Mod+ 283. RESPECTED SCIENCE WRITER DONE WITH “UNSCIENTIFIC” STRING THEORY… WHAT’S NEXT WILL SURPRISE YOU.

#21
I think a lot of human affairs are action and reaction. The Shah was so close with America, and made so many people hate him that a violent counter-reaction was inevitable.

As I understand it, Iran was traditionally a religiously moderate country.

Well I guess they couldn't stand another 10 years war, but honestly what did you achieve in Iraq?

Well I sincerely hope you don't try to help the Ukraine in the same way as you did Iraq. Most of the extremism in the Mid East has been fuelled by crass interventions by America. Perhaps the most tragic one was in Afghanistan when the Soviets moved in, and tried to modernise the country and make life better for the women. What did the US do - it cosied up with the mullahs in Pakistan and persuaded them to launch their suicide attacks against the USSR - which paved the way for the Taliban and the 9/11rtraining camp.

Maybe we should get back to the topic that occupied most of the podcast!

David
No problem, but keep in mind that my comment was in the spirit of Alex's Climate Change podcasts: not so much the politics, but the way something is reported. In the case of U.S. "hawkishness" Horgan was clearly paying attention to one side of the story. This is what materialist skeptics tend to do on the subject of the paranormal. Parapsychologists have to pay attention to both sides--whether they like it or not--because of how vocal the skeptic press is. This is a major difference to the two sides of a parapsychology debate, as was hinted by Horgan when he talked about Sheldrake.

AP
 
#22
No problem, but keep in mind that my comment was in the spirit of Alex's Climate Change podcasts: not so much the politics, but the way something is reported. In the case of U.S. "hawkishness" Horgan was clearly paying attention to one side of the story. This is what materialist skeptics tend to do on the subject of the paranormal. Parapsychologists have to pay attention to both sides--whether they like it or not--because of how vocal the skeptic press is. This is a major difference to the two sides of a parapsychology debate, as was hinted by Horgan when he talked about Sheldrake.

AP
I guess I don't get the analogy here. Are you comparing the Republican approach to 'Global Warming' - which I approve of,with the overall US foreign policy - which I don't approve of? Or did you mean something more subtle?

Edit: Perhaps we should end this however, because it is obscuring the main point of this podcast - which is one that I rate very highly.

David
 
Last edited:
#23
Alex's question at the end of the interview:

What do you think about quasi-materialism--viz the idea of being by default a materialist because anything one would ever know about consciousness, or the mind, is going to come through the material brain?
This presupposes that a material brain is required for consciousness or knowledge. In reality, we only have experience. We can have the experience of modeling the patterns of our experience and that can produce some satisfying and useful experiences. But all of our models are ultimately metaphors to describe experience. The materialistic metaphor is one that emphasizes the object, separateness, identity, and rigid boundaries - all of which are prerequisites for Aristotelian logic. The idealistic metaphor emphasizes the subject, oneness, experience, and the lability of boundaries or their illusory nature.

I think both perspectives can be useful in different situations, but moving to one extreme or the other results in absurdities and mental pathologies. Imbalance towards the materialistic extreme results in materialistic culture, demystification, loss of meaning, lack of empathy, and violent rivaling hierarchical structures that filter psychopathic control freaks to the top culminating in nuclear war. Imbalance towards the idealism metaphor can result in psychosis, difficulty in social interaction, loss of identity, and also loss of meaning. It also leads to the destruction of hierarchical systems making its adherents scattered, marginalized, and easy prey for the highly structured materialists. Oneness expressed in multiplicity is a paradox that has to be accepted and held in the balance. Structure floating on chaos is likewise a paradox that has to be accepted and held in the balance.

The interaction between the chaotic abyss and the structured logos forms the mobius strip on which the story of reality is written. Only when both are accepted is there meaningful existence. In this sense, I think that religion supplies people with exactly what they need: structure and mystery - the Logos and the Void - albeit in simplified form. Religions usually begin with a good balance, but as they grow in size and structure they become imbalanced towards structure and shun mystery. They want to pin truth down with rigid words and interpretations and thereby destroy it because it floats in the Void. The materialists likewise began with a quest to explore mystery, but their structures have grown and now want to demystify the universe by steadily encroaching on the Void with their logic (Logos), but don't realize their entire system of Logic is floating in the Void on a boat that is mentally constructed (primitive notions and axiomatic systems). Their imbalance in one direction (structure, Logos, light, demystification) results in an imbalance the other direction (nuclear war or destruction, chaos, darkness).

As science - particularly quantum physics - has probed the boundaries of matter and found them to be fuzzy, labile, and illusory, materialism has been forced to grow to accept concepts that were once the strict domain of idealism. So we see more and more scientists hanging onto the label "materialist" while appealing to mystery and pushing the boundaries of what materialism really means much like some who prefer to cling to the label "Christian" while accepting all religions or being openly agnostic.
 
#24
Alex's question at the end of the interview:

What do you think about quasi-materialism--viz the idea of being by default a materialist because anything one would ever know about consciousness, or the mind, is going to come through the material brain?
It seems to me that people need a mental crutch as they shift their ground on fundamental issues. Call it quasi-materialism, pseudo-materialism, post modern materialism, it doesn't really matter - because it just gets people out of the mental straitjacket that insists the material arguments trump all others. The important thing is that John seems to see the need for that mental shift.

I really hope he doesn't focus on the issue of war. It is not that I disagree with him - far from it - but I think he can make a bigger impact if he focusses on science because he can see the bullshit, and as his eyes open further he will see it with ever greater clarity.

In some ways perhaps a science journalist can see what individual specialised scientists can't - once he or she gets beyond simply taking the scientific bullshit as gospel truth. I think there is a big story to be told about how science got to be the way it is now, and it will be one that most scientists will find excruciating, but it needs telling.

David
 
#25
My first post - really enjoy the show, Alex! At risk of a further excursion from the main topic in the interview, I feel compelled to take issue with Horgan's seemingly gratuitous shot at "capitalism." As it exists today, the arrangement of economic affairs is a perversion of free markets that can be more accurately described as crony-capitalism - nothing close to what Adam Smith envisioned.

No other economic system in history has benefitted so many, and none have been as successful at allocating resources so efficiently across a large, diverse society. Free markets are, ultimately, an expression of the free-will (that some deny man possesses). A group of biological robots might be "programmed" to live perfectly in a collectivist system - but that ain't us!
 
#26
My first post - really enjoy the show, Alex! At risk of a further excursion from the main topic in the interview, I feel compelled to take issue with Horgan's seemingly gratuitous shot at "capitalism." As it exists today, the arrangement of economic affairs is a perversion of free markets that can be more accurately described as crony-capitalism - nothing close to what Adam Smith envisioned.
Well I think a lot of factors pervert free markets, and some of them are things that Adam Smith just didn't think about. For example, once Microsoft has got a dominant position, other operating systems are at a big disadvantage - even though they may be better - just because existing software can't run on them without modification.
No other economic system in history has benefited so many, and none have been as successful at allocating resources so efficiently across a large, diverse society. Free markets are, ultimately, an expression of the free-will (that some deny man possesses). A group of biological robots might be "programmed" to live perfectly in a collectivist system - but that ain't us!
I don't think there is ever a perfect system - whatever is devised gets perverted over time.

Since this was your first post, how about writing a second one that relates to the bulk of the podcast and to the whole focus of Skeptiko.

David
 
#27
To loosely paraphrase Winston Churchill, free market capitalism is the worst alternative - except for all the others. As to the main topic of the podcast, I'm uncomfortable with a middle ground between quasi materialism and consciousness as a concrete, pre-existing phenomenon - wholly separate from our brains. This isn't Schrodinger's cat; we're either the sum of our neural pathways or something far more "ethereal." My personal experiences and the extant research suggests mind does not equal brain. Bottom line, the middle ground between the two beliefs is a "safe" but logically indefensible position. Caveat, I'm a knucklehead finance guy who enjoys this stuff on the side....
 
#28
Andrew Paqquetts

Do your political views reflect the views of skeptiko in general on politics? I saw that you were an administrator and I noticed you steering the thread towards politics.
 
#31
and my username lighter_than_air refers to my belief that consciousness and love are both permeating through the universe, and thus, lighter_than_air. what does stinky fruit jackson refer to?
 
#32
I loved that interview! Without trying in any way to sound arrogant, I think John is where I was about 10 years ago - beginning to realise that science isn't always what it pretends to be, and puzzled by the nature of consciousness.

I think some of what he says is almost identical with what Alex says, but packaged differently. For example when he talks about materialism with a much expanded causality, that may be almost equivalent to talking of a non-physical realm.

He seems to sense the rot in a lot of science. For example, he mentions the campaigns against CAGW - not in agreement or disagreement - but pointing out that science really can't retreat into a hole and say "We are the experts!" - when it stops communicating it is probably because it has decayed internally. For example, if CAGW science was robust, wouldn't there be scientists bursting to explain to us all just how it is possible to separate the signal from CO2 from the signal from all other forms of climate change?

For that matter, wouldn't there be scientists bursting to explain how the cosmic microwave background could be disentangled from the galactic foreground which is 5000 times as strong (according to one estimate I read). One form of scientific bullshit, is the pretence that you can perform these absurdly heroic feats of data manipulation and get anything useful as a result.

The inability to explain science adequately isn't so much an indication that it has probed too deeply for most of us to understand, it is a symptom that it has decayed!

I liked the fact that John brought up Rupert Sheldrake and his hallucinogenic drug experiences - I think it is exciting to watch a very influential man start to understand the issues that SKEPTIKO is here to debate.

I really hope he joins us on the forum - Alex - do, please invite him!

David
Funnily, there was a man in the 19the century who made a sad prediction of "expertocracy" and the decline of science which will result from it. It was the (in)famous Mikhail Bakunin, the founder of modern anarchism. Like many of 19th century rebels, he was militant materialist and anti-theist whose blind and hateful fervour againt anything remotely spiritual would make Dawkins shiver. But he still had a bit more clarity than pro-totalitarian Marxists of the same epoch: while the latter ones dreamed about the unlimited rule of idealised Science, Bakunin was rightfully cynical about the idea of providing scientists with insitutional power.

According to Bakunin, institutionalisation of science will lead to...

1) Repression of scientific heretics. Scientists have a tendency to believe in a set of doctrines which is dominant in the academia in a particular time and place (e.g. in what Kuhn, a century later, would call "paradigm"). Provided with power, they would shamelessly use it to supress all alternative, dissident or contrarian positions. The proponents of such positions will be maligned, vilified and ultimately marginalised, being thrown out of the "respectable" community.

2) Demand of uncritical acceptance by the population. The opression will not limit itself by the walls of the academia - the general population will face a demand to accept the dominant scientific stance without questioning and scrutiny - because, the ruling experts will claim, ordinary people are too ignorant in the scholarly matters and should not be allowed to criticise them. They should always agree with the "mainstream scientific consensus", otherwise they are "denialists" or "woo peddlers" who are censored and attacked.

3) Virtual end of actual research. Being "liberated" from any criticism, whether from within or from without, the dominant paradigm will be turned in an ideological dogma, used as a tool for obtaining money and power. Science will turn into a cutthroat competion for funding and prestige, without any genuine search for the evidential truth.

Unfortunately, this prediction seems to be shockingly precise - we can observe all the processes mentioned above here and now... :(
 
#33
Funnily, there was a man in the 19the century who made a sad prediction of "expertocracy" and the decline of science which will result from it. It was the (in)famous Mikhail Bakunin, the founder of modern anarchism. Like many of 19th century rebels, he was militant materialist and anti-theist whose blind and hateful fervour againt anything remotely spiritual would make Dawkins shiver. But he still had a bit more clarity than pro-totalitarian Marxists of the same epoch: while the latter ones dreamed about the unlimited rule of idealised Science, Bakunin was rightfully cynical about the idea of providing scientists with insitutional power.

According to Bakunin, institutionalisation of science will lead to...

1) Repression of scientific heretics. Scientists have a tendency to believe in a set of doctrines which is dominant in the academia in a particular time and place (e.g. in what Kuhn, a century later, would call "paradigm"). Provided with power, they would shamelessly use it to supress all alternative, dissident or contrarian positions. The proponents of such positions will be maligned, vilified and ultimately marginalised, being thrown out of the "respectable" community.

2) Demand of uncritical acceptance by the population. The opression will not limit itself by the walls of the academia - the general population will face a demand to accept the dominant scientific stance without questioning and scrutiny - because, the ruling experts will claim, ordinary people are too ignorant in the scholarly matters and should not be allowed to criticise them. They should always agree with the "mainstream scientific consensus", otherwise they are "denialists" or "woo peddlers" who are censored and attacked.

3) Virtual end of actual research. Being "liberated" from any criticism, whether from within or from without, the dominant paradigm will be turned in an ideological dogma, used as a tool for obtaining money and power. Science will turn into a cutthroat competion for funding and prestige, without any genuine search for the evidential truth.

Unfortunately, this prediction seems to be shockingly precise - we can observe all the processes mentioned above here and now... :(
Wow - those predictions are spot on - he must have been a psychic!

David
 
#34
I'm not chuck and i don't know what the whippets are. My name is Daveed. Your post must be a joke of some sort, i'm assuming, but i don't get it.
Yes, I think Stinker was suspicious you might be another member under new name... I have no idea why he would suspect anyone would do such a thing....

Whippets are fun things to do with fresh cans of nitrous oxide powered whipped cream.

There's a wide variety of political views here and I wouldn't say Andy's views reflect the majority here.

Welcome to the forum! :)
 
#35
Thanks, Humantera! I'm definitely me, not chuck. I thought a Whippet was a dog! I'll have to get out more and try the nitrous oxide some time. Maybe stinky and I can meet up and do some whippets together! *

*Just kidding!
 
#38
Horgan is an interesting guy. And he sounds like a truly nice guy. I read his column regularly.


This is one I really wish there was a full transcript for so I could pull quotes to defend the rest of what I say here.

He is not a dogmatic materialist until.. in the end he clearly is. He is open minded to a point and then he retreats back to a bunch of standard cop-out postions that Alex normally would be all over.

The "Im not an expert but.." position. Translation: havent done the research that would force him to take a starting position that might conflict with materialism.

"I haven’t seen enough to convince me that ESP is real, and in part because of encountering Susan Blackmore and interviewing her. But, I don’t know. This is a crazy world we live in and I’m sorry I have to fall back to the position that I know you’re tired of hearing — more research needs to be done, and more thinking needs to be done about these things."

What?!!! Id like to see anybody else get away with that statement on the show! : ) The times Alex did press him a little, he pulled the classic cognitive dissonance maneuver of redirecting the conversation.

His response mostly struck me as the kind of false open mindedness (which I bet he is unaware of) that as the evidence gets better, will find some way to shunt it aside or rationalize that it doesn't meet the burden of proof for overturning materialism, a philosophy currently masquerading as an objective description of default reality. The Wiseman defence.

The part that really killed me was how once again we have somebody casually ignoring the elephant in the room issue of: What could possibly be a more important than evidence for Survival. At some point towards the end he says something like how he covered some of these issues in his book xyz and but now was interested other topics. The "I've moved on." defense. Of course War is a hugely important topic but in the context of Survival there is a bit of irony here.

You don't need to be a Believer, to see that if there is a growing body of good evidence and research that people survive death in some fashion that this is the most overwhelmingly important topic that Science should work on, hell, could ever work on. What could possibly have a greater impact on Humanity or have greater effect on what it means to be human individually or as societies going forward? This is so painfully obvious yet so cavalierly unacknowledged and passed over; completely due to ideological filtering. The magnitude of its importance resulting in the magnitude of its shunning. In an often strange and perplexing world the utter unreasonableness of this situation is the strangest thing of all.

This quote from a good blog post on NDEs says it well:

My own interest is in what one can reasonably believe. And having argued in detail that one can more than reasonably believe that consciousness is not reducible in principle to physical mechanism (but is, instead, a “bedrock” phenomena in the world all in its own right), my conclusion extends to entail that one can reasonably believe that the near death experience could very well be just what it appears to be: an experience of the separation of consciousness from the body and brain. To the extent that there is simply no compelling justification (beyond prejudice) for confidence in the philosophical idea that qualitative, subjective experience is wholly and completely reducible to physical mechanism in the first place, there is no compelling justification (beyond prejudice) for confidence that any particular reductionist explanation of the near death experience is especially likely to be true. Any insistence otherwise plainly rests not on the independent plausibility of these reductionist explanations, but instead in the a priori conviction borne solely from philosophical prejudice that some reductionist explanation must be true—with this a priori conviction in place, the fact that it is conceivable that the patient near death has some residual brain activity we can’t currently measure, or that it can’t be definitively refuted that some complex combination of factors, none of which independently come anywhere near explaining the whole experience, and each of which seem entirely lacking in at least some large number of cases, could combine in any number of ways (and no matter how combined still produce the archetypical NDE) is—for the skeptic—enough. But for those of us who reject the claim that there is sufficient justification for such confidence in this a priori conviction in the first place, it isn’t. - Aedon Cassiel
-

http://zombiemeditations.com/2015/05/23/epistemology-of-death/
 
#40
My first post - really enjoy the show, Alex! At risk of a further excursion from the main topic in the interview, I feel compelled to take issue with Horgan's seemingly gratuitous shot at "capitalism." As it exists today, the arrangement of economic affairs is a perversion of free markets that can be more accurately described as crony-capitalism - nothing close to what Adam Smith envisioned.
agreed.

No other economic system in history has benefited so many, and none have been as successful at allocating resources so efficiently across a large, diverse society. Free markets are, ultimately, an expression of the free-will (that some deny man possesses). A group of biological robots might be "programmed" to live perfectly in a collectivist system - but that ain't us!
yeah, and I agree with the pragmatism in this... i.e. it would be great if we could rely on everyone doing the right thing, but...
 
Top