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de religione et scientia
Snippets from the ebenezer messageboard.

 

And all this patriotic and memorial talk is rot.

(Humphrey P)

So you dislike religion and you dislike men who love their nation. Anyone else one the list?

(chef)

Yes. Put me on there.
No need to discuss religion. It is a question of believing or not believing. Doesn't matter what god or godess one is talking about (just depends on what deities are currently available). The pattern remains the same. Btw, Terence McKenna had a very interesting thought on this topic: Somewhat simplified, he says that the idea of "god" developed when man ate psychoactive plants.

(gs)

Terence is asleep. Someone ought to wake him up
or get him off the drugs. But, no, this is not interesting. The idea of god corresponding to the bible begins in the word, the reason behind the nature of things. Certainly, christianity distorts this reason in certain respects. Consider Ratzinger for a minute. Consider a thought experiement, MINE, for a momeent.

The man (Ratzinger -- prefect of the Congregation for the Preservation of the Doctrine of the Faith or somesuch thing -- head of the Inquisition in its modern guise, second in line to the Pope) is a clear thinker who made creation by a Reasonable God simple and profound in contradistinction to other possibilities.
What I found most interesting was the argument that when science looks at the universe it reveals a profound rationality, a remarkable success of the human mind to see rational principles behind everything, and that even relativity and other new-fangled theories have brought us to the point where the "hypothesis" of an Intelligent Creator is the simplest explanation for why the universe is so ordered that we can understand it so well. He shows that scientists who deny God actually admit that God is a simpler (hence more scientific) answer to what they puzzle over, the creation of the universe, but that they reject God out of the belief that a scientist must do so, i.e. unscientifically. The only good explanation for why we can use reason to understand the world is that the world was created through Reason, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . ."
That so far I think is completely valid -- "God" as the ground of reason is compatible with atheism insofar as the only guidance or demand such a God makes of the individual human being is that by nature it is best to live by one's reason, which is quite different from the gods of the city and Christianity who demand *extra-rational things of us through *revelation.
And of course, the Cardinal makes no argument for how we know which revelation is correct, except that the Creation Account of Judaeism/Christianity is the most rational creation account: but that very account does *not establish revelation (consider the words "in the beginning": Who says tihs? We are not told . . . ).
Preceisely because this is the conclusion of reason, it does establish that anyone who wrote it "talked to God" except by reasoning. But Rat. does argue that from the fact that an Intelligence created the universe and the fact that only one being in that universe (man) is created with a capacity to reason like God, it follows that God has special intentions for us, or that God Loves us. Therefore, reason shows us that we have a special place in the cosmos and that this is the plan of God, suggesting that we ought to be open to hearing more from God through something else other than reason. This is symbolized in Genesis by forbidding man to eat the fruit-- with no reason except obedience to God, whose larger Reason is the precondition of our own smaller reason. Reason therefore is supposed to teach us that its own ground is obedience to God.

I would say that the creation story, inasmuch as it shows this, cannot explain how God cares for us. He supposedly created us along with a good creation and Adam and Eve could use their reason and see their place in this perfect order. So if this is the highest good, why were they tempted from it? They were ignorant of good and evil, the Cardinal says, but how could they have been if the highest human task is good and they had access to it from the beginning? "Obedience" to God would not be necessary if one possessed reason and saw clearly what was good; so the need for obedience in the garden of Eden belies the supposed teaching that man being the "image of God" is blessed with reason whose use is the proper means of worshipping God.

The problem with the Christian teaching of the Fall is that Christians cannot accept death as just and compatible with happiness; we have to blame our own sin for the existence of death; but that sin is nexplicable if the God created us immortal and good. therefore Christians touch upon the philospohic view of the cosmos, but cannot grasp it because they cannot admit that "God" would give us reason so that we could grasp a nature which meant our own necessary death. Like those wholook to the external conditions of peace and harmony in contemplation rather than the inner harmony amidst a strife-filled world.

So my closing thought is that McKenna is a lazy fool (not even a pedant).

(chef)

Terence is asleep. Someone ought to wake him up or get him off the drugs. But, no, this is not interesting.

It is indeed very interesting as soon as one starts asking different, uncomfortable questions. It is likely to make you look for different answers, at least if you are honest to yourself. Open your mind ? Yes. Open your mind !

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I doubt it is a remarkable success of the human mind to apply rationality to all and everything. This way of thinking (and acting) without ever questioning yourself makes a few comparations come to my mind. It is the male way of thinking, not the female one. The hard way, not the soft one (the one water takes when it adapts its shape to get through the tiniest openings). It is digital for it only has two states: right or wrong, whereas the analogous, the assoziative way of thinking exists as well. But this is just a side note.

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To find an answer to the Rat's reasoning, let me go the way of "scientific thinking":
What do scientists do to find answers to their questions ?
They make models of reality. These models usually have a mathematical character, i.e. they have basically the quality of being computable, countable, and so on. A model is valid as long as it allows finding seemingly correct answers to physical questions. As soon as it is proven that a model leads to wrong answers it is not considered valid anymore, at least not for that question. It has to be restricted, amended or replaced. What do physicians do to find new answers ? They change their models of the world and try to find out if the changed model still leads to correct answers.

Now, when the Rat states, that the most advanced and complex theories of the scientific world have brought us to the point where the "hypothesis" of an Intelligent Creator is the simplest explanation for why the universe is so ordered that we can understand it so well, he does nothing else than any scientist would do: He changes the model. Only, he does it in a way that no physician would see as valid: He introduces a black box named "God" with no known properties but "intelligence". The resulting model can not be used to make more or more exact physic calculations. The new introduced part called "God" is not computable.
This is the actual reason why no scientist introduces a "God" in his equations. It is just no valid scientific way of arguing. And it is plainly wrong that scientists who deny God actually admit that God is a simpler (hence more scientific) answer to what they puzzle over. Neither implies the act of denying "God" as a part of the model that that would be a simpler solution, nor is it true that "simpler" is the same as "more scientific".

The Rat is clever: He starts out with some headlines taken from the a world model that is based on logic positivism. Then he jumps to his religious stuff, trying to make you believe that he is still in "scientific mode". But with that step he leaves the perimeter of logic positivism and goes to a completely different philosophical model of the world, which has completely different basics and completely different assumptions. I wouldn't say that positivism is the only way to look at the world. But if you try to argue scientifically, you should heed the boundaries of the model you are using.

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The only good explanation for why we can use reason to understand the world is that the world was created through Reason.

...the fact that an Intelligence created the universe and the fact that only one being in that universe (man) is created with a capacity to reason like God, it follows that God has special intentions for us, or that God Loves us


This reminds me of Leibniz' ontological proof of God. He says: God is absolute. A necessary part of absoluteness is existence, because nothing that does not exist can be considered absolute. Hence God has to exist.
The mistake lies in the beginning: "God is absolute". That is an assumption, nothing more. Back to the Rat. Who is he to judge that we really do understand the world ? Do we understand the world ? Or do we just see, what we want to see. What about Schrödingers cat ? Is it there the moment we turn around ?

The so-called "facts" are not as hard as the Rat would like them to be. My imagination is good enough to see that the world we live in might not have been "created" at all. It might be pure chance. And how the hell anyone wants to be sure that we are the only thinking beings in the universe ? Sorry, but this part of Ratzingers argumentation is crap.

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There's many more ways to look at religion than just the scientific one.
For instance, take the psychological approach:
Why man needs "God" is not that this deity is a logical must-be. It is rather a "tool" that helps man to cope with its own limitations. The limit of knowledge about the universe, the limited capacity to take all the atrocities that happen daily and the limited life-span that every human being has. Religion is a way to meet the metaphysical needs of man. Read Schopenhauers dialog "On Religion", chapter XV of Parerga und Paralipomena II.

English: http://www.concentric.net/~Wkiernan/text/Source/roe.txt
German: http://homes.rhein-zeitung.de/~ahipler/kritik/religion.htm

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I am far from believing that any person - be it The Rat, be it McKenna or be it someone else - is in possession of the truth. I just pick my pieces of truth wherever I find them. Bricks in the house of my own, very personal reality.
There is no brick with the letters G,O,D engraved.

(gs)

I don't agree that it is interesting or serious. Or that your need to defend it is not my inclination.
And honesty to oneself is not the issue. If a question makes me uncomfortable (and this is a strech here since I did not "feel" discomfort) than I consider that I was offended by the question or that it offended "my god" if you will (the source of my beliefs). Now, you may say that if I work to overcome this discomfort by giving validty to a question which is essentially doing violence to my belief then I am keeping an open mind. But this is essentially a platitude. You wish to undermine prejudice and replace it with openness to a question. A question which is not serious in that it cannot account for religion or its attendant beliefs. It does not bother to understand the nature of that belief by reading and following the belief through its authoratative texts nor does it seek to understand believers as believers understand themselves. Anyone who has serious belief will not take this seriously and I consider that it is "enlightenment" at heart.

Perhaps your "heart" is in the right place. Perhaps, also, there is no god for you. Although, my guess is that a life without belief is impoverished (particularly since you are not a philosopher).

Your point about male and female thinking is not clear to me. I have taken some of your comments as serious (and certainly I shall keep them in mind). But I don't think you have hit my point. And also I consider that your "own personal reality" is a condition of modernity since this is the common way of speaking about the truth or hapiness or any one of these "abstractions" -- which were not always characterized as such (abstractly). Any liberal mind can find its own source of hapiness or own source of truth since this mind is characterized by relativism. It appears that you are a relativist.

That is because you do not mention nature or give it a place in your seeking. And I may read Schop~ down the road, but really he is not a very serious philosopher.

By the way philosophy is rarely about argumentation. Perhaps, it will occur to you at some point?

(chef)

I defended "it" ? What ? Terence McKenna ? Nah, he's old enough to defend himself. His argumentation ? No.
If I really "defended" anything at all (I don't think so), then nothing but the ability to spend a few minutess on thoughts, that ask different questions than one has heard before. But that you already know. You call it a platitude.

And you tell us why: A question which is not serious in that it cannot account for religion or its attendant beliefs. So you only want to deal with questions that are considerate of your beliefs. Well...but than we are back at where we came from.

No need to discuss religion. It is a question of believing or not believing

You keep your belief, I keep mine. (Or must I say "my unbelief" ?) Why dicuss something when both of us are not prepared to move ?

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But where do we go now, after having realized that there is not much we could talk about ?

Ahh ! Once upon a time, the eagle spread his wings of knowledge and belief. Looking down, his sharp eyes caught sight of some tiny mice and with contempt he watched their impoverished lives. {rest of the ferrytale} Today, there's fewer and fewer eagles and still a lot of mice...

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Your point about male and female thinking is not clear to me.

What I called the male way of thinking is the "clear and sharp" thinking of the Rat. Compare it to the Daodejing. I suppose, you'd say that the latter is not clear and sharp. That's what I called female. Better expressions could be found, I admit.

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By the way philosophy is rarely about argumentation.

I've always been thinking it is about asking questions.

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Btw, what do you mean by relativism ? This point is not clear to me.

(gs)

If I misrepresented you (and it is possible) then you will correct me. Perhaps you did not defend McKenna but at least it appeared that way. Of course you are right that philosophy is concerned primarily with questions -- and I admittedly like your idea. Although, do you think that all questions are equally valid? Such as the question McKenna raises. That would be relativism in my opinion -- no hierarchy of "beliefs" so there is no qualified transcendence from "beliefs" to knowledge (whether one can actually possess knowledge that is provable or rather an awareness that is unprovable is another issue). I suppose there is a better way to clarify this... but I consider that my previous post explains why I think the question to be problematic. Of course I am no philosopher. And I like to argue. Perhaps, I was reminding myself of certain limitations!

(chef)