Joined: Jan. 2006
MASSIVE LENGTH WARNING (This is not a knob joke)
First of all I am not making any positive claim, I'm merely informing you about the nature of reality (i.e. that in fact reason can be used to analyse certain phenomena that you claim on no basis it cannot) such as humans have uncovered over millenia. Your repeated shrill denials do not constitute evidence. You are making the positive claim that reason cannot examine X and faith can. That is the claim (or rather one of the claims) you have to justify. You are claiming limits on rational enquiry that don't appear to be there, you are making a claim in contradiction to the evidence we have collected as a species thus far. So yes, the burden of proof falls to you. You are also supporting a dualism based on nothing more than an appeal to ignorance, a dualism long since disproven by the evidence, so yet again the burden of proof falls to you.
My point has never been that all things have been explained already by the use of reason, but that thus far we have not encountered anything that is in principle inexplicable by reason and that we have no reason (see, one word used two different ways! Whoa, what a revelation!) to expect we will. I for one am getting exceedingly tired of your endless straw men.
Section 1: Dealing with stupid questions:
All that aside let's deal with what has to be the stupidest example of all time, your comments on love:
1) Behavioural. Lets make a general definition of "love" as "behaviour consistent with X" it doesn't matter what X is, it merely matters that one can describe it in a consistent manner. It doesn't even matter that the definition is not all invclusive. We can observe people behaving in a manner consistent with X and thus say that by our definition these people are exhibiting the quality we have defined as love. If we see other behaviours that we think we need to include and thus modify our definition we can make it "behaviour consistent with X and Y and/or Z" and so on. Regardless of how subjective that definition is, this is a rational process, i.e. ONE rational, reason based mechanism by which we can explore the concept of love and study it. I'll deal with your appeal to Platonic ideals such as "LOVE" exisiting in the ether later, or there being some ideal "LOVE" of which human love is a poor imitation. The point here is not that this completely explains and encompasses "love" but that it shows in principle just one method of rationally investigating and understanding it.
2) Biological ?and mechanistic concerns: Yes we know about the hormonal and other chemical influences on emotional states, including love. And despite your assertion (again with no support) that these tell us nothing about love, you are completely wrong. They tell us a lot. Even better we know that we can chemically and physically (by use of electromagnetic stimulation) manipulate the emotions. So we kow that we can cause euphoric feelings or affectionate feelings by using certain physical methods. We also know that when we test people with these methods they report that the feelings are indistinguishable from the "real" thing. Does this mean that this alone explains and encompasses all the details of a concept as poorly defined and variable as "love"? No of course not, and no one claims it does (that is another of your fucking pathetic straw men Skeptic. Stop it, you're making a mockery of what could be a sensible conversation by being a deluded little fuckwit). What it DOES show (in part along with a huge set of other data) is that our emotional states, even those which we prize most highly, are at least partly the result of our biochemical state.
Even more than that, the fact that we can physically induce emotional states in others by biochemical/physical means and that those people report identical sensations or report identical emotional experiences shows that there is some commonality of experience between people that is based on identical physical mechanisms. Another rational, reasoned way to investigate the phenomenon.
Add to that MRI studies of people in emotional states, or thinking about complex topics. Add to that investigations of people that have suffered specific brain trauma and have changed emotional abilities or mental capabilities afterwords. Add to that the known mechanism of serotonin in depression. Add to that....
Get the point? The point is not that we know everything right now, but that we have successfully interrogated the nature of the phenomena thus far on a mechanistic basis and there is no reason to suppose that there are phenomena relating to these mechanisms and yet undiscovered mechanisms that we cannot investigate.
Oh and incidentally, yes, this does in part tell us why a spouse will die of a broken heart. Excessive stress hormone production, rapid reuptake of seratonin, a dampening of endorphin production caused by sedentary behaviour after bereavement all contribute to a depressive mental sate (they are not the ONLY thing, but they are a demonstrate PART of it, there are more contributary factors I'll mention later) and all have a profound effect on the body's biochemistry (heart function is particularly affected by increased stress hormone levels for example). It is very possible to die of stress for well understood biochemical reasons (and bereavement and grief are types of biological stress). Do these explain everything there is to know about being a grieving spouse? No of course not, nor is it claimed they do, but the point is they a) do explain something and b) are a rational mechanism by which the phenomenon can be examined.
Equally, this tells us something about why (to clump your other "examples" into one) people endanger themselves for people or concepts. Again we have stress hormone overproduction, adrenaline coursing through your system etc etc etc. These biochemical changes affect the emotional and psychological state of the person. Yet again, this isn't even intended to be a complete explanation which encompasses every facet and nuance of the concept of "love" but it is (yet again) a rational and reasoned area of enquiry into the phenomenon which goes some way to explaining various behaviours.
Again, the point here is not that all this completely explains and encompasses "love" but that it shows in principle just one method of rationally investigating and understanding it. Now we have two broad methods, the behavioural and the biochemical/physical.
3) Sociological and psychological mechanistic concerns. Specific sets of behaviours can be conditioned by one's social context and one's individual psychology. Love is a good one to explore here. For example, we all know the anecdotal stories about men or women who fall in love with people who abuse them. Guess what Skeptic? The phenomenon has been investigated! Patterns of behaviour can be expected from people who themselves have suffered abuse as children. By no means are these universal, or indeed as mechanistically clear as the biochemical/physical mechanisms mentioned above, but again we have some fledgling understanding of these things by rational means. Now I am no psychologist (that much should be evident!) but even I know that one's psychological state affects one's behaviour. A depressed person will react differently to various stimuli and situations than will a non-depressed person (I mean clinical depression here, not merely a bit sad because you got Malibu Barbie for Christmas instead of Ballerina Barbie). A manic depressive (oops sorry bipolar depressive) will react perhaps differently, a schizophrenic another way and so on and so forth. Again the point is not that all of love is encpmpassed by these investigations, but that an understanding of psychology can allow us to understand the phenomenon of "love" in some ways.
Sociological concerns are another mechanism. Different societies express "love" differently (incidentally they have the same biochemical/physical basis, part of the studies mentioned above was to test people from different races/cultures). There are striking similarities (more on this later). In some societies physical contact between men and women who are not married (even to the extent of hugging someone who is crying) is a massive taboo. I would think nothing of comforting a crying, dearly loved female friend by giving them a hug and my wife would have no problem with it either (she would behave the same way and also think I was doing the "right thing"). Her mother though would see it as extremely rude of me to express my love for my friend this way. The point here is that the manner of expression of an emotional state is not merely governed by one's biochemisty but also by one's social context and one's psychological state. We can investigate "love" on these bases. The behavioural aspects mentioned above can be corrected for social context and expression of love can be investigated in different societies to see if there are commonalities (and indeed there are).
We can research the literature and art of different people and societies and see if expressions of "love" in words and art have commonalities (and they do, despite their equally fascinating differences). There are a plethora of things to investigate on this basis.
Again, the point here is not that all this completely explains and encompasses "love" but that it shows in principle just another pair of methods of rationally investigating and understanding it. Now we have four broad methods, the behavioural, the biochemical/physical, the psychological and the sociological.
4) Evolutionary mechanisms. Can we understand "love" from the persepctive of evolution? Can we explain the commonalities of behaviour we observe across cultures, even across species, by an understanding of whether these things confer an adaptive benefit, or whether they are legacies of other evolved things (which evolved for a previous adaptive reason and are now defunct), or whether they are simply byproducts of other evolved things etc etc. In the case of one aspect of love "altruism", it turns out we can. Rather than go into a lengthy explanation of the whole thing here (for my intention is not to prove we have all the answers, merely that these phenomena are understandable by rational means in principle) I'll merely mention a few key elements: kin selection, the adaptive behaviour of organisms to favour those other organisms closely related to them has been demonstrated by ethologists (and anthropologists) studying animal (and human) behaviour. In addition, it's been demonstrated very clearly to be effective by the use of game theory. Game theory has also been very useful in determining successful evolutionary strategies such as "the golden rule" and reciprocation and social altruism. Apparently altruistic behaviours can be also understood in less flattering "selfish" terms, asking such questions a "who benefits" when approaching (for example) herding behaviours etc.
Again, the point here is not that all this completely explains and encompasses "love" but that it shows in principle just one method of rationally investigating and understanding it. Now we have five broad methods, the behavioural, the biochemical/physical, the psychological, the sociological. and the evolutionary.
I'll stop there, there are others!
Again Skeptic, and I am going to keep hammering this home in spite of your repeated straw men and utter avoidance of the point: no one claims that all these fields and all the work done to date have all the answers or a perfect answer. What IS being claimed is that we can rationally investigate the phenomenon of "love" (for example) and come to some understanding of it. That that understanding is at the present moment imperfect, or that some aspects of what we understand are wrong (as undoubtedly some of them are) is not an argument against what I am saying. For the umpteenth time, I am not saying we have the 100% perfect certain answer to all questions everywhere, just that we have an excellent method of investigating phenomena which not only has never let us down (i.e. failed to successfully investigate the phenomenon in question) but has yet to encounter a phenomenon it cannot be applied to the investigation of. That's a very powerful method! (And incidentally a claim so different from the straw man you make of what I am saying that you keep touting as to be laughable!).
So sorry Skeptic, but the answer to your questions:
|Does this tell us what love feels like? ?Or why a mother charges into a burning building to save her child? ?Or why a spouse will die of a "broken heart" following the death of their beloved? ?Or why people will knowingly sacrifice themselves for family, friends, country and God?|
Are actually: Yes partially up to the limits of what is in fact knowable, yes partially but actually that's quite a big part. yes partially but this is also quite a big part, and yes partially although this does get a bit vague in places, we are working on it however.
Before I move on to the next section, I'll give you two quotes from my favourite physicist:
|Science is a way to teach how something gets to be known, what is not known, to what extent things are known (for nothing is known absolutely), how to handle doubt and uncertainty, what the rules of evidence are, how to think about things so that judgements can be made, how to distinguish truth from fraud, and from show|
| You see, one thing is, I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than it is to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of certainty about different things, but I'm not absolutely sure of anything and there are many things I don't know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we're here....|
I don't have to know an answer. I don't feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without any purpose, which is the way it really is as far as I can tell. It doesn't frighten me.
R P Feynman.
Section 2: Dealing with stupid claims:
Claim 1: ""True" love, or how love "truly" feels, or what love "truly" means cannot be understood by rational methods."
Well, first and foremost this is a logical fallacy (No True Scotsman, look it up), a special case of goal post shifting. When I advance any rational understanding of love, you insert the word "true" in there to move the goalposts beyond reach. So sorry Skeptic but no dice.
Secondly, this is in fact totally untrue. The simple fact that by a variety of rational means we can explore not merely any aspect of the phenomenon "love" we choose to, but that we can (drum roll, this is important) explore the common elements of "love" expressed by different people (and even different species, but let's not complicate things yet, you're having enough trouble with reading for comprehension and forming a coherent argument) shows that there is an avenue available for the exploration of what love "feels" like and what love "means". That self same set of commonalities is a shining beacon of a clue. We can understand what love means by questioning people, by investigating expressions of love etc etc etc ad nauseum and thus we can come to some understanding of what it "feels" like to feel love or what love "means" to an individual. These might be imperfect methods (and they are, but remember there are also more refined methods that we can use, see above) but they are entirely rational and reason based modes for exploring the "feeling" and "meaning" of love.
Thirdly, as I mentioned before:
|The fact that I cannot demonstrate if it is "true" love or not is a) logially fallacious (no true scotsman) and b) irrelevant in exactly the same way that "is the colour purple you see the same as the colour purple I see" is. We can demonstrate the brain responds the same way to the same frequencies of radiation in the brains of different people, both of whom refer to that stimulus as seeing the colour purple. That is as close as it is possible to get to anything approaching certainty. Certainty is itself unreachable.|
This is a point about the limits of observation, in fact the very limits of what we can know by any means. If you and I both look at a purple object, I have no knowledge that the "purple" you see in your brain is the same "purple" I see in mine. It is forever unknowable by any means, appeals to faith or revelation cannot help you and it is beyond the ability of any mechanism of acquiring knowledge to ascertain. However, I can know that we are looking at an identical object, I can know that the frequencies of radiation absorbed and reflected by it are identical for you and for me, I can know that your sensory cells in your eyes respond identically to mine and that the areas of your brain that are stimulated are exactly the same as the areas in mine and that that stimulation takes the same form, I can know that a shared cultural and social and linguistic heritage allows us to describe the same frequency of reflected raditiation as being called "purple", I can know that our shared evolutionary heritage means that we are so close to being biologically identical that the likelihood of our identical reactions to an identical stimulus means that the experience we have is very likely to be identical. And so on and so forth. That's a HELL of a lot I DO know.
I can use this commonality to exchange information with you usefully, if I ask you to select the purple ball from the set of coloured balls I have with me, you can pick the purple one out. If I am an airport security guy monitoring the cameras and I say to you (another airport security guy) "get the guy in the purple jacket" I can rely on the commonality of our experience and knowledge to know that you will go for the right guy. Again, and so on and so forth. This is also a HELL of a lot of stuff to know.
In what meaningful sense of the word "knowledge" is the possibility that what you see as purple I might see as green despite our identical reactions is "knowledge"? Answer: it isn't. It's a linguistic trick. We can explore the commonalities of our experience to degrees of accuracy that put uncertainty into the fractions of fractions of a percent (remember 100% certainty is unacheivable). What significant doubt is there about the purple you see being identical to the purple I see? Answer: None.
The self same thing applies to more complex phenomena like love. We can define it, we can explore it, we can understand it by a variety of rational means. We can also explore the commonalities of experience expressed by different people when they say they feel "love". Is it as accurately determined as the above example with "purple"? No of course it isn't, it's first and foremost a far broader concept with a far more complex physical and social and psychological sets of phenomena underpinning it, it shouldn't be expected to be as easy to deal with as "purple", but this is a quantitative difference not a qualitative one.
Yet again, the point is that (your goalpost shifting dishonest bullshit aside) one can explore the concept, the phenomenon by the use of reason. Does this mean all the answers are in and perfect, lined up like ducks for the shooting? Nope, but then it never did.
Claim 2: "Reductionist understanding of "love"etc is hollow (I take this to indicate meaningless, emotionally unsatisfying). People who do not believe that "Love" etc exist as some form of abstract entities outside of their human context live in a pale, colourless world and miss the beauty around them and are thus deserving of pity"
My first thought was: Well fuck me! Aren't you a undeservingly patronising, sub intellectually normal cunt? Actually Skeptic, when it comes to you, that is rapidly becoming ym abiding thought, but nonetheless I shall continue to cast pearls before swine in the hope that you wake the fuck up and stop being such a contemptible, drivelling little moron. (See, we can all be nasty and abusive, and boy, I am far, FAR better at it than you so don't bother).
My second thought was: this is coming from a supposedly qualified scientist? Where did he get his education? From the back of a cereal box? He better hand those degrees he claims to have back to the diploma mill he got them from, because they ain't worth the paper they are printed on.
My third thoughts were vastly more constructive and useful!
This claim essentially boils down to the exact same claim made by the Romantic poets, the best example of which I think is probably Lamia by Keats. The important lines are:
|What wreath for Lamia? What for Lycius?|
What for the sage, old Apollonius?
Upon her aching forehead be there hung
The leaves of willow and of adder?s tongue;
And for the youth, quick, let us strip for him
The thyrsus, that his watching eyes may swim
Into forgetfulness; and, for the sage,
Let spear-grass and the spiteful thistle wage
War on his temples. Do not all charms fly
At the mere touch of cold philosophy?
There was an awful rainbow once in heaven:
We know her woof, her texture; she is given
In the dull catalogue of common things.
Philosophy will clip an Angel?s wings,
Conquer all mysteries by rule and line,
Empty the haunted air, and gnomed mine?-
Unweave a rainbow, as it erewhile made
The tender-person?d Lamia melt into a shade.
There of course is also Blake's Auguries of Innocence the key passages of which are:
|He who mocks the infant's faith|
Shall be mock'd in age and death.
He who shall teach the child to doubt
The rotting grave shall ne'er get out.
He who respects the infant's faith
Triumphs over hell and death.
The child's toys and the old man's reasons
Are the fruits of the two seasons.
The questioner, who sits so sly,
Shall never know how to reply.
He who replies to words of doubt
Doth put the light of knowledge out.
However, I prefer the start of the poem which I will come to later (as well as some of the other sentiments) and I strongly disagree that doubt is bad or harmful Sorry Blake!
The basic claim is that understanding reduces mystery and thereby beauty and passion and love and all those good things. Let's simplify it to "Understanding is anathema to appreciation of beauty" for that is not only the essence of the claim but the answer to it is easily translatable to the other aspects of it.
I have to say that this claim has always staggered me. I have always been thoroughly amazed that anyone could think this is the case, or that for example science is merely the passionless recitation of equations or facts or data.
How is the beauty of the rainbow destroyed by understanding that it is due to light being refracted by droplets of water? How is my love for my wife in any way diminished by the fact that I know it has a biochemical basis? How does understanding something reduce appreciation of its beauty at a superficial level?
The simple answer is it doesn't. The even better answer is understanding opens up greater opportunity to appreciate beauty.
I defy anyone who understands them to not appreciate the beauty of (to name a few examples): the mathematical formulation of quantum electrodynamics, the kinship of all living organisms as is clearly demonstrated by evolutionary biology, the elegance of Patrick Harran's synthesis of Diazonamide A (to name things that have been on my mind this week!). The elegance of the Kreb's cycle, the intermeshings of metabolism that give rise to maitotoxin and other polyketide natural products. All wonderfully complex and detailed bits of science, all extremely beautiful.
Take a phenomenon with which I am familiar: red tides. Red tides are (simply put) algal blooms. They turn coastal woaters a red colour (or sometimes brown etc) and can be quite striking.
Is such a phenomenon made less beautiful by the fact I know it is caused by algal blooms? Is it made less beautiful by the fact that I know that it is responsible for all manner of harmful sea food poisoning such as ciguatera? Is it made less beautiful by the fact that I know that, for example, the dinoflagellates responsible for red tides and sea food poisoning are organisms like Gambierdiscus toxicus
and Karenia brevis
Is it made less beautiful by the fact that I know that among many of the toxic agents made by these dinoflagellates are Brevetoxin A
Is it made less beautiful that I know that some of the spectroscopic data for Maitotoxin looks like this:
and that I know how to interpret it?
The answer, of course, is no. Understanding increases one's opportunity to experience beauty and wonder. The awe I feel for the natural world increases because I understand it better every day. DOes this mean I shall acheive some perfect total understanding nirvana of purest ecstasy? No. Nor do I even desire to. Like Feynman I am content to live in doubt, and to struggle to understand as best I can. I don't need to have false certainties and appeals to mystery to find things beautiful or meaningful or worthy. The joy of understanding and the beauty contained in the intricate, quite reductionist, details of nature are more than sufficient for any needs I could have.
I can, could and probably WILL go on!
"But what of love?", I hear Skeptic whine. Surely love, eros and philos, passion, expression, torment, divine, sublime, emotional, irrational love cannot be understood and kept beautiful? Two words: Bull and shit.
As I said before, what the hell does understanding the modes of expression I use for love, the biochemical mechanisms my love is based on, the social and psychological conditions that in part dictate what, who and even how I love take away from my feeling of love? How does understanding that (for example) increased serotonin levels within my brain make me feel an elated love, or that endorphins not only assuage pain and give one a euphoric feeling that is also associated with love (and incidentally quite vigourous sex!). Answer: it doesn't.
So yet again, Skeptic, you raise a straw man. That understanding cripples beauty. That by understanding love it is somehow destroyed. It doesn't and it isn't.
The first lines of Blake's poem are, incidentally:
|To see a world in a grain of sand,|
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
That (rather ironically considering Blake's later line, in my opinion) expresses precisely the sort of wonder one gets from understanding.
If you complain that the understanding we gain from rational enquiry into love fails to encapsulate its every nuance, then I am sorry but I disagree. As stated above, actually as DEMONSTRATED CONCLUSIVELY above, the meaningful aspects of love that can be encapsulated at all can be ONLY be understood by reasoned enquiry. Their explanation or "reduction" (to use your horrible, lying, vile and twisted, little term) does nothing to destroy them, in fact it makes them more beautiful.
Section 3: Dealing with stupid people:
Well Skeptic, what a nice time I've had playing with your infantile drivel. However, all this is really a moot point, we knew it all already, What we don't yet have is anything other than whiny, shrill, unsupported bullshit from you. It's all well and good for you to ask me questions, but the problem you have, sweetie, is that I can answer, do answer and have answered them. I know a total fuckwit like you will not be able to wrap your pathetic little mind around the concept, but I'll try to ram it home anyway: even if everything I have said is untrue, utterly false and completely wrong, how does it in any way constitute proof of, or evidence for, your claims?
Answer: It doesn't.
You have yet to a) answer the questions you need to answer to prove your claims, b) provide even the merest shred of evidence to support them, and c) (even better than all the rest) you haven't shown how faith and revelation can even begin to answer the questions you yourself claim are not open to reason.
If reason fails, on what basis can or do you claim, that faith and revelation are sufficient to take over the task?
Answer: None. You have no basis. Not only is your claim false, but it is also fallacious, a total non-sequitur.
By the way, I find it hilarious that you are doing exactly what I described above in the Kook Line Drawing post above, even AFTER I identified it publicly. Goal post shifting and shrill restatements of your original claims, STILL WITH NO CORROBORATION I note, do not constitute an argument, Skeptic. I wonder when you are going to make one that I didn't deal with in the first post.
So well done, no really, I'm impressed. Even I didn't expect you to be this incompetant. I'm going to be interested to see if you raise your infantile and utterly laughable straw men AGAIN without answering the questions about your claims. Which incidentally are:
|1) How does one distinguish between two faith based claims?|
2) Demonstrate that faith/revelation provide knowledge about the universe. I.e. that they are valid mechanisms of acquiring knowledge, be it physical or "spiritual" (whatever that means, we'd need a definition, and some evidence it even exists, because saying that reason cannot examine love [for example] is merely yet another reassertion of the original claim).
3) Demonstrate that reason etc cannot penetrate the areas you claim faith/revelation can, because at the moment all of your examples have been either i) mere reassertions of your original point or ii) derived solely from your personal ignorance of the topics at hand.
4) Demonstrate that questions such as "what is the meaning of life?" are valid questions, and that faith/revelation can answer them.
And remember all of that has to be accomplished WITHOUT recourse to reason, evidence observation, logic and rational thought. Otherwise you prove my point for me. Good luck. Again. Do you think you could demonstrate a modicum of intellectual honesty and, ohhhhh I don't know, actually answer the fucking questions?
Oh and P.S. Just FY(everybody's)I, I am stuck at home today waiting for a plumber to come and clear the drain of shit. The joy of living in a Victorian property I have discovered is that the drains block because the sewer access is shared by several houses. The entire place reeks of shite, and so I thought that if some poor sod was going to come and wade through shit so I can do the washing up, the least I could do whilst waiting for him was wade through the asinine bafflegab shite of the terminally confused Skeptic, and thus gain some empathetic sense of solidarity. Right, so that's two hours killed!