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Intelligence &amp; Religiosity

 
M is for Malapert
 
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M is for Malapert
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14 October 2006 15:30
 

[quote author=“cpl”]There’s no doubt that religions are also often taught as dogma, but every religion is, like science, a system.  That

only a few…actually pursue that course

is as true for science as for religion.

What?  Are you saying that “only a few” scientists are practicing science and the majority are following dogma?

If not, what are you trying to say?  Only a few percent of the population are scientists?

Also can you please explain you mean by “every religion is, like science, a system”.  I don’t see the “like” part.  If a religion is a system its means and ends are totally unlike the scientific method of today.  If you were talking about Aristotlean science I could see the comparison.

 
 
nv
 
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nv
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14 October 2006 16:46
 

Regarding issues of humility, self confidence, ego, etc.—these words almost by their nature tend to get muddled, due to the concepts they represent which are often not treated honestly by many people.

I’ll try to blast through them by simply saying that people who are supremely confident in their ability to understand what’s going on around them tend not to be the sort who seek attention and approval of others. They know with certainty that they are only as important as a speck of dust in a cosmic sense, yet they also know with equal certainty that their sensibilities reflect what is positive to humanity.

 
 
Elentar
 
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Elentar
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14 October 2006 18:23
 

There’s not much to add to homonculus and made-maka’s replies except:

1. Science students and science teachers do not practice science. They just learn the result of it it by rote. That they do not learn the method is not a criticism of the method itself.

2. Science is a method. If religion is a system, it is a system of beliefs. Some religions, like Bhuddism, also teach methods, but the methods are seperable from the religion. Modes of ethical conduct are also seperable from religion, and should not be confused with relgion. Religion per se has no method, only a set of rote beliefs and traditions. It is inherently dogmatic, in exactly the same sense as your science students.

3. As Homonculous noted, humility requires a basis of confidence in one’s own judgement, which is needed just to get to the point where you know how insignificant you are, or how much you don’t know. Those who lack humility are either ignorant, or overcompensating for their own doubts. Preaching the value of humility with the purpose of undermining people’s reliance on their own judgement, as religion often does, is a non-starter. The result is a self-contradictory pose, not humility. That’s what I mean when I say that humility is overrated.

 
cpl
 
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cpl
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14 October 2006 18:41
 

made_maka

...what are you trying to say? Only a few percent of the population are scientists?

Yup.

If a religion is a system its means and ends are totally unlike the scientific method of today.

You betcha.  Absolutely.  I couldn’t agree more.  Being totally different doesn’t make either less systematic.  Your body, your car and your computer are all systems.  That doesn’t make the body electronic, the car biological, or the computer mechanical.

If you were talking about Aristotlean science I could see the comparison.

But you don’t see it with scholasticism?  You might wish to look again.

The definition of a word is a matter of consensus (=opinion) and can change very quickly.

I’d be happy to learn that the meaning of the word “humility” had merely changed, much less “very quickly,” according to the “consensus (=opinion)” of the English-speaking world.  Anyone got proof of that?  Absent that factual corroboration, an assertion that the word’s meaning is not as I posted would be be merely smoke-and-mirrors, designed to confuse the discussion.

I just don’t understand why there are so many people wanting to diss science around here.

Me, either.

 
nv
 
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nv
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14 October 2006 18:59
 

[quote author=“Elentar”]. . . Science students and science teachers do not practice science. They just learn the result of it it by rote. . . .

Unfortunately, most of them don’t take the time to listen to NPR. They do practice science at some point if they get far enough in their studies, but few seem to understand the underlying philosophical structures.

Law students during their studies typically don’t get exposed to the philosophy or history of law, either. In fact, philosophy is pretty much ignored in most fields of expertise.

 
 
cpl
 
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cpl
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14 October 2006 19:31
 

Homunculus:

My experience is that conceptual words get “muddy” when wielded by people who think they know what they mean, but haven’t bothered to look them up.  Examples are “schziophrenic” which is often used when people mean “multiple personality disorder” and “rational” which is usually used when people mean “agreeing with my bias.” :wink:

This one’s more troubling to me:

...people who are supremely confident in their ability to understand what’s going on around them tend not to be the sort who seek attention and approval of others. They know with certainty that…their sensibilities reflect what is positive to humanity.

This reads as an endorsement of the current POTUS’s theory of the world.  Is that how you intended it?

Elentar:

Point #1 I take your point that many people who are teaching and learning the dogma of science aren’t rationalists in any sense of the word.  Nonetheless, my point that science gets reduced to dogma just as religions does seems one with which you agree.

Point #2 seems awfully pat.  Religions consist of professed beliefs and spiritual practice, both of which are aimed at the goal of religious revelation which is usually expressed as unitiy with a divine entity.  Reducing this to beliefs only is like reducing relativity to “E=M.”

Point #3 I get the point that

Preaching the value of humility with the purpose of undermining people’s reliance on their own judgement, as religion often does, is a non-starter.

My reading indicate that most religions formally teach humility as a very different value from how many religious leaders manipulate it, but that’s perhaps quibbling unnecessarily.

 
Climacus
 
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14 October 2006 20:24
 

[quote author=“Elentar”]2. Science is a method. If religion is a system, it is a system of beliefs. Some religions, like Bhuddism, also teach methods, but the methods are seperable from the religion. Modes of ethical conduct are also seperable from religion, and should not be confused with relgion. Religion per se has no method, only a set of rote beliefs and traditions. It is inherently dogmatic, in exactly the same sense as your science students.

That’s a controversial way to characterize religion (even apart from Buddhism—and surely some Buddhists would dispute the notion that Buddhist practice could be purged of their religious elements without distortion). It may in fact be true of most religious people that their religious life consists merely of belief in given dogmas, but that hardly seems to be universal. Kierkegaard, for example, clearly doesn’t fit the description you give. Here’s what he has to say about the role of dogma and “method” in Christianity:

I do not think that without exaggeration one can say that Christianity in our time has been abolished. No, Christianity still exists and in its truth, but as a teaching, a doctrine. What has been abolished and forgotten (and this can be said without exaggeration), however, is being a Christian, what it means to be a Christian; or what has been lost, what seems to exist no longer, is the ideal picture of being a Christian.
...
Therefore what first and foremost must be brought into prominence again is the ideal picture of a Christian, so that it can appear as a task, beckoning…

For Kierkegaard, someone who merely believes in a dogma without practicing a Christian “method” is not fully Christian (and he thought that most of the professed Christians of his time fell into this category of non-Christianity). It’s also notable that, for Kierkegaard, the practice of Christianity was definitely not reducible to doing whatever someone else tells you to do (including the church, which he thought to be pretty bad at being Christian).

Some other examples of Christian (in this case Catholic) “method” are found in St. Ignatius and St. John of the Cross .

I don’t know as much about Islam, but I think the Sufis are the prime example of a sect which emphasizes the importance of religious practice, over and above belief in dogma. And I’m sure there are similar strains in Judaism.

 
mudfoot
 
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mudfoot
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14 October 2006 22:29
 

There is a definite method to a witch doctor’s disembowelment of a chicken so as to predict the future.

There is as much or more validity in the witch doctor’s method as there is the method of any other religion.

The witch doctor gets to play with chicken guts though—so he wins.

 
Traces Elk
 
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Traces Elk
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15 October 2006 07:07
 

[quote author=“unsmoked”]If I make a movie where the Devil has a part, I’ll have him wearing Japanese carpenter boots.  I heard on NPR that most Catholic churches in Africa feature an exorcism at practically every service - the congregations expect it.  So, I’ll make my movie about that.  So, who get’s to play Beelzebub?  Robert de Niro?  Christopher Walken?  Something different . . . Paris Hilton wearing Japanese carpenter boots?  Suggestions?  Johnny Depp?  Anyway, I’ll have him, or her, keeping several hairs as pets, and every time you see them, they’ll be chewing their cud while ominous music plays (maybe just sticks clacking).

Pure ecstatic poetry, unsmoked. But, as far as I can tell, you are not yet in need of an exorcism.

 
 
Traces Elk
 
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15 October 2006 07:16
 

[quote author=“Elentar”]Preaching the value of humility with the purpose of undermining people’s reliance on their own judgement, as religion often does, is a non-starter. The result is a self-contradictory pose, not humility. That’s what I mean when I say that humility is overrated.

Quoted with approval, for whatever that’s worth.

 
 
Elentar
 
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15 October 2006 07:29
 

[quote author=“Climacus”]That’s a controversial way to characterize religion (even apart from Buddhism—and surely some Buddhists would dispute the notion that Buddhist practice could be purged of their religious elements without distortion). It may in fact be true of most religious people that their religious life consists merely of belief in given dogmas, but that hardly seems to be universal. Kierkegaard, for example, clearly doesn’t fit the description you give. Here’s what he has to say about the role of dogma and “method” in Christianity…

This is the distinction between orthodoxy and orthopraxy. The question that must be asked is whether these practices require any theological component—if they don’t, then they are not strictly religious, but can be practiced by secularists who have no belief in God and are therefore, by the definition of othodox believers, not members of the religion. This means that the associated practices are neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for membership in the faith, nor is membership in the faith required for their practice. The two are seperable. Faith, in the sense that Harris uses it, is not a requirement in orthopraxy, or the kind of methodological spirituality he argues for in the final chapter of The End of Faith. Keep in mind that the overwhelming majority of Christians now believe that they are “saved by faith alone.” Orthopraxy in Christianity is virtually extinct; which is precisely what Kierkegaard appears to be saying in the quote you mentioned.

Some Jews now emphasize orthopraxy over orthodoxy as a means of solidifying one’s Jewish identity, by pursuing a set of shared experiences and practices. But the focus of this is not what we normally consider religious, so much as tribal identity—“we do this because our people have always done this.” As one Jew explained it, they enter into ‘magic time’, where the Jew in the present coexists with all the Jews of the past. Belief in God or the supernatural is not a requirement. The diversity of Christian ritual and tradition does not allow for any such equivalent in Christianity.

Bhuddists have a large and elaborate theology, but this is barely mentioned in the Bhuddism carried to the West by the Dalai Lama. This theology is largely irrelevant to the meditative practices, which still work in the absence of that theology.

Sufiism predates Islam, and was incorporated into Islam through a grandfather clause when Mohammed expressed his admiration for the sufis. Since it predates Islam, belief in Islam is not required for the practice.

If Kierkegaard has any method, it is philosophy—nothing particularly religious there. But if that philosophy leads anywhere, it is precisely to the denial of any method. He practices a form of moral brinksmanship which prefigures Nietzsche (who came at it from the opposite side) and which is the basis of the now familiar canard that you cannot be moral if you are an atheist. He deliberately attempts to undercut all moral reasoning in order to force his reader to accept either faith or nihilism. The basis of this choice is not systematic in any way, but emotive. In fact, quoting Kierkegaard at all is problematic: so much of his writing is ironic or satirical that it often presents the opposite of what he actually believes.

 
M is for Malapert
 
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M is for Malapert
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15 October 2006 10:23
 

[quote author=“cpl”]made_maka

...what are you trying to say? Only a few percent of the population are scientists?

Yup.

Oh, okay.  But you’d agree that whereas a large percent of people who practice religion are dogmatic, a small percent of scientists are?

[quote author=“cpl”]made_maka

If a religion is a system its means and ends are totally unlike the scientific method of today.

You betcha.  Absolutely.  I couldn’t agree more.  Being totally different doesn’t make either less systematic.  Your body, your car and your computer are all systems.  That doesn’t make the body electronic, the car biological, or the computer mechanical.

I don’t get the point, I guess.  If you aren’t trying to establish a similarity relationship between religious methods and scientific methods by saying “they are both systems”, then what are you trying to do? 

Seems like we were talking about intelligence and religiosity to begin with.  Obviously accepting dogma is easier and requires less intelligence than practicing the scientific method.  I don’t know if it’s true that the median IQ score is 100 or what that really means, but it suggests that the majority of Americans probably can’t or won’t learn science at a higher level.

Take that “Bad clouds” explanation.  It’s harder to grasp than the cold-air warm-air explanation even if you aren’t attached to the easy one (dogma).  Fraser is teaching college students so a selection process has already occurred.  He says it’s easy to teach the right explanation, if the dogma can be got rid of, but I wonder if that would be true if he sampled 100 people on the street.  Then again, Sudoku is popular and that implies some level of reasoning ability…

[quote author=“cpl”]made_maka

If you were talking about Aristotlean science I could see the comparison.

But you don’t see it with scholasticism?  You might wish to look again.

As it happens I have looked at scholasticism, and I didn’t see it making hypotheses that could be tested and then doing so. 

[quote author=“cpl”]made_maka

The definition of a word is a matter of consensus (=opinion) and can change very quickly.

I’d be happy to learn that the meaning of the word “humility” had merely changed, much less “very quickly,” according to the “consensus (=opinion)” of the English-speaking world.

I didn’t say that the definition of “humility” had changed recently or quickly, I’m just saying it could.  I have seen such change in words related to abortion.  Opponents are always brandishing a word definition as “scientific proof” that a zygote or embryo is a human being.  Doesn’t work, since word definition is a matter of opinion.  If a large enough number of people start using the word “human” (not the adjective; the noun, as in “human being”) to include zygotes and embryos, then the dictionary definition will start to reflect that - but is has nothing to do with “science”.  (This is why the Oxford English Dictionary is great, because it includes obsolete definitions and gives examples of how words were used in the past.)

Then you bring in different languages and more misunderstandings occur.  For example, people quote Proudhon’s “Property is theft” and conclude he was talking about somebody’s house.  In the original French of the time, however, the word he used for “property” referred to grand estates where people were forced to work as serfs.

Anyone got proof of that?  Absent that factual corroboration, an assertion that the word’s meaning is not as I posted would be be merely smoke-and-mirrors, designed to confuse the discussion.

The meaning, how to interpret the meaning and what it signifies are all matters of opinion.  The definition of “humility” is opinion.  To say “we must all be humble in the face of the cosmos” is opinion.  To say that “humility is overrated” is opinion.  What a religion says about “false humility” is opinion.  When you define a word you are reporting an opinion.  The fact that it’s a long-held and widely-held opinion does not make it any less of one. 

When you define terms in an equation you are doing something totally different.  You are agreeing on assumptions so that you can then proceed to engage in science. 

Saying “Let x = 4” and using that agreement to make a proposal that can be tested and yield the same result no matter who’s solving the equation is radically different than saying “let humility equal <whatever>” and then proceeding to argue about it.

Sorry for the labored explanation but I’m having a hard time trying to convey what seems to be blatantly evident and keep it simple.  The very fact that you are arguing about “humility” shows you are in the realm of opinion.  Nobody’s going to argue about the solution to “ax squared + bx + c = 0 where a does not equal 0”.

 
 
Climacus
 
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15 October 2006 10:52
 

[quote author=“Elentar”]The question that must be asked is whether these practices require any theological component—if they don’t, then they are not strictly religious, but can be practiced by secularists who have no belief in God and are therefore, by the definition of othodox believers, not members of the religion.

There are some complications in that “if”.

Take the example of Buddhist meditation. There are two things that a theistic Buddhist might say against the idea of divorcing the practice from its religious aspects. The first is that the practice, non-religiously practiced, just isn’t the same practice—its outward forms might be the same, and the psychological effects might be the same, but if it’s not oriented towards the divine, then you’re just not doing the same thing that the theistic Buddhist does. The second possible response is that, if you’re engaging in meditation properly, then you actually are oriented towards the divine, whether or not you think you are. (I once glanced at an article by a Christian philosopher arguing that people can be Christians without having any idea that they are Christian, and I’d be astonished if the parallel idea doesn’t exist in Buddhism.)

Orthopraxy in Christianity is virtually extinct; which is precisely what Kierkegaard appears to be saying in the quote you mentioned.

Largely but not entirely. Kierkegaard thought that some people (like himself) persisted in practicing Christianity. And he also thought that the practice of Christianity somehow remained implicit even in the rote and habitual Christendom of 19th century Denmark—if he’d thought that the question of actively being a Christian was completely dead, he wouldn’t have devoted the pseudonymous authorship to reawakening the question.

If Kierkegaard has any method, it is philosophy—nothing particularly religious there.

The method of his pseudonymous authorship was philosophical insofar as the granddaddy of philosophy was Socrates. So that method was Socratic—but Kierkegaard thought (as Socrates himself thought) that the Socratic project was divine in nature. Well, that’s a controversial thing to say. But, in any case, there is another side to Kierkegaard, and that’s his non-pseudonymous authorship, which was not particularly Socratic or ironic or philosophical, but pretty straightforwardly about the practice of Christianity as such. The pseudonymous works were merely the means to this end: to get his fellow Christians to the point where they would start to do Christianity, a task which doesn’t require anything like philosophical sophistication.

Anyways, I think the idea of a specifically religious practice does remain alive in Christianity. I’m sure the same goes for Judaism and Islam, but I don’t know so much about those religions, so I’ll shut up about them.

 
cpl
 
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15 October 2006 12:07
 

made_maka

But you’d agree that whereas a large percent of people who practice religion are dogmatic, a small percent of scientists are?

I’ll give a qualified “yes,” subject to cleaning up a lingustic issue.

The linguistic problem is that the “practice” of religion generally refers to people who merely attend religious services, not those who actually delve into the praxis of their faiths.  It’s like claiming that anyone who reads Stephen Jay Gould’s work is “practicing” science, when we generally restrict that usage for people who actually do the heavy lifting of observation/hypothesis/prediction/testing.

With that understanding, I’d say a small percent of scientists are dogmatic, but a large percent of people who claim to be scientific are.  Similarly, I’d say a large percent of people who “practice” their religion are dogmatic, but a far smaller percent of people who actually follow the systems of their faith are.

If you aren’t trying to establish a similarity relationship between religious methods and scientific methods by saying “they are both systems”, then what are you trying to do?

There is a similarity, in that both religion and science offer rigorous systems by which to discover the truth.  Science aims at objective truth which is predictable and repeatable, faith aims at revealed truth which is neither, but both have rigorous systems to ensure their practicioners arrive at the truth towards which those disciplines are organized.  That religious systems aren’t predictive makes them less practical, but not less systematic.

Obviously accepting dogma is easier and requires less intelligence than practicing the scientific method.

I agree that it’s easier, but disagree that practicing science requires a scintilla more intelligence than not practicing science.  The strength of the scientific method is that even a dummy can follow the system and arrive at testable and repeatable truth.  (Mind you, a dummy might make many more false hypotheses and predictions on the way, but the failure of the prediction always takes even the slowest person back to observation.)  To borrow from Edison, it’s 99% persperation.

Re: definition of terms.  When you assert

That you quoted a definition of humility does not turn it into a scientific discussion, as if you had defined the terms of an equation.

and

The definition of “humility” is opinion

I think you’re quite mistaken.  Definitions of terms are a fundamental part of organizing data, if terms are allowed to be a matter of opinion then all communication is GIGO.  Bad science begins when data is allowed to be poorly organized, and becomes entrenched when such poor organization is excused.

Then you bring in different languages and more misunderstandings occur.

Sorry, but I don’t think I did that.  Don’t recall writing anything in or about any language other than English, nor could I find such a reference in any my posts.  Course, my eyesight is going so maybe you could reference back to the post where I did that?

I’m having a hard time trying to convey what seems to be blatantly evident and keep it simple.

Human communication can be approached as scientifically as anything else, claims to the contrary are rooted in dogma, not data.

 
Elentar
 
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Elentar
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15 October 2006 12:25
 

[quote author=“Climacus”]Take the example of Buddhist meditation. There are two things that a theistic Buddhist might say against the idea of divorcing the practice from its religious aspects. The first is that the practice, non-religiously practiced, just isn’t the same practice—its outward forms might be the same, and the psychological effects might be the same, but if it’s not oriented towards the divine, then you’re just not doing the same thing that the theistic Buddhist does. The second possible response is that, if you’re engaging in meditation properly, then you actually are oriented towards the divine, whether or not you think you are. (I once glanced at an article by a Christian philosopher arguing that people can be Christians without having any idea that they are Christian, and I’d be astonished if the parallel idea doesn’t exist in Buddhism.)

Define the divine.

If, like Einstein and many other people, you believe that “My sense of God is my wonder at the Universe”, then divine can mean almost anything, and does not require belief in anything like the Christian God.

You have your own definition of the divine, just like everyone else does who uses the word, and all of them are different, and each person who uses it believes his definition is the correct one. Nor is there any way to resolve the dispute and figure out which is correct, or even whether any of them are anything more than fantasies, because as we keep explaining to you at length, religion has no method.

 
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