Mod+ 249. TIM FREKE ON SOUL CRUSHING SCIENCE

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Sciborg_S_Patel

I think Feser makes some good points about how scientism goes right past nihilism into utter incoherence.

He goes through Rosenberg's Atheist Guide to Reality, but he also critiques an article Rosenberg wrote that I think it worth going through. It shows how Rosenberg breaks down the way materialism can lead to bizarre conclusions (no meaning, no morality, no history).

Rosenberg’s 2009 article “The Disenchanted Naturalist’s Guide to Reality” was a precursor to the book. A number of philosophers commented on the article, and I wrote up my own response here:

“Rosenberg on naturalism”

Rosenberg then responded to his critics here. I posted a couple of replies to this response:
“Rosenberg responds to his critics”
“Misinformation campaign”

Finally, just to pile it on, some links to critical reviews of Rosenberg’s book by philosophers otherwise sympathetic to his naturalism: Michael Ruse,
Philip Kitcher, and Massimo Pigliucci.
 
Most atheists like to believe that they are smarter and more rational than people who believe in a religion. Scientists also tend to believe they are smarter and more ration than ordinary people. And working as a scientist tends to create a perceptual bias in favor of materialist atheism. So atheist scientists are extremely unlikely to ever admit that a religious idea like God, or intelligent design, or the afterlife, might be true because it would mean that they were wrong and the religious believers were right all along.

 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

Henri Bergson and the Perception of Time

...Despite the recovery of a more vitalistic outlook in attitudes towards physical and mental wellbeing, the main underlying perception of our modern, urban-industrial society remains mechanistic and soulless. Over the years, the dominant western worldview has become de-vitalised and devalued, especially in politics and economics. Let’s suppose things had developed in a more balanced, Bergsonian way over the sixty years or more since his death: reason and intuition, intellect and imagination, matter and mind, the physical and the spiritual. Perhaps we would have learned from this a greater respect for all expressions of the life force, including our own species.

To extend Bergson’s speculations, let’s imagine that the present green awakening and concern over the environment had started to get under way sixty years ago – I mean really take off, not just lone voices in the wilderness, such as Rachel Carson. By now we would have had an environmentally-friendly form of global politics that we can barely imagine. Had such a re-valuation of our natural habitat and its human, plant and animal inhabitants taken place half a century ago, our planet would probably be in much better shape today, allowing us to pass it on in a healthy state to our descendants. Political and economic priorities would by now have changed radically and war would be seen as an absolute last resort. There can be no place in a genuinely ethical foreign policy for the doctrine that might is right. There could therefore be no question of any nation, however powerful, embarking on pre-emptive wars against any other nation.

With a more vitalistic perception, the intrinsic value of others and of humanity as a whole would by now have become something so written into our lives that it would be that much harder to demonise those we disliked. In order to exploit and abuse others and make war against them, you first have to devalue them. Seeing them as of no greater value than devitalized machines is one way of doing this.

Writing in The Independent (14 May 04), Terence Blacker observed that the fascination of cruelty is now so pervasive that we hardly notice it’s there. He believes there is a direct line from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq to millions of home computers across the western world. Pictures not at all dissimilar to the shocking images from Abu Ghraib are available as a form of home entertainment. “If you tap the words ‘torture’, ‘rape’ or ‘slave’ into a search engine,” wrote Blacker, “You will not be led to human rights organizations or academic reports, but to thousand upon thousand of websites specialising in recreational sadism. All this is mind-bogglingly profitable, because it taps into the age’s most compelling vices and weaknesses: cruelty, voyeurism, boredom. The problem is consumers are never satisfied by what they’re offered.”...
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

Everything We Know Is Wrong?

(I added the question mark, as I think using the word "everything" is overly sensationalist.)

Every day the newspapers carry stories of new scientific findings. There are 15 million scientists worldwide all trying to get their research published. But a disturbing fact appears if you look closely: as time goes by, many scientific findings seem to become less true than we thought. It's called the "decline effect" - and some findings even dwindle away to zero.

A highly influential paper by Dr John Ioannidis at Stanford University called "Why most published research findings are false" argues that fewer than half of scientific papers can be believed, and that the hotter a scientific field (with more scientific teams involved), the less likely the research findings are to be true. He even showed that of the 49 most highly cited medical papers, only 34 had been retested and of them 41 per cent had been convincingly shown to be wrong. And yet they were still being cited.

Again and again, researchers are finding the same things, whether it's with observational studies, or even the "gold standard" Randomised Controlled Studies, whether it's medicine or economics. Nobody bothers to try to replicate most studies, and when they do try, the majority of findings don't stack up. The awkward truth is that, taken as a whole, the scientific literature is full of falsehoods.

Jolyon Jenkins reports on the factors that lie behind this. How researchers who are obliged for career reasons to produce studies that have "impact"; of small teams who produce headline-grabbing studies that are too statistically underpowered to produce meaningful results; of the way that scientists are under pressure to spin their findings and pretend that things they discovered by chance are what they were looking for in the first place. It's not exactly fraud, but it's not completely honest either. And he reports on new initiatives to go through the literature systematically trying to reproduce published findings, and of the bitter and personalised battles that can occur as a result.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

The Tacit Supernaturalism of Popular Science

Since the emergence of the modern popular science industry in the nineteenth century, one central message has been promulgated consistently: Magical thinking is the exact opposite of the scientific spirit and a foolproof litmus test to identify intrinsically unscientific and dangerously regressive attitudes. The problem with this pillar of popular science, however, is that on closer inspection it quickly boils down to assumptions which are themselves based on little more than variants of magical thinking.

An essential feature of magical thinking is the belief that effects are inherent in intention: in magic, immaterial ideas unfold and teleologically realise themselves – we know not how – to manipulate physical reality. The cardinal error of magic, popular science tells us, lies in bad post hoc reasoning, i.e. in unchecked, wishful conjectures regarding the causal relationship between intent and supposed effect. Did not the birth of science occur when man (at last!) started to think critically and uncover natural causes for supposedly supernatural phenomena? And has history not shown that knowledge has steadily progressed in a linear and accumulative fashion, on a heroic march from superstition to science?

Systematic historical explorations of preconditions and wider contexts of scientific practice have fundamentally challenged such traditional accounts, particularly since historical scholarship has ceased to be dominated by exercises in promoting and justifying scientific and medical professionalism. In fact, popular science magazines and pamphlets co-emerged, and often overlapped content-wise, with a modern standard historiography of science, which retroactively transformed past events and actors to fit dominant nineteenth- and twentieth-century sensibilities. A major problem with present-day popular science is that it continues outdated history of science narratives to make the past compatible with contemporary academic mainstream culture. It insists to be naturalistic, and yet it adheres to breathtakingly simplistic and ultimately teleological nineteenth-century science myths and rhetorical patterns, for the only organising principles of scientific and medical practice that appear to exist for popular science are ‘reason’ and ‘truth’.
 
Crossposting:
Another part of the problem is that some atheists who see themselves as in a battle with theists have followed a strategy of creating a false dichotomy between theism and science and they have used this to attack theists. As John Lennox points out, science is not in conflict with theism. All the early scientists believed in God and thought studying nature, doing science, would reveal how God designed the world. Their God was not a god of the gaps, limited to what science couldn't explain who's role was diminished with every new scientific discovery. Their God was the creator of the universe and creator of the natural laws scientists are so interested in discovering. But atheists who want to discredit theism, by framing the dispute as one between science and theism, portraying God as a god of the gaps, forcing people to choose either God or science, have taken their dispute with theism into the field of science which spills over into politics and education. This widening of the conflict between atheism and theism into other areas where it doesn't belong is part of what has increased the polarization of society.
 
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Ian Gordon

Ninshub
Member
Alex, I've been going through some shows I managed to miss and I thought I'd mention that this one really stood out for me. I didn't know about Tim, but I really felt a kinship with his personality and where he's generally coming from. You guys had a very interesting conversation that covered a lot of topics and each one was thought-provoking and fun to listen to. The one bit that stood out most for me was where you were talking about individuality vs. oneness - how the "non-duality consciousness" crowd mentality is a mirror image of the "soul crushing" materialistic fundamentalists - and instead seeing that both "individuality" and "oneness" are real/existing, not one or the other - like "it's both a particle and a wave". Cool stuff, and it rings true to me. :)
 
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