HERE’S Why People Hate the Jews!

July 22, 2010 at 2:15 am (By Amba)

From Christopher Hitchens’s recent interview with Hugh Hewitt:

My great friend, the late Jacobo Timerman, who was also disappeared for a considerable time, a Jewish newspaper editor in Buenos Aires, said that when he was being tortured in another private prison, his interrogators kept asking him so don’t you understand who our enemies are? Our enemies are Sigmund Freud, because he destroyed the Christian concept of the family, Albert Einstein, because he destroyed the Christian concept of the cosmos, and Karl Marx, because he destroyed the Christian idea of the organic economy. And do you think it’s coincidence all these three people are Jews?

I especially love “Albert Einstein, because he destroyed the Christian concept of the cosmos.”  It was all his fault!  What we didn’t know wouldn’t have hurt us!

Someday I’ll finish this damned foundation mission statement I promised to write for a friend 9 months ago, and then I’ll finally be able to write my piece for PJM tentatively titled “Science and the Crisis of Belief.”  I do believe that getting a look at the Hubble Deep Field has been a traumatic initiation for humanity.  Not only our universe but our conception of a God was way, way, way too small.  And in a universe so unencompassably vast, if there’s only one God (a legacy of being Jewish I can’t shake), can it really be “our” God?  What are we?  No, we have had a gnat’s conception of grandeur.  To merit its attention, to catch its reciprocal glance, we have to measure up, up, up.

Blame Albert for disturbing our larval sleep.

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76 Comments

  1. Ron said,

    Hey, whatever happened to Copernicus? or Galileo? No? No blame there? Whew, Poles and Italians can rest easy then….

  2. amba12 said,

    True, they were blamed for destroying the Christian view of the cosmos in their time! No one looked into their ancestry, as Hitler would have?

    That reminds me–you know the Nazis occupied Romania during the war (mostly for the oil at Ploesti). Many of the Transylvanian Saxons, J’s people, were enthusiastic. Others were equally enthusiastic “Social Democrats” or communists. J’s family (top dogs in their world, and educated) seems to have stayed aloof with distaste from both. In our archives we have a couple of fascinating documents from that time: a letter from a friend raving with joy at seeing the Führer from her balcony (in Vienna?), and an Ahnenpass, or ancestry pass, a genealogy the size of a passport which all people of German descent were supposed to fill out to prove their purity. The one we have is eloquently blank.

  3. Maxwell James said,

    Weird anecdote. I suppose they were A-OK with Darwin?

    Your thesis is intriguing, but I think it’s going to be a difficult argument given the immense popularity of the Hubble photographs. If anything, the beauty and diversity (& artistically imagined color) of the universe that they’ve provided seems likely to reinforce people’s belief in God. Whether they should is another question entirely, of course.

  4. amba12 said,

    It kind of explodes your tidy little God, though. I’m not saying it makes people not believe, but if I were a traditionally religious person, it would make me feel very weird. I mean, it makes me feel weird anyway; makes me feel all the more a-gnostic (don’t-knowish).

  5. amba12 said,

    Not only about “is there a God,” I mean; about everything.

    I kind of like it.

  6. realpc said,

    I think human beings have always felt small compared to the universe and all its gods and spirits, long before they had any telescopes. Human-centric grandiosity is recent, I think, and results from modern science, not religion. Religion says you are nothing compared to God, and modern science says humans are the smartest thing around.

    You are saying modern science makes us feel insignificant, and we used to feel important, because we were special to our particular god. And that is true — religion says you are nothing but you are part of something great.

    Modern science says you are nothing and you are not part of anything. Alternative science doesn’t say that, however. Alternative science has all the advantages because it can use the methods of science without throwing away the underlying truths of all religions.

  7. Maxwell James said,

    I kind of agree with realpc. There was a time when I believed in a personal god, and size was definitely no matter back then. Indeed, the notion that God could be both very personal and yet infinitely large was a large part of His appeal.

    On the other hand, I do see how the far-reaching alienness of God implied by modern science can be something of a challenge for traditional monotheism. The notion of the Jews as the Chosen People, or of Christ as dying for all of our sins, is difficult to reconcile with a huge universe with massive stars three hundred times the size of our own sun. Let alone with alien intelligence (or even animal intelligence). Religion does teach us that we are nothing next to God, yet it also teaches that we are central to His plans. The individual ego is abnegated, but the species ego is stroked.

    OT – have you ever seen the movie Grizzly Man? I just watched it the other night & think you would appreciate it. It certainly feeds into your notion of environmentalism as a new religion.

  8. amba12 said,

    Yup. I have to admit my reaction was “Darwin award,” or less politely, “What an asshole.”

  9. Ron said,

    Romania was not merely occupied by the Nazis; the Romanian army was part of Army Group South, and was a major part of the flank guards of the German 6th army that got sucked into Stalingrad. It was the weakness of the Romanian army that was a key reason for the Russian attack that would seal the pocket.

    As the Russians moved west, the Romanians rebelled against the Germans and were suppressed by, I believe, von Manstein.

    The oil fields had the heaviest air defense (outside of Berlin) against constant Allied bombardment.

  10. realpc920 said,

    ” The notion of the Jews as the Chosen People, or of Christ as dying for all of our sins, is difficult to reconcile with a huge universe”

    Our concepts of things like size, numbers, space and time, are specific to this dimensional level. The old book Flatland is very helpful if you want to imagine what higher order dimensions might be like. We have no reason to deny these higher orders could possibly exist, and they do seem to exist according to physics.

    If what we call “supernatural” is in fact above and beyond our natural world of 3 spatial dimensions plus time, then their concepts of time, space, number, size, etc. would be very different from ours. Our minds cannot comprehend the higher orders.

    Just try imagining a 4-dimensional cube, for example. We can’t. The book Flatland illustrates this in a simple way. Ever since I read it I have been conscious that, for example, our differentiating “one” from “many” would not happen on a higher level. One god or many gods is the SAME THING.

    I do wish everyone would keep in mind that our understanding is severely limited. We have absolutely no reason to think our limitations apply on higher levels.

  11. realpc920 said,

    “Religion does teach us that we are nothing next to God, yet it also teaches that we are central to His plans. The individual ego is abnegated, but the species ego is stroked.”

    Well you could frame it that way. Or you could say that the individual ego is part of the illusion of separateness. Our culture emphasizes the individual ego so we’re used to it, but most other cultures did not. The modern liberal philosophy celebrates individual freedom. This leads to separateness and alienation. Not that I’m against modern liberalism, but it has disadvantages.

    In my own personal experience, the gravest danger is identification with the individual ego. Not that I don’t do it, because it’s how we are programmed in this culture. But I do know that it’s a sure path away from happiness and to misery. That might not be true for everyone.

    So anyway, your statement about the ego vs the species is very culture specific. Submitting to something greater has never been harder than for us modern liberals (and that includes political conservatives, by the way, who are just as liberal as liberals, though in different ways).

  12. amba12 said,

    Ron: Yes, there’s a whole book about that called Ploiesti. (Non sequitur: it occured to me once when we were driving past one to the other that “Bucuresti,” the Romanian spelling of the capital, means “happy” and “Ploiesti” means “rainy.” In both cases the final “i” is silent and the “est” is pronounced “esht”.) Romania was allied with Germany, although an abjectly subordinate ally. Towards the end of the war when they saw which way the wind was blowing, Romania, being famously opportunistic, switched sides. But it was more complicated than that; basically the Social Democrat-Communist Party factions in the country seized power once they knew the Russians had their back.

  13. wj said,

    I always felt that God was (yes, by definition) infinite. So something like the Hubble Deep Field merely reminds me that my understanding of infinity is all too finite. But the problem is obviously with my human ability to understand, not with the concept of god per se.

    As so often, I discover that my view of the universe is less wide-spread than I had somehow supposed.

  14. Ron said,

    Amba: It’s interesting to me that the US air attack on Ploiesti is told as a kind of “coming of age” story within Air Force history. It’s spun as “The Air Force shows it’s not merely an adjunct to the Army and deserves to be a separate service” which it only became AFTER WWII.

  15. Eric Williams said,

    Wasn’t the Big Bag Theory created by a Catholic priest?

  16. amba12 said,

    Big Bag??

  17. Eric Williams said,

    Couldn’t you have just fixed that typo, Amba? ;)

  18. amba12 said,

    I thought maybe it was intentional! You never know, the wit is so thick around here!

  19. jason said,

    (I ignored the other comments so I could remark on your original bit, Annie. I’ll come back to the rest later.)

    I can only speak from the outside, so I feel daft even responding. It’s an interesting view if one assumes a (relatively) global dislike of Jews. It wasn’t until a Jewish friend of mine challenged me on my views that I even learned that I had more Jewish friends than I thought (I assumed three; I found almost thirty). Amazingly, not one of them thought it was important to mention, and I never thought it important to ask. And after the revelations not a damn thing changed.

    But on the scope of what I can respond to, the universe begs of us questions we find difficult to answer. It’s not a conscious challenge, mind you; it’s just the way things are. We’re not here because life is necessary to explain the universe; we’re here because the universe is conducive to life. There’s a massive, huge, challenging difference between the two views. Only the challenge isn’t for the universe to answer; the challenge is for us to accept.

  20. realpc920 said,

    “we’re here because the universe is conducive to life”

    Who told you why we’re here? God?

  21. Donna B. said,

    “we’re here because the universe is conducive to life” — Jason

    Who told you why we’re here? God? — real

    ??? real, what ARE you trying to say?

  22. realpc920 said,

    “real, what ARE you trying to say?”

    Jason has told us the reason we are here. So I wondered how he could know something like that, unless God had told him.

  23. amba12 said,

    That the universe is conducive to life is certainly necessary for our being here, but perhaps not sufficient.

  24. Donna B. said,

    LOL – really real? Are you sure that it had to be God telling him? It couldn’t have been just a bit of common sense intruding with the idea that we would NOT be here if the universe were NOT conducive to life?

  25. realpc920 said,

    “ust a bit of common sense intruding with the idea that we would NOT be here if the universe were NOT conducive to life?”

    That’s just saying nothing. If it were not conducive to life, we wouldn’t be here. We are not smart enough to know why we are here. So if Jason really knows, then God must have told him.

  26. jason said,

    You assume far too much, real. Science has explained why we are here: a bit of stellar matter got cold and formed a planet, then random chemical processes formed some biological material, then evolution handled the rest. I don’t need voodoo or magic or gods to know what science has already answered. For me, it’s sufficient to understand the mechanisms without looking for some deeper meaning. Just as I can be a good person without the threat of hell, I can likewise understand why life is here without needing some greater purpose to explain it.

    Were the universe just a wee bit different, some other kind of life would have formed, so they’d be having this discussion instead of us (and statistically speaking, there probably is at least one other form of life out there somewhere having this discussion). The growing evidence for life elsewhere in our solar system, let alone throughout the cosmos, tells me we’re not special and we’re not the center of the universe. We’re just one tiny example of Gell-Mann’s Totalitarian Principle in science: if something is not expressly forbidden, then it’s compulsory.

    So the reason our kind of life exists is because the universe is conducive to it. All the elements are in place and all the physics are right to make it happen. The only other requirements are a bit of chance for the pieces to fit together and a bit of time for life to develop. No gods necessary.

  27. Eric Williams said,

    @jason:

    That’s like knowing and understanding (well, partly; the rest is speculation and hubris) the mechanics of how Leonardo painted the Last Supper without wondering why he painted it and what meaning he intended to convey with it. Sure, as a scientist I can easily agree that science tells us what’s in the universe, where it is, and how it does what is does. Faith tells us why there’s a universe in the first place. Speaking of the beginning of the universe, where’d the stellar matter come from? Why does matter exist at all?

  28. jason said,

    I think faith tells us what we want to hear. We have a fight or flight response. Death is a predator, one we cannot escape through natural means. So we invent an eternal soul and create an afterlife. Voila! We can now escape the predator known as death. This is simple psychology IMHO.

    Science does not have all the answers yet. Yet! A few decades ago we had no evidence of planets outside our own solar system. Now we have proof of hundreds and counting. We’ve imaged the afterglow of the big bang. Since we cannot see beyond the big bang, we can only observe the universe as it is and try to explain what came before. New hypotheses and theories are being offered regularly, and eventually one of them will fit what’s observed and we will have our answer. Explaining that away with faith is akin to claiming an answer before all the evidence is in.

    To me, science can answer all the really important and interesting questions. I don’t need a spiritual stool to stand on. I don’t fault those who do and I don’t question whether or not they’re right. I’m agnostic, not atheist. What I do know, however, is that personally I don’t need such things. All the religious texts in the world have been called into question by scientific progress. No, this doesn’t negate those texts, but to me it shows science can and will explain the universe without the need to believe in gods. It’s only a matter of time.

  29. amba12 said,

    I’ve been doing some research on cancer research for a writing assignment. In 1971, big science decided that the way to go was to decode the molecular workings of healthy cells and then figure out what went wrong in cancer. The decoding of genomes in the 1990s and early 2000s made it possible to identify the genes that were mutated and the proteins that were accordingly deformed or disrupted. Scientists (and pharmaceutical companies) were excited about new “targeted” drugs that were very precise in their action.

    They didn’t work very well, except temporarily, because cancer quickly mutated to exploit what turned out to be multiple redundant pathways in cell metabolism. For example, the drug Avastin blocked one route to angiogenesis, the recruitment of new blood vessels (in this case to feed a tumor metastasis). There turned out to be at least twelve more.

    Scientists ended up shocked and chastened by the incredible complexity of what goes on in cells. The interactive feedback loops may be beyond our ability ever to understand. But it all works beautifully until it goes wrong, and then you could say that it goes wrong very well, too. Cancer acts like an organism with self-interest, with an ability to improvise and a perverse drive to survive and perpetuate itself, until it kills its host.

    God is a fallback explanation: it all works so well that Someone of infinite intelligence must be in charge. Science says, on the contrary, it’s just molecules bumping into each other and working out all this intricacy by trial and error. To me, the size of the universe and the intricacy of the cell makes both explanations inadequate; they reveal nothing more than what a little sliver of a peephole on all of it our “intelligence” is. It seems to me that the whole thing must be absolutely soaked in intelligence, and even maybe different kinds and levels of consciousness. (We’re so confident that a brain is the only structure associated with intelligence. What if DNA is associate with an intelligence?) I feel as if we’re discovering that we have absolutely no bloody idea what’s going on here. Science is beggaring our childish imagination, replacing it with discovery. Maybe the end result will be to enlarge our imagination. But I don’t know if we’ll ever have answers. We may just have to live in an ever-unfolding mystery.

  30. Peter Hoh said,

    Freud, Einstein, and Marx have something else in common: German culture.

  31. realpc920 said,

    ” as a scientist I can easily agree that science tells us what’s in the universe, where it is, and how it does what is does.”

    No science doesn’t tell us more than a tiny fraction of all that. You have blind faith that some day science will understand everything.

  32. realpc920 said,

    “It seems to me that the whole thing must be absolutely soaked in intelligence, and even maybe different kinds and levels of consciousness.”

    Yes, as in digital physics, and in David Bohm’s (a physicist) concept of “implicate orders.”

    ” (We’re so confident that a brain is the only structure associated with intelligence. What if DNA is associate with an intelligence?)”

    Yes, and what if everything is intelligent, because everything is made out of intelligence? Scientists discovered that the brain has something to do with intelligence, and then they stopped wondering. They had the “answer.” Well the brain could have something to do with intelligence, without being the ONLY thing associated with intelligence.

    ” I feel as if we’re discovering that we have absolutely no bloody idea what’s going on here. Science is beggaring our childish imagination, replacing it with discovery. Maybe the end result will be to enlarge our imagination. But I don’t know if we’ll ever have answers. We may just have to live in an ever-unfolding mystery.”

    I agree.

  33. realpc920 said,

    Yes amba, cancer is not understood, and there are no cures. Maybe not even any good treatments. Most of the “cured” cases might not have been cancer. They fight cancer as if it were an infectious disease, but it isn’t. They are getting nowhere. Even David Gorski, one of the angry “skeptic” bloggers, and a cancer researcher, admits that they are baffled and never expected it to be this hard.

  34. jason said,

    This is getting silly, real. I can’t argue against logical fallacies and zealous faith. You win on your clear misunderstanding of science.

    But I will argue that you know nothing about cancer. My grandfather died from cancer. My mother had skin cancer: cured. My father had brain cancer–twice: cured. My aunt died from cancer. My lover of ten years died of brain cancer as a result of AIDS. All of these things told us a great deal about cancer. That it can be caused by opportunistic infections–you know, like cervical cancer for which we have a working vaccine. “They are getting nowhere” is a blatant lie and it’s unbecoming that you’d say as much.

    My personal experiences with cancer have taught me more than you know. I don’t wish those experiences on anyone; however, I do point out that you’re speaking gibberish on the subject and you should really choose a different approach.

  35. amba12 said,

    I think science is leading us beyond “science” although many scientists don’t want to go there. I do feel as if science is the leading edge now — discovery has beggared imagination — but it is leading us into greater realms of mystery and humility. As much more as we know than ever before, and as much as I think discovery is our destiny, one thing we’re discovering is that there is much we may never understand and may just have to trust. Just the processes that run our own bodies are subtle beyond the comprehension of our minds. I can’t draw any conclusions from this about “natural” vs “supernatural.” I think it may be a meaningless distinction, drawing an arbitrary line. Nature itself is super. I feel as if we are starting over from scratch in our view of the cosmos. The tragedy will be if we choose this moment to destroy ourselves, perhaps because we are afraid.

  36. jason said,

    I disagree, Annie.

    Science is a process, not an end. It leads from one place to the next; what it doesn’t do is give a final answer and call it quits. Each question answered begs more questions to be answered. What we know now leads us to know more later. A question yet unanswered doesn’t mean it can’t be answered; a fraction of what can be known doesn’t mean the rest will forever be unknown.

    We’re baffled by our inability to explain gravity with precise mathematics. Does that make gravity false or inexplicable? Hardly. Newton’s math works when precision isn’t critical; Einstein’s math works when more precision is needed; neither have the right answer, hence the theory of gravity remains inadequately resolved. Still, gravity works and is real and is unquestionable. Do I need to move beyond science to ultimately understand gravity? No. Can I use science right now to understand gravity without question? No.

    The issue isn’t one of science or evidence or ability. It’s about how demanding we are of immediate answers. If science can’t give us something right now that can’t be refuted, then by golly science is useless. Not true. If science delves into areas normally reserved for pseudoscience–like metaphysics, an area that quantum mechanics definitely touches upon–does that make science less than science? Nope. Incredulity is necessary to see beyond what we’ve been taught to accept by faith (interesting that most religious people never move beyond the religions of their parents). Reason is necessary to accept the universe at face value; faith is necessary to discard that acceptance in favor of the unconfirmed and unprovable.

    I wait for science to dig deeper, to get to what is as yet unanswered, to cross the threshold of what we can observe versus what we need to observe. It’s not a matter of faith; it’s only a matter of time.

  37. amba12 said,

    Jason, I partly agree and partly disagree.

    You imply that science can in principle eventually understand anything and everything. When you say that, you’re the one who seems to be seeing science as an end, or as having, at least in theory, an endpoint. There I disagree. However, I do think it will continue to understand more and more. And much of what it will understand is how much is beyond our understanding, control or prediction. Every time the bear gets over the mountain, it sees another mountain.

  38. realpc920 said,

    “I can’t argue against logical fallacies”

    Accusing someone of logical fallacies when you have nothing logical to say is itself a logical fallacy.

  39. realpc920 said,

    “I do think it will continue to understand more and more. And much of what it will understand is how much is beyond our understanding, control or prediction.”

    Right.

  40. jason said,

    I only say that, Annie, because so much that required faith long before now no longer requires it because science has answered those questions. It’s not faith; it’s trust in what has proved correct for centuries. Faith never can prove itself, yet science has disproved so much voodoo and instead proved realism instead.

    I trust results. Studies show that prayer is detrimental to hospital patients regardless of the faith involved. Studies show science has answered many of the questions that required faith to answer long before now. Studies show that science is an ongoing process that seeks answers in a universe that reveals little without hard work, whereas faith tries to answer those questions up front without trying to see if a provable answer exists. My own eyes show that much of what I was taught to believe as a child is in fact provably wrong, deceptive in point of fact.

    Science has thus far shown that faith is unnecessary, and even disruptive to true knowledge. It demands that we ignore the facts and instead assume. I’d rather trust what is provable than what is unprovable. So long as the process continues to work and continues to answer the questions I want answered, science trumps belief by leaps and bounds. In fact, it makes belief a laughable throw-back to more primitive times when we didn’t know what to do with dead bodies.

  41. realpc920 said,

    I really do know something about cancer Jason. And, as I said, even the materialist skeptics have to acknowledge that very little progress has been made. Gorski wrote a blog post recently about how they never thought it would be so complex and the more they learn the more complicated it seems to me. Just because you have known people with cancer doesn’t mean you know understand the causes or how to cure it. No one does. It’s a myth of our society that the “war on cancer” has made steady progress.

  42. Donna B. said,

    Amba and real — you are describing cancer as if it were one disease. That view has certainly been scrapped by researchers. And if your research is leading you to believe that the mere decoding of the genome has led to identification of which genes cause cancer, then it’s not in-depth research. That’s because it’s not one disease and doesn’t have one cause.

    Complexity /= intelligence.
    Childish imagination /= intelligence.
    Reproduction /= intelligence.
    Discovery /= intelligence.

    In fact, we have only very basic ideas about what intelligence is. But, when cancer is described as “an organism with self-interest, with an ability to improvise and a perverse drive to survive and perpetuate itself, until it kills its host” that imparts to it a purpose separate from its host’s.

    You’re still thinking in the “cancer as foreign invader” model, when it’s more accurately one of potential. Every human cancer cell is still a human cell. Every canine cancer cell is still a canine cell. That the cells in both are so remarkably similar is nothing more than an indication that evolution is true.

    If there is such an entity as an “an infinitely intelligent” creator, it appears (so far) that two of the major creations were time and randomness. Unlike Jason, I don’t think science will ever find all the answers. Unlike real, I don’t feel a need to believe in a creator or intelligence or supernatural being or whatever simply because I don’t know all the answers and likely never will.

    But the huge difference between the way Jason and real are thinking is that Jason’s asking questions without having settled on the answer beforehand. real is looking to prove her answer.

  43. amba12 said,

    prayer is detrimental to hospital patients

    What?? I thought the quarrel was between those who found that it was beneficial and those who found that it was useless. I never heard of it being detrimental!

  44. amba12 said,

    Science has thus far shown that faith is unnecessary, and even disruptive to true knowledge. It demands that we ignore the facts and instead assume.

    I agree with that, as long as it is also applied to premature assumptions by scientists. Scientists tend to develop what amounts to faith in the current state of knowledge. That’s why, as Max Planck pointed out, believers in an obsolete paradigm often have to die out — their minds can’t be changed.

    The point of the essay I’m working on is that we humans have a primitive need to believe (a kind of fake knowledge — we feel insecure when we don’t know) and that this need also infects science. The “new atheists” have all the qualities of believers — in unbelief. Do we have the courage to not know? Because that’s what I think real science demands of us.

  45. Donna B. said,

    real – are you referring to this post by Gorski:
    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=5174

    If so, he’s hardly writing in support of any of the pontifications you have regularly posted here in the past. But, if you are starting to read him other than flakes like Sheldrake, there may be hope for you after all.

  46. jason said,

    real, you disappoint me. You can claim what you want, but you know nothing.

    Explain to me why primary central nervous system lymphomas–PCNLS–afflict those with immune disorders. That’s what killed Derek. It’s common only in those who have autoimmune problems. Related to an infection? You betcha! Yet you say we know nothing. It’s related only to opportunistic infections. ONLY! It’s predictable. It’s identifiable. It’s even treatable if we catch it early enough and have sufficient autoimmune support.

    Explain to me why my mother’s skin cancer was directly related to sun exposure and why it was successfully treated by appropriate medical procedures. A genetic predisposition to skin cancer has created a warning for our family that constant tanning/burning is a very bad idea. We know the cause; we know surgical removal is the only treatment assuming it hasn’t metastasized. But a metastatic response is pretty much a death sentence as has been seen in our family’s history. But we know nothing, right?

    Explain to me why my grandfather and aunt died from lung cancer directly related to smoking. I mean, if we have no fucking clue where that comes from, we can’t possibly know that both died of the same disease. Yet both did. Provably. Irrefutably. But by your opinion, smoking is just fine since there’s no evidence it’s harmful. And it obviously doesn’t cause any kind of cancer. So–and put your damn money where your mouth is–what do you think of smoking?

    Why is my father’s recurrent brain cancer directly tied to a viral infection he’s had for decades? The disease is identifiable and probable, unquestionable in the scheme of things. Its cause is known; its cure is uncertain; its treatment is verifiable; the cancer it causes is a repeating offense shown with much scientific evidence. WTF?

    The logical fallacy you make is multifold, but ultimately it boils down to a sense of supremacy. You think you’re smarter than everyone else. You’re not. And fucking hell if you need the same experiences I’ve had to prove that you’re an idiot.

  47. amba12 said,

    Here’s what I’ve been reading: four thorough critiques of the “war on cancer,” plus an update from the lab of one of its foremost researchers.

    Why We’re Losing the War On Cancer [And How To Win It] Fortune, 2004

    We Fought Cancer . . . And Cancer Won Newsweek, 2008

    An Excellent Critique, Amazon review by Ralph W. Moss of The War on Cancer: An Anatomy of Failure, A Blueprint for the Future by Guy B. Faguet

    Honorable Intentions, Good Effort, Questionable Solution, Amazon review of the same book by Irfan A. Alvi [especially good]

    2006 and 2008 articles about the genetic complexity of cancers on the web pages of Bert Vogelstein, researcher at Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Johns Hopkins

    If you are interested in cancer research, all of these are worth reading, but if you don’t have time for it all, at least read Alvi and Vogelstein.

  48. amba12 said,

    One thing I learned is that since 1996, about 560,000 Americans a year have died of cancer. Since the population has grown in the same time period, that turns out to be a decline in the death rate of about 1% per year (more for men, less for women). The biggest single reason for the decline is not the War on Cancer, but the War on Smoking. In 1971 more than half of all American men smoked, One-fifth do now.

    The second major reason for the decline is earlier detection, permitting many cancers to be cured by surgery if they have not infiltrated or metastasized, and beaten back for a time with surgery/radiation/chemo if they have.

    Improvements in treatment come in a distant third. All of the new science has produced only two drugs that really clobber their respective cancers for years, if not forever: Gleevec for chronic myelogenous leukemia, and Rituxan for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

  49. amba12 said,

    That’s at a cost of two hundred billion dollars.

  50. Donna B. said,

    Started with the Alvi review… and it brought to mind this article explaining why the way we test drugs is inadequate:
    http://www.drsharma.ca/why-in-obesity-treatment-averages-are-not-good-enough.html

    Though the article is about obesity drugs, I think it’s true for cancer drug treatments, anti-psychotic/depression drugs, etc.

    I wouldn’t discount radiation as less successful than surgery in “curing” some cancers. I’m also intrigued by the new nanoknife procedure which could be just as lethal as radiation to cancer cells with less risk to surrounding cells. Of course it brings new risks that radiation didn’t have. Always a trade-off somewhere.

  51. Eric Williams said,

    “No science doesn’t tell us more than a tiny fraction of all that. You have blind faith that some day science will understand everything.”

    Wow. I don’t know if realpc920 could have given a more incorrect interpretation of what I wrote. If Amba or someone else wants to explain why that’s so wrong, they’re more than welcome, but I won’t. This individual is apparently not someone who can reasoned with, as the “conversation” in toto attests. I won’t be feeding this troll any longer; I humbly suggest others follow suit.

  52. amba12 said,

    Freud, Einstein, and Marx have something else in common: German culture.

    I don’t want to let Peter Hoh’s point go by unnoticed, That’s quite interesting and loaded with irony. Why was it Jews who became the most influential conduits of 18th-19th c. German culture to the 20th century? Of course, Enlightenment Jews in particular identified enormously with German culture. And German Jews fought patriotically in World War I. And considered themselves at least as German as Jewish. When Hitler came along, some seem to have been almost paralyzed with disbelief.

  53. amba12 said,

    Yes, real, you certainly got Eric exactly wrong. This isn’t Pharyngula or Panda’s Thumb — not everyone here is a “skeptic.” You seem to go into the lashing-out mode with which you had to defend yourself on those blogs. Eric is Catholic. He was trying to make a point allied with yours — that science can find out a lot of “what” and “how” but not “why.”

  54. amba12 said,

    Donna, you probably have about as much personal experience with cancer as Jason.

  55. amba12 said,

    Excellent article on obesity drugs — and larger principles.

  56. Donna B. said,

    I may have as much personal experience as Jason, but in a completely different way. And that’s merely a testament to the variations of cancer, genetics, epigenetics…

    Alvi’s take on results over knowledge is interesting, and I think we can see evidence for that in the improvements in surgery and radiation over chemotherapy in the last 30 years.

    Thanks for the links.

  57. realpc920 said,

    “If so, he’s hardly writing in support of any of the pontifications you have regularly posted here in the past. But, if you are starting to read him other than flakes like Sheldrake, there may be hope for you after all.”

    I never said he was, I said he admits they don’t understand cancer. I am not just starting to read Gorski. I read his blog posts, and argued with him, for years. He finally started admitting some of the things I argued with him about. Like that they don’t have a cure for cancer. And that many supposed cases of cancer would never have progressed. Yet they are counted as cures.

  58. Donna B. said,

    real – when you can link to Gorski ever saying “they” ever understood cancer, I’ll take you a bit more seriously. But you can’t because he didn’t.

  59. realpc920 said,

    Donna, I am not getting into an argument with you over the meaning of the word “understood.” Gorski is a devout materialist and he over-estimates what science understands. He also insisted many times that his cure rate for cancer is very high. But that’s because of the misleading way he calculates it.

  60. realpc920 said,

    “you certainly got Eric exactly wrong”

    No, I understood what he meant. But I often have reasons for disagreeing with religious people, not just atheists. Eric said:

    “as a scientist I can easily agree that science tells us what’s in the universe, where it is, and how it does what is does. ”

    So he has an unrealistic view of science, which is typical of our culture.

  61. Donna B. said,

    real — it is amazing how you manage to gloat when someone agrees with you while simultaneously insisting that they are still wrong.

  62. realpc said,

    “it is amazing how you manage to gloat when someone agrees with you while simultaneously insisting that they are still wrong.”

    I don’t understand anything about this comment Donna. Why would I agree with everything a person says just because they’re religious?

  63. A said,

    I can’t think of a particular neuroscientist whose work is likely to have the social and intellectual impact of the triad on whose behalf Timerman was being tormented; he or she hasn’t emerged quite yet, but how we apprehend the universe now must also include our nascent understanding about the neurophysiology of qualities of thought or experience we categorize as spiritual or religious. It’s hard to say what we’re hardwired for, and how quickly (barring disaster) that can be modulated.

  64. realpc920 said,

    “how we apprehend the universe now must also include our nascent understanding about the neurophysiology of qualities of thought or experience we categorize as spiritual or religious.”

    When you find correlations between mental states and brain states, you can jump to the conclusion that the brain states cause the mental states. Mistaking correlation for causation is a very common error, even for scientists.

    And like most materialists, you extrapolate from tiny hints and imagine materialist answers are just around the corner.

  65. A said,

    “you can jump to the conclusion that the brain states cause the mental states”

    Um, you can. Or you can do it the other way round. Or not jump to a conclusion at all,
    just keep groping forward, attentive to those tiny hints that bombard us….

  66. wj said,

    It might help to remember that science is not a body of knowledge (let alone understandings). Science is a process; a way to compare assumptions with reality, and discard assumptions which fail the reality check.

    A real scientist (as opposed to a “science” true believer) will be quite clear that science is not necessarily the only possible path to understanding. And that science will not necessarily provide a path to complete understanding — ever. Which is why there are lots of scientists who are also believers in any of a wide variety of religions. There simply isn’t an absolute conflict — there may be points of conflict, but that is not the same as having totally incompatible world-views.

  67. realpc920 said,

    A, you can pretend to be open-minded, but it’s so obvious you are not. You have been brainwashed into the faith that science progresses inevitably, with tiny steps, towards understanding of the great mysteries.

    I agree with Amba’s comments, that things seem to get more mysterious as science gropes its way forward. Some questions are answered, but the big questions just get bigger.

  68. A said,

    Science certainly expands our view, and our wonder, in tiny or huge increments. The dichotomies that seem to be very important to your way of thinking don’t frame mine.

  69. amba12 said,

    real, I don’t understand why you’re on the warpath here as if this was Panda’s Thumb, spinning around like Lara Croft unmasking all these supposed materialist true believers. I know these people and they are not the two-dimensional caricatures you make them out to be. You’re creating straw men and women like Michael Reynolds does (used to do?) with me. It’s very rude. You are welcome to disagree with what people actually say, and you have a lot to contribute, but when you start telling them YOU KNOW WHAT THEY THINK, you’re over a line.

  70. Eric Williams said,

    The latest comments by wj and Amba sum up my feelings well.

  71. Naomi Margolis said,

    Reading this conversation brings to mind Odilon Redon’s comment that works of art are little doors open on the mystery, and the German Idealist philosophers’ belief that art and science are two tributaries of the same stream. We will never know everything…all we can hope for is to open and peer through as many little doors as possible. Redon’s art, particularly his prints from the 1880s and 90s, sums up in wonderfully evocative images most of the large questions and issues you’ve all been arguing about here. Anyone interested can check these out in André Mellerio’s catalogue of his graphic works.

  72. Callimachus said,

    “I do believe that getting a look at the Hubble Deep Field has been a traumatic initiation for humanity.”

    Absolutely! I’ve been spinning something in my head these past few months, obsessively, on that topic. The “Copernican Revolution” wasn’t a once-and-done event. It came in stages, and one of the most dramatic leaps came as recently as the late 1920s, with the outcome of the debate over what those fuzzy telescopic things called “galaxies” really were, and how vast and distant they were. The pictures of galaxies beamed back by Hubble Space Telescope — named for the man who proved the answer — are the visual quality of that. If I’m right, it ranks right up there with WWI and the Great Depression as the source of trauma that cost the Western intellectual class and the West generally its faith in itself, liberalism, enlightened religion, etc.

    I’m reading it now through the arts, mostly, and there’s grappling with the cosmos in the most homey places — Robert Frost is full of it; so is “Our Town” (1938, looking back to 1901).

  73. amba12 said,

    Wow! You’re right, of course — the debate between Hubble and Harlow Shapley was about whether our galaxy was the whole universe!! And Hubble proved that the galaxies we could see were far outside our own and on the same or a similar scale. Copernicus showed that the earth wasn’t the center of the solar system or the universe; Hubble showed that our galaxy was neither the whole universe nor the center of it.

    I have trouble believing people who say that their religious faith has been able to expand its scale so easily. They knew God’s grandeur was infinite, and this just confirms it. It’s hard for me to accept that they didn’t feel even a teensy bit of whiplash or disorientation. But maybe most of us are so unable to imagine the actual scale of things that there’s not that much difference between huge and humongous. Millions, billions, what’s the difference? Just a bunch of powers of ten that go out of our range early on, like the ultrasonic notes only dogs can hear.

    I’m thinking that discovery is replacing imagination, and also humiliating it. And beggaring belief. (I’d better write that essay before I give it all away piecemeal.)

  74. Eric Williams said,

    The expansiveness of the universe doesn’t disturb my faith in the slightest. If anything, it’s inspired by the new depths of mystery exposed. The sister who led my RCIA class had a lovely definition of mystery. She said that to many people a mystery is something unknowable in part or whole; it is a disappointment or a frustration. Rather, she said, a mystery is something so full of truth that no matter how many layers of obstruction we pull away there is always more to know. She sees mystery as beautiful and hopeful. To her, it’s not floater in her eye, always moving and out focus, nor is it an obstacle to faith. No, the kinds of mysteries God provides for us are like onions or Everlasting Gobstoppers with infinite layers. To be saddened that we can never know the whole truth is the wrong perspective. We should be rejoicing that no matter how many layers we peel or dissolve away, we can always find another awaiting our insatiable minds! What would man be without mysteries to solve? I believe he would be a rather pitiful creature.

    All that said, my faith is significantly challenged by the small, petty, and pedestrian disagreements, flaws, nuisances, and sins of humanity.

  75. amba12 said,

    Beautifully said!!! Everlasting gobstoppers indeed!

  76. Norma said,

    Hubble certainly wasn’t traumatic for me–just deeper, longer, wider faith in the God of creation as depicted in Genesis, Job, Proverbs, John, etc.

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