Atheism Isn't a Religion Redux

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Yes, absolutely I am saying that science offers (provisional) answers that religion cannot. When religious answers build a plane, I'll be more amenable to thinking there might be something to them. But I never said science can answer non-scientific questions. I implied, though I probably should have been more clear, that many "non-scientific" questions are, when looked at closely, meaningless, such as the "what animates life" question above. And for some questions, we just don't know. I'm saying in cases where science does not have an answer, there is no reason to suppose religion does.

Sorry no. The point was a religous person has no reason not to understand and use science. He may however make different claims about why science exists, and the nature of the thing invovlved with the apprehension of the occurences. The continued trumpeting of something incredibly profound in the observing of repeated phenemenon does not strike me as being the pinnacle of our ability to make "sense" of things as it does to you. And for that matter there seems to be an implied "simple mindedness" to those who think the only real questions have answers with consistent moving identifiable parts.

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mattnapa
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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm
Quote mattnapa:

Sorry no. The point was a religous person has no reason not to understand and use science. He may however make different claims about why science exists, and the nature of the thing invovlved with the apprehension of the occurences. The continued trumpeting of something incredibly profound in the observing of repeated phenemenon does not strike me as being the pinnacle of our ability to make "sense" of things as it does to you. And for that matter there seems to be an implied "simple mindedness" to those who think the only real questions have answers with consistent moving identifiable parts.

Yes, the religious person and non-religious person alike can make claims about why science exists or anything else exists. But my point is that there is no reason to suppose your answers are better than mine, or mine better than Bin Laden's. Or rather, the only better is in the consequences of the belief. If your religious answers lead to suicide bombings or to the death of your kid because you think vaccines cause autism, then we condemn them based on our already established moral framework. As a society, we can discuss whether that is the moral framework we want or not, but that is a philosophical and not scientific question. Once we decide on where we want to go, science can help us choose the optimal path to get there, but otherwise it can't help but be silent on the question.

Profound is also a value judgement. Let me repeat myself, I am only talking about how we may confidently decide something is more or less factual. That the earth is basically spherical in shape is not open to "reasonable" discussion at this point in history. If your religion or other non-evidence based beliefs contradict that fact about the earth, you are wrong and I feel no shame calling your belief foolish. It is no different for homeopathy or perpetual motion machines or creationists.

On the subject of moral and value judgement, there are questions that are profound and not answerable by science. Whether the State has a right to execute someone. Whether folks have the right to choose the time of their death. Whether we have an obligation to care for the poor. These are interesting and meaningful questions. Questions about how many angels can fit on the head of a pin are not. My opinion is that most new aged nonsense falls into the latter category. But, if it's meaningful to you, hey, have at it. I'd rather focus on the moral and ethical problems. I only object when the nonsense creeps into actual truth claims. Then it needs to stand or fall by the evidence and not by ideology.

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reed9
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Apr. 8, 2010 10:26 am

OK, no "false gods." The reason I have separated "faith" from religion and also from a number of reductionist and casual use terms of familiarity is that "sainthood" is not about being objectively religious or "believing" what we want to despite the evidence.

For you math freaks, the Trinity is the "more than one truth at a time" principle. It is about the unity and the plurality, not just who are the Big Three, and the latter issues have made hash out of the Trinity. It is about the nature of Truth being more than linear and literal. Or it can be tautological, as in God is Love, Love is God, etc.

The discipline of theology ought to stick to questions of our humanity and how and why we live here with each other among the rest of life? The Creation stories are about our relationship with the world, not about the science of cosmology or geology.

Science does not do a good job on questions of human meaning and purpose, nor does it offer more than a rationalist epistemology because it properly is about observing and not about celebrating per se. Scientists can feel great joy and satisfaction when their line of inquiry pays off in good for the world. They can also let that motivation make them see more than there is or refuse to see what is in the way. They are human beings.

Far from the certainty of theism, the spirituality of a journey of discovery is what I find counseled in the Bible. Belief and doubt together, and individual identity and common bond all come together in the narratives and doctrines left to us in heritage. Not science, not history, but not fantasy or spaghetti monsters either. A more poetic way to observe and reflect upon the experience of being human than science. Allies rather than rivals, as I experience and think about mine and ours.

I have more problem with "theists" than with agnostics or atheists. Fundamentalism in religion is rooted in sociology more than in theology, and inevitably distorts everything it enters, including science and economics--and nationalism. As with ideology and dogmatism, fundamentalism is a dysfunctional form of thinking. It is dysfunctional because all these pathologies demand that reality conform to them rather than adjusting and adapting to discovery.

If your goal is to disprove the Bible or demonstrate its less evolved texts as if they had real authority today, why bother? But take the story of the Exodus where the whole point is that "the people" needed miracles and divine intervention to get out of slavery and become "a people" able to live together in a successful society. If we take the narrative metaphysics as a myth construct about reality, it tells us to be visionary rather than trapped by our fears about the power of Pharoah and his army.

The God who leads Moses and the People precedes them and forces them to try to keep up with "what was happening now" then. Forty years in the Wilderness is a generational change description. They grow up into more than escaped slaves. But they remember being delivered from slavery by a social change and paradigm shift greater than they could have imagined. They institute memory in laws about social justice and taking care of the poor.

They live in a terrible geopolitical land where every empire going against the other empire challengers marched through. Babylon and Egypt, Rome and the heirs of Alexander, all complicate the politics of this small nation. They have to learn not to become entangled in alliances with any because the next time will come. And, what we have is the literature of the critics of big court ostentation and mixing in foreign gods, not what the real history would show. We get it from the exile experience of social failure. When they stopped taking care about social justice.

Those who decide to live in a religious discipline do not have to surrender their intellect even if they live in a liturgical drama. Their personal embrace of life as good is about how they feel and are conscious of being in harmony and balance with existence. It can include a deep scientific appreciation of the structure and nature of this wonderous world and cosmos--and us. It is critical to keep the myths and metaphors apart from science and history. I find the idea of eternal life seriously insufficient. But the idea that we are past, present and future, or that we are all One has real genetic authority.

The Objectivists think they see what everyone else sees and that what they see is all there is. Or, maybe there is more, but we all see what we see here. Not true. The trained tracker sees traces that we would need training to begin to see. Those who have lived on the land and observed how the insects and birds interact with the plants and the soils, or who fish and learn when the insect larvae will attract the right fish, etc., are not scientists. They do not use "logic" and "rationality" as their larger frame. They employ these tools within their assessment and evaluation of their world according to what matters.

And that is the critical issue. We see what we are "looking for" even if it is the unexpected answer. The question frames the observation. Asking a different question would rearrange the picture of meaning and make other things "obvious."

And, with regard to the medical issues, I would avoid making doctrinal or dogmatic statements about East/West or natural/pharm. We are going to learn a lot from each other, and a lot of it starts with some humility about science and technology v. human health.

The reason humility is needed is that science has made a big contribution, not that it is all wrong. But my experience with Western medicine is that it is better at tech than at healing. It is pill driven when meds are basically symptom suppressors that allow the body's healing forces to work better. It is also parts and procedure focussed instead of being wise about the wholistic nature of our bodies and their function. Nobody dealing with my backpain issues knew why getting the feet right was more important than shooting steroids into my spine.

I discovered almost everything useful in my long and arduous recovery from sciatic near paralysis. One great surgery, but the recovery and analysis of the problem of learned dysfunctions was my own. I have had consultations with pros, but they find it a collegial learning experience rather than them telling me how to fix my skeletal integrity issues.

Chinese concepts of "chi" and energy flows correspond to the nerves and circulation as well as to the interactive nature of our "frames." The foot is a roadmap for the rest of us because the nerves end there. Breathing and the ability to relax and find a physical state of peacefulness is not achieve by "working out." Allowing the tension of anxiety or just body rust to get out of the way of our natural selves is not something drugs provide either. Some can help, but only if you are doing something to get there by getting out of the way.

The problem with evidence is that it is incomplete and always coming up with new info. It is also why it is great, and why ideology sucks. The good religious narrative inspires us to be open-minded and open-hearted about who we are and what it means to be human together with all you all out there. The good scientific discipline is studiously self-reflective and critical, ready to be wrong and suspicious of being right. No false realities allowed in either story unless you believe that human life sucks. One can be distressed about humanity because of love rather than self-hate, and the latter perspective seems useless as well as hopeless. In the story, it drives God so nuts "he" has to become human to share the tragedy in order to transform it. Pretty realistic stuff, including the idea that death is not the end. It is not the big authority under which we live. It is a part of life we would just as soon delay because this is a kick.

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DRC
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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

Broadly speaking, I agree with the first half of your post, up to the medicine bit.

I have a couple of quibbles, but I think only one is pertinent to the matter at hand.

Quote DRC:The Objectivists think they see what everyone else sees and that what they see is all there is. Or, maybe there is more, but we all see what we see here. Not true. The trained tracker sees traces that we would need training to begin to see. Those who have lived on the land and observed how the insects and birds interact with the plants and the soils, or who fish and learn when the insect larvae will attract the right fish, etc., are not scientists. They do not use "logic" and "rationality" as their larger frame. They employ these tools within their assessment and evaluation of their world according to what matters.

The point I am trying to make is not that perception isn't influenced by learning and culture. I think it is, and to bring up Oliver Sacks again, he wrote a fascinating piece on the case of a man blind for decades who was able to regain his sight (through advances in modern medicine, by the way), which leads to that conclusion.

The point I am trying to make is, the traces that educated tracker sees are objectively there. Whether or not anyone ever notices them, they are there. However you frame them or include them in the narrative of your life, they are there. And conceivably, anyone who learned to see them would be able to, you could study such signs, in whatever framework you like, and come to factual, evidence based, conclusions about them.

I will only briefly address the medical issues you raise. There are two major claims that are repeated over and over again by CAM proponents, and they are essentially nothing but propaganda.

First, that "western" medicine only treats symptoms. It's simply bogus. As I mentioned above, there are plenty of examples of western medicine treating the root cause of disease, such as bacterial infection. It is able to do this with a deep understanding of biology and the actual causes of disease.

There are plenty of cases where western medicine treats symptoms as well, of course. If you have a high fever, you better believe doctors will try to reduce it, or you can potentially suffer brain damage.

Second, is that alternative medicine is somehow more "holistic" than western medicine. Also bogus. Dr. Steven Novella puts it well in his blog, "Winterson [Jeanette Winterson] also makes what I will call the “holistic fallacy.” This is to argue that effective treatment takes into account the whole person, unlike scientific medicine which treats diseases. First, mainstream scientific medicine considers the entire biological organism, including psychological and sociological factors, in its evaluations. This is not incompatible with basing treatments on appropriate reductionism – knowing that the influenza virus causes the flu, for example. The holistic fallacy is a false holism – it ignores the actual mechanisms of disease, and the actual biological responses to disease, and pretends that there is a magical mystical deep connection and we must therefore submit ourselves to the mysterious ministrations of the guru in order to be holistic."

Beyond that, alt. med. is replete with books like "The Cure for all Cancers", the very definition of one size fits all medicine.

But lets take it to a more practical level, that of public policy. I've been arguing to separate points, somewhat muddled together. The first is whether these modalities can be shown to work. The second is whether we ought to allow practitioners to make specific health claims without evidence. So I ask you all, do you really favor laws that would allow a person to make an unfounded medical claim? If you allow homeopathy or chiropractic or whatever to make unproven health claims, what's to stop the likes of something like Laetrile to do the same? How can public policy differentiate one unfounded claim from another? I don't see how we can advocate anything but an absolute requirement that if you make a health claim, you have to be able to back it up with the best available evidence.

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reed9
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Apr. 8, 2010 10:26 am
Quote mattnapa:With Polycarp you stated something similar to" religion cannot prove anything." The statment seems to be entirely based on the assumption that science offers answers that religion cannot... As I have asked before what about a consistent set of phenemenon in our perceptions implies some answer to the God question?

Yes, absolutely I am saying that science offers (provisional) answers that religion cannot. When religious answers build a plane, I'll be more amenable to thinking there might be something to them. But I never said science can answer non-scientific questions. I implied, though I probably should have been more clear, that many "non-scientific" questions are, when looked at closely, meaningless, such as the "what animates life" question above. And for some questions, we just don't know. I'm saying in cases where science does not have an answer, there is no reason to suppose religion does.

Quote mattnapa:I guess that is because I still see similarties. any tightly held belief system that claims to know the nature of existence is inherently dogmatic. Further I really do not see how it can be argued not top be the case given the definition. You seem to be introducing connotation as a presupposing factor for denotation.

Let me be absolutely clear, again. I am not claiming that science knows the nature of existence. My position is that science is a method of questioning, which allows us to say with varying degrees of probability and confidence, whether something is true. A position you tacitly grant if you've ever gotten in a plane or a car - that the science behind it is sound and that physics will hold now as it has in the past.

Quote mattnapa: Are you saying that the effects of acupuncture are only equivalent to a placebo version?

If so I think you should provide a direct link, rather than me searching a web-site.

I am saying that the current state of research indicates that acupuncture has not been shown to perform better than placebo for most things. Back pain appears to be an exception, but traditional acupuncture performs no better than sham acupuncture. I linked directly to a 2007 study, which is one of the best to date. I also linked to a well researched article by a chiropractor explaining the problem with subluxations, and an article in the Guardian explaining the report on homeopathy released by the British Science and Technology Committee, with a link to the pdf of the report, reproduced for you here. I highly recommend reading it, or at least the first 87 pages. After that it gets a bit technical. So why are you criticizing me for not giving direct links?

The sciencebasedmedicine.org link is in case you want to research further, since there is an awful lot of material out there and I can'treproduce all of it here.

Quote mattnapa:As to Chi it is a little hard to believe , given the chinese level of overall science and technology, that they would base their whole medical system on nothing. Tai chi and other practices have clear demonstrable health effects. There may be a way to describe them using conventional western standards as well, but that does not mean it is the only frame of explanation. As to homeopathy, is your claim based on studies or on the belif that it cannot be effective given it;s methodology?

The first part is basically another argument from popularity. If chinese medicine is so great, why has their life expectancy been so low for most of their history?

Tai Chi or Yoga are both forms of exercise, which obviously have proven health benefits, as all exercise does.

My claim on homeopathy is based both on studies and that it is highly implausible. Plausibility is important. If you tell me you have a flying carpet, it is so implausible given everything else we are confident we know about the universe, that I don't really need to test your claim specifically.

But, homeopathy has been tested many times and has no demonstrable effect. (See the report I linked to.)

Quote mattnapa:On supplements and orthomolecular medicine. Do you believe that vitamin and levels in the body have impact? Do you think it is more a matter of aborption that limits the effectiveness? Or is it that varying levels simply do not have significant biological impact. How about heavy metals, plastics, hormone disrupters and all the rest? All basically insignificant in most cases?

By and large, vitamin supplements do not appear to be helpful and are in some cases harmful. I imagine that's assuming a relatively nutritious diet already, but I'm not a nutritionist. What about the rest? I don't know what you're arguing.

Quote mattnapa: Results, mostly.I do not see homeopathy as completely void of science. It implies that the mixtures effect molecules at a level that we cannot distinguish. however GMO foods seem molecularly identical, yet I would suggest there is good evidence that they have a shown deleterious effect on health nonetheless. Is science so locked up in doctrine that it cannot allow for the possibilty that there are effects on molecules in ways that cannot be presently detected?

It is completely void of science. But you're right, the crux of the matter is, does it work? Even if we don't know why, we should be able to see an effect, right? Once more, see the report on homeopathy I linked to. There is no good evidence homeopathy works.

For genetically modified food, the evidence is simply not there yet to make a strong conclusion on safety one way or the other. Based on my understanding of the evidence, I advocate being cautious, but I have some optimism GM foods will prove to be safe and could be a great boon in helping to address issues of hunger and famine.

By the way, to echo your argument about chinese medicine above, and hopefully illustrate why the argument doesn't work, surely, given the chinese level of science and technology overall, they wouldn't declare GM crops safe if they weren't?

Also, this is what I meant by a catch 22. By now arguing there is evidence for your position, you have embraced a scientific viewpoint on the issue. The question becomes, what is the state of the evidence and how do we interpret it?

Quote mattnapa: I stand quite firmly by my claim that the great majority of medical procedure look to treat symptoms after they become a problem. Other than cigarettes, obseity, and maybe alcohol the medical community is quite silent on all the other factors effecting our basic health.

Ok, you've dismissed vaccines. Hand washing? Probably the simplest and yet more powerful tool we've discovered to prevent disease, one that has saved millions of lives. (Eek to surgery before sanitation was around!) Recommendations on diet and exercise?

Anyway, how is it different from how most people use homeopathy or naturopathy or chiropracty? They have a problem and they go to someone, and in the case of homeopathy and naturopathy, they frequently take a pill in the belief it will help them.

If doctors are silent on other factors, it's probably because there isn't enough evidence to advocate much else. Eat right, exercise, wash your hands frequently. These simple things have the biggest impact on reducing the majority of preventable diseases. But there isn't much evidence that any particular form of exercise is much better than another. There isn't evidence that a vegan diet is significantly better than a diet with some (not a lot) meat in it. And so on.

Quote mattnapa: Further it seems well established that antibiotic ressitance as well as their destruction of healthy bacteria make they treatment more problematic than helpful in a great many cases. As to vaccines. Again very problematic in terms of the balance of effect. Clearly they are effective in populations prone to serious pathogens, but in those that do not vaccines seem to be a wash in terms of problem versus benefit.

Are you kidding me? Vaccines a wash??? What about small pox? Responsible for something like 300-500 million deaths in the 20th century? All but eradicated due to vaccinations?

Quote mattnapa: You are of course implying criteria that I never suggested, however it is probably not the best example. I will add a layer. I do not have the exact information in front of me, but it involves researh done by the ethographer Wade Davis. The basic gist is that tribal peoples have been able to discover specific antidotes and combinations of herbal interaction which are effective to a degree which are simply unexplainable in tems of the trial and error method. Clearly there is evidence that some sort of intuitive powers exist that are beyond conventional understanding..

You didn't give me any criteria to go on. I had no idea what you were referring to.

The Wade Davis thing was talked about in Plants of the Gods:

"When I first witnessed and experienced this remarkable example of shamanic alchemy, what astonished me was less the raw effects of the drug -- stunning as they were -- than the intellectual process underlying the creation of these complex preparations. The Amazonian flora encompass literally tens of thousands of species. How did the Indians learn to identify and combine in such a sophisticated manner these morphologically dissimilar plants, with such unique and complementary chemical properties? The standard scientific explanation, trial and error, may well account for certain innovations; but at another level, it is but a euphemism disguising the fact that ethnobotanists have very little idea how Indians originally made their discoveries."

My emphasis. We don't know what's going on. You're jumping to the conclusion that it supports some sort of intuitive understanding of plant chemistry. But all we can really say is that we don't know. Both you and Davis are making an argument from ignorance. (I'm going to continue linking to definitions of certain terms, not because I think you don't know what it means, but because we have had difficulty with definitions in the past and I want to be perfectly clear what I mean.) I wouldn't throw the trial and error baby out with the bathwater, though. If the people have been living in that area for centuries or more, it's not impossible for them to have figured it out through trial and error. Barring better explanation, the simplest answer is usually the best, if still a tentative guess. It reminds me of the argument the anti-evolutionists make that wings or eyes couldn't be a process of gradual evolution, because what use is half a wing or half an eye? But we have seen in experiments on bacterial evolution, that in fact a random non-adaptive (at the time) mutation can prime the bacteria for a later mutation, and working in conjunction they suddenly have an effect far greater than the sum of their parts. A similar process could be occurring here.

I would also like to mention that Wade Davis has a history of shoddy science with his work linking TTX to Haitian zombies (I couldn't find a link to the text, but see "Zombies and Tetradotoxin" in Skeptical Inquirer. and of ethical concerns when he commissioned the grave robbing of a recently buried child. This says nothing about the accuracy of his research here, but it does mean we should probably be careful accepting his work at face value, without further corroboration.

Quote mattnapa:Try to find out what doctors are familiar with praticular disorders? Yes they are an ENY, but how orten have they dealt wiht LPR or some other particulat disease, How many doctors will allow for a phone call or email coorespondence to adrees your questions? They haver the reputation as virtually the most unwilling proffesion to discuss your case. And if you challenge their opinion you can forget about it.

When I worked in community mental health, a good part of my job was acting as a sort of liaison between them and their doctor. I frequently had to call doctors' offices to discuss the client's cases, which they were by and large more than willing to do. I also challenged their opinions on a number of things, sometimes successfully. Now that is anecdotal and maybe not indicative of the overall state of affairs, but I would be careful generalizing so broadly.

However, granting that it may be true, I would argue it's is more indicative of the sorry state of our health care system than it is about anything else. Doctors are by and large at the mercy of the health insurance industry. Even if they wanted to spend more time with their patients, they know they aren't going to be reimbursed for that time and given the massive debt many of them have coming out of medical school, they may feel as though they can't afford to spend that time.

Quote mattnapa:

As to the public debate, Again virtually non-existent. The industry makes no attempt to have the public involved in open discussion of the controversies. No discsssion boards are populated by doctors, alternative practioners, and well informed patients. This may not be all the allopathic communities fault, but in my opinio they have a large part to play. And sadly I feel it comes from a certain mixture of arrogance and insecurity in defending their culture of expertise

This is the same sort of argument given by the anti-evolutionists and global warming deniers. If there is resistance to discussion of the "controversy" it is, like in the case of global warming, because there is no controversy. The science is pretty clear. The controversy is manufactured. And what do you mean about no discussion boards? What about NCCAM?

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reed9
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Apr. 8, 2010 10:26 am

Broadly speaking, I agree with the first half of your post, up to the medicine bit.

I have a couple of quibbles, but I think only one is pertinent to the matter at hand.

The Objectivists think they see what everyone else sees and that what they see is all there is. Or, maybe there is more, but we all see what we see here. Not true. The trained tracker sees traces

If it were only a matter of seeing alone. Making sense of it with our various capacities is the real question, and there is no such straightforward answer for that. Physical locations mean different things to different people. Their perception itself is constantly altered by attitudes towards material objects. Even the knowledge of saturday morning changes perception. So I would say that science and technology have little say in everyday perception. At least the idea that there is some kind of scientific framework that can capture the nature of our combined experience in this isolating repeatability and measurability framework. The kind of science suggested here has little bearing on these and many of the other aspects of human endeavor such as sociology, literature psychology, etc. Certainly most of the clean rules of cause and effect are muddled beyond recognition by the complex nature of these fields. So I guess my question is what sense of objective reality can be drawn from a complex overlay of attitudes from the inhabitors of the mechanical universe.

The point I am trying to make is not that perception isn't influenced by learning and culture. I think it is, and to bring up Oliver Sacks again, he wrote a fascinating piece on the case of a man blind for decades who was able to regain his sight (through advances in modern medicine, by the way), which leads to that conclusion.

The point I am trying to make is, the traces that educated tracker sees are objectively there. Whether or not anyone ever notices them, they are there. However you frame them or include them in the narrative of your life, they are there. And conceivably, anyone who learned to see them would be able to, you could study such signs, in whatever framework you like, and come to factual, evidence based, conclusions about them.

they are there

Isn't it more correct to say you have the experience of them. How do you know that they are there?

.

First, that "western" medicine only treats symptoms. It's simply bogus.

I will certainly argue this in less you are pointing to absolute nature of the decleration. Instead however I will suggest a second version. Allopathic medicine shows an inordinate procllivity to treating disease with surgery and privatiized molecules instead of restoring normative function and limiting toxic exposure

As I mentioned above, there are plenty of examples of western medicine treating the root cause of disease, such as bacterial infection. It is able to do this with a deep understanding of biology and the actual causes of disease.

I am apparently whistling in the wind. The condition of the host immune system does play a role in initial infection, and is more fundamental than trying to kill the bug once established

Second, is that alternative medicine is somehow more "holistic" than western medicine. Also bogus. Dr. Steven Novella puts it well in his blog, "Winterson [Jeanette Winterson] also makes what I will call the “holistic fallacy.” This is to argue that effective treatment takes into account the whole person, unlike scientific medicine which treats diseases. First, mainstream scientific medicine considers the entire biological organism, including psychological and sociological factors, in its evaluations.

I don't know. Talk is cheap. If this is supposed to be a definitive response, I could use something more specific. Which Sociologists?

This is not incompatible with basing treatments on appropriate reductionism – knowing that the influenza virus causes the flu, for example. The holistic fallacy is a false holism – it ignores the actual mechanisms of disease, and the actual biological responses to disease, and pretends that there is a magical mystical deep connection and we must therefore submit ourselves to the mysterious ministrations of the guru in order to be holistic."

Mechanism of disease is a lie as far as I know. At best a straw man. Also the claim of mystery is again straw man at best. The alternative medicine I know has a clearly stated sense of principles in terms of both diagnosis and treatment. Not to mention that it is purposely insulting and provocative. Reed you accuse the alternatives as promoting propoganda and this is what we get in response. It is a combination of inaccuracy, innuendo, and meaninglessness

.

But lets take it to a more practical level, that of public policy. I've been arguing to separate points, somewhat muddled together. The first is whether these modalities can be shown to work.

Again I have offered to have a discussion on how this is established, and I have not seen the idea move forward as far as I understand

The second is whether we ought to allow practitioners to make specific health claims without evidence.

Allopaths already use of the shelf prescriptions. I agree in principle, but the devil iis in the details. I don't know if there is a secular saying to replace that

mattnapa's picture
mattnapa
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

Yes, absolutely I am saying that science offers (provisional) answers that religion cannot.

Why is there an implication that religion implies that our perceptions are false? I do not feel that I cannot believe the patterns seen in our perceptions known as science. I jsut happen to believe it has nothing to do with religion until someone applies it to a religous question

When religious answers build a plane, I'll be more amenable to thinking there might be something to them. But I never said science can answer non-scientific questions. I implied, though I probably should have been more clear, that many "non-scientific" questions are, when looked at closely, meaningless, such as the "what animates life" question above. And for some questions, we just don't know. I'm saying in cases where science does not have an answer, there is no reason to suppose religion does.

I would suggest the fact that they mean something to us does imply validity. If you do not wish to spend time on it that does not equate with meaningless

Let me be absolutely clear, again. I am not claiming that science knows the nature of existence.

I do appreciate trying to be clear, but I remain confused. The whole question is whether you are taking a position on the nature of existence. If not I do not know what we are talking about

My position is that science is a method of questioning, which allows us to say with varying degrees of probability and confidence, whether something is true.

It means we have relied upon it in the past to become a pattern we can seemingly rely on.

A position you tacitly grant if you've ever gotten in a plane or a car - that the science behind it is sound and that physics will hold now as it has in the past.

Tacitly? Just as much as you. I do not understand this contention that I have less faith in science to predict physics and the other mechanical sciences because I don't

?

Quote mattnapa:As to Chi it is a little hard to believe , given the chinese level of overall science and technology, that they would base their whole medical system on nothing. Tai chi and other practices have clear demonstrable health effects. There may be a way to describe them using conventional western standards as well, but that does not mean it is the only frame of explanation. As to homeopathy, is your claim based on studies or on the belif that it cannot be effective given it;s methodology?

The first part is basically another argument from popularity. If chinese medicine is so great, why has their life expectancy been so low for most of their history?

Well you have misued the application once, why not do it again. The argument relies on a popularly held opinion or behavior being used as premise in claiming the truth value in said opinion or behavior. If you wished to claim that Imy assertion was based on the fact that the chinese population believed it was a good system that could be an appeal to popularity if you are otherwise able to show that it is not the truth. My assertion is that a society that had made significant advances in most areas of science and technology would have to be an nomaly in the expected scientific model. In others somewhat in violation of science.

As to Chinese public health. Overpopulation, toxic environment, high smoking rates, and a repressive government probably have something to it. Also the viability of chinese medicine should not only be measured in terms of life expectancy, but also in terms of effectiveness given the public health before and outside of treatment. But do not most of the oriental and south east asian countries use something similar

Tai Chi or Yoga are both forms of exercise, which obviously have proven health benefits, as all exercise does.

Tai chi and other eastern traditions are able to effect the nature of ones future breathing habits in terms of diaphramatic breath. The west has no history of such contributions. It is at least a feather in the cap of their misguided system. Whether the truth of chi is in anyway measurable I do not know and I do n't really think you or science do either

My claim on homeopathy is based both on studies and that it is highly implausible. Plausibility is important. If you tell me you have a flying carpet, it is so implausible given everything else we are confident we know about the universe, that I don't really need to test your claim specifically.

At the same time your implausability status must be seen in the light of adhering to doctrine as opposed to open investigation. I do not find the idea that molecules that have just been in contact with another substance may have reacted in a way that would consistent of such contact. Given the popular following and long history dismissing homeopathy out of hand seems like poor science

But, homeopathy has been tested many times and has no demonstrable effect. (See the report I linked to.)

Quote mattnapa:On supplements and orthomolecular medicine. Do you believe that vitamin and levels in the body have impact? Do you think it is more a matter of aborption that limits the effectiveness? Or is it that varying levels simply do not have significant biological impact. How about heavy metals, plastics, hormone disrupters and all the rest? All basically insignificant in most cases?

By and large, vitamin supplements do not appear to be helpful and are in some cases harmful. I imagine that's assuming a relatively nutritious diet already, but I'm not a nutritionist. What about the rest? I don't know what you're arguing.

The question was what is the research regarding optimum vitamin mineral levels in the body? Secondarily do are supplements able to effect blood serum levels.. You don't know anything about environmental toxins in the body?

[

It is completely void of science.

It uses the same scientific precept as does immunization. The question is only whether the potions accomplish their pressumed mechanism of action. So completely void of science is innaccurate

But you're right, the crux of the matter is, does it work? Even if we don't know why, we should be able to see an effect, right? Once more, see the report on homeopathy I linked to. There is no good evidence homeopathy works.

I am also looking for good evidence that ti does not. I will try some of your links

By the way, to echo your argument about chinese medicine above, and hopefully illustrate why the argument doesn't work, surely, given the chinese level of science and technology overall, they wouldn't declare GM crops safe if they weren't?

I am not sure of the effort you put into your analogies. If you wish to have this serve as a rough analogy, I think that is the best it will accomplish. A science that developed from a huge population over thousands of years is not very analogus to a group of bureaucrats proclamations.

Also, this is what I meant by a catch 22. By now arguing there is evidence for your position, you have embraced a scientific viewpoint on the issue. The question becomes, what is the state of the evidence and how do we interpret it?

If your drawing a relation between this and the religous question, there is none. As for the basic conversation here I think our scientific frame is pretty similar

Quote mattnapa: I stand quite firmly by my claim that the great majority of medical procedure look to treat symptoms after they become a problem. Other than cigarettes, obseity, and maybe alcohol the medical community is quite silent on all the other factors effecting our basic health.

Ok, you've dismissed vaccines. Hand washing? Probably the simplest and yet more powerful tool we've discovered to prevent disease, one that has saved millions of lives. (Eek to surgery before sanitation was around!) Recommendations on diet and exercise?

If by saying the great majority and including vaccines in the minority I have dismissed them, then I stand by your assertion. Naturopathic and alternative medicine do not ignore pathogens as far as I know, so wht allopathic medicine gets credit for hand-washing I am not sure

Anyway, how is it different from how most people use homeopathy or naturopathy or chiropracty?

As I thought I have said they are more focused on a preventive strategy.

If doctors are silent on other factors, it's probably because there isn't enough evidence to advocate much else. Eat right, exercise, wash your hands frequently. These simple things have the biggest impact on reducing the majority of preventable diseases. But there isn't much evidence that any particular form of exercise is much better than another. There isn't evidence that a vegan diet is significantly better than a diet with some (not a lot) meat in it. And so on.

On the question for evidence about diets, now there you really have my interest. Your claims for evidence on this subject is at your previous link?

Quote mattnapa: Further it seems well established that antibiotic ressitance as well as their destruction of healthy bacteria make they treatment more problematic than helpful in a great many cases. As to vaccines. Again very problematic in terms of the balance of effect. Clearly they are effective in populations prone to serious pathogens, but in those that do not vaccines seem to be a wash in terms of problem versus benefit.

Are you kidding me? Vaccines a wash??? What about small pox? Responsible for something like 300-500 million deaths in the 20th century? All but eradicated due to vaccinations?

I assume you read this sentence-

Clearly they are effective in populations prone to serious pathogens, Small pox is ancient history. I am not really sure on the estimates for prevention on modern pathogens, but it is certainly a fraction of what you suggest

Quote mattnapa: You are of course implying criteria that I never suggested, however it is probably not the best example. I will add a layer. I do not have the exact information in front of me, but it involves researh done by the ethographer Wade Davis. The basic gist is that tribal peoples have been able to discover specific antidotes and combinations of herbal interaction which are effective to a degree which are simply unexplainable in tems of the trial and error method. Clearly there is evidence that some sort of intuitive powers exist that are beyond conventional understanding..

You didn't give me any criteria to go on. I had no idea what you were referring to.

The Wade Davis thing was talked about in Plants of the Gods:

"When I first witnessed and experienced this remarkable example of shamanic alchemy, what astonished me was less the raw effects of the drug -- stunning as they were -- than the intellectual process underlying the creation of these complex preparations. The Amazonian flora encompass literally tens of thousands of species. How did the Indians learn to identify and combine in such a sophisticated manner these morphologically dissimilar plants, with such unique and complementary chemical properties? The standard scientific explanation, trial and error, may well account for certain innovations; but at another level, it is but a euphemism disguising the fact that ethnobotanists have very little idea how Indians originally made their discoveries."

The facts speak for themselves. A level of understanding and application comprable to western science without using western technology. The exact method really is not essential in proving the which is an alternate method of discovery and understanding.

My emphasis. We don't know what's going on. You're jumping to the conclusion that it supports some sort of intuitive understanding of plant chemistry. But all we can really say is that we don't know. Both you and Davis are making an argument from ignorance. (I'm going to continue linking to definitions of certain terms, not because I think you don't know what it means, but because we have had difficulty with definitions in the past and I want to be perfectly clear what I mean.) I wouldn't throw the trial and error baby out with the bathwater, though. If the people have been living in that area for centuries or more, it's not impossible for them to have figured it out through trial and error.

I doubt the experts give much creedence to your trial and error hypothesis. It has never been indicative of traditional cultures to use any substantial system of trial and error, and it would have taken a substantial project to have tested all the plants in such a way You can calim not impossible if you like, but simply positing an unlikely avenue hardly casts doubt on the original assertion. As to the idea that you are posting terms you believe I do not understand. In the case of argument from ignorance you have never used the term previously that I am aware of of, so I assume you can not have ascertained whether I know what it means. I do know that you have mis-applied the appeal to popularism twice however, and I would claim this is strike three. Davis has asserted that the evidence is not there for a trial and error, and therfore another way of knowing must have occured. This is called deductive reason. How he has posited anything close to your claim eludes me. One would have to make the argument that no proof is possible to support the claim that trial and error may have occured. No such claim of impossible evidence has been made, it's just the evidence does not exist

Barring better explanation, the simplest answer is usually the best, if still a tentative guess. It reminds me of the argument the anti-evolutionists make that wings or eyes couldn't be a process of gradual evolution, because what use is half a wing or half an eye? But we have seen in experiments on bacterial evolution, that in fact a random non-adaptive (at the time) mutation can prime the bacteria for a later mutation, and working in conjunction they suddenly have an effect far greater than the sum of their parts. A similar process could be occurring here.

If the implication is that the simplest answer is that they used trial and error, the evidence is to the contrary. As to the rest of this I have no idea what your point is. What does evoloution have to do with what modality these folks used to establish this knowledge?

Quote mattnapa:Try to find out what doctors are familiar with praticular disorders? Yes they are an ENY, but how orten have they dealt wiht LPR or some other particulat disease, How many doctors will allow for a phone call or email coorespondence to adrees your questions? They haver the reputation as virtually the most unwilling proffesion to discuss your case. And if you challenge their opinion you can forget about it.

When I worked in community mental health, a good part of my job was acting as a sort of liaison between them and their doctor. I frequently had to call doctors' offices to discuss the client's cases, which they were by and large more than willing to do. I also challenged their opinions on a number of things, sometimes successfully. Now that is anecdotal and maybe not indicative of the overall state of affairs, but I would be careful generalizing so broadly.

Well a lot comes through first hand experience, but I am interested on what you would suggest as an accurate way to investigate the question. I think patient satisfaction surveys speak clearly on the subject. And by the way the appeal to popularity cannot apply since it is not a population expressing an opinion on an abstract notion.Rather it is a report on personal experience.

However, granting that it may be true, I would argue it's is more indicative of the sorry state of our health care system than it is about anything else. Doctors are by and large at the mercy of the health insurance industry. Even if they wanted to spend more time with their patients, they know they aren't going to be reimbursed for that time and given the massive debt many of them have coming out of medical school, they may feel as though they can't afford to spend that time.

Regardless of the reasons this is what allopathic medicine offers, sadly I am not sure how much better the alternative community is either. Naturopaths have problems with the wider medical conversation as well, though I think they have a somewhat better reputation in engaging the patient at the office

Quote mattnapa:

As to the public debate, Again virtually non-existent. The industry makes no attempt to have the public involved in open discussion of the controversies. No discsssion boards are populated by doctors, alternative practioners, and well informed patients. This may not be all the allopathic communities fault, but in my opinio they have a large part to play. And sadly I feel it comes from a certain mixture of arrogance and insecurity in defending their culture of expertise

This is the same sort of argument given by the anti-evolutionists and global warming deniers. If there is resistance to discussion of the "controversy" it is, like in the case of global warming, because there is no controversy. The science is pretty clear. The controversy is manufactured. And what do you mean about no discussion boards? What about NCCAM?

The controversy is manufactured.

This is the fallacy of beging the question. Matter of fact your whole argument is beging the question. At least be clear, arte you saying the discussion has already been decided?. Again I will point out this is adherence to doctrine, and not in the spirit of open investigation. You might not like it that experts from both sides are given standing, but that in no way should diminish from the side with truth on its side from being able to show that is the case

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mattnapa
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Quote mattnapa:

they are there

Isn't it more correct to say you have the experience of them. How do you know that they are there?

This is why I posted the broad axioms of my position above. I'm starting with the assumption that objective reality exists. If you're taking the extreme position that nothing can be known, then this argument isn't going to go anywhere. (Nor would I understand how you can argue a position...?)

Quote mattnapa: Allopathic medicine shows an inordinate procllivity to treating disease with surgery and privatiized molecules instead of restoring normative function and limiting toxic exposure

How would a doctor be able to limit your exposure to environmental toxins? Seems to be that isn't the role for the medical establishment, but of government. But I'm pretty sure you won't find doctors saying it's healthy to live in heavily polluted areas.

Quote mattnapa: I am apparently whistling in the wind. The condition of the host immune system does play a role in initial infection, and is more fundamental than trying to kill the bug once established

So it's your position that if we all lived natural lifestyles in a pristine environment, there would be no illness? Why do you assume our immune systems are weaker now than at some other point in history? Please link to evidence that our immune systems now have a more difficult time fending off infection than they did in the past.

Quote mattnapa:

I don't know. Talk is cheap. If this is supposed to be a definitive response, I could use something more specific. Which Sociologists?

What are you talking about? Sociological factors were mentioned, not sociologists.

Quote mattnapa: Mechanism of disease is a lie as far as I know. At best a straw man. Also the claim of mystery is again straw man at best. The alternative medicine I know has a clearly stated sense of principles in terms of both diagnosis and treatment. Not to mention that it is purposely insulting and provocative. Reed you accuse the alternatives as promoting propoganda and this is what we get in response. It is a combination of inaccuracy, innuendo, and meaninglessness

Mechanism of disease is a lie??? That's a huge claim, do you have anything to support that?

Let me give you an example of what he means by "magical mystical deep connection". In homeopathy, there is the so called Law of Cures:

1. A remedy starts at the top of the body and works downward
2. A remedy works from within the body outward, and from major to minor organs
3. Symptoms clear in reverse order of appearance.

This is at odds with everything we have ever observed on how nature and the body works. It is magical thinking.

.A straw man is when you mis-characterize the opposition's argument, so you can more easily knock it down. How exactly is Novella mischaracterizes homeopathy or their arguments? It does ignore the mechanism of disease. You don't even believe mechanisms of disease exist, so I don't know what you're complaining about.

Accuracy we can debate by the evidence. Innuendo? I don't see that he's applying much that he does not state. Meaningless? He's a clinical neurologist at the Yale University School of Medicine, writing on the subject of critical thinking and homeopathy. It seems relevant to me.

Quote mattnapa: Again I have offered to have a discussion on how this is established, and I have not seen the idea move forward as far as I understand

By all means, how do you determine something works without using science?

Quote mattnapa: Allopaths already use of the shelf prescriptions. I agree in principle, but the devil iis in the details. I don't know if there is a secular saying to replace that

Off the shelf doesn't mean no evidence. Aspirin is off the shelf, but has a moutain of evidence for its use. But regardless, I'm arguing for a single standard of evidence for all products sold as being beneficial to our health. I don't care whether it's an herb or a synthetic chemical, everyone has to prove efficacy and safety before you can sell it.

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reed9
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Quote mattnapa:

I would suggest the fact that they mean something to us does imply validity. If you do not wish to spend time on it that does not equate with meaningless... I do appreciate trying to be clear, but I remain confused. The whole question is whether you are taking a position on the nature of existence. If not I do not know what we are talking about... Tacitly? Just as much as you. I do not understand this contention that I have less faith in science to predict physics and the other mechanical sciences because I don't

I cannot emphasize enough that I am not talking about validity of meaning. I am talking about objective truth claims about the universe. The contention that you have less trust in science to predict physics is because you seem to be relegating it to a small corner of reality. Otherwise you would see that homeopathy contradicts physics.

Quote mattnapa:Well you have misued the application once, why not do it again. The argument relies on a popularly held opinion or behavior being used as premise in claiming the truth value in said opinion or behavior. If you wished to claim that Imy assertion was based on the fact that the chinese population believed it was a good system that could be an appeal to popularity if you are otherwise able to show that it is not the truth. My assertion is that a society that had made significant advances in most areas of science and technology would have to be an nomaly in the expected scientific model. In others somewhat in violation of science.

Well, it sounded to me in your phrasing that you were arguing that because lots of people in China use acupuncture or TCM or whatever (a claim which might not be true as well, I haven't looked at the statistics), therefore there must be something to those modalities. However, you're substituting one fallacy for another. There is no reason to assume that because a culture has made scientific or technological advances, all areas of knowledge have advanced equally, or that there are not massive areas of superstition left. Obviously our culture is also scientifically and technologically advanced and we still have plenty of pseudoscience and superstition. To take a non-medicine related example, only 4 in 10 americans believe evolution to be true.

Quote mattnapa:Tai chi and other eastern traditions are able to effect the nature of ones future breathing habits in terms of diaphramatic breath. The west has no history of such contributions. It is at least a feather in the cap of their misguided system. Whether the truth of chi is in anyway measurable I do not know and I do n't really think you or science do either

I'm not aware off the top of my head of any studies showing whether breathing practices have a significant impact on overall health. As for Chi, aside from again it contradicting physics, I don't have any studies off the top of my head. Though really you ought to be providing the evidence for your claim. On a related note, it took an 11 year old girl to bring down Therapeutic Touch. (Who then became the youngest person ever to be published in a peer reviewed journal.)

Quote mattnapa:

At the same time your implausability status must be seen in the light of adhering to doctrine as opposed to open investigation. I do not find the idea that molecules that have just been in contact with another substance may have reacted in a way that would consistent of such contact. Given the popular following and long history dismissing homeopathy out of hand seems like poor science

At the risk of you telling me I'm misusing the terms again (I'm not), "popular following" and "long history" are, respectively, an argument from popularity and an argument from antiquity. Although homeopathy does not have a long history, depending on what you consider long. It was founded by Samuel Hahnemann in the 1790s. It was one more piece of bad medical science among many then, and it remains so today.

Quote mattnapa:On supplements and orthomolecular medicine. Do you believe that vitamin and levels in the body have impact? Do you think it is more a matter of aborption that limits the effectiveness? Or is it that varying levels simply do not have significant biological impact. How about heavy metals, plastics, hormone disrupters and all the rest? All basically insignificant in most cases?
Quote mattnapa: It [homeopathy] uses the same scientific precept as does immunization. The question is only whether the potions accomplish their pressumed mechanism of action. So completely void of science is innaccurate

Yeah, I meant to respond to this when you brought it up before. It might be the most absurd claim you've made. I don't know if I should just ask how you think immunizations work? It is only very superficially related to the supposed "like cures like" principle. By that hypothesis, anything that causes similar symptoms to, say the flu, ought to protect against the flu virus. Obviously, it doesn't work that way. Vaccines inject an inactive virus, which stimulates the body to produce antibodies. Antibodies are little Y shaped proteins, with special section that binds to a specific antigen. This is all based on the shape of the protein. By binding to a virus protein or bacterial cell, they prevent these pathogens from entering into our cells, or can function as a signal to other parts of the immune system to take action, so perhaps a macrophage will come along and dissolve the bacterial cell wall killing it.

This has nothing to do with homeopathy, which one, isn't preventative, and two, is so diluted it doesn't contain even a molecule left of the original substance.

Quote mattnapa: Naturopathic and alternative medicine do not ignore pathogens as far as I know, so wht allopathic medicine gets credit for hand-washing I am not sure

The point is that hand washing comes directly out of western science and medicine. It comes directly from the "allopathic", as you put it, tradition. Actually, quite literally, since the term allopathic was coined by none other than the founder of homeopathy, Hahnemann, and it means "other than the disease", a reference to treatment methods that violated the "like cures like" idea. Handwashing does, of course, violate that premise, since washing your hands in no way mimics or induces the symptoms of a disease.

Quote mattnapa: On the question for evidence about diets, now there you really have my interest. Your claims for evidence on this subject is at your previous link?

No, I don't have a specific study in mind. I'll cop to this one being less firm. I really don't know what the current state of the evidence is. In general, though, most dietary advice seems to be pretty sketchy. I've yet to see much in the way of good evidence either for or against. The best we seem to be able to say is, eat lots of vegetables, not much meat, and the weight loss diets don't work, it really does seem to be calories in vs. calories out. I think the better argument for vegan or vegetarian diets is simply how cruel the meat and dairy industries are to the animals.

Quote mattnapa: I assume you read this sentence-

Clearly they are effective in populations prone to serious pathogens, Small pox is ancient history. I am not really sure on the estimates for prevention on modern pathogens, but it is certainly a fraction of what you suggest

Missed it. But alright, we'll take small pox out of the equation. According to the CDC, approximately 2.5 million vaccine-preventable deaths occurred in 2002. Yes, a fraction of small pox deaths. But I assume you wouldn't argue an insignificant number?

Quote mattnapa:As to the idea that you are posting terms you believe I do not understand. In the case of argument from ignorance you have never used the term previously that I am aware of of, so I assume you can not have ascertained whether I know what it means. I do know that you have mis-applied the appeal to popularism twice however, and I would claim this is strike three... One would have to make the argument that no proof is possible to support the claim that trial and error may have occured. No such claim of impossible evidence has been made, it's just the evidence does not exist

You misread what I wrote. I assumed you did know what it meant, but I was linking to a definition to avoid possible confusion. I have not misapplied the argument from popularity. I don't know what's in your head, I only know what you write, and based on the argument as you wrote it, it was an argument from popularity. The argument from ignorance is if, because there appears to be a lack of evidence supporting one hypothesis, you claim another hypothesis is therefore likely. Which is what you and Davis were doing, turning a "we don't know" into implied evidence for another hypothesis. It was not deductive reasoning. Deductive reasoning only holds if the conclusion is the necessary logical consequence of the premises. Your conclusion is not the only logical conclusion possible, therefore it does not necessarily follow from the premises.

You're right that we may not ever have proof of how these people came to their knowledge of plants. In such cases, we apply Occam's Razor, and choose the explanation with the least number of additional variables, or to quote Isaac Newton, "We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances. Therefore, to the same natural effects we must, so far as possible, assign the same causes." The simplest explanation doesn't posit any weird mystical ways of knowing.

Quote mattnapa: If the implication is that the simplest answer is that they used trial and error, the evidence is to the contrary. As to the rest of this I have no idea what your point is. What does evoloution have to do with what modality these folks used to establish this knowledge?

You're very literal minded at times for believing in so many wacky things. You have claimed trial and error to be an insufficient explanation for a people to arrive at so seemingly complicated an understanding of the local flora. Creationists argue that the trial and error of random mutations is insufficient explanation for nature to arrive at so seemingly complex a structure as eyes or wings, or so seemingly complex a creature as humans. But we have seen in experiments that the trial and error of random mutations can lead to complex interactions, even though the individual changes alone are not useful. This is just to demonstrate again that we cannot outright reject the idea that trial and error can't lead to complexity, whether in knowledge or genetics. (Which one might argue can both be identified as examples of information.)

Quote mattnapa: This is the fallacy of beging the question. Matter of fact your whole argument is beging the question. At least be clear, arte you saying the discussion has already been decided?. Again I will point out this is adherence to doctrine, and not in the spirit of open investigation. You might not like it that experts from both sides are given standing, but that in no way should diminish from the side with truth on its side from being able to show that is the case

No, begging the question is, for example, saying, "God exists because the Bible says so". But assuming the truth of the Bible already presupposes the existence of God.

I am saying for some things alternative medicine, homeopathy in particular, as well as Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, pretty much any "energy work", the question is as definitely answered as any scientific question can be. There is as much scientific doubt about their efficacy as there is doubt that germs cause disease. Again, I will point out that it is not being close minded to reject absurd claims. I don't have to waste too much time looking for flying unicorns or for whether Reiki does anything. Nonetheless, we have wasted time researching energy work and homeopathy, and they have utterly failed.

For some things that are plausible, massage, naturopathy, or even implausible in their claims of how they work, but at least have a possible method of action, ie, acupuncture or chiropractic, there is little evidence supporting them, but it might be worth pursuing further. My main argument against further research on these is that money and time are limited resources, and I'd rather fund studies that have a better chance of panning out and helping people, since the millions of dollars we've spent so far on acupuncture and the like haven't given us much hope.

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reed9
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Apr. 8, 2010 10:26 am

You're right that we may not ever have proof of how these people came to their knowledge of plants. In such cases, we apply Occam's Razor, and choose the explanation with the least number of additional variables, or to quote Isaac Newton, "We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances. Therefore, to the same natural effects we must, so far as possible, assign the same causes." The simplest explanation doesn't posit any weird mystical ways of knowing.

Well I am not sure what you are saying Occam's razor concludes, but if the claim is that primitive societies used the scientific method of examination in the face of no evidence to support such a claim I disagree.

Quote mattnapa: If the implication is that the simplest answer is that they used trial and error, the evidence is to the contrary. As to the rest of this I have no idea what your point is. What does evoloution have to do with what modality these folks used to establish this knowledge?

You're very literal minded at times for believing in so many wacky things. You have claimed trial and error to be an insufficient explanation for a people to arrive at so seemingly complicated an understanding of the local flora. Creationists argue that the trial and error of random mutations is insufficient explanation for nature to arrive at so seemingly complex a structure as eyes or wings, or so seemingly complex a creature as humans. But we have seen in experiments that the trial and error of random mutations can lead to complex interactions, even though the individual changes alone are not useful. This is just to demonstrate again that we cannot outright reject the idea that trial and error can't lead to complexity, whether in knowledge or genetics. (Which one might argue can both be identified as examples of information.)

Except there is no evidence that they used trial in error in a significant manner, and I would suggest the evidence in fact suggests the contrary

No, begging the question is, for example, saying, "God exists because the Bible says so". But assuming the truth of the Bible already presupposes the existence of God.

How does that show I have used it incorrectly. The point really is whether a person is willing to discuss the evidence supporting their conclusion.

I am saying for some things alternative medicine, homeopathy in particular, as well as Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, pretty much any "energy work", the question is as definitely answered as any scientific question can be.

I am not convinced of that. Give science some credit in being able to answer more things in the future.

There is as much scientific doubt about their efficacy as there is doubt that germs cause disease. Again, I will point out that it is not being close minded to reject absurd claims. I don't have to waste too much time looking for flying unicorns or for whether Reiki does anything. Nonetheless, we have wasted time researching energy work and homeopathy, and they have utterly failed.

There is firstly a presupposition that we should give up studying it since we have gone as far as we can. Science does advance, and the idea that we can never study it seems predeterministic. The question of where science puts its energy is pretty much a non-scientific one.God knows we need another avenue of discussion here

For some things that are plausible, massage, naturopathy, or even implausible in their claims of how they work, but at least have a possible method of action, ie, acupuncture or chiropractic, there is little evidence supporting them, but it might be worth pursuing further. My main argument against further research on these is that money and time are limited resources, and I'd rather fund studies that have a better chance of panning out and helping people, since the millions of dollars we've spent so far on acupuncture and the like haven't given us much hope.

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mattnapa
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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm
Quote mattnapa: How does that show I have used it incorrectly. The point really is whether a person is willing to discuss the evidence supporting their conclusion.

Hrm. I've linked to all manner of evidence in support of my position.

Quote mattnapa: I am not convinced of that. Give science some credit in being able to answer more things in the future.

What exactly would you find convincing? If a systematic overview of, I think it was 200 studies, finding absolutely nothing to homeopathy doesn't sway you, I'm at a loss for what would.

Quote mattnapa:

There is firstly a presupposition that we should give up studying it since we have gone as far as we can. Science does advance, and the idea that we can never study it seems predeterministic. The question of where science puts its energy is pretty much a non-scientific one.God knows we need another avenue of discussion here

Let me ask you this. Should we spend time and resources studying whether the decline in piracy causes global warming? Should we be putting money and resources into reseaching Intelligent Design? Should that be taught in schools? Should the "controversy" be taught in schools. If you answer no, then explain why we should be looking at homeopathy and energy work, but not these things? I realize you don't agree homeopathy is in the same category, but as far as plausibility and evidence, it absolutely is, and you can make the exact same sort of argument for why we should continue to entertain the notions.

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reed9
Joined:
Apr. 8, 2010 10:26 am
Quote reed9:

[quote=mattnapa]

I would suggest the fact that they mean something to us does imply validity. If you do not wish to spend time on it that does not equate with meaningless... I do appreciate trying to be clear, but I remain confused. The whole question is whether you are taking a position on the nature of existence. If not I do not know what we are talking about... Tacitly? Just as much as you. I do not understand this contention that I have less faith in science to predict physics and the other mechanical sciences because I don't

I cannot emphasize enough that I am not talking about validity of meaning. I am talking about objective truth claims about the universe. The contention that you have less trust in science to predict physics is because you seem to be relegating it to a small corner of reality. Otherwise you would see that homeopathy contradicts physics.

I am saying clearly that I believe in science's ability to predict just as much as you. Nothing contradicts it. It violates no law other than it has an alleged unseen quality

Quote mattnapa:Well you have misued the application once, why not do it again. The argument relies on a popularly held opinion or behavior being used as premise in claiming the truth value in said opinion or behavior. If you wished to claim that Imy assertion was based on the fact that the chinese population believed it was a good system that could be an appeal to popularity if you are otherwise able to show that it is not the truth. My assertion is that a society that had made significant advances in most areas of science and technology would have to be an nomaly in the expected scientific model. In others somewhat in violation of science.

Well, it sounded to me in your phrasing that you were arguing that because lots of people in China use acupuncture or TCM or whatever (a claim which might not be true as well, I haven't looked at the statistics), therefore there must be something to those modalities. However, you're substituting one fallacy for another. There is no reason to assume that because a culture has made scientific or technological advances, all areas of knowledge have advanced equally, or that there are not massive areas of superstition left.

Not sure what your body of evidence is for this claim, but when you constantly insinuate fallacies it would be nice if you had strong evidence to support them. No one said they advance equally, but what I am saying is that the historical record does not show advanced technological societies that have this kind of comensurate drop off in medical technology.

Quote mattnapa:Tai chi and other eastern traditions are able to effect the nature of ones future breathing habits in terms of diaphramatic breath. The west has no history of such contributions. It is at least a feather in the cap of their misguided system. Whether the truth of chi is in anyway measurable I do not know and I do n't really think you or science do either

I'm not aware off the top of my head of any studies showing whether breathing practices have a significant impact on overall health. As for Chi, aside from again it contradicting physics, I don't have any studies off the top of my head. Though really you ought to be providing the evidence for your claim. On a related note, it took an 11 year old girl to bring down Therapeutic Touch. (Who then became the youngest person ever to be published in a peer reviewed journal.)

Isn't it intutively obvious that deeper breathing is likely to more relaxing? Again contradicting physics? Maybe it is just me ,but I do not consider physics particularly involved in physiological questions. Chemistry, cell behavior, etc seem more on point

Quote mattnapa:

At the same time your implausability status must be seen in the light of adhering to doctrine as opposed to open investigation. I do not find the idea that molecules that have just been in contact with another substance may have reacted in a way that would consistent of such contact. Given the popular following and long history dismissing homeopathy out of hand seems like poor science

At the risk of you telling me I'm misusing the terms again (I'm not), "popular following" and "long history" are, respectively, an argument from popularity and an argument from antiquity.

At least this time you are properly trying to apply them. first the context is not for a truth statement but simply whether they should be used as indicators in deciding whether to pursue studying the subject. Second the popularity fallacy does not say that inherently popular opinion is wrong, it simply states it can be wrong. It becomes a fallacy only when shown to be wrong. Historical fact as it relates to present day question is simply an informing aspect in a decision making process. To claim it should not be considered since you do not believe it relevant in no way makes it a fallacy. I am not sure what you are saying is an argument from antiquity.

And surely there is a question here about functioning science and the "direction" of scientific research. Is is important that a well educated public have legitimate information on the questions facing medicine, and that democratic processes be followed in the instituting them. So I would suggest there are some problems with distrust of public opinion in the extreme

Although homeopathy does not have a long history, depending on what you consider long. It was founded by Samuel Hahnemann in the 1790s. It was one more piece of bad medical science among many then, and it remains so today.

From what I read in Wikipedia the evidence as a whole shows it mildly more effective than placebo. The same for acupuncture

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Quote mattnapa: It [homeopathy] uses the same scientific precept as does immunization. The question is only whether the potions accomplish their pressumed mechanism of action. So completely void of science is innaccurate

Yeah, I meant to respond to this when you brought it up before. It might be the most absurd claim you've made. I don't know if I should just ask how you think immunizations work? It is only very superficially related to the supposed "like cures like" principle.

To claim the most absurd claim has truth to it seems absurd

By that hypothesis, anything that causes similar symptoms to, say the flu, ought to protect against the flu virus. Obviously, it doesn't work that way. Vaccines inject an inactive virus, which stimulates the body to produce antibodies. Antibodies are little Y shaped proteins, with special section that binds to a specific antigen. This is all based on the shape of the protein. By binding to a virus protein or bacterial cell, they prevent these pathogens from entering into our cells, or can function as a signal to other parts of the immune system to take action, so perhaps a macrophage will come along and dissolve the bacterial cell wall killing it.

This has nothing to do with homeopathy, which one, isn't preventative, and two, is so diluted it doesn't contain even a molecule left of the original substance.

As stated before the diluted part of the equation is not related the scientific theory behind it. As to not prevenative, are you saying homeopathy claims it has no preventive treatment or that they simply do not work

Quote mattnapa: Naturopathic and alternative medicine do not ignore pathogens as far as I know, so wht allopathic medicine gets credit for hand-washing I am not sure

The point is that hand washing comes directly out of western science and medicine. It comes directly from the "allopathic", as you put it, tradition. Actually, quite literally, since the term allopathic was coined by none other than the founder of homeopathy, Hahnemann, and it means "other than the disease", a reference to treatment methods that violated the "like cures like" idea. Handwashing does, of course, violate that premise, since washing your hands in no way mimics or induces the symptoms of a disease.

Alternative medicine has basis in western science as well. Sorry you do not get hand wasing in your cap without a better argument than that

You misread what I wrote. I assumed you did know what it meant, but I was linking to a definition to avoid possible confusion. I have not misapplied the argument from popularity. I don't know what's in your head, I only know what you write, and based on the argument as you wrote it, it was an argument from popularity. The argument from ignorance is if, because there appears to be a lack of evidence supporting one hypothesis, you claim another hypothesis is therefore likely.

I really do not think so. You have case in science where there have been two competing theories for a given phenomenoa, mercury's rotation for instance, in which one side is shown to be in error then the other side is proved correct or vice versa. Beyond thaat you misapplied the form of the argument. The argument does not state, if not A then B, rather it states if not A then no A

It's fine if there were misunderstandings here, but you did not explain how I misunderstood. I thought I addressed this, but I cannot find it in the thread. An appeal to poulism relies on a premise being based on an opinion or behavior of a given population. So in the case of chinese medicine I would have had to have argued that chinese medicine is effective because chinese people believe it is . I did not. I argued that the historical record of advanced techonological societies have some level of comensurate advancement in medical advancement in proiportion with their overall advancement. It has nothing to do with an appeal to popularity. The appeal to ignorance involes the prohibition of evidence not the comparison of evidence.

Which is what you and Davis were doing, turning a "we don't know" into implied evidence for another hypothesis. It was not deductive reasoning. Deductive reasoning only holds if the conclusion is the necessary logical consequence of the premises. Your conclusion is not the only logical conclusion possible, therefore it does not necessarily follow from the premises.

Yes and it does. If discovery happens it has a mode of discovery. If the evidence shows it was not by traditional trial and error scientific method then another modality was used. There is nothing illogical about it. If you want to dispute the original premise fine, but there is nothing logically inconsistent with the conclusion

Quote mattnapa: If the implication is that the simplest answer is that they used trial and error, the evidence is to the contrary. As to the rest of this I have no idea what your point is. What does evoloution have to do with what modality these folks used to establish this knowledge?

You're very literal minded at times for believing in so many wacky things. You have claimed trial and error to be an insufficient explanation for a people to arrive at so seemingly complicated an understanding of the local flora. Creationists argue that the trial and error of random mutations is insufficient explanation for nature to arrive at so seemingly complex a structure as eyes or wings, or so seemingly complex a creature as humans. But we have seen in experiments that the trial and error of random mutations can lead to complex interactions, even though the individual changes alone are not useful. This is just to demonstrate again that we cannot outright reject the idea that trial and error can't lead to complexity, whether in knowledge or genetics. (Which one might argue can both be identified as examples of information.)

Quote mattnapa: This is the fallacy of beging the question. Matter of fact your whole argument is beging the question. At least be clear, arte you saying the discussion has already been decided?. Again I will point out this is adherence to doctrine, and not in the spirit of open investigation. You might not like it that experts from both sides are given standing, but that in no way should diminish from the side with truth on its side from being able to show that is the case

I am saying for some things alternative medicine, homeopathy in particular, as well as Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, pretty much any "energy work", the question is as definitely answered as any scientific question can be. There is as much scientific doubt about their efficacy as there is doubt that germs cause disease. Again, I will point out that it is not being close minded to reject absurd claims.

I don't have to waste too much time looking for flying unicorns or for whether Reiki does anything. Nonetheless, we have wasted time researching energy work and homeopathy, and they have utterly failed.

The homeopathy assertion seems incorrect, and I will look at your therapeutic touch link

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mattnapa
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Quote mattnapa: How does that show I have used it incorrectly. The point really is whether a person is willing to discuss the evidence supporting their conclusion.

Hrm. I've linked to all manner of evidence in support of my position.

This is the same sort of argument given by the anti-evolutionists and global warming deniers. If there is resistance to discussion of the "controversy" it is, like in the case of global warming, because there is no controversy. The science is pretty clear. The controversy is manufactured. And what do you mean about no discussion boards? What about NCCAM?

The controversy is manufactured.

This the quote to which I first replied. The point seems to be no discussion is necessary in determining some facts.This was the charge for beging the question, To know answer you have presented facts is inconsistent with the first stement that facts are not always necessary

Quote mattnapa: I am not convinced of that. Give science some credit in being able to answer more things in the future.

What exactly would you find convincing? If a systematic overview of, I think it was 200 studies, finding absolutely nothing to homeopathy doesn't sway you, I'm at a loss for what would.

The point was that science may in the future discover how homeopathically mixed molecules may have structure that expalins there effectiveness. I am to assume you reject wikipedias basic conclusion on homeopathy

Quote mattnapa:

There is firstly a presupposition that we should give up studying it since we have gone as far as we can. Science does advance, and the idea that we can never study it seems predeterministic. The question of where science puts its energy is pretty much a non-scientific one.God knows we need another avenue of discussion here

Let me ask you this. Should we spend time and resources studying whether the decline in piracy causes global warming? Should we be putting money and resources into reseaching Intelligent Design? Should that be taught in schools? Should the "controversy" be taught in schools. If you answer no, then explain why we should be looking at homeopathy and energy work, but not these things? I realize you don't agree homeopathy is in the same category, but as far as plausibility and evidence, it absolutely is, and you can make the exact same sort of argument for why we should continue to entertain the notion.

You seem to point at what we should not do, but what is the process you suggest in determining what should be investigated

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mattnapa
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Quote mattnapa:

Me: The controversy is manufactured.

This the quote to which I first replied. The point seems to be no discussion is necessary in determining some facts.This was the charge for beging the question, To know answer you have presented facts is inconsistent with the first stement that facts are not always necessary

If by "no discussion is necessary" you mean, there is no reason to investigate every single claim made about anything, then yes, that is my position. I can think of a thousand impossible things before breakfast and I don't think we need to disprove them all. This is why the burden of proof is on the claimaint, though you were derisive of the idea earlier.

But again, again, again, there is lots of research on homeopathy. And other alternative medicines. And there is no evidence they work. This isn't a matter of admitting no discussion. This is a matter of when you throw in the towel and say, well, it was a nice idea, but it just isn't panning out. At what point exactly do we stop pouring resources into studying something?

And at what point are you going to answer my questions directly? What would you find convincing??? I can tell you exactly what would change my mind about homeopathy. What would change yours?

Quote mattnapa: You seem to point at what we should not do, but what is the process you suggest in determining what should be investigated

Don't be evasive, answer my question. One word answer to yours for now: plausibility.

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reed9
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Quote mattnapa:I am to assume you reject wikipedias basic conclusion on homeopathy

Little addendum, I just read wikipedia's entry on homeopathy. Unlike some folks on the forum, I actually do believe Wikipedia can be a good source of information, though of course one has to keep their critical faculties in play whenever consulting it. Anyway, their basic conclusion is that homeopathy doesn't work, so no, I don't reject it.

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reed9
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Quote reed9:

[quote=mattnapa]

Me: The controversy is manufactured.

This the quote to which I first replied. The point seems to be no discussion is necessary in determining some facts.This was the charge for beging the question, To know answer you have presented facts is inconsistent with the first stement that facts are not always necessary

If by "no discussion is necessary" you mean, there is no reason to investigate every single claim made about anything, then yes, that is my position.

But from a purely scientific viewpoint it is. Only resources create the problem. also the "process" of determining what and what should not be investigated then become another sort of buisness unrelated to the classic scientific model. I have repeatedly asked what parameters should be set on such a process and have not heard back

I can think of a thousand impossible things before breakfast and I don't think we need to disprove them all. This is why the burden of proof is on the claimaint, though you were derisive of the idea earlier.

I am niot derisive. As above I am pointing out the problems with the notion

But again, again, again, there is lots of research on homeopathy. And other alternative medicines. And there is no evidence they work. This isn't a matter of admitting no discussion. This is a matter of when you throw in the towel and say, well, it was a nice idea, but it just isn't panning out. At what point exactly do we stop pouring resources into studying something?

homeopathy and acupuncture are not my focus. Orthomolecular medicine, diet, strees reducing techniques, chelation, candida, reduction of toxin load, are more of my thing. However the precedent set by simply allowing you to claim that acupuncture and homeopathy are ineffective based on questionable review status would allow you the same set of standard criteria to impose on other issues. It would be nice if there was a source that allowed for small papers from both sides in the interpretation of the studies.

And at what point are you going to answer my questions directly? What would you find convincing??? I can tell you exactly what would change my mind about homeopathy. What would change yours?

See last answer

Quote mattnapa: You seem to point at what we should not do, but what is the process you suggest in determining what should be investigated

A system that involves and educates the public in the discussion of the issues, and allows them to particiapate in the direction it moves forward

Don't be evasive, answer my question. One word answer to yours for now: plausibility.

Plausability is not classic science. It is a construct made up of criteria which may or may not support it's claim as being logical

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mattnapa
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Quote mattnapa:

homeopathy and acupuncture are not my focus. Orthomolecular medicine, diet, strees reducing techniques, chelation, candida, reduction of toxin load, are more of my thing. However the precedent set by simply allowing you to claim that acupuncture and homeopathy are ineffective based on questionable review status would allow you the same set of standard criteria to impose on other issues. It would be nice if there was a source that allowed for small papers from both sides in the interpretation of the studies.

Me: And at what point are you going to answer my questions directly? What would you find convincing??? I can tell you exactly what would change my mind about homeopathy. What would change yours?

See last answer

So your answer is, I'm not going to answer your question, but instead change the subject, even though I was defending homeopathy earlier.

Regardless, show me the evidence for any of the other modalities you mentioned. Your standard of evidence seems to be, because someone somewhere said it was so.

Evidence against? Chelation #1. Chelation #2.

Orthomolecular medicine

Articles on Detoxing #1 and #2

and Candida.

Questionable review status? How is it questionable? Have you read any of the material I've linked to yet? Do you have specific objections to their methodology or conclusions?

Germ Theory encountered incredible resistance at first, yet it was ultimately and rather quickly accepted in the face of powerful evidence. But you argue scientists are too dogmatic to change their minds? That their supposed bias against alternative medicine blinds them to the incredible benefits? Doctors wouldn't jump on something that helped them save lives and help people?

Quote mattnapa:

Me: Don't be evasive, answer my question. One word answer to yours for now: plausibility.

Plausability is not classic science. It is a construct made up of criteria which may or may not support it's claim as being logical

Again, avoiding the questions entirely. Here it is again: Should we spend time and resources studying whether the decline in piracy causes global warming? Should we be putting money and resources into reseaching Intelligent Design? Should the "controversy" be taught in schools?

So you don't care for plausibility. Your position is that anything anyone thinks up should be accepted until proven false? Except that science is not adequate to establish something isn't true, after all, maybe in the future that will change. The sun might in fact be the eyeball of a unicorn and we could find that out sometime in the future. But science can demonstrate if something is true, assuming you agree with that something, such as global warming, ocean acidification, or the damage the oil disaster is causing...got it.

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reed9
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Quote mattnapa:But from a purely scientific viewpoint it is. Only resources create the problem. also the "process" of determining what and what should not be investigated then become another sort of buisness unrelated to the classic scientific model. I have repeatedly asked what parameters should be set on such a process and have not heard back

Here's an article examining the question of whether we ought to do research on chelation therapy for autism. You can easily extrapolate to the broader question of how to determine allocation of resources for research, and the author is a better writer than I am.

And an article discussing plausibility. Which contrary to your assertions, is absolutely a part of science. Though your qualifier "classic" makes no sense to me.

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reed9
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Sounds like you guys, Reed9 and Mattnapa, need to go on a long hike, have a great meal with some fine wine and TALK AT LENGTH!

It is not that the debate you are having is really not a product of the thread, but we have gotten far away from atheism as the test of what I hope is not demeaningly termed "scientific objectivism" against a if it works and we don't understand why approach to legitimate tax supported medical practices.

If we are willing to pose "alternative medicine" against the product of scientific inquiry and microbiology, we could see "religion" or "metaphor" vs. germs, physical systems and parts. "Chi" comes close to "spirit," and the arguments for "faith" in healing are not without basis. Reflexology is a sound neurological diagnostic approach, and healers around the world have sniffed urine and observed other signs Western doctors have not learned, known about or bothered with.

The hubris of modernism has been transcendent in our culture. We have presumed that modern science has dispelled nonsense and superstition instead of replacing or adding to ways of knowing and experience in healing from other cultures.

We do not see "objectively." Our minds learn to sort out the meaningless static and recognize what matters. The point about the tracker is that learning to see what is requires more than "just looking." How do you read the sky to know what is coming? But even more than that, what narrative has led you to this point of observation, and what have you learned on your path?

To stay in the field of medicine, my Navajo friend with the advanced Western degrees of her own, helps health practicioners learn to be effective in tribal situations. No matter how much science these doctors know, in order to be effective at all, they must learn to appreciate and respect the narrative context and the people of the Indian community. If they learn the stories and respect the people who tell them, they will learn how to have a peerage conversation about what Western medicine can add to their understanding of healing.

My own description of "teaching" Western doctors about the interaction of my own body and why parts they did not consider mattered mightily is a collaboration. It is not a rejection of the West, but it is a critique of their suspicion of "primitive" and "non-scientific" "folk" practices.

I don't know enough about the "phony acupuncture" placebo to compare customer satisfaction stats. I do know that relaxing muscles that are standing in for others is hard to do by strict meditation and that the use of the feet as a pole makes neurological sense. What is the science of the lower back? It has been more about cutting and shots than about getting the body correct. The people who have been helpful to me have pointed to the natural healing desire of the body and how to help those forces do their thing. There are some doctors who get this. But the training and the structure of delivery do not reinforce and support "wholism."

The role of the "patient" is primary to me. Science tends to get experts treating clients. I wish the science of healing would pay more attention to the dynamics of patient/doctor relationships and a healing process in which the pharms and surgeries support a "wholistic" healing process. When I am an active participant, my whole body is engaged in the healing, and it is all pertinent. My psychology matters. My motivation matters, and for me that means collegially owning the process instead of being given orders to obey.

I think that change of relationship changes the language and frame of the conversation, and changes the doctor's own self-image from expert pro to helpful resource. It is a more confident identity of competence and utility than the "boss" or "expert." It makes much better healing pros.

Science is great stuff, but it is a perspective as it rejects mythology and metaphors as lacking reality. Fine. If they want to confine their work to "objective" rather than "subjective" culturally contextual stories of meaning and wisdom, admit that you don't know much about mythology. If you go the Joe Campbell path, you will learn to find lots of information in mythology including the marvelous human ability to tell stories and imagine other worlds that make more sense of being human beings alive in the middle of this one.

The value of these myths and metaphors is to judged in their products. Do they work. But that depends on what we mean by "works." If we can agree that we are human beings and we all live on the same Earth, the fact that we see this world and understand it in marvelously diverse manner can open a humility and confidence about our own story and science. While I hate the airy fairy New Age "spirituality" without the flesh, I do not regard the wisdom of human cultures other than the West as lesser, nor do I think "science" has reality by the tail.

But, I am also afraid that this debate has driven everyone else to cover.

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DRC
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Quote DRC:

If we are willing to pose "alternative medicine" against the product of scientific inquiry and microbiology, we could see "religion" or "metaphor" vs. germs, physical systems and parts. "Chi" comes close to "spirit," and the arguments for "faith" in healing are not without basis. Reflexology is a sound neurological diagnostic approach, and healers around the world have sniffed urine and observed other signs Western doctors have not learned, known about or bothered with.

What I am fundamentally getting at is the nature of causation. If it is fair to say that, for example, some micro-organism causes some disease, it doesn't matter to me the words we use to talk about it (so long as they are accurate). A name in and of itself tells us nothing of the organism. If you know how it functions in the body, what it effects, and that leads you to a working treatment, great. If you don't know that, but trial and error and folk lore leads you to a working treating, also great. (Though as a matter of leading to new discoveries and knowledge, learning something about how the organism works in the body seems beneficial.)

But the key is "working" and "causation". How do we determine what works? How to we account for cognitive biases? How do we prevent people from being scammed by ineffective and sometimes dangerous treatments? Why should we cling to Linus Pauling's orthomolecular medicine when it has been proven ineffective? There's not deep cultural connection or antiquity there, which I suppose could be argued are worthy of respect due to age, though I don't necessarily agree. It's just a guy, who made a hypothesis, and it turned out wrong. Why cling to the belief he was right?

The same goes for all therapies, treatments, and medicine. Whether we understand the mechanism of action or not, whether we think the principle makes sense or not, what other criteria should there be other than, "does it work"? And what other criteria can demonstrate effectiveness if not clinical trials? Treat people with the therapy and see if it works. (Obviously, double-blind, large well designed studies are what I'm referring to.) Why is that so objectionable?

In that sense, the narrative of our lives is not relevant, any more than the narrative of our lives is relevant to whether a brick will fall when dropped.

Quote DRC:To stay in the field of medicine, my Navajo friend with the advanced Western degrees of her own, helps health practicioners learn to be effective in tribal situations. No matter how much science these doctors know, in order to be effective at all, they must learn to appreciate and respect the narrative context and the people of the Indian community. If they learn the stories and respect the people who tell them, they will learn how to have a peerage conversation about what Western medicine can add to their understanding of healing.

I would never argue that the current relationship between doctors and patients is in many cases awful. I do not care for the attitude of fast food medicine that seems so prevalent. I absolutely believe that a good deal of the allure of alternative medicine, is that people feel more cared for, regardless of the effects of treatment. As I touched on before, even the best of doctors may be unable to adequately tend to people's emotional needs due to problems in how we've organized our medical system, and the big business nature of medicine in the U.S. But this is a wholly separate issue from efficacy of treatment and the ethics of advertising unproven treatments. Though at the same time, I don't think it the proper role of medical doctors to play the psychological therapist. There is also a level of detachment that is necessary to be a good doctor. They should sympathize greatly with their patients, but they should not overly empathize with their patients. It is this principle which leads to our prohibition of doctors treating their own family. Too much empathy results in bad medical decisions.

Quote DRC:Science is great stuff, but it is a perspective as it rejects mythology and metaphors as lacking reality. Fine. If they want to confine their work to "objective" rather than "subjective" culturally contextual stories of meaning and wisdom, admit that you don't know much about mythology. If you go the Joe Campbell path, you will learn to find lots of information in mythology including the marvelous human ability to tell stories and imagine other worlds that make more sense of being human beings alive in the middle of this one.

Joseph Campbell was an atheist. :p

I've read many of his books. I don't agree that he concludes science is merely a perspective. Surely you aren't saying that a myth of a resurrected god holds the same reality as a mountain?

To hearken back to my earlier post, where I tried to bring this back to general principles, do you agree that many things can reasonable be said to have "causes"? And if so, can we reliably ascertain these causes in some areas?

Quote DRC:The value of these myths and metaphors is to judged in their products. Do they work. But that depends on what we mean by "works."

Works in medicine is pretty easy to define. Does it reduce, prevent, or cure disease with greater chance than probability or placebo?

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reed9
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Apr. 8, 2010 10:26 am

I wanted to add a little thought experiment to try and illustrate my point about plausiblity.

So, for the sake of argument, let's say in a year or two, we see cancer rates rise significantly in Louisana. Obviously, we want to figure out why. First thing we do is discard all the millions of implausible explanations. We're not going to look at weather patterns in China to see if they increase cancer in Louisiana, right?

Based on pre-existing knowledge of things that can cause cancer, we perhaps begin to think, hmm, I wonder if that oil catasptrophe in 2010 has anything to do with this? And out of this we get a couple of competing hypothesis. Preliminary evidence suggests the two most likely culprits are either the oil itself, or the dispersant used on the oil.

Now let's say a 3rd party pipes up with the claim, "I think it's the increase in vaccinations that occurred during the swine flu scare." How seriously do we take this claim? How much effort to we put into researching it?

The anti-vaxxers have gotten pretty vocal, so they whip up some public outcry, and start making accusations of conspiracy and cover-up, so we say, fine, we'll take a look at it. Now right off the bat, we start with the knowledge that vaccines have never been linked to cancer. But maybe there's a link we never found before. Possible, but somewhat implausible.

Before we even get into real studies, just a quick check of the facts show that nowhere else in the country is experiencing the same increase of rates, despite the similar rates of swine flu vaccination and that populations in Louisiana showing an increase in cancer don't appear to correspond to the same populations who received increased vaccinations.

We have two major strikes against the vaccine hypthosesis already, making it highly implausible. Do we continue to do the research anyway? Let's say the evidence is growing that the oil and dispersant are connected to the cancer, do we keep looking at vaccines? Let's say a definite link is shown between cancer and the oil and dispersant. Do we still keep looking at vaccines?

Or perhaps new evidence suggests the original data was flawed and there was no anomolous cancer rate hikes. Do you think that would stop the anti-vaxxers from believing the vaccine did cause cancer at this point? It certainly hasn't with the fraudulent autism-vaccine link. Do we keep researching because they keep screaming there is something to it?

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reed9
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Apr. 8, 2010 10:26 am

homeopathy and acupuncture are not my focus. Orthomolecular medicine, diet, strees reducing techniques, chelation, candida, reduction of toxin load, are more of my thing. However the precedent set by simply allowing you to claim that acupuncture and homeopathy are ineffective based on questionable review status would allow you the same set of standard criteria to impose on other issues. It would be nice if there was a source that allowed for small papers from both sides in the interpretation of the studies.

Me: And at what point are you going to answer my questions directly? What would you find convincing??? I can tell you exactly what would change my mind about homeopathy. What would change yours?

See last answer[/quote]

So your answer is, I'm not going to answer your question, but instead change the subject, even though I was defending homeopathy earlier.

Not my intent I can assure you. I think the answer you are looking for is that I do believe double blind studies whose meanings are openly discussed in broad public forum. If that is not the answer then try the question again.

Regardless, show me the evidence for any of the other modalities you mentioned. Your standard of evidence seems to be, because someone somewhere said it was so.

I would find it hard to believe that, given my answer above, you could attribute such nonsense to my viewpoint.

I am going to look at your links

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mattnapa
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Quote mattnapa:

Me: Regardless, show me the evidence for any of the other modalities you mentioned. Your standard of evidence seems to be, because someone somewhere said it was so.

I would find it hard to believe that, given my answer above, you could attribute such nonsense to my viewpoint.

Well, obviously no one is going to believe that is their position. But can you see that that is what it basically amounts to? As I mentioned with Pauling before, he had an idea, it never panned out, and yet people continue to believe fervently in it. Or homeopathy, some guy at the beginning of modern medicine has an idea, perhaps a reasonable reaction to the dangerous quackery in much mainstream medicine at the time, but again, no evidence has ever surfaced in 200 odd years, yet people continue to cling to it. It doesn't amount to much more than some fellow said it was so, and people buy it uncritically.

How nicely these modalities fit our world view! We want so much for there to be these universal connections and spiritual "energy" guiding and healing us, but it isn't how the world works. Whatever "spiritual energy" there is, is in how we live our lives, not a physical entity. We want to believe in things that correspond to how we view the world, but reality is indifferent to our wishful thinking.

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reed9
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How nicely these modalities fit our world view! We want so much for there to be these universal connections and spiritual "energy" guiding and healing us, but it isn't how the world works. Whatever "spiritual energy" there is, is in how we live our lives, not a physical entity. We want to believe in things that correspond to how we view the world, but reality is indifferent to our wishful thinking.

There's a book called "Cosmic Jackpot: Why Our Universe Is Just Right For Life"

It gets pretty complicated but the basic idea behind this book is that the uninverse/s are just right for life and it could be a result of our needing a universe that's "just right." I don't know how much of it to take seriously but it was an interesting read. I read it as a sort of experiment in where science will be taking us.

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artjunky
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I particularly like this bit of the review

Thus, no attempt is made to plead in defence of religion as such. “Religion in the abstract”, Hart says, “does not actually exist, and almost no one (apart from politicians) would profess any allegiance to it”. This is a sound and fundamental point. The creeds of the major religions are mutually contradictory, so that the one thing we know for certain about religion is that if any religion is true then most religions are false.

But I certainly agree that we shouldn't over-romanticize the modern era and demonize the past.

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reed9
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anthony_kenny_on_atheist_delusions_20100514/

is a review on TLS [The Times (London) Literary Supplement]. It is a favourable review, but as in NY Review, and London Review, the letters published in reply to reviewer's opinion are always worth reading.

The author responds to the review, the second quote is Hart's response to

Hart is not at his best when discussing Aristotle.

He cannot have read The History of Animals when he calls Albert the Great “the father of biological field research”. In physics he believes that Aristotle’s prime mover was an outermost crystalline sphere, when in fact it was an incorporeal divinity outside the universe. (How Hart would have crowed if he had come across such a howler in Hitchens!) Hart is right that the discoveries of Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and Newton were not so much a liberation from religious authority as from latter-day Aristotelianism. But the persistence of Aristotle’s cosmology for many centuries after its sell-by date was partly due to the religious cultures in which it survived. His works became the possession of “peoples of the book”—Muslims, Jews and Christians, and accordingly they were treated in the way that sacred texts are treated. That is why many of the greatest minds of the Middle Ages, instead of following Aristotle’s example of original investigation, wrote commentaries on his scientific works.

Hart’s comparisons between Classical and Christian eras are all too often partisan. In order to portray Christianity as more cheerful than paganism, he has to downplay the patristic teaching that everlasting torment awaited the majority of mankind. To claim that the ultimate equality of all humans is an exclusively Christian doctrine he has to ignore the teaching of Stoics such as the slave Epictetus and the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. To explain his admiration for Julian the Apostate, he has to claim that of all the emperors between Constantine and Theodosius he was the most “genuinely Christian in sensibility”.

Atheist delusions

Sir, – I am grateful to Anthony Kenny for his largely generous review of my book Atheist Delusions (February 19), and I am honoured by both the praise and the criticisms of so distinguished a scholar. I should like, however, to make a few observations.

Professor Kenny asserts that, in calling Albert the Great a possible father of biological field research, I forget Aristotle’s History of Animals. But to note, as historians of science generally do, that the particular methods of modern empirical biology began to take shape in the Middle Ages is not to slight the tradition of natural philosophy on which those methods built or from which they departed. Similarly, to call attention to the novelty, for its time, of the gospels’ treatment of Peter’s grief – elevating a rustic, with a particular name and face, to a position of tragic centrality in the narrative – is not to ignore antique depictions of the joys and sorrows of anonymous peasants; it is merely to observe the considerable difference in moral sensibility separating the former from the latter.

As for Kenny’s charge that I describe Aristotle’s first unmoved mover as a crystalline heavenly sphere: most definitely not. Nowhere in the book do I discuss Aristotle’s unmoved mover at all. In one brief sentence, I give a very general sketch of the late antique and medieval Aristotelian pictures of the cosmos, Christian and Muslim. There I do describe the heavens as a series of homocentric crystalline spheres, beyond which lay the outermost “sphere” (nature unspecified) of the “prime mover”. Now, I admit that, even when one is being scrupulously vague, it is always a lazy – if not historically unwarranted – habit to use the phrase “prime mover”, indifferently, to mean either the first unmoved mover (transitive) or the first moved mover (simultaneously transitive and intransitive). The former was occasionally represented as a sphere, as a kind of cosmographic metaphor, because – despite its “noetic” immateriality, pure actuality, and non-spatial immobility – Aristotle had apparently “situated” it outside and at the circumference of the highest heaven (Physics VIII.10, 276b). The latter, though, simply was the highest heavenly sphere – whether conceived as the stellatum or a higher primum mobile – which was a prime mover in a purely intra-cosmic sense, a primum movens in rebus and primus motor motus. It was the latter that I meant, and I should have used a phrase like “prime moved mover” or “first moved”.

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douglaslee
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Sorry about screwing the order of the posts up, it seems when you edit a post, the software assumes the edit is a reply or response to the most recent post in the thread.

Hart's comparisons of certain eras of history and their respective relativity are kind of twisted, looking as if made mainly to support his argument. John Stossel does that, too. Crusades weren't too bad, because they were the only Christian wars [yes there were seven, but then they stopped, uh huh]. Inquisition wasn't too bad because they tried to limit witch hunts, and modern era bombed Dresden and Hiroshima.

Murder rates aren't that bad, because more people die in auto accidents, is the same bs.

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douglaslee
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There is an interesting debate on evolution from Dr. Steven Novella's blog.

I think it highlights many of the points I've been trying to make regarding the nature of science and similar principles apply to other non-scientific claims.

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reed9
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Me: Regardless, show me the evidence for any of the other modalities you mentioned. Your standard of evidence seems to be, because someone somewhere said it was so.

I would find it hard to believe that, given my answer above, you could attribute such nonsense to my viewpoint.

[/quote]

Well, obviously no one is going to believe that is their position. But can you see that that is what it basically amounts to? As I mentioned with Pauling before, he had an idea, it never panned out, and yet people continue to believe fervently in it.

Well you ask the question to me, and then you say "well they do not believe in it." Somebody has to be a non-believer don't they?

Actually most of Paulings claims have never been refuted and their is evidence supporting much of it. It is however an excellent wexample of how big pharma and the mainstream media create a narritive tha is not scientifically based

Or homeopathy, some guy at the beginning of modern medicine has an idea, perhaps a reasonable reaction to the dangerous quackery in much mainstream medicine at the time, but again, no evidence has ever surfaced in 200 odd years, yet people continue to cling to it. It doesn't amount to much more than some fellow said it was so, and people buy it uncritically.

NIH in 97 basically said it worked

How nicely these modalities fit our world view! We want so much for there to be these universal connections and spiritual "energy" guiding and healing us, but it isn't how the world works. Whatever "spiritual energy" there is, is in how we live our lives, not a physical entity. We want to believe in things that correspond to how we view the world, but reality is indifferent to our wishful thinking.

This is something I have never implied, beyond that hoeopathic molecules may have properties not yet understood. If this simple statement gives you grounds to claim I am all about magic go for it.

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reed9, thanks for the neuroscience link. Do you have a background in neuroscience or is it just an interest? I read mind when I think of it [kind of a stupid statement, but true].

On the Christian/religion/atheism topic, I see Rabbi Lerner was vandalized or threatened. I like him and his writings, the chief Rabbi of Great Britain has also offered some great rational work.

This guy is good, too. A baptist writing this way might also understand the pressure the two Rabbis feel.

I am not sure, but I think Rev. Bess wrote of the myth of the Christmas story, and explained the real origins of the story. If it wasn't him, another ordained figure wrote it around the holiday.

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from www.skepdic.com

Sample the Skeptic's Dictionary Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments are rules allegedly given to Moses by the god of the Hebrews. Some of the rules should be of interest only to followers of the Hebrew religion. They require obedience of the Hebrews, but there is nothing particularly rational or universally appealing to them. Non-Hebrews would have little interest, for example, in being required to serve the Hebrew god. Nevertheless, in the 16th century at the Council of Trent, the Catholic Church condemned those who claim these rules aren't binding on Christians. Jesus sanctioned the rules in Matthew 19 and in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5).* Only a few of the rules, however, seem rational enough to be rules that any society would insist on, such as the prohibitions of killing and stealing....>>more

Skepdic.com also covers critical thinking, even a childrens skeptic reader, Skepdic Jr.

http://www.skepdic.com/refuge/ctlessons.html

for critical thinking

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douglaslee
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Quote douglaslee:

reed9, thanks for the neuroscience link. Do you have a background in neuroscience or is it just an interest? I read mind when I think of it [kind of a stupid statement, but true]

No, no background in neuroscience. Just an interested amateur. My two political passions outside of general progressivism are with the Skeptical movement and the Free Software movement.

Dr. Novella also does a podcast, The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, you might be interested in.

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reed9
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I wonder if the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster have offered to replace the missing Cross in California with their own symbol.

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artjunky
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The Trial of Socrates by I.F Stone tells of his guilt due to atheism, in Greek that means godless, and in a comparitive sense if a culture is polytheist, a monotheist is godless.

Socrates does score in the end

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douglaslee
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Atheism is not a belief. You wouldn't say, "I believe in the non-existence of Santa Claus or I believe in the non-existence of fairies, pixies, unicorns, bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, leprechauns, ghosts, etc." You say, "I don't believe in those things." More accurately, you would say, "I do not accept the claims that those things exist." Why is this distinction important? Because in a logical argument the burden of proof lies with the side making the positive claim (that is, the claim of existence). Rejection of said claims is the default position. The more extraordinary a claim, the more extraordinary the evidence required to prove it (or at least show it is more likely to be true). This is also why it is a fallacy to say that because neither side can absolutely prove their position then each is equally likely to be true. I can't prove absolutely that there are no fairies, but does that mean there is a 50-50 chance that they are real? Absolutely not. But if you can show me that extraordinary evidence, I'll change my position.

Look at it this way: a Christian would say, "I reject the claim of existence of Zeus, Thor, Anansi, Ganesha, Ra, Odin, Vishnu, Aries, Freya, Aphrodite, Coyote, Eostre, Osiris, Zoroaster, etc." Atheists simply add one more god to the list.

The bottom line is, you know nothing about what I believe if I tell you I am an atheist. You only know one thing I don't believe; you know I reject claims about the existence of a god or gods. I personally go one further and reject all claims of the supernatural, but not all atheists do. That does not mean I don't have a personal philosophy or worldview… I think it is likely hardwired into the human brain to have one. But it is not my atheism. Atheism is the rejection of other people's worldview, not a definition of my own.

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boma
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If your attempt is to say nothing meaningful mission accomplished.

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mattnapa
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Belief in one or more gods, evolution, global climate change and Santa Clause are not religions, they're belief systems. Atheism is neither a religion nor a belief system - it's a disbelief system. There, I've said it!

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skitrooper
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All religions are highly likely to be wrong. To worship any god without 100% proof is a possible slap in the face or insult to the true creator, but at the same time we have to assume that the true creator already knew that humans would create their own religions along with fictitious gods. It's all a part of the game.

It's my belief that the true creator has no desire for people to know who he or it is and definitely doesn't care if we worship him/it.

As far as atheism is concerned. Yes, it's a belief but just because something is a belief doesn't constitute it as a religion. So I would say if there is no god or gods involved with atheism then it's not a true religion.

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Mr_Dean
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Apr. 1, 2010 7:58 am

Boma wrote: Atheism is the rejection of other people's worldview, not a definition of my own.

--------

Your post is the best arguement I've seen that atheism isn't a religion. Summed up well.

Retired Monk - "Ideology is a disease"

polycarp2
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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

I think the point is that very few self-declared atheists stick to that point of criticism instead of declaring it wrong. The problem is that protesting against the "existence of God" does not undermine the utility of the myths or metaphysics that do not try to make them into ontological objects or history.

Before astronomy, the theistic imagery was great theater, giving us stories to explain how many human beings have found meaning and soul in being here. Peoples used stories to have collective identity and bonding, as well as giving individual identity and culture, and the myths of power and intimacy deal with factors we still find beyond analysis, at least in the living it out.

Theism no longer works to explain the moral universe because we know too much about the cosmos. But the sacred nature of our beings and relationships, and the vocation we share as "healers of Creation" still needs to be talked about and lived out. If the atheist is only saying that theism does not work to address these questions anymore, at least for those individuals, great. If they want to be good theologians and join the rest of us in criticism of bad religion, it will be a fine conversation.

But the rejection of religion is not justified, and when that is the issue the atheist has gone beyond the definition given above.

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DRC
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Quote DRC:Peoples used stories to have collective identity and bonding, as well as giving individual identity and culture, and the myths of power and intimacy deal with factors we still find beyond analysis, at least in the living it out...

But the rejection of religion is not justified, and when that is the issue the atheist has gone beyond the definition given above.

But people do not, by and large, hold religion to be no different that a Shakespeare play or other literature or story which enriches our lives. That is not what we reject.

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reed9
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Apr. 8, 2010 10:26 am

I think a pertinent question to ask those that eskew a 'faith' in 'God' as a 'wrongful belief' is that is 'atheism', itself, without 'faith'? And, if not, what makes the 'faith' of atheists somehow more formidable and 'true' than the faith of theists? And, if the atheists claim to be 'without faith', then, why aren't all atheists anarchists who should know that much of the institutionalization and hierarchy of humans thoughout history (and to this present day) has been based on a 'faith' of some sorts (in fact, it's within that very hierarchic arrangement that the 'story of gods' were placed in ancient history). If there is at least the 'faith' that those in hierarchy are playing out some formation of 'facts of order' (bound by 'nature', or 'God', or 'gods', or whatever) that they, as the 'atheists' that they are, cannot obtain and understand on their own, that, itself, constitutes a form of 'faith' (and 'confirms the gods of hierarchy' despite their 'atheism'...), does it not?

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Kerry
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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

Exactly how I feel (expected better from Thom)..

I only want to add that if feels like thom is acting like a republican fundy on this one singular issue.. Igoogled and found calling atheism a religion.. IS A RELIGION (there are a lot of posts on this subject)..

I think the bottom line is the fundies started this crap, and its working great for their side (because anyone who hates atheists say it and we all get muddled in endless philosophical debate (wasting our energy)..

To me the most obvious glaring point is that this is only a play on words (rearranging the sentence) that changes "atheists do not believe in god," into "atheists believe there is not god." People should be able to figure it out (esp. someone smart as Thom).. Calling atheism a religion is like saying non smokers.. smoke! Since the very defining thing about atheism is lack of belief, it is obnoxious to rearrange the sentence to say the opposite.. Yes, it confuses people, "you cant prove a negative," stuff, but thats no excuse when explained..

bobbler

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bobbler
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Currently Chatting

The other way we're subsidizing Walmart...

Most of us know how taxpayers subsidize Walmart's low wages with billions of dollars in Medicaid, food stamps, and other financial assistance for workers. But, did you know that we're also subsidizing the retail giant by paying the cost of their environmental destruction.

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