Atheists like to say that it is not incumbent upon them to prove that God doesn't exist. Rather, the burden is on believers to prove that he does. But since the vast majority of human beings are and have always been weak-minded and gullible believers, I would turn the question around and ask, how is it that the atheist is so much stronger and intelligent than the rest of us, able to fearlessly overcome his own genetic programming and look reality straight in the eye, with no comforting delusions?
Of course, if our religiosity is genetically hardwired into us -- having been selected by evolution to help us be unadapted to reality -- the atheist's ability to transcend it doesn't exactly speak well of the undiscipline of evolutionary psychology.
Oh well. Better to faithfully hew to an absurdity than to cede an inch to religion. As Berlinksi points out, the philosophy of scientism always ends up turning on itself and consuming its own. The head dies first, followed by the heart. As a result of this devolution -- in which the higher dies to the lower -- we're left with Homo crapien, the deconstructionst ape (also known as Tenured Man). Soon enough comes Homo rappien, who drains language of it's transcendent referent and confuses poetry with vulgarity.
This all goes to the fact that the bonehead atheist or doctrinaire Darwinian denies the sufficient reason for man's intelligence. In short, the Darwinian must either plead that there is no explanation for a miraculous intelligence that infinitely surpasses the needs of survival (i.e., eating, mating, and publishing academic drivel); or that we don't actually know anything, and that our intelligence is really a form of arrogant and self-deluded stupidity. But if either of these scenarios are true, it is again difficult to comprehend how nature has somehow produced these atheistic Supermen, or big know-nothing-at-alls.
It reminds me of a skit I once heard on the radio, involving a man who was so irritated by being placed on hold by a receptionist, that he struggled and broke through its "barrier," back on the line. The receptionist kept placing him on hold, but with sheer force of will, he kept breaking through anyway. Natural selection has placed all of us on hold for eternity, and Reality isn't taking any calls. And yet, the Darwinian fights his way through his genes and manages to speak to the boss.
Let us remind ourselves just what is the scope of human intelligence: it is none other than the Infinite, the Absolute, the Eternal. It cannot be surpassed, for it is potentially total, which is to say, "adequate," or proportioned to, the Divine Mind. Being that I believe human beings are in the image of the Creator, this is not a surprise to me. But for the Darwinian, it is a miracle, pure and simple. Again, unless we can't actually know truth. But if that were true, then we also couldn't know the truth of Darwinism, so the argument is self-defeating. Scientism devours yet another immature mind.
If the sorry Homo saps who sopher from materialitis and reductionosis were correct, our total intelligence would have no cause and no explanation. Oddly, we would have this vast intelligence corresponding to... nothing instead of everything (and make no mistake, it's either one or the other, being that the gap between Truth and Falsehood is infinite).
Obviously, no other animal has an intelligence that infinitely exceeds the necessities of survival. Rather, whatever intelligence they possess is easily reduced to its sufficient cause located somewhere in the environment, i.e., survival needs. But what is the sufficient cause of poetry, art, humor, music? Of mathematical truth, aesthetic truth, metaphysical truth? As I said in my book, these are "luxury capacities" that are as different from animal intelligence as life is from matter.
To quote Arthur Koestler,
"[T]he evolution of the human brain not only overshot the needs of prehistoric man, it is also the only example of evolution producing a species with an organ which it does not know how to use; a luxury organ, which will take its owner thousands of years to learn how to put to proper use -- if he ever does."
And luxury is an apt word, for it is a kind of extravagant light placed in the middle of nowhere. As the zoologist and science writer Matt Ridley put it, there is simply no conventional scientific way to "understand how a costly investment in big brains today may be justified by cultural riches tomorrow."
In fact, there is a certain structural similarity between science and religion, to the extent that both are systematic forms of understanding a world or "plane" of phenomena. In both cases, there is a transitional, generative space that exists between something capable of "revealing" itself and our contemplation of it. In this regard, one can see that Torah study, for example, has the identical deep structure of science, only on a higher plane that ultimately shades off into pure metaphysics, or those necessary truths which cannot not be.
Science has what you might call a "written revelation" and an "oral revelation." The written revelation is simply the Cosmos, the World, physical reality, or whatever you want to call it. It is the Object which was here before we arrived, and to which we are Subject. Science -- the evolving "oral tradition" -- takes place in the space between the exterior Object and our own interior Subject, whose intelligence mysteriously conforms to the Object on so many levels that it's positively uncanny -- as if the one were a deep reflection of the other.
Which of course it is. I have no problem with that, which is why I have no problem with scientific or any other kind of truth. The question is, why does the atheist have such a problematic relationship to truth? Must be a genetic defect, I suppose.
When unintelligence joins with passion to prostitute logic, it is impossible to escape a mental satanism which destroys the very basis of intelligence and truth.... When a man has no "visionary" -- as opposed to discursive -- knowledge of Being, and when he thinks only with his brain instead of "seeing" with the heart, all his logic will be useless to him, since he starts from an initial blindness.... Closing itself, above, to the light of the intellect, it opens itself, below, to the darkness of the subconscious. --F. Schuon
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
The Atheist Delusion, or How Materialism Spoils Everything (5.09.09)
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West of House
You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door.
There is a small mailbox here.
Um, one doesn't have to believe oneself to be a 'superman' to think that one could be right about something, even if the majority is wrong. Plenty of people have been right in the past about little things like heliocentrism, religious liberty, the illegitimacy of slavery, suffrage for women, or intermarriage between races, without being superhuman.
One also doesn't have to think that people are 'weak-minded and gullible' to believe in things that aren't true - just that they're human. I don't actually see much evidence of human intelligence being 'infinite' - see here, under "The second problem with the EEAN".
The postman only rings once.
I am wondering about the "Divine Mind". Is it always a Christian mind? Are the myriad of doctrinal differences that make up the Christian church a problem with the human mind after the fall or does all that even matter?
sorceror said: ...one doesn't have to believe oneself to be a 'superman' to think that one could be right about something...
...Unless one was approaching the cosmos from a purely materialistic viewpoint. In that case, being "right" about something has absolutely no meaning, because there can be no "right" or "wrong" in such a cosmos. To declare oneself "right" about anything while claiming a materialistic (and therefore atheistic) viewpoint is to argue against the very ground upon which you stand. I think that's what Bob was getting at.
It seems like atheists don't have a problem with a "God" concept, they love their Man-gods and worship them completely, but a spiritual God they can't see and therefore can't ackowledge. The problem is with their vision. Is there a lasik surgery for that?
Paul G - I may have misunderstood something, but it looks like you're equivocating between two meanings of the word 'right'. I was using it in the sense of 'factually correct'; you appear to be using it in the sense of 'just' or 'good'. If you did mean 'factually correct', then you should follow the link I gave.
Even in the case of moral 'rightness', though, I disagree.
Sorcerer, let's pretend for a moment that you're right and there really is no god, and no truth higher than scientific truth. That we are all merely walking, talking piles of molecules with delusions of grandeur.
Why, exactly, do you care whether other walking piles of molecules believe in falsehoods? Especially since virtually everything about your modern life has been enhanced as a direct result of the actions of men and women whose lives have been guided by those falsehoods?
I'm just genuinely curious - why does an atheist care what anyone else believes, so long as those beliefs don't represent a physical threat to the atheist? What do you benefit by proselytizing non-faith?
Maybe something like this:
If the brain is merely the product of evolutionary adaption i.e. solely conditioned by the need to survive/reproduce/etc, then any knowledge that claims to be true beyond those needs would be suspect (at the very least).
In short, how do we know that any claim to truth is true beyond it's relation to the need for survival. There wouldn't be any transpersonal means of verification. We are locked in our "adaptive" brains.
Logic is itself an attempt appeal that seeks to "transcend" the individual to find something that is true regardless of my or anyone's personal opinion (which is what we are all attempting at the moment).
But what is this attempt at transpersonal logic grounded in? If only the adaptive brain then it tells us little (or nothing) beyond the conditioned evolutionary needs of survival. And we would seem to be at an impasse.
Certainly the "new atheists" apply evolutionary arguments against religion (religion being "merely" adaptive i.e. not true) but it doesn't seem that they are willing to accept the same type of argument for/against themselves.
Julie - one can think that we're made of molecules and still think we're pretty cool. For one thing, we're not 'piles' of molecules, any more than a chocolate cake is a 'pile' of flour, eggs, and cocoa, or the Mona Lisa is a bunch of ink smeared on canvas. The arrangement matters. Humans are unique arrangements and processes of molecules.
But, as to your question - it's not really true that "virtually everything" about modern life has been enhanced by religion. Religious people can discover neat things and make moral progress, but as we've already said, people can be right about some things and wrong about others.
As Steven Pinker points out, the murder rate in England has dropped by 4,000% since the 1300's. Not many people argue that we're less religious now than in the 14th century. Many Christians were passionate about the abolition of slavery in the West - but so was Charles Darwin, and many Christians supported slavery with Biblical justification.
It seems to me that economic and technological innovations account for much of the progress we've seen over the years. The changes in society forced by increasing automation went a long way to making slavery untenable, for example.
More, even today there are people who want to base public policy affecting everyone on purely religious grounds. Atheists are discriminated against, quite often.
I don't usually have to worry about it much on a day-to-day basis, but it does intrude at times. Last night I was out with my family, having dinner before my oldest son's baseball game. A woman came up and said, "You must be a churchgoing family, I can sense the love." I was somewhat taken aback and let my wife diplomatically handle the situation.
I'm not 'proselytizing non-faith'. I don't plan on 'deconverting' people. But if someone is going to disagree with me, it might as well be with what I actually believe instead of a caricature thereof. Maybe by promoting understanding I can defuse some of the tension and prejudice.
anonymous - You are, in fact, following the so-called "Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism", and I addressed that in the link in my first comment here.
Oh, BTW, I don't want the above to come across as denying that religion has been useful throughout history. It has helped organize communities and foster cooperation, absolutely.
But David Sloan Wilson makes a useful distinction in his book (which I recommend), "Evolution For Everyone". A belief can be 'factually realistic' if it's true. It can also be 'practically realistic' if it's false, but motivates useful behaviors. (It's a vocabulary for talking about what anonymous was getting at before.)
Religions have been 'practically realistic' in many ways, even if at most one of them could be 'factually realistic'. But it's not clear that we have to give up factual realism for practical realism. In other words, we can turn it around, and point out that just because a belief is useful, that doesn't mean it's true.
C.S Lewis warned against that kind of thinking in "The Screwtape Letters": "Believe this, not because it's true, but for some other reason," he has his devil say.
"And luxury is an apt word, for it is a kind of extravagant light placed in the middle of nowhere."
a thin emulsion
blocks the transmission of light
motion picture film
Sorceror said: "The arrangement matters."
While I thought it was obvious I was being facetious about being "walking" piles of molecules, I'll grant that we are vastly more complex than that.
"Religious people can discover neat things and make moral progress, but as we've already said, people can be right about some things and wrong about others."
While I certainly agree that religious people, just like all people in fact, can be right about some things and wrong about others, I stand by my original statement.
This nation (I am going to make the assumption that you're American or Canadian) was founded by religious people based upon religious principles. The system of laws we follow, the belief in the inalienable rights of individuals, all that made this country "The United States" came about as a direct result of religious beliefs, specifically the belief in a Judeo-Christian God. The society that has developed from that, with all of its scientific and cultural advances, would not have been possible if it were not founded upon and strengthened by religious beliefs, and over time I think it's been fairly clear that the best of those beliefs (e.g. the rule of law) have resulted in success for this nation, while the worst(e.g. slavery) have gradually been rejected.
Religion didn't merely "help organize communities and foster cooperation," rather there were core values and beliefs shared by most of the community members that gave this peculiar nation strength and cohesion.
"Just because a belief is useful, doesn't mean it's true" can be as aptly ascribed to atheism as theism.
As to your experience at the ballpark, if you had spent any amount of time here you'd realize that we actually have a name for that kind of behavior: The Jesus Willies. We're against it.
It comes down to this: if your worldview cannot stand up to factual reality, there's probably something wrong with it. My belief system absolutely incorporates science and reality with no difficulty; in fact, with great joy when Truth is discovered and advancements are made.
Atheism has room for science, but it has no room for the things that science cannot possibly explain or describe, which are legion.
Alan, it matters to humans. Perhaps the universe doesn't care, but I'm not a universe so I don't see how that's relevant. I am a human, though, and things do matter to me.
Things don't just abstractly 'matter' or 'mean something'. They matter or mean something to someone. You may find this interesting.
Concerning the A or not-A discussion going on, any of you might find Anthony Flew's book, "There Is A God", worth a look. Flew was for a long time a standard-bearer for philosophical atheism and wrote some of the basic positions of atheism, arguing, for example, that theists have the "burden of proof" to demonstrate that there is a God and that atheism is the default position.
But Flew insisted on following wherever the evidence took him, and it finally took him to a belief in an Aristotelian God, although he does seem to be engaged in some heavy flirtation with Christianity.
Naturally enough, Flew's change in belief has been pretty disturbing to the atheist crowd. Having been on a somewhat similar journey myself in recent years, I an enthusiastic about Flew's account.
Julie - I'm sorry, but I don't see the United States (where, yes, I do live) as uniquely Christian, or even Judeo-Christian. Most of the very central ideas that make the U.S. unique are not based at all in Christian teaching. (I saw this back in the early 90's and haven't seen a good response to it yet.)
As to "things that science cannot possibly explain", I don't really accept that idea. I think that there are certainly things that science hasn't explained... yet. That's not the same as accepting that there are things that are fundamentally inexplicable.
It's not a dogmatic thing, it's just that I don't see any use in assuming that there are things that we can't ever comprehend, that are 'unknowable'. If you assume something is 'unknowable', you'll stop trying to understand it. That's proven to be a mistake before.
The only way to tell if something can be understood is to try to understand it. If you succeed, it was understandable. If you fail, though, it might just be that you didn't have the right insight, and you or someone else will figure it out later. All you can ever say, practically, is, "We don't know how that works... yet."
Do you believe 'Absolute' is possible?
ximeze - Um, I guess I don't understand the question. "Absolute" what?
Wow, this sorceror is really good...I mean he has a *weblink* for everything!! Color me impressed.
It reminds me of a skit I once heard on the radio, involving a man who was so irritated by being placed on hold by a receptionist, that he struggled and broke through its "barrier," back on the line.
Sounds like the mighty Phil Hendrie doing one of his brilliant Art Bell knocks.
Actually the critique of EEAN seems to me to miss the point -- not to mention quoting comedians and science fiction writers for credibility. The point is not that evolution would select for false beliefs as much as why would it select for beliefs at all. The argument isn't about how religious beliefs evolved, it's about how far you can trust a brain that evolved primarily to make you a better spear-chucker. We can explain, in evolutionary terms, our extraordinary gift for ballistics. What you cannot explain is your gift for understanding the vastness and complexity of the universe, unless you have some connection to something beyond yourself. Good luck with that.
Evolution put a cool tail on peacocks. Smart guys get more chicks? I need only point to the breeding disparity between NBA players and geeks living in their mothers' basements.
Sorcerer said: Um, one doesn't have to believe oneself to be a 'superman' to think that one could be right about something, even if the majority is wrong. Plenty of people have been right in the past about little things like heliocentrism, religious liberty, the illegitimacy of slavery, suffrage for women, or intermarriage between races, without being superhuman.
And mostly those people believed in some form of a Higher Being and absolute truth derived from that -- Galileo, Stowe, Nations, King, etc. One does have to believe that one has access to Truth in the absolute sense, otherwise we just let everyone "do what is right in their own eyes". Unless you have some sense of the absolute informing your consciousness, you cannot say one view is better than another. You could say that a thing is advantageous to you. You could even say that one view makes you feel better about yourself, but you cannot say absolutely that yours is the correct view.
Sorcerer, it's perfectly clear that no argument I make will change your mind, nor vice versa, and frankly I don't have a problem with that. However, you made an interesting statement, and just as you claim we think we know what you believe, you are making assumptions about what I and many here believe.
"It's not a dogmatic thing, it's just that I don't see any use in assuming that there are things that we can't ever comprehend, that are 'unknowable'."
I never said, at any point, that anything is "unknowable." What I said was that there are things that cannot be explained by science. It is a big distinction, and a clear one to those in the gno. However, your mind is set, and you will not grant that I or any theist can know what we know, because these things cannot be detected by scientific means, at least not in any way that is recognized but scientism.
This doesn't mean that we've given up looking for answers - au contraire, we've only just begun. We simply acknowledge that there are limits to what science is capable of discovering.
Truly, it is all a matter of perspective, if you gnow what I mean...
Sorceror - puhlease, give me some credit.
You never answered my question - why does something matter (and, yes, my question is in the universal sense of why it matters to humans - not to you specifically or the universe generally).
Bonus points if your answer doesn't contradict your stated beliefs.
1. Your understanding of Christian teaching is incomplete if you believe the entirety of it is contained in the Bible. Even literalists interpret the bible and have to rely on some tradition to test their understanding. Are there a lot of Christians who don't agree with what I just said... yes. But that is not even the majority.
2. There is a big difference between "explained by" and "proven by" science. Just because a scientist comes up with an explanation does not make it scientific provable. That is the game scientism plays.
3. There is much that is knowable but not provable scientifically. Your experience every instant is an example.
I think what alan means is why does life in itself matter? Not necessarily local phenomena like ones own life, for as we all know, all of that will disappear with time. As soon as that happens, or starts happening, the question of why Life? arises; and the solution to this is the fundamental difference, I think, between between sorcerer's worldview and the ones espoused on on this blog.
On the topic of how religious people routinely try to impose their beliefs and interpretations of religious text on other people...I couldn't agree more about the way you see it. That's slightly above commonsense, meaning that in order to come to the conclusion that interpretation and meaning are context bound, the intellect has to become evolved enough to throw it's vision on the senses "below," and therefore negate their limitation; that is, human limitation and selfishness.
But I do believe that this nation is primarily a religious one, and was founded on, was the fruition of, a judeo-christian ethic . About two thirds of the fathers that signed the declaration of independence were congregationalist, the rest being more in the deist camp, including Jefferson and Franklin. Washington was more father centered in his religion, seeing how it was his job to unit all of the different christian sects that under his command. I think that what your trying to say is that religion properly understood (that excludes alot of people) is not "factually realistic." I disagree. Contrary to that, the ultimate being and essence is the most concrete fact that there is. Everything else in life is more like a dream, fading with time, and weak in comparison to forces that seem beyond and against itself.
What a great discussion (until it fizzled). A few months ago, I was an occasional reader. A few weeks ago, I became a daily visitor. Today, I am a Fan. Blessings and Lightness to all.
Absolute as a concept, a philosophical possibility, not tied to any (one) thing. A standard, an Ideal, a whole which contains everything of any given 'concept', against which it's possible to measure a relative or lesser form of same.
Absolute describes ultimate reality. It contrasts with finite things, considered individually, known collectively as Relative.
'Absolute' any (thing)
What is named using the definite
article (the), ie:
True, Good, Beautiful, Real, Moral
Sorcerer - From the pen of Paul to your eyes. Do you believe it?
(I like to keep it simple.)
"You must be a churchgoing family, I can sense the love." I was somewhat taken aback and let my wife diplomatically handle the situation.”
How dare that woman insult you like that. Did you spill your tea? (No offense, tea drinkers.) How did you ever recover? It’s obvious that woman’s love detector needs recalibrating. How big of you to let your wife take care of it for you. Good thing she was handy. Must take a lot of energy to be in constant-offend-mode. I hope it never “intrudes” like that again. Some people have it tough. I don’t know how you do it. Please point to the part of the Constitution that says I have a right not to be offended or hear the “G” word. I know you didn’t say that. I did.
How are you discriminated against exactly? Just in case it’s happening to me too. And since it may be cool to the rest of the humans, the humans, the humanszzzzzzz Bang! eeeerrrrzip! Bang! That’s better. Please provide a link that explains love too while your at it. You know, scientifically, so I can track down that horrible woman and explain it to her.
"The only way to tell if something can be understood is to try to understand it. If you succeed, it was understandable. If you fail, though, it might just be that you didn't have the right insight,..."
Stick around (or go and read the archive)
the humanszzzzzzz Bang! eeeerrrrzip! Bang! That’s better.
Dude, you must have spent time within those links Sorc so thoughtfully provided. Take it in smaller increments next time, & come up for Air more often when you do.
This time you were able to re-set yourself. Coonmommy always said that our eyes would get stuck in the crossed position, if we indulged too often.
Consider this as a coonish heads-up.
A reader asked me about the malignant narcissist and psychopathic cult leader, Adi Da. Here's some info. It isn't hard to find.
Funny, I almost asked you if you knew anything about that guy a couple weeks ago, Bob - someone (I have no idea why, it's not anyone I know) e-mailed me a bunch of links to his art. I thought it was all very weird, but didn't look into it any further.
All I can say now is ewwww; I'm pretty sure there'll be a special place in hell for that guy.
Apparently I’m easily offended by the easily offended.
You were right on. Loved it!
Did Adi Da hang out with Alfred Kinsey?
Thet list reads like they we buddies in Darkness.
mushroom - In the critique you read, I pointed out that we don't have a "gift for understanding the vastness and complexity of the universe". Things like Relativity and Quantum Mechanics were a complete surprise, and are still deeply counterintuitive and puzzling. As I said, "It takes effort for people to think logically about the world and to carefully examine it while putting aside preconceptions." That's not the same as our 'extraordinary gift for ballistics', which doesn't require effort at all.
Indeed, it's the fact that we don't naturally think clearly or carefully that necessitates us carefully testing what we know and how we know it.
To combine an answer with ximeze, I don't necessarily think that an 'Absolute' of the kind describes can actually exist outside of mathematics, in the 'real world'. We can't ever really know that our theories are right. All we can be sure of is that they are less wrong than previous theories.
On the other hand, I do believe that things can be what you might call 'practically absolute'. We can't be sure in an 'Absolute' sense that the sun will rise in the East tomorrow, but as a practical matter I'd be willing to bet my and my family's lives on it. (Come to think of it, we'd be unlikely to survive anything that'd prevent that from happening, anyway.)
I take things like the laws of physics to be 'practically absolute', not having seen any flying carpets or whatnot. I bet my life on them on a regular basis. Given my own desires, that has strong implications - things I should or should not do.
Our understanding of the world can change, of course. A century ago, I'd have been right to fight off anyone who wanted to cut open my mother-in-law's chest. But on Monday she underwent a triple bypass and a valve replacement, because now we know enough about how hearts work to be able to repair them in many cases. (She's doing fine, happily.)
It'd be nice if we had some metal with infinite tensile strength to make buildings out of. Instead, we have to make do with steel and concrete, but that doesn't mean skyscrapers are impossible. I don't have Absolute truth to resort to, so far as I can tell, but I can do all right with 'practical absolutes'.
Time for bed. More tomorrow if I find the time. Thanks for the (mostly) polite tone here.
"I don't necessarily think that an 'Absolute' of the kind describes can actually exist outside of mathematics, in the 'real world'." "On the other hand, I do believe that things can be what you might call 'practically absolute'."
Therein hangs the tale, my friend. The above indicates that "Absolute" as a concept, as an Ideal that both transcends and rises above what you've termed 'in the real world' is foreign to you. Thereby you've locked yourself out of comprehending what Bob is actually writing about.
Also that you'll continue to scratch in the earth, trying to reduce irreducible Wholes into 'things' you can touch or see, thus getting only a shadow of the Real, reflected in a mirror, and continue to believe 'that's all there is.'
Bob writes in non-linear cooneiform, which some can immediately read as Language, while others just see chicken-scratches in the dirt.
Julie - The best understanding I've been able to come up with for the notion of 'supernatural' is 'unknowable'. So far as I can see, the 'supernatural' is 'that which can't be explained naturally'.
The problem is, as I said, you can't be sure what can't be explained naturally. All you can be sure of are things that aren't currently explained naturally.
In the 1600's, if you'd asked, "What causes lightning", you could have gotten any number of assured answers. Thor, Zeus, Seth, the Thunderbirds, God, etc. Then in the 1700's people like Benjamin Franklin started getting a handle on electricity, and flew some kites, and proposed lightning rods.
Before that, the proper banswer to "What causes lightning?" was, "We don't know yet. Maybe someone will figure it out someday."
The prominent physician, J.B.S. Haldane, at the turn of the last century, declared that no 'mechanistic' theory could possibly account for inheritance and cellular reproduction, it had to be 'spiritual'. A few decades later, the structure of DNA was elucidated.
Enough pronouncements of 'science will never explain X' have proven wrong that I'm dubious about them as a general class.
I totally agree that there are many, many things that aren't explained by science. Consciousness, as a primary example. Where we disagree is on the "can't explain".
And Alan, I agree that "explained by" and "proven by" are different things. However, science doesn't deal in proof in the sense I think you're using it. It deals with evidence and the best available theories (which has a different meaning than 'hunch' in science). You can't be 'sure' about a scientific explanation in an absolute sense, you just check how well its predictions hold up, to how many decimal places and with what error bars. (Of course, some things have very small error bars.)
Alan - again, I think there's a terminology issue. The link I gave helps explain what I'm getting at. Things have to matter to someone or something, "meaning" doesn't just hover unsupported.
Just because a life is finite doesn't mean it's therefore meaningless. Quoting from the link: "The flaw in logic comes with the idea that a life lived or an experience and memory that ends has no meaning but one preserved for eternity does. But the math here simply doesn’t work. Either even the briefest span of thoughts and actions can be meaningful all on their own, or an eternity of them can never add up to anything. Zero multiplied by infinity is still zero: a life without meaning on its own terms, meaning moment to moment, does not gain meaning from eternity."
Why does anything matter to people? Because people want, desire, aspire. They want things, they care about people. Why do they want or care? Because that's part of being human.
ricky raccoon - I don't know who exactly it is you're addressing, but it doesn't appear to be me. I didn't say I was offended - I said I was "somewhat taken aback".
Let's turn it around. You're at a restaurant, and someone comes up to you and says, "I can tell you're an atheist family - you're all so intelligent." It's a compliment, sure, but it's accompanied by a silly stereotype.
That poor lady didn't know anything about atheists than what she'd been told at church. She had the idea, depressingly common unfortunately, that atheists had to be hateful, bitter people, or at least that they couldn't love their kids. I wasn't offended, just saddened. I brought it up because Julie asked and it had just happened.
As to a link explaining love... I'm at a loss. No one has ever, ever asked me that before. You're the very first.
nomo - in the interest of keeping things simple, no.
"Because people want, desire, aspire. They want things, they care about people. Why do they want or care? Because that's part of being human."
So, you DO believe in a universal force called "The Will"!
I had a feeling you weren't a true atheist... ant that the "crazy lady" was right all along. Now it's only a matter of getting your will on the same track as the Will. But since you are the one at the rudder, just try to communicate a little bit more with the Captain, and you will reach the safe harbor. Happy navigating!
Lightning has been explained? This is new to me. Exactly what is energy? And how does it manifest as lightning, on the one hand, and its explanation, on the other? (Forgive me -- I'm only a monkey, so I'm a bit behind.)
Sorcerer - I think by "love", churchlady meant the open expression of deep affection, devotion. Which is certainly nice. Love is something very different.
As your link quotes, "God is Love". If true, anyone without God is literally without Love. I would bid you to do a quick search of the word in the New Testament and perhaps it will become clearer...deep affection is now, love is eternal.
"If the sorry Homo saps who sopher from materialitis and reductionosis were correct, our total intelligence would have no cause and no explanation. Oddly, we would have this vast intelligence corresponding to... nothing instead of everything (and make no mistake, it's either one or the other, being that the gap between Truth and Falsehood is infinite)."
Which explains why atheists can't grasp this simple Truth.
Yet another excellent post, Bob!
Nomo, I don't think your approach is going to work. I'm with scatter. It's amazing how dim some peoples' expanse of vision are, and how dissociated they are in regards to the unmoved mover. Certainly, Sorcerer's the one making logical errors, as Godel would opine. (not that it takes a master logician to gnow the limits of the knower and known.)
"I have no problem with that, which is why I have no problem with scientific or any other kind of truth. The question is, why does the atheist have such a problematic relationship to truth?"
The atheist has no foundation to withstand or understand the truth, since they deny the absolute.
They must resort to relative "facts" and relative "logic", and we gno where that leads...and where it doesn't.
After realizing a taste of revelations revealing the Good, True and Beautiful of the Great Mystery, and abundant mirrorcles,
I Am happy to no longer be able to relate to one dimensional "thinking".
Of course, atheists don't know what they are missing.
Coonified - Thanks, but it's not an approach. Pointing out the way is my job! Just puttin' it out there. I'm always surprised at how many people are determined not to believe the book without ever having cracked it open!
RE not so "polite", if you are talking about me, I’m just following your lead. Basically, you started it.
But you see, I had a similar experience. Let's compare notes:
I was sitting at a “table” with my “family” and some “intruder” tried to tell us we may as well center our lives on a belief in Santa Claus. We have no proof we can test.
Isn't that really what you are trying to say, without actually saying it? By the way, I have proof, it’s been tested, and you can’t possibly talk me out of it.
So who was first operating on caricatures or stereotypes?
Now maybe I went a little overboard. And I could be wrong of course. I’m sorry. I was a little taken aback.
Actually it was this from you I found the most offensive: when you corrected Julie with “humans are…unique arrangements and processes of molecules.”
Well. We are only that or we are not. Isn’t that the question? When a man has reduced himself to a point where he can say that about his fellow man, there’s no reason left that will stop him from treating his fellow man better than a specimen in a Petri-dish. I happen to know he is more than just “cool” or “neat”. Thank God the Founders believed something much more of Man.
Ricky Raccoon - you misunderstand. I don't think people are less amazing or valuable or deserving of respect because I believe that they are vastly complex 'arrangements and processes of molecules'. I just have more admiration for what 'mere physical processes' are capable of.
I can admire and enjoy a rainbow even if I know that it's made up of billions of tiny drops of water, reflecting and refracting light when illuminated at the correct angle. I don't have to think that it's a bridge to Asgard or a pointer to a leprechaun's hoard. (In some ways, knowing what a rainbow is enhances my appreciation of it. If nothing else, it makes them easier to find.)
Johan - one can believe that wills are 'universal' among humans without believing in an Absolute, Universal Will.
Sorceror: Why is that part of being human?
Why can you enjoy anything? Why can you love? Why can you conceive of the number of particles in a rainbow?
You have argued that something is simply because it is. That's not an argument so much as a statement. The trouble with materialistic thinking is that it tries to tackle 'why's that are beyond it's purview.
Your personal level of comfort (which is transient, anyway) of how your worldview and world is does not constitute an argument against anything other than the idea that you MUST be 'religious' to be happy or comfortable.
Knowing wills are universal among humans is one thing, but explaining why is another. One might say (honestly so) 'I don't know!' This is the peak, the very top of natural knowledge. What Bob is often pointing out is that we do know, not because WE figured it out, but because it was given to us as a gift.
Perhaps Bob and the rest of us do know (though we may be impolite about it at times) and maybe you just don't believe us. What of it?
For instance, if man is created in God's image, it is sensible that he should enjoy the fascinating beauty of natural things even if he doesn't know why. He is made to love the beautiful. He need not know the reason, and his lack of knowledge does not disclose God's existence.
Also, humans are masses of molecules with specific, special purposes that they are participating in. So one can not be reduced to the other; we can not say the man is is molecules nor can we say the molecules are the man. You would agree, I suppose? But why this is, is perhaps so basic that it should not need to be discussed.
However, there are those who do just that - New Agers often, but also some materialists, particularly vocal ones. Mostly it is because they have been given a defunct tradition or rejected what they were given (by their free will of course.) Because of this, they have decided to question all assumptions such as that all humans have wills, that something can not be reduced to its parts nor can its parts be conflated to be the whole.
It is obvious that you are not one who disposed of these ideas - since they are indeed, on one hand traditional common sense, and on the other hand, simply sensible.
Where your argument can fail is the idea that because you, who are an atheist, see these things that that must be what Atheism is about; common sense viewing of the world. But the reality is that if you can see the world objectively, you are not the same kind of Atheist as the average person.
Part of what goes on in this site is that people take note of the way the Perennial Truth (which is a way of saying the Tao, the Way, or in reality, Christ Himself) makes sense of all things and allows what is correct to work.
Perhaps it is for many to argue that because it works it is right, but I would simply say that God is true, and real, and good, and that ultimately these are three ways of saying the same thing. God is love, God is light, God is life; these are again three that are like one another.
Though I am as doubting as Thomas, I took to heart the words spoken by Musashi, that is to try to look at the world objectively. If you do so you will see various doctrines departing from the way. But, if you accumulate practice day by day, polishing the twofold spirit heart and mind, and the twofold gaze perception and sight, one will come to the point at which one's vision is not the least bit clouded.
The trouble about the Christian message is and always will be its mythic nature; some of us are lucky because part of our lives were like that of a myth, and then we understood that things could be mythic in character and still be completely real.
Christianity does not contain myths because they are useful, but because they are true.
Lance: Deeper knowledge of what the Divine Mind is reveals that it is the mind of Christ, though those who call themselves Christians - being human - are often incapable of making this reality clear. This is not an argument for, but to point out that the division among those that call themselves Christians is not an argument against Christ.
The real question that has to be asked is what actually makes one a Christian - since there's a definition - and how that helps resolve the above objection.
"On the other hand, I do believe that things can be what you might call 'practically absolute'. We can't be sure in an 'Absolute' sense that the sun will rise in the East tomorrow, but as a practical matter I'd be willing to bet my and my family's lives on it."
Between being out of town last week and starting a new project this week, I've barely had time to keep up with the posts, and it doesn't look like there's much of the troll's left to play with, but let me get a backdated whack in anyway.
What really bugs me about these 'can't say anything absolutely for certain (and please ignore the fact that I just did) ', and 'who know's if the sun will rise' ninny's, is that they pretend upholders of reason, when in fact they are the most base, childish, purveyors of superstition going. Instead of facing up to the task of honestly (difficult to grasp without Truth, I suppose) examining and respecting reality, they hide in their Hume/Kant/Popper scientious 'we can play pretend as long as we can get away with it' basis for imagining reality to be the way they would have made it if THEY would have made it (sooo unfair that they didn't get to). They think they can glance at appearances and declare that to be all there is, excusing themselves from digging any deeper into reality. They pretend that they just can't grasp reality, either because some prankstering wizard (or sorcerer as the case may be) hides it from them and makes them guess (or wish) how it really is, or they pretend that they they don't exist, reason is just a randomly seeded decision generator of which they have no real control over.
Cowards, children and dupes.
River Cocytus - I, do, in fact, say "I dunno" to a lot of questions. I already gave the example that we don't know how a brain gives rise to consciousness... but we also know for sure that naive models that separate brain and mind don't fit with the actual data we have. (See the link in my third response to Julie. Here's another "I dunno".)
But saying "I don't know" is not the same as saying "I won't ever know." Progress in understanding cognition is being made all the time. It's a truism that "Artificial Intelligence is whatever we can't do yet." As soon as something considered to require a 'mind' is solved - e.g. chess - all of a sudden that's not really a hallmark of intelligence.
I admit that it's possible that you're on the right track, but even then, saying that a magical soul or spirit thingie does the thinking isn't an explanation either. How does it manage that?
Further, how am I supposed to differentiate between so many different people making radically different claims in this area?
I'm not challenging or being snide, I'm trying to explain my viewpoint, that's all. (I can recommend, again, Wilson's "Evolution For Everyone" - he also tackles things like appreciation for beauty.)
I don't claim to be a 'typical atheist' - though in my experience, many of my ideas are less uncommon than you might suppose. Lots of people only know atheists from what's said about them rather than what they actually say.
van - I've actually been saying that we can study reality and learn things. Kind of my whole point. And I did say we can say things for certain in realms like mathematics. (I'd say logic, too - I accept 'cogito ergo sum' and such, though I think Anselm's argument has )
Applying that to the real world is the challenge, that's all. There we can't be as utterly certain as we are about, say, the Pythagorean Theorem, but there are things that are, for any realistic purpose, effectively that certain. I think there is an reality out there, even if our understanding of it only approaches it asymptotically. I accept causality, if only because - logic again - rejecting it is logically self-defeating. (That doesn't mean that you have to buy into all of Aristotle's categories, though.)
'Samatter, hon? New project not going like you'd willed it? Good thing you've got old sorcerer to kick around...
sorceror said "It's a truism that "Artificial Intelligence is whatever we can't do yet." As soon as something considered to require a 'mind' is solved - e.g. chess - all of a sudden that's not really a hallmark of intelligence."
What you're doing is equivocating between 'Intelligence' and 'Answers', solutions, etc. Personally, I have little doubt that computers will soon achieve the ability to win the Turing test. Once processor speed and memory limitations are not an issue - and that is pretty much the case now, then it's just a matter of devoting enough developer time to develop distributed engines for parsing grammar with sufficient fuzzy logic and creating sufficient databases of nuanced answer data, to be able to return 'acceptable' conversational answers, and no doubt also the ability to return impressively accurate and truly useful answers, enough to warrant AI machines being installed everywhere you look.
But that's just examples of intelligent humans being's pre-positioning their answers, via code, databases and circuitry, etc, etc, etc. The Turing machine will be nothing more that Human Intelligence stored and accessed through gadgetry.
2+2=4 is not an example of intelligence, though it may be a test of whether someone has intelligence, however returning the correct answer is but the result of logically manipulating electrons through circuits. Calculators do that. Even mechanical adding machines do that. That is not intelligence. That is a sign of physics, not life.
When we have 'I, Robot' roaming around the streets, they will be nothing more that highly advanced abacuses, with no more sign of Life in them than their wooden counterparts. Life is the requirement for Intelligence to have any meaning, and without Life, there is no meaning, only results, and a machines ability to render 2+2=4 is no more a sign of intelligence in and of itself, than a line of domino's tipping over.
Personally, I was quite happy and satisfied in my little 'a' atheism, which dissipated about two years ago, thanks in large part through this blog. Dying, ending, being 'no more' holds no particular terror for me - I'd prefer it not to happen, but if that is how Reality IS, preferring it to be otherwise is a silly exercise in futility. Atheism has no inherent problem with the issue of the human soul, or with Truth or Absolutes (see Ayn Rand for reference), the issue is with whether or not that Soul carries on, and whether there is a larger Soul which suffuses all.
Whether or not 'You' exist, is the most self-evident issue there is - that many seek to evade the fact of it, is a very sad matter, and seeking input from others to validate that you 'Are', is politely speaking, ignorant. You have the most direct access to the facts of the matter available, no one can add more illumination to the issue of you being you. Likewise, the issue of God and Religion, is something which no one can 'give you proof' of, they can help you explore the issue from differing perspectives - One Cosmos is the toppermost of the poppermost there - but only you can see, admit or deny the issue from your own judgment. And Atheism as a belief held on to, will hinder and distort your explorations on the issue – there is much more to experience, if you choose to, and it doesn’t require you to believe the irrational… certainly nothing as foolish as “We can't be sure in an 'Absolute' sense that the sun will rise in the East tomorrow”.
It just takes looking at the matter intelligently. I suggest leaving your adding machines at the door.
"van - I've actually been saying that we can study reality and learn things. Kind of my whole point."
"...I'd say logic, too - I accept 'cogito ergo sum' and such, though I think Anselm's argument has )"
... that's why what you say is not, and can not, mean what you think it means. Follow my previous link for an explanation.
Sorceror said "I accept causality, if only because - logic again - rejecting it is logically self-defeating."
That's not accepting causality, that's tacking epicycles on a superstitous fear of reality. I don't know how to say that without it sounding rude, but for what it's worth, it's not meant to be rude.
"(That doesn't mean that you have to buy into all of Aristotle's categories, though.)"
Aristotles categories were an admirable attempt to grasp the mechanics of thought, and as one of the first to try, a damned impressive attempt - but it falls short.
"I accept causality, if only because - logic again - rejecting it is logically self-defeating."
Logic and causality are not something you accept or not, like a code of conduct, logic is a result of Reality, of Existence, and the direct implications which result because of our grasping it - you can choose not to follow refined methods, such as Aristotle’s, of applying logic to your thought, or refuse to follow logical conclusions consistently, but Causality and Logic are IN your every action and thought, whether or not you accept it.
(Gotta go... database is done rebuilding - darn... haven't even gotten to today's post yet)
I've met an equal measure of honest agnosticism and bitterness in the Atheists I've known.
But what you're arguing isn't Atheism per se, since what I'm arguing isn't 'belief in God' per se.
I don't think that knowing that there is a soul means we don't need to (or should fear) discover how the brain works or what the mind is. I also don't think that religion or lack thereof necessarily changes people's attitude towards learning and discovering new things. An atheistic population would be just as hidebound as a fundamentalist religious population, just trusting different people for their accepted truth.
Also, according to the argument I would give, the way a computer solves chess is entirely different from how a human does. Having studied such things, the computer still does not possess genuine intelligence while the human does. Even so, the intelligence (if any) in the computer is all human either way. Humans were the ones that solved the problem of 'how do I get a machine to play chess?' The machine did not learn it on its own.
I recall an anime wherein a robot was taught to play the piano. He could play as well as any human could. But the real truth was that his maker was a master pianist, and had copied into the machine his idioms for playing. Thus the machine really wasn't playing the piano in the same sense a human would, but simply duplicating in its own way what its master did.
"Further, how am I supposed to differentiate between so many different people making radically different claims in this area?"
"try to look at the world objectively. If you do so you will see various doctrines departing from the way. But, if you accumulate practice day by day, polishing the twofold spirit heart and mind, and the twofold gaze perception and sight, one will come to the point at which one's vision is not the least bit clouded."
The a priori assumption is that things do make sense, truth exists, and are indeed well ordered, and if I see people making contradictory claims I must work to see through the smoke and mirrors to the truth.
If we hold this view, and genuinely seek the Truth, we will indeed find it. People make contradictory claims because they are people.
For instance, many people make contradictory claims about the life of Jesus, what was meant by what he said, and who really teaches what he taught.
It might take a bit of imagination, but think for a moment that there exists a real story of the life of Jesus, in which miraculous things occurred, in which he did appoint apostles, in which they did teach what he taught, and at a certain point they put together a large number of those things into one book and gave it their approval.
Get several people together of different backgrounds and have them read the scripture as literally as they can. Because of their differing experience they will come to different conclusions. Now if you work through the conclusions you'll find that some do not contradict others (as long as they are not taken to be exclusive) while others do.
There must be, then, some way in which this problem was resolved all along? Or did it simply work like this all of the time? For some the explanation that 'oh, people were ignorant and listened to the Bishop' is an end-all-be-all, i.e. that there is only consistency as long as there is some person dictating the truth from on high.
This is not true, though, since the scripture itself contains stories which contain people who had no restriction to speak of the same thing as the others, and yet did.
So indeed, there is some kind of unknown way in which they may be interpreted in which they become coherent, like putting together the pieces of a puzzle. Part of what faith involves is saying, "I think that is the case."
It does take a childlike heart to do so.
As for those who depart the way, depending on how effectively they ape the truth, it may take a long time to figure out that they are either lying, or actually don't have the truth even though they think they do. But the real key is that the person whose heart is right will find it eventually. (Sometimes this is misunderstood as 'the perseverance of the saints', i.e that 'those who are saved' will always persevere to do good.)
Part of the Christian revelation itself is this: The attitude of the heart (which is unknown to anyone but you and God) is what is important in the end. This attitude is what allows one to 'enter in' and commune with God, but it is not merely an emotion (since other people can know your emotions) but rather a deeper state that is difficult to describe.
Or, I could simply answer your question by saying that this or that tradition is correct, but I get the sense that you would find that answer pedestrian. I think that you would need to find out for yourself that very thing.
Where is the yardstick to measure what is true? Oh, I wish there were a simple answer I could give you.
Sorceror - Since you seem compelled to return to this den of raccoons, I am compelled to make you aware that no matter how elaborate a construct you might ever build to shore up your unbelief, you are ultimately without excuse...
PS, that's why it's called Artificial Intelligence. It's artificial!
It is what it says it is, until it actually ceases to be that.
I wish people who made movies understood that a little better. It would make their robot characters a little more interesting.
Wow, you guys are hard on sorcerer, and some of you don't even understand him(or take the time to.) But, that's kind'a shitty to say that, because you don't understand love because it was granted to you by a higher being, that nobody else can actually understand love because they don't appreciate or recognize a higher being. Tell me why being in tune with the 'vertical' is a requirement to experience love. As for your ignorance on knowing who is capable of love, don't pull that bullshit, whoever did it, it wasn't worth knowing you for your ignorance.
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