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We Have The Answer! I Repeat: We Have The Answer!

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Notify the media! Call a conference of Astrophysicists.. or er.. Theoretical physi.. I mean.. just call some scientists who know stuff about planets and stuff!

Wait.. hold on.. no.

I’ve just been told what it is and it appears to be quite.. how shall I put this.. dumb beyond comprehension.

I read this to the end only to be disappointed that the answer which the author kept teasing he had to the question of why the universe’s constants are so finely tuned was so terribly unsatisfying:

In short, the reason we see the values that we see is that, if they were very different, we wouldn’t be around to see them.

Why does light travel at a specific speed, or why do the universal constants hold the seemingly arbitrary values they do? Well, after about 3 thousand words, the answer, apparently, is that this is what we observe because had they been different, nobody would be around to observe them! — nobody would be alive to observe them, essentially.

Thanks for that, Mr. Scientist! You sure answered the hell out of that one.

This would be like surviving a nuclear bomb exploding in your face, only to be told that you shouldn’t wonder how you survived — it would be ridiculous, in fact, to ask why you survived — because if you didn’t, oh yesiree bob, you wouldn’t be around to be curious how you did! So strike that from your list of curiosities, you apparently should.

It’s clear that the universal constants can only be the way they are because they were either designed or just happen by chance to be that way. The problem with the latter is that given the unbelievably large spectrum of possibilities, it’s more probable that a chimp banging its fist on a typewriter will be, by chance, churning out lines from Shakespeare.

Of course, to avoid the rut of having God as a hypothesis (as most are keen on doing) some people have ingeniously come up with the theory of the multiverse, where — get this! — everything that can possibly happen has happened and will for all practical purposes happen again (and again.. ad infinitum) in one of the infinite universes that exist. And of course that merely puts the problem a step back since we can still ask how the devil this large ensemble of infinite universes came to be, but lets not get ahead of ourselves.

But if you can forget those annoying little details and believe that a universe within that large ensemble of infinite universes exists where another me had typed this very piece, only this time while standing on my head, then goodluck with that. Surely — surely! — that’s an easier swallow.

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Professional Victims Strike Again!

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The professional victims of the feminist movement strike again. Scientist, and now, hero, Matt taylor (pictured above) successfully lands a spacecraft on a comet (not an easy thing, trust me), meanwhile, and apropos of nothing at all, Chris Plante of the Verge whines about being offended by Matt’s shirt, which he argues is ‘sexist’, and “ostracizing”:

This is the sort of casual misogyny that stops women from entering certain scientific fields. They see a guy like that on TV and they don’t feel welcome. They see a poster of greased up women in a colleague’s office and they know they aren’t respected.

[…]

” This is the climate women who dream of working at NASA or the ESA come up against, every single day. This shirt is representative of all of that, and the ESA has yet to issue a statement or apologize for that.”

The problem, Chris, is that it is people like you, and not people like Matt, who are ‘marginalizing’ women, by constantly making them out to be these emotionally fragile flowers who can scarcely muster the strength to not give a rodent’s posterior about someone’s choice of textile. If you feel you aren’t able to do what you love because there are people within close proximity who choose to wear something you find offensive, then you are simply not as enthusiastic about what you do like you happily claim you are. But I suppose that’s par for the course since feminists and their band of orbiting white knights love encouraging each other to blame the ‘patriarchy’ for their failures.

It is truly remarkable, is it not, how feminists can turn any situation around and make it about their feelings. And this is why, even as a non-gamer, I stand with gamergate.

A Fine Day For Science.

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Science, the science fetishists often argue, is self-correcting, so the truth always prevails, and in contrast with religion and it’s dogmas, it becomes clear, so they also often argue, why science and not religion is the avenue through which knowledge — the kind that matters, at least — should be had. But that science is always self-correcting and is therefore always reliable is itself a dogma that needs to be corrected:

Throughout its 169-year history, Scientific American has been an august and sober chronicler of the advance of human knowledge, from chemistry to physics to anthropology.

Lately, however, things have become kind of a mess.

A series of blog posts on the magazine’s Web site over the past few months has unleashed waves of criticism and claims that the publication was promoting racism, sexism and “genetic determinism.”

[..]

The trouble started in April when a guest blogger, a doctoral student named Chris Martin, wrote about Lawrence H. Summers’ assertions when he was president of Harvard University about the paucity of women in some scientific fields. While acknowledging that discrimination played a role in holding back women, Martin also concluded, “the latest research suggests that discrimination has a weaker impact than people might think, and that innate sex differences explain quite a lot.”

[..]

The second land mine was a post in May by Ashutosh Jogalekar, which favorably reviewed a controversial book by Nicholas Wade, “A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History.” Jogalekar praised the book, saying it confirms the need to “recognize a strong genetic component to [social and cognitive] differences” among racial groups.

 

What the post makes abundantly clear is that when the results of science seem to marshal ideas deemed too politically incorrect (particularly racial and anti-feminist ideas), science loses and butt-hurt people win, and, for good or for ill — although obviously mostly for ill — science often gets corrected not by other, more accurate science, but by people with hurt feelings.

Of course science is generally reliable. But the people who don’t feel the least bit embarrassed about bandying-about the word science to give their pet ideologies a whiff of credibility can also be relied upon, perhaps even moreso, to do the idiotic.

Steven Pinker Argues Science Makes Belief In God Obsolete.

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I must respond to this batshit.

Steven Pinker says science makes belief in God ‘obsolete’ because… well, let’s hear it from him:

“Traditionally, a belief in God was attractive because it promised to explain the deepest puzzles about origins. Where did the world come from? What is the basis of life? How can the mind arise from the body? Why should anyone be moral? Yet over the millennia, there has been an inexorable trend: the deeper we probe these questions, and the more we learn about the world in which we live, the less reason there is to believe in God.”

O.K., then, Mr. Pinker, let’s get back to those questions you imply science has now answered, or is at least, by your lights, close to answering, thusly making belief in God obsolete:

1. Where did the world [universe] come from?

In Pinker’s view there are 3 possibilties: 1, from nothing, 2, it’s a brute fact, and finally, 3, “beats me!”.

We couldn’t have possibly come from nothing because if we did, then anything can come from nothing, which is absurd. There isn’t anything in ‘nothing’ that would make it produce any specific thing, because prior to producing it, there wasn’t anything! So Scrap that.

Saying the universe is simply a brute fact is no different from saying ‘it’s just magic!’ The guy pulling a rabbit out of a hat will make just as much sense explaining the trick away by saying “it’s just a brute fact that I can pull rabbits out of hats!”

Saying you don’t bloody know where the universe came from is at least a respectable answer — but then we’re left with zero answers to the question you imply science has already answered!

2. How can mind arise from body?

Pinker doesn’t know, but he’ll happily issue a promissory note that science will one day be able to tell us, despite that his buddies Alex Rosenberg, the Churchlands, and Dennett are quite explicit about the answer. And it is that mind does not, in fact, exist — it’s an illusion. Seriously, that’s what they think — it’s what they’re left to think, actually, for how else do you get ‘mind’ from the inanimate except by explaining it away, which seems to be their wont whenever the target explanandum seems, in principle, to be beyond science’s reach. Of course, the problem here is that an illusion presupposes a (wait for it…) MIND to perceive it. So, essentially, to them (Pinker’s buddies, and perhaps to Pinker himself), we have a mind that perceives the illusion of a mind, and maybe another mind that perceives the illusion of a mind perceiving the illusion of a mind, and another mind.. ad infinitum. Or, in a nutshell, the answer they give amounts to illogical, self-referential drivel.

3. Why should anyone be moral?

Pinker is a naturalist, so to him morality is merely the sentimental predispositions humans have acquired that are the residue of evolutionary processes. In other words, we feel this way because feeling this way on the aggregate helps our species flourish. Or, in more other words, eating babies only seems morally reprehensible because if we kept eating babies — by golly — we wouldn’t have been able to be around for this long as a species! In more, more other words, nothing is really right or wrong, all that matters is what will make us survive! Or, in more, more, more other words, morality is just another illusion.

So, to recap:

Where did the universe come from? It either came from nothing, or it’s just magic — or we’ll never know.

How can mind arise from body? Mind is just an illusion, really.

Why should anyone be moral? Nothing, at bottom, really, as morality is just another illusion.

Profound Mr. Pinker. How very profound.

If there’s anything to take from all this, from the patently ridiculous answers Pinker, or the rest of gnu atheists, give to these questions about which people have pondered for millennia, it’s that, well, 1, Pinker is a real clever-silly, and, 2, there are a great many things that seem to be way beyond science’s scope.

Sam Harris Awarding Money To Anyone Who Refutes His Thesis That’s Already Been Refuted Since 1739.

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Money, and, perhaps, fame, to the one who refutes, to Sam’s satisfaction, his contention that Science can determine moral values.

Really; Sam’s giving 2 thousand dollars to the winning essay — and, interestingly, 20 thousand dollars (inclusive of the matching pledge of one of his generous readers) to the essay that succeeds in changing his mind. Needless to say, changing his mind, or at least getting him to admit his mind had been changed, would be considerably more difficult then actually refuting his thesis — something which had been, as it were, refuted since 1739.

A few months ago, I entertained the thought of submitting one. The effort to do so, however, eventually seemed of scant worth, considering what would presumably be a large number of submissions unequivocally harping on the very argument I intended to make — indeed, the same argument, I think, everyone’s been making — against Sam’s thouroughly absurd thesis.

Sam is wrong; science does not — cannot ever — have the ability to determine moral values for precisely the reasons laid out by David Hume more than 200 years ago in A Treatise Of Human Nature.:

“In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remarked, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary ways of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when all of a sudden I am surprised to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, ’tis necessary that it should be observed and explained; and at the same time that a reason should be given; for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it. But as authors do not commonly use this precaution, I shall presume to recommend it to the readers; and am persuaded, that this small attention would subvert all the vulgar systems of morality, and let us see, that the distinction of vice and virtue is not founded merely on the relations of objects, nor is perceived by reason.”

Or, in short, Mr. Hume, in a rather overly verbose manner (as chaps of his time were wont to conduct themselves) is simply saying that one cannot derive an ought from an is; you cannot infer what ought to be from what is; or, if you like: since science merely describes what is, then it can hardly be able to tell us what ought to be.

Of course, that, above, should have been the whole story. Sadly, it isn’t for Harris.

Surprisingly competently, Sam realizes that moral goodness is a concept so amorphous as to be indeterminable (after all, people can’t always agree on what is good) so he substitutes (human) ‘well-being’ for ‘good’ because — or so we are told by him — ‘well-being’ as a metric succeeds in doing two things that can seemingly bridge Hume’s famous (or perhaps infamous) is-ought chasm: 1, it is something for which there can in principle be an objective unit of measurement, and 2, it proffers to actions a goal or purpose.

The obvious problem here is that well-being is, contrary to Sam’s claims, rather like moral goodness in that it is also objectively indeterminable. I mean, what is it? Sam simply puts the problem another step back, actually. How can we all even agree on what ‘well-being’ is?
Dahmer’s well-being, for instance, was predicated on the sodomization of young boys’ corpses. What would Sam’s answer be to this, one wonders. Dahmer was wrong because sodomizing corpses can hardly be said to add to someone’s well-being? But yes it can — people like Dahmer exist. Sure, we can cheerily rejoice in the fact that more people are of the opinion that sodomizing corpses reduces rather than increases ones well-being. But, on naturalism, that’s just an opinion, really — one that is, luckily, ascendant in society, but one that is an opinion no less.

Of course, Sam will argue that humans have evolved in such and such a way that makes us repelled by the sight of corpses, and therefore moreso with the prospect of having sex with them, making our collective anti corpse-sodomizing sentiments not merely an opinion but one for which a socio-biological component exists. Of course he’ll think this socio-biological underpinning furnishes us with a standard against which the morality of actions can be measured. But he’ll be wrong; for one can simply say that Dahmer was being unfashionable, or that Dahmer simply chose not to go with the flow, so to speak.

Swrong with that?

What, on naturalism, makes Sam able to say: “No, sodomizing corpses, bad!”, “Yes, well-being, good!”

Nothing, it seems.

Of course, this all poses zero problems for the theist who holds God to be good’s ontological base. After all, if the Christian God exists, then the universe was imbued with ‘oughts’ upon its very creation. Therefore theism furnishes us with a solid foundation for moral values and duties, while atheism, not so much.

 

Stephen Hawking’s Godless Universe.

Stephen Hawking, perhaps the best known theoretical physicist and cosmologist of our time, proposes, in his new book ‘The Grand Design’, that the ‘God hypothesis’ is superfluous at best. He writes:

“Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”

This is not a new argument at all. It’s an old trick, made to look up-to-date, that tries to escape the infinite regress rut — albeit, un-convincingly — in a way that only the prime mover hypothesis has the ability to do. It’s the ‘steady-state’ hypothesis all over again. Only, dressed in different garb.

“the universe can and will create itself from nothing [without God]” because of gravity? Well that just begs the question: is gravity (gasp!) “nothing”? That just replaces the question doesn’t it; who created gravity? And who created that thingy that created gravity? And that thingy that created the thingy that created gravity? And then who… well, you know an infinite regress is in train there. Without a prime-mover, it’s turtles all the way down.

Hawking bandies about M-theory, which is undergirded by string-theory, to prove his point. But it, unfortunately, completely misses the point. Forget about the fact that the validity of M-theory is a completely contentious topic among theoretical physicists. Forget about M-theory being unable to combine quantum mechanics and gravity –which was what it was supposed to do in the first place, for it to be able to persuasively lay claim as the ‘theory of everything’. Forget about those completely un-observable extra dimensions that M-theory pre-supposes. Fact of the matter is, the argument is that whatever begins to exist must have a cause for it’s existence. And gravity can do some really neat things! However, Hawking will have to posit that gravity always existed –which seems rather ludicrous, and ‘steady-state’-ish.

And then, Stephen somehow alludes to the ‘multi-verse theory’ as a means to escape the ‘fine-tuning’ argument. Hmm.. I just don’t have enough faith to believe in that claptrap — to echo an overly used, theistic, retaliatory cliche.

Renowned Physicist Frank Tipler weighs in on Hawking’s latest book:

“Hawking then began working on quantum gravity, in hopes that God would be at last eliminated from the equations. Alas, it was not to be: God was even more prominent – and unavoidable – in quantum gravity than in Einstein’s theory of gravity. In his latest book, The Grand Design, Hawking has pinned his hope of eliminating God on M-theory, a theory with no experimental support whatsoever, hence not a theory of physics at all. Nor has it been proven that M-theory is mathematically consistent. Nor has it been proven that God has been eliminated from M-theory. There are disquieting signs (for Hawking and company) that He is also unavoidable in M-theory, as He is in Einstein’s gravity, and in quantum gravity.

In spite of what the atheist press is telling you, it’s looking bad for atheism today. And it is extraordinary the lengths an atheist like Hawking will go to avoid the obvious: God exists.”

I guess the sensationalism did work to Hawking’s advantage though, as he obviously must have expected it to.  I’ve no doubt that book will be a best-seller.