Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Is the meaning of life for God subjective?

I have written a few blog posts regarding my thoughts about finding meaning in life without God. On this post of mine, Bill left an excellent and thought provoking comment, arguing that atheists – when pursuing the “meaning of life”– are basically existentialists. I have to read more on this issue, and will look up Viktor Frankl’s book, which Bill mentions. However, I would like to offer a response to Bill’s comment that religion, or more specifically Christianity, provides an objective source for the meaning of life for human beings.

Bill writes:

However, in the Christian view, the meaning, veen (sic) in teh (sic) here and now, though subjective, is based on objective values

I’ve often come across this argument, and I often wonder what makes Christian morality, values and purpose “objective” in nature. I would imagine, and I could be wrong here, that the idea of objectivity is closely linked to the belief that elements are “objective” or superior when they are given to us from a higher source, in this case from the hands of creator himself. This is what Daniel Dennett, in a debate with Dinesh D’Souza, calls the "trickle down" view of goodness: the belief that anything that comes from higher up (in this case, “meaning for our lives”) is always better than what we can create for ourselves.

But while I was thinking this through, I suddenly thought about God. If an objective meaning of life is one that is given to us from something higher up, then what about God himself? As a sentient being, God – if she/he/it exists – should also have purpose and meaning. Was God bestowed with purpose from a higher source, or did he decide it for himself? If he decided for himself, then isn’t his own “meaning of life” just as “subjective” as the atheist’s?

We can also use Plato’s
Euthyphro dilemma and present a similar argument regarding morality. What criteria did God use to determine what is good and bad, wrong and right? If he decided for himself, without any input from an outside (or higher) source, then isn’t the moral code that he has supposedly handed down to us through the Bible subjective in nature?

39 comments:

Cori said...

Haha - interesting thought! I wonder if a person might (erroneously) use the term 'objective' for Christian morality because they perceive it to be universal or trascendant? In other words, elements of it can be traced to every religion and even most legal systems. They are things 'everyone' believes (eg: that blatant murder is wrong).

Is God, and therefore his morality, subjective? I would be quite comfortable with that. If Christian reality was about absolutes and laws this would be problematic. But if it is, in every way, a matter of relationality, then it would, by its very nature, need to be subjective.

CyberKitten said...

Kevin asked: What criteria did God use to determine what is good and bad, wrong and right? If he decided for himself, without any input from an outside (or higher) source, then isn’t the moral code that he has supposedly handed down to us through the Bible subjective in nature?

Yes... But can God *be* subjective? [laughs]

Good question though. BTW - I think that Plato pretty much nailed the Morality question in his Euthyphro.

Steve Hayes said...

Something that may (or may not) help to clarify the subjective/ objective thing may be found at Postmodern warfare: the ignorance of our warrior intellectuals, by Stanley Fish. For what it's worth, I'm pretty much in agreement with Fish on that.

Negate said...

faith can not objectively exist. It is a human construct and it differs from person to person. God on the other hand can be explained as a natural phenomenon. So it all depends on the defenition. Do we define god by defenition of faith. Or by a natural defenition like Einstein used

CyberKitten said...

negate said: God on the other hand can be explained as a natural phenomenon.

Really?

Negate said...

Yes really. God as the natural outcome reflecting human psychology. People trying to explain the unknown. God reflects the pride of human achievement and the limitation of human learning. In a natural sense our imagination is god, thus we use the symbol of "god" to objectively analyze and make hypothesis about the world around us. This of course is a real primitive and slow way of analyzing the world around us. In the future it will thus be replaced with critical thinking(atheism) which allows us to objectively analyze the world around us much faster.

In the most primitive stage of ignorance, hummans thinks of divine influences. The more a man increases his knowledge, the greater becomes his dissatisfaction with the multiplicity of deities. So the number of minor deities begins to decrease. Denial of this primary truth robs everything in the universe of its meaning and significance. Atheistic understanding reveals the reality that man's will is supreme. Thus deities will vanish.

God is not subjective, because he is that primitive tool early humanity used to objectify/understand the world around them. So to explain god naturally, one must look at the human psychology involved in inventing deities

CyberKitten said...

negate said: God as the natural outcome reflecting human psychology. People trying to explain the unknown. God reflects the pride of human achievement and the limitation of human learning.

Ah... Natural in the sense that its natural for primitive peoples to *invent* God(s) in order to explain the world. I'd probably agree with you on that one.

negate said: In the future it will thus be replaced with critical thinking(atheism) which allows us to objectively analyze the world around us much faster.

I admire your confidence - but I doubt that this will happen anytime soon or even possibly ever. I think that religion will be around for many generations yet.

negate said: The more a man increases his knowledge, the greater becomes his dissatisfaction with the multiplicity of deities. So the number of minor deities begins to decrease.

Oh, I think that a muliplicity of deities is more reasonable that a single all-powerful one. The move from Polytheism to Monotheism probably had much to do with the move from an agrarian to an urban societal structure and the increase in power of men over women.

negate said: Atheistic understanding reveals the reality that man's will is supreme.

That's an interesting statement. What do you mean by that?

negate said: God is not subjective, because he is that primitive tool early humanity used to objectify/understand the world around them. So to explain god naturally, one must look at the human psychology involved in inventing deities.

Well... God *is* subjective in that every culture has its on subjective 'take' on the idea of the Suoernatural. Their might however be something objectively discoverable about the structure of the human brain which makes such beliefs so widespread...

Negate said...

>Well... God *is* subjective in that every culture has its on subjective 'take' on the idea of the Suoernatural.

Yeah of course, thats why i said in my first comment, that it all depends on the defenition of god. When god is used as above it is most definitely a subjective take.

>but I doubt that this will happen anytime soon or even possibly ever.

Lets draw lines. Thousands of gods are now myth except for the big one's. I think its reasonable to assume how ever far in the future that all man created gods will become myth. In a sense i think religion will never die, but gods will if that make sense.

>negate said: Atheistic understanding reveals the reality that man's will is supreme. >>>>
That's an interesting statement. What do you mean by that?

Humanity has perhaps reacted in two to the world around him :

The first being, he surrenders to the forces of his world and drifts in the stream of its factors. By defenition this is a theistic understanding. With this understanding we are more prone to be timid and submissive than bold and assertive. This method of understanding was simple. We imagined god created and controlled the world and we then surrendered to the concept. Faith then for better or worse satisfied the curiosity of primitive man.

the second being, humanity asserts himself upon the surroundings and harnesses the factors to satisfy his needs. This is more a atheistic understanding. Materialism is irreligious because it rejects the notions of god, soul, other worlds and after-life for not being perceptible to the physical senses. It deals with the realities of physical circumstances and of political and economic institutions. Out of the materialistic understanding of the world arose notions of natural laws like evolutionary process, dialectical development, geographical conditioning, genetic constitution and historical necessity. This is what i meant of man realizing his will is supreme

Theists who believed in the supremacy of the world, surrendered to it, weakened their will, and drifted in the stream of circumstances, rather than give it the direction of their aspirations. They either cut down their desires and are content to live at the subsistence level in a helpless state of sheer resignation or pray to god for boons and benefits. Atheists, on the contrary, are masters of their world. They assert their free will. They use technological skill to control non-human factors of the environment and moral conduct to enlist the co-operation of fellow men. With added strength, they achieve more than theists can. They do not need the supplication of prayer or the resignation of helplessness. They are the masters of every situation.

Kevin H said...

Kevin,

This question I think is best viewed in light of Euthyphro's Argument - which you recognized. Way to go!

As far as the morality aspect of EA, Plato himself saw the third option. That is, God is the Good. And as such he is in keeping with his own nature and self-consistency. Since God is ontologically ultimate, his nature serves as the ultimate standard of morality.

I think the same applies to objective meaning.

Kevin H

CyberKitten said...

negate said: I think its reasonable to assume how ever far in the future that all man created gods will become myth.

I don't see that as a reasonable assumption. It's equally likely (actually I think more likely) that new Gods will be created to replace the old ones.

negate said: Materialism is irreligious because it rejects the notions of god, soul, other worlds and after-life for not being perceptible to the physical senses.

I think your conflating atheism, materialism and naturalism. They are connected but they're not the same thing.

negate said: Out of the materialistic understanding of the world arose notions of natural laws like evolutionary process, dialectical development, geographical conditioning, genetic constitution and historical necessity.

Historical *necessity*.... [looks bemused]

negate said: Atheists, on the contrary, are masters of their world. They assert their free will.

Having free will doesn't mean that I am the 'master of my world' only that I can often choose my actions. There are *many* things that we are in no way in control of.

negate said: They do not need the supplication of prayer or the resignation of helplessness. They are the masters of every situation.

[laughs] Oh I would say that very few people indeed are 'masters of every situation' - even potentially. Even people with a great deal of power, influence and money are often helpless in the face of tragedy and lifes random events.

Negate said...

>that new Gods will be created to replace the old ones.

If we keep replacing god every time we will be faced with question about gods credibility. God can not be reasonably proved or disproved which makes for nice wishful thinking and thats about it. Social needs of today forces us to be more critical in our thoughts and it will in effect undermine the power of "god" in our life

>I think your conflating atheism, materialism and naturalism. They are connected but they're not the same thing.

No they are not the same thing. materialism is a new interpretation of nature. Naturalism and materialism are the most straightforward philosophical candidates for atheism.

>Historical *necessity*.... [looks bemused]

You need to see all the points before you can draw a straight line.

>Having free will doesn't mean that I am the 'master of my world' only that I can often choose my actions. There are *many* things that we are in no way in control of.

What you say is true, I should rephrase what I said, we have better control over some aspects of our free will and enviorement being secular. Small example, we are now having trouble advancing stem cell research because of religious objections.

>[laughs] Oh I would say that very few people indeed are 'masters of every situation' - even potentially.

What you say here is indeed true, again i want to rephrase, we will never be masters of every situation, but be better prepared for most situations. Atheism indeed means you are a naturalist so that would give you a better understanding of the random events that will occur in your life. The way I meant it, when this "tragic" event hits me, i'm not going to dwell and waste time on prayer, and hope for the best. I will look for answers or be satisfied with my unfortunate position.

CyberKitten said...

negate said: Social needs of today forces us to be more critical in our thoughts and it will in effect undermine the power of "god" in our life.

...and yet many people are less than critical in their day to day living and are happy to accept various flavours of God in their lives. There are *billions* of people who believe in various supernatural ideas. This is not going to go away quickly.

negate said: You need to see all the points before you can draw a straight line.

So you believe that history is 'going somewhere'? That there is some kind of plan or destiny? I see no evidence of that myself. Or do you just believe in the idea of progress?

negate said: we have better control over some aspects of our free will and enviroment being secular.

We have a more *reasonable* viewpoint being Secular certainly though I'm not sure what you mean by 'better control'. Do you mean a clearer appreciation of our free choices? Something less clouded by superstition?

negate said: Atheism indeed means you are a naturalist so that would give you a better understanding of the random events that will occur in your life.

Atheism leads to naturalism as naturalism leads to atheism. Both might give you a clearer appreciation of why random things happen (without the need to blame supernatural beings) and might lead to more reasonable responses to tragedy.

negate said: I will look for answers or be satisfied with my unfortunate position.

Sometimes there are no answers apart from 'shit happens'. The only thing we can do in those circumstances is come to terms with things as best we can.

Negate said...

>..and yet many people are less than critical in their day to day living and are happy to accept various flavours of God in their lives. There are *billions* of people who believe in various supernatural ideas. This is not going to go away quickly.

I agree it will not go away quickly, but it will start to diminish as the human need for it goes away. Even Buddha wanted people to stop taking part in superstitious rituals. I believe people are so attached to the supernatural because it gives credence to the idea of life after death. Supernatural is a good tool to overcome our fear in death. Humanity seems to be obsessed with intuitive insights. We seem to have a priori belief that our subjective experiences are telling us something fundamental about reality which cannot be rationally explained

>So you believe that history is 'going somewhere'? That there is some kind of plan or destiny? I see no evidence of that myself. Or do you just believe in the idea of progress?

Progress perhaps, I think i see it more in terms of evolutionary processes and sometimes revolutionary processes. New testament, Koran, Buddhism they are all evolved forms of religion. Evolution does not only occur in biology but also in human psychology, human systems etc. By seeing more points of the straight line, you can pinpoint certain factors in the process that leads to progress, disaster or a revolution.

>We have a more *reasonable* viewpoint being Secular certainly though I'm not sure what you mean by 'better control'. Do you mean a clearer appreciation of our free choices? Something less clouded by superstition?

I believe on a humanist approach on this matter. There is need for secular and theist understandings of the enviorement because there exists a human psyche need for those interpretations. Secular understanding allows us better control because we are faster to recognize the underlying factors in the evidence. Evolution is a good example here, Secular society wont bother with social issues of new knowledge that contradicts creation in a sense. Humanity has a tendency to put god in a box as with most things. A secular society perhaps allows us to break down boxes and give us more appreciation at the complexity of life. With more appreciation come better control.

>Sometimes there are no answers apart from 'shit happens'. The only thing we can do in those circumstances is come to terms with things as best we can.

Well said

CyberKitten said...

negate said: I agree it will not go away quickly, but it will start to diminish as the human need for it goes away.

That's supposing that the apparent need for religion 'goes away'. I see little evidence of that in most of the world.

negate said: Even Buddha wanted people to stop taking part in superstitious rituals.

Indeed he did - and they built a religion (of sorts) on top of that.

negate said: I believe people are so attached to the supernatural because it gives credence to the idea of life after death. Supernatural is a good tool to overcome our fear in death.

Indeed. I think that all religion is based on the fear of death. The only way that religion will decline (or vanish) is to eliminate this fear. I doubt very much if that can be achieved to any great extent.

negate said: Humanity seems to be obsessed with intuitive insights. We seem to have a priori belief that our subjective experiences are telling us something fundamental about reality which cannot be rationally explained.

It *does* seem to be a very common fault but I wouldn't call it a human obsession - though it does show people's level of ignorance.

negate said: By seeing more points of the straight line, you can pinpoint certain factors in the process that leads to progress, disaster or a revolution.

If you're saying that civilisation evolves in a way similar to the way life does I think that you're quite wrong. Human societies change over time but they do not evolve in the sense that they fit themselves to their environments - quite the opposite in fact. Western societies in particular are intent on destroying their environment and themselves with it. I also happen to be very sceptical about the idea of progress which I think is largely illusory.

negate said: I believe on a humanist approach on this matter. There is need for secular and theist understandings of the enviorement because there exists a human psyche need for those interpretations.

I don't agree that there is a specific psychological 'need' of any type for a theistic interpretation of the world. Such things have been vastly overstated - by theists [laughs]

negate said: Secular understanding allows us better control because we are faster to recognize the underlying factors in the evidence.

A scientific mindset (rather than a religious one) allows us to see things more clearly for what they are (rather than what we wish them to be) and allows us to dispense with bad ideas in a speedier fashion - yes.

Negate said...

>That's supposing that the apparent need for religion 'goes away'. I see little evidence of that in most of the world.

Look at the growth of atheism in America. One of the fastest growing "anti - religious" movement.

>If you're saying that civilisation evolves in a way similar to the way life does I think that you're quite wrong. Human societies change over time but they do not evolve in the sense that they fit themselves to their environments

No not similar, more or less by the same forces. We do change to fit to the enviorement. I would agree there are instances where we do more damage, but thats not enough so say we don't evolve to fit with the enviorement. That is still part of the learning curve. Let me use a few examples : 1. Few Kings ruled over majority peasants, this caused uprisings, revolutions(France) etc, we then changed to republic/democratic systems, this is humanity as a whole adapting to there enviorement 2. Slavery. 3 Global warming etc. We do make mistakes, but we learn out of those mistakes in order to better adapt. Even though western societies destroy, they will realize the negetive impact and correct it. This is exactly how life adapts as well. Trial and error interactions with the enviorement.

>I don't agree that there is a specific psychological 'need' of any type for a theistic interpretation of the world. Such things have been vastly overstated - by theists [laughs]

I think there is, its about a deeper spiritual part of our humanity. Buddha touched on this as well. Its about knowing yourself. I don't know it is hard to explain but some of my dialogue with strong theist made me feel that they really feel and rely on a certain love for god.

CyberKitten said...

negate said: Look at the growth of atheism in America. One of the fastest growing "anti - religious" movement.

Oh.. if it is growing (rather than just becoming more vocal or more public - it's still got a *heck* of a ways to go!

negate said: Few Kings ruled over majority peasants, this caused uprisings, revolutions(France) etc, we then changed to republic/democratic systems, this is humanity as a whole adapting to there enviorement

...and yet over 200 years later the vast majority of countries are not democratic. You are also presuming that democracy is more 'adaptive' than other forms of government. If that was the case why in the last 10,000 years have their been so few democracies? The problem inherent in saying that one culture is 'better' than another is how you judge them and how you justify those judgements.

It is also arguable that democracies days are numbered in some Western countries with shifts towards a more surveillance based society in the US & UK. Is that evolutionary progress too?

negate said: Slavery.

Slavery was largely eliminated at the point of a gun. It does however still exist in many parts of the world and arguably we are all 'wage slaves'. Also slavery would have died out anyway as it is highly uneconomic compared to machine labour. For purely pragmatic reasons it would have vanished in Capitalist countries. (I seem to be making your point here don't I?)

Here's one for you. What about the heights of the Roman Empire, compared to the Dark Ages that followed its Fall? I wouldn't call that Progress.

negate said: We do make mistakes, but we learn out of those mistakes in order to better adapt.

If only we learnt from our mistakes! Our largest human folly is warfare. We seem to be taking a *long* while learning that particular lesson. Also imagine what we could do if we didn't spend so much time, effort & money devising better ways to kill each other in ever larger numbers. This alone would call into question the idea of progress and cultural evolution.

negate said: I think there is, its about a deeper spiritual part of our humanity. Buddha touched on this as well. Its about knowing yourself.

I fail to see how the desire to 'know yourself' is spiritual in nature. Honestly knowing how you function is a very reasonable goal. The problem with looking for the 'spiritual' is that it does not exist.

negate said: I don't know it is hard to explain but some of my dialogue with strong theist made me feel that they really feel and rely on a certain love for god.

I'm sure that many people get all kinds of support and good feelings from a variety of beliefs. That doesn't make any of them true or real. It just makes them effective in making some people happy. I'm sure that I would be far happier if I could switch off my critical faculties but it would mean living a dishonest life - which I'm not prepared to do.

Negate said...

>...and yet over 200 years later the vast majority of countries are not democratic. You are also presuming that democracy is more 'adaptive' than other forms of government.

No that was not the point i wanted to make, rather look at how many countries were not democratic in that time? We changed to democracy because as social animals such a system allowed us to better interact. You say majority of countries are not democratic the point was in the time of the frence revolution who first brought us democracy There were NO democratic countries.

>Slavery was largely eliminated at the point of a gun

Nonsense slavery was eliminated because of the negative impact it had on our morality. We treated humans like animals. and that had a negative effect on our sense of morality. I think you missed the point i tried to make. The fact the slavery was eliminated is part of our social evolution because of the negative impact we witnessed. Trial and error. We noticed negative impact of monarchy and went to democrasy. We are noticing the negative impact of gloabl warming thus become more eviorement conscious. This is exatly how life adapts to its enviorement. We are constantly in a battle of equilibrium with the enviorement. Our social evolution just causes us to morally adapt as well.

>Here's one for you. What about the heights of the Roman Empire, compared to the Dark Ages that followed its Fall? I wouldn't call that Progress.

Romans as a society ruled by force, the way they ruled was not progress thus it caused there fall, but what they brought to society roads, glass, sanitation etc, that is progress in that sense. Remember progress is not limited to one sector of humanity. We progress in our understanding of what is morally acceptable(democracy, no slavery), We progress in our understanding of what is eviorement friendly. We progress in knowledge(technology) etc The fall of the roman empire comes down to our understand(trial and error) what can cause success what can cause failure.

>If only we learnt from our mistakes! Our largest human folly is warfare.

We do learn, warfare decreases it does not increase. IN the time of early romans or British colonial rule there was constant warfare. There is still warfare but much less then there were in the past

>I fail to see how the desire to 'know yourself' is spiritual in nature. Honestly knowing how you function is a very reasonable goal. The problem with looking for the 'spiritual' is that it does not exist.

Its not about if it exists or not, remember budddha who believed in no god also talked in terms of spirituality. It refers to enlightenment(the deeper truth we seek lies in our mind)Buddha believed they was to remove suffering was to get in touch with our deeper selfs, to get rid of our desires and live in peacefully companioned lives. Jesus's teaching tried to give the same message. For atheist like me you, its about truth so we care about evidence. For some theists its about faith, in faith lies the deeper meaning of hope. For some theists it is about love and understanding of god(yourself) If you know god you know yourself(jesus said that)

>I'm sure that many people get all kinds of support and good feelings from a variety of beliefs. That doesn't make any of them true or real.

I fully agree it does not make it true but it makes it true to there sense of reality. Everything around us can be explained in terms of someones favorite theory, but of course that doesn’t make it so. In a philosophical sense we live in different realities because we as humanity choose (because of diversity) to make a reality fit whatever we like as a group or culture. Think is not everyone has the stress level or intellect to handle the truth an atheist knows. The biggest average is the average. So it is reasonable to assume most people will be gullible, it is because of this gullibility that they were are ruled over. I still see this a human needs. Spiritual systems exist because there are(gullible people) who rely on these systems to take on life. Atheistic systems exist because there are strong willed people who need it to exist. All these things reflect the diversity of needs that humanity has to fulfill

Rodolfo said...

Negate said: Evolution does not only occur in biology but also in human psychology, human systems etc.

I was always fascinated with stars. I would jokingly ask my friends if they ever wondered what girls in other solar systems were like. They probably thought I was being dumb but I really did wonder. Anyway I think the above statement about evolution is true. If natural/artificial selection occurs in our solar system then why shouldn’t it occur elsewhere?

CK wrote: I fail to see how the desire to 'know yourself' is spiritual in nature. Honestly knowing how you function is a very reasonable goal. The problem with looking for the 'spiritual' is that it does not exist.

How do you define spiritual? When I became an atheist I used to cringe when this word was used but I’ve recently come to embrace it. I actually consider most prominent atheists spiritual. Sam Harris and Carl Sagan are two that come to mind. I think it’s also like saying that Einstein believed in god but just not a personal god. When I stopped defining spirituality in terms of a spooky ghost I found that not only was I able to communicate better with my religious friends I ended up knowing a little bit more about “thyself.”

And I think there might be a strategic advantage to the use of religious language. Barack Obama really hit it home for me. He wrote:

“Each day, it seems, thousands of Americans are going about their daily rounds - dropping off the kids at school, driving to the office, flying to a business meeting, shopping at the mall, trying to stay on their diets - and they're coming to the realization that something is missing. They are deciding that their work, their possessions, their diversions, their sheer busyness, is not enough.

They want a sense of purpose, a narrative arc to their lives. They're looking to relieve a chronic loneliness, a feeling supported by a recent study that shows Americans have fewer close friends and confidants than ever before. And so they need an assurance that somebody out there cares about them, is listening to them - that they are not just destined to travel down that long highway towards nothingness.”

He goes on to say that if we secularists choose to ignore the powerful language and symbolism used by religionists then men like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson will continue to hold sway. These charlatans are in power because they hijacked spirituality and used it for their own personal and political gain.

Like fear of death the fear of being alone is also strong. Most people in the world can’t fathom being alone so they choose to naturally seek out other people. To me relationships in any form contain a spiritual element that mechanically we understand how it works (natural selection) but can still fall short of fully explaining the true nature of existence. Most people will not believe that the Big Bang came out of nothing. Unfortunately this meme will never go away.

CK wrote: I'm sure that many people get all kinds of support and good feelings from a variety of beliefs. That doesn't make any of them true or real.

Support and good feelings ARE REAL. I’m not sure Negate is arguing that the beliefs are real. He’s simply stating the utility argument for religious beliefs.

Negate said...

Rodolfo some great words. I'm from South Africa but i can agree with what Obama says. I think those are facts relevant here as well. Atheists here have a tendency to bash religious believe instead of trying to understand it. It comes down to language differences(theistic and atheistic)An atheist looks at god in terms of evidence and truth. When a theist does not look at god this way. I also find it quite demoralizing that allot of theists throw there god at me without understanding of my concepts of god. It comes down to respect and Obama notices this

CyberKitten said...

negate said: You say majority of countries are not democratic the point was in the time of the frence revolution who first brought us democracy There were NO democratic countries.

For everything there is a *first* time. However, democracy is hardly spreading very well. Most countries function - after a fashion - without democracy including China which will probably be the dominant world power in the 21st Century. It is nowhere certain that democracy will survive never mind prosper. Democracy is a very recent phenomena it could also be a very short lived one.

negate said: The fact the slavery was eliminated is part of our social evolution because of the negative impact we witnessed.

So... for tens of thousands of years no one noticed the negative impact of slavery? Then all of a sudden the whole world decided not to do it any more? I have a feeling it wasn't that simple.

negate said: We noticed negative impact of monarchy and went to democrasy.

What of those countries that are still not democractic? Will they eventually chose to be democracies or will they need to be shown the error of their ways? What's stopping them?

negate said: Romans as a society ruled by force, the way they ruled was not progress thus it caused there fall, but what they brought to society roads, glass, sanitation etc, that is progress in that sense.

The point I was trying to make was that the Roman Empire was a *very* sophisticated and succesful civilisation. When it fell - for a variety of reasons - civilisation in the West collapsed with it and didn't recover for hundreds of years. Progress just didn't stop - it went into full reverse. It is not unreasonable to think that it could happen again. Civilisations do not inevitably progress for ever - not even ours.

negate said: We do learn, warfare decreases it does not increase. IN the time of early romans or British colonial rule there was constant warfare. There is still warfare but much less then there were in the past.

How exactly are you measuring that? By the number of wars? By the number of people killed in wars? The 20th Century was easily by far the bloodiest in our long and bloody human history. Who knows what the 21st Century will bring...

negate said: the deeper truth we seek lies in our mind

Erm... *What* 'deeper' truth....?

negate said: I fully agree it does not make it true but it makes it true to there sense of reality.

If all truth is personal then there is no truth. If reality is just when you think it is (or wish it is) then there is no reality. Just because people believe in something doesn't make it true. Truth is not the same as opinion or belief.

negate said: Think is not everyone has the stress level or intellect to handle the truth an atheist knows.

So you think that truth is independent from what someone believes and that atheist truth is the *true* truth?

rodolfo said: How do you define spiritual?

Good question. I don't usually.... In a broad sense its a belief in a higher reality or something isn't it? The belief that there is more to life than mundane reality. Something like that anyway... How do you define it?

Obama is excellent at rhetoric isn't he? I've been impressed myself by his speeches. What he says is largely true - but that doesn't justify filling the 'gaps' with either religion or spirituality. Obama might say that people don't like the idea that 'they are not just destined to travel down that long highway towards nothingness' but that doesn't make it any less true.

Rodolfo said...

CK wrote: It is nowhere certain that democracy will survive never mind prosper. Democracy is a very recent phenomena it could also be a very short lived one.

I’ve always felt that the First Amendment is what makes the U.S. democracy work. As long as Obama continues to encourage excellence and ask the citizens to be politically and socially engaged then American has a bright future. China’s an interesting study. They’ve somehow mobilized their people to be economically savvy but I’m curious how far Communism will go. When citizens realize they’re getting screwed it will manifest itself in a revolution. It’ll take time but maybe someday the Chinese people will look back to Tiananmen Square as one of the ancestors of their revolution. China looks poised to lead but I think once the greedy plantation owners of America realize that fundamentalist Christianity is the reason we’re losing money and our competitive edge then they’ll come around to our side too. I’d be surprised if Huckabee decides to form an independent Christian ticket but I doubt he’ll be able to convince the average joe blow conservative to vote for him.

CK: So... for tens of thousands of years no one noticed the negative impact of slavery? Then all of a sudden the whole world decided not to do it any more? I have a feeling it wasn't that simple.

Slavery is one of those words like “spiritual.” Most people can identify the feeling of being enslaved but they won’t call it slavery. They call it “working for the man” or “being locked up.” But yea in essence we’re all slaves to something. We don’t use the word as often as we should because of its direct association with the African Slave Trade.

“Slavery has been fruitful in giving itself names. It has been called “the peculiar institution,” “the social system,” and the “impediment.”...It has been called by a great many names, and it will call itself by yet another name; and you and I and all of us had better wait and see what new form this old monster will assume, in what new skin this old snake will come forth next.”—Fredereck Douglass



CK wrote:What of those countries that are still not democractic? Will they eventually chose to be democracies or will they need to be shown the error of their ways? What's stopping them?

Democracy is simply rule by the people. Most ordinary people feel this “self-evident” urge to govern themselves and not be at the mercy of monarchy or dictators. But it will take free speech to “spread democracy.” You can’t have an engaged citizenry if they can’t even question their own god. Societies with democratic governments will win the culture wars until a better form of political system evolves.

CK wrote:The point I was trying to make was that the Roman Empire was a *very* sophisticated and succesful civilisation. When it fell - for a variety of reasons - civilisation in the West collapsed with it and didn't recover for hundreds of years. Progress just didn't stop - it went into full reverse. It is not unreasonable to think that it could happen again. Civilisations do not inevitably progress for ever - not even ours.

I hope it will. I can’t think of living in any place that didn’t allow for my free speech. There have been comparisons between the U.S. and Rome and most assertions are probably true. But I’m not sure the Romans had the First Amendment. Free speech and separating church and state are key to a civilizations health and survival.

CK wrote: How exactly are you measuring that? By the number of wars? By the number of people killed in wars? The 20th Century was easily by far the bloodiest in our long and bloody human history. Who knows what the 21st Century will bring...

What we do know is this: It takes more and more effort to convince people to go to war. That sounds contradictory coming from an American but it’s true. Even our best and brightest were motivated to accept the war in Iraq because of FEAR. Our greedy plantation owners took our FEAR and coupled it with a few LIES and captured our WILL. It’s no secret. But had we not been afraid and saw through those lies we would have never gone to war. But I have hope. Again if an Obama presidency can keep its citizens engaged then our society will prosper. Rule by the people works if it’s backed up by free speech.
CK wrote:Erm... *What* 'deeper' truth....?

Great question. Maybe as we continue to unlock the mysteries of our “thought” we will find deeper meaning into our existence. Deeper I mean simply adding on to “truths” that we currently accept today.

CK wrote: If all truth is personal then there is no truth. If reality is just when you think it is (or wish it is) then there is no reality. Just because people believe in something doesn't make it true. Truth is not the same as opinion or belief.

I think “truth” is another of those words that get lost in translation. Truth doesn’t always have to be about facts. I have no problem with truth being eternal. That’s why it’s so easy for Christians to accept that God is Truth because it makes sense in the most fundamentally basic sense. If god is nature and nature has existed throughout eternity (pre/post big bang) then somewhere in all of this chaos is something eternal. Most people identify with this eternal truth as god.

To you religious folks out there I can accept this. But you need to compromise on your end too and accept the fact that not everyone will believe your eternal truth to have manifested itself in a virgin birth. To me that belittles truth.

CK asked: How do you define spiritual?

Spirituality for me is simply humanity asking why we struggle to exist. In order to answer the deep questions to our existence one major pre-requisite is to be an independent truth-seeker. In my opinion Cyberkitten you are as spiritual as anyone can possibly be.

CK wrote: Obama is excellent at rhetoric isn't he? I've been impressed myself by his speeches. What he says is largely true - but that doesn't justify filling the 'gaps' with either religion or spirituality. Obama might say that people don't like the idea that 'they are not just destined to travel down that long highway towards nothingness' but that doesn't make it any less true.

It’s true that Obama’s adulthood conversion is odd. But most people that Obama speaks a truth that transcends his religion. Unfortunately he chose to anchor this truth in the form of Christianity. But I can spot a skeptic when I see one. Obama is a skeptic. He says so himself by saying his doubts never went away. And that’s enough for him to prove to me that he will honor the First Amendment.

I don’t think anyone knows for sure what will happen after death. I can say nothing will happen but that doesn’t make my assertion any more or less true because I don’t really know.

CyberKitten said...

rodolfo said: When citizens realize they’re getting screwed it will manifest itself in a revolution.

Which could be said about any society - including the US. The problem with applying that to China is that the majority of people have 'never had it so good' so are hardly likely to revolt. When you have the choice between voting or a brand new car I'm confident that most people will pick the car.

rodolfo said: There have been comparisons between the U.S. and Rome and most assertions are probably true.

Everytime I hear that It always makes me laugh [lots]. Comparing the US to Rome is an amazing act of hubris. Rome ran the known world for many hundreds of years and was the undefeated master of its time for almost as long. Whereas the US has been a world player for how long...? 50 years? Maybe 100 at a push? Of course today its a military power to be reckoned with and has had a large cultural impact but if I was the compare Rome & the US I'd quite clearly compare it to the *fall* of Rome rather than to its rise.

rodolfo said: It takes more and more effort to convince people to go to war.

It seems fairly difficult to convince Western countries to go to war unless we are systimatically lied to I agree but the almost continual wars in Africa, SE Asia and parts of Latin America seem to suggest that warfare is the norm rather than the exception. It is probable that we will be involved in Iraq & Afganistan for decades to come - and that's without the possibility of an idiotic war with Iran. It is also quite possible that Pakistan will collapse in the near future and distabilise the whole region. This is without the future conflicts brought on by Global Warming and scarce resources. I don't think that the 21st Century will be a peaceful one!

rodolfo said: Maybe as we continue to unlock the mysteries of our “thought” we will find deeper meaning into our existence.

I'm sorry.. but *what* deeper meaning?

rodolfo said: Deeper I mean simply adding on to “truths” that we currently accept today.

Such as? You mean more knowledge?

rodolfo said: I have no problem with truth being eternal.

I do. Truth is provisional until something better comes along.

rodolfo said: Spirituality for me is simply humanity asking why we struggle to exist. In order to answer the deep questions to our existence one major pre-requisite is to be an independent truth-seeker.

That's a *very* broad definition. None of which I consider to be 'spiritual' As to why we 'struggle to exist'.. the question is *Do* we struggle to exist? I don't think so. We are born, we live our lives and we die. There may be a bit of stuggle going on but such is life. There's nothing 'deep' about it.

rodolfo said: In my opinion Cyberkitten you are as spiritual as anyone can possibly be.

[laughs] You *obviously* don't know me!

rodolfo said: But most people that Obama speaks a truth that transcends his religion. Unfortunately he chose to anchor this truth in the form of Christianity.

Because of his audience I guess. He was going for the Christian voters. It's to be expected.

rodolfo said: I don’t think anyone knows for sure what will happen after death. I can say nothing will happen but that doesn’t make my assertion any more or less true because I don’t really know.

No one knows what happens after we die. This doesn't mean that the default position is life after death. As far as I am aware there is zero credible evidence or convincing argument for a continuation of life after we kick off. Therefore I consider it unreasonable to assume that such a continuation takes place. There is nothing that survives death except in the memories or other people, the genes we pass on and the artifacts we leave behind.

Rodolfo said...

CK wrote: Which could be said about any society - including the US. The problem with applying that to China is that the majority of people have 'never had it so good' so are hardly likely to revolt. When you have the choice between voting or a brand new car I'm confident that most people will pick the car.

Ya I agree with that. Why do you think that is though? I think if you teach people the importance of the Bill of Rights at a very early age then when they become adults it would be much easier for them to make a distinction between what’s more important to their existence (survival). A car might help you if you have money for fuel but if your lawmakers make it difficult for you to buy gas what good is that car really?

CK wrote: Everytime I hear that It always makes me laugh [lots]. Comparing the US to Rome is an amazing act of hubris.

Sorry I guess I didn’t understand your comments well. I thought YOU were comparing the US and Rome.

CK wrote: Whereas the US has been a world player for how long...? 50 years? Maybe 100 at a push?

Much longer than that. What’s a world player to you? I would argue that the US has had a direct influence in the shaping of this world since it’s founding. I never felt that our military or economy were what made this country great. In my opinion what makes this country great is the creed written in our founding documents. Those words will continue to resonate throughout the modern world for a long time as long as there are people like me willing to die for it.

CK wrote: It seems fairly difficult to convince Western countries to go to war unless we are systimatically lied to I agree but the almost continual wars in Africa, SE Asia and parts of Latin America seem to suggest that warfare is the norm rather than the exception….I don't think that the 21st Century will be a peaceful one!

That‘s a correct assessment as long as people refuse to change. I think that’s why Obama’s message of hope and change resonates so well with the American public and other parts of the world. We all know what’s wrong. Deep down we all know that we are all simply struggling to exist (survive) and that the best way of solving these problems and moving forward is working together collectively. It won’t be easy but it really is that simple. I think if our political leaders can engage the citizens and encourage free discussion of the issues then there’s hope for a peaceful 21st century.

CK wrote: I'm sorry.. but *what* deeper meaning? Such as? You mean more knowledge?

Yea I guess that’s all I’m really implying. I write on emotion a lot and sometimes it doesn’t translate into anything coherent. But for me or other people to say there are “deeper meanings” or “deeper truths” is just a language that we’re used speaking based on our religious (in my case) upbringing. But it’s a simple idea that I think everyone can understand. There is knowledge in our nature that hasn’t been fully understood or explained and we are all seeking a little bit of that knowledge.

CK wrote: Truth is provisional until something better comes along.

What about love for other people? If I say I love my mom and that’s the truth will I stop loving her after she dies? Will the truth about the love for my mom go away when I marry the woman I love?

CK wrote: As to why we 'struggle to exist'.. the question is *Do* we struggle to exist? I don't think so. We are born, we live our lives and we die. There may be a bit of stuggle going on but such is life. There's nothing 'deep' about it.

That’s your opinion and I have mine. But to dismiss this struggle as if our knowledge is complete is arrogant, ignorant and irrational. Science can explain the function of our human organs and why it all needs to work together to survive but why? That’s the “deep” that we ought to figure out. Why is the universe a universe? Why does the universe exist? And why is it that life as we know it struggle to exist in this universe? We all know at some point people die and species become extinct. In between is not a “bit of a struggle” it’s a HELL OF A STRUGGLE. If you’re born into riches then lucky you but even those with all the money in the world will die (struggle to exist).

CK wrote: [laughs] You *obviously* don't know me!

You’re absolutely right. L But you asked me to define spirituality and in my reality you’re a spiritual being. There’s a spirituality to our existence. I’m not saying I’m reducing our existence to a silly Adam and Eve story. All I’m saying is that there is a “deeper” explanation (unexplainable knowledge) to our existence and the fact that we continue to struggle to exist makes the game of living in this world even more fascinating. Great contemplatives like Jesus and Gandhi knew this. Great scientists like Newton and Einstein knew this. The study of ourselves and our fight to live (exist) is what defines all peoples.

CK wrote: Because of his audience I guess. He was going for the Christian voters. It's to be expected.

I would also add that he has been more vocal about “praying to Jesus” because of the attacks on his upbringing. There’s emails floating around saying he’s an Islamist and went to Indonesia to train and is now hijacking the political system to destroy America. That type of ignorance is also to be expected.

CK wrote:
No one knows what happens after we die. This doesn't mean that the default position is life after death. As far as I am aware there is zero credible evidence or convincing argument for a continuation of life after we kick off. Therefore I consider it unreasonable to assume that such a continuation takes place. There is nothing that survives death except in the memories or other people, the genes we pass on and the artifacts we leave behind.

It seems like you want it both ways. Does anything survive after death or not? The fact that our genes survive after death is more than enough evidence or argument that life exists after we die. We’ve only begun to unlock the mysteries of our genes so that tells me that we barely even know ourselves.

CyberKitten said...

rodolfo said: Sorry I guess I didn’t understand your comments well. I thought YOU were comparing the US and Rome.

Me.... Never [laughs]

rodolfo said: That‘s a correct assessment as long as people refuse to change.

I don't think that war (or the lack of it) is simply a matter of people 'refusing to change'. Unfortunately it is the standard way many nations attempt to settle their differences as well as the 'easy' way of grabbing things they want.

rodolfo said: Deep down we all know that we are all simply struggling to exist (survive) and that the best way of solving these problems and moving forward is working together collectively.

If *only* that was true. There are many problems in the world that could be solved if we only co-operated with each other. However, nations/cultures and groups tend to put their own interests first. It might not be a case of going out of their way to hurt other nations etc but not expending effort without the probability of reward.

rodolfo said: I think if our political leaders can engage the citizens and encourage free discussion of the issues then there’s hope for a peaceful 21st century.

I admire your optimism. But I think that it's unfounded.

rodolfo said: There is knowledge in our nature that hasn’t been fully understood or explained and we are all seeking a little bit of that knowledge.

You seemed to be implying that 'deeper' truth was over and above evidental truth - something more than ordinary knowledge.

rodolfo said: What about love for other people? If I say I love my mom and that’s the truth will I stop loving her after she dies? Will the truth about the love for my mom go away when I marry the woman I love?

What has that got to do with the subject at hand? Why would the fact that knowledge is provisonal have any impact on your questions?

rodolfo said: But to dismiss this struggle as if our knowledge is complete is arrogant, ignorant and irrational.

As I said above - knowledge is provisional and therefore incomplete... and I still fail to understand what 'struggle' you are talking about.

rodolfo said: Science can explain the function of our human organs and why it all needs to work together to survive but why? That’s the “deep” that we ought to figure out. Why is the universe a universe? Why does the universe exist? And why is it that life as we know it struggle to exist in this universe?

Science has little to say on these issues because they are not scientific questions. Some of them are also meaningless or beg the question. For instance: Why does the Universe exist is not a scientific question. It also seems to assume that the Universe exists for a purpose - which it doesn't. It is not a question that can be answered by scientific investigation. The questions you ask are not 'deep' and will only result in endless (and pointless) speculation.

rodolfo said: We all know at some point people die and species become extinct. In between is not a “bit of a struggle” it’s a HELL OF A STRUGGLE. If you’re born into riches then lucky you but even those with all the money in the world will die (struggle to exist).

Of course we all die and obviously species go extinct. So what. That's how things are. Life can be tough and life can be easy. That's how things are. Maybe its the terminolgy your using but can you explain what this 'struggle' is?

rodolfo said: There’s a spirituality to our existence.

I disagree.

rodolfo said: All I’m saying is that there is a “deeper” explanation (unexplainable knowledge) to our existence...

Again I disagree. I do not believe that there is a 'deeper' meaning to existence. Why should there be? What exactly is 'unexplainable knowledge'? How can knowledge be 'unexplainable' and still be knowledge?

rodolfo said: It seems like you want it both ways. Does anything survive after death or not?

Not if you mean the 'soul' or 'spirit' or whatnot. But we *do* leave things behind - obviously. When I die I'm going to leave lots of books to be passed on to others for example. There's also copies of my genes already out there in the world - to say nothing of the atoms I'm made of that will be released back into the world.

rodolfo said: The fact that our genes survive after death is more than enough evidence or argument that life exists after we die.

Of course life exists after we die - just not *our* life. Unless we're killed when our Sun goes Nova or the world only exists in our imagination... [grin].

Rodolfo said...

CK wrote: I don't think that war (or the lack of it) is simply a matter of people 'refusing to change'. Unfortunately it is the standard way many nations attempt to settle their differences as well as the 'easy' way of grabbing things they want.

I agree. And this standard way needs to go. We simply can't go to war anymore just because it's the easy way. Too many innocent lives are at stake. Most intelligent and decent human beings know this. That's why the plantation owners need to lie to us to get the war they want. "Changing" the hearts and minds of these greedy bastards (both the plantation owners AND Al Qaeda) need to occur in order to establish peace. I'm not saying it's going to be easy because if it were it would have been done by now. I'm saying it's that simple.

CK wrote: If *only* that was true. There are many problems in the world that could be solved if we only co-operated with each other. However, nations/cultures and groups tend to put their own interests first. It might not be a case of going out of their way to hurt other nations etc but not expending effort without the probability of reward.

I agree. But why do you think people put their own interests first? The simple answer is because of our selfish genes. Our genes tell us to put our interests first because that's what it takes to survive (struggle to exist) If our existence didn't have a death clause in it there would be no reason for us to kill each other. Why would we if our existence didn't need resources to live. But the fact is we need resources and killing other people for those precious resources is the "standard way" that we need to eliminate in our society. We have to find better ways to exist in this planet without killing ourselves.

CK wrote: I admire your optimism. But I think that it's unfounded.

Then our species is screwed. Nice knowing you.

CK wrote: What has that got to do with the subject at hand? Why would the fact that knowledge is provisonal have any impact on your questions?

Because my love for our species is a belief-knowledge-truth-fact that I deeply hold. That'll never change because I would never want it to change. I'm simply pointing out one example of a truth that would not be provisional for me. It really depends on what knowledge or truth we're talking about doesn't it? If I said to you that the Chinese dropped bombs on Pearl Harbor back in the 40s you'd think I was crazy. The "truth" is that the Japanese dropped those bombs. This particular "truth" cannot be provisional. I guess truth has many meanings for different people. I do understand what you mean by provisional truth though.

CK wrote:As I said above - knowledge is provisional and therefore incomplete... and I still fail to understand what 'struggle' you are talking about.

What gets you up in the morning? Why do decide to sleep at night? Why do you have to work? Anyone can give simple answers to these seemingly simple questions but these are profoundly deep questions. If we don't do any of these things we die. If I stayed in bed and refused to get up I DIE. So what my genes tell me to do is to get up and do shit. If I don't I DIE. If I decide I'm gonna stay up all night watching YouTube clips of the presidential debates and never go to sleep I will eventually DIE. You might say I will die either way and that's true but why do my genes tell me to live? I could simply die and people that commit suicide definitely fascinate me but for the most part if you're an intelligent normal and decent human being you choose to live. And if you submit to your genes and choose a life to live you are in essence "struggling to exist" because life is a struggle.

CK wrote: Science has little to say on these issues because they are not scientific questions. Some of them are also meaningless or beg the question......It also seems to assume that the Universe exists for a purpose - which it doesn't.....It is not a question that can be answered by scientific investigation. The questions you ask are not 'deep' and will only result in endless (and pointless) speculation.

I disagree. These questions are extremly profound and it's what our mystics and scientists have been trying to answer since the dawn of creativity. Would it be so bad if the Universe existed for a purpose? I'm not saying it does because the evidence isn't there but abscence of evidence is not evidence of abscence right? To boldly claim that "the Universe doesn't exist for a purpose" is what theists find arrogant about us.

CK wrote: Of course we all die and obviously species go extinct. So what. That's how things are. Life can be tough and life can be easy. That's how things are. Maybe its the terminolgy your using but can you explain what this 'struggle' is?

It's easy to reduce our existence to being born, then living and then dying. I'm not contradicting those glaring facts about our existence but what I don't want to go away is my sense of wonder about the whole experience. It's not pointless to ask "why is there a universe?" The fact that I can sit down in front of this screen and ask "Why is there a universe?" is extremely profound. I can't believe my lucky stars that I was born to ask this question. I think about the millions of sperm that I had to compete with in order to become me and I won. The truth is that my sruggle to exist began even earlier than that. My existence began perhaps 3.5 billion years ago. That blows my mind away!!! My impression of you is that you look at the world the way it is and proclaim simply this is the way it is. I look at the world and my existence and wonder could there be more? Could there be something better? But simple explanation for why I choose to ask that is to ensure the survival of my genes and ultimately my species. I simply use "struggling to exist" as a way to explain life and death. If death were not so inevitable there would be no need for my genes struggle to live.

CK wrote: Again I disagree. I do not believe that there is a 'deeper' meaning to existence. Why should there be?

Why shouldn't there be?

CK wrote: Not if you mean the 'soul' or 'spirit' or whatnot.

No I don't believe in ghosts. But I do believe in life after death. And by that I mean genes, memories and artifacts. So we're both on the same page here. Our job is to convey this new message into the language that theists use. we all know this message because this message runs deep in our genes. Anyone alive today made the cut. Our ancestral genes survived their struggles and we continue that struggle today. If our species is lucky we might continue this struggle for thousands of years more....I hope.

I can't explain "struggling to exist" any more than I can in this post. I could be wrong about all of it but this understanding of life and death is what helps me sleep at night.

CyberKitten said...

rodolfo said: And this standard way needs to go. We simply can't go to war anymore just because it's the easy way.

Totally agree. War is about as stupid a way of achieving *anything* that we've come up with and will probably be the death of all of us if we don't stop doing it.

rodolfo said: But why do you think people put their own interests first? The simple answer is because of our selfish genes.

Our genes don't make us selfish - otherwise there would be no generosity in the world. The genes themselves are 'selfish' in that they 'want' to propagate themselves at the expense of other genes - that's if genes could actually 'want' anything... which they can't of course.

rodolfo said: Our genes tell us to put our interests first because that's what it takes to survive (struggle to exist).

But our genes don't control us. We are sentient self-conscious beings with free will. We are not simply 'gene machines' so we can't blame bits of DNA for our behaviour. Saying that 'my genes made me do it' is hardly any kind of defence.

rodolfo said: Then our species is screwed. Nice knowing you.

Quite possibly. Only time will tell - but I do feel that most of the time our species is just too dumb to survive much longer.

rodolfo said: What gets you up in the morning? Why do decide to sleep at night? Why do you have to work? Anyone can give simple answers to these seemingly simple questions but these are profoundly deep questions.

Most of the time the simple answers are the correct ones. If you go looking for 'the Universe in a grain of sand' I'm afraid you'll spend a lot of time looking for things that aren't there. Most of life is routine & habit. We do things because we have to do them - or feel we have to. I go to work to earn money to do other more fun stuff. I live because life is (on the whole) worth living. If it wasn't I wouldn't be here.

rodolfo said: These questions are extremly profound and it's what our mystics and scientists have been trying to answer since the dawn of creativity.

As I said asking *why* the universe exists is not a scientific question and would not have been addressed by scientists. Mystics might have 'a go' at that question but they are starting from a unspoken (and groundless) assupmtion that the universe is purposful. Do rocks have 'a purpose'? Does water or air have a purpose? Does hydrogen wonder what it wants to do with its 'life'? Of course not. Because these things are not alive nor sentient they cannot have any intention therefore no purpose. Likewise the universe is made up of mostly rock and vaccuum (the vast majority being empty space). How can it then have any intention towards anything? How can it have purpose?

CK wrote: Again I disagree. I do not believe that there is a 'deeper' meaning to existence. Why should there be?

rodolfo said: Why shouldn't there be?

Because there is nothing pointing to that conclusion. Again you seem to be looking for something that isn't there. I know that many people want or need to believe that there is a 'deeper' meaning to it all. I don't. Available evidence suggests that my provisional conclusion is correct - in that there is no evidence (that I know of) to support this 'deeper' meaning.

rodolfo said: And by that I mean genes, memories and artifacts. So we're both on the same page here.

I wouldn't call that 'life after death'. I'd call that ripples in a pond.

rodolfo said: Anyone alive today made the cut. Our ancestral genes survived their struggles and we continue that struggle today.

Yes, through a series of chance encounters. But if things had happened differently there would probably still be people here having this conversation - just different people. It's certainly nothing to get 'spiritual' about. It's just the evolutionary process.

rodolfo said: I could be wrong about all of it but this understanding of life and death is what helps me sleep at night.

As they say "Whatever gets you through the night..." I think that its mostly simple biology. We are natural evolved animals who have developed self-awareness and can think about such things (which is fun). But when it comes down to it there's not all that much difference between us and all the other evolved life on Earth. We just happen to know that we're alive and that someday we'll be dead. Pretty much everything else follows from these two facts.

Rodolfo said...

CK wrote: Our genes don't make us selfish - otherwise there would be no generosity in the world. The genes themselves are 'selfish' in that they 'want' to propagate themselves at the expense of other genes - that's if genes could actually 'want' anything... which they can't of course.

Ya I remember reading Dawkins clarify this same exact point and I should have remembered that. But I have been thinking about generosity in people lately. Have you ever met someone who was purely generous?

CK wrote: But our genes don't control us. We are sentient self-conscious beings with free will. We are not simply 'gene machines' so we can't blame bits of DNA for our behaviour. Saying that 'my genes made me do it' is hardly any kind of defence.

I agree with that for normal people. But what about schizoprenics? Scientists don't know for sure what causes this illness. What if there is some kind of "schizoprenic" gene? I know many people who have this condition and they can easily claim "my illness made me do it" as a defense. They obviously don't have free will.

CK wrote: Most of the time the simple answers are the correct ones. If you go looking for 'the Universe in a grain of sand' I'm afraid you'll spend a lot of time looking for things that aren't there.

I don't think I need to go looking for the Universe in a grain of sand because the Universe can be found in me. Here's a quote from one of my favorite scientists:

The chemical elements of the universe are forged in the fires of high-mass stars that end their lives in stupendous explosions, enriching their host galaxies with the chemical arsenal of life as we know it. The result? The four most common chemically active elements in the universe—hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen—are the four most common elements of life on Earth. We are not simply in the universe. The universe is in us.--Tyson

CK wrote: Most of life is routine & habit. We do things because we have to do them - or feel we have to. I go to work to earn money to do other more fun stuff. I live because life is (on the whole) worth living. If it wasn't I wouldn't be here.

That just makes life sound so boring. We live so our genes will live. Everything else is just icing. You yourself can't definitively say we HAVE to do stuff. We live to live period. All the fun stuff we do makes living bearable but not worth living. We live because our genes live. We gain knowledge because knowledge translates into survival. Survival of ourselves and our genes. Some people commit suicide because they simply can't find anything else to make living in this world bearable. So they cease to struggle. They cease to exist.

CK: As I said asking *why* the universe exists is not a scientific question and would not have been addressed by scientists.

It's probably from a lack of trying or actual data. Scientists have asked these questions but they just can't answer them yet. And maybe we never will. But heck why not explore space and try to find out.

CK wrote: Mystics might have 'a go' at that question but they are starting from a unspoken (and groundless) assupmtion that the universe is purposful.Do rocks have 'a purpose'? Does water or air have a purpose? Does hydrogen wonder what it wants to do with its 'life'? Of course not. Because these things are not alive nor sentient they cannot have any intention therefore no purpose. Likewise the universe is made up of mostly rock and vaccuum (the vast majority being empty space). How can it then have any intention towards anything? How can it have purpose?

I know what you're saying and that's what bugs the hell out of me. If there is no purpose then why the heck did humans evolve to ask each other if there is one? And why is it that when I look out into space i feel like the answers are there? But maybe as a consequence our evolution does have a purpose because until we explore space we'll never truly know for sure if there is a purpose. You and I and many others can make the same exact claims about nothingness or purposelessness but deep down most people (including me sometimes) cannot accept that a Universe without purpose is an absolute truth. It's an open question since truth is provisional.

CK wrote: Again I disagree. I do not believe that there is a 'deeper' meaning to existence. Why should there be?
rodolfo said: Why shouldn't there be?
CK wrote: Because there is nothing pointing to that conclusion.

Yea it sure seems that way but since you and I won't live past this century we'll never really know the ending will we?

rodolfo said: And by that I mean genes, memories and artifacts. So we're both on the same page here.
CK wrote:I wouldn't call that 'life after death'. I'd call that ripples in a pond.

Aren't our genes a form of life? I can understand your opposition to certain religious words but just because you say "life after death" doesn't make you any less atheist.

CK wrote: Yes, through a series of chance encounters. But if things had happened differently there would probably still be people here having this conversation - just different people. It's certainly nothing to get 'spiritual' about. It's just the evolutionary process.

You limit your idea of spirituality as simply a bunch of people going to church and kneeling before an altar and praying. Sprituality doesn't have to be about that. In fact it shouldn't. What do you think Barack Obama means when he tells people that "his mom was an atheist but she was very spiritual?" I think we as atheists should embrace this word not because we actually believe in ghosts and spirits but because it explains our sense of wonder and curiousity about our existence in this Universe. But I did read your post Why I have Never Lost My Faith in God. I think it helps explain a little bit why we will never understand each other.

CK wrote: But when it comes down to it there's not all that much difference between us and all the other evolved life on Earth. We just happen to know that we're alive and that someday we'll be dead. Pretty much everything else follows from these two facts.

I guess we share the same facts but viewed through different lenses. It's a beautiful thing to be a sentient being. I wouldn't want to be any other species.

CyberKitten said...

rodolfo said: But I have been thinking about generosity in people lately. Have you ever met someone who was purely generous?

No. I'm not sure that such people exist. If they do they are *very* rare individuals. Most of the people I have met in the last 40 years or so have been decent, honest and helpful. Generosity is itself far from rare. *Pure* generosity is like most ideals - 'pure' fantasy.

rodolfo said: What if there is some kind of "schizoprenic" gene? I know many people who have this condition and they can easily claim "my illness made me do it" as a defense. They obviously don't have free will.

People with mental illnesses hardly disprove my assertion that we are not controlled by our genes. Am I controlled by a virus when I take time off work with a cold? No. Mental illness (as well as other physical illness) is a defect that can be addressed and hopefully fixed. It does not undermine the idea that we are not simply 'gene machines'.

rodolfo said: I don't think I need to go looking for the Universe in a grain of sand because the Universe can be found in me.

Indeed. We are star stuff we are golden... etc. But so is *everything* you see around you. The elements that make up our bodies were manufactured in the hearts of stars. That just means that we are part of the Universe we live in and are not in some special way separate from it. There is nothing romantic in this. Flowers are exactly the same, as is the soil they grow in and the rain that waters them.

rodolfo said: That just makes life sound so boring.

Not to me. Just because most things are mundane doesn't mean that they are boring. Because we are basically biolgical units we need to eat, sleep and shit. Again that's just how things are.

rodolfo said: We live so our genes will live. Everything else is just icing.

To an extent yes. One of our main 'functions' is to propergate our genes. If we had not developed consciousness that would basically be *it*. But we are conscious self-aware beings so along with making copies of our genes in the shape of babies we also produce skyscrapers, paintings, space probes and nuclear bombs.

rodolfo said: All the fun stuff we do makes living bearable but not worth living.

If 'all the fun stuff' didn't make worth living there would be a *lot* more suicides! Life *is* worth living. Life is (or can be) not only fun but very, very interesting. I regret the fact that in 40 or so years I'm going to be dead with much of life still unexplored. Life would still be worth living even if I could make it to 1000 years or 10,000.

rodolfo said: We gain knowledge because knowledge translates into survival.

Personally I gain knowledge for fun. If I could spend the rest of my life studying I would.

rodolfo said: I know what you're saying and that's what bugs the hell out of me. If there is no purpose then why the heck did humans evolve to ask each other if there is one?

Because we didn't evolve in order to do that. We evolved through a series of chance events which increased our survival skills to such an extent that we are now (argubably) one of the most succesful species on the planet. The reason we wonder about the Universe and 'meaning' is because we have developed big brains and self-awareness. We are also 'designed' to see patterns in things - a great survival skill - but because of that see patterns (and purpose) where none exist. It's called a false positive. But false positives are not as dangerous to survival as false negatives so seeing things that don't actually exist isn't all bad and might save your life one day. That's a major reason I think why people see 'purpose' in the movement of the planets or the fact that we exist... and it makes them feel better too which probably helps.

rodolfo said: You and I and many others can make the same exact claims about nothingness or purposelessness but deep down most people (including me sometimes) cannot accept that a Universe without purpose is an absolute truth.

Being unable (or unwilling) to accept reality is no reason to believe in something for which there is no evidence. Wishing doesn't make it so. Would a purposeless Universe be such a bad thing?

rodolfo said: Aren't our genes a form of life?

No. Viruses are on the edge of life and they're much more complex than individual genes. Get enough genes together and a method of transmission or replication and you get life - but genes themselves are not 'alive'.

rodolfo said: You limit your idea of spirituality as simply a bunch of people going to church and kneeling before an altar and praying.

...and you generalise it too much. Enjoying a sunrise, a mountainside or watching waves crash against rock with a deep sense of pleasure and contentment is not 'spiritual'. I do all of these things and more. It is just that I recognise that I am a part of the natural world and appreciate the beauty (and grandure) I see all around me.

rodolfo said: I think we as atheists should embrace this word not because we actually believe in ghosts and spirits but because it explains our sense of wonder and curiousity about our existence in this Universe.

No it doesn't. Part of our 'sense of wonder' about the world is beacuse of our ignorance. But knowing how a rainbow is formed doesn't take away its beauty. Our sense of wonder is also based on the fact that somethings are indeed wonderful and should be admired because of that. We don't need some kind of spiritual 'tag' to label such things with.

rodolfo said: But I did read your post Why I have Never Lost My Faith in God. I think it helps explain a little bit why we will never understand each other.

Its quite possible that we will understand each other - just that we might never agree. Can I take it that you are an ex-Christian?

rodolfo said: It's a beautiful thing to be a sentient being. I wouldn't want to be any other species.

Definitely. I wouldn't have it any other way. Though I'd love to be able to fly like birds or swim like dolphins - but still be sentient. That would be *amazing*.

Rodolfo said...

CK wrote: Indeed. We are star stuff we are golden... etc. But so is *everything* you see around you. The elements that make up our bodies were manufactured in the hearts of stars. That just means that we are part of the Universe we live in and are not in some special way separate from it. There is nothing romantic in this. Flowers are exactly the same, as is the soil they grow in and the rain that waters them.

It depends on how you view romanticism I guess. I'm passionate about aviation. I would say I have a romance with the idea of human beings flying in the air and landing safely. A couple years ago I decided to commit a number of years to studying the mechanics of airplanes. All this doesn't mean I want to marry an airplane in church. I guess I simply don't put too many restrictions on the definitions of certain words.

CK wrote: Just because most things are mundane doesn't mean that they are boring. Because we are basically biolgical units we need to eat, sleep and shit. Again that's just how things are.

I didn't mean to sound that those mundane things are boring. They're fascinating fuctions in and of themselves. I guess what I meant was that to 'reduce-judge-explain life' simply to eating, sleeping, shitting and throwing in a good movie in between is what I find boring.

CK wrote: One of our main 'functions' is to propergate our genes. If we had not developed consciousness that would basically be *it*. But we are conscious self-aware beings so along with making copies of our genes in the shape of babies we also produce skyscrapers, paintings, space probes and nuclear bombs.

Do you think our consciousness evolved so we can better propegate our genes?

CK wrote: If 'all the fun stuff' didn't make worth living there would be a *lot* more suicides!

I don't know about that. We're programmed to live. You don't see too many animals in line to jump of a bridge simply because they ran out of hobbies. People ought to be grateful to be alive whether they're having fun or not.

CK wrote: Personally I gain knowledge for fun. If I could spend the rest of my life studying I would.

At some point you ought to teach. And I credit you and others because I do learn from these blogs. But at some point in the "rest of our lives" people ought to give back by teaching what they've learned. This will ensure our struggle to exist (survival) for a long time to come.

CK wrote: Being unable (or unwilling) to accept reality is no reason to believe in something for which there is no evidence. Wishing doesn't make it so. Would a purposeless Universe be such a bad thing?

I guess as an atheist and an ex-christian yes....and no. Does that make me agnostic? I don't know and I don't care. What I do know is this: purposeless or purposeful I want the TRUTH. One group in the divide sees these patterns and says there's a purpose. The other group in the divide see these patterns and say there is no purpose. I look at these patterns and maintain my right to question "Is there a purpose?". I refuse to close the question. The Christian cannot convince me there is a purpose based on their texts but the atheist also cannot convince me that there isn't a purpose until we've exhausted all possible experiments. I'm not talking about rehashing evolution vs creationism all over. That's old. But I think there is an honest discussion that we can extract in the spectrum of all this god vs no god or facts vs faith that we ought to talk about and the old positions and arguments that both sides have polished and perfected need to evolve as well.

CK wrote: ...and you generalise it too much.

Guilty as charged.

CK wrote: Enjoying a sunrise, a mountainside or watching waves crash against rock with a deep sense of pleasure and contentment is not 'spiritual'. I do all of these things and more. It is just that I recognise that I am a part of the natural world and appreciate the beauty (and grandure) I see all around me.

You have a beautiful spirit! :-)

CK wrote: But knowing how a rainbow is formed doesn't take away its beauty.

That's never been my position. Of course I'm on the camp that says knowing how a rainbow is formed only adds to its beauty. But for those like me who get scolded by battle-tested atheists for asking the "why" questions your arguments only explain the obvious to me but doesn't fill the "gaps." No I'm not reverting back to theism to answer those "gaps." I'm simply saying I don't know. I think it be best for another of my favorite scientists to speak to what I feel:

"The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is something that our minds cannot grasp, whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly: this is religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I am a a devoutly religious man." --Einstein

CK wrote: Its quite possible that we will understand each other - just that we might never agree. Can I take it that you are an ex-Christian?

Yup. I've been feeling kinda alienated by atheists too so I guess I'm also an ex-atheist. Maybe I'm a deist. Ya I think from now on I'm a deist.

CK wrote: ...I'd love to be able to fly like birds or swim like dolphins - but still be sentient. That would be *amazing*.

Indeed.

CyberKitten said...

rodolfo said: I guess I simply don't put too many restrictions on the definitions of certain words.

Unfortunately that can only lead to confusion and misunderstanding.

rodolfo asked: Do you think our consciousness evolved so we can better propegate our genes?

No. I think consciousness probably emerged as a by-product of the size and complexity of our brains. Of course once it did emerge it proved to be very advantageous from an evolutionary point of view. Also evolution doesn't 'evolve things' for anything. Random mutations produce attributes (like consciousness) which the environment selects (or de-selects) because of the advantages (or disadvantages) they bring.

rodolfo said: People ought to be grateful to be alive whether they're having fun or not.

Most people probably are. You don't exactly see them lining up like Lemmings @ every high point on the planet. Suicide is a very rare phenomenon.

rodolfo said: At some point you ought to teach.

Oh, I don't think so... [laughs]. For one thing I have little *to* teach. I'm still very much learning about stuff.

rodolfo said: You have a beautiful spirit! :-)

[laughs] You're funny......

rodolfo said: But for those like me who get scolded by battle-tested atheists for asking the "why" questions your arguments only explain the obvious to me but doesn't fill the "gaps."

What 'gaps'? You're talking about 'deeper meaning' again aren't you?

rodolfo said: Yup. I've been feeling kinda alienated by atheists too so I guess I'm also an ex-atheist. Maybe I'm a deist. Ya I think from now on I'm a deist.

[laughs]So... you now believe that:

God exists and created the universe. God wants human beings to behave morally. Human beings have souls that survive death; that is, there is an afterlife.
In the afterlife, God will reward moral behavior and punish immoral behavior. Others believe God wants humans to be moral and affect what they can in their mortal lives, and they will be rewarded in the same life. [This from Wikipedia]

Rodolfo said...

rodolfo said: I guess I simply don't put too many restrictions on the definitions of certain words.
CK wrote: Unfortunately that can only lead to confusion and misunderstanding.

Or a better understanding depending on who I'm talking to.

CK wrote: What 'gaps'? You're talking about 'deeper meaning' again aren't you?

Sorta I guess. Like the "god of the gaps" argument. Most people explain away their limit to knowledge by invoking god. I'm not so hung up about that word either because I just think of the word god as nature. To define or limit god only through scripture is being too literalist in my opinion. Saying that Nature is my creator or being created within Nature is the same thing in my opinion.

No I don't believe or accept what the Wiki says about Deism. I'm still looking into it to be honest. One of my heroes Thomas Paine was a Deist. He opposed Christianity and was humiliated for it. But he believed in the Rights of Man. He foretold the coming of a great nation and helped shape Western society by recognizing these natural god-given rights. He accomplished many things without believing in miracles and using only reason to guide his decisions. Deism shows me I can reconcile both my skepticism and sense of wonder without cognitive dissonance occurring.

I don't have enough faith to be a Christian or an Atheist. They both leave me empty.

CyberKitten said...

rodolfo said: Or a better understanding depending on who I'm talking to.

I fail to see who a lack of adequate definition of the terms you're using can lead to clarity of argument.

rodolfo said: Most people explain away their limit to knowledge by invoking god.

I believe that makes most people wrong. When I come up against a limit to my knowledge I either try and find out more or simply say that I don't know. I'm happy to say that I'm ignorant about many things. I have no need to fill the 'gaps' with God or anything else for that matter.

rodolfo said: I'm not so hung up about that word either because I just think of the word god as nature.

Then why not simply call Nature... nature. Why bother bringing God into it? Likewise if the Universe *is* God... why not just call it the Universe? Naming something God has no explanatory power & just confuses people.

rodolfo said: Saying that Nature is my creator or being created within Nature is the same thing in my opinion.

But we are not 'created' beings. We are naturally occuring organisms within a naturally occuring world. No 'creation' has taken place.

rodolfo said: No I don't believe or accept what the Wiki says about Deism.

Then maybe you're not a Deist. Actually I thought that Deism is just the idea the God created the Universe - set everything in motion - then departed. So... apart from that He had nothing to do with our daily lives & it was pointless worshiping Him. Now that's a belief I could go with - if I believed in God.

rodolfo said: One of my heroes Thomas Paine was a Deist. He opposed Christianity and was humiliated for it. But he believed in the Rights of Man.

He's an interesting character. I've read a bit about him and admire his work.

rodolfo said: Deism shows me I can reconcile both my skepticism and sense of wonder without cognitive dissonance occurring.

Don't you just *hate* cognitive Dissonance! I know that I do - which is why I can't believe in God. *Far* too many annoying questions.

rodolfo said: I don't have enough faith to be a Christian or an Atheist. They both leave me empty.

I don't regard atheism as a 'faith' position but a *lack* of faith position. As a standpoint it certainly doesn't leave me cold or maybe its a case that other things keep me warm... [muses] It most certainly doesn't leave me empty. Anyway I hope you find what you're looking for and it helps you sleep at night. When it boils down to it that's all that matters.

Rodolfo said...

CK wrote: I fail to see who a lack of adequate definition of the terms you're using can lead to clarity of argument.

When I speak with theists. I find that I can communicate effectively with them on issues of sprirituality, god, truth, transcendent, mysterious, etc. but still argue them on specific miracle issues like virgin births, noah's arc, resurection, teaching of creationism, opposition to stem cell etc. I can see how frustrating it was for both my religious friends/classmates and myself to have an honest discussion without understanding what the other person was actually saying. In the end I found a way to bridge the divide by simply using language that we both can understand. Suprisingly or not suprisingly some theists I've spoken to accept evolution.

CK wrote: Then why not simply call Nature... nature. Why bother bringing God into it? Likewise if the Universe *is* God... why not just call it the Universe? Naming something God has no explanatory power & just confuses people.

I disagree. There are approximately 5 billion people in this world who acknowledge god and spirituality. That expected to double in less time that it took make it. You can't reach out to these people by simply saying things "naturally" occured. Okay sure it did. But what's so wrong if we say nature...Nature. Even you subconsciously write "Universe" instead of universe. It's simply an acknoledgment of something more. It doesn't have to be supernatural. Just stuff we don't know about yet.

CK wrote: But we are not 'created' beings. We are naturally occuring organisms within a naturally occuring world. No 'creation' has taken place.

You're preaching to a choir. I don't look at this creation in the form of Genesis. If you look at the evidence it's accurate to claim life occurs naturally. That's obvious. You and I both accept that no "personal god" did it. I must stress again I DON'T BELIEVE IN A PERSONAL GOD. You're disagreeing with me based on the use of words. This is my whole point. Apart from being civil with one another, I also believe that reaching across the divide and creating meaningful impact in these debates one must learn to use the language of your opponents words. Maybe you and I have different objectives.

CK wrote: Then maybe you're not a Deist.

Maybe you're right. But I'm also not an atheist, bright, humanist, etc. If I must be labeled I guess secular would be the most appropriate...or agnostic. But if I tell someone I'm secular they'll think I'm a liberal and if I tell people I'm agnostic they'll think I'm always on the fence. I hate labels! I'm just a simple Earthling with big dreams!

CK wrote: I don't regard atheism as a 'faith' position but a *lack* of faith position.

Let me rephrase my position: I don't have enough faith to be a Christian nor do I lack faith to be an Atheist.

CK wrote: Anyway I hope you find what you're looking for and it helps you sleep at night. When it boils down to it that's all that matters.

That and we don't kill each other for our silly facts and opinions!

CyberKitten said...

rodolfo said: I can see how frustrating it was for both my religious friends/classmates and myself to have an honest discussion without understanding what the other person was actually saying.

You say frustrating.... I say impossible.

rodolfo said: There are approximately 5 billion people in this world who acknowledge god and spirituality. That expected to double in less time that it took make it. You can't reach out to these people by simply saying things "naturally" occured.

Firstly I don't think that the number of adherents to a belief means very much. Second I have no intention of 'reaching out' to them. From my experiences on-line such reaching out is by & large pointless as it is difficult to reason with people who do not respond to reason. This kind of debate we're having is only useful to those who have already begun to doubt their own beliefs.

rodolfo said: I also believe that reaching across the divide and creating meaningful impact in these debates one must learn to use the language of your opponents words. Maybe you and I have different objectives.

The problem with using your opponents words lies in not using your opponents *meaning* of those words. Also if I talk about 'salvation' or some such I am using a word that has zero meaning to me. How can that move forward any debate? If we want to debate with those who do not believe as we do one way of doing so is by using words that both can agree on. They don't have to be neutral - just understood.

As to 'objectives' I'm not sure that I have any. I certainly don't intend to 'convert' anyone to my PoV. What would be the point?

rodolfo said: I hate labels! I'm just a simple Earthling with big dreams!

I'm happy with most of my labels - even some of the ones I've been called in the heat of an argument! They're only short-hand in the end. I'm certainly more than happy being called an atheist.

rodolfo said: Let me rephrase my position: I don't have enough faith to be a Christian nor do I lack faith to be an Atheist.

See... Now isn't that *much* clearer?

rodolfo said: That and we don't kill each other for our silly facts and opinions!

Which would be both irrational & unreasonable [grin].

Rodolfo said...

CK wrote: The problem with using your opponents words lies in not using your opponents *meaning* of those words. Also if I talk about 'salvation' or some such I am using a word that has zero meaning to me. How can that move forward any debate?

Well I never said anything about salvation. I actually still have trouble with that one.

CK wrote: If we want to debate with those who do not believe as we do one way of doing so is by using words that both can agree on. They don't have to be neutral - just understood.

I agree with you. But the difference between you and I is that I understand those words differently. I'm not being neutral at all.

As to 'objectives' I'm not sure that I have any. I certainly don't intend to 'convert' anyone to my PoV. What would be the point?

The point is to get more people thinking from a Darwinian perspective and less from a theistic perspective. Why? Because I feel our species survival depends on it. If there are more people born who are taught the literalism of their holy texts as opposed to scientific inquiry then this "21st Century Armageddon" you and the theist camp allude to is quite likely.

I love our species too much. It would be an evil thing for me to stand in the sidelines and not speak out knowing a simple talking point might convince a fundamentalist to be less dogmatic about their views. I got into these debates one because of my questions. The other is because I know from experience how destructive faith can be when given to the hands of greedy men. Atheists ought not to destroy faith because it's like trying to destroy hope. You can't. People are stubborn. Even against all odds you can always have hope. But faith is like a voice in our being that grows louder when everything seems impossible. It has nothing to do with organized religion. Love, faith, spirituality and morality can exist without churches, synagogues, and mosques.

CyberKitten said...

rodolfo said: Well I never said anything about salvation. I actually still have trouble with that one.

I was using it as an example of a word that is (at least to me) meaningless on 'this side' of the fence - hence not being able to use 'their' terminology in order to open a dialogue.

rodolfo said: I agree with you. But the difference between you and I is that I understand those words differently.

Which doesn't exactly help with understanding.... If we're using the same words - but mean different things by them - its going to be rather difficult to communicate with each other don't you think?

rodolfo said: The point is to get more people thinking from a Darwinian perspective and less from a theistic perspective. Why? Because I feel our species survival depends on it.

Now *that's* an ambition! You're planning to convince a largely relgious world that Darwin is the way to go....? Impressive... though I think it could take a while.... I hope that your young.

rodolfo said: If there are more people born who are taught the literalism of their holy texts as opposed to scientific inquiry then this "21st Century Armageddon" you and the theist camp allude to is quite likely.

Oh, I think we could 'go out' in a number of interesting ways. A religious war with 21st Century weapons is just one of them...

rodolfo said: I love our species too much.

That in itself is impressive - considering that we're not a very nice species at all.

rodolfo said: It would be an evil thing for me to stand in the sidelines and not speak out knowing a simple talking point might convince a fundamentalist to be less dogmatic about their views.

Then you most certainly have your work cut out for you. The best of luck on that one!

rodolfo said: But faith is like a voice in our being that grows louder when everything seems impossible.

Are you *really* an ex-Christian? How long ago did you lose your faith? Not long I'm guessing.....

Anyway - as a convinced Darwinian you are definitely preaching to the choir (not that I was ever *in* the choir). Let me/us know how you get on with people who don't believe in evolution. I'm sure that it will be instructive to all of us.

Rodolfo said...

CK wrote:Which doesn't exactly help with understanding.... If we're using the same words - but mean different things by them - its going to be rather difficult to communicate with each other don't you think?

I still feel it depends on who you're talking to and in what what context.

CK wrote: Are you *really* an ex-Christian? How long ago did you lose your faith? Not long I'm guessing.....

There was no actual deconversion. My doubts were present since grade school. Sept 11 reinforced my doubts and I've been a skeptic since. I don't believe in virgin births nor do I believe in the Resurrection. I do have faith in the inner angels and decency of people. I believe in our fascination with heroes, their struggles, and rise from adversity. There was probably a man by the name of Jesus that existed in the past but he was no more divine than Gandhi or MLK.

'Mash said...

I wondered into this website during a late lunch.

Just a quicky; I personally believe that the purpose of God is in the glory of himself. For us this is a narcissistic notion as we struggle to think anyone is deserving of all glory. But in the case of a perfect, self-fulling God he lacks nothing hence the only thing left would be glory, not out of His desire or need for it but just because it is attributable. It is of course out of this glorifying Himself that creativity and love exists. But in all and to all purposes these are to return glory to God.

God and objectivity; the problem is that in terms of Christianity our objectivity is the inspirational word of God. It is the foundation of our understanding (truth) of who God is and what His purpose is and why all the glory should go to Him.

For those who don't believe in God a Christian's objectivity is subjective as you don't believe in the source of the inspiration and if the Word is dropped then a Christians objectivity is all experiential...Hey then my belief in who God is would then be affected by the large cup of coffee I just drank.

Of course in the same way a Christian would say that Atheism is subject until God, if he chooses to, reveals himself to them.

I have no great problem with evolution as science proves certain aspects of it. What I do have a problem with is the fundamental "preaching" in the flawlessness of Darwinism. It is not perfect and there is a lot still to be answered.

And yes of course on both sides.

The difference is as a Christian my discoveries are bolstered in complete joy that whatever I find it is for the glory of God and for the good of me ("of those who love Him")

And hey it makes me sleep well knowing that nothing happens outside of these two things, His Glory and the resulting goodness he provides to me because of this.

Side note: The understanding of this character of God ONLY comes from the Word which we believe reveals this character as it was Him who revealed it.

Ill stop writing now, sorry :):)

Paul said...

Hello. I just thought you might like to read this article:
"A Christian Answer to the Euthyphro Dilemma" (link).