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Chris DeMuth Jr.
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  • Remembering Hitch 31 comments
    Dec 16, 2013 11:16 AM

    It can be hard to be both a believer and an admirer of Christopher Hitchens. One cannot offend easily or this peculiar combination would do the trick. When his believing friends would visit his bedside in his final days (or in the days that Hitch was sure were final) and offered that "I will pray for you", he would immediately reply, "thanks… and I will think for you". But even to this believer, he was a hero. He was a hero of the enlightenment, reason, evidence, and of the ability to craft language into a weapon on their behalf. He was often drunk, but somehow was still always the most lucid mind in any room.

    He has always been one of my two favorite contemporary writers on the left (of course Camille Paglia - who could not stand Hitch - is the other). People often use the word "controversial" on these two, but that is a pretty wimpy description. Miley Cyrus is controversial. Hitch and Paglia are brave. Neither courts controversy for its own sake; instead, they say things that are true and worth saying without reference to their popularity or safety. They think for themselves. It is great fun to be their putative political adversary because in both cases, they infuriate their supposed allies and delight their supposed opponents by never tying themselves down to an ideology. They are so good at being writers and so bad at being lefties.

    Yes, I know. It has been two years and I have not yet given up the present tense.

    Take the risk of thinking for yourself, much more happiness, truth, beauty, and wisdom will come to you that way.

    - Christopher Hitchens (April 13, 1949 - December 1011)

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  • ValGal
    , contributor
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    Most over-rated contemporary writer of his era. Style is great . . . oh how I wish I could write like him. Knowledge is great . . . a wonderfully broad knowledge of history, arts, literature, etc. But his analysis and overall philosophy is immature and full of holes. I am not criticizing his views on any issue. There are great writers on the "Left" and "Right," but the substance of Hitchens writing is shallow and over-rated. He is clever but not great.

     

    His book on atheism is embarrassing, and he was rightly criticized by philosophers of all stripes. He bounces around among half dozen definitions of "religion" and "God" with no logical consistency. Both he and Dawkins (who no doubt is a top-notch scientist) published books about atheism that contained glaring flaws that would have embarrassed any graduate philosophy student. And the weird thing is that both seemed oblivious to the fact that all the issues and theses they were trying to describe have been sorted out much better and crisper by others many times over. Once we settle on unambiguous definitions, there is very little controversy in these matters. The logical chess game has been played out long before Hitchens arrived.

     

    I read Arguably hoping to see what others see in him, and some of the essays are wonderful in the breadth of knowledge and ideas. But he offers no nuanced models of society or psychology. No depth. And some of his pieces come across as naively simplistic. I suppose this is the price of dealing with such a broad array of topics, but I value a less broad essayist with a coherent and nuanced model to share. As an example, I just read "Debt" by Graeber (a Leftist communitarian), and the quality of this book is orders of magnitude better than that of anything by Hitchens, whether or not you agree with his Leftist views.

     

    There is a great story line in the early seasons of Arrested Development where Michael is dating a mentally retarded woman whom he thinks is very intelligent . . . because she is English. I always think of this when Hitchens comes up.
    16 Dec 2013, 11:49 AM Reply Like
  • Chris DeMuth Jr.
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    Author’s reply » Well I liked him. But I’m perfectly hedged because I adore Camille Paglia and she thought that,

     

    “Hitchens was a total ass—nasty, devious, chaotic, and slippery in his thinking… I despised Hitchens…. He was glib—not at all brilliant or knowledgeable… ethically contemptible… a sybaritic narcissist committed to no real ideas outside his personal advancement… a person who poisoned himself and killed himself with alcohol and cigarettes, a person who partied his whole life, who couldn’t stand before a crowd without being drunk—this is not a model of how to live.”

     

    When she got to his books, she became harsh. How do I reconcile all of this? I don’t really. But she is an intellectual and he was a journalist and so maybe the one judges the other harshly. As for me, I read, enjoy, and learn from them both.
    16 Dec 2013, 06:19 PM Reply Like
  • TheCompleatAngler
    , contributor
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    Knowing what I do about Christopher Hitchens, once in a while I take great delight looking at a photo of him as an Oxford undergraduate being arrested by the State at a protest. If you are inclined to share this indulgence with me, you can find the photo reproduced here on the Mail's website (scroll down):

     

    http://dailym.ai/J03td2

     

    His contemporaries at Oxford have characterized him as the outstanding polemicist of his generation of students there. Sadly, polemics has been for a while a lost art at American institutions of higher learning. Unlike their American counterparts, I've found English politicians to be eminently interesting in their public speaking regardless of their policy proscriptions or orientations, a quality which I assume derives from the pedagogical style they were immersed in at Oxbridge.
    16 Dec 2013, 12:16 PM Reply Like
  • Chris DeMuth Jr.
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    Author’s reply » I agree 100%. At their best they are so good (often mean, but worth it): http://bit.ly/18vam2f
    16 Dec 2013, 12:20 PM Reply Like
  • ValGal
    , contributor
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    I had no idea about the Paglia comments, but I certainly agree with the comments about his thinking (and perhaps the ad hominem attacks too if I knew more!).

     

    I think there is a bit of consensus here even among the disagreement. No one seems to be arguing that the quality of the substance is high. It is the style and breadth of knowledge that is special. If that is your thing, great. But style and breadth of knowledge is rarely treasured beyond the contemporary timeframe.

     

    As well, polemics is supposed to be about more than style. It should be about substance as well, but academic polemics is more likely to focus on style due to the format. And no doubt the typical English student is much more skilled in this craft than his American counterpart. But I like listening to the polemics of English politicians both because of the style and the substance. Tony Blair could craft a wonderful argument that was both stylistic and substantive. In certain settings, Bill Clinton was also skilled at this, but other recent Presidents, including current (teleprompter) President, not very good at all.

     

    In all seriousness, what Hitchens essay would you recommend where you like the substance of the essay? Where you learned something about yourself/society/life/... Where you learned a new model of economics/sociology/ps...

     

    I will certainly give him another read.
    16 Dec 2013, 12:47 PM Reply Like
  • Chris DeMuth Jr.
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    Author’s reply » In no particular order:

     

    The Real Mahatma Gandhi: http://bit.ly/1fyO5QN

     

    Philip Larkin, the Impossible Man: http://bit.ly/1fyO5QR

     

    The Reactionary: http://bit.ly/1fyO5QT

     

    Rich Man’s Burden: http://bit.ly/1fyO7bm
    16 Dec 2013, 01:16 PM Reply Like
  • TheCompleatAngler
    , contributor
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    ValGal, your comments weren't directed at me, but I'll take the liberty of making a couple short remarks. I was introduced to Hitchens from his articles published in Vanity Fair and elsewhere during the 90's and 2000's, and I think he may have been at his best as a writer in his shorter form commentaries for such popular publications.

     

    His advocacy of gun ownership rights to the DC liberal establishment has left an indelible mark on my thinking about this issue. The Founders of our country in addition to Abraham Lincoln and others believed in the ancient right of any people to choose to rise up against an oppressive government if circumstances merited doing so. Hitchens's challenge to DC liberals about their beliefs on gun control was: if and when the revolution comes (again), what do you want the masses to be armed with? Pitchforks?

     

    His skills as a polemicist were on prominent display, according to numerous reports, at the lavish dinner parties, often lasting till dawn, that he and his wife gave over the years. I wish that I'd had the privilege of attending one.
    16 Dec 2013, 01:19 PM Reply Like
  • ValGal
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    I'm reading . . . thanks.
    16 Dec 2013, 01:29 PM Reply Like
  • Borbastic
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    I hope you caught the interview of him and Mos Def on Bill Maher. At one point Hitch refers to Mos Def as "Mr Definitely". It gets better from there.
    16 Dec 2013, 01:34 PM Reply Like
  • jlb
    , contributor
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    One of my all time favorite "public intellectuals" In addition to his writing his debates with political, self righteous talk show hosts, religious and academic types were always riveting. I sure miss him.

     

    ValGal wrote:

     

    "Both he and Dawkins (who no doubt is a top-notch scientist) published books about atheism that contained glaring flaws that would have embarrassed any graduate philosophy student."

     

    Since I'm not a graduate philosophy student (although I want to be)
    can you point those glaring flaws out or point me to reading on this matter. Thanks
    16 Dec 2013, 03:44 PM Reply Like
  • ValGal
    , contributor
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    There are quite a few books out there that attack the New Atheists (Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens) from a variety of different perspectives.

     

    But here is one common error found in all three. I know this is a cop-out, but I do not have copy of Hitchens in front of me, and I read the three authors a few years ago.

     

    Let's define Science as the set of all falsifiable hypotheses that are space-time invariant (i.e. Universal). The Sociological Practice of Science is to identify elements of S and to use inductive judgment to determine the "best" identified elements of S. So note that a statement not in S is a-scientific. While a statement in S (e.g., Newton's laws) that your judgment deems to be not the best we will call wrong-scientific.

     

    A couple of notes: there are no proofs in the Practice of Science. Proofs are only possible in deductive logical structures (like mathematics). There is only judgment. There is no distinction between facts and opinions. There is only judgment. This runs counter to our popular perception of what we call "Science." We say things like "it is an art not a science."

     

    This is very disturbing to scientists and why they re-acted so violently to Kuhn's sociological analysis of the Practice of Science. Of course, they have pretty much accepted his analysis as the best hypothesis! Don't get me wrong: Science is a unique epistemology and the Critical Studies critiques of the Practice of Science (in the 1980s and 1990s) were absurdly over-stated (see the Sokal Hoax). However, the naive equating of the Practice of Science with Euclidean Geometry is terribly dangerous.

     

    The first mistake is that these authors switch back-and-forth between using this definition of Science and a different definition of Science -- Science being defined as the set of all falsifiable hypotheses. They then argue that the Practice of Science has shown that the laws of nature are Universal.

     

    Definitions are definitions and you can use whatever you want, but the second definition of Science (i.e. leaving out the assumption of Universalism) becomes quickly unworkable and meaningless. And further, a given author should not switch back and forth between the two definitions of Science and the Sociological Practice of Science.

     

    The easiest way to see this is that all statements about God (use your favorite defintion) are a-scientific. Statements about the non-existence of God are as a-scientific as the existence of God. Neither are falsifiable with the context of Science. This is captured in the ditty: Atheisim is a theism.

     

    Within the context of Science, all a-scientific statements are just that. Science has nothing to say about a-scientific statements. Period. Atheists are demonstrating the same a-scientific bigotry as theists.

     

    A good example of this is Creation. Let's define Creation as the existence of space-time phenom in a universe where none previously existed (this is a bit ambiguous but shows the point). All Creation statements are a-scientific! How can this be because I learned in high school that the Big Bang Theory was a scientific theory of Creation!? Did my high school science teacher lie to me?

     

    In a word, yes! I should note that there is no Big Bang Theory all the way back to t=0, but it is frequently presented as such--we will call it the extrapolated BBT. The Big Bang Theory (which is in set S) simply winds the clock back to when the universe was much younger and much smaller. The a-scientific extrapolation is to the zero-dimension space-time.

     

    No narrative of Creation can be in set S. The reason: it cannot be falsifiable and universal. Two ways to see this:

     

    The t=0 problem -- what falsifiable statements are involved in the creation of space-time from a zero-dimension space-time point? Because creation is one-time (by definition) in any empirically observable universe, there is nothing falsifiable.

     

    The t=1 problem is easier and more tangible. Note that I am using discrete time because that is dominant hypothesis of time at present, but works with continuous time also. The entire outcome of the universe was set by the laws and positions, etc at t=1. Within the context of Science, the rest of time is nothing more than a computation of that original position (this falls directly from the space-time invariance assumption).

     

    So what universal, falsifiable law determined where everything was at t=1? There can be none.

     

    Fwiw, physicists have conceded both points: Hawking was trying to create a physics without creation -- time runs infinitely in both directions. And the multiverse "theorists" have created non-falsifiable theories about what different universes would be like if laws of nature were different.

     

    So why is extrapolated Big Bang Theory so much more satisfying to secularists than some crazy Biblical Theory that says God snapped fingers and world was created 3,000 years ago (complete with dinosaur bones placed in the Earth!)? Note that the dinosaur bone placed in the Earth by God is no different from the perspective of Science than the boson and energy wave in just the exact position at t=1 in the extrapolated BBT. Both are completely a-scientific. Only an a-scientific bigotry would enable someone to favor one versus the other. I guess pro-BBT-ists would say that extrapolated BBT is "better" because it goes back further in time and seems more "symmetric" or less ordered (a dinosaur bone is more "ordered" than a boson in just the exact location at t=1). But again, this is just psychological/sociolog... bigotry. Both are equally a-scientific.
    21 Dec 2013, 12:25 PM Reply Like
  • Chris DeMuth Jr.
    , contributor
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    Author’s reply » Wish there was a stronger button than ""Like". That was terrific.
    21 Dec 2013, 01:34 PM Reply Like
  • jlb
    , contributor
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    Great! Appreciate your excellent response. On first blush, I get it - but I'm gonna need a little time with this.
    22 Dec 2013, 08:56 AM Reply Like
  • jlb
    , contributor
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    So, can I state your point thus? As the three atheists argue, the believers lack evidence of the existence of God, yet they equally lack evidence of the non-existence of God. Their BBT theory is not evidence since it consists of unfalsifiable conjecture, a sort of scientific curve-fitting?
    22 Dec 2013, 10:42 AM Reply Like
  • steppppo
    , contributor
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    Atheists don't need to "falsify" the existence of God. They're not the ones making the extraordinary claims about how the world began, how some guy collected a male and female specimen of every species on the planet and put them on a boat for 40 days, how someone died for our sins and how we need to do this and that to avoid an eternity in hellfire. The atheists are saying "We don't know if there is a God and there's no way to tell if God exists." It's as simple as that.

     

    In fact, I remember Hitchens noting that we have no idea if there is a God, we don't know how the universe began and we don't know what happens to us when we die.

     

    And yet, there's been no shortage of religious leaders over the last 10,000 years or so who've stepped forth to offer explanations and theories. Like Hitchens, I am deeply suspicious of how these folks arrived at their "knowledge."

     

    I'd also note that you cannot equate the story of Genesis with the theory of evolution by saying neither one can be falsified. Obviously, we can't rewind the tape and watch things unfold. We can, however make observations about the world and do some scientific investigation to try and come up with a theory of how it all began. Right now, the most credible evidence points to the big bang theory and evolution as being the most likely explanations. On the other hand, the story of Genesis leaves a lot to be desired when we compare it to the scientific evidence available to us in 2013. It just doesn't stand up to scientific scrutiny and, really, no amount of philosophical posturing is capable of resurrecting it.
    22 Dec 2013, 12:09 PM Reply Like
  • ValGal
    , contributor
    Comments (79) | Send Message
     
    Thanks.

     

    I should note that I was only trying to give a (very crude) example of the logical chess game that philosophers have played out (that has been ignored by the New Atheists). I am not suggesting I am good at playing the game (there are much better players than I), but I am confident that the New Atheists completely ignored it and contradicted it and so are left with substantively silly texts.

     

    And I should note that my crude example is but one condensed "game." All the "games" emanate from increasingly nuanced definitions of a dozen or so concepts: science, god, religion, creation, probability, time (this is a huge one!), etc.

     

    I was just trying to provide an example to demonstrate a type of thought that would have aided the substance of the New Atheists.
    24 Dec 2013, 09:46 AM Reply Like
  • ValGal
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    it is not that they have no evidence. lots of scientific statements have no evidence at present and perhaps no practical way of getting evidence (require faster rockets, etc.). that is simply an empirical inconvenience. that does NOT make a statement a-scientific.

     

    It could just be a matter of language, but it sounds like you are getting confused by a pragmatic matter like "evidence" versus a logical inconsistency. Falsifiability does not require an immediate pragmatic experiment.

     

    The New Atheists are very different. They are logically inconsistent in their use of science and atheism. They are displaying a-scientific bigotry (aka "faith") under the pretense of science.

     

    To be clear, the true BBT is part of S and falsifiable. It is the extrapolated BBT (i.e. the universe emerged from a space-time point) that is a-scientific.
    24 Dec 2013, 11:12 AM Reply Like
  • ValGal
    , contributor
    Comments (79) | Send Message
     
    One last comment on this blog as I have largely exhausted all I know about this subject.

     

    http://wapo.st/1gURZXB

     

    There is a fascinating real-time development going on in the life sciences at present. The core of Darwinian theory is under assault. It is fascinating from both a scientific perspective and from a sociological perspective.

     

    It is fascinating to watch both play out in real time rather than reading about in history.

     

    To be clear, the core of Darwin is that the genotype of generation t+1 is determined SOLELY by the success of reproduction of the phenotype of generation t. In short, the long neck of the giraffe was solely the result of longer neck giraffes being successful at passing along their genes because they could reach more fruit. Darwinism rejects the notion that giraffes could affect the genotype directly by reacting to environment. This is a bit loose with definitions, but this was called Lemarkism and was widely derided until recently.

     

    There has been a building body of empirical evidence over the past few decades that Darwinism is wrong: that somehow traits are being affected directly. The term epigenetics has been created to encompass this.

     

    Note: I am being very loose with the term epigenetics and there is a fierce debate now about the meaning of Darwinism (i.e. exactly what is the falsifiable statement) and epigenetics.

     

    Side note: There appears to be no irony in the name epigenetics, which resembles epicycles -- added to Ptolemeic theory to try and save it once evidence arose of its failure. "Epicycles" has come to be synonymous with the Kuhn-ian notion that establishment "Scientists" will not reject the current paradigm even as evidence mounts. Also captured by the great ditty: scientific revolutions happen one funeral at a time.

     

    Anyhow, long story short, some Darwinians assert that the recent evidence does not really contradict their theory (due to ambiguity of genotype--see below)! Others assert fraud against the purveyors of such heresy--ad hominem attacks!! Exactly as Kuhn would predict: there is an a-scientific sheep-like rush to protect the dominant paradigm--most "scientists" are not practicing science at all in that they are not seeking to falsify. They are simply seeking to confirm and to apply the existing paradigm.

     

    The battles are beginning to be fierce, but it is my prediction that we will witness a revolutionary paradigm shift in evolutionary theory in the next decade or two. And in a century, elementary school students will laugh at the "religiosity" and silliness of the strict adherents to Darwinism who would not recognize their theory as flawed.

     

    This shift is going to ripple out throughout medicine, social sciences, and ethics. It will affect the nature/nurture debate.

     

    To be clear, the "genes" themselves might be determined exclusively by Darwinian theory, but the "expression" of genes is going to be much more complex and Lemarkian by nature. And I find it absurd to listen to Darwinians assert that this does not falsify their theory. They have simply made their "theory" non-falsifiable and malleable -- again, being a-scientific. If I had asked them four decades ago what they would need to see to reject their theory, they would either say "nothing" (in which case they were simply being religious bigots and a-scientific) or they would give an answer such that there is no doubt that recent results would call their hypothesis to be hanging by a thread.

     

    It is fascinating to watch this play out because it is a great debate where we see a-scientific bigotry that does not involve traditional "religious" players. It is "atheist/agnostic" academic scientist versus "atheist/agnostic" academic scientist.

     

    And from a purely scientific perspective, it is not every day that one of the core theories of science is challenged at its core.
    24 Dec 2013, 01:50 PM Reply Like
  • jlb
    , contributor
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    Epigenetics explains a lot in my family. The trauma of the great depression impact on the next generations atttidude toward money comes to mind. Good stuff, thanks
    25 Dec 2013, 08:41 AM Reply Like
  • TheCompleatAngler
    , contributor
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    The most common criticism that I hear people from within the philosophy academy levy against people who aren't trained philosophers and who invoke philosophic ideas is that they aren't systematic in the way they use those ideas. The criticism is almost always true, but that doesn't mean that people who aren't in the academy, such as Hitchens, should refrain from using philosophic ideas to make a point. People from outside the academy actually do lot more with philosophy than people from within it even though the criticism stands.
    16 Dec 2013, 03:55 PM Reply Like
  • ValGal
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    It does if he is filled with sloppy reasoning and making mistakes easily spotted by undergrad philosophy and history majors. I am all for public intellectuals, but if one is going to tread down a well-worn path like the one that Hitchens (and Dawkins) went down, they should at least familiarize themselves with the current state of debate.

     

    It seems to me he wanted to sell books and grind his favorite axe (i.e. against religion). And he was successful at that.

     

    Paglia and myself may be the only ones who think there is no substance in his essays, but he took quite a well-deserved beating from informed people on the book. For me, "God is not Great" is a step apart (and much worse) than his essays in Arguably.

     

    I was not a philosophy major myself, but I do think that many of the debates that are commonly had by public intellectuals have been worked through entirely by philosophers. As an outsider who previously dismissed a lot of philosophy as non-sense, I have grown increasingly impressed and less dismissive of much philosophy and philosophers (although not all), especially analytical philosophy.

     

    Interestingly, related to investing, I see a ridiculous amount of applied epistemology.
    16 Dec 2013, 06:28 PM Reply Like
  • TheCompleatAngler
    , contributor
    Comments (171) | Send Message
     
    To your last point, it does seem to be the fashion among a certain set of investor/analysts these days in much the same way that any eighteenth century treatise on English law has several introductory chapters on the origin and source of natural law before transitioning into a discussion of the laws made by man. Neither the eighteenth century legal treatise introductions nor the interpolated epistemelogical digressions so common in contemporary published securities analysis are particularly convincing and certainly not worth the effort required to conjure them up for the sake of posterity.
    16 Dec 2013, 06:44 PM Reply Like
  • Dr. Kris
    , contributor
    Comments (329) | Send Message
     
    Um, just chiming in my matchmaker hat:

     

    To: TheCompleatAngler please meet ValGal.

     

    To: ValGal please meet TheCompleatAngler.

     

    Live long and prosper...and send me baby photos.

     

    DK
    17 Dec 2013, 02:47 AM Reply Like
  • jlb
    , contributor
    Comments (46) | Send Message
     
    ValGal
    You say:

     

    "As an outsider who previously dismissed a lot of philosophy as non-sense, I have grown increasingly impressed and less dismissive of much philosophy and philosophers (although not all), especially analytical philosophy.

     

    Interestingly, related to investing, I see a ridiculous amount of applied epistemology."

     

    Your comments are interesting. I want to know more since you take strong but generalized positions. So that I can improve my knowledge, can you please point me to your favorite writings with respect to analytical philosophy.
    Furthermore, can you point me to examples of applied epistomology in investing.
    Do you mean by this comment that these investment analyses are based on half-truths?
    Much appreciate your help.
    17 Dec 2013, 09:00 AM Reply Like
  • ValGal
    , contributor
    Comments (79) | Send Message
     
    There are only two "paradigm-shifters" in the modern philosophy/sociology of science: Popper and Kuhn (Structure of Scientific Revolution). Kuhn is VERY readable, and you should start there. I am not going to lie and say I have read all of Popper. It can get pretty abstract quickly. You can go back to Hume as well, but his use of Science is very different and inconsistent with a generalized secular structure. Hume is overly formalistic and tries to remove judgment--leaving this yawning gap (i.e. pretty much 99% of life) between his definition of science and a-scientific faith.

     

    But go to Aldaily.com and bookforum and wiki -- there are articles all the time on these subjects. Wiki "falsifiablility" and go from there. Wiki "logical positivism" (rejected by Popper) and go from there.

     

    You can also dive into Wittgenstein . . . but good luck . . . I cannot help you out there.

     

    I think the related topic which I have not found a definitive source is the Philosophy of Probability. This is critically important to the epistemology of Science. You should note that true probability (as opposed to modelling ignorance thru probability like Einstein's work on Brownian motion or thermodynamics or statistical physics) is not consistent with the definition of Science I have given.

     

    This is why Einstein so vehemently fought the quantum physics interpretation that the probabilities of quantum physics were real rather than models of ignorance: "God does not throw dice."

     

    Note that even more to the point, real probabilities are God! And not just an afterlife God, but a God that is affecting this universe!! Who's "religious" now? This has driven more than a few philosophers mad . . .

     

    Even if you reject real probabilities and accept that probabilities are simply models of ignorance, there are deep epistemological questions as to whether probabilities are scientific (i.e. are they falsifiable?) and what is really meant by probabilities. The easy case and the starting (and usually finishing) point of all probability texts is some highly symmetric system (think 6-sided fair die) where the noise in the control and measurement variables overwhelms the sensitivity of the system -- e.g., throwing a die on a craps table. In other words, they take the easy way out by relying on an intuitive concept!

     

    It is instructive to note that the math of probabilities (set down largely by Kolmogorov) offers no assistance in the philosophy of probabilities. In math (all math is nothing more than sets) probabilities are simply abstract numbers assigned to certain sets (but not all possible sets!) that meet certain qualities (e.g., prob of universe set = 1).

     

    But what does it mean when someone says that a drug has a 20% chance of FDA approval and someone else (with same facts about drug) says that the chance is 60%? If you try to unpack this seemingly simple question, you can write books about science and epistemology. So start reading and writing!

     

    If you want a wonderful and very applied discussion of the philosophy of science, go to Bronte Capital's blog and look up his discussion on GCVRZ. I believe there are two blog posts. This is probably the best place to start because (a) it gives practical context to these issues and (b) it is more than intellectual onanism--it will help you make more money!
    24 Dec 2013, 09:34 AM Reply Like
  • jlb
    , contributor
    Comments (46) | Send Message
     
    Thanks fo you help. I shall now tiptoe forth.
    25 Dec 2013, 08:35 AM Reply Like
  • steppppo
    , contributor
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    Hitch was one of the most articulate advocates of atheism we've ever had. That was his greatest gift.

     

    One of the great joys in life is going on YouTube and watching him deliver a 'Hitchslap' to the numerous clerics that attempted to debate him.

     

    I don't know if I'd want to be married to him but I think it takes that sort of pugnacious temperament to stand up to religious authorities and tell them why they're so full of sh1t.
    17 Dec 2013, 10:09 AM Reply Like
  • ValGal
    , contributor
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    Stanley Fish in the NYTimes today had a wonderful paragraph (below). I think he states much of what I was trying to state much more eloquently and much more succinctly. I also read many of his columns on the subject, and I think they give a pretty good feel for the criticisms. Enjoy:

     

    So, for example, when I found the writings of the “New Atheists” — Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens — shallow, callow, historically uninformed and downright silly, that didn’t mean that I was a religious believer. Bad arguments can be made on behalf of a position you may well hold, and by pointing out their badness you don’t (necessarily) reject the position. “I believe X, but think that the case you guys are making for X is faulty” is a perfectly reasonable thing to say. (I say that all the time about the Obama administration.) In the columns that provoked frustration, I stopped short of offering the “I believe X” part, leaving readers to wonder where I stood. I tried to stand on the side of cogency and against slipshod reasoning, which meant that I stood on neither side of a substantive question like “Is there a God?” or “Does religion do more harm than good?” I might of course have answers to those questions, but it wasn’t the point of the columns I wrote to reveal them. Let me hasten to say that I wasn’t trying to be objective (a label pinned on me by both my detractors and defenders) or to be above the fray; I was in another fray, making points about making points, and reserving the deeper, moral issue for another day, which usually never arrived.

     

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    24 Dec 2013, 08:55 AM Reply Like
  • TheCompleatAngler
    , contributor
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    Funny you should mention Fish. He was one of the faculty members who contributed to the delightful experience I had during my senior year in college. Another was Fredric Jameson.
    24 Dec 2013, 12:34 PM Reply Like
  • ValGal
    , contributor
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    I like Fish because he connects the abstract to the pragmatic while being fairly careful and explicit in laying out his empirical beliefs, definitions, and logical steps. He seems like he would be a very good classroom professor, as you state.
    24 Dec 2013, 12:44 PM Reply Like
  • TheCompleatAngler
    , contributor
    Comments (171) | Send Message
     
    He's the most articulate person I've ever known. His ability to express ideas, however abstract and complex, is remarkable. Graduate students feared him, but I found him welcoming and very approachable. While he has quite a reputation, I don't think many people who know of him have any idea what a kind person and charitable person he is. During the time he was dep't chair, every junior faculty member in his dep't, including those he didn't recruit, received tenure, and he extended himself to everyone, even old fuddy duddy faculty who were considered dinosaurs by many and whom the younger luminaries tended to avoid. It's weird when I think that Fish is now considered to be a reactionary, of which he is aware, in keeping with the stereotype of the elderly jewish male experiencing a rightward drift.

     

    Terry Eagleton was another teacher who contributed to my experience that year and who is also exceptionally articulate. One stark contrast between the two which was often in my thoughts was Eagleton's brilliant use of humor in his lectures. Fish was a little dry in comparison. Sometimes Eagleton would start a sentence that he would give up trying to finish because of the laughter it would provoke. Usually once or twice during a lecture, Eagleton would say in mid-sentence, "Well, I'm not going to try to finish that thought. On to the next sentence." He never used notes either; his lectures were extemporaneous.
    24 Dec 2013, 01:39 PM Reply Like
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