Mailvox: the materialist writes back

JS continues the discussion of his previous email:

Thank you for addressing my e-mail on your site. I appreciated your responses and the responses of those who commented on the post. I have to say that much of the naturalist community seems to hold on to what are obviously suppositions on their part. They believe that since their unproven explanation is the best natural one, it is the correct one. Up until very recently, I too tended to believe this, taking a similar approach. As I waxed about a bit in my last e-mail to you, what has chafed me recently about those in the secular web community is the absolute refusal to even allow a line of thinking that goes against their worldview. This growing intolerance is bothering me, as the secularist community seems to be increasingly more defensive and myopic. So, since this question will gain me only ridicule and exile in this community, I will ask you — what are some good books on the argument against TENS that an inquiring mind such as mine should endeavor to read?

I thought that TIA was one of the best refutations of neo-Atheist arguments I’ve ever read (they hate you on the secular boards btw, if I didn’t know any better, I would say you are made of straw). Here is to hoping that RGD finds continued success.

I’ve always felt that one is defined by one’s enemies as well as by one’s friends, so I am pleased to be hated by such a collection of contemptible intellects. Unfortunately, I really can’t recommend any good books that make a case against TENS because I have never read one on the subject. This is in part because I have very seldom heard any author making what I consider to be the substantive arguments against TENS, and in part because my interest in the subject is tertiary at best, I’ve only read pro-evolution books by the likes of Dawkins, Dennett, and Gould. My skepticism of TENS is largely endogenous, with a few bits and pieces that I’ve picked up on the Internet such as the revised Haldane’s Dilemma and the application of Chomsky to the tautology of natural selection.

But, I’d like to open this discussion up to suggestions from others, for books that people feel most effectively defend TENS as well as those that most effectively dissect it. I tend to prefer to read those books that most effectively defend their subjects, because then I can see how easy or difficult it is to pick apart that optimal defense. I’m presently in the process of reading Dawkins’s latest, and if it is truly the optimal defense of Neo-Darwinism that its more enthusiastic reviewers apparently believe it to be, I am increasingly inclined to believe it will not be very difficult to demonstrate that TENS is in serious trouble.

I have even discussed writing a book on the subject myself with my publisher, but I’m not convinced that it is necessary. My suspicion is that TENS will eventually implode with or without my assistance in the matter. While there are certainly scientific and atheistic interests who will cling to the Neo-Darwinism in the face of any contrary future evidence, they are neither as powerful nor as powerfully incentivized to hold to it as is the case with political and financial authorities and Neo-Keynesianism.

It’s not what you have, but how you use it

While I disagree with the idea that IQ isn’t a reasonable measure of intelligence, I very much agree with the distinction between intelligence capacity and intelligence utilization. From New Scientist:

The problem with IQ tests is that while they are effective at assessing our deliberative skills, which involve reason and the use of working memory, they are unable to assess our inclination to use them when the situation demands. This is a crucial distinction: as Daniel Kahneman at Princeton University puts it, intelligence is about brain power whereas rational thinking is about control. “Some people who are intellectually able do not bother to engage very much in analytical thinking and are inclined to rely on their intuitions,” explains Evans. “Other people will check out their gut feeling and reason it through and make sure they have a justification for what they’re doing.”

The analogy I prefer is firepower. IQ is intellectual firepower. Some have .22 caliber popguns, some have 152mm howitzers. But a .22 to the forehead is far more lethal than a 152mm artillery shell that falls miles wide of the target. This is why I occasionally refer to “functional idiots”. These are people with the intellectual capacity to function in an intelligent manner who for various reasons don’t actually use that capacity and so end up with conclusions that are identical to those reached by people without any such capacity.

When people are doing the same stupid thing over and over again, when they are trusting the word of some scientist or priest rather than critically examining the reliability of that word, when they are operating on the basis of information instilled in childhood about which they have never actually thought or on pure emotion, it does not matter how intelligent they are, because they are obviously not making use of that intelligence.

One of the greatest challenges that intelligent people face is learning to distinguish between when they are using their intelligence and when they are not actually making use of it. The action of an intelligent person behaving thoughtlessly is no more likely to be intelligent than the action of an unintelligent person, and in fact, if the action of the intelligent person is not guided by the wisdom of the stored societal knowledge known as tradition, it is actually very likely to be observably less intelligent and lead to less positive results.

What Chesterton described as “the democracy of the dead” may not always be the optimal path, but it is unlikely that it is the most suboptimal one. As has been demonstrated many times throughout the past, creating a significant disaster worthy of historical note usually requires a truly intelligent person. This is why wisdom is always to be preferred to mere intellectual brilliance.

A failure of happy talk

A third stimulus plan appears to be in the works:

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke was “imprecise” when he said President Barack Obama’s advisers are considering a second stimulus measure, his spokesman said today. Locke, in an interview with Bloomberg Television, said: “If there is to be another stimulus — and that’s being hotly discussed and very seriously considered within the administration as well as members of Congress — it needs to be very targeted, very specific and we need to be very mindful of the deficit as well.”

It’s amazing how quickly they forget the $145 billion Bush stimulus plan of 2008. And, of course, the mere fact that more stimulus is being discussed despite the loud trumpeting of the “recovery” indicates that it is employment that is the true measure of economic growth rather than GDP.