Saw Sam Harris speak last night….
Posted: 11 October 2006 01:22 AM   [ Ignore ]
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As usual, I didn’t learn anything new. The problem with these atheist related events is that they get to be like a broken record once you have been really involved in this issue for a while.

Some observations though.

#1) This was at Boulder Colorado, and about 300 people (I’m guessing) attended.

#2) In the question and anwser session most of the people still seemed to be sympathetic to religion and espoused all kinds of nonsens in defense of religion, despite themselves being atheists or agnostics, like religion helped my brother stop doing drugs, we can’t oppose that, religion is so pervasive it must be good, etc. :rolleyes:

#3) Sam Harris actually said that he though atheist was a bad word and he didn’t advocate using it, he said that people should simply forget that word and switch to "secular". mad

I was disappointed that Sam didn’t give the memetic explanation for the spread of religion. The concensus seemd to be that religion must have utility to humans since it has spread, which is in contrast to the memetic view that religion has spread for the same reasons that viruses spread.

I went up and gave my comments and questions.

I followed a guy saying how religon must be good, so I had to comment on that, to which I said:

Religion is an addictive entitiy, like cigarettes. People are not born "inherently smokers", but when introduced to cigarettes in large numbers from youth, many or most people will become addicted. Just because people become addicted to cigarettes does not make them either good or useful.

I also added that Christianity and Islam are relatively new religions and people should not make the mistake of thinking that humans have inherently held views anything like Christian or Islamic views, and that historically most religions were much less fanatical and well defined than these relatively new religions.

My question/statement then was this:

Sam, I know that you have been critical of liberals and moderates, and I agree. I think that the rise of post modernism in America in the 1960s and 1970s is what paved the way for the resurgence of fundamentalism because the post modernists undermined science and effectivly said that all views, including conservative religious views, are equal and have ultimately defended faith as a valid worldview as opposed to emperical observation.

I think that atheists and like minded people should stop focusing our attention on conservative fundamentalists and start taking on these "pernicous liberals" and post modernists. Do you agree to that?, etc.

His reply was somewhat weak. He agreed in general, but said that he felt post modernist views were mainly an academic issue that had little impact overall.

I completely disagree, but oh well… :p

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Posted: 11 October 2006 02:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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FWIW, I agree that postmodernism is pernicious nonsense, but it is basically an academic issue. Now, its strength in (some of) the ‘liberal arts’ sections of academe has given it cultural impact, in that many tens of thousands of college-educated people have been exposed to some form of it, and may well retain some of it later on in life. But its philosophy is incoherent enough that people really can’t retain it consistently for long unless they are immersed in it.

There are also plenty of people even in liberal arts who are not particularly enamored of PM, so it is not universal. (Of course, anyone having an education in science or engineering is pretty well innoculated against it).

And certainly the believers in fundamentalist Christianity are equally opposed to PM. If anything, in popular culture, PM tends to go with the woo-woo stuff like quack medicine, pseudoscience and so forth. At least that’s how it seems to me.

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Posted: 11 October 2006 03:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith”]FWIW, I agree that postmodernism is pernicious nonsense, but it is basically an academic issue. Now, its strength in (some of) the ‘liberal arts’ sections of academe has given it cultural impact, in that many tens of thousands of college-educated people have been exposed to some form of it, and may well retain some of it later on in life. But its philosophy is incoherent enough that people really can’t retain it consistently for long unless they are immersed in it.

There are also plenty of people even in liberal arts who are not particularly enamored of PM, so it is not universal. (Of course, anyone having an education in science or engineering is pretty well innoculated against it).

And certainly the believers in fundamentalist Christianity are equally opposed to PM. If anything, in popular culture, PM tends to go with the woo-woo stuff like quack medicine, pseudoscience and so forth. At least that’s how it seems to me.

Yes, but the problem is that the public discourse has been turned into a two way discussion with fundamentalists on one side attacking PM and “relativism”, and then opponents of fundamentalism on the other side, without a clear voice and clear arguments being made by materialist/athist/humanists in opposition to both.

“We”, tend to just fall into the fundy trap when we oppose them, without making it clear that we oppose the other nonsense as well, which “we” tend to do becasue we see the other nonsese as less important and less culturally dangerous, since “those people” tend to be tolerant, but I disagree and think that those views are equally if not more pernicious than fundamentalism.

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Posted: 11 October 2006 03:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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[quote author=“rationalrevolution”]“We”, tend to just fall into the fundy trap when we oppose them, without making it clear that we oppose the other nonsense as well, which “we” tend to do becasue we see the other nonsese as less important and less culturally dangerous, since “those people” tend to be tolerant, but I disagree and think that those views are equally if not more pernicious than fundamentalism.

Well, fundamentalism is significantly more pernicious in that it kills people, blows up buildings, burns people at the stake and foments wars.

But that said, I certainly agree with you that “we” ought to be very clear that we are philosophically equally opposed to PM as to fundamentalism. They are equally benighted doctrines. We certainly should leave no question that we are not advocating PM by opposing fundamentalism.

The problem is that many apparent followers of PM are really softhearted followers of “tolerance” ... And so long as we are discussing thoughts and speech, certainly we ought to advocate tolerance as well. But tolerance is different from acceptance. And the whole baggage of PM incoherence does not follow from a liberal notion of tolerance. It follows from a confused and obscurantist philosophy.

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