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Another Irony Alert

Over at his “step-by-step” post Upright BiPed muses over the irony of Elizabeth Liddle calling herself “skeptical” and naming her blog “The Skeptical Zone” when she clings to conclusions driven by her deeply held ideological predispositions in the teeth of logic and evidence and with a dogmatic fervor that would make a medieval churchman blush. 

The dictionary defines “skeptical” as “an attitude of doubt or a disposition to incredulity either in general or toward a particular object.”  That last phrase is the key.  When a person says they are skeptical, they may mean they are generally skeptical or particularly skeptical. 

UB obviously believes that a person who takes on the mantle of skepticism is using the word in the former sense, i.e., generally skeptical.  And perhaps that is the way Liddle intends to use it.  The problem, of course, is that in practice she is far from generally skeptical.  And she is not alone.  It has been my invariable experience that people who go out of the way to call themselves skeptical are in fact skeptical of everything, everything that is except received knowledge and conventional wisdom, which they cling to with a blinkered zeal they would mock were they to see it in others. 

Naturally, UB expects that if the denizens of The Skeptical Zone were genuinely skeptical (in the general sense of that word), the “Central Dogma” of Darwinian Evolution would be the first thing about which they would be skeptical.  After all, Darwinian Evolution is perhaps the archetypical conventional wisdom of our time.  But that is obviously not the case.  Instead, The Skeptical Zone is a place where the Central Dogma is zealously defended. UB is right.  The name of Liddle’s blog is unintentionally ironic.  If Liddle were to title her blog truthfully it would be called “The Zone Where We Are Skeptical About Everything But Our Own Cherished Beliefs, Which We Never Question Much Less Seriously Challenge.”  Yep, delicious irony seasoned with more than a dash of hypocrisy.

 

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61 Responses to Another Irony Alert

  1. ,,,they cling to with a blinkered zeal they would mock were they to see it in others,,,

    Curious thing that is to see, especially given the fact that, IMO, everything that is claimed to be rigidly true in Darwinism falls apart upon a bit skeptical scrutiny of that claim for truth.

  2. Barry:

    I couldn’t agree more.

    I must say that I despise skepticism in all its forms, even in its supposed general sense.

    I cannot find any real good meaning to the word. Obviously, we all try to express critical thinking, and to form reasonable maps of the world, using our reason, our feeling, our intuition, our experience, our love. Each of us makes different choices, and that is simply to be expected. And respected.

    So, what would a “general skeptical” be? Someone who will never believe anything? Or just someone who believes what he chooses to believe, exactly like anybody else, but likes to think and declare that he is better than all the others, because his choices are “skeptical”, whatever that means?

    I try to reason and understand, but I will never be skeptical. About anything. Why? Because I try to reason and understand. Like everybody. And I make my choices. Like everybody.

    So, skepticism is really nothing, only an expression of generic arrogance in cognition.

    Selective skepticism is always the only visible expression of skepticism. Those who want not to believe certain things a priori, will be bound to believe other things a priori, just to compensate.

    The success of “skepticism” in some parts of modern though is a very strong sign of the cognitive and moral confusion of our times. It is in no way comforting that many of these “skeptics” are essentially intelligent and good people. For me, that is only a cause of personal sadness.

  3. No, no, no, no, no. Skeptics are never skeptical about the mainstream. If it is mainstream then it is a fact and that is that. And nobody is skeptical about facts. Might as well be skeptical that 1+1=2.

    OTOH being skeptical about something that is not mainstream is quite the norm and whoever isn’t skeptical about fringe ideas isn’t normal and we don’t have to listen to them.

    I hope that clears up why the “skeptics” are not skeptical about the theory of evolution.

  4. It takes great courage and intellect to go against the darwin mafia and expose them and their ‘theory’ for what it is, unfortunately not everyone has those qualities.

    Don’t be afraid to speak the truth in science…if more people did, the darwin mafia would crumble! Kudos to UD for being a bright light in a world clouded by darwin’s myth.

  5. The people who, invariably in a proud, even self-gratulatory manner, claim to be sceptical, in that general sense, seem to absolutely personify the adage that a little knowledge is dangerous.

    On the other hand, the really famous pioneers and paradigm-changers of science seem prone to go in the other direction, lauding imagination, faith and an openness to the new and as yet, unconceived.

    A strange duo: the first, insisting proudly on their status as myrmidons and menials; the second, as intellectually open and curious as a young child, instinctively aware and confident of their own critical faculties, and certainly not grandstanding over the shibboleth of a pathological scepticism.

  6. And Allan Miller steps right up and supports what I posted:

    People generally more readily accept ideas that are coherent and have been tested and accepted by the ‘expert consensus’, but are skeptical over notions advanced by laymen.

    I wonder how Allan is defining the word “tested”. Every time I ask for a test all I get is “it takes millions upon millions of years” or “tests” that assume what needs to be tested.

    So that would explain why the majority of people reject unguided evolution as an explanation for our existence.

  7. semi OT: I think this following speaker does a excellent job of dispelling the radical skepticism that has encroached upon New Testament scholarship:

    How Reliable Is the New Testament? – Dan Wallace (publicly debated Bart Ehrman 3 times) – video
    http://www.watermark.org/media.....ment/2305/

  8. He continues, and equivocates along the way:

    I’m not skeptical about evolution – that a process of inheritance with mutation leads inexorably to continual change is about as incontrovertible an idea as I can think of, mathematically, empirically and computationally demonstrable.

    Well Allan, Intelligent Design is NOT an argument against evolution, per se, it is an argument over whether or not evolution is directed or unguided- ie designed or happenstance. Also unguided evolution doesn’t have anything to do with math and there isn’t any math that supports it. So what the heck are you even talking about?

    Ya see Allan, if you would take 1/2 of your skeptism and apply it to your position, you would reject it.

  9. 1) Only minor variations within species have been demonstrated or observed!
    2) coded sequential information such as that found in DNA has never been seen to originate from any unguided chemical processes!
    3) life reduction experiments clearly show there are NO EXAMPLES of simpler life that evolutionists postulate must have existed to give rise to the functionally complex life we see today!
    4) selective breeding only results in trait optimization and distinct limits not new morphological distinction!
    5) mutations are a degenerative process that accrues more prohibitively operational damage than it can possibly overcome by any controversial or occasional “good mutation”!
    6) Examples of Macro evolution cited by evolutionists are totally within the bounds of a known process called ADAPTATION and do not result in new body plans or body parts that build new function.

  10. Alan Miller:

    People generally more readily accept ideas that are coherent and have been tested and accepted by the ‘expert consensus’, but are skeptical over notions advanced by laymen. The reasons should be obvious.

    Yes, it is obvious. Most people are conformists in their way of thinking.

    But that acceptance is always provisional, and the consensus is not always complete. Many scientists disagree on junk DNA, say, or the hominid tree, and many historical controversies have rumbled on for decades before the conclusive experiments broke the deadlock.

    IOWs, when the academy is divided, conformist thinkers are free to choose. That’s a great comfort, indeed.

    The essence of science is skepticism.

    No, the essence of science is a desire to know.

    Every hypothesis is subjected, frequently by its own proponent, to a battery of logical and empirical investigation to see if it stands up.

    That’s simply critical thinking, not skepticism. All people, except maybe conformist thinkers, express critical thinking. Each one in his own way, not as the academy commands.

    Every lunchtime research seminar, every paper submitted is subjected to similar, often vigorously dispensed skepticism.

    Those luchtime research seminars are often filled with critical thinking, good or bad, and many times with true bad skepticism (indeed, IMO skepticism can only be bad). And one can easily distinguish the two things.

    I’m not skeptical about evolution – that a process of inheritance with mutation leads inexorably to continual change is about as incontrovertible an idea as I can think of, mathematically, empirically and computationally demonstrable.

    I agree. Why should one be skeptical, or simply critical, of such a trivial statement?

    Inheritance with mutation exists. It creates continual change. That is really trivial. What do you think genetic diseases are?

    Whether that mechanism is enough to explain modern forms and their diversity is slightly less clear-cut

    May I laugh? This is probably the understatement of the century!

    but I think it is

    Your free choice. I always respect individual free choices.

    By the way, my individual free choice tells me that this statement of yours is not trivial at all, and completely false.

    And in the absence of a better mechanism (and some magic can-do-anything entity out of some fairy story is not a ‘better mechanism’) then I’m afraid I’m far more skeptical about supposed ‘challenges’ to evolution than I am about the ‘mainstream’.

    Again, your choice. But the problem is not to be skeptical. The problem is that you, like me and everyone else, have to make choices in cognitive problems. That has nothing to do with skepticism. Your choices are the result of your education, moral attitude, intuition, personal experience, desires, previous choices, and, if you believe it, free will. Like mine. Like anyone else’s. No skepticism is needed. The best counselor in cognition is a sincere desire to know truth.

  11. Thank you for that concise summary, bornagain. It’s more than a little helpful to the layman.

  12. I wonder what scepticism one-time chemist, Margaret Thatcher, experienced as she checked out various flavours of ice-cream.

    An odd thought, I know. ‘Here, try this one. What do you think?’ A bit like a wine-taster, really. ‘This is a really presumptuous little number; cheeky even, amost truculent.’

  13. The ID movement is a big tent and all are welcome. Even agnostics and atheists are not in principle excluded provided they can adopt this open attitude of mind. In practice, however, agnostics and atheists have their minds made up. Agnostics know that nothing is knowable about a transcendent reality. And atheists know that no transcendent reality exists, so again nothing is knowable about it. Accordingly, agnostics and atheists tend not to join the ID movement. Johnson is a radical skeptic, insisting, in the best Socratic tradition, that everything be put on the table for examination. By contrast, most skeptics opposed to him are selective skeptics, applying their skepticism to the things they dislike (notably religion) and refusing to apply their skepticism to the things they do like (notably Darwinism). On two occasions I’ve urged Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic Magazine, to put me on its editorial board as the resident skeptic of Darwinism. Though Shermer and I know each other and are quite friendly, he never got back to me about joining his editorial board. ~ William Dembski

  14. I’m not skeptical about evolution – that a process of inheritance with mutation leads inexorably to continual change is about as incontrovertible an idea as I can think of, mathematically, empirically and computationally demonstrable.

    Evolution = change.

  15. IOWs, when the academy is divided, conformist thinkers are free to choose. That’s a great comfort, indeed.

    And some choose one way and some choose a different way, but free will is just an illusion.

    And this process is supposed to be reliable. We’re supposed to be able to trust it. And all for what, given there is no such thing as truth.

    We should have a test of reason that people are required to take before being allowed to post here. First question, do you have free will? If they answer no, then they can’t continue since all future answers are obviously determined.

    And who wants to participate in a discussion forum with robots?

    Funny thing about those who object to the moderation policy here. They obviously think it OUGHT to be different. They think that they are speaking the TRUTH and that the truth OUGHT to be permitted to be spoken without censorship.

  16. The best counselor in cognition is a sincere desire to know truth.

    Well said. But whence the desire to know truth?

  17. 17
    Kantian Naturalist

    As for what “skepticism” used to really mean . . .

    skeptic (n.), also sceptic, 1580s, “member of an ancient Greek school that doubted the possibility of real knowledge,” from Fr. sceptique, from L. scepticus, from Gk. skeptikos (pl. Skeptikoi “the Skeptics”), lit. “inquiring, reflective,” the name taken by the disciples of the Greek philosopher Pyrrho (c.360-c.270 B.C.E.), from skeptesthai “to reflect, look, view”

    Of the many ancient Skeptical arguments, this one in particular fascinates me: the Dilemma of the Criterion. The question is, given competing knowledge-claims, how are we to adjudicate between them? We would need some criterion by which to do so. But how we establish that criterion?

    In order to decide the dispute which has arisen about the criterion of truth, we must possess an accepted criterion by which we shall be able to judge the dispute; and in order to possess an accepted criterion, the dispute about the criterion must first be decided. And when the argument thus reduces itself to a form of circular reasoning the discovery of the criterion becomes impracticable, since we do not allow those who make knowledge claims to adopt a criterion by assumption, while if they offer to judge the criterion by a criterion we force them to a regress ad infinitum. And furthermore, since demonstration requires a demonstrated criterion, while the criterion requires an approved demonstration, they are forced into circular reasoning. (Sextus Empiricus, Outlines of Pyrrhonism)

    .

    Lately I’ve been reading about how adequately Kant and Hegel deal with the challenge of Pyrrhonian skepticism — interesting stuff!

  18. 18
    Kantian Naturalist

    We should have a test of reason that people are required to take before being allowed to post here. First question, do you have free will? If they answer no, then they can’t continue since all future answers are obviously determined.

    What about people who acknowledge the reality of human agency but don’t accept libertarian free will as an explanation of agency?

  19. …member of an ancient Greek school that doubted the possibility of real knowledge…the name taken by the disciples of the Greek philosopher Pyrrho…

    The one after whom the phrase ‘pyrrhic victory’ ought to have been named?

  20. 20
    Kantian Naturalist

    The one after whom the phrase ‘pyrrhic victory’ ought to have been named?

    Ha! Perhaps. Funnily enough, I long assumed that “Pyrrhic victory” was named about Pyrrho, and only just now learned otherwise.

  21. 21

    KN, there is no solution to the Dilemma of the Criterion. It is just another way of demonstrating that first principles must be accepted a priori.

    Another of the great ironies of our day is that many non-theists believe they have freed themselves from faith commitments through pure reason and therefore tend to look down their noses at the benighted religious adherents who acknowledge their faith. This is ironic, because when it comes to faith commitments, the difference between religious adherents and non-theists is not that the former have them and the latter do not. The difference is that the former acknowledge and examine their faith commitments, and the latter often seem unaware that they even have faith commitments (much less subject those commitments to examination) and yet they believe they are more intellectually rigorous.

  22. 22
    Kantian Naturalist

    KN, there is no solution to the Dilemma of the Criterion. It is just another way of demonstrating that first principles must be accepted a priori.

    Two points in response:

    First: if there is no solution to the Dilemma of the Criterion, then there are no first principles which must be accepted a priori. First principles which must be accepted a priori is precisely what are ruled out by the Dilemma. Put otherwise, if there were first principles which were rationally acceptable, then the Dilemma would not even arise in the first place.

    Second: “necessarily accepted a priori” and “faith commitment” are quite different. To assert something as true, to take it as true — even to the point of being willing to risk one’s life for it — is not the same as demonstrating that assertion as an unavoidable necessity or starting-point for rational discourse.

    To be more provocative — and I understand that I’m being provocative enough as it is, given that this is not my sand-box I’m playing in — the basic ideas of Arrington’s (21) could be re-framed as “hey, everyone is a dogmatist, but at least we’re honest about it!” And if you’re content to be an honest dogmatist, ok, fine, but that’s to accept the Dilemma.

    If we accept the Dilemma, then there’s no third way between dogmatism and skepticism. And if that’s right, then there’s no reason for choosing one dogmatism over another, and then what we have left is nothing but “might makes right” — the prevailing dogmatism is the one that has the power. Whereas the whole point of the critique of atheistic materialism, at least as Kairosfocus has been presenting here, is that we must avoid materialism in order to avoid “might makes right”. So now it seems that you both accept and deny that “might makes right”.

    Now, embracing skepticism is unpalatable. So the thing to do, it seems to me, is to solve the Dilemma by showing that there’s a third way between skepticism and dogmatism. And I actually think that can be done.

  23. Barry comments:

    The difference is that the former [religious adherents] acknowledge and examine their faith commitments, and the latter [non-theists] often seem unaware that they even have faith commitments (much less subject those commitments to examination) and yet they believe they are more intellectually rigorous.

    Are these faith commitments ones that you would wish to impose on those that don’t share your faith? Atheists are committed to family, loved ones, friends, their community and the wider world; the more so in the knowledge it is the only world we have. Guaranteeing secularism is the only honest way to guarantee freedom of religion.

    PS:

    Thanks, Barry, reinstating my commenting permissions here. If you did that for all UD former sceptical commenters now to be found at TSZ, that might impact on their level of scepticism.

    PPS

    What is it about about Crick’s central dogma that makes you skeptical?

  24. Alan Fox:

    Atheists are committed to family, loved ones, friends, their community and the wider world; …

    And, from what I’ve seen, they are committed to imposing their views on those that don’t share their faith.

    Guaranteeing secularism is the only honest way to guarantee freedom of religion.

    Really. And you know that how? From observing secular experiments in the 20th century? What guarantees freedom from the state?

  25. What guarantees freedom from the state?

    Democracy! I am sure I noticed something about it on the media. Weren’t people voting in the US only recently?

  26. 26
    Kantian Naturalist

    Speaking as an atheist, if someone tells me that they need faith in order to have meaningful and fulfilling lives, or that they need religion in order to have a firm moral code, I offer no argument and have none to offer. It’s only if they start telling me that I need what they have that I start arguing. And very few of them take it upon themselves to say anything like that to me. I count several people of faith among my friends.

    Further, the whole notion of “secularism” is itself quite complicated. It need not mean that religion has no public expression, but only that religion is separate from the state. This distinction between the public and the political is extremely important, because the very hallmark of totalitarian societies is that there is no such distinction. A republic, a self-limiting state, allows for the public sphere to be distinct from both the strictly personal and the political per se. (Bearing in mind that “republic” comes from res publica, “the public thing”.)

    With that distinction in mind, public displays of religion trouble neither my atheism nor my secularism. It’s when religion becomes political (or the other way around) that I get ornery. (A Nativity scene in a shop window is public, because it’s in full view of anyone who happens to be in the vicinity, but it’s not political. A Nativity scene in front of the town-hall is political.)

  27. A Nativity scene in a shop window is public, because it’s in full view of anyone who happens to be in the vicinity, but it’s not political because

    A Nativity scene in front of the town-hall is public, because it’s in full view of anyone who happens to be in the vicinity, but it’s political because

  28. 28
    Kantian Naturalist

    Mung, at this point I’m not sure if you’re putting me on or not, because I’d thought the answers would be perfectly obvious: it’s partly about whose money is spent, and partly about whether a reasonable person would construe it as government endorse of a particular religion. Hence:

    A Nativity scene in a shop window is public, because it’s in full view of anyone who happens to be in the vicinity, but it’s not political because . . .

    Tax-payer revenues were not spent in acquiring the Nativity, and no one reasonable person would construe a Nativity scene in a store-front window as government endorsement of any particular religion.

    A Nativity scene in front of the town-hall is public, because it’s in full view of anyone who happens to be in the vicinity, but it’s political because . . .

    For the converse reasons: either because tax-payer revenues are spent in acquiring the scene (unless it were donated), or because the display of a Nativity scene in front of a town-hall would be construed as the government endorsing Christianity, making some specific claim about the role of Christianity with regards to the state.

    Basically, anything that would lead a a reasonable Jew, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, pagan, atheist, or agnostic to feel like a second-class citizen is a violation of secularism. A Nativity scene in a store-front window might remind someone of their difference or marginalized status, but that’s not a message coming from the government, it’s a message coming from the owner or manager of the store, and that’s perfectly OK. (It’s not polite, and a store-owner might chose not to do so because she wants as many customers as possible, but that’s got nothing to do with secularism.)

    And before anyone thinks of playing the “oh, so you admit atheism is a religion! Gotcha!” card: I don’t see the point of diluting the word “religion” by calling atheism a religion, but it is what John Rawls calls a “comprehensive doctrine.” So I can put it this way: a secular society is one in which the state does not play favorites amongst comprehensive doctrines.

  29. Just another lying liar who has found refuge at TSZ.

    Congratulations Elizabeth!

    I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.

    Oh, the irony!

  30. KN:

    Basically, anything that would lead a a reasonable Jew, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, pagan, atheist, or agnostic to feel like a second-class citizen is a violation of secularism.

    God forbid a white male Christian should feel like a second class citizen.

    So as long as the nativity displays were in proportion to displays by these other groups, proportionate to their representation in the population, that would be ok?

    I don’t feel like I’m represented. I feel like a second class citizen. poor me.

    ;)

    Mung, at this point I’m not sure if you’re putting me on or not, because I’d thought the answers would be perfectly obvious:

    I try to be an equal opportunity tweaker of sensibilities.

    Basically, it seems to me that you are attempting a political/apolitical demarcation. So my immediate response is, based upon what? Then my next response, knee-jerk as it may seem is, is ‘political’ even the appropriate category for demarcation.

    I think I may be the only true skeptic. :)

    I did, in fact, question my own Christianity.

    I found out I wasn’t really a Christian.

  31. Kantian Naturalist (and others):

    My simple point of view is that the final choice abou Criterion cannot come from mere reason.

    I would say that it is a result of one’s intuition, reason, experience, feeling and free will.

    That’s why nobody can really impose his map of reality to others. Each one of us has the honor and the duty to build his own, and ti be responsible for it.

    But we can certainly share our maps. Possibly, with an open mind and heart. But skeptics will probably not be too open… :)

  32. 33
    Kantian Naturalist

    Lately I’ve been reading a very technical article in philosophy, but one that I find very interesting — though I make no predictions as to what value anyone here might get out of it — “Hegel’s Solution to the Dilemma of the Criterion” by Westphal. The paper is available at a couple of places on-line. Once I’ve digested it fully I’ll make some comments about it.

  33. 34
    Kantian Naturalist

    God forbid a white male Christian should feel like a second class citizen.

    I don’t anyone to feel like a second-class citizen, regardless of race, gender, comprehensive doctrine, etc. That’s part of why I want the state, which is the guarantor of citizenry, to be as neutral towards comprehensive doctrines as it is should be towards race and gender.

    So as long as the nativity displays were in proportion to displays by these other groups, proportionate to their representation in the population, that would be ok?

    The problem seems to have been “solved” by giving all religious groups a little bit of status, but it’s a weird solution, and not one that I’m really all that fond of. Growing up as a American Jew in the 1980s and 1990s, I was actually annoyed by how Channukah is made into a big deal — “the Jewish Christmas” — just so that Jews don’t feel excluded at Christmastime — whereas in fact Channukah is a minor holiday. If it weren’t for the fact that it usually coincides with Christmas, gentiles would know as much about Channukah as they do about Tu B’shevat.

    Anyway, sorry to go off on a rant — I’ll be quiet.

    Basically, it seems to me that you are attempting a political/apolitical demarcation. So my immediate response is, based upon what? Then my next response, knee-jerk as it may seem is, is ‘political’ even the appropriate category for demarcation.

    Well, historically speaking, “the political” has been the relevant category for talking about secularism. I take it that at work here is a certain theory about ‘the state’. Think about the state as having declared a monopoly on legitimate violence, or in terms of coercion, and it seems that the state ought to use its power very carefully. If the state were to endorse some specific comprehensive doctrine, then that doctrine has the coercive power of the state behind it. I don’t see how that’s not a recipe for disaster.

  34. AF: Some of the worst tyrannies, injustices and oppressions have been of minorities imposed by majorities. mere Democracy is not enough, there is an underlying issue of liberty based on unalienable rights, and reciprocal duties. Yet another case of the crucial importance and significance of recognising that we are under moral government, thus also the need for of having a foundational IS that properly grounds OUGHT. That is where evolutionary materialism-dominated secularism fails. KF

  35. Kantian,

    The problem with the strict separation of church and state is that as the state grows, the room for religion decreases. We are not allowed to have discussions of religion at state run institutions, a valedictorian cannot mention Jesus in her speech, the ACLU sues when you put a cross at the location of the accidental death of a loved one near a state highway etc. And it seems like the atheists/secularists are the ones that push very hard for both the separation of church and state and the advance of the state into every area of our lives.

  36. ‘Now, embracing skepticism is unpalatable. So the thing to do, it seems to me, is to solve the Dilemma by showing that there’s a third way between skepticism and dogmatism. And I actually think that can be done.’ – Kantian Naturalist

    That third way is used all the time by atheist scientists when they routinely resort to quantum physics, although they would never, themselves, have countenanced quantum physics, because they could never, in very principle, have imagined physical reality to be so replete with unfathomable paradoxes… with those searing, sceptical ‘minds like steel traps’ they possess.

    I don’t know how it’s possible to be a naturalist and a sceptic, while having the gall to incorporate the ever-proliferating paradoxes of quantum physics (not to speak of astro-physics) into their thinking/scientific work, etc.

    “It is not uncommon for engineers to accept the reality of phenomena that are not yet understood, as it is very common for physicists to disbelieve the reality of phenomena that seem to contradict contemporary beliefs of physics” – H. Bauer

    ‘Isolated material particles are abstractions, their properties being definable and observable only through their interaction with other systems.’If only… – Niels Bohr

    How does that fit into your naturalism, KN? And this statement by Bohr:

    ‘Everything we call real is made of things that cannot be regarded as real.’

    Ah… I get it! The answer lies in these words of Bohr:

    ‘Every sentence I utter must be understood not as an affirmation, but as a question.’

    If only…

    Was Einstein being dogmatic in employing beauty/elegance as his criterion when choosing his hypotheses? Or was his choice, ‘arbitrary’. The term, ‘arbitrary’, without the negative connotations associated with the term, ‘dogmatic’, seems more apt, doesn’t it?

    gpuccio’s words, below, accord with Einstein’s mindset rather well, don’t they?

    ‘My simple point of view is that the final choice about Criterion cannot come from mere reason.

    I would say that it is a result of one’s intuition, reason, experience, feeling and free will.’

  37. “the more so in the knowledge it is the only world we have”

    Yet you have no such knowledge, nor could you. You can’t know something that is false, and your worldview is false after all.

  38. 39
    Kantian Naturalist

    We are not allowed to have discussions of religion at state run institutions, a valedictorian cannot mention Jesus in her speech, the ACLU sues when you put a cross at the location of the accidental death of a loved one near a state highway etc.

    It is not true that one cannot have discussions of religion in state-run institutions. What is true is that a public school teacher or university professor cannot use his or her authority to endorse any particular religion. Religious texts can be taught as literature, the history of religion can be taught, and philosophy of religion can be taught. And the students can speak up however they wish.

    Nor is it true that a valedictorian cannot mention Jesus Christ in her speech — what is true is that she cannot use her speech as an opportunity to give a sermon recommending Christianity to others. She is legally entitled to mention what her faith means to her in her speech. (Whether she is discouraged from doing so, in order to not alienate her non-Christian peers, is another question altogether.)

    Likewise, while I won’t defend the ACLU in all particulars, their lawsuits are not about personalized highway memorials per se, but crosses that sit on public land (land owned by the government and kept up by spending tax-dollars) or that are paid for by public (tax-payer) funds.

  39. 40
    Kantian Naturalist

    My knowledge of quantum mechanics is, I’ll admit, scant. The Copenhagen Interpretation is obviously incompatible with naturalism, but that’s because it rejects realism about microphysical entities and relations.

    But based on what I have read, the Copenhagen Interpretation (which Bohr famously defended and Einstein famously scorned) is not the only game in town. Bohmnian mechanics, the many-worlds interpretation, and collapse theories are all very much in play. I don’t know enough about the mathematics and experiments involved to comment about which theories should be preferred, and for what reasons. Having narrowly passed calculus, and stopped my training in mathematics there, I don’t believe I’m entitled to have an opinion on the matter.

  40. 41

    My point at 21 is very simple and hardly subject to dispute: First principles must be accepted a priori. By definition they cannot be deduced from even more basic principles.

    KN says this makes me a “dogmatist.” Well, if stating an obvious and uncontroversial axiom makes me a dogmatist, I guess I am. Of course, calling someone a name is not an argument. It is a way to prevent an argument.

  41. 42
    Kantian Naturalist

    First principles must be accepted a priori. By definition they cannot be deduced from even more basic principles.

    I don’t think that Arrington is dogmatist just because he asserts that there are first principles that must be accepted a priori. (I take “accepted a priori” to mean something like “true by virtue of reason alone”, what Leibniz calls verite de raison or Kant calls “synthetic a priori.) That view, in itself, is not dogmatic.

    KN says this makes me a “dogmatist.” Well, if stating an obvious and uncontroversial axiom makes me a dogmatist, I guess I am. Of course, calling someone a name is not an argument. It is a way to prevent an argument.

    I think Arrington is dogmatic because of two further things he said. The first is that the Dilemma of the Criterion has no solution. The whole point of the Dilemma is to force someone into being either a dogmatist or a skeptic. If one thinks that the Dilemma has no solution, then one concedes that one must be either a skeptic or a dogmatist. To reject skepticism, while still conceding the Dilemma, is to be a dogmatist.

    The second is that Arrington used “faith-commitment” (or something like that) in one of his posts, but — here we might have a failure to communicate — it seems to me that a “faith-commitment”, if it is really that kind of existential commitment, the leap into the void, that is faith, is just that which is not grounded in reason. (Granted, reason can only do so much for us, and if one wanted to say, on Kierkegaardian lines, that a leap of faith after reflection is unavoidable, I’d be the last to argue the point.)

    To reiterate: I don’t really have a problem with talking about “first principles” per se — it’s just that if one takes the Dilemma of the Criterion seriously, and if one wants to avoid both skepticism and dogmatism, one needs to solve the Dilemma.

  42. 43

    KN,yes we have a failure of communication. You do not understand what I mean by faith commitment in the context of my comment. I am using the word in the Kierkegaardian way to which you refer. I had thought that was obvious. I suppose it was not.

  43. 44

    KN, I am thinking we are also not communicating with respect to what I mean when I say the Dilemma of the Criterion has no solution. Perhaps it will help if I point to a post in which I explored the issue raised by the Dilemma in more depth. See here.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....the-other/

  44. 45

    With respect to (43): ok, we’re now much closer to being on the same page — thank you!

    With respect to (44): the Dilemma really kicks in when it comes to world-views (metaphysical systems, comprehensive doctrines, epistemological theories, etc.). Here’s a more precise way of seeing how the Dilemma kicks in:

    The Epicurean (mechanistic-materialist) says, “what’s really real are atoms and void, and I can explain everything else in those terms”. The Platonist/Aristotelian says, “no you can’t, there has to be form as well as matter, otherwise you can’t explain everything you want to explain.” They go back and forth awhile (“yes I can!” “no you can’t”, etc.)

    Then the Skeptic chimes in: “both of your systems destroy each other, and no one wins, because in order to decide who is right — the Epicurean or the Platonist — we would first need a standard by which to determine who is right. But either any such standard presupposes the truth of the system it is meant to establish, or requires a further standard which establishes that standard.”

    That is the Dilemma. It actually played out rather nicely in a debate I had here with Kairosfocus last week, about how to respond to “Hume’s Guillotine” (that one cannot infer an “ought” from an “is”).

    Kairosfocus argued that the only way to save ought-claims from Hume’s Guillotine is to start off with grounding the “oughts” in an “is” from the very beginning. I took the contrary view that the right response to the Guillotine is to maintain that normative-claims are irreducible to, and cannot be analyzed in terms of, descriptive claims. But, I held, we can give a naturalistic explanation of how it came to be the case that we are beings that inhabit the space of reasons.

    The interesting thing about this debate, and its relevance to the Dilemma, is that both of us have nicely developed, sophisticated systems, with rich histories, etc. But each of us insists that the other person’s system falls short in some crucial way — by our own lights. Kairosfocus has a criterion of worldview-selection that favors Christianity, and I have a criterion of world-view selection that favors naturalism. And there is no “meta”-criterion in sight. That is the Dilemma — if we wish to have worldviews and avoid Pyrrhonian Skepticism, the Dilemma forces us into dogmatism.

    Unless the Dilemma can be solved. I’m actually largely persuaded that it can be. What I’m not yet sure of is whether the solution to the Dilemma is compatible with naturalism. It might not be. I don’t know.

  45. KN:

    You took that view all right, but then failed to address the problems that both the raft type example and the later spaceship type example are resting on an implicit grounding.

    There really is no successful evasion of grounding.

    One may declare an autonomous zone for morality all one wants, s/he then faces, WHY OUGHT I/we — especially a powerful I or we — to accept such a zone? (In a chain of whys if necessary, leading to (a) infinite regress — turtles all the way down — or (b) circularity or to (c) an ultimate, finitely remote ground. Yes, coherence is important, but it is not the only thing that is important.)

    Let me put the matter in nihilistic terms.

    Why not simply impose my will by might and/or manipulation backed up by something like the marginalisation (irony of ironies), exclusionary and denigratory tactics advocated by Alinsky and which are now ever so common as disciples of that ruthless neo-Marxist and his rules for radicals are everywhere.

    The answers to this are going to run much as SB highlighted elsewhere in answer to BD, once we deal with real communities that have views that are not reconcilable [as you have implied would obtain between us]: (i) arbitrary tyranny of the powerful on some excuse or naked power, or (ii) arbitrary tyranny of a majority, or the (iii) natural moral law, i.e the acknowledged reality of ought anchored in our nature as creatures.

    Which points straight to the source of that nature, and the grounding problem; as say can be seen in the pivotal second paragraph of the US DOI, 1776 and in the historically antecedent Dutch DOI under William the Silent of 1581, and the prior Vindiciae by Duplesis Mornay and others. Let me clip that second paragraph of the US DOI:

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, [cf Rom 1:18 - 21, 2:14 - 15], that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security . . .

    I suggest, we may see in this that:

    [i] liberty is rooted in God’s Creation [which makes us equal, cf. Ac 17:24 - 27, Gal 3:28 etc.] and his endowments of basic rights [which imply and are based on duties under justice: e.g. my right to life means you have a duty to respect my life -- rights-talk and duty-to-justice talk are two sides of the same coin];

    [ii] Government is the guardian of justice, thus of liberty as expressed in these rights;

    [iii] when Governments fail badly enough, we the people [acting though our representatives] have the collective right of reformation and — if all else fails –revolution [thank God the ballot box gives us a right of peaceful revolution today!] . . .

    (I suggest the interested onlooker of Christian persuasion or sympathies may find my current remarks here on these and related matters useful. I think the issues raised there are going to be pivotal as we move forward after a US election cycle in which the dominant party has imposed a plank that is tantamount to the gradual or even the rapid marginalisation and even criminalisation as hatred and bigotry, of Biblically rooted Christian faith that is true to the historic, Apostolic Christian view anchored in the passion and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth witnessed by 500. We are in the midst of a civilisational conflict that raises the serious viability of community implications of the consequences of overthrowing the natural moral law. Which is of course just what Plato warned against in his remarks in The Laws Bk X, 2350 years ago. He even went to far as to make a cosmological design inference to the creation of the world by a Good Soul. In short, these matters have been on the table for a LONG time. With too many cases of repeated bad chapters of history to back up the concerns. Wasn’t it Marx who warned that history repeats twice over, one as tragedy the next time as farce? Have we so soon forgotten or dismissed the TWO case studies in Europe that were within living memory? [Hint, both of them described themselves as "Socialist." Yes, they did.)

    KN, you will also doubtless recall my markup in the Ben Carson thread from 16 on, of the humanist manifesto signed off by Dewey [the most eminent signatory, whose presence conferred much of the weight it carried], in which I highlighted the gaps that a naturalistic origin of humanity poses both for the rationality of our cognitive function and for the grounding of ought. Matter and energy acted on by blind chance and mechanical necessity are no ground for ought.

    And yet, it is patent that we are under moral government, bound to duty by the force of OUGHT.

    Without this, there is no justice and there are no rights beyond might and manipulation leading to power-deals for the moment. (And remarks on blaming the ills of capitalism on Darwin or on the power struggles between democrats and elites in Athens, only underscore the point.)

    I find that abstract discussions tend to get into clouds of evasions and side tracks, so let me be concrete. Since you do not wish to address the abortion holocaust [whether the 53 million dead since 1973 in the US or the shockingly higher number for the globe], let me again pose this case, one that is rooted in sadly too many concrete instances:

    we ought not to abduct or trick a young, innocent child and torture, rape or murder her or him.

    I hold this to be a concrete case of OUGHT that is binding and deniable only on pain of absurdity, evasion or exposure as an amoral monster.

    Once one such case holds, ought is real and binding, leading to the issue of its grounds, whether or not one likes the import of grounds.

    I put on the table, that there is a major candidate to be an IS that grounds OUGHT, the inherently good Creator God who makes us in accord with that moral nature and implants in us well-guided conscience as a candle.

    Can you provide another?

    KF

  46. F/N: In short onlookers, this time, someone is going to go down. For instance, a watershed has been crossed in our civilisation with the homosexualist factionist challenge to marriage, and it is going to be either justice rooted in the natural moral law anchored in creation order — and contrast here on “my genes made me do it” — or tyranny in one form or another. No compromise is possible, and I assure you, this is a hill that people will stand and die on; quite literally. It is “to the lions” time again. That is what the factionists have now so foolishly or even so arrogantly let loose in our civilisation. (Cf a case in point here, with Mr Smith’s foolish and arrogantly disrespectful and potentially job-destroying challenge to and harassment of a Chick-fil-A worker, Rachel.) KF

  47. …the homosexualist factionist challenge to marriage…

    Good grief, what homophobia! Why on Earth cannot two people who love each other enter into a contractual relationship that affects no-one but themselves? I am stunned that someone rightly exercised by racial discrimination can not see the irony here.

  48. Which is it they want to champion, homogeneity or diversity? They use language in very heterodox ways, to suit themselves. If they are so keen on diversity, why do they want to marry someone of the same sex?

  49. Why two, Alan? Why just people, Alan?

    Polygamy should be legal- switching married patners at will should be legal. Any age marriage should be legal. Marrying other species should be legal- where do we stop, Alan?

    Marriage should be left to couples who can procreate, period, end of story.

  50. Alan Fox:

    Why on Earth cannot two people who love each other enter into a contractual relationship that affects no-one but themselves?

    Why on Earth cannot two people who don’t love each other enter into a contractual relationship that affects no-one but themselves?

  51. 52
    Kantian Naturalist

    In re: (45) and (46) . . .

    I still don’t quite know what to make of “an IS that grounds OUGHT”, because I thinks that “ground” is a troublesome word. There are several distinct questions tangled up together here, including:

    (a) is morality objective?
    (b) in what does the objectivity of morality consist?
    (c) how is the objectivity of morality similar to and different from the objectivity of science or mathematics?
    (d) how did it come to be the case that humans have an objective morality?
    (e) what does (and should) motivate human beings to take an interest in morally correct action?
    (f) is objective morality consistent with metaphysical naturalism?
    (g) what is the correct lesson to be drawn from Hume’s Guillotine?

    [That's not an exhaustive list, but it's all I can think of off the top of my head.]

    For what little it’s worth, here are some responses:

    (1) “Morality is objective,” in the sense that the criteria for choosing between different ethical frameworks are partially independent of the frameworks themselves.

    (2) The criteria are basically Kantian and Aristotelian, in that we can inquire into which ethical frameworks tend to promote or hinder the cultivation and flourishing of ethically significant human capacities, such as life, health, the development of imagination and thought, healthy emotions, practical reason, affiliation (friendship, love, and community), play, and reasonable control over one’s material and political environment. (For more, see The Capability Approach.)

    (3) So, we can evaluate different ethical frameworks in terms of how well they tend to promote or hinder essentially human capacities.

    (4) This view of ethics basically regards ethics as “human ecology”, where ethics concerns what is conducive to the doing well of the kinds of animals that we are.

    (5) As such it is fully consistent with “metaphysical naturalism,” defined as the view that all persons are animals, hence that there are no persons that are not also animals. (Put otherwise, the view that anything that has some mental properties must also have some physical properties.)

    (6) There are clearly identifiable “proto-ethical proto-frameworks” in the social behavior of large-brained social mammals, such as chimpanzees, dolphins, and elephants. What distinguishes human ethics from non-human ethics is our capacity to universalize, to ask the question about what anyone would have reason to do.

    (7) Full reproductive rights and the de-institutionalization of heterosexual privilege can and should be defended as objectively morally correct positions, and more specifically,

    (8) Even if killing a fetus is a serious moral wrong, not to be undertaken lightly or casually, infringing on a person’s right to bodily self-determination is a more serious moral wrong. (I hold, further, that (i) there are no good reasons to regard fetuses as persons; (ii) regarding them as “potential persons” does not yield a pro-life conclusion; (iii) the category of personhood is useless for resolving the abortion debate one way or the other.)

    (9) The de-institutionalization of heterosexual privilege could be accomplished either by (i) extending to same-sex couples all of the legal benefits of marriage or (ii) denying those benefits to heterosexual couples.

    (10) The so-called “PIB Argument” (“if we greenlight homosexuality, why not polygamy, incest, and bestiality?”) rests on a fundamentally flawed theory of human sexual desire.

    [And, a Fun Fact: the English word "ground" took on its philosophical sense when 18th-century German philosophers started writing philosophy in German rather than Latin, and used "Grund" as a translation of "ratio," itself a translation of the Greek "logos".]

  52. Kantian,

    I read a story of a valedictorian who was told she cannot say “Jesus” in her speech.

    And highways can be private. But the government “has” to build them.

    In a state school you can teach, “There is no God.” But you cannot teach “there is a God.” This gives theists an uneven playing field. And secularists are trying to expand the playing field into all aspects of life. It’s a lever used to marginalize theistic thought. It’s okay to agree with me. You won’t transform into a Christian if you do. You can still be an atheist and agree that this tactic is unfair.

  53. 54
    Kantian Naturalist

    Collin,

    With respect to the valediction, I’d have to know the specifics of the case. My gut-feeling is that the school officials would have over-stepped their bounds if they said that she could not mention Jesus, but which is different from whether she should, i.e. whether it would be respectful of the other students. (Whether it’s polite or not might depend on the religious diversity of the school, and also might depend on whether her intent was to offer a personal gratitude or to recommend her faith to others.) My knowledge of First Amendment law is quite scant, so without knowing more I should refrain from judgment.

    In a state school you can teach, “There is no God.” But you cannot teach “there is a God.”

    I have a hard time believing that this is so, but if you have evidence you can point me towards, I’d like to take a look at it.

    I’m not sure what is meant by the claim that in state schools, one cannot teach that there is a God. I teach at a public university in the South, and in my introduction to philosophy courses, I teach the standard arguments for the existence of God. That’s not a violation of the First Amendment. But of course it would be a violation of the First Amendment for me to use my position in the classroom in order to advance my atheism.

    I imagine that my students aren’t fooled, but the way I figure it, I’m not paid to teach what I think, I’m paid to teach what Plato and Kant thought (on my interpretations). If my personal beliefs creep in, it’s because I’m not perfect.

  54. Neil Rickert spews:

    I think they are confused between philosophical skepticism (don’t believe anything without certain proof) and scientific skepticism (require sufficient evidence for how you will use that belief).

    No Neil, YOU are just confused because you don’t appear to know much of anything.

    And that’s because they have little understanding of science.

    Then it is strange that we expose your ignorance on the subject on basically a daily basis.

    The irony, it burns…

  55. Irony alert-

    We have Richie saying:

    It strikes me that the only people who should fear / dislike skepticism are those who peddle lies.

    Which explains why evolutionists hate people who are skeptical of evolutionism.

    Truth should welcome skepicism.

    Which is why evolutionism has to be protected from skepticism

    As it passes each review, every test, people’s confidence will grow in it.

    Which is why no one’s confidence grows wrt evolutionism.

    Nice job cupcake…

  56. I’d hate to be a skeptic if it required Truth.

  57. Mark Frank:

    You cannot use the fact that a designer is a good explanation for life as evidence for that designer.

    lol

    I guess it is likewise the case that you can’t use the “fact” that common descent is a good explanation for shared features as evidence for common descent.

  58. Conspicuously absent from Mark Frank’s OP on skepticism is skepticism of skepticism itself. The sign of a true ideology.

  59. And even MORE irony:

    a shameless and clueless atheist who celebrates Christmas

    and

    another who is just clueless

    The second link is a killer as evos have ALWAYS used the phrase “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”, especially wrt the fossil record, yet he attempts to make it seem as if his opponents always use it.

  60. Oops, link correction:

    Absence of evidence IS evidence of absence (in many cases)

    Missing transitional fossils, missing functioning intermediates- evolutionism is all about “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”

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