Are Religious Beliefs Going to Screw Up First Contact?

Mike Flynn has more fun that somebody should decently have looking at some mystic woo woo disguised as scientificalistic seriousness. Huhlarious.

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  • Jem

    “Catholics discern the divine action simply in every drop of water that plunges over Niagara Falls.”

    Much to chew on there, and thanks. And, yes, Catholicism has it that everything is evidence of the divine. But there’s clearly a way of discerning the awesome majesty of Niagara Falls from, say, an event where the waterfall parted to let Moses flee the Egyptians. (A mixed metaphor, but it did take him forty years to get from Egypt to Israel, so perhaps his route was indirect).

  • Jem

    His article on polygenesis was *comically* bad, just howler after howler. If you don’t have eyes to see it, then I’m not going to be the one to persuade you. I’m happy to let him live in his own little world where Shapiro’s ‘the scientific consensus’, where Neanderthals can have ritual burial, language, instruments and sophisticated toolmaking but not ‘intellection’, where an apeman gave birth to a human, and where humans got souls but there’s no way to tell. I am, of course, steelmanning his argument, which is even more gibberingly moronic than I make it sound. He fled the scene the moment an actual biologist showed up, of course.

    Once you realize that when he says something about ‘Late Modern Thinking’ what he’s actually saying is ‘no one these days would buy this’, his spiel kind of falls apart.

    • chezami

      I saw your exchange, and the reality is that you simply have no idea what he was talking about, because your contempt for philosophy has rendered you deaf. You don’t know what you don’t know.

      • Jem


        As a cornerstone of his argument Mike cited James A Shapiro as representative of current thought on evolutionary theory. Enlighten me. Tell me what I don’t know: who’s James A Shapiro, and are his theories representative of current thought in evolutionary biology?

        Does, as Mike asserted, ”21st century genetics tells us that genetic changes can be “massive, sudden, and particular,”‘?

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      Shapiro’s ‘the scientific consensus’

      No, but he has a new, genetics-oriented take on things. Remember what Max Planck said: a new theory in science triumphs when all those invested in the old theory have died. The irony is that Shapiro’s theory completely obliterates many of the creationist arguments against evolution.

      where Neanderthals can have ritual burial, language, instruments and sophisticated toolmaking but not

      We don’t know they had language. The sole “instrument” may not even be an instrument, but a casually eroded bone fragment with tooth-marks worn into holes. “Sophisticated” toolmaking requires only imagination, not intellection — and the Neanderthal toolkit never changed appreciable in the course of the species’ existence. The burials are the only interesting item, but we don’t know if that was simply a sanitary measure.

      where an apeman gave birth to a human,

      What I wrote was that something that was not quite a man gave birth to something that was no longer quite an ape. IOW, crossing over a tipping point in a continuous process, an inflection point on a mathematical curve. But also taking cognizance of the fact that there is a difference between having a capacity (which may develop over time) and not having that capacity at all. No one has yet explained how a creature can have “half” the ability to abstract concepts from percepts. All that was proposed was having the ability to abstract simple concepts in obvious situations. But that is still not no-ability.

      Biologists tend to look at things biologically, so the only criterion for “human” is whether all the biological equipment is in place. They equate “human” with H. sap. sap.

      where humans got souls but there’s no way to tell.

      Of course there’s a way to tell: Ask if the human is alive? If so, he has a soul. The same goes for parakeets and petunias, which have sensitive and nutritive souls, resp.

      when he says something about ‘Late Modern Thinking’ what he’s actually saying

      He’s actually saying something about the Late Modern Ages, as distinct from the High Modern Ages, the Early Modern Ages, or the Renaissance. There are certain modes of thinking that are common today that were not in the mental furniture of the Modern Ages. The “Waning of the Modern Ages” is certainly not an observation original to me.

      In many ways, “post-Modern” thinking (meant temporally, not the lit-crit school) represents a return to Medieval modes, a rather intriguing development.

  • Ye Olde Statistician

    a) I have never read any of C.S.Lewis’s works, so there was no cutting and pasting.
    b) I had what you might call “inside information” from people who worked on the College Boards when we were discussing how to statistically evaluate examinations (in the context of the “instrument calibration” requirement of ISO-9001.)
    c) That a group scores lower on the average than another group on a particular topic does not make them “scatterbrained.” That is your judgment, not the Boards’ nor my own.
    d) That one group scores differently than another group says nothing whatever regarding any individual included in those groups.
    e) In particular, it does not imply that the difference between the group is causally related to the word used to label the groups. E.g., in a study that found higher cancer rates among women who worked at CRTs all day vs. women who did not, the reason was immediately ascribed to “working in front of CRTs” and all sorts of cathode-radiation theories were considered. However, so-called the “pink collar” group also smoked more, ate a fattier diet, exercised less, etc. than the “white collar” group (who tended to be doctors and lawyers and such). So to which factor could the difference be ascribed?
    f) I do tend to overspecify, especially when I am citing an actual example, and will often include details.

    So far, I notice no comments at all on the statistical and mystical aspects of the scientific paper that was the subject of the linked post.

  • Ye Olde Statistician

    We might, for example, ask what and where the audience is in his scheme;
    we could discuss whether Shakespeare, who died 398 years ago, still
    interferes with Hamlet; etc.

    Why? Electrical engineers used to use water tables as analogical experiments for electrical circuits. The current is like the current; the drop or head of the water is like the voltage; obstructions in the stream are like resistances; and so on. But no electrical engineer ever tried to plug a toaster into a water table — because they understood the context or scope of the analogy. An analogy is not an equivalence, and one cannot expect every aspect of one term of the analogy to be replicated in the other term. One might then go on to confuse the output of a mathematical model with the real world it is supposed to model or — the opposite error — to overlook the value of the model because it is not all-inclusive.

    Instead he chose to say women aren’t good at thinking.

    Except I did not say that. You did. (And it’s interesting that you did immediately assume that the data meant that.) Lots of people these days reason poorly in analogy. (For that matter, they reason poorly, full stop.) This is a consequence, I believe, of no longer teaching analogic.

    • Jem

      “Except I did not say that.”

      What you said is right there. We can go back and check if you said ‘lots of people’ or ‘women’.

      “An analogy is not an equivalence”

      No, but it is a comparison, and a good analogy can be used to illustrate the point being made. The relationship between Shakespeare and Hamlet is complex, the nature of a playwright’s ‘interference’ with his work is a nuanced matter. There are many things going on in that relationship. Clearly not *all* things apply, and clearly some other things will apply, so *how* is ‘God’ like ‘Shakespeare’ or is ‘real person’ like ‘Hamlet’, in what respects is the relationship analogous? Is it a useful analogy?

      If the analogy is specifically about Hamlet, not just some trite simile about God being some general playwright, then Hamlet is a play *about* free will and destiny, about playing a role, about the afterlife and theology. So is the analogy specifically with troubled Hamlet and his internal struggles? Is your God as dickish as the one Hamlet infers? But, again, I find myself steelmanning what you said

      It could be a good analogy, but the person you cut and pasted it from thought, ultimately, it wasn’t satisfying because it portrayed God as too remote.

      You can’t supply any of these answers yourself because your engagement with this topic, as all others, is a spot of quote mining to support a position you already hold. Hence, you use Shapiro to stand for ’21st genetics’ and a hackneyed line from CS Lewis as a gnomic intervention here. You point at a cloud and say it looks like a whale and know the odds are no one will disagree.

      This greeting card slogan and folksy faux-etymology shit might fly with the Poloniuses of this world, but it’s obvious there’s nothing there. ‘God is like Shakespeare’ / ‘Interesting, let’s talk about that’ / ‘women don’t understand analogies, they had to change the test they were so bad at them, and now only I’m smart enough to understand my argument, and I feel the need to say that rather than answer the question’. That is not the answer anyone with an answer would give.

      I’m not willing to engage with you. This is not ‘cowardice’. Who calls me coward? I am not willing to engage with you because you do a good impersonation of a clever person, but not *so* good an impersonation that it’s worth playing along with. Life isn’t a play. You’ve no arms or legs, good day, good Sir Knight.

      • Ye Olde Statistician

        Except I did not say that [women aren't good at thinking].

        What you said is right there. We can go back and check if you said ‘lots of people’ or ‘women’.

        So let’s check:
        Analogies were dropped from the SAT because women consistently scored lower than men. Hence, they no longer taught analogic in schools. Hence, the impoverished Late Modern way of thinking.

        Where does it say that women aren’t good at thinking? It says that women scored lower than men in a certain SAT category, but that is not “thinking” in general, and it may represent cultural biases or expectations in the school system. Furthermore, the lack of competent statistical training in the schools means that many people, including yourself, believe that a difference in group means has something to do with the essential characteristics of those groups. But in exercises I used to run in stat demos using a box full of colored beads, I might find that (e.g.) that “people sitting closer to the door” would pull samples with more red beads than “people sitting closer to the front.” Do you honestly suppose that if someone had moved from the front of the room to the back, they would have gotten more red beads? The difference between two groups need not have anything to do with the label used to mark the two groups.

        The perhaps admirable intention to eliminate questions that were “biased” against women — or men — led to what I think was a heuristic error. It should have led to greater focus on teaching analogies, not to abandonment of analogic.