Did Synthese bow to Intelligent Design pressure?

| 202 Comments

[Republished from Evolving Thoughts]

A while back I published a paper in a special edition of Synthese on "Evolution and its rivals". My paper was titled "Are Creationists Rational?" in which I argued that yes, in a bounded sense they are. I was very pleased to be invited to publish in this front rank journal by the special editors. However, when the printed version arrived, the editors-in-chief had inserted a rather nasty statement, a disclaimer in fact, bringing the academic standing of the contributions into disrepute. Although I do not think my paper was directly involved in this, I post below a statement about the disclaimer by the special edition's editors, Glenn Branch and James Fetzer. I fully support it.

RE: "Evolution and Its Rivals", SYNTHESE 178:2 (January 2011)

Dear Members of the Philosophy Community,

As the Guest Editors of a special issue of SYNTHESE, "Evolution and Its Rivals", we have been appalled to discover that the Editors-in-Chief added a prefatory statement to the issue that implies that the Guest Editors and their contributors have not maintained the standards of the journal. Our purpose here is to convey to you an explanation of the history of this special issue and the unusual problems we encountered in dealing with the Editors-in-Chief, in the hope that our reflections will place their statement in the proper context and guide you in future dealings with the journal.

The following statement was published in the printed but not the on-line version of this issue:

Statement from the Editors-in-Chief of SYNTHESE

This special issue addresses a topic of lively current debate with often strongly expressed views. We have observed that some of the papers in this issue employ a tone that may make it hard to distinguish between dispassionate intellectual discussion of other views and disqualification of a targeted author or group.

We believe that vigorous debate is clearly of the essence in intellectual communities, and that even strong disagreements can be an engine of progress. However, tone and prose should follow the usual academic standards of politeness and respect in phrasing. We recognize that these are not consistently met in this particular issue. These standards, especially toward people we deeply disagree with, are a common benefit to us all. We regret any deviation from our usual standards.

Johan van Benthem
Vincent F. Hendricks
John Symons
Editors-in-Chief / SYNTHESE

First and foremost, we deeply regret the decision to insert this disclaimer, which insults not only us but also the contributors to the special issue. It was inserted without our consent or approval, without our being directly notified by the Editors-in-Chief, and despite our having been assured twice by one of the Editors-in-Chief that it would not be inserted (as we will explain below). In retrospect, we perhaps should have warned the contributors when the proposal to insert such a disclaimer was broached, but it did not occur to us that the Editors-in-Chief would renege on their assurances that no disclaimer would be inserted. Nevertheless, we would like to take this opportunity to reiterate our sincerest apologies to the contributors.

The background to the disclaimer involves Barbara Forrest's contribution to the special issue, "The Non-Epistemology of Intelligent Design," which vigorously critiqued the work of Francis Beckwith. Shortly after the papers were published on-line in advance of publication by SYNTHESE in 2009, friends of Beckwith began to protest -- not to the Guest Editors, but to the Editors-in-Chief -- about Forrest's article, one even going so far as to claim that it was "libelous."

In response, the Editors-in-Chief discussed the matter with Jim Fetzer, who has an extensive history with the journal, including serving as one of its co-editors from 1990 to 1999 and editing six previous special issues. In preparation for this discussion, Fetzer solicited the opinion of another former editor of SYNTHESE, who regarded the paper as unproblematic with the minor exception of Forrest's mention of Beckwith's recent return to the Catholic Church, a matter that has not surfaced in any of the discussion that has followed.

The outcome of the discussion was that Beckwith would be allowed a chance to respond in a later issue of SYNTHESE (which he has now taken; his response has already been published on-line in advance of publication), but that "[n]othing is to be done to the special issue" (as Fetzer summarized his understanding of the discussion to the Editors-in-Chief, none of whom expressed any disagreement).

Subsequently, in September 2010, Forrest advised Glenn Branch that she had been asked by two of the Editors-in-Chief to revise her paper -- which, again, had already been published on-line -- on pains of an editorial disclaimer being added to the issue. This condition was not, as would have been appropriate, discussed with or even divulged to the Guest Editors. Branch passed this news on to Fetzer, who protested vehemently to the Editors-in-Chief; it appears that the third was not aware of the demand from the other two. In November 2010, the third Editor-in-Chief assured us that both the request for a revision and the idea of an editorial disclaimer had been dropped. (We should also mention that the publisher of the journal was by no means enthusiastic about the idea of revising an already published paper.) With that, we believed we had resolved any issues between the parties involved.

It therefore came as a complete -- and most unwelcome -- surprise to discover such a statement included in the printed edition.

Several of the contributors have informed us and/or the Editors-in-Chief that they would have withdrawn their papers from the issue had they known that they would have been published under the shadow of such a disclaimer. (Note that the disclaimer speaks of "some of the papers," in the plural, suggesting that Forrest's was not the only paper that is supposedly objectionable.) We ourselves would have reconsidered our proposal to edit a special issue on this subject had we any idea that such opprobrium might attach to our efforts, which have conformed to appropriate standards of scholarship and publication in general, and with the standards of SYNTHESE in particular, with which we are very familiar.

We are both shocked and chagrined that a journal of SYNTHESE's stature should have sunk so low as to violate the canons of responsible editorial practice as the result of lobbying by a handful of ideologues. This tells us -- as powerfully as Forrest's work -- that intelligent design corrupts. We regret the conduct of the Editors-in-Chief and the unwarranted insult to the contributors and ourselves as Guest Editors represented by the disclaimer. We are doing our best to make the misconduct of the Editors-in-Chief a matter of common knowledge within the philosophy community in the hope that everyone will consider whatever actions may be appropriate for them to adopt in any future associations with SYNTHESE.

Sincerely,

Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.

James H. Fetzer
McKnight Professor Emeritus
University of Minnesota Duluth

(Institutions are listed for the purposes of identification only.)

It looks very much like Francis Beckwith's sympathisers' objections were unilaterally accepted without question by the editors-in-chief. One can only wonder why. Perhaps threats of legal action were made against the journal or the editors? If so, this action is execrable and should be withdrawn. The proper forum for academic dispute is in debate, not attack based on fear of litigation. Beckwith has his forum, and readers can decide for themselves whether they think he has a case. One wonders whether or not a similar disclaimer will accompany his contribution.

Is this what the academy has been reduced to? In the light of recent attempts to silence or discourage criticisms by certain allied political interests, this looks very bad.

202 Comments

Not sure I’d hyperventilate too much over this. It is clear that the disclaimer relates solely to standards of polite discourse, and in no way gives credence to ID.

In my view the last thing we want is to start getting as paranoid as the ID people, seeing conspiracies everywhere. That would tend to make outsiders see the arguments of science as no better than those of ID.

Capt. Haddock said: In my view the last thing we want is to start getting as paranoid as the ID people, seeing conspiracies everywhere.

Jim Fetzer? Seeing conspiracy theories everywhere? You don’t say!

I just looked at the reference to Beckwith’s Catholicism in Forrest’s paper. This mention was in a paragraph which was almost entirely biographical, and included several quotes by Beckwith about his beliefs. I don’t see anything improper about that, unless there was some sort of misrepresentation of him or his beliefs.

The disclaimer is inappropriate for the following reason - it is not the correct solution to the problem it claims to address.

If there were specific passages in articles that were felt to be too insulting in tone, those specific passages should have been identified, authors should have been consulted, and revised version, retractions of specific insulting passages, and/or more detailed explanations should have been sought.

The disclaimer as it stands is a vague smear, and is not useful.

Is there some background to Fetzer that we ought to be made aware of?

Is there some background to Fetzer that we ought to be made aware of?

He’s a 9/11 truther and set up the Scholars for 9/11 Truth movement. Some people in this group then split out to form Scholars for 9/11 Truth and Justice because, believe it or not, some of the things Fetzer was saying were too crazy even for them. Plus he’s into a fair few other conspiracies.

He’s a fucking nutcase.

So the chief editor lied to the guest editors and the contributors, published their papers (on which they made a profit) anyway and then inserted a disclaimer about how uncivil the contributors were! Amazing. Man, this is really the fast track to ruining your own reputation.

Now exactly what was so uncivil? Where is the quote of the offending material? Did she call him a whore mongering pig or something? Could it be that a creationist simply objected when it was pointed out, politely, that he was full of crap? Could it be that this creationist threatened the editor with some terrible retribution? Why else would an editor sabotage his own journal to please someone who, according to his own journal, was dead wrong? If he disagreed with the paper, why publish it? If he agreed with the paper, why bow to pressure from some guy who was wrong? Obviously there was no problem before publication. Obviously it was only after certain people started objecting that the editor felt the need to do something.

Oh well, at least now I know at least one journal where the editor can be brow beaten into publishing something for political and/or financial reasons having nothing to do with the integrity of the science. Good to know.

harold said:

The disclaimer is inappropriate for the following reason - it is not the correct solution to the problem it claims to address.

If there were specific passages in articles that were felt to be too insulting in tone, those specific passages should have been identified, authors should have been consulted, and revised version, retractions of specific insulting passages, and/or more detailed explanations should have been sought.

The disclaimer as it stands is a vague smear, and is not useful.

Am in full agreement here and with DS’s comments. However, I am troubled with SteveF’s revelation that Fetzer is a 9/11 Truther. As much as I admire Glenn’s work as both a writer and especially, as NCSE’s Deputy Director, he should have been aware of Fetzer’s background and THOUGHT TWICE before agreeing to have him as the co-editor of this special issue.

SteveF said:

Is there some background to Fetzer that we ought to be made aware of?

He’s a 9/11 truther and set up the Scholars for 9/11 Truth movement. Some people in this group then split out to form Scholars for 9/11 Truth and Justice because, believe it or not, some of the things Fetzer was saying were too crazy even for them. Plus he’s into a fair few other conspiracies.

He’s a fucking nutcase.

Perhaps that would explain this little gem:

“(Institutions are listed for the purposes of identification only.)”

John Kwok said:

harold said:

The disclaimer is inappropriate for the following reason - it is not the correct solution to the problem it claims to address.

If there were specific passages in articles that were felt to be too insulting in tone, those specific passages should have been identified, authors should have been consulted, and revised version, retractions of specific insulting passages, and/or more detailed explanations should have been sought.

The disclaimer as it stands is a vague smear, and is not useful.

Am in full agreement here and with DS’s comments. However, I am troubled with SteveF’s revelation that Fetzer is a 9/11 Truther. As much as I admire Glenn’s work as both a writer and especially, as NCSE’s Deputy Director, he should have been aware of Fetzer’s background and THOUGHT TWICE before agreeing to have him as the co-editor of this special issue.

I didn’t know any of that, and of course I in no way support such conspiracy theories. It doesn’t change the point, however.

Fetzer is one of the inner circle of 911 Troothers. He is also well-known as a JFK assassination conspiracy theorist. He may not be in the league of Alex Jones and David Icke, but in my personal opinion Fetzer isn’t any more credible than a creationist.

John S. Wilkins said:

John Kwok said:

harold said:

The disclaimer is inappropriate for the following reason - it is not the correct solution to the problem it claims to address.

If there were specific passages in articles that were felt to be too insulting in tone, those specific passages should have been identified, authors should have been consulted, and revised version, retractions of specific insulting passages, and/or more detailed explanations should have been sought.

The disclaimer as it stands is a vague smear, and is not useful.

Am in full agreement here and with DS’s comments. However, I am troubled with SteveF’s revelation that Fetzer is a 9/11 Truther. As much as I admire Glenn’s work as both a writer and especially, as NCSE’s Deputy Director, he should have been aware of Fetzer’s background and THOUGHT TWICE before agreeing to have him as the co-editor of this special issue.

I didn’t know any of that, and of course I in no way support such conspiracy theories. It doesn’t change the point, however.

John,

I fully endorse your observation that Synthese’s editors may have been compelled by Intelligent Design proponents to include that odd - and definitely most inappropriate - statement of theirs. The fact that Fetzer is a 9/11 Truther doesn’t change your point. However, I think Glenn should have considered this prior to inviting Fetzer to serve as that issue’s co-editor.

Sincerely,

John

People who are usually wrong can be right once in a while.

The disclaimer is not useful because it is too vague. In essence, it insults all contributors for the ostensible, yet not identified, faults of a subset.

I gather that Fetzer holds a number of very irrational beliefs, to the extent that his overall credibility on many issues is compromised.

However, I still say that the disclaimer is not useful.

A related question is whether Fetzer’s irrational beliefs should rule him out as an editor. If the journal in question were of a straightforward, technical nature, say a physical chemistry journal, the obvious answer would be “no”, as long as he “compartmentalized”, and made only rational editorial contributions. However, Synthese seems to be a wide-ranging, philosophical/sociological journal, and it is less easy to feel absolute confidence that his broader belief structure might not interact with his editing duties.

harold said:

The disclaimer is inappropriate for the following reason - it is not the correct solution to the problem it claims to address.

It was also not carried out correctly. Its disingenuous by being non-specific. Second, the author and guest editors should have been informed, as well as having a chance to provide feedback.

Its one thing when the editorial staff makes a decision that the author may not agree with. That happens; very often there’s griping but some compromise. Its quite another to make an end-run around your contributors. That’s just not what a scientific publication should be doing.

Another important point here is that worthless ideas must be critiqued in adequately strong language. Excessive obsequiousness toward peddlers of harmful ideas is uncivil. It is uncivil to readers as an overall population.

In addition, there is no point in offering excess “civility” to one who will not recognize ANY critique as “civil” anyway.

For example, what is wrong with this…

“The members of the Flat Earth Society are exemplary in their pursuit of the highest caliber of intellectual originality. In general, I am filled with admiration at their dedication, their discipline, their high IQ scores, and their contempt for those who blindly swallow mainstream orthodoxy. Furthermore, they are correct that mainstream astronomy cannot answer every possible question about the universe, and that we should all hang our heads in shame for that.

However, I still think that it is most probable that the earth is of a roughly spherical shape and orbits the sun, for the following reasons (list of evidence for a heliocentric solar system)”.

Technically, the author is correct on the facts.

However, in his excess desire to be “civil” toward Flat Earth proponents, he uses language that potentially misleads the naive reader (by using an emotional tone that is likely to bias them in favor of an inflated worth for Flat Earthism). Hence, he is uncivil toward readers as a group.

And how about the Flat Earth Society? Will they appreciate this? No, they’ll still despise him as much as they despise anyone who questions Flat Earthism! And they’ll take his obsequious egg-shell walking as a sign of “weakness” to boot, and probably single him out for especially harsh rhetoric of their own, with little regard for the “civility” they demanded.

I’ve used Flat Earthism as an example here, but we all know it works the same way with ID/creationism.

In fact, I have a strong problem with John S. Wilkins’ claim that ID/creationists are rational.

I propose that the best way to understand why individual learners settle on any mature set of beliefs is to see that as the developmental outcome of a series of “fast and frugal” boundedly rational inferences rather than as a rejection of reason. This applies to those whose views are opposed to science in general. A bounded rationality model of belief choices both serves to explain the fact that folk traditions tend to converge on “anti-modernity”, and to act as a default hypothesis, deviations from which we can use to identify other, arational, influences such as social psychological, economic and individual dispositions.

In other words, if they use heuristics which lead to false and contradictory conclusions when taken to their logical extension, you still declare this to be “bounded rationality”, define that as a subset of “rationality”, and declare them “rational”.

I didn’t bring up the issue of whether or not they are “rational” - they’re objectively wrong, and that’s good enough for me - but for the record, I don’t accept this particular semantic construction. No-one is perfectly rational, and only people with severe medical problems deny or fail to perceive all possible rationality. There is a spectrum. Everyone could be said to adhere to some type of “bounded rationality”. Therefore we should judge people on the overall quality of their particular bounded rationality. I find that of creationists to be poor, and do not perceive that they necessarily qualify for the adjective “rational”.

DS said: Why else would an editor sabotage his own journal to please someone who, according to his own journal, was dead wrong? If he disagreed with the paper, why publish it?

Why would an “editor” not “edit” an article before publication? I had the silly assumption that that’s what editors did…? Or an editor could refuse to publish an article if it didn’t editorial standards. But to publish an article and then slander it is inexcusable and cowardly.

Who oversees the Editors-in-Chief? Is there a Board of Directors or something to protest to?

harold said:

Another important point here is that worthless ideas must be critiqued in adequately strong language. Excessive obsequiousness toward peddlers of harmful ideas is uncivil. It is uncivil to readers as an overall population.

There is a very fine line here, harold. I’m doing a JFK assassination series for my blog and one of the things I keep having to watch out for is lowballing conspiracy theorists. Don’t sneer at them, don’t call them names, don’t get personal.

Courtesy has nothing to do with it. I’m trying to produce a persuasive argument, and the instant I give the reader any hint that I’m being anything less than cool and objective in my presentation, the reader then has reason to wonder if I’m just another hothead with an axe to grind. Stick to the specifics and the facts and let them speak for themselves.

This is VERY difficult, since the opposition really IS foolish and crazy.

Tone trolling is stupid no matter where it is encountered.

I’m appalled that Synthese would fall into that typical IDist means of avoiding the real issues, whether under threat of legal action or otherwise.

Glen Davidson

Courtesy has nothing to do with it. I’m trying to produce a persuasive argument, and the instant I give the reader any hint that I’m being anything less than cool and objective in my presentation, the reader then has reason to wonder if I’m just another hothead with an axe to grind. Stick to the specifics and the facts and let them speak for themselves.

Of course, but then you’re writing an evaluation, not discussing some group’s attempt to teach JFK conspiracy theories in school.

Indeed, I suppose that’s why you say that it’s a fine line.

Every time I’ve written more extensive evaluations of creationist arguments I’ve aimed for even-handed language, for the reasons you give.

When it’s a matter of another dreadful, dishonest Luskin piece that hasn’t been considered worthy of evaluation, I’ll jeer with everyone else, calling them IDiots and what-not.

And what’s stupid about calling the Warren Commission on the magic bullet? That’s impossible, and you know it.


i make joke, the magic bullet being an out-of-context fallacy.

Glen Davidson

Glen Davidson said: i make joke, the magic bullet being an out-of-context fallacy.

Oh … I have been around the barn on that one more than once.

And then the “worthless” Carcano rifle, for which a Utoob contributor produced a video showing him hitting a two-foot target about half the time from 600 yards, and also firing six shots in six seconds and consistently hitting a target from 110 yards.

mrg -

Don’t sneer at them, don’t call them names, don’t get personal

I completely agree with this. I made no argument against basic, neutral, rational argument. Please link to your blog, by the way, if you don’t mind.

However, one point I am making is that no matter how neutral and factual you are, those whose ideas you have critiqued will call ANY valid critique “uncivil”. In fact, I predict right now that this will happen.

Furthermore, although this is less likely with JFK types than with creationists, you may encounter situations in which those whom you critique have misquoted others, created straw man versions of the ideas of others, been shown that certain arguments are wrong in one forum and still used them in front of a naive audience in another forum, or the like. The most neutral and factual description of such behaviors still carries negative overtones.

I really enjoyed reading Wilkins’ linked article. Some idle comments:

The learning process is just as much an individual developmental process as the development of legs or puberty. One major difference, though, is that it may seem that we can backtrack in our conceptual development, sometimes called “unlearning”, in a way that we cannot do in biological development. In biology, development involves the triggering of differentiation of cells, so that pluripotent stem cells become less able to turn into specialized cells as the lineage develops. Some evidence exists that our cells can be triggered to produce more potentiated cells in special cases. But overall, once a cell has become a neuronal cell, it won’t turn into a glial cell or a hemopoietic cell.

But it seems to me that our conceptual development is not so different from this. Generally, once we have embedded an epistemic commitment in our conceptual set, it is unlikely to revert in proportion to how embedded it is, as we develop. The last in will be first out, but as you go deeper and deeper, it gets less likely that you will abandon that commitment in proportion to the number of other commitments that depend upon it. Conceptual development is mutually supporting, and a deeply embedded beliefmay only be revisable at the cost of many other beliefs

I’m convinced this is essentially accurate. As we develop, both cell differentiation and neural wiring become fixed; neither one is easy to go back and change later.

For instance, if one is told early on that the Bible is a reliable guide, interpreted according to some hermeneutic (which includes literalism) and theological tradition, then counterevidence offered later in development will be subsequently deflated for that learner. Contrariwise, if one is exposed early on to scientific results and principles, and is later told that (for example) the Genesis flood is a real event, that proposition will be deflated for that learner on the basis of other cues (such as the dinosaur books they read which told them the world was millions of years old)

Indeed. This is related to Piaget’s distinction between assimilation and accommodation. What gets learned first forms a mental model of the world that becomes increasingly inflexible. New and conflicting information is assimilated (forced to fit an existing model, or discarded). Accommodation, modifying the model itself, becomes increasingly restricted and marginal. This is inherent in our learning process and neural development.

When cognitive dissonance exceeds the individual learner’s tolerance limit, then the least deeply embedded of the divergent epistemic sets will be extinguished, forcing a radical revision of prior solutions. The asterisk represents the point at which cognitive dissonance exceeds a tolerance limit for that learner, and commitments revert solely to the other trajectory,

A powerful observation. As the child’s exposure to both science and religion continues, a point is reached where the two simply cannot be reconciled - assimilation is no longer possible. The result is a commitment to the more deeply rooted orientation, necessitating either the wholesale rejection of the competing view, or highly selective reinterpretations of that view to stay within the tolerance limits.

But as a population, the creationist community will be unwilling to endanger their epistemic choices, particularly when they have made an entire scheme out of them. Add to this the community entanglements, and it is most unlikely that they will change willingly.

The implications of this observation seem at odds with the earlier one that cognitive development is akin to biological development. Earlier, the point was made that willingness to change isn’t exactly relevant, any more than a willingness to grow 10 inches taller. I’m more persuaded by Wilkins’ previous argument that if one in fact is able to reverse orientations, it’s because neither one had exceeded the tolerance bounds.

I think Wilkins’ conclusions are straightforward: a scientific orientation must be presented as early as possible, and presented in a way that leads to understanding of principles rather than memorization of facts. In other words, an empirical approach must be both encouraged and continuously reinforced, to bolster and integrate the mental model, making it robust enough to resist the religious social pressures of family, peers, and churches. Scientific findings should be presented as natural results of the application of the scientific method, rather than as isolated factoids outside of a coherent context.

In much of the country, exposure to such factoids occurs in any case far too late to effectively compete with a model fed by continuous exposure to a belief system unanimously taken for granted during that time of life, a decade or more earlier, when such models become fixed. Even well-presented science is fighting to conquer ingrained and well defended mental territory.

Sure, better science instruction started earlier is the best answer. Now all we need to do is neutralize the pervasive political, social, and administrative influence of creationist parents, teachers, school administrators, peers, and religious authorities. Piece of cake.

Glen Davidson said:

Every time I’ve written more extensive evaluations of creationist arguments I’ve aimed for even-handed language, for the reasons you give.

After more than forty years of this ID/creationist crap, I think I have become a grouchy old curmudgeon who looks for the ventilation shaft in order to lob the hand grenade that will blow the whole damned Death Star to smithereens.

harold said: I made no argument against basic, neutral, rational argument.

I’m just a little bit leery of a mindset of that seems to show up in quarrels of trying to match the stupidity of an adversary with one’s own. Trolls are dedicated to the cheap and dirty option, and if one has good arguments it’s counterproductive to discard them and ride the sleazy train instead.

Please link to your blog, by the way, if you don’t mind.

OK, since you asked, I’ll have to beg forgiveness from the other Pandas for a plug:

http://www.vectorsite.net/g2010m01.html

The series is running on Friday postings and began at the beginning of 2010. It should be done by the end of 2011, I’ve got all the future installments written. In 2012 I consolidate it into a website document, adding a good chunk of materials on the various conspiracy theories – I didn’t want to discuss them in the blog because it would have gone on too long, and besides, they’re relatively tiresome.

Although Wesley alduded to the importance of it his paper, he didn’t delve into what is often referred to as the “affective domain” of human experience.

In making the early childhood commitments to a scientific or a religious/folk worldview, there are many other factors besides “bounded rational choice.”

Feelings of security, being loved, food with potlucks and pies, warmth, smiles, hugs, singing, Christmas presents, and all those emotional bonds that are formed very early reinforce the authority of those in the community who teach you during your childhood what you ultimately come to believe.

One of the major clues to this, in the case of ID/creationists, is their frequent demands for gentle, respectful “dialog” in discussions about the validity of ID/creationism. Part of the reason for this demand is that authority figures within many fundamentalist religious churches have come to expect the deference and adulation they get from the members of their community; and they don’t want to be embarrassed in front of their flock.

But another part of this comes from the beliefs (actually more like feelings) that there is something wrong with or “inhuman” about those who stray from human bonding when they begin exploring an exciting external natural universe. Such children or teenagers often are referred to as “cold and uncaring” or as geeks or nerds or as unloving.

It is quite common for members of sectarian communities to scold or shun youngsters who begin to show signs of “loosing their humanity” while turning their interests toward a “cold and heartless” universe.

We also see these types of emotional traumas when ID/creationists respond to a clinical analysis of one of their beloved beliefs; taking it as a vicious personal attack on them. Anyone who would do such a thing must be “of the Devil.”

Thus, within fundamentalist sectarian communities there is a lot of effort put into demonizing outsiders and inducing feelings of fear and hatred toward such outsiders. People with such deeply ingrained feelings “instinctively” mistrust anything they hear coming from those outsiders. And those outsiders are seen as “prickly and cold” rather than “warm and fuzzy.”

harold said:

In other words, if they use heuristics which lead to false and contradictory conclusions when taken to their logical extension, you still declare this to be “bounded rationality”, define that as a subset of “rationality”, and declare them “rational”.

I didn’t bring up the issue of whether or not they are “rational” - they’re objectively wrong, and that’s good enough for me - but for the record, I don’t accept this particular semantic construction. No-one is perfectly rational, and only people with severe medical problems deny or fail to perceive all possible rationality. There is a spectrum. Everyone could be said to adhere to some type of “bounded rationality”. Therefore we should judge people on the overall quality of their particular bounded rationality. I find that of creationists to be poor, and do not perceive that they necessarily qualify for the adjective “rational”.

All rational agents are capable of making errors. If you argue that rationality means not making errors then you exclude all reasoners from being rational. This is too high a standard for any beings apart from Laplacean Demons and Gods. If you accept that rational agents can make mistakes because of their cognitive and computational limitations, you must accept, by parity of reasoning, that people who come to false conclusions can have acted rationally. My argument is simply to understand this and treat them accordingly. I also treat as rational people who believe that it is okay to vote for conservatives and who think their daughter, not mine, is the most beautiful girl in the world.

Moral censure should be reserved for those who are duplicitous and willingly ignorant. I do not praise those who are boundedly rational and come up with false conclusions, but neither do I think it is entirely, or even mainly, their fault. I have false conclusions about many subjects that do not directly affect me. I have not had the time to learn about them, and so I think things that are simply wrong (I do not know which ones, though). Am I therefore a poor quality person? Am I irrational? Are you?

John S. Wilkins said: All rational agents are capable of making errors. If you argue that rationality means not making errors then you exclude all reasoners from being rational. This is too high a standard for any beings apart from Laplacean Demons and Gods. If you accept that rational agents can make mistakes because of their cognitive and computational limitations, you must accept, by parity of reasoning, that people who come to false conclusions can have acted rationally. My argument is simply to understand this and treat them accordingly. I also treat as rational people who believe that it is okay to vote for conservatives and who think their daughter, not mine, is the most beautiful girl in the world.

Moral censure should be reserved for those who are duplicitous and willingly ignorant. I do not praise those who are boundedly rational and come up with false conclusions, but neither do I think it is entirely, or even mainly, their fault. I have false conclusions about many subjects that do not directly affect me. I have not had the time to learn about them, and so I think things that are simply wrong (I do not know which ones, though). Am I therefore a poor quality person? Am I irrational? Are you?

As someone who is a Conservative and a registered Republican, I endorse your comments, John. But if you wrote them to defend Fetzger, then I’ll have to dissent. Having lived through 9/11, I have nothing but scorn for those who are “9/11 TRUTHERs”.

I hope you find it Mike, but in the mean time, keep wiping out those individual storm troopers. (I would have thought a navy guy would prefer torpedoes to grenades, but either way is fine with me.)

harold said: I hope you find it Mike, but in the mean time, keep wiping out those individual storm troopers.

And remember … they shoot a lot, but they can’t hit anything.

harold said:

I hope you find it Mike, but in the mean time, keep wiping out those individual storm troopers. (I would have thought a navy guy would prefer torpedoes to grenades, but either way is fine with me.)

:-)

Indeed.

Both benefit from stealth. The tactical advantage of the grenade is up-close and potentially more accurate; but the torpedo keeps you at a safe distance.

And I’m getting old and expendable.

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

I don’t know if anyone has bothered counting, but I think this may be the first thread with more posts sent to the wall then left in discussion.

dpr

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by John S. Wilkins published on April 14, 2011 3:11 AM.

This Week in Intelligent Design - 13/04/11 was the previous entry in this blog.

I wish I still lived in Minnesota … is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Categories

Archives

Author Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.381

Site Meter