Reed A. Cartwright posted Entry 2967 on March 8, 2007 10:15 AM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/2957

I know that SUNY Stony Brook has a great evolutionary biology program. That being said, the ignorant rantings of neurosurgery professor Dr. Michael Egnor have to be an embarrassment to Stony Brook. Orac, a surgery professor himself, gives Egnor another drubbing over the incredulous comments he made on a recent Discovery Institute pod cast.

Just when I thought I could put the paper bag away……That all around evolution-ignorant but nonetheless eager lapdog of the Discovery Institute, SUNY Stonybrook Professor of Neurosurgery Dr. Michael Egnor, is back.

Rats. I thought that the utter drubbing he took at the hands of myself and my fellow ScienceBloggers (in particular PZ Myers) might have given him the message that he needs to lay low for a while. Apparently not. I guess he must have the monumental ego that more than a few neurosurgeons are famous for. (After all, it takes supreme confidence in one’s own abilities to be able to cut into the human brain and believe that the patient will come out OK.) It’s not enough this time for him to show up in the comments of PZ’s blog to make a fool of himself and embarrass scientific surgeons everywhere. This time around, he’s appearing on the Discovery Institute podcast, to be interviewed by fellow DI lapdog and sometimes attack poodle Casey Luskin in a a truly nauseating lovefest entitled, One Doctor’s Journey to Becoming a Darwin Doubter:

Not surprisingly, basically all Dr. Egnor’s “critique” of “Darwinism” boils down to is his personal incredulity that biological complexity could ever possibly have evolved from more simple elements without the input of intelligence, his anthropomorphizing the genetic code, and his concluding that, because the genetic code functions like a human language and because human language is created only by the “intelligent design” of humans, then the genetic code must have been intelligently designed. That’s it. No data supporting his position, just his “doubts.” His propensity to equate “randomness” with “meaninglessness” also strongly suggests the religious, not scientific, roots of Egnor’s “skepticism” about “Darwinism.”

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Comment #164528

Posted by realpc on March 8, 2007 10:43 AM (e)

I can’t help noticing how extremely angry scientific materialists get when anyone dares to question the standard mechanistic theory of evolution. It’s even worse when the skeptic is obviously not uneducated or unscientific.

What are you so afraid of? Never mind, I know. Instead of dying out slowly, religion will stubbornly continue to exist and continue destroying the world. Or, just as bad, everyone will start believing in new-agey pseudoscience.

Just the idea makes you want to throw up.

Now it seems to me that whenever an idea elicits such strong emotional reactions, something very important is at stake. We don’t become violently nauseated just because an idea seems wrong. That only happens if the idea threatens something we value. More is going on here than just a scientific quest for truth.

Comment #164532

Posted by Raging Bee on March 8, 2007 11:02 AM (e)

I can’t help noticing how extremely angry scientific materialists get when anyone dares to question the standard mechanistic theory of evolution.

When one hears blatant lies told about one’s work; when one hears a scientific theory blamed – with no evidence or cause-and-effect link – for some of the most vile atrocities in human history; when one hears of – or is a victim of – outright bullying by hateful idiots (speaking of anger) for supporting honest education or questioning an established religious doctrine; then anger is a very appropriate response. If your fellow creationists have a problem with that, perhaps they should stop doing, and encouraging, the things that make us rightly angry.

And speaking of anger, where’s the justification for the anger and hatred directed at parents, teachers, scientists, and even innocent children, who happen not to accept the majority religion of their community? What did they do to deserve it?

And who elected you the emotion-police anyway? Given your dogged ignorance of the subjects of which you speak here, and your mindless repetition of already-discredited creationist talking-points, what right can you possibly have to tell us whether our emotions are justified?

Comment #164537

Posted by Vyoma on March 8, 2007 11:17 AM (e)

realpc whinnied wrote:

I can’t help noticing how extremely angry scientific materialists get when anyone dares to question the standard mechanistic theory of evolution. It’s even worse when the skeptic is obviously not uneducated or unscientific.

What are you so afraid of?

You mean aside from the efforts of a group of people to supplant reason with a bunch of unproven, unevidenced assertions pulled out of their collective rectums and/or favorite holy books?

Yes, I become “violently nauseated” at the idea of folks, such as yourself, attempting to overturn all of human progress since the Enlightenment in favor of tinfoil-lined “orgone boxes” and strings of “goddidit” non-explanations. And yes, more is going on than a scientific quest for truth. What’s also going on is a basic and blatant attack on the underlying principle upon which scientific progress is founded: reason. I, for one, value reason, particularly in light of what I see you, and others of a similar bent to yourself, attempting to substitute for it.

Comment #164538

Posted by Glen Davidson on March 8, 2007 11:25 AM (e)

I can’t help noticing how extremely angry scientific materialists get when anyone dares to question the standard mechanistic theory of evolution.

Actually, we’re angry about lies and the attempt to use law to change science in order for it to accept religiously-based metaphysics as science. See, you can’t even tell the truth about this, no matter that many of us are unapologetic over anger at snake oil salesmen like yourself.

It’s even worse when the skeptic is obviously not uneducated or unscientific.

In what way is one a “skeptic” when one is uneducated about what he is being “skeptical” about? Mere contradiction is not the same as skepticism, another failure of words in your incapable hands.

What are you so afraid of?

Gee, we tell you idiots constantly that we’re afraid of the corruption of science education that you wish to inflict upon others, and you can’t even understand such a simple answer.

Never mind, I know. Instead of dying out slowly, religion will stubbornly continue to exist and continue destroying the world.

Uh-huh. I know that stereotyping and other offenses against language and humanity are not off-limits to your mindless attacks upon others, but RB is a theist who frequently defends religion. I do too, sometimes, if I think that someone is egregiously attacking religion.

I suppose it wouldn’t occur to you that we don’t want so many scientific illiterates like yourself around, both for their sake and for ours.

Or, just as bad, everyone will start believing in new-agey pseudoscience.

That is one of our concerns, yes. Why didn’t I realize that people being bamboozled by uneducated morons like realpc is just as good as any other fate?

Just the idea makes you want to throw up.

Every dishonest and uneducated post by you makes one concerned for those you might influence.

Now it seems to me that whenever an idea elicits such strong emotional reactions, something very important is at stake.

Yes, we told you idiots that truth (not “Truth”) is at stake. You really can’t comprehend much, can you?

We don’t become violently nauseated just because an idea seems wrong.

The great nausea is your projection, although Nietzsche was not one to deny nausea over the various faults of the herd (which makes sense considering that he had an illness which caused him frequently to become nauseous, cretins like realpc hardly assuaging it). And yes, we have studied wrong ideas which are not disturbing, but it is a different matter when people are deliberately propagandizing against good science and the Enlightenment, as does realpc.

That only happens if the idea threatens something we value. More is going on here than just a scientific quest for truth.

Why yes, thanks for noticing. The IDiots are very much opposed to even the standards which allow for the routine search for truth, as recognized in science and in the courts. We are strenuously opposed to the dishonesty and anti-intellectualism involved in the attempt to subvert even the well-founded standards used to get at truth.

Indeed, we are not fighting merely over scientific truth, we’re fighting to maintain civilization against the know-nothings (and yes, the attack on reason and science might stop without going all the way down the slope, but there is no guarantee, and the responsibility to teach children honestly is important regardless of the end result).

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/35s39o

Comment #164539

Posted by realpc on March 8, 2007 11:26 AM (e)

Exactly – you, Vyoma, are on the side of reason and enlightenment. You and your crowd can bring peace on earth and justice for all, and a cure for all diseases. But the raving ignoramouses, who still live in the dark ages, threaten to undo everything you have done and block further progress.

It’s a clear question of good vs evil. No wonder you’re angry.

Comment #164540

Posted by realpc on March 8, 2007 11:30 AM (e)


we’re fighting to maintain civilization against the know-nothings

Yes, and it must feel good to know you are a know-something!!

Comment #164541

Posted by Vyoma on March 8, 2007 11:37 AM (e)

realpc wrote:

Exactly – you, Vyoma, are on the side of reason and enlightenment. You and your crowd can bring peace on earth and justice for all, and a cure for all diseases. But the raving ignoramouses, who still live in the dark ages, threaten to undo everything you have done and block further progress.

It’s a clear question of good vs evil. No wonder you’re angry.

And again, realpc’s complete lack of understanding of what science, and even reason, is makes itself apparent.

Peace on earth and justice for all are the domain of politics, not science. Science can be a tool to facilitate those ends; by learning how to better utilize resources, by better understanding how the mechanisms that drive our world works, science does open the door to those ends. It’s up to politicians to implement those possibilities and make them realities, or to use them perversely and turn them into weapons. I find it very telling that you conflate science and politics, both here and elsewhere.

As far as curing disease, show me something outside of science that has ever cured a disease. Did the New Testament cure leprosy? Did the work of Wilhelm Reich ever end a single plague? Did Martin Luther come up with something to relieve athlete’s foot? No; every sickness that has ever been cured has been cured due to the fruits of scientific inquiry.

As far as the rest of it, yes, that’s just about the jist of it. But go ahead, demonstrate how this is incorrect. Show me a cure for a disease, a treatment for an illness, that actually worked and wasn’t produced by science. Illustrate an instance in which spirituality increased the yield of food (as opposed ideology causing starvation — Lysenko, anyone?)

You’re very fond of making assertions and then vanishing when you’re called upon to provide evidence instead of personal opinion. Do it or be decent enough to admit you’re just a troll making appeals to emotion.

Comment #164542

Posted by Dizzy on March 8, 2007 11:40 AM (e)

Yes, and it must feel good to know you are a know-something!!

Actually, it’s a lot easier, and it feels better, to be a know-nothing.

Keep plugging your ears and going “La la la la!!” as you seem to do in every thread here - really, you’ll continue to be much happier that way.

Comment #164543

Posted by KeithB on March 8, 2007 11:41 AM (e)

RealPC:
“You and your crowd can bring peace on earth and justice for all, and a cure for all diseases. But the raving ignoramouses, who still live in the dark ages, threaten to undo everything you have done and block further progress.”

Anybody in your family die of smallpox lately?

While we may be coming to understanding a bit too late to help, we *might* be able to prevent a catastrophe like the influenza outbreak of 1918. This will be thanks to Tara and her cohorts, *not* religious leaders.

Have you read “Good Omens” by Gaiman and Pratchett? Pestilence is no longer one of the four horseman (well, bikers) of the apocalypse. He is replaced by Pollution.

Comment #164544

Posted by J. Biggs on March 8, 2007 11:50 AM (e)

You’re very fond of making assertions and then vanishing when you’re called upon to provide evidence instead of personal opinion. Do it or be decent enough to admit you’re just a troll making appeals to emotion.

Unfortunately, Charlie Wagner (realpc) is a troll who only vanishes to appear and lay waste to yet another thread, making the same baseless assertions that have already been thoroughly debunked elsewhere. Charlie, who is similar in many ways to Larry (an infamous PT troll), is even more annoying in my opinion.

Comment #164545

Posted by ben on March 8, 2007 12:04 PM (e)

Like Larry, he’s too dumb to realize that failure to respond to accusations of being a sockpuppet is very strong evidence that you are one.

Comment #164546

Posted by Raging Bee on March 8, 2007 12:12 PM (e)

Exactly – you, Vyoma, are on the side of reason and enlightenment. You and your crowd can bring peace on earth and justice for all, and a cure for all diseases…

So, realpc, what has YOUR “crowd” contributed to any of these causes?

Comment #164547

Posted by realpc on March 8, 2007 12:36 PM (e)


what has YOUR “crowd” contributed to any of these causes?

I don’t belong to a crowd, I just try to understand things I consider important, such as evolution.

Since I don’t need crowd membership to justify my existence, I don’t vomit all over everything or explode in sputtering rages every time someone disagrees with me.

Science is great, and I believe in the scientific method. I happen to disagree with scientific materialism, which is an ideology, not a method, and which is unrelated to the scientific method.

I believe in evolution, but I don’t like the ideological dogmatism of certain aspects of the currently accepted theory.

My worldview is holistic, or systemic, instead of mechanistic/reductionist. I realize that tends to irritate scientific materialists. I don’t care, as long as they can’t throw up on me over the internet.

Comment #164550

Posted by Dizzy on March 8, 2007 12:56 PM (e)

realpc:

Raging Bee wrote:

When one hears blatant lies told about one’s work; when one hears a scientific theory blamed – with no evidence or cause-and-effect link – for some of the most vile atrocities in human history; when one hears of – or is a victim of – outright bullying by hateful idiots (speaking of anger) for supporting honest education or questioning an established religious doctrine; then anger is a very appropriate response.

Vyoma wrote:

You mean aside from the efforts of a group of people to supplant reason with a bunch of unproven, unevidenced assertions pulled out of their collective rectums and/or favorite holy books?

Glen wrote:

Actually, we’re angry about lies and the attempt to use law to change science in order for it to accept religiously-based metaphysics as science.

Yet you still write:

Since I don’t need crowd membership to justify my existence, I don’t vomit all over everything or explode in sputtering rages every time someone disagrees with me.

Based on the above facts, the following must be true: You fail at reading comprehension.

I’d respond to your misuse and misunderstanding of terminology you use to describe yourself, but I think the troll’s been fed more than enough today.

Comment #164552

Posted by greylady on March 8, 2007 1:05 PM (e)

Um, I’d hate to be the one to tell Egnore but only one language has been invented by intelligent design of humans, and that’s Esperanto. Few people regard Esperanto as more than a historical footnote and it was never widely adopted. Some even feel it lacks appeal because it lacks the “accidents” and idiosyncrasies that naturally evolved human languages possess. Language, like DNA, evolves. How sad that Egnor’s whole conversion to ID should be based on an untruth. How odd that a supposedly accomplished neurosurgeon needs to place his error and conjecture on display.

Comment #164553

Posted by Raging Bee on March 8, 2007 1:10 PM (e)

I don’t belong to a crowd…

Really? Your talking points are exactly the same as those of the creationist crowd, with no modification of your own, or any indication that you’ve done anything other than repeat what that crowd have already said thousands of times, with no input from any other source.

Not only that, but you refused even to acknoledge a single one of the injustices cited here, by several respondents, as cause for that anger you so self-righteously condemn. Since you condemn our anger, but not the injustices that caused it, I therefore conclude that you do, in fact, condone said injustices. Just like the creationist crowd.

Science is great, and I believe in the scientific method. I happen to disagree with scientific materialism, which is an ideology, not a method, and which is unrelated to the scientific method.

This paragraph is self-contradictory: you say you believe in something, then misrepresent it into something you say you don’t believe in – and again, your behavior is exactly like that of the creationists.

I believe in evolution, but I don’t like the ideological dogmatism of certain aspects of the currently accepted theory.

First, “ideological dogmatism” is completely separate from the actual science. Second, the “aspects” you’ve questioned here, have nothing whatsoever to do with any “ideology;” it’s all been the same ignorant misrepresentation of the basic underlying science. Just like the creationist crowd.

My worldview is holistic, or systemic, instead of mechanistic/reductionist…

Your worldview is muddled and uninformed, probably because you consider learning things in detail too “mechanistic/reductionist” for your taste.

Comment #164555

Posted by Sir_Toejam on March 8, 2007 1:21 PM (e)

Ok, so the value of NOT booting this RPC troll is?

what exactly?

Comment #164557

Posted by Dizzy on March 8, 2007 1:38 PM (e)

Ok, so the value of NOT booting this RPC troll is?

what exactly?

Added entertainment value?

Comment #164561

Posted by Mark Duigon on March 8, 2007 2:21 PM (e)

What are you so afraid of?

We’re afraid that misunderstandings, misinterpretations, out-of-context-quotations, and outright lies will be taught to children as if they were true. And we are afraid that those sadly mis-educated children will grow up, and vote for morons who will lead our country into needless wars, push policies that degrade the Earth and its resources, and cause an overall decline in civilization.

We are not afraid of honest discussion of the science of evolution. But that’s not what Egnor and his ilk are engaged in.

Comment #164564

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 8, 2007 2:54 PM (e)

I can’t help noticing how extremely angry scientific materialists get when anyone dares to question the standard mechanistic theory of evolution.

That this is what you “noticed” shows how intellectually dishonest you are. When you’re capable of honest characterization, let us know.

Comment #164565

Posted by Sir_Toejam on March 8, 2007 2:55 PM (e)

Added entertainment value?

hardly.

we’ve had far more entertaining trolls before, and this guy sidetracks just about every new thread that comes into being of late.

I say toss ‘em and leave room for somebody who actually IS entertaining.

Comment #164567

Posted by minimalist on March 8, 2007 3:09 PM (e)

If it really is Charlie Wagner, and some of the quotes above strongly indicate that it is, then yeah, it’s fruitless to waste any more time on him. Time and again he’s shown that he will not budge a single inch over his cherished beliefs, and will weasel out of every single attempt to challenge them.

It’s pointless and you can’t even say it’s “for the benefit of the lurkers” because he only ever speaks in generalities, offering little to no opportunity to offer concrete information in rebuttal.

Comment #164569

Posted by DP on March 8, 2007 3:21 PM (e)

Ok here’s some psyc for you.

IDists refuse to acknowledge defects in their approach and therefore cannot make improvements. Then, in 10 years from now when its clear that ID has been thouroughly rejected they’ll sit there and blame everyone but themselves. Sure after failing so miserably they might make a few adjustments but abandon a failed approach? Not a chance because that would involve valuing truth to much, and of course they could never do that.

And a few basics too.

Look at the EF. It’s just a flow chart and that’s it!

Look at their coveted information theory. It has nothing to do with meaningful content and is absolutely useless to their cause.

Look at forensic science and archeology etc. These try to identify HUMAN causation because we have an idea of what humans are capable of. That’s it, no application to biological structures.

Look At SETI. If ET’s exist they would still be physical and at least observable in principle same as humans in the past. Again, no application to biological structures and a category error when they try.

So yes, naseau towards ID is justified irrespective of one’s philosophical position.

Comment #164570

Posted by realpc on March 8, 2007 3:22 PM (e)

We’re afraid that misunderstandings, misinterpretations, out-of-context-quotations, and outright lies will be taught to children as if they were true.

I once tried to reason with a Marxist on a political blog and got that reaction. Terrified that the next generation might escape indoctrination.

I already know that I can’t reason with Marxists, Christian fundamentalists, or scientific atheists.

But there might be some readers of this blog who appreciate balance and like to consider more than one angle.

Scientific atheists sincerely believe in human intelligence and the ability of smart people to solve the important mysteries and problems. This belief rests on the assumption that nature is not intelligent. If nature is smarter than we are, it is not likely we can “fix” it or bend it to our fit our needs. If we are mere components of something infinitely greater than ourselves, our power to understand and control must be limited.

That’s why scientific atheism is so attractive. It promises a future world designed by and for humans. Without disease or war, possibly without death. It’s similar to the kingdom of heaven on earth promised by Christianity.

Comment #164572

Posted by Vyoma on March 8, 2007 3:27 PM (e)

In the five hours since I challenged “realpc” to cite examples, he has not done so. On the other hand, he has posted several other replies. I feel safe in concluding, therefore, that he cannot cite any examples as was asked. Thus, he is, indeed a troll, whether or not he is someone using an alternate screen name.

In reading his last reply on this thread, and taking him at his word, I also conclude that realpc’s position can best be described as nothing more than solipsism. As a solipsist, it would, indeed, be useless to communicate with him, since he’s ultimately interested only in talking to himself in order to maintain his redefinition of every single word he uses. He isn’t part of a “crowd” because, as far as he knows, he’s the only person who makes the points he makes… mainly because he never pays attention to what anyone else says. It doesn’t matter that he hasn’t been able to support any part of any of his arguments; he believes what he believes solely on the basis of his believing it, and that is the only criterion he would ever accept.

I think he’s telling the truth when he states that he’s not part of a “crowd,” exactly because he has no interaction with anyone other than himself on these subjects. He’s a lot like the client of a person who defends himself in court that way.

Comment #164580

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 8, 2007 3:49 PM (e)

Ok, so the value of NOT booting this RPC troll is?

Well, he does provide an opportunity for people to express why they are troubled by Egnor and by DI’s parading him around. I suggest that realpc’s lack of concern about intellectual dishonesty and misrepresentation helps explain why he engages in so much of it. Meanwhile, the thread has been hijacked.

because the genetic code functions like a human language and because human language is created only by the “intelligent design” of humans, then the genetic code must have been intelligently designed

Aside from the stupidity of failing to notice, as greylady pointed out, that human language evolved rather than being designed, there’s the complete lack of logic here. Consider Egnor’s actual words:

We have no experience in nature whatsoever with representational codes or languages except in biology, and the only experience we have in our lives is with such languages that are intelligently designed by people.

Accepting for the sake of argument that DNA really is a “representational code or language”, this is the same utter question begging behind every version of the design argument: because everything we know of that looks designed is designed, biological systems must be designed. But but but … we know of biological systems, and whether they are designed is the question at hand; the conclusion only follows by assuming it. It’s like arguing that, because every car you ever drove ran on gasoline, all cars must run on gasoline. Except that in this case it’s like arguing that, because cheetahs run on gasoline, horses must run on gasoline too.

Comment #164581

Posted by Dizzy on March 8, 2007 3:51 PM (e)

Wow, realpc. Don’t think I’ve ever seen so many incoherent, illogical leaps in a summary of anyone’s worldview. That in itself would be interesting, but basic assumptions and definitions are flat-out wrong…so it’s basically a mess built upon a mess. A meta-mess!

As a solipsist, it would, indeed, be useless to communicate with him, since he’s ultimately interested only in talking to himself in order to maintain his redefinition of every single word he uses.

Agreed…probably not worth feeding him any more, then.

Comment #164582

Posted by Sir_Toejam on March 8, 2007 3:55 PM (e)

I already know that I can’t reason with Marxists, Christian fundamentalists, or scientific atheists.

he calls it “reason”.

bwahahahahaha.

Comment #164584

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 8, 2007 3:56 PM (e)

If nature is smarter than we are, it is not likely we can “fix” it or bend it to our fit our needs.

So the idiot writes via solid state circuitry.

If we are mere components of something infinitely greater than ourselves, our power to understand and control must be limited.

Our power to understand and control is limited regardless of whether the universe that we are mere components of is infinite or not, fallacy-breath.

Comment #164587

Posted by Doc Bill on March 8, 2007 4:02 PM (e)

Sorta makes you miss ole Jon Davison, eh Sir T?

How do you like them kumquats?

Comment #164596

Posted by J. Biggs on March 8, 2007 4:51 PM (e)

I once tried to reason with a Marxist on a political blog and got that reaction. Terrified that the next generation might escape indoctrination.

I already know that I can’t reason with Marxists, Christian fundamentalists, or scientific atheists.

Again you conflate science and politics. There are many in this forum who support good science and the fight against ID who are devout Christians. This has been pointed out to you several times.

But there might be some readers of this blog who appreciate balance and like to consider more than one angle.

So far not one person has stood up for your moronic rantings. Until you have a concrete understanding for the way science works and actual evidence to support your assertions, your angle on science will remain idiotic.

Scientific atheists sincerely believe in human intelligence and the ability of smart people to solve the important mysteries and problems.

The ability of science to solve important mysteries and problems has been demonstrated again and again.

This belief rests on the assumption that nature is not intelligent.

If nature has some kind of whimsical intelligence, then it is currently beyond our ability to detect it. That fact in no way invalidates what we do observe in nature.

If nature is smarter than we are, it is not likely we can “fix” it or bend it to our fit our needs. If we are mere components of something infinitely greater than ourselves, our power to understand and control must be limited.

The scientific community does not argue that its power to understand and control is unlimited. If nature is “smart” then it also has consciousness, likening it to an intelligence or deity. Truly there is little difference between what you say and the statement that fairies are the intelligence behind nature and they are smarter than we are. Science is more about observing a phenomenon and then using those observations to formulate an understanding of the way it works; whereas, engineering and technology are more in line with using scientific discovery to bend things to fit our needs, quite successfully I might add. No need to ascribe anything to intelligences we aren’t able to observe be it nature, deities or fairies.

Truly every statement you make is either so wrong, irrelevant or equivocal, it is difficult to correct them all.

That’s why scientific atheism is so attractive. It promises a future world designed by and for humans. Without disease or war, possibly without death. It’s similar to the kingdom of heaven on earth promised by Christianity.

And this statement only further proves you are a scientific dilettante. You really have no idea what science really is, and what’s worse is you are ignorant of your own ignorance of the subject.

Comment #164602

Posted by MarkP on March 8, 2007 5:14 PM (e)

Realpc bleated:

I once tried to reason with a Marxist on a political blog and got that reaction. Terrified that the next generation might escape indoctrination.

That line there put me on the “ban” wagon. Comparing scientists to Marxists? This guy clearly lives on Mars, and his consistent misrepresentation of just about everything he describes makes him more annoying than entertaining. He sure as hell isn’t gonna edumacate anyone.

I’m done feeding the troll.

Comment #164613

Posted by realpc on March 8, 2007 6:13 PM (e)


Comparing scientists to Marxists?

I would never do that. I consider myself a scientist and I am certainly not a Marxist.

I used the term “scientific atheist,” not “scientist,” and they are hardly the same thing.

Comment #164616

Posted by realpc on March 8, 2007 6:20 PM (e)


You really have no idea what science really is

I know that science != atheism. There is absolutely no requirement for scientists to be atheists. Atheism is a faith.

Science is supposed to be empirical, not ideological. Scientists are supposed to consider evidence and to listen to ideas different from their own. Skepticism does not mean automatically discarding idesa that conflict with atheism.

Comment #164618

Posted by Steviepinhead on March 8, 2007 6:20 PM (e)

realpc:

I consider myself a scientist

Consider yourself whatever you like.

You couldn’t give a plausible performance as a scientist if we spotted you the street and the theater.

Comment #164625

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 8, 2007 6:34 PM (e)

I would never do that. I consider myself a scientist and I am certainly not a Marxist.

I used the term “scientific atheist,” not “scientist,” and they are hardly the same thing.

Calling a dog’s tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg. Calling scientists “scientific atheists” doesn’t change the fact that you compared scientists to Marxists.

I know that science != atheism. There is absolutely no requirement for scientists to be atheists.

As people here have repeatedly pointed out.

Atheism is a faith.

No, it isn’t.

Science is supposed to be empirical, not ideological. Scientists are supposed to consider evidence and to listen to ideas different from their own. Skepticism does not mean automatically discarding idesa that conflict with atheism.

We don’t discard ideas that conflict with atheism, we discard ideas that conflict with evidence and reason, and we don’t do it automatically, we do it upon rational deliberation. You should try it some time.

Comment #164630

Posted by David B. Benson on March 8, 2007 6:46 PM (e)

Charlie Wagner aka realpc is a hopeless case. Wouldn’t be surprised if I learned that he was institutionalized and his posting was supposed to be part of his therapy…

Comment #164637

Posted by realpc on March 8, 2007 7:13 PM (e)

Jason Rosenhouse writes that scientists have “discovered” that religion results from nothing but an evolutionary adaptation of the physical brain.

What scientific evidence do you think is provided to support the discovery? Right, none. It isn’t necessary because the theory is friendly to atheism, and therefore needs no evidence.

That is what science is evolving into. Wild speculations can be presented as fact, as long as they support atheism. Theories that do not support atheism, on the other hand, are dismissed and despised, and the evidence is ignored.

Comment #164642

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 8, 2007 7:33 PM (e)

Jason Rosenhouse writes that scientists have “discovered” that religion results from nothing but an evolutionary adaptation of the physical brain.

No, he doesn’t, you lying sack of feces:

“These sorts of theories are frustratingly difficult to prove, of course. But let us suppose for the moment that some such explanation gains widespread acceptance as being correct.”

Comment #164648

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 8, 2007 7:41 PM (e)

What scientific evidence do you think is provided to support the discovery? Right, none. It isn’t necessary because the theory is friendly to atheism, and therefore needs no evidence.

That is what science is evolving into. Wild speculations can be presented as fact, as long as they support atheism. Theories that do not support atheism, on the other hand, are dismissed and despised, and the evidence is ignored.

And just how do you explain PZ Myer’s extremely critical take on these sort of speculations, you dishonest jackass? It is you who ignore evidence and dismiss and despise anything that challenges your crackpot ideas.

Comment #164662

Posted by Bastardinator on March 8, 2007 10:09 PM (e)

shit, I still go to Stony Brook…I can’t have it losing credibility before I graduate….shit shit shit shit shit…
shit…

Comment #164666

Posted by Sir_Toejam on March 8, 2007 10:49 PM (e)

shit, I still go to Stony Brook…I can’t have it losing credibility before I graduate….shit shit shit shit shit…
shit…

well said, actually.

I suggested on the pharyngula thread that people concerned about Stony’s reputation should contact the wonderful evolutionary biology dept. they have there, and get those guys to publically “egg” Egnor.

here’s the department:
http://life.bio.sunysb.edu/ee/ee-deptfac.html

ask them why they aren’t coming after Egnor with nets at this point.

Comment #164667

Posted by Sir_Toejam on March 8, 2007 10:51 PM (e)

heck, Futuyma himself is in that dept.

so is George Williams, for christ’s sake.

where are these people, when they should be publically egging Egnor right along with the rest of us?

Comment #164668

Posted by Dizzy on March 8, 2007 11:15 PM (e)

Popper:

No, he doesn’t, you lying sack of feces

You are my hero.

Comment #164686

Posted by demallien on March 9, 2007 3:24 AM (e)

Sir Toejam wrote:

I suggested on the pharyngula thread that people concerned about Stony’s reputation should contact the wonderful evolutionary biology dept. they have there, and get those guys to publically “egg” Egnor.

Actually, I’m wondering about the feasibility of creating a list, similar to Project Steve, whereby every time the ID crowd put up someone with an impressive-sounding qualification to support their rubbish, we produce 10 people graduated from the same university, with the same qualification that denounce the position…

Comment #164691

Posted by Sir_Toejam on March 9, 2007 4:28 AM (e)

sounds like a great idea to me.

I personally contacted George Williams (emeritus), but received no response as of yet.

probably would be more productive to send letters directly to the head of the dept., and see what they have to say.

Comment #164696

Posted by Frank J on March 9, 2007 5:23 AM (e)

The other thing that is truly grating is that neither Luskin nor Egnor ever seems to use the word “evolution” much. They both use the term “Darwinism” and refer to “Darwin” again and again in such an obviously intentional way that it’s truly jarring to hear it. (Really. Listen to the podcast to experience it. They practically spit out the term “Darwinism” as they use it as frequently as they can, rarely even mentioning the word evolution.) It’s the typical creationist tactic of trying to denigrate evolutionary theory as ideology by attaching an eponym to it, like Marxism or Leninism. Perhaps we need to start referring to ID creationism as “Beheism” or “Dembskiism” whenever possible.

See my comment on the “Skiff” thread. Anyone detect a pattern here?

Comment #164697

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 9, 2007 6:07 AM (e)

You are my hero.

It must be because of the way I scrunch up my face when I stop time.

Comment #164698

Posted by Vyoma on March 9, 2007 6:30 AM (e)

Frank J wrote:

Anyone detect a pattern here?

That was probably a rhetorical question, but I’m going to pretend it isn’t for the moment.

“-isms” are essentially opinions accepted by some number of people. They aren’t evidence-based, and so they’re all equal and thus infinitely debatable. Creationism, Marxism, and Mithraism, for example, are all equally valid.

“-ologies,” on the other hand, imply something factual and thus are evidence based. Even theology implies factual information being known about a given religion and doesn’t necessarily indicate belief in the faith under study.

Comparing an “-ology” to an “-ism” is an apples-to-oranges situation. The rhetorical tactic of calling evolutionary biology “Darwinism” is an implicit statement that this is only a belief and that, as Creationists of various stripes are so fond of insisting, there is no evidence. In a twisted way, this is correct; there is no evidence for Darwinism (stated with the understanding that this is entirely qute-mineable!) One would be hard-pressed to find an actual Darwinist, though. I’ve never actually come across anyone who believed in Darwin’s ideas as one would believe in a religion, of course. That would entail, for instance, rejecting the notion of endosymbiosis as the origin of mitochondria, an event that Darwin never considered as a possibility.

The rhetorical sleight-of-hand allows one to remove evolutionary biology from a scientific context and set it up as a competitor to theism. Having done this, true believers no longer need to consider evidence, only articles of faith (e.g. moral values) which, of course, aren’t present in any scientific domain. Still, it’s a powerful statement to be able to say with a straight face and grave voice that “Darwinism is amoral.” These are key political buzz words, specifically designed to raise the hackles of the faithful. The fact that one could point to any number of things that contain no moral code for exactly the same reason that evolutionary biology lacks them never seems to occur to these believers, of course. I’ve seen scores of cookbooks that have absolutely nothing to say about not committing murder, yet there is no great movement afoot to combat the pernicious influence of “Betty Crockerism” in our kitchens. I have a Chilton’s Auto Guide, too, which never advocates maintaining a worshipful attitude toward Christ or Allah, yet I haven’t seen anyone pushing for including Bible study in high school auto shop because of the societal decay such a lack of religious instruction has caused. These are strategies used only against science.

Maybe somebody can start up one of these faux movements in a parody along the lines of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Clearly, Betty Crocker was an atheist with an agenda of destroying religion. She never once acknowledges that God is responsible for creating hollandaise sauce!

Comment #164703

Posted by BMH on March 9, 2007 7:50 AM (e)

Wow. So not only does he know nothing about evolution, but also about language.

Ever heard of Noam Chomsky? Modern linguistics? Everything we’ve learned about language in the past 50 years tells us that language is not a human cultural activity, but a human ability (like breathing or seeing three-dimensionally) that is encoded in our genes and evolved over time. Language is MORE evidence for evolution, not evidence against it.

Comment #164704

Posted by Frank J on March 9, 2007 8:41 AM (e)

Vyoma wrote:

The rhetorical sleight-of-hand allows one to remove evolutionary biology from a scientific context and set it up as a competitor to theism. Having done this, true believers no longer need to consider evidence…

While true believers gravitate to such language, the particular strategic us of it, coupled with well-orchestrated quote-mining, Gish-galloping, and careful avoidance of letting on what they think the designer did, or when, strongly suggests that they are not necessarily true believers themselves, but just intent on making the masses into true believers at any cost, including withstanding ridicule by almost all of mainstream science.

Comment #164707

Posted by GuyeFaux on March 9, 2007 9:07 AM (e)

Language is MORE evidence for evolution, not evidence against it.

Absolutely not. It’s a promising field, evolutionary linguistics, but it’s really difficult to prove anything. Also there are conflicting theories.

Comment #164710

Posted by Vyoma on March 9, 2007 9:20 AM (e)

Frank J wrote:

While true believers gravitate to such language, the particular strategic us of it, coupled with well-orchestrated quote-mining, Gish-galloping, and careful avoidance of letting on what they think the designer did, or when, strongly suggests that they are not necessarily true believers themselves…

This is probably the case with some of the anti-science leaders, but not necessarily all of them. It’s probably more the case with someone like Dembski or Behe, for instance, than it is with a Hovind or a Kirk Cameron. In some cases, I find it hard to say which way they fall.

The true believers I meant to which I meant to refer are the same ones that you describe as gravitating toward the language. Writing anything so early in the morning means risking a lack of clarity; sorry ‘bout that.

I like the idea of followers “gravitating” toward the rhetoric of their leaders. It makes me wonder whether there’s an inversely square relationship at work. There must be a good mathematical expression for this!

Comment #164719

Posted by Ben on March 9, 2007 10:33 AM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'quote'

Comment #164720

Posted by Dizzy on March 9, 2007 10:45 AM (e)

Absolutely not. It’s a promising field, evolutionary linguistics, but it’s really difficult to prove anything. Also there are conflicting theories.

I think BMH was referring to the development of the capacity for language (which Pinker, Chomsky et al. present as an evolutionary adaptation), as opposed to evolutionary linguistics, which supposedly studies how languages develop and change.

Comment #164721

Posted by realpc on March 9, 2007 11:08 AM (e)

Jason Rosenhouse writes that scientists have “discovered” that religion results from nothing but an evolutionary adaptation of the physical brain.

No, he doesn’t, you lying sack of feces:

You’re good at name-calling PG, not much good at reading or thinking.

Jason said:

[scientists studying the evolution of religion] tend to agree on one point: that religious belief is an outgrowth of brain architecture that evolved during early human history.

Why do they agree? Where is the evidence for this? Not in the article or Jason’s post. It’s accepted as a matter of atheist faith.

Comment #164722

Posted by GuyeFaux on March 9, 2007 11:09 AM (e)

I think BMH was referring to the development of the capacity for language (which Pinker, Chomsky et al. present as an evolutionary adaptation), as opposed to evolutionary linguistics, which supposedly studies how languages develop and change.

I know what he meant. The hypothesis is that linguistic ability and linguistic complexity developed gradually and in parallel as the result of natural selection. The crux of it is that each new linguistic construct confers a survival advantage to those hominids who* are capable of forming it.

It’s an intriguing hypothesis, but to say that it provides proof of evolution is absurd at this point. The evidence for it is scant and many qualified people disagree. I also disagree, but I’m not qualified (I have some relevant experience, though).

* Usage issue: when referring to hominids, do we say “who” or “which”? Like, “The hominids which were able to speak had a survival advantage over those that couldn’t.” Or, is it “which”?

Comment #164726

Posted by Raging Bee on March 9, 2007 12:07 PM (e)

Why do they agree? Where is the evidence for this? Not in the article or Jason’s post. It’s accepted as a matter of atheist faith.

And how much actual study of the matter did you do before coming to that “conclusion?” From what superior expertise do you judge the work of others in this very complex and longstanding inquiry?

Comment #164727

Posted by harold on March 9, 2007 12:09 PM (e)

Realpc ranted -

“Why do they agree? Where is the evidence for this? Not in the article or Jason’s post. It’s accepted as a matter of atheist faith.”

This was in response to

“[scientists studying the evolution of religion] tend to agree on one point: that religious belief is an outgrowth of brain architecture that evolved during early human history.”

Actually, he’s wrong on both counts. One hardly needs to be an atheist to ‘tend to agree’ with this rather uncontroversial point. In humans, this point can clearly be defended (not ‘proven’ but defended) with the evidence that self-identified religious experiences, like other human cognitive and emotional states, are related to observable brain activity.

I am inclined to bet that plants and microbes don’t feel religious belief. Among animals, it’s conceivable that a few other highly cephalized species might feel something related to what we call ‘religious belief’. But of course, we can’t definitively tell whether other species have religious belief. Indeed, we have to take humans at their word when we study the relationship of human religious belief to the brain.

Nevertheless, there is some evidence to support the connection.

All conscious human perception (accurate, hallucinatory, or idealized) relies on the brain. Why would anyone, of any religious tradition, argue that what people directly experience as religious isn’t a product of the brain, from a physical point of view? It obviously is. This doesn’t tell you anything about its value or validity, it just tells you something you could have already guessed with ease. Human behavior is related to the human brain, and the human brain evolved.

Comment #164728

Posted by harold on March 9, 2007 12:10 PM (e)

Realpc ranted -

“Why do they agree? Where is the evidence for this? Not in the article or Jason’s post. It’s accepted as a matter of atheist faith.”

This was in response to

“[scientists studying the evolution of religion] tend to agree on one point: that religious belief is an outgrowth of brain architecture that evolved during early human history.”

Actually, he’s wrong on both counts. One hardly needs to be an atheist to ‘tend to agree’ with this rather uncontroversial point. In humans, this point can clearly be defended (not ‘proven’ but defended) with the evidence that self-identified religious experiences, like other human cognitive and emotional states, are related to observable brain activity.

I am inclined to bet that plants and microbes don’t feel religious belief. Among animals, it’s conceivable that a few other highly cephalized species might feel something related to what we call ‘religious belief’. But of course, we can’t definitively tell whether other species have religious belief. Indeed, we have to take humans at their word when we study the relationship of human religious belief to the brain.

Nevertheless, there is some evidence to support the connection.

All conscious human perception (accurate, hallucinatory, or idealized) relies on the brain. Why would anyone, of any religious tradition, argue that what people directly experience as religious isn’t a product of the brain, from a physical point of view? It obviously is. This doesn’t tell you anything about its value or validity, it just tells you something you could have already guessed with ease. Human behavior is related to the human brain, and the human brain evolved.

Comment #164729

Posted by harold on March 9, 2007 12:13 PM (e)

Sorry for the double post. I thought that the mechanism for preventing multiple posts in a short period of time would have prevented that.

Comment #164731

Posted by Dizzy on March 9, 2007 12:17 PM (e)

I know what he meant. The hypothesis is that linguistic ability and linguistic complexity developed gradually and in parallel as the result of natural selection. The crux of it is that each new linguistic construct confers a survival advantage to those hominids who* are capable of forming it.

I’m not familiar with that particular hypothesis. My understanding is that there is considerable empirical support for the hypothesis that the capacity for language is hard-wired into our brains. The evo-bio explanation infers that language capability likely confers a survival advantage - in contrast to alternative “explanations,” like the idea that language was “given” to humans by God (Wallace et al.).

I suppose what you describe would be a possible (but perhaps not mandatory?) corollary to the above, but I can see how it would be hard to produce evidence for it. But it’s been a long time since I’ve taken a linguistics course, so I’m mostly speculating here.

Usage issue: when referring to hominids, do we say “who” or “which”? Like, “The hominids which were able to speak had a survival advantage over those that couldn’t.” Or, is it “which”?

Heh, I’ll have to ask my roommate about that (he’s a linguistics grad student at MIT). I actually think the appropriate choice is “who” vs. “that,” since “that” is used for clauses that are “essential,” and “which” is used for other types of clauses, which aren’t essential.

Comment #164732

Posted by Dizzy on March 9, 2007 12:38 PM (e)

Hmm, wonder where my response to Guye went…harold, did your double-post eat my single-post??

Comment #164733

Posted by Glen Davidson on March 9, 2007 12:41 PM (e)

Among animals, it’s conceivable that a few other highly cephalized species might feel something related to what we call ‘religious belief’

I’m inclined to think that much of spirituality, and by extension religion, is the animal’s cry when in danger or when feeling oppressed. To whom is the monkey or the mouse calling when it shrieks as the predator’s claws sink into its flesh? It doesn’t know who it is calling to, it is simply calling to anything out there that might come to its aid, even if this assistance occurs only because the second predator wants to harrass and kill the cat or the panther.

We’ve evolved these responses, so that we will call out to what we do not know when pressing danger afflicts us. But for us, the verbal animal, eventually we assume that we’re calling out to the deity of the woods (if we’re there), whom we credit even though only the jaguar might come (this deity sent the jaguar). In civilization these deities become the sky gods, but psychologically there isn’t much difference.

Of course that doesn’t account for all “spirituality”, as most mysterious objects and aspects of the cosmos play a role in our overall spiritual perception of the world. Mathematics in particular became spiritual to the early Greeks, giving some of them a virtual Pythagorean religion which influenced Plato (Greeks called Plato a Pythagorean) heavily, and thus is responsible in part for the outdated metaphysical philosophies underlying ID.

But the whole “no atheists in foxholes” thing (even though some become atheists in foxholes) probably has reality in the tendency to cry out to “that which we know not” when nothing known will help us. It’s just a shame that anyone thinks that we ought to base society and religion upon our irrational (if somewhat effective) dealings with the unknown, rather than basing it upon what we do know (including knowledge of what our areas of ignorance are, of course).

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/35s39o

Comment #164738

Posted by Dizzy on March 9, 2007 1:11 PM (e)

It doesn’t know who it is calling to, it is simply calling to anything out there that might come to its aid, even if this assistance occurs only because the second predator wants to harrass and kill the cat or the panther.

Or it could be that the animals that didn’t call out were not able to inform their relatives/offspring that a predator was nearby, making it easier for the predator to catch them unawares.

Or from the predator’s point of view, am I more likely to survive if my current meal:
a) Alerts my competitors (organisms that eat the same thing I do, or scavengers), my potential future meals, and my own predators to the fact that I’m eating; or
b) Doesn’t?

Comment #164739

Posted by Glen Davidson on March 9, 2007 1:19 PM (e)

Or it could be that the animals that didn’t call out were not able to inform their relatives/offspring that a predator was nearby, making it easier for the predator to catch them unawares.

But unless it’s a weasel in a henhouse, the predator is almost always occupied with just one kill (there are exceptions, nests and the like, but those didn’t constitute the scenario). A predator with a kill is usually not much of a threat, except to those who would try to steal it. Likewise, the threat of theft is one reason the predator is usually not out to kill more.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/35s39o

Comment #164740

Posted by Dizzy on March 9, 2007 1:32 PM (e)

Maybe some predators would be bigger if they could count on having more than one meal easily available at a time, rather than having everything within earshot run away. Maybe “food chains” would be shorter if bigger predators couldn’t hear small predators “preying.”

*Shrug* just speculating here, as I have no particular knowledge of the subject. I realize you were, too, I’m just positing what I think might be more empirically-testable explanations.

Comment #164742

Posted by Henry J on March 9, 2007 1:46 PM (e)

Re “Hmm, wonder where my response to Guye went…harold, did your double-post eat my single-post??”

It’s a post eat post world out there…

Comment #164754

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 9, 2007 3:12 PM (e)

Jason said:

[scientists studying the evolution of religion] tend to agree on one point: that religious belief is an outgrowth of brain architecture that evolved during early human history.

No, liar, Robin Marantz Henig of the NYT said that.

Why do they agree? Where is the evidence for this? Not in the article or Jason’s post. It’s accepted as a matter of atheist faith.

First, some of the evidence is discussed in the NYT article. Second, that the evidence is not all in the NYT article does not imply that there is no evidence. You would understand this if you knew anything about how science is done, if you were capable of logical thinking, and you weren’t an idiot and a liar.

Comment #164755

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 9, 2007 3:16 PM (e)

Ever heard of Noam Chomsky? Modern linguistics? Everything we’ve learned about language in the past 50 years tells us that language is not a human cultural activity, but a human ability (like breathing or seeing three-dimensionally) that is encoded in our genes and evolved over time.

Chomsky doesn’t claim anything like that “language is not a human cultural activity”; his theory is about the ability to acquire language, and his claims are still not universally accepted.

Comment #164756

Posted by GuyeFaux on March 9, 2007 3:17 PM (e)

My understanding is that there is considerable empirical support for the hypothesis that the capacity for language is hard-wired into our brains.

Yes, indeed there is. But it’s not evidence for evolution.

The evo-bio explanation infers that language capability likely confers a survival advantage - in contrast to alternative “explanations,” like the idea that language was “given” to humans by God (Wallace et al.).

Yep; the former being an explanation and the latter an “explanation.” But at the moment this is just a fruitful hypothesis with some evidence, derived from the fact that most useful and complex features tend to have selection-based explanations.

I suppose what you describe would be a possible (but perhaps not mandatory?) corollary to the above, but I can see how it would be hard to produce evidence for it.

What I wrote is I think Pinker’s position (ask your roommate: I’m sure Pinker is one of his idols), and is not a necessary corollary to the assumption that our linguistic apparatuses have evolved due to selection. Another hypothesis, for example, is that most of the required hardware was already present in our non-language-producing ancestors, and that only minor adaptations were required for full language production. I.e., that linguistic ability and linguistic complexity did not evolve at parallel rates. Rather, that while the hardware evolved gradually, language itself evolved in quick bursts, without “transitional forms.” I personally like this explanation better because it more closely fits the fact that a small increase in the complexity of an automata will yield a huge increase in the complexity of the things they can compute.

Comment #164760

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 9, 2007 3:43 PM (e)

I was trying to think of a metaphor for the previous post, and now I have one: the making and using of tools. While our ability to do so certainly evolved, it would be absurd to claim that it isn’t a human cultural activity – as absurd as the claim about language. And here is an article by Andy Clark (who, according to Wikepedia, said that language is the ultimate human artifact), that explores the notion of language as a tool:

Of course, words aren’t magic. Neither are sextants, compasses, maps, slide rules and all the other paraphenelia which have accreted around the basic biological brains of homo sapiens. In the case of these other tools and props, however, it is transparently clear that they function so as to either carry out or to facilitate computational operations important to various human projects. The slide rule transforms complex mathematical problems (ones that would baffle or tax the unaided subject) into simple tasks of perceptual recognition. The map provides geographical information in a format well-suited to aid complex planning and strategic military operations. The compass gathers and displays a kind of information that (most) unaided human subjects do not seem to command. These various tools and props thus act to generate information, or to store it, or to transform it, or some combination of the three. In so doing, they impact our individual and collective problem-solving capacities in much the same dramatic ways as various software packages impact the performance of a simple pc.

Public language, I shall argue, is just such a tool – it is a species of external artifact whose current adaptive value is partially constituted by its role in re-shaping the kinds of computational space that our biological brains must negotiate in order to solve certain types of problems, or to carry out certain complex projects.

Comment #164762

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 9, 2007 3:58 PM (e)

Also, consider the wikipedia article on universal grammar. It’s not hard to understand that the possession of a universal grammar, which purportedly evolved, is not at all the same as the activity of constructing sentences based on that grammar – a human cultural activity. And, the very universal nature of the grammar implies that we possessed the same universal grammar in Chaucer’s time. The evolution of natural language is primarily memetic, not genetic – it is a matter of human culture (which evolves, in the general sense).

Comment #164763

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 9, 2007 4:03 PM (e)

Andy Clark (who, according to Wikepedia, said that language is the ultimate human artifact)

Argh … make that “the ultimate cultural artifact”.

Comment #164764

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 9, 2007 4:14 PM (e)

The evo-bio explanation infers that language capability likely confers a survival advantage

So is your misuse of the word “infer” due to a genetic defect?

in contrast to alternative “explanations,” like the idea that language was “given” to humans by God (Wallace et al.).

That’s a nice false dichotomy, but the usual alternative explanation is that language use is dependent upon general, rather than specific, brain structures. In any case this discussion is off the mark, because Egnor wasn’t talking about language capability, he was (stupidly) talking about languages as being designed. BMH said something wrong and silly, and some people seem to want to rescue it based apparently on the notion that their enemy’s enemy must be their friend.

Comment #164768

Posted by GuyeFaux on March 9, 2007 4:31 PM (e)

But unless it’s a weasel in a henhouse, the predator is almost always occupied with just one kill (there are exceptions, nests and the like, but those didn’t constitute the scenario).

Not true. Whales v. plankton, ant-eaters, most herbivores.

Comment #164780

Posted by MarkP on March 9, 2007 6:51 PM (e)

How much of a parrallel might we draw between language and money? There would seem to be many similarities, representation of an abstraction (meaning vs value), arbitrariness (a dollar only has value because we agree it does), and they are certainly human constructs. I do note the demonstration (to my satisfction anyway) of a potential instinct of reciprocity in other species, but I see that as a strengthening of the evolutionary hypothesis. It seems also noteworthy thay while both are human constructs, they are not under conscious human control, a la a free market. We don’t decide what inflation is going to be.

Sorry if that is off topic, but I thought it was interesting.

Comment #164781

Posted by Paul Flocken on March 9, 2007 7:14 PM (e)

In answer to realpc‘s Comment #164528 I present:

I can’t help noticing how extremely angry religious spiritualists get when anyone dares to question their pet religious beliefs. It’s even worse when the skeptic is obviously educated or scientific(“We’ve been attacked by the intelligent, educated segment of the culture”, Pastor Ray Mummert).

What are you so afraid of? Never mind, I know. Instead of sticking to measuring the strength of stone arches, rolling balls down inclined planes, watching apples fall from trees, or creating such useful items as clocks, science had to stubbornly continue to open up the entire world to discoveries such as the fact that evil spirits and demons do not cause diseases, the earth is not the center of the universe, the sun is not a lump of flaming coal, and mankind was not the special creation of a xenophobic, genocidal, imaginary sky daddy. Or, just as bad, everyone will stop believing in ancient, long since discredited fairy tales, and by doing so, destroy the world(“If we continue to indoctrinate our young people with non-religious principles, we’re headed for an internal destruction of this society”, Ray Mummert as well).

Just the idea makes you want to throw up.

Now it seems to me that whenever an idea elicits such strong emotional reactions, something very important is at stake. We don’t become violently nauseated just because an idea seems wrong. That only happens if the idea threatens something we value. More is going on here than just a religious quest to dominate minds. Well, maybe that really is all that is going on here after all.

Realpc, you really ought to see a psychiatrist about that projection.
Sincerely,
Paul Flocken

Comment #164783

Posted by realpc on March 9, 2007 7:39 PM (e)

Paul Flocken,

I have stated in various comments that I can’t reason with either atheists OR religous extremists.

And your identifying science with atheism is very clever, but I didn’t fall for it.

I have stated several times that I am in no way against science. I believe in science as a method, not as a utopian cult.

Science is a way of discovering facts, not a way of creating a perfect world. Every scientific discovery or invention creates as many problems as it solves. Still, I would never oppose scientific progress, because it is human nature to wonder.

Scientific atheism is not science. It is a utopian quasi-religion, and some of its followers can be just as fanatical and close-minded as any Christian or Muslim extremist.

Dawkins is not rational when it comes to the subject of religion. He is a crusader against all forms of religion, which he sees as the root of most evil. When he argues agsinst religion he is waging war, not seeking truth.

Comment #164784

Posted by David B. Benson on March 9, 2007 7:49 PM (e)

I can’t reason

So true, so true…

Comment #164789

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 9, 2007 8:11 PM (e)

Dawkins is not rational when it comes to the subject of religion. He is a crusader against all forms of religion, which he sees as the root of most evil.

If he’s right, then it’s rational to crusade against it.

When he argues agsinst religion he is waging war, not seeking truth.

Eating isn’t seeking truth; does that make it irrational? Arguing against theft and murder isn’t seeking truth; does that make it irrational? OTOH, the arguments Dawkins offers against the existence of God are part of the process of offering reasons that is essential to a rational seeking of truth. You should try it some time.

Comment #164794

Posted by Dizzy on March 9, 2007 9:03 PM (e)

So is your misuse of the word “infer” due to a genetic defect?

Evo-bio (evo-psych?): Features that exist today likely confer a survival advantage, or did so in the past. Language exists today. Therefore, “The evo-bio explanation [draws the conclusion] that language likely confers a survival advantage” - not sure I see the misuse there.

That’s a nice false dichotomy, but the usual alternative explanation is that language use is dependent upon general, rather than specific, brain structures.

I deliberately used the words “alternative ‘explanations‘“ so as not to present a dichotomy. :) I just picked what I considered an extreme(ly unscientific) alternative, hoping to illustrate that not all “alternatives” are equally useful or plausible.

BMH said something wrong and silly, and some people seem to want to rescue it based apparently on the notion that their enemy’s enemy must be their friend.

I suppose it was wrong. I was more focused on what I thought was Guye’s conflation of evolutionary linguistics, which seems to me to be on shaky evidentiary footing, with evolutionary psychology, which (as I understand it) has considerably more empirical support. Although now, I’m not sure I can identify a clear delineation between the two, though the latter obviously studies more than language.

Didn’t even want to touch Egnor’s comments. They are horribly slimy and smelly.

Whales v. plankton, ant-eaters, most herbivores.

Funny, the ant-eater example (well, aardvark) came to mind just as I left work. Imagine if termites could alert any lion within earshot that an aardvark was nearby.

Comment #164795

Posted by realpc on March 9, 2007 9:06 PM (e)

Dawkins’ arguments against the existence of god would only seem rational to atheists. He is not going to convince anyone with his anti-religion diatribes.

And it’s very hard to understand how anyone can blame religion for most of the world’s troubles. Yes, the world has a lot of problems and yes reigion is involved in some of those problems. But it is not logical to conclude that relgion causes the problems.

Religion had nothing to do with the mass murders committed under communism, for example. And some of our very worst problems were caused by science and technology – nuclear weapons are an obvous example. If everyone became an atheist tomorrow, we would still have nuclear weapons and political, national, and ethnic conflict.

And science and technology have provided many other dangers besides nuclear weapons. I am NOT against science or technology, and technology is my career. I am against scape-goating, and simple-minded good vs evil thinking.

Religion is not the cause of our problems. Our human nature is the cause of our problems, and religion is one part of human nature. Religion is just one of many excuses for us versus them thinking and scape-goating.

And atheists are just as intolerant as religious believers. You blame religion for the world’s problems in the same way that radical Muslims blame the infidels.

We are all to blame, we are all ignorant. That’s the hard reality you do not want to see.

Comment #164798

Posted by Dizzy on March 9, 2007 9:25 PM (e)

Religion had nothing to do with the mass murders committed under communism, for example.

Neither did atheism. Nor did religion do anything to prevent the mass murders committed under communism, Nazism, etc., or the proliferation of nukes (cf. Iran), so spare us the “we need religion to keep us from doing these things” talk.

On the other hand, religion had everything to do with *all* of the torture, murder, war, oppression, and bigotry that has been committed on its behalf.

If everyone became an atheist tomorrow, we would still have nuclear weapons and political, national, and ethnic conflict.

But we wouldn’t have religious conflict. I could identify, oh, several million people who would stop trying to kill each other if we took that out of the equation.

Comment #164800

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 9, 2007 9:58 PM (e)

“The evo-bio explanation [draws the conclusion] that language likely confers a survival advantage” - not sure I see the misuse there.

Statements imply, people (or other rational agents) infer.

Comment #164801

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 9, 2007 10:03 PM (e)

Dawkins’ arguments against the existence of god would only seem rational to atheists.

Yes, I can imagine that you think that an argument for P only seems rational to people who believe P, but you’re an irrational fool.

We are all to blame, we are all ignorant. That’s the hard reality you do not want to see.

No, it’s something I’m well aware of, but it doesn’t support any of your claims.

Comment #164805

Posted by realpc on March 9, 2007 10:14 PM (e)

Religion had nothing to do with the mass murders committed under communism, for example.

Neither did atheism. Nor did religion do anything to prevent the mass murders committed under communism, Nazism, etc., or the proliferation of nukes (cf. Iran), so spare us the “we need religion to keep us from doing these things” talk.

I was making the point that Dawkins, and many other atheists, are wrong to blame religion for most of the world’s problems.

I did NOT say that atheism is to blame for the world’s problems. I did NOT say religion solves the world’s problems.

I said human nature is the cause of most of our problems. Life is full of problems. We do not have to find scape-goats to blame. That is just a way of taking the responsibility off of ourselves.

When atheists rail against the evils of religion, the implication is that they are virtuous. It’s the same thing when religious extremists blame the non-religious for all evil. The implication is that they, the religious believers, are virtuous.

We all like to feel virtuous. Unfortunately, we all fall short. Dawkins feels virtuous as he fights valiantly against the forces of ignorance and intolerance. I’m sure many of you feel the same way.

You cannot see that although self-righteous fanatics can be religious, they can also be non-religious. The communists were not religious, but that didn’t save them from being evil. Any self-righteous group can become evil.

Comment #164806

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 9, 2007 10:16 PM (e)

And it’s very hard to understand how anyone can blame religion for most of the world’s troubles.

Perhaps, but it’s moot because Dawkins doesn’t:

The Root of All Evil? is a television documentary, written and presented by Richard Dawkins, in which he argues that the world would be better off without religion.

The documentary was first broadcast in January 2006, in the form of two 45 minute episodes (excluding advertisement breaks), on Channel 4 in the UK.

Dawkins has said that the title “The Root of All Evil?” was not his preferred choice, but that Channel 4 had insisted on it to create controversy.[1] His sole concession from the producers on the title was the addition of the question mark. Dawkins has stated that the notion of anything being the root of all evil is ridiculous.[2]

Of course, realpc will persist in his belief that Dawkins believes what he denies that he believes, just because realpc wants to believe it, and because his immense arrogance prevents him from accepting that he might ever have been wrong about anything.

Comment #164807

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 9, 2007 10:23 PM (e)

When atheists rail against the evils of religion, the implication is that they are virtuous.

They are virtuous, in that respect, just as when non-murderers rail against the evils of murder. It doesn’t imply that those non-murderers don’t steal.

Dawkins feels virtuous as he fights valiantly against the forces of ignorance and intolerance. I’m sure many of you feel the same way.

You said that it was implied that people who fight against ignorance and intolerance are virtuous, not just that they feel that way. But regardless of whether people feel virtuous, or are virtuous, by virtue of fighting against ignorance and intolerance, only an idiot like you would berate them for doing so.

Comment #164814

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 9, 2007 10:32 PM (e)

You cannot see that although self-righteous fanatics can be religious, they can also be non-religious. The communists were not religious, but that didn’t save them from being evil. Any self-righteous group can become evil.

Being the deeply dishonest person that you are, you just make up this crap as you go. No one said that non-religious self-righteous fanatics cannot become evil, nor does this support any of your idiotic claims.

Comment #164820

Posted by MarkP on March 9, 2007 11:45 PM (e)

We are all to blame, we are all ignorant.

Anyone who really believed this would shut the fuck up already and no longer bore us with what even he understands to be ignorance.

Comment #164840

Posted by Marek 14 on March 10, 2007 4:05 AM (e)

As a resident of former communistic country, I just wanted to point out that while it WAS atheistic and anti-religious in theory, it had also its own ideology which actually wasn’t far from religion.

Lenin, and others, were considered faultless - nothing in their writings could be ever wrong. Christmas were transformed in accordance with the new belief, just like Christians did two thousand or so years before. New holidays were introduced, with mandatory celebrating - I remember the celebration of Russian Revolution, or the mandatory parades on 1st May.

And of course, we were all taught about Soviet Union, the eternal friend who was better than us in all things, and who had to be revered for all the things they did to us (like selflessly giving up large amount of soldiers just so they could go over here and keep us under occupation).

Most people didn’t actually BELIEVE all this, but if they wanted no trouble, they had to go through their lives behaving as if they did. As for whether the higher-ups believed it… I’m not sure. Probably not, as they knew better. Who HAD to believe it, were the people in the middle, the ones who did all the unpleasant tasks of the lower classes without the reward of the higher classes.

I think that the evils of communism stemmed not from atheism. It stemmed from dogmatic belief that “my way” is the right way, the only way, the true way.
I think that people become atheists because they are anti-dogmatism. They see (at least I do) absolute belief as form of arrogance, as belief in flawlessness and perfectness of our own opinions.
But when you mix atheism and dogmatism, you can get as bad results as when mixing religion and dogmatism. Maybe the difference is that religion had lots of experience with dogmatism of its type, while atheism as philosophical position is still relatively new?

In other words, maybe ANY ideology can lead to great evils, once it’s universally adopted by a government?

Comment #164848

Posted by realpc on March 10, 2007 7:08 AM (e)

But when you mix atheism and dogmatism, you can get as bad results as when mixing religion and dogmatism.

In other words, maybe ANY ideology can lead to great evils, once it’s universally adopted by a government?

Yes, that’s exactly what I mean. I am not blaming atheism for anything. Atheism is an intellectual position which, like theism, can’t be scientifically proven or disproven.

But certain atheists, like Dawkins, are trying to create an ideological movement. He would like to stamp out not only traditional religion, but spiritual beliefs in general. Of course he won’t succeed, and I’m not worried about Dawkinites taking over the world.

I am not scape-goating atheists, and I don’t blame them for any of the world’s problems. I am just criticizing the defects in some of their logic. And I am pointing out that Dawkins, and many extreme atheists, equate religion with ignorance and intolerance.

Ignorance and intolerance are part of being human. Dawkins is intolerant of religion. In fighting intolerance he becomes exactly what he hates.

Comment #164852

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 10, 2007 9:02 AM (e)

In fighting intolerance he becomes exactly what he hates.

a) What’s it matter to you? b) By that logic, so are you. But then, you were already, you dishonest troll.

Comment #164854

Posted by MarkP on March 10, 2007 9:46 AM (e)

Marek said:

I think that the evils of communism stemmed not from atheism. It stemmed from dogmatic belief that “my way” is the right way, the only way, the true way.
I think that people become atheists because they are anti-dogmatism. They see (at least I do) absolute belief as form of arrogance, as belief in flawlessness and perfectness of our own opinions.
But when you mix atheism and dogmatism, you can get as bad results as when mixing religion and dogmatism.

As you rightly point out, atheists tend to be anti-dogma, so talk of mixing the two borders on oxymoronic. It is dogmatic belief in the flawlessness of another that is the problem. Whether it is God or Stalin matters little, as the Soviet Union and Pol Pot demonstrated all too vividly. They were not atheists, they (at least the SU) declared themselves as such for intellectual cover. Totalitarian worship of Stalin, or Mao, is every bit as religious as worship of the Pope.

Any suggestion that what people like Dawkins have in mind is anything remotely similar is rooted in ignorance, or religious bigotry, or both.

Comment #164858

Posted by MarkP on March 10, 2007 9:58 AM (e)

Marek said:

Maybe the difference is that religion had lots of experience with dogmatism of its type, while atheism as philosophical position is still relatively new?

Atheism is not a philosophy, any more than a-unicornism is a philosophy, any more than not collecting stamps is a hobby. Atheism is a conclusion people draw about a particular topic based on whatever philosophy they hold. If said atheists commit atrocities, it is because of that underlying philosophy, not their atheism. To claim otherwise is akin to claiming that people going swimming causes the mercury in the thermometer to rise.

Atheism would be rather empty as a philosophy, which is a big reason it does not engender the social bonding that religions and political ideologies do. There is literally nothing to rally around.

Comment #164865

Posted by realpc on March 10, 2007 12:37 PM (e)

atheists tend to be anti-dogma

When you whole-heartedly believe in a dogma, it is your Truth, and you can’t see that it is a dogma.

Contemporary atheists, like James Randi, go way beyond atheism into dogmatic materialism. Sam Harris, an atheist, has expressed some open-mindedness regarding the parapsychology research of Sheldrake and Radin, and also regarding eastern mysticism.

He does not believe in an personal god or gods, but he does not deny the possible reality of things not yet explained by science.

Randi’s argument against Harris’ open-mindedness is, as always, the million-dollar prize:

if the Radin and Sheldrake declarations were really true and properly derived, then they would stand as good evidence for the reality of parapsychology, and would incidentally make the writers eligible for the JREF million-dollar prize. As we know, Sheldrake has directly refused to apply for that prize, and Radin has made the same decision by choosing to ignore it.

So no matter how convincing evidence may be, Randi can always dismiss it, because the prize has not been claimed.

If Sheldrake or Radin believed Randi was honest and open-minded, they probably would have agree to his tests.

Why do you think Sheldrake and Radin believe in their own evidence? Are they crazy? Stupid? Liars? Experts at self-deception? Harris, an atheist, looked at their evidence and did not think it could be easily dismissed. Randi describes this as Harris’ “romance with woo-woo.”

No, Randi does not have an open mind regarding unexplained phenomena. If it can’t be explained within the limits of materialism, he won’t consider the evidence.

His argument is always the same – no one has claimed the prize.

Radin says this is why the prize has never been won:

… the so-called prizes offered by skeptics are open-ended. They amount to “show me a miracle,” but without specifying in advance what would constitute the miracle. This means the prize can always be revised to make it impossible to win. Such open-ended prizes are simply moving goal-posts and publicity stunts. They are not genuine prizes for scientific achievement.

Comment #164874

Posted by MarkP on March 10, 2007 2:39 PM (e)

Realpc trolled:

When you whole-heartedly believe in a dogma, it is your Truth, and you can’t see that it is a dogma.

Gee, and being ignorant often makes one ignorant of being ignorant. That doesn’t mean everyone is as ignorant as you are. Likewise, the fact that lying comes so naturally to you that you don’t seem to realize you are lying doesn’t mean everyone else is a liar.

Comment #164876

Posted by Reed A. Cartwright on March 10, 2007 2:49 PM (e)

I’m closing this post to comments, since there is new Egnor post.