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Infallibility and Reincarnation
Posted: 19 February 2005 02:45 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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Mr. Harris, if you happen to glance at this, would you please take the time to substantiate your claims
On page 76, "Can we rely on the authority of the pope? Millions of Catholics do, of course. He is, in fact, infallible (according to a dogma that has had the perverse effect of preventing the present pope from criticizing the infallible ignorance and bad taste of many of his predecessors).

pg 106, "The failure of the Vatican to apologize for its reprehensible service to the Third Reich has been enforced by another article of Catholic faith popes are, by definition, infallible. Consequently, no pope can criticize the actions of his predecessor, however criminal, without disavowing the very dogma that lends his own office such distinction. Pope John Paul II, despite his strenuous attempts to reach out to Jews, has failed to speak a single word in criticism of Pious XII."

It's my understanding that the doctrine of infallibility is the belief that the pope is prevented from teaching error on matters of faith and morals. It has nothing to do with criticizing a predecessor's actions, inactions, grooming habits or taste in music. How can I verify your claim? I've consulted Catholic apologists, and they say that you're simply wrong. I didn't find it in Vatican II. Where shall I look?

When I turn to the notes for page 41, I find the following "There may even be some credible evidence for reincarnation." See I. Stevenson, Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation, Unlearned Language New Studies in Xenoglossy, and Where Reincarnation and Biology Intersect.

You cite the research of Dr. Ian Stevenson. You have certainly read the books. So tell me, how is one to differentiate between a "discarnate personality" and, say, a 'spirit', a 'soul', or a 'ghost'? Reincarnation involves the survival of 'something' beyond death. Surely you see the theological implications? Do you make a distinction between reincarnation and the religious notion of an 'afterlife'? I understand that belief in reincarnation does not necessitate belief in god or gods, but if there's credible evidence for it, that credibility would also apply to the religious 'afterlife' concept. Any thoughts on how to reconcile belief in reincarnation with a purely natural view of the universe?

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Posted: 16 January 2007 12:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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I have searched the forums, and was surprised to find that this has not been addressed as much as I thought it would be.

I have nearly finished reading TEOF, a truly well-written and excellent work. But I my eyes widened and I had to re-read the above quote when I came to it. Does Sam really think that reincarnation is anything other than a cultural belief system based on a human desire to escape death.

Of course this is just my opinion, but people who do scientific research into these things surely aren’t looking for truth, they are merely trying to validate something they don’t want to not believe in.

Does Sam really think Sheldrake is credible? The guy is obviously lacks rigour in his methods. Sheldrake is a clearly a desperately wishful thinker. I felt a little dismayed that such an intelligently written book could citate such flimsy and transparent research. Sheldrake’s theories are mostly untestable, he shouldn’t be referred to as a scientist, he is more of a new-age philosopher of some sorts.

Maybe Sam is right to say that we don’t know what happens when we die, but surely there are sensible limits we can put on being open minded, and entertaining the possibility of a soul or spirit reincarnating, and childish jungian perspectives is clearly wishful thinking. Maybe it’s arrogant for me to assert that, but I havn’‘t heard any good reasons to be open to these things.

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Posted: 16 January 2007 03:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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[quote author=“SeanK”][quote author=“thinker”]I have searched the forums, and was surprised to find that this has not been addressed as much as I thought it would be.

I have nearly finished reading TEOF, a truly well-written and excellent work. But I my eyes widened and I had to re-read the above quote when I came to it. Does Sam really think that reincarnation is anything other than a cultural belief system based on a human desire to escape death.

Of course this is just my opinion, but people who do scientific research into these things surely aren’t looking for truth, they are merely trying to validate something they don’t want to not believe in.

Does Sam really think Sheldrake is credible? The guy is obviously lacks rigour in his methods. Sheldrake is a clearly a desperately wishful thinker. I felt a little dismayed that such an intelligently written book could citate such flimsy and transparent research. Sheldrake’s theories are mostly untestable, he shouldn’t be referred to as a scientist, he is more of a new-age philosopher of some sorts.

Maybe Sam is right to say that we don’t know what happens when we die, but surely there are sensible limits we can put on being open minded, and entertaining the possibility of a soul or spirit reincarnating, and childish jungian perspectives is clearly wishful thinking. Maybe it’s arrogant for me to assert that, but I havn’‘t heard any good reasons to be open to these things.

There *may* be fairies.  There *may* be many things.  Based on the whole of what I have read and heard from Sam, I think that Sam’s point is that there *may* be evidence for any number of things that are outside our current scope of understanding, but we shouldn’t give creedence to these things without proper application of reason.

That you haven’t heard credible evidence for reincarnation certainly makes great allowances for your objectivity, but I think that Sam’s argument is that if a person wants to search for such evidence… they should do so and present it for peer review.  If such a review holds up, then perhaps there is validity… if not, as in this case, then we should see it for what it is… “a cultural system based on a human desire to escape death.”  It is an appeal to those with faith to validate their supernatural claims with reality, not an appeal for atheists to lessen their standards on the nature of belief.

That is what I get out of it….

The catch is knowing even what is relevent: “Show me how you are looking and I will tell you what you are looking for” (Wittgenstein).  One of the problems is closure of a system.  For example, if a person is a complete materialist that means that they will only accept evidence obtained by material methods and those can only give results that support the underlying assumption of materialism.  Since we are all embodied in material bodies, existing is space and time, it seems that the real issue is how an apparently non-material consciousness (distinct from the embodied ego) is related to the underlying constraints of space/time as well as to the embodied ego that provides it with a specific point of view.

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Posted: 16 January 2007 06:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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There are a lot of pieces of evidence for a lot of different concepts of the after life.  Not all of them are religious.  In fact many of them stand in defiance of religious claims of the after life.  All of this evidence is isolated and rare, but as long as we have *some* amount if evidence we can do some amount of science, albeit a very small amount.

That’s what guys like Sheldrake are doing.  They’re not trying to shake up the world or blow people’s minds.  They’re just looking at the data which support certain unexplainable phenomena and trying to figure out what it’s saying.  They’re doing real science in fields that most scientists avoid like the plague, and they should at least get credit for that.

Sheldrake cites Dawkins when he proposed redefining paranormal as perinormal - meaning it refers to that which is just outside the reaches of science, not far above and beyond it as paranormal would imply.  Perinormal encompasses the fringes of science, and if the fringes of science go away we could lose the entire thing.

Btw: I wouldn’t equate Jungian with childish, if for no other reason than if you tried to explain the tenets of Jungian philosophy to a child they’d have no idea what you’re talking about.

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Posted: 17 January 2007 12:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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those are some very insightful replies, I do hope that it is only that Sam is endeavouring to encourage true rationality and not that he is choosing to accept one religious belief at the same time as discounting religious belief in general.

I look forward to finishing this book to see how he concludes it. Reading this book has really made me realize how lucky I am to live in a era where we have the opportunity to think rationally about our existence!

about sheldrake, you say he is doing real science, maybe so, but I don’t think that what he is doing is deeply rational science, because it is so difficult to test for. yeah, maybe the universe is full of morphial fields, but there is no evidence for them, it’s just a wonderfully imaginative theory, nothing more, this is why sheldrake’s work is often frowned upon by the scientific community. it’s just another celestial tea-pot type argument. and definetely a case of wishful thinking. and this is why most scientists avoid this stuff like the plague, not because they lack open mindedness, but because they put sensible limits on their open-mindedness. which after all is what i thought sam harris was suggesting we should do.

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Posted: 17 January 2007 10:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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Given how outlandish Sheldrake’s studies are, all your comments are justified, but I think you’re selling the guy short a little.

Wishful thinking implies that he reads into the data only for his own predetermined ideas.  The morphic fields stuff is only part of what he researches.  He also has done work on experimenter effects.  This demonstrates to me that he’s fully aware that even the act of him looking for these answers can shape the answers he gets, so he knows how careful he has to be.  If he is a good scientist then he should know that negative results are as important as positive, and that his previously defined theories can easily be broken up.  In reading about his work I’ve seen more evidence for this than wishful thinking.

I think science can operate independent from rationality.  The signal we receive from the natural world may appear wildly irrational, but represents reality anyway.  We shouldn’t be trying to put limits on our open mindedness, we should be trying to exercise equal parts skepticism and open mindedness simultaneously – at least that what I think Sam was trying to say pp. 41 TEoF.

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Posted: 18 January 2007 12:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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hmmm…. I’m still not too sure about that stance.

I think science can operate independent from rationality. The signal we receive from the natural world may appear wildly irrational, but represents reality anyway. We shouldn’t be trying to put limits on our open mindedness, we should be trying to exercise equal parts skepticism and open mindedness simultaneously

My opinion is that science is the pursuit of rationality. Please expand on this. How can science operate independant from rationality. Give me some examples please.

You say that the signal we receive from the natural world may appear wildly irrational, but represents reality anyway. Science isn’t about the way things appear but the way things are. One may say that the sun appears to go around the earth, because look, you can see it rising, but the way it appears has no bearing whatsoever on the scientific reality that it doesn’t go around the earth, but in fact the earth goes around the sun.

Surely the reason why we don’t believe in the claims of religion is the same as the reason for why we don’t believe that the sun goes round the earth, or that there are fairies at the bottom of the garden for that matter? Of course we have to put limits on our open-mindedness, otherwise we might go through life believing that we are alien spirits in the bodies of primates, cast out from an exploded volcano where we were previously stored by an intergalactic warlord (scientology), or worse still that people that don’t believe the same as us should be hacked to pieces with a machete (some monotheistic religions).

I’m sure that you yourself put limits on your own open-mindedness, or maybe you don’t, maybe you believe that although everyone else around you seems to think you are a human, you are in actual fact a talking shapeshifting duck-like creature from a distant galaxy about 10 parsecs from here. Of course you don’t, but I am trying to illustrate that there are many many things we don’t believe in simply because they don’t correlate with the evidence.

This I think is where the problem lies, I think that most people have a problem distinguishing between different types of evidence. I don’t want to go into this too deeply, I think that Dawkins’ ‘God Delusion’ provides a good model from which we can interpret our existence in a way that is truly rational. I don’t think that Sam’s problem is that he can’t distinguish between evidence I just think that he opens his doors unnecessarily wide, and in so doing puts his own argument in danger of being shot in the foot.

Religious claims clearly don’t correlate with the evidence at all, only anecdote, I think that for one to claim that mysticism and beliefs such as reincarnation (another religious claim) are any different is really going to be stretching my limits of open-mindedness, maybe I am narrow minded, but I don’t think this is a bad thing, so long as we do it intelligently and remain aware of everything around us, which is what I thought the overall message of TEOF was about. My personal opinion is that we do need to narrow our own horizons if we are to remain consistent. And I see no reason too keep beliefs such as reincarnation on my list of things worth attributing any believability to. I mean, come on isn’t it obvious that all these things have nothing to do with data, and more to do with providing psychological comfort?

And by the way, I think that saying we have evidence for the afterlife is bullsh**! Show me the money!! Why can’t people just get over it, there is no magic, no god or gods, or other fantastical imaginated imaginings! We have the universe, we are primates living on a planet inside that universe, and it’s fantastic, isn’t that enough??!!! It saddens me that people spend so much time trying to convince themselves that there are ghosties in the cupboard, fairies in the garden, past lives stored in your subconscious, demons down below and gods in the sky, of course people are free to believe whatever they want, but how can anyone call any of this defensible, SHOW ME THE MONEY!!

//rant over.. p.s. show me the money.

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Posted: 18 January 2007 01:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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just found this at  

My views on the paranormal—ESP, reincarnation, etc.:
My position on the paranormal is this: While there have been many frauds in the history of parapsychology, I believe that this field of study has been unfairly stigmatized. If some experimental psychologists want to spend their days studying telepathy, or the effects of prayer, I will be interested to know what they find out. And if it is true that toddlers occasionally start speaking in ancient languages (as Ian Stevenson alleges), I would like to know about it. However, I have not spent any time attempting to authenticate the data put forward in books like Dean Radin’s The Conscious Universe or Ian Stevenson’s 20 Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation. The fact that I have not spent any time on this should suggest how worthy of my time I think such a project would be. Still, I found these books interesting, and I cannot categorically dismiss their contents in the way that I can dismiss the claims of religious dogmatists.

Sam, this really pisses me off! My word, that is real intellectual laziness!! You just write a whole book that says we should investigate questionable religious claims before we consider their validity, but in this argument you citate questionable research not out of ignorance of it’s questionability, but in full knowledge!

However, I have not spent any time attempting to authenticate the data put forward in books like Dean Radin’s The Conscious Universe or Ian Stevenson’s 20 Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation.

This is unbelievable! How can you slay religious claims for their lack of evidence, and at the same time use evidence in your own argument that you havn’t even authenticated?! Is it you who makes the rules Sam?

I agree with pretty much everything he says, but how can someone do the same as those that he attacks? Is he trying to start his own religion???

I’m sure people will try to defend this, but this pees me off, why does Dawkins esteem him so?

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Posted: 18 January 2007 07:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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One think I should note in the Catholics’ defense, is that not everything the pope says is considered infallible. I was raised Catholic, and was taught that only special pronouncements, those labeled as “ex cathedra” are considered infallible.

I should also note that the number of these “ex cathedra” pronouncements is very low, something like in the single-digits for the entire last century. They are very carefull to make sure that its about something that can’t be empirically refuted, like the immaculate conception of Mary.

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Posted: 18 January 2007 07:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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Thinker said….

Sam, this really pisses me off! My word, that is real intellectual laziness!! You just write a whole book that says we should investigate questionable religious claims before we consider their validity, but in this argument you citate questionable research not out of ignorance of it’s questionability, but in full knowledge!

Quote:
However, I have not spent any time attempting to authenticate the data put forward in books like Dean Radin’s The Conscious Universe or Ian Stevenson’s 20 Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation.


This is unbelievable! How can you slay religious claims for their lack of evidence, and at the same time use evidence in your own argument that you havn’t even authenticated?! Is it you who makes the rules Sam?

I agree with pretty much everything he says, but how can someone do the same as those that he attacks? Is he trying to start his own religion???

I’m sure people will try to defend this, but this pees me off, why does Dawkins esteem him so?

Exactly!
But how can anyone fully agree with his words. ?
Sam makes all kinds of claims without giving ‘evidence’, it seems nor doing an adeaquate literary review of current research available etc.

Lazy!
Nevertheless he has a ‘best seller’.....apparently fame and forture is what matters most…..and the birth of another opinionated media personality & I guess that’s what attracts Dawkins. ?
Why doesn’t someone ask him?

It appears that samharris has an entire ‘army of disciples’ who act as his voice.  What bothers me is that some of those people seem to take any critism of samharris personally.

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Posted: 18 January 2007 08:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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Reincarnation = the body dies and dientagrates, the molecules and atoms spread into the air, water, soil, etc and become parts of new life.

e.g. - The molecules in Abe Lincoln are a part of a living tree, cat, frog or whatever.

There is less evidence for “spiritons” than there is for Santa Claus.

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Posted: 18 January 2007 11:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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[quote author=“thinker”]
My opinion is that science is the pursuit of rationality. Please expand on this. How can science operate independant from rationality. Give me some examples please.

Any scientific fact that is extraordinary or weird:  There are millions of bacteria living in your digestive tact.  The largest seed in the world comes from a mid-sized palm tree.  Deep ocean communities based on hydrothermal vents do not need any energy input from the sun to survive.  Oxygen is toxic.  Kuru is a disease that results from semi-living proteins enacted by cannibalism.  The earth has experienced five great extinction events.  There are squid the size of city buses roaming the world’s oceans.  In 1908 a giant explosion leveled acres of forest in Siberia.  A fish called candiru will enter your urethra and release spikes into your flesh if you take a piss while swimming in the Amazon.  The only way to cure snakebite is with snake venom.  Entire forests of aspen trees are all genetically identical and grow from the same giant shared root system.  Sickle-celled anemia is an evolved immune response.

Strict rationality will not lead you to these facts.  At times it will lead you far way in the opposite direction.  Science is a way to make sure that doesn’t happen, because it can operate independent of rationality.  Sometimes results make rational sense, sometimes they don’t, but science can forge ahead regardless.

Skepticism is about invoking the null hypothesis.  All those things you described, the shape-shifting duck, the volcano warlord, the machetes, the fairies—all those things could be true, or it could be that we are great apes on a planet revolving around the sun.  However, it is also possible that none of it is true—no fairies, no apes, no shape-shifting ducks: nothing.

I believe that science is the closest we can get to the truth.  But science is not complete.  Science does not explain any majority of what happens in the universe.  The universe may be far stranger than many of us suppose.

——————————————————-

Reincarnation and life after death are rational.  I think therefore I am, energy can neither be created nor destroyed: something must persist after death.  If it continues to do what it’s doing now, it’s reincarnated.  Perfectly rational, but lacking almost entirely in evidence – which is to say there is a certain amount of evidence, but nothing in the way of proving anything.  I’d be happy to show you the money, but I’m afraid it’s only about 2 cents—five bucks if you’re lucky.  You want a multimillion dollar enterprise, I’m satisfied with a lot less.

P.S. – Thanks for digging up Sam’s statement about the perinormal -  I was trying to find it.  I have to say I agree with it 0.

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Posted: 19 January 2007 04:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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First off, in the direction of ‘snakechic’ I would like to say phew! and at last someone else on this board who understands what I’m getting at. I looked up this site expecting to find a mixture of rationalists and fundamentalists, but instead I find a couple of fundamentalists, and a lot of samharrisists! Do people not know how to think for themselves? Yes, Sam Harris is a very intelligent writer, but just because he’s been brave enough to write a detailed polemic directed at religious believers doesn’t mean that there is some intellectualist band-wagon with a sam harris logo on the side to jump on.

Secondly, I would like to say thankyou to ‘ligh+bringer’, for attempting to shed some light on your stance, but I’m afraid that the light you brought ain’t bright enough buddy.

Firstly I hereby quote you as saying the following;

Skepticism is about invoking the null hypothesis. All those things you described, the shape-shifting duck, the volcano warlord, the machetes, the fairies—all those things could be true, or it could be that we are great apes on a planet revolving around the sun. However, it is also possible that none of it is true—no fairies, no apes, no shape-shifting ducks: nothing.

Yes, I am in accord with you in regards to the nature of skepticism, and yes, we should even be skeptical about skepticism itself, this is a self-regulating process. And this is where my criticism lies, Sam Harris along with what seems quite a great many people on this board are in my opinion failing to regulate their own skepticism, and it’s not that they are too skeptical, it’s that their skepticism is unbalanced. They do not apply the same skepticism towards some beliefs such as reincarnation of the spirit (which I would call religious) as they do toward other religious beliefs such as those described in the rest of TEOF.

In regards to what you are saying in the rest of this quote about how all of what humans believe about their own existence, religious and scientific beliefs inclusive could be utterly false, well to be honest with you I am not entirely sure what you are getting at here, but if I may hazard a guess I might say that your argument goes something like this; no branch of human rationality is an absolute, not even science, and therefore we shouldn’t discount certain beliefs because they don’t fit into a narrow band of criteria. well, if indeed, that is what you are trying to say, then my response would be that just because science does not hold all the answers, and it’s not absolutely certain, it doesn’t mean that we should allow weakly made claims about reality (meaning that there is a distinct lack of any real evidence for them) to be considered intellectually respectable.

We seem to agree that science is the closest to truth that we get, but why bother paying attention to pseudo-scientific claims or anything else that supports itself by weak evidence such as anecdote? In my honest opinion, on matters of rationality and human progress we do need to narrow our horizons in regard to what sorts of beliefs are considered to be intellectually respectable if we are to make progress. And in the harrowing times we live the need for progress in the domains of rationality, religious attitudes, foreign policy and so on, is becoming evermore imperative. This is my overall interpretation of TEOF. The issue that I am attempting to bring to the fray here is that Sam harris has created a net of rationality in which religious beliefs have been caught, and rightly so, but he has allowed other dogmatic quasi-religious beliefs to slip through this net, meaning that he doesn’t apply the same rules to them as he does the religious beliefs he attacks in TEOF. I think that this is an inconsistent stance.

The universe may be far stranger than many of us suppose.

Yes, maybe so, but that doesn’t mean that accepting the notion of reincarnated souls anymore intellectually respectable. The fact of the matter is that there isn’t any evidence for the notion, only anecdote. After all, this is the exactly why SH attacks other religious notions. He has done a tonne of research into religious texts, but strangely doesn’t see the need to apply the same treatment to other texts. I call this inconsistent and also bizarre!

Reincarnation and life after death are rational. I think therefore I am, energy can neither be created nor destroyed: something must persist after death. If it continues to do what it’s doing now, it’s reincarnated. Perfectly rational, but lacking almost entirely in evidence – which is to say there is a certain amount of evidence, but nothing in the way of proving anything. I’d be happy to show you the money, but I’m afraid it’s only about 2 cents—five bucks if you’re lucky. You want a multimillion dollar enterprise, I’m satisfied with a lot less.

Remember that money represents evidence in my analogy, and you have just said that it doesn’t take much to satisfy you. Well humanity may never achieve a multi-million dollar enterprise of scientific evidence, maybe it will, but either way, my point, and I’m sure the point of TEOF is that we should be aiming for one, and like any good investment broker knows, if you want to increase your financial prospects you put your money where the growth is. So I can be sure that this analogy is not misconstrued let me put it plainly; yes Sam is right to say that we shouldn’t throw the baby out with bath water in regards to certain areas of research such as that into ‘peri-normal’, but experience and rationale tell us that if most of the data seems to be pointing to one area, then it’s probably the best place to look. Of course people are free to believe what they want, and impose the slackest of slack restrictions on their own list of things to which they grant credibility to, but in the long haul climb toward more rational rationality the blasé attitude toward evidence does nothing whatsoever to aid progress, I would even argue that it is antithetical to the process. We absolutely should not be satisfied 5 bucks of evidence when searching for truth! This is the whole point of TEOF! And I am trying to point out that Sam Harris and many on this board seem to have double standards!

I want it be known that I am not against open-mindedness, I am against double standards and inconsistency, which I perceive Sam Harris to be a purveyor of.

I look forward to your replies.

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Posted: 19 January 2007 07:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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[quote author=“ligh+bringer”][quote author=“thinker”]
My opinion is that science is the pursuit of rationality. Please expand on this. How can science operate independant from rationality. Give me some examples please.

Any scientific fact that is extraordinary or weird:  There are millions of bacteria living in your digestive tact.  The largest seed in the world comes from a mid-sized palm tree.  Deep ocean communities based on hydrothermal vents do not need any energy input from the sun to survive.  Oxygen is toxic.  Kuru is a disease that results from semi-living proteins enacted by cannibalism.  The earth has experienced five great extinction events.  There are squid the size of city buses roaming the world’s oceans.  In 1908 a giant explosion leveled acres of forest in Siberia.  A fish called candiru will enter your urethra and release spikes into your flesh if you take a piss while swimming in the Amazon.  The only way to cure snakebite is with snake venom.  Entire forests of aspen trees are all genetically identical and grow from the same giant shared root system.  Sickle-celled anemia is an evolved immune response.

Strict rationality will not lead you to these facts.  At times it will lead you far way in the opposite direction.  Science is a way to make sure that doesn’t happen, because it can operate independent of rationality.  Sometimes results make rational sense, sometimes they don’t, but science can forge ahead regardless.

I would like to ask you what you think rationality (or reason) is? I always though that science was a method OF reason. All these things seem counterintuitive, or surprising, or just very strange, but as far as I know, reason was the means by which we learned them. My definition of reason is the faculty that integrates the information we get through our senses. (rationality is the practice of using reason) We take what we can see, hear, touch, taste and smell, put that information together, and we get abstract concepts, ideas, theories, and so on. All of the things you mentioned were learned empirically (that seems to be my catch-word lately), coorelated with other information through reason in the form of the scientific method, and confirmed by more empirical evidence. This is how reason works. If this isn’t reason, what is?

I believe that science is the closest we can get to the truth.  But science is not complete.  Science does not explain any majority of what happens in the universe.  The universe may be far stranger than many of us suppose.

And your point is? Sounds like good news to me. Science is fun! Science helps make life worth living. The fact that there will always be new things to learn using reason no matter how much we do learn just means there is no end to the fun.

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Posted: 19 January 2007 11:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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[quote author=“thinker”]Yes, I am in accord with you in regards to the nature of skepticism,

To clarify: the lightbringer is the inquisitive, rebellious spirit in all of us.  I do not bring light to this board, you must bring light to yourself—no one else can.

Since you claim we have the same grasp on skepticism I’ll tell you what I left out of my null hypothesis for humanity.  A true skeptic will simply leave it at the null.  Making any counterclaim defies the foundations of skepticism.  Thus I didn’t add that we might be living in a computer simulation of an alien civilization, or that mankind is doomed to destroy itself and will never know he true answers.  These claims likewise require evidence, of which there is none.  The reason I don’t invoke this null hypothesis for humanity is because of — <<  wait for it >> — rationality.  I know we are great apes revolving around the sun, but with an open mind I know that that’s not he entire story.

“If some experimental psychologists want to spend their days studying telepathy, or the effects of prayer, I will be interested to know what they find out…However, I have not spent any time attempting to authenticate the data put forward…”

Understand? You can be mildly interested in something, you can pay attention to something, you can actively research something, you can take something on as your life’s work.  Just because somebody said something about evidence of an after life doesn’t mean anybodies doing anything about it – and perhaps rightly so.

Anecdotal evidence is evidence too.  All evidence can be placed on a spectrum of quality.  In the case of pseudoscience the evidence doesn’t support the claim—they actually have no evidence.  In the case of fringe science / perinormal study, evidence may be meager and low quality, even anecdotal, but claims based on such evidence are not condemned to pseudoscience – they may represent reality as well.  The intellectual respectability and other indexes of attention and certainty are of no concern in comparison to reality. 

“Sam harris has created a net of rationality in which religious beliefs have been caught, and rightly so, but he has allowed other dogmatic quasi-religious beliefs to slip through this net, meaning that he doesn’t apply the same rules to them as he does the religious beliefs he attacks in TEOF.”

Did you ever stop to think that he allows those things through the net for a reason?  Dogmatic or not, some of those things are profoundly rational and at times dependent on evidence.  Quasi-religious does not always equal bad.  Your stance here is basically zero tolerance for religion.  That is almost insanely idealistic.  It is clear to me that in the complete absence of religion people will find something to fill the vacuum.  Sam is saying (if I haven’t misconstrued his work too much) fill it with something rational, something more useful, something more intellectually developed – just fill it with something better than the monotheistic worldviews of the worlds major religions.

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Posted: 20 January 2007 12:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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[quote author=“SaulOhio”]
I would like to ask you what you think rationality (or reason) is? I always though that science was a method OF reason. All these things seem counterintuitive, or surprising, or just very strange, but as far as I know, reason was the means by which we learned them. My definition of reason is the faculty that integrates the information we get through our senses. (rationality is the practice of using reason) We take what we can see, hear, touch, taste and smell, put that information together, and we get abstract concepts, ideas, theories, and so on. All of the things you mentioned were learned empirically (that seems to be my catch-word lately), coorelated with other information through reason in the form of the scientific method, and confirmed by more empirical evidence. This is how reason works. If this isn’t reason, what is?

I believe that science is the closest we can get to the truth.  But science is not complete.  Science does not explain any majority of what happens in the universe.  The universe may be far stranger than many of us suppose.

And your point is? Sounds like good news to me. Science is fun! Science helps make life worth living. The fact that there will always be new things to learn using reason no matter how much we do learn just means there is no end to the fun.

There wasn’t much of point to that statement was there.  I was just parroting off something Sam said to wrap up my post without going off on tangents (something other people may consider doing).


Rationality and reason do not appear to me to be the same thing.  Science is a form of reason.  Rationality is a double edged sword.  You can use it to find the best answers, or you can use it to “rationalize” doing the worst things.  Everyone of us has a distinct ability to outsmart ourselves.  Over zealous application of rationality can do that.

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