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  1. #21
    darkened dreams labyrinthine's Avatar
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    I have had a difficult time understanding how evolutionary biologists place value judgments on any human behavior. They do not do this with animals, and accept that humans are merely animals. I do realize that human beings have some capacity for reason, albeit limited. I just have a difficult time reconciling where the 'hate' for religion comes in. Religion happens. Birds migrate. Monkeys fling poo. Why isn't there greater emphasis on examining all human phenomenon and behavior at a distance, withholding judgment?
    Step into my metaphysical room of mirrors.
    Fear of reality creates myopic morality
    So I guess it means there is trouble until the robins come
    (from Blue Velvet)

    I want to be just like my mother, even if she is bat-shit crazy.

  2. #22
    Senior Member ptgatsby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by toonia View Post
    Why isn't there greater emphasis on examining all human phenomenon and behavior at a distance, withholding judgment?
    To put it in context, should the biologist attempt to stop a murder, or simply watch the behaviour?

    What he is saying is that he has watched the behaviour and he believes it will lead to something undesirable, and therefore should do something about it. A less dramatic (although he certainly wouldn't see it that way) way of rephrasing the above question.

  3. #23
    darkened dreams labyrinthine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ptgatsby View Post
    To put it in context, should the biologist attempt to stop a murder, or simply watch the behaviour?

    What he is saying is that he has watched the behaviour and he believes it will lead to something undesirable, and therefore should do something about it. A less dramatic (although he certainly wouldn't see it that way) way of rephrasing the above question.
    I do understand that to a point. From another perspective, missionaries have long been criticized for passing judgment on and changing culture and tradition. Some of the behaviors they encountered were 'wrong' and led to undesirable results from the Christian perspective. Some of these behaviors included murder or rape. Judging religion as a whole is this same process on a larger scale.

    I have understood the the primary directive so to speak in evolution is survival. This has been accomplished without the tool of reason. The dinosaurs did not need reason. Religion is an effective system for survival in many contexts. If this were not the case, how could its presence be so prevalent and pervasive? In the history of the world, reason is nearly unprecedented. Because of that, could it require some degree of 'faith' to accept it as the ideal premise to dictate behavior? How can the evolutionary biologist justify a position other than complete relativism? Perhaps they can, but it isn't clear to me.

    My question is not why an evolutionary biologist would have value judgments, but how can they justify these solely within the framework of science?

    Just so it's clear, I personally value reason. I accept it with a degree of faith that humanity 'should' strive to increase knowledge and stable thought. I accept it because humans are small and feeble in a fathomless universe. There is more beyond ourselves and reason appears to be a mechanism by which we can discover more meaning. I'm curious as to other ways people value reason. Also, can reason be accepted without it functioning as a value?
    Step into my metaphysical room of mirrors.
    Fear of reality creates myopic morality
    So I guess it means there is trouble until the robins come
    (from Blue Velvet)

    I want to be just like my mother, even if she is bat-shit crazy.

  4. #24
    Senior Member ptgatsby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by toonia View Post
    My question is not why an evolutionary biologist would have value judgments, but how can they justify these solely within the framework of science?
    I understand where you are coming from, but I don't think he is justifying it solely within the framework of science. What he is saying is that "This is what science has done for you" and "this is an enemy of science", therefore one should use the scientific method for this. The concept of values here is difficult because values don't exist in the scientific method... There is more to life than science... but the alternative isn't religion, it's philosophy. I don't believe the message is that science is the end all of the universe - more that reason, empiricism and such are the way forward. He is, more or less saying, that religion has run it's course... we know better now and we should move on with what works.

    Also, can reason be accepted without it functioning as a value?
    The question is if it can be accepted despite values. Can an individual or group change when they realise there is a better way, or a better explanation? One does not need a value system - in fact, value systems have no bearing on reason - in order to work out how things work.

    And that's the issue. Reason operates at a different level than values - whether it is Thor and his nubile priestesses or Seth and the slave drivers, the moon will rotate to the same schedule, the world will turn at the same rate. Just because they have different teachings on what it should be or how it happens doesn't change that someone who reasons it out... the point being that reason happened regardless of value systems... it is the opposing value system that will attempt to reject the reasoned argument rather than elevate itself to an equal level argument. Reason, as such, cannot become a value - the moment the reason becomes a value, it decreases it's relative rank and ceases to be reason.

    This is true for anything. Can a libertarian accept the concept of externalities? Can communist understand the invisible hand? These concepts are elusive, but by creating value systems out of them (ie: libertarian and communist belief systems), the actual reason is consumed. The concept of externalities can never become a value system itself because it is a statement, a description. It isn't guidance.

  5. #25
    darkened dreams labyrinthine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ptgatsby View Post
    I understand where you are coming from, but I don't think he is justifying it solely within the framework of science. What he is saying is that "This is what science has done for you" and "this is an enemy of science", therefore one should use the scientific method for this.
    That helps clarify a bit. I am still wondering about a few premises:

    What exactly has science done for 'you'? There is the assumption that increased scientific knowledge always has a constructive result. I realize this is throwing in the obvious, but humans never had the capacity to destroy the earth until we delved into enough scientific investigation. Science can improve or destroy. Perhaps because it is not a value, but a tool. A club can be used to murder or grind grain. The same concept is true of nuclear fission. I'm not convinced that science alone is humanity's salvation. Reason produces better tools which can be used to more effectively create or destroy, depending on the value systems in which they are employed.

    Perhaps Dawkins advocates the doing away with all value systems? Are you saying that value and reason are not compatible?

    Quote Originally Posted by ptgatsby View Post
    The concept of values here is difficult because values don't exist in the scientific method... There is more to life than science... but the alternative isn't religion, it's philosophy. I don't believe the message is that science is the end all of the universe - more that reason, empiricism and such are the way forward. He is, more or less saying, that religion has run it's course... we know better now and we should move on with what works.
    If religion has run its course, then it should naturally dissolve. 'We' know better now. That indicates the assumption that religion is a vehicle for information, just as reason is. This is a false assumption. Religion serves many complex purposes including projection of the individual and social psyche. Religion and science may be at odds, but it is a false dichotomy. One of the most basic concepts of human interaction: never take something away from someone unless you have something equivalent or greater to give them. If you yank a nail out of a child's hand to keep them from being hurt, they will cry and feel hurt. If you instead hand them a soft toy, they will readily give up the nail. I find a great deal in Dawkins position that indicates a lack of understanding of the social and psychological dynamics of religion and the individual. These are important elements that should factor in to this equation.

    Society is in a state of flux with the increased technology of communication and transportation creating immediacy between diverse regions. This is creating a conflict of values on an unprecedented scale. Even with that observation, how can one conclude that religion is no longer useful. Perhaps with so much changing so fast, the security of tradition is more important that ever? The topic is just enormously complex and quick dismissal makes me pause and question.

    Quote Originally Posted by ptgatsby View Post
    The question is if it can be accepted despite values. Can an individual or group change when they realise there is a better way, or a better explanation? One does not need a value system - in fact, value systems have no bearing on reason - in order to work out how things work.
    My understanding of humanity is that the greatest violence and suffering has consistently resulted from imposing a 'better' system on individuals without their consent. Religion has done this. Politics has done this. Business has as well. It is human nature. It appears to function well at the tribal level, this heightened projection and control of an individual, but on the larger framework of society, it creates atrocity. In my understanding this process is not rooted in religion, but uses religion as its tool. There are certainly plenty of examples of political regimes professing science and reason as their tool for social dominance.

    Quote Originally Posted by ptgatsby View Post
    And that's the issue. Reason operates at a different level than values - whether it is Thor and his nubile priestesses or Seth and the slave drivers, the moon will rotate to the same schedule, the world will turn at the same rate. Just because they have different teachings on what it should be or how it happens doesn't change that someone who reasons it out... the point being that reason happened regardless of value systems... it is the opposing value system that will attempt to reject the reasoned argument rather than elevate itself to an equal level argument. Reason, as such, cannot become a value - the moment the reason becomes a value, it decreases it's relative rank and ceases to be reason.

    This is true for anything. Can a libertarian accept the concept of externalities? Can communist understand the invisible hand? These concepts are elusive, but by creating value systems out of them (ie: libertarian and communist belief systems), the actual reason is consumed. The concept of externalities can never become a value system itself because it is a statement, a description. It isn't guidance.
    If reason isn't guidance, then why apply it as guidance? Moving people away from their traditions and natural course is precisely guidance.
    Step into my metaphysical room of mirrors.
    Fear of reality creates myopic morality
    So I guess it means there is trouble until the robins come
    (from Blue Velvet)

    I want to be just like my mother, even if she is bat-shit crazy.

  6. #26
    Senior Member ptgatsby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by toonia View Post
    What exactly has science done for 'you'? (...) Perhaps because it is not a value, but a tool.
    It depends on your perspective. Science isn't a "thing", but neither are values.

    The central argument is:

    Is it better to use observation and experimentation to generate knowledge and standards... or is it better to have faith and not require validation to generate knowledge and standards. Faith that claims knowledge cannot afford to have it tested... that's its nature. To do so elevates the knowledge to attack, even if it is at first validated. It ceases to stand on faith and now depends on it's own support.

    The difference is that science generates knowledge extremely well. If you want to cure someone, you don't pray to God - it just doesn't work. Faith would automatically assume it does; but it can be tested and it doesn't. On the other hand, shared values do have to come from something more philosophical, which science doesn't do.

    So, to answer your question... Science generated the knowledge that kept me alive after I was born. It worked out how we can talk at great lengths like we are now. Every time I cook, eat, drive... all of these things were generated with knowledge. It is our strength in the animal kingdom - literally, that which allows us our power, defines our ability to shape our world.

    When measured against each other on the same level, faith fails at generating knowledge. When measured at the philosophical level, science can hold its own as a subset of epistemology. It can be claimed that it can't compete with faith because it can't explain what faith does - however, the philosophical argument is that anyone can generate an explanation that explains what cannot be known, thus making no particular faith relevant.

    Regardless, science is a tool, yes, if you consider processes capable of being called tools. So can religion, a tool for social definition - excluding outsiders and unifying insiders.

    Perhaps Dawkins advocates the doing away with all value systems? Are you saying that value and reason are not compatible?
    Values are shared beliefs, nothing else. A belief in approaching things from the point of view of reason is not an impossibility, although it defies the faith-generated norm that we are all used to. It would be akin to the belief in free speech - disagreement on everything that is said, but not the disagreement that it should be allowed to be said.

    So long as the value reflects reason, then the value is reason. But if it can be reasoned that it is wrong, then the value is no longer compatible with reason.

    I believe Dawkins says that it is wrong to claim something that is false and basing actions upon beliefs that are unfounded is inherently immoral. This is where it heads into philosophy, however.

    If religion has run its course, then it should naturally dissolve.
    It would appear this is the case - do you not seem him as part of the dissolution? However, the resolution of any norm can cause revolution. There is no protection or guidance that states history moves only forward - that we cannot regress back to the dark ages and back to cavemen.

    Either interpretation would be valid.

    'We' know better now. That indicates the assumption that religion is a vehicle for information, just as reason is.
    Yes, the error is that religion assumes knowledge where none exists. It exists as a replacement for reason.

    Religion serves many complex purposes including projection of the individual and social psyche.
    Redefine religion so that the sentence remains true. "Community", "Nationality", "Family"... it can always be replaced. There is nothing unique about religion that is not covered by alternatives. Religion is a subset of human needs, which means that it is theoretically possible that religion is a subset itself of other social manifestations... which even if it is not, suggests that there are alternatives to what is offered.

    I always find it funny that in Japan, they have the concept of community that involves everyone going out and cleaning up the neighborhood. That's there version of "community" - nothing to do with religion and everything to do with community and practical issues. The American equivalent is to head to church to listen to what many consider to be the literal truth, written over a thousand years ago.

    Religion and science may be at odds, but it is a false dichotomy. One of the most basic concepts of human interaction: never take something away from someone unless you have something equivalent or greater to give them. If you yank a nail out of a child's hand to keep them from being hurt, they will cry and feel hurt. If you instead hand them a soft toy, they will readily give up the nail. I find a great deal in Dawkins position that indicates a lack of understanding of the social and psychological dynamics of religion and the individual. These are important elements that should factor in to this equation.
    I don't see how this conflicts with Dawkins... are you referring to a particular statement of his?

    However, you just reasoned out what the correct act was. I could also say that bribing the child may solve the immediate problem but could in fact be inflicting more long term problems by bribing the child rather than teaching them. I could compare it to training a dog. I could run/find experiments to show the long term effects of repeated acts for bribery and what not.

    Religion would state that you should do one or the other despite knowledge for or against it. The act may be correct, or not, but it has no stable basis on which to measure to determine which it is.

    Society is in a state of flux with the increased technology of communication and transportation creating immediacy between diverse regions. This is creating a conflict of values on an unprecedented scale. Even with that observation, how can one conclude that religion is no longer useful. Perhaps with so much changing so fast, the security of tradition is more important that ever? The topic is just enormously complex and quick dismissal makes me pause and question.
    The change to allow women to vote, or work, in the United states was quick and dramatic... should it of gone slower? This can be taken to extremes, such as the right to beat your wife because of the historical tradition of buying women (women always being property) and so forth.

    Doing what is right and good should be the first concern of all people, not following old rules simply because they exist. The spread of reason has created change - change that allows old traditions to be replaced.

    Times change and the argument goes that the change towards more philosophical and scientific reasoning is superior to religion and tradition.

    There are certainly plenty of examples of political regimes professing science and reason as their tool for social dominance.
    People are people - the tool always changes. Just look at how little the citizens of the US follow their very own research into RWA from the 50's, or launching what wouldn't follow under just war under Christian doctrine. It goes both ways, unfortunately.

    If reason isn't guidance, then why apply it as guidance? Moving people away from their traditions and natural course is precisely guidance.
    Reason is the way we think, how we define and adapt our knowledge. We all have it and we all do it, no matter what our traditions are. If we want to build something, we need knowledge and reason. It's, in that sense, absolute.

    Traditions offer an external value system. No one is asking for traditions to be destroyed - traditions are destroyed by change, not reason. The only thing that reason threatens is traditions that assume knowledge, which can then be disproved. The same applies with religion. The only thing that reason threatens is the assumed knowledge because reason uses and creates knowledge, and by its very nature, requires it to reflect reality.

    I guess in that sense, it does offer guidance. It just isn't codified, always changing. It is a form of internal thought. It is no different than telling a child to think something out before he acts. I suppose that is guidance.

  7. #27
    darkened dreams labyrinthine's Avatar
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    good post pt.

    My position simply put is one of valuing a non-controlling approach to people. As i've started studying psychology, one of the primary values is empathy without judgment. It's about learning to guide people within their natural systems of thought. It's about gently guiding them towards reason within the context of their existing perspective. I am excited about studying further because i completely 'get' why that ideal is in place. It is because the myriad of details that make up a person's life are incalculable. It is out of respect for the complexity of human nature that boundaries are held with regard. With that value, when someone comes to me for counseling as a devout atheist, i will not ever suggest a higher power to them. When someone comes as a devout Christian, i will work within that framework. I have no intention of ever converting anyone to or from any system of thought, but to extend into empathy, and assist them in structuring their thoughts and behaviors within the context of their values and existing thought systems. So while I understand the importance of teaching reason to people who wish to hear, taking a position of disrespect for religion holds the danger of disrespecting the individual and the boundaries that define their personal thought property. I hope that makes sense.

    When I encounter ideologies that appear to impose, it seems constructive to suggest examining the assumptions that aim to restructure other people's thought processes to reflect one's own preferences, even if that be reason. Even the example of women's rights, if forced onto a society can create backlash. Timing, respect, empathy, a sense of boundaries, are all important when dealing with people. Human nature and society are messy and irrational. Perhaps that is why it has always been so tempting to place controls on people. My concern is imposing an objective system of thought onto the 'subjective', irrational system that is humanity. It is a negotiation that requires acknowledging both sides of that equation.
    Step into my metaphysical room of mirrors.
    Fear of reality creates myopic morality
    So I guess it means there is trouble until the robins come
    (from Blue Velvet)

    I want to be just like my mother, even if she is bat-shit crazy.

  8. #28

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    I realize that this is awfully glib, but...

    I don't understand why people seize upon the idea that religion is destructive and evil because so much killing goes on in the name of God. Are these people delusional enough to think that if we didn't have religion we wouldn't find other reasons to kill each other? Humans are violent. We're going to kill each other. Whatever nominal reasons we find to justify it are of secondary importance.

    I'm not advocating that we stop treating violence as immoral and criminal. I just feel that this viewpoint has such blinders on it that it appears its advocates simply have an ax to grind. It's akin to saying that if we issued everyone an infallible alarm clock and took away the excuse of "my alarm didn't go off", that nobody would ever be late.

  9. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by NocturnalSun View Post
    By nature, NT's tend to be very reason-oriented, but they do not require observation to prove truth. (iNtuitive) Just one example.

    edit: And I am kinda offended that faith and superstition are lumped together as if BOTH are necessarily irrational and opposing to observation. What a mockery! My faith denies what we observe, what we have evidence for? That is EXACTLY what Dawkins pushes. All religion is the same in that it opposes evidence and logic, and that it is rooted in human superstition. That's BS, and why it is a "false dichotomy."
    Quote Originally Posted by oberon67 View Post
    That the Abrahamic religions (to pick an example) might be considered in opposition to science would have come as a considerable surprise to, say, Isaac Newton.

    I suspect this is another aspect of the zeitgeist we can ascribe to Darwin...or, more properly, the succession of people who have misinterpreted his work.
    I want to stand up and clap like in the movies where someone makes a rousing speech and that one guy stands up and slowly claps by himself and then eventually everyone joins him.

  10. #30
    Senior Member ptgatsby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by toonia View Post
    When I encounter ideologies that appear to impose, it seems constructive to suggest examining the assumptions that aim to restructure other people's thought processes to reflect one's own preferences, even if that be reason. Even the example of women's rights, if forced onto a society can create backlash.
    I can agree for the most part, my post was more or less taking the stance that Dawkin's has. If he is correct or not is something else.

    However, as a psychologist (to be? ) you may be forced with a situation like:

    Man beating wife. Wife is developping real issues. Wife refuses to leave because the religion either allows the beating or disallows leaving the husband. You know what will likely happen if it continues - the stress level will rise and the probable outcome is going to be either her death (by husband or by herself), or his death (by her).

    Ethically, do you think you can shrug it off and watch it happen without touching on the underlying faith? The only way she'll leave is if you tell her, essentially, to break her faith, or tell her what is happening isn't wrong. Do you see invoking the law as a way out? Is that different if she won't change her own views?

    (For the record, I hate ethics in psychology. It's one of the hardest areas to perform moral calcualtions, IMO).

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