Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Delusion XVI - Chapter 5 - let the atheist scientist attack

I had an idea to extend on "Adaptive? Aye!" and attack Dawkins *With the assumption that the conclusions of the previous four chapters were correct* (in fitting in with my axiomatic abstractions) , However this Skeptic of Dawkins has done most of the work for me.
Average effects became selfish genes and individuals became lumbering robots controlled by their genes. Group selection became a pariah concept, taught only as an example of how not to think. As one eminent evolutionist advised a student in the 1980s, “There are three ideas that you do not invoke in biology: Lamarkism, the phlogistron theory, and group selection.”

I invoke two of those three (Lamarckism and group theory) and I add "panspermia" as an alternative third, that have been "ruled" false, yet I am convinced that these three "facts" will be reversed within our lifetime by good science.

Scientific Dogmatism
In retrospect, it is hard to fathom the zeal with which evolutionists such as Williams and Dawkins rejected group selection and developed a view of evolution as based entirely on self-interest

That chapter five is based on Atheist Dogma, to me is a tautology. An atheist skeptical scientist appears to back me up. David Sloan Wilson basically covers all my objections of chapter 5, that Dawkins is choosing to believe the theory that makes religion look all the more pointless.

I can't help but include his conclusion:
On Scientific Open-Mindedness
Toward the end of The God Delusion, Dawkins waxes poetic about the open-mindedness of science compared to the closed-mindedness of religion. He describes the heart-warming example of a scientist who changed his long-held beliefs on the basis of a single lecture, rushing up to his former opponent in front of everyone and declaring “Sir! I have been wrong all these years!”

This inspiring example represents one end of the scientific bell curve when it comes to open-mindedness. At the other end are people such as Louis Agassiz, one of the greatest biologists of Darwin’s day, who for all his brilliance and learning never accepted the theory of evolution. Time will tell where Dawkins sits on the bell curve of open-mindedness concerning group selection in general and religion in particular. At the moment, he is just another angry atheist, trading on his reputation as an evolutionist and spokesperson for science to vent his personal opinions about religion.

It is time now for us to roll up our sleeves and get to work on understanding one of the most important and enigmatic aspects of the human condition.

Obviously, I believe that Dawkins is close-minded about this, and Atheism as an ideology will be as close-minded as any other "religion" for the foreseeable future, with such spokespersons as Dawkins.

Delusion XV - Logical Positivism?

From wikipedia
Although the logical positivists held a wide range of beliefs on many matters, they were all interested in science and skeptical of theology and metaphysics. Early on, most logical positivists believed that all knowledge is based on logical inference from simple "protocol sentences" grounded in observable facts. Many logical positivists supported forms of materialism, philosophical naturalism, and empiricism.


Early critics of logical positivism said that its fundamental tenets could not themselves be formulated in a way that was clearly consistent. The verifiability criterion of meaning did not seem verifiable; but neither was it simply a logical tautology, since it had implications for the practice of science and the empirical truth of other statements. This presented severe problems for the logical consistency of the theory.

It is this grounding in observable facts, and it not being an Axiomatic system, that gives its appeal. When most people I talk to think of "logic" and reason, this is what they are talking about. This is often why I am confounded by people who tell me higher mathematics is not "logical". It is just that maths is not necessarily grounded in observable facts. This is the "Logic" that Dawkins uses, which has been shown to have perpetual consistency difficulties, which should colour the claims that God is inconsistent with observable phenomena. This differs from what I call "logic", which is based on provably consistent axiomatic reasoning. I insist that "reality will not contradict itself" and that axiomatic reasoning is vitally important in Science, and in our understanding of our place in the Universe.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Delusion XIV - Religion Definigion

Page 15 "By 'Religion' Einstein meant something entirely different from what is conventionally meant. As I continue to clarify the distinction between supernatural religion on the one hand and Einsteinian religion on the other, bear in mind that I am only calling *supernatural* Gods delusional.

This is not a general way in which religion is defined and it is a bit of an atheismism. When I am talking about the *problems* of religion, I define it as a zealous pursuit of a particular ideology. Whether it is Islam, Scientology or zealous atheism, the more zealous the pursuit is, the more "religious" I believe it to be. The control of the flow of information to "footsoldier" followers of the ideology can multiply the evil of the leader by many orders of magnitude. By defining religion so narrowly, atheists let other zealous ideologies off the hook completely. Being that scientifically concurrent "religions" are on the ascendant should not necessarily mean that they will be less zealous or evil in a very similar way that atheists describe traditional religions.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Delusion XIII - Design Defined

Design - To plan out in systematic, usually graphic form.

Before having children, I planned what they were going to look like. I chose a partner knowing what I wanted the children to be like. I had their early childhood education planned out quite in advance. Hey presto! I'm a genetic engineer!

That is what I think when people say "look at the wonderful things this or that person designed" Sure he designed a 747, but there was a very similar looking 707 mass-produced before it, and other planes before that. All the designer is doing is putting in a mutation to a design already available, testing it thoroughly (discarding failed species) over and over again (through multiple un-noticed generations) In fact, if there was a God, that is exactly the process of design one would expect. He couldn't have come up with a human without extensive experimentation with primates etc. etc. Evolution is *exactly* the analagous process of design to how humans come up with new designs in their sphere.

eg. Page 157 "2 The natural temptation is to attribute the appearance of design to actual design itself. In the case of a man-made artefact such as a watch, the designer really was an intelligent engineer.It is tempting to apply the same logic to an eye or a wing, a spider or a person."

This is a bad analogy - Sure, the engineer does have to be intelligent, but a fancy design of a watch has to be seen in the context of there existing an extensive watch industry. The first wristwatch was some clever engineer thinking of putting a strap onto a pocket watch. The first pocket watch was just a scaled down clock. The first clock was funny shaped stick placed in the sun etc. If you correctly transfer this analogy to the need for God to design a fancy wing, one must have it in the context of wing genes being spread through the population already. The clever designer saw something goodlooking in the flight of some cute bird :) and sought to kill off some of other lesser birds, and procreate that one.

Delusion XII - Testing, Testing...

(Bible citation required) Anyone who is even vaguely familiar with the bible will know that there are explicit explanations in there that God will not allow himself to be tested. This my Axiomatic point of difference (b). Thus, experiments like the double-blind prayer test are meaningless to prove anything about a God as defined by reference to the bible. I also see this as a potential catch-all copout, in a skeptical sense, but I don't see how proving a testable God says anything about a non-testable one.

Delusion XI - The great circle debate

Page 51 quote "It is superficially tempting to place PAP (Permanently Agnostic in Principle) in the middle of the spectrum, with a 50 percent probability of God's existence, but this is not correct. PAP agnostics aver that we cannot say anything, one way or another, on the question whether God exists. The question, for PAP agnostics is in principle unanswerable, and they should strictly refuse to place themselves anywhere on the spectrum of probabilities."

And I do refuse to. Essentially this correctly disqualifies me from judging the merits of his reasoning. To a PAP agnostic all proofs of God's existence can only use circular reasoning. Equivalently all disproofs also can only use circular reasoning. That the complexity/design/creation conundrum discovered with Darwinism ought to extend to supernatural beings as believed by the religious cannot be verified - only believed or disbelieved. He relies on this factor but didn't specify it in his original hypothesis (*citation required)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Delusion X - Circular logic?

In his fourth chapter Dawkins sneakily adds to his definition of God, that he be explainable or that he makes sense in a scientific context (etc.). A key definition of science is that it deals with observable natural phenomena (ie. an Axiom of there being no God). Using only scientific research that starts with an Axiom of there being no God, he comes to the conclusion that there be no God. I fail to see how that isn't a tautology based on a circular argument. There is definition creep going on here such that he is defining a God such that it couldn't possibly make sense that it exists. That demonstrates nothing about God fearing intellectuals and *their* God. This doesn't mean I agree or disagree. I already accept that I am a PAP. This doesn't mean that I think God is more probable than he does. This whole chapter has no bearing on our Definition (a) which we dispute. Talk on whether God makes sense given known science is a completely meaningless concept to me.

Delusion IX - It's Definitive, dear Watson

When two or more reasoned intellectuals, after lengthy discussion, still disagree, there are a couple of possibilities.

1) Their starting "definitions" related to what they are discussing differ. Their different conclusions can, in this case be completely attributed to their starting definitions (Technically it is their initial AXIOMS (ie. starting assumptions) that differ that are IMPLICIT in their "definitions" that generate their conclusions through logical processes)

2) The data they are using is in dispute or otherwise differs between them.


X) One of them is not being reasonable or is not intelligent enough to see the obvious logic or illogic.

X) can be discarded because we are talking about reasoned intellectuals see initial definition.

If in this case we are talking about me and Dawkins (with his reasoned intellectual hat on as opposed to his ridicule the opposition hat), it really is just (1). These are the definitions of his that differ with mine at this stage:

a) The in-principle provability or disprovability of God.

b) The definition of God that will allow himself to be tested.

c) His definition of "Design".

d) His definition of "Religion".

I have a choice when reading the book to set aside these differences by taking on his definitions and concentrate on his logic - or ignore any conclusions that can be attributable to the differences in our definitions. Atheists in general take on definitions that are accepted by the majority of naive christians, that wouldn't pass muster with any intellectual theologist or philosopher.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Delusion VIII - Darwinism

As much as I see there is an inherent beauty and simplicity in the truth of evolution, I can't help but feel that ideology has taken over from the skeptical pursuit of science for a great many scientists. David Attenborough's "Life on Earth" series was an almost magical summary of the known progression of species, and I cannot remember a nature show that I have enjoyed more since. However, I have noted in the past about the popular parody being a ladder(evolution is a bush), and the particular emphasis on the primate to human step. I have to add that I believe there are a few surprises in store within our lifetime. "Lamarckism" will have a comeback now that a plausible process for its existence has been established. Also, I am quite certain that "panspermia" will become a mainstream field of research. It is unlikely, but a scientifically consistent possibility that many of the "parts" (genes that may have relevance to higher species) of the mystical "747" (sentient species like humans) are floating around in intergalactic space trapped as rogue DNA in frozen bacteria and virus fragments. These might be as hard to verify as floating teacups, however.

Delusion VII - Chapter 4 -

I didn't design it! It is intelligent artificial selection! I go further than Dawkins in destroying the presumption of intelligent design. The 747 is the end product of the "evolution" of aeroplane designs. Aeroplanes are mainly scaled-up versions/copies/mix and match elements of previous designs with trial and error modifications (mutations) very occasionally put in with thorough testing (extinction of Darwinian failures). 747 sub-components (eg. engines) have also gone through an evolutionary process of their own. The 747 is just well adapted to the human environment of wanting to travel long distances cheaply. Religions have always gone through an evolutionary process also (more about that in other chapters). The amount of duplication of the previous generation in software is quite scary. The "millenium bug" as it affected PC's date rollovers was one such case - I couldn't believe that computers that were sold in the 90's needed to save the 2 digits. However the firmware in question written in assembly language, was rote-copied (with only minor modifications) from previous versions that dated all the way back to the 60's, when the techies writing the code would never have given the millenium a second's thought. Design is an illusion - Intelligent Design doubly so.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Delusion VI - Chapter 3

Objection! Argumentative. In "Arguments for God's Existence" it appears to me like an elaborate debate style argument. Except that his side of the debate goes uncontested. Like an advocate, he is sure never to be lying, but you never can tell how much spin he puts on anything in particular. Without going in and going to the source of every detail, there is no hope to know if he is exaggerating any claims. Some of the arguments are familiar, some are not. The familiar arguments he is painting his own colour. Where there is discrepancy between historical accounts of the bible and other history he is implying the biblical one is wrong. I am not sure that all his claims of the bibles inaccuracies are unexagerrated, but I do not need any convincing that the relationship between described individual details of the bible and what actually happened is incidental. However, I am inclined to take any "historical facts" mentioned in the "God Delusion" with the same amount of skepticism - ie. I just skim over any actual historical details and ignore them as irrelevant to his points.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Delusion V Chapter 2 - part 2

You Call me "PAP", I call you "Dork-Ins". In this section (the poverty of Agnosticism) Dawkins changes tack slightly and takes sides with a theologian that insults agnostics, calling them "PAP" (Permanently Agnostic on Principle). Dawkins asserts that in principle, the existence of God can be proven with miracles. He implies that there are miracles that HE would accept as proof enough. Would he just? I can quite imagine him being placed somewhere that for all intensive purposes was like hell, and after several thousand years he would be thinking "I wonder how those religious frauds pulled this one off?". He doesn't really explain how it would be a "proof" in a scientific sense. He seems to imply that if his main opposition feels it's true (God can be proven by miracles), then nobody should challenge him if he thinks it is true. DORK-INS ("Doesn't Observe Righteous King - Insofar Not Sighted") followers believe (without evidence) in the possibility of incontrovertible proof of God's existence. They also believe that the possibility of proof happening is approximately nil (without needing a quantitative analysis). This conclusion comes from a detailed rebuttal of various theological reasonings that come to any other probability conclusion. This leads me to believe that Atheism thrives in an environment of "established" religions, where those same religions have no control within the regional learning establishments (Universities). Atheism thrives on the hatred of religious establishment.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Delusion IV - Chapter 2 part 1

I Object! In this part of the chapter, Dawkins lays out his hypothesis amongst a litany of transparent "proof by ridicule" tirades. He justifies giving offence to religions which is acceptable to me as long as he is aware that he is opening the door to evangelicals ridiculing historical sciences (such as evolution) for the same purposes of winning over the uncommitted and as an affirmation for those already convinced. By laying out a hypothesis he is implying that he aims to disprove it using science and logic. Via correct mathematical logic he would assume it true and with progressive mathematically acceptable steps would arrive at a contradiction. He knows that is how hypotheses are disproven and he knows it wouldn't work if he did that, so instead he debates a litany of positions that religions take on this hypothesis and rules them invalid one by one. One critical assertion he makes is that the existence of God can be proven (via "miracles") and another is that science could theoretically disprove the hypothesis. Now these two assertions are hypotheses in their own right, and I feel they are disprovable. Let us assume that the existence of God can be proven. No matter how amazing the phenomenon that is called a miracle, it is a tenable position that it is a natural phenomenon that we don't as yet understand. God could shift mountains, destroy the Earth and bring it back again, could consign you to hell forever, but there is nothing that can't be attributed to either a much higher alien technology, or mass hypnosis (or both). Besides which, practically all monotheistic believers define a God that will not allow himself to be tested. This is a contradiction because any proof is not an acceptable proof of the "supernature" of the phenomenon. Alternatively, let us assume that we have proven the last aspect that had been previously attributed to God. One can easily (and automatically) generate a new question that is yet to be answered by science, that can be easily assumed to be answerable by reference to God. Thus, no matter how far science reaches, there will always be a new why? to try and answer. Interestingly, I would have thought that any scientist or intellectual would accept that logic and conclude that talk of probability of there being a God is meaningless as far as logic can obtain. Thus he has got it completely backwards. The existence or non-existence of God is not something we should have an expectation to be provable, and we should be very confident of the non-provability of God, and regard the existence or non-existence as one of the most basic axioms of any belief system. Any talk of proof or dis-proof can only be a circular argument, or proof by ridicule, or a call to our instincts for seeing the bleedingly obvious. I know that as humans, it is in our nature to come to a conclusion one way or the other, but we get there through relating to our experience of the universe, not as a response to evidence.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Delusion III - Chapter One

Hello. I've been here before. Here Dawkins quotes three people I have admired greatly in the past - Einstein, Carl Sagan and Douglas Adams. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the ridicule he heaps on religions in this book are the successful practice of "proof by ridicule". This technique is very effective with "unprovables" like for instance long term climate predictions, and the existence (and in this case non-existence) of God. This technique involves cloaking the baseline argument in a long-winded series of ridiculing viewpoints of the opposite argument and heaping praise on viewpoints supporting it. I recognise the beginnings of this technique because it is so similar to the "brainwashing" techniques used by Christian evangelists so successfully. In the back of the book is a list of societies you can contact that will complete the process for you. The baseline argument will of course be a circular one, but it will take an extremely keen philosophical eye to ferret it out. Now, Dawkins has defined religion in great philosophical detail. He has made a harsh distinction between Naturalist Pantheistic God and the supernatural one, and has asserted that it is intellectual high treason to confuse the two. This is a classic call to the reader that they have to make up their mind one way or the other. To try to sit on the fence is the worst philosophy of all. This is very similar to the evangelical statements that if you are not sure - then you are on the heathen side of the razor sharp fence. Dawkins has now defined God to my satisfaction, but heaped praise on Spinozan pantheism (This is more his apparent philosophy rather than what it really was. Spinoza's vision of what God is does not differ much from the Judeo-Christian definition). Spinoza was a moral relativist (Correction: Many have chosen to believe this, but by his own reasoning he wasn't), so it seems that his assertion "Religion is Bad" relies on an arbitrary definition of bad. Thus it is becoming increasingly clear that he is promoting this assertion as "blindingly obvious" thus axiomatic. He is clearly relying somewhat on faith to believe this, but I need more than just sound-bites and examples - I need a strict definition of "Bad" and comparitive scientific evidence. I am hoping by chapter eight I will get some of that.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Delusion II - The Preface

Imagine no religion. As an overview of the theme - "Religion is Bad", he asserts that without people who believe in God, there would be none of a list of crimes that are invariably (and perhaps dangerously) attributed to the religiousness of those that participate in these crimes. Those that believe that the root cause of 9/11 is the Islamic religion, are fuelling the fire that created the retaliatory backlash against islam in the US. This I believe is a wrong and dangerous consequence in believing it is the religion that is bad and not that criminals are bad no matter what they believe. The economist intelligence unit for one, in their report on Suicide terrorism come to the conclusion that suicide terrorism is being embraced for the rewards in this world, not the next. This counters Dawkins' assertion, and therefore I shall not accept it as proven at all. I await with expectation for someone to tell me where in the book he proves that non-God-fearing people are less likely to be organised criminals of similar vein. It is not enough to demonstrate that people are doing bad things in the name of a God - One must show a causal link, and society-wide or world-wide comparative analysis. Most importantly, what is Dawkins' take on good and bad? Is he advocating for moral relativism or do we decide democratically as we go? How are we to argue what is good and bad without a definition that we can agree on?

Delusion I - The Back page blurb

Let's see, "The God Delusion" is to Atheism as _________ is to Christianity? Well, it ain't its' bible! My definition of atheist has always been one who believes that the non-existence of God can be proven. Now, the best way to disprove something is to assume it is true, and then come up with a contradiction through logical mathematical steps. I have read books and articles that go down this line, and although no authoratitive contradiction comes up, many difficulties do. The blurb mentions "the grievous harm it (the belief in God) has inflicted on society". This is actually an assertion that can be scientifically tested. My interpretation of the various evidence in the world is indicating the harm that is attributed to the belief in God is independent of the belief in God: ie. analogous real situations without the belief in God have equal or greater "harm" than than those attributed to religion. The various arguments I have been given to back up his claim play hard and fast with their definitions of "religion" and "harm". I will be keeping a very close eye for definitions of those terms and "God". Having randomly chosen sections in the book I have noted that Dawkins does state unequivocally that the non-existence of God cannot be proven using purely science. Thus, my answer to my question at the start is an evangelical document such as an "Alpha course" supplement. Thus Dawkins is not writing a scientific document here but an "evangelical" one trying to "convert" people to his point of view (Atheism) and threatening that if you don't, you will be party to society's harms. Using science anecdotes to convince is not the same as a scientific demonstration/proof.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Drrrrriillll, Crrreeeaak... Ok Mind is open now

I am going to backtrack and change my mind and actually try to read "The God Delusion". As is my want, I will abstract what the absolute essence of what his argument is and get agreement on that before I actually criticize or praise any particular conclusion or logic. I will just start with the title. The title itself is an indication that the book is aiming to demonstrate that those that believe in God are almost certainly deluded, and that this is a bad thing. I presume that he will define what he means by God, and from this definition and using scientific analysis and reasoning demonstrate the badness of believing. I would hope that somewhere along the line, he would define what he means by bad and demonstrate a causal link between the perceived problems and the belief in God. Is this what he is trying to demonstrate?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Tobacco for the masses

Why do some people reject evolution as scientific reality given all the evidence? Why do smokers keep smoking given all the scientific evidence? To me the second problem is the one worth fixing. I still can't get over the reality that there exist doctors that smoke. That is like a geologist that believes in young earth creationism. It's not as if their life depends on finding a coal deposit - but surely the one important goal in life would be to give up smoking.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Weird Cult

I can't remember where I read about this cult that had a strange way of converting people and convincing them of the supernaturality of their God. The new convert would be invited to a seance/prayer room. A small number of desciples or just the spiritual leader would demonstrate his God given powers and rattle of a series of personal details about the would-be convert that they hadn't ever told anyone, and that there was absolutely no way they could have been guessed, and didn't rely on any input from the newby at all - just astonishment as his private details were rattled off to him/her. As it happens, the newbies were put into a hypnotic state in the initial prayer. The leader would then ask for a series of personal details while they were in a hypnotic state. Then they would repeat them back later when they were out of the hypnotic state. Now the weirdest thing was that the leader (and any desciple)was also in a trans-hypnotic trance while asking the questions as well, such that he had no idea how the details were getting into his head - it just seemed like a mystical power to him also. So confident was he of his powers, that years after starting his cult, he decided to film the process as a demonstration of the power in which he had complete confidence was from God. Of course, reviewing the film he saw the whole elaborate mutual trickery unfold, and was so mortified that he committed suicide and the cult unravelled soon after.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Criticizing Dorkins

In part a protest against the implied basis of the book dorkins has written, I am refusing to read it (1). I do not believe this disqualifies me from criticising it, as long as I stick to criticising the basis of the book, and use whatever quotes from the book I get from reliable sources. Now, it is a Provable Fact that the existence of God cannot be proven, nor disproven. As a corollary to this fact, talk of the improbability, or probability of the existence of God is completely meaningless. Therefore, any author who goes to any length to convince someone otherwise is either delusional (2) or a fraud. From this, I can speculate that since he tries to convince the would be reader anyway, that a lot of his "logic" and "reasoning" is not watertight. I would recommend a would be critic to start as given that God doesn't exist, and that therefore those that believe in God are in fact delusional. His assertion that "religion is bad" and that "the mistaken belief in God is the root of the badness of religion" appears to be a theme he talks about, but never gives tight definitions and solid reasoning to back it up. If "bad" and "good" are pretty well taken care of by our moral sense, these are extremely arbitrary assertions.

(1) I might read parts of the book down the track, who knows?

(2) This is not really the "stick him in the mental asylum" delusional, but a common, fairly harmless delusion with anyone with a non-self-consistent World view.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

In defence of usury

This economist article finds that a "consequentialist" analysis of the results of lending money at extortionate interest rates to the poor is better for the would be borrower than being refused the loan. An "Absolutist" would not believe such a one-off study to be relevant and defer to the scriptures, which probably state one way or another that usury is evil in general and should not be allowed. I for one, have come to the conclusion that usury IS evil, but possibly a necessary one for modern civilisation to keep prospering.