Several weeks ago I went searching on the net for Coleman Barks. Barks, a poet, is most well known for his versions of Rumi. In fact, to the extent Rumi is known by the English-speaking world, a lion’s share of the credit accrues to Mr. Barks and to his colleague and co-author John Moyne.
Having done this same search years ago, I knew there are numerous resources and media, but, one such resource at the CBC had been taken down, an interview with Barks and Andrew Harvey by Mary Hynes (as part of Ms. Hynes’ Tapestry Series.) I made an inquiry.
Lo and behold a few days later a nice gentleman from the CBC emailed me and asked if I would be interested in providing an introduction for this archival podcast. I jumped at the opportunity to help bring the interview back into circulation.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: The American geneticist Dean Hamer postulated the God Gene hypothesis, proposing that humans are genetically hardwired for religious faith.
Dawkins: I’d prefer to say that we have a lot of genetic predispositions for a lot of psychological attributes, which can under the right circumstances add up to religion. But I’m also thinking of things like a predisposition to be obedient towards authority, which might even be useful under certain circumstances. Or a predisposition to be afraid of death or, when frightened, to run to a parental figure. These are all separate psychological predispositions which under the right cultural circumstances end up pushing one into a religion, whichever the religion of one’s cultural upbringing. I wouldn’t call it a God Gene.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Has religion not been very successful in an evolutionary sense?
Dawkins: The thought that human societies gained strength from religious memes in their competition with others is true to a certain extent. But it is more like an ecological struggle: It reminds me of the replacement of the red by the gray squirrel in Britain. That is not a natural selection process at all, it is an ecological succession. So when a tribe has a war-like god, when the young men are brought up with the thought that their destiny is to go out and fight as warriors and that a martyr’s death brings you straight to heaven, you see a set of powerful, mutually reinforcing memes at work. If the rival tribe has a peaceful god who believes in turning the other cheek, that might not prevail.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: But following a religion that does not promote the chances for survival seems to contradict evolutionary logic…
Dawkins: Oh yes, clearly there is a conflict between meme and gene survival. We are familiar with such conflicts. They sometimes work out one way, sometimes the other.
The other day it occurred to me–while I was sticking wet laundry in the dryer–that the religious impulse, viewed as artifactual event and acquisition, could have done duty as a buffer against the fragile web of contingency human life is entangled within. But, then I recognized by confirmation bias at work, because the human awareness of contingency, chanciness, and interdependency is itself acquired.
Glenn Beck has something major to do with another ambitious and tilted web portal, The Blaze*. Here’s a capture of today’s page. The ridiculous headline tops a truly funny/nutty video about some members, evidently, of the ‘professoriat.’
I’m okay with those who wish to protect the non-political nature of The Restoring Honor (umm, to America) protest ritual on Saturday. Why? Because even though politics was obviously and self-evidently implicit in, and concretely an aspect of, the event’s sub-text, by setting this to the side I can regard more fully that the event was about purportedly framed by a call to vivify both religion and patriotism.
Or, vivify some version of Christianity. You know: the new-fangled Beckian Christianity, an offshoot stripped of its social gospel and re-sanctified–I presume–to be a harsh Libertarian foundationalism; and one centered on personal responsibility and other stuff found nowhere at the center of a decent, magnanimous, moral old school Christianity.
Social justice is a very bad thing? …as the bumper sticker has it: Who would Jesus Bomb today?
Two videos from the event, here for your viewing pleasure, should cause you to wonder about selective editing and the ease with which ignorance can be evoked. It is the case that at any gathering numbering ten or more people, it is likely child’s play to get someone to unwittingly embarrass their self, if he or she is asked about politics or religion.
However, I still would be open to a coherent presentation of the Tea Party case. I have spent more than a few hours looking for as much, and, probably because I’m modestly overly aware of stuff like philosophy and history, I have yet to find any cogent explication. Really, my bar isn’t set very high. And, this documentation doesn’t have to be convincing, it just has to be reasonable and reasonably intelligent. I’ll keep searching.
I certainly agree with the slathering Tea Party about one bare fact: the financial industry should have been held accountable for their grotesque, morally reprehensible, gambling. But, amazingly, now it seems the Tea Party is on the cusp of being co-opted by, in effect, the Club For Growth, Koch Brothers, and their ilk!
This is apparently where the Tea Party is headed: into the arms of the collectivist moneychangers, the very ones who happily took the tax dollar and rewarded themselves handsomely for allowing themselves to be bailed out. Why the Tea Party doesn’t get, as far as I know, that this synergy weds them with the other co-dependent side of the problem they’re so angered about, is a question which remains to be answered.
Of course, many have pointed out the Tea Party isn’t really a new wave at all. This may turn out to be true. Certainly their Constitutional and economic complaints have, over the last month or so, become terribly infected by the usual suspects, and to a degree by: racial, ethnic, and religious bigotry, Birtherism, and conspiracy-theory driven paranoia.
Their eliminativist leanings are ludicrous. Still, when 40% of Republicans think it possible that Obama has come to bring Shariah to the Republic, we’re witnessing something which has grown beyond the old Conservative/Liberal fault lines. For one thing, it seems this movement is very labile and able to shape shift between advocating against a Marxist Manchurian candidate, and, advocating against a Jihadi counter-crusader. All in all, the enemy posed is of an exceptionally large scale: Islam! Communism! All those other kinds of Christians! Brown and darker skin!
I’ll wait patiently for the video featuring the Tea Party smart set. Let me know if you find anything. As for Beck embracing the legacy of Martin Luther King, to me, Beck’s thrust seems much more in the direction of Martin Luther.
He said to them, “Beware! Keep yourselves from covetousness, for a man’s life doesn’t consist of the abundance of the things which he possesses.” (Luke 12:15)
But those who are determined to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful lusts, such as drown men in ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some have been led astray from the faith in their greed, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (I Timothy 6:9-10)
He found in the temple those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, and the changers of money sitting. He made a whip of cords, and threw all out of the temple, both the sheep and the oxen; and he poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew their tables. To those who sold the doves, he said, “Take these things out of here! Don’t make my Father’s house a marketplace!” (John 2:14-16)
*The site will be run by Scott Baker, who helped launch the conservative Breitbart TV website. Politico reports that the site already has what appear to be paid sponsors – gold-based investment service Goldline. It’s also carrying an ad for a book by former GOP House Majority Leader Dick Armey. They have also hired Jon Seidl from the American Spectator and Meredith Jessup from Town Hall as reporters for “The Blaze.”
Separate truths It is misleading — and dangerous — to think that religions are different paths to the same wisdom [excerpt Boston.com April 25, 2010] Of course, those who claim that the world’s religions are different paths up the same mountain do not deny the undeniable fact that they differ in some particulars. Obviously, Christians do not go on pilgrimage to Mecca, and Muslims do not practice baptism. Religious paths do diverge in dogma, rites, and institutions. To claim that all religions are basically the same, therefore, is not to deny the differences between a Buddhist who believes in no god, a Jew who believes in one God, and a Hindu who believes in many gods. It is to deny that those differences matter, however. From this perspective, whether God has a body (yes, say Mormons; no, say Muslims) or whether human beings have souls (yes, say Hindus; no, say Buddhists) is of no account because, as Hindu teacher Swami Sivananda writes, “The fundamentals or essentials of all religions are the same. There is difference only in the nonessentials.”
This is a lovely sentiment but it is untrue, disrespectful, and dangerous.
The gods of Hinduism are not the same as the orishas of Yoruba religion or the immortals of Daoism. To pretend that they are is to refuse to take seriously the beliefs and practices of ordinary religious folk who for centuries have had no problem distinguishing the Nicene Creed of Christianity from the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism from the Shahadah of Islam. It is also to lose sight of the unique beauty of each of the world’s religions. Stephen Prothero is a religion professor at Boston University. This article is adapted from his new book, ”God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World–and Why Their Differences Matter.”
This essay of Professor Prothero is amazing in a bad way. My criticism is simple: there’s a substantial and subtle literature concerned with the claim he’s arguing against, yet none of it enters into his argument. This huge hole swallows the glib attack he issues in this essay, an attack careless in its presentation of categories and domains, and, an attack launched against more than a few straw men.
It’s as if Prothero feels he can fool the discerning reader. Normally I would dig some and see if the author is through-and-through a charlatan. Here my guess is that he isn’t, but not from anything found in his intentionally misdirected essay.
He writes here about very intriguing questions. In comparing religions with one another, in what ways does this show similarities? What are those similarities about? Should the evidence show that some, or all, religions overlap in particular ways, are there, then, valid generalizations to be inferred from the specifics of any overlap?
Furthermore, such an inquiry about common features is itself framed by a variety of disciplines, and each brings different interpretive and discipline-bound practices to bear on the question. Outside of this there is also a worthy literature brought forth by non-academic experts, and, as well, there is also a long history of this very inquiry. One aspect of this history is that it evolved from the point where specific religions come into contact with each other, and thus was evoked by the curiosity of some religious persons about the possibility of commonality. This comes about long before the frameworks of modern academic disciplines existed.
It is also obvious: there is a fundamental issue begged by any theism, no matter how particularized a theism is in practice or by a its founding assumptions. This is simple to articulate: if there is a God of “All” is not this God then a God of all spirituality, irrespective of whether a particular spirituality is granted primacy or is heretical? In other words, if God of this sort does in fact exist, this God would ultimately be the God of religionist, heretic, and atheist alike. From this, if this is true, one would expect commonalities.
There are four modern perspectives, among many, which frame different possibilities for important, maybe crucial, inquiries into commonality. One is the Analytic Psychology, given by Carl Jung. Here spirituality is viewed as a phenomena of introspective consciousness. From this, (largely) personal religious experience and development is the nexus for an inquiry into, as-it-were, possibly like-minded objectives of self-realization. There is in this, a prospect that human consciousness, as a matter of its psychological constitution, in specific keys lights upon objectives that are similar or identical, yet only does this in the precise domains where this phenomena may exist, and this is located within these precise domains in specific religious traditions.
Two is the integral perspective on human development, given its most detailed elaboration by Ken Wilber; (and Wilber’s elaboration following mostly from the thoughtful work of Jean Gebser.) Integral thought expands the nexus of inquiry along a spectrum of developmental lines. Similar to Analytic Psychology, it is encumbered by fundamental assumptions about the universal nature of human aspiration. Taken as an outlook, (and “in-look,”) the Integral perspective provides a loose framework for investigating procedures for self-realization–procedures embedded in particular instrumentalities found in different spiritual and religious practices.
Third is anthropology, a modern discipline geared toward differentiation of human phenomena. Commonalities would be rigorously qualified and vigorously contested as a matter of methodology, yet, the idea that commonalities could be universal would remain a worthwhile anthropological hypothesis. This is especially so if such a hypothesis is unfolded in the context of evolutionary anthropology. Here the framing starts from the idea that religions may be dramatically different, but that human nature is not also wholly different.
Fourth, and is the argument posed by Frithhof Schuon, and echoed by a specific ilk of traditionalists and (somewhat) outsider experts, such as Mercea Eliade, Joseph Campbell, Jacob Needleman, Rudolph Steiner, and others. Schuon described the over-arching aspect (and nexus for inquiry,) in the title of his book, The Transcendent Unity of Religion. I going to gloss the deep subtlety of Schuon’s argument and suggest his philosophical perspective basically holds this: where there is religion, there is also found a domain of aspirational practice where experience of the deep relationship between man and divine cosmos necessarily abides the idea that the cosmos is set up to evoke this relationship. It could be said the nexus of inquiry that necessarily follows from there being a God of All, is such–that a universality of religion in this aspirational domain is necessarily entailed by this primary assumption. Thus, given that there is a God of All and everything, we might expect to find similarities ordinated by God’s, if you will, “set up.”
(Schuon is superior to Karen Armstrong, with respect to being a source for beginning an inquiry at the abode of this nexus.)
Prothero doesn’t introduce any of these four vectors for inquiry into his didactic essay. For me, in not doing so, his argument is damaged out of the gate. If we break down the entire spectrum of human religious behavior, it could be incumbent upon an investigator to account for the behaviors oriented around the idea of the unity–in precise domains–of some/most/all religions.
But Prothero is mostly disingenuous in employing straw men and his attempt to wrangle an argument out of several category errors, the most grotesque of which is found in his silly statement, “To pretend that they are is to refuse to take seriously” (yada yada.) Since the point of finding similarity is to differentiate similarity from that which is dissimilar, there isn’t any ground to be gained by pretending that subtle arguments for similarity revolve around thinking different Gods (or theisms,) are said to be the same. This isn’t to say that there aren’t people who think this, its just that this is a definitive straw man.
(To the side of all this there is a contest of theisms. The ripe question for proponents of a distinctive theism within the context of the various Ambrahamic religions is simply enough, for example, ‘do you, as a Christian mystic pray to a different God than the God the Muslim prays to?’ In this the possibility of a negative answer holds another variation on the prime question about sameness and similarity. On the other hand, this is another way of wondering to what extent God owns a home team!)
The meta-inquiry is one concerned with a description, differentiation, and conceptualization of domains of human religious behavior and phenomena. This would work to tightly qualify the domains and then sort out apparent similarities. For me, anthropology, especially given the lens of an evolutionary framing, is the least inflicted by confirmation bias and tautological precepts. Still, Schuon and Dr. Jung opus, at a minimum, are worthwhile for their sophistication and depth, even if there is (for me) no slam dunk.
As it clearly appears when considering the fundamental question of the Divine Will as with other major instances of metaphysical exposition and spiritual expression, Schuon’s esoteric perspective can be best characterized as a science and discipline of objectivity that situates each reality at its own adequate ontological level and within its overarching metaphysical or cosmological context. In doctrinal as in methodical matters, Schuon’s thrust lies in a lucid perception of realities that considers both their metaphysical and archetypical meaning as well as the specificity of their plane of manifestation. Thus, in pure metaphysics, the esoterist avoids the pitfalls of confessional, anthropomorphic, and moralist expediency and sublimity by focusing on the dimensions, modes, and degrees of the theophanic unfolding of the Real. He does not confuse metaphysical realities with their partial or distorted contours as envisaged through human biases, nor does he project the limitations of human moral categories onto the Divine Order. At the same time, he perceives the roots of all spiritual, aesthetic, and moral phenomena in the Supreme, and he accounts for their meaning on the basis of the Divine, thereby describing the multileveled and multifaceted Unity of Being. In spiritual matters alike, esoterism reaches to the essential through the veil of superimpositions and accretions, while elucidating the partial legitimacy of mystical emphases, excesses, and subjective or collective detours. As such, esoterism is nothing less than the most direct and comprehensive language of the Self. jean-Baptiste Aymard-Patrick Laude, Frithof Schuon, life and Teaching; 2004 SUNY Press)
By Collin Eaton Daily Texan Staff Published: Thursday, February 25, 2010
Nearly a third of registered voters in Texas believe humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time, according to a statewide survey conducted by UT and The Texas Tribune.
Eight hundred registered voters across the state were polled between Feb. 1-7. The survey included questions about religious and political persuasions and beliefs in evolution.
A map of the poll results would be really telling. Austin, other metros, would be shown to be in the 20th century. But, the hinterlands?
In the aftermath of the release of the poll, trumandogz wrote at freerepublic,
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”…
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day. Genesis 1:26,31
Well, should I believe God’s Word or some uniformitarians who find a few fossils and assume they are from some strata millions of years ago?
Uniformitarian?! (trumandogz refers here to a fault line between young earth creationists and proto-geologists of the mid-18th century.) Texas! Be as ignorant as you wish as far as I’m concerned; The University of Texas excepted.
I’ve been feeling my way around vampires because the Jung-Fire group has also been doing so.
Whilst descriptions of vampires varied widely, certain traits now accepted as universal were created by the film industry. Where did vampires originate? Well, nearly every culture has its own undead cretures which feed off of the life essence of the living but ancient Persian pottery shards specifically depict creatures drinking blood from the living in what may be the earliest representations of vampires. In the 1100s English historians and chroniclers Walter Map and William of Newburgh recorded accounts of various undead fauna. By the 1700s, an era often known as the Age of Enlightenment, fear of vampires reached it’s apex following a spate of vampire attacks in East Prussia in 1721 and the Hapsburg Monarchy from 1725 to 1734. Government positions were created for vampire hunters to once-and-for-all rid man of this unholy scourge.
Even Enlightenment writer Voltaire wrote about the vampire plague in his Philosophical Dictionary, “These vampires were corpses, who went out of their graves at night to suck the blood of the living, either at their throats or stomachs, after which they returned to their cemeteries. The persons so sucked waned, grew pale, and fell into consumption; while the sucking corpses grew fat, got rosy, and enjoyed an excellent appetite. It was in Poland, Hungary, Silesia, Moravia, Austria, and Lorraine, that the dead made this good cheer.” Movie Myths 101 – Vampires (Amoeblog)
Vampires occupy a class of folkloric beings termed revenant. In this class are all the varieties of beings believed to have returned from being dead. (Ghosts are revenants.) Revenants, as mythologem, have ancient origins. Their genealogy, (given by anthropology and literary history,) is woven in the folklore of almost every culture.
I was moved to do a little digging, in the phenomenological moonlight.
The vampire is one of the representatives of a phenomena part-and-parcel with any ‘folk’ skepticism a person would have when is believed the soul persists beyond bodily death. In Christian terms, a revenant is a work-around. The piper is paid, yet the rules are different than the normative rules for succession into the next life. Revenants are outliers in relation to the normal redemptive scheme. It’s important to understand the revenant is not a formalization, is not part of the strict cast of characters. The revenant–as work-around–is a strain of necessary superstition, is in a sense an archaic adjunct in the folk scheme of life and death.
A vampire lives forever under particular conditions, but our human night is their day. This inversion suggests also an inversion of the christological mythologem.
Yet, this can go beyond a Christian antithesis. It is possible, maybe likely, that wonderment over the finality of death. goes back beyond paganism, penetrates beyond proto-religion, goes back even before the organization of a spirit world. And, maybe even is among the most primitive of all social-existential phenomena; expressing as it does the base quandry, “Is Bubba really dead?”
I take this up in this way to highlight the archaic of a (kind of) archetype. Buried in this quasi-archetype is a very primitive, primeval layer.
From this, I wonder about the brute opposition in these same primal terms: here today, gone tomorrow, yet gone where? I can imagine how mysterious both would be if we, with modest imagination, consider how death was dealt with intrapsychically, long before the mystery was organized and concretized by proto-pagan artifice.
This development would suppose the development of a chain of being as a response to the mystery of mortality. Moreover, this would be a response given by skepticism: ‘is Bubba gone-where did Bubba go?’ This is all prior to the conceptions of salvation, purgatorial penance, damnation. Also, in supposing that the dead could manifest a near semblance of ‘the living,’ or otherwise manifest a phantasmal form, the particulars of types of revenants fit in culturally distinct ways into Preternatural–worlds behind worlds–cosmic, vertical schemes.
Edvard Munch – Vampire
The pagan layer is persistent. Belief in the work-around of the revenant is inflected with the revenant’s mercurial nature, and this seems to be an important aspect of their alternative myth of resurrection. Vampires are worrisome, unpredictable, and, the vampire’s activities could be glossed as: bugging, tormenting, fooling, tricking, gaming, messing around with, the living. After all, vampire and ghost and spectral phantasm, are also kin.
The revenant provides a kind of gnawing reminder: the ‘vertical’ world itself isn’t in the thrall of the light-bearing beings, ‘the angels.’ Revenants are profane. They exemplify in different ways, negative models.
Archetype is darkened, manifest in human enactment of a particular feeling tone, in precise ways, from specific contexts. Vampire, in the imagination, is an archetype of evil, but only from specific perspectives. The Benedictine Calmet sharpened his axe in antipathy to revenant denizens in accordance with his Catholic perspective. Three centuries earlier, the infections of plague, came to be understood in terms committed to explain the spread of death to be a damnation. At that time, the idea was: the dead were able to cause havoc even though ‘they appeared dead.’ Again, in the context of communities dealing with vast contagion, this response is in accordance with the timely intrapsychic ground. The contagion’s agents of punishment were the ubiquitous dead.
Archaic prototypes may infuse attempts at explaining what had befallen the community. Calmet leaned on, railed against(!) the archaic precedent.
So, why the fascination with vampires today? I don’t know anything about the cultural details. I enjoy the tv serial, True Blood, but this isn’t because I get a charge from vampires. I can’t analyze the trend in any Jungian way because I’m not a proponent of Jung’s collective unconscious.
I do note several rough features of today’s, in effect, multi-media vampire. One, he or she is often a very energized erotic figure. Two, often vampires are sorted out into good vampires, bad vampires, and ‘tweener’ vampires. Taking True Blood as an example, it seems to offer ambiguous morality tales. These take place within a decidedly supernatural cosmos, but much of the primitive vampire is not appropriated.
However, the focal point of the ongoing narrative seems to be how living and undead refract one another’s light and dark. Supernatural conceits don’t matter. In this drama, human and vampire are much closer to being two sides of the same coin. There is then, in at least this example, a humanization of the vampire. This would stand against demonization. Humanity inflects profanity.
The contemporary vampire may even be–all too human. This vampire is often a libertine, with sex* subsuming blood lust. Sometimes, as is the case with Bill fromTrue Blood, he is ambivalent, conflicted, a tweener vampire between worlds, yet not able to transcend the vampire rules. Here is the post-modern turn: vampire as loose, identity mashup, This vamp reflects the chancy play of cosmopolitan identity. And, he or she may be more at home in the intoxicating nights’ cape, than in the tightening days’ cape.
Short of any fascination with vampires, the most common way the idea is entertained is when people speak of having their energy glommed onto and sucked by vampire-like pests. In this what’s left of either the token of the irredeemably fallen or the magical explanation for contagion, is: energy-sapping neediness.
The mercurial-work around able to defeat bodily death and enlightened eternal being is a more subtle layer of the undead.
Dr. Jung wrotes in the chapter Paracelsus as a Spiritual Phenomenon, (in Alchemical Studies.)
Paracelsus, like many others, was unable to make use of Christian symbolism because the Christian formula inevitably suggested the Christian solution and would have conduced to the very thing that had to be avoided. It was nature and her particular “light” that had to be acknowledged and lived with in the face of an attitude that assiduously avoided them.
(Jung earlier in the chapter speaks of the limits of the adept’s “daymind.”)
Archetype possesses the mechanics of refraction in the splitting of dominants and subordinate into further aspects. I’m going to recombine my rough intuitions and suggest the vampire is a subaltern figure–so the contemporary vampire imago stands “outside,” even when the currency of our day’s edgy, camp Vamp, is more the lip-sucking idol, is more sensitive, is more bourgeois. Remember, the contrast between primitive instrumentality and modern character is as stark as that between night and day.
As a practical matter, the attraction to the vampire at least seems to be a worthwhile anecdote to religious neuroticism; does not, as Jung put it, ‘conduce to the very thing that has to be avoided.’
It was nature and her particular NIGHT that had to be acknowledged and lived with in the face of an attitude that assiduously avoided them.
*Most psychoanalytic criticism related to vampires focuses on Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Maurice Richardson, in “The Psychoanalysis of Ghost Stories,” says: “From a Freudian standpoint—and from no other does the story really make any sense—it is seen as a kind of incestuous, necrophilous, oral-anal-sadistic all-in wrestling match”. Phyllis A. Roth finds Bram Stoker’s neurotic fear of sex and women to be the clue to his novel’s popularity; it allows readers “to act out” their own “essentially threatening, even horrifying wishes,” based in the “lustful anticipation of an oral fusion with the mother”. Judith Weissman concurs: “The vampire, an ancient figure of horror in folk tales, undoubtedly represents in any story some kind of sexual terror . . .”. Others, like Christopher Craft and Andrew Schopp, regard vampire literature as a disguised opportunity, as Schopp says, “for acting out socially prohibited roles, and for reconfiguring desire”. p54:Vampire God. The Allure of the Undead in Western Culture, Mary Y. Hallab, SUNY Press 2009 Amazon
I’m building up to a brief presentation based in a novel concept about the ongoing bumper car action between theists, atheists and new agers; soon enough.
This video from attorney Victor Zammit has stand-alone appeal. One conclusion from viewing Zammit’s “Eight Reasons Richard Dawkins Is Wrong About the Afterlife” is that I’d not want Zammit to be my lawyer for any reason.
In this video the category errors, faults of logic, and, circular arguments pile up almost until one wants to look away. Yet, it’s really funny too. My favorite parts are the several times when Zammit appeals to the venue of a court of law and its procedures being an apt environment for sorting the controversy out, presumably into the right and wrong parties.
I carry no brief for the new atheists at all since I’m an agnostic, but Zammit here is unable to reach even the low hanging fruit. His most grotesque, albeit garden-variety, category error is to imply something about energy persisting after death in a specific form without declaring how his view reconciles the actual dispersion of embodied energy at death with the presumptive persistence of consciousness he’s enthusiastic about.
But, there’s more:
4) As part of a cumulative case, you have presented several lines of evidence supporting the afterlife. In your opinion, what is the best or most convincing or more hard to refute single piece of evidence supporting the afterlife?
Without doubt, my investigation of David Thompson’s materializations were the most impressive – because we had the time to investigate. Time is critical to come to valid conclusions – and David Thompson’s mediumship passed all tests. My wife and I sat with David Thompson every Sunday night for fifteen months. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that whenever we communicated with intelligences from the afterlife during David Thompson’s materializations, we were in direct contact with beings who are residing in the afterlife dimension. We travelled with David, the medium, and saw him before during and after séances. We helped prepare the room and tape recorded the sittings. On more than seventy occasions we were present when people were reunited with their loved ones and talked with those people after the sessions. They confirmed that they recognized specific mannerisms of their loved ones and spoke of intimate things that no-body in the séance room could have known. My wife’s father came through as did my sister. They confirmed their identity in several ways.
My wife is a professional psychologist with expertise in Scientific Method and with my expertise in the admissibility of objective evidence we came to the inevitable conclusion that the evidence qualified as objective and repeatable. This made the evidence empirical and scientific. Of course closed minded skeptics would not accept our evidence. But again, they did not raise critical issues such as what intervening variables we did not control in our experiments. No hard core skeptic took up my challenge to claim half a million dollars if they could show that there was fraud or negligence taking place in these critical afterlife experiments. Of course one condition was that if the skeptic failed, then the skeptic had to hand over half a million dollars to us. In other words, the challenge was to put up or shut up. Recent experience has shown that they shut up. from subversivethinking
Obviously in this clip Zammit provides no warrant for the decisive appeal to his and his wife’s authority. But, he hasn’t sketched anything ‘scientific’ out here at all. The minimal scientific test of mediumship would be that the channeler could raise the materialization in a controlled experiment and do so repeatedly against a control session.
(Zammit) My particular one-sided bias is the test of objectivity/repeatability. Once the test is passed, and I have had personal experience that it was administered properly, I will rigidly adhere to my decision about my conclusion.
Obviously, this framing of his own objectivity is antithetical to scientific methodology and its component of necessary provisionality.
Both theists and new atheists are working over ultimately circular arguments.
One thing I’ll give the Muslim creationist Harun Yahya credit for is that he states his sense of the facts of the matter courageously, whereas, the stateside Intelligent Design crew has come to do everything but state clearly, or do research directly about, their central hypothesis. (born as Adnan Oktar-wikepedia)
Therefore, the process from initial conception to production is quite extensive. In fact, the Sole Owner of all designs is One Who has power over all things. Allah creates all creatures flawlessly through a single command: “be”. This is in the verse: The Originator of the heavens and earth. When He decides on something, He just says to it, ‘Be!’ and it is. (Surat al-Baqara:117) The faculty of creating from nothing and without precedent belongs to Allah alone. Humans just copy these examples. Furthermore, the human designer is himself a wonderful creation. Allah created creatures and humans from nothing and bestowed on humans the skills for designing.
All of these laws of physics are clear proofs that the universe, just like all the creatures within it, is a product of divine design. In fact, the laws of physics are nothing but human explanations and descriptions of the divine order that Allah has created. Allah has created the unchanging laws of order in the universe and put them in the service of humans so that man will reflect upon and understand the Sovereignty of Allah and give thanks for His blessings. One can continue giving countless examples in illustration of the order in the creation of Allah. Every created thing since the formation of the universe millions of years ago has been brought into existence by nothing other than the Omniscience and Sovereignty of Allah.
For Harun there’s no reason to do any research on the facts of the matter of creationism, but at least he identifies the cause of creation. He also has never met an element in the pseudo-science of ID, he didn’t incorporate into his industrial media operation.
On the other hand, Yahya/Oktar is also a garden-variety loon.
After 20 minutes of sound checks, Adnan Oktar made his grand entrance. He’s a burly man with slicked-back hair and a carefully trimmed beard, and he wore his trademark white suit with a black T-shirt. Oktar was gracious throughout our hourlong interview, but the weirdness of the evening quickly emerged. When I asked how so many evolutionary biologists could be wrong, he replied, “We need to talk about the Masons’ role because Masons manage the world through a scientific dictatorship.” When I suggested that scientists would be surprised to hear this, he said that’s because the Masons’ “essential characteristic is that they act secretly and they are invisible.” Meet Harun Yahya. Steve Paulson – Slate Magazine Oct.21.2009
Who was Cain’s wife? Okay, old conundrum for the literalists in the monotheistic clans.
Eve–ruled out by all
sister–must be considered
Lilith (Adam’s first wife?)–must be considered pending one’s treatment of Lilith
pre-adamic beings–why not?
“If we now work totally from Scripture, without any personal prejudices or other extra-biblical ideas, then back at the beginning, when there was only the first generation, brothers would have had to have married sisters or there would be no more generations! We are not told when Cain married or any of the details of other marriages and children, but we can say for certain that some brothers had to marry their sisters at the beginning of human history. ”
A very similar tack is adopted by Bible Answers. Apparently this is justified by the need to populate the Earth – although why god did not work the old hokum on a spare rib and create Cain a wife from scratch is a bit of a puzzle. For a deity it must be a fairly trivial trick. Christian Answers bravely goes on to tackle the risks of inherited problems resulting from breeding with a close relative. This happens now but back then Adam and Eve were created genetically perfect and so errors could not happen. By the time of Moses “degenerative mistakes would have built up in the human race to such an extent that it was necessary for God to forbid brother-sister (and close relative) marriage (Leviticus 18-20). (Also, there were plenty of people on the earth by then, and there was no reason for close relations to marry.) ”
Well, that’s another biblical mystery solved. It is best to leave Christian Answers to sum up – as we stand in stunned admiration of the mental gymnastics that make incest a part of god’s plan.
“Genesis is the record of the God who was there as history happened. It is the word of One who knows everything, and who is a reliable witness from the past. Thus, when we use Genesis as a basis for understanding history, we can make sense of questions that would otherwise be a mystery. ” (via Skeptical Reviews)
The funniest treatment I happened across by anyone who views their authority seriously, was:
Wouldn’t you like to ride in my beautiful balloon
Wouldn’t you like to ride in my beautiful balloon
We could float among the stars together, you and I
For we can fly we can fly
Up, up and away
My beautiful, my beautiful balloon
The world’s a nicer place in my beautiful balloon
It wears a nicer face in my beautiful balloon
We can sing a song and sail along the silver sky
For we can fly we can fly
Up, up and away
My beautiful, my beautiful balloon
Suspended under a twilight canopy
We’ll search the clouds for a star to guide us
If by some chance you find yourself loving me
We’ll find a cloud to hide us
We’ll keep the moon beside us
Love is waiting there in my beautiful balloon
Way up in the air in my beautiful balloon
If you’ll hold my hand we’ll chase your dream across the sky
For we can fly we can fly
Up, up and away
My beautiful, my beautiful balloon
Up, up, and away….. -Jimmy Webb
I find fundamentalisms to be amusing. They are so whether they are religious, Bright-minded and hyper rationalistic, or psychologically systematic. I have been fortunate (or cursed,) to have a lot of exposure to the weird and the wonderful and the unexplicable, yet, about absolute matters and both first and final things, I am agnostic. Any opinions I have are tentative, but my prejudice does favor a minimal capability enabled to understand what is demonstrably and reasonably widely applicable and what is, surely, not known to be certainly universal.
When I was 21 I had dinner with a friend and his wife and another couple. This second couple was literally led by the husband, a twenty-something Navy officer several years out of Annapolis. He worked as a weapons coordinator at Portsmouth naval shipyard. He also was a dominionist. He laid it all out how a Christian God stood, for him, firstly over everything including history itself, so-to-speak. I thought nothing of it except that the only proof he spoke of us was the truth of the bible. And, he told us it would end badly for the infidel and, just maybe, the US Navy might have to weigh in on the side of the about-to-return, sword bearing, Jesus. He sure hoped he might get a chance to rain some hellfire on the unsaved.
Scroll forward through many other encounters, each one characterized by the same â€œproofâ€. Such intellectual silliness is hardly worth challenging. For example, intelligent design proffers not even a single coherent contest of evolution. And it’s whole primary frame is supernaturalistic expicalicreationist. Heck, the other morning on the local NPR station a minister stated that evolution could not be true because nobody was around to observe it. I thought it was a delicious moment of solipsism, but the caller on the line fumbled the golden opportunity to shoot fish in the barrel.
I have friends and colleagues who are much more anxious about Jesusmanic religious fundamentalism, 21st century revival-style. Not me. The problem with the prospect for a theocracy is demographic and generational. A friend of mine is the son of pentacostals and he chose sex over snakes at 15. Doh.
This week I watched Jesus Camp, (official site,) a movie mostly about a crazed youth minister, Becky Fischer. Her game is to indoctrinate 5-15 year old kids and make them into Christian warriors in the Manichean war of saved Jesus peeps against unbelievers. Among many chilling sequences are two that leap out. The first is when she expresses envy of Islam because the Muslims, according to Fischer, have the kiddie indoctrination process down cold. The second is when she forthrightly admits that the end game of Godâ€™s design isnâ€™t compatible with democracy.
But what the theocrats are up against is the increasing plural and cosmopolitan character of the U.S. As well, the generation galvanized to fearfulness by free love and freely chosen spirituality and freaks and, heck, the enlightenment, are aging. Ask any twenty-year-old about the counterculture of the sixties and how it has impacted them.
Sure, there is a wedge strategy to take over South Carolina, and, evidently, some of the suburbs of Colorado Springs have already â€˜fallen,â€™ yet, over the next decade or so, the aging evangelical babyboomer, (see the red and blue political maps for 1972 and 2004,) and the generation X evangelical will go into fast decline. Fischer will not be able to create her warriors fast enough to war against culturally tolerant, hedonistic generations Y & Z.
Rapture gallery time.
Ask the aces question of any fundamentalist of any heuristic stripe: “Is your God, model, system, view, knowledge, required to also be my God (etc.)?” See if you’re forced to point out that something held to be truly universally applicable can only be true if it is truly universally applicable.
If my intuition is wrong and I end up in hell for eternity, so be it. If hell is good enough for Ronald Reagan and JFK –if there be a hellish there, there–it’s good enough for me.
More on the folk religion tip: the folk religion in this case being ‘free thinking’.
Years ago when Judith and I started out by giving experiential workshops on transformative learning to the local noetics group, on several occasions during the debrief I entertained inquiries from participants who described themselves as “free thinkers”. I’m thinking of two particular occasions and each was revelatory, at least was so, if you’re an ironist as I am.
In both cases the participant needed help understanding how a procedure oriented around intuition worked. Actually, as it turned out, they needed help understanding how the process could even exist.
Participant: It seems to me what you do is provide learners with lots of data and the learner makes associations and connects associations up with what they think are insights. Right?
Stephen: That’s a good way to describe it.
Participant: Okay, so I don’t understand why this isn’t anything more than something like brainstorming.
Stephen: It’s like that.
Participant: But if you call it transformative and say it is intuitive too, then I don’t understand how it works.
Stephen: But you just described how it works.
Participant: I saw it work but I don’t understand how it works.
Flummoxed was he.
On several occasions our explanation of the procedure struck participants as abstract whereas for them to go through the process made the introductory conceptions concrete. But, for some personality types this very concreteness seemed to them question begging. The main question could be: is there an experience commensurate with the explanation?
As I mentioned before, psychologizing is, for many free thinking types, a very strange mode of explanation. I guess, it’s not ‘propositional’ enough, is not nomothetic. But, oddly, this can introduce a skepticism about the experience itself. I don’t mean here to over-determine the personality types of free thinkers in general.
Well, free thinkers like to argue and, since I know well, for example, the history of the mind/body problem, and, furthermore, know and understand what are the unresolved meta-problems and problems of philosophy, (especially when it is reflexive,) I also know how to probe–for at least the sake of amusement–promoters of the religion of free thinking. After all, since much that is unresolved is, for them, settled, and because reflecting about their own (higher) orders of (personal) heuristics is anxiety provoking, I sustain significant advantages in any argument.
I don’t even have to unholster my post-modernism! My actual sample is fairly small yet I’ve never encountered a free thinker who hadn’t solved the mind/body problem in some way or the other.
Dawkins is aggravated at magical precepts and objects of belief. Moreover, as many are, he finds the religious game of king of the hill destructive. But, Dawkins is somehow prevented by the mote in his eye from realizing that faith, belief, are completely normal features of the consciousness the most sentient of creatures use to navigate a world not configured to yield ‘scientific’ results in each and every case.
Were we to break down our choicemaking day in and day out and drill into our cognitive complexity, into our consciousness, we’d soon, immediately discover, that the terms of our navigation are largely funded by belief. And faith. In dumb little stuff. We believe we’ve picked the best tomato from the pile. We’re pragmatists and the core proposition underlying the utility of almost all our sundry suppositions is that we believe that they are true.
This is lost on Dawkins. In a post to follow I’ll tell of my several encounters with free thinkers, methodological materialists, and various “Brights”. Every single one is united by their shared discomfort with psychologizing and psychology. And, they’re united by their unreasonable faith that their findings per force apply to moi because “it is just so”.
Dawkinsâ€™s Supreme Being is the God of those who seek to avert divine wrath by sacrificing animals, being choosy in their diet and being impeccably well behaved. They cannot accept the scandal that God loves them just as they are, in all their moral shabbiness. This is one reason St Paul remarks that the law is cursed. Dawkins sees Christianity in terms of a narrowly legalistic notion of atonement â€“ of a brutally vindictive God sacrificing his own child in recompense for being offended â€“ and describes the belief as vicious and obnoxious. Itâ€™s a safe bet that the Archbishop of Canterbury couldnâ€™t agree more. It was the imperial Roman state, not God, that murdered Jesus.
The New Atheists have castigated fundamentalism and branded even the mildest religious liberals as enablers of a vengeful mob. Everybody who does not join them is an ally of the Taliban. But, so far, their provocation has failed to take hold. Given all the religious trauma in the world, I take this as good news. Even those of us who sympathize intellectually have good reasons to wish that the New Atheists continue to seem absurd. If we reject their polemics, if we continue to have respectful conversations even about things we find ridiculous, this doesn’t necessarily mean we’ve lost our convictions or our sanity. It simply reflects our deepest, democratic values. Or, you might say, our bedrock faith: the faith that no matter how confident we are in our beliefs, there’s always a chance we could turn out to be wrong.
Of course, as artifice, considered from the grids of sociology and anthropology, (thus: as history,) religion, and various human instantiations of vast systems for principled organizing are interesting far beyond their arrayed assumptions. Utility, again…
Thomas Nagel. The Fear of Religion (The New Republic; Oct. 23, 2006; avail. EBSCO)
I also think that there is no reason to undertake the project in the first place. We have more than one form of understanding. Different forms of understanding are needed for different kinds of subject matter. The great achievements of physical science do not make it capable of encompassing everything, from mathematics to ethics to the experiences of a living animal. We have no reason to dismiss moral reasoning, introspection, or conceptual analysis as ways of discovering the truth just because they are not physics.
Any anti-reductionist view leaves us with very serious problems about how the mutually irreducible types of truths about the world are related. At least part of the truth about us is that we are physical organisms composed of ordinary chemical elements. If thinking, feeling, and valuing aren’t merely complicated physical states of the organism, what are they? What is their relation to the brain processes on which they seem to depend? More: if evolution is a purely physical causal process, how can it have brought into existence conscious beings?
A religious worldview is only one response to the conviction that the physical description of the world is incomplete. Dawkins says with some justice that the will of God provides a too easy explanation of anything we cannot otherwise understand, and therefore brings inquiry to a stop. Religion need not have this effect, but it can. It would be more reasonable, in my estimation, to admit that we do not now have the understanding or the knowledge on which to base a comprehensive theory of reality.
Dawkins seems to believe that if people could be persuaded to give up the God Hypothesis on scientific grounds, the world would be a better place– not just intellectually, but also morally and politically. He is horrified–as who cannot be?–by the dreadful things that continue to be done in the name of religion, and he argues that the sort of religious conviction that includes a built-in resistance to reason is the true motive behind many of them. But there is no connection between the fascinating philosophical and scientific questions posed by the argument from design and the attacks of September 11. Blind faith and the authority of dogma are dangerous; the view that we can make ultimate sense of the world only by understanding it as the expression of mind or purpose is not. It is unreasonable to think that one must refute the second in order to resist the first.
When anybody assumes that their universal theism or scientism applies to me–too–and offers as proof, “it is just so,” then I might be inclined to point out the obvious problem of presumption. On the other hand, it’s amazing to me, to this day, that many sophisticated believers haven’t given any thought to the ramifications of their universalizing beliefs.
This is aside from how unsympathetic I personally am to magical belief systems, chains of being, anthropomorphic or deistic personification, and, especially, to the concept of a godly ‘dude’ who sits at some holy control panel messing with human affairs. But, each to their own even if many can’t grok the deal via which god doesn’t mess with me and I don’t mess with god.
Incidentally, after thirty years of meditation and contemplation, it’s enough to reveal out of my own spiritual affair, that my hope for myself is that my prejudices, when deployed consciously, disrupt any propensity to do harm. As for my beliefs, I echo John Lilly, “my beliefs are unbelievable!”.
It is remarkable, that the principles of religion have a kind of flux and reflux in the human mind, and that men have a natural tendency to rise from idolatry to theism, and to sink again from theism into idolatry. The vulgar, that is, indeed, all mankind, a few excepted, being ignorant and uninstructed, never elevate their contemplation to the heavens, or penetrate by their disquisitions into the secret structure of vegetable or animal bodies; so far as to discover a supreme mind or original providence, which bestowed order on every part of nature. They consider these admirable works in a more confined and selfish view; and finding their own happiness and misery to depend on the secret influence and unforeseen concurrence of external objects, they regard; with perpetual attention, the , which govern all these natural events, and distribute pleasure and pain, good and ill, by their powerful, but silent, operation. The unknown causes are still appealed to on every emergence; and in this general appearance or confused image, are the perpetual objects of human hopes and fears, wishes and apprehensions. By degrees, the active imagination of men, uneasy in this abstract conception of objects, about which it is incessantly employed, begins to render them more particular, and to clothe them in shapes more suitable to its natural comprehension. It represents them to be sensible, intelligent beings, like mankind; actuated by love and hatred, and flexible by gifts and entreaties, by prayers and sacrifices. Hence the origin of religion: And hence the origin of idolatry or polytheism.
But the same anxious concern for happiness, which begets the idea of these invisible, intelligent powers, allows not mankind to remain long in the first simple conception of them; as powerful, but limited beings; masters of human fate, but slaves to destiny and the course of nature. Men’s exaggerated praises and compliments still swell their idea upon them; and elevating their deities to the utmost bounds of perfection, at last beget the attributes of unity and infinity, simplicity and spirituality. Such refined ideas, being somewhat disproportioned to vulgar comprehension, remain not long in their original purity; but require to be supported by the notion of inferior mediators or subordinate agents, which interpose between mankind and their supreme deity. These demi-gods or middle beings, partaking more of human nature, and being more familiar to us, become the chief objects of devotion, and gradually recal that idolatry, which had been formerly banished by the ardent prayers and panegyrics of timorous and indigent mortals. But as these idolatrous religions fall every day into grosser and more vulgar conceptions, they at last destroy themselves, and, by the vile representations, which they form of their deities, make the tide turn again towards theism. But so great is the propensity, in this alternate revolution of human sentiments, to return back to idolatry, that the utmost precaution is not able effectually to prevent it. And of this, some theists, particularly the Jews and Muslims, have been sensible; as appears by their banishing all the arts of statuary and painting, and not allowing the representations, even of human figures, to be taken by marble or colours; lest the common infirmity of mankind should thence produce idolatry. The feeble apprehensions of men cannot be satisfied with conceiving their deity as a pure spirit and perfect intelligence; and yet their natural terrors keep them from imputing to him the least shadow of limitation and imperfection. They fluctuate between these opposite sentiments. The same infirmity still drags them downwards, from an omnipotent and spiritual deity, to a limited and corporeal one, and from a corporeal and limited deity to a statue or visible representation. The same endeavour at elevation still pushes them upwards, from the statue or material image to the invisible power; and from the invisible power to an infinitely perfect deity, the creator and sovereign of the universe.
In the other direction, the foundationalism implicit in Intelligent Design is easy to identify. Although the ID cabal tries to ‘fuzzify’ and fudge this issue and insulate themselves from this obvious implication by severing a tie made by association, the tie follows from the very clear and direct association to a specific religious belief system.
The absolutist foundation is: the ‘intelligent designer’ came to center the designed creation upon the generation of Christianity. It could be said that this is what the intelligently designed creation of cosmos, (and per force milky way, solar system, earth, life, mankind, son of this God,) is all about.
I’ve been tracking the instigation of the Intelligent Design crowd in their play for attention in Dover v. Kitzmiller. The battle for the hearts and minds of impressionable high school science students seems to me to be no more than this given how etched the so-called “Wedge Strategy” is at the leading edge of the long-standing historical movement to replace science with a nonsensical magical pseudoscience. It does a disservice to religion to suggest scientific explanation should be replaced by mythic explanation.
But even if this category error leaps out of the fray, it is notable that the ID brethren nowadays believe scientific methodology might be usurped simply because school boards can vote on what constitutes scientific method, and, do so through appealing to academic freedom, or, ‘studying all the sides’. Silly…
(The controversy is a red herring. The matter is settled both as a matter of the status of biological knowledge, and, the ill status of the already ruined explanatory program and ‘metaphysics’ of Intelligent Design.)
What is interesting lies in the other direction, away from science.
Here’s a web page is dedicated to the charlatan guru Osho. (Exemplifying our point of departure for this entry.) It’s hard to say his early Bagwan Shree Rajneesh persona covered up his later crazy tendencies, or those tendencies developed in his effusive identification with his “powers,” especially powers over people. His story is well-known, (positively, positively 2 [downoad] and negatively, if you track such stuff. Osho may have gone on to a real karmic reckoning or not, but his grip on his followers remains powerful.
Having conceived that nothing is impossible to you, consider yourself immortal and able to understand everything, all art, all learning, the temper of every living thing. . . . Collect in yourself all the sensations of what has been made, of fire and water, dry and wet; and be everywhere at once, on land, in the sea, in heaven; be not yet born, be in the womb, be young, old, dead, beyond death. And when you have understood all these at once – times, places, things, qualities, quantities – then you can understand God. (Hermetica, trans. Brian P. Copenhaver, Cambridge University Press, 1992)
Mynga Futrell starts a little journey in today’s entry, Worldview Diversity. From there, check out the research results summarized in George Bishop’s paper, What American Really Believe, at secularhumanism.org. From the same site, biologist Richard dawkins weighs in on The Improbability of God. Perhaps belief is more complicated? Step next to Anil Mitra’s Intriguing, Being, Mind, and the Absolute. (This long paper is an example of a class of speculations on what underlies a worldview; the class: “Knowledge has an aspect as relationshipâ€¦ and another aspect as being”.)