I Did An Experiment

Let me start by apologizing. I did an experiment. My previous post, rather than presenting my thoughts on a topic, simply stated one perspective on a problem much bigger than the perspective would allow. I did this with the thought in mind that my followers are generally quite thoughtful and intelligent and as a result I should see at least a couple other perspectives on the same problem. I was right. Each perspective showed we humans as one of the four blind men holding on to part of an elephant and describing what it must be.

https://i2.wp.com/i.huffpost.com/gen/2730720/thumbs/o-KID-SCIENCE-EXPERIMENT-570.jpg
Perspective is everything. The problems of humanity, the dramas of our species, very seldom change. Sure, there is a change in the props on the set and perhaps the demographics of the audience but the plays remain the same as they have been for hundreds of thousands of year or longer. Fear drives us. Without it we’d happily gorge ourselves, raise children, and die. We’d never give a thought to anything else. The one thing that makes us human; the defining attribute of humanity … is fear. Yes, fear. Fear for our food, fear for our children, fear for our freedoms, fear for our happiness, fear for our lives, fear for our existence. Fear is everything to humans.

What does that have to do with the video and the post? That video illustrates one counter point perspective on a big fear, xenophobia. Fear of those that are different. We humans have a very long history of not celebrating differences. Multiculturalism does not work exactly because you cannot mix multiple xenophobic cultures and hope to find a pasteurized common culture at the end. They will clash and one will become dominant. This _is_ human nature or the nature of the human species. One can spend hours arguing for the esoteric or ideals of altruism but in the end we have to admit that this is how humanity works. It is what made humanity the most dangerous species on this planet and what will make us the most dangerous species in this galaxy.

I recently commented that the war between the states was not about emancipation, rather it was about federation over states rights and ‘manifest destiny’ over isolationist views. That war, atrocious as it was, remains very important in that there were three sides: north, south, and antipathy. One dominated and the world was changed forever. Now we have the EU, NATO, North America, United Nations, BRIC countries, remnants of the British Empire and so on. Do you see a trend? The world is like a school yard playground and people are choosing sides. They will clash, one will dominate, and the species will continue on in the ‘new’ political paradigm. That civil war will have to be fought again and again until we are one people, one community, one group. The mechanics of this political mechanism will never allow us to create equality because true equality is the dismantling of the very mechanisms that make us successful. And we wonder what happened to the Neanderthals!

In my opinion the one hope that we have is to begin celebrating differences and to use our resources to empower the individual rather than the group. When the focus is on the individual and not the culture then value and importance is placed on the individual rather than the culture or the politics or the ideology. Should we make heroes of individuals? Not really. I’m talking more about socialism through individual empowerment. To empower each individual requires a socialist perspective. Yeah, I know, socialism is a dirty word for many. So what does that mean?

SOCIALISM: a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.

See that word community there? If we replace them with the words ‘human species’ things change drastically. The community is no longer individual cultures but the species itself. Contributors to the world stage are no longer states or countries but individuals. I don’t think it is too late for us to empower individuals through socialist protections of those individuals and society itself.

[[ I was going to put a picture here of tribal hatred but when you look at what Google serves up it is a short lesson in humanity. There is no representative picture of tribal hatred there is only every picture ever made of humanity. ]]

Yes, I’m very aware that treating all as equal will give rise to a raucous noise of ideas and desires and wants by the many people. Currently we filter those through a strainer we normally like to call culture. In fact, culture is a set of values and rules we use to strain out anything that does not fit our generalized and accepted ideals. That’s all that culture is. If you move one person from one culture to another they adapt to the new culture.

The video argues against treating all boys the same, and worse treating all boys the same as girls. It does not stop to say that treating all girls the same is bad also. The perspective of the speaker is the harm done to boys but the problem is that we are trying to treat all people the same, like brown shirts of WWII Germany. The speaker’s perspective was not that we should treat boys as individuals with individual responsibility to society but that we shouldn’t treat them all the same and expect them to be like girls. The speaker only addresses a small tip of a large iceberg. Even in a single class you can’t classify all girls the same – they are different! GASP

The political ideals that treat us all with labels are dangerous in this modern time. (religion, feminism, political parties and so on) They are dangerous because they promote the ideal that our value is based on culture and what other people think of us. People tend to rebel against this kind of thinking. They check out mentally, stop being productive, stop helping others. They can’t conform to the values demanded by the culture. Whether the culture is that of feminism or conservative politics etc. it alienates some even as it invigorates others. The divisiveness of group think in humans will always end with one group dominating and the other group(s) disappearing. You can rewrite that a bit to arrive at a theoretical formula for equality. When you do you’ll find that feminism as a group ironically cannot create equality for all. They can’t even support equality for all. I may seem to be picking on feminism but it seems topical these days. The very same can be said of any religious sect. Let’s take Islamic State as a quick example. They are not even going to try to create equality. They very honestly want to be the dominant ideology on the planet. We will all be alive to see their demise because there are so many other groups that cannot tolerate such thinking outside of their own halls of power.

One commenter went to great lengths to point out the problem with statistics. I appreciate that. Labels eliminate the outliers and exceptions. Labels eliminate the individual just as statistics are used to do most of the time.

Though the video tries to tell us that boys are being harmed I have to say that if equality is really the goal, any viewer should realize the video is showing us how we are all harmed when we fail to recognize the individual and treat everyone as a label. In this perspective it is boys that are harmed but what damage will that do later in life when they become fathers and husbands? We are all harmed by inequality, every kind or form of it. No group or political agenda can create equality. It has to come from each of us in how we treat others for that is the only way to change culture permanently. Only when we have a culture of equality will we be able to filter out what is not equality. This is an egg and chicken problem, for certain. A conundrum that can only be answered by asking the right questions and calling out those that ask the wrong ones.

We must take our self worth from personal values not those of society or community or even worse the government we didn’t pick. Individual value is the only path to equality under the law. Those that do not teach this have missed the point entirely. My value is not what you think of me, not what the government thinks of me, not what the universe thinks of me. My value is what I think of me. I am an individual. Until most other humans are also individuals under the law and in the culture – well, we can only function as a label. Labels compete with one another until there is dominance and victory. Individuals are more likely to show empathy than groups. Mob rules and all that.

Think. Be an individual. Teach children to be individuals.

 

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  1. A few points you make that really speak volumes:

    “empower the individual rather than the group.”

    “No group or political agenda can create equality.”

    “My value is what I think of me.”

    Great post MAL, thank you.

    ~slave bri

    • You are most welcome bri. I had you worried for a minute there?

      • When do you not MAL? Have you not come to terms with my new phobia?
        MALophobia: Fear of the dark verisimilitude in His perspective.

  2. Well written. The people who need to read it can’t get their face out of gun magazines.

    • There are many who ned a change of perspective and many of them seem to like gun magazines 🙂 Thanks for commenting.

      • And people even ask the question, “Why do we have so many gun deaths and other countries don’t?”

  3. what drives us, I think isn’t fear, but the will to power. The desire to dominate. Without that, I don’t see why we would be engaged in the several wars that have been fought either for gods or for resources.
    Good post mate

    • I have considered motivation for a long time. The will to power is just fear, irrational fear. Like a Napoleon complex, the will to power is fear at its base. Remember that humans were not built in a day. Our reasoning and logic is built layer upon layer over millions of years, often enough on layers that we no longer understand. Fear of losing what we consider ours is still fear. Fear is the only motivation that pushes us to greatness but it also pushes us to depravity.

      • Put that way, you make a lot of sense

        • I think that it’s fairly well proven in America that if everyone had free food delivered and 24/7 programming most of them would sit on the couch eating until they exploded. Without fear they would simply sit there and eat themselves to death.

          • And that, I think to me, would be a boring way to live

            • Ignostic Dave
            • July 12th, 2015

            I’m not sure how well proven it is. We’ve shown that when you take away opportunity and provide food and entertainment that people will stagnate, but the drive to be distinguished is also primal, and I’m sure if the opportunity presents that it will be taken by most.

        • Thank you Maka, high praise indeed.

  4. Was waiting for an explanation. Suspected one coming 😉

    • entropy
    • July 12th, 2015

    Head on! You spoke my thoughts (more or less, that is 😉 ).

    • Thanks

  5. This is very well written and thought out. I deeply agree with your sentiment. The ideal of considering ourselves all human over any other label and respecting the individual is paramount in my own thinking, something I call humanism. Labeling such a movement of thinking as such is a bit ironic considering the point you bring up here. For my purposes, trying to spread a humanist viewpoint is a strange juxtapose to getting away from labels in the long run, but I wonder what ideas you have to enact your individualist ideal and do you see any underlining problems that may create?

    • The problem is that more than 50% of the populace wants to belong to a group, they need someone to lead them. That makes the situation much like telling fish to not school.

      There have been things which have united us as humans. The space race was one of them. Disasters are another. I don’t have any definite plans in mind because it is a complicated problem and there are ways to work on that problem in small areas such as striving to show scientists as rock stars, giving voice to all the world in competitions, not just one country or the EU etc. Basically strive to make the world one community in ways that the less intelligent of the populace can participate in. There are social outliers who will not participate and those that will not participate without a local social club to join and so on. It’s a difficult problem. The things that make us American or German should be used to make us simply human though that implies a single world government, which I don’t advocate thought a federations is possible in my view.

      Every empire, including the dollar empire, have gone some way towards a greater federation. The UN is ineffectual.

      The problems are many. I think that a more grass roots approach where the people (before their governments) see those of other countries as just humans is the most probable route. International sporting events show us how to be respectful of differences yet celebrate the individual – we need more of that type of thing…. in business, entertainment and so on to break down the barriers of cultural xenophobia.

      That means a few more wars like the American civil war to come yet. It takes a strong teacher or an enterprising bully to unite the school playground. From time to time a storm can unite the playground and the enemy of my enemy is my friend will do it from time to time. The problem is that we think of ourselves as different and that is the problem that has to be solved.

      In space nobody knows your country of domicile. I vote for space exploration as a way to show we are all just human.

      When a diverse group liberates fuel from an outer planet/moon to further space exploration we will all win, humanity wins. When we colonize another planet we will all win.

      There are obviously thousands of other ways to promote human label over other labels. They should all be used.

      • “The problem is that more than 50% of the populace wants to belong to a group”.

        Where did you get that statistic?

        • Good question. Truth is I made that up based on the number of people who are in groups of one kind or another: religion, secular church, Jainists, golf clubs, political parties and so on. Based on just those kinds of groups which have leadership more than half belong to some group. Admittedly this is a USA based opinion. Leaving the number at 50% it doesn’t go too far wrong in many western countries.

          • I agree with hoping for unification of the world as just a species. Such a goal is a tenet of at least my personal belief and following of humanism.

            It is very insightful of you to consider outliers. I agree in general with your consideration of world sporting events for the purpose of bringing humanity together, however I would be considered an outlier there since I couldn’t care less about sporting events.

            One problem I see is one that is constant in our species. That there will always be people who want nothing but power and control. I’m sure to some extent certain warhawks in the US government would agree with your unification of the world, but only under the disgusting American Exceptionalism ideal.

            Thank you for answering my question. I enjoyed your post and feel their is much wisdom in it.

  6. Your post has a lot of ideas and information. I guess I agree with some of it. I agree a person’s worth is something that should come from within, but I know from experience that the constant judgement of of those we look up to in childhood can shape that worth to a degree. I also think that I would love to see our people learn, be taught , how to spend free time constructively and not destructively, to make the most of the time they have in life. However I do not discount the role government structure has to play in the lives of people. We need a structure or we have chaos. As for being one people, I agree. The Native Tribes had a way of this, they called those who were not born of the tribe but were friendly to the tribe, relative. I myself do not know if I have native blood in my body, but I know I am part of the native people who have adopted me. They call me brother, and I call them family. So there is a way to unite people if we are willing. I think the rights of people must be also balanced by a government of the people for the good of the people. Just a few of my thoughts. The post was very informative and well written. Hugs

    • Thank you. I’m glad you like it

      • It was deep, it had many layers to it. I enjoyed the reasoning of it. It was a good post. Hugs

  7. “My value is not what you think of me, not what the government thinks of me, not what the universe thinks of me. My value is what I think of me. I am an individual.”

    It may be surprising for you to learn that you are a child of the Protestant Reformation, but, at least as it regards these ideals, you are. This sense of complete autonomy derives from the doctrine of the “priesthood of all believers”, and is indicative of the modern world, which is the child of the Protestant division from the Catholic church. When I was a protestant, we heard this message in some form most Sundays.

    With that historical background, let me get down to brass tacks. Firstly, fear simply isn’t the “distinctive aspect of man”, for the simple reason that all other animals experience fear. Secondly, humans aren’t terrified of “differences” as such. Humans are communal creatures, who need love and acceptance. Can we change our most basic emotional nature and eliminate our need to be accepted and loved by others? Can we truly thrive in this state? “No man is an Island”.

    In short, difference causes strife because difference implies distance, and distance implies lack of love. We hate differences not because we are afraid, but because we don’t want to be alone.

    Your system would work if it were possible for it to work, but men by their nature are not autonomous, but communal.

    • Thanks for commenting.

      I get where you are coming from but I have to interject with the fact that your conclusions are based on several assumptions that would tend to create a lot of outliers in the data you are using.

      While most of the western world has been largely influenced by both the schism and the reformation it has also been largely influenced in more recent years by critical and free thinkers. Science was not driven by religion or religious thought. To the contrary, most scientific progress has flown in the face of religion and religious thought.

      So while it can be said that I’m a child of the reformation I’m also a child of the scientific enlightenment that followed it.

      While fear is also known in the animal world other than humans it is humans who have perfected it to the point that we can live in either the past or future entirely driven by fears. I disagree with you on the difference between ‘love and acceptance’ and the fear that actually drives humans to need ‘love and acceptance’.

      We can eliminate the fears that drive us to need ‘love and acceptance’ among other things. When it is done things change. A boat out on a lake by itself is a kind of island. A harbor teaming with boats makes none of them look like an island.

      You failed to mention why it is that we fear being alone. In the world, we talk about average intelligence. We all like to think we are above average in this respect but by definition half the population is not. I take it that your generalizations are not about just the half who are above average. So this need for ‘love and acceptance’ is an average kind of thing, right? About half the population is not ‘average’ by definition. Given how average things work out there has to be something underneath the numbers that drives us despite where we fall on the scales and which allows for outliers. I say it is fear as a basic driver. You can call it a ‘need’ to be loved and accepted and I will always challenge the definition of ‘need’ in that case.

      Fears can be overcome and in this I think it is workable, even if you are not able to see it.

    • Well, it appears that I’m not the only one. See http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/brin20150725#When:19:59:00Z for a little bit more about fear as a motivator for humans.

  8. This false dichotomy between religion and science has been the subject of many books and essays over the last 100 years, and it is complete rubbish. Firstly, the first “free-thinkers” were Luther and the other Reformers; they were “free” because they were able to toss aside 1,000s of years of tradition in the form of philosophy and morality by separating from the authority of the church. Imagine if someone did the same with the natural sciences; if they were “free” from the wisdom and findings of earlier scientists, and were able to make up or believe anything they wanted to about natural laws and properties. This video may interest you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IynBVmJ2lZc

    Also, you can credit Universities, genetics, microscopes, and the big bang theory to Christianity and the Church, as well as Greek and Roman Architecture, philosophy, and science (which was preserved and copied by Monks). You likely base your assumption upon a vague and one-sided version of the treatment of Galileo, as well as on Protestant Fundamentalism, which is of modern origin.

    Can you really claim that Love is merely an illusion which is grounded in survival based fear?

    By 50% of the population I suppose you are making reference to religious people, as if religious groups were the only types of groups that existed, as if humans only “grouped” together because they were terrified of personified volcanoes. Aren’t your wordpress followers and other atheistic friends a group or community? Does terror motivate you to write in your blog, or is it something else? What is the meaning of Atheist societies?

    Ultimately, this kind of materialist worldview will always end in nonsense, because cannot see man as anything more than an animal which is solely motivated by food, shelter, and water. Animals don’t even operate like this; dolphins often commit suicide when mates and family are removed from them.

    More than that, the distinctive characteristic of man is not a peculiarity in his emotions, but his conscious essence of being; his soul. Man makes art, music, and religion, all of which function as reflections of life, and all of which are peculiar to man. No other animal makes art. Some animals make structures, some of which are beautiful, but the structures are consistent across time and space. A particular species of bee makes a particular type of hive; you will never find a book tracing the history of bee architecture, from gothic to modern, because bees don’t make hives artistically; ie, they don’t make them in accordance with their view of life and themselves. For more, read chapter 1 of this book: “http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks01/0100311.txt”

    • HDSmith, thanks for commenting. Discussion is good.

      Dichotomy between science and religion is not false. You can try to find two things they have in common such as ‘oh look, both try to explain the world so they are the same’ but that doesn’t work past some thin veil of description. Science looks at what is testable, falsifiable, measurable etc. Religion looks at anything that is not science. If something in religion were testable, falsifiable, measurable… it would be called science and not need faith without evidence to believe in it.

      Anyone that wants to ignore all the science that has been done already and start fresh is welcome to do so. Science is not just a popular idea contest. They would still have to go through the scientific method with their discoveries to ensure they are the best possible answers. What you suggest is foolish. It’s like deciding to ignore all the science and technology of automotive manufacturing and going off to build your own car. When the reformers broke away from the church because of it’s bad ideas and beliefs all they managed to do was come up with their own version of bad ideas and belief. They didn’t actually throw off bad ideas and belief, see?

      We can thank monks for beer too. That doesn’t mean that religion did us all a great favor. We should be thankful to the Moores for keeping enlightened thinking alive while the Christians were busy burning the rest of the world down and killing off as many of the non-Christians as they could. You have a revisionist view of history my friend. Are you suggesting we thank the church for the dark ages, the inquisition, holy wars? How did the church preserve anything? By taking money from the poor. There have been scientific discoveries made by ‘Christians’ but you’re going to have to own up to the fact that this happened a lot when not being Christian would get you killed. Science will not throw out knowledge simply because it was discovered by someone who also happens to believe in crazy things. If you are thinking of Monseigneur Georges Lemaître in regard to the big bang, he was using science not religion to prove an expanding universe. There is no need to thank religion or Christianity. They way you state it is deliberately misleading, a kind of dishonesty. Is that really your plan to get into heaven?

      Yes, I can claim that love is merely an illusion which is grounded in survival based fear. I believe I already have. You have no way to prove that anything you think you know is more than an illusion, or even that you yourself are not an illusion.

      Atheists are a group or community in the very same way that everyone who is not wearing red clothing today is a group or community. That is to say they are not. Since I don’t use the term ‘atheist societies’ I can only guess. If nobody in a society believed in gods there would be no need for the word atheist so an atheist society is a useless phrase. Atheism is NOT a world view. Many atheists hold a materialist world view but atheism and materialism do not mutually require one another. The rest of your comment about materialist world views makes no sense. There appear to be assumptions in there that are not explained.

      I would like to see your evidence and/or proof that anyone or anything has a soul. Please start by describing exactly what a soul is and how you know that definition to be true. It is not true that no other animals make art. Most of them have no time or need or resources to make art but when they have them some do. http://www.koko.org/gorilla-art-0 It appears that you overvalue the human mind somewhat, and undervalue the efforts of other animals. The honey bee’s hive is a functional work of art. Humans are still trying to figure out how to build a house as durable, cheap, and functional as a bee hive.

      Humans are special in some respects but not in others. We do have the distinction of being the only animal that can destroy this planet or make it uninhabitable by humans and other animals. We’re currently transforming this planet, raising the temperature etc. That doesn’t make us smart – it makes us dangerous. Humans will sit and worry out of fear while animals sit and relax. Fear is what drives humans. See http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/brin20150725#When:19:59:00Z for a little bit more about fear as a motivator for humans.

      I know you think your beliefs in god are true. Tell me, if they are absolutely true, credible, undeniable then why is it that people who really want to believe in a god don’t believe as you do? I can see you working to convince me but in my view you aren’t able to convince even the people that _really_ want to be convinced. Clearly there is something wrong with your evidence or logic or both. Why is it that the world is not converting to your beliefs and world view?

  9. Honestly, I wrote a long response to your response, but I clicked on a link in your article and I lost it. I don’t really have the motivation to rewrite it, and I doubt it would do much anyway.

    I suppose I ought to answer your last paragraph at least. “Why can’t people who want to believe in God believe in him?” Nearly all men who disbelieve in God, at least as an abstract concept, do so, not because the concept of God is unreasonable, but because their concept of God is unreasonable. They try their hardest to believe in a man in the clouds, and a 6,000 year old earth, and a magic book falling from the sky, not knowing all the while that Aquinas, Augustine, and all of the other great thinkers in the Church would have laughed at them. They are a product of Fundamentalism (a modern development) or ignorance, and likely both. God is not simply the Highest Being, he is the essence and ground of being itself. God is the noncontigent ground of contingency. The Bible is not a literal journalistic account of things. It is a collection of different books with a number of different genres, which one must interpret in kind. You would be quite disappointed if you expected Moby Dick to be a detective novel. This is a view which the Church has always had, which some Protestants reacted against.

    I know that an Atheist can find God, because I was one, and now I’m not. The difference, as you said, is that I saw the value of Faith and you don’t; ie, I wanted God and you don’t. You could hardly expect to understand chemistry if you don’t want to understand it. It is too complex to be understood without being seriously engaged. By the way you write and the things you say, I can tell that you are inexperienced in the realm of religion and philosophy. You have only seen things from your own perspective, and perhaps the perspective of a fundamentalist. I understand everything that you have said, because I have believed everything that you have said at one point or another. You have never seen religion as anything more than “God of the gaps” or the “Flying spaghetti monster” or “Wish-dream fulfillment”. I, again, was once convinced of those things, but, through a long process of searching and soul-wrenching analysis, I have come to be where I am.

    I assume that you didn’t read the link I sent you (I read yours), but if you ever want to explore outside of your closed, uncreative worldview, I would suggest reading that. That would’ve explained what I said about the bees and the soul and whatnot.

    • hdsmith,

      I am no novice at religion. I’m the first born of a preacher. You keep telling me what I’m a product of but apparently haven’t even read the ‘about me’ page? You do not know me but seem certain of my history. I will call you a liar the next time you do that.

      I wanted god too, he just can’t be found anywhere. My atheism is not a hypothesis, it’s a conclusion. When you say your god is noncontingent I assume you have some evidence for this and I’d like you to share with me how you know that your god exists and is not contingent. I’m not really interested so much in what you used to believe, I’m interested in what you believe now and even more interested in why, what proof you have. If you have no proof or credible evidence I will question why you are bothering me with heresay. Calling my world view closed and uncreative is both ignorant and insulting. Do you suppose this is the best way to witness to others? It’s not even a good way to share your beliefs.

      Yes, I listened to the video. There’s a lot of double speak in it. I have no clue how that is relevant to bees. Now, it’s time to call you out. You have intentionally been misleading and not forthcoming with answers. You wrote:

      ==I don’t really have the motivation to rewrite it, and I doubt it would do much anyway.

      I suppose I ought to answer your last paragraph at least. “Why can’t people who want to believe in God believe in him?”==

      Your doubt is insulting to both of us because it clearly says you don’t have anything credible with which to argue and you assume that I would not change if I were presented with credible evidence for your argument. You clearly did not understand my question. I can type it out here again but you don’t seem at all interested in answering the question because you didn’t even answer the misquoted version you replied with. You simply blame them as being insufficient or deficient. I want to know why your evidence and proof is not enough to convince people to believe as YOU do, why it’s not enough to convince them to adopt your world view. You didn’t answer these questions. If you can’t answer them how is it that you expect you can convince me that your world view and beliefs are correct and true?

      If your holy text must be interpreted then how is it that _you_ have the right interpretation? How can I know that YOU have the right way, the right belief, the right interpretation? If the holy texts are not literal then your interpretation of them is no better than interpretations of them by Alistair Crowley.

      I don’t care how long it took you to get where you are. I want to know _why_ and what evidence you have. So far you have been really stingy with any evidence and have yet to produce something which is credible. You say very vague things without explanations. When I ask for explanation and evidence you have none. What exactly is it that you hoped to accomplish here?

  10. As a prefatory note, I posted two links on in my post; one was a video, and admittedly had nothing to do with animals, and the other was a book, the first chapter of which could shed some light on what I had been saying; here it is again: http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks01/0100311.txt

    Secondly, allow me to explain my prior frustration with you. The trouble for me was not that I couldn’t answer your questions, but that you are asking the wrong ones. I forgot what it was like to be in your shoes. I forgot the road it took to get here. One of the biggest difficulties of removing yourself from a faulty world view is that you can’t ask the right questions, because you don’t know where you are supposed to be going. If I knew all of the right questions to ask and the right places to go to find answers, I’d have been a Catholic in a couple of weeks; instead, it took me years. I was also a super-evangelical, the difference was, I lost my faith while I was a Religion and Philosophy major, so I was enabled to think outside of both Modern Atheism and Modern Evangelicalism.

    The fact that you were the child of a protestant minister gives whole new meaning to initial accusation that you are a child of Protestantism, with almost humorous exactitude.

    That is why I insisted that the Protestant heresy (and through it fundamentalism) was not Christianity in its fullest sense. Modern Atheism is a mere reaction to Protestantism. It can only stand by standing on the unreasonableness of the fundamentalists. Why do you suppose nearly all Modern Atheistic apologetics (Bill Maher, Dawkins, etc) end up being an attack on a 6,000 year old earth, or an angry man in the sky, or on the inability to Reason? Beneath all of the aggressive attacks on fundamentalism, Modern Atheism is merely agnosticism.

    Darwinism itself is entirely unconvincing, unless it is attacking fundamentalists. One reason, and there are more, is the lack of explanations for the origins of life. If DNA mistakes/changes are necessary for mutations to occur, how did the first creatures mutate into being without DNA already present? This confusion is very easily explained by the understandable ignorance of Darwin; the human genome project occurred long after his death, and he presumed that life is reducible to a squirming speck of slime, which could be formed from “primordial soup”, as it was later articulated. For a more impressive cloud of witnesses, I will refer you to this website called Dissent from Darwin (http://www.dissentfromdarwin.org/), which contains a 22 page list of very skeptical scientists.

    I have not taken a core sample of God, so that I could “scientifically” prove his noncontigency or his eternal nature, but there is a very convincing proof of it philosophically; though, of course, to entirely proof it would take a very long time. I will give you the abstract, though. Aristotle posited that the First Cause of the universe must itself be uncaused; otherwise, we deny a source, and merely gaze at an endless line stretching infinitely into nothingness. He therefore denied that the first cause was infinite, which is the way that most Protestants (and therefore reacting Atheists) imagine God; an infinite line stretching backwards and forwards; and of course, modern science has indicated that the universe had a beginning. Aristotle claimed that the First Cause, (the Unmoved Mover, as he called it) must be outside of time and change and must be the cause of time and change. He therefore envisioned the First cause, geometrically, as a circle; an ever moving but entirely self-sufficient thing without end or beginning, rather than an infinite line. It would also be fruitful to examine how Christianity expanded on that idea, but I’ll stop for now.

    As a quick response to the Bible question, it is not my own interpretation, but one which spans 2,000 years back to the Apostles (who wrote the NT), and even further back into Ancient Judaism. If you read Ancient Jewish commentaries on Genesis and other texts, you would be quite surprised at how allegorically they interpreted it (Philo, for example). Also, is the quote “no man is an island” simply a scientific statement, meaning that men are not literal islands, or is it poetry? If the Bible includes works of divine poetry, it does not follow that we shouldn’t treat it like poetry. I would encourage you to look into the poetic-chiastic structure in Genesis, and also Myth as a genre.

    One final thing: Are we really crediting that Gorilla Art website as a credible source? The same people who declared that one of their chimps was said when he heard that Robin Williams died, and who sell copies of this gorilla are for $350 a pop?

    • hdsmith,
      I read the first chapter. No, it didn’t help your argument.

      I should mention here that you have not yet answered some questions. If your world view and belief system is THE correct one why does most of the human population refuse to adopt it as their own?

      I see that you think I’m asking the wrong questions but you’ve neither answered them or explained why you think they were the wrong questions. Is it that you simply wish to avoid them?

      If you read my ‘about me’ page you’ll note that I do not speak for others and they do not speak for me. No matter what you think of ‘modern atheism’ you still have to deal with what I think. Mostly because I don’t care what you think about some imaginary group or some imagined agenda. I want to know what you believe and why, what evidence you have for that belief. You mention dissentfromdarwin.org as some sort of authority – Meh! there are more scientists (1375 currently) who are named Steve or Stephany who do believe in evolution than there are names on the 22 pages. Think that through for a minute. It means that the signatories to dissentfromdarwin list is meaningless or practically so, but most especially in the context you have referenced it with.

      Again, I don’t care what you think of ‘modern atheism’, whatever that is. You are spending a lot of time not answering questions and attacking imagined groups of people that you apparently think I am a part of. When do you intend to actually talk about the evidence for your beliefs?

      Evolution is the explanation for diversity of life. It does not explain the origin of life. The only thing this scientific theory attacks is ignorance. Despite this, evolution’s explanatory power points to a single source of life in very much the same way as the evidence pointed to the singularity (big bang). It does not point to creation, rather it points to subtle changes over time from single cells up to what we see today. Evidence supports this hypothesis though biogenesis remains unexplained as yet.

      The reason that atheists attack as they do is because the people who are pushing their religion on the rest of society believe in what they do. If believers would be kind enough to keep their credulous beliefs to themselves and quit trying to force the education system, the government, and the law to change to suit their unfounded beliefs there would be no reason for argument or attacks etc. It’s truly sad that you call them attacks. Explaining the truth and why the behavior of some people is crazy and/or dangerous is not an attack, but if the truth hurts I suppose calling it an attack would be a normal reaction.

      The idea that the cause of the universe must be uncaused is lunacy. There is no valid reason to assume this supposition as true. That argument, presented vehemently by WLCraig, is full of problems which have not been resolved. For some of my thoughts on this see https://myatheistlife.wordpress.com/?s=big+splash&x=0&y=0 There is no reason to even begin to think that what is outside of the universe that we know has any kind of agency. There is no reason to even begin to think that there is nothing outside of the universe that we know. Philosophy often makes way too many assertions and uses way too many presuppositions. Religious philosophy takes that erroneous thinking even further, in my opinion.

      You use the phrase ‘divine poetry’ without a reason to believe there is divine anything. It remains unproven that deities can exist never mind that one might. You seem rather smitten with the Christian holy texts. With your stated schooling, what other texts did you compare it with? The stories in Genesis are not as good as the stories they were plagiarized from. If it’s just ‘poetry’ then I prefer the originals to those stories in Genesis. I would love for you to show credible evidence for the apostles having written the new testament.

      Your disparaging of the people who work with the gorillas is a sad testament to monotheistic religion’s inability to see the world clearly and the way they justify the harm they do to the world and humanity at large.

      So far as I see it you have presented or tried to present the following problematic arguments. I may have missed one so this is not a complete list.
      1 – KCA
      2 – Argument from authority – dissentfromdarwin
      3 – straw man fallacy – arguing against imagined groups instead of dealing with my questions
      4 – making misleading statements, deliberately
      5 – making assertions without credible evidence and failing to provide it when asked
      6 – avoiding giving answers to direct questions about your beliefs

      So, what is your goal here. What point are you working to make? What do you hope to accomplish with this conversation?

      • I’m feeling confounded. I’ve been addressing your questions as much as you’ve been addressing mine. You’ve made unestablished generalizations throughout our correspondence.

        “It’s truly sad that you call them attacks. Explaining the truth and why the behavior of some people is crazy and/or dangerous is not an attack, but if the truth hurts I suppose calling it an attack would be a normal reaction.” And you accuse me of pointless straw-man arguments! I used the word “attack” on fundamentalists, a group with which I vehemently disagree, and you write a whole paragraph on it? Does objecting vehemently to something which had nothing to do with anything make you satisfied?

        “When do you intend to actually talk about the evidence for your beliefs?” Here’s how this correspondence has gone: I say things, and you offhandedly dismiss them without providing any legitimate basis for doing so. Ex. “The stories in Genesis are not as good as the stories they were plagiarized from. If it’s just ‘poetry’ then I prefer the originals to those stories in Genesis.” Do you expect well thought out, objective responses when you make unsupported value judgments like this? You haven’t said what stories you refer to, nor why they are better, nor what your standard of better is. You didn’t even address my point about poetry as a genre, which was the point; you found the word “divine” in my statement and went off on that, as if I was trying to currently make the case that it is good poetry.

        “Your disparaging of the people who work with the gorillas is a sad testament to monotheistic religion’s inability to see the world clearly and the way they justify the harm they do to the world and humanity at large.” What? What does this even mean? Are people not allowed to question “research” anymore? You hastily group me under “monotheistic religion”, even though grouping is apparently one of the Deadly Sins which you shy away from. You claim that Monotheism is “harming the world”; how?? Maybe you’re talking about fundamentalism again. Is this a rule for all Monotheists? I must agree that Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr, and William Wilberforce had a dreadful effect on the world. But I’m sure, as you previously suggested about our scientific priest, their faith had nothing at all to do with their actions.

        It astonishes me that you expect me to pledge my allegiance to William Lane Craig after I have spoken so much against evangelicalism. Do you think I was making the “Kalam” argument? Something that can be refuted by the “water drop” argument? Why are you still trying to refute me by making fun of Protestants? Craig is citing a “personal being” as the first cause; I am citing the essence of Being itself (as Aquinas would say). Everything that happens doesn’t need an “intentional” cause necessarily, but everything that is must Be; it must have being. The water drop is not the source of its own being; neither is the cosmic “suitcase” which blew up in the big bang. By beginning temporal, material things, they cannot be their own source of being, because they are always becoming, not being itself.

        I would reference “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses” by Richard Bauckham in regard to “evidence” for apostolic writing.

        What evidence are you looking for? Would you like a hair sample of God, left at the crime scene of Creation? Would you like a video of the resurrection? Would you like me to capture and angel in a butterfly net? If the supernatural is supernatural, it is not nature, by definition. What kind of weak, contingent, physical God do you suppose we believe made the universe?

        Why doesn’t everyone believe what I believe if it’s true? You seem to put a lot of weight in that argument, as if it was convincing at all. Why doesn’t everyone believe in Darwinism if it is true? It has already been taught to this whole generation in the schools; why doesn’t the weight of Reason overwhelm the populace? You will probably mention something like the
        “blockheadedness” of the religious, as though I couldn’t respond by simply citing the “blockheadedness” of the Darwinists.

        Why am I doing this? Unlike you, I understand that Joy does not come simply from sitting and meditating autonomously on one’s own beliefs, but that it comes from the participation in a community and in the greater culture at large as well. Therefore, I would like for the culture I live in to be a hospitable one, and I believe that faith is important for that. Also, you function for me presently as a sort of figurehead; I want to see how intelligent dialogues with Atheists will; whether they are fruitful for either or both parties (keeping our mental swords sharp), or whether they are altogether useless. I don’t intend for this paragraph to be a point of argument; rather, a simple statement of intentions.

        • hdsmith,
          You will find that I am often pedantic because words have meaning, both technical meaning and baggage attached to them through common usage. Sharpening your argument, refining your world view, getting help to see the flaws in your thinking are good things.

          Attack: sort of like the war on Christmas. The non-believers have trouble saying their piece without being told they are attacking someone else. In a civilised discussion there should be no room for language that infers untruths. Not many discussions are as civil as that. You appear to be Catholic, monotheist, but do not like evangelicals and fundamentalists. Correct me if I have that wrong. Your first comment was about fear not being the motivator for human behavior. Just now you state that you understand joy. The dictionary says it is a feeling of great pleasure and happiness but you claim that it does not come simply from sitting and meditating autonomously on one’s own beliefs. The conclusion then is that you believe joy cannot come from this activity and further that it comes only from participation in a community and the greater culture. That seems a rather narrow definition in contrast to the dictionary. Joy is an emotion and by definition I believe that it is derived from purely subjective means. Those subjective means can be community participation but that is hardly the only method. Your analysis here seems flawed.

          When you mentioned atheist groups and their ‘attacks’ then fundamentalists become part of the conversation necessarily because fundamentalists are the source of much strife. Let’s not limit the definition of fundamentalists only to evangelicals because there are fundamentalist Catholics, atheists, and of every world view. By definition there must be. Arguing for a softer, gentler, more malleable set of world views does not abrogate responsibility for the fundamental beliefs of a world view held by a given individual.

          Like or dislike for poetry is a subjective value. No matter how technical or educated my view of poetry might be it is still subjective. I do not confuse your reference to poetry with ‘roses are red…’ nonsense. If the Christian holy texts are poetry rather than divine revelation, I prefer the stories that were plagiarized to those in the Christian texts. These are referenced many places and if I need to name all of them specifically for you we are not on the same level of discourse. Do I need mention Gilgamesh, Hammurabi and others? This is common knowledge available to anyone with an Internet connection as you must surely have. If you do not think the Christian holy texts contain good poetry, what then is the point of thinking it valid/valuable? Whether poetry or history the Christian holy texts point to a creator. There is no credible evidence for this creator nor valid reason to believe one exists. I’m not sure you thought this through. If the Genesis account of creation is only poetry, not literal, then original sin is a useless mechanism which fails to explain either the need for a christ or the purpose of one. Without original sin Christianity is a pointless. Without a literal interpretation of Genesis there is no validity to the concept of original sin. All the harm of monotheism starts with the concept of original sin. Without it there is no need of monotheistic religion and most of the rest of the holy texts become comical, literally if not just rhetorically. All of the ‘good’ things stated in Christian holy texts also have external sources which do not come with the same baggage as Christian statements of them.

          When I say monotheistic religion I refer, in general, to Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. There are others but these three generate more harm to the world and humanity than the others combined. It’s not a case of some religion is good and others bad in my view, rather it is a case of all are harmful but some are more so than the rest. The list of reasons that I find them harmful is long. They teach the adherent that they are flawed, failed, doomed, and incapable of redeeming themselves (except through adherence to a religion which is the source of the problem to begin with) in preparation for the ‘next life’ for which we have no credible evidence. They teach the adherent that they have a soul (for which there is no credible evidence) which must be saved from the tortures of the deity and which they cannot themselves save from the torments promised by a deity for which there is no credible evidence. They teach them magical thinking (that magic happens) and to live this life in preparation for a life that cannot be shown to exist. In short, monotheistic religions are lies and they bully adherents into doing things which are not good for them or for society in an effort to keep the money flowing to the clerics. This is a generalization but one that does not have a valid rebuttal that I have yet seen. That includes Catholicism. The Catholic church, by virtue of killing off any competition, has a LOT to answer for. The story of the popes through history is enough to make even the most casual investigation conclude that the pope is a joke, an insult to humanity devised not to guide or help but to rule and oppress. When someone acts as a functionary of a religion they are acting as the religion. In example, Mother Teresa was a functionary of the church and the harm she did was not only sanctioned by the church but lauded as good. The church is complicit in the harm she did. She cannot be extricated from the church and her actions set aside as distinct from the church. Hiding paedophile priests from the law is also a case where the church is complicit. It cannot be separated. The laws and rules and function of the church both protects criminals and encourages them. To then say that the beliefs are separate from the church is to decry the church as corrupt. This leaves the believer with nothing but the texts and the end result is the same as the reformation. In either case, the texts are corrupt for they lead people to do corrupt things. For every example where you might show this as not true in a specific case, I can show you a general trend in the opposite view for the length of the existence of the church.

          When you disparage those that work with the apes, their need for funding, and the actual art made by the apes you demonstrate either a fundamental inability to understand others or a dedication to disparage what is not in your view as something good or useful. Not all art is universally useful or good. It is by definition subjective in nature. $350 is not that big a price for art on the general market. The flippant way you talked about it was disparaging and in my opinion makes you somewhat provincial. Yes, I view your comments about the apes as flippant.

          I’m confused, if you were not making the KCA it sure seemed like it. Try again as I clearly missed your point. You talk about the essence of being. Please explain what you mean by this. It sounds very philosophical in nature and nebulous in definition. I have my own definition but I rather doubt it matches yours so your effort to explain it would be useful.

          Yes, I would like a hair sample of your god _and_ a video of the resurrection. If you can capture an angel in a butterfly net what would be grand! If you want to insist that the supernatural exists you’ll have to find a convincing and credible way to demonstrate that it does. I don’t know what creator deity that _you_ personally believe in. If it is the god YHWH then I have to admit that I have problems with all that can be known of this god. _Your_ understanding of a creator god does not have to be the same as other people’s understanding of such a creator god, it seems completely subjective unless you subscribe wholly to the doctrine of a theology or religion. You appear to but it has not been stated as such. What is your understanding of a creator deity? Do you believe in a deity? You are quite correct, religions are the only group of consequence telling people to not believe in evolution. They don’t show that it is untrue, they simply argue that it can’t be because of their theology. Again, this is the kind of harm that religions do to humans and society. As for evidence for your creator deity, if you believe your creator deity is omniscient and omnipotent then your creator deity already knows what would convince me and has not yet bothered to do so. If such a deity needs human help it is doubtful that such a deity exists. That is to say that your argument for a given deity holds zero weight with me if your given deity cannot produce evidence by itself which is credible and beyond reproach. I do not need your input to verify that Paris exists or that ants live in the ground. If it is required that I believe you to find evidence for your chosen deity then the weight of evidence is against you because you are making a special pleading that evidence for everything else is one way but evidence for your deity is different yet the same evidence for a different deity is false.

          No assertion that the supernatural exists can be used as a valid premise in an argument until and unless it is proven that the supernatural exists. Even then it must also be proven with credible evidence that a given entity exists in the supernatural before that entity can be used as a valid premise. No, I can’t prove that there is no such thing as the supernatural but I’m not claiming it is impossible. All I claim is that there is no credible evidence for it, no valid reason to even think it is possible. That it does not exist is a conclusion based on the facts available, not a claim of knowledge. I also conclude that there are no invisible red dragons in my garage. There is no credible evidence for them to exist.

          Harking back to the original, fear is the motivator for humans, all mammals. Communal social structure does not change this except to change what we fear or rather to add to the list of what we fear. You claim this is not so but have not shown that it is not so. The discussion went all over the place but you have yet to show that fear is not the single motivator. Love and joy are amelioration of fear, not replacements of it. Fear of standing out, fear of standing alone without support… these drive us to be communal. This is nothing more than xenophobia: fear of those not like us. Such fears are driven by forced communal living. On our own, such fear does not exist. communal living creates more fears rather than eliminate them. We fear not being accepted rather than desire love. Love on its own is undefined. Fear, that has definition. It is “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat” No matter what your world view is fear remains a part of your life. Whether you believe love is real or not, fear remains a part of your life. Whether you live in a metropolis or alone in the mountains, fear is a part of your life. Love and joy are not universal and cannot be the primary drivers or motivation for human behavior.

  11. Do you actually think that Mother Teresa damaged society? I was clearly using sarcasm.

    I do actually think Genesis is an excellent myth. To clarify, the first chapter fits the genre of a poem, and the subsequent ones fit the genre of a Myth. The thing about a myth is that it is passed down by a community; the tradition often does get down to the heart of the events that occurred. “Myths convey the essential truths of life itself”. Genesis is a True myth. How do we treat a true myth? If you could have proven to the men who recorded the myth in scripture that they ate a carrot and not a fruit, they wouldn’t have cared. If you proved that the Fall never occurred, their faith would be terribly shaken. If you told them that the earth was 6 billion years old, and that God gradually altered animals over a long period of time to perfect the animal form and establish a mature ecosystem, I’m sure they would be quite interested and perhaps even excited at this truth. If you told them that God did not create the world, it would change things. Do you see what I mean? The Genesis myth remains true even in the environment of a more mature scientific environment. Though you will disagree with this, it is also incredibly accurate in its treatment of man. It treats man as the odd thing he is; the Ruler of the animals and the Garden, an animal with a divine soul that was breathed into him by God himself. Genesis is also terribly accurate about the nature of sin; Man took the fruit unreasonably, at the improper time, before he was ready for it. I also love the stories about the tower of babel, and the flood, etc.

    I assumed you were referring to other myths; I couldn’t imagine that you were comparing the law of Hammurabi and Gilgamesh to the biblical myths and laws. I much prefer the latter to the former.

    “For every example where you might show this as not true in a specific case, I can show you a general trend in the opposite view for the length of the existence of the church.” That is interesting, because I would say exactly the opposite. There have been occasions of bad bishops and Priests, even corruption in the Papal office, all of which the Church knows and acknowledges. When the Church said that men are sinful, they weren’t joking.

    On the crusades: http://www.catholic.com/blog/steve-weidenkopf/were-the-crusades-just-wars
    On the inquisition: http://www.catholic.com/tracts/the-inquisition
    On Galileo: (http://www.catholic.com/tracts/the-galileo-controversy)
    On the sex scandal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OE00MMOh_z0

    A quick note on the Dark Ages: It is probably more fitting to blame the invading heathen army which conquered Rome than the Church. It’s like blaming the Anglican church for the bombings in England in WWII. You can, however, thank the church for the revival of the Holy Roman Empire at the start of the Middle ages (Holy, united by the church), and the subsequent Renaissance that came out of it.

    You only make generalizations; I would like specifics. You make endless common accusations against Religion and Christianity as a whole, but you site no real instances for your conclusions. I will respond in kind: I have only found fundamentalists in Protestantism, not in Catholicism. Further, I don’t agree that clerics are greedy men who are stealing from the poor. That is, in my experience, a silly caricature which is perhaps fitting of Joel Osteen and the “prosperity gospel” folk, but not in any way the average cleric; honestly, not even the protestant clerics. You also mentioned the “flaws” in religious doctrine, none of which express the fullness of Catholic doctrine.

    “If such a deity needs human help it is doubtful that such a deity exists. That is to say that your argument for a given deity holds zero weight with me if your given deity cannot produce evidence by itself which is credible and beyond reproach.” Once again, I hold precisely the opposite view. The existence of the universe is an ever-present apologetic; I hardly think it could be more evident.

    This of course comes back to the ideas of Being. To be clear, when I speak of Being, I am talking about the idea of spirit and soul; the means of our subjective conscious experience. This is self-evident; it is literally the means by which we experience everything. To say that consciousness is an illusion is to say that the universe is an illusion, and science is nonsense, because we only know the universe through conscious experience.

    This brings up another point. I said that love is the most fundamental emotional motivator for humans, but it is not necessarily the most essential nature of man. Man’s most essential nature is his soul; his spiritual nature (not emotional), his sense of identity and consciousness. To quote the Amazing Spiderman, “I had a professor once who liked to tell his students that there were only 10 different plots in all of fiction. Well, I’m here to tell you he was wrong. There is only one: “Who am I?”

    Man’s worldview; the way he views himself and his relation to the world around him, is the deepest part of him.

    • What you think about the Genesis myth? This would seem to make sense only if all people are honest. Hint, they aren’t. What you’ve said seems to make sense until we read stories like that of Hypatia. Truth was the last thing on the mob’s mind. The people did not listen like small children and still do not. If they did perhaps more would think your world view is awesome. In one generation the Chinese government has erased ‘Tank Man’ from the collective memory of China. A lie can get half way round the world before the truth gets its pants on, so the saying goes. You’re asking us to believe the idea that if Genesis was not true it would have been written differently. I’m going to have to take a break to peel my face from my palms

      That hurt my head. What you’ve done is called circular logic that equates to: Genesis is true because it says it’s true. Your logic validates every creation myth ever but you want me to believe that only your favorite creation myth is true. Circular logic and special pleading for the win. I simply cannot take the rest of your arguments seriously if you believe this bit of failed reasoning. As such I won’t work to address them because if all the beliefs of your world view are based on a premise which relies on circular logic there is not much point.

      You wanted to sharpen your argument. This circular logic right here invalidates the rest of your argument(s).

  12. This question, “Who am I?” drives our curiosity, scientific and philosophical. It is the source of music, art, and religion. It is at the heart of the gay and transgender movement. It is the reason that religious beliefs matter, for they change how you see yourself and the world, and how you see yourself and the world changes everything about you. This is why “soul” has come to mean the most central part of a thing, because it is.

  13. Hypatia was killed by an angry mob as the result of a weird political feud with the Jews and the government involving dancing; how is that relevant to Genesis, or even honesty? If you would like to make it about Genesis, we can; men are dishonest, therefore men are sinful.

    I’m quite sure that you misunderstood me. When did I declare that the authority of genesis is in itself? I clearly said that it was true, and more true than the Babylonian myths, because it made better sense of the world than the others did. It displays the nature of man terrifically, in regard to his interior nature and his relation to the world around him. What support do I have for this? Common sense. Ancient people weren’t walking around stabbing things with needles and taking their temperature, but they were still making observations and coming to conclusions about them. Their observations came from their lives; who they were, what the world is like, etc. It’s not true because it says it’s true, but because it is obviously true; it fits experience far better than the other myths. Modern scientific observation is not a difference in kind from observations from common sense; modern equipment simply allows us to see more than we could before.

    Allow me to explain this phrase: “The Genesis myth remains true even in the environment of a more mature scientific environment.” I don’t mean that it is true in opposition to new science, I simply mean that a less specified belief does not become untrue simply because a more specified truth comes along after it. I maintain that the Genesis myth, in regard to the essential truths it conveys, is still true, even though scientific data has allowed us to more exactly understand the non-essential framework by which the essential truths are conveyed. The essential truths of the Genesis Myth (There was a beginning; God created the world progressively, and created Man specially; Man is not a mere animal, but is a strange fusion of spirit and animal, etc) fit our new, more exact data better than the Darwinian myth, which posits that men are animals, and are entirely unreasonable, being created by unreasonable and disorderly causes, and that the big bang and life popped of nothing, and evolved the new, complex DNA required for wings and eyes through a wholly inadequate process.

    When I say myth, I mean myth as opposed to data. Data is scientifically provable; myth comes in when you tell a story about the raw data. Data: The big bang happened roughly 14 Billion years ago Myth: The big bang came from nothing. Data: small mutations happen Myth: all organisms on earth came from microscopic life solely through natural mutation.

    I really wish that you would actually try to understand what I’m saying rather than skimming over it and assuming that I’m saying imbecilic things. I’ve already decried fundamentalism a number of times, and you assumed that I think the Bible stands on its own authority? I’m a Catholic for goodness sake.

    • You say (I paraphrase) that Genesis is true because if it wasn’t they would have written something else. Further you say that this myth makes more sense so you think it is true but others are not. I’m trying to understand but I can’t see where you’ve shown this reasoning to not be circular and special pleading.

      Questions:
      If myth contains poorly described truth how did the authors of Genesis know what happened during creation?
      If myth contains poorly described truth how did the authors of Genesis know what happened to Adam and Eve?
      If myth contains poorly described truth how did the authors of Genesis know there was original sin?

      Are you going to tell me about some game of telephone that lasted for hundreds of thousands of years till Moses could write it down? That still leaves the question of why Moses didn’t write about dinosaurs. Between creation and Moses where did the dinosaurs go? If the Genesis myth is true it leaves out a lot of detail that seems like it would be pretty important.

      If myths contain some portion of truth what are we to believe of the Greek or Roman deities? What of the Sumerian or Egyptian deities? Were those myths complete lies? What about all the other creation myths? They were complete lies? You’re going to tell me that the other creation myths are just too unbelievable to be true? It makes more sense to you that a mythical god spoke words and the universe was created but this same god can’t speak words to fix his failures.

      The stories from other parts of the world contemporary to Christian times and modern archaeology do not support what is in the Christian holy texts. Clearly Christians were more than capable of making stuff up, telling stories that benefited them. Taken in whole, the Genesis stories are not _obviously_ true. On the contrary the very much look false. You do not appear to be using an open mind when investigating these things as your statements on Hypatia demonstrate.

      Since you claim that spirit (soul?) is what makes humans more than mere animal, what credible evidence do you have that humans have spirit or soul?

      The theory of evolution is one of the most strongly supported scientific theories ever. The evidence points to a common origin of all life on this planet. While you and other ‘believers’ claim to know the truth of what happened yet have no credible evidence, scientists are working to find answers. You argue against hypotheses without evidence.

      There are two accounts of the murder of Hypatia. One contemporary and another 200-ish years later by a Christian bishop which demonized her and blamed her for the troubles. The contemporary account tells how the Christians of Alexandria brutalized her, stripped her flesh from her bones while she lived, then burned her body among other things. They destroyed the knowledge at the library there. This happened about 400 years after the supposed death of the christ and less than 100 years after the first Nicene Council. The church and its adherents were violent liars from the beginning when it suited them to be. Nothing in their holy texts prevented them from being barbaric and violent and then later claiming that they were merely getting rid of evil. Even the fear of your god did not prevent them from being quite evil. Still, you want us to believe that the authors of Genesis would not lie. You glossed over that, avoided it. It appears to be a lie by omission. This is not how you make a sound or convincing argument.

      Your argument for the truth of the Genesis myth would make the truth of the contemporary account of Hypatia’s murder by Christians true, otherwise they would have written something else, right?

  14. I am sorry that it’s taken me so long to respond, I had to enter into a period of personal reflection in order to make some major life choices, so I haven’t had the mental energy to formulate my thoughts on these things for the past few months.
    I understand your confusion and frustration about the apparent oddity of my position in regard to Genesis. On one hand I say that it ought to be treated as a myth; thus, it need not be perfectly scientifically accurate. On the other hand, I say that it is true, and truer than other myths, including the Babylonian myths and the Darwinian myth (I do not mean to offend by calling Darwinism a myth; I will explain in a moment). If I say that it is only poetically true, than it is not historically true, and if it is not historically true, then whatever it says about men, whether it makes our hearts soar, whether it seems to give us a more healthy self-understanding, it is not true. I say that it is not merely poetically true, but mythically true. This is a fine distinction; allow me to explain.
    Myths are passed down, usually orally, by a culture; they express the essential spirit of that culture, by describing how the gods created the world or how some tool or natural formation came into being, and in the process of describing how one or the other particular thing happened, they describe the nature of the gods, the world, and how man relates to them. These essential truths about man and God are really the soul of what a myth is.
    While a myth does not have to be completely historically or scientifically accurate in order to fulfill its function of satisfying the need in the heart of man to know the Truth about all things, it is not a necessary quality of a myth to be historically or scientifically untrue. These stories were passed down; they may very well contain some measure of historical veracity. Here let me make a distinction: there are myths which make no pretense at all about actually reflecting anything that happened historically at any place in time. Look at the Greek myths for example; they all occur in their own mythical world, and they make no attempt to fit into any definite timeline. Look also at the myths of the Native Americans. Look now at Genesis. The whole thing takes place at specific places on earth, in a timeline of ancestry, leading up to what we would classify as a historically verifiable period. I don’t think that Genesis is wholly scientifically or historically accurate, but if we are trying to find the best myth among many, I believe we ought to go with the Jewish ones. First, they make a concerted effort to establish an unbroken lineage up to the time of the composition, and along the same lines they include particular places and measurements (like for the ark).
    The Babylonian myth “the epic of Gilgamesh” contains a degree of historicity as well, portraying certain characters from before our present historical record extends, but which some artifacts seem to have confirmed. This leads me to point 2: Both the Jews and the Babylonians trace their origins back directly to the cradle of civilization; ie, if some truth has been retained of the origin of men, civilization, and the nature of God, then it is fitting to look to these traditions as among the most reliable. Abraham came out of Ur, Mesopotamia, the land of the Chaldeans (Babylonians), which explains why the creation and flood myth is so comparable, and also the reference to the Tower of Babel. The Jews were later taken into captivity in Babylon, and it is at this point that most detractors try to place the time of their adoption of these myths, but I believe that the source was in Abraham and his people who came out of Ur, and I believe that the Genesis myths were already in the essential form that they are in presently for two reasons. 1. It is untenable to suggest that the Jews, who were extremely, even peculiarly religious, didn’t have their origins myths already settled before this point, after a couple thousand years, and 2. It provides a perfect and natural explanation for why God would choose Abraham and his people over and above the rest of the pagans, or even, if you don’t believe in God, gives a natural reason that Abraham would leave his homeland; it was a religious dispute. Abraham maintained a different tradition about God then what had become popular among the Babylonians. (Note: in regard to the development of Myths, it is entirely reasonable to assume that there are 2 or three different parallel versions of a particular myth in a particular place and time, one having forked off of the ancestral tradition).
    You would probably say at this point that it is more likely that the Babylonian myth is the original tradition because it represents the larger faction, but of course I disagree. First, the Babylonian myths present the gods as essentially being powerful men. They are born, they must be fed and served to survive, and they are generally jealous and flippant, vying for power and exercising greed. They also lift up their earthly King Gilgamesh as a demigod and a hero; they make their kings god-like and their gods man-like. They went the same way as the Egyptians and the Romans, worshipping their human leaders (The Jews portrayed all of their kings and leaders as sinful, flawed men, though they still gave them the honor that was proper to their office. This is an entirely strange occurrence; I cannot think of another ancient example of such an honest treatment of leadership). The pagan gods are merely powerful men; you would expect men to make the gods in their own image, and if there was a tradition which posited a good, righteous, and eternal God, I would expect that the people would try to pull him down to their level. Second, the Jews, as I said earlier, are peculiar because their essential spirit is religious before it is anything else. Even to the present day, when you destroy their nation, they continue to be a people, for they are a people of God before they are people of a particular land, and when they made a nation, they centered everything around their God, the temple, and the religious laws. YHWH also very clearly insists that they are not supposed to intermingle with idolatrous traditions, they shouldn’t intermarry with pagan cultures, worship the Lord your God and him alone, etc. If we have to choose which people appear in character like they were protecting the Truth about God, we would have to choose the Jews.
    Having said all of these things, I expect that the Jews could have passed down the essential truths of what happened “In the Beginning”, while at the same time experiencing the difficulty that comes from tracing your history back into that very shadowy period of history. Also, we should not expect that men should know anything very specific about the period before God created Man: Man is given a rational, conscious, soul, and it is possible from that point on to speculate about the things that he and his offspring remember. Why should he know about the dinosaurs?
    As a short note on your concern about the “telephone game”, I will say a couple of things. 1. No one cares about the message in the telephone game, and half of the trouble is that you only have 10 seconds to tell the message, you have to whisper, and you can only tell it once or twice. If a myth is at the heart, and is even the formative principle of an entire people, we should expect that it would be transmitted with a bit more reliability. 2. The Torah was almost certainly not written entirely by Moses, it appears to all accounts to be a redaction and compilation or earlier, perhaps more of the period, documents. It is possible that the Jews had some written form of the genesis myth at the time of the final composition. 3. You said hundreds of thousands of years, supposing that men existed that far in the past. I think, to be clear, it is very likely that God perfected the animal form over a long period of time and made it ready for the time when he would breathe a spirit of reason and consciousness into the homo-sapien form. Therefore, there may well be human-like forms which stretch back hundreds of thousands of years, but they would not have souls. They might be sapiens, but they are not human beings; they are intelligent animals. Humans are civilization builders, and civilizations do not stretch that far into the past.
    You likely think that all of this is speculation is silly because, all the time, Darwinism stands as a perfectly scientifically proven possibility, so it is far more reasonable to simply accept the simpler and more likely argument. You said that evolution is one of the most strongly supported theories ever. I agree with this. Darwinism, however, is not. Insofar as we are talking about the fact of natural selection working on existing populations, allowing for animals to adjust in certain respects according to environmental changes, this is proven and obvious. Animal populations can grow taller or shorter, change color, get stronger or weaker, etc. We can perhaps imagine a proto-horse which evolved into donkeys, horses, and zebras; perhaps even giraffes. Science proves this much convincingly.
    Darwinism, however, takes this and goes much further. As far as its biological explanation goes, a little organism already complete with a whole dna processing system (for mutation works on dna, and dna is essentially comparable to a computer, with information and a whole processing center to boot) came from some unexplained origin, and produced by miraculous means radical new body types, until it produced man, some strange creature which creates art and argues over religion and is on an unaccountable quest for the Truth and for meaning. Nietzsche and many others continued the myth and imagined man evolving to the next step, beyond morality and meaning (which is really a step backwards), and ruling over the whole universe. Nothing in this section is supported by what anyone ought to call proof, and if men were not in a desperate search for meaning, we would leave it at evolution and count Darwinism as a vague speculation.
    As it is, man cannot live his life without looking into the meaning of things and coming to some conclusion or the other (our search for “meaning” is rather strange when you consider that we ought to be merely striving after food and drink and sex and safety). This is why so many scientists accept the Darwinian myth as opposed to the Genesis myth. They cannot accept a fundamentalist interpretation of the Genesis myth because it is against science, and is thus immediately contrary to their profession in particular and their sense of Reason in general. They, and you, I suppose, would rather accept a dreadful myth than an unreasonable one. You will not take comfort at the expense of Truth, which is good and honorable; I am the same. “If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth, only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.” (CS Lewis). Again, I believe that scientists believe Darwinism not because it is proven but because it is not unproven, like the idea of a 7,000 year earth, and they must believe some sort of myth.
    I believe that God created the Big bang, he created life on earth, and gradually introduced new complexity into DNA as the years went on. He did this over a long period of time because the world and its ecosystem is very delicate, and it was guided along slowly and progressively just as a baby is in the womb. He then breathed a Rational, conscious soul into men so that they would be like himself.
    Allow me to return to Genesis to discuss its general philosophical probability, especially in comparison to the Babylonian (and other) myths. The First Cause of the Universe must be Eternal and non-contingent, meaning simply that it relies upon nothing else to explain its own existence. To fulfill these requirements it must be incorruptible (doesn’t require food, sleep, etc) and eternal (not merely infinite). The Babylonian gods already fail this test, for they were born, and made humans so that the humans could serve them by cultivating food for them. In the flood narrative, when Utnapishtim offered sacrifices to the gods, they swarmed around it like flies for they had grown hungry. YHWH, in Genesis and beyond, does not need food; he does not need us. He was not born, and there was no time before he created the world, for it is his eternal action to create the universe. He created the world as a type of Art, to be a reflection of his nature “Let us make man in our own image”. The impulse to make art and beauty is not a craving of our body, like our hunger for food or for sex, for it comes from our faculty of consciousness, our soul. Art is a self-reflection, and thus the universe is a testament of his complexity, a symphony of interconnected parts. He made men, finally, like himself; creative, conscious, complex, intelligent, etc, though they are temporal, fleshly, and corruptible, though the soul which is given to man is incorruptible, for it is from the very nature of God. These things are very complex, I admit, and are only the beginning of Christian Metaphysics. Of course, reality is complex, so a complex basic truth ought to be complex and difficult to understand at first.
    I looked into the Hypatia thing in more depth; I am sorry to say that I misread it the first time. It is a perfectly dreadful thing; a terribly graphic instance of mob violence. We must not read it as a Christianity vs. Reason polemic though, for two reasons. 1. Socrates Scholasticus (the of-the-period source) was a Christian historian. The disparity in account is therefore not a battle between a secular perspective and a Christian perspective; it is rather a battle between an informed Christian and an ignorant Christian. Scholasticus says,” “Surely nothing can be farther from the spirit of Christianity than the allowance of massacres, fights, and transactions of that sort.” 2. Hypatia wasn’t a scientist but a neo-platonist philosopher, and she was killed not because of her philosophy but because people associated her with a particular political figure whom they hated at the time. How many educated, mature Christians do you suppose there were among the likely illiterate mob that tortured this woman? I will grant this story as a cautionary tale regarding mob violence and political struggles, perhaps even the need for general education, but it simply isn’t fair to use it to attack the spirit of Christianity.
    Thank you for reading through this long thing; I tried to make it shorter, but felt that every part was necessary.

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