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Batten Seminar Coverage in Die Matie

March 25th, 2008 · Posted by Hugo · 68 Comments

A letter published in Stellenbosch University’s independent student newspaper, Die Matie, 19 March 2008, Letters, Page 13 (a pdf can be downloaded from Die Matie’s archives):

Creationist’s message misleading

THE RECENT talk titled “Evolution – a Dark age for Science and Society?” by dr Don Batten is an example of a particularly worrying type of anti-science rhetoric.

We wish to respond to this dangerously misleading presentation’s message by mentioning four points, which should be relevant to all who attended and anyone who sees a conflict between science and religion:

1) Nearly every slide contained a gross scientific, logical or factual error. Worse, the talk was peppered with quotes from famous scientists who appear to slag evolution, without considering the context in which those quotes were made.

If this sounds contestable, please read a textbook on evolution, or the easily-accessible books by these authors. Most of them uniformly support evolutionary theory and such quotes should strike one as odd.

Batten twisted well-established concepts in genetics, physics and mathematics in an active attempt to undermine evolution, yet all these disciplines uniformly support it.

A completely random example: Yes, natural selection can and will decrease genetic diversity in dogs exposed to a new stimulus such as a cold environment, but it doesn’t generate that diversity – that’s the province of an entirely different mechanism: mutation. It is mutation that can lead to things like featherless chickens, long-haired dogs and variation among humans. Conflating natural selection and mutation in such a way is either deeply ignorant or actively deceptive.

2) Evolution is a fact. It has been observed multiple times. The theories about evolutionary change have been tested, altered, expanded and tested again for over 150 years by thousands of scientists from a variety of cultures and religions, yet the core concepts of evolution have never been disproven.

3) Batten argued that evolutionary theory led to the great ills of our times, including that usual gem: Hitler! Hitler misunderstood the concept and used it to justify his own megalomania. how is that relevant to the truth claims of evolution?

Of course the world was utopia before the publication of the Origin of Species. Try living without domesticated crops and animal foodstuffs, vaccination, biological control over pests and diseases or without the joy of pets and gardens. These all involve organisms modified by human-induced evolutionary mechanisms. Utopia?!

4) More than once, Batten referred to some shadowy Illuminati-type cabal of scientists (invariably atheist) who are “trying to take over the world” and are responsible for the social and moral decline that inevitably accompany evolution, leading us straight to Armageddon.

Does Batten know the actual religious beliefs of scientists? Many scientists are highly religious and see their work on evolution as an attempt to glorify their respective Godheads. The majority of Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and members of other major religions have no problem with evolution.

Why is Batten so scared of a human discipline that, by its very admission, cannot judge on the existence of God?

KENNETH OBERLANDER AND MAUD BONATO
Dept of Botany and Zoology

There was also an article on page five:

Creationist hosted by Shofar Church
Ivanka van der Merwe

DR DON Batten, a creationist research­ scientist, gave an interesting and controversial
speech about creation and evolution in a packed Sanlam Hall last week Wednesday.

Batten, who holds a PhD in Plant Physiology and works for the Creation Ministries International in Australia, was hosted by Shofar Christian Church. Flyers around campus proclaimed that his speech, titled “Evolution – A Dark Age for Science and Society?”, would hold “solid answers for the real world!”

He began his presentation with the famous Gerald Massey quote, “They must find it difficult … those who have taken authority as the truth rather than truth as the authority.” He subsequently criticised schooling systems for teaching the theory of evolution “as if it were factual”.

He said, “Dating techniques rely on assumptions about the past that you cannot prove and are thus unreliable as you can do experiments on the present but you can’t do an experiment on the past.” He said anyone who claims evolution is the truth is “simply daydreaming about the past.”

Batten used many examples to illustrate his views on creationism, especially man-made marvels such as Mount Rushmore in the USA. He compared them to biological things we take for granted – DNA or the seemingly “simple” nucleotide ATP, which functions as an energy transporter within cells.

He then asked why, if we can attribute an unknown intelligent designer to the former, would it be so unreasonable to attribute such a designer to the latter, a far more complex thing?

Although he produced many arguments against the theory of evolution, Batten failed to back them up consistently with scientific evidence. Flyers advertised that he would answer the questions “If God is love, why do bad things happen?” and “What’s the point of life anyway?” along with many other that he simply never mentioned in his speech.

Although he is a scientist, Batten did not operate strictly according to the scientific method, which entails (amongst others) that one aims to replace current theories with newer, better ones. His talk focused on denouncing evolutionary theory, yet he mentioned very little about how an alternative theory might look.

Many of his arguments relied on creating reasonable doubt and then presenting that as evidence. He concluded that due to the complexity of even the simplest of cells, it is “the height of wishful thinking to think that natural processes produced life” and made the controversial statement that “evolution is anti-science”.

He did not go on to back up these statements with empirical evidence.

At the end of the speech there was an opportunity for the audience to ask questions, which Batten answered one by one and in straightforward terms.

When asked what intention God could have had in creating dinosaurs (since Christianity is a teleological religion, God must have known that they would die out), Batten responded that God created them as an expression of His supreme presence “for all to marvel at”.

In a further question about where the dinosaurs fit in on the 6000 year time-scale adhered to under Creationism, he explained, “Humans did live together with dinosaurs and there had been sightings in the past, but people referred to them as ‘dragons’ at that time.”

Batten has been involved with the Creation Science Foundation in Brisbane since 1994 and has coauthored books like “15 Reasons to Take Genesis as History”. The literature on sale after the speech attracted a very interested crowd.

That is a pretty sweet article from a journalistic perspective, touching on motives, emphasizing empirical evidence and the lack thereof in the seminar, and discrepancies between the advertising for the seminar and the seminar itself.

And yet, one wonders whether publicity is a good thing or a bad thing for these people. Fundies love publicity and controversy. They typically think that means they are battling the forces of evil, fighting them around every turn. It reinforces their belief that only they are right, and everyone else is deluded: newspapers, universities, scientists…

Not that there’s much you can do for fundies without an extraordinary amount of effort. It’s the fundie-leaning (but not quite fundie yet) people that I’d be careful about. That’s the kind that PZ and Dawkins may end up pushing over the edge, potentially polarizing the landscape further.

Whether that’s good or bad, would depend on the size of each of the groups in question.

UPDATE: What happens when you don’t research your claims properly? The “Expelled” movie is finding out. By using the “Hitler was inspired by evolution” angle, they opened a whole can of worms, big fat juicy worms, long slim slimey ones… Skeptico takes them to task, picking apart the nutritional value of this particular can: Evolution Not Responsible for Hitler.

Categories: Religion and Science
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68 responses so far ↓

  • 1 PienkZuit // Mar 25, 2008 at 8:57 am

    PZ?

  • 2 Hugo // Mar 25, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    PZ Myers of Pharyngula fame. He’s apparently the “Elvis Presley of Atheism”. A buddy of Dawkins, but actually much more “raving atheist”.

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/03/clueless.php

    You’ve got an unfortunate sharing of initials. ;)

  • 3 Kenneth Oberlander // Mar 30, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    Thanks for bringing up the article Maud and I wrote…the original was quite a bit more vitriolic, but the Matie actually did quite a good job of editing it…kudos to them. I also enjoyed Juri’s piece in the Burger, but didn’t catch the other piece you were referring to. The Ivanka van der Merwe piece caught me unawares, but I did appreciate the way she managed to tear the talk apart whilst still being the voice of sweet reason…

    I see you’re another Pharyngulite lurker…have you been following the Nisbet/Mooney debacle over the last few days?

  • 4 Hugo // Mar 30, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    I’ve seen just a little bit of the “debacle”, I only glance at Pharyngula now and then. If there’s good bits that I missed, you can let me know… (A friend sent me an email about PZ being expelled from Expelled!, which is what had me glancing at his blog recently.)

    I like people like Nisbet. I don’t like PZ and Dawkins’ vitriole. They might influence “moderates”, but it will be counter productive with fundies. That takes away the middle ground, polarises culture further, while I believe a continuum is best. PZ writes:

    I’m glad it’s to the “fuck you” stage with these idiots (Mooney and Nisbet). They’ve gotten some ideas from college, little from the real world, they don’t value the “bad cop” role, and they don’t know what a mendacious web of chicanery the IDiots inherited from the creos, and to which they added.

    The “bad cop” role… I do appreciate the bad cop role. It can be useful, but then you need some effective “good cops”. I wish Carl Sagan was still around, I like his approach. He had quite an impact, I think. (The “Cosmos” series in the early 80’s, in particular.)

  • 5 Kenneth Oberlander // Apr 3, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    Regarding the Nisbet/Mooney story, they basically reacted rather badly to PZ’s “expulsion”, which lead to much acrimony, which wasn’t really very productive. I don’t think they made their point, really, and were made to look rather foolish while not doing so.

    I very much agree with your good cop/bad cop idea. I think both are devastatingly effective when targeted at the right people. But you need both. I tend to favour the PZ (PZed? PZee?)angle in principle, but not in practice, merely because I’m not that quick on the draw with snappy comebacks.

    In fact, I don’t find the PZ/Dawkins camp particularly vitriolic. Dawkins in particular is the epitome of an English gentleman. PZ…well, he is more sarcastic than vitriolic, in my book.

  • 6 -M- // Apr 9, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    FYI, someone from the Department of Chemistry replied to us…*sigh*…it’s rather worrying than anything else…

  • 7 Hugo // Apr 9, 2008 at 8:39 pm

    A “response”? Do I understand you right if I think you’re saying there’s a creationist in the Department of Chemistry? Where is this reply? The next edition of Die Matie?

  • 8 -M- // Apr 9, 2008 at 10:22 pm

    See for yourself in the new edition of Die Matie that you can download on their website…

  • 9 -M- // Apr 9, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    In any case, to be continued… ;)

  • 10 Hugo // Apr 9, 2008 at 11:34 pm

    Checking the letter…

    Aaarrrgh! Friggen second-law-of-thermodynamics bullshit. Closed system? Sure… but how can you forget about the friggen sun?!

    BTW, RLP has a nice post about the thermodynamics thing:

    http://www.reallivepreacher.com/rlparchive/node/830

    I trust you will do a good job of your next letter. I look forward to it.

  • 11 Hugo // Apr 9, 2008 at 11:35 pm

    I’d offer my services if I thought there’s anything to contribute. Maybe if I were in the area, I could help brainstorm the letter, but alas.

    See you in May! Hopefully I can meet Kenneth as well.

  • 12 Kenneth Oberlander // Apr 10, 2008 at 9:11 am

    Believe me, there will be a response. The letter is effectively written.

    Hugo, you might not like it…it is very PZ Myers in tone… ;-)

    I can’t find the person who wrote this on the Chem Dept website. So I assume that she is a post-graduate student. There is at least one creationist on the academic staff in the Chem Dept, so I suppose that a reply from that side would be understandable. I am told that this academic used to teach 1st year medical students that the 2nd Law contradicts evolution. Does anyone else find this as disgusting as I do? No to mention that it is mind-blowing to think that a chemist could use the 2nd Law argument. If it wasn’t so sad, it would be laughable!

  • 13 Hugo // Apr 10, 2008 at 9:42 am

    Hugo, you might not like it…it is very PZ Myers in tone… ;-)

    We’ll see… ;) I’m sure I’ll enjoy it, even if it isn’t my style.

    I am told that this academic used to teach 1st year medical students that the 2nd Law contradicts evolution. Does anyone else find this as disgusting as I do?

    THE HORROR! That is absolutely disgusting, and an outright lie. Did anyone take him to task for such absolute horse baloney?

  • 14 Kenneth Oberlander // Apr 10, 2008 at 10:46 am

    Yes, apparently. I don’t know to what effect though. I still can’t figure out how a chemist can be so thoroughly clueless.

    By the by, I got your email, but either our server is acting up, or my computer is dividing by zero again: I can’t send a reply, but will do so once I figure out the problem.

  • 15 Kenneth Oberlander // Apr 18, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    An update: I sent off Maud and my rebuttal to the Matie a few minutes ago…
    Unfortunately, I couldn’t send the PZ Myers version…the Matie explicitly told me that they won’t accept personal attacks. Although I don’t think the PZ version constitutes a personal attack, and can defend my position, others would no doubt see it differently ;-).

    So the version that got sent in was a more sedate, more polite letter…but I think all the more effective for it.

    Although I still really like the PZ version…hehehe

  • 16 Hugo // Apr 18, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    I’d love to see both… ;)

  • 17 gloep // Apr 19, 2008 at 12:31 am

    #6: The reply was from a chem person, married to a physicist.
    It’s just, embarrassing.

  • 18 Kenneth Oberlander // Apr 19, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    Gloep, it is worse. This poor woman is incredibly ignorant. Worse, she is proud of it…she is basing her worldview on pseudofacts spun from whole cloth, and is perfectly happy with being that way. I have no problem with her believing this; she is perfectly entitled to believe what she wants. But to go and spread this ungrounded mythology as an attempt to evangelise…it revolts me. Not to mention how hard it makes teaching students who are too scared to mention the “e-word” because they will go to hell…

    If only she wasn’t so arrogant in her ignorance, I would have a great deal more pity for her. As it is, I am torn between empathy and disgust.

  • 19 gloep // Apr 20, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    I’m glad I’m not in the position to have to teach the “e-word” to willingly ignorant students. Especially if they’re meant to be good little BSc’s. I would just make like one of my first year lecturers and throw chalk at them.

  • 20 More Batten Seminar Coverage in Die Matie // Apr 30, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    [...] first, published in Die Matie on 9 April, in response to Kenneth Oberlander and Maud Bonato’s letter in the 19 March issue: Evolution hardly ‘factual, observed, [...]

  • 21 Do Any Shofarians Care About Science? // May 8, 2008 at 10:07 am

    [...] Batten Seminar Coverage in Die Matie – A letter by Kenneth and Maud, and an article by Ivanka van der Merwe. [...]

  • 22 BELIEVE // Jan 19, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    You guys should really read the scientific research articles on the website http://www.creationontheweb.com. They are written by real scientists and researchers. There is also a peer-reviewed journal called Journal of Creation. Yes there are scientists around the world who believe in creation, the Bible and the God of the Bible. There are also many lecturers whom I know who are believers including microbiologist Emile van Zyl. Why do you try to make it seem that all scientists are with you guys on the evolution ideas?
    The last I checked Kenneth Oberlander, Maud Bonato, the writer of the article above and the evolutionist Physics third year student were all students! Why should people bow doen to your ideas?
    Did biologists start the evolution monkey to man thing? Well if we are just spontaneously assembled molecules then so are all your brains and why should we care what comes out of them?
    Biology – Reported to be the most highly esteemed of all the Sciences! No, I’m sorry just joking. The largest majority of this world believe in God. You’re just the very intelligent oucasts? Trying to suck in all the university students? Come on Kenneth, I know you, I’ve been to your classes. You’re just Kenneth, just Kenneth. And they say Christians are indoctrinated!
    You CHOOSE evolution, I CHOOSE GOD and His Word. I believe in God and His Word because I know Him, I have experienced Him. And I know that you might have very clever scientific ideas on this as well! Enjoy them. Keep them close to comfort you!
    I was at the Dr Don Batten seminaar I’ve done all those subjects he went over and saw that he used simplified scientific ideas, I did not see the GROSS INCORRECT ideas and Kenneth and Maud have yet to explain this allegation.
    The article written by the student also seemed to imply that Don Batten was not actually a scientist typing “Dr” in inverted commas isn’t it?
    Are the evolutionary ideas really solid or are there many shortcomings and unexplainable things?
    How much percent of man’s genes are “shared” with mice for example and what percentage with chimpanzees?

  • 23 Kenneth Oberlander // Jan 20, 2009 at 8:59 am

    Sigh

    BELIEVE, your comments read like a list of frequent creationist assertions.

    You guys should really read the scientific research articles on the website http://www.creationontheweb.com. They are written by real scientists and researchers. There is also a peer-reviewed journal called Journal of Creation.

    Look up talkorigins on the internet. Look up the Panda’s Thumb. Look up Scientific American. Look up any one of the thousands of science blogs out there. Read them for a bit. Then you will understand why scientists view the above as dishonest, money-grubbing hacks. These are not reputable scientific sources by ANY standard.

    Yes there are scientists around the world who believe in creation, the Bible and the God of the Bible. There are also many lecturers whom I know who are believers including microbiologist Emile van Zyl. Why do you try to make it seem that all scientists are with you guys on the evolution ideas?

    Because belief in evolution (defined as confidence in its existence, based on the data) is overwhelming. The number of biologists around the world who have confidence in evolution is well above 99%. You are conflating belief in evolution with belief in god. They are not the same.

    The last I checked Kenneth Oberlander, Maud Bonato, the writer of the article above and the evolutionist Physics third year student were all students! Why should people bow doen to your ideas?

    Sincerely put, why should we bow down to yours? All ideas need to be tested against the data if they are to have any relevance in a scientific field. So this is not an argument about ideas, it is an argument about the data. And, to put it bluntly, the anti-evolution side doesn’t have any.

    Did biologists start the evolution monkey to man thing?

    Are you a Poe? You are seriously making this argument?

    NO, modern evolutionary science does NOT say that monkeys evolved into man. What it DOES say is that both monkeys and man evolved from a single common ancestor. Neither evolved into the other.

    Well if we are just spontaneously assembled molecules then so are all your brains and why should we care what comes out of them?

    I’m afraid you’re wrong again. It takes a tremendous amount of energy to help your body grow and maintain itself, which is why you eat. You are most certainly not spontaneously assembled.

    There are certain things in biology that do spontaneously self-assemble, such as the protein capsule of the AIDS virus. Guess which fundamental scientific principle holds the greatest promise for a vaccine or a cure?

    Biology – Reported to be the most highly esteemed of all the Sciences! No, I’m sorry just joking. The largest majority of this world believe in God.

    Why do you keep conflating belief in god with belief in evolution? The two are not the same. By your own argument, there are many religious scientists. So you are contradicting yourself here.

    I am also tempted to ask: which God?

    You’re just the very intelligent oucasts?

    This has nothing to do with intelligence. It has to do with who is right about the subject at hand, which is the existence of evolution.

    Trying to suck in all the university students?

    Why are you at university? At its base, this is a place to learn. So unless you define learning as being “sucked in”, I fail to see how you can make this argument.

    Come on Kenneth, I know you, I’ve been to your classes.

    Which makes me sad. Clearly, I am failing my students if they haven’t learnt anything about the subject matter I teach.

    Although this does make me want to ask. If you had such objections to what is taught in class, why didn’t you come and talk to me about it? I am teaching you science, not religion. I don’t discuss religious issues in class because this is not part of the subject matter I am supposed to teach. But I can help and must clear up misconceptions about evolutionary theory.

    You’re just Kenneth, just Kenneth.

    I don’t understand how to parse this statement. Am I supposed to be someone else?

    And they say Christians are indoctrinated!

    This is blatantly religious talk. I am not indoctrinating, I am teaching.

    You CHOOSE evolution, I CHOOSE GOD and His Word. I believe in God and His Word because I know Him, I have experienced Him.

    Why why why do you keep contrasting belief in god and belief in evolution as if they are two mutually exclusive ideas? Some of the best minds in science are devoutly religious! You can believe in both.

    And I know that you might have very clever scientific ideas on this as well! Enjoy them. Keep them close to comfort you!

    What does this mean? Is evolutionary science supposed to be my life-support mechanism? A source of comfort in trying times? Why would a purely scientific idea need to take on this role?

    I was at the Dr Don Batten seminaar I’ve done all those subjects he went over and saw that he used simplified scientific ideas, I did not see the GROSS INCORRECT ideas and Kenneth and Maud have yet to explain this allegation.

    Really? To pick out three prominent examples, you didn’t see the problem with his misuse of probability theory? His complete trashing of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics? His confusion of selection and mutation?

    If you want these ideas explained to you, I am more than happy to do so. But they are scientific ideas, not religious. They are things that, as a B.Sc. student, you need to know. If you want to talk religion with me however, that is another kettle of fish.

    The article written by the student also seemed to imply that Don Batten was not actually a scientist typing “Dr” in inverted commas isn’t it?

    I would not say he wasn’t a scientist. I would say he was a bad scientist, because he can’t abandon a falsified idea when the data points him that way.

    Are the evolutionary ideas really solid or are there many shortcomings and unexplainable things?

    There is more evidence for the reality of evolution than there is for virtually any other scientific theory. This puts it on a level with theories such as general relativity and quantum physics. Of course there are holes, because our knowledge of how and why evolution occurred is incomplete. But this is the normal state in science. We are trying to fill the holes.

    How much percent of man’s genes are “shared” with mice for example and what percentage with chimpanzees?

    Hmmm, depends what you mean. If you mean expressed genes, then the number shared by us and chimps is extremely high, somewhere upwards of 95%. I don’t have the data on mice, but the number is somewhat lower than this. This number declines as you look at successively more distantly related organisms, but every single organism on this planet shares a percentage of genes that they all inherited from their single common ancestor. This is incredibly potent evidence for evolution.

  • 24 Bad Ben // Jan 20, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    Kenneth, I sympathise.
    When you say that religion and scientific research are radically different in scope and focus, You hit the nail on the head. Science pertains to a cognitive and intellectual experience of reality, religion/faith to a spiritual experience. They’re different experiences.
    I am also inclined to believe they are not mutually exclusive, but their interaction ( in a holistic/non-reductionistic experience of reality ) is problematic.
    It grieves me that the majority of my evangelical brethren cannot leave their emotional arguments and learn the language of the scientific world they are entering. I am however just as grieved that so many scientists ( who’se intellectual prowess and groundedness I would be very fundie to question ) seem to place such loftiness upon intellectual endeavour. Yes its impotant, but when one considers how large a percentage globally functions totally sheltered from it, surely the conclusion that one’s humanity is merely augmented by it is not over the top or ignorant? Science does not constitute the human experience, but augments it greatly, as I am sure you would agree. But don’t you think that the enlightenment origins of science problematised it’s relationship with the religious experience from the offset?
    I mean Im sure that siritual truths must have logical/scientific implications (not in the fundie sense) and I am not trying to fragment or compartmentalise our experience of reality, but surely you and believer are not even close to speaking the same language?

    Ugh. Hope you can follow that badly constructed blob of words!

  • 25 Bad Ben // Jan 20, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    I think what I would like to ask is: how do you see them as being mutually inclusive outside of a cold modernistic dualism?

  • 26 Kenneth Oberlander // Jan 20, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    @Bad Ben.
    Short answer: I don’t see them as being mutually inclusive at all! They overlap. From my viewpoint, the problem is the places where they overlap are subject to scientific scrutiny, which means that each and every fact claim made by a religion can be falsified. Once science has dealt with these, all the real-life aspects of religion get chopped off or assimilated into our body of scientific knowledge, which means the region claimed by religion gets smaller and smaller. And often, what remains is scarcely recognizable as a religion.

    From the above, I think you can pick up that I dislike Gould’s NOMA principle… ;-)

  • 27 Bad Ben // Jan 20, 2009 at 11:56 pm

    Hmm.. Interesting.
    I hear what you are saying, but in my opinion these “fact claims” made by religion ( read: the bible?) are based upon an epistemology brutally untouched by the framework of comtemporary empirical thought. In other words i feel that all that actually gets eaten away are the feeble attempts (sorry BELIEVER) to force concepts formulated in an ancient epistemology into modern formulations of scientifically scrutinisable fact. Not that I believe the vehicle to be the point- but the vehicle needs to be taken into account when we scrutinise the bible; for what it is

  • 28 Bad Ben // Jan 21, 2009 at 12:05 am

    I really like the overlapping idea, thankyou kenneth! Sorry for being such a modernist to assume that not mutually exclusive meant mutually inclusive! Silly me! :)

  • 29 Hugo // Jan 21, 2009 at 12:33 am

    Pretty sweet discussion!

    I’d state my purpose for this blog, “looking for the good in everything”, with respect to religion/Christianity, to be this: to dig up the value found within that pre-modern way of life/being, with their pre-modern “epistemology” (being more about moral truths, way-of-life truths, in my opinion, than about empirical scientific facts); to understand that goodness (Goodness? lol) for what it is, independent of what the tradition turns into when it is interpreted with a modern epistemology and thereby becomes a collection of “fact-claims” in conflict with science.

    Of course certain things fall away in this mining process, because our understanding has moved on, so it is interesting for me to investigate what can be kept and updated and what might be impossible to keep, even if it is “good”, when it lacks some of the supporting things that have fallen away.

    Hmmm… I didn’t mean to say this much. I’m stepping back into the shadows again, to observe. ;)

  • 30 Bad Ben // Jan 21, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    Argh!

    Wrote an absolutely brilliant rebuttal to all this foolish nonsense on my iPhone which is now offline and therefore lost my reply. Its all gone now, ai. so maybe the sophist shall revise his ways in retrospect…

    HUGO!

    Thankyou for overcontributing; what you wrote made some pennies drop on this side!

    I especially loved the mining/digging metaphor. yes! I dig it! I’d like to define my own “spiritual search” though as such:

    I see myself as a traveller in a desert, digging near some palm trees; desperately seeking water. Even in my greatest physical comfort, I don’t feel sufficiently nourished by what modern rationalism offers. It leaves me wanting on a holistic experiential level. I don’t think it was ever meant to adress “non-cognitive” and ontological experience, and therefore my experience of reality is fundamentally augmented by the ancient epistemologies/ontologies I seek to internalize.

    I see hierarchies of systems of thought as unhelpfull. I often feel like rationalists are caught in hegemonizing contemporary epistemologies; typically modernist, who assert themselves axiomatically. ironically this is exactly what fundie creationists and evolutionist scientists have in common! rendering a structural epistemology invisible is what I hate most about the foundationalism that has become so prevalent in contemporary discourse.

  • 31 Bad Ben // Jan 21, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    I don’t think it was ever meant to adress “non-cognitive” and ontological experience, and therefore my experience of reality is fundamentally augmented by the ancient epistemologies/ontologies I seek to internalize.

    What are your guys’s thoughts on this?

    How does rationalism adress ontological questions?

    Any good reference material on the relationship between epistemological systems and their ontological implications? Ontological systems? I realize my grassroots philosophy can become a little redundant/ridiculous, but please excuse my academic ignorance on the matter!

  • 32 Bad Ben // Jan 21, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    oops

    how do you end a blockquote cite again?

  • 33 Bad Ben // Jan 21, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    oh.

    PS.

    I am on the brink of joining your non-young earth creationist shofar-(staff!)member facebook group. It’s a little problematic for me; being on the staff of the church, but I am (like riaan, who was in koshuis with me!) not convinced by creationist rhetoric. Not impressed either. allow me a little naughtiness:

    “Stupidity has a certain charm – ignorance does not” -Frank Zappa

  • 34 Hugo // Jan 22, 2009 at 12:49 am

    I am on the brink of joining your non-young earth creationist shofar-(staff!)member facebook group.

    Hehe, I see I neglected to delete that group. I’ve got no members at the moment. Feel free to join, if you feel like making (dangerous*) waves. (*: to you). Oh, and cool Frank Zappa quote!

    You end blockquotes with </blockquote>

    I don’t think it was ever meant to adress “non-cognitive” and ontological experience, and therefore my experience of reality is fundamentally augmented by the ancient epistemologies/ontologies I seek to internalize.

    What are your guys’s thoughts on this?

    I’m not sure what an ontological experience is. A quick search points out that it is connected to phenomenology. (Heh, I wonder how long it will take before you discover and grow to like Peter Rollins, philosopher/emergent-author that’s quite big on the phenomenology, and probably heavy on the heresy according to some.)

    How does rationalism adress ontological questions?

    I took a glance at this source for more of a feel of what “ontological experiences” are about. “On the Experience of the Ineffable”.

    Rationalism and ontology… well, you typically pick your ontology. Consider: “Positivism is a philosophy which holds that the only authentic knowledge is that based on actual sense experience.” (Wikipedia.) That seems to be very much the epistemological attitudes of the “excessively” rational, “that which can be tested”. I’d maybe describe those as empirical rationalists.

    When it comes to experience in life, the “excessively rational” might even reject such “religions” as Zen Buddhism, which is much about living in the moment, experiencing the moment. (As far as I can tell.) They reject it because it is too “mystical”. (Note, I’m defining my “excessively rational” concept here. Similar to how Crossan was defining fundamentalism in this clip).

    And they insist on talking about all these things in psychological language or viewing it from a modern third-person perspective. I’m a bit more open to appreciating the way people experience it personally, i.e. descriptions from a first-person perspective, given in various languages (ancient traditions), not just the modernistic one.

    When it comes to ontology, I feel we’re talking high-philosophy, and for everyday situations, it becomes a matter of “mere semantics”. What do we define as “existing”.

    Any good reference material on the relationship between epistemological systems and their ontological implications?

    Hmmm, no, by the sounds of it, I’ve read less about these kinds of things than you have. I’ve formed my own ontological ideas. I could go to the effort of tying “ontology” into my “meh/lah philosophy” if I wanted to go to the effort, but I’ve not really felt much of an urge to formalise my ontological ponderings.

    Ontological systems? I realize my grassroots philosophy can become a little redundant/ridiculous, but please excuse my academic ignorance on the matter!

    Hehe. Let’s explore our ignorance together then. ;-)

    Ooh… the definition of belief in the context of epistemology. That would have been useful for explaining myself at the times in the past when some fundie atheists challenged my use of the word “believe/belief”!

  • 35 Kenneth Oberlander // Jan 22, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    @Bad Ben.
    Sorry for the late reply, I’ve been deeply involved in a conference this week.

    In other words i feel that all that actually gets eaten away are the feeble attempts (sorry BELIEVER) to force concepts formulated in an ancient epistemology into modern formulations of scientifically scrutinisable fact.

    I think this can be more strongly expressed than this. If you claim any event as having been influenced by (a) god(s), then you should be able to measure the aftereffects of that interference, at the very least. Not just ancient sources, or modern reformulations of ancient sources. Any attempt to inject the supernatural into the natural brings it into the realm of empiricism.

    Say, for example, a modern-day miracle. Someone with terminal cancer somehow goes into remission. If all of the normal causes of remission can be ruled out empirically, then one can start looking for other, potentially supernatural possibilities. But by doing so, you are already constraining the supernatural event i.e. it didn’t cause remission in one of the usual ways. You already have a handle on it, so to speak: some knowledge of its patterns of action, and some of its effects. Based on these, you can propose tests that can further explain or elucidate, and perhaps predict future behaviour of such events. But, by doing so, you are bringing it into the realm of science. The event might very well be caused by a god, but I doubt that a god whose future behaviour can be monitored, tested and predicted would be palatable to most religious people…

  • 36 Bad Ben // Jan 22, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    Kenneth.

    Thankyou for the reply! I am struggling to understand your point in the context of the discussion. Maybe you misunderstood what I meant with the quoted paragraph. I was adressing the interpretation of say the creation story as scientific/factual narrative as we see in creationism. I feel its unlikely that a text produced about 3500 years before the advent of scientific/factual discourse will function in the same way. Sure some effects observable, but certain conceptual foundations are drastically different. Eish. No wonder you misunderstood me, i am really struggling to formulate this. I guess you could say I am seeking a non-foundationalist understanding of all epistemologies: one that doesn’t assume supremacy of contemprary epistemologies, especially when value-judgements and “bigger picture considerations” are made.

    Kinda the whole postmodern self-reflexivoty thing I guess…

  • 37 Kenneth Oberlander // Jan 22, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    @Bad Ben:

    I feel its unlikely that a text produced about 3500 years before the advent of scientific/factual discourse will function in the same way.

    OK. I took your statement “All that gets eaten away” to be, to my mind, too narrow. I am essentially agreeing with you. I just think that your point can be generalised to all science/religion interactions, ancient and modern.

    I guess you could say I am seeking a non-foundationalist understanding of all epistemologies: one that doesn’t assume supremacy of contemprary epistemologies, especially when value-judgements and “bigger picture considerations” are made.

    What do you have against the superiority of contemporary epistemologies? ;-)

    Seriously, we have had how many centuries to improve our understanding of ourselves and our universe. Why should the epistemologies that have helped us in this regard not be considered superior to past attempts?

  • 38 Bad Ben // Jan 22, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    hmmm. Please correct me, but that sounds a little hegemonic to me. Are you a foundationalist kenneth? Honestly, im not trying to label you or be dismissive, but thats how I read your previous post.

  • 39 Bad Ben // Jan 22, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    It seems incongruent to me to believe that our epistemology is thoroughly superior to older epistemologies. I do not believe in teleology. I am not willing to be unquestioningly modernist. Premodern epistemologies adressed the issues of those times. Modern epistemologies would be as grossly ineffective in the 1500s as pre modern epistemoligies are now. I simply cannot accept the oversimplified modernist idea of progress uncritically.

  • 40 Hugo // Jan 22, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    @Kenneth #35: but would that then even still be called “supernatural”? I think we had a discussion in the past on this, and concluded we can’t even figure out what “supernatural” means. “Things that can’t be explained” is too vague, and anything consistently “breaking the laws of nature”, rather than revealing an improved understanding of the laws of nature, kinda destroys the foundation of science, ’cause what does “falsifiable” then mean? Just a thought, not really related to this discussion… imho.

    OK, so here’s where I weigh in on the discussion… Pre-modern people did not have science, a scientific epistemology. By that, I feel they were not dealing with scientific knowledge, scientific truth, “factual” truth, …Lah. (You knew meh/lah would feature, I’m sure?) But they were not less intelligent than us, and they had their own struggles in life, their own search for “Truth” (which you know I define more broadly than “scientific fact”). To me then, their “knowledge” is about a way of being in the world, a way of relating, a way of living. A way of life. About this, I suggest they “knew” a lot. And they knew things that we don’t all know today, as always knowledge is fragmented across many people. Maybe some “knowledge” is lost and rediscovered.

    So the Truth they dealt with mostly, in my opinion, would be things that we might lump together under “psychology” these days, as well as morality in the life-stance sense. Way-of-life again. They dealth with “meh-truths”… About that, then, there is much that we can learn!

    BTW, I had a good discussion with a pastor/theologian/friend while I was in South Africa. (Another opportunity to meet someone I had known only through the blogosphere previously.) He mentioned that many of those that start studying theology but don’t finish, go and study psychology instead. No coincidence…

    OK, now to talk about “knowledge” encapsulated in the ancient texts… knowledge contained in “mythos”. The story of Adam and Eve… a narrative that gets interpreted in many ways. Maybe an illustration of man’s fear of knowledge? Maybe… as a secular humanist friend of mine interpreted it in God’s owners, it can be seen as a story about wanting to “own” knowledge. Personally, I still have on my list to write my interpretation of it, which I suspect lines up with Erich Frömm’s. (Hmm, vandalism? A bunch of “monkeys”… lemme check. Lol, check this vandalism out – lasted more than an hour.)

    In any case, I’d basically suggest “pre-modern epistemologies” may be good at determining a good meh, way of life, way of being. In that sense, I agree with Ben.

    Now the miracles thing then… in terms of understanding how things work, how the universe around us works, in understanding Lah, in that context, I would agree our scientific epistemology is superior. I measure that on the grounds of what it accomplishes, in terms of science. Most certainly there are other things it does not manage to do in a superior fashion: it provides us with WOMD (weapons of mass destruction), and enables conflict. I’m not arguing for superiority in that context though, I don’t know how to measure it.

    So our science most certainly needs to be supplemented by good morality and ethics. (So yes, study morality and ethics. My point is just: another context.) What is the most effective “epistemology” (I cringe at calling it that) for determining “Truth” in the mystical sense of “how to live our lives”?

    FWIW. That’s my attempt at constructing bridges. I’d appreciate weaknesses in the structure to be pointed out, or improved. But y’all know I love my bridges, so I’d feel quite sad if the whole thing were to be declared so unsafe as to condemn it to the scrapyard. Might I then resort to begging, in order to protect at least some small but functional fragment of the bridge? ;-) (Reworded: do point out weaknesses, but if there’s some value in it, do point it out as well, kthnx!)

  • 41 Hugo // Jan 22, 2009 at 11:57 pm

    OK, that was weird, the way I talked about Adam and Eve. Originally I was thinking of also talking about the Tower of Babel, the bits that are just interesting story but of rather little value (other than cultural). Maybe some value or understanding could be mined out of it in terms of human diversity, or the dangers of arrogance (a warning about how we use our developing technology?) — but it is something of a stretch, possibly. I could agree with it as a cultural story, an element of a mythos, that could be used to talk/teach about other things, just like… um… the myth of Sisyphus is an interesting story that can be interpreted or talked about in different ways, as a tool to investigate and discuss various aspects of humanity.

    Um, I think the way it connects with what I was going on about, is in arguing the ways in which it encapsulates … “Truth” (excuse my supposed “abuse” of the word “truth” ;) ), and how it relates to a story-telling epistemology in which truth is discovered in the way stories are evolved and passed on from generation to generation: those that bear the most valuable truths hopefully survive longer, in typical evolutionary fashion. This, then, is to me something of a “pre-modern epistemology”, a discovery of truth through humanity’s natural story-telling nature. It is an epistemology of truths about ways of life that is discovered through experience, cultural, traditional, passed on from person to person…

    This also extends in varying ways to other things more recent than Genesis. But it remains to me an epistemology-of-humanity, rather than one of scientific knowledge. And I’m certainly not saying it is superior to modern/contemporary ways of doing the same, and I’m certianly not defending the harm and damage and even “evil” that is committed in the name of this tradition/culture. My purpose now is merely to discover and affirm the good, in order to better understand it, that we may deal with the bad in a more informed manner. A good understanding of the value of something, how it works and survives, what benefits it brings, can never be a bad thing, can it? (This last piece of defensive writing is mostly addressed to those sharing e.g. saneman’s attitude.)

  • 42 Kenneth Oberlander // Jan 23, 2009 at 11:36 am

    It seems incongruent to me to believe that our epistemology is thoroughly superior to older epistemologies.

    Why? Not that I don’t agree with you to some extent, but I’d like to hear your reasons.

    I do not believe in teleology.

    Neither do I. I’m not implying there is a purpose behind all this. Simply that I think it is justifiable to say that we have learned from our (logical) mistakes. The only way to go is away from ignorance.

    I am not willing to be unquestioningly modernist.

    Again, neither am I.

    Premodern epistemologies adressed the issues of those times. Modern epistemologies would be as grossly ineffective in the 1500s as pre modern epistemoligies are now. I simply cannot accept the oversimplified modernist idea of progress uncritically.

    At first glance, I actually agreed with this. But then…

    I agree that epistemological issues are context dependent. But it is my opinion that the value to be gained from modern “ways of knowing” outweighs the negative aspects for a sufficiently broad scale that it would be to the advantage of most societies to utilise them.

  • 43 Bad Ben // Jan 23, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    Kenneth! You beauty! Thanks for a thought provoking post!
    Q1: why? -need a bit more time for this one. Get back to you after the weekend

    Then- your value judgement still remains based on modern epistemology. Sure modern epistemologies best answer the problems that modernism itself introduces (no time for a good example will include). So Im sorry if I sound judgmental, but it sounds to me like you are proposing that rationalism best answers the questions that it has presented itself. Kinda like “nothing satisfies that craving for coke, like coke!”

    That being said I do not deny that science/rationalism etc. Definitely has a great contribution to make: but not in the “imperial-super-epistemology” sense that you seem to be implying.

  • 44 Bad Ben // Jan 24, 2009 at 1:37 am

    Okay. Your question: why don’t I believe our modern epistemologies are thoroughly superior to older epistemologies.

    The answer has a necessary Personal component: In short I am a recovering fundementalist; a disposition which informed an unlikely development in character: I gained a lot of experience in embarrassing myself. Seriously. It was a tough and humbling phase for which I am very gratefull.

    However. confronted with intellectually rigourous theory in cultural theory at US, I experienced that (like you pointed out) when the fact claims overlapped I had to choose between cop-out-hear-no-evil-see-no-evil duality and diminished faith compromise.

    I saw my faith community as established enough for me to choose secret option C and belittle a lot of really helpfull theory in dismissive arrogance.

    In retrospect I see how “superior epistemology” actually kept me from learning about myself and those around me. Therefore I am am already skeptical of such affirmations.

    Which is why i get excited both when I revisit my postmodern culture theory and discover exciting new theologians who are making many of the same points. Eg.

    Leslie Newbigin (theologian i am reading for the first time recently):
    …to put it crudely, in the latter (aristotelian classical) form we begin by asking questions, and we formulate these questions on the basis of our experience of the world. In this enterprise we are in control of operations. We decide which questions to ask, and these decisions necessarily condition the nature of the answers. This is the procedure with which we are familiar in the work of the natural sciences…

    ( note: Newbigin doesn’t have a bee in his bonnet about science and it’s epistemological roots. He is writing about Christianity, highlighting divergence from classical thought. )

    All in all its been a combination of learning from my own mistakes and finding theory and theology that highlights the shortcomings of self-sufficient epistemologies (i trust you can see that in the Newbigin excerpt).

    Fweh. That felt rather self indulgent. I hope you understand my position betyer now?

  • 45 Kenneth Oberlander // Jan 24, 2009 at 11:03 am

    Then- your value judgement still remains based on modern epistemology. Sure modern epistemologies best answer the problems that modernism itself introduces (no time for a good example will include).

    I would contend that they best answer the questions of a wide variety of other epistemologies as well. Hence the utility of rationalism.

    Also, I don’t see ancient vs modern as a duality. Modern knowledge searches are in many ways dependent on the failed and successful epistemologies of the past. We have abandoned ways of searching for knowledge that don’t yield answers, and with good reason. We have incorporated and expanded upon those that do. It is in this sense that I say we can have more confidence in modern epistemologies. We haven’t abandoned the old ones wholesale, we’ve just improved upon them!

    I saw my faith community as established enough for me to choose secret option C and belittle a lot of really helpfull theory in dismissive arrogance.

    I think this is a path that a lot of recovering fundamentalists (as you put it) take.

    In retrospect I see how “superior epistemology” actually kept me from learning about myself and those around me. Therefore I am am already skeptical of such affirmations.

    What superior epistemology are you referring to here?

    Fweh. That felt rather self indulgent. I hope you understand my position betyer now?

    Yes, I think so. I am myself not particularly interested in theology of any flavour, but I must admit that I agree with much of the more liberal versions I have encountered.

  • 46 Hugo // Jan 24, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    Off topic (or related to the new post rather): Ben, if things do turn a bit hairy for you on this blog, do feel free to keep your distance. Depending on the direction “public opinion” of this blog takes, and their opinion on what it means to be taking part in the discussions, it might eventually turn out to be prudent to avoid being associated with it.

    Whether you stay or leave, or pick a new more anonymous identity, I’m going to keep you in mind, “pretend” you’re here, as I feel that “feeling” your presence here has a good effect on the manner in which I write.

    Just thought I’d mention it. For future reference.

  • 47 Ben // Jan 24, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    I would contend that they best answer the questions of a wide variety of other epistemologies as well. Hence the utility of rationalism.

    Only as far as the overlapping areas we discussed go. I think your missing my point of the limited scope of epistemologies. An imperial-super epistemology (like the conservative religious fundementalism I was into; to answer your other question) wants to lay claim on all areas of the human experience. this is folly. Sure there are implications for other areas of experience, depending on how one handles one’s epistemological “strategy”, but rationalism remains as inadequate at answering relational questions as mysticism is at ansdwering empirical questions.

    Gotta work now.

    PS. I see both conservativism and liberalism as different sides of the modernist coin; I strive to be post-conservative; not liberal.

    “I saw my faith community as established enough for me to choose secret option C and belittle a lot of really helpfull theory in dismissive arrogance.”

    I think this is a path that a lot of recovering fundamentalists (as you put it) take.

    I don’t agree. This is the response of fundementalism in denial; unless you see it as the first step to admission…

    Hugo: thanks – but I know the “leaders of public opinion” personally and will rather be open and honest about who I am and what I believe than carry on in denial – whatever the consequences may be.

  • 48 Ben // Jan 24, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    oops: didn’t end blockquote…

  • 49 Hugo // Jan 24, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    Fixed it.

    I don’t agree. This is the response of fundementalism in denial

    Ah, thanks Ben, I also misunderstood. (Misunderstanding: option C as something you choose now, instead of understanding it as something you were choosing in the past.)

    will rather be open and honest about who I am and what I believe than carry on in denial – whatever the consequences may be.

    Amen!

    thanks – but I know the “leaders of public opinion” personally

    Ah, I didn’t mean to point at leaders, more the general impressions of the Stellenbosch community at large, insiders and outsiders, Christians and atheists… I’ll probably be having a tough time managing this blog’s image/reputation in the coming year, but I have a good idea what I’ll have to be on the lookout for, and where to stand firm against certain attitudes towards the discourse.

    But your comment brings up a more interesting question in my mind: how much do the leaders really influence public opinion? If there’s a certain public opinion, how much of it can be traced back to the leaders? Because they have in the past eagerly washed their hands of certain attitudes and impressions that have passed through certain parts of the congregation. “We say that only once” or “that’s not our policy”, but they’re memes that nevertheless run rampant in the congregation… Trying to determine how much responsibility who should carry for what, is always tricky business.

    This connects with something Kenneth was also wondering: what exactly is Shofar’s (leadership’s) attitude towards science?

  • 50 Hugo // Jan 24, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    Ah, another thing w.r.t. names: Ben’Jammin’s been a regular all this time, he’s still around. So we have two Ben’s again.

    Ben (the post-fundamentalist), take a look at e.g. die ander kant and my contemplations – two blogs by Cobus van Wyngaard, if you’d like to meet some “emergent” bloggers.

  • 51 Bendul // Jan 24, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    We have abandoned ways of searching for knowledge that don’t yield answers, and with good reason.

    who are “we”?
    and why do they get to ask the questions?
    Thats the problem I see with rationalism: It becomes rationalismS when one stops asserting one’s own idea of what is rational, and admits the fact that we inhabit a pluralistic society, with many cultures and subcultures with different needs and predispositions.

    In my opinion the idea of Universal Rationality ended after 1945. What we need is relational principles that help us to communicate our perceived beneficial epistemological stances to those who do not see it; either to be received or rejected. We cannot presume to know what people wholly different to us need.

    This is why I believe rationalism to be impoverished: It’s utility (concerning relationships) is not applicable to the relationship between 2 sentient beings. It was never the goal of modernisation. I believe that these principles are manifold in scripture, and must be “mined” by primarily abandoning the rationalistic approach; at least in the interpretation of this ancient epistemology.

  • 52 Kenneth Oberlander // Jan 25, 2009 at 11:18 am

    @Bad Ben

    Sure there are implications for other areas of experience, depending on how one handles one’s epistemological “strategy”, but rationalism remains as inadequate at answering relational questions as mysticism is at ansdwering empirical questions.

    I’m not certain I agree. Can you provide me with an example?

    I don’t agree. This is the response of fundementalism in denial; unless you see it as the first step to admission…

    Depends on your definition of recovering fundamentalist…but yes, I see your point.

    @Bendul:

    who are “we”?

    My kneejerk answer to this was Us. The human race. But this is wrong, because my original statement was too generally stated. Sorry. I’ll amend it to:
    Some of us have mostly abandoned ways of searching for knowledge that don’t yield reliable, testable answers, and with good reason.

    In this context, us = humans is correct.

    and why do they get to ask the questions?

    I take it your meaning here is why do only certain people get to decide the answers to those questions…please tell me if I am wrong.

    This is why I believe rationalism to be impoverished: It’s utility (concerning relationships) is not applicable to the relationship between 2 sentient beings.

    Really? Why do you say that? I would say it is very applicable.

    It was never the goal of modernisation.

    This only works if you hold teleological views. Rationalism can be demonstrably, objectively better than previous epistemologies with no need for an end goal.

  • 53 Hugo // Jan 25, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    I’m aware of something of the history of cultural philosophy and have heard something about the influence of the second world war bringing about the start of post-modernism. I have something of an intuitive understanding of how modernism plays into that happening, and brought people to realise that “modernism isn’t the way”, but I don’t know enough about it to explain it well.

    Bendul, if you have more of an idea or understanding about the dynamics around the second world war and the influence it had on cultural philosophy, please share?

    Also, some of the most interesting conversations I’ve had about post-modernism and theology and related subjects was with Theo. After every conversation with him, I’m all excited about a many number of things, usually keen to write a blog post or three about some of the insights I picked up due to the conversation. (Which was really about everything and about nothing, in some ways). If you’d like, I can put you two into contact, and you could maybe have an interesting conversation with him some time? Especially if you like wine. :-P Not that I should be setting any expectations right now, I can’t know if other conversations are similar: it surely depends on the kinds of questions you ask. But even if it’s just a social get-together discussing the gospel of the vine ;-) , that’s also good, isn’t it?

  • 54 Bendul // Jan 26, 2009 at 9:57 am

    Just to make it clear again:

    BENDUL is BAD BEN’s new alias; hence Kenneth-your last post was adressed at the same person; not 2 people

    Some of us have mostly abandoned ways of searching for knowledge that don’t yield reliable, testable answers, and with good reason.

    Once again I want to try and make the point that not all knowledge is of an empirical nature. I agree with almost everything you say kenneth; I just don’t see it as universally applicable as I sometimes get the impression you do.

    Concerning Rationalism I think we have a semantic issue: My suspicion is that you have a more “developed” conception that has already resolved the problematic relationship between the modernistic universal idea of rationalism (which I must admit; my thought seems to be stuck on) and the culturally conditioned aspect of what is considered rational.

    It is because of this that the modernist discovers not just one, unifying rationale behind behaviour and knowledge formation; but many. Eg. Certain attitudes of behaviour and ideas of “wisdom” make sense to the japanese traditionalist; whereas the western mind wobbles when confronted therewith.

    The Modernist has to choose how to respond to such plurality; and unfortunately has in Imperialistic Right/Wrong fashion which sometimes yielded infamously intolerant results such as Nazism. To which you will (rightly!) reply, we learn from our mistakes.

    This Plurality problematizes rationalism as a means for relational knowledge. The Cultural theory lobby proposes a radically unstable cultural relationship where we are part of “imagined communities”; assuming that because we look the same, dress the same, speak the same etc. as for instance our fellow afrikaners that we share rationalistic epistemological views consistently. However when we scrutinize communities (sociologically, anthropologically, philosophically, psychologically) their internal discrepancies become apparent.

    This is the central thesis of post-colonial cultural studies (badly phrased by an underachiever: for this reason; If you would like some more ideas feel free to contact someone from the visual arts department. they are seriously horny for interdepartmental action! ;) )

    I take it your meaning here is why do only certain people get to decide the answers to those questions…please tell me if I am wrong.

    What I think you might be missing here is that: which questions are asked and how is just as much a part of the eventual answers (epistemologies/ideologies blah blah) that are institutionalised as the answers to those questions. What I am proposing is not anti-institutionalism, but self-reflective critique: That we realise just because we won’t make the same mistakes as people did in the past, doesn’t mean we won’t make mistakes again.

  • 55 Bendul // Jan 26, 2009 at 10:00 am

    Hugo:

    I trust that previous comment will both serve as a light answer to your post-war question and an explanation of my inadequacy to give you answers proper…

    :D

  • 56 Hugo // Jan 26, 2009 at 10:23 am

    Thanks! I’m now looking to make some connections to this broader understanding of “knowledge”, feeling it resonates with my broader use of “truth”. Cultural truths…

    And Kenneth is talking mostly about scientific knowledge and “facts”, which I consider a subset of “truth”.

    Just me throwing another 5c coin into the pot (since we don’t have 2c anymore).

  • 57 Kenneth Oberlander // Jan 26, 2009 at 10:30 am

    BENDUL is BAD BEN’s new alias; hence Kenneth-your last post was adressed at the same person; not 2 people

    Hehehehe…I did realise this, but only after posting. Apologies.

    Once again I want to try and make the point that not all knowledge is of an empirical nature.

    Can you provide me with an example? It would make what you are saying more concrete to me.

    I just don’t see it as universally applicable as I sometimes get the impression you do.

    OK. I don’t think it is universally applicable. Just applicable over a very large spectrum of human individuals/societies. There are cases where I can imagine other epistemologies would be more suitable.

    Concerning Rationalism I think we have a semantic issue: My suspicion is that you have a more “developed” conception that has already resolved the problematic relationship between the modernistic universal idea of rationalism (which I must admit; my thought seems to be stuck on) and the culturally conditioned aspect of what is considered rational.

    Hmmm…I’d like to think about this one for a bit…

    The Modernist has to choose how to respond to such plurality; and unfortunately has in Imperialistic Right/Wrong fashion which sometimes yielded infamously intolerant results such as Nazism.

    Ugh…well, for what it’s worth, I don’t see it this way…I would prefer something be more right/less right within a given context. Thinking in absolutes is generally Not a Good Thing.

    That we realise just because we won’t make the same mistakes as people did in the past, doesn’t mean we won’t make mistakes again.

    On this I fully agree…I don’t know a single rationalist who wouldn’t!

  • 58 Bendul // Jan 26, 2009 at 11:07 am

    “Once again I want to try and make the point that not all knowledge is of an empirical nature.”

    Can you provide me with an example? It would make what you are saying more concrete to me.

    Hmmm. Why is a good example not around when you need it?! Hugo: 50c asseblief mielaanie?

    I guess intuition and the whole realm of unconscious/emotional knowledge is at least hard to relate in empirical terms. I guess that’s part of the reason I throw the “relational” word around so much. Generally I would say Psychology would have some interesting answers to this question. Will think about this some more; If I’m not mistaken I still owe you a good example from a previous comment? ugh. I suck at examples.

    OK. I don’t think it is universally applicable. Just applicable over a very large spectrum of human individuals/societies. There are cases where I can imagine other epistemologies would be more suitable.

    Here I am inclined to want to agree with you, but reservedly, alluding again to the previous comment where I tried to make the point the modernisation causes certain needs that the thinking/concerns/questions behind Modernity will best adress. (Forgive me for Umbrella-ing Modernisation and Modernity here. I realise they are not the same thing, but they do correlate in the point I am trying to make)

    Ugh…well, for what it’s worth, I don’t see it this way…I would prefer something be more right/less right within a given context. Thinking in absolutes is generally Not a Good Thing.

    Great remark, thankyou Kenneth. It proves my suspicion that I might have pigeonholed your conception of rationality.

    Thankyou for the generally positive comment, I have learned a lot from it. If you’re game; I would actually like to learn some more about your experiences with fundemenatlism etc. over a cup of fine coffee sometime? I think the lack of paralinguistic communication we suffer in blogging would not ideally suit such conversations!

  • 59 Bendul // Jan 26, 2009 at 11:21 am

    Hugo:

    I’m now looking to make some connections to this broader understanding of “knowledge”, feeling it resonates with my broader use of “truth”. Cultural truths…

    And Kenneth is talking mostly about scientific knowledge and “facts”, which I consider a subset of “truth”.

    Good point! I started seeing that from Kenneth’s last post. I think we are getting a good feel for each other’s concerns now. I’m enjoying the direction the conversation is going. Seems like there is a tangible mutual respect. We can all learn a lot like this!

  • 60 Kenneth Oberlander // Jan 26, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    I would actually like to learn some more about your experiences with fundemenatlism etc. over a cup of fine coffee sometime?

    Hmmm…not much to tell, actually. The only major experiences I have had have been second hand, through student reaction to the first-year biology course I help out with, as well as anecdotal stuff. Nothing direct at all.

    I think my prime worry/interaction with fundamentalism is in the aspects where it interferes (strong word, but justified, in my opinion) with science teaching or understanding of science. This is kind of a broken record with me; but I think comment 22 is full justification for why I feel this way…

    The coffee idea sounds good, though. I can’t this week, bit busy after the conference. But next week is fine.

  • 61 Bad Ben // Jan 26, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    Cringe*

    Comment 22 is…problematic.

    Yes, coffee will be great. We could even discuss meteorology :) melissas flat white is my big vice.
    Just let me know when!

  • 62 Hugo // Jan 26, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    If you’d like me to give both of you each other’s addresses so that you can communicate privately, lemme know! Or both join the thinktoomuch.net fan page on facebook so that you can both find each other easily.

    Then again, I’d be quite curious if there were any “stalkers” intent on gate-crashing a real-world meet. If there are, I’d enjoy meeting them / being gate-crashed. (Though if it is a regular occurance, probably just the first couple of times)

  • 63 Bendul // Jan 26, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    Please send me kenneth’s email adress please hugo, thanks!

  • 64 Hugo // Jan 27, 2009 at 1:41 am

    I’ve sent your email address to Kenneth. (By my inconsistent occasional perfectionism with regards to privacy, you can offer to give your email address, but not request another’s. ;) )

    Hmmm. Why is a good example not around when you need it?! Hugo: 50c asseblief mielaanie?

    I’ll have to work on that. Personally I think it might be best to have examples of how modernism/modernity works, or doesn’t work, in the relational sphere. Sketching out how it connects with philosophies or relational strategies leading to the Second World War might be useful, but Godwin’s Law remains a pain, as well as trying to “water down” that example to “everyday life”.

    I’ve had, for more than a year I bet, in my queue of posts to write, a post about modernism and the Borg from Star Trek. ;-) Such examples might be useful to explain ideas, but also doesn’t completely succeed at connecting them with “our reality” and using it to motivate our particular choice of communicational/relational strategies.

    When it comes to those very keen on science, I remain a fan of trying to explain “there’s the science stuff for which you use scientific epistemologies, and then there’s other stuff for which that just doesn’t really work, because it aint science”.

    FWIW, I bought What Is This Thing Called Science? by A.F. Chalmers today. Someone was selling one, as he had been shipped two copies. ;) As a book on the philosophy of science, with a good reputation, and an interesting table of contents and back cover, I think it even touches on the problems with “positivism”. I look forward to sharing some of the thoughts in it. I must just upgrade my time management…

  • 65 Hugo // Jan 27, 2009 at 2:00 am

    In retrospect… that last paragraph really does have nothing to do with the previous paragraphs. (“FWIW” is misleading. “In other news” might have been more appropriate, pointing out the off-topic nature of that paragraph.)

  • 66 Kenneth Oberlander // Jan 27, 2009 at 8:32 am

    FWIW, I bought What Is This Thing Called Science? by A.F. Chalmers today.

    Hurgh. I just threw up in my mouth a little…memories of B.Sc. Honours…I also have a copy, which needless to say I haven’t read since.

    This isn’t complaint about the content, mind you! I think it is pretty thorough. I happen to disagree with a great deal of it, though this is also not something that can be held against the book. But the course that went with it…two straight hours of this is enough to turn your brain to mush.

    I repeat: hurgh…

  • 67 Hugo // Jan 27, 2009 at 9:52 am

    Hehe, you’re making me curious!

  • 68 Bendul // Jan 27, 2009 at 10:27 am

    i’m not sure if it will measure up to the easy-to-grasp rigour of “raak gemaklik met chemie” and “raak fisies met fisika” by Mimi Pretorius (how would I have passed matric Science without it?!) but it does sound like a promising read…

    :D

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