Bad Idea of 2009: “other ways of knowing”

My vote for the worst idea of 2009 — at least in the “faith wars” — is that science and religion provide complementary (and equally valid) “ways of knowing.”  It’s an idea that’s been bruited about by not just the faithful, but by atheist accommodationists like those running the National Center for Science Education.

This idea is terrible because a. it’s nonsensical, b. its proponents never examine it critically, because if they did they’d see that c. it’s wrong.  It’s a mantra, a buzz-phrase.  And it reared its ugly head once more when I came to the end of Francis Collins’s The Language of God:  A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.

The main point of this book is that faith and science are not inimical but mutually supportive.  And faith, says Collins, gives us truths just as valid as those gleaned from science.  Here’s a brief excerpt from his last chapter:

WHAT KIND OF FAITH?

Most of the world’s great faiths share many truths, and probably they would not have survived had that not been so. Yet there are also interesting and important differences, and each person needs to seek out his own particular path to the truth . .

Science is not the only way of knowing. The spiritual worldview provides another way of finding truth.  Scientists who deny this would be well advised to consider the limits of their own tools, as nicely represented in a parable told by the astronomer Arthur Eddington. He described a man who set about to study deep-sea fish using a net that had a mesh size of three inches.  After catching many wild and wonderful creatures from the depths, the man concluded that there are no deep-sea fish that are smaller than three inches in length! If we are using the scientific net to catch our particular version of the truth, we should not be surprised that it does not catch the evidence of spirit.

Note the sneaky transition in the first passage from the “truths” of religion and a “particular path to the truth.”

It’s not clear which “truths” are shared by many faiths — Collins might point to the Golden Rule, but of course that’s a not a truth but a moral imperative — but what Collins conveniently overlooks in his book is the simple fact that many “truths” aren’t shared by the world’s great faiths.  Jesus either was or was not the son of God.  Mohamed either was or was not a divine prophet.  Either the Hindus are right, and there are many gods, or they’re wrong, and there’s either one or none. It’s either ok to stone adulterers, or it’s not.

Collins has settled on Christianity as being true (his evidence is that the Gospels’ “style and content suggests [sic] strongly that they are intended to be the record of eyewitnesses”) but doesn’t talk about the faithful, like Jews and Muslims, who don’t accept his “truth.”

You don’t have to be a genius to see, then, that religious truth is not at all equivalent to scientific truth — people agree about the latter but not the former.   Not only do all faiths conflict on their bedrock dogma, but there’s no way to settle the dispute.  Finally, science comes with built-in methods for settling its arguments; faith does not.

I would love to ask Collins, and other religious scientists, the following question: How would you know if you were wrong about the religious truths you apprehend? That’s the question they always avoid, for trying to answer it would make them look ridiculous.  They deserve not admiration but derision.

143 Comments

  1. NewEnglandBob
    Posted December 27, 2009 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    Oh, there ARE ‘truths’ shared by the Abrahamic religions:

    – calls for genocide
    – slavery
    – misogyny
    – xenophobia
    – intolerance
    – dogmatism

  2. Posted December 27, 2009 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    People who reference “other ways of knowing” clearly don’t know the difference between knowledge and certainty.

    • BaldApe
      Posted December 28, 2009 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      Right.

      “Other ways of knowing” usually boils down to “other ways of acquiring a belief.”

      It certainly is not “other ways of finding out if a belief is reliably true.”

      • Posted December 31, 2009 at 6:35 am | Permalink

        This is so true. All that Collins (and many religious folks) do is to rationalize their beliefs. They are not really trying to find out if a belief is reliably true, only to justify them.

        Pablo
        Pablo’s Origins Blog

  3. Michelle B
    Posted December 27, 2009 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    Nicely done, Jerry. I need all the help I can get with nailing the nonsense of ‘moderates’ to the wall, being that they are such slippery, slimy eels (apologies to eels) who dominate my social milieu. You just gave me some sharp darts with which to do so.

  4. Posted December 27, 2009 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    If there is a religious way of knowing, there is some thing which (1) is actually knowledge and (2) is intrinsically religious.

    The problem with (1) is that many (most) kinds of religious “knowledge” simply aren’t. The problem with (2) is that things that do count as religious truths, in literally every case, stand on their own as truths, without reference to religion.

    Can you think of a single moral value that really does seem to be a moral value, but does not make sense unless you add religion? Empathy? Self-sacrifice? Redemption? I grant that they all may be virtues, but they can be understood without reference to any religion.

    You might want to emphasize all the moral truisms and discoveries and social structures that arose in what might be called a “religious context.” But the BMW came about in a “german context,” in there is nothing inherently german in the feats of engineering required to build a BMW. That same BMW can be built by anyone, regardless of whether they are German.

    Same with every religious truth. It’s not some “other way” of knowing, but it is an arrogant claim of providing one. It just happens to be founded on a failure of understanding about how to ground such things as moral values in non-religious terms.

  5. Posted December 27, 2009 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    Uggg… I loathe how “ways of knowing” has been contorted in the “faith wars”.

    There are things for which science is the best way of knowing (i.e. material facts.) While faith is crap utterly at it.

    There are others where science isn’t so crash hot – science can’t give you knowledge of what is or isn’t wrong, it can only inform your values. Ethics is the best way of knowing values, but ethics doesn’t need faith.

    And then there’s the more existential stuff.

    If I wanted to know the experience of pleasure, I’d rather be making love to a beautiful woman than entering copulative stats into SPSS!

    The only area where faith can still make some kind of claim to being an equal “way of knowing” is in the existential/experiential department – maybe an imaginary friend gets their rocks off as much as sex does for the rest of us.

    Even then, I suspect it’s debatable – there seems to be a lot of suffering in Hell Houses.

  6. ennui
    Posted December 27, 2009 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    Try asking a believer how these “other ways” recognize and attempt to correct for human error and biases. Any serious search for knowledge should include these things, no?

    • Screechy Monkey
      Posted December 27, 2009 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

      To the believers and faitheists, the lack of falsifiability and error-correction are not bugs, they are features.

  7. Diego
    Posted December 27, 2009 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    At least when Gould tossed the idea around he gave it a better name. But “NOMA” matter how you dress up a bad idea, it’s still a lame duck and not an eagle.

    P.S. I am employing an old expression here and there is no deliberate slight to anatids. 😉

  8. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted December 27, 2009 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    Science is not the only way of knowing. The spiritual worldview provides another way of finding truth….

    This leads directly into a false dichotomy. Suppose we agree that science is not the only way of “knowing.” Are we to suppose then that religion offers other ways of knowing which are effective?

    It’s not that the “ways of knowing” offered by religions (holy books, miracles, direct internal experience of the divine) are not known to be effective; it’s even worse. These methods are known NOT to be effective. At least adherents of one religion are able to recognize that these methods fail in other religions.

    (his evidence is that the Gospels’ “style and content suggests [sic] strongly that they are intended to be the record of eyewitnesses”)

    Biblical scholarship FAIL. The gospels are certainly not eyewitness accounts. The four canonical gospels are anonymous; attribution to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John appear nowhere in the text, and are instead attributed to early church tradition. None of the gospels is written in the first person. Later gospels borrow from the earlier ones, or from a common source, sometimes verbatim. The gospels report things which no eyewitness could have seen or heard (such as Jesus negotiating with his Father after the Last Supper, when all the apostles were supposedly asleep).

    • Posted December 27, 2009 at 9:40 am | Permalink

      Yeah, Collins’ repeated assertion that the gospels are “eyewitness” accounts always amazes me. Why doesn’t he bother to learn anything about his own religion and its core documents?

      • Badger3k
        Posted December 27, 2009 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

        Simple – he has faith. With that, who needs actual scholarship, or even just reading the bible itself.

  9. Insightful Ape
    Posted December 27, 2009 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    There is no contradiction between science and belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The Flying Spaghetti Monster can coexist with science. Science and belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster are two ways to discover the truth. Scientists who deny this would be well advised to consider the limitations of their own tools.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted December 27, 2009 at 10:51 am | Permalink

      That is just a pot of tomato sauce 🙂

      • AdamK
        Posted December 27, 2009 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

        It’s another way of being spicy.

  10. Stephen P
    Posted December 27, 2009 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    My impression is that many/most of the people who talk about “other ways of knowing” muddle up two completely different things:
    1) ways of transferring knowledge from one person to another;
    2) ways of learning something that no person knew before.

    For (1) analogies and metaphors are useful tools, and maybe religious metaphors can play a part, if that’s what floats your boat. But of course when we talk about advancing scientific knowledge, we are talking about (2), where religion has never been shown to teach us anything at all.

    And then of course there are “other ways of knowing” people who also don’t seem to be able to distinguish:
    3) fantasy.

  11. Occam
    Posted December 27, 2009 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    Isn’t it nice that shoddy science, and shoddy thinking generally, is almost invariably accompanied by shoddy scholarship?

    To begin with, in Eddington’s original parable (The Philosophy of Physical Science, 1938), the mesh size is two inches, not three. Does this minute detail matter?
    Yes, because it implies that Collins is either quoting from memory, or from a second-hand source. Maybe he has not even read Eddington’s paper; and if he has, he certainly has not understood it.

    Back to Eddington’s original. The ichthyologist postulates:
    (1) No sea-creature is less than two inches long.
    (2) All sea-creatures have gills.
    These are both true of his catch, and he assumes tentatively that they will remain true however often he repeats it.
    In applying this analogy, the catch stands for the body of knowledge which constitutes physical science, and the net for the sensory and intellectual equipment which we use in obtaining it. The casting of the net corresponds to observation; for knowledge which has not been or could not be obtained by observation is not admitted into physical science.

    Eddington describes two onlookers, one who speculates about fishes uncatched, the other one who ponders the structure of the net and considers the catching as a process:
    The first onlooker is a metaphysician who despises physics on account of its limitations; the second onlooker is an epistemologist who can help physics because of its limitations. It is just because of the limited — some might say, the perverted aim — aim of physics that such help is possible. The traditional method of systematic examination of the data furnished by observation is not the only way of reaching the generalizations valued in physical science. Some at least of these generalizations can also be found by examining the sensory and intellectual equipment used in observation. Epistemology thus presents physics with a new method of achieving its aims.

    [The epistemologist] watches them to see what they really observe, which is often quite different from what they say they observe. He examines their procedure and the essential limitations of the equipment they bring to their task, and by so doing becomes aware beforehand of limitations to which the results they obtain will have to conform. They, on the other hand, only discover these limitations when they come to examine their results, and, unaware of their subjective origin, hail them as laws of nature. . . . The astronomer observes stars; the epistemologist observes observers. Both are seeking knowledge which rests on observation.

    So Eddington’s parable is really about the epistemology of science, not about some fuzzy mystical “truth”. Collins misses the point miserably. Zero on science, zero on observation, zero on cogent thinking.

    The entire Collins paragraph quoted above should serve as a freshman exercise in debunking wobbly logic and “fawlty” (sensu John Cleese) semantics.

    • Yakaru
      Posted December 27, 2009 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      Nicely put, Occam.

      It could be added, that using Collins’ version of the parable, he is standing at the side and saying “I know there are smaller fish down there because I have another way of knowing. I don’t know how it works or why I have it and you don’t, but I know I’m right and you’re not allowed to ask me any tricky questions.”

  12. Yakaru
    Posted December 27, 2009 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    That argument really is shockingly stupid. And I also think it’s a bit pointless. Why don’t Collins et al just say “Look, subjectively, it seems to me like God exists, but of course I don’t expect it to square up with science. I won’t even waste my time trying to justify it. It’s just what I believe.”

    I came across this example in a lecture by Eugenie Scott. It shows really clearly where they go off on a tangent.

    At about 37.00 mins, she uses the analogy of her goldfish, who has learned that Eugenie, not her husband feeds it, and only swims up when Eugenie approaches. It’s capable of that level of understanding, but, she says, it wouldn’t be capable of understanding what happened if an earth tremor shook the water in the tank.

    “No matter how well it could be explained, it wouldn’t have the neurons to understand something like an earth quake.” She says maybe we “simply don’t have the neurons” to understand some things about the universe.

    Ok, no great problems so far. But then she takes it further, saying:

    “…and maybe some of those things have been explained through mystical explanations or religious explanations…”

    Sure, maybe, but as Jerry points out above, how the heck would we know if they had done?

    She also fails to give an example of something we experience that is analogous to the earth tremor. Instead she just trails off saying “….Just something to think about.” (Ok, I’ve thought about it, and it’s wrong.)

  13. Posted December 27, 2009 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Great choice for topp bad idea; it’s one I loathe with an unappeasable loathing.

    Part of the popularity of the phrase may be due to the popularity of the book Women’s Ways of Knowing – which of course (prepare to be astonished) are more about connection than competition, more intuitive than blah blah blah.

    It’s all bullshit, all of it I tell you.

    • Posted December 27, 2009 at 11:48 am | Permalink

      But … but … you’re a woman!

    • Posted December 27, 2009 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      What?!!! There’s not a different epistemology that only works for women?

      Now I don’t feel so bad about my dense Y chromosome.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted December 27, 2009 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

        Actually, your Y chromosome is sparse, not dense, kind of withered.

  14. Rich
    Posted December 27, 2009 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    Thank you.

  15. Tyro
    Posted December 27, 2009 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    I’m prepared to consider the idea that there are other ways of knowing, but what Collins and others have presented is other ways of formulating hypotheses. But they really aren’t other ways at all – scientists do use intuition, instinct or for all we know, dream analysis and mescaline. For us to develop a new way of knowing, we have to have some way of separating the few good ideas from the chaff. Ways of knowing are methodologies which help us separate falsehoods from potential truths.

    As Jerry shows, they haven’t a clue how to do this. Their methodology seems to be to pick any old idea that they like, declare it to be truth and then whinge when others disagree. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen any fatheist or theist try to articulate a way of knowing that’s any different, despite reading thousands of wasted words on the subject. What they’ve got is wishful thinking which isn’t new and it may be many things but a way of knowing it ain’t.

  16. Posted December 27, 2009 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    Jerry: “They deserve not admiration but derision.”

    Agreed about admiration, not sure about derision. According to science, Francis Collins, Eugenie Scott, and other theists and accomodationists are fully a function of their genetic and environmental circumstances. They didn’t freely choose to be misguided about other ways of knowing out of some perverse self-caused desire to be that way (Jerry rightly denies free will in a radio interview with Samantha Clemens). Nor are they capable of instantly changing their beliefs in response to even very good arguments about epistemology, given that they (like most folks) are in the tight grip of worldviews and assumptions accreted over a lifetime. Still, they might *eventually* change their minds as a result of good arguments, presented in ways that keep them engaged, not humiliated. Perhaps derision works as a persuasive tactic for some folks, but overall I tend to think it’s counterproductive, a question explored here in the context of the accomodationism debate.

    • Posted December 27, 2009 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      Tom, well, yes and no. By which I mean either could be true and it’s hard to be sure which is true in any particular situation. Not wanting to be laughed at is a powerful motivation for abandoning (or hiding) some far-fetched ideas. Few adults admit to believing Santa Claus is real.

      • articulett
        Posted December 27, 2009 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

        I agree. At least it encourages people to be as private in their beliefs as they’d want those with conflicting beliefs to be.

        Inherent in all religions is the the “mockery” of those with conflicting myths. I think it’s good for the faithful to examine their own supernatural beliefs with outsider’s eyes.

        I feel the same way towards most religions that most religions feel toward Scientology–and for good reason. If more people were aware of that, they might not act for deference and privileges they wouldn’t want to extend to other faiths.

      • articulett
        Posted December 27, 2009 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

        (“ask” not act)

    • Posted December 28, 2009 at 4:24 am | Permalink

      Isn’t this just treating theists as if they were mentally deficient?

      I think theists are, on average, as intelligent as anyone else, and they are capable of changing their minds. I was, and I was more God-brainwashed than most.

  17. articulett
    Posted December 27, 2009 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    I think “other ways of knowing” supposed “higher truths” is the biggest harm caused religion–even the moderates spread the delusion and they imagine themselves humble as they do so. This makes people vulnerable to all kinds of woo that “feels” true, and most people are infected with this meme by adults they trust when they are young children.

    If one believes that invisible entities communicate with mortals, then that person is guilty of whatever messages others presume they are getting and any harms that follow. There is no way to tell “other ways of knowing” from delusions about “other ways of knowing”.

  18. articulett
    Posted December 27, 2009 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Similar to Jerry’s question, I’d like to ask religious people: Would you want to know if your religion was wrong?

    Would they want to know if there was no god? Could they handle it? Or would they prefer to stay delusional?

    Would they want to know if there religion was as unsubstantiated as Scientology? If so, how would they come to know this?

  19. Posted December 27, 2009 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    I have a theist (Catholic Christian) friend who uses the “other ways of knowing” approach to justify her religious views against the accusation that they are irrational. Her defence is as follows:
    1) She knows for a fact that she loves her husband (and children).
    2) Her knowledge of this fact is not and cannot be supported by any rational argument
    3) The lack of rational explanation does not invalidate her love for her husband and children – therefore proving that there is an “other way of knowing”
    4) Her love for and faith in God are similarly explained by the “other ways of knowing” – ie if I cannot logically explain why she loves her husband, there is therefore no need for her to logically justify why she believes in God.

    • Posted December 27, 2009 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

      However, feelings for other people have perfectly rational explanations, even if the feelings themselves are not created by reason.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted December 27, 2009 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

      She controls number 1.

      If she loves her family in an irrational way then she is mentally unstable.
      #2 is not valid. There can be many reasons for those feelings, include genetics or they deserve it for many possible reasons.

      #3 does not follow from the other two. If it is irrational then she needs help.

      #4 can also be genetics or mental instability or brain washing/indoctrination during youth.

      Summation: failed arguments due to faulty logic.

    • articulett
      Posted December 27, 2009 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

      I think I used to do a similar thing when I wanted desperately to believe in souls. It’s a way of tricking the mind so that you conclude that one unprovable thing is as likely as another. e.g. (We can’t prove or disprove the existence of god and we can’t prove or disprove her love of her husband; therefore (in her mind), both propositions are equally likely or both propositions have a 50-50 liklihood of being true.

      We humans are quite good at rationalization the beliefs we want to be true.

    • Posted December 27, 2009 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

      4 doesn’t work because the two things are not comparable. Knowledge of one’s own subjective state is not the same kind of thing as knowledge of an external entity that is undetectable by normal means. What would be comparable is if she believed her husband existed even though she’d never met him, seen him, talked to him, emailed him, had any kind of contact with him at all, and neither had anyone else.

      • piero
        Posted December 27, 2009 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

        Very good point.
        A more apt analogy would be: “I know my husband and my children exist because I can feel they do”.

      • Posted December 27, 2009 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

        NEB: many people consider that love and reason are orthogonal – ie it does not make sense to talk about a “rational” explanation for love. I would say that the arguments fail not so much due to faulty logic, but due to faulty premises. I think articulett’s point about tricking the mind is a likely contributor as well.

        Ophelia: I agree with your point about #4, but my friend takes a Platonic approach whereby she considers her love for her husband and children to be an echo of and evidence for the true archetypical love to/from god.

  20. Grendels Dad
    Posted December 27, 2009 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    It seems to me that the idea of ‘different ways of knowing’ has at least one more longstanding proponent: the arts.

    Has anyone else read the post titled “After Proud Knowledge” on Russell Blackford’s blog? It deals with poetry as a means to gain insights and ‘deep knowledge’ of the self.

    I have felt the occasional passionate connection to a work of art that I imagine is what the faithful feel when they are talking about knowing something ‘in their heart’.

    I wonder what type of responses you would get by replacing the question in this post with” How would you know if you were wrong about the artistic truths you apprehend?”

    • Posted December 27, 2009 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

      I’ve pondered this question a lot. I’m intensely enthusiastic about certain works of literature; in particular I once spent several months exploring Hamlet and then the rest of Shakespeare, and I thought at the time that I was getting something terrifically valuable out of it, though I couldn’t pin the something down without seeming to diminish it. Eventually I decided that that was mostly an illusion. I think it was sort of a good illusion, oddly enough, and I don’t in the least regret spending the time – but I think I was mostly imagining the something valuable. (I don’t think it made me a better person, or a wiser one, or a more empathetic one. It probably did sharpen my literary awareness in some way, but I don’t think that’s all that earth-shaking.)

      So yes. I can compare faith to that and get a sense of what’s going on.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted December 27, 2009 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

      I have felt the occasional passionate connection to a work of art that I imagine is what the faithful feel when they are talking about knowing something ‘in their heart’.

      As you say in your sentence, this is all emotions or internal mind actions. None of this is knowledge. That doesn’t make it worthless, it is just not part of the subject of knowledge.

      • Posted December 28, 2009 at 12:49 am | Permalink

        NewEnglandBob, I think a large part of that does count as knowledge. There is after all a human capacity for experiencing wonder and joy, and certain arts will expose you to that, so you really do come to know your own ability to experience such feelings. I don’t think it’s some other dimension of truth that can’t in principle be accounted for via science.

        So there is knowledge there, I think, it’s just not some sort of “other” knowledge.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted December 28, 2009 at 6:42 am | Permalink

        I reiterate that these are emotions and instincts. There is knowledge in recognizing and understanding and manipulating them but they do not comprise knowledge by themselves. The creative process in the arts and music is wonderful and I wish I had more (genetic) talent but the lack of it does not make me ‘un-knowledgeable’.

      • Grendels Dad
        Posted December 28, 2009 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

        NEBob, I’m not so sure that the distinction you are making is so clear cut. Surely there are different kinds of knowledge, aren’t there? I mean, procedural knowledge of how to change a tire is different than experiential knowledge of what it is like to change a tire. So from your example you would be ‘un-knowledgeable’ about what it is like to create music, or what it feels like to perform an original composition in front of an audience for the first time.

        I agree with Josef Johann that we are not talking about some sort of knowledge that is outside of, or inaccessible to scientific investigation. I would even go so far as to say that if we wanted to verify any of the ‘truths’ apprehended in these ways, then the scientific method would be our most reliable way to weed out the nonsense from the insights.

        But, if we take the content of some knowledge to be about emotions, and we came to possess the knowledge through the sort of artistic, emotional epiphany mentioned above, then maybe we are being too quick to fault the ‘different ways of knowing’.

        For me the Bad Idea isn’t that there are other ways of knowing, but the implied assumption that these other ways yield knowledge that is just as likely to be true as knowledge gained by the more rigorous scientific method. That was why I especially liked the question posed in the original post – how would you know if the knowledge you have is wrong? This really points out the flaws in the other ways while still acknowledging their existence.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted December 28, 2009 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

        No, Grendel’s Dad, your are contorting and confusing things.

        There is knowledge. There are emotions. There are genetic traits.

        There are no ‘truths’ that come from emotions and there are no ‘truths’ that come from genetic traits.

        You just misuse language when you talk about “knowledge through the sort of artistic, emotional epiphany”. That is just double talk. It is equivalent to new-age speak or spirituality – none of it has meaning.

        Knowledge is gained through observation and through experimentation. One can practice art or music or engineering to gain knowledge. One can not gain knowledge through emotion or purely by having talent. Don’t confuse doing (experimentation, observation) with being (emotion, talent). Creating music is experimentation but having musical talent is not and it is not knowledge.

      • Grendels Dad
        Posted December 28, 2009 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

        Would you allow a more pedagogical approach, along with observation and experimentation, as a means to acquire knowledge? If so, that along with two of your previous points might clear up my confusion.

        There is knowledge.
        There are emotions.

        Is there knowledge about emotions? What the subjective state of an emotion is ‘like’?

        If there is such a thing as knowledge about emotions, and knowledge can be learned, can an emotional style of learning be employed to acquire knowledge?

        In more concrete terms: That we are all mortal is a truth that comes from genes. There are a range of reactions to the idea that we are mortal and will one day cease to exist. Conveying some aspect of this experience is a major theme in both art and religion. Can I gain any knowledge, not about death itself, but about how a particular artist conceives of their own mortality, by listening to their performance?

        I’ll grant you that I am likely to misinterpret their ideas. I often think that Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda had a better grip on philosophy than I do. And I’ll reiterate that I think the epistemology of the scientific method is clearly the most reliable way to acquire beliefs that are most likely true.

        I guess it comes down to a reluctance on my part to give up the idea of art as a way to connect with the artist.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted December 28, 2009 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

        Once again, you are confusing doing and being, Grendels Dad?

        …can an emotional style of learning be employed to acquire knowledge?

        By just emoting? No.

        That we are all mortal is a truth that comes from genes.

        No, it comes from scientists studying, experimenting and observing. Genes are A, C G, T; long polymer made from repeating units called nucleotides.

        Can I gain any knowledge, not about death itself, but about how a particular artist conceives of their own mortality, by listening to their performance?

        Listening – this is observing, then comparing to other experiences. No, you can not learn how the artist conceives of their own mortality by listening to music. You also can not tell if the artist is male or female, alive or dead, or where the artist lived.

        Enjoy the art for what it is. There is no need to give it up. If you want to learn about the artist then look him/her up, read about the artist. Learn about the period of time, what influences, etc.

      • Posted December 31, 2009 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

        I don’t know if you are still checking on this thread, Bob, but if you are…

        A first person experience that consisting in feeling or imagining, etc. need not be knowledge of the external world in order to be knowledge. I think you are conflating these things.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted December 31, 2009 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

        josef johann, I do not agree that it is knowledge. Saying that imagination is knowledge is equivalent to saying fiction is non-fiction. I am not the one conflating things.

      • Posted December 31, 2009 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

        NewEnglandBob,

        now it is clear that you are definitely conflating these things. There is a fact of the matter about whether or not you had a first person experience. The content of a first person experience (colors, emotions, etc.), are true and you can have knowledge of them without committing to any sort of knowledge claim about the external world. If I experience pain, there is a fact of the matter that I experienced pain. If I see red, there is a fact of the matter that I see red.

        Maybe the fiction/non-fiction thing should make it clear. Suppose I’m holding a Sherlock Holmes book in my hand. The book is a work of fiction. Does that mean I’m not really holding a book?

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted December 31, 2009 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

        Maybe the fiction/non-fiction thing should make it clear. Suppose I’m holding a Sherlock Holmes book in my hand. The book is a work of fiction. Does that mean I’m not really holding a book?

        You are so confused. Fiction is not knowledge. Do you go to Alice from Wonderland to get advice? Is Sherlock Holmes your invisible pal?

      • Posted December 31, 2009 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

        You are so confused. Fiction is not knowledge. Do you go to Alice from Wonderland to get advice? Is Sherlock Holmes your invisible pal?

        You missed the point.

        A book telling a fictional story is still really a book. A dream telling a fictional story is still really a dream. The content of each need not correspond to the real world in order to exist as fiction. And I can still make true or false claims about what that fiction describes. These claims, when true, are knowledge.

        You can have knowledge about the events in Lord of the Rings story without the story itself being true. If I say ‘Frodo from the Lord of the Rings was a hobbit’ that is either true or false. Frodo doesn’t need to exist in the external world for the claim to be true or false. The story, Lord of the Rings, as a book, as a work of fiction, needs to exist and it does.

    • articulett
      Posted December 28, 2009 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

      Believers often imagine that atheists lack feeling, because they’ve told themselves their transcendent feelings (love, awe, poignancy, etc.) come from god, so they presume the atheist doesn’t have those feelings.

      I think they are conflating feelings for “artistic truths” or “higher knowledge”. The real confusion is between knowledge of objective facts (the sun is another star among trillions) and subjective feelings (understanding the ramifications of this moves me).

      • Posted December 28, 2009 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

        Most believers would take the approach that if transcendent feelings don’t have a supernatural source, they are “just chemicals”. For atheists, this is just a matter of fact. But for a believer, this would completely invalidate the feeling.

      • articulett
        Posted December 30, 2009 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

        Yes, they want “magic” or “mystery” to be part of the answer. It makes them feel special and “in on” divine truths.

        I think it’s fascinating to watch the verbal hoops people jump through to maintain this belief.

  21. Emily
    Posted December 27, 2009 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    Collins says, “If we are using the scientific net to catch our particular version of the truth, we should not be surprised that it does not catch the evidence of spirit.”

    But what constitutes evidence of spirit?

    • articulett
      Posted December 28, 2009 at 2:15 am | Permalink

      And what DOES one use to capture this “evidence”?

      Spirit is, apparently, the invisible, undetectable entity that Francis Collins has somehow miraculously detected.(Apparently it sent him a sign in the form of a 3-pronged frozen waterfall.)

      I don’t think science has a method of distinguishing FC’s “evidence” from plain ol’ wishful thinking. I’m not surprised that science doesn’t “catch” “evidence of the spirit”; however, I am surprised that Francis Collins believes that HE has.

      • MadScientist
        Posted December 28, 2009 at 4:05 am | Permalink

        I thought it sent Collins a sign by having his daughter raped. Maybe the rapist was Jake the Peg? That’s some asshole of a god which Collins worships.

      • articulett
        Posted December 28, 2009 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

        No, silly, the rape of his daughter was meant to TEST him.

        Yes, indeedy-do, it’s ALL about Francis Collins.

  22. MadScientist
    Posted December 28, 2009 at 4:03 am | Permalink

    I believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and if anyone tells me He doesn’t exist, I will wear a pirate costume and taunt them. The great FSM forbids instigating violence. I know the FSM exists because I see noodles in many forms all over the world; that’s a lot more real proof than what Collins has for his jesus zombie – and when have you ever known a platter of pasta to talk to you and tell you that you must declare war on Iraq? See – unlike the christian god, the FSM is genuinely benevolent.

  23. John H.
    Posted December 29, 2009 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    I found a lot wrong with Collins’s book, not the least of which was his conclusion. Our “spiritual” sides only give us insight into humanity, not some magical sky father. He used the existence of religion and widespread belief in god as evidence of something ‘other’–something not of human making or insightful into the human condition. Of course he’s wrong. The things we (tend to) believe and the ways we go about believing them only reveal aspects of our own evolution and development, and say nothing at all about ‘god.’ Well, unless you already accept his initial hypothesis: that god exists.

    • BaldApe
      Posted December 29, 2009 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

      Exactly. Theological answers only answer theological questions, which only exist at all if God exists. (Or perhaps “only have meaning” is a better way to say it.)

  24. chunkdz
    Posted December 29, 2009 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Prof. Coyne: “I would love to ask Collins, and other religious scientists, the following question: How would you know if you were wrong about the religious truths you apprehend? That’s the question they always avoid, for trying to answer it would make them look ridiculous. They deserve not admiration but derision.”

    My answer would be to look for areas where theology and science intersect. Systematic theology and oneirology provide a starting point of where to look for such phenomenon.

    I documented one example here.

    http://telicthoughts.com/the-stuff-of-dreams-predictionsfrom-the-other-side/

    • Posted December 30, 2009 at 10:02 am | Permalink

      To save anyone else the bother of clicking the link, chunkdz merely relates an anecdote about a woman who dreamed that God told her she had cancer, and then she did have cancer.

      Because a sample size of one proves that Jesus died for our sins.

      • chunkdz
        Posted December 30, 2009 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

        Hi James Sweet,

        You’ve missed the point of the article. Had Donna listened to Richard Dawkins she would likely have died. By listening to sytematic theology her life was saved. Ergo, theology had something useful to say where science was mute.

        That’s all. Not a proof of God, just an example of theology stepping in where science is impotent.

      • articulett
        Posted December 30, 2009 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

        What do you suppose Dawkins would have said, and why do you think she’d have died?

        I have an opposite anecdote where my late husband died at the age of 28 because he decided to treat what turned out to be metastatic colon cancer with “positive thinking”, natural remedies, and chiropractic manipulations. It was too late by the time we understood what his symptoms really were.

        What about all those parents who pray instead of getting medical treatment for their kids resulting in their kid’s death.

        Your anecdote is naive, self-serving, and useless. There is no knowledge or objective truth that cannot be had by secular (more honest) means, and there IS much harm that can come from such thinking.

        If thinking dreams were messages from invisible entities saved a life, it would merely be a coincidence and not an excuse for promoting a lie which we KNOW has cost lives. I don’t think it’s wise to promote the idea that voices in ones head are messages from beyond.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted December 30, 2009 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      A. That story had nothing to do with theology.

      Therefore it does not even come close to answering the question.

      B. How do you know that there was not something subtly physical that caused the dreams? I know when something is bothering me, either physically or mentally, I dream about it at night.

  25. Posted December 30, 2009 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    The analogy about the fishing net is actually quite apt. Except that religion is not a finer net; it is no net at all. It’s just praying that fish will jump into your boat. After doing this for thirty years, the theologian concluded there were no fish in the ocean at all, because not a single one had been inspired by Jeebus to jump into his boat.

    Science has limitations, of course, but that fact does not somehow imply that religion address those limitations. In fact, it is quite plain that religion doesn’t address any of those limitations. So the net analogy is quite apt; it’s just that religion is most definitely not a finer net.

    • articulett
      Posted December 30, 2009 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

      Agreed. Religion is a net made out of material identical to the proverbial emperor’s new clothes.

  26. chunkdz
    Posted December 30, 2009 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    Articulette wrote:

    “What do you suppose Dawkins would have said, and why do you think she’d have died?”

    Dawkins said basically that theology has nothing to say that is of any use. Had Donna taken Dawkins’ advice she would likely have died.

    My condolences on the death of your husband. I’ve heard many, many stories similar to this since posting Donna’s story and I don’t pretend to know why good people die. I just know that listening to the lessons of systematic theology saved my friends life, whereas listening to Richard Dawkins would likely have been fatal.

    Why doesn’t everyone have divine revelation from dreams? Donna doesn’t know either. That’s why she does not boast about what happened to her. She simply acknowledges the gift and tries to live life accordingly, with humility and gratefulness.

    • Posted December 30, 2009 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

      Donna’s story is evidence of a god who decides one day to warn one person of her risk of death, and she is lucky (or should I say blessed) enough to have money and access to medical care so that she could be quickly treated and cured. I suppose it was nice of him to do that. But what kind of capricious or sadistic deity is he such that articulett’s husband, and millions of other people are allowed to die when he could have helped them out too? That theology doesn’t point to a god that I want to worship (but mere mortals have no right to question gods, do we).

    • articulett
      Posted December 30, 2009 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

      It’s not humble–it’s stupid and arrogant to imagine that the invisible creator of the universe is dicking around with your dreams to give you special warnings. Where was this god when the little girl was kidnapped and killed on Christmas? Do believers ever think how their ramblings will affect other believers??

      And ALL people die– good and bad and in-between. Reality doesn’t care what you believe.

      By the way, it’s obnoxious for you to imagine what Dawkins would have said and bizarre they way you completely miss the fact that people get hints all the time about their physical state in dreams or notions or inklings and so forth. That’s not magic, you dolt. Nor is it god. Your body is connected to your brain where your thoughts, feelings, and dreams are generated. Duh. I doubt anyone would tell somebody to ignore such signals– but that doesn’t mean we believe they come from your invisible savior!

      Your credulity when it comes to believing what you want to be true is inane. And you have not made a case for “other ways of knowing” which is supposedly your argument. Moreover, you’ve assumed Dawkins response AND his supposed advice in order to play out your little mental head game. Plus you’ve insulted multiple people here while imagining that you are being humble!

      That’s not humble or real or rational or another way of knowing. It’s the same kind of babble Tom Cruise uses to prove to himself that Scientology is true. It’s called “confirmation bias”. It’s exactly what those who believe in conflicting magical stories do to support whatever they feel saved or special for “believing in”.

      You don’t seem able to even tell an opinion (or belief) from an objective fact. I hardly find your words to be “evidence” of a god or “other way of knowing” though I can see clearly in your delusional world it is. I think you are way out of your league here and should read more and talk less if you actually want to learn something. It doesn’t appear that anyone here thinks you have something to teach.

  27. chunkdz
    Posted December 30, 2009 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    New England Bob said:
    “That story had nothing to do with theology.

    Therefore it does not even come close to answering the question.”

    Systematic theology informs us that God does speak to humans through dreams and offers many examples of this phenomenon.

    “How do you know that there was not something subtly physical that caused the dreams? I know when something is bothering me, either physically or mentally, I dream about it at night.”

    As I mentioned in the story, the cancer was stage 0, she was asymptomatic, and had no prior history and no family history of cancer.

    The point being that nothing was bothering her at the time.

    Maybe you are right and there is some unknown physical mechanism wherein undetected stage zero cancer gets translated into dream warnings, but science has nothing to say about such a mechanism as of December 2009 AFAIK.

    Theology still would have been the only thing that would have helped Donna overcome her skepticism, and thus save her life.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted December 30, 2009 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

      Systematic theology informs us that God does speak to humans through dreams and offers many examples of this phenomenon.

      No, not one real example comes from the words of the charlatans of theology. It is all made up. But your example is STILL not theology. She had a dream. You can pretend it was god all you want, but that doesn’t mean anything.

      I could claim that I had a dream last night that I would win the Nobel peace prize in 2017. Did god make that happen? How can anyone believe in such childish foolery.

      • chunkdz
        Posted December 30, 2009 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

        New England Bob said: “No, not one real example comes from the words of the charlatans of theology. It is all made up.”

        You must know that this is just your opinion. At any rate, I have no reason to doubt Donna, and theology still teaches that divine revelation comes from dreams.

        New England Bob said: “But your example is STILL not theology. She had a dream. You can pretend it was god all you want, but that doesn’t mean anything.”

        Inasmuch as theology teaches that God reveals information through dreams, this was helpful to Donna. Do you suppose that Richard Dawkins would have told my friend to heed the warnings of God in her dream? If he did it would be as an article of faith, not science.

        New England Bob said: “I could claim that I had a dream last night that I would win the Nobel peace prize in 2017. Did god make that happen? How can anyone believe in such childish foolery.”

        Well, the evidence exists in the form of a mammogram which revealed that the warning dreams were indeed accurate. Now if you are saying that you don’t believe my friend, then we will have to disagree since my wife and I know her extremely well and you do not.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted December 30, 2009 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

        No, chunkdz, you have not given even one shred of evidence of any god. All you have is coincidence.

        It is irrelevant what theology teaches since it is all fakery.

        Your ‘parable’ of Donna reminds me of a news report of someone in the Tsunami of 2004 who said that god saved him and it was a miracle. It didn’t matter to him that his god took hundreds of thousands of other lives. He didn’t blame that on his god. Such thinking is delusional and sickening.

        Well, the evidence exists in the form of a mammogram which revealed that the warning dreams were indeed accurate. Now if you are saying that you don’t believe my friend, then we will have to disagree since my wife and I know her extremely well and you do not.

        What I do note here is that you show no evidence of any god doing anything here. Your words here are completely devoid of any relevance to the supernatural in reference to what you claim.

        Inasmuch as theology teaches that God reveals information through dreams…

        Nazism taught that Aryans were superior. This is wrong just as your statement.

        You have not shown how anything is revealed by any supernatural being.

    • articulett
      Posted December 30, 2009 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

      Just because science doesn’t have an answer to your mystery, doesn’t mean that your guru does!

      Unidentified Flying Objects are not likely to be space alien craft just because no one has identified them!

      Do you realize your religious training has made you a bit daft.

    • articulett
      Posted December 30, 2009 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

      This anecdote is no more evidence of god than Tom Cruise’s career success is evidence that Scientology is true, Chunkdz.

      Mormons have the “burning in the bosom” that “proves” their faith is true (to them)…. Pentecostals speak in tongues… psychics tell people things they had “no way of knowing”… etc. Surely you understand why this is not “proof” to anyone with an actual interest in the truth. It’s on par with blaming odd behavior on demon possession.

      I fail to understand why you think your anecdote is better “proof” for “other ways of knowing” than my examples above.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted December 31, 2009 at 7:23 am | Permalink

        I used to have a “burning in the bosom” but my doctor prescribed Omeprazole (generic Prilosec) and it went away. It was miraculous! (oh, wait, no – it was science).

  28. articulett
    Posted December 30, 2009 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    We don’t have to know your friend to know that her dream wasn’t likely to be a message from god in the same way you don’t have to know a rain dancer to conclude that a dance is unlikely to affect weather patterns–nor virgin sacrifices.

    We can understand why a lottery winner would imagine that it was something they said or did that “caused” them to win while at the same time understanding that it’s unlikely that their reasoning is valid. They are mistaking correlation with causation because we humans evolved to make such connections. ()

    The lottery winner can claim it was their faith in god, wishing on a star, or carrying a rabbits foot that “caused” them to win– and really believe it, but the fact that YOU believe such a thing is hardly a point in favor of “other ways of knowing”.

    Surely you can see that. The various ways that people might end up getting a clue that their body is breaking down is NOT evidence for any magic invisible man– nor is it evidence that faith leads to actual knowledge.

    There are many equally probable supernatural explanations for whatever it is that happened to your friend, but a natural explanation is far more likely to be the truth than ANY supernatural explanation since no supernatural explanation has ever been validated!

    (I cannot believe how primitive and childishly religion encourages people to think. Why didn’t god keep her from getting cancer in the first place??)

  29. chunkdz
    Posted December 31, 2009 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    New England Bob wrote: “No, chunkdz, you have not given even one shred of evidence of any god. All you have is coincidence.”
    Interesting hypothesis, Bob. Is your conclusion of “coincidence” based upon any statistical data? Have you dug up some oneirology study of warning dreams and found a correlation between cancer warning dreams from God occurring in triplicate at a propitious time?
    Or is your assertion simply an article of your faith?

    New England Bob wrote: “It is irrelevant what theology teaches since it is all fakery.”

    Donna doesn’t think it’s irrelevant at all because the theological viewpoint is what saved her life. In a way, you could say that her dream writes another chapter in the theological textbooks, and that her dream was actually verified by scientific instruments. Quite fascinating, really.

    New England Bob wrote: “Your ‘parable’ of Donna reminds me of a news report of someone in the Tsunami of 2004 who said that god saved him and it was a miracle. It didn’t matter to him that his god took hundreds of thousands of other lives. He didn’t blame that on his god. Such thinking is delusional and sickening.”

    Of course, the tsunami survivor did not have evidence to support his claim. Donna related the dream to my wife, then decided to follow the theological suggestion that it might be true, and the dream was verified using scientific instruments. Your tsunami survivor simply made an unverifiable claim after the fact – not nearly as compelling.

    New England Bob wrote: “What I do note here is that you show no evidence of any god doing anything here. Your words here are completely devoid of any relevance to the supernatural in reference to what you claim.”

    Once again you stray from the point of the story. It was an answer to Richard Dawkins who asked “What has ‘theology’ ever said that is of the smallest use to anybody?” As I’ve said, the story is not intended to be a proof for the existence of God, merely for the usefulness of Theology where science was impotent.

    New England Bob wrote: “Nazism taught that Aryans were superior. This is wrong just as your statement.
    You have not shown how anything is revealed by any supernatural being.”

    Again, the subject was whether Theology reveals anything, not whether God reveals anything.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted December 31, 2009 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

      wow, your illogic has taken over your mind, chunkdz.

      There is no theology in your Donna story. Why can you not understand that simple declarative?

      You have no point.

      You have no evidence.

      You have no facts.

      All you have is Donna and your wife say so. And your fantasies.

      Your childish nonsense is weary. Your comments make you look foolish and articulet’s comments point to your juvenile attempt to avoid any truth.

    • Grendels Dad
      Posted December 31, 2009 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

      Chunkdz, Have you considered that as a biologist, Dawkins would likely have disregarded the dream, as you suggest, but also recommended routine mammogram screening for all women? How can you believe that science is impotent in this situation when the overwhelmingly obvious facts are that the routine screening that is commonly recommended saves tens, if not hundreds of thousands of women every year?

  30. chunkdz
    Posted December 31, 2009 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    articulett wrote: “This anecdote is no more evidence of god than Tom Cruise’s career success is evidence that Scientology is true, Chunkdz.”

    It was not intended to be evidence for God. Richard Dawkins was not asking for evidence for God. He was asking for an example of Theology being useful. In Donna’s case, theology suggested to her that there might be merit to the dream. It saved her life, something which most non-suicidal people would consider useful.

    articulett wrote: “The various ways that people might end up getting a clue that their body is breaking down is NOT evidence for any magic invisible man– nor is it evidence that faith leads to actual knowledge.”

    You’ve unwittingly made my point. There ARE no “various ways” that stage zero breast cancer is known to cause the brain to transmit a sub-conscious warning message three times to the cancer victim. You are simply asserting that your faith trumps Donna’s faith.

    articulett wrote: “There are many equally probable supernatural explanations for whatever it is that happened to your friend, but a natural explanation is far more likely to be the truth than ANY supernatural explanation since no supernatural explanation has ever been validated!”

    Regardless of what the explanation might be, the incontrovertible fact that we CAN assert is that Theology informed Donna in such a way as to save her life, thus definitively answering Richard Dawkins’ question.

    articulett wrote: “(I cannot believe how primitive and childishly religion encourages people to think. Why didn’t god keep her from getting cancer in the first place??)”
    As I said on the original blog comments, I don’t pretend to know why bad things happen to good people. And I can’t blame you or anyone else for wondering why Donna should receive life-saving advice from a metaphysical dream while others contract cancer daily. The scope of the story was, simply, about the usefulness of theology. In this one case, theology made the difference between life and death. That’s all.

    As a guest on Professor Coyne’s blog I’ve tried to be congenial. I wonder if I could ask the same of you in an effort to keep the insults to a maximum of, say, zero? 🙂

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted December 31, 2009 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

      No, you CAN NOT assert that Theology informed Donna. There is nothing to indicate it.

      No evidence.

      Not one fact.

      Nothing but imagination and faith.

      Why did you even bring up Dawkins? Jerry Coyne’s post had nothing to do with Dawkins. It is about Francis Collins and faith.

      You are the one who refers to Dawkins in your silly little story that also has nothing to do with Dawkins. You story has nothing to do with theology. It is all make believe. Fantasy, illusion, make-believe – faith.

      As a guest of Professor Coyne’s blog, chunkdz, you should try to use critical thinking and logic instead of fairy tales and fantasies and fiction and delusion and imagination.

  31. chunkdz
    Posted December 31, 2009 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    New England Bob wrote: “wow, your illogic has taken over your mind, chunkdz.
    There is no theology in your Donna story. Why can you not understand that simple declarative?”

    Systematic Theology is full of accounts in which revelation came through dreams. On what basis do you assert otherwise?

    New England Bob wrote: “You have no point.
    You have no evidence.
    You have no facts.
    All you have is Donna and your wife say so. And your fantasies.”

    The science of oneirology is necessarily built upon anecdotal evidence until such time as we are able to physically record and playback dreams. This unreplicatability is unsatisfying to many, (obviously to you as well), but some find it a rather interesting scientific discipline all the same. I know that Donna does.

    New England Bob wrote: “Your childish nonsense is weary. Your comments make you look foolish and articulet’s comments point to your juvenile attempt to avoid any truth.”

    Sorry if you don’t believe Donna’s story. It is true though, and it is quite remarkable. And it does indeed answer Richard Dawkins’ question.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted December 31, 2009 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

      Systematic Theology is full of accounts in which revelation came through dreams. On what basis do you assert otherwise?

      Theology has no answers. It is not a science of knowledge. Revelations are nothing but dreams and fantasies. They have no relation to reality. There are billions of dreams every night and you childishly pick one person on one night and claim it is a miracle. How infantile to not see the odds are that thousands of people could have dreams of detecting cancer every single night and most are wrong.

      Oneirology is a study of dreams. It studies REM sleep, schizophrenia, drug usage, post traumatic stress disorder, delusions and hallucinations. It has nothing to do with theology. It has no relation to your story that it relates to theology. It is NOT built upon anecdotal evidence.

      Sorry if you don’t believe Donna’s story. It is true though, and it is quite remarkable. And it does indeed answer Richard Dawkins’

      This is a case of you having no points so you twist what I say into what I did not say. I did not say I don’t believe Donna had dreams.

      That is not remarkable. Why did her god give her cancer?

      It certainly does not even attempt to answer Dawkins’ question which is irrelevant anyway since those dreams have nothing to do with theology.

  32. chunkdz
    Posted December 31, 2009 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    New England Bob wrote: “Why did you even bring up Dawkins? Jerry Coyne’s post had nothing to do with Dawkins. It is about Francis Collins and faith.”

    It’s also about “other ways of knowing”.

    The point being that theology informed Donna that there is a rich history of revelation coming via dreams. Science, on the other hand, has very little to tell the person who asks “I have no symptoms, no family history, no reason to think that I have cancer – should I take my cancer warning dream seriously?”

    This much is obvious, Bob. But you seem intent on delving beyond the simple and incontrovertible facts and venturing into off-topic questions regarding the nature of God.

    Coyne wrote about “other ways of knowing”. I offered an example of another way of knowing – dreams. I think we can have an interesting enough conversation about that without having New England Bob share his metaphysical opinions with us.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted December 31, 2009 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

      Coyne wrote about “other ways of knowing”.

      Did you notice he put the phrase in quotes? Did you notice the second paragraph says: “This idea is terrible…”

      The point being that theology informed Donna that there is a rich history of revelation coming via dreams.

      Statistically, it is proven that your point is quite irrelevant and moot. You have no point. Dreams do not come true. Random guessing would make out better percentage wise.

      This much is obvious, Bob. But you seem intent on delving beyond the simple and incontrovertible facts and venturing into off-topic questions regarding the nature of God.

      You have presented no facts. not simple ones, not complex ones.

      You are the one who brought up theology and one woman’s dreams. You are the one far off topic.

      • Posted December 31, 2009 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

        NewEnglandBob, I’m going to use this to take a different angle on my disagreement with you above.

        It is certainly true that the events of a dream are drastically far from warranting a knowledge claim about the world itself. I dream that I have cancer is not and never could count as knowledge that I have cancer.

        But did I dream about having cancer? There is a right or wrong answer to this. Did I feel emotionally hurt when she broke up with me? Did that piece of art convey sadness to me? These are all questions that may have true or false answers.

        Experiences of art, and “feelings” really do constitute knowledge; they are knowledge of what your first person experiences were. These are not outside the reach of science of course, but they still really do constitute a kind of knowledge.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted December 31, 2009 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

        But did I dream about having cancer? There is a right or wrong answer to this.

        Correct. Therefore there is no knowledge generated.

        Did I feel emotionally hurt when she broke up with me? Did that piece of art convey sadness to me? These are all questions that may have true or false answers.

        These are observations and analysis. You use comparison to other events. THAT is the knowledge, not the emotion.

        Experiences of art, and “feelings” really do constitute knowledge; they are knowledge of what your first person experiences were. These are not outside the reach of science of course, but they still really do constitute a kind of knowledge.

        Again, these are observed and compared which is the knowledge, not the art or the emotion. How can art be knowledge when every person can interpret it differently? Is that true of E=mc squared? Is it different for me than for you?

        No, I still do not buy your argument that they are knowledge.

      • Posted December 31, 2009 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

        Newenglandbob, I don’t mean to pick on you, since you are fighting the good fight against a few loons in here, but I think you are missing my point.

        Correct. Therefore there is no knowledge generated.

        False. There was knowledge about your dream. There was no knowledge about whether you actually had cancer. In that respect it really is knowledge. But I’m not claiming it is metaphysical or magical or non-scientific. Just that you can have knowledge about it, i.e., you can make true or false statements about what was experienced in the dream.

        These are observations and analysis. You use comparison to other events.

        I don’t know what you mean by this. That I see green is true, and self evidently so, and involves no comparison.

        How can art be knowledge when every person can interpret it differently?

        I’m not claiming that a particular interpretation of a dream, or of music, or of art is the “true” interpretation among many interpretations. If I was claiming that, then you would be perfectly right to point out that people have many different interpretations.

        I’m claiming that the dream, the music, the art, literally produces in us a reaction, that is self evident in first person experience. And there are true statements to be made about what that first person experience was. Experience is self evident, and there is a sense in which even illusions are true, which is the same sense in which dreams, music, art and all first person experiences are “true”.

  33. chunkdz
    Posted December 31, 2009 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    New England Bob wrote: “Theology has no answers. It is not a science of knowledge. Revelations are nothing but dreams and fantasies. They have no relation to reality.”

    Unless they reveal that a person has stage 0 cancer.

    New England Bob wrote: “There are billions of dreams every night and you childishly pick one person on one night and claim it is a miracle. How infantile to not see the odds are that thousands of people could have dreams of detecting cancer every single night and most are wrong.”

    I notice that once again you have come to a conclusion without a shred of statistical data or evidence. At least Donna has a documented phone call, two eyewitnesses, mammogram results, and a medical diagnosis. New England Bob has so far offered only his uninformed opinion.

    New England Bob said: “Oneirology is a study of dreams. It studies REM sleep, schizophrenia, drug usage, post traumatic stress disorder, delusions and hallucinations. It has nothing to do with theology. It has no relation to your story that it relates to theology. It is NOT built upon anecdotal evidence.”

    Every dream is anecdotal as it can only be known indirectly by recall. I still don’t understand why you insist that theology has nothing to say about dreams. Can you offer some rationale behind your assertion?

    New England Bob said: “This is a case of you having no points so you twist what I say into what I did not say. I did not say I don’t believe Donna had dreams.”

    I didn’t say you did. Oh well.

    New England Bob said: “That is not remarkable. Why did her god give her cancer?”

    Once again you stray off-topic in an effort to shift the topic to the personality of God. I’ve already indicated that I don’t know why bad things happen to good people. Perhaps it would help if you would admit the same.

    New England Bob said: “It certainly does not even attempt to answer Dawkins’ question which is irrelevant anyway since those dreams have nothing to do with theology.”

    To the contrary, it is a specific and documented answer to Dawkins’ question. It also serves to illuminate Prof. Coyne’s discussion of “other ways of knowing”. Clearly, Donna’s dream – coupled with theological precepts – provided information that was quite valuable.

    Let me ask you a question, Bob. Do you suppose Richard Dawkins would have advised Donna to heed the warnings from God in her dream?

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted December 31, 2009 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

      Unless they reveal that a person has stage 0 cancer.

      But they do not. You think they do by faith, not reason or evidence.

      I notice that once again you have come to a conclusion without a shred of statistical data or evidence.

      No, it is you who have no evidence. Statistics and studies have shown that dreams and prayers are ineffective. Where is your evidence to the contrary? You have none. I talked about statistical analysis.

      Every dream is anecdotal as it can only be known indirectly by recall. I still don’t understand why you insist that theology has nothing to say about dreams. Can you offer some rationale behind your assertion?

      Your first sentence is a lie and science contradicts it. I already offered the real, rational definition of Oneirology. You just fabricate nonsense in a childish attempt to refute it.

      I’ve already indicated that I don’t know why bad things happen to good people.

      This is off topic. You state it again and again as a straw man. It is irrelevant. I will answer it anyway.

      I do know why good things happen to bad people. When it is not human caused. Bad things like disease happen at random. Circumstances can cause Tsunamis to kill people. There is no evidence of any gods to control things.

      I didn’t say you did. Oh well.

      That is you caught in a lie. Look above at number 31 where you said it.

      I still don’t understand why you insist that theology has nothing to say about dreams.

      Why do you insist that it does? You have no evidence, not even the beginning of a whiff of evidence.

      To the contrary, it is a specific and documented answer to Dawkins’ question.

      You have documented nothing. No evidence or logic or facts. It is laughable as an attempt and it fails miserably.

      Do you suppose Richard Dawkins would have advised Donna to heed the warnings from God in her dream?

      Another straw man argument which is irrelevant and a stupid question.

  34. articulett
    Posted December 31, 2009 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    When a dream leads to the regrowth of an amputated limb, do let us know. I’m sure the world of science will be eager to expand knowledge on the subject.

    True Story: When I was a kid, it would always rain after I sang this little rain song I learned in Girl Scouts. Of course I thought it was amazing– I had the power to control rain… the weather gods liked me… etc. (Insert Twilight Zone Music to capture the awe I felt.)

    In retrospect, some clues that it was about to rain probably clued a trigger in my brain to think of rain and the rain song thus causing me to confuse correlation with causation (coming rain triggered both, but because it was subconscious, I assumed my song cause the rain)– sort of like the ideomoter effect (which is pretty amazing, but which you apparently don’t know anything about–read up on “facilitated communication” if you actually want to learn something, but if you just want to keep on believing in mysticism–don’t bother.)

    When a dream or “psychic experience” specifically and reliably and locates dead bodies,gives specific and reliable details into solving a crime, or specifically predicts the future in such a way that coincidence is less likely than a “miracle”– then I guarantee all scientists will be interested in refining and hone whatever knowledge is there to refine and hone.

    Science is already well aware of the ways people fool themselves. It’s why the double blind study was developed. People find evidence to confirm the biases they’ve developed.

    Tom Cruise can and does claim that clearing of engrams via Scientology is the reason for his success and it’s why he happens upon accidents where he can “save” people. I presume he’s more successful than you, and that you haven’t stumbled upon as many accidents as he has. I doubt this impresses you about the power of Scientology or his purpotesd mystical experiences, however.

    Did you know the hijacker’s family members had dreams that their loved ones were in paradise which is confirmation that their loved ones are in paradise to them. Does this impress you as evidence? To them, it’s clearly communication from beyond. What is it to you, chunkdz?

    Your anecdote is as scientifically relevant as these examples. I don’t know what question Dawkins actually posed or why you think it’s relevant. You seem to have a strong need to prove to yourself that dreams are providing real mystical experiences from the divine and are angry at everyone who doubts it.

    Donna’s story might convince you that Donna experienced “divine knowledge” or that there are “other ways of knowing” just as Tom Cruise’s experiences, no doubt, convince him and other Scientologists.

    But to a scientist,they are mind pablum. Useless. Equal in inanity. You are free to believe whatever you want, but your less than thrilling reception is due to the weakness of your claim, tenacity to which you cling to it, and anger at all those who point at how similar it is to claims you’d reject outright.

    Moreover, like many believers in “magic”, you’ve insulted multiple people here and exhibited arrogance while being completely clueless to that fact –and then whining when it comes back. You expect respect for your opinions that you’ve not given to anyone here! You seem to need us to believe in your magic story but it’s unconvincing. While I have no problem believing there’s a woman named Donna that had a dream that precipitated a mammogram appointment, I don’t find this miraculous nor evidence of “other ways of knowing”.

    My neighbor might truly believe that aliens are probing him at night. I can believe that he BELIEVES that– without believing that it’s actually happening. You, apparently are confused about these perceptions. It reminds me of my students– Often they’ll have a grandmother who saw a chupacabra, and they’ll see my skepticism as calling their grandmother a liar. Of course these are 14 year olds. They don’t understand yet that I can believe that their grandma BELIEVES she saw a chupacabra without believing that a chupacabra is what she really saw.

    Get it? I thought not. Donna’s story is the equivalent of “my grandma saw a chupacabra” in the scientific world.

  35. chunkdz
    Posted December 31, 2009 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    New England Bob said: “Statistically, it is proven that your point is quite irrelevant and moot. You have no point. Dreams do not come true. Random guessing would make out better percentage wise.”

    You unwittingly make my point. Science would have told Donna that her dream was no better than a random guess and she should wait until age 40 for her first scheduled mammogram.

    Theology, however, informed Donna that there is historical precedent for revelation through dreams.

    Luckily for Donna, she listened to Theology rather than listening to New England Bob’s advice.

    Listening to New England Bob apparently can be fatal. 🙂

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted December 31, 2009 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

      You unwittingly make my point.

      This is arrogant and a lie. You have no point to make except faith. “Science” can not tell people anything. It is a process.

      Theology, however, informed Donna that there is historical precedent for revelation through dreams.

      You have no real argument to make so you repeat the same stupid dogma over and over. How childish of you.

      Luckily for Donna, she listened to Theology rather than listening to New England Bob’s advice.

      This is chunkdz being an an arrogant liar. I never gave her advice.

      Listening to New England Bob apparently can be fatal.

      Now Chunkdz shows his mental age of six years old. I expect him to throw feces next since his arguments are laughable and a complete failure.

      • articulett
        Posted December 31, 2009 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

        Theology, however, informed Donna that there is historical precedent for revelation through dreams.

        Theology also should have informed Donna that prayer could have healed her and that medicine was unnecessary. Some think that same theology warns against blood transfusions. Heck, the bible says you can drink poison and be saved through faith. Faith can move mountains, so why does it suck at healing cancer? Doesn’t Donna have enough faith to pray her cancer away? Why did she follow up with a doctor when god was giving her personal messages? Theology certainly did not inform Donna about cancer genetics or mammograms because her god appears ignorant on those subjects.

        Listen, we all get it; all believers in superstitions argue the same basic way– if it seems to be helpful, it’s a message from god (or another “way of knowing”)– if it’s useless, it is ignored and not counted with the “hits”; if it’s harmful, it’s message from Satan or just a dream.

        I think you’re embarrassing yourself here, chuckdz. Maybe you should write to Francis Collins… he might be impressed with your anecdote. I think you’d have to be a believer to imagine your anecdote is “another way of knowing” just as you’d need to believe in Scientology to imagine there’s evidence that Scientology offers “another way of knowing”.

      • chunkdz
        Posted December 31, 2009 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

        New England Bob wrote: “This is arrogant and a lie. You have no point to make except faith. “Science” can not tell people anything. It is a process.”

        Of course, I was saying that the best advice science could offer to Donna was to wait until her scheduled mammogram at age 40. Indeed this is the advice she WAS given. They agreed to a mammogram only when Donna asked specifically for it.

        New England Bob wrote: “This is chunkdz being an an arrogant liar. I never gave her advice.”

        I didn’t say you gave her advice. I said that if you did give her this advice –

        “Dreams do not come true. Random guessing would make out better percentage wise.”

        – and she had followed it, she might have died.

        Really, Bob, your flurry of insults and ad-hominem attacks is not contributing to a mature discussion. It certainly doesn’t help promote critical thinking when you become unhinged like that.

        Do you suppose it’s possible that we could have a calm, mature discussion? I suggest we begin by you answering the questions that you have thus far avoided.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted December 31, 2009 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

        I didn’t say you gave her advice. I said that if you did give her this advice –

        That is the biggest slimeball line said here in weeks. You should be ashamed of yourself.

        Really, Bob, your flurry of insults and ad-hominem…

        No, chunkdz, they are not insults just analysis of your dogma and your lies. When are you going to apologize for the lie you said about me?

        Do you suppose it’s possible that we could have a calm, mature discussion?

        When WILL you start saying something mature instead of your childish dogma and dreams given by theology. I have answered all your real questions with logic and critical thinking. Your staw man nonsense does not deserve to be addressed. You need to use logic, critical thinking and evidence and facts.

    • articulett
      Posted December 31, 2009 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

      Your bizarre imaginations of what doctors would have said regarding Donna’s dreams are silly. So is your imagined outcome. You are really stretching to make this anecdote into evidence of “other ways of knowing” that “saved a life”. I think the only person this is working on is you.

      I suspect any doctor would offer a mammogram just to alleviate her worries. They may have also tested her for the known mutations involved in breast cancer.

      If John Travolta wasn’t a Scientologist then his autistic kid would have probably been on seizure medications and not died at age 16. But I’m sure Scientologists can spin that into a story about how Jett was being prepared for his next life.

      Any anecdote can be spun into evidence for what you wish to be true.

      Mammograms detect cancer consistently– dreams, not so much. I would hope to have a doctor that trusts mammograms over dreams.

      If this counts of other “ways of knowing” TO YOU, then of course we’d deride you for the same reasons you’d deride Scientologists and their claims of knowing.

  36. articulett
    Posted December 31, 2009 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    In short, you do not need to disbelieve the Donna Story just as you don’t need to disbelieve in Tom Cruise’s success in order to understand why neither of these peoples’ stories are evidence of “another way of knowing” anything.

    Surely you can see this in the Tom Cruise scenario… even if he had a dream that predicted his success with specificity– and yet you are blind to this in regards to Donna’s story which apparently confirms a belief you wish to have evidence for, chunkdz.

    Your imaginings of what Dawkins may have said are irrelevant. The actual knowledge of breast cancer was due to the tools of science and so was any treatment. Donna didn’t “pray” her cancer away, did she? If Donna has a family history of breast/ovarian cancer then she should be doing regular screening anyhow and get a genetic test for a gene mutation that is implicated in breast and ovarian cancer. So should any children she has– even sons. (I’m guessing her god might have left that part out of the dream.)

  37. chunkdz
    Posted December 31, 2009 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    articulett wrote: “In retrospect, some clues that it was about to rain probably clued a trigger in my brain to think of rain and the rain song thus causing me to confuse correlation with causation (coming rain triggered both, but because it was subconscious, I assumed my song cause the rain)– sort of like the ideomoter effect (which is pretty amazing, but which you apparently don’t know anything about–read up on “facilitated communication” if you actually want to learn something, but if you just want to keep on believing in mysticism–don’t bother.)”

    Are you referring to a specific mechanism by which stage zero cancer cells cause the brain to generate sub-conscious warning dreams? If so I’d love to hear about it, but I suspect that you are simply holding onto some reductionist article of faith. That’s not how science is done, and it’s not how critical thinking proceeds.

    articulett wrote: “Did you know the hijacker’s family members had dreams that their loved ones were in paradise which is confirmation that their loved ones are in paradise to them. Does this impress you as evidence? To them, it’s clearly communication from beyond. What is it to you, chunkdz?”

    Sounds like an unconfirmed assertion. Donna, on the other hand, has confirming evidence in the form of phone calls, eyewitnesses, medical tests, biopsy results, medical diagnoses etc. Her dream was verified. I’m not sure how you could verify whether a terrorist was in heaven with his 72 virgins.

    articulett wrote: “Donna’s story might convince you that Donna experienced “divine knowledge” or that there are “other ways of knowing” just as Tom Cruise’s experiences, no doubt, convince him and other Scientologists.”

    What I am convinced of is that had Donna not heeded the precepts of Sytematic Theology she might well have died. Are you suggesting that Richard Dawkins or even Prof. Coyne would have urged Donna to heed the warnings from God in her dream?

    articulett wrote: “My neighbor might truly believe that aliens are probing him at night. I can believe that he BELIEVES that– without believing that it’s actually happening. You, apparently are confused about these perceptions. It reminds me of my students– Often they’ll have a grandmother who saw a chupacabra, and they’ll see my skepticism as calling their grandmother a liar. Of course these are 14 year olds. They don’t understand yet that I can believe that their grandma BELIEVES she saw a chupacabra without believing that a chupacabra is what she really saw.

    Get it? I thought not. Donna’s story is the equivalent of “my grandma saw a chupacabra” in the scientific world.”

    Does Grandma have a picture of the chupacabra? How about a piece of it’s fur? DNA sample?
    Donna has documented phone calls, eyewitnesses, medical tests, a biopsy, and a doctor’s diagnosis.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted December 31, 2009 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

      Nothing here to see from chunkdz but faith and nonsense.

      He is just a supernatural believer who does not use critical thinking, logic, facts or evidence or even common sense.

  38. chunkdz
    Posted December 31, 2009 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    articulett wrote: “In short, you do not need to disbelieve the Donna Story just as you don’t need to disbelieve in Tom Cruise’s success in order to understand why neither of these peoples’ stories are evidence of “another way of knowing” anything.”

    Tom Cruise’s success is at least partially in his control. Donna had no control over her getting breast cancer, so you have offered us a very poor comparison to work with.

    articulett wrote: “Your imaginings of what Dawkins may have said are irrelevant. The actual knowledge of breast cancer was due to the tools of science and so was any treatment. Donna didn’t “pray” her cancer away, did she? If Donna has a family history of breast/ovarian cancer then she should be doing regular screening anyhow and get a genetic test for a gene mutation that is implicated in breast and ovarian cancer. So should any children she has– even sons. (I’m guessing her god might have left that part out of the dream.)”

    As I said earlier upthread and in the original blog, Donna had no prior history or family history.

    And all the medical equipment in the world would not have helped Donna if she had not been warned that she needed medical attention.

    • articulett
      Posted December 31, 2009 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

      *pats chunkdz on the head”….

      Okay, there, there.

      Of course, Donna has “another way of knowing”… (and I had a special way of knowing how to make it rain as a kid). I’m sure all the scientists will be running off to investigate this “other way of knowing” so that other people can have other dreams that send them to their scientifically trained doctors for cancer screenings and they can experience similar “miracles”.

      • articulett
        Posted January 1, 2010 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

        I should add that the fact that Donna got cancer so young is indicative that she should have the genetic tests known to be involved in early breast cancer– for her own sake and the sake of any children. Her god might forget to give her a hint of future risks. Although her dreams might not have informed her of this, I hope that her scientifically trained doctors would.

  39. chunkdz
    Posted December 31, 2009 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    New England Bob wrote: “Nothing here to see from chunkdz but faith and nonsense.
    He is just a supernatural believer who does not use critical thinking, logic, facts or evidence or even common sense.”

    First you tried to make God the subject, now you try to make ME the subject?

    Wouldn’t critical thinking demand that you address the ACTUAL subject? Specifically that a dream, informed by theology, saved a young girl’s life?

    And wouldn’t critical thinking demand that you answer tough questions like the ones I posed to you rather than sidestepping them?

    And for that matter what do insults and ad hominem attacks have to do with critical thinking?

    Really, it seems rather hypocritical for you to scold me for poor critical thinking when you appear to be consistently breaking every rule in critical thinking.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted December 31, 2009 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

      A. You made yourself the subject with your dream nonsense.

      B. You embarrass yourself again and again with your dogma mantra about theology and dreams. Theology did no such thing. No evidence from you, no facts, no logic, no critical thinking.

      C. I answered the REAL questions, not your straw man ones or your childish games.

      D. You can lie and get your back up as much as you want but we all know here that you have nothing but faith and dogma and nonsense, repeated over and over with no facts.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted December 31, 2009 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

        Also Chunkdz, I await your apology for the lie I caught you in about #31. Lets see if you have the backbone to admit you lied. It is there for everyone to see.

    • Posted December 31, 2009 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

      Wouldn’t critical thinking demand that you address the ACTUAL subject? Specifically that a dream, informed by theology, saved a young girl’s life?

      My best friend has an older brother who was in a terrible car accident. He didn’t wear his seatbelt. It just so happens that he would have died if he was wearing the seatbelt.

      This proves that seatbelts are dangerous and you are safer if you don’t wear one, right?

      • chunkdz
        Posted December 31, 2009 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

        josef johann wrote: “My best friend has an older brother who was in a terrible car accident. He didn’t wear his seatbelt. It just so happens that he would have died if he was wearing the seatbelt.
        This proves that seatbelts are dangerous and you are safer if you don’t wear one, right?”

        Seatbelts and car’s lend themselves to the scientific method. Dreams do not. That is why I have said several times that this is not a proof, and it is not evidence for the existence of God.

        It is an example of a situation in which theology said something useful where ‘science’ was mute.

        Those of you who simply can’t resist the urge to speculate about the personality of God or demand evidence for his existence will likely be frustrated. (as evidenced by the outpouring of insults, derision, and general puerile rudeness on display)

      • Posted December 31, 2009 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

        I guarantee you are smuggling in a non-naturalistic assumption about dreams.

        Do you think that dreams are caused by the mind?

        Do you think the mind is caused by the brain?

        If you answer to both of these is yes, there is no reason to depart from naturalism. If your answer to either is no, it’s based on your pre-emptive assumption that no naturalistic explanation is possible, which flies in the face of the history of science that succeeding by sticking with naturalistic assumptions, and has no historical basis for being a legitimate assumption.

        So it’s ignorance of what a naturalistic explanation would look like, which is masquerading as an insight into the necessity of dreams.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted December 31, 2009 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

        Seatbelts and car’s lend themselves to the scientific method. Dreams do not.

        This has been disproved when I pointed out how you were all wrong about oneirology.

        It is an example of a situation in which theology said something useful where ’science’ was mute.

        Who or what is this theology of your? Is it your god? What did it/he say? Where was it said? Can you show us evidence of it or is it just a fevered figment of your imagination? Show it yo us, oh dogmatic one.

        hose of you who simply can’t resist the urge to speculate about the personality of God or demand evidence for his existence will likely be frustrated.

        personality of god??? Is this for real? chunkdz KNOWS all about the personality of god who does not exist because there is no evidence? Who will be fustrated? I’m betting that it is chunkdz who is frustrated because he has no evidence of his god. He can not show anything. His euphemism ‘theology’ didn’t work either. He thinks no one will see through his childish screen.

        Come on chunkdz, stop the dogma and give us logic or facts or evidence or critical thought. You have been nothing but a dogmatic vacuum, sucking up time with your nonsense.

  40. chunkdz
    Posted December 31, 2009 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    New England Bob wrote: “Also Chunkdz, I await your apology for the lie I caught you in about #31. Lets see if you have the backbone to admit you lied. It is there for everyone to see.”

    I said “Sorry if you don’t believe Donna’s story.”

    It’s true. If you don’t believe her story, I am indeed sorry. What part did you think was a lie, Bob? Do you think I’m actually NOT sorry?

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted December 31, 2009 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

      logic and evidence and facts, oh my! Such a whirling dervish of dogmatic nonsense.

      Who is this ‘theology’ of which you speak? Is this the speaking in tongues?

      Chunkdz’s dream story is turning into a nightmare for him.

      Where is the beef? Nothing from him but the sizzle of dogma, backed by nothing. No evidence, no facts, no logic, no critical thinking.

    • articulett
      Posted December 31, 2009 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

      Chuckdz

      This post is on par with my skepticism regarding the existence of actual chupacabras, being translated by my students into “I’m sorry you think my grandma is a liar”.

      It’s a dishonest childish way of using semantics to claim offense so as not to have to address the shaky ground your belief stands upon.

  41. articulett
    Posted December 31, 2009 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    Chunkdz, I think we all understand that you believe that “other ways of knowing” saved Donna’s life (though, of course, she will one day die and, if her beliefs are correct she won’t really die, she’ll live happily ever after in heaven.) To a scientist she got an early medical diagnosis of cancer which, via medical treatment, should prolong her life– something science is increasingly good at via scientific knowledge (–you know, the kind of real knowledge that leads to real marvels like the internet.)

    I don’t know if you can understand this, but that cannot be evidence of “other ways of knowing” to anyone who actually wishes to know what is true so they can refine and hone that knowledge.

    To a scientist that doesn’t share your beliefs, your babble on this subject appears to be on par with Tom Cruise’s babble regarding Scientology’s ways of knowing:

    http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/31751/Tom-Cruise-Only-Scientology-helps-car-crash-victims http://www.collegehumor.com/video:1797461

    I’ve endeavored to show you why, but you seem as unnameable to understanding as Tom Cruise would be towards your explanations as to why he is not providing actual evidence of “other ways of knowing”.

    Here are some of Tom Cruises claims about what he “knows” via his “other way of knowing”:

    He says: “Being a Scientologist, when you drive past an accident, it’s not like anyone else. As you drive past you know you have to do something about it because you know you are the only one who can really help. A Scientologist has the ability to create new and better realities.”

    The actor adds that he is “dedicated” to bringing Scientology to the masses. “I’d like to go on vacation and go and romp and play. But I can’t because I know. I know I have to do something about it,” he says.

    I’m sure you can understand why Tom believes in his “other ways of knowing” all this stuff he claims to know, but what you cannot seem to understand is that your claims to “other knowledge” are specious and equally useless to anyone interested in the truth that is the same for everyone (no matter what they believe).

    We can all see that Tom Cruise is claiming to “know” something via some “other way of knowing”, just like we can see that you are claiming such. There is just nothing there for anyone else to honestly count as evidence of any kind of actual knowing of anything.

    You’ve given us no reason nor evidence to consider your claims any more seriously in regards to “other ways of knowing” than Tom Cruise has.

    I’m sorry if this spoils your Santa delusions, but you are the one who came here trying to assert that your anecdote was evidence of “other ways of knowing”. Moreover, you’ve put words in peoples mouths in a way that is really obnoxious because of your desperate need to believe in your friend’s “miracle”. Neither Dawkins nor NEB would have killed your friend and it’s vile for you to say so. But at the same time, we don’t believe your friend experiences “other ways of knowing” just like we don’t believe that video and pictures are actual evidence of chupacabras:
    http://news.aol.com/newsbloggers/2008/08/06/what-is-the-montauk-monster/ http://elsuenoamericano.wordpress.com/2008/08/12/chupacabra/

    Remember, just because scientists can’t explain something, it doesn’t mean your guru (or “other ways of knowing”) can.

    By the way, DNA showed the first picture to be a raccoon. To the best of my knowledge no dreams clued anyone into this fact.

  42. articulett
    Posted December 31, 2009 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    And, for the record, chunkdz, the subject was “other ways of knowing”… you slandered Dawkins and NEB as you blathered on about something you believed to be evidence of “other ways of knowing”.

    Your “evidence” fails for the same reason Tom Cruises “evidence” fails. But you are as unlikely to understand this as he is.

    Your desperation to get others to confirm your friends’ “miracle” as “evidence” of some “other way of knowing” is showing. And it’s failing. I don’t think this is an appropriate audience for your “witnessing” just as it’s not an appropriate audience for Tom Cruise’s witnessing.

    Like other superstition-believers who come here, you imagine yourself to have expertise in logical fallacies and scientific thinking that no one else seems to think you have. You go on to lecture actual experts without even stopping to ask their expertise (you just assume you know more, I guess.) You also imagine that your arguments have a coherence they do not have. They are truly about as coherent as the Tom Cruise quote.

    I think it’s clear that no amount of evidence will suffice for you (chunkdz) to conclude that your friend did not experience an “other way of knowing”, but it should also be clear that you are not any more likely to convince anyone here that there IS some “other way of knowing” than Tom Cruise is. And, for pretty much the same reasons.

    You really don’t have anything to add to the discussion. It appears to be a masturbatory exercise in convincing yourself that there are “other ways of knowing” and that your friend “tapped into it” in her dreams.

    The problem with your argument is that it is the same type of argument that can be used to support “other ways of knowing” that you don’t believe in. –Every woo thinks their woo is true unlike all that other untrue woo.

  43. Notagod
    Posted January 1, 2010 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    chunkdz,

    Why won’t your god(idea) help you with your ramblings here. You may not allow your mind to realize it but your point of view is being shredded. If your god idea had an existence beyond your own mind I should think it would be inclined to help you, as it might keep children from starving. But, nope your view is being shredded and children are starving, people without limps still have no limbs. Do you actually suppose that your friend should be helped while others have none. You chuckdz are a demented, disgusting person for putting faith in such a cruel careless god idea.

  44. chunkdz
    Posted January 2, 2010 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    josef johann wrote: “I guarantee you are smuggling in a non-naturalistic assumption about dreams.
    Do you think that dreams are caused by the mind?
    Do you think the mind is caused by the brain?”

    Actually, I made no claim about causation. I was talking about an instance where theology saved a girl’s life when science was mute.

    I’m not sure why you guys want to take this conversation either into the gutter or into philosophy. Maybe the simple truth that theology saved a girl’s life is too much for you to handle.

    • Posted January 3, 2010 at 3:45 am | Permalink

      Actually, I made no claim about causation. I was talking about an instance where theology saved a girl’s life when science was mute.

      Actually, I made no claim about causation. I was talking about an instance where flipping a coin saved a girl’s life when science was mute.

      Actually, I made no claim about causation. I was talking about an instance where circling every 7th letter in War and Peace saved a girl’s life when science was mute.

      Actually, I made no claim about causation. I was talking about an instance where spinning a dradle saved a girl’s life when science was mute.

      Actually, I made no claim about causation. I was talking about an instance where the length and timbre of my belch saved a girl’s life when science was mute.

      You could interpret any of the above so as to arbitrarily produce recommendations, that by some accident actually help people.

      Actually, I made no claim about causation.

      You didn’t really understand how wild your claim actually was. You said this:

      Seatbelts and car’s lend themselves to the scientific method. Dreams do not.

      You don’t appreciate how radical and unjustified a claim that is, and until you do, you’ll continue to be a laughingstock.

  45. chunkdz
    Posted January 2, 2010 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    notagod wrote: “Why won’t your god(idea) help you with your ramblings here. You may not allow your mind to realize it but your point of view is being shredded. If your god idea had an existence beyond your own mind I should think it would be inclined to help you, as it might keep children from starving. But, nope your view is being shredded and children are starving, people without limps still have no limbs. Do you actually suppose that your friend should be helped while others have none. You chuckdz are a demented, disgusting person for putting faith in such a cruel careless god idea.”

    I’m not prepared to insist that God do things the way I want him to. Any god who follows the mandates of human expectations would certainly not be any god I would want to follow.

    What do you think of the fact that theology stepped in to save a girl’s life where science was impotent?

    • Grendels Dad
      Posted January 2, 2010 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

      Why are you still claiming science was impotent in this story? Science actually cured your friend. The fact that it was a dream that convinced her to go to the doctor doesn’t make the doctor impotent.

      Just because someone happens to look at a stopped clock at one of the two times it is correct each day doesn’t make the stopped clock a reliable way to tell time.

      • articulett
        Posted January 3, 2010 at 3:56 am | Permalink

        Not only that, but science diagnosed the disease… not the dream. I think it’s bizarre the way he needs to stretch the story so that he can perceive it as “theology” diagnosing and curing her cancer.

        He so desperately needs to believe that there is “another way of knowing” and that he’s “tapped into it” via his friend and her dream.

        Now if a person consistently had dreams which foretold exactly what radiographs would find, then that would be something to investigate– but I’d start with the natural–not the supernatural… because, even still, the dreams would not be diagnostic– the X-rays would be!

        But to a believer, all the good things must be tied to their beliefs… and all the bad things (cancer in the first place) are not related to their beliefs or part of some “higher plan” or a failure due to “not enough faith”.

        The funny thing is, there are stories like this in every religion, new age belief, and superstition–and in various pyramid schemes too. The Scientologists do this really well, so I like to use them as examples. People don’t want to think their beliefs are as loopy as Scientology beliefs, but,they fail to give reasons as to why their claims should be treated more seriously. And the confirmation bias is the same.

        I’m tired of fooling myself, and I don’t like to be dragged into anyone else’s delusion either. I agree with Jerry’s conclusion that “other ways of knowing” is the bad idea of 2009. I hope it goes away in this new decade. It’s time for humanity to grow up and leave the magical thinking to the kids.

    • Posted January 3, 2010 at 3:52 am | Permalink

      What do you think of the fact that theology stepped in to save a girl’s life where science was impotent?

      Suppose I had a table that made medical diagnoses based on the length of a belch. 0.1 seconds = you are fine, 1.7 seconds = you might have HIV, and so on.

      I ask Donna to take my belch test. And she gets 0.3391 seconds… exactly the number that recommends she be checked for breast cancer! Science was mute on the question.

      I just proved that my belch chart is an “other way of knowing”.

      • articulett
        Posted January 3, 2010 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

        Yep: according to chunkdz, your belch chart stepped in to save the girl’s life when science was impotent.

    • articulett
      Posted January 3, 2010 at 4:14 am | Permalink

      Science saved her life.

      How did theology save her life?

      What theology teaches that dreams are revelations that can save lives? Can you quote it please. And how does one tell a revelation dream from a regular dream according to this theology? And what’s the failure rate?

      How do dreams compare with x-rays in letting someone know they have cancer? How do they compare in lives lost versus lives saved? How does prayer compare to medical treatment? What exact knowledge did Donna get through “theology” again?

      To me you sound as incoherent as Tom Cruise in the quote. It sounds like you really need to stretch to make it sound like Donna has “some other way of knowing” and to let yourself believe that theology saved her life and not science. It’s rather insulting to scientists here and strokes the egos of theologians who are self-appointed experts in that which is indistinguishable from the imaginary.

      Plus, you started this whole bizarre tangent while supposedly discussing falsifiability– a topic which you seem completely ignorant about. So how would you know if Donna’s dream wasn’t an “other way of knowing”? Suppose it was the equivalent of a “lucky guess” or an intuition about one’s body on par with many other such things not related to dreams? Would you want to know if that was the case?

  46. chunkdz
    Posted January 2, 2010 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    articulett wrote: “Your “evidence” fails for the same reason Tom Cruises “evidence” fails. But you are as unlikely to understand this as he is.”

    Donna’s cancer was undetectable by manual exam. Stage zero, spidery rather than lumpy, and asymptomatic, it could only be found by a mammogram that was not scheduled for another 5 years. Nevertheless, the cancer was revealed to her in a dream. This was confirmed by mammogram.

    How do you suggest we confirm the claim that scientology made Tom Cruise a good actor?

  47. articulett
    Posted January 3, 2010 at 3:18 am | Permalink

    Chunkdz, I think YOU are the one having problems understanding that you have not demonstrated another way of knowing (the TOPIC of this thread). Repeating yourself doesn’t make your story more convincing–you just start to sound loopy like Cruise.

    What your friend KNEW came from a mammogram (a product of science)… what precipitated the mammogram is irrelevant just as it would be if Donna had a stranger in the store tell her that she must get a mammogram–(let’s say the stranger said her guardian angel told her to tell Donna).

    See, we have no way of measuring how often people have dreams or perceived mystical experiences that lead to actions that help them or harm them… or that go nowhere. We have no way of determining a real supposed revelation from a misperception, voice in the head, or (unlucky guess.

    We DO know (via science) that early mammograms will save some lives, but we also know that, on occasion, they’ll also cause cancer plus they are expensive. That’s why there are guidelines. But no matter what the guidelines, we’ll catch some cancers just by doing the tests on younger people… the reason we might choose to do them is irrelevant. The same goes for amniocentesis and other diagnostic screenings. Guideines are used to weigh risk and cost against benefit. It’s not set in stone, and the patients worries often trump guidelines.

    You’ve ignored the fact that Tom Cruise happens upon accidents and saves people due to his “other way of knowing”. It’s well documented that he’s stumbled upon several accidents and came to the aid of people who might have died. Are you prepared to accept his claims about “other ways of knowing” or just the “other ways of knowing” that confirm your biases?

    You inadvertently made Jerry’s point for him. Francis Collins cannot know if he was wrong because his claims are unfalsifiable… just like yours… just like Tom Cruise’s… just like anyone who claims they had a psychic experience… just like those who claim people can be possessed or that they were visited by aliens with advanced technology to keep from being detected. The tiny net Collins’ imagines that can catch these “other ways of knowing” is indistinguishable from the non-existent net Tom Cruise uses to achieve his “other ways of knowing’. You pretended to address this in your first post here, but instead you left a preachy link without even having a basic clue about falsifiability (the subject being discussed)! So, of course, you were treated like pretty much all the arrogant bozos who have come before you with their similarly silly anecdotes that prove to them their woo is true (but convinces no one here.)

    Your anecdote is unfalsifiable, because magic invisible undetectable beings can, apparently, make miracles look like coincidences or good luck. Humans tend to look for and find meaning and patterns and connections (as they evolved to do) where there really is none. Plus, they rewrite their own memories so as to enhance the narratives they tell themselves. This is one reason why falsifiability is so important in science. We don’t want to fool ourselves. But believers don’t believe they CAN be fooled… so they never do a test. They just confirm their biases. They’d rather believe then find out they are as wrong as all those people they declare delusional (Scientologists, Moonies, Mormons, astrologers, etc.)

    We can’t prove that Satan or God or gremlins are not planting fossils to trick humans, but that doesn’t mean they are… or that thinking such a thing is indicative of some “other way of knowing”. And we can’t prove that Donna isn’t getting guidance from angels or demons or dead people or gods who can peek inside her breast tissue and manipulate her dreams so that she seeks the fruits of science. We CAN point out that you have made no case for such a thing and that it’s, therefore, unlikely to be true. And we can laugh at how mad this makes you.

    As valuable as your Donna story is to you, it really is NOT “another way of knowing” anything, though it’s a great story for fostering belief in Donna’s brand of delusion. Donna is probably afraid to question her beliefs, lest god takes the goodies away and her cancer returns, so I understand her need to believe. I think for you it’s because the anecdote makes you feel more secure and “in touch with” the god you were indoctrinated to “believe in”.

    All believers have similar stories to prop up their varying (often conflicting) faiths. But clearly, they all aren’t true. I wish there was some story that came off better than confirmation bias, but yours clearly isn’t it. Who wouldn’t want to believe in such things? But to me, your story is the equivalent of the lottery winner asking us to explain how he happened to win when the odds were so stacked against him. It’s drawing the bulls-eye AFTER you shoot the side of a barn and saying “what are the odds that the bullet would have landed right here” and then declaring it a “miracle”!

    The odds are billions to one against your own birth given the number of sperm competing to fertilize the egg. But that doesn’t make you a miracle. The same goes for Donna and the cells that eventually became cancer. The ancestor of her cancer cell was there at her conception, but that’s not any more relevant to the anecdote than her dream.

    Cancers start all the time…–
    some we catch on time, and some we don’t and many people (and animals) die without ever knowing of the cancer they had. None of this is “miraculous”.

    Imagine this scenario:
    Let’s say you went to a foreign land at the same time they have Tsunami. The villagers could say that you brought the tsunami and then decide to kill you so you wouldn’t curse them further. If they never had another tsunami after doing away with you, they would say, “see, it worked!”… If they had another one, they’d say, “we need to find out who ELSE is cursing us and kill them too.” That doesn’t mean they had another way of knowing anything. It just means that they are confirming their own biases exactly the way you are doing. This is useless in regards to refining “other ways of knowing”, but it’s fascinating for uncovering why people believe the things they believe.

    The only thing Donna KNEW regarding cancer came from the mammogram and doctors–not her dream. So did her healing. You want to believe in certain others ways of knowing,so you bias your story accordingly. Yet you’d never let this faulty reasoning pass for beliefs you didn’t share!

    Why isn’t speaking in tongues evidence of “knowing the holy spirit” or knowing a spiritual language? Why aren’t scientists studying this amazing event so that they can obtain this “other knowledge”? To Pentecostals it’s PROOF of their “other ways of knowing”… to most rational people, it’s on par with your anecdote. If you hear some anecdote how someone had a vision to get a mammogram while speaking in tongues, does that convince you that she’s tapped into the same “other way of knowing” as Donna?

    What exact “knowledge” did Donna obtain and via what “other” means? How does this address Jerry’s claim that believers don’t ask how they would know if their beliefs were wrong? How would YOU know? How would you know if there was no god and all perceptions of god were people fooling themselves similarly to the Pentacostals and the Scientologists and believers of myths of yore? How would you know if there really was no “other ways” of knowing objective truths– only the tools of science. Would you even want to know? Or do you prefer fooling yourself?

    To us, the MAMMOGRAM gave your friend and the doctors knowledge of her cancer… not her dream. Just like in my example– killing you would NOT be the actual reason for not having anymore tsunamis in an area– even if you could see why some people might think that it is.

    I think it’s embarrassing that you are presumably an adult, but you are unable to understand this despite kind and careful attempts from many. Did you even bother to read anyone else before butting in? Or does your brain just skip over the stuff that conflicts with your faith the way Tom Cruise seems to do? It seems like you didn’t read Jerry’s post at all before you put your silly link in.

    But thanks for dropping by and illustrating Jerry’s opinion as to why faitheists should be derided not admired and why this silly notion of “other ways of knowing” needs to be challenged and derided out of existence.

  48. chunkdz
    Posted January 4, 2010 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Josef Johann wrote: “I was talking about an instance where flipping a coin saved a girl’s life when science was mute.”

    I don’t recall theology ever saying that flipping a coin can be a source of revelatory information. Dreams,on the other hand, are found throughout theological and secular history as a source of revelatory information.

    And if you are suggesting that flipping a coin is the equivalent of being woken from sleep 3 times in one evening with dreams that God is telling you that you have cancer, only to have that dream verified in the most timely manner, then all you have to do is show me the statistical data that supports your claim. Do you have the oneirology study handy that says that triplicate warning dreams about stage zero asymptomatic cancer have a 50% chance of being accurate?

    Or is this another article of faith you are presenting me?

    • Posted January 4, 2010 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

      I don’t recall theology ever saying that flipping a coin can be a source of revelatory information. Dreams,on the other hand, are found throughout theological and secular history as a source of revelatory information.

      You completely missed the point. Theologians don’t have to answer for the predictions of coin flips. They have to answer for the predictions of dreams. The result of a coin flip is random chance. If the predictive power of dreams is no better than the predictive power of coin flips then dreams don’t predict anything. So to be taken seriously, dreams should be shown to have a predictive power greater than chance.

      Do you have the oneirology study handy that says that triplicate warning dreams about stage zero asymptomatic cancer have a 50% chance of being accurate?

      Oh, how deliciously ironic! Now you are asking for… evidence? Now? Now?!? Where did this concern for evidence come from?

      And, keeping your concern for evidence in mind… what was your evidence again? Oh, that’s right. It was an anecdote, not a study. There was no control group. There was no objective definition of “prediction” that eliminated bias of human interpretation. There was no attempt to replicate on other people.

      Despite all of this, you are blindly assuming the dream actually “predicted” something. Now, given your past comments, I’m assuming your brain is in lockdown and you’ve already disregarded 99% of what I wrote. Ok, then. I’ll just leave you with a simple question- what makes one dream a “prediction” and another dream not a “prediction”? Can we even get that far?

  49. chunkdz
    Posted January 4, 2010 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    articulett wrote: “You inadvertently made Jerry’s point for him. Francis Collins cannot know if he was wrong because his claims are unfalsifiable… just like yours…”
    Not true. Donna’s claim was verified by medical diagnosis. Perhaps you meant to say it is “unreplicatable” in which case I would agree with you.

    articulett wrote: “To us, the MAMMOGRAM gave your friend and the doctors knowledge of her cancer… not her dream. Just like in my example– killing you would NOT be the actual reason for not having anymore tsunamis in an area– even if you could see why some people might think that it is.”

    It may be fair to say that Donna’s life was saved by theology AND ‘science’. Certainly theology wouldn’t have saved her life 100 years ago since science had no means to confirm her dream at the time. And just as certainly, ‘modern science’ wouldn’t have detected the cancer today unless Donna had a reason to suspect that she needed to be checked – that reason came from theology.

    articulett wrote: “I think it’s embarrassing that you are presumably an adult, but you are unable to understand this despite kind and careful attempts from many. Did you even bother to read anyone else before butting in? Or does your brain just skip over the stuff that conflicts with your faith the way Tom Cruise seems to do?
    But thanks for dropping by and illustrating Jerry’s opinion as to why faitheists should be derided not admired and why this silly notion of “other ways of knowing” needs to be challenged and derided out of existence.”

    So you think the best way to convince me that I’m being childish is to hurl childish insults at me?

    Fascinating.

  50. Posted January 4, 2010 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    chunkdz wrote

    I don’t recall theology ever saying that flipping a coin can be a source of revelatory information.

    Hm? What’s all that casting of lots in the Bible about, then?

  51. articulett
    Posted January 4, 2010 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

    Where’s the theology that says dreams can detect cancer? How do you distinguish Donna’s dream from a lucky guess or a subconscious physical based intuition like the ideomotor effect? How many people have cancer dreams and turn out not to have cancer? How many people had cancer, but no dreams? How many people think they had a mystical experience leading them to a doctor’s diagnoses when it was not a mystical experience after all? How often are such stories embellished in retrospect? How often do voo-doo dolls really SEEM to work? How many people really believe in astrology or psychics even though they repeatedly fail scientific tests? How is Donna’s “other knowledge” different than Tom Cruise’s “other knowledge” that makes him happen upon car accidents and help people in need? How are these examples more likely to be true than the observation that tsunamis stop happening if you kill the person who showed up at the same time the tsunami did? Suppose I point out that we never had a tsunami before a certain person visited the island and we never had one after we killed him? Does that make the connection more convincing? The death more justified?

    How would you know if you were wrong, chunkdz? THAT is what Jerry wants to ask Francis Collins. That is the question you were supposedly addressing when you butted in with your goofy link. That’s the question you woo never ask yourselves when you play your silly game of “you-can’t-prove-me-wrong,-therefore-my-woo-is true.”

    So how would you know if Donna’s experience wasn’t another “way of knowing”? Why do you ignore these questions like they were never asked? Why did you ignore that in Jerry’s post and then go into your own little confirmation biased tangent regarding Donna’s “other way of knowing”? That’s the whole problem with these “other ways of knowing”– the believer never considers the possibility that he’s wrong. You guys bias your stories so as to confirm what you already believe and then present it as an unfalsifiable claim– because to woo like you, unfalsifiable means “true”.

    You never test the null hypothesis. You never consider the more likely prosaic explanations for what you observe. You want to be “in on” some mystical mysterious something or other.

    In science, just because someone can’t prove you wrong, doesn’t mean you’re right. In fact, unfalsifiable claims are unscientific and the fodder for all superstitions. They are pretty useless for getting at the truth that is the same for everybody– REAL knowledge.

    What percentage of dreams turn out to be predictive with no mystical influence? Remember, just because you can’t imagine how someone could have such a prescient dream, doesn’t mean that it’s a mystical experience. We live on a planet where some people will be very lucky just through randomness. And some will be very unlucky through the same randomness. And everyone should find that they have lots of coincidences and lots of moments where they see meaning that may not be there just because they are a human where trillions of events are happening all the time. It would be truly extraordinary to live a long life and NEVER have a memorable coincidence!

    If someone won a lottery through random chance (as most winners do), that doesn’t change just because he THINKS he won the lottery because he didn’t step on a crack. If Donna thought she got her special warning because she didn’t step on a crack that does not make it true. And if she thinks she got a message from beyond because of her faith, that is an equally dubious claim.

    What are the odds that humans will find meaning that isn’t there in, at least one of their dreams? Very high, I bet. What are you more likely to remember– a dream that seems prescient in retrospect or a dream that failed to come true even though it seemed predictive at the time? How many people have dreams about cancer that turn out to be nothing? Who knows–we’d never expect to ever hear about these failures, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t tons of them. How many people embellish stories in the telling to make their own experiences sound more “special”? How do we know that the belch-chart wouldn’t work equally as well as Donna’s dream? Who knows, maybe people who avoid stepping on cracks are more likely to have dreams warning them of early cancers. Maybe avoiding cracks is a means of “other ways of knowing”.

    If we did a mammogram randomly on a thousand woman Donna’s age, don’t you think we’d be likely to find at least one similar pre-cancer? With or without a dream involved? Some pre-cancers never amount to cancer or never alter a person’s life because they are so slow growing. Other early cancers signal a mutation which makes the person more prone to cancer and a genetic test is a lot more reliable than waiting for a dream warning.

    Regarding falsifiability: How do we know that aliens haven’t abducted some missing people? How do we know that your ideas don’t come from little sprites whispering in your ear? How do we know that demons don’t cause mental illness? How do we know that Satan didn’t cause Donna’s dream because he wants her to live longer so she has a better chance of sinning and ending up in hell? These are all unfalsifiable. And I could use all your rhetoric techniques to show that these have just as much evidence value as your claims. We can’t prove them wrong just like we can’t prove that theology never gave anyone any actual knowledge. That’s way, the burden of proof is on the person who makes the claim for such things. In this conversation, that would be you. Quit making demands on others when you’ve failed repeatedly in your obligation to support your claims regarding supposed “other ways of knowing” .

    You’ve also failed in telling us how you’d know if you were wrong (Jerry’s question– remember?) How would you distinguish a real “message from beyond” from a coincidence? How many times has Donna had dreams that were meaningless but which she found meaningful at first? Do you know? How do we know that you or Donna or your wife haven’t embellished the story? Memory is tricky. How do we know that Donna’s pre-cancer would ever have spread or caused her problems? What percentage of the population has these pre-cancers, but don’t know?

    The problem with your Donna anecdote is that we cannot tell it from misperceptions, delusions, coincidences, 3rd factor correlations, confirmation bias, embellished memories, hearsay, lies, mistakes, or wishful thinking. And you have no interest in doing so. You have a vested interest in believing that there are “other ways of knowing”.

    But correlation is not causation. In science these types of anecdote aren’t evidence of anything… they are “confirmation bias”. If a notion cannot be proven wrong, that is a long way from proving it right. You cannot prove that Tom Cruise hasn’t accessed other ways of knowing… nor can you prove that the hijackers are not in paradise as their family members dreams suggest… nor can you prove that people can’t be cursed in such a way that their presence brings tsunamis. You can’t prove the lottery winner didn’t win because he was wished on a star. And we can’t prove that some non physical being didn’t check out your friend’s physical breast tissue and then fiddle with the neurons in her physical brain so that she’d be aware of the beginnings of cancer in a dream– a magical “other way” of knowing. Of course, if such a being could interfere with the physical world that much, one might wonder why it didn’t just stop the cancer.

    Still, your tenacity amuses. And the comments/questions you avoid are telling. But your argument fails, and YOU fail in understanding why your argument fails.

  52. chunkdz
    Posted January 5, 2010 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    articulett,
    I’m not sure why you keep bringing up Tom Cruise. The examples you choose are ‘postdictions’ – wherein Tom becomes wildly famous and says Scientology is responsible, or Tom finds a stranded motorist and says he was led there by – whatever. Donna, on the other hand, made a ‘pre-diction’ based on a dream that she had, substantiated by theology, and verified using medical technology.

    It’s just not a good comparison. I’m surprised you keep pulling it out over and over.

    articulett wrote: “Regarding falsifiability: How do we know that aliens haven’t abducted some missing people”

    I’ve already stated that dreams are metaphysical and therefore do not lend themselves to the scientific method. This does not mean that we could not test the prediction made in Donna’s dream, only that it can’t be replicated.

    articulett wrote: “You’ve also failed in telling us how you’d know if you were wrong.”

    If Donna got a cancer screening that came out negative, then we’d know her dream was wrong.

    articulett wrote: “How do we know that you or Donna or your wife haven’t embellished the story? Memory is tricky.”

    Such is the study of dreams. One must trust the recall of the dreamer.

    articulett: “How do we know that Donna’s pre-cancer would ever have spread or caused her problems? What percentage of the population has these pre-cancers, but don’t know?”

    The doctor told her it was rare in women her age, and a very aggressive variety.

    articulett: “The problem with your Donna anecdote is that we cannot tell it from misperceptions, delusions, coincidences, 3rd factor correlations, confirmation bias, embellished memories, hearsay, lies, mistakes, or wishful thinking. And you have no interest in doing so. You have a vested interest in believing that there are “other ways of knowing”.”

    None of that matters. All that matters is that theology informed us to take the dream seriously. You are looking for dreams to behave in a scientific way. Unfortunately, dreams are metaphysical and as such do not lend themselves to the scientific method. If they did then they would hardly be another way of knowing, would they?

    articulett: “But correlation is not causation. In science these types of anecdote aren’t evidence of anything… they are “confirmation bias”. If a notion cannot be proven wrong, that is a long way from proving it right.”

    As I said, this was no proof. Merely an answer to Richard Dawkins question.

    articulett: “Still, your tenacity amuses. And the comments/questions you avoid are telling. But your argument fails, and YOU fail in understanding why your argument fails.”

    The argument is sound. Theology definitely saved Donna’s life when science was mute. However, the strawman you erect over and over does indeed fail.

    • Posted January 5, 2010 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

      chunkdz says:
      “Theology definitely saved Donna’s life…”

      Donna’s life was apparently saved by paying attention to a dream of breast cancer. Because in her dream, she saw her God, her theology caused her to pay attention to the message of the dream.

      That is a long way from being evidence that there actually is a God and that God sent Donna that dream to warn her about her breast cancer. On the contrary, it is entirely possible that there was a low-level physical sensation associated with the small tumor – even if it could not be felt as a lump, there could have been enough subtle difference to trigger a dream – no need for God as an explanation.

      Further, I think the repetition of the statement that Donna’s story is “merely an answer to Dawkins’ question” [about the usefulness of theology] is somewhat disingenuous. For me (and many others who were formerly religious), I (somewhat reluctantly) gave up on Christianity, not because I did not find it useful, but because I could no longer reconcile its truth with reality.

    • Posted January 5, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

      None of that matters. All that matters is that theology informed us to take the dream seriously. You are looking for dreams to behave in a scientific way. Unfortunately, dreams are metaphysical and as such do not lend themselves to the scientific method. If they did then they would hardly be another way of knowing, would they?

      Completely untrue. Dreams are caused by mind which is caused by brain which can be empirically investigated. Subjective first person reports can be investigated and tested for correlates to physical states.

      If Donna got a cancer screening that came out negative, then we’d know her dream was wrong.

      Unsurprisingly, you’ve missed the point, again. That’s not what he was asking. He was asking about the case where she actually did have cancer, but the dream was nothing other than random noise with no predictive power, that made her think about checking for cancer by accident. What if that happened? How could you tell the difference between that and a genuine prediction?

      You have no way of separating the two, and since you don’t, your example collapses.

      • articulett
        Posted January 5, 2010 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

        Yes, cancers are often associated with protein markers in the bloodstream, and they often generate fevers as the body tries to fight off the invader… so there are clues that might translate to dreams of feelings or worries that “something isn’t right”.

        This would be interesting to study.

        But Chunkdz seems to think that this is EVIDENCE that the invisible undetectable creator of the universe that he believes in sent a psychic message to Donna regarding her breast tissue in a dream– which is exceedingly unlikely as an explanation. There is no evidence that any sort of consciousness can exist absent a material brain and even less of a reason to think that an immaterial entity could affect a material brain to give dream clues regarding physical ailments.

        And, yet, to Chunkdz, this is the ONLY answer he finds credible. He’s leaped over the entire panoply of natural events including coincidence and decided that Donna’s story is PROOF that there are “other ways of knowing”. And, on top of that, he expects us to consider this evidence as well.

    • Posted January 5, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

      As I said, this was no proof. Merely an answer to Richard Dawkins question.

      If there is no proof, then there isn’t an answer either.

      • articulett
        Posted January 5, 2010 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

        And the discussion was not about Richard Dawkins (nor what Chunkdz thinks RD was asking or saying) anyhow. This discussion was about this inane notion that there are “other ways of knowing” and the unfalsifiability of such claims.

        Chunkdz cannot stay on topic because of his desperate desire to believe that theology is “another way of knowing” that saved his friend’s life. He cannot fathom why (to us)his story is just another anecdote on par with all the anecdotes in my examples–anecdotes that he would dismiss as easily as we dismiss his–and for the same reasons. He illustrates exactly WHY “other ways of knowing” is a bad idea; it makes people feel like they know some mystical secret when, in fact, they don’t really KNOW anything at all.

        Rational people are right to roll their eyes at those making such claims since it makes every woo think that –since science can’t prove them wrong– their beliefs are true. It makes people arrogant as they imagine themselves humble… and it makes them vulnerable to anyone who can provide fodder for a bias they wish to confirm.

        Just like Chunkdz, believers in “other ways of knowing” are not amenable to more prosaic (and likely explanations– only their chosen supernatural conclusion will do. No amount of evidence will make cChunkdz cede that theology (god?) may not have saved Donna’s life just as no amount of evidence will make Tom Cruise think that Scientology hasn’t gifted him and others with supernatural powers and gifts. Both these people would think of each other as crazy, but to me, they are equally incoherent and similarly delusional. Faith makes people feel like they know things without being able to demonstrate any actual knowledge at all. It seems like it’s all feeling and zero actual knowledge. I can’t help but wonder if I was that impenetrable during my woo years. (If so, then there is hope for people like Chunkdz, I suppose.)

        I bet Francis Collins is just as impenetrable regarding his 3 pronged waterfall “sign” that “Christianity” is the truth. And surely the hijackers had just as strong a conviction that they were on their way to paradise on 9-11. I think this “other way of knowing” canard needs to be shredded every time in rears it’s head. This is what undeserved respect towards faith (accomadationism) has wrought–delusion dressed up as “higher truths”… and people who feel proud of the tenacity of their faith (i.e. their irrationality). It’s not always harmless.


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