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Of Shellfish and creative Nothing


Bryan
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(reply to Gavin--meant to have a sub-header mentioning that)

Second, Ockham's Razor works in terms of sufficient explanations.  On what basis is a big bang from a literal nothing a sufficient explanation?

Read up.

The quantum particle thing? So if a new planet or a new universe popped out of nothing tomorrow you’d consider it no big deal? How about if a vintage Norge refrigerator appeared in your basement overnight? Still no big deal? Science has it under control now that something arising uncaused from nothing is commonplace?

Why wouldn’t “nothing” always serve as the preferred explanation, given the exquisite minimization of unnecessary entities?

I think you owe a bit more explanation.

Clearly, much of what I say doesn't make much sense to you, but I'm holding out for you Bryan, you'll get there in the end.

So you refuse to clarify, choosing instead to make an issue of my failure to follow your argument?

Paskiewicz contradicted himself a great deal.

For example?

<skipped argument from outrage>

See above.

Why? You didn’t address the question above (unless you think an offense to your personal tastes was the point of the question).

If one of my teachers started expressing beliefs about fairies at the bottom of his garden, at length, and repeatedly in a class of high school students, I'd be looking up how much medical leave he had left and suggesting he take a few days off.

I don't think that the NJ teacher went on at length about his personal beliefs in a manner that failed to contribute to productive discussion.

I meant that the fact that students were questioning Mr. P. at considerable length indicates some prior incident(s) and/or remarks that aroused their interest.

And the importance of that would be …?

By now, you will have realised that I'm using your own nitpicking tactics.

And you’re the first one to ever try that with me. Drives me crazy.

A wee jab here, a cocky jibe there.  It just diminishes the quality of you argument, an argument which has merit, if you can discuss it without this schoolboy stuff.

Poppycock. I’ll demonstrate.

Argument 1:

If x, then y

x

Therefore, y

Pretty good? Good.

Argument 2:

If x, then y

x

Therefore, y

Oh, and you’re an idiot.

The arguments are equally strong. Now, it’s possible that a reader will be distracted by the additional material—but it’s also possible that additional material will help hold a reader’s interest.

In times past, insult frequently accompanied high-level argumentation. I consider the objection a nod to PC culture (and that’s why I like arguing with Australians—they’re not wusses about insult in that culture).

Agreed. I bought a spin job on the going to hell if they don't believe in Jesus. Point to you. He didn't say they would go to hell, just that if they were his kids and 12 years old and said they didn't want to go to church anymore he'd break their backsides. Which is, like, okay, right?

Corporal punishment is not that big a deal in US culture. Schools engaged in it routinely as recently as about 30 years ago (without needing to check with parents).

I wouldn't ask you.

That’s one way to avoid a hypothetical.

If, however, you'd been my history teacher and kept banging on about Mohammed at every opportunity, then yes, I might just ask you a few questions to get you going so that me and the rest of the class can take a break from studying the stuff that really matters and that we're gonna be graded on.

And that’s another way to avoid a hypothetical.

In truth, and going over the transcript, Mr. P. was pretty balanced if very self contradictory, but that's the nature of a transcript of spontaneous conversation I guess. I wouldn't say he was actually being intolerant in terms of his religious beliefs towards the students in that classIt's just that he was balanced about a load of complete bollocks! It had no place in the class.

If we sued everybody who taught stuff that that had no place in class, our court system might be three times busier than it is.

Are you sure that's the principle you wish to stand upon?

Then add the very dodgy political stuff about what the state is doing to public education and you've got a teacher, a public employee, trying to sell a political ideology and using religion as a vehicle. Precisely, exactly, what I have always said I was worried about.

Would you be tolerant if I introduced the subject of phrenology to a class with your kids in it, acknowl[e]dging that it was a rather old fashioned practice, much maligned but that whether you agreed or disagreed with it, it was remarkably successful at identifying people who were likely to commit crimes.

If it was discernibly your opinion (and not a point of instruction) that phrenology was remarkably successful at identifying likely criminals, then yes I would tolerate it. And I might contribute my own opinion to the mix as well.

I hate to break it to you but if you don't beleive in god, there is no problem of evil.

Sure there is. If you think there’s evil, there’s a problem (of evil). If you deny that there is evil, then you have some explaining to do.

The existence of evil is a problem for every worldview (even if the worldview is bent on denying evil).

The Abrahamic religions just happen to have a particular view of the problem—and a student asked about that view.

The problem of evil only exists if you choose to believe in god. Did that get a mention?

It’s not true, so why should it warrant a mention? If you asked me about how talkie films are made how much time should I spend telling you about silent movies?

Oh, dunno really. Freewill is usually dragged into it. I prefer to ignore the question because it is pointless.

It’s not pointless if you’re going around proclaiming god’s intolerance, from what I can tell. If you think god is intolerant then it seems like you should have some good way of explaining away what looks like tolerance.

Would you care to give examples of the errors in Dawkins' quotation.

Sure. I’ve set that portion aside and I’ll start a new thread on it—probably during the coming week.

Now, would anyone really want that sort of God in their classroom?

A tolerant person might.

I'd rather take the risk of having a convicted sex-offender teach my kids. You're not speaking about tolerance in any sensible way here. Where does tolerance have to give way to self-preservation? I don't want my kids to be smited (smote? smitten?) just because they're Egyptian! Good grief!

Are your kids really Egyptian?

Anyway, if you go back and check the Bible, you’ll see that it wasn’t just Egyptian kids, and it wasn’t because of their particular identity as Egyptians. Israelites who failed to take proper steps were in line for smiting, also (livestock were in on the deal, also. I don’t know if it applied to scorpions, moths, or slugs, however).

Plus there have been millions of Egyptians who lived happily every after under God’s sovereign reign, so it hardly seems fair to predict havoc in the classroom on the basis of one or two incidents. It's like being afraid of flying after reading a collection of plane crash accounts.

Nope, already covered that. I have said that its okay to learn about religious beliefs and systems, just as it is fine to learn about political systems. This is about teaching things through a religious system. using a religious perspective as a vehicle for teaching histroy or science. Your reasoning begs the facts.

How so?

Talked to him already. He listened and responded with a very clear exposition on the need for a workaday "truth" vs a philosophical "truth". He's a lawyer, I not only see his point, but I made it to you when you asked if I could prove I was intelligent.

You mean when you pretended not to have any idea what I meant but considered a libel action? I can’t not laugh at that.

Paul’s position allows him to eat his cake and have it. Science is allowed to use “workaday” language that resembles the language of absolutes. Others receive no such consideration. It’s not a principled position to take. You don’t use “workaday” terms where they can easily be mistaken for non-“workaday” terms. And that will happen unless a balanced teaching on epistemology and philosophy of science takes place.

It’s just Paul’s excuse for teaching the present (unknown) errors of science as fact.

Pity. Can I come and work in New Jersey? I think you need me.

What good would you do me in New Jersey? :)

Omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, I mean just omni everything. What more do you need for god to be considered complete? Omnichromatic? Omniverous? Nah, maybe not, he only eats children in the Bible.

The omni attributes are infinities, are they not? How is an infinity complete?

Of course I've misapplied Godel's theorem!!! It only works with mathematics. Sheesh. But, God is everything, he created everything, including mathematics. You see where I'm heading don't you? Okay, nuff said.

No, I don’t see where you’re going. Not if you’re going to say you’re misapplying the theorem while at the same time implying non-mathematical consequences for it.

What relevant mathematical consequences do you suggest for the theorem, appropriate to our context?

My point was, and you missed it by a staggering margin. Religion is a matter of faith, not reason. Choose.

Non sequitur.

If Godel’s theorem rules out proof of god it apparently rules out proof of everything. You cannot reason without faith—and you would know this having specialized in epistemology.

Reason and religion are both matters of faith.

How have I used philosophy as a substitute for science? With regard to what exactly?

You were asked for an answer in terms of science, and you answered in terms of philosophy (“How would you scientifically prove that you are intelligent?”). That’s how.

I have talked about the philosophy OF science, is that what is confusing you?

Your question has a false premise. I am not confused. I simply have a better recollection of the question that I asked than you apparently possess.

I did not assume that an argument for existence was an argument for intelligence, in fact I took pains to point out the distinction.

I don’t see why you took pains to make that distinction, given that I asked you for your notion of a scientific demonstration of your intelligence, not a scientific demonstration of your existence.

Look, Bryan, if you aren't going to read this stuff properly then I'm gonna stop writing it.

Sorry, but I’m not smart enough to be able to figure out how to read “Cogito ergo sum” as a scientific justification of intelligence.

So you admit the problem. :)

You can hardly devise a test for something you can't define. But at least you can claim that it isn't necessary in order for complexity to result.

Whatever it is. ;)

So you admit I admit the problem. Thank you. Sheesh, this is like pulling teeth!

So you regret the digression into Descartes when you were asked about intelligence and not existence?

One imagines that you prepare to pull teeth by using super glue to connect thousands of tiny ball-bearings into a set of pliers, then making your approach to the oral cavity via the esophagus.

Look, you asked the question: "How would you scientifically prove that you are intelligent?" and I asked you to define your terms. What do you mean by "intelligent", I haven't the foggiest notion what you mean by the word.

Then why would you think of suing me for libel if I called you “unintelligent”? It doesn’t make a lick of sense.

My whole point, as a matter of fact, is that you’ll have trouble developing any coherent concept of intelligence based on empiricism. This was one of C. S. Lewis’ most notable arguments, described at length in “The Abolition of Man.”

Pardon me if I don’t help you out of your problem by defining “intelligence” for you. Grab a dictionary and see if you can make use of any of the standard definitions. Or come up with one of your own.

I have proved to myself I exist so by some measure I must have some intelligence. But I haven't proved that to you, as far as you're concerned I could be a "we" or an "it" or a "Him". So, lets turn it around shall we, what do you think Bryan? Do you think I am intelligent? Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.

I think you’re still using philosophy to justify your intelligence (whatever you mean by the term—it’s hard to tell given your claim that you have no idea what it means).

Why would I need to prove my intelligence. That's the relevance.

You objected to non-scientific concepts in science class. Is intelligence a scientific concept? You seem to have trouble establishing it as such. Philosophy of science is a non-scientific concept, as such, for it resists its own tests. Would you bar philosophy of science from science class as non-scientific? How can we tell kids that the purpose of science is to expand knowledge (or even that it works to expand knowledge)? That concept doesn't belong in the science classroom, does it?

Sorry, it was your question, you didn't define your terms, so don't expect me to do it for you.

B)

You failed to define roughly 17 terms in your question above—how can I possibly acknowledge your statement (if such it was)?

You’re bragging about the grand job you did in this reply after trotting out a thin dodge like that? Truly priceless.

Take the tack of proving that I can’t prove that you can’t demonstrate intelligence by pretending that you don’t have any idea what the term means. Brilliant.

My point about the shellfish was this. Laws based upon religious belief are creeping in to our lives.

Would you mind defining “religious belief”?

Because it has long been a thorny problem to derive morality from an “is” and all (prescriptive) laws presuppose morality.

In short, it seems reasonable to offer you a burden of proof for demonstrating the existence of non-religious morality. Hence the need for a definition.

Homosexuality is pretty much okay at the moment, disregarding a few states and nations that still obsess about what two consenting adults do with their genitalia (I mean, who cares for crying out loud, let em dip their willies in chocolate sauce and dance naked to Abba hits - woe betide any teacher who talks about this in class though!). What I do not understand is how religious principles can inform the law in a country that seperates church from state. That was my point about the Malaysian issue. Once you start letting religious tenets inform the law then pretty much anything is fair game. As I said the Bible is pretty far ranging in it's list of "don'ts", including the eating of shellfish.

I don’t see what’s wrong with a law against eating shellfish if everything is meaningless.

Know what I’m saying?

I’ve reached the arbitrary stopping point. More later.

You haven't found any fallacies in these first two segments. All of that must be in the remainder. Right?

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Hullo again Bryan, sorry for the weeks silence but I have been away for a while visiting some friends in Bangkok. I see you've missed me, how sweet. Now, to business.

(reply to Gavin--meant to have a sub-header mentioning that)

The quantum particle thing? So if a new planet or a new universe popped out of nothing tomorrow you’d consider it no big deal? How about if a vintage Norge refrigerator appeared in your basement overnight? Still no big deal? Science has it under control now that something arising uncaused from nothing is commonplace?

Why wouldn’t “nothing” always serve as the preferred explanation, given the exquisite minimization of unnecessary entities?

I think you owe a bit more explanation.

I'm not sure I "owe" any further explanation at all, it is not for me to explain the origins of the universe and would be highly presumptious for me do to so. I would point out however, again, that quantum mechanics is a highly successful field of physics, with predictions borne out by experiment to unparalleled levels of accuracy. QM has no problem with things popping into and out of existence all the time. So, science does now "have it under control that something arising uncaused from nothing is commonplace"

So you refuse to clarify, choosing instead to make an issue of my failure to follow your argument?

So, you admit your failure to follow my argument?

No, seriously, that statement is just an example of the sort of tactics you employ.

I did, in fact, clarify my assertion that it was something the Mr P did say rather than something he didn't say. I cited Mr. P's intention of adminsitering corporal punishment in response to a son's refusal to go to church. So, no, I did not refuse to clarify.

QUOTE

Paskiewicz contradicted himself a great deal.

For example?

A few..........

"Teacher: The scriptures are at the foundation of the world's

religions. The world's main religions, anyway. Religion is a set way

of doing things. For example if you take Christian faiths, right, you

have many varieties; there's Roman Catholicism, the Methodists, the

[...?], the Baptists, who differ on church government, things like

that but [..LaClair moving about...?] book - the Bible. We should be

able to bring that into the classroom, read it, and shouldn't be

threatened by anybody."

(my emphasis)

then

"Teacher: You know, it's up to you to reason it out, and the outcome is

your perogative. But the way I see it is this: he's done everything in

his power, so much so, that he went to a cross that I should've been -

it was my sin, he was innocent! But you saw the Mel Gibson portrayal?

That was pretty accurate, when you read history, the flesh being

beaten off of his back. God himself sent his only son to die for days

(???)...on the cross. That's the idea. And if I reject that, then it

really is, then to Hell with me. I created you, I ..."

So, no threats there eh? Yes, I know he was referring initially to people not feeling threatened if they bring the bible into the classroom but his introduction of the threat of damnation if you don't accept salvation contradicts his previous statement.

At this point I should say that my position on what went on in Mr. P's class has changed a little after being told that he did, at some point, say to at least one student "You belong in Hell." Now, I have not seen or heard this myself but if it is indeed true then I withdraw my previous comments that Mr. P was "pretty balanced". I am now more inclined to the opinion that he is a bully who abused his position.

More contradictions here, "the teachers that you're

exposed to from kindergarten through 12th grade, never once will you

see them crack open a Bible, never once will you hear them quote it,

never once hear a prayer uttered from their lips.

and then he goes on.."Teacher: But uh, Moses writes in 1440 BC. Most of you have probably read that first chapter of Genesis: In the beginning God created the

Heavens and the Earth"

Seems like he's quoting from the bible. (The whole tirade about "you surrender your kid to the state from preschool on through 12th grade" is just dripping with bias. - I was apalled)

How about this? "Teacher: Yeah, oh yeah, no..."

But seriously. how about this: "Alexander the Great comes

down the scene of history. He's not a military guy, he's a soldier."

or this:

"Teacher: Yeah, for 6 days, there was only him and man.

LaClaire: Him and man. Ok -

Teacher: As far as life on Earth, I mean you do have angelic teams,

and things like that..."

only him and man or only him, man and the angelic host?

So, contradictions. But, lets not dissect Mr. P's classroom polemics any further, the matter is settled and the debate should move on.

QUOTE

If one of my teachers started expressing beliefs about fairies at the bottom of his garden, at length, and repeatedly in a class of high school students, I'd be looking up how much medical leave he had left and suggesting he take a few days off.

I don't think that the NJ teacher went on at length about his personal beliefs in a manner that failed to contribute to productive discussion.

You may well not think so, I do think so. So, I understand, did the BOE.

QUOTE

I meant that the fact that students were questioning Mr. P. at considerable length indicates some prior incident(s) and/or remarks that aroused their interest.

And the importance of that would be …?

Would be that it is not unreasonable to assume that from the transcript I read that this was certainly not the first time that Mr. P. had allowed his lesson to become hijacked. It was a History class, on populism right? The objective of the lesson was completely forgotten in the face of Mr. P's desire to explain his own personal views on religion. Now, it does happen, you get a teacher onto a pet topic and off she or he goes. It's not very laudible but it does happen. If it happens repeatedly however then it becomes a cause for concern. Which is what happened in this case. That's the importance Bryan.

Poppycock. I’ll demonstrate.

Argument 1:

If x, then y

x

Therefore, y

Pretty good? Good.

Argument 2:

If x, then y

x

Therefore, y

Oh, and you’re an idiot.

The arguments are equally strong. Now, it’s possible that a reader will be distracted by the additional material—but it’s also possible that additional material will help hold a reader’s interest.

In times past, insult frequently accompanied high-level argumentation. I consider the objection a nod to PC culture (and that’s why I like arguing with Australians—they’re not wusses about insult in that culture).

It is also possible that the additional material will sidetrack and obscure the argument, especially when the additional material consists of insult. Yes, insult does frequently accompany argumentation, however, it adds nothing to the argument itself. Insult, and I love a well crafted one, can be amusing or it can demean both the sender and the recipient. It's a fine line sometimes, but the person who is first to throw an insult then becomes fair game for a riposte. Take one of my favourites.

Nancy Astor:"Winston, if I was your wife I would put poison in your coffee."

Winston Churchill: "Nancy, if I were your husband, I would drink it."

Bit better than "You're an idiot" eh?

Agreed. I bought a spin job on the going to hell if they don't believe in Jesus. Point to you. He didn't say they would go to hell, just that if they were his kids and 12 years old and said they didn't want to go to church anymore he'd break their backsides. Which is, like, okay, right?

I retract this, based on personal communication, I have it on reliable authority that Mr. P did in fact tell at least one student that "You belong in Hell". He just didn't say this in the transcript I read. In any event, my initial point stands.

Corporal punishment is not that big a deal in US culture. Schools engaged in it routinely as recently as about 30 years ago (without needing to check with parents).

Well, that's like saying that apartheid is not such a big deal in South African culture. Tell you what, lets roll back the clock 30 years and see how much we gain and how much we lose. Corporal punishment was commonly practised 30 years ago, true, I was caned myself of three occasions at school (for fighting all three times). That fact does not mean that the practice, today, should be condoned. In fact, today, children are protected from such abuses by the law in the US and in the UK. The fact that these laws have been added and successfully applied in many instances, suggests to me that it is a big deal in US culture. Incidentally, the evidence that violent parents beget violent children is huge and mounting all the time. Corporal punishment is vile. Lets debate that.

I wouldn't ask you.

That’s one way to avoid a hypothetical.

And a legitimate one.

If, however, you'd been my history teacher and kept banging on about Mohammed at every opportunity, then yes, I might just ask you a few questions to get you going so that me and the rest of the class can take a break from studying the stuff that really matters and that we're gonna be graded on.

And that’s another way to avoid a hypothetical.

I think the analogy I drew is pretty clear to anyone who wants to see it.

In truth, and going over the transcript, Mr. P. was pretty balanced if very self contradictory, but that's the nature of a transcript of spontaneous conversation I guess. I wouldn't say he was actually being intolerant in terms of his religious beliefs towards the students in that classIt's just that he was balanced about a load of complete bollocks! It had no place in the class.

If we sued everybody who taught stuff that that had no place in class, our court system might be three times busier than it is.

Are you sure that's the principle you wish to stand upon?

Putting words in my mouth again. I have not suggested that we sue anyone. (Is Mr. P being sued?) I have addressed the general issue of irelevant material being introduced in class above.

Then add the very dodgy political stuff about what the state is doing to public education and you've got a teacher, a public employee, trying to sell a political ideology and using religion as a vehicle. Precisely, exactly, what I have always said I was worried about.

Would you be tolerant if I introduced the subject of phrenology to a class with your kids in it, acknowl[e]dging that it was a rather old fashioned practice, much maligned but that whether you agreed or disagreed with it, it was remarkably successful at identifying people who were likely to commit crimes.

If it was discernibly your opinion (and not a point of instruction) that phrenology was remarkably successful at identifying likely criminals, then yes I would tolerate it. And I might contribute my own opinion to the mix as well.

Well, that's is why the curriculum is written down. If you and I want to discuss something at length which is not part of the curriculum then I suggest we do it at recess. Now, back to work.

I hate to break it to you but if you don't beleive in god, there is no problem of evil.

Sure there is. If you think there’s evil, there’s a problem (of evil). If you deny that there is evil, then you have some explaining to do.

The existence of evil is a problem for every worldview (even if the worldview is bent on denying evil).

The Abrahamic religions just happen to have a particular view of the problem—and a student asked about that view.

Key word here is "if". I don't think there is Evil. Just like I don't think there is god. Have I not said this already? Evil is only necessary if you think that there is some grand design behind everything. I happen to think that there is nothing to suggest that the universe is anything other than entirely dispassionate. Can people do things which we would describe as evil? Possibly, but other words are probably better and more accurate descriptions of the bad things that people sometimes do. Mao Zedong was arguably responsible for the deaths of more human beings than any other historical figure. Was he evil? I don't think so. Merciless, uncaring, selfish, dishonest, manipulative, cowardly, incompetent etc. could all be used to describe Mao. I don't find it necessary to invoke the concept of evil, and all the baggage it entails, to account for anything in recorded human history.

Nature too can be very cruel as it appears to our anthropomorphizing selves. Natural disasters kill millions, but this only poses a problem for theists who wonder about the purpose behind it all. For me, there is no purpose where nature is concerned. It just is the way it is. Is it fair? I really think in asking that question we are trying to apply human concepts to nature which is as oblivious to our existence as you are to the microbes which inhabit your gut.

As far as the human world is concerned then we should all just try to be nicer to each other.

The problem of evil only exists if you choose to believe in god. Did that get a mention?

It’s not true, so why should it warrant a mention? If you asked me about how talkie films are made how much time should I spend telling you about silent movies?

Well, I've tried to state a case for it being true above. Simply asserting that it is not true is missing my point. As to the talkies, yes, I think it would be entirely reasonable for you to mention silent movies, its relevant. Talkies were a development of silent movies and the techniques of silent movies informed the early talking movies. Maybe I'm just singin' in the rain though.

Really? Why does he allow atheists to live even for a little while?

Oh, dunno really. Freewill is usually dragged into it. I prefer to ignore the question because it is pointless.

It’s not pointless if you’re going around proclaiming god’s intolerance, from what I can tell. If you think god is intolerant then it seems like you should have some good way of explaining away what looks like tolerance.

Of course it's a pointless question. Why does Allah allow christians to live for even a little while? Why does Shiva allow a non-Hindu to stay alive? God is not tolerant, as he is conceived to be by any Abrahamic religion. God is Jealous, and proud of it (Exodus 34:14). Can you square tolerance with jealousy?

Would you care to give examples of the errors in Dawkins' quotation.

Sure. I’ve set that portion aside and I’ll start a new thread on it—probably during the coming week.

Good oh! Look forward to it.

Now, would anyone really want that sort of God in their classroom?

A tolerant person might.

Well, we might debate how far tolerance ought to go. Clearly there are limits, I guess that yours are different from mine and guided by an adherance to theism. Mine are guided by humansism. Frankly, I find much of the bible quite horrendous in terms of its description of human behaviour. I would rather keep my kids well away from it until they can cope with Hannibal Lecter stories.

I'd rather take the risk of having a convicted sex-offender teach my kids. You're not speaking about tolerance in any sensible way here. Where does tolerance have to give way to self-preservation? I don't want my kids to be smited (smote? smitten?) just because they're Egyptian! Good grief!

Are your kids really Egyptian?

Anyway, if you go back and check the Bible, you’ll see that it wasn’t just Egyptian kids, and it wasn’t because of their particular identity as Egyptians. Israelites who failed to take proper steps were in line for smiting, also (livestock were in on the deal, also. I don’t know if it applied to scorpions, moths, or slugs, however).

Plus there have been millions of Egyptians who lived happily every after under God’s sovereign reign, so it hardly seems fair to predict havoc in the classroom on the basis of one or two incidents. It's like being afraid of flying after reading a collection of plane crash accounts.

Of course they're not really Egyptian. I was refering to the ten plagues of course. What an appalling story. Aaron wandering about with his rod turning rivers into blood and summoning up frogs, lice and locusts. God meanwhile "hardening the heart of Pharoh". Poor old Pharoh, he never stood a chance, even if he had wanted to let the Israelites go, I think he did try relenting at one point, then god just hardened his heart some more so that he could show off with a few more plagues. Where was freewill in Pharoh's predicament?

Seriously, if I wanted to find the victims in this apalling story then it would be the egyptians. That was my point. Oh and there is no mention of any Israelites, or their livestock, copping it at all. Only the Egyptians. Yes, I've checked. I'd say that it was a literary opportunity missed, in fact, it would have been very salutory for a couple of Israelites to have forgotten to observe some minor detail of the passover ritual and gotten their firstborns smitten. No mention of it.

I cannot say what Matthew wanted when he started this. What he obtained was a healthy debate, much of it public, arguably sturdy and rational, and a settlement which reinforced the principle that religious dogma should not be a vehicle for teaching. I am sure that religious dogma itself may still be studied in government-run schools, in the same way that political dogmas are studied. Things like fascism for instance.

Anti-semitism is an alternative viewpoint, just because it is does not mean that its espousal by an employee of the government should be condoned.

If we tighten up the analogy to what Paszkiewicz said, then we could reason that anti-semitism should not be mentioned in school.

So much for learning all about WW2 Germany.

Nope, already covered that. I have said that its okay to learn about religious beliefs and systems, just as it is fine to learn about political systems. This is about teaching things through a religious system. using a religious perspective as a vehicle for teaching histroy or science. Your reasoning begs the facts.

How so?

As is pretty clear, the facts are that I have said that you can, if you so wish, teach students about fascism, ant-semitism and religion. Teaching anything through any particular belief system is what I have a problem with.

Talked to him already. He listened and responded with a very clear exposition on the need for a workaday "truth" vs a philosophical "truth". He's a lawyer, I not only see his point, but I made it to you when you asked if I could prove I was intelligent.

You mean when you pretended not to have any idea what I meant but considered a libel action? I can’t not laugh at that.

You asked me if I could scientifically prove that I was intelligent. I simply repeated my position that there is no such thing as a scientific proof and that, anyway, your term "intelligent" was imprecise. Is a cat more intelligent than a flatworm? Is a cat intelligent? You see the problem? Clearly, anybody who were to suggest that a cat be made the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, would be marched off to the funny farm (unless it had been Schrodinger's idea). In the absence of any scientific proof and any decent definition of the term "intelligent", I suggested that we might try a court of law. At no time did I seriously consider an actual libel action. It was a vehicle for my argument.

Paul’s position allows him to eat his cake and have it. Science is allowed to use “workaday” language that resembles the language of absolutes. Others receive no such consideration. It’s not a principled position to take. You don’t use “workaday” terms where they can easily be mistaken for non-“workaday” terms. And that will happen unless a balanced teaching on epistemology and philosophy of science takes place.

It’s just Paul’s excuse for teaching the present (unknown) errors of science as fact.

I cannot say precisely what Paul's position is and what it does or does not allow him to eat. His point, to me, was not about science using "workaday" language but about arriving at a workeable everyday position on matters of science in the absence of any hard philosophical "proof". I do quite agree with you Bryan, when you say that balanced teaching of epistomolgy and philosophy of science is necessary. I would suggest that the International Baccalaureate course called Theory of Knowledge is a good start. It is suitable for high school students and can be a lot of fun if you don't let it get bogged down with too much Nietsche.

Pity. Can I come and work in New Jersey? I think you need me.

What good would you do me in New Jersey?

I could shine your shoes massah?

Omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, I mean just omni everything. What more do you need for god to be considered complete? Omnichromatic? Omniverous? Nah, maybe not, he only eats children in the Bible.

The omni attributes are infinities, are they not? How is an infinity complete?

Almost by definition. The set of real numbers is infinite, is it not. Is there a real number which is not part of the set? No? Then it is complete. That's why it is infinite, so as to be complete.

Of course I've misapplied Godel's theorem!!! It only works with mathematics. Sheesh. But, God is everything, he created everything, including mathematics. You see where I'm heading don't you? Okay, nuff said.

No, I don’t see where you’re going. Not if you’re going to say you’re misapplying the theorem while at the same time implying non-mathematical consequences for it.

What relevant mathematical consequences do you suggest for the theorem, appropriate to our context?

Okay, Godel showed that any axiomatic (mathematical) system is necessarily either incomplete or inconsistent. Religion is a (non-mathematical) axiomatic system according to which God created everything, including mathematics.

Where I was heading, is that by analogy with mathematics, one could argue that any religious system which incorporates the creation of mathematics, is also either incomplete or inconsistent.

My point was, and you missed it by a staggering margin. Religion is a matter of faith, not reason. Choose.

Non sequitur.

If Godel’s theorem rules out proof of god it apparently rules out proof of everything. You cannot reason without faith—and you would know this having specialized in epistemology.

Reason and religion are both matters of faith.

If you mean that you need a starting point, an axiom before either can get off the ground then yes, there is an extent to which you could describe both as matters of faith. I would prefer to say that they are both axiomatic. Faith, belief, assumptions are all different words and the sense in which faith is usually used in a religious context is different to the sense in which it might be used in a deabte on reason. Religion relies on a particular non-negotiable axiom. Reason however, allows us to discard axioms and substitute alternatives as we wish. Religion does not do that, it's principle axiom, the existence of God is untouchable, dare I say sacred. This is why religion is dogmatic and reason is not.

How have I used philosophy as a substitute for science? With regard to what exactly?

You were asked for an answer in terms of science, and you answered in terms of philosophy (“How would you scientifically prove that you are intelligent?”). That’s how.

As I have said already, I do not consider there to be such a thing as a scientific "proof". So, when asked to perform the impossible I attempted the improbable instead. I also, in your sense of the word "substitute" offered a legal alternative to answering your question. Do you think that I would use a law court as a "substitute" for science? Heck, that would be great, we could make life so much simpler for ourselves if we just decided that from now on pi was going to be 3.

I have talked about the philosophy OF science, is that what is confusing you?

Your question has a false premise. I am not confused. I simply have a better recollection of the question that I asked than you apparently possess.

Appearances can be deceptive. But a false premise very well spotted. Dang, I really thought I'd be able to sneak that one past you, you sly old dog.

I did not assume that an argument for existence was an argument for intelligence, in fact I took pains to point out the distinction.

I don’t see why you took pains to make that distinction, given that I asked you for your notion of a scientific demonstration of your intelligence, not a scientific demonstration of your existence.

And you didn't say what you meant by "intelligence". Okay, look here's a drawing of a box, take it. Inside is a scientific proof of my intelligence (along with a rather hungry sheep).

Look, Bryan, if you aren't going to read this stuff properly then I'm gonna stop writing it.

Sorry, but I’m not smart enough to be able to figure out how to read “Cogito ergo sum” as a scientific justification of intelligence.

Well, I am smart enough to be able to figure it out. I said, however, that the proof only works for me - you don't know that I think, I could be an AI sent to test you. For me then, it works like this. I need to make an observation and then draw a conclusion from it. That scientific enough for you? Okay, so I oberve that I think, and then conclude from that observation that I exist. That means that I have some measure of intelligence, at least as far as Im concerned. Probably puts me somewhere above a flatworm on the intelligence scale but, you didn't ask my to prove how intelligent I was, only that I was intelligent. Now, it's no proof, I might wake up tomorrow and be told by my programmer that I really am an AI pre-programmed with Descartes, but it is, a scientific justification of my intelligence. Anything else you need help with?

So you admit the problem.

You can hardly devise a test for something you can't define. But at least you can claim that it isn't necessary in order for complexity to result.

Whatever it is.

Nope, it was a test for something you didn't define.

So you admit I admit the problem. Thank you. Sheesh, this is like pulling teeth!

So you regret the digression into Descartes when you were asked about intelligence and not existence?

One imagines that you prepare to pull teeth by using super glue to connect thousands of tiny ball-bearings into a set of pliers, then making your approach to the oral cavity via the esophagus.

Why would I regret something that is a perfectly adequate solution to the rather imprecise, not to say impossible problem you posed. If you're not happy with it then I suggest you restate the problem with a little more precision.

Look, you asked the question: "How would you scientifically prove that you are intelligent?" and I asked you to define your terms. What do you mean by "intelligent", I haven't the foggiest notion what you mean by the word.

Then why would you think of suing me for libel if I called you “unintelligent”? It doesn’t make a lick of sense.

My whole point, as a matter of fact, is that you’ll have trouble developing any coherent concept of intelligence based on empiricism. This was one of C. S. Lewis’ most notable arguments, described at length in “The Abolition of Man.”

It makes perfect sense in the absence, by your own admission, of the trouble with developing any coherent concept of intelligrence based on empiricism. Knowing this, why would you ask me to use empiricism to prove I am intelligent? You now seem to be attacking me in my attempt to offer some alternative for something that you yourself admit to be fraught with difficulty.

Pardon me if I don’t help you out of your problem by defining “intelligence” for you. Grab a dictionary and see if you can make use of any of the standard definitions. Or come up with one of your own.

Pardon denied. It's not my problem. It's your question. You asked me to scientifically proove that I am intelligent. I probably can't do that at all really, not to you, and certainly not until you tell me what you mean by the word. It's a bit like being asked to dig your own grave before execution. No way! You dig the bloody thing, what you gonna do? Kill me?

I have proved to myself I exist so by some measure I must have some intelligence. But I haven't proved that to you, as far as you're concerned I could be a "we" or an "it" or a "Him". So, lets turn it around shall we, what do you think Bryan? Do you think I am intelligent? Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.

I think you’re still using philosophy to justify your intelligence (whatever you mean by the term—it’s hard to tell given your claim that you have no idea what it means).

Philosophy, recourse to the courts, hey, lets try democracy, we could get people to vote on it! Bryan, I don't need to prove my intelligence to you. It is as legitimate and uninteresting for me to ask you to prove your faith.

Why would I need to prove my intelligence. That's the relevance.

You objected to non-scientific concepts in science class. Is intelligence a scientific concept? You seem to have trouble establishing it as such. Philosophy of science is a non-scientific concept, as such, for it resists its own tests. Would you bar philosophy of science from science class as non-scientific? How can we tell kids that the purpose of science is to expand knowledge (or even that it works to expand knowledge)? That concept doesn't belong in the science classroom, does it?

Now we are getting somewhere. Right, is artistic ability a scientific concept? Any other human attribute of the mind for that matter. Intelligence is simply defined as a mental ability, the power of learning and understanding. According to my much thumbed Oxford Paperback dictionary. Is that a scientific concept? Well, the presence of intelligence in an organism is testable according to that definition, we simply have to prove that an organism has learned something, that then would be evidence that the organism had some measure of intelligence, the measure being a function of what it was that had been learned, to a degree. But is the concept of intelligence itself scientific. Nope, I don't think it is according to that definition.

Need a better definition. That, I believe is your job.

As to philosophy of science's place in the science classroom, then yes it has a place because your assertion that the philosophy of science is not scientific therefore has no place is based upon the false premise that all things non-scientific should be barred from the science curriculum. Cosmology is often taught from a historical perspective for example, it is common to begin with the geocentric ptolomeic cosmos (yep, very empirical and scientific) and then do the whole copernican revolution and Galileo. Any science teacher who glosses over the cultural and religious difficulties that the copernican cosmology faced and fails to make mention of the role of the catholic church in that debate is neither doing justice to the subject matter nor to Galileo. I think it was 1984 when Pope John Paul finally apologised to Galileo. Could be wrong about the date though.

Sorry, it was your question, you didn't define your terms, so don't expect me to do it for you.

You failed to define roughly 17 terms in your question above—how can I possibly acknowledge your statement (if such it was)?

We don't have to define absolutely everything as we go along Bryan, but when you ask me to prove that I am a certain thing, intelligent in this case, I think you have an obligation to state precisely what it is you mean by that thing. I can't do something if you do not tell me exactly what it is you want me to do, or if, in failing to define precisely what it is you want me to do, complain when I go off and do something a little bit different to what you had intended. If you ask me to paint a rather shabby looking whitewashed wall and come back to find I have painted it in mauve, then it's your fault for not telling me what colour you wanted when you asked me to redecorate.

You’re bragging about the grand job you did in this reply after trotting out a thin dodge like that? Truly priceless.

Take the tack of proving that I can’t prove that you can’t demonstrate intelligence by pretending that you don’t have any idea what the term means. Brilliant.

Brag? Me, never. I am a very humble soul of, how did I put it? Oh yes, "meagre intelligence". Such hubris.

My point about the shellfish was this. Laws based upon religious belief are creeping in to our lives.

Would you mind defining “religious belief”?

Because it has long been a thorny problem to derive morality from an “is” and all (prescriptive) laws presuppose morality.

In short, it seems reasonable to offer you a burden of proof for demonstrating the existence of non-religious morality. Hence the need for a definition.

Religious belief is any belief that is theistic or supernatural in origin. For me, for now. I might have to get back to you after I've thought about Buddhism a bit more.

Homosexuality is pretty much okay at the moment, disregarding a few states and nations that still obsess about what two consenting adults do with their genitalia (I mean, who cares for crying out loud, let em dip their willies in chocolate sauce and dance naked to Abba hits - woe betide any teacher who talks about this in class though!). What I do not understand is how religious principles can inform the law in a country that seperates church from state. That was my point about the Malaysian issue. Once you start letting religious tenets inform the law then pretty much anything is fair game. As I said the Bible is pretty far ranging in it's list of "don'ts", including the eating of shellfish.

I don’t see what’s wrong with a law against eating shellfish if everything is meaningless.

Know what I’m saying?

I didn't say "everything is meaningless", if I did then I recant immediately! I said that there was no grand purpose or design, no great meaning to existence. Of course everything isn't meaningless. If, through my acts of comission or omission, people suffer then that has a great deal of meaning. Especially for the ones doing the suffering, and when they turn up on my doorstep to complain then I have a moral obligation to listen and amend my ways.

I’ve reached the arbitrary stopping point. More later.

You haven't found any fallacies in these first two segments. All of that must be in the remainder. Right?

Phew, yeah, me too. A number of fallacies above actually, but don't get too hung up on it. Yes, there were more in the rest of the post too.

I'm really disappointed you didn't pick up on the Santa dialogue, I spent ages on that!

Pip pip,

Gavin

P.S. As I finish this, I am listening to a BBC piece on a teaching assistant from the UK who was reprimanded by her school for refusing to allow a primary school child to read from a Harry Potter book. She cited her christian beliefs as being in conflict with the work of fiction and that her beliefs should not be compromised by having to listen to the material. I don't know exactly how germaine this is to the thread in question other than the point that religion ought to be kept out of the classroom. (Except as study material, of course)

I wonder if the same TA would have taken similar exception to a recital from A Midummers Night's Dream.

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Guest 2smart4u

Hullo again Bryan, sorry for the weeks silence but I have been away for a while visiting some friends in Bangkok. I see you've missed me, how sweet. Now, to business.

I'm not sure I "owe" any further explanation at all, it is not for me to explain the origins of the universe and would be highly presumptious for me do to so. I would point out however, again, that quantum mechanics is a highly successful field of physics, with predictions borne out by experiment to unparalleled levels of accuracy. QM has no problem with things popping into and out of existence all the time. So, science does now "have it under control that something arising uncaused from nothing is commonplace"

So you refuse to clarify, choosing instead to make an issue of my failure to follow your argument?

So, you admit your failure to follow my argument?

No, seriously, that statement is just an example of the sort of tactics you employ.

I did, in fact, clarify my assertion that it was something the Mr P did say rather than something he didn't say. I cited Mr. P's intention of adminsitering corporal punishment in response to a son's refusal to go to church. So, no, I did not refuse to clarify.

QUOTE

Paskiewicz contradicted himself a great deal.

For example?

A few..........

"Teacher: The scriptures are at the foundation of the world's

religions. The world's main religions, anyway. Religion is a set way

of doing things. For example if you take Christian faiths, right, you

have many varieties; there's Roman Catholicism, the Methodists, the

[...?], the Baptists, who differ on church government, things like

that but [..LaClair moving about...?] book - the Bible. We should be

able to bring that into the classroom, read it, and shouldn't be

threatened by anybody."

(my emphasis)

then

"Teacher: You know, it's up to you to reason it out, and the outcome is

your perogative. But the way I see it is this: he's done everything in

his power, so much so, that he went to a cross that I should've been -

it was my sin, he was innocent! But you saw the Mel Gibson portrayal?

That was pretty accurate, when you read history, the flesh being

beaten off of his back. God himself sent his only son to die for days

(???)...on the cross. That's the idea. And if I reject that, then it

really is, then to Hell with me. I created you, I ..."

So, no threats there eh? Yes, I know he was referring initially to people not feeling threatened if they bring the bible into the classroom but his introduction of the threat of damnation if you don't accept salvation contradicts his previous statement.

At this point I should say that my position on what went on in Mr. P's class has changed a little after being told that he did, at some point, say to at least one student "You belong in Hell." Now, I have not seen or heard this myself but if it is indeed true then I withdraw my previous comments that Mr. P was "pretty balanced". I am now more inclined to the opinion that he is a bully who abused his position.

More contradictions here, "the teachers that you're

exposed to from kindergarten through 12th grade, never once will you

see them crack open a Bible, never once will you hear them quote it,

never once hear a prayer uttered from their lips.

and then he goes on.."Teacher: But uh, Moses writes in 1440 BC. Most of you have probably read that first chapter of Genesis: In the beginning God created the

Heavens and the Earth"

Seems like he's quoting from the bible. (The whole tirade about "you surrender your kid to the state from preschool on through 12th grade" is just dripping with bias. - I was apalled)

How about this? "Teacher: Yeah, oh yeah, no..."

But seriously. how about this: "Alexander the Great comes

down the scene of history. He's not a military guy, he's a soldier."

or this:

"Teacher: Yeah, for 6 days, there was only him and man.

LaClaire: Him and man. Ok -

Teacher: As far as life on Earth, I mean you do have angelic teams,

and things like that..."

only him and man or only him, man and the angelic host?

So, contradictions. But, lets not dissect Mr. P's classroom polemics any further, the matter is settled and the debate should move on.

QUOTE

If one of my teachers started expressing beliefs about fairies at the bottom of his garden, at length, and repeatedly in a class of high school students, I'd be looking up how much medical leave he had left and suggesting he take a few days off.

I don't think that the NJ teacher went on at length about his personal beliefs in a manner that failed to contribute to productive discussion.

You may well not think so, I do think so. So, I understand, did the BOE.

QUOTE

I meant that the fact that students were questioning Mr. P. at considerable length indicates some prior incident(s) and/or remarks that aroused their interest.

And the importance of that would be …?

Would be that it is not unreasonable to assume that from the transcript I read that this was certainly not the first time that Mr. P. had allowed his lesson to become hijacked. It was a History class, on populism right? The objective of the lesson was completely forgotten in the face of Mr. P's desire to explain his own personal views on religion. Now, it does happen, you get a teacher onto a pet topic and off she or he goes. It's not very laudible but it does happen. If it happens repeatedly however then it becomes a cause for concern. Which is what happened in this case. That's the importance Bryan.

Poppycock. I’ll demonstrate.

Argument 1:

If x, then y

x

Therefore, y

Pretty good? Good.

Argument 2:

If x, then y

x

Therefore, y

Oh, and you’re an idiot.

The arguments are equally strong. Now, it’s possible that a reader will be distracted by the additional material—but it’s also possible that additional material will help hold a reader’s interest.

In times past, insult frequently accompanied high-level argumentation. I consider the objection a nod to PC culture (and that’s why I like arguing with Australians—they’re not wusses about insult in that culture).

It is also possible that the additional material will sidetrack and obscure the argument, especially when the additional material consists of insult. Yes, insult does frequently accompany argumentation, however, it adds nothing to the argument itself. Insult, and I love a well crafted one, can be amusing or it can demean both the sender and the recipient. It's a fine line sometimes, but the person who is first to throw an insult then becomes fair game for a riposte. Take one of my favourites.

Nancy Astor:"Winston, if I was your wife I would put poison in your coffee."

Winston Churchill: "Nancy, if I were your husband, I would drink it."

Bit better than "You're an idiot" eh?

Agreed. I bought a spin job on the going to hell if they don't believe in Jesus. Point to you. He didn't say they would go to hell, just that if they were his kids and 12 years old and said they didn't want to go to church anymore he'd break their backsides. Which is, like, okay, right?

I retract this, based on personal communication, I have it on reliable authority that Mr. P did in fact tell at least one student that "You belong in Hell". He just didn't say this in the transcript I read. In any event, my initial point stands.

Corporal punishment is not that big a deal in US culture. Schools engaged in it routinely as recently as about 30 years ago (without needing to check with parents).

Well, that's like saying that apartheid is not such a big deal in South African culture. Tell you what, lets roll back the clock 30 years and see how much we gain and how much we lose. Corporal punishment was commonly practised 30 years ago, true, I was caned myself of three occasions at school (for fighting all three times). That fact does not mean that the practice, today, should be condoned. In fact, today, children are protected from such abuses by the law in the US and in the UK. The fact that these laws have been added and successfully applied in many instances, suggests to me that it is a big deal in US culture. Incidentally, the evidence that violent parents beget violent children is huge and mounting all the time. Corporal punishment is vile. Lets debate that.

I wouldn't ask you.

That’s one way to avoid a hypothetical.

And a legitimate one.

If, however, you'd been my history teacher and kept banging on about Mohammed at every opportunity, then yes, I might just ask you a few questions to get you going so that me and the rest of the class can take a break from studying the stuff that really matters and that we're gonna be graded on.

And that’s another way to avoid a hypothetical.

I think the analogy I drew is pretty clear to anyone who wants to see it.

In truth, and going over the transcript, Mr. P. was pretty balanced if very self contradictory, but that's the nature of a transcript of spontaneous conversation I guess. I wouldn't say he was actually being intolerant in terms of his religious beliefs towards the students in that classIt's just that he was balanced about a load of complete bollocks! It had no place in the class.

If we sued everybody who taught stuff that that had no place in class, our court system might be three times busier than it is.

Are you sure that's the principle you wish to stand upon?

Putting words in my mouth again. I have not suggested that we sue anyone. (Is Mr. P being sued?) I have addressed the general issue of irelevant material being introduced in class above.

Then add the very dodgy political stuff about what the state is doing to public education and you've got a teacher, a public employee, trying to sell a political ideology and using religion as a vehicle. Precisely, exactly, what I have always said I was worried about.

Would you be tolerant if I introduced the subject of phrenology to a class with your kids in it, acknowl[e]dging that it was a rather old fashioned practice, much maligned but that whether you agreed or disagreed with it, it was remarkably successful at identifying people who were likely to commit crimes.

If it was discernibly your opinion (and not a point of instruction) that phrenology was remarkably successful at identifying likely criminals, then yes I would tolerate it. And I might contribute my own opinion to the mix as well.

Well, that's is why the curriculum is written down. If you and I want to discuss something at length which is not part of the curriculum then I suggest we do it at recess. Now, back to work.

I hate to break it to you but if you don't beleive in god, there is no problem of evil.

Sure there is. If you think there’s evil, there’s a problem (of evil). If you deny that there is evil, then you have some explaining to do.

The existence of evil is a problem for every worldview (even if the worldview is bent on denying evil).

The Abrahamic religions just happen to have a particular view of the problem—and a student asked about that view.

Key word here is "if". I don't think there is Evil. Just like I don't think there is god. Have I not said this already? Evil is only necessary if you think that there is some grand design behind everything. I happen to think that there is nothing to suggest that the universe is anything other than entirely dispassionate. Can people do things which we would describe as evil? Possibly, but other words are probably better and more accurate descriptions of the bad things that people sometimes do. Mao Zedong was arguably responsible for the deaths of more human beings than any other historical figure. Was he evil? I don't think so. Merciless, uncaring, selfish, dishonest, manipulative, cowardly, incompetent etc. could all be used to describe Mao. I don't find it necessary to invoke the concept of evil, and all the baggage it entails, to account for anything in recorded human history.

Nature too can be very cruel as it appears to our anthropomorphizing selves. Natural disasters kill millions, but this only poses a problem for theists who wonder about the purpose behind it all. For me, there is no purpose where nature is concerned. It just is the way it is. Is it fair? I really think in asking that question we are trying to apply human concepts to nature which is as oblivious to our existence as you are to the microbes which inhabit your gut.

As far as the human world is concerned then we should all just try to be nicer to each other.

The problem of evil only exists if you choose to believe in god. Did that get a mention?

It’s not true, so why should it warrant a mention? If you asked me about how talkie films are made how much time should I spend telling you about silent movies?

Well, I've tried to state a case for it being true above. Simply asserting that it is not true is missing my point. As to the talkies, yes, I think it would be entirely reasonable for you to mention silent movies, its relevant. Talkies were a development of silent movies and the techniques of silent movies informed the early talking movies. Maybe I'm just singin' in the rain though.

Really? Why does he allow atheists to live even for a little while?

Oh, dunno really. Freewill is usually dragged into it. I prefer to ignore the question because it is pointless.

It’s not pointless if you’re going around proclaiming god’s intolerance, from what I can tell. If you think god is intolerant then it seems like you should have some good way of explaining away what looks like tolerance.

Of course it's a pointless question. Why does Allah allow christians to live for even a little while? Why does Shiva allow a non-Hindu to stay alive? God is not tolerant, as he is conceived to be by any Abrahamic religion. God is Jealous, and proud of it (Exodus 34:14). Can you square tolerance with jealousy?

Would you care to give examples of the errors in Dawkins' quotation.

Sure. I’ve set that portion aside and I’ll start a new thread on it—probably during the coming week.

Good oh! Look forward to it.

Now, would anyone really want that sort of God in their classroom?

A tolerant person might.

Well, we might debate how far tolerance ought to go. Clearly there are limits, I guess that yours are different from mine and guided by an adherance to theism. Mine are guided by humansism. Frankly, I find much of the bible quite horrendous in terms of its description of human behaviour. I would rather keep my kids well away from it until they can cope with Hannibal Lecter stories.

I'd rather take the risk of having a convicted sex-offender teach my kids. You're not speaking about tolerance in any sensible way here. Where does tolerance have to give way to self-preservation? I don't want my kids to be smited (smote? smitten?) just because they're Egyptian! Good grief!

Are your kids really Egyptian?

Anyway, if you go back and check the Bible, you’ll see that it wasn’t just Egyptian kids, and it wasn’t because of their particular identity as Egyptians. Israelites who failed to take proper steps were in line for smiting, also (livestock were in on the deal, also. I don’t know if it applied to scorpions, moths, or slugs, however).

Plus there have been millions of Egyptians who lived happily every after under God’s sovereign reign, so it hardly seems fair to predict havoc in the classroom on the basis of one or two incidents. It's like being afraid of flying after reading a collection of plane crash accounts.

Of course they're not really Egyptian. I was refering to the ten plagues of course. What an appalling story. Aaron wandering about with his rod turning rivers into blood and summoning up frogs, lice and locusts. God meanwhile "hardening the heart of Pharoh". Poor old Pharoh, he never stood a chance, even if he had wanted to let the Israelites go, I think he did try relenting at one point, then god just hardened his heart some more so that he could show off with a few more plagues. Where was freewill in Pharoh's predicament?

Seriously, if I wanted to find the victims in this apalling story then it would be the egyptians. That was my point. Oh and there is no mention of any Israelites, or their livestock, copping it at all. Only the Egyptians. Yes, I've checked. I'd say that it was a literary opportunity missed, in fact, it would have been very salutory for a couple of Israelites to have forgotten to observe some minor detail of the passover ritual and gotten their firstborns smitten. No mention of it.

I cannot say what Matthew wanted when he started this. What he obtained was a healthy debate, much of it public, arguably sturdy and rational, and a settlement which reinforced the principle that religious dogma should not be a vehicle for teaching. I am sure that religious dogma itself may still be studied in government-run schools, in the same way that political dogmas are studied. Things like fascism for instance.

Anti-semitism is an alternative viewpoint, just because it is does not mean that its espousal by an employee of the government should be condoned.

If we tighten up the analogy to what Paszkiewicz said, then we could reason that anti-semitism should not be mentioned in school.

So much for learning all about WW2 Germany.

Nope, already covered that. I have said that its okay to learn about religious beliefs and systems, just as it is fine to learn about political systems. This is about teaching things through a religious system. using a religious perspective as a vehicle for teaching histroy or science. Your reasoning begs the facts.

How so?

As is pretty clear, the facts are that I have said that you can, if you so wish, teach students about fascism, ant-semitism and religion. Teaching anything through any particular belief system is what I have a problem with.

Talked to him already. He listened and responded with a very clear exposition on the need for a workaday "truth" vs a philosophical "truth". He's a lawyer, I not only see his point, but I made it to you when you asked if I could prove I was intelligent.

You mean when you pretended not to have any idea what I meant but considered a libel action? I can’t not laugh at that.

You asked me if I could scientifically prove that I was intelligent. I simply repeated my position that there is no such thing as a scientific proof and that, anyway, your term "intelligent" was imprecise. Is a cat more intelligent than a flatworm? Is a cat intelligent? You see the problem? Clearly, anybody who were to suggest that a cat be made the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, would be marched off to the funny farm (unless it had been Schrodinger's idea). In the absence of any scientific proof and any decent definition of the term "intelligent", I suggested that we might try a court of law. At no time did I seriously consider an actual libel action. It was a vehicle for my argument.

Paul’s position allows him to eat his cake and have it. Science is allowed to use “workaday” language that resembles the language of absolutes. Others receive no such consideration. It’s not a principled position to take. You don’t use “workaday” terms where they can easily be mistaken for non-“workaday” terms. And that will happen unless a balanced teaching on epistemology and philosophy of science takes place.

It’s just Paul’s excuse for teaching the present (unknown) errors of science as fact.

I cannot say precisely what Paul's position is and what it does or does not allow him to eat. His point, to me, was not about science using "workaday" language but about arriving at a workeable everyday position on matters of science in the absence of any hard philosophical "proof". I do quite agree with you Bryan, when you say that balanced teaching of epistomolgy and philosophy of science is necessary. I would suggest that the International Baccalaureate course called Theory of Knowledge is a good start. It is suitable for high school students and can be a lot of fun if you don't let it get bogged down with too much Nietsche.

Pity. Can I come and work in New Jersey? I think you need me.

What good would you do me in New Jersey?

I could shine your shoes massah?

Omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, I mean just omni everything. What more do you need for god to be considered complete? Omnichromatic? Omniverous? Nah, maybe not, he only eats children in the Bible.

The omni attributes are infinities, are they not? How is an infinity complete?

Almost by definition. The set of real numbers is infinite, is it not. Is there a real number which is not part of the set? No? Then it is complete. That's why it is infinite, so as to be complete.

Of course I've misapplied Godel's theorem!!! It only works with mathematics. Sheesh. But, God is everything, he created everything, including mathematics. You see where I'm heading don't you? Okay, nuff said.

No, I don’t see where you’re going. Not if you’re going to say you’re misapplying the theorem while at the same time implying non-mathematical consequences for it.

What relevant mathematical consequences do you suggest for the theorem, appropriate to our context?

Okay, Godel showed that any axiomatic (mathematical) system is necessarily either incomplete or inconsistent. Religion is a (non-mathematical) axiomatic system according to which God created everything, including mathematics.

Where I was heading, is that by analogy with mathematics, one could argue that any religious system which incorporates the creation of mathematics, is also either incomplete or inconsistent.

My point was, and you missed it by a staggering margin. Religion is a matter of faith, not reason. Choose.

Non sequitur.

If Godel’s theorem rules out proof of god it apparently rules out proof of everything. You cannot reason without faith—and you would know this having specialized in epistemology.

Reason and religion are both matters of faith.

If you mean that you need a starting point, an axiom before either can get off the ground then yes, there is an extent to which you could describe both as matters of faith. I would prefer to say that they are both axiomatic. Faith, belief, assumptions are all different words and the sense in which faith is usually used in a religious context is different to the sense in which it might be used in a deabte on reason. Religion relies on a particular non-negotiable axiom. Reason however, allows us to discard axioms and substitute alternatives as we wish. Religion does not do that, it's principle axiom, the existence of God is untouchable, dare I say sacred. This is why religion is dogmatic and reason is not.

How have I used philosophy as a substitute for science? With regard to what exactly?

You were asked for an answer in terms of science, and you answered in terms of philosophy (“How would you scientifically prove that you are intelligent?”). That’s how.

As I have said already, I do not consider there to be such a thing as a scientific "proof". So, when asked to perform the impossible I attempted the improbable instead. I also, in your sense of the word "substitute" offered a legal alternative to answering your question. Do you think that I would use a law court as a "substitute" for science? Heck, that would be great, we could make life so much simpler for ourselves if we just decided that from now on pi was going to be 3.

I have talked about the philosophy OF science, is that what is confusing you?

Your question has a false premise. I am not confused. I simply have a better recollection of the question that I asked than you apparently possess.

Appearances can be deceptive. But a false premise very well spotted. Dang, I really thought I'd be able to sneak that one past you, you sly old dog.

I did not assume that an argument for existence was an argument for intelligence, in fact I took pains to point out the distinction.

I don’t see why you took pains to make that distinction, given that I asked you for your notion of a scientific demonstration of your intelligence, not a scientific demonstration of your existence.

And you didn't say what you meant by "intelligence". Okay, look here's a drawing of a box, take it. Inside is a scientific proof of my intelligence (along with a rather hungry sheep).

Look, Bryan, if you aren't going to read this stuff properly then I'm gonna stop writing it.

Sorry, but I’m not smart enough to be able to figure out how to read “Cogito ergo sum” as a scientific justification of intelligence.

Well, I am smart enough to be able to figure it out. I said, however, that the proof only works for me - you don't know that I think, I could be an AI sent to test you. For me then, it works like this. I need to make an observation and then draw a conclusion from it. That scientific enough for you? Okay, so I oberve that I think, and then conclude from that observation that I exist. That means that I have some measure of intelligence, at least as far as Im concerned. Probably puts me somewhere above a flatworm on the intelligence scale but, you didn't ask my to prove how intelligent I was, only that I was intelligent. Now, it's no proof, I might wake up tomorrow and be told by my programmer that I really am an AI pre-programmed with Descartes, but it is, a scientific justification of my intelligence. Anything else you need help with?

So you admit the problem.

You can hardly devise a test for something you can't define. But at least you can claim that it isn't necessary in order for complexity to result.

Whatever it is.

Nope, it was a test for something you didn't define.

So you admit I admit the problem. Thank you. Sheesh, this is like pulling teeth!

So you regret the digression into Descartes when you were asked about intelligence and not existence?

One imagines that you prepare to pull teeth by using super glue to connect thousands of tiny ball-bearings into a set of pliers, then making your approach to the oral cavity via the esophagus.

Why would I regret something that is a perfectly adequate solution to the rather imprecise, not to say impossible problem you posed. If you're not happy with it then I suggest you restate the problem with a little more precision.

Look, you asked the question: "How would you scientifically prove that you are intelligent?" and I asked you to define your terms. What do you mean by "intelligent", I haven't the foggiest notion what you mean by the word.

Then why would you think of suing me for libel if I called you “unintelligent”? It doesn’t make a lick of sense.

My whole point, as a matter of fact, is that you’ll have trouble developing any coherent concept of intelligence based on empiricism. This was one of C. S. Lewis’ most notable arguments, described at length in “The Abolition of Man.”

It makes perfect sense in the absence, by your own admission, of the trouble with developing any coherent concept of intelligrence based on empiricism. Knowing this, why would you ask me to use empiricism to prove I am intelligent? You now seem to be attacking me in my attempt to offer some alternative for something that you yourself admit to be fraught with difficulty.

Pardon me if I don’t help you out of your problem by defining “intelligence” for you. Grab a dictionary and see if you can make use of any of the standard definitions. Or come up with one of your own.

Pardon denied. It's not my problem. It's your question. You asked me to scientifically proove that I am intelligent. I probably can't do that at all really, not to you, and certainly not until you tell me what you mean by the word. It's a bit like being asked to dig your own grave before execution. No way! You dig the bloody thing, what you gonna do? Kill me?

I have proved to myself I exist so by some measure I must have some intelligence. But I haven't proved that to you, as far as you're concerned I could be a "we" or an "it" or a "Him". So, lets turn it around shall we, what do you think Bryan? Do you think I am intelligent? Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.

I think you’re still using philosophy to justify your intelligence (whatever you mean by the term—it’s hard to tell given your claim that you have no idea what it means).

Philosophy, recourse to the courts, hey, lets try democracy, we could get people to vote on it! Bryan, I don't need to prove my intelligence to you. It is as legitimate and uninteresting for me to ask you to prove your faith.

Why would I need to prove my intelligence. That's the relevance.

You objected to non-scientific concepts in science class. Is intelligence a scientific concept? You seem to have trouble establishing it as such. Philosophy of science is a non-scientific concept, as such, for it resists its own tests. Would you bar philosophy of science from science class as non-scientific? How can we tell kids that the purpose of science is to expand knowledge (or even that it works to expand knowledge)? That concept doesn't belong in the science classroom, does it?

Now we are getting somewhere. Right, is artistic ability a scientific concept? Any other human attribute of the mind for that matter. Intelligence is simply defined as a mental ability, the power of learning and understanding. According to my much thumbed Oxford Paperback dictionary. Is that a scientific concept? Well, the presence of intelligence in an organism is testable according to that definition, we simply have to prove that an organism has learned something, that then would be evidence that the organism had some measure of intelligence, the measure being a function of what it was that had been learned, to a degree. But is the concept of intelligence itself scientific. Nope, I don't think it is according to that definition.

Need a better definition. That, I believe is your job.

As to philosophy of science's place in the science classroom, then yes it has a place because your assertion that the philosophy of science is not scientific therefore has no place is based upon the false premise that all things non-scientific should be barred from the science curriculum. Cosmology is often taught from a historical perspective for example, it is common to begin with the geocentric ptolomeic cosmos (yep, very empirical and scientific) and then do the whole copernican revolution and Galileo. Any science teacher who glosses over the cultural and religious difficulties that the copernican cosmology faced and fails to make mention of the role of the catholic church in that debate is neither doing justice to the subject matter nor to Galileo. I think it was 1984 when Pope John Paul finally apologised to Galileo. Could be wrong about the date though.

Sorry, it was your question, you didn't define your terms, so don't expect me to do it for you.

You failed to define roughly 17 terms in your question above—how can I possibly acknowledge your statement (if such it was)?

We don't have to define absolutely everything as we go along Bryan, but when you ask me to prove that I am a certain thing, intelligent in this case, I think you have an obligation to state precisely what it is you mean by that thing. I can't do something if you do not tell me exactly what it is you want me to do, or if, in failing to define precisely what it is you want me to do, complain when I go off and do something a little bit different to what you had intended. If you ask me to paint a rather shabby looking whitewashed wall and come back to find I have painted it in mauve, then it's your fault for not telling me what colour you wanted when you asked me to redecorate.

You’re bragging about the grand job you did in this reply after trotting out a thin dodge like that? Truly priceless.

Take the tack of proving that I can’t prove that you can’t demonstrate intelligence by pretending that you don’t have any idea what the term means. Brilliant.

Brag? Me, never. I am a very humble soul of, how did I put it? Oh yes, "meagre intelligence". Such hubris.

My point about the shellfish was this. Laws based upon religious belief are creeping in to our lives.

Would you mind defining “religious belief”?

Because it has long been a thorny problem to derive morality from an “is” and all (prescriptive) laws presuppose morality.

In short, it seems reasonable to offer you a burden of proof for demonstrating the existence of non-religious morality. Hence the need for a definition.

Religious belief is any belief that is theistic or supernatural in origin. For me, for now. I might have to get back to you after I've thought about Buddhism a bit more.

Homosexuality is pretty much okay at the moment, disregarding a few states and nations that still obsess about what two consenting adults do with their genitalia (I mean, who cares for crying out loud, let em dip their willies in chocolate sauce and dance naked to Abba hits - woe betide any teacher who talks about this in class though!). What I do not understand is how religious principles can inform the law in a country that seperates church from state. That was my point about the Malaysian issue. Once you start letting religious tenets inform the law then pretty much anything is fair game. As I said the Bible is pretty far ranging in it's list of "don'ts", including the eating of shellfish.

I don’t see what’s wrong with a law against eating shellfish if everything is meaningless.

Know what I’m saying?

I didn't say "everything is meaningless", if I did then I recant immediately! I said that there was no grand purpose or design, no great meaning to existence. Of course everything isn't meaningless. If, through my acts of comission or omission, people suffer then that has a great deal of meaning. Especially for the ones doing the suffering, and when they turn up on my doorstep to complain then I have a moral obligation to listen and amend my ways.

I’ve reached the arbitrary stopping point. More later.

You haven't found any fallacies in these first two segments. All of that must be in the remainder. Right?

Phew, yeah, me too. A number of fallacies above actually, but don't get too hung up on it. Yes, there were more in the rest of the post too.

I'm really disappointed you didn't pick up on the Santa dialogue, I spent ages on that!

Pip pip,

Gavin

P.S. As I finish this, I am listening to a BBC piece on a teaching assistant from the UK who was reprimanded by her school for refusing to allow a primary school child to read from a Harry Potter book. She cited her christian beliefs as being in conflict with the work of fiction and that her beliefs should not be compromised by having to listen to the material. I don't know exactly how germaine this is to the thread in question other than the point that religion ought to be kept out of the classroom. (Except as study material, of course)

I wonder if the same TA would have taken similar exception to a recital from A Midummers Night's Dream.

All that verbal diarrhea and you've said nothing.

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Hullo again Bryan, sorry for the weeks silence but I have been away for a while visiting some friends in Bangkok.  I see you've missed me, how sweet.

You're special among the sea of anonymous guests, whoever you are. ;)

Now, to business.

I'm not sure I "owe" any further explanation at all

Are you Gavin?

You answered my question about parsimony by happily accepting "nothing" as the cause of the universe based on the formation of quantum particles.

Yes, you own me an explanation as to why "nothing" isn't always the most parsimonious explanation.

Your current reply reinforced that, since you emphasized even more strongly how having something popping out of nothing is not so much a problem for science. That offers a great segue for you to answer one or more of the questions you dodged.

No, seriously, that statement is just an example of the sort of tactics you employ.

zzz.

I did, in fact, clarify my assertion that it was something the Mr P did say rather than something he didn't say. I cited Mr. P's intention of adminsitering corporal punishment in response to a son's refusal to go to church. So, no, I did not refuse to clarify.

I've addressed that argument. It might have some emotional appeal on that side of the pond, but on this side corporal punishment remains acceptable to a strong majority. Nor is it against the law to administer or threaten corporal punishment except in extreme instances (that may be changing in California, which is kind of like an honorary France minus nearly all of the latter's nuclear power plants).

You end up with a weak appeal to outrage.

<moving to supposed examples of Paszkiewicz contradicting himself>

"Teacher: The scriptures are at the foundation of the world's

religions. The world's main religions, anyway. Religion is a set way

of doing things. For example if you take Christian faiths, right, you

have many varieties; there's Roman Catholicism, the Methodists, the

[...?], the Baptists, who differ on church government, things like

that but [..LaClair moving about...?] book - the Bible. We should be

able to bring that into the classroom, read it, and shouldn't be

threatened by anybody."

(my emphasis)

then

"Teacher: You know, it's up to you to reason it out, and the outcome is

your perogative. But the way I see it is this: he's done everything in

his power, so much so, that he went to a cross that I should've been -

it was my sin, he was innocent! But you saw the Mel Gibson portrayal?

That was pretty accurate, when you read history, the flesh being

beaten off of his back. God himself sent his only son to die for days

(???)...on the cross. That's the idea. And if I reject that, then it

really is, then to Hell with me. I created you, I ..."

So, no threats there eh?  Yes, I know he was referring initially to people not feeling threatened if they bring the bible into the classroom but his introduction of the threat of damnation if you don't accept salvation contradicts his previous statement.

:lol:

You even admit to changing the context but you don't see that your claim of contradiction is sunk by that move.

A contradiction occurs when something is said to be both X and ~X at the same time and in the same sense. You've admitted that another sense was in play--and as a result you failed to point out a contradiction. Good thing you've promised "a few"--maybe you won't blow it next time.

At this point I should say that my position on what went on in Mr. P's class has changed a little after being told that he did, at some point, say to at least one student "You belong in Hell."  Now, I have not seen or heard this myself but if it is indeed true then I withdraw my previous comments that Mr. P was "pretty balanced".  I am now more inclined to the opinion that he is a bully who abused his position.

The LaClairs have offered no plausible evidence that Paszkiewicz directed "You belong in Hell" at a student or group of students. More on that later.

More contradictions here, "the teachers that you're

exposed to from kindergarten through 12th grade, never once will you

see them crack open a Bible, never once will you hear them quote it,

never once hear a prayer uttered from their lips.

and then he goes on.."Teacher: But uh, Moses writes in 1440 BC. Most of you have probably read that first chapter of Genesis: In the beginning God created the

Heavens and the Earth"

Seems like he's quoting from the bible.  (The whole tirade about "you surrender your kid to the state from preschool on through 12th grade" is just dripping with bias. - I was apalled)

That's contradictory if you insist on making Paszkiewicz's earlier statement an absolute. Given that he plainly knows that he quotes from the Bible, it makes more sense to suppose that he was generalizing.

That's not a plausible contradiction claim you're making.

how about this: "Alexander the Great comes

down the scene of history. He's not a military guy, he's a soldier."

That's best explained as being either a slip of the tongue or an error in the Dranger transcript (just checked: the audio confirms the Dranger transcript).

Okay, that's a contradiction, but an utterly unimportant one unless Paszkiewicz was intentionally conveying the idea that Alexander was a soldier who wasn't a military guy. I think that's a long shot.

or this:

"Teacher: Yeah, for 6 days, there was only him and man.

LaClaire: Him and man. Ok -

Teacher: As far as life on Earth, I mean you do have angelic teams,

and things like that..."

only him and man or only him, man and the angelic host?

Taking a clarification as a contradiction seems a bit picky, don't you think? You seem to have seized on uncharitable interpretation as your key to success.

So, contradictions. But, lets not dissect Mr. P's classroom polemics any further, the matter is settled and the debate should move on.

Again, the decision of the BoE settled absolutely nothing regarding matters of fact. Neither did it decide whether or not Paszkiewicz spoke appropriately.

I don't think that the NJ teacher went on at length about his personal beliefs in a manner that failed to contribute to productive discussion.

You may well not think so, I do think so.  So, I understand, did the BOE.

The BoE declined to admit any wrongdoing whatsoever on their end of the settlement.

But I guess you can always interpret that as an admission that they were wrong.

And the importance of that would be …?

Would be that it is not unreasonable to assume that from the transcript I read that this was certainly not the first time that Mr. P. had allowed his lesson to become hijacked.

It would, as a matter of fact, be unreasonable to assume that this was not the first time that Mr. P. had allowed his lesson to become hijacked, at least in any sense relevant to the issue.

It might be reasonable to suspect that it had happenend, but it would be unreasonable to make the assumption.

You're supposed to know something about epistemology, aren't you?

It was a History class, on populism right? The objective of the lesson was completely forgotten in the face of Mr. P's desire to explain his own personal views on religion. Now, it does happen, you get a teacher onto a pet topic and off she or he goes. It's not very laud[a]ble but it does happen. If it happens repeatedly however then it becomes a cause for concern. Which is what happened in this case. That's the importance Bryan.

You're saying that it happened repeatedly in this case based on the earlier assumption? Or no?

It is also possible that the additional material will sidetrack and obscure the argument, especially when the additional material consists of insult.

I believe I touched on that possibility.

Yes, insult does frequently accompany argumentation, however, it adds nothing to the argument itself.

So what? Your contention was that the argument was weakened.

Insult, and I love a well crafted one, can be amusing or it can demean both the sender and the recipient. It's a fine line sometimes, but the person who is first to throw an insult then becomes fair game for a riposte. Take one of my favourites.

Nancy Astor:"Winston, if I was your wife I would put poison in your coffee."

Winston Churchill: "Nancy, if I were your husband, I would drink it."

Bit better than "You're an idiot" eh?

Not for my purposes, it wasn't. :)

I retract this, based on personal communication, I have it on reliable authority that Mr. P did in fact tell at least one student that "You belong in Hell".

The Dranger transcript does have quite a few flaws. LaClair probably refers to his exchange:

Student 2: Isn't there, like, the whole thing about going to heaven

and hell, isn't there - I forget what the name of the place is...

LaClaire: Purgatory.

Student 2: Where there's a place where you go beforehand to like,

Student 3: ...a second chance...

Student 2: Yeah, like that would be your second chance.

Teacher: See, I don't mean to step on anybody's toes; I know a lot of

you believe in purgatory; I don't.

Student 4: Neither do I.

Teacher: I believe that it's one or the other, Heaven or Hell, but

this is the answer to your question - and I believe that because

there's no mention in Genesis through Revalations of a place called

Purgatory - but this is the issue: God is not only for

(love??inaudible) the way he describes himself in the scriptures, he

is also completely just. He did everything in his power to make sure

that you could go to Heaven, so much so, that he put your sin on his

own body, suffered your pains for you, and he's saying "Please, accept

me, believe!" You're a (???), you belong here.

http://www.dranger.com/classtranscript.html

This line

You're a (???), you belong here.

Should read like this:

If you reject that, you belong in hell.

(don't ask me how Dranger got his version, though the audio isn't the clearest in the world)

I am doubtful that in this context Paszkiewicz directed the comment to any particular student. The conversation remains on the subject of the Christian solution to the problem of evil, and in the immediate context Paszkiewicz emphasizes one of the key points of that view: The idea of perfect justice.

Paul LaClair doesn't agree with that idea, but it doesn't excuse his penchant for suggesting that Paszkiewicz directly told students that they deserved to go to hell.

He just didn't say this in the transcript I read. In any event, my initial point stands.

Your point about threatening corporal punishment on his son? Or something else equally earth-shaking?

Well, that's like saying that apartheid is not such a big deal in South African culture.

Great move by me if you're a moral relativist. If you're not, then who bears the burden of proof for establishing that corporal punishment is objectively outrageous?

Me?

:)

Corporal punishment is vile. Lets debate that.

You want me to start?

;)

And a legitimate one.

No more legitimate than dodging it by ignoring it.

A legitimate avoidance explains how the hypothetical is inapplicable without getting mired in fallacious reasoning. "I wouldn't ask you" falls considerably short in that respect.

I think the analogy I drew is pretty clear to anyone who wants to see it.

Your analogy is perfectly clear to me. That doesn't change the fact that you're using it as a dodge (red herring) of my hypothetical.

Putting words in my mouth again.

I've put no words in your mouth at all, let along "again." You clearly outlined your objection as being that what he said was "bollocks" and had "no place in the class."

How would my asking you if that's the principle you wish to rest on succeed in putting words in your mouth?

I have not suggested that we sue anyone. (Is Mr. P being sued?)

I didn't suggest that you suggested that somebody get sued. I simply outlined a (likely) potential result of applying your principle evenly across the board in the United States.

Paszkiewicz was named in the lawsuit threatened by the LaClairs, along with other school officials and the BoE.

Paul can send you a copy of the notice of claim, I'm sure.

I have addressed the general issue of irelevant material being introduced in class above.

Are you sure that's the principle you wish to rest upon--oops, did I put words in your mouth again?

Well, that's is why the curriculum is written down. If you and I want to discuss something at length which is not part of the curriculum then I suggest we do it at recess. Now, back to work.

Hey, if you suggest it then it must be a universal rule. ;)

Sure there is. If you think there’s evil, there’s a problem (of evil). If you deny that there is evil, then you have some explaining to do.

The existence of evil is a problem for every worldview (even if the worldview is bent on denying evil).

The Abrahamic religions just happen to have a particular view of the problem—and a student asked about that view.

Key word here is "if".  I don't think there is Evil.

Why the capitalization? Are you preparing to equivocate? You seem to have skipped one of the key words, BTW (the second "if").

Look, Gavin, if you don't think there is evil, then you can't accuse Paszkiewicz of having done wrong without contradicting yourself--and it wouldn't just be a slip of the tongue, either. It would be the sort of contradiction that makes your worldview untenable as you describe it.

Just like I don't think there is god. Have I not said this already? Evil is only necessary if you think that there is some grand design behind everything.

Evil is necessary if you believe in prescriptive morality, period (in that you must account for your belief). If there is no evil then there is no point or purpose in mentioning or discussing morality. Any objection you might have against Paszkiewicz melts to an expression of personal taste. And why is your personal taste preferable to that of anybody else?

I happen to think that there is nothing to suggest that the universe is anything other than entirely dispassionate. Can people do things which we would describe as evil? Possibly, but other words are probably better and more accurate descriptions of the bad things that people sometimes do. Mao Zedong was arguably responsible for the deaths of more human beings than any other historical figure. Was he evil? I don't think so. Merciless, uncaring, selfish, dishonest, manipulative, cowardly, incompetent etc. could all be used to describe Mao. I don't find it necessary to invoke the concept of evil, and all the baggage it entails, to account for anything in recorded human history.

Okay, so nothing really wrong with what Mao did. Likewise, Paszkiewicz should be off the hook for any blame.

Shall I expect you to back off the "Evil" caricature, now?

As far as the human world is concerned then we should all just try to be nicer to each other.

:lol:

Who says? That's just your opinion, no better or worse than that of the guy who thinks that everybody who disagrees with him ought to die.

I do love it when atheists get around to talking morality at the philosophical level.

Well, I've tried to state a case for it being true above.

You appear to have contradicted yourself, and I predict the appearance will get worse before it gets better unless you alter one of your expressed positions.

Simply asserting that it is not true is missing my point.

So a false statement could be relevant in addressing a student's question? You can explain that concept, I hope?

As to the talkies, yes, I think it would be entirely reasonable for you to mention silent movies, its relevant. Talkies were a development of silent movies and the techniques of silent movies informed the early talking movies. Maybe I'm just singin' in the rain though.

Yes, you are. It's not necessary at all to mention silent movies as part of an explanation of how talkies are made. You introduced the history of talking pictures to establish a rather tenuous link that isn't likely to have an analog in the current situation.

Of course it's a pointless question. Why does Allah allow christians to live for even a little while?

Because he's tolerant. Oops! I wasn't supposed to say that, was I?

Why does Shiva allow a non-Hindu to stay alive? God is not tolerant, as he is conceived to be by any Abrahamic religion. God is Jealous, and proud of it (Exodus 34:14). Can you square tolerance with jealousy?

Why would I need to? Have you demonstrated an incompatibility between the two (beyond the assertion phase)? It seems that I would have an argument equal to yours if I simply contradicted your claim.

Good oh! Look forward to it.

I'll admit I dragged my feet while waiting for you to put in a reappearance. I imagine you may be able to understand.

Well, we might debate how far tolerance ought to go.

We might, and that would play up the vacuity of your argument (not wanting God in the classroom).

Clearly there are limits, I guess that yours are different from mine and guided by an adherance to theism. Mine are guided by humansism. Frankly, I find much of the bible quite horrendous in terms of its description of human behaviour. I would rather keep my kids well away from it until they can cope with Hannibal Lecter stories.

What do you mean by "horrendous"? Is it like moral indignation (like admitting the existence of evil), or is it more like the "horrendous" taste of a black pudding (not that black pudding is evil, of course)?

Of course they're not really Egyptian. I was refering to the ten plagues of course. What an appalling story.

Well, it's not like God would have been wrong to kill all those people, in your view. No evil, right? It can't be that appalling to you.

Aaron wandering about with his rod turning rivers into blood and summoning up frogs, lice and locusts. God meanwhile "hardening the heart of Pharoh". Poor old Pharoh, he never stood a chance, even if he had wanted to let the Israelites go, I think he did try relenting at one point, then god just hardened his heart some more so that he could show off with a few more plagues. Where was freewill in Pharoh's predicament?

Having trouble staying on-topic, eh?

Free will is not absolute. Nobody seriously argues otherwise. I can't decide to fly to Smolensk and back over the weekend by flapping my arms. Pharaoh hardened his own heart a few times, and God hardened it a few times. I'd suggest, at least, that when Pharaoh hardened his own heart he was exercising free will.

Looks like you'll need another tack for that tried and true (tired, actually) argument.

Seriously, if I wanted to find the victims in this apalling story then it would be the egyptians. That was my point. Oh and there is no mention of any Israelites, or their livestock, copping it at all. Only the Egyptians. Yes, I've checked.

So you've got an ingenious argument from silence, do you?

http://wiki.cotch.net/index.php/Argument_from_Silence

You're not very good at this. But at least you put the effort in.

As is pretty clear, the facts are that I have said that you can, if you so wish, teach students about fascism, ant-semitism and religion. Teaching anything through any particular belief system is what I have a problem with.

And your personal tastes count extra or something? How do you draw the line between teaching "about" something and teaching "through" something?

You asked me if I could scientifically prove that I was intelligent. I simply repeated my position that there is no such thing as a scientific proof and that, anyway, your term "intelligent" was imprecise.

I've rephrased the question to assist your understanding of what was asked. There is no my term "intelligent" as if I have some secret idea in mind that makes my question a mystery.

Let's see how long you keep up the dodging.

Is a cat more intelligent than a flatworm? Is a cat intelligent? You see the problem?

It is the problem I'm offering to you, after all. :)

How long does it take for you to answer the question, anyway?

Clearly, anybody who were to suggest that a cat be made the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, would be marched off to the funny farm (unless it had been Schrodinger's idea). In the absence of any scientific proof and any decent definition of the term "intelligent", I suggested that we might try a court of law.

Court of law. Noted.

At no time did I seriously consider an actual libel action. It was a vehicle for my argument.

It was a vehicle that carried you into an inconsistency (at least as bad as anything you pointed out on Paszkiewicz's part).

I cannot say precisely what Paul's position is and what it does or does not allow him to eat. His point, to me, was not about science using "workaday" language but about arriving at a workeable everyday position on matters of science in the absence of any hard philosophical.

He got you to appear to have a more substantial agreement with him by using words that recalled one of his earlier (pathetic) arguments.

I do quite agree with you Bryan ...

Cool. Paul agreed on that point, also, but he's less likely to know what he was agreeing to.

What good would you do me in New Jersey?

I could shine your shoes massah?

What would my shoes be doing in New Jersey?

Would you pay the postage? :)

The set of real numbers is infinite, is it not. Is there a real number which is not part of the set? No? Then it is complete.

Complete? Or just encompassing all real numbers?

Couching an argument in ambiguity is handy, isn't it?

It frequently ends up in a fallacy of ambiguity.

That's why it is infinite, so as to be complete.

So that's the reason why there's an infinite number of real numbers. I had wondered about that. Thanks for clearing it up. :)

Godel showed that any axiomatic (mathematical) system is necessarily either incomplete or inconsistent. Religion is a (non-mathematical) axiomatic system according to which God created everything, including mathematics.

Where I was heading, is that by analogy with mathematics, one could argue that any religious system which incorporates the creation of mathematics, is also either incomplete or inconsistent.

If you're arguing merely by analogy then you don't need to mention the creation of mathematics. But you need to make the analogy fit somehow. I don't see it yet. It seems to me that God need not be considered complete because of infinitude, and the whole of creation need not offer proof of itself.

Think about Hilbert's Hotel, and how there seems to be adequate room in infinity for an infinite number of proofs. I don't think Godel's theorem works on an infinity.

If you mean that you need a starting point, an axiom before either can get off the ground then yes, there is an extent to which you could describe both as matters of faith. I would prefer to say that they are both axiomatic. Faith, belief, assumptions are all different words and the sense in which faith is usually used in a religious context is different to the sense in which it might be used in a deabte on reason.

The Bible itself uses "faith" as a stand-in for trust on a consistent basis. The famous "faith" honor roll in Hebrews predominantly features characters who had good reason to expect a given outcome according to the Bible accounts.

Kierkegaard seems to have had a different idea of faith, and that tends to be closer to the one attributed to religions and the religious today.

Religion relies on a particular non-negotiable axiom. Reason however, allows us to discard axioms and substitute alternatives as we wish.

No, it doesn't. Tell me how you would reason without faith in the accuracy of your sense-data. You can't get away from very basic axioms, and this one is non-negotiable.

Religion does not do that, its principle axiom, the existence of God is untouchable, dare I say sacred.

Reason is equally tied to the reliability of sense-data. Touch that axiom and good-bye reason.

This is why religion is dogmatic and reason is not.

Not that your statement is a dogma (was it a reasonable statement?)...? Or are you prepared to change that axiom?

:)

Bummer if you have to change it, since it kind of spoils what you just spent valuable time arguing, eh?

As I have said already, I do not consider there to be such a thing as a scientific "proof".

Perhaps you should have considered a more "workaday" understanding of the term?

And you didn't say what you meant by "intelligence".

Shall we discuss the number of words you have used while failing to specify what you meant by them?

Okay, look here's a drawing of a box, take it. Inside is a scientific proof of my intelligence (along with a rather hungry sheep).

It'll be interesting to see how you respond to the version of the question I composed to avoid your concerns over deductive scientific "proof."

Sorry, but I’m not smart enough to be able to figure out how to read “Cogito ergo sum” as a scientific justification of intelligence.

Well, I am smart enough to be able to figure it out.  I said, however, that the proof only works for me - you don't know that I think, I could be an AI sent to test you.

Still dodging, I see.

For me then, it works like this. I need to make an observation and then draw a conclusion from it. That scientific enough for you? Okay, so I oberve that I think, and then conclude from that observation that I exist. That means that I have some measure of intelligence, at least as far as Im concerned.

Do you know what you mean by "intelligence" at this point? Or does that come later?

Probably puts me somewhere above a flatworm on the intelligence scale but, you didn't ask my to prove how intelligent I was, only that I was intelligent. Now, it's no proof, I might wake up tomorrow and be told by my programmer that I really am an AI pre-programmed with Descartes, but it is, a scientific justification of my intelligence. Anything else you need help with?

Yeah.

First, how do you get other( scientist)s to repeat and verify your observations? How does the peer review aspect of your self-awareness work?

Second, do you have a method for ruling out the self-awareness of rocks, or do you grant them the benefit of the doubt for their intelligence, also? Do you have a scientific method for drawing a line between intelligent and unintelligent?

Nope, it was a test for something you didn't define.

Still using that as a dodge, eh? One wonders why you haven't asked me to define every single word I've used in conversation with you.

You seem to have settled, as a matter of fact, on self-awareness as the bottom threshold of intelligence. That's a good step for you to take because it can serve to remind you that you aren't stuck with any definition of mine when it comes to your demonstration of intelligence.

Why would I regret something that is a perfectly adequate solution to the rather imprecise, not to say impossible problem you posed.

Because you could have saved time and effort by either saying it was impossible or by asking whether I was keeping you to some specific definition of intelligence. But maybe you've got time to burn so there are no regrets.

In the former case, I'd have moved straight to the issue of having intelligence and knowledge assumed in science class since they do not appear to be scientific concepts.

In the latter case, I'd have explained to you that the question was intended to highlight your difficulty in settling on a coherent notion of intelligence.

That should discourage you, I would think, from coming to me for your definition (I could give you one, but I might install a flaw just to mess with you).

It makes perfect sense in the absence, by your own admission, of the trouble with developing any coherent concept of intelligrence based on empiricism.

Could you restate that in English, please?

Did you mean to say that there is no problem developing a coherent concept of intelligence based on empiricism?

Could you bring my attention to bear on the place where I offered an admission regarding the absence of any difficulty (presupposing that I've rightly guessed your meaning)?

Knowing this, why would you ask me to use empiricism to prove I am intelligent? You now seem to be attacking me in my attempt to offer some alternative for something that you yourself admit to be fraught with difficulty.

Okay, so there is a difficulty rather than an absence of difficulty (slip o' the keyboard, there?).

I asked you to use empiricism to demonstrate intelligence so that I could reasonably attack the allowance of the concept of intelligence in the science classroom. It has no place in the science classroom, apparently. It seems to be what some would call a religious concept.

Perhaps we can dispense with ethics as well--at least with respect to science. It seems to follow, after all, that ethics has no place in the science classroom.

Pardon denied. It's not my problem. It's your question. You asked me to scientifically proove that I am intelligent. I probably can't do that at all really, not to you, and certainly not until you tell me what you mean by the word. It's a bit like being asked to dig your own grave before execution. No way! You dig the bloody thing, what you gonna do? Kill me?

Too late (no, you're not dead!)! You already advanced self-awareness as your bottom threshold for intelligence. You also effectively conceded my point with the question, so there's no need for me to squeeze you on it any longer.

Philosophy, recourse to the courts, hey, lets try democracy, we could get people to vote on it!

You'd allow the courts or a popular vote to decide what gets taught in public school science classrooms? I feel certain that Paul would only go along if the courts and/or the population were doing things his way. ;)

Bryan, I don't need to prove my intelligence to you. It is as legitimate and uninteresting for me to ask you to prove your faith.

You're not proving your intelligence to me, Gavin. You're providing the justification for (some of) those who agree with Paul to allow intelligence as a concept in science classrooms (on principle).

On top of that, I have little reason to increase my confidence in the empiricist's ability to develop a coherent account of intelligence if you refuse to make any case for it.

:)

Now we are getting somewhere. Right, is artistic ability a scientific concept?

Good point. Why are we allowing art instruction in public schools? It's not scientific, so it seems like this might place art in the realm of religion, doesn't it?

Let's join with the LaClairs and form a grand coalition to eliminate art instruction in public schools!

Any other human attribute of the mind for that matter. Intelligence is simply defined as a mental ability, the power of learning and understanding. According to my much thumbed Oxford Paperback dictionary. Is that a scientific concept? Well, the presence of intelligence in an organism is testable according to that definition, we simply have to prove that an organism has learned something, that then would be evidence that the organism had some measure of intelligence, the measure being a function of what it was that had been learned, to a degree.

I don't know about that one. If the universe learned to coalesce into galaxies wouldn't that be evidence of intelligence?

Don't you have to rule out the possibility that the would-be intelligence didn't follow unintelligent natural laws that gave it the mere appearance of intelligence?

It sounds to me as though you're about to let those nutcase ID theorists to get their foot in the door.

But is the concept of intelligence itself scientific. Nope, I don't think it is according to that definition.

Need a better definition. That, I believe is your job.

Why would it be my job? I like it that you can't define intelligence coherently according to your own worldview.

:lol:

Why can't I be satisfied with your assurance that the answer is impossible to give? Or your complaint that you have absolutely no idea what "intelligence" is?

As to philosophy of science's place in the science classroom, then yes it has a place because your assertion that the philosophy of science is not scientific therefore has no place is based upon the false premise that all things non-scientific should be barred from the science curriculum.

Be careful, there. I don't assert that philosophy of science has no place in the science classroom (I've argued explicitly the reverse). I simply point out that for those who object to the presentation of non-scientific material in the science classroom, philosophy of science appears to fail the litmus test.

Cosmology is often taught from a historical perspective for example, it is common to begin with the geocentric ptol[e]m[a]ic cosmos (yep, very empirical and scientific) and then do the whole copernican revolution and Galileo. Any science teacher who glosses over the cultural and religious difficulties that the copernican cosmology faced and fails to make mention of the role of the catholic church in that debate is neither doing justice to the subject matter nor to Galileo. I think it was 1984 when Pope John Paul finally apologised to Galileo. Could be wrong about the date though.

Modern culture and the public schools have done a bang-up job at misrepresenting the Galileo case study. Did you read the thread I linked you to? Did you know that the man who was Pope during Galileo's trial specifically encouraged Galileo's scientific research, including Copernican theory?

How often is it mentioned that Galileo's own observations appeared to contradict a prediction of the Copernican model he was touting as fact (parallax)?

How responsible is it to routinely leave out facts such as those?

But isn't history better if it discourages religion? ;)

Don't worry. I just mean better like pumpkin pie with whipped topping rather than without. I wouldn't suggest that lying is actually evil (you don't think lying is evil, do you?).

We don't have to define absolutely everything as we go along Bryan, but when you ask me to prove that I am a certain thing, intelligent in this case, I think you have an obligation to state precisely what it is you mean by that thing.

I didn't ask you to prove anything, Gavin. I asked you how you would prove it.

Run back and check. I'll wait.

There's room in that question for an answer that falls well short of proof (as with a description of the method you might use, or an "I don't know").

I can't do something if you do not tell me exactly what it is you want me to do, or if, in failing to define precisely what it is you want me to do, complain when I go off and do something a little bit different to what you had intended. If you ask me to paint a rather shabby looking whitewashed wall and come back to find I have painted it in mauve, then it's your fault for not telling me what colour you wanted when you asked me to redecorate.

In this case, you seem to have responded with "Paint? What do you mean by 'paint'?" after which you play tennis by yourself by hitting the ball against the wall repeatedly. I'd have been happy with mauve, and the brush-stroke method was always up to you.

Brag? Me, never. I am a very humble soul of, how did I put it? Oh yes, "meagre intelligence". Such hubris.

Here's how you put it:

Now, lest you should be thinking that I have simply blown you out of the water to try and stifle your opinion, just sit back, consider your position and make an argument for it without rancour or prejudice.

No doubt you very humbly blew me out of the water. ;)

Religious belief is any belief that is theistic or supernatural in origin. For me, for now. I might have to get back to you after I've thought about Buddhism a bit more.

Huh? Doesn't that mean that religious belief is flatly impossible if materialistic determinism is true (since all beliefs would be materialistic in origin)?

I have to assume that you've encountered some difficulty in expressing the idea you mean to communicate (not that I couldn't have failed to pick up on some subtlety or other).

On reflection, if God caused somebody to believe in shoes, that would be a religious belief, too. I have my doubts about this one.

I didn't say "everything is meaningless", if I did then I recant immediately! I said that there was no grand purpose or design, no great meaning to existence.

Only minor meaning to existence, I suppose. Where do you draw the line?

Of course everything isn't meaningless. If, through my acts of co[m]mission or omission, people suffer then that has a great deal of meaning. Especially for the ones doing the suffering, and when they turn up on my doorstep to complain then I have a moral obligation to listen and amend my ways.

I have trouble reconciling the above with your reluctance to term Mao's murders as evil. If great suffering isn't evil, then why attach a great deal of meaning to it? What type of meaning does the suffering have, exactly?

Phew, yeah, me too. A number of fallacies above actually, but don't get too hung up on it. Yes, there were more in the rest of the post too.

I'd like to hear about each and every one, at least in brief if you're terribly busy. Keeps me on my game.

I'm really disappointed you didn't pick up on the Santa dialogue, I spent ages on that!

My apologies. It seemed longish relative to the subject matter you were treating. Didn't even read it (beyond the first couple of lines), I admit. But since you spent time on it, I'll look into it just for the sake of appreciating whatever art you brought to the effort.

P.S. As I finish this, I am listening to a BBC piece on a teaching assistant from the UK who was reprimanded by her school for refusing to allow a primary school child to read from a Harry Potter book. She cited her christian beliefs as being in conflict with the work of fiction and that her beliefs should not be compromised by having to listen to the material. I don't know exactly how germaine this is to the thread in question other than the point that religion ought to be kept out of the classroom. (Except as study material, of course).

You mean the religion inherent in the Harry Potter books or some other religion?

I've been over this one with Paul. I don't think you can define religion rigorously and consistently and keep it out of the classroom. The latter as a practical matter, since having a classroom setting with neither activities nor learning is possible in principle.

I wonder if the same TA would have taken similar exception to a recital from A Midummers Night's Dream.

Human silliness surpasses all bounds of creed and culture.

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