SCIENCE VS RELIGION

General discussions of interest to readers and fans of Harlan Ellison.

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Ezra Lb.
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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Ezra Lb. » Wed Oct 29, 2014 8:50 pm

Whoa there Ben! Before you get too deep into all that philosophizing and theologizing, there's one thing you forgot. You haven't established yet that a god even exists. Hell can wait a bit I think.

You believe in god, why again?
“We must not always talk in the marketplace,” Hester Prynne said, “of what happens to us in the forest.”
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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Steve Evil » Wed Oct 29, 2014 9:07 pm

Ben W. wrote:
Mark Tiedemann wrote:
And the complete lack of belief reduces the potential of evil?


Certainly not. The potential exists whatever you believe.

Technically speaking, if you're an atheist, you simply don't have any right to use the word "evil".


I have every right. You are begging the question sir. You are taking it for granted that can be no good without god, which most of the good people here have denied from the beginning. You may define "good and evil" as "God vs. Devil" - the rest of us have very different definitions if you care to ask.


If there is no objective morality, "good" and "evil" become offensive ideas.


I'm not offended. And who said there was no "objective morality"? None of us here.

an atheist won't believe in God, but bizarrely, has no problem believing in the Devil.


Who here claimed to believe in the devil?

Personally, I think the eternal torture of hell-fire at the heart of many religions is a far greater evil than anything man can come up with. Yet so many believers see no contradiction between this and the vision of an all loving God.


You're falling back on a very simplistic conception of hell, probably because it's the most convenient for your argument.


No: it's because that's the visions the fundies insists on shoving in my face. The very term itself refers to the worst possible fate that befall one, and so becomes the repository of the worst things the imagination can conceive. Bosch and Dante had no problem describing hell in this fashion, nor did most preachers until quite recently -my favourite being the priests from Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Simplistic it may have been, but it was a central tenet of the creed until popular thought turned against it.

(And if the pyromaniac enjoys it, God, or the Devil, will just have to think of something else. I am reminded of a particular Gary Larson comic. . .)

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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Mark Tiedemann » Thu Oct 30, 2014 7:24 am

Ezra asked in the other thread:

What compelling reason does anyone have to think that god exists?


In a word, conviction.

Let me explain. People build models to explain the world to themselves and, to a lesser extent, to others. In a way, this is what we writers do when we write stories. We're explaining things to ourselves and, we hope, to others. We rely on those models, especially if they seem to apply consistently as we go through life. We rely on them so much we actually come to believe the universe works that way. It may or may not in the main, but for us, in our small patch, it does.

The scientist---or the rationalist---knows, or should know, that this is conditional and subject to modification or complete revamping at any moment.

Faith says no, that model is consistent regardless of circumstance, in spite of evidence to the contrary and if it seems not to at the moment then the fault is in us, in our interpretation of reality and understanding of what is meant.

In either case, though, we come to rely on the model, we develop a conviction that it is true and dependable, and as long as it seems to work then we credit it with authority.

Some of us recognize the source of the model. Some insist it must be somewhere else.

But it works, insofar as it supplies us with a means of navigating life in what we perceive as a legitimate way.

Conviction.

As I've discussed before, I see this whole god question as a cart-and-horse dilemma. I have no problem with a description of god as essentially an emergent property of our own organizing principles and group activity. God comes out of the the enterprise of being human and therefore has a certain utility as a description of those forces which seem to bind us and the universe together in our conscious apprehension of reality. So when I say the words "God knows" I can do so without the least hypocrisy because I'm talking about a set of processes bound up in the act of living. Do I believe in god? No, of course not. "Believing in" comes with implications I can't support. I can't say that I "believe in" anything. My mind doesn't work that way. I'm not about to hand over my will and self in such an act, which is what that amounts to.

I part company with the theists over the question of where god is. For me, it's within us, part of us, a consequences of doing things. For them, it's external, a outside figure, acting at a distance, apart from. Something to be worshipped.

The closest I get to worship is the willing surrender to ecstasy in the grip of music or the capture of my imagination in a work of art (or the arms of my lover) and knowing that this is, in essence, god. This experience, this appreciation, this acknowledgment, this understanding. That is god. And we all have it and we all comprise it.

Hell has no place in that except in the sad state of someone so worried that this is all a sham and that better is waiting for when he or she is dead and "gets a reward" for believing this life is less important...and missing it all. As an afterlife? It makes no sense on any level.

So, the compelling reason to believe in a god is to some extent tautological. But that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

That said, the other day I was involved in moving my mother-in-law into a new care facility and my sister-in-law insisted on "blessing" the room and then kneeling with her mother before a crucifix and "saying a little prayer." I had to leave the room. I find that stuff infantile. Showy, absurd, largely a lie. Except for discussions like this one, I keep it to myself, because I have to acknowledge that by my own definition it works for them.

But it's such thin gruel.

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Ben W.
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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Ben W. » Thu Oct 30, 2014 7:40 am

Frank, a little help would be appreciated. I'm being continually swarmed here.

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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Mark Tiedemann » Thu Oct 30, 2014 8:23 am

Ben W. wrote:Frank, a little help would be appreciated. I'm being continually swarmed here.


Frank was banned for a time.

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Rick Keeney
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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Rick Keeney » Thu Oct 30, 2014 8:54 am

"What compelling reason does anyone have to think that god exists?"

Anyone? Ever?




Ben W. wrote:
"Frank, a little help would be appreciated. I'm being continually swarmed here."


Don't fall into the fallacy of impotence, Ben W. You're doing fine.

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Lori Koonce
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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Lori Koonce » Thu Oct 30, 2014 11:29 am

Your doing fine Ben.I don't think anyone is expecting you to answer everyone.

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Steve Barber
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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Steve Barber » Thu Oct 30, 2014 12:24 pm

Ben W. wrote:Frank, a little help would be appreciated. I'm being continually swarmed here.



Ben -- Frank is on time out until tomorrow. He's being respectful of my request, which I appreciate.

He will be back and I'm sure has a lot he wants to chime in on.
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Ezra Lb.
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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Ezra Lb. » Thu Oct 30, 2014 12:44 pm

As far as I can tell I'm the only one that asked you a question Ben. Everyone else is responding to your comments. Hardly a swarm.


Rick Keeney asked me

"What compelling reason does anyone have to think that god exists?"

Anyone? Ever?


Nah, I am just interested to hear from any believers here on this board. What doesn't seem to be penetrating is that I'm not asking out of spite or to mock. I'm genuinely curious. And somewhat mystified why believers have such a problem with what seems to be a fairly obvious question.


Mark. agreed. Then my question becomes whether the god concept, the god metaphor, has any continuing utility? Living metaphors carry you past them to the reality behind. I say "god" is a dead metaphor. Firstly because it has no referent. Secondly, because it obscures more than it reveals. In traditional Christian theological terms, the idea of god itself has become an idol.

Now whether or not there is some fundamental organizing principle basic to reality is an interesting question. If so physics will have more to say about it than theology. We don't really have metaphors for impersonal processes that arise spontaneously, and are functional but purposeless. That's where the artists come in. Job security for you! :wink:
“We must not always talk in the marketplace,” Hester Prynne said, “of what happens to us in the forest.”
-Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Mark Tiedemann » Thu Oct 30, 2014 2:17 pm

Ezra,

It's not dead insofar as it is continually reinvented. It clearly serves a function, albeit one you or I may not be affected by. I'm not even one of those who categorically condemns it. I think reaching for the god metaphor, if you will, has fueled human creativity for millennia.

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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Ezra Lb. » Thu Oct 30, 2014 3:03 pm

Mark Tiedemann wrote:Ezra,

It's not dead insofar as it is continually reinvented. It clearly serves a function, albeit one you or I may not be affected by. I'm not even one of those who categorically condemns it. I think reaching for the god metaphor, if you will, has fueled human creativity for millennia.


I'm not saying it hasn't been creative in the past. But where is it being creative now? The only developing religious cultures seem to be the fundamentalist ones who flatten the metaphor out. I'm not saying it didn't have a function. The question is whether it has a function now. I'd be willing to argue that it has does not. I liken it to the dead tree that sits for years until the wind comes along and blows it over. Everywhere secularity is eating away at the mainstream of religious thought. Only virulent fundamentalism is thriving. The wind is blowing. It's only a matter of time. You see, I'm an optimist!
“We must not always talk in the marketplace,” Hester Prynne said, “of what happens to us in the forest.”
-Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

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Steve Barber
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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Steve Barber » Thu Oct 30, 2014 5:45 pm

Ezra Lb. wrote:Whoa there Ben! Before you get too deep into all that philosophizing and theologizing, there's one thing you forgot. You haven't established yet that a god even exists. Hell can wait a bit I think.

You believe in god, why again?



If I may offer an observation: You have been told, repeatedly, why the Believers among us do so. It's the answer you dismiss. As a declared non-believer, there is no acceptable answer, in fact.

This goes back to my constant declaration that since the fundamental point of both belief systems is disbelief in the other, there's no middle ground nor rational discussion. You dismiss out of hand all the reasons people choose to believe, negating any possible response from them. After the first series of turns, it becomes baiting. Particularly when couched as "You haven't established yet that a god even exists."

He has, to the standards he applies to the definition. You have simply discarded them.

I have noted my own beliefs are nothing any of you would accept unquestioningly. I can offer all of the rationals which apply in my own mind and allow me to believe as I do. Your Mileage Varies, and so to continually apply pressure saying "but you haven't convinced me yet" does little to negate my beliefs. ultimately, my own perspective is the only one I can influence, particularly when you are awaiting an argument or statement you can then discount as "unconvincing".

It's not you I -- or Ben or Frank or diane -- is responsible for convincing. Any argument or statement we make is, by definition, unacceptable to you.

(Don't deny this, there are pages and pages of exactly what I have described we can go back over.)

I don't discredit or deny you your own belief that there is no God, or in my case the Gaian equivalent, while you are strongly bent towards disproving mine. Yes, in the great big world Christians and Muslims are angry with non-believers.

Argue with them.
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Ezra Lb.
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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Ezra Lb. » Thu Oct 30, 2014 8:38 pm

All I can do is repeat what I said to Lori over in the other thread in response to her question.

Lori there is a deep seated, fundamental, internalized taboo in our culture against criticizing religion. Because this taboo has existed for so long it has had time to surround itself with oodles of defense mechanisms. We can continue to speak out and accept the consequences (which is often that people of good will misunderstand or misrepresent our point of view) or be silent. I judge no one for making either choice.

If we do speak out all we can really do is keep asking others the same questions we've asked ourselves. If other folks find those questions offensive, well that's rather telling don't you think?
“We must not always talk in the marketplace,” Hester Prynne said, “of what happens to us in the forest.”
-Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

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Steve Barber
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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Steve Barber » Fri Oct 31, 2014 9:18 am

All of which reinforces my post above beautifully. There's absolutely nothing wrong with asking the questions if you listen to the answers and do not criticize the person giving them to you. Believers are often correctly accused of arrogantly asserting the primacy of their beliefs. I would assert the same is true of the atheists who, rather than simply nodding and walking away, strongly charge those who believe with not paying attention to reality.

As I've told my friend Susan K. Perry, even the claim and use of the term "rational" by atheists immediately cloaks anyone with a religion in "irrational" clothes.

I personally don't believe in Islam or Christianity. As such, I don't bother trying to prove or refute either of them, and certainly don't spend much time defending myself or attacking the beliefs of others. What I do criticize is the hypocritical assertions on both sides that the other isn't listening.

They are, but neither side accepts what the other is saying.

And, by definition, cannot.
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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Mark Tiedemann » Fri Oct 31, 2014 10:09 am

Okay, here's one.

Several years ago at our local SF convention I walked into the dealer's room to find someone had put up a photo booth for the taking of pictures of one's "Kirlian Aura." I did a double take. I dabbled in Kirlian photography briefly back when it was a relatively new thing in the mid Seventies, so I was curious.

What I found was something like a cleaned-up Frankenstein chair with recessed pads in the armrests where you placed your hands. Thick cables ran from the chair to the camera, which was a modified Polaroid passport camera. This was all done in full fluorescent illumination in a corner of the dealer's room. A pair of floodlights were set up on either side of the chair, aimed not at the person seated but at a matched pair of bright rainbow patterned mylar which faced the camera.

People were lining up to pay $15.00 a pop for what were basically fuzzy portraits with a hazy multicolored glow obscuring them and were being told this was their "aura." The trick, I found out, was a cleverly arranged set of mirrors that caught the glow from the mylar sheets and directed it across a soft-focus filter.

The reason I mention this here, in this context, is that it turned out to be a demonstration of belief over fact. I know a little bit about photography and when I told people that this was NOT a picture of their kirlian aura, about half of them got really pissed off. Not at the photographer, but at me. I was lancing the bubble of their fantasy.

Now, the physics alone destroyed the illusion. This person was not photographing anyone's aura. But the wish to believe was strong enough in her customers that they were willing to deny reality in order to be convinced.

Auras occupy that amorphous area between new age bullshit and religion, so I use this as an example of a case wherein reality---demonstrable, provable, ascertainable---ran smack up against a desire to believe, to the tune of $15.00 each for the privilege of being scammed.

So while I agree that in many instances one does have to simply allow that different world views are simply incompatible and no "right" answer can be had, it is not the same as saying that belief trumps fact, nor should it. When religion---or whatever substitute you care to name---runs afoul of easily demonstrated reality, courtesy can be a barrier to moving forward for everyone. You are certainly free to view the universe through any metaphysical or metaphorical lens you wish, but there are times when what one wishes to be the case runs smack into the fact that it isn't. I do not agree that pushing nonsense in the name of religious tolerance is either a valid approach to rights or a particularly good thing to leave unchallenged.


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