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  1. #201
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Fumarole's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pepper View Post
    Yes, but all of those things had a physical impact in the world that could be observed, measured and discussed(objectively). Religion has none of those things.
    It's important to separate the beliefs of a religion from the religion itself. The impact of religion on the world is very real.
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  2. #202
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Berzee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fumarole View Post
    It's important to separate the beliefs of a religion from the religion itself. The impact of religion on the world is very real.
    Yeah, I wasn't talking about a belief-o-meter. It's relatively easy to detect and quantify the beliefs in a person's head with current scientific methods and technology, already. (Although, we have yet to settle on a standardized metric unit of faith, so we still have some ways to go).
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  3. #203
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berzee View Post
    Now they can be discussed objectively, because we have the instruments, but before people knew how to measure atmospheric pressure all we had to go on was old people with creaky knees, predictin' the weather.
    Yes, I think that is more myth then fiction, experience may have allowed them to have a good grip on changing weather situations, but I find it unlikely that they are capable of experiencing subtle changes in air pressure.

    Note that we couldnt quantify them in the past but we could often observe them(say temperature), and realize that the rough changes could mean a switchover in seasons or changing local weather. And this was millennia before we could accurately observe and quantify it in something we call temperature.

    No indications are there for your religion-based measurement hypethese. For now its something that solely belongs in the domain of religion and fits in with the claims that are oft heard from that domain.
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  4. #204
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fumarole View Post
    It's important to separate the beliefs of a religion from the religion itself. The impact of religion on the world is very real.
    Oh yes quite so, the effects of believing in deity's and acting in the name of such concepts have shown to be quite harmful to the world in general.
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  5. #205
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berzee View Post
    Yeah, I wasn't talking about a belief-o-meter. It's relatively easy to detect and quantify the beliefs in a person's head with current scientific methods
    Or 'asking people' and 'seeing what they do'.

    and technology, already.
    What? Well, bits of paper, cameras that sort of thing I suppose.

    (Although, we have yet to settle on a standardized metric unit of faith, so we still have some ways to go).
    Why would you want a dimensional measure of 'faith'? What would be the point?

  6. #206
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berzee View Post
    Since science is able to quantify all of these things, maybe we can look forward to the creation of a reliable transcendentometer (spiritometer?) at some point too, though perhaps not in our lifetime.
    There are various psychometrics that attempt to describe, in a structured fashion, individual's religious beliefs.

    Part of the problem is that there isn't clear agreement on what beliefs are religious and which aren't - I would push that it's beliefs about 'transcendent' entities, where I'd use transcendent to mean (very broadly) outside of the physical and outside of empirical investigation.

    That definition draws a line between religion and magic, yet some people would want to argue that they're the same thing. To make that more concrete - how similar are beliefs in wishing and beliefs in prayer? (As it happens, work done in this area with children tends to indicate quite different beliefs about wishing and prayer.)

  7. #207
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    Quote Originally Posted by pepper View Post
    Denying all empirical evidence also implies that it is a question that only belongs in the realms of philosophy
    Lots of self-avowed 'philosophy' is concerned with stuff that's open to 'empirical evidence' - certainly (almost) everything that labels itself 'analytical philosophy'. It belongs in the realm of religion!

    Therefore one might argue that the question if there is or isnt a god is completely trivial. Any claim made concerning that statement could probably never be proven, and thus is not something to ponder about.
    That's largely my view, but I've never had any experience that's truly felt even at the time like a genuine revelation of the divine.

    For someone who has had such an experience - private and unrepeatable - I can appreciate that it's not a trivial question.
    Last edited by Zetetic; 17-07-2013 at 07:02 PM.

  8. #208
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Berzee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zetetic
    Why would you want a dimensional measure of 'faith'? What would be the point?
    That's true, it doesn't necessarily need to be numerically quantifiable, just able to be verified somehow (like with the 'various psychometrics' or 'asking people' you mentioned ^_^). Unfortunately it all relies on a person's first-hand recounting of their own thoughts and internal experiences, so their account of what they believe is likely to be subjective and perhaps not actually representative of what they believe (humorously, this topic comes up a great deal within religious services because the way people behave is often at odds with their expressed beliefs)...this unavoidable reliance on self-analysis makes it sadly difficult to get a precise report.

    I do appreciate that this weirdly-resuscitated thread has managed to separate the two topics of "Is what you believe true?" and "Is what you believe going to make you crazy?" from each other a bit, since they're both interesting and too frequently treated as one and the same. =)

    Anyhow, Zetetic, your posts have quite satisfied my appetite for sensibility and thoughtfulness for the time being, so I should be able to read in peace and spare everyone from further nonsense (unless I think of something thrilling to say).
    Last edited by Berzee; 17-07-2013 at 07:20 PM.
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  9. #209
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berzee View Post
    That's true, it doesn't necessarily need to be numerically quantifiable, just able to be verified somehow (like with the 'various psychometrics' or 'asking people' you mentioned ^_^). Unfortunately it all relies on a person's first-hand recounting of their own thoughts and internal experiences, so their account of what they believe is likely to be subjective and perhaps not actually representative of what they believe (humorously, this topic comes up a great deal within religious services because the way people behave is often at odds with their expressed beliefs)...this unavoidable reliance on self-analysis makes it sadly difficult to get a precise report.
    So, what you're saying is a RNG should suffice.

    We already have those.
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  10. #210
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berzee View Post
    That's true, it doesn't necessarily need to be numerically quantifiable, just able to be verified somehow (like with the 'various psychometrics' or 'asking people' you mentioned ^_^). Unfortunately it all relies on a person's first-hand recounting of their own thoughts and internal experiences, so their account of what they believe is likely to be subjective and perhaps not actually representative of what they believe (humorously, this topic comes up a great deal within religious services because the way people behave is often at odds with their expressed beliefs)
    That's a fair point, and that's perhaps part of it - it's important both what people say they believe and it's also important what beliefs that they betray by acting otherwise.

    ...this unavoidable reliance on self-analysis makes it sadly difficult to get a precise report.
    That's an interesting question as well though - how precise a report should we ever expect? People's beliefs, perhaps particularly about God, can be rather fuzzy.

    I should be able to read in peace and spare everyone from further nonsense (unless I think of something thrilling to say).
    I'm sorry for being a bit aggressive! It wasn't nonsense by any means.

  11. #211
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Sparkasaurusmex's Avatar
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    This book (God Delusion) paired with The Selfish Gene was some of the most influential reading in my entire life. I'm sorry the OP did not like The God Delusion, but for me it was exactly what I needed to read when I read it. Perhaps it works best if the target audience are weekend atheists or on-the-fence agnostics.

  12. #212
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Fumarole's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparkasaurusmex View Post
    Perhaps it works best if the target audience are weekend atheists or on-the-fence agnostics.
    I'm with you on loving those two books, but it's important to remember that atheists and agnostics aren't mutually exclusive. The former addresses belief while the latter addresses knowledge.
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  13. #213
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Sparkasaurusmex's Avatar
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    Sorry, I didn't mean to imply they were mutually exclusive. When I read The God Delusion I was totally ready to be atheist, but could not admit it publicly. Something (or many things) in that book (along with Selfish Gene) made me realize that I could openly be Atheist. It got me out of the closet, so to speak.

  14. #214
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Fumarole's Avatar
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    No need to apologize. When I discuss things like this it is quite often aimed at people who are reading and not necessarily the person with whom I am having the discussion. There are many misconceptions about atheism out there, so I like to clear them up when possible.
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  15. #215
    For what's it worth I agree with most of the God Delusion.

    Quote Originally Posted by monk View Post
    I think the most reasonable view is agnosticism.
    There is no evidence to support Theism really. I would argue Atheism is the only reasonable response when applying logic.

    Are you also agnostic about the existence of magical realm of Middle-earth?


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=beYYZRN1sEs

    If you are agnostic about the existence of God from the Abraham based religions you should also be agnostic about all those "gods" from the vid above.
    Last edited by Lone Gunman; 24-07-2013 at 06:45 PM.

  16. #216
    Network Hub Jambe's Avatar
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    The God Delusion was alright; it'd take quite some tetchiness to find it offensive. Piss Christ was offensive; the God Delusion was tame and earnest. Maybe Jesus was a sociopathic con artist who eventually struck paydirt in Messianists who were receptive to his bs because they were downtrodden in comparison to the Sadducees and other more worldly Jews. Historical evidence of the era's Messianic cult-mongering (esp. the Jesus variety) is poor enough that it's plausible.

    I'm an antitheist atheist but that's not part of my self-identity anymore than my non-polo and non-cribbage are. I just tend to mock shit if I feel it needs mocking, so I'll mock e.g. zotchbie Christ and transcendent Buddha insofar as they are genuinely believed. I don't often mock e.g. thundering Tlaloc or tempest-whipping Poseidon because they've mostly passed into mythological status and their genuine believers are now widely denigrated (even ironically by Christians and Buddhists).

    I think moral relativists who feel science elicits absolute or universal truths are as wrongheaded and dangerous as absolutists from traditional religions. I mean the sort of "no moral statement is useful" egotists who think they're amoral logic-computers sussing out the pure maths and/or physics of the human condition, not sophisticated relativists e.g. Jesse Prinz or Gilbert Harman or error theorists like Russell Blackford (I think they're wrong about "free will", but that's another messy issue).



    Tangential ponderings: I don't want "religion" to be a mere totem for myth-as-truth nuttery because that's a cheap way to demonize the Other. Consider that "losing my religion" is a Southern American colloquialism meaning "losing my cool" and then (for my purposes) imagine that the object of intention in this song is "absolute/universal truth" rather than a loved one, and you have something of a distillation of my views on the (I think artifical) contrast between science and religion.

    If "religion" is to be compatible with science then it must encourage doubt of and criticality toward the self and more generally toward all perspective-bound minds. It must promote wariness of our tendency to settle on comfortable truths. It must encourage questioning and investigation and it must adopt the main precept of science (something like "assume naturalism and seek maximum reproducibility in explanations via thoroughly-exposited methodology & unambiguous data"). It must ultimately teach that there are no perfect explanations, though, lest it devolve into despotism.

    Science is innately moralistic; it's about how we should rightly assemble knowledge. It is replete with various norms about how one should approach some domain of knowledge, and the paradigm shifts that arise in science come about because a norm was abandoned or superseded by a different one. In that sense, science is doing what traditional religions were first doing but it's a helluva lot better at it because 1) it assumes the physical universe is real & testable and non-physical shit is unnecessary and 2) it encourages critiquing the ideas we develop rather than turning them into ends unto themselves.

    I don't like thinking of science only as an abstract, though. The idea that it's an amoral Shining Beacon on a Hill – always sought and never attained – is eerily reminiscent of a core conceit of Christianity: that even in Paradise we're still separate from the godhead. In reality, the godhead is a boring linguistic paradox and aspiring to its presence is delusional. We only have imperfectly-understood systems, and bsing about nonphysical phenomena seems as arrogant as peddling absolute truths.
    Last edited by Jambe; 25-07-2013 at 12:30 AM.
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  17. #217
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jambe View Post
    I think moral relativists who feel science elicits absolute or universal truths
    That would, by definition, make them not​ moral relativists.

    In fact, that would pretty much drum them out of science, too. Science is out for universal truths as much as journalists are out for perfect objectivity: It's a goal, not a standard. There's a reason our most beloved scientific principles are theories: They're testable, they're reproducible, they stand up to the best criticism we have to offer. But they're only good until something better comes along, and it's pretty much assumed that, as our instruments and our practices continue progressing, something better will come along.
    Last edited by Nalano; 25-07-2013 at 01:06 AM.
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  18. #218
    Network Hub Jambe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nalano View Post
    That would, by definition, make them not​ moral relativists.
    It depends on one's PoV. If "science" merely consists of description then it doesn't necessarily involve morality and naive moral relativists can thus neatly cleave science from religion like a petulant child running away from home (religion being "whatever involves moralizing"). If however science involves prescription as well as description, then it's innately tied up with morality and thus not so neatly walled off from religion. Science does involve prescription, ofc; we're not born with that body of method & knowledge. In that sense, science is the "true" religion and the old traditional religions are its obsessive parents who turned inward and became self-destructively narcissistic after science went off to college.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nalano View Post
    In fact, that would pretty much drum them out of science, too. Science is out for universal truths as much as journalists are out for perfect objectivity: It's a goal, not a standard. There's a reason our most beloved scientific principles are theories: They're testable, they're reproducible, they stand up to the best criticism we have to offer. But they're only good until something better comes along, and it's pretty much assumed that, as our instruments and our practices continue progressing, something better will come along.
    That's agreeable, although again I think those abstractions need tempering with the world-weary realization that we are limited and bound to fail in pursuit of our idealistic goals (otherwise we'll get too cocksure and become bullshit-peddlers no better than priests or imams). This is one of my go-to summaries when talking about science:

    http://www.notjustatheory.com/

    /edit: just saw this, I feel I must include it for for the giggles:

    Last edited by Jambe; 25-07-2013 at 04:29 AM.
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  19. #219
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jambe View Post
    It depends on one's PoV. If "science" merely consists of description then it doesn't necessarily involve morality and naive moral relativists can thus neatly cleave science from religion like a petulant child running away from home (religion being "whatever involves moralizing"). If however science involves prescription as well as description, then it's innately tied up with morality and thus not so neatly walled off from religion. Science does involve prescription, ofc; we're not born with that body of method & knowledge. In that sense, science is the "true" religion and the old traditional religions are its obsessive parents who turned inward and became self-destructively narcissistic after science went off to college.
    I'm not saying science doesn't have some things to say about morals. Everything informs morals.

    I'm saying that you can't speak in absolutes and still be a relativist. Again, there is no "religion" of science because science is by its very nature critical of everything and for one to be a believer one must be uncritical.
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  20. #220
    Network Hub Jambe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nalano View Post
    I'm not saying science doesn't have some things to say about morals. Everything informs morals.

    I'm saying that you can't speak in absolutes and still be a relativist.
    You're preaching the choir; I used the word "naive" purposefully. Many people genuinely self-identify as amoral, unemotional logicians ("I am compute-life; I calculate ought from is; dirty fleshsacks, you disgust me"). In my experience, that is their way of (needlessly) erecting a wall between science and religion, because grr religion.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nalano View Post
    Again, there is no "religion" of science because science is by its very nature critical of everything and for one to be a believer one must be uncritical.
    If science is a gleaming abstract – a Shining Beacon on a Hill – then sure. Science is actually practiced entirely by limited critters, though; we're not by our nature critical of everything; we can't be! We ultimately take everything on insufficient evidence given that we don't have the full account of particle positions in the cosmos.

    I'm a "believer" in the notion that skepticism and the scientific method are the best tools we've developed to assemble knowledge in the face of our innate biases. Having done so myself in the past, I believe one must go to ridiculous lengths to contort the word "belief" into a barrier between science and religion. I don't think the lengths are worthwhile.

    Furthermore, I really like it when I'm accused of scientism and such. I can reply with shit like this:

    • Fine! Yes! My religion is to try generally being nice to other people, because I like feeling nice and I find that other people like feeling nice.
    • My religion is to try finding positive aspects of other people to establish goodwill and to then to try changing their negative aspects in the most honest manner possible because this seems the most reliable method of persuasion.
    • My religion is to try advocating the controlled study of mind-altering drugs and mind-altering behaviors, because I think if we secularists are to erode the influence of outdated religions we must usurp their hegemony over the numinous, spiritual, and ineffable parts of our lives.
    • My religion is to try to promote a measured and contextual approach to knowledge rather than an emotional and abstract approach, because I think being measured (i.e. methodical and skeptical) allows us to tease apart the nuances of reality such that we learn how it works and because I think being contextual (i.e. being inclined to demand & present rigorous supporting information & careful inferences) makes what we learn from our measured investigations less ambiguous and thus more accessible to a wider audience.


    If they want to undermine the word science, then I'll sap the foundation of the word religion. It's cute when that shit gets a reply like, "Haha, it's comforting that you see you're not that different from us after all!" I then traipse back through the litany of bullshit traditionally-religious folk will have usually spewed, angled as if they're accusing me:

    Fuck me for doubting myself! Fuck me for religiously preferring rehabilitation to retributive punishment! Fuck me for religiously prioritizing criticality over credulity! Fuck me for being religiously averse to appeals to authority / tradition / majority, post hoc fallacies, confirmation biases, begging of questions, hasty generalizations, etc! Fuck me for religiously demanding scrupulousness in theorizing and forthrightness in presentation of evidence! And so on.

    Most dictionaries suggest "religion" has the connotation of "something believed very strongly or with much ardor". If that connotation has any truth then science (with skepticism) is my religion, and I don't mind calling it a religion because I'm not afraid of words, because I don't need cheap totemistic insults to rhetorically engage shitty reasoning, and because I want to defy theology-laden minds which insist on spreading poo all over my lexicon.

    I believe science is the best tool we have for assembling knowledge because it most accurately explains & predicts the natural world. I believe skepticism is the best thing going to ensure science is done right because it promotes critique of the knowledge science assembles such that it can be continually refined and this same mechanism guards against our ability to be content merely with "good enough". If that's a religion, fine! The takeaway, then, is that adherents of the old religions need to shed their bullshit and get with the times. We're all ultimately making truth claims but we've diverged greatly in how we determine confidence in those claims; some of our methods are clearly better than others.
    Last edited by Jambe; 25-07-2013 at 09:03 PM.
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