Gransnet forums



(101 Posts)
MiceElf Thu 27-Dec-12 09:29:06

Bags Thu 27-Dec-12 10:08:21

Interesting. Agreed. But Dawkins' 'fundamentalism', if you want to call it that (I don't; see his own defence in the article about fundamentalists not changing their beliefs when information/knowledge changes), has helped a lot of people and it hasn't harmed anyone. That's the important difference between it and religious fundamentalism.

BTW, I find him a bit of a bore sometimes too wink

petallus Thu 27-Dec-12 10:36:02

Thank God for people like Higgs.

As for that enfant terrible of the science world: boring!

Giles Fraser is another Christian who impresses me. He wrote an excellent article in the Guardian over Christmas.

whenim64 Thu 27-Dec-12 11:01:43

Dawkins might not be the most engaging of people, but there is a tendency to take his comments out of context, as in the 'being raised catholic is worse than child abuse' claim, which is not what he actually set out to say. He did give an example to explain his thinking, and I could see where he was coming from. But, of course, lazy journalism got in the way.

Higgs is a most impressive scientist. I doubt he appreciates having his views selectively distorted by the same lazy journalists.

petallus Thu 27-Dec-12 11:32:09

How do you know that Higgs' views were selectively distorted and that the journalist was lazy?

Serious question. I didn't get that impression when I read the article.

I'm beginning to think I don't know enough.

Grannyknot Thu 27-Dec-12 12:21:03

What do people make of Eben Alexander's book "Proof of Heaven - A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife" discussed by Richard Dawkins back in November. I'm sort of intrigued

whenim64 Thu 27-Dec-12 12:25:32

Petallus the Guardan article is based on Higgs' original interview with an El Mundo journalist. The Spanish paper's agenda was 'the god particle guy versus the guy who hates god.' Higgs is a serious scientist who has simply answered some questions about the place of belief in a god in the context of the discovery of the Higgs bosun. There are lots of interviews with Higgs in science journals, and none bear any relation to the distortions printed in the article. Journalists and their editors have their own agenda, and sensationalising interviews to sell papers comes before printing accurate reports.

whenim64 Thu 27-Dec-12 12:38:23

Grannyknot I am intrigued, too. The article doesn't tell us enough, and I am sure as a neuroscientist he would not be saying the existence of heaven is evidenced by lack of proof that it's not there, nor that his experience of being in a coma induced by a brain infection proves the argument that there is a heaven. Others who go through that experience also talk of hallucinations brought on by toxicity, some euphoric and others traumatising.

Grannyknot Thu 27-Dec-12 12:47:26

when if you read the reviews on Amazon some people discredit him (many with the hallucination theory) and others support his theories or belief in what he experienced. One of the reasons I am intrigued is why would someone put their professional reputation on the line on a whim? Whatever he experienced, it was sufficiently profound for him to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). I remember years ago I read a book entitled 'Many Lives, Many Masters' written by a psychiatrist who did regression therapy with his patients and nearly fell off his chair (he was fundamentalist Catholic if I recall correctly) when one of his patients regressed to (apparently) a past life. He also put his reputation on the line by writing a book about it

Bags Thu 27-Dec-12 13:05:21

It depends where what they think is important about their reputation lies, I expect. I'm guessing a 'fundamentalist Catholic' would be keener to have the 'approval' of other Catholics (his bishop and the pope, perhaps?) than otherwise.

whenim64 Thu 27-Dec-12 13:06:40

Yes, I agree there is much variation and disagreement Gannyknot. So many emminent scentists and medical professionals have gone out on a limb with their theories, to be proven or disproven later on. He obviously believes he has something profound and important to share, so perhaps further research will support his experience with scientific evidence. I'll be interested (and intrigued) to read more smile

petallus Thu 27-Dec-12 13:16:45

Yes when I understood about El Mundo etc. However I was careful to notice whether views attributed to Higgs were in quotes or not. If they were I was inclined to think he actually said what the article said he did. Of course then one allows for context.

And there is the fact that the article is being reproduced in The guardian, a fairly reputable rag, relatively speaking.

I was interested that Higgs said Dawkins is a fundamentalist. I've always thought that myself due to his (Dawkins) certainty and inflexibility.

Bags Thu 27-Dec-12 13:55:03

Ah well, anyone who understands how scientific thinking works, knows that Dawkins is not inflexible because if and when there is verifiable proof of something he doesn't currently believe, he will change his mind and believe it. That's the difference between him and a religious fundamentalist. Funny how so many people don't (want to) understand that. Nothing Dawkins believes depends on faith. Religious beliefs do. Simple really.

Grannyknot Thu 27-Dec-12 14:15:31

Re always relying on evidence only, it was Einstein who said "not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted, counts". I'm just thinking in the field I work in (substance misuse policy) a lot of the professionals who work in the field won't accept the recovery movement which is growing apace in this country, they resist it with all their might (e.g. signposting people to AA, NA etc). Yet for lots of people it works. Ask the families whether they would e.g. have someone 'clean and sober' in Narcotics Anonymous, or on a daily methadone pickup. And the recovery movement here has arisen from whole communities who have had enough of the culture of medicating drug users with opioid substitution treatment, for which there is much evidence, in fact it is seen as the 'gold standard' and recommended by the WHO. Perhaps because I am not a clinician, I am entirely neutral but very interested in developments in the field. 10 years ago you wouldn't have dared to suggest to someone in a drug clinic they may want to consider becoming abstinent, now it is policy to do so. If you read Ben Goldacre's book, Bad Pharma, there is plenty of "evidence" for some of the most popular therapeutic drugs, put out by drug companies skewing the research. And he is not a conspiracy theorist, he is a scientist. His other book is Bad Science (he must surely have come up on GN before). I like evidence and logic, but I always keep an open mind.

petallus Thu 27-Dec-12 14:15:40

I do have a M Sc which involved much quantitative research Bags so I understand a bit about 'proof'.

Grannyknot Thu 27-Dec-12 14:19:39

Sorry I should have added, there isn't nearly as much research (although there is some) or evidence, on the role of peer support in recovery from addiction (so on that basis the professionals reject it outright).

petallus Thu 27-Dec-12 14:48:58

'Evidence and logic and an open mind' sounds good Grannyknot.

And how important the open mind is. I think that is why I was impressed by Higgs: he has one!

My field is psychology and there is often a trade-off when researching human beings between the rigorous scientific approach and depth.

Fairly easy to measure memory, for instance, but efficacy of treatments for depression, for example, not so easy. Problem is, it is not easy to get a satisfactory and objective measure of mood.

whenim64 Thu 27-Dec-12 15:06:56

I'm with you there Grannyknot. For many, abstinence is easier to achieve than methadone maintenance, and Subutex and Suboxone bring their own problems for some, but work for others. Peer support is feared because one addict going downhill can bring others down with them, yet two or three peers supporting each other on low unmonitored doses can be better than a GP keeping them unnecessarily high on scripts. Identifying who will respond to what is practically impossible, but statistics do give us a steer on what is more likely to be effective, and unfortunately the risks associated with peer support remain signifcant.

There's much to be said for the effctiveness of relationships when looking at the psychology of drug treatment and recovery, and the amorphous nature of 'what works' is difficult to quantify, but outcomes can be measured. Problem is, goalposts are constantly moved by politcians.

Grannyknot Thu 27-Dec-12 15:23:16

when the question of peer support is very interesting - I worked in a drug service where "peer support" often meant inducting the fairly naive users down the path of more drug use. There were posters up in the clinic which read "Just because you inject, don't teach others to!" that would give me cold shivers, especially given that there is a whole culture around men who inject their female partners (initiate them into injecting). Likewise, when recovery is good quality, and abstinence is achieved (and beyond to what is called 'citizenship'); then for those who support each other in that way, the gains are truly immeasurable. You are 100% right about the goalposts constantly being moved by the politicians, and drugs of couse are always a "media hook" for politicians who want to get in the Press. I tend to think, sure the 'mutual aid' model or 'peer support' model is a bit shaky at times, but so is the alternative (depending on the quality of the drugs worker, competence of GP etc). As for measuring outcomes - that is what we are all about now - not that easy for drug addiction. One of the high level outcomes that will be measured is 'Free from drug of dependence'. So if someone reports "I've knocked the heroin on the head but the cocaine is just a weekend thing and I'm not addicted to it" - tick! confused

Grannyknot Thu 27-Dec-12 15:45:36

petallus smile thanks!

whenim64 Thu 27-Dec-12 15:52:03

Yes, agree with you Grannyknot. Recreational use of other drugs and freedom from dependence are huge milestones for opiate users. Before I retired I worked alongside a very enlightened GP, whose efforts were frustrated by some professionals from statutory agencies and drugs workers with quite rigid views. He set his patients up to achieve, only to have them shot down in flames every time they gave a positive drug test. When we used the Harm Reduction Model, progress was tangible, but clients could choose the Abstinence Model, too. As long as people who are drug-dependent are showing signs of progress, why should they have to be shoe-horned into whatever flavour of the month intervention suits the workers they have to engage with? If it's going to be effective, they'll all gravitate to it in time - a bit like choosing fad diets as opposed to everything in moderation.

Grannyknot Thu 27-Dec-12 16:19:33

You're right there re they will gravitate to what works, in time. I never thought of it like that. But they do need someone/something that will encourage those incremental improvements, such as theGP who set his patients up to achieve. If only! I heard someone speak at a conference the other day who had been on methadone for 26 years. He is now off all drugs for 2 years. When he said how long he had been on methadone (quite a high dose) - he waited for a long time while, you could hear a pin drop, and then he quietly said "That's just too long."

feetlebaum Thu 27-Dec-12 18:24:16

PZ Myers dissects Higgs here -

Bags Thu 27-Dec-12 19:17:29

Chuckle. Thanks, feetle. Myers is always good. In fact, that is so good here it is quoted:
" Peter Higgs, the physicist, has spoken out against Richard Dawkins’ views.
“What Dawkins does too often is to concentrate his attack on fundamentalists. But there are many believers who are just not fundamentalists,” Higgs said in an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Mundo. “Fundamentalism is another problem. I mean, Dawkins in a way is almost a fundamentalist himself, of another kind.”
You know, whenever I see people babbling ignorantly like this, I have this urge to strap them down Clockwork Orange style and force them to watch an hour of James Dobson or Tony Perkins or Ken Ham or Bryan Fischer, and then ask them, “Do you still think Dawkins is a fundamentalist?” The only way you can make this ridiculous comparison is by cultivating a near-total ignorance of what fundamentalists are actually like. But then I have to confess that forcing someone to correct their folly and putting them to the question is exactly what a fundamentalist would do, so I can’t. (I notice in the article that Dawkins simply refused to respond to Higgs.)
He agreed with some of Dawkins’ thoughts on the unfortunate consequences that have resulted from religious belief, but he was unhappy with the evolutionary biologist’s approach to dealing with believers and said he agreed with those who found Dawkins’ approach “embarrassing”.
Higgs is an atheist. He agrees with Dawkins that religion has lead to some ugly outcomes. But speaking out about them? Actually saying out loud in public that religion is wrong, faith is a delusion, and that there is no god? Oh dearie me, how embarrassing. Not the thing a proper gentleman would do at all.
And that’s really the problem. Society has so thoroughly beaten the default assumption of respect for religious lies into our heads that even many atheists are made deeply uncomfortable at the prospect of openly rejecting faith-based nonsense. But criticizing fellow atheists? That’s easy. That’s thoroughly sanctioned by culture. You can freely make stupid accusations against atheists without suffering the pushback you’d get if you made honest statements of fact about priests.
What I learned from this interview is mainly that Peter Higgs is an intellectual coward who retreats from his convictions in the face of potential social disapproval, and will cheerfully join in the mob in kicking a fellow atheist. He should be…embarrassed."

petallus Thu 27-Dec-12 20:20:18

Not impressed with this bloke.

'Not the thing a proper gentleman would do'.

'Deeply uncomfortable at the prospect of openly rejecting faith based nonsense.

Is he having a laugh?

You could say there is a dividing line between Christians or atheists.

Or the line could be between open minded thoughtful people and closed minded know it alls, regardless of whether they are Christian or not.

I usually instantly take against those who confidently assert, without a shred of doubt, that other people's beliefs are NONSENSE.