Friday Roundup

Materialism comes up short again

Again, facts don’t change people’s minds…narratives do…

For St. Patrick’s day, what’s happening in Ireland

Instead of fearing the “religious” we better begin to fear the secular, nationalists, white or otherwise…

The shy wizard pulling the levers behind Trump, or at least the money levers…

A short but helpful little primer on dark matter

A modest proposal

Behold, the true god America worships

 

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2 Responses to Friday Roundup

  1. Burk says:

    Hi, Darrell-

    We’ve got a problem here. On the one hand, we have president who exemplifies the doctrine of narrative over fact. To an amazing degree. Is that a good thing, or a bad thing? Then you have a link to Mr. Beinart, who seems to be doing some flagrant mis-representation, in service of an unsupportable narrative. Here he is cherry-picking the most minor subclasses of a demographic (evangenlicals who do not go to church as often as they should) and ends up calling them “secular”. And using them to cast aspersions on truly secular people.

    “Sanders, like Trump, appealed to secular voters …”
    This is breathtaking, really.

    The fact (dare we use that term anymore!?) is that …

    http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/09/how-the-faithful-voted-a-preliminary-2016-analysis/

    … “… fully eight-in-ten self-identified white, born-again/evangelical Christians say they voted for Trump, while just 16% voted for Clinton.”

    The Protestant and Catholic faithful each voted for Trump. Religious people were the backbone of the Trump voters, whatever their level of church attendance, while secular people (unaffiliated) went against Trump 61 to 25%. This article is a classic case of how to lie with statistics (not to mention narrative). At some point, hopefully earlier than later, facts take their turn to speak, to those who care to listen.

    ##

    As for materialism, our understanding of chemistry is quite sufficient to make all the necessary materialist conclusions about biology, without descending into the mysteries of subatomic & quantum physics. Or does chemistry have to be mystical as well? Chemistry, the emergent phenomena from quantum physics, is quite deterministic, and rule-based (i.e. statistically predictable) when it is not. That one person, or a splinter movement, thinks that one quantum interpretation upends our notion of determinism at higher levels of activity is .. well, we shall see whether it takes the field by storm!

    “It can handle things such as blood flow through capillaries and chemical diffusion across synapses, but the ground of materialism becomes far more shaky when we attempt to grapple with the more profound mystery of the mind, meaning the weirdness of being an experiencing subject.”

    Sorry, this assumes that which it seeks to prove- that there is something other than synapses about the “mind”. There does not seem to be any such distinction, as far as those with any expertise can tell- the drugs, the probes, the strokes.. are all telling us the same thing, which is the materialist story.

    Cloudy is the stuff of this argument.

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    • Burk,

      I’m not sure what your point is as to Beinart and the Atlantic piece regarding facts. I’m not agreeing with anything Beinart is telling us. That people with questionable ethics also realize that narrative is more important than facts doesn’t change the thesis. Facts mean nothing in and of themselves; they only mean something, or tell us something, when placed in a narrative of meaning. And obviously, I’m speaking of substantive matters, not simply that a noted number for a temperature tells us if it’s hot or cold. We also know facts can show a narrative to be false, but, again, that is only because they are placed in a narrative that overcomes, or out-narrates the other. For instance, I guarantee many Trump supporters will find a way to see the “facts” laid out by FBI Director Comey in a light that allows them to keep supporting Trump and to blame someone else. Our current political environment is a perfect example of how narrative trumps (pun intended) facts. Is this good or bad? I think this is frankly the way it has always been—we see it now after the post-modern divide. It has been revealed so-to-speak—we are aware of it now. What do we do about it? We had better learn to tell better stories and back them up by living better lives. The question of our time, is not, what are the facts—but how should we then live. And how we should live is a philosophical question, even though it is a question that considers all the facts.

      “As for materialism, our understanding of chemistry is quite sufficient to make all the necessary materialist conclusions about biology, without descending into the mysteries of subatomic & quantum physics. Or does chemistry have to be mystical as well?”

      Are you suggesting the chemistry is separate from physics? Does chemistry and biology act outside the laws of physics? The laws of physics are quantum now. There are no other. Also, understanding chemistry and biology is separate from a materialist conclusion, which would be a philosophical choice—not a scientific one.

      “Sorry, this assumes that which it seeks to prove- that there is something other than synapses about the “mind”.”

      Think about what you are doing there. He is struggling with the problems that materialism presents—he is not trying to prove anything. Notice it is you that assume there is nothing other than synapses, which begs the question. The key point is that many, including many outside the religious or philosophical world, continue to have serious doubts as to whether materialism can explain everything and if everything can be reduced to such. Those are reasonable questions and concerns.

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