The Christian right is losing women: Why more and more are embracing non-belief

May 26, 2015

By Amanda Marcotte

Atheists were abuzz this week over Pew Research releasing new numbers showing that the number of “nones” (people who have no religion at all) in the U.S. is soaring to record levels, making up a whopping 56 million Americans. In just the past seven years, the percentage of Americans who say they have no specific religious affiliation went from 16 percent to 23 percent. While nones are a diverse group—some are atheist, some agnostic, some believe in God but don’t follow a religion—this explosive rejection of organized religion certainly means America is becoming a country where it is safer and more acceptable to be a non-believer.

But while the Pew research is causing this massive wave of media attention, both good and bad, just as interesting was a quieter report from the Christian polling company Barna Group on the state of American atheism. Barna is clearly motivated by trying to bring people into the Christian fold, but its polling methods are sound, and like Pew, its research shows that the nones are a diverse group. However, this March report focused on what Barna calls “skeptics,” who are self-identified as atheists or agnostics. Barna’s research found that this group’s demographics have changed considerably; skeptics are younger, more racially and ethnically diverse, more educated, and more spread out than they were 20 years ago.

But the biggest demographic shift recorded by Barna was related to gender. “In 1993 only 16 percent of atheists and agnostics were women,” the report explains. “By 2013 that figure had nearly tripled to 43 percent.”

While the number of skeptics, both male and female, has been growing rapidly, it’s been growing even faster for women, which is why this shift has happened. Anyone who attends atheist or skeptic events has seen plenty of anecdotal evidence of this shift. When I first got involved in skepticism and atheism many years ago, when nones were only 16 percent of the population, it was often awkward and alienating, and I felt like one of the few young women in a sea of older men. Now I’m not quite so young, and things have changed dramatically. No more hesitating about going into the bar after a conference, for fear it’s going to be a sausage fest. No more scouting the entire room for a woman, any woman, to talk to. While some conferences need to do more work to make women feel welcome, by and large the skeptic world is one where being female doesn’t make you feel weird anymore.


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238 comments on “The Christian right is losing women: Why more and more are embracing non-belief

  • “In 1993 only 16 percent of atheists and agnostics were women,” the report explains. “By 2013 that figure had nearly tripled to 43 percent.”

    Hooray! Finally!

    Women, listen to me now… the invisible alpha male in the sky is a first class asshole. Leave your churches/synagogs/mosques and take your children with you.

    Religion needs you but you don’t need them! There are better ideas out there that are compassionate, fair, positive and progressive. Leave behind the sexist crap from the holy books. We have better books than those hateful tribal cruelty writings.

    It’s not easy to leave behind the religion of your family and a whole line of ancestors. I remember the day when I realized that I just didn’t believe the key ideas of the Methodists and Christianity in general and in that moment I felt sad that I was breaking rank with my family members both living and dead, but it wouldn’t be honest for me to continue to present a facade of respect for that religion that I was brought up in. It’s just not honest, is it?

    Some family members and some friends still have a hard time accepting that I’m different from the rest of them in this way. Most have made some effort to understand what Atheism is all about by reading books and watching videos. I appreciate that. They have all come around and accepted the inevitable conclusion- that I am just trying to be the best person I can be, without groveling to an invisible mean bastard in the sky.

    If there are any women on the fence out there who are just grumbling along in their religion because they don’t want to make waves with the people around them in their daily life, I hope you will look into Humanism and what we are now calling Secularism. It’s a much more positive, female-friendly community that doesn’t throw around the word “sin” and doesn’t try to manipulate us with puritanical sexual guilt and other pernicious judgements.

    We will manage our own sexuality and reproductive system all by ourselves and priests, pastors, imams and rabbis will shut the hell up and keep out of our business!

    Stand up straight, take a deep breath and make a break with the control freaks of the past. Free your mind first and then set about thinking of how you can be the best leader you can be. It’s the best thing you can do for the children and young people in your family that are following you.

    Welcome to the reality club.



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  • The appeal of fundamental religion is you have a number of scapegoats you can fulminate against and blame for all the world’s problems. You can be absolutely right and everyone else totally wrong, without the effort of getting a university degree. In any disagreement with your wife, by definition, you are right. It gives you excuses to treat your children harshly.

    These perks have less appeal for women.

    Since women do the most religious instruction of children. Where they go, the future generations go.



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  • Laurie B let’s just make sure that the imaginary alpha male in the sky isn’t replaced with actual males playing the alpha roles here in reality land!

    I’ve been an atheist for 10 years and a fan of Dawkins for about five. But it’s taken me five years to join this site because before that it was just like a sad lads mag, just as sexist as religion. Actually it was more sexist than UK style religion lite. If you want women to further contribute to the growth of rationality rather than just passively be atheists then make sure burkhas on for the lads isn’t replaced with the tits out for lads. Because that’s how it looked before!

    If women are here as equal valued for their opinions, especially on what constitutes sexist behaviour they’ll stay. Otherwise they’ll disappear to other campaigns. This is the hard won victory of women like you!! For the first time atheism is not seen as an old boys club.



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  • Sadly that is not exclusive to religion. If it were women would have seen something better years ago. They didn’t.

    Atheism has enjoyed its fair share of sexism in the past. This change has followed on from atheism cleaning up its act and looking like it genuinely was starting to treat women as equals. But that looks like it was a hard fight and it’s only recently been won.



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  • That sexism is not exclusive to religion. It has been evident in atheist circles in the past as well. This change is as much to do with the efforts of atheist women to make atheism less sexist as it is to do with religions failures to do so.



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  • Alice,
    I’m with you on all of that. When I joined this site in 2008 (I think) it was a terrible disappointment to witness the sexism around here. It’s definitely better now. What I really don’t want is for any women to venture forth onto this site and feel intimidated by hostility of any sort.

    I don’t feel like we’ve won yet. Maybe I’m afraid to hope for such a thing. –remember Alice, I’m in the States after all. You may have a more positive view of things from across the pond.

    Thank you for the support here and I feel sure that other women will jump in, maybe for the first time, when they feel that their opinions are valued and welcomed by us. I hope they do so right now!



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  • We will manage our own sexuality and reproductive system all by
    ourselves and priests, pastors, imams and rabbis will shut the hell up
    and keep out of our business!

    Oh, I love that. Woman are sick and tired of being beasts of burden and breeding cows. Whatever happened to “the goddess?” I’m disgusted with the patriarchal system. Humanity is well over due for a change.



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  • The sexism in religion is deliberate. I think most of the sexual sexism comes from tradition and contamination from religion. Look where the Scandinavian countries are going.



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  • Roedy. Sexism is sexism whether it comes from a priest, Iman OR atheist. There are greater or lesser degrees but the guy shouting get your tits out is no different to the one shouting get your burkha on if you’re a woman. They’re just two sides of the same coin. The loser using God as an excuse is no different to the one using page three or libertarianism.

    They’re both trying to diminish women’s role in society to existing solely for men. I’ve seen IS justify rape using the Koran but I’ve also seem MRA blokes using libertarianism and needing to put uppity feminists in their place to justify the same, the only difference is the law hasn’t been on their side.

    I don’t know whether religion contaminated society with sexism or society contaminated religion but it is important to recognise that it is NOT just a religious problem. The UK isn’t overly religious yet every feminist campaign these days is met with a wave of rape threats.

    In 2010 when I first looked at this forum the CofE and even the RCC in Britain were way ahead of it when it came to attitudes to women. That is bad. Women seemed to be told they should know their places here as much as in any church. Especially when they objected to sexist attitudes.

    This site has come forward 50 years in the last year. It’s no surprise to me that the increase in the numbers of activist women atheists actually bothering to contribute has followed on from that cleaning up of its act. If you want to continue moving forward you have to recognise what was wrong in the past and avoid repeating it. You have to be genuinely equal if atheism isn’t to remain the old boys club it had got a reputation for being.



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  • Ahh, I get it now – since I mentioned an incident where my wife wore a short skirt – I must be a white middle-class racist male chauvinist pig…..And if women wanted to, why not walk about topless – men do and nobody gives a stuff…… and since when was Atheism “an old boys club” ??



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  • M27Holts
    May 27, 2015 at 7:17 am

    .. And if women wanted to, why not walk about topless – men do and nobody gives a stuff……

    In many parts of Africa they do!

    Funny how those with religious hang-ups and body confidence issues, read strange stuff into other people’s attitudes.

    Even in places which were once Catholic dominated, holiday resorts have extensive topless and nudist beaches.

    Roughly mid way between Playa del Ingles and Maspalomasis the nudist beach is at Number 6 cafe and the gay beach is at number 7.

    The dunes are a popular cruising area and are patrolled by the police, some on quad bikes or jeeps. The police are there to ensure the safety of the tourists, gay or straight, and are very broad minded.
    http://www.just-gran-canaria.com/resorts/playa-del-ingles.htm



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  • That’s the reputation it’s had for a while. I recall this website when men discussed the women in terms of body parts all the time including the classic line that women shouldn’t wear the burkha because they evolved to be gawked at. Long discussions about lovely boobies and of course lots of the ‘we hate feminists’ and ‘you should be pleased to be discussed on,y as body parts’. Sorry but we’re not.

    I dont think your comment about your wife’s skirt makes you a white, middle class, racist chauvinist either. Nor would I even dream that. I just pointed out that your one experience of one individual is not representative and that Muslims are no different to anyone else. They range from a@@@holes to brilliant.

    And pointing that you always need to be aware that no society is perfect. There is still a lot to fight for. For every Muslm beating his wife there will be an equally ignorant non Muslim. For every atheist treating his wife or female colleagues with respect there will be a Muslm man.

    And Like your wife I will dress up to look nice when I go out, because it’s nice to feel attractive to men and my husband but I if I were truly choosing for my self without regard to others it’d probably be scruffy old jeans. So don’t take it to heart. I’m just saying we ALL dress for others approval!



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  • Well yes as long as we appreciate the difference between the sight of both sexes with a range of body shapes and ages relaxing in the context of a beach and the homogenous passive, smiling female aged between 17 and 23 placed in a newspaper (or atheist discussion website) alongside fully clothed men for one purpose only. Context is all when it comes to toplessness! One is normal the other dubiously sexist.



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  • I definitely agree. I am a white male married to a black African woman. I am also an atheist. I was proud to have recently talked to my daughter and found out that she too is an atheist and will never have children.



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  • Alice
    May 27, 2015 at 11:16 am

    For every Muslm beating his wife there will be an equally ignorant non Muslim. For every atheist treating his wife or female colleagues with respect there will be a Muslm man.

    This looks like a wish-thinking false equivalence! There is no evidence to suggest that all human groups/religions, (ideologies or dogmas), are equally abusive, or equally considerate.



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  • M27Holts,

    I don’t care if your wife wears a short skirt or any skirt at all (within the law of the land of course). You’ve missed the point entirely. No one is attacking you. We are celebrating a victory here. Relax and enjoy the positive vibes. Our win is also your win.



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  • Phil,

    Alice is correct about how bad it was here some years back. I scanned through some threads that I remember being the worst and they’ve been mopped up pretty well. The evidence has vanished into thin air.



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  • Sadly Phil Rimmer I could quote lots from limited time here. But I’m not sure I want to, not even to give my claim credibility because this site has moved forward 50 years in the last year. I’m not sure how dragging up the dirty linen would help. Nor am I sure the site is far enough forward yet, nor populated by enough women yet, to not rehash the old arguments. Arguments that the strong minority of brilliant women you had here have already had and been put down for. Why reawaken the sexists when you can let em lie.

    I came here as a concerned parent worried about a creationist group trying to infiltrate schools in 2010/11. I was shocked. The comments were better suited to those old temples to misogyny Zoo and Nuts. I came with friends who instantly wrote this site, and by association, Dawkins off for good. Intelligent atheist women put off activism for good.

    So I only make these comments to remind people not to be too smug. Two years ago both the CofE and the British RCC were streets ahead in terms of attitudes to women. Don’t go back look forward. The site changed its attitude and this is the result. Change back and you’ll return to being an increasingly irrelevant old boys club. Because without inclusivity you achieve nothing.

    If you really want to me to, and I’d advise not, then let say so and I’ll recount what I can recall. But I’d prefer not to.



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  • Thank you, Alice. This has slotted the last piece into the puzzle for me. I have struggled to justify my attempts to leave the site, but having read the eventful and stirring Arianne Sherine thread below and many more besides and the wonderful post from titania and many others, I realise why I shall struggle (and relapse) no longer. The moment of transition of the site from being a pre-ideology to post ideology one began from that moment on. I’d missed this.

    The last piece? The disgrace (for me) of the Amina thread was her treatment at the hands of the disapproving folk (very sadly women too) who put her at considerable risk by endorsing the Imam’s and her father’s view, rather than moving towards endorsing body-indifference as the ultimate safe refuge for women and men alike. I would like to go on to another topic here but I would like this comment to stand. The problem for me now is not the opinions that were posted then, all interesting, but that burrowing down to try to resolve our differences was deemed less important than a superficial seemliness.



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  • Why reawaken the sexists when you can let em lie?

    Let me preface my stupid comment — which is not addressed to anyone in particular; “you” includes everyone — by saying that sexism is real, is a serious problem that needs to be eradicated. (That prefatory remark is also stupid).

    Anyway, here I go. Please try just read this and not just react.

    Does disagreeing with a woman that you agree with automatically make someone a sexist? Are you able to distinguish between strong opposition with a touch of hostility (which is par for the course when strong feelings are involved) and out and out sexism? Sorry if I sound thick, like I just don’t get it. Perhaps that is the case, but I am getting the uncomfortable feeling (yet again) that nothing short of a situation in which everyone’s thoughts would be in accordance with your own, or, perhaps, the establishment of outright female supremacy (on this site and in the world), would would ever satisfy you. This is, as I said, a “feeling” and feelings aren’t facts. I rather hope that I am just being stupid (again) and have it all wrong.

    In every revolutionary movement there is a lust to become totalitarian. Atheists and women need to be wary of this. That was an observation by Hannah Arendt (a “brilliant” woman).

    I don’t want to antagonize anyone but I felt oppressed reading this page and wanted to express how I felt.

    I just thought of something you can now say: “Dan, if you feel oppressed, imagine how we women felt back in the early days of the site which you know nothing about?” Ha. I beat you to it.

    Just thought of something else: that pasted question on top reads as a clever pun. (Was this intentional?) Let them lie. In other words, their own lies will destroy them in the end. Give them enough rope…



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  • I”m fairly new here but curious if past discussions mentioned another possible avenue of recent disillusionment among Christians. The “prosperity preachers” linking modern materialism to Christian beliefs. It’s been around for decades, but still brings in the coin for the top evangelists. If anything, Jesus spoke clearly against materialism. Christians should shake their heads at promises of riches for the faithful. Many suck it up. But I have a feeling many recognize the hypocrisy. I even heard Joel Osteen referencing the faith brings money narrative. I studied the Bible and I don’t remember Jesus telling anyone “follow me and get rich.”



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  • P.S. I thought the first comment (by LaurieB) was marvelous. It was both funny and true. I really do hope that all those things will happen.

    Here’s a great line from the late Gore Vidal: “The conservatives are always talking about getting government off our backs. I’m for getting government off our fronts. That’s a brand new notion.”

    I “felt oppressed reading this page.” Aww, let’s all shed a tear for poor Dan. (If we can’t laugh at ourselves we’re all doomed.)



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  • Good point, Dennis. I’m new to the site too. Have you gotten your membership card yet?
    I don’t know if you’ve read Mailer or not. I would recommend him to anyone interested in learning something about this country. He was a profound critic of American life. Anyway, he often said that American Christians, particularly within the Republican party, probably know deep down that getting rich is the antithesis of what Jesus (who was not divine) taught. They have felt an enormous collective guilt about this. But instead of coming to terms with this guilt they went after the “commies.” They blamed them instead. In actual fact, communism (as Marx conceived of it) is arguably more “Christian” than free-market capitalism is. That infuriated the deluded hypocrites. That made them all the more virulent. Communism was our white whale.
    Have you ever noticed how quick reactionary conservatives are to condemn what they suspect might be greed in “liberals”? Bill Clinton, for example, has been under fire for getting what he does for speaking. Same thing. Same impulse. They can’t look at themselves. Attacking others for their own “sins” is their MO.



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  • May 28, 2015 at 1:13 am

    I think the one thing that is strange to me is the disconnect between the way men and women read these threads. When I hear some of the lore about how outrageously sexist some of these old threads are suppose to be, like some of the threads (very smart) women complained about and Alan provided links to. I except to read a bunch of men suggesting how dumb women are, and that their only really good for giving birth to men. But what I see a lot of the times is guys asking for evidence that sexism is the reason that women are less likely to be atheist and women implying that that’s a sexist question.

    And then there was Femen. Nobody knew at the time who was running that campaign and the argument that started before any real investigation of them was (which was really removed from any of their motives) was what amount of clothing do women need to wear to be respected. Which I think sort of confused a lot of the guys who thought how women dressed was immaterial to how much they should be respected. Also I’ve seen the phrase “lovely bobbies” by a couple of different posters given as the reason guys we’re in support of Femen. I only saw the one picture of a topless woman on the site and her “boobies” weren’t that great. Maybe the argument, right or wrong, was more intellectual then sexual.

    I respect the women of this site tremendously, especially LaurieB. So if I’ve got it all wrong, explain to me how I’m wrong, but please don’t count me as a enemy.



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  • I don’t want to be an enemy either. LaurieB and Alice, how are you two brilliant, erudite, well-informed gals doing? (No sarcasm intended; I can assure you of that.) You’re not cross are you? You don’t mind my asking what I did, do you?
    Hey, Ryan (whoever you are), tremendous respect? Isn’t respect enough?
    I have a question. Are there ever international conventions or things of that sort for members of this site? I’d like to meet some of you. Right now you all have a kind of mythic, almost unreal quality. LaurieB, you have a mythic quality. Has anyone ever told you that before?
    I need to get some rest.



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  • Phil Rimmer really? I’d have said the inclusion of non story Amina Tyler, (NEVER in danger now running round Paris topless independently having left Femen because they were rude about her sect of Islam) was the equivalent of this site saying F@@@ you women get back to where you belong.

    Did the fact it was only really fully reported here and the Daily Mail not ring alarm bells. Five minutes research would have told you it was a publicity stunt for Femen. There was only ever one reason to include it and all the women knew that.

    You’ve written off all their criticism of that. Does not strike you as one sided? Women saying this is not the image of female protest we want to see. This is not the image of female protest we want to encourage. This is an insult to all the protestors genuinely fighting for women’s rights who risk genuine dangers – the female police chiefs and athletes in Afghanistan, the female atheist bloggers, the girls going to school in the Swat valley. The Saudi female fighter pilots dropping bombs on IS. If this site was interested in women risking their lives to fight for their rights in barbaric Islamic states all of those were better candidates.

    Are you really saying that when women complained that the high profile given here to such a dubious non story was sexist their opinions should be ignored? Did you never notice that the female response to Tyler outside of here was ‘put your clothes on you’re not doing us any favours? We want to walk home without fear, not guard our drinks every minute and not have our looks discussed when we’ve just delivered a speech. You’re really not helping helping that at all. Find a better way to protest and we’ll support you to the hilt’.

    There is no such thing as a topless ‘protest’ for women’s rights. Builders start to offer us the right to get our tits out for the lads from the moment we hit puberty, and, I guess, they only stop after we die. It’s not a right we particularly want or need unless it’s to breastfeed or sit on a beach un-harassed. it’s a right men want us to have.It’s not a protest we appreciate either after having fought for so long to be represented equally in the media and places like here and discussed in terms of what we do not the contents of our bras.

    There are places for men to discuss women’s lovely boobies (yes I remember that comment was there – do you really approve of that utterly foreseeable result) and for women to discuss the contents of men’s pants. Nobody objects to that behaviour in context at all. It is normal in certain places.

    But if you’re calling yourself a site for reason and science for everyone it’s not appropriate. It’s the behaviour of an old boys club where women are not welcome. Behaviour that is perfectly acceptable looking at a lads mags with your mates in the pub (or discussing topless pol dark if you’re female) is sexist when moved to a different context. And dull as ditchwater, we’ve heard it all before.

    I’m surprised you’ve written off the feelings of women so readily. If you don’t see us as equals and listen when we say that behaviour is sexist than remember that a lot of the more savvy churches will. This site has moved on 50 years since Amina Tyler. The results are above. I’m not sure it’s worth losing that momentum just for another thread about lovely boobies. You can do that in the pub.



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  • Hey, Ryan (whoever you are), tremendous respect? Isn’t respect enough?

    My full name is Rex Ryan Holley of Kingwood, Texas, area code 77339 if your really that interested. Isn’t respect enough? Sure it is. Just let me know before hand what threads your going to be reading and I’ll make sure not to use any adjectives.



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  • Nice to e-meet you, Ryan. I was just kidding around. Unfortunately, e-mail and posts are tone-deaf, always sound harsh or fall flat. Even that comment (e-mail and posts are tone-deaf) sounds harsh, like a criticism. But it isn’t one.
    “Whoever you are” is an allusion to the weird situation of posting comments as opposed to talking in person.
    Sorry if my remarks irritated you.
    What the hell is femen? I’m not sure I want to know, but maybe I should google it.



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  • Super lame response. There was no mean spirited, sexist, vitriol in Phil’s comment. Instead of actually engaging in a productive, nuanced discussion, you put a bunch of words in his mouth and turned a thoughtful person into a caricature. It’s a shame these discussions all ways seem to disintegrate like this and all I can say from years of watching them is that it’s not all ways the guys fault.

    I feel dumb for even getting involved.



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  • Dan I know this is a long response but please try and read it all. You made a lot of salient points.

    Obviously disagreeing with a woman you disagree with does NOT make you sexist – if I argue for Labour and you argue for Tories that does not make you sexist. If I argue for one economic policy or view of evolution or foreign policy decision or or whether we should leave the EU or what’s the nicest paint colour or piece of music or book or choice of drink or even how we view Muslims and Islam and you disagree that does NOT make you sexist. As long as you listen and disagree with the POINTS I make and how well they are argued.

    And even if you think they’re badly argued and that I’m an complete idiot that still does not make you sexist. As long as that opinion of my knowledge is based on what I’ve said not my sex. Because I once posted similar responses to an article about sexism in the Guardian under my own name and a mans name, the response when I was Dave was frighteningly different. I was respected and my actual arguments responded to. One guy even started to agree with me. As Alice I was a feminist harridan etc etc. That was sexist.

    But if you refuse to listen to my experiences as a woman because they might impact on your behaviour and write them off as silly then you start to stray into sexism. And if I say your behaviour is sexist and you ignore it or refuse to listen or accept why that might be so you stray into sexism. And when you comment on what I look like in the context of something I’ve done or tell me what I should think than you are sexist. And if a lot of women are telling you a particular behaviour is sexist and you ignore it than you are sexist.

    So if I say that all women are scared when out and alone in the dark so don’t approach us in those circumstances I’m not saying I hate men or think they’re all rapists. I’m saying I know I’m at risk, I know how quickly I can be raped or killed in these,circumstances because it’s nearly happened to me it’s already happened to friends and I’ve read enough about it in the paper (two months ago a student was dragged into a bush and raped while going home at 5pm in the park my daughters walk the dogs in – her life ruined) to be cautious. Just as I don’t hate or fear cars but when crossing a road I’m cautious. So approach me in those circumstances and you will terrify me.

    If you write that off as silly feminism you are ignoring my real concerns and you are sexist. And if you moan about how that’s how men and women meet and I’m stopping that you’re deliberately ignoring the millions of safe circumstances in which you can approach and chat to women and the total lack of success you’d have if you did run up behind one in a dark alley to ask them out. That is sexist. And if you bombard me with rape threats on twitter to teach me my place for making that comment you’re definitely being sexist.

    If you discuss my looks in a context where what I’ve done is the issue you’re being sexist. I remember coming onto this site shortly after Dawkins had been interviewed by science presenter Liz Bronin. About five comments in the sexists started on the phwoar she’s nice comments.

    That was sexist. A whole thread devoted to their wank fantasies about her was sexist and boring. When I think that about a man I save it for conversations with fellow females in the correct context. I don’t come on here and say ‘hey forget the selfish genes did you check out the crotch on that Dawkins’

    And if I point to something that is clearly an unequal representation and say that is sexist in that context and you ignore me that is sexist. Argue back by all means but do not write off my concerns about obvious inequality of representation in things like the media.

    We’ve had a whole campaign in the UK about unequal representation in the media. That isn’t saying we’re against men looking at tits it’s about saying unless it’s porn specifically made for a purpose than women and men should be represented equally in the mainstream media. If the men are in a newspaper because they’re news then women should be – ditch the topless women in papers or have a naked man beside her. If woman are getting naked in a films then as many men should be and if the actor can be 53 why are most actresses finished at 35.

    So When this site ignores that to publish a non story about the idiots in Femen complete with pictures it’s being sexist because they’re the antithesis of what women are fighting for and are purely featured for tittilation. Unless it publishes a good looking man in his pants for balance,

    Saying this site was sexist is not a cry for female supremacy. Feminism is about equality as much as anything because stupid sexism hurts men as much as women. Feminism is accepted by all men who like women as individual people. Scratch the surface of a sexist and you often find a loser.

    Stupid sexism means you have to conform to macho behaviour which means you don’t have access to the support networks I have. Male suicide rates are higher because no matter how bad you feel you have to go down the pub and have phwoar tits conversations rather than saying my girlfriends left me I’m in bits. That is the tragedy of sexism for you.

    It means you might struggle to get access to your children in the family courts because the mother is seen as a more appropriate carer. That’s sexism! Men care very much for their children. That’s something a lot of feminists are starting to fight to change,

    Nobody wants gender supremacy apart from a few knuckle draggers from both sexes. They do not represent men and they not represent feminism. If that’s the view of Feminism you’re getting I suggest you’re getting it from established sexists.

    The last feminist campaign I was involved in, the had as much support from men as women. There are loads of men in groups supporting women as well who joined us. We found support from Great Men Support Women for example, Men Against Violence Against Women and lots of support from a group called Supporting Men. We had support from famous male actors and comedians and the rapper Doc Brown. Lots of men who didn’t support us but listened ended up agreeing and signing our petition. It isn’t them and us it’s just mutual respect.



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  • I’m all for positive vibes…..we’re off to Ibiza shortly – and I will be on a very secluded beach and exposing 100% of my body to that lovely (in moderation) solar radiation and swimming as naked as a dolphin in that warm Mediterranean !!!



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  • No women ever thought of Femen as a feminist group. Women know exactly why they take their tops off and they know that applies to other women. No woman was surprised to find Femen was led by a man who dictated which women were attractive enough to protest. It was obvious to everyone.

    No woman bothers about Femen getting their tits out. What they do bother about is it being deemed a protest for women. It isn’t it’s for men. It’s not their boobs that was the issue it was the pretence that they were here for any reason other than a quick thrill for the blokes. Honesty would have been far more acceptable far less patronising.

    You’re right Laurie B is amazing. As is Katy Cordeth who also posts here,



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  • That’s often puzzled me. I was raised as a catholic and some of it was fantastic. The care about others, the giving to charity, the looking to those less well off. But then in all that love thy neighbour, do unto others stuff they pushed homophobia – love thy neighbour unless they’re gay – sexism – care and concern but not if you’ve been raped and are pregnant. It was completely contradictory. Two mutually exclusive sets of messages. Love everyone but hate this lot.

    I too have read the New Testament and struggle to see any of it reflected in the behaviour of lots of Christians especially in the US. What looked like quite a gentle code for what appeared a bunch of early socialist hippies with a bit of pop psychology on top turned into a sexist, homophobic, guilt inducing, money grabbing con.



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  • I responded to his criticism for critics of that post. With facts and the reasons they were criticising it.

    The girls life was never in danger. That was obvious from the start. If it had have been it would have been more widely reported and groups other than the exhibitionists at Femen would have been involved. I’ve been a member of Amnesty International for years. Read many stories of women n danger. She was never mentioned. Not once.

    Had she been in danger the story could have been reported as that without the picture. Reported for what it was. An attack on a girl who’d behaved like a teenage girl seeking attention. There are lots of them. They shouldn’t be hurt they’re often insecure. It would be wrong to hurt her for that behaviour, very right to tell the authorities that.

    But to call it a protest! No it wasn’t. It was there for the blokes to look at. If they’d been honest about that the thread would have been fine! After all she could have got on a bus and travelled to one if her countries topless beaches or hotels if that’s what she wanted.

    Given that attention seeking teenage girls are often insecure and regret what they do the adults on the site were also irresponsible in the way they reported it. They should have consulted people who work in adolescent mental health beforehand.

    So get off your high horse. Why not try the Liz Bronin interview with Dawkins old post if you can find it. Count how many posts are there before you get to the phwoar she’s nice discussions. And then multiply that by every post where a women is featured.

    Discussions like the Anina Tuler one would never have happened if those sort of discussions had never happened.



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  • Alice
    May 28, 2015 at 4:09 am

    Phil Rimmer really? I’d have said the inclusion of non story Amina Tyler, . . . . . . .. was the equivalent of this site saying F@@@ you women get back to where you belong.

    Sorry to have to point this out, but you are simply projecting your ideological hang-ups on to others.

    There is no such thing as a topless ‘protest’ for women’s rights.

    Perhaps you should tell that to the African women who are being pressured into wearing hot sweaty clothes by a missionary culture.

    There are places for men to discuss women’s lovely boobies (yes I remember that comment was there

    I remember it too!

    @link – Peter Grant
    Mar 28, 2013 at 2:01 am – Why are her beautiful boobies blotted out?

    As I pointed out in an earlier comment, Peter lives in South Africa, where bare breasts have nothing to do with rude builders or page 3 tabloids.

    I’m surprised you’ve written off the feelings of women so readily. If you don’t see us as equals and listen when we say that behaviour is sexist

    Projecting cultural prudery though ideological spectacles from one culture to another, as defending women, is just nonsense. I thought Peter made a relevant point in contrasting Islamic North Africa, with Zulu South Africa.

    I made a similar point contrasting the beaches of southern France and Spain with Islamic North Africa.

    BTW: My daughter thinks that burkinis are ridiculous – but what would she know about women’s freedoms and career opportunities – she’ only a qualified life-guard and a practising lawyer!



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  • None of these discussions would have happened if guys like you could engage in discussions without telling us your fantasies and what we should think.

    This is kind of what I’m talking about. I’m done with the topic but I’d like after you read this to provide an example of where I told someone a fantasy or commanded someone to think a certain way.



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  • Ladies in the thread,

    Being new to this site I am greatly amused that any posts by females are often met by some whining guys complaining that you are accusing them of being sexist or imagining sexism where there is none or that it is just a normal expression of biology or that their posts are gender neutral whilst your posts are not or that they really really believe in equality BUT saying Blah blah blah is going to far….

    Congatulations, when you get responses like that, you know have hit the nail on the head, or should it be male on the head! Keep up the good work.

    Btw
    As an Asian I am also disappointed, but unfortunately not surprised, by the unthinking and casual rascism and cultural imperialism exhibited by some in these threads, who unwittingly demonstrate the failures of your educational systems and their ignorance by seeming to think that the none Western part of the world is populated by idjut bare breasted savages running around chopping each other’s heads off!



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  • Dan,

    I am not cross at all. I am also not “mythical” ~snort~ I am well aware of my shortcomings as are plenty of the other people who hang out here. I am not outstanding in any academic subject when compared to others here. I’ve learned much more than I’ve contributed. I’ve been corrected on my statements and views many times in the past and sometimes I’ve changed my mind based on this input. One thing that I appreciate about this site is that I can bounce ideas off a group of people who are from several different countries and who have different academic backgrounds. While it’s necessary to read books and articles for basic information, there’s a great value to reading through a discussion of the material after that. For example, the discussion of the article that was posted here about the engineering of the aircraft that takes off vertically was very informative. I have nothing to offer on that topic and I can’t say that I understood everything that was said about it by others but my goal is to improve my knowledge base even a little bit, by observing the interactions on these threads.

    Ryan,

    I think the one thing that is strange to me is the disconnect between the way men and women read these threads.

    Yes! That is exactly what I think about it too. It takes me by surprise every time it happens, which is strange too. There are some topics that when they come up here, I can count on the discussion turning into a high stakes emotionally pitched battle. Inevitably there will be announcements by some that they are leaving the site for good. I’ve done that myself.

    Phil,
    You are aggravated and I feel that through the intertubes. I want to say that your views are important here whether or not I/we agree or disagree, (and in the great majority of cases, I agree). Just lately, for example, what you said about charity on another thread is something that I would not have come up with on my own in this place (US) and I appreciate your input on those wrenching Amina Tyler threads. It’s very easy to pipe up with arguments and disagreements in conversation (for me) but I’m trying to remember that even the most resilient among us need direct positive reinforcement as well. You make a difference here.



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  • Did the fact it was only really fully reported here and the Daily Mail not ring alarm bells.

    About a month before this was carried on RD.net I got my regular mailing from Maryam Namazie (23/03/13) asking for help to support Amina. The plan was for a day of action and was signed by the following-

    Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, Egyptian Nude Photo Revolutionary
    Alina Isabel Pérez, Filmmaker
    Amanda Brown, We are Atheism Founder
    Annie Sugier, President of Ligue du Droit International des Femmes
    Arash T. Riahi, Film Director
    Caroline Fourest, Writer and Journalist; most recent film: “Our Breasts; Our Arms”
    Darina Al-Joundi, Lebanese Actress and Author of “The Day Nina Simone Stopped Singing”
    Deeyah, Music Composer and Filmmaker; most recent film “Banaz: A Love Story” about an honour killing
    Elia Tabesh, Iranian Women in Support of Nude Photo Revolutionary Calendar
    Equal Rights Now – Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran
    Fariborz Pooya, Iranian Secular Society
    Farzana Hassan, Writer
    Fatou Sow, President of the Groupe de recherche sur les femmes et les lois au Sénégal
    FEMEN
    Fiammetta Venner, Filmmaker and Writer
    Greta Christina, Writer and Blogger
    Houzan Mahmoud, Spokesperson of Organisation for Women’s Freedom in Iraq
    Inna Shevchenko, FEMEN Spokesperson
    International Committee against Execution
    International Committee against Stoning
    Jacek Tabisz, President of Polish Rationalist Society
    Joseph Paris, Radical Cinema
    Kareem Amer, Egyptian Blogger
    Kian Azar, Communist Youth Organisation
    Marian Tudor, President of Romanian Association for Workers’ Emancipation
    Marieme Helie Lucas, Algerian Sociologist and founder of Secularism is a Women’s Issue
    Maryam Namazie, Campaigner and Spokesperson for Equal Rights Now – Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran and initiator of Nude Photo Revolutionary Calendar
    Mina Ahadi, Spokesperson of International Committee against Stoning and International Committee against Execution
    Nadia El-Fani, Tunisian Filmmaker; most recent films “Neither Allah nor Master” and “Our Breasts; Our Arms”
    Nahla Mahmoud, Sudanese Researcher and Human Rights Activist
    Nina Sankari, President of European Feminist Initiative Poland and Secularist
    Richard Dawkins, Scientist
    Rumy Hassan, Writer
    Safia Lebdi, Co-founder of Neither Whores nor Submissives
    Secularism is a Women’s Issue
    Soad Baba Aïssa, Women’s Rights Campaigner
    Sohaila Sharifi, Iranian Women’s Rights Campaigner
    Sundas Hoorain, Pakistani Human Rights Lawyer
    Tarek Fatah, Writer
    Taslima Nasrin, Bangladeshi Writer

    For more information on the International Day to Defend Amina, contact:

    I tried to do my bit. I discussed this with atheist friends (including women) and the catastrophe of a censored image on this site was soon corrected with their help.

    The nude protest is not just a FEMEN phenomenon. (They are a dismal bunch.) Maryam herself produced a superb calendar in the style of the famous Womens Institute nude calendar. The point of the protest is entirely about who owns the body in question (certainly not you, Alice), and that the owner can do what the hell they like with it. Amina’s was one of the best bits of agitprop art going. She put two fingers up to all the oppressions. “I can read with it. I can smoke with it. I can write on it, cut my wrists if I like and then show it all to the world. Its MINE.”

    I really don’t understand how you are able to speak for all womankind when your concerns (though important) sometimes appear so parochial. Very many feel they don’t have such a narrow remit in my experience.

    Why you string other peoples words around my neck, I really can’t fathom.

    Why you think by suddenly talking of female education in the Swat valley and the fantastic power of Kurdish women in politics and the front line, this undercuts me in anyway, being probably the foremost enthusiastic poster on the empowerement of women in middle eastern and developing countries, citing exactly these facts and many others on the many threads that cover these issues I simply don’t know.

    Your view of my and others’ motivations here, seem somehow…..ungenerous.

    Honest, folks. My last.



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  • Steve
    May 28, 2015 at 10:27 am

    Being new to this site I am greatly amused that any posts by females are often met by some whining guys complaining that you are accusing them of being sexist or imagining sexism where there is none or that it is just a normal expression of biology

    It sometimes takes newcomers to this site a little time, to get used to the idea of using scientific/biological evidence, rather than making up strawman versions and projections of their own ideologies!

    People playing the emotive offended or victim card, in response to criticism of poor arguments, is well known to those using evidence and reasoning.



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  • Alice
    May 28, 2015 at 5:49 am

    But then in all that love thy neighbour, do unto others stuff they pushed homophobia – love thy neighbour unless they’re gay – sexism – care and concern but not if you’ve been raped and are pregnant. It was completely contradictory. Two mutually exclusive sets of messages. Love everyone but hate this lot.

    it’s the tribalist aspect of religions and some cultures. “Us and them”!
    Love your fellow faith-believers. Hate the non-believers of other religions or no religion.

    In the case of Catholicism, it is also a feature of medieval church domination of all sexual activity – even within marriage, as a wielding of power over the population.

    http://www.open.edu/openlearn/whats-on/tv/ou-on-the-bbc-inside-the-medieval-mind-sex



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  • My remarks were addressed specifically to the ladies as I would not expect most others to either emphasise or agree with them.

    It was not a scientific proposition or argument, a poor Swiftian pastiche maybe, the world can be meaningfully understood, interpreted and comprehended by many types of discourse not just scientism.

    BTW,

    I am far from being a victim.



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  • There are lots of cultures where women do walk around bare breasted, and nobody does give a stuff, and neither does it have anything to do with sexuality.

    There is a difference between this and going or being ” topless” They are not ” topless” as wearing a “top” is not a social norm within their culture. They have not deliberately taken off anything.

    It is only within cultures where covering the breasts is a social norm that being topless has any significance or meaning..



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  • It isn’t them and us it’s just mutual respect.

    Hi, Alice,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to present all these points and fine distinctions. I didn’t really think that you thought everyone had to agree with you. I thought that that might conceivably be the case but probably wasn’t. Thanks for explaining that “femen” business. I had never heard of them. I see your point about that. It’s a legitimate one.

    I also resent the media, am horrified by it. Noam Chomsky has written about that (as I am sure you know). He has a lot of great insights. We should blame the media but also understand how it functions: the media is just serving mom and pop: the corporation. Check him out on YouTube, if you are not familiar with him. He’s the greatest critic of the media (and American imperialism) out there. He’s also a great linguist. You probably know all that.

    My hunch is that if we ever were to meet and we decided to make a list together of everything we thought was sexist we would agree most of the time. I am also quite sure that we would not have the same interpretation of everything. In other words, some of this is perception. If a guy tells a woman who had just delivered a brilliant lecture that she’s attractive it is not necessarily sexist; he might think she’s attractive and appreciate what she did. One need not exclude the other. He also could be a misogynistic prick. That’s an example of a difference of opinion involving a grey area.

    It’s important to listen to people and hear them, not be too quick to condemn. But it sounds like you do listen, are reasonable.

    By the way, If everyone is telling you that something is not sexist it doesn’t mean it isn’t sexist. That is most certainly true. Therefore, if everyone is telling me that something IS sexist, it doesn’t mean it is. (It probably is but the majority is not always right.)

    We have to decide these things for ourselves.

    What does the word phwoar mean?

    All the Best,

    Dan



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  • Well stated, Laurie. I echo many of your sentiments and welcome the growth of our demographic and look forward to meeting many, many more like-minded women, as we go forward. I’ve been a member of this reality club for more than a quarter century and thrill to the news that we are growing our numbers!



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  • I am also not “mythical.”

    I don’t know exactly what I meant by “mythical.” It just seemed like a funny thing to say at the time. I guess when you can’t see or hear people but can only read them it can make them seem a little less “real.”
    I like what you said about the alpha-male in the sky.
    And he’s “our father”!
    Have you read Freud’s Future of an Illusion? I’d recommend it.
    That and Dawkins’ God Delusion should be mandatory in schools everywhere.



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  • Alice your long essay contains truth. Perhaps when we use the term sexist, more likely than not, we’re using it from the perspective of a man or a woman. When a man warns a woman about taking precautions when she goes out on the town at night in order to prevent sexual assault, some feminists are all over him like a tent in a typhoon, “you’re ‘telling’ me what to do, you’re blaming the victim, I have a right to walk down any street alone in town unmolested at three in the morning, just teach men not to rape, yada, yada. When a woman issues the same advice she is an expert on women’s self-defense strategies against misogyny.. The divergent reception of the same words from the male and the female perspective underscores an unfortunate truth about the battle of the sexes.

    We are biologically, psychologically and anatomically different and there are occasions when these differences manifest themselves in distrust and even hostility. Still our similarities usually take precedence over the quarrels. Speaking as a man, I would suspect most of us need women more than they need us.

    To the topic, I speculate modern women as well as men are moving away from the obsolete inhumane doctrines of religions regarding, homosexuality, reproductive freedom, and women’s rights (your comments are spot on here). The scientific world view shaped by rapidly accelerating scientific-technological accomplishments, discoveries and research combined with rapidly accelerating dissemination of science education and information through electronic media are, by fits and starts, rendering assorted supernatural explanations of the cosmos and humankind’s place in it offensively insufferable to intellectual integrity.



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  • I affirm the intention and most of the substance of what you and Alice say. “Sexist/sexism” are nonetheless volatile terms subject to misunderstanding, recriminations and misuse. Alice’s essay goes far as a corrective. Both sexes bristle with defensiveness when they feel abused by perceived distortions of meaning and use.



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  • Everybody is different from everybody else genetically, psychologically, morphologically etc so why on earth should the difference between men and women be of any special import. ( and do not bother to post back and say it is because of “evolution” , that is not an explanation it is an excuse)

    I have never understood the phrase “battle of the sexes ” , I must have been on holiday when war was declared.



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  • A lot of dominance comes from hormones, and different variations have evolved in different populations/species.

    I mentioned female dominated Bonobo groups, and male dominate Chimps, earlier. Lemurs it seems have evolved nearly all in female dominated groups.

    http://lemur.duke.edu/page/2/?s=female+dominance
    female dominance — 6 articles
    Lemur Females Rule – Because They Have Male Hormones? May 19, 2015 Science 2.0 Why females rule in lemur land May 17, 2015 Charlotte Observer Biologists Explain Female Social Dominance in Malagasy Lemurs May 13, 2015 Sci-News.com Why Female Lemurs Dominate the Guys: Testosterone May 13, 2015 Science World Report Male Hormones Help Lemur Females



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  • Everybody is different from everybody else genetically, psychologically, morphologically etc so why on earth should the difference between men and women be of any special import.

    Alan4 explains in the comment above why male/female differences are significant hormonally in shaping social dominance among members of a species (in this case female social dominance among lemurs). Everybody is different from everybody else is a truism with no “explanatory power.” I get the sense that you want to say something but feel inhibited from saying it.



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  • To argue on the one hand that humans have evolved all these wondrous unique mental abilities ( language, planning, intentionality etc) which set us aside and apart from instinctive bound other animals, and then on the other hand to argue that because biological factors X,Y,Z causes animals to behave in a certain way therefore these biological factors X,Y,Z cause aspects of human society to be inevitable or “natural” is either a contradiction or cherry picking.



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  • that these differences have little social “explanatory” power is my point.

    There are hormonal differences etc between races as well, does this explain or justify racism?

    Did Genghis Khan become a cuddly teddy bear and stop pillaging when his testosterone levels declined with age?



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  • Alan,

    I’ll let readers judge for themselves:

    Always the best policy…as long as they realize that nearly all the worst comments have been deleted. They will read through the mopped up version as I just did. There was an alternate thread at that time that was used to collect the inappropriate comments that had been swept off the main thread. Comment #60 by Mordacious1 mentions the alt thread. Comment 67 mentions removed comments.

    Unfortunately, I can’t find that alternate thread. Either it’s gone with the wind or I am a tech dunce. Probably both. Could you produce it please?

    Readers should start at page 14 where the tide begins to turn on the sad, unfortunate sexist comments about Ariane Sherine and her Atheist “Bust” Campaign.

    Through the whole thread that you link to, various commenters mention that comments were deleted by the new mod.

    If you could reproduce the thread you linked to in it’s original form, then that would be a valid piece of evidence.



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  • LaurieB. I missed this thread. Way before my time. Did my due diligence and researched Ariane Sherine. Know who she is now and what she did. Kudos. Clicked on Images. Not sure I’m joining the dots correctly. A bit scared to make this comment, but there appears to be lots of “cheesecake” images. Have I missed something.



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  • “We feel that even if all possible scientific questions be answered, the problems of life have still not been touched at all.”
    ― Ludwig Wittgenstein



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  • I just started reading W. I read On Certainty. Now I am reading the Blue and Brown Books. I have to say: the first ten pages of the B&B Books are the most perplexing ten pages I have ever read in my entire life. Maybe I need to take a course or something. He says, among other things, that “thoughts are not in our heads.”



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  • I don’t want you to feel constrained; you are not obliged to say anything; but I was just wondering what you thought of my reply (May 28 at 7:10pm).



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  • To argue on the one hand that humans have evolved all these wondrous unique mental abilities ( language, planning, intentionality etc) which set us aside and apart from instinctive bound other animals, and then on the other hand to argue that because biological factors X,Y,Z causes animals to behave in a certain way therefore these biological factors X,Y,Z cause aspects of human society to be inevitable or “natural” is either a contradiction or cherry picking.

    Bipolarized thinking about “human nature” is an exercise in futility. Is “man” essentially the rational animal of Platonic idealism or just another highly evolved animal equipped with uniquely complex neurological abilities whose practices have manipulated and reconfigured the environment in ways that flatter our sense of superiority.. Both characterizations end up saying much the same thing with the pretense of divine transcendence injected by Plato. I would dispense with the linguistic metaphysics of analytic dualism and try to arrive at a a pragmatic holistic view of the evolved human organism interacting with diverse environments throughout its evolution. All we can do is become the tireless observer, incessantly subjecting our findings to new observations and new language. We cannot parse the times when human beings are acting as rational or cognitively sophisticated animals from the times they are acting merely as instinctive brutes. Homo sapiens are one organism and animal at all times. Trying to attribute behaviors to differences in alternating “essential natures” is nothing more than describing how the organism acts differently in different times and places in response to environmental contingencies incorporating evolved abilities, memory and, yes, cognitive-social learning.

    You object to Alan4’s citation by pointing out correctly that “humans are not monkeys.” A documentary showed school children on a playground. The boys played very differently from the girls at an age when social norms affected little by way of operative variables. The boys displayed considerable (harmless) aggression, pushing each other, grappling and so on while the girls displayed cooperative behavior negotiated by non-aggressive protocols of conduct -tea party etiquette, caring for dolls and so on. When girls were selected for high levels of testosterone, their observed behavior coalesced with the pushing and shoving, physical contact “play” of boys. Males and females are equal in intelligence but throughout our evolution, hormonal, anatomical, and neurological differences have disposed men and women to participate at different levels in various forms of behavior, occupations and professions. Today we see many disparities closing up but we also see gaps implying biologically-grounded differences persisting.



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  • Many people have no intellectual integrity. There’s the rub. Hopefully, as a result of the process you mentioned (dissemination of science education), more people will have the ability to develop it. But the conservative mindset is analogous to a form of psychic edema; they are stubborn and intransigent. Sometimes it seems as if there is a large category of people who WILL not listen and that nothing will ever get through to some people. Let’s hop that there are fewer rather than more of these in the (seemingly hopeless variety.
    I appreciate your optimism.



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  • No justification for racism. As for explaining the cause of it, that’s a tough one. I look at documentaries of the Civil Rights era, for example, and I ask myself: where does that intense hate come from? I mean we’re talking about people who want to kill other people because of the way they look. I for one am mystified by it, always have been. Presumably a lot has been written about this subject. I wonder if anyone’s come up with a good explanation. My assumption is that racism has more than one cause, is an enormously complex problem, has many elements.
    One thing I do know: if you are born into a family of racists, the likelihood is that you will be indoctrinated. You tell your three year old daughter that “those people are bad” and what do you expect? (It’s so sick it’s hard to even think about. That’s child abuse. Nothing short of it.) Same goes for religious inculcation. That’s half the problem right there. But where did it start and why? And how do we end this infernal madness? Can we end it?
    Melvin had this to say which gives me hope ( andDaniel Dennett expressed something similar, and similarly optimistic in a recent article, by the way):

    rapidly accelerating dissemination of science education
    I think I’ll research this a little. Wish me luck.



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  • mopped up or vanished? more likely brushed under the rug. There seems to be an increase in censoring comments either by contributors or moderators. One incident at an atheist event could easily bring out the ugly.

    This news is encouraging, but there is a long way to go. Many women are still men’s pawns and are unaware that they are being played.



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  • Sorry. Didn’t have time to edit that properly. Meant to end it this way:

    Melvin had this to say (and Dan Dennett expressed a similar thought in a recent interview in the Atlantic Monthly, referred to the Cambrian Explosion and remarked that something analogous to that is happening now as a result of the electronic media):

    The scientific world view shaped by rapidly accelerating scientific-technological accomplishments, discoveries and research combined with rapidly accelerating dissemination of science education and information through electronic media are, by fits and starts, rendering assorted supernatural explanations of the cosmos and humankind’s place in it offensively insufferable to intellectual integrity.

    I think I’ll research this important but highly depressing issue (of racism) a little. Wish me luck.



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  • I hate errors: Let’s hope that a lesser percentage of people rather than a greater one will remain part of the (seemingly) hopeless variety.

    That’s better.



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  • Indeed they are not, as thoughts have no spatial extension they cannot said to be anywhere (or nowhere) in space, they do not have GP coordinates, the grammar of language fools us , and his statement is neither mystical or mysterious but logical. To say thoughts are in our heads is not nonsense, but is not on the same logical level as saying brains are in our heads. One is a literal use of “in”, one is not.

    For W. the purpose of philosophy is definetely not to “discover” grandiose Truths, it is not a theory but an activity, an attempt to clarify what we are really saying.

    “Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.”

    ― Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations



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  • In is not a statement of incredulity, or of ignorance, or of certainty, or proclaiming a doctrine or truth, or a denial of any aspect of science, it is an expression of, as he says, a feeling.

    That Scientific answers do not pay the mortgage, determine what hair style you should have or whether it makes you look silly, or ease the nagging feeling of dread, or feed the cat etc etc is the general sense.

    That your scientism prevents you from comprehending the meaning of whole classes of propositions is your loss and impoverishment.



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  • Dan,

    May I recommend “The Making of New World Slavery” by Robin Blackburn which examines the rise of Modern Western racism in its historic context as a justification for slavery and colonialism, and also compares and contrasts to the differing manifestations of racism and slavery which arose in the Ancient World.

    http://www.amazon.com/Making-New-World-Slavery-1492-1800/dp/1844676315/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1432990983&sr=1-3&keywords=Blackburn+history



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  • That Scientific answers do not pay the mortgage, determine what hair style you should have or whether it makes you look silly, or ease the nagging feeling of dread, or feed the cat etc etc is the general sense.

    Well actually often scientific answers do pay the mortgage. Try doing it without electricity. Many industries rely on technologies developed by science, many scientists of course pay the mortage because they do science. We can use science to investigate aspects of fashion and to help us determine if not what hair style to wear, certainly why we should care at all about it (things like sexual selection for example spring straight to mind), many anti-anxiety drugs can help ease that sense of dread and unease (although far from perfect we are making progress in this regard), I feed my can canned food which does not go off. How did we work that out was it not scientists discovering bacteria and how to stop them inside tins so I can feed my cat without having to kill a fresh animal every day? So pretty poor examples there I’m afraid Steve.

    Can you come up with anything for which you have a definitive answer (better than a guess, opinion or preference) to anything of significance that a scientific view has no bearing or import? Exactly what does the scientific method exclude you from knowing? I be genuinely interested to hear of just one. Just how am I impoverished by a respect for the scientific method?



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  • Steve
    May 30, 2015 at 7:28 am

    In is not a statement of incredulity, or of ignorance, or of certainty, or proclaiming a doctrine or truth, or a denial of any aspect of science, it is an expression of, as he says, a feeling.

    Feelings are one of the most unreliable ways of reaching decisions on material issues, anyone can use. Denial of this is simply irrationality or ignorance.

    That Scientific answers do not pay the mortgage,

    Actually without scientific answers, there would be no house to purchase, and no water, electricity, and no banking system.

    determine what hair style you should have

    Hair styles are largely determined by the scientifically designed and manufactured tools and products used by hair-dressers.

    or whether it makes you look silly,

    Denial of science does that very effectively.

    or ease the nagging feeling of dread,

    Science can provide medication, or medical counselling!

    or feed the cat etc etc

    Cat food is produced, processed, and preserved, using scientifically designed processes.

    That your scientism prevents you from comprehending the meaning of whole classes of propositions is your loss and impoverishment.

    The derogatory use of definition 2 of “scientism”, usually denotes individuals profoundly ignorant of science, who have no idea how or where science is applied.

    Scientists (as described in definition 1) provide comprehension of a vast range of subjects to the highest standards available.



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  • Steve
    May 29, 2015 at 7:35 pm

    and then on the other hand to argue that because biological factors X,Y,Z causes animals to behave in a certain way therefore these biological factors X,Y,Z cause aspects of human society to be inevitable or “natural”

    Nobody said that these factors lead to behaviour which is “inevitable”!
    They are instinctive tendencies, which have evolved biological mechanisms, causing them.

    If in civilisations we wish to counter such tendencies, it is important to understand how they work. Denying that the mechanisms exist, makes no contribution to dealing with the issue!

    biological factors X,Y,Z cause aspects of human society to be inevitable or “natural” is either a contradiction or cherry picking.

    Not at all!
    “Inevitable”, is a strawman irrelevance, which bears no relation to what was said or the evidence presented!
    “Natural”, is how science and reality, work.



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  • Steve
    May 29, 2015 at 7:45 pm

    Melvin – “Everybody is different from everybody else”, is a truism with no “explanatory power.”

    that these differences have little social “explanatory” power is my point.

    It is your truism which Melvin points out as having “no explanatory power”!
    The science of hormones gives clear explanations of gender differences.

    There are hormonal differences etc between races as well, does this explain or justify racism?

    No! – Hormonal differences explain sexual dominance/differences in different races, species or populations.

    Racism is a different topic, with evolved tribalist aspects.



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  • Reckless Monkey,,

    I did not say that one is impoverished by respect for the scientific method, nor did I deny that science can provide information on anything, or deny that science can aid decision making, nor did I deny science is the basis for modern technological society, no did I deny that a scientific view can have a bearing on anything of significance.

    What I said was that one is impoverished by scientism, prompted in this instance by another poster taking Wittgenstein’s non-scientific quote as a scientific proposition or as a proposition about or denying the value of science i.e interpreting it through the blinkers of scientism ,denying validity to any proposition or explanation about the world which is not scientific. A general tendency, it seems to me, on this site.

    I do not understand and appreciate poetry , or Borges, or a Bach cantata by science. Non-scientific works by, say, Shakespeare, Simenon, Dylan etc can give us as much knowledge and information about real life and the human condition as any textbook on biology. Again no value judgement on which type of knowledge is better or worse .

    To qualify the importance of science is not to deny it. To say that there are other fields of valid knowledge, other ways of obtaining knowledge about the world, of interpreting the world and making sensible propositions about the world is NOT denying science, and not denying that science can give valuable input to these other knowledge-fields.

    That fount of all knowledge Wikipedia says “Scientism is a matter of putting too high a value on natural science in comparison with other branches of learning or culture.”[1] It has been defined as “the view that the characteristic inductive methods of the natural sciences are the only source of genuine factual knowledge and, in particular, that they alone can yield true knowledge about man and society.”

    Many posts of this site seem to reflect this view.

    Take the mortgage example as illustrative of W’s quote about science not solving the ” problems of life” It is not denying that you need science to build houses or electricity to transfer money etc It is making the rather mundane point that in real life when one has the problem of being short of the mortgage money one does not turn, in normal circumstances to science for an answer to your money shortage.

    Most ordinary people live their actual existential lived life with little regard to science or the scientific method. All their everyday ” problems of life” they experience will not be solved by science ( again this is not denying some can be solved by science or that the scientific basis of the underlying infrastructure on which they depend e.g electricity, plastic, cat food etc).

    If every possible scientific question has been resolved people will not be living in a Utopia ,skipping around joyously through verdant fields without a care or problem in the world. The scientific method is not a religious panacea, it will not “take away everything and make everyone feel high”

    Ordinary people use the products of science in their lives but they do not consistently use the scientific method, although of course on occasions they do, either in gaining knowledge of the world, interpreting the world or making propositions about the world. Those demon Islamic peoples being I guess a prime example to cite on this site , but the kind gentle man who lives round the corner is another example.

    Take the cat food example, yes science has perfected the art of making cat food. But science does not tell me when to feed the cat. The cat communicates that to me directly by his behaviour.

    Or to give a better example, I gain knowledge that my wife is hungry by her telling me she is hungry. I have gained knowledge of something by direct communication, not by inductive or deductive scientific reasoning. I know there is an iPad in front of me by direct empirical knowledge, not by using science or a scientific method ( and yes empirical knowledge is a major plank of the scientific method, but on its own it is not science).

    In all these instances I can use this unscientific knowledge to make sensible and meaningful propositions about the world. ( again this does not deny science can provide useful and relevant information or explanations in all these cases ,but science is not a necessary condition, it is a possible source of supplementary information and explanation.).

    Or to take another example, that of how to understand the rise of Western racism and slavery, or how to distinguish that from racism and slavery in the Ancient World. Yes science can provide information on the general human tendency to form in and out groups ( see, it is quite easy to avoid the culturally derogative term ” tribalism”) but it needs a historic, social,cultural , anthropological and economic analysis to understand how these specific historic instances of racism and slavery arose, or to understand the differences between modern slavery and Ancient slavery. Science does not answer these questions.



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  • Steve
    May 30, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    Alan4discussion,

    Your response is a classic example of scientism 2

    As I said earlier – the derogatory misuse of scientism2, as a substitute for addressing the evidence, is a standard response from those in denial of the science because they are clueless about its mechanisms, and can only offer incredulity in attempts at justification.

    My links and comment on hormone influences on primate sexual behaviours are well founded science, and quite clear to those who have studied the subjects.

    It is always possible to cherry-pick misunderstandings from some ignorant philosopher, to give you wrong answers to questions, which should have been addressed in the first place to biologists specialising in the relevant fields. (Primate behaviour)

    Your confusion of lemurs, apes, and monkeys, would indicate a VERY superficial knowledge and limited study of the evolutionary background of the subject!

    How would you even know where to start in “putting a value” on the scientific work on this subject, so as to be credibly able to evaluate it as “scientism”?

    It should be obvious, that on biology and evolution, you have no idea what you are talking about.



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  • Though Steve and I argue robustly on many issues, I believe he has you, Alan4, on this one. He makes a more-than-fair argument for his case. The problem with “Scientism” is that there are too many different versions of what it means. Simply put it is the mother of all semantic arguments or what I call the argument from stipulation. In my view Science practices a technical method for finding out how matter and energy and life forms work currently involving complex devices and fine mathematical measurements. Because Science more frequently than not advances human welfare we understandably conflate the accumulation of scientific knowledge and its technological application with “human welfare” itself. But science per se is a technical amoral method for accumulating objective evidence about the material/natural world. After Scientists have accumulated their findings, they must exercise human judgement about how to apply them in practice. Science gave us penicillin used to fight bacterial infections but it also gave us the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The stipulation that Harry Truman misused science for “evil” while a pediatrician used penicillin to the treat a child’s dangerous strep throat for “good” won’t do. Both Harry and the good doctor felt justified on moral grounds.



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  • Thanks so much for the comment on W., Steve. I have a friend who is a convinced late-Wittgensteinian.—He’s been trying (and failing) to get me to see what W means by that statement and others like it. You did a better job with one comment then he did with countless comments over the past six months. Right now I am grappling with the whole issue of recognition (and “red samples.”) I wish I could hire you as a Wittgenstein tutor. And thanks for the recommendation. I will certainly check out that work by Blackburn.



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  • Does anyone have any comment with regard to Kant’s famous thing-in-itself as it relates to this issue of scientism?

    According to Kant (and Schopenhauer) science is empirical, that is, it starts from the object and is limited by the subjective forms of space, time, and causality. Because of this limitation, we can only know things as they appear to us, not as they are in themselves. No matter how much we may learn about, say, a rock, or anything in nature for that matter, we can never apprehend or know anything about what it is independently of perception, independently of the mind.

    I think it’s important not to mix up the metaphysical with the religious or supernatural. The existence of the former is, in my view, a logical conclusion that one is compelled to form when one considers the limitations of the human mind. All knowledge presupposes certain subjective, innate, a priori conditions: space, time, and the knowledge of cause and effect.

    The thing-in-itself is not really a thing; it is more negative than positive. Moreover, the value of Kant’s critical philosophy is essentially limitativein nature; we may “travel through endless space” (Schopenhauer) yet never arrive at a clear understanding of the inner nature of phenomena:
    Causality can never explain everything or any one thing entirely. Causality relates only to what is represented in the mind.

    That is why physicists always have trouble with the “what was before the big bang(s)” question. Dawkins (who I admire tremendously and is also not a physicist) said that time and space may have originated with the big bang.

    The Kantian question would be: how could we ever experience such a thing such as a time before time? He addresses this antinomy of pure reason in his critique of dialectical illusion (I think I have that right; I don’t have the text in front of me.) My point is that questions such as “what was before the big bang(s)” raise another more primary question, to wit, what constitutes existence? What is IS?

    Too bad there are so many mystics and charlatans that give “transcendentalism” a bad name.

    I agree that science can never explain everything or any one thing entirely. But my reasons for thinking that are probably not shared by too many people. Not very many Kantians left, I’m afraid.



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  • Dan. We’re way, way off topic. Some modern philosophers still cling to the appearance-reality dualism of analytic philosophy, while others recognize it as an “unhelpful” semantic problem. You are walking down the street at twilight you see a small creature in a yard. “That’s a cat,” you say. As you approach you see that it is a small dog. There is no “problem” of appearance and reality. You are looking at the same object from different points of view. Initially you put the object under the linguistic description “cat,” then change the description to “dog” upon closer inspection.

    Kant has constructed a word puzzle. We can only know an object as we know it through sensory and neurological (higher brain) processes. He asks like Descartes how do you know it’s “real” or how can you ever get in touch with the-thing-in itself. By implication the essence of an object independent of mind implies something apart from the multiple ways we can describe, or potentially describe its causes and effects. Metaphysical philosophers are insisting that objects (and/or) their properties have a “special quality” that cannot be put under a linguistic description. They are absolutely indescribable . If you take the proposition seriously you will find yourself in a dark place where you can no longer talk about the world. (Please no references to quantum particles. Our understanding is grossly deficient but scientists have no problem putting these particles under a description. If they couldn’t be described we would not have “quantum particle” or “quantum mechanics” in our language.)

    Generally we’d be stuck in an infinite regress baffled by every object in our experience mystified that we could never know the thing-in-itself, asking like the stuck phonograph needle of a six-year old whose reply to every explanation, every description is why..why..why??? It’s a referentially vacuous regression. We really need to move on…



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  • Hi Steve thanks for the reply,

    What I said was that one is impoverished by scientism,

    you are making an assertion that what Alan is engaging in is scientism on the basis of his suggesting that human behavior is linked to hormones. This is at best an overreach on your part. Alan might quite like Art and poetry this does not mean that he is engaging in scientism because he note correctly that there is a connection in primates (which includes us) between behavior and hormone levels. This has been well studied and understood, one example in humans is when female athletes take testosterone as a performance enhancing drug and report increased anger and aggression. This is completely in line with what we know about mammals in general, why for example do we castrate male cattle we do not wish to breed from?

    You’ve written quite a bit here so I’ll generalise my responses and trust you to pull me up if I haven’t done justice to your arguments.

    Most ordinary people live their actual existential lived life with little regard to science or the scientific method.

    If you mean that people don’t read peer reviewed papers to assess their actions for their day to day life you are correct, however I think you misunderstand what science is. In the broad sense science is a process of asking a question, forming a hypothesis, testing that hypothesis, comparing it to reality or experiment and discarding those hypothesis that do not function. In this sense we all do this through our lives continually. If I cook a meal, decide on best course of action to do with my finances, check a second hand car I follow many of the principles of the scientific method. Any academic worth their salt is doing so we they check sources, etc. Artists engage in parts of the scientific process all the time. It is not just associated with technology and raw science, the scientific method is engaged in on a regular basis in everyday life. It is only when we surrender to wish thinking that we completely step outside of it.

    I used to be a commercial artist, I then got into prop (props for advertising) building, latter aircraft building, latter science teaching, a little study in astronomy. What I found that surprised me was how unified it all was, my whole life is bound by scientific thinking and principles, not only but I cannot separate anything out from it completely. When I teach art I am in part also teaching scientific method, not formally but it is there, I am better teacher now that I am aware of what I am doing also. This does not take anything away from my creativity but it makes me more conscious of what I am doing. A quote from Richard Feynman works well here…

    “I have a friend who’s an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say “look how beautiful it is,” and I’ll agree. Then he says “I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing,” and I think that he’s kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe. Although I may not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is … I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it’s not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there’s also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.”

    To you comment below

    That fount of all knowledge Wikipedia says “Scientism is a matter of putting too high a value on natural science in comparison with other branches of learning or culture.”[1] It has been defined as “the view that the characteristic inductive methods of the natural sciences are the only source of genuine factual knowledge and, in particular, that they alone can yield true knowledge about man and society.”

    Okay you have made this claim in response to Alan’s comment that some of our behavior may be linked to hormones as they are in other primates. He was quite measured in his response so you need to show how he is doing so with better than your assertion that this is what he is doing.

    Secondly I have asked you to show what branches of knowledge you can be certain (to the extent you can be certain of anything which is often not very certain) of without science. I can think of mathematics but the rest is subjective. That is not to say the way I feel is of no value, even my feelings can be assessed with scientific methods. Science is simply a method for testing the reliability of knowledge and honest attempt to be honest and check your findings. If you suggest there are more effective methods please show me.

    If every possible scientific question has been resolved…

    Who ever said it had? But if you wish to solve a problem you are first going to have to understand it, good luck without something approaching the scientific method.

    Or to take another example, that of how to understand the rise of Western racism and slavery, or how to distinguish that from racism and slavery in the Ancient World. Yes science can provide information on the general human tendency to form in and out groups ( see, it is quite easy to avoid the culturally derogative term ” tribalism”) but it needs a historic, social,cultural , anthropological and economic analysis to understand how these specific historic instances of racism and slavery arose, or to understand the differences between modern slavery and Ancient slavery. Science does not answer these questions.

    And how do historians date records or scrolls? Anthropologists draw knowledge directly from the biological sciences to track migrations of tribal groups to confirm who is related to who etc. Economic analysis is impossible without mathematics and scientific methods (if you want it to work). No one is suggesting science alone answers these questions but it is what is usually used to confirm what would otherwise be just conjecture or opinion. If historians say suggest that lead piping had an impact on the fall of Rome then it is to science that they will turn to confirm or dis-confirm this hypothesis. It will be by measuring lead levels in bones etc. that will support this. Science is essential to this enterprise. If you wish to understand the differences between modern slavery and ancient slavery you will need many a scientist to help you along your way. If you want a biased view ask a religious leader. Did the Exodus really happen? You’ll need scientists to answer that.

    If all that makes me guilty of scientism too then I will wear that badge with pride.



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  • A pleasure to e-meet you, Melvin:

    I geared off “the topic.” I thought I’d change it. One is free to ignore it or not. Thanks for your reply. The original topic, btw, had something to do with women. Then it shifted to scientism. Then I introduced the thing-in-itself.

    I hear the term “analytic philosophy” all the time and still don’t know what it includes or excludes.

    What you said about the cat and the dog has nothing to do with Kant’s epistemology as I understand it. You sound like a highly erudite and well-informed person but have you actually studied Kant? Perhaps you have and no more than I do.

    But the thing-in-itself has LIMITATIVE value. It is not what we know, it is what we can never know. Why is that not crucial? The critical philosophy, as K says in his famous introduction to the Critique, is designed to prevent us from engaging in dogmatism (starting from the object and forgetting the subject), fanaticism (the claim to knowledge of that which cannot be known), excessive skepticism, and other modes of thinking that are injurious to our collective and individual minds’ growth forward.

    Appearance is reality. There is the empirically real and the absolutely real. The empirically real is what appears to us, what we experience. (Very few people have understood the enormously subtle distinction between empirical reality and absolute reality.) No one can convince me that a cat (to use your example) “exists” independently of the mind. It may exist but not as an object of knowledge. I have yet to hear a convincing refutation of the Kantian distinction between the real and the absolutely real.

    I think it would behoove all intelligent and conscientious people, such as yourself, to read or reacquaint yourselves with Kant (particularly the Transcendental Aesthetic) and Schopenhauer. (And I hope I don’t sound in any way condescending; on the contrary, I am a bit intimidated by the other site members; I do not have much of a science background.) The creationists and all the other fanatics against whom we are all united in opposition, could do with a little Kantian humility, as it were: one of the of critical idealism is this: there is no basis for establishing the existence of a metaphysical being through reasoned argument. Faith is the only basis for belief. The Faithful is okay until they overstep their bounds and claim to have knowledge of that is, finally, a thing-in-itself.

    Without an unknowable thing-in-itself, everyone is free to say that God exists

    That’s my opinion for what it’s worth.

    I will conclude with this excellent analogy from the great man (who Einstein admired) himself:

    “To deny the positive advantage of the service which this criticism renders us would be as absurd as to maintain that the system of police is productive of no positive benefit, since its main business is to prevent the violence which citizen has to apprehend from citizen, that so each may pursue his vocation in peace and security.”

    P.S. I don’t know what he would say about quantum particles, unfortunately. May I ask a question: are they perceptible in any way? (I apologize for my ignorance.) If they are than they are phenomenon.



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  • So many typos. Goddammit; I wanted that to come out right.—Let me just correct two sentences:

    One of the important consequences of critical idealism is (or should be) this: there is no basis for establishing the existence of a metaphysical being through reasoned argument. Faith is the only basis for belief. The faithful are innocuous until they overstep their bounds and claim to have knowledge of that which is, finally, a thing-in-itself.

    Without an unknowable thing-in-itself, everyone is free to say that God exists without feeling obliged to demonstrate it. If everything is knowable (including the unknowable or “indescribable”) then we will be giving fanatics more freedom than is good for them — or us.



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  • Generally we’d be stuck in an infinite regress baffled by every object in our experience mystified that we could never know the thing-in-itself […]

    I don’t think we have a choice. How can we possibly have knowledge of something if we are not participating in the process of producing the object in question? What is a tree without our senses, without space (which is in us as the form of the outer sense) or time ( which is in us as the form of the inner sense)? What is a tree without externality or internality (a subjective distinction)? What is a tree without our understanding which allows us to trace the effect (the image of the tree) back to a cause (something acting upon us in some way)? All of these things: sensibility, understanding (of causality), space and time,—all are functions of the brain. Take all that away and what is left? The identical tree? That is not quite conceivable, is it? The word object itself implies perception.
    Science can explain a great many things, but I don’t understand why everyone always dismisses this problem: there is an antithesis between the (absolutely) real and the ideal. (By absolutely real I am referring to a reality independent of mental perception). Is there no problem, no antithesis? Were all the great philosophers from Descartes to Schopenhauer all wrong? Are Locke’s secondary qualities, for example, not secondary? Does hardness inhere in the stone? Does the color red inhere in the cardinal? Can there really be knowledge of an object but without a subject? Has the subject–object division been repudiated somehow? Is it not a permanent a priori condition of our conscious mental lives? The intellect divides the world of actual being into subject and object, does it not?

    Read this. Then I’ll stop:

    …animals existed before men, fishes before land animals, plants before
    fishes, and the inorganic before the organic; consequently, the
    original mass had to go through a long series of changes before the
    first eye could be opened. And yet the existence of this whole world
    remains forever dependent on that first eye that opened, were it even
    that of an insect. For such an eye necessarily brings about
    knowledge, for which and in which alone the whole world is, and
    without which it is not even conceivable. -Schopenhauer



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  • Dan
    May 31, 2015 at 3:36 am

    I geared off “the topic.” I thought I’d change it. One is free to ignore it or not. Thanks for your reply. The original topic, btw, had something to do with women. Then it shifted to scientism.

    The problem with the improper assertions of scientism2 (apart from the conflicting definititions: 1. proper use of science, 2. Improper use of science), is that on many occasions when it has been used on this site by theists disputing science, the assertion has simply been a projection of personal ignorance and incredulity., which follows this form of fallacy:-

    Not having studied the subject – “I can’t understand or imagine how this works, so neither can present or future specialist scientists”!




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  • Hey there, Alan. How’s my esteemed fellow Dawkins site member doing? Perhaps you’re confusing me with someone else. I am not a theist. Nor do I even know what scientism2 is. Is there a scientism3? Until quite recently I didn’t know what scientism meant. I looked it up and I am still not sure.

    I happen to love Kant, and I think the question I ask is worth asking (even if it has nothing to do with the original topic)—all the more so as no one else anywhere seems to be asking it: how much can we know?

    When did time begin? Where does space end? These seemingly puerile questions takes us to the very heart of the central problem of modern Western philosophy and one of the great problems that man faces: the problem of the antithesis between the Real and the Ideal.

    What was before the Big Bang? We hear that question asked. But no one ever asks what constitutes existence. I think it is a question worth asking. What does “was” mean? What would something without thought, without any sentient life anywhere in the universe or multiverse, possibly be like?

    I was just putting that old (and all but forgotten) question out there. My question concerns itself first and foremost with experience.

    The mind has limits as to what it can experience, as opposed to what we can postulate. That time curves is a good example. This has been postulated (and it probably has considerable truth-value). But curved time has never been experienced. (Correct me if I’m wrong.)

    The universe is finite.
    The universe is infinite.

    Both are inconceivable; the understanding comes to a standstill. (In all fairness to what I think you’re saying, maybe infinity is not inconceivable. It is now, but maybe in the future it won’t be. I think it will always be, but can’t be certain.)

    Kant put it this way, and presented it as his First Antinomy (of space and time):

    Thesis:
    The world has a beginning in time, and is also limited as regards space.
    Anti-thesis:
    The world has no beginning, and no limits in space; it is infinite as regards both time and space.



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  • Hi Dan,

    at the risk of running into the accusation of scientism I’d like to contribute to our off-topic discussion.

    When did time begin? Where does space end? These seemingly puerile questions takes us to the very heart of the central problem of modern Western philosophy and one of the great problems that man faces: the problem of the antithesis between the Real and the Ideal.

    What was before the Big Bang? We hear that question asked. But no one ever asks what constitutes existence. I think it is a question worth asking. What does “was” mean? What would something without thought, without any sentient life anywhere in the universe or multiverse, possibly be like?

    These are excellent questions but I don’t think they are at the heart of philosophy. That is I think they are potentially open to discovery although unlikely in our lifetime. If you follow astronomy (I do a bit but I know very little compared to Alan4Discussion), then the all matter and time in our universe was created at the big bang. So before that is simply a question without meaning like asking what is north of the north pole. However if we are part of a multi-verse then time may be existing in other dimensions ticking away at different paces in relation to us so the question might be a bit human-centric. Either way if we ever find out it will likely be because physicists have actually calculated what we would expect to find if a multi-verse was real, built equipment to search for it and found it.

    Philosophers I think are very useful – but not for this type of question they will just end up running around in circles arguing semantics.

    Another thought, time and matter may not have existed for everything in our universe before the Big Bang but that is not to say that the universe did not become created from an event occurring outside our universe in which for that universe/s time existed. If alien scientists from another dimension observed the formation of our universe would they not be able to mark the time of the creation of our universe? If you are with me so far then time can be meaningless for us inside the boundaries of our universe but be within the time-line of another dimension, this is the date of the start of our universe. I put this up not because I think I’m an expert or think likely, I may well be wrong but because this is exactly the sort of question that interests me. Any thoughts?

    Reagards.



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  • Dan
    May 31, 2015 at 8:34 am

    Hi Dan!

    Perhaps you’re confusing me with someone else. I am not a theist.

    That was not my intention. I was picking up on your comment re. the earlier part of the discussion, and pointing out that if you continue posting here, sooner or later some theist or quackologist, is going to claim your reference to scientific evidence is “scientism”. ( as has happened over the years in the past.)

    Nor do I even know what scientism2 is.

    it is the second definition of the word, which conflicts with the first definition. (There is a link on this earlier comment on this very long discussion.)

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2015/05/the-christian-right-is-losing-women-why-more-and-more-are-embracing-non-belief/#li-comment-179475



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  • Dan
    May 31, 2015 at 8:34 am

    What was before the Big Bang? We hear that question asked. But no one ever asks what constitutes existence. I think it is a question worth asking. What does “was” mean? What would something without thought, without any sentient life anywhere in the universe or multiverse, possibly be like?

    We could avoid upsetting the mods, on this off-topic subject, by discussing it on one of the cosmology or space threads sometime.



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  • Hi Reckless Monkey,

    Firstly I did not assert that Alan engages in scientism (2) on the basis of his remarks about hormonal influence on human behaviour, neither did I deny this fact, in fact I explicitly stated it was true. ( although continually being accused of denying scientific findings I have not denied any scientific finding whatsoever in any post. To question the explanatory value of science as compared to the explanatory value of other modes of analysis in attempting to understand certain very specific classes of explanandum ( e.g the rise of modern slavery or racism) is not to deny science as an explanans ).

    I made the assertion on the basis of his reactions to any posts containing a non-scientific proposition, or suggesting there are other methods of obtaining valid knowledge and making valid statements about the world, or that other explanatory systems have value etc; linked to his corollary that any such statements must be a denial of scientific findings and that the people who assert such are either ignorant, stupid or mentally deluded .

    Again I did not deny that in everyday life we often use the general scientific method of empirical observation, deduction or inferential reasoning to form an hypothosis and further empirical observation to confirm the hypothesis. I merely say we also have other ways of obtaining valid knowledge and making valid propositions e.g direct experience.

    The science behind my assertion that the scientific method is not “the” norm of everyday thinking is summarised, in part, by recent popular works by Daniel Kahneman, Steven Levitt and Malcolm Gladwell.

    I agree with you that scientific explanations can add ” value” in any context . My point being that one can , for example, appreciate the beauty of a flower without having any biological or scientific knowledge, and that such scientific knowledge is not a necessary condition, although it can and does provide supplementary information and understandings. I never at all suggested scientific knowledge ” subtracts” from anything, and agree with the Feynman quote.

    Aside from knowledge obtained from direct experience ( we have to be certain that when ,say, we see a tree there is really a tree there otherwise the world could not make any sense ( and this is not denying possible perceptual mistakes)) science indeed can provide higher levels of certainty than other knowledge – fields. However certainty is not the ultimate criteria for deciding if a proposition is either sensible or meaningful , as you yourself point out.

    Again I do not deny that historic analysis et al can and does depend on science to confirm facts or even act as a basis for hypothesis. My point being about different conceptual or logical forms forms of explanation and the problems arising from conflating and confusing them, and their explanatory usefulness in explaining and understanding differing classes of explanandum e.g to better understand male compared to female aggression we primarily turn to biology, to understand inflation we primarily turn to economics, to understand poetry we turn primarily to literary criticism, to understand modern slavery we primarily turn to historic,social and economic analysis.

    All these fields of knowledge are mutually intertwined and not in opposition, and supplement and complement each other. To say one logical level of explanation offers more meaningful explanatory power in certain particular circumstances does not deny the validity of the others, or that the others can also contribute useful and even necessary knowledge to that particular analysis..

    I am arguing against scientism (2) not science.



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  • Thanks for the thought, Alan4Discussion, but you’re alright here. The original topic burnt out some time ago, and the topic it has morphed to is wholly relevant to the site – it would seem a shame to bump you all off onto a different thread now!

    The mods



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  • Steve
    May 31, 2015 at 9:36 am

    I have not denied any scientific finding whatsoever in any post.

    The problem is, that you persistently make assertions which deny science, and you do not even recognise the existence of the science you are denying.

    To question the explanatory value of science as compared to the explanatory value of other modes of analysis

    Apart from mathematics/logic/objective observations (which are parts of science), there are no “other modes of analysis which give any reliable basis for knowledge of material reality.
    If you have discovered some, please list them.

    I agree with you that scientific explanations can add ” value” in any context .

    Scientific explanations give all of the value in terms of understanding how things work in the material world. (That includes the biology of animals.)

    My point being that one can , for example, appreciate the beauty of a flower without having any biological or scientific knowledge,

    You can indeed, have evolved emotional feelings about recognised objects or sensations.

    and that such scientific knowledge is not a necessary condition, although it can and does provide supplementary information and understandings.

    You have the emphasis wrong here.
    If you wish to understand beyond simple sensations to understand why and how, you experience these sensations, you need to look at the evolution of flowers to become attractive to animals, and the biology of parts of human sensory systems, which have share genes with those animals the flowers have evolved to attract. Flower perfumes and colour patterns, were not evolved to attract humans!

    As I pointed out earlier, just because you have not joined up your thinking, to make the connections between observations and the workings of science, that does not mean those connections do not exist, or that others do not understand them.

    I am arguing against scientism (2) not science.

    Assertions of “scientism2” are usually expressions of personal incredulity, on subjects unknown to those making the assertions.
    They are of course, in no position to evaluate the extent to which current scientific knowledge applies, from a viewpoint of ignorance and near total lack of awareness, of the scope of the subject.

    Hence the assertion is presented without evidence, and can consequently be dismissed without evidence.



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  • Do we have to ask what constitutes existence? Our Universe appears to us as a closed system, but it is lain out in plain sight before us and we have little trouble scientifically and empirically deciding what is real or not.

    Our knowledge of time and space is restricted to our observable Universe and Reckless Monkey is correct to say that an alien outside our Universe would have different knowledge, experience and conceptions of time and space to ourselves, and that for them time and space did not, as it appears to us, spring into existence with the Big Bang.

    This is not to say that the existence of time and space themselves are dependent on our, or the aliens, perceptions or observation positions. It is that our knowledge of time and space is dependent on these things, not their existence.

    As to what the Universe would be like without life etc just look at a picture from the Hubble telescope of the Universe as it was a few billion years ago.



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  • Dan
    May 31, 2015 at 4:42 am

    I don’t think we have a choice. How can we possibly have knowledge of something if we are not participating in the process of producing the object in question? What is a tree without our senses, without space (which is in us as the form of the outer sense) or time ( which is in us as the form of the inner sense)? What is a tree without externality or internality (a subjective distinction)?

    While we do need our senses to build mental models of reality, science has superseded the ancient philosophers in so far as we no longer need to use them directly. By developing remote sensing devices which have sensory ranges well beyond human perceptions wee can look far out in space, back in time, and at details down to sub atomic levels.

    What is a tree without our understanding which allows us to trace the effect (the image of the tree) back to a cause (something acting upon us in some way)?

    The sort of modern technological analysis of trees, (or planets or stars), goes way beyond anything ancient philosophers thought of.

    All of these things: sensibility, understanding (of causality), space and time,—all are functions of the brain. Take all that away and what is left?

    You would be left with the material universe, which in all probability is functioning according to the laws of physics in many places where no living organisms or brains exist.

    Science can explain a great many things, but I don’t understand why everyone always dismisses this problem: there is an antithesis between the (absolutely) real and the ideal. (By absolutely real I am referring to a reality independent of mental perception). Is there no problem, no antithesis?

    The “problem” is that of matching the scientific model and its accuracy, to the underlying material reality.

    Using the scientific methodology of multiple tests, and multiple independent investigators, some scientific / mathematical models, are very accurate, and can make (say astronomical) predictions, centuries of millennia ahead. They can also demonstrate complex predictions, by landing functioning Rovers on Mars, or by having robot devices do investigations for us.



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  • Alan4discussion:

    Hence the assertion is presented without evidence, and can
    consequently be dismissed without evidence.

    Alan4discussion and Steve, you seem to be talking past each other. Forgive me, Steve, if I am misrepresenting you, but I think the point you are trying to make is this:

    Science can explain how my TV works.
    Science can show what is going on in my brain as I try to decide whether to watch the program on Channel 1 or the program on Channel 2.
    Science can show the responses in my brain as I watch the program … etc etc etc

    … but at the point where I am trying to decide what to watch on TV, what is the science that is going to help me make up my mind (and I do mean ‘help me make up my mind’, not ‘explain why I finally opt for the re-run of Colombo’). Which science course should I sign up for to assist me with this decision?

    Science can explain all sorts of things, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only possible or even relevant filter through which to arrive at everyday decisions.



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  • Marco
    May 31, 2015 at 11:07 am

    You give a clear explanation.

    Science can explain all sorts of things, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only possible or even relevant filter through which to arrive at everyday decisions.

    … but at the point where I am trying to decide what to watch on TV, what is the science that is going to help me make up my mind (and I do mean ‘help me make up my mind’, not ‘explain why I finally opt for the re-run of Colombo’).

    In many instances science has limited the choices so even random choices produce satisfactory results for users.

    You have to watch TV or video, which is actually available, so all the science has been done for you.

    My point was not that decisions can be made, but the requirements for accurate decisions to be made, on issues which matter to wider communities.

    Which science course should I sign up for to assist me with this decision?

    None:- as a consumer of a scientific product – unless you count learning to use the equipment. Providing the service(s) requires a rather higher level of science.



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  • Marco,

    No, you do misrepresent me, although I go further, and beyond just personal decision making , by believing that it is not the only “possible or relevent filter ” through which to make sensible and meaningful propositions about the world.

    Something I mistakenly thought was a commonplace, rather than the categorical dismissal of science and every scientific finding that it turns out to be! I am burning all my literature to avoid further contamination by the unscientific!!



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  • Steve
    May 31, 2015 at 2:11 pm

    ???????

    Where in that post is a denial of any scientific fact or finding?

    Reckless Monkey and myself have already answered that question.

    As I said earlier, you are not even aware of the science you are denying!



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  • Lol! Mate, What a cop out!

    You cannot give a single example, because I have not denied any scientific fact or finding.

    You say you have already answered that question. Well, you have not.

    If you have then please provide the evidence, this is a rational evidence based site, by quoting where you have already done so.

    Evidence please of you previously showing that I have denied any scientific fact or finding , not only in the post where you have just claimed I did but now bizarrely refuse to substantiate ,but in any post.

    ((((( your last observation “you are not even aware of what science you are denying” is logically and scientifically incoherent and senseless, and on a level with “have you stopped beating your wife?”

    How can one deny something that one is unaware of?

    How on Earth can you know what science, or what anything, I am unaware of? ( not even I know what I am unaware of!?)

    If I am unaware of something I cannot speak about it , so I cannot have put it in a post, if I have cannot have posted it , then how on Earth can you have become aware of it?

    Have you got the FBI to tap my mind, and if they are reading my mind how on earth can they detect an absence i.e something I am unaware of? ))))

    On my denial of scientific facts or findings please Put up or….



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  • Steve
    May 31, 2015 at 4:02 pm

    You cannot give a single example, because I have not denied any scientific fact or finding.

    Sorry Steve, but if you can’t recognise the examples from the multitudes of detailed replies you have been given, then there is little point in giving you more of them.

    If you just don’t get it, you just don’t get it!



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  • … but at the point where I am trying to decide what to watch on TV, what is the science that is going to help me make up my mind (and I do mean ‘help me make up my mind’, not ‘explain why I finally opt for the re-run of Colombo’). Which science course should I sign up for to assist me with this decision?

    This is true but it can tell you that perhaps if you don’t want to die of various diseases that perhaps you should get off the couch and take a walk 😉

    Science can explain all sorts of things, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only possible or even relevant filter through which to arrive at everyday decisions.

    True again, I don’t think anyone is suggesting this is so, I would suggest however it is more embedded in many decisions than we might think, not formal science (publish paper consult an equation before turning the wheel of the car) but in the general sense of the term. Science has helped inform us and generate technologies – that is not particularly what I am on about – respect for the basic method of science can and I think should be more utilized. I do so all the time when I tell people I don’t know. A lot of people are very uncomfortable about various issues they hold strongly and wish me to side with them to support their position. I understand the need from a cultural point of view but respect for the scientific method often puts me at odds with workmates simply because I state that I do not know if this or that course is correct. Group think and wishful thinking are dangerous when decisions have consequences in the real world.



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  • Dan
    May 30, 2015 at 11:50 pm

    I agree that science can never explain everything or any one thing entirely. But my reasons for thinking that are probably not shared by too many people.

    “Never” is an extreme assertion, but you could well be right.

    The key point, is that while science may never explain everything, it explains many things to very high levels of accuracy, and vastly more reliably than any other methods of deriving explanations which have been tried or tested.



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  • True again, I don’t think anyone is suggesting this is so,

    That would be good, but I think we can be forgiven for getting the wrong impression, in that case.

    I sometimes wonder whether some people aren’t so terrified that someone is going to try to smuggle some woo into the discussions, that they totally overreact at any suggestion that humans are also animals with a rich emotional and cultural life that influences our choices, attitudes and behavior. I know my own views on both science and religion, so I know for sure that I am not guilty on the woo-smuggling front. But the way I read Steve’s comments, neither is he and I’m really not sure why some people are getting so hot under the collar. Hey ho. Think I’ll leave you to it.



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  • I fear that unfortunately that is another cop out!

    You quoted a post saying in it I denied scientific facts or findings, but will not tell what scientific facts I deny in that post , or what words do the denying. The post is only a few sentences long so it would hardly be a major effort, probably less effort that giving reasons why not to do it!

    You assert you have done this , but again are unwilling to provide evidence of this. If you think you have done this, and that I have not “got it” please cut and paste , a very simple task, so that I can try and “get it”

    You correctly demand that assertions need evidence to be correct, so please supply the evidence that supports your assertion that I have denied scientific facts or findings.



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  • People recoil from Scientism for the same reason they recoil form any ideology they believe seeks totalitarian control over their autonomy, freedom of conscience, speech, and judgement regulated within humanist law and moral constraints. Just as those on this thread find Islam repulsive, Scientism becomes repulsive for the same reason. But, oh no!, advocates will shoot back. Accept the path of Allah or the path of Science, and you will wind up in paradise or a Transhuman Utopia. Dan’s reaction resonates with me because of the way believers are inclined to talk about about the absolute righteousness of their theology or their Science and impose an elite self-interested, self-selected ideology on the rest of us.

    Of course science is not an ideology but a methodology for understanding the natural world. Scientism conflates discoveries which happen to benefit humankind with a transcendent authority which can potentially come to control all human activities. When we talk about science in this distorted fanatical way, we alienate and nauseate too many thoughtful people.



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  • Moderator message

    Guys, please keep the discussion thoughtful and avoid personal remarks about other users. The aim, as ever, is rational, constructive, thoughtful discussion, even where there is vehement disagreement.

    The mods



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  • Marco
    May 31, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    I sometimes wonder whether some people aren’t so terrified that someone is going to try to smuggle some woo into the discussions,

    I don’t think that woo is an issue in this discussion, but denial of biology, on the basis of ideologies, featured earlier in this discussion, and a related discussion.

    that they totally overreact at any suggestion that humans are also animals with a rich emotional and cultural life that influences our choices, attitudes and behavior.

    Indeed, – cultures, emotional reactions, and hormones did feature earlier in the threads.



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  • Not sure if you saw this:

    Thanks so much for the comment on W., Steve. I have a friend who is a convinced late-Wittgensteinian.—He’s been trying (and failing) to get me to see what W means by that statement and others like it. You did a better job with one comment then he did with countless comments over the past six months. Right now I am grappling with the whole issue of recognition (and “red samples.”) I wish I could hire you as a Wittgenstein tutor. And thanks for the recommendation. I will certainly check out that work by Blackburn.



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  • Dan
    May 31, 2015 at 7:15 pm

    I see. I wouldn’t want to give them any ammunition. So would you recommend being careful not to use the word “scientism” too freely?

    I avoid it, but when it is introduced by others, I put in a link to a dictionary to show the contradictory definitions. This helps to close down evasive semantic shufflings, and get back to the topic of the real science. As you can see, it does not always work.



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  • Dan’s reaction resonates with me because of the way believers are inclined to talk about about the absolute righteousness of their theology or their Science and impose an elite self-interested, self-selected ideology on the rest of us.

    The moderator is right. This is very bad. I am not a believer talking about absolute righteousness, and resent this unfair characterization and misrepresentation (or comparison). Wow! I simply introduced the Kantian concept of the unknowable thing-in-itself. The subject of the antithesis between the real and the ideal is not theology. Kant’s critique is as rational a work as one can ever hope to come across! Please be more thoughtful.

    By the way, if you look through a Hubble telescope you are indeed seeing the past, but it is still a representation of perception that is being seen. The world or universe as representation applies to time past as well as time present. Everything that enters into experience is a representation of perception. That is Kant’s argument. Agree or disagree, but who said anything about God or a transcendent authority? I might have to leave this site, although I just joined.

    Tell me; does this sound irrational or like a theological statement? It’s from Schopenhauer’s chief work (Volume 2) Schopenhauer was a non-theist, by the way. (This is the very same point that I presented.)

    “That the objective world would exist even if there existed
    no conscious being certainly seems at the first blush to be
    unquestionable, because it can be thought in the abstract, without
    bringing to light the contradiction which it carries within it. But
    if we desire to realise this abstract thought, that is, to reduce it to
    ideas of perception, from which alone (like everything abstract)
    it can have content and truth, and if accordingly we try to imagine
    an objective world without a knowing subject, we become aware
    that what we then imagine is in truth the opposite of what we
    intended, is in fact nothing else than the process in the intellect
    of a knowing subject who perceives an objective world, is thus
    exactly what we desired to exclude. For this perceptible and real
    world is clearly a phenomenon of the brain; therefore there lies a
    contradiction in the assumption that as such it ought also to exist
    independently of all brains.” – Schopenhauer



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  • I agree that pure matter can not be thought away. We cannot conceive of matter not existing even without a subject. But it cannot be perceived without a subject. The understanding comes to a standstill. In other words, what does mater-in-itself look like? What is its nature? Just asking.



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  • P.S. Misunderstandings do occur. I am no “angel” either. But just for the record, Melvin, I, Dan, am NOT a “believer talking about my theology.” (Why do you think I joined this site? I am with Dawkins on all of this!) Nor should have I reminded you of one. But it’s okay. Misunderstandings are par for the course on discussion sites like this. I wish you well.



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  • The “problem” is that of matching the scientific model and its
    accuracy, to the underlying material reality.

    I have no comment, just a quick open question for anyone who might care to reply. I have tried to find an answer to this question and it’s not so easy. No one seems interested. (I am sure that that is not really the case, but it seems like no one is interested.) Perhaps one of you can answer this:

    Most physicists and astronomers (as far as I know) are convinced that pure space exists (and pure time exists). I am not arguing that they don’t. I am arguing, however, that the concept “space” and the perception itself of space (which is the origin of the concept) implies, necessarily, an element of externality. Whether it was the ancient philosophers who said this or the moderns (and they all said a great many things and differed greatly amongst themselves), it seems to me inescapable, absurdly self-evident, that when we are discussing, studying, or analyzing anything external, such as pure space, externality itself is necessarily presupposed.

    But as I stated in an earlier post, there can not be externality without internality. Space exists only in relation to something not in space.

    But pure space, the space that astrophysicists are now exploring and forming theories about, implies an independent existence. In other words, it is not dependent upon mental perception, knowledge, the brain, the intellect. So how could it be called space? Isn’t pure (or speculative) space or non-perceptual space something other than space? How are we justified in calling something space when it isn’t perceived? How can space have an objective existence without a being looking out or gazing out or relating in some way from the inside out?
    Whose space is it? Where is it?

    Don’t you think this Kantian question is worth some serious consideration as opposed to dismissing it right off the bat as “Metaphysical” and irrelevant?



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  • You would be left with the material universe, which in all probability
    is functioning according to the laws of physics in many places where
    no living organisms or brains exist.

    I don’t really doubt that, and I am a firm believer in science and reason. Kant merely asks what we can know about such a non-perceptual realm. It surely would be a colorless world, wouldn’t it? How could there be colors without eyes? You get the point, I am sure (although it is a fine one). All of the many qualities that we attach to the external world – or realm – of objects of perception vanish along with the brain! A rock (which is part of the material universe you refer to and which we all inhabit) could hardly be said to be hard in itself, can it? This is the “problem.” By the way, Einstein revered Kant, so I am in good company. I would recommend Berkeley’s Three Dialogues. Without Berkeley there would probably have been no Kant. (Don’t say it: and we’d all be a hell of a lot better off.)



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  • Dan: My comment mentioned you by name which unfortunately led you to believe I was putting words in your mouth. The intended purpose was to make an observation about how the term “Scientism” turns people off in the same way that any belief system, religious or secular, extrapolated into extremist ideology becomes insufferable. I have heard people on this site say that parents who teach their children a faith tradition are committing child abuse. Child abuse is a felony punishable by years in prison where the convicted are left to the tender mercies of real psychopaths who dish out nasty treatment for such offenders. Let’s lose pretensions to moral superiority by transforming assorted scientific or pseudo-scientific “findings” into justifications for social control and oppression.

    BTW, I believe your veneration for the philosophy of Kant and Schopenhauer, following in the pre-Darwinian traditions of Descartes and originally Plato is misplaced. Linguistic dichotomies between metaphysical ideal forms (the-thing in itself) and representation [appearances in the minds of organisms] does not fit well into an evolutionary story. In any event the topic has no relevance here and should be reserved for another occasion.



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  • Let’s lose pretensions to moral superiority by transforming assorted scientific or pseudo-scientific “findings” into justifications for social control and oppression.

    Are you referring to me with this as a consequence of my duel with Ewan somewhere above. If you are, and you read the detail of the exchanges, you will see that I repeatedly said to Ewan that affecting the brain plasticity of a child through religious indoctrination before their brains had matured was not a case for “social control and oppression” If you are referring to someone else, then I will let it go through to the keeper.

    The wrong inflicted by the religious against children is a moral wrong, not a legal or civil wrong. I would expect the religious to desist from doing it, because they thought that forcing anyone to do anything, without informed consent, was morally reprehensible. Even if it is a child. This is Dawkins position from the God Delusion.

    And brain plasticity is not pseudo science.



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  • I appreciate what you said on top and share your concern.

    As for the second part, I, again, appreciate your point of view, but disagree; I think it is highly relevant. Can we agree to disagree? Whenever something scientific is being discussed it behooves us to ask ourselves to what extent our knowledge is conditioned or limited by our subjectivity. I do appreciate your point of view but, as I said, I disagree. If my comments are irrelevant to you than don’t read them or respond to them. And if the moderators agree they can send me a note and I will quit this site. (But I don’t think that will happen.) Kant was revered by Einstein and Schopenhauer (from what I’ve read) influenced Darwin. I don’t know what you mean by “fitting into the evolutionary story.” I wasn’t attempting to apply anything to an evolutionary story! Is that something I am required to do? But as a matter of fact, Schopenhauer had a great many valuable things to say about nature that could be applied to the theory of evolution, and I am sure they have been — by someone. (I would argue that Schopenhauer is not only relevant; he is necessary.)

    You think the thing-in-itself vs. empirical reality antithesis is irrelevant, a non-problem, so address this question I asked about pure space and tell me why the question I ask is irrelevant. You are free to start from the object and forget the subject, but I personally think that that has pitfalls. It leads to a crass materialism or realism — something I am very much against. Maybe someday I will renounce Kant and Schopenhauer (and the others), but no one has given me a reason to. All I ever get is assertions (as opposed to precise counter-arguments) that they are no longer relevant. I don’t agree.

    Kant merely asks what we can know about such a non-perceptual realm. It surely would be a colorless world, wouldn’t it? How could there be colors without eyes? You get the point, I am sure (although it is a fine one). All of the many qualities that we attach to the external world – or realm – of objects of perception vanish along with the brain! A rock (which is part of the material universe which we all inhabit) could hardly be said to be hard in itself, can it?



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  • He was addressing me, David. I feel oppressed. I need a thicker skin. I love Kant and Schopenhauer (and other philosophers) and think they are relevant to these discussions (in certain contexts). Melvin disagrees and disapproves of my veneration of these ministerial, anachronistic, ignorant men.



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  • One correction, Melvin. (Sorry. All these posted comments can get confusing.) My paragraph on the bottom was not about “pure space”; it was about a material universe without sentient life. Another member posted this comment and I thought my question was worth asking, was relevant.

    You would be left with the material universe, which in all probability
    is functioning according to the laws of physics in many places where
    no living organisms or brains exist.

    Did you mean “not relevant” to this thread or to this website? In any case, I disagree with both assertions.



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  • Dan,

    For a while it used to be my job, not sure my students would have agreed with you!

    On the red I think his main thrust is that the term “red” ( when used in the context of us recognising objects as that colour) is just a linguistic naming convention, not a substantive ” thing”, which we first learn by ostensive definition, pointing to something red or red samples, but once learnt is just part of our language and as such we then do not need any ” mental samples” to recognise “red”.

    Of course being W. there are other strands mixed in, such as the idea that understanding the” meaning” of a term boils down to just using it correctly i.e “meaning “is not some seperate mysterious substantive.

    Expect the cheque in the post?



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  • “Space” and “time” or the Sun” are terms that we use to denote certain of our emperical observations.

    What we are observe is not in our head , the sun is not in our heads., although a few are hot headed.

    If all consciousness ceased to exist what would disappear would be the terms and concepts “space, time and the Sun”. The physical assemblage we have named ” the Sun ” would not be affected, although there would be no knowledge of this.

    To attempt to speak of what these terms would mean if they , the terms, did not exist is just grammatical confusion

    Our concepts are not “internal” as opposed to “external” reality, internal is only a metaphor, concepts and terms are not extended spatial objects and have no actual physical locality



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  • Hi there Marco,

    Appreciate the reply, I’ve seen plenty a woo smuggled into discussion, life in general and so I care a great deal about that, best avoided. For your part I don’t think anything you’ve said is unreasonable at all. Steve has made some accusations directed at Alan that resonate with me also about scientism. Don’t get me wrong I’m not offended, I greatly enjoy arguing with Steve and he seems to be a good sport about it. I find this site helpful in having people who disagree with me, this sharpens my mind so I’m not so much hot under the collar as caring about getting to the heart of matters.

    Cheers



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  • The term “thing-in-itself” is only meaningful and sensible within the conceptual framework of Kant’s metaphysics. ( one of the outstanding achievement of Western thought).

    However if you abstract the term from this metaphyics with its supporting conceptual schemata the term loses its sense and meaning.

    For example in a scientific context there is no useful idea or concept of ” thing-in-itself” and it is a grammatical error to use it in that context. The nearest analogy within science would be the attemped isolation of a object under investigation from external forces to stop external forces affecting measurements etc.



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  • Alan4discussion,

    Hah! Still awaiting above , and will be awaiting for eternity, for you to give any example of myself denying any piece of biology or science.

    And please tell me what my ideology is, it would greatly clarify my thinking if I knew within what ideology it labours.

    Evidence please!



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  • Melvin I agree with what you say here, but I’d add that the claim that someone is guilty of scientism is often used to in the same way that people who don’t like being corrected often will accuse someone of arrogance.

    If we define arrogance as an unwarranted confidence in our conclusions. Then anyone accusing another of arrogance must first be right. They therefore run the risk of arrogance themselves unless of course they are in fact correct. I’m happy to accept the accusation of arrogance only under one condition – that I am wrong and refuse to concede that after being presented with good evidence. Anyone who is not right but accuses another of arrogance is either arrogant themselves or guilty of mis-characterising my behavior as arrogant when I’m really probably just guilty of insensitivity to their ego.

    Likewise I expect the same of anyone accusing me (or anyone else) of scientism. If I am explicitly rejecting a conclusion on poor grounds I’m not guilty of scientism just interested in the facts of the issue or pulling someone up for drawing conclusions that cannot be supported. I’m only guilty of scientism if I explicitly reject all other forms of thought. I don’t think you’ll find any examples of that in Alan’s or my statements above, but happy to be corrected if I have.

    I understand the concern you expressed here very nicely I just find in practice the term is generally used to just shut someone up. Depak Chopra is a great example of this every time he is presented with the fact that what he is saying is utter unfounded crap he accuses those who point this out of scientism.



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  • Steve
    Jun 1, 2015 at 4:58 am

    “Space” and “time” or the Sun” are terms that we use to denote certain of our emperical observations.

    It is important to distinguish between the scientific evidence, and personal notions. Personal notions tend to be specific to the individual, where as science compiles and tests evidence to work towards a consensus in matching the model image to the physical reality.

    What we are observe is not in our head , the sun is not in our heads.,

    What is in our heads, is an imaged model, which varies in accuracy, depending on the inputs and comprehension of the individual.

    Science has many high-tech tools, to enhance the accuracy and quality of the available inputs. hence some of it’ models are very good matches to the reality to high levels of probability.

    Our concepts are not “internal” as opposed to “external” reality, internal is only a metaphor, concepts and terms are not extended spatial objects and have no actual physical locality

    The concepts are only mental models constructed in the brain, as perceived by the individual.

    The reality is the matter and energy of the physical universe.

    Scientific models are constructed by high powered computers, from images across a whole range of wavelengths, way beyond anything humans can detect by directly using their normal sensory perceptions.



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  • Most physicists and astronomers (as far as I know) are convinced that pure space exists (and pure time exists)

    Dan,

    Can you go into a little more detail about what you think they mean by pure time and pure space? I know a little about astronomy (a little) but I’ve never heard it described that way. In fact dark energy and dark matter are really an expression of how little we know about space and time. Scientists can measure effects and reactions based on observation and have formulated rough working rules about things like gravity that allow us to make predictions about the effects of forces in the universe. There is plenty of speculation about string theory and others but these are a long way off being finished or fully confirmed. So in what sense do you think scientists think of space as pure? I would have thought a fog of uncertainty at a certain level is a more apt description (this is taking nothing away from the amazing precision which things are being measured but most of whatever is out there we do not understand yet). This would seem to rule out any pure anything.

    Perhaps you are referring the assumption that the universe is predictable and not out to fool us or the assumption we are not all brains in a vat or existing inside a simulation?

    regards



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  • Dan
    Jun 1, 2015 at 12:12 am

    Most physicists and astronomers (as far as I know) are convinced that pure space exists

    I think this is a pop-science misinterpretation.

    “Space” is commonly used as a synonym with “vacuum” or alternatively the gaps between particles or matter.

    “Vacuum”, ie. space which contains “nothing”, does not exist in the material universe. Interplanetary space and inter stellar space contain molecules , atoms and photons. Inter galactic space contains forces of gravitational and magnetic fields – as do the internal spaces inside and between atoms.

    (and pure time exists).

    Einstein has given some pretty clear descriptions of time in terms of the “space time continuum”, with astronomers demonstrating the variation in observed time, by gravity warping light.

    I am not arguing that they don’t. I am arguing, however, that the concept “space” and the perception itself of space (which is the origin of the concept) implies, necessarily, an element of externality.

    The external (to the individual) universe is material operating under the laws of physics. The perception is an approximate mental image of this, which varies according to the individual’s knowledge/experience.



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  • Thanks for your latest comment about W. You were probably a great teacher. And I am glad that you appreciate Kant’s achievement. That is far more than I can say for most.

    I am not so sure I agree with your assessment, and I feel the need to defend my position.

    I happen to think the term thing-in-itself is meaningful within the framework and without it. I actually agree with Kant; I don’t think we can know the thing-in-itself. I don’t know what “supporting conceptual schemata” you are referring to. Kant presented his theorem of the ideality of space and time, in his immortal Transcendental Aesthetic. Space and time are forms of the inner and outer sense. This is either true or not true.—It is possible that pure space exists, but as I have said before, what would pure space look like? What is its nature? And perhaps pure matter too is permanent and cannot be thought away. But what could that possibly be without a mind, without the subject? Is there not a permanent reciprocal relationship between the subject and matter. When matter ceases to be matter and becomes pure, then it becomes formless, i.e. imperceptible. Pure matter cannot be said not to exist and yet is not something that can be perceived.

    It is possible, Steve, that science can move forward unimpededly without the limitative thing-in-itself, but I don’t see how the question as to what existence is, what it’s nature is, and epistemology in general, can be avoided. When scientists start asking questions like “when did existence begin?” don’t you think it behooves them to take a moment and reflect upon the question as to what constitutes existence? Yes, in most cases this question can be put aside. But I don’t think it should be completely lost sight of. Otherwise we’ll get back to dogmatic, groundless assertions (that start from the object and forget the subject; the brain’s presence, with all of its functions, will continue to be presupposed, unwittingly and inevitably).

    The thing-in-itself is a very Eastern concept, as I am sure you know. I think it is useful. I happen to think that the objective universe is conditioned by the subject, that Kant’s great theorem (of the ideality of space and time) is true. That which is true is always useful in some way. Think about it. Space implies externality. Externality implies internality. Inside and outside have no meaning independently of the mind. Therefore, pure space cannot really be space as we know it. That is useful, isn’t it?

    And the advancement of science will continue. God knows (part of the language) what we will be discovering and learning in the years to come. But I personally think (and maybe I am naive) that even science can overstep its bounds, can lapse into dogmatism, make claims that presuppose a mind that isn’t there.

    The thing-in-itself is not a thing in so far as it is not an object. And the value (and I insist that it has value, just like Darwin’s discoveries, and the discoveries of Copernicus have value) is limitative in nature.



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  • Alan4discussion
    May 31, 2015 at 11:31 am

    Re: Marco
    May 31, 2015 at 11:07 am

    You have to watch TV or video, which is actually available, so all the science has been done for you.

    This is where the “it’s not science” argument falls down.

    In order to watch TV a thousands of scientific/technical decisions have been taken in the design of the components, more have been made in arranging a power supply, more have been taken in creating the programme, and then someone takes the one button-pressing decision (in the chain of thousands), which is important to them as it their decision, but this only represents a tiny percentage of the chain. The vast majority are science based.

    Furthermore, it is either a rational evidence-based decision to achieve a predicted objective (science), or it is an instinctive or emotional response, which can usually be explained by the biology of neuroscience. The third possibility, is that it is a random effect of button pressing – such as when I get phantom phone calls, because my one-year-old grand-daughter is playing with the buttons on a phone she has found or the cat has trodden on the TV remote.



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  • Dan
    May 31, 2015 at 9:06 pm

    I agree that pure matter can not be thought away. We cannot conceive of matter not existing even without a subject.

    Actually, matter can cease to exist, when positrons (anti-matter) and electrons (matter) annihilate each other. http://home.web.cern.ch/topics/antimatter

    But it cannot be perceived without a subject. The understanding comes to a standstill.

    At sub-atomic level, it looks like energy fields and space.

    In other words, what does matter-in-itself look like?

    Once you go sub-atomic to the scale of the photons we use for visualisation, it becomes difficult. You can’t look using photons (light) at particles/energies, smaller than photons.

    The scientists at CERN are working on other methods of creating models.

    What is its nature? Just asking.

    This is the complex world of particle physics.

    E = MC² As nuclear power-plants and stars demonstrate, matter and energy are interchangeable.



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  • Dan
    Jun 1, 2015 at 12:46 am

    You would be left with the material universe, which in all probability is functioning according to the laws of physics in many places where no living organisms or brains exist.

    I don’t really doubt that, and I am a firm believer in science and reason. Kant merely asks what we can know about such a non-perceptual realm.

    That is the problem with looking to philosophers for scientific answers. Astronomy has recently opened up vast tracts of the universe which were previously “a non-perceptual realm”. Likewise electron microscopes.

    It surely would be a colorless world, wouldn’t it? How could there be colors without eyes? You get the point,

    Colours are merely human perceptions of the wavelengths of light which our eye’s photo receptors recognise.

    A full spectrum of wavelengths exist beyond both ends of the human range. Insects for example can see ultraviolet patterns in flowers which humans cannot see. Instrumentation can image radio waves, infra-red, visible light, ultraviolet, x-rays etc.

    Philosophers toying with the differences between perceptions and the underlying physical realities, are just playing mind games and semantics.



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  • Dan
    Jun 1, 2015 at 6:23 am

    I don’t see how the question as to what existence is, what it’s nature is, and epistemology in general, can be avoided.

    This is a fundamental question which scientists work on at various levels from sub-atomic particle physics, to astronomical and cosmological scales.

    When scientists start asking questions like “when did existence begin?”

    There is always going to be the question of the available range of perceptions, with a regression of frontiers of knowledge, so scientists have worked with a progressively expanding range of instrumentation.

    don’t you think it behooves them to take a moment and reflect upon the question as to what constitutes existence?

    The scientific study of “existence” has historically looked at the origins of existence of planetary features and organisms on Earth. The existence of the Solar System, and formation of planets. The formation of galaxies, the formation of stars, and at subatomic level, the formation of matter and energy.

    So far we are as far back as the big-bang, with speculative investigations into its source.

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

    Understanding these issues involves a lot of complex science, as well as cosmological time-scales.



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  • Coincidentally the romanisation of my mother’s maiden name is “Woo”, so biologically speaking 50% of the content of my posts is a genetic expression of Woo.?



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  • Hello, RM,

    I know next to nothing about astronomy, unfortunately, and would like to know more. But I do know quite a bit about the philosophy of Kant and Schopenhauer.

    By pure space I mean simply this: Space without a mind.

    Perhaps this distinction, between pure space and empirical space, is obsolete. I rather doubt that. Think about this: space is external (as I keep repeating — sorry); that implies (necessarily) internality.— What else can that be but a thinking, knowing being? So if you take that away you get what I referred to as pure space. The question I am asking is what that can possibly be? If it is not outside of us it is not space. If it is not space it is not outside of us.

    These are the sorts of questions that Schopenhauer (who was very influenced by Plato and by Buddhism) asked. I think Kant and Schopenhauer were the two greatest philosopher of all times, and it bothers me that everyone seems to find this problem unpalatable or meaningless.



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  • Dan
    Jun 1, 2015 at 8:10 am

    By pure space I mean simply this: Space without a mind.

    This would seem to be the external physical universe outside of the individual mental concepts of personally generated images in the brain.

    Perhaps this distinction, between pure space and empirical space, is obsolete. I rather doubt that. Think about this: space is external (as I keep repeating — sorry); that implies (necessarily) internality.—

    I think that is a misconception from the speculations of ancient philosophers who were deprived of modern knowledge.

    There is “space” between the atoms, molecules and sub-atomic particles, even within out brains.

    What else can that be but a thinking, knowing being? So if you take that away you get what I referred to as pure space.

    I think what you describe as “pure space” is physical reality minus the imaginary images in brains.

    The question I am asking is what that can possibly be? If it is not outside of us it is not space. If it is not space it is not outside of us.

    In terms of modern physics and biology, this is not a meaningful question. It is a question about an imagined entity or phenomena which does not match the physical reality of the brain or of the universe.

    I hope this helps clarify.



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  • Space is not a vacuum. And a vacuum is not space. I agree with that. I am interested in the nature of human knowledge (epistemology).

    Perhaps this distinction, between pure space and empirical space, is obsolete. I rather doubt that. Think about this: space is external (as I keep repeating — sorry); that implies (necessarily) internality.— What else can that internal element be but a thinking, knowing being? So if you take that away you get what I referred to as pure space. The question I am asking is what that can possibly be? If it is not outside of us it is not space. If it is not space it is not outside of us.

    I have no doubt that you know a great deal. But tell me what your definition of space is. If it is something other than that which is outside of us then another concept (in addition to that one) is needed (perhaps).

    The external (to the individual) universe is material operating under
    the laws of physics. The perception is an approximate mental image of
    this, which varies according to the individual’s knowledge/experience.

    You refer to “material.” I don’t want to annoy anyone (On the contrary…)—But what is materiality without shape, size, color, dimension, extension, etc. Can’t you at least acknowledge that my question is a worthwhile one?

    The perception is an approximate mental image of this.

    But there is an incalculable difference between our mental representation and things as they are in themselves. How can we even speak of approximations when all objectivity vanishes with the subject? The sun (somebody mentioned the sun)—The sun without a mind to perceive it cannot be any of the things we think it is. It cannot be hot, for example. It can’t be large, it can’t be anything that we assume it is. There can be no approximation of that which is no longer an object. There is no object without a subject! Whatever the sun is (without perception) is not seen, felt, experienced. Perhaps it is some form of pure energy . . . I can’t begin to even speculate as to what that can be.

    Tell me where I have erred. By the way, I am not repudiating anything. I don’t know that much about science. I am a novice (not even that) in this area. I want to learn more. But I have been reading and studying philosophy (on my own) for many years.

    One more point: you can define a sound as a vibration. That would probably be the tendency of some scientists. Well I define it as a sound which is heard. A vibration is not a sound. So whatever astrophysicists are saying about space is all well and good (no dismissiveness intended) but I define space as “something outside of us” as opposed to a vacuum or something equally non-perceptual. If my (Kant’s) definition is no longer applicable (at least in part) than that is news to me.

    Sorry if I sound belligerent. I get a little juiced up sometimes. I respect everything you’ve said and you obviously know much, more than I do, much, much, more about science. But I do have a point that I am trying to make and I think it’s a good one.



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  • P.S. Can there really be a before and an after (time), or succession, without mental perception? How can there be time without space? And space (as I have defined it) is outside of us, implies the division into subject and object. So pure time (to address your question) is: Time without a mind.
    Yes, we know that evolution is real, that the earth is X years old (too lazy to look it up), that WWI was before WWII, etc. but all that relates to what Schopenhauer called the representation of perception. Don’t get me wrong; it’s real, real as can be.
    But all that history, and all those stars, planets, and galaxies . . . What are they without the mind! The mind! There is something left over when you take the mind away. There has to be. But what I am arguing, is that we really can form no idea of what that could be. These things I mentioned cease to be objects of knowledge.
    Kant referred to this unknown X as the thing-in-itself. But it isn’t really a thing in so far as this thing cannot be an object. But he had to use some word.
    I’d be interested in your reply.
    Regards.



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  • What is in our heads, is an imaged model […]

    One more and than I have to get some sleep. (TMI?) An imaged model of what? Without a brain there is no objective existence! There is a universe out there and it exists without a brain; that has to be the case—I am not a solipsist!— but again, I do not see how this universe or any of the things in it can resemble our imaged “models” in any way.

    Btw, if you know of any books that deal with astrophysics, physics (or any other branch of science for that matter), from an epistemological perspective I would be very interested to hear about it.

    Be well.



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  • Dan
    Jun 1, 2015 at 8:44 am

    Space is not a vacuum. And a vacuum is not space. Well I agree with that. I am interested in the nature of human knowledge (epistemology).

    That is not entirely right. Space is not a TOTAL vacuum.

    I have no doubt that you know a great deal. But tell me what your definition of space is.

    Space is the gap between particles of matter.

    If it is something other than that which is outside of us then another concept (in addition to that one) is needed (perhaps).

    This is simply defining the external world outside our bodies as “space”, but in physics there is no such actual division. The definition is only an outward projection from the ego.

    You refer to “material.”

    Material is energy arranged into the stable form of atoms and molecules.

    I don’t want to annoy anyone (On the contrary…). But what is materiality without shape, size, color, dimension, extension, etc.

    The shape, size, and reflective properties (colours) are determined by the numbers, the mixture and the structural arrangement of the molecules.

    But there is an incalculable difference between our mental representation and things as they are in themselves.

    The sciences of astronomy and engineering are about calculating the accuracy of the match between our concepts of working systems and the physical working systems themselves. The fact that many systems actually work as predicted, demonstrates the accuracy of the match.

    How can we even speak of approximations when all objectivity vanishes with the subject?

    In science, objectivity does not vanish. Multiple testing systems and predictions, work to eliminate biases and errors.

    The sun (somebody mentioned the sun)—The sun without a mind to perceive it cannot be any of the things we think it is.

    Without a mind/brain, it is only the mental image which is lost. Another brain or artificial intelligence can evaluate it. Multiple cross checking reduces and eleimintes errors.

    It cannot be hot, for example. It can’t be large, it can’t be anything that we assume it is.

    These properties are not “assumptions”. They are measurements, using a multiplicity of measuring techniques.

    There can be no approximation of that which is no longer an object.

    The actual object exists independently of the thinker. If thinkers die, others can continue the observations.

    Whatever the sun is (without perception) is not seen, felt, experienced. Perhaps it is some form of pure energy . . . I can’t begin to even speculate as to what that can be.

    I can assure you that the space-agencies and astronomers have a great deal of detail showing the Sun’s structure, properties, and nature (like other stars) as an engine powered by nuclear fusion and emitting radiation in measured wavelengths.

    Some of the measuring techniques are complex, but are nevertheless highly accurate.

    There are at least 4 separate issues in this:

    The physical Sun its self.

    The scientific models of it and its working,

    The historical record of it working,

    and the personal concepts/models of the reality in individual brains.

    Those without the knowledge gained from the scientific research, have much less accurate mental images than those constructed from coordinating the many sources of scientific measurements and data.
    http://www.exploratorium.edu/solarmax/



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  • Dan
    Jun 1, 2015 at 9:15 am

    I do not see how this universe or any of the things in it can resemble our imaged “models” in any way.

    They don’t. It is our mentally imaged models which we try to make resemble the universe or the things in it. This helps us to be prepared to anticipate and predict future events in the physical world.

    We are working on the reverse process with computer images and 3D printers!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3D_printing
    3D printing (or additive manufacturing, AM) is any of various processes used to make a three-dimensional object.[1] In 3D printing, additive processes are used, in which successive layers of material are laid down under computer control.[2] These objects can be of almost any shape or geometry, and are produced from a 3D model or other electronic data source. A 3D printer is a type of industrial robot.



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  • Dan,

    The thing-in-itself or equivalant is a concept within some eastern traditions but its denial is also a tradition. Buddhist epistomology and philosophy, exemplified by the Madhyamaka and its notions of sunyata and dependent arising, is a total denial of the notion of thing-in-itself or substantivism.

    ( as an aside, hence the brackets, and to counter the oft expressed ( not by you) implicit and explicit cultural imperialism on this site , which gets my goat! The Eastern philosophical and epistemological traditions, unencumbered by the Western notion of ” “God” as a causal or explanatory agent , were exploring all the themes allegedly ” discovered” by modern Western philosophers and scientists and psycholgists such as Descartes , Kant etc whilst their contemporaries in the West were debating how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. That is not to denigrate the towering intellectual achievements of Descartes, Kant etc. For a decent study of just one of these philosophers, the 7th century Dharmakirti

    http://www.amazon.com/Foundations-Dharmakirtis-Philosophy-Studies-Buddhism-ebook/dp/B00JDZM768/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top?ie=UTF8)

    A Madhyamaka would argue that as everything arises, persists and then ceases totally dependent on causes and conditions there are no things-in-itself or things-by-themselves. The Prasangika school would even argue that there are not even ” things” never mind things- in – themselves, “thinginess” being a mere imputation on our part.

    A scientist would say a thing-in- itself is not a scientific concept and of no concern to scientists or science.

    A Wittgensteinian , which is an oxymoron, would give an answer similar to Melvin above that the whole notion is grammatical and semantic confusion and a pseudo- problem. ( Melvin, I am not attributing this or any philosophical viewpoint to yourself , just saying your one specific post on this topic is pretty much in accordance). Your notion of it being limitative would be limitative of language, not of reality.

    None of this is to say that the concept of a thing-in-itself is, within its own framework, nonsensical or that it has not had immense importance within the development of Western thought.

    If you want my position it would be, as you have probably guessed, that the whole notion and most of the the questions you raise have now been shown to be pseudo-problems, semantic and grammatical confusions. Sorry.



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  • Dan
    Jun 1, 2015 at 3:40 am

    You would be left with the material universe, which in all probability is functioning according to the laws of physics in many places where no living organisms or brains exist.

    In any case, I disagree with both assertions.

    I’m not sure what there is to disagree with on either proposition.

    It is well established that the universe functioned according to the laws of physics long before organisms with brains had evolved, and before brains had time or conditions in which to evolve.
    It is also well established that there are many parts of the universe, which are extremely hostile to life.



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  • Dan
    Jun 1, 2015 at 9:15 am

    Btw, if you know of any books that deal with astrophysics, physics (or any other branch of science for that matter), from an epistemological perspective I would be very interested to hear about it.

    The space sciences and quantum phsyicists are pushing out the boundaries of knowledge exponentially in areas where understandings of complex science are required – even to understand the measuring techniques.

    The odds are against epistemological philosophy ever catching up with this, unless the philosophers are also scientists.



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  • Thank you so much for your comments. Yes, I have gained clarity; I am confused! (That’s a good thing.)
    Perhaps I am just being stubborn but I am not yet prepared to change my mind. I do not regard the question as meaningless.
    This fundamental view of (critical) idealism, by the way, is one that I would associate more with modern philosophy, which started with Descartes and culminated with Kant, and finally Schopenhauer.
    There is space, you say, between atoms and particles – without our brains. I have no doubt that this is a fact. Can you tell me whether this physically real thing called space (which is there between the sub-atomic particles) is perceived or not? If it is perceived then it is physically, empirically real, and constitutes part of the “word as representation.” (Schopenhauer) If it is incapable of being perceived (yet is detectable in some way) it falls, perhaps, under some other category. (This is, to be honest, a source of confusion for me right now.)
    I admit that Schopenhauer (and certainly the ancient philosophers) knew very little about the invisible world. But he knew what a cell was. He knew that it was invisible to the naked eye. He did not discount cells and other invisible yet truly existing entities. But he did say this: “trees are made of wood, not of cells.”
    He was interested in observable phenomena.
    He was interested in what was perceived. All knowledge (for Schopenhauer) begins with perception and ends with enlightenment. He was a kind of unique (unreligious) Buddhist.
    I am going to get my copy of his chief work and his other books off my shelf and find out what he had to say about cells. Whatever he said about cells will apply to atoms (and the space between them).
    Again, thanks for taking the time to address my concerns. I appreciate your knowledge, patience and generosity.



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  • Reckless Monkey, Alan4discussion,

    I am not familar with the protocols of this site where asserting that someone’s views are “scientism” seems equivalent to being personally derogative to those whose views are asserted as scientism, or that scientism is synonymous with arrogance, or a exhibition of personal arrogance on the part of the one making the assertion, or that the term is a cover for all kinds of heinous motivations and conspiracies intent on destroying and denying science and replacing it with religious woo woo..

    Scientism in the sense I intended is

    “””2
    an exaggerated trust in the efficacy of the methods of natural science applied to all areas of investigation (as in philosophy, the social sciences, and the humanities)

    Take away the “exaggerated”

    “: an trust in the efficacy of the methods of natural science applied to all areas of investigation (as in philosophy, the social sciences, and humanties”

    and I am sure Alan4discussion would agree that that is indeed is more or less his view.

    Alan, Am I mistaken?

    If so , then I feel it is perfectly fair comment from the general tenure of his posts, for me to make the assertion that his trust in the efficacy etc is “exaggerated” and indeed, in my view, intellectually impoverishing by failing to appreciate other forms of discourse

    Like Marco I am baffled by the over the top reaction.



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  • Dan
    Jun 1, 2015 at 10:25 am

    Thank you so much for your comments. Yes, I have gained clarity; I am confused! (That’s a good thing.)
    Perhaps I am just being stubborn but I am not yet prepared to change my mind. I do not regard the question as meaningless.

    I have not spent much time looking at the guesses and speculations of philosophers. While the history of ideas can be interesting, I seek knowledge of the boundaries of present knowledge from those who are pushing those boundaries outward.

    There is space, you say, between atoms and particles – without our brains. I have no doubt that this is a fact. Can you tell me whether this physically real thing called space (which is there between the sub-atomic particles) is perceived or not?

    Like all microscopic and remote features, it cannot be directly perceived by human senses, but can be perceived by human senses augmented by scientific equipment.

    If it is perceived then it is physically, empirically real, and constitutes part of the “word as representation.” (Schopenhauer) If it is incapable of being perceived (yet is detectable in some way) it falls, perhaps, under some other category. (This is, to be honest, a source of confusion for me right now.)

    Your problem is in trying to use philosophers’ definitions in science. Science has its own precise definitions of phenomena, which are known world wide and confirmed by testing.

    I admit that Schopenhauer (and certainly the ancient philosophers) knew very little about the invisible world. But he knew what a cell was.

    He probably had some superficial knowledge.

    He knew that it was invisible to the naked eye. He did not discount cells and other invisible yet truly existing entities. But he did say this: “trees are made of wood, not of cells.”

    That is simply a false dichotomy.
    Trees are made of cells which contain lignin in cell walls, that is the basis of the structure of wood. https://www.biology-online.org/dictionary/Lignin



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  • Again where did I say that the biological mechanisms do not exist?

    In fact I algebraically generalised the argument by saying biological factors XYZ.

    For you to say that I am denying notional imaginary biological mechanisms X,Y,Z ,which I just made up , is screamingly funny.

    Your continual misrepresention of what I say, that I deny science by every proposition, is most amusing.

    A suitable subject for an anthropological study of the tribalism of Western culture.



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  • Dan,

    Epistomological studies of science are normally subsumed under the general rubric of “philosophy of Science”, if you google you will find many.

    On the biological side you might, from your posts, find “The Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience” interesting, coauthored by a respected neuroscientist and a respected philosopher so you get the best, or worst, of both worlds.

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Philosophical-Foundations-Neuroscience-M-Bennett/dp/140510838X/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top



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  • Steve
    Jun 1, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    Again where did I say that the biological mechanisms do not exist?

    You said the key differences “were of no special import”, and denied their evolutionary relevance.

    Steve – so why on earth should the difference between men and women be of any special import. (and do not bother to post back and say it is because of “evolution”,

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2015/05/the-christian-right-is-losing-women-why-more-and-more-are-embracing-non-belief/#li-comment-179415

    You have since produced no credible reply recognising the scientific evidence of evolved male/female dominance, but have only made a confused side-tracking reference to monkeys.

    For you to say that I am denying notional imaginary biological mechanisms X,Y,Z ,which I just made up , is screamingly funny.

    female dominance — 6 articles
    Lemur Females Rule – Because They Have Male Hormones? May 19, 2015……… . . .

    to argue that because biological factors X,Y,Z causes animals to behave in a certain way therefore these biological factors X,Y,Z cause aspects of human society

    I recognise that you have swapped imaginary letters for the actual linked biological features of male/female dominance in populations, in relations to the issues of “sexism” being discussed, but the context was quite clear.

    Your continual misrepresention of what I say, that I deny science by every proposition, is most amusing.

    Not really! Denial of relevance of evolved biological features on a science site is far from amusing, as is accusing others of misrepresentation when they correct your errors, or you denying denials!



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  • In order to discuss metaphysics, reality, existence and other vague abstractions as phenomena-in-themselves with no relation to other objects we need to devise an intelligible language, an ability that only Homo sapiens display. Because the “words” are in our language we have a sense that we’re getting at something ineffably profound. On closer inspection we find we use these terms to describe relations between objects and practices; thoughts and feelings within a ” context field’ from a situated time, place, and point of view:

    The boyfriend Mary told us about doesn’t exist or more precisely Mary has no relationship with a specific person we would describe as a boyfriend.

    God doesn’t exist. We have no relationship with an invisible “personal” being or force who takes a friendly interest in our well being and cured our child of leukemia. (That would be the oncologist Dr. Schwartz and his colleagues).

    Nothing exists in “empty” space. Empty space is not empty but roiling with quantum particles popping in and out of existence in relation to one another. (96% of the universe is dark matter and dark energy.)

    The drug addict has lost touch with reality. He no longer recognizes obligatory or “normal” relationships with his family, employer, other people he might rob to support his habit etc.

    When we try to talk about these terms in non-relational purely abstract contexts -what is reality? what is existence? we fall into gibberish which seems coherent because grammatical structures permit such propositions.

    Briefly: worrying about the irreconcilable distinction between objective reality and subjective (living organism) experience, perception and/or understanding of that objective reality draws on the classical mind-body problem of Greek philosophy. We Homo sapien Darwinists equipped with complex cognitive abilities actualized through language, understand that organisms are limited to interacting with natural environments and there is no epistemological imperative for them to “know” their environment in an eschatological sense. A microbe, a cat, and a human being “know” their environment consistent with evolved sensors, sense perceptions, instincts and cognition specific to their species. That is all there is. Pointing out that human cognition, complex as it is, can never penetrate (for example) a rock or what “existed” before the big bang to discover the absolute reality of the thing-in-itself only holds the mind captive within a regressive loop of nonsense devoid of language that refers to any intelligible relationship we could have with our environment.



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  • Steve
    Jun 1, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience Paperback – 25 Mar 2003

    Neuroscience has moved on a LONG way since 2003.

    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/talking-back/u-s-big-brain-project-takes-next-big-step/

    U.S. Big Brain Project Takes Next Big Step
    By Gary Stix | June 5, 2014

    The group of neuroscientists that is advising the Obama administration’s Big Science brain project delivered to the NIH its final report on June 5 with a recommendation that $4.5 billion be spent through the 2025 federal fiscal year to develop a set of advanced technologies that will enhance understanding of how neural circuitry works.

    If fully funded, the proposal for Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies would become the largest targeted brain science undertaking ever, even outscaling the Human Brain Project, a European Union endeavor with an allocation of more than a billion euros that is being spent over 10 years.



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  • Well I disagree vehemently (yet respectfully) with all of you on this. It’s my life and I can think what I want. The thing-in-itself and the phenomenon is not a linguistic distinction. I ask you to ask yourselves what a rock is or a tree or anything in nature is without a perceiver. Tell me! What is it, large, small, hot, cold, hard, dark, heavy? “Phenomena in themselves”? You haven’t read one word of Kant, have you? The phenomenon is precisely what is real and it is real because it is known. There is no phenomena in itself. Do you really think that the sun and the stars are exactly the same by themselves as they appear to us? How could that be? Why is it wrong to ask ourselves what things would be like without mental perception? The thing-in-itself is not a positive thing; it is a negative concept. It is negative because we cannot know anything about it. It is not an object of knowledge. Must there be a mind? Why is this notion so hard for you to get your head around? A knowable thing-in-itself as an object of knowledge is not conceivable!! You are inundated with modern theories, and think you have reached a deeper understanding of this problem, have left it behind, dismissed it as nonsense. I think you should read Kant first and then refute him.

    There is no mind-body problem anymore. We have a brain which is a function of the animal organism, is part of the body. That is one of the great achievements of modern Western philosophy. No more mind-body duality.
    (Sorry if I sound a touch aggressive. Too much coffee and not enough sleep.) I really need to get some rest. Thank you for your honest and forthright rebuttals. Look, I could be wrong about this (Miracles can occur). But so can you. It’s possible, isn’t it? I am going to take a little break from the site. And perhaps I should drop this thing-in-itself issue. It’s dear to my heart, but it’s too hard to argue on a thread about something like this, and too stressful. I gave it my best shot. Time to desist. I will, however, leave you with this:

    “…animals existed before men, fishes before land animals, plants before fishes, and the inorganic before the organic; consequently, the original mass had to go through a long series of changes before the first eye could be opened. And yet the existence of this whole world remains forever dependent on that first eye that opened, were it even that of an insect. For such an eye necessarily brings about knowledge, for which and in which alone the whole world is, and without which it is not even conceivable.” -Schopenhauer



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  • Dan
    Jun 1, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    Well I disagree vehemently (yet respectfully) with all of you on this. It’s my life and I can think what I want. The thing-in-itself and the phenomenon is not a linguistic distinction. I ask you to ask yourselves what a rock is or a tree or anything in nature is without a perceiver.

    I think there are a few rocks on Mars being accurately imaged, analysed, with temperatures and chemical composition checked, by rovers and probes, without any human perceiver in sight or within millions of miles. Even radio contact takes many minutes.



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  • ??????

    It is not a survey of neuroscience and its findings, which if you had read it you would know, so the date is irrelevant to the subject manner.. It is about the philosophical and epistemological foundations or underpinnings of the conceptual models etc of neuroscience. A topic you might not be interested in but others are.



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  • How did you gain this knowledge? You perceived it somehow.

    If a human, at some stage in the process, does not perceive the data then how can it be said have been measured etc if no one is aware of it.

    You have just pushed Dan’s question a step back .



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  • Did you mean “not relevant” to this thread or to this website? In any case, I disagree with both assertions.

    I wasn’t referring to any propositions. By the way, when you quote me, please separate my sentences from yours. Many of my quotes are indistinguishable from yours. There are often no quotation marks and no highlighting. This is an oversight I am sure. But we should be careful about that,

    and perhaps the moderators should be made aware of this.

    Here’s an example (below). The top part is mine. The bottom is yours. But no one would know:

    If it is perceived then it is physically, empirically real, and constitutes part of the “word as representation.” (Schopenhauer) If it is incapable of being perceived (yet is detectable in some way) it falls, perhaps, under some other category. (This is, to be honest, a source of confusion for me right now.)

    Your problem is in trying to use philosophers’ definitions in science. Science has its own precise definitions of phenomena, which are known world wide and confirmed by testing.

    Both of the paragraphs (pasted directly above) appeared like this. No quotation marks or highlighting. You do that a lot.

    (By the way, I knew that the comment about space not being a vacuum was imprecise. I didn’t have a chance to edit it.)

    This is simply defining the external world outside our bodies as
    “space”, but in physics there is no such actual division. The
    definition is only an outward projection from the ego.

    But I am concerned with human experience and human knowledge. The division into subject and object is a law of mental life.

    The actual object exists independently of the thinker. If thinkers
    die, others can continue the observations.

    This one I liked. But tell me; what if there was no sentient life anywhere in the universe? Would there be objects then?

    Yes there was a lot that went on before the emergence of brains. Granted. I can’t continue with this anymore. I need to take a break. I am almost in tears. (No one’s fault.) Please read this. Even if you don’t agree, Alan, I’d like you to at least try to extract something from this passage, something thought-provoking at the very least from my favorite philosopher ( who might actually be a buffoon! “God” help me.)

    “…animals existed before men, fishes before land animals, plants before fishes, and the inorganic before the organic; consequently, the original mass had to go through a long series of changes before the first eye could be opened. And yet the existence of this whole world remains forever dependent on that first eye that opened, were it even that of an insect. For such an eye necessarily brings about knowledge, for which and in which alone the whole world is, and without which it is not even conceivable.” -Schopenhauer

    Again, I appreciate your knowledge, generosity, and willingness to have this discussion.

    Kind Regards,

    Dan



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  • Just as you fail to recognise the difference between Dan and Kant’s stipulation of a non- perceptual realm which is a logical stipulation e.g that it is non-perceivable or unknowable by any conceivable means, including any conceivable advance in any conceivable technology.

    And your stipulation of non- perceptual which is a physical stipulation, and indeed means that technological advances can make the previous non- perceived become perceived.

    BTW,

    To understand the difference between a logical stipulation and a physical stipulation is not a denial of science, or entail a “belief” in either stipulation.



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  • From Dan’s earlier comment: I feel oppressed. I need a thicker skin. I love Kant and Schopenhauer (and other philosophers) and think they are relevant to these discussions (in certain contexts). Melvin disagrees and disapproves of my veneration of these ministerial, anachronistic, ignorant men.

    I’m sorry that you feel worn down by criticism of Kant and Schopenhauer. I deeply respect their inputs into modern philosophy. And I respect you personally. All we’re engaged in here is a friendly discussion. I do not take the moral high ground. When my cherished beliefs are challenged I feel everything from mild frustration to abuse. I know what it feels like to be heavily invested in ideas and venerate the geniuses who introduced these lively ideas to us.

    I have a “feel” for what you are saying. Quantum mechanics poses a similar hypothesis: The observer has a determinative affect on what is observed in the quantum field. I have virtually no understanding of this highly technical question in particle physics and we should not go there. In some ways we may be reaching the same conclusion but placing different values on the usefulness of that conclusion:

    Why is it wrong to ask ourselves what things would be like without mental perception? The thing-in-itself is not a positive thing; it is a negative concept. It is negative because we cannot know anything about it. It is not an object of knowledge. Must there be a mind?

    I would begin by conceding a linguistic error by way of poor diction. The proposition is not “nonsense.” It is perfectly intelligible. I understand it. I get it. The proposition, however, cannot be investigated or discussed at much length or to much useful purpose. If two people sit down one afternoon and agree to talk about “what things would be like without mental perception” some conversation would be possible. Issues relating to naive realism or, the antithesis, naive idealism could be touched on. Questions like “If I die tonight will the mountain I saw from my window today still be there tomorrow?” could be asked. But the premise of the discussion short-circuits further inputs: The thing-in-itself is not a positive thing; it is a negative concept. It is negative because we cannot know anything about it. It is not an object of knowledge. Must there be a mind? Collapsing in a loop of verbal exhaustion, the parties will probably compromise with the agreement that reality is the constructed interaction of objective stimuli organized by a living brain/mind. Good enough for me, but the strict premise does not permit much discourse about what is not an object of knowledge.



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  • Steve
    Jun 1, 2015 at 3:17 pm

    How did you gain this knowledge? You perceived it somehow.

    If a human, at some stage in the process, does not perceive the data then how can it be said have been measured etc if no one is aware of it.

    A robot machine can confirm it is functioning without actually transmitting the data it has collected.

    I think it is a somewhat farcical and unevidenced claim, that rocks on Mars have to wait for a robot to transmit data, and some human to look at the data, before they “pop into existence”!



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  • <<< Again where did I say that the biological mechanisms did not exist”

    You said the key differences ” were of no special import” and denied their existence”>>>>

    So I did NOT actually say that the biological mechanisms did not exist, as you now admit I did NOT deny any scientific fact or finding . ( if I allegedly attribute a property, no import, to something then I am cannot be denying its existence )

    . It fact I went much further than you and did not restrict genetic and other biological differences to just genders and stated , to quote, “Everybody is different from everybody else genetically, psychologically, morphologically etc “.

    Whilst now agreeing that I did not deny the existence of these biological factors you now make the strange statement that I said these factors were of no special import. Which is the exact opposite of what I was saying, I was moaning because they ARE of special import!!!!!!

    I did not say that the differences ” were of no special import”, that is a made up quote by yourself.

    What I actually said was ” why on earth should the difference between men and women be of special import” which is not an assertion, it is a question. Questions are not assertions, I made no such assertion that the genetic and hormonal differences ” were of no special import”

    The context of our remarks was the discussion of social and economic discrimination against women. As I said we have evolved the mental capacities to not behave like animals and be purely instinctive in our behaviour, and then given that fact and the additional fact that there are genetic differences of sex, colour and dominance etc between all individuals I then asked the question, not made an assertion, “why on earth ” should the genetic and hormonal differences between men and women be of “special import” in the sense that they result in institutionalised and individualised discriminatory practices against women , whilst the biological differences between angry and calm people, or short and tall people , or dominant and non- dominant males etc etc do not result in such institutionalised discriminatory practices, all the while bearing in mind the vital point that we have involved the intellectual capacity not to behave “like monkey-apey-lemury thingies ” who are doomed to just behave ” instinctively” ? Similar things could be said for racism of course .

    And as you yourself said about these behavioural hormonal tendencies that

    “Nobody said that these factors lead to behaviour which is “inevitable”!

    So It seems you are in actually agreement with my asking “why on earth does it still lead to such socialised behaviours” when we have long evolved , as you again rightly point out, the capacity not to do so.

    Not sure where was the bit where I denied evolutionary relevance. The science of evolution applies to biological organisms not social and economic relationships

    And look forward to papers studying the biological X factor!



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  • Steve, I actually smiled—in fact, I almost laughed— when I read this last comment of yours: I like how you were able to approach a topic from a different angle, as it were. At that moment, the context shifted for you in some way, as W would say. It surprised and delighted me. (And I appreciate Alan’s input as well – although for different reasons.)
    Quick question: “You have just pushed Dan’s question a step back.” A step back. Do you mean back from oblivion? back into the realm of serious consideration? Back from what?
    It’s an interesting use of the phrase, which usually means further away.
    I suspect that this thread is drawing to a close. You may not even see this question.

    (On page 20 of the Blue and Brown Books.) Also, thanks for that books you recommended about epistemology (philosophy) and science. Someone gave me a book once (and I have never read it) by someone named Cassirer that deals with Einstein’s theory of relativity. I think it might be the kind of thing I’m looking for. I am not sure. I’ll take a look. It’s probably outdated. That’s okay. There’s probably something in there that will add to my understanding.

    Kind Regards,

    D



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  • Hi Steve,

    I would say scientism is often used in precisely this way. The definitions between arrogance and scientism are actually fairly close. I don’t think Alan or I have suggested once that science is the only methodology, just that it is often an essential tool where you need or desire to go beyond mere speculation. If our views are exaggerated I’d be genuinely happy to know but you will have to give fairly specific instances that we can discuss (again will enjoy doing just that – I’m not angry now writing this I enjoy a good argument more than anyone else I know).

    regards



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  • <<<<<>>>>>

    Nobody has claimed that at all!!!!!!!!

    Dan , following his beloved Kant, has in this thread explicitely denied the idea that the material does not exist when it is not perceived, and stated that is not his meaning.. I am afraid you fail to grasp the sense of their argument.

    Perhaps you are confusing Kant with Bishop Berkeley.

    To help you distingish the two , Kant, I believe, was rather short of stature.



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  • Dan,

    None of those, just a step back from being answered i.e it is merely delaying actually answering the question, robotic observation is just an extension of our perceptions so all you queries apply just as much to robotic observations as they do to stones, so to bring those into the argument is not actually answering the question but pushing it a logical step back



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  • I find to be labelled as “Scientism” a far greater insult than being called an atheist. The evidence exhibits no value judgements. I just doesn’t care what you think. I follow the evidence, wherever it leads, even if I don’t like that conclusion because of some other social consideration. And I will change my mind, without prejudice, as the evidence changes. I will also view the evidence and make moral and ethical judgements of the consequences of said evidence.

    Steve. Do you think I suffer from “Scientism.”



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  • Hi Dan,

    space is external (as I keep repeating — sorry); that implies (necessarily) internality.— What else can that be but a thinking, knowing being?

    I think your initial assumption may be wrong here or simply a matter of artificially creating a boundary that may not in fact be there. I think it would be more accurate to describe the whole universe as space, including our brains we are all part of the universe most of what we call matter is empty space, radiation of various sorts blasts straight through us like we weren’t there, so I don’t see space as external to us in any physical sense. You could make an argument I suppose about what we perceive as external to us but I’m not sure that has any empirical implications other than on the firing of our respective neurons.

    I have enormous respect for philosophy so please don’t mistake what I’m about to say as disrespectful to Kant or Schopenhauer, but I’m not sure we can draw too much cosmology from their thought. I thinking training the mind how to think about thinking is important and I’m sure both have made excellent progress towards that end, but if you can use a particle accelerator to measure the nature of matter, you’ll do that and read off the answer rather than see what Aristotle had to say about it. Likewise I greatly admire Darwin and am hugely impressed by what he worked out. But he didn’t understand genetics – he knew their had to be some hereditary mechanism but didn’t know how that worked. So if we were to attempt to identify the connection of a new species in the animal kingdom we’d use genetics. I could be misunderstanding what you are saying of course as I said I haven’t read as much in this regard as you.

    Cheers



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  • Hi Reckless Monkey,

    Alas, no real argument on this! Do not at all think you are ” guilty” .

    Was unaware of the arrogance theme, guess the same as saying the Pope is arrogant.

    Stand by my assertion re Alan, as evidenced by his exaggerated desire to “prove” , that by my acceptance of the validity of other forms of discourse and my bumbling attempts to elucidate this, that every statement I make is thereby a denial of science or scientific findings. Again this a amuses rather than annoys me.



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  • David,

    No I do not think you are “guilty “of scientism. See my post to Reckless Monkey above.

    Apologies to all. I am new to these internet forums and i was unaware of all the cultural negative baggage this term seems to hold on this site, although of course I was not using it in a positive sense.. I thought it just meant what it said in the definition above, I was unaware an ” exaggerated trust” carried all the implications it seems to.

    Any other words within these forums that have such negative connatations that I should be aware of?



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  • Alan:

    I hope I haven’t alienated you in any way, sir. I found your comments and rebuttals very stimulating and informative. I am in the process now of seriously questioning the thing-in-itself concept. I have yet to relinquish it, however. Nor am I prepared to admit that scientific data constitutes a thing-in-itself (which I define as what there would be without any sentient life anywhere in the universe – something entirely thinkable). Please think about my characterization of Schopenhauer as a “unique Buddhist.” He was interested in precisely what you said: what “projects from the ego.” I would drop or add to the word ego and say: the human mind. He was concerned with the human mind – its nature and limits. And he concerned himself with observable phenomena – its nature. I wrote something (which was posted on June 1 at 3:38 pm) and this time received no reply. I was feeling a bit overwrought and was getting it from all sides (or so it seemed) so I made a remark about your failure to highlight or use quotation marks.

    It goes without saying that we are not obliged to reply to anything, but I was concerned that in this case, you might have been angered by that.



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  • Steve
    Jun 2, 2015 at 5:34 am

    I was not using it in a positive sense..

    That was the problem when valid evidence was presented but you failed to see its relevance.

    I thought it just meant what it said in the definition above, I was unaware an ” exaggerated trust” carried all the implications it seems to.

    Unfortunately the common misuse of the term to make an unevidenced assertion or downright contradiction of the evidence, is simply an expression that the evidence goes beyond the understanding of the person making the claim, and they therefore suggest that those with specialist knowledge, who have looked a detailed studies, are placing an “exaggerated trust” in the results.

    This claim of scientism2, is made from a viewpoint of a lack of awareness or understanding of the evidence, and often, even a lack of understanding of how to seek or evaluate the evidence.

    The argument is essentially, “I can’t understand this, so neither can anyone else”!

    Your earlier comment, that there were numerous differences in human individuals which you could not relate to anything, illustrated this lack of understanding of effects of biological features.

    Of course it is possible to exaggerate conclusions from scientific evidence, but those who are not aware of the evidence, and do not understand the details, are in no position to make a valid judgement.

    This is a common error among theologians, philosophers, and linguists, to confuse recognition of words with an understanding of concepts, when dealing with complex scientific issues.



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  • Dan
    Jun 2, 2015 at 6:36 am

    Alan:

    I hope I haven’t alienated you in any way, sir. I found your comments and rebuttals very stimulating and informative.

    Note on clarity: – If you put “>”, at the beginning of lines, and leave a double line space at the end of a pasted quote, this will give red highlighting as at the top of this post. A few extra spaces at the end of lines can also break up blocks of text.

    He was interested in precisely what you said: what “projects from the ego.” I would drop or add to the word ego and say: the human mind. He was concerned with the human mind – its nature and limits.

    The ego is a very specific feature of the human mind.
    Dominant egocentric views of the universe, are a psychological feature of the thinking of very young children and of many religions.

    I tend to look to psychology and neuroscience for details of the functioning and limits of the human mind/brain – as I commented here:-

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2015/05/the-christian-right-is-losing-women-why-more-and-more-are-embracing-non-belief/#li-comment-179649

    Philosophers who are not up-to-date with the science, tend to get bogged down in ancient misapprehensions, and in their own lack of conclusions on mind-games.

    (which I define as what there would be without any sentient life anywhere in the universe – something entirely thinkable).

    My earlier comment (Alan4discussion – Jun 1, 2015 at 7:15 am), gave a link to “the time-line of the big bang”, which shows the universe at a time before sentient life could have evolved.

    There have also been various discussions on this site about possibilities of (sentient) life elsewhere in the universe, – where it could probably be, and where it is very unlikely to occur.

    Please think about my characterization of Schopenhauer as a “unique Buddhist.” He was interested in precisely what you said: what “projects from the ego.”

    Schopenhauer – 1788–1860

    Although his university studies in Göttingen and Berlin included courses in physics, psychology, astronomy, zoology, archaeology, physiology, history, literature and poetry, it is very unlikely that anyone had a knowledge of neuroscience, modern psychology, or modern cosmology and astronomy, (or any of the tools required to obtain such knowledge), in 1813, or before 1860.



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  • Hello, Reckless,

    I asked Alan (who I am quite sure is a professional scientist) to define space. He did: it is “the gap between particles of matter.” That was followed by this exchange:

    Dan: If it is something other than that which is outside of us then another concept (in addition to that one) is needed (perhaps).

    Alan: This is simply defining the external world outside our bodies as “space”, but in physics there is no such actual division. The definition is only an outward projection from the ego.

    I have concluded (and you may not agree, which is fine) that there is more than one way to define things. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t adhere to the anything-goes approach; some things can only be, or ought to be, defined one way.—But in this case and in quite a few others I think there are two ways of looking at space. (This also applies to time, and to other concepts.)

    Scientific space is not wedded to immediate and intuitive perception or to the senses. Perhaps it is the nature or the tendency of some branches of science to move further and further away from the senses, from what can be perceived through the senses, from experience, if you will.

    If you ask any respectable astronomer or astrophysicist if particular temporal, durable events like “x star” or “y galaxy” EXIST without our knowing about them, of course they will say yes. And they are correct, in a sense.

    Did “Champagne flows” always exist, before we knew about them? The data proves that it did. But the hydrogen gas bursting outward (without it being known) is not bursting outward in the same way that I think of something as bursting outward. Space, which I define as that which outside of us, is not defined that way by scientists who are involved with space.

    I am essentially a philosopher. That is my orientation (although I have an interest in science and look forward to learning more about it).

    I would describe Schopenhauer (the quintessential modern western philosopher and epistemologist par excellence) as a “unique Buddhist.” He was interested in precisely what Alan referred to: what projects from the ego. I would drop or add to the word ego and say: the human mind. He was concerned with the human mind – its nature and limits. And he concerned himself with observable phenomena – its nature.

    Kant and Schopenhauer and my own faculty of reason tell me that the division into subject and object is a universal law of mental life. The intellect divides the world of actual being into subject and object. Space is an a priori condition of the human understanding. You say that space is not outside of us. Alan and presumably many others argue that externality has, ultimately, no meaning for physicists. From their point of view that division I referred to is dispensable, irrelevant, and has nothing to do with their investigations (which have, as I said before, taken them away from the self, away from the senses, away from immediate perception, away from individual experience and the mental laws that pertain to it, and into the world of data).

    But if you were to ask even the most objective astronomer or astrophysicist to define or describe a body (to use Kant’s example) he or she would be compelled to say this: a body is that which has extension. Now extension is inseparable from space. This is a crucial point – in my not so modest opinion.

    In other words, space is presupposed, or is contained within the concept of extension. Kant called that an analytic statement or judgment: “All bodies are extended.” Extension is contained within the concept body. Why? Because space is an innate condition of our understanding. It is a condition of all possible experience. That is my conception of space.

    Again, science takes us away from this experience and into a completely different realm: one of data (which I know very little about).

    Cheers



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  • Yes. It is unlikely, to say the least, that he he had a knowledge of any of those things.

    But he was a profound man, and did a hell of a lot with what he had. I have read all of his works multiple times (except for his work on color). I heard that he actually influenced Darwin. And some of his insights anticipated what Freud later discovered. Freud says this (in Beyond the Pleasure Principle): “We have unwittingly stumbled upon the shores of Schopenhauer’s philosophy.”

    I don’t want to be pushy, but I wrote a rather lengthy comment, which was posted at 7:55 am. Perhaps, if you have the time, you could take a look at it. (I quoted you in a few places.) I put a lot of thought into it.

    Cheers



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  • Alan4discussion,

    I cannot see how how I can be held responsible, or can be said to hold, the underlying motives etc that you attribute to some who might use the term.

    I am not an active participant in your Western cultural wars so if we could please avoid the possible motivations of others who might use the term, or indeed ignore any imagined motivations or gratuitous claims ( e.g from numerous examples, “The argument is essentially, “I can’t understand this, so neither can anyone else”) of ignorance or lack of knowledge you might wish for some reason to ignorantly (irony ? ) attribute to me, or that I am intellectually incapable of understanding ” complex” (sic) science, to disagree with someone is not the same as not understanding what they are saying, and instead can we focus on what I actually said

    To say….

    2
    an exaggerated trust in the efficacy of the methods of natural scienceapplied to all areas of investigation (as in philosophy, the social sciences, and the humanities)

    I cannot see how this can be said to saying that they place an “exaggerated trust” in the results. The definition of the term scientism 2 is not questioning or denying the truth or validity of scientific results in any way whatsoever, so the question of ” trust”, in the sense of being right or wrong , in these results does not arise

    . It is instead questioning the effectiveness of the scientific method , and as I have continually stipulated in my remarks, in providing a satisfactory and complete “explanatory framework ” in different areas of discourse, or in different language- games , such as the social sciences, humanities, philosophy etc etc. e.g in the context of explaining the arising of modern Western slavery it is not denying the actual scientific findings about our tendency to form groups, it is instead saying that to use these findings to explain the arising of slavery is an “exaggerated” use of the valid science, and that more epistemologically satisfactory explanations can come from other discourse fields. It is an purely epistemological point about the explanatory effectiveness of different classes of discourse.

    So if someone ( not you, let us try and take personalities and their imagined motives, knowledge base etc out of the question for a second, at least) were to say that ” the arising of slavery can be better explained and understood by the biological tendency to form in and out groups etc” than it can by a social and economic analysis as per my Mr Blackburn then I feel I would be justified in asserted, without the extraneous cultural baggage, that this is an example of scientism 2.

    To bring personalities back, after a brief and unlamented absence, this seems to me what you are saying, not only on this subject but on most, if not all, subjects.i.e saying science is the most effective way to explain absolutely everything.

    And if someone is a advocate of scientism 2 I would not think they wer “guilty” of some heinous crime or whatever , i would just disagee with their position, which is no big deal!.



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  • Dan
    Jun 2, 2015 at 7:55 am

    But if you were to ask even the most objective astronomer or astrophysicist to define or describe a body (to use Kant’s example) he or she would be compelled to say this: a body is that which has extension.

    Nope! In terms of astronomical scales the link below is the simple common definition.

    Now extension is inseparable from space.

    a. The expanse in which the solar system, stars, and galaxies exist; the universe.
    b. The region of this expanse beyond Earth’s atmosphere. –
    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/space

    Now extension is inseparable from space.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extension_%28metaphysics%29
    Extension also plays an important part in the philosophy of Baruch Spinoza, who says that substance (that which has extension) can be limited only by substance of the same sort, i.e. matter cannot be limited by ideas and vice versa.

    This is long refuted speculation. Ideas ARE limited by the physical functions of the material brain(s).

    From this principle, he determines that substance is infinite. This infinite substance is what Spinoza calls God,

    Which is the source of this delusion and contorted thinking. Within the universe, “infinity” does not exist, except as a mathematical concept.

    or better yet nature, and it possesses both unlimited extension and unlimited consciousness.

    Which is a theological assertion of ignorance based faith!

    .The property of extension has not played a significant role in philosophy roughly since the time of Immanuel Kant. Kant maintained a distinction between the mind and the body, differentiating space as the realm of the body and time the realm of the mind. He makes only cursory mention of “extension,” however, and no philosophers have dealt extensively with the topic since Kant’s writing.

    It was flawed refuted thinking which has since died the death and been largely abandoned, apart from theological attempts to sell their counter evidenced dualism of mind and brain.

    Scientific space is not wedded to immediate and intuitive perception or to the senses.

    Scientific methodology takes great care to check-on and avoid intuitive biases in observers. It also takes great care to evaluate any senses used in observations in order to achieve accuracy.

    Perhaps it is the nature or the tendency of some branches of science to move further and further away from the senses, from what can be perceived through the senses, from experience, if you will.

    The scientific study of perception through the senses is a combination of the chemistry of the endocrine system, and the study of psychology and neuroscience.

    There are many psychological studies on the problems of self-deceptions and the mental blocks arising from rigid preconceptions.



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  • Dan
    Jun 2, 2015 at 8:43 am

    Yes. It is unlikely, to say the least, that he he had a knowledge of any of those things.

    But he was a profound man, and did a hell of a lot with what he had. I have read all of his works multiple times (except for his work on color).

    In the modern age of radio and X-ray astronomy, multi-spectral scanners, false-colour images, and the tracking of numerous forms of evolved eye, “colour” is very well understood by modern physics and biology.

    I don’t want to be pushy, but I wrote a rather lengthy comment, which was posted at 7:55 am.

    Yes I did look at your earlier comment, but this thread is getting long and tangled.

    I have concluded (and you may not agree, which is fine) that there is more than one way to define things. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t adhere to the anything-goes approach; some things can only be, or ought to be, defined one way.

    That is the problem when people depart from the scientific method multitudes of conflicting wrong answers are produced.

    But in this case and in quite a few others I think there are two ways of looking at space. (This also applies to time, and to other concepts.)

    There are many ways of looking but many are just plain wrong. The scientific laws and some scientific theories are near water-tight, and unlikely to be up-dated very much.

    Scientific space is not wedded to immediate and intuitive perception or to the senses.

    Intuitive perceptions have the habit of giving as many different answers as there are different thinkers. Untested imagined definitions about material objects, likewise, have a great diversity.

    They are usually “castles in the air”, with no connection to material reality, and are of no use in anticipating events or applying to solving problems.

    It is worth remembering, that the vast majority of the adult humans who have ever lived, have lived in the last 150 years, and because of the man-power required for research, 95%+ of present human knowledge, has been discovered in the last 150 years.

    While intelligent and skilled, even the best ancient philosophers got many thing wrong, which have since been corrected, now the equipment and methods of investigating and checking are available, but which were not available to them.

    In the fourth century B. C., Aristotle considered the brain to be a secondary organ that served as a cooling agent for the heart .stanford.edu/class/history13/earlysciencelab/body/brainpages

    And some of his insights anticipated what Freud later discovered. Freud says this (in Beyond the Pleasure Principle): “We have unwittingly stumbled upon the shores of Schopenhauer’s philosophy.”

    Many of Freud’s claims have since been refuted and debunked. Perhaps he copied them?



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  • Dan,

    Dan,

    First of all we should distinguish between space merely used as a term, as per Alan’s definition, to distinguish between things within the Earths atmosphere and things outside ie.g as in outer space or space travel. Similar its use in terms like ” empty space” or the “space” between particles is not how space is scientifically conceptualised. These uses of the term are not incorrect but they not how it it conceptualised scientifically.

    .

    If we turn again to the fount of all knowledge, Wikipedia we get

    “Space is the boundless three-dimensional extent in which objects and events have relative position and direction.[1] Physical space is often conceived in three linear dimensions, although modern physicists usually consider it, with time, to be part of a boundless four-dimensional continuum known as spacetime.”

    ( following Einstein we should actually not talk about space on its own, but 4 dimensional spacetime but lets ignore that for simplicity)

    If you want an understanding of what that means in real life all you have to do is look around, things are nearer or further away from your, you see in space. simples!

    It does not matter, in this context, what is occupying that space, whether it be a planet, a vacuum or a electron.

    Space is a 3 dimensional “extent” which can be mathematically described.

    Science derived this conception from observations , looking around basically.

    As such space is a “given”, it is simply what we observe, it is in plain sight all around us., no mystery. It is not a substantive ” object” or even any mysterious or unknowable logical equivalent , it is dimensionality.

    If this explanation does not satisfy you and you still insist ” Yes, but WHAT is it ? ” then I could only reply that I have shown you the observable that space is, and how science can mathematically conceptualise and describe it, just as it does with all other things, and then turn the tables and ask you “what other kind of explanation are you looking for?, What is your criteria for a satisfactory answer?” What on earth do you mean by “What”?

    ( and sorry but would still dismiss any puzzles of space- in- itself or what is could be “like” without observers as pseudo- puzzles caused by semantic confusions as per Melvin’s compact post).

    As for Kant’s conception of space. You say

    “In other words, space is presupposed, or is contained within the concept of extension. Kant called that an analytic statement or judgment: “All bodies are extended.” Extension is contained within the concept body. Why? Because space is an innate condition of our understanding. It is a condition of all possible experience. That is my conception of space.”

    In a mundane sense this is of course true, we could not exist if there was no space or time or matter etc

    Science, which I now presume to speak for ( hah!), would however alter the logical flow of the argument .

    Space is not presupposed within the concept of extension. Extension just being a term for a specific bit of space, that which a extended object occupies.

    Spacetime is not some unconnected innate prerequisite for our understanding As we evolved within spacetime our senses and minds evolved by natural selection so that we could (fairly) accurately perceive spacetime . Spacetime as it were caused our understandings to be as they are, it is not that our understandings create our version of spacetime or reality, or that there is some thing-in-itself spacetime or reality we cannot grasp. . Our mental categories of space and time are not a priori ,and do not create our experience, instead they evolved DUE to our experiences and natural selection etc.

    Kant’s vision was as it were a first faltering step towards evolutionary theory , only he did not understand the casual chain of evolution, and got it the wrong way round.



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  • Dan
    Jun 1, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    Both of the paragraphs (pasted directly above) appeared like this. No quotation marks or highlighting. You do that a lot.

    Sorry about that!
    I missed spotting the absence of highlighting, before the edit window closed.

    Sometimes I am called away from the computer to deal with other matters.



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  • Steve
    Jun 2, 2015 at 2:17 pm

    First of all we should distinguish between space merely used as a term, as per Alan’s definition, to distinguish between things within the Earths atmosphere and things outside ie.g as in outer space or space travel. Similar its use in terms like ” empty space” or the

    That is the common colloquial usage.

    “space” between particles is not how space is scientifically conceptualised.

    That depends entirely on the context of the science – especially the scale.

    These uses of the term are not incorrect but they not how it it conceptualised scientifically.

    Scale is a very important context in science. Space between particles (of vastly varied sizes) is very much the context in studying inter-galactic space, inter-stellar space, and inter-planetary space. It also applies at atomic and quantum scales.

    If we turn again to the fount of all knowledge, Wikipedia we get

    The wiki definition, is essentially a mathematical one, dealing with spacial coordinates, rather than material systems.



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  • Steve
    Jun 1, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    Just as you fail to recognise the difference between Dan and Kant’s stipulation of a non- perceptual realm which is a logical stipulation e.g that it is non-perceivable or unknowable by any conceivable means,

    The difference is that anything which is non-perceivable or “unknowable” is unknowable by anyone, and is therefore by definition, any claims made about it, are unevidenced wildly fanciful speculation, of no substance.

    To understand the difference between a logical stipulation and a physical stipulation

    It is very easy to recognise the difference.
    A physical stipulation is a statement about the real world. A stipulation which is logical without a connection to objective evidence of physical reality, is a fanciful castle-in-the-air, which may be logically self consistent, but which is unlikely (other than by chance) to be consistent with the observable physical universe.

    is not a denial of science, or entail a “belief” in either stipulation.

    It is, and does, if it is suggested it can be applied to the material universe, if it is offered as an explanation of the physical universe, or presented as a challenge to objective evidence.



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  • the biggest demographic shift recorded by Barna was related to gender. “In 1993 only 16 percent of atheists and agnostics were women,” the report explains. “By 2013 that figure had nearly tripled to 43 percent.”

    The fatal muddling of data and statistical categories by Ms. Marcotte from Pew Research and Barna, two separate studies covering two different time periods, should have been detected at the beginning. To the extent she draws her conclusions from these confusions, she renders them and the opinions which interpret them substantively false.

    The 43% does not represent the current share of atheists-agnostics who are women. The figure is taken from the 2014 Pew research study to indicate the percentage of women in the [total] Unaffiliated Category. From 2007 to 2014, Pew research indeed shows Christian representation falling about 6+% and NONES rising by about the same percentage points. What Pew does not show is any significant change in gender composition among most religious and unaffiliated categories. Christians (all sects and denominations) lose 1% in male composition while gaining 1% in female participation. Both Atheists and Agnotics lose 2% male composition while gaining 2% female participation. Factoring in the 1% increase in female Christians, and weighing a 2% gender share increase for women among atheist-agnostics, the gender demographic shift between 2007 and 2014 is a wash. There has been no significant change in gender composition during those 7 years, Pew research still indicates a male majority for atheists-agnostics at over two men for every woman. Moreover there has been no significant decline in female evangelicals stampeding into non-belief; in fact evangelicals though declining only 1% overall enjoyed a 2% increase in women relative to men since 2007.

    Whether Ms. Marcotte made the errors inadvertently or not, perhaps copied from Barna, we should be examining the junk cooking of numbers more carefully. Sorry that this comes so late by way of post mortem on this prolonged thread.



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  • Hey, Steve, (and Alan if you’re reading this),

    How are you? Would love to meet you, Steve, one of these days. I haven’t read Alan’s reply or yours yet — not in their entirety.

    But I noticed that he challenged my notion that…I actually was unable to apprehend precisely what he was attempting to refute, but I asked him this:

    “Can something be extended yet not in space?
    Let me rephrase that: can we perceive a material body as extended but not in space?”

    When I checked the dictionary my definition of space (perceptual space) was there as well as his non-perceptual (mathematical / scientific) one.

    Steve, if you don’t mind, a quick question: how is recognition possible unless there is some idea-residue (Hume) in our heads (or brains)? If there weren’t wouldn’t we have to go through the whole ostensive definition process over and over again every time someone asked us to fetch them a red apple? (It has to be red, to be a W. question, I guess.)

    Please don’t feel constrained. You may be busy and do not have to answer my questions about W but this is gnawing at me.

    Take care. I hope you’re well. And thanks again.



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  • The property of extension has not played a significant role in
    philosophy roughly since the time of Immanuel Kant. Kant maintained a
    distinction between the mind and the body, differentiating space as
    the realm of the body and time the realm of the mind. He makes only
    cursory mention of “extension,” however, and no philosophers have
    dealt extensively with the topic since Kant’s writing.

    This is not precise and it is misleading. Where did you dig this up? I’m sorry and it’s okay; we all make mistakes, but this is NOT what Kant said about space and time. The so-called mind-body duality has nothing to do with his theory of knowledge. The knowledge of space and time are both mental perceptions, both brain functions. The realm of bodies is indeed in space. The realm of time is in us and therefore not in space. But both are forms of knowledge and therefore mental in nature.

    He presents a famous example in his Prolegomena: “All bodies are extended.” It is an an example of an analytic judgment. That is a statement where the predicate is contained implicitly in the subject. The reason why the predicate is presupposed by the subject in this case is because a body cannot be represented to us except as extended IN SPACE!

    The word extension appears quite often throughout his discussion of the nature of space and throughout his writings.

    I know nothing about Spinoza. Who’s talking about Spinoza? By the way, Kant “clipped the wings of reason.” And if it wasn’t for Kant and Schopenhauer “Intelligent Design” would not have been questioned until much later. They were against equating the mind with knowledge of such things as God which is beyond the possibility of experience. You should thank Kant. But it was really Schopenhauer who drove the last, as it were, nail into the coffin. For Schopenhauer, the mind and body do not constitute a duality. The mind is part of the body. For Kant this is not as clearly established, but he was light years ahead of his predecessors who equated the mind with “God.” That confusion ( and delusion), unfortunately, has persisted to this day.

    Ideas ARE limited by the physical functions of the material brain(s).

    I couldn’t agree more. Whoever said they aren’t was wrong. We agree!



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  • Dan
    Jun 3, 2015 at 5:49 am

    Can something be extended yet not in space, Alan?
    Let me rephrase that”: can we perceive a material body as extended but not in space?

    Your problem is you are trying to resolve antiquated definitions of words like “extension” and “space” with a modern understanding.

    That other galaxies existed was not suspected until the 1900s and not confirmed by Hubble until 1919 – 1923.

    In 1903 Nagaoka, Postulated a “Saturnian” model of the atom with flat rings of electrons revolving around a positively charged particle. http://atomictimeline.net/index.php

    Natural Philosophy pre-dated the term “scientist” but the physical elements and methodology are now physics and specialist narrower areas of science.

    Prior to the separation, various speculative philosophical notions such as René Descartes’ metaphysical system of Cartesian Dualism were mixed with objective naturalistic observations and deductions.
    Science now uses experiment and objective independent repeat testing methodology, rather than the anecdotal and copying of historical speculative opinions, mixed into earlier perceptions.

    These ancient philosophers provide an interesting history of human thought about various subjects, but they lacked the necessary research tools to develop accurate mental models of the physics of the working universe, so their struggles to understand, cannot provide the sort of reliable knowledge which powers our technological society today, and reveals details far beyond the wildest dreams of the ancients.



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  • Steve,

    I do think that the knowledge of space is an innate condition of the human understanding. And I do think that the division into subject and object(s) in space is an a priori function of the brain. And I don’t think (in light of the pervasive dismissal of Kant’s transcendental aesthetic) it is mundane to say that space is a precondition of experience. This reflection has profound implications.

    There are, in your last comment, statements that express, perhaps unwittingly, agreement with this fundamental view.

    But then you say this: “Space is not presupposed within the concept of extension. Extension just being a term for a specific bit of space, that which a extended object occupies.” I say it is. How can something be extended and yet not perceived as extended in space in front or outside of us? By the way the “concept” of extension is less relevant than the actual extended thing which is perceived. The analytic judgment is based on the experience of perception – first and foremost.

    By the way, there is no space-in-itself (according to Kant). This is a common misunderstanding. Space and time are precisely what do not relate to the sphere of the thing-in-itself (noumenon). Melvin referred to the Phenomena-in-itself or something along those lines. And in one of your earlier posts, you said this:

    “A Madhyamaka would argue that as everything arises, persists and then ceases totally dependent on causes and conditions there are no things-in-itself or things-by-themselves.”

    Aren’t we confusing empirical reality with the thing-in-itself? The coming-to-be and passing away IS empirical reality (to use Kant’s language). A Madhyamaka would not say that the empirically real world is a thing-in-itself, would he? If it was then it would not have the evanescent quality that is implied by your remark quoted above. If you substitute the word Nothingness for the thing-in-itself, isn’t that similar to what Buddhism teaches? And what is Samsara if not empirical reality? What is Nirvana if not the cessation of birth and death, of coming-to-be and passing away (empirical reality in perceptual space and time)?

    The veil of Maya. If that were to be lifted you would not get “space in itself” or the “phenomenon in itself.” That is a great misuse of this Kantian and Schopenhauerian (and, I believe, Hinduistic and Buddhistic) distinction between the empirically real (which is analogous to a dream) and . . . choose your own word: nothingness, Nirvana, the thing-in-itself . . .

    I am not an expert on Eastern (Sorry for the broad use of the word) philosophy. As for space-time, I am not qualified at the present time to respond to any of your points regarding that. But as I have said, I am interested in perceived space and perceived time.

    Do you live in Europe, Steve? You seem like a very interesting man.

    Cheers



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  • Dan
    Jun 3, 2015 at 6:49 am

    The property of extension has not played a significant role in
    philosophy roughly since the time of Immanuel Kant. . . . . .

    This is not precise and it is misleading. Where did you dig this up? I’m sorry and it’s okay; we all make mistakes, but this is NOT what Kant said about space and time.

    Sorry! I forgot to put in the link.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extension_%28metaphysics%29

    The link also includes this basis for your misaprehension.

    John Locke, in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, defined extension as “only the Space that lies between the Extremities of those solid coherent Parts” of a body.[1] It is the space possessed by a body. Locke refers to the extension in conjunction with solidity and impenetrability, the other primary characteristics of matter.

    Solidity and impenetrability, relate only to physical and chemical properties of matter, but lack clear definition of those terms.
    Certain types of radiation can penetrate anything, and “solidity” is not an absolute state. It depends on temperature and pressure.

    His definition is consistent with my colloquial definition of “space” as “gaps between matter”, but that is only a working definition for use in engineering. It is not a cosmological definition of space-time, or that of quantum physics.

    The problem as I explained earlier is that you are using antiquated definitions from metaphysics, when they have long been superseded by modern physics to incredible levels of detail and complexity, which are only going to be understood by people with an extensive science education.



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  • Don’t know if you will be reading this one.
    Perhaps you confuse the word extension with an extended object. How can the latter not be perceived in space?!?! It follows from that that space is a condition of our understanding, an actual brain-function.
    This definition of space (as that which is external to us and which objects fill) is in the dictionary along with yours.
    Space does have two definitions. There is perceptual space and non-perceptual space. The latter is a foreign concept to me. I cannot say anything about it.
    I wish you would stop referring to ancient philosophers. I never referred to any. And I don’t believe in a mind-body duality. The mind (or brain) is part of the body.
    As for color. Please answer this question: Is a leaf green without any eyes or any form of perception or detection? Or is green subjective?
    I agree with you about the importance of precision when defining things. I agree 100%.
    Have a good day. I have been enjoying this exchange (although it has been, at times, frustrating). It would be better if we could sit down somewhere and talk in person.
    All the Best.
    Get back to me about the color question, if you can. I mean no “perception” of any kind – physical or otherwise.
    One more thing: when I said that science takes us away from the senses and perception I only meant that scientists often refer to space and time but are thinking in conceptual terms. (Is that accurate?) That doesn’t mean they are wrong. I am merely saying that when I refer to space I am thinking and speaking of perceived space. Look at your hand. That is what I mean . Nothing else.



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  • Dan
    Jun 3, 2015 at 6:49 am

    The mind is part of the body. For Kant this is not as clearly established, but he was light years ahead of his predecessors who equated the mind with “God.” That confusion ( and delusion), unfortunately, has persisted to this day.

    Ideas ARE limited by the physical functions of the material brain(s).

    I couldn’t agree more. Whoever said they aren’t was wrong. We agree!

    Even the notions and delusions of gods, are generated by the electro-neurochemistry of the physical brain. – So a “god (delusion) in the mind” is a valid concept, although I doubt that that is how they saw it!

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120419091223.htm
    Scientists have speculated that the human brain features a “God spot,” one distinct area of the brain responsible for spirituality. Now, University of Missouri researchers have completed research that indicates spirituality is a complex phenomenon, and multiple areas of the brain are responsible for the many aspects of spiritual experiences. Based on a previously published study that indicated spiritual transcendence is associated with decreased right parietal lobe functioning, MU researchers replicated their findings. In addition, the researchers determined that other aspects of spiritual functioning are related to increased activity in the frontal lobe.

    Proponents of dualism have been asked on many occasions to produce evidence, but no traces, or evidence of the mythical “ethereal” energy, have ever been detected or offered! – (Physicists do have some very sophisticated methods of detecting forms energy- or its absence!). Aspects of dualism do however sneak into philosophical quotes on metaphysics quite often.



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  • Dan
    Jun 3, 2015 at 8:31 am

    Don’t know if you will be reading this one.
    Perhaps you confuse the word extension with an extended object. How can the latter not be perceived in space?!?!

    The mathematical definition of “extension” is valid, but as far as i know it is not commonly used outside of philosophical discussions. It is the lack of clear (materially valid) definitions of “space” and “matter” which give rise to the problem.

    It follows from that that space is a condition of our understanding, an actual brain-function.

    This is playing around with the old philosophical question, ” how do we know what is real?”, and “how do we know that our perceptions inform us about reality?”

    The short answer is, that we rely on multiple senses to cross check, but if we don’t dismiss this fantasy notion, we are wasting our time discussing this illusion beloved of sci-fi authors and mystery writers. There is also a strong suspicion that reality will intrude and kick us!

    This definition of space (as that which is external to us and which objects fill) is in the dictionary along with yours.
    Space does have two definitions.

    This is just shuffling definitions.
    In cosmological terms “space-time” is everywhere in the universe, and has been since the big-bang. It is not “external to us or anything else. We and other objects occupy parts it. The second definition related to the near vacuum of areas largely devoid of matter, – as between planets and stars, or devoid of matter restricting the movement of “solid” objects.

    There is perceptual space and non-perceptual space. The latter is a foreign concept to me. I cannot say anything about it.

    Unless this is just a description of a mental image built on personal perceptions, the terms are meaningless, and in the interests of clarity, should be replaced with “imagined mental images of space”, and the observed/unobserved areas of the “physical space-time of the universe”.

    I wish you would stop referring to ancient philosophers. I never referred to any.

    In terms of modern science, most philosophy over a hundred years old, is “ancient”!

    And I don’t believe in a mind-body duality. The mind (or brain) is part of the body.

    I know, and agree, but you keep referring to philosophical definitions and quotes, which arose from such concepts.

    As for color. Please answer this question: Is a leaf green without any eyes or any form of perception or detection? Or is green subjective?

    As I said earlier, the term “green” is the description of light, or objects reflecting light, within the wavelengths detected by the photo receptor cells in human eyes. Insect eyes and instruments can detect wavelengths beyond the human range.

    What Wavelength Goes With a Color? – http://science-edu.larc.nasa.gov/EDDOCS/Wavelengths_for_Colors.html
    The visible green light has a wavelength of about 510 nm. Grass, for example, appears green because all of the colors in the visible part of the spectrum are absorbed into the leaves of the grass except green. Green is reflected, therefore grass appears green.

    The main source of light right across the spectrum in the Solar-System is the Sun.

    Plants absorb other wavelengths to use the energy, to convert water and carbon di-oxide, into sugar, and reflect back the unused green light. This makes them appear “green” to humans.

    Or is green subjective?

    The plant will reflect back the light, regardless of observers, but the definition of those wavelengths as “green”, is a description of human perceptions of that small range of wavelengths.



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  • The problem as I explained earlier is that you are using antiquated
    definitions from metaphysics, when they have long been superseded by
    modern physics to incredible levels of detail and complexity […]

    When you look at you hand are you not seeing it in space? That is all I mean by space. I wouldn’t dream of minimizing the extraordinary sophistication of modern physics, or denying that Kant was unfamiliar with what had been discovered after the publication of his Critique of Pure Reason. I am merely saying (or insisting) that an object cannot be perceived as extended except in space. If you agree with that statement that would make me very happy. (I guess it doesn’t take much to make me happy.) And if you can shed some light on this question I will be very grateful: Is the green leaf or the red apple green or red without any form of sensation, perception, detection or form of measurement, analysis, etc. ? I will phrase it better: is the color part of the leaf and the apple? Or is it in the mind that perceives it? Instruments cannot think so I don’t care (in this particular context) what they detect. Is color in the mind or the thing?
    If you say the former, then you will have unwittingly taken the first step toward acknowledging the truth of Kant’s conception of the ideality of sense-impressions.

    That Wiki page is pathetic. Read Kant’s Transcendental Aesthetic.

    There is NO mind body duality. The mind is part of the body. As I said, Kant understood this but not quite as clearly as Schopenhauer. Space and time are both mental perceptions. That duality is NOT relevant to this discussion.



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  • Even the notions and delusions of gods, are generated by the
    electro-neurochemistry of the physical brain. – So a “god (delusion)
    in the mind” is a valid concept, although I doubt that that is how
    they saw it!

    Yes, but God (and I am a strong non-theist) cannot possibly be said to exist in the mind. If it exists as an idea in the mind only it isn’t God — which of course it isn’t.

    Guess who rid humankind of the mind-body duality that you keep applying to all philosophers? Kant and Schopenhauer. Science owes them a debt of gratitude! Prior to Descartes the mind was indeed linked erroneously with the “soul.” Descartes paved the way for Kant and Schopenhauer. (I can’t possibly explain all of this here.)

    This mind-body duality (which was indeed a fallacy) was superseded by Kant and completely invalidated by Schopenhauer. (You should read him!) The mind or brain is not separate from the body.

    You shouldn’t lump philosophers together. And I shouldn’t make assumptions about things such as space-time. I know nothing about that. I would like to learn more.



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  • Dan
    Jun 3, 2015 at 9:45 am

    Space and time are both mental perceptions.

    Space and time are physical features of the universe.

    The mental perceptions are only the individual’s imagined concepts of them. (These may or may not be a good match when mapped on to the underlying physical reality.)

    The arrow of time is a rate of the progressing physical processes – including the physical processes in physical brains.



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  • Can human beings perceive with their eyes a material body as extended but not in space? Yes or no or both or neither – but please try to answer that question.

    And again, when you look at your hand are you justified (from the standpoint of modern physics even) in saying that is not represented to you as an extended object in space? Is your hand not in space? Yes or no or both or neither?



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  • The mental perceptions {of space and time} are only the individual’s
    imagined concepts of them.

    This I am fifty percent in agreement with. I agree with the premise that we have mental perceptions of space and time. And I am glad that you presented that premise.

    However, these perceptions are not products of the imagination. And the concept mustn’t be confused with the perception. The senses do not err; only the judgment errs. In other words, if I say that the earth appears flat then that is a correct statement based upon a perception. If I then say that it is flat then that is a false conception based upon an error of judgment. The perception of space and time is not imaginary. And the concepts (of space and time) is secondary. The perception is primary, comes first.

    You insist upon precision (and you should). I do too.

    I find it difficult to form any conception of what unperceived space and time might be.

    That difficulty is to a large extent a reflection of my ignorance. I admit it.



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  • Dan
    Jun 3, 2015 at 10:43 am

    I find it difficult to form any conception of what unperceived space and time might be.

    In terms of physics, “unperceived space” is the area outside the observable universe, which can only be inferred from projecting from the trends inside the observed universe.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universe
    The particle horizon, the light horizon, or the cosmic light horizon, is the maximum distance from which particles could have traveled to the observer in the age of the universe. It represents the boundary between the observable and the unobservable regions of the universe,[38] so its distance at the present epoch defines the size of the observable universe.

    That difficulty is to a large extent a reflection of my ignorance. I admit it.

    As to the area outside the observable universe, everyone is ignorant. (The limit of the observable universe is the the area where images of it have been observed using light which has taken the time equivalent to the age of the universe to reach us. Light from anything which is more light years away than the age of the universe has not yet reached us!

    The perception of space and time is not imaginary. And the concepts (of space and time) is secondary. The perception is primary, comes first.

    No sense organs process images.

    All mental images are constructs of the brain assembled from the sensory inputs to create an imagined map of the object.



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  • Dan
    Jun 3, 2015 at 9:45 am

    I will phrase it better: is the color part of the leaf and the apple? Or is it in the mind that perceives it?
    Is color in the mind or the thing?

    It is in neither.
    Colour is defined by the wavelengths of light, directly observed, or reflected from the surface of objects, and by the spectral range of the colour receptors in the eye.

    I think close timing has made you miss my post with a link where it is clearly explained.

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2015/05/the-christian-right-is-losing-women-why-more-and-more-are-embracing-non-belief/#li-comment-179813

    Instruments cannot think so I don’t care what they detect (in the context of this question).

    Some of the autonomous space probes and rovers do quite a good approximation to thinking, when they are gathering data and images for later transmission.



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  • Dan
    Jun 3, 2015 at 11:28 am

    Why am I being blocked? I could post this question but not my final question to Alanfordiscussion. What the hell’s going on?

    If you have included links, posts may be delayed while they are held for the moderators to check them.

    Certain words or links trigger blocking.

    Then there are technical glitches which can block or lose posts.



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  • Thanks. Must be technical.

    I will try once more to post this.

    “Unless this {perceived space} is just a description of a mental image built on personal perceptions, the terms are meaningless.”

    That is precisely what I am referring to. I am referring to our personal experience. In a previous post I asked you to look at your hand. Do it now. Is that not an object in space? That is the space that I am referring to. I simply want to establish and get you and others to agree that the distinction that we as humans make between ourselves and an external world is a distinction that arises from the fact of our being itself. The mere fact of our existence as animals, as living and thinking beings with a body and a brain, gives rise to the distinction between inside and outside. I call what is outside space. Am, I not justified in doing so? Is this not necessary as well?

    The space of the astronomer is a different kind of space. That is what I meant before when I said that space(and time) can de defined (or approached) in two ways.

    Yes. A mental image built on a personal perception. I’m fine with that.



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  • You’re not being blocked, Dan. The site limits the number of replies that can be directly appended to any comment, but that’s just an indenting issue, it doesn’t stop you posting another comment. If the number of permitted replies to any one comment has been reached, any further replies will appear at the foot of the thread. That may be what you’re experiencing here. If not, please click on the blue question mark at the bottom left of the page to report your problem to the technical team.
    The mods



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  • Melvin,
    If you are correct then thank you for posting this even though it caused me to sink into deep disappointment. I’d rather deal with a sad truth than a happy delusion.



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  • It does indeed have to be red, although he was also quite fond of using lions…”If a lion could speak we would not be able to understand a word it says”

    Taking the term “red ” as an example, only its sense in the context of recognising something as “red”.. ( obviously the term red can also be usedto refer to certian wavelengthe etc)

    We learn to recognise ” red” by ostensive definition, e.g by being told ” this and that is red”. or being shown samples. . In this sense of the term “red” it is just a agreed naming convention. ( The ancients had far less colour words than we do, Homeric Greece had no word for blue. This does not mean they could not see “blue”, just they never had need to separately distingish and name it)

    After a while we have “learnt” what red is, it has been incorporated into our linguistic ability , so we have no need to refer to a “idea-residue” . Then When we see red we can immediately name and recognise it as “red”,. The “naming and recognising” referring not to some vague underlying substantive processes but merely refers to the linguistic ability to say or think “red” when we see a red patch. The ability to recognise “red” being a linguistic ability ( obviously we also need our senses etc to be working correctly as well )

    To stretch Hume’s term I guess you could say that having the word ‘red’ in our vocabulary is a ” idea-residue”, but that is not how he conceived it.

    On the neurological explanatory levels different areas of the brain are involved when we are learning “red” than are involved when we have learnt
    “Red”.

    And no , we cannot perceive an extended body but not in space.

    We perceive all extended bodies in space. By definition Extension is term refering to the bit of space occupied by a body,. Space and extension are not seperate things, they are the same thing.

    And when refering to mind and space etc “internal” and “external” are not binary oppositions, they are not on the same logical level. To say ideas, thoughts etc are ” internal” is metaphorical, they are not spatial extended (sic) objects so they are not literally internal or anywhere or nowhere.

    Wroye this quick whist dealing with a grandchild so come back with any queries.

    She wants to add a emoticon..?

    Nearest we could find to W’s lion ?



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  • Dan
    Jun 3, 2015 at 11:40 am

    I simply want to establish and get you and others to agree that the distinction that we as humans make between ourselves and an external world is a distinction that arises from the fact of our being itself.

    This is a matter of self-awareness, cognition and social identity, rather than anything directly to do with “space”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychology_of_self

    The mere fact of our existence as animals, as living and thinking beings with a body and a brain, gives rise to the distinction between inside and outside.

    This is an evolved core survival feature, which works across our systems from our immune system to our recognition of body parts as our own. It can also be extended in varying degrees to territorial claims.

    There are no absolutes boundaries in this, as air, water, food, heat-energy, etc. passes in and out of bodies all the time.

    I call what is outside space. Am, I not justified in doing so? Is this not necessary as well?

    This is just the vernacular use of the term, as in finding a parking space for a car or somewhere to put a cupboard.

    The space of the astronomer is a different kind of space.

    That space is the space time-continuum on which the universe and everything in it is formed.

    That is what I meant before when I said that space(and time) can de defined (or approached) in two ways.

    The definitions, however, have very different meanings. Likewise the third meaning which is of an off-planet near vacuum. There is no reason to connect the meanings, simply because they use the same word.



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  • Dan
    Jun 3, 2015 at 7:59 am

    I do think that the knowledge of space is an innate condition of the human understanding. And I do think that the division into subject and object(s) in space is an a priori function of the brain.

    I think what you are referring to is “spacial awareness” rather than “space” as physicists describe it.
    This has led to some confusion.

    Spacial awareness is an evolved psychological trait, which allows whales to map and navigate the oceans with sonar, it allows birds to coordinate their speed and direction, to land on branches, it allows humans to walk through doorways, drive vehicles, and to direct food into their mouths.
    I’m not sure if it can be described as “awareness”, but plants also grow towards light, and some even orientate their leaves to track the changing direction of the sun though the day.

    There is also “spatial visualization ability”, which is another aspect.

    According to certain studies, men on average have one standard deviation higher spatial intelligence quotient than women.[2] This domain is one of the few where clear sex differences in cognition appear.



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  • By “space” I mean externality. Food is external until it is no longer external . . . You must read Schopenhauer. You have too good a mind not to read him. We all need new ideas and perspectives sometimes.

    Maybe at some point down the road we can resume this discussion. Thank you for a lively and challenging and rather humbling interchange. You are a very interesting man. Please try to read Schopenhauer. I would recommend the second volume of his chief work. (E.F.J. Payne tr.) It is better than the first volume. The second volume consists of supplemental essays that correspond to the first volume.
    I don’t know if you have Amazon.com in the U.K. but here’s a link.
    http://www.amazon.com/World-Representation-WORLD-REPRESENTATION-Paperback/dp/B00700YVIU/ref=pd_sim_sbs_14_3/192-6252381-8446920?ie=UTF8&r



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