Atheism and the day of prayer

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Quote mattnapa:O.K -Even the abstract follow rationlity. At least Zeus and the like "fill the role" of gods. Santa and other purely imiginary role are pressumed to be non existent. God and the like are to a coorespondence in a reality.

Well, one can argue that Santa is capable of watching over all of us, knows our sins, and doles out reward and punishment just like a God. Amusement aside, though, "presumed to be non existent" is an interesting phrase. Other than claiming existence by definition or fiat, why should we presume God to exist and not Santa. Which also leads to the question of why we should presume any particular God to exist. Why is Osiris out and Jehova in?

Quote mattnapa:I think the word should be considered on a couplelevels. One as a being. Another as universal consciousness. I suppose multi level god beings might be in there too.

So we have replaced one ambiguous word with a couple more. "As a being" is vague. What properties and attributes does this being have? Is it chilling on a golden throne somewhere directing the angels? Consciousness fares no better. What is consciousness? And what does it mean for consciousness to be universal? This is not a specious question. While we can all sort of articulate that consciousness is a form of awareness, I don't know what you think it means for the universe to be "aware".

I do not claim necessarily that there is evidence of God, I just protest your certainity that there is not one.

Why is your certainty there is one any better? Anyway, I've stated a number of times now that the issue is unresolvable. I do not and can not know for certain if there is a God, and neither can anyone else. As such you can just as well choose no god as god for all the bearing it has on our lives. My opinion is that on the whole religion has been a negative force in human history. If every Sunday instead of church people went out and actually got active and worked to change the world, we would be better off.

My position is that "intelligent design" is simply more intuititvely rational than we are here from an accident.

Intelligent design usually has a very specific meaning. Are you arguing against evolution as well? Anyway, even if I grant a creator is more "intuitively rational", that's not evidence for the existence of such a being. There are many true things in the universe that are absolutely not intuitive.

"The theory of quantum electrodynamics describes Nature as absurd from the point of view of common sense. And it agrees fully with experiment. So I hope you can accept Nature as She is--Absurd" -Richard Feynman

Quote mattnapa:But it can change our perception of what it is to be human. There is no doubt that 'believing" you are connected to the world and others in a continuous manner is comforting for most. I think for many of us the metaphysical construct seems cod and irrevocable

Yes, but what does fact have to do with our feelings? Just because something is comforting to some people doesn't make it true. And if you take comfort in being connected to the world, you certainly don't need religion for that. All living things share a common ancestor. We are all of us made of the same stuff. We share many of the same genes. There is a profound connection between us and the world, and one that is more profound and interesting that vague notions of consciousness.

Special can mean different things. i doubt that other creatures have the experience of free-will, and in some ways that increases our responsibility in relation to them.

That would be one example of what I mean about humans thinking we're substantially different from other animals. If my cat has the option of two mice, isn't it fair to think she is making a choice between them? Isn't that free will? Dolphins have a cerebral cortex that is something like 40% larger than humans. It seems reasonable to suppose they have something akin to what we call consciousness and intelligence.

Quote mattnapa:There is plenty of religous belief that runs contrary to this assertion. Amazing how much traction the "dominion" quote gets. this is not to say that there is not truth to the assertion however, but it is a function of belief systems in religion and not a function of the idea of a god.

Granted, but I wasn't referring specifically to simply a notion of some sort of God. DRC brought up that there was a "message of stewardship" in religion, and I was arguing that the Biblical tradition has long had a strong faction which believes man was given dominion over the earth. This idea is still with us, many people believe it, and the idea of property and property rights would be very different without it.

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reed9
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Apr. 8, 2010 11:26 am

I've gotten quite a few lesson programs from The Teaching Company--two of them being Alex Filippenko's Understanding the Universe: An Introduction to Astronomy and Professor Michael Wysession's How The Earth Works.

A brief synopsis of the two lessons indicate that the earth started about 4.5 billion years ago as just another concretion of stellar dust like all the other planets in our solar disc shortly after the sun, itself, was formed. The early earth atmosphere was likely to be hot and violent with an atmosphere formed of gases like methane, hydrogen and such--an atmosphere that we couldn't live in if it were here now. Then, in a fairly short time in geological terms, our earth formed the first life organisms--the cyanobacteria capable of living in an anaerobic environment. The cyanobacteria were the primary life forms of earth for about the first billion years--however, with their help, oxygen was emitted into the air that set up the environment for higher life forms.

What both professors point out in their lectures is that it was life, itself, that produced the atmosphere in which life could function. Filippenko points out that elemental oxygen is actually a rare substance in the universe--and it's a rare substance because oxygen loves to combine with almost every molecule (if the 'noble gases' don't combine with anything, oxygen is the 'molecular whore' that combines with everything). So, how did earth get so much elemental oxygen essential for higher life forms to exist if elemental oxygen is, itself, rare in the universe? Life, itself, created it. Starting with the cyanobacteria and, then, progressing to the photosynthesis of plants, elemental oxygen was formed in the process.

But, Filippenko points out that the process of each plant's photosynthesis occurs in such a manner that when that plant dies, it uses up all the oxygen that it had previously formed to decompose--with complete decomposition ending in carbon dioxide and water. But, earth's atmosphere is presently made up of about 20% oxygen. Where did all that extra oxygen come from if every plant that makes oxygen would use up all the oxygen it made upon complete decomposition? Filippenko's answer to that is that not all plants completely decompose--some get subducted into the earth's crust to become oil and coal. In fact, according to Wysession, earth's percentage of elemental oxygen has varied over the past two billion years or so--as low as 15% and as high as 35% (at 35%, Wysession says that even wet wood burns, making every lightning strike a fire hazard for the forests--and, in high oxygen content atmosphere's, insects get bigger--which is why there were prehistoric dragonflies with two foot wing spans).

One of the primary by-products of plant decomposition--in fact, of all organic molecule decompositions--is carbon dioxide. However, our atmosphere is made of much less than 1% carbon dioxide. If all the carbon dioxide that organic molecular decomposition were to stay in the atmosphere, our planet would be too hot for life to live on it (in contrast, Venus' atmosphere is about 95% carbon dioxide and its atmospheric temperatures reach high enough to melt lead). Where did all the carbon dioxide go? Again, life had the answer--shell forming organisms that now make up our limestone rock. The shells are made primarily of calcium carbonate--using carbon dioxide to form it. Our limestone rock has tied up much of our carbon dioxide.

All this is to say is that there is a dynamic here transpiring on earth where the procession of life has lead the way for other life forms to come about--and that procession of life occurs absent any particular benefit to any one particular life form--but, on a whole, if it were not for this 'global collaboration', life, as we now know it, would not have been possible.

Two points come up with this. While no one can 'objectively' prove that any 'creator' (or, 'Intelligent designer'..) had a hand in this, the intricacies as to how each life form before forged a new path for another form of life to develope can imply to some that 'an order' (or, 'meaning'..) is bringing it forth--no single unit at any particular time gained anything directly from this interaction--however, taken as a whole, no subsequent life development could have occured without the previous life form's actions. Life created life, and progressed it to the 'consciousness of humans', out of primitive lifelessness--is that evidence of 'intelligent design'? I believe some of us could think so. The second point to this as Wysession's lessons pondered is: Are we alone? Are we an unique circumstance in the universe or is the 'development of life' something that could occur anywhere in the universe under the right set-up--is it 'intrinsic' in its function? At this point, we don't know. But, whether we are unique in the universe or whether life can commonly form still lends itself to a 'purpose', a 'meaning' inherent in that formation--and, that is 'life' itself...

I've read somewhere that God created consciousness (some consider it 'the fourth dimension'...) in order for consciousness to reflect upon God--which, if Jesus is right to instruct us that 'God is within', to reflect upon ourselves....

In that perspective, there does seem to be a 'meaning' to both 'the universe' and 'reality'....

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Kerry
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Quote Kerry:While no one can prove that any 'creator' had a hand in this, the intricacies as to how each life form before forged a new path for another form of life to develope can imply to some that 'an order' (or, 'meaning'..) is bringing it forth... Life created life, and progressed it to the 'consciousness of humans', out of primitive lifelessness...But, whether we are unique in the universe or whether life can commonly form still lends itself to a 'purpose', a 'meaning' inherent in that formation--and, that is 'life' itself...In that perspective, there does seem to be a 'meaning' to both 'the universe' and 'reality'....

You seem to be saying that "order" and the information in a system is directly analogous to meaning and purpose. Which is a huge leap of logic.

You also make the common mistake of describing evolution as a progression, that things necessarily become more complex, more "advanced" or "better" whatever that means. This is not true. Life evolves to whatever is good enough in their particular environment to survive and reproduce. Fitness can only be defined in relationship to the environment, not to esoteric concepts like complexity and progress. The mainstream of scientific thought on evolution dropped the idea of progress in the 1940s. It would be a mistake, for example, to say that humans are "more evolved" than a cockroach. We are both evolved for our respective environments and in many ways we have nothing on the cockroach for survival ability.

Quote Kerry:I've read somewhere that God created consciousness (some consider it 'the fourth dimension'...) in order for consciousness to reflect upon God--which, if Jesus is right to instruct us that 'God is within', to reflect upon ourselves....

I don't mean to be overly glib, but really, isn't this a very roundabout and complicated way of arriving at the simple conclusion that introspection can be a good thing?

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reed9
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Quote reed9:

[quote=mattnapa]O.K -Even the abstract follow rationlity. At least Zeus and the like "fill the role" of gods. Santa and other purely imiginary role are pressumed to be non existent. God and the like are to a coorespondence in a reality.

Well, one can argue that Santa is capable of watching over all of us, knows our sins, and doles out reward and punishment just like a God. Amusement aside, though, "presumed to be non existent" is an interesting phrase. Other than claiming existence by definition or fiat, why should we presume God to exist and not Santa. Which also leads to the question of why we should presume any particular God to exist. Why is Osiris out and Jehova in?

I am becoming convinced we will never get to the mountaintop here. The point is the question has a logical framework. It is about whether existence is created by a being or group consciousness, Imiginary critters are not part of the question. If you want to change the description "well we could make them into gods" this is no more than a relativistic contraption that simply makes discussion impossible. Why should we pressume a god not to exist? The application of whose god is irrelevant to the question of whether one exists

Quote mattnapa:I think the word should be considered on a couplelevels. One as a being. Another as universal consciousness. I suppose multi level god beings might be in there too.

So we have replaced one ambiguous word with a couple more. "As a being" is vague. What properties and attributes does this being have? Is it chilling on a golden throne somewhere directing the angels? Consciousness fares no better. What is consciousness? And what does it mean for consciousness to be universal? This is not a specious question. While we can all sort of articulate that consciousness is a form of awareness, I don't know what you think it means for the universe to be "aware".

You have no explanation for consciousness other than "it arises from matter." I mean that is more magical than anything I have presented. How do you know it arises?

I do not claim necessarily that there is evidence of God, I just protest your certainity that there is not one.

Why is your certainty there is one any better?

when have I ever said I was certain? for that matter how many times do I need to clearly state that I have no certainity

Anyway, I've stated a number of times now that the issue is unresolvable. I do not and can not know for certain if there is a God, and neither can anyone else.

Then you are not an atheist by the definition I understand

As such you can just as well choose no god as god for all the bearing it has on our lives. My opinion is that on the whole religion has been a negative force in human history. If every Sunday instead of church people went out and actually got active and worked to change the world, we would be better off.

Especially if they entered the effort it against science and technolgy run amuk

My position is that "intelligent design" is simply more intuititvely rational than we are here from an accident.

Intelligent design usually has a very specific meaning. Are you arguing against evolution as well? Anyway, even if I grant a creator is more "intuitively rational", that's not evidence for the existence of such a being. There are many true things in the universe that are absolutely not intuitive

No intelligent design is opposed to random occurence. Some may apply intelligent design to a biblical construction, but it is not required.

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mattnapa
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Quote mattnapa:It is about whether existence is created by a being or group consciousness, Imiginary critters are not part of the question.

Imaginary creatures are part of the equation because there is no clear way to differentiate between the Flying Spaghetti Monster and more traditional "gods". Which was the whole point of the parody, in reaction the Kansas City School Board allowing the teaching of Intelligent Design in schools. If you define science in such a way that would allow Intelligent Design to count as an alternate theory to evolution, then you would have to allow the Flying Spaghetti Monster as an alternate theory as well. If your God counts as a potential creator of the universe, why doesn't mine?

Quote mattnapa:Why should we pressume a god not to exist? The application of whose god is irrelevant to the question of whether one exists

Well, when it comes to trying to understand our universe, methodological naturalism is a prerequisite. We have to assume that things have a natural and not a supernatural explanation. If we had just left it at the idea that disease is caused by evil spirits, then medical science wouldn't have gotten very far. If we left it at God creating Adam and Eve end of story, evolution, biology, and genetics would never have developed.

Quote mattnapa: You have no explanation for consciousness other than "it arises from matter." I mean that is more magical than anything I have presented. How do you know it arises?

More magical? What does that mean? How do I know it arises? Living things seem have some awareness of their environment in a way a rock does not, and that is what we call consciousness. I don't know that there is a strict dividing line between the response of a plant growing towards the sun (not what we usually call "consciousness") and the ability of animals to more purposefully interact with their environment. You do like to avoid answering my questions, though.

Then you are not an atheist by the definition I understand

I'm not stuck on the labels. Some people call me an atheist because I have no belief in god(s). There is no evidence for an interventionist god, so I don't believe in one. If you're talking a more Deist approach, where God set the universe in motion and doesn't otherwise involve him or herself, then it's an unanswerable question.

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reed9
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Apr. 8, 2010 11:26 am

You also make the common mistake of describing evolution as a progression, that things necessarily become more complex, more "advanced" or "better" whatever that means.--reed9

You also claim a lot of things on this road to your 'rational thought' that have no real rational basis. First off, it is you that is making the moral imposition of the word 'progression'--I was taking the idea of the progression of lifeforms coming from previous life order--and a progression that does not, in itself, have anything to do with each unit in that life order's existence--that progression is separate from each being. Secondly, you really don't think it is a 'progression' to go from microbes in a primordial goo to beings of human consciousnes in a world of many varied and intricate life forms? What 'rationale' are you using to say that?

You seem to be saying that "order" and the information in a system is directly analogous to meaning and purpose. Which is a huge leap of logic.

The progression is analogous to 'meaning and purpose in reality and the universe' because the order of the progression contains a purpose beyond any one unit's being. The purpose of the process has no meaning to each unit of being in each time that they exist--however, on a whole, that progression has meaning if for no other reason than to 'promote more life' and to 'promote more varied life' apart from the perspective of any one unit's 'purpose in life'--even as they are a part of the process that creates it. Are you really having that hard a time with that point?

Life evolves to whatever is good enough in their particular environment to survive and reproduce.

You see, that's NOT the point. What previous life forms do to alter the environment for other life forms to develope from has nothing to do with 'whatever is good enough in their particular environment to survive and reproduce' because altering the environment for other life forms to develope has NOTHING to do with that particular unit's capability to 'survive and reproduce'. And, that is my point. It supersedes it despite that life form's 'survivability and reproducibility purpose' for itself. Why does that purpose exist? It's not 'in' any particular life form's purpose to do so.

Fitness can only be defined in relationship to the environment, not to esoteric concepts like complexity and progress.

That's what you say--but, what's your rationale behind it? Especially considering that each previous life form sets the stage for other life forms to develope. What's the purpose of each life unit to do so intrinsically? What point is it to the cyanobacterium to create an atmosphere for higher life ordered forms to that cyanobacterium? In fact, from a perspective of the cyanobacterium, itself, doing so reduces the habitat for that cyanobacterium to exist (it still exists but it's in very few areas now...). And, since that does go against the more 'self-preservation' perspective you are trying to paint this as, why did the cyanobacteria's function eventually lead to less habitat for itself as it created more habitat for other forms of life? My point, again, is that that purpose isn't intrinsic to the cyanobacterium, itself, but it is intrinsic to life as it developed on earth....where's that 'entity's purpose' situated....

The mainstream of scientific thought on evolution dropped the idea of progress in the 1940s.--reed9

That's because they over-objectified it to a ridiculous degree--as if 'proof in the particular' covered every 'meaning in general'. It's not my concept that 'past life forged an environment for future life to develope', that's exactly what both Filippenko and Wysession's state--and explain to you why they see it as such...

It would be a mistake, for example, to say that humans are "more evolved" than a cockroach.

But, it is not a mistake to say that humans evolved because cyanobacterium set the stage for that to happen in the environment they helped create--because that is how at least these scientists understand it...and I have tried to explain to you why...

"I've read somewhere that God created consciousness (some consider it 'the fourth dimension'...) in order for consciousness to reflect upon God--which, if Jesus is right to instruct us that 'God is within', to reflect upon ourselves...."--me

I don't mean to be overly glib, but really, isn't this a very roundabout and complicated way of arriving at the simple conclusion that introspection can be a good thing?--reed9

No, that's a reasonable assessment of that statement. Now, do you believe in 'the truth'? And, by the way, for the purposes of this particular part of the conversation, I don't want your analysis on 'the truth', I want to know if you believe in it....and, I don't even want your analysis on 'belief', I want to know if you believe in the truth.....

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Kerry
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Do metaphors exist? Do they have ontology? Is poetry science and are the words not to be taken with deep imagination rather than at face value?

All religions are about being human. The agenda does not make it necessary to elevate humanity above other creatures or to claim any evolutionary teleology of being the most fittest in the survival game. In fact, our evolutionary advantages could destroy us if we forget how they work.

Social Darwinism misread the meaning of "the survival of the fittest" to be the alpha male conqueror rather than the cooperative "diplomat" who becomes interdependent and thereby "necessary" to the rest of those who share the very complex and interactive environment. Simple efficiency in adapting to an environment is like thinking that "love one another" is a simple and clear commandment. Doing it is another matter.

How dolphins deal with existential issues of being is unknown to me. From what I have seen, they share the love of life and play we see in dogs. Maybe we don't get to see the depressed ones until they let us know that Sea World is hell. I have no problem with them having as much transcendent consciousness as we do, but I am not sure they want the doubt and uncertainty of what we know as human freedom or loneliness.

I resist all the attempts to recreate "god" in an "intelligent designer." Life has enough intelligence to design itself or work out adaptations in design on the fly. But the issue is our relationship with nature and life, not really how life works. If it really is intelligent and loving rather than red in tooth and claw and oblivious to us, we will be open to it. Expecting the worst is not the best way to assess the quality of life. To love is the point.

But I would like atheists to recognize that metaphors and metaphysics are real in their own way. How they are used makes a big difference, but it does not make the modern case stronger to repudiate the whole history of theism, nor does it help to deny the experience of those who use these devices or "believe in them."

People do get comfort from prayer. It is undeniable. Believing in a positive life narrative helps us deal with real crises in life, real tragedies and even real victories that need to be kept in humble gratitude. I don't do theism myself because it is incredible to my theologically trained mind. It gets in the way of thinking about being human and what has authority.

Atheism is too small a question to be an identity. "Militant" atheists make too much of the question and become "religious" in their expression of dogmatic zeal. Religion is an easy target and deserves all the criticism it gets. But it also deserves more respect and an appreciation that the issues of human epistemology and existence are not settled by reason and secular objectivity.

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DRC
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Quote Kerry:Secondly, you really don't think it is a 'progression' to go from microbes in a primordial goo to beings of human consciousnes in a world of many varied and intricate life forms? What 'rationale' are you using to say that?

My mistake if you were saying only a progression in time. To above, yes, I suppose I would call it progress, in that I find animals more interesting than goo. What I was saying, though, is that evolution is not a linear progression towards some goal or pinnacle of accomplishment.

Quote Kerry:The progression is analogous to 'meaning and purpose in reality and the universe' because the order of the progression contains a purpose beyond any one unit's being. The purpose of the process has no meaning to each unit of being in each time that they exist--however, on a whole, that progression has meaning if for no other reason than to 'promote more life' and to 'promote more varied life' apart from the perspective of any one unit's 'purpose in life'--even as they are a part of the process that creates it. Are you really having that hard a time with that point?

I am absolutely having a hard time with that point. Purpose implies intentionality. So what if a by-product of early life was the creation of an environment that supported other life? Humans need mitochondria to generate energy, but I would never say the the "purpose" of early mitochondria bacteria was to power human cells. They didn't gather round the campfire and plan out how they would create a symbiotic relationship with us.

Quote Kerry:No, that's a reasonable assessment of that statement. Now, do you believe in 'the truth'? And, by the way, for the purposes of this particular part of the conversation, I don't want your analysis on 'the truth', I want to know if you believe in it....and, I don't even want your analysis on 'belief', I want to know if you believe in the truth.....

I can't state whether I believe in truth without some level of analysis - I have to know what is meant by "truth" to answer. As I've said before, I believe there is an objective universe (or possibly multiverse) that exists independent of humans, that there is nothing outside of nature, and that nature is intelligible, which is to say there are natural laws, and there is regularity to these laws. The same physical laws that we observe in our little section of the galaxy are operating a hundred billion light years from here. I also believe that our ability to perceive and understand nature is probably limited. If you mean true as in factual, then yes, I believe there are facts. If you mean truth as in some sort of Platonic ideal "out there" somewhere, then no, I do not.

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reed9
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Apr. 8, 2010 11:26 am

Reed9, this is such a finely honed discussion among people of like minds that the disagreements can often be hyperbolic. Don't those who agree on almost everything find the smallest stuff to get passionately divided about? Sibling rivalry trumps really big differences.

I appreciate your passion for the real and desire to avoid the Platonic image of reality as if it were the best we can do. I am a big-time advocate of a very embodied and sensual spirituality as the honest frame for being human. My epistemological concerns are for thinking in the middle of the quantum and/or relativity "brain-body" consciousness of the Mystery of Reality. It is not about abstracting some idealistic rationality. It is about dealing with how we think we know what we think we know.

I hear your experience of honest and sincere hokum. It is very hard to reject the deeply held beliefs and practices of people we love and to find a way to make our relationships work. Speaking the truth in love is one of the great moral paradoxes. You cannot compromise either, so the both/and has to trump the either/or. Appreciating how things that we find ridiculous can work for others is part of being in on the joke.

The contributors to this thread are all important. I find some really inspiring and others perturbing. But the latter just remind us that we are not as clear and objective as we feel we are, and caring about those who see things in a different light is part of our own affirmed identity. Even those who speak about being turned off by the posts tell us that we have to have a broader appreciation of this mystery. Peace.

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DRC
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Imaginary creatures are part of the equation because there is no clear way to differentiate between the Flying Spaghetti Monster and more traditional "gods".

Yes there is if the imiginary figure is santa then he is so imagined as such. Yo claim something can be two identifiably different things is simply illogical. Now a secret santa of some sort may be behind the scenes acting as god, I do not know for sure. But I do know words and ideas have meanings. God is one thing, and imagined or not Santa is another.

Which was the whole point of the parody, in reaction the Kansas City School Board allowing the teaching of Intelligent Design in schools. If you define science in such a way that would allow Intelligent Design to count as an alternate theory to evolution, then you would have to allow the Flying Spaghetti Monster as an alternate theory as well. If your God counts as a potential creator of the universe, why doesn't mine?

There are constructions of intelligent design that do not conflict with evoloution, so it would be nice if you could get this idea out of your head. As to the second point about your god counting let me try this. If God exists mischaracterizations of him by humans will not change the nature of his existence. Gender usage can be questioned I know

Well, when it comes to trying to understand our universe, methodological naturalism is a prerequisite. We have to assume that things have a natural and not a supernatural explanation

There is nothing supernatural about it.

. If we had just left it at the idea that disease is caused by evil spirits, then medical science wouldn't have gotten very far. If we left it at God creating Adam and Eve end of story, evolution, biology, and genetics would never have developed.

Very true and basically irrelevant to the discussion. I would suggest the emphasis that I need to account for all the very religous stories out there is not something I need to argue

Quote mattnapa: You have no explanation for consciousness other than "it arises from matter." I mean that is more magical than anything I have presented. How do you know it arises?

More magical? What does that mean? How do I know it arises? Living things seem have some awareness of their environment in a way a rock does not, and that is what we call consciousness.

I think the meaning is clear. If there is no mystery tell me something about how consciousness occurs. We discussed part of this before with your attempts at giving consciousnees location. Also how do you know rocks do not have some sort of consciousness? Why is it that a molecule when in the brain is suddenly the physical location of consciousness, but when it is in a rock it is not. It is the same molecule is it not?

I don't know that there is a strict dividing line between the response of a plant growing towards the sun (not what we usually call "consciousness") and the ability of animals to more purposefully interact with their environment. You do like to avoid answering my questions, though.

Maybe you could do me a favor and actually lay out how I am not answering your questions next time you make the charge. You never know how much silent consciousness might be lurking out there do we?

Then you are not an atheist by the definition I understand

I'm not stuck on the labels. Some people call me an atheist because I have no belief in god(s). There is no evidence for an interventionist god, so I don't believe in one. If you're talking a more Deist approach, where God set the universe in motion and doesn't otherwise involve him or herself, then it's an unanswerable question.

So is it also unanswerable as to how real reality is? You know the coorespondency theory thing to which you never responded.

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mattnapa
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Quote mattnapa:But it can change our perception of what it is to be human. There is no doubt that 'believing" you are connected to the world and others in a continuous manner is comforting for most. I think for many of us the metaphysical construct seems cod and irrevocable

Yes, but what does fact have to do with our feelings?

First off you said something like what good can come from religion, and this is simply an answer to the question. Then there is of course perception is reality thing. We "feel" the world in my opinion, so to posit that repeatable phenemenon take precedence over experience is non-sensenical to me. I find it quite bizzare that science has somehow robbed of us our connection to the universe. We can believe we are here and now, but any belief that we are connected in a more timeless way is claimed to be "against the facts." I often wonder why I have allowed such flimsy evidence to limit my connection and beliefs in a hereafter. I hear Pascals Wager calling.

Just because something is comforting to some people doesn't make it true. And if you take comfort in being connected to the world, you certainly don't need religion for that. All living things share a common ancestor. We are all of us made of the same stuff. We share many of the same genes. There is a profound connection between us and the world, and one that is more profound and interesting that vague notions of consciousness.

Well it is true they have comfort, and you have no evidence that what iscomforting them is not true. This seems to make your point kind of moot. i have little doubt that those who believe in an afterlife are happier. Especially if they avoid all the trial by fire kind of stuff. So I would ask why be unhappier? Because "you might" be wrong about a question which is not knowable

Special can mean different things. i doubt that other creatures have the experience of free-will, and in some ways that increases our responsibility in relation to them.

That would be one example of what I mean about humans thinking we're substantially different from other animals. If my cat has the option of two mice, isn't it fair to think she is making a choice between them? Isn't that free will? Dolphins have a cerebral cortex that is something like 40% larger than humans. It seems reasonable to suppose they have something akin to what we call consciousness and intelligence.

Free will is a problem for a mechanist universe. Are you saying we have a choice in our actions.? Or is it the same kind of choice that a computer has? Which in my opinion is no choice at all

Quote mattnapa:There is plenty of religous belief that runs contrary to this assertion. Amazing how much traction the "dominion" quote gets. this is not to say that there is not truth to the assertion however, but it is a function of belief systems in religion and not a function of the idea of a god.

Granted, but I wasn't referring specifically to simply a notion of some sort of God. DRC brought up that there was a "message of stewardship" in religion, and I was arguing that the Biblical tradition has long had a strong faction which believes man was given dominion over the earth. This idea is still with us, many people believe it, and the idea of property and property rights would be very different without it.

O.K

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mattnapa
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"The progression is analogous to 'meaning and purpose in reality and the universe' because the order of the progression contains a purpose beyond any one unit's being. The purpose of the process has no meaning to each unit of being in each time that they exist--however, on a whole, that progression has meaning if for no other reason than to 'promote more life' and to 'promote more varied life' apart from the perspective of any one unit's 'purpose in life'--even as they are a part of the process that creates it. Are you really having that hard a time with that point?"--me

I am absolutely having a hard time with that point. Purpose implies intentionality. So what if a by-product of early life was the creation of an environment that supported other life?--reed9

I think I've told you one intentionality this does seem to reach--a consciousness as human capable of looking upon itself and its 'creation'--as well as a life as varied and intricate as we have now. Remember, cyanobacterium were basically the only living inhabitants on earth for a billion years. What would be the point to the cyanobacterium every to get out of that existence for other 'life forms'--both to the cyanobacterium as a species and each cyanobacterium as a unit?

The question isn't 'So what if a by-product of early life was the creation of an environment that supported other life?' The question is 'WHY did early life forms create an environment that supported other life?' From the perspective of that life form, following the basic structure of Darwinian evolution, there is no reason why this would happen--no purpose intrinsic to that form of life. Yet, it happens, anyway. Asking it as 'so what?' attempts to belittle the point--but the point is that life progresses life beyond any single life unit's or even any species interest. Microbes in a primordial goo forge the way for human consciousness to be created among a varied and intricate life form that takes on millions of types...the progression, itself, implies the purpose....and, yes, conscious's ultimate 'purpose' may be in looking upon itself and recognizing that 'purpose'. Your inference that this is 'tautological' doesn't acknowledge the very real possibility that this is more like 'intricately reinforcing'...

They didn't gather round the campfire and plan out how they would create a symbiotic relationship with us.--reed9

This is the entire point. 'They' didn't do it...now, do you see the point I'm making here?

I can't state whether I believe in truth without some level of analysis - I have to know what is meant by "truth" to answer.--reed9

Well, that's another point--you don't have to know at every given point in time what is 'meant by the "truth"' if you believe in it. But I think you have to believe it exists to qualify your search for it....if you've come to the conclusion that it doesn't exist because that's what your 'rationality' in all you can 'objectively' assess has concluded, then, I back to my original problem--what's the purpose of your rationality? As Thoreau might pose, is it really merely for 'expediency in the moment'? Which appears more 'political' than 'truthful' to me...

If you mean truth as in some sort of Platonic ideal "out there" somewhere, then no, I do not.--reed9

Has this conversation really been directing this truth 'out there'? I think that, on a whole, especially with respect to its 'conscious component', it's done just the opposite...

And, as far as 'intelligent design' vs. 'evolution' goes, I think we can shorten this problem tremendously (and, as I've been trying to explain, I think there is some 'natural' basis for ) by saying that 'intelligent design' is 'evolution'--and vice-versa....

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Kerry
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm
Quote DRC:

I am afraid that Mr. Cline simply adds another piece of confusion to the topic because he does not understand ideology or philosophy, to begin with,

DRC, that is an incredibly lame ad hominem comment (I'm not opposed to ad hominem comments if they are justified with specific supporting evidence, which yours is not).

Quote DRC:and his conclusion ignores the fact that a great many of the atheist posts are attacks on religion where atheism is posed as the intellectually honest alternative to superstition.

The article can not be condemned simply for not being all-inclusive of every possible formulation or focus of the many issues involved. You seem to imply that any disparagement of religion is automatically unfair. And you seem to be the one who is equating religion and superstition while atheists are certainly entitled to oppose one or both either separately or in combination.

Quote DRC:Let us stipulate that the subject is confusing because the language used is not precise. The culture dealing with religion and faith is confusing and contradictory.

How big of you.

Quote DRC:To give the elevator speech version, religion does not require theism.

Who said it did? But if you study comparative religion, you will find that the only groups who DO require theism are religions and there are many who do insist on it. Freak coincidence?

Quote DRC: Theism is a metaphysical model of useful poetic imagination prior to the discoveries of Newtonian Physics.

False. Newton was a theist to the end of his days. Oddly, about a third of all scientists, even today, are theists.

Quote DRC: The first rule of metaphors and metaphysics is that they are not history or science and must not be used as such. This would save 99% of the religious folk from becoming stupid about "beliefs."

Neither Mr. Cline nor any "atheist post" I've seen made any such error. But if this error actually is committed by 99% of religious folk, that is a sorry comment on such folk.

Quote DRC: Living in a story does not require that it is "real" so much as it leads us there.

You are entitiled to your opinion about the value of various imaginary stories. My own opinion is that adults put away childish things. ( http://bible.cc/1_corinthians/13-11.htm ) There are great differences between childish imagination and the imagination of a mature adult.

Quote DRC:What is the reality construct of any particular atheist?

What is the reality construct of any particular religious apologist? Obviously, such constructs vary enormously between and within both camps. Do we have to make some exhaustive catalog of such constructs to critique Cline's article? The article in fact makes a competent brief on exactly that issue.

Quote DRC:The problem of reality is that it is a mystery beyond our comprehension, so we explore it learning more, but also finding it bigger than we had thought, and more complex.

Who would argue?

Quote DRC:If one embraces being "secular," what happens to the "sacred?" They are partners in a reality model, so if you get rid of "god" do you also lose the sacred? If not, how do you describe it in non-theistic terms?

Most religious apologists seem to be similarly mystified by the obvious. Answer: sacred = precious, of great value. How can we have "good without God"? Answer: minimize suffering, golden rule, justice, ethics, etc, etc, etc. No God required for any good you can name that is possible within the natural world (i.e. non-supernatural).

Quote DRC:As a theologian, that is where my thinking goes as a post-secular and post-theistic theologian. The subject matter of theology has always been the meaning of being human and what we are to do about it.

Philosophy, anthropology, sociology, biology, politics and numerous other domains of scholarship and science include the same subject matter so theology is hardly unique or essential in that respect.

Quote DRC:The big deficiency for me in the atheist rejection of religion is the absence of an atheist community of celebration and action.

I feel you on that. While not totally absent, the scarcity of community in the atheist "community" is partly a result of diversity. While there is pretty much agreement in what we don't believe in, there is an infinite diversity in the things we do believe in, from certain doom to infinite parallel universes.

Quote DRC: It is one thing to complain about the metaphysics and another to argue that metaphysics has no intellectual integrity or utility.

It depends on what you mean by metaphysics. A theory of causation? A theory of epistemology? Philosophy? The scientific method? All these are perfectly respectable matters for investigation and scholarship.

Or do you mean something supernatural, magical or non-material that produces effects in the natural world? Even this is fair game for debate, scholarship, scientific research, artistic expression, and such. The only problem is when unproven theories and anecdotal evidence are misrepresented as absolute facts.

Quote DRC:My "theology of faith" links belief, doubt, imagination and mutuality to correspond to the developmental process of human maturation. It is an interactive model rather than a linear journey to an end.

Fine. You may have something to sell but so far you haven't made a good job of it.

Quote DRC:I have said before that the issue of atheism bores me.

What do you gain by repeating such a statement? Some sense of superiority? Boredom is nothing to be proud of.

Quote DRC:Do metaphors exist? Do they have ontology?

Yes. Most atheists have lives and recognize the utility of metaphors. What is your point?

Quote DRC: What difference would it make if God did exist?

That would remain to be seen.

Quote DRC: What do you gain by God not existing?

Nothing. Knowing one way or the other would be nice, but the possible benefit of the knowledge in no way justifies making up an answer.

Quote DRC:I would prefer we focus on what it means to be human and why love is powerful and justice necessary. Or not? The moral issues are about the abuses of power, not our personal frailties. Where do we obtain the sense of moral integrity to stand up against "the principalities and powers of this world?" What makes them powerful or just tall, that's all? Big Boss Man.

Fair comments and questions, none of which require religious perspectives.

Quote DRC:To answer the point I raised earlier, ideology can be individual as well as a group think phenomenon. An ideology is just a way of thinking that does not yield to reality and alters reality to fit its narrative. Philosophy adapts its thinking to experience and evidence instead of insisting that the world must be as "thought." Poly correctly diagnoses ideology as diseased thinking. Philosophy can be wrong and learn.

No argument from atheists, I think.

Quote DRC:Finally, although it is common usage, I oppose treating "faith" as if it were religion or "belief." Faith is about being human and religion may or may not help one get there.

Your definition of "faith" as "about being human" is vague and idiosyncratic.

Quote DRC:The issue for atheists is how to address that question of being human and what moral and reality constructs they need to use to address it.

Guess what: Atheists already thought of that. Are you paying attention?

Quote DRC: At this point, I regard theism as the equivalent of Newtonian Physics. It can still get you to the moon, but it cannot explain the universe. Because we learned too much from Newton to fit into his model.

I would not recommend attempting a moon shot, or even a terrestrial conquest, on theism.

Quote DRC:The history of theism is not as bad as atheists would have it.

On the whole I'd give better marks in history to atheists than to religious folks.

Quote DRC: Real intellectual conflict with theism is modern and was caused by the discoveries of archeology, geology and astronomy.

Wrong. Theism itself is modern compared with early religious beliefs such as ancestor worship, animism, shamanism, fertility cults, etc. You might be interested in reading about Evolutionary Religious Studies: http://evolution.binghamton.edu/religion/guide/

Quote DRC: Many of the great scientists were also Christians and Jews of religious sincerity. If God is understood to be the Author of All Truth and the Embodiment of Love and Justice, faith is intellectual and moral integrity, not a matter of learning the rules and obeying them. Doubt is an essential to honor the God of Truth.

Fine. Many great scientists are atheists, too. Most atheists are skeptics and critical thinkers who value truth. Where is your argument going?

Quote DRC:I am not defending the Crusades or the Inquisition, or the Salem Witch Trials, or Cromwell or any of that stuff. But it is not the whole story of the work of the Church or the lives of the Saints, and that is the point.

That is A point, not THE point.

Quote DRC: If we compare secular and sacred atrocities and horrors, it becomes clear that religion is less the cause than the vehicle used by fear and alienation. It is true that wars of religion are the worst, and it is also true that religion becomes the point of retreat for threatened peoples as well as the myths to justify the lusts of power.

Religions don't kill people--people kill people.

Quote DRC:But it is also the story of Liberation Theology where "God speaks directly to the poor." They are not debating atheism. They are recovering a sense of humanity driven out of them by dominator bosses and powerful corporations as they hear the story of the Exodus. God loves the slaves, the least of these. Their humanity matters at the heart of reality and power. It is a transforming story, truth delivered in a myth.

I am atheist and I am poor and oppressed. The story of Exodus gives me no comfort. If it comforts you, you are very easily comforted.

Quote DRC:Come up with an equally powerful story of liberation and hope for the poor. Not just an economic program, a humanity recovering one. Find a way to frame the falseness of power so naked emperors and court prophets lose all authority. Appreciate how religions go wrong as ideologies, but are part of the conversation when philosophy and open-ended methodologies are employed. The problem of ideology does not stay confined to what we label as religion, as we have seen with Wall St and the American Century.

You won't be convinced by any "program" I describe in a few lines. Most atheists would agree that the actual basic requirements for justice, prosperity and dignity include 1) mental hygiene, 2) nutrition, 3) clean environment, 4) good education, 5) shared set of rules (ethics, laws). Religion is not a requirement.

Quote DRC:I translate the First Commandment as "Thou Shalt have no other Realities than Reality Itself." We do not "create our own realities." We do have our own perspective on the bigger mystery of reality, but keeping our imagination grounded in reality is essential to faith and all intellectual integrity.

I agree, and I hope you can see that no religion is either express nor implied. Facts are at the very least as good as metaphors for placing faith in.

Poor Richard

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Poor Richard
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm
Quote DRC:

My question about communities of celebration and purposeful action is unanswered. Atheism is not a religion, you claim, so it does not lead to anything like that. OK, where do you get led to these community experiences? I get the impression that atheism's antagonism with religion gets stuck at "Counter-Dependence" and an adolescent question.

http://www.atheists.org/

http://thenafa.org/

http://www.skeptic.com/

There are hundreds (if not thousands) more-- from international institutions to local meetups. But to be fair, there are far fewer atheists in the world than religious folk, so there are far fewer combinations of groups and activities possible. If all you need is community, there are many cults and religious varieties to choose from. But if you need community + reality there are very few.

But you don't really want answers to your questions.

Poor Richard

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Poor Richard
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Quote Kerry:

"The progression is analogous to 'meaning and purpose in reality and the universe' because the order of the progression contains a purpose beyond any one unit's being. The purpose of the process has no meaning to each unit of being in each time that they exist--however, on a whole, that progression has meaning if for no other reason than to 'promote more life' and to 'promote more varied life' apart from the perspective of any one unit's 'purpose in life'--even as they are a part of the process that creates it. Are you really having that hard a time with that point?"--me

I am absolutely having a hard time with that point. Purpose implies intentionality. So what if a by-product of early life was the creation of an environment that supported other life?--reed9

I think I've told you one intentionality this does seem to reach--a consciousness as human capable of looking upon itself and its 'creation'--as well as a life as varied and intricate as we have now. Remember, cyanobacterium were basically the only living inhabitants on earth for a billion years. What would be the point to the cyanobacterium every to get out of that existence for other 'life forms'--both to the cyanobacterium as a species and each cyanobacterium as a unit?

The question isn't 'So what if a by-product of early life was the creation of an environment that supported other life?' The question is 'WHY did early life forms create an environment that supported other life?' From the perspective of that life form, following the basic structure of Darwinian evolution, there is no reason why this would happen--no purpose intrinsic to that form of life. Yet, it happens, anyway. Asking it as 'so what?' attempts to belittle the point--but the point is that life progresses life beyond any single life unit's or even any species interest. Microbes in a primordial goo forge the way for human consciousness to be created among a varied and intricate life form that takes on millions of types...the progression, itself, implies the purpose....and, yes, conscious's ultimate 'purpose' may be in looking upon itself and recognizing that 'purpose'. Your inference that this is 'tautological' doesn't acknowledge the very real possibility that this is more like 'intricately reinforcing'...

They didn't gather round the campfire and plan out how they would create a symbiotic relationship with us.--reed9

This is the entire point. 'They' didn't do it...now, do you see the point I'm making here?

I can't state whether I believe in truth without some level of analysis - I have to know what is meant by "truth" to answer.--reed9

Well, that's another point--you don't have to know at every given point in time what is 'meant by the "truth"' if you believe in it. But I think you have to believe it exists to qualify your search for it....if you've come to the conclusion that it doesn't exist because that's what your 'rationality' in all you can 'objectively' assess has concluded, then, I back to my original problem--what's the purpose of your rationality? As Thoreau might pose, is it really merely for 'expediency in the moment'? Which appears more 'political' than 'truthful' to me...

If you mean truth as in some sort of Platonic ideal "out there" somewhere, then no, I do not.--reed9

Has this conversation really been directing this truth 'out there'? I think that, on a whole, especially with respect to its 'conscious component', it's done just the opposite...

And, as far as 'intelligent design' vs. 'evolution' goes, I think we can shorten this problem tremendously (and, as I've been trying to explain, I think there is some 'natural' basis for ) by saying that 'intelligent design' is 'evolution'--and vice-versa....

Kerry, I agree with most of your very well-expressed comments but intelligent design = evolution?

No. Despite the amazing ongoing self-organization of the universe and the emergence of biology and abstract thought, the tangled spaghetti code of DNA is anything but intelligently optimized. It contains countless artifacts of random and accidental events. That isn't all bad -- it just isn't intelligent design. DNA is capable of creating monumental blunders--the big human brain may in fact be such a blunder if we manage to orchestrate (via the unintended consequences of our naive-but-vigorously-obsessive-compulsive manipulation of the ecosystem) one of the worst mass extinctions of the post-cambrian eras.

Of course, microorganisms will survive anything our manic narcissism can dish out to stumble once more up the long winding road to complex cognitive organisms perhaps with better integration next time of the emotional and rational neural networks. There does seem to be a fundamental problem of DNA non-design: the same big brain that invents writing and agriculture is pretty much already equipped (in evolutionary terms) to create nuclear bombs and carbon dioxide (adolescents with nukes). Eventually DNA must somehow accidentally come up with some kind of braking mechanism on the big brain so it doesn't race right over the technological cliff again and again.

If a big-brained organism evolved that lived directly on solar energy maybe some of the mad rush into a technological arms race could be avoided. Mobile trees with big brains....?

Poor Richard

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Poor Richard
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

So much here and so little time. I can't begin to get to everything right now. But a couple things.

Quote Kerry:The question is 'WHY did early life forms create an environment that supported other life?' From the perspective of that life form, following the basic structure of Darwinian evolution, there is no reason why this would happen--no purpose intrinsic to that form of life.

What do you mean there is no reason for this to happen according to evolution? Early life forms did not set out to create an environment for other life. They just replicated. And to replicate you need resources. If the waste product of one set of replicators can be a resource for another, then you have a niche in which life can evolve. Of course, once oxygen was introduced into the picture, most life at the time died. Those replicators that survived had to be able to handle oxygen, and various life developed which could take advantage of such a high energy reactant.

Until recently, we have thought that multicellular organisms require oxygen to develop. But it turns out this is not so. That opens the possibility that even if cyanobacteria had not evolved and pumped out oxygen, complex life could still have developed using other means.

You do not need to assume a creator or guiding intelligence for the process to occur.

Quote Kerry:Asking it as 'so what?' attempts to belittle the point--but the point is that life progresses life beyond any single life unit's or even any species interest. Microbes in a primordial goo forge the way for human consciousness to be created among a varied and intricate life form that takes on millions of types...the progression, itself, implies the purpose....

Again, I dispute the "progression". Primordial microbes did not "forge the way" except incidentally. Life evolved to survive in the environment it found itself in. It could have been different and different life would have evolved. Perhaps it was inevitable that once an oxygen producing bacteria evolved, something akin to modern life would have followed. Oxygen was deadly to most life on the planet when cyanobacteria first appeared. There was mass extinction, leaving a huge void to be filled by whatever could evolve to take advantage of it.

Quote Kerry:This is the entire point. 'They' didn't do it...now, do you see the point I'm making here?

It's not necessary for an outside intelligence to do it either. You're essentially proposing a God of the gaps. Even if we don't know how or why it occurred, there is no reason to fill our ignorance with God. Though I'm not up on the cutting edge of evolutionary theory, so I'm not sure just how much we do know right now.

Quote Kerry:what's the purpose of your rationality? As Thoreau might pose, is it really merely for 'expediency in the moment'? Which appears more 'political' than 'truthful' to me...

There is no external purpose to my rationality. My moral and ethical value system, as derived by personal and cultural experience, says that facts are important. As I care about other human beings, and pseudo-science and irrationality demonstrably harms people, I feel a moral obligation to speak out against it. It would be inconsistent to speak out against Intelligent Design, Global Warming deniers, birthers, and religious fundamentalism on the Right and not speak out against alternative medicine, anti-vaxxers, 9-11 truthers, and New Agers on the left. They are all cut from the same cloth, use many of the same arguments, and make the same logical fallacies.

Quote Kerry:And, as far as 'intelligent design' vs. 'evolution' goes, I think we can shorten this problem tremendously (and, as I've been trying to explain, I think there is some 'natural' basis for ) by saying that 'intelligent design' is 'evolution'--and vice-versa....

Just to be clear, if I use the term Intelligent Design, I am referring to the re-branding of creationism as put out by the Discovery Institute. That is the common meaning of the phrase at this point in history.

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reed9
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Apr. 8, 2010 11:26 am

Poor Richard, the reason I have had to define terms and even use terms that have treated in a confusing manner is that religion and faith are not well understood. Human Development theories have allowed us to look at how faith develops along with cognitive and moral development. It is about human experience, not whether there is a god or not. But the experience of religion can promote a healthy human spiritual development leading to an excellent result, or it can get in the way.

The perspective of developmental theory has helped me find a way to describe what is healthy or not in terms of process instead of dogmatic content or religious affiliation. The essential for healthy development is that the whole process be interdependent instead of in separated stages. Belief, doubt, imagination and mutuality (where love and justice pertain) are the four modes of faith corresponding to dependence, counter-dependence, self-dependence and interdependence.

Because I was interested in what developmental theory told us about faith itself rather than charting the complexities beyond this simple model, its simplicity served to clarify some insights. Churches tend to keep their young people in a dependent mode rather than support the doubt and imagination of highly individuated development. They tend to organize around belief and mutuality in highly affiliative modes.

This is a serious problem for the churches because their culture of "faith" is lacking the adolescent and young adult input, and they are left with belief in action, something that a cult does very well. In a cult, the individuals is subsumed into the collective and doubt and imagination are repudiated or "baptized" and domesticated into serving dogma and dogmatic mission goals. Questions and deviations in belief are threatening to the group instead of openings for the Holy Spirit to bring new light.

Conversely, it has left many intellectuals turned off by the repudiation of their intellectual faith journeys as doubt is suppressed as if it were the enemy of belief. The "ivory tower" is an ironic image of doubt and imagination cut off from believing in anything or having any moral purpose in being. It is highly individual and lacking in community, and many of the issues of "acadamentia" are rooted in arrested development at self and a failure to become a true community.

The reason I have continued to post on this topic is that I do believe that atheists are right about doubt and that what they reject is bad theology too. But Mr. Cline tried to make philosophy into a cult activity and had no ability to distinguish useful from bad religion. He created strawman arguments and referred to anecdotes we can all agree represent bad religion.

Finally, of course Newton did not experience the collapse of his cosmology as a way to explain the universe. It was his new and inventive thinking which opened up a whole new way of investigating the universe, leading to more information than his theories could contain. The point of the analogy is that Newtonian Physics gets us to the moon and that relativity and quantum are not needed for that task.

In a similar manner, praying to God can be a "Newtonian" way of getting an answer and comfort for those who use theism. For those bothered by the inability of theism to explain or exist within what we know to be true of the cosmos, praying to the spaghetti monster may be what comes to mind. For those reasons, finding a way to explore all these wonders of love and beauty, as well as deal with the terrors and the darkness, and not become mechanistic or 'economic man' is at issue.

I only worry about bad religion outside the label because of what has happened when false realities have infected those who bear great power and they have bamboozled so many of us with what appears to be religious manipulation instead of anything purely secular. I mean it about economists who did not know enough theology to know they were playing a dangerous game. I think the same applies to the PNAC folk, and we need to be able to call this stuff down before it goes toxic on us.

I don't find the political thinking that cannot account for the power of love sufficiently real to the human condition, for example. But the social sciences do not want to deal with stuff that is hard to measure. And if any of you are offended by the idea that secularism can be reductionist because you are not, believe me, I have met a lot of highly reduced secularists who repudiate the soul as they seek to gain the whole world. Faust is selling his crap like hotcakes today.

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DRC
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"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?" -Epicurus

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Poo tee weet
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May. 7, 2010 5:17 pm

Ptw- Just to be clear. I am not arguing for a devil nor God as good guy, but I understand the frustration with the contradictions you point out.

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mattnapa
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm
Quote DRC:

Poor Richard, the reason I have had to define terms and even use terms that have treated in a confusing manner is that religion and faith are not well understood. Human Development theories have allowed us to look at how faith develops along with cognitive and moral development. It is about human experience, not whether there is a god or not. But the experience of religion can promote a healthy human spiritual development leading to an excellent result, or it can get in the way.

Religion, "spirituality", "soul", etc. are words or concepts I consider neither good nor evil. The problem is that they are superfluous. Anything that exists in the natural world can be described and discussed in secular terms. The religious vocabulary is only indispensable if we need to mix natural and supernatural ideas. Otherwise, everything religious has a secular equivalent and if we apply Occam's razor to our language we can pare away the religious terminology and promote greater clarity in our dialog.

For example, in a previous post you wrote about the plight of the poor and suggested that religion had something to offer to raise their hopes and their prospects. There is little doubt that many feel they have been helped by religion, but my concern is that the result is brought about for the wrong reasons (various placebo-like effects) and the ends achieved by religion may not justify the means used by religion if there are more transparent and straightforward secular equivalents. In my opinion, something like a union is more appropriate than a religion to serve the poor. A poor friend of mine proposed many years ago that we form an "International Poor People's Union" and it was a fine idea, but both of us are reclusive people and not organizers so we haven't acted on the idea. Maybe it is something you might consider.

Quote DRC:I don't find the political thinking that cannot account for the power of love sufficiently real to the human condition, for example. But the social sciences do not want to deal with stuff that is hard to measure. And if any of you are offended by the idea that secularism can be reductionist because you are not, believe me, I have met a lot of highly reduced secularists who repudiate the soul as they seek to gain the whole world. Faust is selling his crap like hotcakes today.

It is a straw man to claim that "social sciences do not want to deal with stuff that is hard to measure" and that "secularism can be reductionist". Anything can be reductionist, including religious creation myths, for example. If you have real intellectual courage and integrity, you will choose to challenge the best of your opponents and their positions and not the extreme fringe.

You mention the power of love. There is a lot of social science and recently some biochemical and cognitive science that can deepen our understanding of love. Does it replace great romantic and erotic literature and art? No. But I am at a loss to think of anything unique that religion contributes to the subject. The only "baby" we loose with the religious bathwater is the supernatural. And we don't even really loose it, we just stop treating it like an absolute truth out of bounds of all the rules we apply to evaluate the reliability of information.

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Poor Richard
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Quote reed9:

Life evolved to survive in the environment it found itself in. It could have been different and different life would have evolved. Perhaps it was inevitable that once an oxygen producing bacteria evolved, something akin to modern life would have followed. Oxygen was deadly to most life on the planet when cyanobacteria first appeared. There was mass extinction, leaving a huge void to be filled by whatever could evolve to take advantage of it.

An interesting parallel with the human big brain pumping CO2 into the air with another mass extinction as the possible unintended consequence. Perhaps the next iteration of big-brained organism will be intelligent, mobile trees living off plentiful sunlight, water and CO2 with long lifespans promoting wisdom and little pressure to engage in madcap technological arms races.

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Poor Richard
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm
Quote DRC:

Science can get into a Sgt. Friday, Just the Facts mode and argue for a lot of ideas about nature. Commerce reduced reality makes BP's decisions just bidness. What does bind us in human solidarity, for "liberty and justice for all," or for care for "the least of these?" I think facts are a big part of what establishes authority, but "the human" element in the story is what we have to internalize to make it more than instrumental to the "facts." "Secular reality" can be stark and reduced, and the debate about the science of compassion v competition will not be objective.

Secular reality CAN be stark and reduced? What a grasping-at-straws-man argument! The price of tea in China can be very very high, too... Is your idea of a fair fight standing the weakest possible version of secular society against the strongest possible version of religion?

Secular society is flawed, but religion is not a uniquely necessary nor fitting tool to fix a single one of society's ills. In fact religion is sometimes the weakest approach --sort of the duct tape repair --too often prescribing the right action for the wrong reasons.

Poor Richard

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Poor Richard
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Poor Richard said-

The religious vocabulary is only indispensable if we need to mix natural and supernatural ideas

So I assume that altered states of consciousness are not a form of religion? Do those who practice altered states cross a line when they claim to understand the world in a different way? Is coorespondence theory a secular or religous question? Where does the real world end and the supernatural begin?

Boy I wonder what my DNA will decide to do tommorow? in the meantime I wonder how many billions will consider themselves helped by religion. i did not come here to argue the merits religous stories and beliefs have on people, but the absolutist rhetoric from the other side begs a response. What about the traditions which teach self control, discipline, and dare I say it, love. Can you really point to all the violent, hypocritical, and otherwise self destructive behavior of mankind as caused by religion? The world is no doubt in trouble, but part of the secular mindset which says let me get as much as I can in the here in know seems to be leading the race for mans self destruction. There is no necessity for religion in our demise. Do you doubt that?

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mattnapa
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Quote mattnapa:

Poor Richard said-

The religious vocabulary is only indispensable if we need to mix natural and supernatural ideas

So I assume that altered states of consciousness are not a form of religion? Do those who practice altered states cross a line when they claim to understand the world in a different way? Is coorespondence theory a secular or religous question? Where does the real world end and the supernatural begin?

Where does the real world end and the supernatural begin? That's a good question.

Human nature abhors a mystery. In earlier times many things we now consider natural phenomenon had no known explanations and so people made up supernatural explainations and fought over them. The difference between then and now is that so many things that were once explained by supernatural agencies are now understood as natural phenomena that we have reached a tipping point: the presumption can now be made that all phenomena are probbaly natural whether we understand the mechanism yet or not. The presumption can be made that there probably is no "supernatural".

Altered states of consciousness is a good example. Although research in this area has been hampered by taboos, especially those around psychoactive drugs, and by entrenched attitudes about mental illness, science (cognitive neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, neurotheology, and evolutionary religious studies, to mention just a few fields) has been making some progress in understanding many of our familiar day-to-day and our exotic or "peak" states of consciousness. Those invested in old supernatural explanations should at least see the handwriting on the wall.

I have been fortunate in personally experienceing a wide variety of exotic and peak states of consciousness, with and without various drugs and ritual practices, including what I considered "religious" experiences at the time, and I find the available scientific litierature of much greater interest and value than any of the many religious or spiritual explanations that I have studied and explored over the years. I find that although religious practicies can be useful in acheiving various exotic states of consciousness, they are often not as useful in really explaining or understanding them.

Many of my "religious" and "altered consciousness" experiences are precious to me. They are "sacred" in the sense that they continue to be of great value in shaping the development of my mind and my relationship with the world. However, I see nothing necessarily "supernatural" about them any more.

Quote mattnapa: Boy I wonder what my DNA will decide to do tommorow? in the meantime I wonder how many billions will consider themselves helped by religion.

As long as the billions helped by religion appreciate the natural explanations for the benefits they recieved, that's a good thing. A placebo is a good thing as long as the patient isn't sold a false belief to go with it. A sense of community is a good thing as long as it isn't exploited for ulterior motives. My point was that what most have recieved from religion could have been recieved through secular equivalents of hypnosis, cognitive therapy, social groups, mindfulness meditation, etc.

Quote mattnapa:i did not come here to argue the merits religous stories and beliefs have on people, but the absolutist rhetoric from the other side begs a response. What about the traditions which teach self control, discipline, and dare I say it, love.

It seems ironic to me that you focus on "absolutist rhetoric from the other [secular] side". There is some absolutist rhetoric on all sides, but usually religion is considered more "absolutist" than secular humanism, which is accused of being too relativistic.

Does the absolutist rhetoric on the secular side deserve rebuttal? Perhaps, but I don't see much point in rebutting any kind of extreme, fanatical or fundamentalist idiology, including an extreme materialist/reductionist/positivist/relativist one. "You can't reason people out of something they weren't resoned into" --Johnathan Swift. I would rather concentrate my dialog with the more reasonable advocates of religion than the extreme ones, and I would rather leave the job of policing the extremists on my own secular side of the argument to others who are more tolerant of fools in general.

As for " traditions which teach self control, discipline, and dare I say it, love" religion has no monoppoly in any of those areas and, again, it too often has hidden agendas and false foundations for its teachings. There are plenty of good reasons for self-control, discipline, and love (and also things like justice, ethics, and morality, and peace) without bringing God or religion into it at all. Religious appologists that claim "there is no good without God" have simply not studied secular philosophy and ethics.

Quote mattnapa:Can you really point to all the violent, hypocritical, and otherwise self destructive behavior of mankind as caused by religion?

Hardly. Religion has had a mixed track record on violence and folly. But my issue with religion at its best is that too often it encourages the right behavior for the wrong reason (to get into heaven, for example).

Quote mattnapa:The world is no doubt in trouble, but part of the secular mindset which says let me get as much as I can in the here in know seems to be leading the race for mans self destruction. There is no necessity for religion in our demise. Do you doubt that?

Does a secular ecologist or climate scientist say " let me get as much as I can in the here and now"? That is a straw man argument but I often see it attributed to the "godless materialist" and "godless humanist". A few such deranged materialists and humanists certainly exist, but no doubt there are just as many born again evangelical christian fundamentalists who have the same rationale for raping the environment as fast as possible before Armageddon.

Most secular humanists believe strongly in family and community responsibility, environmental stewardship, sustainability, economic justice, and leaving a better world to our children. Religious people may believe in some of these values, but I don't see that religion offers any practical solutions to these problems that are stronger than the secular versions (which include not only our scientific and academic knowledge, but the wisdom of the humanities and liberal arts as well).

Poor Richard

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Quote mattnapa:

Boy I wonder what my DNA will decide to do tommorow?

Is your position then that genes play no role in human behavior? So sexuality is in fact a function of free will, we choose to be straight or gay? The best estimate is that about 50% of human variation can be attributed to genetics. Even to the point of political preferences.

Quote mattnapa:in the meantime I wonder how many billions will consider themselves helped by religion. i did not come here to argue the merits religous stories and beliefs have on people, but the absolutist rhetoric from the other side begs a response.

What is absolutist about insisting on evidence?

Quote mattnapa:So is it also unanswerable as to how real reality is? You know the coorespondency theory thing to which you never responded.

I don't know what it is about correspondence theory that you're trying to get at, so it's hard to respond. As I understand, correspondence theory says that a statement is only true if it "corresponds" with or has a referent to physical reality. This of course ignores the various meanings of the word "truth". To say that Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker's father is true within the context of the movie Star Wars, but obviously not true in the sense that it refers to actual events or history. It can be true for me to say that this curry is too spicy, but that truth is relative to my opinion and may not hold for the next person. And there are truths like in correspondence theory, such as Seattle is a city in Washington State. Humans are mostly adept at seamlessly moving between different frameworks of "truth". Religion muddies that by claiming stories to either correspond to real events, or simultaneously exist is two different frameworks. Jesus rose from the dead can be "true" in a biblical story, and many religious people claim it is true in history as well.

Quote mattnapa:i have little doubt that those who believe in an afterlife are happier. Especially if they avoid all the trial by fire kind of stuff. So I would ask why be unhappier? Because "you might" be wrong about a question which is not knowable

I don't find the idea of an afterlife comforting at all. For myself or for other people. I think it would be demeaning to the reality of my grandmother's life to suppose she is sitting in "heaven" now. I can't help but think your happiness is pretty fragile if it requires an afterlife to sustain it. It is also this belief in an afterlife that gives some people the courage to kill "the infidel", knowing they will be rewarded in heaven. It's seems kind of sick to live for an afterlife. We'd be better off assuming this life is all we have, so let's make it as wonderful as possible. Also, arguing to believe because it's "comforting" and anyway you "might be wrong" is just rephrasing Pascal's Wager.

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reed9
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Some of this seems to be more us talking around each other than with each other. Some of those here who claim the high road of 'rational objectivity' really have less 'objectivity' to go by than what they claim for themselves:

...It would be inconsistent to speak out against Intelligent Design, Global Warming deniers, birthers, and religious fundamentalism on the Right and not speak out against alternative medicine, anti-vaxxers, 9-11 truthers, and New Agers on the left. They are all cut from the same cloth, use many of the same arguments, and make the same logical fallacies.--reed9

Yet, what you do seem to ignore is that your position on such rational ground isn't based on as much 'objective evidence' as you assume--I thought our discussion with HIV/AIDS would indicate that to you. But, instead, you go off on all forms of 'deniers' as if you rationale has more evidence. And, since I do practice the science and art of medicine, I am well aware of the 'gaps in knowledge' that has been pasted with 'rational objectivity' in a manner that it really can't support and really has no right to claim such an extent as it presumes. As I believe many great thinkers have come to realize, 'The more we know, the more we know we don't know'....

As I care about other human beings, and pseudo-science and irrationality demonstrably harms people, I feel a moral obligation to speak out against it.--reed9

Science's technical applications can harm, also--with the atom bomb probably the biggest case in point of a 'harmful technical application of science'. But, there are others. The 'HIV/AIDS deniers' such as Peter Duesberg and Kary Mullis argue that AZT harms people--even as the 'rational objectivists' as 'HIV/AIDS believers' (and I do mean that as 'believers'...) chastise such inferences as being 'rationally' incorrect--even, by the way, when you apply the very rules of logical science (with Kary Mullis and Peter Duesberg pointing out that the thesis 'HIV is the probable cause of AIDS' was never proven before it started being 'applied'...).

Which goes back to my own point about not only the basis of 'rationality' but, also, the basis of 'consciousness', itself--and, much of that 'basis' has as much to do more with a political position as it does a real position of knowledge and understanding....as Thoreau might question, is the basis for all of this 'expediency'--or 'the truth'? And, again, do you believe in 'the truth'?

You do not need to assume a creator or guiding intelligence for the process to occur.--reed9

Despite what you say, I do believe that if you are to believe in 'the truth', you do need a form of belief in an 'integrity binder' to act as a 'cognizant holding cell' for the 'gaps' in our knowledge. Otherwise, you are left with rationalists such as yourself who claim an 'objective knowledge' of all things without really comprehending any 'objective proof' of such a position--just claiming that that's 'it'. But, when you understand that such 'objectivity' doesn't really contain everything it claims, as I've said, you are more posturing for a political basis as much as one claiming a 'truth' that it doesn't have--not even in using the elements of 'rationale' it claims to use (like basing the premise of a rational thought on the factual evidence when the entire HIV/AIDS industry was initiated without proving such a premise--then, the industry, itself, 'creates its own rationale' by looking for 'objective' evidence that 'confirms it' and ignoring 'objective' evidence that does not--just like I am sure you claim 'the deniers' do....but, the 'HIV/AIDS supporters' have the political advantage of the 'reimbursement industry' directing it just like Dean Ornish pointed out...). Now, do you believe in the truth--or not? Or, are all those 'gaps in our knowledge' to be 'filled in with an integrity binder'--or 'covered up by self-assured rationalists' (with no real objective evidence for their claims) such as yourself?

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Kerry
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm
Quote reed9:

[quote=mattnapa]

Boy I wonder what my DNA will decide to do tommorow?

Is your position then that genes play no role in human behavior?

No

So sexuality is in fact a function of free will, we choose to be straight or gay?

In women more so than men

The best estimate is that about 50% of human variation can be attributed to genetics. Even to the point of political preferences.

Not sure what "human variation" refers to.

Quote mattnapa:in the meantime I wonder how many billions will consider themselves helped by religion. i did not come here to argue the merits religous stories and beliefs have on people, but the absolutist rhetoric from the other side begs a response.

What is absolutist about insisting on evidence?

And what is your evidence?

Quote mattnapa:So is it also unanswerable as to how real reality is? You know the coorespondency theory thing to which you never responded.

I don't know what it is about correspondence theory that you're trying to get at, so it's hard to respond. As I understand, correspondence theory says that a statement is only true if it "corresponds" with or has a referent to physical reality. This of course ignores the various meanings of the word "truth". To say that Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker's father is true within the context of the movie Star Wars, but obviously not true in the sense that it refers to actual events or history. It can be true for me to say that this curry is too spicy, but that truth is relative to my opinion and may not hold for the next person. And there are truths like in correspondence theory, such as Seattle is a city in Washington State. Humans are mostly adept at seamlessly moving between different frameworks of "truth". Religion muddies that by claiming stories to either correspond to real events, or simultaneously exist is two different frameworks. Jesus rose from the dead can be "true" in a biblical story, and many religious people claim it is true in history as well.

The point is whether our experience actually corresponds with a separate, objective, identical reality to the one we percieve. The question is somewhat meaningless in function necessity, but the point is that it is a question that our rational faculties can comprehend. And in my opinion the consideration of it does not fit well into your guys neat little division of the real and unreal.

Quote mattnapa:i have little doubt that those who believe in an afterlife are happier. Especially if they avoid all the trial by fire kind of stuff. So I would ask why be unhappier? Because "you might" be wrong about a question which is not knowable

It is also this belief in an afterlife that gives some people the courage to kill "the infidel", knowing they will be rewarded in heaven.

Are you a fan of the "clash of civilizations" theory.? Killing for purely the sake of religion is virtually non-existent. Also the sword can cut both ways. The fact that some believe they will be punished in an after life for killing surely stops some folks as well

It's seems kind of sick to live for an afterlife.

I did not say "live for an afterlife."

We'd be better off assuming this life is all we have, so let's make it as wonderful as possible.

This is no more than opinion that life is less enjoyable if you believe it continues in some way. Mine is opinion also, but at least I am willing to look at objective measurements of happiness.

Also, arguing to believe because it's "comforting" and anyway you "might be wrong" is just rephrasing Pascal's Wager.

Exactly my point

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Until recently, we have thought that multicellular organisms require oxygen to develop. But it turns out this is not so. That opens the possibility that even if cyanobacteria had not evolved and pumped out oxygen, complex life could still have developed using other means.--reed9

And, from reed9's connection from Scientific American in that post:

--And in these sediments, from almost two miles below the ocean’s surface, they found three distinct species of a tiny multicellular animal phylum called Loricifera.

They don’t have mitochondria. Instead, they seem to have organelles that resemble hydrogenosomes—similar to mitochondria, but that use anaerobic chemistry. Scientists don’t yet fully understand the biochemistry—but the discovery opens the possibility of complex life forms on oxygen-free planets.

While that does indicate the tendency for life to 'organize', it really doesn't indicate the purpose for life to do such a thing in nature--and, of course, if there wasn't such as thing as 'consciousness'--especially a 'consciousness' on a human level--there wouldn't be anything present to ask that question....then, in taking the concept of 'consciousness' and its ability to ascribe to 'imaginary scenarios' not found in any objective means in the 'nature' around it, as the 'fourth dimension' that some claim 'consciousness' to be, is it a 'natural element' or a 'supra-natural' element? The 'supra-natural' element is the position consciousness can hold for itself in contemplating 'nature'--both with 'consciousness' in it--and with 'consciousness' apart from it.....

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Kerry
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Quote Poor Richard:

[quote=mattnapa]

Poor Richard said-

The religious vocabulary is only indispensable if we need to mix natural and supernatural ideas

So I assume that altered states of consciousness are not a form of religion? Do those who practice altered states cross a line when they claim to understand the world in a different way? Is coorespondence theory a secular or religous question? Where does the real world end and the supernatural begin?

Where does the real world end and the supernatural begin? That's a good question.

Human nature abhors a mystery. In earlier times many things we now consider natural phenomenon had no known explanations and so people made up supernatural explainations and fought over them. The difference between then and now is that so many things that were once explained by supernatural agencies are now understood as natural phenomena that we have reached a tipping point: the presumption can now be made that all phenomena are probbaly natural whether we understand the mechanism yet or not. The presumption can be made that there probably is no "supernatural".

Altered states of consciousness is a good example. Although research in this area has been hampered by taboos, especially those around psychoactive drugs, and by entrenched attitudes about mental illness, science (cognitive neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, neurotheology, and evolutionary religious studies, to mention just a few fields) has been making some progress in understanding many of our familiar day-to-day and our exotic or "peak" states of consciousness. Those invested in old supernatural explanations should at least see the handwriting on the wall.

I have been fortunate in personally experienceing a wide variety of exotic and peak states of consciousness, with and without various drugs and ritual practices, including what I considered "religious" experiences at the time, and I find the available scientific litierature of much greater interest and value than any of the many religious or spiritual explanations that I have studied and explored over the years. I find that although religious practicies can be useful in acheiving various exotic states of consciousness, they are often not as useful in really explaining or understanding them.

Many of my "religious" and "altered consciousness" experiences are precious to me. They are "sacred" in the sense that they continue to be of great value in shaping the development of my mind and my relationship with the world. However, I see nothing necessarily "supernatural" about them any more.

But you did not answer whether they can be considered religous?

Quote mattnapa: Boy I wonder what my DNA will decide to do tommorow? in the meantime I wonder how many billions will consider themselves helped by religion.

As long as the billions helped by religion appreciate the natural explanations for the benefits they recieved, that's a good thing. A placebo is a good thing as long as the patient isn't sold a false belief to go with it. A sense of community is a good thing as long as it isn't exploited for ulterior motives. My point was that what most have recieved from religion could have been recieved through secular equivalents of hypnosis, cognitive therapy, social groups, mindfulness meditation, etc.

My synapses seem to agree.

Quote mattnapa:i did not come here to argue the merits religous stories and beliefs have on people, but the absolutist rhetoric from the other side begs a response. What about the traditions which teach self control, discipline, and dare I say it, love.

It seems ironic to me that you focus on "absolutist rhetoric from the other [secular] side". There is some absolutist rhetoric on all sides, but usually religion is considered more "absolutist" than secular humanism, which is accused of being too relativistic.

Yes maybe absolutist is unfair.

Does the absolutist rhetoric on the secular side deserve rebuttal? Perhaps, but I don't see much point in rebutting any kind of extreme, fanatical or fundamentalist idiology, including an extreme materialist/reductionist/positivist/relativist one. "You can't reason people out of something they weren't resoned into" --Johnathan Swift. I would rather concentrate my dialog with the more reasonable advocates of religion than the extreme ones, and I would rather leave the job of policing the extremists on my own secular side of the argument to others who are more tolerant of fools in general.

As for " traditions which teach self control, discipline, and dare I say it, love" religion has no monoppoly in any of those areas and, again, it too often has hidden agendas and false foundations for its teachings.

Again agreed, but it seems you are little tepid in acknowledging that religion can be defined as being involved in these activities? As I have said to Reed earlier science is a nice idea in it pure form as well, but it has little to do with how it is applied on earth

There are plenty of good reasons for self-control, discipline, and love (and also things like justice, ethics, and morality, and peace) without bringing God or religion into it at all. Religious appologists that claim "there is no good without God" have simply not studied secular philosophy and ethics.

Quote mattnapa:Can you really point to all the violent, hypocritical, and otherwise self destructive behavior of mankind as caused by religion?

Hardly. Religion has had a mixed track record on violence and folly. But my issue with religion at its best is that too often it encourages the right behavior for the wrong reason (to get into heaven, for example).

Certainly true to a degree, but ethics in general are pressed for rational reasons for behavior. They usually call for a sense of altruism and empathy which are not necessarily guided by rationality either

Quote mattnapa:The world is no doubt in trouble, but part of the secular mindset which says let me get as much as I can in the here in know seems to be leading the race for mans self destruction. There is no necessity for religion in our demise. Do you doubt that?

Does a secular ecologist or climate scientist say " let me get as much as I can in the here and now"? That is a straw man argument but I often see it attributed to the "godless materialist" and "godless humanist".

For a straw man to have occured, I would have needed to have made an absolute generalization. I do not see where I did that

A few such deranged materialists and humanists certainly exist, but no doubt there are just as many born again evangelical christian fundamentalists who have the same rationale for raping the environment as fast as possible before Armageddon.

Most secular humanists believe strongly in family and community responsibility, environmental stewardship, sustainability, economic justice, and leaving a better world to our children. Religious people may believe in some of these values, but I don't see that religion offers any practical solutions to these problems that are stronger than the secular versions (which include not only our scientific and academic knowledge, but the wisdom of the humanities and liberal arts as well).

Poor Richard

Thanks for fair responses Poor Richard

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Quote Kerry:

Yet, what you do seem to ignore is that your position on such rational ground isn't based on as much 'objective evidence' as you assume--I thought our discussion with HIV/AIDS would indicate that to you.

I'm not going to get into your AIDS denialism again, beyond saying that you emphatically did not show that my position is not based on objective evidence.

Quote Kerry:But, instead, you go off on all forms of 'deniers' as if you rationale has more evidence. And, since I do practice the science and art of medicine, I am well aware of the 'gaps in knowledge' that has been pasted with 'rational objectivity' in a manner that it really can't support and really has no right to claim such an extent as it presumes. As I believe many great thinkers have come to realize, 'The more we know, the more we know we don't know'....

Allow me to present a list of prominent practicioners of the art and science of medicine who would disagree with you on many of your conclusions. Probably the most well known in the list is Dr. Harriet Hall. Of course, none of them would disagree that their are gaps in our knowledge. That's hardly the point though. It doesn't help anyone or ourselves to leap to conclusions based on an absence of evidence, nor to adhere to poor evidence in support an ideological position while ignoring the vast majority of data that is out there.

I am of course in good company lumping AIDS deniers and 9/11 truthers with other conspiracy theorists and obscurantists. As we have seen in other threads, you'd be hard pressed to find any real science publication that did not draw the same comparison. The vast majority of scientifically minded people agree with me.

Quote Kerry:Which goes back to my own point about not only the basis of 'rationality' but, also, the basis of 'consciousness', itself--and, much of that 'basis' has as much to do more with a political position as it does a real position of knowledge and understanding....as Thoreau might question, is the basis for all of this 'expediency'--or 'the truth'? And, again, do you believe in 'the truth'?

I've answered your "truth" question, so I have no idea what you're looking for.

Quote Kerry:Despite what you say, I do believe that if you are to believe in 'the truth', you do need a form of belief in an 'integrity binder' to act as a 'cognizant holding cell' for the 'gaps' in our knowledge... Or, are all those 'gaps in our knowledge' to be 'filled in with an integrity binder'--or 'covered up by self-assured rationalists' (with no real objective evidence for their claims) such as yourself?

What exactly counts as real objective evidence? We already know you don't believe in statistics and you don't accept double blind placebo controlled studies. Most of the time it seems you think personal biased experience and anecdotal stories have more clout than careful observations of the data.

The gaps in our knowledge are the wonderful opportunities for new knowledge and discoveries to emerge. Filling them with a God of the Gaps is a disservice to honest inquiry and an affront to the quest for understanding.

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reed9
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Quote mattnapa:This is no more than opinion that life is less enjoyable if you believe it continues in some way. Mine is opinion also, but at least I am willing to look at objective measurements of happiness.

Objective measurements of happiness? Great. Denmark is considered the happiest nation on earth and less than 30% of them profess a belief in God and less than 21% believe in sin.

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reed9
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Apr. 8, 2010 11:26 am

Poor Richard, once again I must ask for your patience with material that is obviously tough for you to understand. I apologize for not having the master vocabulary or rhetoric to dispel the straw argumentation I keep finding in the way of a conversation. Let me review a few of these:

1. I do not believe I have ever tried to give "the supernatural" any place in my thinking. Unless you regard metaphysics, myth, poetry and fiction as "the supernatural," just because they use an imaginary frame to tell the truth about life does not make them "ethereal" rather than substantive. The subject is always about being human on earth in our time and place.

I have repeatedly stated that transforming any of these imaginative modes into science or real history is an error of gross proportions, albeit a common error. Religion is about myth, but faith is about reality. The theologies of the institutional church includes the theology of its essential human inadequacy. Those who want to institutionalize salvation and manage a dependent population have always been in conflict with those who know that the message cannot be turned on its head and retain its integrity.

It is the conversation of the Grand Inquisitor from Dostoyevsky.

2. What is it about Liberation Theology that you have missed? You want an organizing strategy for Poor People in Solidarity? Try the exodus story where SLAVES are freed by God because God said they were human even if Pharaoh and the Egyptians did not think so. This is what was discovered in praxis, and it is why the whole idea of "God's preferential option for the poor" was developed. And no, that is not some denial of evil in the world or candyland promise of heaven. It is the unmasking of the false story of the colonial masters and the economic reality of a morally corrupt order. People who had learned to be victims and mere labor for their masters became human, and resisted.

What stopped them was the Contras, etc. Gets real in a hurry.

3. You have objected several times to my examples of "secularism can be" as if they were strawman arguments. I assure you that they are deeply based in experience, either in encounters with real human beings or in serious topics of cultural studies and public policy problems. My use of "can be" is only to keep from inferring "must be" as some critics of secularism insist. I have never doubted the ability of any individual to come to "faith" without "religion." We even have the story of the Gentile who fulfills the Law without knowing it in the Bible. It is always about the reality, not the brand.

Nonetheless, you evade the issue of where "love" connects to political theory and not just to it being a really important part of everyone's life. I get that it is important, love is, but I want to know how we calculate its power in our political thinking and public policy issues. And if you have not experienced the reduction of the non-measurable from the methodology of "real" social science, do not refute it by claiming that religion does this all the time. I KNOW!! This is why I want to have a way to critique this and avoid it. Science is not very good at moral issues, but what do we have that is anymore?

4. Defining anything that talks about the experience "of God" or some other ethereal gloss on definition and meaning as "supernatural" or superstition or anything less than "fact" just kicks a lot of the epistemological universe out of the room. The modern perspective on the history of religion and science imposes a distinction few of them were part of.

The Age of Reason has always had a strong "anti-clerical" strain. It arose in opposition to a corrupted political monarchism and its partner churches where authority and dogma was imposed from above and education limited to those doing the imposing. Protestants also rebelled against the top-down control, but not against the idea that they had the right to determine the correct dogma in their social realms (when they were in power instead of resisting it). But there was an important transition under way from the bottom up, and it came to a marriage in Scottish Philosophy called "Common Sense" in the 17th Century.

What the theologians and philosophers agreed on was the liberation of mind and conscience from the domination of the prince and the prelate. As the human mind was able to grasp the order of the natural world through the practice of reason, so too the conscience could apprehend the essential truths of the moral universe sufficiently to be both the moral and intellectual agent of responsibility.

As enthusiasm for reason and the moral agency of free conscience grew, the idea of "free will" trumped the old idea of predestination and salvation without "works" earning it. It is not really a choice, just a matter of attitude and which goes first, but it became the big conflict between Liberal "religion (or not) of reason" and Conservative "concern" that secularism and the 'compromise' of "American values" (meaning loss of religious covenant story) is what is going wrong today.

I think that is a big problem for the reconciliation of our sibling rivalry and stories. I want a way to expose religious errors that gets at the issues and the narrative instead of falling into the trap of "toleration." We cannot fight about brands, but if we see some brands doing toxic things that we can name, we can expose what is toxic without just going after anyone's tradition.

The other useful item on the agenda is to get something into the Left that can appeal to people who want more than isolated protesting and thinking without any real community of mission or common bonds. Being condescending to religion and theology because you have your own history with bad religion and smarmy spirituality cuts you off from those who know this crap best. We who live and fight against it up close and personal can be your allies if you don't pull up the blinders and throw mud at us.

Spiritual "peak experiences" may be fine, but I want what it takes for the daily slog and the times when it gets dry and uncomfortable. There really does have to be something to believe in, at least about our humanity, that makes us more than the functions of whatever holds power. The only alternative to "power" is real or authentic power. What tells us the difference?

But more important, why not have a positive conversation about what is and works instead of a fight about whether myths and metaphors work or are "real." I won't be your enemy unless you insist.

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DRC
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

I'm not going to get into your AIDS denialism again, beyond saying that you emphatically did not show that my position is not based on objective evidence.--reed9

Only the very fact that you ignore the point Peter Duesberg and Kary Mullis are making as the 'AIDS deniers' they are that the premise 'HIV is the probable cause of AIDS' never went through any tests to verify its assumption before being implemented as 'the program'. And, you, as the rationalist you claim to be, don't see a problem with that--which, to me, indicates that your form of 'rationalism' is based more on what you believe it represents moreso than what it may actually be able to 'rationally' confirm....

You don't see that as a problem. I do. But, then, in my own defense, I'm used to having to apply what I 'know'--and I know the pitfalls in that knowledge in having to apply it....

What exactly counts as real objective evidence?--reed9

I could ask you the same thing--especially since you don't seem to see a problem in the 'objectivity' of 'HIV being the probable cause of AIDS' never having been confirmed in any study before 'the program' got implemented...

We already know you don't believe in statistic....--reed9

You can't find a better word than 'believe' in that statement, can you, reed9? THAT is part of my point. And, of course, statistics oftentimes can be adjusted to match the 'belief' of the statistician--especially, as in HIV/AIDS case, there is no etiological explanation behind it to back it up. When that happens, 'statistics' just becomes a series of anecdotal evidence. So, why would 'I' believe the 'series of anecdotal evidence' supposedly proven by 'statistics' on what you believe to be true rather than, say, an alternative practitioner that may (and many times does) have just as 'solid a statistical evidence' proving what they believe? Without the etiological explanation to back it up, you don't....it appears that you don't seem to understand that point in this 'statistical proof' issue.

....and you don't accept double blind placebo controlled studies--reed9

I don't accept one 'double blind placebo controlled study' over another, no. You do. I've told you that the German naturopathic 'PDR', Monograph M, has 'double blind placebo controlled' trials testing some of their agents--and, while they do stipulate what they believe to be the 'active ingredient', they don't have any more (or less) etiological evidence in these assessments than do almost any 'double blind placebo controlled trial'--even the ones that you apparently 'believe' in. So, why do you adhere to one but shun the other? And, then, you claim it is 'I' who is the one beset with 'belief'....

If you would look at your position with a little more honest scrutiny (including how the premise of 'HIV is the probable cause of AIDS' as NOT being tested before it was 'implemented' as skewing all subsequent 'studies'...), you would understand my point. But, instead, you have a 'belief' to maintain for yourself, don't you?

Most of the time it seems you think personal biased experience and anecdotal stories have more clout than careful observations of the data.--reed9

What do you think distinguishes 'personal biased experience and anecdotal stories' from 'careful observation of data' in any medical application that has no definite and distinctive etiological basis from which to go by? That is a serious question that you need to think hard on before trying to answer it if you really 'believe' there to be 'an answer'. And, once you think about it, maybe you will understand that I as a clinician would rather go for 'whatever works' than 'whatever has a study but no complete explanation that doesn't work in every case, anyway'....and, all 'studies' can be biased--especially those that don't have a separately provable etiological basis for the action....something you don't seem to acknowledge as you 'believe' in them because of how 'objective' you 'believe' them to be....

The gaps in our knowledge are the wonderful opportunities for new knowledge and discoveries to emerge. Filling them with a God of the Gaps is a disservice to honest inquiry and an affront to the quest for understanding.--reed9

Not if I believe that 'God' to be the 'integrity binder' in which I believe such a belief in guards the integrity of what is to be sought for to begin with. Otherwise, I have to believe in someone like you to tell me what 'objective proof' means when I may have a different experience from what you say--despite your claim on how you 'prove it'. If it's not 100%, or it's not got a separately provable etiological explanation behind it, I may be in that part of the percentage that goes against your supposed 'objective conclusion' or I may be experiencing it in a manner you didn't predict or explain....and, if you don't think that happens all the time in the practice of medicine, you are wrong...my experience shows me that...


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Kerry
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Kerry, I agree with most of your very well-expressed comments but intelligent design = evolution?

No. Despite the amazing ongoing self-organization of the universe and the emergence of biology and abstract thought, the tangled spaghetti code of DNA is anything but intelligently optimized. It contains countless artifacts of random and accidental events. That isn't all bad -- it just isn't intelligent design. DNA is capable of creating monumental blunders--the big human brain may in fact be such a blunder if we manage to orchestrate (via the unintended consequences of our naive-but-vigorously-obsessive-compulsive manipulation of the ecosystem) one of the worst mass extinctions of the post-cambrian eras.

Of course, microorganisms will survive anything our manic narcissism can dish out to stumble once more up the long winding road to complex cognitive organisms perhaps with better integration next time of the emotional and rational neural networks. There does seem to be a fundamental problem of DNA non-design: the same big brain that invents writing and agriculture is pretty much already equipped (in evolutionary terms) to create nuclear bombs and carbon dioxide (adolescents with nukes). Eventually DNA must somehow accidentally come up with some kind of braking mechanism on the big brain so it doesn't race right over the technological cliff again and again.

If a big-brained organism evolved that lived directly on solar energy maybe some of the mad rush into a technological arms race could be avoided. Mobile trees with big brains....?

Poor Richard

____________________________________________________

Well, I know that, for instance, a frog's DNA matrix is more extensive than a humans--just because there seems to be a lot of organizational requirements for a frog to go from a completely water-bound organism to amphibious. I realize that the 'mechanism of the order' looks like a mess. After all, before getting to the 'consciousness that is human', we had all sorts of interesting animal forms that no longer exist (and I don't really want to bog down on how that 'defines progression' or 'defines other animal form's consciousness'--for the purposes of my point, the idea that we exist with 'consciousness' to question the existence of 'consciousness' and our 'conscious awareness of the world around us' is the point...). And, that doesn't even matter if the 'order of (and to) consciousness' could take a different route than how it did on earth if 'consciousness of the human level were to exist in some other entity--"put together" in some other manner--than the human form'.

An interesting book considering the very possibility that a 'conscious form' may take on other qualities than it's 'human character' in this universe was set forth by a prominent astrophysicist Fred Hoyle in his 1957 book, The Black Cloud, with an amazon.com source here (I don't know what's with the 'prices' on that page):

http://www.amazon.com/Black-Cloud-Fred-Hoyle/dp/0451114329/ref=sr_1_1?ie...

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Kerry
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Quote Kerry:And, once you think about it, maybe you will understand that I as a clinician would rather go for 'whatever works' than 'whatever has a study but no complete explanation that doesn't work in every case, anyway'...If it's not 100%, or it's not got a separately provable etiological explanation behind it, I may be in that part of the percentage that goes against your supposed 'objective conclusion' or I may be experiencing it in a manner you didn't predict or explain....and, if you don't think that happens all the time in the practice of medicine, you are wrong...my experience shows me that...

Nothing in science is ever 100%. Science is a long, arduous process, with many pitfalls and many disagreements. Over time, a consensus emerges. The best scientists will actively try to disprove their own hypotheses. Everyone is subject to cognitive errors and peer review is the beginning of trying to account for those errors.

My dispute with "whatever works" is that you don't and can't know what works from personal experience. Personal experience is subject to the whole gamut of cognitive errors left unchecked. As Dr. Mark Crislip wrote in a recent blog post, "You cannot know best practice based on individual experience. I like to tell the residents that the three most dangerous words in medicine are “In my experience.” You need large numbers of patients and studies to guide practice."

That doesn't mean your experience will be wrong, it means you don't know. There are surely times when you don't know and you must take action, and you do the best you can with the knowledge you do have. But of course we must do all we can to find out, and have a strong body of knowledge to draw from in times of uncertainty.

Here is a primer on establishing credibility of a source. And to be fair, here is a rebuttal of that post. What I want to show is that it is enormously complicated and challenging to separate the wheat from the chaff in information. It is never about one study. The best studies can certainly give strong indication, but you do have to take the whole body of evidence and work and look at it to ferret out patterns and what is probably true. This is where alternative medicine fails. There are individual studies, though often poorly controlled or with other methodological flaws, which seem to show an effect, but if you look at the whole body of research, they just don't hold up.

And this lays out what I mean by objective evidence fairly well. Again, it is difficult to ascertain credible sources of information and even credible sources are wrong plenty of times. As I've written before, Carl Sagan's "Baloney Detection Kit" is a good guide for laypeople and experts alike in evaluating information.

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reed9
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Quote Kerry:First off, are all on this 'list of prominent practitioners' really that 'unbiased' with regards to their own positions on what constitutes the 'right explanation' of the 'data set forth'?

Actually, somewhat my point. You brought up that you practiced medicine, as though I ought to grant more weight to your arguments because of it. So I showed that lots of other people who practice medicine disagree.

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reed9
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Let me add one other thing here in response to reed9's assertions:

Allow me to present a list of prominent practicioners of the art and science of medicine who would disagree with you on many of your conclusions. Probably the most well known in the list is Dr. Harriet Hall. Of course, none of them would disagree that their are gaps in our knowledge. That's hardly the point though. It doesn't help anyone or ourselves to leap to conclusions based on an absence of evidence, nor to adhere to poor evidence in support an ideological position while ignoring the vast majority of data that is out there.--reed9

First off, are all on this 'list of prominent practitioners' really that 'unbiased' with regards to their own positions on what constitutes the 'right explanation' of the 'data set forth'? That was my point in indicating that I bet all the 'prominent practitioners' that propose, like spankycrissy pointed out, that 'Bariatric surgery cures diabetes' are, themselves, 'Bariatric surgeons'.

And, by the way, it has nothing to do with the 'data that's out there'--it has to do with how it is interpreted. You seem, again, to be confusing what it means to have 'objective data' in science available to all observers vs. the 'interpretation of that data' as if 'objective' by some observers. But, coming from someone who 'believes' as you do, I can see why....

It's not the 'data', it's the 'interpretation of the data' that IS NOT 'objective'--and the less etiological explanation that is behind it to support it's 'conclusions', the less 'objectivity' is involved in 'reaching its conclusions', and, then, once again, that makes any 'statistical analysis' just be exactly like a 'series of anecdotal evidence' with no greater capacity to describe the 'data' or define its 'conclusions' than any one anecdote since it really cannot claim 100% nor does it have a definitive etiological description (separately 'provable'..) to go by....any extent of THAT form of 'objectivity' is JUST 'belief'--and I really don't care how many 'prominent practitioners' you have claiming it. Bring them in to defend it on the grounds you propose it offers and, absent any definable and specific etiological parameters and any 100% correlation, and I bet you I can point out that their 'objective proof' has discrepancies in it even to them.....unless, of course, they are a 'believer' such as yourself....but, then, that would put them in a different light to me on what an 'objective scientist' they really are....NOT....

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Kerry
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"First off, are all on this 'list of prominent practitioners' really that 'unbiased' with regards to their own positions on what constitutes the 'right explanation' of the 'data set forth'?"--me

Actually, somewhat my point. You brought up that you practiced medicine, as though I ought to grant more weight to your arguments because of it. So I showed that lots of other people who practice medicine disagree--reed9.

That's what you say, now, reed9, but what has that got to do with my further explaining this (including my own clinical position of using 'whatever works'...).

Read the rest of my post--and then tell me why you have a problem with my position as a clinician of using 'whatever works'....

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Kerry
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I really wish that an 'edit' didn't take the post out of its place. I missed this part of reed9's 'response':

Nothing in science is ever 100%. Science is a long, arduous process, with many pitfalls and many disagreements. Over time, a consensus emerges. The best scientists will actively try to disprove their own hypotheses. Everyone is subject to cognitive errors and peer review is the beginning of trying to account for those errors.--reed9

So, if nothing in science is 100%, and, especially in much of medicine, not a whole lot of that science is really based on verified and definitive etiological explanations of the 'statistical proof' it puts forth (as the 'soft science' that it can be in many instances not based on any scientifically grounded 'objective perception'--difficult to do to begin with when talking about the medical applications to humans that has a lot of subjective elements in them to begin with), why are you one to blanketly reject all 'alternative medicine'--even those that have 'double blind controlled trials' indicating their veracity as much as your 'objective medicine'?

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Kerry
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Quote Kerry:

So, if nothing in science is 100%, and, especially in much of medicine, not a whole lot of that science is really based on verified and definitive etiological explanations of the 'statistical proof' it puts forth (as the 'soft science' that it can be in many instances not based on any scientifically grounded 'objective perception'--difficult to do to begin with when talking about the medical applications to humans that has a lot of subjective elements in them to begin with), why are you one to blanketly reject all 'alternative medicine'--even those that have 'double blind controlled trials' indicating their veracity as much as your 'objective medicine'?

Well, first off I do not blanketly reject all alternative medicine. As I've already explained, I used to be a big advocate for it and I've tried very hard to find good evidence for its effectiveness. But short answer, lack of plausibility. Just because nothing is 100% doesn't mean we can't be pretty darn sure. We do not start from scratch with each new question and we should not lightly overturn everything we think we know. If there is no reason something ought to work, like homeopathy, then even if a few studies show some sort of positive result, we should be very careful in accepting it. In the case of homeopathy, the evidence is overwhelmingly against, though. We have spent decades and hundreds of millions of dollars research most of the popular alternative modalities, and even the most touted studies in support generally indicate only a mild effect. And the most positive studies pretty much invariably have serious methodological flaws and do not do enough to address bias on the part of researchers or patients, or have such small sample sizes that it's impossible to draw a strong conclusion. In fact, most of the positive studies are also meta-analyses. Individual studies on alt. med. have mostly been negative or inconclusive and the only way to tease out any effect is to look at your much disparaged "statistical proofs" to see if a pattern emerges from a set of studies.

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reed9
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Apr. 8, 2010 11:26 am

My dispute with "whatever works" is that you don't and can't know what works from personal experience.--reed9

My dispute with your dispute is that you haven't explained what 'objective basis' you have to determine how any particular application of any particular 'treatment program' works if that 'program' doesn't have a separately verifiable etiological explanation behind or a 100% correlation to it--certainly no better than 'personal experience'. After all, on a case by case basis, the application of medical care is always judged on a 'personal basis'...and, that personal basis is 'whatever works'...

Personal experience is subject to the whole gamut of cognitive errors left unchecked--reed9

So is statistical bias when you don't have a separately verifiable etiological explanation behind your position nor do you have a 100% correlation to its treatment--as any 'exception to the rule' would indicate....for instance, in the HIV/AIDS theory's case, if there were one case of HIV antibody patient live out a life-time without AIDS ever developing, what does that do to any potential etiological explanation for HIV to cause AIDS in 100% of the patients like it is passed off now? And, again, if there is that one patient that is HIV-antibody positive that never gets AIDS, why is every HIV-antibody patient offered the caustic treatments that are AIDS treatments? Why not find out the etiology of how that one HIV-antibody patient can live out a life without getting infected than submitting every patient to the caustic AIDS treatment? The fallacy of 'statistical bias' is in its degree of application if none of its results are 100%....nor with any coherent (and separately provable) etiological explanation to go along with it...

As Dr. Mark Crislip wrote in a recent blog post, "You cannot know best practice based on individual experience. I like to tell the residents that the three most dangerous words in medicine are “In my experience.” You need large numbers of patients and studies to guide practice."--reed9

Well, as the 'objective believer' that you propose yourself to be, reed9, how can you prove 'Dr. Mark Crislip's' position that 'numbers matter' when it comes to medical applications when every patient and every practitioner has to base the results of that 'application of medicine' on the results they obtain and judge? Dr. Mark Crislip is biased if he thinks that doesn't matter with respect to how medicine is applied and is more likely a 'clinical researcher' (causing the 'bias'..) than he, himself, is a 'direct practitioner'.....

That doesn't mean your experience will be wrong, it means you don't know.--reed9

Yeah, but telling me how I 'don't know' really doesn't tell me how you 'do know'--nor, by the way, does it really tell me how you know that I don't know...and what else but experience is there to go by to judge every application of medicine...ultimately, there isn't. If, for instance, I read a study that said that a certain treatment was to work in every case but, when I applied that treatment, it didn't work, who am I to 'believe'? What some study 'told me'--or what my experience shows?

What I want to show is that it is enormously complicated and challenging to separate the wheat from the chaff in information--reed9

Absolutely. I've been trying to tell you the same thing now for what--going on a week or more. So, tell me again, why is this not finally decided as 'whatever works'?

And this lays out what I mean by objective evidence fairly well.--reed9

No, it doesn't. Or, maybe, you don't understand it when you can't see why the premise that 'HIV is the probable cause of AIDS' not being proven before 'the program' (based on 'HIV is the probable cause of AIDS'..) is implemented skews all other data coming out about AIDS--especially when there is no separately verifiable etiological explanation as to how HIV causes AIDS nor any 100% correlation to the premise of even its 'treatment' in every study. The rest is just 'statistical bias'...and it's a sad 'statistical bias' because the unproven premise it is based on is 'HIV/AIDS is 100% fatal without the statistically-judged treatments'. A faulty premise can lead to faulty conclusions--but, as Peter Duesberg points out, that's hard to prove if you don't fund any research not based on the bias to begin with....

And, by the way, Carl Sagan's 'Baloney Detection Kit' was NEVER followed in the premise that 'HIV is the probable cause of AIDS'--but that doesn't stop you from calling all 'HIV/AIDS deniers' as being 'absolutely wrong', does it?

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Kerry
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Just because nothing is 100% doesn't mean we can't be pretty darn sure.--reed9

Yeah, but it might make you step back a bit on your accusation that what others 'believe' in 'their interpretation of the data' is wrong while you claim on your high horse that 'your interpretation of the data' (or, perhaps more accurately concerning you, the 'authorities' you claim 'appropriately interpret the data'..) is right....

If there is no reason something ought to work, like homeopathy, then even if a few studies show some sort of positive result, we should be very careful in accepting it.--reed9

Yet, can we really reject its application in 100% of the cases? That is part and parcel to my 'whatever works' position in the clinical assessment of medical applications. What you may be having a problem with homeopathy (and so do I) is that its 'etiological explanation' has shown no (separately verifiable) proof. But, what you don't realize is that is a lot of medical practice--even in 'accepted medicine' (whatever that means)--especially considering such 'sound science' like 'HIV/AIDS' that is based on a premise that was never tested or studied before 'the program' to treat it was applied, also, has no (separately verfiable) 'etiological explanation' to back it up....

I believe it a larger problem in medicine to have large programs well-funded explaining and applying medical care in a manner that's never been scientifically proven more so than an isolated incidence of an 'unusual' application of medical care that may show improvement in that particular case no matter how 'idiosyncratic' that application may actually be...but, that may just be me....

We have spent decades and hundreds of millions of dollars research most of the popular alternative modalities, and even the most touted studies in support generally indicate only a mild effect. --reed9

How much 'effect' do you think even 'accepted treatments' have in their studies? And, how much 'effect' do you think is necessary to 'prove' the treatment if it's not 100%, anyway? And, again, the problem with studies that don't gain '100% correlation', when it comes to a real 'etiological explanation' of the condition, the 'exception' may tell you more than 'the rule'...

Individual studies on alt. med. have mostly been negative or inconclusive and the only way to tease out any effect is to look at your much disparaged "statistical proofs" to see if a pattern emerges from a set of studies.--reed9

Again, in cases that have no valid complete etiological explanation as to the process of the disease along with its treatment (and that is even much of 'accepted medicine'..) nor any '100% correlation' in any trials done, how are you to know that the scrutinizer of 'all the studies' is any less biased than the ones who did the original studies? And, here is the point: OBJECTIVELY, YOU CAN'T.

I'll have to end there and get some work done. Good day....


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Kerry
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm
Quote Kerry:Dr. Mark Crislip is biased if he thinks that doesn't matter with respect to how medicine is applied and is more likely a 'clinical researcher' (causing the 'bias'..) than he, himself, is a 'direct practitioner'.....

I linked to his information above. He is board certified in Infectious Disease Medicine with 27 years of experience and practices at the Legacy Clinic Good Samaritan in Portland, OR. It would be fascinating if Thom had him on the show to discuss alt. med.

Anyway, we've had our alternative medicine thread. This is not the topic here and I don't want to get into that again. I've said my piece on the matter.

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reed9
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Quote Kerry:

You do not need to assume a creator or guiding intelligence for the process to occur.--reed9

Despite what you say, I do believe that if you are to believe in 'the truth', you do need a form of belief in an 'integrity binder' to act as a 'cognizant holding cell' for the 'gaps' in our knowledge. Otherwise, you are left with rationalists such as yourself who claim an 'objective knowledge' of all things without really comprehending any 'objective proof' of such a position--just claiming that that's 'it'.

Ouch! That's a flaming straw man: "rationalists such as yourself who claim an 'objective knowledge' of all things"

I have never met anyone other than a religious wingnut, much less a "rationalist", who claimed objective knowledge of ALL THINGS without any agnostic gaps.

Straw man, definitely. Go to the penalty box, Kelly.

As for your "integrity binder" or 'cognizant holding cell' demanding a God or guiding disembodied intelligence or some such grand, nebulous and spooky filler material seems like wildly exotic overkill for such a simple purpose.

First, you offer no reason that a gap in knowledge requires any third-party filler material at all. If a hole remains just an empty hole, no one can later confuse the temporary filler material with what might properly fill the hole later on. The place holder too easily becomes the place usurper that can not be dislodged by the rightful facts when they arrive. History is full of examples.

Second, if you still want a filler material, make it as mundane as possible: "This information space reservered for future data as it becomes availalble--no God or other mumbo jumbo intended or implied."

Poor Richard

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Poor Richard
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Quote Kerry:

While that [Loricifera stuff] does indicate the tendency for life to 'organize', it really doesn't indicate the purpose for life to do such a thing in nature

Not only do we not know the purpose we do not fully know the biology. At some future point where we fully understood the biological mechanisms and rules followed, HOW it all works, the WHY might not seem as necessary. When we know how a planet moves around the sun, do we keep asking why as urgently as before when we may have imagined that the planet had some mysterious personal will and agency or any number of other animistic or anthropomorphic theories?

Quote Kerry:--and, of course, if there wasn't such as thing as 'consciousness'--especially a 'consciousness' on a human level--there wouldn't be anything present to ask that question....then, in taking the concept of 'consciousness' and its ability to ascribe to 'imaginary scenarios' not found in any objective means in the 'nature' around it, as the 'fourth dimension' that some claim 'consciousness' to be,

You lost me there. I don't know of any evidence that consciousness constitutes any kind of a fourth dimension. It sounds like woo.

Quote Kerry:is it a 'natural element' or a 'supra-natural' element? The 'supra-natural' element is the position consciousness can hold for itself in contemplating 'nature'--both with 'consciousness' in it--and with 'consciousness' apart from it.....

Consciousness as a natural (or maybe "supra-natural") dimension and/or element?...mixing metaphors and mixing me more up.

No. Not likely, especially if I stand that idea up next to the mainstream science theory that consciousness is an activity produced in the brain by the brain's intrinsic neural and perhaps other as-yet-to-be-determined extra-neural (but 100% natural) mechanisms. When I compare a well-supported (with empirical data) theory with a far-fetched theory, the more far-fetched one looses.

Poor Richard

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Poor Richard
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Quote reed9:

[quote=mattnapa]This is no more than opinion that life is less enjoyable if you believe it continues in some way. Mine is opinion also, but at least I am willing to look at objective measurements of happiness.

Objective measurements of happiness? Great. Denmark is considered the happiest nation on earth and less than 30% of them profess a belief in God and less than 21% believe in sin.

C'mon now you know social science better than that. You have to factor in other reasons for Denmarks happiness quotient. A more accurate reading would be to compare the happiness of Denmarks religous versus the non- religous.Sin is irrelevant as far as I can see.

Reed9 said-

It doesn't help anyone or ourselves to leap to conclusions based on an absence of evidence, nor to adhere to poor evidence in support an ideological position while ignoring the vast majority of data that is out there.

But there is a point at looking at "why" questions remain unanswered

Reed 9 said

I am of course in good company lumping AIDS deniers and 9/11 truthers with other conspiracy theorists and obscurantists. As we have seen in other threads, you'd be hard pressed to find any real science publication that did not draw the same comparison. The vast majority of scientifically minded people agree with me.

This is of course both an appeal to poularity and beging the question. Reed9 I thought Kerry did a nice job of laying out the obstacles in rationality you face in this cart before the horse kind of conclusions about a wide variety of subjects. It is of course standard skeptic dogma. Apparently your response to Kerry's call to explain how and why certain sources of information are regarded as true without the claim being made by the source being put to the test of scientific rigor and discussion, is an appeal to populism and a claim of an insiders club for truth. How you guys get the title of skeptic when you are simply parrots for mainstream deception is beyond me. If you do not like deception I will grant you a mindset of doctrinal assertion with no spirit of debate to back up such assertions. Wholly un-scientific. Or should it be the Robin version of "Holy Un-scientific Batman!'

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mattnapa
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm
Quote DRC:

Poor Richard, once again I must ask for your patience with material that is obviously tough for you to understand. I apologize for not having the master vocabulary or rhetoric to dispel the straw argumentation I keep finding in the way of a conversation. Let me review a few of these:

1. I do not believe I have ever tried to give "the supernatural" any place in my thinking. Unless you regard metaphysics, myth, poetry and fiction as "the supernatural," just because they use an imaginary frame to tell the truth about life does not make them "ethereal" rather than substantive. The subject is always about being human on earth in our time and place.

I appreciate your effort at clarification and I think I get its drift. However, all the bodies of thought and literature you list here include, among other things, explicit references to or statements about supernatural agencies. I accept that you can stipulate that you don't mean to associate your ideas with such supernatural language literally, but only symbolically or metaphorically and in every case you affirm that such metaphors represent to you something real in the natural world. If you said this and I didn't get it I'm sorry, but perhaps you can understand that such a stipulation would place you in a minority among those who "trade" in such literature. Perhaps you can also agree that people sometimes make such a stipulation disingenuously and can pardon my reticence to rely firmly on such assertions without first establishing a level of trust through such dialog as this.

Quote DRC:I have repeatedly stated that transforming any of these imaginative modes into science or real history is an error of gross proportions, albeit a common error.

I agree with what I think you mean. However, I make the point that in a different sense than the way you mean that statement, the way that metaphors are both crafted and interpreted by specific individuals and groups may be studied to some extent academically and scientifically.

Quote DRC:Religion is about myth, but faith is about reality.

OK. I will string along with your statement about faith while I try to get a better idea of what you mean by "reality". I am sensible of the fact that many religious beliefs (if taken literally) about what constitutes reality diverge sharply from my own. I am leaning toward believing that you exclude any literal interpretation of the supernatural from your model of the real world. But I believe you might want to consider that many people will tend to be confused by your definition of faith and any use of the word regardless of how you try to formalize your own definition because of the "street version" or common usage of the word. Even when people representing their propositions as philosophy and not religion try to appropriate this word to stand for something like "confidence in the veracity" of something, they often 1) do themselves a disservice by muddying the semantic water with a word that comes with common usage baggage or 2) are trying to slip some religion past the audience by claiming that is precisely what they are not trying to do.... By using this term and others such as "theology" you are, like it or not, associating yourself to some degree with a large cohort of scoundrels and mountebanks regardless of how many saints and devoted, self-sacrificing church servants may sit on the other side of the scales with you.

Quote DRC:2. What is it about Liberation Theology that you have missed? You want an organizing strategy for Poor People in Solidarity? Try the exodus story where SLAVES are freed by God because God said they were human even if Pharaoh and the Egyptians did not think so.

I will repeat, but not ad finitum, that yes, I am interested in organizing strategies for helping poor people "learn how to fish", but I am explicitly NOT interested in any strategy with that much religious baggage. I explicitly prefer secular language to religious language and I think I have explained why.

Quote DRC:3. You have objected several times to my examples of "secularism can be" as if they were straw-man arguments. I assure you that they are deeply based in experience, either in encounters with real human beings or in serious topics of cultural studies and public policy problems. My use of "can be" is only to keep from inferring "must be" as some critics of secularism insist.

I appreciate what you say and your effort to be even handed but, with all due respect, you are not bending over backwards far enough yet to establish an atmosphere of good faith. To do that you need to distance yourself from using extremes (secular fanatics) to stand for means (secular norms), even if your life experience is full of those extremes and devoid of any means or norms.

Quote DRC:Nonetheless, you evade the issue of where "love" connects to political theory and not just to it being a really important part of everyone's life. I get that it is important, love is, but I want to know how we calculate its power in our political thinking and public policy issues. And if you have not experienced the reduction of the non-measurable from the methodology of "real" social science, do not refute it by claiming that religion does this all the time. I KNOW!! This is why I want to have a way to critique this and avoid it. Science is not very good at moral issues, but what do we have that is anymore?

Again I think I really feel you. I agree that social science has had a lot of false starts and stops, gaffes, blind alleys, and self-imposed blinders. At other times and other places I have been highly critical of is seamy sides. In fact, it is just barely ready to hit the street. Psychology isn't much better off, especially in the public health domain. I would argue this: much of what you know as "real" social science wasn't/isn't. But real social science does exist here and there and I think it is ready to offer more than the religious toolkit does. In fact, some of the stuff in the new and improved social science toolkit is secular versions of the religious toolkit and the political toolkit. Don't make the common mistake of judging a field of science by its infancy and adolescence and clinging to your old tried and true pre-scientific traditions when the latest science finally has something better to offer.

Quote DRC:Defining anything that talks about the experience "of God" or some other ethereal gloss on definition and meaning as "supernatural" or superstition or anything less than "fact" just kicks a lot of the epistemological universe out of the room. The modern perspective on the history of religion and science imposes a distinction few of them were part of.

I would have emphatically agreed 30 years ago. Now I would quibble. The latest modern perspective on both science and religion has become more nuanced and finely parsed. I can only really use myself as a baseline and not the real cutting edge of science because it has been decades since I've studied anything at a professional level. Real leading edge science is 20 years ahead of me, but I may be 10 or 20 years ahead of what you consider "real" science from your past (and in depressed areas, even your present) personal experience of social science professionals. You may be better abreast with the current literature than I, but I sense that you are carrying a real grudge about the past quality of the field, at least in the form you encountered it.

Quote DRC:The Age of Reason has always had a strong "anti-clerical" strain. It arose in opposition to a corrupted political monarchism and its partner churches where authority and dogma was imposed from above and education limited to those doing the imposing.

And at first the rationalists (at least those of good faith) were the underdogs.

Quote DRC:What the theologians and philosophers agreed on was the liberation of mind and conscience from the domination of the prince and the prelate. As the human mind was able to grasp the order of the natural world through the practice of reason, so too the conscience could apprehend the essential truths of the moral universe sufficiently to be both the moral and intellectual agent of responsibility.

Despite the inception of the Age of Reason in the 17th century, I would place the critical mass of that development no earlier than the mid-18th century. But I'm not sure I see the relevance of a blow-by-blow history to any of the specific positions I have tried to stake out thus far.

Quote DRC: I want a way to expose religious errors that gets at the issues and the narrative instead of falling into the trap of "toleration." We cannot fight about brands, but if we see some brands doing toxic things that we can name, we can expose what is toxic without just going after anyone's tradition.

I may be interested in discussing specific cases if you lead off, but I admit I tend to see the toxic and non-toxic content of most traditions as pretty inextricable, an attitude I expect you may find objectionable. My general approach would be to try to establish secular institutions that gradually replaced the benefits of religions with the secular alternatives and let the membership transition occur by natural self-selection.

Quote DRC:The other useful item on the agenda is to get something into the Left that can appeal to people who want more than isolated protesting and thinking without any real community of mission or common bonds.

Same answer.

Quote DRC:Being condescending to religion and theology because you have your own history with bad religion and smarmy spirituality cuts you off from those who know this crap best. We who live and fight against it up close and personal can be your allies if you don't pull up the blinders and throw mud at us.

Fair enough. It's essentially the obverse of the advice I offered you above.

Quote DRC:Spiritual "peak experiences" may be fine, but I want what it takes for the daily slog and the times when it gets dry and uncomfortable. There really does have to be something to believe in, at least about our humanity, that makes us more than the functions of whatever holds power. The only alternative to "power" is real or authentic power. What tells us the difference?

Reason, evidence, critical thinking, and the ends don't justify the means. That's all I'm standing up for in this conversation.

Quote DRC:But more important, why not have a positive conversation about what is and works instead of a fight about whether myths and metaphors work or are "real." I won't be your enemy unless you insist.

In addition to what "works" I'm interested in what's right. I'm interested in the specific means as well as the ends. My bottom line problem with religion, myth or whatever you want to call it is getting the right result (ostensibly) for the wrong reason (such as taking a fairy tale or metaphor just a little too literally, regardless of what symbolism the Sunday school teacher maybe had in mind). I think you have already acknowledged the issue. You have also raised the complementary issue of getting something wrong (failure and added harm) by the ostensibly right (secular, science-based) methods.

Poor Richard

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Poor Richard
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm
Quote Kerry:

The gaps in our knowledge are the wonderful opportunities for new knowledge and discoveries to emerge. Filling them with a God of the Gaps is a disservice to honest inquiry and an affront to the quest for understanding.--reed9

Not if I believe that 'God' to be the 'integrity binder' in which I believe such a belief in guards the integrity of what is to be sought for to begin with. Otherwise, I have to believe in someone like you to tell me what 'objective proof' means when I may have a different experience from what you say--despite your claim on how you 'prove it'. If it's not 100%, or it's not got a separately provable etiological explanation behind it, I may be in that part of the percentage that goes against your supposed 'objective conclusion' or I may be experiencing it in a manner you didn't predict or explain....and, if you don't think that happens all the time in the practice of medicine, you are wrong...my experience shows me that...

Sorry, Kerry. Reed9 is right, you are willfullly and stubbornly wrong in your argument about God as the "integrity binder. Only in your head, dude. Point to Reed9.

Poor Richard

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Poor Richard
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm
Quote mattnapa: Not sure what "human variation" refers to.

The range of possible values for physical or mental characteristics. Height, weight, intelligence, aggression, fearfulness, whatever.

So, for example, there are studies showing that people with a certain serotonin transport gene variant are more likely to have a greater fear response than those without it.

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reed9
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Apr. 8, 2010 11:26 am

As for your "integrity binder" or 'cognizant holding cell' demanding a God or guiding disembodied intelligence or some such grand, nebulous and spooky filler material seems like wildly exotic overkill for such a simple purpose.--Poor Richard

You need to take my concept in its totality, Poor Richard. The first aspect of this is: Do you believe in the truth? That's an important precept to my position. If you don't believe in the truth and believe that you have 'rationally' concluded that, then, of course, you have no need for an 'integrity binder'. If you do believe in the truth and feel that is 'rationally' difficult to confirm in what 'objective' assessments you can obtain, then I see that you do need an 'integrity binder' to carry on that concept against the odds of 'rational confusion'...

What you see as a 'strawman excuse' is to me more, as I said, a 'cognizant holding cell' against its detractions....

But, the first point of that position is a belief in the truth. If you don't believe that--or don't believe that 'we' can ever know that--then, as I've said, the only basis for which 'rational thought' can attain is more 'political' than it is 'truthful'. Then, like reed9, holding up 'authorities as the proof' is the order of the day....

The place holder too easily becomes the place usurper that can not be dislodged by the rightful facts when they arrive.--Poor Richard

Well, if you don't believe in the truth, then the application of all 'rationales' becomes political--and the point of 'rightful facts' is moot. Unless you can determine to me how any one can ascertain 'rightful facts'.....

Second, if you still want a filler material, make it as mundane as possible: "This information space reservered for future data as it becomes availalble--no God or other mumbo jumbo intended or implied."--Poor Richard

I don't see a personal 'God' as 'the integrity binder' as a threat to rational thought as much as I see those catering to 'authority' without they, themselves, understanding how that 'authority' knows....

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Kerry
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

What Do Democrats Really Want?

Thom plus logo Thomas Friedman, the confused billionaire, told us decades ago that "free trade" is what made the Lexus a successful product when, in fact, it was decades of Japanese government subsidies and explicit tariffs that did so.
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