Friday Roundup

  • “So if the universe shouldn’t exist, why is it here?”  Why indeed.


And…Go Giants!!!


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38 Responses to Friday Roundup

  1. Burk says:

    Darrell-

    More platitudes from McGrath. If he loves science so much, why not give it its due, and give up unscientific ideas? Like religion. These are not two valid ways about the same thing, they are actually the same thing … methods of inference about the nature of our world including its various unseen laws and materials. One method gets it entirely and dramatically wrong, while the other method plods along getting (small) things right as it goes, but never getting everything finallt squared away. Because, naturally, the nature of the world is a very large subject, not a matter of one truth or one book. Or one meaning.

    “Science has a wonderful capacity to explain, while nevertheless failing to satisfy the deeper longings and questions of humanity.”

    Well, what of it? Does this license us to tell ourselves fairy tales? What is the method employed in answering these questions? Mysticism, authority, intuition, the mishmash of scripture? It is a poor method indeed, betokening a great need, but not a great answer.

    “To give one obvious example: the key question to ask about the doctrine of the Trinity is not “is this reasonable?” Common sense, after all, is a socially constructed notion, and there is little point in constraining God within culturally conditioned modes of reasoning. The task of a responsible Christian theology is to discover the internal logic of the Christian faith, not to lay down in advance what form this should take.”

    Which is to say.. we can't comport with your snivelly “reason” i.e. logic and evidence, so we will make up our own. Sounds fair and balanced to me!

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  2. lazarus says:

    Burk,

    Is there such a thing as the “…deeper longings and questions of humanity?”

    If so, what words do you choose to use to speak of them?

    If so, in what way(s) do you seek to address them?

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  3. RonH says:

    If he loves science so much, why not give it its due, and give up unscientific ideas? Like religion.

    And art. And philosophy. And beauty. And justice. And happiness.

    LOL, Burk. Your record needs a new groove, man.

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  4. lazarus says:

    Today, being the feast day of Saints Crispin and St. Crispian, leads me to the conclusion that if we follow what I might venture to call the “Burk-ian Way, Truth, and Life” then Shakespeare was delusional and his play, Henry V, was/is an exercise of delusional thinking and behavior. For, indeed, the bard and his play speaks of such deep longings and aspirations and questions into which humanity has dared to embrace for the better.

    I like Shakespeare's groove.

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  5. Darrell says:

    Also, regarding giving science its “due”, clearly McGrath loves science and has given it its due. Oxford doesn't give out professorships in “science” and religion to those who do not. Further, it is clear from McGrath's story that he loves and respects science.

    How could one possibly miss this from his address and work in these areas?

    “Because, naturally, the nature of the world is a very large subject, not a matter of one truth or one book. Or one meaning.”

    But that is McGrath's very point: You need both science and religion. The above is so ironic because it is the very point Burk misses.

    Rather, Burk would have us believe that there really is only one truth and one meaning: Philosophical naturalism/materialism/empiricism

    Or, his meaning alone…

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  6. lazarus says:

    Indeed. That is why I venture to call it the “Burk-ian Way, Truth and Life” with capital letters. If Burk is right, he, by definition, is exhorting the very persons he is addressing to not heed his words. If that is not true, then he is saying he is speaking “truth” and that puts him in the company of the delusions folks such as St. Francis and Kepler.

    He can't have it both ways.

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  7. lazarus says:

    typo… I meant to say “of delusional folks such as…”

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  8. Burk says:

    Hi, All-

    Thanks for the feedback… developing meanings and ideologies is significant work, but one can ask how separate it is from the scientific pursuit, which is, in general, the analysis of what exists in reality, including ourselves.

    Every ideology starts from a model of how the world works. It then develops views of that model that interact with our feelings of justice, fairness, father figures, love, many other psychological archetypes, longing for .. whatever … and comes up with what you call religion. (Though that includes many things, like communism, or manifest destiny, colonialism, scientific progress to some extent, etc.)

    So ideology / religion goes beyond science, but it is always rooted in a model of reality, which most often is thoroughly wrong. Communism wished away half of human nature, and the traditional religions all posit gods and a supernatural ontology that has no reality whatsoever. Such exercises have a fundamental problem. There are some radical theists (Spong, Cupitt etc) who bite the bullet on behalf of Christianity, accept the fictive character of the ontology, and salvage what they can of the ideology … that is probably the best that can be done, intellectually. At least the ideology of scientific progress has the virtue of being grounded on a provable ontology.. that science does make progress. What we make of that progress in human terms is another matter, naturally.

    Lastly, to Mr. Lazarus, the words I would use to speak of our deepest longings and questions of humanity are exactly those, without much adornment. Indeed, many have been answered / explained. Where did we come from? That has thankfully been answered in detail. Where are we going? That is also clear.. it is up to us, no one else. Why are we here? That partakes of both answers. Evolution explains why we are here in practical terms, but at the same time, we can create meanings for ourselves ex nihilo. The current world series that Darrell seems to follow is just such a confected meaning-gasm, with no other justification or meaning than that we enjoy it. Ditto for Ron's art, beauty, happiness, etc.

    Shakespeare provided an investigation of the human condition, not big answers. He plumbed great psychological depths, but he was not ideological. Indeed, I would liken him to a scientist of the human condition, not relying on any suppositions of supernaturalism, but observing cooly why and how we get outselves into such awful messes. He certainly did not offer the cheap consolations of salvation or god-is-on-our-side. He saw clearly that ethics is our business, not someone else's. Like a scientist, he chipped away in relentless fashion, asking questions and laying bare humanity's psychological anatomy. That he did this using the tool of fiction doesn't mean that every fiction is worthy of belief!

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  9. Darrell says:

    A complete dodge…a complete missing of the points of the responses here and McGrath's points and address.

    The question-begging is just a cover for either an unwillingness or inability to actually address the responses here or McGrath.

    Calling other people's beliefs fictions and fairy tales, and completely being clueless of one's own ideology/scientism is not an argument–it means one has no argument.

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  10. lazarus says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

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  11. lazarus says:

    Burk,

    I agree with Darrell. A complete dodge. At least a dodge of my questions.

    I am asking questions about how you live everyday life.

    How does evolution, the scientific method, and the attending “Absolute Truths,” to which you grant ultimate authority in your life, guide you in your practical decision-making?

    I don't want wordy explanations. Just a plain response. I would like to know how it will help me relate to my mother who has Alzheimer's and gain a sense of direction regarding the decisions I make regarding her care. Do your convictions guide you in everyday life — your marriage, the raising of your children, getting along with neighbors, etc.

    No more dodges. No more high sounding arguments. Lets just cut to the chase.

    Answer the question. Or, perhaps, the fact that you resort to “dodging” is an indication of a hidden deep wrestling of your own. Who knows. You know.

    A little autobiography. Honestly, I have to admit it is true about me. When I take a good honest look at myself, fancy arguments are, often, my desperate attempt to not have to face the deep questions life puts before me. I create a smoke screen. I have people in my life who don't let me get away with getting lost in the wordy dodge sessions.

    So, yeah, I will own Shakespeare as a faithful companion on the messy way of being human — mysteriously and wonderfully made. And I will own Kepler and Copernicus and St. Francis and Galileo and St. Macarius of Egypt.

    I will own as my own Hamlet's struggle with the purpose and meaning of human existence. At least he was attempting to navigate real life when most everyone else was resorting to dodges of some sort. “What a piece of work is man.”

    Hamlet struggled with the conviction that life (the whole of it) is not just a farcical play — a stage upon which we are merely actors — without a meaning. The meaning (not easy answer) for me is IN the struggle not a rejection of it. Evidence to the contrary. He plumbed the depths beneath the surface of what things appeared to be in an attempt to find truth and purpose.

    I struggle is the submitting of my convictions about God and me in relationship with Him and you to the testing furnace of everyday life. Life is messy. I am messy. So is everyone I encounter. That is not an indication of meaninglessness or delusion but of just the opposite. It is a messy version of something.

    I struggle mightily to navigate life on a practical basis as a beautiful albeit difficult mystery that requires me to plumb the depths of meaning inside life and immerse myself in it.

    Putting it all of on evolution and other things like it is a massive dodge of addressing, head on, the practical questions of human freedom, authority, and responsibility.

    My faith in God is not an avoidance my need to own legitimate freedom, authority, and responsibility. My faith won't allow me to wriggle out of the messiness of practical decision-making. It nails me to such dignity elevating necessities.

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  12. Burk says:

    Lazarus-

    Thank you for restating. I didn't realize what it was you are after.

    Suppose something is mysterious, and the mystery is solved. Suppose that lightning was deeply meaningful as the action of an angry god, but now it is de-charmed, as a physical phenomenon. What then? Does life not go on, bereft of such gods? That is the condition I am in, relative to all religious ontologies and ideologies.

    That leaves a great deal to care about, as my blog attests to, and our ongoing conversation. It is always weird, and ironic, to hear from people who put so much meaning into imaginary phenomena their incedulity that anything else could possibly be truly, really, meaningful. The gods of the Vikings have passed away, and the mostly secular Europeans who succeed them seem to enjoy their lives, meaningful or not, as the case may be.

    It is true that religion, like the super-hero movies one sees so much of these days, has a real flair for drama. The whole cosmos is at stake, and eternity, if one makes one fateful choice. One super-hero comes down with super-powers to save us from evil. Etc., Etc. It makes for gripping drama, and perhaps that is what you are after. But it is absurdly inflated and misdirected drama, when life in its more realistic settings offer just as much, if you have the eyes to see(!)

    What is my guide? Simply, humanism, as one learns from Shakespeare and countless other scriptures of human philosophy, from Thucydides and Aristotle to Proust and Tolstoy (And Homer, the Ramayana, and Buddhist teachings into the mix). Human cultivation is not a matter of one book or one institution, but a vast diversity. I am thankful to live in an age where so many positive and deeply searching thinkers have gone before, whose works I can pick up at the local library. And that is not even to speak of film, (good) TV, great music, etc.

    Evolution merely provides the (truthful) ontology to explain in the most fundamental way where all this (i.e. humanity) originally came from. It does not provide any moral imperatives for our present day ethics (and indeed provides something of a model to avoid in some degree). Nor does it provide the same searching study of human nature that great fiction does, at least not yet. In very broad strokes, it illuminates the fundamental conflicts of sociality vs greed that we face, among many others, but it can't touch the depth & detail of introspective / fictive treatments by artists, who mix it into a pleasing & instructive dramatic form. Religions fall very much into that category as well, incidentally.

    So humanism starts from a truthful ontology of how things got to be the way they are (evolution), but does not rely on evolution for its ethics, rather on the most basic ethics /values (intrinsic to our human nature) of good will, human flourishing, justice, fairness, etc. The point is that this is the natural recourse once one has given up on wildly fictional ontologies like gods and spirits, on which one hangs requirements to do sacrifices, perform worship or good works to get to heaven, kill non-believers, and so forth.

    I hope that is more understandable.

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  13. lazarus says:

    Burk,

    This is very helpful. I really do want to understand why you believe what you believe and how it provides a meaningful way forward for you and those whose lives you influence and affect in profound ways.

    I want to ask a follow up question about “humanism” to which, I assume, you devotedly adhere. (After all, you wouldn’t spend the time and energy to be in this conversation, or any other like it, because you want to intensely defend convictions you don’t believe are true.) The reason I say it that way is because if we are guided by something, we acknowledge its authority to govern how we live our everyday life. (Remember, I want to keep this on the practical level.) So, you seek to have “humanism” and all that it means to you governs the decisions you make in your everyday life. You are devoted to the validity of humanism as a faithful guide. Right?

    If not, then to what do you ascribe ultimate authority? To what are you devoted? Is humanism what you are willing to sacrifice your life to defend because it is true? Yes or no?
    Simple but profound and deeply practical question. Let’s keep it practical.

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  14. Burk says:

    Lazarus-

    I think there may be some cognitive dissonance going on here. It is a bit like the transition from a political system of kings and nobility to a democratic political system. In humanism, there is no one in charge. There is no authority, no governor, no recipient of devotions, no demander of death. We are all in an endless conversation about how best to live, and no one gets the final word. Neither is there a single scripture. There are principles, offered by those who are interested in enunciating them, but they do not function in any authoritative way, rather are suggestive.

    So it is all rather amorphous, and saying that one is humanist is merely to provide a very general label of having ethical principles / values that stand by mutual agreement among philosophically astute people, inheritors of a very rich tradition of non-theistic as well as theistic thought through the ages. (I would not exclude theists from the humanist corpus, myself, indeed I am in the midst of the Quran right now.) For example, I am watching a bit of Bonanza these days.. delightful show, which presents moral dilemmas around law and order in every episode. These have no theistic foundation at all, either in origin or resolution. Each is essentially a humanist study of what decent people do when faced with bad people or situations. Is one's ranch worth dying for? One's reputation? The good order of one's town? Those are all plausible and meaninful issues. No deities required.

    Indeed, it is the penchant of deities to demand utter obeissance, to the point of death, and their promise that this present life is relatively less important compared to some greater hereafter, that can be so extremely dangerous to civil society, indeed to civilization. The ISIS folks are assured of virgins in heaven, and thus gain the fanaticism that gives them power (i.e. terror) over decent, humble people. That is basically the reason why the US has such an imporatant role in fighting extremism, since few others want or can do so, in a legitimate, disciplined way. You would say that Stalin did the same thing, without the benefit of an afterlife to look forward to. But as noted above, he had his religion as well, which had terror and dictatorship in its genes / scriptures.

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  15. lazarus says:

    A word to Darrell.

    If I am in any way monopolizing your space by engaging Burk just invite me to “move along” as they say in the cop shows.

    Now Burk,

    So a humanist of centuries gone by might believe something is just that humanists today would call unjust. Etc. etc. Right?

    But you said, “So humanism starts from a truthful ontology of how things got to be the way they are (evolution), but does not rely on evolution for its ethics, rather on the most basic ethics /values (intrinsic to our human nature) of good will, human flourishing, justice, fairness, etc.”

    Doesn't this statement filled with imply some sort of truth that is not subject to change? If that is not the case then why use the word “intrinsic.”

    (Parenthetically, my devotion to God is a response to an invitation on God's part not a demand. He does not force me to worship or serve Him. I offer both freely and with gratitude. The God I worship is not an ogre and His will is a delight to my heart.)

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  16. Burk says:

    Lazarus-

    Sorry that this is so hard to express. It is quite different from an authorized, certified type of ethical system. The truth that you ask about, that of human nature, is just that which all the artists investigate, all the jurists deal with, etc… it is what we are when stripped of whatever is not real- when we are just ourselves, deciding how best to live, with each other. In some ways, it is intrinsic and immutable, but then it is also cultivatable, which is surely the best rationale (from my perspective) for such things as religions.

    I was of course quite loose in my compass of humanism, taking in all culture as input, not only those explicitly humanist. And in addition, many of those in the past who didn't believe in gods still believed in a great deal else that was not true.. that is all the case. So one can say that the community progresses as well through time.

    As for the god that you have, those kind of statements always puzzle me. Do you get to choose the characteristics of your god, like you were at a cafeteria? Wasn't the whole story supposed to be “true”? At least in one of the iterations of the thousands of religions that have been proffered? And who says which one is really, really true? Didn't Jesus come with the sword, to route the unbelievers into hell?

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  17. lazarus says:

    Burk,

    This has turned out to be a rather enlightening conversation. I am, however, at the risk of hogging the blog, going to sign off for now.

    But, before I do, I want to make a couple of parting comments:

    First, I too am puzzled by how you reference values and convictions that sound an awful lot like faith statements: “…it is intrinsic and immutable, but then it is also cultivatable, which is surely the best rationale (from my perspective) for such things as religions.” I remain unconvinced. And, that should not be surprising for you or for me. For, indeed, the most important conversation about such matters would be by sharing the struggles of living out everyday life using these governing principles to see if they stand the test of real life. That is the invitation I received from my Christian mentors and it is in the context of faithful struggle that is honest and ongoing that I seek to know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Way, Truth, and Life.

    Second, I don't get to choose the characteristics of the God I worship and serve and love. It is a whole package. I do, however, have the freedom to accept or refuse Him as He is.

    Third, a big thank you to Darrell for providing the space to engage in this conversation.

    God bless you Burk

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  18. Burk says:

    Lazarus-

    With the thousands of comments under the bridge of past posts, I doubt Darrell minds, especially as the Giants are doing so well.

    I wouldn't claim to not make faith statements, if you deem some general optimism, or appreciation for a variety of cultural systems, faith statements. But I try not to justify them using assertions about reality that fly flagrantly in the face of what we know, both about reality and about the provenance of the typical scriptural assertion of self-truth, infallibility, etc.

    The test of real life is certainly something I promote as well. We are on the same page there. But note that historically, many cults and belief systems “work” for their adherents, to a very deep level. Islam does, as does Hari Krishna, the Moonies, et al. The test of real life turns out to be insufficient if you want to have a fully philosophically grounded / warranted system. So you really have to evaluate your premises critically in an intellectual sense, not just in a lived-out sense. And religions tend to discourage that kind of doubt and skepticism, systematically, for obvious reasons.

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  19. Darrell says:

    Lazarus,

    No worries regarding the number of comments—this is a free space unless intentionally abused. Thank you for contributing to the conversation and for the very insightful comments.

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  20. Darrell says:

    Burk,

    As usual, there is no much question-begging, ad-hominen, and straw-man arguments here, there is little point in responding.

    If we were to subtract all of these logical errors, the only thing left is bald assertion.

    To make it even more incoherent, the only thing you ever address is fundamentalist religion. Ummm, wrong blog–wrong conversation. McGrath, Gingerich, nor myself are fundamentalists–thus nothing you say here even comes close to hitting the mark.

    I'm left scratching my head: “Did he even read the links or does he not understand what they are saying”?

    A perpetual case-study in missing the point and how secular fundamentalism “hears” and “reads”. It does so just like its exact mirror image-its religious counterpart “hears” and “reads”. Religious fundamentalism looks at science as the enemy, just as secular fundamentalism looks at religion as the enemy.

    The point of both links is that neither is the enemy and both are important. Who would be against such a reasonable view? Oh, that's right, we know who…

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  21. lazarus says:

    Darrell,

    Well said. In my brief converse with Burk above, which is distinct from the links you and Burk are discussing, it is becoming obvious to me that he lumps Christianity and Christian believers into the fundamentalist category. His response to my questions reflect that bias. What is more, he places Christianity into the category of pagan religions that believe are based on appeasing an angry God. That is a gross misrepresentation of Christian theology at its finest. Does such an appeasement theology exist within the Church? Yes, in all honesty. And it hangs around with fundamentalism and the “science is the enemy” group(s). Neither describe my discipleship or the faith of the one, holy, catholic, apostolic church.

    I register the humble conviction, which I would assume you share, that the only way to correct such misconceptions is to share everyday life together.

    That, in my opinion, is the essence of evangelism — shared life not shared books. Evangelism at its finest is relational not propositional. Which spirals us back around to the whole fundamentalist love of propositional/programmatic evangelism instead of the relational. Jesus said, “come and see.” He invited folks to share life with Him. He in turn desired to share their life.

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  22. Darrell says:

    Lazarus,

    Yes, I think evangelizing is relational not propositional, which is the post-modern (ancient) view. Love saves us; beauty saves us–not simply the knowledge of love or beauty. Knowing “about” love is wonderful. But actually loving and being loved is salvation.

    I think Burk senses there is a difference between orthodox, progressive Christianity and fundamentalism, but it's a difference that brings discomfort and dissonance. One he can address (fundamentalism); the other he cannot or doesn't want to.

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  23. Burk says:

    Darrell-

    Thank you for your leave. While good relations are all very well, you are promoting a false equivalence / complementarity, as if both Deepak Chopra and Francis Collins were doing equally significant work towards the general good. But if one is a snake oil salesman, and the other a critical, effective searcher for truth, then perhaps they are not so equivalent, and someone needs to point that out. It is illogical to claim a social goal to defend a philosophical issue which deals in what is true about reality.

    “The Christian faith is compared to a good scientific theory: it gathers together or “colligates” observations and experiences in manner that is plausible, expansive, and productive. In theology, as in science, the ability to illuminate reality is judged to be an important measure of the reliability of a theory, and an indicator of its truth. “

    Here, McGrath is saying exactly what I addressed. And his answer is..

    “Those who adopt this approach – such as the French philosopher Simone Weil (1909-43) – hold that the Christian faith is like an illuminating radiance that lights up the landscape of reality, allowing us to see things as they really are.”

    Well, this is not very informative. Indeed, it is classic mystical twaddle.. an emotional expression of some moving experience, but not communicative of any knowledge gained. Indeed, not one religious person through this sort of great “insight” has gained an iota of concrete knowledge about the world. So the methods of science and religion are not, in the end, complementary in the least. While we may have yearnings and mystical feelings that religion addresses, it satisfies them with tall tales and empty promises, the foremost of which is that there is another life besides this one, and the second is that there is a father totem that cares about us, or indeed exists at all.

    You might say, well all this is harmless enough- why get so upset about it? But you asked through your cite of McGrath for this to be treated as some great complementary tradition of human knowledge, when it is nothing of the kind. From what I can see, (as a garden-variety skeptic who takes the show-me attitude), it is all as false and empty as can be.

    “The important point here is that science and faith can thus provide us with different, yet ultimately complementary, maps of human identity. As Mary Midgely suggests, Christian theology offers us a mental map, which helps us to make sense of at least some aspects of the worlds within us and around us – and, I think I must emphasize, to make sense of the scientific enterprise in particular.”

    Let's make a big distinction here, between what is inside us, and what is outside. Religion can indeed create new mental maps. Any imaginative exercise can do so, as I discussed with ideology. Whether liberal or fundamentalist, religion can create such novel mappings & identities & narratives.

    But when it comes to explaining anything about “reality”.. that which we are by nature, and the larger reality around us, religion in all its forms has been wrong, quite simply, very step of the way. There is really no doubt about it, and in the McGrathian, liberal form, religion tries to make as few demands on our credulity as possible. But it can't help to still make some- god, trinity, life-after-death, etc. And to that degree, it apes science, quite unsuccessfully.

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  24. Darrell says:

    Burk,

    This response still falls under the:

    “…question-begging, ad-hominen, and straw-man arguments…” And, “If we were to subtract all of these logical errors, the only thing left is bald assertion.”

    And this statement alone,

    “Well, this is not very informative. Indeed, it is classic mystical twaddle.. an emotional expression of some moving experience, but not communicative of any knowledge gained. Indeed, not one religious person through this sort of great “insight” has gained an iota of concrete knowledge about the world. So the methods of science and religion are not, in the end, complementary in the least…”

    Not only echoes the above criticism but tells us you don't understand what McGrath is saying–or if you do–you don't want to address it. Clearly he is not speaking of scientific knowledge…you respond as if there is only one type–the very issue disputed…I mean, you see this, right?

    I keep thinking the ad-hominen dismissal is just a cover for not wanting to engage the actual arguments? Or is it possible you really don't get it?

    The jury is still out.

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  25. Burk says:

    Darrell-

    Well, what I can glean is

    1- they (religion, science) are doing similar or the same thing with respect to mapping reality, but one is concretely successful, while the other is only psychologically successful, like a con job or mysticism might be.

    2- what else does religion do? It creates maps of human identity, whatever that might be, perhaps as ideological constructs. It defends the concept of god. Those are about the only two other functions that I can identify from McGrath's piece. Can you discern more?

    “Some kind of religiosity is part of being human.”

    Well, that is true enough, but hardly a sufficient defense of religion. We are also sexual beings. Does that justify bordellos? At any rate, I wouldn't deny that religion satisfies a human need. If that is the complementarity you see, then I am in complete agreement. But it is a low standard indeed.

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  26. Darrell says:

    You're joking, right? Beyond the ad-hominen, question-begging, what it this?

    We know you keep missing the point–is it intentional so you can just keep to the bald assertion and insults? Is the argument that hard to address?

    At a loss…sorry. Nothing here…yawn.

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  27. Burk says:

    Darrell-

    “He is rather the canvas on which the picture is painted, or the frame in which it is set.”

    If this is what you mean, I fail to comment on it because it is effectively meaningless. Obviously highly meaninful to him, but not communicable to others. Again, we can come up with any kind of imaginative master narrative we like. It is likely to traffic in psychological archetypes, like a father god running things in the sky, etc.. The absurdity of all this is self-evident. Whatever the model one selects, religion exists, as he notes, because we have a psychological need for it, not because it answers any question in a competent manner. One of those needs is to have our questions answered in some more or less plausible and comforting manner. But what we have found taking the more circuitous route of critical philosophy and science is that all those religious answers were false. God is now dead. Where does that leave this “complementary” function?

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  28. Darrell says:

    Ummm, in case you missed it:

    You're joking, right? Beyond the ad-hominen, question-begging, (add straw-man) what it this?

    We know you keep missing the point–is it intentional so you can just keep to the bald assertion and insults? Is the argument that hard to address?

    At a loss…sorry. Nothing here…yawn.

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  29. Darrell says:

    Burk,

    Try this: Find all the ad-hominines like, “con job”, “mystical twaddle”, “fairy tales” and the rest.

    Then find all the question-begging statements like this:

    “Well, what of it? Does this license us to tell ourselves fairy tales? What is the method employed in answering these questions?”

    “So ideology / religion goes beyond science, but it is always rooted in a model of reality, which most often is thoroughly wrong.”

    “But I try not to justify them using assertions about reality that fly flagrantly in the face of what we know…”

    “God is dead”

    And then find all the straw-man statements like this:

    “Which is to say.. we can't comport with your snivelly “reason” i.e. logic and evidence, so we will make up our own. Sounds fair and balanced to me!”

    “He certainly did not offer the cheap consolations of salvation or god-is-on-our-side.”

    “Suppose something is mysterious, and the mystery is solved. Suppose that lightning was deeply meaningful as the action of an angry god, but now it is de-charmed, as a physical phenomenon. What then? Does life not go on, bereft of such gods?”

    “The point is that this is the natural recourse once one has given up on wildly fictional ontologies like gods and spirits, on which one hangs requirements to do sacrifices, perform worship or good works to get to heaven, kill non-believers, and so forth.”

    And so on, you get the point. If you do that for each one of your responses, and you delete these sorts of remarks and statements, what is left? Nothing really. Logic and Philosophy 101 is failed every time you type out your responses. Plus, you are addressing fundamentalism–but nothing spoken of here. That you can't see the difference is either a willing ignorance or just ignorance. You have a tin ear.

    You think you are making an argument or addressing the points and the links. But you are doing neither. You are simply asserting an ideology—you are just shouting “I believe in scientism and everyone else is wrong.”

    Well that just gets old.

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  30. Burk says:

    Darrell-

    Right, well, if Mr. McGrath were saying anything new, I might have something new to say as well. And I think you sell short my addressing of points, discernable as they may be, in whatever you bring up. But I am happy to get on with other things.

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  31. RonH says:

    Burk…

    Your whole thing boils down to “There isn't any meaning but what meaning we make for ourselves.” But, you don't act consistently with that principle because you've spent years harrying Darrell about the meaning he's made for himself.

    If we all make our own meaning, then nobody's meaning is any more meaningful than anybody else's meaning.

    You're not content to let other people have their own meaning. You want to implicitly impose your own on them (by marginalizing them through the ad-hom word games Darrell has already listed), all the while taking an epistemological position that contradicts such an action.

    Dude, you haven't a philosophical leg to stand on. Metaphorical or otherwise.

    I can hear you sputtering now: “But.. but… religious people want to do bad things to me and other people I like, and I don't want them to!”. Fair enough. But Darrell doesn't want those “religious people” to do bad things to you either. Which would make him an ally, if that was the real sticking point. Strategically, progressive Christians are your best allies against fundamentalist Christians, since progressive Christians are polite enough to listen to your ad-homs and still attempt to preserve a society that allows you to continue spewing them, all the while also trying to reason with less progressive Christians who are convinced you have horns and a pointy tail under your black robe.

    I think you're just jealous because we have a great story and you don't.

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  32. Burk says:

    Ron-

    Fair enough. It is like being faced with, say, FOX news, putting out falsehoods round the clock. They have a story too. And it is very popular, meaningful, and “works” for lots of people. Purpose-driven, indeed. But doesn't it drive you to some intemperate attitudes … the relentless falsehoods being peddled? That is how religion looks to me, in case you couldn't tell.

    So having “a story” (even a “great” one, perhaps even especially a “great” one) really is not sufficient to escape (my) censure if, as Darrell does, one is evangelizing it as reasonable, and consistent with philosophy and science, postmodern, edgy, etc. Because it isn't, even if one takes it in the mildest form of –could be true in a supernatural realm that we conveniently posit, but which is not actually supernatural because it creates and interacts with our natural universe, somehow, but perhaps not right now … etc. –. Mild or malificent, it comes down the same epistemological, scientific, philosophical mess. Reality is not a story that you choose. In a way, we are both highly dedicated to truth, though of course one form has a more narrative, charismatic quality, while the other has a more empirical, quotidian quality. Could the differences be temperamental?

    You have probably heard the argument that mild forms of religion give cover to the more extreme forms in the same community, and that is one reason I have to address all parts of the spectrum. But you are right that I abuse your patience and politeness a great deal.. for that I am thankful.

    And I assume we are adult enough to be able to collaborate on issues of common interest, while differing on religious ones. But tell me if that is impossible.

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  33. RonH says:

    Burk…

    Really, Burk? Christians are like FOX News lying round the clock? I swear, you are so obnoxious!

    There's a difference between a story which is empirically false and one which cannot be verified empirically. And just because a story cannot be verified empirically does not mean it is false. Furthermore, some of the most important stories to us cannot be verified empirically. Like, for example, the story in which only empirically verifiable stories can be regarded as true.

    If you want to go rant at “religious people” telling lies, then go do it. If Darrell is lying, then prove it. If you can't prove he's lying, then be a gentleman and stop saying he is on his own blog. You have the right to make unsubstantiated accusations, but making him pay for you to do it is bad form, sir.

    So having “a story” (even a “great” one, perhaps even especially a “great” one) really is not sufficient to escape (my) censure

    But why the f*** does your censure matter in a world where we all make up our own meaning, and nobody's meaning means any more than anybody else's meaning? You have no epistemological grounds for censuring anything.

    Reality is not a story that you choose.

    Oh, it most certainly is. The story that you tell yourself very much is your reality, in every way that matters. In fact, that we tell stories at all is one of the most important distinctions between us and the rest of the animal kingdom.

    In a way, we are both highly dedicated to truth, though of course one form has a more narrative, charismatic quality, while the other has a more empirical, quotidian quality. Could the differences be temperamental?

    Bosh. I can't figure out which of us is which. I'm more empirical than you are, since I place greater significance on really real experiences I really have, and am willing to lend at least some credence to the experiences of others even if they differ from mine. On the other hand, you're not very charismatic and have a thoroughly uninteresting narrative. So I'm lost on this one.

    You have probably heard the argument that mild forms of religion give cover to the more extreme forms in the same community,

    Evidence! Produce evidence! We only do empirically verifiable claims, here! The plural of anecdote is not data!

    You know what? This has nothing to do with religion. Peter Boghossian is an extremist atheist bigot. He wants religious belief to be classified as a mental illness, so that state power can be brought to bear to contain it as a “public health crisis”. You know how hard it is to find any atheist of consequence criticizing his gestapo-style suggestions? Google it, my friend.

    True, people who insist on dividing the world into Good Us and Bad Them lack the subtlety of mind to recognize the Bad Us and the Good Them. Let the reader understand…

    And I assume we are adult enough to be able to collaborate on issues of common interest, while differing on religious ones. But tell me if that is impossible.

    That's entirely up to you. The only person in this discussion who has ever been questioning anybody's adult status is you. Your endless claims that Darrell's Christian beliefs are childish or fairy tales or rooted in father issues or some other psychological deficiency leave no doubt that you DO NOT in fact consider him “adult enough”. Geez! The hypocrisy…

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  34. Burk says:

    Ron-

    Thanks for putting it all out there. You have me dead to rights, psychologically. Obnoxious, rude, patronizing, etc.

    Philosophically? Let me give three answers.

    One example of what I mean is life after death. Why don't blind people see? No eyes. Why don't deaf people hear? No ears. Why don't brain-dead people think? No brain. What could possibly lead you to think (as I think I fairly assume you do) that you live on after death, having vision, hearing, and thinking? It does not comport with logic, biology, physics, or evolution (though Darrell documented recently that it might take a couple of minutes before all brain operations shut down after blood flow stops). You have this experience yourself, when your brain shuts down at night. In the deepest phase of sleep, before you get to REM and dreaming, your consciousness is completely shut down. There is no separate soul in there thinking great thoughts.. the whole operation is completely down. What makes you think that, after death, without eyes, ears, or a brain, you get any more than that, and can go on as if nothing had happened? It is wishful thinking, whatever your “story” or age. (That constitutes epistemological grounds, incidentally.)

    A second example is my hope that I will get a million dollars tomorrow. I live in such a hope and it helps me get through each day. Such a belief is not disprovable, yet you would not be wrong to call me a complete fool, right? Or other denigrating names. Non-disprovability is not a standard for rationality.

    Thirdly, there has been a great deal of politeness going to other way, for millennia, sometimes enforced by harsher measures than nose wrinkling and social disapproval. Religion gets such an extraordinary pass on basic critical thinking that practically every public speech and event closes with the idiotic “God Bless America”, as if .. well, you get the picture. As long as one's “deeply-held” belief, however irrational, comports with the cultural tradition, one is respected as a reasonable community member, praying in council chambers, and swearing on Bibles. But if one believes in some minority cult, no less (or more) rational than gods, trinities, life-after-death, etc., one is thought a kook, arrogant, not very bright. Perhaps theosophists or Jehova's witnesses.

    This general acceptance of illogic, wishful thinking, and herd ideology is something I view as bad, and which I think is particularly significant in this time when the culture is so flooded by related forms of untruth in politics, economics, advertising, public policy, etc. And when Mr. Boghossian has a billion misled adherents and threatens to negatively affect public policy, (or starts setting off bombs), I will be in line to critique him as well.

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  35. Darrell says:

    Burk,

    “One example of what I mean is life after death.”

    As was shown with the entire conversation with Bernard, there is nothing we know about physics, biology, or any other such area that precludes life after death. Again, you are just begging the very question. You are presuming the material is all there is–your entire case rests upon this faith held presumption, which is fine, but do not mistake it for fact or science.

    The greater point here is that your admitted “Obnoxious, rude, [and] patronizing” way of dismissing views you disagree with is the hallmark of fundamentalism, the very thing you think you are fighting. You have met the enemy and he is…you.

    A key point of my blog is to navigate between the two extremes and to call both religious and secular fundamentalism into question. I'm sorry you think that dangerous or a bad idea. I think it very reasonable.

    Another minor point here is that it is one thing to be somewhat confident in one's responses and to employ some humor and sarcasm at the other's expense, when good natured and with no real ill will intended. We are all adults here. However, when it comes from someone who can't string his responses together without filling them with ad-hominen, question-begging, straw-man arguments, it is rather pathetic and almost painfully embarrassing. Could you at least spare us that? At least make an argument that isn't just always begging the question and completely missing the point. You are never really making an argument–you are just busy spouting the party line. When that is all one is doing, it makes dealing with the obnoxiousness, rudeness, and patronizing very difficult.

    “This general acceptance of illogic, wishful thinking, and herd ideology is something I view as bad…”

    Except when it comes to your own scientism…then you think it good. By the way, the above is just ad-hominen nonsense and gets us nowhere–not an argument. You should try making one sometime.

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  36. RonH says:

    Burk…

    Regarding your first example: We've already beaten to death the idea that science hasn't solved the problem of consciousness. But even on a materialist view, consciousness should be reduceable to patterns of information. And patterns of information don't require a brain to exist. One day, consciousness might exist entirely independently of brains — and there are atheist scientists who are actively pursuing exactly that. If we're all in a simulation, our consciousnesses are probably being kept in an offsite backup somewhere. Unless whatever's simulating us is stupid. But even to Them, I will say: Jesus saves! (Hahaha. Old geek humor. Sorry.)

    You can't know for sure that consciousness cannot exist beyond cessation of brain activity. But what of it? The reality is that human beings, unlike other animals who don't think about it at all, can't quite get their head around the notion that they'll cease to exist. You can't imagine what it will be like to be dead. No one can. So stories about afterlife are actually quite a natural thing. Baby, we're just born this way! Where is your evidence that this is a Bad Thing(tm)? It's true that people may use their story about the afterlife to hurt others (“Kill more infidels, get more virgins!”). But people have also used their stories about the afterlife to inspire them to feats of incredible greatness. Many archeologists are suggesting now that our earliest cities were centered around religious belief (which, at the time, was mostly about afterlife). The entire Egyptian civilization revolved around death, and preparing for what comes after. To say that belief in afterlife is categorically bad or good is to display a remarkable level of stupidity. And guess what? The same thing applies to lack of belief in an afterlife! Nihilism, anyone? How many people have committed atrocities because they did not believe there would be any consequences? How many people have taken their own lives because nothingness will always be easier than facing any difficulty? Remember: the only thing that kept Hamlet from shoving the bare bodkin into his heart and bringing the play to an early (and much less fulfilling) neding was his fear of what might happen beyond death.

    So, not only do we not know that there's no such thing as an afterlife, we don't even know if it's a good idea to believe there isn't. Tell me again why I'm better off with your story?

    Such a belief is not disprovable, yet you would not be wrong to call me a complete fool, right? Or other denigrating names.

    Actually, no. My stupid, mythical story suggests I would be wrong to call you a fool and other denigrating names. In fact, if I cared about you at all (as my stupid, mythical story suggests I should, even if I have nothing to gain from it) I'd probably try to figure out why you had this hope, and — if I thought you'd be better off without it — attempt to convince you that you'd be better off believing otherwise. But you know what? Sometimes such a belief can be not only harmless but even helpful. I know people who play the lottery. I think playing the lottery is stupid and I never do it. But that doesn't give me cause to be a dick and insult someone who happens to find pleasure in playing. Sometimes, useful is better than true.

    …cont'd…

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  37. RonH says:

    …cont'd…

    Religion gets such an extraordinary pass on basic critical thinking that practically every public speech and event closes with the idiotic “God Bless America”, as if .. well, you get the picture.

    There is much truth to this. But the problem isn't religion — it's lack of critical thinking. Atheists can succumb to this just as well. Stripping someone of their religion doesn't make them a critical thinker. And teaching someone to think critically doesn't make them lose their religion. If you don't see this, then you should crawl out of your atheist groupthink hole and try to critically reason about history on your own for a change.

    Of course, the easy thing to do is just equate religion with “lack of critical thinking”. That's how someone like Alistair McGrath, an Oxford-trained biochemist, can be blown off as lacking critical thinking. Class, shall we play “name that fallacy”?

    This general acceptance of illogic, wishful thinking, and herd ideology is something I view as bad,

    Maybe you should lay off the accusations of thoughtcrime, and focus instead on the empirical results? Try to find common values, and leverage behavior based on those. Here's a hint: it doesn't involve calling people childish, irrational, or otherwise insulting them. Whatever you think of their story, it is their story and you're not likely to change it through outright boorishness. (And here I thought you were all about ninja reasoning skillz…)

    And when Mr. Boghossian has a billion misled adherents and threatens to negatively affect public policy, (or starts setting off bombs), I will be in line to critique him as well.

    It doesn't take very many adherents. These days, with the ever-expanding arbitrary power of the executive branch, it may only take a handful. Regardless… Boghossian gets a pass in the meantime, eh? Because he's getting plenty of endorsements from high-profile atheists. So pardon me if I find your concern for rabid ideologists to be a bit disingenuous. Or at least highly selective. Anyways, my only point was that your accusation of religious people providing cover for extremists can be levelled at atheists just as well. Nicely demonstrated by you, as a matter of fact. Thanks for that.

    BTW, what is it that has atheists freaking out that religious people are going to put them into pogroms or something? When exactly has that happened? You do realize don't you that never in the entire history of this country (or practically any other) has it been easier to be an open atheist? And that nonbelief is at an all-time high and rising? And that legal accomodation for nonbelievers has never been higher, and continues to expand? Who freaking cares if Congressmen say “God bless America”?? Nobody believes them — they're freaking Congressmen! And even if God exists, he won't hear their prayers — he has standards, after all. And if he doesn't exist, it's all just so much blah-blah and who cares? Dude, take off the tin-foil hat. It might increase bloodflow to your brain and help you to see more clearly.

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  38. Burk says:

    Ron, Darrell, Lazarus-

    Thanks very much for your heartfelt advice. It touches me to the quick, naturally.

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