Some critiques and questions regarding the talk ‘Doing Natural Philosophy’'
#1
I wish to continue a thread from facebook about recent talk organized by IISc Freethinkers.
the audio link of entire talk is here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzfcvypYljU
the review from iisc group doc is here
Quote:We recently organized a talk titled ‘Doing Natural Philosophy’ by Rajesh Kasturirangan of NIAS. Kindly find a link to listen to the whole talk.
(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzfcvypYljU)

Below is our response. Kindly give your opinions.

[Disclaimer- this critique came out as a result of reflection over the recent talk given by Prof. Kasturirangan, organized by IISc Freethinkers. We had intended to organize a philosophically insightful talk, which this talk very much was. This critique should be seen as an honest and informal reflection rather than a formal analysis]

The speaker starts off with remarks that freethought is an elitist position since it implies that other people are not thinking 'freely enough'! Also he says that it is ‘incoherent’, ‘unsustainable’ etc because we ultimately fall prey to a dogmatic behavior of some sort, and that we may not have the facility to use logic as much as we would wish to. Then he says that the thinking may not be really free (we think by free here he means ‘original’) since it is always influenced by some context, group agenda etc.

All that is fine, but he’s probably NOT critiquing whom he intends to. His subject appears to be some sort of anarchist intellectual (he mentions protagonist from The Fountainhead to be an archetype of a freethinker). Freethought implies forming opinion based on the basis of science, logic, and reason, and not be influenced by authority, tradition, or other dogmas; in this sense it is really a very 'constrained' form of thinking. No doubt that the spirit of freethought may have its root historically and for most people personally in being rebellious and nonconformist; but as a mature ideology we think that it has moved comfortably beyond that. Also, it is a methodology rather than claims about the nature of reality. We think that if this methodology by definition is inconsistent, that should presuppose the scientific method, logical methods to be inconsistent (which they very much could be! but that’s a meta question). Though rationalists, atheist, freethinkers groups are many times marred with dogma- but that is no different from scientists being marred with dogma. In a similar way, the elitist position of a freethinkers is not by design, but by the social structure we are living in which makes it difficult to fulfill the stringent criteria freethought attempts to achieve (same as science!)

This was a major disagreement on our part since many of us were puzzled by his stress on colloquial and political connotations of the word ‘free-thinker’ than what we abide by. We are very similar to scientific skeptics. But whether we call us skeptics or rationalists or freethinkers- some word will send wrong signals to some set of people- hence we retained the most commonly used word.

The speaker talks about Beerbal as being epitome of a freethinker. This actually highlights the significance of freethought and contrasts it with crude rationality by which everyone lives by anyway. Beerbal went against the authority of his times, he was not just applying reasons for his own well being. This can be well extended to 'breaking the coconut before driving for good omen' case which the speaker points out during the talk.

Science is limited. There are outliers everywhere which science deals with inadequately. All the arguments against scientism were very well accepted by us and audience except one- the speaker while pointing out the recent CERN experiment, also hints that sometimes even when the evidence is out there scientist may not want to accept it which indicates their stubbornness, after a while he remarks that the fierce competitiveness would actually encourage scientists to find an anomaly if there is one. This was slightly contradictory!

While the speaker undermine whole of Darwinism/ Creationism battle as more of political and not a scientific endeavor, this demarcation alone doesn't reduce the pertinence of it.

But, we all agree, this was an an intriguing talk and lead to some healthy insights. We look forward to be more insightful about dealing with innocuous rationales which are not purely scientific in nature, for instance (ref. to the talk)- why should exposing kids in Mathikere to scientific institutes like IISc lead to a better society, and in what ways?


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#2
Quote:the idea that we think without preconceptions and that we think using logic is a devastating requirement

the speaker presents/assumes a very strict ,requirements for a a community to call itself freethinking to explain why the term freethinkers is incoherent, science to receives similar criticisms,science strives to be error free but cannot always be error free, it analyses other assumptions by an assumption that may itself be incorrect, it may not seem as a very fine way to do things, but it is how it is done and has been very successful so far, the speaker is correct that one cannot always think logically and that thoughts can never be preconceptions free, but that does not brand the process incoherent .

Quote:it is based on assumption that there is an objective viewpoint from where you can say that this communities belief is irrational and that is rational

here is a quote from daniel dennett's darwin's dangerous idea,
Quote:Neurath has likened science to a boat which, if we are to rebuild it, we
must rebuild plank by plank while staying afloat in it. The philosopher
and the scientist are in the same boat....
Analyze theory-building how we will, we all must start in die middle.
Our conceptual firsts are middle-sized, middle-distanced objects, and
our introduction to diem and to everything comes midway in the
cultural evolution of die race. In assimilating this cultural fare we are
litde more aware of a distinction between report and invention, substance
and style, cues and conceptualization, than we are of a distinction
between die proteins and the carbohydrates of our material intake.
Retrospectively we may distinguish the components of theory-building,
as we distinguish the proteins and carbohydrates while subsisting on
diem.
—WILURD VAN ORMAN QUINE I960, pp. 4-6
ofcourse a pure freethought group is not possible but it is possible to recursively refine one's own preconceptions by checking if they empirically hold up with each other

Quote:when we say that we are rationalists it automatically means that other people are irrational
Quote:the term itself is implies that there are people who are not freethinkers

i ,people may be proudly and voluntarily captive thinkers, or so as to say that they may not respect logic and other man-made "tools" to analyze natural world , they may too pride in being elitist, analyzing the world by objective truth which may be their own respective scripture, in this case they are voluntarily and proudly not freethinkers, or so as to say a group that calls itself freethinkers does not make an unfair assumption about these people that may be self-proclaimed captive thinkers though they may not call themselves such but by various other names whichever reflects their set of governing book for captivity , a similar question was asked at http://youtu.be/FzfcvypYljU?t=48m40s

ofcourse there may be people who are not so captive but not a part of freethinker group, does a freethinker group assume them to be captive thinkers,it is important here to also define what is a freethought group, firstly let us be careful of the dichotomy here, ofcourse there is no hard line dividing a freethinker and a captive thinker and there may be no purely captive thinker or freethinker , the same way there may be no hard line dividing living and non living but when differences are far enough we can make a distinction, in speaker's case this distinction may be the coconut breaking and car building group that he mentions, a member may choose to be a part of a freethinker group mostly because of following two reasons
1)he/she identifies with the objective of the group, that opinions should be based on the basis of science, logic, and reason, and not be influenced by authority, tradition, or other dogmas
2)he/she identifies themselves as a freethinker,ofcourse a pure freethinker may not exist but one can ofcourse always strive to be one, and try best to apply tools of freethought in all parts of life
so when a group calls itself a freethinker group it assumes that it's members comprise of people who identify with one or both of above,in the sense that they share a principle(1) or a practice(2) , and that is all to it,it is a self-formed group and does not inherently make an assumption about others, others may be freethinkers but may not find the idea of being a part of freethought compelling enough to be a part of group, may be freethinkers who have not come across the group, may be people who do think that logic is important but it is equally or more important to value what god's word says in a particular book since logic may be insufficient, or may be people who think that it is evil to even question a holy book by application of logic
a freethinker group may be elitist in principle where principle is use of tools that are empirically better ways of analyzing (i think speaker too agrees that they are)
speaker's assumption is that the group assumes that others may not be freethinkers in practice and that the group members itself consider themselves elitist in the sense that they assume themselves to be purely freethinking by practice which is an incorrect assumption by the speaker

later on the word freedom of freethought is confused with freedom in sense of french revolution , thinking freely,the incorrect assumption of the meaning of freethinking is expressed explicitly at http://youtu.be/FzfcvypYljU?t=14m35s which is the root of as ankur said
Quote: he’s probably NOT critiquing whom he intends to. His subject appears to be some sort of anarchist intellectual (he mentions protagonist from The Fountainhead to be an archetype of a freethinker).
also speaker says
Quote:suppose i demonstrate using logic and without preconceptions that the term is incoherent will you disband this group and go home , do something else
i think even if goal of a group may be impossible to achieve ,it makes sense to be a part of a such a group and help in it's develpoment as long as the objectives and the process to achieving of the goal is socially useful,
at http://youtu.be/FzfcvypYljU?t=52m55s is what ankur said about
Quote:While the speaker undermine whole of Darwinism/ Creationism battle as more of political and not a scientific endeavor, this demarcation alone doesn't reduce the pertinence of it.


other than that it has a lot of nice ideas, but i did not enjoy the beerbal story much,mostly because most of his stories(not by the speaker but beerbal's stories in general) are concoted
the parable of person looking for something precious in the light ,has various versions and is used in various ways, ofcourse it seems dumb that the person is looking for jewel in a place where he did not lose it instead of place where he lost it because it is dark there, but ofcourse such stories are fake, they are used to present as a metaphor for some other case to express how dumb that case is but many a times the analogy is lost ,in the second parable when people are asking "what are you doing" they are obviously not "wilful blind" because a english sentence does not only have a literal meaning but also intended meaning when people ask questions like "what are you doing"? it is not just literally seeking knowledge of the actions, many a times it is demanding explainations for the seemingly absurd actions
later he extends that to why scientists are willfully blind and may sometimes ignore new evidence, he takes example of cern experiment, here is a nice article about that btw which talks about most of his concerns,
btw third case of hype is pretty much the reason why second case is taken more rigorously
and about http://youtu.be/FzfcvypYljU?t=39m55s a freethinker community should not be about a particular ritual somewhere , ofcourse it should not be, but that can be one of it's secondary or extended objectives
and http://youtu.be/FzfcvypYljU?t=41m50s , i didn't quite get the point, does he think the same about parliment too !
throughout the speech there had been analogies being taken too far, but in http://youtu.be/FzfcvypYljU?t=41m04s i really couldn't grasp the analogy at all, just clarifying: i'm not about the car, foot analogy which was against someone else's observation and did not go further into discussion but about public place,security and temple
and at http://youtu.be/FzfcvypYljU?t=52m50s is what ankur was talking about
Quote:While the speaker undermine whole of Darwinism/ Creationism battle as more of political and not a scientific endeavor, this demarcation alone doesn't reduce the pertinence of it.
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#3
Man Where did they find this guy.For layman like me he delivered a concoction as good as any godmen in India would. Please correct me if i am right
1.Free thinking means that if i think that peeing in public correct i have(i should be able to do so) do so.
2.Look at your ass you have noright to looking at society problem.
3.Caste,Vegetarianism are naturalist so don't question.
4.All logic can be false .So u have no clue whether your logic is false.So keep debating.Is it not that science have replaced the argument with empirical evidence?
Can somebody help my understanding ?

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#4
I'd simply counter the mistakes made in the talk by requesting the speaker to refer to the definition of Freethought.

He starts with "Part of my talk today is to probe what this term freethinker means, is it a term that is coherent?", and goes on to do neither. What he does is assume what the term means and get it completely wrong. Essentially, his entire talk is a strawman.

Here is the definition of "Freethought" that is widely adopted:

"The word ‘Freethought’ refers to a set of philosophies that adopt science, reason and logic as tools for understanding the natural world, rejecting sources of authority and tradition, such as religion, that claim infallible truth and require blind allegiance. "

The idea that there are preconceptions that underlie all our actions and thought processes, and that we are all susceptible to making logical errors, is well-understood in the freethought community. Since the speaker begins with a false understanding of what Freethought implies and goes on to logically expand from this erroneous premise, he gets nowhere. Freethought, like the scientific process itself, is a way of thinking that values evidence.

Then the talk gets weirder.

Quote:"Suppose I demonstrate using logic and without preconceptions that the term freethinker is an incoherent notion, will you disband this group and go home and do something else? As logical Freethinkers, that's what you should do."

Firstly, he is still under the impression that not having preconceptions is what freethought implies.
Secondly, what is it that we should stop doing? Using reason and science to inform our worldviews? Rejecting religion and authority as guidelines for living our lives? Since he has misunderstood what freethought means, he has reached false conclusions regarding how he can demonstrate that it is incoherent, and false expectations about what his demonstrations would imply.
Thirdly, there is a tautological fallacy in asking someone to stand by freethought in the event freethought is demonstrated to be false!

But he goes on:
Quote:"But my guess is that you won't. Which therefore brings me to the real core of today's topic, which is when people in groups do thinking, which you are, it is never free".

Pomposity personified. Not only does he get the definition of freethinker wrong, he is actually arguing that he is right about his assumptions about the IISc Frethinkers group because THEIR premises are wrong!

The speaker makes the etymological fallacy. This is a classic example of the free law in action. I do not think it worth my time commenting on the rest.
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#5
Total rubbish talk. What makes me most angry is that the critique article mentions at the end
Quote:But, we all agree, this was an an intriguing talk and lead to some healthy insights. We look forward to be more insightful about dealing with innocuous rationales which are not purely scientific in nature, for instance (ref. to the talk)- why should exposing kids in Mathikere to scientific institutes like IISc lead to a better society, and in what ways?

What exactly was so thought provoking in the whole gibberish.
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