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It is oxymoronic, to my understanding.  Yet, I never fail to see it displayed all over the site, and is even one of the "groups" advertised.

 

Yes, I'm asking because it fails the sniff test.

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yes i understand that and I've seen that video. I never claimed what you are opposing. Obviously accepting "god of the gaps" type theories has nothing to do with open mindedness.
not what i was saying at all.
I'd still like to know what the "theories of ghosts" are.

>no known mechanism for surviving death

>That is not the only theory about ghosts. There is also imprint of energy, parallel dimensions, whatever.... personally I don't care enough to investigate these claims but if it meant something to someone to explain it to me, I'd listen."

http://www.atheistnexus.org/forum/topics/someone-please-explain-ath...
Don't you remember phlogiston ?
I know all about Phlogiston; I've just had to write an essay about it, in fact. :-)

What has a defunct alchemical hypothesis of combustion based on Aristotle's Elements got to do with ghosts, Felch? I'm not seeing the connection. :-/

I'm even wearing my "Teach the controversy" T-shirt with the Alchemical Periodic Table.
I could never really tell the difference between phlogiston and ghostly ectoplasm. It's all making things up to fit in lieu of thinking about it a bit more.
Ah well that's kind of easy.

Ectoplasm was thought of as a kind of plasma. (Now plasma does exist, it's the furth state of matter above, solid liquid and gas. Plasma is what lightning bolts are made out of and there's a fantastically dangerous experiment you can perform with some old CDs and a microwave oven that is absolutely not recommended, that will also make some.)

Ectoplasm was though to be reified, spiritual energy or something.



Phlogiston is much more interesting.

In brief:

Aristotles 5 elements: Earth, Air, Water, Fire, Aether.
Jerome Becher, ditches 4, keeps Earth, subdivides it into Vitrious Earth, Mercurious Earth and Fatty Earth.

In the era of guttering candles made from animal tallow "fatty" makes sense and the "earth" is just it's Alchemical elemental group.

Things made out of fatty earth combusted. This meant wood and coal and sulpher were all made out of or contained "fatty earth" (depending on how much debris was left afterwards.)

Disciple of Becher, Georg Ernst Stahl changes the name to from "fatty earth" "flame principle" or "Phlogiston" as that's just a bit more respectable and gets busy popularising the idea. Superficially plausible it seems to accord with several observations. (The candle reduces and eventually the bird in the killing jar suffocates as the Phlosigiston "comes out"

Robert Boyle publishes "The Sceptical Chemist" which rails against the absence of an experiment that could confound the alchemists

Joseph Priestly, "discovers" Oxygen by heating mercuric oxide and finds it can re-light a glowing splint but thinks the reason is because the splint (which burns) is re-introducing phlogiston into the gas (or as Priestly saw it the element Air) so he called it Dephlogisticated Air.

Lavoissier finds out about this - and by being very accurate and meticulous with weights and measures, meets Boyle's challenge of showing that combusting things get heavier (as the combine to form oxides) not less heavy (as phlogiston is released) which was a key prediction. Other experiments show something in the air is being "used up" (which in turn leads to the discovery that air is a mixture of gasses)

Proponents suggest Phlogiston has negative weight (it's addition makes things lighter), but this absurdity doesn't last long. Phlosigston is dead.

Lavoissier, thinks Oxygen is the base of all acids. (He was wrong about that. That's Hydrogen) but he calledit "Oxy-Gen" meaning Acid Creator.

The Royal Society hated it, were fierce in their defence of Priestly's primacy more or less until he fled to America for his republican leanings. Lavoissier was beheaded by the Revolutionaries in France. but Oxygen lived on, principally because Charles Darwin's Grandfather Erasmus included it in a poem he wrote that became widely distributed.
It's called The Botanic Garden

You can find it here:

http://books.google.com/books?id=Tn8gAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcov...


Do a word search for "Oxygen" to see how often it is mentioned.
Priestly also discovered the existence of a significance linkage (symbiotic gas exchange) to the metabolism of living systems - the oxygen/carbon-dioxide respiration cycle of animals and the carbon-dioxide/oxygen cycle (used in photosynthesis - not then understood) of plants.

Our understanding of 'ecosystem' could be said to originate with Joe Priestly suffocating small animals in jars.
Hmm quite I had to skip over loads of the who did whats.

I didn't, for instance, mention Cavendish or Carl Scheele either.
Cavendish thought he'd discovered Phlogiston itself (not just dephlogisticated air) when he began messing about with Hydrogen.

Priestly definitely deserves respect for a lot of things but I am quite prepared to be critical of his refusal to to see past Phlogiston, but it's also understandable - he didn't have the weights and measures lavoisier could afford.

But would he of? Would he have changed his opinion that dephlogisticated air was an element. I dunno, I suspect not. Given how much he resisted what lavoisier did, although that was coloured by the debate over primacy, I like to think he'd recognise evidence when it was presented and he didn't.

So my feelings about Priestly are mixed.

but you're right, living next to that brewery helped him with his observations about (what we now call) carbon dioxide.
Actually, I know what phlogisten was. I'm just saying as a concept it's not really that different to ectoplasm - don't have an answer ? just make something up.
In the same sense that Descartes spoke of animal spirits flowing out of the Pineal Gland, and animating the muscles, yes I'd agree there all exist in a category of "things that don't really exist" so we can say pretty much what we like about them. (I think Phlogiston was a rather fetching shade of the colour blue... whereas ectoplasm was more yellowy...)

But I disagree mildly about whether or not they are no different

Ectoplasm was largely a fraud perpetuated after the invention of the camera (am I correct to think this?) that relied on in-camera trickery to become 'established'

Phlogiston for all it's errors (which are multiple) was superficially a plausible hypothesis built on ignorance and which sowed the seeds of it's own overthrow by setting -perhaps unintended - the conditions for testable predictions.

That many people were deceived in both instances is I think uncontravertable, but I struggle to reconcile them in my mind as the same
I know atheists who are "spiritual" but they don't tend to be folks who arrived at their atheism through the venue of logic and rational thought.

If spiritual means superstitious... I'm with Johnny, I still like em better than Christians.

If spiritual means deeply appreciative... I'm a spiritual atheist ;-)

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