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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » The Rebbeca Watson/Richard Dawkins drama (Page 11)

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Author Topic: The Rebbeca Watson/Richard Dawkins drama
Teshi
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Interesting. So what is included in this intelligence-gathering mission? Everything? Everything biological? Or everything animal? Or everything sentient? If there is a line, where is it drawn?
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Stone_Wolf_
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More good questions...given that part of my belief is that my understanding is too limited to grasp Everything...I'm not sure I can answer. I bet Everything has some purpose, but what that purpose is is hard to nail down.

As a general answer, I'd say that all data is relevant if the question is broad enough, or to put it another way, yes, everything is an intelligence-gathering mission.

But more then that is also a decision, that something is better then nothing, and that more and more detailed, nuanced, varied something is better then the same homogenized something. I think God/Everything is fascinated and interested in...well...everything.

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advice for robots
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
quote:
Originally posted by advice for robots:
quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
Asking them to be less religious is essentially the same thing.
I actually fundamentally disagree on this point. I would not be attempting to teach someone to believe something; I would be attempting to teach them how to think critically.
Which is an admirable skill to have. But very first, you have to convince them to let go of how they were believing and accept a new way. That's where most of the toes get stepped on.
No, you dont start by insisting that a religious person abandon their beliefs. That would be the thinking of a religious person. You start by engaging the person in a critical view of their surroundings and assumptions. Effective education allows the religious believer to dismiss his beliefs on his own, unless he feels the need to cling to them for some deeper purpose.
That is a convincing way of convincing someone to let go of their religious beliefs. You are certainly convinced that religious people are in error; that's the kind of zeal you need to passionately engage those people in critical thinking. Start with finding the common ground and go from there. It's very effective. Missionaries use it all the time. My argument, as I recall, was that effectively convincing someone to be more religious and convincing someone to be less religious follows essentially the same process.
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Teshi
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quote:
But more then that is also a decision, that something is better then nothing, and that more and more detailed, nuanced, varied something is better then the same homogenized something. I think God/Everything is fascinated and interested in...well...everything.
So, perhaps something you get from your beliefs is a sense that your experience is useful to something bigger than yourself.

What brought you to these particular beliefs-- do you know?

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Stone_Wolf_
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The belief that Everything is sentient started when I thought about what is matter...basically it's a pattern, with energy flowing through it. The more complicated the pattern, the more energy it can hold within it, the intricate and complicated the thing, and once the vessel can hold enough, it can be alive. For example, a mineral is a pretty simple pattern, with not a lot of energy in it, where as dirt which is chock-full of micro organisms is very complicated and full of energy. a carrot is even more, a human way more. And if you took the whole of everything, you have one hell of a pattern with crazy amounts of energy with in it.

As to life is an intelligence gathering/entertainment mission, once I thought of Everything as being sentient, I wondered at it's purpose. If I were alone, utterly and completely alone, what would I want? Well, I'd want stuff to happen that would interesting and unpredictable, so I"d set up a bunch of systems and let them go, see where they led. I'd also want to not be alone, I'd want others to have the ability to think and feel and make decisions and learn from them. Don't get me wrong, I don't think Everything designed us like for a high school science fair...I think it made a system where higher intelligence could form and let it go.

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shadowland
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quote:
Originally posted by Stone_Wolf_:
I use the word "theory" as my best guess/current thinking based on available evidence on a topic which I can not prove, but will modify slightly/quite a bit, or completely abandon as new evidence/ideas are gathered.

Does your Theory make any predictions that can be tested?
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kmbboots
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I think that this is a problem with the word "theory". I don't think it necessary or good to have to look at everything in a scientific framework. "Theory" implies that this is something that should be looked at scientifically.
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shadowland
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I think it's important for any idea regarding our existence in the universe to include at least some scientific framework. Doing so helps to identify what exactly you find useful about a certain idea or belief.
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kmbboots
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Why?
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Stone_Wolf_
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quote:
Originally posted by shadowland:
Does your Theory make any predictions that can be tested?

Not that I can think of.
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shadowland
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quote:
Why?
If you are going to allow a belief to influence the decisions you make, I think it's a pretty good idea to know what the belief is based on and the limitations of that belief. If that belief doesn't influence your decisions, it's good to be clear about that as well.
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kmbboots
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No. I mean, why do you have to think about it scientifically to decide that?
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shadowland
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Let me clarify. I think any belief should at least partially be looked at scientifically in order to help determine the limitations of that belief. If you cannot apply the scientific method to any aspect of that belief, that's good to know when determining the usefulness and limitations of that belief.
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Tresopax
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It's important to note that something could be useful to know yet untestable. For instance, one could believe that stealing is inherently morally wrong, yet there's no scientific way to test that. Or if an afterlife exists and there's only one way to get there, it might be important to know that even if there's no way to test that.
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Stone_Wolf_
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I say that I have a theory instead of a belief because I feel beliefs can be difficult to change, where as part of the idea of a theory is that it changes as understand/evidence changes.

I imagine that there are some predictions and experiments that can be made. One just doesn't come to mind right off.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
I say that I have a theory instead of a belief because I feel beliefs can be difficult to change, where as part of the idea of a theory is that it changes as understand/evidence changes.

I imagine that there are some predictions and experiments that can be made. One just doesn't come to mind right off.

I don't think those definitions of "belief" and "theory" are particularly useful, frankly. The whole point of distinguishing belief from theory is that theories are testable beliefs, whereas beliefs do not necessarily have to be testable.

I sympathize strongly with the desire to come up with a testable theory regarding the existence of God that God would not fail. So far, God has failed every test I've come up with, but I recognize that I can't possibly have covered every scenario; it's why proving a negative is so difficult.

There may in fact be an invisible force that holds us and binds us and loves us very much. But if life without that invisible force would be indistinguishable from life with that invisible force, if there is no way to detect or interact with that force in any reliable way, then any theory which incorporates such a force is unnecessarily complicated. That said, such a belief may make you feel better; in those scenarios, I don't see much of an obvious downside -- especially if you stick to a belief without too many artificial dogmas or restrictions that would impose costs in exchange for that good feeling.

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Stone_Wolf_
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I'm no quantum physicist by a long shot, but I do enjoy science shows and everything I've seen so far doesn't contradict my beliefs.

At certain points science isn't able to get the job done...and philosophy must step in. I'm not saying that science will never be able to overcome questions like this, but the real point is that we don't know, and so the suggestion that believing in something greater then you can prove is delusion is just as much guess work as the faith that there is something.

But the faith that there is something greater, some purpose, some higher power, while unprovable, it can really enrich your life. Of course it can also cause a lot of problems, like condoms are sin and the Crusades just to name two.

All I'm saying is that we should judge people on how the treat others and not on what they believe.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Tresopax:
It's important to note that something could be useful to know yet untestable. For instance, one could believe that stealing is inherently morally wrong, yet there's no scientific way to test that.

There is an effective ethical test of that theory. Morality is just ethics because God says so. People came up with the ethical values because they made sense anyway.

quote:
Or if an afterlife exists and there's only one way to get there, it might be important to know that even if there's no way to test that.
Then you don't *know*. You *believe*. If it is important for you to *believe* then you are free to do so. It is not knowledge, however.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Stone_Wolf_:
I'm no quantum physicist by a long shot, but I do enjoy science shows and everything I've seen so far doesn't contradict my beliefs.

Your beliefs are untestable. Science has no interest in fairy tales, any more than your religion. You're mistaken if you think this represents a failure on the part of the scientific establishment, and a victory for religion. It's a non-starter. Science has no interest in untestable beliefs because they can be *anything*. That has no scientific meaning or interest.

quote:
All I'm saying is that we should judge people on how the treat others and not on what they believe.
How you treat others is a function of what you believe. The diminution of violence against non-believers in the Christian world is inescapably due to the influence of scientific, rational teachings, which weaken the hold of religious leaders on the whims of the masses.

There hasn't been a Christian crusade or a grand inquisition since the enlightenment. Why? Because of the enlightenment. Because of scientists and rationalists. You behave the way you do today because you were raised in more or less rational society. Not because you're a christian. Islam and Christianity teach the same lessons of peace and non-violent moral living, and yet Islam is racked with fundamentalist violence. Why? Lack of education. Lack of reason. And it wasn't always that way. When the Islamic world was the leader in science and the study of philosophy, it was also much more peaceful, while the Christian world was dark and violent. You see the pattern, I'm sure.

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shadowland
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quote:
Originally posted by Stone_Wolf_:

But the faith that there is something greater, some purpose, some higher power, while unprovable, it can really enrich your life.

Does an idea need to be true in order to enrich your life?
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Stone_Wolf_
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
You're mistaken if you think this represents a failure on the part of the scientific establishment, and a victory for religion.

I'm not a member of any organized religion, nor do I think that science and beliefs which are not provable are opponents.

quote:
Originally posted by shadowland:
Does an idea need to be true in order to enrich your life?

Not necessarily. Ideas which are false can cause problems later down the line, even if they do good at first. But truth is a slippy bugger to hold on to. But some lies do make people happier.
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shadowland
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Ok, so to expound further on that, do you think it's possible to know that a story is false (or possibly false) while still allowing it to enrich your life?
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Stone_Wolf_
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Fiction does enrich my life...so, yes.
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shadowland
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So what does believing the story as if it were factually true add to your life that you couldn't gain otherwise?
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Stone_Wolf_
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That's the part about it being a theory...you don't believe a theory absolutely 100%, you think it's right and try and keep it current to the facts at hand.

If I knew it was false it would be a fascinating thought and that's all. But where I'm at is, I think this is likely.

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shadowland
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Ah, so really it's just an interesting idea, right up there with other possible interesting ideas. I don't know that I would call that a belief. Or a theory, for that matter. Out of curiosity, would you behave differently if you knew that this idea were not true?
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Stone_Wolf_
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I do hold it as a belief, but it's different then say, a Christian who holds that belief in Jesus is the ONLY way to heaven and without it you go to hell.

It's not just an interesting idea, it's the way I think it is.

Would I act different if I knew it was not true...yes, I'd feel less content not having a belief of how things work and what happens after death, but I'd also be interested and fascinated about coming up with another theory.

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shadowland
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quote:
Originally posted by Stone_Wolf_:
it's the way I think it is.

Why do you think god is everything rather than, say, god having nothing to do with it, or that everything is just a dream?

quote:
I'd feel less content not having a belief of how things work and what happens after death
Why couldn't it be just one of those useful fictions? Why can't the idea itself enrich your life without the need to act as if it is factually true?
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Stone_Wolf_:
Fiction does enrich my life...so, yes.

No argument. But fiction is an attempt to portray and reveal the truth of the human condition. Relgion is institutionalized fiction. It is not in competition with science. I realize you conceded that point, I am just pointing out its relevance here.

Edited for stupid iPad autocorrections.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by advice for robots:
quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
quote:
Originally posted by advice for robots:
quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
Asking them to be less religious is essentially the same thing.
I actually fundamentally disagree on this point. I would not be attempting to teach someone to believe something; I would be attempting to teach them how to think critically.
Which is an admirable skill to have. But very first, you have to convince them to let go of how they were believing and accept a new way. That's where most of the toes get stepped on.
No, you dont start by insisting that a religious person abandon their beliefs. That would be the thinking of a religious person. You start by engaging the person in a critical view of their surroundings and assumptions. Effective education allows the religious believer to dismiss his beliefs on his own, unless he feels the need to cling to them for some deeper purpose.
That is a convincing way of convincing someone to let go of their religious beliefs. You are certainly convinced that religious people are in error; that's the kind of zeal you need to passionately engage those people in critical thinking. Start with finding the common ground and go from there. It's very effective. Missionaries use it all the time. My argument, as I recall, was that effectively convincing someone to be more religious and convincing someone to be less religious follows essentially the same process.
The process is not the same. Religious conversion requires the teaching of a belief system based on particular glyphs and stories related to that religion. For instance, an understanding of Islam requires a knowledge of the Quran, which ultimately requires knowledge or proxy knowledge of Arabic, its original language. Science can be learned and rediscovered in any language, and can emerge out of any culture independent of cultural association. This is why it is believed that if aliens contacted us, it is highly likely that their scientific knowledge and reasoning would be comprehensible and repeatable by us. This is the principle upon which many science fiction works are based- vulcans being the most recognizable example of the trope. There is no significant likelihood that they would share or understand or have any common sympathy with any of our religious beliefs.
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Stone_Wolf_
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quote:
Originally posted by shadowland:
Why do you think god is everything rather than, say, god having nothing to do with it, or that everything is just a dream?

This is a great question, unfortunately, it is one of those answers which will fall short. Beyond what I've already said (pattern + energy = sentience) there is a lot of intuitive leaps, and extrapolations and let's be honest here, feelings. I will go into the deets later, don't have time atm.

quote:
Why couldn't it be just one of those useful fictions? Why can't the idea itself enrich your life without the need to act as if it is factually true?
It could be, but it isn't, it's what I believe to be true.

quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
But fiction is an attempt to portray and reveal the truth of the human condition. Religion is institutionalized fiction.

I'm not really pro organized religion, as I think it denies people one of the most important parts of being human...the search for god. But as far as it goes, if you are going to believe a fiction that portrays and reveals the truth of the human condition, why not believe one that's institutionalized? While it can deny people the search for god, it can make up for it by providing a community to belong to of like minded/moraled people who are bound by traditions and a deep commonality.

If we can agree that some of these questions are unanswerable, then why deny people the comfort of religion?

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Orincoro
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People already belong to society. A rational society provides that. Religion is a parasite, not a basis for a society.

I wouldn't deny anyone the right to religious beliefs and practices. But false comfort is not real. It does harm.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Stone_Wolf_:
That's the part about it being a theory...you don't believe a theory absolutely 100%, you think it's right and try and keep it current to the facts at hand.


Again, you conflate religious terminology with scientific terminology. Theories are not to be believed in, they are frameworks for analysis. When they cease to function on providing testable predictions, they are replaced or modified. If you have a belief that provides no testable prediction, then it is not a theory.

This is a time honored misunderstanding with science v. religion. A theory is not just an idea, and not a hypothesis. On the flip side, a theory can also concern the basis of known and reliable fact, ie, there is a theory of evolution, and evolution is also an established fact. They are separate terms.

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scholarette
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quote:
Originally posted by shadowland:
Ok, so to expound further on that, do you think it's possible to know that a story is false (or possibly false) while still allowing it to enrich your life?

Santa Claus.
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Tresopax
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quote:
quote:
It's important to note that something could be useful to know yet untestable. For instance, one could believe that stealing is inherently morally wrong, yet there's no scientific way to test that.
There is an effective ethical test of that theory. Morality is just ethics because God says so. People came up with the ethical values because they made sense anyway.
How could you test whether stealing is inherently wrong? "It made sense" isn't a test.

quote:
There hasn't been a Christian crusade or a grand inquisition since the enlightenment. Why? Because of the enlightenment. Because of scientists and rationalists. You behave the way you do today because you were raised in more or less rational society. Not because you're a christian. Islam and Christianity teach the same lessons of peace and non-violent moral living, and yet Islam is racked with fundamentalist violence. Why? Lack of education. Lack of reason. And it wasn't always that way. When the Islamic world was the leader in science and the study of philosophy, it was also much more peaceful, while the Christian world was dark and violent.
Are we skipping over the Nazis, the Soviets under Stalin, America vs. the Native Americans, and so on? Those societies were based on science and rationalism yet had no problem being profoundly violent.

A more accurate explanation of the diminution of violence against non-believers in the Christian world is that the Christian world now better understands its religion and ethics. Education and the diversity of opinion brought about by free speech have had a major role in this - everyone now has access to the basic stories and teachings of Christianity because everyone can read, and most now hear different viewpoints on Christianity from different sources. As a result, its fairly hard to escape the conclusion that Christ would have been opposed to the notion of extreme violence against the unfaithful by Christians.

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Samprimary
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I think we're at the point again where we could scrub every instance of the word 'theory' here and replace it with the word 'hunch.'
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Stone_Wolf_
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I'm not married to the word theory...I can say "flexible belief" and be just fine with it.
quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
People already belong to society. A rational society provides that. Religion is a parasite, not a basis for a society.

Society is a huge concept, community is a much smaller group of people who actually interact on a meaningful level. And since it is religion which is providing the common ground which binds that group, as well as providing other more and less tangible payoffs how is it a parasite, a critter which hurts its host for its own benefit. Exactly how is it that you feel religion is a parasite?
quote:
But false comfort is not real. It does harm.
Who says it's false? (Obviously you do, but can you prove it?) We don't know. So saying that their belief is false and yours is true is just another form of religion, the religion of academia.
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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by Zotto!:
... My purpose in posting was to refute the idea that religious believers are, by definition, deluded, which is as obviously false a claim as can be made. The most cursory glance at human history shows that many of the most intelligent people ever born were extremely devout.

The conversation has moved on, but there seems to be a step missing here. Some of the most intelligent people ever born were extremely devout, but this doesn't seem to have any bearing on the claim that the devout are deluded unless you're working under the assumption that intelligent people can't be deluded.

I'll note of course, that not only can intelligent people be deluded, there are highly intelligent people that have been uncontroversially diagnosed with mental illness, including full-on paranoid schizophrenia.

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MrSquicky
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quote:
So saying that their belief is false and yours is true is just another form of religion, the religion of academia.
The religion of academia? What the crap is that?

I mean, yeah, evangelical atheists very often violate basic principles of their putative epistemology. I'm not arguing about that. How do you get to academia from that, though?

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Stone_Wolf_
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I didn't want to use the word "rationality" as I don't agree with the positive implication.

ETA: How about "religion of atheism"?

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MrSquicky
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Evangelical atheism is, as far as I've seen, the commonly accepted term.

But how does academia even enter into this? I don't get the association.

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Stone_Wolf_
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It doesn't...wrong word choice...
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shadowland
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quote:
Originally posted by Stone_Wolf_:
I can say "flexible belief" and be just fine with it.

Due to the lack of any actual evidence, I would say that 'wishful thinking' is probably more accurate. Not that there's anything wrong with that in itself; it's just not necessary (that particular one, that is). Or maybe it's necessary for you, but that's only because you haven't yet found a viable alternative. <ETA> I do not intend for this to sound dismissive; we all do what we can to find meaning in life.
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Stone_Wolf_
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I have evidence, just hadn't gotten into it yet...although I admit freely that the evidence could be legitimately interpreted in a different way.

When it comes to "wishful thinking"...if it were up to me, we would have more guidance and less guess work. This isn't my idealized belief.

I'll give up "theory" as it means something very specific in terms of the scientific approach, but to try and downgrade my belief to "wishful thinking" is actually pretty offense considering that I said there was more to it, but I didn't have time as of yet to get into it. Despite your lack of intention to be dismissive, you are doing that.

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shadowland
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By 'wishful thinking', I don't mean that you are making up stories that you wish to be true, rather, you are believing in stories which do not have ample evidence to warrant being supported over other possible stories. As I said earlier, there's nothing necessarily wrong with that in itself, but it is important to recognize that that's what is taking place.
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Stone_Wolf_
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Dude, how can you possibly make the determination about my evidence's ampleness or lack of amplenss if you haven't heard it yet?

It's been a busy couple of days, but I promise I'll furnish it for you, at which if point you want to label my beliefs as wishful thinking you can feel free, but until you actually hear the evidence, you are really prejudging and dismissing and annoying.

[Smile]

ETA: that last bit was meant as a play on words and not name calling...sorry if it came off as offensive.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Tresopax:
Are we skipping over the Nazis, the Soviets under Stalin, America vs. the Native Americans, and so on? Those societies were based on science and rationalism yet had no problem being profoundly violent.

Yes we are skipping over them, because *no*, these former two were not societies based in *science*. These were societies based, respectively, in pseudo-scientific concepts of ethnic superiority and nationalist racialism, and in a perverted brand of pseudo-scientific economic theory that was used to justify the reversal of the Czarist power structure with another brand of political structure equally based on old Russian concepts of personal entitlement and a healthy dose of solipsism. And both countries became violent as a result of *massive* violent upheavals in the early 20th century as a result of the international struggle for resource dominance. The American-Indian war, while tragic, was minor on that scale.


quote:
A more accurate explanation of the diminution of violence against non-believers in the Christian world is that the Christian world now better understands its religion and ethics. Education and the diversity of opinion brought about by free speech have had a major role in this - everyone now has access to the basic stories and teachings of Christianity because everyone can read, and most now hear different viewpoints on Christianity from different sources. As a result, its fairly hard to escape the conclusion that Christ would have been opposed to the notion of extreme violence against the unfaithful by Christians.
Right. Christians are now less violent because they are *better* Christians. Not because rationalism *taught* them how to think more critically and recognize that fighting on behalf of their religion was foolish.

How do you think these people became "better" Christians? Couldn't have anything to do with education and rationalism? You know, all those schools of thought that promoted education so forcefully in the last 4 centuries? Cause seriously, education in the time of religious domination of academia was... sub-optimal.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Stone_Wolf_:

quote:
But false comfort is not real. It does harm.
Who says it's false? (Obviously you do, but can you prove it?) We don't know. So saying that their belief is false and yours is true is just another form of religion, the religion of academia.
I did not say the belief was false. You are not paying attention.

The hope is false. The premise underlying religious claims is untestable. Therefore, espousing this untestable premise as true, and deriving comfort from that, is perpetuating a falsehood. Namely, the falsehood that something untestable can be reliably said to be true.

This is the balm of religious people, I understand that. But it produces tangible harm. That which is testable and true is easily demonstrated, given sufficient education- such as any basic scientific theory. But if you have a belief that can't be tested, but you still *really* believe it, the only way to feel secure in that belief is to be part of a group that believes together, and reinforces the belief. That means a church, and proselytizing, and eventually war and religious conquest, when the administration of your church gets *so* big, and *so* overpowered, that it develops the will to exercise its sovereignty and dominion over the world.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Stone_Wolf_:
Dude, how can you possibly make the determination about my evidence's ampleness or lack of amplenss if you haven't heard it yet?

Share it or be quiet about it. No one is interested in your claims unless you're prepared to substantiate them. Unless you're afraid to do so without first claiming victimhood for being disparaged when you eventually *do* share them. Honestly, this childish manipulation game is so common with religion- it's a wonder so many don't recognize it.
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shadowland
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quote:
Originally posted by Stone_Wolf_:
Dude, how can you possibly make the determination about my evidence's ampleness or lack of amplenss if you haven't heard it yet?

Quite easily, actually.

You said that "that the evidence could be legitimately interpreted in a different way," i.e. it could legitimately support other possible stories rather than the one you choose to believe. Your evidence is also not based on anything that can be tested, so it is in no way objective. I really can't think of any other type of evidence that could reliably support your conclusion without being more easily explained as a delusion. Therefore, 'wishful thinking.'

FWIW, I also consider the belief in String Theory as mere wishful thinking at this point (unless there's new information on that matter that I've missed in the last couple of years).

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