Thoughts on The Science Delusion by Curtis White
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11-06-2013, 07:35 AM (This post was last modified: 13-06-2013 07:08 AM by Enlightened Romantic.)
Thoughts on The Science Delusion by Curtis White
[I'm a new user, so I hope I posted this in the right topic]

Note: this isn't about the dumb-ass [we can swear on this forum, right?] science delusion lecture and UK book by Shelldrake

Has anyone else read The Science Delusion by Curtis White?

I'm about 3/4 through it, and the purpose of the book is to counter the statements made by scientists that philosophy as well as the arts are dead; there is nothing more to them (Beethoven, Shostakovitch, Van Gogh, etc.) and their inspiration than to the conception of the swiffer mop. It challenges the idea that science has debunked our idea of free will, creativity and consciousness by reducing them to neural functioning.

In place of this reasoning White props up the ideas of the Romantic period (as opposed to the Enlightenment) such as the notion that beauty, art, poetry and strife cannot be reduced to mechanistics and that pure empiricism is unsound at its core. For example, when Krauss, Hitchens and Dawkins (each of whom he straw mans in attempt to debunk) stress that there is beauty in the stars of night, they have no basis to say that anyone should find this beautiful, or that this beauty is any better than a sadist pedophile finding a beaten child beautiful (excluding the obvious moral implications). He also rejects that conscious experience and creativity can be reduced by science to neural processing, defaulting to a sort of dualism which is physically indistinguishable from physicalism, however seems to explain these things (consciousness, creativity, higher-order beauty etc.) better than science - which at its current state simply promises that either these things don't exist as we picture them or that it will find an answer to them in the future.

Note: White doesn't think that this opens the door to religious belief or even spirituality, though he may bring this up in the last 1/4 of the book. In the summary on the front cover of the book he is called an atheist. However, he mentions religion twice, saying "I am a Christian. I am not a Christian" which may or may not be him speaking about his own beliefs. He also says that if Christianity is defined as the totalitarian authority of an almighy god that he is an atheist. This seems very vague, though it seems his worldview is atheistic in the sense that it doesn't postulate a god (and, indeed, a god's existence could screw it up).

I was just wondering what your view of this is?

final edit: I realize I must put a disclaimer on this thread, for I may have been misunderstood - I do not support the ideas in this book, and, indeed, it's quite poorly written and argued for. Without getting too into it, while I do hold a different view of science than the scientific reductionist, I agree that science makes the best possible models of the reality which we find ourselves in (my dispute comes at its bounds, which almost never even matter). I have defended the ideas in the book in the best possible light, including a few posts which I thought were obviously devil's advocate.
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11-06-2013, 09:06 AM
RE: Thoughts on The Science Delusion by Curtis White
(11-06-2013 07:35 AM)Enlightened Romantic Wrote:  [I'm a new user, so I hope I posted this in the right topic]

Note: this isn't about the dumb-ass [we can swear on this forum, right?] science delusion lecture and UK book by Shelldrake

Has anyone else read The Science Delusion by Curtis White?

I'm about 3/4 through it, and the purpose of the book is to counter the statements made by scientists that philosophy as well as the arts are dead; there is nothing more to them (Beethoven, Shostakovitch, Van Gogh, etc.) and their inspiration than to the conception of the swiffer mop. It challenges the idea that science has debunked our idea of free will, creativity and consciousness by reducing them to neural functioning.

In place of this reasoning White props up the ideas of the Romantic period (as opposed to the Enlightenment) such as the notion that beauty, art, poetry and strife cannot be reduced to mechanistics and that pure empiricism is unsound at its core. For example, when Krauss, Hitchens and Dawkins (each of whom he straw mans in attempt to debunk) stress that there is beauty in the stars of night, they have no basis to say that anyone should find this beautiful, or that this beauty is any better than a sadist pedophile finding a beaten child beautiful (excluding the obvious moral implications). He also rejects that conscious experience and creativity can be reduced by science to neural processing, defaulting to a sort of dualism which is physically indistinguishable from physicalism, however seems to explain these things (consciousness, creativity, higher-order beauty etc.) better than science - which at its current state simply promises that either these things don't exist as we picture them or that it will find an answer to them in the future.

Note: White doesn't think that this opens the door to religious belief or even spirituality, though he may bring this up in the last 1/4 of the book. In the summary on the front cover of the book he is called an atheist. However, he mentions religion twice, saying "I am a Christian. I am not a Christian" which may or may not be him speaking about his own beliefs. He also says that if Christianity is defined as the totalitarian authority of an almighy god that he is an atheist. This seems very vague, though it seems his worldview is atheistic in the sense that it doesn't postulate a god (and, indeed, a god's existence could screw it up).

I was just wondering what your view of this is?

" purpose of the book is to counter the statements made by scientists that philosophy as well as the arts are dead"

Well, that's a fucking strawman argument if there ever was. I know of no reputable scientist who says any such thing.

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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11-06-2013, 09:10 AM
RE: Thoughts on The Science Delusion by Curtis White
My thoughts?
[Image: tumblr_lovztzBbbb1qai9up.gif]

For some reason, whenever I read material like this...
[Image: Colbert-scream.gif]I just see the writers reacting like Colbert here, to even the smallest bit of knowledge.

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11-06-2013, 09:13 AM
RE: Thoughts on The Science Delusion by Curtis White
What does he have against the Swiffer mop? Just because it doesn't invoke enormous emotional reactions doesn't mean that it isn't a useful and significant contribution to the world. I mean, do you really want to go back to a mop and bucket? Meh!

E 2 = (mc 2)2 + (pc )2
614C → 714N + e + ̅νe
2 K(s) + 2 H2O(l) → 2 KOH(aq) + H2 (g) + 196 kJ/mol
It works, bitches.
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11-06-2013, 09:27 AM (This post was last modified: 11-06-2013 09:34 AM by Enlightened Romantic.)
RE: Thoughts on The Science Delusion by Curtis White
Extra post - my appolgies
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11-06-2013, 09:29 AM (This post was last modified: 11-06-2013 09:45 AM by Enlightened Romantic.)
RE: Thoughts on The Science Delusion by Curtis White
(11-06-2013 09:06 AM)Chas Wrote:  " purpose of the book is to counter the statements made by scientists that philosophy as well as the arts are dead"

Well, that's a fucking strawman argument if there ever was. I know of no reputable scientist who says any such thing.

"Philosophy is dead" -Stephen Hawking
"Philosophy... hasn't progressed in 2000 years" - Lawrence Krauss
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11-06-2013, 09:40 AM
RE: Thoughts on The Science Delusion by Curtis White
(11-06-2013 09:13 AM)Phaedrus Wrote:  What does he have against the Swiffer mop? Just because it doesn't invoke enormous emotional reactions doesn't mean that it isn't a useful and significant contribution to the world. I mean, do you really want to go back to a mop and bucket? Meh!

I think he would say something along the lines that the creativity that stemmed from alienation and created Beethoven's 9th, which has illuminated the hearts of people for centuries, shouldn't and can't be grouped with the on-demand creativity which creates mops and shouldn't be considered in the same sentence when talking about neural processing and reductive physicalism. He says that this prestigious place can't be accounted for by these mechanistic perspectives. He also makes sure not to be elitist, claiming that any art springing from alienation (he mentions Radiohead and Bob Dylan) can be considered in this way.
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11-06-2013, 09:55 AM (This post was last modified: 11-06-2013 10:03 AM by Chas.)
RE: Thoughts on The Science Delusion by Curtis White
(11-06-2013 09:29 AM)Enlightened Romantic Wrote:  
(11-06-2013 09:06 AM)Chas Wrote:  " purpose of the book is to counter the statements made by scientists that philosophy as well as the arts are dead"

Well, that's a fucking strawman argument if there ever was. I know of no reputable scientist who says any such thing.

"Philosophy is dead" -Stephen Hawking
"Philosophy... hasn't progressed in 2000 years" - Lawrence Krauss

Please provide some context for those quotes.

Quote:“Most of us don't worry about these questions most of the time. But almost all of us must sometimes wonder: Why are we here? Where do we come from? Traditionally, these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead,” he said. “Philosophers have not kept up with modern developments in science. Particularly physics.”

So that one is in the context of philosophy not having kept pace with knowledge.

And from Kraus...


So, now tell me about the arts ...

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Science is not a subject, but a method.
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11-06-2013, 10:03 AM (This post was last modified: 11-06-2013 10:28 AM by Enlightened Romantic.)
RE: Thoughts on The Science Delusion by Curtis White
(11-06-2013 09:55 AM)Chas Wrote:  
(11-06-2013 09:29 AM)Enlightened Romantic Wrote:  "Philosophy is dead" -Stephen Hawking
"Philosophy... hasn't progressed in 2000 years" - Lawrence Krauss

Please provide some context for those quotes.

Sure - Stephen Hawking in the Grand Design speaking of how science has eroded religion to the point that it is clearly delusional says in the last chapter that this same logic erodes the inquiries of philosophy and art to the same degree and science is all that is left.
Krauss said that in his lecture for American Atheists in 2012 (which, I think, is the popular YouTube one). His logic is much the same, except I disagree more strongly with this statement because, he forgets, Newton wasn't a scientist (the word didn't exist, as you probably know), he was a natural philosopher. Hitchens says that the distinction between the two - the thinking that science and philosophy are totally separate structures - is something "we could do without".

You aren't the only one who has read the books and heard the lectures. edit: Although, thank you, as I've never seen that article from Krauss. That statement had always upset me coming from him, and I'm glad he recognizes his relative ignorance of the subject. He (and Hawking) are brilliant physicists and mathematicians; however I doubt that they have acquainted themselves with what philosophy (which, as I said above, science is a part of) can suggest to them are the limits of these disciplines.

The major problem, as I see it, is that science is wholly empirical (as it proudly states) and that this is good. However, since Schiller, philosophers have thought that empirical inquiry can only get so far, especially dealing with things like conscious observation and experience (because basing arguments on observation requires an observer a priori, a term blasphemous to science).

Again, note, this is not the Observer of religion - it's simply speaking of how much can observation and modeling show us.

edit: And about the arts. I think the protest here is that the scientific realist says (correct me if I'm wrong) that a Van Gogh painting has no more meaning than a certain chemical spike in the brain, and that this spike is no better or worse than the one emerging from smelling a pile of dogshit. Any meaning given to this spike, or painting, is nothing more than ignorance on the part of the observer - it is illusory.
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11-06-2013, 11:46 AM
RE: Thoughts on The Science Delusion by Curtis White
(11-06-2013 10:03 AM)Enlightened Romantic Wrote:  ...
However, since Schiller, philosophers have thought that empirical inquiry can only get so far, especially dealing with things like conscious observation and experience (because basing arguments on observation requires an observer a priori, a term blasphemous to science).

Not sure what you mean here. Science is observation-based by definition.

(11-06-2013 10:03 AM)Enlightened Romantic Wrote:  edit: And about the arts. I think the protest here is that the scientific realist says (correct me if I'm wrong) that a Van Gogh painting has no more meaning than a certain chemical spike in the brain, and that this spike is no better or worse than the one emerging from smelling a pile of dogshit. Any meaning given to this spike, or painting, is nothing more than ignorance on the part of the observer - it is illusory.

Even the most hardcore reductionist would still recognize a difference between a kiss to the balls and a kick to the balls. Both, as experiences, are just signals interpreted by the brain, true. But they're different signals and they provoke different reactions.

The reason said hardcore reductionist wouldn't make any statements as to which was better or worse is because there is no adequate definition of 'better' or 'worse' (or 'meaning', for that matter).
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