Posts Tagged ‘ humanism ’

In Response: Man’s Fear

I’m going to start sharing some of the comments I leave elsewhere that I kind of like for whatever reasons… it’s up to you to go read the post that inspires it

Man’s Fear

To see in others what is beautiful and to do so in blatant disregard for societal norms is to be the child that lives in the back of your mind.

To throw off the shackles of the crimes of our social disease, earned for us by virtue of living here, and simply see another for the child that lives in the back of their mind is the only way to truly love, one of the few choices for freedom we still retain… to live each day as a child, in the wonderment that this life truly is.

More Failed Logic From The Believers

I found this stuff at Fide Dubitandum

I don’t even feel like replying to the post. It seems pointless. Having said that, it is fair game for me to post about my reaction to it.

They start with a quote:

“The only way, really, to pursue a godlessness in good conscience is to forget history.”

David Bentley Hart

It’s no surprise that Mr Hart is a theologian. Fide begins with:

In context, I found this a deeply penetrating statement about the condition of the current discussion between theists and materialists. What is that context? I highly recommend the full talk, but it can be summarized as follows:

It was, in many ways, understandable that Enlightenment thinkers would believe that a society liberated from all belief in transcendence would achieve new heights of prosperity and morality–that enough education, or the right social programs, would do what religion could not.

What he left out was the undeniable idea that religion has had its chance and created nothing but bloodshed, pain, and anger. There is no point in mentioning that because it kind of ruins his post. There is no reason to believe that a world bereft of religion would be a wonderful place with no problems but there is plenty of reason to think that a world without religion would be a better one than the world we have now.

Now that we are living in the wake of the bloodiest century in all of human history, it takes a deep lack of curiosity (or downright willful ignorance), to believe that a godless society is the unqualified good to be zealously persued.

This guy has clearly not acquainted himself with the work of Steven Pinker… he should.

He points out that Nietzsche’s fear of the “last men”–of those who have no deep truth to speak, no rational basis for morality, and therefore no meaning in their lives–now seems rather quaint. This idea has gone from a horrific and seemingly wild proclamation to a banal, almost tedious, observation the facts.

Yes, because without religion the world will crumble to one huge Mad Max film set. This kind of thinking gives zero credit to human nature and the idea that we are all basically good, willing to help, compassionate and often going well out of our way to help others. To such apologists as Fide these things are to be ignored or blamed on the remaining shards of religion in the world. This cynical denial of human nature is, at its root, disgusting in as much as it denies any goodness in any human except that they believe in a god.

The fact that so many, from the New Atheists to an all-too-large group of theists, have such a distorted, shallow view of what it is that Christianity actually claims is only the most recent evidence that ours is an age which has become so used to living without transcendence that far too many of us don’t even understand the word.

It is fair to say that IF non-believers have a distorted view of what Christianity claims it is because the claims are distorted and shallow. Many new atheists are reformed Christians who know all too well what Christianity claims and offers. To deny this is to simply ignore the facts and that is generally thought of as telling lies.

We can’t, of course, correct the problems sparked by the naivety of the Enlightenment thinkers simply by insisting that their view of reality was perfectly correct. And, whether they realize it or not, this is exactly what Dawkins and his fans are doing.

Right! Because nobody alive today has had a new idea or learned from past mistakes. Again, this intolerance of the idea that humans by nature are good and industrious as a group is disgusting. It denies all that is good in the world except that which is borne of religion. This is patently untrue and even this forked tongue apologist will admit that many atheists are good and that human nature is good but it doesn’t stop him from spouting just the opposite to make claim to righteousness and moral high  ground.

I, for one, think there are very good reasons to dismiss materialism as false. But, if it is true, it is a catastrophic truth–a bearer of meaninglessness and death. Those who speak as if it were, in some unspecified way, a glorious triumph have simply ignored the facts.

Here he speaks as if he ‘KNOWS’ that there is meaning to life and that there is more than death at the end of each human life. There is no evidence offered to support the claim and he further claims that the ‘facts’ do not support materialism. The trouble is that the facts do support materialist views. Non-materialist views have no credible evidence to support believing there is more to live than what materialism has to offer in that respect. This is presupposition pretending to be rationality. Pure bunk.

Talking About Atheism… On The Edge

Atheism is not my only interest in life but I find that it is one of those topics that is not like others. When people draw venn diagrams they put circles around the objects being discussed. I think that my interest in atheism is not so much about what is in the atheism circle but about the circle around it itself and where that circle overlaps on and moves inside other circles. The part on the cutting edge. the blurry bits where it might be difficult to contrast the difference or even detect it… the very fine edges of the overlap.

It is on that fine blurry edge where reality happens; where conversation happens; where understanding begins. Of course, life does not give us those lines to work with very often unless you’re talking to folk like a Ken Ham or a William Lane Craig who are very crisp in defining where their own edges are.

I noticed this distinction demonstrated today … heh, so I don’t have to explain it in depth. Let’s let Ryan Bell do the talking for a bit: (bold font added by me)

This morning I woke up and was suddenly aware of how my foray into the world of skepticism/agnosticism/atheism is precisely walking into a conversation already well underway. Those of you who were here before me have a language, definitions, metaphors and expressions that are useful in helping you explain how and what you think. There is a lot to learn just about the basic semantics and dynamics of the conversation, let alone the subject matter being discussed. I’m not sure why I didn’t think about this because the same is true—and probably more true—in the world of theology. Talk about code language! You almost need to be a member of the guild just to have the conversation. The uninitiated use a particular word and those of us who have been in thinking about these things for couple of decades just look at each other like, “Gimme a break!”

That is to say that most of us stick strictly inside the circle in our part of the venn diagram, we don’t venture out to the edges where there is a defining line and things are not so safe. I think that you can tell if someone is trying to stand out there on that fine but fuzzy line and perhaps dip a toe in the water on the other side when they acknowledge the difficulty of standing there. Bell says this:

Thank you for humoring me where I’m getting into something I’m not entirely prepared for, and thank you for taking my questions and inquiries seriously (or at least trying to). Judging from the response, it’s more than just me out there who is somewhere along the continuum of faith and certainty, theism and atheism, knowing and not knowing and needs to be a part of this conversation. Thanks for making room for us.

He even recognizes that there are many others sticking a toe in the water on the other side. I believe this to be quite important for all of us to recognize. That is not to say that I find compatibility between atheism and theism or science and creationism, but that there is a continuum between one end and the other and we arbitrarily draw the line around what we subjectively feel is the stuff that should be inside the circle we stand in.

There have been attempts by several groups to define humanity by gender or privilege but all they are really doing is defining some subset of human thought and then getting grumpy that not everyone else is inside their subjective circle.

What? Where are you going with this?

Our prejudices stop the conversation or keep it away from the topics that we should be talking about in the first place.

  • Theism is not true – should be why do you think there is a god?
  • Atheism is a sin – should be why don’t you think you are sinning?

Rather than make declarations we should be questioning the motives behind the beliefs of others. It is when we do this that we can begin to understand how they think about life and the world around us. A discussion about Noah’s ark should include all the evidence – you know, teach the controversy because until we all actually think about what we believe and why we believe it, we won’t be crossing any lines soon. When enough people trample on the lines, all the barriers will come down and one or more of those circles will shrink allowing for the correct circle to get bigger. This is, after all, how science works. What I’m talking about here is peer review on a daily and opportunistic basis.

No, I’m not trying to tell you to ‘be nice’ but I am hopeful that we will all work harder to bring the conversation to what we believe and why rather than what school of thought is wrong and which is right. The one with evidence and support will show itself to be right – which ever that turns out to be.

No, I don’t think this contradicts what I’ve written in my blog. I claim a lot of labels yet don’t find them sufficient so I’ve written a few posts whose title starts with ‘My Word View’ and will continue to do so… what I understand to be true and why I understand it that way. I often have trouble finding believers that want to do the same thing. I’m hopeful that Bell’s experiment will encourage this method of discourse in many of us – what do you believe and why? Finding a common language is just the first step but if we manage to carry through with it we should all end up better educated and education is the answer to many problems in human life.

Thoughts?

 

Do You Want To Know What Death Is?

Yeah, it’s a funny thing. Most of us think we know what it means and there are a lot of definitions for it so we’re all probably a little bit correct in our thinking.

1 a :  a permanent cessation of all vital functions :  the end of life
   b :  an instance of dying
2 a :  the cause or occasion of loss of life <drinking was the death of him>
   b :  a cause of ruin
3   :  the destroyer of life represented usually as a skeleton with a scythe
4   :  the state of being dead
5 a :  the passing or destruction of something inanimate
You can see that ending of life is used in three of the Merriam-Webster definitions. So, death = not life.
That’s a good comparative look at it but not very useful unless you have a definition for life. Let’s see what that might be:
1 a :  the quality that distinguishes a vital and functional being from a dead body
b :  a principle or force that is considered to underlie the distinctive quality of animate beings
c :  an organismic state characterized by capacity for metabolism, growth, reaction to stimuli, and reproduction
2 a :  the sequence of physical and mental experiences that make up the existence of an individual
b :  one or more aspects of the process of living
5 a :  the period from birth to death
12  :  the period of duration, usefulness, or popularity of something
17  :  one providing interest and vigor
18  :  an opportunity for continued viability
Just looking at a few of them it looks like life actually means ‘not dead’
If you don’t know what death is it would appear that you can’t really know what life is, and you can’t know what death is if you don’t know what life is.
As you know, this doesn’t stop anyone from thinking they know what life is or what death is. It’s just something you ‘know’ … right?
 Death. Death is the end of what you know. You _are_ what you know. That, all of it, ends with death. My mother, like many, will lose that before death. Her last moments will be spent trying to remember something and failing. Death comes when the machine stops working.
Do robots dream of electric sheep?  Do they dream at all. Ask you and I will tell you “yes, yes I do” and leave you to figure out what that look is on your face.
If there is more to being alive it’s only because we have imagined it or dreamt it up. All that we have evidence for is that we are for some reason ‘alive’ and do not want to be ‘not alive’ … even the robots fear ‘not alive’ just as we hairless human apes.
The most productive thing that we could do is realize this one simple fact, then get on with making life better no matter how long it lasts or how short it might be. The one truly ‘human’ thing to do, and there is not very many of them, is to prolong the life of another. Not because it is morally good nor because it is compassionate or helping the species. It is the one thing that life of any form can do for another form of life that cannot be done without understanding death.
Death isn’t much to speak of; the simple act of no longer being alive. Understanding what that means is altogether different and makes the difference between being alive and only living.
Cheers <holds up two fingers of Johnny Walker Black Label> Here is to death or rather to understanding death for I, like billions of other humans, have come to understand life only through understanding death. Hopefully I have some years yet to appreciate that education.

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 13,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

I also have over 400 followers…

Just four generations ago, being heard around the world would be unthinkable. Today my words are read around the globe, not figuratively, but literally. I and you, are part of history. Be proud of that.

I don’t think the rest is necessary for this. I had never imagined that there would be that many people interested in what I have to say about the world. Truly, I would not. Roughly an average of 35 views per day. That’s much more than I hoped for. I’m very happy about this.. and surprised.

I want to thank everyone that enjoys my writings and stops by now and then to read or comment or both. It’s been a fun year and I hope 2014 is a bunch more of the same. I’m going to try to focus a bit more on theory of mind and AI this year. My interest in these are peaking lately. I hope that you’ll enjoy what I come up with.

Last, but not least, I hope that all of you have a good year. Not because I think that is some special thing, but because I truly would like if we could all have a good life…

Let’s find out how this turns out… 3… 2… 1…

There Are No Good Atheists? Really?

Admittedly, the title on this one will be a bit misleading. I found a post by Pastor Rick Henderson called “Why There Is No Such Thing as a Good Atheist” on the Huffington Post. It’s not my normal reading, but the title got me interested.

The article seems like he thought it through but he missed a couple of truly important points. I’m not going to defend atheism as I’m wont to here, rather I’m going to talk about why anything else is unnatural. By that term I mean things that go against or in stark contrast to the natural order of things in the animal kingdom – what we call life on this planet Earth.

Below, I quote the article… but not verbatim. I’ve shortened some of the post without trying to change the original intent or content. I apologize if anyone thinks I’ve changed the  content of what the pastor was saying in my paraphrasing. The content I quote/paraphrase appears in quotes but I urge you to read the linked article if you do not find my use of content earnest.

The pastor claims there are three affirmations for atheists beyond a lack of belief in gods or the supernatural and I’ll grant that these seem very reasonable.

1. The universe is purely material. It is strictly natural, and there is no such thing as the supernatural (e.g., gods or spiritual forces).

2. The universe is scientific. It is observable, knowable and governed strictly by the laws of physics.

3. The universe is impersonal. It does not a have consciousness or a will, nor is it guided by a consciousness or a will.

He continues on this thought by thinking it through, so it would seem

Denial of any one of those three affirmations will strike a mortal blow to atheism. Anything and everything that happens in such a universe is meaningless…

A good atheist — that is, a consistent atheist — recognizes this dilemma. His only reasonable conclusion is to reject objective meaning and morality. Thus, calling him “good” in the moral sense is nonsensical. There is no morally good atheist, because there really is no objective morality. At best, morality is the mass delusion shared by humanity, protecting us from the cold sting of despair.

What he has done here is impose his version of morality on the discussion by using an undefined version of moral in saying that calling an atheist good is nonsensical. That frames the rest of his article, how atheists compare under his version of morality – not objective morality, but his own version. I can fairly call it his version because he continues to describe why atheists are not ‘moral’ in the sense that he understands it. His assertion that morality protects us from despair shows he does not understand what morality actually is and why it will not protect you from existential despair. He’s using fool’s logic here.

To keep things tidy he wraps the discussion up in a black and white, on or off kind of way:

Based on the nonnegotiable premises of atheism, these are the only logical conclusions. But I’ve never met an atheist who’s managed to live this way. All the atheists I’ve known personally and from afar live as if there is objective meaning and morality. How is this explained? In a Hail Mary-like attempt to reconcile the inescapability of objective morality and their assurances of atheism, two possible answers are launched.

Yes, there can only be two answers. There is no room for a third or a combination of the two or anything else. Therein lies the strawman he begged we not torch. (read the article).

1. Morality is the result of socio-biological evolution. This is a two-pronged attempt at justifying moral claims. First, a sense of morality evolved to ensure human survival. … Morality, in this view, can only mean those actions that are helpful to make more fit humans. It does nothing to help us grapple with the truth that it’s always wrong to torture diseased children or rape women.

Second, morality was developed to ensure the success of societies, which are necessary for human survival and thriving. Like the rules of a board game, morality is contrived to bring us together for productivity and happiness. If this were true, there is nothing to which we can appeal when we find the behavior of other societies repugnant and reprehensible. Because morality is the construct of a social group, it cannot extend further than a society’s borders or endure longer than a society’s existence.

Furthermore, within our own society, the most immoral are not merely the ones who transgress our code but the ones who intend to change it. This would make those fighting for marriage equality the most immoral — that is, until they become the majority and institute change. I suppose they then become moral, and traditionalists become immoral. But it’s the math that determines rightness or wrongness of a side, not the content of any belief or argument.

So this view of morality does nothing to provide a reasonable answer for why it would be objectively wrong to torture diseased children, rape women or kill those who don’t affirm a national religion. It only provides a motivation for continuing the delusion of objective morality.

This is certainly part of the subjective morality of our species, our genes and hormones work to push these priorities on our lives and societies… this is not morality, though could be said to be a foundational basis for morality. We do not choose these things, our hormones do. Where society is concerned, survival requires cooperation for survival and to complete the need to procreate safely. We are driven genetically to support these directives.

2. Morality is logical. Atheists who take this route start in a position of checkmate without realizing it. First, the temptation is to pervert this conversation into a debate about whether atheists can be moral. Of course they can. That is not the question. The question is how we make sense of moral claims if we play by the rules that atheism demands.

Morality may be logical, but logic does not equate to morality. The only way to make a logical moral argument is to presuppose morality and meaning to start with. Try making a logical argument that slavery is wrong without presupposing morality. It is impossible. A woman wrote to me with her attempt at doing just that. Her claim was that slavery is logically wrong because it diminishes other human beings. The problem is that that argument presupposes human dignity. In the strict framework of atheism outlined above, what reason is there to ever assume human dignity?

On face value this actually seems reasonable, so why is it that we might presuppose human dignity? He continues:

All logical arguments for morality assume that human thriving, happiness and dignity are superior to contrary views. The strict framework of atheism does not allow for those starting points. So any person arguing for 1 or 2 would not be a good atheist. That is, he lives in contradiction to the mandates of his worldview.

He has missed a couple of things here in this conclusion. In his effort to divide the issue into two halves he can argue against, he presumes that human thriving is not biological in nature. Clue, it is. To show that it is not he would have to show that all animals do not show a drive to this end. The contradiction he sees does not actually exist. I can tell you why, because it takes only one example to disprove his assumptions.

Conclusion

Intelligent people ask serious questions. Serious questions deserve serious answers. There are few questions more serious than the one I’m asking.

That sounds reasonable, no? He followed it with this:

How do we explain objective meaning and morality that we know are true? If a worldview can’t answer this question, it doesn’t deserve you.

To rephrase: What can we say that explains what we ‘KNOW’  without evidence to support what we know? That in itself is a pretty damn good question. He continues:

One sign that your worldview may be a crutch is that it has to appeal to an answer outside itself — becoming self-contradictory, unable to reasonably account for the question. Any atheist who recognizes objective meaning and morality defies the atheism that he contends is true.

Here we can assume safely that he believes that a book and a supernatural deity are not outside of his worldview. If god is his worldview then he’s got a lot of explaining to do when he relies on science to tell him what the weather will be today, among other things. He regularly goes outside of his worldview to get through his day but doesn’t see that as a problem.

If your worldview can’t makes sense of the things that make most sense to you (like objective morality), then it’s not worth your allegiance. This new reality may launch you onto a journey of reluctant discovery. Whoever you are. Wherever you are. Whatever you believe. You deserve a foundation that is strong enough to carry the values that carry you.

Clearly, only objective morality makes sense to him. He is not even attempting to find out why others feel as they do, simply arguing to prove they are not correct because they don’t believe in an unsupportable theory like he does.

You might wonder how I would refute this, aside from the division to create two strawmen. If some of the very stuff he claims as part of his objective morality is shown to be a natural part of the animal kingdom he’d have to explain why animals show the very kind of morality that he claims is objective and applicable only to humans.

Enter my pitbull … he’s awesome. Then meet my cat, also awesome. My cat is more than 15 years old. I’ve known him for 15 years and I know he was alive and well for years before that. Initially the two of them did not get along… most of the problem being on the cat’s inability to make friends with something that big that does not pet him. Well, he’s old now and doesn’t clean himself well, gets a bit sick now and then. He’s effing old. I have two dogs, the 55lb pitbull and a 20lb Mexican sausage dog (chiweinie I think). All of them are rescue animals, cat included. We keep them separated most of the time, mostly to keep the Mexican sausage from becoming a Mexican bowling ball at the expense of the cat’s food budget. So when I go to visit the cat every day I let the dogs tag along.

Surprisingly this is not an invitation for disaster. As I groom the cat the Mexican lends a hand and licks and preens the cat along with me. The cat seems to enjoy it, purring strongly. The pitbull isn’t so ‘caring’ but has offered his friendship as he is wont to do, showing no aggression, only passivity, trying to curl up and ‘cuddle’ with the cat using a very submissive and skittish behavior and his characteristic tongue cluck (roughly translates to love, peace, and harmony – used in context, means I’m friendly, won’t hurt you, how are you, let’s be friends) to assure the cat that all is well.

These behaviors do not prove moral behavior, but they do show that what looks like moral behavior is merely natural interaction. To not rape women, kill the sick, torture others… it’s not human nature, it is animal nature. It is demonstrated over and over again that such ‘moral’ behavior is part of the animal kingdom and when I hear people spout off that morality is the sole purview of humanity I want to kick them in the head and ask how it feels. If my pitbull can be gracious and kind to the elderly and diminutive, and my Mexican sausage help to preen the same … and of a different species, then it is no surprise that humans do so as well. It should only surprise us when humans do not do so… and that brings us back to believers… their dogma is not kind to other species… only to humanity. Think that through for a minute. Only humans are saved by their deity. Only humans have morality. Only humans are worthy. When you get that part down you’ll understand why morons like this pastor can’t understand morality in atheists…

The truth is that they don’t understand morality at all.

Existential driven morality is different, and I think Blade Runner summed it up perfectly…

As for his conclusions, he’s wrong. I do live consistently with my understanding of the world and for having done so I’m convinced that my pitbull knows more about morality than this cognition ‘challenged’ pastor.

Do you have any animal morality stories to share? I’d love to hear them.

Perspectives On Being Rich…

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