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Tuesday, 06 March 2007

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How's your appendix? Or a whale's hind legs?

Oh David, still not happy with Dawkins? Does he actually call it an accident?

Ben (you know me via Religion is Bullshit, in our last exchange I was very proud to get you to nearly but not quite concede a point)

Mark, I hadn't realised that my appendix was "useless" and "dangerous". Anyway, I had it out years ago!

Ben writes: " I was very proud to get you to nearly but not quite concede a point)"

I was obviously drunk at the time and it was damned unfair to take advantage of me!

He doesn't at ANY point call it an accident. Maybe you should go read the book again, and this time, read the words out loud to yourself so that maybe you can understand what he's saying.

Always happy to be corrected, 'BB'. What would you call "misfiring" or "an unfortunate byproduct"? And, of course, I was quoting the writer of the essay, not Dawkins.

You would do well to remember that us Darwinists have no morals whatsoever and will take advantage whenever possible!


No you weren't. Observe the quote marks:

...he [Dawkins] waves it away as some sort of "accident".

By the by, I believe his concept of 'misfiring' is 'it was useful at one point in our evolutionary past, now it's a bit dangerous'. The analogy is the moth drawn to the flame - in pre-candle/light bulb days, it was a useful way to track down a mate. Now the same urge leads to suicide or pointless bumping against a bulb.

Larry, the word "accident" was used in the original quote from the essay whose virtues I extolled. Switch off your DVD machine and the almost certainly disgusting 'slice 'n' dice' movie you are watching and re-read my post.

Ben, you have a lawyerly way with words but they fail to convince. Knowing what I know of 'Archbishop' Dawkins, he will turn somersaults to escape any of the myriad examples that cast doubt on his preposterous theory. The essay to which I linked says it all much better than me and within it are some interesting *pro*-Darwinian theories as to why God-belief continues to be an *active* influence with almost everyone today.

I stress the word *active* because it contrasts to BB's irrelevant comment concerning appendixes and whales' back legs which have, indeed, withered, unlike God-belief.

'Lawyerly'? Now you're getting nasty.

I suspect you know far less of the archbish than you do your strawman image of him.

Yes, perhaps "lawyerly" was a tad rude!

As for the 'fire and brimstone' Dawkins, I think I have his measure and I always distrust people, especially so-called scientific people, who evince not an iota of doubt. The whole history of science is of one hypothesis after another either crashing or failing to explain nearly as much as its proponents proclaim.

The fact that you think he evinces not an iota of doubt kind of proves my point. I do appreciate the withdrawal of the lawyeresque accusation, mind.

David,

Thank you for bringing us this fascinating material. A great deal of food for thought that my wife and I have enjoyed discussing.

In addressing this topic, I can't help but notice how we all tend to address the issue in terms of our own upbringing, education, experience, and capacity to conceive. That leads us to strictly polarised arguments where the debate is that either 'intelligent design' or 'evolution' drives everything, but we don't for a moment consider that there are many other possibilities including a world where both processes operate. For example look at man's works, such as an airplane, or a yacht, or a car. It is clear, when we look at these things, that there are interlacing elements of creativity and evolution, operating together to give us the result we see, and which most would accept has a certain beauty, in their own way. And maybe, when we consider the operations of the universe and nature, there are yet other processes that we are beyond our capacity to conceive of, although perhaps not for the musicians, painters, and poets.

At the risk of identifying myself as a nutter, my investigations over 50 years of thinking about such matters have led me to a conclusion that most would find weird, but which nevertheless is increasingly sure for me.

That is, what if 'GOD' were to be the name we give for the blinding light of undifferentiated consciousness that is all that there is in the universe - The One. What if the manifest universe that we live in and are part of is actually made from the stuff of consciousness. One way in which that might happen is through 'spin' which can be seen to deliver polarity, which is a fundamental property of the universe - positive/negative; black/white; north/south; male/female etc etc.

To illustrate, think of a whirlpool in the ocean. The whirlpool is made of the ocean, in fact IS the ocean, but somehow has a distinct and separate existence that is somehow different from the ocean, but still part of it. Of course, this is just a simplistic example to make a point. The world is obviously much more complex.

Addressing polarity derived from spin also shows how 'something' can be developed from 'nothing'. It would be necessary to have two opposite wave forms, which implies a parallel universe to the one we are all part off.

These thoughts also suggest that everything that exists has residual consciousness (ie 'GOD') within it, and our own consciousness is of this nature. In effect, we have GOD in us, and very likely are actually made of the stuff of GOD.

I am not expecting ready acceptance of these ideas, but what if they were true?

I would be interested to see an example of a 'Doubting Dawkins'. I thought it had become extinct years ago!

Will a chapter entitled 'Why There Is ALMOST Certainly No God' suffice? On account of the lack of dogmatic insistence, that is?

Jacob, you popped in between Ben and me as I was replying to him. Welcome to Duff & Nonsense.

As to your proposition, it has some interest on it's own grounds but misses, I think, the point the essay makes so well. The main religions of the world (and some of the 'religions of science'!) will offer up theories to explain the great unknowns but it seems to me that no matter how far back you regress in an effort to find a final truth (or a Theory of Everything), you simply run into a blank wall of ignorance, at which point, faith takes over.

However, your remarks above remind me of one aspect of the physical world that I do find fascinating, although I am not brainy enough to think it through to any cponclusion. That is the problem you illustrate so well with your image of the whirlpool within an ocean. When does one become the other? It reminds me of the difficulties of drawing a boundry between sub-atomic particles and their bigger entities. Or, the constant iteration of similar factors in a long series of dynamic equations which suddenly start producing startling results apparently out of nowhere. When does one become the other? Where's the border?

Oh dear, what passes for my brain is hurting!

Ben, you are a tease! Go on then, where's it from?

That'd be from The God Delusion, published late 2006 and - I blush - featuring a quote from mine own self, page 134 in hardback and available from all good retailers.

Oh, I see! Sorry, having read several of his earlier works and been taken in by them, I couldn't bear to buy another one. Still, it is interesting that a tiny element of doubt *appears* to have entered his mind. Such a contrast from this: "I want to persuade the reader, not just that the Darwinian world-view *happens* to be true, but that it is the only known theory that *could*, in principle, solve the mystery of our existence [his emphasis]" Hmmn! Not much room for God in there, methinks! And not, of course, that the statement is true but we should be charitable and admit that he wrote it back in 1986 in his preface to "The Blind Watchmaker".

Have...have I managed to get you to concede a point again? Surely one for the Britblog roundup, this. Certainly it's going on my CV.

Don't celebrate too soon! My turn to be "lawyerly", I'm afraid, and you obviously missed the critical word "appears" despite me emphasising it. When I get rid of the 'gloomy Dane' in a fortnight's time and return to a normal life, I will spend a little time in the library and skim-read his latest offering - I'm certainly not going to pay him to read his tendentious nonsense.

Incidentally, I have ear-marked your site. This is not good news!

Christ, you *emphasised* three words in your last *comment*, can I be *blamed* for misssing the *important* one?

I feel honoured, you're nothing til David Duff has had a pop!

Jakob, there's a recurring riff in a book called "Godel Escher Bach" about this interrelation between holism & reductionism which I can't recommend highly enough, although it will probably make your brain hurt! The author of this daunting work, which won a Pulitzer prize when it came out, writes in his introduction that it represents an exploration of his faith. Which, if I had to sum it up, would be something on the lines of "in the end there's always something else you haven't expected ... even if you're expecting there to be."

(By the way I utterly disagree with the poster who believes the above mindset is as obsolete as "your appendix, or a whale's hind legs.")


I echo Hilary's recommendation of the wonderful Godel, Escher, Bach - but I don't at all recognise the summary: "in the end there's always something else you haven't expected ... even if you're expecting there to be."


Qualifier - at least Hilary's summary may in isolation be reasonable-ish, but following Jakob's comment, in a discussion on a post about God, and used in close proximity to the word "faith", I think it's misleading.

The book is mainly about the power of self-reference, in mathematics, art, music, literature, and elsewhere - but fundamentally as an explanation for the way consciousness arises from matter.

Um. I was trying to paraphrase "Hofstadter's Law." Expect the unexpected, and so on. Well, maybe it was a bit presumptuous of me to make the attempt ...

However, the reasoning behind my post was that somewhere there's a Richard Dawkins essay, "Good and Bad Reasons for Knowing," where he outlines (in very good, clear prose, actually) the reasons why you ought not to believe anything unless it is provable by the scientific method; unless it produces replicable, consistent results. Well! According to that method, if Hofstadter's law was true, then it would always produce unpredictable results, which would make it false, whereas if it were false and produced predictable results, then according to the scientific method, that would make it true. Um. Well, of course all of this is just playing with words, and since there is no way of deducing, logically, who's right, at this point the argument boils down to personal taste, advocacy, aesthetics, the way you interpret any numinous experiences you may have had. Faith, in short. I think this is what Hofstadter means in his introduction when he uses the word. In any case, frankly, as a friend of mine once said, "when you're talking about an Omnipotent Being, all bets are off."

I suppose what really hacks me off about Dawkins is, he often doesn't seem to credit his readers with the wit to realise this.

Hilary tells us that 'Archbishop' Dawkins reckons "you ought not to believe anything unless it is provable by the scientific method; unless it produces replicable, consistent results." So there goes wave/particle duality and Heisenberg's indeterminancy law, to name but two. The man's an embarrassment!

"So there goes wave/particle duality"

Eh? I think you've got that one arse-about-face. The reason we know about the wave-particle paradox is *because* experiments show it happening...

You could have read up on that one before inserting foot in your mouth:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double-slit_experiment#When_observed_emission_by_emission
But hey, it wouldn't be 'Duff and Nonsense' if 'facts' were allowed to get in the way of a having a pop at Dawkins, now would it, Thought Commissar Duff?

"Facts", writes 'NIB'. Well try this one then. The nature of a photon depends on how you look at it. It would be a little like examining you, 'NIB', and deciding that in one way you appear to be a fog of hot air and vapour, but looked at another way, you resemble a slug. So what are you? Who knows, says the scientist, it all depends ...

And your hero, 'Bish' Dawkins, says this is what we must rely on. Well, he would, of course, being a man of faith and hope, if not much charity.

Like I say Commissar, you must never let facts get in the way of a snide remark.

But at least we can be certain of one thing: You resemble a pompous, ignorant arsehole from *every* angle.

By the way, here's another link you might enjoy reading:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_ignorance

I've never understood how Dawkins can call himself a scientist when he is so dogmatic about rejecting alternative theories. I believe that scientists should have open minds - surely there have been sufficient changes in agreed "facts" over the centuries to show that nothing can be taken as definite. If something isn't proved to his satisfaction, then he takes it as proved not to be - he cannot accept that it might be still possible. A hypothesis should stand until convincing proved one way or the other, not absolutely rejected through lack of proof.

Stella, greetings and welcome aboard the Good Ship Duff & Nonsense! You are exactly right and Darwin's theory, like every other scientific theory answers some, but *not all*, of the questions. The enduring nature of belief in a God does take some explaining and Dawkins is at his blustering worst in trying to do so. I intend to say some more on this subject soon so stick around!

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