I’m Calling For An End to the Philosophy of Religion As A Discipline In Secular Universities

John W. Loftus calls for an end to the Philosophy of Religion in this brilliant article. Here’s the followup article in which John responds to Dr. Jaco Gericke’s objections to ending the Philosophy of Religion.

If you’re interested in a Secular Studies program, then check out Phil Zuckerman and Pitzer’s program.

78 COMMENTS

  1. From the article:

    “Philosophy of religion as a discipline, I would think, probably doesn’t date much earlier than the second World War.”

    That is clearly wrong and it’s kind of surprising that someone writing an article on the topic wouldn’t bother to at least get some basic facts straight. The most obvious example is Soren Kierkegaard who wrote around 1840 or so, his work was clearly philosophy of religion. Although I guess he may not have seen it that way, that’s the issue with these labels they keep changing so in that strictly academic sense perhaps he’s right that people like Kierkegaard didn’t use the term “philosophy of religion”. Although if that is the case I think it’s a rather minor point, Kierkegaard clearly considered himself a philosopher and clearly based his muddled ideas (although he sure could turn a phrase even in translation he was fun to read, even if I did think it was all BS) were obviously grounded in Christianity.

    I think the whole idea of calling of an end to any discipline is kind of a waste of time. I mean I agree philosophy of religion is BS but so is post modernism, most Marxism, all Freudianism, etc. Then again, I wouldn’t be against a call to end ALL of those as legitimate disciplines of study except for historical purposes. I guess that is where I come down on this if you want to ban philosophy of religion go the next step and ban all pseudoscience topics.

  2. Back in the early 70′s I was a Religious Studies Major with a Minor in Philosophy at a secular university, Cal. State, Northridge. It was encountering Philosophy of Religion in their Philosophy Dept. that really got my brain going, continually challenging me throughout the years. I was introduced to the issues of Falsification and Verification that were like a constant thistle under my skin, the whole issue of what do religionists mean by their religious language. But it was encountering David Hume’s magisterial work, “Dialogues on Natural Religion”, written in 1776 that was a constant kick in the head, needed lots of that! The Dialogues deal with amost all the major issues in Philosophy of Religion that have to be addressed. I think Hume’s points are still as strong as ever, and still as decisive in laying down the gauntlet. I would say that Philosophy of Religion as we know it originates with Hume. Anyway, I would keep Philosophy of Religion, if only because it plants the seeds of true doubt, demands rational answers of some kind, and presents real challenges to the religious believer. Facing the challenges helped me to turn around!

    • I agree absolutely about Hume. Such a great book by an amazingly insightful thinker, when you realize he was puncturing the creationist argument by design over a century before Darwin came up with evolution it’s awe inspiring.

  3. I think I would also like to point out that before I enrolled in a Philosophy of Religion class I had thought the proofs for the existence of god (a la C.S. Lewis) were good and sound. During and after the class I found that they weren’t as strong as I had thought — though I had a penchant for the Ontological Argument and Presuppositional Arguments for awhile. Again, within a secular university I know that Philosophy of Religion can be a great tool to challenge the young believer on how shakey the ground he/she stands on. Also facing arguments for the non-existence of a god were equally provocative for me. I wrestled for many years after Anthony Flew’s Garden parable (which if you have not encountered, you should!). I had the pleasure of meeting Flew many years later at a public seminar at Claremont School of Theology on Hume and the Philosophy of Religion. Had him autograph the books I had of his and his famous falsification challenge with the Garden parable, which can be found in most P of R anthologies, with accompany responses from other thinkers – equally challenging and thoughtful.

  4. The more I’ve thought about this the less I like the idea. I was considering what would a wider ban be like, would it make sense for people to say “stop teaching Freud and Posmodernism!” I don’t think so. First of all there are too many people with vested interests (i.e., the many people teaching those classes now) who would resist and they would scream about academic freedom, scientism, etc. Also, trying to repress an idea almost always has the opposite effect, the more you try to restrict something the more it gains an aura of going against the established wisdom, which can make it more popular and can make it’s remaining adherents feel like persecuted minorities and hence fight back that much harder. Look at the attempt to ban religion in the Soviet Union for an excellent example. I think the best way to fight Philosophy of Religion or any mostly nonsensical idea isn’t to repress the idea but to talk about it and show what’s wrong with it.

    Also, as others have pointed out even in a mostly vacant topic you can still have good teachers who raise interesting issues. I’ve always thought the whole notion of departments and specific niches of study was pretty limiting and never give that much care to questions like “is this philosophy or anthropology or psychology…”

    • Concur Red Dog. Sunshine on a topic has a wonderful sterilizing effect on its virility. No subject should be banned or off limits. A properly educated person should be able to sort the wheat from the chaff.

      Maybe, a long time in the future, Philosophy of Religion will be taught along with all of the other paranormal beliefs, astrology, faith healing or homeopathy etc. A sort of, historical perspective on humanities formative years.

      But never ban it.

  5. Dawkins wants to stop the teaching of philosophy of religion because he got owned, got his arse kicked, by some philosophers of religion, ie Keith Ward and Alistair Mcgrath. So, he wants to stop this discipline. thats it, really, isn’t it?

    There have been very sophisticated arguments in the philosophy of religion, include the modal ontological argument, put forward by Alvin Platinga.. I’d like to see Dawkins tackle that one.

    The ontological argument is one of the best arguments for God, and if you follow this argument honestly, I don’t see how you can think there is no god. Dawkins knows God exists, but denies it because, as the Bible says, ‘the fool has said in his heart, there is no god’.

    • There have been very sophisticated arguments in the philosophy of religion, include the modal ontological argument, put forward by Alvin Platinga.. I’d like to see Dawkins tackle that one.

      This is Plantinga’s argument below, that “John” (Why do they always use Matthew, Mark, Luke or John as handles) believes Dawkins would find impossible to displace.

      Plantinga’s contributions to epistemology include an argument which he dubs “Reformed epistemology”. According to Reformed epistemology, belief in God can be rational and justified even without arguments or evidence for the existence of God. More specifically, Plantinga argues that belief in God is properly basic, and due to a religious externalist epistemology, he claims belief in God could be justified independently of evidence. His externalist epistemology, called “Proper functionalism”, is a form of epistemological reliabilism.[39]

      Mmm. Let me see.

      belief in God can be rational and justified even without arguments or evidence for the existence of God.

      Yep. That makes so much sense. I believe in god, therefore god exists.

      More specifically, Plantinga argues that belief in God is properly basic, and due to a religious externalist epistemology, he claims belief in God could be justified independently of evidence.

      This is called faith. Faith is defined as belief in a subject, in the absence of evidence, or contrary to available evidence.

      This is your champion “John”. This is the Dawkin’s Slayer from heaven.

      God’s breach Ockham’s Razor. They add an unnecessary complication to a simple solution.

      • The barely coherent ramblings of Alvin Plantinga are little more than the fruit of furious and epic bouts of religious apologism coupled with epistemological tautologies partaken by an author with a very casual relationship with logic. Thank you for the terse dismissal.

      • David R Allen Jul 29, 2014 at 10:55 pm

        This is Plantinga’s argument below,

        Plantinga’s contributions to epistemology include an argument which he dubs “Reformed epistemology”. According to Reformed epistemology, belief in God can be rational and justified even without arguments or evidence for the existence of God.

        Ah David! The shifting meanings of faith-thinking, which hope some of the abstract trooothiness, will rub off the castles-in-the-air into reality, – at least in the minds of the self-deceivers and their semi-literate readers!

        Beliefs can be entirely “rational”, (in an abstract logical sense), without any evidenced connection to material reality. Like self-consistent Sci-fi stories, they are of course fantasies which do not exist in reality!

        I suppose they could even claim to be “justified” in the printers’ typographic sense of the word – with the text properly spaced in matching lines on the page!

        This is called faith. Faith is defined as belief in a subject, in the absence of evidence, or contrary to available evidence.

        Yep! Spot on!

    • Dawkins wants to stop the teaching of philosophy of religion because he got owned…

      FYI, the article was written by John W. Loftus. Your automatically assume that this is also Prof. Dawkins’ view solely on the basis that a reference to the article is posted on his site. But you don’t know that. Maybe he disagrees with it.

      Trying to make this about a personal attack on Richard Dawkins instead of debating the arguments of the article is not cool. For your own sake, I strongly suggest you don’t do that.

      There have been very sophisticated arguments in the philosophy of religion, include the modal ontological argument, put forward by Alvin Platinga.. I’d like to see Dawkins tackle that one.

      An analogy comes to my mind when I think about the “modal ontological argument” and other “sophisticated” arguments for the existence of God. They are like these concept cars that are displayed at annual auto shows. Beautiful aerodynamics, sexy futuristic design, shiny wheels…. but nothing under the hood. They are typical examples of things that are invented solely for looks but are completely non functional. Mere ornaments that will be discarded as soon as the show’s over.

      And another FYI: Such specious arguments can easily be refuted by anybody with a basic set of critical thinking skills. The talent and brilliance of Prof. Dawkins (who BTW has “tackled that one” many times already) is not really required for this, as has been deftly demonstrated in the post above mine.

      The ontological argument is one of the best arguments for God….

      I agree. Unfortunately for religious apologists, this is the best they can come up with and it’s pathetic.

      Dawkins knows God exists, but denies it because, as the Bible says, ‘the fool has said in his heart, there is no god’.

      Richard Dawkins is a scientist. He would never claim to know something based on insufficient or inexistent evidence, one way or the other. Your characterization of RD and your claim to “know what he knows” is deeply flawed and twisted and constitutes another personal attack. You’re calling him a liar and a fool. Again, not cool.

      Not to mention that the argument in your sentence makes no sense whatsoever.

    • John Jul 29, 2014 at 4:10 pm

      The ontological argument is one of the best arguments for God, and if you follow this argument honestly, I don’t see how you can think there is no god.

      That is only lack of education on the methods of logical evidenced thinking on your part.

      I don’t see how you can think there is no god.

      Did you have a particular god in mind? – It seems the biblical collection, of variations of a god, is the only god you have heard of, from the many thousands of gods which have been followed on Earth over the centuries.

      the Bible says, ‘the fool has said in his heart, there is no god’.

      That is well known. It illustrates the ignorance of a time before people understood that thinking is done with the brain!

      During the 4th century BC Aristotle thought that, while the heart was the seat of intelligence, the brain was a cooling mechanism for the blood.

      Some people are still many centuries behind with their philosophy, in clinging to long refuted and outdated notions.

    • The ontological argument is one of the so called ‘intellectual arguments’ that catholics are so fond of. Not that there is anything particularly intellectual about them. However they were called intellectual by the catholics because it was a dogma of theirs that the existence of god could be proved by the unaided reason. Well Bollocks! Kant demolished these infantile arguments over 200 years ago.

  6. John Loftus summarizes his case brilliantly for ending philosophy of religion as an academic discipline while retaining the informative usefulness of objective “religious survey” courses in higher education. Any agenda, however subtly carried out, that seeks to imply the epistemic validity of religion or to support, promote or proselytize the supernatural authority of “sacred’ texts in secular centers of free inquiry and learning should find a new home in the unintelligible mess we call “Theology,” fully financed by private religious institutions and professed within the walls of seminaries, monasteries, madrasas and the like.

    “In any case, if the philosophy of religion was reinvented as Oppy suggests, then what we would end up with is a Religious Studies discipline and classes focusing on comparative religion, or the varieties of religious experience, where religious are compared/contrasted/considered and the secular counter-part is offered as a critique of them all. But we already have these kinds of classes. Other disciplines could deal with religious faith and faith-based theologies like Anthropology, Psychology, Neurology, Social Science, Physics and Epistemology, to name a few. In epistemology classes, which fall under the domain of philosophy in general, faith should also be shown to have no epistemic warrant…”

    My only objection is sparked by the gratuitous hostile statement that Loftus feels compelled to make by way of conclusion. After confronting believers with an eloquent powerful argument, why alarm and threaten the religious majority, already leaning toward secularism, with language that borders on what sounds to them like a fanatical project to censor, eradicate and exterminate cherished faith traditions? Presumably Loftus refers mainly to the Koran as the sacred text which currently “imperils[s] the existence of civilization” but, however intended, the proposition is inflammatory propaganda. Man-made religions have indulged in many atrocities yet also constitute the foundation for morality, social and economic justice, and law. To suggest that historical religions and sacred texts lie “outside” civilization and somehow threaten its existence is nonsense. Instead of hearing the enlightened argument Loftus professes, the religious, however decent, moderate or even progressive, will simply walk away insulted.

    “So our purpose is to excise from modern life what little of the Bible is being used and also to eliminate the potential use of any sacred scripture as an authority in the modem world. Sacred texts are the problem that most scholars are not willing to confront. What I seek is liberation from the very idea that any sacred text should be an authority for modem human existence. Abolishing human reliance on sacred texts is imperative when those sacred texts imperil the existence of human civilization as it is currently configured. The letter can kill. That is why the only mission of biblical studies should be to end biblical studies as we know it.”

  7. You speak as though pedantic ramblings about “nothing” or the “meaning of meaning” are anything other than intellectual onanism. To put it another way, if one is a scientist, science being a discipline that is actually of some use to the mortals here on this particular coil, why would one feel the need to be a philosopher at all? Hawking is right, philosophy is dead.

    • Philosophy is not dead. Sam Harris does philosophy. The God Delusion can be considered philosophy and pretty good philosophy as well. I agree a lot of philosophy is BS and the people who spend endless hours debating the definition of “nothing” are a good example of that but it’s wrong to throw out the entire discipline just because there is a lot of garbage. In any discipline that deals with ill defined problems or problems we so far barely understand (e.g., psychology) you are going to have a lot of BS. The trick is to find the intellectuals like Dawkins, Harris, Pinker, Chomsky who have something interesting and substantive to say.

      • Red Dog Jul 30, 2014 at 4:08 pm

        Philosophy is not dead. Sam Harris does philosophy. The God Delusion can be considered philosophy and pretty good philosophy as well. I agree a lot of philosophy is BS and the people who spend endless hours debating the definition of “nothing” are a good example of that but it’s wrong to throw out the entire discipline just because there is a lot of garbage.

        Clearly the tree of knowledge, has old dead branches which need pruning out before they spread rot into the living (t)issues!

      • @Red Dog

        To call the god delusion “good” philosophy is totally misguided. There is little in the God Delusion that is interesting or new from the perspective of philosophy. It reads as a biased and confused attempt by a scientist to enter into a field for which he has zero qualifications. It’s arguments are mundane, it’s writing is incredibly boring, and its only audience are atheists who 1. have never read any text on atheism or 2. have failed to challenge themselves to grow intellectually. Furthermore the book’s arguments consistently rely on anecdotes, false characterizations, and occassionaly outright lies. Dawkins fails to recognize his own biases and cultural perspectives, and often creates demons where they do not exist while refusing to acknowledge the vast amounts of benefits bestowed open his own class of upperclass intellectuals. At best, its meaningless pop philosophy at worst its a racist and hateful attack on the underclass. While reading it, I often found myself horrified by how easily Dawkins dismisses what amount to poor, uneducated communities as nothing more than illiterates.

        If you want a particularly horrific example, consider his arguments against religious conscientious objectors. While Dawkins disdains the ease at which religious people can avoid conscription service during war (his reference is too quakers, in America, most were menonites, a group that has faced huge amounts of discrimation and intolerence) he fails to recognize the irony that, for example, had he been an American, he almost certainly would not have been drafted into the vietnam war because he had enough money to go to college and thereby defer his service until he was past the age of 26. He ends the argument by referencing that religious conscientious objectors would be given a easy pass (despite the fact that this often was NOT the case and the quakers and menonites both faced discrimination and abuse) even though they may be “illiterate” on the theories of pacifism. I find such a phrasing particularly abhorrent, the underlying meaning is clear though. Backwards, illiterate, anti-modern christians should be forced to fight while the rich intellectuals should be given a free pass. If that isn’t blatantly racist classism, I don’t know what is.

        • Well the reply function isn’t working again. To MayBeLogical: I often don’t get it when people are trying to be funny so I’m not sure if all your comments are supposed to be mocking the standard irrational things that people on the left who don’t understand science at all say or if you really mean them but either way I found them quite amusing. ;-)

    • Robert Jul 30, 2014 at 12:54 pm

      You speak as though pedantic ramblings about “nothing” or the “meaning of meaning” are anything other than intellectual onanism.

      It is sometimes quite comical when those who have spent years studying “philosophical nothing” (not to be confused with a physical vacuum), have learned nothing but meaningless disconnected semantics, and just keep working their way deeper into the denial of the intruding physical reality, which interrupts and refutes their delusions!

  8. debating the meaning of ‘nothing’ is quite important actually. I did my MA thesis on ‘nothingness’, and it was very interesting. I don’t see exactly what this has to do with the God of the Bible in particular. I suggest people read Sartre’s Being and Nothingness, for a great discussion and analysis of ‘nothing’. why is there something rather than nothing is a central discussion in metaphysics.

    There is more to philosophy than philosophy of religion and Sam Harris or Dennet and discussions about God.

    Also Alvin Platinga is a good philosopher of religion, and his modal ontological argument is a kind of interesting development of the classical ontological argument. I don’t think anybody is ‘really’ converted to religion by such arguments in the real world. Most philosophers would also say with Kant that ‘existence is not a predicate’.

    • The only thing I ever got out of trying to read Being and Nothingness is it was a good conversation starter with nerd girls in college. Other than that I thought it was pseudoscience and about as meaningful as this essay: http://www.elsewhere.org/pomo/

      And now that I’ve been reading more Chomsky I have a more principled critique of this other than just my natural reaction to reading things that don’t make sense no matter how many times I read them and it’s this: Trying to analyze concepts like “nothing” as they are used in every day English is a complete waste of time. English as any natural language is ambiguous and imprecise. So if you have an an analysis that says “well in this statement nothing means X but in this statement it means Y and those two uses are contradictory” the proper response is not to spend endless hours trying to resolve the contradiction but to say “well duh, natural languages are like that what else is new?”

      If you want to have a meaningful discussion on any topic you need to rigorously define your terms. That’s always one of the first steps of a true science. So when Krauss talks about “a universe from nothing” he is right to start out by saying that he’s not talking about “nothing” in the sense of what we mean by the term in every day use but a specific definition. I think the definition was space-time without matter or something like that, the actual definition isn’t the point here it’s that you need to be rigorous in defining what you are talking about before you can have a meaningful conversation.

      • I agree that Marx, Freud, and Sartre all were brilliant guys and had interesting things to say. Pseudoscience is the term I use when I feel like being polite and not saying bullshit. I don’t recognize a distinction really between philosophy and science. I think philosophy, that is philosophy that isn’t bullshit which excludes a lot of it, is just applying the scientific method to topics where our understanding is just very immature, so immature that even describing the problem is itself problematic let alone coming up with an answer.

        Just because a particular theory is pseudoscience doesn’t mean that there aren’t some things of value in it. Early astronomy got everything wrong by putting the earth at the center of the universe but it provided essential data for people like Copernicus to get it right. Freudianism as a theory is pseudoscience but many of his ideas such as repression (or in the more modern parlance cognitive dissonance) are being confirmed scientifically, see one of my all time favorite books The Folly of Fools by evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers. I have a few more thoughts in response but I’ll end there for now.

          • @MayBeLogical.
            No pseudoscience is the term used to describe a theory or methodology that is considered to be without scientific foundation.

          • Yes, but it’s a subjective term. People often call astrology a pseudescience, but is Yoga a pseudoscience? is the I-Ching a pseudescience? Was the work of Willhelm Reich a pseudoscience? Was Timothy Leary’s research a pseudoscience? We have to be careful of the use of such terms because they are inherently conservative in their perspective in a way which might actually harm the advancement of scientific research. There is a lot of bad science that we don’t call “pseudescience” because it fits into the proper definitions given by the scientific establishment, that doesn’t mean that it is any more beneficial because of it though, or that pseudosciences are any worse.

          • MayBeLogical Aug 1, 2014 at 10:20 pm

            Isn’t pseudoscience just a term employed by the scientific elite to control the dissemination of knowledge

            “Pseudo-science” is a term which is usually used to refer to quackery, ID claims, and science deniers, who do not use scientific methodology, but nevertheless, try to present their unsubstantiated claims as “science”, by using scientific terminology and faked claims.
            Frequently the sham is obviously the work of scientific illiterates, who are promoting some useless or dangerous product, or who are in denial of some scientific evidence they don’t like. Sometimes they are the work of rogue scientists who are employed by such people to promote their fake agendas, and tart-up the claims, to try to add credibility.

            which threatens their monopoly on defining reality?

            There is no “monopoly of view” in a scientific elite, beyond adherence to objective scientific methodology and honest reporting of experiments for critical examination and objective repeat testing.

            There are areas of scientific consensus where the reasoning and objective evidence, has been independently reconfirmed by people with relevant expertise, numerous times.

          • Pseudoscience is a subjective term, and those that employ it often do so to advance their on causes or because of their own biases.

            beyond adherence to objective scientific methodology and honest reporting of experiments for critical examination and objective repeat testing.

            this is an ideal, one that I would argue is not reflective of how science actually functions in the real world. We should be cautious of terms like pseudoscience or supernatural because they often unfairly attack fringe perspectives and prop up bad science which is occurring within the mainstream scientific community. I define Reality as the ever-changing model which we as a map of a universe (which is really the only way to approximate what is real), that model needs to be flexible enough to apply to several different contexts. Therefore I hesitate to use terms such as pseudoscience because they often place the creation of reality in the hands of the scientific elite, i.e. those that receive the most funding. As we enter an new age of science we need to move away from criticism of religious ideologies (which are the dominant systems of the past) and more towards criticisms of scientific ideologies (which will undoubtedly be the dominant systems of the future), if we do not we can expect a halt in scientific progression.

          • MayBeLogical Aug 2, 2014 at 5:35 am

            Pseudoscience is a subjective term, and those that employ it often do so to advance their on causes or because of their own biases.

            This is nonsense – usually put about by those who have no understanding of science.

            this is an ideal, one that I would argue is not reflective of how science actually functions in the real world.

            This is true, but scientists are the strongest critics of other scientists doing flawed or bad science.

            We should be cautious of terms like pseudoscience or supernatural because they often unfairly attack fringe perspectives and prop up bad science which is occurring within the mainstream scientific community.

            Pseudo-science is generally the prerogative of con-men and fanatics who have followings of scientific illiterates. It has nothing to do with criticism of “bad science” – which is generally dealt with in scientific journals. Pseudo-science advocates play little or no part in this process – generally lacking the competence to do so.

            I define Reality as the ever-changing model which we as a map of a universe (which is really the only way to approximate what is real), that model needs to be flexible enough to apply to several different contexts.

            All parts of the map are not equally “flexible”. Some scientific theories and laws are VERY heavily evidenced to VERY high levels of probability, while other areas are extremely uncertain or improbable. . Those who cannot do the science or maths, are in no position to formulate credible opinions on these subjects. The whole map is not “ever-changing”. It is being modified by new knowledge in some areas.

            Therefore I hesitate to use terms such as pseudoscience because they often place the creation of reality in the hands of the scientific elite,

            The ability to recognise deceptive rubbish, posturing as science, does require a certain basic level of scientific education, but can hardly be regarded as being a feature of some minority “scientific elite”!

            i.e. those that receive the most funding.

            This is a myth put about by pseudo-science advocates, reflecting wish-thinking rather than fact. Most science researchers are NOT well paid, unless they are working on high-value commercial products!

            As we enter an new age of science we need to move away from criticism of religious ideologies (which are the dominant systems of the past)

            Why? They are still (along with some political ideologies), highly destructive of social harmony, rational thinking, and obstructive of knowledge of the real universe, which science works at mapping and explaining.

            and more towards criticisms of scientific ideologies (which will undoubtedly be the dominant systems of the future),

            What on Earth is a scientific ideology??? I suspect you are looking at science as a reverse projection of some other ideology you have in mind.
            Science is the critical evidenced examination of diverse investigations! – The very opposite of a preconceived ideological view!

            if we do not we can expect a halt in scientific progression.

            In recent centuries, science has progressed, and continues to progress, with discoveries at a phenomenal rate. You seem to be wishfully speculating on the basis of having no understanding of this.

          • This is nonsense – usually put about by those who have no understanding of science.

            How so? Most of language is subjective, and in this case the use of the term pseudoscience depends on the perspective of the individual using it. To quote the user that I was originally responding to

            I think the whole idea of calling of an end to any discipline is kind of a waste of time. I mean I agree philosophy of religion is BS but so is post modernism, most Marxism, all Freudianism, etc. Then again, I wouldn’t be against a call to end ALL of those as legitimate disciplines of study except for historical purposes. I guess that is where I come down on this if you want to ban philosophy of religion go the next step and ban all pseudoscience topics.

            In this case he seems to be referring to post-modernism, marxism, and freudism as pseudoscientific. Generally, I don’t consider such studies to be science, but in this case he is using the word to disparage such studies. Don’t you think that such an indictment is ultimately subjective, and that rational people could (and without fault) reach a different conclusion. This is what I mean by pseudoscience being a subjective term. It can be used to ad hominem reject a branch of studies without really considering the practical function of those studies.

            This is true, but scientists are the strongest critics of other scientists doing flawed or bad science.

            IMO, that’s naive. Different research has been conducted as to how good scientists are at criticizing other scientists, I would suggest reading Ioannidis’ article “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False”

            Pseudo-science is generally the prerogative of con-men and fanatics who have followings of scientific illiterates. It has nothing to do with criticism of “bad science” – which is generally dealt with in scientific journals. Pseudo-science advocates play little or no part in this process – generally lacking the competence to do so.

            Eh, you kind of turned that around. You are making the assumption that most “pseudo-science” is the work of con-men, I am making the argument that using the phrase pseudo-science is a convenient way for the mainstream science community to disregard work that doesn’t fit the accepted norms. It’s not so much the work of hacks that I am concerned with, its the work that is not allowed to be done by good scientists. Does it occur to you that good scientists might be pushed into certain areas of study and away from others because of how they are perceived by the larger community as well as whether or not that area of study will be able to secure them a job?

            All parts of the map are not equally “flexible”. Some scientific theories and laws are VERY heavily evidenced to VERY high levels of probability, while other areas are extremely uncertain or improbable. . Those who cannot do the science or maths, are in no position to formulate credible opinions on these subjects. The whole map is not “ever-changing”. It is being modified by new knowledge in some areas.

            I agree, there are certain areas of the map that our more probable than others, but there are also times when we may be forced to disregard much of our maps when we approach new contexts (e.g. quantum mechanics has to use a different map from newtonion physics). We should not make assumptions about where, when, or how these changes will occur. Certain so-called “pseudosciences” may perhaps be such instances, were we are required to throw out most of our current maps and try something new. However, we will never know for sure unless we are allowed to try. Hence, why i do not like this culture of fundamentalist science.

            This is a myth put about by pseudo-science advocates, reflecting wish-thinking rather than fact. Most science researchers are NOT well paid, unless they are working on high-value commercial products!

            That’s kind of my point.

            Why? They are still (along with some political ideologies), highly destructive of social harmony, rational thinking, and obstructive of knowledge of the real universe, which science works at mapping and explaining.

            That’s a very Dawkins-esque answer. I will not accept it. How many people do you know who have been killed in a human sacrifice to the gods lately? vs. How many people die from bad science (e.g. death from prescription pills, death from complications of surgery or unessary surgery, harmed by medical research, die from radiation exposure, the people that die as a result of military research, etc etc etc). I mean there is some percentage of people who are killed during medical research or atleast put through extreme discomfort. What about the case of black populations being infected with syphilis for research? Or the harmful medical research that is done in the third world? or heck, What about the animals that are killed in scientific research? We might say, hey that doesn’t matter, its consensual, but its still pain, its still death, its still a statistical number of people. And you might say that its all done for a better cause, but, that’s exactly what scapegoats were for too. So Lets not be naive and pretend that there are no sacrifices made in order to advance science.

            What on Earth is a scientific ideology??? I suspect you are looking at science as a reverse projection of some other ideology you have in mind.
            Science is the critical evidenced examination of diverse investigations! – The very opposite of a preconceived ideological view!

            Science in its purest sense maybe! but in the real world science and ideologies coexist. When a scientist living in Russia in the 1960s was told to develop nuclear weapons, she probably did so for the benefit of her ideology. When a scientist working at some pharmaceutical company in America in 2014 does research, its probably also because of an ideology. Science usually comingles with these ideologies, but it can also be an ideology of its on, on offshoot of which is Dawkins style atheism in which “science” becomes the basis for a world view. You do remember Dawkins right? you know, the guy who gets a tax break for hosting this forum. It’s a fundamentalist materialism that holds to its dogmas about reality and rarely bothers to question the scientific establishment. As we move towards a more secular society, this types of non-thinkers will have to be challenged.

            In recent centuries, science has progressed, and continues to progress, with discoveries at a phenomenal rate. You seem to be wishfully speculating on the basis of having no understanding of this.

            We’ll just keep progressing and progressing and progressing and progressing with no end in sight!!! Soon everybody will have fancy technology and live forever. Sorry, but to me, that sounds like one of those bubbles, I’m not going to count on it ;)

          • MayBeLogical Aug 2, 2014 at 8:04 am

            This is nonsense – usually put about by those who have no understanding of science.

            How so? Most of language is subjective, and in this case the use of the term pseudoscience depends on the perspective of the individual using it.

            No it doesn’t! Scientific and mathematical language is precise. Pseudo-science is a science claim without an evidenced or methodological backing. It has nothing to do with biased perceptions of scientists and everything to do with the biased false and dishonest claims of pseudo-scientists. Most pseudo-science is quite distinct for badly done real science.

            In this case he seems to be referring to post-modernism, marxism, and freudism as pseudoscientific. Generally, I don’t consider such studies to be science, but in this case he is using the word to disparage such studies.

            Freud is more of a refuted attempt at science, but as you say the others are not science, so calling them pseudo-science, rather than Marxist ideology or post-modernist rubbish, is probably wrong.

            Don’t you think that such an indictment is ultimately subjective, and that rational people could (and without fault) reach a different conclusion.

            No! They are simply not good examples of pseudo-science .

            This is what I mean by pseudoscience being a subjective term. It can be used to ad hominem reject a branch of studies without really considering the practical function of those studies.

            I suggest you look at Answers in Genesis or some of the AGW denial sites if you want proper examples of evolution denial. climate science denial, or cosmology denial.

            IMO, that’s naive. Different research has been conducted as to how good scientists are at criticizing other scientists,

            Your opinion? You are a competent reader of scientific journals?????? I suspect not!

            Eh, you kind of turned that around. You are making the assumption that most “pseudo-science” is the work of con-men,

            That is no assumption! I have read some of their works.

            I am making the argument that using the phrase pseudo-science is a convenient way for the mainstream science community to disregard work that doesn’t fit the accepted norms.

            Again asserted nonsense!

            That is because you have no understanding of the nature of pseudo-science and confuse it with badly done science.

            http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Pseudoscience

            Pseudoscience is any belief system or methodology which tries to gain legitimacy by wearing the trappings of science, but fails to abide by the rigorous methodology and standards of evidence that demarcate true science. Although pseudoscience is designed to have the appearance of being scientific, it lacks any of the substance of science.

            Promoters of pseudoscience often adopt the vocabulary of science, describing conjectures as theories or laws, often providing supposed evidence from observation, expert testimonials, or even developing what appear to be mathematical models of their ideas. However, in pseudoscience there is no real honest attempt to follow the scientific method, provide falsifiable predictions, or develop double blind experiments.

            http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/List_of_pseudosciences

            It’s not so much the work of hacks that I am concerned with, its the work that is not allowed to be done by good scientists. Does it occur to you that good scientists might be pushed into certain areas of study and away from others because of how they are perceived by the larger community as well as whether or not that area of study will be able to secure them a job?

            There are certainly examples of commercial and political pressure determining areas of investigation, but that is not related integrity in other areas.

            Certain so-called “pseudosciences” may perhaps be such instances, were we are required to throw out most of our current maps and try something new. However, we will never know for sure unless we are allowed to try. Hence, why i do not like this culture of fundamentalist science.

            You simply make silly claims of the non-existent “fundamentalist science”, because lacking an understanding of the subject, you are making up ignorance-based gap-fillers.

            e.g. quantum mechanics has to use a different map from newtonion physics).

            On Earth at subsonic velocities, the Newtonian map is 99.99999% identical! at hypervolocities the calculations are modified! Nobody has “thrown out the current map” . It is only through ignorance that such claims are made.

          • MayBeLogical Aug 2, 2014 at 8:04 am

            *Alan – What on Earth is a scientific ideology??? I suspect you are looking at science as a reverse projection of some other ideology you have in mind.
            Science is the critical evidenced examination of diverse investigations! – The very opposite of a preconceived ideological view!

            Science in its purest sense maybe! but in the real world science and ideologies coexist.

            Well of course they do, but that is no reason to muddle up the thinking about what is science and what is ideology, technical applications, commercial usage, or politics. Science provides the honest information. Frequently (but not always) nobody was or is able to predict all its future usages.

            When a scientist living in Russia in the 1960s was told to develop nuclear weapons, she probably did so for the benefit of her ideology.

            Really? Or did you just make that up!

            When a scientist working at some pharmaceutical company in America in 2014 does research, its probably also because of an ideology.

            Really! Not perhaps a wish to cure some disease for the benefit of sufferers.

            Science usually comingles with these ideologies,

            Not really,, but your limited understanding certainly muddles up science with a whole load of other issues.

            but it can also be an ideology of its on, on offshoot of which is Dawkins style atheism

            It looks like you are back to your projection of some undisclosed ideological world view which you are selling based on credulity . Disparaging someone’s viewpoint does not provide proof of, or support for, an opposing view. That is the negative proof fallacy!

            in which “science” becomes the basis for a world view.

            Science is the only evidenced basis for a world view, if bias and delusional wish-thinking are to be excluded.

            It’s a fundamentalist materialism

            I have to laugh! “Fundamentalist materialism”! – as distinct from “delusional immaterialism”!

            that holds to its dogmas about reality and rarely bothers to question the scientific establishment.

            Ha! ha! Ha! You are just making up this nonsense, and have absolutely no idea how open science is to new evidence or just how rigorously the “scientific establishment” constantly challenges and up-dates itself!

            As we move towards a more secular society, this types of non-thinkers will have to be challenged.

            Yep! The sort of assertive nonsense you have just presented, has been constantly challenged by scientists for decades and will no doubt continue to be challenged!

            The notion of scientific breakthroughs coming from the dishonest methods of pseudo-science is pure clueless comedy!!!

            … and you wonder why scientists hold so-called philosophers in such low regard when they illustrate the Dunning–Kruger effect pontificating on subjects they know nothing about and show no ability to competently research!

          • Hi again…

            I can follow where MayBeLogical is coming from in many ways.

            You wrote “Scientific and mathematical language is precise.”
            Mathematical language maybe – scientific and other language I would say no.

            Keep it simple. Earth and Sun. Two different things, right? No! You cannot disconnect one from the other outside of making a cognitive response that you have done so. By science, the gravity of both is technically infinite and therefore they both influence each other… not to mention radiation, magnetic fields etc. But look at what the mind is doing: the mind is still stuck with it’s belief that the two are separate. But can the mind encompass the infinitude of connections that follows from that belief that they are separate? Of course it cannot. However, the mind can, and generally does for everyday practical purposes, continue with what is just an illusion of them being separate entities. If the mind wants it could trot out a billion definitions of what the Sun and Earth are – but that’s just a glut of words. There is no reason at all to believe that these things are separate. Effectively, we can say there is no evidence that the universe is composed of ‘bits’. The whole issue is that the mind works with a sort of cartoon-style simplification of our reality when in fact there is no proof whatsoever that reality is made of discrete entities. So maybe you actually could say that (scientific) language is concise but so what? It is only concise to the extent that it breaks the wholeness of the universe into different words or symbols. (This is not particularly a criticism of science – more of language in general. However, science is a casualty. All our abstract thinking, IMHO, is rooted in the motivation to manipulate our environment and other beings within it. As a tool it succeeds in doing that. But that tool does not have true knowledge of our condition any more than money has true worth. We just act and think as if these things were so).

          • John HH Aug 5, 2014 at 6:04 pm

            You wrote:

            Scientific and mathematical language is precise.

            Mathematical language maybe – scientific and other language I would say no.

            .. and you would be wrong – merely demonstrating that you do not understand the science or the meanings of the definitions in question!

            Keep it simple. Earth and Sun. Two different things, right?

            Yes both are clearly are defined in terms of their scientific properties. The Sun is a main-sequence star. The Earth is a rocky planet with liquid oceans of water and an atmosphere. They are separated by a varying distance from 147 million kilometres to 152 million km. apart.

            No! You cannot disconnect one from the other outside of making a cognitive response that you have done so.

            The details of gravitational connections (also precisely defined by science) or the energy transfers – (accurately measured by science, have nothing to do with the precise definitions of them as different bodies.

            By science, the gravity of both is technically infinite and therefore they both influence each other… not to mention radiation, magnetic fields etc.

            All of which are precisely described by science. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milankovitch_cycles

            But look at what the mind is doing: the mind is still stuck with it’s belief that the two are separate.

            No! Your mind is stuck with BELIEF they are not separate.
            You are confusing interaction with separation, so are merely arguing about the sloppiness of your own language and your unclear definitions, while disputing the precise definitions used by science which you have probably never heard of!

            But can the mind encompass the infinitude of connections that follows from that belief that they are separate?

            Some minds which have studied the subject can. Others are befuddled due to lack of understanding of the physics, maths and precise terminology, required to do astronomical measurements and calculations.

            Of course it cannot.

            You are speaking for yourself, but have no basis for suggesting others share your lack of understanding.

            You are utterly confused about astronomy and about cognition!

            However, the mind can, and generally does for everyday practical purposes, continue with what is just an illusion of them being separate entities.

            The illusion is all in you head. Modern astronomy can calculate the precise positions of both the Earth and the Sun in their orbits around the barycenter of the Solar System, for years into the past and for years into the future.

          • John,

            We have some rules. Every scientist should be taught them and then science wouldn’t get such a bad name. There should be the equivalent of a Hippocratic oath for scientists.

            We can only prove in maths. We cannot prove, verify or confirm in science. Our theories are only our best guesses.
            If it is not testable then it is dismissed because how can we possibly know if it is true or false. We simple cannot test it.
            Whilst always remaining our best guesses they grow in “truthlikeness” if they pass peer review and independent critical testing. But they may be trashed by a better theory tomorrow. A better theory would have to have better explanatory power and better correspondance with the facts.
            If, and only if, it is testable and passes the “correspondance with the facts test” then it becomes “objective knowledge”. Our best knowledge.

          • John HH Aug 5, 2014 at 6:04 pm

            I can follow where MayBeLogical is coming from in many ways.

            That is a very confused path!

            You wrote

            Scientific and mathematical language is precise.

            Mathematical language maybe – scientific and other language I would say no.

            This merely demonstrates a lack of understanding and knowledge of science.

            Keep it simple. Earth and Sun. Two different things, right?

            They are indeed two separate bodies in space. The sun is a main sequence star. The Earth is a rocky planet orbiting around the

            No! You cannot disconnect one from the other outside of making a cognitive response that you have done so.

            This is simply wrong and muddled using sloppy language without clear definitions. Interactions do not refute millions of miles of physical separation. (You can’t claim that a bus and helicopter are not separate vehicles because two of the passengers are talking on mobile phones!)

            By science, the gravity of both is technically infinite and therefore they both influence each other… not to mention radiation, magnetic fields etc.

            So does the whole galaxy, but that does not mean the parts are not physically separated.

            But look at what the mind is doing: the mind is still stuck with it’s belief that the two are separate.

            You are just expressing poorly defined muddled ideas, in a futile attempt to pretend science does not use precise language.

            The Earth and Sun are separated at Earth’s closest point by 147 million km, and at its most distant point, it’s 152 million km away, as both orbit the barycentre of the Solar System.

            Your mind is stuck with the BELIEF they are NOT separate because you lack the precise definitions used by science and are in denial.

            But can the mind encompass the infinitude of connections that follows from that belief that they are separate?

            The definitions of their physical separation and interactions of are precisely measured and calculated by astronomers.
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milankovitch_cycles

            What other rambling minds may do is not relevant to the accuracy of the astronomical science.

            Of course it cannot.

            Nonsense! You are just asserting and expressing your own ignorance and incredulity of astronomy and cognition.

            However, the mind can, and generally does for everyday practical purposes, continue with what is just an illusion of them being separate entities.

            Some faith-thinkers perceptions, are indeed illusion or delusion, and composed of meaningless or ill-defined words or words whose meaning they do not understand. They are unable to connect the words to the physical reality, so use the “god-did-it” gap filler and obfuscation, in place of study and knowledge.

            If the mind wants it could trot out a billion definitions of what the Sun and Earth are – but that’s just a glut of words.

            The introspective mind does so as to remain in denial of physical reality.

            There is no reason at all to believe that these things are separate.

            .. If you are in denial and are producing mental and semantic contortions to provide rationalisations claiming “black is white”!

            That is why in the modern world, the precise language of science has replaced the fumblings and fallacies, of ancient religious attempts at philosophy!

          • @MayBeLogical

            I hope I’m not re-stating a point that has already been made, but I have only skimmed over the comments.
            Pseudoscience: when a product (most usually health related), is presented as having legitimate properties it needs to be able to stand up to scrutiny. If the manufacturers of such a product fail to have it independently assessed by way of a double blind placebo trial and instead it is supported only by testimonials and anecdotal evidence, then it’s fair comment to assume the ‘wonder cure’ is snake-oil.
            In a previous comment you asked the question “is astrology pseudoscience?”. Well……YES! It’s the very epitome of pseudoscience! It’s about as scientific as the predictions made by a carnival fortune teller, a reader of tea leaves, an assessor of auras!
            It’s customary for me to take the sort of comments you’re making to be conspiracy theories. The conspiracy theorist is usually very quick to pour scorn on legitimate products but very slow to find the flaw in crack-pot cure-all’s.

          • Nitya Aug 2, 2014 at 5:58 pm

            “is astrology pseudoscience?”. Well……YES! It’s the very epitome of pseudoscience! It’s about as scientific as the predictions made by a carnival fortune teller, a reader of tea leaves, an assessor of auras!

            To those familiar with evidence based speculation on future astronomical issues, the comically incompetent nature of astrology is VERY obvious!
            https://richarddawkins.net/2013/11/for-profit-asteroid-mining-missions-to-start-in-2016/#li-comment-118415

            https://richarddawkins.net/2013/11/for-profit-asteroid-mining-missions-to-start-in-2016/#li-comment-118423

          • …but in the real world science and
            ideologies coexist. When a scientist living in Russia in the 1960s was
            told to develop nuclear weapons, she probably did so for the benefit
            of her ideology.

            They absolutely do not! Don’t mix science done for an ideology’s end with that absurd oxymoron “scientific ideology” you’ve coined.

            Science can be done for whatever end one chooses. But there are only one kind of means to a scientific end.

            There is NO other science than science in the purest sense. All other “sciences” do not work and therefore cease to be called it.

          • In recent centuries, science has progressed, and continues to progress, with discoveries at a phenomenal rate. You seem to be wishfully speculating on the basis of having no understanding of this.

            MayBeLogical Aug 2, 2014 at 8:04 am

            We’ll just keep progressing and progressing and progressing and progressing with no end in sight!!! Soon everybody will have fancy technology and live forever. Sorry, but to me, that sounds like one of those bubbles, I’m not going to count on it

            Although you are technically correct about there being no end in sight,
            I won’t be counting on your strawman vision either!

            Visions of future technologies require an extensive understanding of science.

          • @MayBeLogical

            . Men Women
            Rank Country Life expectancy Rank Country Life expectancy
            1 Iceland 81.2 1 Japan 87
            2 Switzerland 80.7 2 Spain 85.1
            3 Australia 80.5 3 Switzerland 85.1
            4 Israel 80.2 4 Singapore 85.1
            5 Singapore 80.2 5 Italy 85
            6 New Zealand 80.2 6 France 84.9
            7 Italy 80.2 7 Australia 84.6
            8 Japan 80 8 Republic of Korea 84.6
            9 Sweden 80 9 Luxembourg 84.1
            10 Luxembourg 79.7 10 Portugal 84

            The table above is that of life expectancy 2014 ( men and then women). You’ll notice the high correlation of these countries with their degree of technical expertise. If I were to show you a ranking taken in 1914 you’d notice the figures would be very much lower and I doubt that Singapore or Japan would make the list.

            we’ll just keep progressing and progressing , no end in sight.

            It certainly looks that way, doesn’t it? I think not, however. Eventually our bodies wear out and our brains stop working, though we probably haven’t reached the upper limits just yet.
            Don’t discount medical technology; one day you’re going to need it and you’ll be very grateful that it’s there.

          • Nitya,

            I like the point that you make to MayBeLogical. If I may paraphrase “Dear MayBe, when you get ill, as we all do, will you be glad that you live in a place that has advanced medical science that can give you extra decades to make your points? And glad that you don’t live in N Korea or some African states where only 25% have access to a doctor. I’m sorry to be so morbid but to continue. Will you turn to science or pseuedo-science? Will you turn to a bona-fide doctor or a quack? The latter is cheaper but he hasn’t got a clue. He just sees your need as a business opportunity and the fact that you came to him makes you a legitimate target to enhance his bank account.”

            Nitya might have mentioned Scotland. I read on a Mindfullmoney.com post that the average life expectancy in Scotland is 63. I protested that this cannot be true. But a recent BBC post pointed out that male life expectancy in Glasgow is 61. Yet Scotland has a free NHS and is a first world country with “best practice” in medical science.

            The comments on your posts above are not incorrect but they are unneccessarially authoritarian. You argue, we love that. Its the only game in town. We shouldn’t frighten you off. Please come back to me if you have a better argument to mine below.

            We only do argument. We didn’t pick science versus pseudo-science subjectively. We choose to be critical rationalists. We acknowledged that if we stood on the shoulders of giants we would see further and we chose to see further with amasing results (I cannot spell).

            Science is “but common sense writ large”. We don’t do science we do common sense. We argue and we bow to the best argument.

            The scientific method sounds pretentious but it is nothing more than trial and error. Someone comes up with an answer to a problem and common sense and correspondence with the facts shoots it down. It is erroniuos. We try again and eventually come up with a solution that tests well and corresponds with the facts. We like it. It has truthlikeness/verissimitude. But others will not like it and they will test it to death. If they trash it we will only thank them because we only have time for the truth and their critisism will help us get there sooner.

            This sir is the scientific discipline. To welcome critisism, argument, antithesis or whatever you wish to call it. We can come up with a thousand tentative solutions to a problem but the discipline bit is in bowing to critisisam and moving on. The goal is to get to the right answer faster. We love critisism and thus we welcome your comments.

            Alan did not mention an important point, the “Falsifiability Criterion”. We demarcate bona-fide science from psuedo-science by this non-subjective criteria. If we cannot test it then how on earth do we know whether it is true or false? If it is designed to be untestable, if it cannot pass the “falsifiability criterion”, then it is pseudo-science.

            You might explain to us poor common sense folk how we might find value in something that cannot be tested. And how we should have regard for something that was designed to be untestable.

            I am begging for an answer, for, as explained above, it is only argument and critisisam that moves us forward.

          • Hi David. I googled the stats for Scotland 2014 and came up with these:

            . The most recent annual estimates for Scotland are for boys born in 2012 to live 76.9 years on average, 59.4 of these in a ‘healthy’ state. Girls born in 2012 would be expected to live 80.9 years on average, 62.0 of these years being ‘healthy’.

            These are estimates, but they were the best I could do.
            I couldn’t agree more about the need for ‘ proper’ medication when it’s really needed. The heart attack victim doesn’t visit a herbalist but needs to go to a hospital and be treated with appropriate, tested procedures and medication.
            I have a few folk remedies that I call on for minor ailments; aloe vera for itchy skin, salt water gargle for a sore throat. I always thought that ginger was a suitable treatment for nausea, as well. My ginger cure was put to the test recently and found to be seriously wanting as a treatment for nausea! It does nothing! Anti-nausea drugs are good for nausea and ginger is useful on those occasions when nausea may occur ( such as in the case of possible sea sickness) but not for ACTUAL nausea.

          • David Aug 3, 2014 at 9:26 pm

            Nitya might have mentioned Scotland. I read on a Mindfullmoney.com post that the average life expectancy in Scotland is 63. I protested that this cannot be true. But a recent BBC post pointed out that male life expectancy in Glasgow is 61. Yet Scotland has a free NHS and is a first world country with “best practice” in medical science.

            Glasgow, as distinct from Scotland as a whole, until very recently, had heavy, dangerous, polluting industries, heavy drinking, heavy smoking, and a widespread culture of an unhealthy fatty diet. It still has some of these negative factors.
            Having health services and advice advice available, does no mean people seek or listen to scientific advice.

          • .You might explain to us poor common sense folk how we might find value in something that cannot be tested. And how we should have regard for something that was designed to be untestable.

            David, were you referring to subjects that are emotional in nature, such as the value placed on good music or the appreciation of fine art? Or are you specifically talking about the mysteries of religion?
            Have you in mind things that are not readily quantifiable but have value at an individual level?

            That’s my problem; I’m not quite sure what you mean and I don’t want to start off along the wrong track. If you are in fact meaning our personal response to good music etc. I think they’re largely matters of taste. What constitutes good music, fine art, haute cuisine and so on are usually agreed upon by a body of people generally considered to be arbiters of what is good. If you mean emotional responses such as how much we love our children or how much we hate money-grubbing fascists who exploit their workers and influence public opinion ( sorry, I get carried away on this one), what scale could we use?

            The life of our imagination is very personal, isn’t it? No one knows exactly what we think or how we feel. If we’re talking about true facts, our emotional response shouldn’t get in the way.

            This is a bit of a ‘stream of consciousness’ reply and I’m fairly confident that it’s not what you’re after, but I’ve done my best. If you want to refine the question further, it might help.

          • Nitya Aug 4, 2014 at 4:58 pm

            You might explain to us poor common sense folk how we might find value in something that cannot be tested. And how we should have regard for something that was designed to be untestable.

            David, were you referring to subjects that are emotional in nature, such as the value placed on good music or the appreciation of fine art?

            Even things of an emotional nature can be tested after a fashion!

            I have just come home after performing the final guitar act of a sing-around jam session in a bar. When an audience is shouting for more, that can be taken as an approximate test of an emotional response!

          • @Alan4Discussion
            I use the kidney test to determine my level of attachment to various people. To those I really care about, I’d happily donate a kidney should the need come up. As much as I may claim to love my fellow humans, I don’t love them so much that I’d donate a fingernail in many cases, let alone a kidney! This is a rough measure to be sure but if it needs to be quantified, I suppose any measure would do.

          • Nitya and Alan,

            Scotland and Glasgow. I didn’t bring up Scotland and Glasgow as contradiction to your numbers. Wrt the topic I shouldn’t have brought it up. I understand well why Glasgow has a ridiculously low male life expectancy and that its high population drags down the Scottish average.
            “You might explain to us poor common sense folk how we might find value in something that cannot be tested. And how we should have regard for something that was designed to be untestable.”
            Please insert the word (psuedo-science) after the word something.

            My post was addressed to MayBeLogical who had a widely held dim view of science and made some good points. I hope that I have succeeded in persuading him that it is nothing more than “common sense writ large”.

          • Hi David

            I really hate to be nit-picky about this one point, but the link below is a Guardian article ( up to date) that gives the male life expectancy in Glasgow at 72 point something.

            . http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2014/apr/16/commonwealth-games-2014-glasgow-lowest-life-expectancy-uk

            I’m aware that it’s the lowest in the UK and I fully appreciate why this is the case, but 72 years is a lot higher than 61 years. Do you see my point? By putting it at 61 years every reader opposed to the NHS will be able to point the finger and say, “there, I told you nationalised medicine was no good!”

            I’m thinking of readers from the US who may be looking for a reason to condemn the UK system.

          • Nitya,

            I must be wrong and 72 years replaces my 61 years. I am confusing disbility free life expectancy with life expectancy.

            At birth disability-free life expectancy for males in Scotland is below State Pension Age and four years shorter than for the UK as a whole. – See more at: http://www.mindfulmoney.co.uk/economy/scotland-warned-it-cant-rely-on-oil-to-pay-for-ageing-population-and-must-improve-health-prospects-of-older-workers/#sthash.xLqullZJ.dpuf

            The BBC post is by Lucy Ash dated 5/6/14, BBC Magazine.

          • David,
            At last we’re on the same page! Glad we got that cleared up. It seems totally irrelevant to the original post but I’ve stopped worrying about staying on topic. I’ve noticed that I’m not the only one taking a diversion and following a completely different line. On one thread the diversion began shortly after the first couple of comments so I’m not going to beat myself up too much.

          • MayBeLogical Aug 2, 2014 at 8:04 am

            Then again, I wouldn’t be against a call to end ALL of those as legitimate disciplines of study except for historical purposes.

            The OP examples were suggesting the banning of the narrow biased theistic pseudo-philosophy of one specific religion or sect. I don’t think anyone suggested banning cultural history or anthropology!

            I guess that is where I come down on this if you want to ban philosophy of religion go the next step and ban all pseudoscience topics.

            Pseudo-science is already excluded from courses in reputable universities.

            A very small minority comprising some YEC establishments are the ones which are prepared to promote biased and faked pseudo-science, and have somehow retained their credentials in the US.
            No reputable university science department will teach this dishonest, incompetent, rubbish, and no science journals will knowingly publish it.
            On the very rare occasions when some gullible editor is conned, the scientific body will expose the fraud and the paper will be withdrawn.

          • I understood what you meant by ‘scientific ideology’ – I think.
            For me it is pretty simple – the belief that science is the way to go… just like feminism, Marxism, Buddhism or whatever ‘ism’ you want. There is a word for it: scientism.
            Your problem is that you are in effect like a pagan discussing metaphysics with Christians!

          • John HH Aug 5, 2014 at 6:24 pm

            There is a word for it: scientism.

            A term commonly misused by the profoundly ignorant faith-thinkers, who have no grasp of scientific methodology but wish to doubt-monger solidly evidenced science!

            http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/scientism

            Definition of SCIENTISM

            1: methods and attitudes typical of or attributed to the natural scientist

            2: an exaggerated trust in the efficacy of the methods of natural science applied to all areas of investigation

            … and so confuse the two definitions!

            Your problem is that you are in effect like a pagan discussing metaphysics with Christians!

            Ah! The conflicting of different religious delusions meeting with dogmatic intransigence!

      • ” I don’t think it is right to dismiss everything as nonsense or bullshit so easily”

        Not surprisingly I disagree. I disagree with Harris and Dawkins on some issues related to atheism but one thing I vehemently agree with them on is that the sort of middle of the road “well everyone has their own ideas and it’s wrong to challenge them too much” approach that many American liberals take is bullshit. As Harris says you don’t make something more true by believing in it, things either are true or they aren’t and if someone is pretending to be rigorous and analytic when they are in reality just spouting a bunch of flowery rhetoric it’s important to call them out on it.

        Actually Prof. Dawkins said it much better than I ever could here: http://old.richarddawkins.net/articles/824

        And I think it’s especially important in politics. I believe in a lot of left wing ideas and I’ve spent a non-trivial amount of time trying to organize people, going to meetings, etc. And one of the biggest time wasters are the pretentious twits who spout bullshit about the class struggle but wouldn’t last a day doing real work. As on many issues, I think Chomsky got this exactly right. He always dismisses the idea that there is some deep connection between his linguistic work and his political work. His work in linguistics is as rigorous and deep as you can get but in politics he dismisses most of the theorizing and says that you don’t need any complex model to understand the hypocrisy and lies of the power elite, just common sense and attention to detail.

    • One more point, btw looks like the Reply function is broken again… in one more reply to Jim, Chomsky is an excellent example of what i mean when I say philosophy is just science applied to very hard currently ill defined problems. If you read his works it’s virtually impossible to categorize exactly where they belong in the normal academic breakdown of disciplines. He talks about philosophical issues but he uses analogies and examples from science all the time. And his early linguistic work was obviously relevant to linguistics but it was also foundational for computer science. In fact most people don’t understand how critically important Chomsky’s early work was for computer science. After Turing and Von Neumann he was IMO the person most responsible for the modern computer, you can’t understand compilers without understanding the Chomsky hierarchy and you can’t build a computer language without understanding compilers.

      When you read Chomsky (Pinker is similar also Scott Atran) it’s hard to say “is this philosophy, is it psychology, is it computer science,…” and the thing is it really doesn’t matter. What’s important is to ask good well defined questions and get answers that fit into a coherent theory that can lead to falsifiable experiments. What you call it only matters to journal editors and department heads.

    • The Reply function is breaking for me and it’s not even breaking predictably. Have I mentioned how much I hate this new site? Anyway just wanted to let you know I had other replies that didn’t come up as replies, they are down below.

  9. Hi Red Dog

    And one of the biggest time wasters are the pretentious twits who spout bullshit about the class struggle but wouldn’t last a day doing real work.

    There may well be such people, but there is also an actual class struggle going on. Whether you like and admire “free market” capitalism is irrelevant. Most people in this world work for wages or a salary, and no they don’t have to be down a coal mine somewhere, or sewing on buttons in a Taiwanese factory, or digging out copper ore in Africa. Real people who have to struggle every day for their livelihoods, indeed the majority of people. There might well be a lot of “bullshit” talked about the class struggle, but we don’t need philosophy to recognise that it’s real enough !

    Some 85 individuals own some 50 % of the world’s wealth. Bullshit ? I don’t think so.

    It’s about time that the wealth of the world was owned in common by everyone, then we could really get to grips with problems like global warming. After all we all breathe the same air and drink more or less the same water.

    On Marx’s tombstone in Highgate Cemetery is the inscription:

    Philosophers have interpreted the world in many different ways, the point however, is to change it.

    A sentiment I heartily agree with.

  10. This is so stupid. I got a degree in philosophy of religion at a secular university, none of my professors were theists. I actually learned a lot in those classes about how to engage believers in open communication rather than just relying on hateful rhetoric. It’s a much better method for spreading an atheistic message than bumper stickers and t-shirts. Remember that quaint idea? Trying to reach out to your fellow human beings? building bridges to communities that were other than your own rather than alienating them? Sigh, I’m mean… Praise Richard Dawkins the bringer of truth and rationalism. May he never be proven wrong!!

    PS please don’t censor me moderators.

    • MayBeLogical Aug 1, 2014 at 10:13 pm

      I got a degree in philosophy of religion at a secular university, none of my professors were theists.

      That is unlikely to give you any detailed understanding of the numerous specialisms of science.
      As has been pointed out earlier, science has taken over, and provided knowledge, in large areas which were at one time considered part of philosophy – with much ancient philosophy now long refuted.

      I actually learned a lot in those classes about how to engage believers in open communication rather than just relying on hateful rhetoric.

      Science does not do “hateful rhetoric” but is often subjected to it by those in denial!
      Science also does not do fudging of facts or heavily evidenced theories to accommodate wishful thinking or faith-based-notions.

      Trying to reach out to your fellow human beings? building bridges to communities that were other than your own rather than alienating them?

      I often make the point, that when spreading scientific education, explaining to those who are open to evidence and reason works – sometimes later rather than sooner.
      When explaining to those who are in dogmatic denial, and bigoted rejection of all evidence or even rational thought processes, the perceptions of the audience are the main considerations. Those in dogmatic denial will usually succeed in learning nothing.

      Sigh, I’m mean… Praise Richard Dawkins the bringer of truth and rationalism. May he never be proven wrong!!

      Like most scientists, Richard is prepared to up-date his views if proven wrong. He has written many books explaining the science behind his thinking.

      There are many aspects of science which are highly unlikely to be proved wrong, with arguments from incredulity of:
      “I can’t/ won’t understand the maths or the science, therefore the science and calculations are wrong”!
      .. . . . making no impression on scientists or science.

      The Earth is NOT 6,000 or 10,000 years old, regardless of what wish-thinkers want to believe.

      PS please don’t censor me moderators.

      The moderators on this site do nor censor rationally presented evidenced arguments. – Just for breaches of rules on abuse, trolling, preaching, etc.

  11. . Luke. Without the Bible, it is obvious you have nothing but man made morality and law to guide you.

    You’ve got it! Man made law and morality are both infinitely superior. Look around. Are we still stoning adulterers? No! Man made law. Are we still condemning to death those who work on the sabbath? No! Stoning anyone to death is wrong even though the bible tells us that it’s the way to go. Thank heavens for man made law and morality!

  12. MayBeLogical Aug 2, 2014 at 5:06 am

    Yes, but it’s a subjective term. People often call astrology a pseudescience,

    Astrology certainly is, but that judgement is clearly objective, rather than subjective! Any useful bits of astrology from ancient history, are now included in the science of astronomy, while the astrologers persist with the remaining quackery.

    but is Yoga a pseudoscience? is the I-Ching a pseudescience?

    It can be harder to separate pseudo-science from science which stated out objectively, but once refuted, degenerated to pseudo-science, in its persistence with the preconceived notions which inspired the investigations. There are also claims which go well beyond any scientific support they have.

    Promoters of pseudo-science often try to con the gullible or uneducated by citing or quoting, ancient long refuted hypotheses from famous scientists whose other work was ground-breaking – or from failed scientists who simply supported their own wish-thinking.

    Was the work of Willhelm Reich a pseudoscience?

    Yes!

    As Reich attempted to discover more about orgone, he became increasingly self-aggrandizing and paranoid as he failed to gain any traction in the scientific world. (Reich’s “bions” were suspected to be bacteria by outside observers, and much like Prosper Blondlot’s N-rays in 1903, orgone energy itself proved to be illusory.) http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Wilhelm_Reich

    .. ..

    Was Timothy Leary’s research a pseudoscience?

    Yes! Quantum quackery has found a whole new area to develop gapology! Much of the early work on psychology has since been refuted.

  13. Luke Aug 1, 2014 at 10:30 pm

    we do not grow out of religion, but grow into religion.

    Or more accurately you are indoctrinated into A RELIGION

    @ Luke – Faith is higher than reason.

    and constantly repetitively re-soaked in glorification of irrational blind acceptance, of its doctrines, dogmas.

    You and the other atheists have not progressed to atheism, rather you have degenarated from faith. your eyes have been closed to the light.

    Everyone is born an atheist, prior to indoctrination.

    You clearly have no understanding of the thousands of religions beyond your own indoctrinated version, so you direct your psychological projection at atheists – and possibly at other religions.

    . . . .. As is illustrated by your following comment, denying your fundamentalist, blind, uncritical acceptance, of dogmas. and attributing your own lack of evidenced rationality, to others.

    I am not a religious fundamentalist, you are. You follow blindly the fundamentals of the atheist religion, with its false prophets

    and attributing your own lack of evidenced rational thought processes, to to the thinking of others who do not blindly accept dogmas.

    There are many missing links in evolutionary theory.

    You really need to work on the study of science, objective evidence, and rational thinking. Denial of science simply shows a lack of education, and the reading the works of scientifically illiterate writers.

    Blind-belief can lead to belief in anything! – fairies, magic dragons, astrology, leprechauns, magic creations of planets and creatures! It is the ultimate path to delusion and unreality!

  14. Did anyone else notice a certain irony in that the lead story at the top of the RDNet website is about ending discrimination against secularists but it’s also headlining a story about doing just the opposite to those who teach religious studies at universities?

  15. Philosophizing on everything really amounts to “philosophizing on certain favorite assumptions that are not confirmed at all”. Don’t see any reason whatsoever why religion should be excluded from the list, being clearly one of the most fascinating phenomena in the world and one of the juiciest apples of discord. Why bar someone from ruminating on it? Where do this fascist impulses come from…

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