Loose Ends

I think this can be the last post I need in response because through this debate I think I’ve honed what I’m trying to say.

This is a continuation of:

On Science Religion, and Nationalism
On Science, Religion, and Nationalism II

Fear of One Another
Fear of One Another II

I will just proceed on a point by point basis and wrap up.  I’ll save my big thoughts for the next post.

As these institutions are effectively made up, the goal would be to eliminate justifications for ones actions with statements like, “I did it for America,” “I did it for (insert your favorite religion)’s God,” and “I did it for my race.” I argue that humanity needs to reshape how it uses its institutions and how we endow them with power, because their influence can be so strong.

Nicely done.  I agree.

This, however, does not mean that believing in virgin births and heaven/hell is good for our condition here on earth.

Why does it matter?  Name one evil that has come from people believing in virgin births without drawing a really long conclusion that implicates other causes much worse.  Maybe the biggest evil is not agreeing with science?  But this is not a scientific concern.

Maher tries to open a discussion where the Jew tries to dominate the discussion (i.e. the Jew is explaining things but not asking questions).

He doesn’t need to he can look like the good guy on camera using the Socratic method to lead people to one conclusion or another and then does his dominating in the editing room!  It’s his movie!  It’s not like he goes around to wise religious leaders and asks them to discuss their religious beliefs or anything.  The problem is that it’s a comedy with a righteous progressive label attached

Bill Maher goes into his interviews with cue cards from the teachings of Jesus.  He says, “well aren’t you being judgmental?”  He says he doesn’t know what he believes but he does, he doesn’t think it matters if you judge people.  Because the whole movie is a judgement on religious people.  That they are stupid, irrational, and don’t deserve a place at the logical round table.  Again he mistakes secondary causes for primary; religious faith gets twisted into faith of other things.

I just have to say this (about a scene in the movie) because I think that this made an important point about how inane supernatural religion can be. He shows how ridiculous the orthodox Jews are about Sabath, by letting the guy explain how he uses the “Sabbath-Safe-Phone,” which is obviously full of technology and is patently inconsistent with the nonsense of that tradition. I know I am being harsh here, but how using a pencil to dial a phone is different the using your finger just baffles me; does he really think he is not using technology?

He might not…the most important thing is following tradition.  Also, why does it matter to you?  Why do we wear pants?  Don’t we all know that our genitals are there anyway?

All religions have ways of seeking to maintain holiness (active philosophy) and much of this is through ritual.  I will get into this much more in depth.

I don’t understand is how you view the institution of America and capitalism as a problem but not religion as both lead to an us and not them worldview.

I think when it comes to our debate on Science Religion we are arguing similar things from opposite sides.  What we have is a question of potential vs. execution.

I don’t condone organized religion at all but the thing that strikes me is when I get older I find that organized religion has nothing to do with religion at all.  It is a small subgroup within a much larger train of thought.  Religion itself when done correctly is a humble, personal thing.

…you may have meant to say “overly religious and overly non-religious people alike do not understand our condition on this earth very well.” Are you saying that nobody understands the condition very well?

I am saying the latter certainly but I meant most people regardless of religious leaning do not understand…

I think one of the problems is that you interpret science to be something it is not. Science IS NOT a substitute for religion and it does not try to be and this is a VERY important distinction. In fact the two should not even be considered in the same realm. It is not a make believe institution that gives people identity. It is a method we use to try and understand nature and the things in it.

Now I think that you are talking about Science as a practice and not an application.  Because if so I think that in some ways “science” has indeed become a substitute for religion.  See below…

It does not make any qualitative judgments about humans; in fact, if done properly aliens would do the same science as humans.

I like that and would say the same thing about religion.  In fact science/religion should not be opposed at all.

Furthermore you assume that scientists think that science is, “absolute.. because it is slightly closer.” No! that’s not the point… it is just close enough to make it work (see below).

I did not assume scientists think that and was appealing to your scientific tendencies in fact.  I merely asked if something is more correct, because it is slightly closer.  You would say no, it is just close enough to work.  Now in application this matter but when you come to a subject like history this method has no bearing.  In reality history is so fucking huge that no matter how much we thought about it or tried to piece facts together, we still are pinhead trying to make sense of a vast void.  The frustrating thing is that empirical knowledge affirms events can only have occurred one way.  But even interpreting this event is a near impossibility.

I am not questioning science but wondering how a scientific reasoning which has inferred the theory of evolution can be considered superior to the notion of a virgin birth. Let me explain.

You have already admitted that we know nothing.  Perhaps I get hung up on this point which to you and other scientists is already obvious.

Now is it more useful to believe in evolution?  Sure, that helps us comprehend biology much more.  But given that we can never really know one way or another why condemn anyone for thinking anything?  It all comes down to a bit of superstition.

Which comes to my final point.  I think that both you and Maher along with many many others I have debated on the internet think the criteria for weeding out the rational religious folks from the irrational is “superstition.”  IE the belief in something without any evidence.

I think this is a convenient distinction to make because religious/atheist is already ingrained in our heads and there is severe tension between religious and nonreligious in this country.

And this is where I get hung up because if science is the study/utilization of the useful or what-works, it has nothing to say on the point of evidence or it’s application.  So it becomes a philosophical/ethical/political debate.  It is up to us to determine what is good evidence and what is not.  Now, we believe we know evolution occurred through observation but if a bunch of convincing evidence appeared we would of course have to alter our belief.  So we are only as smart as our interpretation of evidence and given the infinite complexity of the world and our finite existence doesn’t our interpretation of evidence become reduced to zero value already?

So things we know are things we believe.  We only have ourselves for reference and the best reference we have is our own mind/body.  Therefore we think we can make sense of things that have occurred before we were alive but in the end since the collection of evidence is just enough to “make work” no amount of evidence should automatically posit anything as our limited interpretation would never offer a complete understanding anyway.  Eventually we fall back on faith that something is correct.  If someone believes in something incorrect we should naturally reveal our stance but you can be a smug holier-than-thou hypocrite about it like Bill Maher or you can be compromising and understanding and try to speak their language.  If you want to convince someone that there is no virgin birth you are much better off explaining that God has nothing to do with it.

For example, I’d like to you see you argue away the computer you are typing on now.

Just for fun, a computer is simply a distinction we make between physical matter.  We prejudice between different characteristics.  However given that there are an infinite amount of characteristics and that our priorities between characteristics are unique to our position as human beings a computer is merely a designation of a physical representation of technology that exists in a fixed space/time that performs a series of perceived processes that we decided could no longer be called a calculator although we could or equally just not call anything at all.

“In this theoretical world that may exits… virgins could give birth.” First you have to come up with a theoretical world that you don’t know anything about to explain something that might (but has never) happen in this world…

Firstly, virgin birth already occurs in fish, reptiles and amphibians although not in the human species.  So from what we know it is anatomically but not biologically impossible.


“Given everything we know.. virgins do not give birth.” Here you start with knowledge (achieve through observation IN THIS WORLD) to confirm what you already observe (virgins don’t give birth). I am not sure why this hangs you up.

It doesn’t but it is why this degree of certainty is necessarily more correct that the first.  It is only in the sense that it is useful but why is it useful to be debating again?  Because it will remove all the negative elements of religion?  Absolutely not.  We could remove all superstition and not have a better world at all.  You can’t say the same for violence and institutional complicity.  Now you could say that superstition leads to both those things but we are beginning to get into a completely different account of superstition which begins to resemble faith which is an inherent human characteristic and therefore it is the faith in this or that that becomes significant but not the faith itself.

I asked “Now, if history is the most important subject for building a society, how can you be certain that anything has happened?”

You said I am really actually surprised that I have to spend so much time defending this position. Physical evidence exists. When something happens it leaves a mark that persists on to a point where it can be perceived in the now. For instance if I cut my hand today, I still have a wound tomorrow which will exist it the ‘now;’ hence I know the cutting happened. I guessed if I had to put a standard of certainty on whether or not somethign happened is that if a byproduct of it exists right now. Really this is just Spinoza’s third and fourth axioms. Do you really not believe in evidence? Do fossil records not indicate deceased animals, does DNA evidence not confirm that a killer was at the crime scene, do two smashed up burning cars on the side of the road not indicate a car wreck? How much faith do you need to accept that these things happened based on the evidence they leave behind? In reality you know how much evidence you need to know that something happened otherwise you would have gone insane a long time ago, because you would have doubted everything that you have ever done, (did I send that work email? Did I fill the car with gas? Did I remember my wallet?) Those things happened and you know (or at least assumed) they did, because otherwise you would be constantly scrambling to redo things your were uncertain that they actually happened or not.

You make a good case for belief/faith and application of belief/faith but not certainty.  You have shown how we go from speculation to satisfaction with our own inquiry but not why this satisfaction is justified.  I’ll cut to the chase and say that in the end there is no justification that we could rationally make except it works for us but even in an evolutionary/political sense that is not justified satisfaction.

You say that I don’t know how the scientific method works because I don’t work with it every day, and that I have an incomplete understanding of how science is used, but aren’t you using a rough science to make the conclusions above?  Gathering of evidence plus informed application for real world use.  So you are taking a scientific goal (“there is physical evidence that allows me to make a hypothesis that works“) and using it to justify certainty.  But it does not follow at all and in fact makes the opposite case given what you say all scientists know and accept.

Why not just kill all dissenters, it works?  In other words what works should have no bearing on other fields because it is absolutely immoral when applied to human beings.  This makes it tough to interpret history but the best could still pull it off.  So certainty and its limitation must be understood.

In fact if anything you have helped to prove my point that we don’t really know anything but the world works as though we do.  That phenomenon is crazy.

I must say that I take issue with you contention that (superstitious) god is somehow more real than America. How do you justify this? They are both obviously created by humans.

You have added an unfair word which is (superstitious).  A superstitious god is no more real than America.  But God given all the definitions I’ve put forth which essentially means the essence/physical determination of infinity/existence/zero/nonexistence/truth/being/nonbeing is absolutely more real than America so all I say is that it makes more sense to revere/seek the former than the later.

This is similar to people blaming those ‘evil corporations.’ In effect they are not real if you just consider the cooperation itself. However, the evil decisions (i.e. not recall a dangerous product because you’ll lose less money by settling lawsuits) are made by actual humans… their justification being the institution itself, which is why allowing these institutions to exist in the first place is so dangerous.

Well put!

I also agree that “people don’t think thing through enough” to understand exactly what the institutions they let guide their lives are actually are. This is why I will go on to posit that education (school), is most of the most important and successful institutions that humanity has constructed for itself. The fundamental purpose of education is not to each facts and knowledge, rather it is to teach people to think critically and make them, “think things through enough.”

Sure, but education/instruction and school have nothing to do with each other.  Going beyond even that schools were largely operated by centers of religion, they really accomplish the same thing which I think is to suppress critical thinking and perpetuate social norms.  Religion and education both touch on completely valid and relevant methods which if not controlled and diverted would threaten institutional power and the manufacture of consent.

To somehow say that it is gone or not important or shouldn’t have any time spent on is dangerous. This is like saying the lesser of two evils is not evil, simply because it is not as evil.

I don’t mean that at all but I am trying to say that it is still dangerous but the time of end justifying means and accepting these distinctions to fight back has passed and its on to greater challenges and better methods.

The goal would be to have everybody be religious and non-religious (Zen) not some people one way and some people another way. What I advocate really am advocated for is basically a Bible 2.0 a new (non)religion accessible to everyone. A (non)religion appropriate to today. Why must we put so much stock in 2000+ year old scripture… What’s worth saving about it? Although certain things from scripture will stand the test of time, it is about time we revamped philosophies of religion and tailored them to the current human condition.

I agree!  I think what may surprise you is how many useful things from scripture will stand the test of time, which I will put forth in a bit.  Religion already nominally uses good values so people already think they do things for good reasons, we just have to make use of good intentions.

The identities that we should do away with are, “religion, nationality, race, political affiliation, …” the ones that we made up… not the ones that were given to us.

I agree although I would add gender to that.  But beyond that I think questioning all identities including whether humans even exist or not and where the cut off would be is extremely useful for getting to doing away with the more embedded tendencies.  It also helps push religion quite a bit since a lot of those assumptions depend on the notion that humans exist as a separate race/species and not just in our own minds.

This is why I really like your discussion of “the other” and not pitting humans against one another, whether it be non-religious and religious or christian vs. Muslim or western vs. middle eastern. This, I think, is the goal of creating an active philosophy. We seek to come up with a universal paradigm to which all humans can collectively contribute to and benefit from.

I think that we can take the best of science/religion/philosophy/history and mash them together.  One exciting thing is that the new myth is all myths, all pointing to a greater humanity.

The only way that science is a more correct faith than others like religion is that it is constantly producing results where as the other do not. But again science as perceived in its purest sense should not even be put into the same category as religion. Their goals and methods a very different and the seek to answer/describe different things.

One thing that is important in that case is separating real science from humanities that utilize science but pretend to be science for the sake of absolute domination – IE economics.

Why only the West? I thought the whole was to not separate our identities into (made up) categories like East and West?

I agree but I say the West because we are pretty opposed to religion in name especially so Zen which seeks the same sort of spiritual lift as all other religion avoids these terms.

On reincarnation, I definitely agree with the notion of our essence living on, but this is not what is meant by reincarnation in the supernatural sense, so I think we are talking about two different things.

I think that is what reincarnation is meant in the supernatural sense, that the supernatural is completely natural and logical.  The Disney idea of reincarnation where a man comes back as a dog with all his old memories is the false interpretation and what they make kids at school think that the deeply religious believe as well.

On god being everything or nothing (or in the Zen way both). What I am really trying to say is that there is no separability between the god and non-god parts of the universe. As in the analogy of a song, no one note would be more godly than another. Similarly there is no region of space where god is and another where it isn’t. This, I think, would even be contradictory with Zen, which would state that god is both exists and does not exist at all points in space. Which is much different than saying it exists here, but not there. This is what I am saying about the god being the construct, there is not piece or part that takes a special meaning to it. It is all the same everything/nothingness, there is no gradient from godliness to no godliness. This is why “angles can’t swoop in and instantly cure aids,” because somehow the angels would be the godly part surrounded by the non godly part. That is really all I am saying here.

I like that but can’t draw any conclusions yet…

On the quote about faith, “If consciousness does exist and it all requires faith generated from response to this or that stimuli then maybe faith is a priori because it is a necessary material for building a foundation in experience.” I actually had a similar statement in my post on faith, where I say that it actually an evolutionary artifact. Moreover, I actually (more or less) posit that faith is more of a tool that we develop to build “foundation in experience.”

Glad we agree on that one I felt less confident about it than my other ideas…

I certainly agree than most of its manifestations have been damaging, I believe with a proper goal in mind education is both essential and powerful tool for positive change.

Same with religion!  At the moment they are tools for suppressing positive change.  Right now all school is good for is keeping the poor poor and segregated and downtrodden and keeping the rich rich and celebrated.

Finally, your last question is inherently contradictory, “But given the that no knowledge is absolute why should young people not get to decide what they want to be taught?” One one hand you essentially contend that there is no knowledge, while on the other hand you contend that somebody can teach them knowledge once they have made a choice of what the want to learn.

What I meant was that given that no one knows anything more than anyone else why should adults be allowed to brainwash children under the guise of “educating them?”  It is straight out of prison camps.

Furthermore religion is still one of the most powerful identity institutions of the modern human existence, and to pretend that trying to reform it is useless or even counter productive, I believe, is contradictory to your desire to change other institutions like nationalism, race, and capitalism.

Now I think you have confused my contention with the word superstition with me saying that there is no need to reform religion.

My final point on superstition.  You say: whether or not science is certain or absolutely true does not matter, because it still produces results…

To which I reply Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,  Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela.  Just replace religion with science.

I will go into the power of tradition and active thought through religion in a later post.

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