Author Topic: Reading I Don't Believe In Athiests right now.  (Read 7872 times)

Kai

  • A flea circus and
  • Deserved It
  • ****
  • Posts: 87029
  • Richard Feynman fangirl.
    • View Profile
Re: Reading I Don't Believe In Athiests right now.
« Reply #30 on: December 06, 2008, 05:46:01 pm »
Was sitting at the bar last night, reading IDBIA and trying to summarize the main points. This is just assuming Hedges has already put forward his points and the rest of the book (I'm more than halfway) is just more supporting evidence.

The major assumption Hedges starts off with is that human nature is flawed. Whether you call it sin, or something else, human beings are constantly afflicted by greed, for wealth and power, and temperment for violence. This is something that has been shown throughout the history of human civilization, cycles of wars and unrest. Hedges sees in this no moral advancement of humanity; we are still stuck with the same basic flaws we started with, and while individually we can work out this sin (or whatever you want to call it) through ethics, and tempering of our flawed nature, while collectively we are brutal and violent. Utopia, is by Hedges, impossible.

Now, generally, people can individually or at a collective level develop systems of ethics (either religious or nonreligious) that work in tempering human nature. Athiests and theists alike can do this, it doesn't require a believe in a personal god to be moral. All these ethical systems are still working on the basic concept that human nature is flawed, it has always been flawed and it will always be flawed, so we make "rules" for ourselves and others to temper these flaws.

However, if you go beyond that, and find believe in some sort of moral progress of humanity, and have a vision of a future utopia, then you have forsaken this idea of a flawed humanity. You see this utopian vision and the "ends justify the means". Whether this vision is of a unified people under science and technology or a glorious heaven, they are both false visions because they fail to accept the reality of human nature. This is something that both christians who believe in the rapture and visions of the second coming and athiests who see a technological utopia where all the wrongs of human society will be banished share. They are fundamentalists, in the sense that they hold to a fundamental vision that does not match reality and cannot be swayed from this vision. This fundamentalism leads to self-deification and the inability to do no wrong in their quest.

In shorter summary, human nature is flawed. Ethics can be used to check these flaws. Utopia is impossible, and those who have utopic visions are dangerous in that they have lost sight of flawed humanity, allowing them to justify any act in their efforts to make this vision a reality. Fundamentalists, either Theist or Atheist, are bad.
If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water. --Loren Eisley, The Immense Journey

Her Royal Majesty's Chief of Insect Genitalia Dissection
Grand Visser of the Six Legged Class
Chanticleer of the Holometabola Clade Church, Diptera Parish

Honey

  • just visiting &
  • Outlandish
  • ***
  • Posts: 5618
    • View Profile
Re: Reading I Don't Believe In Athiests right now.
« Reply #31 on: December 07, 2008, 05:51:08 pm »
This is very interesting to me.  Thanks for the analysis.  I dunno if you would be interested in taking a look at the debates here:

http://www.skeptic.com/reading_room/debates.html

http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/05-09-28.html

http://www.skeptic.com/reading_room/debates/afterlife.html

2 of the debates are between Deepak Chopra & Michael Shermer, 1 is about science, the afterlife & the meaning of life & the other is about the value of skepticism.

I like the idea of skepticism but the practice sometimes falls short.  I also like the idea of presenting other views besides Chritianity, especially the fundamentalist type of the kind most popular in the US.
Fuck the status quo!

The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure & the intelligent are full of doubt.
-Bertrand Russell

Kai

  • A flea circus and
  • Deserved It
  • ****
  • Posts: 87029
  • Richard Feynman fangirl.
    • View Profile
Re: Reading I Don't Believe In Athiests right now.
« Reply #32 on: December 07, 2008, 07:32:05 pm »
Thank you. Skepticism is always good. What Hedges is advocating is not so much universal skepticism, however, but universal understanding that human nature is flawed. He doesn't advocate any particular religion in the book as far as I can see. He also wasn't about presenting other viewpoints, for example, he doesn't talk much about theology or belief aside from his main premise. He accepts that athiests and christians can have equally moral ethic systems, and that there is nothing inherently wrong with each view, but beyond that he focuses upon fundamentalism specifically.

I did read the essays. They seemed to reflect the MO's of these people as I know them. Deepak Chopra is a mystic of sorts that tries to bind science with religion but often looses sight of reality. Johnathan Wells is a crackpot; I've talked about him here before. Shermer is the only one I had not read previously, and he seems to be alright. Like Chopra he is trying to find middle ground between science and religion, and that is admirable. I especially like when people admit they just don't know.
If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water. --Loren Eisley, The Immense Journey

Her Royal Majesty's Chief of Insect Genitalia Dissection
Grand Visser of the Six Legged Class
Chanticleer of the Holometabola Clade Church, Diptera Parish

Iason Ouabache

  • Dark Lord of the Pit
  • Deserved It
  • ****
  • Posts: 77840
  • Genuine
    • View Profile
    • Twatter
Re: Reading I Don't Believe In Athiests right now.
« Reply #33 on: December 08, 2008, 01:22:05 am »
Shermer is fantastic.  I've only read a couple of things by him but have seen plenty of interviews, lectures, and debates.  I'd recommend anything you can find by him. 

You might like Steven Novella too, Kai. He's a neurologist, president of the New England Skeptic Society, does the Skeptic's Guide to the Universe podcast and the Science-Based Medicine blog.
You cannot fathom the immensity of the fuck i do not give.
    \
┌( ಠ_ಠ)┘┌( ಠ_ಠ)┘┌( ಠ_ಠ)┘┌( ಠ_ಠ)┘

Kai

  • A flea circus and
  • Deserved It
  • ****
  • Posts: 87029
  • Richard Feynman fangirl.
    • View Profile
Re: Reading I Don't Believe In Athiests right now.
« Reply #34 on: December 09, 2008, 12:16:23 am »
Hah! Was reading that blog in the above link, about anti-vaccine people. Thats really funny, yah know, or more aptly termed HORRORMIRTH because all it would take for something like polio to return in large numbers is to stop giving the vaccine.
If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water. --Loren Eisley, The Immense Journey

Her Royal Majesty's Chief of Insect Genitalia Dissection
Grand Visser of the Six Legged Class
Chanticleer of the Holometabola Clade Church, Diptera Parish

Kai

  • A flea circus and
  • Deserved It
  • ****
  • Posts: 87029
  • Richard Feynman fangirl.
    • View Profile
Re: Reading I Don't Believe In Athiests right now.
« Reply #35 on: December 14, 2008, 06:38:43 pm »
So, in the last chapter of IDBIA, Hedges predictably makes his case for the usefulness of religion. I guess I don't mind it so much, since his whole book has been excellent overall, and he is working from that viewpoint so probably feels it needs to be said. I had to return Born Digital recently, it was about to go overdue.

At present, I have several journals including Cladistics, Science, Annals of the Entomological Society of America and others. I also have a book on loan from my adviser on systematics, several books on the philosophy of biology including one on Popperian philosophy, a book on biological morphometry, and the book on aquatic ecosystems I still haven't paged through.
If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water. --Loren Eisley, The Immense Journey

Her Royal Majesty's Chief of Insect Genitalia Dissection
Grand Visser of the Six Legged Class
Chanticleer of the Holometabola Clade Church, Diptera Parish

Honey

  • just visiting &
  • Outlandish
  • ***
  • Posts: 5618
    • View Profile
Re: Reading I Don't Believe In Athiests right now.
« Reply #36 on: December 19, 2008, 07:33:54 am »
Came across this quote (again) & thought of this thread & Kai.

Quote
These ought to be the best of times for the human mind, but it is not so. All sorts of things seem to be turning out wrong, & the century seems to be slipping through our fingers here at the end, with almost all promises unfulfilled. I cannot begin to guess at all the causes of our cultural sadness, not even the most important ones, but I can think of one thing that is wrong with us & eats away at us: We do not know enough about ourselves. We are ignorant about how we work, about where we fit in, & most of all about the enormous, imponderable system of life in which we are embedded as working parts. We do not really understand nature, at all. We have come a long way indeed, but just enough to become conscious of our ignorance. It is not so bad a thing to be totally ignorant; the hard thing is to be partway along toward real knowledge, far enough to be aware of being ignorant. It is embarrassing & depressing, & it is one of our troubles today.

It is a new experience for all of us. Only two centuries ago we could explain everything about everything, out of pure reason, & now most of that elaborate & harmonious structure has come apart before our eyes. We are dumb.

This is, in a certain sense, a health problem after all. For as long as we are bewildered by the mystery of ourselves, & confused by the strangeness of our uncomfortable connection to all the rest of life, & dumbfounded by the inscrutability of our own minds, we cannot be said to be healthy animals in today's world.

We need to know more. To come to realize this is what this seemingly inconclusive century has been all about. We have discovered how to ask important questions, & now we really do need, as an urgent matter, for the sake of our civilization, to obtain some answers. We now know that we cannot do this any longer by searching our minds, for there is not enough there to search, nor can we find the truth by guessing at it or by making up stories for ourselves. We cannot stop where we are, stuck with today's level of understanding, nor can we go back. I do see that we have a real choice in this, for I can see only the one way ahead. We need science, more & better science, not for its technology, not for leisure, not even for health or longevity, but for the hope of wisdom which our kind of culture must acquire for its survival.

-Lewis Thomas
from The Medusa & the Snail 1983

Quote
The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.  -Bertrand Russell
Fuck the status quo!

The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure & the intelligent are full of doubt.
-Bertrand Russell