Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Feb/09

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New Ann Coulter book

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Two years ago Ann departed from what I had taken for a generally secular and modern public persona by coming out with a book entitled “Godless: The Church of Liberalism” which advanced, of all things, a down-with-Darwin line. Apparently I was not the only one a bit surprised by this development (Jillian Becker). Per Wikipedia, Godless includes the following curious statement: “Throughout this book, I often refer to Christians and Christianity because I am a Christian and I have a fairly good idea of what they believe, but the term is intended to include anyone who subscribes to the Bible of the God of Abraham, including Jews and others.” A hostile review in The New Republic is here.

Now she has a new book out entitled “Guilty: Liberal Victims and Their Assault on America”. Do any readers know whether it represents a return to earlier, better form?

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238 comments

  • Daniel Dare · February 19, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    Is the media tone any different in the antipodes?

    We are much closer to Asia psychologically than Americans, I suspect.

    We totally lack that North-Atlantic cultural fixation. We are Westerners at the southern extremity of Asia.

  • Kevembuangga · February 20, 2009 at 3:44 am

    Hannon
    People whose highest faith is in their own subjective ability to think rationally pose just as great a danger to themselves and those around them as fanatical religionists.

    Please, WHICH kind of “great danger”?
    How could straightforward recognition of EVIDENCE be a greater danger than delusional thinking?
    May be you are not really familiar with what scientific inquiry is truly about as opposed to wishful thinking.
    Did you ever bother to figure out, like reading E. T. JAYNES Probability Theory As Logic?
    Here are the first paragraphs of the introduction:

    “Man is surely mad. He cannot make a worm; yet he makes
    Gods by the dozen.” — Montaigne.

    It seems that mankind has always been occupied with the problem of how to deal with ignorance.
    Primitive man, aware of his helplessness against the forces of Nature but totally ignorant of their causes, would try to compensate for his ignorance by inventing hypotheses about them. For educated people today, the idea of directing intelligences willfully and consciously controlling every
    detail of events seems vastly more complicated than the idea of a machine running; but to primitive man (and even to the uneducated today) the opposite is true. For one who has no comprehension of physical law, but is aware of his own consciousness and volition, the natural question to ask is
    not: “What is causing it?”, but rather: “Who is causing it?”
    The answer was to invent Gods with the same consciousness and volition as ourselves, but with the additional power of psychokinesis; one in control of the weather, one in control of the seas, and so on. This personification of Nature must have been going on for thousands of years before it started producing permanent written records, in ancient Egypt and Greece. It appears that the adult citizens of those times really believed very literally in all their local Gods.

    This oldest of all devices for dealing with one’s ignorance, is the first form of what we have called the “Mind Projection Fallacy”. One asserts that the creations of his own imagination are real properties of Nature, and thus in effect projects his own thoughts out onto Nature. It is still
    rampant today, not only in fundamentalist religion, but in every field where probability theory is
    used.

    My emphasis.
    Would you also please note that in asserting “primacy of God” you are yourself showing faith in YOUR OWN “subjective ability to think”.

  • Daniel Dare · February 20, 2009 at 4:18 am

    Hannon,
    I don’t know what to make of someone who thinks the best solution for the atheism/theism issue is separation on a literally cosmic scale. Sounds like you are trying to fill some very deep need there.

    The deep need is the need to explore the cosmos, and discover its secrets. The reason separation is the best solution, is because against transhumans you would not survive 5 seconds. It is to protect you that we need to separate.

    There are three reasons why Space requires transhumanism:

    1. In a universe where faster-than-light travel is impossible, a fusion-powered rocket could get to about 10% of speed of light. At that speed you could get to several stars in about a century or two. If you have a lifespan of 1000 years, then the trip is worthwhile.

    2. Biologicals need to take a whole farm with them, to survive centuries in space. Cybertech transhumans could have nuclear powered bodies that would last decades without refueling.

    3. Biologicals are only adapted to life on one planet and require cumbersome spacesuits to survive in Space. Nanotech bodies could could be designed to survive in the vacuum of Space unprotected. Also you might be able to have interchangeable bodies, specialized for survival on different worlds.

  • AC · February 20, 2009 at 10:45 am

    I’m willing to start up a PayPal account to help you guys leave the earth, and discover the secrets of the cosmos.

  • Hannon · February 20, 2009 at 10:57 am

    Dare, you are just getting too trippy for me. Did you have a hippie era in Australia, too? How do your ideas of progress into space differ essentially from the concept of the Rapture? Your writings in that last post are so far out– though theoretically tenable (and that’s what maters)– that you’ve driven me straight to Biblical analogy. Much has been written in this area so I don’t need to go into it. You seem to want a separation from the natural limitations of being human. I get that on some days, but really it is grandiose delusion, maybe even a psychic break of sorts. I don’t say that to be mean. Surely you realize that as long we have consciousness, a soul, etc.– so long as we retain essential humanness– we will have difficulties to resolve among our own kind– or kinds as you would have it. Also you realize that the worst strife is almost always infraspecific, right? You are moving in the wrong direction as to solution.

    Kevembuangga– you say “Would you also please note that in asserting “primacy of God” you are yourself showing faith in YOUR OWN “subjective ability to think”.” Although I never said “primacy of God” I would agree with this statement generally. There is virtually no escape from subjectivity in my opinion (sounds humorous now that I read this line again). So what? What’s the big deal? Does subjectivity frighten you? How do we get around it, even in matters of science?

    You and Dare both have made a habit here of assuming my own disposition or beliefs regarding God and religion. For all of your prattling on about rationalism and reasoned thinking, and worship of same, you have repeatedly and wrongly, but perhaps unconsciously, inferred somehow that I took time off from the Southern Baptist Conference to be here maybe? Surely not Catholic! How about Buddhist or agnostic?

    The phylogeny of life as we understand it today shows that groups with the greatest evident diversity tend to be the groups that have the best chance to adapt and continue into the future, branching and modifying, allowing “extra bits” to fall off while the main line/s keep going. Could this principle apply to non-racial aspects of H. sapiens? Then atheists can be seen as the human equivalent of the lungfish or the ginkgo– still here and fascinating to be sure, but not going anywhere.

  • Hannon · February 20, 2009 at 11:36 am

    “Please, WHICH kind of “great danger”?
    How could straightforward recognition of EVIDENCE be a greater danger than delusional thinking?”

    What I said was *as great a danger”. Potentially equally dangerous. Not “great danger”. I agree that “delusional thinking” can be a great danger when combined with power or control over others but not as personal belief– unless you mean collectively?

    Let me give an example or two of the potential danger of acting (solely) on the “straightforward recognition of evidence”. How about eugenics, carried out in the US and elsewhere with the utmost rationality and “scientific reasoning”? We banned those practices, even though they could be argued to be “sensible” by humans who have been conditioned (using scientific methods) or broken with their own humanity. In the right secular environment it is not so difficult. Similarly, we can make arguments that people with certain genetic disorders should be sterilized. And what to do about the population control “issue”? Any suggestions?

    In the UK they have already begun to at least consider parsing health care to exclude those who have excessively abused their own health, or where their case is otherwise not efficient to process. Where does that end? Is it strictly a fiscal consideration? It is more than a problem of statist socialism. By the way, Dare’s answer of “statism and socialism” vis-a-vis the evil EU does not cut it. That monstrosity could not have been born without the crash of Christianity and a surge of secular unbelief.

    Or how about phasing out ugly or stupid people? Many would cheer that decision I am sure. But there is no end to that kind of “reasoning”. And that is why, without even considering these horrors, most of the world’s people know better than to believe only in their own perspicaciousness or wisdom.

  • Kevembuangga · February 20, 2009 at 11:54 am

    Hannon
    Does subjectivity frighten you?

    No, but the only “subjectivity” which matters is intersubjectivity, i.e. shared “subjectivity”, and in all practical matters I am quite sure we agree (a dropped stone falls to the ground, etc…) we only disagree on “metaphysical” matters for which you are at loss to provide any SHARABLE evidence.

    How do we get around it, even in matters of science?

    In matters of science, and where it is truly science, mistaken subjectivity is promptly redressed because reality kicks your ass as soon as you act.
    But perhaps you are not that much “reality based”?

    inferred somehow that I took time off from the Southern Baptist Conference to be here maybe? Surely not Catholic! How about Buddhist or agnostic?

    Not the slightest bit of difference, same poppycock!

  • Hannon · February 20, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    Kevembuangga, I don’t really understand your “sharable” challenge. As if it is some corollary to “measurable”? Beauty, truth, ugliness, kindness, all of these we know to exist yet they are not empirically measurable. They can be shared, but probably not to your evidentiary standards. Do you mean to disqualify the essential existence of these aspects of human reality by use of this argument? And by an extension of sorts, God? This pattern of argumentation is the kind most dreary. I would rather talk about lab rat victimology or missile defense.

    Still I think I get what you mean about “sharable” evidence but I do not agree. As you know there is a vast literature devoted to stark accounts of mystical experiences, many of which share striking commonalities. You seem to have completely closed off your mind to the veracity of such things. Has it not occurred to you that with our miracle brains there is more than one state in which we can receive information, and truth? That a state of mind that is *different* from the intellectually fact-craving state is experienced by some yet their experience cannot be devolved to rules of operation or formulae or precise replication?

    I will share this, though I doubt you will try to find the book or appreciate its humbling insights:

    Kundalini: the evolutionary energy in man. By Gopi Krishna. Shambhala, 1971.

    The idea of sharing is extremely subjective. What does it mean? What has been shared? Does the receiving party experience or know anything like what the transmitting party had experienced and intended to transmit? Even among scientists this is no easy process. Different scientists with comparable training will invariably come up with different interpretations to the same question, sometimes dramatically so.

    Well, it’s pretty hard to avoid reality so I don’t get too worked up over it. Thinking about what is “reality” too much will drive you around the bend. Can one person truly have a meaningful comprehension of it? Even if it were static, I doubt it.

    “Not the slightest bit of difference, same poppycock!”

    Wow, not even a break for unorganized spiritual belief– honest seeking vs. crushing dogmatism. This strikes me as equivalent to saying that atheists, whether of the “Oh, I don’t have any belief in God” or the “ALL RELIGIONS MUST DIE” philosophy are without the slightest bit of difference. And perhaps you are right.

  • Daniel Dare · February 20, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    How do your ideas of progress into space differ essentially from the concept of the Rapture?

    That accusation is often leveled at transhumanism. But consider the case I was making. There are large numbers of persons who support the transhumanist cause for all sorts of reasons. My case is a little different to most of theirs. My point is the space travel in a relativistic universe makes transhumanism one of the few ways interstellar travel could actually be accomplished.

    There are other possibilities. Freezing us in hibernation for centuries. Vast generation-spanning rocket ships. My thinking is that none of them are so practical and versatile as transhumanism. So I expect transhumanism will win out in the end.

    For instance, even if you want to operate easily in the outer parts of our own Solar System, it would be useful to be independent of a food supply for years (hence nuclear powered), and able to have a space-adapted body.

    Life always adapts to its environment. What if space was going to be our environment for ever?

    Surely you realize that as long we have consciousness, a soul, etc.– so long as we retain essential humanness– we will have difficulties to resolve among our own kind– or kinds as you would have it. Also you realize that the worst strife is almost always infraspecific, right? You are moving in the wrong direction as to solution.

    If you search the transhumanist literature you will see that imortality is only part of their vision. Also they seek a vast increase in intelligence. Once there are a substantial number of transhumans, constantly improving their designs, then unmodified Man is in real danger.

    I would protect the unmodified humans for the same reason we wish to protect chimpanzees and gorillas. They will still be our near-relatives. Even though we are no longer what they are.

  • Daniel Dare · February 20, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    AC
    I’m willing to start up a PayPal account to help you guys leave the earth, and discover the secrets of the cosmos.

    No need AC. I already have a pretty good idea who will seek transhuman technologies with a passion. Hint: It will be a powerful nation.

    Among the secrets I would seek, are how Man can best survive in and colonise Space, and whether there are other lifeforms in Space. These are the kind of things we can only discover by going and doing. For us right now, they are the undiscovered secrets. Others will no doubt reveal themselves as we explore.

  • Hannon · February 20, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Interesting stuff, Dare. I would not “blow it off” as SciFi nonsense necessarily, but I do not believe that such an elaborate escape will exempt you– transhuman or not– from the vagaries of biological existence. As others have pointed out, space colonization would only extend our tendencies (good and bad) into another realm. If we can’t get it right here there is every reason to believe that past behavior will dictate future behavior. Technology is an add-on no matter what it “evolves” into.

    Maybe it is your group that should worry about the machines eventually deducing your parasitism and the consequences for humans who would be your partners in all of this. Rationally designed machines have no knowledge of compassion or other irrational human features. You can model those things but you cannot share them. You keep referring back either directly or indirectly to the deep sickness that is the radical atheist creed: it’s all random molecules bumping around and none of it matters. But of course it DOES matter because you also refer constantly to competition!

    Who then is more likely to annihilate a competing group (100s of M of souls) when things get rough– atheists with such a mindset or those with a belief in God, who understand there are greater forces at work in the human heart and in the universe than we can ever master? Or is that your wish then, to get it done with? If so then what I said on Auster’s blog was much too tepid.

    “Once there are a substantial number of transhumans, constantly improving their designs, then unmodified Man is in real danger.” Sounds like you are ready for planetary genocide just like certain religious and historic atheist psychotics. So what is the difference then between transhuman madness and regular human madness?

    And if it comes to a war between us prerationals and you postrationals, your technological basis of existence had better be untouchable. Who will outfox the fox?

    The point between us still is not about any of these droll distractions. It is about man’s relationship with the higher organizing force that gave rise to us and all we know, and with each other. “Transhumanism” sure sounds nifty but it will only be able to operate on the rational basis we set out for it. See the problem?

    Ann who?

  • flenser · February 20, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    “If you search the transhumanist literature you will see that imortality is only part of their vision. Also they seek a vast increase in intelligence. Once there are a substantial number of transhumans, constantly improving their designs, then unmodified Man is in real danger.”

    What makes the “transhumanists” think that they are intelligent enough to be able to recognize intelligence, and be able to properly seek a “vast increase” in it?

    It’s as if an ant was pondering the creation of a being a super-ants. The vision of the idealized future must by definition be built on incomplete information, to put it very mildly. You are creating this vast hypothetical structure of what you think the future should look like based on little more than transitory emotional impulses. Because of your own beliefs, that is all it can be based on.

    Your “transhumans” are not transhuman at all. They are humans minus the traits you dislike and with hyper-developed traits you approve of.

  • Daniel Dare · February 20, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    Ann who?
    This is the thread that cannot die, Hannon.

    Sounds like you are ready for planetary genocide just like certain religious and historic atheist psychotics. So what is the difference then between transhuman madness and regular human madness?

    It amazes me Hannon the way you keep twisting my words and intentions. I make it clear to you over and over again how much non-interference drives me. The need to nurture and protect. To respect diversity. Do you ever wonder why you are so driven to distort?

    My point is not so much that this is what I seek, but rather that there is likely to be a “technological imperative”. The environment of “Man in Space” selects for this kind of future. Think of it as a forecast rather than advocacy.

  • Alan Roebuck · February 20, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    Kevembuangga,

    Since you are not capable of rational discourse, I hereby terminate all discussion with you. You may continue your monologue.

    To the others who doubt that consciousness is non-material:

    If consciousness is material, how is it measured? What is its unit of measurement?

    Also, being unable to give a mechanism for how mind interacts with matter, or fully to explain other mysteries, is not necessary in order to know that consciousness is non-material. Regardless of how these mysteries are resolved, if they are resolved, consciousness remains obviously non-material.

    You need to change your minds, and stop denying the obvious. This is also for your own goods.

  • Daniel Dare · February 20, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    Flenser, those are interesting theoretical questions and I concede they are valid points.

    The best answer I could give you is that people will go in the directions they choose, and in the end, natural selection will sort out what works.

  • Hannon · February 20, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    Dare, I did not realize your view that I had been twisting your words all along, which you imply only now. Doubtless I’ve got some of your points wrong, but this is the first time you say it is a habit of mine. It is also the very first time I’ve heard any reference from you about “The need to nurture and protect. To respect diversity.” All you have been saying in this broad regard is “non-interference”, whatever that means.

    “Once there are a substantial number of transhumans, constantly improving their designs, then unmodified Man is in real danger.”

    I interpreted this as a threatening stance or sentiment, rather in the same way that Muslims coyly mention their “1.2 billion strong co-believers”. You have also referenced China more than once, and this could be considered a threatening stance if I knew you were Chinese or in China. Either of which could be true.

    Are you sure you don’t mean “overreact” instead of “twisted your words”?

  • Hannon · February 20, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Dare, in that post that apparently upset you– I can see how it would– I expressed what I believe a predominantly atheistic future might entail. There will probably be horrors ahead for some generations no matter the proportion or power sharing of believers and non-believers. It is not a personal attack on you or your views.

  • Daniel Dare · February 20, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    And another thing Hannon, I don’t believe that the wars you anticipate are as inevitable as you think.

    Remember this is a very big universe. It’s likely there is room for many futures in it.

    But I do think space-farers will end up as some kind of transhumans in the end, because of the demands of long-term survival in Space.

  • Daniel Dare · February 20, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    OK Hannon maybe we misunderstand one another. But remember I am a Darwinian. I BELIEVE in diversity. Intensely.

  • Hannon · February 20, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    Dare, even under the best of circumstances the space thing is probably a long way off. The next major “trough”, if you subscribe to history as a wave and which we may be headed for now, could be deep and long and it would take very little to throw off what political-scientific equilibrium we do have: major volcanics, wars, plagues, food or water supply interruption, etc. Room for many futures? Yes, definitely.

    I am not a Darwinian but I believe evolutionary principles are the best explanation we have to account for the origins of diversity. My own life, professional and private, is completely immersed in biodiversity. Atheists have no monopoly on diversity worship. Remember some of the first Catholic priests to visit the Americas and other parts were also intensely interested in diversity. They saw God’s hand in the creation of such exuberant life, while you would see it as… what exactly? I can consider a hummingbird and earnestly say “that is a miracle of life” but this does not preclude a more scientific understanding as well. I’m curious what you mean when you say you believe in diversity. It obviously “works”, evolution “works”, but what connection do you feel to that diversity in a cosmic or even a local sense?

    Sorry, looked like the embers of this thread were dimming…

  • Daniel Dare · February 20, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    I am not Chinese. I am an European born Australian. But I do have great respect for China. I believe it is about to become an vast superpower. Unlike most Westerners, I watch it closely.

    How the West survives in a Chinese-dominated world is a deeply important question to me. We will be changed. I have no doubt of that. But I want the West and its best traditions to survive. Even if we are no longer number one.

    I believe the key to the West’s continued survival, is the path taken by the United States. This will require great wisdom.

  • Daniel Dare · February 20, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    I’m curious what you mean when you say you believe in diversity. It obviously “works”, evolution “works”, but what connection do you feel to that diversity in a cosmic or even a local sense?

    Diversity is the resource, the raw material, upon which natural selection works to produce evolution.

    Consider if the bulk of mankind follows the transhuman hi-tech path. And consider if on Earth, a bunch of “superstitious traditionalist prerationals” rejects that; but continues to survive.

    If the transhumans screw up badly. The traditionalists are our insurance policy. See? Diversity is strength.

    No-one is forcing anyone to take the path they take. Each follows their own path. But the outcome of multiple paths is survival.

  • Bill of MD · February 20, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    Alan Roebuck: “To the others who doubt that consciousness is non-material: If consciousness is material, how is it measured? What is its unit of measurement?”

    You completely fail to understand what it means to assert that consciousness “is material”. Those who advance this view do not believe that consciousness is a material “thing”, like the pineal gland or the visual cortex. They assert that consciousness arises as a consequence of brain action, just as 3D vision does. That is, as a consequence of the physical interaction of the material components of the brain, in the same way that (as I have pointed out at least twice) a non-material algorithm is instantiated in an entirely physical computer.

    Though this view is intuitively unappealing, it has the merit of being consistent with what we know about the effect on consciousness of drugs and brain disease, which are problematic for the idea of a non-material consciousness. It has other strengths that have been pointed out by other posters (and of course, ignored by you).

    Alan Roebuck: “Also, being unable to give a mechanism for how mind interacts with matter, or fully to explain other mysteries, is not necessary in order to know that consciousness is non-material.”

    Translation: I haven’t got a clue how the idea of a non-material consciousness would work in practice, and cannot resolve the contradictions that have been pointed out to me.

    Alan Roebuck: “Regardless of how these mysteries are resolved, if they are resolved, consciousness remains obviously non-material.”

    “…because I say so”.

    Alan Roebuck: “You need to change your minds, and stop denying the obvious.”

    Some of us are changing our minds about your ability to participate in a discussion of this issue.

  • Hannon · February 20, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    Dare, Thanks for your last two posts. It is like a different thread.

    I do not agree that Chinese “domination” is inevitable. In fact I think it is they who will be more recognizably changed than we. Undoubtedly they will grow stronger but they have really none of the culturally endearing and enriching traits manifested by the European colonizers, the British in particular. Politics aside, the Christian West– especially the US and UK– have been warmly regarded by the general populations of most countries, at least until very recently. Yes, I know how that sounds but honestly, can you see the Chinese in such a profound role? They are, in my own travel experience, often despised as shopkeepers, etc., in Latin America. It takes a hell of a lot more than high IQ to launch your own culture around the world without being resented.

    Do you believe the Chinese have an advantage in their atheism? You linked to something about Taoism– would you qualify this discipline as atheist? How many Chinese care about the Tao?

    The political overtures by China I have read about are nothing less than heartless resource exploitation, especially in Africa, which has been relatively ignored by other powers. See this enlightening piece:

    http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/126/special-report-china-in-africa.html

    The only way for them to truly assert global power is by projecting military might, and I understand they are well behind the US in this regard. They will have to displace someone else, not just elbow their way in. With a lack of concern generally and even contempt for non-Chinese, their road to hegemony or anything like it will not be an organic, peaceful development. But I could be wrong of course.

    “I believe the key to the West’s continued survival, is the path taken by the United States. This will require great wisdom.” I’m flattered for my Judeo-Christian nation. Well, frankly I see Australia as a key part of our survival as well, as long as you don’t end up joining the EU. With Europe dead or about to be “caliphated” this leaves the US, Australia, India and Japan to balance China. Multiple futures possible indeed.

    I am sure you are much more knowledgeable than me about China. Please name one place in the world where the PRC is welcomed warmly, is respected and is engaged in a productive mutual relationship. That friendship bridge in Sanaa does not count.

  • Daniel Dare · February 20, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    Do you believe the Chinese have an advantage in their atheism? You linked to something about Taoism– would you qualify this discipline as atheist? How many Chinese care about the Tao?

    The answer is complicated. It is simplifying but nevertheless true that there are two major threads in Taoism. Religious Taoism, and secular Taoism.

    The secular type is the one that I find the most intriguing. The Daodejing (Tao Te Ching) itself. Historically Taoism also gave rise to a very diverse religious expression.

    The communists in the early days severely crushed the monasteries. But Tao is “in the blood” of Chinese culture as is Confucianism and Buddhism. Many modern Chinese movies (e.g. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) have Buddhist/Taoist themes.

    Modern China recognises five offically-sanctioned religions: Taoism, Buddhism, Islam, Catholic, Protestant. They are of course deeply controlled by the party and the state.

    Hu Jintao, the current president of China, has emphasized a new attitude of toleration to religion. He enlists them in his policy of “Harmonious Society”.

    I have encountered rumors in several places, that the party may drop the requirement for Atheism as a prerequisite of membership. I am sceptical, but you never know.

    Is atheism an advantage for China?
    Rationalism and secularism is an advantage for anybody.
    But I respect diversity.

    As for China’s influence on the world: Nothing succeeds like success. For the immediate future China is content to grow into an economic superpower. How long before they start to exercise commensurate political/military power is the central question challenging all China-watchers.

    My advice: if you are under 30 and pursue a career in science, politics or business, make sure you learn Mandarin.

    Please name one place in the world where the PRC is welcomed warmly, is respected and is engaged in a productive mutual relationship. That friendship bridge in Sanaa does not count.

    It is welcomed with enormous enthusiasm in Wall Street, NY.
    It is also deeply respected by the US Treasury, since it is the leading purchaser of US government debt instruments.

  • Hannon · February 20, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    To your last paragraph: touche. We shall see if financial partnership develops into bonds of true friendship and mutual respect.

  • Hannon · February 20, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    Dare, i neglected to address this sentence of yours in response to my question about what diversity means to you: “diversity is the resource, the raw material, upon which natural selection works to produce evolution.”

    Pardon me but my cynicism is piqued at this. Are you saying that it is the raw material itself (DNA, RNA) in a suitable environment and subject to the effects of evolution that you find venerable? The process is the interest rather than any result? I can appreciate this sentiment to some extent but it also reminds me of graduate students caught up in their molecular studies who would not know a representative of their own study group in the flesh if it bit them on the ass. This has been the transformation of modern science– radical integration, reductionism (literally) and focus on process and mechanism. Wombat or wattle, who cares?

    What is missing, as I alluded to, is the proper study organism itself. We used to call it natural history. I’m not sure this is your belief or not but out of the above constraints one is almost forced to come up with a view that denies any importance to particular species or genera; the excitement– and intrinsic value– lies in the *potentiality* of the germplasm. 200 kinds of primates or 10, who cares? 30,000 species of orchids or 500, what does it matter? Saying it matters is like saying life is sacred. Well, life is sacred since we have no mastery of it except manipulation or destruction.

    I find this kind of thinking not only repulsive but nihilistic and against humanity, against all forms of life. Not against the processes that have brought these organisms to existence, but against manifest, particular life itself. Perhaps it is an analogue of the propositional nation: propositional life, or propositional nature. A good conservative opposes the “propositional” displacement of real and meaningful things.

    This line of reasoning fits the atheist philosophy quite well I should think. All the more reason to alert thinking people to its pitfalls and falseness as anything but a personal belief system.

  • Daniel Dare · February 20, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    No. At least I don’t think so. Truly, I am not sure what you’re getting at. Mutations occur and over time diverse populations are the result. Which is to say that no two individuals are identical except for identical siblings.

    From this diverse raw material, natural selection carves the progenitors of the next generation. If stirs the pot by sexual recombination and gives rise to generation N+1.

    If by diversity you mean a muliplicity of species, as in a rich ecosystem, then that is a consequence of what? Complex environments? Ancient ecologies that have become highly specialized? I am out of my depth here. I am not a biologist.

  • Hannon · February 20, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    Perhaps I’ve overcomplicated the thing. You said “I am a Darwinian. I BELIEVE in diversity. Intensely.” In conjunction with your atheist outlook, what does this statement mean? What do you *care about* in this regard?

  • Daniel Dare · February 20, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    I thought I made that clear. Diversity is insurance against change and contingency. A diverse species, whether that is genetic diversity or in Man’s case also cultural, is a resource not to be lightly thrown away.

    That is not to say that absolete forms won’t die out. But it is not wise to drive them out in the pursuit of ideological purity. Let nature dispatch them, I say.

    On the other hand, if a system is aggressive and attacks – like say Nazism – then it is a struggle for survival to preserve our own system. But I do not believe it is wise to initiate hostility.

    Success will breed imitators particularly culturally.

    My view is shifting too, because of my sense of the vastness of the cosmos. There is literally room for all kinds. An Earth-based perspective sees the struggle for survival in more desperate terms. It is more a zero-sum game.

    Unlike you, I think space is very near. China will make a big difference here I think. I expect HUGE progress in the next century.

  • Bruce Graeme · February 21, 2009 at 7:23 am

    According to the latest insight of Lawrence Auster, “God keeps sending one horrible lesson after another, and the lessons keep getting more and more horrible, but man–liberal man–never gets it…” – http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/012555.html

    I am really amazed at how logical he is after I have read this statement:
    “I’ve never been troubled by the extermination of the Canaanites, because the way the Bible story hits me, it is not about the Canaanites.” –
    http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/012519.html

    I think I have more insight of him now than before.

  • flenser · February 21, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    I am not Chinese. I am an European born Australian. But I do have great respect for China. I believe it is about to become an vast superpower.

    Thanks for sharing what it is you find worthy of respect. Power. That’s original.

  • Daniel Dare · February 21, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    flenser,
    If you do not respect power then you are niaive indeed.

    Also, I am an Australian and Asia is my neighbourhood.

  • Alan Roebuck · February 22, 2009 at 1:06 am

    Gentlemen,

    We need some clarity. I claimed that consciousness is nonmaterial by definition, and therefore it is absurd on the face of it to claim that it is a material phenomenon. I also said that consciousness is not composed of matter

    You responded with the example of motion: motion is not composed of matter, yet it is a material phenomenon.

    But motion involves matter in a definitional way (motion is something material moving from point A to point B), whereas consciousness does not involve matter in a definitional way, so the counterexample fails to rebut my argument.

    Furthermore, I asserted, there can be no unit of measurement for consciousness, whereas if consciousness were material, a unit of measurement could be found. This disproves the materiality of consciousness.

    In response to this, Bill of MD responded: “…consciousness arises as a consequence of brain action,…”

    Which simply brings us back to square one: I said consciousness cannot be solely a consequence of brain [i.e., physical] action, although the brain obviously influences consciousness, and you all say “yes it can.”

    So we need to step back and look at the big picture: You believe that consciousness can be explained solely materially, that is, solely in terms of matter, material events or properties of matter. [Note that I am defining materialism more broadly that just “made of atoms.”] Even though no such explanation that is convincing currently exists, you have confidence that such will eventually be found. Ether that, or else consciousness will be simply unexplainable. It’s a material explanation or nothing.

    But why do you have such confidence? There can be only one possible reason: because you believe that materialism is true, and therefore all explanations must be material.

    But why do you believe materialism? After all, it is a negative doctrine: NO non-material things. As a theist, I also believe matter, material events and properties of matter exist. What distinguishes your position is purely negative: you believe there are no non-material entities that really exist.

    And since this position is purely negative, it cannot be proved by lack of evidence. If we don’t know any evidence for Phenomenon X, it could be because no such evidence exists, but it also could be because we don’t yet know of the evidence that does exist. [It could also be because our way of thinking incorrectly presupposes that no such evidence exists.] And unless we are omniscient, we cannot know which situation is correct.

    (There IS one way materialism could be proved: if its opposite is logically a contradiction. But there is no contradiction in the concept of the supernatural. For example, the oft-repeated argument that “There cannot exist a being that is both all-powerful and all-loving” only proves that such a being as conceived of by the atheist does not exist. It does not disprove all possible concepts of God.)

    Therefore there can only be one reason for believing materialism that even has a chance of being valid: Because you believe that everything, including such thorny questions as the origins of consciousness and intelligence, are more plausibly explained by materialism than by theism.

    But why do you believe that the materialistic explanations are more plausible? Because you believe materialism. That’s what renders the non-materialistic explanations more plausible.

    And therefore you are arguing in a circle: materialism is true because it gives the most plausible explanations, and it gives the most plausible explanations because it is true.

    Now circular reasoning can sometimes give one a correct conclusion. But you cannot have any confidence in it, because the mode of reasoning is invalid. Furthermore, intuition (that is, common sense) suggests strongly that consciousness has an irreducibly non material nature: it is subjective, it has intentionality (“about-ness”), and so on. Therefore there’s no good reason to think that consciousness is material.

    And although it is not necessary because the big picture I gave above answers your challenge, here are my responses to your specific assertions:

    Bill of MD,

    You said “…the non-physical *can* be instantiated in a physical system, and [I] gave examples.”

    But there is no example of consciousness being so instantiated.

    You also said “But anything that interacts with matter is material, by definition.” No, something is not what it interacts with. I interact with my dog, but I am not a dog. The mind is influenced by matter, but that does not make it material.

    You also said, in parody of me, “If insect instinctive behavior is physical, what is its mass? What is its chemical composition? Etc. The conclusion is inescapable: insect instinctive behavior is not physical.”

    Insects are a borderline case: we cannot know what degree of consciousness they possess. Therefore your counterexample proves nothing.

    You also said: “The main problem with a non-physical theory of the basis of consciousness has apparently not yet been touched upon (pardon me if it has, this has become a very long thread): if consciousness is non-physical, how is it that consciousness can be profoundly affected by, for example, chemicals in the bloodstream, e.g. drugs and alcohol?”

    I am profoundly affected by my career choice, but I am not my career choice. I am profoundly affected by the food I eat (I literally could not live without it) but I am not my food. “Profoundly affected by” is not “is the same sort of thing as.”

    You are saying that since I cannot provide an explanation—a mechanism—for how the mind interacts with the brain, I must accept your position that the mind is identical to brain action. This is illogical: It is entirely possible to know THAT a thing is true without knowing WHY it is true. Your argument also undercuts your position more than mine: you don’t have a mechanism either, and your is required to be material, which is impossible.

    Grant Canyon,

    You said,

    “Consciousness is wholly physical. It is not material, however. That is your error; you are conflating the two. But they are not identical. For example, electricity is physical but not material (i.e., electricity is energy, so it is physical, but is not made of matter, so it is non-material.)”

    As I define the word “material,” electricity is material, because it involves matter. We have laws of physics that correctly predict and describe electricity, therefore it is physical.
    Consciousness is not the same sort of thing as electricity: it does not obey mathematical laws, it is subjective, etc.

    You also said (alluding to something I said),

    ‘[I]nterpret[ing] reality’ according to a ‘worldview’ is the essence of subjectivity.”

    Nonsense. Everyone has a worldview, even you. A worldview simply means the philosophical system which you employ to understand reality, and everyone has one. You are apparently claiming, as is common with leftists and atheists, that your philosophical system is obviously right while mine is obviously false. But these assertions are not true just because you say they are, because man is capable of being mistaken. Thus the need for discussion and argumentation.

    And if you cannot understand and acknowledge the above point, you are not capable of arguing rationally about deep issues.

    Bruce Graeme,

    You quoted Keith Augustine as saying,

    “It is remarkably significant that not a single scientific discovery has falsified naturalism in the sense of making supernaturalism more likely to be true than not when we can imagine several discoveries that would do so.”

    This is the quintessence of naiveté. Contemporary science ASSUMES, usually without even being aware of it, that naturalism is true. Augustine is saying “We have looked everywhere through our rose-colored glasses, and we have never seen non-rose-coloredness.”

  • Grant Canyon · February 22, 2009 at 8:55 am

    As I define the word “material,” electricity is material, because it involves matter. We have laws of physics that correctly predict and describe electricity, therefore it is physical.

    “As [you] define it.” You do realize that the words already have definitions already? Electricity is not material because it is energy, not matter. Obviously electricity “involves” matter, to the extent that it interacts with matter. But it, itself, is not matter; therefore, it is not material.

    However, even if we use your peculiar definition of “material”, then consciousness is “material” too, because it “involves matter.” It does not and cannot exist in the absence of matter. It is an emergent property of organic chemistry and electrical energy working in a substrate of neurological tissue.

    Consciousness is not the same sort of thing as electricity: it does not obey mathematical laws, it is subjective, etc.

    All you are saying here is that our understanding of consciousness is not as complete as our understanding of electricity. This is true. But that lack of understanding does not mean that a retreat to medieval notions of souls or pre-literate ideas about a supernatural planes of existence is the most reasonable explanation to fill in that lack of knowledge, or that they even constitute a reasonably acceptable one for anyone with the ability to think rationally. To paraphrase Douglas Adams, the fact that you cannot see exactly what is at the bottom of the garden is no excuse to suppose that there are fairies there.

    Nonsense. Everyone has a worldview, even you. A worldview simply means the philosophical system which you employ to understand reality, and everyone has one.

    Even if what you are saying is true and that everyone has a worldview and they all differ, then all that your argument establishes is that all conclusions arrived at by interpreting reality according to a worldview are subjective. If this were the case, then you have disproved your own statement that there is objective evidence of God but only if viewed with a certain worldview, because all such conclusions are subjective.

    You are apparently claiming, as is common with leftists and atheists, that your philosophical system is obviously right while mine is obviously false.

    Not at all. I’m claiming that my “worldview”, to the extent I have one, employs methodological naturalism and is demonstrably superior because it attempts to discern objective reality.

    Any worldview which does not employ methodological naturalism considers claims of the supernatural; things which are asserted as existing, but for which there is absolutely no evidence. As I’ve noted before, there are an almost infinite number of such supernatural things which can be imagined and which are consistent with reality, but which are mutually inconsistent, which are unnecessary to describe reality and which have no evidence to establish their existence. Under what basis is one to determine that one of these fantastical supernatural realms, beings and planes exists and that the other near infinite others do not?? And since there is no evidence to establish that any of them exist (other than your subjective wishing… sorry, viewing the evidence through your “worldview”), then why should a rational thinker and reasoning human being believe any of them exist? Because it makes you feel better? Because it gives your life “meaning”?

    And if you cannot understand and acknowledge the above point, you are not capable of arguing rationally about deep issues.

    Come now, if you cannot make two statements without making the obvious and silly fallacies you did here, then it is you who is incapable of arguing rationally about deep issues.

  • Bruce Graeme · February 22, 2009 at 9:52 am

    @ Alan Roebuck:

    Philosophical naturalism is a worldview based on reason and science, without appeal to religious mythology or mysticism, which can be intelligently applied to improve the human condition. The need for defending philosophical naturalism has never been greater, as the dogmatic forces of supernaturalism and superstition continue to exert excessive control over humanity. The “Center for Inquiry” is among the leaders of the crucial intellectual battle against these forces of ignorance and irrationality.
    http://www.centerforinquiry.net/research/introduction/
    —-

    For rigorous philosophical foundations of naturalism, unbeatable so far
    is Mario Bunge’s eight-volume work “Treatise on Basic Philosophy.” Despite the ambiguous title, this is an eight-volume defense of metaphysical naturalism in extensively formal detail–in fact this multivolume set is the only systematically complete defense of naturalism as a worldview yet in existence.

  • Ben Winters · February 28, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    Alan Roebuck :

    Alan Roebuck
    Bruce Graeme,
    You quoted Keith Augustine as saying,
    “It is remarkably significant that not a single scientific discovery has falsified naturalism in the sense of making supernaturalism more likely to be true than not when we can imagine several discoveries that would do so.”
    This is the quintessence of naiveté. Contemporary science ASSUMES, usually without even being aware of it, that naturalism is true. Augustine is saying “We have looked everywhere through our rose-colored glasses, and we have never seen non-rose-coloredness.”

    Alan,

    If you check the link, Keith Augustine argues that science has discovered, not assumed, only naturalistic processes. In other words, science could have (and still could) stumbled upon the supernatural, but never has:

    http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/keith_augustine/thesis.html#meta

    One might object that science could never falsify naturalism because scientific explanations are never cast in terms of supernatural causes. However, while scientific explanations are inherently naturalistic, scientific discoveries could strongly suggest that an event has occurred which could not plausibly be explained in terms of natural causes. For example, had human beings been the only life to appear on the planet Earth immediately after it was habitable, with no evidence of evolution from previous ancestors and no fossils of extinct species ever found, this would be a scientific discovery which would strongly suggest a supernatural cause of the origin of human beings. Science has undermined the credibility of all forms of supernaturalism not because science assumes that only natural causation occurs as a methodological principle but because science has been successful in using that assumption. There simply are no gaps in our scientific picture of the world which seem to require an appeal to supernatural causes.

    The argument is that the likely reason science has never stumbled upon the supernatural is because there is no supernatural to run across.

  • Anthony · February 28, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    Bruce said: “The need for defending philosophical naturalism has never been greater[.]”

    ???

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