Yet More on Antony Flew’s “Conversion”

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The best I can say after reading and then rereading Mark Oppenheimer’s article, “The Turning of an Atheist,” in today’s New York Times Magazine ( http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/04/m[…]4Flew-t.html ) is that Antony Flew is not the man he once was and has been out of touch for some time. Readers of PT will recall his recent conversion to deism, which he based on the “teaching” of the old-earth creationist, Gerald Schroeder. Professor Flew recanted his acceptance of Schroeder but maintained his belief in a god - a deistic god, however, not a personal god, and certainly not the God of Christianity.

Now, according to Mr. Oppenheimer, Professor Flew acquiesced when Roy Abraham Varghese, an eastern-rite Catholic, ghost-wrote a book under Professor Flew’s name. Much of the manuscript was book-doctored by an evangelical pastor, Bob Hostetler. Though Professor Flew allegedly vetted the book, it is hard to know how much he truly approved of; he freely told Mr. Oppenheimer that he suffers from a form of aphasia and did not recognize the names of several philosophers mentioned in the book. Similarly, he could not recall conversations that took place in the last year or two and could not define certain words used frequently in the book. Professor Flew is 84 years old.

Mr. Oppenheimer makes a valiant attempt not to conclude that Professor Flew is being exploited, at least not deliberately. It is a noble effort, but it is hard to agree with him.

References. We have discussed Professor Flew several times on PT; see, for example, my “Antony Flew’s Conversion to Deism,” http://www.pandasthumb.org/pt-archi[…]/000687.html , and two updates at http://www.pandasthumb.org/pt-archi[…]/000723.html and http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives[…]_antony.html .

See also my paper, “The Young Antony Flew,” http://www.secularhumanism.org/libr[…]ng_01-05.htm , a Free Inquiry Web exclusive, where I discuss the famous paper, “Theology and Falsification,” and conclude that “the young Antony Flew would never have embraced an argument based solely on a lack of empirical evidence.”

Anyone interested in Gerald Schroeder might want to read Victor Stenger’s Free Inquiry piece, “Flew’s Flawed Science,” http://www.secularhumanism.org/libr[…]er_25_2.html .

Mark Perakh’s “Not a Very Big Bang about Genesis,” http://www.talkreason.org/articles/Schroeder.cfm ,

or my “The Bible as a Science Text,” http://www.mines.edu/fs_home/users/[…]l/BkRevs.htm .

30 Comments

Any day now, Cal Thomas will complain that Flew has “succumbed in his declining years to the tyranny of anti-evolution activists desperate to find anything to justify their pseudoscience.” Well, since he accused Pope John Paul II of “succumb[ing] in his declining years to the tyranny of evolutionary scientists who claim we are related to monkeys…” it would be consistent.

Don’t hold your breath, of course.

BTW, I wonder if Thomas knows by now that there are ID activists who agree that we are related to monkeys?

Poor ol’ fella.

All I can do is love him. And consider his example. And wish him well.

Sounds like a shameful exploitation of an old and infirm intellectual celebrity.

You may also be interested in the interview that Gary Habermas did with Antony Flew from Philosophia Christi , a peer-review publication in philosophy of religion. Its the journal of the Evangelical Philosophical Society (www.epsociety.org), but it its production is housed at Biola University.

See here for the interview: http://epsociety.org/library/articles.asp?pid=33

And here for Habermas’ review essay of There is a God: http://epsociety.org/library/default.asp

Best regards,

Joseff Farrah

There does seem to be reasonable doubt as to whether Flew quite understands what he’s being used for, or why. But of course, whether or not Flew grasps any of this is irrelevant to the creationists - or maybe it’s not irrelevant. It’s entirely within creationist character to be using Flew as a vehicle for misrepresentation precisely because he has become so confused and easy to manipulate.

Sounds like one Flew over the cuckoo’s nest to me.…

Speaking of Schroder, although I could not care less whether or not others believe in God (yes, I capitalized it, let’s not have a flame war over that), I am tired of this nonsensical, incorrect “probability of the constants” blather, though. (Note that I am not at all arguing against anyone’s religion here, just against a wrong argument that is used by some religious people.)

What we can measure is that humans exist now. Therefore, the probability that we CAN calculate is the conditional probability that the constants are compatible with human life, given that human life exists. That calculation is trivial, and the conditional probability is 1, or 100%.

(We do not know, and have no real way of knowing, whether there is some other combination of constants that might also have been compatible with the development of life.)

We could talk about the a priori probability that the constants would be compatible with the existence of humans, or even exactly the same as they turned out to be (possibly a slightly different question), if and only if we could observe some non-deterministic sampling point in the early universe, at which different constant values could have emerged, in a probabilistic way.

However, even if we could observe and understand such a branching point in the distant past, which we can’t and may never be able to do, assigning a low a priori probability to a physical event that eventually happened has no supernatural meaning. SOME combination of constants had to emerge, if such a branching point existed, and ALL possible combinations may have been improbable. If I sell a million raffle tickets, each to a single individual, it is a priori improbable that any given individual will win. Yet one person will win, and no supernatural intervention is necessary.

I suppose the real point about Flew is that he really has no counter to his previous arguments, and nothing new to add to theology. Most important to the reason for PT’s being, he appears to only act as a sponge to the ID nonsense, biology not being something that he ever really understood (and we have reason to suspect that he understands less about everything now).

Flew is the ultimate for many evangelicals and fundamentalists, though, because he’s a convert from the depths of atheism. They didn’t understand his previous arguments, they barely understand what he says now, but he affirms the one bulwark they have against the ideas that they do not wish to consider–he says that those who articulate those ideas are wrong. That is what they want to hear, and that is why ID sells, because it’s a rationalization (however poor) of their present prejudices against atheists and evilutionists.

Were it an intellectual issue, they’d notice that Flew’s theistic gruel is very thin and non-viscous. Which is true whether he’s grasping for the invisible as he sinks into senility, or if he went theistic under full command of his mind.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

As I have often stated, I have no interest in arguing with other peoples’ private beliefs. I oppose creationism, and a number of associated pseudosciences, because 1) its advocates attempt to violate my rights by teaching their secular ideology as “science” to all students at taxpayer-funded public schools, 2) its advocates use ideological pseudoscience as a public policy guide, and 3) its advocates make extensive efforts to mislead the public about science, which, although it is their right, is detrimental to the population as a whole.

Schroder is guilty of at least “3)”.

I’m almost tempted to say that Flew hasn’t changed at all, and that all these types are just politically motivated. Back in the 1960’s, religion was associated with the civil rights movement and thought of as supportive toward social programs. Flew was a Tory and anti-religion. Now when religion is associated with politics, it is associated with the right. Flew is a Tory, and pro-religion. The commonality is that he’s a right winger, and his views have changed according to whether or not religion serves the political right. Of course, this may be a coincidence.

At some level I don’t understand the mileage Christians are trying to get from Flew’s conversion to deism. From Christianity’s point of view, deism is as bad as atheism. He converted to deism? Who cares?

At some level I don’t understand the mileage Christians are trying to get from Flew’s conversion to deism

It’s not clear to me that Flew did convert to anything. Where the mileage is to be found, is in mineable quotes suggesting that Flew has rejected atheism, leveraged by labeling Flew as a “famous atheist” (though I haven’t met anyone who ever heard of him before the creationists decided to use him.)

What I read, in the fine print, was that Flew’s scientific background is nonexistent, that he didn’t wish to appear closed-minded, and that when people claiming to be scientists used equations, big words, and biochemical jargon to claim science had “determined that the Designer is real”, he was willing to go along with this. Follow where the evidence leads, and all that. Sadly, Flew hadn’t had enough contact with creationists to realize that, well, they lie. Always. So he trusted them.

Subsequently, he learned that these creationist claims had no scientific basis whatsoever, the evidence does NOT lead where they said it does, and he tried to retract his acceptance without losing too much face. And as a result, he’s now learning something else about creationist tactics: creationists simply ignore his retractions, because they don’t serve creationist PR purposes. Instead, they continue to flog the “famous atheist finds god” program while poor old Flew is no longer relevant to any of this. He’s been “productized” - he bought the Brooklyn Bridge in all good faith, and his money isn’t going to be returned.

Deism? Well, that’s not useful either, so it’s not mentioned. Did I mention that creationists are not honest?

Yeah, the intended audience for this is not going to be paying scrupulous attention to the facts. They’ll see the headlines and the book; skim over the articles; and say to all their friends, potential converts, and anyone within a 10-mile radius, “Did you hear about that hardcore atheist who became born again?”

Information dissemination via games of “Telephone” have been the staple of fundamentalist Christianity for a long while now. Who cares about the details if it brings souls to Christ?

I tried to post the following yesterday, but system problems didn’t allow it then:

Part of the problem with Flew is that he always did pronounce on the “big questions,” like God. The truth is that philosophy doesn’t even really get to that question (there not being evidence to bring up the subject), yet he ended up deciding that there is no God.

Dawkins, whatever is missing in his anti-God arguments, is more qualified to speak to the question. For, in science one may bring up possibilities, and quite rightly you dismiss whatever ideas are lacking in evidence. It’s pretty basic there, in fact. But if you’re Flew and you treat the idea of God as philosophically legitimate in the first place, you’ve already violated the principles of epistemology by privileging the concept.

Nevertheless, he said “no” to the idea of God for a long time. Based upon what, though? Just the lack of evidence? Why wasn’t he denying leprachauns, or the rest of the mythical beings, if that were the issue? Well, it wasn’t the issue, and his denial of God wasn’t very meaningful, as negative answers usually are not (especially not when the subject is treated as momentous).

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

(continuing–ongoing system problems dictate that I must break up the post)

In the end he succumbs to the grandness of the idea of God that he had (without evidence) granted to it, whether because of mental decline or not. It’s basically the same psychology that makes Oswald’s killing of JFK an “inadequate explanation,” for if you see the idea of God looming above you and the evidence, the idea of God (or the CIA, KGB, or whoever your favorite bugaboo) eventually wins.

Flew did not, I believe, ever really understand the importance of coming up with an actual linkage between purported cause and effect, though he almost certainly paid lip service to such necessity. So, like IDists and creos, he comes to link “large questions” (and issues like the small value of the cosmological constant are considerable, as well as capable of being psychologically enhanced) with “large causes” like God, and puts the two together without any actual visible or demonstrable linkage. His atheism was always done by a kind of via negativa, something not existing in the philosophy I studied (even Nietzsche’s pointed atheism is more focused on the historical mistakes behind God, and was not Flew’s simple denial of God), so I’m not surprised that he eventually comes to a kind of negative understanding of God’s existence, based on the lack of explanation for some cosmological (and purportedly, biological–but I fear he’s mostly misled on that) issues. Atheism as such is bad philosophy, because God cannot become an issue without evidence for him.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

(continuing and final)

I care far less about the individual failings of the elderly Flew than the fact that it examples the kind of simple mistake of non-linkage that conspiracy theorists (which IDists and creos are almost to a person) and pseudoscientists make. The “little facts” or their absence just don’t register to Flew or to the IDsts, they’re focused on the “big issues” and the “big answers” that fill their minds. They’ve already bypassed the proven methods of linking cause and effect in their zeal to match up (or, indeed, to deny the match of) the largeness of the “problems” and “solutions” in their preferred explanatory world, and they just won’t be bothered with our “pathetic level of detail”.

Flew is Dembski, then. Flew now asks what would convince us of a greater Mind in the universe. Well, it’s the same answer that we give Dembski, the little facts would have to link up to point toward such a mind (if that’s even theoretically possible for the philosopher’s God of Flew–I have my doubts), and none of you believers in magic have anything like the chain of effects needed for you to be able to claim for your “Cause”. Hence you fall at the starting gate, something that is absolutely and glaringly obvious to a scientist like Dawkins or those here, and something that remains in the fog to those who have never gotten an appreciation for how effects entail causes (in our thinking) and vice versa, and who thus never quite grasp that the “largeness” and lack of constraint involved with their favorite mythical “Cause” is precisely what means that such a “Cause” can never be judged to exist either by scientists or by philosophers (good philosophers, anyway).

Believers may, for their own reasons, make such a judgment, but may not do so as philosophers or as scientists.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

You should take a look at the response to the NYT article by the book’s coauthor, Roy Varghese, at http://blog.christianitytoday.com/c[…]_antony.html

Zak Tolstoy:

You should take a look at the response to the NYT article by the book’s coauthor, Roy Varghese, at http://blog.christianitytoday.com/c[…]veblog/archi

I clicked on that link. My monitor immediately came up with a Microsoft blue screen error message, “Your system is under attack by the forces of darkness. Press any key to continue.”

Now the hard drive seems to be haunted by demons. Not that it wasn’t buggy before but still.…Looks like it will need a reboot and an exorcism. Thanks a lot.

philosophy doesn’t even really get to that question (there not being evidence to bring up the subject),

I wasn’t aware that there was any demarcation criteria for philosophy. I’m not sure if I’m rude or positive when I note that I haven’t yet seen a subject that people hasn’t philosophized about. (As in tried to analyze.)

That raises some perplexing questions to me, such as if this is a general accepted view. And does demarcation fare any better than the same concept did in science?

Finally, if something is permissible in science (“possibilities”), why can’t philosophy discuss that? (And on a tangent, as “possibilities” and “probabilities” gets a wider treatment in philosophy than in science, why aren’t the use of them permitted?)

Sure, miss my actual point, Larsson and pounce on your own obtuse misconstrual. I didn’t say the things that you imply, you ignored the qualifiers, and frankly I am not in the mood to try to explain what I meant to someone who really only wants to find fault.

Philosophy isn’t the mindless pursuit of dazed questioning that you typically treat it as being.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

I’m not sure if I’m rude or positive when I note that I haven’t yet seen a subject that people hasn’t philosophized about. (As in tried to analyze.)

I’d go with rude, unfortunately. That’s about as accurate as the IDjits’ take on science.

Glen:

Philosophy isn’t the mindless pursuit of dazed questioning that you typically treat it as being.

I would say that by equivocating “analyzing” and “dazed questioning” you are engaging in a bit of your own misconstruction. But sure, I certainly can find a lot of dazed questioning that people refer to as philosophy.

The purpose of my own questioning was to find a base to engage some of your other arguments. But since you used premises that were both unfamiliar and protecting those later arguments, I thought I had to clear this up first. Maybe it was a mistake to try to find a common ground.

Guyefaux:

I’d go with rude, unfortunately.

Hmm. I was afraid of that. But as Glen you don’t care to define philosophy, so I have to go with “analyzing”. It is after all better than “dazed questioning”.

Let me check what Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says:

Analysis has always been at the heart of philosophical method, but it has been understood and practised in many different ways. Perhaps, in its broadest sense, it might be defined as a process of isolating or working back to what is more fundamental by means of which something, initially taken as given, can be explained or reconstructed. … The aim may be to get back to basics, but there may be all sorts of ways of doing this, each of which might be called ‘analysis’.

Of course, they lead in to links to analytical philosophy, so maybe that explains the reaction. You may feel that the definition wasn’t broad enough.

Oddly, the encyclopedia doesn’t seem to have an entrance defining the subject. I have to satisfy myself with the Wikipedia definition:

Though no single definition of philosophy is uncontroversial, and the field has historically expanded and changed depending upon what kinds of questions were interesting or relevant in a given era, it is generally agreed that philosophy is a method, rather than a set of claims, propositions, or theories. Its investigations are based upon rational thinking, striving to make no unexamined assumptions and no leaps based on faith or pure analogy.

Okay, if I had known that it wasn’t uncontroversial, I had known better than to ask. But “rational thinking” is what I take “analysis” to mean.

And as I suspected it is as impossible to demarcate philosophy as science because it is better seen as an abstract method.

Philosophy isn’t the mindless pursuit of dazed questioning that you typically treat it as being.

I would say that by equivocating “analyzing” and “dazed questioning” you are engaging in a bit of your own misconstruction.

You just have to lie in order to do so. You didn’t analyze, you buffoon, you didn’t even read it in context–and not even within the context that you quoted, however moronically cribbed that was.

But sure, I certainly can find a lot of dazed questioning that people refer to as philosophy.

About like your “discussions of science, for that matter.

The purpose of my own questioning was to find a base to engage some of your other arguments.

Then learn how to read, instead of projecting your lack of comprehension onto others.

But since you used premises that were both unfamiliar and protecting those later arguments,

No, cretin, I was making a point that you failed to grasp, and misconstrued as being your own incomprehension. And what the hell kind of sentence (fragment) is the one above, anyway? I was writing something that you completely failed to comprehend, even insofar as anything could be considered to be a “premise”.

I thought I had to clear this up first.

Since you pretty much missed everything that I was trying to discuss, and stupidly babbled on about something entirely different, I have no idea what you thought you were going to “clear up”.

The point I was making about philosophy “not really getting to that question” is that philosophy notes the lack of meaning in the words and concepts used prior to “getting to that question” (which point Flew has made, but the way he privileged the question belied his conclusion–yes, you missed my point about that, like everything else). But rather than even trying to understand, supposing that you could, you “clear up” the matter into your own utter lack of comprehension.

Maybe it was a mistake to try to find a common ground.

You weren’t trying to find a common ground, you were trying to completely hijack what I was saying and turn it into something that your utter lack of understanding can condemn. Or anyway, if you were trying to find a common ground, you did so as incompetently as you denied that electric fields accompanied action potentials when your own source mentioned voltage-gated channels (and you claim to be a physicist).

Guyefaux:

I’d go with rude, unfortunately.

Hmm. I was afraid of that. But as Glen you don’t care to define philosophy,

Definitions are for idiots and neophytes. I was discussing philosophy, not trying to write for a poseur such as yourself.

so I have to go with “analyzing”.

You have to be able to read properly in order to analyze. Sorry that fact escapes you, Tory.

It is after all better than “dazed questioning”.

Any chance you’ll get beyond the “dazed” part?

Let me check what Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says:

Analysis has always been at the heart of philosophical method, but it has been understood and practised in many different ways.

Oh yes, the idiot’s way out, bring in a “definition.” I’ve noticed you operating on that level much of the time.

Perhaps, in its broadest sense, it might be defined as a process of isolating or working back to what is more fundamental by means of which something,

“More fundamental” doesn’t mean anything in most of continental philosophy, and not a lot in even much of analytic philosophy. But then you’re just trying to misdirect from your colossal failure to understand anyhow, rude one.

initially taken as given, can be explained or reconstructed…. The aim may be to get back to basics, but there may be all sorts of ways of doing this, each of which might be called ‘analysis’.

Or it might not be called “analysis”. See, if you knew anything, you might actually be able to delve into philosophy.

Of course, they lead in to links to analytical philosophy, so maybe that explains the reaction. You may feel that the definition wasn’t broad enough.

No, the problem is that you can’t begin to analyze, particularly since you fail to understand what was written.

Oddly, the encyclopedia doesn’t seem to have an entrance defining the subject. I have to satisfy myself with the Wikipedia definition:

Though no single definition of philosophy is uncontroversial, and the field has historically expanded and changed depending upon what kinds of questions were interesting or relevant in a given era, it is generally agreed that philosophy is a method, rather than a set of claims, propositions, or theories. Its investigations are based upon rational thinking, striving to make no unexamined assumptions and no leaps based on faith or pure analogy.

To be operating out of encyclopedias at all already means that you’re unable to deal with philosophical matters. Nothing new there, of course.

Okay, if I had known that it wasn’t uncontroversial, I had known better than to ask. But “rational thinking” is what I take “analysis” to mean.

Another IDist-style jump to a conclusion. And the big problem, as I noted previously, is your inability to read at a reasonably high level.

And as I suspected it is as impossible to demarcate philosophy as science because it is better seen as an abstract method.

The problem isn’t demarcation, it is what philosophy can actually conclude in these matters. And what it really concludes is that “God” is not a meaningful subject in philosophy, which is why “atheism” as such is not what philosophy actually concludes (that’s why Russell considered himself formally an agnostic, not an atheist. Nietzsche did claim to be an “atheist”, but his analysis really revolved around the meaninglessness of what people mean by “God”, and he did not conclude that God does not exist as such, but that “God died” as we “killed him” in our conceptions).

See, if you weren’t dimwitted, Larsson, you might notice that I actually did discuss the “God question” in a manner (indeed, in a philosophical manner) after writing that “philosophy doesn’t really get to that question”. IOW, you might try to understand what I wrote in context, instead of bringing in your uneducated self and inserting it stupidly and rudely into the conversation.

The trouble is that I know that if you respond yet again, you’ll write as stupidly and naively as before, never addressing the issues, but droning on in your high school understandings of philosophy, science, and language. It’s why discussing almost anything with you isn’t worthwhile.

And don’t try to find a “common ground” with me within your own lack of comprehension and inability to read in these matters. There is no common ground, because you simply don’t understand what I’ve written.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

Having satisfied myself that philosophy is generally the method of rational analysis, perhaps for learning and not necessarily a project of following an already coherent view, I now proceed with my original intention:

The truth is that philosophy doesn’t even really get to that question (there not being evidence to bring up the subject),

As mentioned later in that comment, we have evidence in science. Such as that religions are social constructs and that most data is explained by natural theories that can’t have hidden variables behind. So I don’t see how this is valid.

For, in science one may bring up possibilities, and quite rightly you dismiss whatever ideas are lacking in evidence.

While philosophy may have no method to validate belief, it seems some philosophers are willing to let science do that for them and analyze from that basis. I think that is reasonable because you must have some valid basis outside internal consistency to be able to discuss anything pertaining to the world.

I can understand that you shouldn’t privilege concepts, but facts should be privileged.

Actually, I’m a bit perplexed by the argument, which is why I wanted to discuss it in the first place. The usual stance from philosophers seems to be that science can’t say anything factual about gods, implying that philosophy can say something.

Atheism as such is bad philosophy, because God cannot become an issue without evidence for him.

So atheism is compatible with good science (Dawkins) but also with bad philosophy (Davidson)? That can’t be correct, good philosophy ought to go hand in hand with good science.

Oh, it is entirely possible to claim that gods are a meaningless concept because there can be no positive evidence, but AFAIU that is both a type of atheism and a philosophical argument. (Coincidentally a bad one as I see it, because there is “no go” theorems in science.)

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Larsson Wrote:

Having satisfied myself that philosophy is generally the method of rational analysis, perhaps for learning and not necessarily a project of following an already coherent view, I now proceed with my original intention:

Davidson Wrote:

The truth is that philosophy doesn’t even really get to that question (there not being evidence to bring up the subject),

As mentioned later in that comment, we have evidence in science.

And as I mentioned, you ripped that comment out of context. You’re treating it like it’s a premise, when it’s more of an observation, one to be understood according to the qualifiers I used, and according to a philosophical understanding of what I could mean with the entire post as well as with the qualifiers.

Such as that religions are social constructs and that most data is explained by natural theories that can’t have hidden variables behind. So I don’t see how this is valid.

Of course you don’t, because you didn’t understand what I wrote in the first place, which is why you treated it as a stand-alone statement when it is nothing like being that.

And if you knew anything about philosophy, you’d write that you don’t know how it’s “sound” in that statement, not how it’s “valid” (but then if you knew anything you’d not have inserted your pig-ignorant objections in the first place).

For, in science one may bring up possibilities, and quite rightly you dismiss whatever ideas are lacking in evidence.

While philosophy may have no method to validate belief, it seems some philosophers are willing to let science do that for them and analyze from that basis. I think that is reasonable because you must have some valid basis outside internal consistency to be able to discuss anything pertaining to the world.

Philosophy does have methods for determining the soundness of belief, “intersubjective” agreement. Plus, good philosophy does also utilize the evidence coming from science and from other investigative disciplines.

You’re pretending in your incomprehension that I was stating that science is one thing and philosophy another, when in fact I was writing that Dawkins was more qualified altogether (and I would not distinguish between philosophy and science in his vernacular statements, but would where philosophy comes up, as it necessarily does in the matter of Flew) than Flew because Dawkins is more in tune with issues of evidence. The difference between philosophy and science that I’d emphasize now is that in philosophy one would tend not to make pronouncements about “existence” (not as philosophy anyway) where we simply lack evidence in favor of said “existence”, while in science one does so as a practical matter (science has often deferred to philosophy to avoid saying that God does not exist, but that’s more politics than it is the normal practice of science).

I can understand that you shouldn’t privilege concepts, but facts should be privileged.

You’re hitting at the strawman you set up.

Actually, I’m a bit perplexed by the argument, which is why I wanted to discuss it in the first place. The usual stance from philosophers seems to be that science can’t say anything factual about gods, implying that philosophy can say something.

Philosophy can say something about the gods, of course. But it does so as I did, by mentioning that philosophy finds the question to be essentially meaningless–which was more or less what I was getting at in the statement that you so badly misread.

Atheism as such is bad philosophy, because God cannot become an issue without evidence for him.

So atheism is compatible with good science (Dawkins) but also with bad philosophy (Davidson)?

“Atheism as such,” by which I meant the denial of God’s existence, is indeed bad philosophy, because we know that we can’t say in philosophy that lacking in evidence “doesn’t exist” (what we can mean by “exist” is another whole can of worms). It’s even bad science if it really means to say that “God certainly doesn’t exist,” rather than using the shorthand “God doesn’t exist” to say that scientifically we lack the evidence for it, hence for all practical purposes God doesn’t exist. In philosophy we don’t make statements “for all practical purposes”, except as pedagogy and when we otherwise step outside of the “bounds of philosophy” to explain what we’re saying in philosophy.

That can’t be correct, good philosophy ought to go hand in hand with good science.

Conceptually and in terminology, they often treat things differently. In its more philosophical form, yes, science agrees with philosophy and does not say “God doesn’t exist” (NOMA is more philosophy than the scientific stance as it is usually practiced) But in its more vernacular and practical forms, science can say that leprachauns and gods do not exist (unless, of course, the gods are defined as being outside of science, but that’s rather ad hoc and philosophy may identify it as such).

Oh, it is entirely possible to claim that gods are a meaningless concept because there can be no positive evidence, but AFAIU that is both a type of atheism and a philosophical argument. (Coincidentally a bad one as I see it, because there is “no go” theorems in science.)

I really don’t know why you’re even going on about this nonsense. I was comparing Flew unfavorably to the vernacular pronouncements of a Dawkins. I obviously disagree with him and his philosophy (and stated as much parenthetically), yet you’re acting as if I’m endorsing the kind of lame philosophy that seems to have played a role in leading Flew down the path to meaninglessness.

And of course you’re confusing the various meanings that I was using there, along with confusing just about everything in philosophy. Of course I didn’t go deeply into the meanings of the words I was using, because I meant to make points regarding Flew and his lack of understanding of the importance of coming up with causes for purported effects, while you’re left way behind not even knowing what I meant with the second sentence.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

[Hep, the cursor was slow so I accidentally deleted one HTML tag character of all possible ones after correcting spelling in the OK preview. What were the odds?]

Seems we have cross-posted.

You didn’t analyze

No, I didn’t get to that as I wanted to establish common ground. Now who isn’t reading?

I’m not sure what you think you achieve by going off in rant mode, we can observe you doing that from time to time. If you vent, it is in the disinterest of your argument and its readers. And if you think you intimidate your antagonist, it is again bad for your argument.

I was making a point that you failed to grasp, and misconstrued as being your own incomprehension.

I’m sure I fail to grasp the point again, since I obviously recognized my incomprehension, my failure to grasp, as you say. That is why I asked. So how could I have misconstrued my incomprehension? And do you think that is the same as misconstruing your argument, as it seems here? :-)

As for the rest of your comment, I wasn’t going to discuss what you said about Flew, that I haven’t read anything about, but the part I already made a separate comment on.

Definitions are for idiots and neophytes. … bring in a “definition.”

Well, excuse me for being educated and trained as a scientist, not a bona fide philosopher that doesn’t hold to boring definitions. Quite amusing, seeing that I oppose artificial and failed constraints such as “demarcation”.

As I noted, you and GuyeFaux wouldn’t help, so I am fully obliged to do the best of the situation. (But apparently you have no problem with delving into explanations when sufficiently prompted.)

As for the rest of the comment, you misinform readers about what we discussed (I claimed that the far electric fields should be screened by dielectric and conducting material as well as the ion exchange mechanism, and IIRC the literature supported me) and my credentials (I gave you pointers to my work and you were satisfied then; but you can use Google Scholar and see my electronics material research, as well as verify my PhD in electronics).

And of course you make personal attacks that doesn’t pertain to the issue - it is after all a rant.

No, I didn’t get to that as I wanted to establish common ground. Now who isn’t reading?

Well, obviously you’re not. Bringing up “demarcation” is hardly the way to establish common ground, especially when it’s based on ripping what I wrote out of context.

I’m not sure what you think you achieve by going off in rant mode, we can observe you doing that from time to time.

I’m not sure what you think you’re doing by throwing up a whole lot of strawmen. Indeed, I don’t affect the mood that a poseur does, I’m put off by dishonest commentary.

If you vent, it is in the disinterest of your argument and its readers. And if you think you intimidate your antagonist, it is again bad for your argument.

Is it now? Then you don’t understand arguments very well then, do you?

I’m sure I fail to grasp the point again, since I obviously recognized my incomprehension, my failure to grasp, as you say. That is why I asked. So how could I have misconstrued my incomprehension? And do you think that is the same as misconstruing your argument, as it seems here? :-)

You read it out of context, even out of the little bit of context you included, as I mentioned before. You don’t even recognize the connections of the statement that you separated out from the rest of the post. And it is far too much to ask me to try to explain everything that I wrote, particularly when you’ve understood what I’ve written so badly in the past.

As for the rest of your comment, I wasn’t going to discuss what you said about Flew, that I haven’t read anything about, but the part I already made a separate comment on.

Huh? That sentence doesn’t hold together at all.

And it’s rather bizarre that you think to comment on a statement impossible to understand out of context without dealing with the context.

Definitions are for idiots and neophytes…. bring in a “definition.”

Well, excuse me for being educated and trained as a scientist, not a bona fide philosopher that doesn’t hold to boring definitions. Quite amusing, seeing that I oppose artificial and failed constraints such as “demarcation”.

Oh yeah, real amusing, since that was another strawman of your own devise.

As I noted, you and GuyeFaux wouldn’t help, so I am fully obliged to do the best of the situation. (But apparently you have no problem with delving into explanations when sufficiently prompted.)

You mean, since you don’t know what you’re talking about no matter how much you pronounce on what we’ve written, you turn to the truly pathetic, “the definition”.

Of course I can delve into explanations when prompted. The trouble is that they seem to be wasted on you, nevertheless.

As for the rest of the comment, you misinform readers about what we discussed

That’s a complete and utter lie. You wrote (and quoted, I’m not sure where one ends and the other begins, the point being that you brought up “voltage-gated sodium channels” and denied the crucial “electrical fields” involved in the movement of action-potentials immediately thereafter–and whatever that garbled last sentence means, it’s at the very least wrong about electrical synapses, though it appears far more likely that “both mechanisms” referred to synapses and nerve impulses. Well, no matter, it’s wrong either way, and a physicist ought to know it):

Nerve impulses in neurons are rapidly traveling waves of action potentials. They are local membrane depolarization which causes some voltage-gated sodium channels in the neuron cell surface membrane to open and therefore sodium ions diffuse in. Saltatory conduction in myelinated axons is slightly different, but involves action potentials too. ( …en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Action_potential ) Synapses between neorons uses either diffusing chemicals, or ions electrical synapses. ( …en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuron_doctrine )

Neither mechanism uses electrical fields. Significant lateral interaction isn’t discussed.

That’s completely untrue, and unworthy of anyone who claims to be a physicist.

(I claimed that the far electric fields should be screened by dielectric and conducting material as well as the ion exchange mechanism, and IIRC the literature supported me)

You may have written about such irrelevant issues in order to deflect from your ignorant and malicious remarks, but I really don’t care for such dishonesty either then or now.

and my credentials (I gave you pointers to my work and you were satisfied then; but you can use Google Scholar and see my electronics material research, as well as verify my PhD in electronics).

I really don’t care about credentials, having met far too many doltish Ph.Ds. I care that you keep making a mess of science and philosophy, and attacking in your incomprehension.

And of course you make personal attacks that doesn’t pertain to the issue - it is after all a rant.

It does pertain to the primary issue when you’re involved, that you’re both ignorant and dishonest, at least when you attack me. So you’re being dishonest yet again, hardly a surprise.

And yes, I’ve had enough of this, for a while at least. If we’ve cross-posted yet again I might respond to the intervening comments, otherwise I’ll get to it (or not) when I have more time.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

you treated it as a stand-alone statement when it is nothing like being that.

You have no answer then, I take it.

And if you knew anything about philosophy, you’d write that you don’t know how it’s “sound” in that statement, not how it’s “valid”

We are discussing science as well, and I prefer scientific use - I’m not a philosopher.

“intersubjective” agreement.

“you must have some valid basis outside internal consistency to be able to discuss anything pertaining to the world.”

Your discussion of what I am “pretending” isn’t anything like what I was discussing, it is more accurately summarized above.

science has often deferred to philosophy to avoid saying that God does not exist, but that’s more politics than it is the normal practice of science

Agreed.

You’re hitting at the strawman you set up.

If “privileging the concept” is a strawman, I didn’t build it.

Philosophy can say something about the gods, of course.

I don’t see anything pertaining to the discussion of facts here, nor later in the comment on philosophy and how science and philosophy differs (which they of course do, that wasn’t the claim).

rather than using the shorthand “God doesn’t exist” to say that scientifically we lack the evidence for it, hence for all practical purposes God doesn’t exist.

Besides the social phenomena, we can use likelihoods. That could allow us to make stronger statements. In fact, Dawkins does.

I was comparing Flew

I’m not sure how you read Flew in this, I was comparing your argument with a common one.

his lack of understanding of the importance of coming up with causes for purported effects

If you were careless with “evidence” and meant unsupported mechanisms instead of observable facts, I can’t see that it was my fault. It is your task to communicate with your readers.

It doesn’t affect my argument however.

Cross-posting isn’t as fun as it looks afterwards.

I will have time for one more comment right now. Most of your comment is unsupported (“strawmen” for questions for example).

since you don’t know what you’re talking about no matter how much you pronounce on what we’ve written, you turn to the truly pathetic, “the definition”.

Obviously I did a rational analysis. You should try it, it can be good for you.

That’s a complete and utter lie.

You rip that out of context, which is perhaps why you didn’t reference it:

“This picture shows some of the considerable parallelism that exists in many areas of the brain, which may allow for significant lateral interactions between nerve impulses via the electrical fields produced by nerve activity.”

Nerve impulses in neurons are rapidly traveling waves of action potentials. They are local membrane depolarization which causes some voltage-gated sodium channels in the neuron cell surface membrane to open and therefore sodium ions diffuse in. Saltatory conduction in myelinated axons is slightly different, but involves action potentials too. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Action_potential ) Synapses between neorons [sic] uses either diffusing chemicals, or ions electrical synapses. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuron_doctrine ) Neither mechanism uses electrical fields. Significant lateral interaction isn’t discussed.

On http://students.wwcc.edu/~glendavid[…]overview.htm I read: “Problem: Consciousness is characterized by unity (or unities).” What is the physics or neuroscience in “unity”, and why is it a problem?

I could go on with listing odd points, but let me stop here. In summary, what is proposed is a theory on consciousness. The need for the theory to supplement traditional neuroscience isn’t clear, where consciousness is emergent on the underlying processes, growth and behaviour [sic] of the brain. [Links removed.]

You said, quote “denied that electric fields accompanied action potentials”, while I obviously said that electric fields isn’t the mechanism which by they propagate. It was as answer to your claim that nerve impulses may interact significantly by electric fields. It seems I misremembered the screening discussion, seems I didn’t find it necessary but I can make it now because it is obvious if not essential.

So the dishonesty here is all yours.

[Note that the use of Wikipedia is because as I noted at the time “I didn’t think references was needed, since it seemed so clear cut.” I claim to have no specific knowledge of nerve cells, but I’m also confident that I will be able to understand the electromagnetic phenomena related to it.]

Btw, I didn’t raise the issue of credentials, I was referring to my evidential research in electronics proper. Say again, how much research is behind your “science” of “electric consciousness”, which tests have you done and what did they result in?

FWIW I think it is doltish and makes a mess of science to publish philosophy as if it is a science hypothesis albeit presented in odd channels. About your book: “he integrates psychology with philosophy by exploring the physical and psychological notions of consciousness in Nietzsche and Derrida, among others.”

But I fail to see the relevance to the comment I wanted to make. I’m quite satisfied by now that you won’t make an effort to answer the substance in it, and I see now that last time I just dropped the thread when you went into rant mode. So I will do that here as well.

I will have time for one more comment right now. Most of your comment is unsupported (“strawmen” for questions for example).

Another unsupported statement from one who is highly prone to them. But the fact is that dealing with you is like dealing with any weasel, you squirm, shift, deflect, and come up with complete fabrications.

Torbjorn Wrote:

Obviously I did a rational analysis. You should try it, it can be good for you.

Torbjorn Wrote:
Davidson Wrote:

You didn’t analyze

No, I didn’t get to that as I wanted to establish common ground. Now who isn’t reading?

A guy who likes to be claiming to do a rational analysis ought to learn how to keep his fibs straight, at least (and yes, I know that if you respond you’ll try to weasel your way to claiming that the contexts are different–not appreciably so, in fact).

That’s a complete and utter lie.

You rip that out of context, which is perhaps why you didn’t reference it:

I didn’t reference because I was short on time, I really don’t like that thread (Torbjorn at his dishonest worst), and the context makes little difference to your collosal misunderstanding of physics and of physiology, as is obvious from your tendentious attempts to get around your ignorant and dishonest BS with more of the same.

You said, quote “denied that electric fields accompanied action potentials”, while I obviously said that electric fields isn’t the mechanism which by they propagate

First of all, that too is wrong, and unsupported by your quotes and comments. Secondly, what you really wrote was that “neither mechanism uses electrical fields,” no matter how dishonestly you deny your previous dishonesty. Here it is again:

Nerve impulses in neurons are rapidly traveling waves of action potentials. They are local membrane depolarization which causes some voltage-gated sodium channels in the neuron cell surface membrane to open and therefore sodium ions diffuse in. Saltatory conduction in myelinated axons is slightly different, but involves action potentials too. ( …en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Action_potential ) Synapses between neorons uses either diffusing chemicals, or ions electrical synapses. ( …en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuron_doctrine )

Neither mechanism uses electrical fields. Significant lateral interaction isn’t discussed.

Like I said, ignorance and dishonesty are the issues where you’re involved. You flat-out lied again about the relevant claim, and tried to get around it by dishonestly shifting to a matter where you’re once again wrong.

You said, quote “denied that electric fields accompanied action potentials”, while I obviously said that electric fields isn’t the mechanism which by they propagate. It was as answer to your claim that nerve impulses may interact significantly by electric fields. It seems I misremembered the screening discussion, seems I didn’t find it necessary but I can make it now because it is obvious if not essential.

So the dishonesty here is all yours.

Again, “Neither mechanism uses electrical fields.” Again, the dishonsty is all yours, and you continue to be dishonest in the face of evidence that totally contradicts your previous dishonesty. You really are like an IDist, you simply deny and attack, with no check from the truth.

[Note that the use of Wikipedia is because as I noted at the time “I didn’t think references was needed, since it seemed so clear cut.” I claim to have no specific knowledge of nerve cells, but I’m also confident that I will be able to understand the electromagnetic phenomena related to it.]

If you did you wouldn’t say “Neither mechanism uses electrical fields.” But apparently your need to bolster yourself in the face of your obvious inability to understand simple physics concepts leads you put out an unremitting stream of dishonest twaddle.

Btw, I didn’t raise the issue of credentials

Of course you did. I was pointing out how pathetic your understanding of physics is for one who claims to be a physicist, and you went off on that tangent. Again, your ability to read anything but your own prejudices is abysmal.

FWIW I think it is doltish and makes a mess of science to publish philosophy as if it is a science hypothesis albeit presented in odd channels.

Of course it is science primarily, and not mainly philosophy, but you’re too dumb and dishonest to recognize anything not fitting your limited viewpoint. I always have to wonder how anyone so lacking in intelligence as you can claim to be a physicist, even if you have the credentials.

About your book: “he integrates psychology with philosophy by exploring the physical and psychological notions of consciousness in Nietzsche and Derrida, among others.”

Yes, tard, as it happens philosophy is important in science. Too bad you don’t know anything about QM, as the quantum physicists happened to care about philosophy. Which I also pointed out to you previously, but you remain both prejudiced against philosophy and a poseur who thinks to do philosophy without any knowledge about it.

But I fail to see the relevance to the comment I wanted to make.

Really. So your general inability to make a knowledgeable or honest response to me isn’t relevant to the ignorant and dishonest responses you have given yet again.

I’m quite satisfied by now that you won’t make an effort to answer the substance in it, and I see now that last time I just dropped the thread when you went into rant mode.

Perhaps you should try doing something other than starting out with stupid ranting, and continuing with a string of dishonest mischaracterizations about nearly everything mentioned.

So I will do that here as well.

It’s about time you leave off from supporting your earlier dishonesty with more misdirection and dishonesty.

And I’m just responding to the last post, since it’s really exhausting trying to ferret through your various evasions, misunderstandings, and continued attacks.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on November 4, 2007 2:41 PM.

Let there be light: Evolution is finally here was the previous entry in this blog.

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