Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ghosts of exmo expo recently passed

Hey all. Sorry I was unable to attend the expo. I am improving and wish I had been there. Shane was kind enough to give me a smattering of the dicussions. Cricitisms of the "new atheists", I am sure, was discussed. Shelly, Thanks for giving it a go.

I would suggest that this article may be of interest. It is PZ meyers, and he responds to some (empty) criticisms of the anti-neoatheists group. It addresses, in a more consisce way than I am able, my percieved fallacies of the critics (hedges included).

Here is a sample:

"Brown does something interesting: he attempts to define the six characteristic premises of the New Atheism, and invites everyone to keep score. OK! Let's see how I stack up.

* There is something called "Faith" which can be defined as unjustified belief held in the teeth of the evidence. Faith is primarily a matter of false propositional belief.

Hmmm. "Unjustified" I'll accept, but I don't agree that faith is necessarily false. Still, I'll give it to him in my case: +1 for PZ.

* The cure for faith is science: The existence of God is a scientific question: either he exists or he doesn't. "Science is the only way of knowing - everything else is just superstition" [Robert L. Park]

Again, there are two things muddled up here, and I accept part but not the other. The existence of a god certainly is a scientific question. If there exists a prime mover or a cosmic watchmaker or a meddling tinkerer or a thunderbolt-flinging patriarch, and if it had or is having an effect on the universe, then yes, god is something we should be able to detect. If god is some nebulous entity that is not part of or is not involved in affecting our existence, then it is irrelevant and can be ignored."


Here is Brown's Original article (just for balance).
HH =)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Funny... Maybe I am one of God's favored...

YOu may wish to double-click and enlarge to view.

HH =)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Rhetorical Pugilism, and a long needed self-critique:

Recent exchanges with the wife, kids, and others are leading me towards the need for a critical self-analysis. I am coming to the conclusion that discussion and debate are often much like a pugilistic endeavor, for me. In verbal conversation my methods are clear. Writing, however, I find a chore. It provides no pleasure. The responses are often perfunctory and obtuse. Thus, my economy of words often leaves the reader with gaps in information that I am often, too lazy, to fill.

A recent interaction with my lovely wife was illustrative. She was pointing out that often our family diet consists of too much sugar, and not enough roughage. A simple topic that should have been quickly agreed with. However, this was not taken as an opportunity to evaluate and discuss. Instead, it turned into a verbal barrage of fallacy pointing-out, name calling, defensive posturing, and bell ringing (nothing physical mind you just a time-out of silence and regrets).

There are often times I miss opporunities to demonstrate the value of reason that I iterate to my kids. My children have often heard me say, “do it because I said so.” Generally it would take a few moments to give them rational justifications for my requests to clean their rooms, turn of lights, wear a heavy coat, etc. But, often the “authority” scepter is wielded as a poor replacement for the opportunity to practice what I preach.

In the blogger world my comments are often based upon very literal interpretation of others writings. This is short sighted, given that those s blogs are visited with most freuency, are professional writers and educators. People gifted with words. These people use words, not just as communication devices, but as art. Wording for words sake. Often meaning was lost because I leapt over necessary questions about content and meaning, and moved to posting a refutation based upon my response to question which wasn’t mine to answer. Shane’s most recent (jaw-droppingly beautiful) post is a prime example. I leapt from the precipice of reading to putting on the rhetorical gloves and going for the argument. Poor outcome regarding knowledge to be gained. Even worse for maintaining a most cherished friendship.

Are my understandings so flimsy that I must fight, and alienate the people I so care for, just to say “I won”? Is it all rhetorical muscle flexing? As with the boxer, there is a tendency to focus on the goal, and shut out the “other” around. Perhaps the causes may be in my learning history. It does go back to religion (my oldest theme).

The epiphany that the LDS religion was false, hit harder than once thought. From the cradle it was taught that there was an infallible, infinite, undiminishable, truth endowed to me. Is was taught that it was a blessing to have been born into such a truth. Royalty and elevation by birthright. It was fed through mother’s milk, and lived as an absolute. When the house of cards came crashing down it was emotionally devastating. How could I have been SO blind for so long? How could the reality have been missed when it existed so clearly? Now that I pinder it the answer is simple: those beliefs were defended with veracity, and pugilistic fervor. The tools used then, although slightly modified, are the tools used now. They work. Not perfectly, but effectively.

Perhaps, there is an inverse relationship between emotion and knowledge. As Bertrand Russell once wrote, “... the less one knows, the hotter one gets.” Do I fear my world-view being wrong (again) so much, that I must use the same old methods to defend it? Could I be as wrong now as I was then? Could all of the pontificating and study have lead to more Red-Herrings?

It also retraces to social learning and friendships. Another driving force is a certain social awkwardness. I have never had a close friend until I met my wife. It was always best to keep people at arms length. When avoidance didn't work, argumentation did. The methods started for one reason and continue for another. The energy generated from the excitement of friendships with others so enlightened, educated, and gifted is often exercised in verbal/written ways. The times when I feel closest to people have been when the gloves are off, and the banter flies with voices raised, and arms flailing. My responses have often been in single shell bullet form. Take what I hear and open one hole (and begin to attack it in order to continue the dialogue ). Win just one piece and the others case falls. Often within the discussions I have been in almost perfect agreement with the other persons views(as with my wife). IN effort to gain knowledge through rational argumentation, the conversation has become stifled. The inherent contradiction/hypocrisy in my behavior is obvious.

Given these areas of weakness, there are reasons to be hopeful. The justifications (or rationalizations) for my religious beliefs ranged from irrational to non-existent. I was married to the idea of their correctness back then. Now, however, I wish to disabuse myself of false beliefs. Second, reason and science are the guides of my current world view. Although not perfect (a silly notion of itself), they have shown to be consistently successful, as approaches to knowing, in their own rights. The odds are much more in favor of coming closer to truth. Faith plays no role for me. That is one area will I will never again cede ground.

So how can I change?

By being conscious about my interactions. I need people to take my assertions not as statements, but as questions. How can I do this? By actually asking questions. In the end it has been difficult to accept that beliefs are held the individual. A person will believe what he/she will. The big idea is to learn WHY people believe what they do. And, that insight is only gained by asking for MORE information, not less.

By determining meaning (NOT just through the words)but, through the context in which they occur will be a large step. Although I admit my rather autistic approach to expressionistic writing, it can not be ignored that people are often emoting, and expressing rather than analyzing in conversation (be it written or verbal). A thorough pondering of context before writing must occur.

Finally, I ask my fellow humans for patience, and help. Every now and again a statement like, “Travis perhaps that would be better phrased as a question rather than as a statement.” would be beneficial. I come from a scientific background with definition, variables, controls, and data. Precision in communication is imperative. This is why definition is important. My experience has been to utilize this medium to communicate results. Ambiguity is not only foreign and scary (like marriage and teenagers)... vagueness punished... abstraction a failing...unfamiliarity weakness.

I am rather late to the language-as-art party, and must be educated. I don’t demand, but ask. This must be a two-way street. I need to offer (from my logical-positivist/empiricist perspective), some form and function in describing my world view as well.

Life as student and teacher.

So, I drop the gloves. The temptation to reglove will be constant. The desire to win will remain. Every now and again feel free to drop a reminder that we aren't fighting, but raising each others consciousness. My rhetorical behavior will (hopefully) metamorphasize into something more enlightening and wonderful. I, too, am learning how to see again.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Holy smoke...

When I have some time on my hands I tend to read and respond a little too much. Like Ron wrote, "need to save some for the exmo gathering."

I need another logical positivist in the group to make sure that I don't get double-teamed by the postmodernist-anarchist champs. Shelly??? Rod??? Maybe I"ll just wear a flack jacket.

See y'all soon. Shane- Drive Safely. We drove over the mountain into Brigham City today and we white-knuckled it.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Fodder for upcoming exmo expo

Shelly: Here is a little Hedges for you. =)

Perhaps I feel a little TOO giddy over discussing this.

HH =)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Rush - "Faithless"

Neal Pert is the greatest drummer of ALL TIME! This has officially become my favorite Rush song (okay... Red Barchetta still makes my motor roll).

Exmo-expo III is taking shape. Lisa, if you can jet out to Utah I am inviting you too.

Recently I found out that people get rather miffed when you point out the particular fallacies of their arguments, rather than providing an alternative theory. My wife doesn't enjoy arguing with me about trite issues. She rather, prefers Shane's form of discussion and perspective expression. I need to work on my verbal rhetorical skills I guess. We tend to get heated of late. I am thinking of adopting Ben Franklin's approach. If some historical portrayals are accurate he was maddeningly tolerant and indecisive. Kind of a stoic approach to problems (truth is an illusion so why get all bothered about it).

Perhaps the real difference is that I pursue doubt first. Others are looking for the best position given pragmatism and a dash of reason thrown in for good measure??

There has been some stirring in my extended family related to Mormonism. Three siblings have expressed doubt to me about the veracity of the LDS church in the last week. One of them I would NEVER have expected doubt from. My responses to all three were the same. None. I desperately wish to believe they are on paths away from the cult, but that flickering hope has been doused too many times before.

It is SNOWING right now. Rather heavily too. Nice to hunker down in my warm home and just let my thoughts drip from head to Blog. Just one more week of work, and then 2 weeks of sleeping in, overeating, and holiday chaos.

So, whether you believe in Jesus, Mithra, the cycles of the sun, Allah, Santa, etc...


HH =)