Saturday, December 29, 2012

What Exactly Do You Want From Me?

Following Feldman, let’s define epistemic peers as two people are epistemic peers “when they are roughly equal with respect to intelligence, reasoning powers, background information, etc.” 

And let say that “When people have had a full discussion of a topic and have not
withheld relevant information, we will say that they have shared their evidence about that topic.”

Many theists appear to believe that atheists and agnostics shouldn’t be atheists and agnostics.  They are, the theist says, mistaken, unreasonable, misguided, or unjustified.  This theist will have some negative attitude of culpability towards epistemic peers who share evidence.  (And the same is true for many atheists, including myself, about their attitude towards theists and agnostics.) 

What the atheist will have to say next to the theist in these circumstances will depend upon her answer to these questions: 

Do you think 1)  that once all the relevant arguments, evidence, and background issues are adequately considered, a reasonable person is obligated to conclude that God is real, or that Jesus was resurrected from the dead, or some other central tenets of modern orthodox monotheism are true? 

Or do you think 2) that once all the relevant arguments, evidence, and background issues are adequately considered, it is epistemically permissible for a reasonable person to believe that God is real, or that Jesus was resurrected from the dead, or some other central tenets of modern orthodox monotheism?

Endorsing 1), as I see it, will also commit a person to saying that to be an atheist or agnostic, once he has considered all the relevant arguments, evidence and background issues is unreasonable.  Evidence sharing epistemic peers who are atheists and agnostics ought not believe what they believe. 

Endorsing 2), as I see it, places no similar demand or charge of epistemic culpability on the non-believer.  If you think merely that it is not unreasonable to believe, given all of the relevant evidence, then you are allowing that a reasonable, evidence sharing peer might well draw a different conclusion and be within her epistemic rights, as it were. 

So theists, which is it?  Do you think that I have made some serious error with regard to the total available evidence concerning God and that I ought to change my mind?  Or do you merely think that your believing on the basis of the available evidence is epistemically permissible, but someone could opt not to believe and he would be similarly inculpable?    

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Atheist countries more peaceful

Epiphenom is a great blog.  This post is is fascinating:  Atheist countries more peaceful.

It's well established that education and religiousness are inversely correlated.  The trick, of course, is figuring out what the cause is.  Does education cause religiousness to fall off?

And this is my 300th post!

Friday, December 21, 2012

1/6 of World Population Nonreligious

New study of world religions out from Pew Forum.  16% of world population nonreligious.

Monday, December 17, 2012

End of the World

As I read it, this cookie says to expect a catastrophic flood of milk that will wipe the Earth clean of sinners.  

Be Counted

Atheist Census.  Get yourself counted.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sound like anyone we know?

Some random, but connected info about mental illness and religion.  Given what we know about mental illness and about the best arguments that advocates have been able to muster for God, our first thought when we encounter someone with intense religious convictions should not be to take his/her arguments or reasonings too seriously but to ask, "What are the symptoms of mental illness that she is exhibiting?"  The behaviors of the most religious among us:  hyper-religiousity, hyper-moralism, evangelism, hypergraphia, visions, voices, circumstantiality, disassociated states, states of religious ecstasy, euphoria, and moral elevation.  And when otherwise serious academics get involved in protracted and complicated defenses of religious belief, how is that not comparable to infamous Harvard psychiatrist John Mack getting swept up by the UFO abduction testimonies of his patients?

Geschwind syndrome

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Geschwind syndrome
Classification and external resources
Geschwind syndrome, also known as "Gastaut-Geschwind" is a characteristic personality syndrome consisting of symptoms such as circumstantialityhypergraphia, altered sexuality (usually hyposexuality, meaning a decreased interest), and intensified mental life (deepened cognitive and emotional responses), hyper-religiosity and/or hyper-morality or moral ideas that is present in some epilepsy patients. This syndrome is particularly associated with temporal lobe epilepsy occurring in the left hemisphere of the brain. For identification, the term "Geschwind syndrome" has been suggested as a name for this group of behavioral phenomena. There has currently been both support[1] and criticism[2][3] in suggestion of this syndrome. Currently the strongest support arises from many clinicians who describe and attempt to classify patients with seizures with these personality features. The term Geschwind's Syndrome comes from one of the two people who first characterized the syndrome: Norman Geschwind. His associate was Stephen Waxman, who also did a great deal of work in the field. Note that Geschwind's Syndrome can be seen both in the inter-ictal (between seizures) and the ictal (during seizures) states.

[edit]See also


  1. ^ Blumer D (1999). "Evidence supporting the temporal lobe epilepsy personality syndrome". Neurology 53 (5 Suppl 2): S9–12. PMID 10496229.
  2. ^ Devinsky O, Najjar S (1999). "Evidence against the existence of a temporal lobe epilepsy personality syndrome". Neurology 53 (5 Suppl 2): S13–25. PMID 10496230.
  3. ^ eMedicine - Psychiatric Disorders Associated With Epilepsy : Article by William J Nowack

[edit]External links

And some more serious research from Advances in Neurology:

"The Geschwind syndrome," Benson DF.  

Department of Neurology, UCLA School of Medicine 90024.
A characteristic personality syndrome consisting of circumstantiality (excessive verbal output, stickiness, hypergraphia), altered sexuality (usually hyposexuality), and intensified mental life (deepened cognitive and emotional responses) is present in some epilepsy patients. For identification, the term "Geschwind syndrome" has been suggested as a name for this group of behavioral phenomena. Support for, and criticism against, the existence of this syndrome as a specific personality disorder has produced more fire than substance, but the presence of an unsettled, ongoing controversy has been acknowledged. At present, the strongest support stems from the many clinicians who have described and attempted to manage seizure patients with these personality features. Carefully directed studies are needed to confirm or deny that the Geschwind syndrome represents a specific epilepsy/psychiatric disorder.  

Hypergraphia is an overwhelming urge to write, where patients often produce tens or hundreds of thousands of words in manuscripts, letters, fiction, or grand philosophical theories of everything.  

Philosophy departments, not surprisingly, are often a locus for people with many of these symptoms/disorders.  We frequently receive large tomes, meticulously typed, in the mail referred to our faculty for consideration.  An author, who feels the urgent need to share his profound metaphysical and theological insights, wants to be recognized for the special knowledge he has uncovered.  A hyper-evangelism, or need to share these special insights with the world and acquire converts, is also often part of the author's maladies.  In the age of emails, I'll receive 5-100 emails a week from people suffering from these disorders.

Moral elevation, or intense feelings of compassion, fellow feeling, joy, adulation, and uplift, is the subject of some recent research.  Here is Jonathan Haidt's bibliography on the topic:

And some more useful references:  

And some more Oprah fans:  

What's really interesting here are the evolutionary explanations for why these sorts of moral feelings may have been selected for in human and proto-human populations.  


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

You don't REALLY believe THAT, do you?

  Stephen Pinker:  

"It might be in that America one of the two political parties seems to defiantly oppose the world science view. But I suspect that isn't the best way of understanding it, because they still look for oil using the assumptions about the age of the Earth that we all believe in; when they get sick they go to a doctor and they worry about the evolution of drug resistance just as we do. They're not Amish, they don't return to the land. So in a sense they have already bought into the scientific world, but there are just a few highly symbolic issues that define your moral and political identity that they stake out a position on, and I think that is very different from scientific ignorance. In fact, one study done by a former graduate student at my department at Harvard showed that people who endorse the theory of evolution don't understand it any better than those that deny it. We shouldn't confuse the moralisation of a small number of hot-button issues with hostility with the scientific world view in general."

There are those things that we say we believe, there are those things that we think we believe, and there are those things that we believe in believing in.  And then there is what we really believe.  When it comes down to one's real life, you don't really believe in Young Earth Creationism, most likely, no matter what you say you believe.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What harm can believing do?

When we indulge the religious urge, contrary to arguments and evidence, we foster irresponsible, unreliable, and problematic believing overall.  We foster silly beliefs and set ourselves and others up for harm.  Religious beliefs are not a private or harmless matter:

Scamming Elderly Asians on the Rise