Saturday, September 12, 2015

What I Said About Circles And Triangles The Other Day I Didn't Make It Up, You Know

I would have thought a pile of sciencey atheists like you guys would be more familiar with that icon of sciencey atheists, Hume.

The situation with Hume is more complicated, but also arguably clearer because the gap is addressed directly. In his A Treatise of Human Nature (1739–1740) he defended the certainty of arithmetic and algebra, but withheld it from geometry on the grounds that our knowledge of points and lines is inherently imprecise. The truths of Euclidean geometry were not truths about the world but of an abstract system, and would remain true if there were no figures in the world that correspond to their Euclidean equivalents. The isosceles triangle theorem, which asserts the equality of two sides of a triangle having two equal angles, is to be understood, Hume suggested, as the claim that in the given circumstances, two sides of a triangle are approximately equal—and interpreted this way the claim is certain (see Badici 2011 and de Pierris 2012).

Only, I lie, I didn't even expect you'd know about anything like that.  As you mock the entire field of philosophy, I don't expect you would even know the name, Hume.

In what you are so obviously not getting from what I said the other day, I was making a distinction between the pretenses of absolute knowledge and what we really face in the real world.   Even the absolute knowledge is not really absolute,    And if there is no, actual, perfect circle or perfect physical representation of the relationships that give rise to numbers such as the square root of two or pi, then those are abstractions, not actual, physical things in the physical universe and all of the formulae that use such numbers are, even at their very, very best, an approximation as a description of the real world, of nature, of absolute reality.  The ideal and absolute physical expression of them may, well, exist nowhere in nature.  And that's not to mention the implications of the curvature of space such as we're always told about.  The existence of such relationships are derived from idealized, absolutely flat space which doesn't even really exist.  Or are we not supposed to think about that, either?   As Heisenberg was dealing with the very tiny which can be evidenced, directly, apparently such questions might be more relevant at those resolutions while they can be made to fit and fudge for our purposes in more everyday contexts. And he was dealing with physics that is capable of material confirmation.  When you're dealing with tiny things, approximations can turn into enormous gaps and the things he was thinking about, the quantum level of matter at which so much of our every-day assumptions seem to go out the window, why can we assume those will hold in the infinitesimally smaller and entirely unobservable and non-confirmable level that today's celebrity physicists and cosmologists play with?

Thinking about that is fun, to me, at least.

You see, I remember what it said in my high school geometry textbook, that the figures of geometry, the basis of all of those formulas, were not to be found in nature but were idealized abstractions, only they put it in other words.  As I recall, Bertrand Russell, another icon of sciencey atheists made a similar statement somewhere in his voluminous oeuvre, as we say up here in the wilds of Oxford county.  And what they say coheres logically based on the inescapable imprecision built into the act of measurement and observation - as we were taught by our poor, beleagured 7th grade math teacher who deserves a place in heaven for putting up with us brats.   Some of us even learned enough to be ashamed of how we acted back then.

Along with that, when I am told such things as,  "One aim of the physical sciences has been to give an exact picture of the natural world. One achievement of physics in the twentieth century has been to prove that that aim is unattainable," by such as Jacob Bronowski in explaining the work of such folk as Werner Heisenberg and other physicists, many of whom he knew, I take them at their word.  I figure if that is one of the achievements of physics in the last century made by some of the great names of physics and science, you're supposed to believe it's really true.

I am surprised that it hasn't had more of an influence on the fundamentalist thinking of so many in science, especially physics, especially of guys like Larry Krauss who as recently as 2006 wasn't a materialist fundamentalist and could be quite reasonable about the limits of science which can only address a limited area of reality but who, I'm told, became buddies with Christopher Hitchens, so notably NOT a physicist,  and he was converted to his present day fundamentalist faith, which leads him to hold to such nonsensical ideas as that the universe made itself before it existed out of a nothing that is not a nothing but physical laws which he believes existed before the physical matter - the only stuff that leads to the human formulation of those laws - existed, as well.   I think if he had bothered to take more philosophy he might understand that what he and other such fundamentalists as Stephen Hawking say on that is illogical balderdash equaling and vastly surpassing the most absurd God of the gaps arguments. Only I've stopped being surprised that today's eminent scientists can say such nonsense because, as the historian of science, Paul Feyerabend, famously put it,

 The younger generation of physicists, the Feynmans, the Schwingers, etc., may be very bright; they may be more intelligent than their predecessors, than Bohr, Einstein, Schr√∂dinger, Boltzmann, Mach, and so on.  But they are uncivilized savages, they lack in philosophical depth.

And I'm not hesitant to say that Larry Krauss and Stephen Hawking ain't no Richard Feynman. Neither are they Einsteins nor even Schr√∂dingers,  nor  Bohrs, though Larry Krauss is working on becoming a bore, something I used to think he didn't have in him.

For more on that, you might like to look at the quotes from Einstein in this article from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  I think the first one sums up the situation that leads today's eminent physicists and, even more so the cosmologists, to say some of the really stupid stuff they say so regularly.

I fully agree with you about the significance and educational value of methodology as well as history and philosophy of science. So many people today—and even professional scientists—seem to me like somebody who has seen thousands of trees but has never seen a forest. A knowledge of the historic and philosophical background gives that kind of independence from prejudices of his generation from which most scientists are suffering. This independence created by philosophical insight is—in my opinion—the mark of distinction between a mere artisan or specialist and a real seeker after truth. (Einstein to Thornton, 7 December 1944.

Today's prominent, celebrity atheist-scientists have given up the role of mere artisan and specialist and gone down to ideological hack, looking for their next mention in Huffington Post, Salon or some other media opportunity.   And the blog flies of E-ton ain't no celebrity atheist-physicists.

How is Larry Krauss's "black holes can't possibly form" idea doing among the high and sciency, these days?  It's not even ten years old but I haven't noticed it being taken seriously.   I wonder if its failure to take among them has something to do with his descent into celebr-atheist hackery.  You don't think it could have something to do with that?   Atheist hackery is a golden-parachute career of many a past-it sci-guy and has been since Bertrand Russell pioneered that route.

It's too bad that he couldn't do more with it, I thought it raised an interesting question about how things could happen if time stopped at the event horizon.  Even if it were to prove wrong, it would be an interesting question to deal with, I'd be interested in how they'd get around it.  But if he's right about that and all the stuff they've said about black holes turns out to be scholastic speculation,  I wonder what it would do to the physics around and based on black holes, not to mention the disaster for the popular reputation of science such a massive bait and switch operation would be.  I'd probably point out that it was a rather massive example of what I was talking about in that post you think is so highly risible as well.

Hey, if someone of the stature of Larry Krauss says there's reason to be skeptical of black holes and so everything that such great names as have been built on black holes, such as Hawkings have said about them, who am I to doubt it?   At least what he said on that count coheres logically and doesn't redefine words to mean their opposite.  Here's a clue for you, any statement that depends on the redefinition of a word to mean its opposite, such as "nothing" probably ain't going nowhere good.

As an aside, if black holes get pushed into the boneyard of discontinued science I wonder what it will do to the posthumous reputation of the brilliant philosopher of physics, Eddington, another great figure of classical physics who was also quite a brilliant philosopher.  I'm not a student of his conflict with his student and friend, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, but a lot of the derisive things said about Eddington are based in his skepticism about black holes.  You wonder how Larry Krauss has, so far, escaped that same derision over his skepticism.  What do the low and sciencey have to say about that?

Update:  Oh, the hilarity, in the approximately 8 comments, and counting, that Simels has left here his last one scolds me on a lack of seriousness, which I could, if I went through my trash files, match to his and his buddies condemnations of me for a lack of frivolity.   Simels, STEVE SIMELS IS TRASHING ME FOR A LACK OF SERIOUSNESS!   Oh, yeah, I'll publish that one for those who think I'm making that up, too.


  1. "the pretenses of absolute knowledge and what we really face in the real world"
    Here is your fundamental problem. Science does not claim that there is an absolute knowledge or that we can know it. How the hell did you ever think that science makes this claim? All of science is incomplete and provisional. Any great new theory will simply create new unknowns and demonstrate new gaps in knowledge. You are fighting against a really moronic straw man that is a product of your total ignorance of science. Even the quote from Bronowski makes it clear that scientists do not claim what you think it claims.
    The only people who make a claim to absolute knowledge and truth are you biblebillys. Of course, none of you can agree on what that is. But you are all certain that your God means that there exists some pure truth.
    Now, I realize that you must reject all of the modern world and all of human knowledge because your ignorant and incoherent misunderstanding of it conflicts with your religious superstitions. Must suck to be someone so alienated from reality.
    You need to stick to something you know, like teaching snot nosed kids Twinkle Twinkle.

    1. You know less about religion than you do about philosophy, obviously. You don't think, you rearrange your prejudices,

      I will bet you that if it were possible to list all of the statements made about science by atheists, easily 98% of them would express the belief that science produces absolute knowledge of the physical universe, even those who, like yourself, make the mealy mouthed and entirely insincere comments about what science says being contingent and always open to change. The actual situation is that science, formally, is whatever scientists say it is at any time and, in the wider world, whatever people who don't really understand what the scientists are claiming and have none of the mathematical or scientific knowledge to begin to understand it believe it is. And that is as resistant to change as any other area of human belief, including that of religion. I would think there is at least the same level of willingness and ability to change thinking on matters of religion among religious believers as there is among scientists, anyone who had read the literature of religion would see that even individual thinkers on those matters can change rather drastically within their lifetime. Some have gone from being violent fanatics to being pacifists, some have gone from holding slaves to being among the staunchest opponents of slavery, one was converted in that way by reading the passage from Sirach in the sidebar, the reason I put it there. I've changed rather enormously in both my thinking on science, mathematics and religion, as well as politics and I'm far, far to the left of you and the other Eschatots and even father to the left than Duncan Black.

    2. Sparky, as usual, you ignore my point. You are the one who thinks that science is black and white. It isn't and I can't tell who you are possibly arguing with. It certainly isn't mainstream science. As I said, science is provisional, its models are abstractions, and it is filled with human emotions and imperfections. Everybody knows this, but you are a cranky old man yelling at the clouds because you seem to be completely unaware of what science claims. Who the hell are you arguing with? Names, please. You claim that 98% of atheists claim that science produces absolute knowledge. Complete bullshit. Show me that this is a mainstream view of science. It isn't. Your statement is a complete lie. Only an idiot would continue to argue against a delusional fantasy of his own.
      As for ignorance about religion, so fucking what? Its primary axiom is 'The is a god.' I don't accept that, so everything that follows I also don't accept. Why on earth would I waste my time on this? If it amuses you and fills your empty life, then go to it, mate.
      Let me give you a concrete example. How much do you really know about Scientology, homeopathy, faith healing, astrology, healing with crystals, and mind reading? Prolly very little except for their major premises, which are patently delusional. But you and everybody else rejects them without deep knowledge of them. Do you think rejecting astrology is wrong unless you have studied all the charts? I sure hope not. So why do you find it wrong for anyone to reject religion without wasting time studying theology? To me, religion belongs in the same class as all that other crap. If it helps you sleep at night and not worry about scary monsters in your closet, then cling to it.
      But I await documentation on what 98% of people claim. Actually claim, not you dishonest and idiotic misrepresentation of what you think they claim.
      Your ultimate problem is that priests infected you with a black and white view of the world. They drained it of all color and shade. Apparently, like herpes, it is a disease that never goes away.
      98% Tony. We'll wait for the documentation

  2. The typical dishonesty of the Eschaton atheists, Skepsy, My speculation was about 98% of what atheists would say about science producing absolute knowledge, not 98% of scientists, though that is the clear belief even such scientists hold as they make mealy mouthed comments about the contingency of scientific knowledge, even a their other declarations comparing science to philosophy, other academic fields and religion, belie their claims to accept or even want to believe their statements about that contingency.

    Most atheists aren't scientists, I think most of them are about as profoundly ignorant of science as most of the rest of the Nova and Discovery watching sci experts who argue at places like Eschaton on such things as whether they are benobos or chimps. And, believe me, the Eschatots, for all their laziness, conceit and ignorance, are a lot smarter than your average blog-rat atheists.

    Everything I said in this blog post and everything I've ever written shows that your accusation that I think in black and white terms is a lie. This entire string of posts since last Thursday proves that.

    Your CSICOP style list is just more evidence of what I said about you rearranging your prejudices and believing that the result is thinking. That's what I learned from Eschaton, that the pseudo-liberals are as prone to that habit as their alleged intellectual opponents, it's just a different set of prejudices that they play with like Colorforms or Legos. And in thinking about that, of observing what else was said by the Eschatots and their like on scores if not hundreds of other websites, their thinking unedited and direct, I think I've learned why the side with the facts loses so often, some of those facts aren't facts and the ones that are are swamped by the conceit and arrogance and the game of one-ups-manship, block-though and competitive adherence to dogma that is the predominant goal of the pseudo-liberal class.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Who gives a fuck what atheists on the internet think about science? Who gives a fuck about what biblebillys on the Internet think about science? The fact is you are spewing diarrhea against a stupid misconception. You can't even produce any documentation that 98% percent of atheists make that claim. Or is this just a religious belief that you got from Rev. Billy Bob? Who are you arguing with? The answer is that you are arguing with voices in your head.
    Here, you like simple arithmetic. There are about 2,250 members of the NAS. The percentage of them who are atheists is huge, in some polls 93%. Let's make the math easy for you, and say 90% So, that means there are approximately 2,025 atheists at the highest levels of science. And if your dishonest claim were true, then there are more than 1,900 atheists in the NAS who claim that science produces absolute knowledge. A genius like you should easily be able to produce a couple of dozen of these atheist scientist who make the claim that you do. You can't even produce any non scientist atheist who make that claim. You made a completely stupid claim and you will never be able to back it up. I guess that is the great thing about being a biblebilly. Evidence is irrelevant. Believe any bullshit and it is true.
    But go ahead and lash out with insults at other people. It's a really powerful argument for a great intellectual such as yourself. Oh, and we have all enjoyed the brilliant compositions and performances of your music. That is the one area in which you claim expertise. But I am having trouble seeing any achievement in that field.
    Now run along. I'm sure there are plenty of kids who need help on Twinkle Twinkle.

    1. You are such a jerk that you seem to not understand that you are the one commenting on my blog, you don't get to tell me to "run along" I get to do that to such folk as your good buddy Simels who is pissed off that I exposed his stupidity so embarrassingly yesterday.

      The NAS is a self-chosen body that is not a valid sample of scientists, they are atypical of scientists and, as Richard Feynman pointed out, they are chosen as much on if not more for political reasons than for their absolute quality as scientists. You can't any more generalize about scientists, in general, from their characteristics than you could the voting population of the United States in 1936 from polling the subscribers to The Literary Digest.

      I'm a political blogger, I care when a bunch of ignorant, bigoted yahoos from the good section of town can be inflicted on the left to the political disadvantage of real liberalism. If it weren't for the political use that big mouthed, bigoted atheists have been for the Republican right, I'd never have written on the topic to start with. As I've studied that issue since beginning blogging in 2006, I've come to see why materialism, the religious belief of most atheists, is not only incompatible with real liberalism but is a disastrous negation of it. That's the only reason I care about it. Liberalism is incompatible with materialism as certainly as religion is not incompatible with science, another of the popular lies of the blog atheist set, of whom you are one even as you claim not to care about them. They're your fan base, your buds, your fellow club members, you care about what they think a lot more than I care about what they don't think.

    2. I do love the challenge to the "98% of atheists" (or whatever it is, not worth quoting it), which is then discarded because "who cares?"

      Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, right? Except, of course, that's not what Emerson wrote. Still, you don't worry about consistency at all, so no matter, right?

      But "biblebillys," an undefined and inchoate term, all think exactly alike, and include the entire class of people who don't disdain religion and therefore are dupes and fools and must all be "Christians" (because what other religion is there, right?)

      What sandbox is this person used to shitting in?

  5. The most annoying thing about the intertoobs is people parading their ignorance as a badge of honor.

    First, the profoundly unsupported statement that "biblebillys" (don't know what the hell those are, obviously a made up term of derision) stake a claim to absolute truth. And apparently all Christians are "biblebillys." Never so much as read the work of Augustine or Aquinas, have you? Rayner, ring a bell? Kierkegaard? Tillich? Barth? Niebuhr (Richard or Reinie)?


    Go away, you're an ignoramus.

    Then we get this: "As for ignorance about religion, so fucking what? Its primary axiom is 'The is a god.'"

    Not actually the "primary axiom" of religion (your knowledge of religion is miserable and cramped, to say the least), but okay, you think you have to start there and you refuse to: fine. You then declare in your proud ignorance that it is a subject not worth knowing, which is the rough equivalent of saying "I'm color blind, so why does anybody give a shit about paintings?" Or "I'm tone deaf, so music is for morons!" Or, "I have no feeling for my fellow human beings, so all this blather about "love" and "Compassion" is just a waste of energy!"

    Such a small person to be so sure you can look down on the rest of humankind from the lofty perch of your anonymous internet comments. Do you realize how really really tiny you seem to be compared to everyone else? Why even Einstein, an avowed atheist, is wiser in the comment quoted above than you are. He was at least interested in the value of wisdom.

    You are only interested in the value of the little you know. And let me tell you, the market for that is down. And it's not expected to come up anytime soon.

  6. "Here's a clue for you, any statement that depends on the redefinition of a word to mean its opposite, such as "nothing" probably ain't going nowhere good."

    Here's a more important clue for YOU, Sparky: Until you learn how to express yourself on any subject in coherent recognizably English sentences, there's absolutely no need -- or way, frankly -- to try to address you seriously on any subject.

    Thought you'd like to know.

  7. I am really having a hard time seeing any names that are examples of the 98%. Perhaps you accidentally wrote them in hidden HTML code. Please convert the names to plain texts so we can see them. Did you know that some atheists have written books? Maybe there are lots of quotes in them that will bolster your case. Because you are so well versed in atheism having studied it for so many years.
    You made a claim and as usual you are completely unable to provide even the thinnest evidence.
    And Bob, I don't give a shit what atheists in the Internet think or say. I don't give a shit what failed Christians think or say. But you two idiots do. Tony made a claim. In the world outside of religion, claims are supposed to be supported by evidence. Maybe you could help Tony out with your vast theological knowledge. I don't hold out any hope.
    The term biblebilly includes people who think the gospels have some kind of special meaning to them. Yes, it is a term of derision. Glad I could clear that up for you. Maybe you could write a sermon about how atheists are so mean to you and your little buddy. If only you had a congregation.

    1. I debated with myself whether or not to post this idiotic post which is certainly not based in any kind of awareness of what I wrote about here and recently. So much could be said about the sheer stupidity of what you said, Skeps, that I'll just deal with the point that made me opt to post it.

      "In the world outside of religion, claims are supposed to be supported by evidence."

      To start with, on the most pedestrian level that your pedestrian mind is dealing with, I didn't make a statement about 98% of the positive statements of atheists on the topic of science producing absolute knowledge, I was making a bet of what would be possible IF IT COULD BE DONE.

      " I will bet you that if it were possible to list all of the statements made about science by atheists, easily 98% of them would express the belief that science produces absolute knowledge of the physical universe..."

      I know little things like the conditional mood elude such great minds as yours and Simels but I said it that way for a purpose.

      On an important level, one of the major criticisms I've made of the invasion of materialist ideology into science is the creation of a simulation of science based on promissory notes of materialism but which do not now have so much as a prospect of verification in evidence of the kind which science allegedly finds its validation in. It is, indeed, one of the facts of the topics of black holes that your boy, Larry Krauss, makes

      Asked why then the universe nevertheless seems to be full of black holes, Krauss replies, "How do you know they're black holes?" No one has actually seen a black hole, he says, and anything with a tremendous amount of gravity--such as the supermassive remnants of stars--could exert effects similar to those researchers have blamed on black holes. "All of our calculations suggest this is quite plausible," Krauss says.

    2. cont. I have also noted, repeatedly, that that other atheist idol, Stephen Hawking has explicitly demanded that physics be exempted from producing evidence that his kind of speculation is real somewhere in this universe or, in fact, in all of those jillions of universes he and his school of, um, "science" have invented, as even that materialist-atheist Peter Woit has repeatedly pointed out. And he's hardly the only one.

      Furthermore, I have also noted that that other atheist icon, Richard Dawkins has created evidence free science based on the non-observation and non-counting involved in his evo-psy Just-so story telling, in fact I noted that it led him to create a creation fable which is not only based on absolutely no evidence, at all, but is also mathematically incoherent, makes a claim to be based on Darwinian principles but which, as well, negates the definition of positive adaptation and turns the advantage of good eyesight and hearing into a dysgenic feature that could not but lead to the early death and so reproductive disadvantage of those he alleges are given a reproductive advantage by it.

      Atheists in science are some of the most flagrant produces of unevidenced science, taught at universities as science, even as they make the same claim for the requirement of evidence you just did. Of course, if you had bothered with a bit of philosophy instead of apprenticeship in your artisanship, you might have noticed those little lapses. I'm no longer surprised that the atheists' favorite philosoph, Daniel Dennett is as clueless on that count as you boys are.

    3. Oohh, ad hominems! That really upsets me!

      No, actually, it doesn't. It proves what I said before: you're a really small person.

      Really, really small.

      Too small to take further notice of.

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. P.S. If I didn't make it clear before (and yes, I'm engaging in insult, but not ad hominem; your "argument" is in tatters already), you're a chucklehead.

      A childish person like you can't be mean to anybody. You can only imagine you can.

  8. " I will bet you that if it were possible to list all of the statements made about science by atheists, easily 98% of them would express the belief that science produces absolute knowledge of the physical universe..."
    I am calling you on that bet. I don't expect anyone to list and count all the comments made by atheists. That is ridiculous. But if this absolute knowledge claim is so prevalent, then it should be easy to produce some. You haven't even produced a single example. Could it be that as always, you have no idea what you are talking about?
    Maybe you could actually learn something about science. Materialist ideology did not invade science. Science is the investigation of the material world. By definition it is materialist. Science doesn't work at all if it allows unverifiable supernatural claims. Claiming that baby Jesus made that particle do that or those chemicals to react is not science. Now, go right ahead and believe any hooey you want. But hooey doesn't belong in science. There is natural and supernatural. Hint: science only addresses the natural. Why is that so hard for you to understand?
    I'm still waiting for examples that support your claim.
    PS Take a writing course. Look at that sentence beginning with "On an an important note" it is impossible image how any who wrote such a rape of the English language could ever think he is intelligent. Learn to express yourself in coherent writing. Unfortunately, that would require coherent thinking. Something you have never shown any signs of.

  9. "I am calling you on that bet."

    What did I say about you boys not being able to negotiate the conditional mood? I'll challenge you to, in disguise, sometime when they'll have forgotten this, like two or three days from now, go make statements to that effect in disguise at Eschaton, at the Scienceblogs, on Alternet and other atheist venues and see what happens.

    Maybe you should go lecture those scientists, including the former Simonyi Chair in the Public Understanding of Science on the requirement for evidence in science because all of them have made careers on science which has no evidence, whatsoever. You should go look at the post where I quoted Richard Lewontin about the FACT that few, if any, of the traits supposedly selected for (or against) in natural selection are strong enough to measure and, so, fail to be treatable with the supposedly required methods of science, as well.

    Take a reading course, you obviously have the typical atheist habit of reading what you'd like to be there instead of what is there, of turning things you can't respond to and be happy with straw men that aren't there but which you know how to push over because everyone knows that. You are a boob and the kind of jack ass that Paul Feyerbach didn't address because he didn't address someone as big of a boob as you.


  10. "apparently all Christians are "biblebillys." Never so much as read the
    work of Augustine or Aquinas, have you? Rayner, ring a bell?
    Kierkegaard? Tillich? Barth? Niebuhr (Richard or Reinie)?
    Go away, you're an ignoramus."

    Quick -- name me three Christian Republican politicians in this country who've either read those guys or give a shit about them.