12 COMMENTS

  1. A standard interview with a reasonably bright young man. I’m pleased that RD takes time out to do these things, “one convert at a time.” The last question was interesting: asking RD what he would like to be remembered for – I think his natural modesty got in the way of a clear answer. What do the denizens of this site think they would answer in RD’s place?

  2. I can sense that RD could provoke the wrath of philosophers the minute he states that concepts like evolution are “true”. I can hear the chorus of dissent from my friends with a philosophical bent. “You can’t say that!” They assert in unison.

    Is there some way that RD could frame his answers to appease this school of thought? Perhaps start a branch of philosophy with the scientific method at its core? That’s how I deal with folk with such a mindset myself, but perhaps it could be given the stamp of approval at some level.

    Maybe such a discipline already exists and I am simply ignorant of this fact. I do have to deal with those arguing from a different perspective quite frequently and I’d like more ammunition to counter their line of debate.

    • In reply to #2 by Nitya:

      I can sense that RD could provoke the wrath of philosophers the minute he states that concepts like evolution are “true”. I can hear the chorus of dissent from my friends with a philosophical bent. “You can’t say that!” They assert in unison.

      Is there some way that RD could frame his answers to appease this school of thought? Perhaps start a branch of philosophy with the scientific method at its core? That’s how I deal with folk with such a mindset myself, but perhaps it could be given the stamp of approval at some level.

      Maybe such a discipline already exists and I am simply ignorant of this fact. I do have to deal with those arguing from a different perspective quite frequently and I’d like more ammunition to counter their line of debate.

      ” concepts like evolution are “true” “

      Aren’t facts true? Evolution, the change in allele frequency over time in a population of organisms is an observed and observable fact. That much is true!

    • In reply to #2 by Nitya:

      I can sense that RD could provoke the wrath of philosophers the minute he states that concepts like evolution are “true”. I can hear the chorus of dissent from my friends with a philosophical bent. “You can’t say that!” They assert in unison.

      The answer is that that the claim that “you can’t say that”, is an unevidenced assertion based on personal ignorance. It looks like they are “theosophers” posing as philosophers or postmodernist air-heads, who discount scientific “expert opinions” and think all opinions are equal, regardless whether they are informed opinions or not!

      “Evolution” is a well confirmed scientific theory, which is as soundly established as the theory of gravity. In other words it is as well evidenced as anything else which is regarded as fact – and better than many things regarded as fact!

      Is there some way that RD could frame his answers to appease this school of thought?

      There is no point in appeasing ignorance or flawed irrational thinking! They should be educated or their arguments refuted.

      Perhaps start a branch of philosophy with the scientific method at its core?

      There is no need to start what has long been historically established! “Natural philosophy” IS science!

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural-philosophy

      Natural philosophy or the philosophy of nature (from Latin philosophia naturalis) was the philosophical study of nature and the physical universe that was dominant before the development of modern science. It is considered to be the precursor of natural sciences such as physics.

      Natural science historically developed out of philosophy or, more specifically, natural philosophy. At older universities, long-established Chairs of Natural Philosophy are nowadays occupied mainly by physics professors. Modern meanings of the terms science and scientists date only to the 19th century. The naturalist-theologian William Whewell was the one who coined the term “scientist”. The Oxford English Dictionary dates the origin of the word to 1834. Before then, the word “science” meant any kind of well-established knowledge and the label of scientist did not exist. Some examples of the application of the term “natural philosophy” to what we today would call “natural science” are Isaac Newton’s 1687 scientific treatise, which is known as The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy and Lord Kelvin and Peter Guthrie Tait’s 1867 treatise called Treatise on Natural Philosophy which helped define much of modern physics.

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      @Nitya: – Maybe such a discipline already exists and I am simply ignorant of this fact. I do have to deal with those arguing from a different perspective quite frequently and I’d like more ammunition to counter their line of debate.

      As you will see above:- natural philosophy has existed for a long time. The problem is, that what is taught as “philosophy” in theology colleges, is often the irrational rump end of the historical subject, after the science and reasoned scientific methodology has been taken out of it , – leaving only a few classical imponderable questions and theological confused thinking! Those who cannot follow scientific methodology are simply incompetent at philosophy and logical thought.

      They may of course have been erroneously taught, that theological obfuscation and various fallacies, are philosophical modes of thought!!!

      • In reply to #4 by Alan4discussion:

        I have had a long discussion with someone online (another student on the Coursera Astrobiology course, actually) based on this philosophical approach to ‘truth’. He’s a philosophically-inclined interpretive archaeologist, and his arguments for everything (incuding the ‘ancient astronauts’ theory, abiogenesis, etc) hinge on this; any theory has equal weight to any other.

        Trying to get him to acknowledge on any level that this is fallacious thinking when it comes to scientific principles has almost driven me to drink.

        People like this are like fundamentalists in a lot of ways; no matter how strong your argument they can turn it around in their own heads to make their position seem stronger. Getting into a dialogue is pretty pointless as far as making them think is concerned, I’ve found.

        • _In reply to #5 by bob-e-s;

          I have had a long discussion with someone online (another student on the Coursera Astrobiology course, actually) based on this philosophical approach to ‘truth’. He’s a philosophically-inclined interpretive archaeologist, and his arguments for everything (including the ‘ancient astronauts’ theory, abiogenesis, etc) hinge on this; any theory has equal weight to any other.

          Trying to get him to acknowledge on any level that this is fallacious thinking when it comes to scientific principles has almost driven me to drink.

          This postmodernist “all opinions are equal” nonsense was prevalent at one time with obfuscating drivel being presented as “philosophy”!

          The best debunking I have seen is the postmodernist generator! – http://www.elsewhere.org/pomo/ Be sure to read the piece at the bottom of the page!

          “On the Simulation of Postmodernism and Mental Debility Using Recursive Transition Networks”.

          Conspiracy theorists are very like YECs and other science deniers.

          People like this are like fundamentalists in a lot of ways; no matter how strong your argument they can turn it around in their own heads to make their position seem stronger. Getting into a dialogue is pretty pointless as far as making them think is concerned, I’ve found.

          I have to agree. The contorted thinking and fallacies just troll round and round.

    • Confused people who can’t think straight describes “group selection” perfectly! :D Enjoyed that.

      In reply to #2 by Nitya:

      If you don’t believe in absolute or revealed Truth then there really isn’t any other way left to use the term “true”.

      Evolution is true. Science is a method for getting at truth.

  3. In reply to #1 by stuhillman:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think Professor Dawkins made it pretty clear. He wants to be remembered for THE SELFISH GENE. The book and the idea that is, not just the title.

  4. Thank you for your suggestions. I think bob-e-s #5, really knows what I’m up against. Irrespective to my reply, the same old answer comes up…”truth is relative. What if the universe was just a slide on a giant’s microscope. We’ve been wrong before,” sort of thing. Needless to say, I mention the fact that scientific reasoning has managed to double our lifespan , rendered infectious diseases impotent and taken human beings to the moon ect. However, it doesn’t seem to placate their mindset.

    What is being taught, I’d like to know? At some stage , we need to just accept that science seems to be working, so it is a reasonable basis with which to start a specific branch of philosophy. I think that post modernism is past its used by date , and needs to be replaced by some higher order , rational line of thinking.

    • In reply to #10 by Nitya:

      Thank you for your suggestions. I think bob-e-s #5, really knows what I’m up against. Irrespective to my reply, the same old answer comes up…”truth is relative.

      This is an indication of the detached unreality of their mind set. If you are debating how many angels can dance on a pin head – then all opinions ARE equal!

      If you are debating what steel structures should be used in constructing a bridge, or what designs are needed to land a rover on Mars, then wishful opinions of the obfuscating verbosity specialists, are blatantly and obviously, unequal to those of the scientists and engineers.

      What if the universe was just a slide on a giant’s microscope. We’ve been wrong before,” sort of thing.

      This is just blitherings! They usually have no idea about WHY anything was right or wrong. They are uncritically just parroting wildly speculative stuff they read as if its confirmation was probable.
      Probabilities mean nothing to people who can’t do the maths or the science.

      Needless to say, I mention the fact that scientific reasoning has managed to double our lifespan , rendered infectious diseases impotent and taken human beings to the moon ect. However, it doesn’t seem to placate their mindset.

      It wouldn’t! Their egos demand that their opinions are recognised as as valid as all others in all subjects, and with Dunning-Kruger ignorance, they are too ignorant to see any problem with this.

      What is being taught, I’d like to know?

      All sorts of garbage is being taught in theology colleges. Some of their students come here to show off their assortment of fallacies!

      At some stage , we need to just accept that science seems to be working, so it is a reasonable basis with which to start a specific branch of philosophy.

      Post 4 gives some good links, but science deniers will keep their heads in the woo-bucket anyway.

      I think that post modernism is past its used by date , and needs to be replaced by some higher order , rational line of thinking.

      Postmodernism was past its use-by-date before it was invented! It was never more than a gimmicky posing con for the intellectually inadequate! (The generator linked @7 actually wrote meaningless essays which passed exams in that subject!!)

  5. Alan4discussion. Thanks for your insights. You have given me more ammunition and I’ll use it when the occasion arises. The point that they can’t effectively state WHY a way of thinking is right or wrong is probably the best point to emphasise. They have not actually studied theology , but simply garden-variety philosophy at a good university. The fact that they do have religious views and are actually creationists , is probably beside the point. The philosophical line they espouse , sits well with their religious convictions.

    • In reply to #12 by Nitya:

      They have not actually studied theology , but simply garden-variety philosophy at a good university. The fact that they do have religious views and are actually creationists , is probably beside the point.

      Not really, it points to serious flaws in the education system.

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