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Re: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Re: Science, Religion, Reason, and Survival

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  • keith sewell
    Hello Fred, Sorry about the delay. As usual; travel, in a place with poor net access. As to Mr. Atran: He is clearly, as you say, a post-modernist. As such,
    Message 1 of 14 , Jan 1, 2007
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      Hello Fred,
       
      Sorry about the delay. As usual; travel, in a place with poor 'net access.
       
      As to Mr. Atran: He is clearly, as you say, a post-modernist. As such, it is entirely fitting that he should be quoting Templeton Foundation funded 'research'. Their hearts are in the right place, but they also believe themselves to be thinking. An activity that they cannot be seen to entirely grasp.
       
      You and I seem to agree that Mr. Atran's central proposal - that the world is inherently unreasonable - is simply wrong. As you correctly note, all of our empirical/observation-based evidence supports the exact opposite proposal. What I would dearly love to ask Mr. Atran is what he actually has to put up against that mountain of evidence. Where does he believe himself to be standing, as he offers his logically exclusive proposal for our belief? He can't be offering it from the basis of reason, so from what basis, exactly, is he offering it? This is of course just one more of the myriad possible re-statements of the central question of my essay. I would love the chance to put that question - ideally, in its clear/precise form, as stated in the essay - to Mr. Atran or any of his fellows. I am about 99.999% sure that they would not be able to answer it. And their inability to do so would, or certainly should, finally cut the throat of post-modernism/post-structuralism.
       
      I continue to believe that we need to get that dangerous clown off the intellectual/philosophical stage ASAP; and that I have the shepherd's crook that could achieve it. What I seem to be unable to do is to get my own people, like yourself, to understand the crook well enough to let me up there (on 'stage left') from where I can use it. Basically, I need publication, in any venue with too high a profile for Atran, Dembski, Plantinga, and the rest to be able to ignore.  

      Yours, in frustration,
       
      Keith
       

      Fred Pauser <arborculture@...> wrote:

      Hi Keith,

      Regarding my post to which you responded, it occurred to me that I
      did not sufficiently address Atran's concept of an "inherently
      unreasonable world" and was not very clear about what was meant
      by "reason" when I finished with, "…I am confident that reason will
      eventually win." I tried to improve on that situation in my last
      post. Your post somewhat addressed the point in a highly academic
      sort of way, for which I thank you.

      I'll try now to say a bit more about Atran's "inherently unreasonable
      world" and reason itself.

      More excerpts from Atran's post:
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~
      "The theory of generative grammar was elaborated to a significant
      extent under funding from the Office of Naval Research, and the
      Templeton Foundation has funded some of the most original and
      reliable work on the evolutionary underpinnings of religious practice
      and belief, including the role of counterintuitive beliefs in human
      memory.
      […]
      It is my conviction, informed by some years of anthropological
      fieldwork, psychological experimentation and political negotiations,
      that reason in the sense of consistent argumentation from evidence
      and logic is only one of several cognitive tools that humans are
      endowed with in order to navigate the physical and social world they
      live in " very good for finding the hidden springs and causes of the
      world around us but pretty bad for morally deciding what to do about
      what we find. More often than not, reason - as David Hume so cogently
      put it – `is and ought only to be a slave of the passions.' "
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~

      These are among the indications that Atran's thinking is heavily
      influenced by Postmodernism. With a little familiarity with
      postmodernism, it becomes apparent how someone could conclude that we
      live in an "inherently unreasonable world." I think the man is quite
      confused.

      I'll say it again: The evidence is that the dynamics of nature, at
      least on the macro level, are quite lawful and orderly. On this basis
      we live in an interactive cause-and-effect universe. Science is based
      upon this premise. Science has provided us with by far our most
      reliable knowledge, which indicates that the premise upon which
      science is based is quite valid.

      In the course of Harris' and Dawkins' call for reason to prevail over
      the irrationalities of religions such as Christianity and Islam, they
      have pointed out that such religions contain *direct violations* of
      what we know to be true according to empirical evidence and
      scientific knowledge. It does not require enormous experience in life
      to recognize the absurdity of, say, the Noah's arc story. "Reason"
      refers to the enormously evidence-based belief that we live in a
      universe of lawful causes and effects.

      Atran believes that "evidence and logic" are "pretty bad for morally
      deciding what to do about what we find." I`m guessing he relies on
      feelings, in combination with an UNacknowledged extent of evidence
      and logic. I wonder what he thinks of the somewhat popular concept
      of "tough love" which more clearly relies on evidence and logic.
      Anyway, science has not yet entered into the realm of ethics AFAIK .
      But there's no reason that it can't or won't. We are all similarly
      subject to pleasure and pain. This would be the physical biochemical
      basis of scientific ethics.

      Fred

      --- In naturalismphilosoph yforum@yahoogrou ps.com, keith sewell
      <keith.sewell@ ...> wrote:
      >
      > Fred,
      >
      > Scott Attran's remark ('we humans are not very good at using
      reason') was perceptive. But he then seemed to confirm it, in regard
      to himself, by suggesting some consequences that were in no sense
      entrained.
      >
      > Reason, which is grounded ultimately in observation, is
      observably our most reliable guide to knowledge. This is a closed
      loop. But at this most basic level - where the rubber of human
      knowledge first meets the road of reality - it doesn't matter.
      If/when we are prepared to give up the illusion that we have any
      knowledge that necessarily/ objectively/ a-priory relates to reality,
      and move instead to holding all of our knowledge from the rational
      basis that Karl Popper finally showed us for scientific knowledge;
      then we will eliminate our ancient confusion. When we are finally
      prepared to admit that it may all be a dream (not, of course, that is
      necessarily is, but that it may be) and say "OK. So what. We can
      still prefer the dream of reason, from the ground of its being the
      best one upon which we can all agree" then the wellspring that is now
      still feeding all of our ancient systems of irrational knowledge will
      be dried.
      >
      > We have, rooted ultimately in repeatable physical observation, an
      observably sufficient basis for preferring some knowledge proposals
      over others. It is all that we've ever had, and all that we've ever
      needed. We have been collectively deluding ourselves in our pretense
      that we have something more. Dawkins and Harris should be regarded as
      heroes, for their intellectual clarity and courage in going ahead and
      calling the 'spade' (of absurd and counter productive 'knowledge') a
      spade. Their understanding is still partial, in that they are both
      still talking about something that they can't coherently define
      ('truth'). But they are on the right road, and are much further along
      it than Mr. Attran.
      >
      > All the best,
      >
      > Keith Sewell
      >
      >
      > Fred Pauser <arborculture@ ...> wrote:
      >
      > To those who have not yet checked it out, last month there was held
      a
      > three-day seminar on the topic of SCIENCE, RELIGION, REASON AND
      > SURVIVAL. The speakers and attendees were mainly scientists and
      > philosophers, including some of the world's outstanding scientists.
      >
      > http://beyondbelief 2006.org/
      >
      > That website includes about 20 hours of video of the event. There
      was
      > considerable disagreement, one aspect of which was most poignantly
      > expressed by Scott Atran, anthropologist and psychologist. Early in
      > his remarks he stated that we humans are not very good at using
      > reason. I certainly agree that that is true of the vast majority,
      and
      > even our best are not perfect, which is why we need scientific
      > testing. Reason alone is generally not good enough in matters of
      any
      > significant complexity.
      >
      > However, later on Atran goes way too far, IMO. He takes offense in
      > particular at the views expressed by Sam Harris and Richard
      Dawkins.
      > (See the final 15 minutes of session 7 and the first 27 minutes of
      > session 8). He most clearly expresses this in a written post at:
      > http://beyondbelief 2006.org/ The%20Conversati on%
      > 20Continues/ conversation1. php (scroll down)
      >
      > Excepts:
      > ~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~
      > "I find it fascinating that brilliant scientists and philosophers
      > have no clue how to deal with the *basic irrationality of human
      life
      > and society* other than to insist against all reason and evidence
      > that things ought to be rational and evidence based. It makes me
      > embarrassed to be a scientist and atheist." [emphasis mine]
      >
      > "The belief that science can or should replace religion as a major
      > factor in motivating and shaping - rather than just informing -
      > politics or ethics, and by so doing steadily improve the human
      > condition, is itself a delusion."
      >
      > "No society in recorded history has ever survived more than about
      > three generations without a religious foundation."
      >
      > "If scientists do believe that they are ethically bound to improve
      > the lot of ordinary people, or at least to decrease violence and
      > increase possibilities for the pursuit of happiness, as I do, then
      > perhaps the greatest challenge - and one that has been wholly
      > overlooked here - is `how do we as scientists advance reason in an
      > *inherently unreasonable world*?'" [emphasis mine]
      > ~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~
      >
      > I agree with Scott that, not only scientists, but for anyone, it is
      a
      > very high ethical calling to strive to "improve the lot of ordinary
      > people… increase possibilities for the pursuit of happiness."
      >
      > Scott apparently has considerable experience as a political
      > negotiator and first-hand knowledge of suicide bombers. He makes
      some
      > good points, such as:
      >
      > "Only we can do grievous harm to ourselves by taking the
      terrorists'
      > bait and reacting in ill-conceived and uncontrolled ways that
      inflate
      > and so empower our enemies, alienate our friends, and frighten our
      > own citizens into believing that they must give up basic liberties
      or
      > root out religion in order to survive."
      >
      > Thanks largely to Bush and Cheney this has already been done. And
      > that is due in no small measure, to their irrationality.
      >
      > But an "inherently unreasonable world" ??? No. The way Scott talks,
      > there is no point in using reason as do Sam Harris and Richard
      > Dawkins, to try to sway people away from irrational ideologies and
      > toward greater reason. We must keep trying. We may not make a lot
      of
      > progress of this sort in the near future, but I am confident that
      > reason will eventually win.
      >
      > Fred
      >


    • Fred Pauser
      Ken, Yes, and what we desire is to satisfy our needs, and to enjoy life, and in the process to
      Message 2 of 14 , Jan 2, 2007
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        Ken,

        < Desire, not rationality, seems at the core of our moral code.>

        Yes, and what we desire is to satisfy our needs, and to enjoy life,
        and in the process to avoid pain.

        < But using rationality to fulfill our desires seems as obvious as
        using rationality in medical science, which attempts to fulfill our
        desire to be healthy.>

        Those who rely heavily on impulse, whims, hunches, chance,
        serendipity, wishful thinking, generally don't seem to do so well at
        meeting their needs as those who rely more on reason.

        < Isn't Atran committing the naturalistic fallacy? Of course there's
        always been plenty of irrationality mixed in with human affairs, but
        is that any reason to promote or increase it?>

        I'm not sure if it can be called "naturalistic fallacy" because I
        don't believe as Atran claims -- that it is a "fundamentally
        irrational world." Although irrationality exists, the world seems to
        be fundamentally rational.

        Atran seems to think that people, including scientists, should accept
        that it's a "fundamentally irrational world;" learn to deal with it
        as such and don't try to change it.

        I disagree! For example, I think it's harmful to teach children that
        they are born in sin, that they will go to hell unless they sincerely
        repent, and that includes repenting for the sin of thinking "bad"
        thoughts!! Such irrationality is not fundamentally natural, and is
        not fundamentally necessary, and people like Dawkins and Harris are
        doing a great public service by brilliantly fighting against such
        irrationality with rationality!!!

        < The Monolaw shows how human desires can be optimally achieved, by
        applying a relatively simple principle to oneself: Would I want to be
        treated the way this law or this act of mine treats others?>

        If I apply the monolaw to one of the greatest current moral issues of
        today, the abortion issue, just for starters it looks something like
        this:

        1) Would I want to be born into a poor and ignorant family in which
        my conception was unwanted and happened due to ignorance or
        carelessness regarding contraception; a family (or individual) that
        would likely not be able to provide sufficient love and attention,
        nutritional food, education, etc?

        2) If tests showed a high chance of significant birth defects, would
        I want to take the chance and be born anyway?

        NOPE! Pro Choice, and pro empathy!

        Fred




        --- In naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com, "Ken Batts"
        <ken@...> wrote:
        >
        > Desire, not rationality, seems at the core of our moral code. But
        using rationality to fulfill our
        > desires seems as obvious as using rationality in medical science,
        which attempts to fulfill our
        > desire to be healthy. Isn't Atran committing the naturalistic
        fallacy? Of course there's always
        > been plenty of irrationality mixed in with human affairs, but is
        that any reason to promote or
        > increase it?
        >
        > The Monolaw shows how human desires can be optimally achieved, by
        applying a relatively
        > simple principle to oneself: Would I want to be treated the way
        this law or this act of mine
        > treats others?
        >
        > Ken
        >
      • stephenlawr0001@aol.com
        In a message dated 31/12/2006 15:58:45 GMT Standard Time, ken@kenbatts.com writes: Hi Ken Desire, not rationality, seems at the core of our moral code. But
        Message 3 of 14 , Jan 3, 2007
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          In a message dated 31/12/2006 15:58:45 GMT Standard Time, ken@... writes:
           
          Hi Ken
          Desire, not rationality, seems at the core of our moral code. But using rationality to fulfill our
          desires seems as obvious as using rationality in medical science, which attempts to fulfill our
          desire to be healthy.
          Yes.
           
          It is also important to remember that being rational can alter our desires.
           
          So the point of spreading naturalism for me, is not only as a way of fulfilling our desires but of making our desires more desirable.
           
          Best
           
          Stephen
           
           
        • Ken Batts
          Stephen, Fred: You could say our desire is to have more desirable desires! There is a hierarchy of desires, the top being happiness, and that highest level
          Message 4 of 14 , Jan 3, 2007
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            Stephen, Fred: You could say our desire is to have more desirable desires! There is a
            hierarchy of desires, the top being happiness, and that highest level needs to try to get the
            other levels of desire lined up, working for it and not against it. Eating an entire
            cheesecake per day is a lower level desire which fights against the higher-level desire of
            being healthy/happy.

            Saying the "world is irrational" makes no sense. The world is, except for certain brainstates
            at certain times in the heads of certain people, entirely non-rational, not irrational. Of
            course brains contain a great deal of irrationality, just as they contain a great deal of
            misinformation and poor learning. That's like saying that bodies contain a great deal of
            unhealthy cells, so we should accept that as the normal state and even encourage it.

            I suspect Atran's (possibly unconscious) motivation is to maintain the status quo and thus
            to feel secure. That is most people's motivation most of the time, that's how the status
            quo gets maintained. If people's deep sense of security wasn't attached psychologically to
            maintaining the status quo by the culture (parents/teachers/politicians/clergy/
            corporations), there'd be a lot more rebels around.

            Ken

            --- In naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com, stephenlawr0001@... wrote:
            >
            >
            > In a message dated 31/12/2006 15:58:45 GMT Standard Time, ken@...
            > writes:
            >
            > Hi Ken
            >
            > Desire, not rationality, seems at the core of our moral code. But using
            > rationality to fulfill our
            > desires seems as obvious as using rationality in medical science, which
            > attempts to fulfill our
            > desire to be healthy.
            >
            >
            > Yes.
            >
            > It is also important to remember that being rational can alter our desires.
            >
            > So the point of spreading naturalism for me, is not only as a way of
            > fulfilling our desires but of making our desires more desirable.
            >
            > Best
            >
            > Stephen
            >
            > l
            >
          • Fred Pauser
            Ken,
            Message 5 of 14 , Jan 4, 2007
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              Ken,

              < You could say our desire is to have more desirable desires! There
              is a hierarchy of desires, the top being happiness, and that highest
              level needs to try to get the other levels of desire lined up,
              working for it and not against it. Eating an entire cheesecake per
              day is a lower level desire which fights against the higher-level
              desire of being healthy/happy.>

              Excellent example – Probably most or all of us can relate to that.


              < Saying the "world is irrational" makes no sense. The world is,
              except for certain brainstates at certain times in the heads of
              certain people, entirely non-rational, not irrational. Of course
              brains contain a great deal of irrationality, just as they contain a
              great deal of misinformation and poor learning. That's like saying
              that bodies contain a great deal of unhealthy cells, so we should
              accept that as the normal state and even encourage it.>

              Yes, the world/universe is non-rational (exception as noted), non-
              reasoning. (I stand corrected.) It is a dymamic process of
              interactions according to natural laws. The human mind functions as a
              machine for assisting in the survival of the organism by providing
              the ability to perceive and learn of causal relationships in the
              environment so as to enable predictive decisions for the good of the
              organism. If the processes of nature were not lawful, the analytical
              reasoning brain would not have been selected for by evolution as
              there would have been no use for it.

              Fred



              --- In naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com, "Ken Batts"
              <ken@...> wrote:
              >
              > Stephen, Fred: You could say our desire is to have more desirable
              desires! There is a
              > hierarchy of desires, the top being happiness, and that highest
              level needs to try to get the
              > other levels of desire lined up, working for it and not against it.
              Eating an entire
              > cheesecake per day is a lower level desire which fights against the
              higher-level desire of
              > being healthy/happy.
              >
              > Saying the "world is irrational" makes no sense. The world is,
              except for certain brainstates
              > at certain times in the heads of certain people, entirely non-
              rational, not irrational. Of
              > course brains contain a great deal of irrationality, just as they
              contain a great deal of
              > misinformation and poor learning. That's like saying that bodies
              contain a great deal of
              > unhealthy cells, so we should accept that as the normal state and
              even encourage it.
              >
              > I suspect Atran's (possibly unconscious) motivation is to maintain
              the status quo and thus
              > to feel secure. That is most people's motivation most of the time,
              that's how the status
              > quo gets maintained. If people's deep sense of security wasn't
              attached psychologically to
              > maintaining the status quo by the culture
              (parents/teachers/politicians/clergy/
              > corporations), there'd be a lot more rebels around.
              >
              > Ken
              >
              > --- In naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com, stephenlawr0001@
              wrote:
              > >
              > >
              > > In a message dated 31/12/2006 15:58:45 GMT Standard Time, ken@
              > > writes:
              > >
              > > Hi Ken
              > >
              > > Desire, not rationality, seems at the core of our moral code. But
              using
              > > rationality to fulfill our
              > > desires seems as obvious as using rationality in medical
              science, which
              > > attempts to fulfill our
              > > desire to be healthy.
              > >
              > >
              > > Yes.
              > >
              > > It is also important to remember that being rational can alter
              our desires.
              > >
              > > So the point of spreading naturalism for me, is not only as a way
              of
              > > fulfilling our desires but of making our desires more desirable.
              > >
              > > Best
              > >
              > > Stephen
              > >
              > > l
              > >
              >
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