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Author Topic:   Stephen Jay Gould: The Hedgehog, the Fox, and the Magister’s Pox
MrHambre
Member (Idle past 385 days)
Posts: 1495
From: Framingham, MA, USA
Joined: 06-23-2003


Message 52 of 92 (759780)
06-15-2015 6:03 AM
Reply to: Message 49 by AZPaul3
06-15-2015 12:04 AM


AZPaul3 writes:

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

No, I think your words have enough bile without any contributions from me.

Look, I think we're talking past one another here. I'm not disputing that empirical inquiry is a good thing, or that the legacy of scientific research has provided us a better understanding of natural phenomena. I'm not saying that there's no value to studying the brain states of people undergoing certain experiences and learning their cognitive bases. The only thing I take issue with is the notion that we understand human experience by reducing it to neurochemistry.

It's very telling that your approach to religion is based on science's all-important demystification of the religious experience:

We know how and why you get emotional singing in church.

What the science does mean, however, is that the experiences are not the result of some white-bearded skydaddy


Just as there's more to water than the fact that it's two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen, there's more to understanding the phenomenon of religion than describing the neurochemical processes in the human brain. 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.

I'm not religious, but I think 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. And these aspects aren't inaccessible to scientific inquiry either, but they involve more sociological study than biochemical. Again, a reductionist approach isn't helping us to understand what religion is.

And you misunderstood my point about empirical research: most of what we say we know about the world isn't scientific knowledge, strictly speaking. 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. Neither Gould nor I want to get rid of teh Science, it's just a matter of keeping it in perspective.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 49 by AZPaul3, posted 06-15-2015 12:04 AM AZPaul3 has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 53 by AZPaul3, posted 06-15-2015 8:01 AM MrHambre has responded

  
MrHambre
Member (Idle past 385 days)
Posts: 1495
From: Framingham, MA, USA
Joined: 06-23-2003


Message 54 of 92 (759788)
06-15-2015 8:26 AM
Reply to: Message 53 by AZPaul3
06-15-2015 8:01 AM


AZPaul3 writes:

You're not going to tell me Sociology is immune to the scientific approach and Sociology is not science, are you?


Um, no, that was my point. We need a multi-disciplinary approach, and one that acknowledges non-scientific matters like art and literature, if we're going to say we "understand" what religion is. Reductionism won't cut it.

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?

Once again, you've skillfully demolished an argument that neither I, nor Gould, nor anyone else ever made. What you've described is a program of inquiry that isn't reductionist, and doesn't treat neurochemistry as the be-all and end-all of religious experience.

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?

I guess I don't think of religion as magic anyway, so I don't consider the fact that it's not magic the nail in the coffin for the entire phenomenon. You're aiming at pretty low-hanging fruit here.

I'm not religious because I have a lot of problems with the way religion often trivializes human experience. By the same token, I can't help but cringe when someone talks about humans being "bags of chemicals." It's not as if I prefer my dehumanization evidence-based. It's that I object to any worldview that degrades and dehumanizes us.

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.


And indeed, that's pretty silly. Regardless of whether you're wearing your Junior Scientist lab coat, that's not engaging in scientific research. That's just having a rational and vaguely coherent process of reasoning from which you derive a conclusion. If that's performing scientific research, then I submit there's almost nothing we do with our eyes open that doesn't constitute scientific research.

There are plenty of things we know about the world, things that are indeed "based in facts and reality," that don't involve a formal process of empirical testing. Let's be reasonable.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 53 by AZPaul3, posted 06-15-2015 8:01 AM AZPaul3 has acknowledged this reply

Replies to this message:
 Message 59 by Dr Adequate, posted 06-15-2015 2:21 PM MrHambre has responded

  
MrHambre
Member (Idle past 385 days)
Posts: 1495
From: Framingham, MA, USA
Joined: 06-23-2003


Message 60 of 92 (759845)
06-15-2015 2:40 PM
Reply to: Message 59 by Dr Adequate
06-15-2015 2:21 PM


Dr Adequate writes:

But how does it dehumanize us to notice what we're made of?


I'm sure you can recognize the distinction between noticing what we're made of and defining ourselves as a collection of the chemicals that comprise the human body. I asked before whether a woman should get insulted if someone claimed that, because her body contained organs for carrying a fetus, she's nothing more than a procreating machine. I presume everyone here would agree this is objectionable. But why isn't being reduced to a "bag of chemicals" just as bad?

caffeine writes:

water's properties are emergent properties of the properties of the molecules that make up the liquid


The water analogy was mine, not Gould's. (And the emergent properties are defined not by the constituent atoms, but how the atoms interact in the water molecule.) Gould wasn't saying reductionism is never useful, but as the guiding principle in uniting science and the humanities, it's inadequate.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 59 by Dr Adequate, posted 06-15-2015 2:21 PM Dr Adequate has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 62 by nwr, posted 06-15-2015 5:06 PM MrHambre has not yet responded
 Message 64 by mikechell, posted 06-15-2015 10:06 PM MrHambre has not yet responded
 Message 65 by AZPaul3, posted 06-15-2015 11:56 PM MrHambre has not yet responded
 Message 66 by Dr Adequate, posted 06-16-2015 12:14 AM MrHambre has responded
 Message 77 by caffeine, posted 06-16-2015 4:21 PM MrHambre has not yet responded

  
MrHambre
Member (Idle past 385 days)
Posts: 1495
From: Framingham, MA, USA
Joined: 06-23-2003


Message 67 of 92 (759916)
06-16-2015 6:17 AM
Reply to: Message 66 by Dr Adequate
06-16-2015 12:14 AM


Dr Adequate writes:

If I say that I am a collection of chemicals, 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?


Ask the poster above you, our buddy AZPaul3, who made the claim. For some reason, he's desperate to push this notion of our biochemical bagness. Insofar as I've disputed the idea, I just pointed out that that's what we are in a scientific sense. It just seems comically naïve to imagine that this is a new and original idea, or that it constitutes the entirety of human worth. And AZPaul3 is a lover of Beethoven (as am I), so his emphasis on our biochemistry seems a little misplaced. But the science-equals-truth delusion does funny things to people.

AZPaul3 writes:

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!


Deep breaths, amigo. You'll be fine.

This is what I call New Atheist nihilism. You can check my posting history and chuckle at how infatuated I was with Dawkins and Harris ten years ago, and their dogmatic literalism. As a nonreligious person in the USA during the Dubya era, I thought it was my responsibility to be a nasty, immature jerk and affirm that science was the true measure of everything. But then I realized that there used to be pop science writing that recognized the cultural and historical context of science. 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. 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.

This pop science nihilism defines humanity in a way that has consequences for society. I'm a humanist, and I'm skeptical of ideologies that tell us we don't matter, regardless of whether they're religious or secular in nature. We've traded religious oppression for a different kind, one that fits the neoliberal agenda of privatization, deregulation, and consumerism. The benign neglect of the Big G has been replaced with the pitiless indifference of a purposeless universe, and private capital has dominion over the lot. We're nothing more than what science tells us we are, and we shouldn't expect anything better than exploitation with brief periods of diversion in our lives. If you need meaning or morality, you create or procure them yourself, like a tasty omelet or a nice Ikea coffee table. And anyone who looks at this definition of humanity as lacking something is probably just some religious nut or a sentimental crybaby.

Welcome to the millennium! Now get to work!

Edited by MrHambre, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 66 by Dr Adequate, posted 06-16-2015 12:14 AM Dr Adequate has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 68 by nwr, posted 06-16-2015 10:08 AM MrHambre has not yet responded
 Message 69 by AZPaul3, posted 06-16-2015 10:43 AM MrHambre has responded
 Message 73 by Dr Adequate, posted 06-16-2015 1:03 PM MrHambre has not yet responded

  
MrHambre
Member (Idle past 385 days)
Posts: 1495
From: Framingham, MA, USA
Joined: 06-23-2003


Message 71 of 92 (759968)
06-16-2015 12:20 PM
Reply to: Message 69 by AZPaul3
06-16-2015 10:43 AM


AZPaul3 writes:

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

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

Science is a tool with no downside.

Science cannot delude or enslave.


Like I said, you have this hyper-idealized notion of science that's so sanitized and de-historicized that it's kind of funny. The scientific method isn't just a method of gaining the all-important Truth. 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. It's a human endeavor that's just as riddled with cultural and personal bias as any other.

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

Unlike you, when I use words I mean them. When I say "dehumanizing," I mean degrading and trivializing human experience with machine fantasies that objectify us. I've already said it, but you ignored it: this kind of ideology has consequences in society, and it serves political ends.

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.

I dispute that you've read anything Gould wrote, apart from the crass caricature Dawkins has made of his ideas. The immature way you talk about science makes it sound suspiciously religious: 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. 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.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 69 by AZPaul3, posted 06-16-2015 10:43 AM AZPaul3 has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 72 by mikechell, posted 06-16-2015 12:52 PM MrHambre has not yet responded
 Message 74 by ringo, posted 06-16-2015 1:19 PM MrHambre has responded
 Message 80 by AZPaul3, posted 06-16-2015 7:22 PM MrHambre has responded

  
MrHambre
Member (Idle past 385 days)
Posts: 1495
From: Framingham, MA, USA
Joined: 06-23-2003


Message 75 of 92 (759994)
06-16-2015 2:27 PM
Reply to: Message 74 by ringo
06-16-2015 1:19 PM


Stardust isn't such a bad object.

And a procreating machine would be awesome. Think about it!

This message is a reply to:
 Message 74 by ringo, posted 06-16-2015 1:19 PM ringo has acknowledged this reply

Replies to this message:
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MrHambre
Member (Idle past 385 days)
Posts: 1495
From: Framingham, MA, USA
Joined: 06-23-2003


Message 85 of 92 (760056)
06-17-2015 8:30 AM
Reply to: Message 80 by AZPaul3
06-16-2015 7:22 PM


Science Thumping
AZPaul3 writes:

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?


And again, why are you being such an overbearing nutcase who's desperate to get me to admit to something I never disputed in the first place? Human bodies are made of biochemicals, we share ancestry with all life on Earth, and our knowledge has nothing to do with divine revelation. I've never said otherwise.

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?

Creeeepy.

your idolization of Gould has blinded you to the fact that, in some things, like his non-overlapping magisteria, he was very wrong.

No, he wasn't. All he did was make a distinction between things that are scientific matters and ones that aren't. You yourself said that the scientific fact that we're ape-shaped bags of chemicals doesn't hinder us from constructing meaning for ourselves and our society. The chemicals are the scientific part. The meaning isn't.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 80 by AZPaul3, posted 06-16-2015 7:22 PM AZPaul3 has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 86 by AZPaul3, posted 06-17-2015 9:30 AM MrHambre has responded

  
MrHambre
Member (Idle past 385 days)
Posts: 1495
From: Framingham, MA, USA
Joined: 06-23-2003


Message 87 of 92 (760071)
06-17-2015 11:40 AM
Reply to: Message 86 by AZPaul3
06-17-2015 9:30 AM


Re: Science Thumping
AZPaul3 rants I mean writes:

This part of the issue is not your view, but your misrepresentation of mine, remember?


Um, okay. So this isn't about me, or even about Gould, whose ideas we're ostensibly discussing in this thread. It's all about you and your perceived misrepresentation issues.

Since you're so sensitive about misrepresentation, can I ask where I ever said the human is "supreme in the universe"? Or is misrepresentation okay when you do it?

You can go argue that last part with a psychologist.

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

This message is a reply to:
 Message 86 by AZPaul3, posted 06-17-2015 9:30 AM AZPaul3 has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 88 by Dr Adequate, posted 06-17-2015 12:27 PM MrHambre has responded
 Message 89 by AZPaul3, posted 06-17-2015 12:32 PM MrHambre has not yet responded

  
MrHambre
Member (Idle past 385 days)
Posts: 1495
From: Framingham, MA, USA
Joined: 06-23-2003


Message 91 of 92 (760077)
06-17-2015 1:21 PM
Reply to: Message 88 by Dr Adequate
06-17-2015 12:27 PM


Re: Science Thumping
Dr Adequate writes:

Since you're so sensitive about misrepresentation, can I ask where AZPaul ever said that you ever said the human is "supreme in the universe"? Or is misrepresentation okay when you do it?


I saw what you did there! Well, in Message 80 of this thread, our buddy AZPaul3 was responding to a post in which I said I objected not to scientific fact, but to dehumanizing rhetoric like being called a "machine." He used the very words I quoted when he was delivering another clip of his let's-call-them-rhetorical questions in my direction:

AZPaul3 writes:

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?

Now I assume we could look at these questions in a few different ways. At face value it appears that he's ascribing these opinions to me (he even mentions a "special place" that I "seem to need"), even though I never claimed that I (or humanity, or whoever he means I might mean) was "supreme in the universe" or denied that humans share ancestry with all other life on Earth.

It could be that he's parodying those opinions and wondering how anyone could seriously hold such silly beliefs. But in that case, why direct them at me, who never claimed that it was reasonable to hold such beliefs in the first place?

Or it could be that he's just partaking in some of that harmless, oh-so-amusing cyber-bullying where someone lashes out at a perceived enemy with incoherent blather that's meant to insult and intimidate rather than foster discussion, and which he could disingenuously deny if called out on it.

Hmm. This is a tough one.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 88 by Dr Adequate, posted 06-17-2015 12:27 PM Dr Adequate has not yet responded

  
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