Wyatt's Blog (48)

The Nature of Scientific Inquiry

I am not so much interested in scientific facts as the scientific way of thinking. I try to approach problems with an attitude of scientific inquiry. I believe that when new data come in, one should revise one's opinions accordingly. The results of scientific research do not require our uncritical acceptance. We can and should look at methods employed, sample sizes, margin of error, etc when evaluating new research. Nothing should be accepted uncritically. The concept of fallibility is an… Continue

Added by Wyatt on September 16, 2013 at 7:55am — 3 Comments

A Response to Cognitive Relativism

Cognitive relativists hold that facts about the world are not absolute, but are relative to the individual. In other words, they assert that the truth is relative. At the same time, relativists attempt to claim objectivity for their position. But this is absurd. The relativist position is self-refuting. And beyond the philosophical argument, it is clear that there are facts about the world that apply to all of us. Gravity doesn't care who you are or what you believe; if you drop an apple, it… Continue

Added by Wyatt on September 16, 2013 at 5:30am — 3 Comments

For Good People to Do Evil

Christian apologists will sometimes claim that not believing in God amounts to a belief system, and even go so far as to say that atheism may lead to immoral behavior.  But this is a logical non sequitur.  There are perhaps millions of gods whose names I have never heard of and whose worship I am not familiar with.  Does my absence of belief in all the countless gods that people have worshiped over the millennia motivate me to do good or evil?  Of course not.  That would be absurd.  When… Continue

Added by Wyatt on September 16, 2013 at 5:23am — 2 Comments

Rational Skepticism

I've often thought about the connection between the rational skepticism scientists employ (as opposed to the universal and self-refuting brand of skepticism postmodernists employ) and atheism. Atheism does not necessarily imply an analytical mindset, there are atheists who believe in the supernatural or pseudoscience, but it would be true to say that atheism is a corollary of an analytical mindset combined with a driving need for evidence.

In short, rational skepticism as a premise implies… Continue

Added by Wyatt on May 30, 2013 at 3:10am — No Comments

Theists, Cargo Cults, and Logic

So tired of religious apologists asking me to show evidence for the non-existence of their particular god. I've asked them how they would go about showing evidence for the non-existence of the dragon in Carl Sagan's garage or Russell's celestial teapot. They assert that the analogy is false, but don't explain how. They use words like 'logic' or 'inference' as if they were magic charms without fully understanding what these words mean. It's not unlike superstitious primitives from a cargo cult… Continue

Added by Wyatt on May 22, 2013 at 9:42am — 2 Comments


        Just what does it mean to be an atheist?  Richard Dawkins proposed a sliding scale of theistic probability:

  1. Strong theist. 100 per cent probability of God. In the words of C.G. Jung: "I do not believe, I know."
  2. De Facto theist. Very high probability but short of 100 per cent. "I don't know for certain, but I strongly believe in God and live my life on the assumption that he is…

Added by Wyatt on December 18, 2012 at 1:04pm — 16 Comments

Philosophy and Science Revisited

One often hears that philosophy deals with "why" questions, whereas science deals with "how."  Some philosophers will say that science can never answer why we exist or why the universe came into being.          

        But "why" questions are often in reality "how" questions.  Futhermore, not all "why" questions are meaningful in that they presuppose "purpose" that may not exist.  It is meaningless to pick up a rock and ask, "why is this rock?".   Most "why" questions can be broken down… Continue

Added by Wyatt on December 11, 2012 at 8:03am — 4 Comments

Mathematical Deep Structuralism

In the last chapter of "Galileo's Finger," Professor Peter Atkins invites us to consider the view that mathematics is a product of the mind, but also a reflection of the underlying structure of the universe.  Mathematics is hard-wired into the brain, because we are the products of a logically self-consistent universe.  Thus mathematics maps so neatly onto the universe because our internal logic is an expression of the deeper structure.  

       On the deep structuralist view, the universe… Continue

Added by Wyatt on November 30, 2012 at 8:10am — 3 Comments

Translating Senator Marco Rubio

When asked about the age of the Earth in an interview for GQ magazine, senator Marco Rubio gave a rather confusing reply.  I've taken the liberty of translating his statement (think of it as facilitated communication).  Here is the original:

GQ: How old do you think the Earth is? 

Marco Rubio: I'm not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that's a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with… Continue

Added by Wyatt on November 20, 2012 at 11:02am — 1 Comment

Analytic Versus Synthetic Propositions

In 1948, BBC radio aired a debate between Lord Bertrand Russell and Father Frederick Coppleston on the existence of God.  Russell points out the problem with Coppleston's notion of a necessary being (God):

Russell:  "...I think that, perhaps, in answering your argument, the best point with which to begin is the question of a Necessary Being. The word "necessary" I should maintain, can only be applied significantly to propositions. And, in fact, only to such as are analytic -- that is… Continue

Added by Wyatt on November 15, 2012 at 1:53pm — 2 Comments

Displacing Ignorance with Understanding

My thesis: the educational program in America is severely lacking, leading to incomprehension or a severe misunderstanding of how our particular universe operates.  I propose a new program of education to be taught as the new essential reading.  This will be based around the following five areas:

(1) The Empirical Method:  The foundation of knowledge

(2) Entropy:  Things change (put simply)

(3) Probability:  Improbability does not imply impossibility; improbable events… Continue

Added by Wyatt on November 8, 2012 at 12:18pm — No Comments

Indoctrination versus Education

Indoctrination "is often distinguished from education by the fact that the indoctrinated person is expected not to question or critically examine the doctrine they have learned." (Wilson, J., 1964. "Education and indoctrination," (Manchester University Press). In other words, indoctrination is "dogmatic."

We need to distinguish between teaching children "what" to think from "how" to think for themselves, i.e., asking how we know what we know.

“Do not indoctrinate your children.… Continue

Added by Wyatt on November 4, 2012 at 6:47pm — No Comments

"The best thing for being sad," replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something

Excerpt from T. H. White's The Once and Future King:

"The best thing for being sad," replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for… Continue

Added by Wyatt on October 18, 2012 at 2:43pm — No Comments

Professor Peter Atkins on Cosmology - Excerpt

This is an excerpt from the opening statement of Oxford Professor Peter Atkins' 2011 debate at the University of Manchester:

"My immediate task is to set out my stall, not to respond to Dr Craig’s arguments at this stage: that will come later. It is, in fact, my task to bring you forward from the eleventh century, where you have been immersed with considerable erudition for the past 20 minutes, to the twenty-first century, and to present arguments based on a thousand years of… Continue

Added by Wyatt on October 15, 2012 at 3:31am — No Comments

The Problems of Relativism

Epistemological relativists will refer to "different ways of knowing" and claim the equal validity of the knowledge obtained from radically different epistemologies.  I would like to point out that there is a distinction between truth and opinion.  People are entitled to their own opinions.  But in our discourse about reality, our claims are either true or false.  NOTE:  there is no true only from my standpoint or true only from your standpoint--we call this sort of thing "opinion" not truth.… Continue

Added by Wyatt on July 8, 2012 at 9:35am — 18 Comments

Note on the Dawkins Scale and De Facto Certainty

To my knowledge, Dawkins describes himself as a 6 (or, more specifically, a 6.9--see Bill Maher interview) on principle. A scientist must remain open to evidence. Whereas theists can say as an article of faith that they are 100% certain that there is a god, scientists will as a matter of principle avoid phrasing things in terms of absolute certainties. Karl Popper described the history of science as the history of "conjectures and refutations."  Scientific knowledge is not held dogmatically.… Continue

Added by Wyatt on July 7, 2012 at 9:22am — No Comments

Religion: The Dogma of Cognitive Dissipation

        Unlike many of my fellow hominids, I have never found the religious argument remotely persuasive on either ontological or moral grounds. The argument seems to be something along the lines of "sacrifice your cognitive faculties, i.e. dismiss critical thinking, and rely upon religious authority. Believe us, you'll be much happier for it." So, let's see, illusory bliss in exchange for a life of ignorance?

        My answer to those who peddle the dogma of cognitive dissipation is…


Added by Wyatt on May 25, 2012 at 7:26pm — 4 Comments

"When the bones of prehistoric animals began to be discovered and scrutinized in the nineteenth century, there were those who said that the fossils had been placed in the rock by god, in order to tes…

"When the bones of prehistoric animals began to be discovered and scrutinized in the nineteenth century, there were those who said that the fossils had been placed in the rock by god, in order to test our faith. This cannot be disproved. Nor can my own pet theory that, from the patterns of behavior that are observable, we may infer a design that makes planet earth, all unknown to us, a prison colony and lunatic asylum that is employed as a dumping ground by far-off and superior civilizations."… Continue

Added by Wyatt on May 25, 2012 at 4:04am — No Comments

Magic and Pretense: The New Age

        There was a time when people believed in magic.  There then came a time when people believed the supernatural was just sheer and utter nonsense.  And now we seem to be living in a time when some people want to believe in supernatural nonsense, but wish to hide the nonsense under a pile of pseudo-scientific jargon and misappropriated terms from the field of psychology.  Welcome to the new age.

        I have been perusing occult blogs to see what people are saying about…


Added by Wyatt on April 29, 2012 at 9:29am — No Comments

Christopher Hitchens on the Numinous

"It’s innate in us to be overawed by certain moments, say, at evening on a mountaintop or sunset on the boundaries of the ocean. Or, in my case, looking through the Hubble telescope at those extraordinary pictures. We have a sense of awe and wonder at something beyond ourselves, and so we should, because our own lives are very transient and insignificant. That’s the numinous, and there’s enough wonder in the natural world without any resort to the supernatural being required." (Christopher… Continue

Added by Wyatt on April 24, 2012 at 3:35pm — No Comments

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