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man's search for meaning
Posted: 09 October 2006 06:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]  
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[quote author=“frankr”]Why do all our appetites have ways of being satisfied (food for the hungry, drink for the thirst, sex for sexual desires, etc) yet there is no scientific answer for our appetite for the divine. Why does our desire for the supernatural exist unsatiated?


So your assumption is that if most of us really want it, it must therefore exist . . . uh huh.

rolleyes

Why is it that so many religious apologetic arguments are soo utterly devoid of merit (and are often plainly narcissistic and infantile) when you cut through all the window dressing?

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Posted: 09 October 2006 06:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]  
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I do not think my question was a religious one. It was actually addressed to the evolutionary psychologists. If you believe psychology to be part of the on-going machination of evolution, I would like to see an explanation for the religious appetite. It undeniable exists throughout cultures and history. It cannot be dismissed because a few, like Salt Creek, claim not to have the desire. One could not dismiss sexual desire because there are people who claim not to have the desire. What is the evolutionist’s answer answer to the evolution of an appetite for the nonexistent. How did this come about? Be careful how you answer because you might have to admit that the desire for the supernatural plays a positive role in our survival. You might have to admit the survival of this supernatural desire demonstrates that the believer is more fit for survival in this uncaring and accidental universe. You could also admit that evolutionary psychology is a crock, but I do not think you dare challenge that dogma.

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Posted: 09 October 2006 07:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]  
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[quote author=“frankr”]I’d like the evolutionist psychologist to answer the following question. Why do all our appetites have ways of being satisfied (food for the hungry, drink for the thirst, sex for sexual desires, etc) yet there is no scientific answer for our appetite for the divine. Why does our desire for the supernatural exist unsatiated?

Frank, I’m not a psychologist and even if I were one, I would not be a strict behaviorist. But . . . such facts have never stopped me from having a strong opinion anyway.

Humanity since the beginning of the written word (and hence opportunity) have been hypnotized into hoping and aspiring to otherworldly goals of reward and value. Such hypnotizing may or may not have once been necessary for large and diverse populations to survive together in cities. But nonetheless, it was/is a gigantic social-engineering project accomplished by leaders for the most part smart enough to understand what they were doing. Today things are obviously different.

Appetites for the divine are set up by cognitive-behavioral forces. Expectations dominate our emotions and drives. Discard antiquated or mistaken expectations and you are left with drives and appetites that reflect what our bodies and psychological underpinnings actually need.

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Posted: 09 October 2006 07:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]  
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[quote author=“frankr”]I would like to see an explanation for the religious appetite. It undeniable exists throughout cultures and history. It cannot be dismissed because a few, like Salt Creek, claim not to have the desire….What is the evolutionist’s answer answer to the evolution of an appetite for the nonexistent. How did this come about? Be careful how you answer because you might have to admit that the desire for the supernatural plays a positive role in our survival. You might have to admit the survival of this supernatural desire demonstrates that the believer is more fit for survival in this uncaring and accidental universe. You could also admit that evolutionary psychology is a crock, but I do not think you dare challenge that dogma.

The fact that belief survives indicates that people can be taught to believe. You have not demonstrated that belief is innate. I demonstrate that belief is not innate. It is not in me. Is evolution the only explanation for belief, or can education explain it entirely? You have only made a good case that people are susceptible to belief. Another way of saying this is that “There is a sucker born every minute, and two to take him.” Your ad populam argument is an old, old trick, and nobody here is buying it. Ask yourself, or at least answer, frank, why nobody here is buying it.

[quote author=“frankr”]One could not dismiss sexual desire because there are people who claim not to have the desire.

You infer an appetite for something from its existence. Do you infer an appetite for homosexuality from the fact that it exists? Do you dismiss homosexual “desire” simply because some people do not have it? Maybe the concept of appetite cuts both ways for you. One appetite is as good as another, at least as far as explaining anything goes. Don’t play word games with people if you do not excel at them.

[ Edited: 09 October 2006 07:32 AM by ]
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Posted: 09 October 2006 07:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]  
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[quote author=“Salt Creek”]
The fact that belief survives indicates that people can be taught to believe. You have not demonstrated that belief is innate. I demonstrate that belief is not innate. It is not in me. Your ad populam argument is an old, old trick, and nobody here is buying it. Ask yourself, or at least answer, frank, why nobody here is buying it..

I do not write about the God Gene or evolutioniary psychology but many on this forum do. I am glad you reject the nonsense of Dawkins and Dennett, Salt Creek, you are making strides in the right direction.

[quote author=“Salt Creek”][quote author=“frankr”]One could not dismiss sexual desire because there are people who claim not to have the desire.

You infer an appetite for something from its existence. Do you infer an appetite for homosexuality from the fact that it exists? Do you deny the “appetite” of homosexuality simply because some people do not have it? Maybe the concept of appetite cuts both ways for you. One appetite is as good as another, at least as far as explaining anything goes.

I do believe the existence of the homosexual appetite. I also believe that homosexuality exists. I did not infer or imply that one appetite is as good as another.

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Posted: 09 October 2006 08:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]  
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[quote author=“frankr”]Be careful how you answer because you might have to admit that the desire for the supernatural plays a positive role in our survival. You might have to admit the survival of this supernatural desire demonstrates that the believer is more fit for survival in this uncaring and accidental universe.


Why would you think any of that would be a problem? It’s believers who need to protect their franchise dogma from the perpetual assault of reality, not skeptics. If religious belief provides a selective advantage then that’s the deal . . . so what? It might go a long way to explain the prevalence of religious beliefs in spite of the total lack of any substantiating evidence or epistemology. That doesn’t mean it’ll always be that way (we’ve managed to remove rape from the list of favored means of procreation, after all), and it has nothing at all to do with what’s real and true regarding religious dogmas . . . so again, why would you think any of that would be a problem?

And for the record I don’t have any “desire for the supernatural” either. I think what’s likely being mistaken for that here is simple fear of the unknown, but in any case I do think I may be “wired” differently than most people, and that if I am it may very well have a lot to do with why I’m comfortable with the unknown, and why I don’t have this alleged universal human desire for the supernatural (whatever that really means).

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Posted: 09 October 2006 10:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]  
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[quote author=“frankr”]I do not write about the God Gene or evolutioniary psychology but many on this forum do. . . .

Frank, sorry if I’m missing it, but what does evolutionary psychology have to do with this discussion, as opposed to other kinds?

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
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Posted: 09 October 2006 01:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]  
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homunculus - no harm, no foul, no worries. wink

I know I exist on both the sub-atomic and astronomical level as an exception to the vast majority of the material of both, yet also as a result of the laws which govern both.  I know that I exist within the context of the universe, of the Milky Way Galaxy, of our solar system, and of the planet Earth.  I know I am an animal of and on this planet.  One part of my evolutionary state is the remnant of a tail, another is my conscious self-awareness.  I can report in exquisite detail precisely how tenuous life on earth really is, and how quickly a single event could result in the termination of all sentient life herein.  My experience is that human beings are the only animals on this planet that evidence an understanding of the scientific truths contained within this paragraph.

It seems to me that our concious self-awarness leads inexorably to the issue of meaning both of and in our lives.  The question arises from our physical being, evolution wired us for it.  Our “place” in the universe is not determined by how insignificant we are in terms of mass or locale nor by how long the odds are against our being at all, not to deny either awesome consideration, but by the facts of our existence and our consciousness.

I think “the appetite for the divine” is in fact a drive for meaning.  Religions propose themselves as a shortcut which, like other animals (my dog comes to mind) humans are largely happy to try.  Though religions deliver various systems for meaning, what they also deliver is a great deal of what is euphamistically called “collateral damage.”  As a species we’ve gone from sacrificing humans to sacrificing only virgins to sacrificing animals to sacrificing god himself to not sacrificing, all in service to our drive for meaning.  (The arrival of suicide bombers marks a giant step backward to human sacrifice, doesn’t it?)

Religion offers a cacophany of systems of meaning, but where’s the alternative to these gods?  Every man for himself?  Reason?  Absurdity?

We don’t ask each generation to rediscover fire, why should each generation have to recreate a system for meaning?  The scientific method offers a solid structure for advancing knowledge, but there appears no corrolating rational structure for understanding much less advancing meaning.

Perhaps I’m not making sense, so let me put it this way:

Sam makes a strong case for the end of religion and demonstrates how religion’s “castles in the air” are shelter without foundation.  The problem I see is that Sam’s case is the flip side of the coin, foundation without shelter.

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Posted: 09 October 2006 04:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]  
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[quote author=“cpl”]Sam makes a strong case for the end of religion and demonstrates how religion’s “castles in the air” are shelter without foundation.  The problem I see is that Sam’s case is the flip side of the coin, foundation without shelter.

What is it that you seek shelter from? If it is the loneliness of existence, or the lack of a meaning imposed by some authority figure, I suggest you simply take the meaning you have and leave the authority figure behind.

If your anxiety is that you think not everyone in the whole bloody world is going to agree exactly and in every detail with the meaning you have come up with, I think that is something you are just going to have to live with. Everybody contemplates the same universe, and some people read a particular book (or have it read to them) and conclude that is the one everybody should have. That’s why they need the “authority figure”, so everybody else will have the same meaning imposed on them.

However, it should be abundantly obvious that even for those reading the same book, the divisions over just how this should play out are profound.

I think every person can accept that they know what it feels like to be human (there are rare exceptions) and treat other people as if they felt the same fears and hopes. But gathering it all up in one big ball, world without end, is that fantasy of unified belief that is always just over the horizon. Compassion and respect for others. Any more meaning than that, you need to come up with on your own.

The End of Faith does not have to mean the end of faith for you; but somehow it must lead inevitably to the end of all the earthly power structures that seek to impose a particular vision of faith on everyone. Either that or we’re dead. Y’all know what I think about that, anyway, but you can draw your own conclusions as well.

I think most of the so-called atheists here can live with that. I think that is the only thing we really insist on.

[quote author=“frankr”]I am glad you reject the nonsense of Dawkins and Dennett, Salt Creek, you are making strides in the right direction.

I assume the “right direction” here is the one of which frankr himself approves. I hate to dash any hopes he might have simply because I admit (or cannot escape) the conclusion that “people can be taught to believe”. Of course, I assert that it is the only way that people come to believe, and it is not complimentary to frankr’s point of view. In his very confused critique of “evolutionary psychology”, frankr suggests that the “appetite for the divine” appears innately. All to the contrary, it is purely a manufactured appetite, marketed by priests and shamans of all stripes. People like to eat in restaurants, but if restaurants disappeared, people would still have to eat, and they would cook at home. There is no essential nutrition in a Big Mac.

The apprehension of one’s meanings in life is not an “appetite”, a market demand to be satisfied by the business of religion. It is the individual and very personal responsibility of every conscious being.

I respect frankr as an articulate and sincere proponent of what he believes. At least, I assume he is sincere. What I do not respect is the positively dreary, dogged, unimaginative action he takes to wedge his beliefs into a place where they do not fit. Proselytizing one’s beliefs is defined as the duty of those who adopt that creed. It leads to a tragic collision between those beliefs and those who choose not to believe.

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Posted: 09 October 2006 05:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]  
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[quote author=“cpl”]I think “the appetite for the divine” is in fact a drive for meaning.

And I think the drive or anticipation or need was in fact planted into Western culture by clever people. It’s fake.

Reality-based meaning comes from balancing the opposing stresses and pleasures of work, raising children, doting on grandchildren, eating-drinking-laughing. Successfully balancing work and overt pleasure tends to result in our interior chemical factories putting out exactly what a bright and ambitious primate needs to be blissfully happy when appropriate, angry when appropriate, fearful, wistful, ornery, impatient, loving, kind, . . . (you fill in the rest).

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
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Posted: 09 October 2006 07:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]  
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Salt Creek wrote

What is it that you seek shelter from?

This misunderstanding of a simple metaphor is the high point of clarity in that post.

Salt’s line

If your anxiety is that you think not everyone in the whole bloody world is going to agree exactly and in every detail with the meaning you have come up with, I think that is something you are just going to have to live with.


made me LOL.  I can’t afford to tip enough porters to unpack all the baggage evidenced in the projections here, but I can safely report that none of that baggage is mine.

Then there’s this:

I think every person can accept that they know what it feels like to be human (there are rare exceptions) and treat other people as if they felt the same fears and hopes.

Come again?  All of recorded history stands in opposition to this sunny bromide.  The only things that validate it are the various and sundry holy books used by their adherents to pound each other.

And then the line to top all lines:

Compassion and respect for others. Any more meaning than that, you need to come up with on your own.

Here we have a purely fundamentalist argument.  “I have the answer, even if I don’t understand the question.  Now don’t bother me.”

But let me entertain the guts of that assertion for a moment.  “Compassion and respect for others.”  What makes that phrase “meaning?”  What makes it more worthy as a pair of parameters for finding meaning than the benign indifference evidenced by the entire universe?  This phrase stands firmly in the thin air of “because I say so” as a slogan, not a system, not a method, and only possibly a parameter whose application, one senses, is unclear even to its author.

The scientific method offers no answers, but a system for refining knowledge.  What Harris hinted at in his paragraph on page 88 is a system for refining meaning.  Camus wrote “...the meaning of life is the most urgent of questions.”  A rational system for refining meaning that does not rely upon preposterous assertions is more needed now than ever, lest even rational atheists succumb to the nonsense of ideological sloganeering.

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Posted: 09 October 2006 07:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]  
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Reality-based meaning comes from balancing the opposing stresses and pleasures of work, raising children, doting on grandchildren, eating-drinking-laughing. Successfully balancing work and overt pleasure tends to result in our interior chemical factories putting out exactly what a bright and ambitious primate needs to be blissfully happy when appropriate, angry when appropriate, fearful, wistful, ornery, impatient, loving, kind, . . . (you fill in the rest).

Now I think this is getting somewhere.

If “balance” is the methodology, how do we know it is being achieved?  The examples given are from rather common-place western middle-class life, how would this “reality-based” system cope with extremes of deprivation, whether by accident, imprisonment or assignment?

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Posted: 09 October 2006 08:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]  
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You guys are fixated on god.  Really.  You keep bringing god and religion up as if someone’s trying to advance those concepts and structures here.  This thread is about the human need for meaning, not god, not religion.  If you’re looking for god-fearing people in order to demonstrate the superiorty of your personal path, go where someone cares about such things.  I don’t.

Now if you deny that human beings are driven to find meaning, you can just say so.  I honestly can’t tell if that’s what you mean, you guys keep muddling things up with hoopla about god and religion and all sorts of flotsam that’s quite beside-the-point.

To recap: this thread started with my reflection on a paragraph in Sam Harris’ book, page 88, about ritual and profundity, you can look it up. 

My initial observation was simple: unless the urge for meaning is met head-on then religion will continue to thrive despite all the stone cold facts laid out against it.  You can debate that observation on its own terms, but what you can’t do is claim that it is objectively an attempt to convince anyone that religion is good, desirable, or in any way preferable.

My second observation, made repeatedly, is that there’s simply no rational or logical reason why a reality-based system for meaning couldn’t or shouldn’t be developed.  That’s a system, not an answer book.  Again, there’s no way this can objectively be claimed to indicate that somehow god or religion is preferable to logic and reason, quite the opposite if you simply take the proposition at face value.

So put the god-and-religion-are-dumb autofills away, please.  It’s not helping anyone, and at this late hour it’s made me rather cranky.

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Posted: 09 October 2006 08:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]  
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Okay… now I am confused.  Are you fishtailing?  Has your premise changed now that you have further information?

This is what you stated…

Faith persists in large part because in imbues life with meaning.

Many religious people have studied in our best universities, they’re neither ignorant nor stupid, but they did not find a meaning for life in all the knowledge science provides.

It seems to me that the reason so many religious people reject evolution is that they understand “accident” to equal “meaningless.” If the fact of existence is essentially meaningless, then life itself is absurd. So long as the position of science can be made to boil down to such absurdity all the scientific information on earth won’t result in the end of faith, but paradoxically will strengthen the grip of religion instead.

I think “the appetite for the divine” is in fact a drive for meaning. Religions propose themselves as a shortcut which, like other animals (my dog comes to mind) humans are largely happy to try.

Religion offers a cacophany of systems of meaning…
(I disagree by the way.  Perhaps if I was wearing your rose colored lenses…)

Sam makes a strong case for the end of religion and demonstrates how religion’s “castles in the air” are shelter without foundation. The problem I see is that Sam’s case is the flip side of the coin, foundation without shelter

This is a board about ending faith… your own premises talk about faith and religion.  How are we to know that we are off topic when we challenge your premises?

Are you saying that your premise boils down to: life has meaning?  Well yes it does.  Discussion over.  But that wasn’t your premise AT ALL!  Your quotes above demonstrate this entirely.

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Posted: 10 October 2006 04:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]  
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The search for meaning is about significance.  So far as we know human beings are the only animals that entertain questions like: What’s the meaning/significance of this thing, this event, this situation?  What is the meaning/significance of life, or of my presence here and now?  What is the meaning/significance of the human step in the evolutionary scheme of things?  What’s the meaning/significance of today?

The drive for meaning is what propells us to the act of creation.  All our arts, all our sciences, the creation of memnotic devices from flash drives to monuments to rituals, are all byproducts of our search for meaning.

The Existentialist question “Why not suicide?” was a European response to a perceived lack of meaning in the wake of the two World Wars.  Camus famously found the answer in absurdity.  That non-religion-based system for meaning has not survived its age; it was undermined by continued human acheivement and optimism.

I came to this forum in search of a reality-based system for meaning, one hinted at by a couple of lines in Harris’ book “Letter to a Christian Nation.”  I did not expect this issue to be beyond the scope (or perhaps the grasp?) of “a board about ending faith.” 

Why would I dare to suggest this topic may be beyond the grasp of this forum?  Here’s an example:

Are you saying that your premise boils down to: life has meaning? Well yes it does. Discussion over.

  LOL!  It’s one thing to miss the point, but to do it with such ignorance and arrogance is just damned hysterical.

But back to seriousness and ending faith for a moment…  Just as it is helpful to understand what fuels a confligration in order to put a fire out, one must understand what fuels faith in order to put religion out.  No-one would claim that one is endorsing arson by discussing the triangle of fuel/heat/oxygen, but discussing the triangle of meaning/faith/god is interpreted here as a de-facto endorsement of religion.

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