Questionable Motives

April 9, 2011

Excluding religion, what are some of the modern expressions of faith-based beliefs?

Filed under: Bad Science,belief,Bias,Science — tildeb @ 9:26 am

Although I’m late to the party, this short by Tim Minchin deals with many of today’s expressions of faith-based beliefs and why they are so lacking in intellectual honesty. Enjoy.

 

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38 Comments »

  1. He he – excellent.

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 9, 2011 @ 5:35 pm | Reply

  2. Yea, excellent. Mind you, science is starting to show us that maybe our forefathers werent as bad off as we think.

    Comment by Titfortat — April 9, 2011 @ 6:22 pm | Reply

  3. Here is one idea(there are many out in internet land) that show that maybe pre agricultural human was not as bad off as some like to think.

    http://www.ditext.com/diamond/mistake.html

    In other words, we might not be enjoying the best health in human history.

    Comment by Titfortat — April 10, 2011 @ 9:17 am | Reply

    • Well, health is a word that can have many meanings, and the ‘best’ health open to much debate. But whatever we inform the word to mean surely is open to various empirical comparisons and it is here where we need to be a little more circumspect defining what our criteria actually is in terms of health than is Diamond who compares the effects of agriculture on such a narrow band of before-and-after categories. For example, to be fair to the video’s claim about the effects of science on health, the comparison needs to be made to post industrial data and not pre-industrial. Simply put, if your child was ill from an unknown cause, would you choose a pre- or post industrial approach to treatment? Therein lies your answer to what is considered ‘best’.

      Comment by tildeb — April 10, 2011 @ 10:43 am | Reply

      • When I was 11 – I had appendicitis. With no aesthetics, or surgery techniques to deal with this simple condition I would almost certainly have died of septicaemia. I was lucky to be born in a first world country – mortality from appendicitis is still very high worldwide.

        Modern medical science is a miracle that has allowed me to live over three times as long as nature had intended me to live.

        Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 10, 2011 @ 11:17 am

    • I think that the “hidden variable” here is survival. Most gather-hunter societies had and have a high mortality rate in early childhood (also read Diamond’s book (I think this was “the third chimpanzee”), he describes something about leaving the babies to die because a father and mother could not carry more than two infants with them). That does not sound so healthy. It seems true that survivors kept better health than us, but the cost was not something to be ignored.

      Comment by gabo — April 27, 2011 @ 3:26 pm | Reply

  4. Modern medical science is a miracle that has allowed me to live over three times as long as nature had intended me to live(Rant)

    Lol, maybe, but how healthy comparably? You guys sound more and more like a Fundy.

    Comment by Titfortat — April 10, 2011 @ 5:03 pm | Reply

    • Oh I am pretty fundamental about medical science – without it I would be dead, no question.

      Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 11, 2011 @ 2:29 am | Reply

  5. Simply put, if your child was ill from an unknown cause, would you choose a pre- or post industrial approach to treatment?(tildeb)

    Here is the interesting thing, could the post industrial be the reason you are sick?

    Comment by Titfortat — April 10, 2011 @ 5:05 pm | Reply

    • I knew you’d reply with this! It’s such a cop out. Just look at infant deaths from measles and mumps before and after vaccinations. Wouldn’t it be grand to know what those rates were prior to Jesus? Prior to agriculture?

      The interesting thing is how quickly you cast your net to seek support for your misanthropy of the modern world.

      Comment by tildeb — April 10, 2011 @ 8:14 pm | Reply

    • Could living in any age be the reason why you are sick…of course it could because you are vulnerable to the environment that you live in. The difference is that we now have the tools and techniques to help identify what makes us sick…

      Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 11, 2011 @ 2:35 am | Reply

  6. tildeb

    Oh such a silly, silly man you are. Because I question certain ideas you propose does not mean I hate anything. I just dont buy your view, hook, line and sinker. We are becoming more aware of what predates agriculture. Do a little reading, you know, inform yourself. Vaccines are good for the most part, but were they always needed like they are today. Hmmm, thats a question we may not ever get an exact answer for. I think Jared started his article with a good sentence.

    “To science we owe dramatic changes in our smug self-image”

    By the way, Im not religious. So stop praying to Jesus, its annoying. 🙂

    Comment by Titfortat — April 10, 2011 @ 8:29 pm | Reply

    • I’m just saying that if we want to compare, then it’s important we realize how little we have to go on regarding our forefathers in deeper time. But what we do know, we owe to science. That must count for something.

      We also know that the method of linking effects to cause by way of a natural mechanism is relatively new, so if we extrapolate back to times when we had no reliable way to make much of a link to the biggest killers of all – viruses and germs – then I think we can safely say that modern medicine is a vast improvement to producing efficacious treatments compared to, say, pre-agricultural times. It is reasonable to presume death rates from what we would call ‘trivial’ causes today would not be so trivial then. Your presumption that modern man (post-industrial) causes many of these viruses and germs is a real stretch of the imagination when we also know that viruses and germs are constantly mutating. Attributing the cause of mutation to man is probably true in some specifics but can hardly be justified to be exaggerated to include some majority.

      Diamond’s sociology is untrustworthy no matter how attractive his linkages may appear because too much knowledge is hardly a liability in dealing with a universe that is trying to kill us most often by means of our own ignorance. And I use the term ‘misanthropy’ towards you because I often identify a theme in your comments about our untrustworthy advancements. I cannot recall you ever holding up man’s achievements without qualifying them to be far less than they should be… as if as a species we disappoint regularly.

      Comment by tildeb — April 10, 2011 @ 9:14 pm | Reply

  7. Like Scurvy?

    Or how about something as simple as dental care… I think we all take this for granted today. Something as simple as rotten or broken teeth can have a dramatic effect on an individual’s health, without teeth or with painful teeth it is difficult to eat.

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 11, 2011 @ 1:14 am | Reply

  8. But what we do know, we owe to science. That must count for something.(tildeb)

    I agree, that was my point. Maybe the science is trying to show that our forefathers werent quite as bad as the video portrayed. I take it you missed my point.

    Comment by Titfortat — April 11, 2011 @ 8:39 pm | Reply

    • No, I didn’t miss it: I countered it by suggesting that our inability to know how effects were caused reduced the quality and potential of human life.

      Comment by tildeb — April 11, 2011 @ 9:10 pm | Reply

  9. Why try to counter what science is attempting? It may not be exact, is any of it, but it does offer some new ‘science’ that doesnt quite match the Hobbesian view of our ancestors. There are lots of new theories in regards to our forefathers longevity, I am merely trying to show that it isnt quite as black and white as some would think. Who knows, maybe the science will show you the way. 😉

    Comment by Titfortat — April 11, 2011 @ 9:27 pm | Reply

  10. This paper by Diamond is a hypothesis and not a very good one either. The reason for this is that it does not take into account the trade-off between modern advancement and the time needed to achieve it.

    Agriculture provided much more than the ability to eat plenty of food for a growing population – by far the biggest advantage it gave us was time. Would specialist skills have been given the time to develop if everyone had to gather their own subsistence? I doubt it.

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 12, 2011 @ 2:30 am | Reply

  11. The reason for this is that it does not take into account the trade-off between modern advancement and the time needed to achieve it.(Rant)

    Interesting that you make this point, I would imagine this is one of the short comings of modernity also. We develop things much too quickly and ignore the possible ramifications of these ‘advancements’. How’s that old saying go, “Haste makes waste”.
    As far as your view of Diamonds hypothesis, well, how many degree’s do you have? After looking at his credentials it would seem to me that maybe he has a slight edge over a ranter on the internet.

    Comment by Titfortat — April 12, 2011 @ 9:25 am | Reply

    • I have a post graduate degree – so that would be enough qualifications not to hold academics on a plinth because they scatter their designations about like icing on a crapply baked cake.

      Some postgraduates bate with shit papers, to get other people to critique them – i.e. they get other people to do their work for them. I bet a lot of people have written to Diamond to point out how weak his hypothesis is – and as such I bet he has harvested a lot of research material with very little effort.

      This is known as a research strategy – but then you would know this right, being someone who can spot this sort of thing?

      “Interesting that you make this point, I would imagine this is one of the short comings of modernity also.”

      That is why it would be a tradeoff… given the choice of dying from cancer in old age because of the use of preservatives in food, or dying of food poisoning in my 30s – I think I would choose cancer.

      The argument that modern life is not perfect therefore, it is crap compared to where we were before is lame. The advantages of modern living far outweigh dying from tetanus, whooping cough, measles, scurvy, broken bones, bad teeth or any other shitty disease of history. If you think otherwise, give up your modern life and go live in the jungle with a tribe – I am sure you will be very happy there, with the mosquitos to keep you company at night.

      I know from undertaking a genealogy project on my own family, that until my great grandparents my ancestors were lucky to make it past 40 – this was normal. Tuberculosis was the biggest killer – folk used to call it consumption; child birth was another BIG killer. We all take modern life for granted in a very big way.

      Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 12, 2011 @ 3:42 pm | Reply

  12. Rant

    Again, were talking about a benchmark. Why are your somewhat immediate ancestors the ONLY benchmark for how good or bad life was? Im not saying we dont experience many advantages over many ages of the human race. All I tried to point out was that maybe there are other ways of looking at it. Obviously you dont think so.

    Comment by Titfortat — April 12, 2011 @ 8:43 pm | Reply

    • I know I’m kind of butting in here, but when you suggest there are other ways of looking at it, I think you’re overlooking just how difficult it is to compare directly. For example, if a fine specimen from 50,000 years ago is discovered that has signs of a long and healthy life, there is still no way to determine if this was the norm from that time or a freak occurance. What I’m saying is that if we work backwards, and we know there was little in the way of linking effects with a cause by means of an understandable and knowable mechanism for all kinds of knowledge we take for granted today, then I think that lack of knowledge reasonably weighs in favour of the probability that life was much harder and riskier the further back in time we go.

      Comment by tildeb — April 12, 2011 @ 9:20 pm | Reply

  13. There is a branch of structured study known as anthropology, where many of these questions have been asked before and are still being asked. If you want to know what life is like without modernity you can study this in the field.

    Yes hunter gatherers are healthy, while they are healthy – but the day they take an injury is the day that years are knocked off their lives – and I think this is the fundamental difference between then and now. In the wild a bone that does not heal correctly changes a healthy strong man into a useless cripple – who unless is supported by the rest of the tribe, becomes a malnourished.

    What we see in tribes, isn’t the disrespect of older tribe members because they cannot contribute to the family pantry, it is the opposite – the maintenance of older life because of the opportunity to transfer life skills (knowledge) from the old to the young, for the benefit of the greater and future tribe.

    Modern life isn’t that much different from prehistoric life in this respect – we all stand on the shoulders of giants, and we all provide information to each other to make life easier.

    Agriculture isn’t new – even hunter gatherers practice a form of agriculture – flicking mushrooms before they pick, shaking the tree before they harvest it, hunting a different pack of monkey’s because there are less females in the one they usually hunt, and even processing food to make it more palatable.

    The problem with Diamond’s hypothesis is that he is assuming a switch was thrown, and a conscious decision was made to embrace modern agriculture one day over picking berries and eating road kill – this didn’t happen. The other problem with Diamond’s hypothesis is that he assumes that the only benefit derived from agriculture was the quantity of food – again this is not true. Quality of food is a factor in agriculture.

    We also use crops for the creation of materials – again this is just an extension from our hunter gatherer days, where we would use plants and animals to build shelters, boats, clothes and accessories another thing Diamond conveniently ignores.

    If you are genuinely interested in this subject I would recommend watching Bruce Perry’s documentaries where he went and lived with a tribe, and also brought a tribe member back to a modern city – here is a snippet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DeVovHw1RY

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 13, 2011 @ 1:29 am | Reply

  14. Rant

    Thanks for the lesson. I didnt know what Anthropolgy was(duh,really??). There are more people than just Diamond who have similar theories or hypothesis’s. I have seen some of Perrys stuff before, very interesting for sure. The thing is how can that be a direct reflection of a true hunter gather society considering the fact that they are limited in their movement. Modernity has forced them to the back of the bus. The more I talk with you and tildeb the more I get the sense that only YOUR ways of looking at things have merits. It seems often my examples that come from certain academics always meet with your disapproval. Oh well, I guess I need a post graduate degree to get any love from ya.

    Comment by Titfortat — April 13, 2011 @ 9:27 am | Reply

    • Naw… we’d just bash you for having the wrong kind of degree!

      Seriously, though, alternate theories are fine as long as we give a hat tip to what knowledge actually informs them so that we can compare and contrast them with some confidence and fairness. (I’ve never found sociology to be worth much because it tends to overlook and account for the details and makes up new terms to fill in this failure.) But what often happens is that many tend to skip over and excuse this lack of knowledge by pretending the fault lies with the method of gaining knowledge itself… as if the method was somehow untrustworthy or done for other more nefarious considerations and, if not for these unreasonable constraints, the alternative theory would be more highly valued. But the way to infuse value into alternative theories (hypotheses, really) is to inform it better with knowledge we can rely on rather than undermine the method we use to gain knowledge.

      That’s all I’m trying to say here.

      Comment by tildeb — April 13, 2011 @ 9:47 am | Reply

  15. Naw… we’d just bash you for having the wrong kind of degree!(tildeb)

    Lol, “To every joke a word of truth” 😉

    Comment by Titfortat — April 13, 2011 @ 10:28 am | Reply

  16. “I didnt know what Anthropolgy was(duh,really??).”

    I was being patronisingly sarcastic – you know sarcasm being the lowest form of wit and all that good stuff. ….

    “The thing is how can that be a direct reflection of a true hunter gather society considering the fact that they are limited in their movement.”

    Are you saying that hunter gatherers are free to roam everywhere all the time? This seems like a huge assumption to make, without gathering some observational evidence first.

    Let me put it this way, without modern transport what do you think your range would be? 10 miles, 20 miles, 100 miles, 1000 miles? And without modern transport do you think long trips would be a casual thing or a less casual thing to do?

    “The more I talk with you and tildeb the more I get the sense that only YOUR ways of looking at things have merits.”

    Who said they were our ways of looking at things? I use very little of my own knowledge to find things out or to argue in debates. Finding new ways of looking at things is a very difficult achievement.

    The trouble with you tft is that you assume that I have not understood your alternative hypothesis or that we do not have any reasonable argument against it. And when I disagree with your explanation with a reasoned argument supported by referencable evidence; you repudiate your own fallibility, by demoting the value of knowledge.

    “It seems often my examples that come from certain academics always meet with your disapproval. Oh well, I guess I need a post graduate degree to get any love from ya.”

    Degrees don’t give people brains – I have met some pretty dumb academics. The actual degree is less important than the thought process that was taken to acquire it.

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 13, 2011 @ 4:34 pm | Reply

  17. Wait, didn’t Methusaleh live to like 900?

    Comment by SocietyVs — April 13, 2011 @ 6:21 pm | Reply

    • 900 what – years?

      Perhaps you can start by defining what you understand a bible year to be? Is a bible year, 365 days – a single day being the period of day light that is separated by a period of darkness – i.e. night time?

      Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 14, 2011 @ 1:31 am | Reply

  18. Are you saying that hunter gatherers are free to roam everywhere all the time? This seems like a huge assumption to make, without gathering some observational evidence first.(Rant)

    Well, considering we now have ownership of lands with titles and all that stuff, I would say that makes some pretty compelling evidence on the possible limitations that didnt exist before.

    Comment by Titfortat — April 13, 2011 @ 8:03 pm | Reply

    • Before land titles there would have been territories, and geographical boundaries scarred out of the landscape by rivers, ditches, wild animals, deserts and oceans – as a species we have always been limited by something. The question is does the fact that a limitation exist invalidate the study of pre-modern humans – I don’t think it does. The lost tribe in the modern jungle is still vulnerable to their environment, and I still limited in health by what their immediate environment can offer.

      Like many predators (e.g. lions), I think it is reasonable to assume that humans would have selected and defended territories rich in natural resources that can provide the subsistence to ensure the survival their linage. The modern jungle while shrunken is still a massive place, and still offers insights into how humans in the wild behave and interact with nature.

      Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 14, 2011 @ 1:17 am | Reply

  19. Before land titles there would have been territories, and geographical boundaries scarred out of the landscape by rivers, ditches, wild animals, deserts and oceans – as a species we have always been limited by something(Rant)

    Yes, we still have that AND the increased limitations due to Land titles, increased populations. The fact is there are no comparable examples TODAY of what hunter gather societies would have been like lets say 10,000 yrs ago.

    Comment by Titfortat — April 14, 2011 @ 5:27 am | Reply

    • Ok so you are saying – how do you know they were hunter gatherers 10,000 years ago – perhaps they had a higher standard of living than we do today, because we can not compare completely like with like – so therefore your argument must have some value.

      So all the archaeological evidence we have found backs this argument up – right? And matches the anthropological evidence that we can collect today – right? Or do the two studies totally contradict each other? (i.e. the modern tribes or healthier or in poor health compared with their ancestors – deducted through Osteology?).

      We have found artefacts that prove that people lived healthy lives? And what do those bones tell us? That people were strong and healthy, big and tall? These bones we found are they normal and how do they compare with modern bones? Do they have the same minerals in them, the same wear, come from the same age of the person?

      Again – you are denying the evidence we do have, to build a cynical belief based on stuff that YOU think is not knowable.

      The thing is with science – is that it overlaps – physics doesn’t contradict chemistry. Anthropology doesn’t contradict archaeology – if it did, then you would have a very strong point.

      Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 15, 2011 @ 2:18 am | Reply

  20. “900 what – years?” (MUR)

    Uhm, yeah?

    Comment by SocietyVs — April 14, 2011 @ 12:57 pm | Reply

    • And you think this is proof of what? That people used to live for 900 years?

      Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 15, 2011 @ 1:54 am | Reply

  21. “And you think this is proof of what? That people used to live for 900 years?” (MUR)

    Would you believe 1/2 years?

    Comment by SocietyVs — April 15, 2011 @ 6:10 pm | Reply

    • Not sure I understand your response – 1 or 2 years or half of 900 years?

      I don’t believe that Methuselah existed at all – since the only evidence is the Hebrew bible, which is a story with no more veracity than Harry Potter.

      Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 16, 2011 @ 2:28 am | Reply


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