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Beyond Belief 2006
Posted: 06 December 2006 05:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 46 ]
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If Beyond Belief 2006 was the only time scientists had met this year to discuss the potential danger of today’s world’s ideologies, I think we are in a big trouble.

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Posted: 06 December 2006 07:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 47 ]
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The way I see it:

Chavez and others like him (Noriega in Panama, etc.) in South America will gain control of the continent with the help of some neo-socialistic ideology that would be similar to the one in China. This would result in a very powerful coalition between these two nations, China and the “United States of South America”. (I can see why China is so interested in investing in South America these days.) Europe in the meantime, without having any strong ideology to keep them together, will keep loosing their power. The millions of Turks in Germany, Muslims in France and refugees from Africa coming in thousands to Spain will only add to the unfortunate future of the continent. After the US will leave Iraq, Iran will take control of most of the Middle East, to which the US will respond with a second invasion that will economically destroy them. And this is where the Napoleon of the 21st century comes in: from China. Having secured South America, Europe not being able to unite due to the invasion of immigrants from the third world, and the US economically destroyed, China will become the new Egypt, the new Roman Empire, the new colonial Great Britain and the new United States of America.

But then again, I forgot about the nuclear bombs”

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Posted: 07 December 2006 03:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 48 ]
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Last night I finished watching session nine. When Konner told Dawkins and Harris to give it up because religion isn’t going away I thought Konner might also give up telling Dawkins and Harris to give it up, because they’re not going away either. It reminded it me of the Free Will dilemma. Are we “free” to belief or disbelief in God? Are we “free” to criticize or accept other people’s belief? Actually, the whole Free Will thing really bothers me because I can’t make any sense of it. I like Scott Adam’s take on it; he is a very funny man.

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Posted: 07 December 2006 04:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 49 ]
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[quote author=“George Benedik”]Are we “free” to belief or disbelief in God? Are we “free” to criticize or accept other people’s belief? Actually, the whole Free Will thing really bothers me because I can’t make any sense of it.

Well, we are as free to believe these things as we are to believe or disbelieve anything else. I actually do not think that ‘belief’ is volitional: we do not have the freedom to believe whatever we might want to. OTOH we can make ourselves believe things by undergoing the right sorts of brainwashing techniques.

We can also come to believe things, of course, for natural reasons, i.e. if we are presented with the right sort of argument, evidence, etc.

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Posted: 07 December 2006 05:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 50 ]
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Well, we are as free to believe these things as we are to believe or disbelieve anything else.

Do you remember when Konner told Dawkins that he is immune (?) to any sort of belief because even though the out-of-body-experience “thing” (I forgot how they did it or what it was called) works on 80% of people, it didn’t work on him? Also, the fact that the higher the IQ the less of a chance one has to become superstitious of religious seems to prove that some people simply don’t have the necessary ‘something’ in their brain to think rationally. By ‘some people’ I don’t mean only morons, imbeciles or idiots. There are people with an IQ over 150 who can’t (for example) paint or sing. So maybe it’s not a matter of intelligence but something else in the brain that allows some of us to be gullible. I don’t know.

I also wanted to ask you what you thought Konner meant when he told Dawkins (I don’t remember Konner’s exact words):

In the shadow of Darwin, I beg you: don’t tell the religious people how to raise their children, because we know we’ll the ones who might loose our children first.

Was Konner being afraid of the reaction of the religious fanatics?

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Posted: 07 December 2006 05:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 51 ]
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[quote author=“George Benedik”]Do you remember when Konner told Dawkins that he is immune (?) to any sort of belief because even though the out-of-body-experience “thing” (I forgot how they did it or what it was called) works on 80% of people, it didn’t work on him?

Yeah, I thought that was sort of a throwaway line or a joke. The fact that Dawkins didn’t respond to the magnetic stimulation doesn’t prove anything. There was no claimed correlation between people who succumb to the stimulation and people who are religious.

[quote author=“George Benedik”]So maybe it’s not a matter of intelligence but something else in the brain that allows some of us to be gullible. I don’t know.

I doubt it’s any one thing, and clearly most of this will be mediated by experience.

[quote author=“George Benedik”]I also wanted to ask you what you thought Konner meant when he told Dawkins (I don’t remember Konner’s exact words):

In the shadow of Darwin, I beg you: don’t tell the religious people how to raise their children, because we know we’ll the ones who might loose our children first.

Was Konner being afraid of the reaction of the religious fanatics?

Yes. He was arguing that if we allow people to tell other people how to raise their children, most likely it will be the politically powerful (i.e. the believers) who will end up doing the telling, not the atheists.

However this was a cheap shot on Konner’s part. Dawkins is not suggesting that the state tell people how to raise their children—except perhaps that they should be sent to secular schools. What Dawkins is suggesting is that we not consider people as members of a particular religion until they reach something like the ‘age of consent’.

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Posted: 07 December 2006 09:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 52 ]
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The Beyond Belief discussion continues at The Edge .

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Posted: 07 December 2006 10:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 53 ]
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[quote author=“George Benedik”]The Beyond Belief discussion continues at The Edge .

Good catch, George! Very interesting continued discussion.

I do wish that someone, in the role of moderator, could bring these sides together. I am convinced that Atran could be of great help to Harris, Dawkins, Dennett, et al., if only he would calm down a bit and really attack the question of “how to deal with the basic irrationality of human life and society” as he puts it. That said, he does present a lot of very good material.

I think they need to continue talking. I hope they do.

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Posted: 08 December 2006 03:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 54 ]
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Very interesting continued discussion.

I haven’t read it yet; I still need to finish watching all the videos from the conference.

I totally agree with you when you say that:

I do wish that someone, in the role of moderator, could bring these sides together.

But perhaps it’s still too early for that now (?). All the recent findings in neuroscience still seem a little too abstract. Once we know (or at least get a better understanding) how the consciousness works, we (they!:wink:) can start to make some sense of it all. Surely, the last thing they should do in the meantime is to attack each other.

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Posted: 08 December 2006 04:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 55 ]
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[quote author=“George Benedik”] Surely, the last thing they should do in the meantime is to attack each other.

Yes. A lot of big egos involved, on all sides. Certainly there are serious differences of opinion to hash out, and the problem is extremely complex, but it’s important enough to put aside the bombast for awhile and figure it out.

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Posted: 15 January 2007 06:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 56 ]
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I just discovered this conference and I’m downloading pt.‘s 2 + 10 now. I’d like to get around to downloading the Sam Harris portions after I view the Tyson videos.

Btw, this year’s Edge Annual Question is: “WHAT ARE YOU OPTIMISTIC ABOUT?”

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Posted: 01 February 2007 04:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 57 ]
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This week, I, too, discovered Beyond Belief 2006: an inspiring, enlightening and thrilling meeting of human minds! So far, I have viewed the first four sessions. I found Joan Roughgarden, Stuart Hameroff, and Charles Harper sadly weak in their contributions.

Roughgarden got the story of Joseph wrong - he uses selective breeding techniques and only later attributes the inspiration to a God-given dream. Joseph does have mystical dream experiences, but these are in sequence in the narrative. The story about the inspiration for breeding his flocks follows the actual breeding, suggesting that it is a spiritual rationalization. I realize that stories that are part of the cultural tradition do have role when one is trying to convince another: the emotional acceptance attached to the story gets carried over to the new information, enhancing its acceptance. Ironically, Roughgarden said how important it is to read the Bible so that one can check up on the lessons that are drawn from it.

Overall, Roughgarden seemed to me to have intense preoccupation with matters associated with gender identity and interaction of the sexes, as well a need to bolster her own, relatively recently acquired (she says she returned to the church about 10 years ago), religiosity.

My reaction to Hameroff was that he used jargon borrowed from quantum mechanics to advance a pseudo-explanation of consciousness. I tried to temper my response by reflecting that I have only the most superficial acquaintance modern physics, so perhaps my ignorance prevented me from appreciating his contribution. After hearing the critique by a physicist in the audience, I felt that my bullshit meter was, after all, reliable.

I expect I will have more to say about Charles Harper (of the John Templeton Foundation) after his presentation. My antipathy to his remarks from the floor caused me to reflect on my own biases: am I rejecting him out of hand because I reject religion, or are the claims he makes truly groundless and irrational? I like to think reason prevails in my response, but I will try to stay on the lookout for bias and emotion.

So far, I have found Sam Harris to be reasoned and compelling in his statements. I noticed in earlier posting in this thread that his place in the conference was questioned because of his inexperience. I will withhold judgment until I see more of the presentations.

I have mixed feelings about Dawkins. I enjoy listening to him, he is first-rate debater, and seeing and hearing him perform gives me the same enjoyment that golf aficionados find in watching Tiger Woods. However, he appears to be stuck with The God Delusion and is not going beyond it.

Tyson, Porco and Ramachandran have given my favorite presentations so far. I first heard Tyson on Point of Inquiry and was impressed by how clear and informative were his remarks. What is it about astrophysicists that they produce the likes of Sagan, Tyson and Porco?

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Posted: 01 February 2007 05:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 58 ]
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Hi Acher and thanks for your post. Look forward to reading more of what you thought. Re. the astrophysicists, I imagine it’s that they have more of a ‘god’s eye view’ of the cosmos from their particular field of study, and so are more interested in tackling the big questions.

But it’s a small sample-size so definitely debatable.

Re. Harris, I thought he started off pretty well but got more problematic later on. It’s not so much that he (and Dawkins) are wrong, as that their approach is clearly incomplete. And yet he was unwilling to engage that possibility and actually had some pretty nasty things to say to people who raised it.

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Posted: 01 February 2007 06:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 59 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith”]
However this was a cheap shot on Konner’s part. Dawkins is not suggesting that the state tell people how to raise their children

Well in the US where child abuse (he calls it that all the time) is a very serious matter, where children are taken fro the parents custody, in fact he is. Did you know that in many states if you believe there is child abuse going on, and you do not alert the authorities, you are guilty of a crime?

So using the words child abuse is a call for the intervention of law (the state) on behalf of the children and against the parents.

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Posted: 01 February 2007 06:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 60 ]
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[quote author=“cgallaga”]Well in the US where child abuse (he calls it that all the time) is a very serious matter, where children are taken fro the parents custody, in fact he is. Did you know that in many states if you believe there is child abuse going on, and you do not alert the authorities, you are guilty of a crime?

So using the words child abuse is a call for the intervention of law (the state) on behalf of the children and against the parents.

Yes, quite so. But Dawkins says the child abuse is in considering the children to be ‘of a particular religion’. So far as I can recall, he doesn’t consider it child abuse to take a child to church, for instance.

If this reading is correct, there would be no real grounds for intervention; the ‘abuse’ is theoretical in character, coming about from a misconstrual of the child’s ability to consent to a particular religious view. This reading is borne out by Dawkins’s insistence that he is trying to ‘raise consciousness’ on the subject. He isn’t, e.g., trying to file a legal complaint. (Which he ought to do if he considered that real abuse were going on).

That said, I do think that Dawkins’s rhetoric here is overboard, and certainly Konner was right to that extent.

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