Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Interview for Arabic Freethinkers

A group of UK freethinkers who maintain an Arabic website interviewed me a few months ago. That interview is now online. See tabee3i Interview with Dr. Richard Carrier. In it I discuss (counter-intuitively) why naturalism is a stronger position than mere atheism, how I think closet atheists and doubters under oppressive Islamic regimes should cope with their situation (and how godless parents should raise their kids in comparably oppressive religious societies like America's Bible Belt), and what I would do if I were elected President of the United States (as if we all fell into some bizarre parallel universe where that would be possible). Plus (more briefly) a few other things, including a bit about my life and loves.

12 comments:

AIGBusted said...

Great Interview! Thanks for posting.

AIGBusted said...

BTW, Hambone productions finally got around to uploading your Skepticon talk:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOGebAEOU2g

Mark said...

Dr. Carrier, what is your view on there being a real person associated with the Jesus of the bible? By this I don't mean that any of the supernatural stuff was true but instead add-on's to the story about a regular person called Jesus.

On the other hand, do you think that Jesus was a entirely made up myth (my favorite).

Pikemann Urge said...

This is a big tangent, I know... but the phrase 'counter-intuitive' makes no sense. There is no such thing as a counter-intuitive event because the whole point of intuition is to get the correct answer without conscious analysis or reasoning. Intuition by definition is never wrong and is more than just a 'good guess'.

BTW, Mark, Richard has written about what the topics you've mentioned. Have a look through his blog, and check out his writings at infidels.org.

AIGBusted said...

Mark,

I'm pretty sure Carrier's view is that there was no Jesus period. Not even an obscure leader named Jesus that the story was based on. If you watch the video I linked to in my second comment, you'll learn a lot about his views.

GungFu said...

I would vote for you!

Tatarize said...

Thank you for the interesting note about mere atheism, theistic worldviews, and naturalism.

I've taken to borrowing your point about naturalism always having won and thus necessarily being more reasonable with the occasional analogy to horses in some anti-apologetics. But, previously it didn't dawn on me how obviously devastating this position is as a central argument. I had only used it on the fringes to shore up my arguments as a defense. Rather than as a position of strength to attack the arguments of others.

I never really thought out how powerful outright stating, without reservation, that 'I don't know but it's not miracles' is always a superior claim to 'miracles'. That even momentarily 'playing that game' is not only pointless but grossly weakens one arguments. With backup from history of science and some of Hume's more potent points about miracles. It necessarily simplifies things and keeps the arguments focused on epistemology. Since epistemology is certainly the central most mistake of religionists, this seems to keep everything to the point and deadly accurate as far as arguments go.

These also work quite well with some of Matt Dillihunty's arguments from the Atheist Community of Austin (ACA) and the Atheist Experience tv show. That ultimately when it comes down to it: "I want to believe true things." "I want to believe as many true things and as few false things as possible." and we need a valid metric to establish how to do this and the only metric we've ever found of any value is science and evidence.

The only way off to avoid such a set of claims is to freely admit that you want to accept less reasonable claims because you want them to be true but understand are more likely to be false.

Richard Carrier said...

Mark said...: what is your view on there being a real person associated with the Jesus of the bible?

See my other blog thread for more on that. AIGBusted perhaps overstates the case. I think it's likely Jesus didn't exist, not certain. My next book will explain why. And this view needs to be treated as only a hypothesis until more experts have examined a proper case and weighed in on its merits.

AIGBusted said... Hambone productions finally got around to uploading your Skepticon talk

Thanks. I'll blog about that in a week or two.

Pikemann Urge said... The phrase 'counter-intuitive' makes no sense. There is no such thing as a counter-intuitive event because the whole point of intuition is to get the correct answer without conscious analysis or reasoning.

That's a bizarre reading of the word. Intuition can never be wrong!? I certainly don't endorse such a notion, nor does anyone I know. You must surely be joking, but you need to indicate this.

If I must take your comments seriously, see my chapter on "intuition" in Sense and Goodness without God. Intuition is often wrong, and in some instances, in fact, it is tooled by evolution (or culture) to be routinely wrong, and in very predictable ways. Hence "counter-intuitive" means contrary to our natural or enculturated expectations. For example, the heliocentric theory is "counter-intuitive" because our unaided intuition tells us the sun is moving and not us.

Tatarize said... The only way off to avoid such a set of claims is to freely admit that you want to accept less reasonable claims because you want them to be true but understand are more likely to be false.

Well put.

Pikemann Urge said...

No, Richard, I'm not joking. Perhaps when you mean 'intuition' you mean 'intellectual reflex' or 'expectation'. I don't mean those things. I mean when there's a quantum leap between problem and solution - there is no reasoning in between.

The heliocentric theory is not counter-intuitive. Rather, you need to be intuitive to know it before anybody tests it. Same with quantum mechanics - it isn't counter-intuitive, it's just that most and maybe all scientists were surprised because it went against their expectations (if they had any).

BTW I will get around very soon to reading SAGWG. I very much look forward to it!

Richard Carrier said...

Pikemann Urge said... Perhaps when you mean 'intuition' you mean 'intellectual reflex' or 'expectation'.

I mean what everyone else means, e.g. what the word means in all the philosophical and scientific literature on intuition that I cite in Sense and Goodness without God.

I don't mean those things. I mean when there's a quantum leap between problem and solution - there is no reasoning in between.

In a literal sense, there is no such thing. Just because you are unaware of a brain process doesn't mean there wasn't one. There is no evidence the brain can make "quantum leaps" of the sort you describe, and in any case, normal English convention has no word for such a strange phenomenon.

Perhaps you are describing only the phenomenology: the "appearance" of a quantum leap, when your brain computes an output subconsciously (often even without you being consciously aware of the inputs). Then it is a "quantum leap" in appearance only, and that does indeed occur.

But that appearance (i.e. the same phenomenology, and the same feeling of confidence in the output) occurs even when the output is incorrect. So you are not merely describing a phenomenological event, but excluding numerous instances of it with the arbitrary selection of results that are true (which can only be discovered after the fact, non-intuitively, unless you also include basic perception as a form of intuition, but there are significant differences, which in any case gets you back to Basic Empiricism).

If that is what you mean, then you are using the word "intuition" so contrary to normal linguistic convention you are basically speaking another language than I am.

The heliocentric theory is not counter-intuitive. Rather, you need to be intuitive to know it before anybody tests it.

No, that's creativity, not intuition. Just because you think of a new model to explain phenomena doesn't mean you have any warrant to believe that model is the correct one. Thus, coming up with a new model is creativity, not intuition. Discovering whether that model, or some other, is the correct one is science. Only when you don't wait for a proper scientific inquiry and just make a best guess based on the information you have does intuition churn out a conclusion ("the sun is moving, we are not"). One that in that case just happens to be wrong.

Same with quantum mechanics - it isn't counter-intuitive, it's just that most and maybe all scientists were surprised because it went against their expectations (if they had any).

Since "going against expectations" and "counter-intuitive", at least as used in this sentence, are synonymous in ordinary English, I am speaking English. I have no idea what language you are speaking.

Pikemann Urge said...

Just because you are unaware of a brain process doesn't mean there wasn't one.

I concur. Intuition can come about as a result of your experience. To me, there is a 'higher' form of intuition where the brain receives information from outside itself.

If that is what you mean, then you are using the word "intuition" so contrary to normal linguistic convention you are basically speaking another language than I am.

Well there is another way to use the word. We can say that something is more intuitive if that thing (e.g. a machine) is easy to use and we don't need to think a lot about how we use it. Those who discuss user interfaces will use 'intuitive' a lot.

No, that's creativity, not intuition.

I don't have a problem with the use of that word. I only wish that more people were actually creative.

Richard Carrier said...

Pikemann Urge said... To me, there is a 'higher' form of intuition where the brain receives information from outside itself.

That's pseudoscience. It's implausible on all current evidence. So until such a phenomenon is actually validly confirmed to exist by sound scientific methods, there is no reason you should believe such a thing.

We can say that something is more intuitive if that thing (e.g. a machine) is easy to use and we don't need to think a lot about how we use it. Those who discuss user interfaces will use 'intuitive' a lot.

That's the same thing I'm talking about: by taking advantage of skills and experience we've already developed, technologies can be more intuitive in exactly the sense you describe. That only works because we've developed those prior skills and experiences.

For example, a microwave whose clock is set by a button that plainly says on the front "Clock" is taking advantage of a prior learned skill (the ability to read English), and if all that's required to set it's clock is then to key in the numbers on the plainly visible number pad and hit "Start," that's also taking advantage of prior learned skills, such as the learned use of a calculator keypad, basic numeracy, and the prior learned fact that hitting "Start" on microwaves initiates whatever command you've given them. But present someone who has none of those prior learned skills with a microwave control panel and ask them to set the clock on it, and for them there will be nothing intuitive about its control interface at all.

That's exactly the kind of intuition science has confirmed to exist. We have discovered no other.