Author Topic: Stefan Molyneux and the problem with science  (Read 13459 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

QuestEon

  • Just some guy with a blog.
  • Administrator
  • FDR Wizard
  • *****
  • Posts: 867
  • What's your opinion? I'd love to hear it!
  • Respect: +463
    • FDR Liberated
Stefan Molyneux and the problem with science
« on: May 03, 2012, 04:54:31 PM »
0
Simply put, Stefan Molyneux's FreeDomain Radio is a faith-based organization.

Part 1: An article of faith


Comments, criticisms, illuminations, and other input welcome!
It isn't about winning the debate. It's about the truth.

Hajnal

  • Guest
Re: Stefan Molyneux and the problem with science
« Reply #1 on: May 03, 2012, 05:46:04 PM »
0
Me gusta :D

Amos Cunningham

  • No Land's Man
  • FDR Aware
  • **
  • Posts: 79
  • Respect: +4
Re: Stefan Molyneux and the problem with science
« Reply #2 on: May 04, 2012, 04:06:47 AM »
0
Molyneux-
    "I know that I am intelligent, logical, creative, and a good writer—a combination which is not as common as it should be. Yet as I laboured through my undergraduate degree and graduate studies, I was ignored in a manner that was chilling at the time, but in hindsight was entirely logical. It took me months to find a thesis adviser, who then gave me an ‘A’ without reading my thesis, mostly to stop me from pestering him. I would argue for particular positions in class, and over and over receive a shrug and ‘well, that’s just your opinion.’ I was aghast at the idea that modern academics was all opinion, but of course I shouldn’t have been."

No way! That's just to rich.
"In your world we are all pony and we all shit rainbow" Vinciboy545 adressing Stefan Molyneux.

QuestEon

  • Just some guy with a blog.
  • Administrator
  • FDR Wizard
  • *****
  • Posts: 867
  • What's your opinion? I'd love to hear it!
  • Respect: +463
    • FDR Liberated
Re: Stefan Molyneux and the problem with science
« Reply #3 on: May 05, 2012, 03:22:13 AM »
0
Way! Now, that isn't to suggest that Molyneux didn't do the work. He put a solid effort into writing a thesis. I think he did try to sidestep the system, however. Instead of legitimately taking on a study in historical scholarship, he wrote about four philosophers and their relationship to history. It was a typically grandiose concept and IIRC more than half of the thesis was devoted to explaining those philosophers.

Molyneux skirted his assignment by submitting a (not-very-good) philosophy thesis for a history degree. It was just his luck that (according to Molyneux) his adviser found Molyneux so annoying he just threw a grade at him and ran away.  :)
It isn't about winning the debate. It's about the truth.

Florian

  • FDR Enlightened
  • ***
  • Posts: 150
  • First commie cat in spaze
  • Respect: +5
Re: Stefan Molyneux and the problem with science
« Reply #4 on: May 05, 2012, 10:09:59 AM »
0
Holy Popper!1!

Yes, some scientists are not recognized as being geniuses. But almost everyone not recognized by the scientific community is a crank, imo. That link is priceless.
Moly iz catnip for the purrletariat

Silo Bill

  • FDR Enlightened
  • ***
  • Posts: 126
  • Respect: +10
Re: Stefan Molyneux and the problem with science
« Reply #5 on: May 05, 2012, 10:20:12 AM »
0
he just threw a grade at him   :)

Pity ;)
Rainbow - Light in the Black

Conrad

  • FDR Enlightened
  • ***
  • Posts: 156
  • Respect: +4
Re: Stefan Molyneux and the problem with science
« Reply #6 on: May 05, 2012, 12:48:49 PM »
0
Molyneux-
    "I know that I am intelligent, logical, creative, and a good writer—
he's not a logical or a good writer. He thinks that because his writing is breezy, free of jargon and full of metaphors it is thereby also clear. But it is not. Clear writing is tough because most things, especially the the kind of stuff Stef writes about (philosophical issues around morality, free will etc. etc)  truly are complex, and it takes a lot of deep thinking, critical feedback and hard work to get to some level of clarity.

But Stef doesn't have the patience and humility that is required for that, to be a clear writer, so he doesnt acknowledge the complexity and so he just takes shortcuts, ignores problems that would unravel his argument etc. If the complexity of the world, of thought stands in the way of Stef's ego, then it is the complexity that has to go, not his ego.

And so he doesn't ponder, rethink, revisie, doubt himself etc, but just gets it all out there in one go with plenty of razzle dazzle and tries to bluff and charm and divide&conquer his way through it. And it is that exactly that kind of stuff that may well work on a certain group of people, but that rightly and expertly gets picked apart (especially (but by no means solely) when you make non-mainstream arguments) not just in academia, but also just by people who do acknowledge the complexity.

Stef's right that if you have non-mainstream arguments in academia people will be even more critical of your arguments, question even more assumptions etc. and I would also say (somewhat in contrast to QuestEon's article) that there is definitely no guarantee (nor even, I think,. a stronmg likelihood) that the theories that are now dominant in e.g. philosophy or economics deserve to be dominant, that they got there through a tough but basically fair competitive process, but none of that means that Stef's ideas and arguments aren't just a big load of crap that should, can and have been entirely picked apart so that there is basicaly nothing left.
« Last Edit: May 05, 2012, 12:50:20 PM by Conrad »

Argent

  • FDR Wizard
  • *****
  • Posts: 602
  • Respect: +83
Re: Stefan Molyneux and the problem with science
« Reply #7 on: May 05, 2012, 01:54:05 PM »
0
And so he doesn't ponder, rethink, revisie, doubt himself etc, but just gets it all out there in one go with plenty of razzle dazzle and tries to bluff and charm and divide&conquer his way through it.

Seriously. Couldn't stop laughing when I came across this on p. 109 of RTR:

Quote
(I wanted to mention this point earlier but it escaped my mind, one of
the ways that you would test the theory of the fact that a lie that is told
to children that is not moral in nature can be withdrawn, but a lie that is
told to children that is moral in nature or is presented as moral in
nature, that it cannot be withdrawn, you would obviously contrast
something like Christianity – which is a lie told to children that is moral
in nature, or thought to be moral in nature, or fantasized to be moral in
nature – versus the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus and so on – which are
lies told to children that are not moral in nature – whether parents end
up withdrawing this and sort of “Hah hah,” but you don’t get this with
religion, because religion is presented as moral in nature, therefore it
can no longer be withdrawn from the discussion, because then you’ve
portrayed yourself as an unbelievable, destructive hypocrite, which
parents generally aren’t that keen on doing, because they want to
continue to pillage their children’s time and attention for the remainder
of their natural born lives.)

0bject1ve

  • FDR Enlightened
  • ***
  • Posts: 214
  • Respect: 0
Re: Stefan Molyneux and the problem with science
« Reply #8 on: May 05, 2012, 08:37:52 PM »
0
Wordsmith!

reynardthefox

  • FDR Interested
  • *
  • Posts: 9
  • Respect: 0
Re: Stefan Molyneux and the problem with science
« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2012, 01:03:38 AM »
0
While I did like this article, I'm going to have to play gadfly again.

My interpretation of the passages was more indeterminate than negative, and what he seemed to be getting at was a standardization of thought in college.  If he went to a school with a heavily Marxist academic environment and didn't have the personality to play the game, then he could have encountered a lot of frustration and a lot of indifference to his ideas.

Generally people are going to have a lot more invested in their politics than they will different interpretations of Hamlet, so I don't think that was a good analogy.  A better one would have been if Molyneux wrote his thesis on how Shakespeare's plays were written by someone else, a much more controversial idea that perhaps the professor thought was nonsensical and actually had some feelings about.

If I wanted to be charitable to Molyneux, I could make the following observation.  The fact that the professor gave him an A but didn't read the thesis meant that he recognized Molyneux was intelligent/earnest/well-spoken or some combination of the above, but he really didn't care much for what Stefan had to say. 

It would be similar to my having a college classroom on philosophy with some kid who interrupted from time to time to ask how something related to his or her own Christian perspective, and gave some excellent arguments on that topic, even if the whole thing was coming out of left field.  I might recognize the student as bright, but also annoying, and really didn't want to be bothered listening to this stuff or having my class time taken up regarding the similarities of the Presocratics with passages in the New Testament.  I wouldn't be as indifferent as that professor would be, but I can sympathize with them having no enthusiasm for the subject.

QuestEon

  • Just some guy with a blog.
  • Administrator
  • FDR Wizard
  • *****
  • Posts: 867
  • What's your opinion? I'd love to hear it!
  • Respect: +463
    • FDR Liberated
Re: Stefan Molyneux and the problem with science
« Reply #10 on: May 07, 2012, 01:45:22 AM »
0
While I did like this article, I'm going to have to play gadfly again.

Glad you did!

Quote from: reynardthefox
My interpretation of the passages was more indeterminate than negative, and what he seemed to be getting at was a standardization of thought in college.  If he went to a school with a heavily Marxist academic environment and didn't have the personality to play the game, then he could have encountered a lot of frustration and a lot of indifference to his ideas.

Somewhere between my Pollyanna view that higher education is an open arena of ideas and Molyneux's extreme view that it is a festering hole of cronyism and conformity we will probably find the truth!

Your example of the "Christian in the classroom" brought up a memory but it was an experience that tends to reinforce how I view academics. To start with, the study of English--while focusing on aesthetics and history of literature, etc.--is essentially about critical analysis. And that's all it is. Students who don't understand that typically don't do very well and those who fail to master it don't make it into grad school. Undergraduate study in English is simply about training minds how to think logically and critically and then write a clear thesis supported by reason and evidence--to prepare them for the day they can express convincingly their own (hopefully novel) ideas at the graduate level.

I don't know, but I suspect that History is essentially the same. That's also where I suspect Molyneux failed--at the very elementary understanding of what he was supposed to be learning and doing--at which point he decided to blame it on the system.

So, the incident I remembered was a higher-level class I took (in the English Dept.) on the Bible as literature. I think the only way to study the Bible, whether you are a believer or not, is in a secular setting. You can study it as a historical artifact, aesthetically, as the wellspring of our legal system, philosophy, etc. In my case, it was as literature although elements of those other disciplines came up as well.

The professor took great pains not to mention her own beliefs, although I suspected she was an atheist. She made it well understood that we would slice the book open like any other literary work and proselytizing or faith-based arguments wouldn't be tolerated.

I felt fortunate when I learned that we also had an ardent Christian in this class--the kind of Christian Molyneux pretends doesn't exist--thoughtful, literate, and well spoken. He didn't preach; he didn't break her rules but neither did he make any attempt to hide his faith. I thought it was interesting to hear his point of view, which he always backed with reason and evidence.

He was a frequent contributor in class, and I always got the impression that the professor enjoyed hearing his perspective as well. I can assume there were some other believers in the class who were of course pleased to have him there but if any of the rest of us ever wished that he was not part of our group, I didn't see any evidence of it. Everyone seemed to find his views interesting, I think because they were well-grounded in scholarship.

I have no way of knowing but I suspect he performed grade-wise as well or better than I did. I feel certain that the professor evaluated his and my work from exactly the same standard--did we back up our thesis well?

Because this academic setting allowed thoughtful, disparate views to have free rein it remains one of my favorite college memories. Now, I can see how--in another classroom--a slightly more-prone-to-proselytizing, less-prone-to-reason-and-evidence Christian could not only be annoying but also come out of that experience believing he had suffered at the hands of atheist cronyism among the department professors, just as Molyneux believed he did. It's all about perception, isn't it? The first guy--that I experienced in real life--fundamentally "got" what the English program was all about and tried to master it. That made all the difference.

Your example of "who actually wrote Shakespeare" is a good one but one that I feel also supports my view. For some time, the arguments about Bacon, Marlowe, et al., as the potential true authors of some or all of Shakespeare's works have raged outside of academia but were originally not entertained in the mainstream, where the matter was considered "settled." I'm not naive enough to  think that emotion, prejudice, and fear of change played a role. But a growing number of academics are going public with their belief that it is worth legitimate study and have even authored credible texts on the subject.

Master's theses have been written on the subject of Shakespearean authorship and--while prejudice and close-mindedness exist--when the students' advisers are doing their jobs correctly they grade the papers based on the question "did this student produce illuminating and compelling reason and evidence?"

To some degree, that seems to be the case. Some of those students have gone on to become tenured professors and are now free to pursue their study without fear of repercussions from going against the grain. Today, I found at least two universities--one in London and one in Oregon that now offer Master's Programs in Shakespearean authorship studies. I did a 15-second Google search, so there may be others.

To wind all the way back to my professional wrestling analogy in the article, there are now two guys in the ring. One has been the long-time champ--"Shakespeare wrote it all." The challenger is "Someone else may have had a role." The challenger may be smaller but now seems to be at least big enough to keep from getting thrown out. I'm not blind to the academic system's failings but to me it still seems to be working like it's supposed to.

It certainly doesn't resemble Molyneux's characterization of it.

Another example springs to mind that is more germane to the broad topic of Molyneux, one that is not in the liberal arts but in the sciences--where does our personality come from? One of the biggest guys in the ring for many years has been we are (mis!)shaped by our parents. But there are academics advancing mounting evidence that parents have very little to do with it--at a very young age and through adolescence our personality is entirely shaped by our peers. Yet another group is re-advancing the argument that genetics plays a far larger role than the science of psychology has previously been willing to admit. These ideas are all fighting it out now and they are fighting it out in what Molyneux claims is a close-minded system. Yes, prejudice and bias enter into it, but points get scored on the same thing--reason and evidence. What were your testing criteria? What is your sample? How did you protect against confirmation bias? etc.,

I find it amusing--as I pointed out in one Quickie! that Christina herself, author of the groundbreaking it-all-starts-with-the-family theory has herself hired an associate whose Master's thesis argued for peer influence in adolescent development. So if you walk through one door in Christina's office you learn that it's all your parent's fault and if you walk through the other you learn it's all your friend's fault. Funny stuff.

Quote from: reynardthefox
If I wanted to be charitable to Molyneux, I could make the following observation.  The fact that the professor gave him an A but didn't read the thesis meant that he recognized Molyneux was intelligent/earnest/well-spoken or some combination of the above, but he really didn't care much for what Stefan had to say.

I know I got very long-winded but the point I'm making is that if the adviser was worth anything, he wouldn't have not read Molyneux's thesis simply because he didn't agree with Molyneux's world-view. Reading it was essential because the adviser should have been grading Molyneux as a critical analyst.

I suspect Molyneux never knew that that's what the History department was trying to do for him. There is certainly compelling evidence that Molyneux has never been able to train his mind to substantiate his grandiose inventions with logic that makes sense.

For those reasons, I find it very hard to be charitable to Molyneux. I still think the known facts tend to fit my interpretation.

But despite the reams of fascinating crap I've just written in this response, the biggest item of interest to me is the intellectual "dodge" Molyneux pulled in thesis itself.

I have another podcast with Molyneux and Christina (now withheld from FDR members) in which he says his adviser flipped through the thesis, said he didn't understand it, and gave Molyneux his grade.

I believe it. Molyneux played an intellectual game with his adviser. He submitted a mediocre philosophy thesis as a history thesis. Well over half of it (I think I'm being generous; it may have been more) was devoted to Molyneux giving his interpretation of the philosophers themselves and relatively little to history. Molyneux was safe from being graded on his scholarship as a philosopher because his adviser was in a different school of study. He was safe from being graded on his scholarship as a historian because of the subject matter he had chosen.

Is it a stretch for me to wonder if that says something about his character? Why didn't Molyneux prove his worth as a historical analyst head on instead of submitting what appears to be an attempt to circumnavigate the system? Perhaps that's an overreach. I really don't know.

-QE
It isn't about winning the debate. It's about the truth.

Argent

  • FDR Wizard
  • *****
  • Posts: 602
  • Respect: +83
Re: Stefan Molyneux and the problem with science
« Reply #11 on: May 07, 2012, 02:38:44 AM »
0
Fascinating as always, QuestEon!

So if you walk through one door in Christina's office you learn that it's all your parent's fault and if you walk through the other you learn it's all your friend's fault. Funny stuff.

How about a compromise? Your positive qualities can be thanks to your friends, but if anything went wrong in your childhood, if you got bullied, if you ended up with negative personality traits, that's your parents' fault. After all, they chose to have you, and by doing so [man, I don't even know... they vowed to raise a perfect child? They agreed to take the blame for your every complaint or regret from the day you were born till the day you die?]

I think the above is what Stefan always comes back to, and I think it shows a blurring between the concepts of blame and responsibility in his mind (this also muddies his ability to think clearly about determinism). What's the difference? Like QuestEon discussed, I think it comes down to the fact that there are certain factors in a child's development that are beyond a parent's control. This becomes more and more true as a child gains autonomy and doesn't necessarily want heavy parental involvement in their life. This last point also means that people begin taking on responsibility for their own lives well before they reach adulthood. When was the last time you heard Stefan discuss that? I'd venture to say never.

I distinctly remember being a teenager, doing some things that weren't the best for my development (I often knew it at the time), but doing them anyway. And getting very upset if my parents tried to interfere. I thought they were out of touch with me and with reality. I thought they were trying to spoil my fun. Now, here is where Stefan would jump in with the parent-blaming (they should have read more parenting books, they should have worked harder when I was younger at developing a good relationship with me). I'd retort that to some extent that's just how teenagers are: capricious, rebellious, defiant risk-takers. That we resist becoming spitting images of our parents has probably aided human evolution greatly.

My parents would have had a greater influence over my life if I had had less autonomy and weaker will-power. But it is those things that make me who I am, and it is those things that will carry me through life. Did I develop them because of the relative neglect I received, or did I develop them for reasons having nothing to do with my parents, or some combination of the two? I don't know, but I wouldn't give up even a little bit of them to be my parents' version of an ideal person. Of course, the person sitting here typing this wouldn't be sitting here typing this if my parents had had more influence over me, which is where it gets tricky. But these are thoughts that I think every person should be working through on their own, rather than jumping straight to Stefan's "it's all my parents' fault" conclusion.

« Last Edit: May 07, 2012, 02:43:14 AM by Argent »

Arthur

  • FDR Aware
  • **
  • Posts: 52
  • Respect: +7
Re: Stefan Molyneux and the problem with science
« Reply #12 on: May 08, 2012, 03:34:53 PM »
0
another beauty Q.  Great comments as well.  Looking forward to parts 2 and 3. 

Anarchist

  • FDR Wizard
  • *****
  • Posts: 641
  • Rarr!!
  • Respect: +11
Re: Stefan Molyneux and the problem with science
« Reply #13 on: May 13, 2012, 12:54:55 PM »
0
Speaking of his Stef and science, his ideas about it are quite naïve and antiscientific. He has the idea that the senses are reliable and that science is valid because of that.

He did no research to confirm this. That's because the way to counter arguments that the Cartesian demon might be true is to insist repeatedly and with great sophistry that there is no possibility that even slight gradations away from the opposite extreme might be the case. You don't need research when you're defeating that with obvious logic. If the consequences of obvious logic touch on issues that are testable, we don't need to waste our time with tests, since the logic is just so airtight.

Everyone who does research on it finds that the brain is given a very messy and incomplete picture and then it either causes you to not notice the missing details (even when it's pointed out to you) or it fills in the details with guesses. It's not that the senses are inaccurate in the sense of fuzziness or something. It's that the brain tells lies.

Of course, this is obviously wrong because subtleties and details don't exist, and if you apply it stupidly and universally, you'll see that the people proposing it obviously can't be sure that they were even talking to the research subjects they thought they were.

Look, people either can see clearly or they can't. Which is it?

Look, we're just going around in circles and you keep moving the goalposts. I'm going to have to move on to the next caller.

0bject1ve

  • FDR Enlightened
  • ***
  • Posts: 214
  • Respect: 0
Re: Stefan Molyneux and the problem with science
« Reply #14 on: May 16, 2012, 07:25:36 AM »
0
Speaking of his Stef and science, his ideas about it are quite naïve and antiscientific. He has the idea that the senses are reliable and that science is valid because of that.


Actually this is the problem of empiricism generally (what is now used as science). In fact, "science" now means pretty much anything these days: technology, predictions, clever stuff, complexity generally, logic systems or abstract math, research & data, business, skill/craft... anything! It's science don't you know! So shut up and accept the Holy Truth (that changes every few months...).

Science USED TO BE a rational and objective discipline. Cartesian demons were never an issue. Empiricism is subjective because as you said, it invokes the "validity of the senses" as part of its structure. Science is objective precisely because it rules out the observer, by first defining words objectively, then making assumptions (this was once the 'hypothesis' stage). It has nothing to do with probability or "evidence suggesting that..." and all of this subjective nonsense.

Either the Moon exists or doesn't. This is objectively the case, because we define exist consistently. Then it doesn't matter about our senses, whether we see or hear or feel the moon, or "observe" it, or have evidence for or against it, or measure it. It exists, or not, by definition ONLY. Then we can use it in our theory...

This is science. This is how a hypothesis must begin. No other way. We kill the observer! Stef's philosophy unfortunately doesn't get this, so he unwittingly falls into the same traps countless philosophers have done in the past.

So much for consistency of language. But I don't blame him, this is a general problem. People don't understand what theory, hypothesis, object, concept, and exist really mean in a scientific context. People confuse colloquial informal language with the rigorous communication required of science.

In fact, science IS (or should be) rational and clear communication, about a given theory (explanation). That's all! But we have everyone running around trying to "prove" this or that exists, or doesn't, or is an Absolute Truth, or is moral or immoral, etc. Madness! This is politics, not science.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2012, 07:29:51 AM by El Dude »