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Jennifer Michael Hecht - Doubt
Posted: 12 January 2010 12:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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Jennifer Hecht is a very refreshing voice and I feel is saying things that are urgently needed in a world that has become very compartmentalised. We must remember that all our categories of human knowledge and experience are ultimately artificial. If we attack the kinds of things that Hecht is saying because we only seem able to understand the world from a particular viewpoint this serves to pretty much prove what she is saying, we are too narrow in our understanding, humankind has always been thus and quite likely will continue to be so.
The voices that stretch the everyday, the accepted, the ordinary are valuable. If we don’t understand poetry or meditation then we should find out about them, not dismiss them. It is worth it, once the experience of completeness or total ‘rightness’  (truth perhaps! ) has been discovered it becomes clear what it means. Most visionaries in any field have had an ability to be open enough to not dismiss but to investigate. This is what I think of as true science.
Of course this approach could be read as a pretext to get involved in just about any strange or bizarre activity just to see if it is any good but I think poetry, as with most of the art categories are established worldwide as deeply significant human activities and meditation ( there are probably hundreds of types) is an ancient and modern way to see the truth of being human. My experience of it has been as a way of methodically being able to look at what is actually happening as opposed to just hazarding guesses and blagging a way through life.
The power of doubt is brilliant, the power of skepticism is brilliant, they must be used to investigate, they are what we are blessed with as humans. To me the opposite of enquiry is knowing the answer before we’ve looked. Jennifer Hecht attempts to uncover one of our (humans) great difficulties, indeed failings   i.e ‘jumping to conclusions’.
Graham Jones

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Posted: 12 January 2010 02:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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Normally I am not really into listening to these kids of podcasts or reading these kinds of philosophy mind games books - but i decided to go ahead because I have enjoyed contributing to this forum so much over the last month or so and wanted to opine on an area I usually avoid. So I downloaded and listened to this interview with Hecht and the impressions that came over me were the following:

We are, it seems to me, in the age where we have a huge increase in people who have huge amounts to say, but who say very little. It seems to me that Hecht is in this category. Of course I should admit that I have never read one of her books, and am very unlikely to, as you will guess after you read this commentary. So it is ‘possible’ that she has something deep and meaningful to say that I am completely missing.
It also seems to me after listening to this interview that this is a very confused lady.  A confused lady who, at her core, does not understand Science or the Principles of Science or the place Science should occupy or play in our lives one little bit. She is a lady who is searching, through her writings, for some meaning in her life as opposed to someone who is delivering some meaning through her writings.

Some of the things she said I found puzzling and some quite bizarre.

She seems quite peeved that she has not been included in the ‘new atheists’ group, which is an odd thing to say. As if there was a Club to which she had been refused entry. Of course she then labels this group as a ‘gendered’ group, which is the standard dismissive comment by women who feel undervalued these days.
She describes the new atheists as polemic and angry. This strikes me as a bit huffy. How can anyone stand up and argue against religion in a public way without being polemic ?  I would like to know ! This criticism is lame and lazy in my view.
She criticises ‘new atheists’ because they still go to church for funerals and weddings etc. which she claims is hypocritical. She thinks that True atheists should not go to such events and should invent their own cultural traditions.  I find this a bizarre grounds for criticism. Is she saying that a person who is an atheist cannot live among theists in their community and family .. and cannot go to their mother’s funeral ? She claims it is “lying” to do so.  This is utter drivel by any other name.

Then she meanders around referring to great past ‘believers’ who actually were atheists, but better kinds of atheists than the ‘new atheists’, presumably because they kept their mouths shut about it. She claims her book is evangelical but the contents are not evangelical ... huh ?
She is convinced that as we live our lives and experience and explore the world our senses were not actually designed to gather truthful feedback about the world ... Science is not cumulative, except begrudgingly some parts of Physics ... she seems to believe that the ‘truth’ of science that we have today is only transitory and the ‘truth’ that science will hold as ‘true’ in a hundred years will be completely different - therefore truth is a transitory and ephemeral thing ... (huh ?) ...

She feels Truth can only be found through Art and Poetry and Meditation and ... psychoanalysis (?)  Not knowing is a joyful state and being a believer is a good state of mind. “I doubt therefore I believe”.

As I said at the start. I find this lady a very confused one. She is all over the place in every single element of her interview (I cannot dismiss her book without reading it) and I find it unfortunate that this is the level of the bar nowadays for having books published and hyped.

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Posted: 13 January 2010 10:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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Following up the comments from Skepticeye who contributed yesterday I feel he brings out an important crux of the discussion around Hecht’s work when he states ’ ...at her core,(she) does not understand Science or the Principles of Science or the place Science should occupy or play in our lives…’
This is the question, isn’t it?.  May I ask him, if he would be kind enough to explain what this means.
Or anyone else who has an idea,  thank you
Graham Jones

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Posted: 13 January 2010 12:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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It is self explanatory. If you have any specific problems with it please explain.

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Posted: 13 January 2010 01:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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DOUBT’s been impressive, the first two chapters that I’ve read, anyway. I’ve skimmed the rest and plan to finish it thoroughly this month. It is less dismissive of religious belief and behavior than Dawkins/Hitchens/Harris.  I’ll have to listen to the interview to hear how she compares herself to the more moderate Dennett, at least, if she believes she belongs in the New Atheists camp.

Hecht speaks much more casually than she writes. And since DOUBT doesn’t mention poetry, therapy, or meditation except in the context of the events and movements it discusses, I can probably continue to appreciate her work without being distracted by her apparently less analytical views. Just as I can enjoy Christopher Hitchens’ and Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s criticisms of Islam in general while discounting their embrace of right-wing xenophobia as a solution to the problems of Islam.

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Posted: 13 January 2010 01:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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Yes I think what I’m trying to get at is that there is a debate if not a controversy around ‘what is Science’ as there is around for instance ‘what is Art’. Ultimately I suppose it revolves around questions of objectivity and subjectivity and where the two may or may not cross over. For instance there is endless disagreement in research and scientific experiment about the meanings and uses of results. This on one hand is of course very healthy as it is what moves things along, on the other hand it points to the possibility of being wrong at any time.
It is a legitimate question to ask ‘what is Science?’ and ‘what part does it play in our live’ but I suppose if the question means nothing then it falls on stoney ground. I admit it is definitely moving into the territory of philosophy and beyond.
I’ll have a think about how self evident it is!!!
Cheers   Graham Jones

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Posted: 13 January 2010 04:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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graham jones - 13 January 2010 10:50 AM

Following up the comments from Skepticeye who contributed yesterday I feel he brings out an important crux of the discussion around Hecht’s work when he states ’ ...at her core,(she) does not understand Science or the Principles of Science or the place Science should occupy or play in our lives…’
This is the question, isn’t it?.  May I ask him, if he would be kind enough to explain what this means.
Or anyone else who has an idea,  thank you
Graham Jones

This is a really good book and it has a lot of factual material in it about the history of atheism. 
I think the problem with Skepticeye’s generalization is that it is an opinion without an examples or facts.
Saying someone doesn’t understand Science is so sweeping a generalization that one has to read it as hyperbole rather than an actual statement.

Does he mean she dodesn’t understand anything about Science—unlikely! Does he mean she doesn’t understand everything about Science—perhaps that includes us all.

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Posted: 13 January 2010 04:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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Jackson - 13 January 2010 04:30 PM

This is a really good book and it has a lot of factual material in it about the history of atheism. 
I think the problem with Skepticeye’s generalization is that it is an opinion without an examples or facts.
Saying someone doesn’t understand Science is so sweeping a generalization that one has to read it as hyperbole rather than an actual statement.

Does he mean she dodesn’t understand anything about Science—unlikely! Does he mean she doesn’t understand everything about Science—perhaps that includes us all.

First of all I was commenting on an interview. The interview was the subject of the OP, not a book. I made no comment about the book. My comments were general but also included quotes or parsings. The podcast is the example and the facts.  If you listen to it you will have the reference to which I was referring. I think my comments were very specific and factual. If you disagree then please come back with comments as specific as mine and explain what you think of her interview. I am interested in reading what you or anyone else thinks.

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Posted: 13 January 2010 05:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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graham jones - 13 January 2010 01:43 PM

Yes I think what I’m trying to get at is that there is a debate if not a controversy around ‘what is Science’ as there is around for instance ‘what is Art’.

Well to start with Graham I don’t accept that there is any such debate. Science is specific and defined. There is no debate about what it means. Art is a completely different animal altogether. What I deem to be Art may be your trash and vice versa. There is no definition of Art. There is no defining element of Art. Art is Art and is whatever people seem to think it is. (Don’t get me started on modern art !! ...)

Ultimately I suppose it revolves around questions of objectivity and subjectivity and where the two may or may not cross over. For instance there is endless disagreement in research and scientific experiment about the meanings and uses of results. This on one hand is of course very healthy as it is what moves things along, on the other hand it points to the possibility of being wrong at any time.

There is always a discussion about the specific results of specific experiments or studies where the data arising from those studies or experiments are vague enough to require interpretation. However this is a completely different issue from that of ‘What is Science?’.

It is a legitimate question to ask ‘what is Science?’ and ‘what part does it play in our live’ but I suppose if the question means nothing then it falls on stoney ground. I admit it is definitely moving into the territory of philosophy and beyond.

It is a valid question and one worth asking by someone who doesn’t know it. However it is not difficult to find simple definitions of what Science is all over the Internet. It is not a difficult to define thing.

My way of defining/explaining what Science is is as follow, though it is not meant to be comprehensive or strict:
Science is the application of the human mind to the world around us where we investigate processes and phenomena by following a set of principles that, when applied strictly and correctly lead us to establish verifiable facts about these processes and phenomena and the world. Those principles being:
Observation: Observing a phenomena or behaviour or happening.
Measuring/Describing: The measurement of as many characteristics of the process/phenomena and description of same
Collation:  The Collation of all of the data and observations.
Theorising: Postulating a range of possible Theories of the causes and mechanisms of the process/phenomena and choosing the ones that seem to fit the observations and data best.
Testing: Carrying out experiments on the process/phenomena or observing it repeatedly and testing if the results of the experiments together with the observation of the process/phenomena match the Theory.
Repetition: Repeating the above Principles until a Theory is established that fits the observations and data 100%.

This Science is a deterministic, defined and refined process and when we listen to the interview with this lady, the way she talks about Science and the way she finds fault with it and refers to it as non cumulative makes absolutely no sense. This is what leads me to believe, on the basis of her interview, that she does indeed have no real understanding of the meaning of Science or the role of Science in life. Science is not a religion or a way of life. Science is not a dogma or a philosophy or a culture. Science is simply a tool, a process. The truth to be learned through Science is a truth of facts and figures and measurements and processes. It is not a truth of happiness or sadness or success or tragedy or any of those things that this lady appears to be seeking.

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Posted: 13 January 2010 05:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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Scepticeye-

We are, it seems to me, in the age where we have a huge increase in people who have huge amounts to say, but who say very little. It seems to me that Hecht is in this category. Of course I should admit that I have never read one of her books, and am very unlikely to, as you will guess after you read this commentary. So it is ‘possible’ that she has something deep and meaningful to say that I am completely missing.

I doubt the amount of what people feel the need to say has changed at all in recordable history at least. What has increased is the ability for more people to hear what one person has to say-through technology. And these persons don’t have to have anywhere near the amount of fame, or notoriety that people once needed to be heard.
So the same Motherhen washerwoman; who 200 years ago, ironing clothes and yapping on about her personal woes still exists-except now she is on You-tube. Or has a blog, or is being polled, or is on one of the 5000 TV or radio news channels etc etc…
People have always had huge amounts to say.

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Posted: 13 January 2010 05:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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scepticeye - 13 January 2010 04:49 PM

.....If you listen to it you will have the reference to which I was referring. ....

I listened to it months ago—I also bought the book.

Sorry. I’m bailing out of this non-discussion.

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Posted: 13 January 2010 06:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
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Jackson - 13 January 2010 05:29 PM
scepticeye - 13 January 2010 04:49 PM

.....If you listen to it you will have the reference to which I was referring. ....

I listened to it months ago—I also bought the book.

...me too, I like both.

Sorry. I’m bailing out of this non-discussion.

I’m following you out the door!!

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Posted: 13 January 2010 06:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
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VYAZMA - 13 January 2010 05:28 PM

Scepticeye-

We are, it seems to me, in the age where we have a huge increase in people who have huge amounts to say, but who say very little. It seems to me that Hecht is in this category. Of course I should admit that I have never read one of her books, and am very unlikely to, as you will guess after you read this commentary. So it is ‘possible’ that she has something deep and meaningful to say that I am completely missing.

I doubt the amount of what people feel the need to say has changed at all in recordable history at least. What has increased is the ability for more people to hear what one person has to say-through technology. And these persons don’t have to have anywhere near the amount of fame, or notoriety that people once needed to be heard.
So the same Motherhen washerwoman; who 200 years ago, ironing clothes and yapping on about her personal woes still exists-except now she is on You-tube. Or has a blog, or is being polled, or is on one of the 5000 TV or radio news channels etc etc…
People have always had huge amounts to say.

Perhaps but I wonder if there was ever a time when so many of them got a chance to be published and inflict this kind of nonsense on us wink

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Posted: 13 January 2010 09:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
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scepticeye - 13 January 2010 06:57 PM

People have always had huge amounts to say.

Perhaps but I wonder if there was ever a time when so many of them got a chance to be published and inflict this kind of nonsense on us wink

....much fewer than the number who are able to inflict their nonsense on forum boards, I’m sure….due to the lower skill level involved.

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Posted: 14 January 2010 05:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
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scepticeye - 13 January 2010 06:57 PM
VYAZMA - 13 January 2010 05:28 PM

Scepticeye-

We are, it seems to me, in the age where we have a huge increase in people who have huge amounts to say, but who say very little. It seems to me that Hecht is in this category. Of course I should admit that I have never read one of her books, and am very unlikely to, as you will guess after you read this commentary. So it is ‘possible’ that she has something deep and meaningful to say that I am completely missing.

I doubt the amount of what people feel the need to say has changed at all in recordable history at least. What has increased is the ability for more people to hear what one person has to say-through technology. And these persons don’t have to have anywhere near the amount of fame, or notoriety that people once needed to be heard.
So the same Motherhen washerwoman; who 200 years ago, ironing clothes and yapping on about her personal woes still exists-except now she is on You-tube. Or has a blog, or is being polled, or is on one of the 5000 TV or radio news channels etc etc…
People have always had huge amounts to say.

Perhaps but I wonder if there was ever a time when so many of them got a chance to be published and inflict this kind of nonsense on us wink

Getting published is far more easier too. I’m trying to sort out similar issues in the Freedom of Speech dept. When is too much-too much? When is too much opinion, or just plain too much falsehoods or propaganda too much?
On the issue of these type books above: I don’t read any of these kinds of books either. Seeing as how this book is not being purported to be journalism, or news, or factual reporting-I see no problem with it. Half of the “infliction of nonsense” occurs if you read the book. Think of these books as articles, or magazines in book form. Maybe 5-20 pages worth of thoughts stretched out into a book of 300 pages, or 197 pages etc… They aren’t making any impact. It’s like a Readers Digest piece.

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