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Why we have religion
Posted: 18 March 2005 12:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]  
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Byron,

The difference (I don’t know if its an epistemological difference) is that one is transcendent and one is not.  If meaning is constructed by humans (even a community) its not transcendent.  That poses many problems for me.

Also, ‘unknown’ doesn’t equal ‘not real’.  It seems that you want to say, ‘because we can’t know it (validate it with our senses), then there’s no point in talking about it or (maybe more to your point) come to conclusions about it.’  I see it a little differently.

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Posted: 18 March 2005 01:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]  
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[quote author=“Ordinary”]Byron,

The difference (I don’t know if its an epistemological difference) is that one is transcendent and one is not.


And exactly how do you know it’s transcendent?

Also, ‘unknown’ doesn’t equal ‘not real’. It seems that you want to say, ‘because we can’t know it (validate it with our senses), then there’s no point in talking about it or (maybe more to your point) come to conclusions about it.’ I see it a little differently.


Again you’re using a straw man, though it seems unintentional—the product of what I described before as “the desire for a given formula (conceptual construct) can overwhelm the analytical mind’s ability to “cleanly” process certain ideas.”

Unknown means you don’t know, which means that you have to presume what you believe about it, which in turn means the belief has no bearing at all on reality outside of your own mind (only on your perceptions, and again, only due to presumption—which I would consider undisciplined and even irresponsible, intellectually speaking). That’s the whole point of what I’ve been trying to say all along. Faith-based beliefs are really nothing more than dressed up presumptions. You impose them upon reality, by definition, and then infuse them with meaning yourself (or as a group). And I think that’s pretty narcissistic—even childish to be frank at the risk of offense—though it can also be innocuous (unfortunately it often isn’t).

Byron (the skeptic)

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Posted: 18 March 2005 02:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]  
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Skeptic says: “Unknown means you don’t know, which means that you have to presume what you believe about it, which in turn means the belief has no bearing at all on reality outside of your own mind (only on your perceptions, and again, only due to presumption—which I would consider undisciplined and even irresponsible, intellectually speaking). That’s the whole point of what I’ve been trying to say all along.”

Take a hard look at what scientists do and how they do it. My experience is that the most important ability to have as a scientist is the ability to admit, “I don’t know.” You can’t limit either science or reason to exploring only what we now know and can prove. At the heart of science is the desire to explore the UNKNOWN.

One thing that’s become very clear to me from studying the history of science is that the “magic” of one period becomes the science of the next period. People, for example, “believed” in magic swords. Legends are full of them. As it turns out, there really were swords that seemed to have been made by magic. Occasionally, an exceptionally strong blade that didn’t rust was made—because the forge was just dirty enough for carbon to become incorporated and create a carbon steel blade. Electricity was strictly magic until we understood it. Zeus hurled those thunderbolts. Meteorites couldn’t exist because stones didn’t exist in the sky, and those who found them were considered delusional by otherwise excellent scientists. Bugs were created by spontaneous generation, and anyone who said they weren’t was dismissed as unscientific. There are hundreds of examples. Two of the most important factors in science are the ability to say, “I don’t know” and the willingness to explore in intellectually dangerous areas in spite of the risk that the answer is likely to be a resounding “NO.”

We also have to keep in mind that the scientific method is not the only way we can legitimately know things. For example, history has its own methodology, as do many other fields. Human experience has to be the ultimate guide. Science has to be proven by its relation to real experience, not the other way around. Those farmers who saw those shooting stars and picked up those meteorites were the ones who were correct, not the scientific theorists. People know that they know what they know based on their own experiential data.

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Posted: 18 March 2005 02:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]  
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Byron, you say,

And exactly how do you know it’s transcendent?

  I’m arguing for it.  We are speaking hypothetically.

you say,

Unknown means you don’t know, which means that you have to presume what you believe about it, which in turn means the belief has no bearing at all on reality outside of your own mind

  You are wrong.  My presumption very well might conform with reality, making it true; making it very pertinent.  You just assume that all perception has nothing to do with reality.  That’s a wrong assumption.  A little kid might have a ‘presumption’ about the universe that might be exactly right, yet he can’t prove it at all.

So much of our world is presumption, in that its not verifiable.  Again, take the scientific method; you can’t prove the scientific method.  It is a presumption of reality that we feel speaks very accurately about our world, but it can’t be proven.  Unfortunately, you give privilege to that, but consider faith ‘dressed up presumption’ that’s intellectually undisciplined and irresponsible.

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Posted: 18 March 2005 02:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]  
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[quote author=“MJ”]Take a hard look at what scientists do and how they do it.

They certainly don’t presume to have come to a conclusion and then defend it by invoking faith—eh?

[quote author=“MJ”]My experience is that the most important ability to have as a scientist is the ability to admit, “I don’t know.” You can’t limit either science or reason to exploring only what we now know and can prove. At the heart of science is the desire to explore the UNKNOWN.


That’s part of my point. When you form a “conclusion” that’s really just an attempt to displace an unknown with a presumption, you’ve derailed the whole process that can provide the potential for genuine understanding.

[quote author=“MJ”]We also have to keep in mind that the scientific method is not the only way we can legitimately know things.


I’m not sure that’s true as far as “things” about the world (as in external to ourselves), at least in a broad sense of the scientific method. But the fact that the issue of the beliefs in quesiton (religious beliefs) is the existence and properties of the alleged supernatural, it’s beyond the possiblity of genuine exploration in any external sense—i.e. any exploration has to be done within the realm of the human imagination. You can’t observe or collect data on that which is outside of nature.

This is a definitional matter that many religious believers tend to be unwilling and/or unable to deal with (that’s what my black box metaphor was all about).

Byron

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Posted: 18 March 2005 02:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]  
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Maybe I can illustrate my point by being less concerned about diplomacy.

[quote author=“Ordinary”]Byron, you say,

And exactly how do you know it’s transcendent?

  I’m arguing for it.  We are speaking hypothetically.


But you don’t know.

[quote author=“Ordinary”]you say,

Unknown means you don’t know, which means that you have to presume what you believe about it, which in turn means the belief has no bearing at all on reality outside of your own mind

  You are wrong.  My presumption very well might conform with reality, making it true; making it very pertinent.


But you don’t know.

[quote author=“Ordinary”]You just assume that all perception has nothing to do with reality.


I’ll present my own arguments and positions, thank you. You’ve done a poor job in each instance you’ve made the attempt.

[quote author=“Ordinary”]That’s a wrong assumption.  A little kid might have a ‘presumption’ about the universe that might be exactly right, yet he can’t prove it at all.

But the kid wouldn’t know.

[quote author=“Ordinary”]So much of our world is presumption, in that its not verifiable.

Yes—sort of. Presumption would be the rejection of the fact that we don’t know. I advocate that we accept that fact rather than to presume.

[quote author=“Ordinary”]Again, take the scientific method; you can’t prove the scientific method. It is a presumption of reality that we feel speaks very accurately about our world, but it can’t be proven.


Actually, no. We accept the unknown as part of science—no presumption. We go with what works, simple as that.

[quote author=“Ordinary”]Unfortunately, you give privilege to that, but consider faith ‘dressed up presumption’ that’s intellectually undisciplined and irresponsible.


Privilege? No. I recognize the fact that science doesn’t make presumptions about the unknown, but rather accepts it as unknown and tries to responsibly find out what it can (to personify science far more than I’d like for the sake of simplicity). Faith fights tooth and nail to pretend unknowns don’t exist and throws a curtain up to hide the truth so as to pretend the pretension has substance (to personify faith . . .).

You’re persistently (almost dogmatically, it seems) confusing the acceptance of the unknown with the presumption that what we don’t know or can’t prove therefore doesn’t exist. There’s a HUGE difference, and it’s all you man. I’m not confused about the distinction, and I don’t think I’ve been unclear about it, so what’s the problem?

Byron

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“We say, ‘Love your brother…’ We don’t say it really, but… Well we don’t literally say it. We don’t really, literally mean it. No, we don’t believe it either, but… But that message should be clear.”—David St. Hubbins

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Posted: 18 March 2005 03:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]  
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Back to the black box metaphor . . .

You keep claiming there’s a red ball in the impenetrable black box, and when I point out you don’t know any such thing so there’s no valid reason to believe it, you protest that I have no basis for the claim that there’s no red ball in the impenetrable black box.

Do you see the difference?

Byron

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“We say, ‘Love your brother…’ We don’t say it really, but… Well we don’t literally say it. We don’t really, literally mean it. No, we don’t believe it either, but… But that message should be clear.”—David St. Hubbins

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Posted: 18 March 2005 06:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]  
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You are wrong on various points, Byron.  Just because we don’t know (and possibly can’t know) doesn’t mean something isn’t real. 

You, I and my imaginary kid don’t need to have ‘knowledge’ to have our ‘presumption’ conform with reality.  You keep insisting (not in so many words) that since I don’t verifiably ‘know’ the transcendent, that its not real.  You are false.  You say that because we can’t verifiably ‘know’ something, there is no valid reason to believe in it.  You are false.  There are many times even scientists will say, “the evidence leads us to this conclusion” (implicitly meaning it doesn’t prove it).

If what I don’t verifiably ‘know’ in fact conforms with reality, believing in it is to my benefit because I am living in tune with reality.

I’m not the one arguing in circles, Byron; you are.

MJ’s last paragraph in his most recent post is right.  You won’t listen to me, or your skeptic friend.  Go figure?

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Posted: 18 March 2005 07:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]  
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[quote author=“Ordinary”]You are wrong on various points, Byron.  Just because we don’t know (and possibly can’t know) doesn’t mean something isn’t real.


And in spite of your fixation, I have yet to make any such point . . . I’m not sure why you keep harping on it, but it suggests unwillingness or inability to deal with the related points I have been making.

Whatever.

Byron

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“We say, ‘Love your brother…’ We don’t say it really, but… Well we don’t literally say it. We don’t really, literally mean it. No, we don’t believe it either, but… But that message should be clear.”—David St. Hubbins

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Posted: 18 March 2005 04:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]  
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Ordinary, you seem to be making a very fundamental mistake in reasoning. You say

“If what I don’t verifiably ‘know’ in fact conforms with reality, believing in it is to my benefit because I am living in tune with reality. “

You could with just as much sense say, “If what I don’t verifiably ‘know’ in fact doesn’t conform with reality, believing it is not to my benefit because I am living in tune with illusion.”

The whole point of knowing something depends on it being verified.  Without the verification, you can believe in all sorts of nonsense just because it might be good for you if it happens to be true.  You see, what you call “knowing” and what a scientifically oriented person calls “knowing” are two very different things.  From my point of view, you don’t know that god exists in any acceptable form of the word ‘know.’  You have made yourself believe that god exists, and making believe is very different from knowing.

Bob

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Posted: 18 March 2005 11:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]  
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Ordinary:

To a point, it sounds to me as if you are in agreement that public policy should not be shaped by religious beliefs.  If that is the case, then congratulations, because you are more reasonable than many of your fellow believers.

The crux of the matter is that Christian belief is a matter of faith.  It has always been a matter of faith.  Along the way, a few charlatans and a few earnest but misguided people have claimed to be able to “prove” it, but the proof is always found to be wanting.

To expand on the black box metaphor that Byron used, consider the following:

There is a black box, the contents of which are unknown and (as far as we know) not directly examinable.  I decide to sit and meditate on the box one day, in an effort to see if, by mystical means, I can gain an insight into the contents of the box.  After many months of meditating on the box, I come to the conclusion that it contains a set of rules for living, and that following these rules will result in better lives for people who do.

So, I start to tell people about the rules that I have “seen”.  Mostly, they don’t believe me.  A few people, however, decide to follow the rules that I have described.  They believe that their lives are made better for doing so.  Does that prove that I was right?

What happens when one of the rules that I proclaim indicates that certain people should be put to death?  Is it really all right to kill people based upon mystical revelation?

So, back to reality.  If someone wants to meditate, fine.  If someone wants to read religious texts, fine.  If someone wants to claim that they think, as a result of meditating on religious texts, that I would really be better off living like so, fine.  However, when they want to teach, as fact, these mystical revelations to kids in school, not fine.  When they want to enact laws based on these mystical revelations, not fine.  When they want to enact public policy to shame people who live in a way that these mystical revelations say is bad, not fine.  When they want to claim that these mystical revelations are as valid as the hard one equations in my physics textbook, not fine.

-Matt

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Posted: 19 March 2005 09:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]  
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You tell’em Matt.

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Posted: 20 March 2005 12:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]  
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[quote author=“CDarrow”]Those who are capable of independent thinking realize and understand all this, those who are “bible bangers” will never change their antiquated beliefs because they are incapable of seeing outside of their own primitive view of the world. 

It is not that the “bible bangers” are incapable of seeing outside of their own primitive view of the world. It’s that they choose not too. Since fear=religion, if you take away the religion you have nothing
1=1, 1-1=0
Once left with nothing, the fear creeps in again and a person is left with having to choose between sience and religion, or do as I do and sit on the fence. Neither sience nor religion has all the answers. In my opinion there are 3 reasons why a religious person would not consider other alternatives:
1. blinded by faith
2. blinded by fear
3. blinded by ignorance, and just don’t give a damn

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Posted: 20 March 2005 01:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]  
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Sorry, “sience” is spelled science, guess I must have studied it for too long or it’s too early in the morning.

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Posted: 20 March 2005 07:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]  
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To discard Christianity because it can’t be “proven” requires one to define proof.  By defining proof one has the ability to determine that it’s burden hasn’t been met. 

Arguments against fundamentalist Christian Faith for these reasons of lack of proof are really quite circular, and destroy their own purported legitimacy via this high brow sentiment.

I think experience and reason are better measuring sticks than so-called “proof”.  Facts have merit, sure, but they aren’t the same as the undisputed truth.

One of the things that I love about Sam Harris’s thesis is his claim that religious faith is a “conversation stopper”.  Surely this is often the case, but it only is a conversation stopper if you let it be.  Personally I find religious faith to be far from a conversation stopper.

-bpk

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