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Richard C. Johnson - Religion: The Failed Narrative
Posted: 19 October 2011 02:35 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Host: Robert Price

Richard C. Johnson Ph.D. is a retired chemist and serves as Treasurer for Freethought Arizona.

For some 25 years, the company he founded worked with scientists and researchers in chemical analysis. Through family ties, Richard had long been a kind of participant observer of religion and learned well its social bonding functions, though always remaining suspicious of its metaphysical claims. He observed just too many contradictions in theory and practice to take the beliefs seriously. Here he saw the roots of the terrible present-day conflicts between religions as well as between particular faiths and the rest of the world.

Dr. Johnson is the author of Religion: The Failed Narrative, in which he urges readers to scrutinize religious claims with the simple rational methods of science. Listen to his interview with host Robert M. Price who trivializes the issues with gratuitous references to Uncle Fester and other absurdities.

http://www.pointofinquiry.org/richard_c_johnson_religion_the_failed_narrative/

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Posted: 19 October 2011 06:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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At 11 minutes into the podcast, I don’t know where Robert Price got the idea that “Occupy Wallstreet” has to do with kicking out capitalism and installing communism.  But, then, Bob Price seems rather conservative, so maybe that’s his way of dealing with Occupy Wallstreet - i.e. if you don’t like a person’s beliefs, then exaggerate them into a strawman so you can easily dismiss it.  It seemed like a flippant dismissal.

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Posted: 19 October 2011 06:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Nothing new at all in this interview.  Some of these podcasts are just drilling the same hole over and over again. POI needs to improve.

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Posted: 20 October 2011 10:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I am glad that I am not the only one taken aback by Price’s completely misleading and flawed interpretation of the Occupy Wall Street movement, and for that matter, Marxism in general.  Where is the evidence that the movement is grounded in anti-capitalist sentiment and spurred by a Stalinistic authoritarian/totalitarian state oriented communism? There are many variations of capitalism and communism, so as to confine and cast economic systems in such a binary and simplistic fashion unfairly suppresses all philisophical nuance.  Does anyone else see the irony in his critique of Marxism as a failed narrative? The impetus of OWS is a direct response to the “failed narrative” of neoliberal/laissez faire capitalism.  How strange that this fact seems to evade his realm of thought. This warped libertarian ideology, founded on the notion of market self regulation when left to its whims, has proven a demonstrable failure of economics, and as narrative; and their is myriad incontrovertible evidence to support this conclusion.  Oddly, the truth is that Marx remains somewhat more relevant today than ever before, as capitalism culminates in the catabolism of weath; destroying the health of people, communities, and the environment in the process. 

Dogma and superstition manifests in alternate forms outside of spirits and ghosts.  Price may have shed religion, but he remains bound to the same thought process inherent in his economic ideology.

[ Edited: 20 October 2011 10:22 AM by nickscott79 ]
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Posted: 20 October 2011 10:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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This is a classic case of the fallacy of the false dichotomy.  The protestor oppose “capitalism” therefore they are on the side of soviet style marxism.  Shame on Robert Price, not for being conservative, but for failing to be a critical thinker.

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Posted: 20 October 2011 02:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I cannot express my feelings about Dr. Price’s straw man attack on the Occupy Wall Street movement much better than those who have commented before me. However, to those of us who are regular listeners to Dr. Price’s “Bible Geek” podcasts, this comes as no surprise, although it is hard not to cringe each time one encounters him making gross mischaracterizations of the views and motives of those who disagree with him on political matters. The interesting thing (or the most maddening thing, to some of us) is that on matters of Higher Biblical Criticism Dr. Price seems to employ the most rigorous examination, dissection,  and willingness to fully explore and understand the positions of those with differing views on the bible, yet when it comes to matters of politics he seems to take as “gospel truth” any nonsense that a certain partisan media outlet puts out there without ever stopping to question its veracity. It would seem to me that Dr. Price has rejected fundamentalist religious dogma only to embrace a type of political dogma.

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Posted: 21 October 2011 09:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Not a fan of when you guys allow your guests to pass off metaphysics as science.  It devalues the critical thinking perspective you are trying to cultivate. In this case I’m talking about consciousness.

I know it is a nice and warm and fuzzy feeling to feel like science basically has this topic figured out and it is just a matter off dotting the I(s) and crossing the T(s).  This is not the case.

-The subjective experience of consciousnesses has not been explained using the scientific method.  It is thought to be associated with our neural networks since it seems related to memory and thought which have been scientifically connected to our brains.  This association however is purely conjecture. 

-There is no proof that infants or animals are not conscious.  Certainly there is evidence that they are not ‘self aware’ in the same way that adults are, but there is no current way to know that they do not have some form of subjective conscious experience.  Also using the argument that people don’t remember being conscious when they were infants (which was done implicitly in the podcast) is not valid because that assumes that memory is perfect, which is demonstrably not true.  E.G. When we dream at night we often rapidly forget those dreams when we awake: Does that mean that we did not experience those dreams? No it just means we have no memory of experiencing them.

-There is no evidence that the conscious subjective experience continues after a individual dies.  It must be said though, that there is no direct evidence than it does not.  There is evidence that thought and memory stop due to their proven connection with our physical brain, but since the subjective experience of consciousnesses is not currently understood, our reasoning should stop there about its temporal boundaries unless we are intending to move into metaphysics. Again, not being able to remember being conscious before you were born cannot be used as conclusive evidence as memory is demonstrably imperfect.

When ‘free thinkers’ move past the above points into how they they happen to think the conscious subjective experience is explained by science, they are expressing what they believe or in some cases have faith in and should be called on it.  It doesn’t matter that the roots of their beliefs are based of science instead of a holy book, it is still metaphysics.

In summary, when it comes to the conscious subjective experience we have as we live our lives, science does not currently explain this phenomena.  I will be the first to get excited when and if it does.

BTW I consider myself an atheist critical thinker.

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Posted: 22 October 2011 12:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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JackOCat - 21 October 2011 09:31 AM

Not a fan of when you guys allow your guests to pass off metaphysics as science.  It devalues the critical thinking perspective you are trying to cultivate. In this case I’m talking about consciousness.

I know it is a nice and warm and fuzzy feeling to feel like science basically has this topic figured out and it is just a matter off dotting the I(s) and crossing the T(s).  This is not the case.

-The subjective experience of consciousnesses has not been explained using the scientific method.  It is thought to be associated with our neural networks since it seems related to memory and thought which have been scientifically connected to our brains.  This association however is purely conjecture. 

-There is no proof that infants or animals are not conscious.  Certainly there is evidence that they are not ‘self aware’ in the same way that adults are, but there is no current way to know that they do not have some form of subjective conscious experience.  Also using the argument that people don’t remember being conscious when they were infants (which was done implicitly in the podcast) is not valid because that assumes that memory is perfect, which is demonstrably not true.  E.G. When we dream at night we often rapidly forget those dreams when we awake: Does that mean that we did not experience those dreams? No it just means we have no memory of experiencing them.

-There is no evidence that the conscious subjective experience continues after a individual dies.  It must be said though, that there is no direct evidence than it does not.  There is evidence that thought and memory stop due to their proven connection with our physical brain, but since the subjective experience of consciousnesses is not currently understood, our reasoning should stop there about its temporal boundaries unless we are intending to move into metaphysics. Again, not being able to remember being conscious before you were born cannot be used as conclusive evidence as memory is demonstrably imperfect.

When ‘free thinkers’ move past the above points into how they they happen to think the conscious subjective experience is explained by science, they are expressing what they believe or in some cases have faith in and should be called on it.  It doesn’t matter that the roots of their beliefs are based of science instead of a holy book, it is still metaphysics.

In summary, when it comes to the conscious subjective experience we have as we live our lives, science does not currently explain this phenomena.  I will be the first to get excited when and if it does.

BTW I consider myself an atheist critical thinker.

  That’s a little bit off topic, but the majority of recent scientific studies on consciousness admit that they are not quite sure what consciousness is. All evidence points to the brain “doing what it does”  as the basis of consciousness however, so your criticism is not valid.

[ Edited: 22 October 2011 03:05 AM by mid atlantic ]
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Posted: 22 October 2011 12:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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As with several other commenters, I too was appalled to here Mr. Price’s latest strawman attack against the “Occupy” protests.

I’m astounded that the Center of Inquiry continues to invite Mr Price to host this podcast. He displays an enthusiastic and willful ignorance of political ideologies, public policies, current events, and logical discourse. *All* of which are central to the Center of Inquiry’s stated missions.  In my opinion it’s damaging to Center of Inquiry to have Mr. Price making these these wild mischaracterizations and display a lack of awareness or understanding of these sorts of issues while he is hosting this podcast. 

Sure regular listeners to his “Bible Geek” podcast are familiar with these sorts of ugly and misguided outbursts.  However, the Bible Geek does not really have a mission surrounding the promotion of evidenced based public policy and factually robust public discorse.  If the Center of Inquiry is going to continue to invite him to host these podcasts they would do well to request that he live up to the ideals of the Center of Inquiry and either express himself in a manner consistent with their mission or at least keep his various dogmatic bigotries to his own podcast.

[ Edited: 22 October 2011 02:59 AM by Denrotho ]
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Posted: 22 October 2011 10:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I’m astounded that the Center of Inquiry continues to invite Mr Price to host this podcast. He displays an enthusiastic and willful ignorance of political ideologies, public policies, current events, and logical discourse. *All* of which are central to the Center of Inquiry’s stated missions.

I don’t see why. One of the hallmarks of the skeptical movement is to give a fair hearing to competing ideas and points of view on matters of opinion and inquiry. It doesn’t mean that anybody has to agree with them, and giving this man a podium to speak from doesn’t make him immune to rebuttal and refutation.

The important point in giving this man or anybody else a hearing is that you know what he’s actually saying. When you have that information, at least you know exactly what it is you’re rebutting.

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Posted: 22 October 2011 07:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Equal Opportunity Curmudgeon - 22 October 2011 10:11 AM

One of the hallmarks of the skeptical movement is to give a fair hearing to competing ideas and points of view on matters of opinion and inquiry. It doesn’t mean that anybody has to agree with them, and giving this man a podium to speak from doesn’t make him immune to rebuttal and refutation.

The important point in giving this man or anybody else a hearing is that you know what he’s actually saying. When you have that information, at least you know exactly what it is you’re rebutting.

That does not mean the host of PoI should be spreading nonsense. It is the host’s responsibility to let the guests air their views and challenge them to defend those views. The host should not be the one proffering ideological views.

Dr. Johnson is the author of Religion: The Failed Narrative, in which he urges readers to scrutinize religious claims with the simple rational methods of science. Listen to his interview with host Robert M. Price who trivializes the issues with gratuitous references to Uncle Fester and other absurdities.

Which is precisely the reason I delete Price’s PoI interviews without listening to them. I listened to this interview to see what had people upset, and made it into the aforementioned 11-minute mark then could not take any more of Price’s blather.

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Posted: 23 October 2011 09:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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That does not mean the host of PoI should be spreading nonsense. It is the host’s responsibility to let the guests air their views and challenge them to defend those views. The host should not be the one proffering ideological views.

I agree, however, you also have the option of rebuttal with full knowladge of what you’re rebutting.

And he has to deal with it since having the soapbox at his disposal is not the same thing as a free pass.

He gets to speak his piece, but he does not get to go unchallanged!

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Posted: 24 October 2011 02:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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I wanted to point out that many of the comments so far have to do with a reflexive reaction to something that the host (Dr. Robert Price) said about “Occupy Wall Street.”  But the interview about the book “Religion: The Failed Narrative” has nothing to do with this protest movement.  I would appreciate comments about the book and the interview, rather than about comments that are off topic.

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Posted: 24 October 2011 02:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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I couldn’t make it through this interview.  Price’s straw-man argument against Occupy, followed by a guest that had very little or no real expertise in his field other than ‘went to church’, led me to abandon this show very early.

Nothing against the interviewee, but POI needs better guests than this, and Robert Price (even though I consider myself a fan of his writing), needs to be better informed when he decides to riff off-topic, to avoid falling into silly caricature of positions with which he disagrees.

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Posted: 24 October 2011 02:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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“went to church” is a considerable credential.  How would anybody who had never been to church have any idea what religion is about?  I wrote most of this book while I was listening to sermons.

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Posted: 25 October 2011 08:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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mid atlantic - 22 October 2011 12:03 AM

“doing what it does”


I guess I have to defer to your exhaustive scientific justification that links the subjective conscious experience to normal brain function.  And apparently metaphysical arguments are off topic of the podcast because according to you he did not make any.  It must be nice to have it all figured out!  I commend you.

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