Jun 23 2017

NASA Slams Goop

Body-Vibes_10-2Recently I have been vacillating between two different views of humanity. On the one hand, we all share a core neuropsychology. We are all struggling to get through life with our humble meat machines, complete with cognitive biases, flawed perception and memory, and irrational tendencies.

On the other hand, it often seems like there are fundamentally different kinds of people in the world. I guess it depends on whether you focus on what we have in common, or what separates us. Articles like this make it difficult not to focus on the latter.

This has been circulating recently so you probably have already seen it – Paltrow’s wretched hive of scum and quackery she calls Goop is promoting a product called Body Vibes. This is the bottom of the barrel of pure pseudoscientific nonsense wrapped in holistic bling. The claims are also nothing new – your body has an energy frequency, and our little sticker (or bracelet, amulet, fez, whatever) will balance your energy vibrations and cure what ails you.

This time they pulled the whole, “Using NASA technology” bit (something about carbon fibers from NASA spacesuits) prompting Gizmodo to contact NASA with a predictable response.  They report:

“A representative from NASA’s spacewalk office told Gizmodo that they “do not have any conductive carbon material lining the spacesuits.” Spacesuits are actually made of synthetic polymers, spandex, and other materials that serve a purpose beyond making their wearer look like a resident of Nightmare Coachella.

“Gizmodo has asked Body Vibes to provide us with the peer-reviewed research that supports their claim that their “astronaut” stickers have any impact on the human body. We’ve also asked Body Vibes and Goop for their response to NASA’s assertion that they definitely do not use a “carbonate material” to line their spacesuits. So far, no luck on either front.”

In response Goop pulled the claim about NASA from their website while they check into it.

This is all obvious nonsense and nothing even remotely scientifically interesting. What is interesting is how people can believe even for an instant that wearing a tiny sticker on their arm will affect their health. I really try to get inside the mind of people who will spend $120 for a package of stupid-looking stickers and think they are going to balance their vibrations.

I may be able to grasp it in the abstract – they basically know nothing about science, words like “energy” make their eyes glaze over, and they find the lifestyle that is being sold to them emotionally appealing. But what this shows is that, despite our neurological and psychological similarities, education and habits of thought can have a profound effect on individuals.

I don’t like the whole, “There are two kinds of people in this world,” thing. People are much more complex and multifarious than any simple dichotomy. But at times it does seem like there are two kinds of people – NASA people and Goop people.

NASA people care about understanding how the world actually works. It’s important, because the stakes can be high (especially if you are trying to send people to the Moon). But even on Earth, we make decisions about our health, about the environment, and how to solve our problems. Understanding logic, science, and having a core dedication to a valid process of evaluating claims is key to this decision-making. Facts matter to NASA people. We are offended by brazen deception, a wanton disregard for facts, and blatant pseudoscience.

Goop people don’t seem to live in this world. Facts are whatever feels good. Philosophy and spirituality trump evidence and logic. In the extreme view, facts are oppressive. They are only a means for one person to exert dominance over another. Facts are mean – they are something to be denigrated because they get in the way of a feel-good holistic approach to life. Goop people don’t try to understand the world, they just impose their philosophy on it.

In Goop world you can put a tiny plastic sticker on your arm and it will give you energy, improve your focus, and promote healing (but don’t leave it on too long or it will leave a mark on your skin). Don’t worry about the details – something about energy and vibrations. Even better, you can wear the sticker as a badge of how fashionably hip you are. You are unconventional, open-minded, and have the kind of disposable income that makes you a target for every charlatan and woo-peddler.

I am definitely NASA people. I really try to be fair and kind to Goop people, and on a personal level I think I am. I still keep in mind that we are all people, and mostly the products of our biology and our environment. (There is also a lot more to people than just NASA vs Goop.) I try to take a nurturing approach – perhaps some Goop people have a little NASA person inside them. But I can be kind to the people without holding my punches when it comes to the claims and the philosophy. Disregarding facts and science is misguided and dangerous, and causes untold harm.

Things like vibration stickers remind me of how wide the divide can be between NASA people and Goop people. It also reminds me of how Goop people victimize themselves and each other. We have to do better.

 

117 responses so far

117 Responses to “NASA Slams Goop”

  1. Bob McNamaraon 23 Jun 2017 at 9:05 am

    As a Goop person for 65 of my 72 years, I find your assessment spot on. It saddens me that your article is so accurate; I wish it weren’t, but it is . . . at least in my experience. I was raised Irish Catholic. I went to Catholic elementary and high schools. After high school I entered St Thomas Seminary, studying for the priesthood for six years, where I was awarded a BA in Philosophy. I did two years graduate work in “theology.” I use quotes because, as Richard Dawkins once pointed out, theology is not a real study. I went into the Navy for 25 years. My wife, it turned out, had attended the same elementary and high school as me. After high school, she entered the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati for six years. The environment that we provided our three children was deeply Goop people; not just church services, but also family rosary, home studies in catechism, independent scripture study, etc. Our Goop personhood sculpted every aspect of our social and political lives. As you stated: we were not interested in trying to understand the world, we just imposed our philosophy on it. Today, we are in our seventies, scrambling to catch up with the NASA people. We listen to The Skeptics Guide to the Universe. We have taken your course “Your Deceptive Mind.” Instead of papal encyclicals we read Richard Dawkins, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Brian Cox, Brian Greene, Carl Sagan, Daniel Dennett, Lawrence Krauss, Sean Carroll, and yourself. We found that our fellow Goop people were really only interested in wielding power, wealth, and privilege. Sadly, victimizing others is a thing for Goop people. We suffered a great deal of harm as Goop people. Fortunately, our children and grandchildren are all NASA people.

  2. SteveAon 23 Jun 2017 at 9:20 am

    “Paltrow’s wretched hive of scum and quackery”

    This made me laugh.

    Don’t hold back now…

  3. SteveAon 23 Jun 2017 at 9:25 am

    And kudos to you, Bob. Never too late.

  4. MWSlettenon 23 Jun 2017 at 9:32 am

    >There is also a lot more to people than just NASA vs Goop.

    Yes, like Republicans and Democrats! 😉

  5. MosBenon 23 Jun 2017 at 9:57 am

    I’m pretty sure that I heard somewhere that it is important to keep those lovin’ good vibrations a-happening.

  6. LiamAon 23 Jun 2017 at 11:12 am

    It certainly seems like a dichotomy. I really hope that, with time, more of us can get in line with science-based standards and back away from celebrity culture and whatever propaganda leads to Goopism (or climate denialism, or whatever unreasonable distortion of facts one subscribes to).

  7. DisplayGeekon 23 Jun 2017 at 11:26 am

    To be fair, at least regarding ‘patches’… we tell them that patches CAN be powerful and effect their health. We tell them that this patch will slowly administer powerful medicines (e.g. estrogen) that will have profound effects, and they do.

    The problem of “two types” is that we often forget that half of the world is “below average”, by definition. They are below average intelligence. They are below average curiosity. They are below average education. They are below average understanding of what education they received. They are below average in their skepticism. They are below average.

    Most people live in a world of magic that they do not understand. They flip a switch and the room becomes brighter. They turn a key and the car starts (making noise) and they can then make it go places. They put pre-packaged food into a box and press flat numbered places on the front and the food spins and gets hot. They walk up to a transparent wall and part of it slides out of their way… They swipe and press on places on a flat glass rectangle and get photos of cats and of their friends making funny faces… ALL of this is magic. They have no idea how any of it works, not really.

    Is it any wonder that people believe in magic rocks to put into private parts? Or that this or that magic fruit will help them be healthy? Or that one type of needle wards off evil spirits (viruses) that can make them sick and another type of needle wards off evil spirits (unbalanced chi) that can make them sick? They literally have no means off separating our modern tech and science from woo. All of it is magic.

    As Arthur C. Clark said, any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. We have arrived.

  8. Sylakon 23 Jun 2017 at 11:31 am

    I know people just like that, Goop people. I also know people you kind of want to be Nasa people, but end believing goop people a little too much. I guess sometimes, there’s a bad combination of curiosity, naiveté and ignorance about how our own minds can deceive us. They want to learn about the world, find solutions they want to know, as much as any good skeptic, but they cannot separate Bs from actual science ( our Bs philosophy from actual philosophy). They hook on everything that’s appealing. They can’t separate fact from a good narrative that’s more attractive. They don’t know how to wield their curiosity, I might say. It’s a great thing, but it can back fire. Most people believe a little BS, but most have at least one or 2 “low yield” skeptical tool in their pockets, so that their bs believin stay in check, some just don’t and if they have a huge curiosity, that can end badly.

  9. tb29607on 23 Jun 2017 at 11:50 am

    DisplayGeek,
    I recently talked to the parent of a patient who asked me what bacteria are. I tried saying they are “germs” but this explanation did not help. Tried showing a (magnified) picture of a bacterium but was told that could not be right because the thing in the picture was too big to “fit in there”.
    I am afraid you are correct.

  10. DevoutCatalyston 23 Jun 2017 at 12:09 pm

    Plenty of smart people who believe non-sense. Plenty of below average who call bullshït.

  11. michaelegnoron 23 Jun 2017 at 12:09 pm

    Yep, ‘goop’ is surely b.s.

    In what way is the materialist belief that the mind is material any less crazy? Why is

    “The claims are also nothing new – your body has an energy frequency, and our little sticker (or bracelet, amulet, fez, whatever) will balance your energy vibrations and cure what ails you.”

    any crazier than

    “The Astonishing Hypothesis is that “You,” your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll’s Alice might have phrased it: “You’re nothing but a pack of neurons.” ” (Francis Crick)

    My sarcasm aside, my point (in case you’re a bit dense) is that materialist explanations for the mind, the universe, biological complexity, etc. are no less batsh*t than the mass of pseudoscience in the media.

    Materialism is no less crazy than “Goop”.

  12. BBBlueon 23 Jun 2017 at 12:34 pm

    Wow, what a tortured mind. A Goop person (M.E.) who thinks Goop is B.S. Is that a third category?

  13. LCon 23 Jun 2017 at 1:03 pm

    “Wow, what a tortured mind. A Goop person (M.E.) who thinks Goop is B.S. Is that a third category?”

    I don’t think so. I think the distinction comes down to whether emotion trumps rationality or the other way around. If emotion trumps rationality, then you’re going to believe what you want to believe despite the evidence (which doesn’t stop you from evaluating evidence in a rational manner when there’s no emotional investment involved). The term “sacred cow” describes this perfectly. When rationality trumps emotion, the same standards one applies to evaluate goop also give us the rational answer about duality — the logic and approach are consistent. When emotion trumps rationality, one engages in all sorts of mental gymnastics — like ME’s insincere, hackneyed false equivalence above — to assuage the cognitive dissonance.

  14. Karl Withakayon 23 Jun 2017 at 1:19 pm

    There’s a comment in this thread that reminds me of something:

    Most NASA people know they are NASA people, but Goop people tend to be unaware that they are Goop people.

  15. expblaston 23 Jun 2017 at 1:32 pm

    @bob, to change your thinking from superstition to logic so late in life in inspiring and commendable. Proof that it’s not too late for anyone.

  16. MFDHon 23 Jun 2017 at 1:32 pm

    I can accept goopy people with a decent amount of flexibility. I’m happy to (preferably quietly) agree to disagree (or politely out loud). My friendship is not predicated on agreement. Live and let live.

    The sticking point is this: Goopy people are rankled when they’re not agreed with. They want to talk about it more. They want to make attempts to persuade. If persuasion fails, they want to issue little passive-aggressive barbs that, if not accepted genially, may precipitate from them a bout of full-on indignance.

    Decline to engage in a debate? You think you’re better than them.

    Agree to engage in debate? Be castigated for implying that they share the human tendency to be wrong about nearly everything.

    This nervousness about disagreement underpins a lot of the goop mentality, in my opinion. Disagreement is a world of grey, where black and/or white are more comfortable to think about. Disagreement inspires defensiveness in the insecure, anger from the powerful, ridicule from the ignorant. It’s a non-stop party.

    I’d love it if goopy people would simply take a hint when they’ve asked me about something and I’ve made a polite dodge.

    “Did you know juicing alters your DNA to be more spiritual?”

    “Looks like rain. Do you think it will rain?”

    “Have you ever read about the conspiracy to keep the white man down?”

    “Is your aunt still gardening a lot?”

    “Why do you keep changing the subject?”

    “I think I hear firetrucks in the distance. Is that just me? Let’s all be quiet. Quiet now: Firetrucks.”

  17. mattnon 23 Jun 2017 at 3:01 pm

    Boy, this post and much of the discussion makes me uncomfortable. I’m entirely on board with acknowledging how much BS comes from Goop and Dr. Egnor and the like, but when we start talking about how the NASA people (us) are so much smarter than the Goop people (them), I get very uncomfortable. The point was made by someone above, but many otherwise intelligent people buy into plenty of silliness, and many people with lower traditional intelligence are very competent scientists and skeptics. I wish we could avoid any categorization of this type. It seems only to serve to reinforce “our” (the smart, skeptical people’s) self-perception of our superiority, and could lead us to a place of unquestioned confirmation bias. I know Dr. Novella tries very hard to challenge his own biases, as should we all, but this type of categorization seems out of place in a skeptical environment.

  18. chikoppion 23 Jun 2017 at 3:05 pm

    [michaelegnor] In what way is…

    Evidence. All the evidence indicates that the brain is the mind. There is no evidence for ghosts, or homunculi, or magic realms of existence. Those are made-up things to explain away uncertainty. The fact that we dont completely understand how subjective experience works is not license to invent imaginary things.

    It’s a lot easier to make things up than to deal with uncertainty. Uncertainty is stressful. “Knowing” that a sticker will promote good health is easier than dealing with the fact that health is complicated and often fragile. A little smear of sciency-sounding language makes it easier to swallow (or spiritualism, or theology). These things are coping mechanisms, which is fine, until they supplant evidence-based inquiries, interventions, and choices.

  19. edamameon 23 Jun 2017 at 3:21 pm

    the universe is empirically indistinguishable from one in which consciousness is a brain state, but we should add a dash of fairy magic to the mix because reasons. thanks egnor you never derail everything always.

  20. Steven Novellaon 23 Jun 2017 at 3:46 pm

    mattn – you will not find any mention of relative intelligence in the article. I went out of my way to discuss how similar people are, and noted that the NASA vs Goop differences are due to learned habits of thought and environment. I also, more than once, distanced my point from any simple dichotomy. So, you cannot boil it down the way you did without ignoring all my caveats.

    But the bottom line is – there is something fundamentally different about the way Goop people think. It’s silly to deny it because it makes you feel vaguely uncomfortable.

  21. mattnon 23 Jun 2017 at 3:53 pm

    Understood and agreed, Dr. Novella – I acknowledge your caveats and am not meaning to accuse you of creating the dichotomy. But some of the commenters are doing so. And it simply does make me uncomfortable to categorize people like this, especially when it appears to create an us and them, with “us” as the good ones.

  22. michaelegnoron 23 Jun 2017 at 4:39 pm

    chi:

    [Evidence. All the evidence indicates that the brain is the mind.]

    The evidence is that the brain is ordinarily necessary for the mind. Materialists and dualists agree on that.

    The question at hand is whether the brain is sufficient for the mind. On that, the evidence strongly favors the dualist view.

  23. bachfiendon 23 Jun 2017 at 4:55 pm

    Michael,

    What ‘evidence’ (besides egnorance) strongly favours the dualist view of the mind?

  24. BBBlueon 23 Jun 2017 at 5:00 pm

    michaelegnor- bachfiend beat me to it, but I will ask the same question anyway: In your opinion, what is the single most compelling bit of evidence that “strongly favors the dualist view”?

  25. chikoppion 23 Jun 2017 at 5:28 pm

    [michaelegnor] The question at hand is whether the brain is sufficient for the mind. On that, the evidence strongly favors the dualist view.

    There is compelling evidence that brains actually exist.

    The “dualist view” is that brains are insufficient and it is therefore permissible invent things to explain away uncertainty. It is also necessary that these invented things be definitionally undetectable, unlike everything else that actually exists and interacts with other aspects of reality.

    But if you’re interested, I’m selling stickers that that emit a vibrational field that better aligns your spiritual mind with your physical brain to promote the healing aura.

  26. michaelegnoron 23 Jun 2017 at 6:25 pm

    [In your opinion, what is the single most compelling bit of evidence that “strongly favors the dualist view”?]

    There are several lines of evidence, which can be categorized as logical evidence and empirical evidence.

    Te strongest evidence is logical. While material generation of thought about particulars can be defended (even then, only if you adopt a hylomorphic perspective), thought about universals cannot in principle be generated by matter. Thought about universals is inherently immaterial in origin, although matter can influence it. This argument dates to Aristotle, and is decisive.

    In addition, there are intractable problems with the various materialist theories of the mind– strong behaviorism, identity theory, computer functionalism (which amusingly is inevitably a type of dualism anyway) and eliminative materialism. None of these can be defended successfully.

    In the empirical realm, dualism is supported by all research that shows poor or incomplete correlation between mental processes and physical processes, which is, well, all research in neuroscience.

    From my perspective, the most compelling empirical evidence for dualism includes

    1) the failure to demonstrate localization of higher thought processes (abstract thought) that parallels the precise localization of motor, sensory, and vegetative function.
    2) Wilder Penfield’s work with stimulation during craniotomies under local anesthesia.
    3) Libet’s work on free will.
    4) Sperry’s work on corpus callosotomy.
    5) Near-death experiences.

    Dualism is strongly supported by logic and experiment. Materialism is a dead fable, not much different, I must say, from the theory of Goop.

  27. civilon 23 Jun 2017 at 6:36 pm

    Posts like yours make me happy, BobMcNamara.

  28. chikoppion 23 Jun 2017 at 7:34 pm

    [michaelegnor] From my perspective, the most compelling empirical evidence for dualism includes…

    Right. Things we don’t fully understand is somehow evidence for things that don’t exist.

    In the empirical realm, dualism is supported by all research that shows poor or incomplete correlation between mental processes and physical processes, which is, well, all research in neuroscience.

    Nope. All your work is still ahead of you. The fact that your car engine isn’t working is not evidence for the existence of gremlins.

    Dualism is strongly supported by logic and experiment. Materialism is a dead fable, not much different, I must say, from the theory of Goop.

    Uh-huh. I don’t understand how observable mass can explain the gravitational behavior of galaxies, therefore space fairies must exist. I know this to be true because space fairies, although entirely undetectable, are sufficient to explain away the uncertainty. It’s perfectly logical if you accept they exist…and they have to. Otherwise, how could galaxies behave that way?

    Did I mention I also sell charms that make the wearer undetectable to space fairies? They’re great for achieving weight loss.

  29. EmbraceWisdomon 23 Jun 2017 at 7:52 pm

    How amazing is it that a blog post advocating tribalism is met with such warmth?

    I disagree with any claim that there are fundamental differences between “goop” people and “NASA” people. I think it’s also mighty self-serving of you to pick a obviously pseudo-scientific, magical sticker, to represent your enemy’s position. While your side is represented by the organization that’s synonymous with intelligence and scientific breakthroughs. It’s literally were we get the phrase “it’s not rocket science.”

    This entire post and most of the comments are just communal self-praise.
    Where is the beloved principle of charity?
    Where’s the literal best “goop” position?
    Certainly a lot of these people who attended the goop event don’t believe in all these things?
    The entire new-age-woo movement isn’t tied down to the idea of magical stickers? Right?

    So who exactly are you describing here?

    There are a lot of what you would call, “NASA” people, who believe silly things, that change their eating habits when they see one article claiming that an everyday food causes cancer. There are certainly plenty of NASA people who buy into various positions that are unscientific, anti-GMO movement for example. Plenty of smart intellectuals shop for all organic food, they might not own magical healing stickers, but they go the extra mile to make sure their kids get the bananas with the “special green sticker” on them.

    If you want to claim that a NASA engineer or scientist who buys organic is not a “NASA” person, then that’s just the no true Scotsman fallacy. If you think they don’t exist, you’ve never been to California.

    It’s incredibly obvious your dichotomy is wrong. Every time you try to simplify something down to what is essentially tribalism, you have lost your way. Try again, there is much more than “goop” vs “NASA” in our world. Democrat vs Republican is also not a really useful thing either, just do some simple research into the ideological history of those parties.

    We love to think that everyone who reads blogs like this believes what we believe, but last time I checked Steven Novella was a registered republican. Still fine whatever, I’m sure he voted for Hillary, but do you really think that every aerospace engineer, scientist, doctor, (i.e. “NASA people”), voted for Hillary? Do you really think that you can just draw a line in sand and say that the world is a simple as: “there is something fundamentally different about the way Goop people think.”

    We are all just people, some of us are lucky to be exposed to the right kind of literature early on, or have a great scientific education. The rest are going to fall into some kind of ideology, you cant grow up in a culture without soaking some ideas in. Arguing that there are fundamental differences between these groups is so lazy. Spirituality is not incompatible with scientific thought and progress. You can believe in god and be a great intellectual, open a history book, read some biographies.

  30. michaelegnoron 23 Jun 2017 at 8:08 pm

    chi:

    [Right. Things we don’t fully understand is somehow evidence for things that don’t exist.]

    What you propose is ‘promissory materialism’– ‘there’s no evidence for materialism now, but you just wait! Trust us!’

    Materialism implicitly makes a very specific prediction, which can be tested. Materialism proposes that the brain generates the mind wholly, without remainder. In philosophical terms, materialism proposes that the mind supervenes on the brain. That is, any property or change in the mind is caused wholly by a corresponding property or change in the brain.

    We have massive evidence on cerebral localization of mental functions, which is evidence on supervenience of the mind on brain. Vegetative, motor and sensory function supervene well, with great precision. Intellectual function supervenes very poorly–intellectual processes are very diffusely represented in the brain, in the ‘association areas’, and what little localization we can find is radically different from the localization we find in motor, sensory, and vegetative areas of the brain.

    This is precisely what is predicted by Aristotelian-Thomistic dualism, which proposes that vegetative, motor and sensory function is material, but intellectual function (contemplation of universals, reason, etc) is immaterial.

    This radical difference in mapping of mind to brain between intellect and lower functions is confirmation of the dualist (Thomistic) view, and is refutation of the materialist view, which necessarily predicts precise mapping of all mind to brain.

  31. BBBlueon 23 Jun 2017 at 8:08 pm

    michaelegnor- I see, nothing has changed since your exchange with Steve back in 2008. I found his arguments in favor of materialism to be far more compelling and your evidence in favor of dualism to be Goop + Goop = more Goop.

  32. michaelegnoron 23 Jun 2017 at 8:33 pm

    BBB:

    [I found… arguments in favor of materialism to be far more compelling and your evidence in favor of dualism to be Goop + Goop = more Goop.]

    Ironically, the materialist theory is that Goop + Goop = Mind.

    I insist that the mind is not Goop.

  33. michaelegnoron 23 Jun 2017 at 8:35 pm

    Here are two of my posts on the scientific evidence for dualism, for those who are interested:

    https://evolutionnews.org/2014/01/do_benjamin_lib/

    https://evolutionnews.org/2016/04/wilder_penfield/

  34. chikoppion 23 Jun 2017 at 8:42 pm

    [michaelegnor] What you propose is ‘promissory materialism’– ‘there’s no evidence for materialism now, but you just wait! Trust us!’

    No evidence? “Material” things are all those things that interact within observable reality, substance monism. Dualism posits a separate substance, which magically interacts with the material world while yet remaining completely undetectable.

    The dualist object has no mass, yet interacts with matter. It has no charge, yet interacts with the electromagnetic field. It is conveniently inscrutable, yet is readily assigned whatever properties needed to provide explanatory cover.

    This radical difference in mapping of mind to brain between intellect and lower functions is confirmation of the dualist (Thomistic) view, and is refutation of the materialist view, which necessarily predicts precise mapping of all mind to brain.

    No it isn’t. The fact we don’t understand every aspect of a system, whether it be brains or galaxies, is not license to invent entities out of thin air to explain away our ignorance.

    Show me the gremlins. Don’t merely assert that, were they to exist, it would conveniently explain why your car works the way it does. That isn’t evidence for anything other than credulity.

  35. michaelegnoron 23 Jun 2017 at 9:27 pm

    chi:

    [“Material” things are all those things that interact within observable reality, substance monism.]

    Matter is what our sensory faculties interact with. our intellectual faculties interact with immaterial things–logic, reason, mathematics, concepts like justice, mercy, etc.

    Materialism denies the reality of immaterial entities, yet the very process of arguing for materialism (using reason and logic) presupposes the existence of immaterial concepts, and thus refutes materialism.

    David Bentley Hart (a philosopher and theologian) noted (correctly) that materialism isn’t really a philosophical viewpoint; it’s just a mistake.

    [Dualism posits a separate substance, which magically interacts with the material world while yet remaining completely undetectable. The dualist object has no mass, yet interacts with matter. It has no charge, yet interacts with the electromagnetic field. It is conveniently inscrutable, yet is readily assigned whatever properties needed to provide explanatory cover.]

    You are describing substance dualism, and you’re right about the inadequacies of substance dualism.

    I’m a Thomistic (hylemorphic) dualist, and Thomistic dualism does not have these problems.

    I point out that substance dualism, which was initially proposed by Descartes, was an effort to refute hylemorphic dualism, and that materialism is derived from Cartesian substance dualism.

    Descartes proposed that two substances exist: res cogitans and res extensa– mental substance and material substance.

    Materialists simply discarded the Cartesian res cogitans, and kept the res extensa.

    Materialism is just hacked-up Cartesian dualism. Both are errors.

  36. michaelegnoron 23 Jun 2017 at 9:55 pm

    chi:

    [“Material” things are all those things that interact within observable reality, substance monism.]

    Your error is to conflate the senses with the intellect– to believe that all things comprehended by the mind are material things grasped by the senses. It’s a common error, that began in earnest with Locke, who based much his theory of mind on this error.

    The Thomistic view is that the intellect is distinct from the senses. The senses grasp material things, but the intellect grasps immaterial things, such as reason, logic, etc. An ability (sensation) that grasps material things is itself inherently material, and an ability (intellect) that grasps immaterial things is inherently immaterial.

    Human beings are composites of material and immaterial abilities.

    Frankly, it’s obvious.

  37. chikoppion 23 Jun 2017 at 11:30 pm

    [michaelegnor] Matter is what our sensory faculties interact with. our intellectual faculties interact with immaterial things–logic, reason, mathematics, concepts like justice, mercy, etc.

    Right. So now “justice” is an object made out of magical dualist substance just like fruit is an object made out of regular everyday substance. Immaterial justice interacts with the immaterial mind like a material apple bangs into a material orange. That sure clears things up.

    Materialism denies the reality of immaterial entities, yet the very process of arguing for materialism (using reason and logic) presupposes the existence of immaterial concepts, and thus refutes materialism.

    No it doesn’t. It simply doesn’t confuse abstract concepts with the things those concepts describe. Time is “immaterial,” as is geometry. Those are abstractions that describe observed phenomena. Is your “mind” an abstraction, or is it a particular object (regardless of the kind of “substance” it is composed of)?

    Concepts are not, ultimately, immaterial. They are descriptions of how the brain, a real thing, orders and processes information. In a universe without brains there is no such thing as “justice” or “mercy.” These things aren’t independent objects, they are products of brain function.

    You are describing substance dualism, and you’re right about the inadequacies of substance dualism. I’m a Thomistic (hylemorphic) dualist, and Thomistic dualism does not have these problems.

    Yes it does. Hylomorohism posits that the form of an object exists distinct from the object itself. It requires substance dualism.

    [wikipedia] Eleonore Stump describes Aquinas’s theory of the soul in terms of “configuration”. The body is matter that is “configured”, i.e. structured, while the soul is a “configured configurer”. In other words, the soul is itself a configured thing, but it also configures the body. A dead body is merely matter that was once configured by the soul. It does not possess the configuring capacity of a human being.

    Aquinas believed that rational capacity was a property of the soul alone, not of any bodily organ. However, he did believe that the brain had some basic cognitive function. Aquinas’s attribution of rational capacity to the soul allowed him to claim that disembodied souls could retain their rational capacity, although he was adamant that such a state was unnatural.

    We’re right back to blaming non-existent gremlins again.

    Your error is to conflate the senses with the intellect– to believe that all things comprehended by the mind are material things grasped by the senses. It’s a common error, that began in earnest with Locke, who based much his theory of mind on this error.

    Nope. That’s your misinterpretation. “Comprehension” equates to cognitive processes, which are defined by the physical structure of the brain. You’re the one who believes concepts are (immaterial) objects which interact with the (immaterial) mind. Claiming that these things are objects made out of a magical substance doesn’t solve any of your problems.

    Frankly, it’s obvious.

    It sure is.

  38. bachfiendon 23 Jun 2017 at 11:46 pm

    Michael,

    I don’t expect you to respond to this comment. You have a habit of engaging in the Egnor Evasion when confronted with evidence you don’t like or don’t have an answer to. Or both. It’s just a manifestation of your confirmation bias and motivated reasoning.

    It has been established neuroscience and philosophical thinking for decades that the brain is the mind and the mind is the brain. The mind is the brain. The mind isn’t just something that the brain ‘does’. This is the viewpoint supported by all the evidence and all the research, which are nails in the coffin of dualism, whether substance dualism (your opinion) or property dualism (your caricature of what you think is the position of science).

    The mind is exactly like vision. There’s no one single location within the brain which has the entire input into the illusion that we call the conscious mind (and there’s a much larger, more important unconscious mind) or vision. And both are illusions – convincing illusions, very useful illusions and often reliable illusions – but still illusions.

    There’s a neurological condition – prosopagnosia – in which the person is unable to recognise faces. Recognising faces is a very complex process involving many lower visual centres recognising lines and colours allowing higher visual centres to recognise ears, eyes, noses, mouths and other facial features which are then integrated together to produce an identification of a face belonging to a specific individual, even if the individual was last seen decades earlier and has put on 30 kg and aged correspondingly.

    Humans evolved to recognise faces, seeing faces where they don’t exist. Such as Jesus Christ in pieces of toast. Once I came along a single round gallstone in a gallbladder, which I kept aside and showed to my colleagues, and they all immediately said it’s a face, just because the gallstone had three dots in the rough position of eyes and a mouth.

    It’s very useful for humans to recognise faces, even when they’re illusions, and to rapidly identify faces, even when the identification is sometimes wrong, because speed is useful. There’s little point in identifying a face minutes or even hours later. The opportunity to use the identification has gone, particularly if the face belongs to an enemy who wishes you harm.

    Your strong evidence in support of dualism are just misconstrued. The split brain phenomenon (resulting from division of the corpus callosum) is extremely strong evidence for the materialist view that the brain is the mind and the mind is the brain.

    Dividing the brain into a right brain and a left brain produces a right mind and a left mind, which can be demonstrated to have different views of the world and different reactions. Dividing the brain into two divides the mind into two because they’re the same thing.

    The alternative explanation is that there always two brains and two minds within each person, but which are constantly communicating across the corpus callosum arriving at a common view of the world with common reactions to it. But this doesn’t help a dualist view of the mind. How does a non-material mind localise to a specific half of the brain? And how does a non-material mind physically affect a physical brain?

    Libet’s work on motor responses strongly supports the materialist view that the brain is the mind. The unconscious brain (and as a result the unconscious mind) makes unconscious decisions which the conscious brain (and mind) rationalises as conscious decisions. There’s no free will, because decisions are largely unconscious and caused (by the person’s genetics and experiences) not conscious and uncaused.

    Penfield’s observation that stimulation of a single point of the cortex doesn’t produce abstract thoughts is irrelevant, because abstract thoughts aren’t produced by a single localised part of the cortex stimulated by an electrode. And there are neurological conditions in which overstimulation of a larger part of the brain (such as temporal lobe epilepsy resulting in a feeling of religious awe) do. produce abstract thoughts.

    Near death experiences prove nothing. There’s no evidence that the memories come from the time of the near death. It’s much more likely that the memories originate from illusions in a malfunctioning brain – resulting from hypoxia, hypercapnia and other metabolic disturbances – at a later time which the brain (mind) attempts to rationalise and make sense of, based on the person’s previous experiences.

    Only a minority of people actually have NDEs. And only a minority have the rationalisation that their NDE was that of a Christian heaven – Christians.

  39. BillyJoe7on 24 Jun 2017 at 4:27 am

    I’m presently reading the book “Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst” by The primatologist Robert Sapolsky. It is a sort of evolutionary, embryological, and neurophysiological account of human behaviour.

    I think I have a reasonably good layman’s knowledge of the evolution of the universe, and the evolution of life in the universe, so I’m hoping this will round out the trilogy: the evolution of human behaviour.

    Robert Sapolsky is a non-theist and does not believe in freewill, so this will be interesting.

    It’s a big book (800 pages) but he has an easy writing style and so far it has been an interesting and entertaining read. He starts off with a behaviour and looks at the immediate neurophysiology that underlies that behaviour. He then goes back in time to the antecedents of the immediate neurophysiology that underlies that particular behaviour right back through the brain’s post-natal development and pre-natal embryogenesis which, in turn, leads back through the brain’s evolutionary history.

    It’s certainly got to be better use of my time than reading the anachronistic fables of Aristotle and Aquinas which has Michael Egnor sinking in quicksand every time he mentions them.

  40. michaelegnoron 24 Jun 2017 at 5:39 am

    chi:

    [Hylomorohism posits that the form of an object exists distinct from the object itself. It requires substance dualism.]

    No. Substance dualism is Descartes’ attempt to disprove hylomorphism. They are radically different, and as I noted, materialism is a descendant of substance dualism. It’s res extensa, without the res cogitans.

    A hylomorphist would say that both substance dualism and materialism are wrong, and both are wrong in related ways.

    In the hylomorphic view, things that exist in the natural physical world (rocks, trees, people) are ousia (Greek), which is usually translated to English as “substance”, but not substance in the way Descartes meant. What is knowable about ousia–what makes a thing that which it is– is its essence, and essence is determined by two principles, the principle of intelligibility and the principle of individuation.

    The principle of intelligibility is the form, which entails all that can be known about the kind of thing the ousia is.

    The principle of individuation is the matter, which entails the specific instance of the thing–that which makes the tree in my front yard that specific tree, rather than another tree of the same type (form).

    Ousia are the basic unit of existence–form and matter do not have independent existence. Form and matter are principles, not things, and all existing natural physical things (ousia) are composites of form and matter.

    The form of a living thing is its soul, and this form entails (among other things) its abilities (powers), such as the ability to see and the ability to think abstractly. The soul is a unique form, in that it is able to acquire the form of another ousia without becoming that thing itself. That is, we can see a tree, which entails grasping the form of the tree with the form of our soul, without becoming a tree ourselves. Ordinarily, in non-living things, to have a form is to be the thing that the form corresponds to, but in living things, a form can be acquired without changing the essence of the living thing.

    This grasped form is the sensation, perception or abstract thought in the soul. Sensations and perceptions depend on material sense organs for their proper function, and thus sensation and perception are material abilities. Abstract thought–the contemplation of universals– entails abstraction of general aspects of the form perceived and contemplated (by the active intellect). This process of abstraction is inherently immaterial, in the sense that it is not mediated by a sense organ as sensation and perception are.

    The primary classic argument for the immateriality of the intellect is that universals are not physical things, and in order to grasp a non-physical thing, one must use a non-physical ability. This is (ironically) analogous to the argument against the interaction problem of substance dualism that you (correctly) cited. Immaterial can only interact (in a generative way) with immaterial, and material with material. Matter can be necessary for immaterial ability–if you are blind, you cannot read a text on logic and therefore cannot learn what is in the text, but matter is not sufficient for immaterial ability. Humans are composites of immaterial and material.

    Descartes dynamited hylomorphic metaphysics, and proposed that what exists are two distinct kinds of substances, thinking substances (res cogitans) and substances extended in space (res extensa). All substances in the non-human world were res extensa (Descartes denied that animals can think–he thought they were meat robots basically), and only humans had res cogitans.

    Cartesian metaphysics is a mess. It created innumerable problems, not least of which is the interaction problem–how does the res cogitans interact with res extensa? Over centuries, the res cogitans was cast aside, leaving us with res extensa and modern materialism, which is even more of a mess than Cartesian dualism.

  41. michaelegnoron 24 Jun 2017 at 5:44 am

    On the ability of the soul to grasp the forms of other things and yet remain itself, Aristotle had a beautiful comment.

    He said that “the soul [mind] is, in a way, all things”.

    When we perceive or conceive of something, we contain (abstractly) that thing we concieve. I think it’s a beautiful way to look at knowledge.

  42. michaelegnoron 24 Jun 2017 at 5:56 am

    chi:

    [Time is “immaterial,” as is geometry. Those are abstractions that describe observed phenomena. Is your “mind” an abstraction, or is it a particular object (regardless of the kind of “substance” it is composed of)?
    Concepts are not, ultimately, immaterial. They are descriptions of how the brain, a real thing, orders and processes information. In a universe without brains there is no such thing as “justice” or “mercy.” These things aren’t independent objects, they are products of brain function.]

    Before there were brains, was there time and geometry?

  43. chikoppion 24 Jun 2017 at 9:25 am

    [michaelegnor] Ousia are the basic unit of existence–form and matter do not have independent existence. Form and matter are principles, not things, and all existing natural physical things (ousia) are composites of form and matter.

    The form of a living thing is its soul, and this form entails (among other things) its abilities (powers), such as the ability to see and the ability to think abstractly.

    Cheese on rice, man!

    Ousia = things = form + matter (which are “not” things)

    That’s substance dualism. If a “form” or a “soul” has independent existence (the form of a tree exists whether or not any “physical” trees exists, the “soul” exists whether or not the “physical” person exists), then the form/soul is an object made of magical dualist substance.

    Alternately, “tree” is an abstract category created by the brain. Particular phenomena having similar properties are processed similarly and assigned the same category, linguistically labeled ‘tree.’ There are the specific individual objects and there is the corresponding mental category of “tree,” which describes how the brain itself processes information about that group of particulars.

    That is, we can see a tree, which entails grasping the form of the tree with the form of our soul, without becoming a tree ourselves.

    Right. The object that is your immaterial “soul” bangs into the object that is the immaterial “tree” and voila, consciousness. I suppose it’s good to know that if I think about a tree I won’t actually become one. That would be a troublesome scenario.

    On the ability of the soul to grasp the forms of other things and yet remain itself, Aristotle had a beautiful comment. He said that “the soul [mind] is, in a way, all things”. When we perceive or conceive of something, we contain (abstractly) that thing we concieve. I think it’s a beautiful way to look at knowledge.

    If you’re a freshman philosophy student stoned off his gourd.

    Before there were brains, was there time and geometry?

    Not in the abstract.

  44. Steven Novellaon 24 Jun 2017 at 10:26 am

    EmbraceWisdom – that was a massive strawman of my article. I did not create a simple dichotomy, I spoke about the tension between the two views of we are all the same, and yet we are different, that there is much more to people than NASA vs Goop, and how it’s a continuum. You blew past all of the nuance and caveats in the article and apparently only saw what you wanted so you could make your simplistic point.

    But in your zeal to rail against what you falsely perceived as a false dichotomy you committed the false continuum logical fallacy – denying a meaningful difference between two ends of a continuum.

    There is absolutely a fundamental difference in approach to knowledge and facts between people who can believe that a plastic sticker will balance their vibrations, and those who recognize such a claim as 100% bullshit. Understanding that difference is part of critical thinking.

  45. Steven Novellaon 24 Jun 2017 at 10:34 am

    Wisdom – further, you miss the point entirely about Goop. It is not that every single claim or product is nonsense. It’s about the process.

    They do not use a valid process to evaluate claims or products. They do not consider plausibility, science, evidence, or even common sense. Their process is – does it feel good, does it convey the lifestyle we are selling, will it sell?

    Their process is clearly flawed (if you care about reality). The results will be diverse. Giving an example of one of the worst products is not meant to be representative of all their products, but indicative of their process.

  46. BBBlueon 24 Jun 2017 at 10:35 am

    michaelegnor- When asked, you provide examples of empirical evidence for which materialism is a sufficient explanation. Penfield, Libet, Sperry, near-death experiences? There is nothing there that requires dualism to explain.

  47. EmbraceWisdomon 24 Jun 2017 at 11:34 am

    @Steven Novella – Your response is incorrect and filled with evasive tactics. For example, yes you did create a simple dichotomy: NASA vs Goop people. Denying it is petty, it’s in your own writing many times. You did start the article by saying that you didn’t like to categorize people into simple comparisons, but then you went on and did it!

    Do you think that including caveats and nuance makes it okay? Imagine any statement starting with: “You know I’m not a racist but…” The gist of your article is about how there are “fundamental differences” between two groups and how they can be separated into a dichotomy. Claiming that I misunderstood what you wrote is more evasive sophistry.

    You honestly see nothing wrong with your side being represented by the space agency, and your opponents are represented by magical healing stickers? Where’s the principle of charity?

    This dichotomy you proposed: NASA vs Goop people, is obviously not a real thing. You didn’t clearly define the two groups, nor did you attempt to apply the principle of charity. You didn’t try to tackle my example of the many Californian NASA people, who buy into the anti-GMO, organic, health craze conspiracy theories. Or are those things of less significance than magical stickers? Because, I shop at whole foods, it’s the nearest grocer, and I see an entire business enterprise that thrives on this conspiracy narrative, it was also just bought by Amazon, likely ensuring its future. But yet, I don’t see magical stickers for sale anywhere… One is a multi-billion dollar empire, the other is a fringe start-up likely to flame-out…

    You might as well claim there are NASA people and then there are Trump supporters. One group likes science and intellectual rigor, and the other believes things with no evidence and doesn’t recognize things that are, as you say “100% bullshit.” Such a comparison would mean as much (as little) as NASA vs Goop people.

    My personal problem with your article is that it’s about tribalism. The internet doesn’t need more people advocating for this primitive tribalism tendency that we have as humans. People already divide themselves into tribes and have this tendency to categorize people into specific fictional categories. You would think that as a skeptic you wouldn’t write articles focusing on these differences but instead you would try to find common ground and bring people together based on similarities.

    Read the comments, how many people bought into the dichotomy you proposed and used it as launchpad to attack and insult other groups of people? Is it just me that didn’t understand your article, because I don’t see you correcting them?

    Aren’t you into skeptical, critical thinking outreach? How many Goop people do you think would feel welcomed by your article? How many would see it as offensive? How many would come away with nothing but the backfire effect?

    Buying a magical sticker does not make someone a “Goop person,” anymore than voting for Trump automatically makes someone a stupid person. Many people with disposable income buy stupid things, I’ve overpaid for energy drinks that I know don’t actually have the effects people claim. I don’t believe in the healing power of Acai berries or guava, or even kombucha, but I’ve drank their tea form. I’ve even purchased them from new age type people, who said foolish things about their products, simply because I like how they taste and was thirsty, or bored.

    Many people voted for Trump simply because of the pro-life doctrine they were taught since childhood, or because of his supreme court list of candidates, which were set to be more ideologically conservative. The stock market rallied multiple times after Trump said he would cut all sorts of taxes and be business friendly, you could see a billionaire becoming convinced to vote for Trump based simply on that. These ideas don’t automatically make people bad people, but they still led them down a path you wouldn’t approve of I guess. However we like to categorize the Trump supporters as stupid red-necks, and ignore the subtle reality.

  48. Steven Novellaon 24 Jun 2017 at 12:40 pm

    You are just doubling down on your strawman and did not address my points. Your whole example about Trump voters exists in your own mind and not in my article. I did not just put a throw-away caveat into the opening paragraph – it was baked into the whole article:

    “On the one hand, we all share a core neuropsychology. We are all struggling to get through life with our humble meat machines, complete with cognitive biases, flawed perception and memory, and irrational tendencies.”

    “But what this shows is that, despite our neurological and psychological similarities, education and habits of thought can have a profound effect on individuals.
    I don’t like the whole, “There are two kinds of people in this world,” thing. People are much more complex and multifarious than any simple dichotomy. But at times it does seem like there are two kinds of people – NASA people and Goop people.”

    ” I really try to be fair and kind to Goop people, and on a personal level I think I am. I still keep in mind that we are all people, and mostly the products of our biology and our environment. (There is also a lot more to people than just NASA vs Goop.) I try to take a nurturing approach – perhaps some Goop people have a little NASA person inside them. ”

    Take note of the fact that I deliberately said that is “seems” like there are two kinds of people, but I state quite clearly multiple times this is an oversimplification.

    Now take your rant and substitute “science” for “NASA people” and “pseudoscience” for “Goop people” and the false continuum logical fallacy becomes more apparent.

    The whole point of my article is that we are, at our core, fundamentally the same but we can develop profound differences in terms of our habits of thought, our values, and the processes we use to evaluate information. I opened the article saying I struggle with these two simultaneous realizations.

    If you have spent any time here you know I write frequently about the need for charity, of being fair, and of realizing that all these critical thinking principles, cognitive biases, etc. apply to everyone.

    But just as there is a continuum form rigorous science to rank pseudoscience with everything in between, there are skeptics and true-believers, and everything in between. But that does not mean there isn’t a real difference between a skeptical approach to a claim and a gullible approach to a claim.

    Seriously – everyone one of your criticisms is dealt with in the article itself. You have introduced no new points. You just restated them as criticisms to make them seem like your own. Then you have the gall to preach about the principle of charity. Look in the mirror.

  49. Pete Aon 24 Jun 2017 at 1:34 pm

    @mattn,

    Below, I have tried my utmost to adequately explain the essential difference between “a valid dichotomy” and “a false dichotomy”…

    dichotomy [noun]: a division or contrast between two things that are, or are represented as being, opposed or entirely different.

    false dichotomy (aka: false dilemma): a type of informal fallacy in which something is falsely claimed to be an “either/or” situation, when in fact there is at least one additional option. [Wikipedia]

    My explanation will be easier to understand if we use one of the alternative phrases for a false dichotomy: the fallacy of the excluded middle.

    Each of the circa 7.5 billion people currently living on planet Earth is a unique individual. If we measure a parameter of this population, such as each person’s height, it will closely align with the normal distribution, which is a Gaussian distribution having a single modal value — its mode — that matches both its arithmetic mean value and its median value.

    Therefore, by definition, half of the population are of lower than ‘average’ height; and the other half of the population are of greater than ‘average’ height. NB: for very large population sizes, the probability of someone being of exactly the mean height is extremely low therefore, this simple definition is not a fallacy of the excluded middle, it is a very useful, mathematically valid, dichotomy.

    Whether the parameter being discussed is a person’s height or their position on the ‘Goop..NASA’ axis, half of the population are, by definition, ‘short people’ or ‘Goop people’, and the other half are ‘tall people’ or ‘NASA people’.

    Now, it would be a huge error to ask questions such as: Why are so many people ‘short people’?; Why are so many people ‘Goop people’?; What causes the divide between short and tall? What causes the divide between ‘Goop people’ and ‘NASA people’? The error being committed in such questions is the failure to understand the normal distribution.

    Dividing a normal distribution into an even number of sections, then attempting to analyse it, is committing the fallacy of the excluded middle. For a valid analysis, it must be divided into an odd number of sections.

    E.g., when we divide a normal distribution into 3 sections — such that the middle section spans, say, 2 sigma [2 standard deviations] either side of the mean value [written as: ±2 sigma; ±2 σ] — then the middle section is, by definition, normal; one section is therefore below normal; the remaining section is therefore above normal.

    NB: The sigma span value chosen for the definition of normal depends on the application. E.g., a commonly used value in veterinary medicine is ±2 sigma; in electronic systems ±1 sigma is commonly used because 1 sigma is the root mean square value of the AC component of the signal, and the mean value is the DC offset of the signal.

    The normal distribution informs us that: 68.3% of the population are within ±1 sigma of the mean; 95.4% of the population are within ±2 sigma of the mean; 99.73% of the population are within ±3 sigma of the mean; etc.

    So, when using ±1 sigma as our criterion, and 3 divisions for our categories, the normal distribution informs us that circa: 16% will be below normal; 68% will be normal; and 16% will be above normal. We don’t need to sample every member of the population to reach this inescapable conclusion: we need sample only enough members of the population to be reasonably sure that the probability mass function of the parameter which we are measuring closely aligns with a Gaussian probability density function.

    Conclusions
    To say that people are either short or tall, or either ‘Goop people’ or ‘NASA people’, would indeed be presenting a false dichotomy of the particular form the fallacy of the excluded middle, which is also a category mistake of the particular form fundamental category error.

    Dr. Novella’s article starts: “Recently I have be vacillating between two different views of humanity. …”.

    The mass media (and probably social media websites also) would be an epic business failure if it did not attempt to create and to provoke polarization of opinions via relying heavily on the fallacy of the excluded middle. The mass media cannot make any money from reporting on the 68% majority of happenings each day that are perfectly normal using a ±1 sigma criterion. In order for a report of an event to be sensational enough to make money, the probability of the event happening must lie outside of the range that its intended audience considers to be “normal” therefore humdrum. In other words, increasing the criterion for the statistical normal to be within ±2 sigma, instead of using ±1 sigma, and choosing to report on only the 4.6% (100% − 95.4%) of outlying events that happen each day, is guaranteed to increase revenue.

    Each and every time that the middle region of a single-mode distribution parameter is deliberately obscured, we gain the perfectly understandable impression that the parameter is sufficiently bimodal to justify a valid dichotomy — an “either/or” analysis and discussion of the parameter being considered.

    Dr. Novella went on to write: “On the other hand, it often seems like there are fundamentally different kinds of people in the world. I guess it depends on whether you focus on what we have in common, or what separates us.”

    Exactly! What we have in common is that which is within, let’s say, ±2 sigma of the mean (having 95.4% in common); what appears to separate humanity — but actually doesn’t because it is highly-predictable using the statistics of the normal distribution — is the two remaining, mathematically necessary, diametrically opposed, outlier categories each consisting of circa 2.3% of the population. It is frequently both of these 2.3% ‘camps’ who insist on being highly-vocal about their diametrically opposed differences; whereas the statistically normal 95.4% of humanity usually remains silent because they really don’t give sh!t about their squabbles until it escalates to level of becoming a public nuisance and/or a threat to public health and safety.

    The bottom line is very simple: Even if we spent a billion dollars on each and every child to have the very best education imaginable, half of those children would end up being less well educated than average. And the charlatans in society will always and forever target both the least well educated and the otherwise most vulnerable members of society. Why? Because humans are ‘genetically wired’ to be highly efficient predatory animals.

  50. RickKon 24 Jun 2017 at 4:21 pm

    Busy weekend so I’m late to the party. Just wanted to jump in and send Bob McNamara (and his wife) a virtual welcoming embrace. Enjoy this period of discovery, Bob! It’s great fun to let in new material and ideas that challenge your world view. And nothing is more interesting than reality – this amazing natural world.

    Your sincerity and obvious excitement provide such a powerful and refreshing counterpoint to those unable to see beyond the goop. Michael Egnor’s tired and cynical (often hate-filled) gobbledygook and his longing for a return to a more ignorant century where close-minded bigotry was still revered just highlights the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the goop.

    Have fun with your further explorations!

  51. EmbraceWisdomon 24 Jun 2017 at 4:27 pm

    @Steven Novella – So what’s it called when you claim your position was straw manned, and it wasn’t? Fallacy-fallacy? Sophistry? Novella whining?

    If someone would read what I wrote, they could easily see that I never once claimed that you said anything about Trump voters in your article. There is no strawman there. Yes the exampled it existed in my head, I transformed it into text, welcome to the internet. I never claimed you wrote anything about Trump voters in the article above. People are allowed to bring up their own examples in discussions, it’s clear that I used the Trump example to illustrate some massive flaws in your dichotomy, as follows.

    “You might as well claim there are NASA people and then there are Trump supporters. One group likes science and intellectual rigor, and the other believes things with no evidence and doesn’t recognize things that are, as you say “100% bullshit.” Such a comparison would mean as much (as little) as NASA vs Goop people.”

    No where in that text did I claim you said a single about Trump voters in your article. Crying strawman is just your go-to sophist move, I guess it’s as pathetic as “Goop people vs NASA people” so I shouldn’t be too surprised.

    You still didn’t clearly define your two groups. You are just comparing the worst of new age ideology with the best of NASA’s scientific achievements. It’s a tautology at best, and embarrassingly naive at worst. Obviously the worst example of new age woo isn’t going to meet scientific standards. To attempt to use that to define a group of people (Goop people) is inappropriate. To then take that even a further step, and attempt to compare that poorly-defined group to NASA is so tragically flawed. I’m embarrassed on your behalf.

    Why don’t you write your next article comparing people who buy homeopathic remedies, with people who work at CERN? I’m sure you can find a critique of homeopathy by a CERN scientist, you can call the article “CERN Slams homeopathy.” I can help you write it, we can call the groups “Homo people vs CERN physicists.” Then maybe just like this time, your choir can all chime in with their personal examples of how bad the Homo people are?

    The comments in support of your false dichotomy mention problems with religion and religious people, isn’t that a strawman? Why don’t you cry about how they took your simple dichotomy and misrepresented it? You never mentioned religion in your article, they did though, they took what you wrote to attack religious people. I don’t see you critiquing them? I wonder why that is?!

    It’s incredibly obvious why you responded negatively to me and not them. Any “Goop person” would see it. It’s because you also think religion is a joke and hate all types of spirituality, you see it as “pre-scientific thought,” it’s all over your writing in comments and blog posts. You think that everything that isn’t scientific formal thought is inferior. It must be. Right? Why else would you not correct their extension of “Goop” to “religion”?

    It’s because this is all just tribalism. These people here who worship you, are in your tribe. You use dog-whistling tactics to attack “Goop people” and they barely read it, and extend it to all types of things. Republicans, christians, and even spiritual people like me who have read all the same exact critical thinking and skepticism books and listened to the exact same lectures.

    I still chose to believe that there is something ultimately out there. That doesn’t make me an insane person. I like to think I’m in the skeptical tribe, but when I read BS like “goop vs NASA” I want to distance myself from your movement. I am not someone who thinks this is okay, when I hear people advocating for simple dichotomies and claiming there are “fundamental differences” between these groups of people I hear echoes of history. I see us vs them, white vs black, I hear primal dehumanization tactics and feel disgusted to be associated with you.

    Imagine you are, what you would call, a “Goop person,” would you feel inspired to join this community?

    All negative traits are associated with you, low intelligence, education level, weak thought processes etc. Meanwhile the other side of this dichotomy is NASA, and people who know the “truth” about the nature of the world with such certainty. Where would you fit?

    This dichotomy is also flawed for another reason, science leads to many messed up things, eugenics was welcomed with open arms by the majority of the world. If a modern city was levelled by a modern scientific weapon/catastrophe would that be a laudable example of a “NASA person’s” invention?

    Science made all the weapons that have killed civilians in recent conflicts. Are those not “NASA-type people” who pilot those planes/drones? Are those devices not built by aerospace engineers and other, what you would call, “NASA”-types? Isn’t bad to kill civilians? Is science not capable of tremendous harm? If it is capable of these horrible things and responsible for harming people then you better realize that all Goop people will see it and focus on that when you try to make these pathetic false dichotomy arguments. Just like how you can point to magical stickers and laugh, they can point to that recent op-ed in the New York Times that simply stated that expressing absolute certainty in the science of climate change is problematic, and laugh. Many people freaked out and cancelled their subscriptions over an op-ed! We have a culture that’s a little too certain about some things and doesn’t appreciate nuance and statistical error. Even you have critiqued articles in the NYT that support the GMO conspiracy. Are those not read and believed by many of America’s NASA-types? Or do you think that only Goops shop at whole foods?

    When you read “Brave New World” did you think it was a utopia he was describing? Science without hardcore cultural, historical, moral, philosophical underpinnings does not make an ideal world. Science is not everything, that’s scientism, something many of the members of your choir are guilty of. There are popular science personalities that welcome a world with just one culture, and a movement to a type 1 civilization. This would mean the literal death of the various cultures, languages and religions we have on this planet, and they talk about it like its not a big deal.

    Yeah to someone who only speaks one language, who never studied anthropology, who has never studied history or the conflicts in the middle east, it’s no big deal. To the rest of the world the “cosmological perspective” and these scientism ideas are completely ridiculous. I’m sure your trip to Vienna was a white man’s elitist wet dream, next time why don’t you volunteer your medical expertise at a refugee camp on the Mediterranean, I’m sure they would love to have you even for a week. I’m a nurse and I’ve done it. It really opens your eyes to the world.

    Maybe the differences between the Goops and the NASA people won’t seem so untenable, if you stepped outside your bubble. Especially when you check out how much it cost to attend the Goop conference, you would see that it’s just spoiled rich people wasting their money on new age stuff. Really shows who you are, a rich person complaining about other rich people.

    I really enjoy the part where you claim I didn’t respond to your comments when I specifically quoted your own comments and the article. You still haven’t responded to the example of NASA people who shop at Whole Foods. Or the many people like me, who buy drinks and other products that are marketed with false claims and are tied to new age woo, but we don’t fall into the “Goop people” category. Unless I’m secretly Goopy and I don’t know it.

    Maybe organizing the world into two simple categories is flawed? Is it impossible that a literal NASA scientist would wear a magical healing sticker? Are modern humans known for their ability to universally and consistently apply their own intellectual standards?

  52. mumadaddon 24 Jun 2017 at 6:00 pm

    EmbraceWisdom,

    “I still chose to believe that there is something ultimately out there. That doesn’t make me an insane person.”

    This isn’t intended as a burn, but what do you mean by:

    1. Something
    2. Ultimately
    3. Out there

  53. BillyJoe7on 24 Jun 2017 at 6:18 pm

    Between the posters name and the content of his posts we have the perfect example of an oxymoron.

  54. mumadaddon 24 Jun 2017 at 6:20 pm

    BJ7,

    “I’m presently reading the book “Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst” by The primatologist Robert Sapolsky. It is a sort of evolutionary, embryological, and neurophysiological account of human behaviour.”

    He’s a primatologist? Well I never… Seems like a new slant to add to a range of disciplines. I have not read any of his books but would highly recommend this series of lectures on YouTube:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNnIGh9g6fA&list=PL848F2368C90DDC3D

    PS, For transparency: it got too technical for me about half way through.

  55. mumadaddon 24 Jun 2017 at 6:49 pm

    “Between the posters name and the content of his posts we have the perfect example of an oxymoron.”

    I have extrapolated beyond that and reached a tentative (TENTATIVE!!!) conclusion that would (TENTATIVELY!) be a real ballache for anyone who mentioned it if anyone were to mention it. (SHHH!)

    TENTATIVE!!!!!!!

  56. mumadaddon 24 Jun 2017 at 7:31 pm

    Michael,

    I am literally now downloading Ed Feser’s only two books available on Audible in the hopes that they can convince me that I’m on Santa’s nice list (and help me understand why Santa doesn’t just tell me what he wants me to do in order to avoid being tortured by him forever).

    (and why he’s into that anyway).

  57. Steven Novellaon 24 Jun 2017 at 8:02 pm

    EW – You continue to misrepresent my position, making a mockery of the principle of charity you allegedly profess. that makes it hard to take you seriously.

    I did not define the two groups because I am not saying that people fall cleanly into these two groups. That is your misunderstanding. I am defining archetypes. It’s like talking about typical scientists and typical pseudoscientists. You are saying – what about this guy over here who is part way in between. Yeah – that’s the continuum.

    I am using an extreme example to define one end of the spectrum as an archetype. I specifically said this archetype is defined by their behavior and values, their habits of thought. Underneath we are all human.

    The false dichotomy is all you. You obviously have an axe to grind, and you are going to grind it, logic and actual evidence be damned.

  58. EmbraceWisdomon 24 Jun 2017 at 10:13 pm

    @Steven Novella – There is what you believe in your own mind, and then there is what you wrote in your own blog post. Every comment you wrote neglects the actual content of your own article, it’s sophistry at it’s finest. Your recent comments make it seem like you didn’t write the blog post above. For example you are now quite fond of using the words “continuum” and “spectrum”, but they do not appear in the article above!

    How curious?!

    Wait how is that possible? In the article you didn’t describe it like that at all, you explicitly said that there were fundamentally different types of people in the world, and you went on to describe exactly TWO types: NASA people and Goop people.

    You compared them to each other and devoted two entire paragraphs to essentially creating a very fictional depiction of a new age position and adding insults for good measure. Everyone who just buys a Goop sticker can’t possibly be all those things you describe. You then talk about how you personally belong to the other group, the glorious NASA group.

    When you write an entire article describing two types of people, NASA vs Goop, it’s not a clarification to claim you were talking about a spectrum or a continuum of people, it’s a mischaracterization of your own words. Your article clearly marks out the territory of EXACTLY TWO opposing camps. That’s a dichotomy… It also happens to be a totally imaginary worldview.

    Not all people who buy magical Goop stickers are going to fall into these camps you described. Buying a sticker like that doesn’t automatically define someone as what you described in your list of negative qualities.

    We know that people do not apply their intellectual knowledge and standards consistently to all areas of their lives. Plenty of scientifically educated people buy products that are not effective and seek treatments that are not evidence-based. You just have to look at any fad or health craze. Additionally plenty of smart people get acupuncture and go to chiropractors, instead of seeking out qualified professionals and real treatments. Other than this vulnerability we have to fads, you also are forgetting that most people just don’t know about modern pseudoscience, yes even your precious NASA people can’t know everything about modern medical quackery. You can’t expect everyone to automatically know everything about medicine and health before they purchase products or pay for treatments.

    You say that Goop people naively buy magical stickers that cause all these wonderfully implausible effects. And that therefore they believe in all these negative things and don’t understand reality or “don’t seem to live in this world.”

    Well plenty of educated people working in high-level scientific jobs have alternative therapies covered under their insurance plans, and go seek out these treatments instead of real things. Does every person who thinks a chiropractor can cure their chronic back pain, automatically believe all the insanity surrounding that profession?

    What’s more likely: people go to chiropractors because they don’t actually understand how flawed that profession is; or that they buy into all the nonsense chiropractors believe and blindly follow their magical ideas?

    What’s more likely: people buy Goop stickers simply because they are a current trend and they have hundreds of dollars to waste; or they are this entire fundamentally different group of people known as “Goop people,” who don’t live in this world and believe a giant list of nonsensical things about reality?

    Do people buy fidget spinners because they think they are an effective treatment for ADHD? Or just because its a current craze? What if I simply like how the stickers look and all my friends from yoga class wear them, am I automatically this idiotic “Goop person” you described if I buy one, or am I just vulnerable to social pressure?

  59. bachfiendon 24 Jun 2017 at 10:50 pm

    As expected, Egnor completely ignored my comment, engaging in the Egnor Evasion.

    His ‘evidence’ for the the falsification of the materialist view of the mind are actually strong lines of evidence that the brain is the mind and the mind is the brain. Nothing more.

    Instead, as usual, he retreats into the gobbledegook of 13th century theology and expects it to convince anyone.

  60. BillyJoe7on 25 Jun 2017 at 3:16 am

    SN: “You obviously have an axe to grind, and you are going to grind it, logic and actual evidence be damned”

    I offer this:

    EW: “I still chose to believe that there is something ultimately out there”

    Firstly, what’s the point of scepticism, evidence, logic, and argument when you can then just throw it all in the trash and “choose to believe”?

    But, in essence, this poster has simply come here to lay it on SN and produce a response from him – because SN does NOT believe. In essence he is acting like a troll.

    EW, go back and read the first two paragraphs of the article, and if you still don’t get it, then please at least change you name to EschewWisdom. You are just ignorantly ranting

  61. Pete Aon 25 Jun 2017 at 4:00 am

    EW,

    You replied to SN: “In the article you didn’t describe it like that at all, you explicitly said that there were fundamentally different types of people in the world, and you went on to describe exactly TWO types: NASA people and Goop people.”

    I guess you didn’t bother to read this paragraph in SN’s article:

    I don’t like the whole, “There are two kinds of people in this world,” thing. People are much more complex and multifarious than any simple dichotomy. But at times it does seem like there are two kinds of people – NASA people and Goop people.

    Clearly, you are wrong.

  62. Steven Novellaon 25 Jun 2017 at 7:24 am

    EW – You are the one making claims that are not supported in the text of the original post. You keep having to come up with analogies (false analogies) and even making up your own logical fallacies to argue against.

    You repeated ignore the many passages in the text that I and others have helpfully pointed out to you that clearly indicate I was not creating a simple dichotomy. You fail to address these passages, and simply keep restating your false premise.

    I am simply trying to help you understand what I meant by explaining it further, but apparently you don’t care.

    I already explained to you why your ridiculous characterization in your last comment is wrong, just go back and read it.

  63. Nidwinon 25 Jun 2017 at 11:11 am

    I’m still looking for someone to explain me, not here of course, what those energies and good vibrations are, how people are supposed to experience them.

    I only hope those “stickers” have been properly tested and judged harm and useless as I don’t like the idea of something giving someone good vibrations by just sticking it on the body, whatever is intended with good vibrations. My good vibrations sometimes end with a big full discharge (spasm) that isn’t supposed to be obtained by a freaking ugly sicker on the arm, therefore my small concern.

  64. Pete Aon 25 Jun 2017 at 1:24 pm

    Nidwin,

    I highly recommend the following article, not just because it’s a mine of useful information in itself, but also because of the many links links it contains to related articles on Professor Carroll’s website:
    http://skepdic.com/vibrationalmedicine.html

  65. EmbraceWisdomon 25 Jun 2017 at 1:26 pm

    @Steven Novella – We have already discussed how including caveats and exceptions does not make things okay. This is like saying “You know I’m not a racist, but…” and then going on to saying something racist. It is true that you did preface the article a certain way, it is also true that you did include lines saying things that would enable you to escape the false dichotomy criticism.

    However you also included multiple paragraphs attacking and insulting a group of people you labeled as “Goop people.” You also chose to say multiple times that it seems like there are two different types of people in the world. This reminds me of when you were criticized by a peer for saying a certain very talented NY Times writer was a hack. You didn’t apologize or anything. You stood by it, for multiple exchanges, pointing to the elements of his work that were low quality. At your core, you are someone who is never wrong about anything, you have a fanatical obsession with being the smartest person in the room and you love to point to your choir for support.

    The simple facts remain, not all people who purchase Goop stickers do so for the reasons you described. Not all people can be expected to know everything about modern pseudoscience etc. And the list of other things you didn’t even attempt to tackle in your infinite laziness: the rise of Whole Foods, the many NASA-types I know personally who do things like acupuncture and see chiropractors instead of seeking real treatments.

    You don’t tackle those hard questions because it breaks your little narrative about “two types of people.”

    You also failed to see or comment on the fact that your fanboy choir took “Goop people” and extended it to “Religion” they used it to attack and insult all manner of things that you did not. This is why your writing can be described as “dog-whistling.” You yourself do not come out and attack religion or religious people, almost never, but your blog comments are FILLED with people insulting religious people. You have to see that many of your fans are vehemently anti-religion and extend scientific skepticism into scientism. They worship science and don’t understand that there is more to the world than science.

    Religion is synonymous with idiotic and illogical on this blog. Someone like me who accepts scientific thought and has read all the same skeptical books, but who still chooses to believe there is something ultimately out there, is insulted. Even though I have heard you say that you have no problem with that.

    Moving on to an entirely new criticism, I just love how you wrote this entire article under a totally false narrative. If you go and check out the many reports on this whole NASA debunking thing all you find is NASA saying that their spacesuits do not contain carbon material to line their spacesuits. NASA said absolutely nothing about the other claims that Goop makes about their stickers.

    So where exactly did “NASA slam Goop?”

    NASA could have chosen to debunk the energy field claims made by Goop. Simply by saying something like the energy field described by Goop has no scientific evidence to back it, and that many other products like this have existed in the past. Power Balance bracelets made essentially the identical claims and have been tested and shown to be ineffective.

    NASA didn’t do anything like that. They didn’t “slam” anything or anyone. If I worked for Goop I would not be worried. My clients don’t read Gizmodo and having “NASA” attached to our products isn’t a huge deal. Our clients are new agers who don’t like science already, “ancient eastern wisdom” sells more products to my targeted demographic than “NASA material.”

    How many new age concepts have ancient eastern influences at their core? Now compare that to the number of new age things that have NASA at their foundation? I see a lot of people doing yoga and drinking special teas. I don’t see anyone doing the “NASA” workout and drinking astronaut drinks. I walk down the street and I see multiple businesses that thrive on the naturalism anti-GMO narrative, I guess skeptics lost the war.

    After the two century failure to vanquish its oldest enemy, homeopathy, and more recently the election of Trump, skeptics are so weak now that they see the tiniest of victories as the greatest achievements. NASA simply clarifying that their space suits are made of a different material, is spun into this narrative where NASA is the hero slaying the mythical Goopy dragon.

    What have you done for me lately?

  66. Pete Aon 25 Jun 2017 at 2:31 pm

    EB,

    Yes, well, of course, this is just the sort blinkered philistine pig ignorance I’ve come to expect from you non-creative garbage. [Monty Python]

  67. RickKon 25 Jun 2017 at 4:09 pm

    Wow, EW,

    You just said: “You don’t tackle those hard questions because it breaks your little narrative about “two types of people.””

    Are you really that ignorant of Steven Novella, Neurologica, and the SGU. Or have you worked yourself into such a sanctimonious froth that you willingly ignored the constant tackling of hard questions that is the hallmark of this corner of skepticism? Name a skeptical group that tries harder to cross the line, to understand the thinking of those who put more value on intuition than evidence. And that’s why this group can boast such a huge number of “converts”, like Bob who led off the thread.

    Your mind is made up. Fine. But try not to lose perspective in your verbose outpourings of frustration. You’ve managed to take yourself down a path of denigrating the NASA-style search for reality and intellectual achievement because “goop” is better at merchandizing to the masses. Is that really a a point of view that you’d be proud to teach your children?

    Steve and his organization are promoting the value of having a love and respect for reality, and they are good at it precisely because they go to great lengths to better understand those like you who don’t.

  68. BillyJoe7on 25 Jun 2017 at 5:31 pm

    EW,

    “Religion is synonymous with idiotic and illogical on this blog. Someone like me who accepts scientific thought and has read all the same skeptical books, but who still chooses to believe there is something ultimately out there, is insulted. Even though I have heard you say that you have no problem with that”

    Firstly, thanks for the mischaracterisations.
    But how does SN’s “fanboy choir” end up disagreeing with SN regarding religion?
    And what’s the point of your scepticism when you just “choose to believe” anyway?

  69. Pete Aon 25 Jun 2017 at 6:37 pm

    “If someone doesn’t value evidence, what evidence are you going to provide to prove that they should value it? If someone doesn’t value logic, what logical argument could you provide to show the importance of logic?” ― Sam Harris.

  70. Michael Woelkon 26 Jun 2017 at 4:16 am

    They worship science (…)

    Nobody worships science; that’s a notion only a true believer could come up with. Science is a process of evaluating evidence to gain knowledge about the world. Religion is a way of thinking that disregards evidence in favor of emotions and intuition. Science doesn’t claim to know the answer to everything. Religion does. Science is very flexible and willingly accepts new information. Religion does not. Science is self-correcting and actively challenges its findings to assure legitimacy. Religion is offended at the suggestion that it could be wrong.

    (…) and don’t understand that there is more to the world than science.

    The existence of supernatural beings and occurrences is pure speculation. There is nothing to “understand” because there is nothing real to evaluate in the first place (except a plethora of already disproved “evidence” that is). I could make up literally anything on the spot and it would be just as “valid” as any other supernatural belief.

    Religion is synonymous with idiotic and illogical on this blog. Someone like me who accepts scientific thought and has read all the same skeptical books, but who still chooses to believe there is something ultimately out there, is insulted.

    You are entitled to believe whatever you want, but as soon as you make demonstrably wrong claims, we will call you out on it. And if that offends you, then tough luck! Just btw.: I can accept a vague belief in “something greater” – it’s still baseless, but at least it doesn’t come with a set of rules that do more harm than good.

    (…) I guess skeptics lost the war. After the two century failure to vanquish its oldest enemy, homeopathy, and more recently the election of Trump, skeptics are so weak now that they see the tiniest of victories as the greatest achievements.

    Skepticism has lost a battle, but Skepticism has not lost the war. And that’s such a laughably warped view of reality that I’m not even going to attempt a serious rebuttal – it’s obvious that you already chose your narrative and you’ll stick to it no matter what.

  71. Michael Woelkon 26 Jun 2017 at 4:24 am

    Whoops, forgot to close an “italic” HTML-tag in the first paragraph (after “process”). There’s no edit function – maybe a mod/Steve could help me out?

  72. Nidwinon 26 Jun 2017 at 6:35 am

    Pete A,

    Thanks, always a good reading the skepdic’s articles and it seems I did miss that one.

    Still the issue, and that’s were I/we aren’t getting any answers from the “pseudos” side, is that it’s magic but also invisible and only detectable by the pseudos and their magical toys. Also only the pseudos can manipulate it while the non-pseudos don’t have their questions properly answered leaving all this crap to the pseudoscience trash bin.

    The entire pseudo vibration/energy medicine has one big hole for me as it never mentions or adresses the fact of tingling that should come with it. Their entire literature should be filled with controlled paraesthesia while it isn’t.

    A study on vibration caused by szechuan pepers does tackle the subject from a different angle
    http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/280/1770/20131680

    The pseudos talk about energy flowing through the body, induced vibrations (inducer/being induced) and so on, but the only ones I know of that can do something closely to this at will (same claim as the pseudos without the healing crap and woo), all experience the tingles, controlled paraesthesia.

    Anyway, sorry for ranting again, my mistake but if I don’t make a bit of a noise sometime we (WT’s) will never get any answers I presume.

  73. mattnon 26 Jun 2017 at 9:23 am

    @Pete A

    You spent a lot of words discussing the statistical fact that half the people are above average, and half are below average. So which are the Goop people and which are the NASA people? I’m being disingenuous there, of course, because I know your point is that the NASA people are above average, and the Goop people are below average. But above and below in what? In intelligence? In skepticism? This is the dichotomy I was concerned with, and you’ve reinforced your view that such a dichotomy exists. This is not the same as half the people being above average intelligence and half below, or half being above average height and half below. Those are clear dichotomies, and one is either taller than average or shorter than average (or exactly average). Goop/NASA does not have that same dichotomy.

    Dr. Novella’s discussions with EW make it clear that he did not intend to create such a dichotomy, and while I do not agree with everything EW said, your comment and others like it make it clear that at least some people read the post as supporting such a dichotomy. And that’s what makes me uncomfortable. As EW noted, plenty of NASA people exhibit a lack of skepticism in some circumstances. Does that put them above or below your statistical line?

  74. Steven Novellaon 26 Jun 2017 at 9:41 am

    This article is not about intelligence at all. I have written previously about the fact that acceptance of science is also largely not about intelligence.

    It is about habits of critical thinking. That is something that derives from values (valuing facts and a valid process of evaluation) and critical thinking skills.

    While there is no simple dichotomy, people do vary significantly in terms of critical thinking habits and skills. Many people have blind spots and sacred cows. Some people, however, habitually are gullible – they do not employ any meaningful critical thinking filter with any consistency. Other people make a concerted effort to apply a critical thinking filter to their beliefs.

    And we can drill down even deeper. There are different flavors of lacking critical thinking. There are conspiracy theorists, ideologues, true-believers, and cranks. These are not absolute nor mutually exclusive.

    It is complicated, but that does not mean we cannot identify meaningful patterns.

  75. chikoppion 26 Jun 2017 at 10:13 am

    This is an odd discussion.

    X Axis = Percent of beliefs a person subjects to critical thinking.

    That says nothing about intelligence or what categories of beliefs a particular person excepts from critical examination.

    People who fall on the low end of the scale are designated as “Goop” people and people on the high end of the scale are designated as “NASA” people. Those designations are derived from the nature of the two organizations. NASA is a science-based organization. Goop is a woo-based organization.

    A propulsion engineer who actually works at NASA might fall on the low end of the scale, once the totality of that person’s beliefs are taken into account.

    It isn’t a dichotomy, as most people fall somewhere in the middle spectrum. However, the two opposing ends of the bell curve do exist.

  76. EmbraceWisdomon 26 Jun 2017 at 1:04 pm

    @Steven Novella — Please clearly define what you mean by: “…habits of critical thinking. That is something that derives from values (valuing facts and a valid process of evaluation) and critical thinking skills”

    It’s curious that someone as highly educated and well-read as you, cannot provide clear definitions. As far as I am aware, and I have done a deep dive on this, there is no such “habits of critical thinking” measure/scale in any psych literature or in social psychology. Your definitions now, also differ greatly from what you wrote in your article and previous comments. You have consistently shown a pattern of evasiveness and a refusal to actually discuss anything in a meaningful way.

    Isn’t it curious how the mighty Novella has to invent new psychological concepts, to defend his ideas? If you are so smart and correct about this whole “two types of people” thing, why can’t you simply tell us what well-documented, researched, experimentally verifiable concept you are talking about? Unless you are claiming that this is a new discovery that you just made, that no one else has ever attempted to study?

    All I see is someone speaking with absolute dogmatic authority about a concept that they can’t even clearly define with psychological research or academic principles. What do skeptics call that again?

    What do I mean by this? Well, there are many things that are related to what you are talking about, that have been well-documented and researched by psychologists. They just happen to not support your simplistic ideas about people. Take suggestibility, for example, it’s widely represented on various tests, it’s been researched quite a lot and it describes what you have been confusedly pointing at. If you look at the research it shows some clear patterns, for example it’s negatively correlated with intelligence, a point many of your choir jumped on. They explained that you must be talking about intelligence differences, is their conclusion so implausible when we look at the research? Gullibility is also closely related to what you are talking about, it happens to be connected negatively to intelligence as well, but it’s much messier of a concept that has more to do with social intelligence and trust.

    I know why you want to avoid the intelligence argument, they don’t though, they think it’s a great way to separate two groups of people. You and I though, we know that gets into all sorts of ugly entanglements, and elitist arguments. I’m sure we both read the research and books demonstrating that intelligence has a complex and troubled past, and that as a concept it doesn’t really hold water. It’s difficult to operationally define and it might not objectively exist in the way it is commonly held.

    Even if, as you say, your Goop vs NASA isn’t best described by intelligence, you still have many more problems to deal with. People don’t tend to be consistently “gullible” in all areas uniformly. A highly trained and licensed medical professional will likely not go to a witch doctor. However, there is no guarantee that they wont go seek alternative treatments especially when it comes to chronic conditions that are very difficult to treat. They might for example, take supplements or seek massage or acupuncture for chronic back pain instead of physiotherapy or modern medical treatments. I’m dwelling on acupuncture because I personally know a very talented physician who gets acupuncture multiple times a week. Also, most people who live near me, that I’ve met so far, go to Whole Foods, and check out farmers markets, they buy into the GMO-organic narrative. They happen to be highly educated and have technical jobs, there is no indication that they are bad at their job, but there are many indications that they would be “Goopy” when it comes to some areas, and quite NASA-like when it comes to others.

    You are not going to convince the average propulsion engineer that aliens have landed on the earth and trained the Mayan ancient astronauts, but you might be able to easily convince them that alternative treatments, supplements and organic food are all great. Conversely, you might not be able to convince a registered dietitian that organic, anti-gmo is the best, but you might be able to convince them that the pyramids are just so cool that aliens may have played a role in their construction. These things are certainly within the realm of possibility, given what we know about the nature of expertise. Being skilled in one area doesn’t translate to all realms of knowledge.

    My point is simple: You can’t possibly just make two categories, we have so much evidence that shows people do not apply their critical thinking-knowledge-intelligence-logic consistently to all areas of their lives.

    Additionally people change slightly over time, for example we now have data that shows people grow more gullible as they age. Not only would your two categories have problems with different domains of people’s lives, but it would also be constantly changing for any given population. Such a graph would also not make sense as a simple bell-curve, despite what you have learned in stats not everything in nature is a bell-curve. It would not be 2-dimensional, you would need thousands of graphs for each different area of knowledge, or add more dimensions. If you did that, then individuals would be represented in various different places, a doctor might not believe in witch doctor medicine, but they might believe in acupuncture, and therefore be represented as two different points along a complex multi-dimensional graph. The same person, as two different data points on one graph, kind of makes that graph useless, hence the need for multiple bell curves for the different areas of knowledge and to represent them over time.

    @RickK – You took my hypothetical statements, following where I said if I worked for Goop, as an attack on the NASA-style thinking. This is not represented in my thoughts. It’s an objective fact that: yoga, reiki, acupuncture, healing teas and crystals; are all orders of magnitude more popular than NASA-inspired workouts, therapies and foods. From this limited perspective, it seems skeptics lost the war. However, many other achievements point to the successes of scientific skepticism. It’s just that culturally, the new agers and the other less skeptical people have seem to have found prominence. Also, If you check out what NASA actually said in regards to the Goop sticker, it is not a “slamming” of anything or anyone, as I said previously they could have chosen to explain in detail why the stickers are likely ineffective. They did not, they simply said the material is not found in spacesuits, this is a tiny victory for skepticism. As you can see, the stickers are still being sold on the Goop website with many wondrous effects listed, NASA-style skeptics accomplished next to nothing. Spinning this into an epic tale is probably harmful, and teaching skeptics that this is a victory is a deception.

    @BillyJoe7 – Steven Novella has said multiple times that if someone isn’t forcing their religion on others, or using religion to argue against science, if they accept the scientific method, but still simply wish to believe that there in something ultimately out there, that he is okay with it. What you and your allies are promoting is scientism, not science or skepticism. You have a fanatical obsession with science to the point where you think it tells you what you should do about everything including spirituality. If you have been paying attention, I have not made a single claim about spirituality or religion superseding the realm of science, but I’ve been attacked and told I was wrong for choosing to believe in something ultimately out there. How can you possibly use science to explore a concept that’s held outside the realm of science?

    From Steven’s “Rational Arguments for God?” blog post, first paragraph:

    I honestly don’t care what people choose to believe about unknowable speculations outside the realm of science and human knowledge. As long as they don’t use such belief as justification for public policy or to infringe on the rights of others, believe whatever you want.

    @Michael Woelk – In a foolhardy attempt to explain the nature of science, you have stumbled directly into the pitfall of scientism. Many people do in fact “worship” science, this is why we have the concept known as “scientism.” When science personalities talk about how great a one world culture and language would be, they are talking about scientism. When you speak in absolutes about the ultimate nature of the world, especially with absolute certainty, you are not being scientific. You also quoted me out of context, I never said a single thing about believing in a higher being in this thread. When I said there is more to the world than science, I’m not talking about god, I’m talking about what separates science from scientism. Which are things you have likely never heard of, I’m guessing. For example, science doesn’t make statements about the ultimate nature of the universe and it’s meaning, that’s scientism. If you think that science can do that, you are “worshiping” science in a very literal sense.

    @chikoppi – Please clearly define what you mean by: “X Axis = Percent of beliefs a person subjects to critical thinking.” Feel free to point to well documented psychological concepts. As far as I know, no such measure exists in the literature, and it would be incredibly difficult to operationally define that variable. If you are right, it should be easy to find academic principles that support your conclusions. Show me the research that demonstrates it would even be possible to create such an X-axis in a meaningful way? I don’t think you realize how difficult it would be to operationally define “percent of beliefs” let alone the rest of that variable.

  77. Charonon 26 Jun 2017 at 1:16 pm

    michaelegnor: “This argument dates to Aristotle, and is decisive.”

    As someone who has taught the simple “history of science 101” thread of the Aquinas & Aristotle medieval synthesis being challenged by the Renaissance (Pico, Ficino, Copernicus) and clearly overturned by the invention of true science (Galileo, Descartes, Bacon, Newton)… this is both highly amusing and deeply disturbing. This sentence is literally what we would invent to parody the close-minded professor at Padua objecting to Galileo claiming all objects fall at the same rate (ignoring air resistance).

  78. chikoppion 26 Jun 2017 at 1:39 pm

    [EmbraceWisdom] chikoppi – Please clearly define what you mean by: “X Axis = Percent of beliefs a person subjects to critical thinking.”

    Of the total beliefs a person holds, how frequently and rigorously those beliefs are subjected to critical examination based on the desire for sufficient and objective evidence.

    Feel free to point to well documented psychological concepts. As far as I know, no such measure exists in the literature, and it would be incredibly difficult to operationally define that variable. If you are right, it should be easy to find academic principles that support your conclusions. Show me the research that demonstrates it would even be possible to create such an X-axis in a meaningful way? I don’t think you realize how difficult it would be to operationally define “percent of beliefs” let alone the rest of that variable.

    What? Credulity isn’t a psychological concept. Of course it can’t be objectively measured. No one is claiming that it can.

    Are you suggesting that all people apply critical thinking to all categories of belief equally and that there is no bell curve?

  79. EmbraceWisdomon 26 Jun 2017 at 2:01 pm

    @chikoppi – Just so we have this crystal clear, you just agreed on a clear definition for a concept, that you would then use to create a hypothetical bell curve. You then said that credulity isn’t a psychological concept, that cannot be objectively measured.

    All of this means that you are having a conversation about splitting up people into two groups in an impossible way, or at least an unscientific way. Please tell me how you would construct a bell-curve like this without being able to operational define the variables in question? Please tell me how this concept has any merit, if it is true that you can’t scientifically measure a variable that is central to your arguments?

    If things are the way you claim, what are you even talking about or suggesting? If you cannot objectively measure credulity then you cannot tell a NASA person from a Goopy person.

    Also you are wrong about credulity not being a pysch concept, things like suggestibility, credulity, gullibility and other closely related concepts have all been studied extensively in psychology. Depending on the specific term, tons of research can be found. If you are interested I would suggest looking into suggestibility, since it probably has the most research. Suggestibility is a key component of many different personality theories and is operationally defined on many different tests and in many different experimental setups.

  80. Steven Novellaon 26 Jun 2017 at 2:28 pm

    EW – It’s generally bad form to tell an author what they meant by their own writings in the face of them telling you differently. It is particularly stubborn, and also ironically flies in the face of the principle of charity you had the nerve to espouse. Your mean-spirited, subjective, and unfair characterizations are pretty transparent to everyone here.

    You seem intent on missing the point that my position is far more nuanced than your strawman. These are not my two groups, and you insist on arguing against. First, I was only, in this article, talking about one aspect of culture. People do differ in regards to how regularly and thoroughly they subject their beliefs to critical examination.

    But this was never meant to be the entirety of my position on how people differ, which is far more nuanced. When I correct you, you either deny that it is my position, you deny the implications of what I wrote, or you make the irrelevant point that I did not spell that out in this one article.

    It should be clear to any fair reader that your strawman is not my position.

    I am not being “evasive” by not defining two clear groups – I have made it clear multiple times I do not think there are two clear groups. People do differ in this one way, as they differ in many other ways, that’s it.

    Now you are rejecting my observations on the ground that they are not based on the psychological literature. First, I never claimed they were. But second, they are consistent with the literature – but again, not in your simplistic strawman notion.

    I have been very consistent in my writing describing all these various factors as complex, and interacting with each other, and as differing in complex ways, and in different situations. For some reason you choose to ignore that.

    The literature does support the conclusion that different people are meaningfully different in how they approach their beliefs. There are fantasy prone personality types. http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/the-fantasy-prone-personality/

    There are those who tend to believe in conspiracy theories: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/swim-in-denial/201704/psychology-conspiracy-theory

    And people differ in terms of analytical vs intuitive thinking: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/talking-apes/201602/are-you-intuitive-or-analytical-thinker

    People also have different levels of scientific literacy and critical thinking literacy.

    And yes, people behave differently depending on the belief in question, in the context of their personal beliefs, identity, and culture.

    Further, there are multiple different biases interacting in complex ways. You seem to be familiar with this blog, so it is especially odd that you would get so worked up over one article, and then insist on misinterpreting it, denying the obvious nuance, and then denying the context of my other writing. It almost seems as if you have been stalking me, waiting for your chance to pounce, and now you will not be denied your kill.

    In any case – the result is you are acting like a troll. You are not engaging, you are not being fair, you have your narrative and you will stick with it no matter what. You seem to be only interested in whatever catharsis these rants provide.

    I do hope you can step back, take a breath, and see what you have done here.

  81. chikoppion 26 Jun 2017 at 2:54 pm

    Just so we have this crystal clear, you just agreed on a clear definition for a concept, that you would then use to create a hypothetical bell curve. You then said that credulity isn’t a psychological concept, that cannot be objectively measured.

    Yup.

    All of this means that you are having a conversation about splitting up people into two groups in an impossible way, or at least an unscientific way.

    Nope.

    I’m not suggesting “splitting people up.” I’m suggesting that on the hypothetical scale there are necessarily people who populate the ends of the bell curve, even though we aren’t capable of determining which specific people those are.

    Do you agree?

    If things are the way you claim, what are you even talking about or suggesting? If you cannot objectively measure credulity then you cannot tell a NASA person from a Goopy person.

    Nope. Certainly not objectively. I am acknowledging that a spectrum exists.

    Also you are wrong about credulity not being a pysch concept, things like suggestibility, credulity, gullibility and other closely related concepts have all been studied extensively in psychology. Depending on the specific term, tons of research can be found. If you are interested I would suggest looking into suggestibility, since it probably has the most research. Suggestibility is a key component of many different personality theories and is operationally defined on many different tests and in many different experimental setups.

    And do those studies indicate that people fall along a spectrum, with some people considered more or less suggestible than others? Were the subjects divided into two camps or ranked on a curve? Were those researchers somehow villainous for suggesting that people might be assessed in such a way?

    While I don’t doubt suggestibility plays a role I think there are many factors that contribute to overall credulity, including education and culture. So no, I don’t consider the frequency of credulously-held beliefs to be merely attributable to psychological traits but also that it intersects with behavioral economics.

  82. EmbraceWisdomon 26 Jun 2017 at 4:03 pm

    @Steven Novella – I don’t mean to be disrespectful but you are being evasive. You refused to clearly define the groups and still kind of do, even in your latest reply. That same reluctance is not present in the original article. That’s what being evasive means. I don’t really value what you say now when it contradicts your own blog entry, it seems like an evasive technique. It’s not simply a “clarification” when it runs contrary to your article, its more like a deception.

    Nice evidence! How about you point to something we could find in a college level personality textbook, like theories and central themes, instead of random studies that confirm your bigoted opinions about people?

    Last time I checked “fantasy prone” is not a rigorous psychological definition of someone’s personality, and is not mentioned in my textbook, on the wikipage for personality theory or the APA page for personality theory. Find some work in personality theory or social psych, well established ideas, or run away and continue being an evasive bigot who believes in two types of people in the world.

    Isn’t it the least bit funny to you, that your evidence is a series of studies that divide people into TWO GROUPS? Which are essentially “dumb, gullible people” and “smart, critical thinking people,” which is essentially NASA vs Goop. Really escaping that false dichotomy now, with more false dichotomies!

    The evidence you point to is not exactly profoundly impactful research in psych, you summarized some one off studies, these types of personalities you are describing are not part of the core of personality theory, unlike a concept you hinted at multiple times: suggestibility. The research on that concept shows that suggestibility is negatively correlated with intelligence. We also know that highly educated people tend to be less gullible then those with much less knowledge, especially when we are talking about the same realm of knowledge.

    As has been previously pointed out by me, in the comments you used words like “spectrum” and “continuum” to escape my criticism, those words do not appear in the original article. What appears in the article is your thoughts on how there are two types of people, you then define exactly two groups. One bad, one good. It’s not a stretch to see you had no patience or respect for the Goop people. Especially when you claim they are not living in reality and believe in magic. And the group you are a member of puts people in space.

    My problem with this is that it’s such a low quality argument. Goop vs NASA doesn’t exist. There is also zero evidence that people buy the stickers because they have all those negative qualities. Their behavior is much better explained simply by social effects and having expendable income. Just because I shop at Whole Foods doesn’t mean I automatically believe everything about their mission statement, it’s simply nearby and everyone around me goes there.

    You just separated everyone into two tribes. The internet already forces people into tribes. As a skeptic you should probably not be promoting this type of behavior, since it leads to many negative things. As you can see people took Goopy and applied it to religions, something you did not do. Why? Tribalism!

    Look at the comments, your community already organizes itself into tribes, the skeptics vs the dumb religious people, for example. I say basic statements about my belief and am insulted and attacked as an outsider. Even you in your latest comment you have suggested I’m an outsider instead of trying to understand me. You also used inflammatory language to describe me as a predatory dangerous animal. That’s super helpful in an online discussion right? Please defend the use of a violent analogy like that in the context of an argument.

    It’s really simple, dividing people into two groups, one of stupid people who believe in magic, and one who are NASA-types, that you cant operationally define is negative thing to do. It pushes people away and serves to divide us further.

    You also were wrong about this entire article, everything from the headline which you stole, along with the photograph from the Goop website. NASA slammed no one, Goop stickers are still for sale and interest in them has only gone up since this controversy has started, it trended upwards from relative obscurity to becoming a national trend on social media. Goop has got more followers, more hits, and likely more sales. The same exact stickers are still being advertised with more unbelievable claims than “NASA carbon fiber material.” With more victories like this maybe you can promote Jade eggs next? I think they could use a boost in sales.

    Celebrate this victory at your own peril.

  83. Steven Novellaon 26 Jun 2017 at 4:11 pm

    “Please defend the use of a violent analogy like that in the context of an argument.”

    What are you talking about? Now you are just getting incoherent. Are you referring to me saying you are acting like a troll?

    First, a troll is a metaphor for the behavior you are displaying.
    Second, you don’t get to tone-troll me when you are being a consistent jackass.

    I have explained that I do not divide people into two groups. Your insistence that I defend my division of people into two groups is therefore bizarre. It’s trolling.

    You are now just giving everyone here a nice example of how people fanatically follow a narrative and refuse to engage meaningfully with others. So keep ranting if you feel you must, my readers probably enjoy the spectacle.

  84. EmbraceWisdomon 26 Jun 2017 at 5:08 pm

    @Steven Novella – I was referring to your statement:
    “It almost seems as if you have been stalking me, waiting for your chance to pounce, and now you will not be denied your kill.”

    Using language like that is super helpful in online discussions right? Especially with the world kill involved. Should I describe you as a tasty elitist pig, frolicking in puddles of white male privilege? Would that help move along this discussion towards positive ends? And no, you are right, calling me a troll doesn’t help much either.

    Still waiting on that real psychological evidence for your “two kinds of people in the world.” Fantasy prone and conspiracy mindsets are not real personality psychology concepts, they are one-off studies you summarized because they fit your elitist worldview.

    Suggestibility does explain much of what you are talking about, but you don’t want to go to that well researched term for support, because it also shows that the differences between these groups might be intelligence-based. That would be bad for you, because you pretend to not be an elitist.

  85. CKavaon 27 Jun 2017 at 12:44 am

    Verbose, needlessly aggressive, and grudge-led rants that revolve primarily around a poster’s idiosyncratic interpretations and rail against persecution by an imagined comment section clique?

    Welcome back cozying/Sophie!

    This is the most novel persona yet. I remember predicting a long time ago that you would eventually turn on Steve after he dared to disagree with you a few times – but even so I genuinely didn’t expect this level of attack. No half measures, eh?

    Some predictions:

    Thread will end up 200+ posts. Most of it dealing with EW’s idiosyncratic interpretations of Steve’s original post/other’s comments.
    Anyone who disagrees with EW will find the issues revisited across multiple other unrelated threads.
    Obscure grudges with previous posters/past comments in other threads will be brought up- including those which EW seemingly was not involved with.
    There will be complaints about misquoting/failing to quote EW in full.
    There will be lectures about real skepticism and how commentators here are failing to live up to it.
    EW’s subjective opinions/interpretations of the post/others comments will be presented as indisputable facts.
    There will be inaccurate but completely confident claims made about a variety of research/philosophical literature.
    There will be claims of persecution by a comment section clique.
    There will be (deeply hypocritical) complaints about unwarranted personal attacks and failures to invoke the principle of charity.

    Would dearly love to be proven wrong but have a feeling I won’t be.

    Fantasy prone and conspiracy mindsets are not real personality psychology concepts, they are one-off studies you summarized because they fit your elitist worldview.

    For anyone interested, I recommend typing ‘fantasy prone personality’ into google scholar to see if EW’s characterization of how marginal this construct is in the personality psychology literature is correct.

    Good night and God Bless.

  86. Michael Woelkon 27 Jun 2017 at 1:01 am

    EW:

    You refused to clearly define the groups and still kind of do, even in your latest reply. That same reluctance is not present in the original article. That’s what being evasive means. I don’t really value what you say now when it contradicts your own blog entry, it seems like an evasive technique. It’s not simply a “clarification” when it runs contrary to your article, its more like a deception.

    Are you 100% sure that you didn’t read a different article and commented here by accident? Because unless you read only excerpts, there’s no way to interpret Steve’s writing the way you do. You keep talking about contradictions where there are none – Steve went out of his way to make it very clear that he doesn’t advocate such a simplistic view. Yet here you are, insisting that he doesn’t know what he meant, demanding a “clear definition of the groups”.

    You are offended that he’s calling you a troll but how could he not? If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. Prove him wrong by acting like a reasonable person for a change.

  87. EmbraceWisdomon 27 Jun 2017 at 1:45 am

    @Ckava – Wow… Someone is angry and late to the party. At least you didn’t describe me as violent predatory animal like your hero. FYI, I did not say I google scholar’d the term and found nothing.

    Seek and you shall find, of course if you google the term you will find evidence, just like if you google “vaccines cause autism,” or “the effectiveness of acupuncture.” This is called confirmation bias, and is not how you go about determining the significance or legitimacy of concept. For example, look at the date on those articles, where they are published, and then examine the alternatives in mainstream personality theory.

    The term fantasy prone personality, doesn’t appear in multiple textbooks currently used to teach personality theory. It doesn’t appear anywhere on the wiki page for personality theory, it’s not mentioned anywhere on various legit pages online run by universities, institutes and associations, that provide summaries of personality theory and related sub-fields, like the APA’s website. This means it’s not part of any serious theory, the more you talk about fantasy proneness, the more you demonstrate your ignorance.

    Compare and contrast that term with: absorption, gullibility, openness to experience, suggestibility, and dissociation. All of which are examined in every modern personality textbook, and are extensively researched in the literature. They also all apply to this discussion of “NASA vs Goop people.” But in ways that Steven doesn’t like because they are associated with mental illness and intelligence, and its too elitist to just say “smart vs stupid” or “healthy vs sick.” Even though Steven’s fans had no problem extending his thoughts into those realms. He said nothing about religion, but the comments are filled with outright attacks on religious people.

    Steven Novella did not point to a single well-established psychological concept when he chose to define his simplistic tribal narrative. Other people even attempted to say that this thing they were describing cannot be objectively measured. But yet they see no problem with making hypothetical bell curves, and tossing people into groups, without being able to operationally define basic terms.

    Steven instead chose to point to more one-off studies that do not have anything to do with the foundational concepts of personality theory. When examined closely the concept of “fantasy proneness” doesn’t explain Steven’s article at all, since only 4% of the population are fantasy prone, so what the rest are supposed to be NASA-types? What a joke! True fantasy proneness is likely to be a disorder, not just a simple type of person. This proneness is also associated with low intelligence and correlated with mental disorders.

    If you all see nothing wrong with Steven being unable to point to well-established psychological theories to support the ideas in his article, then I guess I can’t help, I must be a Goop.

  88. CKavaon 27 Jun 2017 at 3:36 am

    Wow… Someone is angry and late to the party. At least you didn’t describe me as violent predatory animal like your hero.

    lol. I’m not angry, just a bit surprised by how far you’re prepared to go in service of your vendettas. It could be amusing if there wasn’t so much spite and self-deception involved. I do wonder what’s next after this, though? Maybe an evangelical atheist? A science enthusiast priest?

    The term fantasy prone personality, doesn’t appear in multiple textbooks currently used to teach personality theory. It doesn’t appear anywhere on the wiki page for personality theory, it’s not mentioned anywhere on various legit pages online run by universities, institutes and associations, that provide summaries of personality theory and related sub-fields, like the APA’s website. This means it’s not part of any serious theory, the more you talk about fantasy proneness, the more you demonstrate your ignorance.

    Fantasy prone personality is a construct that is used in personality psychology research. Your claims about the construct are exaggerated and self-evidently borne out of your new grudge with Steve. The fact that a concept doesn’t appear in a wiki or an intro text to personality theory is an irrelevant criteria to judge if a concept is valid or a topic of research in a particular field but it is indicative of the level of research you put into defending your grudge-fuelled positions. I know it will be impossible to shift your position now you have begun your double down so I’m not going to bother trying. But for everyone else interested and unfamiliar with the relevant literature, my advice remains the same (and applies more broadly to the inevitable future claims you will make about other research): consult the literature to see if EW’s claims are accurate. They usually aren’t…

  89. Nidwinon 27 Jun 2017 at 4:16 am

    @EW

    (3) fantasizing frequently as a child (still am at 48 Years old)
    (4) adopting a fantasy identity (daydreams and sleeping dreams only)
    (5) experiencing imagined sensations as real (with physical and emotional reactions)
    (6) having vivid sensory perceptions (spasms sometimes surprises me if I don’t sense them coming)
    (7) reliving past experiences (can be fun when with the usual adaptations)
    (8) claiming psychic powers (fully controlled paraesthesia at will, up to pulsing it throughout my entire, or parts of, my body)
    (9) having out-of-body or floating experiences (night dreams only and oob are awakings while dreaming of myself dreaming)

    To your saying I have a low intelligence and a mental disorder. May be that’s the reason that I’m a non-believer.

    Putting personalias in groups about a specific subject helps to get an overview of a spectrum. It’s a valid starting point as long as you don’t stop, and be happy, with only 2 groups but accept the entire spectrum that will show up.

    @Dr Steven Novella

    From the FPP article
    “Our brains must have hard-wiring that enables it to distinguish between a sensory experience and a vivid memory”

    I’m still not convinced the actual brain/memory model is correct as I’ve the feeling it’s going to collapse on it’s on weight. Because if it goes on and on folks are going to add an xx amount of different kind of memories with xx amount of hird-wiring till we have more different kind of memories and hard-wiring than neurons.

    e.g.
    Remembering four different kind of experiences, conscious past experiences, daydreams, wishfull thinkings and sleeping dreams (to keep it simple). Not only can I tell what belongs to which group but if I desire I can intermix two or more experiences from each group to create a brand new experience. Add to the new experience 2,3 or even 5 of our senses and you’re going to start inventing new x amounts of type of memories and x amounts of hird-wirings to try to explain how it could work.

    I’ve often said that I’m not convinced we remember stuff the way it’s explained by science. I think it’s possible our brain/memory is entirely and fully reconstructive that it doesn’t make us remember but experience something new from extremely simple stored building blocks. To give a simple and bad example we don’t have memories stored of wells, houses, train stations but we build them again from scratch from templated bricks and a flexible model when we want to remember wells, houses and train stations.

  90. SteveAon 27 Jun 2017 at 7:19 am

    CKava: “Verbose, needlessly aggressive, and grudge-led rants that revolve primarily around a poster’s idiosyncratic interpretations and rail against persecution by an imagined comment section clique? Welcome back cozying/Sophie!”

    I was thinking the same, but I can’t figure out why someone would come up with a new persona that is arguably at least as bad as the old ones (worse even).

    Anyhoo, if this post does exceed 200 comments, it will be with no further help from me.

  91. Bill Openthalton 27 Jun 2017 at 7:23 am

    @Nidwin

    I think it’s possible our brain/memory is entirely and fully reconstructive that it doesn’t make us remember but experience something new from extremely simple stored building blocks. To give a simple and bad example we don’t have memories stored of wells, houses, train stations but we build them again from scratch from templated bricks and a flexible model when we want to remember wells, houses and train stations.

    How would this process allow you to distinguish between a train station you know, and one you’re visiting for the first time? For memories to be useful, they must provide reliable information about the past. People with Alzheimer’s (sometimes) don’t remember enough specifics to recognise a person, but they usually don’t make category mistakes (e.g. dogs for humans) — the templates are still usable, but the links between the specific, differentiating information and the template are absent. As with any information processing device, the actual implementation is less important than the observable outcome. Brains manipulate categories that are refined when required (building to train station to specific train station etc.) to provide quick access to the most useful information. It’s clearly more a top-down than bottom-up process, as your example appears to suggest (and wells, houses and train stations can be build of bricks, but also of wood, or metal, or concrete, and remain recognisable as such).

  92. Nidwinon 27 Jun 2017 at 8:06 am

    @Bill

    That’s a good question. We could go even further and add the difference between an existing train station from a picture, a fictional train station, the differences with an existing train station in a dream that was quite different than the existing one irl.

    It’s not only people suffering from Alzheimer as I run into the same issues, just way less severe as I’m more or less a healthy person. To the extreme on my side of the fence I remembered or recalled entire scenes from movies, TV-series that just don’t exists but I could still reconstruct them. Imagine my suprise at the end of the movie or episode when that scence didn’t show up on the screen. Same with entire passages in books.
    I agree that for memories to be useful they need to provide reliable information but when I start to compare what I’m able to remember and “reality”, what I should have remembered, I’m often in for a big surprise. And because of the amount of differences I’m questioning the answer that our memory is unreliable because it constantly implements false memories as gap closers. It just doesn’t sound right.

    I kept it to just bricks to keep it simple but you’re right. I’m not certain what you mean with the top-down/bottom-up process, my mistake, so can’t comment on it.

  93. BillyJoe7on 27 Jun 2017 at 8:31 am

    Nidwin,

    “I’m not sure what you mean by top down/bottom up process”

    When I remember the house I used to live in during my early teenage years, I get a picture in my head of that house. And the picture I would have in my head would be of a weatherboard house, painted olive green, with a corrugated iron roof. I would not have to try to conjure up an image in my head by asking myself “was it brick or weatherboard?”, “what colour?”, “was it a tiled or corrugated iron roof”.

  94. Nidwinon 27 Jun 2017 at 8:48 am

    @BillyJoe7

    Now my question to you and that’s were, let’s say my confusion towards a certain scientific point of view.

    Is that image in your head a construct or a sudden flash, a fixed stored image (doesn’t matter how or how precise) or did your brain reconstructed the house of your early teens the moment you try to recall that memory?

    For me it feels like the second option, a reconstruct, making it suddenly a new experience in which I would be able to add more details (correct or false) at will.

    btw, sorry if I derailed the the thread, wasn’t my intention to Hi-jack.

  95. Bob McNamaraon 27 Jun 2017 at 9:12 am

    For the past few years I have been joining LGBTQ people during their annual march for equality in Columbus, Ohio. The event takes place on a Saturday afternoon in June. I am always amazed by the band of people who attend for the sole purpose of spewing their judgmental hate. Columbus Ohio is not a mega city, but it wouldn’t be difficult to completely ignore the rainbow people assembled along a few downtown blocks. If I were not an ally of the LGBTQ drive for equality, I probably would not be aware that the event was taking place. On a typical summer weekend, I have errands and chores to attend to, or maybe, if lucky, an opportunity to relax with a book, or golf, or hike. I can’t figure out why some people feel so compelled to troll that they go out of their way to be buzz kills at a time and place where they obviously have nothing in common with the group. Why do some people go out of their way to search for events where they can spew their self-hate? Why do some people go out of their way to search for places on the internet where they can show off their bigotry and lack of critical thinking skill?

  96. arnieon 27 Jun 2017 at 9:36 am

    CKava and Steve A — EW’s comment immediately led me to the same association to Cozying/Sophie but I have since had some doubts as EW’s strident and obsessive strawmanning and over-the-top vendetta and provocative trolling seems significantly more extreme. I had just been wondering what happened to Sophie when “splatt!”, it seems she land right in middle of this comment section, and on steroids! However, it will be interesting if the similarities increase of decrease with time.

    I thought Steve’s managing of the exchange was a strong lesson in thoughtful patience, critical thinking, and increasingly pointed assertion.

  97. chikoppion 27 Jun 2017 at 9:54 am

    [Bob MacNamara] I can’t figure out why some people feel so compelled to troll that they go out of their way to be buzz kills at a time and place where they obviously have nothing in common with the group. Why do some people go out of their way to search for events where they can spew their self-hate? Why do some people go out of their way to search for places on the internet where they can show off their bigotry and lack of critical thinking skill?

    Largely, I think, because we’re hardwared to demonstrate utility to our social group as a survival mechanism. There is a cost to belong to a group and the more one sacrifices or performs that cost the more one feels secure in group membership or hierarchy. Such demonstrations are identity-affirming.

    A similar behavior that confounds me is the rabid sports fan. I enjoy watching a number of sports, but when the game is over it’s out of my head. Those who are loyal members of the tribe will recite stats, argue about picks, recant history and lore, and attempt to outperform others in recalling esoteric trivia.

  98. Bob McNamaraon 27 Jun 2017 at 11:22 am

    Thank you, chikoppi, for your insight. I’m sure you’re correct that tribalism is a big part of it. However, I can’t escape Dr Steven Novella’s words: “Goop people victimize themselves and each other.” As a college student traveling to a juvenile detention center once a week to bring the “good news” to a few of the inmates, I reflect that, regardless of how good my intentions, I victimized those poor kids (on top of all that they already suffered). They would have been much better served than some white guy in a roman collar thinking he was giving them “hope” by trying to infuse them with some of his delusion. I deeply regret my behavior. As a Goop person, I victimized myself and victimized others. During my first 65 years, as a Goop person, I was deeply harmed by the Goop people around me. When my friend was dying of cancer last year, he and I had many deep conversations about death with dignity. We threw the Goop people out of his hospital room. He died in peace because, by then, we both had thrown off the harmful delusions that we had both embraced when we were Goop people.

  99. EmbraceWisdomon 27 Jun 2017 at 11:54 am

    @Ckava – Let’s take a moment and examine some ideas. Suppose an article is written, and that very same day a discussion begins. This discussion carries on for a couple days with essentially the same participants. On day 4 a new person shows up, to personally attack one of the participants. This attacker doesn’t even add a single thing to the discussion, they simply expel a literal list of attacks and insults that ironically display a significant degree of tribal mentality (the theme in the article and the comments). “Look everyone, this is an outsider, Attack!” This naive attacker also shows a stunning lack of self-awareness by claiming the Outsider/Goop they are attacking has grudges, by listing what are essentially a laundry list of their very own personal grudges and prejudices.

    Would you describe this person as:
    a) Intrusive, naive, and carrying a grudge
    – or –
    b) Intelligent, aware of the discussion and objective

    Your very first interaction here appears 4 days and 85 comments too late. Unlike you, I commented here on the day Steven’s article was posted. My first comment, which I highly doubt you read, appears here: http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/nasa-slams-goop/#comment-338920
    The ideas presented in that very first comment still stand. Steven’s article is essentially an appeal for tribalism, he is drawing clear lines to indicate who he and who his followers are, and he explains the nature of the enemy. His enemies are all the people with flawed personalities that believe in “magical stickers.” His chosen few are represented by the space organization. When pushed to provide clear definitions and evidence for his two types of people, evasive nonsense was provided.

    You ideas about how to determine the validity of a theoretical construct are hilarious. Please go ahead and apply it to pseudo science, like go Google scholar “catharsis,” look at the tens of thousands of published articles about it. Does this all make it a legitimate concept? Wouldn’t it make much more sense to find out what exactly this concept is about, then go to the actual peer-reviewed mainstream psychology literature on emotion and see if it exists there? Is catharsis an well-established concept in the area of psychology that studies emotion? It does not hold water, you will only find a footnote in history, along with explanations for why Freud was wrong. Your method of taking things at face value is a giant waste of time. I don’t need to read a manual on how to operate a perpetual motion machine, and study the inner workings of it to figure out why it’s wrong. All I need to do is familiarize myself with the laws of thermodynamics and read the long history of these devices.

    @Nidwin – Honestly, my bad, I did not mean to personally insult your intelligence, my comment was that suggestibility and intelligence can be negatively correlated, I didn’t mean to say anything specifically about you or anyone else. Additionally there are exceptions, some very intelligent people have high levels of suggestibility. Also what you described might just be the description of an artist or a highly intelligent scientist, there is no indication in anything you wrote, that you have a problem with understanding what is real. The language you used shows a lot of self awareness.

    Fantasy prone personality is much better understood by the elements of mainstream psychology I previously listed. That means that FPP is not a useful thing to study or clinical perspective to use. Don’t take my word for it, go look it up. The symptoms themselves should immediately stand out to anyone with clinical experience. Paranormal experiences, intense religious experiences, confusing fantasy with reality… Need I go on? These are very serious things. If you walk into a psychiatrist’s office and say that god is talking to you, that you can fly and walk on water, and you can’t tell your imagined fantasies from reality, i.e. you swear you are Jesus himself… let’s just say you likely won’t be going home after that appointment. They would not say, “Oh you just have fantasy prone personality, it’s quite normal.” I personally spent years working in a clinical context with many such “FPP-types”, and never heard anyone use that term. It wasn’t in any patient history or write-up by psychiatrists/psychologists that I ever saw. Every single patient with a serious mental disorder like schizophrenia technically has many of the characteristics of FPP, what does that tell you about FPP? If you are talking about someone who can’t understand the difference between fantasy and reality, you are almost always talking about a disorder. The only reason you can have FPP and not be diagnosed with a serious condition, is if you have never had a run in with the law, or a fantasy that led you to do something dangerous. If you put someone with FPP in a stressful environment and test them I have no doubt they would display very problematic behavior.

    There is also ZERO indication that FPP is at one end of a NASA vs Goop spectrum. Spectra and continua, define the gradual change of one element, “fantasy proneness vs critical thinking skeptics (NASA-types)” is not a spectrum that exists in psychology.

    One big hint as to why such a spectrum is impossible is that it measures two different things, fantasy on one end, and critical thinking skills on the other. Spectra usually involve two extremes of one variable. Like the autism spectrum. On one end you have mild cases, the other end is the most severe, the middle therefore has everything in between.

    Suggestibility, and absorption are psychological constructs that can explain Steve’s article, they exist on spectra sure. The highest end of the suggestibility spectrum, you find mentally ill people who perform poorly on IQ tests, towards the middle you find that suggestibility and intelligence are negatively correlated. There are exceptions, some high performing people (especially creatives), even scientists, that are very successful have higher levels of suggestibility and absorption. On the other side of the spectrum the far extreme are hyper-rational untrusting people who are also mentally ill.

    An extreme lack of suggestibility/absorption is also problematic and maladaptive. These are people who cannot fantasize at all, lack the ability to trust other people to tell them very basic things. Like if you were focusing on your work while your boss told the entire room some important details before leaving for the day, someone with absolutely no suggestibility would not trust their coworkers to fill them in on what they missed. Not only is this socially inappropriate but it could lead to many problematic encounters and get you fired. Absorption specifically is needed to do any kind of visual thinking/imagination. If you have a pathological lack of absorption, you will have a lot of trouble with many simple tasks. I personally can’t see how it would be possible to read a book in the usual way or understand a technical model or anatomical structure.

    I hope you can see now that just because someone buys a sticker, doesn’t mean much of anything about their psyche’s relationship with various psychological concepts. Steven claimed that Goop people don’t understand what is real and seem to not live in reality. That is a mental illness he is describing. You can’t do what Steven did in the article and diagnose what is essentially mental illness, by looking at who purchases stickers.

  100. RCon 27 Jun 2017 at 12:12 pm

    Egnor’s entire philosophy has one giant hole in it, and it’s very clear in this statement:

    “Te strongest evidence is logical. While material generation of thought about particulars can be defended (even then, only if you adopt a hylomorphic perspective), thought about universals cannot in principle be generated by matter. ”

    If the brain cannot generate thought about immaterials, then the brain cannot communicate with the mind. It suffers the same hole as the idea that the universe needs a primary cause, but God doesn’t. It’s just special pleading.

  101. Bill Openthalton 27 Jun 2017 at 12:23 pm

    Nidwin —
    I am pretty sure there are no complete pictures (cf. a jpeg) in the mind. Memories are reconstructed from links between fragments of information, and every act of recall can/does alter the memory through implicitly associating it with currently relevant information. This actually makes a lot of sense cognitively, given that the current information is what triggered the recall in the first place.

  102. CKavaon 27 Jun 2017 at 12:59 pm

    lol. Sorry ‘EmbraceWisdom’ to have interrupted your very productive discussion with Steve, please feel free to carry on with your respectful exchange of views without fear of further interruption from me.

    This discussion carries on for a couple days with essentially the same participants. On day 4 a new person shows up, to personally attack one of the participants.

    As I’ve mentioned to you previously, you shouldn’t assume that just because people aren’t commenting that they aren’t following discussions. Nor should you assume that people who chose to comment are automatically required to defer to the whims/talking points of whatever persona you have adopted for that week. A hallmark of your posting style is to take over most of the discussion threads you get involved with, as is happening here, and it seems worth flagging who exactly people are dealing with.

    “Look everyone, this is an outsider, Attack!”

    Funny I thought I was doing the opposite by pointing out that you are only pretending to be a newly arrived ‘outsider’, when you are in fact a poster with a substantial history on the site. Something which remains transparently obvious.

    @arnie & Steve A.

    Yes this incarnation is more extreme than cozying/Sophie but all of the hallmarks and telltale lines/quirks are there. The motivation for EmbraceWisdom to be ‘religious’ and more confrontational also seems pretty clear to me; the religious part accentuates the ability to push the preferred ‘persecution’ narrative and the harsh new persona provides an expendable and just-different-enough cover from which to launch attacks from with a sense of impunity. If I had to make a bet, I would guess that EW will burn brightly and then fade away to be replaced (after the usual gap) by either the return of cozying/Sophie or some new less obnoxious personality.

    Steve, as the blog owner, can likely see the IP accounts of all commenters, and while it is easy enough to disguise IPs, I don’t think Sophie/EW will have been that careful. I could be wrong but I suspect Steve already knows who he is dealing with. Regardless, I’ve said my piece and don’t have the energy for another turn on the self-delusion merry-go-round, so I leave it to everyone else to judge for themselves. Maybe EmbraceWisdom is what they claim- a new commentator who is upset at the endless disparaging comments Steve and others make towards religious people- and it is just a random coincidence that they share the posting style of the recently silent Sophie. Could be…

  103. EmbraceWisdomon 27 Jun 2017 at 1:01 pm

    @RC – If Egnor, chooses to believe that god is immune to these logical constraints what skin is it off your back?

    The entire point of spirituality and religious arguments like that is that they exist outside the realm of human knowledge and experience. Science does not tell us god doesn’t exist, it does not show us the meaning of life. Some people like me choose to look to spirituality and prayer to approach those questions about the ultimate nature of reality. Other people choose scientism and like to claim that science tells them the answers to those questions. One of these groups is using science inappropriately.

  104. EmbraceWisdomon 27 Jun 2017 at 1:07 pm

    @Ckava – Really? You are now openly suggesting people be doxed. How special and unique your little corner of the internet is… This never happens anywhere else, this isn’t openly abusive behavior at all.. Well go for it, post my IP, settle this debate once and for all. Put up or shut up.

  105. CKavaon 27 Jun 2017 at 1:26 pm

    Sorry you seem to have misunderstood.

    Allow me clarify: I am not asking nor am I hoping for your IP to be posted. The one doing that is YOU!

    I would actually much prefer that Steve respects your (and every other commenters)’s right to anonymity. My point was simply that Steve likely knows, if he has cared to look. That’s all. And again in case you missed it above, please note that “it is easy enough to disguise IPs”.

  106. chikoppion 27 Jun 2017 at 1:43 pm

    [EmbraceWisdom] RC – If Egnor, chooses to believe that god is immune to these logical constraints what skin is it off your back?

    My god tells me to kill heretics. My God tells me to forcibly subject others to the tenants of my religion. My God tells me the only treatment allowed to a desperately ill child is prayer. My God tells me it is my right to sell my adolescent daughter into marriage. My God tells me certain kinds of people aren’t deserving of the same rights as others. My God tells me any act conducted in his name is not only moral, but righteous and exempt from secular law. My God tells me to aggressively suppress any education or knowledge that conflicts with scripture. I don’t have to justify these beliefs or the behaviors that result from them, because my God works in mysterious ways.

    The entire point of spirituality and religious arguments like that is that they exist outside the realm of human knowledge and experience. Science does not tell us god doesn’t exist, it does not show us the meaning of life. Some people like me choose to look to spirituality and prayer to approach those questions about the ultimate nature of reality. Other people choose scientism and like to claim that science tells them the answers to those questions. One of these groups is using science inappropriately.

    Cool. If you actually don’t equate “spiritualism” with “knowledge.” That is seldom the case.

  107. RCon 27 Jun 2017 at 1:46 pm

    @RC – If Egnor, chooses to believe that god is immune to these logical constraints what skin is it off your back?

    What he believes is his own business, and largely irrelevant. What he choses to bring here as backing evidence for his claims is an entirely different matter.

    Egnor is making strong claims, and his evidence is contradictory nonsense – he should be called out for that.

    This is a skepticism site – we prefer evidence to “I believes”

  108. EmbraceWisdomon 27 Jun 2017 at 2:05 pm

    @Ckava – Where did you learn to write such nonsense? You stated multiple times now that I’m someone else. I said okay prove it. You then have another conversation with someone else about how Steven knows your theory is right based on IPs. I say cool, post it, settle it. Demonstrate your very testable hypothesis. You back down and point to your comment “it is easy enough to disguise IPs”. But you previously IP identification as an argument and even suggested I was too stupid to disguise it. Look at all those contradictions…

    This is not how arguments are written, this is how sophistry works. You’ve somehow managed to throw around wild accusations and attack me personally, but all while claiming you never said anything at all. And I’m the troll?

    Even though you’ve essentially admitted you don’t know what you are talking about, and that your theory is a mess, you still biased the discussion towards your ultimate ends.

    It’s like if I was to say I know a poster here is a convicted felon or a mentally ill person I’ve previously encountered online. I then suggest I have tons of evidence, when challenged I back down and point to all the caveats and exceptions I included in my writing. Even though I argued that the owner of this blog knows my theory is right, I am now left with no evidence, no logic supporting me, just some contradictory statements I made. Anyone who reads that argument will be left with the impression that there is smoke, and there must be a fire, there must be a kernel of truth. Even though nothing in that argument holds water, you’ve still manage to tip the scales.

    @RC – It’s not that simple, for example I’ve made very basic statements like “I accept science but I choose to believe there is something ultimately out there.” I have been insulted for that. Even though Steven himself has said he has no problem with that. I have also seen Egnor be attacked for posting pretty non-threatening religious claims.

    @chikoppi – Pointing to religious extremism is a very weak argument. First I never said a single thing about religion dictating what you should do in the real world, I always pointed to science for that. If you want to point to extremism all we have to do is look at the horrors of science, what god told you to drop the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, what god led you to eugenics, and forced sterilizations?

    It’s funny how a simple objective claim like: science cannot tell you the ultimate nature of reality or the purpose/meaning of life, is met with “WHAT IF GOD TELLS ME TO HURT PEOPLE?”

    Google scientism. It’s real. That’s all I was talking about.

  109. chikoppion 27 Jun 2017 at 2:13 pm

    [EmbraceWisdom] It’s funny how a simple objective claim like: science cannot tell you the ultimate nature of reality or the purpose/meaning of life, is met with “WHAT IF GOD TELLS ME TO HURT PEOPLE?”

    Google scientism. It’s real. That’s all I was talking about.

    Beg pardon, that is not all you were talking about. You asked why spiritual beliefs should be challenged.

    The answer is that they should be challenged for all the same reasons and with the same frequency that scientific knowledge is challenged.

    It makes no sense to chastise me for pointing out the perils of “spiritual” fundamentalism and then cite extreme examples of “scientism” in reply.

  110. EmbraceWisdomon 27 Jun 2017 at 2:31 pm

    @chikoppi – Okay, to be fair, we are having two different conversations at least. If you want to cite examples of religions extremism then all you showed was that in extreme cases those systems of thought are flawed. I am allowed to counter with examples of scientism, which is itself a corrupted form of science, kind of like religious extremism is a corrupted form of religion.

    I’ve taken another look at Egnor’s comments in the recent threads, I don’t see him calling for the execution of heretics, I don’t see him threatening to hurt anyone. I don’t see any evidence for the extreme examples you cited. In my own writing all I said was that I chose to believe something out there, and was personally attacked for it.

    Here’s some questions for you if you want: Do you think there is anything outside the realm of science? Can science tell you what the ultimate meaning of life is? Can science tell you what the ultimate nature of the universe is? Are there questions science cannot answer? My answers are: Y,N,N,Y. Many of the people who frequent this blog appear to have a fanatical obsession with science, especially when it comes to their interactions with the spiritually inclined.

  111. RCon 27 Jun 2017 at 3:03 pm

    “It’s funny how a simple objective claim like: science cannot tell you the ultimate nature of reality or the purpose/meaning of life,”

    The problem with religion is that it presupposes what it wants to be true, and then ignores everything that conflicts. There’s no reason to believe that there is a “purpose” or “meaning” for life.

    “Here’s some questions for you if you want: Do you think there is anything outside the realm of science? Can science tell you what the ultimate meaning of life is? Can science tell you what the ultimate nature of the universe is? Are there questions science cannot answer?”

    Excepting the last one, which is an obvious yes, these are nonsense questions, which presuppose their own answers.

  112. chikoppion 27 Jun 2017 at 3:49 pm

    [EmbraceWisdom] I’ve taken another look at Egnor’s comments in the recent threads, I don’t see him calling for the execution of heretics, I don’t see him threatening to hurt anyone. I don’t see any evidence for the extreme examples you cited.

    My stance applies universally, not just to ME. However, he has claimed that it is just and preferable to burn heretics as well as his preference for theocratic government on multiple occasions.

    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/jesus-mythicism-revisited/#comment-308587

    In my own writing all I said was that I chose to believe something out there, and was personally attacked for it.

    The purpose of this blog is to champion a particular epistemology, one that preferences proportional and evidence-based belief. It probably shouldn’t surprise you that phrases like “I choose to believe” might not go unchallenged.

    Personally, I don’t think there’s a problem with “spiritual” questioning, so long as that line of thinking is subjected to the same rigor and doubt as any other. There’s a difference between passive speculation and acting based on belief, especially when those actions impact others. The line between “choose to believe” and “choose to subject others to those beliefs” isn’t crossed by only avowed and overt fundamentalists.

    Here’s some questions for you if you want: (1) Do you think there is anything outside the realm of science? (2) Can science tell you what the ultimate meaning of life is? (3) Can science tell you what the ultimate nature of the universe is? (4) Are there questions science cannot answer? My answers are: Y,N,N,Y.

    1) If it can’t be detected or investigated the only possible answer is “I don’t know.” There are almost certainly things we aren’t yet capable of detecting. We only just detected gravitational waves. Generally, “science” doesn’t tell us what to do, it tells us how things work, which informs our choices.

    2) The question assumes there is an “ultimate (externally defined) meaning.” I don’t know that to be true, so the answer is “I don’t know.”

    3) Definitely not in its (or our) current state. Possibly not ever. Can spiritualism? How would you know?

    4) Many. But what science can do is provide clear and reliable expectations so that we actually achieve the outcomes intended by our actions.

    Many of the people who frequent this blog appear to have a fanatical obsession with science, especially when it comes to their interactions with the spiritually inclined.

    I can only speak for myself, but I don’t accept that there are two equivalent epistemologies, one that is evidence-based, tentative, Bayesian, and subject to revision, and one that is not.

    I’m also not entirely sure what “spiritual” means. Different people use the term in different ways. It seems most often related to narrative framework, as in “this is the story I use to synthesize the sum of my experience.” Our brains are pattern-seeking, narrative-driven engines.

  113. RickKon 27 Jun 2017 at 6:24 pm

    If there is a meaning to life or an “ultimate nature of the universe”, the process of science (testing theories and respecting evidence) is more likely to yield real answers than spiritual speculation or the invention of gods to fill the gaps in our understanding. The “spiritual” and divine answers are easier to come by and may be more comforting. So it depends on what you’re looking for when asking big questions: truth or comfort.

    Given the nature of human ego and our instinctive aversion to cognitive dissonance, it takes courage to do what Chikoppi did and state the simple truth: “I don’t know.” It takes somewhat less courage to state the obvious but no less truthful follow-up: “And neither does anyone else.”

  114. Bill Openthalton 28 Jun 2017 at 7:02 am

    RichK —

    It’s not so much truth vs. comfort, than “our best effort at understanding” vs. “the comfort of certainty”. Using science to explain the world needs the courage of admitting to not (yet) knowing the answer to the question. Religions and secular ideologies are designed to remove the angst of having to admit one doesn’t know, and to avoid the shame of changing one’s mind.

  115. BillyJoe7on 28 Jun 2017 at 7:19 am

    EW,

    “I’ve made very basic statements like “I accept science but I choose to believe there is something ultimately out there.” I have been insulted for that”

    Firstly, “insulted” is your word.
    I simply asked: what’s the point of employing evidence and logic when you then just go ahead and choose to believe whatever you want? It was simply a fair question which still remains unanswered because you chose instead to feel insulted.

    “Even though Steven himself has said he has no problem with that”

    So are we “fanboys” who accept everything SN has to say, or do we think for ourselves meaning that we will sometimes disagree with what SN has to say.
    You can’t have it both ways.

  116. RickKon 28 Jun 2017 at 8:19 am

    Thanks Bill – you’re right.

  117. Newcoasteron 29 Jun 2017 at 12:52 am

    I’m not going to read 100 comments to see if someone posted this already, sorry if duplicate.

    Stephen Colbert’s take on the topic.

    http://time.com/4836561/stephen-colbert-gwyneth-paltrow-goop/

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