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A Simple Letter back from a Christian
Posted: 02 October 2006 01:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 121 ]  
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[quote author=“Elentar”][quote author=“waltercat”]
If this reviewer gets Dennett right (and I have a strong suspicion that he does), then you are quite correct, it is an excellent review.

I have read the book, and it’s one of the most notoriously bad reviews that the Times has printed in recent years. In fact, this particular review has become something of a embarrassment for the Times, judging from the letters they got objecting to it. But then, what were they thinking, having a literary editor write a review of a book on science, psychology, and religion?

Since, as I said, I haven’t read the book, I’ll take your word for it.  But I have to wonder, if Dennett is just calling for more stufy of religious experience, he choose to call his book, “Breaking The Spell.”  The spell of religion is not going to be broken by investigating the nature and neurophysiology of religious belief.  To believe otherwise is to commit the genetic fallacy.  I hope that you are correct that Dennett is not guilty of it.

[quote author=“waltercat”]
Materialism is also a metaphysical belief.  I have a hard time accepting it not because I am certain that there are non-material phenomena, but because I am wary of metaphysical doctrines in general.

Metaphysical doctrines are non-material claims—that’s literally what metaphysics means (before physics). The basis of materialism is a rejection of metaphysics . So what you are saying is that you don’t believe in materialism because you’re a materialist…

Now that I will disagree with.  Materialism is the rejection of non-material phenonmena; but then it is a metaphysical position.  It is the position that the ultimate nature of the universe is material and there are no immaterial phenomena.  An atheist does not have to be a materialist.  Indeed I think that we should not be.  While most phenomena scientists investigate is material, I don’t see how that demonstrates conclusively that all of reality is material.  We should at least open-minded to the possibility of non-material phenomena.

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What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don’t want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price.
-Ivan Karamazov

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Posted: 02 October 2006 02:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 122 ]  
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[quote author=“FranklinBR”]
>The point is that, in the past God, according to the Bible, has made his existence obvious by coming to earth in corporeal form (wrestling with Jacob/Israel, coming as Jesus; also speaking to people directly in a booming voice, etc. etc.). He no longer does this.

If you have read the NT you would see that He doesn’t need to come up to your door, knock, and say “Hey everybody, I’m God!”  He came into the world through Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ is the pinnacle of God’s expression and revelation to the human race that came forth from the First Advent that we read in the Gospels and will come in the Second Advent of the End of Days as we see in such works as Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, the letters of Paul, along with the Book of Revelation.  I am sure, I am positive that people like Ten Boom would say that God is quite visible for her, same with those who struggle in underground churches as examined in such wonderful organizations as Voices of the Martyr and Gospel in Asia.  God is indeed visible,

Hey Franklin, I hope your day is going better than mine.  One thing that I find makes my day go more smoothly is when I remove cognitive dissonance from my mind.  I hope to be of some help to you on that front.

You say that God is visible.  I can only conclude that you are speaking metaphorically.  If you are speaking literally, would you care to take a picture of him and post it at this website?  That would help me.

I’ll grant that Jesus Christ, if He existed, was visible,  But then He died and dead people are not visible (at least not 2000 years after they have died).  At least I have never seen one.  But, granted, He was visible to Peter and Thomas and John and Mary and Pilate.  And, if He really did perfom miracles such as turning water into wine, those too were visible.  But He is not visible, in that sense, to us today.  We do not have the testimony of our senses to fall back on, we lack empirical evidence of the sort that Peter had.  Thus for me today to believe in Jesus takes a much greater leap of faith than was required of Peter and the other disciples.

> Why did Abe and the rest of the Old Testament gang, and Peter and all of Jesus’ cohorts have it easy. Surely God knows that people need evidence. We shouldn’t devote our lives to a religious life without concrete unambiguous evidence of the sort God provided to Abraham and Jacob and Moses, and Peter, etc. But God does not provide concrete evidence of that sort any longer. Why?

Have it easy?!  They did not have it easy, even if you read the Bible as a study of World literature you would easily see that these people did not have it easy.  Abraham, Moses, Peter, John, they all had struggles they all had pains they all had uncertainties.  Abraham had to hold faith in God even though he was an elderly man and could not believe that he and his wife would ever have a child.  Abraham went through struggles all through his life, but even in the most severe of storms he had faith in God.  Same with Peter.

Here you are equivoicating.  When I send that Abe and the OT gang and JC and his NT crew had it easy I was referring to the amount of evidence they had for God’s existence compared to the evidence we have today.  I certainly would not deny that life in Abe’s time was hard. (For one thing he probably didn’t have kind and sociable people such as yourself with whom to debate the fine points of religious doctrine,  Nor did he have access to computers.)  So life was hard, yes.  But Abe had demonstrable proof that God existed (if we are to believe Genesis).  This proof made his belief in God comparatively easy; It was not, as Kierkegaard might call it, a leap into an abyss of unknowing.  Abe knew; he heard the voice of God, spoke to Him on a regular basis.  Same can be said of Peter, Thomas and the rest.  Comparatively speaking, faith for people in our time is much harder.

I thus don’t see Abe as a paragon of faith.  If anything, he was a man who was dealing rationally with the world as it confronted him.  For that I commend him.  Problem is, I really doubt that Genesis tells his tale accurately.

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What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don’t want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price.
-Ivan Karamazov

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Posted: 02 October 2006 03:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 123 ]  
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[quote author=“FranklinBR”]
If you have read the NT you would see that He doesn’t need to come up to your door, knock, and say “Hey everybody, I’m God!”  He came into the world through Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ is the pinnacle of God’s expression and revelation to the human race ...

I beg to differ.  He does need to come up to my door, all doors in fact, and say just that.  Or have you failed to read what the plans of an ever increasing population of angry Muslims plan to do to Westerners?  Good grief.  9/11? 9/11 happened as a direct result of god not declaring to the world that he is god and came into the world through Jesus Christ!

Mia wrote:
Better yet, how could I be both myself (the super-mother) and also the super-human savior child, all at the same time? And if I could make the one super-human kid, how come I didn’t just do that formula with all the others, so that everyone could live a great and powerful life where I wouldn’t have to murder any of them?

It’s that illusion of free will that Storm was talking about.  Besides, if a god made us all incapable of sin, we’d be nothing short of coerced to do good and merit the rewards of heaven.  My contention is that if there was a god, you would think it would design humanity with less violent capacities.  I mean what is this?  Blood Sport entertainment for the gods?  Earth is fucked up plain and simple with the things we do to each other… seriously, it does not have to extend to such horrific ends.

The ONLY way I can imagine, if I were a theist, and this thought just popped into my head, would be that if no murder, torture, or other severity existed, there would be a watered down or diminished fear for repercussion stemming from one’s actions.  Say the death penalty is gone since we theoretically live in a world where humans are incapable of murdering other humans… so the max punishment is life in prison.  To many, the threat of the death penalty deters them from murdering in the first place.  But then again, since nobody can murder anyone else in the first place we would have no need for the death penalty altogether.

Am I confusing you, the reader?  I do that.  A lot. wink

Storm wrote:
If there exists a prophecy, it means the game is rigged. It means you can play it however you like, but you will still end up with the same result. Prophecy means there are pre-determined events. It doesn’t matter if you know about them or not, or don’t understand them. Not knowing, just gives you a feeling of having free will, when you in fact have none. There is no free will in a locked cell. The free will to go anywhere and do anything is constricted by the said events(the walls of the cell).

That is an excellent point, Storm.  One cannot grant a thumbs up support for prophecy without feeling in the back of ones head that the game of life is rigged.  Some god knows the end from the beginning.  Meaning, it already knows who will make it to heaven before it makes the world.  What is the point then?  Why, like Mia poses, even bother creating offspring that will be flung, by the very god who created them, into the firey pit… like dross, culls, damaged goods.  Are you a perfect god or not?  Why create humans that will not choose to follow you?

Autonomy?

Noggin

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Posted: 02 October 2006 06:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 124 ]  
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I will answer the replies specifically later, but I wanted to point something out.  I am pointing this out because it does have some bearing toward my views of this conversation we are having, but it is also my reaction to what I am seeing on the television right now.

Right now I am watching the news.  On the news right now, just as we also have faced in the past few days, there has been yet another school shooting.  This time in an Amish school, a small school within a tight community.  This is an example of just how wrong there is in the world, wrong by the Fall.  A wrongness that affects the believer just as much as it affects the unbeliever.  What is to be made out of this?  You wish to blame God for this, you wish not to look at your own self because you are blind because you cannot see the cancer in your soul simply because you have turned a blind’s eye toward the fact that you have a soul.  Or maybe you want to say “There is no such thing as God because bad things happen to good people.”  Another fallacy for the same reason, bad things happens to the good person and to the bad person because this world is a broken world with a broken human species on it.  There are school shootings at the regular school just as there are school shootings at the school for the faithful.  There is evil.  There is evil because we choose to let there be evil because this evil manifests upon our soul and from our soul into the open.  And this evil affects everyone, from the rich to the poor, from the Christian to the atheist.  Not because God doesn’t care.  Not because God isn’t real.  Not because God is weak.  We are broken.  We are evil.  It is our fault.  It is our choice.  It is our decision.

The Christian realizes that we don’t have to be subjected to this evil on an eternal foundation.  We as Christians realize that because we are imperfect, because we cannot be our own personal or social utopia, we need someone to rescue us.  We need someone to save us.  We need God to do something, and He did do something, He came into this world as Jesus Christ…Son of Man, Son of God.  He lived a perfect life, not an easy life for there were temptations and trials and pains, and He died on the Cross…only to Resurrect on the third day afterwards.  He did this because God loves us so much that He doesn’t want there to be a chasm between us and Him.  That doesn’t mean we will have an easy life.  The life of a Christian can be as stressful and painful as the life of a nonChristian.  The difference is found in the fact that the Christian realizes that it doesn’t end at the grave stone.  For the atheist, there is no hope, no expectation, no certainty.  The atheist hopes that society will someday evolve but he doesn’t know.  The Christian though, even through the doubts, even through the pains, and yes there will be pains because no one is truly separated from pain, has a great expectation that is real that is truth worthy that it does not end at the gravestone…that, in a great sense as Lewis might say…the story would only just begin.  That the story will continue onward with God, in God, alongside God, by the power and the majesty of Jesus Christ.

You say that I cannot believe in free will and prophecy at the same time?  That is not true, if you truly understand the paradigm of what it means to understand prophecy and to comprehend free will.  Prophecy shows that there is an overall arch to human history, not a specific arch (i.e. specific person, though this is not always the case as in the case of prophecy talking about Jesus Christ or prophecy talking about Cyrus the Persian), but an arch that we all exist in.  The points of this arch happens when they happen.  We do not know when the points will happen, we don’t know if it will be today, tomorrow, next year, a thousand years from now…we do not know.  And because we do not know when the points of the overall story of this world will take place, we are then existing in the here and now with our free will.  By having our free will we will act how we want to act during the day to day.  Yes I firmly believe that there will be a rapture and an End of Days, but am I just going to sit in my room and twiddle my thumbs waiting for it to happen…when it might not even happen in my lifetime!  No!  I am going to live my life here and now.  Trusting God through the good times and the bad times, and I am going to live myself with the Lord out of my free will because I do trust Him even when I do not see Him right in front of me.  I choose how to act out of my free will right here and now.  You do the same.  I choose to walk with the Lord out of having my free will.  You choose to walk with only yourself for yourself out of having your free will.  We both head toward a prophetic future, but we choose to act differently in that story arch.  It is quite simply and not as complicated as a lot of you are making it!  Think of it this way, prophecy acts on the Macro scale while free will acts on the micro level—that is, prophecy acts toward the fate of civilizations and the world and peoples of the world, free will is the choices you make right now and I make right now.

So what about 9-11?  Blame God?  Blame homosexuals?  Blame Clinton?  9-11 was the most horrific situation America has seen in the past twenty five some years.  It was up close.  It was personal.  You can explain and explicate this or that about Islam vs. Judeo-Christianity, or this or that about Western politics vs. Middle Eastern fanaticism.  Who is at fault?  I say we are.  Again, I say before and I will say again, we are sinners.  We are broken.  We are tattered and we are torn.  God HAS shown Himself…we have that from the Scripture and the historical, theological, and archeological reliability of Scripture and, most importantly, about Jesus Christ.  The world chooses Him or doesn’t choose Him.  Yet even then, Christians suffered just as much as non-Christians on that fateful day.  The question is…what are YOU going to do about it?  Are you just going to throw blames around?  Or are you going to kneel before the true God and realize that you are not God, that you are not even close to God, and that even in the worst of storms, by placing your self in His hands, He will carry you through that storm.  You say the answer is to get rid of all religion and throw anyone religious into, practically, “concentration” camps because religion is poison you say.  Another person says that the only way to make sure that another 9-11 wont ever happen again is by putting the proverbial gun against the head of all nonChristians and that will make the world a safer place.  Two extremes but same false answer.  What I do after seeing 9-11, what I do by watching that fateful day and the days and the weeks and now, the years, from that most painful of day, is come to God like Job came to God and realize that I do not know the mind of God and so I will trust in God to bring me through the pains and doubts and horrors of the world and into His arms…like a Father, the true Father, taking His child into His arms.

Well Everyone I hope you all have a great Monday!  I need to head out now, I have studying and I have work to go to.  I dont think I will be around much the next two or so days due to work and school and studying.  I should be able to answer some replies after Wed.  Be safe be secure and have a blast!

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Posted: 02 October 2006 07:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 125 ]  
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[quote author=“FranklinBR”]I will answer the replies specifically later, but I wanted to point something out.  I am pointing this out because it does have some bearing toward my views of this conversation we are having, but it is also my reaction to what I am seeing on the television right now.

Right now I am watching the news.  On the news right now, just as we also have faced in the past few days, there has been yet another school shooting.  This time in an Amish school, a small school within a tight community.  This is an example of just how wrong there is in the world, wrong by the Fall.  A wrongness that affects the believer just as much as it affects the unbeliever.  What is to be made out of this?  You wish to blame God for this, you wish not to look at your own self because you are blind because you cannot see the cancer in your soul simply because you have turned a blind’s eye toward the fact that you have a soul.  Or maybe you want to say “There is no such thing as God because bad things happen to good people.”  Another fallacy for the same reason, bad things happens to the good person and to the bad person because this world is a broken world with a broken human species on it.  There are school shootings at the regular school just as there are school shootings at the school for the faithful.  There is evil.  There is evil because we choose to let there be evil because this evil manifests upon our soul and from our soul into the open.  And this evil affects everyone, from the rich to the poor, from the Christian to the atheist.  Not because God doesn’t care.  Not because God isn’t real.  Not because God is weak.  We are broken.  We are evil.  It is our fault.  It is our choice.  It is our decision.

Hmmm.  The problem with this kind of reply to the Problem of Evil, [And, by the way, my responsive to the existence of vast amounts of Evil in the world is to conlcude that it gives us very strong evidence to believe that there is no all-loving God.] is that it does not account for so-called natural evil.  Sure, school shootings are evil and arguably such evils are not God’s fault because humans have free will.

But there is much evil in the world that is the result of occurrences that have nothing to do with free human action.  The death and destruction that results from a hurricane of tsunami or earthquake, are great evils.  But humans do not choose for there to be hurricanes or earthquakes or tsunamis.  Evil that results from natural forces cannot be accounted for by blaming the free choices of humans.

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What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don’t want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price.
-Ivan Karamazov

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Posted: 02 October 2006 07:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 126 ]  
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Hey Franklin. That was quite a different post than the ones I have gotten used to. Are you ok? Felt like you tried to convince yourself more then the rest of us. The multiple shootings in the US are very sad to hear about. Has there been any research on why they happen so frequently? The world is what is is, until we change it.

..because we do not know when the points of the overall story of this world
will take place, we are then existing in the here and now with our free will.


That is exactly why there can be no free will within christianity. You are talking about set points. Points we all have to pass through no matter what. Forced to pass through. Forced does not equal free.

Think of it this way, prophecy acts on the Macro scale while free will acts on the micro level—that is,
prophecy acts toward the fate of civilizations and the world and peoples
of the world, free will is the choices you make right now and I make right now.

This is your explanation and this is exactly what I’ve been trying to say. I made the symbolism with a locked cell. You say macro vs. micro. We have free will about things that don’t matter in the long run, is what you are saying. We are free within limits. Free within the walls of the cell. True Freedom have no walls.

More symbolism:
Free will don’t come with checkpoints to pass through. Free will means we can drive anywhere. (And yes I’m currently playing a car racing game that came with my new computer.)

Come back rested and have a good couple of days, Franklin.

[ Edited: 03 October 2006 01:32 AM by ]
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“If your original Hebrew disagrees with my original King James—- your original Hebrew is wrong.”—FSTDT

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Posted: 02 October 2006 05:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 127 ]  
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[quote author=“waltercat”]  But I have to wonder, if Dennett is just calling for more stufy of religious experience, he choose to call his book, “Breaking The Spell.”

As I explained at length, the spell he was talking about was the taboo against studying religion scientifically. Many of the arguments in favour of religion are based on the premise that religion is good for you, and Dennett wants to investigate whether their is actually an adaptive advantage to religion, or whether these claims are old wives tales. If you don’t believe me, read the book, but stop making strawman arguments about it.

And your rejection of metaphysics is materialism, since it is impossible even to discuss non-material reality without resorting to metaphysics. Science employs methodological materialism, in that metaphysics is not accepted in a scientific context, but you’ve gone well past that in that you won’t accept metaphysics in any context. I don’t really care whether you’re a materialist or not, and I have no use for metaphysics personally, but the position you are taking is materialist, whether you like it or not. So quit the doubletalk and call a spade a spade. I get enough of this crap from fundamentalists.

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Posted: 03 October 2006 01:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 128 ]  
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[quote author=“Elentar”][quote author=“waltercat”]  But I have to wonder, if Dennett is just calling for more stufy of religious experience, he choose to call his book, “Breaking The Spell.”

As I explained at length, the spell he was talking about was the taboo against studying religion scientifically. Many of the arguments in favour of religion are based on the premise that religion is good for you, and Dennett wants to investigate whether their is actually an adaptive advantage to religion, or whether these claims are old wives tales. If you don’t believe me, read the book, but stop making strawman arguments about it.

I am not making any arguments against it.  As I said, I’ll take your word for it.  I am, however, reporting my doubt that Dennett is just interested in studying religion scientifically; I suspect he believes that this study will break the spell.  But this is just my suspicion, based on other things he has written.  It is not an argument of any kind, certainly not a straw man.

And your rejection of metaphysics is materialism, since it is impossible even to discuss non-material reality without resorting to metaphysics. Science employs methodological materialism, in that metaphysics is not accepted in a scientific context, but you’ve gone well past that in that you won’t accept metaphysics in any context. I don’t really care whether you’re a materialist or not, and I have no use for metaphysics personally, but the position you are taking is materialist, whether you like it or not. So quit the doubletalk and call a spade a spade. I get enough of this crap from fundamentalists.

Ya, I just disagree.  True, Science is not committed to metaphysical materialism, just methodological materialism, as you say.  But, look, there would be no distinction between methodological and metaphysical materialism unless there really was a metaphysical doctrine of materialism.  To repeat my earlier point, materialism (the metaphysical variety) is the claim that all of reality is material at a fundamental level.  This is a metaphysical doctrine.

There is a kind of colloquial sense of ‘metaphysical’ according to which it refers to hypotheses about non-material entities like souls, astral bodies, and non-material causes such as are posited in astrology.  But this is not the sense of ‘metaphysical’ I was using.  In the philosophical sense (where the notion has its home), a metaphysical claim is just a claim about the ultimate nature of reality.  Materialism is such a claim. 

I, too, am very suspicious of metaphysical claims, be they theological in nature or otherwise.  Materialism may well be true, I have no proof that there are non-material aspects of nature. But I don’t see the point of attaching ourselves to any particular metaphysical beliefs.  Metaphysical beliefs usually have the effect of stifling thought.  And this is something that all atheists should want to avoid.

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What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don’t want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price.
-Ivan Karamazov

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Posted: 03 October 2006 12:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 129 ]  
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[quote author=“follyoffaith”]

In the end, it comes to the matter of faith.

If this is what you believe, then you have missed the point of Sam’s book entirely.  In the end, it comes down to evidence and logic.  There is no evidence for intelligent design.  In fact, there is strong evidence against it.  There is no evidence for god (feeling his shadow in your life is not evidence of any worth, because it is not something that can be shared with others - for all I know you have indigestion).  In fact, there is strong evidence against “him”.  God is not needed to explain anything.  On the contrary, the existence of god adds complexity rather than reducing it.

Here is my challenge to you.  Re-read the bible, in its entirety.  Closely.  Ask yourself as you are reading it, whether it (a) makes sense, (b) sounds like a divine work, and (c) describes a loving, omniscient, omnipotent god of the sort that merits worship.  I was a Christian, until I performed the exercise above.  Now it is clear to me that the ethics of the bible are actually worse than humanism, which puts minimizing the suffering of others above arbitrary beliefs and punishments with no obvious logic behind them.  Humanism is not the worship of people - it is the application of logic to ethics. 

The bible - including the new testament - makes claims that NO ONE believes including good christians.  How many children have been killed recently in the name of the bible for disparaging their parents?  Have you been treating your slaves well?  We will be a much healthier society when we are brave enough to step up and take responsibility for our well being rather than relying on faith (that is, belief despite the total absence of proof) to save us.

jYou rant!  How many children have been murdered by their mothers in the name of choice! :!:  Science, if you keep up to date is proving daily that CREATION is far more logical than evolution. 

You stated you were once a Christian.  Did you abandon your faith because it was easier to fall to the pressures of humanism?  God says, the road is narrow.  You obviously couldn’t cut it.  But luckily for you, you can ask for forgiveness and can once again be saved by Jesus Christ.

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Posted: 04 October 2006 02:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 130 ]  
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If he fell to the pressure of humanism, then god allowed him to do so by your view, so don’t take it out on the person.

Also, please don’t hijack this thread, it has been a great discussion.

Adam

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Posted: 04 October 2006 09:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 131 ]  
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To all you religious folks…

What’s the difference between a religion and a cult?

Because judging by the way you all wholeheartedly believe in what you do - you sound, dare I say it, BRAINWASHED.

All of your thoughts are mindless biblical babble. You never have anything NEW to say. You keep digging from the same “well of knowledge” that has been dried up for quite sometime.

All you really have is, “My faith works for me.” Your entire thought process is a mobius strip - you never get anywhere.

Neither one of us is going to change the others beliefs… so retire.

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Posted: 05 October 2006 05:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 132 ]  
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[quote author=“waltercat”]
I am not making any arguments against it.  As I said, I’ll take your word for it.  I am, however, reporting my doubt that Dennett is just interested in studying religion scientifically; I suspect he believes that this study will break the spell.  But this is just my suspicion, based on other things he has written.  It is not an argument of any kind, certainly not a straw man.

But again, you suspect that this is his argument, and that means that you are presenting a strawman of what he actually says. One of the arguments that believers are now making (and I ran across this in a review of Dawkins The God Delusion), is the complaint that Dawkins cannot explain why so many people believe—as if this were an argument in favour of belief. So religious proponents are now actually advancing the fact that there are so many religious believers as a data point in favour of the truth of religion, and demanding that scientists explain this. It’s an ad populum argument, but they are still making it. Yet when someone like Dennett attempts to seek that explanation, they cry foul.

I suspect that the reason so many people believe in religion is seniority; people have believed this for a long time, so it must be true. For most of human existence, ideas held as true for a long time tend to have a higher possibility of being true. Innovation, for most of our million years of existence as a species, was extremely rare. There was, in most cases, an adaptive advantage to sharing commonly held beliefs—this is why conformity and peer pressure carry such influence. It also explains why Shakespeare languished as popular culture, rather than being considered great literature, for almost 300 years before enough people decided he was great. A consensus opinion over great numbers and longer periods of time argues for its veracity—but only when that consensus is based upon sound evidence. In most matters of fact, this holds true, but in the case of religion, what we have is a myth cobbled together to bridge a gap of ignorance that was not filled in until recently. A rule which usually applies to our benefit has misfired in this case and established a consensus that really has no basis in fact, but carries weight only because it is a consensus, one so old that it predates all solid evidence. Dennett and Dawkins are trying to buck this unfounded consensus. This is the spell they are trying to break.

What I find so objectionable about your position on materialism is that it is summed up by the title of one of the most notorious examples of pseudo-science that has come out in the last few years, a film called What the *&#! Do We Know? If materialism is just another metaphysical proposition, and all metaphysical propositions are suspect, well, then, our metaphysical proposition that the Universe is ordered by God, or Angels, or Operating Thetans, is just as sound as materialism. So much for the scientific method! Who needs evidence—that’s just materialism, and that’s just more metaphysics anyway. In which case, whatever drifts into my head is as viable a way of knowing as all of the research ever done. You have your way of knowing, and I have mine, and that’s that. The fairies are real, because I say so!

What you have done is not close the door on metaphysics, but torn the door off its hinges. If materialism is metaphysics, and science uses methodological materialism, then science is based on metaphysics, and can be abolished by metaphysics. This is the position that Frankr wanted you to take, because it establishes his theology over science. In fact, with this epistemlogical void you can establish anything. It’s similar to the ID argument that Evolution is just a theory. Your argument is inherently post-modernist, and is a favourite amongst religious apologists. What methodological materialism does is employ materialism as a methodological assumption, and stop. No discussion of metaphysics at all, because metaphysics in inherently beyond proof or disproof—it has no material and therefore no phenomenological or scientific basis. Scientists simply refuse to talk about it, because, as Wittgenstein put it, “Whereof one cannot speak, one must remain silent.” The proof of the scientific method—and of methodological materialism—is its own effectiveness, its power to explain and predict natural phenomena. With each advance, the method proves itself. Metaphysics is entirely irrelevant. All discussions of metaphysics, including any metaphysical discussions concerning materialism, are left to theologians and bluntly ignored—because they are remarkably ineffective. Insofar as any of those discussions ever become subject to proof or disproof, they come within the realm of the observable, and therefore of the material. Until then, they are just hot air.

So on the one hand, you want to dabble in metaphysics, by saying that materialism is just a metaphysical assumption. By doing so you imply recognition of other rival metaphysical assumptions. On the other hand, you say you don’t trust metaphysics, which is the position of science and methodological materialism (which does not take any position for, against, or even in recognition of materialism as a metaphysical proposition, because that would be delving into metaphysics, which scientists don’t do.) These are contrary positions. Pick one.

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Posted: 06 October 2006 06:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 133 ]  
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Interesting discussion between waltercat and elentar here - if my comment is just common knowledge, then it can just be excused.

My understanding is that ALL theory is metaphysical, mathematics is metaphysical, ALL and anything having to do with knowledge belongs to metaphysics (and that includes the sciences).  So there’s that philosophical fact; the other would be that physics is ultimately about doing and acting in the real world . . .  when I lift my arm - that is physics, properly speaking. 

Just because biology is about the living world does not make it something outside of metaphysics; it depends heavily on theory and hypotheses in order to get its knowledge established.  Now, numerology is also metaphysics, but it is metaphysics about metaphysical entities.  There’s the difference, legitimate sciences are the metaphysics of the natural/material world, while astrology and numerology are metaphysics about non-physical worlds like ideas/concepts.

Obviously these distinctions are not well established (using the terms methodological materialism versus metaphysical materialism makes the same point in a different way, but underlying that distinction is the popularly held belief that metaphysics is about the supernatural realm, religious entities, magical worlds, etc.).  The term metaphysics is now commonly understood to mean “non-scientific knowledge” or subjective knowledge (versus objective knowledge). 

When I read waltercat I see the main point about ALL knowledge being metaphysical as the center of the discussion, and then I read elentar who accepts the notion that metaphysics is about magical and supernatural realms only.  No wonder these two are struggling to make sense . . . each has a legitimate framework, but they seem to be talking right past one another.

Bob

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Posted: 06 October 2006 03:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 134 ]  
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Metaphysics isn’t about magic or the supernatural—at least, not necessarily. It is a discussion of the ultimate nature of reality. It is, however, beyond the bounds of the empirical or strictly logical. This means that mathematics is not a branch of metaphysics, unless you assert that a particular mathematical model describes ultimate reality independent of empirical verification. If the model corresponds to reality and is demonstrated empirically to do so, then you’re doing physics. This is why some physicists have become dismissive of string theory. So much of it lies outside of the bounds of empirical testing that by claiming that it represents physical reality, theoreticians may in fact be practicing metaphysics. But it is not the mathematics itself that make this metaphysics, only the claim that they represent reality without empirical justification. You can construct an infinite variety of mathematical worlds by varying your basic axioms, but most of those worlds will have no bearing on reality as we know it. Exploring these worlds mathematically is just mathematics. Asserting that these worlds actually underpin physical reality, without any empirical evidence to back this claim, is metaphysics.

What distinguishes metaphysics from physics, or branches of logic or mathematics, is that it makes truth claims without any means of verification or disproof, either through induction or deduction. This is the key point that everyone seems to be missing—if you can actually prove the claim, you are not practicing metaphysics, but science. And conjectural musings about alterate universes without truth assertions are fiction, usually science fiction or fantasy.

To say that everything is metaphysics isn’t really saying much, because it amounts to saying that everything is based upon the ultimate nature of reality. But that does not mean that all theory is metaphysical, because metaphysics consists entirely of conjectural assertions. If all theories are metaphysical, then all theories, regardless of correspondence with observable fact, are equal. For any metaphysical claim, there are contrary claims which stand on equal footing. Since metaphysical claims cannot be proven or disproven, lumping science into metaphysics places it on equal footing with alternate metaphysical systems which have no empirical basis. Even the emphasis on empiricism becomes negotiable, and this is where magic can be reintroduced. If you don’t have to prove it, you can believe anything you want. This is the launch point for systems of New Age magic, and the same position has now been adopted for the defense of religion. This is why religious believers want to argue metaphysics with you—as soon as you join in the discussion on this ground, you’ve lost. You have unwittingly agreed to the premise that empirical evidence has no bearing on truth, and once you’ve done that, they can claim anything they want, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

So while not all metaphysics leads to magical beliefs, all magical beliefs begin with metaphysical assertions. And since metaphysical assertions are, by their very nature, beyond proof or disproof, metaphysical arguments can never be resolved. Metaphysics is thus the final refuge of philosophical scoundrels, whose intentions are to force you to acknowledge your ignorance in a domain where there is nothing but ignorance, and use this admission of ignorance to sneak their argument past you. By classifying materialism as a metaphysical rather than a methodological position, you are agreeing to a metaphysical discussion. The only way to win an argument on metaphysics is to refuse to engage in it, which is precisely what scientists do. This is not dodging the point, but recognizing that there is no point.

This idea, by the way, has its equivalent in analytic philosophy, in some forms of mysticism, and in apophatic theology. The thrust of these traditions is that you cannot talk about the unknowable because you are talking nonsense, and worse, you may convince yourself that the nonsense you are arguing about is true, leading you away from the real truth.

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Posted: 07 October 2006 06:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 135 ]  
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Thanks for that in depth explanation of this tricky terrain Elentar.  Truth is the aim that makes most searches for knowledge a desireable end (of course some knowledge is not interested in truth at all).  In the first paragraph you point to verification through evidence that makes some forms of knowledge more true than others . . . empirical content is the balancing scale.  Then further on you say that sometimes empirical content is negotiable and that’s where the messiness gets going.  I’m thinking that in astrology, we can empirically verify that the stars and planets exist, we can picture their actual constellational positions, we can sketch out their movements over time, etc.,  those are all empirically verifiable contents of the practice. So it’s that empirical content that sucks people into believing their validity, and the rest of astrology is pure conjecture and meaningless fictional relationships between actual human beings and actual planets/stars.

My question, is empirism the thing that stands apart from pure metaphysics? 

I understand how my classification of all knowledge under the umbrella of metaphysics, makes me vulnerable to fuzzying the demarcation between real science and pseudo-science.  Yet on the grounds of verification and falsification I maintain that I can separate the two different kinds of knowledge (empirical vs.  hmmmm, there’s not really a single word that encompasses all the sorts of knowing that are not empirical in basis . . . fictional? fantasy? pure rationalism? emotional? hypothetical?  - what the heck’s with our language that we don’t have that particular word? . . . I guess that’s why ‘metaphysical’ fills the void).  Come to think of it, we classify books as ‘fiction’ and ‘non-fiction”  -  isn’t there a word that would equate with non-fiction?  Certainly ‘empirical’ would fit sometimes, but not always.  The limits of our language!

Bob

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