Class Warfare Blog

October 3, 2018

Creationist Follies

Filed under: Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 1:41 pm
Tags: , , ,

Creationists aren’t interested in evidence as they “have faith” … at least until the slightest glimmer of hope some evidence supports their position and then it become full bore “I told you so!” artists.

The anti-evolution strain of this sect is especially active. I wish they would use some of that energy to understand what the theory actually is and what the evidence is but that wish is rather stupid. It is me asking them to look for themselves for why they are wrong. This is not something they are wont to do and this is not surprising. I don’t find that task pleasant, either.

One of the more troubling examples of their ignorance is the recent trend to try to poke holes in evolutionary science. Currently I have seen any number of tropes about why evolution transformed us from hairy ape-like creatures to hairless ape-like creatures. They bellow “Why did we lose our fur?” Explain that evolution-tards!

<Sigh>

Okay, allow me. (And I am no expert, just an avid science-type, so feel free to pick this apart.)

Humans benefited mightily by losing their fur and the creation of wall-to-wall sweat glands. If you look no farther way from you than your dog, you will see the life of furred animals, predator and prey alike. Your dog can run like the wind, for a few minutes, and then they drop to the ground and pant like crazy. The reason? Other than a little sweat through their paws, they have no other way to get rid of excess heat.

Humans, on the other hand, when they moved out onto the savannah (possible due to Climate Change?) benefited mightily from the loss of fur and the proliferation of sweat glands.

You may know that cheetahs can achieve 70 mph in short bursts. All predators have to be fast or quick, but that exertion of muscle energy generates heat which has to be leaked into the environment. Humans, with their sweat glands all over their skin and the absence of fur that allows the air to carry away the evaporated water (evaporation takes a lot of heat and converts it into potential energy—it is cooling, Creationists) which gives them not great speed, but great stamina.

Let’s use a current marathon runner as an example. The record holders can run just over 26 miles in about two hours. Let’s call that 13 miles per hour. Any deer or antelope can easily do well in excess of 13 miles an hour. But they have to stop and rest after just a few seconds, by which time the human hunters have caught up and spook the game into sprinting away again, which it does. But then the humans catch up again. Spook, run to ground, spook, run to ground. In the end, the deer or antelope is exhausted and the human hunter can walk up and cut their throats with a knife.

This is how human hunters dominated the savannah in early Africa. We ran our prey to ground. And we could keep it up for hours because of our loss of fur (which prevents breezes from reaching the skin) and our multitude of sweat glands. This form of hunting was observed well into the 19th century in the form of hunting Native Americans. It is well documented.

So, “Why did we lose our fur? Where’s the answer Evolutionists? You now have your answer. next question, my ignorant friends.

Advertisements

September 3, 2018

I Can … Not … Wait!

Filed under: History,Science,Technology — Steve Ruis @ 9:25 am
Tags: , , ,

I group of enterprising literary researchers decided to apply some modern tech to old problems. The tools exist now to map networks of things, Internet memes, people, you name it. Networks of people and their relationships show some quite common characteristics which can be used to identify them as networks of real people. The researchers decided to apply such a study to The Odyssey. So they mapped out all of the characters and all of their relationships and, well, I’ll let them speak for themselves:

“We found substantial evidence of a ‘real-life’ social structure in The Odyssey. Notably, the characters in each chapter or scene described in the poem’s 24 books corresponded almost precisely to cliques in real-life networks. It led us to wonder: did Homer have a profound understanding of networks, or did he copy key details about his characters and their interactions from elsewhere?

“To examine this more closely, we reran the analysis, this time excluding mythological characters like gods and monsters. The remaining network was even more similar to what you would expect in real life. On the other hand, we ran an analysis that excluded the human characters and kept the mythological ones, and were left with an entirely fictional network. The obvious conclusion is that The Odyssey is an amalgam of real and fictional characters.”

They then went on to say “It is surely only a matter of time, for instance, before someone uses complex networks theory on the Bible.”

Oooh, I cannot wait!

Imagine being able to tell what is hypothetically true and what is assuredly fictional!

August 28, 2018

Remarkable … Really?

Filed under: Culture,Reason,Science — Steve Ruis @ 11:32 am
Tags: , ,

I just received a special issue of Scientific American. I have been reading SA for over 60 years now so, yes, I am that kind of geek. This special issue is on “Humans” with the subtitle “Why We’re Unlike Any Other Species on the Planet.”

The first paragraph in the headline article contained the following words:

“Curiously, the scientists best qualified to evaluate this claim (that humans are special creatures) have often appeared reticent to acknowledge the uniqueness of Homo sapiens, perhaps for fear of reinforcing the idea of human exceptionalism put forward in religious doctrines. Yet hard scientific data have been amassed across fields ranging from ecology to cognitive psychology affirming that humans truly are a remarkable species.”

WTF?

Really?

Hello?

To be remarkable is to be worthy of being remarked upon. I, for example, have been observed and the remark shared “What an asshole.” That remark makes me remarkable in the area of assholiness, in any case.

Of all the myriad species on this planet, which of them is capable of making a remark? Hmmm, at last count it was one, us. While sometimes my dog looks at me askance, I suspect the message is only a projection of my thinking and not the dog’s.

Gosh, stop the presses—we are special! No shit Shylock! Are you aware of any other species which has dominated this planet to serve its needs? Maybe chickens. The population of chickens has risen right along with that of humans. Next in line, maybe cattle, and then pigs. All of these species have spread around the world and exploded in population. Are any of them capable of making a remark? I think not.

That makes us the remarking species and what topic heads the list of things we remark upon? Hmm, Satan? (No, Church Lady, shut up will you.) Our remarks are dominated by comments about other humans and even ourselves. So, remarkable is not something to brag about.

Is the whole SA issue about how we are unique, then? Well I hate to break it to you, Bucky, but the whole idea of a species is that it is unique. The original definition stated that species could not mate successfully with members outside their species (we have since learned this is not exactly true). That is the definition of uniqueness, I think.

So, what is the issue about? I haven’t finished reading it yet, but it seems to be about how fucking full of ourselves we are. Shakespeare comes to mind—

“What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals—” (Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2) Hamlet sensibly goes on to reject this description, but then he was a moody guy.

August 25, 2018

Even More Bullshit on Alcohol

Filed under: Culture,Reason,Science — Steve Ruis @ 10:15 am
Tags: , ,

I begin with excerpts from an online post:

“Even the occasional drink is harmful to health, according to the largest and most detailed research carried out on the effects of alcohol, which suggests governments should think of advising people to abstain completely.

“The uncompromising message comes from the authors of the Global Burden of Diseases study, a rolling project based at the University of Washington, in Seattle, which produces the most comprehensive data on the causes of illness and death in the world.

“Alcohol, says their report published in the Lancet medical journal, led to 2.8 million deaths in 2016. It was the leading risk factor for premature mortality and disability in the 15 to 49 age group, accounting for 20% of deaths.

“Current alcohol drinking habits pose “dire ramifications for future population health in the absence of policy action today”, says the paper. “Alcohol use contributes to health loss from many causes and exacts its toll across the lifespan, particularly among men.”

“Most national guidelines suggest there are health benefits to one or two glasses of wine or beer a day, they say. “Our results show that the safest level of drinking is none.”

“The study was carried out by researchers at the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), who investigated levels of alcohol consumption and health effects in 195 countries between 1990 to 2016. They used data from 694 studies to work out how common drinking was and from 592 studies including 28 million people worldwide to work out the health risks.

“Moderate drinking has been condoned for years on the assumption that there are some health benefits. A glass of red wine a day has long been said to be good for the heart. But although the researchers did find low levels of drinking offered some protection from heart disease, and possibly from diabetes and stroke, the benefits were far outweighed by alcohol’s harmful effects, they said.”

Leave it to the wankers who did this study that they only considered the health benefits of imbibing. Do you know anyone who drinks for the health benefits? Anyone? I can’t imagine there is one, let alone enough to study.

Imagine a study regarding automobiles. So many people get injured and maimed every year in car accidents. People spend so much time traveling to work that productivity losses are huge. And sitting in a car for extended time periods is bad as sitting is bad, bad, bad. So, the only safe number of cars is zero.

Studies that look at negative effects of anything can create a graph showing that the more people who do that thing, the more damage there is and to lower the damage to zero, you have to lower the participation to zero. But cost-benefit analyses are designed to find a sweet spot where the costs are low and benefits high, a point of compromise, as it were.

Knives! So many people get cut or get stabbed and even die every year! “Our results show that the safest level of cutting is none.”

How about some consideration of, oh I don’t know, people maybe, with regard to how much pleasure moderate drinking brings to our lives. The moderate amounts of anxiety reduction, the loosening of some inhibitions, the warm feeling a good pint provides, or a glass of really good Sangiovese? Huh? How about some consideration of “we the fucking people want to drink”? I agree that drinking to excess is a problem and needs to be addressed, but not with a throwing the baby out with the bath water recommendation.

Did they learn nothing from the American experiment in Prohibition? I wonder what they would have come up if they had studied food? Do you know how many people develop diseases due to bad eating habits. People die from diabetes and related diseases due to poor dietary habits. Would they have come up with “the safest level of eating is none?”

August 5, 2018

Free Will and Neuroscience … at Odds?

Filed under: Reason,Science — Steve Ruis @ 9:13 am
Tags: , ,

I have written quite a bit about Yuval Noah Harari, who is an Israeli historian who has written the bestselling book Sapiens, which examined the course of early human history. Now that he is a public intellectual of some note, what he says carries weight. In a recent interview in The Guardian, he is quoted as saying:

This is why your feelings are the highest authority in your life and also in politics and economics – the voter knows best, the customer is always right. Even though neuroscience shows us that there is no such thing as free will, in practical terms it made sense because nobody could understand and manipulate your innermost feelings. But now the merger of biotech and infotech in neuroscience and the ability to gather enormous amounts of data on each individual and process them effectively means we are very close to the point where an external system can understand your feelings better than you. We’ve already seen a glimpse of it in the last epidemic of fake news.

I do not want to address the topic he is zoned in on, just one of his toss off lines, namely “Even though neuroscience shows us that there is no such thing as free will.”

I would hope that this is something an historian might say and a scientist would not. (Actually I hope that an historian would be even more circumspect than a scientist, but that is just me being an eternal optimist.) There is an argument one can make, a fairly strong argument, that free will isn’t free, that we live in a deterministic universe, one full of just causes and effects. But the line Harari uses sounds like a fact, like something proven that we should accept.

I believe that any conclusion, at this point, regarding free will is premature and I offer an example for your consideration.

In the recent conclusion of this year’s World Series of Poker, the finalists played “head-to-head” for ten hours. There were 199 hands of Texas Hold’em played this way. The final nine players played 300 hands to reduce the field to the final two. So, ask yourself: was every decision of the two finalists made deterministically? Did the cards and the situation determine every decision made? If you answer “yes” you are a determinist who believes there is no such thing as free will.

I cannot accept this explanation right now as I have seen a top player throw away the winning hand at one point (he had a flush) because he missed seeing it. So, was the hand determined by the fact that he didn’t see the flush in his own hand? His hand was, I suggest, but what pray tell is the cause of that effect? I think you can speculate for days and not really answer the question. He was fatigued? Maybe. Was he was focused on other things? Maybe. Did his eyes have a glitch in visual processing in his brain? Maybe.

I think the identification of the cause and the effect is at the crux of making a claim of a deterministic universe and I still see this as an inexact procedure.

Most determinists conclude the universe is this way because of problems with the “other way,” the way of free will, being able to decide “otherly.” But that doesn’t automatically make determinism the correct way by default, not unless you can show what determines what in an unbroken chain leading to decisions over and over.

Poker players get the same hand (roughly equivalent to exactly equivalent hands) quite a number of times. Occasionally they get the same hand two or three times in a row. (In Texas Hold’em, the player’s hand is only two cards.) I have seen players play the same hand completely differently, one time aggressively and one time passively. They change their playing persona from time to time (from being “tight” and only playing premium hands to ATC, Any Two Cards will do). They change the conditions they will play hands from time to time. One player of note changes his approach based upon what time it is. There are many subtle things going on, but my point is how to answer the question “what are the causes for each of these decisions?” Is there no room for “the fog of war” in which decisions get made haphazardly? Why are some of the decisions made perplexing even to the players who made them (they cannot explain why they did what they did)? What role does fatigue play? Frustration? Hope?

I am not saying that all of these decisions (200 hands, each player makes 6-10 decisions per hand in the final stage alone) cannot be deterministic but I do not yet see that they have to be.

A basic problem I have is with the microscopic slicing of holistic processes. Consider a golfer’s swing. Coaches, using their eyes and high speed video, have broken down golf swings into finer and finer bits. They talk about the bits ad nauseum. But really, what real difference is there between a back swing to 90° from the ground and one that is 89° from the ground? Each golfer’s swing is unique with common elements, but none of the fine slices is necessary as some very accomplished golfers do without them. If you look at finer and finer slices, you get farther and farther away from things that really affect the outcome.

The same is true for determinists. They talk about neuron A being connected with neuron B and if A is stimulated, then so will be B … see determined. This is too simplistic. Individual neurons in the brain have, on average, 1000 connections to other neurons, even as many as 10,000 connections. This is not like an electronic device in which we can trace the pathways of electrons through the conductive paths. The number of paths for neural impulses is completely mind boggling. The number of connections in a human brain (synapses) is a thousand or more times the number of stars in the Milky Way. One neuron does not lead to the next in an easy to describe chain, it leads to many, many nexts.

So, while arguments can be made that our decisions are determined, that argument hasn’t been completely made yet.

And I really wish public intellectuals would not state hypotheses as if they were facts. Instead of Harari saying “Even though neuroscience shows us that there is no such thing as free will …” he could have just as easily said “Even though neuroscience seems to be telling us that there may be no such thing as free will….”

August 2, 2018

Evolution Disbelief: Understandable … But Why?

Filed under: Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 8:36 am
Tags: ,

It is clear that a rejection of the theory of evolution, the cornerstone of all of biology (and other sciences) stems from religious beliefs. The question I have is: why? There are some who put all of their chips on the table (All in!) regarding this issue. They say that “if evolution is true, then Christianity is false.” This does not necessarily follow but clearly if the theory is correct (and it is as correct as a theory can be at this point in time 150 years after its first exposition) then parts of Christianity are incorrect, but there are more than a few biologists who use the theory almost daily and are also Christians.

In this argument, I think they flaw is in the “all in” attitude, making much more at stake than there really is. (This is a common ploy—over exaggerating the danger of <fill in the blank> to. Consider the early environmentalists claiming that we are destroying the planet, which is ludicrous; we are just destroying the ability of our planet to support a large population of human beings. The planet will be fine, no matter what we do. [Hint: Subduction cures all damage to the crust over time.])

In reality, most of the religious do not know enough to understand the theory in order to have an opinion. Their opinion was handed to them by their religious leaders.

But do you go to a car mechanic for medical advice? To a dentist for financial advice? Why would anyone take science advice from a cleric?

I think there is a healthy dose of wish fulfillment involved her. As much as some Christians go around preaching Christianity as the way to eternal life, according to them, everyone gets an eternal life! The only question is do you want to got to Heaven to spend all of that time or do you want to go to Hell?

Most Christians have only the vaguest idea of what Heaven will be like. I haven’t yet met one who could talk on the topic for more than a minute or two, even though they could describe their most recent vacation for hours if you would let them. So, I don’t think it is the attractiveness of Heaven that is involved, rather the fear of Hell.

Here’s the conundrum. If, as the clerics are saying is true, that the Theory of Evolution directly contradicts divine scripture, that if that theory is true, then scripture is false, why hand only scripture. The motivating factor is the avoidance of hell and you could avoid it big time … if it just didn’t exist.

I suspect that the idea of pursuing those thoughts is just too scary for most, that the warm, fuzzy ideas of Heaven and Hell (Warm?) are too familiar and besides everyone assumes they are going to Heaven, so everything is cool.

A moments thought would dispel such myths. Think back on the most pleasurable five minutes of your life. Now think of an eternity of that feeling. Boring bordering on torture! (Realize that the logical extension of just getting “some peace and quiet” is called solitary confinement which is coming to be recognized as a form of torture.) Variety is the spice of life, no? I suspect many people think their life will just continue as it has but will be much, much better. Your kids will be good looking, do well in school, taxes will be low, etc.

If you think about it, both Heaven and Hell sound like places of torture. (I just remembered the episode of The Twilight Zone in which a gambler thinks he has died and is in Heaven. There are casinos in Heaven (of course) and he wins easily when he plays. What a life. Then he twigs to the fact that not only does he win easily, but he never loses. There is no skill involved, no risk, no reward, and no pleasure. He questions his host as to why Heaven would be this way and his host comes back with (I am working from memory here) “Why do you think this is Heaven?” (Bwah, hah, hah!))

Any pleasure, ecstasy, carried to extremes creates dullness and apathy … at best. But Heaven will be different … right? Let’s ask the guy who gave us the good science advice!

 

July 10, 2018

The Effing Elites Do Not Care About You or Me … Unless We are Making them Money … and Possibly Not Even Then

Filed under: Culture,Politics,Science — Steve Ruis @ 12:25 pm
Tags: , ,

Read it and weep.

https://www.propublica.org/article/how-the-epa-and-the-pentagon-downplayed-toxic-pfas-chemicals?utm_source=pardot&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=dailynewsletter

June 21, 2018

Will Science Ever Solve the Mysteries of Consciousness, Free Will, and God?

The above title is that of an article in Scientific American (July 2018) by no one less than the inestimable Michael Shermer. The subtitle is “Are consciousness, free will and God insoluble mysteries?”

Even more fascinating is Mr. Schermer’s answer: yes!

Actually, this answer is quite puzzling. In his piece Mr. Shermer quotes British biologist and Nobel laureate Sir Peter Medawar who wrote: “Good scientists study the most important problems they think they can solve. It is, after all, their professional business to solve problems, not merely to grapple with them.” This, I think is correct. The scientific ego is boosted by actual results and so scientists shy away from problems deemed intractable, unsolvable. But, until one tries to solve a problem, how does one know whether it is beyond them? And, even if it is beyond us now, how can we know it will be beyond us forever?

I am of the camp that we will understand all three and, in fact, have good starts on all three questions. The problem is not the issues themselves completely (labeled as “final mysteries” by Shermer), but involves the attitudes of the audiences receiving the conclusions.

For example, if you came up with an ironclad proof that the Christian/Jewish/Muslim god did not exist, how many people would say “Well, dang, and all along I though God was real. Foolish of me, don’t you think?” And how many would say “I don’t not believe such secular nonsense!” (Go ahead, guess; I dare you!)

The audience here has a different standard of proof than scientists have. If you accept something as proven only when it reaches the standard of a mathematical proof, no scientific proofs could be had at all, but if you establish the level of proof to be as good as “the sun will come up tomorrow,” then the Christian, etc. god is proven to not exist already (in short, the claimed supernatural powers are in conflict with one another). This level of proof is good enough for scientists who use no divine mysteries in their works, even though they may still participate in their local church communities (which may have absolutely nothing to do with the existence of any god or gods).

Similarly, the general public will never accept the idea of a deterministic universe as they feel, that is feel in the first person, that they are “free” to make their own decisions. The idea that we are not free to do just that undermines all religions, social justice structures, etc. so do not expect the general public to accept that there is no such thing as free will. (I do not accept the deterministic arguments at this juncture as there are any number of problems with the current deterministic interpretations, including a signal-to-noise problem of immense size.)

It is rare that I find myself in disagreement with Michael Shermer, but one of the rock bottom principles in science is that authority has no place. So, in this case, our opinions differ.

June 17, 2018

Ignorant or Duplicitous? … You Decide

I ran across the oft repeated quotation from Isaac Newton just now “I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by those who were inspired. I study the Bible daily.” This quotation is from the second edition of Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Latin for Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy), one of the most important scientific publications in the entire history of western science.

Like Einstein, Isaac Newton is oft quoted as an example of a scientist who “believed.” Exactly what they believed is often overlooked.

Isaac Newton was notoriously thin-skinned and he received a great many objections and criticisms from the publishing of the first edition of the Principia with dismay (like Michael and Beyonce, the book only needs its first name). One of the criticisms was that Newton’s work explained the motions of the planets so well there was no longer a need for God’s guiding hand to keep the planets moving in their perfect orbits. In a direct response to that accusation, Newton inserted a new paragraph into his second edition making it clear that he still believed all his laws had been created by God. In other words, he didn’t think such a statement was necessary in the first edition!

Make no mistake about it, Newton was a creationist. He did believe in “God,” but this was the mid to late 1600’s and the consequences of not believing were quite dire. Plus, what Newton actually did believe would not pass muster with the theists constantly repeating the quotation above.

From Wikipedia, “According to most scholars, Newton was Arian, not holding to Trinitarianism. In Newton’s eyes, worshipping Christ as God was idolatry, to him the fundamental sin. As well as being antitrinitarian, Newton allegedly rejected the orthodox doctrines of the immortal soul, a personal devil and literal demons.

Now, what do you call someone who rejects the trinity, didn’t hold with Jesus being called a god, didn’t believe in immortal souls (and therefore the afterlife, Heaven, Hell, etc.), the devil, and demons? Is there a Christian sect today which can check off all of those boxes? Like Einstein, Newton was at most a theist viewing nature as the only god worth studying.

Also, Newton’s “daily” Bible studies weren’t exactly orthodox. Also from Wikipedia:

“Newton spent a great deal of time trying to discover hidden messages within the Bible. After 1690, Newton wrote a number of religious tracts dealing with the literal interpretation of the Bible. In a manuscript Newton wrote in 1704 he describes his attempts to extract scientific information from the Bible. He estimated that the world would end no earlier than 2060. In predicting this he said ‘This I mention not to assert when the time of the end shall be, but to put a stop to the rash conjectures of fanciful men who are frequently predicting the time of the end, and by doing so bring the sacred prophesies into discredit as often as their predictions fail.’”

So, those who quote the above statement incessantly as an example of a “scientist who believed” thus supporting the idea that faith and reason are compatible, are they ignorant or duplicitous? Personally I think more people grasp upon anything that supports their beliefs out of plain old confirmation bias than there are theists who actually know what is what and who are deliberately obscuring the truth to show The Truth™. This I believe is a consequence of evangelism. Few are equipped to do it correctly.

June 8, 2018

Other Ways of Knowing

In the on-going conflict between science and religion that either doesn’t exist (because the two are compatible) or shouldn’t exist (because the two are incompatible), science types, like me, are accused of scientism, the thrusting of science into areas of human discourse where it doesn’t belong and, more specifically, stepping on religion’s toes. How dare, the critics say, science tell us anything about morality or aesthetics or … religion?

There are, they say, “other ways of knowing” than science. With regard to religion, specifically. they mention: faith, dogma, scripture, personal experience, and revelation.

So, let’s look at this.

First, what we call science is what originally was called “natural philosophy,” which was a branch of philosophy, just like ethics, politics, epistemology, logic, metaphysics, and aesthetics. When the scientific method was devised to make studying the natural world more effective, many of the categories of nature (chemistry—the study of the transformations of substances, biology—the study of living organisms, etc.) came to be called sciences. But the employ of the scientific method did not really remove those studies from philosophy. The scientific method can be employed in all kinds of studies that no one would call “sciences.” For example, history, or economics, or sociology, auto repair, or well, you name it. The scientific method is a way to generate new knowledge and can be employed in a vast number of places, even ethics.

So, to say that science is overstepping its bounds is foolishness. If it can be employed successfully it will because it is the only method so far that has demonstrated the ablity to create new knowledge.

Now, on the flip side we have the “other ways of knowing.” In turn:

Faith What is faith but an expression of belief. Both faith and belief are expressions of “knowing” things that are not generally accepted as being true by having evidence. So, where did this “faith” or “belief” come from? Who explained what it is that is to be an object of faith? Can that person be trusted? Are you sure they are not mistaken? How would you tell? This is not a way of knowing, it is a claim of knowing something that is not in evidence. Faith is not a way of knowing so much as it is a claim of knowing. It is an answer to the question “How do you know that?” “What do you know?”

Dogma The dictionary definition of dogma is “a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.” Basically if a religion says you must believe something because it is true, but they do not attempt to prove the truth involved, that is dogma. Every church, and there are tens of thousands of them, has their own dogma. How can you tell which of them is indeed correct? Could none of them have been mistaken? How will you resolve contradictions between the various dogmas? In science there is no dogma, nor are there “authorities.” If you don’t accept something scientifically, you are free to examine all of the evidence and test it for yourself. The information/evidence is made public, along with the data and procedures used to acquire the data.

Scripture Scripture is just things written down. Most religions have some sort of scriptures. Most religions disagree with regard to the content of what was written down, so how does one tell whether their scriptures are real or true? Jewish scholars have now admitted that the first five books of their “book” are a fictional back story for their people. This is a form of wisdom literature as fairy tales used to be, that is precautionary tales as to what will happen to you “if …” simply told as if they had already happened as an implication that they could happen “again.”

It has been pointed out repeatedly that all of the books of the Bible have unknown authors who have unknown backgrounds. We not only don’t know who wrote those books, we don’t know why those books were written either. Without those “facts,” we therefore cannot tell whether the books were divinely inspired. Ask yourself, what are the signs in a writing that the writing was inspired by a god? If such signs exist, they could be highjacked by a gifted fiction writer to ends that we cannot necessarily perceive.

It is probably an act of desperation that many evangelical religion’s statements of faith indicate that their scriptures were true and correct in their original versions. (This is a dogma, by the way.) No one alive today has seen such an original document. The texts we have today were mostly created from translations of fragments of copies (of copies of copies …) that were centuries older than the dates they were claimed to be written. That most such fragments differ from one another proves that the copies have errors in them. So, how do we know what the errors are?

Personal Experience There are people who claim they have a personal relationship with a god, that they can feel “his presence.” I have talked with few people who make this claim but I would like to hear how they can tell what they claim they can tell from their feelings. I am willing to grant them their feelings, but not their interpretation. For example, many people can claim the feeling of “a powerful presence.” How is that interpreted as being male or female or is that just assumed? How can the feeling of “power” be interpreted? How do we know we are in the presence of, say, a powerful human? I suspect we read the clues of dress ($4000 suit, military uniform, etc.) and behavior (expecting orders to underlings to be obeyed instantly, etc.) or we know the identity of such a person ahead of time. So, if one is a believer ahead of time and feels a powerful presence when meditating or “praying,” the identification is assumed rather than established. No one seems to report a “feeling of power” associated with the words, “Hi, Bill, this is Yahweh.”

Revelation Revelations are second hand compared with personal experience. These come from people who claim “God told me … something or other.” The supposed apostle who helped create “Christianity the Religion” and who claimed he was an expert on Jesus, never met the man; he got all of his information through a great many revelations, or so he said. How can we tell whether these people are not deluded or liars? (Said apostle defended claims he was a liar in scripture!) There are many people who crave attention who make outlandish claims as to their education levels, job histories, friendships, and life experiences. Some of these charlatans are seeking political office or jobs and are often enough caught out in their lies that we all have heard stories to this effect. How can you tell who is and who is not telling the truth?

Also, in the entire history of revelation in your particular religion, has any objective knowledge been reported? Has a method to avoid the plague been told or how washing your hands leads to less disease or that there is a medicine in citrus fruit what will help prevent scurvy? Is this really a “way of knowing?” Do even the major prophets tell us anything we did not already know?

Back to Science Is there any form of increased knowledge that involves anything other than scientific enquiry? How about the other branches of philosophy? (My ethics teacher said that in 4000 years of ethical philosophy, we have not yet been able to define the phrase “is good.”) How about theology? How about apologetics?

In many of these religious and quasi-religious approaches the same people who tell us that “we cannot know the mind of god,” tell us exactly what their god was thinking and going when <fill in the blank here>. Clearly they are making that shit up.

The term “scientism,” is simply a pejorative. The people who write about it cannot even define it. It is an attempt to discredit science before it is applied to ideas they hold dear. Science is, indeed, a way of looking at things, but it won’t go away because of flabby arguments centered on the deliberate misuse of words like “faith.” Scientists do not have “faith” that the sun will show up in the morning sky, we have confidence that it will based upon thousands and thousands (millions really) of observations, in other words evidence. Religious faith is believing something based upon little or no evidence, scientific expectations are based upon pragmatic evidence, which is why science works and faith does not as “a way of knowing.”

So, the next time you hear or read the term “scientism,” or hear or read that someone “doesn’t have enough faith to believe in evolution,” you know you are in the presence of a purveyor of the Big Lie, someone who believes that there are mystical ways of “knowing” that we must acknowledge, even though they cannot show even the slightest reason for us to so believe.

Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.