Fighting Unreason
Posted: 28 March 2014 01:32 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Call it unreason, irrationality, illiteracy, (modern) superstition, or any other name you like. It happens to be a dangerous epidemic in modern society. The real problem is not Bigfoot or Loch Ness Monster, but nonsensical ideas spread by authors like Fritjof Capra, Rupert Sheldrake, Deepak Chopra, Brian Josephson (a physics Nobel Laureate), Robert Laughlin (another physics Nobel Laureate), and Stephen Wolfram (of Mathamatica fame). Most - otherwise intelligent - people believe in the claptrap spattered by these authors because of the scientific background of the latter.

In the past six months I have been developing skepticaleducator.org, a website dedicated almost entirely to debunking these ideas using simple, basic, and fundamental scientific concepts. I believe that my background as a college physics teacher of an introductory course, partially devoted to debunking anti-science, has helped me grasp the fundamental weakness of the ideas above and lay bare the balderdash in them. For example, Intelligent Sugar Molecule I-IV expose Deepak Chopra’s absurd syllogisms and sophomoric understanding of (quantum) physics; Dancing Wu Li Quack shows how a coin becomes conscious if Gary Zukav’s reasoning is used; A New Cuckoo Science uncovers some of the blunders and swindles in Wolfram’s 1200-page tome, A New Kind of Science.

I have also uploaded a multimedia presentation on YouTube about the common origin of science and religion and their subsequent departure after Newton’s discovery of the laws of motion and gravity, despite Templeton Foundation’s $1.7M prize which has lured many physicists to finding a commonality between modern science and spirituality.

I urge you to see the movie, visit my site (sorry for any glitches ... I am a novice to wordpress), and read some of the posts and pages there. Share them with others, especially your students if you are an educator. Let’s discuss the ideas expressed there either here or in comments on the site - or elsewhere. A single person - as passionate and dedicated as he/she may be - cannot be significantly effective. But if we join our ideas on how to fight the irrationality spread by scientists, whose authorities the public accepts without question, perhaps we can make a dent, as small as it may be.

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Posted: 29 March 2014 09:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I agree.  I believe the inventor of the transistor was also a world-class bigot.

As a physical scientist myself, it does bother me to note that a great many of them believe that their skill in their field demonstrates that they have superior skills in all fields, biological sciences, economics, philosophy, social sciences, etc.

You’re right that a single person can’t be significantly effective, however, if each of us puts some effort into correcting the nonsense, a little of the knowledge will spread and maybe help a bit.  Whenever I dealt with young people I tried to make them aware of critical thinking and the associated fallacies.

Occam

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Posted: 30 March 2014 09:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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As a scientist and an engineer, I completely, 100% disagree.

It’s just such controversial hypotheses and unconventional, even wacky, ideas that keep science alive and scientists on their toes. It’s precisely from such outlandish-seeming sources that new scientific models emerge. Vaccination, heavier-than-air flight, meteorites, continental drift, were all wacky ideas, scornfully dismissed as “unreason”,” irrationality”, “claptrap” and “balderdash” (“balderdash”! What a magnificent, pompous, arrogant, 19th-century word that is!)  by scientists who thought they already knew everything - but they all turned out to be true.

Was it not Isaac Asimov - a rationalist to his fingertips, that one - who once said something to the effect that “all real science begins with someone noticeing something and saying to himself, ‘that’s queer….’”?

TFS

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Posted: 02 April 2014 08:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Theflyingsorcerer - 30 March 2014 09:47 PM

As a scientist and an engineer, I completely, 100% disagree.

So you 100% agree with Capra who says that modern physics and Eastern mysticism are the same! With Chopra who says that mind rules over body! And with Brian Josephson who claims that telepathy is real!

It’s just such controversial hypotheses and unconventional, even wacky, ideas that keep science alive and scientists on their toes. It’s precisely from such outlandish-seeming sources that new scientific models emerge. Vaccination, heavier-than-air flight, meteorites, continental drift, were all wacky ideas,

Here you are mixing up science and technology, a very common and unfortunate, even dangerous mistake! Rather than try to distinguish between the two here, I invite you to look at my post on the Science and Technology forum entitled “Do guns kill people?”

scornfully dismissed as “unreason”,” irrationality”, “claptrap” and “balderdash” (“balderdash”! What a magnificent, pompous, arrogant, 19th-century word that is!)

I didn’t know that there was pompousness and arrogance in the word “balderdash.” I have seen it used by many authors including Susan Jacoby, the well known member of CFI. However, I have to admit that I didn’t look into their psychological profiles to see if there was any arrogance in them!

by scientists who thought they already knew everything

No true scientist thinks - or thought - that he/she knows everything. There are hundreds of quotes by famous scientists from Newton to Einstein and beyond to the contrary. Let me ask you this: If you were an educator and told your students ” ... by scientists who thought they already knew everything,” what sort of message would you be sending to them about science?

Sam

[ Edited: 02 April 2014 10:12 AM by Sam Hertzinger ]
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Posted: 02 April 2014 03:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Don’t be ridiculous. Just because I disagree with you doesn’t mean I agree with everything Capra or Chopra says.

And exactly what is so “dangerous” about mixing science and technology? Scientists and engineers do it all the time; the two fields are closely entwined. I suspect you have little practical knowledge of either.

And how does your accusation address the fact that ideas once dismissed as nonsensical - such as meteorites and continental drift - later turn out to be true? You’re dodging the question with irrelevances - a sure indicator that you’re on shaky ground.

“No true scientist thinks .....”  That sounds very much like “No true Christian would ......” - a baseless argument. Agreed, no TRUE scientist would dismiss unorthodox ideas with words like “claptrap” and “balderdash” simply because they’re unorthodox. But there are plenty of so-called “scientists” around who do exactly that. There was a wonderful article in “Skeptical Inquirer”, back around 1986 I think, a truly beautiful example of a circular argument. Stripped of most its self-congratulatory rhetoric, it can best be summarised in question-and-answer form, as follows:-

“We can congratulate ourselves today that we know all the laws of nature!”

“How can we be so sure?”

“Because we can explain all known phenomena.”

“But suppose we come across a phenomenon we can’t explain?”

“Well, it has to be a hoax or a hallucination.”

“How do we know that?”

“Because such a phenomenon would violate the known laws of nature.”

“But suppose there are laws of nature we don’t know yet?”

“Oh no, we already know all the laws of nature.”

“But how can you be so sure of that?”

“Because we can explain all known phenomena…...”

Your final question is kind of ridiculous too, but I’ll answer it anyway. The message would be “Be very careful that you don’t start assuming you know everything.” A valuable one, I would think.

TFS

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Posted: 02 April 2014 05:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Theflyingsorcerer - 02 April 2014 03:49 PM

And exactly what is so “dangerous” about mixing science and technology?

Mixing UP = confusing = saying they are the same. Read my post on the Science and Technology forum.

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Posted: 03 April 2014 12:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Sam Hertzinger - 02 April 2014 05:52 PM
Theflyingsorcerer - 02 April 2014 03:49 PM

And exactly what is so “dangerous” about mixing science and technology?

Mixing UP = confusing = saying they are the same. Read my post on the Science and Technology forum.

Sam - WHERE did I say that science and technology are the same? And HOW is it dangerous? I find your argument completely ridiculous.

And you STILL haven’t addressed the point I was actually making, which was that ideas that were once considered nonsensical later turned out to be true. Why not?

TFS

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Posted: 05 April 2014 06:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Sam Hertzinger - 28 March 2014 01:32 PM

I have also uploaded a multimedia presentation on YouTube about the common origin of science and religion and their subsequent departure after Newton’s discovery of the laws of motion and gravity, despite Templeton Foundation’s $1.7M prize which has lured many physicists to finding a commonality between modern science and spirituality.

OK Sam, I nibbled and watched your video and was disappointed.  Generalities stitched together, but there was nothing thought provoking about it, and the music made it all a little overbearing. 

But, you took the time to make it, and you invited critique, so here’s some tough-love sharing. 
I have no ax to grind with you and am simply sharing my personal observations as I watched the video -
maybe it can help with your next video.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


I’m looking at that video and it’s not working.

First the music and long interludes… yea, great music, great images… but it bestow a pomposity that I think detracts.

Then at 4:00 you are making some mighty big universal generalization - about how early man perceived his world
That list at 4:40 pretty simplistic…
then you say:
As man looked around himself he saw that motion was mostly associated with animals and humans.
he also saw that “Bad” things are always in motion…
… he could not help to see that all Bad things are coming from the sky…

That sounds disconnect from daily realities in pre-modern societies

6:15 “… until a genius among them came up with a brilliant idea…”

poof religion, do you really think it wasn’t there until someone came up with the idea and convinced everyone else to take his lead?

6:50 suddenly we jump from primal man to gold hungry moderns. 

7:35 “Man in his own image created God” 

Well OK, I figured that out early on also… 
But jumping from assumptions about primal human’s outlook,
to gold idols and ‘thus man created god in his own image” - it’s like… you know… I mean… 
it doesn’t say a thing about the alleged process from A to C -

I thought you were promising a thought provoking video.
And what’s up with constantly having that music blasting ya upside da head -

I mean really, it’s great emotional music the stuff that at the right time and place
can be as fine a spiritual experience as a human will ever have
{yea, sometime I’ll have to write out my theory about how music can be the purest form of religion… some day   hmmm }

But, you promised to present some provocative ideas… but so far it hasn’t happened.

8:20 Divison of Labor…
come on, nothing new there, in fact seems a tad old school even,
considering how new discovers keep revealing ancient economies where way more dynamic then previously assumed.

8:50
The priests made the monuments???
Seems to me most history points towards priests being more ‘employees’  of a ruling economic cast - 
those were the dudes having the monuments built and then sending in the priest to maintain the places.

9:00 -  “The priests turned their eyes to the seed of these powers, the sky…”

9:40 sorry, but your portrayal of sun rise and it’s journey through the day was totally sterile.
I’d have striven to convey the shear joy and exaltation those warming rays were to the body and soul after another long cold night.
Like it was for them peoples, befores we got all modern and comfortable like.

9:55 - I think you overlook the shear practical reason for pursuing close tracking of and understanding of sun, moon and star, movement.

Seems to me you see God as the goal of all this - and to me “god” seems like “The tool” used by people
who worried about their immediate needs and greeds
-
all the spiritual stuff came as an afterthought after the adventures were had,
later when it was time to reflect on one’s laurels and sins. -
while a new generation was repeating the same mistakes, but in ever grander fashion,
because after all they did learn from their elders.

10:20 “Also let’s not forget the second in command who comes out some nights”
I can’t believe you said that.  The Moon as “Second in Command”  Oh pleaz.

But, worse “comes out some nights”  what is that?
You don’t think all ancients peoples, everywhere, always, up until modern lighting,
wasn’t intimately aware that the moon was a constant wandering presence in the sky.

10:30 “Thus the first priest were also the first astronomers..”
Well, yea… sortta, kinda, I guess, first ones to take observations seriously and to record them -
but I thought science was about the “scientific process”...

11:30
Now I’m not big on religion either, but here it’s like you’re going for the throat. 
I’ll bet there are some catholics that could tear into that.
But, here again, it’s like yesterday’s news, and I thought you wanted to add something new, provocative,
instead you jump from one shaky generalization to the next.

13:00
Wagner I guess -  somehow appropriate I imagine.


In a way I can’t argue with your conclusion, but. . .

[ Edited: 05 April 2014 06:52 PM by citizenschallenge.pm ]
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Posted: 05 April 2014 07:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Nicely done cc.pm. I wouldn’t have minded the musical interludes so much if there had been some substance elsewhere.

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Posted: 08 April 2014 12:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Occam. - 29 March 2014 09:43 AM

As a physical scientist myself, it does bother me to note that a great many of them believe that their skill in their field demonstrates that they have superior skills in all fields, biological sciences, economics, philosophy, social sciences, etc.


Occam

Was reading a “Technopoly” by Dr. Neil Postman and he documents why this is happening
To summarize about 50 pages,  the reason is because before the creation of television, radios, etc,  information was confined to local areas and thus
people were able to make sense of anything that came about.
However, know with all these inventions, we are literraly bombarded by information left and right with no context, no relevancy, etc.

The result is an inability of people to properly make sense of information, especially after the 1830s when the amount of knowledge discoveries being
made it no longer possible for people to study multiple subjects.
This has also spilled into religion lead to the phenomena which I call
Pastor google (funny)

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Posted: 08 April 2014 12:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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A good example of what Dr. Postman says can also be seen in discussions of religion and science.
I used to think many religions were against science because of random bits of things I would hear about Galileo, evolution, Darwin, etc.

It was until I seriously started studying that there was

growing recognition among historians of science that the relationship of religion and science has been much more positive than is sometimes thought.

Although popular images of controversy continue to exemplify the supposed hostility of Christianity to new scientific theories, studies have shown that Christianity has often nurtured and encouraged scientific endeavour, while at other times the two have co-existed without either tension or attempts at harmonization.
...
but while Brooke’s view [religion and science relationship is complex] has gained widespread acceptance among professional historians of science, the traditional view remains strong elsewhere, not least in the popular mind

      Science & Religion: A Historical Introduction. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press
      page ix

A link for the above can be seen here (sorry if it is long, but it was being marked as spam every other way I tried some time back )  :(

http://books.google.ae/books?id=weOOCfiDhDcC&pg=PR9&dq=The+result+is+the+growing+recognition+among+historians+of+science&hl=en&sa=X&ei=mIWoUsrGMoKF4ASyt4D4Ag&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=The result is the growing recognition among historians of science&f=false

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Posted: 08 April 2014 07:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I might regret asking this, but “studies have shown”? What kind of studies? Not sociology or psychology studies, those are about opinions. Did you mean historical analysis has shown? If so, what analysis? Major theologians have tried to reconcile reason and faith and failed. Maybe some stories have been exaggerated and you could even find a Pope here or there who helped make a discovery, but what are you really saying?

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Posted: 09 April 2014 06:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Thanks for your comment   smile


Before I get to your question your comment on sociology or psychology studies being opinions is interesting.  Dr. Postman suggested a similar view in his book Technopoly though he was more inclined to say that they confirm the obvious rather than say they were just opinions.

Now to your questions smile

When you   state “Major theologians have tried to reconcile reason and faith and failed.”
Which ones are you talking about?  I would highly appreciate if I you could share with me the books of the theologians and historains you have read so I can make my views more accurate.


In any case however, the quote I gave has clearly stated that the vast, vast majority of historians reject the “science vs religion”  theory.
For example, Dr Ronald Numbers has written detialed research on the topic in his book

Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion (Harvard University Press, 2009).
This is won the Choice Outstanding Academic Title of 2009.


According an interview with him   (he is also Hilldale Professor of the History of Science and Medicine Emeritus at unive of wisconson)

Most scientists in the United States in the late 19th Century were, themselves, believing Christians, and the ones who accepted evolution, and that would be the majority, simply took it as God’s method of creation. So, although they may have wrestled with issues such as the mechanism of evolution, most of them didn’t think it was necessary to reject evolution in order to salvage their Christian beliefs.


Contrary to common myth, Galileo suffered very little abuse at the hands of the Catholic Church. He was never tortured,
he never faced death. In fact, he was never imprisoned. His penalty was house arrest at a pleasant villa on the outskirts of Florence, Italy.


Galileo’s problems with the church stemmed far less from his astronomical and physical views than from his lack of diplomacy…
This Pope had once been a patron of Galileo’s and had supported his scientific efforts…


I can think of no scientist who ever lost his life for his scientific views.


Catholic institutions of higher learning were already teaching evolution. Most educated Catholics I know have believed in evolution


http://www.pbs.org/faithandreason/transcript/num-frame.html


Darwin’s theory of natural selection-which al-Jisr claimed could be seen as compatible with a muslim cosmology

Science and religion around the world
Oxford Univ Press
Page 166-167   see link below

http://books.google.com/books?id=W6HPW1TodZwC&pg=PA166&dq=which+al-jisr+claimed+could+be+seen+as+compatible+with+a+muslim+cosmology&hl=en&sa=X&ei=90VFU-KuK4LwyQGD1oAQ&ved=0CC0Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=which al-jisr claimed could be seen as compatible with a muslim cosmology&f=false

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God, the Self-Sufficient.
He does not give birth, nor was He born.
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Posted: 09 April 2014 11:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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What I meant by sociology and psychology being opinions is that they are data collected about the opinions or reported state of mind of people, not that the results of their analysis is an opinion. That is different than the results of a historians analysis of historical data. I wouldn’t call historiography “a study”.

As for theologians, I’m sure you’ve heard of Thomas Aquinas. He was inspired by Averroes, who based his work on the Greek philosophers. Aquinas was declared anathema and teachers who used his works were threatened by The Church. The Catholic university system was temporarily shut down while they sorted out what to do. Look up “The Condemnations of 1277”.

You also need to answer the question, what happened to the open philosophy of the Greeks? Why was it lost from Europe and had to be rediscovered via the Islamic empire? Where was it for 1,000 years? Who closed the Lyceum? Who burned the books?

Your statement “the vast, vast majority of historians” is slippery language, it carries no weight. Everything you put in bold has been responded to elsewhere and I’m not going to bother repeating that here. Just picking one of the many half-truths, what does “faced death” mean? Galileo was given a tour of the torture chamber. Why the hell did they even have a torture chamber? I hate my job and my bosses, but I deal with it because I like to eat and pay my mortgage. Galileo made essentially the same bargain.

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