Friday, April 09, 2021

The war on expertise... And ways to navigate the minefield.

 == Again: How to defeat the War on All expertise ==

The Enlightenment Experiment absolutely depends upon training citizens - especially the young - to provide the one thing that almost all past nations desperately lacked, criticism of society's elites, lest they smugly assume they are right, an endemic failure mode, since humans are (all of us) inherently delusional. But we don't share the same delusions and so point out each other's errors.


Alas, there's a flaw - arguably the worst in human nature. We inherently hate criticism! 


And hence, so many past and present ruling castes - wielding tyrannical power - crushed it! Then went on and implemented any damn policy that made them feel good... resulting in the litany of catastrophes called 'history."


Occasionally, across that dismal darkness, a glimmering concept arose. That of reciprocal accountability - people catching each other's mistakes (since we seldom can see our own). Pericles, for example, spoke of how this method was working so very well in the Athens democracy... till he died and Athenians dived into cycles of overwrought 'criticism' that proved lethal, the failure mode that enemies of our current enlightenment are trying (with much success) to trick us into, right now.


So how does an enlightenment nation and society strike that balance?


Today, our massive propaganda system - Hollywood - relentlessly repeats lessons of criticism, suspicion of authority (SoA) and individualism... along with notions of tolerance and diversity and "otherness." Historically, NO other society taught its children to reflexively assume fault in their own tribal elders, while assuming other tribes are wise. And admit it, that's your trained reflex, as we speak.


 Alas, we fail to teach our young to notice how they got these values -- via the most intensely pervasive indoctrination-by-media in human experience. That perspective is badly needed.


(See the powerful effects (good and bad) of sci fi movies and lit dissected in my new nonfiction book about the power of fictionVIVID TOMORROWS: Science Fiction and Hollywood.)


Especially since -- as I alluded above and have pointed out many times -- Suspicion-of-Authority (SoA) can be turned cancerous and used against us! Consider the aphorism given in italics below. One that is blatantly true, believed by almost all members of this civilization... and denounced by almost all rivals and previous cultures.


"Just because a person is smart and knows a lot or has a position of authority, that doesn't automatically make them wise."



== THE CORE UNDERPINNING OF ACCOUNTABILITY... METASTASIZES ==


All of you reading this likely agree that the assertion (in italics above) is true. 

Simply and obviously true. 


And because we know it to be true, each of us feels empowered to point out what we deem to be possible errors by elites. 

Even if citizens or amateurs are wrong in 99% of their crits aimed at elites, catching that 1% has real value!  

This is absolutely essential if we're to navigate the rush into the future while minimizing lethal errors. 


It is also a basic reason to always err on the side of transparency.


So far so good. Experts may know a lot, but they aren't gods.


Only here's what's happened. Our enemies saw a flaw - one that could be exploited against us. The same flaw that blew out post-Periclean Athens and Medici Florence and threatens us today -- self-righteous sanctimony.  


Let's look at that core underpinning again:


"Just because a person is smart and knows a lot or has a position of authority, that doesn't automatically make them wise."


True! It's one of our fundamental tenets. But there is only a small step from that truth to a toxic lie! 


"Because a person is smart and knows a lot or has a position of authority, that automatically makes them unwise."


Now of course, when you put it explicitly and baldly like that, the mutated version is obviously insane!  


And so, Fox/Sinclair/KGB savanarolas never make it explicit! Yet, that's the message implicit in their daily jeremiads against every expert caste, from doctors and scientists to civil servants and law professionals and most of their fellow journalists. They croon at their hypnotized ditto heads 


"Your opinions (supplied by us) are automatically more valid than the informed judgments of smartypants, who are all both conniving conspirators and cowardly, paradigm-obeying conformists!"


See also: The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters, by Tom Nichols. 


= Is There A Way Around This? Burden of Proof. =


Yes, there is a way out. But it depends on first admitting what the enemies of enlightenment are doing, and then adjusting, adapting new, 'judo' tactics.


The key concept is "burden of proof." 


No, elites and experts should NOT get to "rule" ex-cathedra on what's True! Freedom of speech is not enough... critics of established paradigms should have access to venues to challenge orthodoxy... as is the case in science... 


...though the credibility of the critic can justifiably be used to scale those venues, maximizing crit that has value over that fizzing from sources who have none. 


(Note that our species has never generated more competitive humans than scientists, who at each other with relentless determination, eager to expose the flaws in their experiments or theories.)


One chant-incantation by the mad right meme-media is "there's no such thing as "scientific consensus" or "there's no VOTING over facts." While that incantation is strictly true, it is also bullshit!


When 99% of those who know a lot and are expert in a field say something is true... despite rivalries among them... then yes! it is still possible for that consensus to be wrong! There have been a few such cases across the annals of science and the dissenters who bravely took down the false paradigm are well-known, even revered. 


But that happenstance is very rare. Generally, when a critic claims "99% of those who know this field are wrong!" that critic bears a Burden of Proof.


Above all, this holds when it comes to PUBLIC POLICY, which simply cannot wait for 100% agreement and utter removal of all plaints and objections! It is perfectly reasonable for a nation or state or company or world to take action on warnings and recommendations made by a majority of experts in a field, especially when the possible consequences of inaction are dire. As is the case re: climate change.


Though yes, it is also right to allocate some resources so that critics may continue to criticize.

== Wagers, again ==


In pushing WAGERS as a tactic against the jibbering-insane War-vs-Facts, I never claimed you'll actually get paid. I never have been. They always whinge, squirm and finally run. But that in itself is a victory, because the one thing they live for is macho


They know "a real man is willing to put up stakes and let the chips fall where the facts take them." In squirming and fleeing, these mostly-male idiots prove (if you taunt them in front of others) that they aren't 'real men.'  Alas you must do it right! 


1- Nail down a specific provable/falsifiable assertion. (I like ocean acidification because if it's true we're screwed, and it can be proved with a Ph meter. And there are ZERO alternative theories for why it is happening.) 


Or: "let's pick any random ten lies from the registered list of Trump's 30,000 false statements and see if any were worse than the ONE fib you called 'intolerable and impeachable' by Bill Clinton!


2- Definite stakes in advance. I generally demand they escrow $5000 with a reputable attorney before I'll even negotiate terms. Thus, I savagely imply they aren't trustworthy. (It does work.)


3- Adjudicators! It's their last refuge, since their cult wages war on all fact-using professions. (Bet them they can't name an exception!) From science, teaching, medicine, law, journalism -- to the "deep-state men and women who crushed Hitler, stymied Stalin, won the Cold War and the War on Terror, their cult slogan is that all nerdy fact users are evil!


So I make it explicit. "You pick a pair of senior, retired military officers who aren't known for being rabidly partisan, but who have been lifelong Republicans. I'll pick two. Together they will pick a fifth for a panel to adjudicate our bet, based on confirmed facts. Let's do this! If you have any guts or balls!" 


It's a trap! If they deny the fact-centered honesty of retired senior officers, they are stabbing at the last American clade of expertise they supposedly respect and revere. But if they accept, they know they'll lose!


Do you see the logic? Of course then there is...


... #4 -- do all this in public, because they will run away! The only thing you'll win is utterly shaming a raving loony by gelding and emasculating him in front of witnesses. (And how I'd love it if a guest on Hannity or Tucker did this!) That public shaming is a good thing and if we all did it a lot, QAnon and Proud Boys will shrivel under the sun. 


See my formal wager demand in comments. Copy and use it yourselves.


== Sometimes the old ways still work ==


What about using the courts to force slanderers to admit it and face deterrence and punishment?  Well, in theory, that's a great idea! In fact, I have yearned for a decade for some prominent news reporter to shout "enough" after being slurred as a conspiratorial-lying promulgator of "fake news!" and suing for one of Tucker Carlson's many, many mansions, ranches and yachts. It is a form of wager!


Well, at last it is at least starting to happen. Lawyers for conservative attorney Sidney Powell told a federal court on Monday that "no reasonable person" would conclude her unfounded claims of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election were statements of fact as she fights a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems. (Late news, Dominion is also going after Rudy Giuliani, FOX News and the My Pillow guy.)
Said an eminent DC observer I respect: 

"I get it - claims often are unbacked by fact. However if someone claims something, is it not a sign that they think it's true and thus if they're wrong, then defamation?" And further that their statements were both intended and had the effect of undermining the persons and corporations so defamed?
One part of the remedy that a jury in the suit -- or a settlement -- can demand -- in addition to a financial penalty -- is that Powell herself - not her attorneys - issue a statement of retraction and apology, admitting with crystal clarity that her intent was to sway "unreasonable people" into harmful hostility toward both the plaintiffs and democratic electoral systems.
While it is delicious to see Dominion Voting Systems pursue these devastating cases, they truly are special in that the deliberate defamation and the economic harm have perfect clarity that plows past our reflex 'freedom of speech' defense, that always gets benefit of the doubt.
Alas, no member of the political caste can do that without accusations of orwellian "attempted suppression of opposition" doing more harm than good. I think some news reporters should long ago have sued over "fake news" slurs, since some cases were especially egregious... but the same worry probably deters them.
Which is hence why my "judo alternative" of WAGER demands kicks in. 

True, you'll not get the dollar rewards of a jury judgement or a court settlement... no one, certainly not a Fox yammerer, will ever actually PAY. But cornering say Hannity/Carlson with their refusal to even negotiate crisp, falsifiable/verifiable terms for fact-based manly wagers can then be used to slash the macho stance that is the foundation of their cult following.

I'll append in comments once again my standard Wager Demand that attempts to deal with all the bob-and-weave evasion tactics these macho liar-bums have tried over the years, before screaming (always) and running away.


83 comments:

David Brin said...

My STANDARD PASTE-IN RE WAGER TERMS: Again, here’s my challenge of bets and wagers that reveal the utter cowardice of the fact-free MAGA rightwing, Limbaugh-dittohead blowhards. "Have your lawyer write to me confirmation that you’ve escrowed $10,000 for wagers on things like ocean acidification or party differences in fiscal responsibility (budget deficits), or rates of moral turpitude in red vs. blue states, or outcomes for capitalism. Or ratios of half-truths and lies versus verifiable assertions on Fox vs. Say CNN.

"Again, if you are so certain of the accusations and denunciations and assertions you howl, after bobble-heading with Limbaugh or Hannity or Pirro then you should WANT a manly wager over those ‘facts!” You should want to bet in order to take MY money!"

Alas, experience tells me that members of the MAGA chant-hypnosis cult have neither the guts not honesty to pay off bets that aren’t secured in advance. Hence, once the stakes are escrowed then -- and only then -- will I deem it worth my time to deal with the squirming and writhing to establish clear wager metrics and to set up a panel of retired senior military officers to adjudicate.

Till I receive that missive from a reputable attorney, the record is clear. I offer manly wagers of actual facts... like the clear fact that Ocean Acidification (OA) is just one of countless metrics proving climate change is a deadly threat to our ecosystem and to our children, but OA is something we can measure *ourselves* and has no squirm allowance since it can only have come from human carbon emissions, including methane vented illegally at the compliance of the Republican Party, thus directly threatening the lives of our descendants. BET ME ON THAT!

Or let’s bet on fiscal responsibility! On which party puts the brakes on wild government deficits vs. stomping the accelerator. Or actual measurable economic outcomes.
http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2014/06/so-do-outcomes-matter-more-than-rhetoric.html

How about the “deep state”? I’ll bet you have ZERO credible evidence for your insults spewed at the quarter of a million skilled, professional men and women in the intel agencies, FBI and military officer corps who won the Cold War and the War on Terror. Your Limbaugh-parroted yammers assert a vast conspiracy among those heroes – who defeated Hitler, stymied Stalin, thwarted Mao and got bin Laden! But suddenly they are a dark conspiracy because they say your cult is laying down for a slightly relabeled KGB and Vlad “I loved the USSR!” Putin. BET on whether those insults (of folks who are vastly better Americans than you are) can be supported at all… even… slightly… by actual fact.

Wanna go all QAnon on us? Let’s wager over which party has a higher rate of horrific pedophile monsters in its elected political caste! I’ll pay if it’s LESS than 2:1 Republican.

Let’s randomly pick ANY TEN Trumpian lies from his registered list of 30,000, about 20% of them under some degree of "oath" or accountable by law.

Can you name ONE fact-centered profession your cults isn't waging open war against? From science, teaching, journalism, law, medicine etc to those brave protectors you insult as "deep state"? Name one! Betcha can't.

... continues in next comment

David Brin said...

... continues...

Economics? Let’s sample some fact’s I’ll assemble: The job growth (measured for non-farm payrolls) under the Reagan administration averaged 168,000 per month, versus 216,000 for Carter, 55,000 for H.W. Bush, and 239,000 for Clinton… and NEGATIVE 100,000 for trump! Measuring the number of jobs created per month is limited for longer time periods as the population grows. To address this, we can measure annual job growth percentages, comparing the beginning and ending number of jobs during their time in office to determine an annual growth rate. Jobs grew by 2.0% annually under Reagan, versus 3.1% under Carter, 0.6% under H.W. Bush, and 2.4% under Clinton and NEGATIVE 3% under Trumnp! Yes, that sort of thing. Or let’s compare deficits, or red vs blue state rates of entrepreneurship, STDs, domestic violence, teen pregnancy, gambling and yes … abortion. Abortion goes DOWN under Democrats, you stunning-lying fool-hypocrites!

They caper and shriek and howl and writhe and jiggle about and curse and yowl... but they never stand still and stand up to settle it like men. Because they are teeny-balled Putin-servicers. Haters of every fact-centered profession. Oh, and traitors. That too.=
One of my newest and rudest wager demands: I’ll bet the number of top Republicans who are proved or plausibly accused child molesters, pedophiles or seriously harmful; pervs is at least twice that of Democrats, and more likely more than 3:1. Here’s a link to a lit that’s actually much shorter than some I’ve seen:

https://old.reddit.com/r/news/comments/da96bi/army_officer_at_maralago_accessed_russian/f1od73c/

And this list leaves out Rep Jim Jordan who has never come clean about his blatant enabling of the Ohio State pedophile ring. And Lindsey Graham seriously? Care to bet me over what we'll know about him, within a few years?
To be fair, you CAN make such a list of Democrat pervs. But it is far shorter and a large majority are about porn, not directly abusing living kids.

The hypocrisy is overwhelming. A party which used to decry gambling as sin is now co-owned by Casino moguls. A party which decried divorce seems have nothing but, in its upper ranks. A party that has NEVER been fiscally responsible still fools fools into thinking that recited incantations can substitute for the real thing. Mind you, some divorces are needful and I am not a prude about gambling... (though the casinos are all evil.) It's the HYPOCRISY of lecturing us on how immoral Blue America is, when red states (except Utah) score worse in almost every category of turpitude and malgovernance.

Oh, and it is mostly blue states backing out of the insane War on Drugs.
https://old.reddit.com/r/news/comments/da96bi/army_officer_at_maralago_accessed_russian/f1od73c/

Tim H. said...

The contemporary GOP is more than pervs:

https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/kansas-senate-gop-leader-charged-dui-faces-ouster-76977107

They're also substance abusers.

TCB said...

Eelgrass (which grows in salt water) as a food and as a carbon sink? Yes, please.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/apr/09/sea-rice-eelgrass-marine-grain-chef-angel-leon-marsh-climate-crisis

Pappenheimer said...

NOT entirely off the topic of anti-expertise, a wingnut reverend has been ripping off yours and Greg Benford's Heart of the Comet plot - prophesying an asteroid will hit the earth in 2029 and introducing a plague...and that the Deep State is covering this up.

https://crooksandliars.com/2021/04/thomas-horn-end-times-vax-fear

Also some anti-vax because why not

TruePath said...

I love the idea that scientists are so relentlessly competitive but a quick lock at Andrew Gellman's blog of replication crisis fame quickly disabuses one of that notion. In many parts of social science trying to replicate someone else's experiment is a good way to create a bitter enemy and the attempt is seen as a kind of personal attack on their career. Sure, scientists do compete for jobs but a fair bit less viciously than some humanities academics. Even in disciplines like physics where we are much more confident of replication direct attacks on other publications aren't as common as they should be.

The way academic journals work is a big issue here. Ideally, for every novel new hypothesis that gets published in a scientific journal you'd have several direct criticisms of that paper (outside of mathematics).

I'm hopeful that in the long term we'll eliminate the academic journal in favor of online academic communities. Instead of combining the two roles of gatekeeping and recommendation (this is good read it) why not create an online community for those experts (maybe those with better pub ranks would get more weight) to which papers can be posted after receiving approval from some number of other participants at which point the paper gets reviewed by all academics reading it and both informal discussion/criticism and formal responses can be directly associated. It's a better system with the nice side effect of getting Elsevier's greedy little rent seeking claws off university money.

TruePath said...

I love the idea that scientists are so relentlessly competitive but a quick lock at Andrew Gellman's blog of replication crisis fame quickly disabuses one of that notion. In many parts of social science trying to replicate someone else's experiment is a good way to create a bitter enemy and the attempt is seen as a kind of personal attack on their career. Sure, scientists do compete for jobs but a fair bit less viciously than some humanities academics. Even in disciplines like physics where we are much more confident of replication direct attacks on other publications aren't as common as they should be.

The way academic journals work is a big issue here. Ideally, for every novel new hypothesis that gets published in a scientific journal you'd have several direct criticisms of that paper (outside of mathematics).

I'm hopeful that in the long term we'll eliminate the academic journal in favor of online academic communities. Instead of combining the two roles of gatekeeping and recommendation (this is good read it) why not create an online community for those experts (maybe those with better pub ranks would get more weight) to which papers can be posted after receiving approval from some number of other participants at which point the paper gets reviewed by all academics reading it and both informal discussion/criticism and formal responses can be directly associated. It's a better system with the nice side effect of getting Elsevier's greedy little rent seeking claws off university money.

TruePath said...

I'd note that there is a class of historical precedents for this attitude of assume fault in our elders. Pretty much anytime you have a new religion (or, to lesser extent, a revitalization of an old one) (e.g. Mohammed's introduction of Mormonism, Christianity in the Roman empire pre-Constantine etc.. etc..) you see this rhetoric of how those who haven't accepted the new beliefs into their heart are faulty and broken.

Also, I think that you might find that, like the religious case, actually making people simply listen to and understand the underlying views/attitudes rather than just vaguely endorsing them to avoid loss of social status. For instance, just like actually reading the bible tends to be a decent antidote to lots of bad religious beliefs I think many of the stupider ideas pushed in the name of various forms of social justice would perform poorly if you really made students take a course (ideally with counterpoints but even without) going into the subject (while hopefully leaving the beneficial aspects).

David Brin said...

TCB thanks re eel grass!

TruePath (?) Very interesting remarks and your critical comments are welcome, especially since your criticisms are polite. In reply though:

- You attempt to use anecdotes of non-competition in science to disprove the generality that scientists are competitive. Bah. anecdotes that are factual CAN disprove an asserted UNIVERSALITY - I never said ALL scientists. Second: yours do nothing about the pure fact that most scientists with tenure or on-track for it… and indeed even those with no hope of tenure… don’t mind at all “assaulting another’s career.” Moreover the very sources you cite are in themselves examples and illustrations of the process of criticism I describe!

What you indicate is that you have known very few scientists.

- I assume you did not mean to assert that Mohammed intro’d Mormonism… in any event the fact that you cannot tell the difference between passionately and obediently helping a NEW guru to topple an OLD guru… versus the individualistic iconoclasm that YOU now display is kinda sad. Go look in a mirror. You are not the same.

---
Pappenheimer: Yes, there are apocalyptics all the time. I live not far from where the Heaven's Gate folks went off in their new Addidases to meet a comet. On rare occasions a person has been smart enough to demand WAGERS from them. That approach should now be standard! Nothing reveals their hypocrisy more than clutching their money.

FMK said...

The National review has come out explicitly against democracy.

National Review comes out against Democracy

From the article:


Here is the nut of McCarthy’s argument:

It would be far better if the franchise were not exercised by ignorant, civics-illiterate people, hypnotized by the flimflam that a great nation needs to be fundamentally transformed rather than competently governed. Left to their own devices, many such people would not even take note of elections, much less go through the effort to register and vote. 

And Williamson’s:

Voters — individually and in majorities — are as apt to be wrong about things as right about them, often vote from low motives such as bigotry and spite, and very often are contentedly ignorant. 

And McLaughlin’s:

The theory of what Democrats and progressives urge is that they particularly want the votes of the subset of people (mostly younger voters) who are unwilling or unable to plan ahead, and can be swept into the voting booth on a momentary enthusiasm without deliberation or reflection. The point made by Republicans and conservatives is not that these people should be barred from voting, but that the system benefits from deliberation and reflection, and so should not bend over backward to accommodate voters who are unwilling to play by the rules of adulthood.


B.J. said...

One issue with scientific criticism (I forget whether I've brought this up before, here) is when those who have power over tenure decisions have established careers with prior work that they don't want to see overturned. For example, physicist Lee Smolin complained in The Trouble with Physics that string theory, despite going deeply into untestable grounds, isn't facing as much challenge as it should be, and much of the problem is that young physicists who don't sign on with it have to face tenure boards full of physicists who believe very fervently in the theory.

The takeaway I get from this is that, while scientists can indeed be fiercely competitive, science is far from immune from the problem of elites who cheat to maintain their power and position!

Anonymous said...

RIGHT ON, Dr. BRIN!

I found myself copying sentence after sentence at the start of your post, then realized I was leading up to making my usual too-wordy, wandering response. And reformulated:

1. Anyone who has really thought about evolution will realize the accuracy of Boris Sidis' idea that our brains are learning at their fastest by far during their first few years.

2. What they are learning then, must he the most important and immediately vital info and patterns: Who they are, what the world is, and how they can best thrive in it.

3. In our earlier evolution, and up to purely tribal days, this was fine!

4. But as larger groups evolved, requiring structured leadership, fooling others became an increasingly useful way to enhance one's sex life and genetic future.

5. For the majority of children in the fooled population, this meant including not-very-logical worldviews about who and what we are, and how we must act, and somehow building them into a larger picture.

6. These logical contradictions grew ever more complex as society and human knowledge evolved from tribal loyalty, to common sense, then to science. Some of each of these had to be incorporated into our reality in those early years regardless of the logical inconsistencies we would need to deal with later on. Inconsistencies which our older brains usually deal with in the easiest way, by ignoring.

7. So we have arrived at a time when our early brains are constructed with built-in illogic that is fairly easily exploited by the more powerful groups of adults.

8. And if we want to live better lives, based on less exploitation of our built-in weaknesses by the selfish, we need to take action.

9. We need to educate those infant brains as early as possible to encompass the huge range of what we now know about ourselves and the world. [Small compared with the Universe, but huge compared to any earlier point in our history!]

10. Then our children will grow up far better equipped to deal with life than we are. Whether survival or pleasure get priority, or some sensible mixture, they will be far better able to manage their interactions with each other and the real world than we humans have ever been before.

All I can add is "God help us all. PLEASE!"

David Brin said...

FMK thanks. Those quoted in the "article" boil down to age-old rationalizations for railing against "mob rule" that aim to seem high-ground to MAGAs, who nurse an image that Democrats are a roiling idiocracy of slope-brow cavemen and Hottentots, who mustn't be allowed to control the state with their fevered, easily riled impulses. Of course this flatters the MAGAs and helps keep them in line at a time when the GOP is losing everyone who thinks.

It is also how the oligarchs controlling the GOP justify defying the popular will in 7 or the last 8 US elections.
But it is easy to show which party's ground troops chant nostrums they are fed from a glass teat, while rejecting any thought of negotiation or revising based upon fact. That is the key response that NO ONE on the Union side of this civil war seems to grasp or ever use as a judo move.

Yes, Democrats stand for helping lift up the downtrodden. They ALSO include, now, a vast majority of college graduates in the US, plus nearly all of the skilled and fact-using professions. Even including the poor, Democrats' average education and knowledge levels are vastly greater than Republicans'. Including (bet me) nearly all of the citizens who can tell you what actually happened in Philadelphia from 1775 to 1789.

Mention that and they swivel in a heartbeat to accusing us of smug-superior, patronizing attitudes and elitism! In a heartbeat, without skipping even a second and often in the same sentence.

Okay, I will grant them this. Democratic politicians and correlated pundits ARE effectively deeply stupid when it comes to polemical tactics. Time and again they have proved incapable of memic warfare, leaving all that manipulative stuff to the enemy.

David Brin said...

FMK again resorts to anecdotes and citation of a highly opinionated authority. Sorry man, this is bullshit.

"The takeaway I get from this is that, while scientists can indeed be fiercely competitive, science is far from immune from the problem of elites who cheat to maintain their power and position!"

"Far from immune?" Who asserted that they were? That is polemical trickery and pure crap. Of course scientists are human and thus inherently delusional and subject to the normal run of temptations. And they are the only large clade of humans ever taught SYSTEMATICALLY. tools to seek out and destroy their own mistakes, while reciting the most sacred catechism of science... "I might be wrong."

In fact, most tell their grad students: "I am presenting this paper nexct month at a big meeting." You are now to rip it to shred and find every conceivable chink tghat my rivals might attack and embarrass me with, at that meeting. Better you criticize and shred it now than I get shredded then! In fact you do NOT want me coming back here in that condition! So fire away and piza for whoever finds the worst mistake."

I cannot count the number of examples of exactly that, that I have seen. And you repeatedly make it very clear that you simply know no scientists.

But you argue without nastiness, and hence are welcome here.

---

Anonymous the spam filter passed you and it is very good, and I skimmed and found nothing awful. But we mostly don't pay much attention to anonymous postings, here.

B.J. said...

Huh? I'm not FMK :)

Nobody asserted that scientists were immune to elite corruption, and I certainly wasn't engaging in polemical trickery. You mentioned them as a fiercely competitive clade who constantly examine their own, and I wanted to raise the point that the scientific fields still have their own issues that prevent examination and entrench bad science. It's an issue to warn against, and to keep in mind when you lionize scientists as a particularly elite clade.

Daniel Duffy said...

What you all are missing about the anti-science and anti-expert crowd is their faith based mind set. They don't see science and fact as an objective reality different than faith beliefs.

To them, everything is a "faith" including science and facts.

And so they can deny evolution and climate change, and disregard facts and evidence supporting these realities in the same way they reject Islam or Buddhism - science is just another faith no more legitimate than their fundamentalist Christianity.

Furthermore, science is a threatening hostile "faith" that undermines their own and they must oppose it.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Of course this flatters the MAGAs and helps keep them in line at a time when the GOP is losing everyone who thinks.


Several months back, I was behind a car covered with right-wing bumper stickers. Most of them were two or three words long, but one was a whole paragraph. It said:
"Liberals want you to think just like they do. Conservatives just want you to think."

They actually seem to believe that, even though it is the diametric opposite of true. That's what we're up against. The same people are able to believe with a straight face that Democrats are a cabal of pedophiles, and that the heroes who will save the children from them are Donald Trump and Matt Gaetz.

This line quoted above is actually true, and we'd be better off if it were applied to the MAGAts themselves:

It would be far better if the franchise were not exercised by ignorant, civics-illiterate people, hypnotized by the flimflam that a great nation needs to be fundamentally transformed rather than competently governed.

David Brin said...

BJ I give up. You keep trying the same damn polemical trick and it is dishonest and the fact that you can't see it is beyond my ability or interest to instruct you on. You imply that I am saying things I never said or even implied. In fact I said the diametric opposite to what you imply that I am saying.

Der Oger said...


Might be of interest to the community here:

https://www.dni.gov/files/ODNI/documents/assessments/GlobalTrends_2040.pdf

(Via Beau of the Fifth Column.)

David Brin said...

Der Oger thanks. I was invvolved in earlier Global Trends Reports.

I note that someone got spammed who criticized me for conflating (and insulting) BJ's views. In all fairness I looked again. And I conflated nothing.

When someone repeatedly demands "Have you stopped beating your wife?" you have a right to object and call it the nasty tactic that it is. In this case, BJ has implicitly accused me of idolizing scientists as paragons of perfection, then used anecdotes to 'disprove" that general universality, one that I never claimed.

Paraphrasing: "Scientists AREN'T perfect, Brin!" No, and I never said they were. Just vastly better.

In fact I assert that they are deeply human and carry all the normal suite of basic flaws, ego allures and emotional temptations into delusion. It is because they (en masse, though sometimes not individually) know about these human flaws that (1) they are taught relentless self-check processes & habits, and (2) competitive processes have been refined and set in relentless motion to a degree seen nowhere else in human life.

I reiterate that BJ clearly knows no scientists. His group-carricature and stereotype would be "racist" if aimed at a non-privileged caste. But aimed at an elite it is shruggable-if-absurd.

No, it is the tactic that got me riled. Perhaps more than it merited. But then, you folks come here also expecting a little theater. It comes from with the admission.

Larry Hart said...

Daniel Duffy:

What you all are missing about the anti-science and anti-expert crowd is their faith based mind set. They don't see science and fact as an objective reality different than faith beliefs.
...
Furthermore, science is a threatening hostile "faith" that undermines their own and they must oppose it.


A charitable interpretation of that is that the expectation that science leads to a better understanding of reality than dogma does is a kind of faith.

But it is disingenuous to use the term "faith" as if you have the choice to arbitrarily choose what you have faith in. Religionists like to talk about us "choosing to believe", as if my disbelief in the supernatural is a form of willful rebellion. I don't like the implications that God's existence would demand of me, so I choose not to believe in Him. That sort of thing.

No, belief and faith are not arbitrary choices. I don't choose to believe in gravity, nor am I exempt from gravity's effects if I could somehow choose not to believe in it. It might be fair to say that I choose a certain interpretation of the facts and experience I bring to bear--I don't believe in the supernatural because I have never, ever in sixty years seen any evidence of it. Someone else might "choose to believe" that he simply hasn't been observant enough to notice supernatural effects all around us. Fair enough. In that sense, I "choose to believe" a certain thing. But I don't "choose to believe" that I've never seen any evidence of the supernatural. I believe it because it's true.

In that sense, some people "choose to believe" that science helps with an understanding of the real world, while others do indeed "choose to believe" that it doesn't. What the latter tend to actually mean, though, is that their faith requires them to hold certain specific beliefs to prevent them from being punished for their heresy should they fail to hold those beliefs. And if science threatens those particular belief, then science must be eliminated.

Larry Hart said...

No sooner do I respond about belief and science than this op-ed appears in the New York Times:

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/10/opinion/sunday/religion-meritocracy-god.html

A second obstacle is the meritocracy’s anti-supernaturalism: The average Ivy League professor, management consultant or Google engineer is not necessarily a strict materialist, but they have all been trained in a kind of scientism, which regards strong religious belief as fundamentally anti-rational, miracles as superstition, the idea of a personal God as so much wishful thinking.


He makes that sound like a bad thing. :) As if "rationalism" is blinding us to the more obvious supernatural interpretations of a personal God who intervenes miraculously in our lives.

As far as I'm concerned, that is wishful thinking. Almost the definition of wishful thinking. That doesn't necessarily make it a bad thing for those who engage in it, but the author's point seems to be that wishful thinking is a self-evident good thing that non-participants should be encouraged if not goaded into taking up, and that the obstacle in the way of that (so necessarily a bad thing) is rational thinking.

He's essentially asking, "What are you going to believe? My religion, or your lying eyes?" And strongly implying the answer to the rhetorical question.


Thus when spiritual ideas creep back into elite culture, it’s often in the form of “wellness” or self-help disciplines, or in enthusiasms like astrology, where there’s always a certain deniability about whether you’re really invoking a spiritual reality, really committing to metaphysical belief.


Religionists like Dave Sim or this author like to note that atheists and secularists are drawn to substitute supernatural belief systems such as astrology. I know that that is the case for a large segment of the population, but it's something I've never understood, even as a teenager. In reference to a line from All in the Family, I'm not just agnostic against Judaism or Christianity. When I say I don't believe in the supernatural, I mean just that. I'm not replacing a supernatural belief I don't like with one that looks to be more fun.

I understand how people who have been raised religious can believe in the religion they were taught with mother's milk, even when such belief produced cognitive dissonance with their rational beliefs. I can't understand how anyone who identifies as a rationalist can believe--not just have fun with, but really believe--in astrology.


My sense is that these two obstacles effectively work together to block people from religious faith. If someone has an experience that calls their unbelief into question, their association of traditional religion with sexual prohibitions or bigotry or scandal is often enough to keep them from being drawn by that experience to a church or synagogue.


My sense is that the notion that people have experiences which "calls their unbelief into question" but refuse to question it because they're corrupted by rationalism is in itself wishful thinking. I think what happens much more than that--orders of magnitude more often--is that religious people have experiences which call their belief into question. And that sometimes, that causes them to give up their belief, but that usually it just causes them to rationalize it away. In other words, rather than the norm, it is the extreme exception that a non-religious person is forced to question their non-belief.

scidata said...

There's a slight whiff of romanticism to the Fermi Paradox. Religious types sometimes gleefully embrace it. Postulating terrestrial intelligence as the single one in all the cosmos, based solely on our sub-sub-microscopic domain of knowledge, does violence to statistical probability too. Universality (of physics, chemistry, biochemistry, and *gulp* mathematics) is a doctrinal belief that I've been clubbed with (not much in CB, happily). These same believers do acknowledge the many sextillion stars, with multiple planets on average, and perhaps significantly more platforms for life beyond that, yet readily accept the possibility, often the probability, that intelligent life is an entirely local, unique, almost magical phenomenon. Cromwell spins.

People are susceptible to Bayesian traps. "We don't yet know enough" is a perfectly valid (ie scientific) placeholder. Perhaps SETI is a job for AI, or maybe it's a job for crowd-sourcing, which has a certain corrective lens nature to it. Or maybe plain old contrarianism could work - someone akin to Lynn Margulis...

The truest contrarian I've ever personally known was a German engineer who ran an R&D dept that I toiled in (as a solderer). I praised one of his slick, efficient op-amp designs once with a nod to "German engineering". He snorted, and sighed that highly disciplined thinking was nothing to be proud of. I'm sure a deep back story lurked, but we went our separate ways shortly thereafter and never met again.

One of the bitterly sad things about modern society is how shallow and transient most work relationships are now. Many people have a story that would knock your socks off, but few have time to tell it and few have time to listen. I envy those few. Instead, we see the rise of gossip and conspiracy theories to counter the meaninglessness. Numerology and astrology instead of numeracy and astronomy. Yet another reason why Johnny can't code, but certainly should. Must, in fact.

Calculemus!

FMK said...

When men stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing; they believe in anything

-GK Chesterton

While I find that quote irritating, as it doesn't match my personal experience, further reflection does reveal that the secularization of society does not necessarily mean that most people are now committed rationalists. People abandon the established religions for a myriad of reasons and plenty are quite happy to replace one irrational belief with another.

Robert said...

Someone else might "choose to believe" that he simply hasn't been observant enough to notice supernatural effects all around us.

A great many people notice evidence of the supernatural all around them many times a day – because that's how they choose to interpret what they see.

When your worldview is that all good things that happen are because an invisible sky fairy was looking after you, and bad things are because of your own failings, you will see supernatural events everywhere. Pray before you set out on a drive, have no accidents on the way, shows prayer works. Your husband survives a heart attack and open heart surgery — just shows prayer works (and flips the bird at the medical team who operated on him).

I lived with fundamentalist Baptists for a couple of years — there's nothing they can't turn into evidence of miracles and direct divine intervention.

Acacia H. said...

The one thing I'd say to diehard religious types is "if science isn't real, then pray to God to keep scientific gravity from dragging you down and then step off a cliff. If you're truly Faithful, then God should keep you from falling, right?

They'll never accept it. But then it's because most religious people don't believe in the God of the New Testament but instead want to tell other people what to think and do. It's about control, not faith.

Acacia

madtom said...

I'll save words and time by just seconding everything Larry Hart posted!

Larry Hart said...

Robert:

Your husband survives a heart attack and open heart surgery — just shows prayer works


Except for all the people whose spouses didn't survive, despite their praying just as fervently.

I guess, to me, "evidence of the supernatural" requires evidence of something that is not explicable by natural means. To those you describe, anything that can be explained supernaturally counts.

Another difference is that random luck makes events happen in ways that happen to benefit you. Someone wins the lottery, though literally millions do not. Is that evidence of the supernatural to the winner? Evidence against the supernatural to the losers?

And does it ever work in the reverse direction. Does anyone who something terrible happens to ever think, "I'm a really bad person, and God punished me for it, so that proves He exists?" Anyone ever have the epiphany which causes them to suddenly believe that way?

Larry Hart said...

FMK

When men stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing; they believe in anything

-GK Chesterton


Well, replace "God" with "reality" in that sentence, and I think it is much more on target.


While I find that quote irritating, as it doesn't match my personal experience, further reflection does reveal that the secularization of society does not necessarily mean that most people are now committed rationalists. People abandon the established religions for a myriad of reasons and plenty are quite happy to replace one irrational belief with another.


The mistake is to attribute that tendency to replace one irrational belief system with a different irrational belief system to the rationalists. All secularists are not rationalists, but that doesn't mean the rationalists don't exist.

Daniel Duffy said...

But as Nietzsche observed, the great danger of atheism is nihilism, both moral and existential.

Without God existence is without purpose and therefore meaningless.

Without heaven and hell there is no reason for people to be good beyond the point of self interest (our species is not by nature good or altruistic).

You can't build a civilization on nihilism.

As Tom Wolfe noted in his essay "Sorry but your soul just died"

http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles/Wolfe-Sorry-But-Your-Soul-Just-Died.php

They start with the most famous statement in all of modern philosophy, Descartes's "Cogito ergo sum," "I think, therefore I am," which they regard as the essence of "dualism," the old–fashioned notion that the mind is something distinct from its mechanism, the brain and the body. (I will get to the second most famous statement in a moment.) This is also known as the "ghost in the machine" fallacy, the quaint belief that there is a ghostly "self" somewhere inside the brain that interprets and directs its operations. Neuroscientists involved in three–dimensional electroencephalography will tell you that there is not even any one place in the brain where consciousness or self–consciousness (Cogito ergo sum) is located. This is merely an illusion created by a medley of neurological systems acting in concert. The young generation takes this yet one step further. Since consciousness and thought are entirely physical products of your brain and nervous system—and since your brain arrived fully imprinted at birth—what makes you think you have free will? Where is it going to come from? What "ghost," what "mind," what "self," what "soul," what anything that will not be immediately grabbed by those scornful quotation marks, is going to bubble up your brain stem to give it to you? I have heard neuroscientists theorize that, given computers of sufficient power and sophistication, it would be possible to predict the course of any human being's life moment by moment, including the fact that the poor devil was about to shake his head over the very idea. I doubt that any Calvinist of the sixteenth century ever believed so completely in predestination as these, the hottest and most intensely rational young scientists in the United States at the end of the twentieth....

A hundred years ago those who worried about the death of God could console one another with the fact that they still had their own bright selves and their own inviolable souls for moral ballast and the marvels of modern science to chart the way. But what if, as seems likely, the greatest marvel of modern science turns out to be brain imaging? And what if, ten years from now, brain imaging has proved, beyond any doubt, that not only Edward O. Wilson but also the young generation are, in fact, correct?

TCB said...

What gives scientists an extra credibility boost is that "what keeps me honest" and "what gets me rewarded" automatically align in scientific research. Produce research that can be replicated. Don't fake your data. Don't lie, cheat, steal, mislead... if you break the "what keeps me honest" rules, the other scientists figure it out and eat you alive. If your work is honest, important, and a bit quicker than everyone else's, you'll be showered with rewards.

In politics, business, law, and even religion, "what keeps me honest" and "what gets me rewarded" do NOT automatically align. In fact, they can run utterly in different directions. Politicians who tell the truth can be punished by voters who don't want to hear it. Businessmen who lie, cheat and steal can make vast fortunes. Lawyers can get rich working for thugs. Priests can own jets by telling poor people that material wealth is meaningless.

A scientist gets caught fudging data. His career is ruined with almost mathematical certainty. His chances of "riding out the storm" are effectively nil.

A politician cheats in an election. A business mogul's corporation commits a rash of felonies. A televangelist gets caught with a car full of prostitutes. The likelihood that any of these men's careers are irreparably damaged? Trivial. In fact, half this behavior may be how they got to the top in the first place.

Larry Hart said...

Robert:

Pray before you set out on a drive, have no accidents on the way, shows prayer works.


The influence of end-of-career Dave Sim is showing in me. Even though I am a secular agnostic, I have his image in my head as a philosophical proponent of monotheism. And he definitely subscribes to the "Atheists believe themselves to be God" attitude, as well as the assertion that belief in God and feminism are antithetical to each other.

BUT...

He does not believe in praying to God for favors. In fact, he would say that one insults God by doing so. He believes in prayer--the Islamic five times a day, no less--but to Dave, prayer consists of two elements: Thanking God (for being God), and apologizing to God for one's own shortcomings (implicitly promising to improve in the future).

Which is why my brain doesn't hear "proof of the supernatural" in anecdotes about good things happening after one has tried to nudge God into performing favors. That's not my mental model of monotheism.

My own personal thinking on supernatural intervention in my life is similar to my own personal thinking about alien intervention in my life. Which is that it is of little consequence to me whether such things exist or don't exist, because they don't seem to interact with us enough to warrant taking their existence into account when making life choices. In this, I can go against what I said earlier and actually "choose not to believe" in either supernatural or alien intervention, although it is really more accurate to say that I choose not to consider whether I believe in their existence.

tvindy said...

I note that someone got spammed who criticized me for conflating (and insulting) BJ's views. In all fairness I looked again. And I conflated nothing.

I guess that was me. Sorry. I appreciate that you went back and checked. I guess I was thrown off when it appeared that you had mistakenly referred to B.J. as MFK.

David Brin said...

Acacia one small matter. Those proclaiming that the New Testament God is gentler and kinder know nothing at all.

While the Old Testament thunderer did a lot of raging tantrums, He also set the stage for later calmer, forgiving attitudes. Which you do see spoken of in the NT! But also in the NT is the most gruesomely horrible thing in the Judaeo Christian canon. The notion of Original Sin - a curse that dooms to hell all of those, including babies, who have not chanted the prescribed belief catechisms. The OT thunderer never did anything like that. Indeed, He generally calmed down.

Now follow that horrid notion with the story that the only way to appease that blanket damnation-curse of Original Sin was by an act of human sacrifice! One of the absolute no-nos of the JudaeoC and almost any other decent theology.

Essentially, it insults God by portraying Him as a psychopath who any of us would report to Social Services, if we saw such threats poured upon His kids. Certainly not the behavior of a person worthy of my respect… in contrast to the (purported and perhaps plausible) designer of a metagalaxy containing trillions or trillions of stars and vast adventures for His apprentice Creators to explore.

I see no reason to kowtow to such a crazed system, that reflects the vengeance-fetishisms of very frightened and traumatized victims of the 70 CE torching of Jerusalem. Fortunately, the awesome Grand Creator - while not fully plausible - makes a lot more sense that the wretched revenge fetishist.

duncan cairncross said...

Immortal Souls

The ghost in the machine pulling the levers

I would love to think that we all had some "undying part"

But the problem then is - Brain Damage -

If the soul hypothesis was true then brain damage would never be able to change personalities - or even lose abilities

So the "Soul Hypothesis" fails

Acacia H. said...

Daniel Duffy, during my brief period seriously considering atheism, the one thing I realized about it is how utterly liberating it is. I no longer am a good person because I'm scared that Daddy in the Sky will smite me after I'm dead. No. I choose to be a good person because I want to be a good person. There's no reward. There's no fear. There's just... doing good because I choose to.

More, no longer anticipating any sort of afterlife is freeing. Part of that is no longer worrying about some sort of Divine Being punishing me for not being perfect, but part of it is also just not caring anymore. I can act for who I am, not for what religion insists I need to be. Atheism is not nihilistic. It is anything but.

Acacia H.

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

At the risk of sounding like someone here who liked to over-rely upon dictionary definitions, I think it is worth pointing out how the English term "faith" is overloaded.

There are two major meanings.

1. The oldest implies "loyalty to". Your faith in an ideal, god, or institution means you are loyal to it. You express faith in your own identity when you remain true to it. Faith can be upper or lower case depending on the target of your loyalty, but most of us have many ranging from small to large.

Read old texts and this is the ONLY meaning they imply.

2. The newest implies propositional belief. 2+3 is the same result as 3+2 without being the same expression because I accept that addition of natural numbers commutes. When people as IF you believe God exists, they are often using this meaning. When they ask you if you believe in God, they aren't.

This new definition is a conflation with a loyalty to a belief that mathematics reflects objective Truth. Euclid's Geometry isn't just a bag of useful tricks to them. It is a priori Truth. It is God Speaking.



When it comes to loyalties, you DO have a lot of choice. Or so many of us believe.

When it comes to propositions, you kinda don't if you have a preference for logical consistency. If you accept natural number addition commutes and reject that 2+3 leads to the same result as 3+2, you get trapped by an inconsistency.


Daniel Duffy has a fair point, but we can ask which kind of "faith" it is.

To them, everything is a "faith" including science and facts.

We tend to treat Science with the propositional definition. They don't.



It's a shame we overloaded the English term. It leads to a lot of modern confusion. Can I be loyal to much of the smaller 'faith' positions held by Christians without believing in the propositional sense that God exists? Can I be faithful without Faith? Ugh. Whoever did this to our language should be taken out to the woodshed.

Robert said...

And does it ever work in the reverse direction. Does anyone who something terrible happens to ever think, "I'm a really bad person, and God punished me for it, so that proves He exists?" Anyone ever have the epiphany which causes them to suddenly believe that way?

I've never seen it personally. The usual lines trotted out were "God moves in mysterious ways", "Jesus loved my son/daughter so much he lifted him/her to heaven", and when there was a human element involved "Jesus said true Christians would be persecuted, so this shows we're true Christians"*.


*Such "persecution" usually involved bylaw and/or safety inspectors summoned yet again because someone apparently didn't understand that being Christian means that earthly rules don't apply to you… Lying on your immigration application was also acceptable as long as you were a true Christian** (and horrible if you were Catholic).

**True Christians being one sect of Baptists. Everyone else was a "Catholic" if they went to church, and worse if they didn't.

Larry Hart said...

Daniel Duffy:

[quoting Nietzsche] Without God existence is without purpose and therefore meaningless.


Sorry, but that assertion suffers from a lack of imagination. To me, it's the same sort of rigid thinking that equates democracy with anarchy, because a society requires a king. It also seems to imply that a self-employed individual is without purpose as he lacks an employer to foist it upon him.


Neuroscientists involved in three–dimensional electroencephalography will tell you that there is not even any one place in the brain where consciousness or self–consciousness (Cogito ergo sum) is located. This is merely an illusion created by a medley of neurological systems acting in concert.


Oy, this again. :) Sorry, but the me who is writing this knows I exist. In fact, I know I exist more certainly than I know that anything else exists.

I realize that you (or at least Nietzsche) mean something different by "exists" than I do. Like our Russian troll a few years ago, you can argue that I can't demonstrate to your satisfaction that I exist. I can't point to anything in the physical world which is "me" as opposed to "not me". I don't care. The "I" who doesn't care knows that it exists because if I didn't exist, there wouldn't be the something which doesn't care.

[quoting Thomas Wolfe]
Since consciousness and thought are entirely physical products of your brain and nervous system—and since your brain arrived fully imprinted at birth—what makes you think you have free will? Where is it going to come from? What "ghost," what "mind," what "self," what "soul," what anything that will not be immediately grabbed by those scornful quotation marks, is going to bubble up your brain stem to give it to you? I have heard neuroscientists theorize that, given computers of sufficient power and sophistication, it would be possible to predict the course of any human being's life moment by moment, including the fact that the poor devil was about to shake his head over the very idea. I doubt that any Calvinist of the sixteenth century ever believed so completely in predestination as these,


Why does a discussion of free will always degenerate into a question of whether one is free to act against his own desires? I'm feeling cold, so I put on a sweater. The fact that God, or a computer, or anyone who knows me well enough can go, "I knew you'd do that" doesn't negate the fact that I took an action to affect an outcome I wanted.

If I only "want" that outcome because my specific body chemistry and neurological make-up was such that no other desire in that situation was possible? I don't see a conflict. Free will is about (vastly simplified) doing what you want to do, no about wanting something different from what you actually want.

Finally, I see no value in musing about what choices to make or what sort of societal norms to establish in the absence of the self and of free will. The premise makes such planning irrelevant. How's this for a variation on Pascal's Wager? You might as well act as if you have free will, because if you don't, then your choices are irrelevant, so there's nothing to lose.

Jon S. said...

Does anyone who something terrible happens to ever think, "I'm a really bad person, and God punished me for it, so that proves He exists?"

That's exactly the mindset I've spent much of the past 24 years trying to remove from my wife. It's not great when chronic depression and Charismatic upbringing collide...

David Brin said...

Acacia’s point that it is more respect-worthy to choose to be a good person than to be threatened into it. Only there’s more. What I call THE GREAT SERMON.

Invite your pushy cultist to step outside for an experiment. You’ll both face the sky and - respectfully - ask for a clear and unambiguous sign which of you is right! A big arrow. A booming voice. A Monty Python sky-opening, complete with cherubs? Nothing is beyond His ability, right? “And from then on, MY soul will certainly be saved!”

Nothing will happen, of course… and THAT is the sermon!

“Act AS IF I’m not here! Whether or not I am… (and I do answer prayers for emotional support!)… your task is to make a better world and to seek love and justice and the tools of creation as your own adventure. Carry on! Though did I mention that I do answer prayers for emotional support?”

Oh and BTW, His refusal to do exactly that, all over the world, to settle theological arguments right now(!) is either proof that those theological differences are NOT damn-worthy… or else that he’s not a nice person.

Actually, that’s a small part of my theological STAGE PLAY! If any of you know theater people who are itching to do a zoom-able lectern-reading play for the first time, tell them they could be the first! It’s THE ESCAPE and can be found under “books” at http://www.davidbrin.com

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

The newest [definition of faith] implies propositional belief. 2+3 is the same result as 3+2 without being the same expression because I accept that addition of natural numbers commutes. When people as IF you believe God exists, they are often using this meaning. When they ask you if you believe in God, they aren't.


I do get that. Which is why it's a bad question when someone asks whether a politician or a scientist "believes in evolution." The question is meant to discern whether the person agrees or doesn't agree that there is validity to the theory of evolution, with perhaps the subtext that he doesn't believe in spontaneous creation. But the question as stated is asking whether the person thinks or feels that "evolution" as a concept functions as a replacement for God.

Truly religious people are justified in answering that no, they don't "believe in evolution" even if they are ok with the idea that species evolve over time. They can believe that evolution happens, but what they "believe in" is God.

scidata said...

Robert: I lived with fundamentalist Baptists for a couple of years

There really should be some sort of exchange student program between red and blue states. Maybe call it 'Bongs and Biscuits'.


A rotund, brain-wormed grifter brandishes a holy book (upside down) that advises:
Render unto Caesar... (submit to fascism)
Consider the lilies of the field... (abandon posterity)

I once visited there myself. It was many years ago, I was disoriented from an unaccustomed flurry of business travel and out of sync with the local DC time. I stood alone in the Lincoln Memorial (surely not possible nowadays). Back then I assumed that patriot = Republican. Just me, Abe, "for the people", and the early morning sun. Made quite an impression on that Canadian farm boy. The ancient statue on cover of "Foundation and Earth" always reminds me of that moment, now more than ever.

Apparently, Apple TV filmed Trantor scenes in Ireland, Synnax on Malta, and Terminus in the Canaries, and they're now working on season 2. Interesting, I just hope they don't wreck it. Foundation is my holy book.

Larry Hart said...

Jon S:

"Does anyone who something terrible happens to ever think, "I'm a really bad person, and God punished me for it, so that proves He exists?"

That's exactly the mindset I've spent much of the past 24 years trying to remove from my wife. It's not great when chronic depression and Charismatic upbringing collide...


I sympathize with you. But that's not exactly what I was asking about. If I'm reading correctly, your wife thinks that God's punishment proves that she's a bad person. She's not noticing that she's being punished and therefore concluding that God must exist.

My point was that people seem to see their good luck as proof of the Divine. Other people see their bad luck as proof that God does not exist. I wondered if anyone ever saw their bad luck as something they deserved, and therefore proof of Divine intervention.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

When it comes to loyalties, you DO have a lot of choice. Or so many of us believe.


Yes, I think I understand what you're saying. I've even noted above that there are indeed some things I "choose to believe", but I qualify that by saying I really "choose to interpret."

What I can't do is Pascal's Wager. I can't believe Jesus is God just because my odds are better at achieving a desirable outcome if I believe it. If pressed or threatened enough, I could pretend to believe something because doing so is less dangerous than not doing so, but that's a different thing, in fact... :)

Dave Sim and his ilk think that atheists rebel against God because we don't like God's rules. That we "choose not to believe" in Him. To me, that's incorrect in a way that's more obvious if we substitute "Santa Claus" for God. I don't disbelieve in Santa Claus because I don't want to believe the myth is real. In fact, I'd be a happier person if I could believe in Santa Claus. The same goes for God. I wish I could believe in a personal relationship with God, but I don't. That's not "choosing not to believe." Again, a different thing, in fact... :)


When it comes to propositions, you kinda don't if you have a preference for logical consistency. If you accept natural number addition commutes and reject that 2+3 leads to the same result as 3+2, you get trapped by an inconsistency.


That's what's so frustrating about the Trumpists and similar authoritarians who are willing to believe what they're told without regard to consistency--either internal consistency or consistency with reality. You can't argue by showing that their belief system is nonsense. Even if they understand what you're telling them, they just don't care.

Larry Hart said...

scidata:

Just me, Abe, "for the people", and the early morning sun. Made quite an impression on that Canadian farm boy. The ancient statue on cover of "Foundation and Earth" always reminds me of that moment, now more than ever.


If there's some way you can get ahold of the 1970s Captain America # 181, you might want to check out the splash page.


Apparently, Apple TV filmed Trantor scenes in Ireland, Synnax on Malta, and Terminus in the Canaries, and they're now working on season 2. Interesting, I just hope they don't wreck it. Foundation is my holy book.


The chapters of the first novel were structured kind of like the Old Testament. "The Mayors", "The Traders", that sort of thing.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ (redux) :

The newest [definition of faith] implies propositional belief. 2+3 is the same result as 3+2 without being the same expression because I accept that addition of natural numbers commutes. When people as IF you believe God exists, they are often using this meaning. When they ask you if you believe in God, they aren't.


I may be mixing up "faith" and "belief", so let me clarify, concentrating strictly on the word "faith".

The propositional version you mention isn't just a matter of believing a particular assertion to be true. It's more like thinking that if I hold the assertion to be true and act as if it is true, it will serve me well. You could anthropomorphize that by saying that I'm "loyal" to the concept of commutativity, but unlike religious faith, I'm not trying to flatter the concept of commutativity so that it will find favor with me. I'm loyal to it because I think it works--it gets me correct answers.

I've heard religious people argue that God is the only guarantee that gravity keeps working tomorrow the way it has up until today. That without God, I have no way of knowing that gravity will keep on working. In that sense, I have faith that gravity is in fact a constant. In the strictest sense, I don't know that, but I'm loyal (faithful) to the concept in that I plan my life assuming that gravity keeps working and that I don't have to plan for the possibility that tomorrow morning finds me flying off the earth into space.

Dave Sim once had an appropriate line in Cerebus, and this was back in his secular atheist days. Going from memory, "There is no Church of Newton's Laws in which we give thanks that an object at rest or in motion remains at rest or in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. What exactly would we be giving thanks for"? Whether intentional or not, that last question can be taken in two different ways, and I find them both appropriate. "What would be the point of expressing gratitude that reality works?" and "Why be grateful for reality working one way as opposed to a different way?"

Anonymous said...

Having gone through plenty of years of similar thinking, I feel strong sympathy for those who have been discussing the realities that have surrounded all our historical talk, thoughts, and claims about God. And the horrible outcomes of having power organizations claim to represent Him.

But at age 76, after a lifetime as a science teacher and fan, my thinking is headed down a different road. Clearly, our evolved brain structure and tribal history make it most comfortable to assume the existence of an alpha male who is at the top of the otherwise unknown structure of events that resulted in us and our surrounding universe. This partly because such an assumption is socially useful, and partly because natural systems thinking gives us a strong urge to fill in blanks somehow or other.

But I'm now filling in the blanks by looking logically at the questions and assigning probabilities, since certainties seem to be beyond us. Who made the universe, and why? I sure don't know, any more than a newborn knows how to drive a car. Several levels of missing info, all currently unavailable.

But what I *do* know is that every human civilization I've ever read about seems to feel that there *are* intelligent living beings in Nature whose capabilities go beyond our own. But each tribal group has its own stories, which cover quite a range. Our western world way is just one, which has been (minimally and very clumsily) evolving along with the development of modern civilization.

And I *do* think it embarrassingly absurd that we praise ourselves, either as being a special creation in the image of God, or as the top rung of the ladder of evolution (or creation, if you prefer). The universe we've managed to realistically, scientifically observe has *so* many galaxies, and *so* many stars that must have *so* many planets, with *such* a wide range of environments and histories . . . . . with all these variables, simple "either-or" thinking is very misleading.

But placing these things in the most logical structure that I can, not certainty, but probability tells me that we might well have in our heads a poorly developed but still somewhat useful sensory capability that brings us information we can just barely detect under the right circumstances. But info that we can't detect in such quality or detail as to form a realistic understanding of it. So we invent semi-credible stories about the incoming info. Maybe we only get such crude info from it that we must invent supporting stories.

This by analogy with the "eye" of a Euglena. Comparing that primitive either/or but useful spot of photosensitivity with our own eyes and brain shows the range of sensitivity that still makes a sense useful enough to be inherited down the generations and eventually to evolve ever-more sophistication.

So I'm working to develop whatever such sensitivity I might have. Examining as best I can the workings of my brain as they happen, relating memories, experiences, thoughts, actions, and the subsequent results, and considering the odds. Working to assess the difference between ordinary incoming info and simply unconscious brain-structuring of such info, and the relationship to real-world events. Or pure wishful thinking, or imagination. And I'm sure noticing a lot of interesting coincidences happening in my life and interactions. And what *could* be incoming communications and actions of higher beings. Or not. I could simply be fooling myself. But it sure is interesting to think more about it and try to be as receptive as I can. Anybody else on this path?

David Brin said...

“Dave Sim and his ilk think that atheists rebel against God because we don't like God's rules.”

This is part of their mountain of crap. Yeah and for 2000 years Jews festered in ghettos, suffering purges, murder and pogroms, because of “stiff-necked pride” and not out of loyalty to a Creator who DIDN’T seek to torture babies.

Yes, in my previous comment, I expressed ‘rebellion’ against that ONE set of theological rules, if they were the actual ruling conditions: e.g. damning babies to eternal torment for one Original Sin doofus error by a couple of naive teenagers 6000 years ago. Only a bad person would do that and we should resist bad persons, no matter how powerful and sadistic.

But I don’t believe those ARE ‘the rules.’ No such system would have been set in place by the same person who made Maxwell’s Equations and mother love and dolphins, or inspired the Violin Concerto in D.

But almost no atheists or agnostics ever think that through anyway! I know of none who deem their positions to be ‘rebellion’ against universal laws or the Lawgiver; why would they? In fact, most, if shown that those ARE the actual rules, by explicit demonstrations in the sky, would accept and live by them. And it is by NOT giving such clear guidance that He/She/Boing gives what I call the Great Sermon.

Daniel Duffy said...

duncan, it depnds on how you envision the interaction between soul, mind and body and whether it can be described as transmissive or productive.

Henry James' "On Human Immortality" does a very good job explaining this.

https://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Pajares/jimmortal.html

For the purposes of my argument, now, I wish to adopt this general doctrine as if it were established absolutely, with no possiblity of restriction. During this hour I wish you also to accept it as a postulate, whether you think it incontrovertibly established or not; so I beg you to agree with me to-day in subsribing to the great psycho-physiological formula: Thought is a function of the brain.

The question is, then, Does this doctrine logically compel us to disbelieve in immortality? Ought it to force every truly consistent thinker to sacrifice his hopes of an hereafter to what he takes to be his duty of accepting all the consequences of a scientific truth?

Most persons imbued with what one may call the puritanism of science would feel themselves bound to answer this question with a yes. If any medically or psychologically bred young scientists feel otherwise, it is probably in consequence of that incoherency of mind of which the majority of mankind happily enjoy the privilege. At one hour scientists, at another they are Christians or common men, with the will to live burning hot in their breasts; and, holding thus to two ends of the chain, they are careless of the intermediate connection. But the more radical and uncompromising disciple of science makes the sacrifice, and, sorrowfully or not, according to his temerament, submits to giving up his hopes of heaven.*2*

This, then, is the objection to immortality; and the next thing in order for me is to try to make plain to you why I believe that it has in strict logic no deterrent power. I must show you that the fatal consequence is not coercive, as is commonly imagined; and that, even though our soul's life (as here below it is revealed to us) may be in literal strictness the function of a brain that perishes, yet it is not at all impossible, but on the contrary quite possible, that the life may still continue when the brain itself is dead.

The supposed impossiblility of its continuing comes from too superficial a look at the admitted fact of fuctional dependence. The moment we inquire more closely into the notion of functional dependence, and ask ourselves, for example, how many kinds of functional dependence there may be, we immediately perceive that there is one kind at least that does not exclude a life hereafter at all. The fatal conclusion of the physiologist flows from his assuming offhand another kind of functional dependence, and treating it as the only imaginable kind.*3*

Daniel Duffy said...

(cont.)

When the physiologist who thinks that his science cuts off all hope of immortality pronounces the phrase, ``Thought is a function of the brain,'' he thinks of the matter just as he thinks when he says, ``Steam is a function of the tea-kettle,'' ``Light is a function of the electric circuit,'' ``Power is a function of the moving waterfall.'' In these latter cases the several material objects have the function of inwardly creating or engendering their effects, and their function must be called productive function. Just so, he thinks, it must be with the brain. Engendering consciousness in its interior, much as it engenders cholesterin and creatin and corbonic acid, its relation to our soul's life must also be called productive function. Of course, if such production be the function, then when the organ perishes, since the production can no longer continue, the soul must surely die. Such a conclusion as this is indeed inevitable from that particular conception of the facts.*4*

But in the world of physical nature productive function of this sort is not the only kind of function with which we are familiar. We have also releasing or permissive function; and we have transmissive function.

The trigger of a crossbow has a releasing function: it removes the obstacle that holds the string, and lets the bow fly back to its natural shape. So when the hammer falls upon a detonating compound. By knocking out the inner molecular obstructions, it lets the constituent gases resume their normal bulk, and so permits the explosion to take place.

In the case of a colored glass, a prism, or a refracting lens, we have transmissive function. The energy of light, no matter how produced, is by the glass sifted and limited in color, and by the lens or prism determined to a certain path and shape. Similarly, the keys of an organ have only a transmissive function. They open successively the various pipes and let the wind in the air-chest escape in various ways. The voices of the various pipes are constitued by the columns of air trembling as they emerge. But the air is not engendered in the organ. The organ proper, as distinguished from its air-chest, is only an apparatus for letting portions of it loose upon the world in these peculiarly limited shapes.

My thesis is now this: that, when we think of the law that thought is a function of the brain, we are not required to think of productive funtion only; we are entitled also to consider permissive or transmissive function. And this the ordinary psycho-physiologist leaves out of his account.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

“Dave Sim and his ilk think that atheists rebel against God because we don't like God's rules.”

This is part of their mountain of crap. Yeah and for 2000 years Jews festered in ghettos, suffering purges, murder and pogroms, because of “stiff-necked pride” and not out of loyalty to a Creator who DIDN’T seek to torture babies.


For what it's worth, Dave respects Judaism as much as Christianity, and is not of the opinion that Jews should convert to Christianity, let alone be forced into it. His disdain is for those who will not submit to God, not for those who don't believe in Jesus.

In fact, he finds the notion of God reproducing to be blasphemous.


Daniel Duffy said...

> for one Original Sin doofus error by a couple of naïve teenagers 6000 years ago.

Which would never be a problem if we just understood that the "Fall of Man" story is just a metaphor for the transition from idyllic hunter gather existence to a "working by the the sweat of your brow" farming civilization. By comparison with busting your backside growing crops, being a hunter gatherer is easy and simple, low effort lifestyle (aka "Eden")

And what caused this transition?

Beer!

https://www.businessinsider.com/how-beer-led-to-the-domestication-of-grain-2013-12#:~:text=It%20was%20beer%20%E2%80%94%20not%20bread,of%20flour%20for%20making%20bread.

"What led early humans to begin cultivating grain some 10,000 years ago? It was beer — not bread — a growing body of research shows. Archaeologists have long hinted that Neolithic, or Stone Age, people first began growing and storing grain, like wheat and barley, to turn it into alcohol instead of flour for making bread."

So Eve did not offer Adam an apple ("fruit of the tree").

She offered him the only thing that could tempt Adam away from his easy hunter gatherer lifestyle.

She offered him a cold brewski.

TCB said...

For fun: Visual Effects artists put on their tinfoil hats for April Fools and watch Apollo 11 moon landing footage.

Spoiler: They conclude that the effort required to fake the moon landing would have to be at least as impressive as actually going there.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Yes, in my previous comment, I expressed ‘rebellion’ against that ONE set of theological rules, if they were the actual ruling conditions: e.g. damning babies to eternal torment for one Original Sin doofus error by a couple of naive teenagers 6000 years ago. Only a bad person would do that and we should resist bad persons, no matter how powerful and sadistic.


That's a different thing, though. If that's what God is like, you would rebel because you take exception to His rules. You would not think you were getting around the rules by pretending you didn't know He was there.

Larry Hart said...

Daniel Duffy:

So Eve did not offer Adam an apple ("fruit of the tree").

She offered him the only thing that could tempt Adam away from his easy hunter gatherer lifestyle.

She offered him a cold brewski.


And 6000 years later, we got Brett Kavanaugh.

duncan cairncross said...

Beer was not the reason for agriculture!

It was simpler than that - agriculture = more food = more people

The Tribe that used agriculture had more people than the ones that stuck to the hunter gatherer lifestyle and outcompeted them

Tim H. said...

I would like to leave a thought here, that generous hearted folk can search scripture and find support for generous and kind actions, to put it in a somewhat vulgar fashion, to reduce suckage. The people who are unwilling to wait for a judgement day, unfortunately, can find justifications for making the lives of selected sinners hell right now. By their fruits you shall know them.

TCB said...

Adding to Daniel Duffy's comment on beer, until recent times it was often women making the beer. The earliest Mesopotamian records have women as brewsters, including the Sumerian beer goddess Ninkasi; and women in medieval Europe dominated the trade, then known as alewives.

David Brin said...

TCB many professions were essentially 'indoors' and hence only inapropos for women during labor itself. Such crafts, from weaving to beer making, replaced the old 'gathering' part of hunter-gathering which also could be done when pregnant/nursing.... and supplied (likely) more than half the diet, as hunting is hit or miss.

Agriculture made male labor in the fields more valuable and some feminist scholars think that was the dawn of patriarchy. I'm not entirely convinced. But certainly it enhanced the arrival of... kings. Males who could order other males killed. That plus beer is the combo that likely resulted in the Great Male Bottleneck about 12000 BCE, when there appear to have been much fewer Y chromosomes. Eyewitnesses saw this happening recently in Polynesia where kings ordered men killed when irritated by drunkenness etc. Unless the guy was huge. Helping explain polynesian giantism.

Something akin happened in the white settlement of the West. It took two years to get good crops on a homestead. Till then they relied on the egg and milk trade. Women handled the milking and chickens and eggs/milk/cheese were sold to nearby miners, while the menfolk labored to build the house and barn and bring in enough hay for winter and then get in the first crops.

scidata said...

Larry Hart:
The chapters of the first novel were structured kind of like the Old Testament. "The Mayors", "The Traders", that sort of thing.

From what I've seen in trailers and others' guesswork, it looks like the first part, "The Psychohistorians", follows the book fairly closely. They changed Gaal Dornick's gender, which may explain why they included a section on Synnax (not in the book) for character development. Asimov used this character to introduce the whole Empire/Psychohistory/Foundation landscape, so Apple TV's decision makes sense. Once you get a good grip on Hari Seldon, you can tell stories through his eyes, a nifty choice by the author of "Foundation's Triumph".

I'm really looking forward to Jared Harris as Seldon. He was the best actor in "The Expanse" - the accent alone is a masterpiece. His father (Richard Harris) played Cromwell brilliantly for the big screen half a century ago. Someday they'll make movies about Thomas Bayes and PS Laplace, which will tie the whole computational psychohistory story together. Apple is really going big with FOUNDATION. This seems to be more than a simple commercial enterprise (exotic locales and a crew of 500). Told properly, it has the potential to shift mindsets on a 'galactic' scale.


Re: Captain America [I'm making an over-my-head gesture] Not a comic book guy.

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

concept functions as a replacement

Yah. I think you have that exactly right. That's my primary beef with treating all knowledge as systems of belief to which we must express loyalty. It's the same dumb mistake humanity made through history when we imagined everything had some kind of animating spirit. If that were actually true, then "loyalty to" would make some sense. There would be something to be loyal TO. Evolution as a theory has no more animating spirit than does 'natural number addition commutivity', so only the propositional definition makes sense.

Our world is still populated by animists. Only they would think we displace God with Evolution.

What I can't do is Pascal's Wager.

Yah. That's a weird little rascal suggesting loyalty using a utilitarian propositional choice. As a behavioral adjustment plan it works fine. Adopt the proposition as a working theory for long enough and you'll get attached to it emotional. QED.

As a piece of critical reasoning, though, it screams 'rationalization'. Makes perfect sense considering what Pascal was going through.

thinking that if I hold the assertion to be true and act as if it is true, it will serve me well

Yes… That's the utilitarian aspect in a nutshell. The proposition still stands, though, whether or not it delivers utility. 'Commutativity' doesn't do much for most people. 'Belief in God' does as it provides emotional comfort and social connections. 'Appearance of Belief in God' at least delivers the social components.

________

Right up there with our struggle to avoid the Feudal Attractor has to be the incredible mental gymnastics we employ to avoid Animist Narrative Default (AND).

I suspect the single most important thing the language of Mathematics gives us is not Science, but a way to avoid AND. Our other languages are intentionally thick with the stuff.


Brooks babble. Winds whistle.
And every geologist knows stones speak.

Daniel Duffy said...

Dr. Brin, there was a certain female profession that was far more important to developing the economy of the west, providing entrepreneurial investing and proto-banking operations.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMycRBIXTWk

reason said...

David, an interesting explanation of Polynesian gigantism, I always put it down to them rowing across the pacific. Rowing is a sport for heavyweights.

David Brin said...

My brief glimps of the Foundation series - it seems Salvor Hardin will be a "warden" of a penal colony rather than a "major" of a distant research scholar colony. I'm hoping that's a minor linguistic tweak, for drama.

In Expanse David Strathairn was by far the best. He is in anything he does.

Robert said...

it seems Salvor Hardin will be a "warden" of a penal colony rather than a "major" of a distant research scholar colony

Seems to be a trend in screen-adaptations to change scientific/technical characters into law enforcement/legal. Same thing happened with Robert Sawyer's Flashforward, where the physicist protagonist was changed to an FBI agent.

I heard that the reason was that apparently someone important in the production system believed the public can't relate to scientists but can to cops, so insisted on the change. No idea how true that is.

Treebeard said...

Alfred, good point about Animism being the default worldview. It’s certainly more natural than believing there’s a big, bad Godfather in the sky laying down the law via prophets and commandments, and sending his hitman Satan to whack anyone who steps out of line. It’s also more compatible with the nihilistic, atheistic, yet somehow magical reality we experience every day. And it can be fun.

Personally I’m over all the God, Logos, moralistic crap that Westerners have been obsessed with for thousands of years. That includes not just monotheism but its replacement religions like Progressivism. If there’s no God or Logos, there’s no basis for religion, morality, order, progress, justice or universal empires; these are all human fictions. And that’s fine. This kind of nihilism is no problemo, in practice. But it’s rare to find an atheist who understands this, and doesn’t sound like a monotheist who has just replaced one God and Law with another.

Jon S. said...

For your edification, Scidata, a link to a summary of Captain America #181 - the splash page in question is the first image. (This was during a period when Steve Rogers had resigned as Captain America, believing that the US had strayed too far from the values he'd fought to protect.)

https://thevirtuesofcaptainamerica.com/2019/06/21/captain-america-181-182-and-avengers-131-january-february-1975/

David Brin said...

Jon S. thanks that was fun.

"Treebeard" who are you making cogently interesting observations and what did you do with the regular ent?

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

"What I can't do is Pascal's Wager."

Yah. That's a weird little rascal suggesting loyalty using a utilitarian propositional choice. As a behavioral adjustment plan it works fine. Adopt the proposition as a working theory for long enough and you'll get attached to it emotional. QED.


There are probably circumstances in which I could be convinced to try out a belief that Jesus or God is my Lord and Savior. The part that I meant I "can't do" above is to believe that believing something about Jesus or God is what makes it so. That there is a circumstance in which God exists, but that by not believing it, I am "without God". To me, that makes as much (or as little) sense as the assertion that I am not bound by gravity unless I believe in it.

I put it this way on the old "Cerebus" list. The proposition that I can't find it in me to accept is as follows, and it will look like a typo, but I mean it the way it's stated:

"I have to believe that I have to believe in Jesus in order to get into heaven in order to get into heaven."

Larry Hart said...

Treebeard:

If there’s no God or Logos, there’s no basis for religion, morality, order, progress, justice or universal empires; these are all human fictions. And that’s fine. This kind of nihilism is no problemo, in practice. But it’s rare to find an atheist who understands this, and doesn’t sound like a monotheist who has just replaced one God and Law with another.


The point you miss is that there are rules or norms or methods which allow humans to live side by side together. It's not a question of whether those guidelines are revealed to us as absolute Truth from on high. We learn by trial and error. Mostly, we learn what doesn't work and chip those things away.

To me, "progress" means getting better at living together. Your mileage varies, of course. I'm not asserting that my way is superior to yours, but I am asserting that my way is superior to that of the modern Republican Party. Caveat emptor.

scidata said...

@ Jon S.

Thanks very much for the pic from Captain America. As a young outsider, I naturally associated Republicans with Abe Lincoln. That's where my patriot = Republican assumption came from. Over the years, I've come to realize that they are very different things. In fact, the opposite thing.

Larry Hart said...

@scidata,

Lincoln was indeed the first Republican president, and at the time, the Democratic Party was the party of the slaveholding south.

The parties essentially swapped sides on racism in the 1960s. And at that time, I would have expected self-identifying Christians to have more in common with the hippies on the left than with the consumerists on the right. It was in the 1980s when the Republican Party became an unholy alliance of religious authoritarians, corporate interests, and racism.

Larry Hart said...

@Jon S,

Yes, that link to the Captain America story is cool. Unfortunately, the site doesn't have the complete set of pages from each issue. I wanted to show Alfred the "It's not a question of letting, mister!" scene from issue #177, but it's not included.

So in place of that, I recommend the soliloquy that The Nomad/Cap speaks toward the end of this link--going on for several pages starting with "Dear Lord, can't there ever be an end to this insanity?" This is during the immediate aftermath of Watergate, and our hero is describing the crisis of conscience he is going through with the knowledge that the "good guys" he has symbolized haven't always lived up to their billing. It's as relevant to today's headlines as it was to 1974's.

https://thevirtuesofcaptainamerica.com/2019/06/24/captain-america-183-march-1975/

David Brin said...

LH the unholy alliance has a simple reason. Those who know they are on a morally unsupportable "side" need chants and incantations you maintain a frantic sense of righteousness.

Rosanne said...

Rereading "The River of Time" and checked to see what online sites you had. After reading this post, I definitely look forward to reading previous ones.

Robert said...

I would have expected self-identifying Christians to have more in common with the hippies on the left

Why?

In my experience the average Christian knows very little about theology in general and Christianity in particular, and most of their practices are centered around social acceptance rather than trying to do what a long-dead carpenter/rabbi allegedly taught. And they are perfectly willing to ignore any bits of the Bible that contradict what they want to do, while spouting other bits that support it — even in the same sentence!

Personal experience, not a systematic survey. But the nicest and kindest people I know aren't religious. And the kindest religious person I know is Muslim, while the most intolerant is Christian.

Tim H. said...

Robert, everything one would need to build a congregation that attempted to live up to the good parts in scripture is there, most congregations will have a few people who try, I haven't personally seen one where they were a majority, but they exist. I see religion as an attempt (Largely futile) to enforce good behavior on people too mean and stupid to work out that it was a bad idea for society at large. Good people are to be found in, AFAIK, in every temple, church, synagogue I can think of, but for the majority, Mammon is their first love.

Tim H. said...

A Missouri state Senator is proposing Rush Limbaugh's birthday be a state holiday:

https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/in-debate-over-rush-limbaugh-day-in-missouri-conservative-icon-still-galvanizing/article_f4c080b1-c781-5d21-9987-c2597e6cb2cb.html

I'm willing to celebrate the day he died.

Robert said...

Tim, that is why I'm surprised that Larry expected "self-identifying Christians" to have more in common with left-wing hippies.

Those who don't make a big deal about the label are, paradoxically, more likely to live up to the founding ideals of the label than those whose chosen identify is bound up in it. In my experience, anyway.

"most congregations will have a few people who try" — and I think that they would try even if they weren't members of the congregation. Kind people are kind, not because of their religious beliefs, but because that's who they are. The actual belief is orthogonal to their kindness.

IMHO, YMMV, and all that.

Larry Hart said...

I thought I already posted this, but it seems to be in the aether...

Robert:

"I would have expected self-identifying Christians to have more in common with the hippies on the left"

Why?


You left off my operative phrase "And at that time...", meaning the 1960s. The world was much different then, and the lines were drawn differently. And I was much younger.

* * *

I remember having to laugh when I first saw the movie Chariots of Fire. The movie came out in the middle of the Reagan years, but the setting of the film was the 1920s. A young British athlete turns out to be a very devout Christian, and he doesn't want to compete on the Sabbath. Asking for a change would embarrass the UK, especially since the hosting country was France. The old conservative Englishmen grumbled that "In my day, it was king first and God second!" The young Christian's religiosity was an embarrassment. To the conservatives.

David Brin said...

onward

onward

Robert said...

meaning the 1960s. The world was much different then

Some of my experience goes back that far. Thinking over childhood memories, I stand by my statement — the people I remember as kind would have been kind anyway, not because they went to church every week. By the 70s, when I was older, my experience was as I described.