SCIENCE VS RELIGION

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

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Onlooker
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McDonald's, Ezra?

Postby Onlooker » Thu Jun 21, 2007 11:40 am

I don't know exactly who invented that place, but the name at least is Scottish. I hope it was not some Scot who decided that destroying cuisine would be a laugh; then again, you are talking about a nation that deep-fries much of its food and which has the highest heart attack rate in Europe, so anything's possible. There are MANY McDonald's in Scotland, including one in the town I came from. They are a virulent American feed-me-now-now-now cultural cancer, like Starbucks. Much of Europe these daze is culturally reminiscent of America.

Ultimately the human race is a bunch of half-civilized Africa-descended apes, like it or not. Just ask the poor passenger in that car in Texas yesterday who was beaten to death by a crowd when the car struck a two-year-old who was taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. "We must never forget our glorious simian heritage," as William S Burroughs humorously put it in Naked Lunch.

And yes, I would agree there is nothing to save; salvation of the race is a religious concept.

Shrug.

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Postby Moderator » Thu Jun 21, 2007 12:38 pm

Chuck Messer wrote:The worst of the holier-than-thou types don't want to just condemn us lowly sinners while they do the superior dance, they also want to make their interpretation of the Bible THE LAW OF THE LAND.


Actually, what bugs me most is that they will vehemently deny it is THEY who are doing the Superior Dance. They do not condemn.
It is GOD who is doing the condemning, not "his" followers (happy dance, happy dance).

And, even as one of the Superior Dance rationalistas, I take no pleasure in what I perceive to be their ignorance. In fact, I find it disturbing and troublesome.

Such willingness to suspend your own questioning leads to a form of brainwashing that day is night and religion is truth. It's a short hop from there to Kool-Aid.
- I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

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Postby Carstonio » Mon Jun 25, 2007 9:02 pm

In the past year I've read Harris' two books on religion and Dawkins' "The God Delusion." I define myself as an agnostic pantheist who reveres the universe but doesn't worship the universe or regard it as a conscious entity. While I don't rule out the possibility of the divine, I say the burden of proof is on those who claim that a supreme being exists. This is such a critical issue because people who believe in that being insist that everyone, not just themselves, must also believe and must obey that being. From what I can tell, atheism makes no such claims. Muhammed Ali once said, "No Viet Cong ever called me n*****." My version is, "No atheist ever called me hell-bound."

Ezra Lb. wrote:Because I couldn't live a schizophrenic life, denying my real self just to spare the feelings of people who should love me and except me no matter what.

So how do you get along?

By showing them the compassion and tolerance they claim to have but rarely show to others.


I've struggled to apply that to my relationship with my own family. For years I kowtowed to them, not to spare their feelings, but because I felt worthless when they disapproved of me. It wasn't about religion, but simply about me not conforming to their image of me or their wishes for me.

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David Loftus
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Postby David Loftus » Tue Jun 26, 2007 8:21 am

I think my book group read Harris's first book (we were mostly sympathetic but not terribly impressed), but I have yet to pick up the second or the Dawkins. What did you think of them, Carstonio? Anybody else?
War is, at first, the hope that one will be better off; next, the expectation that the other fellow will be worse off; then, the satisfaction that he isn't any better off; and, finally, the surprise at everyone's being worse off. - Karl Kraus

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Postby Ezra Lb. » Wed Jun 27, 2007 8:12 am

David, if I may...

Being a fellow traveler but NOT a recent convert, I have read all the atheism books with complete fascination.

Since you've read The End of Faith I won't spend much time on it other than to say it's chief value is that it asked the fundamental question, Why should religious speech be considered special and above criticism? Once you consider this question and realize that there is no good reason then the floodgates open, as they have.

Letter to a Christian Nation is a short sharp critique of Christianity. It's genesis was the response Harris got from his first book, mainly from Christians. It is focused and much to the point and from my point of view, devastating. If you are a person who counts Christian believers as friends (as some of us have already indicated) I would recommend that you read it and then pass it on to them. I found this book much more useful personally than the first one in helping me clarify my own thoughts.

Prof Dawkins' book, The God Delusion, is the most interesting of the books because it is the runaway bestseller and it is not, in my opinion, his best book. (For that see The Ancestor's Tale, which is magnificient.) If you're familiar with the classical philosophical arguments for the existence of god, and at least somewhat familiar with the basics of Darwinian theory, you might find yourself wondering what the fuss is all about. You are obviously not the person for which this book was intended. Most Americans will not be familiar with such (alas for our educational system) and indeed may be hearing these ideas expressed for the first time. Somebody's reading the book anyway; reportedly it has sold over a million copies in hardback alone!

David the one you didn't mention and the one I would most recommend to you is Christopher Hitchens' just released God is not Great. He is a brilliant literary critic and polemicist. He has traveled enough and experienced enough and thought about these experiences enough to have interesting things to say. He is the most entertaining of the group and while you won't agree with everything he says (I certainly didn't) his book is the one to read if you've already thought about these issues yourself.

Did this help?

Read Dawkins for a genaral overview of the argument. Give Harris's Letter to your believer friends. Read Hitchens for the great stories.
“We must not always talk in the marketplace,” Hester Prynne said, “of what happens to us in the forest.”
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Postby Ezra Lb. » Wed Jun 27, 2007 8:16 am

How come I can't edit my posts once they're submitted?

"for which" instead of "for whom", yikes!
“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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David Loftus
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Postby David Loftus » Wed Jun 27, 2007 9:51 am

I may get around to these books, I may not. Right now, I'm trying to get a handle on Steven Pinker's books.

These debates are such old hat to me. It's hard for me to get up the energy to be angry or indignant about religious beliefs the way I still can about our current administration. I stopped caring about these issues decades ago.

I have no problems with my Christian friends (or the many Jewish friends I've acquired in the past decade since starting to attend synogogue on a regular basis; some of them are among my most loyal fans at my readings), and they have none with me. A couple of my best friends are born-agains . . . but obviously, they're fairly tolerant and open-minded born-agains.
War is, at first, the hope that one will be better off; next, the expectation that the other fellow will be worse off; then, the satisfaction that he isn't any better off; and, finally, the surprise at everyone's being worse off. - Karl Kraus

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Postby Jan » Wed Jun 27, 2007 4:36 pm

You guys read too much. What else do you need but Ricky Gervais' take on the bible?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9bk4_SRcwE

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Postby FrankChurch » Wed Jun 27, 2007 5:09 pm

Remember, it is not how much you read but what you read.

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Postby Carstonio » Wed Jun 27, 2007 8:19 pm

David Loftus wrote:What did you think of them, Carstonio? Anybody else?


When I found their books, I was gratified to find people who shared my misgivings about religion.

Dawkins dissects theism from a scientific perspective. I appreciated his point about morality potentially having an evolutionary basis.

Harris focuses on the harm caused by faith's illogic, and I found his debating style to be more assertive and understandable. However, the section on "The End of Faith" on Jainism seems out of place. The article below is sort of a pocket version of that book:

http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text ... -atheism1/

I haven't yet read Hitchens' book.

One of Harlan's "Watching" essays referenced Charles Fort's concept of Steam Engine Time. I wonder if we're living in Atheism Time.

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Postby Carstonio » Wed Jun 27, 2007 8:27 pm

Ezra Lb. wrote:If you're familiar with the classical philosophical arguments for the existence of god, and at least somewhat familiar with the basics of Darwinian theory, you might find yourself wondering what the fuss is all about. You are obviously not the person for which this book was intended.


Many of the posters on Sam Harris' site are much more familiar with the classical philosophical arguments than I am, and much more capable of dissecting the arguments. While I appreciate their arguments on an intellectual level, I wonder if their efforts are in vain. The field of theology seems pointless to me - alleged experts debating the nature of God as if any of them had any certainty. To paraphrase Harlan on one of the On the Road CDs, that's like fucking mist.

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Duane
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Postby Duane » Thu Jun 28, 2007 4:55 pm

Not to make this too personal, but take this for what it's worth:

I'm a practicing Mormon. I attended Brigham Young University, the largest church owned university in the US.

I took biology classes, in which evolution was taught as fact. I took physics and astronomy classes, in which the Big Bang model of the universe was taught as well. (I graduated with a BS in Mathematics, by the way. 3.1 average. Nothing to write home about, but there you go.).

There was no "hedging." No professor stood up and said "while evolution seems to answer some questions, we must view them in light of scriptural teachings."

My required religion courses were just that: religion courses. While there was conjecture about connection points between scriptural teachings of the universe and the "real world" (this is, after all, a university), it was always understood that the purpose of scriptural teachings was to show our connection between ourselves, the universe and God, not the mechanics of how each of those three came into existance.

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First Off

Postby LarryF » Thu Jun 28, 2007 7:58 pm

This is my first post on the Forums, so please forgive me if I screw up. I just wanted to reply to Carstonio's comment about whether engaging in polemical combat with the various theists on the Sam Harris Truthdig board was doing any good. I post there as Larry666 (yes, I'm the Antichrist!) and have been so engaged for over a year. I have no illusions about converting hard-core fundamentalists of any faith, but I do feel that taking issue with them will, if nothing else, give those in the mushy middle something to think about.

I was a fundamentalist Baptist at one long ago time, and it was a close reading of the King James Bible which convinced me that it was as man-made a text as the FANTASTIC FOUR comics, which I loved in the sixties. While it matters not to me whether a person believes in the risen Jesus or the risen Elvis, it does matter to me when a group seeks to deprive another of their civil rights, based upon a buzz from on high. To deny a woman the right to an abortion, or a homosexual couple the right to marry, or a child the right to be taught evolutionary science, seems to me to be gross injustices.

So, is it worthwhile to argue with the faith heads? Maybe, maybe not. I can't provide statistical evidence to make the case one way or another; however, it is a sporting endeavor, one that is more humane than fox hunting, so ... I'll continue to continue. By the way, Carstonio, I've enjoyed your posts in the past; why not weigh in on the Harris site?

Polemical food fight!

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Postby Carstonio » Fri Jun 29, 2007 4:45 am

Duane wrote:My required religion courses were just that: religion courses. While there was conjecture about connection points between scriptural teachings of the universe and the "real world" (this is, after all, a university), it was always understood that the purpose of scriptural teachings was to show our connection between ourselves, the universe and God, not the mechanics of how each of those three came into existance.


Wow. I would have assumed BYU was as hardcore Biblical literalist as, say, Regent University or Patrick Henry College. I'm glad to see such a major Christian institution adhere in some way to the principle of naturalism. I see supernaturalism as defining people - once natural events are seen as actions of supreme beings, the logical conclusion is that the events are rewards or punishments from those beings. The Creation Museum embodies the whole problem with supernaturalism - the displays blame humanity for all suffering, even suggesting that meat-eating among animals originated with the Fall of Man. I'm not going to be their patsy.

(Aside: regarding Monica Goodling and Regent U, the media seemed to focus on the apparent lack of education quality of Regent, and not its explicitly theocratic agenda and the Bush Administration's motive for hiring so many Regent grads. Was it simply Kay Coles James using her authority to benefit her alma mater? A political reward for Pat Robertson for his support of the GOP? Or do some in the Administration share Regent's theocratic goals?)

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Postby Ezra Lb. » Fri Jun 29, 2007 8:32 am

I'm a fixin' to head out the door for sunny southern climes so let me take it more or less in order...

David, I'm glad you live in an "enlightened" area and amongst "enlightened" people, but surely you can't imagine that your experience is typical of the way most people live in these United States? Can you not make the connection between the current administration that so you so despise and the issues at hand? They'll come for you eventually my friend.

Jan, books are food. Funny link.

Frank, I read everything. Including the people I disagree with. Especially the people I disagree with.

Carstonio, paradoxically perhaps but understandably, it was only after I rid myself of any religious beliefs that I began to appreciate and love the Bible. Parts of the Hebrew Bible are equal to any literature by the Greeks and the formation of early Christianity is a completely fascinating and currently ongoing hot area of research. I'm fascinated anyway.

Duane, as a self-identified religionist you're the guy I wanna talk to but dangit no time now. I can only point out that BYU could do nothing else or they would lose their accreditation just as surely as Bob Jones U. The real problem is not in the unversities anyway, but in the high schools. The solution of my local high school was to teach biology as a series of disconnected facts and avoid the issue of evolution altogether so as not to offend the locals.

LarryF, welcome aboard! Don't worry about screwing up, none of the rest of us do! While I don't believe in attacking little old ladies on the way to Mass, I think we must respond to bad and destructive ideas put out by the religionists. I think it is immoral NOT to respond. If that is considered rude or arrogant or impolitic or illiberal, then so be it.
“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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