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Author Topic:   Stephen Jay Gould: The Hedgehog, the Fox, and the Magister’s Pox
AZPaul3
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Posts: 4788
From: Phoenix
Joined: 11-06-2006
Member Rating: 4.9


(2)
Message 36 of 92 (759734)
06-14-2015 7:33 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by MrHambre
06-12-2015 7:48 PM


Well, there are a lot of people who feel they're getting an explanation of a phenomenon through a description of the brainwave activity of a person undergoing the phenomenon. Can I be excused for recognizing this as classic reductionism? What human experience can't be described as a change in brain chemistry, etc.?

None, actually. But what's the problem here? Do you really think that just because we know how sound propagates in air, enters the ear vibrating cilia in the cochlea firing changes in electric potential along s-nerves to the neurons in the auditory cortex somehow detracts from the wonder and pleasure of listening to the 2nd movement of Beethoven's 9th symphony? And we even know what area of the brain lights up to produce that pleasant feeling. Is something in the pleasure missing because we know the mechanism?

quote:
As Gould describes in the book, scientists see the idea that there are limits to the applicability of empirical inquiry as a red flag.

As well they should. There is nothing in this universe that cannot be rigorously studied with good scientific discipline. And none of those studies or their conclusions can detract from the beauty and awe one should feel from Picasso or from Keats.

I hear all this "reductionist" tripe as attempts to insult science by small-minded anti-science people afraid some mystery will be lost in the knowing; who think we must lose something magical in understanding things of beauty or culture or emotion. It's bull.

I know of no scientist who believes defining the mechanism voids the beauty of a child's laugh.


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AZPaul3
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Posts: 4788
From: Phoenix
Joined: 11-06-2006
Member Rating: 4.9


(2)
Message 37 of 92 (759736)
06-14-2015 7:45 PM
Reply to: Message 33 by MrHambre
06-14-2015 3:43 PM


Well, how about Dawkins telling us we're nothing but machines built by our genes to propagate themselves?

Doesn't make you feel very special, does it. Doesn't make you feel like you're the center of the universe; that all this was put here just to serve you?

How about Krauss telling us that we're "cosmically insignificant"?

That's really harsh, isn't it?

I don't consider either of these messages very humanistic, but maybe you've got a different take on it than I do.

They weren't meant to be humanistic. They were meant to be factual.

Reality bites.

The rest of this 100 billion lighyear wide universe we can see doesn't know we're here, and couldn't care less if we feel so special or not. We are nothing to this universe now that we're here and it will not miss us, or even notice, when we finally go extinct.

None of that means we can't have a hell of a lot of fun while we are here. Make music, have babies, eat Häagen-Dazs chocolate ice cream, make babies, cry over poems, make babies, and like that. We are a very special bag of walking talking DNA strands inhabiting a beautiful blue-green dust mote out in the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of a lone galaxy to which the rest of the universe is oblivious.

Edited by AZPaul3, : No reason given.

Edited by AZPaul3, : No reason given.


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AZPaul3
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Posts: 4788
From: Phoenix
Joined: 11-06-2006
Member Rating: 4.9


(1)
Message 43 of 92 (759751)
06-14-2015 9:49 PM
Reply to: Message 40 by MrHambre
06-14-2015 8:27 PM


Didn't understand a word I said.

Knowing the mechanism does not detract from the beauty or the awe or the "magic" of that emotional connection to you daughter.

You sound like you think the "meaning" of some emotion or some art form is an intrinsic element of the thing. Meaning is subjective and we each take whatever different "meaning" we feel from all of life and everything in it. There is no intrinsic element of "meaning" to anything except that which we give. Most assuredly as a result of a few squirts.

But do we really think it explains everything about human experience when we reduce it to squirts of neurochemicals?

But it does explain your experience. Without those squirts you do not have the experience. Again to "meaning." You take whatever subjective meaning you feel from having the experience and someone else will take some different meaning. These are subjective and personal. The mechanism of squirts, the science of squirtology, does not rob the experience of your "meaning" whatever you might give it.

If you can not enjoy because you know it's a squirt then you have your head ... some place it needn't be.

Gould didn't dispute that all aspects of human endeavor should be studied scientifically. However, the point he was making is that the meaning we derive from art, literature, and music as individuals and a culture isn't a scientific matter.

Like non-overlapping magisteria. Bull.

You're really calling him "anti-science"?

His view on this, like his non-overlapping magisteria, is rejected. Knowing the mechanism (reducing to physical phenomena) does not reduce the beauty nor the individual meaning. Which, by the way, can be deduced by close study of the psychology, history and motivations of the individual. Very sciencey, indeed.

However, the point he was making is that the meaning we derive from art, literature, and music as individuals and a culture isn't a scientific matter.

It most certainly is. There is nothing that cannot be subject to study with scientific discipline. No thing.

Gould was wrong on this view and has given feed to the anti-science weenies that plague society. Note: I did not say he did so knowingly and deliberately. He really believed what he was saying in Rocks of Ages. He was just wrong.

Reductionism, scientism, whatever insults you want to draw upon in your attempt to diminish the power of science to study all things, without limit, fail.

Again, divide the knowing how from the pure enjoyment of the experience. Science can and will explain the mechanism and the squirts right down to the tear that wells up in your eye. But if you, having all this wonderful knowledge of how and why, cannot let yourself just enjoy despite the knowledge, then, again, your head needs to be relocated.

You might not like that someone sees reductionism and scientism for what they are, biases that keep us from legitimate understanding.

If you see science as some form of institutional bias then you do not understand science. Any understanding of any mechanism outside the science is not any kind of legitimate understanding at all. What you are referring to as "legitimate understanding" is no more then your personal wishful thinking. Religiously motivated platitudes masquerading as "understanding". They have no basis in fact or reality. If they did, they would be science.


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AZPaul3
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Posts: 4788
From: Phoenix
Joined: 11-06-2006
Member Rating: 4.9


Message 44 of 92 (759753)
06-14-2015 9:58 PM
Reply to: Message 41 by MrHambre
06-14-2015 8:45 PM


So, according to you, anyone who takes issue with being compared to a machine is just butthurt because he's not the center of the universe? Did I get that right?

Yep. Your DNA-created cranial module has decoded my message within exceptable parameters.

I wonder if it would convey how insulting I think this rhetoric is if I said that, since women have organs for carrying a fetus, they're nothing more than procreating machines.

I take exception to the "they're nothing more than" crap. That's your misogyny showing.

We should just procreate and buy things and do silly stuff while we're around, and never pay any mind to cultural or social notions of meaning or purpose?

Where the fuck did you get this piece of crap! Not from me!

I don't want to put words in your mouth...

Then stop doing it!


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AZPaul3
Member
Posts: 4788
From: Phoenix
Joined: 11-06-2006
Member Rating: 4.9


Message 47 of 92 (759767)
06-14-2015 10:58 PM
Reply to: Message 45 by Faith
06-14-2015 10:12 PM


Faith, M'lady, Poopsie, you missed the meaning I was transcending upon the thread.

... it's about a reason for existence, it's an affirmation of something transcendent...

Which are meanings you give to objects through your eyes, philosophy, acculturation, hope. The science did not belittle your ability to do this one bit.

You assign certain "meaning(s)" to the Sistine Chapel, to Rodin's Le Penseur, to Mel Brooks' "Blazing Saddles". You may find them transcendent of humanity or an essential statement of the human condition. Or not.

Again, the science behind the objects as well as the science behind your responses does nothing to detract from your imparted meanings, reasons and emotions, transcendent or other wise.

And as I said to Hombre, if you let the science interfere with your enjoyment, your reason, your transcendence in the moment, then you need to get your head ... straight. The science will be there regardless.


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AZPaul3
Member
Posts: 4788
From: Phoenix
Joined: 11-06-2006
Member Rating: 4.9


(1)
Message 49 of 92 (759775)
06-15-2015 12:04 AM
Reply to: Message 46 by MrHambre
06-14-2015 10:24 PM


I think it's hilarious the way you dismiss meaning as being "subjective," as if the word means "arbitrary" or "irrelevant."

There you go again. Trying to pile your bile into my words.

I never mentioned "arbitrary" or "irrelevant."

If I had meant "arbitrary" or "irrelevant" I assure you my vocabulary is sufficiently strong I would have used them.

The problem for you is that subjective experience is real, even if it's something that reductionist science treats as nothing more than a mechanical by-product.

You really have a bad reading comprehension problem.

Science does not treat the emotional impact of the experience as a byproduct, but as the product itself.

Again, Hombre. We know how and why you get emotional singing in church. We know how and why we choke up watching "Starship Troopers". We know how to turn religious euphoria on and off like a light switch. These are not by-products of anything. These are how and why we get the product.

But the greater issue here is this. No matter that we know these things, no matter that we can cause them to happen or not happen under strict laboratory conditions, to have some such experiences are as real as anything else humans can feel and their meanings are as personal and as valuable as any aspect of life can be. The fact that the science has digested the how's and why's, the squirts and squiggles, does not negate the power of the experience.

What the science does mean, however, is that the experiences are not the result of some white-bearded skydaddy, some djinn stalking in the corner or the power of some 4-sided pyramid in Honduras.

Thinking you can understand a phenomenon by breaking it down to its constituent elements is a myth.

Except we do that. Do you know what the OAA is in the brain? Do you know how it relates to euphoria? Religious epiphany?

That fact that we know how and why, does that really mean you can't experience one of these?

Thinking that empirical research is the arbiter of all questions pertaining to human endeavor is a myth.

And, so far, quite a provable one.

What questions have your alternative sources answered for humanity with anything close to the fidelity science has? A world-wide flud, perhaps? Healing prayer? A savior waiting in the ethersphere for "The End Of Days"SM, a "How to ..." manual for stoning gays?


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AZPaul3
Member
Posts: 4788
From: Phoenix
Joined: 11-06-2006
Member Rating: 4.9


(1)
Message 51 of 92 (759777)
06-15-2015 1:01 AM
Reply to: Message 48 by Faith
06-14-2015 11:49 PM


Certainly not every claim to art has truth in it. Those that do, however, have it as something intrinsic, not something merely subjectively imputed...

If an artwork's claim to "truth" (whatever that is vis-s-vis art) is intrinsic to its objective being then everyone would see the same thing and feel the same way.

The don't.

One of the most beautiful, moving, emotional moments in music is this (turn your speakers up):

To me this piece transcends mere mortal music. I, just as you, can assign the most glowing terms of truth, beauty and The American Way (well, OK, the German way) to this mere listing of air vibrations of various frequencies juxtaposed in some semblance of the most heart-stirring order. It is magnificent. But, no matter what adjectives and adverbs I may apply to this most perfect of movements of the musical art, none are intrinsic to it.

If all my feelings for this piece were intrinsic to its object then everyone would feel the same as I when they hear it. They don't. I can't believe, this, but there are some people within our species that ... don't ... uggh ... don't ... like it. Can you believe that?

Anyway, Faith, if any piece of art actually contains as an intrinsic element of its objective form some transcendent power or truth then point me to it and I'll find you someone who thinks it's crap. That is the way of this world.

And it is this way because any meaning, transcendent truth, beauty beyond the heavens or any other attributes you care to assign to anything are subjective assignments and do not hold as universal to all.

Edited by AZPaul3, : Good night, Chet.
Good night, David.


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AZPaul3
Member
Posts: 4788
From: Phoenix
Joined: 11-06-2006
Member Rating: 4.9


Message 53 of 92 (759784)
06-15-2015 8:01 AM
Reply to: Message 52 by MrHambre
06-15-2015 6:03 AM


It's odd that you say on the one hand that understanding the mechanism "does not negate the power of these experiences," but then you make it clear that, indeed, scientific inquiry explains them away.

There. Fixed it for you.

No need to add any "away" at the end.

Now how does it read?

"Understanding the mechanism does not negate the experience but explains it."

That is not so odd. Now it says what I actually wrote.

Why did you feel it necessary to add that "away" at the end? Are you still trying to say that understanding the mechanism, the how and why of the thing, robs it of its legitimacy as an experience? How can our understanding of the neurochemical basis of feeling "sad" lessen the meaning of the experience to someone who suffers a loss?

...any analysis of religion that doesn't deal with what the phenomenon means to individuals and cultures isn't dealing with its most significant (and problematic) aspects.

Got it. So far so good.

And these aspects aren't inaccessible to scientific inquiry either...

Good. We're on a roll.

...but they involve more sociological study than biochemical.

You're not going to tell me Sociology is immune to the scientific approach and Sociology is not science, are you? I'm getting visions of quotes about stamp collecting.

a reductionist approach isn't helping us to understand what religion is.

So studying the fine points of a religion, where it is, the creeds, how the creeds developed, how they are used, who manipulates the creeds for what purpose, the symbology of the rituals, the organization of the local church, the organization of the greater church, and on, does not help in understanding a religion, its effects on the individuals, its effects on the community, its effects on society?

As far as the individual bag of chemicals with a cognitive engine, the survival vessel for some strands of DNA, the selfish genes, (aka, people) does the study of the neurochemical basis of religious thought not help in knowing that religion is not brought from the gold-gilded streets above, the evil shadows below or the 4-sided pyramid in Honduras? Isn't the knowledge of what religion is not, important in assessing our knowledge of what it is?

Obama gave a State of the Union Address in January, but it's not like we know that because of the data generated by rounds of empirical testing.

I can get silly, too.

Fact. There were plenty of announcements that a State of the Union speech had been scheduled.

Fact. The speech was broadcast live on several outlets.

Fact. The opposition responded, live, on several outlets.

Fact. The pundits analysed the speech in detail for days afterward on several outlets.

Fact. The President gives the speech.

Fact. Obama is the president.

Test these facts for accuracy by assessing various sources.

Conclusion. There was a State of the Union speech and Obama gave that speech.

We run through the process so often in our daily lives we don't give it any conscious thought. We collect the facts, analyze them and draw our conclusions just like any good scientist sitting at his lab bench. And we do this dozens of times every day. We most certainly did not conclude Obama gave his State of the Union speech last January because of some revelation from above or from below or from Honduras.

Edited by AZPaul3, : bad syntax


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AZPaul3
Member
Posts: 4788
From: Phoenix
Joined: 11-06-2006
Member Rating: 4.9


Message 61 of 92 (759849)
06-15-2015 3:07 PM
Reply to: Message 56 by Faith
06-15-2015 10:27 AM


I'm sure Beethoven's 9th not only speaks to you personally but is really objectively speaking what you hear in it.

That personalization of my experience with the music, Faith, is the very definition of subjective. Nothing objective about an emotional response.

But, hey, you liked the Beethoven so I'm a happy camper.

Even that can be reduced to a mere psychological trick of course.

No psychological tricks, Faith. The response to pretty much everything inspiring is real. You feel it. Your mind and body react. Psyco-chemicals flow. The thing to recognize is that these responses are of you from within you. The emotion and the psych-chemicals that initiate them are not intrinsic elements of the artwork. The frame is not showering you with serotonin. The emotion is not being beamed at you from the canvas. And everyone reacts differently. Again, the very definition of subjective.

But, hey, you liked the Beethoven so I'm a happy camper.


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AZPaul3
Member
Posts: 4788
From: Phoenix
Joined: 11-06-2006
Member Rating: 4.9


(1)
Message 65 of 92 (759907)
06-15-2015 11:56 PM
Reply to: Message 60 by MrHambre
06-15-2015 2:40 PM


because her body contained organs for carrying a fetus, she's nothing more than a procreating machine.

There is that "nothing more" crap again. Woman is an organic machine, just like man. She contains baby growing and survival mechanisms that man does not. That does not mean baby machine is her only attribute. Would you say she was "nothing more" than a composer because she had those cognitive skills? Would you say she was "nothing more" than a cosmologist because she was built with a more powerful cognition unit than you?

Just because we are bags of chemicals does not mean we lack several individual skills, feelings and dreams. Yes, dreams. Bags of chemicals do that.

But why isn't being reduced to a "bag of chemicals" just as bad?

That isn't "bad" at all. That is exactly what we all are. And you have not been reduced to that. It is what you have always been. If that takes some special joy out of your life then you'll have to live with that sad existence for the rest of your chemical baggy life.

If you think being a bag of chemicals is bad, well, guess what? You're also an ape! That's right. You're a bag of chemicals and an ape! You're a bunch of chemicals in an ape bag!

Edited by AZPaul3, : No reason given.


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AZPaul3
Member
Posts: 4788
From: Phoenix
Joined: 11-06-2006
Member Rating: 4.9


(1)
Message 69 of 92 (759944)
06-16-2015 10:43 AM
Reply to: Message 67 by MrHambre
06-16-2015 6:17 AM


From Dr. A

I do not imply that I am interchangeable with any other collection of chemicals, that my properties are no more interesting or valuable than those of an equal weight of magnesium sulfate. And who does say or mean such a thing?

From Hombre

Ask the poster above you, our buddy AZPaul3, who made the claim.

Stop this crap, Hombre. I never said such a load of tripe.

You're the one claiming the "bag of chemicals" analogy means women are "just" baby machines, "no more than" procreating machines. That this "bag of chemicals" analogy somehow insults us all and detracts from our "meaning".

Bull.

quote:
Message 43 The mechanism of squirts, the science of squirtology, does not rob the experience of your "meaning" whatever you might give it.

Knowing the mechanism (reducing to physical phenomena) does not reduce the beauty nor the individual meaning.


quote:
Message 49

No matter that we know these things, no matter that we can cause them to happen or not happen under strict laboratory conditions, to have some such experiences are as real as anything else humans can feel and their meanings are as personal and as valuable as any aspect of life can be. The fact that the science has digested the how's and why's, the squirts and squiggles, does not negate the power of the experience.


quote:
Message 53

Are you still trying to say that understanding the mechanism, the how and why of the thing, robs it of its legitimacy as an experience? How can our understanding of the neurochemical basis of feeling "sad" lessen the meaning of the experience to someone who suffers a loss?


Shall I go on quoting myself? Are you deliberately misrepresenting my position or can you not comprehend what you read?

Stephen Jay Gould and Loren Eiseley talked about science as a tool that had a downside, something that could destroy as well as create, and whose use has to be monitored responsibly to make sure it isn't deluding or enslaving or dehumanizing us.

Uhh, no. Science is a tool with no downside. The products of science, the discoveries of science, may have (and have had) grave downsides once they get into the hands of the military-industrial complex. The tool cuts wood. Whether we make a cabinet or a club is not the choice of the tool.

Science cannot delude or enslave. Only people can.

We know that to you "dehumanizing" means taking away your anthropocentric delusion. Too bad. Suck it up.

It's no wonder Dawkins and Krauss still insult Gould whenever they get the chance, because he represented a view of science that is a lot less idealized than the one they push.

Then you misread Dawkins and Krauss. Gould's view of science was to lop off huge chunks of the universe and claim them off-limits to science. That is what science today rejects. No limits. And if you read their words free of your emotional bias then you will find reasoned disagreement not insult.

Edited by AZPaul3, : No reason given.


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AZPaul3
Member
Posts: 4788
From: Phoenix
Joined: 11-06-2006
Member Rating: 4.9


(1)
Message 80 of 92 (760014)
06-16-2015 7:22 PM
Reply to: Message 71 by MrHambre
06-16-2015 12:20 PM


Okay, fine, calm down. You were kidding, you were exaggerating, stuff had brackets, whatever. Let's move on.

Except I was not kidding. I was not exaggerating. Nothing was in brackets.

So, again, are you deliberately misrepresenting my position or can you not comprehend what you read?

When I say "dehumanizing," I mean degrading and trivializing human experience with machine fantasies that objectify us.

Takes you out of that special place you seem to need? Makes you less than supreme in the universe? Puts you right down there on the same level as all other life on this planet? Doesn't grant your chemical-filled apebag enough special superior status? Makes you feel sad?

It has been instrumental in helping humanity eradicate disease and explore space, but it has also represented a tool whereby humanity has made war more efficient and oppression more comprehensive. It's a tool that serves the powerful in helping perpetuate their power.

Oh, I'm sure a whole lot of other tools were used by people to oppress each other, barbed wire, electric fences, bibles. All science did was find out that there was such a thing as electricity. Human ingenuity and greed took care of the rest.

Blame the technician, not the torturer.

...science: it's an answer for everything, it's the way and the truth and the light, and no one should say anything bad about it.

Finally! Now you begin to understand.

Gould was a celebrated scientist, and he wrote very authoritatively on its historical and cultural context. It's too bad you don't have a nuanced enough understanding of the phenomenon to appreciate what Gould wrote.

He was great, wasn't he? I especially liked The Mismeasure of Man. He opened a lot of eyes with that one. But, your idolization of Gould has blinded you to the fact that, in some things, like his non-overlapping magisteria, he was very wrong. Look at Dr. Tim Hunt. Even the great minds of the age harbor some really bad ideas. Gould was wonderful. He was also wrong.


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AZPaul3
Member
Posts: 4788
From: Phoenix
Joined: 11-06-2006
Member Rating: 4.9


Message 82 of 92 (760016)
06-16-2015 7:41 PM
Reply to: Message 81 by Faith
06-16-2015 7:25 PM


Re: Science, Humanism and Spirituality
I thought humanity special before I was a Christian.

Well, not all humanity to be sure. Let's face it, humans as a species are mean, violent, evil, petty, greedy and we smell bad.

However, some humans, like you, my dear Faith, are quite special indeed. You liked my Beethoven.


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AZPaul3
Member
Posts: 4788
From: Phoenix
Joined: 11-06-2006
Member Rating: 4.9


Message 86 of 92 (760064)
06-17-2015 9:30 AM
Reply to: Message 85 by MrHambre
06-17-2015 8:30 AM


Re: Science Thumping
And again, why are you being such an overbearing nutcase who's desperate to get me to admit to something I never disputed...

Reading comprehension, again. This part of the issue is not your view, but your misrepresentation of mine, remember?

Smoke and mirrors as an avoidance mechanism. So be it.

The chemicals are the scientific part. The meaning isn't.

You can go argue that last part with a psychologist.


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AZPaul3
Member
Posts: 4788
From: Phoenix
Joined: 11-06-2006
Member Rating: 4.9


Message 89 of 92 (760074)
06-17-2015 12:32 PM
Reply to: Message 87 by MrHambre
06-17-2015 11:40 AM


Re: Science Thumping
can I ask where I ever said the human is "supreme in the universe"? Or is misrepresentation okay when you do it?

Again with the reading comprehension. I did not say that was your view. I was asking if that was your motivation. You miss all those question marks? It was interrogatory not statement.

quote:
Message 80

When I say "dehumanizing," I mean degrading and trivializing human experience with machine fantasies that objectify us.

Takes you out of that special place you seem to need? Makes you less than supreme in the universe? Puts you right down there on the same level as all other life on this planet? Doesn't grant your chemical-filled apebag enough special superior status? Makes you feel sad?

In comprehending the written word you have to pay attention to punctuation. It is very important. And I did this because, to me anyway, it is important to ask rather then to put words in peoples' mouths.

I don't think I'm the one that needs a psychologist, amigo.

I don't think you do either, amigo. But when it comes to meanings for human beings you might want to talk to one about what they do, how they do it and whether their discipline constitutes a science.

BTW. I think we're done. You have the last word.

Edited by AZPaul3, : No reason given.


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