nothing to do with the usual scientific issues like holism or emergent properties.  He explicitly says that he thinks values and rights (i.e. the bases of ethics) are “more than atoms rearranging themselves”, but the best he can offer is that they “aren’t made of atoms” and are “hard to pin down”.  The latter proves nothing and the former raises the obvious question: if they’re not made of atoms, what are they made of?  And how does it interact with real matter?  These are exactly the same questions one would raise to a dualist or a god-interventionist.

    He didn’t make any claims though, strictly speaking. Since when did being an agnostic alone require having to explain yourself? If he is making scientific claims and assertions on the basis of that agnosticism, then yes, he would have to justify his claim in order for those claims to be credible.

    His agnosticism is little more than intellectual pussyfooting. There are plenty of ways he could have clarified himself, for example if he believed or felt it was legitimate to believe in the traditional god of Judeo-Christian mythology, in a deistic god, or in pantheism, all of which have problems and would have left him open to criticism.  And in case you haven’t noticed, he is making scientific claims based on that agnosticism.  He expresses scepticism of Dawkins’ “philosophical certainty”, but to do so is to posit that there’s a basis for taking god-belief any more seriously than fairy-belief, and since these are scientific hypotheses, that does require justification.  If the best one can offer for the case is “I don’t know”, to suggest it’s legitimate to have some belief on that basis is to support a scientific hypothesis with an appeal to ignorance, otherwise one is making a bland “it could happen” speculation.  Even if you argue that there is a basis for doubt in both the fairy and the god cases to justify that agnosticism and distinguish it from a stronger case for believing such things, there are millions of things one could take that stance on, so singling out god-belief in the current cultural climate is peculiar at best, suspicious at worst.  In short, it’s throwing a sop to theists.

    You conflate the mention of ethics with theism (or his disagreement on Dawkin’s take on atheism, which he didn’t expound on) to then say he made claims that need to be justified. I don’t think that is accurate. And I often think a lot of fellow atheists are far too concerned with the personal beliefs of others even when it isn’t their business.

    Firstly, I have not conflated ethics with theism.  In my second comment on this thread, I separated the two matters and discussed each one separately, following Haskell’s example.  The ethics matter was brought up when Haskell suggested values and rights were examples of things that were more than atoms.  The theistic one was brought up in response to Haskell’s own stance on atheism, regardless of whether or not he considered a god to be another example of more-than-just-atoms or considered the two to be related in any way (which is a question one might pose to him, as morality and theism have often been treated as mutually necessary and as being distinct from the material world).

    Secondly, if he’s going to suggest that Dawkins’ position is too “certain”, then it would help immensely if he explained the basis upon which to be more certain in theism or some other form of god-belief, as opposed to atheism.  So far, his “don’t know” answer could mean anything from being indistinguishable compared with Dawkins’ own position to his being a middle-ground 50/50 accommodationist.  The reason Dawkins is a 6 or 6.9 rather than a 7 is simply to allow scientific doubt that allows him to be swayed by future evidence.  If Haskell’s position is indistinguishable from Dawkins’, then he’s being inconsistent and giving needless ground to theists.  If he’s a 50/50 accommodationist or near enough (say, a 5 or a 4.5), then he’s suggesting there are grounds for theism and needs to elaborate.  In either case, he isn’t coming across as a honest speaker, so yes, we do need justification.

    Thirdly, if you’re going to make such claims public and bring up the issue in the first place, then there’s no point complaining when others criticize it.  The reason atheists “are far too concerned” is that a lot of the debate over theism has been muddied by people misusing, abusing, and constantly switching between meanings for the word god, which does nobody any favours because of the resulting confusion.  And this needs sorting out, because the matter has serious consequences in many modern cultures ranging from legal controversies to public prejudice.  If you or he moan about personal beliefs on controversial matters being inspected by others, then there’s a simple solution: don’t bring up the matter in public, but keep it to yourself.  It wasn’t as if he was coerced into talking about it.

    I don’t personally care if David Attenborough, for example,  personally thinks that evolution is not incompatible with a belief in a  God when I watch a nature documentary presented by him. It’s irrelevant. Unless he started to making supernatural claims about the natural world when presenting and asserting them as fact, it makes no difference to his presentation of the natural world he is commentating on or interferes with his ability to do his job well. Same with Newton, and his fixation with alchemy not being relevant to his scientific work.

    I don’t have an objection to people giving their own views on matters, whether I disagree with them or not, and I agree with your point about irrelevance.  But if you’re going to say that you disagree with a prominent figure on a certain topic, especially in such a vague way, then you’re behaving differently to a presenter who doesn’t mention it at all.  Haskell provoked a response, true, but then chose to elaborate on the blog.  Many people have taken his position before now (with unimpressive results), and when the matter is a controversial one about a highly contentious issue in American society alone, then insofar as he raises the issue in the first place, Haskell should reap what he sows.  Bringing in an irrelevant or tangential matter, and then complaining if other people pick you up on it, raises the question of why he felt the need to bring it up at all.  His position is not a new one, and previous holders have repeatedly made faulty arguments defending it.  Couple that with the fact that he receives or has received support for an organisation known to muddy the issue, then if he declines from making any substantial claims, he has no right to complain when others presume the worst. 

    This was a personal conversation with a journalist where Haskell was candid about his personal beliefs but he made no bold scientific claims as such that would warrant him having to support them with evidence.

    He’s under no obligation to reply to anything anyone asks him.  If he wants to leave it as it is, then fine by me.  But then neither can you or he complain if someone does ask further or criticize what becomes public.  He should have known that atheism and materialism are controversial, and his book didn’t need any elaboration on the matter (it was about ecology, for a start), so if it was brought up, there was always the option of declining.  Since belief in gods is a hypothesis, his public talk about the matter, even in the context of atheism, is a bold scientific claim.  Why should we not criticize his views?  He’s just as welcome to criticize ours (which he has done by distancing himself from it, albeit generically rather than with any specific meaty points) or decline if he wants.

    To be honest, I don’t know why the author personally disagreed with him on that. I don’t see Dawkins being comparable to Feynman in terms of being comfortable with uncertainty, though. But I understand the  need for taking such a firm position in Dawkin’s case because his public position warrants him being certain and firm on the issue so as to defend evolution and science against religious and supernatural claims.

    As mature as your writing style and mode of address are (and I thank you for your courtesy in this regard), your point here is childishly ignorant at best.  Dawkins’ “certainty” isn’t affected as part of a public policy to keep atheism strong against rivals, or some such nonsense.  The fact that he has such opposition is a result of his view, not a driver of it: he’s been making similar arguments in his other books prior to The God Delusion.  And given his public commitment to intellectual honesty, it would hurt his cause if he did affect any more certainty and became a 7 without justification.  The “certainty”, if anything, is a recurring feature of those who make concessions to or outright believe in theism or other forms of god-belief, and since they tend to be opponents of Dawkins, some of them are not above impugning such “certainty” onto his position.  This is known as shifting the burden of proof.

    Dawkins elaborates on his position in The God Delusion, but the gist of it is that his stance on god-belief is the same as that on any kind of hypothesis: until proof or evidence emerges to support it, there’s no basis for believing in it any more than for believing in fairies, and to indulge in an agnosticism that isn’t atheistic (i.e. to be around the 6 or 6.9 on the scale) requires one to provide such justification on scientific grounds.  The comparison with fairies may seem fatuous, even insulting, but don’t get sidetracked by that: the point is the scientific validity of either hypothesis, nothing more.  Dawkins has no trouble with the idea that someone might prove him wrong on this point, and he freely admits that there are huge swathes of the universe of which he knows nothing.  He repeatedly stresses the uncertainty inherent in science, and in this sense he is as comfortable with doubt as Feynman is.  That’s very different from being evasively agnostic.

  30. Underground906

    Show me the claim or assertion that there was ”something more required” that the OP was supposed to have made in regard to forest ecology. 

    How many times do I need to repeat that I am discussing quotes?

    @OP:disqus  – Dr. Haskell wanted to tell the story of forest ecology
    ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬
    and also to refresh himself with a kind of natural history meditation, as opposed to goal-directed scientific research.
    ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬
    He has a daily practice of sitting and concentrating on his breathing (he doesn’t use the word “meditation”) of no specific religious bent.
    ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬
    He does, however, set himself apart from crusading atheists, like Richard Dawkins,
    ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬
     saying he harbors a “deep suspicion that the world is more than atoms rearranging themselves.”
    ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬

    I think we can take it, in a BOOK ABOUT FOREST ECOLOGY, that forest ecology is part of the world ecology! 
    The word “World” in this context, means “planet”, and planets are quite specifically, arrangements of atoms with nothing additional but the energy derived from other atoms under the laws of thermodynamics.

    @OP:twitter link  -
     He visited this randomly chosen forest “mandala,” as he calls it, many times over the course of a year and recorded his observations in
    “The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature.”
    He is pointing out flowers, salamanders, insects, trees, as we follow a well-worn hiking path, and stops for a moment to listen.

    … and that the comments apply to the specific terms he is identifying.  After masses of verbose disparaging rant about other people’s expert analysis of the comments and numerous explanations you are still missing the point, CAN’T PRODUCE ANY EVIDENCE FOR YOUR POSITION, expressing ignorance and incredulity, referring to real science as bullshit, and referring to honest perceptive criticism from informed people, as ad-hom attacks!

    Underground906
    Alan, I said I couldn’t provide evidence for that silly notion of ”something more required” because that wasn’t what was being claimed.

      

      .. … ..  saying he harbors a
    ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬
    “deep suspicion that the world is more than atoms rearranging themselves.”

    ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬

    The quoted claim of what he is SAYING, looks perfectly clear for those who can read English!

    Show me the claim or assertion that there was ”something more required” that the OP was supposed to have made in regard to forest ecology. 

    I have shown you, – and even explained the English language!

    I know what reductionism is in the general sense, even I don’t know every scientists particular argument for it. 

    There is no “general sense” – just vague denials from the ignorant and alternative non-scientific theistic definitions which have no relevance to scientific investigations.  (see footnote)

    And it is that general sense I am referring to. Not Dawkins particular position on it.

     

    This is just evasive waffle because you have no idea what you are talking about. 

    {Jos – Edit to correct} Zeuglodon – explained it perfectly clearly and you even quoted him, but failed to understand  his explanation, and cling to confused vague notions you have uncritically accepted from some woo pedlars who shuffle about with a shifting meaning of the word “emergence”.  (see footnote)

    Richard Dawkins understanding is no different to any other mainstream scientist who understands the various scales, (from cosmological to sub-atomic), at which matter and energy is studied in order to understand science. – REDUCING  systems and matter to basic parts to analyse and explain their working is science.
    That is why it is disingenuous to bring atheism in to attack what is RD’s scientific position.

    You are talking about the wooist  “some unspecified unevidenced  something else”, which never has testable details or definitions, because testable claims have been consistently refuted. 

    Only concocted vague doubts are thrown at science, in the same way concocted doubts have been thrown at cancer research by the tobacco industry, and false doubts created about  AGW by the carbon industries. 

    Planets, ecosystems, organisms,  and brains are organised atoms, combined into molecules of matter, running on energy.  This basic science is well understood and repeatedly confirmed to very high levels of certainty  by thousands of experiments.

    All the quantum “something elses” subject to frontier scientific investigations are PARTS of atomic energy.  

    Other alleged “something elses” are mystical woo about which all claims are vague to avoid challenge.  They are composed of semantic contortions, vacuous assertions,  and logic fallacies. They are simply made up or copied from other people who made them up. 
    Those people have no evidence either – just wishful thinking which makes them feel they have understood scientific complexities without bothering to study!  – This is the standard “god-did-it-by-magic” answer from those ignorant, lazy,  and in denial of proven science.

       FOOTNOTE - 
    ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R…  - 
    Reductionism can mean either
    (a) an approach to understanding the nature of complex things by reducing them to the interactions of their parts, or to simpler or more fundamental things or 
    ▬▬▬▬▬▬
    (b) a philosophical position that a complex system is nothing but the sum of its parts, and that an account of it can be reduced to accounts of individual constituents. 

    Reductionism does not preclude the existence of what might be called emergent phenomena, but it does imply the ability to understand those phenomena completely in terms of the processes from which they are composed.
    ▬▬▬▬▬▬
    This reductionist understanding is very different from that usually implied by the term ‘emergence’, which typically intends that what emerges is more than the sum of the processes from which it emerges.

     

    Clearly science (definition “a”) does not deny that a combination forming a system can have a greater FUNCTION than the sum of its parts, but the idea that some “additional matter or energy” can be produced to violate the laws of thermodynamics, is silly.
    Matter/energy can be neither created nor destroyed. 

    Hopefully this has clarified the situation.

  31. Zeuglodon
    I think this discussion is one for the record book:-

    The longest series of discussion comments on forest ecology  (apart from my early comment and  my  comment from the link),
    without mentioning: –
    Trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, birds, mammals, predation, amphibians, insects, arthropods, worms, mycorrhizae, reproduction, decomposition, symbiosis,  leaves, photosynthesis, food-chains, life-cycles, seasons,  leaf-litter, slime moulds,  sunlight, rainfall,  soil drainage, or groundwater.

  32. Well Alan (and Zeuglogan), it may not have touched on much ecology, but it’s been one of the more interesting threads I’ve seen in a while.
    That’s what I love about this site: I can learn about emergent phenomena while reading a blogger’s opinion about a novelist’s interview. 

  33. Since material refers to those self-same atoms, and allowing for quanta, energy, and the four fundamental forces, a suspicion of the world being more than just the atoms rearranging themselves is an explicit rejection of materialism by definition.  You brought up emergent properties as a counterexample, but since hierarchical reductionism involves emergent properties, then this is not really a counter at all.  If you or Haskell are going to argue that there’s more, and then bring up something like values and rights (as Haskell does), then you and he are making a specific non-materialist claim.  In any case, other people’s straw positions don’t justify your own.

    Firstly, thank you for engaging in civil, intelligent debate without the usual aggressive Atheist bluster and regurgitating Dawkin’s soundbites. 

    The point about emergence and reductionism. Leaving the ”allowing for” goal-post moving afterthought aside, as the issue was ”there is no more to the world than atoms rearranging themselves” and of doubting such scientific philistinism and anti-intellectualism.

    We can trace the lineage of the universe to the big bang and reduce the causal origin of everything in existence to that moment. Where, loosely stated, some state of particles and energy exploded into existence from non-existence, bringing with it the fundamental material  of everything we know of in the world. Including, at the universe’s very inception, the fully-formed laws of physics in action (the only thing that was fully formed, ordered and universal) that enables and governs the behavior and maintains a staggering precise ordering of that matter and energy from then onward; at all times and all places, eventually allowing the formation of atoms to occur.

    Now, are these laws of physics reducible themselves, not to human understanding and application, but in a objective sense of being comprised of a certain arrangement of atoms and particles? Are those laws produced as a result of atoms and particles rearranging themselves? Or was the governing laws of physics needed for them come into existence.

    Could we uncover the atomic structure of the laws of physics and map it out like the periodic table, and then implant the laws of physics from those atoms and, hypothetical speaking, place them in a collider of some sort and recreate the laws of physics based on that combination of atoms?  

    Or course, they exist, they are the building blocks that enable life to occur and are essential to it and for the laws of physics to work in an actualized way so humans can observe and understand them in a physical world. 

     They are both enablers of these physical laws and constants to act by being a medium for them to do so: are acted on by those laws; are a consequence of them; and are the creators of them simultaneous? Quite clearly they are not. They didn’t exist in the beginning. Therefore there is more to the world than the rearrangement of atoms. 

     To doubt such a dogma should such not be met by someone like Coyne with ”what more is there than atoms rearranging themselves?  That’s an explicit denial of materialism” (without even clarifying what he meant before drawing that conclusion).  The statement by itself (typically brutish and greedy reductionism) doesn’t suffice as an all encompassing, entire explanation of reality in itself. 

    Taken as is, it eradicates the laws of physics out of the picture. Where there is sublime, magnificent order that can be observed and understood in a stunningly beautiful natural world and cosmos by the human mind not touched on in the  ”atoms rearranging themselves” version of reality.  The laws aren’t reducible like matter or sub-atomic particles. We have understood them. Figured them out. Marvel at them.  But we only have  supposition on where they come from and don’t really know for certain. They can be said to have an existence outside of matter in the sense that atoms are matter, and matter is by-product. 

    Where is the room left for the theory of evolution by natural selection even and everything that entails? Is that to make way for the more sophisticated explanation. 

    My point was that if this metaphysical explanation: The world is just atoms rearranging themselves, is stated as the only one metaphysically explanatory answer to the question ”What is the world”, that in itself, when taken at face value, is not enough of an explanation for everything in the world; and suspicion of such an explanation is not a rejection or complete denial of materialism. 

    But a suspicion that is an incomplete one or only partially right and currently unable to explain everything, even though it is stated as such. Also, that there might be more for us to uncover in the future without any recourse needed for the supernatural but that could further advance our current understanding of the world. But that statement says – cased closed. We know everything there is already, even the questions that defy any empirical explanation and paradoxes we can’t yet answer. 

    Those engaged in particle physics and the study of elementary and composite particles; those studying quanta in quantum mechanics who maintain they are non-atomic and that the ”transition from classic mechanics to quantum mechanics involves a significant change in particle metaphysics”; those looking for a unifying field theory of physics as currently there is a divide, those working on a subnuclear scale, to uncover the constituents of the protons, neutrons and quarks etc; those at Cern looking for the Boson (the God particle) or String Theorists theorizing on the Planck scale where the strings are thought to inhabit as many as 26 dimensions and they are as small in comparison to a proton as a proton is in comparison to the solar system, are studying things at a deeper level than atoms. ‘Something more’, like Alan has been angling after so he can vent his spleen and tub-thump about his scientific knowledge of forest ecology. Because there just happens to be more there to our world when analysed, than ”atoms rearranging themselves” to maybe infinitesimally small particles we know nothing about yet because they are not observable according to string theory . They are are a formation of even deeper levels of particles, where some seemingly act in different ways to things on a macro-scale Classical Newtonian level, often the opposite way entirely.

    Granted, some scientists are studying the nature of atoms at a deeper, subatomic level to explain what they are comprised of understand their workings better in the Newtonian mechanical world, but other physicists have found more things rearranging than atoms, and a whole branch of science is engaged in figuring out that level and exploring it. And I notice you mentioned quanta etc, but that’s disingenuous and contradicts your argument, if indeed it was ”there is nothing more to the than atoms rearranging themselves”. 

    There is conflict and disunity, the same one famously contested by Einstein and Heisenberg, that isn’t yet fully resolved in physics, about the nature of quantum reality. And a conflict there about how they fit together and, although Einstein searched for a unifying field theory, it hasn’t emerged as yet. We have certainly made use of the quantum world in a practical sense and made rapid technical and medical advances based on it and being able to harness quantum mechanics.

    Please don’t read the above as another religious/supernatural apologist trying to posit the ‘fine tuning’ argument or sneak mysticism in through quantum theory or vitalism. 

    If we’d adhered to ”everything in the world is atoms rearranging themselves”, scientific endeavor and inquiry would be a lot more impoverished for it.

     

    To discuss atheism is to implicitly discuss theism, just as commenting on someone’s lack of belief in fairies, especially to disagree with it, is to implicitly talk about belief in fairies.

    Faulty logic. You could just as easily say he was implicitly discussing Deism, Pantheism, Taoism, Buddhism, given that Dawkins is not just an Atheist but outspoken on the fact that Science explains everything without the need to evoke a deity or designer and all religious claims about the world  are false. 

    I know all religions and new age spiritualist beliefs as belief systems are entirely fictional; they can’t possibly have any idea and science, along with progressive thought, long refuted them.  

    But I saw Haskell say he doesn’t know enough to say some religious claims have not truth and can’t be as sure as Dawkins. I don’t what those claims are he is referring to. Someone arguing for religion might have actually broken character and made some compelling point about the limits of science to know everything, pointed out flaws in his arguments that are overly speculative, which could just have easily been said by a non-religious person and contain some kernel of logical truth in a philosophical not doctrinal sense, and he might not have so certain they are wrong or could be so easily dismissed. I don’t know what his difference in certainties are or what they are based on. Maybe he just isn’t up to speed on the nuances of Dawkin’s arguments.

    Haskell makes it clear that his qualifying “more than atoms” has nothing to do with the usual scientific issues like holism or emergent properties.  He explicitly says that he thinks values and rights (i.e. the bases of ethics) are “more than atoms rearranging themselves”, but the best he can offer is that they “aren’t made of atoms” and are “hard to pin down”.  The latter proves nothing and the former raises the obvious question: if they’re not made of atoms, what are they made of?  And how does it interact with real matter?  These are exactly the same questions one would raise to a dualist or a god-interventionist

    He said he *suspects* the universe may consist of more than atoms rearranging themselves. As an example, after Coyne made a remark about humans having no right to destroy every other species on our planet, he speculated that IF  inherent rights and values exist, they are they aren’t made of atoms. 

    If they did exist, they could exist so like the laws of physics do. Wherever they reside or whatever sense they can be said to exist. He is doubtful if they do. He doesn’t have any theories to evince beyond those things he said. But he is a person who has the intellectual curious that there could be something more. And those suspicions have already been shown be inline with current science that there is more to the world. A greater depth than the atomic level. 

    His agnosticism is little more than intellectual pussyfooting. There are plenty of ways he could have clarified himself, for example if he believed or felt it was legitimate to believe in the traditional god of Judeo-Christian mythology, in a deistic god, or in pantheism, all of which have problems and would have left him open to criticism.  And in case you haven’t noticed, he is making scientific claims based on that agnosticism.  He expresses scepticism of Dawkins’ “philosophical certainty”, but to do so is to posit that there’s a basis for taking god-belief any more seriously than fairy-belief, and since these are scientific hypotheses, that does require justification.  If the best one can offer for the case is “I don’t know”, to suggest it’s legitimate to have some belief on that basis is to support a scientific hypothesis with an appeal to ignorance, otherwise one is making a bland “it could happen” speculation.  Even if you argue that there is a basis for doubt in both the fairy and the god cases to justify that agnosticism and distinguish it from a stronger case for believing such things, there are millions of things one could take that stance on, so singling out god-belief in the current cultural climate is peculiar at best, suspicious at worst.  In short, it’s throwing a sop to theists.

    From what I understand Dawkins came under heavy fire from a good few people formally trained in philosophy and a few atheist I’ve read, about the philosophical argumentation and choice of points to criticize over religion, and I seen it said that he was out of his depth in that domain and was no expert. And this wasn’t from religious people. If you wanted a good bashing of the worse excesses of religious doctrine or rather obvious points most of us who grew up without having formal religion foisted on us realized ourselves, than the god delusion was the book. I defended him on accusations like that after I’d read a bit of the book and it made clear that he wasn’t targeting true believers who wouldn’t be swayed either way, but seeking those in the middle ground who could, and I said was being skillful with forceful rhetoric to achieve his aim and to get the right reaction. To cause controversy. 

    However, if this equating of something as trivial and innocuous as an eccentric belief  fairies (what adults apart from nut cases have then anyway?)  to the same thing as reasons for believing in a god of some sort -that is, just to believe in some mythological entity for some trifling little, inconsequential reason – was put forward as a serious philosophical argument that a god can’t exist because he would be just like an imaginary fairy or santa, and not merely clever rhetoric, then I was perhaps not completely right in defending him against the charge of philosophical ineptness. They are not the same thing in an epistemological sense, and the reasons for believing in god or religious moral creed or set of principles far, far more significant for the person with that belief; and has far more effect on their lives and themselves (in many case not in a bad way), than a random visual mental image like the FSM. 

    Rarely have I ever watched Dawkins argue against anyone but religious dorks with their silly creationist stories, which is just shooting fish in the barrel. They all have the same idea of a christian, anthropomorphic god of scripture. If there was a god of some sort, or some higher force or order beyond the physical, knowable universe, then an argument saying it can’t be true because people have made religious myths and creationist stories of all different kinds and all different places and they are patently fictional would be a fallacious line of reasoning. 

    Even to me, given that  I do see them clearly as fictional myths made up by people, and I wouldn’t be swayed with philosophical arguments, it would make no difference to the point of whether there is a god or not, or be directly addressing that likelihood or im/possibility of it. 

    I do happen to know that many of Dawkin’s arguments are of far greater nuance and gravitas and truth than that. And I’ve been swayed by them. But that’s not to say there aren’t any that are debatable or questionable on philosophical, rational grounds, such as arguments being fallacious or dubious. And to disagree with them on those grounds isn’t automatically to make explicit scientific claims but to challenge arguments and claims that may be faulty, ill-formed and have flaws in them, just like as happens in science. 

    We’d have to know what the specific philosophical grounds where he differed before they could be debated. If there is a general claim being made on the grounds of agnosticism, if say there is actually an iron law that says if you disagree with Dawkins you have to be put in the dock to plead your case, it is this: I don’t know, no-one  ultimately  does.

    Make of that what you will. Argument from ignorance. Woo merchant. Supernaturalist, God Botherer, Spineless apologist, Pussy footer, Sky Daddy lover, however you’d like to slice it. 

    It’s actually true though, I believe. Or I’m having a hard time working out how it isn’t. 

    The reason atheists “are far too concerned” is that a lot of the debate over theism has been muddied by people misusing, abusing, and constantly switching between meanings for the word god, which does nobody any favours because of the resulting confusion.  And this needs sorting out, because the matter has serious consequences in many modern cultures ranging from legal controversies to public prejudice.  If you or he moan about personal beliefs on controversial matters being inspected by others, then there’s a simple solution: don’t bring up the matter in public, but keep it to yourself.  It wasn’t as if he was coerced into talking about it.

    In, my estimation, given the form that the busy-body, arrogant, condescending, puffed-up idiocy of militant atheist discourse takes in many cases I’ve seen, I think the reason atheists are so concerned what other people think, no matter how harmless, is because they were once dupes to superstition and supernaturalism themselves and now rally against with an eager fervour to argue against any position that is a slight deviation to theirs out of the anger of one being dupes. Many of them couldn’t care less about those sentiments you expressed, and simply want to amuse themselves by recounting arguments and rhetorical snippets  they’ve gleaned from Dawkins and rolling them out on some religious person to make themselves feel intelligent. 

    And while I sympathize with them as you’ve stated it, and think there are aspects of religion that pose a great problem to the security of society, I deplore this kind of  attitude (that remind of totalitarian minded liberals) that we must go out and attack every religious person, everyone who believes in god, anyone who doesn’t fit with 100% with Dawkin’s view and entertains the idea he may not be 100% correct in everything he says or thinks and who dares to say that publicly: as if some secular utopia awaits where all of the ills of the world will cease if not one person ever believed in a theistic god again and anyone seen being open to the possibility or inciting openness to the possibility of anything but an uncompromisingly atheist world view: such as by admitting to being sceptical or having suspicions the world may be more than atoms rearranging themselves, or that no one ultimately knows, regardless of the probability of the atheist side being far greater.

    It’s a totally disproportionate belief about religion, religious people and the harm they do and nowhere near accurate for the vast majority of people, except in Islam. Moderates don’t enable extremists as much as Harris imagines just by sharing the religion. And the nutty, violent, depraved, dysfunctional  and morally defective will always exist in society, even without religion. You could say that the old person you see with a black eye in the paper everyday – alot of the time having been raped or sodomized or something equally sickening or often murdered, the little children victims of sexual abuse and rape, the senseless murders over nothing, others horrors that are a daily occurrence would not disappear. And they would not have happened not so long ago when society still had the moral underpinnings and mores of christian moral certainty even if it didn’t adhere strictly to doctrine or scripture. 

    Haskell was hardly issuing a fatwa. Not even a direct personal attack. He poses no danger to the public. If someone is idiotic enough to read that article and think ”proof for god” than they are beyond the ability to use ‘reason’ anyway.

  34. Firstly, thank you for engaging in civil, intelligent debate without the usual aggressive Atheist bluster and regurgitating Dawkin’s soundbites.

    Oh dear – the usual projected ill-informed emotional logic substitute!!

    The point about emergence and reductionism.

    Is that you had no idea what it was, and are now projecting the “afterthoughts claim ” on to others who were well aware of the various definitions earlier!

    Leaving the ”allowing for” goal-post moving afterthought aside, as the issue was ”there is no more to the world than atoms rearranging themselves” and of doubting such scientific philistinism and anti-intellectualism.

    In, my estimation, given the form that the busy-body, arrogant, condescending, puffed-up idiocy of militant atheist discourse takes in many cases I’ve seen,

    Some of us are quite familiar with this sort of emotive, rhetorical, verbose, postmodernist style of irrational thinking:   http://www.elsewhere.org/journ…  – but we usually try to avoid it in this clear thinking oasis. 
    Perhaps you should give it a rest, and learn something from some of the scientific discussions on this site.  (Some evolutionary ecology perhaps.)

    We can trace the lineage of the universe to the big bang and reduce the causal origin of everything in existence to that moment. Where,
    loosely stated, some state of particles and energy exploded into existence from non-existence, bringing with it the fundamental material  of everything we know of in the world. Including, at the universe’s very inception, the fully-formed laws of physics in action (the only thing that was fully formed, ordered and universal) that enables and
    governs the behavior and maintains a staggering precise ordering of that matter and energy from then onward; at all times and all places, eventually allowing the formation of atoms to occur

    He said he *suspects* the universe may consist of more than atoms rearranging themselves.

     

    Actually No! – he said:-

      he harbors a “deep suspicion that the world is more than atoms rearranging themselves.”

     

    .. .. . . And as I pointed out “the world”  is a planet – made of atoms, which formed billions of years AFTER the formation of atoms in the big bang!  These and their interactions, are DESCRIBED by the laws of physics.

    So lots of invective – but still no evidence, no corrections of misread texts,  lack of understanding of basic definitions, and further misreading/ misquoting  of texts.

    I’ll leave the rest to Zeuglodon.

  35. We have been complete on a different tracks about interpreting what meant by ”more than just atoms”. I can understand why you were so worked up.

    To clear this up.  I was thinking philosophically about the explanation ‘atoms arranging themselves”.  I thought he meant, after all that has emerged and the meaning and significant of  it, to then just say, ”it’s has no meaning, it’s only atoms rearranging themselves” is a great disservice and robs life of any meaning (not in a spiritual, ultimate sense) but in the way we are about to  experience it subjectively or give to meaning to it. As in we should just see it in those basic terms and nothing more significant. When there is far more significance than that. Dawkin’s with the Selfish Gene, also gave such a stark and bleak account in that was, from what I understand as the main premise (I haven’t got around to reading it all yet). Or was atleast taken that way. Following it up with a beautiful book with a completely different tone, Unweaving the rainbow. Which gave a beautiful account of the wonders of science and a different view of the world and our place in it that was much brighter. It’s often just these stark reductionist phrases people balk at when they are given as the meaning of life or existence. As factual as somethings are, literary approaches can make a great difference in how those things are understood and thought about. 

    I didn’t interpret his doubt to mean vitalism or animism or something supernatural. I took it as simply saying he sees more meaning there than that.  As for the book, I take he wanted to tell the story of forest ecology by observing a certain part of the forest for a year, and then explaining in the kind poetic sense of unweaving the rainbow.Just a literary approach, instead of hard fact one. If his book is filled with a kind or Sheldrake type nonsense, like you seem to think, and he has actually fudged the scientific data by mixing it with some kind of other-wordly theory, then obviously I’m wrong.I doubt that is the case. There was a 3 hour convo, that ranged to lots of topics of discussion. So he likes to meditate? So what?  So does Sam Harris. Who even talked about the possibility of the consciousness surviving physical death, admitting it was highly unlikely but saying, he doesn’t know, no one does, but he very much doubts it. As long as he didn’t try to sneak those things into his science like any good pseudo-scientist would, trying to prove their a priori assumptions by distorting the data. Which of course he wouldn’t.

    It’s practically irrelevant, unless you think the whole book is an argument to back up those statements you through together? 

    I don’t think so. I did not think or science is BS. Did not blindly follow a woo merchant or try to defend a vitalism argument.

    I respect where you are coming now I understand fully,  and why all the misunderstanding since you tones down the exclamation marks. I wouldn’t argue against the interpretation, if the book was indeed fudging science to advance some supernatural argument. 

    I very much doubt it is though.

  36. “more than just atoms” has a pretty clear philosophical meaning. It’s certainly not something Sam Harris would say.

    Reductionism really is the only way to understand anything, the universe is just too big and complex to be understood all at once.

  37.  
    Underground906
    I respect where you are coming now I understand fully,  and why all
    the misunderstanding since you tones down the exclamation marks. I
    wouldn’t argue against the interpretation, if the book was indeed
    fudging science to advance some supernatural argument.

    I very much doubt it is though.

    Thank you for that approach. 

    Perhaps you could become a little more street-wise in considering the sponsorship of this book by Templeton!

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/T… -
    The Templeton Foundation[2]
    is a supposedly philanthropic organisation focusing on the crossover of
    religion and science, founded by Sir John Templeton (1912-2008). It is
    currently headed by his son, Dr. Jack Templeton, who quit his medical
    practice in 1995 in order to work full time for the organisation.
    Although it acts a source of funding for numerous science causes (that
    answer what it calls the “Big Questions”) such as genetics, and more
    personal stuff such as “cognitive creativity” and personal development,
    it is probably best known for the Templeton prize – which is basically a
    big wad of cash[3] given to any famous scientist that will say something nice about God

    The Templeton Prize has been going since 1983 when it was awarded to Mother Teresa for her services to pretending to help poor people. The Templeton’s slight rivalry with the Nobel Foundation
    can be seen clearly, as they like pointing out how they gave their
    Prize to Mother Teresa at least 6 years before the secular Scandinavian
    one. Since then, it has been awarded annually to a variety of scientists and theologians, and basically anyone who has spent their time “affirming life’s spiritual dimension”. 

    Underground906
      I thought he meant, after all that has emerged and the meaning and
    significant of  it, to then just say, ”it’s has no meaning, it’s only
    atoms rearranging themselves” is a great disservice and robs life of
    any meaning (not in a spiritual, ultimate sense) but in the way we are
    about to  experience it subjectively or give to meaning to it. As in we
    should just see it in those basic terms and nothing more significant.

     

    The suggestion that “without god-given-meaning” atheists/humanists have some sort of bleak outlook is a well known theist and apologist straw assertion, which I have encountered many times in discussions and articles.

    It is up to humans to work out their own meanings, objectives and enjoyment of emotional responses.  My appreciation of music is enhanced, not diminished because I know the structure of my instrument, can adjust or repair it, and also understand the physics of sound waves.

    The same applies to biology and brains.  Neuroscientists are probably going find “god(s)” in the near future – and it won’t be in the depths of space or time. 
    We were discussing that here:- http://richarddawkins.net/disc

  38. Firstly, thank you for engaging in civil, intelligent debate without the usual aggressive Atheist bluster and regurgitating Dawkin’s soundbites.

     

    You haven’t spoken to many atheists, have you?  The “militant atheist” stereotype is largely an invention of the press.  Most of the ire comes from anti-theists, anti-religionists etc. who have specific criticisms against religion etc.  I’m not saying you don’t get the angry sort, but it’s hardly fair to call them “usual”.  And what soundbites, anyway?  A lot of what Dawkins says was hardly designed solely to sound good.  It generally had a valid point.

    The point about emergence and reductionism. Leaving the ”allowing for” goal-post moving afterthought aside, as the issue was ”there is no more to the world than atoms rearranging themselves” and of doubting such scientific philistinism and anti-intellectualism.

    Your point here is basically ridiculous literalism, and it is a distraction as a result.  The “allowing for” was not an attempt to move the goalposts, not least of all because in context Haskell is not talking about quantum mechanics as an example.  Certainly, materialists aren’t contradicted by quantum mechanics.  Subatomic phenomena, the intricacies of which mostly cancel out at the macroscopic scale of bodies and living organisms, are not an example of “more than just atoms” non-materialism.  If anything, they are a vindication of the reductionistic view, breaking down atoms into smaller pieces, and materialism, being physical entities (albeit peculiar ones).  Forces and laws themselves “reduce” to simpler ones, as the variations of electric and magnetic forces collapse into the single electromagnetic force.  In any case, what job do you think the “rearrange” part of “atoms rearranging themselves” is doing?  The laws are our descriptions of the rearrangements.  Moreover, materialism isn’t equivalent to a Newtonian worldview.  Virtually every scientist you’ve described is working within the materialist paradigm. 

    If we’d adhered to ”everything in the world is atoms rearranging themselves”, scientific endeavor and inquiry would be a lot more impoverished for it.

    This is what I mean when I talk about literalism.  The phrase “more than just atoms” isn’t pulling in quantum mechanics as a counter, as if to suggest that materialists don’t believe in it.  Haskell clearly isolated ethics (via rights and values) and the question of the existence of a deity, which are common haunting grounds for woo.  They typically invoke a “secret ingredient” to be added to make it work, much like people once explained living matter by saying it had “elan vital”.  Materialism is a scepticism of such claims.

    Could we uncover the atomic structure of the laws of physics and map it out like the periodic table, and then implant the laws of physics from those atoms and, hypothetical speaking, place them in a collider of some sort and recreate the laws of physics based on that combination of atoms?

    Well, the reason we have the four fundamental forces in the first place is because everyday forces have been reduced to them, so I’d say yes to the first part. The second part is just confused, though, by treating laws of physics as physical entities, and to say as much is not to concede to a non-materialist position.  Since the laws of physics depend upon the existence of atoms and are our descriptions of their rearrangements, they’re not separable from the phrase “rearrangements of atoms”.  They’re certainly not independent entities or a special ingredient added to make atoms work.  And again, your fixation with atoms as though quantum effects disprove materialism is misapplied literalism, so the rest of your argument suffers as a result.

    Faulty logic. You could just as easily say he was implicitly discussing Deism, Pantheism, Taoism, Buddhism, given that Dawkins is not just an Atheist but outspoken on the fact that Science explains everything without the need to evoke a deity or designer and all religious claims about the world  are false.

    Actually, it’s not faulty logic.  Theism means, broadly, belief in a god or gods, including deistic and interventionist versions, and Dawkins is sceptical of all versions.  For Haskell to express doubt as to the “certainty” of Dawkins’ position is to suggest that he has grounds for taking at least one of these claims seriously.  Dawkins’ position is based on a lack of convincing evidence or proof, so to differ from him is to suggest there is some, however minor.  In which case, as per the burden of proof, I’d like to know what Haskell’s basis is for this difference, since he draws attention to the distance between his position and Dawkins’.  Atheism, to repeat the point, is nonbelief in a position, so to differ from it is to move towards a belief by definition.

    I know all religions and new age spiritualist beliefs as belief systems are entirely fictional; they can’t possibly have any idea and science, along with progressive thought, long refuted them.  But I saw Haskell say he doesn’t know enough to say some religious claims have not truth and can’t be as sure as Dawkins. I don’t what those claims are he is referring to. Someone arguing for religion might have actually broken character and made some compelling point about the limits of science to know everything, pointed out flaws in his arguments that are overly speculative, which could just have easily been said by a non-religious person and contain some kernel of logical truth in a philosophical not doctrinal sense, and he might not have so certain they are wrong or could be so easily dismissed. I don’t know what his difference in certainties are or what they are based on. Maybe he just isn’t up to speed on the nuances of Dawkin’s arguments.

    In which case, if it was so innocuous, then why is Haskell being so nebulous and evasive?  The notion of a god is perfectly comprehensible and he could easily have provided an example to clarify, though it has been to the benefit of theists to obscure the ideas and equivocate.  You see this every time someone uses arguments for a deistic version of a god to smuggle in belief of a personal god.  Haskell’s declining or neglecting to clarify beyond saying “I don’t know” is meaningless, whether his point was philosophical or not.  As it stands, he’s holding out for nothing.  If he’d used the same argument to counter someone’s “certainty” that griffins don’t exist, it would be apparent that he’s making an argument from ignorance.  If you’re denying he’s making a positive claim for theism, explicit or implicit, then you’re essentially saying he agrees with Dawkins, in which case why stress a non-existent difference?

    He said he *suspects* the universe may consist of more than atoms rearranging themselves. As an example, after Coyne made a remark about humans having no right to destroy every other species on our planet, he speculated that IF  inherent rights and values exist, they are they aren’t made of atoms.  If they did exist, they could exist so like the laws of physics do. Wherever they reside or whatever sense they can be said to exist. He is doubtful if they do. He doesn’t have any theories to evince beyond those things he said. But he is a person who has the intellectual curious that there could be something more. And those suspicions have already been shown be inline with current science that there is more to the world. A greater depth than the atomic level.

    Firstly, I’ve already discussed why modern science is no friend to the non-materialist, and pointed out that your insistence on atomry being the basis for materialism is simply you being literal, ignoring the actual position the phrase represents.

    Secondly, the vast majority can suspect — Dawkins suspects, hence the 6.9 position — but if Haskell is going to distance himself from Dawkins’ position, he’s either contradicting himself or agreeing, however partially and faintly, with the opposite, positive claim, even if only to make a concession to its validity.  If the latter, then his insistence on ignorance is an argument from ignorance, a logical fallacy and the basis of a god-of-the-gaps style of arguing, which is usually used to give credibility to religious beliefs, credibility that is exaggerated.  What else is this latter kind of agnosticism but a concession that the positive claim or claims have some validity, in which case why should a gap for it be considered a basis for validation?  If you deny that Haskell meant this, then Haskell is actually agreeing with Dawkins’ position, and Haskell ends up contradicting himself.

    Thirdly, rights and values may well be like other laws of the universe, such as biological ones or those from game theory, but this is a consequence of reductionism and materialism, not a reason to differ from those positions as Haskell does (especially for such unconvincing reasons).  The point isn’t that reductionism “seeks to explain everything in terms of atoms” (this is a straw position), but that in practice you don’t get a lot of insight from trying to explain, say, World War II in terms of quarks or hydrogen atoms.  Rights and values are most likely no exception (6.9, of course).

    From what I understand Dawkins came under heavy fire from a good few people formally trained in philosophy and a few atheist I’ve read, about the philosophical argumentation and choice of points to criticize over religion, and I seen it said that he was out of his depth in that domain and was no expert. And this wasn’t from religious people. If you wanted a good bashing of the worse excesses of religious doctrine or rather obvious points most of us who grew up without having formal religion foisted on us realized ourselves, than the god delusion was the book. I defended him on accusations like that after I’d read a bit of the book and it made clear that he wasn’t targeting true believers who wouldn’t be swayed either way, but seeking those in the middle ground who could, and I said was being skillful with forceful rhetoric to achieve his aim and to get the right reaction. To cause controversy.

     

    Then perhaps you would be enlightened to learn that Dawkins came to consider the book after his work in evolutionary biology led to him clashing with the creationists’ ID movements, effectively having his science attacked by people with religious and political axes to grind.  His interest in writing the book was not to cause controversy, though this was the obvious side effect, but to put the case forward for atheism.  Quite why you think his main interest was to stir trouble baffles me, and frankly comes across as an attempt to discredit him.  Have you actually read the book, by any chance?

    As for the criticisms his book received from philosophers, I have seen some of these for myself.  One example is Terry Eagleton’s review, in which he compared Dawkins’ foray into theology with someone writing about birds without understanding ornithology.  The problem with this criticism was articulated by Dawkins in a reply; most of theology simply assumes a god exists, and then works from there.  The examples he provides in the book are from those apologists who do tackle the question of god’s existence.  In any case, we’re not discussing those (I have no interest in being sidetracked) unless it can be shown that Haskell was appealing to any particular argument.

    However, if this equating of something as trivial and innocuous as an eccentric belief  fairies (what adults apart from nut cases have then anyway?)  to the same thing as reasons for believing in a god of some sort -that is, just to believe in some mythological entity for some trifling little, inconsequential reason – was put forward as a serious philosophical argument that a god can’t exist because he would be just like an imaginary fairy or santa, and not merely clever rhetoric, then I was perhaps not completely right in defending him against the charge of philosophical ineptness. They are not the same thing in an epistemological sense, and the reasons for believing in god or religious moral creed or set of principles far, far more significant for the person with that belief; and has far more effect on their lives and themselves (in many case not in a bad way), than a random visual mental image like the FSM.

    Proof if I needed any that you spectacularly missed the point.  The point about the comparison has nothing to do with the effect that belief has on people’s lives or on how seriously they treat it.  It’s about the principle of proof and evidence.  In the absence of either, the basis for belief ceases to be epistemological, in which case it is a rhetorical move to try to present it that way.  If there was any epistemological difference, then that would require an actual proof or piece of evidence to justify treating it differently, and no religious apologist — be they religious themselves or not — has ever provided a sound argument or a scrap of evidence.  It is not a clever rhetorical move to point out that this puts god-belief on the same basis as fairy-belief; both of them lack the necessary evidence to justify being treated differently.  If you or Haskell have a convincing counter, then everybody on this site would be highly interested in hearing it, but so far Haskell’s justifications are no more substantial than ignorance.

    Rarely have I ever watched Dawkins argue against anyone but religious dorks with their silly creationist stories, which is just shooting fish in the barrel. They all have the same idea of a christian, anthropomorphic god of scripture. If there was a god of some sort, or some higher force or order beyond the physical, knowable universe, then an argument saying it can’t be true because people have made religious myths and creationist stories of all different kinds and all different places and they are patently fictional would be a fallacious line of reasoning.

    Actually, Dawkins makes a point not to debate creationists in order to deny them false credibility.  The most easily remembered example of a debate I can think of is Lennox, a prestigious mathematician, and many of his arguments were used to argue for a deistic position (even if only as a smokescreen for a Christian god).  The pastor he spoke to for one of his programs represents a “flock” of 30 million people, roughly one tenth of the American public.  In any case, your appeal to Sophisticated Theologians is an old criticism, and no less ignorant for it.  Dawkins and other public atheists have been around the world to debate with people of varying positions, and they’ve also written articles on Sophisticated Theology (it’s an in-joke around here, which should give you an idea of the prevalence of this criticism).  If Dawkins can talk with the Archbishop of Canterbury and still be called out for not dealing with Sophisticated Theologians, then where is he supposed to look?  They aren’t even representative of the public.

    As a side note, Coyne himself makes a note to read as much of it as he can on his blog. It comes under the same problem: most of them simply presume a deity exists before arguing, and virtually all of them engage in faulty logic.

    I do happen to know that many of Dawkin’s arguments are of far greater nuance and gravitas and truth than that. And I’ve been swayed by them. But that’s not to say there aren’t any that are debatable or questionable on philosophical, rational grounds, such as arguments being fallacious or dubious. And to disagree with them on those grounds isn’t automatically to make explicit scientific claims but to challenge arguments and claims that may be faulty, ill-formed and have flaws in them, just like as happens in science.

    Of course not.  Myself, I’ve seen him criticized for his incomplete approach to the origins of religion, and agree with Coyne that we’ll probably never know how it arose.  But then you or Haskell have to provide an example, and the ones you’ve provided are erroneous for reasons I’ve outlined.

    We’d have to know what the specific philosophical grounds where he differed before they could be debated. If there is a general claim being made on the grounds of agnosticism, if say there is actually an iron law that says if you disagree with Dawkins you have to be put in the dock to plead your case, it is this: I don’t know, no-one  ultimately  does. Make of that what you will. Argument from ignorance. Woo merchant. Supernaturalist, God Botherer, Spineless apologist, Pussy footer, Sky Daddy lover, however you’d like to slice it. It’s actually true though, I believe. Or I’m having a hard time working out how it isn’t.

    I’ve already explained the problem.  Bringing in atheism is, by necessity, bringing in theism and god-belief, which are specific claims.  Unless you concede with Dawkins’ position, in which case you’re contradicting yourself, you’re implying that there’s ground for taking theism seriously.  It doesn’t matter that we’re dealing with, for one example, a deity sitting outside the known universe.   Saying “I don’t know” is either to say “I’m treating this hypothesis as potentially true but unproven”, which is Dawkins’ position, or to say “there are grounds for taking it at least partly seriously”, in which case you can’t make an appeal to ignorance to defend such a claim.  If you think a believer in deism has a point, then it had better not be because there’s a gap in our knowledge that can be filled in by fantasies.

    In, my estimation, given the form that the busy-body, arrogant, condescending, puffed-up idiocy of militant atheist discourse takes in many cases I’ve seen, I think the reason atheists are so concerned what other people think, no matter how harmless, is because they were once dupes to superstition and supernaturalism themselves and now rally against with an eager fervour to argue against any position that is a slight deviation to theirs out of the anger of one being dupes. Many of them couldn’t care less about those sentiments you expressed, and simply want to amuse themselves by recounting arguments and rhetorical snippets  they’ve gleaned from Dawkins and rolling them out on some religious person to make themselves feel intelligent.

    I don’t deny that some atheists can be like this, but then that’s true of any demographic, and to try to characterize an entire group like this, based moreover on such a parochial and amateur psychoanalysis, is both intellectually irresponsible and simply repugnant on your part.  There are genuine grievances to be raised about the prejudice shown towards atheists, as well as a lot of regrettable public ignorance about them.  Atheists debate others not out of reactionary hatred, but from a combination of trying to present their cases (fair enough, considering they almost never had a chance throughout much of history) and impatience for the mischaracterizations of their positions.  I myself have encountered examples of such mischaracterizations in your mysterious determination to paint me and my fellows according to the militant atheist stereotype.  And I and many others refer to Dawkins not out of mindless, pseudo-intellectual sycophancy, but because he articulates some valid points well enough for my and our purposes (though I don’t agree with everything he says either).

    And while I sympathize with them as you’ve stated it, and think there are aspects of religion that pose a great problem to the security of society, I deplore this kind of  attitude (that remind of totalitarian minded liberals) that we must go out and attack every religious person, everyone who believes in god, anyone who doesn’t fit with 100% with Dawkin’s view and entertains the idea he may not be 100% correct in everything he says or thinks and who dares to say that publicly: as if some secular utopia awaits where all of the ills of the world will cease if not one person ever believed in a theistic god again and anyone seen being open to the possibility or inciting openness to the possibility of anything but an uncompromisingly atheist world view: such as by admitting to being sceptical or having suspicions the world may be more than atoms rearranging themselves, or that no one ultimately knows, regardless of the probability of the atheist side being far greater.

    I don’t meet many atheists that take this position.  Certainly, I would disagree with them if I did.  But there’s a difference between public criticism of religious beliefs (and of religious persons) and “attacking” them, and the fact that a lot of atheists are defenders of Dawkins’ position is not in itself blameworthy, especially given your attempt at crude caricature.  Neither does believing that religion is a cause of many harms translate into believing that religion is the root of all evil (a title, incidentally, which Dawkins himself didn’t like for his documentary), though the biggest risk these days is underestimating the harm it can do, the costs it exacts, and the legitimacy of its claims.  In any case, a lot of your subsequent argument seems to invoke the Appeal To Worse Problems: Haskell may well not be issuing a fatwa, but why does that mean we can’t criticize him?

    Also, moderates do enable extremists, at least so long as they pretend there’s legitimacy in a faith-based position.  Haskell as an isolated incident is not a threat, but there are many more like him apologizing for religion, and the logical flaws they endorse in so doing entail a double standard when they criticize those who take religion seriously.  I’ve already mentioned how arguing for a deistic position is used to bait and switch for a Christian version of theism.  Declining to explain one’s agnosticism further, as Haskell does, leaves it open for one to interpret him in many ways, and this argument is often adopted by accommodationists trying not to upset a religious demographic.  If people kept such beliefs private globally or made religious practices (like church-going) merely a leisure hobby, it would not be a social problem, but that isn’t the case.  Even leaving out such issues, one could oppose religion purely on intellectual grounds.

  39. Let me say me even more clearly because you’ve ignored it (I’ll address the rest of your post later) – I *am* an Atheist.

     Although I don’t like the label or to describe myself as one or feel an allegiance to a specific group who call themselves that, and those who do have an in group/out group mentality about it (which I don’t like). But in the same sense you are one, I am one.

    I do not in any way believe in a supernatural personal, theistic God, or a supernatural realm or any claims or assertions made by humans who have pretended to know they have answers as to the existence of anything like that. I have most of Dawkin’s books. I read a small bit of the God Delusion years ago, but stopped. I’m currently working through Climbing Mount Improbable. There was no point for me in reading the God Delusion further. I gave no credit to the religious side and there was nothing new for me to learn or be convinced about in their falseness. I was more interested in learning more stuff about evolution from his great works on the subject. Plus I had watched everything I could on Dawkins and the debates on youtube before that. 

    Coyne’s book got me up to speed about the current evidence and gave me a great appreciation and overview of it and why and how, in great detail, it is true. Dawkins was the main person who got me to think and challenge any vague notions I had that I hadn’t really examined in great depth before. And I changed my world view a result.

    I love science and it allows far more wonder then supernatural tales. I know that the reductionist method of science is the absolute best way to gain and understanding of the world. And it has worked wonders. 

    But my point was summed up by a phrase I saw someone make earlier.

    ”Just to avoid confusion–not that naturalistic descriptions aren’t useful [or true], but you have to be careful of becoming the person who, having obtained a hammer, thinks everything is a nail”

    Who in there right mind looks at life and just sees atoms rearranging themselves and no more beyond that?

  40. Who in there right mind looks at life and just sees atoms rearranging themselves and no more beyond that?

    I thought you disapproved of rhetoric.  In which case, what do you think this question of yours is if not an example of rhetorical appeal?

    Again, the “greedy reductionist” who ” just sees atoms rearranging themselves and no more beyond that” is a straw position for reductionism and materialism as a whole.  Biological phenomena, for instance, are so amazingly unlike physical ones that it’s easy to think of them as two different things, but in fact biological phenomena are a subset of physical phenomena.  The link between the evolution of prosocial behaviours and our ethics is another such example of two formerly distinct phenomena being joined as superset and subset.  They’re atomic arrangements all the way down, and its the arrangements, not just the atoms, that are crucial.  That’s one of the biggest surprises to ever come out of the sciences, and it’s the basis behind hierarchical reductionism. If you’ve got an actual point, the histrionics in your last post isn’t making it.

    If you know of any other “ways of knowing” — and I mean epistemologically relevant methods, not an irrelevant appeal to aesthetics, feelings, or “meaning” (we’ve heard that one before) — that don’t bow down to the rational basis that science does (the alleged hammer), then I invite you to share an example.  I also invite you to actually respond to the points I raised (especially the appeal to ignorance one), and not play the “I’m with you, why are you picking on me” card.  That stuff’s nice to know, but frankly I don’t care whether you’re an atheist or not.  Your misrepresentation is no less ridiculously overblown.

    Lastly, don’t play the “intellectually curious” card or “open-mindedness” card on me.  You’re not the first, and you’re certainly not the most competent, person to have done so, and it just looks like an excuse to be defensive on your part.  In any case, the presumption that you know my intellectual curiosity well enough to make the comparison, implicit or not, is frankly ridiculous and not a little insulting.

    When you next comment, please refrain from such rhetorical flourishes and ad hominems. You’re perfectly capable of being civil, and you don’t help your case when you go off on a tangent.

  41. “more than just atoms” has a pretty clear philosophical meaning.

    It does. But that is different to the philosophical meaning ”atoms rearranging themselves”. And the debate of  whether the world/universe is more than simply that  or not.

    ”More than just atoms rearranging themselves” is not a statement of fact anyway. They don’t rearrange themselves by themselves, in a vacuum, with nothing outside of it, so anyone mentioning physics has already answered Coyne’s question of ”what more is there to the world than atoms rearranging themselves”, and shown it isn’t necessarily a rejection of materialism as a fact, but as supposed explanation of everything in the world as being equated to that and only that. 

    We have a far greater understanding of them and how they function and interact than that suggests or explains – which is: all they do is rearrange themselves and viola!; from them alone, up springs existence.  What is this magic (you could even say god-like) power they have, in and of themselves, that can create living organisms, some not just with consciousness but the intelligence to understand those atoms and the wider universe and cosmos in magnificent, awe-inspiring depth and detail what they are made of, and how they work. (In this sense, when Harris was speculating about the possibility of the survival of consciousness after death, he was referring to the possibility of there being more than just atoms). 

    It doesn’t even allow for the possibility of life itself or an explanation if that axiom is taken as read. Atoms aren’t alive, and would not be able to figure out how they work and observe themselves, so there is clearly something beyond atoms rearranging themselves, because they themselves can’t explain everything (biology for a start). 

    Let me try to illustrate further.  In Dawkin’s book the Magic of Reality, he explains the answers to questions such these: Why do the continents look like disconnected pieces of a jigsaw puzzle? What causes tsunamis? Why are there so many kinds of plants and animals?

    Suppose he just said ”it’s just atoms rearranging themselves”. Or at the end of Why Evolution is True, Coyne said ”everything is just atoms rearranging themselves”, stripping it of any purpose beyond that. 

    Needlessly reductive answers (not the reductionist method of scientific investigation) like that are what make a lot of people suspicious of science and prevents more people engaging with it. Berating people as delusional super-naturalists because answers like that don’t suffice for them, is often counter-productive too. 

    It was with Coyne’s response, the question and the accusation of even being sceptical of such reductionist explanations is to reject materialism. 

    Here is why it I said there is more than just atoms is possibly factually incorrect in the way you stated. 

    ”Yet, despite these tremendous advances, science has come to realize that much of the universe is made of unknown substances and influences.  More than 95 percent of the universe is made of dark energy and dark matter, with less than 5 percent constituting the familiar stuff of atoms, molecules, people, and planets.  Dark energy makes itself felt through its unseen influence on galaxies, causing them to move away from each other at a faster and faster pace.  Dark matter, on the other hand, steers the outer stars of galaxies, binding them to galactic cores.  It also supplies the gravitational “glue” needed to keep clusters of galaxies intact.  Experiments have failed so far to reveal the true nature of these mysterious entities.”

    http://www.amazon.com/Edge-Uni

    ”Another explanation for dark energy is that it is a new kind of dynamical energy fluid or field, something that fills all of space but something whose effect on the expansion of the Universe is the opposite of that of matter and normal energy. Some theorists have named this “quintessence,” after the fifth element of the Greek philosophers. But, if quintessence is the answer, we still don’t know what it is like, what it interacts with, or why it exists. So the mystery continues.”

    http://science.nasa.gov/astrop

  42. I’m not even arguing against materialism or reductionism on the whole. I said I’ll reply to your points later. It’s a big post to be able to respond to right now. Many atheists I’ve come across myself have been obnoxious. 

  43. I’d ask you to bit a more civil yourself and not go off on a tangent, trying to paint me as something I’m not and ignoring everything I said. It very much looks like this in/out group cult thinking going on if you are defending people you haven’t come across on the grounds they are atheists. 

    My point was normal people look at the world and see far more than atoms, even scientists do outside of their work. Its entirety can’t be squeezed into a nice little one word sentence.

    Lastly, don’t play the “intellectually curious” card or “open-mindedness” card on me. You’re not the first, and you’re certainly not the most competent, person to have done so, and it just looks like an excuse to be defensive on your part. In any case, the presumption that you know my intellectual curiosity well enough to make the comparison, implicit or not, is frankly ridiculous and not a little insulting.

    Just what are you talking about? I never said anything about your curiosity. And I actually thanked you for being civil. But have made no insinuations about you, personally, apart from the one above, which you are starting to exhibit.

  44. He explained the Templeton thing from years back. I’m sorry if I don’t demonize him enough or give an actual shit he did a bit of valid research on their money years back that had nothing to do with anything religious in the nature of the work done.

    ”The suggestion that “without god-given-meaning” atheists/humanists have some sort of bleak outlook is a well known theist and apologist straw assertion, which I have encountered many times in discussions and articles.”

    What suggestion was that? I made a totally different point to that. I won’t try to explain again. Listen, I’ve been up to speed for at least 5 years about the science/ID thing, and probably seen all arguments against, and know the tactics of the I.D’s and religious more than well . It’s getting beyond tedious to see every predicable one of them cropping up and being used against me instead of what I’ve actually being arguing about.

    In this case here, it’s the defense that atheists have a bleak outlook, and my supposed suggestion of that. Being one for years myself, and being intensely fascinated with the natural world through science, I know that. And didn’t suggest it. As you’re fond of saying, you are ‘projecting ‘.

    Yes, I know a lot think that. I did myself until I saw Dawkin’s express sentiments like this: 

    Spirituality can mean something that I’m very sympathetic to, which is, a sort of sense of wonder at the beauty of the universe, the complexity of life, the magnitude of space, the magnitude of geological time. All those things create a sort of frisson in the breast, which you could call spirituality.But, I would be very concerned that it shouldn’t be confused with supernaturalism.

    http://edge.org/conversation/i

    I’m aware of all the arguments. I haven’t stumbled on this place yesterday and am busy running through a list of stock ID arguments as if they never been aired and complete and roundly quashed. I just don’t give a flying toss if there are people out there who might see things different to Dawkin’s or harbour certain beliefs. In other words, I’m not one who wants to rid the world of anyone who even holds the door ajar to a god, if they want to do that, perhaps because scientists often throw out horseshit like there being nothing more to the world than atoms rearranging and give this impression of being inhuman.

    E.O Wilson reviewed this book positively. If it was full of pseudo-science I’m sure he would have called it out. I’m sure. I’m sure the journalist mentioned Dawkins and Haskell then become a sort of target for atheistic ridicule. And the author of the book, to me, was getting at the sentiments I quoted from Dawkin’s more than anything else, but maybe he has the perception you accused me off suggesting. I’ve produced evidence and arguments. I said I admired Dawkin’s use of rhetoric and defended it.

    How about you stop taking sly digs from the sideline?

  45. You haven’t spoken to many atheists, have you?  The “militant atheist” stereotype is largely an invention of the press.  Most of the ire comes from anti-theists, anti-religionists etc. who have specific criticisms against religion etc.  I’m not saying you don’t get the angry sort, but it’s hardly fair to call them “usual”.  And what soundbites, anyway?  A lot of what Dawkins says was hardly designed solely to sound good.  It generally had a valid point.

    I have yes. And if my usual experience has been like I said it has, then it fair for me to say that. I thanked you for not acting like that. Here’s a nicely incisive look at the kind I’ve come across often. Probably liberals at the same time. 

    http://venerablebeads.blogspot

    Your point here is basically ridiculous literalism, and it is a distraction as a result.  The “allowing for” was not an attempt to move the goalposts, not least of all because in context Haskell is not talking about quantum mechanics as an example.  Certainly, materialists aren’t contradicted by quantum mechanics.  Subatomic phenomena, the intricacies of which mostly cancel out at the macroscopic scale of bodies and living organisms, are not an example of “more than just atoms” non-materialism.  If anything, they are a vindication of the reductionistic view, breaking down atoms into smaller pieces, and materialism, being physical entities (albeit peculiar ones).  Forces and laws themselves “reduce” to simpler ones, as the variations of electric and magnetic forces collapse into the single electromagnetic force.  In any case, what job do you think the “rearrange” part of “atoms rearranging themselves” is doing?  The laws are our descriptions of the rearrangements.  Moreover, materialism isn’t equivalent to a Newtonian worldview.  Virtually every scientist you’ve described is working within the materialist paradigm.

    It’s not ridiculous literalism. Coyne asked what else is there than atoms rearranging themselves (why write a book explaining the why and how of the evolution of biological organisms then?), and that doubting the world was any more than that was to deny materialism. I’ve given more than enough to prove that statement false, even the latest scientific understanding of the cosmos, and I don’t care if you can’t understand that or want to ignore it and argue I’m a non-materialist or whatever. 

    As soon as you bought those other things into it you validated what I was saying, but then that is the human brain – once we start arguing for a thing, it’s very hard not to continue doing so and inventing things to defend it ad absurdum. You persist with this utterly ridiculous notion about materialism and reductionism, like I was arguing against them or don’t understand them. This is silly and ignorant.

    The scientists all work on a subatomic scale. And on more than just matter on the atomic level and above, but energy and magnetism and other things too. But I was saying, again the basic point is missed or twisted, that they are working at a deeper level than just atoms, which is said to constitute 5% of the known cosmos, not something spiritual, just on a scale deeper than atoms.

    Let me give it one more try. And be as simple as I can. Billions of years ago a replicator emerged. A biological entity.  Comprised of amino-acid, RNA, and other biological matter as well as atoms, particles, and possible more, adhering to the laws of physics. But its purpose was not just as a useless appendage so atoms could ”rearrange themselves” (they could do that anyway), it became more than that in purpose, or evolved to have a greater purpose.  Which was to replicate. Over billions of years, they evolved into ever more complex organisms. Organisms of amazing diversity and stunningly diverse forms. Some becoming far more sophisticated and conscious. Moving past the basic purpose of survival and passing on their genes. Eventually being able to create purpose and meaning in their life for themselves and study and understand the universe and atoms themselves (get that, organisms studying atoms is not atoms rearranging themselves, it’s human beings studying them and far beyond them). You know this. Coyne sure as hell knows this. I know this. Biological organisms, even at the most basic level, have a reason and purpose for their existence greater than atoms rearranging themselves. 

    If you are going to carry on treating me like an idiot and won’t even meet me on that point, which I’ve gone to great lengths in making, and insist on the strawman of me trying to argue for something non-material or spiritual, then I’m not going to waste my time any further.I have no interest in needless adversarial debates when people don’t even listen to each other and understand points before replying.

  46.   Dr. Haskell wanted to tell the story of forest ecology saying he harbors a “deep suspicion that the world is more than atoms rearranging themselves.”

    I have been thinking about his reactions, and they are pretty similar to the usual human primordial reactions to pattern recognition and evolved reflex responses.

    Such responses can be produced from artificially created or recorded forms in  Natural history, horror, pornographic, romantic, sport, and music videos, without the additional sensations of smell and touch.

    Physicists would claim that the information producing these responses can be reduced to digitised computer coding on disks, of sounds and pixels of light, arranged by atoms in electronic circuits to be transformed into light images, and mechanically via the atoms of sound systems into sounds. This information is confirmed by scientific testing.

    to refresh himself with a kind of natural history meditation,

    On the other hand, followers of information “revealed” by psychic meditation, KNOW  that atoms and their subatomic energies in these disks and circuits are not enough, and require the addition of ethereal, immaterial fairy dust in order to give emotional stimulation.
    Those “bleak reductionists” who bother to find out and know how things work, must be deprived of any emotions, as they would have have to suspend disbelief to participate in entertaining delusions, while the deluded can happily bask in the delusions, untroubled by realities (Until they try to return to the real world).

    Neuroscientists and biologists would explain, the human reactions are evolved instinctive responses and situation/pattern recognition, working on biochemistry and electrical circuits in the brain -  (but they are using this sciencey research stuff and deductive reasoning):  –
    SO WHAT DO THEY KNOW???? 
    They even ask believers for evidence and think there is a difference between material reality as described by the intensively researched laws of science , and the unresearched cosy revelations of those using meditation as an investigative tool and ethereal, immaterial magic, as an explanation!!!

  47. I’d ask you to bit a more civil yourself and not go off on a tangent, trying to paint me as something I’m not and ignoring everything I said. It very much looks like this in/out group cult thinking going on if you are defending people you haven’t come across on the grounds they are atheists.

    As a matter of fact, no.  It’s not about defending people on the grounds that they are atheists.  I don’t particularly like it or think it clever when someone tries to characterize millions of people based on a few rotten eggs, especially when they seem to be getting their facts from a gross media stereotype and especially when they try to bring up their pop science and “I’m an atheist” cred in an irrelevant attempt to justify it.

    I am not, as you seem to imply, “ignoring everything you’ve said”, but focusing my responses on what is actually relevant.  The discrepancy in Haskell’s case is relevant because it’s pertinent to the OP.  Your religious status and reading list, however, are not.

    My point was normal people look at the world and see far more than atoms, even scientists do outside of their work. Its entirety can’t be squeezed into a nice little one word sentence.

    The problem is, just because people “see far more than atoms”, doesn’t mean there actually is more than atoms, at least in a materialist sense.  Haskell isn’t talking about obscure physics or the philosophy of mathematics or anything like that.  He’s talking about forest ecology, a curious topic on which to bring in atheism because that’s usually the sign of someone using awe and wonder to suggest a deity could exist.  At the very least, his examples are strangely tangential to the subject matter.

    You are again conflating a different type of reductionism with a straw one, as I’ve repeatedly pointed out, and in any case you certainly aren’t helping by taking the phrase so literally that you think I need a reminder of quantum mechanics, space-time, and dark matter to be disproven.  As far as forest ecology goes, it is atoms from top to bottom, with photons as an input.  There may be more subatomic activity and so forth, but that’s basically correct.  The reasons we don’t see it that way are that one: we don’t get any insight from analysing it that microscopically (like explaining WWII in terms of hydrogen particles), and two: our brains aren’t passive pipelines to the truth, but do things, react to things, and were designed by natural selection to accommodate many competing faculties for the service of genes.  The reason these phrases aren’t used to “explain things” is that they are so bland and generic that they don’t offer any special insight, not because they are totally wrong.  Biology has its own concepts and rules, but everyone agrees these emerge from lower-level phenomena like chemistry and electronics, and no one need postulate that an extra ingredient is involved.

    Just what are you talking about? I never said anything about your curiosity. And I actually thanked you for being civil. But have made no insinuations about you, personally, apart from the one above, which you are starting to exhibit.

    I do apologise for jumping the gun here.  I had the previous comment of yours in mind when I typed that:

    If they did exist, they could exist so like the laws of physics do. Wherever they reside or whatever sense they can be said to exist. He is doubtful if they do. He doesn’t have any theories to evince beyond those things he said. But he is a person who has the intellectual curious that there could be something more. And those suspicions have already been shown be inline with current science that there is more to the world. A greater depth than the atomic level.

    The insinuation was that the difference between Haskell and Dawkins or Coyne is that Haskell possesses intellectual curiosity, whereas Coyne  and Dawkins don’t, or at least possess nowhere near as much as Haskell.  Since you were arguing Haskell’s case, and I Coyne’s and Dawkins’, I interpreted that as meaning that you were by proxy accusing me, however implicitly, of lacking intellectual curiosity.  I didn’t reply at the time, probably because my post was long enough as it was, but when you began listing the number of books you were reading, as if to say “see? I actually am curious about these things”, I came to the conclusion that you were trying to insinuate my lack of curiosity by extension.

    To explain something isn’t to excuse it, however, and I apologize for that presumptuous faux pas.

  48.   Underground906

       Zeuglodon – You haven’t spoken to many atheists, have you?  The “militant atheist” stereotype is largely an invention of the press.  Most of the ire comes
    from anti-theists, anti-religionists etc. who have specific criticisms against religion etc.

    I have yes. And if my usual experience has been like I said it has, then it fair for me to say that. I thanked you for not acting like that. Here’s a nicely incisive look at the kind I’ve come across often. Probably liberals at the same time. 

    http://venerablebeads.blogspot

     

       
    Venerable Beads –
    THE DIRECT, CONSCIOUS ATTACK ON INTELLECTUAL DECENCY COMES FROM THE INTELLECTUALS THEMSELVES: GEORGE ORWELL

     
    Ah!  A follow-up link from the anti-science rants of the PROJECTORS -in-chief (http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/P… ) who you have been copying.  The first link with your irrational rant based on it was deleted by the moderators, but I decided to give you the chance to present an evidenced rational position. 
    If you are using this sort of rhetorical rubbish as a role model, it is no wonder you get a hostile response when presenting this trolling nonsense to SCIENTISTS (who may also be atheists). 

    And be as simple as I can. Billions of years ago a replicator emerged. A biological entity.  Comprised of amino-acid, RNA, and other biological matter as well as atoms, particles, and possible more, adhering to the laws of physics.

    RNA/DNA organisms and biological matter are composed of atoms.  If you are claiming “SOMETHING MORE” produce the evidence.  (We know atoms and molecules can be arranged into complex structures by physics, so complexity cannot be the “something more”.)
    Zeuglodon and myself are well aware of abiogenesis and subsequent evolution.  Giving an initial scientific explanation gives no validity to an unsupported assertion tagged on the end of it.

    But its purpose was not just as a useless appendage so atoms could ”rearrange themselves” (they could do that anyway), it became more than that in purpose, or evolved to have a greater purpose.
     Which was to replicate.

    You continue with a dualist false dichotomy, claiming the strange question-begging anthropomorphic concept of “uselessness”  as if structured organisation under the laws of physics, was something divorced from the matter from which structures are  composed! Replication IS  just atoms rearranging themselves in complex structures.  It is known as biochemistry and genetics! Biology (including neuroscience and replication)   is a process of “atoms rearranging themselves” into complex molecules making up functioning structures.

    I know this. Biological organisms, even at the most basic level, have a reason and purpose for their existence greater than atoms rearranging themselves. 

    YOU WOULD NEED TO PRODUCE EVIDENCE OF HOW YOU “KNOW” THIS, AND HOW THIS DIFFERS FROM CONVENTIONAL SCIENTIFIC UNDERSTANDING.  You told me earlier you could not produce evidence and then sidetracked the issue by claiming the quoted words did not have their dictionary meanings. Purposes are human perceptions of phenomena.  
    You could equally well describe the “purpose” of cosmic dust clouds, as being “to form stars and planetary systems”.  They are just matter and energy interacting with gravity. THE “PURPOSE” IS SIMPLY HUMANS READING PROJECTED OUTCOMES INTO THE PHENOMENA – Just like those  who are anthropomorphically projecting god-did-it, into their unscientific gapologist interpretations.

    There are local increases, and general degradations of complexity, derived from the laws of thermodynamics.  Humans evolved pattern recognition, so read these into their observations of mechanisms,  but the mechanisms are a FEATURE  of the atomic/molecular structures and mechanisms, NOT  something separate from them, or additional to them.
    Those who have a joined-up scientific overview of the big-picture know this, while those without a wider scientific education, think in separated isolated little boxes, with an unquantified “something more”, filling the personal gaps in their knowledge.
    Some of them take a “gapologist”  patronising position of, “Scientists can’t possibly know this because I am personally ignorant of it”!

  49. I have yes. And if my usual experience has been like I said it has, then it fair for me to say that. I thanked you for not acting like that. Here’s a nicely incisive look at the kind I’ve come across often. Probably liberals at the same time.

    A pretty obscure blog; I’ve never heard of it.  I did take a look, however, and while I was impressed with the points about Dawkins’ political naivety (I didn’t find his “I’m an atheist but” section entirely convincing, for example), overall the owner of that blog seems overeager to blow out of proportion whatever Dawkins says, writing paragraphs for an insight that could have been made less explosively (that Bertrand Russell digression was ridiculously overdone).

    In any case, see my previous comment on atheist characterization.

    It’s not ridiculous literalism. Coyne asked what else is there than atoms rearranging themselves (why write a book explaining the why and how of the evolution of biological organisms then?)

    See?  You seem to think Coyne is a greedy reductionist.  But given Haskell’s responses, and why the phrase “more than just atoms” is usually invoked (during a biology discussion no less), it turns out he has reason to be sceptical.  Let me point this out and make it clearer:  Haskell isn’t talking about obscure physics, dark matter, subatomic particles, the four fundamental forces, the big bang, emergent phenomena, holism, or evolution.  Coyne has just been at a conference with other scientists talking about such issues; he’s hardly giving Haskell a hard time because of physics, and he even went to the trouble of making the implication clear in a parenthesis that the phrase “more than just atoms” represented materialism.  When asked for examples, Haskell provided “values and rights”, which is a nod to ethics, and atheism, specifically Dawkins’ philosophical “certainty”.

    and that doubting the world was any more than that was to deny materialism.

    Haskell talks about things being more than atoms, and then lists ethics and atheism as examples, i.e. morality and god.  In other words, he’s suggesting that ethics is a special ingredient or extra supplement independent of atoms and other material, and has nothing to do with the processes that shape or rearrange them, i.e. laws of biology and physics.  Your constant deviations and tangents into physics are doing nothing to address this.

    I’ve given more than enough to prove that statement false, even the latest scientific understanding of the cosmos, and I don’t care if you can’t understand that or want to ignore it and argue I’m a non-materialist or whatever.

    All you’re doing is repeatedly showing that you don’t understand the issue of contention.  If I’m ignoring that, and I’ve addressed it repeatedly if you paid attention, it’s because it is irrelevant.

    As soon as you bought those other things into it you validated what I was saying, but then that is the human brain – once we start arguing for a thing, it’s very hard not to continue doing so and inventing things to defend it ad absurdum. You persist with this utterly ridiculous notion about materialism and reductionism, like I was arguing against them or don’t understand them. This is silly and ignorant.

    The reason I’m arguing this way is precisely because you don’t understand the issues — what else am I suppose to do in that situation, fudge it? — and you end up arguing against them as a result because you keep going after “greedy reductionist” straw men and imagining that materialists like Coyne apparently don’t know that dark matter exists.  I’ve explained repeatedly that you are taking the phrase “more than just atoms” so out of context that you think you can defend Haskell’s invocation of ethics and atheism by describing the big bang, evolution, and dark matter, which is incredibly irrelevant given that Haskell’s actual argument has nothing to do with them.  You keep evading the obvious point that Haskell has invoked nothing of the sort and has gone for precisely those hot topics that are peddled by accommodationists; moreover, he’s done so in the context of a biological science, not a physics one, and in a suspiciously woolly manner that I’ve criticized.

    The scientists all work on a subatomic scale. And on more than just matter on the atomic level and above, but energy and magnetism and other things too. But I was saying, again the basic point is missed or twisted, that they are working at a deeper level than just atoms, which is said to constitute 5% of the known cosmos, not something spiritual, just on a scale deeper than atoms.

    Here’s another example of that over-literalism at work.  Remember, you’re using this to justify a man’s invoking ethics and atheism, not obscure subatomic physics, against a charge of materialism from a guy who knows and has spoken with people who are physicists of all kinds and who is fully aware of this stuff.  Unless you want to argue that values and rights are made out of dark matter, it’s pointless. Hopefully by now you’re starting to see the errors you’re making.

    Let me give it one more try. And be as simple as I can.

    Giving my own recent gaff, I’m going to be circumspect, but just so you know this does come across as needlessly patronizing.

    Billions of years ago a replicator emerged. A biological entity.  Comprised of amino-acid, RNA, and other biological matter as well as atoms, particles, and possible more, adhering to the laws of physics. But its purpose was not just as a useless appendage so atoms could ”rearrange themselves” (they could do that anyway), it became more than that in purpose, or evolved to have a greater purpose.  Which was to replicate. Over billions of years, they evolved into ever more complex organisms. Organisms of amazing diversity and stunningly diverse forms. Some becoming far more sophisticated and conscious. Moving past the basic purpose of survival and passing on their genes. Eventually being able to create purpose and meaning in their life for themselves and study and understand the universe and atoms themselves (get that, organisms studying atoms is not atoms rearranging themselves, it’s human beings studying them and far beyond them). You know this. Coyne sure as hell knows this. I know this. Biological organisms, even at the most basic level, have a reason and purpose for their existence greater than atoms rearranging themselves.

    We do know this. Of course we know this, you said so yourself. Which should give you pause before you start pontificating.

    What you are describing is emergent phenomena, which does not contradict materialism or reductionism.  In those terms, the more are the abstract rules that govern the arrangement of atoms into, say, a functioning camera lens eye, over an unimaginably long time.  I certainly have no objection to invoking different levels of explanation for those processes, nor does Coyne, and I don’t think you have any objection to those processes being collapsible in principle into simpler ones (after all, the replicator abilities depend upon the nature of the particles that make it up and how they’re arranged).  If that was the kind of “more” that was being invoked, then I’d agree with you.

    But this isn’t relevant to what’s actually being discussed.  Haskell’s “more” isn’t the emergence of biological entities from the specific arrangements of their atomic constituents, nor of the emergence of biological laws from chemical ones.  What has the fact that replicators possess properties that entail natural selection got to do with his invoking ethics, under the claim that rights and values “are not made of atoms”, are “more than atoms rearranging themselves” and “are very hard to pin down”, and atheism, under the frankly nebulous claim that he “doesn’t know the answers” with the philosophical “certainty” of Dawkins?

    Evolution is not itself “made of atoms”, but it is a description of how huge and improbable accumulations of atoms rearrange themselves, and those explanations don’t imply that somehow we’d be better off if we described them purely by atomic arrangements (imagine the difficulties of describing social status in terms of the atoms of neurons).  Even the purpose and meaning that we create is a product of those various levels of atomic arrangement, from atoms to molecules to cellular structures to neurons to neural nets to brains to multiple brains.  If the “more” was just the abstract rearrangements of concrete material (i.e. “more than atoms” rather than “more than just atoms rearranging themselves”), then Haskell wouldn’t have had much problem using those examples which you are now citing in defence of him, which raises the question of why he didn’t just invoke those examples himself.

    I’d be perfectly happy to concede the point you are making in another context — that it’s “how” the atoms rearrange themselves that matter — but given Haskell’s actual examples, I can only conclude that your point is a gigantic and unhelpful digression, either a symptom of misunderstanding or a deliberate red herring.

    If you are going to carry on treating me like an idiot and won’t even meet me on that point, which I’ve gone to great lengths in making, and insist on the strawman of me trying to argue for something non-material or spiritual, then I’m not going to waste my time any further.I have no interest in needless adversarial debates when people don’t even listen to each other and understand points before replying.

    Well, hopefully my above paragraphs will make it clear that I have been addressing your point repeatedly, despite your protestations and despite the irrelevance of that point.  I am not necessarily saying that you are peddling woo, (personally I think you’ve just misunderstood the issue), but that Haskell is giving ground to such woo dishonestly.  To that effect, I will reiterate the points of contention that you seem to have unaccountably overlooked:

    Haskell’s distancing himself from Dawkins’ philosophical “certainty” and saying that he doesn’t know the answers is a smokescreen for agnostic accommodationism.  If his basis is simply scientific open-mindedness, then he is in the same boat as Dawkins and contradicting himself (or deliberately misrepresenting Dawkins).  If his basis differs from Dawkins’, then given the specifics of Dawkins’ own position, that means he has some reason for taking the opposite of atheism — namely theism — seriously, however meagre or humble this concession is, in which case his using ignorance to suggest such validity is an argument from ignorance.  If you disagree, please state why, but don’t keep ignoring this point.

    Haskell’s lack of basis for treating rights and values differently.  I’ve already pointed out that “being hard to pin down” means virtually nothing, and vis-a-vis atoms rearranging themselves his case would suggest that such things are a kind of extra ingredient, a kind of Platonic Realism position on ethics, hence the dualism-like criticisms.  If you argue that ethics are like biology and emerge out of smaller components, be my guest, but given our discussion on the materialist and reductionist positions, and given that Haskell invoked them as a reply to his “more than just atoms” comment, note that this is not likely to be his position just because it is yours.  The fact that he invokes it alongside his discussion of atheism is one reason to doubt, as the two are usually linked when some kind of dualistic woo peddling is going on.

    Those are the main two not-yet-addressed points I can think of at present.  I would be interested to see a reply to these points and not another digression, if you’d be so kind.

  50. The exact opposite.

    So by this you mean you approve of a dishonest means of argumentation?

    But it wasn’t a rhetorical question. Nicely swerved though.

    You mean this question below?

    Who in there right mind looks at life and just sees atoms rearranging themselves and no more beyond that?

    This question comes after a long digression in which you go out of your way to prove your atheist and pro-science credentials, includes an unnecessary and implicit appeal to flattery (“who in their right minds”), props up a straw man position and pretty much dares me to affirm it, ends as a pithy final parting shot to the post, and is practically screaming “The correct answer is: only a fool in his wrong mind”.  How is it not rhetorical?

    As for the “swerve”, I’ve been hitting this ball repeatedly into your court with my discussions on the “atoms” and “rearrangements” business since we began debating.  It would be nice if you actually tried a new style of shot and not simply repeat the same serve over and over.

  51.  
    Zeuglodon

    Here’s another example of that over-literalism at work.  Remember, you’re using this to justify a man’s invoking ethics and atheism, not obscure subatomic physics, against a charge of materialism from a guy
    who knows and has spoken with people who are physicists of all kinds and who is fully aware of this stuff.

    A bit like some of us understanding abiogenesis and biology, but un-blinded by science quotes, and well being capable of separating evidenced science from tagged-on assertions based on limited understanding.

    The persistent refusal to understand the basic definitions of words or concisely answer specific issues continues! -  Poe – inebriated by the exuberance of his own verbosity?

    “subatomic physics” = energies and particles SMALLER THAN atoms which form atoms.

    “more than atoms (rearranging themselves).” = in addition to, or GREATER than atoms.

  52. “In short, I think Coyne has grounds for suggesting Haskell is making “a
    drive-by snipe at Dawkins’s materialism and atheism”, though I wouldn’t
    put it in those words, and the comparative comment about his writing
    style and calling the comment a “diss” were out of order.  Haskell’s
    reply, for all that he insists Dawkins is an inspiration to him,
    consists of the usual “Dawkins has too much certainty” fallacy (yet
    failing to justify his own woolly agnosticism), an appeal to ignorance
    and personal incredulity when it comes to ethics, and the fact that
    Dawkins had to be invoked at all not because of biological issues but to
    set up the materialist discussion before going on about a “more” that
    he hasn’t justified.  This marks him out as yet another woolly
    accommodationist.”

    Right, though not sure calling the comment a “diss” is out of order.
    I must confess a fondness for the meme strength quality and cadence of the
    phrase:  DbDD – The Drive-by Dawkins Diss.  How useful it is as a
    shorthand reference to what professor Dawkins is continually being subjected. 
    And, more generally, as a reference to the universal cheap shot volleyed at all
    prominent public antitheists by lazy and/or unintelligent reporters, pundits,
    talk show hosts, interviewers and those masters of intellectual dishonesty:
    Sophisticated Theologians™.

    Rather than the somewhat gratuitous claim Coyne makes that Haskell pulls
    this move to boost sales of his book what might more likely be going on is
    another phenomenon that I have observed in many lesser (in sales, celebrity
    based on intellectual stature rather than mass popularity and, in my opinion,
    intellect) scientists, intellectuals, and writers addressing the leading
    antitheists:  The David vs. Goliath Syndrome where C, D and F
    listers the likes of, respectively, say, a Haskell, a Chopra, and a David Lane
    Craig hope to boost their credibility and stature by profiling themselves as righteous Davids taking on the antitheist Goliaths S.H., R.D., and the late C.H.  Although  it can still be argued that a byproduct of having your name mentioned in the same sentence of a giant can result in free publicity to sell more of your dreck.

  53. Well, it’s catchy, I’ll grant you that, but that doesn’t make it valid.  I don’t think the word “diss” is appropriate because it implies that Haskell was insulting his target, but it could just as easily be the case that Haskell is honestly disagreeing with Dawkins.  Dawkins is a pretty prominent figure who shaped many of the points around biology and atheism, so he’s the go-to guy for representing that position, however badly that representation is framed.  Dragging him in is tangential and suspect, but not clinching evidence that Haskell wants to make his own case by stealing someone’s publicity. It’s not like Haskell is making noise about a debate with him.

    A digression, maybe, but not necessarily a pre-planned or cynical one. Innocent until proven guilty, and all that.

    On the other hand, as Jos Gibbons points out in the reply to the blog, Haskell’s way of framing the subsequent reaction smacks of a persecution complex: “I’m just an honest scientist, why are you picking on my harmless little comment, thin-skinned reactionaries?”  Given that Coyne writes tens of blog entries a week dealing with this stuff whenever it occurs, it’s not like Coyne was going out of his way to name and shame Haskell (half of Coyne’s post was positive and he outright said the article was otherwise fine), so my sympathy is limited.  I don’t think it’s a cynical case of cashing in on a “David v. Goliath” appeal, just a guy reacting less than professionally to some criticism (and a couple of unnecessary digs at his writing style).

  54. A pretty obscure blog; I’ve never heard of it.  I did take a look, however, and while I was impressed with the points about Dawkins’ political naivety (I didn’t find his “I’m an atheist but” section entirely convincing, for example), overall the owner of that blog seems overeager to blow out of proportion whatever Dawkins says, writing paragraphs for an insight that could have been made less explosively (that Bertrand Russell digression was ridiculously overdone).
    In any case, see my previous comment on atheist characterization.

    It makes no difference if you’ve never heard of it. What about the points made the silly moral equivalences between homosexuals being crushed to death in Afghanistan with the homosexuality being criminalized in Britain some time last century, or the ludicrous inference that the American Christian right were the American version of the Taliban, instead choosing to focus on the Russell comparison. 

    Anyway, lets not discuss this further please. I have good reasons for being reticent to identify myself with other Atheist’s behavior and attitudes on the whole and perfectly entitled to have my views on the subject. I posted it because I don’t get my views from the media, and I’m not the only one to be appalled by the attitudes of a lot of the people I’ve encountered calling themselves atheists (with good reason, as a lot of the blog posts on that site identify very accurately as much if not better than the ones I could recount), who imagine themselves to free thinkers and rationalists, when they are anything but. You don’t not fit in this category at all. And I’m sure many others here do not. It doesn’t change my view on a lot I’ve encountered in my own experience.

    See?  You seem to think Coyne is a greedy reductionist.  But given Haskell’s responses, and why the phrase “more than just atoms” is usually invoked (during a biology discussion no less), it turns out he has reason to be sceptical.  Let me point this out and make it clearer:  Haskell isn’t talking about obscure physics, dark matter, subatomic particles, the four fundamental forces, the big bang, emergent phenomena, holism, or evolution.  Coyne has just been at a conference with other scientists talking about such issues; he’s hardly giving Haskell a hard time because of physics, and he even went to the trouble of making the implication clear in a parenthesis that the phrase “more than just atoms” represented materialism.  When asked for examples, Haskell provided “values and rights”, which is a nod to ethics, and atheism, specifically Dawkins’ philosophical “certainty”

    Having paid money to buy Coyne’s book, and having great admiration of it, the last thing I think of Coyne, overall, as a scientist is as a greedy reductionist on the whole. He took what we have gleaned collectively through the scientific method of reductionism that has allowed us to detail in magnificent depth our origins over billions of years and give a great overall picture about why evolution is true and presented the evidence very adeptly. That isn’t my position on him overall.

    But that doesn’t mean he is above making incorrect statements. The statement he made was, to me, a form of greedy reductionism in the sense that Dennett coined the term:

    in their eagerness for a bargain, in their zeal to explain too much too fast, scientists and philosophers … underestimate the complexities, trying to skip whole layers or levels of theory in their rush to fasten everything securely and neatly to the foundation

    Haskell was perhaps alluding to something other, who knows. Perhaps in the Einsteinian sense. Perhaps in the sense Stuart Kaufmaan mentioned. Perhaps he is just suspicious of greedy reductionist statements themselves as explanations and thinks more complete explanations are required. Perhaps he does believe in the story of Genesis and believes in magic and fairies. Perhaps he thinks as yet, we can only explain these things about the world but not the *ultimate origin*, but we sometimes are too hasty to pretend we can, and that could be said to require a kind of leap of faith to ultimately conclude that beyond doubt. I don’t know.

    But I was addressing Coyne’s response. An authoritative statement that to suspect the world is more than just atoms rearranging themselves is denial of materialism. Which, to be reasonable, and address in the way you are speaking about the remark and not my contention with, isn’t ultimately impossible to know anyway (not as yet anyway). It’s as best as we know. Looks the most likely. But until we can peer into the void beyond the big bang (and possibly even far further if our universe is one of many infinite others), into that eternal void that gave rise to existence, which despite the book title from Krauss suggests, we can’t yet, with 100% certainty, know what is there beyond all doubt. We can certainly know that any claims that have been put forward by mankind so far, and their various ideas of one are nonsense. But being weary of scientists who claim with absolute authority to know, is not necessarily to even be evoking woo or the idea of some personal god, or a god in the gaps. It’s just questioning the certainty of those who claim to know beyond all doubt. That doesn’t entail denying our current knowledge of how the world works, what’s it made of, the laws that govern it, the inception and creation of the Cosmos, and all the facts we do know beyond doubt.

    This isn’t a rhetorical question. Please answer it though. Does Coyne know beyond all doubt, can he prove beyond all doubt, the real origins of existence? Please don’t swerve, avoid of explain away that question, mention woo, god did it, god in the gaps, the supernatural or anything else, can’t prove a negative, or claim I am saying that he thinks he can himself, or that Dawkin’s doesn’t claim that or whatever else. Please just answer it as it is. Just a yes or no. Thanks.

  55. Underground906
    I’ve had enough of this Alan, and won’t be engaging in your nonsense any further. What I’m claiming is fact.

    A made-up “fact” with no evidence of what it might be! ?
    I have seen so many from woo-merchants and Poes – all full of magical “purpose”.

      Organisms have a more ordered
    purpose than simply atoms rearranging themselves, despite being constituents of them,

     

    So you keep asserting but fail to produce ANY scientific evidence.  Just personal asserted incredulity that it must be so because you can’t see the joined up picture and don’t understand the biochemistry.

    and of particles, energy and physics, hence the whole field of evolution to explain their existence and evolution.

     

    You have presented NOTHING to indicate that the evolution of the universe from the inflation of the big-bang to the evolution of modern living organisms is anything other than the physics and chemistry of atoms and energy.

    You totally ignored everything else in the sentence or proceeding paragraph after that to try to stir up the ”something more”,

     

    I try to avoid irrelevant sidetracking and keep to the point of the discussion.  THE LACK OF EVIDENCE FOR “SOMETHING MORE” and your persistent failure to produce evidence supporting your assertions, IS THE ISSUE with extensive twisting and turning in yards of verbosity evading it.

      ignoring the scientific evidence for the point I myself was making.

     

    You haven’t presented any “scientific evidence” . – Just a simplistic misunderstanding of chemical complexity and personal incredulity about awe inspiring science .

    It’s just totally dishonesty and playing to the crowd I feel.

    Yep!  Still ducking the issues and projecting!

      Playing the rational informed scientist versus the woo merchant, which is
    offensive and noxious bullshit. I dislike a lot of atheists for their character and attitude, not beliefs.

     

    Still full of assertive rhetoric of no substance! 
    If your arguments are the same as those of woo-merchants, and you don’t like informed objective people pointing this out to you:-

    – get some better arguments based on science.

  56. So by this you mean you approve of a dishonest means of argumentation?

    No. I understand the temptation people have on their home court to put on a rally, to put on a show, to trounce the ”outsider”, and they can try to do that on their home court with impunity and not be called out as the home crowd will side with them anyway no matter the point or how silly it is, but please stop this mode of debate where you simply twist everything I say and give what you think are clever answers which seek to discredit me as irrational and clueless every which way with baseless inferences.

    I drew a distinction between rhetoric as a literary device as a means to get points across to an audience and logical argumentation. It has its place, and there can be great skill in it in persuading people. But there are areas where it doesn’t fit. Such as a serious philosophical argument for something. Dawkins has many of those too, and perhaps more than and better than most has displayed them in his books on evolutionary biology and against religion. But some are not arguments in that sense and when used as a replacement for them, and confuse rhetoric with proper argument. But using rhetoric for it’s own sake, to be persuasive and capture the attention and get other people engaged, I don’t disprove of. And admire Dawkins a lot in that regard. 

    But as I mentioned earlier, with the false equivalences given as arguments, that isn’t always the case. And there is perhaps good reason for not everyone swallowing everything the God Delusion says. 

    You mean this question below?Who in there right mind looks at life and just sees atoms rearranging themselves and no more beyond that?

    Yes. I meant that. 

    This question comes after a long digression in which you go out of your way to prove your atheist and pro-science credentials, includes an unnecessary and implicit appeal to flattery (“who in their right minds”), props up a straw man position and pretty much dares me to affirm it, ends as a pithy final parting shot to the post, and is practically screaming “The correct answer is: only a fool in his wrong mind”.  How is it not rhetorical?

    It wasn’t rhetorical because I genuinely expected you to answer it. Instead you’ve distanced yourself from it and circumnavigated it to imply something else. It has nothing to do with trying to display my credentials. I wanted to quash the stupid ideas I was someone arguing against atheism myself from some antithetical, anti-material position of belief. I couldn’t be more clear about my aversion to calling myself  ”one of the gang”, alot of whom gain their so called rationality vicariously through great thinkers like Dawkin’s and others but just parroting him word for word for the most part.

     The answer to the question was no one does. And why not? Because there is far more purpose and far more complexity, given the emergence of this thing called consciousness and humanity than than, which can create greater purpose for its possessor’s existence than atoms rearranging. Atoms can’t  observe themselves rearranging themselves. There is more complexity than that. Which can’t, post-hoc, be then said to be just atoms rearranging. It’s denies anything subjective. 

    Like the purpose of life may really be, in a factual sense, for the propagation of DNA, like Dawkin’s says, but we have got to the point of transcending just that purpose.

    You and Alan have, pretty obviously, been arguing (based on arguing for the supposed truth of the statement made) that  despite all the rest and everything else involved, and both acknowledging that – clearly understanding the greater complexity, it all goes back to atoms rearranging themselves and no more, and defending Coyne’s assertion. Later adding in he knew this, but still arguing for the truth of the assertion with post-hoc and circular reasoning.

     My arguments or positions pertaining to the complexity and self-organization of the biosphere and human culture and economy fell flat. Was dismissed or equated to atoms rearranging themselves, just elaborations for why it is. Going in the other direction, to the subatomic level and beyond, my arguments were equally rebuked and dismissed in the same fashion; as pointing to being ultimately no more than atoms rearranging themselves.  So everything that has emerged from them is then just atoms rearranging themselves is what has been argued for in actuality. Meaning their is no straw man. There is no me simply misunderstanding and getting Coyne out of context. I know Coyne understands science, it had been your arguments that I think Coyne is ignorant of.

    That was false assumption. He didn’t use parentheses to doubt that, but as a direct quote. And then despite  his scientific understanding that should have prevented him from making that claim, basically said it was an explicit denial of materialism think there was anything more than that. It’s false and greedy reductionist statement, if just left as the question ‘what more is there than atoms rearranging’ on it’s own. Than it is an obviously logical one to ask and seek further understanding. But to abut is with the claim that to think any different, which is to claim there is nothing more than atoms rearranging themselves, and to deny that is a an explicit denial of materialism, thereby equating materialism to be simply being ”atoms rearranging themselves”, makes a claim itself. and that despite his scientific knowledge and understanding, thinks everything reduced to that.

    A false claim. Like I’ve clearly shown. 

    So hung up and pompous in showing off how scientifically literate you are and how stupid I am, you’ve missed this equating of everything to nothing more than atoms rearranging themselves, of bestowing upon atoms and their rearrangement of themselves everything in life itself, of creating the laws of physics themselves – which would not be able to function without non-atomic material and anti matter, or perhaps dark energy, and the laws of physics themselves etc, in order for this world to even come about – while thinking you were arguing against the notion of atoms rearranging themselves, and saying yes, yes, yes, there is all this, but it is still all just atoms rearranging themselves – granted, into far greater variety and complexity then their parts, with many different ways of doing that, but it is still no more than atoms rearranging. It’s circular reasoning. 

    As for the “swerve”, I’ve been hitting this ball repeatedly into your court with my discussions on the “atoms” and “rearrangements” business since we began debating.  It would be nice if you actually tried a new style of shot and not simply repeat the same serve over and over.

     

    I have, many times. But I content that there is more to it by way of explanation than that, more involved to life and the world. You say yes there is, we obviously know this, there is far more complexity to this thing called existence  than that, but still defending  the premise ”atoms rearranging themselves”, despite knowing that they do that in a diverse and bewildering variety of different ways, which is no even rearranging, attract or repelling given their environment or forces acting on them, with many other elements involved of physics involved, despite giving rise to biological organisms and complexity of a greater magnitude and purpose to their existence than just the atoms of the periodic table when combining in certain combinations make by themselves, what the rest of those things involve, and coming full circle and saying it is just atoms rearranging themselves. A circular argument that I can’t break, despite efforts to do that, that defends the greedy reductionist statement ”atoms rearranging themselves”, while disingenuously arguing about everything else involved, (which just proves my very simple contention). 

    On the offensive grounds that I must be too stupid to know that Coyne actually knows there is more than that. Or that I need lectures because I supposedly don’t understand all matter is made up of atoms. The fact is it a flawed premise in itself, because more is involved and just that point proves it wrong. There is more purpose (not some divine, but evolutionary purpose) that have emerged to things in the world than atoms rearranging. To say the purpose and existence of an elephant is atoms rearranging themselves is patently absurd BS. Instead of admit  it you engage in double-think and circular reasoning. Reducing all emergent phenomena, the vast magnitude of it, the purpose and form and behavior for them that has sprung up from the interplay of atoms and other forces, by way of defending that false premise, as being atoms rearranging themselves. Every trick in the book but to have some intellectual honesty and meet me on that fact.

    Without them, of course there would not be any more to them on the planet. But they belong to a causal change that is far greater, and has produced far great complexity than simple gases, liquids and solids like air, water, and other inanimate matter. And that belong to a reality and breathtaking  totality of existence that no one on earth has a definitive, final answer on.It is because of that circular argument you have just batter everything back or swerved them.

  57. Those are the main two not-yet-addressed points I can think of at present.  I would be interested to see a reply to these points and not another digression, if you’d be so kind.

    This is a good post, and I’d be happy to reply in full when I can. There’s a little bit of cross-posting going on and it’s hard to keep up. But you’re right, you aren’t totally ignoring my arguments and are being reasonable (I didn’t read this one until after replying with my last one). Thanks for that. We are not arguing on totally different things, just different interpretations. I will respond when I can.

  58. From David Haskell’s link

      http://davidhaskell.wordpress…. 
    @rdfrs-518b6a18d5fde1cde50d826df88f2aba:disqus
    1. Comment about atoms. Ethical claims (about species extinction, human rights, etc) are not, to my knowledge, fully derivable from the laws of physics, chemistry, or biology.

    Yet I “deeply suspect” some ethical claims reflect more than the passing whims of nervous systems and might,
    therefore, have some kind of objective nature.

    I am not sure what “ethical claims” or “human rights”have to do with forest ecology, but in his reply, he is quite clearly talking about his personal mental perceptions rather than the atoms of the physical environment originally mentioned.  (Neurologists might disagree with his speculation about the atoms in brains producing thoughts.)

    What that nature is, I do not know, but it seems unlikely to be made out of atoms.
    I’m the first to admit that the suspicions that I harbor might just be feelings in an evolved ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬
    brain and nothing more. But
    perhaps not.

    Human “feelings”! as a method of scientific study of evolutionary ecology in forests?? Maybe and maybe not??

    As my book’s Preface makes abundantly clear, I used an idea taken directly from religious traditions
    ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬

    Religious traditions – (Nah! that couldn’t be woo?? Could it??)

      – the potential insights offered by contemplative practice, a practice that has an important role in my life
    – and applied it to observation of the ecology of a forest.
    ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬
    Mine is a markedly different attitude toward the biology-religion relationship than has been advocated by Dawkins. ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬

    The “Biology – Religion relationship” – who would have associated this with woo???

    Underground906 – Still projecting and in deep denial??

  59. This update sheds new light on what he meant. But what exactly do you think I was in denial of? I said earlier in the thread he could have meant anything, it would be good to get clarification, that I couldn’t say, but that I was taking issue with what Coyne said in response. 

    I don’t agree with him or share his beliefs – the ethical question is the one of the main ones that made me give up all notions such as his, but to me he’s quite entitled to have them, except I’d be concerned if he was going to start offering assertions and make pseudo-scientific claims in the book.

    I don’t actually give a shit if he took a meditative, contemplative practice from what is often referred to as a religious tradition like Buddhism or Taoist to take a contemplative approach. I’ve gone over that. Many great scientists have taken a contemplative approach and it has produced insights. It was his book, and it is his life. It has gotten some great feedback. I made clear long ago I don’t know what he meant, he could have meant anything, but that I was going on the statement made by Coyne.

    I think he is flawed completely on the ethics thing, thinking that they may exist.

  60. If the god that you’re imagining presupposes a fundamental ontological division between humans and other creatures

    He’s right there. Has no belief in it. 

    But if by “god” you mean the idea that ethical statements might reflect some kind of objective reality in the universe the needle does not know what to do, but is inclined to remain low, listening

    This I sympathize with, when scientists or people who learn about the world through science studying the world are just so awed by it and the natural world and universe, the mysteries of it. 

    I don’t think he deserves abuse and ridicule for that position. But of course, he does become a target for people who like to do so.

  61. Underground906
    This update sheds new light on what he meant. But what exactly do you think I was in denial of? I said earlier in the thread he could have meant anything, it would be good to get clarification

    The problem is it is not a new update. 

    It is a very old update (5th comment) from before you entered the discussion. 

    Some of us read it BEFORE making comments which pointed out the woo aspects of his claims.

    http://richarddawkins.net/news

    You seem to have gone into denial of his immaterial woo, – and at great length – without reading the earlier posts or the link.

    I explained the position of  Haskell’s pseudoscience here: -  http://richarddawkins.net/news

  62. Some of us read it BEFORE making comments which pointed out the woo aspects of his claims

    You make me laugh Alan. Your eccentricity is actually quite endearing. None of us spotted that initially. There has been no mention of it despite a few of us combing over it for more info. Do you know why it wasn’t mentioned? Because that comes from an update he posted to his blog on the 31st of October. He made a post  on that date in the blog comments then edited his initial post and posted it there too. Or maybe just before he also posted the blog comment further down the comments section. But it comes from that date.

    Some of us read BEFORE making comments, Alan? ;)

    Where is the proof of psuedo-science in this book itself Alan? You haven’t READ it have you?

  63. Underground906

    Some of us read it BEFORE making comments which pointed out the woo aspects of his claims

    You make me laugh Alan. Your eccentricity is actually quite endearing. None of us spotted that initially.
    ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬
    There has been no mention of it despite a few of us combing over it for more info.
    ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬
    Do you know why it wasn’t mentioned? Because that comes from an update he posted to his blog on the 31st of October. He made a post  on that date in the blog comments then edited his initial post and posted it there too. Or maybe just before he also posted the blog comment further down the comments section. But it comes from that date.

    Some of us read BEFORE making comments, Alan? ;)

    Another foot-shooting gem of projection, with the  trolling bluster and rhetorical buffoonery of pontificating while failing to check information, understand, or present relevant evidence!! 

    None of us spotted that initially.

    Really??? – So you didn’t read or understand Jos’s comment on the original link either! -  ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬
    http://richarddawkins.net/news
    Not to mention a lot of comments being written since 31Oct!

    Jos Gibbons

      DGHaskell-  [The piece] has inflamed some sensitive nerves

    I’ve read quite a few criticisms of the piece, but none seemed to fit this description. Such unsubstantiated accounts of criticisms seem to arise frequently in responses to them. I have written one such criticism myself, and now I’m posting another; did either bear the alleged features?
    ▬▬▬▬▬▬
    Coyne criticised an anti-Dawkins stance of Haskell’s which he did read, even if he didn’t read the book as a whole. This entitles him to give his views on it.

     

    Couldn’t understand even this piece?????

     
    Underground906
    Where is the proof of psuedo-science in this book itself Alan? You haven’t READ it have you?

    How many times do I need to repeat the quoted section as you troll on, wilfully refusing to understand it ! – Even after the woo elements have been clarified.

  64. Right, I’m going to lump my replies into one post, because a trifurcation is only going to cause confusion.  In any case, let’s see if we can’t reduce the post size somewhat.

    Firstly, trying to load a question and then insist I answer it isn’t the hallmark of a reasonable discussion.  Before you shout “aha”, this isn’t me being evasive, this is me trying to bring the discussion back on track.  For a start, this “question” is irrelevant to the original point.  Of course no one knows, but where does Coyne’s comment imply that he believes “beyond all doubt” a certain idea of the real origins of existence, when no physicist does and he didn’t even mention it, and why bring it up when we’re discussing the more-than-atomry business (which you’re still misunderstanding)?  This isn’t about Coyne’s 100% certainty versus Haskell’s scientific scepticism on any position in any case, because there’s no evidence Coyne is being 100% certain about anything.  He’s expressed scepticism about Haskell’s claim to there being “more than atoms rearranging themselves” in the form of an observation and a question, and Haskell’s position isn’t scientific scepticism different from Dawkins’ despite his protestations that it is.  It faces the fork I mentioned earlier, and which, yet again, you still haven’t replied to.

    Secondly, you never once made the distinction between different forms of rhetoric.  You have repeatedly suggested Dawkins has used “clever” rhetoric “to cause controversy”, and been accused of rhetoric by Alan and myself.  I know this because I actually checked your previous posts for this clarification.  It’s coming across as you fabricating the history of this debate to defend yourself by any means necessary.

    Thirdly, has it occurred to you that we might be talking at cross-purposes rather than digging in our heels?  Your subsequent comments are still labouring under the idea that I must be defending the explicit claim that it’s all exclusively atoms moving around (by being elastic about the definition), that I can’t invoke “purpose” without breaking that claim, and that dark matter and so on are automatic disproof of my (and Coyne’s) claim.  I’ve already pointed out that Coyne even added in parentheses what this means (that it’s about materialism and not exclusive atomry), which you could only misunderstand by being overliteral, and I pointed out that Haskell’s own response (which have nothing to do with those obscure science branches you keep invoking to knock down a straw position) confirms it.

    Your obsession with atoms should, at the very least, be put into question when you consider that Coyne also added “unless he is religious” before asking that question about “more”, which should have clued you in; if you still think we’re trying to call dark matter “atoms” akin to carbon and nitrogen ones, then you aren’t getting the materialist position here at all.  The reason your arguments are “falling flat” is not because we’re knocking you down to score “home points” or conspiring against you, but because they’re based on a straw premise which you got by twisting Coyne’s words out of context, and we’re trying to show you why this is wrong.

    Next, you jump on “complexity”, “purpose” (evolutionary and personal), and what seems to be conscious subjectivity to disprove the idea.  For the umpteenth time, these aren’t counters except to greedy reductionism, which nobody here is agreeing to — but which no one is arguing for in the first place, not even Coyne.  They are fully compatible with hierarchical reductionism (that the building blocks of one field of science — biology, say — are unpacked and their parts examined in another — chemistry, say) and so are emergent properties, which can only come about by lower-level phenomena much like the properties of the number 2 come about without being anything more than “one plus one”.

    The whole reason-to-be of evolution by natural selection is that it had to explain the improbable arrangements of atoms that make up, say, a fully functioning eye.  The “rearrange” part is incredibly complex, much like the simple Arabic number system gives rise to several incredible branches of mathematics.  Of course the phrase “atoms rearranging themselves” doesn’t do it justice any more than “just doing things with numbers” does justice to mathematics.  But, as I’ve already said, that’s because it’s bland and generic way to phrase a real phenomenon, not because it’s factually wrong, and it certainly isn’t because Coyne or I are trying to reform biology until it tries to explain sexual selection in terms of atoms.  Once again, you are debating a straw position.

    That straw position comes to the fore when you start suggesting that I’m turning all the other scientific fields into “just-atoms-rearranging”.  I’m not saying dark matter is literally made of atoms, or that function and purpose are themselves made of atoms.  I’m saying that, for the materialist basis on which Coyne actually put the question, as opposed to a religious counter, they are fully compatible with his position.  It doesn’t help your position that Haskell himself knew what Coyne meant and answered accordingly (with ethics in this case).

    My point was that Haskell’s answers to Coyne — his real answers that actually paid attention to the question, not your red herrings — were flawed, firstly because he assumes ethics is distinct from all that materialism found in the sciences (he’s welcome to be agnostic to it, but if he’s going to postulate a more then he needs to show what that “more” is without appealing to fallacious logic or faulty premises), and secondly because his answer to the atheism point is ambiguous and either contradicts his position or raises the question of his concession to theism. 

    I will look into your answers to either of these points, and in the meantime ask that you behave civilly and stop trying to second-guess other posters’ motives, intelligence, and partisanship.  If you want to be treated as intelligent, you aren’t going to get it by impugning, insulting, and patronising others.  And before you come back with a “tu quoque”, I’ve done my best to refrain from making personal comments by tackling the points on their own merits, and have so far simply assumed that you’ve misunderstood the issue.

  65.  Another very clearly explained  post.

    Zeuglodon
    …….. ..   and that dark matter and so on are automatic disproof of my (and Coyne’s) claim.

    I had originally avoided the “dark-matter” issue, to avoid side-tracking the discussion away from forest ecology and perceptions of forest ecology.

    The dark-matter debate is essentially about measurements of gravity on a galactic and universal scale.  It’s introduction does look like diversionary gapology, but I am open to evidence.

    Forest ecology is about the physics of thermodynamics and  interacting NTP biochemistry on Earth.
    Earth is located in the Solar system where measurements based on  gravity:-  orbits, tides, planetary transits, eclipses and landing rovers on Mars, can be measured to an accuracy of minutes or seconds.

    I would therefore require evidence of some connection of the relevance of “dark-matter” to the subject of NTP forest biology. – Especially when the author of the book has pointed out his comments relate to religion and his mental states.

    is not because we’re knocking you down to score “home points”

    The assertion of “home points”  is probably just a repetition of the earlier moderator deleted comment and link, which was just an assertive conspiracy theory of a “Dawkins Cult” :-
    Possible compounded by contrasting profile “likes” from a rational audience. (Not that “likes”, are a guarantee of rational commenting.)

  66. Thank you for the compliment.  I don’t want to equate the number of likes with strength of argument, though; on the discrepancy, I think it has more to do with our fellow poster’s verbal behaviour than with any particular epistemological point he’s making.

    Taking it at face value, I think it’s pretty evident that dark matter is irrelevant to forest ecology, for the simple fact that you don’t need it to explain photosynthesis, ecological niches, and the like.  But let’s not forget what this debate is about: ethics and godhood, or if Haskell’s recent update is to be taken seriously, the pointless and weaselly redefining of “god” as moral realism, which just makes his distancing from Dawkins even more peculiar than it was before he said that (and his accommodationism even more apparent). This is especially so when he avoids the most obvious definitions of an interventionist, deist, pantheist etc. god in his update.

  67. I have to admit I’m with Underground906 on this one, though.  Exactly how does Jos’ point show that he was aware of the first update (the one Haskell lifted verbatim straight from his posts in the comment section) or even the second (in which he finally summarizes his position, or at least part of it, and which doesn’t seem to have been in the posts verbatim).  Moreover, Jos’ comment was at least one day before that update.  If you mean we’ve been talking about the generic points, maybe, but there’s nothing specifically referring to it until you brought it up 16 hours ago. Certainly, Jos hasn’t been quoting from it.

  68. @rdfrs-c921af68ee69b4ac12b758cad5d58ae9:disqus

    I have to admit I’m with Underground906 on this one, though.  Exactly how does Jos’ point show that he was aware of the first update

    I certainly initially missed spotting that the link had been upgraded, but Jos had made the religious point from his very first post, – as had others in subsequent posts.

     @rdfrs-94eef595516e850328cbd8c1aced7f1f:disqus  Indeed, the “drive by” description of it is apt, because references to RD seem to be inexorable in every single religion-discussing op-ed these days (with the exception of most accounts of news events), no matter how unrelated he is to them.

    Jos also claimed to have looked up various sites with criticisms which DH seemed to have misrepresented in his replies, so I thought he had looked at the blog as well:-

      @JosGibbons:disqus  – I’ve read quite a few criticisms of the piece, but none seemed to fit this description. Such unsubstantiated accounts of criticisms seem to arise frequently in responses to them. – http://richarddawkins.net/news… 

    Sorry, it was my mistake if this was not the case.
    Perhaps I was somewhat irritated at the persistent misreading of posts and refusals to understand plain English – Should have stayed cooler.

  69. Here is a list of scientific terms to clarify issues, as there seem to be some misunderstandings of the basic science:-
    ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬
    Ecology:  The study of ecosystems explaining the interactions of living organisms -  with each other – and with their physical environment.

    Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) MOLECULES are informational molecules encoding the genetic instructions used in the life-forms on Earth, development, and functioning of all known LIFE FORMS on Earth.

    A MOLECULE is the smallest particle in a chemical element or compound that has the chemical properties of that element or compound. Molecules are made up of ATOMS .

    THE ATOM definition is:
    A unit of matter, the smallest unit of an ELEMENT, having all the characteristics of that element and consisting of a dense, central, positively charged nucleus surrounded by a system of electrons. The entire structure has an approximate diameter of 10^-8 centimeters and characteristically remains undivided in chemical reactions except for limited removal, transfer, or exchange of certain electrons. Essentially, it is the smallest possible part of an element that still remains the element. http://www.universetoday.com/5

     MATERIAL  –   http://dictionary.reference.co
      noun
    1. the substance or substances of which a thing is made or composed:  Stone is a durable material.
    2. anything that serves as crude or raw matter to be used or developed: Wood pulp is the raw material from which paper is made.
    3. any constituent ELEMENT. 

    MORE = greater than or in addition to.

    DENIAL  – [dinī′əl]  – http://medical-dictionary.thef… 

    a defense mechanism in which the existence of unpleasant internal or external realities is denied and kept out of conscious awareness. By keeping the stressors out of consciousness, they are prevented from causing anxiety.

    ineffective denial –
    a nursing diagnosis accepted by the North American Nursing Diagnosis Association, defined as denial that is detrimental to health when a person makes a conscious
    or unconscious attempt to disavow the meaning or even the knowledge of an event in order to reduce anxiety or fear.

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