Wednesday, November 07, 2007

ATTACK ME

My recent posts on alternative medicine (specifically homeopathy) inspired this. Here’s the idea. I’m going to outline “what I accept and what I don’t” without detailing the reasoning that led to my stances. There is no doubt in my mind that some people who I’m very close to philosophically will disagree with a number of my positions. You can make a comment attacking my position, and I’ll defend it. But even better (if you have a strong disagreement), take that idea back to your own blog and articulate your position on the topic in a new post.

For me, reason and rationality are not just how I arrive at a default position about gods (that there is no good reason to accept one; and thus my atheism). It goes much further than that in my life. I live by it. I sincerely attempt to apply the principles of reason to each and every decision, choice, proposition, etc that passes my way.

Atheism is really just a by-product of reason. There are many other consequences of rational thought, and the lists below give a good glimpse into the many subjects that have been effected by it in my life.

Just because a friend of mine is an atheist doesn’t mean that he or she sees every issue in the world like I do. We see one part of the world the same. This is one strong piece of evidence that atheism is not a religion and why atheists (when trying to get them on to the same page), are said to be “like herding cats”. We have no book of laws and values. The closet thing we have to a common value might be reason itself.

Reason leads me to reject many claims. I recognize that skepticism can be a hazard in and of itself. Some people who label themselves “skeptic” actually believe some very unusual things. This is because we are free to doubt every claim made to us. Because of that, I never use the word skeptic as a stand-alone term for my world view. I prefer “rational skeptic” or that I practice “rational skepticism”. And yet, I fully accept that most of the people I like and respect will also use reason to come to an entirely different viewpoint on certain topics. I think the difference between two atheists and two theists is that we are not locked into a dogma that would preclude commonality and coming to a mutually accepted resolution. I don’t see how a Muslim and a Hindu could have this same sort of dialogue about differences in dogma.

Here are two lists. Feel free to disagree with me on any topic from either list (knowing you people, that was about as gratuitous a statement as I could make)! As I said in the beginning, I’m not going to outline how reason leads me to my positions and will only do so if challenged. So to make this more than John’s self-congratulatory writing, you need to attack the ideas!

The first list is things that reason demonstrates to me are not true (some would be bad if they were true, others are simply bad to believe as true – because, in my opinion, they are not).

Gods of any kind; Angels; Devils; Souls; Spirits; Wraiths; Phantoms; Specters; Afterlife of any kind; Demon Possession; Demons; Exorcisms; Efficacy of Prayer; Miracles; Adam and Eve; Garden of Eden; Noachian Flood; Birth of Christ to a virgin; Resurrection of Christ; Creationism; Intelligent Design; Big Foot; Abominable Snowman or Yeti; Lock Ness Monster; Vampires; Werewolves; Zombies; The Bermuda Triangle; Homeopathic remedies; AIDS Denial; Vaccination Induced Autism; Chelation Therapy; Alien Abductions; Flying Saucers; Crop Circles; Alien Visitation of Earth; Area 51 alien spacecraft and bodies; Ancient astronauts; Ghosts, apparitions or poltergeists; Haunted Houses; Witch Craft; Sorcery; alchemy; Tarot card reading; Astrology; Fortune telling; Grand conspiracies; Illuminati New World Order; Holocaust Denial; Faked moon landing; Telepathy; Out of Body experiences or OBE; Premonitions; Paranormal; Psychokinesis.

The second is a list of things that reason has demonstrated to me to be evidenced, or to be valid tools in leading to truths.

Human Induced Global Warming; Modern (Western) medicine; Alternative fuels; sustainable living; Diplomacy over war; Genetics; Physics; Cosmology; Astronomy; Biology; Evolution; A common ancestor for all earth life; Evolutionary Psychology or Sociobiology; Population genetics; Evolutionary Developmental Biology; The Fossil record; Transitional fossils; Chimps as closest living relatives to Homo sapiens; Radiometric dating; 13.7 Billion year old universe; 4.5 Billion year old Earth; 3.5 Billion years of life; Hundreds of billions of stars in the Milky Way; Hundreds of billions of other galaxies in the universe

It may jump out at you that the “negative” list is a lot longer than the “positive” list. In my mind, there should be an even greater variance. In the universe of all ideas, there are thousands of bad ones for every good one. Anyway – have at me!

____________________________________

Update 11/8 - The Exterminator has an interesting response to the concept of rationality.

34 comments:

The Exterminator said...

Well, f'cryinoutloud, John I hate to disappoint you but there's nothing in either of your lists that I can attack you about.

Oh, wait. There is: you misspelled Lock Ness monster. That k should be an h.

But I just don't think that's worth a whole post on my own blog.

John Evo-Mid said...

LOL!!

Freakin' Scotsman. Nah... you probably aren't even. Just too damn smart.

Funny, I was thinking about you while writing this (since you have a bit of a contrarian rep), and yet I had a funny feeling that you might show your contrarian colors a different way this time. I had the idea that we were pretty close on this stuff, though it sure wouldn't have shocked me if you disagreed on one or two. It's very unusual to find someone who agrees with you quite that completely.

I'm thinking Philly Chief will have a couple he takes exception to. I definitely think Ordinary Girl and the Slut will disagree here and there. SI is a 50/50 proposition.

Let's see... is there anyone else who ever posts on my blog?

PalMD said...

Call me crazy, but that doesn't seem all that controversial (ducking to avoid rotten tomatoes intelligently designed by god to impact my skeptical noggin).

The Exterminator said...

Well, now I'll be contrarian. I can't imagine any of the people you named disagreeing with anything on these lists.

If you're trying to goad us, why not be honest and just get out your damn cattle prod?

The only one I might have even a question about is the Efficacy of Prayer. I think ...

Oh, shit, I can't write that with a straight face. Sorry, but you'll have to find another chops-buster for this post.

John Evo-Mid said...

@ PalMD

Well, they were not meant to be "controversial", but you would be surprised - I know atheists who fervently believe in things like alien abduction, AIDS denialism, homeopathy, Illuminati and other things on the list.

Your whole focus is anti-woo (by the way, for both of you regulars who are not familiar with the term woo - I wasn't - then you need to go to PalMD's blog and on the top bar he gives a link to one of his posts that defines it). Since you are part of a group that battles woo thinking, your intimates are not likely to believe any of these things. I can assure you though, there are a lot of "skeptics", who are "skeptical" of the government telling us the truth about these things. I know it sounds weird, but they are out there!

@ Exterminator

Stop raining on me. Now no one is going to want to speak up because you're going to make them feel silly for it! Come on, Philly Chief was already starting to defend some forms of alternative medicine and I know there are other things "our group" doesn't agree with me on. We aren't THAT uniform in our thinking. Hell, if we are, maybe we ARE a religion! :)

I'll give you a cattle prod...

Lim Leng Hiong said...

I'll have a go...

First list - I would have to disagree with "Gods of any kind" since I see Gods not as supernatural beings but as socio-emergent entities created by a large, organized network of believers.

Second list - "Diplomacy over war" sounds like an ideal rather than a valid tool for truth. For all its horror and anguish at the individual level, to a state, war can be an effective tool to bend political adversaries to their will. Large-scale conflicts are not as common now but I doubt mankind will ever be free of war.

No major issues with any other points though.

The Exterminator said...

Lim:
I would have to disagree with "Gods of any kind" since I see Gods not as supernatural beings but as socio-emergent entities created by a large, organized network of believers.
You're playing semantic games here. What you're talking about are not gods, they're cultural myths concerning gods. No one would deny that those "socio-emergent entities" exist.

"Diplomacy over war" sounds like an ideal rather than a valid tool for truth. For all its horror and anguish at the individual level, to a state, war can be an effective tool to bend political adversaries to their will. Large-scale conflicts are not as common now but I doubt mankind will ever be free of war.
I think this is a problematic one, because it's not really about belief, per se, as in "does that thing exist?" It's about John's -- and my -- preference. I think one could make a good argument that war is a losing proposition for a state when looked at from the long view. War breeds war, and if history teaches us anything it shows that states cannot stay strong indefinitely. So although you are correct that a state may achieve a short-term benefit from bellicosity, I think I could counter quite cogently that military victories are all, ultimately, Pyrrhic. I do agree, though, that until humans have evolved, wars will continue to be fought. I'm afraid that George W. Bush is more indicative of the current gene pool than John-Evo is.

The Exterminator said...

John:
All this rationality-worship got me thinking, and I actually did write a serious post in response.

PhillyChief said...

Hey, I said I don't buy into crap like magnets or crystals, but you're looney if you think massage doesn't help a cramped muscle.

There are some things on your 'not true' list that I wouldn't move to the 'true' category, but I'd either put in a middle category or at least put an "*" next to. Once of which is diplomacy ALWAYS trumping war.

John Evo-Mid said...

@ Philly Chief and @ Lim (and to some degree Exterminator and Pal)

You both hit on to something that occurred to me while writing, which was you can't really just throw these terms out there MINUS the context that I swore not to give! They become cliché, misinterpreted or devoid of meaning.

Because we have a language and a general thought process that we societally agree on, I am able to "get away with it" to some extent. you know what I mean, both because you know me (in a limited way) and because you recognize the phrase for have some contextual meaning to START with.

All in all, my "idea" may have been a good one, but my execution of it was horrible.

I'll just go ahead and clear up a couple of points here.

Massage - I don't think even scientists would label it "alternative" unless you were to use it to the exclusion of any other treatments. It's more what PalMD describes as "complimentary".
Now, while I have no problem with massage (in fact I wouldn't mind one right now) you DID also mention acupuncture which I find much more problematic. It's certainly not the worst of alternative meds, but I doubt it's efficacy.

And of course I believe "Diplomacy always trumps war". But to clarify, that doesn't mean there's never a good cause for military action - just that we should always use our intellects to find solutions where possible.

Back @ Exterminator (and everyone)

Yes, definitely let me know if you decide to write a post about any of this and I'll link to it on the main post.

PhillyChief said...

My wife feels more inclined to go with acupuncture. Being a more hands on kind of person, I opt for massage. Now sure, the massage doesn't get to the roots of the problems causing my spasms:
1) poor posture
2) failing to stretch regularly
3) failing to remain properly hydrated
4) poorly dealing with stress
but you know what? Neither did prescribing me muscle relaxers. Suck it, mainstream medicine! ;)~

I may write a full response on my blog, but as far as diplomacy trumping war I immediately think of Chamberlain or the American Revolution. We can talk, but you've got to be ready to "put up your dukes" if need be. This is arguably at the root of our right to bear arms in the US, that it exists so that we could have the means to overthrow the government if need be. It may seem silly to think of taking on the army with a hunting rifle or a handgun, but you never know. Bush is scaring the crap out of me and one thing's for sure, he's a man you can't "diplomacize" with.

John Evo-Mid said...

"he's a man you can't "diplomacize" with."

A Bushism if ever I heard one!

No, I hear you on the inevitability of violent conflict, and that being the case it's better to be prepared for it than not.

Modern medicine gives us that HPV vacine you have been talking about. It's the main reason that the average lifespan has nearly doubled in the past 400 years and I won't even go in to all the reasons. Let it be said that most of the alternative medicines were all available 400 years ago. Is there ever reason to criticize? Sure. But overall, you wouldn't like the look of this world without it. You and I probably wouldn't even exist.

ordinarygirl said...

I agreed with all of you negatives, but I noticed 911 Conspiracies were conspicuously missing. I'm sure it's just an oversight. ;)

On your positives list, I'm a little skeptical about alternative fuels. I think they're a good thing, but I don't know about the viability of something like bio fuels and many people have a problem with nuclear energy. Care to go into more detail? It's a subject that I'm not well educated in, but I'd be happy to do some reading and write up my own stance.

EnoNomi said...

I'm afraid I agree with your lists except for one; Zombies! How are you going to survive the comming Zombie Apocalypse if you don't believe! Your brain is in serious danger, my friend.

John Evo-Mid said...

OG,

Well, NO, I thought it was obvious that there is WAS a conspiracy by the Bush Administration to take down the towers! :)

Don't know how I missed that one, but a new fun game to play (that you started) would be "Add to John's List".

All of that came to me pretty fast and easy and it looked so complete that I didn't give it enough thought. In reality, like I said, there are SO MANY bad ideas that I really barely scratched the surface.

The 9/11 Conspiracy would have been a really good one to use though because of its immediacy and wealth of followers. I'm sure there are more people who buy in to that than believe in "zombies" for instance.

But, what the hell, you got the idea - quit picking on me. I'm an EXTREMELY sensitive person who finds it difficult to handle criticism with equanimity.

EnoNomi said...

I'd also like to point out you and I posted at the exact same moment about Zombies. How's that for synchronicity? And what about "synchronicity"? Does that go on the true or not true list?

John Evo-Mid said...

@ enonomi

LOL! I can't believe that out of all the examples of "bad ideas that not many people have" I would have picked that one.

Synchronicity - It HAS TO be true!

mynym said...

For me, reason and rationality are not just how I arrive at a default position about gods (that there is no good reason to accept one; and thus my atheism).

What is your rationale for your own rationality? It seems to me that given Darwinian theory the rationality by which you arrive at your "positions" (i.e. random brain events) has more to do with natural selection and the mating habits of ancient worms than what you seem to be thinking conceptually.

John Evo-Mid said...

@ mynym, who said:

"It seems to me that given Darwinian theory the rationality by which you arrive at your "positions" (i.e. random brain events) has more to do with natural selection and the mating habits of ancient worms than what you seem to be thinking conceptually."

That's because you and I both have a very limited understanding of evolution, natural selection, genetics and their interplay with nurture and environment (specifically in our species, where the brain has evolved such enormous capacity). I would guess more so for you than for me (based on that statement); though I don't claim vast knowledge and you could be playing devil's advocate.

But, really - "Random brain events"? a couple of years of intensive study and that'll clear right up, mynym! :) Let me suggest the following for starters: E.O. Wilson, "On Human Nature", Steven Pinker, "The Blank Slate", Daniel Dennett, "Darwin's Dangerous Idea".

Random events naturally have an effect on our outlook, but to assert it as if to say, "look, this is what science says and it's ALL science says" is a fallacious argument. It appears an awkward attempt to marginally intellectualize "science says we're monkeys".

Anyway, as long as you're here, why not take up the challenge of my post? Personally, I'd love to hear your reasoning on any of my positions you disagree with. That would really be more interesting than batting around the ontological basis for how we come to have rationality in the first place. I assume that even if you think you received it from an omniscient being, you see yourself as his rational subject. So what does your reason tell you about my specifically stated (although, admittedly, contextually lacking) positions?

mynym said...

But, really - "Random brain events"? a couple of years of intensive study and that'll clear right up, mynym! :)

I am just a simple fellow so perhaps you could help me. For example, when biologists use the term "random" when they speculate about the random mutations by which the brain is built what do they mean? Aren't such mutations governed by natural laws of cause and effect which are not "random"?

Steven Pinker, "The Blank Slate", Daniel Dennett, "Darwin's Dangerous Idea".

From what I've read Pinker doesn't deal with the fundamental issues having to do with language:To his credit, Dawkins acknowledges the reality of both consciousness and language and the problem this poses. “Neither Steve Pinker nor I can explain human subjective consciousness—what philosophers call qualia,” he said once. “In How the Mind Works Steve elegantly sets out the problem of subjective consciousness, and asks where it comes from and what’s the explanation. Then he’s honest enough to say, ‘Beats the heck out of me.’ That is an honest thing to say, and I echo it. We don’t know. We don’t understand it.” Wolpert deliberately avoids the entire issue of consciousness—”I have purposely avoided any discussion of consciousness.”(There is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind
by Antony Flew and Roy Abraham Varghese :176)

As for the others if you've read their books then you should be able to educate me about their texts. In Dennett's case it seems that his text is an artifact of functions which "he" has no control over. As he says, "I don't believe in 'I'." Again, I am just a simple fellow but "I" have to wonder at someone who reduces their text to an artifact of bodily functions. For if that's the case then it may as well be excrement, yet he seems to feel that he can explain the whole Cosmos based on his own excrement.

Personally, I'd love to hear your reasoning on any of my positions you disagree with.

Apparently I disagree with you on intelligent design given that I think it is possible to recognize the work of intelligence in physical artifacts and mediums, perhaps the best case for identifying the work of intelligence as such is the use of abstractions like language and "codes" which specify encoded information.

John Evo-Mid said...

@mynym

"I am just a simple fellow so perhaps you could help me."

Really... you come to sit at my feet and absorb my wisdom? When your blog is a million word screed largely aimed downplaying Darwinian evolution?

We're all fairly simple, mynym, even though you say it ironically. I don't think there is a thing in the world you can learn from me. But you already knew that.

" perhaps the best case for identifying the work of intelligence as such is the use of abstractions like language and "codes" which specify encoded information."

The old argument from incredulity revisited. You can't understand how science could say language and genetic codes could evolve without at sentient force, so you don't accept it.

Again, this is not easy stuff, but for people who really want to understand it, the research is out there and pretty slam-dunk. Or, you can just read snippets of older material that you believe confirms your POV.

mynym said...

Really... you come to sit at my feet and absorb my wisdom?

I'm merely accepting your argument about all that I do not know.

I don't think there is a thing in the world you can learn from me. But you already knew that.

Your original argument was based on all that I do not know which I should know and so on, so I would think that you had some knowledge in mind that I do not know.

The old argument from incredulity revisited.

I didn't say that the use of language was necessarily all that incredible. After all, marginally intelligent people can use language in incredibly credulous ways in order to cite their own gullible credulity as evidence as many Darwinists do. On the other hand one ought to admit that some uses of codes, like DNA, are rather incredible.

You can't understand how science could say language and genetic codes could evolve without at sentient force so you don't accept it.

There is no reason to deny that codes and languages evolve, many can be observed to do so. There is reason to deny that change is the reason for reason or that meaning is some type of illusion which emerges from meaninglessness. There is reason in Aristotle's philosophy when it logically leads to some type of unmoved Mover but we have no reason to try to trace cause and effect back to an imaginary oblivion.

Or, you can just read snippets of older material that you believe confirms your POV.

So often it seems that myths of Progress are woven into support for Darwinism. It is almost as if people imagine that Progress through time will always take place simply because they imagine it is so in their creation myth. But despite that apparent pattern you may be correct, I am just a simple fellow after all. Perhaps I am less evolved and so on, so what is all the new material wrought by the progress which you would claim to know that I do not know about?

vulcanis said...

I admire your welcoming of criticism. However, I have found in my short experience of blogging that the majority of criticisms do not appeal to rationality and reason. All too often I get a verbal attack that is abusive and emotional - no mention is made of an alternate position or how I could look at things from a different perspective. Such people simply disagree vehemently and aren't afraid to show it. Even when challenged such people don't reflect on their comments or the rebuttal I present to them. Emotionality has no place in philosophical argument.

PS Thanks for your reading suggestions as per your comment on the 'Spanish Inquisition' website.

John Evo-Mid said...

@ mynym

"I'm merely accepting your argument about all that I do not know."

An "argument" that, I thought, went to lengths to include ME!

"On the other hand one ought to admit that some uses of codes, like DNA, are rather incredible."

I couldn't have given a better example of the argument from incredulity.

"There is reason to deny that change is the reason for reason or that meaning is some type of illusion which emerges from meaninglessness."

True. But I think you, again, are arguing against something that isn't there. Look, if we're going to take everything back to "origins" then we all have a problem, because neither science nor religion (and I use that word in the broadest possible sense) has been able to do that.

Biology does not claim to prove we came from forth from nothing in complete randomness. It doesn't have that answer. But it's working on it! What it does rather elegantly, is show how all life has evolved since the first replicator appeared. But this lack of ultimate knowledge is not a black-eye, it is proof that science is about learning, as opposed to being about creation myths. And it is far from logical to conclude that since science, at this moment, can not tell us our origins (or what “meaning” means) that therefore there must have been a sentient creative force. If there is a sentient creative force then we need to be able to define it in some manner, or else it is silly to simply declare its existence.

"So often it seems that myths of Progress are woven into support for Darwinism. It is almost as if people imagine that Progress through time will always take place simply because they imagine it is so in their creation myth."

Listen, for all I know, you may be correct in your "barbarians with technology" myth. This (science, knowledge, alleged “progress) may well ultimately lead to our extinction. We are manifestly much further in our technological advancements than in our social ones.

But do you think that means that Darwinism (and I also use THAT word in its broadest possible sense) is incorrect? Do you think "false" and "bad" equate. I do not. I think that even if your worst Darwinian fear came true, it would not mean that we, and all life, didn't evolve based on random changes that led to more effective replication.

"Perhaps I am less evolved and so on, so what is all the new material wrought by the progress which you would claim to know that I do not know about?"

You know perfectly well that I said nothing about you being less evolved. I do think that you, as interested as you are in the subject, and as vigorous, robust and universal as the theories of evolution have become over the last 150 years, should do a lot of reading from sources that you may well end up disagreeing with and ripping to shreds.

I gave you 3 places to start. You shrugged it off with some comment about something Pinker said back in the 90s. Well, I’m not familiar with the entire context of that, but I do know about "The Blank Slate", written four years ago. It's powerful and fascinating.

You didn't say anything about the other two books I recommended. You tossed out a little Dawkins from The Ancestor's Tale. So let me ask you - did you read that entire book, cover to cover? You said in another post that it wasn't at all clear if Dawkins had actually read Behe's book. I make the same observation from your Dawkins quote. That book is full of studies and research and the conclusions of some of the brightest minds in the world (not just Dawkins. He's just relating the science). If you read that book and came to no new conclusions then perhaps you'd be wasting your time on Pinker, Wilson and Dennett. But if you didn't read these books, maybe that would be a good place to start, and at least you would know first hand what your arguments should be arguing against, rather than setting them up yourself to knock down yourself.

John Evo-Mid said...

@ Vulcanis, you're welcome and stop by anytime. Even if it's to disagree.

John Evo-Mid said...

@ mynym

Remember I made a comment about evolution being a slam dunk? Here's why I say it

Check out the post and the video, and if you think you want to expand your horizons, read the book (written two years ago).

The Ridger, FCD said...

"Premonitions" - well, maybe. Not if you mean ESP/Clairvoyance/seeing the future, but a good hunch is often a below-the-surface observation.

And really I'm only saying that to have something to say...

PhillyChief said...

"I am just a simple fellow so perhaps you could help me... Again, I am just a simple fellow but "I" have to wonder... I am just a simple fellow after all. Perhaps I am less evolved and so on, so what is all the new material wrought by the progress which you would claim to know that I do not know about?"

Why do I picture the late great Phil Hartman in his Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer character saying all this? (Video clip) I suppose it's doubly amusing considering the discussion addressing Evolution.

"So often it seems that myths of Progress are woven into support for Darwinism. It is almost as if people imagine that Progress through time will always take place simply because they imagine it is so in their creation myth."

Forgive me for I'm just a simpleton. I have not heard of these myths of which you speak. Please bestow upon me some of your better sagas of Progress woven into Darwinism. Once again I apologize for my idiocy, but I always thought that evolutionary change was random and that if a mutation occurred that made a change significant enough to aid a creature, it had a better chance of surviving to breed, thus passing on said mutation, and if the change adversely affected the creature, then it's chances of survival and of course breeding would be reduced. "Progress" is then both random and not objective, but subjective to the environment of the creature. 30 generations of "Progress" may well be the death of something should the environment change. Ironically, that ancestor might have a better shot surviving in this changed environment than this "Progressed" descendent. Maybe the environment doesn't even have to change. Perhaps a mutation causes both a positive and a negative change, like sickle cells. In that case yes, resisting malaria is beneficial for survival but anemia is a problem. Is this Progress?Of course this is as I, an obviously obtuse individual, have come to understand Evolution.

If I could be so bold as to ask for yet more pearls of wisdom to be bestowed on such a lowly swine, would you be so kind as to also share with me this creation myth you speak of, mynym? Thank you.

"so what is all the new material wrought by the progress which you would claim to know that I do not know about?"

I'm confused because you said there were myths of Progress. Don't these myths cite what you're asking for? What kind of myths are they if they don't cite the Progress? If John made claims to know this progress, I'm struggling to see exactly where he said so. Again of course, I'm a muddleheaded mental midget so no doubt I missed it and it's obvious and you could point it out to me in a second.

John Evo-Mid said...

LOL! That Unfrozen Cave Man clip was pretty funny!

I think mynym could do just fine by leaving that shtick out of the argument. I don't claim personal superiority over anyone, but I do defend the Theory of Evolution as superior to any other explanation (and, quite frankly, there are NO other scientific explanations).

The whole issue of "evil Darwinian theory" is worth refuting. The theory has nothing to do with good and evil. It's a valid or invalid theory - Well, it IS valid, but for arguments sake...

Mynym is correct when stating that it's not just the Nazis who have misused science. Our own government has. So what? What are you going to do about evil people? Is not telling the truth about evolution going to help in this area? When a group of hunters, 500,000 years ago invented a spear for a completely "positive" use of helping the community survive by more effective hunting, how long do you suppose it was until one of them used that spear for an evil purpose? I would guess within that same generation. Should hominids have ceased their creativity? Was science to blame? Was the spear evil? Can Darwinian theory, like eugenics, like inter-continental missiles, like the spear, be used evilly? Of course. Are they intrinsically evil?

I'll leave it to you. I'm a simple man.

Infidel753 said...

I approached this posting with great interest since I know that atheists can differ quite a bit on issues other than the defining one of lack of belief in a deity. But I'm hard pressed to find anything on your lists I really disagree with. I do think there are enemies so intractable that diplomacy doesn't work and war is the only means of neutralizing the threat they present, but that doesn't necessarily contradict "diplomacy over war" if you just mean that diplomacy is better than war in cases where either one could get the desired result, which seems most consistent with your later comments.

However, since you also specified disbelief in "afterlife of any kind", it occurred to me that this highly-speculative posting I wrote a couple of weeks ago might be relevant, if only as an approach to that concept which is different from the religious one.

Infidel753 said...

Sorry, forgot to insert link to posting -- here it is.

PhillyChief said...

It's fun to imagine uploading brains to computers or sustaining a brain's life beyond the body, or at least comically beyond JUST the body as in the cartoon Futurama.

John Evo-Mid said...

I haven't check Infidel's link yet, but based on Philly's comment it is in the direction I figured (almost as soon as Infidel mentioned "afterlife").

Look, I'll still say "I don’t accept any kind of afterlife", simply because we aren’t technologically close to it. But I will acknowledge the point. Science has "a chance" of providing that possibility in the future. At the rate of technological change, it could happen fairly soon - if it's possible at all, which I remain unconvinced of.

I'm not a huge Kurzwiel fan, but he certainly adds some flavor to the debate. If you want to see a fun video, search "surviving the singularity" on the blogger search engine at the top left of my blog, then watch the video.

I'll check out your post Infidel. Thanks for stopping by.

heather said...

Great! I actually get a change to argue the toss over one of these. :-D

Otherwise, your choices are more or less unarguable
BUT
Sociobiology = a load of nonsense.

Not in the concept (we are obviously biological organisms as well as forming societies) but in the silly one-dimensional expression.

Tends to involve extrapolating about human society on the basis of animal behaviour, after explaining the animal behaviour itself in terms of culturally-constructed myths about society. ("alpha males", "gender imperatives in reproduction"and so on) In fact, some of its arguments are so silly they make me doubt whether half the "animal societies" stuff is remotely plausible.

Michael Rose (?) wrote good critiques of it over twenty years ago. Its new manifestations can be found in pseudo-science nonsense about women liking pink for evolutionary reasons. i.e garbage.

Circular reasoning.... with some pretty unpleasant anti-humanist implications.

I think there's lots of room, even a crying need, for an understanding of evolution and cultural and social forms. But any sociobiology that I've ever come across is just stupid and shows where a lack of respect for social sciences can lead.