Wyatt's Blog (39)

Analytic Versus Synthetic Propositions

In 1948, BBC radio aired a debate between Lord Bertrand Russell and Father Frederick Coppleston on the existence of God.  Russell points out the problem with Coppleston's notion of a necessary being (God):



Russell:  "...I think that, perhaps, in answering your argument, the best point with which to begin is the question of a Necessary Being. The word "necessary" I should maintain, can only be applied significantly to propositions. And, in fact, only to such as are analytic -- that is… Continue

Added by Wyatt on November 15, 2012 at 1:53pm — 2 Comments

Displacing Ignorance with Understanding

My thesis: the educational program in America is severely lacking, leading to incomprehension or a severe misunderstanding of how our particular universe operates.  I propose a new program of education to be taught as the new essential reading.  This will be based around the following five areas:



(1) The Empirical Method:  The foundation of knowledge

(2) Entropy:  Things change (put simply)

(3) Probability:  Improbability does not imply impossibility; improbable events… Continue

Added by Wyatt on November 8, 2012 at 12:18pm — No Comments

Indoctrination versus Education

Indoctrination "is often distinguished from education by the fact that the indoctrinated person is expected not to question or critically examine the doctrine they have learned." (Wilson, J., 1964. "Education and indoctrination," (Manchester University Press). In other words, indoctrination is "dogmatic."

We need to distinguish between teaching children "what" to think from "how" to think for themselves, i.e., asking how we know what we know.



“Do not indoctrinate your children.… Continue

Added by Wyatt on November 4, 2012 at 6:47pm — No Comments

"The best thing for being sad," replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something

Excerpt from T. H. White's The Once and Future King:



"The best thing for being sad," replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for… Continue

Added by Wyatt on October 18, 2012 at 2:43pm — No Comments

Professor Peter Atkins on Cosmology - Excerpt

This is an excerpt from the opening statement of Oxford Professor Peter Atkins' 2011 debate at the University of Manchester:



"My immediate task is to set out my stall, not to respond to Dr Craig’s arguments at this stage: that will come later. It is, in fact, my task to bring you forward from the eleventh century, where you have been immersed with considerable erudition for the past 20 minutes, to the twenty-first century, and to present arguments based on a thousand years of… Continue

Added by Wyatt on October 15, 2012 at 3:31am — No Comments

The Problems of Relativism

Epistemological relativists will refer to "different ways of knowing" and claim the equal validity of the knowledge obtained from radically different epistemologies.  I would like to point out that there is a distinction between truth and opinion.  People are entitled to their own opinions.  But in our discourse about reality, our claims are either true or false.  NOTE:  there is no true only from my standpoint or true only from your standpoint--we call this sort of thing "opinion" not truth.… Continue

Added by Wyatt on July 8, 2012 at 9:35am — 18 Comments

Note on the Dawkins Scale and De Facto Certainty

To my knowledge, Dawkins describes himself as a 6 (or, more specifically, a 6.9--see Bill Maher interview) on principle. A scientist must remain open to evidence. Whereas theists can say as an article of faith that they are 100% certain that there is a god, scientists will as a matter of principle avoid phrasing things in terms of absolute certainties. Karl Popper described the history of science as the history of "conjectures and refutations."  Scientific knowledge is not held dogmatically.… Continue

Added by Wyatt on July 7, 2012 at 9:22am — No Comments

Religion: The Dogma of Cognitive Dissipation

        Unlike many of my fellow hominids, I have never found the religious argument remotely persuasive on either ontological or moral grounds. The argument seems to be something along the lines of "sacrifice your cognitive faculties, i.e. dismiss critical thinking, and rely upon religious authority. Believe us, you'll be much happier for it." So, let's see, illusory bliss in exchange for a life of ignorance?

        My answer to those who peddle the dogma of cognitive dissipation is…

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Added by Wyatt on May 25, 2012 at 7:26pm — 4 Comments

"When the bones of prehistoric animals began to be discovered and scrutinized in the nineteenth century, there were those who said that the fossils had been placed in the rock by god, in order to tes…

"When the bones of prehistoric animals began to be discovered and scrutinized in the nineteenth century, there were those who said that the fossils had been placed in the rock by god, in order to test our faith. This cannot be disproved. Nor can my own pet theory that, from the patterns of behavior that are observable, we may infer a design that makes planet earth, all unknown to us, a prison colony and lunatic asylum that is employed as a dumping ground by far-off and superior civilizations."… Continue

Added by Wyatt on May 25, 2012 at 4:04am — No Comments

Magic and Pretense: The New Age

        There was a time when people believed in magic.  There then came a time when people believed the supernatural was just sheer and utter nonsense.  And now we seem to be living in a time when some people want to believe in supernatural nonsense, but wish to hide the nonsense under a pile of pseudo-scientific jargon and misappropriated terms from the field of psychology.  Welcome to the new age.

        I have been perusing occult blogs to see what people are saying about…

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Added by Wyatt on April 29, 2012 at 9:29am — No Comments

Christopher Hitchens on the Numinous

"It’s innate in us to be overawed by certain moments, say, at evening on a mountaintop or sunset on the boundaries of the ocean. Or, in my case, looking through the Hubble telescope at those extraordinary pictures. We have a sense of awe and wonder at something beyond ourselves, and so we should, because our own lives are very transient and insignificant. That’s the numinous, and there’s enough wonder in the natural world without any resort to the supernatural being required." (Christopher… Continue

Added by Wyatt on April 24, 2012 at 3:35pm — No Comments

A world without Science

        First, I suggest that those interested in what science has to say about morality read Sam Harris's, "The Moral Landscape."

       

Envision a World Without Science:       

        Aztecs used to rip out people's hearts to ensure that the sun would rise the next day. Druids would burn people in wicker men or throw them into peat bogs to make the crops fertile once more.

This kind of superstitious, horrific behavior was due to the fact that people had no idea how…

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Added by Wyatt on April 23, 2012 at 5:17pm — No Comments

The Moral Compass

Can the Bible Provide Us with A Good Moral Compass?

        The Old Testament gives mandates for slavery, the subjugation of women, and the killing of other tribes of people.  The New Testament gives a mandate that women must subjugate themselves to their husbands.  Women are told to be subordinate to men.  Also, slaves are told to be patient with their masters, even if their masters are cruel.  And let's not forget the morally questionable idea of vicarious redemption,…

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Added by Wyatt on April 23, 2012 at 3:12pm — No Comments

Rational, Irrational, and Arational: Definitions

What does it mean to make a rational decision in a complex and dynamic environment?

       A rational decision is one that is not just reasoned, but is also optimal for achieving a goal or solving a problem.  In everyday life, we must deal with probabilities, varying degrees of certainty in a complex world.  Rational decisions therefore necessarily involve some form of probabilistic reasoning. This may take the form of an inductive inference. Rational decisions are based on inferences…

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Added by Wyatt on April 23, 2012 at 11:51am — No Comments

God and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man: Unfalsifiable Claims

        I believe that gods exist only in the mind.  They are human constructs.  Some Christian apologists however try to support the existence of a god by asserting that the universe was either born out of nothing or was designed by a creator.  Their argument being that nothing comes from nothing; therefore, a god exists.  This proof by elimination is a logical fallacy.  It assumes the choice is binary and overlooks countless alternative hypotheses.  Why should I believe the god hypothesis…

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Added by Wyatt on April 17, 2012 at 4:04am — No Comments

The Religious Impulse

        The other day, I saw an article at ScienceDaily (Apr. 2, 2012), entitled, "Death Anxiety Increases Atheists' Unconscious Belief in God." According to the article, "New University of Otago research suggests that when non-religious people think about their own death they become more consciously skeptical about religion, but unconsciously grow more receptive to religious belief."  This is just one more in a growing number of research papers, books, articles, etc. that point out the…

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Added by Wyatt on April 14, 2012 at 12:59pm — 2 Comments

The Bible: the Wholly Man-approved Word of "God"

        Christian apologists will often claim that there can be no objective morality without an omniscient, omnipotent deity, God, and, furthermore, that the Bible is the inspired, infallible and unalterable word of God, the holy instrument through which we may understand his will and thereby understand what is moral and what is immoral.  This is an extraordinary proposition, but does it bear the scrutiny of reason? I would prefer not to take it on "faith." Why should I trust this…

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Added by Wyatt on April 12, 2012 at 6:26pm — No Comments

History, Mythology, and the Telephone Game

The transformation of history into mythology over time is a lot like a thought experiment called the telephone game. It goes like this: you sit in a large circle of people, the larger the better, and you think of a statement, whisper it clockwise to the person next to you, and that person whispers it to the person next to them and so on until the statement travels 360 degrees back to you. The interesting thing is that you will often find that the statement that comes back to you is…

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Added by Wyatt on April 12, 2012 at 4:19pm — No Comments

On the Religious Indoctrination of Childen

        I think that many people can agree that religious extremism is problematic. But my problem with religion or religious dogma goes beyond the obvious danger of its radicalized forms. I want to discuss the potentially dangerous consequences of indoctrinating children into a religion or superstitious belief system. Indoctrination is a form of behavioral conditioning. In the case of the major religions, this often takes the form of conditioning the child to believe in highly improbable or…

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Added by Wyatt on April 8, 2012 at 3:08pm — 5 Comments

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