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Beyond Belief 2006
Posted: 05 December 2006 03:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith”]I doubt you will find any famous person who was truly humble—humility requires a distaste for fame, and being famous requires something of a monomaniacal interest in your own abilities.

I guess ‘being famous’ and ‘being humble’ don’t really go together. Maybe that’s why J.D. Salinger gave it up…

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Posted: 05 December 2006 04:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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Metaphysics

There seems to be some misunderstanding of the word “metaphysics.”  From what I understand, Doug can correct me; Metaphysics was originally a place keeping name.  When Aristotle’s work was cataloged his work on the nature of the world was located after his work on nature (physics), therefore Meta (after) physics (nature).  However, it has come to mean studies of things beyond the physical world. :D


Does that help? :D

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Posted: 05 December 2006 05:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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Re: Metaphysics

[quote author=“wesmjohnson”]There seems to be some misunderstanding of the word “metaphysics.”  From what I understand, Doug can correct me; Metaphysics was originally a place keeping name.  When Aristotle’s work was cataloged his work on the nature of the world was located after his work on nature (physics), therefore Meta (after) physics (nature).  However, it has come to mean studies of things beyond the physical world. :D

Metaphysics is the study of the structure of reality. Some people, it is true, believe that there are parts of reality that are ‘supernatural’, like souls or gods. That would be their metaphysics. Others (naturalists) believe that only the natural world is real. That would be our metaphysics.

Are numbers real? Are properties nominal or universal? Are there real laws of nature, or just causal regularities? What are the ultimate constituents of reality (quarks, loops, etc.)? Is the soul separate from the body? Do we survive our bodily death? Do ghosts exist? Does god exist?

All of these are issues of metaphysics. Some of them involve scientific input to answer them—which is why there may be an overlap between certain areas of science (e.g., neurophysiology, cosmology, string theory, etc.) and metaphysics ...

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Posted: 05 December 2006 07:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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Metaphysics

Doug:

Thanks! 

You wrote:

Metaphysics is the study of the structure of reality. Some people, it is true, believe that there are parts of reality that are ‘supernatural’, like souls or gods. That would be their metaphysics. Others (naturalists) believe that only the natural world is real. That would be our metaphysics.

Is “our” metaphysics a belief?  Do we not have powerful evidence that only the natural world is real?

You wrote:

All of these are issues of metaphysics. Some of them involve scientific input to answer them—which is why there may be an overlap between certain areas of science (e.g., neurophysiology, cosmology, string theory, etc.) and metaphysics ...

Dr. Johnson’s First Observation: “Everything interesting happens on an interface.”  The region of overlap (interface) between science and metaphysics is interesting.  I would expect that such overlap moves with time.  That is, as the method of science provides answers those issues move into “our” metaphysical space (reality).  Over time more of “their” metaphysical issues disappear.  Sort of; any sufficiently advanced technology…  This could be the reason staunch believers cannot accept evolution.

I suspect that such an interface has been the subject of books or at least dissertations.  Who might have addressed that issue?

I also have the sense that we are not being precise.  :?  You mentioned “our” metaphysics and “their” metaphysics as beliefs.  You then mentioned an overlap between science and metaphysics.  Science is a method.  I’m confused. :?

:D Wes

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Posted: 05 December 2006 07:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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Re: Metaphysics

[quote author=“wesmjohnson”]You wrote:

Metaphysics is the study of the structure of reality. Some people, it is true, believe that there are parts of reality that are ‘supernatural’, like souls or gods. That would be their metaphysics. Others (naturalists) believe that only the natural world is real. That would be our metaphysics.

Is “our” metaphysics a belief?  Do we not have powerful evidence that only the natural world is real?

We do.

I’m not sure what you mean when you say “our metaphysics is a belief”. I mean, of course our metaphysics is a belief of ours, an opinion, based on the best evidence we have.

Basically, the idea is that our best metaphysics comes from our best epistemic method: the method of science. Hence, what science tells us is true about the world should make up our metaphysics.

[quote author=“wesmjohnson”]Dr. Johnson’s First Observation: “Everything interesting happens on an interface.”  The region of overlap (interface) between science and metaphysics is interesting.  I would expect that such overlap moves with time.  That is, as the method of science provides answers those issues move into “our” metaphysical space (reality).  Over time more of “their” metaphysical issues disappear.  Sort of; any sufficiently advanced technology…  This could be the reason staunch believers cannot accept evolution.

Yes, this reminds me also of Neil Tyson’s wonderful essay “The Perimeter of Ignorance”, where he notes that throughout time, god’s work was identified with that part of the physical world that we could not understand. First it was the motions of the planets, now it is biological and mental features.

As parts of science become more settled, they become less metaphysically interesting: nobody denies the metaphysics of planetary motion, whereas this was one of the hottest topics on earth when Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and Giordano Bruno were writing. Bruno was even burned at the stake for his metaphysical musings on the topic!

I think it is correct to say that all the branches of the sciences are branches of metaphysics, but we conventionally think only of the more ‘cutting edge’ parts as being philosophically interesting enough to call “metaphysics”, because we’ve sort of already worked out our feelings about the sun being at the center of the solar system, for instance. That’s no longer interesting, so we don’t, as it were, raise it to the level of “metaphysics” in our minds.

[quote author=“wesmjohnson”]I suspect that such an interface has been the subject of books or at least dissertations.  Who might have addressed that issue?

Offhand I don’t know. Of course, there are hundreds of great books about metaphysics and about philosophy of science; only a few people can do both very well, and most of those people tend to write for specialist audiences. (If you’re interested I can look into it). But I’d expect Bertrand Russell (to take one example) to have pretty good things to say at the level of a general audience. He also has a wonderful style.

[quote author=“wesmjohnson”]I also have the sense that we are not being precise.  :?  You mentioned “our” metaphysics and “their” metaphysics as beliefs.  You then mentioned an overlap between science and metaphysics.  Science is a method.  I’m confused. :?

Yes, I’m taking “us” to be naturalists, and “them” to be super-naturalists (theists, dualists, etc.).

The difference between “us” and “them” is at least in part a difference in our metaphysics.

Science is a method, but it reliably produces true beliefs about the world. In fact, it is (so far as we know) the most reliable method to produce true beliefs about the world. So our metaphysics should be based on the results of scientific theorizing, and not, for example, on so-called theological “revelation”.

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Posted: 05 December 2006 08:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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Doug: You wrote:

Science is a method, but it reliably produces true beliefs about the world. In fact, it is (so far as we know) the most reliable method to produce true beliefs about the world. So our metaphysics should be based on the results of scientific theorizing, and not, for example, on so-called theological “revelation”.

The subject of “true belief” jumps off the page for me.  Belief, for me, is a substitute for knowledge and something is true or not based on scientific evidence.  I have read a little about true belief and justified belief and other things epistomological.  Are we, in some sense, slave to pre-scientific notions?  After all don’t we really know things?  Is everything a belief?  Don’t I know I am right handed or have blue eyes or that the Earth goes around the sun?  Can’t I say I know those things?  Must I say I believe them in some qualified way?

Again, still confused :?

Wes

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Posted: 05 December 2006 08:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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[quote author=“wesmjohnson”]The subject of “true belief” jumps off the page for me.  Belief, for me, is a substitute for knowledge and something is true or not based on scientific evidence.  I have read a little about true belief and justified belief and other things epistomological.  Are we, in some sense, slave to pre-scientific notions?  After all don’t we really know things?  Is everything a belief?  Don’t I know I am right handed or have blue eyes or that the Earth goes around the sun?  Can’t I say I know those things?  Must I say I believe them in some qualified way?

Not sure if I can help here, because I’m not entirely sure I get the force of your confusion. Knowledge just is true, justified belief (or true belief caused in the right way). Getting into the epistemological minutiae here would be a bore, but there’s nothing more to knowledge than being a certain sort of true belief.

So we clearly do know things, lots of things, since we have a lot of true beliefs that are justified or caused in the right sort of way.

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Posted: 05 December 2006 04:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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I said earlier that due to the globalization of our planet we need to find a way to merge all the different ideologies into one; similarly to what happened during the Dark Ages in Europe. To which Doug responded that

...I don’t think that’s possible.

Without the Dark Ages there would be no Christianity. Without Christianity there would be no Renaissance. Without Renaissance there would be no Enlightenment and we would not stand where we are today: taking close-up pictures of Saturn or having discovered insulin to treat Diabetes.

Einstein’s Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding. is nonsense. We don’t need peace, we need to survive. And for that we need wars. This is how we’ll “merge” the different ideologies: we eliminate most of them. For the first time the US invasion of Iraq seems justifiable to me. Perhaps we are living in a time of a cultural selection as opposed to the biological one, but the “survival of the fittest” still applies. Either some of us will die or the human kind won’t make it.

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Posted: 06 December 2006 12:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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[quote author=“George Benedik”]We don’t need peace, we need to survive. And for that we need wars. This is how we’ll “merge” the different ideologies: we eliminate most of them. For the first time the US invasion of Iraq seems justifiable to me. Perhaps we are living in a time of a cultural selection as opposed to the biological one, but the “survival of the fittest” still applies. Either some of us will die or the human kind won’t make it.

:?:  :?:

Are you suggesting a global holocaust of people who disagree with you?

If not, what exactly are you suggesting? It sounds quite sinister.

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Posted: 06 December 2006 03:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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Are you suggesting a global holocaust

Not suggesting, merely predicting. I am getting tired of listening to people (especially in these videos) about how much we care about each other, how we shouldn’t hurt anybody’s feelings or take their hopes away. It really bothers me when scientists try to act like Mother Theresa. If we keep lying to ourselves, not paying attention to our history, the result will be disastrous. Perhaps one more war is all we need to become united (not suggesting, predicting!)....until we meet other beings from our neighboring stars with their ideologies, Bibles, Qur’ans and Bhagadavitas.

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Posted: 06 December 2006 03:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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[quote author=“George Benedik”]Not suggesting, merely predicting. I am getting tired of listening to people (especially in these videos) about how much we care about each other, how we shouldn’t hurt anybody’s feelings or take their hopes away. It really bothers me when scientists try to act like Mother Theresa. If we keep lying to ourselves, not paying attention to our history, the result we’ll be disastrous. Perhaps one more war is all we need to become united (not suggesting, predicting!)....until we meet other beings from our neighboring stars with their ideologies, Bibles, Qur’ans and Bhagadavitas.

Hum. I think the scientists are trying to urge caution and peace precisely to avoid the sort of catastrophe you are predicting. Now, I think none of us believes that the atheists are the issue here, however much heat they may be providing in scientific circles over the past couple of months. The issue are clearly sectarian fundamentalists. However, to be fair to the relevant essayists and scientists, I think they are urging caution so as not to inflame an already difficult situation.

And also, FWIW, I don’t think a war would unite anyone, unless it is against space aliens ...  :wink:

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Posted: 06 December 2006 04:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
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I think the scientists are trying to urge caution and peace precisely to avoid the sort of catastrophe you are predicting.

Not really. Dawkins and Harris, the only ones (so it seems to me) who know what they are after, are not urging caution at all. The rest of the essayists and scientists are saying nothing, at least nothing new; except for Ramachandran who might one day find some answers through neuroscience.

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Posted: 06 December 2006 05:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
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[quote author=“George Benedik”]Not really. Dawkins and Harris, the only ones (so it seems to me) who know what they are after, are not urging caution at all. The rest of the essayists and scientists are saying nothing, at least nothing new; except for Ramachandran who might one day find some answers through neuroscience.

Sorry, I mean the scientists who were attacking Dawkins and Harris, as well as the op/ed people who write against Dawkins and Harris, are urging caution and peace.

The other scientists are saying some new things (new in the last couple of decades, anyway) about the irrationality of human decision mechanisms, etc. They are also asking for more data about religious belief and practices, which is a relevant request.

I guess I’m still not sure what you are suggesting.

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Posted: 06 December 2006 05:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith”]I guess I’m still not sure what you are suggesting.

Once again, I am not suggesting anything. The Napoleon of the 21st century will…

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Posted: 06 December 2006 05:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
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[quote author=“George Benedik”]Once again, I am not suggesting anything. The Napoleon of the 21st century will…

Well, with the nuclear arsenals of the world still in existence, and indeed growing, I think the Napoleon of the 21st century will have a very short career. And if he’s particularly effective, so will the human race.

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