Kenneth Miller through a magnifying glass

| 122 Comments

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122 Comments

Has the possibility been considered of asking Miller to do a guest post for PT?

Rossow’s essay is interesting, in that he holds Miller’s yin (religious faith) to the identical scientific standards as the yang (the evidence-based rational portion) and (hold your breath!) finds it unscientific! Imagine that. It makes arbitrary assumptions, it fails to rectify clear inconsistencies, it filters evidence through foregone conclusions. Rossow finds all this something there is “no reason to take seriously.”

I find this conclusion astonishingly self-serving. Rossow is saying that if religious faith fails to follow scientific rules when (inappropriately) subjected to them, it is useless.

Let’s grant that Miller has engaged in flagrant compartmentalization. He’s convinced his faith is true, and equally convinced that evidence matters. So what does he do when evidence refutes his faith? He looks in another direction. If neither of these deeply-held convictions can be dismissed, then contradictions between them must be tuned out and ignored.

But if anything comes through here, it’s that religious faith must be taken seriously. Miller is a very competent, intelligent, and thoughtful scientist. In order to perform as such, he has had to structure his thoughts so that evidence celebrates rather than insults a faith inconsistent with that evidence - without that inconsistency ever rising up to be confronted directly. This is Orwellian doublethink at the most profound level. And Rossow thinks something capable of inducing this should not be taken seriously?

What strikes me is that Rossow’s villian, Philip Johnson, comes across as someone with a good deal more intellectual consistency. Johnson recognizes straight out that the evidence violates his faith, and makes no attempt to doublethink his way around this conflict. Johnson simply rejects the evidence (the tactic adopted by creationists generally).

And this is why Miller’s yin must be taken seriously. It is the only immovable object here. Evidence can either be finessed through intellectual legerdemain, or outright dismissed. But the yin, the religious faith, does not budge. It’s always the evidence reinterpreted to fit, never the “arbitrary assumptions”. This is important.

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On a simplistic level perhaps,while reading Rossow’s review I made a notation - God of THE Gap.

The slowly but steadily shrinking “bottomless pit” of gaps in the post-Bang physical record can never be a safe or comfortable or sensible place in which to search for God, but I tend to accept the notion that Science will never bridge the gap between after and before(the Big Bang.) It seems obvious that that unreachable place is His abode.

That empirical evidence for His existence or His role cannot be produced is as it should be - God would not be God if He existed within a natural physical framework, cheek and jowl with the diverse and perishable results of His Grand Handiwork.

As Rumsfeld observed on another subject, “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” That which Science can neither prove nor disprove cannot be held to Science’s standards, as Flint observed - so why waste the time trying?

By all accounts, Miller’s Science is near impeccable - why begrudge him his Faith?

Flint Wrote:

Let’s grant that Miller has engaged in flagrant compartmentalization. He’s convinced his faith is true, and equally convinced that evidence matters. So what does he do when evidence refutes his faith? He looks in another direction. If neither of these deeply-held convictions can be dismissed, then contradictions between them must be tuned out and ignored.

According to this article:

The Greek word behind “faith” in the NT is pistis. As a noun, pistis is a word that was used as a technical rhetorical term for forensic proof.

In other words, faith is evidence.

As Paul saw it, we have evidence in the resurrection of Jesus that we are no longer subject to death.

Now, Paul is dead, so obviously something is wrong here.

That’s why faith has changed its semantics, and that’s the root of the problem.

Re: Flint’s comment 128148. I respect Flint and his often very interesting comments, so I am reluctant to use the term “a strawman argument.” It seems to me, however, that in this case, while Flint’s comment contains fine points, he shoots past the target. Rossow’s thesis is not that Miller’s faith is not to be taken seriously. I don’t think Rossow makes such a statement. He rather states that Miller’s “scintific” arguments in favor of his faith cannot be taken seriously, not his faith. As I see it, Rossow’s thesis is that, unlike Miller’s brilliant defense of evolution, his attempts to rationalize his faith by means of supposedly scientific arguments fails because these arguments are often factually incorrect and therefore unconvincing. Flint’s critique (wherein he justifiably rejects approaching faith with the same measures as science) therefore should be aimed at Miller rather than at Rossow. If Flints (or anybody else) wishes to dispute Rossow’s actual analysis, he has to show that Miller’s “scientific” arguments favoring his faith are indeed scientifically sound. To my mind, such a position would be hard to sustain.

Mark Perakh wrote:

I respect Flint and his often very interesting comments, so I am reluctant to use the term “a strawman argument.” It seems to me, however, that in this case, while Flint’s comment contains fine points, he shoots past the target. Rossow’s thesis is not that Miller’s faith is not to be taken seriously. I don’t think Rossow makes such a statement. He rather states that Miller’s “scintific” arguments in favor of his faith cannot be taken seriously, not his faith. As I see it, Rossow’s thesis is that, unlike Miller’s brilliant defense of evolution, his attempts to rationalize his faith by means of supposedly scientific arguments fails because these arguments are often factually incorrect and therefore unconvincing.

Miller does not want to establish “scientic evidence” for his faith. As I pointed out in my answer to Rossow’s essay, Rossow misunderstood:

http://www.talkreason.org/Forum.cfm?MESSAGEID=713

I did read both Miller’s book and Rossow’s review, and I have to agree with Pehnec that it was Miller’s intent to establish that Darwinian evolution is thoroughly compatible with faith in God (which is a non-controversial thesis, as Rossow points out), yet that it was not at all his intent to try to establish some kind of “scientific evidence” for God’s existence. In this sense, Rossow’s review is based on a substantial misunderstanding, one which I would not have thought possible until I read the review. I do not see how Rossow supposedly is able to infer from the cited passages from page 17 of Miller’s book that the author wants to establish evidence for God from evolution. However, unlike Pehnec, I do not think that Rossow’s review is entirely without merit, since it raises some interesting and well-researched points and, misunderstanding aside, tries to be fair in an admirable way. I certainly cannot see it as a “strawman attack”.

The length of the “yin part” (as Rossow calls it) of Miller’s book is due to the fact that it not only expounds on the compatibility of Darwinian evolution with faith, but also on the reasons why it enriches faith and elevates the concept of God. I think Miller overall does an admirable job in showing this, even though I have some philosophical disagreements with him. As I see it, the “yin part” is entirely written by Miller from a believer for other believers, without the intent to “convince” skeptics. If Rossow misunderstands it as having such an intent, it necessarily appears weak from his perspective, but this is not Miller’s fault. About the strengths of the “yang part” of the book of course there is little disagreement.

Rossow’s reply to this, in turn, was a misunderstanding of my reply. Round and round it goes…

Mark:

I agree with you, the primary problem I have lies with Miller. I think Rossow is correct in saying that Miller’s rationalizations of his faith, while perhaps couched in scientific terms, do not stand up to scientific scrutiny.

However, Rossow writes that

I believe the above example suffices to show that a detailed discussion of Miller’s effort to substantiate his thesis of complete harmony between his Catholic faith and his scientific views would be hopelessly fruitless…Miller is certainly entitled to his beliefs, whatever they may be. There is no reason to doubt his sincerity. There is a good reason to admire the larger, yang part of his book. There seems to be no reason to take seriously the smaller, yin part.

These are Rossow’s conclusions, certainly not Miller’s. Miller clearly believes that his faith and his science are in harmony, and surely wouldn’t have written his book if he thought it wasn’t worth taking seriously.

I’m not arguing that Miller’s faith is scientifically sound, but rather that Miller’s faith matters, that it is interesting and important. Yes, Miller struggles to reconcile these things, and in Rossow’s opinion Miller fails. And I agree with you that at some point Miller is guaranteed to fail. As I said, Miller can neither reconcile his knowledge with his faith, nor can he discard either one.

Which leaves us with an interesting study in how a theistic scientist like Miller solves his problem to his own satisfaction. I’m saying Rossow’s attention shouldn’t be focused on how Miller fails, but on why Miller makes the attempt. I think Rossow misses what’s important here.

Rossow appears to be mostly correct, except that I’m not sure if Miller’s “yin and yang” are really treated like the essential dialectical opposites that yin and yang are typically construed to be. Or anyway, Miller seems to back away from such claims as quickly as he makes them. He says this in his speech:

“It is faith that gives scientists a reason to pursue science.”

This appears to be a traditional religious, and particularly Catholic, sentiment. It also seems to be quite wrong, but nothing to get worked up about. But then he also speaks contrary to the “natural theology” component of scholastic Catholic thought by stating this:

Neither the philosophical or theological interpretations of the nature of existence, its purpose, meaning, or lack of it, are scientific, said Miller, because they are not testable.

Actually, one was supposed to be able to get to God from nature, according to a prominent strain of thought in the old religion. Not necessarily to Xianity, but to God.

This is why I, who have not read Miller’s book, have to wonder if Miller really treated religion like the yin to science’s yang. For in his talk, at least, he evidently is unwilling to do anything except to divorce religion from science, while he seems to understand science as quite able to stand alone. It is this message that I find attractive in his talk, while the faith stuff is just for those who already claim “faith”.

I did disagree with Miller (well, more with Krebs’ claim that science isn’t against religion) on the other thread, however I really wasn’t the target of Miller’s speech. What Miller was doing was claiming the traditional view of reason and faith (while denying traditional “natural theology”), that they are both gifts from God. Thus one does ill, perhaps even to the point of sinning, when one deviates from either one.

To a Xian audience this could be a very good message, pointing out that lying for Jesus is wrong. He’s telling them to hold to their faith and not to neglect the reasoning ability that God gave to humans to use honestly. Many Xians are using “faith” as an excuse to attack reasoned conclusions in science, something contrary to the ideals of Xianity (though with many sects, one or more sections of their ideals have to give to accommodate the rest).

He’s not so much telling Xians to attack atheism, then, as telling them to think, reason, and to actually attack atheism if that is their target, instead of blasting away at the reasoning that is a gift from God (IHO).

Dawkins is the one who holds more to the basic notion of natural theology, which was prominent in Xianity at one time (there were always strains of thought that preferred the ideal to any evidence, however). He believes that we can come to reasonable conclusions about God from nature, and that God disappears in today’s science. There seems to be more yin and yang in Dawkins’ viewpoint than in Miller’s, then.

At least in his speech, and perhaps his book?, Miller appears eager to leave a place where “faith” can “find God”, but is not particularly eager to use nature itself as an indication that God exists.

I have no idea whether or not he is consistent across his speech and his book. But if he is, he cannot in his book be using science to show that God exists, rather he would at most be “demonstrating that we have enough reason to take the leap of faith.”

A couple gaps seem to be where “faith” can reside for Miller, according to Rossow’s critique. Quantum indeterminacy and “what came before the Big Bang”. Yet this isn’t really “God of the gaps” (if I understand Miller correctly), because an old strain of Xian philosophical theology really does accept a God who cannot be characterized or known, a God beyond science who explains without being explainable (that is, God is not a scientific explanation, rather more like Aristotle’s aitia). Faith and reason may take you there, while science cannot.

Miller’s God isn’t the sad little “designer” who may be discovered analogously to the way that humans may be inferred to have carved Mt. Rushmore. Miller does need “gaps” where this God will have responsibilities, however these gaps are not likely to be in the unknowns of biology.

So whatever disagreements we may have with Miller, I do not believe that his defense of science has any real dependence upon gaps or “faith”. Sensibly, he has left natural theology behind (whether he always knows this or not), and his claim that reason and faith are gifts from God are aimed primarily at those who have forgotten the importance of reason.

Dawkins’s “anti-theistic interpretation of science” may indeed be an interpretation, but it is the only one fully consistent with Western thought and jurisprudence. Again, though, Miller was a theist talking to theists, and as such he seems to have been portraying the only reasonable option open to theists, which is to create an area of exception for their religion wherein the usual rules do not apply.

I can tolerate that.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Mr. Moritz’s comment 128188 rather self-confidently asserts that he “pointed out.…” that “Rossow misunderstood…” Apparently it does not occur to Mr. Moritz that having “pointed out” is not the same as having proved a notion. IMHO, it is Moritz who “misunderstood” both Miller’s thesis and Rossow’s essay. Repeating here the same words that were already rebuffed on Talk Reason, hardly makes them more convincing. Miller’s book contains quite unambiguous attempts to prove that his religion is “the best friend of science,” all Moritz’s protestations notwithstanding. The recent discussion on PT started by the entries of PZ and Jack Krebs is just one more illustration of that statement.

Mark:

You may have read Miller’s book, and in that case you certainly are entitled to your opinion. However, I would strongly caution others, who have not read Miller’s book, to form a judgement based on Rossow’s review only. The reason for this is that, indeed, the review is based on an essential misunderstanding of Miller’s book. At least that is how I see it. It is hardly a coincidence that another reader of Rossow’s essay, Steve Pehnec, comes to the same conclusion (and no, Alexander Eterman’s and Alan Gourant’s replies do not make it any less true):

http://www.talkreason.org/Forum.cfm?MESSAGEID=254

Dr. Miller’s point, which he made clearly, was that Darwinian Evolution, or any discipline in genuine science for that matter, can not rule out the possibility that God exists. He goes even further to suggest how quantum indeterminacy would allow a personal God to act in the world without need of miracles. It was clearly not Dr. Miller’s intent to try to establish some kind of “scientific evidence” for God’s existence.

Having said this, I do not agree with Pehnec’s last sentence which in my view is uncalled for, in light of Rossow’s attempts to write a balanced review:

In my opinion, the article by Amiel Rossow is without merit and nothing more than a classic “strawman attack” of no consequence.

In his comment 128204 Mr. Moritz at least seems to be a little more cautious in his assertions, albeit still stating his views in a quite categorical manner. I certainly agree with Moritz that everybody who wants to form an opinion of Miller’s book, should read it rather than to only rely on reviews of that book. LIkewise, if anyone wants to know what exactly transpired in the discussion on Talk Reason, should go there and read all comments there rather than only the ones selected by Mr.Moritz. To my mind letters by Eterman and Gourant there debunk Pehnec’s letter in a rather convincing way, while Rossow’s reply to Moritz equally convincingly demonstrates the inadequacy of Moritz’s assertions. As Moritz wrote in his previous comment, “rounds and rounds it goes.” True. Therefore any further discussion of Moritz vs. Rossow exchange, instead of a direct discussion of Rossow’s essay and Miller’s book, will be moved to the Bathroom Wall.

I’m still not sure exactly what Miller thinks about the relationship between science and religion, but at least I found this:

Those who ask from science a final argument, an ultimate proof, an unassailable position from which the issue of God may be decided will always be disappointed. As a scientist I claim no new proofs, no revolutionary data, no stunning insight into nature that can tip the balance in one direction or another. But I do claim that to a believer, even in the most traditional sense, evolutionary biology is not at all the obstacle we often believe it to be. In many respects, evolution is the key to understanding our relationship with God.

This is from the last chapter of his book, and that chapter may be read here:

http://brownalumnimagazine.com/stor[…].cfm?Id=1838

He seems to deny even that he can use nature to “tip the balance” in any direction. And in this near-to-the-concluding paragraph his claim is quite minimal, that evolution is not the obstacle to belief “that we often believe it to be”. Unless he writes inconsistently with these statements in his other chapters, it does seem to me that he’s leaving room for faith, not arguing that science backs up his religion.

Evolution as the key to understanding our relation to God apparently has to do with Miller’s notions of “free will.” I will have to say that I find “free will” in the traditional sense to be about as scientific as creationism and ID. In that area I do not think that Miller writes as a scientist, or even in agreement with science and evolution. But I’m afraid that I’d have to say that of some secular “scientists” as well.

From this last chapter I’d have to say that I largely agree with Moritz (I was writing my earlier post when he posted), and if Miller argues anything more from science for his religion, we will have to be given the evidence that he does.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Let’s grant that Miller has engaged in flagrant compartmentalization. He’s convinced his faith is true, and equally convinced that evidence matters. So what does he do when evidence refutes his faith? He looks in another direction. If neither of these deeply-held convictions can be dismissed, then contradictions between them must be tuned out and ignored.

Indeed, the compartmentalization is obvious. The only thing I would like to add is that for most folks, compartmentalization is a good thing. It’s when the well-established routines of compartmentalization break down that we start to see dissonance having a negative effect on persona and reasoning (Behe comes to mind).

One simply can’t “undo” what one has learned for a good section of one’s life. If Miller was exposed to religious themata for a good portion of his life, compartmentalization is actually a legitimate mechanism for dealing with the intevitable intellectual conflicts.

It’s not surprising that when forced to examine extreme contradiction between the two compartmentalized areas of thought, that the result would be “glancing the other way”, or even manufacturing false bridges.

I’m simply saying that for those who have managed to compartmentalize these issues for themselves, it’s not necessarily a good thing to try to force reconcilliation.

sometimes the good thing IS to simply “glance the other way”.

Miller, as an example, has contributed significantly and positively to the realm of science.

However he set up his compartmentalizations, it works for him.

@Jack…

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lol.

When I read “Finding Darwin’s God”, I came away impressed by his defence of Darwin, but also impressed by his attempt to reconcile his faith with science. It seemed quite clear that Miller was not attempting to prove his faith through science. On the contrary, he eschews any such intention, or any possibility of it being carried through. It appears to me that not only does he largely accept a Gouldian view of the history of evolution, but that he also accepts NOMA as espoused by Gould as well.

Rather than trying to prove his religion by science, Miller is trying that a particular theological view that he holds is concordant with the way science has shown the world to work. Specifically, he views God as a loving being who from love grants as much freedom to his creatures as is consistent with there mode of existence. He then finds in quantum mechanics, and in Darwinian evolution evidence of freedom at different levels of creation.

Although he thinks his theological view and his scientific views are concordant, I do not think, and he never says that one provides evidence for the other. This is not an evidentiary connection. If you read it as one, it will obviosly strike you as non-existent - but you will also have entirely misunderstood what Miller was saying.

Despite the warning, Moritz posted a comment continuing what he himself characterized as going in rounds. Therefore his new comment has been moved to the Bathroom Wall where it can be further discussed ad infinitum.

Following Moritz, Glen Davidson (partially) and Tom Curtis insist that Miller’s thesis does not include the notion that science supports his faith. Well, everybody sees in the same text whatever one wishes to see. Unlike Curtis, I was not impressed at all by Miller’s ruminations wherein he appealed to science for a support of his faith. It seems to me that Miller quite unequivocally promoted the notion that science supports faith, so I am puzzled by Moritz’s, and Curtis’s (and to a lesser extent Davidson’s) assertions which, I think, take the desired for the actual and don’t see something that is plainly obvious in Miller’s text.

Since the fire in my home I have no access to my books (some of them burned, and some others sit in boxes in a storage) so I can’t provide direct quotes at this time, but I remember that such quotations abound in his book, where he directly asserts that science leads to faith. Some of such statements have been even quoted in the threads started by PZ and Krebs, and in this thread as well, but unexplicably ignored by my opponents. For example, what about this quotation provided by Davidson (unfortunately without a reference to the source) which, I guess, is from Miller’s writing?

“In many respects, evolution is the key to understanding our relationship with God.”

Isn’t this citation a direct statement confirming my assertion that in Miller’s view science is a “key” to faith?

Since the fire in my home I have no access to my books (some of them burned, and some others sit in boxes in a storage)

condolences.

Losing good books is like losing a bit of one’s own history.

The only thing I’ve never given up in the many moves I’ve done over the last 20 years is my books.

I’ll sell the furniture, dump the cookware, even give away all the bric a brac, but the books always come with me.

I would go a step further than Moritz. Rossow’s review is actually quite silly, untenable and contradictory. He is guilty in spades of committing the errors he loudly and repeatedly accuses Miller of doing.

To cite one or two examples, which is all I have time for right now, Rossow takes Miller to task for proposing that Quantum Mechanics’ indeterminacy provides opportunity for God to perform miracles without violating the laws of nature. Rossow argues that this view of indeterminacy is still subject to dispute in the physics community. He cites Bohm in this regard, who believed that nature does really know the outcome. Well, since when does a scientist’s personal philosophical interpretation constitute science or evidence? Bohm neither observed nor presents any evidence whatsoever in his favor. Such evidence would constitute evidence against Quantum Mechanics which insists that the observer sees no determinacy. Rossow then has the chutzpah to accuse Miller of confusing mere assertion with evidence. Miller’s thesis is based on the empirical evidence supporting the idea that observers see no determinacy and his point seems quite logical.

A similar sense of twisted logic permeates Rossow’s discussion of the Big Bang. All the alternative theories to the Big Bang he mentions have not a shred of empirical evidence to back them. But we do see an expanding universe today with too little mass for it to close, ever. So the evidence we have today points to the Big Bang as a singular event, which suggests that it was a true beginning. Again, Rossow attacks hard science with mere speculation than accuses Miller of doing just that! Of course, there is no empirical evidence for God either, as Rossow claims, and Miller never argues otherwise. But Miller’s point is that God follows plausibly from the empirical evidence and thus the genuine science. In this he is absolutely correct.

I would also argue that kicking comments with which one does not agree to the bathroom wall is not the “mark” of one who is confident in one own position.

I would also argue that kicking comments with which one does not agree to the bathroom wall is not the “mark” of one who is confident in one own position.

lol. says the person who often has had hers put there.

. Miller’s thesis is based on the empirical evidence supporting the idea that observers see no determinacy and his point seems quite logical.

are you sure about that?

seems to me that you’ve simply defined the starting point for Miller’s definition, and not his extension of the analogy to the issue of religion and science, which is what the discussion in this thread is actually targeting.

You’ve started off stating the obvious, but not actually what Miller’s “thesis” actually is.

It’s like repeating the results section of a paper, and ignoring the conclusions section.

“In many respects, evolution is the key to understanding our relationship with God.”

Isn’t this citation a direct statement confirming my assertion that in Miller’s view science is a “key” to faith?

First off, the quote is referenced by appearing in the block quote that I reproduced, and credited to Miller’s (linked) last chapter. I further noted that the block quote was one of the last paragraphs in the chapter.

Moving on, Catholic theology doesn’t faithfully discriminate between “truths”. That is to say, reason is almost certainly quite honestly considered by Miller to be a gift of God, along with faith.

Hence, in his mind there is nothing wrong with taking a cue from science to understand “faith”. He’s operating according to the sense that we have “free will”, and he works out in his book how free will would affect God’s interventions in the universe.

So of course science is a “key” to faith, but it is in the understanding of faith (as far as I can understand from the last chapter and the quotes bandied about the web), not in the initial conference of faith onto the individual. Catholic philosophers have liked to believe that although their religion isn’t externally demonstrated by the environment, nevertheless it is internally consistent, and not inconsistent with reality. Miller is writing an apologetic in his book, trying to make God and science consistent, so that those who believe can understand the two to be compatible. In that sense, yes, science is a key to faith. In his speech he said that reason and faith are gifts of God, and no doubt he means it.

We should look at Miller’s statement of evolution being “key” to understanding our relationship to God in the light of apologetics, not as “proof” for God or Catholic religion–unless one has evidence contrary to this rather common Catholic philosophical position. Likewise, from scanning Miller’s book, I can see where he writes things that skeptics unfamiliar with apologetics would understand as a case for science demonstrating God, but which are likely to be a sort of working out of “faith with reason”. Miller is using evidence from science to make statements, yet it is likely that he understands this as making the case that, “evolutionary biology is not at all the obstacle we often believe it to be.”

Miller’s point in writing the book evidently is to show how a religious person can reconcile faith with science, not as a tool for converting us “atheists” to his version of “truth”. I see the marks of apologetics in his book, in his speech, which I recognize from a stint at a Catholic grad school.

Miller pays attention to the meaning of science for his religion, but that is very remote from claiming that science actually supports his religion. I have not yet seen anything from Miller that goes against this interpretation of his writings, that he uses science as a “key” to understanding God in conjunction with his faith in God, but not as a substitute for the “faith” that he appeals to in order to initially claim that there is a God.

His statements about miracles and that he hasn’t “tipped the balance” would not make sense otherwise. And Miller, however much or little we agree with him, usually makes a great deal of sense (at least within his own Catholic viewpoint, that is)>

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Ah, Carol Clouser appears again. After she was caught in unethical behavior - posting a rave review of Landa’s book of which she was an editor and pretending it was posted by an unbiased reader, she has a zero credibility here. Indeed, assaulting Rossow’s essay, she conveniently (as seems to be her habit) fails to mention that it was Amiel Rossow who was the first to catch her in the unethical behavior and posted a comment here to that effect. So, is her spiteful pouncing upon Rossow’s essay a revenge for Rossow’s unmasking her shenanigans?

Whatever disagreements Moritz may have with Rossow, I would be surpized if he were glad to get such an ally as Carol (although I know nothing about Moritz besides his recent posts here).

As to moving certain comments to the Bathroom Wall, it is a part of PT’s policy to move there discussions deviating from the topic and the initiators of a thread have the privilege to decide which comment to move. It is not the same as deleting comments, as the BW is freely available for everybody and many discussions continue there after being removed from this page. Moritz’s latest comment was not deleted - it is accessible at BW.

Glen, my apology for stating that you did not provide a reference. I was in a hurry (not that it jusifies an incorrect statement). So, it is indeed Millers’ statement, which, to my mind, is one of his many similar statements asserting that science supports faith (which has been vigorously disputed by Moritz). Regarding your deeper interpretation of the meaning of Miller’s words, I don’t see there anything contradicting my view that Miller indeed asserts that “science is the best friend of faith.” I in fact agree with most of what you have written in that post (128279) and, again, do not see there a denial of my thesis.

Well, I agree with Glen Davidson’s post 128279 as well, even though apparently I read it a bit differently than ag.

I have great respect when an atheist writes with finely nuanced thinking. When genuine knowledge of the position of people of faith is added, it is the icing on the cake.

As far as my last post being on the BW, I could care less. I find it rather amusing, actually, that this was deemed necessary.

ag,

First, I do not fail to notice that you make no comment on the substance of my post or this thread.

Second, by your own criteria, your post ought to go to the BW.

Third, I catagorically deny having done anything unethical pertaining to the matter you brought up. Amazon makes no claim that its readers are unbiased, nor do the readers pretend that is the case, not did I. There is no such thing as an unbiased reader, just as there is no such thing as an unbiased PT poster, such as yourself. I did these things in full view of all, using my name in both forums, here and on Amazon, unlike you hiding behind the mysterious “ag”. What are you covering up?

I really, really would like to suggest to Toejam, ag et al that engaging Clouser would be a bad idea in this particular thread. Playing games with trolls can sometimes be fun, I’m sure, but these are actually kind of serious subjects that these posts about Kenneth Miller’s talk cover and turning any of them into Carol Clouser Talks About Herself Thread #924 would really not help anyone.

I see that my comment related to Glen Davidson’s comment 128279 has not appeared in this thread, so my next comment (128287) is puzzling, as it refers to the disappearing preceding comment. Was my comment deleted or moved to the BW? I am not going to repost it, as its contents were discused in other comments. As to my using “ag” instead of a full name, in fact I used to post here under my full name which is Alan Gourant, so “ag” is just an abbreviation. Since my email address is posted with the comment, the PT crew knows that “ag” is Alan Gourant. Carol’s attempts to exonerate herself would not deceive anybody familiar with her behavior. On Amazon, editorial comments are posted in a separate frame and do not allow for assigning to the reviewed books any ranks. Readers’ comments have a special box for ranks. By posting a rave review of Landa’s book in the readers’ section, and giving it five stars, while being in fact the book’s editor and promoter, was deceiving both Amazon and readers. Rossow noticed that and made it known to PT visitors. Therefore Carol’s spiteful atack upon Rossow has no merits as it is a repetition of a shenanigan used with Landa’s book, just this time hurling mud on Rossow instead of praise given to Landa.

Ag’s disapppearing comment was neither deleted nor moved to BW. We experience some technical problems with PT at this time (as other commenters could have noticed) so some comments do not appear on PT. On behalf of PT crew, I apologize to our commenters (BTW, moving Moritz’s comment to BW in no way limits his privilege to post other comments; we only request to stay close to the topic, otherwise there is always a chance a comment may be moved to BW (and in extreme cases completely deleted). This relates as well to the entire exchange between Carol Clouser and ag. I let it stay at this time, but if this off-topic exchange will go on, perhaps I’ll be forced to send it to the BW. Thanks for adhering to the rules.

Glen D wrote:

… Miller was a theist talking to theists, and as such he seems to have been portraying the only reasonable option open to theists, which is to create an area of exception for their religion wherein the usual rules do not apply.

I can tolerate that.

Do we have a choice about tolerating that? What would we do if we couldn’t?

If we lived in Galileo’s time we’d learn how to tolerate living with the Inquisition and their thought police.

The question isn’t what can we tolerate, but what could we possibly do to make the world saner? It does have its costs living in a majority Christian country – no atheist could get elected president in the United States and I’m sure you’d not find many senators or congressmen who were self-proclaimed atheists. You probably, though I’m not sure, couldn’t pass security clearances unless you were really important to work on top secret projects and most of the people around you are going to think the problems is with you, not them.

“If we lived in Galileo’s time we’d learn how to tolerate living with the Inquisition and their thought police.”

Speak for yourself. Nothing to be proud of in that. I would be contemplating revolution or insurrection.

Not sure where that fits into the argument about whether the idea “I think, therefore I am” is a legit assumption. It seems tautological but not a non-sequitur.

Actually, many would say that color is more primary than any statement of “I am” can be. Even Descartes seemed to think so, as he was visually perceiving in his “Meditation” prior to his claim, “Cogito ergo sum”.

We see before we think, and before we develop an ego to which we can point. To be sure, we may not see color as infants (some claim that we don’t), but we do see “qualia” at a time when mother-child is a more meaningful unit (to the child, anyhow) than “child” is.

“I think, therefore I am”, presumably could be tautological, depending on the assumptions necessary to make it a meaningful statement. The fact, however, is that “cogito ergo sum”, was not Descartes’ first formulation of the claim, and St. Augustine’s version was even less a formal-type claim. It does not seem to be best to take it as a logical premise-conclusion statement, whether or not Descartes at some time meant it to be.

St. Augustine, from whom Descartes seemed to be taking his claim (second hand or not), was countering skepticism when he made his statement (it appears to have been a standard refutation of skepticism at the time, to my reading anyway). The idea is that if I deny that anything exists, don’t I have to be something in order to deny it?

Hence Augustine’s formulation is meant primarily to say that if denial of existence occurs, something (in this case, “I”) has to exist to deny said existence. Descartes writes his first version of the later and more famous “cogito ergo sum” in a similar context, and tries to start from his “evident” existence to establish the rest of “existence”.

Descartes simply used St. Augustine’s refutation of skepticism, along with all of its metaphysical baggage. Neither St. Augustine nor Descartes was going to question the meaning of “I”, or whether or not “be”, “am”, and other versions of the copula, refer to anything like “existence”.

They thought that if a statement was made, something had to be making it. If thinking attached to my sense of self occurs, then “I” must have done it.

“I exist” or “I don’t exist” might be considered to be “existing phrases”, at least while they are being spoken. There are questions about what “to exist” could mean, but if we allow that at least the claims “I exist” and “I don’t exist” may be thought of as “existing”, then surely we are not remiss in assuming that at least those thoughts or those words may exist.

Where we get the “I” from is the question to ask if we accept “existence” as referential. Does a thought necessarily have a cause, a substrate, for its being? Sure, in science we would say so (in non-metaphysical terms, albeit), but if we are doubting the empirical world, do we then actually know that the thought fragment “I don’t exist” has any reference back to “I”?

That phrase appears to be existential only, so it could be translated into light pulses (as indeed these instances will be), into sound, into a computer’s output. It needn’t refer to anything in order for it to be a string of information.

Descartes and St. Augustine believed in souls, and in the need for substance and cause—in the sense of responsibility. Therefore to them, a phrase is someone or something’s responsibility. And perhaps this is empirically true, but it is not something that either Descartes or St. Augustine could know from the depths of skeptical denial.

I expect that “am” in the phrase “I think, therefore I am,” is even worse than the assumptions behind “I”. The West seems to have developed a philosophy based upon a part of grammar—the copula. Not all languages have the copula, and it is unlikely that people using those languages would ever think that “I am” refers to some intangible “existence”.

Using the common parlance “I” here, all I can say is that I sense, I experience, and even “think”. What could “I am” refer to beyond energy/information exchanges which produce unities of consciousness within the brain? Does “I am” say anything that can’t be said otherwise, such as that thoughts recur in this particular brain, a fairly stable ego developed in this brain, that there are causal continuities within this particular person—most notably in his brain?

Sure, it’s convenient for us to be able to say, “she exists”, “he doesn’t exist”, “it will exist in the future.” Fine, that’s the beauty of language, we can “make realities” with it to suit us, rather than to be stuck closely mirroring perceptive “reality” throughout our linguistic endeavors. But even within our language constructs we recognize that “I exist” does not mean the same thing when I am five as when I am 35, or when I am 75. Did “I exist” throughout all of those transformations, or didn’t I?

The ancient answer was that I, in my accidents (roughly, facts), didn’t exist. Or more exactly, they posited the soul to be the unchanging (in important aspects, at least) portion of the person which allows him to say “I exist” throughout the ages of life. That is to say, they had to fictionalize the person in order to make “I exist” true even while the person ceases to be one thing, and becomes another thing (see Parmenides).

God becomes the guarantor of the copula, of “existence”, in much of Western philosophy and religion, so that the changing universe can always be thought to be one thing. Now certainly God isn’t the only device available for this purpose, as “substance” or “Forms” might also be the non-animistic equivalents of the soul to keep these things “existing” even though they transform and change. But God is a frequently used device, especially in the three “monotheistic religions”, Whose viewing of the cosmos and Whose certain existence provide the basis for our existence and for the existence of things.

These factors play a role in the denial of the meaning of “existence” in much of present-day philosophy. The simple grammatical form, “to be”, became a religious belief in a non-apparent God who confers non-meaningful “existence” upon things and animals which perceive and act quite without needing the extra claim of “existence” for them. Nothing wrong with saying “I am” or that animals and humans “exist”, it’s just that there is nothing that shows this to be the case beyond sensory data and the constructs arising out of these, none of which really need “existence” to explain how they happen.

The fact of the matter is that the sense that “existing things” must have continuity lies behind much of ID and creationism. Sometimes their claims that life “can’t change that much” are labeled a typological fallacy. However, what lies behind the typological fallacy, or misconception, is the fact that in Western culture, and particularly in Western religion, works the “logic” that “to exist” means “not to change”.

So humans are evolved apes? This offends many on two levels. One is that we’re supposed to be “better than the apes,” of course. The other is that “humans are” does not logically refer to “evolved apes”. Well, it can mean that (juggle the definitions), but traditionally it does not, because existential logic allows for no transformation of “this” into “that”.

“Humans are” or “humans exist” is incompatible in the thought of many people with the concept of change from ape into the human. It isn’t just their theological world that is threatened, it is their logical world at stake. Our language traditionally allows only “humans are human” to make sense.

It takes time and education for people to realize that their logical categories don’t reflect the world as it actually happens to be. One reason is that developmentally we have a period of rigid thought, during which we categorize. If we develop well, we learn later how much slop exists across categories, and how we have to be flexible. Too many don’t learn this, however, and maintain their rigid classifications because these are better than floundering.

But of course another problem is that many civilizations also develop rigid categories (like unchanging “existence”), and often have trouble developing the flexibility to use categories sensibly. Of course it’s useful to put humans, chimps, gorillas, and orangs into rigid categories. For too many, though, that is as much as they are able to do, often because their religion and culture reinforce such rigid learning, and they don’t begin to understand the flexibility of biology.

I went beyond the questions of the copula because I know that belief in the meaning of language (like “I am”) is hardly the only problem. However, it seems to be an important factor in reinforcing the sense that “be” refers to an unalterable and unchanging “existence”, one that precludes evolutionary change.

Sometimes Western logocentrism has been labeled as “creationistic”, due to this sense of an unchanging “existence” through time that seems to owes much to the use of the copula in our language.

Now to be fair, this logocentrism appears to have fostered science, by providing categories of thought to us, and also by raising problems of what “to be” and “change” even can mean. Today, though, it seems to cause resistance to a science which understands change in a way impossible to the ancients, as the logic of “humans are humans” persists in our culture, and especially in religious culture.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Thanks, Glen D, good analysis.

norm Wrote:

It seems tautological but not a non-sequitur.

From “deeds”, it doesn’t follow that “doers” exist; that’s a non-sequitur. If we assume that actions imply actors, then “I think therefore I am” is a tautology.

Either way, the statement doesn’t have much content.

(As I’ve expressed before I think the “Cogito ergo sum” is brilliant for other reasons. But formally…)

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Perakh published on September 10, 2006 4:28 PM.

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