The Bathroom Wall

With any tavern, one can expect that certain things that get said are out-of-place. But there is one place where almost any saying or scribble can find a home: the bathroom wall. This is where random thoughts and oddments that don’t follow the other entries at the Panda’s Thumb wind up. As with most bathroom walls, expect to sort through a lot of oyster guts before you locate any pearls of wisdom.

36952 Comments

There is a God!

And he is a plumber. The Bathroom has been flushed.

Thank you Reed.

Great!

Course, that still leaves what happens when the new plumbing acquires a big drip…

Wait, what am I saying?

Ingeborg Esbrandt said:

Hey, nice post :) - well, even though I came via Google searching for “justfaces spreadshirt” wondering why this post came up on top??? Greetings xoxo

Spammer alert!

To make one point about the previous thread. John Kwok wrote:

“Sorry Jim, but your invocation of the Ground Zero Mosque controversy is not helpful here. Incidentally there are many Muslims and Muslim Americans who oppose its construction, simply because they recognize that building it near Ground Zero is needlessly offensive to the families of the victims and the survivors of the 9/11 attack. Some of the most prominent critics - who are Muslim Americans - include Wall Street businessman Mansoor Ijaz (who tried to assist the Clinton administration in extraditing Osama bin Laden from the Sudan) and former United States Navy officer Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser.

[…]

If you are going to call Miss USA, a Muslim American, Rima Fakih, a bigot, then be my guest. Same is true for those two prominent Muslim Americans I had mentioned. Or other Muslim Americans who, like them, have spoken out against building the “Cordoba House” Islamic Center (Of course I am also against it, but am definitely not a bigot.).”

Unless YOU are a practicing Muslim your opposition to this cultural center is pure bigotry, so your saying that you’re “definitely not a bigot” is false. Your ruse of hiding behind the Muslim-Americans’ backs is the same as of the racists who think that using the n-word is OK because so many African-Americans use it. If you are a Muslim, well then, I find your views on the issue just silly, not bigoted.

Kris,

You can’t possibly know what I know.

mrg said:

DS said: Kris has certainly demonstrated that he doesn’t deserve anything more.

Actually, I was suggesting we all insult and abuse DH. If he wants to invite it, why not oblige?

We already tried that on Kris. You can only call someone an @$$hole, a bastard and crazy so many times before it gets tiresome. What’s the point of bashing me?

Kris has called me a liar for stating the obvious facts about him. We can all see what he has done, so why would he deny the stunts he has pulled? He is the one who invaded our space to attack the cause of the blog, yet he expects us to be tolerant and respectful of him no matter what he says? There is no law or principle I know that demands any such thing.

Kris said:

What you said about me is a complete lie. I didn’t start the insults and attacks. You and your asshole buddies here did. And trying to con FF with lies about me and that swill about respecting people you and they (“we”) don’t agree with is yet another one of your acts of deliberate dishonesty. You and most others here wouldn’t know what respect is if it hit you like a freight train going 60 miles per hour.

Since the statements you make about me are false, you’re a deliberate liar, according to your own standards for others. Of course your standards for yourself are completely different. How convenient for you.

The ONLY reason you and most others aren’t now viciously attacking FF is because she said she’s a woman. Even then, some of you have been pretty blunt to her, and especially rude before she said she’s a woman, even though she has been nice the whole time.

My questions to her are not an attack or a trap. They are sincere. You are grossly misrepresenting me and are just showing yourself to be the hypocritical, dishonest, delusional liar you are.

You are a seriously fucked up lunatic with delusions of godhood who needs a good ass kicking.

By the way, Mr. theological agnostic, unitarian, universalist, dis-honorable, bushido, liberal, un-scientific pseudo-skeptic, what are you going to add to or subtract from your self-created, self-serving, bogus religion tomorrow?

You just keep piling up your lies and hypocrisy Dale. You said “You do what you like, but I’m done with Kris for good.” yet you’re still bashing me and lying about me.

You also said you respect people with whom you disagree but then you say “I went after him anyway.” when you first saw me here. When I first came here I didn’t say anything that warranted you going after me.

Plus, you said you respect people with whom you disagree but then you say “I’d go after Ann Coulter if that bitch showed up here too.” So much for you respecting people you disagree with.

As usual the things you claim about yourself, and me, are false, which makes you a chronic LIAR, according to your standards for others.

You admit to slamming me a lot but of course you try to make it look like you’re a saint for doing so. Whether you or anyone else here ever accepts it or not, I’m just giving you and others shit back because you and/or they started it, either with me or someone else who didn’t or doesn’t deserve it.

I didn’t escalate the situation. You and your fellow, lying, arrogant hypocrites did.

It really cracks me up to see you guys acting exactly like some of the creationists you hate and condemn so much. You accuse and attack them for not listening and having closed minds, and for playing what you think are ridiculous games, but you do the same thing. Congratulations, you have become your enemy.

FODS

I haven’t lied about anything, you jackass! The simple fact is that you have invaded Panda’s Thumb and have been a disruptive force from the beginning and have played us like suckers. I’m not fooled by you and no one else is. Even if you were insulted by one or two people in the beginning, you could have ignored it and just responded to the ones who were being positive to you, like flowersfriend has been, but instead you started throwing shit at everyone who dared to reject your tactics. We insulted you because that seemed to be what you liked, but I get tired of that after a while. You don’t, appearantly.

If you seriously think you have made ANY positive contributions to this community here, you are even more delusional than most Creationists!

Dale Husband said: What’s the point of bashing me?

None whatsoever, but since any comments to a troll are going to produce nothing but bashing in response, that leads to what the point of the comments was.

John often fails to read for comprehension. A poor highschool education , no doubt.

Ghrom said:

To make one point about the previous thread. John Kwok wrote:

“Sorry Jim, but your invocation of the Ground Zero Mosque controversy is not helpful here. Incidentally there are many Muslims and Muslim Americans who oppose its construction, simply because they recognize that building it near Ground Zero is needlessly offensive to the families of the victims and the survivors of the 9/11 attack. Some of the most prominent critics - who are Muslim Americans - include Wall Street businessman Mansoor Ijaz (who tried to assist the Clinton administration in extraditing Osama bin Laden from the Sudan) and former United States Navy officer Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser.

[…]

If you are going to call Miss USA, a Muslim American, Rima Fakih, a bigot, then be my guest. Same is true for those two prominent Muslim Americans I had mentioned. Or other Muslim Americans who, like them, have spoken out against building the “Cordoba House” Islamic Center (Of course I am also against it, but am definitely not a bigot.).”

Unless YOU are a practicing Muslim your opposition to this cultural center is pure bigotry, so your saying that you’re “definitely not a bigot” is false. Your ruse of hiding behind the Muslim-Americans’ backs is the same as of the racists who think that using the n-word is OK because so many African-Americans use it. If you are a Muslim, well then, I find your views on the issue just silly, not bigoted.

Malchus said: A poor highschool education , no doubt.

Oh Bob, I can hear the howls now: “Set phasers to SLAUGHTER!”

Kris said:

Mike Elzinga said:

With a troll’s profile ready at hand, and with sufficient discipline on the part of the regulars, that could be cut to zero.

Profile ready at hand? What exactly does that mean Mike? Ready for what or whom? Do you have printed profiles of all the people you’ve labeled as trolls and hand them out to passersby on street corners? Or, do you create a profile file in your computer containing your intricate and exhaustive (LMAO!) calculations and determinations about each alleged troll and somehow send a copy of it to everyone on Earth to warn them of impending doom? Or, do you only dispense it to other regulars here who are able to contact you personally and who request a copy because they let you do their thinking for them?

Or, do you just think that your stupid ‘profiles’ actually matter, when in reality they actually don’t? Do you really believe that what happens on this website, or your asinine profiles, or what you do with them, matters one iota to the vast majority of the people on Earth? Get over yourself Mike.

Hey, if you have my profile handy, why don’t you post it here? I could use a good laugh.

Your “profile” is a person who needs attention and does not even try to get it by behaving in any consistent or coherent fashion. You are a manipulative jerk who takes ANY response from others and uses it as an excuse to attack. You bash us for not being tolerant enough of Creationists, while stating Creationist fallacies yourself. Then you turn around and deny being religious and question why certain others who are Creationist take their religion so seriously. Such strange behavior is pathological in the extreme.

Gee, this website seems VERY important to you, considering how much time you spend here.

You are either crazy or a fraud, Kris.

The fun thing about the BW is that the trolls either have to cave in and respond on the BW – which they don’t want to do – or pass up responding – which they REALLY don’t want to do.

Kris said:

Whatever you do, don’t even consider that when people come here and sincerely want to ask, discuss, debate, learn, and/or contribute in some way, that when they’re mercilessly insulted and attacked and erroneously lumped into your hated group of ID/creationists, they just might not like it and may fight back, and especially when they offer reasonable explanations of their words and the explanations (and the person) are ignored, misinterpreted, misrepresented, slammed, bashed, and ridiculed by you and the rest of the mindless haters here. Yeah, don’t even consider that for a second. You and the other haters and bashers here are way too perfect to have to consider such things. It’s never your fault.

Your track record is too well known here for us to consider that you are sincere about anything. You are even WORSE than the average Creationist troll because you keep going back and forth between acting non-religious and acting like a Creationist. You cannot be both, so you must be bullshitting us. Nobody here can take that seriously.

Expressed violent thoughts a number of times?? Yeah Mike, I would thoroughly enjoy kicking your ass and the asses of anyone else who has called me a liar, but I haven’t “expressed violent thoughts a number of times” in the way you’re implying. You’re the one who needs a psychiatrist, along with some others here. If you’re considered sane, I’d rather be considered crazy. And comparing me or anyone else you simply don’t agree with to a serial killer just helps show how paranoid and delusional you are.

If you don’t like being called a liar, stop being one. At least I have ALWAYS told the truth about YOU.

DH, a very minor issue here: the first part you cited above was addressed to me, and personally I find it amusing to watch such comments fall into a hole of resounding silence.

However, as far as the rest goes, carry on.

mrg said:

DH, a very minor issue here: the first part you cited above was addressed to me, and personally I find it amusing to watch such comments fall into a hole of resounding silence.

However, as far as the rest goes, carry on.

Oh, did you want to answer him here first? Be my guest. But I figured I’d just make a note of ANY inappropriate thing Kris says elsewhere and post it here, answer it here, and wait for Kris to take the hint and stop attacking us everywhere else and just slam people here.

Dale Husband said: Oh, did you want to answer him here first? Be my guest.

Why would I want to do that? But if my own rejoinder is indifference, I can at least politely ask that the effect not be spoiled.

Kris threatens: “I would thoroughly enjoy kicking your ass and the asses of anyone else who has called me a liar,…”

Lotsa bluster; everybody’s collective asses are exposed right here.

Mike Elzinga said: … everybody’s collective asses are exposed right here.

AARGH! I am so outa here!

Kris said:

Mike Elzinga said:

mrg said:

Serial killers are maybe a bit much of a comparison.

The point was the sociopathic needs of such an individual. This troll has expressed violent thoughts a number of times. But a psychiatrist would have a better handle on this that I.

I think people like attention; it’s just a question of what kind of attention. When I was the factory contact guy in my corporate life, a colleague in marketing told me that it was true I put up with a lot of abuse – I did – but added: “People thank you sometimes.”

And they did. I get thanks on occasion for my current efforts as well – not often, and maybe thanks aren’t the be-all and end-all of the effort … but on the other side of the coin, if nobody ever thanks me, what reason would I have to honestly believe what I was doing actually did anyone good?

Now take the negative mentalities that show up here … does anyone ever thank them for what they’re doing? It’s obvious it never happens, and just as obvious that they haven’t any expectation that it will.

They still want attention, and lacking any concept that they will ever be praised, they have no alternative but to be disruptive. If one cannot build, then they can only take satisfaction in destruction.

Yeah; you are pointing out common desires that nearly everyone has. But sociopaths also know this and manipulate these.

But I suspect most of us can simply walk away from these kinds of manipulations when we have other things to do that are satisfying; and I suspect most of the moderators here on PT do in fact have other things vying for their attention.

Hell, I’m retired and I can’t get through everything I want to get through in a week. The only reason I even show up here is that the PT topics are often very interesting, and I have a high speed connection that allows me to look in from time to time when I happen to be working on my computer. So most of the time I’m multitasking up a storm when I’m here.

Expressed violent thoughts a number of times?? Yeah Mike, I would thoroughly enjoy kicking your ass and the asses of anyone else who has called me a liar, but I haven’t “expressed violent thoughts a number of times” in the way you’re implying. You’re the one who needs a psychiatrist, along with some others here. If you’re considered sane, I’d rather be considered crazy. And comparing me or anyone else you simply don’t agree with to a serial killer just helps show how paranoid and delusional you are.

Whew! Glad I never called Kris a liar. I only called him a coward and a bully.

Mike Elzinga said: Lotsa bluster; everybody’s collective asses are exposed right here.

So it’s like “one of these days Alice, POW! To the mooning”?

Another collection of Kris’ delusional rants.

Kris said:

And of course your insulting comments, and the insulting comments by the other hypocrites here, don’t violate any of those rules you posted, eh?

Apparently, all that matters here is that any insults have to be aimed at creationists or anyone who doesn’t blindly and viciously attack them right along with you guys/gals.

Giving you back your own shit isn’t allowed. Questioning you isn’t allowed. Having a mind of my own isn’t allowed. Calling you on your bullshit isn’t allowed. Anything less than total devotion and obedience to you and your creationist hating ‘cause’ isn’t allowed. Hypocrisy, by you and your cohorts, is allowed, and encouraged.

Kris said:

And of course you and others going on and on about “trolls”, and repeatedly posting “DNFTT”, isn’t “SPAM”. Yeah, whatever.

Why do you think that a “dissenter” is automatically a “troll”? You’ve said you’re a Christian. Would your Christian God approve of your insulting, hypocritical, hateful behavior?

Kris said:

Maybe, just maybe the moderators are getting wise to the hypocrisy and other bullshit you and others are guilty of.

Now STFU spamming troll.

How do you like your own shit thrown back at you?

Panda’s Thumb is a blog made for defending evolution and promoting proper science education, and since Kris was the one who invaded the blog to spew both Creationist arguments that we were expected to “tolerate” (like we are supposed to tolerate falsehoods?) and then claim to be non-religious at other times, why shouldn’t we regard him as unwelcome, inconsistent and disruptive? Why shouldn’t we treat him like he is the enemy, when that’s all he has ever acted like since he arrived here?

An example of hypocrisy would be us invading and attacking ID promoters on Uncommon Descent. I’ve never done that, and never will. Maybe Kris can go over there and drive the ID people crazy for a while, to prove to us once and for all that he is an equal-opportunity critic, and not a bigoted Creationist concern troll.

http://www.uncommondescent.com/

Kris the creationist wrote:

“If, however, “descent with modification” is defined as showing that speciation (evolution) occurs and/or occurred, then that’s a different ballgame, and requires greater evidence. While a lot of evidence points to a persuasive probability that descent with modification, including divergence/speciation, occurred throughout(?) the history of life, there’s a lot more work to do to before it can reasonably be said that it has been established close to 100%, and I’m not sure it can be reasonably said that it can be established ‘empirically’. Many inferences have been and have to be made, and inferences are a matter of opinion.”

This is of course incorrect. I already posted a link to a web page entitled:

29+ Evidences for Macroevolution

If Kris wants to discuss the point, he can do so here. Maybe someone will want to discuss it with him. Unless of course he is just plain chicken shit.

DS said: Kris the creationist wrote:

You might just leave a short bland note on the original thread to invite him to come to the BW for discussion. He’ll ignore it, of course, but that works too.

Yawn.

(Bored.)

All the spamming at The Immune System Cross-examination Still Burns, and other forums, is very unChristlike, don’t you think?

Makes you wonder if these anti-science creation-supporters are Christians? (Never known a real creationist who wasn’t.)

It’s funny how trolls stubbornly resist being prodded to direct their comments to the BW. They know that once they do, they don’t have any real nuisance value any more: “What’s the point of trolling, then?”

Kris huffs and puffs and squeaks “What are you afraid of?” hiding behind his mommy’s apron. Afraid to mix it up on the big kid’s playground, he’ll sit in the sandbox and cry.

Poor widdle Kwis! Mean old scientists call you out on your stupid shit? Maybe if we ignore the little wanker he’ll go back into the closet and play with himself.

Geeze, I’m beginning to miss FL! I tell you, the neighborhood is going to hell.

I knew the asshole was chicken shit. All he haas to do is come here and provide a better explanation for the 29 different independent data sets that are all consistent with common descent. Until he does, I guess he will just be someone who believes in evolution but not in common descent. Yea right.

Everyone should remember, he had his chance to discuss science, he chose to quote mine and insult instead. He can cry all he wants to now, but everyone is wise to his crap.

Just Bob said:

Actually, many of the fictional computers that go ‘wrong’ are merely interpreting their instructions quite literally.

I recently watched Source Code, the 2011 scifi film. Its gimmick is that somehow, nobody ever says how, virtual reality (produced by the “source code”) does in fact produce an alternative real reality.

I’ve been a programmer all my life, so I had to deploy my dark-energy-powered antigrav disbelief suspensors to swallow that - and there is not even a shred of bafflegab to back it up, just bald assertion that it happens.

I think that most people who are not programmers have an almost mystical notion of what computers can do. Since they can do so many amazing things, from actually running robots to real virtual reality, and since they do those things so obscurely, people easily accept the possibility of almost anything.

In Source Code, it is not so much that the fictional computers go wrong; it is that they could never do what they are purported to do in the first place. It is the viewers who, in their naivety and ignorance, “go wrong.”

Nonetheless, I recommend the film. It’s pretty good, if you’ve got the suspensors handy.

callahanpb said:

TomS said:

1) Is the same argument at least as relevant as an argument against reproduction?

In this case, I don’t quite follow the analogy with reproduction, but I think EAAN is grasping at straws.

I shouldn’t be pressing this point with someone who is on the same side. But what’s a friend for, unless he will prevent one from making a fool of himself. So here I go …

I am not making an analogy. I am taking the argument seriously. To say that an argument is a valid argument, it must be an instance of a pattern of reasoning, every instance of the pattern obeys the rule that whenever the premises are true the conclusion is true.

What is the pattern? It says that if evolution accounts for the structure and function of the human brain, and thereby accounts for human reasoning, but an evolutionary account cannot account for a brain which is reliable, and thereby, if there is an evolutionary account, then there is no accounting for reliable functioning.

This is the pattern: If X accounts for the structure and function of the human brain, X thereby accounts for human reasoning, and if X cannot account for a brain which is reliable, then there is no accounting for reliable functioning.

Take X to be reproduction. We process of reproduction produces a brain. How can we say that process of reproduction will produce a reliably functioning brain? What is there about genetics, and the rest, which accounts for a brain which is reliably reasoning?

(I know that there are those who propose an evolutionary account for the brain at least sometimes producing correct thoughts. I do not have to consider that, for I show that the argument is not a valid argument. But it does at least suggest that cannot dismiss the possibility that with X=evolution there might be an accounting for reliability. I mention this because:

(Ironically, in another instance of the pattern, when we take X to be “something supernatural produces human reasoning”, we also, quite clearly, have no possibility of accounting for the reliability of human reasoning. To be supernatural means that it cannot be constrained. Magic grants of wishes, ambiguous oracles, trickster and malevolent spirits are commonplace in their unreliability.)

TomS said: 2) If one assumes that evolutionary biology is somehow wrong, does that provide us with a solution to the problem?

The theological answer to this point is: our ideas and senses are generally reliable, and since this cannot have been caused by evolution according to the EAAN, its designed. IOW the old false dichotomy again.

callahanpb said: My main objection is that given overwhelming evidence that human cognition is unreliable, why would you predicate any argument on the requirement for reliable human cognition?

Yes I agree.

My second objection is that fallibility of cognition does not imply an inability to reach some correct conclusions,

Yes I agree again. If you buy the EAAN, that just means that any new idea you come up with has a high probability of being wrong. It does not mean that after we test ideas that the ideas which pass testing have that same high probability of being wrong.

I can understand how a very bright person might have found this paradoxical two and half thousand year while being equally dumbfounded by Xeno’s paradox and the existence of irrational numbers…

…I don’t want to dismiss philosophy as a discipline, but a philosopher working today understanding cognition ought to acknowledge advances in understanding made in other fields.

I have this beef too, though my preferred example is math and Zeno’s paradoxes, which you mention. They can be solved by pre-calculus as they are generally examples of convergent infinite series. Now, this is math that the western world has known about since at least the late 1600s to mid 1700s. Why philosophers continue to ignore the fact that we solved these basic Philosophy 101 problems 300 years ago is beyond me. I’m not saying we should stop teaching Zeno: its just fine for a Philosophy 101 course, gets the students thinking, etc. But toward the end of the unit, the professor should point out that Newton’s Principia contained all the tools needed to solve them, run through the solution, and use that as a teachable moment with the lesson “this is why, whatever field you go into students, you can’t stovepipe yourself. You need to pay attention to things going on in other fields, because they can often help you with problems in your own field that seem intractable.” I suspect this doesn’t happen because your average philosophy professor doesn’t want to (or can’t) do the middle step of ‘run through the solution.’ But maybe I’m being uncharitable in saying that.

I don’t know how representative this is of other philosophy of mind theories, but I can’t really imagine a serious thinker in the 21st century spending much time on it.

Its been many years, but this was not part of philosophy of mind when I studied it. Plantinga is a theologian; this is primarily considered a theological argument or ‘at most secular’ a philosophy of religion argument.

callahanpb said: I don’t know how representative this is of other philosophy of mind theories, but I can’t really imagine a serious thinker in the 21st century spending much time on it.

Just as a brief follow up, sometimes professors will bring up defunct theories just to talk about the faults. Every subject has these, theories an academic community “loves to hate.” Even the atheist community has a few: who doesn’t like to bring out Gould’s NOMA just to give it a good bashing every once in a while? I don’t know what the mainstream philosophical view of the EAAN is, but if some mainstream philosophy professor is bringing it up in a philosophy of mind class, there’s a decent chance he/she is probably doing so in order to get the class thinking about its problems.

TomS said: What is the pattern? It says that if evolution accounts for the structure and function of the human brain, and thereby accounts for human reasoning, but an evolutionary account cannot account for a brain which is reliable, and thereby, if there is an evolutionary account, then there is no accounting for reliable functioning.

I don’t believe this is the EAAN. Plantinga points out that many different beliefs (and I would add, instincts) would lead to the same survival advantage. You can run from the tiger because you think he will kill you, or you can run from the tiger because you think he is a god and doesn’t want to be directly observed. The evolutionary advantage is exactly the same either way. Thus there is no reason to expect our theories about tigers are correct, since many incorrect theories about tigers would lead to the same result and allow the holders of those ideas to successfully have more kids, pass along their ideas, etc… Evolution cannot distinguish between ideas that coincidentally yield some fitness advantage and ideas that causally yield that same fitness advantage. Since there are many more possible coincidental ideas than causal ones, the odds are overwhelmingly good that some accurate idea you have about the world is coincidentally accurate, not causally accurate. If we have a large number of correct causal ideas about the world, this is a highly improbable state which can only be explained via God.

Because the EAAN is about the reliability of ideas and not physical organ structure, it doesn’t really apply to things like growing a reliable liver or growing a reliable reproductive system.

eric said:

TomS said: What is the pattern? It says that if evolution accounts for the structure and function of the human brain, and thereby accounts for human reasoning, but an evolutionary account cannot account for a brain which is reliable, and thereby, if there is an evolutionary account, then there is no accounting for reliable functioning.

I don’t believe this is the EAAN. Plantinga points out that many different beliefs (and I would add, instincts) would lead to the same survival advantage. You can run from the tiger because you think he will kill you, or you can run from the tiger because you think he is a god and doesn’t want to be directly observed. The evolutionary advantage is exactly the same either way. Thus there is no reason to expect our theories about tigers are correct, since many incorrect theories about tigers would lead to the same result and allow the holders of those ideas to successfully have more kids, pass along their ideas, etc… Evolution cannot distinguish between ideas that coincidentally yield some fitness advantage and ideas that causally yield that same fitness advantage. Since there are many more possible coincidental ideas than causal ones, the odds are overwhelmingly good that some accurate idea you have about the world is coincidentally accurate, not causally accurate. If we have a large number of correct causal ideas about the world, this is a highly improbable state which can only be explained via God.

Because the EAAN is about the reliability of ideas and not physical organ structure, it doesn’t really apply to things like growing a reliable liver or growing a reliable reproductive system.

Thank you.

But I don’t see how the same argument does not apply to (1) reproduction and (2) creation.

1) Whatever the reproductive process produces in the way of brain, etc., it makes no different to that process whether we come to have correct ideas. The physical, chemical, biological processes and laws and materials work just as well if the human thinks that tigers are predators who will treat us as prey if we run from them; or are gods who would be insulted if we run from them; or are indifferent as to what we do, but we will impress potential mates by not running from tigers; or I am so scared of tigers that I am unable to do anything. (I don’t think that we have a chance in trying to outrun a tiger.) Reproduction works just as well whatever ideas we have about tigers, the motions of the heavens, or evolution. I can’t think of any reason why a theory of reproduction could account for the correctness of any idea.

2) I don’t see how the hypothesis that the ideas are produced by God, or that the evolutionary process is replaced by direct action by God, gives us any reason to trust in the ideas.

callahanpb said: I don’t want to dismiss philosophy as a discipline, but a philosopher working today understanding cognition ought to acknowledge advances in understanding made in other fields. If, for instance, a given philosopher believes that models of cognition stemming from disparate fields such as neuroscience or artificial intelligence to be irrelevant, they ought to provide some justification for why these fields are irrelevant. An argument like EAAN (which is laughable) seems to originate in a vacuum that ignores the possibility that other smart people have actually been trying to understand how people think. I don’t know how representative this is of other philosophy of mind theories, but I can’t really imagine a serious thinker in the 21st century spending much time on it.

Speaking as a professional in the discipline of philosophy, I can assure you that the overwhelming majority of philosophers working in the fields of philosophy of mind and epistemology do not dismiss advances made in neurosciences and psychology. To the contrary, the clearly dominant positions in both fields are broadly naturalistic and/or materialistic, and they make explicit use of various forms of relevant scientific research. Even among the less scientifically oriented, the rejection of scientifically reductionist approaches to questions of mind or knowledge are rarely just dismissals, instead arguing explicitly – if also, in the eyes of the presently reigning philosophical majority, wrongly – for why the evidence does not in the end support a naturalistic conclusion, and often trying to account for the evidence better than naturalistic/materialistic approaches.

Plantinga is sad. His work in the 60’s and 70’s and some of the 80’s is okay. At least it’s precisely conceptualized and rigorously argued – the kind of work which, even if you find it mistaken, can also be instructively and constructively so, forcing you to make better arguments against him. But sometime in the 80’s or 90’s, he quit being a philosopher and became an ideologue and an apologist, and his precision and rigor turned into obscurantist nonsense. His epistemological “arguments” (speaking loosely) about belief in God being a “properly basic belief” are an excuse for dogmatic refusals to provide justification for said belief, plus an equally dogmatic and wholly arbitrary declaration of the belief’s “rationality.” It’s crap, and he gets a limited pass only from either the few who agree with the crap or the misguided who let him slide by out of too much respect for his better works past.

And the “evolutionary argument against naturalism” is one of the most deeply flawed arguments I’ve ever seen. Plantinga displays zero grasp of how evolution might actually help to explain both the successes and the failures of our natural means of cognition. He also provides zero reason to think that traditional theism would do any better at explaining either.

Speaking as a philosopher, I think Plantinga is an embarrassment, and he has been for some time.

eric said:

TomS said: What is the pattern? It says that if evolution accounts for the structure and function of the human brain, and thereby accounts for human reasoning, but an evolutionary account cannot account for a brain which is reliable, and thereby, if there is an evolutionary account, then there is no accounting for reliable functioning.

I don’t believe this is the EAAN. Plantinga points out that many different beliefs (and I would add, instincts) would lead to the same survival advantage. You can run from the tiger because you think he will kill you, or you can run from the tiger because you think he is a god and doesn’t want to be directly observed. The evolutionary advantage is exactly the same either way. Thus there is no reason to expect our theories about tigers are correct, since many incorrect theories about tigers would lead to the same result and allow the holders of those ideas to successfully have more kids, pass along their ideas, etc… Evolution cannot distinguish between ideas that coincidentally yield some fitness advantage and ideas that causally yield that same fitness advantage. Since there are many more possible coincidental ideas than causal ones, the odds are overwhelmingly good that some accurate idea you have about the world is coincidentally accurate, not causally accurate. If we have a large number of correct causal ideas about the world, this is a highly improbable state which can only be explained via God.

Because the EAAN is about the reliability of ideas and not physical organ structure, it doesn’t really apply to things like growing a reliable liver or growing a reliable reproductive system.

The fundamental problem is that the EAAN presumes no connection between “truth” as a property of our ideas (whether a real property or only an ideal) and the fitness value of our ideas. Plantinga has actually claimed that, say, I might believe I’m sitting in front of this computer typing right now, when in fact I’m in a swamp defending myself against hungry crocodiles. At best, this is a failure to consider how even imperfect cognitive reliability might be fitness-enhancing. At worst, it’s the paranoid “radical doubt” that takes seriously the possibility that everything we believe about the world might be wrong, the way Descartes began his reflections in Meditations on First Philosophy – a type and degree of doubt that even Descartes right away proceeded to attempt to dispel, and that no one else has bothered to take seriously since.

And I seriously doubt that theism (or, for that matter, anything else) will work any better as a way to get us out of that sort of global cognitive failure, because none of my beliefs about God, whatever their empirical source (Bible, parental teaching, awe at the order of nature, etc), would be immune from such doubt, either: maybe when I thought I was in Sunday school, I was trying to dig up tubers for lunch. More pragmatically minded philosophers have rightly disregarded this silliness for a very long time.

Ill-conceived, ill-informed, and several centuries out of date. – But anything in the service of ideology and apologetics!…

Plantinga is essentially urging us to take seriously Russell’s teapot. An irrefutable irrelevancy.

See Maarten Boudry’s excellent takedown of Plantinga’s entire recent book on theism and science: https://sites.google.com/site/maart[…]-1/plantinga , from which:

If and to the extent that an organism relies on belief as an adaptive strategy, it better be (approximately) true belief (in ecologically relevant situations). Plantinga pretends that natural selection is blind to belief content, but of course it isn’t. Selection weeds out neural structures that give rise to false beliefs (not always, but often enough). As soon as belief directs action, natural selection will kick in to weed out beliefs (usually false ones) that are not conducive to an organism’s survival and reproduction. Also, we have evolved brain mechanisms that enable us to learn about the environment in which we live and to modify our beliefs so as to bring them into greater accord with reality. The content of a belief is connected to its neurophysiological (NP) properties in an appropriate manner. A belief with a different content will have different NP properties (i.e. a different physical realization in the brain), and will thus result in different kinds of actions. Bizarrely, Plantinga thinks that the NP properties of a concrete belief stand to its content as a ball shattering a window stands to its being a birthday present (337). The content is thus completely irrelevant. Does a ball break a window “by virtue of being a birthday present”, asks Plantinga rhetorically? Of course not: some balls are not birthday presents, and some birthday presents are not balls but rather, say, stuffed animals, which usually don’t shatter windows. The property of being a birthday present is not causally connected to its breaking force and is thus irrelevant. What on earth is Plantinga trying to prove here?

There is a fascinating and ongoing philosophical discussion about the reliability of our cognitive faculties, their flaws and limitations, their blind spots and inherent biases, all from an evolutionary perspective (De Cruz, Boudry, De Smedt, & Blancke, 2011; Griffiths & Wilkins, in press; Papineau, 2000). But this problem should be tackled in a careful fashion and on a case-by-case basis, not, as Plantinga does, by compressing all the complications and details in one single proposition R (“our cognitive faculties are reliable”), and confusing such a rigid all-or-nothing approach with logical rigor. Sometimes this extremely reductive strand of formalism results in unintended humor. For example, at the very end of the book, Plantinga asks us to consider the “faculty (or subfaculty) that produces metaphysical beliefs”, and to call it M (where is it located in the brain?). If N is Naturalism and E is evolution,

What is P(MR/N&E), where MR is the proposition that metaphysical beliefs are reliably produced and are mostly true? (349)

This is the philosophical equivalent of doing brain surgery with an axe.

As I hope this sort of thing indicates, Plantinga’s ideas have received a huge amount of criticism from within philosophy. It’s frustrating that his sort of dipshittery is what sours many a non-philosopher on the entire discipline.

eric said:

The evolutionary advantage is exactly the same either way. Thus there is no reason to expect our theories about tigers are correct, since many incorrect theories about tigers would lead to the same result and allow the holders of those ideas to successfully have more kids, pass along their ideas, etc… Evolution cannot distinguish between ideas that coincidentally yield some fitness advantage and ideas that causally yield that same fitness advantage.

This is different objection, but a theory generates many decisions on a day to day basis, so a collection of rules that includes “run from a tiger” is not nearly as valuable as a theory that can generalize this rule to other predators and other dangers. So there is some reason to expect people to have theories that work better than random rule sets. In fact, our brain doesn’t have a separate rule for every possible set of circumstances, and it is reasonable to expect that the means of generating these rules have some basis in improving survival–i.e. that theories that produce useful rules more often will be retained.

You can also have a theory that produces equivalent outcomes with the wrong interpretation. The germ theory of disease gives us a good explanation for why hand washing reduces the spread of illness, but social conventions of cleanliness could reach the same practical outcome. This can apply to a wide range of behavior, not just hand washing, that might reduce the chance of infection. It may also have harmful side effects, such as the shunning of lepers. And this is in fact what we see historically.

What we see in practice is that people have imperfect but useful theories, and these generally become more useful as they are refined (but may be good enough for most practical purposes). I think that this is exactly what we’d expect to see from an evolutionary model.

It may be that cognition/perception/whatever is like evolution itself: doesn’t have to be perfect, just good enough that we can reproduce.

callahanpb said:

But an unreliable component is not a useless component, and noisy processes can still produce valid results.

My second objection is that fallibility of cognition does not imply an inability to reach some correct conclusions, nor to design aids to cognition (formal methods and computers) that improve reliability.

What you describe exactly parallels evolution.

The very fittest individual in a population, with the preferred gene, does not necessarily survive to reproduce, nor do they need to survive for the gene to become predominant. Evolution occurs in populations, not individuals. Gould’s hecatombs prevail. All that is required is for a small fraction of those with the beneficial gene to have a slightly better chance at survival than all the rest, and that gene will come to be pervasive.

The most likely outcome for any one individual, with the very best gene for survival or not, is no long list of descendants (Gould’s hecatomb). But in the population, the gene that conveys a slight benefit for survival in the present environment, that’s the one that will prosper.

Just are you describe.

callahanpb said:

In fact, our brain doesn’t have a separate rule for every possible set of circumstances, and it is reasonable to expect that the means of generating these rules have some basis in improving survival–i.e. that theories that produce useful rules more often will be retained.

What I find interesting is that while it may be true, in general, that human brains don’t have separate rules for every possible set of circumstances, the ability to generalize is far from universal. Many animals do appear to have a separate rule for every “possible” circumstance. And when new circumstances arise outside that set, they die. Moths and flames, for example, or pre-road-kill (aka rodents) trying to run from cars.

[ Sorry, I’ve taken a mental short cut, and have only read the last page, so I’m woefully ill prepared to comment. But don’t let that stop me. :-) ]

However, it seems to me that the “assumption” that evolution reliably produces (or has reliably produced) organs (or organisms) that reliably produce (or reproduce) reliable ideas seems misplaced. First, the whole process of reproduction seems to be incredibly unreliable. There are lots of things that can and do go wrong during reproduction. The number of eggs or sperm that reach mature adulthood is quite small. Second, the end result is far from a “reliable” brain producing “reliable” ideas.

Just witness the number of Republicans! :-)

I am comforted by being assured that the EAAN does not stand in high regard in the professional philosophy community. As as outsider what it seems to me is that there is a lot of literature on the topic, more than I can possibly digest. But what I also see is an argument against evolution (yes, I know that it is claimed not to be against evolution, but only that evolution and naturalism are not compatible, but more about that later), and the argument is, to an outsider, hardly worth extensive attention.

And ISTM that the argument belongs in the same category of other creationist arguments against evolution in that (1) it is only against, not providing even a trace of an alternative (let alone a reason to consider the alternative) - no “pathetic level of detail” explored - (2) attracts rebuttals about technical details, giving the impression that it is about something deep.

Now, about the claim that it is not anti-evolution. It not only acts like a creationist argument in those two signature ways. If it were really not anti-evolution, why is it only an Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism? Why is there is no general form of the argument - an Atomic AAN, a Reproductive AAN, a Metabolic AAN, a Neurologic AAN? If there were such a dedication to defeating naturalism, wouldn’t one expect to see as general an argument as possible, not relying on, not just evolution, but on one mechanism of evolution, natural selection - particularly since everybody knows that there are other mechanisms generally accepted, and other proposed?

Scott F said:

What I find interesting is that while it may be true, in general, that human brains don’t have separate rules for every possible set of circumstances, the ability to generalize is far from universal. Many animals do appear to have a separate rule for every “possible” circumstance.

I don’t think this is true. I agree that instinctual responses are not the same as theories, but they’re not rule sets either. Something as simple as a tropism that causes a plant to bend towards the sun is a very general response that covers many different lighting conditions. The plant has no theory of optimizing photosynthesis, but possesses a simple mechanism (differential cell growth) that works well enough. Even an insect encounters so many different stimuli that it is not feasible to enumerate all of them. It has very general responses that produce behavior that is beneficial on average.

One consequence of relying on instincts and tropisms is that an adversary possessing a theory that conforms better to reality will be able to trick you. Insects are often unable to escape upside-down glass jars for example. But nature itself does not act as such an adversary: the magnitude of an earthquake is independent of my earthquake readiness. Often living competitors exploit weaknesses in instincts (e.g. through mimicry) but it’s not because they possess a theory either. The coevoluationary explanation fits observations very well in these cases.

Human beings actually do have theories, but I am not sure that theories explain even a small fraction of our behavior. In the tiger example, I would consider more generally how I personally detect danger, and it is neither a thinking process (identifying a predator) nor simple pattern matching (stripes equal danger).

I think I rely on visualization more than anything in evaluating danger. For instance, I have a pet peeve about paper cutters left with the blade open and upright. When I pass one like this, I stop and close it. It is just too easy to imagine someone (a child especially) hurting themselves with it. The point is not that I think this through, but a little movie plays out in my head. The physics might not be exactly right, but the visualization is good enough to conclude that something bad could happen.

I’m continually faced with a snapshot of the present, and I extrapolate it into what might happen next. I do this when driving, walking, interacting with others. The extrapolation is not sound. Maybe it could be best described as a heuristic. It would be interesting to understand what it is based on (I imagine something like Markov models, but with sophisticated geometry). It is far more sophisticated than listing rules, but lacks the explanatory power of a theory.

Here’s the extended original on the Nautilus Live website.

Link

Tarred with the Epithet Loony: An Intermittent Series

I would like them to think, just for a moment, about “LGBT.” The ‘B’ stand for bisexual! That’s orgies!

James Dobson

phhht said:

Tarred with the Epithet Loony: An Intermittent Series

I would like them to think, just for a moment, about “LGBT.” The ‘B’ stand for bisexual! That’s orgies!

James Dobson

Nunhh uh! All of my orgies are strictly heterosexual.

Shorter EAAN: I can imagine convoluted, artificial situations in which cherry-picked false beliefs end up yielding the same practical results as true beliefs. Therefore, naturalism and evolution are TEH SUXXORS.

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