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Author Topic: A parable about contradictions in what religious Americans think
KidTokyo
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quote:
If I understood him correctly, Tom has also argued previously that the concept of the *self* is illusionary. So your analogy may be butting up against his personal brand of nonsense.
I would replace "illusionary" with "emergent."
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TomDavidson
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Nope. It's actually perfectly compatible with my personal brand of nonsense. [Smile] In fact, Kid just basically retyped something that I wrote myself on this forum, years ago.

The difference is that I do think it is fundamentally irrational to assign the name "God" -- fraught with all that semiotic weight -- to the concept of some "master algorithm", especially when we recognize that in assigning semiotic labels to things we are actually practicing a form of self-programming. It strikes me as dangerously irresponsible to do this, in the same way that labeling a method that inserts a blank string value into a session variable something like Session.SetNullAndDispose() would be.

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Pete at Home
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God's not a "name."
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KidTokyo
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I understand your concern, Tom, but there remains a very real pragmatic concern -- how are secular humanists getting along in the project to secularize the world? I don't think it's going very well. I'm suggesting a different approach which is more amenable to the intended audience (open-minded believers), more respecting of their intelligence and experiences, and which is better for us because it preserves the poetry and sense of community that religion at its best affords, without reducing it to a seemingly academic appreciation.

To take an historical example, look at how Christians have spread Christianity in polytheistic societies. Often, they would find corollaries in the Biblical narrative to local deities, so that they could say "hey, we actually share the same gods. Now, here's one more…". And so, for many centuries, and even in the present, there are societies which mix Christianity with paganism almost seamlessly.

I think there's a lesson there, and it need not involve mere trickery. To make it work, you are acknowledging up front that the relationship the target audience has to whatever deity is fulfilling an important need for them, even if it is doing some harm as well. People who are at all open-minded will prefer understanding and a new perspective to disillusionment. Instead of "eliminate God," why not "understand God?" People will of course find mystical and supernatural connotations to naturalistic phenomenon, but at least things will be on the right track. And progress like this is made in increments.

Lastly, we secularists need to acknowledge what we lack -- a church, a shared experience, a plane of consciousness in which to express our dream-language that is not commodified or reduced to analysis. I submit that it is possible to experience communal joy in a manner healthier than a rock concert but which does not require suppression of reason, any more than reason requires the suppression of imagination.

[ August 09, 2012, 02:06 PM: Message edited by: KidTokyo ]

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KidTokyo
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I would add -- "God" is always changing his/her role, and yet is always there. It can change again, develop, improve. Getting rid of "God" completely just leaves a God-sized hole.
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Pete at Home
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That's very evocative, Kid.
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Aris Katsaris
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quote:
"how are secular humanists getting along in the project to secularize the world? "
Well, judging on the percentages of atheism in europe: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Europe_belief_in_god.svg
the countries that are least atheist tend to have worse economies, and the countries that are most atheist are doing pretty well.

I'm not surprised with this, since it would fit with my own impression that Greeks simply disbelieve that things can get really really bad, because how could God/the Universe ever allow real badness.

Such attitudes that things can't get *really* bad because the Universe wouldn't allow such badness, actually stick to people even after they've nominally abandoned their theism -- your attempt to maintain the moniker "God" would simply allow people to maintain such unconscious delusions longer.

And in the case of Americans, you get presidents who can't believe they will possibly launch a wrongful war if they have prayed sincerely for guidance first.

To replace such theism with new-age woo about the will of the universe leads us where exactly? To presidents who won't believe they will launch into a wrongful war if their horoscopes has told them that it's a good day to make bold decision?

Frankly I'd rather deal with honest theists, who simply believe there is a being God, than people who anthroporphize the Universe and seek guidance from it.

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Pete at Home
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"Frankly I'd rather deal with honest theists, who simply believe there is a being God, than people who anthroporphize the Universe and seek guidance from it."

My best friend in Vegas is a wiccan, and she would very much resent your implication that she was not an honest theist.

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Aris Katsaris
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quote:
My best friend in Vegas is a wiccan, and she would very much resent your implication that she was not an honest theist.
And that some person somewhere in the world would resent what I said, is relevant how exactly? Or is it relevant because she's your best friend in Vegas? Are you even sure she's the *theist* variety of wiccan?

Either way, I'm sure that lots of people worldwide would resent lots of my opinions.

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Pete at Home
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" Are you even sure she's the *theist* variety of wiccan?"

Well, we're in the 12-step program together, and she talks about God a lot. I reckon that suggests theism.

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Pete at Home
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"Either way, I'm sure that lots of people worldwide would resent lots of my opinions."

Point to Aris. Consider it a roundabout question. I shall rephrase: Are you categorizing entire religious groups (such as some subsets of wicca, for example) that "anthroporphize the Universe and seek guidance from it" as "dishonest theists"? Or is that not quite what you meant to say?

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TomDavidson
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I'm fine with calling Wiccans dishonest. Or, at the very least, very lazy thinkers.
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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
I'm fine with calling Wiccans dishonest. Or, at the very least, very lazy thinkers.

I wish Lady Starkiller was still here. I thought she demonstrated much more rigorous thought than you have on this board. And she was generally a lot more straightforward.

[ August 10, 2012, 02:01 PM: Message edited by: Pete at Home ]

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KidTokyo
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Aris,

quote:
Such attitudes that things can't get *really* bad because the Universe wouldn't allow such badness, actually stick to people even after they've nominally abandoned their theism -- your attempt to maintain the moniker "God" would simply allow people to maintain such unconscious delusions longer.

And in the case of Americans, you get presidents who can't believe they will possibly launch a wrongful war if they have prayed sincerely for guidance first.

To replace such theism with new-age woo about the will of the universe leads us where exactly? To presidents who won't believe they will launch into a wrongful war if their horoscopes has told them that it's a good day to make bold decision?

I don't know how much of this was directed at me, but I'm certainly not suggesting that we "replace" theism with "new-age woo." I'm suggesting a way that theists can engage with scientific concepts rationally in way that does not implicitly negate or reject their own spiritual needs, so that they can retain the most important elements of their faith while learning to think more empirically and skeptically about "earthly" matters. I humbly submit that this has a better chance of actually helping the world to be a more peaceful place than the spiritual scorched-earth tactics most atheists seem to prefer, pursuant to their (rather odd) obsession with atheistic Purity of Thought.

I also think you're greatly simplifying the issue of religion and war-mongering. There is a long and noble history of peace activism among devout believers among many strains. Religion is often intermingled with political machinations, resulting in fundamentalism. But it's not the religious source that renders thinking "fundamentalist" it's the thought-process itself, and there are atheistic fundamentalists on the left-end (i.e, Stalinist or Maoist) end of the political spectrum just as there are religious fundamentalists on the right.

Fundamentalists are two-dimensional thinkers who are afraid of dealing with metaphor and mythology as metaphor and mythology, preferring to view religious texts as literal truth rather than an "echo" of the truth -- they distrust that which cannot be perfectly reduced to material externalities. They are uncomfortable with imaginary-reality. This is why religious fundamentalists usually have a rigidly literal, materialist cosmology (i.e., that there really was a talking snake, and that Genesis is a mathematical blueprint of world-building).

Moderate theism is not and need not be some watered-down version of fundamentalism. It is a different, more flexible way of thinking. We should be engaging with it rather than trying to obliterate it. Dawkins accused religious moderates of giving cover to fundamentalists. But surely, by the same logic, they give cover to secular humanists as well?

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Pete at Home
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"there are atheistic fundamentalists on the left-end (i.e, Stalinist or Maoist) end of the political spectrum just as there are religious fundamentalists on the right"

"Dawkins accused religious moderates of giving cover to fundamentalists. But surely, by the same logic, they give cover to secular humanists as well?"

Bravo and well-said.

Voltaire was more right than he may have known when he said that if God did not exist we would have needed to invent him. Because that gap will get filled.

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Aris Katsaris
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quote:
I also think you're greatly simplifying the issue of religion and war-mongering. There is a long and noble history of peace activism among devout believers among many strains.
I wasn't particularly seeking to connect *warmongering* with religion, I was seeking to connect illogical decision-wrong making with religion. If there's illogical peace-mongering as well, that's just as well.

quote:
Fundamentalists are two-dimensional thinkers who are afraid of dealing with metaphor and mythology as metaphor and mythology, preferring to view religious texts as literal truth rather than an "echo" of the truth -- they distrust that which cannot be perfectly reduced to material externalities
I could argue that fundamentalists are a product of the applications of Aristotelian logic on religion (e.g. if a statement "S = A (AND B)" then S is true if and only both A and B are true). And therefore if S is composed of a 5000 statement, S is true if and only if all 5000 statements are individually true, not if just a majority of them are, or if a summary of them is, or if their general attitude is.

So for a fundamentalist to believe his religion true, he believes he must treat every statement of his religion true -- and he's afraid to call his religion false.

Effectively I think there are three paths that a religious person can take, when they become acquainted with logic:

A) abandon Aristotelian logic and use a postmodernist (or something) view on 'truth' and 'falsehood', where truth isn't about an objective external reality but about our inner constructions or something.

B)abandon religion except as a fable of the past and no more significant to your life than Sumerian mythology or any other famous literary work.

C) psychologically compartmentalize between logic and religion.

Your average theist follows (C) tending to psychologically compartmentalize between logic (which he uses only in math problems), faith (used whenever he attends church or actually discusses religion), and everyday life (where he tends to do what his community does, regardless of whether it opposes either his faith or his logic).

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KidTokyo
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quote:
So for a fundamentalist to believe his religion true, he believes he must treat every statement of his religion true -- and he's afraid to call his religion false.
I don't think every sentence of a religious text boils down to a "statement" which is either true or false solely as a statement of literal fact. The crucial question is -- what are the statements interpreted to mean?

quote:
Effectively I think there are three paths that a religious person can take, when they become acquainted with logic:

A) abandon Aristotelian logic and use a postmodernist (or something) view on 'truth' and 'falsehood', where truth isn't about an objective external reality but about our inner constructions or something.

B)abandon religion except as a fable of the past and no more significant to your life than Sumerian mythology or any other famous literary work.

C) psychologically compartmentalize between logic and religion.

Interesting, but I'd argue that you've loaded too much presupposition into each option. Such as:

in the case of A) a false dichotomy (or perhaps more accurately a falsely absolute discretion) between "internal" and "external" reality

in the case of B) an assumption that fable is a mere vestigial artifact, and

in the case of C) that there is no overlap between logic and religion (or religious experience) and that perfect compartmentalization is possible.

quote:
Your average theist follows (C) tending to psychologically compartmentalize between logic (which he uses only in math problems), faith (used whenever he attends church or actually discusses religion), and everyday life (where he tends to do what his community does, regardless of whether it opposes either his faith or his logic).
Compartmentalized compartmentalization, is what this here thing is. [Smile]

[ August 12, 2012, 05:54 PM: Message edited by: KidTokyo ]

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threads
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quote:
Originally posted by Pete at Home:
Voltaire was more right than he may have known when he said that if God did not exist we would have needed to invent him. Because that gap will get filled.

(tangent here)

What differences would you expect to see in a world where God was invented (in the sense that God did not exist but people still believe in him) versus our world?

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AI Wessex
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None, and note that you phrasing indicates that God does in fact exist.
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threads
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True, but I think the only interesting answers to the question can come from people who believe in a god so I think it's fine.
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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by threads:
quote:
Originally posted by Pete at Home:
Voltaire was more right than he may have known when he said that if God did not exist we would have needed to invent him. Because that gap will get filled.

(tangent here)

What differences would you expect to see in a world where God was invented (in the sense that God did not exist but people still believe in him) versus our world?

I would expect a greater number of governments like the Aztec, Roman, Nazi empires. Since I think those governments represent the apex of our our material natures. Bigger, more efficient, more power, less weakness. Like CS' Lewis' Charn. I'd not expect the British Empire to have surrendered its power to promote freedom. I'd not expect the Marshall Plan. Or the Sermon on the Mount.

I would expect that looking at photos of galaxies and nebulas would look terrifying and alien to me, rather than beautiful to the point of making me want to cry.

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TommySama
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quote:
Originally posted by threads:
quote:
Originally posted by Pete at Home:
Voltaire was more right than he may have known when he said that if God did not exist we would have needed to invent him. Because that gap will get filled.

(tangent here)

What differences would you expect to see in a world where God was invented (in the sense that God did not exist but people still believe in him) versus our world?

If the god were invented, but did not exist, I expect that our world would be filled with people that held a whole bunch of crazy and counter intuitive/harmful beliefs.
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Pete at Home
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"If the god were invented, but did not exist, I expect that our world would be filled with people that held a whole bunch of crazy and counter intuitive/harmful beliefs. "

I'd expect the same in a universe where god had a sense of humor.

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D.W.
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quote:
I would expect that looking at photos of galaxies and nebulas would look terrifying and alien to me, rather than beautiful to the point of making me want to cry.
How so? If you don't mind expanding on that.
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AI Wessex
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[Threads:] "True, but I think the only interesting answers to the question can come from people who believe in a god so I think it's fine."

I agree that those answers would be very interesting, but it's not a binary question whether you believe God exists or not. Voltaire made the statement because he believed that man has a "moral imperative" (that Kant expanded on greatly). Many people's faith in their religion is strong while they have doubts about the bigger question, yet they are as moral as the strong believer sitting next to them. The question is just as important for non-believers who also seek to understand the "root cause" of our existence. The moral imperative is likewise equally important, but not based on scripture.

[Pete:] "I would expect that looking at photos of galaxies and nebulas would look terrifying and alien to me, rather than beautiful to the point of making me want to cry."

What ails me, then, doctor? I have also cried when I look at those photos or even at the night sky. Is anything less profound to me than to you?

[TS:] "If the god were invented, but did not exist, I expect that our world would be filled with people that held a whole bunch of crazy and counter intuitive/harmful beliefs."

Luckily He does, or so I hear from people who seem quite rational as well as from some who seem crazy or have counter-intuitive or harmful beliefs. In some tribal cultures the shaman could be said to fit into either category, though today we understand that many of them would be diagnosed as schizophrenic.

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by D.W.:
quote:
I would expect that looking at photos of galaxies and nebulas would look terrifying and alien to me, rather than beautiful to the point of making me want to cry.
How so? If you don't mind expanding on that.
Because of the nature of human urges and life on this planet, It makes sense that we could have evolved to see sunrises and landscapes as beautiful. Because the nature of human activity on this planet drives us to dominion, to take lands, etc. And our own children look beautiful to us, arguably because it behooves our macromolecules to protect and perpetuate ourselves.

But when we look at the depths of the sea, the creatures there look horrifying, frightening, alien. That makes sense too, in terms of godless genesis, because we didn't evolve down there, so there's nothing that should make us latch on to that stramgeness.

But the thing is, humans didn't evolve with access to the Hubble telescope, any more than we grew up at the bottom of the sea. So why would we be programmed to see galaxies and nebulae as beautiful?

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Pete at Home
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quote:
[Pete:] "I would expect that looking at photos of galaxies and nebulas would look terrifying and alien to me, rather than beautiful to the point of making me want to cry."

What ails me, then, doctor? I have also cried when I look at those photos or even at the night sky. Is anything less profound to me than to you?

[Confused]
Al, I was presuming that all of us on this discussion were human beings. That if one of us was made by God, that all of us were made by God. Is there something about yourself that you're not telling us? [Eek!] Or have you gotten confused about what the original question was, and somehow thought that I was saying that I'm superior as a religious person? [Mad]

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AI Wessex
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Whether one of us was made by God and the other not is a question of faith, not fact. I certainly haven't told you everything, but I will say that if I have seen far into the galaxy is because I have stood on the shoulders of science, not religion [Wink] . [And no, I'm not saying that you implied you were superior; I'm saying that my experience is no less profound for having no God.]

"But the thing is, humans didn't evolve with access to the Hubble telescope, any more than we grew up at the bottom of the sea. So why would we be programmed to see galaxies and nebulae as beautiful?"

In my mind, because we are "programmed" to see beauty, or we wouldn't have art, literature or music. None of those were accessible to us before paint, language and instruments allowed us to create and appreciate them. Looking at the "hidden world" of the heavens before or after Hubble is all of them on a far greater scale than we could otherwise embrace, as is plumbing the depths of the ocean or examining a drop of water under a microscope.

[ August 13, 2012, 01:30 PM: Message edited by: AI Wessex ]

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by AI Wessex:
Whether one of us was made by God and the other not is a question of faith, not fact. I certainly haven't told you everything, but I will say that if I have seen far into the galaxy is because I have stood on the shoulders of science, not religion [Wink] . [And no, I'm not saying that you implied you were superior; I'm saying that my experience is no less profound for having no God.]

Then to answer your earlier question re what ails you, I would say that your common experience with looking at Hubble picture would be evidence that you're made by the same God that made me. I never suggested that belief controlled our sense of beauty.
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AI Wessex
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For some definitions of "God".
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JoshuaD
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quote:
Originally posted by Aris Katsaris:

C) psychologically compartmentalize between logic and religion.

Your average theist follows (C) tending to psychologically compartmentalize between logic (which he uses only in math problems), faith (used whenever he attends church or actually discusses religion), and everyday life (where he tends to do what his community does, regardless of whether it opposes either his faith or his logic).

You are conflating science with logic. They are not the same thing. My spiritual beliefs are guided by my reasoning and logic. They are also beyond the scope of scientific inquiry.

I am a mathematician first and foremost. I use the same part of my brain in my spiritual pursuits that I use when working over a math problem.

Read any of the great spiritual thinkers. They are using logic as well.

The assumptions of science are blind to the spiritual world. (Just like the assumptions of mathematics are blind to the physical world). The mystic thinker has different assumptions, but works from those assumptions with the same reasoning as any other branch of philosophy.

edit: To be sure, certain religions use reasoning badly, and come to bad conclusions. This is not a failing of the concept of religion, it's a failing of man. We didn't throw science out when Aristole had his preposterous explanation of how an arrow was propelled through the air. We simply improved our reasoning. It works this way with religion, too.

[ August 13, 2012, 01:53 PM: Message edited by: JoshuaD ]

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Aris Katsaris
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quote:
Whether one of us was made by God and the other not is a question of faith, not fact.
Al, what does this sentence mean? Does it just mean "Neither of us have the ability to convince the other one of our position"?

If so, the "faith" element isn't an inherent attribute of the question by itself, but rather of the participants in the discussion.

Either way, I think you thoroughly misunderstood what Pete was saying, because your last few answers have been non-sequiturs.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
So why would we be programmed to see galaxies and nebulae as beautiful?
Well, they're twinkly. Also, almost all of them have been manipulated by artists to add false color and filters that make them appear beautiful.
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KidTokyo
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quote:
But the thing is, humans didn't evolve with access to the Hubble telescope, any more than we grew up at the bottom of the sea. So why would we be programmed to see galaxies and nebulae as beautiful?
Several reasons.

We've always been able to see the stars.

We've always been drawn to light which flickers in the darkness. (Both poetically and literally).

Most photographs of galaxies and nebulae are heavily enhanced to meet the demands of human aesthetics (and also to make them easier to study).

I don't think, however, that this negates "God." Evolution is beside the point, if you accept "God" as a timeless entity (or at least if you view "linear time" as a limitation of perspective). We experience a certain kind of sequence. No need for "God" to.

Didn't St. Augustine say something about this? Can't remember.

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AI Wessex
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"Al, what does this sentence mean? Does it just mean "Neither of us have the ability to convince the other one of our position"?"

It means it's private and personal, so we see the universe through different lenses. Convincing each other isn't important.

I read from threads' response to me that faith is inherent in the question. My response was that the question is just as relevant to people without faith. I was responding to Pete's saying that if God doesn't exist, therefore the view into the heavens would be terrifying.

I'll settle for not understanding him. He's tried twice, so perhaps I'm just not going to get it on this point.

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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
So why would we be programmed to see galaxies and nebulae as beautiful?
Well, they're twinkly. Also, almost all of them have been manipulated by artists to add false color and filters that make them appear beautiful.
I wonder this about geodes only in reverse. [Wink]
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Pete at Home
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threads, have I answered your question to your satisfaction?
quote:
What differences would you expect to see in a world where God was invented (in the sense that God did not exist but people still believe in him) versus our world?

I would expect a greater number of governments like the Aztec, Roman, Nazi empires. Since I think those governments represent the apex of our our material natures. Bigger, more efficient, more power, less weakness. Like CS' Lewis' Charn. I'd not expect the British Empire to have surrendered its power to promote freedom. I'd not expect the Marshall Plan. Or the Sermon on the Mount.

I would expect that looking at photos of galaxies and nebulas would look terrifying and alien to me, rather than beautiful to the point of making me want to cry.

Because replying to that question, from my personal point of view, was my sole intent. I didn't set out to persuade others to believe in God. I'll let God make that argument himself, in his own time and in his own way.
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Pete at Home
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"My response was that the question is just as relevant to people without faith. I was responding to Pete's saying that if God doesn't exist, therefore the view into the heavens would be terrifying."

First of all, you're mistakenly conflating faith with belief in God. Faith is belief in *and* trust in God. I believe in God, but I've refused to place my trust in him, therefore I cannot call myself a person of faith. Just a believer.

Second of all, my answer to the question had nothing to do with faith or belief. The question was, if God did not exist, how would I expect the world to be different.

Third, I didn't say specifically that a Godless galaxy would look scary, only that I would not expect all those previously unseen celestial structures to be astonishingly beautiful.

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D.W.
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I’m in the “pretty freakin’ unlikely of an accident” camp as far as the direction our evolution and the origin of our reality. My opinion on what / who the director of those events were is still changing. That said I think your example of the Hubble images is a bit simpler than that Pete. While we fear the unknown we also strive for knowledge. Cautious exploration of new territories and ideas is what makes us successful as a species.

Whether God gave us that trait or it is an evolutionary trait that helps us survive and pass along our genes doesn’t really impact whether we are moved by images of things beyond our experience.

At least I don't think it would / does... [Smile]

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KidTokyo
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quote:
I’m in the “pretty freakin’ unlikely of an accident” camp as far as the direction our evolution and the origin of our reality.
Does belief in God require a scientific belief? By which I mean, that only by the lack of a natural explanation for external realities can one find a reason to believe in God?
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