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Troy Jollimore on God’s Evolution

Posted on Jun 19, 2009

By Troy Jollimore

(Page 2)

Similarly, Wright seems to suggest at some points, the word God is just the name for whatever it is that explains why, for instance, certain forms of behavior tend in the long run toward social cohesion while others tend toward social breakdown and chaos, or why many interactions are “non-zero-sum,” in the sense that participants gain more by cooperating than by becoming antagonists. (This sort of fact, and others like it, seems to be what Wright has in mind when he talks about “the manifest existence of a moral order.”) On the plausible assumption that such facts are explained, essentially, by human nature, which in turn is explained by evolution via natural selection, then natural selection turns out, essentially, to be God.

I doubt that anybody will be happy with this conclusion. Skeptics will complain that using the word God to denote natural selection—or any other ordinary scientific phenomenon—is misleading to the highest degree. As Wright observes, the scientists who discovered electrons got to choose the name; he fails to note, though, that there were extremely good reasons for them not to call those particles “fairies,” or “leprechauns,” or “gremlins.”


book cover


The Evolution of God


By Robert Wright


Little, Brown and Company, 576 pages


Buy the book

It is the believer, however, that will have the deepest objection to this interpretation. For if this is what Wright means, then the believer will almost certainly feel that Wright has pulled a bait-and-switch. Rather than defending the existence of God, Wright has merely defended the existence of some natural, scientific phenomena—which we can refer to as God if it makes us happy to do so. At times, though, it is clear that Wright intends a stronger interpretation, which does not simply vindicate the believer’s right to relate to the cause of certain phenomena “as if it were a personal god,” but asserts there is ample evidence for something supernatural or quasi-divine. A number of arguments are offered that seem intended to support this contention, all of them unconvincing.

First, Wright suggests that the electron analogy shows something more than just that we might use the word God to refer to the (presumably naturalistic) occupant of some functionally defined black box—it shows, rather, that a lack of evidence for the existence of some entity need not oblige us to eschew belief in that entity:

“The believers [in electrons] believe there’s something out there—some ‘thing’ in some sense of the word ‘thing’—that corresponds to the word ‘electron’; and that, though the best we can do is conceive of this ‘thing’ imperfectly, even misleadingly, conceiving of it that way makes more sense than not conceiving of it at all. They believe in electrons while professing their inability to really ‘know’ what an electron is. You might say that they believe in electrons even while lacking proof that electrons per se exist. [...] Yet what exactly is the difference between the logic of their belief in electrons and the logic of a belief in God?”

But this argument is confused. It is at best misleading to claim that physicists do not “really” know what an electron is. An electron is—that is to say, it “really” is—a thing having the various properties assigned to it by a correct theory of physics. And physicists have very strong reason to believe that their current theories get electrons at least mostly right. What is true is that we cannot accurately picture an electron, and thus cannot conceive it in the way in which we conceive more ordinary sorts of things—things occupying the realm of what the philosopher J.L. Austin once called “middle-sized dry goods,” such as tables, chairs, socks, pencils, etc. So we cannot perfectly translate the language of physics into everyday layman’s terms. The electron case, then, shows at most that it is possible to rationally believe in something without being able to form a mental image of it, or being able to describe it in the way that we describe chairs, tables and so forth; but it does not show that it can make sense to believe in something that cannot be described at all, in any terms. Similarly, that we cannot mentally picture or describe electrons does not imply that there is no proof of their existence: Unlike God, the existence of electrons is supported by plenty of proof.

The remaining arguments claim that there is, if not proof, then evidence of God’s existence. One option, ever popular among believers, is to find that evidence in the existence of the moral order itself. “[A] physical system exhibiting moral order,” Wright claims, “demands a more exotic explanation than a physical system exhibiting a more mundane form of order.” To which we should reply: Really? Such things are commonly asserted by theists and other believers. Rarely is anything said to back up the claim, which on the face of it is far from obviously true—particularly given Wright’s fairly modest idea of what the “moral order” consists in.

In part, again, this “moral order” seems to consist in the fact that the world is perceived by humans as having some sort of moral dimension, some sort of “transcendent” purpose. More ambitiously, perhaps, the fact that in the long run certain human behaviors, but not others, tend toward general social cohesion and flourishing is supposed to be what provides evidence of God’s existence. But it is very difficult to see why such phenomena should be thought to provide evidence of “a transcendent source of meaning.” The problem is, of course, that standard scientific stories about how human beings got to be the way they are seem to have very little trouble accounting for such things as a sense of morality, or the fact that some behaviors, but not others, contribute to general happiness and well-being.

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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, November 26, 2009 at 6:55 am Link to this comment

And from this carnivore who loves to eat roasted turkey, listen to that sage Bob
Dylan, be with my family, and my friends, and a few others, not in that particular
order, a Happy Cartesian Thanksgiving to you all too!

Now listen dear heart, christian96, I do believe besides Rene, Kafka also had a
similar question.

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By christian96, November 26, 2009 at 1:08 am Link to this comment

When we awake from a dream how real the dream
seemed to be.  Could we all just be a part of
someone’s dream?  When they awake will we cease
to exist?

Happy Thanksgiving!  Bad day for turkeys!  I think
we should start a “save the turkeys” movement with
a march on Washington!  Can we get media coverage?

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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, November 25, 2009 at 11:20 am Link to this comment

Yes, I agree with christian96, that reality does exist outside of human cognitive
perceptions.  I was merely expanding on how absurd we might be to think it isn’t,
or worse to think we know anything about it, even with universal gravity trying to
stick it in our face.  It is a paradox.  Not trying to be profound, I’m sorry some of
you cannot take even an atomic amount joy in the mirth I’ve intended.  In these
days of Lewis Carroll wonder, delight if not in things, then in thought, is a state of
mind I think is much needed to preserve sanity?  One of Ionesco’s plays, The
Chairs, is perhaps more profound.  It is an exercise in frightening aspects of the
Self.  Could too much sobriety deaden the spirit?

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Night-Gaunt's avatar

By Night-Gaunt, November 25, 2009 at 10:51 am Link to this comment

We can only hear, see, taste and touch in a very narrow spectrum. Infra red and ultra violet are just on the other side of our visual capabilities. The only way we can “see” into such wave lengths is to convert them in our equipment. So Christian96 is right as far as it goes. But even “dark matter-energy” does produce gravity and that is the only way we know something is there. The something that makes up the bulk of our universe. [See the Gravitational Lens Effect.]

However the mysterious “gods” are still yet to be found or have a use for.

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Leefeller's avatar

By Leefeller, November 25, 2009 at 8:07 am Link to this comment

“Hence we
only perceive the world as history, as it was, never as it is”.

This does not explain why some never learn from history nor was it supposed to?

Explains memory in a different and very interesting way.  Thanks She, I love this, this isometric exercise of the gray or is white matter.  Never tried it but is this like acupuncture of the brain, one may feel refreshed after or prickled, depending on one’s proclivities of perception?

Since debate seems to persist on Shakespeare’s existence, one may use him or not as an example? (may be more of a debate?)

And I have been, talking to a cranky starfish about happy Mooses!

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By Shenonymous, November 25, 2009 at 5:34 am Link to this comment

And so Leefeller, there is ever more reason to have a beer!

christian96 said, “Reality exists outside of human cognitive?perceptions!”

If it does, then how would you know it exists outside of human cognitive
perceptions?  How are you able to say anything at all about anything if you
cannot know it through cognitive perception.  Can you name anything that
exists outside of your cognitive perception? 

Using Shakespeare as a window into “seeing,” and about perception, in A
Midsummer’s Night’s Dream, IV, i., Bottom’s head is turned into that of a
jackass, but he does not realize it.  He rightly says, “The eye of man hath not
heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue
to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream was.” Perception in a
cognitive state might be as deceptive as in a dream.  And emotional states
such as love also distorts whatever reality there is of perceptions as when,
“Titania swears she is in love with Bottom, a man with the head of an ass, and
he replies ‘‘Methinks, mistress, you should have little reason for that”
(III.ii.142-43). When Titania tells Bottom that he is both wise and beautiful, he
assures her that he is not. Nevertheless, he seems to accept her affection and
follows her with little objection.”  We cannot count on perception to provide us
truth.  For not only does emotions interfere, but time steps in the way.  The
instant that a sensation is initiated, there is a time delay before it arrives in the
brain for cognition to make one realize the sensation has happened. Hence we
only perceive the world as history, as it was, never as it is.

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Leefeller's avatar

By Leefeller, November 25, 2009 at 4:01 am Link to this comment

“a point can be divided up infinitely yet each part is still a

I knew a Scotsman who used to divide in infinitely each piece of pizza and say my piece was still a Pizzia, even though I couldn’t see it.

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By christian96, November 24, 2009 at 9:51 pm Link to this comment

Reality exists outside of human cognitive

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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, November 24, 2009 at 3:44 pm Link to this comment

Some ideas are in their essences unintelligibles, absurdities, paradoxes.  But
they are diverting anyway.  For instance half a point is still a point since a point
has no size, and so a point can be divided up infinitely yet each part is still a
point.  And a half game is composed of an infinite number of moments so that
the imagined half is never gained.  Worse still is that each of those infinite
moments are also composed of an infinite number of sub-moments.  It is
similar to Zeno’s paradoxes, and a caveat.

Are these questions a collection of aporia? (riddles)  Can it even be significant
that there is no physical evidence for non physical elements? 

It would be like saying the tortoise beats Quick-Feet Achilles, but we know that
Zeno broke a fundamental rule of logic twice, recognizing a true reality where
motion does exist, he commits a logical error by recreating a reality where
motion does not exist, hence motion cannot exist; then attempts to impose his
new timeless reality as the true reality moving from one field of arguing (logic)
to a different one that served his purpose.  Zeno’s paradox of dividing space in
half ad infinitum is plagued by the error of using the very thing that was
eliminated, that sin-qua-non element, time. In other words,  Zeno assumed
that points are extended in space, the flaw is that he also assumed that
instants are not extended in time.  Zeno and Oyunlar35, forget that logic
requires more than one element.  Mathematics of infinity will solve neither
Zeno nor Oynlar35’s mysteries as presented.  Therefore, concluding there are
no mysteries is one way to a solution.

Physical evidence of ideas is a notion of nonsense as any lucid scientist would
say.  Physical evidence itself is ultimately unprovable, and ideas having no
physical properties are even less unprovable prior to ultimately.  It is like
postulating that The Truth exists or that The Good, or Ideal Beauty exist when
they are abstract ideas. representations in which events of physical reality
measures the quantity or quality to which they approach the ideal, the ideal is
not attainable because it exists only as .  A point is the abstract idea of
location.  A line is defined not by its specified end points but by a point moving
in space, time is the defining element, however long the point moves is how
long the line is. If time is not an element, there is no line.  Lines do not exist in
reality, we only have temporally indicative representations of the idea of line.

To reiterate for amusing reconsideration:  A point has no size in either space or
time, a line is a point in motion that has no breadth, also a continuous extent
of length, straight or curved, without breadth or thickness; the trace of a
moving point.  When it comes to area, when it is in every case a closed space,
thinking universally, it is a quantity expressing the two-dimensional specified
boundary of a defined part of a surface.  From Flatland by Abbott, Edwin, “This
you do at present with perfect confidence, because everyone knows to an inch
or two the area occupied by an adult Triangle: but imagine that your
Tradesman drags behind his regular and respectable vertex, a parallelogram of
twelve or thirteen inches in diagonal:—what are you to do with such a
monster sticking fast in your house door”?  Or, from The Art of War by Sun,
Tzu, “When there is dust rising in a high column, it is the sign of chariots
advancing; when the dust is low, but spread over a wide area, it
betokens the approach of infantry.”

Essence and causation are fundamental in metaphysics. Inasmuch as it is
essential to footprints to have been caused by feet, some essential properties
are simply causal.

I think it would be fun to play with the ideas of volume and parabola, then, is
there any significance when the points earned in a game occur in the last half
of the entire time of the event?  Perhaps later.

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Night-Gaunt's avatar

By Night-Gaunt, November 24, 2009 at 11:06 am Link to this comment

Any size to that geometric area of a point? It becomes a solipcism as much as deciding how many angels can stand on the head of a pin. A point in space has no real quantity in physical terms, the point for us is really more of a locus which you can’t “half” no matter how you may imagine it. Rather like the “god” concept which is such a thing. In mental terms only not in physical space or matter to energy or energy to matter transformations as goes on constantly in our particular universe. It is in the are a metaphysics and just as substantial which at times boarders on the subatomic aspects of physics and the mathematics used to express it. As good as wizard’s arcane runes for the intelligability factor it is to most of us.

Still it comes down to our brains and the sensors connected to them and the parameters of which our brains function within it. Our limitations vary from individual to individual as is what we have accepted as reality and what kind of reality it truly is. Maybe it will come down to the philosophers after all.

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By christian96, November 23, 2009 at 6:22 pm Link to this comment


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By Leefeller, June 23, 2009 at 6:28 am Link to this comment

Recently I read about a Chimpanzee in Europe who collected and made a stash of rocks and sticks to throw at the visitors who became annoying. Now they are researching mental capacity’s of politicians compared to Chimpanzee’s, in order to see if either are able to make decisions using reason.  One trial consisted betweem a choice of selecting one banana in a tree which required harder work to climb or a plate full of bananas in front of a seemingly contented sleeping tiger, so far the politicians always seem to choose the plate full of bananas and the Chimpanzee’s choose the tree?

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By Anarcissie, June 22, 2009 at 9:50 pm Link to this comment

Well, as I say, it depends what you want to call “logic”.  I think monkeys—and humans—mostly intuit, rather than reason things out.  It’s much faster, more efficient, and probably more accurate overall.  For sure if the monkey sat around reasoning about whether there was a tiger or a bunch of bananas around the next tree, and it was a tiger, he’d be doing the latter part of his reasoning inside the tiger.  But one could claim that on a neural level, the monkey’s intuitions were generated by a kind of logic, so….

I believe Zeno’s Paradox is still being argued about, which suggests to me that the problem hasn’t been properly formulated.  I do think it is evidence against what I believe is called (mathematical) realism, that is, the idea that mathematics is “real” and not just something people think up—it has an independent existence.  The arrow catches up with the hare, or Achilles with the tortise, because they don’t have to perform all the infinitely many calculations suggested by the analysis of their movements into ever thinner slices.  However, I think QM may have saved the realists.  Other answers are that the question is one of the undecidable problems demonstrated by Gödel.  If you put “Gödel Zeno’s paradox” in Google I’ve found that you get quite a rush of amusing stuff.  Gödel was a Platonist so he would probably have come down on the realist side, but since he’s dead the question is undecidable.

The idea of half a point is sort of interesting and I am going to ask a mathematician friend of mine about it as soon as I get a chance.  However, if points don’t exist in nature, but are merely the outcome of mental processes (abstractions of location), then I guess they can be anything we want them to be, and half a point will make sense if we say so.

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By Night-Gaunt, June 22, 2009 at 10:45 am Link to this comment

I failed to mention the factor of experience within the equation of the monkey behavior in the forest. An essential part in any behavior matrix. Also concomitant with that is the ability to learn too as a factor in the curve of survival.

The ability to teach others of our experience without them having to go through it is still fleeting in our species. Perhaps we need a more direct mind-to-mind communications link in order to do so. Though VR is developing to such an extent that it could be a great learning tool. To avoid making the same mistakes from one generation to a next.

In evolution it is what ever works at the time , not the best to work, that is part of how it functions.

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By Shenonymous, June 22, 2009 at 9:49 am Link to this comment

We might be compelled to think that half the information was missing from the abstract half point.  However, that implies there was occupying information in the first place, which is delusionally untrue.  According to one of his four, Zeno’s Paradox of the Tortoise and Achilles, you might have fun reading it at ticles/zeno_tort/index.asp
which focuses on the relation of the discrete (having distinct parts) to the continuous.  Is space really infinitely divisible, and is motion continuous? If it is infinitely divisible, then, I submit, the monkey will never move one microfraction of an inch in one microfraction of a second to find out if there are bananas up ahead or whether a tiger licking his lips is awaiting.

A paradox can be summarized as: If space is infinitely divisible, then ‘requirements’ of division can be repeated forever. Thus a thing-in-motion must reach an infinite number of ‘midpoints’ in a finite time. This is impossible, so the thing-in-motion can never reach its goal. In general, anyone who wants to move from one point to another must meet these requirements, and so motion is impossible, and what we perceive as motion is merely an illusion.

Obstinancy is a ridiculous posture.  While there are varieties of logic, i.e., fuzzy, constructive, Aristotles’ inductive and deductive and comparative to Euclidean geometric postulate system, Boolean, logic is the science of reasoning, proof, thinking, or inference.  Inference is coming to some conclusion either from known facts or observation, or from fantasized “facts.” You could have constructed a logical fallacy, but regardless, it is still a formula of thinking that uses premises and comes to conclusions no matter how fast the process goes, which could result in ‘poor’ judgment. Facts, in the sense that it seems to the Monkey that they are real and may not actually be is irrelevant.  Actually sensing time-colored events do not affect the way the mind concludes.  While there is non-logical thinking that occurs in thinking brains, (reactive grunts and other vocals, ooos and ahhhs), perhaps forgotten or ignored, as I already noted in intuition, or apprehension, they are akin to sense perception in that it is an awareness without reasoning, however, for the human to act on these ways of thinking, it goes through a logical process regardless of the kind of logical system it uses.  Innately intuited also are the constructs of space and time that present a logical arena.

If the thing-in-motion was moving a unit interval in unit time, it would reach the end.  If one were to defend the idea that motion is properly described in terms of the mathematics of continuity, the idea entails connectedness: Logically, if something goes from A to B it must pass the points in between, whether anyone could perceive the passage or not.

Now unless you are assuming the monkey is walking through the perilous jungle with its eyes closed, then if he gets eaten, I’d say he deserved it!  But let’s not assume that, but rather he has his eyes open and is prudently watching his step.  He may not be able to see too far ahead but he is watchful nonetheless for signs of what might be there.  He is cautious as he is not in an elevator in the Bradbury Bldg. in LA.  BTW:  In a sense, he does know that! 

Now a bit further, we are assuming his brain is working, otherwise give up the entire analogy.  It seems there are some odd kinds of way this monkey can proceed to navigate through this possible dangerous place.  We don’t know it is dangerous just as much as he doesn’t.  It could be a place just of bananas!  I submit that every step he takes, microinching his way, he is calculating whether he ought to take another teeny tiny step. He makes silent and speedy propositions with its premises based in his existential experience whether or know he “knows” the truth of the situation.

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By christian96, June 22, 2009 at 5:47 am Link to this comment

Watch what you bet!  It won’t be long before “dogbiscuits” will be worth more than

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Outraged's avatar

By Outraged, June 21, 2009 at 10:36 pm Link to this comment

Re: Anarcissie

Your comment: “Outraged—it is true that I made a conjecture about monkeys’ mental processes.  However, given that monkeys do not appear to possess syntactic language, but otherwise have nervous systems very similar to our own, I’m prepared to bet dollars to dogbiscuits that most monkey intellectual processes are intuitive, and that monkeys can maintain more than one worldview at a time, and that these multiple worldviews are dynamic, being continuously fed by incoming information.”

Okay…. as they say around “these” here parts, have at er’.  While you say, “I’m prepared to bet dollars to dogbiscuits that most monkey intellectual processes are intuitive, and that monkeys can maintain more than one worldview at a time, and that these multiple worldviews are dynamic,”.... well…, funny thing is…, I too am willing to bet “dollars to doughnuts” that…. monkeys SUPPOSE (but only because around these here parts, “it’s dollars to doughnuts”, go figure….lol).  Anywho (which btw, is…again, common language, around these here parts…).

Again, I eschew, that the monkey at this point, does not KNOW, therefore, he does/or reacts to his “knowns” (experiences…etc), which… for him, is UNKNOWN at THIS point, he then bases this upon what he does KNOW… and he doesn’t have the luxury of finding out at this particular moment in time and space the actuality of his situation.

At this juncture, he deals with UNKNOWNS, therefore he,... using what he KNOWS, is cautious.  Which IS logical given the constructs in which he finds himself.

Unless of course he acts OUTSIDE of that which he has experience or “knowns” (at least in his universe), then we could, at least consider that he may be misdirected or completely delusional, if ALL facts are considered and proven.

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By Anarcissie, June 21, 2009 at 7:40 pm Link to this comment

A point is an abstraction of location.  I suppose half a point might be the specification of a location from which some of the information was missing.

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By artie, June 21, 2009 at 12:55 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Read Russell and Ehrman; then ponder.

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By Anarcissie, June 21, 2009 at 8:30 am Link to this comment

Outraged—it is true that I made a conjecture about monkeys’ mental processes.  However, given that monkeys do not appear to possess syntactic language, but otherwise have nervous systems very similar to our own, I’m prepared to bet dollars to dogbiscuits that most monkey intellectual processes are intuitive, and that monkeys can maintain more than one worldview at a time, and that these multiple worldviews are dynamic, being continuously fed by incoming information.  This sort of thing is definitely not what we usually mean by the word logic, although I repetitiously admit that very modern forms of mathematics and logic can entertain multiple dynamic worldviews consisting of fuzzy sets.  It is certainly not the logic of Aristotle.

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By Frank Goodman, Sr., June 21, 2009 at 6:51 am Link to this comment

RE: Frank Goodman, Sr., June 20 at 5:18 pm #

I note that I failed to clarify the statement that infers that space is pure analog. Empty space still has a full set of coordinates. In any given space there are infinite points of reference. It is the points of reference that give space a digital flavor. Since all math as practically applied uses digital notation, pure analog computations are not practical. The definitions of point, line, area, and volume, make reference to the point as a digital concept. A point has position only relative to other points in the neighborhood of any given point. Pure analog concept is impossible to express. Yet, the mind can comprehend the concept internally without reference to external fact. Ask any geometry student to explain a line, area, volume, or parabola, without making reference to points in the coordinates of space. Each will claim to know, but fail to give physical evidence of the knowledge without reference to spacial orientation of points in space.

Try to comprehend half of a point in space or half an event in time. There is a half time in football, but, what exactly is half a game? The end time determines the game. What if all points are scored in the final second of the game. Can one team win the first half, but lose the second half?

Analog values can be infinitely divided, but not infinitely expressed digitally. Why can’t a circle be exactly squared, or a value of ten be expressed in thirds? Why can’t you divide by zero? How can a restless student sleep?

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By Frank Goodman, Sr., June 20, 2009 at 2:18 pm Link to this comment

I detect a common error of assumption in human intellect. To make any statement about 2.5 people confuses analog value and digital application. Analog to digital and digital to analog conversions are artificial. The assumption of an ultimate digital particle that could not be divided, is the error. Pure analog values can be infinitely divided and expanded. Though it is true that we can deal with fractional values of purely digital entities, it is how many people, not how much people. It is how much water, not how many water molecules. Water is digital in fact, but analog in reference. There is probably no such thing a pure analog in physical existence. The nearest thing to an intellectual concept of analog physics is empty space. Empty space has mathematical reality, but as empty space is nothing, it may be represented as zero. Yet extension of space as a part of E = MC squared in the speed of light is fully represented in relativity.

It is futile to debate fractional people or to bet on a sure thing.

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By Night-Gaunt, June 20, 2009 at 1:43 pm Link to this comment

Suffice it to say that the monkey of the story does have the capacity to discriminate what-is-what. But only after enough information is received. Until then our said monkey is frightened and just may turn tail and run away if the fear induced fight or flight kicks in. Now a troop of them may be much more stable and less prone to such flight. Such is the unifying feature of a single point of view.

We have the added benefit of a neo-cortex to limit the power of the fear. It is best to use it. Or we revert to a herd mentality and are easily controlled then. Religion, and later philosophies performed that function and still do. An organizing principal that billions of humans still need on this rock. It may also be past time for it and it could condemn us to extinction or at least a neo-primitive existence for the few survivors.

In evolution it isn’t the most intelligent or powerful but those that are the most adaptable will survive. As said by Darwin, parenthetically.

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By Outraged, June 20, 2009 at 1:20 pm Link to this comment

Re: Anarcissie

“Our monkey doesn’t establish premises and draw conclusions; he notices patterns in phenomena and assigns some to the banana-world in his head and some to the tiger-world and some to both.  Should the tiger-world come to predominate, the monkey quickly exits the scene.  Now, that scenario can be forced into a logic framework, at least if we get away from Aristotle and use modern logic and mathematics, but it isn’t the way we usually talk about such things.”

All you have done is add a new parameter into the equation in order to prove your point, which would and does change the argument.  By saying, “Our monkey doesn’t establish premises and draw conclusions;”.

Originally, the monkey simply didn’t know what the shadow was, that was the “fact” or the “truism” of the scenario.

Both of us would have to be or consult a monkey neurologist(lol) to suppose either of our claims.  YOURS: “he notices patterns in phenomena and assigns some to the banana-world in his head and some to the tiger-world and some to both  and MINE: “He could also suppose the shadow to be a mouse or an elephant and hold all four suppositions until he KNOWS what the shadow is.”

Yours, because you suppose that the monkey does IN FACT assign patterns in phenomena to the banana- world and the tiger-world.  Mine, because I suppose that the monkey supposes.  Unless the capacity of monkey thought is known both are conjecture.

Game theory is interesting, but it supposes and in the end it simply “hedges a bet”.  Because it is based upon a supposition but counts it as a truth in all conditions, for this reason, it always returns its same base, that of supposition or conjecture. 

If I say mathematically American families have 2.5 children and hedge that bet, I will lose because I start with an impossibility although mathematically true, realistically false.

I could say this number has no validity, however in a CONCEPTUAL manner it does, as it shows general trends of American families when applied to specific statistical constructs since then conceptually it is true.  On the smaller scale of an American family however it has no validity, since its initial supposition is false.

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By Night-Gaunt, June 20, 2009 at 10:06 am Link to this comment

Just remember it is a matter of perspective, to the Romans any who didn’t worship their gods were Pagans! That included the Christians who they first thought were atheists and against sexual activity. They tried to ‘cure’ them of their mental affliction.

What it comes down to is the human organism itself. A mixture of the formed DNA expressed and the effects of the environment on it and how it reacts to it. In complex ways from nutrition to injury to education can affect the outcome of who you are. That is why the idea of Parallel worlds is so intriguing to many a writer and thinker. It does for me anyway. How different would the same people be in a slightly, or greatly different world historical setting? The same works for all of us here and now.

I think it was Ignatious Loyola founder of the Jesuit Order (Society of Jesus) who first said that he wanted to get the children as early as possible in order to mold them to his specifications. Others knew this. We are generally most vulnerable and malleable at an early age. LSD releases the locks on the brain to allow us to learn and change ourselves at a later age more easily. It increased my interests in things to a far higher degree than before back in 1984. [Like moving from impulse to warp drive engines.]

It is at the core about us. Philosophies and theosophies and such are just mechanisms of how we frame it in our minds. Even if we haven’t bothered to articulate it to others or formed it in our minds in a formal fashion. Everyone has one even if it isn’t realized or in one piece. It is there. But we can also change behavior, override it if we try hard enough or the environment changes drastically enough to cause it. Otherwise as in all cases of evolution, if you can’t adapt then you become extinct. There is no ambivalence in that at all.

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By Anarcissie, June 20, 2009 at 7:55 am Link to this comment

Shenonymous and Outraged—if you want to call fuzzy sets, neural networks and superposition logic, then I suppose you could call anything logic.  But if everything is logic then nothing is logic, because saying “logic” no longer distinguishes one thing from another.  When I say “logic”, I’m usually talking about a specific kind of mental process which is different from other mental processes, like intuition, not the basic structure of the universe, which we’re not at all sure about and may include the weird stuff I mentioned.  Our monkey doesn’t establish premises and draw conclusions; he notices patterns in phenomena and assigns some to the banana-world in his head and some to the tiger-world and some to both.  Should the tiger-world come to predominate, the monkey quickly exits the scene.  Now, that scenario can be forced into a logic framework, at least if we get away from Aristotle and use modern logic and mathematics, but it isn’t the way we usually talk about such things.

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By Outraged, June 20, 2009 at 1:51 am Link to this comment

Re: Anarcissie

Your comment:  “In logic, a thing cannot be both true and false, and two contradictory propositions cannot both be true.  Now imagine a monkey making his way through the woods and perceive something, a shadow from behind a tree, that might be a tiger or might be a bunch of bananas.  Instead of logically determining which of the two is true, the monkey proceeds cautiously holding both possibilities in his mind, and if he’s lucky the evidence for one outweighs the other before the tiger (if it is a tiger) jumps out and eats him.  His survival depends on being able to keep several contradictory versions of the world active in his mind at once,”

While I agree with Shenonymous for the most, the monkey is not holding “contradictory versions” of the world in his mind, nor is he even making a choice at this particular point.  He sees the shadow, but does not KNOW what it is, logically then, he “proceeds cautiously” as you say.  We can only say it is TRUE he sees a shadow, but BECAUSE does not know what it is, LOGICALLY….he should proceed with caution, if at all.

It is illogical to say, “Instead of logically determining which of the two is true”, since this assumes HE COULD determine which of the two were true. But obviously he cannot, if he could he would KNOW how to react, and it would not be “a shadow from behind a tree, that might be a tiger or might be a bunch of bananas.”

The premise that he has two suppositions of what the shadow could be does not make them contradictory nor illogical, since he does not KNOW what the shadow is.  He could also suppose the shadow to be a mouse or an elephant and hold all four suppositions until he KNOWS what the shadow is.

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By christian96, June 19, 2009 at 11:24 pm Link to this comment

Troy Jollimore relates that Robert Wright explains
human behavior in part through “evolutionary
psychology.”  Does that imply human behavior moves
on a continuum from primitive to sophisticated?
For example, Webster’s 1948 dictionary defines
“masturbation” as “self pollution,” whereas today
Webster defines it as “to manipulate the genitals
for sexual gratification.”  It would be interesting
to have Psychologist who specialize in “learning
theory” respond to my question.  Years ago, I use to
joke with fellow graduate students when they ask me
what I was going to do with my life.  I would tell
them I was going to secure a million dollar government grant to study whether or not monkeys look
at female monkeys as they masturbate.  I should have
done it.  I’d be rich now.  Mr. Wright’s chapter
“Survival of The Fittest Christianity” intrigues
me.  I’m almost tempted to buy the book and read
the chapter but I’ve got more important things to
do.  I’m too busy looking at female humans!

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By idarad, June 19, 2009 at 7:05 pm Link to this comment

religion - god
evolution -science
labor - value
capital - wealth

bantering stimuli that exist as concepts individually in each mind.
where they are shared they provide comfort
where they are not shared they raise suspicion - fear
when exploited they bring mass cohesion
when exploited they bring mass division

yet none are real
except where they were born

god - religion
science - evolution
value - labor
wealth - capital

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By Shenonymous, June 19, 2009 at 6:28 pm Link to this comment

As you noticed, Anarcissie, a thing cannot be both true and false is a matter of logic.  The monkey makes comparisons every step of the way, and that is part of the underlying logical structure of the mind, human or non-human animal.  You react the same way as you make your way from the bed in the morning to the bathroom.  There is recognition of at least two choices.  To proceed or not to proceed. If its logic is faulty, the monkey is eaten by the tiger that was there.  Of course the monkey does not stop and ask those logical premises, but it does know, logically, from past experience that it must move cautiously and is not eaten but gets the bananas.  Logic as you appear to be thinking about it, as an academic codified method of evaluating premises and arriving at conclusions, is only successful as a method because it is the way the human mind works.  If you wish to call it keeping several contradictory notions in mind at the same time, then go ahead, but for that monkey to even take one step on its path through the jungle, it has to conclude, correctly or not, that it is safe, it chooses from those contradictory bits of information, and that conclusion is based on however brief the logic transpires, that it is safe because certain signs present themselves.  Those signs are the equivalent of premises.

The power of logic as a tool is not quite like a lawn mower, and the discovery of the pattern of thinking does come to us down from Aristotle, duffer or not, poor Harry Sottle, being called a duffer, called clumsy for being a brilliant thinker?  You should write so many treatises on the nature of the world and they be read 2500 years in the future!  That is how inferior Harry was.  What a pathetic notion about Aristotle you have.  If you do not appreciate logic there is no self-aggrandized puffed up reason to denigrate somebody you obviously don’t understand. 

The way the mind works has not changed over the millennia.  It works from premises and conclusions based on experiences.  Basic logic.  The understanding of how it works has changed as Harry did not have the tools of experimental science but he was very nearly correct.  Two of the current theories of the mind, however, claims 1) the mind is a computational system (Pinker) and computational systems are based on logic, or it is like a Turing Machine (Fodor), which is also based on the model of logic albeit using different kinds of premises, not mathematical, but premises of logical structure nonetheless. The Turning Machine model is criticized as being impractical hence irrelevant.  While there is much to the human organism that is automatic, i.e., breathing, blood flow, hunger, etc., the non-automatic systems do work on a logical framework. That is not to say reaction to the environment cannot also be automatic, as all sense perception itself is an automatic capacity.  But you either have a sense perception or you don’t.  It is a matter of non-contradiction.  But anything that requires the power of reason fundamentally works with a logical structure.  Intuitions, on the other hand, originates from the unconscious part of the mind.  It may or may not be governed by rules of logic.  And generally, intuition occurs without conscious reasoning.  That does not say, however, it categorically doesn’t operate with some logical structure.  It might not be explainable how intuitions come about, but the intuitions within themselves have a structure of logical coherence.

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By boggs, June 19, 2009 at 6:02 pm Link to this comment

Hey BruSays,
I enjoyed the synopsis on your theory and view of the “Happy Gene.”
It all makes sense to me. I like that!

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By prole, June 19, 2009 at 4:26 pm Link to this comment

“Mugging the old lady is wrong, of course… because, most centrally, it hurts people: The elderly lady is a sentient being and will suffer harm if you treat her thus.” And yet, such imagery also colors are reactions. Is it more repugnant to mug someone that is “old” and a “lady” than say, a young man? Do such images conjure up a greater sense of moral outrage?  Many other species of fauna are “sentient being[s] and will suffer harm if you treat [them] thus”, too. Are they equally inside ‘the moral order’? In most religions, of course, they are not. “If the world in some sense failed to contain a moral dimension—whatever, precisely, this might mean—it is not at all clear how adding a God into the mix would help” - but it is clear, with or without “a God” in the “mix”, that it would very much help to more precisely define exactly what this so-called “moral dimension” might mean. Science doesn’t offer much guidance here either. Is it also often not based on subjective or self-interested criteria? Is hurting people worse than hurting other “sentient beings” that are not people? Is hurting old ladies worse than hurting ‘non-old-ladies’? Is hitting an American over the head and taking her purse at an ATM worse than dropping bombs and chemical weapons on the heads of Iraqis and taking their oil?  “It is not often enough pointed out that” the conduct of American foreign policy offers ongoing proof that “the world in some sense failed to contain a moral dimension.” Both religion and science have for the most part served power, despite occasional subversive voices in each. “It is not, then—as religious opponents of science sometimes claim—that an anti-religious bias is built into the very methods of science” - it’s that they’re both competing (at times) ideologies that more often than not, mask the motives and aims of those in power. Science is even more adept at inventing Weapons of Mass Selection than religion. If the world in some sense contains a “moral dimension” - science has yet to find it. Neither have other “sentient beings”. For all the talk of a so-called “moral dimension”, other species who know nothing of such abstract concepts, have done far less harm to one another and to the bio-sphere in general than the species of Science and Religion. Apparently, neither worldview is going to save us from our human folly.(“I do not, let me be clear, take myself to be saying anything metaphysically extravagant in saying this.”) “The existence of sentient beings, then, is enough to usher morality into the world” - and, more importantly, immorality - “because it matters to such beings what happens to them” - but not, very often, what happens to others. So the fate of something outside of our own tribe or caste or phylon can be cheerily chalked up to ‘natural selection’. The ‘Selfish Gene’ kind of science can be used to justify all manner of social darwinism and predation as much as religious chauvinism. If “it is wrong…not because, as some theists will maintain, it will send you to hell; that, after all, only provides a self-interested reason for not doing it” -  sociobiology can often provide you with a self-interested reason FOR doing it. “So natural selection is enough to account for the existence of sentient beings” - as well as their immoral ‘moral order’. “Supporters of reconciliation are correct, in a sense, to say that there is no in principle conflict between science and religion” - they both serve the selfish rapacity of the human species, with self-justificatory ideological rationales. “The anti-religious bias, rather, is built into the world itself; all that science has done is to discover and reveal it” - and replace it with its own version of hubris. 

“The living knew themselves just sentient puppets on God’s stage” (T.E. Lawrence).

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By Anarcissie, June 19, 2009 at 4:23 pm Link to this comment

‘Anarcissie, you are talking about the science of logic not the fact of its principles in existence as the way the human mind works. ...’

I’m talking about the way human, and in fact all animal minds work.  It seems to me they work largely by intuition, in which pattern recognition plays a large role.  I think that is also true of the underlying nervous systems.  That is because intuition is faster and more accurate in many important cases than logic.

I’ll give one example.  In logic, a thing cannot be both true and false, and two contradictory propositions cannot both be true.  Now imagine a monkey making his way through the woods and perceive something, a shadow from behind a tree, that might be a tiger or might be a bunch of bananas.  Instead of logically determining which of the two is true, the monkey proceeds cautiously holding both possibilities in his mind, and if he’s lucky the evidence for one outweighs the other before the tiger (if it is a tiger) jumps out and eats him.  His survival depends on being able to keep several contradictory versions of the world active in his mind at once, contrary to all but the very most sophisticated, most recent logic and certainly far beyond the logic of duffers like Aristotle.

This is not to say that logic isn’t a powerful tool, but it’s a very recent development, something like a surgeon’s scalpel in a world which also needs bread knives, letter openers, scissors, cleavers, axes, swords, scythes, lawn mowers and harvesters.

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By Shenonymous, June 19, 2009 at 3:44 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie, you are talking about the science of logic not the fact of its principles in existence as the way the human mind works.  Your question has the force of knowing after millions of years why the moon is not made of green cheese.  It is creme cheese just as Italo Calvino presciently wrote!  Why has science only recently learned anything?  Obviously there is such a thing as learning over time which is a process that supports knowledge and dispels ignorance. 
The argument about conception is circular, expecially when the words imagination and conception are synonmous.  How does one go about removing the most unlikely?  One conducts tests and if they are to be reliable, are scientific in structure, meaning they follow a particular testable protocol.  The comparison made between fiction and science as antithetical and was left dangling with pseudo-science introduced.  The distinction between those two, science and pseudo-science, appears to be prima facie true as logically the word pseudo has specific meaning: bogus, artificial, fake (all synonymous).  Pseudo-science appears more like religion than science does by the description offered.  Evolution of all knowledge is a nonsense proposition.  Knowledge acquisitionally thickens, meaning it accumulates, grows with discovery, but in itself, if it is knowledge, does not evolve else it could not have been knowledge in the first place, however, sometimes knowledge is equated with true belief.  Revision of what was thought to be known is most likely what is meant.  But thinking something is knowledge and what is knowledge are not the same thing.  That brings us to truth.  The conclusion that truth rises above all claims of godhood, science, or reason assumes something objectively exists called Truth, with a capital T.  Exactly how would one recognize this Objective Truth with a capital T if one ran smack dab into it and where could one really run into it anyway?  And who is presumptuous to ‘know’ what God would or would not deny?  This kind of statement always seems preposterous to me.  Which is why I always find clerics and shamans on the edge of insanity, if not actually over the edge.

Quite counter to what Wright proposes in his non-zero sum theory of evolution, I would say evolution does exactly the opposite: natural selection results in increasing simplicity within the world which is why there is greater reward for cooperation.  His whole notion of the process of organisms getting better at processing information I believe better supports my thesis than his.  If one gets better at a behavior, it gets easier and more simple to perform that behavior.  Of course, I side somewhat with Gould, though and definitely not on all of his conclusions, and with some modification that “humans are found [to exist on earth] by the luck of the draw.”  For an organism to find a mate that has better survival characteristics might be luck, but as they mate and offspring are created who have better survival traits, they in turn will mate within a better pool of that organism who will survive even better.  Where luck falls off is when those members of the species are not good at survival die off, their dying off makes for better odds of those who do survive to mate for further better survival capacity.

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By BruSays, June 19, 2009 at 2:59 pm Link to this comment


I think you have hit the nail on the head. When it comes to our politics I think it’s best to follow the money. When it comes to human behavior I think it’s best to open the biology text books.

“Survival” is built into the DNA of all creatures, including homo sapiens. But our situation is complicated by a brain of sufficient size to allow us to ponder our fate and significantly change our environment. For most of our 250,000-year existence, we’ve been one meal or two meals away from death. We’ve been able to ponder our fate but not so capable in affecting our environment. Life was short and not so sweet.

So, to cope with and counter this otherwise miserable life (what could be worse than KNOWING your life will likely end in starvation or worse - as a lunch for a hungry lion, etc.) we developed a survival technique known as “religion.” Or maybe it could be called a “Happy Gene.” Whatever - it worked. Those who had it, lived longer. Those who didn’t became lunch.

This “Happy Gene” promised a better life after death. It suggested that a sacrifice for the good of the tribe (or tribal leaders) would be followed by a happier afterlife. A hierarchy to oversee this religion would have to be respected to ensure a collective afterlife for believers. A “we’re in; you’re out” mentality would encourage and further enforce the religion which inevitably grew from the “Happy Gene.” 

Basically, survival of the species was dependent on survival of the religion.

Fast forward to the last couple of thousand years or so and we see homo sapiens (still carrying that “Happy Gene DNA”) increasingly able to control their environment. Farming, irrigation, rudimentary disease prevention, specialization of labor, growth of cities - allowed more and more of us to live in an increasingly survivable world.

Floods, tornadoes and pestilance were no longer acts of angry gods but of a nature we were now often able to understand and actually sometimes alter. Yet we still had the religion, aka “happy gene” in place. The gene didn’t change, but religion sure did. A polytheistic mentality gravitated to a monotheistic mentality. Alternate sensibilities were born to better fit the changes in our abilities to control our lives.

So here we are today with that “happy gene” still telling us to join a religion - any religion (look at the variety our there from Buddhists to over-mascarared televangelists) - to survive. And so we do. But we don’t HAVE to anymore. It’s just that our DNA hasn’t caught up with our intelligence and I think THAT’S the fundamental conflict we face today.

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By wendys mom, June 19, 2009 at 2:36 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

boggs you have your head up your azzzz
no religion, no war
Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao ring a bell?

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By Shenonymous, June 19, 2009 at 12:15 pm Link to this comment

Sorry Folktruther, under ordinary circumstances you could not be included since you admit to deviance from my plea, but since you have shown an exceptional brain in the past with fascinating argument (Is it unhealthy or abnormal or both? I don’t know), you are excused and all your unorthodox comments welcomed.  But you already knew that about me, and I know you don’t care anyway.  Of course, the reason why I made that as a condition for discussion (and you know this as well) is to level the playing field for myself as a basis for discriminating (not racist! but rational) talk as I am completely aware aberrant and pathological minds will make comments.  While you may have what I think is an exotic perspective, I wouldn’t say it was illogical.  I may not agree with your view about wiccans and their ilk, they are entertaining if nothing else. (BTW and FYI I also know, as friends, a few of these oddly inspired characters).

You advanced the idea that there are besides godful religions, there also are godless religions. You won’t mind helping me out, I know.  It is their focus that seems fuzzy.  What exactly would be earthly purposes? And what Promised Land are they whacking a path toward?  It doesn’t seem to matter that they have practices let us say antipodal to ordinary Western religious social practices.  Multiple spouses are not unheard of in the Middle East, or in African cultures, and elsewhere (many-wives framework under a completely patriarchal structure, ahem, male-dominated).  So the alleged wiccan marriage of several spouses at the same time is strange but not wildly surprising.  They obviously have some logic for it.  While Western traditions dominate the West, the West is not the whole world, now is it?  Your subsidiary questions don’t really seem to need a consensus. Would a multi-spousal marriage between wiccans even be a case that would wind up in a divorce court?  Why would it since they did not marry in the social way, seems they would divorce their own way as well.  What about the children?  Well, guess we would have to see what illegal morbid effect happened to them.  (The recent Texan Mormon case is an example).  Problems with the composition of ‘married’ households seem also to be a matter of perception.  Why should they conform to social norms, because society decides the law and if one wants to belong to that society, one conforms.  It is soooo simple.  The question about a god saying what is a household or not is simple mindedly manufactured. Society creates the laws but sometimes blames it on the commandments of an alleged god.  As a healthy female, more than one male mate sounds ducky keen given that usually one doesn’t do a very good job of service.

But this goes off topic and hopefully it can be crafted it back.  Wright theorizes a reconciliation between the perceived notion of god with that of science.  Jollimore thinks that an anti-religious bias is built into [the minds of] the world.  Seems to me Alan E., Thurston, and boggs, and Night-Gaunt are giving excellent replies.  If Magginkat is ‘exactly right,’ he/she has not given any basis for the opinion.  The slogan of “keep the oppressed full of hope…’ may or may not be a truism, but no evidence is offered for the flippant remark.  While I tend to agree that many reasons for war might be eliminated if religion were to disappear (a fanciful wish at any rate), what evidence is there that hypothesis has any substance?  Seems that religious reason for war was a guise for the acquisition of territory.  History shows that to subjugate the population, there is de facto ownership of the territory!  Take a look at the historical maps:  The Roman Empire, The Holy Roman Empire, the Islamic Empire, Ghengis Khan’s Empire, the Asante empire, etc.

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By Anarcissie, June 19, 2009 at 11:49 am Link to this comment

’... Healthy human minds operate naturally following the principles of logic. ...’

Why, then, was formal logic so recently developed, and why is logic, formal or informal, so infrequently practiced now, and only, apparently, by human beings and the machines they build?

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By Frank Goodman, Sr., June 19, 2009 at 11:05 am Link to this comment

REP Alan E., June 19 at 12:30 pm #
(Unregistered commenter)

Right on! If you can imagine it, it could be. Not that it was, is, or will be, but that it could be conceived. Yet a more critical screening could remove the most unlikely, and preserve the probable. All fiction uses the same capacity as scientists do when they propose hypotheses. Fiction starts with the assumption that it is not true. Scientists start with the assumption that it could be true. And even when the preponderence of evidence is in, the scientist reserves the right to reject on the next batch of evidence. A true scientist never assumes that his favorite theory could not be wrong. The pseudo-scientist fights for his theory as a dogmatic assumption that denial would constitute an affront to reason such that it is worth the risk of sacrificing his life to his god of his own theory.

Evolution of all knowledge is the result of sifting evidence and keeping assumptions until they are shown to be wrong in actuality. Robert Wright extends that to religion as an evolving theory of God. Anyone with an intact memory can show the evolution of religion from primitive nature worship to philosophical assumptions of truth. Just as the pseudo-scientist clings to his pet theories, the pseudo-intellectual clings to his gods and concept of The God Almighty, such that nobody could imagine anything better or higher. When Ghandi said, “No god is higher than truth.” he hit the nail on the head. We seek The God, but invoke truth to qualify and verify the result of the quest. We say, “This is true.” However, it is just as true to say that what is not is not true.

Thus, truth rises above all claims of godhood, science, or reason. I say God denies what could not be, but allows anything that could be. Could and could not are the dividing point. It is a zero sum proposition. God is or God is not, but only if God is a matter of fact. If God is a matter of truth, it is not possible that God is not, for if God is it is not possible that God is not.

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By Folktruther, June 19, 2009 at 10:46 am Link to this comment

Despite Shenonymous’s plea to limit this topic to those with normal healthy brains, I would like to commnent anyway. The 20th century has seen the rise of many godless religions who are focused the saving of earthly people for earthly purposes.  As well as developing new institutions to leand us to the Promised Land.

The Wiccans, or possibly the Pagans, have priests who have married more than two people at a time to each other, dispensing with the standardized dual chauvanism that is a basis of the Western tradition.  Can those marraiges be saved?  How do they work out with chldren?  Why should married household’s be restricted to only two sexually and spiriutally related adults?

Because God says so?  The Jewish bible doesn’t. Amid all the sacred atrocities and holy massacres the Holy Scripture included more than one wife for Patriarcy. Well, why then not more than one male as well?  Inquiring minds want to know.

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By Night-Gaunt, June 19, 2009 at 10:37 am Link to this comment

Only as long as we don’t simply replace the opiate with something else. Such as had been done in Russia, China and a few other nation-states. One must be a humanist first and foremost.

Many types of religion puts human life and the world we live in as less than something else. Whether it is the deity itself or the nation-state that is represented by it or the soul. Nationalism and statism connected to the state religion and the church. We see how in the past and today the ideas of Crusade and Inquisition are alive and well. Under different names but the same outcomes. That must end.

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By boggs, June 19, 2009 at 10:16 am Link to this comment

Thurston, in response to your statement: Why have religions appeared in all human cultures, persisting even after their explanatory role as “superstition” has long been superseded? Why are those who practice a religion reportedly happier and healthier, as studies have shown, than those who do not?

I believe because so many actually think they will be rewarded after death, with something of a golden egg in that imaginary ever ever land. Makes them happy as hell and makes them delighted to continue to drop $$$ into the basket of the wealthy organizations.

Magginat, You are exactly right. It is all a power scheme. Keep the oppressed full of hope so they will go to work everyday and put money in your basket on Sunday.

“Imagine No Religion”, that billboard is going up around the country, I like it.

Without religion we would no doubt have an end to war.

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By Night-Gaunt, June 19, 2009 at 9:52 am Link to this comment

To discuss anything we must agree on what the terms mean which includes “god/God” among other things. Otherwise we will talk past each other. I haven’t read the book and more than likely will be unable to.

Jollimore‘s review suggests that Wright is a bit loose with his definitions which will make his thesis harder to follow and more open to loose interpretation. A bad sign in any work. You want to make your thesis, concretize the elements of it then follow through to your conclusion without any ambiguity. But then the god concept is the most ambiguous of all. I can’t come to a firm conclusion without reading his book myself. Such as it is.

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By Shenonymous, June 19, 2009 at 9:35 am Link to this comment

If this discussion can be limited to those with normal healthy brains and for the moment, at least, work with the topic in an emotionally detached way, I think some interesting clarity of the idea of god is possible. 

Jollimore’s review of the content of Wright’s book is the topic of this forum.  To use this forum for any other reason is self-serving and I for one am not at all interested in anyone’s personal sermon.  So I will look only for persuasive arguments.  While I have a personal interest in the topic, it is not self-serving as I am seeking clarity of the ideas Jollimore and Wright present that would benefit others as well, many others is the hope.  I do not pretend to have any answers except that I have the impulse to seek.  Hopefully answers will emerge as discussion progresses, or at least will yield a better understanding of the subject.

Seems like the ways minds function, all healthy minds that is, is important to understand before a coherent concept of belief in counterinituitive supernatural beings, or being in the case of monotheistic beliefs, can be the basis and accounting for any possible real, factual, actual state of our existence.  It is not even important at this juncture to note there are believers and non-believers as those who do not believe do not need the conclusions that might be reached.  It is definitely true that non-believers most certainly can and I hope would offer reasons for their non-belief or add relevant questions, and it would probably be wise to hear them for consideration, especially if they can offer cogent reasons that would help on the pathway chosen to explore: Whether or not there is such a being as God, and if that being could have an evolution.  The latter point is important since the implication is that a god can change and that divine change is perceptible.  If this forum is not to be an exploration to arrive at some lucidity, then it is a frivolous and meaningless involvement.

The intention of science is as Jollimore concludes:  It searches, discovers, and reveals. While scientific exploration may have had the intention of early scientists to give basis for religious belief, it has gone on to show because of the inherent structure of science to understand the nature of the physical universe that the world is not as it was once believed to be and factually challenges those religious beliefs.

Healthy human minds operate naturally following the principles of logic.  A study of the various patterns of logic shows the ways the human mind works, elegantly, and so do other animals by the way, but not so elegantly to include contemplative thought.  Therefore, concluding a grand designer of the universe might not be so far-fetched given the simple logic used.  Jollimore rightly offers that if the premises are unstable (and he suggests again rightly in my opinion) in the face of a valid logical-processed argument, that if even one premise is weak, the entire argument fails.  He offers several untenable premises in Wright’s thesis.

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By Alan E., June 19, 2009 at 9:30 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Frank, by your same logic, since unicorns and dragons are named and described, there is a possibility that they exist (or existed). Therefore, they must exist(ed). Using the same logic, every science fiction book, especially ones regarding interstellar worlds, could not have come about if the possibility of those events, aliens, worlds, ships, etc., did not exist. Humans have a large collective imagination, and the drive to explain why things happen is within all of us. For so long, however, there wasn’t much of, or the capability of, a scientific approach. This has led to the inevitable “god did it.” When enough people say “god did it,” people will start to find ways of justifying it. See the creationist history museum in Kentucky for a perfect example. Dinosaurs with saddles…

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By Night-Gaunt, June 19, 2009 at 8:36 am Link to this comment

Robert Wright seems to have managed to mire himself in two muck pits in trying to stand astride them both. If from the article on his book can attest.

I know that the Ba’Hi faith works to bridge that “gap” if there is one between faith and science. It will probably turning to a human version of what Dr.Zaius was in Planet of the Apes. Science will always bow down to the religion. It will always be the odd stepson of it. Too bad for at least 60% of their researches causes them to lose their religious fever. The other 40% just compartmentalize it.

The only way to reconcile will be to subvert the scientific method to do it. That an allow for all black box mysteries to be explained by the theoi model of things.

As of now evolution just shows us a small percentage that have no religious feeling or need. This is part of how on an ongoing basis evolution is always putting out characteristics that may one day be needed for survival for when the environment would change. People like myself are rare in this world.

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By Thurston, June 19, 2009 at 7:35 am Link to this comment

Contained in this review are the very unexamined premises that make the “religion”-“science” debate so sterile and specious. The Latin origins of “religion” signify the universal, mystical human urge to “reconnect,” presumably with the “holy” — i.e., “whole” — essence they share with all beings. The word did not originally designate scripture-based theologies that battle each other over which literalism has the most fervent adherents and biggest armies. 

That kind of analysis should inform such debates. Here, as elsewhere, it does not. Yawn.

Wright and Jollimore reflexively accept the notion that “religion” has evolved into its monotheistic Abrahamic form, and that that, therefore, is what we all now mean by “religion.” The term is, in reality, so global in scope as to be as devoid of meaning as, say, “conveyance,” which takes in everything from skateboards to horse-drawn carriages to space shuttles without telling us anything very useful about any individual member of this set.

The Abrahamic religions hardly embody the most palatable or personally fulfilling religious systems, anymore than Exxon-Mobil or Microsoft, despite its size, prominence, and ubiquity, embody the most socially and environmentally committed corporate organizations or the most ecologically sound way to fuel transportation. Polytheistic religions have not disappeared, and some of their adherents appear to be more at peace with themselves, their neighbors, and their natural environment than do the bellicose monotheists.

What could arguably be considered the quintessential religion is now one of the two or three fastest-growing religions in the world: Buddhism, which has no god at all, forbids evangelism, and in whose name no war has ever been waged.

In fact (and how telling this fact is), Buddhists did not call themselves Buddhists until Westerners coined the term “Buddhism,” the better to fit in into catergories with other -isms. The -ism implies that practitioners “worship” Buddha as a god, which they most assuredly do not.

Rather than severely limiting the bounds of this discussion by framing it in the usual tired terms of religion, science, god, faith, belief, etc., the book and the reviewer might have spoken to the questions underlying this interminable, empty debate:

Why have religions appeared in all human cultures, persisting even after their explanatory role as “superstition” has long been superseded? Why are those who practice a religion reportedly happier and healthier, as studies have shown, than those who do not?

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By Frank Goodman, Sr., June 19, 2009 at 6:31 am Link to this comment

This theme is exactly the approach I have taken over time. To grasp the concept, first ask which came first, the color yellow, or the word for the color yellow in the English language? One cannot describe yellow in any way that would induce a concept in a person blind from birth to envision color yellow in his mind. Yet, one can by a process of mathematic physics describe yellow in terms of wave length, frequency, amplitude, and other physical attributes in a way that a blind person could comprehend along with other physical concepts equally subjective, but constant.

Next ask what came first, the possibility of an animal such as the zebra, or the actual animal called zebra in English? Reason and logic informs us that if zebra were not possible, zebra would not exist. So possibility came first, then factual, then actual. Real is in all time by that concept, factual is the formation, and actual is as it is. Variable allows changes and evolution allows selection. To realize a concept is to form a mental image of a possibility. One can realize a god, or God. To do so is to establish limits and extensions of possibility. To delineate powers and attributes of a god, or God, is to describe the god as conceived with an expectation that if such a concept were to be actualized, it would coincide close enough to the image to be recognized by enough people with normal powers of reason and comprehension to acknowledge the god.

Finally ask what is “...such that none greater could exist..?” and the maxim consistent with a god image comes into mind, even if not into being.

The human experience with gods and god concepts is a search for the real, actual, factual being such that none greater could be conceived. As with children, man has come up with the simplistic and the complex until a near fit is found. The more advanced and universal the concept, the closer we have come to an accepted realization of a deity. The more advanced could never return to the simplistic, and that simplistic could never advance to the sophisticated. 

That gave rise to special powered humans, priests, prophets, and sages, who could express a vision simplistic enough for the masses, but esoteric enough for the astute, to satisfy a desire for a deity as a power and presence greater than the self. God is required for justification for the human experience beyond that of lower life forms. Logic, math, and reason have replaced raw instinct as the driving force for advancement of the power of thought and process. Man can manage instinct and form to considerable variation of concepts and incepts. At the atomic level of thought, it all comes down to is, or is not. Matters of fact are those that could be or not be. Matters of truth are those matters that could not be be not. God has advanced to the level of truth such that God could not be not. Thus, God is. From the simplistic ideas of God as fact to God as Truth, comes the belief system that challenges the modern man to further realize the concept of God without actualization or factualization.

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By Magginkat, June 19, 2009 at 5:55 am Link to this comment

Religion and it’s gods are the greatest hoax ever pulled on humankind.

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By Shenonymous, June 19, 2009 at 5:16 am Link to this comment

To get the religious bowling ball rolling:  While Wright, and Jollimore, might have convincing arguments, which will be revealed as this forum progresses, and without any doubt it will, the first question, before dealing with the Abrahamic religions that is the focus of the book, is to understand what Jollimore means by “genuine deity” giving the implication that the God of Abraham is an illegitimate or counterfeit deity?  Since that is the comparison first presented in the book review, any circumspect discussion will have to clarify that pivotal point. 

Of course, it goes without saying, reading Wright’s book is required, which I admit I have not yet done and here I am reacting only to Jollimore’s review.

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By eileen fleming, June 19, 2009 at 4:42 am Link to this comment

We are on the verge of a Greater Awakening; a spiritual evolution revolution that see’s The Divine in All people and events.

Two thousand years ago, there was lively debate about who Jesus was, and why he came.

Churches before Emperor Constantine legitimized Christianity were hot beds of individuality and not the institutions that have become big business today.

Jesus said he came that we would have life to the full; abundant life [John 10:10] and that takes deep thought, wrestling with The Divine and then taking action.

The first mention of Israel in the Bible is in Genesis 32, when Jacob wrestled, struggled and then clung to the Divine being and was then renamed Israel.

Jesus also was never a Christian; in fact the term ‘Christian’ was not even coined until the days of Paul, about 3 decades after Jesus walked the earth as a man.

Jesus was a social justice, radical revolutionary Palestinian devout Jewish road warrior who rose up and challenged the job security of the Temple authorities by teaching the people they did NOT need to pay the priests for ritual baths or sacrificing livestock to be OK with God; for God already LOVED them just as they were: sinners, poor, diseased, outcasts, widows, orphans, refugees and prisoners all living under Roman Military Occupation.

What got Jesus crucified was disturbing the status quo of the Roman Occupying Forces of his time, by teaching the subversive concept that Caesar only had power because God allowed it and that God preferred the humble sinner, the poor, diseased, outcasts, widows, orphans, refugees and prisoners all living under Roman Occupation above the elite and arrogant.


The early followers and lovers of Jesus were called members of THE WAY-being THE WAY he taught one should be; Nonviolent, a Peacemaker and one who did the will of the Father. “What does God require? He has told you o’man! Be just, be merciful, and walk humbly with your Lord.” -Micah 6:8

It has been said that evolution is being held up by fundamental religiosity and the surge of such narrow minded and arrogant thought, sends shivers through cynical atheists and mystics alike. The bumper sticker actually did get it right: “We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

The Rest of “The Stages of the Soul and How Religiosity/Fundamentalism is holding up Evolution”

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