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A view from a foxhole.

For help in being a non-believer or campaigning for secularism while beset by believers. If believers post here they should remember that this is a support forum. There is also a members-only subforum.
David B
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A view from a foxhole.

Post by David B » Thu Dec 26, 2013 7:00 am

Having obtained permission from my peers, I am going to use a tiny bit of admin privilege, to set up a private thread for me to mail any odd (in any sense of the word) jottings on any subject and none as - well there is no running away from this, as death approaches.

Don't worry, there will be a peanut gallery. perhaps more than one if any issue takes off. But I intend to treat responding in a peanut gallery as optional, and organising it as something to respond to with laziness, though other people will perhaps help out.

By the nature of permissions, mods and admins will have the technical ability to post, but if anyone does so by mistake, please move the post to peanut gallery or at any rate somewhere else, until such time at least as it looks I have very few marbles left.

My energy is short, so I intend to start my first jotting (I have perhaps 2 or three in mind, before I start winging it completely) over the next hours

Last edited by Cath B on Thu Dec 26, 2013 7:51 am, edited 2 times in total.
Reason: correcting typo with permission

David B
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Post by David B » Thu Dec 26, 2013 8:31 am

And for starters I wanted to say what an interesting time I've had to spend my 64 years and counting. I'd have loved another 5 years to see what happens next, but realistically - well I haven't asked for any sort of time frame, but it will clearly be a lot less than that unless I'm in a very fortunate position on a long tail.

I could cover this topic in just three words, but will go for a few more superfluous ones anyway, after letting people have a guess at the three little words.
Hidden Text:
Hubble Deep Field

I may have mentioned elsewhere that I was waxing lyrical to Cath recently about my toys.

My smartphone, from which, with a good signal and a litttle editing using the phone screen I can post with as well as I can with wifi and keyboarD.

The internet generally, and the way the computer has moved on since I used to play Elite on my friend's BBC micro.

And the nature documentaries with all the tools from mini-cams on birds through time lapse, ultra high speed photography, tiny cameras going into termite mounds.....

What a lot we know that we didn't in my youth! What sights seen, using advanced tools as well as our eyes.

I could talk about the downside of what is happening to nature, and at some point probably will mention some misgivings, but for now, I just want to revel in what has been so cool in bringing, in so many ways, massive technological improvements to the man in the street.

Again - what a time to have lived in :)

Last edited by David B on Thu Dec 26, 2013 8:35 am, edited 2 times in total.
Reason: typos

David B
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Post by David B » Thu Dec 26, 2013 11:37 am

Mmmm - Lindor :)

Just the one, but so delicious.


David B
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Post by David B » Fri Dec 27, 2013 12:29 pm

Very impressed by how the District Nurses and the charitable Macmillan group have phoned this morning to offer help, and make appointments for the future. Offers of practical stuff I might need like commodes, pressure pads and things like that.

To say nothing of coping with the bureaucracy of the Brit Welfare State, which will mean I will be, without being rich, in a position to pay my nearly due NSS sub without worry.

Makes me feel lucky to be British. Very.


David B
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Post by David B » Fri Dec 27, 2013 2:14 pm

Words I never thought I would write aka TMI - part one

It is a very great relief to, after a period of days, get something solid out of my arse


David B
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Post by David B » Sat Dec 28, 2013 11:29 am

I just had a little thought about how I might find myself coping with impending death were I a Christian instead of an atheist.

It is many years now since I read James' "Varieties of Religious Experience". Cath rebought it for me a year or so ago now, but I don't suppose I shall re-read it now, but I do have vague memories of the book, which in fact make me wonder how I would cope.

As I recall James, it might be said that a lot of religious experience, a lot of reaction to religion, actually depends very much on the temperament of the individual.

There are, no doubt, happy people who look forward to everlasting bliss granted by a Good God, who has guaranteed bliss out of some vague combination of Faith, Good Works, and Vicarious Sacrifice, shall we say.

In my mystical, monastic, days, though, I think that temperamentally I was more of the ilk of Christians who had looked at the texts, thought few were chosen, and were racked with doubt about whether they had done enough, and fear of the sin of pride if they ever felt that they were assured of salvation.

There have been very many miserable, fearful people viewed by some churches as saints, I think. Especially miserable as death approached, perhaps. Particularly, I surmise, monks and priests with guilty sexual secrets, ranging from the harmless quick solitary one off the wrist (which might still be found personally devastating to someone who has bought the doctrine) to child rape.

I have neither hope nor fear of any personal afterlife.

And, you know, I think that I have the better of the deal, much as I would like to see what happens next.


David B
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Post by David B » Sun Dec 29, 2013 10:54 am

I have had one little moral dilemma exercising me over recent weeks, one which I am now ready to discuss.

A bit of background first of all.

For many years, on various internet forums, I have posted as David B. Or sometimes a close variant of it, as when it is taken, or when I know I am registered as David B but my PW got lost with a fried mother board or something, and my ISP and hence email is out of date and long forgotten.

Abandoning email addies is not a bad way of losing spam.

I haven't used my own name on the internet, for a number of reasons put together.

My real life name is very uncommon, especially since the Australian branch of the family simplified the spelling.

Hence I would be very easily Googleable.

There are a number of reasons I don't want to be too easily found - I'm not sure that I want a load of people I haven't seen for 50 years clamouring for attention, for one. I'm not sure that having no-one I haven't seen in decades searching me out to say 'hi' would be very flattering either.

But that is pretty trivial.

I say things online sometimes that could annoy militant Islamists.

I sometimes say things - well, like supporting Maryam Namazie's views on gender discrimination, as I do. That is the sort of thing which might be deemed in some quarters as cultural imperialism from an old white male. Seriously :eek: PC gone mad, I tells ya :evil:

It is, however, the sort of thing that can, sometimes, have career implications if people get a load of unjust dander up. I seem to recall a case of someone having problems for having used the word 'niggardly'.

So, anyway, back at the point, I haven't used my own name online.

A further consideration, I thought, was that there might be implications for my father if ever there were to be even an unlikely, minor, local, furore about anything I might say on line.

So I've just had a phone call with him to discuss the issue, and to tell him about the my 'donations in lieu of flowers....' cause I am going for.

We are still ungoogleable here, and I have some thinking do do about phraseology, but I can sign off from getting that from off my chest with

David B (aka David Bleines)

David B
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Something I'm trying to explain my views on

Post by David B » Sun Dec 29, 2013 9:38 pm

Now in more than one thread, the latest being in Aup's thread in which he tries to express his view on the flexibility of Hinduism (a view with which I maintain a certain sympathy, compared with the middle eastern religions expecially.)http://www.secularcafe.org/showthread.php?t=28496

One of the things I'm trying to explain is how bright people can come to believe weird things, and maintain those beliefs often in the face of evidence.

What I have been writing in Aup's thread doesn't so much reflect my current views, even though there is, if I look, still a lingering bit of affection for my then rationalisations of Eastern.....insights? Guesses? Superstitions? Some combination of these and other factors? That last more like it, I suppose.

And I do think that the minds of the deeper thinkers of the past should not be under-estimated.

I'll be brief here, as much of what I say has already been written elsewhere. Maybe I'll have time to check out some links.

At one time in my life, after being a reasonably happy atheist for years following my epiphany regarding Christianity when I was in primary school, I had a period of existential angst, fell into the trap of thinking that atheism implied nihilism, and hence, deciding to not be closed minded, explored eastern religions and stuff.

To the point that I paid a few quid for initiation into meditation, from a point of having already done a lot of reading and private practice (Christmas Humphreys on Zen, Kerouac's Dharma Bums and On the Road)and very profound things happened. Call it religious experience, call it spiritual experience, call it madness if you like, but I wasn't expecting to feel every muscle in my body to start to twitch, not expecting to feel so at home, so blissful - even so much part of everything at some sort - now cringing before typing the next words - of deep level :o

Seductive - led me into years of falling down the meditation rabbit hole, where some of my friends of that time remain.

I escaped, in the end, though, and slowly went through cult recovery, and, I believe, came to a deeper understanding than most people without the t-shirt can understand, of ....some stuff.

Like how there is a lot of variation within the human condition, (though few are immune and they have problems of their own), of susceptibility to suggestion, wish fulfilment, and mutual reinforcement, among other factors. I don't think it much related to intelligence - thinking how many of my peers in Ashram life were really sharp cookies, and I don't think I was much more than averagely susceptible to these factors myself, thinking of the experiences my very blissed out looking peers were reporting - and using for mutual reinforcement.

We felt ourselves privileged and lucky to be there.

Other stuff - there are lots of parallels between the sort of experiences I - we - were inducing, and those reported and seen in videos of Toronto Blessings, and other sorts of experiences from many different cultures, and that they seem remarkably similar to the sort of experiences reported, and the visuals seen, when the work of a good mentalist gets to work.

Rhythm, expectation, hope, wishful thinking, ritual, mutual reinforcement - a heady mix.

I don't suppose that the sometimes very successful people who sign up for very expensive orgs do so because when people suggest to them that going through a ritual like having their skin resistances hooked up to bits of electronics for interpretion by alleged experts pay up because when they try it nothing subjectively happens to them though.

Other stuff. When one feels one is more than usually sharp - and I suspect that large chunks of us have felt towards the tops of our years at school, at least, then one is singularly subject to feeling that one cannot be fooled, though forgetting that the most effecting way for someone sharp to be fooled is to do it oneself. Thinking Conan Doyle and fairies,

Other stuff - 'can't prove it ain't so' is a dangerous way to go, but widely used by those who want to believe, or have been led to believe really unlikely things.

Taken sleeping pill, running out of steam, made a lot of progress I think, though this might turn out to be garbage in the cold light of tomorrow.


David B
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Post by David B » Mon Dec 30, 2013 4:52 pm

I'm never going to mind posting little random thoughts which don't really follow on from previous posts in this threads, or, indeed, jumping back to a previous point at a later point.

Today I'm going to focus on what I believe to be a pretty common mistake that many (not all) Christians make when talking to atheists, and one going the other way, both being, I think, somewhat symptomatic of mistakes made generally in that sort of conversation.

I'd like to see comments in the peanut gallery, and perhaps a good way of naming this sort of fixed idea of what one's opponent's position either is or ought to be, whether it bears any relationship to reality or not.

On many sites I have come across Christians talking to me as if, because I do not believe in any sort of God as the term is generally understood *, then, because it seems to them as if morals do not exist unless they are absolute and/or God given, then, as an atheist, I must be devoid of morals.

Which is not true - there are many ways in which morals can have a reality to an atheist. They could even be viewed as Platonic ideals, but they could (this is my closest to my view I thinkv) be viewed as an emerging part of the extended phenotype of certain complex evolved species, or viewed as social constructs or lots of other things.

A mistake often made by atheists in their dealings with Christians, to my mind, is to assume that they either take a literal view of the Bible as a whole, or, that if they don't then they bloody well ought too.

But - and I won't go into it further, people can can consider it for themselves if they wish, there are lots of nuanced positions regarding allegory, fables with moral truths behind them (they may think, rightly or wrongly), and all sorts other things.

Actually, now, I think of it, some atheists are sometimes guilty of a similar sort of...well, I think it is a mistake...regarding arguments with other atheists.

Jerry Coyne, for instance - fine mind, great contributor to debate, broad interests, knowledgeable and clever......and to my mind one blind spot, and one somewhat ironically not without its similarities to religious criticism of atheism.

His insistance, on his part, and as I read it, in what Dennett would term a 'Greedy reductionism'. In which in his view he holds the stance that within a determined world concepts like 'choice', 'freedom', and hence 'morals' do not have any real meaning, that such concepts are incoherent.

Other sharp people share this view - our very able member here, Ozy, to name just one.

But even if Coyne and Ozy were to be right, it is certainly not a fact that atheists have to share their views, because Dennett doesn't, and neither do I.

It is important, I think, in discussions, to focus more on asking what a person's stance on a particular point is, and asking them how they arrive at that stance, in contract to what often leads to umbrage, excuses for people to break of discussions altogether and other similar things. What I think might be an original, freshly coined term to describe such things has just jumped unbidden to mind - how does 'clusterfuckage' sound?

What is a mistake is to proceed on the generally false assumptions that you know what they believe and/or why they do or ought to believe it.

A thought strikes - I hope I'm not sounding patronising. Too bad if so - I know my time is short, and, dammit, I'm going to use it as I see fit.

*Concepts like 'God as some sort of vague ground of being', or 'God as metaphor for the deep laws of physics' seem to me to be not so much wrong as misleading, and in consequence I find such usages better avoided.


David B
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Post by David B » Tue Dec 31, 2013 8:41 am

First, I've used or misused some admin privilege to unilaterally stick this thread.

So it goes, as Vonnegut, but as far as I know neither Thoreau or Twain, said.

I was just thinking that a week ago today I was waiting impatiently to go through the various routines and bureaucratic bilge that would get me out of hospital by mid afternoon.

Since then I have been housebound in my garret, as I start to eat better, get more organised regarding unpleasant necessities like appropriate catheter bags, gain strength to get back up my 64 stairs again, and wait for a break in the weather.

For quality of life, though - Cath is looking after me wonderfully, I am enjoying little edible treats that have been gifts from friends, even if in small quantity.

But most of all I have my toys - my wildlife photos taken myself, my hd tv, and my wifi.

I am, as I told the District Nurse yesterday, probably less isolated from the world confined as I am in my than most people in the history of the world. I am typing here, and can be read and replied to by people from around the world.

Modern life has much to recommend it.


David B
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Post by David B » Tue Dec 31, 2013 4:19 pm

Well, while Cath has been out walking and seeing our Dad this afternoon I've spent an hour of my life watching a guy on YT talking and showing the odd slide.

And I don't regret a second of it.

To match where I came in on this thread, it concerns the wonderful things that have occurred during the few brief years that have made up my life, and the speech was awe inspiring.

Should be enough, I would hope, show the value (not in a monetary sense, but in terms of much that is noble in humanity, like the search to understand life, the universe, and everything.)

I'm glad I've seen it, and, I hope, pretty much understand it.

It is a lecture given at the Royal Institution, though not a childrens lecture.

Shaun Carroll on the discoveries at the LHC, with some speculation about the future, and an aside on women in science.

Highly recommended.

(Not loaded: RwdY7Eqyguo)
(View video on YouTube)


David B
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Post by David B » Wed Jan 01, 2014 9:54 am

Some decades ago I remember having a record by a Californian comedian by the name of Murray Roman. I think he died in a car accident some years later.

Hip, sex, drug and talking dirty sort of humour, but another of those cases where ''once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right' moments. Whether the next little quote is original to Roman or not - it is where I came across it, and that will do.

'You can't beat people up and have them say '"I love you"'.

Something that applies to debate and discussion as it does to many other fields of human endeavour.

A very good rule of thumb, to my mind, but not an absolute - apparently some people really like being beaten up. As an aside, I was nonplussed, flummoxed, but well off my stride when, having climbed into bead with a young lady for the first time (with her, that is) I was greeted by a fairly loud imperative 'Hurt me!!'.

:eek: :eek:

Now I know some people think that people with entrenched supernatural beliefs are not worth talking to with any realistic aim of bringing them to see more the light, because they have not seen cases of it ever working.

Those of us who spent years on the old Infidels and other boards long before there were splits, though, have seen some cases where minds have been changed. With - Jobar I think will know the figures better than I - a massive predominance of going from superstition to naturalism,or even a Christian changing from a Historical Genesis position to one who takes deep time and evolution on board, and is prepared to stand up against the YECs.

Those who do change, in my experience, tend to be among the most able, and the most useful to have on the side against the angels, so to speak.

Progress! But, as I say, you can't beat people up and have them say I love you, so I will talk a bit now about a more challenging, more difficult if you like, way of interacting with them, one which I have found effective, especially when other people diving in with raised boots (soccer analogy) or helmet to helmet ( American Football analogy) don't give them an excuse to pretend the moral high ground, find an excuse withdraw altogether, or to otherwise get distracted from the issue at point.

Well, when I say 'now' I mean a little later, as I am now going to take a little break before returning, in the first place, to how to get to an effective point at issue.


David B
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Post by David B » Wed Jan 01, 2014 11:41 am

Finding a point at issue, continued. And, like it or not I'm just going to pontificate. There is, after all, a peanut gallery.

Often there are so many that the which point or small collection of points to - and look at my next words carefully - offer to explore with one's opponent is far from obvious, and, the human mind being good at finding post hoc rationales for positions, the real point at issue might not be the one first mentioned.

A world view, natural or supernatural, seems to me generally more analogous to a web, or a jigsaw puzzle, or a structure than it does to a chain of reasoning, and within this web, puzzle or structure there may be particular strands, pieces or girders that, if undone, will lead anyone quite sharp to a pretty rapid paradigm shift.

As an aside, we should just drop the idea that supernaturalists are stupid. All that is necessary to throw that idea into the bilge where it belongs is something I have already mentioned - Conan Doyle and fairies.

Of course supernaturalists - and naturalists - can be sharp people who believe some things that are stupid, and others (or perhaps the same ones) that are wrong. Again I've already meantioned a case in point - Coyne and Dennett on determinism and freewill.

So - back at the point - to make progress with an opponent there needs to be some sort of co-operation (and you can't beat people up and have them say "I love you") in finding a point at issue which might make a difference.

Some examples - If I were to be persuaded that there were a single example of supernatural clairvoyance, if I were to be persuaded that an NDE showed information that could only have been supernaturally acquired, then I would have a certain amount of rethinking on the cards.

I don't anticipate any such eventually, but lack of sufficient evidence for anything supernatural happening is certainly one of my sticking points.

On the other side - well some people have a commitment to a literal biblical historicity (though few and far between).

Some are persuaded that Biblical prophesies are both correct and could not have been made in any way other than supernaturally.

For these, one might be able to focus in on a single, or small number of points, and keep onto that (while hoping that other people diving in helmet to helmet don't drive one's opponent from the field. I'm encouraged, for instance, to see someone (Mr Fungus? I forget) trying to focus in on the dating of Ye Olde Fludde, with a view of looking to see if evidence can be found concerning what was happening in other parts of the world at the time.

Often, though, I have discovered that a religious view is more sophisticated, and can often lead to long, interesting and challenging discussions of various matters.

A supernaturalist might, for instance, be persuaded that - I've mentioned this example before - that for ethics to be meaningful one needs a supernatural fount for them, and ethics are meaningful.

Along with the closely related 'choice' or 'will' questions.

I have taken some sort of synthesis of Dennett and Hofstadter on board regarding these questions, though another sort of response would be to talk through the question of whether ethics, choice and will really are meaningful, if one were to take the view that they aren't. Or to question whether some sort of Platonic view of such concepts is not more sensible than to invoke an anthropomorphic supernatural God figure, particularly the figure handed down from the myths of one of many ancient tribes and so on.

All sorts of possibilities, all sorts of challenges, all sorts of fun in discussion, all sorts of possibilities to learn from ones peers in the threads.

It is fragile, though - if someone is really being given things to think about that they might be finding a bit uncomfortable, for having big paradigm shifts is not always easy - then there is always the temptation for them to focus on something else, or to leave the field altogether, if people belt in and start insulting them, or accusing them of having positions they don't actually hold without having asked them, or generally beating up on them.

I do wish people wouldn't do it. It is easy to do - much to easy - it can give a momentary satisfaction, and people can run out of patience (how many times can someone explain what a varve is without getting a little short), but progress can be made, has reasonably often been made, and more could be made if people didn't get in they way by posting - well one example which annoys me is the massive over-use of posting images of face palms, as if doing so, at least 95% of the time, can constitute adding anything useful to a discussion.

David (must confess something of a liking for the word 'spoing', though)

David B
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Post by David B » Thu Jan 02, 2014 2:34 pm

I'm going to copy/paste an old post of mine here, not because I want people in the peanut gallery to do exactly as I suggest in the post, but because I think there are non-trivial implications within the post for - I try to avoid technical terms like this, especially when they don't quite, hundred percent, fir - epistemology.

How do people know things, and how do they decide that they are sufficently confident of some state of affairs or whatever term you like, to decide they know the answer, to something, or that they understand something.

Copy paste follows, posted under the title 'Pretty girl in crimson rose (8)'
me in 2009 wrote:Anyone else do cryptic crosswords, like 'The Times'. Where you are given clues like the one in the title, the figure in brackets referring to the number of letters in the answer.

I was introduced to them many years ago by a then gf.

I don't do as many as I did, and I'm not all that good at them, but sometimes finish them. The real stars can do a Times crossword in a few minutes.

But I thought a thread on favourite crossword clues might be fun - ones which come up from day to day, or past favourites.

The one in the title is the name of a rather nice book, which is part biography and part essay on crosswords. Another one of my favourites I puzzled over for quite a long time before the penny dropped, and was so proud of myself that I phoned up the ex gf to put it to her (she lived away). She got it at once A couple of decades ago now, but I remember it yet.

It was 'Like glob, eternally' (5,7,3)

For neophytes, that means that there are 3 words in the answer, with 5, 7 and 3 letters in them, respectively.

Anyone want a go at them? I'll post the answers later.

Please post your own favourites
Well, we can forget the posting of favourites, unless people want to do so, but I will ask people in the peanut gallery who want to post solutions or rationales for solutions in the gallery to do so in hide tags for a day or so.

And so, back to what we know about " 'Pretty girl in crimson rose (8)'"

Well, afficionados of the Brit crossword puzzle recognise the format, and know that a solution to the clue 'Pretty girl in crimson rose' has 8 letters.

And the rest of you know that now, while those familiar with the format might think that the words of the clue might make up the final solution in a couple of parts, and within ' 'Pretty girl in crimson rose' there might also be something meaning something the same as a couple of parts together. Perhaps that is clumsily put - well it is - and within the standard Brit crossword format there are other methods at arriving at solutions.

The following one is quite a famous example of what is generally considered a fine clue - again answers and solutions in hide tags please.

gegs (9,4)

There are solutions to both these clues, and I know with a degree of certainty that it it would be perverse to deny what they are, because for one thing I have read answers from the horses mouth so, to speak.

By 'certainty it would be perverse to deny' I mean the sort of certainty hard to pin down exactly, but including that the earth was not created, all memories, geological record and everything else intact, last Thursday. Or the sort of certaintly that tells me that during the time period where there are continuous written records from even one civilisation there has been no global flood that wiped out everyone except one family.

But, to know the answers to these clues, do we know (and how could we know) that there are not other answers that also fit the clues that even the compiler of the crossword might have missed?

What other forms of reality checks in the form of confirmatory evidence might there be?

Is the sense of certainty on 'getting' - sometimes I still think the Heinlein coined 'grokking' is a useful term - in any sense as reliable as having a logical chain of reasoning, starting with some sort of inferences from an explicit small set of axioms?

How well can we trust seemingly straightforward chains of inference when we consider the controversies and accusations of stupidity that arose when http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monty_Hall_problem was first raised?

I will be a bit explicit about where I am hoping that this series of posts (for I intend it to be a little miniseries within the foxhole thread) will lead.

One being to play up the importance of consilience in how people come to decisions about what they know. When they are being wise, anyway. Along with the importance of reality checks, and what they might consist of in various contexts, including, but not confined to, crosswords.

Another - to have a go at the sort of attempt at finding certainty that some people seem to have, which is to have their conclusions first, and aim their intelligences at finding ways of somehow finding ways making what they see fit their preconceptions.

This sort of thing - which I deplore - is often seen in the more dogmatic religions, and particularly I think in the more dogmatic versions of the middle eastern religions, but far from exclusively so.

One also seems the same sort of nonsense emanating from atheistic ideologies based on doctrinal views of the human condition. One example from the left being Marxism (perhaps sometime I will get into the difference between a Marxist and a Marxian position, as I see it anyway) and on the right we have the flawed view of the human condition presented by Ayn Rand, from which all sorts of ugliness flows.

It is the merits of consilience that I hope to be the crux of the thread, though, unless someone in the peanut gallery says something that will lead me to change my mind of course.

In the meantime, though, I shall throw these initial remarks to the gallery.

And to what people may make of "pretty girl in crimson rose (8)"


David B
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Post by David B » Sat Jan 04, 2014 9:11 pm

It might look as if I'm neglecting this thread, but I'm not as much as lit looks. Yesterday I wrote much of a pretty long post continuing on this theme, which I copied to my clipboard, got distracted by something else, and copied part of the something else to the clipboard :eek:

I also tried to do too much yesterday, between SC, other internet places and RL.

Today I overtaxed myself, too, what with getting down my 64 stairs, to cafe and back up again. I managed the trips OK, was glad I made the trip, and enjoyed meeting a couple of friends. But we could all tell that I wasn't a lively, chatty David B. Which I found a little disappointing, but the trip was still worth doing and I have to learn, though hopefully continue to stretch, my limits.

In the meantime, if someone could post in the peanut gallery something about the sort of confirmatory evidence that can be found in cryptic crosswords, and, by extension I think, in life as a whole, then please do, so that I can comment on it for a change.

I'm really too whacked to do it myself, right now, and I think it is something worth talking about.


David B
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Post by David B » Mon Jan 06, 2014 1:59 pm

Events have largely taken over, generally for the best, though tiring.

I now have a new bed (mattress to be delivered tomorrow, so will have to improvise for one night) and a new recliner, and lots more room in the place as we sort things.

Pile of cds and stuff, earmarked for people we think would like them, keep for family, charity shops and landfill. Things like this.

And I had a call from the hospital this morning - I need to go in on Fri morning to have a camera stuck up my arse.

I hope I still have an arse when I get home!

In the meantime, my discourse on the merits of consilience will have to wait, as I shall post this, put the laptop down, look for something on tv to doze off to, and explore the possibilities for dropping off to sleep easily on my new electrically powered recliner.


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Post by David B » Fri Jan 10, 2014 8:22 am

Some things happen faster than others, and getting comfortable regarding passing solids and winds are very much a case in point.

As are other practical things, like having things delivered, having them sent back, getting the right things.

Today I have to go for camera up bum, and now have a new divan bed with an electric powered inflatable mattress that slowly moves its elmemts, just about imperceptible, to keep people comoratable. New recliner, too.

Hope to get back to normal service tomorrow, though I suppose the bum cam might have something to say about that.


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Post by David B » Sat Jan 11, 2014 9:24 am

And today will be another recovery day, I think and hope.

Just realising how much all the travel and poking about took out of me.

Slept a lot, appetite still suppressed. Tired.


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Post by David B » Mon Jan 20, 2014 5:39 pm

Time flies. Much too long since I've added to this thread.

I've been tired, but yesterday afternoon started a short walk, but the clouds came across, the wind came up, and I realised I wasn't enjoying it, so, like the Grand Old Duke of York, I marched down my 64 stairs and marched back up again.

Today rushed out in a real panic, as my laptop was running out of power. New transformer 30 quid and all is well.

Don't know when I will be able to get back to what I was going to write about crossword clues etc. Will try to get more pics across to my Galaxy later, now it has the micro sd card in it.

Trying to get real life things together with Cath - throwing stuff out and things. No matter how much goes, there always seems to be the same amount left.

Will have to get the car started with jump leads when we have a nice day, then get someone to drive me somewhere to charge it up.


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Post by David B » Wed Jan 22, 2014 6:15 pm

After major clear-out of bowels yesterday I felt pretty grim all day, and, while bowels stuck again today, I still haven't been feeling right.

I had hoped to be feeling better than this. Haven't done very much today, I'm afraid, but at least I've worked out how to get pictures over to where I want them to be on my Galaxy.

Tomorrow I might try to move some, or even later if I revive a bit.

I have done little bits of other online chores online, though I do seem to be slowing down.

And now feel that it is time to shit the computer down for an hour or so.


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Post by David B » Fri Jan 24, 2014 3:12 pm

Right, back to the crosswords.

And some answers and explanations for those who didn't bother with them.

'Pretty girl in crimson rose (8)'

Another word for 'crimson' is red. 3 letters

Another word for 'pretty girl' is 'belle' 5 letters

If we put 'belle' in 'red' we get 'rebelled' 8 letters.

And the clincher, another word for 'rebelled' is rose, in the sense of the Americans rose up against the legal authority in an insurgency'.

Everything, then, including the word of the compiler, points to the answer being correct.

What about 'gegs' (9, 4)?

A different sort of solution, but I'd say just as obvious once seen.

It's 'scrambled eggs.'

There can be more to help, though, since crossword clues are arranged in a grid. Maybe, if we were stuck on 'scrambled eggs' we might fill in some other clues, which may lead us to think that we have' --r-m---- --g-'

That might lead us into finding 'scrambled eggs'.

The again, the letters of 'scrambled eggs might lead us to find other solutions to other clues.

But, even though there seems nothing strictly linear about the process, it seems to me a more reliable way of knowing stuff than strict logic.

Of course, especially if one has a mind that lends itself to logic, logic helps, but when one looks at the history of the Monty Hall problem, then one sees how unreliable logic can be, with the meta consideration of wondering how one knows whether the logic is clear cut or not.

A quick quote from wiki, and I shall leave it at that for now.

Many readers of vos Savant's column refused to believe switching is beneficial despite her explanation. After the problem appeared in Parade, approximately 10,000 readers, including nearly 1,000 with PhDs, wrote to the magazine, most of them claiming vos Savant was wrong (Tierney 1991). Even when given explanations, simulations, and formal mathematical proofs, many people still do not accept that switching is the best strategy (vos Savant 1991a). Paul Erdős, one of the most prolific mathematicians in history, remained unconvinced until he was shown a computer simulation confirming the predicted result (Vazsonyi 1999).
Anyone like to guess where I am thinking of heading next.


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Post by David B » Wed Jan 29, 2014 2:29 pm

Feeling a bit sore inside after yesterday's exertions, but it is wonderful to feel empty again.

Back at how we know things, think we know things, and make errors in knowing things, a couple of little stories.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, there was a little boy in school, and, sometime around Christmas, he came across a carol.

The exact details of the whole story are long forgotten, but one of the lines ended, referring to to Herod and the alleged Massacre of the Innocents 'He slew the little Childer'.

'Ha!' thinks obnoxious precocious little kid 'So as well as childen being a plural of 'child', so is 'childer''.

And when, during some sort of exercise, some some time later, the child was asked for the plural of 'child' he - well, I - could not resist the temptation to show off by putting 'childer'.

Which was marked wrong! The injustice of it!! No matter that I went back to the source to prove my point!!!

It rankles to this day, even though I must admit that putting me firmly in my place at that point was not entirely without its virtues.

An even more embarrassing faux pas about jumping to to the wrong conclusion about words, though, is attributed to Robert Browning.

In his poem 'Pippa Passes' he uses the word 'twat' as if it is an article of nun's clothing.
Browning wrote:Then owls and bats
Cowls and twats
Monks and nuns in a cloister's moods
Adjourn to the oak-stump pantry
The source of his misapprehension has been traced to a satirical poem, that Browning must have come across.

Or must he? Any alternative hypotheses that would fit the bill as well? Or at all? For myself, I can't think of one. Just a coincidence? :d unno: Think not.
They talk'd of his having a Cardinall's Hat
They'd send him as soon an Old Nun's Twat
It seems that Browning didn't do satire. To me, anyway.

More tomorrow, I hope. Maybe a bit more today. I quite like rambling.


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Post by David B » Sun Feb 02, 2014 2:26 pm

Before continuing I thought I'd write a bit about another mistake, which dates back to my brief period of studying philosophy formally, before I lost patience with it.

I think my losing patience with it had a lot to do with how it was taught at the time in my neck of the woods. It seemed to me more about studying philosophers than philosophy, and seemed not to be interested in the truth or otherwise of what the philosophers were saying.

But, anyway, one chap in a seminar, and as I say, this was not me, got some sort of bee in his bonnet that led him to believe that one could not learn a language unless one had a language already to translate it from.

How could one explain a strawberry in, say, French, if one had no concept of a strawberry in English? He kept on about this for some time with increasing vehemence, as I recall, while the prof argued with him and the rest of us, well, me at least, became more and more amused.

Because, as no doubt you will all have noticed, one can learn a language without having a previously learned one as reference.

Another memory of my brief philosophy days were learning a couple of ....is 'aphorisms' the right word?

One being 'one cannot get mind from matter', and another 'one cannot get an "ought" from an "is"'.

What about 'One cannot get language from babbling'?

Same sort of thing or not? Or some sort of similar form of words?

I'm interested to get responses to this, and hope to get some before moving onto similar sorts of aphorism - if that it the right word - regarding choice.


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Post by David B » Mon Feb 03, 2014 3:55 pm

My reasonably well thought out post has disappeared in a cloud of constipation based discomfort.

But a couple of thoughts based not so much on what I was going to move onto next, as on my thoughts reading through the train wreck of a thread that started out as a question about purpose in life but has transmogrified into Free Will thread with special reference to Dennett. Related to the question about needing a language to translate from, though, even if the same language

Questions - how can one define concepts precisely without recourse to other precise definitions?

Where could such precise definitions come from without recourse to circularity?

And, not least, is circularity all that much of a problem anyway?

I occasionally see in discussions here a claim that such-and-such an argument is circular. As if that somehow settled the fact that what is being claimed is wrong.

But then, I also occasionally see claims that such and such an argument contains a logical fallacy, as if that somehow settled the fact that what is being claimed is wrong.

Is this the case?

I am going to try to sort of wrap this sort of episodic look at what we can know and how we can know it and what we can sensibly mean by 'know' anyway over the next few days.

But that will depend on feedback, and bowels.


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Post by David B » Thu Feb 06, 2014 6:13 pm

Yesterday I was feeling so shitty, both metaphorically and actually, that all I managed to do was write down a couple of paras in Wordpad.

Today, on the other hand, well, this afternoon at any rate, I am feeling empty, and the process of becoming empty has taken a lot out of me, in every sense of the word.

I'm wiped out.

But still - to look at the scraps of notes I made yesterday.

'And one more bit of input, prompted by a couple of tv/YT progs over the last days, including one I'm watching now called 'Inside the Animal Mind', but most of all prompted by some comments I've seen on another thread regarding the various merits of instinct and consciousness.

It seems to me that to some people instinct is regarded as somewhat trivial compared to taking conscious control over decision making. Is that the case? If so, then I think that is a good reason enough to re-examine the issue.

Instinct - what evolution has dictated to be so important to an organism as requiring hard wiring in.'

Yes - I was getting the impression from the latest Free Will thread that to some people there is something vital about whether thoughts, actions...whatever are under conscious control or not, whether they are instinctive or not, and I don't myself see that this is a productive way to go.

In smaller, less complicated creatures there might be less scope for a dynamic interplay between instinct and consciousness, but in the larger, more complicated, sort of creature it seems to me that learning adds a degree of flexibility to what might become sort of quasi instinctive.

This will need a bit of explanation, so to start let's look at some evolved instinctive behaviours that serve on the face of it very difficult but also vital functions with an extremely high degree of fidelity, in species with not (relatively) complicated brains.

The waggle dances of bees, the celestial navigation of some dung beetles, the navigation back to the origins of a wide variety of species from turtles to salmon to auks to ospreys.......and, I suppose, it would be odd to omit pigeons.

To a greater or lesser degree hard wired. I've gathered that turtles and salmon are in fact pretty much hard wired in their navigation - anyone confirm or deny?

But bird navigation is interesting, complicated, and new things are being found out about it all the time, and one of the new things is that not every aspect is hard wired - there is a lot of scope for learning, and for finding multiple cues in navigation that enable a more reliable response than being hard wired into a route.

No point having a hard wired response that sends a migration to the same place every year independently of the flexibility to respond to food supplies en route.

Every point though in haivng back-up resources, like the ability to learn from family groups, follo roads, rivers, railways, read distant clouds to seek out areas of themals....ok that laast one is a guess.

The first time I remember in this series of posts, though, that the word 'consilience' comes into play. It won't be the last.

But before getting too deeply into that, back at my putative interplay between the conscious and the unconscious, between instinct and consciousness.

It looks to me as if a lot of what might be termed genius might be looked at as trying to replace conscious processes with a manufactured, learned, substitute for instinct. Something imbued by long practice, often by obsession, by fascination.

All the research I've looked at on how top class chess players process leads me to think that that they go beyond the 'I here, so he goes there, so I go there...' plans of the beginner into something much more like instinct.

I saw a programme on, among other things, juggling the other week - top jugglers work too fast for conscious thought.

Then there are top mathematicians, and idiots savants in other fields. More learned instinct substitutes, so to speak, than conscious processing. No?

And the clincher, for we more common or garden people.

Learning to drive. Especially with proper gears.

Driving by taking conscious control is a pain in the arse, demands too much attention so is dangerous. It is when driving is well and truly learned that one can get on with it. Same with reading, too, come to think of it.

So that is my thought for the day - regarding minds, freedom, choice and things consciousness vis a vis subconscious processing is both very convoluted and often misleading - in fact, to my mind, something of a red herring.