Note to readers

Tomorrow I’m going to the Imagine No Religion meeting in Toronto (iteration 7), and will be back Monday morning.  The lineup is good, featuring not only people I know, like Richard Dawkins, Matt Dillahunty, Seth Andrews, Chris DiCarlo, and Lawrence Krauss, but those I’d like to meet, including Kelly Carlin and Rob Penczak. INR is always a good time, and my own talk, on “Ways of Knowing: Science versus Everything Else”, is on Sunday at 2 p.m.  I will handily demolish the myth that the humanities, religion, personal feelings, etc. are ways of finding out facts about our universe.

Posting will be light till Tuesday, so bear with me.

Also: due to the high volume of email I’m getting, I’m going to ask readers to restrict emails to me to one every three or so days. If you have several things to call to my attention, could you put them in a single email? It’s hard to handle the volume I get. But keep sending stuff!




  1. Posted June 1, 2017 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    I’m sure the email volume is very difficult; but the up-side (as I see it) is that it is an indication of the popularity of this website. 🙂

  2. dabertini
    Posted June 1, 2017 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    Looking forward to Imagine. See you there.

    • Posted June 1, 2017 at 8:39 am | Permalink

      You may say I’m a dreamer…

      • dabertini
        Posted June 1, 2017 at 8:47 am | Permalink

        but I’m not the only one.

  3. Randy schenck
    Posted June 1, 2017 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    Post reminds me of my working days. The one thing that was making it most unpleasant was the increasing volume of email. Could not come up with a way to reduce it or divert to other places, it was getting nuts. When it keeps you from getting your job done properly, something is wrong.

  4. BJ
    Posted June 1, 2017 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Enjoy your trip!

  5. rom
    Posted June 1, 2017 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    I am leaving today for INR7.
    Will say “hi” if you like.

  6. Daron D
    Posted June 1, 2017 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    Wait, there’s nothing to learn in the humanities? Sure they’re struggling with extreme post-modernism now, but there are those who follow scientific method and trends can change. We are only human 😉

    • darrelle
      Posted June 1, 2017 at 9:35 am | Permalink

      Being somewhat familiar with Jerry’s views on this topic via this website I am certain that Jerry does not think that there’s nothing to learn from the humanities. He has often expressed that any method of attempting to ascertain facts about our universe that does not include empirical verification is not effective. By facts about our universe I am pretty certain that Jerry means explanations and facts about the phenomena that comprise our reality.

      He also often uses the phrase “science broadly construed” and clarifies that by that he means something like not just formal science but the use of the basic principles of science in any context.

      His basic point seems to me to be that just making up an explanation for something that sounds good and reasonable is, by itself, not going to have any better probability of being accurate than reading tea leaves. In order to achieve a probability of accuracy greater than chance you have to test the explanation against reality and accept what the results of that testing are. Reasoning and rationalizing are not enough. I agree with that and it seems readily evident to me.

      Such a view does not equate to thinking the humanities are of no value. I can even accept, without reservations, that good examples of art can teach us useful things about ourselves and create moving, worthwhile experiences. That seems trivially true.

      But that is not the same thing as learning how a gene from a primitive fish that regulates fin development can be put in chicken embryos in place of the chicken’s version of the gene, which regulates limb development, with nearly normal results even though the last common ancestor of those two species was something like 400 million years ago. And what the implications of that are.

      But, at the same time I believe that the arts are a vital part of human life and I don’t see any conflict between that view and the view that “science broadly construed” is the only effective way to discover accurate explanations and facts about the phenomena that comprise our reality. I’m pretty sure Jerry would agree with that, at least in general. He has written many posts here about his favorite literature, music, other arts and cultural experiences.

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted June 1, 2017 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

        I largely agree with Jerry’s take on “science broadly construed”. Where we perhaps part company is in his implication (perhaps unintended) that “personal feelings” don’t count as “facts about our universe”.

        Of course I’m not saying that believing something makes it true. But I think a naturalistic view of consciousness compels us to accept that subjective feelings are indeed “facts about the universe”, but they’re a category of fact we can know only by experiencing them. So to the extent that the arts provoke new feelings we had not experienced before, they are indeed ways of learning facts about the universe.

        • darrelle
          Posted June 1, 2017 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

          If I understand what you mean, I agree with you.

          I think that there is something more fundamental at work, at least in some cases, than a difference of opinion over “ways of knowing.” It seems to me that a not insignificant number of people don’t merely think that other “ways of knowing” besides science (broadly construed) can discover facts about our reality, but they actually don’t think that facts about our reality are important in the first place. They think that they can make up their own reality and that it is better to do so.

          Unfortunately you can do that and get along just fine. Sometimes for only a short period of time, sometimes for an entire lifetime. But I’d argue that doing so isn’t conducive to creating or maintaining the best society we can for as many people as possible.

          • Daron D.
            Posted June 1, 2017 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

            Thank you both for the dialogue. I don’t disagree, and I particularly appreciate the point about art, but you’ve gotten somewhat beside my point. He said he would “…demolish the myth that the humanities, religion, personal feelings, etc. are ways of finding out facts about our universe.” That’s a pretty straightforward denunciation, and there’s no reason to assume that many of Jerry’s readers don’t take him literally and trust his authority. Critical thinking is his stock in trade, and there’s nothing in his post to suggest he doesn’t mean exactly what he says. Wouldn’t want to over-interpret lest we veer off into the humanities, ha.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted June 1, 2017 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      @Daron D

      JAC didn’t write “there’s nothing to learn in the humanities”

      Come on! At least begin with an accurate quote

      • Daron D
        Posted June 1, 2017 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

        I wasn’t quoting.

  7. Posted June 1, 2017 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    I suggest a free email account that means your mail is separate from WEIT mail…

    • Posted June 1, 2017 at 8:38 am | Permalink

      Has anyone read God’s Gravediggers: Why No Deity Exists by Raymond D. Bradley?
      “We can imagine Hobbit-land, and even imagine it to exist somewhere in New Zealand where the Lord of the Rings film was shot, but does this mean my maps of New Zealand are seriously deficient? The answer is obvious. We can’t conjure entities belonging to the natural world into existence, just by coherently imagining them to exist.”

    • Les Faby
      Posted June 1, 2017 at 11:57 am | Permalink

      Not a bad idea.
      asking emailers to put WEIT in the subject line
      would help filtering.

  8. Julian C
    Posted June 1, 2017 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    See you at INR7!

  9. W.Benson
    Posted June 1, 2017 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Everyone, I`m sure, will have a good time.

  10. Posted June 1, 2017 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    Have fun in Canada’s largest city!

  11. ladyatheist
    Posted June 1, 2017 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    May I suggest an open thread so we can share interesting stuff with each other while you’re busy?

  12. Drhack
    Posted June 2, 2017 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    I am attending as well, looks like a sizable number of readers will be there.

  13. Willard Bolinger
    Posted June 5, 2017 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    Gretta Vosper, West Hill United-Toronto is scheduled to be our speaker at Kansas City Oasis on June 11!

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