Once again, I plan to put some horizontal lines in to help me keep things straight. I'm also gonna skip some of your points and, hopefully, address them in a more freeform style as I think the conversation is fragmenting into several smaller conversations. Please do call me up if I have not answered something in a quote and then not addressed it in the wider discussion, and please accept my pre-emptive apology.
Please don't think I'm trying to enforce structure on you, this is simply a means of organising my own thoughts and tying some of the small quote-conversations back into what I see as the wider point.
Progression of Religions
Mmm... if it does acknowledge those cases as exceptions, then it does sound like you're talking about nations
Potentially so, as I say - I'm not sure of the precise term. I'm happy to run with "nations" for the purposes of this conversation, certainly.
In general, the consensus is that a nation - using our agreed definition, the word in the original was "menschen" meaning roughly "people" or "humans" see, for example, ueber-and unter mensch - progresses from animism/totemism to polytheism to monotheism. The bulk of work here was done in the late 1800s.
You seem to propose a fourth step to that, atheism. Figures for worldwide growth of atheism seem to be all over the place, to be perfectly honest, and its rare to find two sources that agree. The University of Cambridge
seems broadly typical when it claims it is falling worldwide as a function of higher birth rates in less industrialised countries and less industrialised countries typically being more religions - the Republic of Ireland and the USA frequently called out as exceptions. But a global (relative) decrease in numbers of atheists - if, indeed, it exists - isn't sufficient to refute your position.
As I say, the concept is with nation states and, yes, more "advanced" - I think we can both agree on what is meant there - nations tend to have higher numbers of atheists. Which does tend towards your theory as showing a progression, the argument presumably being that the more religious, less advanced states have not progressed sufficiently along that scale for your proposed stage 4 to be seen.
My major objection to that is that atheism has always existed as a strand of thought alongside religions and within the population the religion draws from, throughout at least polytheism and monotheism - the earlier societies tended to not have written records so its difficult to be sure there. By definition, though, the population of a religion has not had both polytheistic and monotheistic tendencies, the two are mutually incompatible.
In essence, I'm saying that atheism is something different. Rather than a progression of:
animism - > polytheism - > monotheism - > atheism
I would say that the situation is more like:
Please forgive the crudity of the graph, and the layout/represented percentages are for illustration only - especially the straight line of atheism's growth which clearly doesn't match historical trends and the hard cut offs between forms of religion which don't either. I'm simply trying to convey that I believe atheism is a separate trend that, while it may come to supersede religion, doesn't form part of the same process. An illustration would be a house. Over time an extension is added, a conservatory, a downstairs toilet. Then the house is knocked down and a motorway built in its place. The modifications to the house form part of an unbroken chain, the motorway is something replacing it.
Side issue from progression of religions
Then the appropriate response is "That has been addressed by X", not "You lack the proper credentials."
You are, of course, correct. I'm sorry.
I'm never certain if an explanation cheapens an apology or not. I go to and fro on this matter. As you can tell by the way I'm about to launch into an explanation I am currently fro (or possibly to, I didn't really define my terms). If you feel it would cheapen it then I ask you not to read.
As you're no doubt aware there is a widespread belief that the vocal atheist movement holds scholarship and academia from the humanities in contempt. I personally blame the influence of Dawkins here, but that is simply opinion. Regardless of its source, it can be seen repeatedly. Theology perhaps coming in for particular vitriol - leprechaunology - but the pattern holds across other areas as well. I have heard it suggested that some are so enamoured of the ability of science to derive a conclusion from first principles that they find irrelevant any discipline not based on the sciences which rings somewhat true for me, but that is again mere supposition.
Now. You don't come across like that and, frankly, even if you did a pissy comment wouldn't be the best way of addressing that. But it was irritation with that position - I hadn't realised you hadn't realised this was established scholarship and had, perhaps, viewed your questioning of it as an outgrowth of the above position - coupled with various external factors that caused me to respond badly. Of course, this is borderline justification - I have been both irritated and hot before and not responded badly and even if I hadn't the fault would still lie with me. So I don't want the above to take anything away from my apology and I hope it didn't.
Quite honestly, I didn't expect this to be a controversial point or to generate any discussion at all, let alone the amount it did. It seems clear that I view it as distinct enough from its origins to be called something different and you don't. In all honesty, I'm not certain it matters. I am hoping we can just agree to disagree on that rather than prolong a conversation that I strongly suspect neither of us have any real interest in.
Spreading the message
A point I have been trying to make for some time now is that the source is irrelevant to the question of whether we can use evidence-based approaches to study the phenomenon, because the destination is always a human being, and we can study that side of the equation to learn things about the message.
My apologies, I hadn't realised that was a point you were trying to make. We spent two pages discussing the necessity of the sender to develop good protocols, etc. and I think that amount of discussion on the source may have led me to miss the fact that your underlying point was that the source was irrelevant. I'm very sorry, I know that sounds sarcastic and I have written and rewritten the paragraph a few times to try to remove that but every new phrasing fails just as badly or worse. I mean to say that I think we may have allowed the conversation to become sidetracked, then, into a different issue that unfortunately obfuscated your main point a little.
Not terribly, I'll admit. But... why is this relevant?
But... even if we assume you are correct, as long as humans are acting based on the knowledge imparted to them, this should show as the models grow increasingly unreliable and are discarded.
You state that the mechanism for seeing our models aren't applicable would be them increasingly
growing unreliable. That "increasingly" seems to imply, to me at least, that you don't view this as an instantaneous matter. As such, it seems clear to me that the models must exist for a certain amount of time - I proposed a number of generations as the message itself spreads on the scale of generations - in order to see if they are, indeed, growing increasingly unreliable and being discarded. If I say that the test of my house building skills is that my houses don't fall down it would not be unreasonable to say that one must observe my houses for a period of time before conceding that point.
This seems, in all honesty, such a trivial statement that your questioning it makes me think I may have misunderstood your meaning. I have, however, stared at the statement for a while and I genuinely can't see another
or God is forcing actions as well as thoughts
God isn't forcing actions - free will. I just thought I'd make this explicit.
I honestly believe we've reached an impasse here and even if we haven't we have, with the best will in the world, reached the limits of my interest in this conversation. It is something of a side issue to the topic, in reality, that I believe your interest in information theory and my failure to recognise what I saw as a fallacy in your position - trying to apply it in this case - has allowed to grow unchecked.
I lack the specialised vocabulary in this area and have thus made statements that are incorrect based on a stupid attempt to mimic yours. It does seem to me though that you're being intransigent in your insistence that the models of information theory apply. Many aspects of religion should have measurable effects given the current state of science - I return again to ensoulment - and I fail to see the distinction you draw between those and this. Throughout this thread I have explicitly raised any predictions that my beliefs lead to that are, in my opinion, checkable. This, Ephiral, either isn't or, at a minimum, I haven't understood your argument. We have been discussing, a side issue as I say, for some considerable time now though and I would submit that if this is the case we have both given it a good crack of the whip.
As I say, we have almost certainly reached the limits of my interest in this area. If you wish I can give as full an answer as I can think of to the question "how does God communicate directly with mankind" but I am essentially uninterested in further analysis of that as it seems fruitless.
The impossibility of imagining God did He not exist
Your submission is that there are instances of people having imagined something that, unknown to them, actually existed.
I actually felt that Loewi and KekulÚ were relatively weak examples. My issue there is that neither was an unemployed bricklayer who suddenly woke up in the middle of the night with an idea. Both were actively working all day on that very subject. All this seems to be is confirmation that "sleeping on it" has benefits in some cases, which we knew anyway. Many times I have "slept on" a problem and woken up with a solution. This seems no different. In essence, I think you're privileging dreams a little there - the examples would be wholly unremarkable if they had been struck with the answer on their lunch break.
Rogue planets seem, to me, the strongest example, so that's the one I'll focus on: Why are rogue planets imaginable to mankind but not God.
I mentioned earlier the concept of imago dei
. Though I'm not Catholic myself, the Catechism of the Church covers the bit I want and I (broadly) agree with the wording:
God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them. Man occupies a unique place in creation: (I) he is "in the image of God"; (II) in his own nature he unites the spiritual and material worlds; (III) he is created "male and female"; (IV) God established him in his friendship.
it then goes in to a bit more detail on each of those cases, if you're interested you can find it all here
but the expansion isn't overly necessary. For reference, the opening is repetitive because its a direct quote from Gen 1:27 which is repetitive as it was likely meant to be spoken out loud and memorised, you see that trend a lot.
So man was created uniting the two worlds - that of God and that of Man. This underpins a whole load of areas, its the reason animals don't have souls, for example. It's also, not to reopen a can of worms that I don't want open, necessary for God's communication with man. But I'll move swiftly away from that point.
This unity with the spirit world is why I say that God is an integral part of man. Why religions are moving towards Him, for example. God is "inbuilt". So that's why, to take the positive half of the question, man does
On to take the negative half - why couldn't man imagine God without Him being part of man's basic nature. The same reason no culture has imagined the gaumular. What's a gaumular I hear you cry? Well, it's a creature that bears no similarities to any other creature on this planet. It's not a reptile, amphibian, mammal, any of the *thinks* Kingdoms. It doesn't look like a horse, nor does it have a shell like a tortoise. There is not a single point of reference between it and anything we've seen before. God falls into that category. There is no omniscient being on earth, no being who exists outside our possible perceptions, no undying being, God, in short, shares literally no characteristics with anything we have ever seen. Sure, people - me included - sometimes talk as if He does but that's an artefact of human language. I also say my laptop is being a cunt when it boots up slowly, anthropomorphism in short. But I think everyone accepts that that's a limitation of human language and thought from every major monotheistic religion and all the older polytheistic has classified their God as unknowable to the human intellect.
Not to put words in your mouth, but I can see two potential objections which I'll try to clear up.
First, you could argue that while obviously we don't know anyone omniscient we do know people smarter, don't know anyone immortal we do know people older. That is to say the attributes of God are mere extrapolations rather than new characteristics. Varying in degree, not kind. This is a strong argument, in my opinion, and in the end comes down to a matter of line drawing. When does something become different enough from the original to become something else? It seems to me from our brief discussion of voodoo that you consider that to be quite some way further than I do, but absent an agreed on definition I'm not sure how much further we can progress there?
Second you might point to the stab we've taken at xenocreatures or Adams' hyperintelligent shades of the colour blue as examples of things we've imagined that don't correspond to anything we've seen. First, loads of aliens are clearly based on humans with bumpy foreheads, they can be discarded with a wave of the hand. Planet of Hats TV TROPES LINK!! BEWARE!!
The alien races that are more serious attempts, I remember reading somewhere about a hypothetical species of floaters living in the atmosphere of a gas giant which was quite interesting, are pretty clearly predictions. Given what we know of how life works, what we know of gas giants, what we know of etc. what would a life form in that situation look like. Hyperintelligent shades of the colour blue aren't a thing
. No-one believes in them. No-one thinks they are or could be real while, pretty unarguably, people do think that about God. The point I'm getting at here is that no-one has ever proposed the existence of those things and worked through the ramifications because the idea is internally inconsistent. While religions, God, no matter how much you might disagree that they are consistent with the rest of the world, are internally inconsistent.
So, to return to the question, we didn't imagine rogue planets until we had the reference point of planets pretty firmly established.
I actually felt Verne was a stronger example than Loewi and KekulÚ, and clearly a stronger one than you did so I'll just talk briefly about that. Sure, some of his ideas may have inspired research but I think its a stretch to say all of them did. However, they fall, still, into this problem of reference. You even mention submarines that didn't require human power
- submarines were invented in 1620, a boat that didn't require human power sailed the Sa˘ne twenty years before Verne was born. *Shrug* I don't think there was anything remarkable about combining those. Kepler wrote in 1610 "Provide ships or sails adapted to the heavenly breezes, and there will be some who will brave even that void." based on his observations of comet tails pointing away from the sun and Maxwell had proved that light exerted pressure a few years before From the Earth to the Moon. Point is, all of this was known. Not to take anything away from him for connecting the dots, but nothing new was created, just a synthesis of old things.