Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Why are Buddhists considered religious?

One idea is that  Buddhists see the basic human problem as internal rather than external. They also not philosophical naturalists, in that they don’t maintain that everything can be analyzed completely in scientific terms. They do believe in a cycle of birth and rebirth, which a contemporary naturalistic atheist such as Dawkins would deny. 

98 comments:

Dan Gillson said...

Another idea is that a Buddhist's relation to reality is mediated by a metaphysical narrative, or narrative metaphysic.

Papalinton said...

" They do believe in a cycle of birth and rebirth, which a contemporary naturalistic atheist such as Dawkins would deny."

Do Christians believe in a cycle of birth and rebirth? [more generally known as reincarnation]
Then I would say Dawkins and Christians are at one on this issue, no?

I think it is somewhat disingenuous, Victor, to say Dawkins *denies* it. It is truer and fairer to say that Dawkins considers there is insufficient or no compelling evidence to substantiate the Buddhist claim. That,s not a denial. That's a prudent and reasoned observation exercising due diligence which supernaturalists would do well to guide them before making the call on claim-making.

im-skeptical said...

Everybody has a metaphysical view of the world, including atheists. That's not what makes you religious. The most common definition of religion is belief in some kind of deity. By that definition, Buddhists are not religious. Buddah is venerated, but not worshiped as a deity or a prophet.

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Ilíon said...

"Another idea is that a Buddhist's relation to reality is mediated by a metaphysical narrative, or narrative metaphysic."

... just like *every other* person in the planet.

im-skeptical said...

I think that Dan is taking a different perspective on what religion is. A different view of religion might be the pursuit of a 'good life', irrespective of whether there is any deity involved. Then, many people, including atheists, could be said to be religious. I don't like to use the word 'religious' in that manner because it is too easily confused with the more commonly accepted definition.

oozzielionel said...

"Religion" has negative connotations. Even those who are the most ardent believers will say, "It's not a religion; it's a relationship."

The connotation that seems worse these days is "organized religion." The rejection of organized religion is fueled by a very successful media effort to disparage religious institutions and leaders. To make matters more severe, the criticism is often warranted.

The OP suggests that there is a divide between naturalist and religious. In the sense that Buddhists do not believe in a deity but do believe in an internal human predicament, they could be considered religious. Since Victor is known to teach World Religions, and Buddhism is usually included, this differentiation would be important.

Wiki is usually not very welcome here, but their definition is worth consideration.

"Religion is an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence.[note 1^ The Everything World's Religions Book: Explore the Beliefs, Traditions and Cultures of Ancient and Modern Religions, page 1 Kenneth Shouler - 2010)

William said...

The prevailing argument on this blog between physicalism/atheism and Christian belief is a false dichotomy from the Buddhist viewpoint.

Buddhism embraces the supernatural but it denies both materialism and monotheism.

Crude said...

If 'belief in God' is required to be a religion, then it would seem neither scientology nor jainism are religions.

Nor, contra Dennett, would communism be. Whether Stalinist or NK in flavor.

im-skeptical said...

"Nor, contra Dennett, would communism be. Whether Stalinist or NK in flavor."

Communism replaces God with a different object of worship: the "dear leader" of the party, who has absolute power over the people and god-like status. Scientology, too, postulates a supreme being. I think it's quite fair to say that they are religions - more so than Buddhism.

Dan Gillson said...

Ilíon:

That's mostly true, insofar as most societies have undergone what Karl Jaspers calls an Axial transition. There are some notable exceptions, mainly tribal religions, in which there exists a religious narrative which isn't metaphysical, at least in the sense that's relevant to you and me, but is instead something that is enacted by a community.

im-skeptical:

I am taking a different view of religion, one in which belief in God or gods isn't its defining aspect, one in which some sort of myth sacralizes the ordinary, or a portion of it.

Crude said...

Communism replaces God with a different object of worship: the "dear leader" of the party, who has absolute power over the people and god-like status.

No, he really doesn't. Not unless 'god-like' just means 'revered, feared and highly respected', at which point secularism is awash with gods. Likewise, 'absolute power over the people' just means 'lots of political and secular power'. I suppose Queen Elizabeth is, in principle, a god now.

Scientology, too, postulates a supreme being.

Yeah, the eighth dynamic, aka 'infinity', and they have no dogma about it. In fact, they claim faith isn't needed - all things can be verified by 'science'.

So much for appeals to the most common definition of religion.

Chris said...

I'm inclined to say that Buddhism is a religion. Buddhists are not materialists. The tradition is "jnanic" and follows a rigorously consistent apophasis. Nevertheless, that doesn't mean that one should be surprised to find devotion and grace in the "religion of no religion."

Papalinton said...

Here is a very good article by internationally renowned Russian journalist, Yuri Skidanov.
SEE HERE.

In part it begins: "Christianity and communism are very close spiritually and ideologically. This is a fairly well-known concept that has been adopted by various thinkers, from Thomas More to Lev Tolstoy. Few people know that the world's first socialist state was established in Paraguay and was based on the ideas of Catholic Jesuits before Marx created his teachings."

The pivotal point here is, whether it be the god-world of Christianity confected by nomadic goat herders of the Middle East, or the construction of the Communist manifesto by philosophers [Lenin and Marx] of Europe, both are indisputably products of human creativity and imagination. Metaphysics is not a truth, per se. It is a rationale derived from the thinking process. And it is a highly problematic process at best in arriving at the 'truth', whatever that might mean or be. Our one foot nailed to the floor of reality, our one insight into the workings of us, the world, the universe, is via the enormously successful and powerful explanatory tool, science. Science is the grounding of all purposive knowledge. All other forms of 'knowing' supervene upon science, and unless it is grounded in science supervenience can be of equal measure, either substantive or frivolous, a hit-and-miss exercise. That is not to say that science has all the answers by any stretch. But science is not a whimsical take-it-or-leave-it proposition as we know religion is. It seems religious truth is based on location:

SEE HERE.

Chris said...

Communism and Christianity have something in common. Communism is a man made ideology. Therefore, Christianity is a man made ideology.

There are many religions that are the foundation of their respective civilization. Therefore, naturalism is true.

Oy.

im-skeptical said...

"I suppose Queen Elizabeth is, in principle, a god now."

Queen Elizabeth is venerated. She is not worshiped as a god. The communists actually go far beyond that, using communism as a tool to control the masses in much the same way religions have done throughout history.

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Latest-News-Wires/2011/1222/Kim-Jong-il-Legendary-golfer-and-mythical-powers-even-in-death

Crude said...

Queen Elizabeth is venerated. She is not worshiped as a god.

Neither was Stalin, and neither are the Kims.

Let's go ahead and grant for a moment that the government of North Korea presents the Kims as having supernatural powers. Guess what? Supernatural powers - ignoring for a moment that the word has no meaning - do not make a person a god.

Let's remember that North Korea is an officially atheist country. Look at those numbers: 64% irreligion. An atheist state. Surely, reason abounds there.

The communists actually go far beyond that, using communism as a tool to control the masses in much the same way religions have done throughout history.

A) Tool the control the masses? Sure. But those have existed in abundance, and that doesn't make something a religion. As I said - funny how quickly that 'by definition' talk went out the window, isn't it?

B) 'Much the same way religions have done'? First, how and where religions have 'controlled the masses' is up for debate: religions have also been involved in resisting 'the masses', challenging the status quo. Second, 'controlling the masses' goes way, way beyond religion. Ideologies have done it. Wholly secular forces have done it.

But I suppose the point you'd like to make here is that even wholly atheistic, left-leaning secular people and organizations can still be highly 'religious', yes?

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Papalinton said...

"Supernatural powers - ignoring for a moment that the word has no meaning - do not make a person a god."

Just picking up on your comment Crude. You are absolutely right. Only people can make a person a god. And history is littered with examples, from Thor, Wotan, Isis, Osiris, Mithra, Jupiter, Yahweh, Shiva, even some sects of Buddhism while not worshiping Buddha as god., do worship a deity comprising Bodhisattvas. These are enlightened beings who have selflessly renounced, or put off at least, their own salvation and impending entry into nirvana to devote all their power and energy into saving suffering beings in this world. It is a deity of compassion and forbearance and the pantheon of Bodhisattvas are worshipped every bit in in the god-like sense.

But as noted before, these are all constructed anthropomorphic projections of the idyll that humanity has sought to ritualistically ensconce into daily routine as a consequence of centuries, millennia even, of cultural habituation. But in the end gods are simply human projections of themselves.

im-skeptical said...

"funny how quickly that 'by definition' talk went out the window, isn't it?"

That's the whole point of this thread, isn't it? We are talking about what a religion really is.

"Let's remember that North Korea is an officially atheist country."

Yes, they reject the kind of god you believe in. And they replace the traditional religious ideology with something very similar. They indoctrinate the people in this ideology and use it keep control of the way people conduct their lives, participate in society, and stay subservient to the authorities. That's exactly what traditional religions do. It's no accident that Kim Jong il comes off looking so much like Jesus. That's a deliberate act of the communist authorities to create an object of worship. This is what Dennett means by calling communism a religion.

Chris said...

I think on a loose view, religion is that which is:

- of highest concern
- dogmatic
- demands/commands our loyalty/obediance

Example "Money is his religion."

But I think that would exclude Buddhism.

Chris said...

"....Kim Jong il comes off looking so much like Jesus."

Obama as well?

RD Miksa said...

Good Day to All,

Here is my quick and dirty (meaning: subject to refinement and revision) definition of “religion”.


A “religion” is a worldview that contains three primary concepts at its core:

1) That the ultimate focus of the worldview is on one’s own future existence—whatever it might be—that is to come after one’s own present and current existence (meaning: what is commonly accepted as a current human life of a certain duration).

2) That one’s own present and current existence (meaning: one’s present and current behaviours, beliefs, actions, rituals, etc.) have a direct and significant relevance on one’s own future existence—whatever it might be—that is to come after one’s own present and current existence.

3) That a being (and/or beings) and/or a force (and/or forces), not manifestly and constantly visible to one’s own present and current sensory faculties, had, and/or have, and/or will have an effect on one’s own present and current existence and/or one’s own future existence—whatever it might be—that is to come after one’s own present and current existence.


I think that this definition of “religion” best matches our intuitions on the subject.

For example, this definition of religion explains why Buddhism is a religion, but deism is not. And it also explains why Mormonism (with its material “gods”) and Raelism (with its material alien creators) are religions, but philosophical naturalism is not. And this is also why Christianity is a religion, and Communism most certainly is not.

Take care,

RD Miksa

im-skeptical said...

Chris,

"Obama as well?"

I urge you to read the article that I linked. No, Obama does not come off looking like Jesus. And there is no state propaganda machine that attempts to make him an object of worship. The closest we come to that in the US is Fox News pushing Reagan as an object of reverence. But Reagan is not exactly seen as a deity, and Obama certainly is not.

Chris said...

im-s

I see your point regarding the Korean dictator. Nevertheless, you've definitely shown your cards with this, "But Reagan is not exactly seen as a deity, and Obama certainly is not."

You're not joking are you?

im-skeptical said...

"You're not joking are you?"

Sorry. I suppose to some of us, Reagan really is seen as a deity.

Crude said...

That's the whole point of this thread, isn't it? We are talking about what a religion really is.

Indeed we are. But if you are rejecting the 'dictionary definition' of religion as inadequate, I want to get that out in the open immediately - because if we're throwing said definitions out the window when we define religion, it's opening up a whole lot of doors.

Yes, they reject the kind of god you believe in.

Well, no. They reject any kind of God or gods: they are, officially, a state atheist country. I gave a link showing the breakdown of religious belief in North Korea: no religion that you speak of is there. They do not call Kim God, not even a small-g god. Nor do they treat him as one in practice - they don't even call those great signs

What's really going on is that they reject any kind of God/god's existence at all, but you think that it's kinda-sorta similar to religion and he's really popular (and God is popular in religions) ergo he's a god and they're religious, no matter what they say.

And they replace the traditional religious ideology with something very similar. They indoctrinate the people in this ideology and use it keep control of the way people conduct their lives, participate in society, and stay subservient to the authorities. That's exactly what traditional religions do.

There is no 'traditional religious ideology.' There is, at best, religious dogma. But, okay, let's run with this.

Indoctrinating the people with ideology? Pretty much any political party or intellectual movement you want to speak of, check. 'Indoctrinating' here would cash out to 'raising people with certain values and beliefs'.

Having the ideology dictate how people should act, who and who shouldn't participate in society, making them subservient to the ideology or authority figures? Pretty much any political party or intellectual-social movement, check. That's going to snap up everything from the PETA to abolitionist movements to other organizations.

It's no accident that Kim Jong il comes off looking so much like Jesus. That's a deliberate act of the communist authorities to create an object of worship.

Well, no. He doesn't come off looking so much like Jesus, except insofar as he's praised as a supremely brilliant and amazing figure who did some amazing things - which is going to snap up everyone from non-God religious figures (King Solomon, Jonah) to non-religious figures (Ben Franklin, George Washington) to otherwise. Now, they expect him to be an object of reverence and respect - but God or a god, he ain't.

This is what Dennett means by calling communism a religion.

Well, no. First, he was talking about Stalinism - who, last I recall, didn't even reportedly do miracles. Second, he called it a proto-religion.

The point is - you're loosening the definition of 'religion' here to include ideological groups that promote their ideas, try to affect society, strongly revere certain figures, etc. And if you want to do that, that's fine - especially if you admit you're ditching the accepted definition of religion. But in that case, you've blurred the lines so much that you can hardly be surprised when someone calls, say... the PETA a religious group.

im-skeptical said...

crude,

"The point is - you're loosening the definition of 'religion' here to include ideological groups that promote their ideas, try to affect society, strongly revere certain figures, etc."

The point is - we've seen that religion can be defined in a variety of ways. Christians are repulsed by the notion that communism is a religion (communism is not religion in the sense that they recognize), and atheists are equally repulsed by the notion that all those crimes against humanity are due to atheism (communism is an ideology and atheism is not). The fact is - neither feel any love or affinity toward Stalinist communism. But it has a key factor in common with religion and with atheism, as well as key difference with both. Those key factors are disbelief in god (D), and indoctrinated ideology (I). (And don't deny that there is indoctrinated ideology in religion - don't forget that I was raised as a Catholic, and I know for a fact that they indoctrinate their people with their ideology.)

religion I
atheism D
communism I+D

So let me make a proposal: Christians stop blaming Stalin's crimes on his atheism, and I'll stop equating communism with religion.

Chris said...

im-s,

Would you say that public education in the Western word indoctrinates a religion?

Crude said...

Skep,

The point is - we've seen that religion can be defined in a variety of ways.

Well, no kidding. You can define whatever you want, however you want. It doesn't make your definition at all reasonable - and consistency will have a price.

Christians are repulsed by the notion that communism is a religion

Not really. I'm more than happy to agree communism as a religion, if someone wants to define religion so broadly - but if you're going to do that, you're not going to get there by saying 'Communists had a God!' They didn't. Saying "Well, okay... but they did these things, like promoted their views and adhered to an ideology!" casts a net so broad you're picking up political parties and other movements.

Here's the trick: I don't mind that at all. Pointing out the results of the move doesn't mean I oppose it. In fact, there's something to be said for it.

(And don't deny that there is indoctrinated ideology in religion - don't forget that I was raised as a Catholic, and I know for a fact that they indoctrinate their people with their ideology.)

You'll have to explain what 'indoctrinate with ideology' means. I think you're quickly going to find that it's so broad it's going to snap up just about any upbringing that isn't as simple as 'Welcome to the world, I'm tossing you out into the street now.'

religion I
atheism D
communism I+D


Here's the thing: the only way to cash out D as 'non-ideology' is to cash it out in a way that represents pretty much no atheists worth talking about - strip away skepticism, strip away free-thinking, strip away secularism. You're left with a kind of atheism that isn't even necessarily opposed to prayer in school, or even a full-blown theocracy.

To use a good example: Krauss is a full-blown anti-theist, in his own words. And an anti-theist has an ideology. If I met you halfway here and said 'Okay, it's not ideology-free atheism that is associated with these atrocities, but anti-theists', you'd - rhetorically speaking - lose. Your group of choice would get tarred with the very brush you're trying to avoid.

So let me make a proposal: Christians stop blaming Stalin's crimes on his atheism, and I'll stop equating communism with religion.

Again - why would anyone agree to that? Why shouldn't I simply go with either the anti-theist association, or better yet, admit that communism was a religion - as fervent political party association, and a host of other things? Both seem vastly more reasonable than trying to pretend that 'religion' is some uniquely horrible force in the world, which runs against history and empiricism both.

Papalinton said...

Dictionary definition:
religion |riˈlijən|
noun
the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods
• details of belief as taught or discussed.
• a particular system of faith and worship .
• a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance.

I'm anti-religion. And it is this belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, whether a Kim Jong Il or jesus christ, that I also dislike institutional authoritarianism [authoritarianism of any kind really], be it Communism [in its various incarnations], the Catholic Church, the World Anglican General Synod, the deification of North korea's Kim Il Sung and progeny, the Saudi Wahabi Kingdom; all are the result of humankind's failed social experiment with supernatural superstition, the enfeebling and enervating consequences of which we can expect to experience for generations to come. The affliction is of monumental proportion and will require a prodigious and unified global effort on palliative care to nurse humanity back to health.

These things can't be rushed. But the process has begun in earnest.

Crude said...

I think I've already been explicit, but in order to be clear, I want to underline this point.

If you want to call communism a religion, I really don't mind. But I think the terms on which you're going to call it a religion - 'There's an ideology!' 'It indoctrinates people!' 'It seeks to control people's lives, make them submissive to authorities!' - are going to translate trivially such that anti-theism, political parties, and ideologically motivated groups generally are religions too.

And - again, I stress - I'm okay with that. I do not think many people will be, including the very people who wish to classify communism as a religion.

If you tell me that this is a clear example of religion in action, and indeed, religion at its worst, I'll be tempted to agree. Also notice the attitude, the slogans, the ideas on display there. Please, tell me you don't find the rhetoric and the dreams familiar.

im-skeptical said...

"If you tell me that this is a clear example of religion in action, and indeed, religion at its worst, I'll be tempted to agree."

So crude finally recognizes the truth of what I have said. That example indeed could be considered religion. It's called communism, and that's a good example of what I was referring to. The fact that they call themselves atheists is incidental. The ideology is communism.

Atheism in its own right has no ideology, although there are many atheists who do adhere to some ideology. You never hear anyone say "I practice atheism", because there's nothing to practice. In the Soviet Union, they deliberately attempted to replace theistic religion with this communist religion with different objects of worship, including Vladimir Lenin himself.

http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/social_forces/summary/v088/88.4.conlon.html

I am by no means alone in my assessment of communism as a religion. Erich Fromm and Bertrand Russell both agreed.

Ilíon said...

Dan GIllson: "Another idea is that a Buddhist's relation to reality is mediated by a metaphysical narrative, or narrative metaphysic."

Ilíon: ... just like *every other* person in the planet.

Dan GIllson: "That's mostly true, insofar as most societies have undergone what Karl Jaspers calls an Axial transition. There are some notable exceptions, mainly tribal religions, in which there exists a religious narrative which _isn't_ metaphysical, at least in the sense that's relevant to you and me, but is instead something that is enacted by a community."

Every person on the planet -- at least, every one who does try to relate to reality -- relates to reality by means of a "metaphysical narrative". Every culture that exists, has existed, or will exist is built upon a "metaphysical narrative".

These metaphysics may be under-developed, they may be clearly unsufficient, they may even be self-contradictory, but they are there.
===
"Religion" isn't about the rituals of this or that specific religion; it isn't about the theology, such as it is, of this or that specific religion.

Rather, "religion" is about the metaphysical grounding of the group or individual. That is, "religion" is about the set of beliefs/propositions which the group or individual believes represents the nature of reality ... as it really is.

This is why atheistic leftist Darwinists may rightly be said to be religious -- because everyone in the world is religious in just the same way. For they are claiming that the set of propositions they champion represent the nature of reality; they are claiming to understand, at least to some degree and far better than those who reject their metaphysics, what the nature of reality is really like.

This is why leftism, as a distinct -ism, and Darwinism, as a distinct -ism, and atheism, as a distinct -ism, each individually and when con-joined may rightly be said to religious, even if one isn't quite sure that any of them count as a religion.

====
It's humorous, don't you think, watching the pretzel-logic certain persons are employing in their vain attempts to shield *their* metaphysics fron the "taint" of being considered "religious"? ... all because they imagine that "religion" is a boo-word they can use to shut down conversation going where they don't want anyone to go.

Dan Gillson said...

Ilíon:

1. I mostly agree, but I think it's more precise to call what societies are built upon a myth rather than a metaphysical narrative. You may think that I'm splitting hairs here, and I may be, but beyond splitting hairs, the distinction gets its precedent from the work of Merlin Donald. The achievement of metaphysics is a later stage in cultural development than the achievement of myth is. Mythic religion and culture is in a sense pre-metaphysical; from an insiders standpoint, the religion would be missing something like science as an explanatory framework. I will agree with you, however, that even in mythic religions there are probably the seeds of metaphysics, I just recommend resisting the temptation to call them metaphysics because it indicates a later stage in evolution of culture.

2. I don't know if you've read or heard of Schellenberg's Prolegomena to a Philosophy of Religion, but he takes a tack similar to you in that he defines religion in part as the cultivation of a transmundane reality (i.e. metaphysics), something which regularly occupies the thought of the religion's adherents. I agree that that's important to religion, especially axial religions, but I disagree (without argument right now) that it's fundamental to it.

im-skeptical said...

"It's humorous, don't you think, watching the pretzel-logic certain persons are employing in their vain attempts to shield *their* metaphysics fron the "taint" of being considered "religious"?"

Simply having a metaphysical view does not make you religious according to most any definition of religion. But if you want to define it that way, it becomes meaningless because, as you noted, everybody has some kind of metaphysical view. But not everybody has a religious doctrine in which they believe or objects of worship. If the word 'religion' is to be understood in any meaningful way, you can't apply it to everything under the sun. Just because you can attach a suffix to a word (like atheism), it does not imply any system of beliefs.

Pretzel logic indeed. You try so hard to include atheists as participants in irrational belief systems. The truth is that most people, including atheists, do have some system of beliefs, and that's what you should attack if you want to be logical. But you should be careful, because those beliefs may or may not share the characteristics of 'religion', as communism does.

Ilíon said...

Dan Gillson,
You're disagreeing (and, to a point, even disputing) what I've said. According to the lies that some people like to tell about me, I'm now supposed to insult you, or something like that.
====

Clearly, I think that to say "that even in mythic religions there are probably the seeds of metaphysics" is not to say that in "mythic religions" the metaphyics are absent, but that they're not (yet) fully thought-out. Similarly, to say that the metaphysics underlying (western-style) atheism are incoherent is not to say that there are no metaphysics nor metaphysical commitments to atheism.

Dan Gillson said...

Ilíon,

I've been among the people who "have told lies about you." I apologize for that. You're clearly very capable of having a calm, rational disagreement with others. I'm sorry that I haven't acknowledged that until now.

Ilíon said...

Yes, you are (that's why I said it that way).

I will not hold the past against you.

Ilíon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ilíon said...

... I am always ready, and happy, to take someone off "the list".

====
Shoot! I'd even stop mocking 'I-pretend' if he'd just stop being so deserving of mockery. Consider this howler, in just this thread --

silly and contrary to reality statement #1 "No, Obama does not come off looking like Jesus. And there is no state propaganda machine that attempts to make him an object of worship. The closest we come to that in the US is Fox News pushing Reagan as an object of reverence. But Reagan is not exactly seen as a deity, and Obama certainly is not."

Chris "Nevertheless, you've definitely shown your cards with this, "But Reagan is not exactly seen as a deity, and Obama certainly is not."

You're not joking are you?
"

directly contrary to reality statement #2 "Sorry. I suppose to some of us, Reagan really is seen as a deity."

Now, of course, as *everyone* knows, this set of claims is directly opposite reality. NO ONE sees Reagan as any sort of diety, but SOME people have posited that Obama is a diety.

im-skeptical said...

"NO ONE sees Reagan as any sort of diety, but SOME people have posited that Obama is a diety."

And who might that be? I've never heard it before, except for right wingers who are mocking the notion. Can you cite a single instance where someone seriously posits Obama as a deity?

Ilíon said...

I-pretend has never heard of *anything* he doesn't want to know, but he's quick to assert what he wants to be true (but isn't).

Google: "newsweek evan thomas obama god"

im-skeptical said...

Evan Thomas? Seriously? He hates Obama. He hates everything about Obama. He was mocking, as I have explained.

Ilíon said...

I-m-not-even-pretending-to-speak-the-truth: "Evan Thomas? Seriously? He hates Obama. He hates everything about Obama. He was mocking, as I have explained."

*Evan Thomas to self in late May 2009* -- "You know, I'm really going to despise this fellow in about four years (even though I'm worshiping him right now!), both for being not leftist enough, and for making all leftists look like ineffectual bumbling fools. What to do? What to do? .... I know! I'll say that he's *above* not just the nation and not just the parochialism that we European-wannabes always see in all non-leftist Americans, I'll say that he's above *the world* and that he's sort of God."

im-skeptical said...

Ilion,

You really should watch something other than right-wing to get a more realistic perspective. The right-wing media loves to portray Thomas as someone who defies Obama, but he mocks and criticizes Obama, and has done so repeatedly. He has also attacked the character of John Kerry and Bill Clinton.

http://newsbusters.org/blogs/kyle-drennen/2009/06/05/newsweek-s-evan-thomas-obama-sort-god

http://newsbusters.org/blogs/noel-sheppard/2013/02/23/evan-thomas-sequester-failure-leadership-obama-hes-just-playing-polit

http://dailycaller.com/2011/01/08/newsweeks-evan-thomas-the-health-care-bill-is-a-disaster/

Papalinton said...

From Dan:
"1. I mostly agree, but I think it's more precise to call what societies are built upon a myth rather than a metaphysical narrative."

This is a most important point. The myth of Christianity transmogrified into a metaphysic when Aquinas serendipitously happened upon Aristotle's work in the 13thC. Aristotle's philosophical work and the christian mythos lived cheek and jowl for 1300 years with nary a hint of interconnectedness. One would think, just for a moment, that such 'learned' men as the Church Fathers and other leading Catholic intellectuals down through the centuries would have spotted the earth-shattering link. But alas no, history tells a different story. Christianity was in search of a metaphysic. It took 1300 years and the happenstance of a medieval scholar to join the dots, and with the works of a Pagan intellect, no less. With fortuitous luck [some would say a miracle] Aquinas picked up the strong skeletal framework of Aristotelian thought and proceeded to stretch the rubbery gelatinous christian mythos over it to give it some hard bone.

The timing factor alone is enough to substantively argue that this 'marriage of convenience' is a post hoc rationalization writ large.

Dan Gillson said...

Linton,

You've gone way off track, which is fine if you just wanted to riff off of the statement of mine which you quoted. You don't, however, get to make up your own facts. Firstly, your claim that Christianity transmogrified into a metaphysic when Aquinas discovered Aristotle is false. The tradition of adapting Platonic metaphysics to Christian apologetics had long since been established. (Justin Martyr is considered to be the first Christian philosopher.) Christianity wasn't in search of a metaphysic; it already had it. (For more on this subject, cf. Christianity and Classical Culture by Jaroslav Pelikan.) Secondly, in the time of the early Church, Aristotle didn't have the reputation that Plato had; the philosophies of Plotinus and Porphyry, which were dominant at the time, interpreted Aristotle's work as being in agreement with Plato's, thus relegating Aristotle's philosophy to a subordinate role, one which confirmed the philosophy of Plato. By virtue of its contact with Middle Platonic philosophy, early Christianity also had contact with Aristotle's work, so your claim that Aristotle's philosophical work and the Christian mythos lived without interconnectedness is false as well.

Dan Gillson said...

At any rate, Linton, regardless of the falsehoods of your previous comment, I'm grateful that you gave me an occasion to clean out the cobwebs of that section of my brain. Cheers.

im-skeptical said...

Wikipedia gives a brief but decent overview of the development of Christian philosophy. Certainly Plato had more influence than Aristotle before Aquinas, but as Papalinton noted, "Aquinas synthesized Aristotelian philosophy with Christianity." This marked a significant change in the direction of Christian philosophy.

im-skeptical said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_philosophy

Dan Gillson said...

Well, yes, but that was never under dispute.

Papalinton said...

Dan
Ohhh! You're messing up my hyperbole. You're too serious on the question of metaphysics. :)

You say, "Secondly, in the time of the early Church, Aristotle didn't have the reputation that Plato had; the philosophies of Plotinus and Porphyry, which were dominant at the time, interpreted Aristotle's work as being in agreement with Plato's, thus relegating Aristotle's philosophy to a subordinate role, one which confirmed the philosophy of Plato. "

This in good measure underscores the problematic nature of philosophy as an explanatory tool If indeed the early Church read Aristotle through the eyes of Plotinus and Porphyry rather than independently deriving the merits of Aristotle's work, it says something of the herd mentality of consensus on which philosophy predominantly relies. Yes it is logical, Yes it is rational thought. But is it founded on verifiable, substantive evidence? No. Well not in the meaning of 'evidence' as generally accepted today. Much of philosophical thought has in so many ways been irrevocably shaped by science from which one cannot return to original philosophical musings. For example, science has pretty much debunked the teleological notion of a purposeful life, or an intelligent universe, or the notion of the cosmos fined-tuned for intelligent life, although there are many that still subscribe to such nonsense. These are the misconstrued concepts that flow from earlier pre-scientific philosophical work. They are perverse rationalizations open to interpretation and rhetorical persuasion. Rather, today, a meaning *in* life is the proper philosophical pursuit, and it is an intelligible rather than an *intelligent* universe, and the spawning of life is the natural evolutionary outcome from which the stochastic clumping of various chemicals formed self-replicative molecules, the pre-cursors of all organisms today as a result of the speck of conducive conditions. And we know both organic and inorganic chemicals have the capacity for spontaneous self-replication in response to environmental conditions. Indeed philosophy without science is philosophical sophistry.

CONT

Papalinton said...

Cont.
Clearly in retrospect and with the wonderful but cheap benefit of hindsight, the philosophy of Plotinus and Porphyry was nothing more than an interpretation of Aristotle and Plato. It is interesting that Aquinas should derive a very different interpretive model of Aristotle that he was fortuitously able to mate with the Christian mythos. But a few centuries on much of the cosmological understanding about us, the world, the universe that underpinned Christian philosophical thought has been steadily unravelling since science cleaved its connection with traditional philosophy. The instances in history are too numerous to recount, from Galileo, Bruno, to Lemaitre. All religious folk to be sure; there were no other kind back then. Even Lemairtre strenuously advised Pope Pius XII:

"Indeed, when Pope Pius XII referred to the new theory of the origin of the universe as a scientific validation of the Catholic faith, Lemaître was rather alarmed. Delicately, for that was his way, he tried to separate the two:
“As far as I can see, such a theory remains entirely outside any metaphysical or religious question. It leaves the materialist free to deny any transcendental Being… For the believer, it removes any attempt at familiarity with God… It is consonant with Isaiah speaking of the hidden God, hidden even in the beginning of the universe.”
"

The historical perspective you provide, Dan, is correct and fine. But it adds little to substantiating the Christian claims in any way that comports with today's rightly skeptical reality. I don't think Christians can take succour from this 'marriage of convenience', as I called it, in providing any bona fides that would legitimate its metaphysical claims, even a vicarious one.

That is the reason that many in our community are looking elsewhere, and in ever-increasing numbers, The Church has failed to sustain a metaphysic because in part it is founded on myth.

Cheers

Crude said...

Skep,

So crude finally recognizes the truth of what I have said. That example indeed could be considered religion. It's called communism, and that's a good example of what I was referring to. The fact that they call themselves atheists is incidental. The ideology is communism.

'Finally'? Skep, I've been talking about the consequences of Dennett's regarding communism as religion or proto-religion for a long, long time.

And no, the fact that they called themselves atheists clearly was not incidental. Did you read the link I gave you? They were anti-theists and anti-religious.

This is the part I already explained, and the part you keep missing: saying 'They had an ideology!' doesn't help you here, because it just snaps up ideological atheism along with it.

Atheism in its own right has no ideology, although there are many atheists who do adhere to some ideology. You never hear anyone say "I practice atheism", because there's nothing to practice.

Demonstrably false.

Again: you say 'atheism in its own right has no ideology'. Well, yes it does, but let's put that aside and grant the point for the sake of argument: 'atheism' is literally the lack of god belief. Okay. Then it's only those atheists with an ideology for whom the comparison is valid - you know, the anti-theists, the anti-religious, the religiously hostile, the ones who regard theism as wrong, or as a virus, or...

And you're right back exactly where you wanted to go.

In the Soviet Union, they deliberately attempted to replace theistic religion with this communist religion with different objects of worship, including Vladimir Lenin himself.

So you admit that they weren't theistic? Great, I agree.

I am by no means alone in my assessment of communism as a religion.

Who said you were alone? Hell, you can even regard me as someone who's willing to agree that communism is a religion - as I already pointed out, the problem there is being consistent.

Let me ask you straight up: did Madelyn Murray O'Hair have an ideology? Was her organization an ideological organization?

Crude said...

Skep,

Simply having a metaphysical view does not make you religious according to most any definition of religion. But if you want to define it that way, it becomes meaningless because, as you noted, everybody has some kind of metaphysical view.

A) 'Most any definition of religion' is irrelevant here. You're explicitly rejecting the most common, even dictionary definitions of religion in this very conversation.

B) How does it become meaningless? I've been pointing out that plenty of people get snapped up if you expand religion to include 'ideology' - there's no problem there. It's just consistency.

Note that you've already given away the store by arguing that, in essence, an atheistic ideology is a religion. Okay - but 'atheistic ideology' is going to snap up a whole lot more than the communists. If you clicked the link I spoke of, you're going to see language, rhetoric, and goals that are remarkably similar to some other modern groups.

im-skeptical said...

"'Finally'? Skep, I've been talking about the consequences of Dennett's regarding communism as religion or proto-religion for a long, long time."

Nice little switch-up there but that was in reference to the Militant Atheists, who were religious, as we both agree. What we disagree on is what their religion was. Atheism has no doctrine and no object of worship - it is not a religion. Communism is, and that's what those people believed and preached.

"Demonstrably false."

So someone creates an atheist church. As I said, atheists have ideologies of various kinds, and these guys are no exception. Atheism itself in not a religion.

"Note that you've already given away the store by arguing that, in essence, an atheistic ideology is a religion."

No, I haven't. I said atheists have ideologies. I did not say that atheism is an ideology. It isn't. If you think it is, please tell us what it's tenet are.

Crude said...

Skep,

Nice little switch-up there but that was in reference to the Militant Atheists, who were religious, as we both agree.

Alright. This is good - this is progress.

Direct question: Strip the communism from the League of Militant Atheists. You're left with a group of atheists who believe theism is false, religion is harmful, that religion must be wiped out and eradicated. They promote (so they say) 'science' and 'reason'. They believe children should be raised as anti-theists, irreligious.

Still religious?

What we disagree on is what their religion was. Atheism has no doctrine and no object of worship - it is not a religion. Communism is, and that's what those people believed and preached.

Like I said already - I'm more than happy to grant, for the sake of argument, that 'atheism' is mere lack of belief. That means A) Not believing that God does not exist, B) Not accepting naturalism. In principle, we're dealing with a person who can support school prayer, or even a theocracy, on various grounds.

So someone creates an atheist church. As I said, atheists have ideologies of various kinds, and these guys are no exception. Atheism itself in not a religion.

Actually, if you read the article, it looks like atheists have now created two churches - they had a schism. That's pretty impressive when you think about it.

By your standards, atheism is not a religion. But anti-theism? Anti-religion? That sure seems to qualify.

No, I haven't. I said atheists have ideologies. I did not say that atheism is an ideology. It isn't. If you think it is, please tell us what it's tenet are.

I said atheistic ideology, not that atheism is an ideology. I gave an example of Madelyn Murray O'Hair. So you tell me - ideology. or no?

Ape in a Cape said...

"... and the spawning of life is the natural evolutionary outcome from which the stochastic clumping of various chemicals formed self-replicative molecules, the pre-cursors of all organisms today as a result of the speck of conducive conditions. And we know both organic and inorganic chemicals have the capacity for spontaneous self-replication in response to environmental conditions. Indeed philosophy without science is philosophical sophistry."

Linton, if you're not using hyperbole again then you've just claimed to understand what origin of life researchers haven't been able to conclude in over 100 years, namely the mystery of abiogenesis. However, if you are in fact using hyperbole then you've left the readers here without any clue that your claims are hyper-inflated.

Either way, your *inflationary* cosmogony is misleading.

Ape.

im-skeptical said...

"So you tell me - ideology. or no?"

I don't know whether she followed some kind of ideology or not. But I have already said there are atheists who do follow an ideology that would qualify as a religion in my view (although I would not agree that any ideology is a religion). If you listened to what I say, you'd know that. So what's your point? Or are you just being argumentative?

Crude said...

Skep,

I don't know whether she followed some kind of ideology or not.

How can you know off the cuff that a near century old militant atheist organization was certainly a religion - based on talk about 'ideology' and so on - but you have no idea about a couple decade old organization that still exists? They both have wikipedia entries, and that seems to be where you're pulling your data. Compare and contrast.

But I have already said there are atheists who do follow an ideology that would qualify as a religion in my view (although I would not agree that any ideology is a religion).

Alright. What separates an ideology from a religion then? What's the key ingredient that pushes you from 'ideology' to 'religion'?

It can't be theism. Communists had no gods, and you call communism religion.

It can't be 'belief in the supernatural'. Communism is explicitly materialist and rejects the supernatural (whatever that means).

Is it going to be the indoctrinating part? The part where the goal is expressly to gain converts? To convince people you're right? To use social and political tools to that end?

So what's your point? Or are you just being argumentative?

I'm discussing things, Skep. I'm examining what you're saying, I'm asking questions to clarify things, and I'm pointing out what results if we're consistent. That's all. Part of a healthy discussion, right?

You missed a question, so I'm going to ask it again:

Direct question: Strip the communism from the League of Militant Atheists. You're left with a group of atheists who believe theism is false, religion is harmful, that religion must be wiped out and eradicated. They promote (so they say) 'science' and 'reason'. They believe children should be raised as anti-theists, irreligious.

Still religious?

Papalinton said...

Ape
"Linton, if you're not using hyperbole again then you've just claimed to understand what origin of life researchers haven't been able to conclude in over 100 years, namely the mystery of abiogenesis."

Abiogenesis is a mystery in name only. It is the working hypothesis around which contemporary research is centred. The broad principles are pretty much in place. Only the detail is yet to be filled in. I daresay it might be within your and my lifetime that the process of spontaneous generation of self-replicating cells will be understood and tested. Of that there is little doubt.

Contrast that to the bumptious and hubristic conversation stopper of all time, 'Goddidit', the ignorant siren call of the ancients when invoking supernatural superstition was the stock response in an effort to head off all manner of pesky inquiry about which they knew nought. And today the 'Goddidit' utterance continues to say nothing, mean nothing and explain nothing. It is a platitude of little repute.

Sorry Ape.

im-skeptical said...

crude,

Since you asked ... this is an alternate view of religion that I think captures the essential characteristics.

1. It is a social movement, practiced by groups of people.
2. It promises deliverance, salvation, or a better life for its followers.
3. It has one or more objects of worship or veneration.
4. It is institutionalized and has leaders who exercise authority over the followers of the movement.
5. It has an ideology and/or dogmatic beliefs dictated by the leaders, and
6. Its followers are dedicated to and controlled by the ideology. Typically, they are willing to donate their money, work for it, fight for or even die for it.
7. It is self perpetuating - it passes its ideology to new followers through a deliberate process of indoctrination.

Ape in a Cape said...

Linton, your reply is deductively in error. According to Webster's, a mystery can be "something not understood". Yet, it is precisely the details of abiogenesis which are not understood and thus remain a mystery. Moreover, since the broad principles of abiogenesis are naturalistic, your musing about how these same principles are in place really only amounts to a tautologous argument for naturalism anyway. As such, it can only be the details that will make or break it as a viable hypothesis.

Consider the following syllogism:

Anything not understood can be considered mysterious.
Abiogenesis is not understood.
Therefore, abiogenesis can be considered mysterious.

Given your commitment to naturalism, I can understand why you think the origin of life should be resolved materially, but it simply doesn't follow that it will be. No-one has discovered how life arose or even how it could arise and so it is fair to say that "Godditit" and "Naturedidit" are both sentiments of a hoped for future.

Ape.

im-skeptical said...

"No-one has discovered how life arose or even how it could arise ..."

There are certainly many unanswered questions. But we do have very good ideas about how life could arise. It's perfectly natural, and not as mysterious as you seem to think.

http://garvandwane.com/evolution/how.html

Dan Gillson said...

im-skeptical,

I think your list of what a religion is is off to a good start. However, #s 4, 5, and 6 are your weakest "characteristics". #4 because it is both too formal and too broad; #5 because dogma is something to which leaders are also bound; and #6 because it prima facie conflates followers with fanatics. If you're really interested in studying the nature of religion, I'd recommend checking out the works of Clifford Geertz, Émile Durkheim, and Robert Bellah.

Cheers.

im-skeptical said...

Dan,

Those things are certainly subject to debate, and I'm certain many people would find reason to disagree. This is my own view of religion. It would exclude people who come to their faith by some kind of self-driven process of reasoning or education, and also non-institutionalized belief systems. In my view, being driven by social pressures and authorities external to the individual is a key factor in defining what a religion is.

Regarding #6, I don't think it implies fanaticism at all, although it certainly includes fanaticism. I tried to word it in such a way that conveys a feeling of devotion, and that can be manifested in a broad range of levels of intensity.

Ape in a Cape said...

I appreciate your desire to respond Skep, but I would have hoped that your skeptometer might have peaked at the article you referenced as it is a bulletin of opinions only. What's more, the article cites no research in support of its claims (let alone peer-reviewed studies), contains multiple spelling errors (which tells me that it wasn't sufficiently proof read), and most disappointingly of all, simply glosses over the problems that I mentioned earlier.

It seems that you were too hasty in garnering a response and would have benefitted by taking more time to consider the relevance of the article you referenced. As an alternative, I would point you toward the research of people like Jack Szostak or Paul Davies in order to obtain a more thorough and qualified perspective on the issues encumbering the science of origins.

"It's perfectly natural, and not as mysterious as you seem to think."

The mystery of abiogenesis is not a matter of subjective opinion – neither mine nor yours. We can leave Theism and Naturalism at the door here as it has been demonstrated that anything that is not understood can be considered a mystery. Only time will tell if it remains one.

Ape.

Crude said...

Skep,

Since you asked ... this is an alternate view of religion that I think captures the essential characteristics.

What I also asked is an answer to this question:

Direct question: Strip the communism from the League of Militant Atheists. You're left with a group of atheists who believe theism is false, religion is harmful, that religion must be wiped out and eradicated. They promote (so they say) 'science' and 'reason'. They believe children should be raised as anti-theists, irreligious.

Still religious?


So I'd really appreciate your response there. I want to stress - what I asked above is a fair question, and I'm not going to stop asking it until I get a response. So, please - respectfully, I'd like a reply.

Anyway, let's look at your list.

1. It is a social movement, practiced by groups of people.
2. It promises deliverance, salvation, or a better life for its followers.
3. It has one or more objects of worship or veneration.
4. It is institutionalized and has leaders who exercise authority over the followers of the movement.
5. It has an ideology and/or dogmatic beliefs dictated by the leaders, and
6. Its followers are dedicated to and controlled by the ideology. Typically, they are willing to donate their money, work for it, fight for or even die for it.
7. It is self perpetuating - it passes its ideology to new followers through a deliberate process of indoctrination.


Let's apply your list to the PETA.

1. Check. I don't think anyone would disagree.
2. Check. 'Better life' would include living supposedly better and more morally.
3. Check. "Veneration" is in play here - the rights of animals, nature and/or animal life in general, etc.
4. Check. PETA has obvious leaders both inside and outside of its formal organization, who do hold authority.
5. Check, especially if Dan's qualifications are kept in mind.
6. Check. 'Controlled by'? You'd have to define that. They certainly donate time, money, effort, and a willingness to fight for it.
7. Check. They deliberately try to spread their ideology, passing it onto their children, their friends, their family and strangers.

So, resolved - the PETA is a religion. Correct?

Crude said...

Oh, another comment. From Skep, with emphasis:

It would exclude people who come to their faith by some kind of self-driven process of reasoning or education, and also non-institutionalized belief systems. In my view, being driven by social pressures and authorities external to the individual is a key factor in defining what a religion is.

1) So converts are therefore not religious, by your own definition?

2) What is a 'self-driven process'? I recall you accept or are either sympathetic to the idea that either there is no self, or the 'self' is just the wholly physical brain and brain processes, which are reducible to entirely impersonal, unguided, intentionless processes. You can't mean freely willed, since (the previous aside) I recall you also deny free will.

If you don't wish to answer those questions, here's a simpler one: Would you agree that your view of religion, on this point, turns critically on definitions of 'self' and 'self-driven' and even 'reasoning/education', and thus could be wrong or incoherent depending on what these things ultimately are?

im-skeptical said...

Ape,

The article I cited is not a scientific paper. I chose it because it provides a simple, clear explanation about how life can begin. If you only want to see scientific papers, that's fine. There's plenty out there, and it should lead you to the conclusion that we do in fact have a pretty good idea how life can begin (contrary to what you claimed). Jack Szostak's site confirms that, and I didn't see anything there that is inconsistent with the article I cited, though he seems to focus more on cellular life forms, rather than more primitive proto-life.

As Papalinton said, we don't know the details of what actually happened on our planet as life forms were developing (and we may never know), but there is plenty of scientific material that supports the idea that life could develop naturally.

Dan Gillson said...

Ape,

If you wouldn't ming answering an OT question, does your current occupation demand that you have such a polished writing style, or are you for some other reason so well practiced?

Crude said...

There's plenty out there, and it should lead you to the conclusion that we do in fact have a pretty good idea how life can begin (contrary to what you claimed).

Do you consider it possible that you are wrong about this, in terms of either your knowledge of or analysis of the available evidence? I want to be clear: not 'is it logically possible that life didn't start the way you are saying you know it did', but 'do you consider it a live possibility that your own knowledge on this subject is either inadequate, or that your analysis of the data leading you to your conclusion is wrong'?

im-skeptical said...

crude,

"Still religious?"

Absolutely - it fits my definition to a tee.


PETA:
1: check.
2: no way.
3: no way
4: I don't know how authority its leaders exercise, but I'll give you that one.
5: It has an ideology, but not dictated by its leaders in the manner of church dogma.
6: check.
7: no way.

PETA does not meet my definition of religion.

"So converts are therefore not religious, by your own definition?"

That's one I didn't really think through. I'll have to reconsider the definition in light of that. However if some part their belief is derived from any kind of social pressure or indoctrination, that is clearly within the definition of religion. And that's what I refer to externally-driven vs, self-driven. I'm not talking about 'free will', which is only an illusion.

Could my view be wrong? Of course it could. I'm only trying to come to grips with what I think religion is. Let's call this a 'first cut', and when I have refined my thoughts on it, I'll revise the definition.


Crude said...

Skep,

Thank you for your response. Let's review what you said 'fits your definition of religion to a tee': Strip the communism from the League of Militant Atheists. You're left with a group of atheists who believe theism is false, religion is harmful, that religion must be wiped out and eradicated. They promote (so they say) 'science' and 'reason'. They believe children should be raised as anti-theists, irreligious.

I'm not disputing your response. I just want it framed for reference, since this may be important later in the conversation.

PETA:
1: check.
2: no way.
3: no way
4: I don't know how authority its leaders exercise, but I'll give you that one.
5: It has an ideology, but not dictated by its leaders in the manner of church dogma.
6: check.
7: no way.

PETA does not meet my definition of religion.


I'd like you to please give me more explanation than 'no way'. I explained my rationale in each case, according to your own list, however succinctly.

We can even go step by step here: Let's start with 2: "2. It promises deliverance, salvation, or a better life for its followers."

The PETA absolutely insists that there will be a better life for its followers: they believe theirs is far more ethical, far more moral, even far healthier than the alternatives.

So, on what grounds do you disagree? The PETA is a great test case here, so I'll be focusing on them.

However if some part their belief is derived from any kind of social pressure or indoctrination, that is clearly within the definition of religion. And that's what I refer to externally-driven vs, self-driven.

Right, but again - what is 'self-driven'? Yes, I understand, you're saying in essence 'it's a lack of social pressure or indoctrination', but that's a wholly negative definition. What does a person do such that they can say their idea X is 'self-driven'?

Could my view be wrong? Of course it could. I'm only trying to come to grips with what I think religion is. Let's call this a 'first cut', and when I have refined my thoughts on it, I'll revise the definition.

My question was in regards to the Origin of Life.

im-skeptical said...

crude,

"not 'is it logically possible that life didn't start the way you are saying you know it did'"

A big problem that you have always had in your interactions with me is that you either don't listen or you don't understand what I say. I was very explicit that we don't know exactly how life began. What I said is that we can see how life COULD HAVE begun. By our existing state of knowledge, there are realistic pathways for the beginnings of life. These are not mysterious and they doesn't require any kind of supernatural agency. This is in direct opposition to what Ape claimed.

Crude said...

Skep,

big problem that you have always had in your interactions with me is that you either don't listen or you don't understand what I say.

Which, if true, would rather justify my asking for clarifications, yes? And really, you're insisting this hot on the heels of answering a question I didn't ask you - let's keep things non-hostile, shall we?

I was very explicit that we don't know exactly how life began. What I said is that we can see how life COULD HAVE begun. By our existing state of knowledge, there are realistic pathways for the beginnings of life. These are not mysterious and they doesn't require any kind of supernatural agency. This is in direct opposition to what Ape claimed.

I didn't see where Ape claimed that 'supernatural agency was required'.

Regardless, your qualification doesn't really answer my question, because my question took it into account. Your evaluation of the evidence is that, given our knowledge, the origin of life is 'not mysterious' and (put another way) 'wholly natural', period. We may not know specifically how life arose, but you clearly believe we know enough to say 'Aha, it was wholly natural, no intelligence required or involved'.

Feel free to correct me on that if it's not your view. But if it is your view, then we're right back to my question: do you regard it as a live possibility that your knowledge of the data, or your interpretation of the data, on this point is incorrect?

im-skeptical said...

" And really, you're insisting this hot on the heels of answering a question I didn't ask you - let's keep things non-hostile, shall we?"

Slick attempt to bypass the truth, but it won't work. I did in fact answer what was asked: "Would you agree that your view of religion, on this point, turns critically on definitions of 'self' and 'self-driven' and even 'reasoning/education', and thus could be wrong or incoherent depending on what these things ultimately are?" Now I'd love to keep things civil, but you do your best to make that difficult.

"I didn't see where Ape claimed that 'supernatural agency was required'"

He said: "No-one has discovered how life arose or even how it could arise and so it is fair to say that "Godditit" and "Naturedidit" are both sentiments of a hoped for future." He is wrong regarding how life could arise, as I have explained.

"Feel free to correct me on that if it's not your view. But if it is your view, then we're right back to my question: do you regard it as a live possibility that your knowledge of the data, or your interpretation of the data, on this point is incorrect?"

That's not my view, and it isn't what I said.

And while we're on the topic of considering whether I might be wrong, two things come to mind. First, you don't even understand what I say, and you arrogantly insist that I should reconsider it. Second, you've been dead wrong about me - what I think, what I believe, and what I stand for - right from the very beginning. When you show some sign that you have considered whether you might be wrong, then I will find it easier to take you seriously. Until then, you're just an arrogant jerk blowing smoke out your ass.

I thought briefly that you might be serious about discussing an issue in this blog. But I have reconsidered. I was wrong.

Ape in a Cape said...

Skep,

Thanks for your point of clarification, but you'll remember that I cited two independent researchers of considerable renown – both of whom take different approaches to the problem of origins. You should also note that in so doing I was attempting to show that this issue isn't nearly as cut and dry as you had previously intimated. However, contrary to your own belief, neither Szostak nor Davies acknowledges any clear pathway through the maze. Their research, while rigorous, remains staunchly hypothetical in nature. It is therefore not surprising that Davies has admitted as much with regard to the entire enterprise.

At any rate, I don't want you to reason that I'm postulating a suprarational entity simply because of a lack of detail arising from within the academy (e silentio). That is not the basis of my contention. In fact, my previous argument was a deductive response to the notion that abiogenesis is not really a mystery and I've seen no reason to think that such language shouldn't stand. Therefore, so long as the problem of origins remains a mystery (the fundamentals of which may well preclude further scientific scrutiny), then one is free to infer whatever conclusion makes the most sense of the limited data.

Ape.

Ape in a Cape said...

Hi Dan,

Nice to hear from you. Let me apologize for not getting back to your last blog comment – sometimes life gets in the way.

Polished? No. I'm not know what mean you. Me lykes others writing Good. Tha'ts all. ;)

Ape.

im-skeptical said...

Ape,

"I cited two independent researchers of considerable renown – both of whom take different approaches to the problem of origins."

OK. We all agree. Nobody is saying that we know how life began. That question remains a mystery. But we seem to be talking past each other on the question of ow life COULD begin. There are various unproven postulations about how life began. As I understand it, Davies takes a non-naturalist approach to the question. To him, the question of how life could arise appears to be a mystery. But the more scientific mainstream approaches have two key elements in common: self-replicating organic material and evolution. The particulars of the process are in question, but the general concept is not a mystery. We do have a reasonable idea of how life could arise.

Crude said...

Skep,

Slick attempt to bypass the truth, but it won't work.

There was no attempt at lying here, Skep. As I said, I would like to keep things non-hostile for this particular exchange - and that includes snarkiness. If you're incapable of behaving in such a way, I understand. But the ball really is in your court.

He said: "No-one has discovered how life arose or even how it could arise and so it is fair to say that "Godditit" and "Naturedidit" are both sentiments of a hoped for future." He is wrong regarding how life could arise, as I have explained.

As I said - I see nowhere that Ape claimed that 'supernatural agency was required'. Nor do I see how you've shown that he is 'wrong regarding how life could arise', since Ape never gave an explanation of how life arose. He's making reference to the existing state of knowledge in the Origin of Life - right or wrong, his comments are in a different category than one of making certain claims about how life did in fact arise.

And while we're on the topic of considering whether I might be wrong, two things come to mind. First, you don't even understand what I say, and you arrogantly insist that I should reconsider it.

Skep, please - relax. Take a look at the very comment by me which you quoted:

"Feel free to correct me on that if it's not your view. But if it is your view, then we're right back to my question: do you regard it as a live possibility that your knowledge of the data, or your interpretation of the data, on this point is incorrect?"

I said, expressly, that I was attempting to understand your view of the matter. I also qualified what I was saying appropriately: If what I said was your view was in fact your view, then we're right back to my question. That's open acknowledgment that I could be wrong.

Now, to be clear, you are denying the following is your view: Your evaluation of the evidence is that, given our knowledge, the origin of life is 'not mysterious' and (put another way) 'wholly natural', period. We may not know specifically how life arose, but you clearly believe we know enough to say 'Aha, it was wholly natural, no intelligence required or involved'.

You deny this is your view. Please, feel free to explain what portion of the above does not represent your views.

When you show some sign that you have considered whether you might be wrong, then I will find it easier to take you seriously. Until then, you're just an arrogant jerk blowing smoke out your ass.

You've already quoted me, in this very thread (in fact, in your very response) A) stating what I was taking to be your view, B) acknowledging that I could be misinterpreting you, and C) asking for clarifications if I did, in fact, misinterpret you. You insisted I had your view wrong - in this particular comment, I am accepting your claims and asking which part I was incorrect about.

So far, you've insulted me, called me names, and belittled me. I have done none of these things at any point in this thread. So, I invite you to continue our thus far (if one-sided) civil and polite discourse, and to eschew the name-calling and insults. We're just having a conversation here, correct?

Looking forward to your responses.

Crude said...

Skep,

Also, I'm looking forward to your response about the PETA question. We are, so far, on number two of your list:

I'd like you to please give me more explanation than 'no way'. I explained my rationale in each case, according to your own list, however succinctly.

We can even go step by step here: Let's start with 2: "2. It promises deliverance, salvation, or a better life for its followers."

The PETA absolutely insists that there will be a better life for its followers: they believe theirs is far more ethical, far more moral, even far healthier than the alternatives.

So, on what grounds do you disagree? The PETA is a great test case here, so I'll be focusing on them.

Crude said...

Oh, and before it's necessary to clarify after the fact:

He's making reference to the existing state of knowledge in the Origin of Life - right or wrong, his comments are in a different category than one of making certain claims about how life did in fact arise.

This could be extended to 'how it could arise, whether or not it actually did' as well.

Papalinton said...

Ape
Sorry I haven't kept up with the conversation. I have been helping my next door neighbour build his underground earth-shelter house, having been a licensed builder one time in my various careers.

You say, " Moreover, since the broad principles of abiogenesis are naturalistic, your musing about how these same principles are in place really only amounts to a tautologous argument for naturalism anyway."

Your words, your interpretation, not mine. But your observation does inadvertently underscore one quintessential point; science works. And of course science and naturalism are, and not only in my mind, synonymous.

The obverse, supernaturalism, in which 'mystery' is both a fundamental and indispensable [mis-] conceptual feature, is not science, by any stretch. Ironically, there is one further evidentiary inference that can be correctly deduced, ably supported by mountains of corroborative information, there is no academic beast or epistemic framework that anyone anywhere would recognize as, 'supernatural science'. But I'm given to understand there is some information about a 'natural science' that has a significant pedigree in epistemology. :)

What you claim as 'mystery' is for me simply a trite euphemism for something as yet unexplained. One thing I am absolutely certain about regarding the likely origins of life on this planet, the answer will be most surely not from the immaterialist knowledge bank.




im-skeptical said...

Second draft of my definition of religion:

1. It is a social movement, practiced by groups of people.
2. It promises deliverance, salvation, or a better life for its followers.
3. It threatens punishment or damnation for those who leave the fold.
4. It has one or more objects of worship or veneration.
5. It is institutionalized and has leaders who exercise authority over the followers of the movement.
6. It has a comprehensive, life-governing ideology and dogmatic beliefs dictated by the leaders.
7. Its followers are dedicated to and controlled by the ideology, with varying degrees of intensity ranging from partial submission to fanaticism.
8. It is self perpetuating - it passes its ideology to new followers through a deliberate process of indoctrination, concentrating especially on impressing the ideology during early childhood.

Dan Gillson said...

im-skeptical:

A few things on your revised list:

1. I like the addition of #7.

2. Your criteria are still too formalistic, which is why, according to your criteria, a fringe case such as PETA can be interpreted either as being a religion or not.

3. You're forgetting that religion also plays a mediatory function between its adherents and their experiences such that the religious/spiritual experiences of believers seem uniquely realistic. A fringe case like PETA would be easily disqualified along those lines.

Ape in a Cape said...

Linton,

Building shelters to escape the coming of the great and fear inspiring day of judgement won't work. That kind of thing has already been tried. ;)

I'm glad that we can agree that a mystery can be considered as anything not understood, since this had already been properly demonstrated in an earlier post.

I don't have the time to engage this matter as much as I would like, but suffice it to say, your response doesn't seem to have contributed much except by way of scientistic posturing. If this is an area of personal interest to you, I would have liked to have seen you engage with this topic in a more substantive way. Be that as it may, however, the problems that confront contemporary origin of life researchers don't appear to being going away anytime soon. Here are but a handful of obstinate issues that have thus far proven indissoluble (there are many more):

* The inapplicability of evolutionary processes to elementary particles.
* The absence of a self-organizational chemical principle capable of distensive complexification.
* The mitigation of thermodynamic decay within chemical substrates prior to self-organization.
* The lack of a communicable inorganic replication mechanism to organic material.
* The problem of antecedent environmental hostility to primeval organic replication.

If providing an empirical description for each of these wasn't hard enough, then consider the combinatorial problem that origins scientists are faced with when attempting to articulate a comprehensive solution.

In sum, while I think that having confidence in scientific progress is admirable, I hope you can better understand why I'm personally far more comfortable with a less aggressive stance on just how far the boundaries of science can be extended.

Ape.

Crude said...

Dan,

3. You're forgetting that religion also plays a mediatory function between its adherents and their experiences such that the religious/spiritual experiences of believers seem uniquely realistic. A fringe case like PETA would be easily disqualified along those lines.

If you're talking about what I think you're talking about here, then communism is ruled out immediately. That may not be a problem for yourself, but it's going to be a problem if the goal is to draw the lines so communism is a religion.

But I'd still want to know what you mean about 'the experience of believers' seeming 'uniquely realistic'.

Skep,

6. It has a comprehensive, life-governing ideology and dogmatic beliefs dictated by the leaders.

You'd have to spell this out a bit more. What's 'comprehensive'? A PETA member's diet, their choices of clothing, etc, is radically more restrictive than my own choices in the same general fields, and more than most typical Christians' as well. What makes a belief 'dogmatic'? What makes the ideology 'life-governing'?

7. Its followers are dedicated to and controlled by the ideology, with varying degrees of intensity ranging from partial submission to fanaticism.

That seems to snap up everyone who has beliefs, period. It cashes out to 'If you have a belief and you subscribe to it or live by it to any degree whatsoever', unless you've got some further qualifications to add.

And another fun question, while I wait for the answer to my PETA questions on point 2: doesn't your list make any statesman religious?

Let's take, say... a patriotic Americam. Onto the list we go again:

1. It is a social movement, practiced by groups of people.

Nations seem to qualify trivially.

2. It promises deliverance, salvation, or a better life for its followers.

You're going to have to look long and hard for the nation that does not promise at the very least a better life for those who pledge themselves to it or become a citizen.

3. It threatens punishment or damnation for those who leave the fold.

Here's probably the trickiest part. You can leave many countries without being punished, but just about every country has laws on the books for being a traitor, having sympathies for another nation over one's own, etc.

4. It has one or more objects of worship or veneration.

Veneration absolutely abounds for various principles (including secular ones!) and ideals of the nation.

5. It is institutionalized and has leaders who exercise authority over the followers of the movement.

Trivially true with nations.

6. It has a comprehensive, life-governing ideology and dogmatic beliefs dictated by the leaders.

Trivially true with nations.

7. Its followers are dedicated to and controlled by the ideology, with varying degrees of intensity ranging from partial submission to fanaticism.

Back to the problems with 7 - it's so broad as stated that it's going to catch up everyone from nominal statesmen to liberty-or-death patriots.

8. It is self perpetuating - it passes its ideology to new followers through a deliberate process of indoctrination, concentrating especially on impressing the ideology during early childhood.

Mandatory public schooling and/or educational standards, youth outreach, and more.

Dan Gillson said...

Crude,

Well, yes: I don't think that Communism is a religion. I think it's a political philosophy. As far as your second question goes, I was channelling Geertz. What I meant was that the experiences of believers seem uniquely realistic to them, and that religion mediates those sorts of experiences.

Crude said...

Dan,

What I meant was that the experiences of believers seem uniquely realistic to them, and that religion mediates those sorts of experiences.

Honest to God (ha), I'm not trying to be obtuse here. But can you explain what you mean with an example? Like I said, I -think- I understand what you mean, but I'm trying to see where you're coming from since I wonder how it cashes out in terms of so and so being a religious believer.

Dan Gillson said...

Crude,

Take the Sacrament of Holy Communion, for example. You have the unique realistic experience of partaking in the body and blood of Christ being mediated by the Christian religion. An atheist, for example, experiences no such reality.

im-skeptical said...

Dan,

"You're forgetting that religion also plays a mediatory function between its adherents and their experiences such that the religious/spiritual experiences of believers seem uniquely realistic."

I see that as a property of the dogma that belongs to the religion. The Catholic church has dogma attached the sacrament of communion that can be said to mediate the experience of believers, but ultimately, the experience they have is bound up in their acceptance of the dogma. Different religions have different dogma.

Communism is not a religion in the traditional sense of being oriented toward a deity, but it meets all of the criteria I have outlined. It is more than just a political philosophy. In our country, the Republican and Democratic parties don't control the lives of the people the way the communist regimes do (did) in North Korea or the Soviet Union. They don't use the same kind of coercive control or indoctrination. These things set communism apart from political philosophies, and make it look much more like a religion.

Crude said...

And, since we're throwing out alternative definitions, I'll give my own off-the-cuff definition of religion, or ingredients for a religion.

1. It involves a group of people who self-identify as being part of that group - an identifiable community.
2. A key part of the identification involves relatively homogeneous metaphysical commitments in the broad sense. Reject those metaphysical commitments, and you are not in the group.
3. Strong acceptance of or devotion to those metaphysical commitments is generally regarded as a particularly good thing by members of that group.
4. Getting more people to accept those same metaphysical commitments is likewise regarded, in general, as a particularly good thing by members of that group, or even a key goal.

I think this adheres to a standard Victor gave long ago for a religion - something about how your definition must at the same time include buddhists but exclude the Dallas Cowboys.

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