Alright, I'm finally getting around to replying to this post of yours from a while back. Sorry for the slowness.
BTW, I don't know if you noticed my recent reversal of positions regarding some stuff I said, but that was partly motivated by responses you gave, not just by Oniya's posts. In other words, I'm listening and learning from you as well as her (and anyone else who feels like posting!). :)
I understand why you don't like my answer regarding ob vs sub; once again the failure of communication is mine. I thought I included the other part of my argument, but it was very late and I was juuust about to pass out so I apparently omitted it. I hope this will make it a little more clear (although I kind of doubt it, because it's kind of weird).
I believe that reality is completely objective -- when it's not being observed. Whether this is to say it is uniformly stable, unstable or completely nonexistent until it interacts with any level of perceptive intelligence, I don't think anyone can yet say. It's akin to the old "This sentence is in Spanish when you're not looking" joke; how do we know that unobserved portions of reality exist, if we have no way of detecting them? We know what goes on out in the solar system, out in the galaxy because we have ways of observing it, whether with satellite imagery or mathematic equations, but beyond that, who knows?
I think that, in a strange sense that we aren't yet capable of understanding, reality 'knows' when it's being observed. So when it's observed, it shifts into what we expect to see, what lines up with what we know about the laws of nature. When it's not observed...well, I don't know, because it's not being observed. I remember reading hypotheses that unobserved reality is just a great field of probabilities, and observation locks it down into a certainty that jives with the rest of what we know and expect. So in this way, reality is completely objective until it's observed, which then forces it to shift into subjectivity.
This didn't sound nutty to me, but I'm surprised you think this, because it's a hypothesis with limited (if any?) scientific support. Christianity is also a proposal with limited scientific support, and I thought that was the basis for most of your problems with it, so I'm surprised you would accept a different proposal that might have little science behind it.
Is there original thinking behind this, or is it based on things you've read or heard, or is it a combination? I understand my beliefs in a very particular way that is somewhat unique, and I have plenty of original ideas that grow out of those beliefs, but the beliefs themselves -- certainly all the key ones -- are ones that many, many other people share. I've met a lot of people who choose to believe important, consequential ideas that seem to have come mostly from themselves, their own thinking. Although I'm a huge, huge supporter of original and creative thought (IMO many well-educated people seem nearly incapable of it), when it comes to the most important questions in life, I find it disturbing that so many people will reject all the answers others have accepted and instead make up their own answers. (It's very important to note that I'm distinguishing between major, consequential beliefs and less important ones; the less important ones sometimes require
a certain amount of original thought.)
What I consider to be the key, major issues in life are specific and will be described in detail in that multi-part explanation of Christianity thing I'm doing (but I know that's a lot to wade through -- I don't expect anyone to necessarily bother with it, including you, Star). There's also more on the big issues just below ...
(To the people reading this: Yeah. I know. I just became the biggest crackpot in the thread. What can I say? I think reality is totally natural, but it's also really, really fucking weird.)
Hehe, are you implying that I'm
crackpot in the thread?
Well I can't disagree. I think it's great that you think the thread has readers besides you and me and Oniya. hehehe
I can understand why the idea of complete uncertainty bothers you, Rick, but I can't really say I feel the same. At least, I don't think I can.
Yuck yuck yuck. :)
But what are these practical, everyday problems that science can't help with?
Here are some of the big ones. 'Who am I? What am I supposed to do with my life? Does it matter what I do with my life? Where did I come from? What happens to me when I die? How am I supposed to treat people? Does it matter how I treat people? What matters in life? What doesn't matter in life? Is there a spirit or soul? Is there a God or gods? Is there anything more to life than what I can perceive with my physical senses? Why do so many other people have so many different answers to all these questions, and how am I supposed to figure out whose answers are right? What if they're all wrong?'
If all those sorts of questions sound pointlessly abstract, here is a way to think about them that is very concrete: each person's answers to those questions determines everything they do.
Your answers determine the priorities you live by; they determine how much time and effort you put into all the different things you could be doing. Most people do at least some of the following things: earn a living; meet a partner; get laid; start a family; have kids; raise those kids; get educated; help other people; think about philosophy or religion; pursue hobbies; enjoy entertainment activities; enjoy food and other substances; socialize with friends; travel; exercise; etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. How do you decide which of those things is more or less important to do at any given time? Everyone has to sacrifice certain things in order to get other, more important things; everyone has to decide how to use the time they have. How the heck do you do it?
In short: how do you live?
Do you think science will answer that question for you? I suppose it does for some people: perhaps
there are people who use science or logic as the guiding force behind all
their decisions ... but even they can't seem to decide on the same answers to all the important questions. Christians certainly don't agree on the answers either; neither do all the atheists or agnostics or anarchists or socialists or anybody else.
So few people seem to get this. IMO this is the whole effing point of thinking about philosophy or religion and deciding on answers for yourself: it determines how you live your life, every day, all the time.
Many people never think very much about philosophy or religion and still manage to live their lives, and some of those people live very happy and full lives. What those people might not realize is that their lives are based upon the philosophical answers and beliefs that they were taught by others. Parents or teachers or ministers or other authority figures encouraged them to live their lives in a certain way, so they did, without sitting down and analyzing why they were doing the things they do. That's also what all children
do, because they aren't capable yet of thinking for themselves and making up their own minds about how to live.
I think it's essential for each person to figure out what priorities and principles inform the way they actually live their lives. Notice: very often, people will say and may even think that they live according to a certain set of principles -- certain religious teachings, for example -- but their actual daily lives are ordered according to totally different priorities and principles. It's how they live, not what they say or think, that matters.
Most people do at least a little "soul-searching" and pondering of the big questions, for example after a loved one dies, or at mid-life -- the famous "mid-life crisis." IMO it's a terrible idea to wait for a personal crisis before thinking about the big questions, but lots of people do. Many never answer the big questions for themselves, they just go along with whatever they were taught by others.
And what is wrong with leaving choice up to the individual?
This gets into more of the same, but I'm having fun here, so why not? Sorry if I'm boring or annoying you.
Our world is chock-full of adult sheep who imagine that if they just follow the rest of the herd, everything will be okay for them. After all, we live in this wonderful advanced age in which science has saved us from so many awful diseases and given us all this great technology that would have been inconceivable to our ancestors. Just listen to the same respected authorities and do what everyone else seems to be doing, and you'll end up at least as happy and as fulfilled as the next person ... and hey, here in America, we all get to have our American Dream with 2.3 children and a house and 2 cars and weekend barbecues and beers with the neighbors. (Why not? Sounds good to me.) (No, really, it does!) Except it don't work out that way sometimes.
The reason I stressed that individuals have to decide things for themselves is because so many people wrongly imagine that they don't have to decide anything, when they do. If you're alive, you're living according to certain principles and guidelines and priorities, whether you gave any thought to those things or not, and many don't.
Plenty of people end up miserable or unsatisfied because they follow along with the herd and then find themselves in a place they don't like. That's usually the point when people suddenly start thinking about how they got to where they're at, what principles guided them there, and what principles they want to follow going forward. If they're lucky, they deal with those issues sometime other than when they're on their deathbed. Heh.
I'm not trying to be thick here, but I honestly don't understand what you mean here. Blame it on a sheltered upbringing and years of social isolation, I suppose; perhaps I just lack an understanding of the more subtle nuances of human behavior. (Actually, I'm almost certain that's exactly what it is, which means I'm probably far less qualified to be discussing these matters than readers may suspect, lol.)
I understand why you take these discussions seriously; I do too, but probably (almost certainly) not to your extent.
Yeah I'm a bit of a wet rag ... dishrag? wet dishrag? Whatever the expression is for being dry and boring. :) Seriously though, I don't talk like this in real life, even though I think about these issues a lot. All this blatant philosophizin' is still kinda strange and new to me, even here at Elliquiy; I stuck to RPing mostly for the first couple years.
You mention consequences in one of your points, and now I have to ask you what I probably should have opened this discussion with: If I don't believe in Jesus, will I be damned to Hell? And then of course, depending on your answer, that could open up whole new cans (hell, crates) of worms for us to wade through. You probably know the dilemmas I could mention, so I'll refrain pending your reply.
I may cover this in my Christianity explanation posts, but I'll try to give you the thumbnail now, and hopefully I won't repeat myself too much later.
I think it's a gigantic mistake to think too much about the traditional concept of Hell or the traditional notion of Satan or the Devil or demons or evil spirits. All of those things are discussed in the Bible, the central text of Christianity; and yes, I believe that all of those things exist, because they're in the Bible, and I believe the Bible.
(And no, the textual analysis and ongoing historical scholarship regarding the origins of the Bible -- how it came to contain what it contains -- that stuff doesn't pose a major problem for me in terms of believing Christianity. It's another issue that deserves discussion, but the super-short version is, God is in control of everything, including the work of all the original writers and the scholars and translators and archeologists, so I'm willing to accept the authority of the Bible in its current form, assuming that it is the way that God intends for it to be.)
The most important thing about hell is not the fire and pitchforks but the fact that people there are separated from God forever. That is what hell is about. The fire and pitchforks and whatever else, all that stuff is totally unimportant compared to being separated from God forever. I don't know if the Biblical imagery should be taken literally or figuratively, but it's not important to me one way or the other. What is important is being with God or not.
The thing is, people are already
separated from God -- everyone
is, but for now, they can do something about it. That is the Christian claim that really matters, much more than anything else: that people were meant to be with God, but they became separated from him, and then God sent Jesus to make a way for people to be with him again, because he loves them that much.
Any talk about the characteristics of hell is a complete distraction from that truly important claim. Many Christians historically have used hell or the devil as tools to emotionally manipulate people into believing Christianity. That's both wrong and stupid.
I'm not sure I see the logical inconsistency you're referring to in my point about forming a consensus of morality, but perhaps I can make it clearer. What I meant was, morality can be determined subjectively, and there are enough common elements involved that many if not most individuals (and communities) can agree on the general moral values which will best benefit them.
Oh, boy. :) Tell this to the Palestinians and Israelis. Tell it to the warring factions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, parts of Africa ... tell it to the gang members and the honest folks living side-by-side in American inner cities ... tell it to the Mexican drug cartels and their victims ... to the poor everywhere who lack the means to improve their lot ... to hard-working Americans who got screwed over by an employer or the government. Tell it to all the Republicans who fucking hate Democrats, and all the Democrats who fucking hate Republicans.
Sorry if I'm being melodramatic, but my point is, morality is the underlying issue in all the conflicts between human beings.
The abstract theories aren't the problem; what behavior is right or wrong in each real-life situation? Person One thinks it's okay for her to do x
behavior, but that behavior prevents Person Two from doing y
behavior, and Person Two feels just as entitled to y
as Person One feels to x
. Who's right? Who's wrong? What rights do each person have? Who gets to decide, and how?
Morality is not just about whether it's right or wrong to kill or steal. That's kid stuff, easy for everyone to agree on in the abstract
. Is it okay for an American soldier to shoot an Afghani who fails to identify himself as he drives his truck up to a checkpoint? ... There was a massacre recently in South Africa when police slaughtered a bunch of people who were on strike, miners I think; the police say they felt their lives were in danger, but their actions resulted in the worst killings South Africa has seen in many years. Were they justified or not? ... Is it okay for me to cheat on my taxes if it will help me feed my kids next month? ...
These are real-world moral questions
without easy answers, and people of good faith and good conscience have bitter disagreements over such things. Underneath the disagreements are conflicting moral guidelines, conflicting moral principles and priorities.
To go back to my earlier analogy concerning the worth of gold, most people have a general idea that gold has great value, but may not know exactly how much value. So they may have certain amounts of gold, but not know the worth of their amounts until a ratio of weight to value is set. How that ratio is set is not important for now; it may be arbitrary, it could be through mathematical formulae, or what have you; the important thing is everyone has varying amounts of gold, and now they know the worth of their amounts relative to each other, and can now interact according to specific rules intended to maximize harmony / minimize strife. In the same way, everyone has at least some idea of their own morality, and due to evolution many of those ideas are at least somewhat similar, which allows us to form a collective (if somewhat arbitrary) moral landscape where everyone can recognize moral ideas they agree and disagree with. I hope that makes more sense for you.
I can see how this might make sense in the abstract, like in a classroom discussion. Now, can you come up with just as easy a solution to the question of China manipulating its currency to give it an unfair advantage in global markets? At bottom, that's a moral issue. Economic theories come down to questions of morality as well, theories about how people behave and ought to behave in society. Is it easy to determine how to reduce the American deficit without causing widespread harm to seniors or the poor? What if you're a financial manager responsible for the savings of 750 senior citizens? Is it easy to know where to invest the money safely so that those people are adequately provided for?
Sorry if I over-explained that, but in summary, I think you may be focusing on simple, abstract moral questions while overlooking the way that morality informs actual human behavior and human conflicts. The concrete problems are the only ones that really matter, and that's why morality is such a complicated business, IMO.
I realize that it's probably impossible to debunk faith in the concept of God via scientific arguments; when dealing with the supernatural, natural law is by necessity suspended and therefore unreliable. That's why my main argument is not scientific, but rather historical in nature. If you really want to hear it, I'll share it, but I think it would be wiser to wait until you provide the explanation of your beliefs. That way we'll be sure I won't waste your time with an argument that may not even apply.
I'm not sure that I agree with what you said about natural law (... except that it sounds a little
like what I was saying about how science does not have answers for certain important questions that are often addressed by religions ... eh?). About the historical argument you mentioned, though, I hope you share it here somewhere at some point, because I'd love to hear it.
Reading back over some of my previous posts, I realize I probably come off as sounding rather arrogant. Again, I'm sorry, but really, that's not a malfunction of poorly chosen language or flawed logic; I really am rather an arrogant bastard, or at least I can be, lol. I'm afraid I've spent so long studying these subjects and reading so many other arguments both for and against that I've allowed the egos of other writers to seep into my own words. If I've sounded haughty or superior, I deeply apologize; I try to keep at least a modicum of humility when I interact online, because the Internet is often where I tend to both express myself better, and express my better self, if that makes any sense.
No worries, my friend -- FWIW you don't come across to me as either arrogant or haughty or superior -- much the opposite, as demonstrated by the overall tone of your posts, here and elsewhere. Your humility and equanimity and amiability are all reasons why I've enjoyed our dialog, even if we end up disagreeing about things. It's a pleasure to dialog with any smart and nice folks.
Hm, this post is too long, isn't it? Sorry! No time to edit it more, or else it may not get posted. Hope it was tolerable at least! Be well, Star, and keep reading and posting here whenever you have the time and get the urge ... for my benefit as much as for our theoretical readers'. :)