Cosmic Skeptic: Science Fandom, Freeze Peach and Privilege

Cosmic Skeptic: Science Fandom, Freeze Peach and Privilege January 2, 2018

The Cosmic Skeptic wants us to “Question Everything,” except the things he believes.

Cos Skep Books

The next generation of science fan is represented by Alex J. O’Connor, a/k/a Cosmic Skeptic, a YouTube celebrity barely old enough to remember when there wasn’t YouTube. His channel currently has 150,000 subscribers. Now that Hitch is off to that great segregated gin palace in the sky, Alex is ready to step in and add some fresh blood to the right-wing white boy’s club. He even speaks in a manner that suggests he’s doing a Sam Harris impersonation. But does he have the debate skillz?

Oh, you’d better believe it. Check out his videos where he responds to such worthy debate opponents as the guy who thinks evolution and the Big Bang are ridiculous nonsense, or the guy who thinks the Bible is 100% accurate. You’d think this sort of fruit is hanging too low already for him to take them down, but you’d be wrong! His subscribers, impressed with the way he disposes with these obviously formidable foes, vent their rage against the “retards” and “idiots” of whom Alex makes his victims.

I hope I don’t seem too hard on Alex, because he seems like a nice enough young man who makes it a point never to be overly snide or dismissive of people with whom he disagrees. However, he’s learned some rather odious behavior from the Twitter activity of his freethinker heroes. Last year he tweeted about the attack in Tanta, Egypt that killed dozens, but seemed less concerned about the death toll than that “the West” would be blamed:

Tanta tweet

Explosion killing 13 near a Christian church in Tanta – I wonder if this is “the West’s fault” too.

He also seems to have no qualms about deciding for women whether they can call themselves feminists:

Sharia tweet

Do not call yourself a feminist if you are unwilling to condemn Sharia.

In fact, the post at his website originally titled “A Note on Women in Bags” just drips with misogynist condescension, with Alex making it seem like his anti-burqa stance derives from a commitment to female empowerment. Considering the complete lack of material on his website or YouTube channel dealing with feminist issues, however, I’d say that’s another thing we should question about Alex’s approach. It’s much more likely that his anti-burqa position is intended to score anti-Muslim points with his xenophobic audience.

Real Men Use Science Words

Furthermore, his knowledge of science is so vast and varied that it derives from careful reading of everything from early Dawkins to the-last-Krauss-before-the-latest-one! In his video where he gives out book recommendations, he even lists books by Darwin and Stephen Hawking alongside anti-religion screeds and two-dimensional polemics like the Jerry Coyne book he’s clutching in the screen grab above. (Note that, of all the books he mentions, the only one authored by a woman is Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s anti-Muslim diatribe Infidel.) Even though he talks about evolution a lot, he never once mentions Stephen Jay Gould; not one of the late paleontologist and renowned science writer’s numerous works seems to be on Alex’s well-stocked bookshelves. If he knows about Gould at all, it’s probably the notion of Non-Overlapping Magisteria that Alex’s heroes Dawkins and Krauss never miss an opportunity to deride. He certainly wouldn’t have this graphic at his website if he were familiar with the way Gould critiqued it for being a misleading and bigoted caricature:

March of Evolution

Alex’s commitment to a very narrow, idealized, and polemical definition of science, then, is hardly surprising. He says at 1:20 in this video:

Criticism and ridicule are the most important mechanisms to allow for the progression of understanding. Now some may argue that there exist certain ideas and beliefs which are so integral to a society or to a culture that they shouldn’t be challenged. Well, let me ask you: what if the Aristotelian view of forces had never been challenged, if it had been seen as too integral to the philosophy of the ancient Greeks? Well then, perhaps Isaac Newton would never have discovered their true nature. And furthermore, what if Isaac Newton’s own ideas about gravity had been viewed as untouchable? Well, then perhaps Albert Einstein centuries later would never have discovered its true nature, and its relation to space-time. This is progress, this is the very nature of science, and this is why it frustrates me so much to hear people say, “Well, your science is just based upon faith, you have ideas which you don’t challenge and that you just take for granted without evidence.” Acting as though science has its own sancrosanctity, and that we’d be offended if its foundations were challenged. Well, I’ll tell you something: not only is taking an idea, a belief, a pre-existing notion, and challenging it, testing it, to see if it’s wrong, trying to criticize it—not only is that permitted in science. That is science.

I just can’t imagine anything more trite and self-serving than this kind of lecture. There so much wrong with it I don’t know where to start. The view that criticism and ridicule have contributed to progress; characterizing the ridicule of religious and cultural traditions as a form of empirical inquiry; the sanctification of progress; or the absurd notion that scientists welcome criticism of not only their pet theories but also the very foundations of science. This is how clumsy his rhetorical sleight of hand is: Alex has already established that the greatest virtue in history is to criticize, and simply equates science with the act of criticizing. So any criticism of science itself, according to him, must be a self-defeating exercise.

I think the way Alex idealizes progress is open to question and deserves to be critiqued. Considering the way he has it in for “fine-tuning” arguments from the religious, he should recognize when he’s committing the same fallacy himself. I agree with him that it’s fallacious to assume that we humans are the intended result of the laws of the universe; similarly, I think it’s silly to imagine that our contemporary mindset is the rightest one, that the miracle of natural selection and the magical meritocracy of ideas that is human history have combined to pave the way for the glory that is our way of seeing things.

Gimme Freeze Peach

Never let it be said that Alex is a one-trick pony, though. Like most of his YouTube anti-theist cohorts, he’s also a free-speech absolutist. Taking a break from bashing fundies and the mentally ill on his channel, he recently responded to a lecture in which philosopher Slavoj Žižek talked about issues like free speech in Europe.

I think poor Alex misunderstood what Žižek was saying about the larger matter of taboo subjects and cultural consensus; instead of talking about toxic speech and the intimidation of minorities, Alex just regurgitated stale rhetoric about free speech being “the most important feature of European Enlightenment philosophy,” and evidently we’re not allowed to question that, either.

Listen to the way Alex makes the free speech matter all about Alex at 5:40 in this video. Am I the only one who smells privilege in this kind of grandstanding?

Nobody gets to decide what I’m allowed to say but myself. I value deeply my ability to judge the statements I make and not to predicate them on ‘permissible social convention.’ If you’re going to say I should have this ability revoked, and dictate that there are certain opinions that I’m not permitted to express, then you’d better have a damn good reason for it, and you’d better not be holding your breath.

Alex, all that yellow police tape around here isn’t for the death of God. It’s because your Internet tough-talk stole my heart.

Don’t the things we believe deserve to be questioned and criticized, not just the things other people believe? What sort of skeptic never questions what he believes about things like progress, science and society?

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  • igotbanned999

    So you’re saying it’s fine for a feminist to support Sharia?

  • So you’re saying it’s fine for a guy to tell women what they can and can’t support, if they want to conform to his definition of ‘feminist’?

  • Raging Bee

    Do not call yourself a feminist if you are unwilling to condemn Sharia.

    Does he ever name any actual feminists who actually support “Sharia?”

  • Considering the only female author he appears familiar with is that right-wing moonbat Ayaan Hirsi Ali, I’m not holding my breath.

  • Just Another Happy Humanist

    The fact that you call Ayaan Hirsi Ali a ‘right-wing moonbat’ says everything. I usually love the atheist channels on here, but frankly, you sound like the ‘moonbat’. And I say this as a socialist, a humanist, and a feminist. I won’t be visiting this channel again.

  • Just Another Happy Humanist

    So you’re saying that only women can be feminists?

  • So you’re saying that you completely missed the point?

  • Just Another Happy Humanist

    No, i think you’ve completely missed the point. For starters, you’ve implied that only women can be feminists. Secondly, you can’t possibly say that sharia law and feminism go together – sharia law is inherently sexist. If you claim otherwise, you don’t know anything about it. I also like how you avoided igotbanned999’s question, by responding with another question. Why didn’t you answer them? Do you think it’s fine for a ‘feminist’ to support sharia law?

  • I don’t presume to tell people what they need to think in order to conform to my definition of feminist, that’s all. That was my point.

  • Just Another Happy Humanist

    That’s ridiculous. We don’t have to make up our own definition, but we can adhere to the standard/general meaning of words in debates such as this.

    From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

    Definition of feminism

    1 : the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes
    2 : organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests

    https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/feminism

    Feel free to check out definitions in other dictionaries – they’ll say something along the same lines. I’m not impressing MY alternate definition of feminism on anyone (not that I use an alternate definition – unlike yourself?), and nor is CosmicSkeptic, or igotbanned999. Knowing the standard definition of ‘feminism’ is enough to know that it is the antithesis of sharia law.

  • I’m not impressing MY alternate definition of feminism on anyone

    Insofar as you define feminism in a way that panders to your prejudices, yeah, I think you are.

  • Just Another Happy Humanist

    Using the dictionary definition of ‘feminism’ is ‘pandering to my prejudices’? Yeah, right. Thanks for the laugh.

  • “The antithesis of Sharia law” isn’t what it says in the dictionary.

  • Just Another Happy Humanist

    Wow, you really are reaching. Are you really trying to say that sharia law supports the theory of ‘the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes’, or that it is ‘organised activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests’? Sharia law is the antithesis of feminism, because it supports political, economic, and social INEQUALITY of the sexes. Right now you’re being disingenuous. And I think, deep down, you know it.

  • At least I don’t tell people they have to regurgitate bigoted scaremongering and be anti-Muslim kooks before they can call themselves feminists. Evidently you have no such qualms.

  • Just Another Happy Humanist

    Ooh, nice strawman. Please, do point out where I said that people should ‘regurgitate bigoted scaremongering and be anti-Muslim kooks before they can call themselves feminists’? I merely said that people should use the dictionary definition.

    Thanks for the laugh – again. This is getting ridiculous.

  • Well, why don’t you point out where I said people should support Sharia law, or made any claims about its compatibility with feminism? This got ridiculous as soon as you swooped in.

  • Just Another Happy Humanist

    Another strawman, and another ad hominem….more ridiculousness from ‘Shem the Penman’. I never stated that you ‘said people should support Sharia law’. I merely countered your assertion that feminists could support sharia law, by pointing out that sharia law is the antithesis of the dictionary definition of ‘feminism’.

  • kaydenpat

    Great question because I doubt there are any such persons. He seems like many other White male atheists who have decided that feminists and other folks on the left are their biggest enemies. Interesting.

  • I told you what my point was, but you’re so fair-minded you completely ignored it.

    Leaving yet?

  • Just Another Happy Humanist

    Yes, your point is that sharia law and feminism can go together like cake and ice cream. I get it. It’s you who is ignoring the point, by throwing out logical fallacies, instead of responding to what I’m actually saying.

  • Art_Vandelay

    I’m sorry but can you elaborate on where you got the idea that this kid doesn’t think his own beliefs should be questioned or that he never questions them himself? I read what he said about free speech three times, and still can’t find anything even remotely resembling your particular grievance.

  • kaydenpat

    Free speech doesn’t mean freedom from criticism or consequences. Not sure what he is nattering on about since it is pretty clear that his lot have free speech and that they don’t hesitate to use it against marginalized people.

  • Yes, your point is that sharia law and feminism can go together like cake and ice cream.

    Not even close.

  • Just Another Happy Humanist

    Oh, so you agree with me then, that sharia law and feminism don’t go together?

  • My point was this, for the last time: I don’t presume to tell people what they need to think in order to conform to my definition of feminist, that’s all.

  • Exactly. For some reason he seems to think white-boy mockery is the most significant legacy of the Enlightenment or something, and he resents being told that his freeze peach absolutism is reinforcing social inequities rather than fueling social progress.

  • Just Another Happy Humanist

    And CosmicSkeptic’s point, igotbanned999’s point, and my point, is that you can’t possibly say that feminism and sharia law go together, because they are the antithesis of one another. It’s also ridiculous to say that anyone can just make up any definition of any word they want, and expect other people to conform to their own definition. This is why we have dictionaries…and, you know, MEANING behind words.

    Saying that sharia law and feminism go together is akin to saying that atheism is a religion. As an atheist, when people make this absurd claim, do you think, ‘Well, fair enough, I don’t presume to tell anyone what atheism means’? If you do, I’m sorry, but that’s ridiculous. Atheism is the opposite of theism, so it’s preposterous to claim that atheism and theism go together. In the exact same way, it is preposterous to claim that feminism and sharia law go together.

    Of course, I’ve explained myself several times now, and all you ever do is respond with straw man arguments, so here’s hoping that YOU eventually get the point.

    Also, way to avoid the question…again.

  • And CosmicSkeptic’s point, igotbanned999’s point, and my point, is that you can’t possibly say that feminism and sharia law go together,

    But who’s saying they go together, pray tell? You’ve been putting words in my mouth all morning, and now I’m not hungry for lunch.

  • Just Another Happy Humanist

    You’ve avoided the question, YET AGAIN. Your extreme attempts at avoidance suggest that perhaps YOU are that person.

    Nevertheless, I’m not saying that anyone is saying that sharia law and feminism go together (except for, perhaps, you, considering how many times you’ve avoided saying they don’t). I’m saying that they don’t go together. And they don’t.

  • I’m not saying that anyone is saying that sharia law and feminism go together (except for, perhaps, you, considering how many times you’ve avoided saying they don’t).

    You’re not? Talk about disingenuous. You told me: Yes, your point is that sharia law and feminism can go together like cake and ice cream. I get it. But I never said any such thing. That wasn’t the point I was trying to make, and it doesn’t appear to be something that anyone here believes.

    I think scaremongering about Sharia law is the first, middle, and last resort of people who have no qualms about portraying Muslims as murderous, misogynistic, homophobic monsters who are threatening to take over the West. So making the rejection of Sharia some sort of litmus test for feminism is just trying to impose conformity of opinion and demonize the Other, under the guise of promoting women’s rights.

    So what Alex means is that, if you’re not parroting right-wing rhetoric about the evil Muslims, you can’t call yourself a feminist.

  • “Examine your assumptions. Then examine the assumptions behind your assumptions.” – Idries Shah
    “Growing up is all about finding out how full of shit you are.” – Bill Burr

  • Just Another Happy Humanist

    So please, do tell me, why won’t you answer a simple question? Do sharia law and feminism go together, or not? The more you refuse to answer the question, the more it appears that you really believe they do go together.

    Furthermore, once again, you’ve made ANOTHER logical fallacy. There is a MASSIVE difference between insulting muslims (i.e., people), and criticising either Islam or sharia law (ideologies). I’ve never stated that muslims are ‘murderous, misogynistic, homophobic monsters who are threatening to take over the West’, so that’s another straw man argument you’ve decided to espouse. Congratulations – I’ve never had anyone use so many straw man fallacies in a single conversation…and I’ve spoken to Trump supporters.

    All CosmicSkeptic, igotbanned999, and I are saying is that sharia law and feminism don’t go together. If you think that they can go together, then YOU are, once again, being disingenuous. Remember that dictionary definition of feminism?

    1 : the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes

    2 : organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests

    Let’s try some critical thinking. Does sharia law support ‘the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes’? No. Does it support ‘the theory of the political, economic, and social INequality of the sexes?’ Yes. Is it ‘organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests’? No. Does it prevent ‘organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests’? Yes. What conclusions can you draw from this, hm? The conclusion you can draw is that feminism and sharia law are inherently contradictory.

    I’m a member of multiple atheist and humanist organisations. I’ve helped many women who have suffered as a result of sharia law, and it’s inherently sexist nature. You are doing women, men, and feminism, in general, a complete and utter disservice by claiming that feminism and sharia law go together. Nobody is saying that all muslims are bad people, or that they are any of the other stereotypes/strawmans that you’ve spewed forth. All we’re saying is that sharia law is inherently sexist. And it is. As such, it CANNOT be considered feminist. Again, shame on you for suggesting (and, I now suspect, believing) otherwise.

  • Come now. Growing up is learning to rationalize beliefs you didn’t initially arrive at rationally.

  • So please, do tell me, why won’t you answer a simple question? Do sharia law and feminism go together, or not? The more you refuse to answer the question, the more it appears that you really believe they do go together.

    The reason I won’t answer the question is because that’s not what my point is, not that you’ve ever had the intellectual honesty to acknowledge that. I won’t be made to parrot right-wing rhetoric about the evil Muslims just to satisfy some self-righteous online crybaby.

  • There is a MASSIVE difference between insulting muslims (i.e., people), and criticising either Islam or sharia law (ideologies).

    Anyone who isn’t still infatuated with Sam Harris’s books has long since realized that this a distinction without a difference. Islam is what makes people Muslim.

  • Gee, I thought you had made your melodramatic exit two hours ago. But here you are, still ignoring my point and putting words in my mouth.

  • Just Another Happy Humanist

    Who said anything about Sam Harris? This is simple logic. Islam is an ideology. Muslims are people. We shouldn’t hate people, but we can criticise ideologies, especially if they are bad, and inherently inhumane and sexist. I criticise Christianity for the same reason, but I don’t hate all Christians. Your lack of critical thinking is laughable.

    Putting Islam on a such a high pedestal so as to make it immune from criticism is wrong, and hurts people – including muslims.

  • I’ll sure miss you.

  • Incidentally, Alex tweeted a while back that we shouldn’t hold off on criticizing people just because we’re on the same side of the religious/non-religious divide. So he’d undoubtedly welcome my skepticism.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5def813714ba9a0e0fb7b1f0f2f8a56aaf055158352690b32f9a439e0be2fd71.png

  • igotbanned999

    Well, if they don’t want to be massive hypocrites. Words do have definitions, after all. How would you respond to someone who claimed to be a liberal civil rights activist who endorsed Neo-Nazis?

  • That’s not a leading question? They don’t let you deal yourself a winning hand in Vegas, and I kind of frown on it here too.

    What bugged me about Alex’s petulant tweet was that this kid, who couldn’t be bothered to include any feminist literature in his “Books You Should Read” video, is lecturing people on what constitutes a feminist point of view. There are a lot of political and socioeconomic facets to things like Sharia and the burqa, but right wing creeps have been able to dress them up as symbols of the Scary Other by making it sound like they’re simply emblematic of how primitive and repressive Muslim society is compared to our enlightened, superior culture.

    I’m no fan of Hitchens, either (though he was right about Mother Teresa), but he at least affirmed that his skepticism of a claim was directly proportional to how strongly he wished it to be true. Alex is complacent in his Islamophobia, his science fetishism, and his belief that free speech is sacrosanct.

  • igotbanned999

    I’m not afraid of criticizing Islam’s bullshit just because certain people do so in order to try to excuse the west’s bullshit. Bullshit is bullshit after all.

  • Your tough talk is almost as impressive as Alex’s.

  • igotbanned999

    So you have pretty much nothing to actually contribute then?

  • As I said a few times now, my point is that it’s not up to guys like Alex to be imposing standards on feminists. If you’d like to engage with that point, have at it.

  • igotbanned999

    Well if feminists can be Sharia supporters, I guess that just makes the label all the more meaningless.

  • igotbanned999

    Well if feminists can be Sharia supporters, I guess that just makes the label all the more meaningless.

  • Anthony Hyde

    Linda Sarsour, the head of the women’s march…

  • I told you what my point is, and you’re still barking up the wrong tree.

    I strongly suggest you address my point, or play elsewhere.

  • Raging Bee

    …where no one heard anyone speaking in support of “Sharia.”

  • Raging Bee

    Oh, and citation and quotes required.

  • Raging Bee

    You love channels like this but that one comment makes you never want to come here again? I call bullshit. If one offensive comment made me never want to read a blog again, I’d have been driven away from even my own blog forever.

  • Raging Bee

    Actually, “Sharia” isn’t just one set of unchanging unchangeable rules, so there might be a school of Sharia Law that a feminist could indeed support — at least as an improvement over standard Islamic misogyny.

  • igotbanned999

    Only if you seriously stretch the interpretation of their holy texts like many liberal Christians do.

  • Faciespalma

    Shouldn’t that be “right-wing brown-girl moonbat, Ayaan Hirsi Ali”?

  • Bruce Gorton

    I am not all that familiar with the guy you’re attack, I think I’ve seen a few of his videos but nothing that really stuck, and I am no more familiar with him after this screed.

    There is a lot wrong with this post, but I am going to focus on one particular problem:

    I just can’t imagine anything more trite and self-serving than this kind of lecture. There so much wrong with it I don’t know where to start. The view that criticism and ridicule have contributed to progress; characterizing the ridicule of religious and cultural traditions as a form of empirical inquiry; the sanctification of progress; or the absurd notion that scientists welcome criticism of not only their pet theories but also the very foundations of science.

    Either A: You’ve quoted the wrong passage, or B: you should correct your criticism of it because he doesn’t talk about whether individual scientists welcome criticism of their pet theories – he is talking about the field as a whole.

    Personally I agree with his criticism of Zizek, considering the context of Zizek’s talk about social taboos was in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. The connection there is perfectly reasonable.

    As to whether criticism of Zizek renders one rightwing, you are aware that Zizek outright endorsed Donald Trump right?

  • igotbanned999

    So let me get this straight: you’re not claiming that Sharia and feminism are compatible, but you are also saying that no one has the right to say that they’re not compatible, if that person has any views that you find objectionable.

  • Are you accusing me of racism for finding Ali’s anti-Muslim rhetoric off-putting? Please don’t put words in my mouth.

  • I don’t think I misrepresented Alex’s position on science. These are the words he said in his video:

    Acting as though science has its own sancrosanctity, and that we’d be offended if its foundations were challenged. Well, I’ll tell you something: not only is taking an idea, a belief, a pre-existing notion, and challenging it, testing it, to see if it’s wrong, trying to criticize it—not only is that permitted in science. That is science.

    Essentially, he’s saying that scientists and science fans (“we”) welcome challenges to the foundations of science itself.

    I’m not a Zizek fanboy, and I have no clue what he’s said about Trump. What he appeared to be getting at in the lecture Alex selectively quoted is that there’s a cultural consensus about what’s acceptable and unacceptable as far as speech goes that has to at least be acknowledged by freeze peachers, who instead claim that they should be able to say whatever they want and never suffer negative consequences for that speech. But considering the degree of fair-mindedness with which you interpret what I say, I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re doing the same with Zizek.

  • I’m just pointing out that he takes great pride in being able to demolish everyone else’s opinions, but there are real blind spots in his own mindset. Everyone here, including me, agrees with him that religious people are wrong about The Big G, and creationists are wrong about evolution. But as I asked in the OP, aren’t we allowed to ask whether science is as magically self-correcting as its boosters say? Does technological progress always equate to social progress? Are criticism and ridicule really “the most important mechanisms to allow for the progression of understanding,” or is he just making booger-flicking sound like a lot more noble pursuit than it really is?

    He’s the one whose motto is Question Everything. But he’s being very selective about his skepticism.

  • Bruce Gorton

    Essentially, he’s saying that scientists and science fans (“we”) welcome challenges to the foundations of science itself.

    As a whole yes – but that isn’t the same thing as talking about individual scientists.

    Take Einstein as an example – he famously rejected quantum mechanics because it didn’t comport with relativity. Would that mean that science rejected quantum mechanics, or that scientists as a class rejected quantum mechanics?

    No. It just meant that one individual scientist did. He’s talking about science as a whole – and you’re taking what he’s saying on that level and then trying to apply it to scientists as individuals.

  • I dispute that “science as a whole” is even a coherent concept. How would you determine what “science as a whole” welcomes or rejects?

  • Bruce Gorton

    Normally, how would you determine what “America as a whole” welcomes or rejects? Look at what it welcomes or rejects.

    He does this with a timeline. Each of those individuals is lauded for successfully overturning the established knowledge of the figure before them.

    You don’t look at the individuals so much, you look at how the field has shifted over time, how it has changed and why it changed.

    And really isn’t that the way to look at any large system? Individuals within the system may do one thing, but the system as a whole may behave entirely otherwise.

  • You don’t look at the individuals so much, you look at how the field has shifted over time, how it has changed and why it changed.

    And that’s some sort of simple analysis? There are so many fields in science, so many valid issues of contention, that talking about “what science says” is nothing more than a quasi-religious way we try to co-opt the authority of science to make it align with what we think.

    Not that I’d ever accuse anyone here of doing such a thing.

  • Bruce Gorton

    And that’s some sort of simple analysis? There are so many fields in science, so many valid issues of contention, that talking about “what science says” (unless it’s in the circumscribed context of a particular line of research) is nothing more than a quasi-religious way we try to co-opt the authority of science to make it align with what we think.

    Or alternatively it could just be a shorthand for stating one’s understanding of the scientific consensus on a given topic, because not everything has to be an academic dissertation or play for ultimate power.

    And for this topic, it is less about what science says so much as how the scientific consensus shifts in pretty much every field.

  • Oh, Bruce. How can you conceivably arrive at the “scientific consensus” on a matter that isn’t itself scientific, like how firm the philosophical foundations of science are? Is there some sort of body of evidence that proves that our assumptions about the subject-object divide and cause & effect are valid? Can facts prove that the way we arrange and interpret facts is proper?

  • Bruce Gorton

    Oh, Bruce. How can you conceivably arrive at the “scientific consensus” on a matter that isn’t itself scientific, like how firm the philosophical foundations of science are?

    Does it work? I mean at the end of the day, does using the scientific method produce reliable results?

    That is a sort of scientific test – we have a hypothesis that it works, we try it out, and in the space of a few hundred years we have laptops, vaccines, modern agriculture, a global communications network and infrastructure on Mars.

    It certainly seems to be working.

    there some sort of body of evidence that proves that our assumptions about the subject-object divide and cause & effect are valid?

    Science doesn’t prove, proof is pretty much impossible outside of philosophy and mathematics.

    For evidence though, while there is always solipsism I suppose, quantum mechanics puts causality, at least insofar as we understand it, into serious doubt.

    Consequently I’m not too sure one can really call causality one of the foundations of science.

  • It certainly seems to be working.

    Except when it’s not.

    I’m not disputing that science provides us with shiny gadgets and useful knowledge. But that’s what we invented it to do. It’s like saying that math works because the solution is always a number. Self-validating constructs just do what they’re intended to do.

  • Bruce Gorton

    There have been plenty of alternative approaches that have been invented to do the same thing, that didn’t work.

    Take traditional healers. They have a system of knowledge which was invented to cure diseases, curse enemies, and commit supernatural date-rape (Well, what would you call a potion that makes your lost love “to come back”?)

    Their approach largely doesn’t work.

    That science successfully does what it was invented to do, provides fairly persuasive evidence that it does what it was invented to do.

  • You’re missing the point, as usual. Science works because we call whatever works “science.”

    There’s nothing essentially unscientific, or supernatural, about the concept of cold fusion. It just doesn’t appear to work, so we don’t consider it science.

    That’s what’s so unimpressive about the truism “science works.” Science is a formalized process of trial-and-error.

  • Bruce Gorton

    Science works because we call whatever works “science.”

    No actually. I think you more hit the nail on the head with this:

    Science is a formalized process of trial-and-error.

    In other words, we don’t simply call whatever works “science”. It is stuff that has gone through that formalised process of trial and error.

    And that approach has a wildly successful track record. As much as you might dismiss it as gadgets and some useful knowledge – they’re gadgets and useful knowledge we weren’t getting from any of the other approaches which promised similar results.

  • we don’t simply call whatever works “science”. It is stuff that has gone through that formalised process of trial and error.

    :rolleyes:

    Once again, we’ve ended up talking about matters that have nothing to do with your original point. I don’t dispute that science produces better technology and knowledge than “other approaches.” What I dispute is that “science as a whole” can be said to “welcome” anything, especially when scientists themselves don’t welcome it.

  • Bruce Gorton

    If the scientific approach is trial and error – which I remind you is not under dispute – then that by its nature means that science as a whole “welcomes” challenges to established knowledge, as it is based on trying knowledge and finding error.

  • Does it bother you at all that the only way you can make your point is to idealize science completely out of its real world context and make a Manga hero out of it?

    Science isn’t a magically self-correcting phenomenon. The truth is that “science as a whole” is a professional pursuit that much more often encodes and reinforces bias and error. It’s conceived and conducted by historically and culturally situated agents with their own biases and motives. It’s funded by corporate and military interests who care a darn sight more about dominance and profit than about Truth.

    Can we talk about how things happen in the real world the rest of us inhabit, and not the magical land of Bruceworld?

  • Take the rest of the week off, Bruce, and come back when you’re in a better mood.

  • Aram

    I’m not sure if it’s intentional, but you come across on here as thinking yourself much smarter than you actually are.

  • Art_Vandelay

    But again…you’re just asserting that he’s being hypocritical here. I’m asking you to show me where he says that people aren’t allowed to question his positions. Otherwise, you’ve simply created a strawman to argue in order to get blog clicks.

  • Thanks for the click.

  • al kimeea

    from Wiki –

    Following her leadership role in the Women’s March, Sarsour was targeted with personal attacks on social media and conservative news outlets, including false reports that she supported the militant Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and advocated imposing Islamic law in the United States.[4][7] Her critics among American conservatives have accused her of anti-Semitism and sympathizing with terrorists for her comments on Middle Eastern politics, including her stated support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

    false reports… quelle surprise

  • Jyoeru

    Thank you for the evidence we need to correct your commoner fallacy. The literal definition of a word is absolutely not its cultural definition nor interpretation of the word. The precise phenomena is why we have a court system. Semantics. Fun, right?

    You absolutely can support Sharia Law AND be a feminist. It depends on your subscriptions to the idea of equality.

    And the only people having equality conversations in this tone are who? Westerners! Who also seem to forget what they stand for with 90% of everything they spend their “hard-earned” money on.

    This ties into the point that was made about entitlement.

    And the best part? Guess what all this impressive atheist rhetoric sounds like? Well read Voyages and Discoveries. And now you know how irrational egotheists (we need a word for this lot of pompous “atheists” who are really agnostics wanting the same credit and value as true atheists. So here is my attempt).

    Cosmic Skeptic is just another Donald Trump in a different industry. Just a kid who, like us, wants to be rich, but gods be damned if he is going to do a real job. Blah.

    And y’all say atheism isnt a religion, then proceed to align yourselves with every type of religious process and ego. The only thing egotheists lack are a building. And believe me, that is coming. Along with 2nd wave colonialism.