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Richard Dawkins
Posted: 23 April 2009 09:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]  
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Keep in mind, folks, that the only reason this thread has been resurrected is because a newbie made a clueless OT response to the thread after it had been dead for months, rather than having the balls to make an announcement in a fresh thread, and ASD responded with his usual reflexive spasm against “Dawkins” after having been poked up the ass by his own gross misunderstanding of group selection; then we also have the usual echos from Burt. Still, the prize in the bottom of the crackerjack box is sometimes a coupon for lemonade, or rather, lemon-flavored sugar-water.

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Posted: 23 April 2009 05:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]  
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Salt Creek - 23 April 2009 01:16 PM
burt - 23 April 2009 12:44 PM

One somewhat cynical comment is that socially organized religion might be important in providing a psychological feeling of group unity that allows people to live together in groups larger than one or two hundred without fighting with each other overly much.

How is that cynical? Antisocialdarwinist himself is known to make the more-cynical argument that something exists called “human nature”, another unfalsifiable doctrine, to be sure.

Well, it isn’t the idealistic idea that we can all get along if everybody just loves everybody. 

Salt Creek - 23 April 2009 01:16 PM

When one postulates what you have, uncynically, and without devolving into greedy reductionism, there is still room to investigate or to ask what actually are the features of human anatomy and physiology which might make problems living in groups larger than one or two hundred without wasting a lot of energy on internal conflict. That would be the scientific approach, rather than taking a phenomenon (religion) and using conflict as your untested explanation for its ontology.

There is evidence that people most naturally live in groups whose maximum size is 100 - 200, with anthropological speculations that this has something to do with the largest number of people a person can comfortably know.  On the other hand, there is the mob psychology idea (just think of soccer fans) that ties into this—I’ve heard some people equate sports events and rock concerts to religious gatherings (as drawing on the same psychological roots).  As you indicate, this is an area for research by qualified investigators. 

This all connects to a theory I proposed (at a beer parlor in Austin Texas back in 69 or 70 but have never published) called the Proliferation of SOB’s.  In a small community, everybody knows everybody else so if somebody is an SOB everybody knows it and takes care so there is social pressure against being one.  As population density goes up, a person begins to encounter more people they don’t know except by reputation, and then not even by reputation.  That increases the chance of unknowingly encountering an SOB who will rip you off.  Eventually, as population density continues to rise, there is a tipping point where you have to become an SOB to protect yourself from all those other SOB’s out there.  (And why do I suddenly think of the John Goodman character in Brother Where Art Thou?)

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Posted: 23 April 2009 05:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]  
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burt - 23 April 2009 09:22 PM

And why do I suddenly think of the John Goodman character in Brother Where Art Thou?

Because you like to read exactly as much into a narrative as it takes for you to make your point, thereby giving you (and, hopefully, your rapt audience) the temporary illusion that you are cleverer than others. This may have been true when you were doing math, but there are, er, um, limits. It’s easy to be fairly good at math, and still be quite crummy at it. It’s like the exponential, you go on for a long while and people get better and better little by little, and then all of a sudden, things just take off.

The John Goodman character, like so many others in “O, Brother” is intended to evoke a character from Homer. This may still help you in your odyssey toward making a point, but some work remains. The completion of the proof is left as an exercise for the reader.

[ Edited: 23 April 2009 05:52 PM by Traces Elk]
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Posted: 23 April 2009 10:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]  
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Salt Creek - 23 April 2009 09:48 PM
burt - 23 April 2009 09:22 PM

And why do I suddenly think of the John Goodman character in Brother Where Art Thou?

Because you like to read exactly as much into a narrative as it takes for you to make your point, thereby giving you (and, hopefully, your rapt audience) the temporary illusion that you are cleverer than others. This may have been true when you were doing math, but there are, er, um, limits. It’s easy to be fairly good at math, and still be quite crummy at it. It’s like the exponential, you go on for a long while and people get better and better little by little, and then all of a sudden, things just take off.

The John Goodman character, like so many others in “O, Brother” is intended to evoke a character from Homer. This may still help you in your odyssey toward making a point, but some work remains. The completion of the proof is left as an exercise for the reader.

Actually, I was thinking of the guy using Christianity as a cover for being a rip-off artist.  Something like the KKK guy in the same movie.  Interestingly, right now I’m trying to figure out the evolutionary dynamics of prisoner’s dilemma and other toy model games.  Maybe these two characters will end up in a simulation of selfish behavior under the guise of altruism (that would be the Goodman character, the other would be the punisher of perceived deviance).  After all, have to keep the publication record up to keep the grant dollars coming in.  wink

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Posted: 27 April 2009 09:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]  
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Salt Creek - 23 April 2009 07:00 AM
Antisocialdarwinist - 23 April 2009 12:48 AM

So why is it so successful?

What do you mean, successful?

It was successful in the sense that it has been found in nearly every society of which anthropologists are aware.  It survived despite the fact that there are clear disadvantages to individuals who subscribe to it, and despite the fact that it’s easy to rid oneself of (compared to, say, venereal disease, which is also successful, but up until the discovery of antibiotics, impossible to cure).

Salt Creek - 23 April 2009 07:00 AM

You’re making a specifically biological argument…

No, I’m not.  You’re reading a “specifically biological argument” into my post.  If there’s anything “specifically biological” here it’s your apparent predisposition to jump to unfounded and irrelevant conclusions.  Whether religion stems from biological roots or whether it’s a product of homo sapiens’ overactive imagination is irrelevant.  It exists and it is successful.  Furthermore, religions which emphasize worship are more successful than religions which emphasize belief only. 

Why? 

My answer is that religion, especially religion which emphasizes worship over belief, must have conferred an advantage to societies which adopted it.  Period.  No “specifically biological arguments” here that I can see.

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Do-gooding is like treating hemophilia—the real cure is to let hemophiliacs bleed to death, before they breed more hemophiliacs. -Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land

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Posted: 28 April 2009 04:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]  
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There’s obviously some sort of process of selection at work here.  Religion is widespread because it confers some advantage on societies in which it’s a dominant force.

But yes, ASD, you are employing a specifically-biological metaphor here, with words like ‘selection’ and ‘advantage’. You’re not even a very good bullshit artist if you think that “No, I’m not” is a strong riposte.

The fallacy to which you are really committed is my beloved Straw Herring™:

I think of religion as a very effective weapon in the struggle of societies to prevail against each other.

As usual, one must ask what the prize is at the bottom of the crackerjack box of “societal success”. A few lines in the history books? Who’s watching to see how well you do? What you’ve got is a stark naked, blunt assertion that “religion is valuable”, which seems to be set up only to troll against the idea that religion is harmful. Ex recto assertions like yours are a dime a dozen in the world of internet discussion of religion.

If you are going to mount the argument that “societal competition” is in any way significant, you need first to deconstruct it. As I remarked, history is littered with failed societies. You’re pulling a bunch of shit teleology out of your ass and fingerpainting on the walls with it.

Antisocialdarwinist - 28 April 2009 01:32 AM

My answer is that religion, especially religion which emphasizes worship over belief, must have conferred an advantage to societies which adopted it.  Period.  No “specifically biological arguments” here that I can see.

Given that you are able to present no scientific or historical evidence that there ever was a competition between religious and non-religious societies, your argument is repetition of a worthless ‘argument from ignorance’. “Since we do not know what factors were involved in the emergence of religion, we will posit that religion has survival value.” You used the word “advantage”, not I.

A scientific argument that religion provides a competitive advantage requires you to present evidence of a competition, instead of baseless conjecture extracted directly from your ass. We might then further understand the factors that led to the conclusion of the conflict you think is so important. It could simply be that every religion wants to be the only one. As you know from your biology, monoculture is not necessarily robust. Your better argument, then, is that the arbitrary nature of religion leads to lots of societies, but only a monoculture of humans, when they subdue the earth after wrecking it with silly religious wars. Great!

Why don’t you actually use your brain for something besides expressing your reactionary infantile jealousy over the public success of authors who point out the flaws in religious culture? Is there something disturbing to you in that public success? Is there really a well-thought-out political philosophy, to which atheism does some damage unseen by us, underneath your trollish nattering? Yes, I believe there is, and it is some weird variant of social darwinism, and the myth of a race of supermen. Next round, you’ll be citing Godwin’s Law.

There is, in fact, a copious historical record of competition between technological and pre-technological societies. The results have always been entirely conclusive. Second- and third-rate philosophers babble incessantly about that one, too. Perhaps you would like to add in the argument that Christianity was necessary to the emergence of modern science, as well. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc.

Most familiarly, many superstitious beliefs and magical thinking arise from this fallacy.

The argument by cogent thinkers is that in a crowded world, the arbitrary nature of these fictive objects of worship is an automatic conflict-generator in the quest for “societal success”, and regardless of any nostalgia for its deep historical roots, “worship” is a cultural construct whose time has passed, in a big way. The best you can hope for is to warble the bliss ninny’s demand for a security blanket, threatening that without it, the top of his head may fly off suddenly, and make a mess on the wall, just as you are doing.

[ Edited: 28 April 2009 06:26 AM by Traces Elk]
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Posted: 28 April 2009 06:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]  
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Antisocialdarwinist - 28 April 2009 01:32 AM

It survived despite the fact that there are clear disadvantages to individuals who subscribe to it, and despite the fact that it’s easy to rid oneself of (compared to, say, venereal disease, which is also successful, but up until the discovery of antibiotics, impossible to cure).

To say that organized “religion” has survived since the invention of writing says nothing about what specifically has in fact survived. Actually, you haven’t even said this much, ASD. Honest and thorough deconstruction (skeptical analysis), as S.C. implies, is a necessary component to such a claim. If you’re not an anthropologist, a linguist or at the least, an unusually well-read historian or in possession of some other related scholarship, good luck sounding legitimate in your claims. Meanwhile, I’d suggest you quote various experts, ASD. At least find out what they have to say about the matter.

If you follow my advice, you also might stop referring to a disease as being successful, and instead refer to physically measurable or observable aspects of the disease in question. You may want to be a bit more careful using the human-emotion-loaded word “successful,” as well.

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Posted: 28 April 2009 06:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]  
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Antisocialdarwinist - 22 April 2009 12:42 AM

Religion is only one example of a social grouping of like minded hominids.  But when was the last time you saw a suicide bomber from the Rotary Club?

Your thoughts on do-gooding are already legendary, you sneaky, sniveling little spunkbucket. Your left hand really does not know what your right is doing, but it’s clear that they are both employed jerking yourself off.

Antisocialdarwinist - 23 April 2009 12:48 AM

In short, it sucks.  So why is it so successful?

It’s not “successful”, unless you rely on the ad populam fallacy. Buddy, you are a walking encyclopedia of fallacies. Has atheism been wiped out by religion? No, people are still born atheist and indoctrinated by their parents. Religion isn’t competing against anything but the human race itself.

Hallelujah! The Old Nixon is back!

[ Edited: 28 April 2009 07:44 AM by Traces Elk]
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Posted: 28 April 2009 03:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]  
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Here’s how I tend to see things: an apparent human tendency towards theistic worship and its inevitable, concomitant, superstition-based problem-solving set of tools, is not an individual-benefit-governed trend. The impetus for and future governing of worship ways tends (though not always) to arrive from outside the individual, typically through spiritual teachers and leaders. Prior to the invention of writing, small-scale, tribal sorts of deity worship may have prevailed, as well. But religious activities don’t necessarily improve anyone, or lead groups or individuals toward what can be called success. It could be, rather, that worship trends steal a certain amount of potential success from its individuals and groups.


That religions have been around for thousands of years does not guarantee any tendency toward success in its host groups or individuals. A social parasite, just as with a biological parasite, does not necessarily bring with it any host survival advantage whatsoever. It’s safe to assume that theft and deception have been part of human ways for at least as long as religion, but few people intuitively feel that crime assists humanity in general.


Even if worshipping invisible, magical creatures has been part of our cognitive struggle for many tens of thousands of years, it may simply have been psychologically necessary—- a mental luxury that provided our children, for instance, with a psychic drug to soothe their emotional weariness. Just as with today, theistic worship may have acted as a mood elevator for some, and a mood depressor for others. One can easily position religious trends in any number of ways both positive and negative. But they’re all cultural rather than directly biological. Worship/superstition seems less neurologically present than psychologically. We don’t seem to need it now, though some continue to draw comfort from it. And it may be that we never needed it at all. It may be that our historic and prehistoric levels of comfort and mood elevation would have been sufficiently robust to have allowed Homo sapiens to survive just fine. In fact, some say that a tendency toward religious ways kept us from delving into science faster than we actually managed to do, in large part due to thought prohibitions that religious leaders have so strongly favored over the centuries.

[ Edited: 28 April 2009 03:59 PM by nv]
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Posted: 28 April 2009 04:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]  
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unknown zone - 28 April 2009 07:57 PM

We don’t seem to need it now, though some continue to draw comfort from it.

The comfort factor is completely ambiguous. Some people use it to justify that the way things are is just the way they are supposed to be, and others use it to justify that things are wrong and eventually will be made OK again. Depends on whether you use the bridge to cross the river or to shelter you from the rain. Watch out when people prevaricate about which side they’re on. When in doubt, check their tax returns.

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Posted: 28 April 2009 06:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]  
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Salt Creek - 28 April 2009 08:15 PM

The comfort factor is completely ambiguous. . . .

Yes, and it’s also often an illusion, or at least was in my case at any rate. For years I worried about what might happen to my comfort if I were ever to lose my faith. But I always wanted to in the back of my head, and once it went away, I was surprised to find much greater comfort without any assistance from the great Comforter. I wonder if that’s a sin against the Holy Spirit, but I won’t lose any sleep over it.

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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: 28 April 2009 07:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]  
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unknown zone - 28 April 2009 10:47 PM

But I always wanted to in the back of my head, and once it went away, I was surprised to find much greater comfort without any assistance from the great Comforter.

Such are the wages due to the Great Comforter.

This, it seems to me, is the very essence of religion.
Despite the prolix prattle of the faithful to the contrary, god’s protection isn’t unconditional at all.

You pay for it, dearly, with your intellectual integrity, your dignity, and most importantly, with your balls.

[ Edited: 28 April 2009 07:12 PM by Lapin Diabolique]
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Posted: 28 April 2009 08:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]  
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Bad Rabbit - 28 April 2009 11:07 PM

You pay for it, dearly, with your intellectual integrity, your dignity, and most importantly, with your balls.

Christianity has de-balled many, though I occasionally come across the born-again, tattooed, Harley rider club member. Talking with one of these guys is always a trip, an exercise in the irreconcilable. For some reason, I have trouble watching someone produce such deafening noise while wearing over-the-top macho garb, knowing that the thought of baby Jesus brings tears to his eyes when he sings in the church choir on Sunday. Something doesn’t add up.

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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: 28 April 2009 09:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]  
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unknown zone - 29 April 2009 12:46 AM

brings tears to his eyes when he sings in the church choir on Sunday. Something doesn’t add up.

Tears come into the eyes of grizzled old Salty when certain chord progressions are heard. Salty tears. I know a number of people who deliberately keep their distance from certain kinds of chord progressions. It adds up, like a Sudoku puzzle. Someday, all your degrees of freedom will be gone.

http://www.bartleby.com/122/31.html

What perplexes me is how the banality of high-sounding woo-talk really comforts anyone. The familiar and the regular, I guess. Rhyt’m wit’out da blues.

[ Edited: 28 April 2009 09:27 PM by Traces Elk]
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Posted: 28 April 2009 09:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]  
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unknown zone - 29 April 2009 12:46 AM

... For some reason, I have trouble watching someone produce such deafening noise while wearing over-the-top macho garb, knowing that the thought of baby Jesus brings tears to his eyes when he sings in the church choir on Sunday. Something doesn’t add up.

No contradiction in here. He’s maybe having glimmers of transformative experiences. Jesus was so weak physically weak yet so strong, he sees it (probably)

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When you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you - Friedrich Nietzsche

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