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Atheist novelist sears popular science writing

Novelist Curtis White, incidentally an atheist, author of The Science Delusion: Asking the Big Questions in a Culture of Easy Answers excoriates the gullible materialism of popular science writing today.

As quoted in a review by Eric Banks (New York Times):

He is unhappiest when it comes to popular science journalism, which he views mostly as a malodorous brew of gushing prose mixed with a dash of snake oil: “The thing that I find most inscrutable about all of the recent books and essays that have sought to give mechanistic explanations for consciousness, personality, emotions, creativity, the whole human sensorium, is how happy the authors seem about it. They’re nearly giddy with the excitement, and so, for some reason, are many of their readers.”

Unfortunately for White’s timing, he finds his giddiest popularizer in Jonah Lehrer, to whom he devotes many pages. It’s rare these days to come across a diatribe about Lehrer that barely mentions his transgressions against journalistic ethics, but what angers White about “Imagine: How Creativity Works,” Lehrer’s best seller, has nothing to do with fabricated quotes or self-plagiarism. Instead, he is upset by the book’s misleading technological reporting and overheated metaphors — for example, when Lehrer calls measured changes in the brain’s blood flow “snapshots of thoughts in brain scanners.”

Note: Banks’s review strikes the perfect note for a dying medium. He just knows White has to be wrong, but wrong in the sort of way that prompts sniggers rather than savagery. Here, by the way, is what he says about philosopher Thomas Nagel, author of Mind & Cosmos:

Most works in philosophy enter the world quietly, but not Thomas Nagel’s recent “Mind & Cosmos.” With its chin-leading subtitle, “Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False,” the slim volume met with a firestorm of indignation from critics who thought Nagel had lost his mind or, worse, had thrown in with intelligent design theory. (Steven Pinker tweeted: “What has gotten into Thomas Nagel? . . . a once-great thinker.”) What incited the reaction was Nagel’s questioning whether advances in neuroscience are on the verge of resolving the mysteries of consciousness, and with it issues that have fueled philosophical speculation for centuries, from subjectivity to free will.

In short, Nagel brought it on himself by asking the questions you were never supposed to ask when the New York Times was the paper of record. And still aren’t supposed to ask.

Questions like, “Who believes all this cow plop anyway? Why is everything in pop science media written from the perspective that we all do believe it?”

All that said, White’s book begins promisingly but I found, on reading, that it advocates only a return to romanticism. It’s not so much that White’s wrong but that the problems lie deeper than he sees.

Put another way, due to the tsunami of information today, Braveheart would need to be a neuroscientist, a paleontologist, or an information theorist or someone similar to make a difference. At present, we are drowning in bullsh*t, not blood.

Note: Nagel brought it on himself? Gelernter makes the point in Commentary that craven academic legacy media types assume this.

See also: Science Fictions

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7 Responses to Atheist novelist sears popular science writing

  1. From the OP:

    Steven Pinker tweeted: “What has gotten into Thomas Nagel? . . . a once-great thinker.”)

    Yeah, when your first response is a pathetic ad hominem, on Twitter of all places, then you’ve pretty much lost any potential debate.

    For the very last time: any scientific theory, including neo-Darwinism, Darwinian evolution, or whatever the atheists are calling it these days, deserves to be fully tested and questioned. If it can’t be tested, experimented on, or questioned, then it’s not science, it’s dogma.

    Are the atheists really so stupid that they don’t understand this simple point? Or are they blinded by their slavish devotion to their god (materialism)?

  2. Developments in fMRI seem to have people running scared. The brain has been a black box. It’s a major organ that humans have not transplanted (unlike heart, lungs, stomach, kidneys, liver etc) but our technology is allowing us to open that black box.

    fMRI works using high power magnets, sensors and computers. It doesn’t need to be in a church and doesn’t use holy water (unless you want to call liquid helium and nitrogen that). The only blessing they need is safety certificates.

    Very much naturalism and yet unravelling consciousness. Go figure.

    Barb, given that the majority of Christians within Europe/UK accept the science of evolution and it’s really only American based Christians that have a bias towards dogma.

    There is an irony of you calling the fallacy of ad hom but then sprinkle your own post with fallacies.

  3. Phipps – It’s all a black box. Your fantastic overstating of our understanding is ridiculous yet typical. Around just what stage of understanding do you think we’re at in biology? Just about finished up? On what basis would one not expect to find at the least a comparable number of revelations still to come. The amazing body of discovery in biology since Darwin has only revealed greater, stunning complexity – unknown and unpredicted (World famous evolutionist after the fact storytelling and ‘co-option’ aside) Your smugness is amusing, “the brain ‘has’ been a black box” ‘it’s a major organ that humans have not transplanted – Ho-Hum’
    lol

  4. Mr. Phipps waxing poetic on MRI’s ??? Well that is a bit of a embarrassing thing for an atheist to do!

    Did Nobel Committee Ignore MRI Creator Because of Creationism?
    Likewise, Damadian told Newsday, “I can’t escape the fact that I started it all. … My concern is the distortion by the Nobel Committee to write me out of the history of the MRI. Every history book from now on will say the MRI is Lauterbur and Mansfield.”

    “I know that had I never been born, there would be no MRI today,” he told The Washington Post.

    Many scientists agree, but some suggest that Damadian’s self-promotion may have hurt him. He’s “sometimes flamboyant,” NPR science correspondent Richard Knox told All Things Considered yesterday.

    But Knox, along with Reason magazine’s Ronald Bailey, suggested another reason Damadian may have been disregarded: He’s a devout Christian,,,
    http://www.christianitytoday.c.....-51.0.html

    Picture – Dr Damadian with the history-making prototype of Dr Damadian’s MRI scanner. The first MR image of a human skull was made with this scanner on July 3, 1977. The prototype is now on permanent display at the Smithsonian Institution‘s Hall of Medical Sciences.
    http://creation.com/images/fee.....an_mri.jpg

  5. given that the majority of Christians within Europe/UK accept the science of evolution and it’s really only American based Christians that have a bias towards dogma.

    Even if it were so it would tell you absolutely nothing. Usually over 50% of the population in european countries believes that homeopathic agents are real medicine. Most people believe what’s being fed to them without further questioning.

  6. Seems Mr. Phipps, since he cannot provide any mathematical basis, nor empirical support, for Darwinism, is a fan of consensus science.

    Of note:

    of related note to the fact that Darwinists have ZERO empirical evidence of Darwinian processes EVER producing a molecular machine, here are several examples that intelligence can do as such:

    (Man-Made) DNA nanorobot – video
    https://vimeo.com/36880067

    Making Structures with DNA “Building Blocks” – Wyss institute – video
    https://vimeo.com/68254051

    Also of note, Dr. James Tour, who, in my honest opinion, currently builds the most sophisticated man-made molecular machines in the world,,,

    Science & Faith — Dr. James Tour – video (At the two minute mark of the following video, you can see a nano-car that was built by Dr. James Tour’s team)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CdU5ojTpyzg

    ,,will buy lunch for anyone who can explain to him exactly how Darwinian evolution works:

    “I build molecules for a living, I can’t begin to tell you how difficult that job is. I stand in awe of God because of what he has done through his creation. Only a rookie who knows nothing about science would say science takes away from faith. If you really study science, it will bring you closer to God.”
    James Tour – one of the leading nano-tech engineers in the world – Strobel, Lee (2000), The Case For Faith, p. 111

    Top Ten Most Cited Chemist in the World Knows That Evolution Doesn’t Work – James Tour, Phd. – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pR4QhNFTtyw

  7. Corrected link:

    Science & Faith — Dr. James Tour – video (At the two minute mark of the following video, you can see a nano-car that was built by Dr. James Tour’s team)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pR4QhNFTtyw

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