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    • CommentAuthorVerissimus
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2010
     (8121.121)
    I still don't see what religion has to do with art. If a mafia head buys an expensive painting or pays an architect to build him a mansion, does that mean organized crime has done a lot to advance art?

    The link is really tenuous.

    And again, the motif is also irrelevant: the Church ordered them to paint that.
    • CommentAuthorIsaacSher
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2010
     (8121.122)
    @Verus -- Not everyone who ever painted/sculpted/sang about/wrote about the Big Jesus/God/Allah Guy was forced to do so at knife point. There are and have been many artists who were directly inspired, in a positive way, by religious concepts. Who sincerely felt in their hearts a divine concept that they felt was an important part of their lives, and were moved to create art based on such concepts.
    •  
      CommentAuthorcity creed
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2010
     (8121.123)
    @Andre - no offence taken, I expect nothing less than robust debate from you and constructive discussion is always healthy.
    Even religious extremists don't do what they do just for love of their religion, not just for a pro-religious agenda. Otherwise they'd never have had to come up with that shit about the seventy-two virgins.

    But that is a perfect example of how religion appeals to people's primitive impulses, lust in this case, in order to manipulate their thinking about unknowns. Without religion the concept of an afterlife of reward simply wouldn't exist! Science can demonstrate not only the exceedingly low probability of the seventy two virgins scenario being correct, but also the origins of those primitive impulses, their evolutionary function and how we have outgrown the need to be governed by them. Science can teach us true things about ourselves and the universe. Religion can teach us nothing, except by accident.
    Gattaca does not represent a real-world threat of "scientific extremism", its society is hardcore social Darwinist. There is nothing scientific about that. Social Darwinism (also a rationale for eugenics) is a political ideology as opposed to Darwinism which is support for a theory about evolution. Gattaca's society uses technology to inform and achieve their objectives but there is nothing inherently scientific about their aims. It is a means, not an end to them. They want to produce perfect people, not understand better how the universe works.
    You make a reasonable point about Mengele, I can see the argument and understand why it wasn't a simple Godwin as it initially appeared. I still think that you're wrong though. Yes, Mengele used science as a justification for some horrific things. Yes, there is an argument that he did what he did because on some level he believed it served science. But the deliberate cruelty, the psychopathic disregard for human life are not specifically caused by scientific thinking. Science is incapable of providing a justificaction for such horrors, they were mandated by a rabidly xenophobic and racist political ideology. People who blow themselves up on crowded streets or trains on the other hand are doing it specifically because their religious beliefs mandate it. It is the religious argument that allows them to believe that what they do is moral. Likewise, with Mengele, it was the ideology that gave him the excuse and the opportunity to indulge himself, not the scientific method.

    I'm sorry that you think I'm being narrow-minded, I don't see myself as being hostile to personal, private faith and I certainly don't intend to offend anybody else's sincerely held beliefs but as long as we're discussing it honestly I'm not going to tiptoe around out of respect for the sanctity of anyone's fantasy. Thinking someone is wrong and thinking they're an idiot are two very different things. The idea that you either have to be on the side of science or religion is absurd. I'm on the side of people in general, and most people have considerably more nuanced views than they're given credit for.

    Religious belief is often equated with stupidity by particularly aggressive atheists. This is a mistake I reckon. Sam Harris asks something like; how many more engineers and doctors have to detonate themselves before we realise that lack of intelligence is not the issue?

    Take Dr Raymand Damadian. One of the "co-inventors" of MRI and a Young Earth creationist who literally believes the planet is no more than about 6,000 years old. Now, it seems like Damadian may have had some other issues, given his little tantrum over being denied a share of the Nobel, but here is a guy who (w/e the truth of the Nobel fuss) has done some fine work pushing back the boundaries of science. MRI technology is an application of knowledge (scientia) that came from quantum mechanics! There is surely no question that this guy has a brain capable of some pretty frickin intense thinking. So how can this undoubtedly useful mind not see the obvious fallacy of such an absurd story if seeing it is simply a question of raw intelligence, or of ability to think scientifically?
    • CommentAuthorVerissimus
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2010
     (8121.124)
    Not everyone who ever painted/sculpted/sang about/wrote about the Big Jesus/God/Allah Guy was forced to do so at knife point.


    Perhaps. I don't know. I do know the Church was never shy about doing things at knife point, so they're not off the hook. I don't like the Church very much, and I'm loathe to give them credit for anything.
    •  
      CommentAuthorrickiep00h
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2010
     (8121.125)
    Well, this exploded in the past day, but I have to go back a couple of pages for this:
    @rickiep00h - I think the currently accepted theory for the formation of our Sun and the planets describes a massive, spinning molecular cloud collapsing under gravity to eventually form our solar system.
    I know that theory. I have no damn idea what would make the moon "all jaggy" from that theory.

    My comment on the art/religion tangent:

    First, I was a choral student at a private religiously-affiliated college. Everything artistic was automatically assigned its genesis in the divine. Until you got to the music theory courses, and you just dialed the whole thing back to the math and science behind western music. Music sounds the way it does because of math, and a composer can take his inspiration just as easily from religion (lots of Bach stuff) as you can humanity, natural beauty, and personal emotion (most Beethoven stuff)... plus you can mix between the two (Handel was pretty evenly spread). As for the payment aspect...



    Right around the 0:40 mark is the relevant bit. Sometimes (particularly in Renaissance-period Europe) you don't have a choice in who your paycheck comes from. But if you have a choice, there's a lot of personal preference involved. I don't care where my art comes from, honestly. Hunter Thompson got fucking loaded on drugs, but he was a damn good writer (most of the time). It's like that Bill Hicks line: "SHUT UP AND LISTEN TO HIM PLAY!" I could care less if someone believed sacrificing goats brought them eternal life if their art was good. Which is all subjective anyway.

    From this point on, I doubt I'll have much more to comment on, as Andre and Paul (et al) are making a good many comments that speak pretty well for me, regardless of their atheism versus my agnosticism. Many of the reasons I have rejected religion on a personal level are those they have outlined. So unless something really egregious comes up... I'm lurking.
  1.  (8121.126)
    I've kept out of the debate til now, because I've been absorbing and observing and enjoying the conversation. My brain is a bit cluttered and disorganized at the moment (just got back from the hospital and shuffling off general anesthetic from tests), so this might be a bit... random.

    I think organized religion, especially the Big Bad Catholic Church, is something we can almost all agree as being an institution of oppression; and the holy books of the Big Three are outdated, archaic, and mostly (if not entirely) irrelevant to our modern lives. That wasn't ever really needed to be added to the mix. Like I said, I do consider myself atheist.

    Let me shift things a bit.

    I'd recently watched this debate with Michael Shermer, Sam Harris, Deepak Chopra, and Jean Houston. I found Deepak to be infuriating, Sam Harris to be, as always, brilliant and enlightening. What I enjoy about Sam Harris is that he gives an allowance to the spiritual experience as something of merit, even if not an example of the almighty.

    In this debate, the notion that Deepak was using the term "God" and allying himself with it's existence was frustrating to the atheists, as his definition and usage of the terms was even more broad and abstract than even the most obtuse of deists. They found it frustrating that he'd profess faith in a deity that was generally thought of so literally in monotheistic faiths. I understand the frustration. (I am endlessly annoyed at "Catholics" who use birth control and have premarital sex and do not believe in the transubstantiation of the host; they ARE NOT CATHOLICS and should find a different branch of Christianity to follow if they feel they've the right to discard the Pope's edicts, but that's a whole different rant.) Really, I wanted to slap Deepak across the face during most of the debate, and I was infuriated with his pomposity. However, I don't disagree with ALL of his outlook, and I don't see it implausible that through training the mind through meditation that one might get a glimmer of the immensity of the way the universe is, how it works. We are OF the universe, and we are made of atoms. We are self-aware, so how far could that go? Without the understanding of science, this might be expressed in a religious manner.

    Joseph Campbell's explanation of religious congruency was not cultural migration, as had been generally thought, but theorized that most religions had such similarity because they were all trying to express the same things: creation, and the human condition. Unfortunately, much of the Old Testament's tales and it's demeanor of God were backlash against the woman-as-lifegiver beliefs (hence the whole rib bit), but most of the world's religions had life coming from the oceans, and even the Bible still included it's flood story. The Fall from the Garden of Eden can easily be seen as metaphor for when humanity became self aware, and found itself cut off from the animal-joy of just existing in the now.

    Or... is this just my inborn human nature, my pattern seeking brain, finding geologic answers in historic hindsight? I agree with Andre in that religion is humanity's first attempt at science; our first desperate grappling with the questions of how and why. Is this just an example of me showing my brainy heritage?

    The light at the end of the tunnel people see when they "die"? Experiments have shown that it's an experience shared by those who've lost consciousness without being close to death, and is a common brain reaction. There. It's solved. But scores of people still had what they considered a religious experience, and we would not understand why, would not have investigated, had it not been a common "afterlife" tale.

    A quote from 12 Monkeys about germs:
    Uh-huh. In the eighteenth century, no such thing, nada, nothing. No one ever imagined such a thing. No sane person, anyway. Ah! Ah! Along comes this doctor, uh, uh, uh, Semmelweis, Semmelweis. Semmelweis comes along. He's trying to convince people, well, other doctors mainly, that's there's these teeny tiny invisible bad things called germs that get into your body and make you sick. Ah? He's trying to get doctors to wash their hands. What is this guy? Crazy? Teeny, tiny, invisible? What do you call it? Uh-uh, germs? Huh? What? Now, cut to the 20th century. Last week, as a matter of fact, before I got dragged into this hellhole. I go in to order a burger in this fast food joint, and the guy drops it on the floor. Jim, he picks it up, he wipes it off, he hands it to me like it's all OK. "What about the germs?" I say. He says, "I don't believe in germs. Germs is just a plot they made up so they can sell you disinfectants and soaps." Now he's crazy, right? See?

    I keep thinking about DS9, too. It wasn't as good a B5, but it did an interesting job of establishing a devout people who were aware and accepting of the science behind their beliefs.

    I trust the scientific method, and believe quantifiable data is the only way we can learn about the world. I would not expect anyone else to put any stock in an experience I alone had, and could not quantify. But does the fact that I experience something that is not quantifiable, explainable, or tangible and do not refute it's existence make me a non-atheist and/or a non-realist?

    Ok. enough loopy rambling. I hope this made sense.
    • CommentAuthorlucien
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2010
     (8121.127)
    @ Rachael Tyrell

    that made a lot more sense than about 90% of the previous posts and reframes the discussion back to where it started.
    • CommentAuthorJiveKitty
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2010
     (8121.128)
    I think this thread is confusing inspiration, motivation and use with the actual concepts of science and religion. Religion and science and how they inspire, motivate and are used is irrelevant. Anything can inspire or motivate people to act in a certain way. And people can choose to use anything in any possible manner.

    Religion and science are both belief frameworks. They are not necessarily mutually exclusive, although at this point they are. This is because religion is a belief framework relying on faith rather than verifiable evidence. If an overarching religious belief could have its propositions verified, it would not be incongruent with science. However, at this stage, there is no overarching religious belief which has had its major theoretical propositions verified to an acceptable degree of proof. Some might even say that many religious propositions are unverifiable as concepts like what is a god are actually indefinable when it comes to specifics. To accept a religious framework, currently, is to bow one's head in the direction of the unknown and possibly even the unknowable. This is much less realistic and rational than denying the religious framework until it has proof for its propositions and it is dangerous, as religious frameworks tend to deal in absolutes - which means closing ones mind to certain concepts. (It is also worth noting more specifically the purpose of particular religions and their strands and institutions: it was not just seeking higher truth when science was less advanced that led to the creation of religions, and their strands and institutions. They were also created because of social context, often as a means to maintain certain power structures and prejudices, and sometimes, as in the case of Buddhism, to undermine certain power structures and prejudices. That is to say, religion is not just about seeking truth and probably shouldn't even be associated with morality and ethics.) Science, on the other hand, has arisen to deal with the questions of the universe in a logical manner and deals in verified and verifiable proofs. It refuses to bow to the unknown and unknowable, stating that they are unknown and unknowable until there is evidence which would show otherwise. Furthermore, it is a belief framework which allows for significant revision where evidence suggests there should be revision of what is believed. It is the better framework at present, although it may be less comforting, because it does not rely on the wishful thinking lacking in basis in reality: evidence-based beliefs are more likely to be correct and reflect reality.

    Personally, I am probably a hard atheist. I deny the existence of a god or gods, as there has been no evidence to suggest otherwise. I accept that in the future this could be proved wrong. I do not, however, believe one cannot take from religion. A lot of Buddhism appeals to me and the specific form of Pure Land Buddhism which posits that we should attempt to create the Pure Land on Earth, and also denies reincarnation, is quite inspiring - although I think of creating the Pure Land in terms of trying to make the Earth a better place now and in the future, but I believe these are good and should be aspired to because of the world view I have developed, not because I believe they spring from absolute knowledge of right and wrong - unlike the religious who take precepts and assert their ideas and interpretations are more valid (even if not overtly) because they spring from their sense of the absolute.

    Finally, specifically in terms of Christianity, logically it seems to me the key beliefs about the Christian god are incongruent with each other: their god is a creator-god with the traits of omnipotence, omniscience (which I note is able to be focused enough to have a personal knowledge of everything and still maintain coherence in and of itself) and omnibenevolence but in spite of this, there exists opposition to him and also evil. To me, it just doesn't work. Furthermore, if a being or beings claiming to be god or gods don't have all three of these traits, I don't see them as gods ( and logically given the existence of evil, I don't see there being any power which can have all these traits). Potentially, they are just higher powers to my definition as far as I can tell.
    • CommentAuthorIsaacSher
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2010
     (8121.129)
    @Rachel -- I'm going to throw out a guess here, but if I'm completely off the mark, feel free to call me on it.

    It sounds like applying a specific name to a set of beliefs is important to you. You express frustration with Catholics who do not follow every directive of the Vatican and yet still claim the identity of Catholicism.

    (On a side note, I think there's room for dissent and opposing viewpoints in any group religious or otherwise, even one as Top-down as the Catholic church, but that's a digression for another time)

    You also express concern that your experiences might not allow you to claim the title of atheist or realist.

    I think that it's imporant, and healthy, to allow for flexibility. That you can compromise on what goes into a thing without changing the essential nature of a thing. You can have one pizza that has pepperoni, mozzerella, and a thin crunchy crust, and another pizza with spinach and ricotta cheese and a thick Chicago Deep Dish crust, but they're both still pizza when you get right down to it.

    Maybe that's a little too flip about it. It's okay for people to have doubts about things. Even at my most diehard moments as an atheist when I was younger, there were moments when I had doubts, when something would happen that had me wonder. But I still considered myself an atheist jew (judaism being as much an ethnicity as a religion -- I was only rejecting the deist aspects, not the root culture and background). Eventually, more of these moments happenned, and I slowly shifted my view to where I felt more comfortable describing myself as agnostic jew but that's just how my path turned out. It wasn't where one semi-mystical-unexplained-EVENT happenned and I immediately ditched the Atheist label, it was a process. And some people might have a small number of EVENTS happen to them, that give them moments of curiousity and wonder and maybe doubt, but they're still comfortable claiming the title of atheist. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

    To put back on the "slightly flip" hat to conclude here -- it's not like The Atheist Police are going to show up and demand you turn in your "God Is Dead" decoder ring or anything like that.
  2.  (8121.130)
    Can science quantify, measure, or identify the human soul? Can we prove what happens to it upon a person's death?


    You can't measure something that doesn't exist.

    Religion and science are both belief frameworks.


    No. Science is not a belief system. It is a tool for explaining the world.

    And Beethoven would have made music regardless of the presence of a pope. He was human. Creating is what we do.
    • CommentAuthorJiveKitty
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2010
     (8121.131)
    Given that there is reality can only be experienced subjectively, science is a framework/tool for explaining beliefs about the world in a manner that gets closer to the objective reality than anything else.

    "But does the fact that I experience something that is not quantifiable, explainable, or tangible and do not refute it's existence make me a non-atheist and/or a non-realist?"

    If you don't attribute it to a deity, then it doesn't make you a non-atheist. I would follow that up by saying your experience may not be explicable/tangible from the subjective viewpoint, but if one had the objective viewpoint, it would be explicable, so it doesn't make you non-realist. What could make you a non-realist is what you decide to attribute that experience to. If it is not the most likely reason to attribute that experience to, based upon the knowledge and access to resources, such as mental processing power and time to consider the experience, that you have then no, you are not a realist.
    •  
      CommentAuthorJon Wake
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2010
     (8121.132)
    Science is amenable to criticism. It invites criticism, and it fights back with evidence. If you win the fight using evidence and the like, you win. Good on you, you get a theorum named after you.

    Religion, New Age quackery, etc. either admonishes criticism or only accepts it from their own flock. They have no use for evidence, or the evidence they do use is shoddy and haphazard, such as that used by believers in ESP. Criticism invites an aghast butthurt look of "how could you" at best, and at worst burnings and death.
  3.  (8121.133)
    @citruscreed:

    andrenavarro: Even religious extremists don't do what they do just for love of their religion, not just for a pro-religious agenda. Otherwise they'd never have had to come up with that shit about the seventy-two virgins.

    But that is a perfect example of how religion appeals to people's primitive impulses, lust in this case, in order to manipulate their thinking about unknowns. Without religion the concept of an afterlife of reward simply wouldn't exist! Science can demonstrate not only the exceedingly low probability of the seventy two virgins scenario being correct, but also the origins of those primitive impulses, their evolutionary function and how we have outgrown the need to be governed by them. Science can teach us true things about ourselves and the universe. Religion can teach us nothing, except by accident.


    You're distorting the reason I said this -- to show that extremism is not purely motivated by love for whatever you call your reason, but other selfish motives as well. You know I agree with you about what you just said.

    Gattaca does not represent a real-world threat of "scientific extremism", its society is hardcore social Darwinist. There is nothing scientific about that. Social Darwinism (also a rationale for eugenics) is a political ideology as opposed to Darwinism which is support for a theory about evolution. Gattaca's society uses technology to inform and achieve their objectives but there is nothing inherently scientific about their aims.


    Which is why I think you're being narrow-minded about this: any examples we give you, you answer with "that's not Science". Reminds me of the reason so many people are capable of calling Islam "the religion of peace" with a straight face -- suicide bombers? "That's not Islam. They're from this faction, which completely misinterpreted the Qur'an..." blah blah blah.

    Eugenics IS bad application of Science. There is such a thing. In GATTACA, bioengineering is used to create a "perfect" society. That is, simply put, Bad Science. To say "oh, but that was just a means, not an end" etc. etc. is just pointless -- we're discussing Science used to extremes, and this is the case with the fictional film. The REASON they could become Social Darwinists was due to abuse of their bioengineering capabilities. It's Politics and Science in bed, like Politics and Religion so often are in the present.

    You make a reasonable point about Mengele, I can see the argument and understand why it wasn't a simple Godwin as it initially appeared. I still think that you're wrong though. Yes, Mengele used science as a justification for some horrific things. Yes, there is an argument that he did what he did because on some level he believed it served science. But the deliberate cruelty, the psychopathic disregard for human life are not specifically caused by scientific thinking. Science is incapable of providing a justificaction for such horrors, they were mandated by a rabidly xenophobic and racist political ideology.


    Science is perfectly capable of providing justification, when you believe the promise of conclusive evidence is above human lives and worth the sacrifices.

    People who blow themselves up on crowded streets or trains on the other hand are doing it specifically because their religious beliefs mandate it.


    I'm not trying to convince you scientific extremism is as bad as religious extremism. What I'm trying to say is that there is such a thing as Science taken carelessly too far.

    It is the religious argument that allows them to believe that what they do is moral. Likewise, with Mengele, it was the ideology that gave him the excuse and the opportunity to indulge himself, not the scientific method.


    It was still a form of scientific extremism, which, I repeat, isn't as easily caused as religious extremism because Science isn't as open to interpretation.

    I'm sorry that you think I'm being narrow-minded, I don't see myself as being hostile to personal, private faith and I certainly don't intend to offend anybody else's sincerely held beliefs but as long as we're discussing it honestly I'm not going to tiptoe around out of respect for the sanctity of anyone's fantasy. Thinking someone is wrong and thinking they're an idiot are two very different things. The idea that you either have to be on the side of science or religion is absurd. I'm on the side of people in general, and most people have considerably more nuanced views than they're given credit for.


    Please, don't hold back. Speak your mind. When I said I felt you were being narrow-minded, I was referring to how you were taking our arguments (as explained above), not the way you express yourself, which is perfectly reasonable and polite.
  4.  (8121.134)
    @RachaelTyrell

    I trust the scientific method, and believe quantifiable data is the only way we can learn about the world. I would not expect anyone else to put any stock in an experience I alone had, and could not quantify. But does the fact that I experience something that is not quantifiable, explainable, or tangible and do not refute it's existence make me a non-atheist and/or a non-realist?


    Whatever you experienced may not be quantifiable, explainable or tangible, but it was real for you -- the important part is that you want to know the true nature of what you experienced, instead of blindly believing in what you want it to be. You believe in cold truth, not convenient truth. I wouldn't call that non-realist or non-atheist. I'd call that reasonable.

    (I might, however, have missed the point of the question completely. Let me know if I did.)
  5.  (8121.135)
    To me the argument amongst staunch atheistic supporters of science and fundamentalist religious folks always sounds like this.

    Upon Observing Michelangelo's David.

    Average person. "That's an incredible piece of art"

    Science. " No, It's just a fucking rock that someone's hacked away at with tools."

    Religion. "No I consider it a real person"
    • CommentAuthorSteadyUP
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2010 edited
     (8121.136)
    @Rachael

    An experience being unquantifiable to the...um, experiencer...has nothing to do, really, with whether it's science. If a caveman saw lightning a hundred thousand years ago, it would have looked supernatural to him - but that doesn't make lightning less of a science-based phenomenon. The only difference now is that the vast majority of easily provable phenomenon, like lightning, have already been explained, leaving more ethereal things like ideaspace that may not exist at all. But wanting to believe in it anyway isn't automatically unscientific - if someone did prove ideaspace was real someday, it'd probably be someone like you.

    EDIT - @Audley:

    Artist - "David was inside the rock already, and was released."
    • CommentAuthorIsaacSher
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2010
     (8121.137)
    @Jon Wake -- Speaking for my own background in Judaism, your assertion is incorrect.

    Judaism invites, encourages, and deeply respects debate and exchange of ideas. The entire *point* of the Talmud is to set out some ideas on ethics (some related to secular concerns, some not), and then debate the living hell out of them, with deep philosophical commentary. Citing evidence and precedents are absolutely essential in such debates. Claiming "divine inspiration fiat" is considered a lame cop-out at BEST in such debates.

    So please let's not tar all religious thought as completely incapable of internal dissent and debated ideas, okay? I'd appreciate it.
    • CommentAuthorJiveKitty
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2010
     (8121.138)
    John Wake specifically cited internal dissent and debated ideas: "Religion, New Age quackery, etc. either admonishes criticism or only accepts it from their own flock."

    I know Judaism is somewhat different to, say, Christianity, so when you say "evidence and precedents" I am curious as to where these come from.
    •  
      CommentAuthorrickiep00h
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2010
     (8121.139)
    @Audley - It's a piece of rock that somebody hacked away at really fucking well, and furthermore causes visceral or emotional reaction. Pollack work is just paint splattered on a canvas, but is (genereally) aesthetically pleasing. Music is just mathematically related vibrations in air molecules interacting with the apparatus of the human ear.

    This is the sort of thing I was referring to a few pages back about the difference between "how" and "why."
    • CommentAuthorlucien
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2010 edited
     (8121.140)
    It's a piece of rock that somebody hacked away at really fucking well, and furthermore causes visceral or emotional reaction. Pollack work is just paint splattered on a canvas, but is (genereally) aesthetically pleasing. Music is just mathematically related vibrations in air molecules interacting with the apparatus of the human ear



    prove it.

    without using anything unreal or products of unreality.