/ Women can't be Bishops

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Trangia - on 20 Nov 2012
Synod has just voted against.

If there are going to be priests and higher priests in the C of E, from an outsider's POV it seems extraordinary in this day and age of equality of the sexes.
In reply to Trangia: An institution that's just proved itself even more irrelevant...
Pursued by a bear - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Trangia: Seems a bit dim to me. It's probably because of jealousy; the men think the women would look better in the dresses and hats than they do.

T.
Tim Chappell - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Trangia:


A terrible decision. A sad day for the church.

The measure needed a two-thirds majority in all three housesa, and it passed easily in both the other two houses (bishops and clergy), and only missed by 5 votes in the house of laity. So it was a high hurdle.

It really doesn't seem to me to be what Jesus would have done. He spent a lot of time hanging out with the excluded groups. Still does in fact.

Oh well. Keep on keeping on, I guess.
The Lemming - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Trangia:

Would give new meaning to bashing the bish.

If many women leave the church, where would they go, Islam?
Coel Hellier - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> A terrible decision. A sad day for the church.

An excellent decision. A sad day for the church.
Tim Chappell - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Childish point-scoring as usual. Do go away.
Hairy Pete on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Submit to Gravity:
> (In reply to Trangia) An institution that's just proved itself even more irrelevant...
And irrational ...
victim of mathematics - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Hairy Pete:
> (In reply to Submit to Gravity)
> [...]
> And irrational ...

Can an institution who's members are defined by a fundamentally irrational belief, surprise anybody by being irrational?
BigHairyIan - on 20 Nov 2012
I understand that the deep essence of the debate is that Jesus chose only men as his leaders in the church, starting with the disciples and working out from there. So in essence it is not a gender equality debate, but a deeply theological one. However, that said, we live in today's world, not the world of 2000 years ago, and.equality is very much part of our collective agenda...
The Lemming - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Trangia:

Don't suppose the atheists can take a back-seat on this one?

Surely its the polite thing to do?
Postmanpat on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
>
> [...]
>
> An excellent decision. A sad day for the church.

Grow up Coel

In reply to BigHairyIan: They should've read the Three Hermits.
mark s - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
>
> [...]
>
> An excellent decision. A sad day for the church.


agree,i thought it was a brilliant decision,anything to make the church look more out of touch and irrelevant the better.
seems they dont need non believers to make fools of them,they can do a good job with out rational people.

Tim Chappell - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to BigHairyIan:
> I understand that the deep essence of the debate is that Jesus chose only men as his leaders in the church, starting with the disciples and working out from there. So in essence it is not a gender equality debate, but a deeply theological one. However, that said, we live in today's world, not the world of 2000 years ago, and.equality is very much part of our collective agenda...


Something like that is the argument, yes. Except that Jesus chose as his followers all sorts of people, and many of the closest ones were women. There's plenty of evidence in the New Testament that the issue of women's status was a bit of a hot potato at the time, and that--to be blunt--the apostles were a good deal less prepared to be radical about it than Jesus was.

Radical Christianity keeps breaking out, despite the best attempts of the pharisaical conservatives to suppress it. We'll get there in the end. But what a waste of precious time this is. I'm very sad about it.
Trangia - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to The Lemming:
> (In reply to Trangia)
>
> Don't suppose the atheists can take a back-seat on this one?
>
> Surely its the polite thing to do?

Why should I take a back seat? The Church has made the debate and vote public, and being an atheist doesn't preclude me from taking an interest in what has been made public.

As I said it strikes me as an extraordinary decision.

Not only is the Church deluded but it's hypocrytical and appears to be flying in the face of all it professes to stand for

mark s - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: "evidence in the new testament"??????????????? since when is that a book of facts?
Tim Chappell - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to mark s:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell) "evidence in the new testament"??????????????? since when is that a book of facts?

Since 70-110 AD, when it was written.

I've always thought, incidentally, that the main anti-women-bishops argument is a terrible one. "Jesus only chose men as apostles": well, even if that's right (which is debatable), you might equally well point out that Jesus only chose Jewish people as apostles, or (very probably) people with brown eyes, or people born within 200 miles of Jerusalem.
dissonance - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to The Lemming:

> Don't suppose the atheists can take a back-seat on this one?
>
> Surely its the polite thing to do?

Sure once the church renounces all its privileges.
However while it is still the state church and has seats in the House of Lords etc, which due to this will remain men only, then sorry it is everyones business.
John_Hat - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Trangia:

Agreed, the church has proved itself to be an prize idiot here.

If the argument is that Jesus only chose men for his followers, then why are priests not limited to being Jewish ex-tax collectors and ex fishermen who were born in Palestine.

Stupid, irrational, and self-defeating. The idea that god cannot be represented by 50% of the human race is pretty much against everything that christianity stands for.

Whilst not a Christian, I know a fair bit about it, and my understanding was that Jesus welcomed with open arms all people, regardless of colour, race or gender. If the stupidly mysoginistic society of later years wishes to ignore the fairly clear call from their prophet/god, then I hope they get a thorough talking to when they reach the pearly gates on the lines of "That was NOT what I said".

I've got a couple of female friends in the CofE, one a priest, and the idea that she is not fit to be a bishop simply because of her gender is insane.

If the church wants to prove itself to be relevent to the modern world, engage with its congregation, and lead all us sinners to redemption then this is EXACTLY what it should NOT be doing.
loopyone on 20 Nov 2012 - host86-138-65-58.range86-138.btcentralplus.com
In reply to Trangia: For people who voted against women Bishops it's a theological issue rather than an issue with women. To accuse the CofE of sexism as a result of this decision is lazy and ignorant.
TheDrunkenBakers - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to dissonance:
> (In reply to The Lemming)
>
> [...]
>
> Sure once the church renounces all its privileges.
> However while it is still the state church and has seats in the House of Lords etc, which due to this will remain men only, then sorry it is everyones business.

Like button...

softlad - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to tatty112: It may be about theology for those who voted against, tatty, but to this militant secularist it looks like their theology is showing itself to be inherently sexist, and in need of an update. Urgently.
David S Gainor - on 20 Nov 2012
You say theological issue as if that precludes it from being sexist as well.
Tim Chappell - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to John_Hat:

Well said, Mr Hat sir.

I'm hoping, I must say, for a bit of an uprising of indignation on the part of the pew-fodder. I have a friend who is a woman priest (she's also disabled, which if you read the right bits of Leviticus the wrong way is another barrier on her ordination); I think I might start my acts of resistance to this ungodly decision by making her a mitre :-)
Philip on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to David S Gainor:

If a religion modernises does it lose some credibility? If the book says x, y, z then changing these means other things are no longer sacrosanct.

loopyone on 20 Nov 2012 - host86-138-65-58.range86-138.btcentralplus.com
In reply to softlad: The church absolutely should not be trying to fit in with what modern society dictates though. The church should be trying to uphold what they believe the Bible says is true even if that jars against what modern society finds acceptable/unacceptable. It would be massively hypocritical to do otherwise!
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to John_Hat)
>
> Well said, Mr Hat sir.
>
I think I might start my acts of resistance to this ungodly decision by making her a mitre :-)

Killing her?
In reply to tatty112:
> (In reply to softlad) The church absolutely should not be trying to fit in with what modern society dictates though. The church should be trying to uphold what they believe the Bible says is true even if that jars against what modern society finds acceptable/unacceptable. It would be massively hypocritical to do otherwise!

That's a fair point, and it emphasizes their irrelevance to the vast majority of us.
Coel Hellier - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> Grow up Coel

Sorry, my opinion is entirely legitimate. If the Government chooses to hand over tens of billions of quid a year of taxpayers money to this organisation to run state schools (against the wishes of 71% of the electorate, I might add), then I have an entirely legitimate interest in this organisation shooting itself in the foot.

In reply to The Lemming:

> Don't suppose the atheists can take a back-seat on this one? Surely its the polite thing to do?

Since said bishops get an automatic seat in the Lords, and thus can vote on laws that affect me, I consider that there is nothing impolite about me sticking my oar in. Now, if it was a purely internal decision for a private organisation, then it might be different ...

Until then, I'll salute this decision as great for society!
Coel Hellier - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to tatty112:

> For people who voted against women Bishops it's a theological issue rather than an issue with women.
> To accuse the CofE of sexism as a result of this decision is lazy and ignorant.

Now find a theology that isn't blatantly sexist.
softlad - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to tatty112: That's effectively a vote for the Church's inevitable decline and demise then.

You see, I'm optimistic that societies can develop increasingly just, inclusive and humane values through debate and democratic processes. I also think that religions inevitably reflect the values of the time in which they first developed. I don't see hypocrisy in choosing not to stick rigidly and uncritically to those aspects of a religion that are relics of less enlightened times.
Postmanpat on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Philip:
> (In reply to David S Gainor)
>
> If a religion modernises does it lose some credibility? If the book says x, y, z then changing these means other things are no longer sacrosanct.

No, the Christian religion has always "interpreted the word of God"
David S Gainor - on 20 Nov 2012
Christians used to burn people at the stake for being witches and apparently thought they were doing right by the bible. They now know better (ie modern society dictates that it is wrong to burn people alive for being a witch), and therefore don't do it anymore. Is that hypocritical? Of course not, times move on. To continue living by outdated ideology formed in a time of pre-scientific ignorance is ridiculous.
Postmanpat on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> Sorry, my opinion is entirely legitimate. If the Government chooses to hand over tens of billions of quid a year of taxpayers money to this organisation to run state schools (against the wishes of 71% of the electorate, I might add), then I have an entirely legitimate interest in this organisation shooting itself in the foot.
>
None of which means your comment wasn't childish, along with your understanding of religion in general.

Coel Hellier - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> None of which means your comment wasn't childish, along with your understanding of religion in general.

What is childish about (1) my comment, and (2) my understanding of religion?

Postmanpat on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> What is childish about (1) my comment, and (2) my understanding of religion?

1) it's the sort of comment that a child would make about another child's misfortunes.

2) it's literal and simplistic in the same way as the fundamentalists that you excoriate.
Coel Hellier - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> 2) it's literal and simplistic in the same way as the fundamentalists that you excoriate.

Nope it isn't. People often accuse atheists of taking a literal and simplistic approach to religion, but we don't.
softlad - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier: Coel, do you think you've got what it takes to pick a fight in an empty room?

;-)


coinneach - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to John_Hat)
>
> Well said, Mr Hat sir.
>
I think I might start my acts of resistance to this ungodly decision by making her a mitre :-)


Does she play football as well?
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Coel Hellier - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to softlad:

> Coel, do you think you've got what it takes to pick a fight in an empty room?

An empty room with an internet connection, perhaps!
softlad - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier: yep, or merely a Bible...
Postmanpat on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> Nope it isn't. People often accuse atheists of taking a literal and simplistic approach to religion, but we don't.

Well, having skimmed through many UKC threads on the subject I've never seen anything to suggest you have any understanding of the subject. Curious since it seems to be something of an obsession of yours.


Coel Hellier - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to softlad:

> yep, or merely a Bible...

Nah, the Bible can't fight back, no fun.
Coel Hellier - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> Well, having skimmed through many UKC threads on the subject I've never seen anything to suggest you
> have any understanding of the subject. Curious since it seems to be something of an obsession of yours.

Typical of such critics. Make a claim, then, when asked, fail to back it up with anything but a further assertion.

janiejonesworld - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Trangia: how could women ever be proper bishops in the true centuries old tradition of the church? They haven' t got a thingy to stick in the choirboys. Plain and simple
Postmanpat on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> Typical of such critics. Make a claim, then, when asked, fail to back it up with anything but a further assertion.

It's quite hard to prove the existence of an absence. You've shown no sign of any interest because your mechanistic world view denies you the possibility there is anything to be interested in.
That's fine and I can't see any upside in arguing the point. It's just mildly irritating that you feel the need to be so critical of other people.
Coel Hellier - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> It's quite hard to prove the existence of an absence.

You've claimed that I show a "literalist" understanding of religion -- showing that is not proving an absence, so you are simply evading.

> You've shown no sign of any interest because your mechanistic world view denies you the possibility there is anything to be interested in.

No, my "world view" is the product of the evidence, not something prior to evidence.

> It's just mildly irritating that you feel the need to be so critical of other people.

Oh right, so so far you've called my posting "childish", "literalist", "simplistic" and other stuff, and you then accuse *me* of being the critical one?

I haven't really criticised anyone on this thread, I started off merely by welcoming a decision that -- as I see it -- will help to divorce the CofE from society.
janiejonesworld - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)
It's just mildly irritating that you feel the need to be so critical of other people.


Not half as f@ckin irritating as having to go to assembly at school every day for 12 years. Or RE lessons. Or Thought For The Day. Or giving some dribbling bearded moron in a dress the right to argue on an equal basis with proper serious science on TV because Henry VIII had an overactive set of nadgers
loopyone on 20 Nov 2012 - host217-42-138-75.range217-42.btcentralplus.com
In reply to softlad:
> You see, I'm optimistic that societies can develop increasingly just, inclusive and humane values through debate and democratic processes. I also think that religions inevitably reflect the values of the time in which they first developed. I don't see hypocrisy in choosing not to stick rigidly and uncritically to those aspects of a religion that are relics of less enlightened times.

I agree with the sentiment of what you say here. The reality is that the core issue is whether this particular theological issue is a relic of a 'less enlightened' time, or whether it is something that God ordained for a purpose for all times.
loopyone on 20 Nov 2012 - host217-42-138-75.range217-42.btcentralplus.com
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to tatty112)
>
> [...]
>
> Now find a theology that isn't blatantly sexist.

Typical of the stupid comments we've come to expect of you on the subject of religion.
Postmanpat on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> You've claimed that I show a "literalist" understanding of religion -- showing that is not proving an absence, so you are simply evading.
>
So why do you demand evidence to back up the literal words of the bible?
> [...]
>
> No, my "world view" is the product of the evidence, not something prior to evidence.
>
For which read "mechanistic" . I rest my case.
>
> Oh right, so so far you've called my posting "childish", "literalist", "simplistic" and other stuff, and you then accuse *me* of being the critical one?
>
I'm critical of your views on religion but I don't feel to jump on you at very opportunity.

> I haven't really criticised anyone on this thread, I started off merely by welcoming a decision that -- as I see it -- will help to divorce the CofE from society.

No, on this thread you've just made a childish barbed comment.

Carolyn - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Trangia:

To me, it seems particularly inexplicable to have accepted the ordination of women however many years ago (so presumably accepting that there's some room for movement in the theological arguement), but then to maintain a "ceiling" beyond which it's apparently still theologically unacceptable.

But I haven't been following the arguement, presumably there's some semi-coherent excuse for this?
Coel Hellier - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> So why do you demand evidence to back up the literal words of the bible?

Have I done so? Again, which posts of mine show a "literal" understanding of religion? If I ask for evidence it could be equally about a literalist or a metaphorical interpretation.
dissonance - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to tatty112:

> I agree with the sentiment of what you say here. The reality is that the core issue is whether this particular theological issue is a relic of a 'less enlightened' time, or whether it is something that God ordained for a purpose for all times.

Should be easy enough to resolve. After all anything god decided on for good reason would be clearly written in the bible surely and not leave any room for interpretation.
Coel Hellier - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> No, on this thread you've just made a childish barbed comment.

Pot, kettle, black from someone whose first comment was "grow up". Nothing you've said on this topic suggests that you have any understanding of religion.
wilkie14c - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Trangia: bloody bishops, they need a good bashing
John_Hat - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to tatty112:
> (In reply to softlad) The church absolutely should not be trying to fit in with what modern society dictates though. The church should be trying to uphold what they believe the Bible says is true even if that jars against what modern society finds acceptable/unacceptable. It would be massively hypocritical to do otherwise!

Well, the problem with that point of view is you end up jumping up at down at these pesky darwinist folks who believe that silly evolution thing or upset at astronomers who believe it took billions of years to build the earth when it clearly took 7 days, including one day off..

Most clergy realise that taking the Bible literally is not clever if you want anyone to ever take you seriously.

Also, the trouble is, the Bible was written by men, not god. Hence there is a massive interpretation issue, plus I'm sure various bits were put in by political leaders who wanted to control the population. Quite apart from certain folk who were a bit of an outside bet in the first place.

I'd imagine when St Paul got to the pearly gates someone said to him

"Spreading the word of God. Great, well done. Was so much more believeable given your previous activities, I mean wow, persecutor of Christians turns into one? Gotta give that top marks".

"Spreading hatred of the female - please note 50% of God's creation, really, NOT so well done. Y'know that bit where God said "Why are you persecuting me?" Well you only stopped half of it."

janiejonesworld - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to John_Hat:
> (In reply to tatty112)

> Most clergy realise that taking the Bible literally is not clever if you want anyone to ever take you seriously.
>
> Also, the trouble is, the Bible was written by men, not god.

I think you'll find it was written by god with the help of the odd amanuensis and as such should be taken really really seriously cos it's what the big G actually said



Postmanpat on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> Pot, kettle, black from someone whose first comment was "grow up". Nothing you've said on this topic suggests that you have any understanding of religion.

Because it was a bloody childish comment and I think you know that.

I agree. It doesn't. But then again I don't often hold forth on the subject.


ads.ukclimbing.com
Shani - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> Sorry, my opinion is entirely legitimate. If the Government chooses to hand over tens of billions of quid a year of taxpayers money to this organisation to run state schools (against the wishes of 71% of the electorate, I might add), then I have an entirely legitimate interest in this organisation shooting itself in the foot.
>
> In reply to The Lemming:
>
> [...]
>
> Since said bishops get an automatic seat in the Lords, and thus can vote on laws that affect me, I consider that there is nothing impolite about me sticking my oar in. Now, if it was a purely internal decision for a private organisation, then it might be different ...
>
> Until then, I'll salute this decision as great for society!

Absolutely correct on both points. Did you know that the bishops bench in the Lords is the only one with arm rests? This is because the bishops were notorious drunks and the arm rest enabled them to keep upright.
Jimbo W on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> What is childish about (1) my comment, and (2) my understanding of religion?

(2) A more pertinent question is what isn't.
Coel Hellier - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> (2) A more pertinent question is what isn't.

Yet another insinuation with no substance to back it up. Why am I not surprised?
Jimbo W on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Yet another insinuation with no substance to back it up. Why am I not surprised?

I cite every single discussion you've had on religion on this forum as evidence.
Postmanpat on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> Have I done so? Again, which posts of mine show a "literal" understanding of religion? If I ask for evidence it could be equally about a literalist or a metaphorical interpretation.

What would you regard as "evidence about a metaphorical interpretation"?

Coel Hellier - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> I cite every single discussion you've had on religion on this forum as evidence.

Evasive and substance-free claim. Why am I not surprised?
Sir Chasm - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W: But anyway, back to the church's misogyny.
Coel Hellier - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> What would you regard as "evidence about a metaphorical interpretation"?

All sort of things could be regarded as evidence for all sorts of metaphorical interpretations. That's rather a vague question isn't it?

For example, if a rugby captain were described as "lion-hearted" then a video of how he played could provide lots of evidence for that metaphorical claim.
Jimbo W on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Evasive and substance-free claim. Why am I not surprised?

I hardly think an invitation for you to provide one exception as evidence is "evasive"! It puts me on the spot and gets you to do the leg work... ...back to the lab.
dissonance - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:
> (In reply to Jimbo W) But anyway, back to the church's misogyny.

i think its claimed to be theology not misogyny.

janiejonesworld - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Trangia: holy shit it's preposterous - some guys sat around and made it all up on the back of Judaeo-Roman fag packet. Then Henry VIII decided it was convenient to do a remake of the original movie and the ovine went along with it
It's every bit as ridiculous as L Ron Hubbard but gains some sort of authority for being a bit older. But Scientology will be older too one day and treated with just the same gravity and respect. And it's got space lizards, and space lizards rock - seriously missed a trick there Jesus freaks
Postmanpat on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> All sort of things could be regarded as evidence for all sorts of metaphorical interpretations. That's rather a vague question isn't it?
>
> For example, if a rugby captain were described as "lion-hearted" then a video of how he played could provide lots of evidence for that metaphorical claim.

I know what a metaphor is. I am asking for an example that you might use with reference to religion.
Coel Hellier - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> I hardly think an invitation for you to provide one exception as evidence is "evasive"! It puts me on
> the spot and gets you to do the leg work...

Utterly amazing! *You* make the claim and then you blatantly reverse the burden of proof and expect me to do "the leg work" and disprove it!

Sorry, Jimbo, that indeed is evasion.
Jimbo W on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to dissonance:

> i think its claimed to be theology not misogyny.

Its got nothing to do with theology and everything to do with the medieval cultural anachronisms that a faction of the church seem hell bent on holding onto.
Jimbo W on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Utterly amazing! *You* make the claim and then you blatantly reverse the burden of proof and expect me to do "the leg work" and disprove it!

Just one exception... ...not going to happen is it...
Coel Hellier - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> I know what a metaphor is. I am asking for an example that you might use with reference to religion.

As I said, there's all sorts of things that I'd happily regard as evidence for various metaphorical claims (and I gave such an example). I don't see that the burden of proof is on me to prove anything here. What metaphorical claim are you on about?

Sir Chasm - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to dissonance: If god thinks men are more important than women is it theology or misogyny for church members to uphold that idea?
Rob Exile Ward on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Carolyn: 'presumably there's some semi-coherent excuse for this?'

Ha ha ha ha
Coel Hellier - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> Just one exception... ...not going to happen is it...

You made the claim, you support it. Duh!
Jimbo W on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> You made the claim, you support it. Duh!

I already did. I cite your entire emesis immemorial on this forum.
Coel Hellier - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> I already did. I cite your entire emesis immemorial on this forum.

And I cite the Library of Congress in support of my position. <rolls eyes>

You Christians really have *no* idea of what constitutes a valid argument, do you?
dissonance - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> Its got nothing to do with theology and everything to do with the medieval cultural anachronisms that a faction of the church seem hell bent on holding onto.

interesting. Out of curiosity what technique is used to decide when something is theology or not?
The bishops etc who were arguing against it stated it was on theological grounds so be useful if you could clarify when its ok to dismiss claims which resort to theology as an excuse.
Postmanpat on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> As I said, there's all sorts of things that I'd happily regard as evidence for various metaphorical claims (and I gave such an example). I don't see that the burden of proof is on me to prove anything here. What metaphorical claim are you on about?

The ones referring to religion that you introduced to the debate. I am asking you what they might be. How would I know?I do n't think Richard being lion hearted is a religious metaphor it it?

Jimbo W on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> And I cite the Library of Congress in support of my position. <rolls eyes>

Yawn, I've got you and you know it. <rolls eyes>
Coel Hellier - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> The ones referring to religion that you introduced to the debate. I am asking you what they might be.

Sorry, *you* introduced the concept of literalism into this thread, not me. I merely stated that I do not demand that religious texts be interpreted literally; if someone wants to argue for the truth of a metaphorical interpretation I am quite ok with them stating that metaphorical interpretation and providing evidence for it.

I didn't introduce any particular metaphorical claims into the debate, and so it is bizarre for you to be "asking you what they might be".

Coel Hellier - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> Yawn, I've got you and you know it. <rolls eyes>

No Jimbo, you've got nothing, you've not supported your claim about me one iota. That's so Christian: empty words and claims, no substance or evidence.
Rob Exile Ward on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W: Can you genuinely not see that the argument about whether women can be bishops is on exactly the same level as how many angels can dance on a pinhead?
tom_in_edinburgh - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to victim of mathematics:
> (In reply to Hairy Pete)
> [...]
>
> Can an institution who's members are defined by a fundamentally irrational belief, surprise anybody by being irrational?

+1

With an organisation that believes in transubstantiation, resurrection, virgin birth and angels rules about women not getting to wear the big pointy hats are not exactly the first sign of insanity.

Postmanpat on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> I didn't introduce any particular metaphorical claims into the debate, and so it is bizarre for you to be "asking you what they might be".

You introduced the subject of "evidence of metaphorical Interetation"Do you not have any examples of what you were thinking of?
Rob Exile Ward on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh: 'transubstantiation' ... Er no the CoE don't belive in that, that's a big differentiater apparantly.
Coel Hellier - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> You introduced the subject of "evidence of metaphorical Interetation"

Sure, I accept that there could be evidence for metaphorical interpretations of religious texts.

> You introduced the subject of "evidence of metaphorical Interetation"Do you not have any examples of what you were thinking of?

I wasn't thinking of anything in particular, I was just stating the principle.
dissonance - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:
> (In reply to tom_in_edinburgh) 'transubstantiation' ... Er no the CoE don't belive in that, that's a big differentiater apparantly.

some parts do. Probably the same ones as were against the women bishops.

I am curious as to how they deal with a woman being in charge of the church overall. Do they just work on the figurehead principle and pretend it isnt happening.
Rob Exile Ward on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Rob Exile Ward: What about women who choose to become men? Are they then allowed to become bishops? Or men who are bishops, but then choose to have the op and become women? Does god cut off their other 'privileges' as well?

Bonkers, all of it.
Postmanpat on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> I wasn't thinking of anything in particular, I was just stating the principle.

And I was asking on the basis of that principle an example of the evidence you might demand but you seem to be unable to do that.

So in general terms what do you mean? Physical evidence? Scientifically measurable evidence?
Coel Hellier - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> And I was asking on the basis of that principle an example of the evidence you might demand but
> you seem to be unable to do that.

What evidence I would expect would depend on what the claim is, surely? I don't see how you can expect me to specify what evidence I'd accept for a claim, when we haven't even specified the claim.

> So in general terms what do you mean? Physical evidence? Scientifically measurable evidence?

I'll accept any forms of evidence, so long as we're allowed to evaluate whether it actually is evidence, and so long as we're not just expected to accept it "on faith".
The New NickB - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to tatty112:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)
> [...]
>
> Typical of the stupid comments we've come to expect of you on the subject of religion.

Go on, put together a coherent argument why you think this comment is stupid. The fact that you just don't like it doesn't count.
Postmanpat on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to
>
> I'll accept any forms of evidence, so long as we're allowed to evaluate whether it actually is evidence, and so long as we're not just expected to accept it "on faith".

You're being evasive. Apart from physical or scientifically measured evidence what might you include?
Coel Hellier - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> You're being evasive. Apart from physical or scientifically measured evidence what might you include?

I'm happy for anyone to propose what they like as evidence, so long as we're allowed to evaluate whether it actually is evidence, and so long as we're not just expected to accept it "on faith".
Jimbo W on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to dissonance:

> interesting. Out of curiosity what technique is used to decide when something is theology or not?
> The bishops etc who were arguing against it stated it was on theological grounds so be useful if you could clarify when its ok to dismiss claims which resort to theology as an excuse.

Well, the Anglican church is a broad one and is inclusive of very differing positions (as is evidenced by the vote today), and the Anglican church was only every a church half reformed. So I cannot speak in an absolute sense about what theology others would use. I can tell you my own view, and that is that the lens through which all scripture should be understood, contemplated and meditated upon, so as to know how to be, is via Jesus's new commandment: "Love one another; as I have loved you". For me, this invokes a) Jesus's example of love, and b) the nature of love itself. I find it utterly impossible on this basis to find scriptural difficulties with homosexuality, women as equal to men etc etc.
Postmanpat on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> I'm happy for anyone to propose what they like as evidence, so long as we're allowed to evaluate whether it actually is evidence, and so long as we're not just expected to accept it "on faith".

You continue to evade. You must surely have some idea of a form of non physical and non scientifically measurable evidence that you might accept or at least regard as worthy of evaluation?

Incidentally what do you think religion is?
Coel Hellier - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> You must surely have some idea of a form of non physical ...

Well this could take the debate in a whole new direction completely off-topic, but is there anything at all that is "non-physical"? Can you name anything that is "non-physical" and known to exist?

(By the way, I'm entirely happy to consider evidence of such "non-material" stuff.)

> Incidentally what do you think religion is?

Sets of ideas and practices that humans have about certain topics, usually involving life after death.
Rob Exile Ward on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W: Seems to me you define religion as 'love'.

Which is fine, except we already have a word for it.
winhill - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Trangia:

Apparently the deal breaker was the Flying Bishops.

They would have flown round the flock to administer to the bigots in an attempt to move forwards together.

If it's a hugely complex 'theological' point, as the bishops and clergy and laity voted in favour and just a minority of laity prevented it from going thru, then the hierarchy and the majority of the church have got it all wrong anyway.

They should kick out the bigots and maintain some integrity.
Postmanpat on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> Well this could take the debate in a whole new direction completely off-topic, but is there anything at all that is "non-physical"? Can you name anything that is "non-physical" and known to exist?
>
Emotions,Obviously. The fact that they are associated with a chemical or electrical occurrences ,by the way, does not make the emotion itself physical.

It's not "off topic". Religion is about non physical experience. Can you measure tht and if not do you deny it's existence?


>
> [...]
>
> Sets of ideas and practices that humans have about certain topics, usually involving life after death.

Rob Exile Ward on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat: 'Religion is about non physical experience'

Who claims that?
Postmanpat on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:
> (In reply to Postmanpat) 'Religion is about non physical experience'
>
> Who claims that?

Most religions. The word normally used in English is "spiritual"

Coel Hellier - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> Emotions,Obviously.

That's not at all obvious to me. Is a pattern of physical stuff physical? I say yes. A hurricane is a pattern of physical stuff, and is physical. Emotions are patterns of physical stuff, and are physical.

> Religion is about non physical experience.

Is it? Who says? Since experiences are patterns of physical stuff, experiences are physical. Are there non-physical experiences or non-physical anythings? It has not been established that there are.
Coel Hellier - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

>> Who claims that?

> Most religions.

Religions may indeed "claim" it; have they ever given us good evidence or reason to suppose their claim to be true?
Postmanpat on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> >> Who claims that?
>
> [...]
>
> Religions may indeed "claim" it; have they ever given us good evidence or reason to suppose their claim to be true?

So, just be clear, because their is no physical or measurable evidence of something claimed to be non physical and therefore non measurable you deny it's existence?
Postmanpat on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> That's not at all obvious to me. Is a pattern of physical stuff physical? I say yes. A hurricane is a pattern of physical stuff, and is physical. Emotions are patterns of physical stuff, and are physical.
>
> [...]
What is a "pattern of physical stuff" ?

Coel Hellier - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> So, just be clear, because their is no physical or measurable evidence of something claimed to be
> non physical and therefore non measurable you deny it's existence?

Once again you reverse the burden of proof and ask me to clarify a claim I haven't made.

You seem to be asserting that there are "non-physical" things, it is thus up to you to support your claim. My stance is that, so far, I have not encountered good reason to suppose that any "non-physical" stuff exists.
mkean - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Trangia:
As an atheist this isn't an area I'm clued up on: Can someone explain the theological basis for objecting to women bishops? Is it actually written in the bible or is it a more recent received custom?
Coel Hellier - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> What is a "pattern of physical stuff" ?

I gave a hurricane as an example. Which part is unclear? A "pattern" is a particular arrangement or lay-out; physical stuff includes atoms and molecules etc. A snowflake is a "pattern of physical stuff", so is a tree, and a book and a river.
Rob Exile Ward on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to mkean: Bizarre - a few English middle class weirdos dicsussing some obscure point of 1AD Middle East theology rates higher on the BBC website than real lives being lost in the ame area.
Postmanpat on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> Once again you reverse the burden of proof and ask me to clarify a claim I haven't made.
>
> You seem to be asserting that there are "non-physical" things, it is thus up to you to support your claim. My stance is that, so far, I have not encountered good reason to suppose that any "non-physical" stuff exists.

I've claimed no such thing. I've simply asked you to clarify your views. If, like me,you are not clear it seems slightly odd to act as if you are
Coel Hellier - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

Me> Can you name anything that is "non-physical" and known to exist?

You> Emotions,Obviously.

Me> You seem to be asserting that there are "non-physical" things ...

You> I've claimed no such thing.

????
Postmanpat on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Yes, true. So why o you think emotions are physical?
Jimbo W on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> Yes, true. So why o you think emotions are physical?

Because subjective experiences can be reduced and objectified into "patterns" of physical / material things behaving in the way they do. The subjective does not exist.
Sir Chasm - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat: What do you think they are?
Postmanpat on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> Because subjective experiences can be reduced and objectified into "patterns" of physical / material things behaving in the way they do. The subjective does not exist.

I'm not clear an objective pattern defines something as physical?
ads.ukclimbing.com
Postmanpat on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> Once again you reverse the burden of proof and ask me to clarify a claim I haven't made.
>
> You seem to be asserting that there are "non-physical" things, it is thus up to you to support your claim. My stance is that, so far, I have not encountered good reason to suppose that any "non-physical" stuff exists.

Anyway, I'll repeat my question: if you are not sure why do assert so strongly that those with a different view are wrong?

butteredfrog - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Trangia:

Ooohh the christians are a bit prickly tonight! :)

mkean - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:
Bizarre - a few English middle class weirdos dicsussing some obscure point of 1AD Middle East theology rates higher on the BBC website than real lives being lost in the ame area.

Is it? We are an island nation which alters our perception of the importance of events; the suffering of thousands in the middle east is awful but does it impact us? Will the discord in the Holy Lands alter the things we hold dear in the way that a schism in the Anglican church could? Will the plight of the people of Gaza have the potential to adversely affect the quantity and quality of baking at your local village fete? Middle England must focus on what is important and anything which brings discord to the parish church and its legion of bakers must be quashed!

;-)

Jimbo W on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> I'm not clear an objective pattern defines something as physical?

Well in essence, objectivity suggests that objects, and facts about them, have being / exist independent of the mind, and the way this is established in practice is via the social phenomenon of science involving falsification and consensus. These "objects" are material, i.e. physical, and the facts about them relate to their substance and behaviour "patterns". Emotions are merely the firing of a particular set of neurons in definable anatomic regions within the brain. The subjective experience is no more than an emergent phenomenon of this material physical reality, and in the objective sense doesn't have another being or reality, it is an illusion.
Postmanpat on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> Well in essence, objectivity suggests that objects, and facts about them, have being / exist independent of the mind, and the way this is established in practice is via the social phenomenon of science involving falsification and consensus. These "objects" are material, i.e. physical, and the facts about them relate to their substance and behaviour "patterns". Emotions are merely the firing of a particular set of neurons in definable anatomic regions within the brain. The subjective experience is no more than an emergent phenomenon of this material physical reality, and in the objective sense doesn't have another being or reality, it is an illusion.

Well, that is surely almost a tortology? Basically they are saying the reality of the emotion is the measurable activity of the neurons and that is physical. The product of that activity is not measurable because it is not physical and therefore we'll regard it as an illusion ie. non existent. And yet it exists.

Ultimately I am not sure heather it impinges on the broader point of whether there is a non-physical existence external to us but then neither do I necessarily think religious belief requires that there is such an external non physical existence.
Jonny2vests - on 21 Nov 2012
I love reading this shit. I'd contribute, but Coel doesn't seem to need any help.
butteredfrog - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to jonny2vests:

All hale the flying spagetti monster, blessed are the ones touched by his noodly appendage! :)
Postmanpat on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to jonny2vests:
> I love reading this shit. I'd contribute, but Coel doesn't seem to need any help.

Come on, you know you want to. Flying tea cup or spaghetti monster?
FiendishMcButton on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Trangia:

After all of the above and still no one has explained why women can't be bishops. Is it because female bishops would have to wear trousers!
dissonance - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to FiendishMcButton:

> After all of the above and still no one has explained why women can't be bishops. Is it because female bishops would have to wear trousers!

nah bishops wear cassocks.
Jimbo W on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> Well, that is surely almost a tortology? Basically they are saying the reality of the emotion is the measurable activity of the neurons and that is physical. The product of that activity is not measurable because it is not physical and therefore we'll regard it as an illusion ie. non existent. And yet it exists.

> Ultimately I am not sure heather it impinges on the broader point of whether there is a non-physical existence external to us but then neither do I necessarily think religious belief requires that there is such an external non physical existence.

Well I agree with all of that.
butteredfrog - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:
> (In reply to Jimbo W)

> Ultimately I am not sure heather it impinges on the broader point of whether there is a non-physical existence external to us but then neither do I necessarily think religious belief requires that there is such an external non physical existence.

......and yet you deny the existance of the flying spagetti monster.

butteredfrog - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Trangia:

Anyway why are women not allowed to be bishops?
FiendishMcButton on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to dissonance:
> (In reply to FiendishMcButton)
>
> [...]
>
> nah bishops wear cassocks.

Cocks and Ass now it makes sense. Female bishops would have to wear Fassannys, they will hopefully look like this ;) http://tinyurl.com/cjqmpod
Padraig on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Trangia:

In which bit of the bible does God say "On this rock I shall build my Church. It shall have the same membership policy as The Garrick Club"?
Trangia - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to butteredfrog:
> (In reply to Trangia)
>
> Anyway why are women not allowed to be bishops?

I think it's because St Paul said so - he didn't like women. St Paul actually never met Jesus who left nothing in writing, so everything he knew about his teachings is hearsay, but what the hell, that's a perfectly good foundation for a religion isn't it?
birdie num num - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to butteredfrog:
> (In reply to Trangia)
>
> Anyway why are women not allowed to be bishops?

It's because as soon as you made a woman a bishop, she'd be off on maternity leave just as you want some bishopping done.
In reply to birdie num num: For a virgin birth...
birdie num num - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Submit to Gravity:
Actually it was a knee trembler with Num Num in the vestry. After confession.
butteredfrog - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to birdie num num:

Actually it was a knee trembler with Num Num in the vestry. After confession.

That sounds like an idea for a new board game
hokkyokusei - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to The Lemming:
>
> If many women leave the church, where would they go, Islam?

The Church of England doesn't have a monopoly on the worship of the Christian God.
MG - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Trangia: Why is the church legally allowed to do this? Every other organisation is compelled to treat people equally and is condemmed and criminalised if they do not. Why do we not just chqnge the law?

...and after being treated specially and with kid gloves, having members in the Lords, subsidised schools, etc etc, the religous whinge endlessly about being victimised by a secular society!
MG - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to MG: And rather reluctantly, I now have no doubt the CoE should be stripped of all its establised roles and separated from the state. Although an atheist, I did see its social and historical role as important but since it is clearly just a last haven for sexist, homphobic bigots, it should go.
John_Hat - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:

Trouble is, I actually think the Church's message - to love one another, treat others well, not be selfish, lying, backstabbing scum, etc - is actually a message that I would like to see propagated more through society.

Heaven knows the politicians are exactly the opposite, as are many business folk and "celebrities". There are far too many people actively encouraging the "do unto others before they do it unto you" mentality, which I think makes the world a less happy place. And these people are absolutely getting it right when it comes to relevance to and engagement with everyday people.

The church is pretty much the only institution where the core message is actually trying to make the world a better place. And they appear to be doing their utmost to actively disengage with everyday people. I'm no Christian, but I think that yesterdays decision is a bad one for the church and the country.
John_Hat - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to John_Hat:

Incidentally, it's worth pointing out that the bishops and clergy voted in favour of women bishops by a large - and in the case of bishops - overwhelming - margin.

It's the bl**dy laity who appear to be stuck in the stone age. Hopefully they'll all die off over time and be replaced by people to whom the 21st century is not quite such a scary place, but my worry is they'll die off and be replaced by nobody, and the church will essentially die.
Cthulhu on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
>
> [...]
>
> An excellent decision. A sad day for the church.

Why is it an excellent decision? Seriously, what possible merit is there in it? I'm genuinely curious as to why you think this - I agree with your views on religion, but this has me puzzled!

Pete_Robinson on 21 Nov 2012
So most sensible and rational people agree that this is a bad thing for society (the institutionalised sexism I mean, not the decision of the synod), but not entirely unexpected given the nature of the institution.

So my question is: Given that we live in a democracy, and supposedly a secular society (ha!), and I would imagine that a separation of church and state is desired by most of the population if they thought properly about it (or soon will be), how does the country go about achieving this? What steps would have to be taken / laws changed etc? What would the timeline be? How feasible is it?
Jim Lancs - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to John_Hat:
> Incidentally, it's worth pointing out that the bishops and clergy voted in favour of women bishops by a large - and in the case of bishops - overwhelming - margin.
>
> It's the bl**dy laity . . .

But not all the laity; It's the evangelicals that don't want women Bishops and it's women evangelicals that they've used to be the mouth piece for their lobbying. There were a couple on the radio yesterday saying God doesn't see there being a hierarchy in his work and all jobs are equally important, but different and done by the different sexes. So the men are Bishops and the ladies make the tea and in God's eyes everyone is just as important and equal.

If that's the case, God must be blind; Bishops get a palace to live in, tea ladies don't.
MG - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to John_Hat:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> Trouble is, I actually think the Church's message - to love one another, treat others well, not be selfish, lying, backstabbing scum, etc - is actually a message that I would like to see propagated more through society.

I am struggling to see how you draw that conclusion from this. "Treat others well unless they are a bit different" seems to be the message. The leadership is totally ineffectual too. The current and prospective archbishops both pay lip service to treating people fairly but clearly won't actually do in anything practical to encourage it. Williams has repeatedly acquiesced to homophobes demands from all over the world, destroying several careers in the process. And now this where neither he nor the Welby see fit to make a stand. At best they are both grossly hypocritical but more likely I think passively supportive of the sexist homophobic position of the church.

Dan_S - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Pete_Robinson:
>... how does the country go about achieving this? What steps would have to be taken / laws changed etc? What would the timeline be? How feasible is it?

The first place to start, in the UK at least, would be to remove the automatically reserved places in the House of Lords for members of the CofE
Alyson - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Cthulhu:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)
> [...]
>
> Why is it an excellent decision? Seriously, what possible merit is there in it? I'm genuinely curious as to why you think this - I agree with your views on religion, but this has me puzzled!

I think Coel was just saying that the decision paints the church in a poor light, so to him this is good. Bit like your enemy shooting themself in the foot, so to speak, although 'enemy' might be too strong a word (Actually in Coel's case possibly not! :-) )
Robert Durran - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:
> Basically they are saying the reality of the emotion is the measurable activity of the neurons and that is physical. The product of that activity is not measurable because it is not physical and therefore we'll regard it as an illusion ie. non existent. And yet it exists.

I think thge point is that it's non-physicality is an illusion. It is in fact real and physical and exists. Our brains are just wired in such a way that makes it seem non-physical.
Clarence - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to John_Hat:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> Trouble is, I actually think the Church's message - to love one another, treat others well, not be selfish, lying, backstabbing scum, etc - is actually a message that I would like to see propagated more through society.

Me too, only I don't want to have to join what is basically a late Imperial Roman court hierarchy in order to do so. I have yet to hear a convincing argument for the priesthood full stop. As far as I can see, real modernisation is not possible in a structure that has been ossifying and providing "jobs for the boys" since Constantine saw "in hoc signo vinces" (yeah I know it was in greek but I went to a Catholic school). Maybe it is time to get rid of the priesthood, deacon, priest and bishop alike and appoint secular managers for the funds and fabric. The laity could then find whoever they wanted to speak to God for them or just get on with it themselves, aided by properly trained theologians on call for those difficult questions. Of course that all sounds a bit Rabbinical...
Sir Chasm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran: PMP is yet to explain what emotions are if they're not physical.
dissonance - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:
> Williams has repeatedly acquiesced to homophobes demands from all over the world, destroying several careers in the process. And now this where neither he nor the Welby see fit to make a stand.

in fairness they have a horrendously hard job with even the C of E covering a massive range of views and the wider Anglican community even more.
It would be like Cameron or Milliband being the spokesman of the tories, labour, greens, ukip, bnp and the SWP.
With no one really wanting to be in charge of the ending of an organisation its easiest to maintain the existing state.
mark s - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Dan_S:
> (In reply to Pete_Robinson)
> >... how does the country go about achieving this? What steps would have to be taken / laws changed etc? What would the timeline be? How feasible is it?
>
> The first place to start, in the UK at least, would be to remove the automatically reserved places in the House of Lords for members of the CofE

I was thinking along those lines.I don't know who has the power over those in the lords.surely if its the current government,that's a vote winner next election.saying they will be booted out,the vast majority of the country would be up for that.
MG - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to dissonance:
> (In reply to MG)
> [...]

That's hardly leadership though is it? If Welby had publically said yesterday morning, "I will not take up the Archbishop's post if this vote is lost", do you not think things might have gone differently?
dissonance - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:

> ...and after being treated specially and with kid gloves, having members in the Lords, subsidised schools, etc etc, the religous whinge endlessly about being victimised by a secular society!

it is remarkable how many of the cries of persecution really are cries for special treatment.
dissonance - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:

> That's hardly leadership though is it?

personally, nope it aint. However would you want to be ArchBishop MG who was in charge when the Anglican communion finally failed? Especially since even within England one of the few areas which isnt collapsing in numbers is the more evangelical types. Who tend to be a tad more hardline.

> If Welby had publically said yesterday morning, "I will not take up the Archbishop's post if this vote is lost", do you not think things might have gone differently?

to be honest, probably not. I would suspect some might see it as an opportunity to try and get someone they see as more suitable in.
Postmanpat on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:
> (In reply to Robert Durran) PMP is yet to explain what emotions are if they're not physical.

Define "physical"

ads.ukclimbing.com
Sir Chasm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat: You asked, upthread, why coel thought emotions were physical. What do you think emotions are if they are not physical?
MG - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:
> (In reply to Sir Chasm)
> [...]
>
> Define "physical"

To do with atoms and forces and stuff?

Robert Durran - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:
> (In reply to Sir Chasm)
> [...]
>
> Define "physical"

As Coel said, atoms, molecules etc. As governed by the laws of physics.

Postmanpat on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:
> (In reply to Postmanpat) You asked, upthread, why coel thought emotions were physical. What do you think emotions are if they are not physical?

Non physical. But this obviously depends on the definition of physical hence my question.

Sir Chasm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat: Anything corporeal is physical, emotions do not exist outside of the body hence they are physical.
In reply to butteredfrog: Bash the Bishop?
Irk the Purist - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Trangia:

I think it's fun. It's shown the CofE to be more like the village fete committee than I thought possible! Everyone gets a vote? Amazing. I think it was Eddie Izzard who said it was more a hobby than a religion.

Horatio on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
>
> [...]
>
> An excellent decision. A sad day for the church.

What are you hoping to achieve?
Postmanpat on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:
> (In reply to Postmanpat) Anything corporeal is physical, emotions do not exist outside of the body hence they are physical.

Those are unsupported assertions with which I simply disagree and I don't have the time or knowledge to enter into a long ontological debate on cartesian dualism.

As I said above, I don't really regard the definition of "emotions" or their existence as non physical phenomenon as key to the argument about religion. When I said that emotions are non physical I was simply answering Coel's question about whether something non physical exists.



IainRUK - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Horatio: They've shot themselves in the foot..

How can they go against state rules yet get state funding?

This is actually a massive issue now and could lead to segregation of church and state.

Postmanpat on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
> [...]
>
> As Coel said, atoms, molecules etc. As governed by the laws of physics.

On such a definition how would you regard an idea or an emotion as physical?

Sir Chasm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat: I see, you think emotions are not physical but you have no argument to support your fanciful notion. Run along.
MG - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
> [...]
>
> On such a definition how would you regard an idea or an emotion as physical?

Interaction between particles in our brains surely? As evidence by scans etc of people thinking and feeling emotions.

graeme jackson - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Trangia:

At least it'll cut down on physical abuse of women. bashing the bishop is such a widespread pastime amongst the male population
beardy mike - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to IainRUK: I really really hope so. Quite why the church still has anything to do with the governance of the country is beyond me... the church has a massive vested interest, and although of course you see lords and mps sitting at parliament who also run companies, its not quite on the same scale. How does an institution like the church manage to justify its position in government when they represent a small and decreasing percentage of the population? Not even our monarch is allowed any part in day to day governance and hasn't been for centuries!
Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> Anyway, I'll repeat my question: if you are not sure why do assert so strongly that those with a different view are wrong?

You are doing a heck of a lot of putting words into my mouth. If you want me to defend something I've said, please quote what I actually said.
Postmanpat on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:
> (In reply to Postmanpat) I see, you think emotions are not physical but you have no argument to support your fanciful notion. Run along.

Ditto you

If you think the existence of a whole school of philosophical thought is "no argument" then so be it but I am sure if you have more time than me you will take it upon yourself to study the arguments. toodlepip x
Sir Chasm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to MG: Don't be silly. Ideas and emotions just float around in the aether, drifting in and out of people, like souls.
beardy mike - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat: Well being that emotions are an electrical signal, i.e. consist of electrons, they are physical. As much as an electron is physical at any rate...
Kemics - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Trangia:

I think all people regardless of gender should be able to play dress up as wizards.

ads.ukclimbing.com
TheDrunkenBakers - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to John_Hat:
> (In reply to John_Hat)
>

>
> It's the bl**dy laity who appear to be stuck in the stone age. Hopefully they'll all die off over time and be replaced by people to whom the 21st century is not quite such a scary place, but my worry is they'll die off and be replaced by nobody, and the church will essentially die.

And why might this be a problem. The Church has shown itself to be a bit shite overall so why not allow it to self implode - unless those Scientology nutters take over. Or Muslims. Or Catholics.
Postmanpat on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> You are doing a heck of a lot of putting words into my mouth. If you want me to defend something I've said, please quote what I actually said.

Let' hear it from the horse's mouth then. So when you come on to the so religion threads what is it you are actually attacking?

Robert Durran - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
>
> On such a definition how would you regard an idea or an emotion as physical?

Just because we havn't yet worked out how to fully explain such things in terms of the laws of physics, doesn't mean it can't be done. Maybe we just need to think harder, come up with some new mathematids or possibly some new physics.

I expect that people like you would in the past have claimed that,say, fire or wind was non physical.

Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Cthulhu:

> Why is it an excellent decision? Seriously, what possible merit is there in it? I'm genuinely curious as
> to why you think this - I agree with your views on religion, but this has me puzzled!

The decision is "excellent" in that it will damage the CofE and help to divorce the CofE from society, helping the case for disestablishment.

I'm told that voicing such an opinion is "childish".
Sir Chasm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat: Help me out then, what form do you think emotions take?
Postmanpat on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to mike kann:
> (In reply to Postmanpat) Well being that emotions are an electrical signal, i.e. consist of electrons, they are physical. As much as an electron is physical at any rate...

No, the electrical signal triggers the emotion. That does not mean it is the same thing as the emotion.

Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Horatio:

> What are you hoping to achieve?

Disestablishment and an end to "faith" schools.
Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> On such a definition how would you regard an idea or an emotion as physical?

Straightforwardly. Ideas and emotions are patterns of physical stuff.
Postmanpat on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Cthulhu)
>
>
> I'm told that voicing such an opinion is "childish".

No you weren't. You were told your mode of doing so was "childish"

Jim Lancs - on 21 Nov 2012
> Disestablishment and an end to "faith" schools.

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, please.
Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> If you think the existence of a whole school of philosophical thought is "no argument" then so be it
> but I am sure if you have more time than me you will take it upon yourself to study the arguments.

Come on, no-one (sensible) has taken your Cartesian dualism seriously for over a hundred years.
Pete_Robinson on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to IainRUK:
> How can they go against state rules yet get state funding?

> This is actually a massive issue now and could lead to segregation of church and state.

But practically how does this happen?
Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> So when you come on to the so religion threads what is it you are actually attacking?

Mostly, the harmful effects that religion has on society, and the special privileges that religious people think they are entitled to just because they believe in hobgoblins and faeries.
Postmanpat on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
> [...]
>
> Just because we havn't yet worked out how to fully explain such things in terms of the laws of physics, doesn't mean it can't be done. Maybe we just need to think harder, come up with some new mathematids or possibly some new physics.
>
> I expect that people like you would in the past have claimed that,say, fire or wind was non physical.

Maybe, maybe not, but the first example doesn't necessarily follow from the second.


Postmanpat on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> Mostly, the harmful effects that religion has on society, and the special privileges that religious people think they are entitled to just because they believe in hobgoblins and faeries.

You are conflating three things: organised religion, the "rights and privileges" of those religions, and religious or spiritual beliefs and using them as sticks to beat each other with.

I am asking you about your views on the latter and if you have a problem with religious and spiritual beliefs and if so what the problem is.

beardy mike - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat: Emotion is a "feeling" created by a combination of electrical signals, chemical changes and our ability to think, which again is purely physical. What part of the emotion is not there entirely through good fortune and evolution? Are you seriously trying to suggest that there is some hocus pocus to do with a higher being that makes emotions anything more than what I've just suggested? Next you'll be telling me the world was created in 7 days... or that the bible was written in one sitting just after the life of christ rather than a bunch of hairy blokes in a variety of shacks over a long period of time, hashing and rehashing to suit their own ends. Or that mother Theresa truly was a saint, an angel (of death apparently) sent by god himself to make people pure... the church has done some much collective evil over the millennia, isn't it time they stopped and if they don't stop of their own volition, we withdraw their rights and privileges? Its up to you what you want to believe in, just don't impose it on others or on children who aren't yet capable of deciding for themselves.
Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> You are conflating three things: organised religion, the "rights and privileges" of those religions, and religious or spiritual beliefs ...

I'm entirely clear on the distinction between those. If you think I have got confused over this feel free to support that suggestion with an actual quote.

> I am asking you about your views on the latter and if you have a problem with religious and spiritual
> beliefs and if so what the problem is.

Depends what you mean by "have a problem with". I would say that most "religious and spiritual beliefs" are not supported by evidence, being based on wishful-thinking and psychological need rather than evidence, and thus they are unlikely to be true.
Wonko The Sane - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)
> [...]
>
> You are conflating three things: organised religion, the "rights and privileges" of those religions, and religious or spiritual beliefs and using them as sticks to beat each other with.
>
> I am asking you about your views on the latter and if you have a problem with religious and spiritual beliefs and if so what the problem is.

Practically no atheist I know cares if people hold religious views.

The problem is, organised religion, the rights and priviledges thereof ARE linked.

When they are no longer allowed to be linked in any way (I.E. your beliefs are not allowed to affect anyone else), you'll find most atheists will leave reiligion alone.
Horatio on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to IainRUK:

> This is actually a massive issue now and could lead to segregation of church and state.

So what role does the church play in the state today? What powers does it have, how much funding does it receive and what is the funding for?
Dave Garnett - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> Straightforwardly. Ideas and emotions are patterns of physical stuff.

Well, yes, although that's not terribly useful way of describing complex emergent phenomena is it? Even assuming that there isn't any new physics happening in consciousness (I think Roger Penrose comes off the rails when he starts speculating about cell biology, for instance, but that's not to say that there couldn't be something really new and interesting going on).

Anyway, this is somewhat off topic.
ads.ukclimbing.com
Postmanpat on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> I'm entirely clear on the distinction between those. If you think I have got confused over this feel free to support that suggestion with an actual quote.
>
That you are clear about the distinction does not mean that you don't in practice conflate them.
"the special privileges that religious people think they are entitled to just because they believe in hobgoblins and faeries."
You have caricatured the beliefs of those you refer to used that caricature as a stick with which to attack their right to privileges thus conflating the issues. You know that they don't believe in hobgoblins and faeries but it is far from clear that you know what they do believe in.
>
> Depends what you mean by "have a problem with". I would say that most "religious and spiritual beliefs" are not supported by evidence, being based on wishful-thinking and psychological need rather than evidence, and thus they are unlikely to be true.

Since you are unable to tell us what you regard as "evidence" there is not much to argue about.

Horatio on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier: Disestablishment to what end? Can you give specific examples of what changes you would like to see implemented?

Do you mean an end to comprehensive faith schools?
Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Wonko The Sane:

> When they are no longer allowed to be linked in any way (I.E. your beliefs are not allowed to
> affect anyone else), you'll find most atheists will leave reiligion alone.

That's right, for example very few atheists bother to critique Quaker religion, since it is (to quote Ford Prefect) "mostly harmless".

But if you have a system where religion has special and privileged influence over schools, the legislature, laws on assisted dying, gay marriage, abortion, etc, then that makes religion entirely fair game.
beardy mike - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Horatio:
This is the role:
http://www.churchofengland.org/our-views/the-church-in-parliament/bishops-in-the-house-of-lords.aspx

This is the funding - tax rebates to the tune of millions... 60 million income tax, 6 million VAT refund! Imagine what we could do with those millions - fund hospitals, run schools...

http://www.churchofengland.org/about-us/facts-stats/funding.aspx

http://www.humanism.org.uk/news/view/1008
jonathan shepherd - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat: Of course they don't believe in hobgoblins and faeries, that would involve believing in stories and heresay passed down over hundreds of years and that would just be silly wouldn't it. :)
Postmanpat on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to mike kann:
> (In reply to Postmanpat) Emotion is a "feeling" created by a combination of electrical signals, chemical changes and our ability to think, which again is purely physical.

Are you on drugs or something. None of the latter follows from the former. it's just an emotional rant.

You simply seem to unable to understand the concept of the difference between a cause and an outcome.

MG - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> You have caricatured the beliefs of those you refer to used that caricature as a stick with which to attack their right to privileges thus conflating the issues. You know that they don't believe in hobgoblins and faeries but it is far from clear that you know what they do believe in.


Well whatever it is ("god") clearly tells them women and gays are inferior (for all their weasel words). Is believing in that sort of being so different to believing in fairies and hobgoblins?
Chris the Tall - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to John_Hat:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> Trouble is, I actually think the Church's message - to love one another, treat others well, not be selfish, lying, backstabbing scum, etc - is actually a message that I would like to see propagated more through society.
>
I think we should start a new movement - "Aetheists for Jesus" - for those of us you beleive in the core message that Jesus preached without any of the supernatural crap that got tagged on a later stage.
Postmanpat on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to jonathan shepherd:
> (In reply to Postmanpat) Of course they don't believe in hobgoblins and faeries, that would involve believing in stories and heresay passed down over hundreds of years and that would just be silly wouldn't it. :)

In my view yes, so what?

Sir Chasm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat: What form do you think emotions take if not physical?
Carolyn - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to John_Hat:

> Trouble is, I actually think the Church's message - to love one another, treat others well, not be selfish, lying, backstabbing scum, etc - is actually a message that I would like to see propagated more through society.

......

> The church is pretty much the only institution where the core message is actually trying to make the world a better place. And they appear to be doing their utmost to actively disengage with everyday people. I'm no Christian, but I think that yesterdays decision is a bad one for the church and the country.

Hows about Humanism? That appears to advocate those kind of values, without any requirement to believe in a spiritual being.

Many charitable organisations would also have a core message around trying to make the world a better place, though usually more focussed.

Horatio on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to mike kann:

Is this any worse than hereditary peerage?


> This is the funding - tax rebates to the tune of millions... 60 million income tax, 6 million VAT refund! Imagine what we could do with those millions - fund hospitals, run schools...
>
> http://www.churchofengland.org/about-us/facts-stats/funding.aspx
>
> http://www.humanism.org.uk/news/view/1008

So does the church get funding or tax rebates?
Robert Durran - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
> [...]
>
> Maybe, maybe not, but the first example doesn't necessarily follow from the second.

No, but it does illustrate your naivety.

Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Horatio:

> Do you mean an end to comprehensive faith schools?

I think it is morally wrong for access to taxpayer-funded schools to be determined by parental religious belief. I think it is morally wrong for schools to be allowed to impose religious practice on pupils and for the pupils to have no religious freedom.

I'd thus make a law prohibiting schools from taking religious belief into account in admissions ("religious equality"). And I'd make a law prohibiting schools from coercing pupils to be religious ("religious freedom").

I'd prohibit taxpayer-funded schools from using religious belief as a criterion in who they hire as teachers.

I'd also remove bishops' right to seats in the House of Lords (no objection to a few being appointed on the same basis as others).

I'd change charity law so that no charities had to provide their services regardless of the religious beliefs of recipients.

I'd remove charitable status from religions. I don't see why going to church on a Sunday should be any more charitable than going to the golf club on a Sunday (I'd retain charitable status for actual charitable works done by religious bodies).

That's do for starters.
beardy mike - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat: So your whole argument effectively revolves around "you cant prove god doesn't exist" i.e. take it on faith, and in turn take it on faith that women shouldn't be allowed to be in positions of power. So we should take it on faith that we should subjugate women, just because there might or might not be a god who reckons that it might or might not be a good idea, but we're not quite sure, so we'll just subjugate them anyway. How charitable. I seem to remember there being something about god loving everybody equally? I might be paraphrasing, but I would have thought that extends to all things in life, not just the things the general synod wants them to.
MG - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat: Do you have a view on the church's decision?
Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> You have caricatured the beliefs of those you refer to used that caricature as a stick with which
> to attack their right to privileges thus conflating the issues.

No, it is they who conflate the issue. "We believe in hobgoblins and faeries, therefore we are entitled to our own schools, seats in the Lords, charitable status, and special deference on all matters of morality".

> You know that they don't believe in hobgoblins and faeries ...

Well, they do believe in gods, ghoulies and ghosts. Same thing really.
Postmanpat on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
> [...]
>
> No, but it does illustrate your naivety.

How?

Postmanpat on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to Postmanpat) Do you have a view on the church's decision?

Yes, mad.

Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Horatio:

> Is this any worse than hereditary peerage?

No, but nobody is defending that either.

> So does the church get funding or tax rebates?

They don't get direct funding (not since 1911 or so), they do get big tax breaks from charitable status.
ads.ukclimbing.com
beardy mike - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Horatio: Does a single hereditary peer have an agenda like the church?

A tax rebate is effectively funding. It is relieving the church of its financial duties to society. If you had any other institution that large, asking for a tax rebate they would be told to get lost. Even the NHS pays corporation tax on some activities.
Horatio on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Horatio)
>
> [...]
>
> I think it is morally wrong for access to taxpayer-funded schools to be determined by parental religious belief. I think it is morally wrong for schools to be allowed to impose religious practice on pupils and for the pupils to have no religious freedom.
>
> I'd thus make a law prohibiting schools from taking religious belief into account in admissions ("religious equality"). And I'd make a law prohibiting schools from coercing pupils to be religious ("religious freedom").
>
> I'd prohibit taxpayer-funded schools from using religious belief as a criterion in who they hire as teachers.

> I'd change charity law so that no charities had to provide their services regardless of the religious beliefs of recipients.
>
> I'd remove charitable status from religions. I don't see why going to church on a Sunday should be any more charitable than going to the golf club on a Sunday (I'd retain charitable status for actual charitable works done by religious bodies).
>
> That's do for starters.


Agree entirely.


> I'd also remove bishops' right to seats in the House of Lords (no objection to a few being appointed on the same basis as others).

Do you believe that it is the Bishops' right to seats in the House of Lords that keeps what you've mentioned above in place? Do you believe hereditary seats should be removed also?
Postmanpat on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to mike kann:
> (In reply to Postmanpat) So your whole argument effectively revolves around "you cant prove god doesn't exist" i.e. take it on faith, and in turn take it on faith that women shouldn't be allowed to be in positions of power. So we should take it on faith that we should subjugate women, just because there might or might not be a god who reckons that it might or might not be a good idea, but we're not quite sure, so we'll just subjugate them anyway. How charitable.

Er, what argument? I haven't given a view on any of those topics and wouldn't share those that you list? Have you confused me with a stereotype of your own imagination?
Postmanpat on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> Well, they do believe in gods, ghoulies and ghosts. Same thing really.

Back to square one I think. You betray very little understanding of spiritual belief and prefer to employ a simplistic and literal caricature of it .

Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> Back to square one I think. You betray very little understanding of spiritual belief and
> prefer to employ a simplistic and literal caricature of it .

Nope. I actually understand spiritual belief quite well AND employ derogatory caricatures of it.
Robert Durran - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
>
> How?

By not learning from history that the currently inexplicable by physics, can later become explicable.

Postmanpat on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> Nope. I actually understand spiritual belief quite well AND employ derogatory caricatures of it.

I look forward to any evidence of that assertion.

Horatio on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to mike kann: So as I am to understand it the movement wishes to end to tax rebates for the church (due to their charitable status), end state funded state schools and remove Lords Spiritual seats?
Postmanpat on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
> [...]
>
> By not learning from history that the currently inexplicable by physics, can later become explicable.

I acknowledged that. Maybe you are the naive one?

Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> I look forward to any evidence of that assertion.

Yeah but you see, discussing spiritual belief doesn't really interest me that much, that's why I don't do it much. What I post about is mostly the harmful effect religion has on society.
beardy mike - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat: Maybe its not your arguement - I haven't read the whole thread. It certainly appears that you support the churchs decision. My stereotype is certainly about those who believe in a christian god and support the CofE and thus support their decision.
Darren Jackson - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to mike kann:

I'm no longer flexible enough to bite my toenails :-(
beardy mike - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Horatio: Yep. Here's another example of the church getting an easy time: http://davidkeen.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/clergy-tax-avoidance.html

Why should vicars be allowed an easy time? Why are they considered different to anybody else. The earn on average 26000 a year, more than enough to pay tax as everybody else does, considering they get lodgings paid for etc.
Horatio on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> Nope. I actually understand spiritual belief quite well AND employ derogatory caricatures of it.

This is what I don't understand, I understand and support the movement to separate church and state and fully support it, but why employ derogatory caricatures of it? What about it do you find so offensive?
Postmanpat on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to mike kann:
> (In reply to Postmanpat) Maybe its not your arguement - I haven't read the whole thread.

Well maybe you should before you start making completely unfounded assertions.
Horatio on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to mike kann: I agree with you! Was just asking questions.
Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Horatio:

> This is what I don't understand, I understand and support the movement to separate church and state and
> fully support it, but why employ derogatory caricatures of it?

Because being derogatory about it helps to end the bubble of undeserved deference and respect that society still offers to religions.

Too often the unthinking assumption is made that a religious view should be "respected" just because it's religious.
Postmanpat on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> Yeah but you see, discussing spiritual belief doesn't really interest me that much, that's why I don't do it much. What I post about is mostly the harmful effect religion has on society.

Ah, I see. Maybe best you stick to the latter then.

Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> Ah, I see. Maybe best you stick to the latter then.

Well I do, mostly. (But you are still incorrect to assert that I don't understand religious belief or are "literalist" about it.)
TheDrunkenBakers - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Horatio)
>
> [...]
>
> I think it is morally wrong for access to taxpayer-funded schools to be determined by parental religious belief. I think it is morally wrong for schools to be allowed to impose religious practice on pupils and for the pupils to have no religious freedom.
>
> I'd thus make a law prohibiting schools from taking religious belief into account in admissions ("religious equality"). And I'd make a law prohibiting schools from coercing pupils to be religious ("religious freedom").
>
> I'd prohibit taxpayer-funded schools from using religious belief as a criterion in who they hire as teachers.
>
> I'd also remove bishops' right to seats in the House of Lords (no objection to a few being appointed on the same basis as others).
>
> I'd change charity law so that no charities had to provide their services regardless of the religious beliefs of recipients.
>
> I'd remove charitable status from religions. I don't see why going to church on a Sunday should be any more charitable than going to the golf club on a Sunday (I'd retain charitable status for actual charitable works done by religious bodies).
>
> That's do for starters.

Agreed, Coel for PM.

I would go one further too and bring about a law which states that you can no more discriminate against a child with no religion as you could about the colour of their skin, their disability or their sexual orientation. Thise that do should be named, shamed and brought before the courts.

You have really touched a raw nerve here with me.

I find it uttlerly disgusting that because I proudly claim atheism that my children, whom I allow to make their own choices on religion, will therefore be ineligable to apply to faith schools, which in my area, unfortunately, means they have to attend special measures schooling.

Makes me want to bang my head against a brick wall just thinking about it.

ads.ukclimbing.com
TheDrunkenBakers - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Horatio)
>
> [...]
>
> Because being derogatory about it helps to end the bubble of undeserved deference and respect that society still offers to religions.
>
> Too often the unthinking assumption is made that a religious view should be "respected" just because it's religious.

Coel, I kid you not, if you were here I would shake you by the hand.

Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to TheDrunkenBakers:

> I would go one further too and bring about a law which states that you can no more discriminate
> against a child with no religion as you could about the colour of their skin, their disability or
> their sexual orientation. Thise that do should be named, shamed and brought before the courts.

Absolutely. And what's more the overwhelming majority agree with us.

"Some 73 per cent of adults polled by ComRes said that primaries and secondaries should be banned from discriminating “against prospective pupils on religious grounds”. Fewer than a fifth of the 2,000 people surveyed agreed with current rules."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/9670234/Selection-by-religion-should-be-banned-in...

It's outrageous that this corrupt system of religious politicians listening to the small-but-vocal religious lobby and making rules that favour the religious is perpetuated against the wishes of the overwhelming majority.
Horatio on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Horatio)
>
> [...]
>
> Because being derogatory about it helps to end the bubble of undeserved deference and respect that society still offers to religions.

Really? I'd argue that a clear message about what religion is, why it came about and how it has been exploited would do more to end the bubble. Religion isn't inherently wrong or foolish, it's just as much part of human nature as any of our other peculiarities.


> Too often the unthinking assumption is made that a religious view should be "respected" just because it's religious.

How does a derogatory caricature help too undo this? Why not simply state why the view should not be respected. People are much more likely to listen and engage with you if they don't feel like their beliefs are being attacked.
handjammer - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Trangia: I presume it's so that men can't bash their bishops.
tlm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to The Lemming:

> Don't suppose the atheists can take a back-seat on this one?
>
> Surely its the polite thing to do?

Erm....

26 places in the house of lords are reserved for bishops. So at the moment, those places are reserved for men.

I think, as an atheist, this actually has an impact on my life.

Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Horatio:

> I'd argue that a clear message about what religion is, why it came about and how it has been
> exploited would do more to end the bubble.

Why sure, I'm all for that. Indeed, Derren Brown's latest "fear and faith" episodes were totally excellent. For anyone claiming that atheists like Derren Brown don't understand religion, sorry, atheists understand these things *way* better than the religious (such as our own Tim Chappell and Jimbo W). Derren Brown understands religion *way* better than Rowan Williams or other theologians who are (for some reason) well thought of.

> How does a derogatory caricature help too undo this? Why not simply state why the view should not be respected.

Because people are emotional beings as much as rational ones and the reasoning-only approach ignores that.

> People are much more likely to listen and engage with you if they don't feel like their beliefs
> are being attacked.

Sure, and that encounter is far less likely to have any lasting effect on them. And, further, the audience isn't necessarily the true believers, it's the "cultural Christians" who have been taught to have respect and deference for religion, while not really believing themselves.
tlm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to tatty112:
> (In reply to Trangia) For people who voted against women Bishops it's a theological issue rather than an issue with women. To accuse the CofE of sexism as a result of this decision is lazy and ignorant.

Especially seeing as most people DID vote for women bishops. So the majority ARE in favour. It's just not a system of majority rule, it's a system of slow change.... :-)

tlm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:
...]
> Emotions,Obviously. The fact that they are associated with a chemical or electrical occurrences ,by the way, does not make the emotion itself physical.

Goodness! Of course emotions are physical! :-) What are they if they aren't physical????? They are pretty easy to measure....
tlm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> What is a "pattern of physical stuff" ?

Weather, electricity, light, behaviour....

tlm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to mkean:
> (In reply to Trangia)
> As an atheist this isn't an area I'm clued up on: Can someone explain the theological basis for objecting to women bishops? Is it actually written in the bible or is it a more recent received custom?


I think the thing is, if a woman is a priest, and you object to women priests, then you can avoid a woman priest quite easily. However, if women become bishops (which some people would consider as not really a bishop) and then they ordain a male priest (who therefore wouldn't be a real priest) you would have no way of telling that he wasn't a real priest. I heard one woman in tears over it - she hated all the fighting, but felt she would have to become a catholic! It was quite sad...
Sir Chasm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to tlm: Good luck with getting an answer, pat's a bit coy about what emotions are if they're not physical.
tlm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)
>
> Yes, true. So why o you think emotions are physical?

http://tinyurl.com/cng52gj
TheDrunkenBakers - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to tlm:
> (In reply to mkean)
> [...]
>
>
>I heard one woman in tears over it - she hated all the fighting, but felt she would have to become a catholic! It was quite sad...

Why choose Catholic when she could choose enlightenment, and bin the whole torrid religious nonsense. Catholicism might be a whole lot worse.
tlm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

I see emotions as electrical and hormonal patterns in a lump of meat. However, seeing them as physical things doesn't mean that I don't experience joy or sadness, that I don't understand that they can be nuanced and subtle.

It's like knowing that a sunset is caused by refraction, or that animals evolved - it doesn't stop you from noticing quite how wonderful it all is.
Cthulhu on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Cthulhu)
>
> [...]
>
> The decision is "excellent" in that it will damage the CofE and help to divorce the CofE from society, helping the case for disestablishment.

That's what I thought you meant, but it is atypical of you, hence the slight confusion.

> I'm told that voicing such an opinion is "childish".

Not sure about childish, but your arguments are normally far more robust and rely on logic rather than Schadenfreude. It was a stupid decision IMO - whether we like it or not, religion is going to be around for a very long time yet. Given that, religious bodies may as well come into the 21st century.

tlm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:
> (In reply to Jimbo W)
> [...]
>
> Well, that is surely almost a tortology? Basically they are saying the reality of the emotion is the measurable activity of the neurons and that is physical. The product of that activity is not measurable because it is not physical and therefore we'll regard it as an illusion ie. non existent. And yet it exists.

The emotion exists - but it is a product of something physical. For example, if you imagined a table, then your thought of a table would exist, but an actual table wouldn't spring into existence. It's like the wind. It is a movement of air molecules. It doesn't exist as a separate object. It exists as a pattern of movement of air molecules. So is wind physical? Yes! The word 'wind' is a way of describing the movement of physical things - air molecules.

'Happy' is a way of describing a pattern of electrical currents and hormonal and physical changes to your body. It just feels better than that description!
tlm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to John_Hat:

> The church is pretty much the only institution where the core message is actually trying to make the world a better place.

Were you brought up as a Christian?

I used to sort of think that, but having gone to church quite a bit as an atheist, my mind is slowly being changed. I particularly disagree with the core message that we are all sinners and should repent and beg for forgiveness. I also wonder - I went to a memorial service recently. An atheist friend who had died was mentioned and they said that he would now be in heaven. That seemed a bit freaky and weird to me - surely they must really think he is burning in hell, although he was a very nice, kind person?
Steve John B - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to tlm: As an atheist, the core message I've noticed when I've been to church (C of E) is "love", not sin or forgiveness. I also understand that being nice and kind is more important to God (fictitious though He may be) than going to church.
Wonko The Sane - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Trangia: The simple truth here is that Christianity has been in decline for a long time.

It doesn't matter at all whether they allow female bishops or not.

If they do allow them, they are watering down their doctrine to suit society's current morality. In which case, it's only time before they are as inconsequencial as homeopathy.

If they don't allow it, they are just increasingly out of touch with society.

win/win either way.
tlm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Steve John B:
> (In reply to tlm) As an atheist, the core message I've noticed when I've been to church (C of E) is "love", not sin or forgiveness. I also understand that being nice and kind is more important to God (fictitious though He may be) than going to church.


Forgive us our trespasses

That's pretty core, isn't it?

I just never used to notice, cos I was indoctrinated :-) I quite like most religious people, mind you. I prefer them to people who just don't think about such things, one way or the other.
tlm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Wonko The Sane:

> If they do allow them, they are watering down their doctrine to suit society's current morality. In which case, it's only time before they are as inconsequencial as homeopathy.


nah - there will always be people who want something 'more' to believe in. I always am surprised that Dawkins doesn't seem to get this, seeing as he is well aware that people have evolved with a tendency to be religious, and that there are good reasons for this...

Al Evans on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to tlm:
> (In reply to Steve John B)
I just never used to notice, cos I was indoctrinated :-) I quite like most religious people, mind you. I prefer them to people who just don't think about such things, one way or the other.

I'm sure Coel thinks or at least has thought about it.
Horatio on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier: Well as much as I agree with your hope to separate the church and state I don't agree with the methods. To me a group of people gathering in an awesome building every Sunday to listen to someone they respect speak, sing songs and confirm their beliefs based purely on imagination is no more foolish than meeting up on some grass to whack balls about, both are an abnormality of intelligence, which activity is most likely to prolong the participants survival? I'd argue that humans are generally much more emotional beings than rational ones and as we move away from standard human intelligence to the extremities of human intelligence the rational/emotional relationship changes making it hard for those of that persuasion to empathise and engage with normal people.
tlm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Al Evans:

> I'm sure Coel thinks or at least has thought about it.

That's part of why I like Coel. :-) That, and his funny tricks...

dissonance - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to tlm:

> nah - there will always be people who want something 'more' to believe in. I always am surprised that Dawkins doesn't seem to get this, seeing as he is well aware that people have evolved with a tendency to be religious, and that there are good reasons for this...

Not necessarily it could just be a by product of one or more useful features.
Also I am not sure he doesnt get it but rather he, like many others, doesnt really see why their particular need should have special privileges.
Moomin.williams on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:
> (In reply to mike kann)
> [...]
>
> Are you on drugs or something. None of the latter follows from the former. it's just an emotional rant.
>
> You simply seem to unable to understand the concept of the difference between a cause and an outcome.

Now there's a quote that might attempt to prove emotions to be a pattern of physical matter.
"On drugs" - the ability to recreate, induce or modify the emotional state of a person using drugs. We may not understand fully how they work but it demonstrates an physical interaction and a measureable and demonstrable effect.
tlm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to dissonance:

> Not necessarily it could just be a by product of one or more useful features.
> Also I am not sure he doesnt get it but rather he, like many others, doesnt really see why their particular need should have special privileges.

I agree in full.

However, we can't NOT be emotional, or see patterns where there are none. It just doesn't work...

dissonance - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Wonko The Sane:

> If they don't allow it, they are just increasingly out of touch with society.
>
> win/win either way.

Unfortunately i am not sure it is. As the numbers drop I think it will get more and more hardcore, take the growth of the more evangelical lot as opposed to decreases everywhere else.
Since they still have a shedload of special privileges, not least control over a lot of schools this could have some less than desirable results.
Postmanpat on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:
> (In reply to tlm) Good luck with getting an answer, pat's a bit coy about what emotions are if they're not physical.

I've given you my answer several times. To use Tim's example; the table in my living room is a physical object. My imagination of that table is non physical but nevertheless exists. The fact that my image of the table is the product of electrical impulses does not mean that it is electrical impulses any more than water coming out of a tap is a tap.

The description "non physical imagination" suffices. The concept that this implies a belief in ether blah blah is a red herring.


dissonance - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to tlm:

> However, we can't NOT be emotional, or see patterns where there are none. It just doesn't work...

Not sure what you are trying to say here.
It depends on your definition of pattern. From absolutely nothing, probably not (although be curious to see if sensory deprivation tests agree) but we are "good" at false positives. Which is generally a good trick for survival but less so for an accurate understanding of the world around us.
mark s - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Trangia: i love reading coels replies to the religious types on here.
talk about pulling their trousers down,they need to learn when he has them in a corner.

good work C.H
Sir Chasm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat: Rubbish, your imagination of your table physically exists in your brain, the same way that water coming out of a tap exists. And you again can't answer what that non-physical state is.
deepsoup - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to tlm:
> An atheist friend who had died was mentioned and they said that he would now be in heaven. That seemed a bit freaky and weird to me - surely they must really think he is burning in hell, although he was a very nice, kind person?

There's the dogma that people are 'supposed to' believe, and then there's what they do believe. I had a similar conversation at a friend's funeral a couple of years ago, it was a bit awkward but certainly not freaky or weird.

The people I was talking to were clearly very nice people, who believe in a clearly very nice, compassionate god. As opposed to the 'jealous' kind of god who'd consign our mutual friend to Hell for being an unbeliever.
tlm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to dissonance:
> Not sure what you are trying to say here.
> It depends on your definition of pattern. From absolutely nothing, probably not (although be curious to see if sensory deprivation tests agree) but we are "good" at false positives. Which is generally a good trick for survival but less so for an accurate understanding of the world around us.

Exactly my point.

We make up patterns out of everything. We can't not do it. So if we create a scientific test, we try our best to account for that, by double blind trials etc. But we can't live a double blind life - we will create patterns out of everything around us, all the time. Coel does it, Richard Dawkins does it and so do you and I. There is no stopping it. Social scientists just say - that WILL happen, so we should be aware of it...

Wonko The Sane - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:
> (In reply to Sir Chasm)
> [...]
>
> I've given you my answer several times. To use Tim's example; the table in my living room is a physical object. My imagination of that table is non physical but nevertheless exists. The fact that my image of the table is the product of electrical impulses does not mean that it is electrical impulses any more than water coming out of a tap is a tap.
>
> The description "non physical imagination" suffices. The concept that this implies a belief in ether blah blah is a red herring.

You're just displaying a lack of understanding of what physical infirmation is.

And I might add, confusing emotion with imagination.

I do not pretend I know how a human brain stores information, but I know how a computer stores it, and that is very definitely physical.

There are indications and experiments to suggest the brain, whilst not the same, is also not dissimilar.

Emotion is really just the use of information to guide the organism to better outcomes in cases of danger, or to bind those organisisms together to increase their chances of survival though loyalty etc.

Then you've got conscious thought.
I don't pretend to understand how it works. But YOU do........ by stating as fact that it is NOT physical.

Just because you do not understand the process does not mean it is non physical.
tlm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to deepsoup:

> There's the dogma that people are 'supposed to' believe, and then there's what they do believe.

Exactly - they listed about 30 names - all of whom had 'gone to heaven'!! Weren't any of them a bit naughty? What a coincidence! :-) I'm sort of used to normal services, but because it was a different type of a service, it jarred more than usual - usually I convert the words into my own world view as we go along 'God is love' = 'love is a good thing' etc. But I just gave up on trying to reconcile what they were saying at that service and just defaulted to the understanding that it was just all nonsense....
dissonance - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to tlm:

> There is no stopping it. Social scientists just say - that WILL happen, so we should be aware of it...

and your point is what exactly?
Sorry but I am struggling to get what you are arguing. That people see patterns where there are not might be one of the explanations for religious belief but I dont see what direct relevance this has here. Unless you believe people are arguing for all religious belief to be banned/somehow removed.
Postmanpat on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:
> (In reply to Postmanpat) Rubbish, your imagination of your table physically exists in your brain, the same way that water coming out of a tap exists. And you again can't answer what that non-physical state is.

Ah, "rubbish". That always wins debates.

There are lots of words we use for it. "Non physical" or "imagination" or "emotion" being some of them. That your interpretation of their nature is that they are physical doesn't mean that a new word has been invented to describe them as not physical. Unless you know of one.

deepsoup - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to tlm:
> usually I convert the words into my own world view as we go along 'God is love' = 'love is a good thing' etc.

I suspect that's what a lot of christians are doing while they're in church too. ;O)

> just defaulted to the understanding that it was just all nonsense....

That's been my approach. At least since I stopped believing the (fairly bog-standard C of E) stuff I was taught at primary school.

tlm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to dissonance:

Wonko was saying that the church would gradually diminish. I think even if it does, people will create something else to replace it with (crystal healing etc).

ads.ukclimbing.com
Wonko The Sane - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to tlm:
> (In reply to dissonance)
>
> Wonko was saying that the church would gradually diminish. I think even if it does, people will create something else to replace it with (crystal healing etc).

And the reason many atheists get engaged in debates such as this, is that we often agree that people do need to feel part of something. We just disagree that this 'something' needs to be mystical.

without any need for gods or deities, I beleive in doing right, with right being defined as 'how I would like to be treated by others'

simply because it's the sensible way to live.

Unless you're a psychopath who likes the idea of anarchy I suppose.
Bobz - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to tlm: "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him" Voltaire (I think, cant remember!)
dissonance - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to tlm:

> Wonko was saying that the church would gradually diminish. I think even if it does, people will create something else to replace it with (crystal healing etc).

Diminish, yes. Vanish entirely probably not.
Its already happening when you look at the numbers attending.
There will be some left who really believe and others who have some vague belief but I dont think Wonko was arguing otherwise.
owlart - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to tlm:
> (In reply to dissonance)
>
> Wonko was saying that the church would gradually diminish. I think even if it does, people will create something else to replace it with (crystal healing etc).

But that must be a good thing, that way the atheists will always have someone to feel superior too! -)
Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> My imagination of that table is non physical but nevertheless exists.

How do you know that your "imagination" is non-physical? Surely it is a pattern of physical stuff (neurons etc) and therefore physical?

If you think it isn't physical, what is it?
Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to tlm:

> nah - there will always be people who want something 'more' to believe in. I always am surprised that
> Dawkins doesn't seem to get this, seeing as he is well aware that people have evolved with a tendency to
> be religious, and that there are good reasons for this...

I'm sure that Dawkins accepts that our psychological attributes that tend to produce religion will always be with us.

However, his reply would be along the lines that there are societies (e.g. Scandinavia) where religious belief is not very prevalent and has little affect on society, in contrast to other places, such as the US, where religion is very prevalent and hugely affects society. Dawkins would argue that the "large influence on society" is not inevitable, and that societies where religion has little role or influence are entirely possible.
Horatio on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Wonko The Sane:

> Unless you're a psychopath who likes the idea of anarchy I suppose.

Phwoar! Now there's a thread...
seankenny - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:
> (In reply to Postmanpat) Rubbish, your imagination of your table physically exists in your brain, the same way that water coming out of a tap exists. And you again can't answer what that non-physical state is.

But one could argue with that imagining a table might *correspond* with a certain physical state in the brain, but that doesn't mean the thought of the table actually *is* that physical state. After all, we are talking about an arrangement of atoms, and atoms are just atoms. The thought is something else entirely.
Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:

> After all, we are talking about an arrangement of atoms, and atoms are just atoms. The
> thought is something else entirely.

Is it? What? If a "thought" is not a particular arrangement of atoms, what is it?
John_Hat - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to tlm:
> (In reply to John_Hat)
>
> [...]
>
> Were you brought up as a Christian?

Not really. Initially not at all, but then my parents wanted to get me into a particular school so I was rapidly baptised (again) and the family "got God" at apeed.

So whilst I went to Church and all that, it was pretty clear from an early age that it was a means to an end and nothing more. I know the bible, etc, fairly well, but it was never presented to me as truth by anyone I actually trusted to tell me the truth.

>
> I used to sort of think that, but having gone to church quite a bit as an atheist, my mind is slowly being changed. I particularly disagree with the core message that we are all sinners and should repent and beg for forgiveness.

Heavily depends on the church. A long conversation with a friend deeply submerged in a "happy clappy" church resulted in her firm conviction that I was going to hell, whereas a friend of mine who is an Anglican vicar pointed out that Jesus himself told the Apostles that the good samaritan was a better "neighbour" than others of more acceptable faith.

The Anglican Vicar said that if you take Jesus' lesson, then it really doesn't matter what you believe, if you act in a manner as described by Jesus (love thy neighbour, etc) then when it comes to the crunch, you'll be OK.

Another vicar friend of mine pretty much said the same. That total Athiests can spread God's message on earth, because the message is not "Love God" but "Love each other".

I also wonder - I went to a memorial service recently. An atheist friend who had died was mentioned and they said that he would now be in heaven. That seemed a bit freaky and weird to me - surely they must really think he is burning in hell, although he was a very nice, kind person?

Again, may be the Church. Or diplomacy....
Ken Lewis - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to seankenny)
>
> [...]
> If a "thought" is not a particular arrangement of atoms, what is it?

Electrons.
Sir Chasm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat: This concept of thoughts being non-physical is your baby, you can name it. I think thoughts, emotions, imagination are physical and we have a word for that.
Sir Chasm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Ken Lewis: Are they not physical? Or do they fall into pat's concept of imaginary states?
seankenny - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to seankenny)
> Is it? What? If a "thought" is not a particular arrangement of atoms, what is it?

I don't experience the atoms, I experience the thought. In the same way, I don't experience a table/atoms making a table, I experience a sense impression caused by the table. That's not quite the same thing as the table itself, is it?

We all know that music is caused by particular vibrations in the atmosphere, yet we also know this an extremely limited description of what music is, and how we make it. The music may correspond to the vibrations, but that is not what it *is*.

Wonko The Sane - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Trangia: Anyway, it just isn't something I can get worked up over either way.

If we were saying women can't be nurses or police officers, I'd be in a bit more of a tiz. But frankly, I've never wanted to shag a girl in a bishop's outfit :/
Sir Chasm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny: What is it then?
Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:

> I don't experience the atoms, I experience the thought. In the same way, I don't experience a table/atoms
> making a table, I experience a sense impression caused by the table. That's not quite the same thing
> as the table itself, is it?

Hence the wording "pattern of ...". You indeed don't experience individual atoms, what you experience is the overall effect of a particular arrangement/pattern of atoms.

In the same way, you experience the effect of a hurricane, and the hurricane is the overall aggregation and pattern of many atoms, all obeying the laws of physics.

> We all know that music is caused by particular vibrations in the atmosphere, yet we also know
> this an extremely limited description of what music is, and how we make it.

Sure, that's because you need to account for, not only the particular vibrations that are the sound, but also the neural-network patterns that those sounds excite in your brain. The latter is indeed central to your experience, but it is still patterns of physical stuff.
TheDrunkenBakers - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Wonko The Sane:
> I've never wanted to shag a girl in a bishop's outfit :/

Why not? Are you weird?
dissonance - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

In other, important, religious news there is the definitive statement on whether donkeys were not around at the birth of Jesus.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/20/pope-nativity-animals
subalpine - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier: is an action that is not touched by thought?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzx9HtZT73s
ads.ukclimbing.com
seankenny - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:

A thought, like an emotion, is a mental state. You believe that is completely reducible to movements of electrons or other physical states, ie that there exist only physical entities. I believe that there exist other sorts of entities which can arise from matter but which are not actually matter.

Incidentally, what are mathematical theorems? Surely if they were just arrangements of matter, who would that explain the sense of "discovery" when mathematics is done? Could doing mathematics be a discovery of a world that is not at all physical?
Sir Chasm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny: What form do these "entities which can arise from matter" take?
Postmanpat on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:
> (In reply to Postmanpat) This concept of thoughts being non-physical is your baby, you can name it. I think thoughts, emotions, imagination are physical and we have a word for that.

Yes, and we have words them as non physical but I'll give it a new one if that's what you need: "plok"

seankenny - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:

Thoughts, perceptions and so on. I'm not saying that they are divorced from matter, rather that they are in some sense fundamentally different from matter and the physical.

I'm willing to be proved wrong on this. Also waiting for a Buddhist to come along and suggest that both mind and matter are illusions aka the "pox on both your sides" argument.

Loving how the scientists on here are so very sure of themselves.
Sir Chasm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat: And how does the physical brain and plok interact?
Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:

> I believe that there exist other sorts of entities which can arise from matter but which are not actually matter.

Assuming that you're not just referring to patterns of matter, what are these other entities, and what's your evidence for them?

> Surely if they were just arrangements of matter, who would that explain the sense of "discovery" when
> mathematics is done? Could doing mathematics be a discovery of a world that is not at all physical?

Mathematics is the discovery of how the physical world is, what sort of patterns physical stuff makes.
Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:

> Thoughts, perceptions and so on. I'm not saying that they are divorced from matter, rather that they
> are in some sense fundamentally different from matter and the physical. I'm willing to be proved wrong on this.

Reversal of the burden of proof again. If you're claiming that these non-physical entities exist then its up to you to defend the claim and provide the evidence.
subalpine - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:
> (In reply to seankenny) What form do these "entities which can arise from matter" take?

eg http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-organization
imkevinmc - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Out of interest, is it OK for an organisation that practices employment discrimination on the grounds of gender to retian charitable status?
subalpine - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to imkevinmc: only if it's self-organised;)
dissonance - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to subalpine:
> (In reply to Sir Chasm)
> [...]
>
> eg http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-organization

sorry, what relevance is that to the question of what form do they take?
seankenny - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to seankenny)
> Mathematics is the discovery of how the physical world is, what sort of patterns physical stuff makes.

What about the mathematics of infinite sets?

Surely also this would mean that mathematics is contingent? If I understand correctly, physical laws could be different if the universe had started out slightly differently (you're the professional physicist so if I'm wrong on that, happy to stand corrected). Surely meaning by your argument that mathematics itself could be very different, which would go against the absolute truth of mathematical theorems.
subalpine - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to dissonance: self-organisation can take the form of lizards!
seankenny - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to seankenny)
> Reversal of the burden of proof again. If you're claiming that these non-physical entities exist then its up to you to defend the claim and provide the evidence.

Not really. As I said, our thoughts and emotions are non-physical entities - or rather not entirely physical entities. It's clear to me they exist. If you believe they are entirely physical, then surely you have to prove that?

Two things:
First, I'm not a believer, so you can save your animus for those who are.
Secondly, there's a very good reason Dr Spock wasn't the captain of the Enterprise.
tlm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:
> I believe that there exist other sorts of entities which can arise from matter but which are not actually matter.

I think matter is a lot more amazing than you give it credit for...
tlm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:

> Loving how the scientists on here are so very sure of themselves.

How do you know which people are scientists?

Wonko The Sane - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)
>
> Two things:
> First, I'm not a believer, so you can save your animus for those who are.
> Secondly, there's a very good reason Dr Spock wasn't the captain of the Enterprise.

Yes. Because he was an entirely fictional, one dimensional character who was made up as a foil and counterpoint to the doctor, both of whom represented a part of the capatain's psyche.

It's a very basic writing technique. Class 101 stuff.
tlm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Trangia:

I think one of the problems here is this:

Someone looks at a newspaper photograph and says "it's made up of a pattern of dots".

Another person says "But you've lost all meaning by saying that! It's the Mona Lisa!"

They may have missed that although the first person is saying that the picture is only dots, dots and more dots, they also understand that those dots build together to make something wonderful and pretty amazing. However, it is still just dots too...
Sir Chasm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)
> [...]
>
> Secondly, there's a very good reason Dr Spock wasn't the captain of the Enterprise.

There certainly is, the Enterprise was made up, Dr Spock was real. You are Father Douglas and I claim my £5.
seankenny - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to tlm:

A certain poster is a professor of astrophysics.
ads.ukclimbing.com
Ken Lewis - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)
> [...]
>
> It's clear to me they exist.

Why?

Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:

> If I understand correctly, physical laws could be different if the universe had started out slightly differently ...

Yes, that's possible, though (as far as we know) this would mostly take the form of different strengths of forces and masses of particles, rather than logic itself or maths being different.

> which would go against the absolute truth of mathematical theorems.

Yes, I would not argue for the "absolute truth" of mathematical theorems, but would argue that they are empirical truths about our universe.
Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:

> As I said, our thoughts and emotions are non-physical entities ...

Yes, and so far you've not supported that claim.

> If you believe they are entirely physical, then surely you have to prove that?

Well no, Occam's razor supports the more parsimonious stance of regarding them as physical unless and until that is proven inadequate.

Saying that they are non-physical doesn't improve the explanation or our understanding at all, and thus the idea should be discounted unless good arguments or evidence for it are forthcoming.
subalpine - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat: seeing as the OP has gone way off topic, i thought i'd post something from Feynman that may bring Coel and Postmanpat together:

Once I was at a party playing bongos, and I got going pretty well. One of the guys was particularly inspired by the drumming. He went into the bathroom, took off his shirt, smeared shaving cream in funny designs all over his chest, and came out dancing wildly, with cherries hanging from his ears. Naturally, this crazy nut and I became good friends
right away. His name is Jerry Zorthian&#894; he's an artist.
We often had long discussions about art and science. I'd say things like, "Artists are lost: they don't have any subject! They used to have the religious subjects, but they lost their religion and now they haven't got anything. They don't understand the technical world they live in&#894; they don't know anything about the beauty of the real world the scientific world so they don't have anything in their hearts to paint."

Jerry would reply that artists don't need to have a physical subject&#894; there are many emotions that can be expressed through art. Besides, art can be abstract. Furthermore, scientists destroy the beauty of nature when they pick it apart and turn it into mathematical equations.
One time I was over at Jerry's for his birthday, and one of these dopey arguments lasted until 3:00 A.M. The next morning I called him up: "Listen, Jerry," I said, "the reason we have these arguments that never get anywhere is that you don't know a damn thing about science, and I don't know a damn thing about art. So, on alternate Sundays,
I'll give you a lesson in science, and you give me a lesson in art."
"OK," he said. "I'll teach you how to draw."



Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Wonko The Sane:

> Because he was an entirely fictional, one dimensional character who was made up as a foil and
> counterpoint to the doctor ...

It's also notable that the Vulcans had the most emotional and religious society of any of the Star Trek characters.
tlm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:
> (In reply to tlm)
>
> A certain poster is a professor of astrophysics.

Oh god - you've blown my cover......








tee hee! Not really!

Wonko The Sane - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to subalpine: All well and good except I disagree with almost all of it. Obviously I get your POINT.......

but the content of the 'conversation' is all just opinion.

For instance, since art is a representation of something filtered through the lens of the person constructing the art, I do nto think it represents any absolute truths, Nor do I think artists requires a technical understanding of the world. SOME art may require it, if that's what it's representing.

Nor do I think picking things apart to see how they work reduces the beauty of them.

That said, I do get your point and I would happily swap skills with an artist to learn how they accomplish things.

I do not feel I have anything to learn about religious belief however. I understand it perfectly well and simply do not see it as necessary unless you lack the ability to find the same answers........ which exist independently of the nedd for a creator.
subalpine - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Wonko The Sane: what is my POINT?

one of these dopey arguments lasted until 3:00 A.M sums it up- never gonna get anywhere..
Wonko The Sane - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to subalpine: I thought your point was simply to try to learn from each other rather than be adversarial about it all.

My point was, I'm ahppy to do that with someone who actually has something to teach.

tom_in_edinburgh - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)

> Secondly, there's a very good reason Dr Spock wasn't the captain of the Enterprise.

Wow! How did we get a debate thread starting from 'Women can't be bishops' and arriving at 'Spock can't be captain of the Enterprise'? Impressive even for UKC.

seankenny - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:
> (In reply to seankenny)
> Wow! How did we get a debate thread starting from 'Women can't be bishops' and arriving at 'Spock can't be captain of the Enterprise'? Impressive even for UKC.

It's completely logical!

Part of the discussion revolves around whether the C of E should be Established and have a role in the UK's law-making. We have a lot of posters saying "Of course not, for they believe in a diety for which there is no proof, they are irrational, and we cannot have the delusional and the archaic in positions of power."

Dr Spock wasn't the captain because of course the men of logic and rationality are never (and should never!) be the leaders of our society.

As Wonko the Literate has pointed out, Spock is a foil to the Doctor. Well of course he is, the very simple and obvious point is that the Captain has to take into account both the austere logic of Spock and the Doctor's more human concerns.

So... the above really suggests we need men of religion in our power structure as a foil and a balance, particularly in our technocratic age. Unfortunately their actual behaviour rules them out...
Robert Durran - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> Yes, I would not argue for the "absolute truth" of mathematical theorems, but would argue that they are empirical truths about our universe.


Is unique prime factorisation an empirical truth?
I think I would argue for this being an absolute truth, possibly even external to reality itself.

Also do you think I could come up with a pattern (and therefore mathematics) which is not and never will be incorporated into physics and therefore reality, or is it's existence in my mind suficient to say it is already incorporated?





Wonko The Sane - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:
> (In reply to tom_in_edinburgh)
> [...]
>
> It's completely logical!
>
> Part of the discussion revolves around whether the C of E should be Established and have a role in the UK's law-making. We have a lot of posters saying "Of course not, for they believe in a diety for which there is no proof, they are irrational, and we cannot have the delusional and the archaic in positions of power."
>
> Dr Spock wasn't the captain because of course the men of logic and rationality are never (and should never!) be the leaders of our society.
>
> As Wonko the Literate has pointed out, Spock is a foil to the Doctor. Well of course he is, the very simple and obvious point is that the Captain has to take into account both the austere logic of Spock and the Doctor's more human concerns.
>
> So... the above really suggests we need men of religion in our power structure as a foil and a balance, particularly in our technocratic age. Unfortunately their actual behaviour rules them out...

You missed my point entirely.
Spock, being only one aspect of a character, should not be allowed to be captain.

You then suggest that this means scientists are only logical and therefore not qualified to be leaders, and that therefore, for balance, society needs religion????

Bit of a leap there.

I'd say society needs balance, but there is no need for religion to be part of that balance.
Sir Chasm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny: Fortunately someone more literate has pointed out that Dr Spock wasn't on the Enterprise. Apart from that, good point, well made.
seankenny - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to seankenny)

> Yes, I would not argue for the "absolute truth" of mathematical theorems, but would argue that they are empirical truths about our universe.

As I said before, what about the theory of infinite sets? How does this become an empirical truth?
Robert Durran - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:

> Loving how the scientists on here are so very sure of themselves.

Of course they are; they have evidence to back their claims up. And when they don't have evidence, they admit they don't know rather than making up bollocks to plug the gap.

dissonance - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:

> Dr Spock wasn't the captain because of course the men of logic and rationality are never (and should never!) be the leaders of our society.

ok, i will bite. Please explain why.

> So... the above really suggests we need men of religion in our power structure as a foil and a balance, particularly in our technocratic age.

blink. How did you get to that conclusion? Even if we take your claim that "men of logic and rationality" are unable to take human concerns into the equation exactly what qualifies men of religion for the job?
Why not philosophers or the social psychologists etc?
seankenny - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:

Ah, true. But much of the above discussion isn't really science, it's philosophy.

My belief is that there are really only two answers to the questions "does god exist?".
A) We just don't know.
B) It doesn't matter. (This was the Buddha's answer, btw. Quite brave for ancient India no?)

So to me, scientists telling us with absolute certainty that god doesn't exist certainly fits the "making up bollocks to plug the gap".
dissonance - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:

> So to me, scientists telling us with absolute certainty that god doesn't exist certainly fits the "making up bollocks to plug the gap".

which is why you wont find many scientists saying that. Now you will find people confidently stating that certain claims from religion are false but thats because the evidence is pretty overwhelming.

Once you go to theism it is unprovable either way but then it falls into therefore doesnt matter.
seankenny - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to dissonance:
> (In reply to seankenny)
>
> [...]
>
> ok, i will bite. Please explain why.

Fwiw, I'd like to see more scientists and engineers holding positions of power in society. I think it would be a good thing. But rationality doesn't provide enough to lead people, or to create a decent society, because fundamentally most people (even scientists) aren't that rational.

Obviously we need to be clear and sensible about achieving our aims with the resources to hand. Utter irrationality is a disaster, and its folly to have a governing elite made up of history and PPE graduates.

But too much rationality doesn't work in politics. For example, the fairly sensible and rational Chamberlain, a good rational Victorian gent, originally an accountant, actually believed Hitler. Churchill, a moody, depressive, alcoholic writer and painter, not that rational a man at all, really, could see clearly what Hitler was.

Or take the very "rational" ideas of modernist architects like de Corbusier. They wanted to design buildings and cities based on principles rather than letting things evolve, with the result that, well, Milton Keynes anybody?


> blink. How did you get to that conclusion? Even if we take your claim that "men of logic and rationality" are unable to take human concerns into the equation exactly what qualifies men of religion for the job?
> Why not philosophers or the social psychologists etc?

Read all of what I wrote. I said men of religion had firmly put themselves out of the picture by their behaviour! I'd be well up for having more philosophers, social scientists, etc, having a roll in law-making, however I think in practice they already do...

ads.ukclimbing.com
Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:

> Is unique prime factorisation an empirical truth? I think I would argue for this being an
> absolute truth, possibly even external to reality itself.

This is an interesting question. Is our universe's basic logic/maths the only possible one, or could one build other, incompatible and equally coherent logical/mathematical systems? I don't know.

> Also do you think I could come up with a pattern (and therefore mathematics) which is not
> and never will be incorporated into physics and therefore reality, or is it's existence in my mind
> suficient to say it is already incorporated?

Yes, I think it's possible to conceive of a pattern that is unphysical and could not occur (for example one could conceive, just about, of "2 + 2 = 5"). But, as you say, if it is conceivable then it is, in some sense, extant.
Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:

> So to me, scientists telling us with absolute certainty that god doesn't exist certainly fits
> the "making up bollocks to plug the gap".

And now, to avoid accusations of constructing a strawman, you will present quotes of scientists telling you that.
seankenny - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

"As a practising scientist, humanist and atheist..." - Jim Al-Khalili, British theoretical physicist.

"Sakharov... like most of the physicists of his generation was an atheist."

"He considered himself an atheist and never went to church." - quote on William Shockley, co-inventor of the transistor.

There's a whole list of scientist atheists on wikipedia (yeah yeah yeah I know, but I do have other things to do... at least I'm not at work taking the British taxpayers £££, unless Keele University is now the McDonald's Science and all that Good Stuff University of Central Staffordshire and as such out of the taxpayers, ahem, orbit.)
tlm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:
>
> So to me, scientists telling us with absolute certainty that god doesn't exist certainly fits the "making up bollocks to plug the gap".

But that is true about anything that we have no evidence for. Faeries, Ghosts, Bling bling monsters, Quackadiles, Unicorns, Minotaurs etc.

I personally just don't believe that god exists, and so I could pretend to be all open minded about it, but I would be lying. I understand that other people are equally convinced that god really exists, and they could pretend to be open minded about it, but they would be lying.

So should we make up open minded bollocks to plug the gap then?

Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:

I asked for quotes of scientists telling you "with absolute certainty that god doesn't exist", all you've done is give quotes of scientists being atheists. That is not the same thing. Atheism is just a lack of theistic belief (a-theism = without theism), it doesn't necessarily entail assertions of non-existence.
Nic on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:
> Can you genuinely not see that the argument about whether women can be bishops is on exactly the same level as how many angels can dance on a pinhead?

Beat me to it. Frankly who gives a fcuk how these medieval dimwits run their sky fairy appreciation society.

Mind you, I can't quite see how this fits in with contemporary equality legislation (genuine questions: is there some sort of exemption?)

dissonance - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Nic:

> Beat me to it. Frankly who gives a fcuk how these medieval dimwits run their sky fairy appreciation society.

this has been covered. Most people wouldnt apart from the fact that they have lots and lots of influence over the country in general.
Once they give up the schools and the bishops in the lords etc then they can be ignored.
seankenny - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

There are of course two responses to this.

The first, rational response, is the following: Nicely argued, Coel, and I bow down before your superior knowledge and rhetorical skills. There was I thinking that atheism is plain old not believing in god, but apparently there's more to it than that. Obviously your excellent contacts across the scientific world mean that you know all those atheist scientists are or were in the "lack of belief" camp rather than the "disbelief" camp.

Now for the second, more human response: This is to imagine me punching Coel in the face. Realising this merely reflects my frustration at being lectured, I can console myself with the fact that he has proved my point earlier. Such stringent application of logic leaves me profoundly unmoved, and whilst I probably agree with Coel on many things (I don't want to see bishops in the Lords either), I wouldn't trust him in a position of power to formulate sensible, workable policies.
Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Nic:

> (genuine questions: is there some sort of exemption?)


Yes there is. "The church has an exemption from equalities and employment legislation allowing it to disbar women from the episcopate."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/21/women-bishops-controversy
dissonance - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:

> But too much rationality doesn't work in politics. For example, the fairly sensible and rational Chamberlain, a good rational Victorian gent, originally an accountant, actually believed Hitler. Churchill, a moody, depressive, alcoholic writer and painter, not that rational a man at all, really, could see clearly what Hitler was.

I think Chamberlains position was a tad more complicated than that.
Its also worth noting Churchill was seriously in favour of science and often sided with his scientific advisers.

> Or take the very "rational" ideas of modernist architects like de Corbusier. They wanted to design buildings and cities based on principles rather than letting things evolve, with the result that, well, Milton Keynes anybody?

or Paris or many of the US cities. Your point is?

> Read all of what I wrote. I said men of religion had firmly put themselves out of the picture by their behaviour!

no, i would like to know why you thought they were ever in the picture.
deepsoup - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to dissonance:
> ok, i will bite. Please explain why.

Because this is Dr Spock: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Spock

He was a famous American paediatrician, and the author of one of the best selling books on child care of all time.

The fictional Vulcan played by Leonard Nimoy (and Zachary Quinto) is Mister Spock, or just Spock.
Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:

> There was I thinking that atheism is plain old not believing in god ...

Exactly, "not believing in god" is not equivalent to "telling us with absolute certainty that god doesn't exist".

(If you can't see the difference ask yourself this: Do you currently *believe* that I am eating marmite toast. If you don't currently *believe* that, are you "asserting with absolute certainty that I'm not eating marmite toast"?)

> you know all those atheist scientists are or were in the "lack of belief" camp rather than the "disbelief" camp.

Lack of belief and disbelief are the same thing -- lack of belief.


dissonance - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:

> There are of course two responses to this.

you missed the third where you back up your claim about scientists claiming god definitely doesnt exist with evidence.
I note you decided against that one.
Just for starters you could look at say Dawkins and his position.
seankenny - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Once I got over my fantasies of violent revenege brought on by my inadequate understanding of the arguments, I still wanted to pass the Hellier Test, so found this quote from Prof al-Khalili:

"I found tolerance and mutual respect between two people with different faiths as natural, and that extended to my own tolerance and respect of people with faith, despite my own firm belief that they are wrong."

Now, is that an assertion of non-existence, or something else entirely?
Matt Rees - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)

> The first, rational response, is the following: Nicely argued, Coel, and I bow down before your superior knowledge and rhetorical skills. There was I thinking that atheism is plain old not believing in god, but apparently there's more to it than that. Obviously your excellent contacts across the scientific world mean that you know all those atheist scientists are or were in the "lack of belief" camp rather than the "disbelief" camp.
>

I think it would be helpful if you understood that this is not a clever rhetorical trick on Coel's part, but it actually represents the point of view of most if not all of the atheists I have ever met or come across, and this point of view is extremely widely documented. I think the "positive" disbelief stance is actually more a willful misenterprtation by theists, than any actual frequently held point of view.

Certainly, from any rational scentific standpoint it makes no sense to say you have absolute, 100%, incontrivertible belief in ANYTHING. This stance is not peculiar to Coel, and has actually been assereted may times, in one guise or another further upthread (see unicorns, quackadiles, minotaurs, cosmic teapots etc.).
Matt Rees - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:

> Now, is that an assertion of non-existence, or something else entirely?

No, you're still not getting it.
seankenny - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to dissonance:
> (In reply to seankenny)
> I think Chamberlains position was a tad more complicated than that.
> Its also worth noting Churchill was seriously in favour of science and often sided with his scientific advisers.

Granted. But surely the point was he thought Hitler was a sane and sensible politician like himself.

re Churchill - well the man who changed the Royal Navy from coal to oil power and invented the tank wasn't exactly anti-science. But that doesn't mean he didn't have excellent access to the non-logical side of his personality.


> or Paris or many of the US cities. Your point is?

Most US cities - in fact most urban areas in the States - are functional but pretty awful, imho. Paris is of course the glorious exception to my theory of planning creating awful urban experiences. I really have no idea why this is!

My point is that an over-reliance on rationality in town planning has created some pretty horrible places.


> no, i would like to know why you thought they were ever in the picture.

They did serve quite a useful purpose back in the 80s...
Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:

> Once I got over my fantasies of violent revenege brought on by my inadequate understanding of the arguments ...

Given that you want to disqualify me from decision-making roles just because I know what words mean, I hope you disqualify yourself because of your self-confessed violent tendencies?

> Now, is that an assertion of non-existence, or something else entirely?

It's something else entirely. Note that it is a statement of respect for *people* (regardless of their beliefs), not about respect for their *beliefs*. (People often get those two confused.)
Tim Chappell - on 21 Nov 2012
Returning if I may to the original topic of this thread, I have to say that, after a bit of thought, I don't think things are as bad as I thought they were.

Of course, it's a grievous blow that this vote has (just) gone the wrong way. But it only just went the wrong way: numerically a huge majority of the Church is FOR women priests, and that was reflected in Synod by strong votes favour in all three houses, even in the House of Laity, where it was nearly a 2/3 majority. Five more votes would have done it.

We've set ourselves a ridiculously high bar, and all through Rowan Williams' time as Archbishop of Canterbury I think we have leant over backwards far too much to accommodate a few crazy people who can't accept women bishops. Those who voted against, say they did so because they don't get a good enough deal from the CoE for their basically separatist movement. Well, they've shot themselves in the foot. There won't be such a favourable deal for them next time around, that's for sure. And Justin Welby has five years to make sure the next vote is a little more, shall we say, managed...

This vote does not mean that the CoE is against women bishops. It means that, this time around, we allowed ourselves, as a church, to be derailed by our own niceness to the rather small minority of Anglicans who are against women bishops.

Yes, it's a cock-up the size of St Paul's, but no, it's not the end. The Church of England will carry on bringing the good news to those who want it, and bringing all sorts of other often vital help both to those who want "the religious bits" and to those who don't. And a good thing too.
Wonko The Sane - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to dissonance: Or take the very "rational" ideas of modernist architects like de Corbusier. They wanted to design buildings and cities based on principles rather than letting things evolve, with the result that, well, Milton Keynes anybody?



Designing something does not dismiss the idea of learning from mistakes.

A for instance, one thing we look for on any project in my previous job is 'desire lines'

We then either rearrange things so these desire lines are no longer 'desirable' (if there is good reason for doing so)
or we facilitate them.

That's one tiny aspect of architecture. But don't think that because mistakes have sometimes been made in design, it's somehow better to let places just 'evolve'

All it means is that there is good reason to learn from those who have made mistakes before us and incorporate changes into new designs.

Practically everything you've typed today appears to me to be of the 'we can't possibly know/do this' school of thought, so you give up and accept what you've been indictrinated with.
ads.ukclimbing.com
Timmd on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Submit to Gravity:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
> [...]
> I think I might start my acts of resistance to this ungodly decision by making her a mitre :-)
>
Killing her?
....

Baddum-tish! (:-))
Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> Returning if I may to the original topic of this thread ...

Certainly not, that's completely against the spirit of UKC. You need to discuss Star Trek now ...
Sir Chasm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: I know it might be awfully inconvenient, but this vote does mean that the CoE is against women bishops.
toad - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell) I know it might be awfully inconvenient, but this vote does mean that the CoE is against women bishops.

Basically, ^this. There does seem to be a lot of chatter about how this gets overturned or set aside, but essentially, a private club voted not to change its rules. Women will still have to use the side door and won't be allowed in the clubhouse, but will still get to play, just not on Sunday mornings
Tim Chappell - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:

Listen very carefully: No it doesn't, because the Synod is not the same thing as the Church of England.
seankenny - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to seankenny)
> Given that you want to disqualify me from decision-making roles just because I know what words mean, I hope you disqualify yourself because of your self-confessed violent tendencies?

Ah, now here's a thing. Almost every human being has violent tendencies. We're a bloody terrifying lot, as any visit to a market town on a Saturday night will prove. All those fights and glassings and kickings and whatnot. And for those of us that don't have the guts to drink in the finest boozers of Mansfield or Potters Bar? Well some of us direct our violence and hatred outwards into utterly pointless arguments. Sometimes with strangers on the internet.

"Oi! Speccy! Are you looking at my mind-body dualism?"

"Yeah, I've got an argument from first principles with you."

"You just don't get it, do you?"

Safe, and harmless, but let's not pretend we're being rational here. What man in his right mind writes reams and reams of icily argued, eminintely logical diatribes, which only a few will read, making points others have made before him?

Personally, I wouldn't trust me in a decision-making role. I'm rubbish at paperwork and very disorganised.


> It's something else entirely. Note that it is a statement of respect for *people* (regardless of their beliefs), not about respect for their *beliefs*. (People often get those two confused.)

I feel like I've been love-bombed.

Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:

I'm struggling to see how any of that reply is relevant to me.
deepsoup - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> Listen very carefully: No it doesn't, because the Synod is not the same thing as the Church of England.

Ah right. So the Synod won't have female bishops, but the Church of England will?
Sir Chasm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: So women can be bishops in the CoE? Glad that's cleared up.
Tim Chappell - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to deepsoup:

Well actually, yes, if "will" means "are in favour" and "won't" means "are against".

Certainly the Anglican communion already has woman bishops. My own bishop's just been to the ordination of the first woman bishop in Swaziland.

Here in Scotland, in the Scottish Episcopal Church, woman bishops are allowed. As it happens there hasn't been one yet, though I would guess that what's just happened in England massively ups the chances of our electing one soon.

In any case, I don't think the resistance to woman bishops will last much longer in England. I certainly hope not.
toad - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to deepsoup)
>
> Well actually, yes, if "will" means "are in favour" and "won't" means "are against".
>
>but they don't - they mean different things. If they synod won't allow female bishops, the church of england can't have them, regardless of what the wider population of Anglicans are up to. It's wishful thinking.
Tim Chappell - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to toad:

Not wishful thinking but a distinction of terms. I know perfectly well what the Synod has just done. My point is that what they've just done in no way represents the mind of the church at large. For people to infer that the Synod's decision is representative is just plain wrong. People are making that inference; I'm pointing out that it's mistaken.
Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> For people to infer that the Synod's decision is representative is just plain wrong.

Not to mention that the Synod voted in favour of women bishops, in all three branches.
toad - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to toad: Although if there is one thing the new archbishop is significantly better at than Rowan Williams, it's getting opposing factions to talk to one another, and to garner concensus from very unlikely circumstances. He might be a bit of an odd kid, but I absolutely respect what he's tried to do in Nigeria
In reply to Trangia: Is the Queen the head of the C of E?
Tim Chappell - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Submit to Gravity:

Nope. That's Jesus :-)
MG - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to toad)
>
> Not wishful thinking but a distinction of terms. I know perfectly well what the Synod has just done. My point is that what they've just done in no way represents the mind of the church at large. For people to infer that the Synod's decision is representative is just plain wrong. People are making that inference; I'm pointing out that it's mistaken.

So the laity voted against the measures and the same laity are elected by members of the church but don't represent the members of the church's views. Yeah right, and I'm the Queen of Sheba. The lot of you are a bunch of irrelevant, inward looking, amoral, bigots who would rather spend time navel gazing and whining about how persecuted you all are than actually doing any good.
toad - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: So if the Synod doesn't represent the wider church, what's it for? It seemed that the professionals were the ones in favour of reform, it was the laity (ie the representatives of the mind of the church at large, and yes, I know It's A Bit More Complicated Than Than) who came over all Daily Mail
Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:

> So the laity voted against the measures ...

They didn't, they voted 132 in favour, 74 against.
seankenny - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to Submit to Gravity)
>
> Nope. That's Jesus :-)

At this difficult point in time the C of E needs a well-educated, reliable administrator with the ability to bring warring sides together. Unfortunately Jesus' well-known public order incident with the moneychangers puts him out of the picture, not to mention his cultivated image as a hippy on a beach hanging out with his working-class buddies and hookers. He's not really a C of E type chap at all.
ads.ukclimbing.com
toad - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> [...]
>
> They didn't, they voted 132 in favour, 74 against.

The church did set itself a ridiculously high bar to get over didn't it? Almost as if someone wanted it to fail....
MG - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier: That's against, apparently.
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to Submit to Gravity)
>
> Nope. That's Jesus :-)

But Henry VIII invented it didn't he?
Tim Chappell - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:
> (
The lot of you are a bunch of irrelevant, inward looking, amoral, bigots who would rather spend time navel gazing and whining about how persecuted you all are than actually doing any good.


Believe me-- I share your rage. Though perhaps you should take another look at your claim that the church does no good. UKC is always on about the importance of beliefs being based on evidence. That one plainly isn't.
Tim Chappell - on 21 Nov 2012
This, on the other hand, is evidence:

http://www.smitf.org/charity/connection-at-st-martin-in-the-fields/

And while I'm on about St Martin in the Fields, the vicar (an old friend of mine from college) has just posted this:

http://www.smitf.org/press-releases/response-to-women-bishops-vote/
MG - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: And when you balance that with the effects of persecuting gays and destroying women's careers?
Ciro - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> Believe me-- I share your rage. Though perhaps you should take another look at your claim that the church does no good. UKC is always on about the importance of beliefs being based on evidence. That one plainly isn't.

The church certainly does good things, but whether it overall does good or does bad is actually rather hard to quantify if you're looking for evidence based reasoning. It really does depend on how you weight the evidence and even what you'd consider to be evidence.

For example, on the 'does good' side, you have charitable works, feeding of the poor, etc., but on the 'does bad' side you have indoctrination of children into a strange world view, that to my mind constitutes a form of child abuse. I suspect you'd beg to differ.

How do you weigh these against each other?
Tim Chappell - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:

I totally accept that it isn't good enough to say that that's only a small minority of the CoE, and that such attitudes/ behaviour should be given no place at all... still, it IS only a small minority of the CoE.
dissonance - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> I totally accept that it isn't good enough to say that that's only a small minority of the CoE, and that such attitudes/ behaviour should be given no place at all... still, it IS only a small minority of the CoE.

just to check though, it IS still the official policy?
Tim Chappell - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Ciro:
>
on the 'does bad' side you have indoctrination of children into a strange world view, that to my mind constitutes a form of child abuse.


This is a bit of a lazy canard. Have you actually looked at any of the evidence before advancing it? If you can find me any evidence at all of indoctrination, I'd be surprised. If you can find me evidence of indoctrination worth comparing to child abuse, I'd be seriously amazed.

NB telling someone what you think, or what the church thinks, is not indoctrination. Though arguably exposing someone to hours and hours of TV for decades on end, as is done by typical atheist and theist parents alike, is.
Tim Chappell - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to dissonance:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
>
> [...]
>
> just to check though, it IS still the official policy?

Err, actually no, persecuting gays and destroying women's careers is not the CoE's policy, either official or unofficial.
MG - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to dissonance)
> [...]
>
> Err, actually no, persecuting gays and destroying women's careers is not the CoE's policy, either official or unofficial.

Hello!! Banning women from getting to senior positions does destroy their careers. And telling gays they can't work in an organisation is persecuting them.
Tim Chappell - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:

I know. But those are the effects of the policy. You asked me about the policy.

These effects of the policy are, of course, part of the reason why I'm against it.
Bimble on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Submit to Gravity:
> (In reply to Trangia) Is the Queen the head of the C of E?

Indeed she is. Looks like they'll have to fire her now.

Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> NB telling someone what you think, or what the church thinks, is not indoctrination.

Agreed, though many religions and religious go far beyond merely telling children what the church thinks, and actively compel and coerce children to participate in religion. That's rather different.

By the way, you are entirely right that churches and religious people do do charitable work and raise money for charity and often organise this around their churches. But do you have any data comparing this with the amount of charitable work/giving by the same number of non-religious people over the same period? (Serious question by the way, I've never seen decent-quality statistics on that point.)
MG - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> I know. But those are the effects of the policy. You asked me about the policy.
>
> These effects of the policy are, of course, part of the reason why I'm against it.

No, that is the aim of the policy. Its suporters were quite clear - they think women should have no leadership roles.
Tim Chappell - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
>
> [...]
>
> Agreed, though many religions and religious go far beyond merely telling children what the church thinks, and actively compel and coerce children to participate in religion. That's rather different.


Obviously. But we were talking about the CoE. I can tell you coercion doesn't happen a whole lot in the Anglican communion. I should know; I've taught Sunday school. I've never forced anyone to believe anything in my life; actually, I don't even know how. Every time I've done Sunday School, or watched anyone else do it (someone has to sit in, for child-protection reasons), it was all about "This is what the church believes; what do you think?". You get raucous and varied responses. You certainly don't get sheeplike conformity.
MG - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier: Very difficult to judge I would think.I suspect you work for a charity.Does that mean you devote a full working day to charity daily?
Ciro - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to Ciro)
> [...]
> on the 'does bad' side you have indoctrination of children into a strange world view, that to my mind constitutes a form of child abuse.
>
>
> This is a bit of a lazy canard. Have you actually looked at any of the evidence before advancing it? If you can find me any evidence at all of indoctrination, I'd be surprised. If you can find me evidence of indoctrination worth comparing to child abuse, I'd be seriously amazed.
>
> NB telling someone what you think, or what the church thinks, is not indoctrination. Though arguably exposing someone to hours and hours of TV for decades on end, as is done by typical atheist and theist parents alike, is.

I don't have any training in psychology to be able to evaluate whatever evidence there might be out there, so no I haven't made any attempt to do so.

I was merely pointing out an example of one of the thousands of things you would need to evaluate to determine logically whether the church does good or bad.

But I do know a lot of people I've spoken to about the pain of rejecting my parents faith have told me they faced the same problem.

Here's a fairly decent summary of why I think what the church does to indoctrinate children is child abuse:

http://www.mwillett.org/atheism/religion-is-child-abuse.htm
dissonance - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier) Very difficult to judge I would think.

would also need to check what counts as a charity eg does donating to the church itself count?

ads.ukclimbing.com
Tim Chappell - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Ciro:

That site is ill informed, scare-mongering, evidence-free nonsense. I don't quite know why you cite it. It adds no evidence to your claim at all.
In reply to Tim Chappell: http://www.royal.gov.uk/MonarchUK/QueenandChurch/QueenandtheChurchofEngland.aspx

So the Queen can appoint Bishops, through the PM, who can be, and has been, a woman.

Priceless.
Ciro - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to Ciro)
>
> That site is ill informed, scare-mongering, evidence-free nonsense.

The same could be said of any institution that tells you there's a hell... ;)

> I don't quite know why you cite it. It adds no evidence to your claim at all.

It was not intended to add evidence, it's very clearly an opinion piece. I cited it as it roughly explains my opinion too, and I'm off to the wall now so it was quicker than trying to word it myself :)
Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> But we were talking about the CoE. I can tell you coercion doesn't happen a whole lot in the Anglican communion.

Oh come on, many hundreds (perhaps thousands) of CofE "faith" schools hold daily god-worshipping sessions that the kids are not allowed to opt out of. Indeed, they are legally compelled to hold such sessions (so are most other schools!), and are legally required to compel the kids to worship the christian god. Coercion of children is absolutely routine in the Anglican communion.

Duncan Bourne - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to tatty112)
>
> [...]
>
> Now find a theology that isn't blatantly sexist.

Interesting one that.
I would say there are a few that come close to being non-sexist. Hinduism, Shamanism, Neo-Paganism (though possibly favouring women over men).
Buddhism comes quite close though there are some (mildly) sexist texts associated with the Buddha (see on allowing women to become monks) which is likely apocryphal and I don't know if they would ever pick a female Dali Llama. However the other main world religions Christianity and Islam are staggeringly sexist except for some sects within them (Methodists for example)
tlm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Matt Rees:
> (see unicorns, quackadiles, minotaurs, cosmic teapots etc.).

Hoorah! I made up the quackadile and it has gained independent life of its own!

Matt Rees - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to tlm:

What are you talking about made up? They exist in real life. IN REAL LIFE I TELL YOU!!!!1111111one!one!!!!11eleven!!!!one!
tlm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Matt Rees:
> (In reply to tlm)
>
> What are you talking about made up? They exist in real life. IN REAL LIFE I TELL YOU!!!!1111111one!one!!!!11eleven!!!!one!

They do! Look..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICBIVsOogME
tlm - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to tatty112)
>
> [...]
>
> Now find a theology that isn't blatantly sexist.

I thought of Sikhism when you said this, although I do understand that in practice, many Sikh women do experience sexism. However, I would say that is more of a cultural thing, rather than a religious thing?

mark s - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: strange how someone religious is asking for evidence from others to prove a point.
Tim Chappell - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to mark s:

My beliefs are based on the evidence. What, if anything, are yours based on?
Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> My beliefs are based on the evidence.

You mean that you believe that your beliefs are based on evidence.
Bimble on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

What evidence? A book written from passed-on stories? Doesn't really strike me as overwhelmingly reliable.
birdie num num - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Trangia:
I think lady priests should be able to get to the same rank as men. Maybe if they can't be bishops or archbishops they should be called boships and archboships. This would be a good compromise and would probably mollify the nay sayers. They're still allowed to be saints so Num Num is wondering why the gap in the pecking order?
seankenny - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to TryfAndy:

Reliable for what, exactly?
Ken Lewis - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:
> (In reply to TryfAndy)
>
> Reliable for what, exactly?

Personally I don't think it's reliable for teaching morals. A lot of the stuff in there is pretty horrific.
janiejonesworld - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Trangia: I was always led to believe that religious wars resulted from fanatical belief and over-interpretation of scriptures. Now I realise they are an inevitability because religious people are just such a tedious incessant pain in the tits that they're bound to hate each other for the same reason everyone else hates them. A valuable lesson
seankenny - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Ken Lewis:

Agreed, plenty of horrific stuff. Also, let's be kind and say its cosmology is a little dated. But some of the Bible is pretty good. And some of the English translations you must admit are cracking bits of writing.

I wouldn't base my life on the Bible. But to ignore its contribution to western cultural life, when people far cleverer and kinder than you and I (okay, that's a bit presumptuous, you might be a saint for all I know ;) ) have found guidance and inspiration from it... well it does rather seem to be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
subalpine - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to birdie num num: bishopettes?
Bimble on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:
> (In reply to TryfAndy)
>
> Reliable for what, exactly?

Reliable enough to commit yourself to the theology present in said book, to live your life by it & obey what it says. Sod that. (the same goes for all religion, legalised mind control in any form)
subalpine - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to subalpine:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier) is an action that is not touched by thought?
> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzx9HtZT73s

no answer? here's part 2:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1DOHAbobos


Ken Lewis - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to TryfAndy:
> (In reply to seankenny)
> [...]
>
> Reliable enough to commit yourself to the theology present in said book, to live your life by it & obey what it says. Sod that. (the same goes for all religion, legalised mind control in any form)

Mind control, like a dangerous cult?

Oh shit I hope off-duty or other police dont read that and send the boys round, people have been arrested for referring to a religion as a cult in the past in our great, free, secular society after all.

Although in reality i would gladly martyr myself.
Bimble on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Ken Lewis:

I don't see any difference between a religion & a cult. It's all the same load of crap for gullible muppets. And secular society? Don't make me laugh! I'm a firm believer in Monsieur Diderot's observation of "Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest"

(And I wouldn't actually mind too much if he came round to nick me in person, I'd quite like to meet the fella!)
crossdressingrodney - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier
> Mathematics is the discovery of how the physical world is, what sort of patterns physical stuff makes.

This doesn't ring true to me. You can study mathematics that has no obvious application to the real world; for example, the p-adic numbers, or the large cardinals, or, well, pretty much any modern pure mathematics research. Of course I may just be expressing my ignorance, or applications may be discovered in the future, but I don't think it's reasonable to claim that maths is limited to describing the physical world.

In reply to seankenny:
On the other hand, I don't have any problem with the application of infinite sets to the real world: very good approximations to reality are described by, say, the real numbers: think of Newton's laws for particles moving in continuous space. You can argue that space-time gets sort of lumpy at the small scale, but no-one really knows (yet).
Coel Hellier - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to crossdressingrodney:

> You can study mathematics that has no obvious application to the real world ...

Yes, true, but to do that you reason from axioms. And if you ask where those axioms (and the reason) come from, I'd argue that axioms of maths and logic ultimately derive from observations of our world, they are distillations of empirical reality.

The other possibilities are (1) that mathematical axioms are arbitrary, which is not really plausible, given how well maths applies to reality, or (2) mathematical axioms are necessary in the sense that there is no coherent alternative to them. That one's an interesting possibility, though I don't know how to prove or disprove it. Even if it were the case, though, it would still hold that our knowledge of this system would derive from empirical observations of the world.
subalpine - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to crossdressingrodney: bring on the multiverse;)
Ken Lewis - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:
> (In reply to Ken Lewis)
>
> I wouldn't base my life on the Bible. But to ignore its contribution to western cultural life, when people far cleverer and kinder than you and I (okay, that's a bit presumptuous, you might be a saint for all I know ;) ) have found guidance and inspiration from it... well it does rather seem to be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

I don't ignore it's contribution. I have visited St. Peters and, begrudgingly, made the catholic church richer by paying 15 Euro to stare in awe at the Sistine roof, and shockingly impressive it is too.

The reason that in the modern world I have to stoop to such lows as making the church richer to appreciate high art is because for centuries the oppressive bastards raped wealth from the proles and were therefore the only ones who could afford such opulent extravagance.

I will gladly throw that oppressive prole rape out with the dishwater.

Looking at MG's thread about the future of churches, well if the cults had saved a bit of the money they taxed from the masses over the centuries, instead of lavishing it on ridiculously opulent art masterpieces, perhaps they would have enough left in the coffers to repair their stupid buildings.

Instead they drag up medieval laws and force local home owners to pay for the repair. Yes, very christian thing to do. Wankers.

IainRUK - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to tlm:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)
> [...]
>
> I thought of Sikhism when you said this, although I do understand that in practice, many Sikh women do experience sexism. However, I would say that is more of a cultural thing, rather than a religious thing?

Can you separate culture and religion? I'd have thought they are so closely related and feed into eachother that their separation is impossible..

Aftera ll many religious beliefs have changed with culture, multiple wives being the obvious one.

You could say catholicism is actually one of the more unsexist strains of christianity in many ways, due to the way it views Mary and the importance of mothers.


subalpine - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to: all we need is /watch?v=r4p8qxGbpOk
subalpine - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to crossdressingrodney: pah, you maths geeks have no real answers- i'm going to bed just like before that big collider got built..
dissonance - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to IainRUK:

> You could say catholicism is actually one of the more unsexist strains of christianity in many ways, due to the way it views Mary and the importance of mothers.

you could. It would be an interesting interpretation of unsexist though. The "importanc of mothers" sums up in itself the weakness of the argument.
crossdressingrodney - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> Yes, true, but to do that you reason from axioms. And if you ask where those axioms (and the reason) come from, I'd argue that axioms of maths and logic ultimately derive from observations of our world, they are distillations of empirical reality.
>
> The other possibilities are (1) that mathematical axioms are arbitrary, which is not really plausible, given how well maths applies to reality, or (2) mathematical axioms are necessary in the sense that there is no coherent alternative to them. That one's an interesting possibility, though I don't know how to prove or disprove it. Even if it were the case, though, it would still hold that our knowledge of this system would derive from empirical observations of the world.

I think of mathematics as more fundamental than physics. I can imagine that the universe could have turned out differently; or even that there could be other universes pootling along according to different physical laws. But it's hard to imagine other physical laws that are not described by the usual axioms of mathematics. Which I guess means I'm tending towards option (2) (failure of imagine notwithstanding once more).
crossdressingrodney - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to IainRUK:
> You could say catholicism is actually one of the more unsexist strains of christianity in many ways, due to the way it views Mary ...

As a one-way birthing funnel you mean?
subalpine - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to crossdressingrodney: is the matrix real?
Duncan Bourne - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to IainRUK:
> (In reply to tlm)
> [...]
>
>
>
> You could say catholicism is actually one of the more unsexist strains of christianity in many ways, due to the way it views Mary and the importance of mothers.

I was actually thinking that Catholicism was one of the more sexist strains actually. After all definitely no women priests there and while they revere Mary as the mother of Christ and thus elevate motherhood to Holy status, they equally blame women for the introduction of original sin into the world via Eve. Leading to the view amongst many at the more extreme end of the spectrum that women are essentially sinful (men too but women cop the lion's share) and can only be redeemed by motherhood (within marriage naturally)
birdie num num - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to subalpine:
> (In reply to birdie num num) bishopettes?

BILFs

MG - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to subalpine:
> (In reply to birdie num num) bishopettes?


High Priestess I think is the term.
Wonko The Sane - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Duncan Bourne:
> (In reply to IainRUK)
> [...]
>
> I was actually thinking that Catholicism was one of the more sexist strains actually. After all definitely no women priests there and while they revere Mary as the mother of Christ and thus elevate motherhood to Holy status, they equally blame women for the introduction of original sin into the world via Eve. Leading to the view amongst many at the more extreme end of the spectrum that women are essentially sinful (men too but women cop the lion's share) and can only be redeemed by motherhood (within marriage naturally)

On the plus side, it often leads to some very repressed catholic girls who make a point of committing every sin possible as soon as they're out of range of their home town and priest.

I for one give a big vote of thanks to the catholic church for services rendered to me as a younger bloke.
deepsoup - on 22 Nov 2012
crossdressingrodney - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to subalpine:
> (In reply to crossdressingrodney) is the matrix real?

Sure, if it's in GL(n,R).
ads.ukclimbing.com
Jimbo W on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> Those are unsupported assertions with which I simply disagree and I don't have the time or knowledge to enter into a long ontological debate on cartesian dualism.

Absolutely. Just because emotions might have a physical correlate in neuronal impulses does not mean that emotions are physical. No talk of particular "patterns" of matter bridges that ontological distinction and to assert that it does is merely to express faith in the comprehensive validity of reductive materialism at precisely a point where a big question is asked of it.
Tim Chappell - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

I think the crucial question is "What does 'physical' mean?" Without a clear answer to that, "physicalism", the thesis that "everything is physical", doesn't get as far as being false, even. It's just vacuous.

This is why I myself am just agnostic about physicalism.
Robert Durran - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> Absolutely. Just because emotions might have a physical correlate in neuronal impulses does not mean that emotions are physical. No talk of particular "patterns" of matter bridges that ontological distinction and to assert that it does is merely to express faith in the comprehensive validity of reductive materialism at precisely a point where a big question is asked of it.

If emotions cannot be reduced to particle physics, do you have any sensible, plausible, alternative (plain english please, not big long words like "ontological")

Sir Chasm - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W: And how does your physical brain communicate with emotions that apparently exist in some sort of immaterial nether world?
Coel Hellier - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> Without a clear answer to that, "physicalism", the thesis that "everything is physical",
> doesn't get as far as being false, even. It's just vacuous.

Not at all. The onus is on anyone who argues for anything "non-physical" to provide some evidence for anything such. So far no-one has.
Tim Chappell - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:

Alternative what? Alternative reduction of emotions to something else? Or alternative account of emotions?

Here's an idea for you: maybe emotions are best understood in their own terms, as emotions, not in some quite different set of terms, such as the terms of physics.
MG - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to Jimbo W)
>
> I think the crucial question is "What does 'physical' mean?" Without a clear answer to that, "physicalism",

We had that (a long way) above.
Tim Chappell - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
>
> [...]
>
> Not at all. The onus is on anyone who argues for anything "non-physical" to provide some evidence for anything such. So far no-one has.


Try again, Coel. You haven't answered the question. What does "physical" actually mean? Until you tell me, I don't know what "non-physical" means.
MG - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> Here's an idea for you: maybe emotions are best understood in their own terms, as emotions, not in some quite different set of terms, such as the terms of physics.

Do you also think, for example:

fires are best understood in their own terms, as fires, not in some quite different set of terms, such as the terms of physics and chemistry.
Coel Hellier - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> Try again, Coel. You haven't answered the question. What does "physical" actually mean? Until you
> tell me, I don't know what "non-physical" means.

The reason that you don't know what "non-physical" means is that you have no clear concept of or evidence for anything non-physical.

It is people like you who argue for a big divide, a fundamental ontological divide into two (or more) quite distinct classes of stuff.

If you want to argue for that then *you* clarify and defend the distinction. If you succeed in that then you'll have your answer as to what "physical" versus "non-physical" is.

But, since no-one has done that, the sensible attitude (Occam's razor) is to assume that there is no great ontological divide, and that the only sorts of stuff are the ones we're aware of (which we call physical stuff). No-one has shown any inadequacy in that picture, and until they do, talk of non-physical stuff is not warranted.
tlm - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> Here's an idea for you: maybe emotions are best understood in their own terms, as emotions, not in some quite different set of terms, such as the terms of physics.

Doesn't that depend on what you are trying to achieve? There is usually more than one way of looking at, or doing things, all of which are usually useful in their own various contexts.

If you're trying to develop an antidepressant, then looking at the physics might be useful. If you are enjoying being in love, then pure emotion may be the way to go...

Coel Hellier - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> Here's an idea for you: maybe emotions are best understood in their own terms, as emotions, not in
> some quite different set of terms, such as the terms of physics.

That's pretty unlikely considering that emotions are properties of animals which have evolved through a process of Darwinian evolution, and that biology is the playing out of chemistry and physics.

Now, if you had emotions without any biological context and without any chemical/physical substrate then you might have a case for them as basic ontological entities.
Dave Garnett - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
>
> [...]
>
> The reason that you don't know what "non-physical" means is that you have no clear concept of or evidence for anything non-physical.
>

I'm not sure it's quite as simple as that. How does gravity actually work, for instance? What's the current evidence for the 'physical' interaction of two distant masses? I'm not saying it's magic, but I think there's a lot of physics we don't understand and our present concept of the 'physical' may turn out to be rather naive.
Coel Hellier - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Dave Garnett:

Yes, there's a lot of physics that we don't understand, but that's not in itself an argument for the missing understanding being about "non-physical" stuff.

That's God-of-the-gaps style reasoning which theologians pretend to pooh-pooh but keep returning to because it's all they've got.
Coel Hellier - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to the thread:

More reasons why the religious need putting in their place:

Cllr Chris Bithell, cabinet member for education: "We will provide free school transport for children of a particular faith, if they can demonstrate they are of that faith. But in other cases, where parents are using that school for reasons other than faith, then they will have to pay transport fees. [...] This is certainly fair because we are applying the same principle in all cases."

WTF????? It's fair to discriminate on religious grounds because they apply the same discrimination in all cases???

http://www.secularism.org.uk/news/2012/11/if-you-cant-prove-youre-a-christian-get-off-the-school-bus
Dave Garnett - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

I've always thought that a God of the gaps was the most useful sort. He doesn't get in anyone's way and I can't get too worked up about him one way or the other.
Robert Durran - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
> Here's an idea for you: maybe emotions are best understood in their own terms, as emotions, not in some quite different set of terms, such as the terms of physics.

So emotions are as fundamental in their own way as particle physics? And how do these "quite different set of terms" intereact with the laws of particle physics in the brain? You say they're "best understood" in these nebulous terms?! It's just waffle. Please provide some substance. Or if (as is presumably the case) you can't, just admit you havn't a clue about emotions, but that the only plausible lead is via physics.
Duncan Bourne - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to Jimbo W)
>
> I think the crucial question is "What does 'God' mean?" Without a clear answer to that, "Godism", the thesis that "everything is a product of God", doesn't get as far as being false, even. It's just vacuous.
>

There fixed that for you.
Surely physical relates to the interaction of matter and energy and physics is the science of exploring and understanding that relationship
Duncan Bourne - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
emotions might be best described as "emerging properties" or the effect of a combination of physical forces. For instance a painting is composed of physical elements, chemicals and such but combined in such a way to create an illusion. Further this illusion may create an emotional response in an observer dependant upon that observers associations with the illusion. These emotions are created out of stored information, chemical processes and the results of cause and effect
Coel Hellier - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Dave Garnett:

> I've always thought that a God of the gaps was the most useful sort. He doesn't get in anyone's way and
> I can't get too worked up about him one way or the other.

And He also does a Cheshire-cat vanishing act as science progresses.
ads.ukclimbing.com
Duncan Bourne - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Dave Garnett)
>
> [...]
>
> And He also does a Cheshire-cat vanishing act as science progresses.

That's true. I was in the pub with God the other night when some science walked in. He grabbed me by the collar and hissed "You don't know me right" then snuck out the back door
Shani - on 22 Nov 2012
It looks like Trangia has made a late grab at the 'UKC Troll of the Year' title!

Anyway, before the thread gets any longer, I think we could all agree with the following VERY worthwhile campaign:

http://holyredundant.org.uk/
Duncan Bourne - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Shani:
tsk! I can't believe all the people coming on here and "bashing the bishops" Some things should be private you know ;o)
Jimbo W on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Not at all. The onus is on anyone who argues for anything "non-physical" to provide some evidence for anything such. So far no-one has.

No, Tim is right, your materialism or physicalism has to be defined properly for non-physical to mean anything.
Sir Chasm - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W: No, coel is right, if you want to posit this non-physical somethingorother provide some evidence for it.
Coel Hellier - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> No, Tim is right, your materialism or physicalism has to be defined properly for non-physical to mean anything.

But my stance isn't so much "physicalism", it's more: As far as I'm aware, there are no great ontological divides into fundamentally different types of stuff. All stuff that we're aware of obeys a coherent set of "laws of physics" and can be treated by the same methods and tools. Further, I don't really care what labels are applied to this stuff, that's just semantics.

In other words, it is not me who is defining "physicalism", and then a boundary to "physicalism" and then postulating "non-physical" entities outside that boundary.

If other people want to do that, and want to postulate a fundamental ontological divide between "material" and "spiritual" or whatever, then it is up to them to define the boundaries and provide the evidence.

Thus Tim is entirely wrong to try to place any onus on me to define these things. But, as so usual, the theologians often try to reverse the burden of proof because they know they're so bad at providing evidence and reason themselves.
Jimbo W on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:

> No, coel is right, if you want to posit this non-physical somethingorother provide some evidence for it.

I haven't posited a non-physical somethingorother, I have merely stated that Coel's pseudoscientific speak of "patterns" does nothing to reduce the ontologies of mind and matter into a coherent whole.
Coel Hellier - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> I have merely stated that Coel's pseudoscientific speak of "patterns" does nothing to reduce the
> ontologies of mind and matter into a coherent whole.

Excuse me, but on what basis do you assert that we start with distinct ontologies of "mind" and "matter"? Do you have any actual evidence they are distinct?

My stance is that, since there is no evidence for any such distinction, and no evidence that materialism is inadequate in any way, let's default to materialism until such evidence is encountered.
Sir Chasm - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W: Of course you have, otherwise why would you be distinguishing mind from matter.
Sir Chasm - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W: In fact you could just be honest and call it soul, you know you want to.
Shani - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to Sir Chasm)
>
> [...]
>
> I haven't posited a non-physical somethingorother, I have merely stated that Coel's pseudoscientific speak of "patterns" does nothing to reduce the ontologies of mind and matter into a coherent whole.

Jimbo - let's keep this simple. Are the laws of thermodynamics wrong?
Jimbo W on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Excuse me, but on what basis do you assert that we start with distinct ontologies of "mind" and "matter"? Do you have any actual evidence they are distinct?

1) The mind has primacy in all interaction with what we perceive as reality. No reality can be described, determined and objectivity realised without it. Is it not self-evident that the mind exists, and therefore on what basis would you doubt its ontological status? The better question is, in what way is matter real rather than being a property or illusion of the mind.
2) In what way is it possible to describe the properties of mind (e.g. self-hood) in purely material / physical terms?

> My stance is that, since there is no evidence for any such distinction, and no evidence that materialism is inadequate in any way, let's default to materialism until such evidence is encountered.

3) So mind is a property of all matter? Or mind is a property that emerges from matter? Even if it can be shown that mind is an emergent phenomenon of physical complexity, how does that help you reduce the qualities of the mind to its physical correlates and unify their being?
Jimbo W on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Shani:

> Jimbo - let's keep this simple. Are the laws of thermodynamics wrong?

Nah, lets keep it real. The laws of thermodynamics are what they are: temporally recognised descriptions of nature's behaviour, no more, no less. They aren't real in any other sense and have no essential being. In that sense, the question is re-phrased: is the reality of nature how we mutually describe it to be as regards thermodynamics? I'd say, yes, our descriptions appear temporally consistent, but I would not commit myself to say that the consensus description is immutable.
MG - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W: I think you forgetting things. Afterall

In the works of Fellini, a predominant concept is the concept of subconstructive narrativity. Foucault uses the term ‘cultural deappropriation’ to denote the rubicon, and therefore the fatal flaw, of prestructuralist reality.

“Society is impossible,” says Baudrillard; however, according to von Junz[1] , it is not so much society that is impossible, but rather the economy of society. However, the primary theme of d’Erlette’s [2] critique of materialist discourse is the bridge between class and truth. Sartre suggests the use of capitalist narrative to analyse sexual identity.

In the works of Eco, a predominant concept is the distinction between feminine and masculine. Thus, Finnis[3] states that the works of Eco are an example of self-justifying feminism. Sontag promotes the use of semiotic narrative to attack hierarchy.

“Society is intrinsically used in the service of elitist perceptions of reality,” says Foucault; however, according to Dahmus [4] , it is not so much society that is intrinsically used in the service of elitist perceptions of reality, but rather the failure, and thus the collapse, of society. It could be said that the subject is interpolated into a modernism that includes language as a whole. The premise of capitalist narrative holds that truth is part of the defining characteristic of reality.
Jimbo W on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:
> (In reply to Jimbo W) Of course you have, otherwise why would you be distinguishing mind from matter.

No, it is quite simply a fact that the "mind-body" problem is one that materialists have to tackle adequately. The ontology of the mind is self evident as it is the place from which we all start, which isn't necessarily to say that it is supernatural (or a soul as you put it).
Sir Chasm - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W: The ontology of the mind is self evident? Really? Go on then, what is the mind?
Coel Hellier - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> 1) The mind has primacy in all interaction with what we perceive as reality.

I have no idea what that means.

> No reality can be described, determined and objectivity realised without it.

Nor that (at least the latter two; I'm ok with the "described").

> Is it not self-evident that the mind exists, and therefore on what basis would you doubt its ontological status?

It's evident that hurricanes exist; that's no reason for giving them any ontological status other than patterns of matter.

> The better question is, in what way is matter real rather than being a property or illusion of the mind.

Nope, the better question is: what evidence do you have for this fundamental ontological divide?

> 2) In what way is it possible to describe the properties of mind (e.g. self-hood) in purely
> material / physical terms?

That's straightforward. What is the problem in doing so? As for "self-hood", I don't see any problem with particular patterns being consistent enough to deserve a name. Heck, even Sandy got one.

> 3) So mind is a property of all matter? Or mind is a property that emerges from matter?

Yes and yes.

> Even if it can be shown that mind is an emergent phenomenon of physical complexity, how does that help
> you reduce the qualities of the mind to its physical correlates and unify their being?

Their ontological basis is the same.
mark s - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Trangia: derren brown is on e4 now and doin a good job of explaining why religion and belief in god is man made idea an all pyschological and not based on reality.
dissonance - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:

you been to elsewhere then?
MG - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to dissonance: :-) a
ads.ukclimbing.com
seankenny - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:
> just admit you havn't a clue about emotions, but that the only plausible lead is via physics.

Roses are red
Violets are blue
I've written equations describing my love
Which predict you'll love me too.
Shani - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to Shani)
>
> [...]
>
> Nah, lets keep it real. The laws of thermodynamics are what they are: temporally recognised descriptions of nature's behaviour, no more, no less. They aren't real in any other sense and have no essential being. In that sense, the question is re-phrased: is the reality of nature how we mutually describe it to be as regards thermodynamics? I'd say, yes, our descriptions appear temporally consistent, but I would not commit myself to say that the consensus description is immutable.

And are you theist or deist? Or just open to the idea there might be a god?
Robert Durran - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
>
> Roses are red
> Violets are blue
> I've written equations describing my love
> Which predict you'll love me too.

If you were a woman, I would actually have found that incredibly romantic.
Jimbo W on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:

> (In reply to Jimbo W) The ontology of the mind is self evident?

So you think it is an illusion?!!!!
seankenny - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:

Oh dear, I attempt to satirise you and I end up romancing you.
Talk about unintended consequences.
Jimbo W on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Shani:

> And are you theist or deist? Or just open to the idea there might be a god?

Somewhere between a theist and a panentheist.
Coel Hellier - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> So you think it is an illusion?!!!!

No of course he doesn't, but there is nothing "self evident" about any supposed ontological divide between "mind" and "matter".
seankenny - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
> [...]
>
> Roses are red
> Violets are blue
> I've written equations* describing my love
> Which predict you'll love me too.

* Those sorts of equations in which a small change in initial condition results in wildly differing outcomes.
Ie. Accidentally spills pasta onto shirt on first date &#8658; no second date
Manages to eat pasta succesfully &#8658; gets married, children, grandchildren, dying within six months of each other.

I'll leave the technical details to those with the knowledge.
Shani - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to Shani)
>
> [...]
>
> Somewhere between a theist and a panentheist.

Panentheist? If god is part of the universe then s/he is subject to its laws. Isn't this simple personification of physics?

Theists - believe in only one god? But why should there be only one, why not lots?

If you fall somewhere between these two (very broad) positions what is your 'quality gate' to stop you being misguided?
Sir Chasm - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W: If you bothered to read the thread you would see that I think the mind is matter. What do you think the mind is?
Jimbo W on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:
> (In reply to Jimbo W) If you bothered to read the thread you would see that I think the mind is matter. What do you think the mind is?

In what way is the mind matter?
Sir Chasm - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W: What else could it be? Why so evasive as to what you think the mind is?
Jimbo W on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> No of course he doesn't, but there is nothing "self evident" about any supposed ontological divide between "mind" and "matter".

So how do you proceed from skepticism to belief in an external reality? And how in that process do you dismiss the ontology that is the mind, the place from which you start, and make it a derivative facet of that external reality?
Robert Durran - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
>
> Oh dear, I attempt to satirise you and I end up romancing you.
> Talk about unintended consequences.

Yep. Photons from my monitor struck my retina, triggering signals in my optic nerve which initiated electrochemical neural activity resulting in increased dopamine production. Then I looked expectantly at your profile picture and production was immediately terminated.

Coel Hellier - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> So how do you proceed from skepticism to belief in an external reality?

We simply take "reality" to mean that which we experience (including everything that can have a discernible affect anything that we can experience).

> And how in that process do you dismiss the ontology that is the mind ...

I'm not "dismissing" anything. I start from the basis that all such things are the same ontology, unless given reason to make fundamental ontological distinctions. You've been asked repeatedly if you have such evidence and so far you've not given us any.

> ... mind, the place from which you start ...

Humans have traditionally gone wrong by placing themselves at the centre of things and starting from the hubris that they are important and central. I don't see a good reason to say that "mind" is special in some way distinct from other stuff.

> ... and make it a derivative facet of that external reality?

All of what we know about the universe tells us that "mind" is the product of biological brains, which are the product of Darwinian evolution, which are the playing out of chemistry and physics. Since that explanation works very well there is no reason to invent new and distinct ontological categories unless given strong evidence for doing so.
Robert Durran - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:
> (In reply to seankenny)
> [...]
>
> * Those sorts of equations in which a small change in initial condition results in wildly differing outcomes.
> Ie. Accidentally spills pasta onto shirt on first date &#8658; no second date
> Manages to eat pasta succesfully &#8658; gets married, children, grandchildren, dying within six months of each other.

Doesn't complexity emerge when the parameters are right at the edge of chaos? True love is a finely balanced thing.
Jimbo W on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> We simply take "reality" to mean that which we experience (including everything that can have a discernible affect anything that we can experience).

So the foundation of your view is dogmatism, which renders your belief in materiality a circular and self-fulfilling. You accept it is true and then accept it is its own evidence. You'll have to do better than that.

> I'm not "dismissing" anything. I start from the basis that all such things are the same ontology, unless given reason to make fundamental ontological distinctions. You've been asked repeatedly if you have such evidence and so far you've not given us any.

If all things were the same ontology, I would be you, and you me. Scary thought. But not true.

> Humans have traditionally gone wrong by placing themselves at the centre of things and starting from the hubris that they are important and central. I don't see a good reason to say that "mind" is special in some way distinct from other stuff.

This avoids the point and doesn't resolve the problem.

> All of what we know about the universe tells us that "mind" is the product of biological brains, which are the product of Darwinian evolution, which are the playing out of chemistry and physics. Since that explanation works very well there is no reason to invent new and distinct ontological categories unless given strong evidence for doing so.

You're faith that removes your from skepticism tells you that in a circular way. You choose to believe an external reality which you then use as evidence for itself and yourself.
Coel Hellier - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> So the foundation of your view is dogmatism ...

No, not at all. The foundation of my view is looking around and thinking "quite likely I'm the same sort of stuff as I see around me". Your view is founded on: "Quite likely I'm special and distinctly different from the stuff I see around me".

> If all things were the same ontology, I would be you, and you me. Scary thought. But not true.

Now you're just descending to pedantry. I have repeatedly explained that by "same ontology" I mean that there are no fundamental ontological distinctions of the "mind" v "matter" sort that you try to postulate. You are evading dealing with the core here: what is your evidence for that claim?

> This avoids the point and doesn't resolve the problem.

What problem? There is no "problem" in seeing everything as the same ontology.

> You choose to believe an external reality which you then use as evidence for itself and yourself.

No I don't choose to "believe" in anything. It is not me who is seeking any distinction between "external" reality vs "internal" reality, and who needs to "believe" across that divide.

If *you* want to divide external from internal in some fundamental ontological way then *you* provide the evidence for it.
seankenny - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:
> (In reply to seankenny)
> [...]
>
> Yep. Photons from my monitor struck my retina, triggering signals in my optic nerve which initiated electrochemical neural activity resulting in increased dopamine production. Then I looked expectantly at your profile picture and production was immediately terminated.

Likewise, plainly. But no mere equation can capture the horror I felt, not writing a love poem to man, but to a man who has worn a white headband on at least TWO seperate occasions, and apparently unironically.

(Sorry Robert.)
Robert Durran - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
> [...]
>
> Likewise, plainly. But no mere equation can capture the horror I felt, not writing a love poem to man, but to a man who has worn a white headband on at least TWO seperate occasions, and apparently unironically.


Ah, but how do you know it is white all the way round?

(Do you know the excellent joke about the engineer, physicist and mathematician who, on crossing the border into scotland, see a black sheep in a field?)
Tim Chappell - on 23 Nov 2012
I've given up on this thread since (a) it became yet another identikit Coel Hellier thread-- really, he should have his own forum-- and (b) Coel refused to define "physical" while insisting that he is someone who believes that everything is physical.

There is really no point debating with such question-beggery. Especially not on a thread which has been relentlessly hijacked almost from the start.
MG - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> I've given up on this thread since (a) it became yet another identikit Coel Hellier thread--

You may have a point here.

(b) Coel refused to define "physical" while insisting that he is someone who believes that everything is physical.


He did in fact a long way up. Before you go, could you define non-physical, or whatever it is you think the mind is? (you wouldn't won't to be seen to be begging the question too, would you?)
Sir Chasm - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: Well done for posting to say you're not posting. But while you're posting perhaps you could explain what the mind is if it isn't physical?
MG - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to MG: Umm "want"!
seankenny - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:
> (In reply to seankenny)
> [...]
>
>
> Ah, but how do you know it is white all the way round?

I suspect it's off-white all the way around. It's a hypothesis I hope I won't ever be called upon to verify.

>
> (Do you know the excellent joke about the engineer, physicist and mathematician who, on crossing the border into scotland, see a black sheep in a field?)

For sure :)

Tim Chappell - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:

"Physical" =DEF of or pertaining to the nature of physics.

From which it follows immediately that not everything is physical, since not every inquiry is physics.
Coel Hellier - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> I've given up on this thread since

... since you are completely out of your depth, as usual.

> and (b) Coel refused to define "physical" while insisting that he is someone who believes
> that everything is physical.

No, let me try explaining it *again*. The category "physical" only has meaning if you contrast it with some other category "non-physical". Thus you *only* need a definition of physical if you want to distinguish it from "non-physical". I don't; I'm not postulating "non-physical"; as far as I'm aware there is no evidence for a boundary for "physical" and no evidence for "non-physical" stuff beyond that boundary.

It is **you** who wants to postulate this division, *you* who wants to postulate "non-physical", and thus *****YOU***** who needs to define the boundary. Clear yet???

> There is really no point debating with such question-beggery.

Tim, Tim, nice but Dim, as usual can't argue for peanuts, and is completely out of his depth when trying to argue rationally or on evidence.

MG - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> "Physical" =DEF of or pertaining to the nature of physics.
>
> From which it follows immediately that not everything is physical

Not sure that is correct. Why not? E.g. if the mind is a collection electrical impulses and atoms and stuff, it is clearly physical. And if you think it is not, can you, as above, please define non-physical?

MG - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> "Physical" =DEF

DEF??
Coel Hellier - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:

> And if you think it is not, can you, as above, please define non-physical?

It's notable how often these Christians divert into meta-arguments (arguments about having an argument), rather than simply addressing points directly, answering questions and discussing sensibly.
Tim Chappell - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:


I'll ignore your abuse, though I find it interesting evidence of your inner states.

OK, well if you refuse to define "physical", let's just say that everything there is is physical; and God exists; so God is physical. Nothing in what you've said to stop me doing that.

And the mind is physical, and economics is physical, and the number 4 is physical, and everything.

We could substitute "blugwup" for "physical", or any other nonsense word you care to invent. Because your continuing refusal to define the word has that effect: it makes "physical" into a nonsense word.

Incidentally, if you think that "categories can only have meaning if there's something to contrast them with", I respectfully suggest that it's you who's out of his depth.

Stick to spotting galaxies would be my advice.

However, you've hijacked this thread enough. Far be it from me to be complicit in that any further.
seankenny - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Jimbo W)
>
> [...]
>
> The foundation of my view is looking around and thinking "quite likely I'm the same sort of stuff as I see around me". Your view is founded on: "Quite likely I'm special and distinctly different from the stuff I see around me".

I just bought some cheese from Iceland. So quite naturally I'm tending towards the later, twice over.

What I find depressing about this is that the physicists here aren't really bothering to properly debate the Tim or Jim's point of view - like tryign to get inside why they believe what they do, and take it apart from there.

Repeating the same thing - "you prove it" - over and over again my be technically correct, the right move in the game, but it's hardly evidence of great rhetorical skill. It just looks like stonewalling. )I appreciate that Coel feels he has no need to go further.)

Incidentally, I'm guessing (I honestly don't know), that our present understanding is a long way off from explaining exactly how all the physical stuff creates mind. Are you guys taking it on faith that it will?

Sir Chasm - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny: What do they believe? What do they think the mind is if it isn't physical?
Jimbo W on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:
> (In reply to seankenny) What do they believe? What do they think the mind is if it isn't physical?

Depends what you mean by physical.
Coel Hellier - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> let's just say that everything there is is physical; and God exists; so God is physical. Nothing in
> what you've said to stop me doing that.

... though the "... and God exists" claim is rather unsupported.

> And the mind is physical, and economics is physical, and the number 4 is physical, and everything.

As far as I'm aware, yes.

> Incidentally, if you think that "categories can only have meaning if there's something to contrast
> them with", I respectfully suggest that it's you who's out of his depth.

And of course you're going to support that claim with examples, examples that show that a category definition can be meaningful even if there is nothing outside the category ... aren't you?

> ... Far be it from me to be complicit in that any further.

Err, no, you're going to run away. Why do you never defend your claims?
MG - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W: Let's try a slightly different tack and leave physical/non-physical to one side. What do you believe the mind is?
Sir Chasm - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W: So you think the mind is physical? Please tell us what you believe, is it a secret?
MG - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to Jimbo W) Let's try a slightly different tack and leave physical/non-physical to one side. What do you believe the mind is?

Same question to Tim.

John_Hat - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to all:

Will it make 1000 replies, one wonders...?
Robert Durran - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to MG)
> From which it follows immediately that not everything is physical, since not every inquiry is physics.

It is, of course, possible to discuss or enquire about,say, emotions, or even "spirituality" while understanding or mentioning nothing of physics*. However this does not mean that physics does not lie behind these things; they almost undoubtedly emerge (in ways by no means yet fully understood) from the underlying physics. There is no reason or evidence to suggest otherwise.

*In the same way most people drive cars and can discuss their performance etc. without any real understanding of how the thing under the bonnet actually makes them go.

ads.ukclimbing.com
Coel Hellier - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:

> the physicists here aren't really bothering to properly debate the Tim or Jim's point of view ...

It takes two to tango. It's very hard to "properly debate" with people who won't answer direct questions or discuss straightforwardly, but try to divert into meta-arguments as a distraction.

> "you prove it" - over and over again my be technically correct ... It just looks like stonewalling. )
> I appreciate that Coel feels he has no need to go further.)

Exactly. If someone wants to posit whole new ontological categories, then the onus is on them to support the claim.

> our present understanding is a long way off from explaining exactly how all the physical stuff creates
> mind. Are you guys taking it on faith that it will?

I'm saying that if someone wants to argue that there is more to it than that then the onus is on them to provide the evidence. Intuition and gut feeling aren't sufficient.
Robert Durran - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
> Tim, Tim, nice but Dim, as usual can't argue for peanuts, and is completely out of his depth when trying to argue rationally or on evidence.

I thought for a moment that was going to rhyme!

Robert Durran - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)
>
> And the mind is physical, and economics is physical, and the number 4 is physical, and everything.

You might just have a point about the number 4.
seankenny - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
> [...]
>
> It is, of course, possible to discuss or enquire about,say, emotions, or even "spirituality" while understanding or mentioning nothing of physics*. However this does not mean that physics does not lie behind these things; they almost undoubtedly emerge (in ways by no means yet fully understood) from the underlying physics. There is no reason or evidence to suggest otherwise.

I'll assume this is true. How do you think this does/will effect other fields of enquiry? Or indeed broader life outside of the academy?

I'm just slightly reminded of Russell and Whitehead's labourious proof that mathematics could be constructed with just the empty set and the idea of one set containing another. When I studied this, and god it was tedious, I got the impression that afterwards the mathematical world sort of shrugged and said "so?". If others on this thread more mathematically educated than I can say this isn't so, please do!



>
> *In the same way most people drive cars and can discuss their performance etc. without any real understanding of how the thing under the bonnet actually makes them go.

MG - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:
>
> Incidentally, I'm guessing (I honestly don't know), that our present understanding is a long way off from explaining exactly how all the physical stuff creates mind. Are you guys taking it on faith that it will?

I would say yes, in time. You could have asked the same about pretty much all our understanding of physics/science at some point in the past.

Tim et al might like to read about Flogisten as it seems a rather similar postulate to their ideas about the mind.
Robert Durran - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
>
> I'll assume this is true. How do you think this does/will effect other fields of enquiry? Or indeed broader life outside of the academy?

I imagine not a lot in many applied fields.
Except that once generally accepted, theologians might do something more useful with their lives (like physics for instance).
seankenny - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:

Look, you do it like this:

Tim, Tim, nice but dim, argued about physics and preached about sin.

(Fwiw I thought this was a bit rude of Coel, and Tim comes across a thoroughly decent chap, but I just wanted to show you sciencey types how it's done.)

Or this:

There once was a professor named Coel,
Who believed he was born lacking soul,
He said proof of divine
Is your problem not mine,
I'd rather go spotting black holes.
Robert Durran - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
> I suspect it's off-white all the way around. It's a hypothesis I hope I won't ever be called upon to verify.

I'll spare you the bother. It is very off white.
Coel Hellier - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:

> There once was a professor named Coel,
> Who believed he was born lacking soul,
> He said proof of divine
> Is your problem not mine,
> I'd rather go spotting black holes.

That's rather good!

> I thought this was a bit rude of Coel

Yeah, but Tim has a lot of previous (otherwise I wouldn't be so rude about him).
Robert Durran - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:

> There once was a professor named Coel,
> Who believed he was born lacking soul,
> He said proof of divine
> Is your problem not mine,
> I'd rather go spotting black holes.

Genius!

dissonance - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to John_Hat:

> Will it make 1000 replies, one wonders...?

dunno, i think Coel and co are getting bored of punching fog.
Maybe throw in some comments about whether gays should be accepted in senior positions as well to liven it back up.
Rob Exile Ward on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny: 'our present understanding is a long way off from explaining exactly how all the physical stuff creates mind.'

At one level this seems to me inevitably true - anwway, what would a full explanation actually look like? At another level we do in fact know lots about how the mind works, how it compares what we see with what we think we see, and how our senses generally fit the perceptions they receive into what our brain expects to receive. On the whole we understand what someone is saying to us in our native tongue because we understand the context, we anticipate what they are likely to say and match the sounds we hear to that prediction; when we look at a distant landscape we don't usually winder whether we are looking at a huge picture close to (although beyond 6m or so our eyes and brains can't tell the difference) because of the context.

Anyway, the issue I always have with this sort of debate is one of increments. I always want to ask those who profess a faith in what can only be desribed as the 'supernatural'- at what point do the physical explanations of phenomena cease to convince? You believe in genetics, DNA, evolution, geological time, big bangs, evolution of chemicals ... at what point (and why) do you draw what seems like an arbitrary line and say, 'but there's something else which can't and will never be explained in those terms.' To me that's baffling.
Tim Chappell - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:



Coel, you don't have any excuse for descending to the level of the kindergarten.

Except of course that you're losing the argument, and when your arguments run out you always start with the cheap abuse.


Folks, just as a reminder, here's the dialectical situation:

Coel says he holds a position called physicalism, the view that everything is physical.

He claims that this view isn't vacuous: that there are some putative entities that it excludes, God for instance.

Therefore, he owes us an account of what "physical" means that shows *how* physicalism excludes those entities.

And he's refusing to give any such account. (It's not that hard; I can define physicalism, and so can the dictionary.)


Was it Carnap, or was it Frege, who said that "undefined theoretical terms infect the whole theory with meaninglessness"?

Either way, Coel's physicalism doesn't even rise to the dignity of falsehood; it's just meaningless.

Checkmate.

Or should I say: Coel, Coel, talks through his hole?
MG - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

>
> He claims that this view isn't vacuous: that there are some putative entities that it excludes, God for instance.


I can't speak for Coel, but you must know very well that is not what most arguing against you are saying. And then you accuse people of dishonesty...
MG - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:
And then you accuse people of dishonesty...

Or perhaps you didn't, sorry. Question-begging...

Tim Chappell - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:

erm, so you think Coel thinks his position *is* vacuous? How very odd of you.
MG - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> erm, so you think Coel thinks his position *is* vacuous?

Umm, no.
MG - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: Any up date on what you think the mind is?
cb294 - on 23 Nov 2012
Ok, let´s try and go for the 1000 posts...

Here is my take on the physical/non-physical nature of the mind.

I am a biologist, working at the interface between biology and physics. For me it is absolutely clear that biological phenomena emerge from the underlying chemistry, which in turn can entirely be described in terms of physics. I am interested in how this emergence happens, so I discuss signal transduction in physico-chemical terms.

In other projects in my lab I am interested at the organismal level, and describe phenomena in terms of evolution and genetics. To me it is simply a question of practicality to not always break the problems of organismal biology down to the physical effects governing, say, the affinity of a protein to a given stretch of DNA.

However, to me it is clear that any property of a living organism, including the neuronal activity / neurotransmitter concentration patterns we recognize as emotions, are ultimately implemented in physically. This holds true regardless of whether it makes practical sense to discuss them in physical terms.

Furthermore, we can now reprogram and artificially trigger memory content in mice, at least experimentally in a highly selective fear conditioning paradigm. The idea is to selectively make those neurons that form new connections during learning excitable by a drug. I you administer this drug to a mouse in a black room that learned to be afraid of a white room, you can trigger anxiety and escape attempts.

Such experiments gives us an experimental handle on the way fear, an archetypical emotion, is implemented at the level of hippocampal neuronal networks. Since we know how neurons fire at the physico-chemical level, we could in principle break emotions down to physics.

At the same time, if you look at neural correlates of dreams and emotions across evolution you will find that even sleeping fruitflies will"dream" about bananas (at least, they will in the memory centres of their brain reprocess olfactory information recognizable as banana smell). The emergence of a mind is therefore a very gradual process across evolution.

In my view, experiments of this type (which are technically only possible since a few years) have finally and completely discredited the dualist view, according to which mental processes should be awarded their own ontogenetic level.

Cheers,

Christian


Tim Chappell - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:

Let's not change the subject to save Coel's skin. Oh wait, we already have.

I'm not a Cartesian dualist, if that's what you're getting at. And I am astonished at the apparent prevalence on this thread of the assumption that Cartesian dualism is the only alternative to brutishly extreme microphysical reduction a' la Coel.
Robert Durran - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to seankenny:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)
> What I find depressing about this is that the physicists here aren't really bothering to properly debate the Tim or Jim's point of view - like tryign to get inside why they believe what they do, and take it apart from there.

But Coel is repeatedly asking them why they believe what they do! They refuse to answer!
tom_in_edinburgh - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)
>
> You choose to believe an external reality which you then use as evidence for itself and yourself.

I remember having this debate with my friend many years ago while walking up a staircase going into school. I was just explaining to my friend that he couldn't possibly prove there was an external reality. Immediately behind us on the staircase were a couple of jokers who thought it was great fun to poke unsuspecting nerdy kids in the nuts with the steel tip of a golf umbrella.

Ever since that day I have been a pragmatist: ontological debate is rendered moot by external reality kicking you in the nuts.


Tim Chappell - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:


On the contrary. I spend my whole life answering questions like that. Not always on UKC, because UKC doesn't pay my rent; but if you google my name you might find some of my answers.
MG - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> Let's not change the subject to save Coel's skin. Oh wait, we already have.

We started off with women bishops so I don't think you can really complain about the subject. Anyway, I wasn't changing the subject.

>
> I'm not a Cartesian dualist, if that's what you're getting at.

I am trying to understand what you *do* think the mind is, if you don't think it is physical? Why are you and Jimbo C so ready to object to explanations offered but not suggest anything yourselves?
Tim Chappell - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:

Erm, well, it might be mental. And as before, I spend my whole life offering answers to these questions.
MG - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
; but if you google my name you might find some of my answers.

I did once. Some stuff about falling off climbs, some Greek, but no answers. And certainly no answers that I recall about what you think the mind is.
MG - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> Erm, well, it might be mental. And as before, I spend my whole life offering answers to these questions.

I give up. You clearly have no desire to do anything but provide smart alec comments when asked about your thinking or beliefs.

Strange how philosophers are still asking the same questions as 2000+ years ago. You might almost think they can't answer them, despite their claims.
Robert Durran - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:
> Ever since that day I have been a pragmatist: ontological debate is rendered moot by external reality kicking you in the nuts.

Wasn't it Dr Johnson who arrived at the same conclusion by stubbing his toe or something?

john arran - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> He claims that this view isn't vacuous: that there are some putative entities that it excludes, God for instance.
>
> Therefore, he owes us an account of what "physical" means that shows *how* physicalism excludes those entities.

Let me get this straight: You're asking someone to explain how something that cannot be shown to exist (wishful thinking doesn't qualify as evidence) falls outside of the set of things which do exist?

And you think you're winning the argument?

Well as delusions go, in for a penny, in for a pound I suppose!
Robert Durran - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
>
>
> On the contrary. I spend my whole life answering questions like that. Not always on UKC, because UKC doesn't pay my rent.

Shall we have a whip round then?
Sir Chasm - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: It should be at your fingertips then, go on, just a quick cut and paste to tell us what the mind is.
Robert Durran - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
If you google my name you might find some of my answers.

I might do so.
Incidentally, if you google Coel's name you will find his blog in which he discusses all this sort of stuff with quite beautiful eloquence; we are privileged that he sometimes muddies himself at the level of UKC debate.
Tim Chappell - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:

Well, no answers you could be bothered to read, anyway.

If you want it in brief: "the mind" is a loose-weave, vague-edged, evolutionarily and culturally conditioned patchwork of capacities and sensory abilities including, but not limited to, perception (sensory and otherwise), memory, reasoning, action, emotion, imgination, dispositions, abilities, and self-awareness.

Now, can we get back to waiting for Coel to either admit he's lost the argument or define "physical"?
Jimbo W on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:

> So you think the mind is physical? Please tell us what you believe, is it a secret?

Seeing as you are the only person who has bothered to explicitly define physical on this thread, you do deserve an answer. If physical is defined as the material/corporal nature (as you defined it to PMP) of our entire experiential domain, then no, I don't think the mind is physical, but I don't think it necessary to invoke super-natural explanations.
Coel Hellier - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> Except of course that you're losing the argument

Nope Tim, I'm not. Your lack of understanding doesn;'t mean that I'm losing the argument.

> Folks, just as a reminder, here's the dialectical situation:

Good idea. Let's summarise my position. I am aware of stuff commonly labelled "physical". Electrons and protons and neutrinos are examples.

However, it is not me who is advocating that such "physical" stuff is only one area of the superset "what exists". Anyone arguing that would be arguing for a boundary to "physical" stuff and for "non-physical" stuff beyond the boundary. I am not arguing that. As far as I'm aware all extant stuff is the same sort of thing, and that there are no such boundaries.

It is thus wrong to expect *me* to define the boundary of "physical" and to define a "non-physical" outside that boundary, because I am making no claims that there any such things. It is *Tim* who wants to argue for that and thus *Tim* who needs to produce such definitions.

Now let's see how Tim has mangled and misunderstood that stance:

> Coel says he holds a position called physicalism, the view that everything is physical.

Notice how Tim doesn't give actual quotes. What I've actually said is that I'm not aware of good reasons why the set of "what exists" is divided into two fundamentally distinct categories. ("Physical" and "non-physical" or whatever one wishes to call them.)

> He claims that this view isn't vacuous: ...

Sure, the "no fundamental ontological divides" claim is not vacuous.

> ... that there are some putative entities that it excludes, God for instance.

Oh FFS. Notice AGAIN how Tim doesn't actually quote me. Tim is WRONG. I have not claimed that. I HAVE NOT said that "god doesn't exist because physicalism precludes it" or anything like it.

> And he's refusing to give any such account.

There is a perfectly good account of MY ACTUAL CLAIM at the top of this post. But, duh, I'm not going to defend claims that are put into my mouth by Tim, am I?

> Or should I say: Coel, Coel, talks through his hole?

Tim, you are either way out of your depth and unable to understand, or you are being wilfully evasive and dishonest.
Coel Hellier - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> And I am astonished at the apparent prevalence on this thread of the assumption that Cartesian
> dualism is the only alternative to brutishly extreme microphysical reduction a' la Coel.

But no-one has said that, have they? Indeed we repeatedly ask you what *your* alternative actually is, and you repeatedly evade telling us.
John Gillott - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:

It was indeed. I'm all for saying the mind is associated with the organisation of the brain and much else that you, Coel and other have said. But, while we're discussing famous philosophical puzzles, how does the mind decide to do something, in other words what of free will? Dr Johnson decided to kick the stone to make a point, but how did he decide? If I choose now to create a memory - I've just chosen to remember the cat I had as a child, and tomorrow I'll reinforce the memory of making the memory, if I remember to - how do I do it? Is matter organising and re-organising matter? I guess it is, but how? Waffling about emergence and self-organisation won't help, unless you want to claim that it was determined that on this day at this time I would read this thread on UKC and make a memory about my long dead cat to raise a question about determinism and free will.

Anyway, it's a genuine question.
Duncan Bourne - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> I've given up on this thread since (a) it became yet another identikit Coel Hellier thread-- really, he should have his own forum-- and (b) Coel refused to define "physical" while insisting that he is someone who believes that everything is physical.
>
> There is really no point debating with such question-beggery. Especially not on a thread which has been relentlessly hijacked almost from the start.

Only because you can't back up your claims. Physical has been defined in this thread many times, once at least by me, but the God squad just seem to skip over that.
Tim Chappell - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:


Coel-- please just cut the abuse and define "Physical" for us, there's a good chap. Otherwise, stop trying to do philosophy. You're plainly not cut out for it.
tony on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
>
> If you want it in brief: "the mind" is a loose-weave, vague-edged, evolutionarily and culturally conditioned patchwork of capacities and sensory abilities including, but not limited to, perception (sensory and otherwise), memory, reasoning, action, emotion, imgination, dispositions, abilities, and self-awareness.
>
Do any of those, ultimately, not revert back to atoms and electrons in the brain?
ads.ukclimbing.com
Sir Chasm - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W: So what do you think the mind is?
MG - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> Well, no answers you could be bothered to read, anyway.
>
> If you want it in brief: "the mind" is a loose-weave, vague-edged, evolutionarily and culturally conditioned patchwork of capacities and sensory abilities including, but not limited to, perception (sensory and otherwise), memory, reasoning, action, emotion, imgination, dispositions, abilities, and self-awareness.
>


Thanks. That seems a reasonable starting point. The next question of course is whether you see any of that as anything more than electrons, atoms etc. interacting? If you don't we are pretty much done as that means it is physical, as defined above, and we have wasted an afternoon. If not, what more do you think it is?
Sir Chasm - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to tony: No, of course they don't.
Robert Durran - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to MG)
> If you want it in brief: "the mind" is a loose-weave, vague-edged, evolutionarily and culturally conditioned patchwork of capacities and sensory abilities including, but not limited to, perception (sensory and otherwise), memory, reasoning, action, emotion, imgination, dispositions, abilities, and self-awareness.

Ok, now that I've stopped laughing.....

> Can we get back to waiting for Coel to either admit he's lost the argument or define "physical"?

If the above waffle is the best you can do, I don't think there's any doubt about who has lost the argument.

Actually the above waffle would do just as well (and that is not very well) as a case for the mind being entirely physical.



Coel Hellier - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> Coel-- please just cut the abuse and define "Physical" for us, there's a good chap.

No claim of mine depends on a definition of "physical". How many times do you need to be told that?

> Otherwise, stop trying to do philosophy. You're plainly not cut out for it.

Yeah, right!
Tim Chappell - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:


There are lots of different levels of possible understanding of the mind. The physical is only one of these. And unlike Coel, I know what I mean by physical: as I said before, I mean related to the science of physics.

A physicist can give us one kind of understanding of the mind; a chemist another; a psychologist a third; a poet or a novelist a fourth; a philosopher a fifth. This is why universities don't just consist of physics departments.

Since these kinds of understanding are different, I'm not a physicalist, in the only sense of "physicalist" that has a clear sense.
Coel Hellier - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> I know what I mean by physical: as I said before, I mean related to the science of physics.
> A physicist can give us one kind of understanding of the mind; a chemist another; a psychologist a third; ...

No-one else here is using "physical" in such a narrow sense as to exclude chemistry and biology.
Jimbo W on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> I'm not a Cartesian dualist, if that's what you're getting at. And I am astonished at the apparent prevalence on this thread of the assumption that Cartesian dualism is the only alternative to brutishly extreme microphysical reduction a' la Coel.

Exactly!
The New NickB - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

Probably a good job you are not a lexicographer either!
Tim Chappell - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:

Like too many other people on this site, you get abusive just at the point where it would actually be quite interesting to know why you disagree.

I chose my words carefully. Waffle they were not. What were you looking for that I didn't give you? What would you offer instead?
Tim Chappell - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
>
> [...]
>
> No-one else here is using "physical" in such a narrow sense as to exclude chemistry and biology.


Perhaps not. The pertinent point is that you haven't given the word any sense at all.
tony on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:
> (In reply to tony) No, of course they don't.

I know that's what you think. I was wondering what Tim thinks.
Coel Hellier - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> Perhaps not. The pertinent point is that you haven't given the word any sense at all.

So what, I really don't care. As I've repeatedly made clear, no claim of mine depends on a definition of "physical".
Jimbo W on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:

> Ever since that day I have been a pragmatist: ontological debate is rendered moot by external reality kicking you in the nuts.

Quite so, but you still make certain assumptions / decisions about what reality is and what it is founded upon. To jump straight for a reductive materialist viewpoint is not necessarily justified, and remains a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you look at reality in only that way, you'll only get answers that conform to that way of looking at it.
MG - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)
>
>
> Coel-- please just cut the abuse and define "Physical" for us, there's a good chap. Otherwise, stop trying to do philosophy.

Yes he is the one presenting a convincing case while you tell the world what and Important Philosopher you are! I would have thought your appeal to authority (you!!) would be abysmal form in philosophy circles.
Tim Chappell - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:


OK, try this. I deny that all knowledge is physical, because some knowledge is not knowledge about/ within physics. I also deny that all knowledge is scientific, because some knowledge is not knowledge about/ within science.

So I wonder whether you can define science?
Coel Hellier - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

Still interested in this:

Tim> Incidentally, if you think that "categories can only have meaning if there's something to contrast
Tim> them with", I respectfully suggest that it's you who's out of his depth.

Me> And of course you're going to support that claim with examples, examples that show that a
Me> category definition can be meaningful even if there is nothing outside the category ... aren't you?
Tim Chappell - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:

Eh? I haven't made any appeals to authority. There has been some Coel-worship on this thread, if that's an appeal to his authority. But you are hardly an impartial judge, to go by the tone of this comment.
tony on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> A physicist can give us one kind of understanding of the mind; a chemist another; a psychologist a third; a poet or a novelist a fourth; a philosopher a fifth.

And all those understandings, ultimately, revert back to stuff going on in the brain, which is all atoms and electrons and stuff like that. If not, what is it?
Tim Chappell - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
> Me> And of course you're going to support that claim with examples, examples that show that a
> Me> category definition can be meaningful even if there is nothing outside the category ... aren't you?

"exists"
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Tim Chappell - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to tony:

I don't know what you mean by "revert back to".
Rob Exile Ward on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W: ' If you look at reality in only that way, you'll only get answers that conform to that way of looking at it.'

In the best Popperian spirit then, falsify it.
Coel Hellier - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> So I wonder whether you can define science?

Yes, I can give a definition of science in the broad sense as "knowledge supported by evidence". In saying that I'm aware that narrower uses of the word "science" are common, though fairly ill-defined.

> OK, try this. I deny that all knowledge is physical, because some knowledge is not knowledge about/ within physics.

If you're using your definition of "physics" as separate from chemistry and biology and other things, then I agree, that claim is obviously true.

> I also deny that all knowledge is scientific, because some knowledge is not knowledge about/ within science.

That one would depend on the definition of science. I would deny that claim because to me knowledge is a unified whole without rigid demarcations, and thus there are not boundaries that science cannot cross.

Coel Hellier - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> "exists"

So you're suggesting that there is nothing in the category "doesn't exist" (not even the flying spaghetti monster?) and that I can't contrast "exists" with "doesn't exist"? I suggest to you that that contrast is clear and easily made.
Robert Durran - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
>
> Like too many other people on this site, you get abusive just at the point where it would actually be quite interesting to know why you disagree.
>
> I chose my words carefully. Waffle they were not. What were you looking for that I didn't give you?I wouldn't exactly describe "waffle" as abusive....

Anyway, I was looking for something that backed up your apparent claim that the mind wasn't physical. Nothing in your description of it did that; I see no reason why it couldn't all emerge from physics.

> What would you offer instead?

Eh? Nothing of course - it is you who is meant to be coming up with a non-physical description of ther mind!



MG - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> Eh? I haven't made any appeals to authority.

"I spend my whole life answering questions like that. Not always on UKC, because UKC doesn't pay my rent; but if you google my name you might find some of my answers."



But you are hardly an impartial judge,

Possibly not in the sense it is generally easier to regard someone you agree with as making a stronger argument. However, I also disagree with Coel on other threads yet generally find his arguments clear and often challenging. I honestly can't say that of you (being frank rather than intentionally rude) so from my perspective you can't dismiss his case with "I am philosopher, you are not so shut up" line.
Tim Chappell - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:

I offered no such line. I just pointed out that he was arguing badly. Which was true.

And if you look *very* carefully, you might find some evidence of Coel trying to slap down and/ or dismiss other people, too.
tony on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to tony)
>
> I don't know what you mean by "revert back to".

Simple example - you see a perfect sunset. You feel uplifted. Ultimately though, it's photons incident in the eye, electrical impulses in the optic nerve and further electrical impulses in the brain which generate your sense of well-being.
Ciro - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to MG)
>
>
> And unlike Coel, I know what I mean by physical: as I said before, I mean related to the science of physics.

Eh? You're saying you define the physical as the science that was created to study it?
Robert Durran - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

Serious question: by what sort of mechanism would a non-physical mind interface (as it must) with a physical brain? Is this mechanism itself physical or non physical and if it is, say, physical, how does the mechanism itself interface with the non-physical mind. Where is the boundary and how is it bridged? If the mind and brain are not part of the same system, I simply cannot see how they can possibly intereact.
Tim Chappell - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to tony:


I reject your "ultimately though". Uplift is uplift. No need to deflate it.

This deflating spirit is in fact pure theology, in the Coel-friendly sense of an ideology that people bring to the evidence, not one they get from the evidence.

If there's one thing I'm against, it's the deflating spirit. Deflationariness is the curse of the modern era. It's always advanced as the dispiriting truth that we have to be man enough to face. Yet it's not even true.
Tim Chappell - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:

You're building up a picture of what you think I must hold which is effectively Cartesian dualism. But I'm not a Cartesian dualist.

Of course the "mind and brain are part of the same system", for some readings of "system" at least.
Coel Hellier - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> I reject your "ultimately though". Uplift is uplift. No need to deflate it.

Why does an explanation "deflate" something? To some of us explanation and understanding add, they don't deflate.
Coel Hellier - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> You're building up a picture of what you think I must hold which is effectively Cartesian dualism.
> But I'm not a Cartesian dualist.

If he is building up an erroneous picture of you, could that be because you repeatedly decline to expound on what your view actually is?
Robert Durran - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> If there's one thing I'm against, it's the deflating spirit.

I find the idea that mind, life, sunsets, love, climbing everything has all emerged from some simple underlying principles of physics extraordinarily beautiful. The uplift of seeing a perfect sunset is in fact enhanced by this idea. Not in any way deflating.
Rob Exile Ward on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: Explanations aren't deflating.

Just because I fully understand that the emotion we call 'love' is simply a set of hardwired electrical circuitry in place to fulfil an evolutionary requirement, it doesn't mean I experience it any less intensly.

And there would be nothing I could do about it even if it, because that's the way it is.
Robert Durran - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
> If he is building up an erroneous picture of you, could that be because you repeatedly decline to expound on what your view actually is?

Precisely.

Rob Exile Ward on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier: I don't like to join in in cyber bullying - anyway, I'ms sure Tim cvan look after himself - but aspects of this thread are being to sound like the prospectus for the South Sea Bubble - 'an undertaking of great advantage but no one to know what it is...'
cb294 - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> If you want it in brief: "the mind" is a loose-weave, vague-edged, evolutionarily and culturally conditioned patchwork of capacities and sensory abilities including, but not limited to, perception (sensory and otherwise), memory, reasoning, action, emotion, imgination, dispositions, abilities, and self-awareness.
>

In what way would such a thing not be implemented in physical matter, and therefore be in principle (though not always in practice) be reducible to physical interactions between its structural components?

By the way, what criteria would you demand for ascribing or denying sentience to a machine? In this case it would be clear how this putative sentience would be implemented. I seriously wonder whether I will experience that debate in my lifetime.

CB
mark s - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: considering along way up this thread you said you were done with it.
you seem to cant help coming back for more ridicule from the atheists.
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Tim Chappell - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to cb294:


I never said it wasn't implemented in physical matter. But there's a difference between asking what things are, and asking what they're made of.

Basically I suppose my approach to metaphysics is late-Wittgensteinian. I don't believe in a metaphysical hierarchy, with atoms at the bottom of it and everything else reducing to them. I believe you get different explanatory schemata depending on what you are trying to explain. So there's no sense in which physics is more basic than novel-writing, or theology, or philosophy, or economics; they're just different kinds of explanatory enterprise.

One thing wrong with reductionism is that it assumes that there's (really) only one kind of explanation, and everything else is (really) an illusion. Another is that it doesn't work.
MG - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

I don't believe in a metaphysical hierarchy, with atoms at the bottom of it and everything else reducing to them. I believe you get different explanatory schemata depending on what you are trying to explain. So there's no sense in which physics is more basic than novel-writing, or theology, or philosophy, or economics; they're just different kinds of explanatory enterprise.
>

A more helpful post, thanks. I don't think anyone at a practical level would disagree that there are different ways of looking at the world that are more or less helpful depending on what you are doing. But going further and saying they don't all reduce to basic physics seems a big step to me. For example, I happen to spend quite a bit of time thinking about steel beams. Normally I think of them as chunks of metal that may bend, or buckle, or expand, or contract, and that is a useful way of thinking about them. But all those behaviours most certainly reduce to the interaction of atoms and forces. Fully understanding the big picture behaviour (e.g. under what load will a beam fail) is only possibly when the underlying physics are understood. Why should this be different for your examples, or for the mind. Surely that we don't yet fully understand the mind suggests that examining how it is made up from particles and force is *exactly* what we should be doing?
Tim Chappell - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
>

Very quickly (and BTW, if you find some of my posts less helpful than my last, it is probably because writing on here is not what I'm paid to do, so I am always writing at speed--and quite often inclined to point people towards more careful and full statements of my views than I can give here):

1. Why should this be different for your examples, or for the mind.

Well, why should it *not* be different? Cases do differ. Thinking that one explanation or form of explanation fits all is, if anything is, THE big mistake that I spend my whole time trying to nail.


2. Surely that we don't yet fully understand the mind suggests that examining how it is made up from particles and force is *exactly* what we should be doing?

It's certainly one thing we should be doing. I am not (how could I be?) against people doing physics. What I am against is people thinking there's nothing else worth doing.
Tim Chappell - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to mark s:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell) considering along way up this thread you said you were done with it.
> you seem to cant help coming back for more ridicule from the atheists.


I come back when someone says something worth responding to, which does sometimes happen. And I dish out ridicule as well as receiving it, when I think ridicule is merited: see above.

I care about challenging lazy thinking, received ideas, and unexamined prejudices. If I do that, some people are going to laugh at me for it. I don't mind; the game is worth the candle.
Coel Hellier - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> I believe you get different explanatory schemata depending on what you are trying to explain.

I don't think anyone disagrees with that.

> One thing wrong with reductionism is that it assumes that there's (really) only one kind of explanation,
> and everything else is (really) an illusion.

Reductionism doesn't say that everything else is an "illusion", reductionism regards patterns of stuff as very real and important. Explanatory schemata that focus on the patterns are entirely valid.

> Another is that it doesn't work.

It works just fine. No-one has found alternatives that do better.
Ciro - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> Basically I suppose my approach to metaphysics is late-Wittgensteinian. I don't believe in a metaphysical hierarchy, with atoms at the bottom of it and everything else reducing to them. I believe you get different explanatory schemata depending on what you are trying to explain. So there's no sense in which physics is more basic than novel-writing, or theology, or philosophy, or economics; they're just different kinds of explanatory enterprise.

There is indeed no sense in which physics as a subject is more basic than economics as a subject - they are indeed both different kinds of explanatory enterprise.

But you're surely not suggesting the subject matter under study in physics (the matter that makes up the universe) is no more basic than the subject matter under study in economics (the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services that we ourselves create)?
Robert Durran - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> One thing wrong with reductionism is that it assumes that there's (really) only one kind of explanation.

And what is your problem with that?

> Another is that it doesn't work.

Why not? And I mean in principle rather than practice; I don't think anyone would argue that we need quantum physics to explain for practical purposes how a car works or to forecast the weather. Though, I suspect we may need it to explain how the mind works!

Coel Hellier - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> Well, why should it *not* be different?

Occam's razor. If an explanation that doesn't invoke novel entities is available, you then need a very good reason for invoking novel entities.

> I am not (how could I be?) against people doing physics. What I am against is people thinking there's nothing else worth doing.

Under your definition (where "physical" doesn't include the "patterns" of physical stuff that we categorize under chemistry, biology, sociology etc), then that is entirely true and no-one would dispute it. Limiting to "physics" under that definition is not something that anyone is arguing for.
Coel Hellier - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> I care about challenging lazy thinking, received ideas, and unexamined prejudices. If I do that,
> some people are going to laugh at me for it.

More often they laugh at you when you *don't* challenge "lazy thinking, received ideas, and unexamined prejudices" of your own.
Sir Chasm - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran: Tim's issue is that he is a reductionist. Obviously it's selective.
Robert Durran - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:
> (In reply to Robert Durran) Tim's issue is that he is a reductionist. Obviously it's selective.

Sorry - I'm not sure what you are referring to here. Who is "he"? What is "it"?

Sir Chasm - on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran: "He" is Tim, "it" is Tim's reductionalism. What does Tim think caused everything? God. You can't get any more reductionist.
Shani - on 24 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm: which god does he think caused everything?
Tim Chappell - on 24 Nov 2012
One last thought about this. Coel says he doesn't care how we define "physical", and that that makes no difference to his position.

All right. Let's define "physical" as "charged with the presence of God".

We will then get the results that

1. For that definition of "physical", I am indeed a physicalist.
2. There are indeed, as Coel wants to say, no deep divides in the nature of reality. (I don't know why he wants to say that I think otherwise.)
3. We have the makings of, or at least some hints towards, an account of why emergence not reduction is the truth about nature.
and
4. God is everywhere.


Suits me. And apparently, since he's explicitly said we can define "physical" any way we like, it suits Coel too, which is nice; I knew I'd persuade him in the end.

Also suits Aquinas, Augustine, Spinoza, Leibniz, the Thomas Nagel of "Panpsychism", Sir Martin Rees, and the Abrahamic tradition in general.

I rather suspect it also suits 1300 million Hindus, but I admit that, with what Coel will no doubt regard as my usual cavalier attitude to evidence, I haven't actually asked them.

Oh, and another person it suits is Gerard Manley Hopkins:

God's Grandeur

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod; 5
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things; 10
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
In reply to Trangia: I think there's one very obvious conclusion to draw from this thread...
john arran - on 24 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> All right. Let's define "physical" as "charged with the presence of God".

With such astounding intellectual rigour the only surprise is that people have humoured you for this long. No wonder you refuse to answer Coel's questions if this is the best you can come up with.

Still, if 1.3 billion Hindus believe something they can't all be wrong, eh?
Shani - on 24 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: Which god are you talking about? The Christian god or some other god (Roman, Greek, Norse, Egyptian, Hindu...)?

Why stop at one god?
Coel Hellier - on 24 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> All right. Let's define "physical" as "charged with the presence of God".

OK. But let's bear in mind three things:
1) That is your definition;
2) You have not shown that anything "physical" (under that definition) actually exists;
3) Tim is a philosopher; the hallmark is that Tim thinks he can prove things by wordplay, by making definitions. But, actually, one needs evidence to prove things.

> We will then get the results that
> 1. For that definition of "physical", I am indeed a physicalist.

OK.

> 2. There are indeed, as Coel wants to say, no deep divides in the nature of reality.

Nope that doesn't follow. That only follows if -- under *your* definition -- everything is "physical". You haven't shown that.

> (I don't know why he wants to say that I think otherwise.)

Well if you're not positing some fundamental divide such as "mind" v "matter or similar then feel free to tell us what you do advocate.

> 3. We have the makings of, or at least some hints towards, an account of why emergence not
> reduction is the truth about nature.

Note the unspoken assumptions here: (1) that Tim's "physical = presence of God" has any relevance to our universe; creating a mere *definition* in no way shows anything. I could define "nature" as "made of toffee apple". That in no way shows that mountains are made of toffee apple. And (2) the assumption that "emergence not reduction is the truth about nature", for which Tim has given no evidence.

> 4. God is everywhere.

Nope, that would only follow if you had shown that everything is "physical" under your definition. You haven't.

Come on Tim, that was hopeless. Is that what passes for cleverness among philosophers? You cannot define god into existence, not as you've just done and not by Anselm's ontological argument, and not by any of the other semantic tricks that theologians resort to because you don't have any actual evidence.

> And apparently, since he's explicitly said we can define "physical" any way we like, it suits Coel too

More misrepresentation from Tim. I haven't said that, I've said that no argument that **I** had made depended on the definition of "physical". However, your arguments here quite clearly do depend on the definition of "physical". Duh!

Tim, are you actively trying to discredit philosophers/theologians? Can you *really* not do a better job than you're doing on this thread? I mean, I really thought that I might get some challenging counter-arguments from you -- but you're doing an excellent job of reinforcing my prejudice that all theology is just crap made up by people who can't think straight and so proceed on wishful thinking.
Dave Garnett - on 24 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)

>
> Come on Tim, that was hopeless. Is that what passes for cleverness among philosophers? You cannot define god into existence,


Oh, I don't know. It was good enough for Bertrand Russell apparently...

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01mwx64
crossdressingrodney - on 24 Nov 2012
In reply to Dave Garnett:

From memory: wasn't it good enough for Bertrand Russell until he was about 13?
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subalpine - on 24 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier: why can't Christians be foster parents?
Coel Hellier - on 24 Nov 2012
In reply to subalpine:

> why can't Christians be foster parents?

Can't they?
Robert Durran - on 24 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> All right. Let's define "physical" as "charged with the presence of God".

Oh dear....

But I did read further...

> 3. We have the makings of, or at least some hints towards, an account of why emergence not reduction is the truth about nature.

I may well be ignorant of the proper definitions of "emergence" and "reduction", but why are they incompatible? Stuff/phenomena emerge from fundamental physics. Stuff/phenomena can be traced back (reduced) to fundamental physics.
dissonance - on 24 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:

> I may well be ignorant of the proper definitions of "emergence" and "reduction", but why are they incompatible?

there is the split in emergence between strong and weak.

weak is where the property is reducible although the complexity might make it difficult to see.

Strong emergence is where the property is irreducible.
Robert Durran - on 24 Nov 2012
In reply to dissonance:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
> Strong emergence is where the property is irreducible.

Are there any known examples?

The New NickB - on 24 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to subalpine)
>
> [...]
>
> Can't they?

I think there has been at least one case of people with particularly extreme religious views failing assessments to be fosterers / adopters, but generally religion isn't a bar to selection.
dissonance - on 24 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:

> Are there any known examples?

Certain things are claimed to be, by some, conciousness being an example.
It seems popular among a certain type of philosopher as opposed to those carrying out actual direct research though so make of that what you will.
Coel Hellier - on 24 Nov 2012
In reply to dissonance:

> Strong emergence is where the property is irreducible.

Seems to me that if it isn't reducible then "emergence" is the wrong word.
Robert Durran - on 24 Nov 2012
In reply to dissonance:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
>
> Certain things are claimed to be, by some, conciousness being an example.
> It seems popular among a certain type of philosopher as opposed to those carrying out actual direct research though so make of that what you will.

Yes. Just been googling. I don't think I like this idea of strong emergence though; but if consciousness cannot emerge weakly from fundamental physics and I don't like strong emergence, it seems we are into the realms of panpsychism or suchlike, but if that is not part of physics, how does it interface with it? Could be here some time..........

Robert Durran - on 24 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to dissonance)
>
> Seems to me that if it isn't reducible then "emergence" is the wrong word.

My thoughts exactly - it must "emerge" from somewhere or else have always been there. In the case of consciousness is that panpsychism?

dissonance - on 24 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:

> Yes. Just been googling. I don't think I like this idea of strong emergence though

I would agree, I was just stating that there are two variations of emergence.
That conciousness is used as the main example is rather telling I think.
Robert Durran - on 24 Nov 2012
In reply to dissonance:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
>
> I would agree, I was just stating that there are two variations of emergence.
> That conciousness is used as the main example is rather telling I think.

Though consciousness would be the example we are most likely to be, well, conscious of.

Tim Chappell - on 25 Nov 2012
Coel--really. Get a grip. Calm down. And do cut out the abuse and attempts to bully. The way you talk, anyone who was reading this thread would think you were a bit of a nutter.

You said "you didn't care" how we defined "physical". That it didn't matter. So I pointed out a definition of "physical" that has, or suggests, some interesting consequences. Since you don't care how we define "physical", you have no reason to object to this definition. Nor indeed to the toffee apple definition that you suggest yourself, though that has no backing in tradition, human experience, or common sense.

To put you straight, it's not "my definition" (I didn't invent it, and I haven't here committed myself to it; I'm just exploring a possibility); it's just *a* definition. Though it is worth pointing out (as I did) that a lot of theists have gone for something like this.

The upshot is that your refusal to define "physical" leaves you wide open to all sorts of interesting possibilities that I would have thought, given the ideology and the prejudices that you so treasure, that you might want to be in a position to argue against.

That's all that's happened really. Trying to raise dust to disguise the fact that you're vulnerable on this point doesn't work.

As for the rather feeble accusation that philosophers play with words, my own experience is that is a stock in trade for people who are losing arguments with philosophers.
NeilMac - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Trangia:
> Synod has just voted against.
>
> ...in this day and age...

...belief in gods and monsters is utterly absurd.
MJ - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

The way you talk, anyone who was reading this thread would think you were a bit of a nutter.

There's definitely a nutter contributing to this thread and it isn't Coel...

Duncan Bourne - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
Just wondering why you are so hung up on Coel's definition of "physical"?
I have sort of lost the context of this. If Coel defined "physical" as that relating to physics, for instance, how would that affect your argument?
It seems to me that you believe "mind" to be non-physical and a separate entity to the material world would this be correct? That you are postulating that there is more to existence than material reductionism but are you also saying that these emergent properties (ie mind) have an existence of their own that does not involve the matter that houses them?
deepsoup - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

Dear Professor Kettle

> The way you talk, anyone who was reading this thread would think you were a bit of a nutter.

Warmest regards
Doctor Pot
Coel Hellier - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> Coel--really. Get a grip. Calm down.

I'm quite calm and have got a grip, dear Tim. I do, admittedly, at times let my amazement at your inept tactics show a little.

> ... And do cut out the abuse ... anyone who was reading this thread would think you were a bit of a nutter.

So now you're adding hypocrisy to your sins?

> You said "you didn't care" how we defined "physical". That it didn't matter.

Sorry Tim, I did not say that. Are you deliberately twisting things or just being dim? I've searched the thread for me saying "don't care" or variants. There are two:

The First:

Tim> The pertinent point is that you haven't given the word [physical] any sense at all.

Me> So what, I really don't care. As I've repeatedly made clear, no claim of mine depends on a definition of "physical".

That is not saying that "I didn't care how we defined physical", it is saying that I "don't care" that **I** had not given the word a definition because no claim of *mine* depended on that definition.

The Second:

Me> Further, I don't really care what labels are applied to this stuff, that's just semantics.

That one was quite clearly talking about mere labels and semantics. It was trying to draw a distinction between *arguments* and *evidence* on the one hand and mere labels/semantics on the other. Labelling is useful for clarify, but it does not in itself form a basis for an argument.

What you are doing here is trying to found an **argument** on mere labels. If you're doing that then obviously the meaning of the labels *does* matter. But *I* was *not* trying to make any argument on mere labels, and thus for **my** purposes the labeling was something I "didn't care" about, since it didn't affect *my* argument.

By the way, I note that you didn't even quote full sentences when you tried to pin the above on me, you just took a a few words and then changed the context and tried to claim they meant something different from what they clearly mean when read in context. That's rather dishonest, isn't it Tim?

> So I pointed out a definition of "physical" that has, or suggests, some interesting consequences.

No, no, no! <shakes head, rolls eyes, and wonders how Tim managed to ever achieve any standing in academia> Mere *definitions* don't *show* anything. As I explained, defining "natural" as "consisting of toffee apple" doesn't have any consequences for how the real world actually is. It doesn't make mountains suddenly be made of toffee-apple! And, in the same way, your definition of "physical" as "charged by the presence of God" doesn't mean that anything is actually charged by the presence of God.

That is where you went horribly wrong, in supposing that you could make deductions about the real world from mere world-play, mere labeling. And it's because the mere labels we choose don't affect how things actually are in the real world that I was trying to steer away from discussing mere labeling by saying that I "didn't care" about the labels.

> To put you straight, it's not "my definition" ...

It's one you introduced ...

> ... it is worth pointing out (as I did) that a lot of theists have gone for something like this.

And I don't suppose they've ever produced any evidence that their definition matches reality? Definitions only get interesting when you do that.

> The upshot is that your refusal to define "physical" leaves you wide open to all sorts of interesting possibilities that ...

Nope it doesn't, it doesn't at all. It in no way prevents me critically examining any argument you make. It in no way requires me to accept that things that are "physical" under YOUR definition ACTUALLY EXIST. You can't define things into existence! You can't bring into existence things "charged by the presence of god" just by defining "physical" as meaning "charged by the presence of god". I mean duh!

So you've produced a definition of "physical" under which -- as far as we can tell -- nothing is "physical". Great. Then what? That *doesn't* have consequences! It just means we'd need other labels for things that do exist.

> As for the rather feeble accusation that philosophers play with words, my own experience is that is
> a stock in trade for people who are losing arguments with philosophers.

You're just digging your hole deeper. All you've done is play with words, and you can't see that it achieves nothing! You've produced no actual argument or evidence that argues against anything I've said. Your posts are a fine example of why much philosophy is worthless and inane, it literally has no content because it is mere wordplay.
Duncan Bourne - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

>That is where you went horribly wrong, in supposing that you could make >deductions about the real world from mere world-play, mere labeling. And >it's because the mere labels we choose don't affect how things actually >are in the real world that I was trying to steer away from discussing mere >labeling by saying that I "didn't care" about the labels.

I think you have just summed it all up in a nutshell there Coel.
It is the same as equating "science" and "the scientific method" as a belief system in an attempt to put it on the same footing as religious belief. When actually it is a tool. A bit like saying that belief in cataract operations is the same as belief in faith healing to cure blindness.
Fex Wazner - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

Can't be bothered to read the thread but has anyone made a bishop Bashing joke yet?

Fex.
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Postmanpat on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Trangia:

Coel, as a matter of interest, let us suppose that were convincing statistical evidence of a "force" , let's say mental spoon bending or something, which
Was not explicable by the currently understood laws of physics.
Would you regard this "force" as a "physical" phenomenon?
Duncan Bourne - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Fex Wazner:
yes I did earlier :o)
Coel Hellier - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> Would you regard this "force" as a "physical" phenomenon?

Yes I would, by default, unless someone were to provide evodence that its properties were best understood by creating a new ontological "non-physical" category for it. Essentially my stance is that I'm not aware of any need for any such divisions within the set "exists". But I wouldn't then derive any consequence from having labelled it "physical", I'd just be assuming (in the absence of evidence to the contrary) that it was ontologically the same sort of stuff that we already know about (ie Occam's razor).

Physicists often come across new stuff that they didn't know about before (anti-matter, neutrinos, quarks, dark matter, dark energy, new particles at CERN). When that happens they don't then ask "is this new stuff "physical"?", because they don't have any concept of any "non-physical" category to put it in, and so the question doesn't arise.

Now, if someone were to argue for a "non-physical" category and provide evidence for it and for the distinction with "physical", then the question would arise and the concept would become meaningful.
Duncan Bourne - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:
I think that would be without doubt.
The argument would revolve around it being explicable by current understanding of the laws of physics
Coel Hellier - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

> Just wondering why you [Tim] are so hung up on Coel's definition of "physical"?

I suspect it is two reasons:

1) Evasion. Attack is the best form of defence, so since he can't defend and provide evidence for (or even describe, really) his own position, he instead tries to attack mine.

2) He's presumably trying to pin on me some sort of circular or unfounded argument. E.g. "Everything is physical; god is not physical; therefore god doesn't exist" -- indeed he has explicitly tried to pin that one on me. So he's presumably getting me to define "physical" in a way that precludes god, and can then claim that my rejection of gods is merely a starting assumption and thus is not founded in anything other than "faith" in physicalism.

As usual, Tim thinks that definitions and world-play are everything, and therefore concentrates on those. He doesn't realise that words, definitions and categories are only tools useful for communication and clarity, but not actual arguments.
Postmanpat on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Ok, that seems reasonable. How confident are you that such a phenomenon doesn't exist or that we would be aware of it if did, and why?
mark s - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier: i will admit im a bit lost on this thread.
is tim trying to use his belief in non physical stuff as proof of god?

what i can see from this he doesnt like you showing him to be wrong.
Jimbo W on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Tim> The pertinent point is that you haven't given the word [physical] any sense at all.
> Me> So what, I really don't care. As I've repeatedly made clear, no claim of mine depends on a definition of "physical".
> That is not saying that "I didn't care how we defined physical", it is saying that I "don't care" that **I** had not given the word a definition because no claim of *mine* depended on that definition.
>
> The Second:
>
> Me> Further, I don't really care what labels are applied to this stuff, that's just semantics.
>
> That one was quite clearly talking about mere labels and semantics. It was trying to draw a distinction between *arguments* and *evidence* on the one hand and mere labels/semantics on the other. Labelling is useful for clarify, but it does not in itself form a basis for an argument.
>
> What you are doing here is trying to found an **argument** on mere labels. If you're doing that then obviously the meaning of the labels *does* matter. But *I* was *not* trying to make any argument on mere labels, and thus for **my** purposes the labeling was something I "didn't care" about, since it didn't affect *my* argument.
>
> By the way, I note that you didn't even quote full sentences when you tried to pin the above on me, you just took a a few words and then changed the context and tried to claim they meant something different from what they clearly mean when read in context. That's rather dishonest, isn't it Tim?
>
> [...]
>
> No, no, no! <shakes head, rolls eyes, and wonders how Tim managed to ever achieve any standing in academia> Mere *definitions* don't *show* anything. As I explained, defining "natural" as "consisting of toffee apple" doesn't have any consequences for how the real world actually is. It doesn't make mountains suddenly be made of toffee-apple! And, in the same way, your definition of "physical" as "charged by the presence of God" doesn't mean that anything is actually charged by the presence of God.
>
> That is where you went horribly wrong, in supposing that you could make deductions about the real world from mere world-play, mere labeling. And it's because the mere labels we choose don't affect how things actually are in the real world that I was trying to steer away from discussing mere labeling by saying that I "didn't care" about the labels.
> etc etc etc

And also you in response to PMP:
> Sure, I accept that there could be evidence for metaphorical interpretations of religious texts.
> I wasn't thinking of anything in particular, I was just stating the principle.

The origin of the word physical in this discussion came from PMP and your discussion with him. PMP put you on the spot asking whether there is any kind of evidence that you would seriously consider that was non-physical and asked you to characterise it or give an example. You of course resort to a rhetorical "I was just stating the principle". What principle is that? And in what way could the character of the "evidences" that you would consider actually allow for it? Frankly I think you are being disingenuous. Your philosophical view, which seems to me to be reductionist, materialist / physicalist, starts from some basic philosophical assumptions:

1) That there is a reality that exists apart from (as well as) the mind
2) That reality is consistent and objective
3) That we have the ability to apprehend, comprehend and communicate reality accurately
4) That rational explanations exist for these facets of reality
5) That that which is perceived by the mind, including the mind itself, is only material / physical

These assumptions are ones which cannot be justified unless one resorts to the methodology, evidence and explanations that taking these assumptions as a true produces. That reasoning is necessarily circular, self-justifying and therefore fallacious. The reality is that your appeals for "evidence" always necessarily take some basic assumptions into account given your world view and its derivative methodology of falsification, and so you always have a particular character of evidence in mind when you ask for it. Therefore, I think it is not unwarranted for you to give us some idea of the character of the evidence that you would accept and conceive of, if only in the spirit of truth as opposed to rhetoric. Do you accept physicalism and if so what do you understand that to mean?
Ava Adore - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Trangia:

I can't be a bishop???

Bollocks.
In reply to Ava Adore:
> (In reply to Trangia)
>
> I can't be a bishop???
>
> Bollocks.

As the word "bishop" contains the word "shop", you'd think women would be the ideal candidates...
dissonance - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Ava Adore:

> I can't be a bishop???

form your own church and we will all join.
Actually that could work quite well. Could claim religious discrimination from any awkward rules.

Ava Adore - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to dissonance:

I heretofore and forthwith call my people to the Church of the Ava Adorables
Ava Adore - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Submit to Gravity:

You'd think. The fools. <rolls eyes>
Turdus torquatus on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Ava Adore:
> (In reply to dissonance)
>
> I heretofore and forthwith call my people to the Church of the Ava Adorables

What are the hats like?
mark s - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to dissonance:
> (In reply to Ava Adore)
>
> [...]
>
> form your own church and we will all join.
>

and invent your own god and say any one who believes in another god is wrong.Is that not how all religions start?
Robert Durran - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)
> Your philosophical view, which seems to me to be reductionist, materialist / physicalist, starts from some basic philosophical assumptions:
>
> 1) That there is a reality that exists apart from (as well as) the mind
> 2) That reality is consistent and objective
> 3) That we have the ability to apprehend, comprehend and communicate reality accurately
> 4) That rational explanations exist for these facets of reality
> 5) That that which is perceived by the mind, including the mind itself, is only material / physical

My understanding of the debate is that this is pretty much Coel's position (I hope he will correct me if I am wrong!). That he sees no need to invoke the non-physical/non-real/non-rational in the absence of evidence that it is needed to explain any observed phenomena (Occam's razor)- though any observed phenomenon woul presumably be classed as physical anyway. That his issue with Tim (or at least one of them) is that Tim is invoking other "stuff" (particularly God) unnecessarily.

Robert Durran - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

And a question for you:
So I understand you are a man of religious faith. I presume this faith is, by the nature or definition of faith, not fully supported by evidence and is non-negotiable (Correct me if I am wrong). Is such faith not a barrier to open minded and honest philosophical enquiry? And, if not, why should we take you seriously?
Jimbo W on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Yes I would, by default, unless someone were to provide evodence that its properties were best understood by creating a new ontological "non-physical" category for it.

Again, what character of "evidence" would that involve? And need I remind you again that your particular ontological monism does not have any form of primary justification, it rests on basic assumptions that you take as read. In this kind of view, there can be no such thing as miracles, because an explanation will be found that somehow includes it within the purview of a physical / natural conception of reality.
Jimbo W on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:

> And a question for you:
> So I understand you are a man of religious faith. I presume this faith is, by the nature or definition of faith, not fully supported by evidence and is non-negotiable (Correct me if I am wrong). Is such faith not a barrier to open minded and honest philosophical enquiry? And, if not, why should we take you seriously?

Is not faith an intrinsic facet of any commitment to a view of reality? Again, the assumptions (given above) are only evidenced in a self-referential manner, and so cannot be the justification for committing to that conception of reality. Why do you think that faith should be a barrier unless you have already assumed the validity of one particular world-view, namely: materialism / physicalism.
Ava Adore - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Turdus torquatus:

Pretty. Feathers...sequins....all that jazz :-)
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Robert Durran - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)

> Is not faith an intrinsic facet of any commitment to a view of reality?

I think there is a basic difference between religious faith which is, by its nature, not dependent on evidence and will not change given new evidence and what you would no doubt describe as Coel's "faith" in his worldview which, it seems to me, is the simplest and most coherent one given the available evidence, but could equally absorb any new evidence.
Robert Durran - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)
>
> In this kind of view, there can be no such thing as miracles, because an explanation will be found that somehow includes it within the purview of a physical / natural conception of reality.

I don't see how any coherent snd sensible worldview can have a place for miracles.

Ava Adore - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to mark s:

I'd rather like to make it a lady god if that's OK?
IainRUK - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Horatio: House of Lords, law making powers, State Church schools.. too much for me..
crossdressingrodney - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> ...starts from some basic philosophical assumptions:
>
> 1) That there is a reality that exists apart from (as well as) the mind
> 2) That reality is consistent and objective
> 3) That we have the ability to apprehend, comprehend and communicate reality accurately
> 4) That rational explanations exist for these facets of reality
> 5) That that which is perceived by the mind, including the mind itself, is only material / physical

1, 2, and 3 are assumptions I'm happy to make. Otherwise one can't really say anything at all.

But 4 is not an assumption. It's a statement that one can try to test given 1, 2 and 3. In fact, investigating whether 4 is true is pretty much what "doing science" is (given a suitable meaning of "explanation").

5 is true by definition of "physical" as far as I'm concerned.
IainRUK - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Wonko The Sane:
> (In reply to Duncan Bourne)
> [...]
>
> On the plus side, it often leads to some very repressed catholic girls who make a point of committing every sin possible as soon as they're out of range of their home town and priest.
>
> I for one give a big vote of thanks to the catholic church for services rendered to me as a younger bloke.

Always found girls who had horses, often from rich families, were the most sinful myself..
loopyone on 25 Nov 2012 - host217-42-138-75.range217-42.btcentralplus.com
In reply to Robert Durran:
> (In reply to Jimbo W)
> [...]
>
> I don't see how any coherent snd sensible worldview can have a place for miracles.

Why not? It's a pretty good word to describe completely inexplicable things that happen.....
Robert Durran - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to tatty112:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
> [...]
>
> Why not? It's a pretty good word to describe completely inexplicable things that happen.....

No.

Except in a colloquial sense perhaps (eg "it's a miracle I passed that exam")

crossdressingrodney - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to tatty112:

But "miracle" implies not just that something is currently unexplainable, but that it will always be unexplainable, doesn't it? Otherwise lightening, fire, disease and so on would have been miracles a few hundred years ago.
Coel Hellier - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> The origin of the word physical in this discussion came from PMP and your discussion with him. PMP put you
> on the spot asking whether there is any kind of evidence that you would seriously consider that was
> non-physical and asked you to characterise it or give an example. You of course resort to a rhetorical
> "I was just stating the principle". What principle is that?

That "principle" comment was about the possibility that a religious claim could be intended metaphorically. I fully accept that; I'm entirely ok with the concept that (1) a religious claim could be metaphorical and not literal, and (2) there could be evidence for that metaphorical claim.

Am I ruling out "non-physical" things a priori? No I'm not; however, I am not aware of any evidence for "non-physical" things. Of course in saying that I've not even encountered a coherent definition of what such "non-physical" things are.

> Your philosophical view, which seems to me to be reductionist, materialist / physicalist,
> starts from some basic philosophical assumptions:
> 1) That there is a reality that exists apart from (as well as) the mind

Nope. The whole point of my stance is NOT to have a division between reality (or physical reality) and mind. So, no, I'm not assuming that.

> 2) That reality is consistent and objective

No, I don't make that basic assumption. We consider whether reality is "consistent" based on evidence. As for reality being "objective", again, it is you who wants some big subjective/objective distinction, not me.

> 3) That we have the ability to apprehend, comprehend and communicate reality accurately

There you are again, positing some fundamental divide between "us" (presumably "mind") and "reality". That is not my starting point.

> 4) That rational explanations exist for these facets of reality

No, that is not a starting assumption. We can deduce whether rational explanations exist by testing them against alternative possibilities.

> 5) That that which is perceived by the mind, including the mind itself, is only material / physical

Nope, as I've said repeatedly, I am NOT making any starting assumption about the nature of stuff. That is something we *deduce* (as best we can) based on evidence.

> These assumptions are ones which cannot be justified unless ...

Which is why I don't start with them. Sorry, not one of those 5 above is something that I do take as a starting assumption.

> Therefore, I think it is not unwarranted for you to give us some idea of the character of the
> evidence that you would accept and conceive of ...

Evidence for what? If you mean "evidence for non-physicalism" then, for the eighteenth time, "non-physicalism" is not something I have the slightest conception about; I have absolutely no conception of what this claimed "physicalism" v "non-physicalism" divide is supposed to be about or supposed to mean, and thus, having no inkling of this concept, I don't see how I can describe evidence for it. If YOU want to argue for this distinction then YOU argue for it and provide evidence for it.

> Do you accept physicalism and if so what do you understand that to mean?

For the NINETEENTH time, I have no understanding of what "physicalism" means, since I have no understanding of any "non-physical" thing to contrast it with. Therefore I am NOT basing my stance on a declaration of "physicalism" and don't even have a definition of "physicalism".

What I am saying is that, as far as I am aware, the set "exists" is not divided into fundamentally ontologically distinct domains ("mind" v "matter" or whatever); as far as I'm aware everything that exists is the same type of stuff in that sense.
Coel Hellier - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> Again, what character of "evidence" [for non-physical] would that involve?

I'm open to offers; what have you got? I'm not limiting the sort of evidence that can be considered, so long as we *can* consider it, and are not just expected to accept it "on faith".

> And need I remind you again that your particular ontological monism does not have any form of
> primary justification, it rests on basic assumptions that you take as read.

You are wrong, it doesn't.

> In this kind of view, there can be no such thing as miracles, ...

Not so; I'm not aware of evidence for miracles, but I don't rule them out a priori. Whether there are or are not miracles is something that we determine on the evidence. What evidence of miracles do you have? What exactly do you mean by "miracle" for that matter?

Robert Durran - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:
> (In reply to Jimbo W)
> My understanding of the debate is that this is pretty much Coel's position (I hope he will correct me if I am wrong!).

He has. I stand corrected.....
Duncan Bourne - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
>
> [...]
>
> Is not faith an intrinsic facet of any commitment to a view of reality?

Many years ago in the time of Uri Geller several friends of mine tried the old spoon bending. After several long minutes all we had was warm unbent spoons. Equally I once collided with a lamp post whilst distracted. The lamp post was set back from the road, unlike all the others, and I neither expected nor believed a lamp post to be in such a location. It still hurt.
In short faith will colour ones view of reality and may even result in actions that have a physical effect (building churches for instance) but there will still be underlying physical forces that exist independent of our belief in them or otherwise.
Put in another way an understanding of physics enables one to make predictions about certain things, whether a dropped ball will fall to the orbit of a planet. When things happen unexpectedly and confound our predictions then we adjust the model we use. The laws of gravity are the same to you and me as they are to someone from India or Brazil.
Not so for the "Supernatural" which makes vague predictions that may or may not come true, stubbornly resists change, and as far as I can see no two religions have a definitive explanation for god
Jimbo W on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

I note your interests from your profile:
> Advocating the most outrageously reductionist, materialist, atheistic and deterministic version of science and scientism that I can get away with!

> Am I ruling out "non-physical" things a priori? No I'm not; however, I am not aware of any evidence for "non-physical" things. Of course in saying that I've not even encountered a coherent definition of what such "non-physical" things are.

I think you are ruling out non-physical things a priori, because you depend on others for a definition of "non-physical", when your penchant for materialistic expositions should allow the conception for a set that could exist that is "non-physical".. ..indeed, I would suggest that many worlds hypotheses are rather more non-physical than physical and rely on the idealism of mathematical abstraction and consistency over empirical science. Neither can you conceive of evidence that could be non-physical. Well, i'd suggest that the mind itself could respresent such evidence because:
1) The coherence between mind and our apparent ability to understand the universe that might suggest an inherent frame of reference that has a basic coherence with physical law.. ..i.e. physical law is a representation of mind. Afterall, can such laws be said to exist?
2) Because the mind is our tool for accessing reality, and so mind has a necessary primacy in our relationship with the external world. In that sense the external world could be subordinate to mind, and not exist apart from it, or at least not entirely apart from it.
3) Our experience of self-hood, the subjective, which appears distinct from the outside world, and is a phenomenon that does not appear to be reducible in the way the hurricans are. Which btw is not necessarily to invoke dualism.

> Nope. The whole point of my stance is NOT to have a division between reality (or physical reality) and mind. So, no, I'm not assuming that.

I'm not distinguising mind from matter in any kind of ontological sense, I am saying that when you move from your knowledge of yourself in your inner world to an evaluation of the external world you assume that the outer world exists, and would continue to exist even in the absence of your ability to experience it, i.e. if you died, or all animals died and there was no such thing as language etc etc.

> No, I don't make that basic assumption. We consider whether reality is "consistent" based on evidence. As for reality being "objective", again, it is you who wants some big subjective/objective distinction, not me.

Well I disagree and I don't think you've honestly examined the basis for your position. The assumption of a basic order is what makes science worthwhile, that there is an order to elucidate. It is a self-fulfilling exercise, I agree, but it is not its own reason for making the initial commitment to such a view of reality.

> There you are again, positing some fundamental divide between "us" (presumably "mind") and "reality". That is not my starting point.

With all due respect Coel, that can't not be your starting point. You are a subjective creature, not an objective one, whether you like it or not. Again, this is not to invoke a necessary dualism, but it does recognise the honesty in the position that the subjective experience is the starting point for any interaction with the world, which, if committed to, does assume that there is a reality to discern, which can also be understood.

> No, that is not a starting assumption. We can deduce whether rational explanations exist by testing them against alternative possibilities.

That you can deduce whether rational explanations exist, does not stop it from also being a starting assumption.

> Nope, as I've said repeatedly, I am NOT making any starting assumption about the nature of stuff. That is something we *deduce* (as best we can) based on evidence.

What is nature that you have decided it is something that you can deduce something about it at all? In what way is the mind anything like a hurricane? Do hurricane's have a subjective sense? What is this "stuff"? What is matter that you believe it to be worth studying?

> Which is why I don't start with them. Sorry, not one of those 5 above is something that I do take as a starting assumption.

You might not admit it in the interests of more rhetoric, but they are. You are not a skeptic and not an idealist (or a dual aspect monist), so you have made a commitment to reality that is broadly speaking assuming that ones experience of the exterior world is physical, your answer to PMP's spoon bending example being further indicative.

> Evidence for what? If you mean "evidence for non-physicalism" then, for the eighteenth time, "non-physicalism" is not something I have the slightest conception about; I have absolutely no conception of what this claimed "physicalism" v "non-physicalism" divide is supposed to be about or supposed to mean, and thus, having no inkling of this concept, I don't see how I can describe evidence for it. If YOU want to argue for this distinction then YOU argue for it and provide evidence for it.
> For the NINETEENTH time, I have no understanding of what "physicalism" means, since I have no understanding of any "non-physical" thing to contrast it with. Therefore I am NOT basing my stance on a declaration of "physicalism" and don't even have a definition of "physicalism".

With all due respect, this seems highly disengenuous, you call yourself someone who advocates reductionistic and materialistic versions of science and scientism, and yet you reject any notion of the idea of what physicalism means? Come on! Physicalism is just a more nuanced form of materialism, as I'm sure you well know. You may need to rewrite your profile, and it would be nice to know given that you advocate materialistic conceptions what you understand by physicalism.

> What I am saying is that, as far as I am aware, the set "exists" is not divided into fundamentally ontologically distinct domains ("mind" v "matter" or whatever); as far as I'm aware everything that exists is the same type of stuff in that sense.

What is the set "exists"? Is it everything, or only that which you experience? Do physical laws exist? What position do you take on Hawking's: "because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself out of nothing". If physical laws exist, of what substance, "stuff" etc does a physical law take? What is the subjective experience?
Sir Chasm - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W: What do you think the mind is?
Jimbo W on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Not so; I'm not aware of evidence for miracles, but I don't rule them out a priori. Whether there are or are not miracles is something that we determine on the evidence. What evidence of miracles do you have? What exactly do you mean by "miracle" for that matter?

If you saw a ghost, you would conclude either that you were hallucinating, or you might be moved to move "ghost" into the set "exists" and assume that a physical explanation might be possible for it, and perhaps raise a hypothesis yourself. I doubt very much you would put your experience in the set "miracle".
Sir Chasm - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W: Can you give an example of a miracle?
Jimbo W on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:

> (In reply to Jimbo W) Can you give an example of a miracle?

Existence
Jimbo W on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:

> (In reply to Jimbo W) What do you think the mind is?

Mind is our subjective awareness, self-hood, and cognition as well as the portal via which we can experience reality (our sense of self and the external world), decide to act within it, and internalise abstractions about it.
Sir Chasm - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W: So a miracle is just something you can't explain? Getting more scarce aren't they? Y'know as we learn more.
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Sir Chasm - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W: The mind is our portal? How does it interact? What does it port between?
Jimbo W on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:

> So a miracle is just something you can't explain? Getting more scarce aren't they? Y'know as we learn more.

I think it would be miraculous even if it could be explained. Furthermore, I believe that all science is capable of doing is describing reality incompletely, another way of saying which is: science translates reality into an empirically coherent abstraction, but not an abstraction that is necessarily true. While they can give us predictive power, empirically derived laws and models are not necessarily true and as such they fundamentally lack explanatory power about reality. We are inherently divorced from a true understanding of the basis of reality, not to mention that our subjective experience of it can only be in abstract form and during the process of comprehension cannot be removed from the influence of other aspects of our subjective person.
Jimbo W on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:

> The mind is our portal? How does it interact? What does it port between?

Between our subjective sense and itself as well as an external reality via our senses and our subjective interpretation of them.
Robert Durran - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> Furthermore, I believe that all science is capable of doing is describing reality incompletely, another way of saying which is: science translates reality into an empirically coherent abstraction, but not an abstraction that is necessarily true.

Do you think Einstein got closer to reality than Newton? Or Schrodinger closer than Rutherford?
tom_in_edinburgh - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to Sir Chasm)
>
> [...]
>
> Between our subjective sense and itself as well as an external reality via our senses and our subjective interpretation of them.

How do you explain the experiments where scientists have been able to determine what word/concept someone was thinking about by analysing signals from electrodes taped to their skull. Coupled with the changes to brain functioning that can be caused by drugs or injury there seems to be mounting evidence that brain activity can be explained in physical terms.

Coel Hellier - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> I think you are ruling out non-physical things a priori, because you depend on others
> for a definition of "non-physical" ...

I don't see how that follows. Just because I don't have a conception of something doesn't mean I'm ruling it out. I'm willing to consider any form of argument or evidence for the existence of novel things that I don't currently know about.

> I would suggest that many worlds hypotheses are rather more non-physical than physical and rely on
> the idealism of mathematical abstraction and consistency over empirical science.

If you mean Everett's "many worlds" interpretation of quantum mechanics, then I'm dubious about it and certainly wouldn't regard it as established. But saying it is "more non-physical than physical" requires you to first define those two terms and specify how we can decide what is in which category.

> 1) The coherence between mind and our apparent ability to understand the universe that might suggest
> an inherent frame of reference that has a basic coherence with physical law.. ..i.e. physical law is a
> representation of mind.

The fact that our minds cohere to the material universe is straightforwardly explained by our minds being the product of the material universe, a product of evolution that has programmed our minds to model the world around us as a survival tool. Given that, I don't see that concordance as evidence for anything "non-physical", indeed quite the opposite.

> Afterall, can such laws be said to exist?

Laws of physics are descriptions of how the world works, and yes, those descriptions exist, and it is a fact that the world does adhere to the regularities described by the laws. Of course "laws" are not agents in themselves, going around giving orders to matter.

> ... In that sense the external world could be subordinate to mind, and not exist apart from it,
> or at least not entirely apart from it.

It could be, but do we have any evidence for that? The way to decide these things is to see which scenario fits the data better and which provides better predictions of things we don't yet know. So far I'd say that all the evidence supports the idea that the mind is the product of a material universe.

> 3) Our experience of self-hood, the subjective, which appears distinct from the outside world, ...

Well yes, our brains are programmed to be a "simulation" device, to run simulations of the world and (particularly) of other humans as a way of making real-time decisions. The brain is thus programmed by the genes for its ability to make real-time decisions, which of course the genes cannot do.

> ... and is a phenomenon that does not appear to be reducible in the way the hurricans are.

How do you know that? Just saying that it "does not appear to be reducible" isn't very convincing. I'm not aware of any evidence that it isn't reducible; and, further, as neuroscience progresses the evidence is increasingly that it is reducible, and, further still, and crucially, no alternative account is even getting off the ground -- and of course science is all about going with the best account we have.

> I am saying that when you move from your knowledge of yourself in your inner world to an evaluation
> of the external world you assume that the outer world exists, and would continue to exist even in
> the absence of your ability to experience it, i.e. if you died, or all animals died ...

Well yes, but this isn't a fundamental a priori assumption, it's an evaluation of evidence. For example, plenty of humans have died, and the world just carried on without them; and all the evidence says that we are similar to other humans. Again, if you want some other account to be taken seriously, then it needs to be developed to the point of doing a better job overall given everything we know about the universe.

If we had some mind-in-a-vat alternative, with only one mind, creating everything else by imagination, then that gives rises to far more unanswered questions about how and why that single mind got there than the conventional account does.
Coel Hellier - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> The assumption of a basic order is what makes science worthwhile, that there is an order to elucidate.

Again, I don't accept that the "assumption of a basic order" is an a priori assumption that we have to just take on trust. We can take it as a working hypothesis and then test it, testing it by seeing whether it matches the universe. As it happens, all our evidence tells us that there is an underlying regularity and order in the world.

Again, what's the alternative? That there is no "regularity and order"? How would that account do a better job of explaining things? Please explain how "there is no regularity or order" does a better job of explaining that scientists can predict future solar eclipses very well. Even if these scientists are merely imagined by some mind-in-a-vat, the fact that that mind can imagine coherently itself points to some degree of regularity and order.

> recognise the honesty in the position that the subjective experience is the starting point for any
> interaction with the world, which, if committed to, does assume that there is a reality to
> discern, which can also be understood.

I entirely agree that the starting point is our own experiences. But the idea of an external reality does not have to be taken on trust as an un-examinable assumption; again, we can test whether that idea matches the evidence better or worse than the alternative "disembodied mind imagining stuff" hypothesis.

> That you can deduce whether rational explanations exist, does not stop it from also being a starting assumption.

There is a vast difference between a *hypothesis* that we can then test, and a basic assumption that we can't test and have to take on trust as an axiomatic starting point.

> What is nature that you have decided it is something that you can deduce something about it at all?

Feel free to postulate an alternative "we can't deduce anything about nature" hypothesis and outline how it fits the evidence better.

> What is this "stuff"? What is matter that you believe it to be worth studying?

What is "stuff"? Scientists spend their lives working out the properties of "stuff", and we know quite a lot about it. As for whether it is "worth" studying, well that's a value judgement; I for one find studying it fun, which is sufficient motivation for me.

> you have made a commitment to reality that is broadly speaking assuming that ones experience of
> the exterior world is physical

No, I come to such conclusions as the best evaluation of the evidence.

> ... yet you reject any notion of the idea of what physicalism means? Come on! Physicalism is
> just a more nuanced form of materialism, as I'm sure you well know. ...

Amazing that people are so sure what "physicalism" means and yet haven't given us a straightforward definition!

I'll repeat. As far as I'm aware there is "stuff" like protons, electrons, photons, et cetera. As far as we know, other stuff that we know less about (such as "dark matter") is likely similar sorts of stuff. As far as we know, there are not big ontological divides within the superset "exists". Everything we see seems to be a coherent whole, with all sorts of stuff obeying the same types of regularities and patterns (= "laws of nature") and all interacting with other stuff coherently.

That's my best statement of "physicalism" or "materialism". It is of course provisional, if someone wants to argue for big ontological divides and for fundamentally different types of stuff such as "souls" then they should feel free to present a coherent account of such stuff and present their evidence for it.

> What is the set "exists"? Is it everything, or only that which you experience?

I'd define it as everything that we can experience (including indirect experience, so everything that can have any discernible effect, however indirectly, on anything that we can experience).

> Do physical laws exist?

Yes as descriptions of nature; but as agents in their own right, no.

> What position do you take on Hawking's: "because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can
> and will create itself out of nothing".

My position on that is that it is clearer to rewrite it without the word "law", thus "because of the way matter behaves, the universe can and will create itself out of nothing". Whether that is true or not is (1) not established, and (2) depends on what you mean by "nothing".

> If physical laws exist, of what substance, "stuff" etc does a physical law take?

They aren't entities or agents in their own right, a "law" is just a description of the nature of matter, how it behaves.
Tim Chappell - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to Sir Chasm)
>
Can you give an example of a miracle?
>
> Existence


Jimbo, I think that's the best line I've ever read on a religion thread on UKC. Absolutely brilliant, and spot on too.

Coel Hellier - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> If you saw a ghost, you would conclude either that you were hallucinating, or you might
> be moved to move "ghost" into the set "exists" and assume that a physical explanation might be possible
> for it, and perhaps raise a hypothesis yourself. I doubt very much you would put your experience
> in the set "miracle".

I don't think I'd conclude anything much from one isolated event. Major conclusions about the nature of stuff (and the possibility of miracles or suchforth) needs to be about patterns of evidence.

Could I imagine being convinced that ghosts exist, given enough evidence of ghosts appearing in our world? Yes.
Tim Chappell - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:


Wow. Nice footwork, Coel.

Last week you were all "We need no definition of physicalism", and dismissive of the several offered definitions that came up. Now it's "Here's my definition of physicalism", with a cheeky side-order of "How come no one else on this thread has defined it?". At the very least we have to admire your brass neck, I think.

Still, I sense a big moment might be in the offing here, the moment when Coel admits he was wrong. Big enough to say that? No? Oh well.
John Gillott - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Sadly for me my thought experiment - choosing to remember my childhood cat then remembering I'd remembered my childhood cat - didn't spark any interest. Is it obvious? What I'm getting at is this - take two quotes from what you've just said:


'The fact that our minds cohere to the material universe is straightforwardly explained by our minds being the product of the material universe, a product of evolution that has programmed our minds to model the world around us as a survival tool. Given that, I don't see that concordance as evidence for anything "non-physical", indeed quite the opposite.'

'I'll repeat. As far as I'm aware there is "stuff" like protons, electrons, photons, et cetera. As far as we know, other stuff that we know less about (such as "dark matter") is likely similar sorts of stuff. As far as we know, there are not big ontological divides within the superset "exists". Everything we see seems to be a coherent whole, with all sorts of stuff obeying the same types of regularities and patterns (= "laws of nature") and all interacting with other stuff coherently.'

Are you arguing for a form of determinism and rejecting free will, or do you have an explanation for free will consistent with those two statements? if the latter, it seems we have stuff choosing to re-organise other stuff to create a specific memory (in my case a new memory of my childhood cat, and the memory of making that memory last Friday). How did that happen - how does mind stuff posses the property of intentional action, action that is not determined by the existing state of brain and mind stuff? If we take physicalism to the point of arguing that mind states are a part of a particular configuration of brain states, how can genuine choice arise? Did I really have the choice to create the memory of my cat last Friday?
Sir Chasm - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott: Did you have a cat? If you did then the memory was there since your childhood and you have reaccessed it.
John Gillott - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:

I did. But how did I decide to re-access it last Friday, and in the process create the new memory of re-accessing the memory? I'm thinking about making a cup of tea right now. I've decided I'll make a decision ten seconds after I hit 'Submit message'. Is it already determined whether I'll make one or not?
Coel Hellier - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> Last week you were all "We need no definition of physicalism", ...

<sigh> I said that *I* didn't need a definition of "physicalism" for any argument that **I** had made.

> and dismissive of the several offered definitions that came up.

Ehh? Where????

> Now it's "Here's my definition of physicalism", ...

If you actually *read* what I just said for comprehension, you'd see it was the same as I was saying previously up-thread. Namely, no evidence for big ontological divides.

> with a cheeky side-order of "How come no one else on this thread has defined it?".

Well it's *others* who are trying to base argument on this definition! Thus *they* do need a definition! I don't! Duh!

> At the very least we have to admire your brass neck, I think.

At the very least we have to not-admire your stupidity.

> Still, I sense a big moment might be in the offing here, the moment when Coel admits he was wrong.
> Big enough to say that? No? Oh well.

Tim, all you've done on this thread is demonstrate that you are way out of your depth when discussing philosophy. You've contributed nothing intelligent or knowledgeable to that discussion. Jimbo is at least putting up a decent case. I'm coming to the conclusion that you'd be out of your depth in a toddler's paddling pool.
Robert Durran - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> Jimbo, I think that's the best line I've ever read on a religion thread on UKC. Absolutely brilliant, and spot on too.

So, if we take existence to be the only miracle (I can't see why any more are required), does that help your case in this debate?

Coel Hellier - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> Are you arguing for a form of determinism and rejecting free will, or do you have an explanation
> for free will consistent with those two statements?

If you mean some sort of dualistic freewill then yes, I reject it. If you take a thought experiment in which you exactly duplicate all material of a human (all neurons and chemical and electrical potentials, etc, identical), and put it in identical environmental conditions, then it would make the same decision, in exactly the way that a deterministic system such as a aircraft's autopilot would make the same decision under the same conditions.

There are, though, compatibilist conceptions of human "will" (meaning compatible with determinism), and I'm ok with those.
Sir Chasm - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott: Your brain did it. As to whether your tea making is predetermined, of course not, you might die before then.
John Gillott - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:

Well, presumably my death would have been a part of the deterministic process.

But, good news, I didn't die before making the decision.

I'm now drinking my tea. Could it have been otherwise?

Sir Chasm - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott: Of course it could, power cut, trip on the stairs, meteor strike.
Postmanpat on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> Yes I would, by default, unless someone were to provide evodence that its properties were best understood by creating a new ontological "non-physical" category for it. Essentially my stance is that I'm not aware of any need for any such divisions within the set "exists".
>

Ok, that seems reasonable. How confident are you that such a phenomenon (force) doesn't exist or that we would be aware of it if did, and why?

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Tim Chappell - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:


Do stop these boring personal gibes. They just make you look like a pompous, unpleasant, ill-tempered bully. If you chuck enough mud it will rebound onto you. In any case, your opinion of me is neither here nor there. As indeed is my opinion of you.

So now you've gone back to "I don't need a definition". But as I've pointed out, you do. Because if you don't have one, you have no way of stopping others from defining "physical" any way they like. Including defining what is physical as a sign of the presence of God, as Augustine does in effect, or as a manifestation of mindedness in the world, as Leibniz, Spinoza, and Tom Nagel all do (or get close to doing).

If theists do that, then they don't *need* the "basic fundamental divides" that you keep going on about. Because God is not on the far side of those divides. He's right here in the midst of material things. "In him we live and move and have our being."

No more motivated than a toffee-apple view, you think? Wrong. Because there's a huge amount of evidence of people experiencing God's presence in the world. One way of explaining what that experience comes to, and perhaps the most economical, is to say that all being including physical being of the most basic sort is a sign of God: that existence is, as Jim put it above, a miracle.

Funny, isn't it, how keen you are on evidence, and yet you won't take seriously the consistent and enduring testimony of religious experience over thousands of years of our history--that there's a God out there.

Please note, I'm not putting this up as a knock-down argument. It's a sketch of how an argument might go.
John Gillott - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to John Gillott)
>
> [...]
>
> If you mean some sort of dualistic freewill then yes, I reject it. If you take a thought experiment in which you exactly duplicate all material of a human (all neurons and chemical and electrical potentials, etc, identical), and put it in identical environmental conditions, then it would make the same decision, in exactly the way that a deterministic system such as a aircraft's autopilot would make the same decision under the same conditions.
>
> There are, though, compatibilist conceptions of human "will" (meaning compatible with determinism), and I'm ok with those.

Does is follow from your thought experiment that the decision is inevitable? If an identical system (me, in this case) would keep making the same decision it seems so. On reading this thread last Friday it really was inevitable I would think about my long dead cat in order to raise a question, and now it's determined that I'm typing this?
John Gillott - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:

What, and they weren't determined? I'm assuming you have a God's eye view.
Sir Chasm - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: That people believe something is evidence it exists? Really? Like fairies, father christmas, ghosts, the man on the moon?
Tim Chappell - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:


Actually yes, in a very small way. But that people *experience* something is quite good evidence that it exists. And that was my point.
Sir Chasm - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: Plenty of people claim to have experienced ghosts, it doesn't mean ghosts exist outside of their heads.
Tim Chappell - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:

I didn't say it did.
MG - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to Sir Chasm)
>
>
> Actually yes, in a very small way. But that people *experience* something is quite good evidence that it exists.

It's very weak evidence. There are any number of examples of people experiencing things that don' exist. Ghosts, hallucination while on drugs, dreams, contradictory religious beliefs. The whole of history suggests that human experience is a very bad way of deciding about how the world is.
Tim Chappell - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:


I don't think that's true. I think in the end experience is the only source of evidence we have for anything. Perhaps I am more of an empiricist than you and Coel are.
Coel Hellier - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> Do stop these boring personal gibes. They just make you look like a pompous, unpleasant, ill-tempered bully.

That, from someone who called me a "nutter"! Look Tim, if you want to discuss *sensibly*, as Jimbo is doing, then I won't insult you (note that I haven't insulted Jimbo in my posts just now). But so far you've not making any attempt to discuss sensibly, you've just been trying to declare yourself correct and me wrong.

> So now you've gone back to "I don't need a definition".

I don't, for the arguments and claims that ***I*** was making!

> But as I've pointed out, you do. Because if you don't have one, you have no way of stopping others
> from defining "physical" any way they like.

Fine, let them! Let them define "physical" as "made of toffee apple" or "charged with the presence of God" or whatever definition they like. I really don't care if they make that definition! Really I don't! That's because IT DOESN'T CHANGE HOW REALITY IS. All it does is change words.

If "physical" means "made of toffee apple" or "charged with the presence of God" then I don't hold to "physicalism". Fine. All you've changed is *words*. Only you think that that amounts to anything significant!

> Because there's a huge amount of evidence of people experiencing God's presence in the world.

No there isn't. Mere assertion doesn't make it so.

> One way of explaining what that experience comes to, and perhaps the most economical, is to say
> that all being including physical being of the most basic sort is a sign of God ...

Then make your case. Show that starting with an omnipotent being is "economical". Show that this explains the world better. Present your *evidence*. Don't just play with words!

> Funny, isn't it, how keen you are on evidence, and yet you won't take seriously the consistent
> and enduring testimony of religious experience over thousands of years of our history--that there's a God out there.

The evidence is not that "there's a God out there", it's that *people* *think* that there's a God out there. I am in no way ignoring that evidence. I fully accept that vast numbers of people think that. Now we should examine what best explains people's perceptions on that.
MG - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to MG)
>
>
> I don't think that's true. I think in the end experience is the only source of evidence we have for anything.

So how do you distinguish between "real" experiences and "not-real" ones. Or do you believe in ghosts etc. on the basis that many people experience them? It seems to me science has done a rather good job of separating "real" from "non-real" over a long period, while religion has, other the same period, to have done a terrible job. For example, science suggests women are at least as equally capable intellectually as men and so should be given the freedom to take on any role on merit. Evidence from this being implemented supports the scientific view. Religion still doesn't believe this and discriminates against them.
Coel Hellier - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> Does is follow from your thought experiment that the decision is inevitable?
> If an identical system (me, in this case) would keep making the same decision it seems so.

It depends what you mean by "inevitable" -- yes, a decision is "inevitable" given the physical conditions moments before the decision. However, given things like deterministic chaos and quantum indeterminacy, that's not quite the same as "inevitable" in a more general sense.

"Inevitable" given absolutely identical physical conditions is true, but not really all that relevant since we can never have exactly duplicated physical conditions. Given the possibility of slightly different physical conditions, the outcome is not "inevitable".
Coel Hellier - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> I think in the end experience is the only source of evidence we have for anything.

Yep, but you need to get as much corroboration as possible for deductions from such experiences, and continually ask yourself "am I being fooled?".

As Feynmann said, yourself is the easiest person to fool. Much of modern psychology tells us how easy humans are to fool. That's where you go wrong Tim, you decide what experiences to trust based on wishful thinking, not on a critical examination of the evidence.
Coel Hellier - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> How confident are you that such a phenomenon (force) doesn't exist or that we would be aware
> of it if did, and why?

By "such a phenomenon" you mean a "non-physical" one? Well, it's really hard to answer about how confident of the non-existence of such a thing I am, since no-one has yet told me that a "non-physical yet existing" actually means. As I said, I'm open to people making the case.

Would we be aware of it? If it had any significant and discernible affect on the observable universe then yes. It is of course easy to postulate meta-realities that have no interaction whatsoever with our observable universe, in which case we would not be aware of them.
John Gillott - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to John Gillott)
>
> [...]
>
> It depends what you mean by "inevitable" -- yes, a decision is "inevitable" given the physical conditions moments before the decision. However, given things like deterministic chaos and quantum indeterminacy, that's not quite the same as "inevitable" in a more general sense.
>
> "Inevitable" given absolutely identical physical conditions is true, but not really all that relevant since we can never have exactly duplicated physical conditions. Given the possibility of slightly different physical conditions, the outcome is not "inevitable".

Sure, re not being able to duplicate the conditions.

But then this is a thought experiment the purpose of which is to examine determinism in the individual case and not one to explore duplicating the conditions to replay history.

So, given that the system (me) did have a precise state moments before the decision, is it your view that it was inevitable that I would read this thread and think about my long dead cat in order to ask a question?
Robert Durran - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)
> Funny, isn't it, how keen you are on evidence, and yet you won't take seriously the consistent and enduring testimony of religious experience over thousands of years of our history--that there's a God out there.

Do you take seriously the fact that a ssurprising proportion of Americans honestly believe themselves to have been abducted by aliens, or would you look for a more rational explanation of those beliefs.
Tim Chappell - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

No, it's not wishful thinking. And in any case, such accusations are very easy to manufacture. If there is anyone on UKC who is clearly desperate to believe what he believes, that's you, Coel. So where does that leave us?

A more interesting question. I wonder what experience of God you would have to have in order to make you believe in him. Any thoughts about that?
Coel Hellier - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> So, given that the system (me) did have a precise state moments before the decision, is it your view
> that it was inevitable that I would read this thread and think about my long dead cat in order to ask a question?

Yes.

(With the caveat that "reading this thread and thinking about a long dead cat and asking a question" takes quite a time, and that quantum indeterminacy and deterministic chaos can operate over those timescales, and so the "precise state moments before the decision" is somewhat undefined and not all that sensible a concept about macroscopic objects over long timescales. But yes, decisions are determined by the "precise state moments before the decision".)
MG - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> A more interesting question. I wonder what experience of God you would have to have in order to make you believe in him. Any thoughts about that?

Talk about evasion and changing the subject!!
Robert Durran - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)

> For example, science suggests women are at least as equally capable intellectually as men and so should be given the freedom to take on any role on merit. Evidence from this being implemented supports the scientific view. Religion still doesn't believe this and discriminates against them.

Oh come on. Keep up! The thread moved on from that question about 700 posts ago!

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Postmanpat on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> By "such a phenomenon" you mean a "non-physical" one? Well, it's really hard to answer about how confident of the non-existence of such a thing I am, since no-one has yet told me that a "non-physical yet existing" actually means. As I said, I'm open to people making the case.
>
> Would we be aware of it? If it had any significant and discernible affect on the observable universe then yes. It is of course easy to postulate meta-realities that have no interaction whatsoever with our observable universe, in which case we would not be aware of them.

No, I mean, as I said, a " "force" , let's say mental spoon bending or something, which Was not explicable by the currently understood laws of physics."

It take your second para to be a "yes". Do you think it impossible that we could in fact be "aware" of them but since they do not conform to our understood laws of physics and because we have only very limited sensory perceptions and technologies we are scarcely aware that we are aware of them?

Coel Hellier - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> No, it's not wishful thinking.

That's assertion.

> If there is anyone on UKC who is clearly desperate to believe what he believes, that's you, Coel.

So's that.

> I wonder what experience of God you would have to have in order to make you believe in him.
> Any thoughts about that?

Possibles along those lines would be experiences that were corroborated by evidence that would be very hard to be just wishful thinking. For example, if priests by praying managed to produce better predictions of solar eclipses than scientists studying nature, and did so repeatedly and verifiably, then I'd likely end up believing in God.

I can also recall what it is like to believe in God, having done so for periods between the ages of 9 and 11 or so. And reflecting back on that it does seem to have been largely a matter of wishful thinking, as in it feeling good to believe it.
Coel Hellier - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> No, I mean, as I said, a " "force" , let's say mental spoon bending or something, which Was not
> explicable by the currently understood laws of physics."

Sure, it's entirely possible for there to be such things that we don't yet understand. Cosmologists' "dark energy" is one such force, and that is very definitely not understood.

> Do you think it impossible that we could in fact be "aware" of them but since they do not conform
> to our understood laws of physics and because we have only very limited sensory perceptions and
> technologies we are scarcely aware that we are aware of them?

I wouldn't think that "impossible", no.
John Gillott - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to John Gillott)
>
> [...]
>
> Yes.
>
> (With the caveat that "reading this thread and thinking about a long dead cat and asking a question" takes quite a time, and that quantum indeterminacy and deterministic chaos can operate over those timescales, and so the "precise state moments before the decision" is somewhat undefined and not all that sensible a concept about macroscopic objects over long timescales. But yes, decisions are determined by the "precise state moments before the decision".)

Deterministic chaos affects ability to predict rather than undermining determinism (bit of a tautology that one). Quantum indeterminism is the wild card.

To break it down: given that long time scales are made up of lots of small time scales, is it your view that determinism still operates, so that what I will be thinking at 5.00pm GMT today is already determined? If quantum indeterminism says it isn't, do you think this provides any insight into the age old debate about free will?
Postmanpat on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
>
> I wouldn't think that "impossible", no.

Would you go as far as far accept that some of the phenomenon that people put down to , lets say, "supernatural forces", could be the product of meta-realities of which we are unaware and don't understand?

Robert Durran - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)
>
> If there is anyone on UKC who is clearly desperate to believe what he believes, that's you, Coel.

A theist accusing an atheist of holding desperate beliefs!
Thanks for the comedy.
Coel Hellier - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> is it your view that determinism still operates, so that what I will be thinking at 5.00pm GMT today
> is already determined? If quantum indeterminism says it isn't,

Again, I'd need a tighter definition of what "determined" means to answer that, though given quantum indeterminism my answer is likely "no". Is there anything other than the playing out of physics? No. Could that decision be predicted this far ahead? Likely not.

> do you think this provides any insight into the age old debate about free will?

No I don't, actually. I think the age-old debate is mostly about dualism and dualistic conceptions of free-will, and I think those are illusions.
Coel Hellier - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> Would you go as far as far accept that some of the phenomenon that people put down to , lets say,
> "supernatural forces", could be the product of meta-realities of which we are unaware and don't understand?

Sure.
cb294 - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

Determined (as in linked by a chain of cause and effect) does not necessarily mean predictable.

CB
Postmanpat on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> Sure.

Which leaves the question of why you seem so hostile not just to the effects of formalised religion but to the idea that some peoples' personal experience leads them, wrongly or rightly, to believe that something along those lines is happening.(?)
craigloon - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> Sure, it's entirely possible for there to be such things that we don't yet understand. Cosmologists' "dark energy" is one such force, and that is very definitely not understood.
>
> [...]
>
> I wouldn't think that "impossible", no.

Indeed, the Higgs boson is a good example. We are only now able to "perceive" it experimentally, thanks to more capable technology. Before that, it was an hypothesis. And before Higgs, we didn't even postulate that it might exist.
Coel Hellier - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> Which leaves the question of why you seem so hostile not just to the effects of formalised religion but
> to the idea that some peoples' personal experience leads them, wrongly or rightly, to believe that
> something along those lines is happening.

I argue for what, as it seems to me, the evidence points to. And, it seems to me, that people believing that are doing so on wishful thinking.

Why do I bother arguing that? For starters, as a way of getting at what's true. But, also, people who start believing that stuff often get very arrogant and think they have a right to inflict those beliefs on others and think that they are entitled to special privileges and status because of those beliefs. In which case, why not go for the cause, not just treat the symptoms?
Postmanpat on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> I argue for what, as it seems to me, the evidence points to. And, it seems to me, that people believing that are doing so on wishful thinking.
>
>
But I thought we'd agreed that we would barely be able to discern let alone recognise or understand the "evidence" for a meta-reality so obviously the evidence (from our persepective) will point against it.

Given that, and I have no doubt that you will correct me if I am mistaken, theoretical physicists are open to, amongst other ideas, multiple dimensions and multiple, possibly infinitely multiple, universes, is it very unlikely that such meta-realities exist.?
Coel Hellier - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> But I thought we'd agreed that we would barely be able to discern let alone recognise or understand
> the "evidence" for a meta-reality so obviously the evidence (from our persepective) will point against it.

Can we distinguish between two possibilities: (1) a meta-reality that has no discernible affect whatsoever; (2) a meta-reality that does have a discernible effect, even if one that is hard to discern. In the latter case, even if its hard to discern, the evidence would point to it.

> ... is it very unlikely that such meta-realities exist.?

(1) How do I know? (2) Which of the two above do you mean? (3) No.
Wonko The Sane - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)
> [...]
> But I thought we'd agreed that we would barely be able to discern let alone recognise or understand the "evidence" for a meta-reality so obviously the evidence (from our persepective) will point against it.
>
>

The implication of this of course is that we should beleive in any number of possibilities, no matter how unlikely.

There are literally an infinite number of things I cannot disprove.

That doesn't give them any basis in (any) reality.

Coel Hellier - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Wonko The Sane:

You're right. Is PMP really trying to say something like "there is no evidence for it, but let's believe it"?

If we were to make a wild guess at which civilisation in the Andromeda galaxy is nearest to us, what those people like to have for breakfast, and what the name of their most popular movie star is, then we could indeed make wild guesses, and we could "believe" our guesses if we so chose. But the chances of our beliefs on that -- or any other thing -- being true are minimal unless supported by evidence. So believe in "meta-realities" if you wish; that doesn't avoid the question "what's the evidence for them?".
Postmanpat on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> Can we distinguish between two possibilities: (1) a meta-reality that has no discernible affect whatsoever; (2) a meta-reality that does have a discernible effect, even if one that is hard to discern. In the latter case, even if its hard to discern, the evidence would point to it.
>
> [...]
>
> (1) How do I know? (2) Which of the two above do you mean? (3) No.

1) You wouldn't. 2) Either 3) right
Postmanpat on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Wonko The Sane)
>
> You're right. Is PMP really trying to say something like "there is no evidence for it, but let's believe it"?
>
You are putting words into my moth. I am simply trying to understand what your views are. Frankly they don't seem that different to mine. It's simply that I think that given,as I think you acknowledged, it is quite likely that these meta realities exist, I don't have a problem with the concept we may get a glimpse of them.

Personally I don't feel the urge to base my life around the idea but I'm quite relaxed about those who do unless they screw up the world, which many do.
Postmanpat on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Wonko The Sane:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
> [...]
>
> The implication of this of course is that we should beleive in any number of possibilities, no matter how unlikely.
>
> There are literally an infinite number of things I cannot disprove.
>
> That doesn't give them any basis in (any) reality.

Well, that's an interesting point. If there are indeed an infinite number of universes, which we are told is a theoretical possibility, then presumably there are an infinite number of believable things, even including a universe with a flying spaghetti God?

John Gillott - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to John Gillott)
>
> [...]
>
> Again, I'd need a tighter definition of what "determined" means to answer that, though given quantum indeterminism my answer is likely "no". Is there anything other than the playing out of physics? No. Could that decision be predicted this far ahead? Likely not.
>
Careful Coel, you're not on the Today Programme yet.
>
> No I don't, actually. I think the age-old debate is mostly about dualism and dualistic conceptions of free-will, and I think those are illusions.

What about any other kind of conception of free will? Are they all illusions?
ads.ukclimbing.com
Coel Hellier - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> It's simply that I think that given,as I think you acknowledged, it is quite likely that these meta realities exist, ...

Depending somewhat on what one means by "exist". In the case of the meta-realities that have no possible causal connection with ours, even in principle, then in what sense do they "exist"?

> I don't have a problem with the concept we may get a glimpse of them.

Nor so I. Indeed, all of science is aimed at finding out about aspects of reality for which the evidence is barely discernible.
Coel Hellier - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> What about any other kind of conception of free will? Are they all illusions?

Compatibilist notions of "free will" are not illusions. For example, there's a clear distinction between "Did you sign this contract of your own free will, or was it because the mafia were holding a gun to your children's head?".
John Gillott - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to John Gillott)
>
> [...]
>
> Compatibilist notions of "free will" are not illusions. For example, there's a clear distinction between "Did you sign this contract of your own free will, or was it because the mafia were holding a gun to your children's head?".

'Compatibilists are sometimes called "soft determinists" pejoratively (William James's term). James accused them of creating a "quagmire of evasion" by stealing the name of freedom to mask their underlying determinism. Immanuel Kant called it a "wretched subterfuge" and "word jugglery."'

From:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compatibilism

Excuse the pasting from a Wikipedia entry, but I couldn't resist on seeing the phrase 'word jugglery'.
Coel Hellier - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:

> "... stealing the name of freedom to mask their underlying determinism ..."

Since compatibilist "freedom" is the only sort of freedom that actually exists it is not really "stealing" to use the word.
cb294 - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:
> (In reply to dissonance)
> [...]
> I don't think I like this idea of strong emergence though; but if consciousness cannot emerge weakly from fundamental physics and I don't like strong emergence, it seems we are into the realms of panpsychism or suchlike, but if that is not part of physics, how does it interface with it? Could be here some time..........


Sorry to jump back to this post, but I rather join this discussion from work than wasting my weekend.

At the biochemical and cell biological level we pretty much understand how individual neurons work, and how they become arranged into larger ensembles.

As to how memory, emotions, behaviour, and self awareness are implemented in neuronal circuits and their activation states has since a few years moved from the realm of speculation to experimentably testable science. This is largely due to fantastic improvements in manipulating individual neurons within living organisms, new imaging modalities, etc.

There were several papers in 2012 alone that describe the selective expression of transgenes speifically in cells actively rearranging their connections during memory formation.

Such a transgene can later be used to trigger firing of these neurons specifically (e.g. by expressing drug sensitive or light activatable ion channels). The memories formed at the time of transgene expression can thus be recalled at will and out of context. If the memories were formed in a fear conditioning paradigm, you can make a mouse freeze and hide by triggering this specific memory.

Clearly, such experiments begin to show how memories triggering higher behaviour are formed and encoded by the brain.

Technical progress aside, we also find that properties currently ascribed to the higher organisational level of the human brain are found in qualitatitively similar but simpler form already in more primitive animals. As an extreme example, the same hormone (oxytocin) that in humans influences breastfeeding behaviour in mothers and male marital fidelity is responsible for regulating mating behaviour in nematodes with their 300-odd neurons. Working upwards from such model organisms will be evenmore useful for understanding the function of the human brain than previously appreciated.

I am therefore confident that problems like the ontogeny of the mind, which are considered by some to be strongly emergent, will be similarly reducible within the next few years.

Citing emergence as a basis of mind/brain duality appears to me to be a god (or philosophy) of the gaps argument all over again.

Cheers,

Christian
Robert Durran - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to cb294:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
> I am therefore confident that problems like the ontogeny of the mind, which are considered by some to be strongly emergent, will be similarly reducible within the next few years.
>
> Citing emergence as a basis of mind/brain duality appears to me to be a god (or philosophy) of the gaps argument all over again.

That's reassuring!
Sir Chasm - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to cb294: That all sounds a bit reasonable. Couldn't you piffle on about god putting a soul in us?
Robert Durran - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:
> (In reply to cb294) That all sounds a bit reasonable.

He's a scientist.
Tim Chappell - on 26 Nov 2012
Just a couple of reflections on the way this thread has developed (and on how others have so often developed in the past).

First, wishful thinking. It won't do to attribute the entire religious experience of the whole of mankind to this simple cause. As explanations go, that's too simple! After all, plenty of theists have said that they believe in theism despite not wanting to: C.S.Lewis and John Bunyan are two obvious examples.

And in any case, the accusation of wishful thinking can be thrown at absolutely anyone. Plenty of people on UKC make it perfectly obvious that they *want* atheism to be true. We have "That's reassuring" from Robert Durran just above this post, for example. And Coel's own website goes on at some length about how he *wants* to be as reductionist as possible. If that's not leaving the door open to wishful thinking, I don't know what is.

Secondly, Ockham's razor. Appeal to this isn't ever, so far as I can see, a knock-down logical refutation. It's an appeal to judgement about theory choice. Such judgements are highly complex things. FWIW, Ockham himself used his razor (entia non multiplicanda sunt praeter necessitatem) to eliminate Thomist universals and Scotist quiddities. He didn't use it to eliminate God. And I don't recall that he ever used it all on its own, as a knock-down logical argument. (Though if someone's going to come back with evidence that he did, then all I need to say is: so much the worse for him.)

At any rate, if we could detach from all these chunterings the conclusion that intelligent people can legitimately take different positions about what entities are worth positing in order to purchase what explanatory power, and that classical theism is prima facie one such legitimate alternative, that would probably be enough for one Monday afternoon.

Fiat veritas, ruat Coel.
MG - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> And in any case, the accusation of wishful thinking can be thrown at absolutely anyone.

Isn't that the whole point of science? Of course humans are subject to the wishful thinking - it's part of being, well, human. That doesn't make what they wishfully think correct. For determining what is correct, the best method developed to date is science.


>
> At any rate, if we could detach from all these chunterings the conclusion that intelligent people can legitimately take different positions about what entities are worth positing in order to purchase what explanatory power, and that classical theism is prima facie one such legitimate alternative, that would probably be enough for one Monday afternoon.


What has "classical theism" (you mean gods and stuff doing miracles?) explained that hasn't been better explained by other means?
owlart - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:
> What has "classical theism" (you mean gods and stuff doing miracles?) explained that hasn't been better explained by other means?

This is the best example of 'wishful thinking' on the entire thread - thinking that either 'side' is willing, or even capable, of giving a straight answer to this question!

One other thing to learn from the thread in general, is that the job of a University Professor must be p*ss-easy, spend all day sat at your PC spouting rubbish on a climbing forum (mostly not connected to your research subject), collect (relatively) large amount of (mostly taxpayer's) money at the end of the month :-)
cb294 - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to owlart:
> (In reply to MG)
> [...]
>
> One other thing to learn from the thread in general, is that the job of a University Professor must be p*ss-easy, spend all day sat at your PC spouting rubbish on a climbing forum (mostly not connected to your research subject), collect (relatively) large amount of (mostly taxpayer's) money at the end of the month :-)



SSSSHHHH!!!! Dont´t let our dirty little secret out!

CB
Sir Chasm - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: Do think it's possible that god is a human construct?
Coel Hellier - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> First, wishful thinking. It won't do to attribute the entire religious experience of the whole
> of mankind to this simple cause. As explanations go, that's too simple!

What's wrong with simple explanations?

> After all, plenty of theists have said that they believe in theism despite not wanting to:
> C.S.Lewis and John Bunyan are two obvious examples.

Well sure, that's part of their apologetic spiel. It's the same as apologetic writers claiming "I used to be an atheist ...".

> And in any case, the accusation of wishful thinking can be thrown at absolutely anyone.

Yes, they can. But claims are only the starting point; you then examine the evidence. As a point in evidence: in a recent thread you, Tim Chappell, recommended to us atheists a book. You said it would explain to us why people are Christians. The title of the book? "Unapologetic: Why, despite everything, Christianity can still make surprising emotional sense" by Francis Spufford. "... make *emotional* sense". That was *your* recommendation.

> If that's not leaving the door open to wishful thinking, I don't know what is.

Everyone is indeed open to biases and wishful thinking. That's why we should all be careful to establish whether our claims can be supported by evidence. The problem with Christians is that they don't accept this bias on their part, and thus have no mechanism to overcome it. Atheists who accept their biases are much less prone to being deceived by them.

> Secondly, Ockham's razor. Appeal to this isn't ever, so far as I can see, a knock-down logical refutation.

You're right, it's a probabilistic argument, not a logical refutation. It essentially says that, since the number of non-existing things greatly exceeds the number of existing things, any claimed entity is much more likely to be "non existent" than "existent", unless one has good evidence for it to be existent.

> intelligent people can legitimately take different positions about what entities are worth positing
> in order to purchase what explanatory power ...

Yes, they can legitimately posit different things. But then (1) those claims should be assessed as objectively as possible, and (2) in doing that one needs to be aware of human biases, since the easiest person to fool is oneself. Anyone not willing to properly consider the possibility "I am being fooled" is not going to be a reliable judge.

And, (3) playing with definitions is not doing to magic things into existence or make them true!
Robert Durran - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> Plenty of people on UKC make it perfectly obvious that they *want* atheism to be true. We have "That's reassuring" from Robert Durran just above this post.

I didn't say I want atheism to be true (eternity in heaven and all that might be poreferable to death and so on) but, in the absence of any evidence for God's existence, I can still get aesthetic pleasure from the way things are, and I find a coherent, reductionist reality aestheticaly more satisfying than the alternatives. That is why I used the word "reassuring".
Robert Durran - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to owlart:
> (In reply to MG)
> One other thing to learn from the thread in general, is that the job of a University Professor must be p*ss-easy, spend all day sat at your PC spouting rubbish on a climbing forum (mostly not connected to your research subject).

Be fair. Only one of the three is spouting rubbish.
dissonance - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> First, wishful thinking. It won't do to attribute the entire religious experience of the whole of mankind to this simple cause. As explanations go, that's too simple!

i dont suppose you would care to point out where someone said that then?

> And in any case, the accusation of wishful thinking can be thrown at absolutely anyone. Plenty of people on UKC make it perfectly obvious that they *want* atheism to be true.

again feel free to provide some quotes. The ones you do state arent overly convincing.

> At any rate, if we could detach from all these chunterings the conclusion that intelligent people can legitimately take different positions about what entities are worth positing in order to purchase what explanatory power, and that classical theism is prima facie one such legitimate alternative,

not really since there tends to be a remarkable lack of hard evidence. This wouldnt be a problem apart from a lot of the religious types claiming detailed knowledge of what the god(s) think.

Toby_W on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to owlart:

Of course the other possibility is that some of us academic types (and I can only speak for my own discipline Eng/sci) are just jaw droppingly clever and can do both hard sums and chat on rocktalk with little effect on the relative load to our mental resources.

At this second I'm juggling, designing an RF match, reading the Times and writing a lecture on frequency response in op amps as well as discovering a previously unseen type of lightning.

I ask you, brain the size of a planet and I'm answering simple posts like this.

Cheers

Toby
Dave Garnett - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> After all, plenty of theists have said that they believe in theism despite not wanting to: C.S.Lewis and John Bunyan are two obvious examples.
>

Whereas I don't believe in theism, despite wanting to. I completely understand the appeal, but wishful thinking doesn't make it so and I just can't bring myself to take the easy option of Descartes' Wager.
Coel Hellier - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Dave Garnett:

> I just can't bring myself to take the easy option of Descartes' Wager.

Pascal surely, or is this a new wager that I don't know about?
MG - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier: I think Chappell should come up with a wager!
owlart - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Toby_W:
> (In reply to owlart)
>
> Of course the other possibility is that some of us academic types (and I can only speak for my own discipline Eng/sci) are just jaw droppingly clever and can do both hard sums and chat on rocktalk with little effect on the relative load to our mental resources.
>
> At this second I'm juggling, designing an RF match, reading the Times and writing a lecture on frequency response in op amps as well as discovering a previously unseen type of lightning.
>
> I ask you, brain the size of a planet and I'm answering simple posts like this.

Well, I didn't like to say, but that is rather the impression some on in these threads do give, that they consider themselves so far above us mere mortals...
Richard J - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
>
> If you take a thought experiment in which you exactly duplicate all material of a human (all neurons and chemical and electrical potentials, etc, identical), and put it in identical environmental conditions, then it would make the same decision, in exactly the way that a deterministic system such as a aircraft's autopilot would make the same decision under the same conditions.
>
> There are, though, compatibilist conceptions of human "will" (meaning compatible with determinism), and I'm ok with those.

I know it's a mistake to get drawn into this thread, which seems to be replaying itself in an entirely deterministic way, but...

I do want to point out that the idea that whatever the brain does is deterministic, even in principle, isn't compatible with what we know about the physics. In Coel's thought experiment, I think we can say definitively that even if the system and its environment was identical, each time we replayed it different things would happen, with a fundamental indeterminacy that ultimately arises from the fundamental indeterminacy of quantum mechanics.

If you were going to simulate the basic operations of the brain (which are chemical, not electrical) - the binding of molecules to receptors, molecular logic arising from allostery, gating in ion channels - you couldn't use deterministic, Newtonian mechanics, because the forces acting between molecules have an inescapably stochastic character. One universal force that acts between everything is the Van der Waals force; there are different ways of thinking about this but perhaps the most fundamental one regards it as a consequence of the way material bodies alter the possible spectrum of quantum fluctuations in the vacuum. It's a fluctuation force, and because of that it is itself randomly fluctuating.

So all those efforts to reconcile some idea of free will with a deterministic universe are a waste of time, because we don't live in a deterministic universe.

Not that this solves the problem of free will, the fundamental nature of reality or anything else, but it does give us one thing less to worry about.
Robert Durran - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Richard J:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)

> Not that this solves the problem of free will, the fundamental nature of reality or anything else, but it does give us one thing less to worry about.

Well that's a relief then.

Coel Hellier - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Richard J:

> I do want to point out that the idea that whatever the brain does is deterministic, even in
> principle, isn't compatible with what we know about the physics.

You're right, but with one big proviso. Which is that there are strong arguments that quantum indeterminacy doesn't play much of a role short-term in a brain's decision making. Afterall, brains are hugely expensive parts of the body (requiring large amounts of energy to run them, requiring long childhoods with much nurturing, forcing big and dangerous compromises to female anatomy, etc); thus they would only have evolved if they were doing something very useful. And that means they must be doing something a lot better than throwing quantum dice (which you could do without hugely expensive brains with 10^14 neural synapses). For that reason, it's unlikely that short-term quantum fluctuations affect our brains' decisions.

In the same way, a PC or a plane's autopilot still have the same quantum indeterminacy at their heart, and yet they are de facto deterministic systems (constructed in such a way that they are not prone to quantum indeterminacy affecting their output). For the above reason I'm betting that our brain is pretty deterministic in the same way, with decisions being determined by the physical state of the system just prior to the decision.

Having said that, though, the cumulative affect of quantum indeterminacy coupling with deterministic chaos, which amplifies small effects over time (affecting both us and our environment), likely means that over longer time-scales it is not sensible to think of the system as determined. Hence my caveats about this up-thread.
Duncan Bourne - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to John Gillott:
Personally I think that freewill is an illusion. If you could wind back time you would see that it was inevitable that you would remember your cat and make a cup of tea. However that is an impossibility as you would need to wind back all the starting conditions that lead up to the conditions that lead up to the conditions that lead up to the conditions that you made a decision to make a cup of tea. Chaos tells us that even minor changes in the starting conditions can lead to completely different outcomes over time. Hence a cloud will always be a cloud but you will be unable to predict how its shape will change over time. Given that we do not posses time machines we might as well act as if we have freewill because that is the only option availible.
mark s - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Trangia: this all seems a very complicated way of proving an existence/non existence of any of the thousands of gods.
why not all take part in a simple experiment
all pray for something tonight and lets see the results tomorrow.
Dave Garnett - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Oops. Yes, it must have been all that nonsense about dualism upthread.

What would Descartes' wager have been, I wonder?
Robert Durran - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Richard J)
>
> [...]
>
> There are strong arguments that quantum indeterminacy doesn't play much of a role short-term in a brain's decision making........
> ....... Having said that, though, the cumulative affect of quantum indeterminacy coupling with deterministic chaos, which amplifies small effects over time (affecting both us and our environment), likely means that over longer time-scales it is not sensible to think of the system as determined.

This thread just goes on getting more and more interesting.......
cb294 - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Richard J:

Communication between cells clearly suffers from stochastic noise (e.g. receptor subunits interacting on the surface in the absence of ligand, downstream signalling components randomly assuming active conformations, etc.).

This is why cells spend a lot of effort in intercellular signalling on error correction, e.g. integrating signals over time, tuning affinities so that multiple, parallel signals are required to cross an activation threshold.

Point is, quantum effects are important at times (we even have to account for them at times when making measurements on individual, fluorescently tagged proteins), but at the cellular level they hardly matter.


CB
Rob Exile Ward on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to cb294: At last - a post that I really don't understand a single word of.

As opposed to lots of quite a few other posts on this thread where sadly I understand every word and think it's just nonsense.
crossdressingrodney - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to cb294:

Wow, that's really interesting. Do they do error correction in a way that a computer scientist would recognise, like a (discrete) error-correcting code? Or is it more akin to continuous time signal-processing? Or is it something more complicated?
Richard J - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> You're right, but with one big proviso. Which is that there are strong arguments that quantum indeterminacy doesn't play much of a role short-term in a brain's decision making.

Again, I don't think this is right. We know how long it takes a molecule to "forget" its starting conditions, it's a well-defined and measurable quantity, which is on the picosecond scale. Of course, that doesn't mean we don't anything about what happens after that, the point is that the subsequent evolution of the system is determined by statistical laws, not deterministic ones.

>Afterall, brains are hugely expensive parts of the body (requiring large amounts of energy to run them, requiring long childhoods with much nurturing, forcing big and dangerous compromises to female anatomy, etc); thus they would only have evolved if they were doing something very useful. And that means they must be doing something a lot better than throwing quantum dice (which you could do without hugely expensive brains with 10^14 neural synapses). For that reason, it's unlikely that short-term quantum fluctuations affect our brains' decisions.
>

This is a very odd line of argument. I think physics trumps evolution; there are lots of things that might be evolutionary beneficial for organisms to do but if they aren't consistent with the laws of physics they won't happen. So, because the nanoscale world is unavoidably stochastic, that's the constraint evolution has to operate under. So yes, because there are statistical laws in operation there can still be a certain predictability about how things behave. But that predictability isn't absolute. After all, it's a statistical law that I'll have muesli for breakfast tomorrow. But then again, I might not.
MG - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to cb294: This sounds fascinating! Is there an accessible summary available of what you describe?
Richard J - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to cb294:

> Point is, quantum effects are important at times (we even have to account for them at times when making measurements on individual, fluorescently tagged proteins), but at the cellular level they hardly matter.

I think they do matter crucially, but perhaps you aren't used to thinking about what I'm talking about as being a consequence of a quantum effect. If you track the translational and rotational diffusion of your fluorescently tagged protein you will model its movement using a Langevin equation, which has a Brownian noise term. The question you might ask is, is that noise term you put in the equation an expression of some fundamental randomness, or to account for a lack of knowledge of what is going on in your system? My argument is that it is the former, because (if for no other reason) of the fundamentally fluctating nature of the van der Waals force. It's that couples your system to the fundamental fluctuations in the quantum vacuum.
Richard J - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to cb294) This sounds fascinating! Is there an accessible summary available of what you describe?

I can recommend Dennis Bray's book "Wetware: a computer in every living cell".
Robert Durran - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Richard J:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)
> The point is that the subsequent evolution of the system is determined by So yes, because there are statistical laws in operation there can still be a certain predictability about how things behave. But that predictability isn't absolute. After all, it's a statistical law that I'll have muesli for breakfast tomorrow. But then again, I might not.

I may be getting completely of my depth here and talking nonsense (in which case please tell me) - but it is fascinating stuff. Isn't the second law of thermodynamics a statistical law, yet it is never ever broken because it is so massively overwhelmingly unlikely to be broken. Is the sort of statistical law you are talking about here any different (not the muesli one)?

Coel Hellier - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Richard J:

> the point is that the subsequent evolution of the system is determined by statistical laws, not deterministic ones.

Even if the low-level behaviour is statistical, it's still possible to construct a device that is effectively deterministic. The computers we're all typing on are examples. I don't know what the error rate owing to quantum effects is in a typical PC, but it is very small.

> This is a very odd line of argument. I think physics trumps evolution ...

I don't see why it's an odd line of argument, and it's not evolution "trumping" physics, just evolution constructing things to do a job. A brain that was essentially quantum dice would not do its job.

> but if they aren't consistent with the laws of physics they won't happen.

Agreed. But I'm not suggesting any inconsistency with the laws of physics, I'm just suggesting that devices which are probabilistic at root can be constructed so that they give deterministic outputs, at least to a sufficiently high level of reliability that it makes little difference.

> So, because the nanoscale world is unavoidably stochastic, that's the constraint evolution has to operate under.

So you just average over the nanoscale. What is the problem?
Coel Hellier - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:

> Isn't the second law of thermodynamics a statistical law, yet it is never ever broken because it
> is so massively overwhelmingly unlikely to be broken.

Yes, you're right. (Or, rather, it is never broken on the macroscopic scale, because that is vanishingly unlikely, but it is broken all the time on the small scale.)
Richard J - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:

> Isn't the second law of thermodynamics a statistical law, yet it is never ever broken because it is so massively overwhelmingly unlikely to be broken. Is the sort of statistical law you are talking about here any different (not the muesli one)?

It's true that in the limit of large systems you recover unbreakable laws, but the point is that a cell isn't a large system. For reasons that will be obvious to you, if your system has N particles the fractional fluctuation from average behaviour goes as the square root of N. So the gas laws work perfectly for a room full of air. But a cell might only have 10 or a 100 of any given molecule, so the fluctuations are very important. To give another concrete (and probably quite important) example, for many proteins, going from the folded and biologically active state to an unfolded (and potentially dangerous) state is very much like a transition from solid to liquid - it's a 1st order phase transition. But whereas a macroscopic lump of ice is at the thermodynamic limit and you can be confident, if it's at -20, it isn't going to melt, the likelihood that a folded protein will spontaneously unfold is significant. Cell biology is fundamentally stochastic (and of course evolution optimises systems that work in that stochastic environment).
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Richard J - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Even if the low-level behaviour is statistical, it's still possible to construct a device that is effectively deterministic.

I don't think "effectively deterministic" is a category. Something is either deterministic or it isn't. Of course, non-deterministic systems can still have some level of predictability, and sometimes that can be quite high. But then, even the most Pelagian of theologians would probably agree that you could predict a great deal how people behave in response to various stimuli.
Richard J - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:
Sorry, I meant the fractional fluctuation goes as the inverse of the square root.
In reply to Trangia: Have we decided yet whether women should be bishops or not?
Robert Durran - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Richard J:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
> Sorry, I meant the fractional fluctuation goes as the inverse of the square root.

You had me really worried and frantically scribbling there for a moment!

Robert Durran - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Submit to Gravity:
> (In reply to Trangia) Have we decided yet whether women should be bishops or not?

Of course they should be. Everyone (apart from possibly Machiavellian Coel) agreed on that 750 posts ago.

.....so back to the quantum indeterminism......

Tim Chappell - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Submit to Gravity:

Yes, they should. Indeed the CoE itself has agreed that there's no problem in principle.

Glad to straighten that up, at any rate :-)
Tim Chappell - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Richard J:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
> Sorry, I meant the fractional fluctuation goes as the inverse of the square root.


Now I actually *am* out of my depth ;-)
Coel Hellier - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Richard J:

> I don't think "effectively deterministic" is a category. Something is either deterministic or it isn't.

So what about a PC running a computer program? The underlying physics contains quantum indeterminacy, yet for all practical purposes the PC is a deterministic machine. If you write a bit of code to calculate pi to 6 significant figures, then your PC will give the same answer every time.** In the same way, the brain's decision-making could well average over stocasticity, and there are good evolutionary reasons (as above) for supposing that it does.


**At least, the number of times it doesn't will be vanishingly small.
Richard J - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> Now I actually *am* out of my depth ;-)

That's why I put the Pelagius reference in. I could begin an argument that Coel is one of Science's many unwitting slaves of Augustine of Hippo but perhaps that's something that others are better qualified to comment on.

Sir Chasm - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: Except the CoE has decided that in practice women aren't allowed to be bishops. Maybe if 5 years time, if they behave.
Richard J - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
You could equally well argue that there is an evolutionary reason for systems to evolve to be occasionally unpredictable, so that their predators are occasionally surprised by their reactions (the fact you can argue this both ways is of course an illustration of why speculative arguments from evolution are so unsatisfactory). The empirical fact is that animals don't behave like PCs running computer programs, so we don't actually have to explain how nervous systems extract "effective determinism" from stochastic laws, because they don't. That doesn't mean that animals, or single cells for that matter, can't do calculations that have a considerable degree of predictability, they do using all those fascinating error correction methods alluded to above. But deterministic they are not.
Coel Hellier - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Richard J:

> You could equally well argue that there is an evolutionary reason for systems to evolve to be
> occasionally unpredictable, so that their predators are occasionally surprised by their reactions ...

OK, but you don't need an hugely expensive array of 10^14 neural synapses to throw some quantum dice. So, at best your argument suggests that a brain might have a random-number generator to call on, but it's implausible that the main bulk of the brain's decision making is stochastic (or significantly affected by stochastic processes), since you simply wouldn't need a whole expensive brain if that is all that you were achieving.

> ... so we don't actually have to explain how nervous systems extract "effective determinism" from
> stochastic laws, because they don't.

How do you know they don't?
Robert Durran - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Richard J:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
> But a cell might only have 10 or a 100 of any given molecule, so the fluctuations are very important.

Good heavens. Can that few molecules of something actually perform a useful function? Amazing!
Robert Durran - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to Richard J)
>
> Now I actually *am* out of my depth ;-)

You should keep a low profile - you're temporarily off the hook while the physicists squabble amongst thenselves....

Richard J - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> How do you know they don't?

I've got no reason to believe they do. Computers behave deterministically because someone designed them that way. Since I don't believe that life has a designer (and I'm aware of the dangers of sloppy thinking about evolution and design), and I don't see evidence that organisms do behave deterministically, I'd really need to believe in determinism for some other reason to make that leap.
Richard J - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:

> Good heavens. Can that few molecules of something actually perform a useful function? Amazing!

That's why they call it "single molecule biophysics". It's a fascinating subject. What's also amazing is how much effective information processing power even a single bacterium has.
Coel Hellier - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Richard J:

> I've got no reason to believe they do.

I've given you a very good evolutionary reason why the output of the brain's decision-making processes would be (very largely) determined by the 10^14-synapse neural network -- what the heck is the point of that network if it doesn't (very largely) determine the decision-making?

There clearly must be a very large benefit to the brain, since it is so expensive a possession, using vast amounts of energy, requiring vast amounts of nurturing, playing havoc with anatomy, etc.
Richard J - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
It's completely obvious that the brain does an enormous amount of information processing (probably a lot more than people give it credit for, given how much even a single cell does), and it's also obvious that organisms with brains (or indeed simpler information processing systems) must get corresponding evolutionary benefit from them. But, given that we know that the fundamental physics underlying their operation isn't deterministic, none of that is in any way an argument that the higher level operations are deterministic. To repeat myself, not being deterministic doesn't mean not being predictable, it doesn't even mean the brain can't run things we'd recognise as algorithms, it means they are not deterministic in the well defined and accepted sense that if you were able to run the system a number of times from the same starting condition you'd get the same result.

I really don't understand why you are so wedded to your deterministic world view when the evidence of physics is so strong that the universe we happen to live in doesn't actually seem to be deterministic. Did you have a presbyterian upbringing?

Anyway, I'm going to stop now otherwise we might get onto reductionism and emergence and who knows where that will lead.
Coel Hellier - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Richard J:

> ... it means they are not deterministic in the well defined and accepted sense that if you were able
> to run the system a number of times from the same starting condition you'd get the same result.

And now consider the case of effectively deterministic, as in the PC, as in any number of human artifacts. And, yes, that is a sensible concept, evolution is all about pragmatism, and when discussing biological products (such as brains, livers, lungs) we should consider them pragmatically and not get all absolutest if we want to understand them.

You admit that the brain is doing "an enormous amount of information processing"; why would it be doing that if the information processing doesn't largely determine the result, if the outcome is just a quantum dice throw?

> To repeat myself, not being deterministic doesn't mean not being predictable ...

Exactly my point. Now, if one averages over the low-level stochastic noise, such that the output is predictable, then you have an effectively deterministic device (as in our computers, etc).

> I really don't understand why you are so wedded to your deterministic world view ...

I'm not wedded to a deterministic world view, nothing I have said suggests that. What I am presenting is a strong argument for why brains' decision-making is likey not (to any significant extent) stochastic. And you're doing nothing to rebut that actual argument. You still haven't explained why evolution has given us a hugely expensive 10^14-synapse brain if all it's doing is giving a stochastic output.

I note, also, that, while I often get accused of being too reductionist in my thinking, it is me who is quite happy to use a high-level argument here, whereas you seem to consider that way of thinking "odd".
Richard J - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
Sorry, I can't resist making one more point, an evolutionary argument of my own, since you like them so much. It costs energy to correct errors, so there's going to be a trade-off between how predictable your computing is going to be and how much energy it costs you to do it (there's a lower limit of course which comes from the information theoretic relationship between information and entropy). What one can say about biological computing is that it runs at much lower power than silicon computing - this laptop probably runs at about 20 W, which by a strange coincidence is pretty much the power consumption of my brain. Given that my brain is still a little bit more powerful than my laptop, this suggests that biological computing falls a lot further away from the predictable end of that trade off.

This shouldn't be surprising - when the first bacterial ancestor stumbled on a way of detecting a poison and running away from it, it wouldn't have needed 100% accuracy for this to be an evolutionary benefit, even a marginal propensity to avoid danger would help. Evolution would have refined the mechanism to make it more accurate, but only to the point at which the benefit of the increased accuracy didn't outweigh the cost of more complexity in the mechanism.

But, yes, I'm happy to accuse you of not being reductionist enough. I think lots of simple-minded neo-Darwinism would benefit a lot from thinking more deeply about how biology actually works at the molecular level.
Richard J - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Anyway, I am going to leave the argument there so goodnight and thanks for stimulating some interesting points.
Coel Hellier - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Richard J:

> there's going to be a trade-off between how predictable your computing is going to be and how much
> energy it costs you to do it ...

> Evolution would have refined the mechanism to make it more accurate, but only to the point at which
> the benefit of the increased accuracy didn't outweigh the cost of more complexity in the mechanism.

I agree with both of those -- indeed they are my whole point. Now look at how much trouble, complexity and energy-consumption evolution has gone to in the brain. (And comparisons with a laptop aren't that sensible, since they are very different technology, a better indication is the fraction of the body's energy that is consumed by the brain, and in humans that is over 20%.) Again, all of that suggests that evolution has gone to huge trouble to do much better than a stochastic output.

Now, you're right, it may not have gone as far as making it perfect, but this line of argument suggests that it will have reduced stochastic noise to a low level. How low? Well, we can haggle about that, but the point is that this line of argument suggests that evolution has tried hard to minimise stochastic noise in the brain's output, and the end result is likely to be -- de facto -- a pretty deterministic system.

Anyhow, you haven't yet answered my question: what the heck is that very expensive neural-network doing there if it isn't (very largely) determining the decision-making outputs?
tom_in_edinburgh - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)
> A more interesting question. I wonder what experience of God you would have to have in order to make you believe in him. Any thoughts about that?

Here's an even more interesting question. It is already possible in the lab to cause a mouse to recall a particular memory and to determine what word a person is thinking about. People's mental state is regularly changed by applying electric shocks to their brain as a cure for mental illness.

Would an experiment showing that belief in god or 'religious experience' can be localised to a group of neurons and switched off by zapping them with electricity convince you that the mind can be explained in purely physical terms?

Turdus torquatus on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Are you assuming that a decision made by a process which is in part stochiastic, is evolutionarily inferior to one which is wholly deterministic?
Postmanpat on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> Depending somewhat on what one means by "exist". In the case of the meta-realities that have no possible causal connection with ours, even in principle, then in what sense do they "exist"?
>
In the normally understood sense. Do you think there is a sense in which they don't exist and if so what is that?
Richard J - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
We don't have to argue whether evolution would or would not have made neuronal computing deterministic, because it's an empirical fact that it isn't - we know experimentally that neurons and synapses are noisy and stochastic in their operation. Evolution does the best it can with what it has given the constraints that physics imposes on it, and if you read a book like "Biophysics of computation" by Christof Koch, for example, there's all sorts of interesting discussion of what algorithms are best to use to get the most useful results using these noisy and imperfect components. But this just underlines the point - brains don't behave in a deterministic way, and that is completely unsurprising given the stochastic physics underlying their basic molecular-level operations.

The only remaining point of interest for philosophical questions about free will and determinism is whether this randomness is real, reflecting an underlying randomness of the universe as it is, or a kind of pseudo-randomness reflecting the inability of our theories to keep track of the myriad interacting components. I argue that it's real randomness that reflects a coupling of molecular motions to the quantum fluctuations of the vacuum.

That's it from me for today.

Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Richard J:

> We don't have to argue whether evolution would or would not have made neuronal computing deterministic,
> because it's an empirical fact that it isn't - we know experimentally that neurons and synapses are
> noisy and stochastic in their operation.

You're still missing the point. It is a worthwhile and interesting question whether brain decision-making is *effectively* deterministic, which it could be if the brain averages over the stochastic processes to produce an output that is *effectively* deterministic. And there are good evolutionary reasons for supposing that it does that.

It's no answer to that to point to low-level stochastic processes; the computers we're writing on have the stochasticity as the low level, yet they are effectively deterministic for all practical purposes. It is entirely legitimate to ask whether the same applies to our brains.

> But this just underlines the point - brains don't behave in a deterministic way, ...

How do you know that, if we're considering whether their high-level outputs are *effectively* deterministic? You haven't produced a rebuttal to my evolutionary question and are effectively avoiding this issue.

Why would evolution program such a huge and expensive brain (consuming nearly a quarter of the body's energy, forcing huge amounts of nurturing, anatomical compromises etc) if it wasn't determining the high-level decision making? If the stochastic nature propagates all the way to the high-level outputs, what the heck is the point of the brain?
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Turdus torquatus:

> Are you assuming that a decision made by a process which is in part stochiastic, is evolutionarily
> inferior to one which is wholly deterministic?

Decision making that is effectively throwing a dice would indeed be inferior than a well-programmed deterministic decision-maker. Surely the whole point of a brain is to do better than dice throwing? Or, if that isn't the point of a brain, what is it for?

But, actually, I'm not even assuming that. What I'm assuming is that *if* it were the case that stochastic decision-making were just as good or better, then a stochastic-decision-maker could be achieved *vastly* cheaper than a 10^14-synapse neural network consuming a quarter of the body's energy. Again, the huge evolutionary expense of the brain means it must be there for a heck of a good reason.
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> In the normally understood sense.

I don't think that there is a "normally understood" sense of "exist" as it might apply to meta-realities that are causally disconnected from our universe and could not, even in principle, have any discernible effect on anything we're aware of.

Indeed, "could not, even in principle, have any discernible effect on anything we're aware of" seems to me quite a good definition of "doesn't exist".
Postmanpat on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)

>
> Indeed, "could not, even in principle, have any discernible effect on anything we're aware of" seems to me quite a good definition of "doesn't exist".

Why?
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> Why?

Got a better one?
Postmanpat on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

"Everything that is"?

A microbe living in a rock underground is probably totally unaware of the existence of the chair on my balcony. Does my chair therefore not exist?

If it does not mean that,how dies this differ from my lack of awareness of a thing in another meta-reality that might "be" ?
crossdressingrodney - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Coel, your current argument seems to be based on the idea that deterministic computing is "better" than probabilistic computing. But in fact, it's the other way around: if you allow some randomness into the computation and ask for the right answer with very high probability you can often find much more efficient algorithms than the best deterministic one.
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> "Everything that is"?

Defining "exists" as what "is" is really just restating "exist" with a different word, it doesn't define it.

> A microbe living in a rock underground is probably totally unaware of the existence of the chair on
> my balcony. Does my chair therefore not exist?

My definition didn't mention "awareness", it was about things that could, in principle, have discernable effects.

> If it does not mean that,how dies this differ from my lack of awareness of a thing in another
> meta-reality that might "be" ?

There are possible-in-principle causal connections between the chair and the microbe; there are no connections, even in-principle, between us and a causally disconnected meta-reality.
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to crossdressingrodney:

> if you allow some randomness into the computation and ask for the right answer with very high
> probability you can often find much more efficient algorithms than the best deterministic one.

But the relevant part of that is *some* randomness, employed in a carefully controlled fashion. You're right, things like Monte Carlo algorithms can often be the best and most efficient to use. But the overall algorithm is of a highly controlled nature, using some randomness as a tool. That's not the same as general stochasticity pervading the whole system.
Postmanpat on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> Defining "exists" as what "is" is really just restating "exist" with a different word, it doesn't define it.
>
Which is why philophers get bogged down in what you regard as "wordplay" to try and clarify yhings which are either too conplex or too clear to be clarified.
>
> My definition didn't mention "awareness", it was about things that could, in principle, have discernable effects.
>
"On things we are aware of....."
> [...]
>
> There are possible-in-principle causal connections between the chair and the microbe; there are no connections, even in-principle, between us and a causally disconnected meta-reality.

How do you know this? Incidentally, what do you mean by "causal connection "?

Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> How do you know this?

It follows from the definition. If something is casually disconnected from something then it can't cause an effect on that something.

> Incidentally, what do you mean by "causal connection "?

Ability to cause an effect.
Robert Durran - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
> There are possible-in-principle causal connections between the chair and the microbe; there are no connections, even in-principle, between us and a causally disconnected meta-reality.

Yes, there is a big earthquake. A crack opens in the ground, exposing the microbe. Chair falls down crack. Splats microbe.

Robert Durran - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)
> Which is why philophers get bogged down in what you regard as "wordplay" to try and clarify yhings which are either too conplex or too clear to be clarified.

If they really are too complex or clear to be clarified, they are presumably wasting their time.
Postmanpat on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
> [...]
>
> If they really are too complex or clear to be clarified, they are presumably wasting their time.

Arguably, yes.
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Postmanpat on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> It follows from the definition. If something is casually disconnected from something then it can't cause an effect on that something.
>
I took the term to mean something different.

Either we you have yet to explain to me why something that cannot effect me doesnt exist.

Suppose the meta-reality in principle may or may or may not have a causal effect on me, how do I differ from the microbe?

John Gillott - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> It follows from the definition. If something is casually disconnected from something then it can't cause an effect on that something.
>
>

Higher up the thread you referred to quantum indeterminism when discussing the limits of determinism. For some people at least, quantum indeterminism means something like causal chains breaking down and effects arising from acausal beginnings. How are you squaring these ideas?

wbo - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel: Re. stochastic versus effectively deterministic . it is absolutely not correct to say that the outcomes will be similar as the average of numerous stochastic runs is more or less equal to the deterministic run. The extreme stochastic outlier may cross a threshold and produce results an average or best guess deterministic model can never produce. Think of a volcano that erupts every 100 or 1000 years - the results of that rare, Krakatoaesque event are far different to the average of 0,01 or 0,001 volcanos per year.

Back to angels and pinheads?
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> Either we you have yet to explain to me why something that cannot effect me doesnt exist.

It was just a suggested definition of "exist". Got a better (non-question-begging) one?

> Suppose the meta-reality in principle may or may or may not have a causal effect on me, how do I differ from the microbe?

The two cases are very different under my definition. Note that whether you know something exists is not the same as whether it exists.
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to wbo:

> it is absolutely not correct to say that the outcomes will be similar as the average of numerous
> stochastic runs is more or less equal to the deterministic run. The extreme stochastic outlier
> may cross a threshold and produce results an average or best guess deterministic model can never produce.

Yes, in the same way that our PCs and laptops (being based on quantum indeterminacy) might, with some very low probability, produce an errant output owing to a quantum fluctuation. However, for nearly all practical purposes they are deterministic.
Postmanpat on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> It was just a suggested definition of "exist". Got a better (non-question-begging) one?
>
I regard mine as better because it does artificially restrict the concept to that distinguishable my own limited senses.
Yours may be clearer but doesn't make it any more accurate.

> The two cases are very different under my definition. Note that whether you know something exists is not the same as whether it

Under your definition which I don't accept, but anyway, answer for each please.

Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> I regard mine as better because ...

You haven't defined "exist", you've just given a close synonym for the word. You may have an intuition about what "exists" means but you haven't defined it.

> Under your definition which I don't accept, but anyway, answer for each please.

Under one there is an in-principle causal chain linking the two; in the other there isn't.
Jimbo W on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> You haven't defined "exist", you've just given a close synonym for the word. You may have an intuition about what "exists" means but you haven't defined it.

He has defined it. It may depend on the meaning of other words, but thats language for you. Existence according to PMP is: Everything that is, which to me is equivalent to everything that has being.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (
> Indeed, "could not, even in principle, have any discernible effect on anything we're aware of" seems to me quite a good definition of "doesn't exist".


That won't do, as a simple substitution test quickly shows. The idea of something that exists but has no discernible effects is perfectly coherent. If numbers are outside the causal order, as most people think, then any number is an example.

Given that philosophers have been discussing this issue since Parmenides' time, there is plenty of wheel reinvention going on in this thread.

My own view (and most other philosophers') is that "exists" is a basic concept-- you can give synonyms for it, such as "is" (in the existential sense...), but there isn't any more basic level of analysis to which this concept can be reduced.
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Jimbo W:

> Existence according to PMP is: Everything that is, which to me is equivalent to everything that has being.

Which is just giving close synonyms for the word, not defining it. Can you give me an operational test for deciding whether something "exists"?
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> The idea of something that exists but has no discernible effects is perfectly coherent.

Yes I agree; in other words it would be possible to invoke other definitions of "exist" than mine. I'm not particularly wedded to the definition I gave, I'm just not aware of a better one.

> If numbers are outside the causal order, as most people think, then any number is an example.

Do numbers "exist" then? Or is it merely that ideas of numbers (patterns in our brain) exist?

> My own view (and most other philosophers') is that "exists" is a basic concept-- you can give
> synonyms for it, such as "is" (in the existential sense...), but there isn't any more basic level
> of analysis to which this concept can be reduced.

I guess that's one approach, though personally I don't find that sort of end-point all that aesthetically pleasing. So far I like my definition more ... but it's only a suggestion.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Aesthetics doesn't enter into it. Your definition cannot possibly be right, because it has clear counterexamples. I hate to chide, but this is first-year undergraduate stuff...
Robert Durran - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)
>
> I hate to chide, but this is first-year undergraduate stuff...

I bet you love it really.

Dave Garnett - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> But the relevant part of that is *some* randomness, employed in a carefully controlled fashion. You're right, things like Monte Carlo algorithms can often be the best and most efficient to use. But the overall algorithm is of a highly controlled nature, using some randomness as a tool. That's not the same as general stochasticity pervading the whole system.

I think that must be right. I understand what Richard J is saying at a molecular or even single cell level but it's clear that at a larger scale there are deterministic patterns in neuronal activity, even 'habitual' ones (just look at a PET scan or functional NMR).

I'm not an expert on neurophysiology but generally biology works by parallel processing with not only lots of redundancy in important signalling/activation systems but also sophisticated inhibitory mechanisms to suppress inappropriate activation.
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> Your definition cannot possibly be right, because it has clear counterexamples.

You haven't given one yet.

Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Oh dear. No, but I have pointed out that the consensus is that there can be no informative definition, because "exists" is already a basic concept. Do try and keep up at the back there. Or switch to physics or something.
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> but I have pointed out that the consensus is that there can be no informative definition,
> because "exists" is already a basic concept.

You have indeed pointed that out. Now, any reason why I'm obliged to go with the philosophers' consensus? Especially when the consensus is just a cop-out?

> Or switch to physics or something.

I am doing physics; I suggest that we physicists have just as much say in what "exists" means as you philosophers do.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:


A good reason for going with that consensus is that they've thought about it harder than you have. Division of intellectual labour and all that.

Another reason might be that not every term can be defined unless you are prepared to accept circularity. Think about it.
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

Neither of those reasons is a good reason for just giving up on what "exists" means.

By the way, how do you philosophers decide what "exists", given your definition (or do you leave that to scientists?)?
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:


Sheesh, you haven't got a clue have you?

1) No one is "just giving up" on anything. Is it giving up or a copout to describe something as a theoretically basic term?

2) My account (not definition) of what "exists" means implies nothing about what exists. And that's a merit of the account. Nothing exists by definition!
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cb294 - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

Based on your definition: How do you decide whether an entity (an object, concept, idea, ...) exists?

As far as abstract concepts are concerned, do these concepts exist as such, or do their subjects intrinsically exist as well?

CB
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to cb294:

1) It wasn't a definition, and it neither is nor implies any technique for deciding what exists. You'll have to decide by looking at the evidence, not at definitions of "exists".

2) Question lapses in view of answer to (1).
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> 1) No one is "just giving up" on anything. Is it giving up or a copout to describe something as
> a theoretically basic term?

Yes, it's both giving up and a cop-out.

> 2) My account (not definition) of what "exists" means implies nothing about what exists. And that's
> a merit of the account. Nothing exists by definition!

Now tell me how you decide whether something "exists". Surely the definition should give some guide as to how to do that?
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:


Sorry, but that's total rubbish, Coel. No definition of anything implies either that it exists, or that it doesn't. Essence is one thing; existence is another. Definitions are about essences.
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> You'll have to decide by looking at the evidence, not at definitions of "exists".

Sure, you have to look at the evidence. And you then decide whether, on the evidence, it has the properties necessary to fulfill the definition of "exists". So, come on, give me an example, how do you determine whether something "exists"? Do you just leave that to scientists?
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> No definition of anything implies either that it exists, or that it doesn't.

I know that! That's obvious! Now give me an example of how you decide whether something has the property "exists".
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
>
. And you then decide whether, on the evidence, it has the properties necessary to fulfill the definition of "exists".



Sheesh again. Where do I start?

If it doesn't exist, what "it"?
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
>
> [...]
>
> I know that! That's obvious! Now give me an example of how you decide whether something has the property "exists".



"Exists" is not a property. You have read Kant, haven't you?
Coel Hellier - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> "Exists" is not a property. You have read Kant, haven't you?

Let's make this concrete. How do we determine whether the Higgs Boson (for example) exists? Do you philosophers have any inkling of how to do that? Or do you leave it to scientists?
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier:


That is a question for physicists on which I decline to be drawn. I wouldn't want to talk about issues I know nothing about :-)

You do understand what Kant means by saying that existence is not a predicate, don't you?
Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:


And incidentally, I don't see that any answer to your Higgs Boson question could have much relevance to the *meaning* of "exists", which is what we were discussing. To me this looks more like a tactical change of subject than a way of moving things forward really.
cb294 - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to cb294)
>
> 1) It wasn't a definition, and it neither is nor implies any technique for deciding what exists. You'll have to decide by looking at the evidence, not at definitions of "exists".
>
If correct, the concept of existence will mean something different when applied to a brick, an idea, or god.

This is rather weak. A definition (even when presented in axiomatic terms or as a fundamental concept) lacking a corresponding, general method of deciding whether that definition is fulfilled in a specific instance is useless at best.

CB


Tim Chappell - on 27 Nov 2012
In reply to cb294:
>
> If correct, the concept of existence will mean something different when applied to a brick, an idea, or god.


??? How does that follow?

>
> This is rather weak. A definition (even when presented in axiomatic terms or as a fundamental concept) lacking a corresponding, general method of deciding whether that definition is fulfilled in a specific instance is useless at best.
>
??? (a) I didn't offer a definition, (b) useful for what? We don't decide whether anything exists by seeing whether the property "exists" and its sub-properties apply to it. For an obvious reason: if there's an "it" at all then we don't need to.


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