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Solomon Schimmel - The Tenacity of Unreasonable Beliefs
Posted: 15 December 2008 07:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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I thought it was a good interview and I look forward the next one. With this interview there was one big issue in the discussion that stuck to my ribs, and that was the suggestion that it is okay to value hedonism over acknowledging truth. I have yet to be convinced or see it be properly justified that happiness or pleasure should be mans most important pursuit in life. This appeal to consequences is constantly used to substitute mans distaste for the truth, truth, which has gained an undeserved reputation for being bitter. It is only bitter if one has been accustomed to not acknowledging it, and instead comparing it to what some try to justify as necessary pleasurable fictions. I must defend the pursuit truth, because only by it can we really even attempt to try to justify anything including happiness. Put aside our biases, our desire for happiness and comfort, and the truth isn’t as bitter as people make it out to be.

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Posted: 15 December 2008 07:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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morgantj - 15 December 2008 07:11 AM

I thought it was a good interview and I look forward the next one. With this interview there was one big issue in the discussion that stuck to my ribs, and that was the suggestion that it is okay to value hedonism over acknowledging truth. I have yet to be convinced or see it be properly justified that happiness or pleasure should be mans most important pursuit in life. This appeal to consequences is constantly used to substitute mans distaste for the truth, truth, which has gained an undeserved reputation for being bitter. It is only bitter if one has been accustomed to not acknowledging it, and instead comparing it to what some try to justify as necessary pleasurable fictions. I must defend the pursuit truth, because only by it can we really even attempt to try to justify anything including happiness. Put aside our biases, our desire for happiness and comfort, and the truth isn’t as bitter as people make it out to be.

I think being happy is the most important thing. I just think it’s unlikley that we live in a universe in which knowing the truth isn’t the best way to achieve it.

Stephen

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Posted: 15 December 2008 07:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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StephenLawrence - 15 December 2008 07:23 AM
morgantj - 15 December 2008 07:11 AM

I thought it was a good interview and I look forward the next one. With this interview there was one big issue in the discussion that stuck to my ribs, and that was the suggestion that it is okay to value hedonism over acknowledging truth. I have yet to be convinced or see it be properly justified that happiness or pleasure should be mans most important pursuit in life. This appeal to consequences is constantly used to substitute mans distaste for the truth, truth, which has gained an undeserved reputation for being bitter. It is only bitter if one has been accustomed to not acknowledging it, and instead comparing it to what some try to justify as necessary pleasurable fictions. I must defend the pursuit truth, because only by it can we really even attempt to try to justify anything including happiness. Put aside our biases, our desire for happiness and comfort, and the truth isn’t as bitter as people make it out to be.

I think being happy is the most important thing. I just think it’s unlikley that we live in a universe in which knowing the truth isn’t the best way to achieve it.

Stephen

Why is happiness the most important thing? How do you justify that?

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Posted: 15 December 2008 07:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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morgantj - 15 December 2008 07:27 AM
StephenLawrence - 15 December 2008 07:23 AM
morgantj - 15 December 2008 07:11 AM

I thought it was a good interview and I look forward the next one. With this interview there was one big issue in the discussion that stuck to my ribs, and that was the suggestion that it is okay to value hedonism over acknowledging truth. I have yet to be convinced or see it be properly justified that happiness or pleasure should be mans most important pursuit in life. This appeal to consequences is constantly used to substitute mans distaste for the truth, truth, which has gained an undeserved reputation for being bitter. It is only bitter if one has been accustomed to not acknowledging it, and instead comparing it to what some try to justify as necessary pleasurable fictions. I must defend the pursuit truth, because only by it can we really even attempt to try to justify anything including happiness. Put aside our biases, our desire for happiness and comfort, and the truth isn’t as bitter as people make it out to be.

I think being happy is the most important thing. I just think it’s unlikley that we live in a universe in which knowing the truth isn’t the best way to achieve it.

Stephen

Why is happiness the most important thing? How do you justify that?

Because without happiness life is not worth living!

Stephen

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Posted: 15 December 2008 07:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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StephenLawrence - 15 December 2008 07:23 AM

I think being happy is the most important thing.

Happiness is highly inheritable (more than 80%). It probably matters very little what one pursues in order to achieve it. (Unless one pursues a doctor to write him a prescription for Prozac.)

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Posted: 15 December 2008 07:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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George - 15 December 2008 07:44 AM
StephenLawrence - 15 December 2008 07:23 AM

I think being happy is the most important thing.

Happiness is highly inheritable (more that 80%). It probably matters very little what one pursues in order to achieve it. (Unless one pursues a doctor to write him a prescription for Prozac.)

Hi George, I reject this view of inherited traits you have.

Happiness is a state of mind, if we have the knowledge, the skill and the will to get into that state we can.

I have the will but not always the knowledge or the skill, I suspect understanding the truth can help with that.

I hope so I’m bloody miserable wink
Stephen

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Posted: 15 December 2008 07:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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StephenLawrence - 15 December 2008 07:48 AM

I suspect understanding the truth can help with that.

Understanding the truth is that happiness is highly inheritable.  grin

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Posted: 15 December 2008 08:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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StephenLawrence - 15 December 2008 07:43 AM
morgantj - 15 December 2008 07:27 AM
StephenLawrence - 15 December 2008 07:23 AM
morgantj - 15 December 2008 07:11 AM

I thought it was a good interview and I look forward the next one. With this interview there was one big issue in the discussion that stuck to my ribs, and that was the suggestion that it is okay to value hedonism over acknowledging truth. I have yet to be convinced or see it be properly justified that happiness or pleasure should be mans most important pursuit in life. This appeal to consequences is constantly used to substitute mans distaste for the truth, truth, which has gained an undeserved reputation for being bitter. It is only bitter if one has been accustomed to not acknowledging it, and instead comparing it to what some try to justify as necessary pleasurable fictions. I must defend the pursuit truth, because only by it can we really even attempt to try to justify anything including happiness. Put aside our biases, our desire for happiness and comfort, and the truth isn’t as bitter as people make it out to be.

I think being happy is the most important thing. I just think it’s unlikley that we live in a universe in which knowing the truth isn’t the best way to achieve it.

Stephen

Why is happiness the most important thing? How do you justify that?

Because without happiness life is not worth living!

Stephen

And how do you justify that?

What about all the other life-forms on the planet such as plants, fish, insects, birds, reptiles, other mammals, etc… Are their lives not worth living if they are not “happy?”

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Posted: 15 December 2008 09:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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workinprogress - 15 December 2008 03:11 AM

Back when I first left home, I worked in a restaurant owned by a Jewish concentration camp survivor, who went the whole nine yards, practicing his religion, even though he told me that no one who seen the things he had would believe there was a God watching over us and answering prayers. For him, carrying on with Judaism, and raising his children as Jews was an act of defiance against the Nazis and the only meaningful tribute he could pay to the rest of his family and most of his relatives who never got out alive! Even though he stopped believing in the God of his forefathers, he could not get past the consequence that abandoning Judaism would have been a victory for the Nazis just the same as if he died like the rest of them.

Was he right? I think he had a valid point.

On the most detached, cerebral level.. I’d argue the Nazi’s would not have cared if he did or did not practice the religion- he was simply a nonhuman animal no matter the habits. Further, doing something purely as a reaction to someone else is still an admission they are exerting control over your life. That said.. this is a rather extreme, isolated case as opposed to the general social perspective I was taking. Frankly, whatever way any holocaust survivor finds peace and contentment is 100% fine with me.. more power to ‘em. The rest of us got some ‘plainin’ to do.

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Posted: 15 December 2008 09:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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morgantj - 15 December 2008 08:27 AM
StephenLawrence - 15 December 2008 07:43 AM
morgantj - 15 December 2008 07:27 AM
StephenLawrence - 15 December 2008 07:23 AM
morgantj - 15 December 2008 07:11 AM

I thought it was a good interview and I look forward the next one. With this interview there was one big issue in the discussion that stuck to my ribs, and that was the suggestion that it is okay to value hedonism over acknowledging truth. I have yet to be convinced or see it be properly justified that happiness or pleasure should be mans most important pursuit in life. This appeal to consequences is constantly used to substitute mans distaste for the truth, truth, which has gained an undeserved reputation for being bitter. It is only bitter if one has been accustomed to not acknowledging it, and instead comparing it to what some try to justify as necessary pleasurable fictions. I must defend the pursuit truth, because only by it can we really even attempt to try to justify anything including happiness. Put aside our biases, our desire for happiness and comfort, and the truth isn’t as bitter as people make it out to be.

I think being happy is the most important thing. I just think it’s unlikley that we live in a universe in which knowing the truth isn’t the best way to achieve it.

Stephen

Why is happiness the most important thing? How do you justify that?

Because without happiness life is not worth living!

Stephen

And how do you justify that?

What about all the other life-forms on the planet such as plants, fish, insects, birds, reptiles, other mammals, etc… Are their lives not worth living if they are not “happy?”

I’m not sure what conscious awareness of the state they are in other animals have. Nor what desire they have to be in another state, so it’s difficult to say.

But in principal it’s the same for all sentient beings.

Imagine you could be shown your life before you were born and then decide whether you wanted to go through the experience or not. If there ws plenty of suffering and little happiness you’d be a fool to say yes. Non existence would be better.

If given what I know now I had the chance to go back and not be born, I’d take it but I hope to come to see it differently in time.

Stephen

Stephen

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Posted: 15 December 2008 10:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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George - 15 December 2008 07:58 AM
StephenLawrence - 15 December 2008 07:48 AM

I suspect understanding the truth can help with that.

Understanding the truth is that happiness is highly inheritable.  grin

Yes George but I’m pretty sure you confuse determinism with fatalism, which is the view that if I’ve inherited a tendency to depression, which I think I have, then there is nothing I can do about it.

Fatalism is just a mistake.

Stephen

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Posted: 15 December 2008 10:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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Stephen,

Determinism and fatalism have nothing to do with any of this. It is also not true that there is nothing one can do about depression. Just like you can “treat” the genetically determined colour of your hair and dye it, you can also (or at least to some degree) treat depression with drugs.

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Posted: 15 December 2008 10:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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George - 15 December 2008 10:16 AM

Stephen,

Determinism and fatalism have nothing to do with any of this. It is also not true that there is nothing one can do about depression. Just like you can “treat” the genetically determined colour of your hair and dye it, you can also (or at least to some degree) treat depression with drugs.

Ok but drugs are not the only answer, cognitive therapy is another, and althought this can be done professionaly one can also have the awareness of the need for the brain to get into a different state and work towards it in a similar way as one would with a professional.

The original point being that we are in a better position to do this if we know the truth.

Stephen

[ Edited: 15 December 2008 10:27 AM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 15 December 2008 10:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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workinprogress - 15 December 2008 04:02 AM

This is where I part company with the New Atheism. There is an unfounded assumption here that the theists are under the hypnotic spell of religion, and if the religious are brought to their senses, they will become happy, skeptical atheists! It seems to me that a lot of people are hardwired to be drawn to magical beliefs and mystical experiences—and there are a minority of us who are natural skeptics, and keep falling out of religion every time we try to take the plunge.

It would be unusual to imagine the characteristic of skepticism/credulity was not distributed on a bell curve like other sorts of traits of people. Certainly though society can nurture or stifle such madness. Many people are persuaded to believe simply because people they respect (parents, leaders whatever) believe.
I agree that the religious don’t become “skeptical atheists” as the society evolves.. they become apatheists. This is very descriptive of most of the Germans and Danes I know. Religion is simply an irrelevant fairytale. You know why we have a community of skeptical atheists? Because we have a community of rabid theists. Both demos of any significant size will die together.. just like the end of The Dark Crystal.

Dean Hamer and Andrew Newberg have come up with some interesting findings that support the position that some are born to believe, and others to disbelieve. If true, dreaming of a future golden age of rationalism will be as much of a pipedream as it was a hundred years ago!  If traditional religion is in decline, the people who are prone to magical thinking will find some other outlet to feel “spiritual,” such as new age mysticism—but they are not going to just stick with what’s in the natural world without trying to add imaginary stuff to it. I have a hunch that it’s better to just leave moderate religion alone until situations arise when the cattle prod of rationalism has to be applied, and they have to leave their fundamentalist brethren behind and reinterpret their religious positions to keep up to date.

This is a golden age of rationalism though. The problem is that we’ve forgotten where we came from. We don’t remember history too well. The modern world is a marvelous place.. more rational, peaceful, and equitable than even the great enlightenment thinkers ever imagined (just ask them about women or animal rights. things they never generally applied their own reason to). The media saturates us with doom and gloom and we start thinking what a terrible world! But this is by far the best time in all of history to be on Earth. You use the word fundamentalist.. but the US fundamentalist Christians would be the antichrist to the same demographic in the same place 200 years before. You permit dancing and flailing of limbs? satanist scum! You have the incredible luxury of not even realizing just what a golden age we live in.

Again, I’d be interested in finding out what the polling data on how many Danes believe in ghosts, UFO’s, astrology, naturopathic medicine etc.. Maybe they happen to be a rational society, or maybe all of the services provided by a socialist government has eliminated the incentive to belong to a church. But, that still does not mean that they have abandoned all supernatural beliefs!

I don’t equate religion with paranormal beliefs. These are both crazy, but different kinds of crazy. I don’t think there is any evidence that UFOs/ghosts/whatever replace religion in societies that lose it.  Certainly, there will always be some small slice of a society prone to credulity. I don’t really care though because I think if you compare the prevalence and impact of mystical/paranormal thought in the year 1000 in say Europe to the year 2000.. well the latter by comparison would be practically nothing. Its like counting the 6000 active KKK in the US of 300+million and saying see! white supremecism alive and well in America! No, it isn’t.

I’d be interested in seeing the polling data as well. I asked my Danish friend Ken about it and he said “Not likely… I think like 25% would believe in people talking to ghosts and stuff.. But it’s not a lot they believe in that can not be proven. ” Anecdotal but there ya go.

In the U.S., and in Canada, where I live, I know of more than a few people who have joined new non-denominational megachurches primarily for the reason that they provide the only sense of neighbourhood and community in many of these brand new, sterile suburbs. Reducing the power of the religious institutions may have more to do with government providing the services, than it does with trying to deconvert the believers.

I would agree there seems to be an economic correlation to belief in the sense of standard of living and relatively equal distribution of wealth. I have argued in this forum several times that outreach and evangelical efforts are probably unlikely to achieve the goals of the New Atheists (apart from perhaps social acceptance) and that economics seems to be critical.

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Posted: 16 December 2008 05:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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sate - 15 December 2008 10:41 AM

It would be unusual to imagine the characteristic of skepticism/credulity was not distributed on a bell curve like other sorts of traits of people. Certainly though society can nurture or stifle such madness. Many people are persuaded to believe simply because people they respect (parents, leaders whatever) believe.
I agree that the religious don’t become “skeptical atheists” as the society evolves.. they become apatheists.

I think it’s more likely that they will become increasingly hostile and closed off to science and empirical knowledge that threatens the validity of their treasured beliefs. And this can even happen with people who are no longer affiliated with any religious denomination! This comes to mind for me because over the last couple of weeks I’ve had a running battle with a co-worker who is not religious, but whom I unintentionally discovered to have a tenacious desire to believe in the existence of the soul—and try to prove it to me. It first started when he offered me a book he was reading on out-of-body experiences, and I gave him a few reasons why the OOBE reports do not convince me that the subjects actually experienced an immaterial mind floating out of their physical bodies. I thought that would be the end of it, but at least every other day I get presented with a new website or online articles that will prove to me the existence of the soul.  This person shows no interest in looking at the evidence that the case studies are exaggerated and there are more plausible natural explanations. I’m dealing with someone who wants to believe, and wants to bolster his conviction by convincing me that it’s real. And he reacts negatively to evidence that is contrary to what he wants to believe in. He has built a wall against rationalism even though he is not involved with organized religion.

This is a golden age of rationalism though. The problem is that we’ve forgotten where we came from. We don’t remember history too well. The modern world is a marvelous place.. more rational, peaceful, and equitable than even the great enlightenment thinkers ever imagined (just ask them about women or animal rights. things they never generally applied their own reason to). The media saturates us with doom and gloom and we start thinking what a terrible world! But this is by far the best time in all of history to be on Earth. You use the word fundamentalist.. but the US fundamentalist Christians would be the antichrist to the same demographic in the same place 200 years before. You permit dancing and flailing of limbs? satanist scum! You have the incredible luxury of not even realizing just what a golden age we live in.

There was a Golden Age of Freethought a little over a hundred years ago, and it all evaporated in the face of economic turmoil, a world war, and fear replacing optimism over the increase in scientific knowledge and the development of new inventions. Freethought was replaced with revival, as a fearful populace turned back to that “old time religion” for comfort.

A few months ago, I came across podcasts of several lectures by Robert Green Ingersoll—and I was shocked that someone who had been such a prominent figure in the latter half of the 19th Century, was virtually erased from the public record so effectively that he would be totally unheard of if it wasn’t for a handful of freethinkers, who have been making his writings and transcripts of his speeches available online.

And I’m not sure if I can agree that today’s fundamentalists have evolved that much from the devoted who lived 200 years ago. Even if they are, they may be elbowed aside by more extreme fundamentalists if economic conditions get really bad. In the Muslim World, the worse things get, the more the fundamentalists proclaim the need to increase the presence of Islam. As the societies continue to decline, that just means more sharia, Islamic government and Islamic banking

I would agree there seems to be an economic correlation to belief in the sense of standard of living and relatively equal distribution of wealth. I have argued in this forum several times that outreach and evangelical efforts are probably unlikely to achieve the goals of the New Atheists (apart from perhaps social acceptance) and that economics seems to be critical.

Up until the last couple of years, I have considered myself to be a libertarian who was close to conservative thinking. George Bush took care of my appreciation for conservatism, but while reading Michelle Goldberg’s book on the growth of Christian nationalism under the Bush Administration: “Kingdom Coming,”  I was struck by her hypothesis that libertarians are secular dupes for advancing the religious social conservative agenda, since weakeing government institutions like public education and aid to the poor, will eventually leave the religious institutions as the only game in town to provide social services, and thereby guarantee their continued existence and control of the populace.

I also wonder what would happen to church authority if medical science reached the level where our lifespans can be dramatically increased. Sociologists: Rodney Starke and Roger Finke, see the power of organized religion in economic terms, as people who fear death offer money and time to a church as a way of bargaining for that promised eternal reward in paradise. So, if our lifespans were increased to 150, a thousand, or ten thousand years, would the promise of eternal life that we read about in all of those annoying evangelical flyers have as much of a hold over people? I’m inclined to doubt it.

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