Speak for Yourself

ku-mediumAlex Rosenberg, like many in my acquaintance, attempt to justify materialism by speaking for science in much the same way that Christians often try to justify their ideas by speaking for God.

“Is it really still up to me to choose which way to point my finger, to my left or to my right, or neither? Science answers no.” (Rosenberg, The Atheist’s Guide to Reality p. 152)

Science has offered no proof of determinism–or even anything like a proof. This is for the very simple reason that science doesn’t study the mind’s non-physical traits.

I’ve written on this in the past, however. For now, I’d like to point out that claiming to speak for science, or for God, is hardly a respectful position to take. It is for this reason that those who claim to be the greatest defenders of an idea are often its most insufferable opponents.

Rosenberg’s view of science comes across rather like a teenage girl’s view of her favorite boy-band singer. He’s memorized a lot of facts, and speaks always tenderly about his idol, but such talk only makes it more obvious that he’s never actually met the real thing. As much as he would balk at the idea that he doesn’t actually know or love science for what it actually is, he’s in love with a fantasy.

This would be moot if it were limited to Rosenberg, but it’s been far too often that I’ve been told that quantum mechanics has “disproved” causation or that evolutionary psychology has “disproved” moral realism to wave this off as idiosyncratic.

Actually, I didn’t give much attention to this phenomenon until I started to notice how often Rosenberg and others were willing to jettison any respect for the scientific method in certain fields. He completely dismisses any need to refer to sociology or anthropology when discussing the social effects of nihilism, for instance. As often as I’ve witnessed the term “soft-science” used as an airy excuse for ignoring statical data in favor of a personal gut-instinct, I’m still bothered by it.

The fact that Dawkins, for instance, is still beating the “religion is bad for people” drum in spite of his utter failure to produce any real evidence for it is as clear a sign as one is likely to get. Far too few of the New Atheists show any real interest in what science has to say about their favorite topics. They seem much more interested in what they can make science say.

But turning the object of one’s reverence, be it science or God, into a sort of ventriloquist’s dummy may well be the final stage in closing one’s mind to anything like a dissenting opinion. And this is a very big problem.

After all, why believe anyone else when “science says” one is right?

18 responses to “Speak for Yourself

  • Arkenaten

    ”The fact that Dawkins, for instance, is still beating the “religion is bad for people” drum in spite of his utter failure to produce any real evidence for it is as clear a sign as one is likely to get. ”

    Oh dear,what an arrogant fellow you are…

    Ah…so you consider following the religion of Islam is good for people do you?

    Let me introduce you to Nate, a deconvertee who went through hell and back before he ditched Christianity.


    This is what religion does to people.

    Make a coffee, and sit down and read. if you have the guts.
    Maybe you will find a smidgen of humility once you read this man’s story and then perhaps you will recognise the truth in Richard Dawkins words.

    • Debilis

      This is very much like Dawkins’ own MO, where evidence is requested, and an anecdote is given.

      But, if you find me arrogant, I do apologize. I definitely agree that I could be wrong about things. My contention is that no one is giving me real evidence that I’m wrong. Instead, I get stories about terrible experiences with religion, set next to stories from other people about good experiences with religion.

      These are all nice stories, but where is the hard data? The statistics? Dawkins has provided none, his fans have provided none, and my own search through studies has turned up data which contradicts his claims.

      That being the case, why on earth should I believe him?

      • Arkenaten

        Then don’t look to Dawkins for evidence. It is obvious you hold him in contempt.
        Look to those that profess the faith that your religion is derived from…The Jews.
        The top Jewish scholars, researchers, archaeologists do not believe any of it is real, so why should you?
        If you are unable to see the connection between your Christianity and Judaism then maybe you should say a prayer to Marcion.
        He was on the right track but your church fathers were having none of it. Tough call, I’d say.

        “And that’s another fine mess you’ve got me into , Stanley”

        Sorry old sport…

        It’s all make believe.

      • Arkenaten

        Oh, you didn’t answer the question by the way.
        Do you think that Islam is good for people?
        This is either a Yes or No answer. There can be no middle ground and if you think carefully you will understand why. Take your time..

    • Debilis

      I don’t look to Dawkins for evidence. I look elsewhere, and have found that he is wrong.

      But all I was saying about him is that he has none. If you agree on that, then there is no debate on that point.

      Are you making the claim that we should agree with everything that Jewish scholars say? If so, why aren’t you Jewish? If not, why on earth should I believe them just because they are Jewish? I’m interested in how good an argument is, not who said it.

      As for your question about Islam, are you really still into the idea that everything has to fit a narrative tidy enough that a preschooler could understand it?

      Personally, I don’t claim to know about Islam. The Muslims I’ve personally known have been very nice people, as are the majority, if the statistics I’ve found are to be believed.

      But part of me suspects that you think a nice Muslim is someone who would have been nice anyway, but a Muslim terrorist is someone that would have been nice were it not for Islam. If so, I’d want some evidence for that.

      In fact, I’d like some evidence in general. I’m taking my time, as you suggested, on that question. While I think about it, what good evidence can you give me about it?

      And, in case this becomes relevant, I do mean evidence, not anecdotes. What statistical data is there to tell us whether or not Islam is good or bad for people?

      • Arkenaten

        ”Are you making the claim that we should agree with everything that Jewish scholars say? If so, why aren’t you Jewish? If not, why on earth should I believe them just because they are Jewish? I’m interested in how good an argument is, not who said it.”

        Your faith is based on Judaism. Without Judaism there is no Christianity.
        Are you saying the Exodus is true? That there is verifiable evidence? That eminent archaeologists Jewish and otherwise are wrong?

        Well, are you?

        if not then there is no argument. Your religion is all but trashed.

        However, if you are saying there IS evidence of an Exodus of the conquest of Canaan, or Abraham and Moses etc then Please, I BEG of you, reveal the evidence you have.
        Please, a succinct concise and brief answer is fine.
        Do you believe the Old Testament where it pertains to the post is true or false.

    • Debilis

      You really think that this is a reason why I should agree with everything a Jewish scholar says?

      Your popular materialist approach is based on the nihilistic writings of Nietzsche, without him, your position wouldn’t be here. But, somehow, I doubt that my telling you that Nietzsche disagrees with you on this point will have much affect.

      Can you see how its the same thing with myself and Judaism?

      But I’ve not said much about the Exodus. A literal reading here strikes most as fairly exegetically plausible, but is not a core tenet of Christianity, and I’ve not yet selected a particular interpretation of that passage.

      So, give me the evidence, and I’ll have a look.

      I’ll be as succinct as I can here:
      How on earth does the Old Testament pertain to the post?

      Seriously, what does the Exodus have to do with the fact that Rosenberg puts words in the mouth of science?

      • Arkenaten

        You are a Christian. Everything that you espouse is based on this fact. That you have ulterior motives every time you type a post is patently clear.
        Furthermore it is not just one Jewish scholar but almost the entire top drawer of Jewish academia. This list includes every major archaeologist.
        This is why you should take a minute to consider. This is why is is highly relevant to this post and every single thing a Christian rites or thinks or preaches.
        Because it all hinges on the veracity of the Old Testament. And only a complete clot would myopically look past the irrefutable evidence and say, “Oh, that doesn’t apply to ME because I am a Christian.”
        Want to play in the sand pit with the big kids? Then step up to the plate and defend your belief with facts. Tell me why the findings of the top echelons of Jewish academia and world renowned archaeologists should be dis-regarded?

        I dare you…..

        • Logan Rees

          This discussion’s getting a little de-railed… I’d like to hear a defense of science dictating subjective truth, which he (or she?) was arguing against in the first place.

    • Debilis

      The fact that I am a Christian does not mean everything I claim is based on this.
      I claim that 2 + 2 = 4.
      I claim that Winston Churchill was the Prime Minister of Britain.
      I claim that the original Star Wars movies are the best ones.
      And I claim that science doesn’t study intentionality.

      None of these claims are based on my being Christian. In fact, other than the third claim, I believed all of these things before I became a Christian (the new Star Wars films hadn’t been released then).

      And it is very hard for me to see why something I believed before I was a Christian is based on my belief in Christianity.

      As to the Exodus, name the evidence and I’ll have a look. But, don’t simply repeat appeals to authority and (much more importantly) don’t act as if this has anything to do with the fact that science doesn’t study intentionality.

      Really, what you seem to be arguing here is that, if you can prove that the Exodus didn’t happen, then Rosenberg is correct to assume that science affirms determinism.

      I honestly have no idea why anyone would think this is anything but a complete non-sequitur.

      • Arkenaten

        If you are not prepared to investigate the facts surrounding the Exodus, Moses and the fictional account of the conquest of Canaan and its consequences on your own faith, and everything else pertaining to this and similarly related topics then far be it for me to enlighten you.
        The only thing that is patently obvious to any impartial observer is that you are an idiot.

    • Debilis

      You are free to throw out insults if you like. I won’t block them.

      But, if you don’t actually support your case, then there is no reason at all for me to accept it. In fact, it leads me to suspect that you don’t have one. If only for the sake of someone else who happens along who is fairly neutral on this, do you have any reason one should believe what you say?

      To get to that, what I actually asked was what would lead you to think that showing the Exodus to not have happened will get a reasonable person to conclude that Rosenberg is right about determinism.

      That is, after all, what I claimed: that Rosenberg shouldn’t be speaking for science. Do you really think that attacking the Exodus story (without any support other than vague appeals to authority) disproves that?

      • Arkenaten

        The fictitious nature of Moses and the Exodus is well supported by world renowned academics,scientists and archaeologists.
        If you are to obtuse, too dense to understand this and what it means for your own particular brand of delusion then that is your problem.
        The truth is that everything you believe pertaining to Christianity is based on fiction.
        The evidence is quite clear.
        Shrugs…you have to deal with it…not me.

    • Debilis

      So it’s been said. We can get to the actual details of that discussion later.

      Right now, I’d like to remind you that I’ve not been addressing that. Rather, I’ve been asking you how you think this proves that Rosenberg is allowed to speak for science.

      I’ve been making a strong case that materialism should be rejected. If all anyone has to say in response is that many scholars don’t believe in a literal exodus, then this only goes all the more to support my position.

      After all, while I don’t necessarily agree with them, my view does not hang on a literal exodus. Rosenberg’s view (and yours, based on what you’ve already said) does hang on materialism’s being true.

      Thus, I have reading about the Exodus on my list, but I’m left in a very comfortable position here.

      • Arkenaten

        Lol what are you prattling on about?
        I have zero respect for your opinion because you are a Christian and this will have a bearing on EVERYTHING you post on your blog.

        So, I will reiterate one last time.

        Demonstrate the veracity of your faith and then I will afford what you write about other topics the time of day.

        Are we now clear?

    • Debilis

      I’m clear that this is your position, but you don’t seem to be clear that I’ve already done that.

      Let me explain it again:

      But I’ve demonstrated that my beliefs are more rational than materialism. Simply claiming ignorance of what I’ve been saying (as you do here) doesn’t change that.

      Given, then, that I’ve offered good reasons that have gone unchallenged by anything more than “but you’re a Christian, so you must be wrong”, I think anyone not committed to an anti-Christian prejudice would agree that my case is the stronger here.

      I’ve shown that materialism is false. I’ve shown that theism explains what it cannot. I’ve shown that mind is more than physical. I’ve shown that all the basic claims of monotheism are much more grounded in reality than anything a challenger has presented.

      So, I’ve demonstrated the veracity of my beliefs. It is the simple-minded dogma that everything Christians say is “obviously” false that hasn’t been supported with so much as a scrap of evidence.

  • Logan Rees

    Claiming that objective observation and experimentation somehow dictates subjective truth is is just grossly illogical.

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