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Posted: 13 June 2005 01:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]  
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[quote author=“roger_pearse”]I agree, if you accept the presuppositions of secular humanism.  That is to say, men are no different than animals; and, as you say, we kill those for our convenience.  But this was my point.  You can no longer say that mankind is special, or worthwhile, or anything else.  All the aspirations that one categories as humanist are meaningless; are they not merely the noises made by an animal?

No, this is NOT what we are saying here at all. You complain of having words put in your mouth by atheists et al, and ask for enough respect to be afforded the opportunity to make your ideas known. Please have enough respect for us to not make the same kinds of assumptions. A number of us have tried to elucidate this - I’ll try again.

There is nothing about human beings that grants us any kind of significance on a cosmic level. The universe does not care whether we exist or not. We are mere grains of sand at the edge of a vast, dark ocean. What meaning there is to human existance is the meaning we find for ourselves, in our inner reflections and relationships with others. That we should somehow *need* a God to make our lives meaningful is almost insulting to me - are we not capable of doing so on our own?

The idea that we are somehow separate from the rest of nature is precisely the attitude that is allowing vast swaths of rainforest to be destroyed merely to satisfy some economic objective, and it is precisely the attitude that is being criticized here.

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Posted: 13 June 2005 06:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]  
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Alan Slipp:

What meaning there is to human existance is the meaning we find for ourselves, in our inner reflections and relationships with others.

Roger, if a tribe (or whatever they’re called) of elephants could be reliably polled about whether elephants are more important than other animals, they would obviously respond in favor of their own species, and even more in favor of their individual group. A mentally-fit elephant would deplore the murder of one of their kind every bit as much as you or I would deplore the murder of one of ours. Let’s get away from Platonic idealism if we can.

I also recommend Peter Singer’s book that came out in the early 1980’s I think, about species chauvinism.

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Posted: 13 June 2005 06:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]  
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Here’s the Singer book:
Animal Liberation, originally published in 1975.

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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: 13 June 2005 10:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]  
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[quote author=“Alan Slipp”][quote author=“roger_pearse”]I agree, if you accept the presuppositions of secular humanism.  That is to say, men are no different than animals; and, as you say, we kill those for our convenience.  But this was my point.  You can no longer say that mankind is special, or worthwhile, or anything else.  All the aspirations that one categories as humanist are meaningless; are they not merely the noises made by an animal?

No, this is NOT what we are saying here at all. You complain of having words put in your mouth by atheists et al, and ask for enough respect to be afforded the opportunity to make your ideas known. Please have enough respect for us to not make the same kinds of assumptions. A number of us have tried to elucidate this - I’ll try again.

There is nothing about human beings that grants us any kind of significance on a cosmic level. The universe does not care whether we exist or not. We are mere grains of sand at the edge of a vast, dark ocean. What meaning there is to human existance is the meaning we find for ourselves, in our inner reflections and relationships with others. That we should somehow *need* a God to make our lives meaningful is almost insulting to me - are we not capable of doing so on our own?

The idea that we are somehow separate from the rest of nature is precisely the attitude that is allowing vast swaths of rainforest to be destroyed merely to satisfy some economic objective, and it is precisely the attitude that is being criticized here.

Excuse me, but you appear to be *agreeing* with the point I made.  I think we are not communicating here, then.

All the best,

Roger Pearse

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Posted: 13 June 2005 10:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]  
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[quote author=“homunculus”]Alan Slipp:

What meaning there is to human existance is the meaning we find for ourselves, in our inner reflections and relationships with others.

Roger, if a tribe (or whatever they’re called) of elephants could be reliably polled about whether elephants are more important than other animals, they would obviously respond in favor of their own species, and even more in favor of their individual group. A mentally-fit elephant would deplore the murder of one of their kind every bit as much as you or I would deplore the murder of one of ours. Let’s get away from Platonic idealism if we can.

This doesn’t seem to me to have any meaning, tho.  We can imagine all sorts of things.  We need to address the consequence of views that reduce man to equality with the animals—that men do indeed treat each other thus.

All the best,

Roger Pearse

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Posted: 14 June 2005 02:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]  
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[quote author=“roger_pearse”]This doesn’t seem to me to have any meaning, tho.  We can imagine all sorts of things.  We need to address the consequence of views that reduce man to equality with the animals—that men do indeed treat each other thus.

But this goes straight to the point. We treat animals the way we do *because* we see ourselves as being separate from them, elevated on some higher plane that allows us to stuff pigs in factory farms and infect monkeys with deadly diseases to see how they might affect us. The Native American peoples once saw themselves as intimately connected with the rest of nature - they were a part if it, and it a part of them, and often the necessary hunting of a deer or suchlike would be accompanied by a prayer of thanks to the animal’s spirit. They did not not see themselves as “better” than the animals they had to kill.

This notion that we are “better” than those around us has been the most destructive notions in Western civilization, and it’s one of those that has been around the longest. We are capable of seeing through another’s eyes, but our refusal to do so is what creates the Hitlers of this world. What value there is in human life is the value we assign to it, and if we see our lives as “better” or more “worthwhile”, then it allows us to do all sorts of horrible things we wouldn’t contemplate if we saw ourselves as true equals.

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Posted: 14 June 2005 04:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]  
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[quote author=“Alan Slipp”][quote author=“roger_pearse”]This doesn’t seem to me to have any meaning, tho.  We can imagine all sorts of things.  We need to address the consequence of views that reduce man to equality with the animals—that men do indeed treat each other thus.

But this goes straight to the point. We treat animals the way we do *because* ...

Pardon me; the treatment of animals is not the issue here.  The question is whether we should adopt a set of views that involve reducing men to the status of animals.

All the best,

Roger Pearse

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Posted: 14 June 2005 05:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]  
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It’s not about “reducing”  anything.

Its about accepting that you have those instincts, recognizing them, understanding them, being aware of them, then going on to become more rational than the animal within you.

If you really read the bible, you can see in the laws of the old testament that it WAS recognized that humans DID have animal instincts.

In fact, if you read alot of Christian theologists, they too accept the premise that man does have the same instincts as animals.

You say we were all created as sinners, and must repent.

A secular humanist says, no, we aren’t sinners, but we are animals, and subject to the same instincts.

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Posted: 14 June 2005 07:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]  
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I don’t think ‘reducing’ is the proper word - we, secularists/humanists/atheists, are merely rejecting the ‘over-inflated status’ that has been attributed to the human species.  We are trying to adjust our cosmic status to a more realistic position given the facts and the evidence that we have before us.

As far as our treatment of animals goes, of course that is a crucial standard by which to mesure our own moral standing as a species.  If we believe we are superior or that we’ve been created for dominance (I quote TChamp from above, “God created all forms of life (animals, etc.) for his glory and man’s benefit.”), then we have an inherent “right” to treat other animals and the entire ecosystem with the immoral certitude of a bully and a murderer without a second thought. That is another aspect of the self-centeredness and arrogance of the christian mythology on the human condition.

However, if we see that we are indeed just one member species of a living web of plants and animals, all of us ‘interested’ in the same quality of life, then we will see the world around us in a much different light.  So it is crucial indeed “how we treat our fellow earth-dwellers.”

Bob

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Posted: 14 June 2005 07:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]  
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Not sure why I appeared as “Guest” on that last post. 

[quote author=“roger_pearse”]
I agree, if you accept the presuppositions of secular humanism.  That is to say, men are no different than animals; and, as you say, we kill those for our convenience.

Yes, precisely.  We are animals, rather clever ones, but animals none the less.  We only appear different because of our survival strategy, i.e. a big brain.  But by that definition of “specialness”, why aren’t cuttlefish considered “special” as well since their ability to change coloration to match their surroundings is vastly beyond anything we can accomplish? 

[quote author=“roger_pearse”]
But this was my point.  You can no longer say that mankind is special, or worthwhile, or anything else.  All the aspirations that one categories as humanist are meaningless; are they not merely the noises made by an animal?

Yes, you are quite right in that they are the noises of an animal.  I don’t mean to “read between the lines” here, but do I denote a tone of disparagement in your use of the term animal?  As though being an animal is far less than being a human.  Is the singing of a meadow lark just the noise of an animal or the song of a humpback whale?  What makes the screeching of homo sapiens any more or less important than the song of a common house wren?  From a cosmic standpoint, precisely nothing at all.  We are not worthwhile.  What is worthwhile??  The universe does not care one hoot.  The universe hasn’t the demonstrated ability TO care.  Don’t miss my meaning here.  Terms such as meaning and worth are merely the abstractions of big, homo sapien brains and are not part of what I might call the “greater cosmic equation” for lack of better terms. 

Now, from our own perspective we DO have worth.  Our thoughts and feelings ARE meaningful.  It is simply a matter of perspective.  But to say that we have far greater meaning than any other living organism on this planet is the ultimate in homo sapien arrogance. 

[quote author=“roger_pearse”]
It’s not a coincidence that those holding these sorts of views of man, as both Hitler and Stalin did, took precisely these approaches to men.  We do not consider them high forms of life; instead we value those who really do think man worthwhile.

For both Adolph and “uncle” Joe, it depends on which group of humans we’re talking about.  I see the same misguided, irrational arrogance in Hitler believing in the superiority of Germans as I do in humans supposedly thinking they are superior to all other forms of life on earth. 

The atrocities of both men can be traced, ultimately, to mankind’s penchant for tribalism.  It is a trait that in conjunction with our large noggins helped us to survive and pass on the genes of our species.  Unfortunately, and this is probably the greatest irony of human history, those very same survival traits of banding together and working in conjunction like lions, hyenas and wolves, may be our ultimate undoing.  One very powerful and often times destructive attribute of that tribalism is religion.  It once helped bind tribes of homo sapiens together and in many ways helped assure their survival.  In a world of nuclear weapons, however, we can no longer afford what has become a spandrel of human societal evolution.  As Sam Harris far more elegantly put it, it is religion, as an example of our ingrained tribal instincts, which might very well spell our extinction.

[quote author=“roger_pearse”]
Thus secular humanism is destroyed by the logic of its own conclusions.  It starts by placing man at the centre of the picture, rather than God; and ends by reducing man to nothing more than an animal like any other.

Far from it.  It is the secular humanistic view point that holds up to our many times delusional faces exactly who and what we are.  If anything, the legacies of Hitler, Stalin, Mao etc. speak to the same potentially dangerous tribal nature of humanity that religion also speaks too.  Could you imagine Hitler with nuclear weapons?  Or how about the Habsburg king Phillip II?  A very pious Roman Catholic who showed no mercy to those who did not believe HIS way.  If Phillip had had nukes, the protestant, Dutch republic wouldn’t have stood a chance, much less Elizabeth’s England.

I may have not been very clear in my initial post in this thread so you may have missed my meaning.  I cannot put “god”, Yahweh, Zeus, Amun Ra or any other deity at the center of my world view.  From a physical, rational and logical viewpoint, I can just as easily insert the Easter Bunny or Big Foot and logically stand just as solidly as you can with the Judeo-Christian God as your center.  Therefore, by definition, an omniscient, omnipresent being that refuses to show him or herself physically, except supposedly in the far, far, dim of antiquity, is quite unknowable.  I for one refuse to act as Linus in the pumpkin patch waiting for the Great Pumpkin to show up.  The “Great Pumpkin” is unknowable by definition since I can neither prove nor disprove him or her.

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Posted: 14 June 2005 07:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]  
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[quote author=“roger_pearse”]Pardon me; the treatment of animals is not the issue here.

it’s part and parcel of the same issue. We treat animals poorly because we fail to identify with them. We fail to identify with them because we see ourselves as separate from them. Not only that, we are encouraged to not identify with animals, especially the ones we eat, in order that we may breed them en mass in factory farms and sell their meat for mass consumption in fastfood restaurants. We treat other people poorly for EXACTLY the same reasons.

White people are not “better” than black people. Christians are not “better” than Jews. Americans are not “better” than Iraqis… human beings are not “better” than animals.

We are able to engage in murder, torture and rape not because we reduce other people to mere animals (we were never more than animals in the first place), but because we fail to identify with others; because we fail to recognize that our separateness from others is effectively an illusion.

The notion that secular humanists wish to reduce people to the state of animals is a Straw Man, a mistaken argument that is easier to attack than the argument we are actually *making*.

EDIT: Thanks to Bob and paleotn for helping to flesh things out further.

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Posted: 14 June 2005 08:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]  
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So, the wisdom you have gleaned from the “Good Book”  is that ” . . .all life (animals, etc.) were created by god for man’s benefit.”  If that’s the sort of thing you call wisdom TChamp - it’s a sorry state of the planet that you want to pursue.  Don’t you see it as a raping and a piliging of our Mother Earth when we treat her off-spring and her multifarious life-forms as merely fodder for the consumptive human machine?

Alright getting to your suggestion, I read Chapter One of John a couple of times - a third reading just seemed redundant.  Now why do you call this the “most eloquent text ever written on earth.”?  Haven’t you read any of Shakespeare’s sonnets or that passage in Romeo and Juliet when they meet at the costume ball?

John; Ch.1, opens up really nicely and it puts what I was saying in a rather blunt context, “and the Word was God.”  So how come you get all this crap about salvation and souls and dominion over the creatues of the earth and virgins giving birth and boys walking on water, etc., so literally when your own text asks you to understand that The Word was God?

114 has a nice feel to it, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, . . . full of grace and truth.”  What does that mean to you?  To me it means that Jesus was the perfected human example of “the Word” - he was the manifestation of everything latent within the language of human civilization, sort of the epitome of what it might ultimately mean to understand the depths from which human language derives and perhaps the heights to which it might attain.  And yet all of this is just “in Words” so to speak, it means nothing literal about Christ being the actual son of spirit-god, and bla, bla, bla.

Not too sure about John the Baptist here pretending that he doesn’t really know Jesus but only foretells of his divine purpose by “seeing” the light of the Holy Spirit in the being of Jesus (as an alighted dove). Yet we know that their mothers were cousins, so they must’ve at least talked to each other at some time previously - and probably played together as children for all we know - maybe a game called “you be the messiah” once popular among children of Hebrew descent.

Next we see two of John the Baptist’s desciples (one was Andrew - brother of Simon [the rock - Petros]), following Jesus after John calls him the Son of God. And the two of them go to Jesus’ place and spend the night there (talking, I suppose?).  Then Andrew brings in his brother to meet the beautiful and seductive Jesus, who suddenly calls Simon his rock, hence Peter.  Looks like Jesus has fallen in love with this beautiful young man?  Next day Jesus goes off and finds Philip who is also intoxicated by the aura of Jesus (Philip is from the same town as Andrew and Simon/Peter.) and they go and find Nathaniel who also falls for Jesus because he mentions seeing him under a fig tree at some earlier time.  So Nathaniel also calls Jesus the Son of God.

So in the span of a couple of days we see four young men, Andrew, Simon/Peter, Philip and Nathaniel all have fallen in love with Jesus and are ready to follow him wherever he wishes to go.  We see that Jesus also has fallen in love with his Peter - you will recall that several times (even in other gospels) Peter is referred to as the “disciple whom Jesus loved.”  I know this is beginning to sound like the movie “Priscilla - Queen of the Dessert” - and maybe it was?

At any rate TChamp, why do you feel that this is the most eloquent text ever written?  I still feel that Shakespeare’s Sonnets are a much better, more beautiful and more eloquent capturing of the love of one man for another man?
The spirit of humanity as captured by Shakespeare is truly divine in the world of literature (The Word).

Bob

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Posted: 14 June 2005 08:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]  
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CanZen, awesome man! The reason it is so good is that it holds so much truth on so many levels!

Man am I a happy camper today. I hope the text comes back to you in the middle of the night, as truth begins to permeate your soul. grin

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Posted: 14 June 2005 09:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]  
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Excellent response CanZen!  Language is a way of addressing reality, and the simpler you attempt to pigeonhole it, the more you attempt to reduce its scope, and even the understanding, thus increase subjugation of those who address it.

Here’s a bit from George Orwell’s ‘1984’.  It’s worth observing the book is about any power entity attempting to control people through orthodoxy:

Can lies pose as truth? (Referencing ‘1984’) Winston had a friend at the ‘Ministry of Truth’, named Syme, who was sure that they could. His job was to eliminate words. The aim was to eliminate the range of thought, by eliminating words that made real thought possible, so there would only be “good”, and “evil”. Everything that Big Brother represented was “good”. Everything that opposed Big Brother was “evil”. As Syme explained to Winston, “The whole climate of thought will be different. There’ll be no thought as we understand it now (Vegged Out Population, that focuses on Michael Jackson trials rather than administration lies). Orthodoxy means ‘Not Thinking’.”

“One of these days,” thought Winston, “Syme will be vaporized. He sees too clearly, speaks too plainly. One day he will disappear.”

So what we have here is not the sunlight of a freethinking environment that encourages free exploration into meaning, but the dark ominous shadows of totalitarianism, despotism, and fascism.

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Posted: 14 June 2005 09:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]  
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To be specific, my reply was addressed to the last post from CanZen on the first page of this forum thread.  The one ending in ‘Bob’ under the topic ‘The Word is god’

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