Friday, April 8, 2011

William Lane Craig vs Sam Harris Debate

For those not in the know, there was a debate held last night (this morning Australian time) between philosopher/professional debater William Lane Craig and atheist/professional speaker Sam Harris at the University of Notre Dame (a famous Catholic university in the states).

Audio is available here for those who did not get to see it.

Last year I decided to start taking morality seriously. To say I didn't understand what the big deal was would be an understatement. Then I sat down and did what I usually do. Find the state-of-the-art philosophical papers which deal with this exact subject and read them. Many would opt for the historical route, but I'm impressed with the way modern Western analytic philosophy writers are clear and concise and can cut through the bull.

At first I took the ultra-sceptical route and declared that morality did not exist. This I took to be almost obvious under an atheistic world as any definition of "good" or "moral" would ultimately end up being circular or arbitrary. I even took this position to a debate at the UWA Atheist and Agnostic society last year against our resident Peter Singer supporting utilitarian. This half debate served two purposes - one to gauge the reaction of my peers and to see to what extent I could defend this view.

The first paper to change my view was Erik Wielenberg who presented an atheistic defence of moral ontology. He showed that the potential existence of morality under atheism didn't represent a challenge to those who take a permissive view of the extent of ontological development. If an atheist can accept that mathematical truths exist in an objective sense despite not being material, then there is no real reason to suppose that an atheist couldn't also take morality to exist in an extended ontology.

Okay. So that didn't convert me - it showed me that it was in theory possible to construct an atheistic objective morality. What actually changed my mind was a rewatch of a debate between William Lane Craig and Shelly Kagan (Professor of ethics at Yale). It was funny to first hear William Lane Craig say exactly word for word my current position and then to hear Shelly Kagan provide a moral framework in which not only is moral objectivity permissible under atheism, but in fact describe what this framework is.

The more I thought about what Kagan said, the more I believe it and the more I saw the exact same or similar framework being proposed in the literature (including Wielenberg). For those who are interested, the debate can be seen here: (Part 1/10) Given that this was one debate that even Christians themselves admit Craig probably lost - it's worth a watch and I cannot do justice with it in words.

So what does this all have to do with the debate between Harris and Craig. Well to put simply one should listen to the debate Craig had with Kagan before the debate with Harris. You will notice that Craig presents what is basically the exact same case despite Kagan providing top quality answers to his questions. There may as well have never have been a debate between Craig and Kagan considering Craig didn't take anything from it.

Craig definitely won this debate against Harris - whatever that really means.

Harris is a good speaker. He is actually funny and says some really insightful things. The problem is he was all over the place in terms of answering Craig's objections and never refuted Craig's knock-down argument that he presented in the 1st reply. Craig on the other hand was clear, concise and devastatingly brutal with his rhetoric. Harris was a Brazilian soccer team which showed individual talent yet lack cohesion whereas Craig was more like the 70's Netherlands and their "total football" philosophy.

Enough rhetoric from myself - what might I have done differently? Here is my case:

My Case Against Theistic Morality

Craig mentioned that only under theism is there a sound grounding for an objective morality. He also criticised Harris who brought Christianity into the equation. I would argue that Craig actually presented a homo-centric morality - something which isn't warranted given theism qua theism.

Imagine if you will that there was an alien species who were actually the basis or teleology for the universe. Us humans then would be accidental by-products and merely animals in comparison to this advanced species (AS). In fact "real God" (RG) told AS that we humans were to be treated the way humans today tend to treat animals. (Paralleling to the "stewardship" espoused by Genesis) RG also provides verifiable miracles which help AS and no AS could be persuaded by atheism due to the obvious nature of RG's influence. AS then comes to earth and tells us that we are to be perpetual slaves to AS because we are merely slightly advanced animals (compared to the brilliance which is AS). In such a universe it would not be immoral for AS to do this to us - in the same way that Christians/Muslims and Jews see no problem with slitting the throats of live animals to kill them.

In this universe, human morality would be useless and irrelevant - similar to how monkeys may show reciprocal altruism but because they do not display "higher functionality" they are not moral agents. Should us humans then permit ourselves to be slaves? Given that this scenario is possible under theism, it is unclear how anything in humanity could be grounded when the morality is only relevant to AS. By not considering such a scenario I believe Craig is inadvertently smuggling in homo-centric theistic theories.

This is where I believe atheistic morals would surpass theistic morality. Theistic morality, in the case I just presented may not consider humans to be the highest being worthy of moral consideration. Atheistic morality (as espoused by Kagan etc) on the other hand is concerned with the well-being of ALL sentient beings. This would inform AS as to the proper treatment of us as well as us to other animals.

In such a world with RG and AS, us humans would never accept the state-of-play and would revolt against any plan to enslave us. This to me speaks of why theism (without smuggling in homo-centric ideas) doesn't naturally provide the basis of morality because morality MUST pertain to at minimum, the interests of humans. Theism on the other hand could base it on anything, from AS, to iPod's to God itself. Why should we care?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fine Tuning - A Brief Intro.

If there is one argument for the existence of God which stops and makes me pause it is the fine tuning argument. While I am not impressed with the logic of the conclusion, there are a number of things about this universe which seem to require an explanation.

That the universe has produced intelligent creatures which are able to figure it out (at least in a limited sense) seems highly implausible given our current present understanding of physics (those parts of physics which have currently been verified, as opposed to speculative M-theory, etc).

Some might say that the fact that the universe has produced intelligent creatures is of no more significance than a universe filled entirely with black holes - although this is technically true in a value-neutral sense, there is still something non-mundane about creatures which have the ability to create value. One might also say that the relative complexity of the human brain, which produces meaningful consciousness, is that which is to be valued. Regardless, I will assume that humans do have value.

That human brains have a level of complexity which can produce meaningful consciousness (higher level thought versus chimpanzees, etc) is a fairly uncontentious observation. The explanation of how humans arrived at this state however is contentious. Many would have us believe that only God can be responsible, while most scientists and atheists alike will say that evolution provides a satisfactory explanation.

Although humans have evolved their brain under evolution, it is not true that in all possible universes that evolution can even start. Under our current understanding of how the universe works, the universe needs the correct conditions to allow life to start at all. For example, some universes may only last millions of years instead of billions of years - which isn't enough time to allow life to form (life requires heavy elements which can only be formed in supernovae) and evolution to take hold all else being equal. Some universes may only consist of black holes (gravity too high) - such a universe would be unsuited for starting life, hence evolution cannot even start to produce complex beings.

Although there are many unitless constants which come up in different areas of fundamental physics, Marin Rees has come up with six constants which he deemed to be fundamental to the structure of the universe. These are generally the values/constants quoted by those who defend the fine tuning argument for theism and I will use them here.

Perhaps the most significant of these constants is the cosmological constant which is said to be fine-tuned to within 120 orders of magnitude. (Steven Weinberg 1989 "The Cosmological Constant Problem") That is to say that if the value were increased by 1 part in 10^120 the universe would have expanded too rapidly.

Unfounded Assumptions
1. That these six numbers are "dials" a designer/universe generator can play with (or degrees of freedom for possible universes).
2. That the laws of physics as we know them must apply to all possible universes.
3. That we know the possible probable range the six numbers can take.
4. That we understand physics enough to come to a reasonable conclusion (i.e. god-of-the-gaps)
5. That there is only one possible universe.

1. Currently there is no grand unification theory or any theory which is able to explain the laws of physics as we currently know them. Given this we cannot say whether these constants are actually constants or if they are based on more fundamental relationships, either mathematical or on some other "constant".

2. We only know the laws of physics given that which we see in this current universe. What reason do we have to suppose that the laws of physics are the same in all possible universes? Are the laws of the universe like Pi and a logical necessity or are they merely contingent.

3. Unless we have a defined probability of the range of values our fine tuned constants can take - our set of fine tuned constants are actually isomorphic to a coarsely tuned universe.

4. Our knowledge of physics isn't sufficient to come to grand conclusions about the nature of some yet-unknown unifying theory. In this sense, the fine tuning argument is merely a god-of-the gaps style of argument where it feeds on our current lack of knowledge.

5. Given that we only have one universe, we are unable to conclude anything about general possible universes based on purely empirical methods. That is to say we cannot say the possible ranges of these constants given only one universe without any other reason why. We cannot also rule out multiple universes outside of our detection abilities or current detection abilities.

Interesting Observation
Isn't it interesting how physics concludes that life is possible given the constants of nature as they are? God could have created the universe in such a way to make life impossible under pure naturalism (a 6000 year old earth, etc), yet apparently we are to believe that he did so in a way which still makes sense under naturalism. Wouldn't it be miraculous if the universe couldn't have possibly have created life - yet still did. THAT would require a serious explanation, however the fine-tuning argument as-is isn't a threat to the naturalists ontology.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Justification For Atheism - Critique

Kel over at Kelosophy has just posted a justification for his non-belief of theism. Here I am critiquing his post for two purposes - I wish to offer objections which an intelligent theist might raise as well as providing advice and challenges and a framework as to how I may answer the same question. I do not believe there are any fundamental epistemological problems with his defense, and hence his disbelief is justified.

The Ontology Of God
there's at least a general sense by which the concept [God] can be understood.
I'm not entirely sure I would be willing to concede this to the theist. In terms of the ontology of God we are never offered any positive or primary ontic properties, only relational or negative properties. I don't believe it's possible to discuss anything without positive/primary properties, (nor would we accept this in everyday situations) and hence we still don't know what God is. [1,2]

Agnosticism
and strong agnostics who take such an entity as being unknowable
As an aside: isn't identifying God as "being unknowable" a truth claim?!

Logical Problem of Evil
When it comes to the conception of God as being omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, the existence of such a concept is seen to be incompatible with the existence of evil. Such a conception of God can be ruled out, and indeed much time and effort has gone into addressing this concern. The problem of evil is justification for being a strong atheist, at least in respect to conceptions of God that involved absolute power and absolute goodness.
This is known as the logical problem of evil and it doesn't seem stand up in it's strongest form. Theists may be justified in their belief that all appearance of evil has a rational explanation (known as Skeptical Theism) that we may only understand if we too knew everything. We don't know everything therefore there might be good reasons for evil or apparent evil to exist.

A weaker form of this argument is to state that the level and amount of suffering makes much more sense under atheism than theism (argument to the best explanation) and the theist needs to demonstrate why evil can serve some greater purpose. [3] This is generally a good rhetorical trick because it makes otherwise intelligent Christians justify genocide, etc. [4]

The Ontology Of God
Likewise other traits are problematic.
I think the strongest is the impossibility of omniscience (it's impossible to know everything). [5] There is also the problem of omnipotence, being all-good and being free. If God can do everything and is free to do anything than that includes being evil. But it is metaphysically impossible for God to be evil. Also, as humans can be evil but God cannot - it stands to reason that we can do things God cannot. Hence he cannot be omnipotent. [6]

God vs Logic
can God make a rock so heavy that he can't lift?
An objection to this is to note that such a sentence is logically meaningless and hence the theist can modify the definition of omnipotent to mean "that whatever is logically possible". Such a concession may make some theists uncomfortable as it means that God is inferior to logic! If they do not concede this then logic is arbitrary and/or God is above/beyond logic and is therefore meaningless for humans to pontificate over.

Deductive vs Inductive Approaches
These kind of proofs though are at least to me unsatisfying because while they ground God in definition they don't capture the essence of what God is.
There are two ways to arrive at God. One is through pure reason (Anslem, Thomas, Scholastics), the other is through evidence (Natural Theology). Pure reason lead us to abominations such as the ontological argument for God! It's also a shaky edifice because to undermine any conclusion makes it almost impossible to patch one's argument. On the other hand natural theology sounds more like what the average person identifies with as God.

Boundaries/Scope of Explanatory Power
Can something supernatural act within the natural world?
I don't see how this is metaphysically impossible. I like to think of it this way - imagine we are in the matrix and those outside the matrix are "supernatural". Although those inside the matrix cannot interact with the matrix (unless there are built-in mechanisms), those on the outside can affect things inside the matrix.
If something is acting in the natural world what stops it being natural itself?
Supernaturalism has generally meant something along the lines of acausal will generating actions (i.e. uncaused causes, contra-causal free will, etc)
Can something simultaneously be in and outside of time? Can something outside of time experience or be said to have a thought?
There are serious coherency problems here in that humans, who are beings in-time, find it hard (if not impossible) to talk about these things. I try to stay away from it!
An undetected and undetectable deity is indistinguishable from there being no deity at all.
It's actually much worse than that! Even if there was some miracle, it is epistemically equivalent to highly advanced technology. It's impossible to tell the difference between a booming voice from the sky and aliens messing with us. [7]

Consciousness
Altering the brain alters conscious experience.
Have you heard of the split-brain patient where one half of his brain is an atheist and the other is a Christian? [8]

Tea Pot Skepticism
Nor could they disprove Santa for that matter, or an alleged china teapot orbiting between Earth and Mars too small to be detected by any instrument.
I'd be wary of taking this line of thinking too far just as a matter of principle - we don't just disbelieve these claims (Santa, tea-pot's) on the absence of evidence alone but because there are also good reasons to suppose they are not true.

First Cause Arguments
the notion of a clockwork universe, with notions like the arrow of time and causality probabilistic rather than definite
This one is a bit tricky depending on which QM interpretation you follow - there are currently at least 12. [9] In terms of the Kalam Cosmological Argument - it's foremost Christian proponent William Lane Craig says that it only works under A-theory of time (that time has a direction, etc) instead of B-theory of time (time is a 4D unchanging manifold). Despite Craig's defense of A-theory, many philosophers remain unconvinced over A or B (it's one of the most uncertain areas of philosophy) and the jury is still out. [10] Physicists would likely be more comfortable with B-theory. For example, in Hawking's new book [11] he advocates something which resembles B-theory. Not all A theorists are theists - you could still argue against Kalam with A-theory. [12]

Fine Tuning
There's no reason to assume that life, and more specifically us, is the focal point for the laws of physics. Evolutionarily so much owed to our existence is a product of contingency that it makes no sense to privilege us more than any other life-form.
Two problems with this. If there is only one universe then the existence of humans seems extremely improbable and very surprising. [13] Secondly evolutionary contingency can only exist when life is able to start existing - hence stars need to last a certain amount of time, the universe has to be a certain age, etc. While I could write for pages and pages about good ways to handle the fine tuning argument I can actually just point to Christian philosophers who actually argued that our "fine tuned" universe is equivalent to a "coarse tuned" universe if we do not have a probability distribution on what values the constants could have. [14]

Morality
Morality, evidentially, clearly is an evolved trait and requires no further explanation.
I recently debated a fellow atheist in our atheist club at university over the existence and nature of morality. My position is basically that objective morality doesn't exist (moral skepticism/nihilism) but that moral behaviour certainly does exist and must be evolutionary. I would say its very difficult if not impossible to get from moral behaviour to absolute morality without presupposing a miracle! (Then there is the issue of how the describe the ontology of absolute morality in a naturalistic framework. [15])

Cognitive Basis for Religion
We are wired for agency and in particular human agency.
Worse still we are wired to remember minimally counterintuitive ideas. Almost all supernatural entities can be reduced to singular ontological violations. Ghosts = People - Body's, Zombies = People - Soul, Magic Pendant = Object + Ability to listen, etc [16, 17]
In this respect, explaining God belief is just one of the many weird things that permeates in our species without good reason.
Our brains are still basically the same since when we left the Savannah some 100,000 years ago. We have stone age brains in a modern world with atomic weapons/global warming. This should alarm anyone! Even if you take God belief away, it transforms into New Age or any other metaphysical/existential crutch.

Conclusion

I find the quest for justifying belief to be difficult. At what point do you stop researching and just get on with your life? For most weak atheists it's just about simply pointing out that the traditional theistic arguments don't resonate with them and until they do, one is justified in not accepting them. Perhaps its just a case of doing what one usually does in cases where expertise is required - and that is to tentatively appeal to the authorities? So long as there is a vanguard of intelligent and sophisticated atheist philosophers of religion, we need not fear the development of some new fangeled attempt by Christian philosophers to bamboozle us into accepting some seductive sounding ontological argument.

All I know is that I learn the most when I push my atheistic brethren and see where it goes.

References

[1] George Smith "The Case Against God"
[2] Youtube, ProfMTH "What is God?"
[3] William Rowe "The Evidential Argument from Evil"
[4] William Lane Craig, "Slaughter of the Cannanites"
[5] Problems with Devine Omniscience
[6] For these and others (apparently there are PLENTY of incompatible properties of God), see Michael Martin.
[7] Gregory Dawes "Theism and Explanation"
[8] V.S. Ramachandran
[9] Interpretations of QM
[10] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on Time
[11] Hawking, "The Grand Design"
[12] Quentin Smith (I think...)
[13] Luke Barnes presents a terrific introduction to this.
[14] Lydia/Timothy McGrew
[15] J.L. Mackie (Argument from Queerness)
[16] Pascal Boyer "Religion Explained"
[17] Scott Atran "In God's We Trust"

Saturday, October 23, 2010

BTB: What happened to Paul's Church?

Blogging the bible: 1 Corinthians 12

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
  • To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom
  • to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit,
  • to another faith by the same Spirit,
  • to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit,
  • to another miraculous powers,
  • to another prophecy,
  • to another distinguishing between spirits,
  • to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,
  • and to still another the interpretation of tongues.
All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
And in the church God has appointed
  • first of all apostles,
  • second prophets,
  • third teachers,
  • then workers of miracles
also
  • those having gifts of healing,
  • those able to help others,
  • those with gifts of administration,
  • and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.
Questions
Does this sound anything like the Churches that exist today?
If not, why not?
What happened to Paul's Chruch?
Given that Paul was writing to the Corinthians around 50-60CE, doesn't this illustrate what a different world the ancients used to live in compared to today?
What happened to all these spiritual gifts?
Notice how many of these gifts are actually testable? (How many do you suppose would stand up to rational scrutiny)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Modern Theistic Arguments

Disclaimer: I am not a theist nor am I an accommodationist.

Larry Moran has issued the following challenge:
This brings me to my challenge. I challenge all theists and all their accommodationist friends to post their very best 21st century, sophisticated (or not), arguments for the existence of God.
Let me first begin by expanding the disclaimer...

I don't think any theistic argument succeeds rigorous or sceptical scrutiny however to deny that new argument exist seems to me to be ignorant. Some atheists seem to be of the opinion that the failure of these arguments and their non-existance are somehow equivalent. Nevertheless I will list some "sophisticated" arguments for the existence of God and the truth of Christianity from modern proponents.

Evidentialist
Evidentialists maintain that there exists positive evidence for not only the existence of God but also for the truth of Christianity. (Hereby known as G/C or God/Christianity)

Many modern "sophisticated" arguments take a Bayesian probabilistic approach by trying to quantify what many have called "converging lines of evidence". In plain speak this means that there exists many small pieces to the puzzle which, if taken in isolation mean very little however when taken together provide positive evidence for the truth of G/C, in a similar way as to how a detective might go about collecting evidence to build a case.

The most prominent defender of this view is Richard Swinburne.

The same technique can be used to justify the belief in the resurrection of Jesus. For example, in a debate between Craig and Ehrman, Craig uses Bayesian probability to prove the resurrection is historical.

Tangentially related to the evidentialists are those who believe certain facts of nature/modern science are more probable under theism than atheism.

These include
  • the insufficiency of evolution to explain some feature such as information/irreducible complexity, etc.
  • the inability to provide positive proof of abiogenesis. (Problems of chirality, etc)
  • the fine tuning of the constants of nature (using modern cosmology, hence this is a new argument).
  • the existence of the universality of belief in the supernatural.
Note: Ironically one of the best defeaters for the fine tuning argument come from Christian philosophers! (Tim and Lydia McGrew)

Many evidentialists are skeptical and critical of their non-evidentialist brethren.

Non-evidentialist
Non-evidentialists don't believe any evidentialist claims succeed and so they resort to different tactics to prove the existence of G/C or to maintain that their beliefs are justified. Some may even claim that proving the truth of G/C is irrelevant.

The most popular proponent of a non-evidentialist epistemology is Alvin Plantinga who maintains that belief in God is properly basic (that is to say it doesn't depend on any other belief).

What is a properly basic belief in reformed epistemology? Well let's say I have a black can in front of me (which I do) then the belief of the colour of this can is a properly basic belief because it relies on accurate sense data (i.e. my eyes). Plantinga says that when he reads the bible he senses the holy spirit, and given that he believes this is accurate sense data, he can be confident that his belief in the holy spirit is properly basic. (This is a thumbnail sketch of a very complicated set of propositions, so don't critique Plantinga on my butchering!)

Plantinga is also famous for his warranted Christian belief which is the proposition that if Christianity is true than one is justified in believing Christianity. This may seem trivial but there were sceptical attacks which concluded that even if Christianity was true, one would not be justified in believing it.

Of less interest seem to be the presuppositionists who believe only Christian Theism provides a coherent world-view. I wouldn't call this sophisticated, but it seems to be modern.


So there we have it. Modern sophisticated justifications and arguments for the truth of G/C. If you want an atheists view on modern philosophy of religion, try someone respected like Graham Oppy (he's Aussie, he's awesome!) over say Richard Dawkins.

Meta Comment: I'm not surprised atheists usually get creamed in debates with professional Christian debaters. When the view is that there exists no new arguments in the last 200 years for G/C then it isn't surprising when they get shown up in a live debate and then are unable to even comprehend what the Christian is saying. This ignorance also flows through to the audience (both sides) who are far less educated in these things.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

It's a good time to be an atheist!

It's a good time to be an atheist - a really good time to be an atheist!

Science and Philosophy

God not needed to explain the origins of the universe - This provides scientific rationale against the cosmological and fine tuning arguments.

Synthetic Life - Craig Venter has shown that synthetic life is possible. This research, amongst others, will lead to a further understanding of abiogenesis.

Extrasolar Planets - Hundreds of extrasolar Earth-like planets have been discovered showing that the Earth-like planets are not rare in the universe and increases the probability of earth-like life elsewhere in the universe.

Scientific Morality - Although I don't necessarily buy this, Sam Harris thinks science can answer questions on morality.

Free will is an illusion - Some theistic traditions require free will to have moral culpability.

Majority of scientists/historians/psychologists/sociologists are atheistic - The more knowledgeable you are the less likely it is you believe in god.

Majority of philosophers are atheistic - Even the study of philosophy does not lead one to god, even though philosophy is the last great stand for the religious.

"God's Will" is our will - fMRI scans show that when people are asked what God wants, its equivalent to what they want.

Politics and Society

Australia has an openly atheistic Prime Minster - Not many people cared about this fact.

The fastest growing "religion" is none - People are no longer keeping their religious traditions.

Societies which are organically atheist are healthier - Contrary to the belief that without religion society would collapse.

2 Million books sold on one atheistic book - The God Delusion has sold over 2 million copies!

Christian Atheists and Atheist Clergy - Even some of the religious no longer really believe.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Love Shyness - A Bleak Future

This is part of a series on Love Shyness. The index can be found here.

Despite being heavily criticised, Maslow's hierarchy of needs serves a rough guide to the needs of the individual in an individualistic society. Love shy males by their very nature suffer physiologically through lack of sex, love and belonging due to the absence of sexual intimacy and also fail to reach self-actualisation due to their issues related to spontaneity, etc. If Maslow's hierarchy was to be believed, love shy males would therefore be at higher risk of personal failure than their non-shy counterparts. Let's see what Gilmartin discovered about the love-shy population and their success in life.

Unemployment

In a study of white, college educated males in 1982, Gilmartin discovered that 3.6% of the non-shy population was unemployed while 16% of the older love-shy males were unemployed at the time of the interview. Basically love-shy males are extremely prone to unemployment, prolonged under-employment and/or part-time employment.

Annual Income

The average income for the older love-shy males in 1979-1981 was only $14,782 despite 93% of these love-shy males having an undergraduate degree and 42% having at least one graduate degree. Despite not giving comparative figures for the non-shy population, Gilmartin states that this number is low and represents an unrewarded and ignored segment of the American population.

Housing

Of the 100 older love-shy males interviewed, all were living in small one-bedroom apartments. Gilmartin judges that 73% were living in less than desirable neighbourhoods and their living quarters were often cramped and cluttered.

Socioeconomic Mobility

Gilmartin noticed that based on the reports of the older love-shy males, their socioeconomic status had been reduced in relation to their upbringing. For example, a love-shy male who grew up in a middle class household (which is interestingly true of the majority of love-shy males) is more likely to drift into the lower class in adulthood. This seems counter-intuitive considering love-shy males are more likely to obtain higher education - a term which sociologists call "status inconsistent". These "status inconsistent" people are seldomly happy, content or productive.

Catch-22

If love-shyness leads to low income and career instability then this also has further implications in the ability for the love-shy to overcome their limitations. First of all, in terms of confidence, their financial condition does not allow them to feel in control of their lives. Secondly and perhaps more importantly, society looks down on those earning less, which affects their ability to attract women. For example, OkCupid has tracked the number of messages a man gets in relation to his age and his income and not surprisingly the lower the income, the less messages a man gets, particularly above the age of 23. Women are still attracted to men who bring home the bacon.

Basically, they are stuck in a downwards spiral. Their love-shyness leads to low income, which makes them unable to find a mate, which does not help their confidence, etc, leading to more career instability, and so on.

In a 1977 survey of happiness and income, 46% of people earning >$20,000 were "very happy", compared to 33% for $10,000 to $19,999, and 29% for those earning less than $10,000.

At Work

Those love-shy males who do obtain work often struggle with issues of confidence and social networking - critical areas for many jobs. This can lead to a stagnation in the advance of ones career and general distrust from their colleagues.

In a questionnaire developed to measure the attitudes of the love shy and their non love shy counterparts, the following results were obtained.

Competitiveness:
100% Non-Shy
32% Older Love-Shy

Easily discouraged:
0% Non-Shy
100% Older Love-Shy

Seldomly let ones-self down:
72% Non-Shy
4% Older Love-Shy

Enjoy making decisions:
88% Non-Shy
38% Older Love-Shy

Solutions

Gilmartin offers the following advice.
THE CHOICE OF A MAJOR IS OF INFINITELY GREATER IMPORTANCE THAN GRADEPOINT AVERAGE. To put it bluntly, A STRAIGHT "C" AVERAGE IN THE RIGHT DISCIPLINE WILL BE OF VASTLY GREATER VALUE TO THE LOVE-SHY THAN A STRAIGHT "A" AVERAGE IN THE WRONG DISCIPLINE.
[Yes, it appears as all-caps in the book]
Completion of a major in a technical field with only a "C" average will very likely get a love-shy man a much better career opportunity than will an "A" average in a non-technical discipline that is not clearly related to the job market.
...
Intellectual self-enlightenment or "insight" is now recognized by most psychologists as being quite useless from the standpoint of curing love-shyness.
...
It can be asserted with considerably certainty that love-shy men who major in technical fields and who develop salable, technical skills, adjust to their adult lives a great deal better than do love-shys who major in the liberal arts, social science, education and humanities disciplines.
This is something I have personally thought about over the past six months or more since I started reading this book. Doing a degree in physics is all well and good from an intellectual point of view, but it doesn't build a foreseeable stable and profitable future, things which most people require to feel confident within themselves. Another problem is the lack of females who are in the field, which decreases the probability of meeting someone who shares similar interests.

Despite my love of physics, I'm not sure I can exactly feel content with the picture of myself being 40 and living alone in a small flat in Germany...I've yet to come up with a reasonable picture as to where my future will take me. There are a million other ancillary issues which complicate things too. They all lead to me having a lack of motivation in finishing my PhD.