Friday Roundup

  • Perspective is everything and something that can’t be programmed into computers…it has to do with colors and that, “Color is not an object of sight but a way of seeing things,”
  • Fundamentalism fails again…
  • Given the recent discussion regarding ‘mystery’ number 3 is pertinent…
  • Divine origins of music?

Could a naturalistic narrative alone have done the same?  I don’t think so.  Understand what is being said.  No one is saying atheists have never composed music or written songs.  No one is saying atheists don’t like music.  No one is saying there are no atheist musicians or singers.  Please, everyone just calm down.  What is being said is that it is very difficult to see how music or song, as we know it today, would have ever arisen from a naturalistic narrative given that: “If you remove the spiritual and metaphysical aspects from the history of song, there isn’t much left.”

Which may explain why “atheists don’t have no songs”…I would imagine there must be quite a bit of cognitive dissonance for the atheist who loves music and song (and has thought about it deeply in light of his world-view) and if you want to know if the narrative/world-view you inhabit is true or not, just look and see if it has ever produced anything as beautiful as the blues, or jazz, or “soul” music, or Bach, or Gregorian chant, or scales, or notation, or music theory.  Walk into an inner city African-American church or one in the rural south and ask yourself if your narrative could have produced the music you hear.  Music is universal to being human (because we are all God’s children), but one narrative took it and opened it up, released it…and oh, aren’t we happy it did.
Harris is schooled on Buddhism…

“But I want to end by suggesting the “religious bits” are absolutely non-trivial, especially when it comes down to questions of ethics. The messiness of Buddhist ethics is not jettisonable; it is part and parcel of the eightfold path. This path, like every religious path, is hard to follow. It involves humility, self-searching, determination, and, perhaps above all, doubt.”
Hmm…’doubt’ even, I suppose that is to leave room for mystery…very wise.
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160 Responses to Friday Roundup

  1. Hi Ron

    You're right. The speculation is not impossible. Is it groundless? Probably not. In Darrell's case we're slowly unravelling that, because we're getting closer and closer to understanding what the grounds he's proposing are. And this shared understanding is, as always, the prize. Pathetic? Maybe. You're welcome to your view on that, of course.




  2. RonH says:

    Just to be clear: I don't have a problem with folks privileging their perspectives. In fact, we can't not privilege our own perspective, because it's the only one we have. Working out what to do with others' different perspectives is a messy business, but I think the wrong approach is to keep insisting that at every point of divergence, it's because the other guy is making a simple logical error. “Yes, but he is making logical errors!” Perhaps sometimes. But all the time? And everyone else with a differing perspective?

    Your claim all along, Bernard, has been that agnosticism allows you to avoid trench warfare. But I have never, ever, in over 25 years on the internet, witnessed such a prolonged bout of trench warfare between the same individuals as I have seen on this blog. I submit this as evidence to you, Bernard, that your claim of agnostic advantage fails. Just sayin'.


  3. Hi Darrell

    You write:
    “No, it is true if one is making this claim: “If you remove the spiritual and metaphysical aspects from the history of song, there isn’t much left.”

    On this we agree. It's never been my dispute.

    But what if the argument is that, not only are our songs filled with metaphysical references, but also that, if we hadn't had the metaphysical to refer to, it's unlikely an alternative, rich musical tradition would have arisen? That would require a further argument, would it not?



  4. RonH says:


    Pathetic? Maybe. You're welcome to your view on that, of course.

    If Darrell had been unable to make a single valid logical argument about anything, then yes, I would consider that to be pathetic. What do you think? Has he made a single valid logical argument about anything? Can you point to one?


  5. Hi Ron and Darrell

    From here, it's been about an interest in engaging, and finding out how a perspective I'm not familiar with is put together. I think respectful, but searching, scrutiny of one another's point of view is tremendously helpful. There is a great deal I better appreciate about Darrell's point of view as a consequence of engaging.

    However, if this does feel like trench warfare to you Darrell, and if you find my engagement unhelpfully aggressive and confrontational then I sincerely apologise. We're working across a large cultural gap, I'm sure, and in an often context-free digital environment. I've genuinely enjoy trying to work out how others see the world. It helps me see my world anew. I admire the openness with which you engage Darrell; its a sign of generosity.

    As for strong logical arguments, Darrell's blog is rich with them. Here are some I wholeheartedly endorse:

    – There is a misinformed tendency to choose a weak version of religion and attack all religion on the back of it.
    – Those who claim that their arguments are entirely evidence based are wrong.
    – Our personal narratives necessarily inform the way we see the world, and there's no escaping that.
    – There is no credible way of using science to establish an objective morality. Objectivity morality requires some sense of the transcendent.
    – There is no strong historical case for claiming that religion is more harmful than helpful to humanity.
    – The personal response to religion is in and of itself a strong reason for embracing religion.
    – Reason itself has no special claim to primacy in the workings of the human mind, We embrace its code for the same reason we embrace any belief set, because of the way it fits with and serves our personal narrative.

    I'm sure there are many others: this is a top-of-the-head list.

    All the very best to you both.



  6. Darrell says:

    Hi Bernard,

    I appreciate your comments here. Thank you. I’m sure I have been aggressive and short in my comments and remarks over time as well and I hope they were not taken personally. I too apologize for being impatient and ad-hominem at any point.

    Here is my personal take on our exchanges. I think Bernard there is too fine a line between your claim of agnosticism and your actual line of argument, which to my mind is almost always the same line as the philosophical naturalist/empiricist/atheist. This becomes frustrating for the same reasons it would if I argued the line I normally do but said at the same time I was not religious and didn’t know if God existed or not. I think I would be rightly called on that. And to be quite honest, you haven’t argued at times as if you truly believe some of the items you list, in which we supposedly agree. I think I might even have Burk’s agreement on that and I would imagine Ron’s too, so I don’t think that such is just my opinion only.

    I also think you take it too far sometimes in simply repeating yourself and not really engaging (or hearing) my responses. Instead of claiming there is always something else I need to show or that there is some logical error, which frankly I don’t think you’ve ever been able to show going back as far as you wish, you need to learn to simply say, “well, I guess we just disagree then.” Not every difference of opinion or of perspective is because someone is making a formal error of logic—it just doesn’t work that way. I think most people might be put off by how long some of these comment threads go, when most can see I have addressed over and over the same points and questions, so it then just appears that my responses are not liked—not that I haven’t addressed anyone’s points or questions. More often than not, my questions and points are ignored. From the outside, this might look like badgering.

    It is alright to simply disagree.

    Putting all that aside, I do not mind these engagements (even if they are rough and tumble at times) and I appreciate the conversation.


  7. Darrell says:

    Also Bernard,

    I do wish to further engage as to the comments made regarding love and mystery, in relation to the comments on music. I will post something soon in that regard. Feel free to respond but if you would rather not, such is understood as well.


  8. RonH says:


    The problem I've observed isn't when you agree with Darrell, but when you don't. Saying he has a good argument for a position you already endorse is a fine thing, but you're already biased towards that position anyways. However when you disagree with him, it always seems to collapse down to his making a “simple logical error”. Now, from where I sit, these usually look like worldview assumption differences, but you typically seem to see them as simple problems of logic. Perhaps this is because your personal narrative alleges that you do not make truth claims which are not held commonly… I see how that certainly could force you to the conclusion that Darrell's logic is bad. Whatever the reason, the tracing of virtually every disagreement down to a logical error on Darrell's part (or, which is about as bad, a purely reason-free intuition) makes your claims to be merely seeking understanding ring kind of hollow.

    I have, frankly, little interest anymore in debating specifically the arguments for or against religious beliefs. Nowadays I'm more interested in the mechanics of how these debates take place, and what we can do to reduce the level of antagonism between tribes. The popular atheist line is that where these matters are concerned, the problem is that religious people just can't think clearly. That goes nowhere good. Now, you are orders of magnitude more pleasant and irenic than Burk, which is why I've found your perspective so interesting (and is why I've followed this blog as long as I have). However, over time my observation is that you more or less seem to be arriving at the exact same point (that on these matters, Darrell just isn't thinking clearly), it just takes much, much longer. Honestly, I can't think of a single disagreement you've had on this blog that didn't devolve into you insisting Darrell was making a basic logical mistake, which if he just tried a little bit harder he could see for himself. Y'know. If he really wanted. Pleasantness and irenicism really aren't worth much if you still end up in the same place.

    I've also read Genesis, so I wouldn't at all consider it beyond your abilities to be totally pwning me in some multi-layered game. 😉 People tell me I'm not terribly good at picking up on subtlety. Maybe I've got a little too much aspie in me.

    (BTW, I'm saving my copy of that book to give to my eldest when I think he's old enough to appreciate it. You did a wonderful job on it.)


  9. RonH says:

    In the interests of being an equal opportunity critic, I will say this: I've been chewing on it since it was brought up, and I don't think the contention that a naturalist society would ever produce music serves much of a purpose, and is instead more of a further irritant to these sorts of discussions than anything else. A necessary relationship between spirituality and music might exist, but it isn't self-evidently true and I can't imagine how you would prove such a thing. In the meantime, people sympathetic to the naturalist perspective will at best be unpersuaded and defensive, and at worst offended. In other words, I suspect it only adds more heat than light, and so isn't a constructive line of discussion.


  10. Darrell says:


    Thanks for the input. Duly noted.


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