Trip West with RV Oct 2014

Copper Mountain, CO
Copper Mountain, CO  
I decided to travel, so I bought an RV to go along with my van. This is the rest stop just west of Copper Mountain, CO. Snow! The road was clear. Oct2014

I have a drinking problem

I have a drinking problem.

I don’t drink, but people around me do. My Grandfather, on my mother’s side died of DTs during prohibition. I never met him. I have known a fair number of people who were alcoholics, as well as other addicts. I never understood it, I just thought it was lack of willpower. Just don’t do it!

Recently, I read about Naltrexone, which was FDA approved in 1994 for the treatment of alcohol addiction. It works about 80% of the time, at the one year follow up. In this case, the criteria is to have drinking under control, some stop drinking altogether, others drink socially, without getting drunk.

Programs such as AA work about 15% of the time at one year follow up. AA is an abstinence program.

There are 3 drugs approved for the treatment of alcohol addiction:
Anatabuse – makes you sick when you drink alcohol.
Flagyl – makes you sick when you drink alcohol.
Getting sick can by avoided by not taking the drug for the 2 above.
Naltrexone and related drugs - you have to engage in the addiction for it to work. You take the Naltrexone an hour before drinking. it works as an opioid antagonist. In other words, it works on the endorphin system, blocking the pleasurable effect. Using it one hour before drinking, is called extinction. You don’t get the endorphin high from drinking, and you get the behavior under control. It takes 3 to 4 months to have it completely under control.

Most addicts fail in less than a year. The craving is too great. The craving is still there, unless you remove the craving.

I read a book by one of my favorite Science-fiction actors, Claudia Christian. She played Ivanova on Babylon 5. The book is Babylon Confidential: A Memoir of Love, Sex and Addiction. She is now a promoter of the use of Nalterexone and the related drugs. The book she is promoting is The Cure for Alcoholism: the Medically Proven Way to Eliminate Alcohol Addiction by Roy Eskapa.

If you have a drinking problem, I strongly recommend that you read this book. There may be benefit for other addictions as well, as long as it involves the endorphin system. Sorry, it doesn’t work with nicotine, which doesn’t use the endorphin system.

You need a prescription for Naltrexone. Buy the book and take it to your doctor when you visit, to get a prescription. It you already have cirrhosis of the liver, you need one of the other, related drugs such as Nalmefene, which are not metabolized by the liver.

One odd factoid. Danger! Danger! Don’t take Naltexone before engaging in the good addictions, such as jogging or bicycling, which also use the endorphin system. They recommend going a day without Naltrexone, before engaging in healthy addictions.

This is the first real treatment I have seen for alcohol addiction, besides will power. About 15% of people are able to stop by willpower alone. Now there is a drug to help the rest. The patent has expired on Naltrexone, so, don’t expect any American pharmaceutical company to promote it.

Methadone is used for heroin addiction. It is a replacement addiction. I saw it in use when I worked at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg. Apparently, it does work as long as they take it. I wonder if Naltrexone would work for that?

You heard it here.


Bayesian Updater vs. Heuristic Efficiency

Bayesian Updater vs. Heuristic Efficiency

The term Bayesian refers to a type of probability theory that has become popular in both scientific and philosophical circles and is named after Reverend Thomas Bayes , who proposed it in a short and later very influential article originally published in 1763.
Pigliucci, Massimo (2012-10-02). Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life (pp. 196-197). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

Fred got me interested in Bayesian inference, so, I hold FredH responsible for starting this one. If you want to know more, I have several books I can recommend. The more frequent approach to probability theory is call frequentist. Frequentist happens after the fact and can be considered a description. In Bayesian inference, you adjust your probability estimates as new evidence comes in. Pigliucci argues that we have Bayesian Updaters built into our thinking brains.

… use what cognitive scientists call “heuristics”— convenient shortcuts or rules of thumb— to quickly assess a situation or a claim.
Pigliucci, Massimo (2012-10-02). Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life (p. 199). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

So, when do we use Bayesian inference and when do we fall back on Heuristics? Prasad called it ‘motivated reasoning’. Cute! How do people handle the cognitive dissonance as new evidence comes in?

Monica Prasad and her colleagues into cognitive dissonance and political opinion.
Pigliucci, Massimo (2012-10-02). Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life (p. 195). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

The alternative theory tested by Prasad’s group is what they call “motivated reasoning”: the battery of cognitive strategies that people deploy to avoid facing the fact that one of their important beliefs turns out to be factually wrong.
Pigliucci, Massimo (2012-10-02). Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life (p. 197). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

The subjects in Prasad’s study, instead, were perfectly normal people who just happened to be convinced— against all evidence to the contrary— that there was a link between the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, on American soil.
Pigliucci, Massimo (2012-10-02). Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life (p. 196). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

The researchers focused on this particular politically based belief not only because, as they put it, “unlike many political issues, there is a correct answer,” but also because the belief was still held by about 50 percent of Americans as late as 2003—despite the fact that President Bush himself at one point declared that “this administration never said that the 9/ 11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and Al Qaeda.” Prasad and her colleagues didn’t set out to pick on Republicans,
Pigliucci, Massimo (2012-10-02). Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life (p. 196). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

The 6 rationalizations:
Attitude bolstering (33 percent): Or, as Groucho Marx famously put it, these are my principles, if you don’t like them, I’ve got others. This group simply switched to other reasons for why the United States invaded Iraq, implicitly granting the lack of a Hussein-9/ 11 connection and yet not being moved to change their position on the actual issue, the Iraq War.
Disputing rationality ( 16 percent): As one of the interviewees put it, “I still have my opinions ,” meaning that opinions can be held without or even against evidence, simply because it is one’s right to do so. (Indeed, one does have the legal right to hold on to wrong opinions under American law, as it should be; whether doing so is a good idea is an altogether different matter, of course.)
Inferred justification (16 percent): “If Bush thinks he did, then he did it.” The reasoning here is that there simply must have been a reason for the good guys (the United States) to engage in something so wasteful of human life and resources as a war. The fact that they couldn’t come up with what exactly that reason might have been did not seem to bother these people very much.
Denial of belief in the link ( 14 percent ): These were the subjects who had said they believed in the link between Iraq and 9/ 11 but who, when challenged, changed their story, often attempting to modify the original statement, as in: “Oh, I meant there was a link between Afghanistan [instead of Iraq] and 9/ 11.”
Counterarguing (12 percent): This group admitted that there was no direct evidence linking Saddam Hussein and the terrorist attacks, but nevertheless thought that it was “reasonable” to believe in a link, based on other issues, such as Hussein’s general antipathy for the United States, or his “well-known” support of terrorism in general.
Selective exposure (6 percent): Finally, there are people who simply refuse to engage the debate (while not changing their mind), adducing excuses along the lines of, “I don’t know enough about it” (which may very well be true, but of course would be more consistent with agnosticism on the issue).
Pigliucci, Massimo (2012-10-02). Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life (p. 198-199). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

Of the remainder, how many behaved like Bayesian updaters, changing their opinion on the matter once presented with evidence (namely, President Bush’s own speech) that there was no connection ? A dismal 2 percent.
Pigliucci, Massimo (2012-10-02). Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life (p. 197). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

I recommend Pigliucci’s Book.

Bayesian Updater

Christianity, Science, Dark Ages in Europe

How science got started in Europe during the Dark Ages:
The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution 2011 by James Hanam in the US.
The book was originally published in England in 2009 as God’s Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science.

I parse the words ‘Launched’ and ‘Laid’ as ’caused’ the scientific revolution. Maybe we speak a different language? I know you have backed off a bit on the book, but, you still seem to generally accept what Hannam said. Hannam set out with the conclusion that Christianity caused the modern scientific revolution. I have read 10 or 15 books by authors who have come to a different conclusion. I find the others more convincing.

Here is Karl Poppers definition of causality.
To give a causal explanation of an event means to deduce a statement which describes it, using as premises of the deduction one or more universal laws, together with certain singular statements, the initial conditions.
Popper, Karl (2005-11-04). The Logic of Scientific Discovery (Routledge Classics) (Kindle Locations 961-962). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.

Pigliucci – correlation is not causation:
You can think of this first pillar of superstition, then, as the result of an imperfect mechanism for attributing causality: sometimes we imagine specific causes for things that are actually the result of random or not particularly meaningful processes.
Pigliucci, Massimo (2012-10-02). Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life (p. 256). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

Here is David Hume. This particular book is considered to be rather important in the philosophy of science
In a word, I much doubt whether it be possible for a cause to be known only by its effect (as you have all along supposed) or to be of so singular and particular a nature as to have no parallel and no similarity with any other cause or object, that has ever fallen under our observation.
Hume, David (2006-01-01). An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (p. 68). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

Galileo was responding to flaws in Aristotle’s thinking!
Galileo’s contributions to the study of motion depended closely upon difficulties discovered in Aristotle’s theory by scholastic critics.2
Kuhn, Thomas S. (2010-10-22). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Kindle Locations 1257-1258). University of Chicago Press – A. Kindle Edition.

Modern Science. This sounds like a variation on the Real Scotsman argument that Eugene and I discussed recently. If you think that Greek Science was Plato and Aristotle, it doesn’t surprise me that you think that wasn’t real science.

from my website:
what is science

Archimedes invented what is now called the Archimedes screw. The screw was, after the invention of the steam engine, used to propel boats and eventually became the modern boat propeller, which became the airplane propeller, which became the fan in the turbofan engine, which became the turbine engine, which became the turbopump on liquid propelled rocket engines. How does Archimedes differ from a real scientist? Well OK, he didn’t wear a white lab coat. I get it! Oh yeah, he wasn’t Christian either.

Name some modern scientific discoveries that occurred because of the Christian worldview, that would not have occurred otherwise.
Why did it take almost 1600 years before real science, as you call it, took off in Europe?
Why did it happen sooner, elsewhere: Greece, China, land of Islam, etc if the Christian worldview was necessary for real science?

Dawkins 6

Eyewitnesses to Jesus of Nazareth

I remember reading about the eyewitnesses to Jesus. Then, I had to find which book I read it in. This is a level of detail way beyond what I am interested in. But, since you prompted me to look it up, here is what I found. The first and biggest problem is when was Jesus said to have existed – see A below? I did my search on Josephus, since I rememberd that the issue was whether or not there were eyewhitnesses. I found a rather long discussion about whether Josephus should have know about something that was in his backyard. This particular author discusses whether Nazareth was occupied at the time of Jesus of Nazareth. If Nazareth was not occurpied, you can’t have a Jesus of Nazareth. Jospehus was said to have been working 2 miles from what is now Nazareth. As I said, this is way beyond my level of interest. I like the Land of Oz reference.

A)… first problem is where to put Jesus on that timeline. Since Matthew and Luke give conflicting details of his birth, most estimates assume Luke was wrong and go with Matthew, giving estimates a range from 8 B.C.E to 4 B.C.E. Equally problematic is the year Jesus died – it’s a guessing game based on clues from the Gospels. In a nutshell, it has to be when Pontius Pilate was Prefect of Judea (from 26 or 27 to around 36 or 37). If John is right (and all the other Gospels wrong), it also must be a year when Passover fell on a Saturday. But most scholars side with the Synoptic Gospels against him, and look for a year when Passover fell on a Friday – which leaves two possibilities, 30 or 33. That said, the early Church was no more certain than we are, and many had still other ideas. But just for argument’s sake, let’s place Jesus’ life roughly between 4 to 8 B.C.E. and the year 30 or 33 C.E. Here’s how close the written accounts of Jesus come to him:

Fitzgerald, David (2010-09-30). Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed At All (Kindle Locations 362-369). Lulu. Kindle Edition.

There are 58 references to Jospehus in this book, which is beyond my level of interest:
(8) Josephus, although he waged war within two miles of Nazareth and fortified the town of Japha nearby, does not list Nazareth among the 45 cities and towns of Galilee in his experience.
Carrier Ph.D., Richard; D.M. Murdock; René Salm; Earl Doherty; David Fitzgerald (2013-04-07). Bart Ehrman and the Quest of the Historical Jesus of Nazareth (Kindle Locations 3139-3141). American Atheist Press. Kindle Edition.

Clearly, if Josephus never, ever mentioned Nazareth, he cannot have mentioned Jesus of Nazareth. As I pointed out to Ehrman, if it could be shown that the Land of Oz never existed, the Wizard of Oz would also be a fiction.
Carrier Ph.D., Richard; D.M. Murdock; René Salm; Earl Doherty; David Fitzgerald (2013-04-07). Bart Ehrman and the Quest of the Historical Jesus of Nazareth (Kindle Locations 6615-6616). American Atheist Press. Kindle Edition.

There are 69 references to Josephus in this book.
Here are the possible eyewitnesses
• Flavius Josephus – Jewish aristocrat and rebel general turned historian
• Tacitus – Roman historian
• Thallus – Roman chronologer
• Lucian – Roman satirist
• Suetonius – Roman historian
• Pliny the Younger – Roman governor
• Mara Bar-Serapion – Syrian letter-writer (likely a philosopher, but his actual occupation is unknown)
• Phlegon – Roman writer
• Justin Martyr – (a.k.a. Justin of Caesarea) Christian apologist
• Clement of Rome – Bishop of Rome
• Polycarp – Bishop of Smyrna, Asia Minor
• Origen – Christian theologian
• Cyprian of Carthage – Christian theologian
• Eusebius – Christian historian
• Tertullian – Christian apologist
• Ignatius – Patriarch of Antioch
• Clement of Alexandria – Christian philosopher and scholar
• Hippolytus of Rome – Christian theologian and writer

Fitzgerald, David (2010-09-30). Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed At All (Kindle Locations 337-358). Lulu. Kindle Edition.

Eyewitnesses to Jesus  
Flavius Josephus: 37 – c. 100
Clement of Rome: born ? – c. 98 – 102
Ignatius: c. 35 – 107
Pliny the Younger: c. 62 – 113
Suetonius: c. 75 – 160?
Tacitus: c. 55 – after 117
Polycarp: c. 69 – 155
Justin Martyr: c.114 -167
Lucian: c. 125 – 180
Clement of Alexandria: c. 150 – 211/216
Tertullian: c. 155 – 230
Origen: c.185 – c. 254

Fitzgerald, David (2010-09-30). Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed At All (Kindle Locations 372-384). Lulu. Kindle Edition.

The four names from the list that do not appear on the timeline are: Thallus – the dates of his life are unknown, but he is believed to have written c. mid 2nd century, as is Phlegon (c.140’s AD). Hippolytus was probably born in the later 2nd century; he was active in the 3rd century and died c. 235. Very little is known about Syrian Mara Bar-Serapion apart from the contents of his single surviving letter; dates for its composition range from as early as 73

Fitzgerald, David (2010-09-30). Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed At All (Kindle Locations 389-393). Lulu. Kindle Edition.

The bottom line impression I got, without carefully rereading the book, is that Josephus probably should have known about Jesus and Nazareth, but didn’t. There were a few others that could have known, but it depends on when Jesus was supposed to have existed. So, Jesus of Nazareth probably did not exist.

Born again mythicist

Making Sense of Gaza – Sam Harris blog

I was pointed to this blog on another site, and couldn’t pass it up. The transcipt of the conversation is long, but quite good.

Sam Harris Blog – a discussion between Sam Harris and Andrew Sullivan
Sam Harris Blog

I have seen Andrew Sullivan(on Bill Maher) a number of times, and find him quite interesting. I find that I disagree with him about half the time. I have 2 of Sam Harris’ books. I find Sullivan quite passionate about his opinions, and Harris cool and rational. Guess which one I side with?

Harris: The problem with invoking history in this discussion is that you have to decide when to start the clock.

Harris: If all the Jews in Israel woke up tomorrow and said “This sucks. We’re sick of being attacked by religious lunatics. Let’s just move to America and forget about this godforsaken desert,”

Sullivan: Let’s try this non-Zionist counter-factual. Any Jew in the world is free to come to America. American Jews are among the most accomplished, integrated, successful, vibrant contributors to American society and culture …

I had to stop on that one and write this post. Earlier, Harris made the remark about invoking history. Sullivan doesn’t seem to know history very well. One of the reasons that the West encouraged, or at least didn’t discourage, Jews to form the state now called Israel, is guilt. When the Nazis took power in Germany, they at first appeared to be neutral toward the Jews in spite of the rantings in Mein Kampf. KristalNacht
began to dispel that notion. Jews such as Albert Einstein were able to get away from the Nazis. Many of the best and brightest managed to escape to other parts of Europe or to America. It helped to be famous, or to have friends helping you with university positions. Not everyone is famous.

Unfortunately, at least 6 million were permanently unable to get away. The US could see what was going on and even with rumours about death camps, the Americans did nothing. Eleanor Roosevelt tried to get her husband to provide more assistance with Jewish immigration to America – it didn’t happen. When US troops entered the death camps after the fall of Germany, they saw what happened to the Jews who could not escape.

When Jews first went back to Palestine ‘The first wave of modern Jewish migration to Ottoman-ruled Palestine, known as the First Aliyah, began in 1881, as Jews fled pogroms in Eastern Europe’ Wiki Israel, there weren’t that many living in Palestine. After WW II, there was a great deal of sympathy amongst Europeans and Americans that Jews should have a homeland of their own. The inaction of the Americans earlier was a factor. Guilt.

Few people would want to re-start a Jewish state in Palestine, surrounded by hostile neighbors. Why not have all Jews move to America? America’s behavior leading up to, and during WW II is why.


Does religion, specifically Christianity, cause science

Does religion, specifically Christianity, cause science

Interesting geological problems:
1)The Grand Canyon, Arches National Park, Moab, Utah (photos on my website)
2)The white cliffs of Dover
3)Using a globe: Shape of the Americas, the East side across from the West side of Europe and Africa
4)The KT boundary
5)Yellowstone and Hawaii

This discussion started earlier this year with the book The Genesis of Science by James Hannam, a Christian apologist. When I searched for it on Amazon, I found:
The Genesis of Science:The Story of Greek Imagination by Stephen Bertman
The Genesis of Science:How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution by James Hannam
And a few more books.
I just did the same search a few minutes ago. The Genesis of Science by Bertman is being overwhelmed by a bunch of new titles from a few months ago. If you sort by publication date, the 2 books of interest go way down the list. Relevance brings both books to page 1 – the titles match.
I got interested in these matters again, and read 10 or 15 books on the history of science, not just European science. I am still reading. I think at this point, I have some understanding about how science got started multiple times. I am also reading books on the Philosophy of Science.

How would Ken Ham solve the interesting problems above? Ham is a young earth creationist – 6,000 year old earth.
1)God did it
2)God did it

How would Bill Nye solve the interesting problems above?
1)Karst topography – The Grand Canyon, Arches National Park, Moab, Utah. Deposition, then erosion over a very long time

2)Stratification – the white cliffs of Dover are an accumulation of Dolomite (shells). Deposition, then uplift over a very long time

3)Using a globe: Shape of the Americas, the East side across from the West side of Europe and Africa
The answer is Plate Tectonics, seafloor spreading, a few centimeters a year. It took a lot of years, 100s of millions of years. Alfred Wegener published his book in 1929. It took about 40 years for the scientific community to accept something that most schoolchildren have noticed when they look at a globe.

4)The KT boundary – it was laid down 65 million years ago, by an asteroid strike. Approximately 65 million years before the Bible date.

5)Yellowstone and Hawaii – travelling over hotspots – Yellowstone eruptions occur about once per 600,000 years. Hawaii is currently traveling over a hot spot. These are both million year phenomena.

Can you give me some examples where a Christian religious worldview provided answers that we couldn’t get from science alone?

Possible answer.
Christianity provided education, which was rare at that time. It provided a pool of educated, non-productive individuals called clerics.
If science occurred elsewhere and in some cases, before, how can you claim that Christianity caused science?


According to Christian apologist Hannam in Genesis of Science:
To understand why historians no longer feel comfortable with the term the “Dark Ages,…”
Hannam, James (2011-03-22). The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution (p. 1). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Some historians explained that by “Dark,” they only meant that relatively few written sources survive for the period compared to those immediately before and afterwards. What they actually meant is that very little of interest happened.
Hannam, James (2011-03-22). The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution (p. 2). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

However, it would be quite wrong to say that Muslims acted only as a conduit through which ancient learning could reach the West. The Byzantines independently preserved almost all of the most important surviving scientific texts in the original Greek, and few of them would have been lost without the Arab scribes.17 Rather, the importance of Muslim science lies in the innovative works of philosophy, mathematics, and medicine that the Islamic world produced. The Arabic origin of mathematical terms such as algebra and algorithm are further indications of how much we owe to the Islamic Empire.18
Hannam, James (2011-03-22). The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution (p. 12). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Of Historical Interest:
Proving History: Bayes’s Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus by Richard Carrier. This book is particularly interesting for his approach on determining truth and falsehood in history. He uses Bayesian Inference to assign probabilities to different theories. He used the existence of Jesus for his example, but, the method applies to all of history, which is the more interesting part.

European Science, particularly during the Dark Ages:
The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution by James Hannam
The Beginnings of Western Science: The European Scientific Tradition in Philosophical .. by David C Lindberg
Civilization: The West and the Rest by Niall Ferguson
The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History 1300-1850 by Brian Fagan It complicates the story of Western Europe. The Enlightenment occurred during this time.
The Closing of the Western Mind: The Rise of Faith and the Fall of Reason by Charles Freeman
Malleus Maleficarum: The Hammer of Witches by Kramer, Heinrich translated to English
History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science by John William Draper
I also read a few books on the East Roman Empire which was somewhat related to the history of Europe. It was eventually called the Byzantine empire and lasted until conquered by the Ottoman Turks. During the Crusades, Constantinople was conquered and re-united with Europe, under European Christian control.
Lynn Thorndike is also considered to be an expert on Medieval Europe, but, I haven’t read any of her books. so, I can’t comment.

Other scientific societies:
India – gave us the mathematical zero, among other things.

Mesopotamia/Babylon – hours, minutes, seconds, astronomy etc.

Ancient Greece: Archimedes etc. There a number of good sources on this one:

The Genesis of Science: The Story of Greek Imagination by Stephen Bertman
Greek Science after Aristotle by GER Lloyd. He also has a book for the period from Thales to Aristotle which I did not read.

Land of Islm – House of Wisdom provided an environment for science.

A good source is al-Khalili, Jim (2011-03-31). The House of Wisdom: How Arabic Science Saved Ancient Knowledge and Gave Us the Renaissance. al Khalili was born and raised in Baghdad until his family moved to England when he was a teenager. He is literate in Arabic; that makes a difference. There were 3 centers, Baghdad, Cordoba and Toledo. Later, I think there was another Islamic center in the Persian world.

Great People of the Golden Age by El-Hoshkar Hossam

China: paper, printing press, escapement, seismometer, gunpowder, astronomy etc. This is the one I understand the least as I can’t find much in English.

Americas – Mayans, Incas – especially astronomy. May have been religiously motivated.

Norse – bettter ship builders, geographers. The first Europeans in North America.

My next question was how did Christianity stop science? Heresy. See James Hannam’s book. Search on Heresy, Heretic, burn at stake etc.

Why was it difficult to disagree during the Dark Ages in Europe

I don’t know if it was Hannam’s intention to show how Christianity slowed down science, but, he did a good job of it. Hannam uses the word ‘heresy’ 57 times

One example:
William of Ockham (or Occam) (c. 1287–1347): Oxford Franciscan accused of heresy in Avignon who fled to serve the Holy Roman Emperor in Germany.
Hannam, James (2011-03-22). The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution (p. 370). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Copernicanism was not declared a heresy until 1616, and as for an infinite universe, he was simply echoing Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa.
Hannam, James (2011-03-22). The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution (p. 313). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

p. 194. 16 A different but unsubstantiated source states that Cecco’s heresy was to claim that the virgin birth was a natural rather than a miraculous event. See Lynn Thorndike,
Hannam, James (2011-03-22). The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution (p. 385). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Let’s not forget Giordano Bruno – 15 matches.
…he made the fateful decision, in 1591, to return to Italy–into the arms of the Inquisition.
Hannam, James (2011-03-22). The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution (p. 312). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

For a Christian apologist, I think that he has done a great job of showing how Christianity slowed down the advance of science. 57 cases of heresy. Why would a Christian think that the threat of heresy made no difference to the pursuit of science?

A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages by Henry Charles Lee

If Christianity encouraged science, why did it take 1,600 years for science to get going in Christian Europe? Islamic science was much faster, as was Chinese science. Greek Science started around 600 BCE, long before Christianity.

Can the believers take off their Christian colored glasses long enough to even look at the problem?

Here is a thought experiment to see if we can see the difference between a scientific and a religious (Christianity in this case) approach to solving a problem.

Why is it warmer during the day than at night?

God wants it warmer during the day to make it more pleasant for mankind to keep warm and cooler at night making it easier for man to sleep. The finely tuned universe. God did it!
It’s a miracle – god did it
According to Genesis 1:??? – god did it

The Earth is round
The Earth rotates
The Earth’s atmosphere allows sunlight through, where it warms the surface. The atmosphere blocks the radiative cooling. The differential heating and cooling means that it is warmer with sunlight during the day and cooler during the night.

Which do you think will provide better answers? How does the religious approach bring us any closer to understanding how the universe works?
Well, OK, ‘god did it’ is the answer to all questions.

Dawkins Scale – 6

How do we know continued

This is the response to a post on another site:

If a tree falls in a forest and there is no one there to hear it, does it still make a sound?

I have indeed heard that story, and I suppose the answer depends on what ‘sound’ means. If it means vibrations in the air, the answer is yes, if it means a human perceiving it, the answer is no.

tree falls in a forest
Albert Einstein is reported to have asked his fellow physicist and friend Niels Bohr, one of the founding fathers of quantum mechanics, whether he realistically believed that ‘the moon does not exist if nobody is looking at it.’ To this Bohr replied that however hard he (Einstein) may try, he would not be able to prove that it does, thus giving the entire riddle the status of a kind of an infallible conjecture—one that cannot be either proved or disproved. – Wiki link above

Here is another one for you: If a man is alone in a forest and there isn’t a woman there to tell him that he is wrong, will he still be wrong?

Russell’s Celestial Teapot
Russell’s Celestial Teapot or Cosmic Teapot. A closely related problem.

A more serious objection is Positivism, which may be where Einstein and Bohr were coming from. In Positivism, the atom doesn’t exist because it cannot be ‘seen’. There are now images using a tunneling microscope which shows a fuzzy image of round objects. You could then say that no one has ever ‘seen’ a proton, neutron or electron. So, they don’t exist.

Post modernism seems to be a result of ‘loose justification of whatever nonsense they are trying to spread’ DK in a different post.
Post modernism
I have seen this used to say that science is just another way of looking at the world, just like a lot of other ways. It is all relative.
Main article: Criticism of postmodernism
Criticisms of postmodernism are intellectually diverse, including the assertions that postmodernism is meaningless and promotes obscurantism. For example, Noam Chomsky has argued that postmodernism is meaningless because it adds nothing to analytical or empirical knowledge. He asks why postmodernist intellectuals do not respond like people in other fields when asked, “what are the principles of their theories, on what evidence are they based, what do they explain that wasn’t already obvious, etc?…If [these requests] can’t be met, then I’d suggest recourse to Hume’s advice in similar circumstances: ‘to the flames’.”[36] Christian philosopher William Lane Craig has noted “The idea that we live in a postmodern culture is a myth. In fact, a postmodern culture is an impossibility; it would be utterly unlivable. People are not relativistic when it comes to matters of science, engineering, and technology; rather, they are relativistic and pluralistic in matters of religion and ethics. But, of course, that’s not postmodernism; that’s modernism!”[37] – from Wikipedia

I prefer the idea that science is a model of how the universe works. It works, it is a ‘useful fiction’. I don’t think many scientists will stop doing science because, at its core, it is a fiction. I have been reading books on this issue over the last 40 years, and unfortunately, science, at its core, has no logical basis. David Hume upset the apple cart with An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding – causality and induction. I read that book while taking a Philosophy of Science course. I ‘like’ Popper’s ideas on falsifiability and the Utilitarian/Consequentialist ideas which lead to ‘As if’ Hans Vaihinger, ‘utility’ Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill and later consequentialists. I choose to not just lay in bed, paralyzed with analysis paralysis. So, I accept the useful fiction that there is a real universe and that science is the best approximation to understanding it.

Based on the same criteria stated above, I don’t find religion to be a useful way to know about the world. Strong religious belief inhibits finding out about the world. Prayer would not put a man on the moon or give us GPS so we don’t get too lost.

I took a course on the Philosophy of Science more than 40 years ago, and I still find it interesting. I have more than 10 books on my Kindle and that is just since my first Kindle – the Kindle II. None of that suggests to me that I need to look at religion for the answer to life’s mysteries or even why.


Prostitution and Violence against women

Prostitution and Violence against women

Prostitution has been around for thousands of years. It won’t go away just by making it illegal. The question is whether prostitution will be done legally or illegally.

Try talking to a prostitute or former prostitute, they are all around you.

Legal is better and safer for the prostitute, usually women:
Police protection since it is a legal business activity
Brothels are safer than streetwalking or meeting in a bar
Taxation is simpler. Banking is simpler. Record keeping is simpler.
Men must wear condoms
Prostitutes make more money than most traditional female occupations. More than some male occupations as well. ‘Have you seen my paycheque?’ Canadian prostitute
Ask a prostitute – in Canada, they have several organizations to promote safety and working conditions:
Organization for prostitutes

It has been in the news lately, because the Supreme Court of Canada struck down laws discouraging legal prostitution.

There are several oganizatons opposed. It looks like it is mostly about women being forced into prostitution or underage prostitution. You can search on ‘Canada Prostitution Organization’

Note that, in Canada at this time, they have the Conservative Harper government, which is only a little better than Republicans in the US. Hopefully, good government will return soon for our neighbors to the north.

Better for the customer, usually men:
Prostitutes are checked regularly for sexually transmitted diseases. In Nevada, the prostitutes are registered and tested regularly.
Police protection for the consumer
Customers don’t need to carry cash, reducing the risk of being robbed.
Prostitutes don’t tell you they have a headache.
Doesn’t produce unwanted children – less need for abortions
The prostitutes are experienced; at least one person knows what they are doing.

Physically more dangerous for both parties, but mostly for the women. I worked with a woman whose sister was killed while working as a prostitute. It occured in Hawaii. She may pick up a psychopath and find out too late.
Higher risk of STDs, since testing isn’t mandatory

Better for society:
No one forces you into sex. Underage prostitution would be much more difficult if they were registered.
Less rape according to some. More information is needed. What are the numbers for Canada?
More tax revenue
Police chase criminals instead of prostitutes, making it safer for most people, not the criminals.
It is currently not illegal in Canada, though the Conservative government is trying to change that. It is legal in parts of Europe as well, and is available in parts of Asia. It is legal in most of Nevada (not Las Vegas).

It is tempting to use simple-minded solutions to problems. It is often better to do more of an analysis before coming to a conclusion.


Why I don’t often engage Christians or any other believer in discussion

Why I don’t often engage Christians or any other believer in discussion. It tends to be more interesting to talk to agnostics and atheists. At least they have thought about the issues.

Without trying to re-invent my own history, I probably started having doubts when I was somewhere between 10 and 14 years of age. I think that the first problem came when I heard about how Galileo was treated by the Catholic Church. At that time, I was still attending a Catholic primary school. It wasn’t wise to strongly disagree with people who were bigger than me, especially when they controlled my grades/report card.

At some point, I became agnostic, and eventually managed to convince my mother that I should attend public school, not Catholic School – that was 2nd year of secondary school. Too bad I couldn’t have done it sooner. In Catholic high school, I improved my character by working as a janitor at the school, while my friends were playing sports. I never did get good at sports. I eventually convinced my mother that I didn’t see my friends much, since I worked after school as a janitor, and at lunch hour, looked after the book store.

Since then, I have been rather quiet about it, but when someone asks me what church I attend, I tell them that I am agnostic. My brother once said to me, ‘I know you are agnostic, but you still believe in God don’t you?’. Now, to avoid confusion, I say that I am atheist, though technically, I am still agnostic.

When I answer the god question, Inevitably, the believer will ask me a fairly standard set of questions, which they are sure will change my mind. These discussions generally last from 30 to 60 minutes. I have even gotten this from bosses. Eventually, I stopped engaging with the believers, since I learn nothing new from the discussions. If they ask new questions, which does occasionaly happen, I do get interested, and I am willing to talk about it. A certain Baptist Minister does ask some interesting questions as well as a friend who writes books. I do have some Christian, Jewish and Muslim friends, and they do occasionaly come up with something new.

The Standard questions:

Where did we come from? Prime Mover question. Ans: Where did god come from? Infinite regress. Turtles all the way down.

I can’t understand how …. (you fill in the blanks). Called the argument from ignorance. Need I say more. Because you don’t understand something, doesn’t mean that it is profound or anything else. Read some books on science to dispel ignorance. Better yet, take a few courses.

If there is no god, then why shouldn’t I go out and rape and steal, and commit murder? Deontology. Do you see atheists going out and raping, stealing or committing murder. No, I don’t either, at least no more so than Muslims, Jews, Christians or Hindus. I am still interested in that issue, and have read a fair number of books over the years on the subject. The answers are to be found in sociobiology, neuroscience, neurotheology, cognitive science and evolutionary psychology.

God of the Gaps. I do like that one. At one time, religion had the whole game to itself. Then, about 2,500 years ago, people started speculating on what the real answers were. The gaps were the areas that science didn’t yet have an answer for. But, the gaps keep getting smaller. Eventually, the gaps and gods will be very small indeed. What then? Micro-god?

I left the best for last. The finely tuned universe argument. It is a good one and it is rather sophisticated. A friend of mine, Fred, wrote a book on this very subject. The answer is that the argument is anthropocentric. The argument is better stated as the universe was finely tuned to produce humans. Consider, I think the frog in a puddle analogy came from Stephen Jay Gould, but, I could easily be wrong. There is a frog in a puddle by the side of the road. The frog speculates on how finely tuned the universe is that the whole universe came together to produce just the right temperature and just the right moisture and just the right properties of water, to produce this puddle that the frog lives in. The universe did produce us, and a different universe would produce different results. There is no reason to think that it was all done for human life. That is what anthropocentric means. There is also no reason to think that homo sapiens is the best the universe will produce.

There are other arguments, but they typically contain logical fallacies, often circular arguments. For example:
I know there is a God.
Because it says so in the Bible.
How do you know the Bible is true?
Because it is the word of God.
That particular argument is used as the example for a circular argument in Logic 101. Often the fallacies are more subtle, but it still happens all too often. Ken Samples does a great job of presenting circular arguments.

An argument I heard recently is to say that if you can’t prove that God/Jesus/… didn’t exist, then God/Jesus etc. does exist. That is based on the false premise that there are only 2 options: exist/not exist. There are many other options. It is like saying, was it black or was it white? Ans: It was blue. I also like that it was a set of myths built up over years. For instance, I give the probability for the Jesus of the Christian Bible as around 30%. Since there were many itinerant preachers at the alleged time of Jesus, I don’t doubt that there were Jesus’s(Joshu in Hebrew). The Jesus of the Bible; I doubt that.

Another subtle favorite variation on the above argument. A short while back, Bart Ehrman published Did Jesus Exist: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. Ehrman spent more than half the book trying to discredit mythicists (historical Jesus deniers). His primary argument seemed to be that if you haven’t studied Jesus professionally for 30 years, then you are not qualified to criticize the idea. That narrowed the mythicist field down to Robert Price. He is basically saying that if he can discredit people who say that Jesus didn’t exist, then logically Jesus did, in fact, exist. See above.
My response was to start reading books by mythicists. I didn’t know there were such people! IMHO, Ehrman is wrong. Don’t you have to already be pretty sure that Jesus exists, in order to spend 30 years studying Jesus, as Ehrman has done? That sounds rather biased to me!

So, that is why I may appear to not be interested in discussion or I may appear to be skirting the subject. It isn’t that I have no interest, it is that I have mostly been hearing the same arguments for more than 40 years. It isn’t necessary to ask me those same questions yet again. Don’t get my hopes up that someone will come up with something new.

Weary skeptic