Friday, November 24, 2006

brainwashed into bestowing respect on religion

NYT:
A Free-for-All on Science and Religion
[]

Somewhere along the way, a forum this month at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., which might have been one more polite dialogue between science and religion, began to resemble the founding convention for a political party built on a single plank: in a world dangerously charged with ideology, science needs to take on an evangelical role, vying with religion as teller of the greatest story ever told.

With atheists and agnostics outnumbering the faithful (a few believing scientists, like Francis S. Collins, author of “The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief,” were invited but could not attend), one speaker after another called on their colleagues to be less timid in challenging teachings about nature based only on scripture and belief. “The core of science is not a mathematical model; it is intellectual honesty,” said Sam Harris, a doctoral student in neuroscience and the author of “The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason” and “Letter to a Christian Nation.”
[]

Dr. Weinberg, who famously wrote toward the end of his 1977 book on cosmology, “The First Three Minutes,” that “the more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless,” went a step further: “Anything that we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done and may in the end be our greatest contribution to civilization.”

With a rough consensus that the grand stories of evolution by natural selection and the blossoming of the universe from the Big Bang are losing out in the intellectual marketplace, most of the discussion came down to strategy. How can science fight back without appearing to be just one more ideology?
[]
“People need to find meaning and purpose in life,” he said. “I don’t think we want to take that away from them.”

Lawrence M. Krauss, a physicist at Case Western Reserve University known for his staunch opposition to teaching creationism, found himself in the unfamiliar role of playing the moderate. “I think we need to respect people’s philosophical notions unless those notions are wrong,” he said.

“The Earth isn’t 6,000 years old,” he said. “The Kennewick man was not a Umatilla Indian.” But whether there really is some kind of supernatural being — Dr. Krauss said he was a nonbeliever — is a question unanswerable by theology, philosophy or even science. “Science does not make it impossible to believe in God,” Dr. Krauss insisted. “We should recognize that fact and live with it and stop being so pompous about it.”

That was just the kind of accommodating attitude that drove Dr. Dawkins up the wall. “I am utterly fed up with the respect that we — all of us, including the secular among us — are brainwashed into bestowing on religion,” he said. “Children are systematically taught that there is a higher kind of knowledge which comes from faith, which comes from revelation, which comes from scripture, which comes from tradition, and that it is the equal if not the superior of knowledge that comes from real evidence.”
[]
In the end it was Dr. Tyson’s celebration of discovery that stole the show. Scientists may scoff at people who fall back on explanations involving an intelligent designer, he said, but history shows that “the most brilliant people who ever walked this earth were doing the same thing.” When Isaac Newton’s “Principia Mathematica” failed to account for the stability of the solar system — why the planets tugging at one another’s orbits have not collapsed into the Sun — Newton proposed that propping up the mathematical mobile was “an intelligent and powerful being.”

It was left to Pierre Simon Laplace, a century later, to take the next step. Hautily telling Napoleon that he had no need for the God hypothesis, Laplace extended Newton’s mathematics and opened the way to a purely physical theory.

“What concerns me now is that even if you’re as brilliant as Newton, you reach a point where you start basking in the majesty of God and then your discovery stops — it just stops,” Dr. Tyson said. “You’re no good anymore for advancing that frontier, waiting for somebody else to come behind you who doesn’t have God on the brain and who says: ‘That’s a really cool problem. I want to solve it.’ ”

“Science is a philosophy of discovery; intelligent design is a philosophy of ignorance,” he said. “Something fundamental is going on in people’s minds when they confront things they don’t understand.”
[]

Before he left to fly back home to Austin, Dr. Weinberg seemed to soften for a moment, describing religion a bit fondly as a crazy old aunt.

“She tells lies, and she stirs up all sorts of mischief and she’s getting on, and she may not have that much life left in her, but she was beautiful once,” he lamented. “When she’s gone, we may miss her.”

Dr. Dawkins wasn’t buying it. “I won't miss her at all,” he said. “Not a scrap. Not a smidgen.”

20 comments:

profmarcus said...

interestingly, not one of these renowned scientists chose to address the distinction between religion and spirituality...

there is only one problem with science that i see, and that is a slavish devotion to scientific method which, in its most common forms, insists on a realm where the observer and the observed are disconnected elements of an objective reality... in cutting edge science, a la david bohm and murray gell mann, the interconnectedness of all evokes a powerful vision of spirituality illuminated, not repudiated, by science...

steven andresen said...

Lawrence Krauss said,

“I think we need to respect people’s philosophical notions unless those notions are wrong.”

This was a dispute between advocates of religion and science. No one was here interested in the philosophy involved.

The philosophy involved choosing some account of 'ultimate reality.' The one these people have chosen was most likely that offered by Plato in the Allegory of the Cave.

Both the scientists and the Christians agree that our lives are like those of the cave dwellers. Given that choice, we should not be surprised that the scientists deny that their lives are determined by some "higher power," because they are chained to the walls of this cave and cannot see who's carrying the forms in front of the fires. Nor should we be surprised that the Christians feel "holier than..." the scientists because they believe they have had special instructions on our true situation from someone who has knowledge and values, not just opinions and prejudices. They get this knowledge of what's what from someone who has come from outside the cave.

The dispute betwen the scientists and Christians could not exist unless the both of them agreed on these preliminaries. As I am philosophically minded, I'd say, as the dispute here was begun by philosophers, it can only be resolved by philosophers, not by those taken by it.

LeeB said...

PM: ". . . not one of these renowned scientists chose to address the distinction between religion and spirituality . . ."

Heh . . . exactly what I was thinking while waiting for the comments page to open and there you were!

Ancient - and ongoing - efforts of human beings to understand themselves and the world long ago identified four distinct parts of existence: Physical (earth), Emotional (water), Mental (air), and Spiritual (fire).

The dispute between science and religion is never going anywhere because it is trying to prove one element in terms of another.

"Religious" is not synonymous with "spiritual." IMNHO, Religion is entirely man-made. It has more in common with the business world - whether of a mom 'n pop corner grocery or a global, mega-corporation - than it does with spirituality. What we have going on in the world these days is a clash for control between two monsters: the religious fundamentalists (in the U.S. and elsewhere) and global corporatists.

Morality is not practiced by either group, which is why they both can allow themselves the use of fear and unspeakable brutality to 'advance' their causes.

steven andresen said...

leeb,

Suppose you were correct about saying, "Religion is entirely man-made," I do not see how you have provided any way to show that, or dissuade anyone who would believe otherwise. Just making the claim won't be enough to change anyone's mind. You play to the choir.

The religious, of course, say the same things about anyone who doesn't see things their way, i.e., that the non-religious, which apparently includes you, are immoral, brutal, and frightening.

lukery said...

steven - i think that LeeB was distinguishing between God and religion - where 'religion' refers to the institutions etc. (i might be wrong)

LeeB said...

Hi, Steven -

I didn't provide any way to show that religion is totaly man-made because if I had, the page would have run out of room and you would probably have quit reading. I'll try to hit just a few of what I think are the more obvious clues.

Every word written in every religious text was written by human beings. Every analysis of those words, by every organized religion on the face of the earth, were interpreted by human beings. That which is labeled the 'word of God' is labeled as such by human beings. Religious organizations are political internally as well as in their relationship to the larger communities, and have committed horrendous acts against humanity, 'in the name of God.' The Spanish Inquisition, Catholics against Protestants in Ireland, the Crusades, the torture and beheadings in the Middle East happening even today, all the wars in which the warring parties insist that "God is on our side," and on and on they go. All do nothing but give Her a migraine.

Luke raised an interesting facet that I had totally forgotten about. How many times have we heard references to 'different gods' when hearing others referring to different religions? In making no effort whatsoever to educate, those having access to the airwaves do this frequently - overlooking, for instance, the fact that the Old Testament contains over 100 names for God, some of which are feminine; and making no effort to mention that different cultures, having different languages, have different names for God. Duh! Because of this, the fundamentalists of any persuasion label those not buying their edicts as 'infidels' or 'unbelievers.' How arrogant. If Christian, they are part of what gives Christianity a bad name! At a minimum, it demonstrates ignorance. I recommend reading everything one can lay hands on written by or about Joseph Campbell. See the video with Bill Moyer, The Power of Myth.

And yes, religion is a reference to the organized institutions of whatever complexity that tell their followers THIS is what WE believe and to be one of us, you must believe it, too. (Thanks, Luke!)

Spirituality is spirituality. Spirit is spirit. It is not OF religion. It simply IS - a part of a human being, whether one believes it or not. The word, 'inspire' is of the same root, and is seen, among other places, in artistic expression, scientific genius, mathematical affinity and understanding - wondrous engineering accomplishments, educator excellence, medical advances - virtually any creative pursuit or accomplishment in any discipline.

I'm not out to change anyone's mind. That's not my job. Not all religious people say the same things about people who do not see things their way. Most want their own beliefs respected and behave respectfully towards those who hold different views, holding to the 'old-fashioned' behavior of treating religion as private. Not secret! Private. It is a small percentage who are irrationl fundamentalists who think their beliefs apply to everyone and give themselves permission to kill people who disagree. The Muslim fundamentalists make headlines with their brutality; the U.S. fundamentalists do likewise. Remember the bombings of women's clinics? . . . the beating deaths of gay men? Even when having Leviticus thrown in their faces to demonstrate the idiocy of their position, the fundamentalists do not get it. They insist on their absolute, *God-given right* to fly in the face of the U.S. Constitution, publicly humiliate or kill people who disagree with them. They make claims about the beliefs of U.S. Founding Fathers that have no basis in fact. Jesus Christ, a great teacher no matter one's religious belief or lack of same, taught love, not hate - healing, not bombing.

When I saw your conclusion from my earlier comment that the "non-religious, . . . apparently includes [me]" I was amused. My comment was about the difference between religion and spirituality, a subject that could take months to explore. I would suggest, with all due respect, that it might be a good idea to forego making assumptions about anyone's personal position. I'm not offended by it, it is just that my personal beliefs are not relevant and just distract from the issue.

Your comment also suggests that you may assume, certainly as many religious fundamentalists believe (not that I am including you with the fundamentalists - I don't know and that is your business), that morality can only come through religious belief. I totally reject that notion. There are plenty of people who self-identify as atheist or agnostic but who are extremely ethical and moral people. There are tribes of aboriginal people who live similarly high levels of ethical and moral standards, to the point that except for the costumes and the dinner menus, one might have a difficult time discerning the difference between them and one's own neighbors. Last, but not least, there are too many who profess deep religious conviction but live their lives devoid of basic ethics and no discernable morality.

One of the difficulties we face on the planet today is the fact that religious fundamentalists give themselves permission to sit in judgment of others who subscribe to differing belief systems. Upon closer inspection, the attributes we lump under the heading of ethics or morality tend to be very similar the world over.

As just one example, everywhere you go on Planet Earth, murder is a crime. What happens to that law when religion is injected into the mix and used as a reason to kill and maim people by the thousands? How separated from one's spiritual self does one have to be to lop off heads or bomb clinics and then justify it all as being 'in the name of God?!'

. . . Sigh . . . see why we seldom discuss religion around here? Too complicated, resolves nothing. Two good reasons, it seems to me, to stop using it to justify wars.

steven andresen said...

I'm sorry, but I don't agree that nothing comes from discussing religion.

I think much will come of it. LeeB seems resigned to the idea that people would be better off if we try to ignore it.

She thinks there are several good reasons to do this.

Religion causes harm. It's used to justify wars and all sorts of suffering.

Its apologists are hypocrites, and should therefore not be emulated.

Apart from religion, we have morality without it.

It's possible that LeeB believes the problem with religion is its extremists. She may think that if you just keep your beliefs to yourself, then you won't be out hurting others, and no one else would have call to hurt you.

All of this is pretty irrelevant, though. Religion isn't going to go away if scientists and secularists and people who don't want to get hurt just ignore it. Ignoring it won't make it go away.

The problem with LeeB's argument is that it doesn't try to speak to the concerns and arguments held by the religious. And, as I said, they believe those who don't believe as they do are immoral, impious, and dangerous to them.

I am not as concerned about showing that religion is man-made. I am interested instead in being committed to resolving conflicts without resorting to force. It seems to me that it wouldn't matter whether we had to worry about religion. If men committed themselves to violence, stealth, and deceit to survive, then having to worry about religion would be a side issue.

I suspect that religion has been understood to be a compensation for going along with the idea that our goal, or end, in life should be to survive.

So, for me, it would be more important to get people to argue well. I'd think to show that the religious would have a common cause, that they could be brought to see that they should give up their understanding of God, one dependent on the idea that survival is a paramount goal, for another having to do with the efficacy of words and arguments.

I guess I'm saying that the problem with religion, its reputation for being involved in the disrespect of others for their beliefs, depends on how you understand it.

steven andresen said...

I want to add two more points because this topic interests me a lot.

The first has to do with what position LeeB might have. I really don't know, and I guess I was trying to draw out from her a little more. She wanted to say that the issue of what position she took was irrelevant. It might be irrelevant what position she, in fact, has on these matters. But, I was curious because it is not clear whether she was arguing that the religious position was not tenable because the scientists get it right, or was she saying that there is something wrong with both the scientists and the religionists. It makes it hard for me to understand her critique of the religious hardliners if I don't know the answer to that question.

Let's say she thinks that the scientists have it right. One of their positions, I believe, is that the religionists arrogantly proclaim that morality is not possible if it's not founded on some claim that it comes from a perfect all powerful deity type. The scientists reject this claim, saying morality is in fact possible without God to make it happen.

I think the religionists could question this way of putting their differences with the scientists. They might argue that morality is beside their point. I found this claim supported in a discussion of an evangelical church, and their belief in the Apocalypse. This is found on another site, Tomdispatch, here saying,

"...What liberals might have learned from visiting Livermore, listening to K-Wave, or reading Calvary Chapel-inspired web sites is that "morality," at least as they imagine it, is beside the point. In fact, Calvary Chapel-style Christianity is a complex system with intricate rules. Think of it as God's game. Instead of X-Box's MechAssault, this is GodAssault.

If you play the game correctly, you'll receive that change in fortune. If not here, then in the after-life.

The guidebook to the game's moves is the Bible; the key steps to winning are in the Book of Revelation. Conventional notions of "morality," in which people adapt standards of right and wrong to an ever-changing world, don't hold here. Neither do the teachings from my childhood, which emphasized enlightenment and a sense of knowing God through your mind and heart.

In GodAssault, your conscience is not your guide.

The Bible is.

Like many evangelical forms of Protestantism, Calvary Chapel preaches that everything a Christian needs is written, word by holy word, in the Bible. In Miller's surveys, everyone from Calvary Chapel's pastors to its recent converts said they took the Bible literally. If you read the Book of Revelation as the physical, material truth, then you come to see God's game as one played in a swirling, planet-devouring vortex of blood and violence.

Pastor Chuck's main radio work involved describing this unstoppable Apocalypse, doling out a new chapter each morning. It begins as the Antichrist arrives on Earth -- some time after the Jews establish a Holy Land -- to annihilate a large percentage of the planet's population. Then, Christ comes to judge the living and the dead, sending the bad guys to a just and unspeakably gory end..."

http://www.tomdispatch.com/index.mhtml?pid=2318

The point here, I think, is that the final Judgement is more important to some of these people than "living moral lives" and an issue for which the scientists have no comparable alternative.

So, if LeeB means to advocate for the scientist's point of view, it seems the religionists can easily respond. Besides, as I said before, the scientists have not addressed their religious concerns, or the philosophical issues their positions represent.

If Leeb wants to reject both the scientist's and the religionist's views, she has not explained how that might be done. I have my own ideas. I thought her concerns about spirituality might be part of such an attack.

It seemed that she was saying religion was man-made and hence was dubious and poorly credibile, like capitalism. Spirituality, on the other hand, was true of the world whether we like it or know about it or not.

I wonder, of course, how LeeB is in a position to know this "cosmic truth" about spirituality. I also wonder just how she understands spirituality. My first thought was that it had something to do with Spinoza's solution to the debate between the secularist and the religionists. He thought that the unresolved dispute between the secularists and the religionists, or between existing religions, arose from all these people having adopted the Platonic view of 'ultimate reality' which, in effect, set religion against secularism, as the people in the cave who doubted the story told them by someone who claimed to be from outside the cave were in sharp disagreement with those who accepted such stories. Spinoza's solution was to reject the idea that reality was about many logical stories. Instead, he argued reality was about only one logical story, and the one story involved the claim that everything was God. I suspect LeeB's understanding of spirituality is supposed to undermine the dispute between the scientist's and the religionist's positions in the same way that Spinoza thought his alternative account of 'ultimate reality' was supposed to resolve the basic disputes between existing religions.

Yes, Leeb could be thinking something entirely different. But what would that be? And, what would the point be of insisting on some distinction between religion and spirituality unless it was a way to introduce some means of addressing the seemingly unresolvable disputes raised at the Salk Institute?

lukery said...

thnx stephen.

i won't join in the conversation cos no-one wants to hear my thoughts - but fp'd

steven andresen said...

I appreciate any feedback...

LeeB said...

Wow. Obviously, I really missed the mark when stating " . . . it might be a good idea to forego making assumptions about anyone's personal position. I'm not offended by it, it is just that my personal beliefs are not relevant and just distract from the issue."

It was not my intention to set off a discussion focused so intently on my personal beliefs, but it appears that's what I accomplished. Urgh.

I don't believe I said we should "ignore religion," but this is a political blog. What you believe, what I believe, what Luke, or anyone else believes, is not the focus here. Part of the political discussion is the blurring edges between church and state. If we support the U.S. Constitution and it's intent to keep the government out of the business of establishing religion (and I certainly do support that), is it reasonable to conclude that I am hostile to religion? NO. I am hostile to the notion that we should sit still for tearing down the wall between church and state. Period. I also think I clearly targeted FUNDAMENTALISTS. Somehow, that got broad-brushed over all religions or religious discussion.

I thought my post was too long and deliberately did not go into detail because of that. The conclusions drawn and questions raised by Steven provide enough material to keep me busy for hours - time I don't really have at the moment. (One intriguing comment of his, "Spirituality, on the other hand, was true of the world whether we like it or know about it or not. I wonder, of course, how LeeB is in a position to know this 'cosmic truth' about spirituality. I also wonder just how she understands spirituality." is tempting, but I'll restrain myself!) Steven's reply also illustrates the problem with getting into such a discussion in this kind of forum. The layers inviting exploration are infinite - a lotus blossom! This is my way of saying please do not draw conclusions about my opinion or 'argument' concerning most of the issues raised above which are not addressed in this reply. That would be an error.

Steven also said: "I was curious because it is not clear whether she was arguing that the religious position was not tenable because the scientists get it right, or was she saying that there is something wrong with both the scientists and the religionists. It makes it hard for me to understand her critique of the religious hardliners if I don't know the answer to that question."

By way of response, I will try again with this: The dispute between religion and science is not resolvable, in my opinion, because it is basically an apples-vs-oranges discussion. Science is very good at explaining science. Religion is not about science so cannot be 'proven' in scientific terms any more than science is about religion so can be 'proven' in religious terms. In my opinion, the two can co-exist quite comfortably. I figured that out when I was 12 years old. I don't run around the universe trying to convince people of this personal conclusion. It simply resolves the conflict for me.

The "religious hardliners" (fundamentalists) believe it is their job to force their beliefs on the rest of us. It doesn't matter if they are Christian fundamentalists, Muslim fundamentalists, or any other brand-name fundamentalists. This is where I part company with them. I do not care what they choose to believe in their religion; I care about their attempts to override the Constitution and use their beliefs to interfere with government because that interferes with ME. Attempting to 'argue' or otherwise reason with fundamentalists is an exercise in futility. Is there enough bandwidth to accomodate such a discussion?

Metaphors be with you!

steven andresen said...

The original post presented some interesting comments from scientists, revealing their opinions about Christian apologists and other advocates of religion. There was some recommendation that the scientists should scrutinize the philosophy of the religionists. The religionists should be chastized or rejected outright if their philosophy was wrong. I thought this was interesting because I didn't think anyone there spoke about the philosophy involved.

I have an interest in trying to resolve the dispute between the scientists and the christians. I think I understand what their dispute is about, and so, I think I have a way to resolve it. As I mentioned, I believe their dispute begins when they both commit themselves to Plato's account of 'ultimate reality' in his dialogue, the Republic. That account is his Allegory of the cave.

Given I think I understand how to resolve this dispute, I have been interested in profmarcus's and LeeB's effort to distinguish between religion and spirituality. They have made this distinction, however, in such a brief and sketchy way that I don't understand what the point of the distinction might be. I suspect that they raise the possibility of this distinction because they are impressed by some kind of Spinozian argument to resolve the dispute between scientists and christians. I suspect this, but I have no real evidence one way or another, which is why I asked for some kind of clarification.

LeeB has raised the question whether any explanation of spirituality or how one might resolve the dispute here is an innapropriate invasion of her privacy. She seems to think that my questioning her position on spirituality is about her personal views rather than a request to justify what she said about science and religion.

She also said that the dispute between science and religion is unresolvable. She says about this,

"...because it is basically an apples-vs-oranges discussion. Science is very good at explaining science. Religion is not about science so cannot be 'proven' in scientific terms any more than science is about religion so can be 'proven' in religious terms."

This may well be her view of the matter. However, there are other views on this issue. For example, Prof. Dawkins is sick and tired of giving anything to the Christians and wants us to see that religion has no knowledge or values other than what science provides because it has no more or different evidence than what science has. For Dawkins, the dispute can be resolved by having us recognize that the christians are fakes. On the other hand, I'm sure there are christians and other religiuonists who would argue that the scientists cannot come up with any credible account of values, or of reality, because their view of what they are about is relativistic and hence deeply skeptical. Their solution to this dispute would be to have us recognize that the scientists provide no way to understand values, reality, or how to live a life.

The idea that there is no resolution to this dispute is not shared by many people in the dispute. So, hearing this from Leeb, I'm naturally curious what her reasoning might be for saying this. If someone told me that civilization was going to collapse, I would want to find out what reasoning backed up such a claim.

I would not think that I would be trying to invade LeeB's private space by asking her to back up her claims in this discussion. I would think she should be eager to explain herself so that she could press home the validity and full power of her argument.

I want to resolve the dispute between science and religion. In order to do that I want to argue that their dispute begins on some common ground, that is, an example where both can take sides on the same issues. It seems to me that the Allegory is where the dispute between science and christianity begins. So, if Leeb tells us that she thinks this dispute is unresolvable, then she seems to want to take issue with my claim about how their argument can be resolved. I am only asking her to back up her claim so that I can understand whether she understands something about this controversy that I have not. If she does not explain herself, then I have a reason to think that she has no justifiable opinion about this issue, even if she seems to be taking sides.

I am troubled by Leeb's remarks here,

"...I'm not out to change anyone's mind. That's not my job. Not all religious people say the same things about people who do not see things their way. Most want their own beliefs respected and behave respectfully towards those who hold different views, holding to the 'old-fashioned' behavior of treating religion as private. Not secret! Private."

I am troubled because it seems she has something invested in not explaining herself. What she seems to have invested is an account of beliefs as being private. I'm concerned that she holds the exact view that the christian fundamentalists fear she and others who stand apart from their position hold. They have the idea that people who don't have their view believe life is a matter of having beliefs and acting on those beliefs. They act on those beliefs but criticism of those beliefs, on the 'unbeliever's view" is a private matter and they have some kind of "right" to hold those beliefs. The problem with this view, for the fundamentalists, is that this makes LeeB no different than any criminal. It makes her take the same position as criminals who believe that their own benefit is so important that it justifies theiir taking advantage of others. They think, like LeeB, that nobody else has any right to complain about their beliefs.

Why does LeeB want to insist on a view that makes criticism or evaluation seemingly impossible? Does she want to justify the self-centeredness of criminals? Is this really how we want to seperate church and state, by insisting we all adopt the attitude of criminals, sort of, live and let live?

LeeB goes on to say,

"The "religious hardliners" (fundamentalists) believe it is their job to force their beliefs on the rest of us."

The fundamentalists believe their concerns about truth and values are the same sort of concerns as others have abouit murder and robbery. This is related to their oft stated opinion that abortion is murder and needs to be treated as such.

When Leeb says she p[arts company with the fundamentalists here, it seems to the fudamentalists, I believe, that she is putting herself and others who agree with her, on the side of the murderers and robbers. For her to go on to advocate to us that we should reject the fundamentalist's views, without having addressed their concerns about her position, is to argue, in effect, "ignore them, and they will go away." LeeB does not have to use the words, but this is what her argument says. I don't believe such a strategy will protect her or the things she cares about.

She says she cares about the country, saying,

"I am hostile to the notion that we should sit still for tearing down the wall between church and state. Period."

The country is partly a matter of this separation. I agree with LeeB on this point. I think this separation is a cancer slowly and inexorably destroying the country. I think the conflict between science and religion is a symptom of unaddressed conflicts through out our politics. So, I am not interested in preserving this separation, something that Leeb seems interested in doing. I am further concerned that neither side can afford to ignore the concerns and arguments of the other side. Ignoring these issues or their protagonists will not make them go away, as I've said before.

LeeB says she doesn't care what people believe. What anyone believes isn't her issue. She thinks we need to leave people alone and not harm them because of their beliefs. I would like to hear why she thinks this is any basis at all for running a society. How can we resolve any dispute short of civil war if we are not interested in understanding the views and concerns of others. And, if we find people holding beliefs that lead to the harming of innocents, how could we stand by and do nothing, as LeeB seems to suggest? How could we live anywhere near people we not only do not understand, but merely try to tolerate? LeeB makes me think her idea of the U.S.A. is a land like Iraq where we might now think, the best possibility is that people though they live in the same country, hopefully tolerating each other, but at bottom, just refrain from killing people for their views.

I can't believe that LeeB imagines Iraq is her vision for our country, but in explaining herself and her understanding of church state relations in the way she has here, what else are we to think?

LeeB said...

Steven, instead of trying to figure me out, why don't you take up writing fiction? I think it would be a much more productive use of your time.

I've indulged you to a point, but that point has long since passed. As far as I can determine, you're simply interested in picking a fight. There is plenty of material contained in bookstores that would enlighten you on the distinction between religion and spirituality, so go read some of it if indeed you have a genuine interest in the subject. I did.

I already told you why I would not go into detail. You should have paid attention to my warning, "The layers inviting exploration are infinite - a lotus blossom! This is my way of saying please do not draw conclusions about my opinion or 'argument' concerning most of the issues raised above which are not addressed in this reply. That would be an error."

You seem to be hell-bent on making that error, even with the warning in plain English right in front of your face.

I also quoted an on-point bumper sticker, "Metaphors be with you."

I would respectfully suggest that instead of devoting so much time to trying to read my mind (by making up crappy stuff to put in it) that you focus your attention on learning the symbolism of the lotus blossom and find out what metaphors do. With any luck, that should keep you very busy with no time left over to intrude into things that are none of your business. Perhaps you could even re-acquaint yourself with Matthew 6:5-6.

Here. I'll make it easy for you:

"And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."

"The Religious Right wishes to put into law public prayer. How many Christians realize that the Biblical Jesus strongly opposed public prayer?

"The wall of separation between Church and State, actually protects the religious liberties for all of us in the United States and here we have Biblical justification for keeping prayer private.
"

There, see? I don't have to tell you anything I don't WANT to tell you.

Got it?

Do you still want to equate the concept of 'live and let live' with criminal behavior?

Anonymous said...

It would be great to "live and let live", but neither the Dawkinsians nor the Dispensationalists are willing to do that. If we are to avoid total war, we must reason together about matters that can't be proven scientifically -- we must argue philosophically.

That's what I think Steven is saying. He's right that the followers of Dawkins' scientism are begging philosophical questions that science can't answer. Dawkins is a terrible philosopher (and not great as a scientist, either).

Religion comes from _religio_, a Roman word meaning to bind or tie fast, as to a yoke. Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word for "joining", "union" -- similar word. Love it or hate it, separate it from a sense of the spiritual if you like (a valid distinction, but not enough to avoid total war -- Dawkins has no use for "spirit" any more than for "religion"), but humans by their nature tend to be religious. They bind or join themselves to a system of belief, which can't be proven or disproven by the scientific method.

We need to get over this, and not fight religious wars under false flags (science, politics), and try to make a lasting peace. So Leeb's right, we should live and let live. But that's not going to happen without a frank and forthright philosophical debate, as Steven argues (and as Dawkins fails to even begin to argue).

LeeB said...

Thank you, Anon.

I agree humans by nature tend to be religious - actually, I would say spiritual - and that this part of being human is the source of all sorts of useful things, like music, art, ethics, morality, and a host of other things that enhance living together on a small planet. Organized religion, on the other hand, provides community which can be a good thing - such as when it provides a support group for its members; a not-so-good thing when it determines to interfere with the civil rights of other citizens it has designated as 'other.'

I'm not so sure I agree that we need a philosophical debate. An intellectual discussion may be useful - or study of different philosophies - but if by debate you mean toward an end of reaching 'agreement,' I think that is an unachievable and unnecessary goal. I've participated in many discussions in meatspace on such topics when the goal was just sharing concepts to better understand each other - not to change minds or recruit. Then, there's book learnin' - a tried and true means of learning about philosophies different than one's own.

I don't consider it a 'debate' to ignore what is on the table, demand what is not on the table, draw crazy conclusions from thin air, and equate me and my live and let live attitude with being a criminal. I call that an attack. John Bolton would be proud! LOL!! :-)

It is sad that so many humans - whether as individuals or as nations - still believe bullying tactics are an appropriate way to behave in the 21st century.

Anonymous said...

LeeB: Debate did sound a bit lofty, like some Ox-bridge society get-together :-P.

My point was that arguing in the wrong domain is wasteful or worse, but you clearly agree with that. Getting people to argue, instead of fight, is enough of a challenge. Your description of meatspace sharing of concepts and definitions rings true. It's rare enough in my experience, but worth striving for when the opportunities arise.

Organized Religion is part of human nature as much as spirituality. Philosophers such as Burke and Erik Voegelin have described political revolutionary movements and ideologies, starting with the French Revolution, as political religions. This is more accurate than partisans of the left might like. People substitute new churches for old, but in all cases they yoke themselves to _a priori_ belief systems.

Organized religions, whether traditional or political/scientistic, tend to guard their truths jealously. "Error has no rights". It's hard to avoid a small-l libertarian political solution if one does not want to impose ones beliefs on others. But libertarian ideals don't get much play these days.

LeeB said...

I agree with you, Anon. Certainly the 'yoking' to organized religions is true for many, even in my ideal live-and-let-live world. I grew up in the Lutheran church, but left it in my early twenties. Later, through attending a friend's wedding, I became acquainted with a non-denominational, Christian-based church, which I later joined, because it did not impose any set of MUSTS or SHOULDS. Sounds weird, I know, but it's mission is to provide support for individuals to do their own work - to study independently - because dictating to its members what they should think or believe is NOT ITS JOB. Yay! It supports the idea that everyone is on his or her own spiritual path and so there is not really any one-size-fits-all set of spiritual rules to impose. Basically, I joined this church for the community benefits it offered and because it does NOT support attacks on individuals because of their differing beliefs.

You pointed out that organized religions . . . tend to guard their truths jealously, and I agree that they do, which is one way they lose me. It goes back to what I stated much earlier in this thread that religion is man-made. Humans decide what 'truth' is, making no room in their discussions (or commandments to others) for the possibility that they may not be correct. Who decides? Earlier, from the article, Steven quoted Lawrence Krauss: “I think we need to respect people’s philosophical notions unless those notions are wrong.

Reading that quote just made me laugh. We need to respect people's philosophical notions unless those notions are wrong? And who is going to decide that . . . Krauss?! Much of this dicussion is so typical of what keeps people polarized - specifically, the notion that these are 'either/or' issues. They are not.

"It would be possible to describe everything scientifically, but it would make no sense; it would be without meaning, as if you described a Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure." - Albert Einstein

steven andresen said...

LeeB,

I've been trying to do you a favor. You made some comments about spirituality and your idea that science and religion have irresolvable differences. I have been trying first to ask you to just clarify what you meant when you said these things and to give some support for your claims. I am concerned about whether what you said was true. I am concerned because I might disagree with what you said.

But you have made a big deal about you having the right to refuse, and not explain yourself. I have tried to argue that it is important that one do more than just take a position. The problem is that anyone can take a position. Since this "right" to "keep things off the table" challenges my understanding of what it is to make an argument, our dispute is no longer just about science and religion.

You said that you didn't get into your reasons because that would be too much work for you. I don't buy that because in the pages of type you've put out here refusing my simple request you could have satisfied my interest. I don't expect some dissertation on the subject.

You even quoted the Bible to justify your insistence that what's behind your remarks are "private." Am I to think that your refusal to explain yourself comes from having some "uncomfortable" religious position?

You've said that trying to argue our way to some kind of agreement is an "unachievable and unnecessary goal." I can understand one believing that this is true. But, I disagree, and think, instead, that this goal is both achievable and necessary. How are we going to resolve this question unless we try to understand the reasons we have behind both our views?

I have wondered whether you are making a distinction between what may have lead up to the positions you have taken, your concerns and psychological issues, and the arguments that might justify them. I am not interested in the psychology of your reasoning, but only in what is relevant to determining whether what you say is true. Maybe I am wrong, but you sound as though you do not know the difference.

You pointed out that this was a political blog. That's right and to me what that means is you can say a lot of things. You can take a lot of positions. Anyone can quote stuff. But another thing that happens on political blogs is that we think about what's being said and what's behind the quoting and position taking. We think about this because we want to evaluate the positions taken. We want to unmask our friends and foes.

We do that by determining whether their claims are true and their arguments hold water. So, for example, Chomsky has written maybe 1,000 books and a half zillion essays all or most of which have said something bad about America. Or, at least that how he is interpreted in some quarters. Some people think he talks about America murdering and stealing because he hates Americans. Whatever they think, his response is that he doesn't hate Americans...he only points out cases where Americans have done hateful things. I'm saying our evaluation of Chomsky and his writings is determined by the quality of his supporting arguments.

Why should I take take LeeB's claims about science and religion seriously if she doesn't go into that material she has insisted remains "off the table?" By keeping her reasonings and evidences and supporting arguments out of the discussion, she makes it impossible for me to judge or even understand what she's saying.

She says that the dispute between science and religion, as evidenced by the debate at the Salk Institute, is not resolvable. Her insistence that her own reasons for taking positions is private and not subject to debate makes me think she may assume the same is true for scientists and christians. No wonder, then, their dispute would be unresolvable. She insists on groundrules that make argument impossible.

Leeb is offended that I suggest she may absolve herself in the same way that criminals have done. I've offered this as a possibility in light of the fact that she refuses to explain herself when her taken position cries out for explanations. She can easily prove me wrong by showing why her positions should be immune from criticism, because they are private, whereas those of criminals are not.

She laughed to think about Krauss determining which philosophical notions might be wrong. Again, her flippancy leaves open the question why she should be amused. Does she think it impossible to determine which philosophical notions are wrong? Does she think it unlikely that Krauss could pull off such a feat? My interest in the original post had to do with how I thought , though Krauss claimed people should be judged by their philosophical arguments, none of those present at the Salk Institute were much interested in the philosophy involved. I made this claim and backed it up by offering what I think is the basis for their dispute: Plato's Allegory of the Cave. I think this is a good start on resolving the dispute because it follows "Ramsey's Maxim" that in any seemingly unresolvable conflict, you try to evaluate what seems to be a previously unchallenged mutually accepted assumption. I take it, both scientists and religionists believe our lives are like those of the cave dwellers'. I take LeeB to be a great sideline critic, but one who assumes a principled position against trying to understand what's going on. I want to know why that is.

If she isn't clear enough to be understandable in what she says about things like spirituality or the futility of argument, or show what might make us think what she's claimed is true, then there is no point in her saying it. I'm just trying to save LeeB's time and effort.

LeeB said...

Don't concern yourself with helping me out, Steven - I don't need any favors, thank you.

"It would be possible to describe everything scientifically, but it would make no sense; it would be without meaning, as if you described a Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure."

and

"A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death."

and

"What really interests me is whether God had any choice in the creation of the world."

- Albert Einstein

Peeps who invent strawman arguments deserve to talk to themselves. Send Steven a bushel of apples and oranges. He has a great deal of work to do. At this rate, he'll never figure it out.

steven andresen said...

I have to get into this again.

LeeB and I have been going round and round trading jibberjabberings, it seems, without getting any satisfaction, at least for my part. I started out wondering what she meant about spirituality and whether arguments about the conflict between science and religion could ever be resolved. I wanted to hear more about what she meant about both tolics and what she might think supported her position. She said something briefly. But, what she said did not clear up the questions I had. When I asked her for more clarification and to talk about why we should think, for example, that argument was futile, she refused. She said things like,

"When I saw your conclusion from my earlier comment that the "non-religious, . . . apparently includes [me]" I was amused. My comment was about the difference between religion and spirituality, a subject that could take months to explore. I would suggest, with all due respect, that it might be a good idea to forego making assumptions about anyone's personal position. I'm not offended by it, it is just that my personal beliefs are not relevant and just distract from the issue."

The points here were that she was too busy and that it was none of my business. As that didn't seem to put me off, I asked more, and she responded similarly, saying,

"Steven's reply also illustrates the problem with getting into such a discussion in this kind of forum. The layers inviting exploration are infinite - a lotus blossom! This is my way of saying please do not draw conclusions about my opinion or 'argument' concerning most of the issues raised above which are not addressed in this reply. That would be an error."

I take it the ideas here are that the explanation is too complicated to discuss here and that my efforts to conjecture about her reasons were "mistaken." I take it this remark about my being in "error" has to do with her saying lastly, that my efforts to understand her and then attack what I thought was her view was actually just a futile effort to make up a straw man argument for me to easily knock down. Her point being that I have not understood her enough to make any legitimate criticism.

There is truth in what she says. I have no real good idea what her reasons would be for saying spirituality is true or that the debate about "creationism," for example, cannot ever be resolved. And, it may be that she is reasonable in refusing to go into a discussion that she does not have enough time for to do it justice, or one that for one reason or another, she is unprepared to make.

However, what still irks me is the idea that she need not explain herself because what she might mean by what she says, or the reasons she might have that supported her saying what she did are private, as in secure in a closet, and hence not subject to criticism.

I could relent in my questioning if LeeB doesn't have the time, or can't come up with a reasonable explanation to back up her claims, because, well, maybe she didn't think about it enough. I have no problem with any of this. But, I can't see how we should go along with there being some principle that we don't have to explain ourselves.

I would like LeeB to explain to me why she believes Jesus Christ tells her that she doesn't have to be clear or justified in the things she says.

But, I don't expect her to do this simple thing, any more than when I expected her to explain herself about spirituality or the futility of argument. I now think that I shouldn't expect her to explain herself.

For a while here I thought that she was just hostile and she refuses to explain herself out of spite. But, then it came to me that she's a rhetorician. She is impressed with the idea that someone could engage in making up a "straw man argument." Perhaps, she is a lawyer in her everyday life. Her every question is about employing rhetorical arguments. I wonder if this explains her refusal. So I ask:

Do lawyers resist revealing the reasons they have for making any of their claims because, they argue, they are private? Do they want anything immune from criticism?

And, I answer:

Yes, they do want their own reasonings kept seperate from the arguments they make in court, or in legal documents, on behalf of their clients. They would argue that their own reasonings, or the communications they have with their clients, are private and irrelevant to any consideration a jury, or an audience, might make of their client's arguments.

Maybe , if LeeB does live life as a lawyer that would explain her complete disinterest in the "views" of people who write on this blog, or the advocates of any of the positions discussed herein. She says,

"The "religious hardliners" (fundamentalists) believe it is their job to force their beliefs on the rest of us. It doesn't matter if they are Christian fundamentalists, Muslim fundamentalists, or any other brand-name fundamentalists. This is where I part company with them. I do not care what they choose to believe in their religion; I care about their attempts to override the Constitution and use their beliefs to interfere with government because that interferes with ME. Attempting to 'argue' or otherwise reason with fundamentalists is an exercise in futility."

As a lawyer, the only relevant consideration is the fact that fundies try to interfere with her. The reasons they have and what might support their claims are irrelevant because they are like the personal reasonings of legal advocates and the interpersonal communications between lawyers and clients.

Leeb does not want to take the time to explain why she thinks arguing with fundamentalists is futile. I speculated that we might understand her disdain for argumentation if she thought that their positions were immune to criticism because their reasonings and supportive arguments were private and irrelevant. Sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

This might be the way that Leeb approaches discussions about science and religion. The question we have is whether it's a justifiable route to take.