07 Dec 2012

DeLong Smackdown on Landsburg (and Callahan)

DeLong, Religious, Steve Landsburg 22 Comments

Wow, if you thought we blogging economists were talking past each other in the Cantillon debate, DeLong’s response to Landsburg on this Thomas Nagel issue (about the ability of pure reason to give us knowledge about reality) will knock you on the ground. I don’t even know how to summarize it; it must be seen to be believed. (Here is Landsburg’s reply, in turn, though I think Steve should have said “neutron star” instead of “black hole.”)

Anyway, I was reading the comments at DeLong’s post and just had to share these with you. Remember, these are people flipping out over avowed atheist, Steve Landsburg:

Rich Puchalsky said…
Why are you getting in this argument with creationists in the first place? Would you patiently keep responding to flat-earthers in this way? Do you think that it’s up to the IPCC to keep telling Internet blowhards that anthropogenic global climate change really does exist, for as long as there are Internet blowhards?

bakho said…
Sign that man up for a comparative neurobiology class so he can learn what we know about how we think.

Does he meet the prereqs?

Dave said…
I have always found the most comical of people to be those who study philosophy at religious universities expecting to find a rational reason that Mary was a virgin.

I hate to see people waste their lives and brains that way.

Will said…
I cannot even stand to follow this debate. It boggles my mind that 250+ years after David Hume, and 150+ years after Charles Darwin, the referee has not called this match in favor of Team Materialism.

Jeff said…
The whole thing is bollocks, if you ask me. All these clowns need to take some biology classes. For Nagel, I have no idea what he is saying. This is the case with most philosophy, which is a pathetic failure of a discipline that sits around trying to jam all the progress of the past four centuries into archaic categories like “neutral monism” and “idealism” and “materialism” and ends up pure gibberish…

If you’re baffled at why DeLong’s fans think Steve (and atheist Nagel) are creationists, you’ll have to read the post.

22 Responses to “DeLong Smackdown on Landsburg (and Callahan)”

  1. Dan says:

    Did I miss some part of this debate? Why are so many people in De Long’s comment section bringing up creationists and evolution?

    • Gene Callahan says:

      Because DeLong implied that Nagel (atheist), Landsburg (atheist) and I (theistic evolution) are creationists. This is typical DeLong intellectual dishonesty.

      • Dan says:

        Ah, I figured it was something like that but wasn’t sure.

      • Ken B says:

        No, he implied you were in league with “Nagel’s creationists” i n promulgating error. I think inferentially he distinguished SL and you from them

  2. Dan says:

    Oh, and Jeff’s comment is hilarious. Personally, I don’t understand a word of German, and every time someone speaks it it just ends up pure gibberish.

    • guest says:

      “Wenn ist das Nunstück git und Slotermeyer? Ja! Beiherhund das Oder die Flipperwaldt gersput!”

  3. guest says:

    Would you patiently keep responding to flat-earthers in this way?

    The Flat Earth story, about religious morons who believed the world was flat, is a myth:

    Anti-Gold Fool

    Second, as to the flat earth, this is the rhetoric of contempt. It is based on appalling, though common, historical ignorance on his part.

    Classical Greek scientists knew that the earth is round. Medieval scientists did, too. Anyone on the seacoast who could see the white sails of a ship appear before the body of the ship was visible knew the earth is round. The story of the flat earth as a medieval myth was invented by American novelist Washington Irving in 1834. The proof of this was provided in a 1991 book by medieval historian Jeffrey Burton Russell. His book is as close to universally accepted by scholars as any historical book is: Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians. You can read his own synopsis here: http://www.veritas-ucsb.org/library/russell/FlatEarth.html.

  4. David K. says:

    It’s clear DeLong’s reason is totally unable to grasp objective reality.

  5. Jayson Virissimo says:

    They are assuming that if evolution is true, then materialism is true or that if someone is a non-materialist, then they are religious. In this case, both disjuncts are strictly false.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      Thread winner.

  6. Joseph Fetz says:

    I’m not a mathematician, but from what I read in the part about Euclidian circles, Landsburg’s using Tau rather than pi, which is in relation to the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its radius, rather than Pi, which is the ratio of a circumference of a circle to its diameter (i.e. Euclidean geometry). In other words, Landsburg’s math is completely correct. I think Landsburg’s comment went completely over the heads of both DeLong and Schwartzchild.

    • Joseph Fetz says:

      Oh wait, I see now. DeLong was using Schwarzchild as an example, Schwartzchild didn’t actually say that.

    • Joseph Fetz says:

      In fact, he’s dead.

      • Ken B says:

        And misspelled, which no-one on any thread seemed to notice!

    • Joseph Fetz says:

      However, disregarding my misunderstanding, I’m still not seeing self-pwnage here. What am I missing?

      • Teqzilla says:

        I have absolutely no idea what Delong thinks he’s getting at with that imagined dialogue either.

        Why would one of history’s most important physicists find it odd that the properties of a star are not those of a circle?

        I’m guessing its based on a misconception that Delong has about what a Schwarzschild radius is but his implied reasoning is so opaque we can only guess why it’s wrong.

        • Matt Tanous says:

          I think he’s trying to say that the role that pi plays in the geometry of a circle is tautological, and thus is not information about the real world learned by pure reason. If that’s the case, it is clear that DeLong never took a geometry class…

  7. Tel says:

    Mises should write an updated edition of Human Action.

    Needless to say, he can’t do the work himself, but fortunately we have access to an excellent simulator built by people who know how he thinks, or how he would think. You know.

    Copyright belongs to the power company I guess.

  8. Blackadder says:


    I think you are missing Brad’s long game here. DeLong claims that he is an error-prone guy, and then proceeds to demonstrate as much over and over. Complete self-pwnage indeed.

    P.S. I love the reference at the beginning to Alvin “Plantzinga.” It really shows the depth of study DeLong has put into familiarizing himself with this subject.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      I love the reference at the beginning to Alvin “Plantzinga.”

      Well, I thought maybe that was a joke?

      • Blackadder says:


        Could be.

        On an unrelated note, from now on all my typos are actually jokes.

  9. Blackadder says:

    I couldn’t help but chuckle at this comment by Giotto:

    Dualism is transubstantiation; you’re either a materialist, and hard determinist, or a theologian.

    Proud metaphysicians, like Likudniks, know what they stand for; most people are like “liberal Zionists”, unwilling to admit the contradiction at the heart of their beliefs.

    Of course a materialist should shrug at the very notion of “belief” “idea” or “opinion”.

    Carry on.

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