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Offline KythiaTopic starter

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Religion and Science
« on: July 02, 2013, 12:39:06 AM »
Ephiral and I have become involved in a discussion via PMs which Ephiral has done me the courtesy of allowing to continue here.  For this first post, I'll transfer over the conversation so far and put up my final response.

I have, in copying and pasting, excised various lines that I felt were merely conversational overhead.  It would make me look way smarter if I cut out a crucial bit of your point, Ephiral, so would you mind glancing through and making sure I haven't put any words in your mouth or taken any out. 

The conversation begun with a section of a post I made in the Religion.  Ethics.  Life thread and I'll start by reposting the relevant bit.

Quote from: Kythia
I believe that most questions/issues facing humanity are most suitable to a "scientific" approach, but (a) most =/= all and (b) I personally have always felt something of a disconnect to the sciences - though I stress that's a personal opinion and I don't want to draw wider points from that - which combine to mean I focus on the minority of issues that I feel are best resolved by a religious/Christian approach.  I also think there's been some bad leadership/tactics used by prominent Christians that have led those issues to be usually either navel-gazing "angels dancing on the head of a pin" arguments or weak "god of the gaps" style excuses.

Quote from: Ephiral
Do you think there are questions with actual, tangible this-makes-a-difference-in-how-we-interact-with-the-world answers that are not aided by an evidence-based approach? This seems to be what you're saying, but there's room for different interpretations. If so... can you give me some examples?

Quote from: Kythia
In answer to your question:


Quote

Do you think there are questions with actual, tangible this-makes-a-difference-in-how-we-interact-with-the-world answers that are not aided by an evidence-based approach? This seems to be what you're saying, but there's room for different interpretations.



then I'm gonna give you a massive almost.  My issue, the reason I don't say yes, is your usage of the word "aided".  On a hypothetical "helpfulness scale" I think an evidence based approach will always score a positive, that it is always a net asset.  So within the strict wording of your question, the answer is no.  I see no massive gain to playing semantic games with you though and understand that that wasn't quite the intent of your question, I just thought it helpful to clear that up as I'll return to it in a moment.

Let's take P=NP as a problem presumably close to your heart.  Prayer and silent meditation has provable (references available on request) benefits to problem solving.  I could pray for the answer, which - divine aspects aside - I think we can agree involves focusing one's mind on the problem.  Maybe I'll get a solution, who knows.  Even if I did though, I think an evidence based, systematic approach is still a better one.  Just because my method paid off doesn't make it the optimum one. As I say, I think most questions/issues facing humanity are most suitable to a etc etc etc.  And for those questions: on my helpfulness scale, by definition, no other approach scores more helpfulness points, and many may even cause a net loss or such a small gain as to not be worth the effort.

However.  Most=/=all in either of my highlighted usages (grammar aside).  I spent the day laying in the sun and reading.  One of the things I read was a pamphlet by the current Archbishop of Canterbury (written before his ascension) entitled "Can Companies Sin?"  It was quite hard to lay my hands on actually, and thats the only reason I'm not wholeheartedly recommending you read it yourself.  Very well argued.  I had assumed the contents would just be the word "No" written over and over again - maybe in various sizes and typefaces for variety.  But in fact, Welby believed they could and made an argument sufficiently convincing to convince me.

Bear with me, I'm going somewhere with this.

He cited articles, had done research, all the other paraphenalia of academia.  As I say, never unhelpful.  Adds value, certainly.  But it was, perhaps unsurprisingly, framed in exclusively Christian thought.  However, it has had a real tangible-this-makes-a- etc etc etc difference on me at least.  I had previously thought companies were only capable of acting amorally, now I believe that they are capable of acting morally and immorally (I'm not yet decided whether to end that with "as well" or "instead" - not yet decided whether they have three moral options or two - but thats by the by).

Now, you could of course argue that religious arguments only affect me and my purchasing behaviour because I'm religious.  Well, one, that's a distraction from your question and is actually a new one, but again I see no real need for sophist point scoring here.  Way more importantly though is two, that people are prone to precisely the sort of value judgements that religious arguments work through.  The just world fallacy springs to mind, Im certain with another couple of moments thought I could deluge you with countless others. 

You and I may disagree as to the root cause of that, but I assume we can agree on the statement as is.  Evidence based approaches can support arguments related to changing moral behaviour, but I suspect there are vanishingly few people who have changed moral behaviour as a result purely of said approach.  There also needs to be an emotional kick to it - logically there is no difference between knowing your (hypothetical) clothes are made in a sweatshop and touring the place, but most people would be far more likely to change behaviour based on the latter than the former. 

I've focused heavily on religious arguments because I feel they are overwhelmingly the most popular form of moral but not evidence based arguments, but they're not the only example.

In conclusion - finally, I hear you sigh - moral arguments may well benefit from evidence based approaches but in order for them to have tangible-this-makes- etc etc etc effects they need more, and do not strictly need the evidence based aspect.

As a brief addendum, I'm not for one second claiming that exactly how that emotional kicker is delivered is immune to evidence based approaches, in fact I think that is one of the majority of cases where that is the superior approach.  But analysing why an argument works is a different issue to the effectiveness of an argument.

Quote from: Ephiral
Part of my problem in thinking this way is... as I've mentioned, I don't really have faith, as far as I can tell. So I've had to come up with moral and ethical reasoning that is at least grounded in evidence.

As a counterpoint that's near and dear to my heart and yours, let's take feminism. I came to feminism (and subsequently to social justice on a wider scale) from a perspective that is based on evidence and utilitarianism: Causing harm is a moral negative, causing benefit is a moral positive. If we're going to separate out a group of people and treat them as an underclass, causing obvious and measurable harm along the way, there had better be a hell of an offsetting benefit or justification. So we look to the evidence and find... that there really isn't one.

Similarly, your question of "can companies sin?": I define "sin" as "cause more aggregate harm than aggregate benefit", and by simply looking at their actions and the damage done, the answer is "absolutely".

So... I begin to wonder what the merit is of setting aside the best tool we have for understanding the world around us and saying "Not here." Sure, I don't have all the moral answers, but I have a solid framework within which to reason my way to them, based on phenomena that actually affect the world around me in a tangible way. As far as I can see, churches have about the same, minus the "based on..." part.

As far as emotions go: I think it's important to feel strong and appropriate emotional impact when it comes to questions of morality. I also think it's extremely dangerous to reason from emotions, or to craft arguments designed to provoke an overriding emotional response. So... I think emotional impact has its place, but it's at the end of the questioning process. I try to feel outrage because of an injustice, not call something an injustice because it outrages me, if that makes sense. It's not always possible, and generally difficult even when it is possible, but a large part of my approach to reasoning is guarding carefully against behaviours that are instinctual, kneejerk, and dead wrong.

Quote from: Kythia
My turn now, I fear.



Quote

As a counterpoint that's near and dear to my heart and yours, let's take feminism. I came to feminism (and subsequently to social justice on a wider scale) from a perspective that is based on evidence and utilitarianism: Causing harm is a moral negative, causing benefit is a moral positive. If we're going to separate out a group of people and treat them as an underclass, causing obvious and measurable harm along the way, there had better be a hell of an offsetting benefit or justification. So we look to the evidence and find... that there really isn't one.



Now, caveat time.  Im going to come uncomfortably close to claiming atheists have no moral centre here.  Its unavoidable, I'm treading very similar ground.  I just hope you can give me the benefit of the doubt when I say that's not the intent, its a similar argument but not the same.  I hope, at least.

I'm not arguing that causing harm is a moral negative, or the inverse.  I'm asking, though (and please feel no obligation to answer) why the hell that matters?  I can trace your line of reasoning from that premise to your position, but I can't trace from your other expressed positions to that premise.  Why is it important if an action is moral or otherwise if you try to avoid basing arguments from emotion?  I mean the question genuinely, I promise.  The only negative to immoral action I can see - leaving aside a whole hierarchy of heaven and sin which doesn't affect your reasoning - is the disgust and outrage immoral acts cause.  But you claim that is a bad place to start an argument from?  It seems to me a partial clue is in "feel outrage because of an injustice" as that moves it from a moral judgement to an absolute one - that injustice is undesirable.  But I do feel there's an initial mover missing there, that we're moving into turtles all the way down territory.  I am certain that I'm misunderstanding your position rather than exposing something you hadn't thought of, but I simply don't see it.

I do hope that didn't come across too close to a personal attack.  Discussing someone else's morals always runs that risk and I am incredibly aware that its a favourite (and, IMHO, spurious) tactic used in precisely this kind of discussion.

Quote from: Ephiral
If I want to be painfully frank, it boils down to a combination of self-interest and game and security theory. This will probably sound horrifyingly calculated, but... to touch on an earlier note, if something is trivial, I'm fine with not thinking overmuch about it and going with what feels right. If it's important, I (try to) shut up and multiply. I'm also on shaky rhetorical ground here, as this is the first time I've actually tried to express it in such depth to someone who isn't on the same page as me with at least part of this, so here goes.

When we talk about "good" and "bad" actions, "right" and "wrong", "moral" and "immoral"... what we're really talking about is taboos. As a society or culture (or subculture), we place high positive value on some actions and negative value on others for some reason. I would argue that part of it is hardwired deep in our instincts, or otherwise universal - the taboo on killing another member of "us" is pretty much anywhere you care to look, for example - but the overwhelming majority of them are merely a function of humans, generally in a group, deciding that certain actions should be encouraged and others should be discouraged. So, with that in mind, let's set out to do something radical, something that is done in only a tiny minority of cases - let's put lots of thought into the set of taboos we're building.

An aside: Ideally, one wants to do this *before* adopting a set of taboos, or making any other important decision. Labelling something even so much as the "current best option" tends to make it sticky - you don't reason to it, or argue its pros and cons, so much as seek justification for it. I did that to the best of my ability before adopting what I hold now, but I was far worse at reasoning then. It seems to hold up to me when I examine it today, but I know I'm not particularly immune to the justification habit, so I would very much like you to point out any obvious holes.

As we've already touched on, I am not a particularly special example of the human species - there's no reason to carve humanity into "me" and "everyone else". So whatever these taboos are, they'd better be pretty universal - if Bob next door adopting my system completely screws me over, it's a pretty poor one, right? I'm looking at you, Mrs. Rand. The obvious conclusion is to formulate something that works across as wide a group of people as possible. Given that I'm one of those people, I want it to help me as much as it can - and so by extension it has to help everyone else. And we're basically there. (Game and security theory basically comes in choosing altruism over greed as a generally guiding

Quote from: Kythia
Interesting...

My first thought is that while that line of thinking might well lead to moral actions in your - Ephiral's - specific case, that's far from a given.  I'm Bob next door, the SWM (also able bodied, cis gendered, of decent relative wealth - I tick all the privilege boxes.)

My (as Bob) adopting your positions that LGB, other ethnicities, females, the disabled, etc etc etc should have the same level of power and prestige in society as I do screws me over.  My relative power - and what is power if not relative? - is diminished as my privilege is "eroded".  In fact, lets go further and say I'm homophobic, racist, sexist, transphobic, etc.  Everyone adopting my belief system helps me immeasurably.  I can have my tea on the table cooked by the little woman, pay my negroid workers in company scrip and not have to see those gross trannys - I trust you'll forgive the language. 

So, by what I understand as your logic, Bob/I has every incentive to not only continue his current behaviour but even intensify.  He wants his belief system to benefit himself, just as you do, and his actions fulfil your criteria of not being detrimental to him if everyone adopts them.

Quote from: Ephiral
That fails on two counts, as I see it: One, the entire premise ignores the part where I am not a separate category from Human as a whole. Two: So Bob's path is "take actions which benefit my subset of humanity". If everybody adopts that, it screws Bob over - there are far more people who can't tick at least one of Bob's privilege boxes than those who can. Suddenly, they're out to take advantage and get what they can at the expense of his tribe.

Furthermore, by dividing the amount of effort and resources we have available into tribes, we've almost surely diminished the total amount of comfort and luxury available. Even if, after everyone's best efforts, Bob is still on his little hill of privilege, he has more relative but less absolute comfort/luxury/wealth than if we'd all been working to raise the total amount there is.

Quote from: Kythia
It does, deliberately, skip the part where you are not a special subsection of humanity and, rereading, you're right that I haven't explained why.  Sorry about that, thanks for calling me on it- I'll try to address both your concerns in one, as they are linked.

Lets assume that you are correct and neither you nor Bob is distinct from humanity as a whole - for reference I agree, but I'm trying to talk in the abstract.  That still doesn't mean that its necessarily in Bob's best interest to work on a belief system that acknowledges that fact.  Firstly, beyond a certain level of basic necessity, people don't care about absolute levels of comfort/wealth, only relative.  Lottery winners are no happier, after a settling down period, than first world paupers.  People compare their cars to their neighbours and people they know, not to the entire spectrum of cars.  Humanity as a whole is too large to keep in your head as a meaningful comparison, your only benchmark of whether you're rich or not is those around you.  If needed I can provide references but it will take me a while to dig them out.  Have you read Kahneman's "Thinking Fast and Slow"?  It talks about this at some length.  So while absolute levels would be raised, relative ones would be lowered and that's the problem.

Now, sure, that's a cognitive bias.  But avoiding that requires every single person in the world to accept your of thinking.  Accepting Bob's viewpoint - that his relative wealth is important - requires no such shift.  While a viewpoint that requires everyone to abandon inherant biases may be worthy, I would question its viability.

So I would argue that Bob defending his tribe against all comers is still in Bob's (perceived if not absolute, but I'm not certain the distinction is meaningful in this case) best interests. 

Quote from: Ephiral
I... think we were operating under different definitions of "relative". I thought it meant "relative to what others have", but it appears in light of the lottery winner case that you actually meant "relative to what I'm used to having". My apologies.

I... would like to see some data showing that people do not care about absolute levels of comfort. Not because I think you're wrong, but because if you're right, then I have been reasoning from a massive bias I was blind to - absolute levels are critically important to me. To use your car example, I don't compare my car to my neighbour's - what he drives is of zero impact whatsoever on my life. What I compare my car to is the ones coming out now with features I wish I had. Humanity might be too large a benchmark to keep in your head, but "yesterday" and "tomorrow" are not.

I... am in the unusual position of holding that my reasoning is correct but not useful, if this is the case - your refutation rests on a failure in reasoning, not in my logic, but that failure is widespread enough to make this system not usable in general.

The correct action in this case, of course, is to try to change people's minds and teach them to reason well. This is a difficult task - but I don't think "It's too hard!" is an adequate counterpoint to any moral system.

Let me turn the question around on you: What is the underlying bedrock of your morality?

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2013, 12:48:05 AM »
The only error that jumps out at me on quick review is at the tail end of the quoteblock fifth from the bottom. It should read:

Quote from: Ephiral
(Game and security theory basically comes in choosing altruism over greed as a generally guiding principle - cooperation is the winning move in Prisoner's Dilemma if you can trust the other guy to cooperate, and... taken across humanity as a whole, you generally can.)

If I notice anything else missing, or you founding arguments on things I've already addressed, I'll bring it up, but I think this unlikely. For the record, that cut seemed to be a good-faith accident in trimming.

Offline KythiaTopic starter

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #2 on: July 02, 2013, 01:13:18 AM »
Sorry about that, you're quite right.  Must have stuck my cursor at the wrong point.

I was using relative mainly as "relative to what my peer group/neighbours/work colleagues have".  The point of the lottery winner example (P Brickman, D Coates and R Janoff-Bulman (1978) 'Lottery Winners and Accident Victims: Is Happiness Relative?' Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36, 917-927) was that absolute levels of comfort and luxury - the type that would change immensely after a lottery win - don't cause any noticeable gain in happiness after an initial period which, following on from other research (more on that below) would seem to be an acclimatisation period where winners are happier because of their increase in comfort/luxury over their peer group before gradually finding a new one.

Now.  The research I refer to above and Ephiral asked for in her last message to me (the final quote block in my first post) are in a book which I can't immediately lay my hands on.  I will keep looking and post ASAP but in the interests of a speedy response I am glossing over that part a little with the hopes that Ephiral will be kind enough to let me return to it once I've found what I'm after.  My flat isn't that big, it has to be here somewhere.  If you're not happy with that, Ephiral, then please shout and I'll redouble my search.

So, turning the question round.  What is the bedrock of my morality?

I touch on this in the Religion, Ethics, Life thread.  My core belief is that I - Kythia - should be happy.  I put a shit load of time and effort into being.  A strictly amoral, and in fact broadly sociopathic position.  I'm fine with you holding a similar one, though, substituting your name as appropriate (or, better yet, not doing).  There are others that want me to be happy - family, friends, etc - and so my assumption is that any advice they give is aimed - as best they are capable - at making me happier.  I include, your mileage obviously varies, God in that list of "people who love me and want me to be happy".  So, obviously, His advice is aimed at maximising my happiness.

Prior to my conversion to Christianity I approached this in a rather stupid way.  I'm relatively quick witted and relatively sadistic and have a tendency to say the first thing it occurs to me to say.  And I found it pretty hilarious to be mean to people - it built me up and made me feel clever.  Quelle fucking surprise, hold on to your hats, I ended up with few friends. 

Post. God's advice has become important to me.  Forgiveness, love thy neighbour as yourself, its not worth going in to a list.  Now, there's research to support a lot of this (see, amongst a host of others B T Harbaugh, U Mayr and D Burghart (2007) 'Neural responses to taxation and voluntary giving reveal motives for charitable donations', Science, 316 (5831) 1622-1625) but (a) there's also other aspects that - to the best of my knowledge - aren't supported by research (though none that - to the best of my knowledge - are refuted) and more importantly (b) I consider these academic papers as confirmation not justification.

Does that answer?  I'm not clear if it does or not.

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #3 on: July 02, 2013, 01:38:39 AM »
Thanks for the cite. That's... pretty revealing of my bias, so thanks. Unfortunately, it renders my position impossible to generalize - though I still hold that the logic of it is sound; the fault is external to it. I may have to see if I can reformulate in a way that makes sense to people who place a high value on status. I'm not sure how to do that at the moment, short of trying to explain to such people why playing an open-ended game is preferable to a zero-sum game.

Yes, you can get back to me with further citations at your leisure.

So... here's the thing. You say you're fine with others holding the same core belief - "I should be happy." as the foundation from which all morality flows. What happens when your neighbour feels little to no guilt over depriving you of your stuff? Or the one on the other side, who enjoys a bit of murder every now and then? I freely grant that, on the whole, people are basically altruistic. But if we're discussing the value of moral systems... well, yours seems to have "allow any number of malicious actors to be as malicious as they want" hard-coded into it. Why is this a good idea?

Offline KythiaTopic starter

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #4 on: July 02, 2013, 02:18:49 AM »
I think, with that final sentence, we might have hit a schism that we've been dancing around a little in a lot of our E interactions. 

Why is this a good idea?

That's a valid question up to a point, but I presupposes that I think a given morality system must be a good idea or otherwise I'd adopt a new one.  You have mentioned in a few places that you try to hold positions based on the end result of conscious thought (I use try as you have also mentioned that its hard and you're not always successful - no criticism intending, just clearing up word usage).  It seems to me, and I hope I'm not caricaturing your position here, that you strive to overcome your own biases so far as such a task is possible.

That's fine.  I wish you the best of luck with it.

You talked about, when we discussed the foundation of your morality, the effects that would have if everyone adopted it.  Clearly that is a concern/variable in your thinking.  It's simply not in mine.

I don't want to use "cart and horse" as that would imply that one of our orderings is correct, but one of us is putting the <something> before the <something else> and the other is doing it the other way round. 

Your approach seems to be to eliminate biases wherever possible and to construct from the ground up - you've essentially said as much.  My objection to your proposed system was that it required a shift in thinking of vast swathes of the world.  Maybe - on some undefined but acceptable scale - that would give a "better" end result. Maybe not, though, as there are a host of unforeseen consequences to changing things, butterflies flapping wings and the like. My point is, it seems a little, hmmmm, nearsighted? - I'm dancing around the word "arrogant" - to assume that you can predict the rippling effects of a change of thinking throughout humanity.  No matter how secure you are in your initial predictions once its exposed to the vagaries of chance it becomes something different.  Marx didn't want the Gulags, but there's a clear line between the two points as other people, other factors, other things influenced his original ideas.  Sure, if you could hermetically seal your ideas and instil them directly in people's brains then keep them from developing them in any way, awesome.  But that's not on the cards.

So my answer to "why is this a good idea" is to sidestep the question.  Maybe it isn't, but I simply don't see that as a relevant issue to a moral system.  That's not the criteria I judge a moral system on.  I'm happy for you to adopt mine, mutatis mutandis, but I'm happy for you to adopt your own.  I'm in the happy position of believing there's a plan that will make it all come out for the best (where "best" = "Kythia is happy") but even without that divine guiding hand it seems to me that my method supposes that evolution - social evolution, I mean - has granted humans with precisely the tools to flourish.  Of course, maybe I'm (read: my system) a dinosaur.  Or even a dodo.  Sure, its possible.  Obviously I don't think so, but I'll concede its possibility.  But the free exchange of ideas will only strengthen and refine moral systems.

Offline KythiaTopic starter

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #5 on: July 02, 2013, 02:51:48 AM »
Sorry for the double post here but, rereading, it seems I made my argument quite badly.

I'm not saying "people shouldn't propose new systems because they could go bad".  That's a ridiculous position to hold.  As I say, you are more than welcome to your own moral system.  What I am saying, though, is that regardless of the initial goodness or badness of the system it will inevitably be altered in the wild in ways you can't predict.  So asking if one is a "good idea" at conception is a little bit of a distraction.  Your holding it may well result in nothing but sunshine and puppies for everyone around you, but, IMHO, judging it as a good or bad idea when only a small group of people hold it is premature and unhelpful.  Moral systems don't scale, in practice, and the expression of a system once it is held by a substantial number of people has always been different to the expression intended by its founder.

Offline KythiaTopic starter

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #6 on: July 02, 2013, 06:23:10 AM »
Why double post when you can triple?  I found what I was looking for.

Before I present, though, I just need to say that in the course of looking for it a bookshelf fell on me and I hurt my arm.  It's fine, I'll live, its only a bruise, but it does make clear that I'm selflessly risking life and limb to find this information which is - as if we needed it! - further proof that there should be solid gold statues of me in various heroic poses at every street corner.

Seriously, people, write your politicians.  Tell them you want solid gold heroic statues of Kythia at every street corner and you vote.  Together we can make this happen.   

Anyway.  The key studies seem to be:
Emmons R and Diener E (1985) 'Factors predicting satisfaction judgments: A comparative examination' Social Indicators Research 16 157-168
Lamberti et al (1989) 'Rank amongst peers and life satisfaction' Proc. 97th Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association.
Tversky A and Griffin D (1991) 'Endowment and contrast in judgements of well-being' in Strack F, Argyle M and Schwarz N (eds) 'Subjective Well-Being: An interdisciplinary perspective' (Pergamon Press, Oxford) 101-118


its entirely possible there are some I've missed and just to at least appear fair, here's a dissenter - there are probably others but I don't know them, a footnote hunt might prove useful if you want them:

Veenhoven R (1991) 'Is happiness relative?' Social indicators research 24, 1-34

Also, in reading further, it appears I've misrepresented an earlier statement.  My apologies - I did know this as its in a book I've read but for some reason the Brickman, Coates and Janoff-Bulman study stuck with me better.

Apparently (Fujita; Diener (2005). "Life satisfaction set point: stability and change". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 88 158.) only around 75% of people suffer no lasting change in happiness after a major positive or negative life event and the cut off is higher than the poverty level I had originally stated (Kahneman and Deaton (2010) - available here.)  Apologies once again, a memory failure.  I don't think it affects my core point though.

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #7 on: July 06, 2013, 12:20:15 AM »
Sorry about the delay. It's been a rough week.

I think I'm seeing the differences in our approach now - or at least starting to. For one, I've said before that evolution is the shittiest possible successful engineer, and I stand by that statement. We can do better than not failing completely. For another... I've had a hard time putting my finger on my objection to your "I should be happy" concept, but I think what it boils down to is that this system leaves no room for giving any weight or value to anybody else or what they might do or feel. This seems... problematic, to put it mildly.

As to the larger question of "Is this a good idea?" and whether that's worth asking: I still hold that it is. I acknowledge that it is impossible to see all possible  repercussions of an idea and its implementation at the outset - but that hardly means it's impossible to see any of them. This question has utility - it makes us examine those repercussions, and see if they're actually getting us toward our goals. It is, however, an ongoing one - a key factor of my approach is that you must regularly examine and update on the evidence. Judging it as a good or bad idea when only one person holds it is valid - as long as you don't stop there. "Is this actually working?" is a question that, in my experience, is asked all too rarely when it comes to moral and ethical issues.

You seem to grok what I've discussed of my approach pretty well, by the by.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #8 on: July 06, 2013, 12:37:01 AM »
My turn for a double-post; I figure me addressing your arguments is probably best done in-thread.

God's saying shag and be merry, have loads of kids.  Traditionally Moses wrote Genesis.  Obviously he didn't, but lets use "Moses" as a placeholder for the author of that passage, if we might.  The Jews at the time of writing of this section were (probably) in the middle of what's called the "Babylonian Captivity".  They were essentially slaves to the way more powerful Babylonians.  And Moses' writing was influenced by the time and place he was in.  He wanted the Jews (I'm actually wrong to use Jews here, but I hope you'll forgive me) to prosper, to spread, to grow in power.

I believe there is the same message here.  That God wants humanity to grow, prosper and be strong.  Moses has seen it through his glasses as essentially what it is, Paul through his glasses as believing sex that doesn't/can't lead to procreation is morally repugnant.  That's because Paul's a dick.  Hardly a controversial point.

So tying that together, I believe Christian morals were interpreted by man but inspired by God.  Specific rules are, indeed, "designed for a completely different environment" but that's because the authors were fallible and shackled by their culture and prior notions as much as anyone else was.  However, taking everything as a whole, and being mindful of those biases, a consistent message emerges - a glimpse here, a glimpse there, understanding slowly growing as time passages and Christian tradition is added to.  Just as by reading the book you wrote about this conversation and the book Vekseid wrote and the book, errrr, someone else wrote and comparing the similar themes, we can get a clearer picture of the actual conversation than from your book alone.

This is one of those things I just don't get. You explained in detail how Moses's interpretation was shaped by his bias, as Paul's was by his. What exactly makes Paul wrong and Moses right? As far as I can tell, the criteria seem to be "I think Paul's a dick and his argument is repugnant, but Moses is uplifting." This... seems like a pretty poor way to get an accurate picture of any sort.

Offline KythiaTopic starter

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #9 on: July 07, 2013, 07:51:50 AM »
I'm gonna stick some horizontal lines in here.  Just to keep things straight in my head, please don't think I'm trying to enforce a partition in the discussion on you.



My turn for a double-post; I figure me addressing your arguments is probably best done in-thread.

This is one of those things I just don't get. You explained in detail how Moses's interpretation was shaped by his bias, as Paul's was by his. What exactly makes Paul wrong and Moses right? As far as I can tell, the criteria seem to be "I think Paul's a dick and his argument is repugnant, but Moses is uplifting." This... seems like a pretty poor way to get an accurate picture of any sort.

Well, this is a failure of example, I think.  I quoted the passage from Romans and the passage from Genesis.  To reuse the example I used with MasterMischief in the companion, I gave access to two books recounting the conversation.  There are many more.  To give a few (this makes no attempt to be an exhaustive list, its simply what comes to me off the top of my head.  All quotes are KJV and spoilered as a slight distraction):

Spoiler: Click to Show/Hide
Deut 6:3
Quote
Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the Lord God of your fathers has promised you—‘a land flowing with milk and honey

(Again, traditionally written by Moses.  Probably written during the Babylonian Captivity but likely based on teachings a century or two older)

Matthew 19:12
Quote
For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.

(Pulled together by person or, less likely, persons unknown around 85 AD, based on Mark, a source known as "Q" and another known as "M" - obviously we don't have Q or M extant.  Written for a Jewish audience)

1 Corinthians 7 32:35
Quote
32 But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord.  33 But he who is married cares about the things of the world—how he may please his wife.  34 There is[a] a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world—how she may please her husband.  35 And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction.

(Paul.  Unarguably Paul)


So, yes.  Two passages may be a poor way to get an accurate picture and my apologies for giving that impression - I was using those two to illustrate rather than make a point.  There is a steady strain throughout both the Bible and later tradition that while God wants humanity to grow strong and prosper, having children is not a necessity and there are some that "From their mother's womb" wouldn't partake in that.  Jewish writers, which is obviously practically all of them, tend to speak against "sexual immorality" in various terms but its only Paul, really, who links that to homosexuality.  The centurion's servant in Matthew 8/ Luke 7 is almost certainly his lover and St Clement of Alexandria talks about how some men are "naturally averse to women", mentioning only that they shouldn't marry without further condemnation - as I say, both scripture and church tradition. 

Further, interestingly, the Bible itself - not to mention long standing Church tradition - warns against interpreting Paul's work too closely:

2 Peter 3 15:16
Quote
and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you,  16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.

(Traditionally written by St Peter though almost certanly written a century or so after his death and based on Jude.  Peter and Paul fucking despised each other so a few of the Petrine epistles are relatively anti-Paul.  Not that Peter wrote them himself, just that it may well have been a follower of him in the Jerusalem branch of the early Church which, presumably, inherited Peter's dislike for Paul)



Quote from: Ephiral
I think I'm seeing the differences in our approach now - or at least starting to. For one, I've said before that evolution is the shittiest possible successful engineer, and I stand by that statement. We can do better than not failing completely. For another... I've had a hard time putting my finger on my objection to your "I should be happy" concept, but I think what it boils down to is that this system leaves no room for giving any weight or value to anybody else or what they might do or feel. This seems... problematic, to put it mildly.

I'm not certain I follow you.  I'm pretty close to my family.  When they're unhappy, I am.  So I put a huge amount of weight on what they do/feel and don't think that conflicts with my core values. 

I suspect I'm misunderstanding your point slightly?



Quote from: Ephiral

As to the larger question of "Is this a good idea?" and whether that's worth asking: I still hold that it is. I acknowledge that it is impossible to see all possible  repercussions of an idea and its implementation at the outset - but that hardly means it's impossible to see any of them. This question has utility - it makes us examine those repercussions, and see if they're actually getting us toward our goals. It is, however, an ongoing one - a key factor of my approach is that you must regularly examine and update on the evidence. Judging it as a good or bad idea when only one person holds it is valid - as long as you don't stop there. "Is this actually working?" is a question that, in my experience, is asked all too rarely when it comes to moral and ethical issues.

But it seems then you're appointing yourself as some arbiter of ethics.  Let me try to impose some discipline on my thoughts here so I don't have to post again to clarify and, hopefully, so you can point to paragraph X as the one where we disagree.

1) You believe that it is possible to come up with a moral system based on rational observation of the facts.  (I disagree with the viability of the one you have come up with, as discussed above, but that doesn't change the fact you believe its possible)

2)You accept that its likely impossible to see all variations on that moral system once it gets into the wild.

3)You believe though it is possible to see some of them.

4)You consider a moral system to be a "good idea" when it works on a personal level and you can't foresee any problems on a broader scale - bearing in mind 2 and 3.

5) You accept that "field testing" is important to catch the problems predicted by a combination of 2 and 3.

6)You don't consider yourself a special exception to the mass of humanity.

7)Meaning your thoughts on the moral system have no intrinsic weight above and beyond the time you've put in to thinking about them; you're a specialist, perhaps, but not a, well, divine authority.

8)Meaning that there is no reason you should be the one responsible for the "examine and update" stage as its perfectly feasible for others to put similar time and thought in and reach a different conclusion.

9)Meaning that as soon as it goes wild, you lack any, errrr, any leadership over what happens to it and the unpredictable ways in which it will develop.

10) As we have no idea of the relative proportions of 2 and 3, there are an unknown number of ways it can develop.

11)By the law of large numbers, really, others will have put a lot of thought into one of the ways it can develop that hasn't even occurred to you.  Meaning they now hold the specialist role.

12)Meaning you have no idea or control over how it develops beyond doing your best to shape it at the beginning.

13)Meaning judging it as a good or bad idea before it has had a chance to be subjected to those vicissitudes is premature.

I'm using "you think", etc above there as a shorthand for "It seems to me you think", etc -  hope you don't think I'm trying to put words in your mouth.



Quote from: MasterMischief
One, I believe you are picking out the morals that match the ones you have already developed within yourself from your environment.  They only seem divinely inspired because they match the way you think the world should be.

Quote from: MasterMischief
Kythia, if I may continue to argue my understanding of your position.  You believe you were unhappy because you were selfish before finding Christianity.  What if you were unhappy simply because you lacked long term vision?  You could have been selfish and realized your happiness depends on others and therefore you should not, for lack of a better phrase, not be a jerk to everyone.

Tied these together as they seem related.

As I have said, my core position on this particular aspect is:

God loves me and wants me to be happy
If you want someone to be happy, you give them the best advice you can
Given omniscience, "the best advice He can" is pretty fucking good advice.

There is nothing special about God's advice, as revealed through personal revelation, Church tradition and scripture, that distinguishes it from my mam's advice other than that it is likely to be better and can't possibly be worse.

If I am happy, it follows (for me at least, I make this next bit as creed rather than as solidly argued statement) that I am doing what God would advise.  Even if I lived in a primitive tribe in the rainforest and had never heard of Christianity, that holds true.  God's advice is the best possible for being happy, hence if you are happy (and, I suppose, couldn't be happier) then you are, even if unknowingly, following his advice.

It seems you're putting my personal cart before my personal horse.  I'm only happy when following God's advice because its good advice, not because the act of following it makes me intrinsically happy.



Quote from: MasterMischief
Two, if the divine word can be so horribly butchered by a single, authoritative individual, I would be very hesitant to put my faith into any of the rest of it.  How can I know something else is not equally butchered?

I think this is, in part, based on a bit of a misconception.  Paul is no more authoritative than any of the thousands of other divinely inspired writers that came before and after him.  Sure, his voice may be louder as being included in scripture (wrongly) makes it sound more important.  Hence we have, as I quoted above, a specific passage saying "Look, guys.  Just, you know, be a bit wary when you're reading Paul's shit"

Sure, a single individual can butcher it.  A single individual will almost certainly butcher it.  Thats why we dont rely on a single individual. 



*looks around*

I think I've addressed everything?  Shout if you made a point and I've ignored it and please accept my pre-emptive apology, lot to cover there.

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #10 on: July 11, 2013, 12:23:00 PM »
Well, this is a failure of example, I think.  I quoted the passage from Romans and the passage from Genesis.  To reuse the example I used with MasterMischief in the companion, I gave access to two books recounting the conversation.  There are many more.  To give a few (this makes no attempt to be an exhaustive list, its simply what comes to me off the top of my head.  All quotes are KJV and spoilered as a slight distraction):
All right, I'll accept that.

I'm not certain I follow you.  I'm pretty close to my family.  When they're unhappy, I am.  So I put a huge amount of weight on what they do/feel and don't think that conflicts with my core values. 

I suspect I'm misunderstanding your point slightly?
It might not conflict with your core values, but neither is it particularly supported by them. It's supported by your completely arbitrary weighting of these people's value. There's absolutely nothing in there that prevents you from doing any horrible thing you want to anybody you do't particularly care about - and pretty much nobody cares about the overwhelming majority of the world, except in extreme abstract. So this doesn't seem a terribly workable system, and certainly not one that a lot of people should adopt by any stretch.

9)Meaning that as soon as it goes wild, you lack any, errrr, any leadership over what happens to it and the unpredictable ways in which it will develop.
I don't particularly care to have a leadership role, but this is very untrue in my experience. Are you familiar with the term "do-ocracy"? It's awkward, I'll admit, but it's apt for the particular type of meritocracy that tends to form in communities centered around this sort of thinking. As such, the originator of a worthwhile idea tends to get significant credit and leadership value.

11)By the law of large numbers, really, others will have put a lot of thought into one of the ways it can develop that hasn't even occurred to you.  Meaning they now hold the specialist role.

12)Meaning you have no idea or control over how it develops beyond doing your best to shape it at the beginning.
You seem to assume here that all of these people are working in isolation - that there is no such thing as collaboration, or even social pressure to be exerted. This strikes me as a poor assumption, given that I came to this way of thinking via a collaborative community.

13)Meaning judging it as a good or bad idea before it has had a chance to be subjected to those vicissitudes is premature.
I reject this assertion due to the questionable premises supporting it. Further, judging it as good now does not preclude judging some variant of it as bad. For a concrete, if imperfect, example: Darwinian evolution is a sound theory. Eugenics is a horrible idea that leashes it to incredibly racist ideals.

Sure, a single individual can butcher it.  A single individual will almost certainly butcher it.  Thats why we dont rely on a single individual.
Large masses can also butcher it. This is why ongoing error correction (the "examine and update" bit I mentioned earlier) is crucial to my methodology.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #11 on: July 11, 2013, 12:23:59 PM »
Addendum to my last bit: Also extremely crucial (else the "examine" stage goes wonky) are explicitly stated goals in the clearest available language. This strikes me as a particular failing of holy texts as a category.

Offline Retribution

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #12 on: July 11, 2013, 01:02:29 PM »
I will not cite material like the two of you but as an aside with religion and science. I am a practicing biologist and if you are a biologist and do not believe in evolution you are well not much of a biologist.  :-) I am also a practicing Catholic see an issue there? Wrong actually, while there may have been back during the Inquisition there is not really now. I graduated from Catholic high school more because of a better private education than religion. BUT I was first taught evolution there by a nun.

To keep this from getting too long: I do not blindly follow everything the church preaches and I do not blindly follow everything someone calling themselves a scientist well preaches. God gave me a brain and I chose to use it. Generally though we reach points that science cannot explain and I attribute that to god. A strict it is all just like in the bible stance is silly and for the ignorant. Science is a great tool for me for how the world and universe around me works, but religion is a great moral compass.

I could go into specific places I do not follow the "good Catholic" party line. But suffice to say I go about 50/50 in agreement with the church. But I do not see religion and science as one or the other and there is now also a scientific division in the Vatican. So I am pretty sure the church does not either. Extremists and fanatics of any flavor are a bad thing no matter if they are Christian, Muslim, Pagan, or Atheist. Also many overly religious sorts use that as an excuse to be pretentious and snotty which is a direct contradiction to most religious teachings.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #13 on: July 11, 2013, 01:30:10 PM »
Doh! I hit the wrong spot with that and now it will not let me delete it!

Offline KythiaTopic starter

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #14 on: July 11, 2013, 02:02:44 PM »
It might not conflict with your core values, but neither is it particularly supported by them. It's supported by your completely arbitrary weighting of these people's value. There's absolutely nothing in there that prevents you from doing any horrible thing you want to anybody you do't particularly care about - and pretty much nobody cares about the overwhelming majority of the world, except in extreme abstract. So this doesn't seem a terribly workable system, and certainly not one that a lot of people should adopt by any stretch.

Again, I think we're talking two different languages here.  "Workable" and "one that people should adopt" are simply not factors for me.  My moral code isn't, I dunno, isn't written on blue paper, either, but I don't consider that an issue.  As I've said, adopt it, adopt a different one, I'm free and easy. 

I'll return to this point and expand in a moment.

Quote
I don't particularly care to have a leadership role, but this is very untrue in my experience. Are you familiar with the term "do-ocracy"? It's awkward, I'll admit, but it's apt for the particular type of meritocracy that tends to form in communities centered around this sort of thinking. As such, the originator of a worthwhile idea tends to get significant credit and leadership value.
You seem to assume here that all of these people are working in isolation - that there is no such thing as collaboration, or even social pressure to be exerted. This strikes me as a poor assumption, given that I came to this way of thinking via a collaborative community.
I reject this assertion due to the questionable premises supporting it. Further, judging it as good now does not preclude judging some variant of it as bad. For a concrete, if imperfect, example: Darwinian evolution is a sound theory. Eugenics is a horrible idea that leashes it to incredibly racist ideals.

Lumping all of them together in one quote because I'm superhumanly lazy and can't be bothered to split  ;D

I hadn't come across "do-ocracy" but now I have, so thanks.  I get the concept and yeah, that seems to make sense.

It seems very much like your objections to my line of reasoning apply to any moral code.  That your collobarative community could be replaced with e.g. a Christian Church and your (potential) do-acratic leadership applies equally to any founder?  (Though, of course, some potential ideas may be harder to make stick, but that's a distraction.)  I ask this not as criticism, just because I think its useful to define a split here and I want to make sure I'm drawing a line in the right place.

1) We have the base moral code.  My "Kythia should be happy", your expansion on the Golden Rule.

2) We then have that moral code as it exists in the wild, once more than one or a few people hold it and, specifically, people that don't personally know the founder. 

Further, you believe as you have stated repeatedly that a moral code must/should be designed for this stage 2.  That its important that its workable, that people should adopt it, your language varies - obviously - but the key point remains the same.

Do-ocracies are an interesting point but I don't believe as strong a one as you seem to think.  The Soviet Communists identified as Marxist.  The Holy Inquisition (leaving aside the various protestant varieties as unhelpfully confusing) identified Christ as their leader.  Eugenicists (spelling?) trace a spiritual lineage to Darwin and may even refer to themselves as Darwinists.  The Nazi party claimed Nietzsche as a founder.  Etc etc etc.  I would say the lesson of history is that the do-ocratic leadership you seem to be relying on has time and time again been relegated to a figure and a token name check while policies and beliefs that were not intended by the founder - skipping whether they would have been desired or not - are pursued in their name.  I struggle to think of a counter example where the leader/founder is not still alive and active in the movement.

Why is your method different?  What has changed that means every single time this has been attempted it has failed, but yours will work?  Is this a function of the rationality you are putting in to it?  I realise those quick fire questions may have come across as aggresive and I apologise if so, they were meant genuinely.

So how am I getting round that?  I'm skipping it.  You mentioned in our PM exchange that you don't consider "its too hard" to be a viable defence for not pursuing.  I do.  Some things are just too hard to be feasible and I believe that maintaining a purity of vision within a thought system once others become involved is one of those.  Functionally impossible.  You are relying on every future thinker within your system sharing your line of thought.  It just takes one Luther, one filioque, to disrupt that and, crucially, that has happened every single time before.

I think it's too hard.  Everyone has thought their system would stay unchanged, everyone has been wrong.  If something is too hard to be feasible then it should be abandoned, further thought on that specific route is wasted and a simpler method should be found.  My simpler method, while perhaps not the most altrusitic, is to abrogate all responsibility.  Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law, to butcher Crowley's intentions.  I have no control over how other people take and interpret what I think/believe and judging the success or failure of my beliefs by something they can have only peripheral influence on is unhelpful.  If I were to say "Ephiral, I have an awesome idea for a novel.  I'm going to pass it on to someone - no idea who - to write it for me" you wouldn't tell me it was a good novel.   It may be a good plot, but the finished product will inevitably differ and you'd need to reserve judgement.

I believe the lesson of history is that that analogy holds. 

Quote
Large masses can also butcher it. This is why ongoing error correction (the "examine and update" bit I mentioned earlier) is crucial to my methodology.

Here I doubt we'll agree.  My rather pat response would be that the faith has that (that=examine and update) in the form of the Holy Spirit - it's the reason the Gospel of Mark is scripture and the Gospel of Mary Magdelene isn't.  My less pat response would be a lot more words but would boil down to essentially the same argument so I'll save you the effort of reading it.

Of course, you don't think/believe/appropriate noun that thats the case.  I do, and I suspect that any further conversation on this will eventually become "Holy Spirit exists" "No it doesn't" "Does" "Doesn't" and honestly while it wouldn't take much time - I can just save "Does" to the clipboard and CTRL+V it whenever needed it still seems a waste of time.  So I'll just say that I agree that ongoing evaluation is useful and, with your permission, leave it there?

Quote
Addendum to my last bit: Also extremely crucial (else the "examine" stage goes wonky) are explicitly stated goals in the clearest available language. This strikes me as a particular failing of holy texts as a category.

Again, we're speaking different languages here.  It's a failing of holy texts if judged by a belief system that rejects the core principle of the holy text - that the deity in question exists.  Accept that core principle and it ceases to be a failing.  As touched upon above, I have little interest in a discussion of the existence or lack thereof of any or all deities.  You know my thoughts, I know yours, we won't agree.

As a marginally related aside, I would like to thank you for never bringing that specific question up.  I'm not sure if thats been a conscious decision or not, but it has - from my point of view - made this while dialogue more pleasant.  It gets argumentative quick if we cannot both accept a different levels of belief in the divine and, to keep hammering this point, its not a conversation that overly interests me.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #15 on: July 11, 2013, 09:50:02 PM »
Again, I think we're talking two different languages here.  "Workable" and "one that people should adopt" are simply not factors for me.  My moral code isn't, I dunno, isn't written on blue paper, either, but I don't consider that an issue.  As I've said, adopt it, adopt a different one, I'm free and easy.
I must admit confusion. Why claim to have morals at all if you don't care whether or not they're even slightly functional?

I hadn't come across "do-ocracy" but now I have, so thanks.  I get the concept and yeah, that seems to make sense.

It seems very much like your objections to my line of reasoning apply to any moral code.  That your collobarative community could be replaced with e.g. a Christian Church and your (potential) do-acratic leadership applies equally to any founder?  (Though, of course, some potential ideas may be harder to make stick, but that's a distraction.)  I ask this not as criticism, just because I think its useful to define a split here and I want to make sure I'm drawing a line in the right place.
Sure. The exact form it takes isn't important - what is is whether the end result works in most cases, and adapts to those it does not.

Do-ocracies are an interesting point but I don't believe as strong a one as you seem to think.  The Soviet Communists identified as Marxist.  The Holy Inquisition (leaving aside the various protestant varieties as unhelpfully confusing) identified Christ as their leader.  Eugenicists (spelling?) trace a spiritual lineage to Darwin and may even refer to themselves as Darwinists.  The Nazi party claimed Nietzsche as a founder.  Etc etc etc.  I would say the lesson of history is that the do-ocratic leadership you seem to be relying on has time and time again been relegated to a figure and a token name check while policies and beliefs that were not intended by the founder - skipping whether they would have been desired or not - are pursued in their name.  I struggle to think of a counter example where the leader/founder is not still alive and active in the movement.
Your previous examples are completely different structures - not even meritocratic at all. The entire point of the structure I propose is that it tends to promote the people who actually get shit done. (For the record: While the originators of ideas tend to get more credit as leaders, it is considered important in some circles - including the ones I follow - that a leader's ideas be viewed with extra skepticism, lest we descend into hero worship and akrasia.)

As for a counterexample with a dead leader: I've been putting one forth. Jeremy Bentham is over a century dead now, and utilitarianism has changed and adapted in several ways - in some cases correcting for dangerous oversights in Bentham's original idea. Nonetheless, I can't think of a single variant that he wouldn't immediately recognize as a descendant of his own work - or one that he would view negastively. (He might see some of them as less useful or poorer at accomplishing the intended goals, but I doubt he would view any as harmful.)

Why is your method different?  What has changed that means every single time this has been attempted it has failed, but yours will work?  Is this a function of the rationality you are putting in to it?  I realise those quick fire questions may have come across as aggresive and I apologise if so, they were meant genuinely.
I am not saying my idea will work - I can't know that for certain, obviously. I say that it is the only one I've seen that is actively error-correcting - that the methodology involved works against severe deviations and useless cultish behaviour alike, because its core is "How does this function in the real world? Is this desirable according to the stated maxims? How can we correct it?". It might not be perfect - it might not work, a few centuries down the road! - but it certainly seems to have far more longevity, and puts more effort into getting things right, than any other examples I can see.

So how am I getting round that?  I'm skipping it.  You mentioned in our PM exchange that you don't consider "its too hard" to be a viable defence for not pursuing.  I do.  Some things are just too hard to be feasible and I believe that maintaining a purity of vision within a thought system once others become involved is one of those.  Functionally impossible.  You are relying on every future thinker within your system sharing your line of thought.  It just takes one Luther, one filioque, to disrupt that and, crucially, that has happened every single time before.
I don't consider "it's too hard" a valid defense mainly because if we accept it, nothing important gets done. I see the work of coming up with a viable system as kinda important (it ties into some much larger problems that are outside the scope of this thread).

I think it's too hard.  Everyone has thought their system would stay unchanged, everyone has been wrong.  If something is too hard to be feasible then it should be abandoned, further thought on that specific route is wasted and a simpler method should be found.  My simpler method, while perhaps not the most altrusitic, is to abrogate all responsibility.  Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law, to butcher Crowley's intentions.  I have no control over how other people take and interpret what I think/believe and judging the success or failure of my beliefs by something they can have only peripheral influence on is unhelpful.  If I were to say "Ephiral, I have an awesome idea for a novel.  I'm going to pass it on to someone - no idea who - to write it for me" you wouldn't tell me it was a good novel.   It may be a good plot, but the finished product will inevitably differ and you'd need to reserve judgement.

I believe the lesson of history is that that analogy holds.

So when do we judge it, then? Do we have to wait until it dies out, because a living meme is a mutating one? Or do we need to wait for some threshold to pass? And, crucially, what do we do about the damage done in the interim?

Here I doubt we'll agree.  My rather pat response would be that the faith has that (that=examine and update) in the form of the Holy Spirit - it's the reason the Gospel of Mark is scripture and the Gospel of Mary Magdelene isn't.  My less pat response would be a lot more words but would boil down to essentially the same argument so I'll save you the effort of reading it.
I... don't get how that works. The Holy Spirit is not a source of consistent or reliable feedback, as far as I can see. I'll concede its existence for the sake of argument - how do you know for a fact you're communicating with it, that the message you're receiving is accurate, and that its judgement criteria make sense for its intended goals?

Of course, you don't think/believe/appropriate noun that thats the case.  I do, and I suspect that any further conversation on this will eventually become "Holy Spirit exists" "No it doesn't" "Does" "Doesn't" and honestly while it wouldn't take much time - I can just save "Does" to the clipboard and CTRL+V it whenever needed it still seems a waste of time.  So I'll just say that I agree that ongoing evaluation is useful and, with your permission, leave it there?
I'd rather not get into that particular circular argument, but the above questions are something I honestly need clarification on - this feels like it's cutting close to the core of what I sought when I approached you.

Again, we're speaking different languages here.  It's a failing of holy texts if judged by a belief system that rejects the core principle of the holy text - that the deity in question exists.  Accept that core principle and it ceases to be a failing.  As touched upon above, I have little interest in a discussion of the existence or lack thereof of any or all deities.  You know my thoughts, I know yours, we won't agree.

Whether or not any deity you care to name exists is beside the point. If it did, I would have the same questions about its moral framework - is it good? Is it effective? (I am using "good" as a shortcut to avoid a huge text wall, but I think you get the core point.) If the answer to either of these is "No", then I don't really give a crap if God personally handed it down to me, I have no reason to follow it. Obedience to authority for authority's sake is never a good thing, regardless of where that authority derives from.

As a marginally related aside, I would like to thank you for never bringing that specific question up.  I'm not sure if thats been a conscious decision or not, but it has - from my point of view - made this while dialogue more pleasant.  It gets argumentative quick if we cannot both accept a different levels of belief in the divine and, to keep hammering this point, its not a conversation that overly interests me.
I make a point to avoid that when I'm actively trying to understand religious viewpoints. We're not going to agree, it's going to be a shouting match, and it teaches neither of us anything of value. For the purposes of discussions like this, I'm fully willing to concede the point - I want to see what that world looks like from the inside.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #16 on: July 12, 2013, 10:57:02 AM »
I must admit confusion. Why claim to have morals at all if you don't care whether or not they're even slightly functional?

Heh.  As must I.  I don't care whether my kitchen table sinks or floats.  Sure, its an attribute a kitchen table could and in fact does have, but for me its not the core role of a kitchen table and is a totally useless attribute.

I think we might be running up against a chasm of "we don't agree" here.  But let me trace through my argument even if more in the interests of clearing up confusion than convincing you.

Quote
morals  plural of mor·al (Noun)

Noun

1.A lesson, esp. one concerning what is right or prudent, that can be derived from a story, a piece of information, or an experience.
2.A person's standards of behavior or beliefs concerning what is and is not acceptable for them to do.


I think we can agree we're talking about definition 2, here.  One seems to be "the moral of the story is <whatever>" Taking that definition, functional is clearly not an issue. 

You seem to be adding to that definition, though, words to the effect of "and that you believe others should also adopt."  That's fine.  I'm not gonna criticise you for not using dictionary definitions, we both knew exactly what you meant.  The reason I throw the fine folks at Mirriam Webster into the mix though is to try to show that your addendum doesn't form a sine qua non of a moral system.

So I think that in part the reason for your confusion is that you haven't fully internalised that your addendum is an addendum and you're viewing it as an essential part.

Had I set out to create something in the Ephiral mould, I may have come up with something else.  I didn't.

So why not?  Why haven't I said "You know, Ephiral, I'd actually never considered a world where everyone adopted that standard.  Hmmm.  Lemme go away and think about that."  It's not just pride.  I'd like to think its not at all pride, but I'm not certain so will veer away from that higher level.

My issue is that I don't think its possible.  Again, I think we fell into a little semantic trap with my quoting your "too hard."  To me, the "too" there is an absolute.  Flapping your wings hard enough to fly is "too hard".  "Too hard to be done", is what I read from that.  "It's hard" isn't an excuse, "it's too hard" isn't just an excuse but also an absolute.  So when, in a few paragraphs, I use "too hard" bear in mind that I'm using it in my sense of "impossible" not what I now realise is yours of "very hard".
 
My belief is that the vicissitudes of the world on a system make predicting the outcome of the world's influence on an idea too hard.  You mention John Bentham and that's a brilliant example (more on that anon) and I actually logged on today to correct myself with the example of Calvinism which it occurred to me is also relatively unchanged, unchanged enough to be recognisable.  So yes, you're quite right that my blanket statement of (paraphrased) "all ideologies change from the ideas of their maker" was incorrect.  As I say, I'll return to this in a bit as there's some interesting ideas to be drawn from it.   
Mild Distraction
Your point about meritocracies is off base a little, by the way.  While the word for it may be new, the idea certainly isn't.  Hell, look at Paul.  He devoted his life to preaching and instruction, he was a guy who got shit done.  And now Pauline Christianity is overwhelmingly the dominant brand.  Throughout history, leaders of movements have been (not exclusively, granted) people who got shit done.  Modern times have formalised the idea, not invented it.  But that's by the by.

So given that future generations change every idea - whether they change it enough to be a different thing or simply refine isn't important, merely that it is changed and developed - we have two routes.  I use "we" deliberately, there are more than two but "we", Ephiral and Kythia, have two different routes.

You attempt, so far as is possible, to future proof your ideas.  That's fine, I think we both understand what that implies. 

I, and hopefully here is where the last part of your confusion is addressed, say that future proofing is too hard and the thought put in to that could more profitably be placed elsewhere.  Specifically in altering current conditions enough that future generations have ideas I would like.  Take the example of slavery.  I think most people would see it as abhorent and thats a function of the world we have grown up in.  Noone thinking about their beliefs today accepts it because its unacceptable and no moral code developed in the west nowadays would include it as an option.  Changing the world today means that whatever people come up with in the future it will be influenced by the changes we have made today.  Let the future deal with itself, but let it deal with itself within a framework made by the present.

Not that I'm accusing you of doing nothing, of sitting in an ivory tower and ignoring present problems.  That's certainly not the way you come across.  All I'm saying is that I believe morals should work for the person, the time and the place, and that generalising beyond the specific is unhelpful because the factors that will affect it are unknowable to us.

As I say, I think we may not agree here but hopefully that does at least clear your confusion.  In brief:

1) We are using different definitions of morals - mine happens to agree with Miriam Webster but thats not to say its more or less correct than yours and its certainly not why I adopted it.
2) You confusion stems in part from, I suspect, not having realised that your definition wasn't the only possible one
3) I don't adopt yours as I believe doing it fully is impossible.

Anyway.



Quote from: Kythia
I struggle to think of a counter example where the leader/founder is not still alive and active in the movement.

Quote from: Ephiral
Jeremy Bentham is over a century dead now

As I say, I logged on here today to mention that it had occured to me that Calvinsim wa a counter example - noticed your post and figured I may as well respond.  I'm actually more embarassed about not having thought of utilitarianism, given who I'm speaking to.  In my partial defence, I think the fact that its not called "Benthamism" may have meant Bentham wasn't at the forefront of my mind but that may well be descending to self-justification.  Certainly not my smartest moment, I think we can agree on that much.

So I guess that makes the question of whether there are attributes of a system that make it resistent to change or whether its a fluke of probability - if enough people toss a coin a hundred times, some of them will get a hundred heads, if enough people come up with ideas systems, some of them will be unchanged.

I can't answer that, but I tend towards the latter.  That may well be idealogical and I'd be wary of attaching too much weight to that.  One interesting point that does come out though relates to your:

Quote from: Ephiral
Addendum to my last bit: Also extremely crucial (else the "examine" stage goes wonky) are explicitly stated goals in the clearest available language.

If the thought of Calvin's language didn't leave you crying and gently rocking then I can assume you haven't read them.  Don't.  Noone in the world ever has enjoyed reading Calvin's writings and Wikipedia's summary is perfectly fine.  Suffice to say his language is dense, confusing, full of detours and tautology and generally just horrific.  So I'm not sure that that part is crucial.  I actually think volume of work (unique work) might be more important than clarity qua clarity.  The sheer number of variations addressed and situations explained.  Bentham also left a lot of writing.  But that's just a gut feeling.

He (Calvin) did, however, insist on people not revering him but rather working with and on his ideas, which links to your:

Quote from: Ephiral
(For the record: While the originators of ideas tend to get more credit as leaders, it is considered important in some circles - including the ones I follow - that a leader's ideas be viewed with extra skepticism, lest we descend into hero worship and akrasia.)

I suppose the logical thing to do is to examine various idealogies and see if common strands could be extracted that does serve to future proof them.  If that is something you plan to do, to devote any time to, then I would be extremely interested in being a part of that project now the idea has occurred to me.  Whether as the two of us or as part of a wider group.  If it is an idea you run with and you feel I can contribute anything at all then please take my willingness to be a part as read, if you don't feel I can contribute then please take my willingness in reading your conclusions as read.



Life on the inside and the holy spirit.  Mmmkay.

Let me preface this with a few caveats which I shall spoiler as they're a bit of a side issue: 

Kythia rambling on
1) It's almost impossible for the layman to say anything about the nature of the trinity that hasn't been decried as heresy.  As I sit and mentally compose this exposition I am aware I'm veering into the Sabellian heresy (and related modalist heresies), the Pneumatomachian heresy and Marcionism (although I personally have a lot of time for Marcionism.)  There are probably others.  If I thought there was much chance of converting you then I would likely be a bit more careful with some of my language, but for our purposes I don't think its overly important.

2) I'm not supporting anything with quotations.  This is simply because they space they will take up will make an already long post into an absolute monster.  If you want me to expand on anything then shout, but for the moment I won't bother.

3) I find when a lot of people, atheists, decry Christianity what they are actually complaining about is a particular brand of predominantly new world evangelical protestantism.  I'm not sola scriptura, I think I've made that clear.  I'm from the all consuming via media of the Catholic and Reformed Church of England.  While, as I mentioned in the Religion. Ethics. Life thread that started this there are positions on which I disagree, I'm not about to get excommunicated nor am I about to schism.

Stephen Langton (?1150 - 1228), while he was Archibishop of Canterbury, divided the Bible into chapters and verses, the system we use today. I think this was, on balance, a mistake.  If I say that, in "The God Delusion", Richard Dawkins wrote:

Quote
It is time to face up to the important role that God plays in consoling us

Then, assuming you didn't think I was lying (I'm not) you'd assume that I'd ripped that quote out of context.  And you'd be quite right, I have.  I think it's easier to spot that its ripped out of context because I can't precisely identify the sentence better than "start of the second paragraph on page 394 in the 2007 paperback printing" which makes it clear its only one line within an entire book.  However, any sentence in the Bible can be precisely identified.  <Book> <Chapter>:<Verse>.  I think that has had the side effect of making the Bible look like a collection of statements rather than a cohesive whole.  I've touched on it above, more than touched in fact, but I just felt it worth making explicit that while there may be a specific passage in the Bible that says one thing what is important is the message as a whole from both Scripture and, as I shall discuss once this seemingly never ending aside ends, Church Tradition.

As an aside, to answer a question I am frequently asked, no I don't see any issue in being a member of the church when I don't wholeheartedly support all of its positions.  Any more than I see a problem with voting for a candidate when I think some of their policies are incorrect, some should have greater focus, some less.  Or giving to a charity that I feel should focus more on one problem than another.  I see no issue with belongning to an organisation whose agenda I don't 100% support (obviously I see an issue with one whose agenda I 0% support, but you get my point).  I know you haven't mentioned it, but its something I find myself explaining a lot so thought it was worth putting here.

So.  Roughly two millenia ago, Jesus lived and died.  If he wrote anything down - he almost certainly was literate - we don't have it.  Following his death there was a trend to write histories of his life.  What we now call the Gospels.  Further on, there was a trend to write expositions of his teachings, these go by various names.  There was also the tradition of Apocalypses - Revelation is the most famous - but they're a side issue.  All of this, without exception, was written by humans.

By about the end of the fourth century there was a de facto acceptance that 27 of these writings were Scripture; the most important of the vast array of writings that emerged.  It's instructive to note, though, that there was no de jure acceptance of the canon until the Council of Trent - 1545 to 1563 - and solely to answer Luther.  Without him, its likely there still wouldn't be an official list.  (I can't count the number of people I've directed to Misconceptions about the First Council of Nicea)

These were - here and throughout I'm taking the existence of God as a given, you've mentioned you're willing to concede for the purposes of this conversation - divinely inspired.  Jesus was physically, as a human, on the earth for about 38 years (and here I veer into Arianism, I really am racking up the heresy today) so clearly not every human would be able to hear him speak.  For future generations, or even present ones not living in Judea, it was important that his words gain a broader and more permanent means of spreading.  God knew that, he's pretty fucking smart, and so inspired writers to spread and work on the teachings.

Why work on?  Well, as I say I'm not sola scriptura myself and, while I know the arguments, because I don't believe them I can't put them across fully.  But some would, and do, argue that if God is so fucking smart why couldn't he overcome the biases of the authors and put it in a way that would be clear to all men throughout all time.  Firstly, I believe that argument fails even within its own terms.  There are numerous Old Testament passages of God telling people to do shit and them not understanding, so following that argument through leads us nowhere but "Jews are so fucking stupid that even an ominscient being couldn't get through to them, not like us" which is disturbing and, more importantly, impossible to reconcile with them being His favourite/favoured people.  Secondly, sure God was capable of giving Paul instructions about how we're to deal with nucleur winter, what precisely to do about the Fourth Earth - Alpha Centuri War and how to deal with Hitler.  But in order for His words to carry the emotional punch - Yey!  Full Circle! - that is needed for people to follow them, they needed to be understandable.  So those bits were left out, He'll tell humanity when they could understand what He was on about rather than confusing a load of first century levantines with instructions about what He thought about cloning.  Not like He'll die before He gets a chance.

So the important point to note is that Christian thought didn't stop with the de facto acceptance of Scripture.  Then there were the Church Fathers - Tertullian, Origen, Augustine, Clement who I mentioned above.  Then the ecumenical councils - the Church of England accepts, in order, Nicaea 1, Constantinople 1, Ephesus 1,  Chalcedon, Constantinople 2, Constantinople 3, (Quinisext - arguably) Nicaea 2 - covering 450 years.  Then the medieval doctors of the Church, Aquinus, Beckett and the like.  Then the 39 articles.  Then the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral.  Christian theology certainly didn't end with Scripture.

But equally, not all of Christian thought is accepted.  You'll notice (or possibly you won't) I skipped Ephesus 2 in the list of accepted councils for example.  So who decides what gets accepted and what not?  You could argue this is to do with persuasive speakers or politics.  I would argue that that is a symptom rather than a cause.  That politics worked in that way, or that Athanasius was a more powerful writer than Arius, because of God's influence.  That the reason we can be sure of the thought that has developed to us in the present day is because God has been watching the process the whole time (ugh, that makes me feel dirty but it'll do for the purposes of this conversation) and encouraging the correct ideas while discouraging the either incorrect or so warped by human intervention as to be unhelpful.

And, finally, the part of the Godhead that does that is the Holy Spirit.  The person who keeps that process on track.

So yes, the Holy Spirit is a source of consistent and reliable feedback.  Its a self correcting system, the ideas that are in accordance to the Divine Plan float to the top, the others sink.  Perhaps you could wish it to be clearer but, meh, religions aren't there to please atheists and you kinda don't have a dog in that race, to be honest.  As to how I know its judgement criteria makes sense, God exists out of time.  He's not bound by the same problem we are, that we have to judge an action based on its predicted usefulness, He can flat out see the results of any action.  So its criteria... well, it doesn't really have criteria in the sense you mean it.  It's not limited by having to work out whether action A will support its goals so judgement criteria simply aren't relevant. 

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #17 on: July 12, 2013, 01:20:31 PM »
I'm cutting out some of your text to try and keep this from being too monstrously huge. Anything I've removed, I have no particular objections to; I generally agree on these points, so don't see them as necessary to address. If you feel I've distorted your words in so doing, call me on it; this is not my intent.

You seem to be adding to that definition, though, words to the effect of "and that you believe others should also adopt."  That's fine.  I'm not gonna criticise you for not using dictionary definitions, we both knew exactly what you meant.  The reason I throw the fine folks at Mirriam Webster into the mix though is to try to show that your addendum doesn't form a sine qua non of a moral system.
I don't think universality is a necessary criterion of a moral system. I do, however, think it's one of the best and most fundamental error checks possible. If the system breaks down by becoming the norm, there is likely a significant fault that needs addressed.

I do think "functional" is kinda important, though - if you don't have an internally consistent and at least mostly functional system, then you're working from sheer arbitrary whim - why not just admit it and stop bothering with all this silly talk of morals and ethics?

My issue is that I don't think its possible.  Again, I think we fell into a little semantic trap with my quoting your "too hard."  To me, the "too" there is an absolute.  Flapping your wings hard enough to fly is "too hard".  "Too hard to be done", is what I read from that.  "It's hard" isn't an excuse, "it's too hard" isn't just an excuse but also an absolute.  So when, in a few paragraphs, I use "too hard" bear in mind that I'm using it in my sense of "impossible" not what I now realise is yours of "very hard".
Yeah, this was a point of rupture. "Impossible" is an absolute barrier; the moment you run up against it (and have verified that the task is in fact impossible, and not simply very very hard), then you should drop the task and focus your efforts somewhere useful.
 
Mild Distraction
Your point about meritocracies is off base a little, by the way.  While the word for it may be new, the idea certainly isn't.  Hell, look at Paul.  He devoted his life to preaching and instruction, he was a guy who got shit done.  And now Pauline Christianity is overwhelmingly the dominant brand.  Throughout history, leaders of movements have been (not exclusively, granted) people who got shit done.  Modern times have formalised the idea, not invented it.  But that's by the by.
Mild response
Yes, but were the organizations they founded structured in such a way as to let other get-shit-done types rise to the top, or were there other criteria such as adherence to dogma? I don't think modern times have an exclusive hold on meritocracy by any stretch, but this is a poor example.

I, and hopefully here is where the last part of your confusion is addressed, say that future proofing is too hard and the thought put in to that could more profitably be placed elsewhere.  Specifically in altering current conditions enough that future generations have ideas I would like.  Take the example of slavery.  I think most people would see it as abhorent and thats a function of the world we have grown up in.  Noone thinking about their beliefs today accepts it because its unacceptable and no moral code developed in the west nowadays would include it as an option.  Changing the world today means that whatever people come up with in the future it will be influenced by the changes we have made today.  Let the future deal with itself, but let it deal with itself within a framework made by the present.
This makes a lot of sense, and I do believe that addressing the world as it stands is an important component too - I'm a huge social justice nut largely because of the moral system I've outlined here. However, I think there are a lot of assumptions in there that most people aren't even aware they're making, and it's important to unpack them. One of the harder ones - and I don't have a solid answer, not yet! - is what exactly we, as a whole, would "like". What does winning the game look like for humanity?

Not that I'm accusing you of doing nothing, of sitting in an ivory tower and ignoring present problems.  That's certainly not the way you come across.  All I'm saying is that I believe morals should work for the person, the time and the place, and that generalising beyond the specific is unhelpful because the factors that will affect it are unknowable to us.
I don't read you that way. The difference, I think, is less in future-proofing - given a solid core, future generations will adapt the system to deal with future problems - and more in that I see a strong need for a concrete and measurable benchmark of what "work" actually means.

So I guess that makes the question of whether there are attributes of a system that make it resistent to change or whether its a fluke of probability - if enough people toss a coin a hundred times, some of them will get a hundred heads, if enough people come up with ideas systems, some of them will be unchanged.
I don't think change is the enemy, so much as diversion. Bentham never thought of negative utilitarianism - minimizing pain - but I would hold that it's an important component. It's basically a matter of staying on-target.

As to aspects that make a system resistant to diversion? Well, first and foremost is being conscious of, and actively watching out for, the sort of mental patterns that tend to lead to diversion. This much I've seen in action enough to place strong odds on it working far better than random chance.

If the thought of Calvin's language didn't leave you crying and gently rocking then I can assume you haven't read them.  Don't.  Noone in the world ever has enjoyed reading Calvin's writings and Wikipedia's summary is perfectly fine.  Suffice to say his language is dense, confusing, full of detours and tautology and generally just horrific.  So I'm not sure that that part is crucial.  I actually think volume of work (unique work) might be more important than clarity qua clarity.  The sheer number of variations addressed and situations explained.  Bentham also left a lot of writing.  But that's just a gut feeling.

He (Calvin) did, however, insist on people not revering him but rather working with and on his ideas, which links to your:

I suppose the logical thing to do is to examine various idealogies and see if common strands could be extracted that does serve to future proof them.  If that is something you plan to do, to devote any time to, then I would be extremely interested in being a part of that project now the idea has occurred to me.  Whether as the two of us or as part of a wider group.  If it is an idea you run with and you feel I can contribute anything at all then please take my willingness to be a part as read, if you don't feel I can contribute then please take my willingness in reading your conclusions as read.
I think volume of writing is a factor, but honestly I'd place more value on clarity. This is speaking from the gut rather than any example I can point to, so weight it appropriately, but it is more useful to me as a student to have three solid books that explain a subject in an accessible manner than thirty that bury the topic in dense and obfuscated writing. Make the system easier to follow, and it gains more and better followers.

As far as examining systems and finding the common threads: This strikes me as a laudably worthwhile goal, but one I'm not sure I have time to do in the depth it deserves right now. I could certainly work out an idea of where to begin and what to do, though, and I absolutely think you have something to contribute. Toss me a PM if you've got any seed ideas; I've got a couple, but they need a lot of polishing before they're ready for action.

Life on the inside and the holy spirit.  Mmmkay.

Minor side point.
3) I find when a lot of people, atheists, decry Christianity what they are actually complaining about is a particular brand of predominantly new world evangelical protestantism.  I'm not sola scriptura, I think I've made that clear.  I'm from the all consuming via media of the Catholic and Reformed Church of England.  While, as I mentioned in the Religion. Ethics. Life thread that started this there are positions on which I disagree, I'm not about to get excommunicated nor am I about to schism.
This is why I don't "decry" Christianity as a whole. I'll decry certain virulent strains of evangelicism, and I question whether the net balance of religion's action is positive, and I don't understand the assertion that something with no evidence is absolutely true, but there's just too much diversity within Christianity, let alone within religion - some of which I strongly admire.

Stephen Langton (?1150 - 1228), while he was Archibishop of Canterbury, divided the Bible into chapters and verses, the system we use today. I think this was, on balance, a mistake.  If I say that, in "The God Delusion", Richard Dawkins wrote:

Then, assuming you didn't think I was lying (I'm not) you'd assume that I'd ripped that quote out of context.  And you'd be quite right, I have.  I think it's easier to spot that its ripped out of context because I can't precisely identify the sentence better than "start of the second paragraph on page 394 in the 2007 paperback printing" which makes it clear its only one line within an entire book.  However, any sentence in the Bible can be precisely identified.  <Book> <Chapter>:<Verse>.  I think that has had the side effect of making the Bible look like a collection of statements rather than a cohesive whole.  I've touched on it above, more than touched in fact, but I just felt it worth making explicit that while there may be a specific passage in the Bible that says one thing what is important is the message as a whole from both Scripture and, as I shall discuss once this seemingly never ending aside ends, Church Tradition.
This is an angle I should have thought of and did not. Thank you for the insight here.

Okay, a warning here: Some of this might come across poorly. I've tried to keep as close as I can to the core of my issues, but I understand that those might still come across offensively. This is not my intent; please be generous in your reading.

Why work on?  Well, as I say I'm not sola scriptura myself and, while I know the arguments, because I don't believe them I can't put them across fully.  But some would, and do, argue that if God is so fucking smart why couldn't he overcome the biases of the authors and put it in a way that would be clear to all men throughout all time.  Firstly, I believe that argument fails even within its own terms.  There are numerous Old Testament passages of God telling people to do shit and them not understanding, so following that argument through leads us nowhere but "Jews are so fucking stupid that even an ominscient being couldn't get through to them, not like us" which is disturbing and, more importantly, impossible to reconcile with them being His favourite/favoured people.  Secondly, sure God was capable of giving Paul instructions about how we're to deal with nucleur winter, what precisely to do about the Fourth Earth - Alpha Centuri War and how to deal with Hitler.  But in order for His words to carry the emotional punch - Yey!  Full Circle! - that is needed for people to follow them, they needed to be understandable.  So those bits were left out, He'll tell humanity when they could understand what He was on about rather than confusing a load of first century levantines with instructions about what He thought about cloning.  Not like He'll die before He gets a chance.
See, here's where things get wonky to me - though I fully admit I'm coming from a rather unusual perspective here. A being with nigh-infinite time and the ability to casually instantiate deterministic universes (yes, it took work, but "one week of serious personal exertion" is pretty casual when weighed against "literally all the time available") and interact with those universes later on, even without omniscience, has no excuse whatsoever for getting things any less than perfect in the final product. God's instructions were less than perfect (differing good-faith interpretations exist). Conclusion: We are not the final product, but one of the testbeds. This is... a pretty depressing worldview, and doesn't appear to line up with anything actually believed by any significant portion of Christianity.

But equally, not all of Christian thought is accepted.  You'll notice (or possibly you won't) I skipped Ephesus 2 in the list of accepted councils for example.  So who decides what gets accepted and what not?  You could argue this is to do with persuasive speakers or politics.  I would argue that that is a symptom rather than a cause.  That politics worked in that way, or that Athanasius was a more powerful writer than Arius, because of God's influence.  That the reason we can be sure of the thought that has developed to us in the present day is because God has been watching the process the whole time (ugh, that makes me feel dirty but it'll do for the purposes of this conversation) and encouraging the correct ideas while discouraging the either incorrect or so warped by human intervention as to be unhelpful.

And, finally, the part of the Godhead that does that is the Holy Spirit.  The person who keeps that process on track.

So yes, the Holy Spirit is a source of consistent and reliable feedback.  Its a self correcting system, the ideas that are in accordance to the Divine Plan float to the top, the others sink.  Perhaps you could wish it to be clearer but, meh, religions aren't there to please atheists and you kinda don't have a dog in that race, to be honest.  As to how I know its judgement criteria makes sense, God exists out of time.  He's not bound by the same problem we are, that we have to judge an action based on its predicted usefulness, He can flat out see the results of any action.  So its criteria... well, it doesn't really have criteria in the sense you mean it.  It's not limited by having to work out whether action A will support its goals so judgement criteria simply aren't relevant.
Critically important question time: What does a world where the Holy Spirit is not doing this look like? How does it differ from this one? If presented with two worlds which are otherwise equally plausible, one in which God exists and one in which He does not, how can you tell which one you're in?

As with your rapidfire questions before, this is not meant as aggression; I'm trying to be as clear as I can here, understanding that an inferential gap exists. This question is one of the most basic and fundamental ones to ask of any phenomenon that isn't directly observable, to me.
[/quote]

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #18 on: July 12, 2013, 03:17:56 PM »
Quote from: Kythia
Certainly not my smartest moment, I think we can agree on that much.

Quote from: Ephiral
Anything I've removed, I have no particular objections to; I generally agree on these points, so don't see them as necessary to address.

*sulks*



Quote from: Ephiral
I do think "functional" is kinda important, though - if you don't have an internally consistent and at least mostly functional system, then you're working from sheer arbitrary whim - why not just admit it and stop bothering with all this silly talk of morals and ethics?

Could you go into a little more depth on what "functional" means here.  I have a suspicion we're arguing semantics again, but Im not sure.



Tying some of your other points together raises another question.  You and I seem to agree on most specifics of behaviour.  Your morals developed through rigourous application of rationality, mine not.  Yet the specific expression agrees.  Why is rationality important then when - and we've agreed in previous discussions that it doesn't matter what you think, just what you do - the outcome could well be the same?  Why is it important to eliminate biases when every previous social justice movement has managed perfectly well with them intact?

What I mean there is:

Quote from: Ephiral
and it's important to unpack them

Why?

Quote from: Ephiral
I see a strong need for a concrete and measurable benchmark of what "work" actually means

Why?

What is the, ha, the "tangible, this-makes-a-difference-in-how-we-interact-with-the-world" benefit of an attempt to weed out cognitive biases?  I'm sorry if it looks like I was trying to throw your words back in your face there, that wasn't the intent.  I just found it amusing.

It's not that I particularly think you're mistaken.  Simply that I've never heard a good defence of that position and think you might be the one.  Every one I've heard seems to be a variant of "I don't think you should believe things that aren't true" which is dispatched with a shrug and a "I do." making this entirely a matter of personal opinion.  Which is fine for (hypothetical) me, I'm not trying to build a world view on objective truths, but you are and it has always struck me as a pretty major problem.



Quote from: Ephiral
See, here's where things get wonky to me - though I fully admit I'm coming from a rather unusual perspective here. A being with nigh-infinite time and the ability to casually instantiate deterministic universes (yes, it took work, but "one week of serious personal exertion" is pretty casual when weighed against "literally all the time available") and interact with those universes later on, even without omniscience, has no excuse whatsoever for getting things any less than perfect in the final product. God's instructions were less than perfect (differing good-faith interpretations exist). Conclusion: We are not the final product, but one of the testbeds. This is... a pretty depressing worldview, and doesn't appear to line up with anything actually believed by any significant portion of Christianity.

Thats actually pretty close to the various Gnostic heresies.  God is perfect, world isn't, therefore world wasn't created by God, QED.  They posit, instead of a testbed, a "Demiurge", a subordinate being to God - vastly more powerful than humanity but fallible.  I'm bundling a whole load of divergent thoughts into a couple of sentences and doing a disservice to literally every single one of them, but I felt it was just a passing observation and not worth fully unpicking.

Anyway.  In answer to your question, and obviously this is my/C of E's interpretation.  It's an interesting topic and there's a wide variety of thought on it.

Humans aren't capable of withstanding direct human brain to divine communication of the type needed to put across all possible answers clearly.  Dialing down the godness to a level low enough for humans to deal with it means dialling down the clarity of the message to a level where human interpretation can modify it.

Which just pushes the question back a stage.  Why didn't God make humans better so they could deal with that sort of contact?  Well, clearly he could.  And maybe there's a plant in Andromeda somewhere where the inhabitants are like that.  And another one in *racks brain to think of another galaxy* the Large Magellanic Cloud where the inhabitants can survive even less contact and so the Word has been subject to even more interpretation.  The analogy is with the weak anthropic principle, really, on that front.

There are also problems with your usage of "perfect" - "no excuse whatsoever for getting things any less than perfect in the final product".  First it assumes that you know what God was aiming for and this wasn't it.  If it was a clear and unambigious commnuication of his wishes then sure, imperfect.  If it was something else - free will for example - then maybe that clear communication wasn't important.  Maybe there's something, even, that conflicts between clear communication of the divine will and humanity progressing to the point where it can produce Kythia (Kythia in the specific, not "a modern human".   Point is, the goal of humanity is me.  I checked with God and he confirmed it)

Finally, your usage of "perfect" fails the test on the same principles as the argument of yours I shall quote next.  Is this world not perfect?  What would a perfect one look like?  How would we know the difference?  Obviously making the claim that the world is perfect is a bigger one that that its not, but the principle holds.

Quote from: Ephiral
Critically important question time: What does a world where the Holy Spirit is not doing this look like? How does it differ from this one? If presented with two worlds which are otherwise equally plausible, one in which God exists and one in which He does not, how can you tell which one you're in?

As with your rapidfire questions before, this is not meant as aggression; I'm trying to be as clear as I can here, understanding that an inferential gap exists. This question is one of the most basic and fundamental ones to ask of any phenomenon that isn't directly observable, to me.

This is, obviously, the argument I referred to in my last paragraph above.

We have two parallel earths.  On one of them God exists and functions in precisely the way I stated.  On the other, He doesn't at all and the entirety of religion is a human construct.  I'm ignoring Norse pantheon-World, Allah-world, etc, as the principle is the same.  Which one of those two do we live on.

Well, clearly its impossible to be sure.  It is also impossible to be sure we don't live a third parallel world where science functions only because a cat in Chigwell, Essex, UK deems it so, I'm simply pointing out that that way solipsism lies if you take it too far.

My main counter to the argument is to point out that its essentially a restatement of a "God doesn't exist" type argument.  There's no solid testable argument I can make in favour of world one, none you can make in favour of world two.  And while stating that "we don't agree and neither will convince the other" is in no way an answer to that question in the strictest sense, it is the last answer most get from me through sheer overwhelming lack of interest in the discussion.

But in this case, I shall answer if we can agree that this is solely my opinions on "what does a world without God look like" and I have zero interest in pursuing that as part of a debate and - given that I can predict your answer to the same one would be "this one" - little interest in your response.  I apologise if that sounded surly, I'm hoping that the fact that I've answered at all can be seen as a sign of good faith.

I don't think there would be any religion at all, I believe non-Christian faiths are a groping, imperfect as they are, towards the Christian faith (I am aware of how offensive that is to those followers of other faiths.  As I have mentioned elsewhere, though, a core component of following one faith is the conviction that others are flat out wrong).  The world would be different but I wouldn't like to speculate on how.  Without the Catholic church's domination over Europe...well.  Thats a question for the alternate history writers.  My guess would be that the centre of learning would be further east, perhaps in the holy land - no pun intended.  Humanity wouldn't be as advanced as it is as the developments in rhetoric, debate and all those other fields made by the Church wouldn't exist with knock on effects for any discipline that relies on sound arguments.  Art and music would also have taken a fairly substantial hit.  That's a very euro-centric view but quite honestly I don't know enough about Hinduism to say anything sensible about how India would have developed.

Actually, a conversation about "what would an Earth without religion look like" (as opposed to one without God) could be moderately interesting, but I suspect I would still stay out as it seems like it would descend into a flame war within seconds.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #19 on: July 12, 2013, 03:35:41 PM »
Actually, back to my double posting ways, I've just thought of a tangible, testable hypothesis.  I believe any alien race of sufficient sentience will have a)Religion and more specifically b) a variant, easily recognisable, of Christianity.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #20 on: July 12, 2013, 09:51:05 PM »
*sulks*
*snickers*

Could you go into a little more depth on what "functional" means here.  I have a suspicion we're arguing semantics again, but Im not sure.
Hm. Well, offhand, the key attributes I'd be looking for would be that it must be practicable day-to-day, non-arbitrary, and actually accomplish the goals you set out in creating it.



Tying some of your other points together raises another question.  You and I seem to agree on most specifics of behaviour.  Your morals developed through rigourous application of rationality, mine not.  Yet the specific expression agrees.  Why is rationality important then when - and we've agreed in previous discussions that it doesn't matter what you think, just what you do - the outcome could well be the same?  Why is it important to eliminate biases when every previous social justice movement has managed perfectly well with them intact?
The outcome being the same at this specific moment does not mean it will be the same for all time, which brings us back to error-prone vs error-resistant.

Why?
Because unspecified assumptions are the source of huge amounts of akrasia and confusion. How many times in this very thread have we hit a point of rupture because we both assumed that the other person knew what we were talking about?

Why?
Because without defining "work", you cannot tell if your system actually does work.

What is the, ha, the "tangible, this-makes-a-difference-in-how-we-interact-with-the-world" benefit of an attempt to weed out cognitive biases?  I'm sorry if it looks like I was trying to throw your words back in your face there, that wasn't the intent.  I just found it amusing.
Oh, no, that's fine. Getting to the most correct answer with the least possible time and effort spent getting there (in all things, not just morality) is the ultimate goal. While practicing rationalists are a long way from that goal, I'm seeing what appears to be marked improvement over the general population.

It's not that I particularly think you're mistaken.  Simply that I've never heard a good defence of that position and think you might be the one.  Every one I've heard seems to be a variant of "I don't think you should believe things that aren't true" which is dispatched with a shrug and a "I do." making this entirely a matter of personal opinion.  Which is fine for (hypothetical) me, I'm not trying to build a world view on objective truths, but you are and it has always struck me as a pretty major problem.
I don't think you should believe things that aren't true, but it's only an instrumental step - it's a bad idea because it tends strongly to akrasia.



Humans aren't capable of withstanding direct human brain to divine communication of the type needed to put across all possible answers clearly.  Dialing down the godness to a level low enough for humans to deal with it means dialling down the clarity of the message to a level where human interpretation can modify it.

Which just pushes the question back a stage.  Why didn't God make humans better so they could deal with that sort of contact?  Well, clearly he could.  And maybe there's a plant in Andromeda somewhere where the inhabitants are like that.  And another one in *racks brain to think of another galaxy* the Large Magellanic Cloud where the inhabitants can survive even less contact and so the Word has been subject to even more interpretation.  The analogy is with the weak anthropic principle, really, on that front.
But, if God is that much more intelligent than us, certainly there is a way to communicate things with less room for widespread adoption of interpretations that are completely counter to the core themes? Not saying direct-to-brain is necessary, just... something without infinite wiggle room?

There are also problems with your usage of "perfect" - "no excuse whatsoever for getting things any less than perfect in the final product".  First it assumes that you know what God was aiming for and this wasn't it.  If it was a clear and unambigious commnuication of his wishes then sure, imperfect.  If it was something else - free will for example - then maybe that clear communication wasn't important.  Maybe there's something, even, that conflicts between clear communication of the divine will and humanity progressing to the point where it can produce Kythia (Kythia in the specific, not "a modern human".   Point is, the goal of humanity is me.  I checked with God and he confirmed it)

Finally, your usage of "perfect" fails the test on the same principles as the argument of yours I shall quote next.  Is this world not perfect?  What would a perfect one look like?  How would we know the difference?  Obviously making the claim that the world is perfect is a bigger one that that its not, but the principle holds.
I'm not speaking of the world as a whole here - unless God directly controls every single variable, perfection is not to be expected in everything. I'm speaking specifically of God's message to man - which is clearly imperfect by dint of the existence of multiple, mutually exclusive, interpretations of major tenets of faith.

This is, obviously, the argument I referred to in my last paragraph above.

We have two parallel earths.  On one of them God exists and functions in precisely the way I stated.  On the other, He doesn't at all and the entirety of religion is a human construct.  I'm ignoring Norse pantheon-World, Allah-world, etc, as the principle is the same.  Which one of those two do we live on.

Well, clearly its impossible to be sure.  It is also impossible to be sure we don't live a third parallel world where science functions only because a cat in Chigwell, Essex, UK deems it so, I'm simply pointing out that that way solipsism lies if you take it too far.

My main counter to the argument is to point out that its essentially a restatement of a "God doesn't exist" type argument.  There's no solid testable argument I can make in favour of world one, none you can make in favour of world two.  And while stating that "we don't agree and neither will convince the other" is in no way an answer to that question in the strictest sense, it is the last answer most get from me through sheer overwhelming lack of interest in the discussion.
This isn't intended as a "God doesn't exist" argument - and for the record you will never see that absolute a statement on the subject from me. It's intended to point out that, if you literally cannot tell the influence of the Holy Spirit apart - if you can't pick the signal from the noise - then it's not exactly good feedback.

I don't think there would be any religion at all, I believe non-Christian faiths are a groping, imperfect as they are, towards the Christian faith (I am aware of how offensive that is to those followers of other faiths.  As I have mentioned elsewhere, though, a core component of following one faith is the conviction that others are flat out wrong).  The world would be different but I wouldn't like to speculate on how.  Without the Catholic church's domination over Europe...well.  Thats a question for the alternate history writers.  My guess would be that the centre of learning would be further east, perhaps in the holy land - no pun intended.  Humanity wouldn't be as advanced as it is as the developments in rhetoric, debate and all those other fields made by the Church wouldn't exist with knock on effects for any discipline that relies on sound arguments.  Art and music would also have taken a fairly substantial hit.  That's a very euro-centric view but quite honestly I don't know enough about Hinduism to say anything sensible about ho]w India would have developed.
This is probably one of those things we will wind up just disagreeing on. I think being pattern-recognition engines makes us liable to see gods and invisible actors whether or not they're actually there - pareidolia is a powerful, powerful thing.

Actually, a conversation about "what would an Earth without religion look like" (as opposed to one without God) could be moderately interesting, but I suspect I would still stay out as it seems like it would descend into a flame war within seconds.
Agreed. It might be interesting to watch - from a distance, with flame-retardant clothes on.

And thanks for not ribbing me about the out-of-place tag. :P

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #21 on: July 12, 2013, 11:10:06 PM »
Quote from: Ephiral
Hm. Well, offhand, the key attributes I'd be looking for would be that it must be practicable day-to-day, non-arbitrary, and actually accomplish the goals you set out in creating it.

Seems like there's a massive assumption lurking in that last clause.  I doubt most people, the overwhelming majority, actually "created" a moral code in the sense you mean it, let alone had goals in mind in doing so.  I would suggest you and I are the exceptions in being able to answer that question and having put some level of conscious thought into the matter, most just "know" what they do and don't approve of, what they will and won't do.  By your:

Quote from: Ephiral
I do think "functional" is kinda important, though - if you don't have an internally consistent and at least mostly functional system, then you're working from sheer arbitrary whim - why not just admit it and stop bothering with all this silly talk of morals and ethics?

and

Quote from: Ephiral
Why claim to have morals at all if you don't care whether or not they're even slightly functional?

it seems like you're saying any person who hasn't set explicit goals for their personal beliefs doesn't really have morals and ethics (and has what?  Instinctive behaviour?).  In essence you seem to be arguing that only people who share your worldview are capable of having morals, straying into a "Christians lack any moral centre" there, which has the benefit of being novel, I suppose, and turnabout is fair play.

Further, there's a problem with your "non-arbitrary".  From:
Quote from: Ephiral
It might not conflict with your core values, but neither is it particularly supported by them. It's supported by your completely arbitrary weighting of these people's value. There's absolutely nothing in there that prevents you from doing any horrible thing you want to anybody you do't particularly care about - and pretty much nobody cares about the overwhelming majority of the world, except in extreme abstract. So this doesn't seem a terribly workable system, and certainly not one that a lot of people should adopt by any stretch.

it seems you would count as arbitrary any system that privileges people I personally know.  Or, presumably, penalises same.  Which seems fine at first glance, but at second any moral code that treats everyone the same is, by necessity, one that the holder wouldn't mind being universal.   Essentially, it seems that your "non arbitrary" requirement is just a requirement for universality in another guise?

I recognise that your answer was "offhand" and may be badly or incompletely phrased, but as is it seems your definition of "functional" is a little worrisome.




Quote from: Ephiral
Oh, no, that's fine. Getting to the most correct answer with the least possible time and effort spent getting there (in all things, not just morality) is the ultimate goal.

This, and your other arguments in that section, feels circular to me.  Utilitarianism is the best and quickest way of getting to the most correct answer where the correctness of the answer is measured by the metric of utilitarianism.  I could replace utilitarianism with christianity there with no change to the meaning.

What I'm trying to get an answer to is, hmmmm, is - man I'm struggling to phrase this.

OK.  You find a magic lamp, and the genie offers you one highly specific wish.  You can become a complete ideological convert to one school of thought - if that's a religion then *poof* you're a believer.  Lets leave aside the proof of the supernatural implicit in the very question, you get the point I'm trying to make. 

I'm assuming you'd pick the one you have, given free reign.  If that assumption is right then what is it about your worldview that makes you feel its the "best".  Why, in terms seperate to utilitarianism, is utilitarianism beneficial.  You've mentioned, both in this conversation and in others, that you consider an idea arrived at through rational thought superior to one that wasn't, why is the "most correct" answer determined that way.  Is that simply an article of faith or is there a concrete benefit to it that you see?  You mention that it avoids akrasia but that just pushes the question back a bit.  Given that millenia of evolution has found akrasia either beneficial or at a minimum not negative enough for it to be eliminated, why is a school of thought that seeks to minimise it better than one that doesn't? Generosity could be viewed as akrasic, or equally it could be viewed as essential for maintaining social groups, why are you saying akrasia is bad?

I really am struggling to articulate my question here, but I hope you can dig through the layers and divine my meaning.



Quote from: Ephiral
But, if God is that much more intelligent than us, certainly there is a way to communicate things with less room for widespread adoption of interpretations that are completely counter to the core themes? Not saying direct-to-brain is necessary, just... something without infinite wiggle room?

I honestly don't understand where the "certainly" there came from?  Why is that certain?  I'm far more intelligent than the spider I see stood on my wall but that doesn't mean there is "certainly" a way of me communicating this conversation to it.

Quote from: Ephiral
I'm not speaking of the world as a whole here - unless God directly controls every single variable, perfection is not to be expected in everything. I'm speaking specifically of God's message to man - which is clearly imperfect by dint of the existence of multiple, mutually exclusive, interpretations of major tenets of faith.

I think my argument still holds.  Implicit in that question is a presumption that you know what a perfect communication of the message looks like, and the various other interpretations are not desired.  Patly - and I must stress not an answer I actually believe - I could just say that the other interpretations are there as a test.  God spend a drunk afternoon burying dinosaur bones and thinking up Sikhism to see if anyone would fall for it. 

Less pat, though, is that I think you're judging God by your criteria not his.  Maybe tomorrow something will happen that will make humanity thank its collective lucky stars that all these interpretations exist.  There is a plan.  Further, a number of them relate to the above point, about the impossibility of directly understanding the divine will.  Finally, as I mention, I believe a number of faiths, particularly ones that predate Christianity, are an almost instinctive movement towards God.

Quote from: Ephiral
This isn't intended as a "God doesn't exist" argument - and for the record you will never see that absolute a statement on the subject from me. It's intended to point out that, if you literally cannot tell the influence of the Holy Spirit apart - if you can't pick the signal from the noise - then it's not exactly good feedback.

I see your point, and I apologise for the presumption.  My thinking is, though, that a world sans God would be different to this one in ways it is possible to construct through thought (lacking religion, as I say, along with other indicators), and so observation tells us we're in the God one.  (In all honesty, that isn't my thinking, its my, I dunno, second order thinking.  My actual thinking is far more dogmatic than that - God created the world so the existence of the world is proof of God.  It's circular, and I accept that, which is why I pretended to have the ever-so-slightly more reasonable position earlier in this paragraph.  And then ruined it all by this parenthetical comment, maybe religion does lead to akrasia)

Quote from: Ephiral
This is probably one of those things we will wind up just disagreeing on. I think being pattern-recognition engines makes us liable to see gods and invisible actors whether or not they're actually there - pareidolia is a powerful, powerful thing.

Ah but paeidolia only exists because we know on some level that there is a force greater than...nah, I'm dicking with you.  It is actually what I think but yeah, we're not going to agree on it.

Quote
And thanks for not ribbing me about the out-of-place tag. :P

Or the out-of-place closing bracket you inserted in the last line of the penultimate quote block in your post above.  I'm a veritable paragon of not ribbing.  But I never proofread and you've never called me on spelling errors that are no doubt there, so you too exist as a true paragon of not ribbing.  Yey us!

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #22 on: July 13, 2013, 12:12:57 AM »
Seems like there's a massive assumption lurking in that last clause.  I doubt most people, the overwhelming majority, actually "created" a moral code in the sense you mean it, let alone had goals in mind in doing so.  I would suggest you and I are the exceptions in being able to answer that question and having put some level of conscious thought into the matter, most just "know" what they do and don't approve of, what they will and won't do.  By your:
I suppose "choose to follow" would work just as well. As for people just "knowing" rather than applying any thought to it at all? I'll bite the bullet on this one: Yeah, that's not a moral system at all as far as I can see. That's just doing what you like.

it seems like you're saying any person who hasn't set explicit goals for their personal beliefs doesn't really have morals and ethics (and has what?  Instinctive behaviour?).  In essence you seem to be arguing that only people who share your worldview are capable of having morals, straying into a "Christians lack any moral centre" there, which has the benefit of being novel, I suppose, and turnabout is fair play.
Anybody who doesn't put some conscious thought into morals and ethics... yeah, instinctive behaviour sounds about right. I draw the line before "Christians lack any moral center", though, in that Christians are like any other category: Some think about this, some don't. Some have very admirable and worthy codes that stem directly from their belief and understandings of Scripture.

Further, there's a problem with your "non-arbitrary".  From:
it seems you would count as arbitrary any system that privileges people I personally know.  Or, presumably, penalises same.  Which seems fine at first glance, but at second any moral code that treats everyone the same is, by necessity, one that the holder wouldn't mind being universal.   Essentially, it seems that your "non arbitrary" requirement is just a requirement for universality in another guise?
Not exactly, though they're closely related. I wouldn't count as arbitrary any system that treats people you personally know differently, as long as you can provide solid justification for why they should be treated differently. It's possible to have a functional system which privileges certain people and holds down certain others (not one I'd want to follow, mind you.) The trick is in asking why it carves humanity along those lines. Is there a quality we desire in the upper class? Something we're trying to eliminate in the underclass? Does the system, or society as a whole, function more smoothly if we make these changes? Your justification seems to boil down to "Because I like these people and not those ones", which... well, yeah, is arbitrary.



This, and your other arguments in that section, feels circular to me.  Utilitarianism is the best and quickest way of getting to the most correct answer where the correctness of the answer is measured by the metric of utilitarianism.  I could replace utilitarianism with christianity there with no change to the meaning.
Again, here I think I've been unclear - we're conflating utilitarianism (moral/ethical system) with rationalism (method of thinking and reasoning that, I believe, strongly supports utilitarian functions.) Rationalism generally defaults to "does this match reality as observed?" as its measure of correctness, which brings me to utilitarianism via the "is there any evidence-based reason to create an over- and an underclass?" problem. Utilitarianism is what seems to me to be the best system of ethics because I have a difficult time finding faults that are not known and actively being worked on; this is not true of other systems. It is possible that this is due to flaws in my fault-finding process, but I'm working with the best tools I have to the best of my ability.

I'm assuming you'd pick the one you have, given free reign.  If that assumption is right then what is it about your worldview that makes you feel its the "best".  Why, in terms seperate to utilitarianism, is utilitarianism beneficial.  You've mentioned, both in this conversation and in others, that you consider an idea arrived at through rational thought superior to one that wasn't, why is the "most correct" answer determined that way.  Is that simply an article of faith or is there a concrete benefit to it that you see?  You mention that it avoids akrasia but that just pushes the question back a bit.  Given that millenia of evolution has found akrasia either beneficial or at a minimum not negative enough for it to be eliminated, why is a school of thought that seeks to minimise it better than one that doesn't? Generosity could be viewed as akrasic, or equally it could be viewed as essential for maintaining social groups, why are you saying akrasia is bad?
Here we're getting into Difficult Problems territory - we're still grasping at concepts like Coherent Extrapolated Value at this point - but a utilitarian function under a rationalist methodology is the only one I see even trying to define "what humanity wants" in concrete and comprehensible terms, let alone work toward it. Why do I think that's important? Because I'm human, basically. What's best for humanity is highly likely to be what's best for me.

As for the akrasia question: I again assert that evolution is a terrible, terrible engineer. It doesn't ruthlessly eliminate anything that is of negative value period, only that which is of negative survival value across a species. Akrasia doesn't get you killed terribly often - but it's a hell of a lot of wasted time and energy. Personally, I don't think we should set the benchmark at an engineer whose goal was "get creatures to reproduce", and whose products invented condoms.



I honestly don't understand where the "certainly" there came from?  Why is that certain?  I'm far more intelligent than the spider I see stood on my wall but that doesn't mean there is "certainly" a way of me communicating this conversation to it.
That's a limitation of the spider, not of you. Yes, humanity is more limited than God, but it's capable of long-term reasoning and understanding, in at least simple terms, what to do vs what not to do. At the very least, I would hope that God is a better engineer than evolution, given the ability to consciously and actively meddle in human affairs. Your outline of the Holy Spirit seems to say that this is not so.

I think my argument still holds.  Implicit in that question is a presumption that you know what a perfect communication of the message looks like, and the various other interpretations are not desired.  Patly - and I must stress not an answer I actually believe - I could just say that the other interpretations are there as a test.  God spend a drunk afternoon burying dinosaur bones and thinking up Sikhism to see if anyone would fall for it.
I can tell you very little about the content of a perfect message, but I can tell you some of what it looks like. For one thing, minimum message length - all other factors being equal, the shorter message tends to be more correct. So it is exceedingly unlikely that a message which contains irreconcilable self-contradictions - wasted bits - is a good message. So either we're misinterpreting it - a failure of communication - or it is badly structured - a failure of the message.

Less pat, though, is that I think you're judging God by your criteria not his.  Maybe tomorrow something will happen that will make humanity thank its collective lucky stars that all these interpretations exist.  There is a plan.  Further, a number of them relate to the above point, about the impossibility of directly understanding the divine will.  Finally, as I mention, I believe a number of faiths, particularly ones that predate Christianity, are an almost instinctive movement towards God.
I reject nothing entirely, but place an extremely low probability on this one particular message being an exception to everything we know about the way information works in the entire rest of the universe. Why would this world be designed to teach us information theory just to go "Oop, that's wrong. Please ignore the fact that it works."?

Your last sentence I find kind of interesting. You seem to posit an instinctual need for spiritual fulfilment - why, then, would people fail to invent gods in a world without them?

I see your point, and I apologise for the presumption.  My thinking is, though, that a world sans God would be different to this one in ways it is possible to construct through thought (lacking religion, as I say, along with other indicators), and so observation tells us we're in the God one.  (In all honesty, that isn't my thinking, its my, I dunno, second order thinking.  My actual thinking is far more dogmatic than that - God created the world so the existence of the world is proof of God.  It's circular, and I accept that, which is why I pretended to have the ever-so-slightly more reasonable position earlier in this paragraph.  And then ruined it all by this parenthetical comment, maybe religion does lead to akrasia)
I wouldn't say it directly leads to akrasia, but I think it encourages it in specific fields. I think we're going to have to disagree on the "all religions are inspired by God" thing, though, because barring an answer to my last question that completely revolutionizes the conversation, we're about to sink into the "Show me the evidence!" "Faith!" circle.

Ah but paeidolia only exists because we know on some level that there is a force greater than...nah, I'm dicking with you.  It is actually what I think but yeah, we're not going to agree on it.
Whereas I would say pareidolia is simply a side effect of a very useful survival behaviour - the ability to distinguish patterns is the ability to tell when something's amiss, which tends to get you eaten by tigers a lot less. I don't see how your reasoning holds as even equally likely to this, in light of us actually knowing that evolution happens. But then, I'm the kind of annoying jerkhole who always looks for the evidence at the root of anything.

Or the out-of-place closing bracket you inserted in the last line of the penultimate quote block in your post above.  I'm a veritable paragon of not ribbing.  But I never proofread and you've never called me on spelling errors that are no doubt there, so you too exist as a true paragon of not ribbing.  Yey us!
I must say, this is the most pleasant conversation I've ever had on this particular minefield. Thank you.

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #23 on: July 13, 2013, 10:25:18 AM »
Interesting.

What about people on the far left of the IQ bell curve, people incapable by virtue of learning disabilities or similar, of putting thought into their actions?

I guess the core of my question is,

1)do you consider people who, by your definition, are acting instinctually rather than having a moral code capable of moral behaviour?

and

2)do you rate higher in your personal hierarchy people who have a moral code (again, using your definition and opposing it to instinctive behaviour)?



Quote from: Ephiral
Again, here I think I've been unclear - we're conflating utilitarianism (moral/ethical system) with rationalism (method of thinking and reasoning that, I believe, strongly supports utilitarian functions.)

I think thats more my fault than yours, sorry.  I've been using one as a shorthand for the other and you're right, yes, that's not correct.

Quote from: Ephiral
Here we're getting into Difficult Problems territory - we're still grasping at concepts like Coherent Extrapolated Value at this point - but a utilitarian function under a rationalist methodology is the only one I see even trying to define "what humanity wants" in concrete and comprehensible terms, let alone work toward it. Why do I think that's important? Because I'm human, basically. What's best for humanity is highly likely to be what's best for me.

I hadn't come across Coherent Extrapolated Value before so what I know is from a brief read of the article on lesswrong.com.  I see it as the difference between low levels of the Dominate discipline from V:tM and the ninth level "Best Intentions" power from VPG.

And here I think we've reached the nub of our disagreement, which we've been dancing around for a while.  I don't believe its possible - too hard - for the system of humanity to achieve the grand project of universal rationalism. 

Leaving aside whether its worthy or not, it seems like the drunk trying to pull himself up by his bootstraps.  The rationalist community will never be able to overcome, by the very nature of the beast, a (hypothetical) bias that "all things can be analysed through rational thought" or "emotional, non-conscious methods are never superior to rational, conscious one".  If there's just one of those lurking within the human psyche then the project will fail as the community will expend its effort continuing to use the same tools as a matter of, well, faith.  (Assuming, of course, that those biases are incorrect - with a bit more thought I'm certain a hypothetical bias that worked against rationalism and didn't require the existence of the divine could be constructed)

Two, I don't believe universal rationalism is a reachable goal.  It's obviously a never ending process as new people are born (though I'll admit there comes a tipping point in society where it becomes the default rather than the exception) and it just takes one charismatic psychopath to build a cult of personality around him.  In essence, I think the problems rationalism seeks to overcome are too embedded within humans to ever be overturned and the inevitable Black Swan will doom the project. 

Happily I'm in the position of believing there is something external to the system of humanity that doesn't suffer these problems and has our best interests at heart to "reach in" and adjust the system from the outside rather than relying on purely internal work.



Quote from: Ephiral
That's a limitation of the spider, not of you

Absolutely.  And the inability of God to communicate clearly and unambigiously with us is a limitation of us.  Obviously not of God.

Quote from: Ephiral
At the very least, I would hope that God is a better engineer than evolution, given the ability to consciously and actively meddle in human affairs.

Evolution is the mechanism through which God created man.  It would be like me designing a entirely automated factory that produced *looks round for inspiration* Mars Bars.  It would be questionable whether I or the factory created an individual Mars Bar, I suppose, but my definition is that I did.  But the core point is that if I decide to later put more caramel in the Mars Bar then I'm limited to the tools and machines I have already set up.  Sure I could burn the factory down and build a new one, but I don't think either of us want that. 

Now, God's in a priveleged position of course.  He knows in advance the times when he'll want to add more caramel and designed the factory in the first place based on a perfect understanding of future Mars Bar developments.  And that sentence made me feel dirty.

Quote from: Ephiral
I can tell you very little about the content of a perfect message, but I can tell you some of what it looks like. For one thing, minimum message length - all other factors being equal, the shorter message tends to be more correct. So it is exceedingly unlikely that a message which contains irreconcilable self-contradictions - wasted bits - is a good message. So either we're misinterpreting it - a failure of communication - or it is badly structured - a failure of the message.

As I say, we're misinterpreting and filtering through our own location and time dependant biases.  And all other things aren't equal, because there is noise in the transmission.  So the same method is repeated over and over again with redundancy and repeats, knowing that Paul will fail to get the first half and Moses the second.

Quote from: Ephiral
Why would this world be designed to teach us information theory just to go "Oop, that's wrong. Please ignore the fact that it works."?

That has always seemed to me to be the key point of rupture.  Information theory works within the universe.  God exists outside the universe.  In-universe tools are necessarily inadequate for analysing out-of-universe phenomena.  This applies throughout.  Why can't we detect God's body heat, all the other scientific arguments for the non-existence of God (I'm carefully distinguishing Strong from Weak atheism there) fail because they're trying to detect the rainfall in Canada with a gauge in the UK.  Or even a barometer in the UK.

And, just to add, this isn't a failing of science today.  There's noone slaving in a lab on a working god-ometer.  In fact, its not even a failing.  Science/rationalism/a hpst of related words are the best tools for analysing the universe.  The best tool for analysing the divine is Church Tradition.

Quote from: Ephiral
Your last sentence I find kind of interesting. You seem to posit an instinctual need for spiritual fulfilment - why, then, would people fail to invent gods in a world without them?
Quote from: Ephiral
Whereas I would say pareidolia is simply a side effect of a very useful survival behaviour - the ability to distinguish patterns is the ability to tell when something's amiss, which tends to get you eaten by tigers a lot less. I don't see how your reasoning holds as even equally likely to this, in light of us actually knowing that evolution happens. But then, I'm the kind of annoying jerkhole who always looks for the evidence at the root of anything.

Your problem here is that we only have a sample size of one.  There is an instinctual need, I would argue, for spirtual fulfilment because we live in a world where God exists.  Did we not, and the reason I posit a world without religion, that need in our soul/psyche wouldn't exist.

Your pareidolia example suffers the same problem.  Because we have only ever seen the positve effects - Tiger recognition - hand in hand with the (as you see it) negative - God recognition, we assume they are inextricably linked.  I don't believe they are.  God recognition wouldn't exist in a God free world, simply tiger recogntion.  I think/believe that you are conflating two seperate things purely because our limited sample size has them appearing side by side. 


Quote from: Ephiral
I must say, this is the most pleasant conversation I've ever had on this particular minefield. Thank you.

No need to thank me.  Pleasant conversations are more pleasant than unpleasant ones (shock!) so being nice was entirely self-serving.

Offline KythiaTopic starter

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Re: Religion and Science
« Reply #24 on: July 13, 2013, 10:35:30 AM »
Actually, there's another prediction now I think of it. An earth culture that could recognise tigers but not gods would force a pretty dramatic rethink. Clearly the lack of same proves nothing either way.