Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"You did claim to be a neurosurgeon...?"

Commentor bachfiend:

You did claim to be a neurosurgeon who should have some basic understanding of neuroscience?...

bachfiend made this manifestly rude comment in reply to a minor rather esoteric point I had made about the definition of "imaginary".

Why the rudeness? Why would he question my professional competence because I disagreed with him about the definition of a word in a philosophical discussion?

Note that bachfiend (who seems to be a retired pathologist) knows nothing about me professionally, except what he's read on the web. I'm a qualified neurosurgeon, teach at a medical school, hold a tenured professorship (academic, not clinical), am an active researcher, and am vice-chairman of my department.

Why would bachfiend question my basic competence as a neurosurgeon, based on a difference of opinion about the definition of a word?

Think about this:

Imagine that I were a young scientist, a grad student or an untenured assistant professor, and I expressed viewpoints that did not 'fit' with the atheist/materialist zeitgeist. Perhaps I said that I didn't think that atheism was an adequate view of origins of the universe, or perhaps I had some questions about the logical rigor behind the Darwinian paradigm. Or perhaps I mustered enough courage to say I believed in God.

bachfiend's nasty slip gives you a clear example of the viciousness that young and vulnerable scientists face every day if they question materialism and atheism. If you don't tow the ideological line-- if you don't agree with all of their definitions and their metaphysics-- they'll come after you, professionally and personally.

I've had friends who are basic scientists and Christians tell me that they dare not speak out. They'll never get another job or another grant.

Nasty stuff.

Remember that it's our money-- in the form of research funding-- that many of these atheist thugs are using to enforce their ideological conformity.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Michael,

    My comment was directed at your bizarre definition of 'imaginary'.

    "'Imaginary' is an image in the mind, derived from sense perceptions. It can correspond to something real, or not".

    You'd promised that you'd expand on it today, but you haven't. You stated that my understanding of the word 'imaginary' is a peculiar modern variant of the traditional use, which says nothing about reality or non-reality, but I have no doubt that most people would agree that imaginary means the absence of sense perceptions.

    I wasn't doubting your technical qualifications as a neurosurgeon. I was questioning your knowledge of the meaning of words and also of neuroscience.

    I don't have any say in determining tenure, but I personally think that any tenure candidate who reckons 'imaginary' has the meaning you gave should be sent off to the library to look up dictionaries for its actual meaning.

    At the very least, he or she should have to look up references to support the bizarre definition.

    I don't have any problems with Christians, atheists or Muslims gaining tenure in the sciences, provided they are capable of doing the job they're paid to do. Being religious isn't a handicap. Ken Miller, for example, is a practicing Catholic and professor in biology at Brown University. Francis Collins is an evangelical Christian, has published a religious book and is also director of the NIH.

  3. Egnor:

    "I've had friends who are basic scientists and Christians tell me that they dare not speak out. They'll never get another job or another grant."


  4. @Bach,
    On Imagination:
    "I have no doubt that most people would agree that imaginary means the absence of sense perceptions."

    I think most people would agree it could include the 'absence of sense perceptions' in the definition but would not restrict it to such.

    Picture this scene:
    You stand in front of an angry CO(me). He is bellowing his disappointment in something. You disagree. You listen and formulate an appropriate and respectful response - but at the SAME time you IMAGINE telling him to 'stuff it'. You sensed him. You heard him. You see him. You even smell his brutal coffee breath. But you IMAGINE his response to your imaginary response of stuff it and reconsider. This allows for your decision to NOT tell him to 'stuff it' and can then give the proper response.
    Real tangible AND imagined. Your imagination as a tool of reason.
    You use your imagination to predict the outcome of a repeated experiment. You use your imagination to project the course of a mortar shell. You use your imagination to work out SUMS or equations that are, in fact, human LIVES.
    AND as the Doctor pointed out in his previous post/comments you can use your imagination to conjure up fantasies as well.
    Mike's definition was given by way of contrast. It is response to a question. But I am SURE he imagined exactly the type of response he would get, and his imagination appears to have worked quite accurately.
    Simply put: Imaginations can be used to speculated, predict, and formulate - or to fantasize.
    What is imagined can be real, or realized - or simply the wanderings of the mind.
    The supernatural is a truth. It exists beyond nature(s) and does not require human/intellectual experience to exist. It can be imagined and even experienced but does not require either to exist. It is the source, not the result or effect.

  5. On "You did claim to be a neurosurgeon...?"
    Uncalled for.
    This is the sub-surface climate of the academe in a nut-shell.
    A recent example for my world:
    I have two RCN physicians (grads of cotc) working in theatre right now (Libya). Both of them report the same thing as Mike notes. One was working in research prior to his service and was regularly mocked for having his child baptised. Eventually he found himself eating alone and then laid off with the janitorial staff. He is now a 1st rate line physician. The other was an aboriginal woman of an animist inlcination. She worked in a large hospital in the fields of tumour/nuclear medicines. She has all sorts of sill things posted on her desk and PC because she showed her colleagues pictures of her and her son (9 at the time) at a Pow Wow. Comments like 'how are the trees feeling today, squaw. You should ask them to help your son'. Her son is disabled.
    She left the toxic ATHEIST environment on her own accord.
    Both are now officers on a ship in the med.
    Both MUCH happier (as of last week) and both free to believe or not. Both are getting 1/3 the pay they used to receive and are making a sacrifice their soft, cloistered NERD colleagues would never dream of. They will LIVE their lives.
    There is another 'both' I noticed too: They both have good relations with their fathers.
    Why did they go military? Not positive.
    The young man described that they were 'blackballed' and 'stonewalled'. They could not use their references to get a job in their field.
    Also, I would IMAGINE it is because in the forces we deal with REALITY. Life and death stuff. It is not all theory and conjecture to us. We do not have the luxury of sitting about trying to upset daddy with silly ideas about futility and meaninglessness.
    We know the force of meaning and purpose. We apply our FULL potential and refuse no soul willing to stand with us and hold fast for the common good of our people.
    For us the rights that are sneered at in the academe are about a tangible life and death struggle. The beliefs they mock are an incredible motivator and a very powerful asset.
    But they live in a theoretical world nested within our own. A world that is currently facing extinction.

  6. " Being religious isn't a handicap. Ken Miller, for example, is a practicing Catholic and professor in biology at Brown University. Francis Collins is an evangelical Christian, has published a religious book and is also director of the NIH."
    Bach, how on EARTH do you reconcile this with 'warning messages like" smokes and 'turns their brains to mush' etc from the previous thread?

  7. CrusadeRex,

    This is the Internet. You're allowed to write things you wouldn't (I hope) say in real life. You called Troy a 'wanker', in response to his calling Michael a liar. What is your evidence that he is one?

    When I read Troy's comment I came up with a number of other explanations. Michael's Christian basic scientist friends were lying. Or they were mistaken. Or they were partly right, but also their science wasn't quite good enough.

    Imaginary doesn't involve forming mental images from sense perceptions. Imagination as another word for foresight or the ability to predict what will happen if certain events happen is another matter.

    My comment about warning messages was in response to Michael's claim that I want to ban classical philosophy and theology, after Michael had produced:

    The precise term is that the supernatural is that which is Pure Act, and nature is that which is act mixed with potency.

    Pure Act does not change, because it has no potency to elevate to act.

    The manner in which God , Who is Pure Act, can interact with that which can change has been the topic of discussion for at least a millennium. None of the approaches to understanding seem to me to be decisive. The best explanation I have read is that Pure Act is not passive, but maximally active.

    All of that in response to Michael's previous definition of the supernatural as being what exists without undergoing change. Which I noted would exclude Michael's conception of God or free will or both, because either God would not be able to become angry or pleased at our bad or good acts respectively (otherwise He's changing) or he knows what we are going to be doing in advance, everything is preordained, so we don't have any free will.

    If a postmodernist had come up with something similar to Michael's effort, they'd be accused rightly of writing gibberish.

    I won't comment on your militaristic jingoism.

  8. Or perhaps I mustered enough courage to say I believed in God.

    And yet scientists do this all the time. With no negative consequences. You are creating a paranoid fantasy to justify why your particular delusional ideas are rejected by the vast majority of your colleagues.

  9. @anon
    ...your particular delusional ideas are rejected by the vast majority...

    Christianity is 2.1 billion strong! What's the tally for atheists?

  10. Pepe (I'm writing this on an iPad so I can't cut and paste your name to include the accents),

    Anonymous was actually referring to the number of atheists amongst colleagues of Michael Egnor, not the number of Christians in general.

    It's been said that atheists actually make up 1 billion of the Earth's population which isnt bad in comparison to Christianity's number.

    Personally, I suspect anonymous' claim is doubtful. It all depends on how you define Michael's colleagues. Other medical practitioners? Other surgeons? just neurosurgeons? Other surgeons engaged in research?

    From memory and partly from experience I suspect that the proportion of believers and atheists amongst doctors is roughly 50:50, although most of the time, religion actually doesn't mentioned much at all, it's irrelevant to a doctor doing his or her job.

    I think the proportion of atheists in Michael's peers is actually unknown. He does belong to a very exclusive group after all, and no one is going to do a survey of religious beliefs in American neurosurgeons.

  11. @bach...
    It's been said that atheists actually make up 1 billion of the Earth's population...

    Your have heard wrong. According to this the atheists tally is a mere 2% (a lowly 150 million).
    There are always a small percentage of people who have problem getting it!

  12. Pepe,

    You're quoting Religious Tolerance as your source?

    Acceding to the Wikipedia, quantifying the number of atheists in the world is difficult, and I'd agree with that. I wrote that 'it's been said... Which isn't exactly a ringing endorsement of the number's accuracy.

    It's difficult to know the precise number of atheists because many people identify themselves as belonging to a cultural religion, even if they don't believe in a god per se.

    Confusingly, a very small percentage of self identified atheists in some surveys indicate that they believe in a god, probably indicating that some people either so dim that they can't understand the meaning of questions or that they are malicious, deliberately giving nonsensical answers to surveys (I'm inclined to the second possibility because I've done that in the past too).

    Popularity contests are no indication of truth.

    By the way, your reading skills aren't very good. Anonymous clearly stated 'rejected by the vast majority of your colleagues', and you chose to ignore the 'of your colleagues'. Lazy and dishonest.

  13. Agh, spell check on an iPad again! 'According to the Wikipedia ...'

  14. Michael said "they'll come after you... nasty stuff!"

    It could be worse. Bachfriend could be spending hours per week drilling into the minds of young children that if they don't share a specific set of beliefs, they will spend all eternity in damnation.

    Now THAT'S nasty stuff!

  15. Pepe said: "Christianity is 2.1 billion strong! What's the tally for atheists?"

    OK, got it. Truth is important to us. Strength is important to you.

  16. There are 2 billion Muslims, therefore Islam is true.

  17. @RickK

    Truth is important to us

    Are you trying to be funny? That's a joke n'est-ce-pas?

  18. Sorry it took me so long to respond.
    Thanksgiving here this weekend, and I had a lot of leave transfers to get through. Had to get the folks home for their turkey and fixings.

    "You called Troy a 'wanker', in response to his calling Michael a liar. What is your evidence that he is one?"
    It is self evident. He is a troll / wanker. The comment itself (combined with those of the past) proves his wankerishness.
    You asking if do I believe he masturbates? Yes. Probably far too frequently. But that is no doubt due to his apparent age (15?) and of no real concern to me.

    "When I read Troy's comment I came up with a number of other explanations. Michael's Christian basic scientist friends were lying. Or they were mistaken. Or they were partly right, but also their science wasn't quite good enough."
    You read all that in one word? You may want to book a scan with Dr Egnor.

    "Imaginary doesn't involve forming mental images from sense perceptions. Imagination as another word for foresight or the ability to predict what will happen if certain events happen is another matter."
    So, you concede the point. Thanks.

    "...God would not be able..."
    Here is your problem. You are once again arguing about a different type of god(s).
    Where your parents Buddhists or Taoist by any chance?
    You sure seem to want to refute a Deist God.
    Wrong religion. Wrong TYPE of religion.
    Even so... I will explain why.
    The error you make is very basic.
    The Christian (a Theist religion) God exists outside the 'laws' of nature and outside time.
    They exist BECAUSE of Him.
    Just because I build a bench does not mean I am hammered together with nails.
    God created all the Universe/Cosmos (your Multiverses etc) and is not OF them or SUBJECT to His creation, unless he deems it so.
    He IS Super Natural, not natural.
    Super Nature does not conform to normal logical principals. It conforms to His will.
    To create what is described as His 'Kingdom' the Universe is a tool, it seems. Part of how that tool works is CHOICE. There does not need to be a defined logical outcome in order for God to achieve anything.
    You are once againt being limited by your materialistic views, Bach.
    A Teleological (top down) flow of Design information and command in a Created universe that operates on objective principles put into action by CHOICE is UNTHINKABLE to your positivist view.
    Just TOO complex for LAZY and DISHONEST materialism and it's petite pute Atheism.
    In limiting God and Creation, you limit your self. Hence the limited and limiting argument.

    "If a postmodernist had come up with something similar to Michael's effort, they'd be accused rightly of writing gibberish."
    Postmodernism? Eh? If a postmodernist was to write a theological argument or one based on T-A philosophy he would NOT be a postmodernist, would he?

    "I won't comment on your militaristic jingoism"
    AH But you did! And I knew you would.
    My first CO had a little fable that would fit well here.
    He related:
    'The sheep dog should never expect the sheep to do anything more than bleat. Most of the sheep cannot tell the barks of the dog who protects them from the howl of the wolf who would eat them. Only a few Rams with the balls to help are of any real importance. So, as sheep dogs, let the sheep bleat all they want. It is the only fun they get - until they are needed for wool or mutton by the big shepherd in the sky.'
    How is that for a militaristic tale (tail?) , Bach.
    It also happens to be quite TRUE.

  19. @DickK
    "It could be worse. Bachfriend could be spending hours per week drilling into the minds of young children that if they don't share a specific set of beliefs, they will spend all eternity in damnation."
    Eternal damnation LOL
    What utter ignorance.
    You flatter yourself, RickK.

    But to the point:
    Are you insinuating that raising children in a Christian home is somehow abusive?

  20. **RickK**
    Sorry silly small keypad.

  21. crusadeREX, you forgot to take your pills.

  22. CrusadeRex,

    You still don't get it. Michael gave a definition of 'imaginary' that was 100% wrong, and when I called him out on it, using a formulation that's not unusual on the Internet (insulting but relatively mild, suggesting that he's not as intelligent as his day job of neurosurgeon should imply), Michael in his paranoia turned it into an example of what he claims Christians face in the workplace all day.

    I don't concede that imagination involves actual sense perception. Imagination involves visualizing what will happen in the future in the absence of sense perceptions, in one meaning. Another would be imagining the scenes an author describes, again in the absence of sense perceptions.

    And whenever I read anyone's comments, I always ask whether what the person is writing reasonable or are there better explanations. Are there uncertainties?

    I threw in the Battle of Poitiers, I agree I was wrong when I stated that French Christians involved (the battle was fought in latter-day France by Frankish knights in part) but then you went on to give a lot of doubtful facts; Charlemagne was a good map reader (did they have accurate maps in the 8th century?), the Christians were outnumbered 20:1, etc, whereas historians disagree vastly on almost all aspects of the battle).

    Michael went on to give a definition of supernatural, that which persists without changing, which excludes Michael's conception of God, claims that his arguments are based on logic and now YOU claim that the supernatural doesn't conform to normal logical principles .... Actually you used 'principals', but I know what you mean.

    'Military jingoism' to use your sheepdog analogy I equate to the dogs I saw in the Gobi Desert a few years ago. They're bred deliberately to bark all night to keep the wolves away from the herders' goats and horses. Loud. Unpleasant. But effective. Didn't see a single sign of a wolf.

    I don't think that a topdown teleological creation of the universe is unthinkable. I just don't think that there's the slightest evidence for one.

  23. Do you get what I mean, Bach?
    We are speaking different languages.

    I think the problem here is that we (you and I, Bach) place a very different value on different aspects of each issue being discussed, and I don't mean syntax or typos.
    All the issues seem to have an entirely different weight to you. Including the issue of tolerance of those differences.

    I accept your beliefs for what they are, and see them as wrong. Still, I place I HIGH value on protecting the rights to those beliefs. I see you as wrong, but as an otherwise intelligent chatter on this blog. You seem rational and quite eloquent when you choose to be.
    You, on the other hand, demand proof - like some Kafkaesque court - of my beliefs. When I relate to my own experiences they are marginalized or ognored entirely. No one from that side of the debate says 'BOO'. On the contrary.
    The bravery, sacrifice and altruism of my comrades and my men is reduced to a remark about 'jingoism'.
    Or perhaps a misplaced word or poorly related idea results in my entire point getting the shred.
    It seems to me that I am portrayed / seen by you as somehow disabled, incoherent, or incomplete.
    Maybe crazy? I know it is not a PC word any-more, but 'retarded' seems the best fit.
    This feels -all the world- like elitism.
    This elitism is the impediment to a proper conversation on our views on origins - not my Theism or your Atheism.
    Let me be plain, Bach:
    I enjoy these conversations with you and the other folks here, but I grow increasing tired of the elitist rhetoric involved.
    I APOLOGIZE in advance if my language is too simple, if my reply-posts are not eloquent enough, or if the notion of my ideas disagreeing with your own is upsetting. I am sorry if men like myself come off as stupid or boring. I am simply being honest. Your treating me like an idiot for doing so does not make you correct.
    I make no pretensions at being the final word in Christianity, Theism, Teleology, Theology in general... or an expert on anything that this blog is about. I am just honestly adding my own two pennies. That is what I was invited to do.

    I do know more than a little history. That is where my letters lay. It is a passion.

    Bach, I can ONLY relate from my own perspective and education. I realize this perspective irritates you, you have made that crystal clear.
    It is, however, PRECISELY that perspective that allows people like myself to do the job we do.
    I am reminded of a quote from one of my favourite authors, ironically about another one of my favourite authors. You will surely know who they are.
    " can only be highly civilized while other men, inevitably less civilized, are there to guard and feed them."
    Less civilized perhaps, but no less alive and aware of truth. No less requisite of common courtesy and respect. Nor does being more civilized preclude presence of snobs or ingrates among the 'highly civilized' classes.(civilized or tame?).

  24. CNTD
    The Fable.
    If my CO's fable seemed harsh, that is because it is supposed to be. It is a conversation starter for trainees. Controversial. It is an introduction for people NEW to the concept of command.
    It is not meant to be the final word, it is just an observable truth of a martial nature. It works.

    On your counters:
    You suggest Charlemagne tactics are to be questioned because of poor map making techniques in the 8th century. I have no such inclination.
    I think he worked extremely well with the resources and talents at hand. Bad maps were the norm.
    I HAVE read many times he required retainers to read to him (as Iko properly noted). Eyesight? Illiteracy? Both highly likely. But, you seem to have missed my counter entirely.
    On Tours, you suggest some disagree with the 20:1 odds. Sure, okay. I'll concede there is some disagreement over the size of the Muslim army in Europe at the time, and who/how many engaged the field at Tours.
    What do you prefer? 6:1, 8:1, 15:1, 40:1?
    How about we settle with VASTLY OUTNUMBERED? That would be agreeable? I hope so.

    On the spelling of 'principles'.
    Yes I used the incorrect word.
    I was very tired...and somewhat grumpy.
    My bad.
    My wife is VERY pregnant and was in hospital yesterday. All turned out to be okay, but we had a scare of sorts. Plus I was buried in work at the base. Long weekend coming, you see. New recruits and people going home. I am sure I read more than one principal's letter.
    I made a boo boo and used the WRONG word.
    You're right.
    My bad.

  25. CrusadeRex,

    I regard the military as a necessary evil, an evil, but still very necessary.

    A hundred years ago, the military had very fancy dress uniforms, and high military officers used to hobnob with the 'lions' of society. Nowadays, the military isn't as highly regarded socially, and their dress uniforms are more drab.

    Australia used to have a time when the Governor-General was almost always a retired general, but not anymore.

    In an ideal world (and we are a long way from that), each country would have a very small armed force, just enough to defend itself and to contribute to any peace keeping force if necessary.

    National security depends more on having a good well regarded police force.

    War is the classic zero sum game. Trade and having good relations with other countries on this finite Earth is a positive sum game.

    Do you really think that we are safer for having invaded Afghanistan and Iraq? Perhaps we would have been if the military planning hadn't been so botched.

    My point about Charlemagne was about your making assumptions. The military nowadays need to have good maps to fight battles, so therefore armies in the 8th century had good maps, or even maps at all. There's uncertainties about everything, even history.

    It's a common fallacy to assert that the people of the past are like the people of today and that the past was idyllic compared to today. Both are incorrect.

    People over time have actually become less violent. You could probably even call Troy a wa*ker to his face and get away with it. In past centuries you'd probably be fighting a duel over it, if not lying dead on the ground if Troy happened to have a weapon more accessible than you.

    Much is made of the enormous death toll of governments in the 20th century, a considerable proportion of which was due to botched agrarian so-called reforms, as in Stalin's famine and Mao's famine. But actually governments, mostly theistic ones, in previous centuries killed an even greater number of people through wars and repression within their own borders (some estimate up to 650 million), and in some cases, a higher percentage than that of the 20th century.

    I might be an idealist, but I do think things are getting better. Trade and good relations are more important than 'having a big stick'. For all the criticism China gets on this blog, the fact remains that its military hasn't fired a shot in anger for 25 years. I can't see China starting a war because it has so much of its money invested overseas, including in America, and it's doing so well with international trade.

  26. crusadeRex,

    Is there any chance of adding an extra line break between your paragraphs? It would make them much easier to read.


  27. Okay, Tory. How do you know he's a liar?

    I am no longer a college student, but it wasn't such a long time ago when I was. the environment of my particular academic institution was hostile and intimidating to people of Christian belief. I'm guessing that you fail to see the hostility because you are one of the people who supports it. And because you can never see yourself as hostile, you think that the hostility does not exist.

    There are certain unquestionable "truths" held sacred on college campuses. They are sometimes called 'science", but that's a misnomer. Science welcomes questioning. True scientists knows that science is advanced by skepticism and questioning. Without it, knowledge stagnates. Just imagine looking at a science textbook from a hundred years ago. Everything written in it would be the accepted science of the day. Thankfully, the accepted science of the day changed over time because people questioned it. Now think about the "science" of our particular age, the unquestionable variety. In a hundred years, will our science books look any different than they do now? Possibly, but only if we allow skepticism, if we accept that no particular scientific idea is "settled science". To say that something is "settled science" is unscientific in and of itself.

    If a particular belief system cannot be questioned, it's dogma. Not science.

    That's the sad state of our universities today.

  28. Sorry, that last comment was from BEN. That's me.

  29. Modern society's hatred toward Christians is frightening. No other group has to put up with it. Many other groups are in fact treated with kiddie gloves and shielded from any criticism whatsoever under penalty of law or termination from their employment.

    I don't want that kind of "protection" for Christians. That's not my goal. I'd just prefer if the "tolerant" people of this world would practice what they preach.

    Chances are, if you are reading this right now any you're getting all upset, it's because you're part of the problem. You're an anti-Christian bigot and you think that Christians should just sit there and take it.


  30. The point of the post is that bachfiend's first reaction to a difference of opinion regarding the definition of the word "imaginary" is to insinuate that Dr. Egnor can't really be a neurosurgeon.

    Because a neurosurgeon would automatically agree with bachfiend. And so this neurosurgeon must be a fake.