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Author Topic: Religion. Ethics. Life.  (Read 1750 times)

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Offline vtboy

Re: Religion. Ethics. Life.
« Reply #25 on: August 11, 2013, 08:18:27 AM »

2 - As far as ethics, I tend towards Utilitarian and Pragmatic views but basically my thoughts boil down to this: all evil actions draw their roots either from selfishness or ignorance or both. So the only two sins are Selfishness and Ignorance. They become mortal sins (in my eyes) when they are Willful. If you won't learn, if you won't think of others... the species doesn't need you and we should put two in your head, dump you in a ditch and get on with making the world back into a paradise.


Okay. Let's say I am a true believer in some religion which rejects all science as the beguiling work of the devil, and refuses to adjust one iota its medieval teachings that the world is the center of all creation, that all heavenly objects revolve around it, and that all species simultaneously emerged on its surface in their present forms. My religion is thus a cult of ignorance to which I happily subscribe.

Let's also assume that I've been instructed by this religion that the doors of heaven are open only to those who do all they can to relieve temporal human suffering. In the expectation of reaping the promised posthumous reward of a joyous life eternal, I spend my earthly existence working tirelessly, and at great sacrifice to my own safety and comfort, to improving the lots of the ill, the hungry and the impoverished. I achieve some significant success in these efforts. Without the promise of divine reward, however, I would have been content to allow the world's unfortunates to go on wallowing in their miseries. My good deeds are thus motivated solely by self-interest. 

Do I get two in the head and dumped in a ditch for being willfully ignorant and selfish? It seems to me this would be counter-productive from the perspective of utilitarian pragmatism.     


3 - Life is... the universe trying to solve itself. Every step up the evolutionary ladder, we get better. Every new discovery, every new idea, every step forward we move closer to really understanding EVERYTHING. That's the meaning of life: understanding.
Transcendence through Reason.


Implicit here is the notion that the development of life capable of abstract reasoning is the "purpose" of evolution and its apparent corollary that human beings, the only organisms known to be capable of this activity, represent the pinnacle of evolution. The engine of biological evolution, however, is the promulgation of capacities which permit organisms to survive in their environments long enough to pass on their genetic material through some form of reproduction. Since cockroaches appear at least as qualified in this respect as theoretical physicists, the underlying premises smack more of quasi-religious faith than of reason. Indeed, they seem to run counter to the last 500 years of scientific thought which has placed our planet and our species further and further from the epicenter of creation.   

Even without considering whether such products of abstract reasoning as excess greenhouse gas emissions, nuclear weapons, and the global spread of pestilence will ultimately eradicate intelligent life from the planet, the jury is still out on how enduring a capacity it will prove to be. Life existed on this planet for something in the neighborhood of 4 billion years before the emergence of human intelligence. It is thus not difficult to conceive of an evolutionary tree in which the capacity for abstract thought never emerges or, having emerged, falls from the tree like a diseased limb. While inquiry into meaning appears to be a concomitant of human intelligence, this does not suggest there is one. 

Offline Barenmarder

Re: Religion. Ethics. Life.
« Reply #26 on: August 11, 2013, 10:59:01 AM »
Quote
Okay. Let's say I am a true believer in some religion which rejects all science as the beguiling work of the devil, and refuses to adjust one iota its medieval teachings that the world is the center of all creation, that all heavenly objects revolve around it, and that all species simultaneously emerged on its surface in their present forms. My religion is thus a cult of ignorance to which I happily subscribe.

Let's also assume that I've been instructed by this religion that the doors of heaven are open only to those who do all they can to relieve temporal human suffering. In the expectation of reaping the promised posthumous reward of a joyous life eternal, I spend my earthly existence working tirelessly, and at great sacrifice to my own safety and comfort, to improving the lots of the ill, the hungry and the impoverished. I achieve some significant success in these efforts. Without the promise of divine reward, however, I would have been content to allow the world's unfortunates to go on wallowing in their miseries. My good deeds are thus motivated solely by self-interest. 

Do I get two in the head and dumped in a ditch for being willfully ignorant and selfish? It seems to me this would be counter-productive from the perspective of utilitarian pragmatism.

I think it would be up to the meritocratic council, but given that a) humans are mortal and b) your actions are in fact self-sacrificing however they are motivated, I think we'd be willing to let you get on with your work. So long, of course, as you were willing to let everyone else do the same. "Do as thou wilt though it harm none."

There is a difference between self-interest and willful selfishness, and the fruits of your work have value. Besides, the wonderful thing about time is that it heals all wounds... bad or foolish people will die off, and their children are likely to be a little less bad/foolish. In the long run, I have confidence that reason will win over faith because all reason and science ask are that you open your eyes and see for yourself.

Quote
Implicit here is the notion that the development of life capable of abstract reasoning is the "purpose" of evolution and its apparent corollary that human beings, the only organisms known to be capable of this activity, represent the pinnacle of evolution. The engine of biological evolution, however, is the promulgation of capacities which permit organisms to survive in their environments long enough to pass on their genetic material through some form of reproduction. Since cockroaches appear at least as qualified in this respect as theoretical physicists, the underlying premises smack more of quasi-religious faith than of reason. Indeed, they seem to run counter to the last 500 years of scientific thought which has placed our planet and our species further and further from the epicenter of creation.   

Even without considering whether such products of abstract reasoning as excess greenhouse gas emissions, nuclear weapons, and the global spread of pestilence will ultimately eradicate intelligent life from the planet, the jury is still out on how enduring a capacity it will prove to be. Life existed on this planet for something in the neighborhood of 4 billion years before the emergence of human intelligence. It is thus not difficult to conceive of an evolutionary tree in which the capacity for abstract thought never emerges or, having emerged, falls from the tree like a diseased limb. While inquiry into meaning appears to be a concomitant of human intelligence, this does not suggest there is one. 

We don't actually know that human beings are the only organisms known to be capable of abstract reasoning. For one thing, it's a really big universe and if this is the only planet with life on it then SOMETHING has its fingers on the scales somewhere. Vanishingly unlikely, to my mind.

Second, we're learning more and more that lots of different creatures on our planet are quite capable of tool use and problem solving. So what if we got there first, they're still on that same path. I've seen squirrels do some pretty impressive problem solving, I've seen blue jays and crows figure out just how to get at the new birdfeeder designed to keep them away and I've seen dogs work out that going away from what they want will get them closer to it once they untangle themselves from their leash.

I will admit that my hope that evolution and reason have a purpose is close to faith. It's a weakness of mine, this hope for a greater purpose to creation. But the search for knowledge and the drive to understand the universe is pretty damn near hard-wired into humanity, that's the root from which religion grows. Still, even if there is no purpose to existence, life is purely accidental and on death our consciousness scatters out across the universe as waste heat there is still value in searching for knowledge and wisdom.

Consider the sheer amount of energy required to put a satellite in orbit, to put a man on the moon or to hit Mars with a remote controlled car. Curiosity landed within 2.4 km of its planned target after a journey of 563 million some miles... Unless we go and get it, it will be there forever. None of that was necessary from a purely survival point of view, but we have done all these things and more. Because we want to know, because we want to go and see. Why?

I have hope that humanity will survive and take the great step up and away from our planet. Granted I'm also a cynic and I have no faith that we'll manage the supreme acts of will that it will take to keep ourselves alive long enough to get our base urges under control, but still I hope that we will. Intelligence isn't necessary to survival (may, as you suggest, be counter-survival in the long run) but it's what we've got and look how far it has taken us. We use our intelligence to create wonders and they are OUR wonders. If we can just get a lock on our selfish, ignorant, small-minded urges we could do so much more.

If humanity survives the next century (I don't have much faith in that, we really are a stupid species in some ways) then who knows what we can accomplish. We can build matchbox cars small enough to roll around on a human hair, and we can build sky-scraping buildings. We create wonders simply because we can, almost instinctively, and every time our tools improve the wonders grow more wondrous.

If intelligence, if UNDERSTANDING is not the cause for existence, then we can damned well MAKE it the reason for existence. Because there is an entire universe of mysteries to solve and wonders to imagine and then make real.

-Barenmarder

~Contemplating the Art and Craft of Bonsai Solforming~

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Religion. Ethics. Life.
« Reply #27 on: August 11, 2013, 11:19:37 AM »
I think it would be up to the meritocratic council, but given that a) humans are mortal and b) your actions are in fact self-sacrificing however they are motivated, I think we'd be willing to let you get on with your work. So long, of course, as you were willing to let everyone else do the same. "Do as thou wilt though it harm none."
I'm not sure what this is, but... it ain't utilitarianism. You may wish to revisit your definitions.

We don't actually know that human beings are the only organisms known to be capable of abstract reasoning. For one thing, it's a really big universe and if this is the only planet with life on it then SOMETHING has its fingers on the scales somewhere. Vanishingly unlikely, to my mind.
Yes, yes we do. Because that's what "known to" means.

Offline Barenmarder

Re: Religion. Ethics. Life.
« Reply #28 on: August 11, 2013, 11:54:36 AM »
Ephiral,

On a strict and traditional definition of utilitarianism (maximizing happiness and minimizing suffering) letting one person sacrifice for the greater good of the rest isn't contraindicated. You'll note however I said 'tend towards utilitarian and pragmatic views'. I'm not a hedonist in the sense of Mill, for instance. I don't hew perfectly to any model, but my general ideal is the greatest good for the greatest number. Anything working against that is 'bad' pretty much by definition.


And regarding "known to be capable of abstract reasoning", my second paragraph addresses that. We know for a fact that numerous species utilize tools and in many cases rather complex ones. They've also recently observed causal reasoning in at least two varieties of corvids. So I still maintain that we're not the only species on the planet capable of reason.

I hope that clarifies my points somewhat.

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Religion. Ethics. Life.
« Reply #29 on: August 11, 2013, 12:24:19 PM »
Ephiral,

On a strict and traditional definition of utilitarianism (maximizing happiness and minimizing suffering) letting one person sacrifice for the greater good of the rest isn't contraindicated. You'll note however I said 'tend towards utilitarian and pragmatic views'. I'm not a hedonist in the sense of Mill, for instance. I don't hew perfectly to any model, but my general ideal is the greatest good for the greatest number. Anything working against that is 'bad' pretty much by definition.
But... when faced with an example of someone who devotes their life to minimizing suffering and asked if this is worthy of not being executed, your response was "Hmm... maybe." Your claimed general ideal does not reconcile well wnith this response, hence my objection.

And regarding "known to be capable of abstract reasoning", my second paragraph addresses that. We know for a fact that numerous species utilize tools and in many cases rather complex ones. They've also recently observed causal reasoning in at least two varieties of corvids. So I still maintain that we're not the only species on the planet capable of reason.
We're likely not. But as far as I'm aware, research has not yet confirmed this to a reasonable degree. So we're the only species known to be capable of it - and thus, if we generalize your asserted values, there's a large natural trap of "Humans are the bestest ever." (And as a consequence of this, we're less likely to go seeking out abstract reasoning in other species, leading to a vicious spiral of bad reasoning.)

EDIT: I'm getting more than a little critical and debatey in what's meant to be a "share your thing" thread. I've said my piece; I'll shut up now. If you want, this can be continued elsewhere.
« Last Edit: August 11, 2013, 12:39:57 PM by Ephiral »

Offline Barenmarder

Re: Religion. Ethics. Life.
« Reply #30 on: August 11, 2013, 01:01:33 PM »
Quote
But... when faced with an example of someone who devotes their life to minimizing suffering and asked if this is worthy of not being executed, your response was "Hmm... maybe." Your claimed general ideal does not reconcile well wnith this response, hence my objection.

My reason for uncertainty was insufficient data to decide one way or the other. If the example is doing good works and also proselytizing his beliefs... that's something that needs to be considered - is the good being done outweighed by the ignorance being spread? Where is the greater benefit to the greatest number? Work it out as dispassionately and logically as possible and then decide.

Quote
We're likely not. But as far as I'm aware, research has not yet confirmed this to a reasonable degree. So we're the only species known to be capable of it - and thus, if we generalize your asserted values, there's a large natural trap of "Humans are the bestest ever." (And as a consequence of this, we're less likely to go seeking out abstract reasoning in other species, leading to a vicious spiral of bad reasoning.)

Research has in fact shown a very high likelihood of abstract reasoning in chimpanzees. Surprising amounts of tool using and causal reasoning (and play) in Caledonian Crows (and one other species of crow or raven that eludes me at the moment) and some evidence in a number of other species that we're still investigating.

One of the joys of research, I've found (and one of the joys of philosophy and theology) is that there are no conclusions you can come to that someone won't disagree with and try to disprove. We're a terribly fractious species that way. TESTING assertions and then reevaluating the results is how we get better. That's the beauty of science - it will change its views based on what's observed. Nothing need be set in stone because we can prove ourselves wrong and still keep right on going to look for the right answer.

And the fact that we ARE investigating just how smart other species are tends to suggest that at least some of us haven't fallen into the trap of humanocentrism. Though it is a danger. Then again, I've met HUMANS who show fairly low levels of abstract reasoning, so if something came along that could outwit us I'd be both frightened and delighted.

Frightened, because any intelligent species is pretty likely to be high on its food chain and they're likely to value their own survival more highly than ours.
Delighted, because there is at least the possibility of communication with something on or above our level. How fantastic would that be? To share what we've learned and learn what they will share? How beautiful would that be?

Riiiight up until they launched the missiles. :P

Offline Oniya

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Re: Religion. Ethics. Life.
« Reply #31 on: August 11, 2013, 01:08:23 PM »
Riiiight up until they launched the missiles. :P

Assuming, of course, that they didn't see us a a species worthy of little more consideration than as an amusement at xenological parks, slapstick holographic acting, or possible medical experimentation.  In short, 'mostly harmless.'

Keep your towels ready.

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Re: Religion. Ethics. Life.
« Reply #32 on: August 11, 2013, 01:29:25 PM »
All right, Barenmarder, I see your point. You were starting from different priors than I, and I'd forgotten the research you mention; I consider the disagreement satisfactorily resolved.

Given that I've posted in this thread now, I should probably put in my own two cents on the questions it asks:

Religion: As far as I can tell, I am not capable of faith per se. This means religion is effectively impossible for me. As to what I think of it in general... well, that's the reason I've avoided this until now. I am... not a fan, to put it as diplomatically as I can. I'll be glad to elaborate on my reasoning elsewhere, but that conversation tends to skew in a hostile direction and I'm trying to avoid that. My own approach to the world is a (poor) attempt at Bayesian rationality; I place an extremely high value on believing that which is true and rejecting that which is false, and define 'true' and 'false' by Tarski's standards.

Ethics: I am an act utilitarian; actions should be judged by the joy and harm they will bring to all people. Those which will bring more harm than good are some degree of bad; those which bring more joy than harm are some degree of good. (This is, of course, simplified.) As a general policy, one of the most useful guidelines I've found actually comes from fiction: Sin is treating people (including yourself) as objects.

What do I think of life? Um... I'm a fan? This question feels vague enough that I have difficulty answering it. I'm rather fond of existing, of course, but... beyond that, I'd need some sort of definition of 'life' to go on.

What do I want to do with life? Explore. Discover. I'm very fond of learning, both for its own sake and for practical value.

Offline LordHarketh193Topic starter

Re: Religion. Ethics. Life.
« Reply #33 on: August 11, 2013, 01:48:39 PM »
Thank you for posting.

Hallo all, new member, still awaiting approval but I figured I've nothing else to do so I might as well put my oar in. Keep in mind, these are opinions and not intended to be offensive.

1 - Religion.
I was raised Anglican by two parents who are better people than I will ever be. Even so, I managed to educate myself right out of whatever faith I had left by my early twenties. These days... Religion is an anachronism left over from a time before we had reason and science to answer the deeper questions. To my mind, humanity has outgrown any need for religion, and the monolithic institutions that work so hard to control us.

To be clear, I make a distinction between religion and spirituality. I am an agnostic leaning to atheist and the things I consider sacred are nature, knowledge, reason and freedom. Organized religion is, at best, unnecessary and is all too often no more than a vehicle for oppression, however subtle. Oh, and I do lean towards a belief in reincarnation because Energy can neither be created nor destroyed, merely moved around.

2 - As far as ethics, I tend towards Utilitarian and Pragmatic views but basically my thoughts boil down to this: all evil actions draw their roots either from selfishness or ignorance or both. So the only two sins are Selfishness and Ignorance. They become mortal sins (in my eyes) when they are Willful. If you won't learn, if you won't think of others... the species doesn't need you and we should put two in your head, dump you in a ditch and get on with making the world back into a paradise.

3 - Life is... the universe trying to solve itself. Every step up the evolutionary ladder, we get better. Every new discovery, every new idea, every step forward we move closer to really understanding EVERYTHING. That's the meaning of life: understanding.
Transcendence through Reason.

4 - Leave the world a little smarter than it was when I was born. Put us one more small step towards getting off this world and out into the galaxy.





1. Religion

I was raised Episcopal in Virginia and that plays an important part in my thinking, but I do not feel comfortable identifying myself as such despite the fact that most Episcopal churches are quite open to disagreement in general. As for what I do identify with, the first thing I should say is that I do not believe that faith and religion are the same thing at all. In my opinion, faith is a feeling of certainty absent of analytical content, which is to say it's the impression of knowledge without any appreciable facts attached to it. So the ideal of analytical thought would be the ability to be as sure about some perceivable and communicable facts about the world as you can be about "if p then q, and if q then r, then if p then r." The ideal of aesthetic (emotional) thought is faith. So that being said, I consider organized religion to be the fallacy of attaching analytical content to an aesthetic judgment: "(1) I feel that x is true and (2) I think that y is true so (3) x must be y." Not only can (1) and (2) be true while (3) is false, but (1) and (2) can be mutually contradictory (I believe there is a god, I believe in disinterested materialism). The tension between the two is part of what makes life interesting but equating them or denying one is a cheap and ineffective way out.

My actual religious beliefs verge on the insane. I believe thought itself is the product of a law of nature best understood as self-conscious self-organization and that we as thinking beings are expressions of that law, which is as real as the law of gravity or weak force. The impression of god, which is to say the aesthetic apprehension of an organizing power, is our perception as thinking beings of the law itself, ingrained as it is universally. The ideal of my faith in terms of practice is attention and awareness.

2. Ethics

In terms of personal morality I'm somewhere between Plato and Kant. Moral quality extends from within, essentially, and has primarily to do with internal organization, which is to say a system of dealing with the world that does not conflict with itself, basically. As much as I wrote about religion I could write a book about this, but I won't.

In terms of politics I'm an anarcho-syndicalist. I do not believe in the necessity of government and I especially do not believe in a government which enforces itself through violence or the threat of violence. That's the anarchist bit. Syndicalism is a theory of organic social organization which is heavily labor-centric.

In terms of decision making, I fully believe that emotions sometimes get the better of you and you end up doing things you never consciously decided to do. This makes a lot of philosophers swear off emotions and claim that you should repress them. The problem is, if emotions sometimes take a hold of you and beat out your conscious thought process or logic or whatever, it's pretty pointless to say you should ignore them; the problem is that they refuse to be ignored sometimes. So I try to train myself in terms of character based on the mantra "When I look back and realize I lost myself, I still won't regret it."

3. Life

I believe that life is self-organization that is aware both of itself and its limitations and that's basically it. Death is either when an organism is no longer aware of its limitations (enlightenment) or when the chemicals that support its expression can no longer maintain cohesion (physical expiration). The question of what happens to a conscious being after physical expiration is an interesting one that I won't attempt to answer here.

4. What do you want to do with your life?

Wherever I am, whatever I do, I don't want to be at conflict with myself. If that means living in a cabin alone or starting a war then that's what I'll do. I don't mean doing whatever I want, I mean wanting whatever I do, as cliche as that may be.



Thank you for posting as always it is a pleasure and good for me to read others opinions and their beliefs.



Offline LordHarketh193Topic starter

Re: Religion. Ethics. Life.
« Reply #34 on: August 11, 2013, 01:50:55 PM »
Well that was certianlly intresting to read, good points from all sides.
Thank you for posting.
Maybe next i should make a thread just for disagreements.

May life serve you well. In life and death.


All right, Barenmarder, I see your point. You were starting from different priors than I, and I'd forgotten the research you mention; I consider the disagreement satisfactorily resolved.

Given that I've posted in this thread now, I should probably put in my own two cents on the questions it asks:

Religion: As far as I can tell, I am not capable of faith per se. This means religion is effectively impossible for me. As to what I think of it in general... well, that's the reason I've avoided this until now. I am... not a fan, to put it as diplomatically as I can. I'll be glad to elaborate on my reasoning elsewhere, but that conversation tends to skew in a hostile direction and I'm trying to avoid that. My own approach to the world is a (poor) attempt at Bayesian rationality; I place an extremely high value on believing that which is true and rejecting that which is false, and define 'true' and 'false' by Tarski's standards.

Ethics: I am an act utilitarian; actions should be judged by the joy and harm they will bring to all people. Those which will bring more harm than good are some degree of bad; those which bring more joy than harm are some degree of good. (This is, of course, simplified.) As a general policy, one of the most useful guidelines I've found actually comes from fiction: Sin is treating people (including yourself) as objects.

What do I think of life? Um... I'm a fan? This question feels vague enough that I have difficulty answering it. I'm rather fond of existing, of course, but... beyond that, I'd need some sort of definition of 'life' to go on.

What do I want to do with life? Explore. Discover. I'm very fond of learning, both for its own sake and for practical value.
Assuming, of course, that they didn't see us a a species worthy of little more consideration than as an amusement at xenological parks, slapstick holographic acting, or possible medical experimentation.  In short, 'mostly harmless.'

Keep your towels ready.
My reason for uncertainty was insufficient data to decide one way or the other. If the example is doing good works and also proselytizing his beliefs... that's something that needs to be considered - is the good being done outweighed by the ignorance being spread? Where is the greater benefit to the greatest number? Work it out as dispassionately and logically as possible and then decide.

Research has in fact shown a very high likelihood of abstract reasoning in chimpanzees. Surprising amounts of tool using and causal reasoning (and play) in Caledonian Crows (and one other species of crow or raven that eludes me at the moment) and some evidence in a number of other species that we're still investigating.

One of the joys of research, I've found (and one of the joys of philosophy and theology) is that there are no conclusions you can come to that someone won't disagree with and try to disprove. We're a terribly fractious species that way. TESTING assertions and then reevaluating the results is how we get better. That's the beauty of science - it will change its views based on what's observed. Nothing need be set in stone because we can prove ourselves wrong and still keep right on going to look for the right answer.

And the fact that we ARE investigating just how smart other species are tends to suggest that at least some of us haven't fallen into the trap of humanocentrism. Though it is a danger. Then again, I've met HUMANS who show fairly low levels of abstract reasoning, so if something came along that could outwit us I'd be both frightened and delighted.

Frightened, because any intelligent species is pretty likely to be high on its food chain and they're likely to value their own survival more highly than ours.
Delighted, because there is at least the possibility of communication with something on or above our level. How fantastic would that be? To share what we've learned and learn what they will share? How beautiful would that be?

Riiiight up until they launched the missiles. :P
But... when faced with an example of someone who devotes their life to minimizing suffering and asked if this is worthy of not being executed, your response was "Hmm... maybe." Your claimed general ideal does not reconcile well wnith this response, hence my objection.
We're likely not. But as far as I'm aware, research has not yet confirmed this to a reasonable degree. So we're the only species known to be capable of it - and thus, if we generalize your asserted values, there's a large natural trap of "Humans are the bestest ever." (And as a consequence of this, we're less likely to go seeking out abstract reasoning in other species, leading to a vicious spiral of bad reasoning.)

EDIT: I'm getting more than a little critical and debatey in what's meant to be a "share your thing" thread. I've said my piece; I'll shut up now. If you want, this can be continued elsewhere.
Ephiral,

On a strict and traditional definition of utilitarianism (maximizing happiness and minimizing suffering) letting one person sacrifice for the greater good of the rest isn't contraindicated. You'll note however I said 'tend towards utilitarian and pragmatic views'. I'm not a hedonist in the sense of Mill, for instance. I don't hew perfectly to any model, but my general ideal is the greatest good for the greatest number. Anything working against that is 'bad' pretty much by definition.


And regarding "known to be capable of abstract reasoning", my second paragraph addresses that. We know for a fact that numerous species utilize tools and in many cases rather complex ones. They've also recently observed causal reasoning in at least two varieties of corvids. So I still maintain that we're not the only species on the planet capable of reason.

I hope that clarifies my points somewhat.
I'm not sure what this is, but... it ain't utilitarianism. You may wish to revisit your definitions.
Yes, yes we do. Because that's what "known to" means.
I think it would be up to the meritocratic council, but given that a) humans are mortal and b) your actions are in fact self-sacrificing however they are motivated, I think we'd be willing to let you get on with your work. So long, of course, as you were willing to let everyone else do the same. "Do as thou wilt though it harm none."

There is a difference between self-interest and willful selfishness, and the fruits of your work have value. Besides, the wonderful thing about time is that it heals all wounds... bad or foolish people will die off, and their children are likely to be a little less bad/foolish. In the long run, I have confidence that reason will win over faith because all reason and science ask are that you open your eyes and see for yourself.

We don't actually know that human beings are the only organisms known to be capable of abstract reasoning. For one thing, it's a really big universe and if this is the only planet with life on it then SOMETHING has its fingers on the scales somewhere. Vanishingly unlikely, to my mind.

Second, we're learning more and more that lots of different creatures on our planet are quite capable of tool use and problem solving. So what if we got there first, they're still on that same path. I've seen squirrels do some pretty impressive problem solving, I've seen blue jays and crows figure out just how to get at the new birdfeeder designed to keep them away and I've seen dogs work out that going away from what they want will get them closer to it once they untangle themselves from their leash.

I will admit that my hope that evolution and reason have a purpose is close to faith. It's a weakness of mine, this hope for a greater purpose to creation. But the search for knowledge and the drive to understand the universe is pretty damn near hard-wired into humanity, that's the root from which religion grows. Still, even if there is no purpose to existence, life is purely accidental and on death our consciousness scatters out across the universe as waste heat there is still value in searching for knowledge and wisdom.

Consider the sheer amount of energy required to put a satellite in orbit, to put a man on the moon or to hit Mars with a remote controlled car. Curiosity landed within 2.4 km of its planned target after a journey of 563 million some miles... Unless we go and get it, it will be there forever. None of that was necessary from a purely survival point of view, but we have done all these things and more. Because we want to know, because we want to go and see. Why?

I have hope that humanity will survive and take the great step up and away from our planet. Granted I'm also a cynic and I have no faith that we'll manage the supreme acts of will that it will take to keep ourselves alive long enough to get our base urges under control, but still I hope that we will. Intelligence isn't necessary to survival (may, as you suggest, be counter-survival in the long run) but it's what we've got and look how far it has taken us. We use our intelligence to create wonders and they are OUR wonders. If we can just get a lock on our selfish, ignorant, small-minded urges we could do so much more.

If humanity survives the next century (I don't have much faith in that, we really are a stupid species in some ways) then who knows what we can accomplish. We can build matchbox cars small enough to roll around on a human hair, and we can build sky-scraping buildings. We create wonders simply because we can, almost instinctively, and every time our tools improve the wonders grow more wondrous.

If intelligence, if UNDERSTANDING is not the cause for existence, then we can damned well MAKE it the reason for existence. Because there is an entire universe of mysteries to solve and wonders to imagine and then make real.

-Barenmarder

~Contemplating the Art and Craft of Bonsai Solforming~
Okay. Let's say I am a true believer in some religion which rejects all science as the beguiling work of the devil, and refuses to adjust one iota its medieval teachings that the world is the center of all creation, that all heavenly objects revolve around it, and that all species simultaneously emerged on its surface in their present forms. My religion is thus a cult of ignorance to which I happily subscribe.

Let's also assume that I've been instructed by this religion that the doors of heaven are open only to those who do all they can to relieve temporal human suffering. In the expectation of reaping the promised posthumous reward of a joyous life eternal, I spend my earthly existence working tirelessly, and at great sacrifice to my own safety and comfort, to improving the lots of the ill, the hungry and the impoverished. I achieve some significant success in these efforts. Without the promise of divine reward, however, I would have been content to allow the world's unfortunates to go on wallowing in their miseries. My good deeds are thus motivated solely by self-interest. 

Do I get two in the head and dumped in a ditch for being willfully ignorant and selfish? It seems to me this would be counter-productive from the perspective of utilitarian pragmatism.     

Implicit here is the notion that the development of life capable of abstract reasoning is the "purpose" of evolution and its apparent corollary that human beings, the only organisms known to be capable of this activity, represent the pinnacle of evolution. The engine of biological evolution, however, is the promulgation of capacities which permit organisms to survive in their environments long enough to pass on their genetic material through some form of reproduction. Since cockroaches appear at least as qualified in this respect as theoretical physicists, the underlying premises smack more of quasi-religious faith than of reason. Indeed, they seem to run counter to the last 500 years of scientific thought which has placed our planet and our species further and further from the epicenter of creation.   

Even without considering whether such products of abstract reasoning as excess greenhouse gas emissions, nuclear weapons, and the global spread of pestilence will ultimately eradicate intelligent life from the planet, the jury is still out on how enduring a capacity it will prove to be. Life existed on this planet for something in the neighborhood of 4 billion years before the emergence of human intelligence. It is thus not difficult to conceive of an evolutionary tree in which the capacity for abstract thought never emerges or, having emerged, falls from the tree like a diseased limb. While inquiry into meaning appears to be a concomitant of human intelligence, this does not suggest there is one. 


Offline LordHarketh193Topic starter

Re: Religion. Ethics. Life.
« Reply #35 on: August 11, 2013, 01:54:26 PM »
Well i'm the creator of this thread so i would like to add a few things.

1 - thank you to all those who have posted on here so far.

2 - disagreements are good its an expression of ones Religon.Ethics.Life thats why this thread is here, just remember people have feelings and try not to take it too far.

3 - all life is equal treat each other that way on here thank you.


and lastly, i should update my own post one day, i'm now exploreing the afterlife religion of the eqyptians, i have full faith in that now and when i have more time will edit my own post on page 1.

Also all religons, ethics and turns on life are welcome to speak here, we're only human after all.

Offline Kurzyk

Re: Religion. Ethics. Life.
« Reply #36 on: August 11, 2013, 01:57:52 PM »
1 - what you think about religion?

A warm and groovy way to bring people together and share in cultural stories.

2 - what is your Ethics?

Guided by the highest understanding of freedom.

3 - what do you think of Life?

Pretty damn spectacular.

4 - what do you want to do with life?

Live it to the fullest.

Offline LordHarketh193Topic starter

Re: Religion. Ethics. Life.
« Reply #37 on: August 11, 2013, 01:59:36 PM »
1 - what you think about religion?

A warm and groovy way to bring people together and share in cultural stories.

2 - what is your Ethics?

Guided by the highest understanding of freedom.

3 - what do you think of Life?

Pretty damn spectacular.

4 - what do you want to do with life?

Live it to the fullest.

Thank you for your view.
Live life always to the fullest, you never know when death will knock on your door.

Offline Barenmarder

Re: Religion. Ethics. Life.
« Reply #38 on: August 11, 2013, 02:02:13 PM »
Ephiral, I find you to be both reasonable and rational. You seem willing to compromise and to accept the views of others without resort to personal attack or shouting.

Are you sure you belong on the internet? *grin*

Seriously though, it has been a PLEASURE. An absolute joy to have a rational discussion without resorting to throwing crockery and vile imprecations. Thank you. You are a prince among men, sir.

And thanks to Vtboy for making me reconsider and defend my views. An unexamined thought is one not worth having, or something. Forcing me to think about my beliefs is something very important even if not always comfortable.

Oh, and as an aside to Oniya... if we meet something that high above us, we're in serious trouble. Though I for one welcome our new Cthulhoid overlords, and would like to remind them that humans are not, in fact, mostly harmless.
But I do keep a towel handy, just in case.

Back to Ephiral... no wonder I like you. I don't believe our viewpoints are really all that far apart in the end, though I'll admit I tend to extremism in all things. It's a failing of mine. I'm a recovering arch-conservative.

And I find our definitions of Sin/Evil to be extremely close. Treating something/someone as valueless is a very selfish act, to my mind. I think perhaps we simply view things from subtly different perspectives.

Regardless, it is a delight to know you. Keep seeking truth.

When you find it, let me know? I have a hell of a time getting back off the little island of "Cogito Ergo Sum."

{while you were writing there were three new replies} Really? *sigh* Back to the millstone. :P

To Lord Harketh - Thank you for creating a fascinating thread. I hope my disagreements haven't offended anyone. Not my intent. Rarely my intent, in spite of the offense I occasionally cause.

On the one hand, I really do try to mean what I say, but on the other I rarely take anything that comes out of my mouth (fingertips? brain?) too seriously because I know deep down that I'm a fool.

I just can't resist a good argument, is all. There's rarely any malice or rancor... just a delight in bickering.

Offline LordHarketh193Topic starter

Re: Religion. Ethics. Life.
« Reply #39 on: August 11, 2013, 02:27:20 PM »
Ephiral, I find you to be both reasonable and rational. You seem willing to compromise and to accept the views of others without resort to personal attack or shouting.

Are you sure you belong on the internet? *grin*

Seriously though, it has been a PLEASURE. An absolute joy to have a rational discussion without resorting to throwing crockery and vile imprecations. Thank you. You are a prince among men, sir.

And thanks to Vtboy for making me reconsider and defend my views. An unexamined thought is one not worth having, or something. Forcing me to think about my beliefs is something very important even if not always comfortable.

Oh, and as an aside to Oniya... if we meet something that high above us, we're in serious trouble. Though I for one welcome our new Cthulhoid overlords, and would like to remind them that humans are not, in fact, mostly harmless.
But I do keep a towel handy, just in case.

Back to Ephiral... no wonder I like you. I don't believe our viewpoints are really all that far apart in the end, though I'll admit I tend to extremism in all things. It's a failing of mine. I'm a recovering arch-conservative.

And I find our definitions of Sin/Evil to be extremely close. Treating something/someone as valueless is a very selfish act, to my mind. I think perhaps we simply view things from subtly different perspectives.

Regardless, it is a delight to know you. Keep seeking truth.

When you find it, let me know? I have a hell of a time getting back off the little island of "Cogito Ergo Sum."

{while you were writing there were three new replies} Really? *sigh* Back to the millstone. :P

To Lord Harketh - Thank you for creating a fascinating thread. I hope my disagreements haven't offended anyone. Not my intent. Rarely my intent, in spite of the offense I occasionally cause.

On the one hand, I really do try to mean what I say, but on the other I rarely take anything that comes out of my mouth (fingertips? brain?) too seriously because I know deep down that I'm a fool.

I just can't resist a good argument, is all. There's rarely any malice or rancor... just a delight in bickering.


I'm glad you have enjoyed yourself.
Its what i made it for.

I'm not offended. though if anyone is I'm sure they'll tell you after all

"Life without disagreement would be quiet and dull, life without agreements would be chaotic and loud. But life with a perfect balance keeps its serenity and its chaos together well"

Everyone is a clown/fool at some point, though to think it of yourself when talking of your religon,ethics and turn on life is not to be thought, when you talk about these things say it like you would face to face, be brave wit your words and chose it wisely enough to explain later and be ready to stand your ground in an disagreement.

Banter is always good. Never be afraid to throw banter back and two on a thread.

Offline Barenmarder

Re: Religion. Ethics. Life.
« Reply #40 on: August 11, 2013, 07:41:00 PM »
Quote
I'm glad you have enjoyed yourself.
Its what i made it for.

I'm not offended. though if anyone is I'm sure they'll tell you after all

"Life without disagreement would be quiet and dull, life without agreements would be chaotic and loud. But life with a perfect balance keeps its serenity and its chaos together well"

Everyone is a clown/fool at some point, though to think it of yourself when talking of your religon,ethics and turn on life is not to be thought, when you talk about these things say it like you would face to face, be brave wit your words and chose it wisely enough to explain later and be ready to stand your ground in an disagreement.

Banter is always good. Never be afraid to throw banter back and two on a thread.

*chuckling* I normally enjoy myself. Often enough I enjoy other people too. And if I didn't have someone else to debate and rant with/at I'd just have to talk to myself.
That tends to make my dogs antsy, and their criticisms are both piercing and trenchant when they choose to make themselves known. :P

Why would anyone want to surround themselves with people who all agree with them? How would they ever learn anything new? No, I LOVE the cut and thrust and parry and riposte of debate. Argument is one of life's great pleasures, especially with someone who is passionate about something. Disagreement is such a wonderful way to come to understand someone. Such a great way to learn new things.

Assuming it's a real debate and not just an argument with a fanatic. Those can quickly become so very frustrating, can't they?

Oh, and I don't think myself a fool, I know it. But in all, a good natured one I hope.

-Barenmarder

~Trying to breed a Molotov Cockatiel~