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It seems there is a lot of controversy over this topic on Brainden.... Understandable... Well I just mean spiritual as in God but also as in ghosts and things. What is your opinion?

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Ok, I'm with you and d3k3 to this point. But there's where you seem to start putting words in my mouth--"setting up a straw man"--and then criticizing them.
Yep, sorry about that. I know you meant to refute the idea that technology has all the answers. But it seemed like an attack on science and rationality as a whole, which often happens in discussions of spiritual stuff. I was criticizing what you seemed to be implying rather than what you meant to say :D

Maybe we humans aren't thinking as clearly as we suppose. Maybe we aren't quite as advanced as we like to think we are. What leads us to believe that our skills at clear thinking are at any sort of pinnacle of evolution?
In a word, "religion". I don't think an objective view of human development could lead us to that conclusion (unless you'd consider a stalling-point to be a sort of "pinnacle"). Personally I'm of the opinion that human intelligence is only just good enough for the development of technology. That got us to the evolutionary tipping point which resulted in us proliferating and developing as we have done, but there's really not much evolutionary imperative to develop further now. Natural selection isn't doing business as usual, though perhaps the mechanisms of genetic drift and sexual selection may allow the human species to develop a little further. Realistically though, I think the future development of our species will be technology-driven. The mechanisms are not tried and tested, so these are exciting and dangerous times.

I agree with your concerns about human-centred values. As a species we need to re-evaluate our priorities. That's one of the reasons I argue against spiritual and religious thought, because it mires us in archaic thought systems based on hubris, delusion, fear of death, and tribal competition. We need to take a bigger and more realistic view, and stop mollifying ourselves with beliefs based on what we'd like to think.

What I'm saying is that some humans (present company excepted, I hope), are blindly trusting in the "mystical" power of science to make our lives better rather than opening their eyes to the big picture and looking to the long term legacy that we are bequeathing this poor planet and our g.g.g.g.g.grand children.
You're right, people will take any excuse to put aside their concerns and get on with consuming.

There are two perspectives with which one can examine the Level III Multiverse: the perspective of a dispassionate external "observer" solving the Schrodinger equation in infinite dimensional Hilbert Space, and the perspective of the actual mortal individual that lives within the resulting reality. The former is like a "god", detached from what he is studying. That can only be done theoretically. From that perspective every universe is equally present and all are valid solutions. There you can view all the different streams of consciousness and their associated probabilities. However each one of us is encased in a real body that makes choices and is embedded within this framework, not detached from it. The equations say that these embedded observers *cannot* observe more than one stream of consciousness defined by their choices and by the arrow of time. We can sit and theorize about things we cannot hope to observe in other parallel realities. And we can make real deductions about them. But in the end we all have to "come back down to earth" and actually make our choices.
Earlier, you seemed to be suggesting that you are steering yourself along a chosen course through Hilbert Space, whereas in fact (or theory) you cannot help but take every possible course, and there is nothing special about the version of you that has followed this course. From the mortal's-eye-view you have the illusion of choice and randomness, but the larger picture is completely deterministic.

In rough terms, the outcomes of every "choice" you ever made would be determined by

(a) large scale causal factors, for example your state of mind at that point in time, which would determine which outcomes are possible, or at least reasonably probable

and

(b) quantum "randomness", a subjective illusion since all possible outcomes happen in Hilbert Space

Believing you have a choice is an important part of your decision making process, but in this context do you really think it is more than an illusion?

Of course it's very useful to think you have choices, though of course I would say that, having no choice in the matter.

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Yep, sorry about that. I know you meant to refute the idea that technology has all the answers. But it seemed like an attack on science and rationality as a whole, which often happens in discussions of spiritual stuff. I was criticizing what you seemed to be implying rather than what you meant to say :D

In a word, "religion". I don't think an objective view of human development could lead us to that conclusion (unless you'd consider a stalling-point to be a sort of "pinnacle"). Personally I'm of the opinion that human intelligence is only just good enough for the development of technology. That got us to the evolutionary tipping point which resulted in us proliferating and developing as we have done, but there's really not much evolutionary imperative to develop further now. Natural selection isn't doing business as usual, though perhaps the mechanisms of genetic drift and sexual selection may allow the human species to develop a little further. Realistically though, I think the future development of our species will be technology-driven. The mechanisms are not tried and tested, so these are exciting and dangerous times.

You've expressed well what I also believe. One could even argue that we reached a pinnacle of rationality as long as 5000 years ago. As a whole it could be said that our civilization is regressing if you judge it based on the reality of (not the potential for) space travel. We haven't ventured to another celestial body for nearly two generations.

I agree with your concerns about human-centred values. As a species we need to re-evaluate our priorities. That's one of the reasons I argue against spiritual and religious thought, because it mires us in archaic thought systems based on hubris, delusion, fear of death, and tribal competition. We need to take a bigger and more realistic view, and stop mollifying ourselves with beliefs based on what we'd like to think.

It is understandable that "spiritual and religious thought" has such a bad rep. It carries a huge amount of damaging baggage. But I argue that what you are against is not "thought" but dogma. I am seeking real progress--advancement in spiritual and religious thought that will provide a balance with the advancements we've seen in rational thought. If you want to get into some heavy philosophizing about it, read up on "critical realism". It posits that neither science nor theology stand on solid foundations; and neither of them can claim the upper hand. They need to work together to achieve harmony and balance.

Earlier, you seemed to be suggesting that you are steering yourself along a chosen course through Hilbert Space, whereas in fact (or theory) you cannot help but take every possible course, and there is nothing special about the version of you that has followed this course. From the mortal's-eye-view you have the illusion of choice and randomness, but the larger picture is completely deterministic.

In rough terms, the outcomes of every "choice" you ever made would be determined by

(a) large scale causal factors, for example your state of mind at that point in time, which would determine which outcomes are possible, or at least reasonably probable

and

(b) quantum "randomness", a subjective illusion since all possible outcomes happen in Hilbert Space

Believing you have a choice is an important part of your decision making process, but in this context do you really think it is more than an illusion?

Of course it's very useful to think you have choices, though of course I would say that, having no choice in the matter.

What I hope to make clear is that only the theoretical study of the Multiverse does not give you any choices. You view the entirety of reality at all times at once. This is a reality where all the answers are (theoretically) already played out. But because the number of answers is infinite, the study of them either deteriorates to futility or you must narrow your focus on some arbitrarily "interesting" scenarios, such as the universes that diverge in 2009 following that post where I snapped (or where, alternatively, you read this post, found enlightenment, and went on to become supreme emperor of the world. :P )

There is a complete disconnect between the theoretical study of every possible arrangement of every particle in the universe and the life you have to live while you are doing this study. You still have to get up and go to the bathroom. You still have to brush your teeth if you don't want them to fall out. Etc. From the theoretical perspective there is nothing special about the course you choose at any one point in your life. But you are precluded from knowing the outcome of more than one choice at every step along the way. You *must* choose because even not choosing is a choice.

In the theoretical framework, all choices have been laid out and the consequences can be studied theoretically. That study could help you make choices. But you *still* have to make them. The "illusion of choice" as you put it is not optional. You are required to play the game.

I believe that the ultimate underpinning reality of the universe is paradox. Therefore I am not only comfortable with, but am delighted by the fact that my choices are both an illusion and an absolute requirement of existence. :D

Edited by seeksit

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... (or where, alternatively, you read this post, found enlightenment, and went on to become supreme emperor of the world. :P ) ...

:unsure: Oh no! They're on to me! :ph34r:

If you want to get into some heavy philosophizing about it, read up on "critical realism". It posits that neither science nor theology stand on solid foundations; and neither of them can claim the upper hand. They need to work together to achieve harmony and balance

This sounds like something worth considering, eh? But is humanity ready for something as profound as humble cooperation? Not yet, I'm afraid. :(

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As a whole it could be said that our civilization is regressing if you judge it based on the reality of (not the potential for) space travel. We haven't ventured to another celestial body for nearly two generations.
Hmm, good point. Music has been going downhill since the 70's too. Well, that's it then, we've peaked.

It is understandable that "spiritual and religious thought" has such a bad rep. It carries a huge amount of damaging baggage. But I argue that what you are against is not "thought" but dogma.
Dogma sucks but that's not the whole problem. Consider superstitious habits for example. There's no dogma involved, just a faulty thinking process you can fall into. Similar problems surround any supernatural belief.

I am seeking real progress--advancement in spiritual and religious thought that will provide a balance with the advancements we've seen in rational thought. If you want to get into some heavy philosophizing about it, read up on "critical realism". It posits that neither science nor theology stand on solid foundations; and neither of them can claim the upper hand. They need to work together to achieve harmony and balance.
The foundations on which science and theology stand are significantly different in my opinion. I might consider all perception to be potentially unreliable, but there is a consistency in my observations of the "real world" which gives me good reason to suppose that the real world exists, that it behaves consistently, and that other observers exist within it. Individual observations can then be verified by checking them for consistency with other observers and with established patterns in the real world (the laws of physics). An unreliable observation would be one which cannot be verified by these means, and it is that incongruency which characterises "supernatural" observations. Some people form beliefs based upon such incongruencies, coupled with unfounded popular myths, ignoring both the level of assumption that underpins their belief systems and the unreliability of the personal data that they back it up with (not to mention the fact that better explanations generally exist for all the observations that the belief is based on, and the often nonsensical and contradictory nature of the belief system itself). That's where theology differs from science, in that it throws away rationality and the necessity to assess the reliability of data. So much for working together, you may as well say that the sane need to consider the viewpoint of the insane as equally valid.

In the theoretical framework, all choices have been laid out and the consequences can be studied theoretically. That study could help you make choices. But you *still* have to make them. The "illusion of choice" as you put it is not optional. You are required to play the game.
Looking back at past "choices" it may seem so, but you are viewing a single strand and not the whole framework. Future choices are more interesting. Consider a choice you know you have to make tomorrow.

Perhaps your mind is made up already, consciously or unconsciously, because your personality will only allow one outcome. In which case the outcome is already determined by past events and it's not really a choice at all, just determinism.

Alternatively, you may be on the cusp of going either way. In which case quantum randomness will decide the outcome. But because all possible outcomes occur in Hilbert Space, you will truly choose both (or all) possible paths. And when I say "you", I mean the version of you that is here now. You have one past, one present, and many futures. Since you must take all possible paths and not choose just one, there is still no choice to be made.

I don't see that as being in any way disconnected from the life that you lead, it's just that our perception doesn't work that way. Our perception is a product of evolution and creatures who perceive themselves as having choices are more likely to stay alive and pass on their genes. Our perception is the result of a process, and our perception of choice is founded in that process rather than the truth.

I believe that the ultimate underpinning reality of the universe is paradox. Therefore I am not only comfortable with, but am delighted by the fact that my choices are both an illusion and an absolute requirement of existence. :D
I wonder what you mean by "paradox". I had to look it up to be sure, but my dictionary says "paradox" can mean either a contradiction, or a possible truth which appears contradictory. I certainly don't feel that contradiction underpins reality, in fact I'm pretty sure it doesn't. Falsehood implies anything, if one false thing were true then truth would be false and no structure of any kind would exist. I would say that the ultimate underpinning reality of the universe is simply truth. Truth equates to logical consistency, or possibility. All logically consistent structures are "real" in the sense of having clearly defined properties. Logically consistent structures which are complex enough to have lifeforms embedded within their structure (such as our universe) require no other reason to exist. Such embedded lifeforms may perceive their world to be "real" but such perception does not depend on the structure that contains them having been created in some way. It is what it is, simply because it is logically consistent.

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The foundations on which science and theology stand are significantly different in my opinion. ... [Theology] throws away rationality and the necessity to assess the reliability of data. So much for working together, you may as well say that the sane need to consider the viewpoint of the insane as equally valid.

Yet again we're confronting the bad historical reputation that burdens theology. I reject anyone who would willfully ignore reason. Before we can meaningfully communicate on this subject, we have to agree that a modern discussion of theology does not have to throw away *any* accepted fact gleaned by science. Let me know if you can't accept that premise. Science works best with physical phenomena. Theology works best with ethical phenomena. Both have roughly equal applicability with social and mental phenomena.

I understand that the word "theology" itself is part of the problem, since it originates from the Greek word for "god" and God is a hot button concept among so many thoughtful and rational people. (I never could understand why atheists would want to associate themselves so intimitely with something they deny as to include it prominently in the name of their movement.) Be that as it may, in my world atheism and theology are complementary, not mutually exclusive. The intangible phenomena of life are inherently spiritual. Science is kludgy and cumbersome as a tool to study these things. In our era it is popular to deny the value of spiritual pursuits in tangibly bettering our lives. But we've discussed the need for our social structure and value systems to catch up with the explosion of science and technology. This is where I see value in studies of the human spirit.

Looking back at past "choices" it may seem so, but you are viewing a single strand and not the whole framework. Future choices are more interesting. ... Our perception is a product of evolution and creatures who perceive themselves as having choices are more likely to stay alive and pass on their genes. Our perception is the result of a process, and our perception of choice is founded in that process rather than the truth.

Decoherence (wavefunction collapse) is not a matter of perception of the observer. It is a fundamental consequence of quantum mechanics. I see your point about the observer with the gift of forethought. Again, one can view choice as a useful illusion and/or as an inevitable mandate. I'm happy holding both points of view at the same time. That's what I mean by paradox ...

I wonder what you mean by "paradox". ... I would say that the ultimate underpinning reality of the universe is simply truth. Truth equates to logical consistency, or possibility. All logically consistent structures are "real" in the sense of having clearly defined properties. Logically consistent structures which are complex enough to have lifeforms embedded within their structure (such as our universe) require no other reason to exist. Such embedded lifeforms may perceive their world to be "real" but such perception does not depend on the structure that contains them having been created in some way. It is what it is, simply because it is logically consistent.

I am left wondering what is meant by "truth". For me "truth" is just as profound and perplexing as "paradox." For me "creation", "logical consistency", "having clearly defined properties", etc. all cry out for some further justification. Did "truth" self-organize out of randomness? If so, then randomness underpins the universe (truth out of randomness is part of what I mean by paradox). Alternatively is "truth" the precursor to everything else? That sounds like a religious statement more than a logically consistent one :huh: Is there a third explanation for placing truth at the foundation of all things?

Edited by seeksit

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Maybe we humans aren't thinking as clearly as we suppose. Maybe we aren't quite as advanced as we like to think we are. What leads us to believe that our skills at clear thinking are at any sort of pinnacle of evolution?

I agree with everything except "Maybe". It would take extreme arrogance to believe that we've reached our pinnacle.

So what I intent to say is that we need to *advance* our thinking toward a mature course that will lead to sustainable balance and harmony with that tiny, fragile shell of habitability we are confined to on this little insignificant planet.

Most of the knowledge already exists for such a balance. What is lacking is the will to change, especially our economic system. This is in no small part because of the complexity, and sheer quantity of capital invested in our current system, which would make a revolutionary change a difficult and painful process. However, there is also plenty of resistance to incremental change. Consumers and producers alike are loath to support any initiative that may be perceived as negatively impacting their immediate material well-being. And our governments are primarily concerned with keeping themselves in governance. Governments generally have a long-term vision of 4 years, corporations don't look beyond the next quarter, and consumers can't see beyond their next paycheck.

With that as a background, let me address the proposition put forth by you and d3k3 that "there's a lot less wrong with the world now than there has been in the past." Honestly, *of course* human quality of life is vastly improved. That's a no brainer. The problem is that we're continuing our species' pathetic self-centered perspective. Is the world better for ... (pick your favorite endangered species, your favorite rain forest, your favorite natural ecosystem, etc.) ... honey bees, sea turtles, coral reefs, polar bears, sperm whales, puritan tiger beetles, etc., etc.?

In a mere few thousand years of organized civilization (since we mastered the rudimentary sciences of animal husbandry, agriculture and permanent settlements), Humanity has wrought a degree of mass extinction and general destruction that has not been seen for perhaps 65 million years. The geological strata that are currently accumulating, that will be viewed by some putative geologist millions of years in the future, have an obvious "signature" of our destructive presence that is more distinct than that left by the Chicxulub meteor impact on the K-T boundary back when the dinosaurs went extinct.

I'm going to get it from all sides for this, but oh well, I guess it's my turn... :P

Let me ask you: what would be an acceptable rate of extinction? Should we attempt to preserve every living species and ecosystem? Or should we strive to match the rate that existed before we arrived on the scene? And why? The prevailing opinion appears to be that we should somehow stop "interfering" in nature, which denies that we are, in fact, part of nature. When we try and restore habitats to the condition we found them in (usually failing miserably), in a sense we're trying to pretend we're not part of our own ecosystem. For eons, species have become extinct through famine, predation, competition, and calamity, and we call it natural selection. Why is it that when there is a human involvement it is deemed unnatural?

I'm not saying that we should strive to kill everything in our path for the sport of it (as has been the cause of many an extinction), but how do we know what is "right" for the planet? Is the planet a better place with more polar bears? What is the optimum honey bee population? The thing is, we don't really know, and we only seem to care about endangered species if they are cute and cuddly, or if their status is somehow seen as a danger to our own survival. If we were really less "pathetically self-centered", we wouldn't worry at all: nature will sort us out one way or another, and our planet will carry on with or without us.

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Before we can meaningfully communicate on this subject, we have to agree that a modern discussion of theology does not have to throw away *any* accepted fact gleaned by science. Let me know if you can't accept that premise.
No, I'm good with that, it saves a lot of time :D

Science works best with physical phenomena. Theology works best with ethical phenomena. Both have roughly equal applicability with social and mental phenomena.

I understand that the word "theology" itself is part of the problem, since it originates from the Greek word for "god" and God is a hot button concept among so many thoughtful and rational people.

The word "theology" is definitely part of the problem since it presupposes the existence of god or gods. Theology seeks to better understand the nature of god without first checking to make sure (s)he even exists. You could study ethics without such assumptions (that would be a branch of philosophy), similarly social and mental phenomena have their own fields of study. Theology is all about what you can deduce from an unfounded assumption.

(I never could understand why atheists would want to associate themselves so intimitely with something they deny as to include it prominently in the name of their movement.)
I only call myself an atheist in religious discussions. That's where I stand on the topic of religion. "Reasonist" is another term that I have encountered, in some ways I like that better since it's more of a positive statement. It's not really something I'd call a "movement" either, sounds like there's some core values or organisation involved, whereas it's really just a classification of individual opinion. Someone or other said that organising atheists is like herding cats. Though it probably does amount to a social trend.

The intangible phenomena of life are inherently spiritual.
What intangible phenomena? How do you know that they are spiritual?

Science is kludgy and cumbersome as a tool to study these things.
Is there a better tool to study them? If so, what?

In our era it is popular to deny the value of spiritual pursuits in tangibly bettering our lives. But we've discussed the need for our social structure and value systems to catch up with the explosion of science and technology. This is where I see value in studies of the human spirit.
Perhaps there is a lot of value in that. The problem I have with your point of view is that it is expressed in terms which presuppose the existence of the supernatural. But otherwise I agree. Questions of ethics and personal values are greatly confused by the fact that they have historically been put into a religious framework, and humankind is just starting to go beyond that. Our inability to agree on religious matters tends to get in the way of useful dialogue. (I think this is a transitional period and that humankind will eventually outgrow religion and other supernatural beliefs, but I won't hold my breath; there's a long, long way to go). What kind of "spiritual pursuits" did you have in mind?

I am left wondering what is meant by "truth". For me "truth" is just as profound and perplexing as "paradox." For me "creation", "logical consistency", "having clearly defined properties", etc. all cry out for some further justification. Did "truth" self-organize out of randomness? If so, then randomness underpins the universe (truth out of randomness is part of what I mean by paradox). Alternatively is "truth" the precursor to everything else? That sounds like a religious statement more than a logically consistent one :huh: Is there a third explanation for placing truth at the foundation of all things?
The word "precursor" suggests a sequence of events which I don't think is an appropriate concept. Perhaps you're looking at this in terms of things being built on other things (first came Truth, then came whatever...) but that's not what I'm suggesting. I'll try to put this differently, without reference to "truth". Consider, a clearly defined mathematical structure has certain properties. Those properties don't depend on the structure having been created, or even discovered. They are derived from its structure, and they are what they are even if nobody knows about them. Without a clear definition, no properties can be derived, and there is no structure. Note that this "definition" needn't be known or created either, mathematics is not affected by our knowledge of it. So maybe "having clearly defined properties" is a more useful term, which doesn't really presuppose anything about the nature of logic. That's the important feature of our universe, and in order to explain why our universe has clearly defined properties, I need only point out that we would not be here observing it if it didn't.

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DOES IT REALLY MATTER FOR PETE'S SAKE. LET PEOPLE BELIEVE IN WHAT THEY WANT TO BELIEVE IN. YOU DON'T HAVE TO GO ON RANTING ABOUT HOW GREAT YOUR RELIGION OR BELIEFS ARE AND HOW CRAPPY OR WRONG SOMEONE ELSES IS. LET PEOPLE BE PEOPLE AND MAKE THEIR OWN CHOICES. GOSH

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sorry bout going on like that but i get a little touchy when people make try to disprove of other beliefs. like i don't believe in ghosts, or reincarnation because i'm catholic and thats the way i was born and will always be. some other religions may belive in those things but you don't have to go and try to disprove them.

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I'm not saying that we should strive to kill everything in our path for the sport of it (as has been the cause of many an extinction), but how do we know what is "right" for the planet? Is the planet a better place with more polar bears? What is the optimum honey bee population? The thing is, we don't really know...
I'm pretty sure the planet is much too busy spinning round the sun to worry about stuff like that. It's what's right for us that matters...

...and we only seem to care about endangered species if they are cute and cuddly, or if their status is somehow seen as a danger to our own survival.
Bingo! That's what's right for us! If mosquitos were an endangered species I wouldn't mind too much. I'm not going to pretend my ecological stance isn't based on the fact that my life is comfortable, I have food to eat and nothing more to worry about than whether my planet is pretty and full of lovely biodiversity. I value nice pretty cuddly nature more than the growth of the human population. And that's my own selfish point of view (though to be fair I'm also considering our legacy for future generations). Sorry, I don't do moral righteousness very well :( . Maybe someone else can have a better stab at it

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sorry bout going on like that but i get a little touchy when people make try to disprove of other beliefs. like i don't believe in ghosts, or reincarnation because i'm catholic and thats the way i was born and will always be. some other religions may belive in those things but you don't have to go and try to disprove them.
Why not? I'm interested in other people's beliefs. So much so that I like to question them :lol: . A belief that can be disproved isn't much good, is it?

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Why not? I'm interested in other people's beliefs. So much so that I like to question them :lol: . A belief that can be disproved isn't much good, is it?

i'm interested in other peoples beliefs too and i also question them but i don't like it when people go out and try to disprove someone elses' beliefs. i think it just isn't right.

as in question i mean to ask questions (which i thought is what you meant untill i read it a little closer)

Edited by Dr. Pepper

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i'm interested in other peoples beliefs too and i also question them but i don't like it when people go out and try to disprove someone elses' beliefs. i think it just isn't right.

Do you think it's practical for the world to remain ignorant?

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Do you think it's practical for the world to remain ignorant?

from my point of view it is o.k. to ask questions about people's religions but not to ask the kind of questions that criticize another person's religion

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i'm interested in other peoples beliefs too and i also question them but i don't like it when people go out and try to disprove someone elses' beliefs. i think it just isn't right.
A thing can only be disproven if its incorrect. If anybody disproved any of my beliefs I'd thank them for it. Why cling on to a fallacy?

(strictly speaking I don't really try to disprove religious beliefs, only show them to be irrational)

as in question i mean to ask questions (which i thought is what you meant untill i read it a little closer)
It is what I meant, but the kind of questions I ask are testing ones intended to probe what I see as the weak points in the belief. Interesting questions, in other words. Ones intended to make you think.

EDIT: Actually looking at the questions in my last post to seeksit they were mostly about getting clarification of his point of view.

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Actually looking at the questions in my last post to seeksit they were mostly about getting clarification of his point of view.

I'm here for the testing questions *and* the questions that help me clarify my own point of view in my own mind. I'm here to stretch my brain! :lol: So keep asking. :D

(Yes, I'm going to answer your questions, but thought I'd keep the flow of the conversation going.)

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Yet again we're confronting the bad historical reputation that burdens theology. I reject anyone who would willfully ignore reason. Before we can meaningfully communicate on this subject, we have to agree that a modern discussion of theology does not have to throw away *any* accepted fact gleaned by science. Let me know if you can't accept that premise. Science works best with physical phenomena. Theology works best with ethical phenomena. Both have roughly equal applicability with social and mental phenomena.

I understand that the word "theology" itself is part of the problem, [...]

How about "spirituality" then? "Theology" essentially means the study of one's own religious faith. While I agree that theology is often concerned with ethical questions, that is not its main focus.

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from my point of view it is o.k. to ask questions about people's religions but not to ask the kind of questions that criticize another person's religion

One's beliefs should stand up to criticism, don't you think? And anyway, I don't think anybody is participating in this discussion in an attempt to "win" a conversion. But thinking critically about your own beliefs and those of others, as well as seeing others' points of view is often eye- and/or mind-opening. Would you prefer that we all just kept to our own little bubbles of ignorance?

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Let me ask you: what would be an acceptable rate of extinction? Should we attempt to preserve every living species and ecosystem? Or should we strive to match the rate that existed before we arrived on the scene? And why?

d3k3, this whole post eloquently expresses what I feel also. I'm not going to bash a bit of it. In fact I'll stick my neck out even a little further. If humans were not around, some of these endangered species would still go extinct. Pandas, for example, are having a problem because their species has lost a lot of its flexibility in terms of its food sources. They will only eat a few species of bamboo. The generalists--those species that eat lots of different things--are much more adaptable. It is our fault that we're destroying the bamboo habitat. It's not our fault that Pandas evolved such a lazy and inflexible mode of being.

When the dogmatic "greenies" start trying to preserve some sort of status quo on the planet by trying to save every species regardless, they are just as guilty of human arrogance as the polluting industrialist. The problem is, indeed, how do we find a balance? I suggest that we preserve abundant, useful, vibrant, diverse ecosystems and then forget about the individual species. Let evolution take its course. Here's a radical proposal: set aside limited preserves--not for natural ecosystems, but for humans! Restrict ourselves to enclaves and let the rest of the world evolve without us. We can visit the rest of the world, but with a strict "non-interference directive"--leave no trace. Just a thought.

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Alrighty then:

God is alive and well and in Heaven with His Son, Jesus Christ.

Mere assertion, nothing more.

Anyway: is God with his son, or is he his son, or both?! Your magic book is all over the place, as are it's followers on this and other issues.

The Holy Spirit is the one who lives in God's true children and guides them. Ghosts and things also exist, they are pretty well-known in the occult ('under cover") world. I used to call them ghosts and departed spirits, now i call them devils posing as departed souls. But that's me. Each to his own, they say.

Yet more baseless assertions. You are welcome to believe that if you so wish, but why should anybody else?

{A major argument against the existence of God is the fact of death and pain and suffering.

Yes the suffering one is a major one. Long accepted and struggled with for many a theologian.

Not one I have ever used myself.

Before Adam and Eve ate the forbiden fruit, there was no death, no pain no suffering.

One wonders then what other tree was possibly for; you know; the Tree of eternal life. Kind of pointless huh?

By the way the fruit of that one at least was probably apples, most likely of a golden hue. That is what the fruit that gave eternal life (to the gods mainly) was in other religions like the Greek and Norse ones. ;)

Genesis 1:31 states that God looked on what He had created, and it was very good.

Did that add anything? Yes God was mighty proud of himself wasn't he? :rolleyes:

Only when mankind decided to stand on their right of disobedience, God cursed the earth for man's sake. More work to do, less time to be idle and do things they shouldn't. And that is where suffering and pain and death started. It was then that God told man that he will go back to the dust he was made of.} (Concerning a link to an atheist site)

Rather unjust of the big guy huh?

He punished these people for doing 'evil' even though they could not (apparently) grasp that it was evil, nor disobedience for that matter, UNTIL they had eaten the fruit which THEN bestowed on them the ability to know good and evil. They were thus innocent and ignorant when they did the deed. Yet God punished them anyway.

And for the crime of picking a piece of fruit when told not to; God curses every single human being (and every other organism apparently) for all time?! You call that just?! I am punished for a misdeed from a couple of my innocent and ignorant ancestors?! A crime I had no part in, and would not have had I been there?! That's tyranny, not justice, and most certainly not mercy.

Your magic book is inconsistent on that as well; at times God advocates punishing the son for the sin of the father (and for many generations beyond) yet at others does the right thing and calls doing such a thing an abomination!

And that little cop-out might just work for Jews (although with many holes such as those above) but wasn't that sin forgiven with the equally ridiculous Scape-Goating of that Jewish prophet ~2000 years ago? Yet the suffering you seek to explain away, persists. Hmmm. :dry:

Seriously; the Stoopid in that myth knows no end.

Some go on this to point out that an Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent, loving God would be there and stop mankind before the sin.

There are serious issues with your 3O God (omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent)- Read God: The Failed Hypothesis (Victor Stenger) for more on that. Having the three Os (or omnis) together causes many a paradoxical conflict.

Those qualities also contradict the biblical accounts of your god. No way was that character all, or any, of those things.

While it is possible for Him, He gave mankind the power of free will. He gave them one little order (don't eat that fruit) and left the rest of their decisions up to them. That is why He did not interfere when they decided to steal what they were not allowed to have. He gave them the choice to obey or not, and they decided to follow their own minds instead of His one command.

Ah yes the old Free will canard. :rolleyes:

And that is why we have things like pain and suffering and death and disease. Because people love to leave God's Word out of their choices.

And that boys and girls is why earthquakes kill newborns (humans, and bunnies and puppies...), the devout and atheist alike. Why most organisms can only survive by hunting down, killing and consuming the flesh of others. blah blah blah. Because SOME people fail to believe this story that God apparently feels no compunction to give us ANY reason to believe!

And apparently God can't tell people apart ("they all look the same to me") and/or doesn't care who he punishes as long as he can hurt something, and/or relishes in punishing everyone and everything for any individuals 'misdeed." Because he strikes apparently at random.

By your argument; all God would have to do was get down off his high horse; prove his existence and 'credentials.' Then everyone would believe and give him the respect and attention he seems to both crave and make zero effort to obtain or earn. And all would be good, "Free will" intact.

Or you could actually pull you head out of that book at fairy tales and look at what rational people have found out by actually observing the real world.

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What intangible phenomena? How do you know that they are spiritual?

Is there a better tool to study them? If so, what?

Perhaps there is a lot of value in that. The problem I have with your point of view is that it is expressed in terms which presuppose the existence of the supernatural. But otherwise I agree. Questions of ethics and personal values are greatly confused by the fact that they have historically been put into a religious framework, and humankind is just starting to go beyond that. Our inability to agree on religious matters tends to get in the way of useful dialogue. (I think this is a transitional period and that humankind will eventually outgrow religion and other supernatural beliefs, but I won't hold my breath; there's a long, long way to go). What kind of "spiritual pursuits" did you have in mind?

What intangible phenomena? For simplicity, ethics, grieving, suffering. How do I know they are spiritual? In order to not get too long winded, I'll just present an example: a pastor is trained to help you address these things. You don't have to believe what he believes to get help that is useful to you. But the source of that help is intangible and inevitably entangled with the pastor's beliefs. You reap the benefit of the spiritual world even if you don't believe in it.

Is there a better tool than science to study these things? The tools that work best for spiritual studies are the wisdom of experience. Human wisdom is so complex that science, with its ponderous requirement for full control of an experiment, has no hope of unraveling how it works. Human wisdom is an accumulation of vast experience. It is set down in written texts that get frozen and become dogma, but at its best, it can provide guidance. Think of it as an elective form of government. We elect senators to make decisions for us because they are more wise than we and can devote more time to studying the issues than we can. Think of your senator as your spiritual leader. Think of the ... (choose your favorite inspirational or guiding text) ... as your elected leader. You aren't going to agree with everything that results. But when does everything go exactly the way we want it to?

I have been one of the most fierce advocates of the "question authority" school of thought through my life. Maybe its because I'm getting old. But I find that when you learn how to ask the *right* questions of authority, and when you decide you're actually going to listen to some of the answers, you find out that you don't have to equate "reject authority" with "question authority".

Gosh, and I was trying to avoid getting long-winded. :huh:

The word "precursor" suggests a sequence of events which I don't think is an appropriate concept. Perhaps you're looking at this in terms of things being built on other things (first came Truth, then came whatever...) but that's not what I'm suggesting. I'll try to put this differently, without reference to "truth". Consider, a clearly defined mathematical structure has certain properties. Those properties don't depend on the structure having been created, or even discovered. They are derived from its structure, and they are what they are even if nobody knows about them. Without a clear definition, no properties can be derived, and there is no structure. Note that this "definition" needn't be known or created either, mathematics is not affected by our knowledge of it. So maybe "having clearly defined properties" is a more useful term, which doesn't really presuppose anything about the nature of logic. That's the important feature of our universe, and in order to explain why our universe has clearly defined properties, I need only point out that we would not be here observing it if it didn't.

This gets into a really deep philosophical level. You are *assuming* the existence of something you call "clearly defined". You can conceive of that in your mind, but when the rubber hits the road, does it exist in the real world? Mathematics can divide the Planck length into an infinite number of smaller segments. But what are they, physically? "Having clearly defined properties" only works in quantum mechanics if the properties are clearly defined as "undefinable".

(Oh, How I love paradox :lol: It really is the basis of my "religion".)

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from my point of view it is o.k. to ask questions about people's religions but not to ask the kind of questions that criticize another person's religion

The guidance I get is that it is first and foremost my duty to respect every individual and their beliefs. The way I like to ask questions is to use them to increase my own understanding of your point of view.

It's OK by me for you to believe whatever you want. And it's OK for you to tell me that you don't want to get into a debate about your beliefs. If you're telling me that your mind is closed, I'm sad because I believe the greatest joy in life comes from exploring ideas and from growing. But that's my belief; and as much as I'd like to impose it on you, I know that the right thing to do is to simply tell you what I believe and why I believe it, and then leave it at that.

I believe that an open mind is the gateway to enlightenment! :P

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How about "spirituality" then? "Theology" essentially means the study of one's own religious faith. While I agree that theology is often concerned with ethical questions, that is not its main focus.

Good suggestion. I've already tried to take this advice in my above posts :D

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from my point of view it is o.k. to ask questions about people's religions but not to ask the kind of questions that criticize another person's religion

Oh nooo, we don't want to hurt people's (nonexistent) right to not be offended! Criticizing is bad, it hurts feelings and creates doubts! Repent! Repent!

More seriously, why should religion be above criticism? Because it makes people feel bad? What if science were above criticism? Would every theory be accepted because no one is 'mean' enough to tell its creator that s/he's wrong? If someone's belief system is flawed, and other people know that, I think it's basically our job to point it out. People didn't want to accept that we lived in a helio-centric universe (oh noes, we're not special!), but they got over it. People will get over religion. Or mystical creatures. Or whatever the hell we're talking about.

..Heh.. I told someone I'd stop debating.. :ph34r:

Edited by Izzy

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Please let us make a distinction between purpose that a theist derives from their deity and purpose that the individual derives from their experience. In my experience the universe has the following purposes: It intends to annihilate all hope for life on Earth in about 5 billion years.

Of course that is merely anthropomorphism, as "the universe" does not have desires or intentions.

Meanwhile it allows us to take Newton's laws of motion on pure faith in nearly every aspect of our every day lives despite the fact that they are an approximation.

That's clearly nonsense.

Most people don't 'take' Newtons laws at all, they have no clue as to what they are.

The fact that we recognise them as approximations shows that we do not take them on Faith. Only a fool would "believe" let alone "have Faith" in Newton's laws. They are simply descriptions of the phenomena observed.

It allows me to pursue a rich variety of experiences as a result of being assigned a conscious mind even though nobody can identify precisely how or when that conscious mind originated.

What does that have to do with anything?

One of the atheists who has appeared on this thread, ADParker,

:D

likes to use a very restrictive definition of 'faith': that it is willful neglect of facts in favor of some belief system. Is not your statement "Newton's laws ... hold true and always will ..." an example of such a definition of faith? (as a thought exercise, try replacing "Newton's laws" with "the bible" in your statement).

Actually I have stated numerous times that "wilful" applies to active Faith, Faith can be passive as well. I now put it like this:

Faith: Belief through the (wilful) abandonment of Reason.

People (theists as a rule) claim that my definition is inaccurate, lacking or restrictive. But have never been able to explain how. I ask, and the few that respond give nothing of value, usually laced with a lot of mystical woo. The latest one came to about this:

1. My definition is largely correct.

2. Faith is "just knowing stuff" (she claimed that her Faith meant she just knew these things, somehow.)

Yeah; I don't know either :huh:

And actually no; his statement is not Faith, it is based on reasoning - even if it is mistaken. My definition of Faith even discounts faulty reasoning. Faith is using NO reason, not using it poorly.

It depends on what he means by "holding true" because they do still hold up in certain regions, to certain degrees of accuracy.

In fact, as you well know, Newton's laws have been resoundingly proven false. They are useless when trying to explain simply observable phenomena such as gravitational lensing. (But how does the fact of gravitational lensing affect our daily lives?)

Yes Einstein and then others improved on Newton's work, based on improved data. This is ALL reasoning however. Where's the Faith?

Personally I prefer a more generous definition of 'faith': it can be a useful everyday tool in dealing with those things that science and reason have a hard time dealing with (such as emotions) and with those questions that science has yet to answer. We live in a universe where science has been able to explain the nature of only 4% of its stuff: baryonic matter and its associated energy and the space-time in which it functions. Everything else--the 23% that is dark matter and the 73% that is dark energy--science has only been able to make vague hypotheses about. They are chipping away at the edges of this problem, proposing testable hypotheses, but isn't it the height of hubris for us to proclaim science and reason has triumphed when it has such a miserable failing score (How far would you get in school if you got 4% of the answers right on your tests?)

One tiny little problem with your definition:

It wasn't one!

It was a claim of what use it has, not a definition at all.

How is it 'useful' in dealing with things like emotions?!

Or with the unsolved questions of science?!

Are you referring to the delusional conviction Faith can bring? The comforting feeling that believing that you know something that you clearly do not, and can not, know, brings?

Basically your "definition" was asserting that it (whatever it is - that would have been the definition) had some uses in certain areas, and then failed to explain what any of those uses actually were!

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