Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

On not understanding religion

by ThatBritGuy Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 01:01:55 PM EST

Or why I finally lost patience with Dawkins, et al.

A key point - based on a comment made by asdf - which I think is worth bringing out more, because it's not just a footnote, it's the main event.

This is a very sketchy bullet-point diary, but I think it's worth bringing out these ideas because they matter to anyone who's planning a long term campaign for more civilised values.


People need community, and the religions have a huge reproductive (as it were...) advantage because that's what they really provide.

Religious people aren't really defensive about dogma, or evangelical about dogma, no matter how much it seems otherwise. What they're really defensive about is their community and tribe.

So a debate about evolution (or whatever) is really a debate about people they know whom they ay have grown up with, and whom they probably consider family. A debate about whether or not the bible makes any sense at all is really a comment on people whom they see weekly, and perhaps daily. It's also an attack on their identity within their community, because they gain status and security by identifying with the aims and symbols of that community.

Unfortunately for many religions, the communities they create are dysfunctional - abusive, controlling, disconnected from reality, maintained by rage against outsiders, and full of implied personal and social stresses. This means that it's only possible to belong to the community by making huge sacrifices in personal and emotional freedom.

Why does this happen? Because luke-warm religions don't inspire anyone, and soon spiral towards extinction. (q.v the Church of England in the UK, which is a horrible patchwork of middling muddled social tradition and very vague humanitarianism which is very unlikely to survive another century.)

Religions which create buy-in - as the marketing people like to say - are far more compelling than ones that don't. And one of the most powerful kinds of buy-in is shared experience and the sense of belonging to something greater with a destiny to work out. This means religions need to be passionate and reactive and not particularly rational.

Of course the truth is that many spiritual and religious communities seem to be run by cynics, or people with personality disorders.

Even so - when life outside is so alienating, it's often more comfortable to belong to something, no matter how nonsensical, than not. Especially if it's been with you since birth. Reinventing yourself from a background with that kind of pull requires a rare degree of independence.

This is a huge problem for secular humanists. We have nothing to offer that's even remotely comparable, because even if we did organise skiing trips and sex education (which most likely wouldn't be allowed anyway) it's difficult to see how this would inspire that passionate sense of belonging and participation.

This is exactly where rationalists like Dawkins et al. miss the point. Their faith (sic) tells them that attacking the beliefs which bind these communities in intellectual terms will persuade believers to change their minds.

This is never going to work, because the beliefs are just a convenient excuse. They don't make sense because they don't have to make sense. Making sense isn't what matters to believers - (certum est, quia impossibile) - it's about the feelings, not the ideas.

This is important for progressives, because any new progressive narrative has to inspire people to feel like they're an active part of it - not in a negative oppositional way, or in a shaming way, but in a welcoming way which gives people a sense of explicit inclusion.

The Left has been very bad at this, which seems to be one reason - among others - why so many wingers loathe libruls with such an intensity. The Left typically tries to make its point with a combination of rational argument and slightly superior guilt-tripping. But many people don't do rational argument at all, so all they see and feel are the guilt trips. Which is why we now have a substantial community of people who believe that anything politically correct - which is often shorthand for progressive ideals - is inherently bad.  

But it's not all bad news. The wingers could - with some time and effort - be persuaded to belong to something else, if it's presented in the right kind of inclusive way.

It's belonging that will sell them on new ideals, and I think there's a real need for it at the moment. What made the old left influential was exactly this social element. People knew each other personally, and were willing to support each other personally. Marxism provided that sense of belonging and destiny, and - no matter how irrational it was, and how easily subverted - it created an influential movement which resulted in a social push-back.

Today one of the strangest things that has happened over the last decade or so is that civilised values have almost become a taboo. Treating people with civility and kindness, and without narcissistic get-ahead cynicism, is seen as some kind of shocking reversion to pre-Randian barbarian values.

As an exercise in social engineering, it's interesting to wonder what would happen if these elements could be blended to produce a narrative that included elements of belonging, solidarity, subversive civility, and progressive teleology packaged as destiny.

Display:
Sketchy bullet points, my ass.  This is a fantastic diary.

(Er, sorry, arse.)

So what we need to do is... start a cult? ;-)

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 01:27:34 PM EST
That, and buy some mass media.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 01:46:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was going to say that.. yeah buy media, buy media, buy media.. and once we have enough media and all the narratives we have developed here are given light..then pay for scholars, pay for scholars...or loof for the next Isaac Asimov.. the next Carl Sagan.. we need them... we need that being a Carl sagan gets you more prestige than winning the Nobel Price... and we need it to make it easy.

we need these guys.. we neeed the people who infuse science with magic and present the hows in a wodnerful accuarate and metaphoric way and open new possibilitites for the why questions.. becasue answering the "why me"; "why we are here", "why is everything like that" creates the social bonding we need: the social bonding that our left-wing principles need.

But first, buy media.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 04:52:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well I don't know that "we" need to start a cult. (Mind you, The Elucidated Brethren of Caol Ila perhaps?)

However, those who really believe that secular values need to displace religious ones in society certainly need to think about what that means institutionally and critically how that framework likely cannot be provided by the state and as such will have to actually, attract and "provide value" to people.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 02:42:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ooooh, I'd join that.  Except... um, can a woman join a brethren?  The Elucidated Siblinghood just doesn't have the same ring to it.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 03:12:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Brethren and Sisteren then ;-)

Communion should be fun in the new religion.  ;-)

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 04:04:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Don't have priests, in the Catholic Church they hand out wafers and keep the drink for themselves.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 04:42:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We'd better have landlords instead then.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 04:46:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is an excellent diary, I like the way you connect the feel of belonging to a religious community to the lessons politics could learn.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 01:41:22 PM EST
Yes (thinking of the final paragraph). But I'd take your description of the old Marxist left a step further and (as is often said in France of the old CP) point out that it had strong religious elements. They were belonging... and a certain kind of progressive teleology (one could fairly add eschatology with the inevitable demise of capitalism, the coming reign of the proletariat, etc). And I see the difficulty for us in precisely that element: what progressive teleology?

Otherwise, a quibble: religious groups do care about doctrine, immensely. Which doesn't detract from your other points about community, belonging, etc -- nor the point that rational criticism is unlikely to be persuasive.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 01:57:48 PM EST
Yes, I think the reason Marxism succeeded was because of those elements. You almost have a complete set - bad evil people on one side, heroic missionaries on the other, and the promise of an inevitable paradise.

As for doctrine - people appear to, but only as cover. Historically, many doctrinal disputes have really been about tribal status and loyalties. It's always fun to read history from the middle ages and Renaissance where furious supposedly-religious debates - like the one about the date of Easter which killed off Celtic Christianity in Britain - are clearly all about who is top dog.

The Marxists did a lot of the same thing, of course. Doctrinal struggles were really either individual or tribal power struggles.

The point isn't the details of the doctrine, but the social dynamics, and especially who's considered inside and in charge and who's considered out. They're about tribal markers, not disinterested intellectual curiosity.

afew:

And I see the difficulty for us in precisely that element: what progressive teleology?

The key point. We don't. Or at least, we don't have a positive one - only a negative one which says that if people don't behave, the Earth will spank them and send them to bed without supper.

We don't need to start a cult. But I think we do need to work out a way to start promising people paradise.

It has to be a realistic-ish paradise, for the sake of our own integrity. But framing debates about sustainability as a movement towards a paradise that can be gained rather than as something negative to be avoided is going to make a huge difference to the cultural stickiness of the practical measures that are going to be needed.

The right already has this. Capitalism implicitly promises a trickle-down paradise of perfect individual freedom of choice and infinitely expandable living standards.

The far right uses a similar frame for immigration, suggesting that if it weren't for [these outsiders] paradise would be possible.

So progressives need to start using similar frames. A tougher trick would be to sell the new frame back to the right, co-opting their memes and replacing them with this progressive teleology.

I'm not sure how you'd do that, but it's beginning to look more and more like a necessity if big changes are going to happen with a minimum of friction.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 01:31:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As far as I'm concerned, I don't care that people are religious, or go to church, whether for values, social life, mataphysical solace or other. It's their life.

The problem is when they start saying that you have to be part of their community, or else be labelled deviant or enemy or traitor or something similar. Proselytism comes there, but so do claims that people cannot really have ethics without faith, and so do claims to get involved in political life.

I'll say it again - I want the absolutes of religion outside of the life of the city, because they inevitably bring 'ends justify the means' principles.

The question is not whether we respect their choices. It's whether religious people respect ours, and do not treat us as inferior beings.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 02:21:51 PM EST
I think from a French perspective there is also the issue of not recognizing a community smaller than the State or an identity smaller then the Nation. And while there may be good reasons why the State or the Nation may not wish to recognize smaller communities as political agents, that doesn't mean that those communities don't exist in the eyes of the people who are within and outside them, nor that they don't have sociological and political effects.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 02:38:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is the reason why we used to have a state-run church (we abolished it in 2000 I think). Which also had the nice effect of making everyone detest organized religion.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 03:46:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Jerome a Paris:
The question is not whether we respect their choices. It's whether religious people respect ours, and do not treat us as inferior beings.

I think it's more that religious thinking is a kind of process, and it can be co-opted in either progressive or reactionary directions.

Or to put it another way - wouldn't you rather they were on your side than not?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 01:59:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Dawkins is just another argumentative asshole, as far as I can see, and Hitchens is worse (his atheism has become a thin veil for Islamophobia). Dawkins' entire simplistic religion as an evil meme 'theory' is based upon begging the question.

But most of the time, religious people are really not attacked directly, especially in the US. They develop some kind of martyr syndrome because the rules of their community are not reproduced throughout the entire society, and because their children are given certain rights that the religious people do not want them to have, and taught certain facts that the religious people do not want them to be taught.

It's not about an intellectual challenge, or asshole atheists like Dawkins. It's about maintaining and expanding a system of social control.

This is not that different from what you are saying. Where I think you are unclear is on the question who is challenging whom. By and large, the challenge today comes from religious people.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 02:24:49 PM EST
I agree completely on your characterisation of Dawkins, and I would like to bring over a comment by kcurie because it seems like since Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov died there isn't really anyone out there communicating science in the way it should be.
Closing the argument, I would say that the great reason why science is failing to provide anything more than an "auctoritas" or failing to explain that in science there should be no other authority than your rational mind applying a set of tools and concepts to the external world is the lack of people with a huge background of all sciences and of fairy-telling and oral communication/anthropology in particular. There are no scholars explaining the how questions and giving new possibilities for the "why" questions... there are no good philosophers that know what they are talking about when they talk about science, and there are no good scientific scholars which are given money and prestige to explain science in philosophical or magical ways.
[quoted with some slight edits]

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 02:35:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I must say for the record that this closing argument was not at all mine.. it was actually the end point of a wonderful conversation tha I started with Migeru when he was here in Barcelona. and that we followed up later.. it was one of those "it is so great to a be a ET member"...Two differnet poitns of view actually merging and making more sense when after one afternoon and some drinks you realize that they are actually one idea.

So, I must say this conclusion does not belong to me, nor to Migeru.. it belongs to "us".... because actually it was made by this wonderful and magic thing: social interchange of  ideas...:)

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 04:47:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We had the same TV...

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 05:52:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think those philosophers are out there, they're just being roundly ignored by everyone else, including (too often) by the scientists themselves.

I have a good friend who was maybe 80 percent of the way through a PhD in philosophy with a focus on the philosophy of physics.  He was at one of the top programs for study of such things, and was doing very well in it.  He quit, partly (but not entirely) because he realized that he would be spending the rest of his career writing papers that would be read by maybe five people.  In other words -- he'd be doing all this hard work to address "why" questions, but to what end, if those answers are never considered by anyone outside a narrow field of specialization?  He came to feel that there are better ways for him to deal with the "why" questions while not relegating those answers to abject obscurity. And that's a systemic problem -- not just a problem for this one guy.

In centuries past, it was possible for people to be "Renaissance Men" (or, less frequently then, women) who could be quite up-to-date and literate in the latest scientific advances, as well as the contemporary literary or artistic modes of expression -- these things were not seen as mutually exclusive, but on the contrary, advances in each were propelled and fueled by advances in the others.  Literature and art and philosophy -- especially philosophy -- have always been inspired or informed by technology and science, and in the past it was considered admirable for a person to be able to move back and forth between these "worlds" fluently.  That is no longer the case.  Now, too often, such people are viewed with suspicion from both "worlds."

We specialize now; science has advanced and expanded to the degree that even practicioners of one branch of the sciences can have trouble comprehending the latest research in another branch; artists and writers and philosophers (to the degree that we still have philosophers) are even less likely to try to do so (but, I want to emphasize, are not inherently unable to do so) and are more often finding their inspiration elsewhere; the people who deal with "why" questions for a living are increasingly alienated from those who deal with the question of "how," and vice versa.  I am not interested in whose fault this is, but I do wish that I saw more of a concerted effort to change it.

This is why I have a problem with these proponents of right-brain-left-brain theories, which have included some of my former schoolteachers, even one of the (otherwise) best and most inspirational teachers I've ever had.  As a student, I kept being presented over and over and over with this idea that I had to choose -- are you good at science and math, or are you good at writing and literature and history?  And the truth is, I have an aptitude for both, but this manner of approaching the world (and it is a manner of approaching the world, not just learning) imposed this artificial dilemma -- which am I?  It's not that I regret my choice, so much, it's that I regret the fact that I was told I had to choose, and believed it.

</rant>

Wow, uh, sorry for the diatribe.  Not sure where that came from.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 03:41:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Coincidences : I read this blog post in my RSS feeds yesterday...

Philosophie et sociologie des sciences pour le chercheur - Enro, scientifique et citoyen Science sociology and philosophy for the scientist
Comme le répète sans arrêt une des mes profs, le chercheur typique ne connaît rien à la philosophie des sciences et encore moins à la sociologie des sciences. Et quand il connaît Bruno Latour, il ne l'aime pas du tout. Je ne serais pas si catégorique mais il est difficile de s'exprimer au nom du chercheur moyen, surtout quand on lit trop les blogs de certains chercheurs qui regorgent d'allusions à ces auteurs ou leurs théories. As one of my teachers constantly repeats, the typical scientist knows nothing about science philosophy and even less about science sociology. And when he knows Bruno Latour, he absolutely doesn't like him. I wouldn't be as categorical, but it is hard to talk in the name of the average scientist, especially when one reads too much some scientists' blogs which are full of allusions to these authors and their theories.
Heureusement, les chercheurs curieux ou avides de réflexivité existent, comme le prouve le témoignage de Bertil Sylvander (Inra) au moment de son départ à la retraite : Thankfully, curious and reflection hungry scientists exist, as is proved by Bertil Sylvander's text at the time of his retirement :

Part of the problem is doing anything that is not relegated to obscurity. Many researchers face the same problem...

Another aspect is that, beyond the obscurity of such subjects, fewer and fewer people care about the why ; that is not a social value nowadays. I have a distinct feeling for example economists don't really have a solid epistemology ; and they don't feel any need for it. Politicians now care about being elected rather than "the good of the country". People will have no problems working for weapons makers... A society defined by money exchange cares not about the why, as l'argent n'a pas d'odeur - money has no smell.


Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 04:53:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know that much about philosophy of physics done by philosophers, but philosophers of mathematics seem stuck with Hilbert's formalism and Goedel's theorem.

This Week's finds in Mathematical Physics: week198

While in Hong Kong, I received a copy of a very interesting book:

1) David Corfield, Towards a Philosophy of Real Mathematics, Cambridge U. Press, Cambridge, 2003. More information and part of the book's introduction available at http://www-users.york.ac.uk/~dc23/Towards.htm

I should admit from the start that I'm completely biased in favor of this book, because it has a whole chapter on one of my favorite subjects: higher-dimensional algebra. Furthermore, Corfield cites me a lot and says I deserve "lavish praise for the breadth and quality of my exposition". How could I fail to recommend a book by so wise an author?

That said, what's really special about this book is that it shows a philosopher struggling to grapple with modern mathematics as it's actually carried out by its practitioners. This is what Corfield means by "real" mathematics. Too many philosophers of mathematics seem stuck in the early 20th century, when explicitly "foundational" questions - questions of how we can be certain of mathematical truths, or what mathematical objects "really are" - occupied some the best mathematicians. These questions are fine and dandy, but by now we've all heard plenty about them and not enough about other equally interesting things. Alas, too many philosophers seem to regard everything since Goedel's theorem as a kind of footnote to mathematics, irrelevant to their loftier concerns (read: too difficult to learn).



We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 05:55:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the stormy present:
This is why I have a problem with these proponents of right-brain-left-brain theories, which have included some of my former schoolteachers, even one of the (otherwise) best and most inspirational teachers I've ever had.  As a student, I kept being presented over and over and over with this idea that I had to choose -- are you good at science and math, or are you good at writing and literature and history?  And the truth is, I have an aptitude for both, but this manner of approaching the world (and it is a manner of approaching the world, not just learning) imposed this artificial dilemma -- which am I?  It's not that I regret my choice, so much, it's that I regret the fact that I was told I had to choose, and believed it.
There are too many people on both sides of this divide who either don't know any better or have an interest in preserving the divide.

It leads to people in the humanities being completely innumerate, the mathematical equivalent of never having heard the name of Shakespeare or not being able to understand a newspaper article. It also lends to people in science and engineering who can't write to save their lives, even though they may spend a substantial amount of their professional life writing reports.

The reality of mathematics is that there is a lot of writing and that formulas are shorthand, except when one engages in calculation which is considered inelegant. But I am reminded of one time when two professors from teh University came to my high school to make a presentation about the university access examination and the one from the humanities, after stressing the importance of writing clearly and without errors she said something to the effect of "of course, in the science exams you don't need that. The other professor was a Mathematics professor I had met earlier and we looked at each other in horror - all you do in a math exam is write long streams of reasoning.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 06:06:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Shakespeare who?

;)

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 08:35:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have a friend who also got most of the way through a PhD in philosophy and never finished. The conversations I have had with her are fascinating.  It's an area I'd love to be able to spend more time on.  It helps me to understand things better, even my own specialist areas.  

There's a failure often to understand people and the dynamics of societies and communities and that limits the potential of developing specialisms and their impact - whether it is humanities or science or anything else.

Politics especially.  How many policies are formed that take no account of how society actually works?

I too wasn't happy with having to make the decision between science and humanities/arts.  I'm an all rounder and did science because I was told to in terms of giving me better career prospects.  I don't regret that for a minute since in physics especially I was able to lose myself in a whole new world.

But now I'm older, I find myself consciously developing other skills to create a better balance and a broader understanding of the world around me. Social policy, politics, photography and art - from a science trained brain.  Both sides compliment each other well.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 08:07:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In Wales:
Politics especially.  How many policies are formed that take no account of how society actually works?

Unfotunately there are no reliable theories of how society actuallyworks.

The best the Left came up with was Critical Theory, which is a kind of ritualised distilled Marxism, inbred with semiotics and a lot of quoting.

It's completely useless for real social policy.

The absense of a real theory is why the Chicago jackasses were able to fill the vacuum with their neo-liberal monetarist nonsense. Which is why we're here now debunking the same old talking points about 'reform' when we could be doing something useful.

There have been some attempts to model policy statistically in an empirical and disinterested way, rather than making a priori assumptions about it. But the social sciences are still treated as humanities, not as sciences, which means real research isn't common.

If you want to look at social engineering, talk to the CIA. They seem to have a better idea of how to do it than anyone else at the moment - even if it's only on ad hoc Skinnerian basis, with crude aims manipulated by even cruder means.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 01:47:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I understand that discourse is conflicted and what we ought to do with society depends on where you may sit on the political spectrum and your vision of what society should look like - but some policies totally lack even a little bit of common sense.  They seem to completely bypass the fact that we are dealing with people, individuals and groups. Bush vetoing the welfare bill is an example.  What about people and their lives?  He can only see $$$$$$.

Never being able to start from a blank slate makes the process really complicated and so many things intertwine.
Psychology, sociology, economics, politics, anthropology, history... a narrow focus fails to make creative connections. So useless social policies.

But going back to the analogy of religion inspiring, banding people together, and politics.  Blair's '97 election win came about partly because of that strength of feeling, being inspired, following a leader who promised us that things can only get better.  

I think some of the lacklustre in the UK at the moment is because the 'left' have been in power for so long.   It's much harder to maintain inspiration and motivation  and a sense of belonging when you are actually running the country rather than rallying the crowds in opposition to the latest evils of a Tory Government.  

Now the 'left' are no longer much distinguishable from the right and where are the critical masses to oppose this in an organised way?  Who is rallying the troops from the left? Who or what am I meant to put my faith in now?

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 02:19:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This rant is so right on so many levels that I do nto know where to start...

Why oh why theya re not promoted, the structure for this stuff as Migerus says is pure bulls***.

Why this dichotomy.. why not big careers for them.. why not people doing physics and philosophy at the same time..

Philosophers which master physics and antrhopology and math should be rewarded with scholarships... to be sholars!!!

And we should have th media to publish and project those ideas...

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 08:34:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In France, until the 60s, you had to have a university level in Science before studying Philosophy. That explains why you have a generational effect: usually old philosophers have a solid scientific culture whereas the young ones are closer to literature studies.

By the way, there have been a good number of philosophers working in the field of Philosophy of Science. The best know are Thomas S. Kuhn and Karl Popper, but you have also Henri Bergson, Gaston Bachelard, Ludovico Geymonat, Paul Feyerabend, Imre Lakatos and more recently, Michel Foucault, Edgar Morin and Michel Serres (and probably many I don't know of...).

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 09:47:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sokal for kicks...
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 10:15:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
They all miss the knwoledge of story-telling and anthropology that Sagan and Asimov had.. they really made huge advacnes for the scientific community to become more open, for sure, they all have created a tendency for science to speak out... Kuhn specially.. he only introduce social since into science creation brilliantly... so i guess all the pushback  agains attacks on science and organization to explain out science has come thanks to this openess...

but we still need the Sagans and Asimovs... :)

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 11:52:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is all story-telling.

I think there's very little point trying to teach most people to do science, because many of them either can't do it, aren't interested, or both.

But story-telling is hugely influential. A narrative that resonates is a very powerful force for change.

This confuses hard-core scientific types, because narrative thinking is pre-rational. It doesn't make sense in rational terms.

But it does make sense in social terms - especially in terms of values, status, aims, and relationships. And if you want to reach the majority of the population, stories have to be pitched at that level using the kinds of concepts and narrative lines that make people feel a part of the story.

Unfortunately much of the population still seems to see rationality as a a slightly frightening skill which they don't entirely understand and which makes them feel uncomfortable.

They can offer opinions, but they won't be deeply thought out opinions, they'll often be quoted verbatim from 'authorities' (qv the media) and they'll have a pre-rational value basis.

But give them a good story and make them feel they're at least as important to it as you are, and they'll be with you instantly.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 02:11:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed it is "story telling" ie the "Narrative" from which everything flows.

Pirsig again, in "Zen etc"

Religion isn't invented by man. Men are invented by religion. Men invent responses to Quality, and among these responses is an understanding of what they themselves are. You know something and then the Quality stimulus hits and then you try to define the Quality stimulus, but to define it all you've got to work with is what you know.

So your definition is made up of what you know. It's an analogue to what you already know. It has to be. It can't be anything else. And the mythos grows this way. By analogies to what is known before.

and then this, from the pivotal moment in the book

All this is just an analogy.

Fantastic, Phædrus thinks, that he should have remembered that. It just demolishes the whole dialectical position. That may just be the whole show right there. Of course it's an analogy. Everything is an analogy. But the dialecticians don't know that.

...and one of the consequences - as we have explored here often enough - is that to change anything we have to change the narrative, and in doing so, in moving from Rhetoric to Reality, we reinvent religion...


"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Jan 1st, 2008 at 06:38:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
and it is universal.. not a single documented culture where it does not exist.

A pleasure


I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Tue Jan 1st, 2008 at 03:55:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Great diary.

I lost patience with Dawkins almost immediately simply because he comes across (in his media ramblings, I am told he's different in person) as just another upper class smug git product of the British system. I don't think hectoring people in such a manner works all that well.

It's important because as a political community (as opposed perhaps to a philosophical one?) we have a duty to work with the reality of how people are. It is true that education in various UK schools (for example) could well stand some revision to be more neutral about religion, better equipping people to make their own choices.

But even if we were magically in power to implement that policy and even if the secular humanist view was persuasive, the reality of the next 60 years of politics would be that of a substantial class of believers who need to be engaged with on all sorts of grounds to assemble a progressive consensus on various issues.

Now there will always be segments of the religious community who cannot "play well with others" but at the same time it is important not to make atheism a pre-requisite of being a progressive, IMO.

I very much personally support the notion however that one thing progressives could usefully do for themselves, but also for civil society is build a social support system and set of communities that isn't based on religion but gives people a community to anchor in.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 02:47:33 PM EST
I agree with you entirely on Dawkins et. al.  I continue to be amazed (uh, recent events notwithstanding) at how many otherwise intelligent people can fail to realize that haranguing someone is not a great way to change his or her mind, but just makes them dislike you.

Now there will always be segments of the religious community who cannot "play well with others" but at the same time it is important not to make atheism a pre-requisite of being a progressive, IMO.

I think that's a very important point, and it's one of the reasons why, despite being non-religious myself, I joined Street Prophets as soon as it was launched, because I thought it was really important that such a venture be successful.  As someone who is not religious, who comes from a country where the dominant political discourse has become very, very religious -- and more explicitly, very, very Christian -- my view was that the only way to negate religion as a political tool is to make it basically something that doesn't give one side or the other an advantage.

That plan could, of course, backfire, and just contribute to the overall Christianization of U.S. politics, but then I don't know what to do.

I very much personally support the notion however that one thing progressives could usefully do for themselves, but also for civil society is build a social support system and set of communities that isn't based on religion but gives people a community to anchor in.

Yes, I support that too.  And in a way, that's sort of what (I feel) we're doing here at ET... sometimes more successfully than other times, but that's how things go.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 03:30:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree with you entirely on Dawkins et. al.  I continue to be amazed (uh, recent events notwithstanding) at how many otherwise intelligent people can fail to realize that haranguing someone is not a great way to change his or her mind, but just makes them dislike you.

This does not feel right at all.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Mon Jan 7th, 2008 at 04:23:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
but at the same time it is important not to make atheism a pre-requisite of being a progressive, IMO.

There is absolutely no fear of this happening at all. On the other hand the left could cut off its nose to spite its face and the religious progressives and the atheist progressives could never speak to one another except to hurtle insults.

As mentioned in a different response - think of people like Dorothy Day - and lets add Martin Luther King.

aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 03:41:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I found Dawkins far more sympathetic after reading his book: The god delusion. It was quite funny, I though. And I though he made some very good points...
For example: We have all these religiouns more or less explicitly claiming to be the Truth, which means they think the other ones are Wrong, and this is more or less okay. Making a similar statement, the Athiest is accused of smug superiority and of being condescending and patronizing. Unlike say Catholics, we do not condemn people to an Eternity in Hell for disagreement. Now, the Catholic position seems the rather smugger one to me, assuming as it does an eternity of suffering for those of other or no faith.
(Possibly the religious know something (ie. us Athiests are Right) and are just unhappy to admit it, and hate to have it pointed out? Why else would this be such a sore spot for them?)
No, atheism should never be a prereq for a particular political direction. But I see no reason why Faith and Religion should be these great Untouchable subjects about which we are not allowed to make disagreeing statements but must proceed with uttermost care and delicacy and tolerance or feelings gets hurt.
by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 03:45:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, rationality itself isn't enough, it doesn't inspire. What we need is a charismatic leader with a simple, easily communicated message of social improvement, something like a modernised version of this should do the trick, one people want to believe in without necessarily having to understand the implications; we need a Barack Obama for the mind.

Course, we've had demgoguic leaders before, Lenin, Stalin, Hitler & Mao seemed able to whip up an a-religious frenzy. Sadly for us, not to much different result from the voodoo muck-spreaders.

Sigh.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 02:59:53 PM EST
Helen:
Yes, rationality itself isn't enough, it doesn't inspire.
Science also has an inspiring narrative, propagated in popular writings about the history of science, which is a sort of creation myth with prophets and saints and martyrs and all that. Nobody actually tells young people what the actual day to day practice of science is like, because it would be too discouraging :-)

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 03:34:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You're kidding.

I'll trade the scientific method any day for the trivial and utterly boring dogmatic narratives of the religious. Spreading scribbled pages all over the room as you purportedly do beats kneepad and carpet mumbling.

But don't get me wrong that the two can be remotely compared. Science and religion are not bedfellows. To compare the two only legitimizes religion as a false alternative. Conversely, it's not science's pretence to offer some sort of ultimate truth or reality. Leave that sort of hubris to the Believers.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 05:49:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, I'm not kidding.

I'm talking about the fact that scientists form a community (or several) and that any community has its myths: stories they tell themselves about the community and that hold the community together.

In many ways the way the history of science is presented to young people as a recruiting tool reminds me of the way that young children only hear about the biblical stories that sound like harmless fairy tales or adventure stories. The grisly details of sexual depravity, cruelty and the vengeful and capricious God of the Old Testament, or the deeply mysoginous writings of Paul or the cultish protection racket that was the early Church are not mentioned and are only discovered later in life, when the person is vested in the community.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 06:00:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In many ways the way the history of science is presented to young people as a recruiting tool reminds me of the way that young children only hear about the biblical stories that sound like harmless fairy tales or adventure stories. The grisly details of sexual depravity, cruelty and the vengeful and capricious God of the Old Testament, or the deeply mysoginous writings of Paul or the cultish protection racket that was the early Church are not mentioned and are only discovered later in life, when the person is vested in the community.

Please tell more about those grisly details of science :-)
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 07:41:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know about grisly but it can be very boring.

I've spent months on end in the lab doing mind-numbing repetitive experiments just to create one graph.  But when it works, and it all slots together in my head and I can see what is in front of me, it's amazing.  Ironically, it can take a lot of faith to keep going in the hope that those moments will materialise.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 08:10:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The grisly parts have to do mostly with priority disputes, senior scientists stealing credit from junior scientist or even students, disputes over funding and hiring, power plays in departments, doctoring of data...

But if you want really grisly a biography of Newton would be a good read.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 08:16:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Very true, but power games and corruption of that kind occur everywhere.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 08:20:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I prefer Lakatos' account of Newton's discoveries, what he called the heuristics of scientific investigation. My comment may not have conveyed the field of my argument which refers only to your comment:
Nobody actually tells young people what the actual day to day practice of science is like, because it would be too discouraging :-)

Which recalls Helen:
Yes, rationality itself isn't enough, it doesn't inspire.

I'm not discussing the backbiting and low blows that characterize all human activity, not just the sciences. Therefore I see no reason to single out this behaviour as pertinent to scientific endeavour.

So, to be more precise: Rationality and all that derives is far more inspiring. Rationality sets the necessary constraints to creativity. As for the day to day practice of science, the heuristics necessary to confront theory with facts, it's hard work, frustrating and exalting, but not boring.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 08:56:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree with all you say but for the last 3 words.  The day to day practice really can be very boring indeed.  

When you have put together hundreds of chemical solutions to do the same experiment for each one with repeat readings for each, all having to be done manually, requiring no let up in concentration and taking from 8am through to 9pm without anything but short breaks and taking many weeks to complete - then come back and tell me the process isn't boring!  

I far preferred working in a factory because I could do my tasks without thinking about them which left my brain free to wander to more interesting things.

I suppose that any chosen career will have it's dull periods though.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 09:05:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I get your point. Fortunately I'm at an age where I can delegate the grunt work in my profession if I feel the need. I however am very glad I went through that stage. It does build discipline and craft.

As I'm a chronic life-long daydreamer I still manage to think outside the task at hand despite necessary attention. Too much concentration is detrimental in my case. I'm prone to step out of my immediacy and monitor muscular tension or my movements as I work, or at times what is going on in my mind. A sort of silent meta-thinking that I greatly enjoy.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 10:13:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I enjoy that but when I let my mind wander I would lose count or get the concentration wrong which required starting over again and wasting a day's work.

It was good for discipline and hones attention to detail but, I much prefer day dreaming. Some of my best ideas have emerged from a wandering brain.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 10:22:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A wandering brain is far more creative. Focusing goes sterile but sort of leaves the problem to be solved lurking around for the wondering brain to tackle.

Nothing beats daydreaming!

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 12:25:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If we could only get Edwards's thorough policies with Obama's ability to whip people up into a frenzy with all the cheesy hope stuff.  It would be almost too good.  We could finally put an end to psychotic Republican deification rituals before Congress pushes through the Ronald Reagan Memorial Solar System.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 08:44:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am not sure who the undamaged people are who are out there. Perhaps it is true that we are somehow fundamentally different than "normal" people.

I know that we have explicitly talked about creating a faith out of damaged bricks. Perhaps if we are different than "normal" people, then normal people have failed to provide for our needs.

I am quite happy to see some qualifiers placed when talking about what religion is, and would congratulate you for putting them in.

It is something you haven't touched on, but very strong left wing movements have come out of, or been lead by people coming out of religion. Think of Dorothy Day for example.


aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 03:29:47 PM EST
Let the undamaged bricks throw the first stone.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 03:31:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Groan.

:)

aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 03:37:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Brilliant..

You are just brilliant.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 04:37:46 PM EST
This is a huge problem for secular humanists. We have nothing to offer that's even remotely comparable, because even if we did organise skiing trips and sex education (which most likely wouldn't be allowed anyway) it's difficult to see how this would inspire that passionate sense of belonging and participation.

Where I grew up, in France, there was an "Amicale Laïque" (Secular Friendship) that organised ski trips and many other activities... The reason rugby is so prominent in the SouthWest in France is because the Catholics organised football-related activities there ; the anticlerical groups thus organised rugby to also have an activity...

One of the big failures of Representative democracy is that at no point do people actually get together and discuss matters ; a more direct, participative democracy could provide that feeling of community by regularly gathering people. Of course, the main obstacle that such community democracy faces right now is that of time, which for most is too prominently spent in employment, which can't provide that kind of community feeling...

We need Soviets !

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 04:40:15 PM EST
Or kibbutzim.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 05:57:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The inspiration that modern civilization is missing often comes from a psychological state resembling the Spiritual.  That modern quantum mechanics has already broached the seeming divide between Science and Spirit is now legion, beginning with the Einstein Podolsky Rosen gedanken experiment.  "God does not play dice with the universe."  When Arthur Koestler wrote about "The Great Chain of Being," he didn't know beans about Heisenberg or Galois mathematics, or Wheeler's alternate universes.  But he tapped into the hidden European tradition of the mystical, just another example of where inspiration comes from.

Some people interpret this state as Spiritual, though for the last few decades we're seeing physicists run screaming from their labs in a Eureka moment.  Like Alain Aspect's third experiment, where testing Bell's Inequalities confirmed quantum theory, but thereby also presupposed action at a distance.

As a species, we are moving very quickly away from religion, dead mumbo jumbo, toward a place where the Spiritual is confirmed by Science.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 07:21:05 PM EST
I (predictably) disagree.

Crazy Horse:

Like Alain Aspect's third experiment, where testing Bell's Inequalities confirmed quantum theory, but thereby also presupposed action at a distance.
You only need to pressupose action at a distance if you accept Einstein's idea of elements of reality. But the fact is that apart from the Bell Inequalities (which show that QM is incompatible with local realism) there are other predictions of Quantum Mechanics such as the Hardy and the  Kochen-Specker theorems which show that Einsteinian hidden variables not only need to be nonlocal but also contextual and non-counterfactual. To be honest, I prefer to say that Einstein's hidden variables don't exist. I have written about this before: The world is weirder than you ever thought on May 29th, 2006.

Maybe I should write something about what Wheeler's alternate universes (are you talking about the misnamed "Many Worlds Interepretation" of QM by Everett, who gave it the more sensible name of "Relative State Interpretation"?) are not.

Einstein's philosophical prejudice that God doesn't play dice has been very fruitful by stimulating research into the foundations of Quantum Mechanics but, for my money, it has ultimately been shown to be wrong.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 07:35:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Fran on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 01:45:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There was nothing spiritual about the church I grew up in...it was just a bunch of unhappy folks.

Watching the sunrise while driving up the pacific coast highway near big sur...now that's the church that gets me "what I need."

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 03:33:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Um... which direction does the sun rise from on the west coast of America?  These days in Norway, it comes up from the south (sets in the south, too), so I have an open mind about such things.
by Andhakari on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 07:52:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, he didn't say he was watching it rise over the ocean, just watching it rise.  It does have to come up, even on the West Coast....
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 08:05:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It has been empirically proven that the sun does indeed rise in Cali, and there is no finer place to see it than from the heights of Big Sur.  (When the fog isn't rolling in, sunsets over the ocean can be even more spectacular.)  One of my favorite places in the world, because the world is so far away.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 08:22:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, if you're going to bring up standards of empirical proof in the context of a discussion of religion I may as well give up now.
I've been to California a number of times, including Big Sur, and although I do seem to recall the sun rising on most days (not so often the case here in Norway) I have no recollection of which direction it might have risen from.  I will accept the contention that sun does not always rise from the sea, however.
by Andhakari on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 09:56:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Big Sur is about 36 degrees North. Oslo is about 60 degrees North. The earth's axis is tilted by 23 degrees. Of course the sun rises and sets from the South in Norway: you're at most 7 degrees south of the terminator at this time of year.

See Lo The Darkness by rg on December 19th, 2007.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 08:21:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is the essence of my dissatisfaction with this discussion: a lack of definition of terms.  Religion is not the opposite of science.  Science is not something to BELIEVE in: it is a method for understanding and describing the objective universe.  Mathematics is a language we use to quantify and understand the data we objectively collect.  Mathematical and scientific theories are systems for understanding the objective universe, and they are fundamentally not static or immutable.
Religion is many things, and it is different from society to society, but it is certainly not spirituality, although that may be a component of the greater framework.n
Nor is religion the opposite of atheism.  If atheism is the denial of god, then it is at least as irrational as faith.  The proof of a negative proposition is a logical impossibility.  Faith in an objectively unprovable proposition (god and soul)may be un-logical, but it is not necessarily illogical.
Most religions include a dogma as a more or less arbitrary set of game rules for human behavior and a mythology to explain and justify the legitimacy of those rules.  This is not spiritual faith.  Dogma is more about defining the membership and purpose of a club than about ones subjective spiritual understanding of the self and ones purpose within creation.
It's hard to have a coherent discussion about a subject as diverse as "religion" when the word invokes so many thoughts and emotions.  I hope I haven't added too much mud to the water.
by Andhakari on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 07:40:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
At one point, to do science you have to believe in some induction...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 08:05:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, but using induction and BELIEVING in god the son and the holy ghost are more than a little different.  We can of course retreat to cogito ergo sum and stop there, but that doesn't do us much good.  I can't remember how Descarte got us from there to whatever point he finally made (was it proving the existence of God?) but I imagine induction was in the mix.
by Andhakari on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 10:08:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Descartes had to use the "fact" that "God is good" as opposed to a "Great Deceiver" in order to get from Cogito Ergo Sum to an objective basis for any other knowledge.

Which is bollocks.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 1st, 2008 at 06:33:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've, after much reading come to the conclusion that only the first couple of meditations are of any worth, the rest of them ammount to a please dont burn me defence.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Jan 1st, 2008 at 06:37:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Religion is not the opposite of science.  Science is not something to BELIEVE in: it is a method for understanding and describing the objective universe.

I would agree with the first statement, and disagree with the latter.

Science is the belief system of this last couple thousand years (give or take, depending on where on the planet you look at it.) It causes people to say with a strait face

It [scientific method] is the known method that most reliably weeds out wrong inferences and theories.  And that is an empirically supported statement. Migeru-Dec 24th, 2007

It reminds me that there are hundreds of thousands of movies and songs that are pure dreck, yet we remember the classics of the [50's, 60's, or 1720's, 1780's] with fond regard as if that is all their are.

Science and the scientific method have had billions of wrong forks, some of them quite consequential (like the eugenics party thrown as part of WWII.)

But the belief system says and relies upon and proves that in the end, we know (or, will know) ____. Empirically.

Perhaps it is true. And, perhaps it (the method) will be scoffed at in a few hundred years like the previous methods are scoffed at today. It certainly only says that given enough time, (enough weedkillers of wrong inferences and theories that have to be worked through) some things will work out right, and if you throw enough time and energy at a situation, (and enough people to experiment upon in some cases) perhaps (if the background information is straight and the technology and mentality of the time is ready) that a slice of truth will be dusted off and put on a shelf as understood, usable in another context, and often, available to slap others with.

That spirituality has sometimes progressed and slid in a similar manner in the last several thousand years, sometimes (often???) used to slap others with, well, I don't have to be an apologist for Saddam Hussein and religion in the same decade. But it can be done, in the same way that I am certain that [any clever person] is able to parse their own statement and find them as false as they are true.


If it were only as bad as 1984.

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Tue Jan 1st, 2008 at 03:42:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Science and the scientific method have had billions of wrong forks, some of them quite consequentia

Well yes. That's how it works, though your chosen example isn't really science, as far as I know, but science abuse.

The problem with "spiritualism" is that no-one even seems to be able to define what it is unless one accepts that it is meaningful to start with.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jan 1st, 2008 at 03:51:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well yes. That's how it works, though your chosen example isn't really science, as far as I know, but science abuse.

Yes, that is how it works, and it is what you (and others) have been defending, regardless of how off the rails it can be for however short or long it takes to get back on track again.

Well, yes. That's how it works, and it means that there is, or can be, a propagation of 'not true' into the loop without feedback until some other variation comes along...which itself will be continuously refined and/or modified until the Great Truths that Explains All Truths is derived.

'Yes, that's how it works' means to me that you can take any 'after the fact' analysis and say, well, obviously, that wasn't science, or it was science abuse. It also means that I need to have faith in your science and someone to tell me which is the real stuff and importantly, to keep a straight face.

To the side detail point, the science of eugenics was very well accepted at the time and accepted as derived from very scientifically researched theories. Its ramifications still haven't been wrung from the system.

The problem with "spiritualism" is that no-one even seems to be able to define what it is unless one accepts that it is meaningful to start with.

Yes; I'm pretty certain that you could make the same argument of science as well if you wanted to. (I haven't thought about this, but will pretend to be a science guy.)

You would start by pointing out that words generally are created in an experimental fashion that favors science, that science is tailor made for labeling things...sometimes, that it all it is good at. Things don't need to be understood, but they sure can be named.

Then a nice hustle with a pejorative post-fix, call it scienceism and...

OK; that's enough of that. I'll let you nail science for all that it is not by yourself.

Don't get me wrong. I'm glad that we can play with double-helix models in the bio lab and the physics lab (even if they might have different words and models for explaining the same things in different ways. I am not a church goer, I don't get into spiritualism, and I don't like people ripping people off of money or time or anything else.

I do believe that there is an area of study in an area of non-bio, non-physical essences. If it is important to have a set of words for that, I'll work on it and perhaps present it in my first diary. But having a name or set of words for it isn't critical for those who are looking to find it and get benefit from it. Perhaps that is why they get nailed by charlatans so often.

That science and religion have both littered the present field, and that neither explain or handle more than they do (with a lot of work left over for the future), that they have both been used for harm (perhaps equally), that they both seem to give their adherents a sense of superiority (or inferiority that needs to be rigorously defended), doesn't mean that the future needs to be the same way.

If it were only as bad as 1984.

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Tue Jan 1st, 2008 at 06:23:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Brilliantly clear exposition.  I would really enjoy your diary.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Mon Jan 7th, 2008 at 06:07:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I posted this (uncorrected) over on Frank Schnittger's current Diary, but it seems relevant here, too....

I am more interested in the values that underpin religion than in religion itself. In particular, in religion as "code for living" and the extent to which the code that was relevant in first century Palestine or seventh century Arabia is still relevant today.

For instance, is it any surprise that most "fundamentalists" of Abrahamic traditions proscribe contraception because at the time the "code" was written life expectancy was so short, and large families a necessary response? Or that covering the body in a savagely hot and sunny climate is a good idea? Or that eating pig meat in a hot climate was not a good idea?

More generally, and more importantly, there is the shared tradition of mandatory sharing of risk and reward eg the proscription of "usury" and the concept of the "Jubilee" freeing borrowers from debt, the prescription of charity such as zakat.

Then there is the concept of "Commons". Were the Prophet alive today, would he not go beyond the "Commons" of Pasture, Fire and Water to include knowledge? The very idea that anyone could lay claim to "ownership" of knowledge had probably never been conceived of in the seventh century (correct me if I am wrong!).

The values underpinning religion as legal code survive in our body of secular law of course, and the secular and the religious mix in different countries in different ways.

I have been extremely interested to see how the risk and revenue sharing traditions of mutuality, equality and cooperation - also land as a "Commons" - live on in the Scandinavian countries, and Scotland in particular. This is, I think, as with seventh century desert Islam, a necessary response to a pretty unforgiving environment.

I think it is easy to lose sight of why religion is the way it is, and why it may become irrelevant if it does not evolve with the circumstances which gave rise to it.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 03:40:26 AM EST
I have to protest the idea that religion as an utilitarian code for social and physical life. A lot of it is purely arbitrary.

For example the Trobrian islanders' culinary taboo was that the higher up one was in the social stratification, the less things one was allowed to eat... Is it of practical rather than symbolic use ?

As for sexual life, there is a Pacific society where in order to maintain fertility, young boys are to perform fellatio on teenagers... Abrahamic confessions do not as much forbid contraception (which was mostly unknown at the time of their foundation) as promote the sacred aspect of the male gametes, based on the belief that it constitutes human life (whereas the Trobrians believe the males have no role in reproduction)...

Organised, written religion is needed when a society gets to large to properly enforce behaviour according to shared, non-codified social norm ; as such, it is a primitive form of law. It is clear that the Koran was at heart a codification of the laws Muhammad needed to rule over his people.

But this doesn't prevent much of religious rules from being arbitrary. Agreeing on arbitrary rules is as useful when it comes to social and political norms as for language definition.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 04:25:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I doubt that proscriptions of contraception were (or are) for maintaining a population's size as much as for increasing the size relative to ones neighbors.  Population excess is used as a nationalistic military weapon (gaza strip, nazi germany, napolianic france, etc.?) and I suspect it is fundamental to militaristic religions such as the judeo/christian/islamic complex.
by Andhakari on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 12:52:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This was really an excellent diary.  It got straight to the issue in a way that I hadn't really been able to express it.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 08:45:55 AM EST
I think those outside of the US underestimate the power that the right wing fundamentalists have exercised over the past several decades.

Religion in the UK is a minority activity and it is mostly kept away from the political parties. In the US there has been a trend in the other direction. Now, for the first time, we have overtly religious figures running for high office and basing their campaigns on their religiosity. Not only have several candidates gone out of their way to proclaim their disbelief in Darwinism, but they have also stated that their duty, when elected, is to promote "God's" agenda, not to uphold the constitution.

The US was founded by those trying to escape religious dogmatism and the reason freedom of religion was made explicit in the first amendment was to protect religious minorities from the power of a dominant religious-political alliance.

When the threat seems so large one has to make room for some polemicists to sound the alarm. If they tend to go too far for some people's liking, that's the price one has to pay when the other side has dominated the discourse for so long.

When religion gets back out of the Whitehouse and government the critics will tone down their rhetoric. You don't whisper "fire" in a burning building, you shout it.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 03:33:18 PM EST


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