Religion is a gateway drug. Well, drug, in the metaphorical sense, as in an anesthetic for critical, rational, logical, skeptical thinking. But it is a gateway also, in the sense that when you assent to the claims of a religion, you thereby make it much easier to assent to other dubious claims. Claims against which, if you hadn’t tied up your critical thinking and thrown it down in the basement, you would have had some defenses.
What if you ran a cult, and needed to cut off your followers from the constant flow of information from the outside world?
This article (call it “Opening” http://www.strangenotions.com/the-opening-of-the-scientific-mind) is a comment on this article (call it “Closing” http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article/the-closing-of-the-scientific-mind). The “Opening” article was recently recommended to me by my cousin and facebook debating partner, Tom. For a wider audience, I here present my thoughts on both articles.
Absolutely NOTHING! Say it again…
Sam Harris in Moral Landscape said:
“Many of my critics fault me for not engaging more directly with the academic literature on moral philosophy. There are two reasons why I haven’t done this: First, while I have read a fair amount of this literature, I did not arrive at my position on the relationship between human values and the rest of human knowledge by reading the work of moral philosophers; I came to it by considering the logical implications of our making continued progress in the sciences of mind. Second, I am convinced that every appearance of terms like “metaethics,” “deontology,” “noncognitivism,” “antirealism,” “emotivism,” etc., directly increases the amount of boredom in the universe. My goal, both in speaking at conferences like TED and in writing this book, is to start a conversation that a wider audience can engage with and find helpful. Few things would make this goal harder to achieve than for me to speak and write like an academic philosopher. Of course, some discussion of philosophy will be unavoidable, but my approach is to generally make an end run around many of the views and conceptual distinctions that make academic discussions of human values so inaccessible. While this is guaranteed to annoy a few people, the professional philosophers I’ve consulted seem to understand and support what I am doing.” (Note 1, Chapter 1; emphasis mine)Sam Harris, The Moral Landscape
I stood up and applauded when I read that. Well, mentally, anyway; I read most of the book in the break rooms at my job while I ate lunch, which means a literal standing ovation-of-one would’ve been awkward.
This is a response to the article “Atheists Don’t Get God”, a review of David Bentley Hart’s book, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss.
To me, what commends the thinking and reasoning and explanations of scientists is not that they are very certain of the claims they make; it’s that they most often are the exact opposite of certain. Scientists are notoriously averse to drawing conclusions with an air of certainty, instead usually bathing each statement in a thick coating of qualification, moderation, and pensive hesitation. It’s as if the most dangerous way to behave within scientific circles is to behave as if you just figured something out to a mathematical certainty, even if you have done so. ‘Embrace doubt and skepticism’ seems like the unwritten code of science. The first impulse of the researcher upon making a possible discovery or breakthrough seems to be to turn to colleagues and say, “please prove me wrong.” Which, of course, is true, because of the importance of falsifiability and criticism to the scientific method.
I’ve been thinking about what it was like to be a comfortable Christian church member; remembering the soothing feelings of belonging to a morally superior movement with a great commission directly from the throne room of Almighty God.
The high I experienced from just mingling with younger generations (as teacher, supervisor, chaperone, worship leader, etc.), reveling in their energy, soaking up their contagious attitudes of earnest, idealistic hopefulness and utter confidence in the Bible and the happy future it promised us– it reinforced the superiority complex and pride because the “high” was “natural,” not from supposedly satanic substances. And it felt good to know we were superior and to be proud of that lofty status.
“Every [Christian] sect is a certificate that God has not plainly revealed His will to man. To each reader the Bible conveys a different meaning.”-Robert G. Ingersoll quoted in The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails (p. 182).
Those Jokes About it Being a Cult Aren’t Funny: It Is A Cult.
In at least three ways it fulfills standard cult definitions.
First: Despite official denials, one person dominated the founding years, in the same way Joseph Smith dominated the formation of the Mormon church. Ellen G. White’s career as the SDA (Seventh-day Adventist) prophet from her teen years in the 1840s to her death in 1915 shaped a major portion of early SDA history. She and her husband (and in later years, her large entourage of secretaries and servants) crisscrossed the territory of the growing church, molding the thinking of every willing follower after her own.
Single Payer Government Run Healthcare Q&A: Some interesting questions arose when I asked my Facebook friends if they were as ready for a single payer system as I am. I decided to answer them here, on my blog, so a potentially wider readership could chime in, too…
Disease-care, or Healthcare?
Why My Opinion Might Matter To You
Glen A. Larson and Ronald D. Moore’s 2004-2009 version of Battlestar Galactica was some of the best science fiction I’ve encountered on a screen so far.
If you knew how important science fiction is to me, and how much of it I’ve watched in search of that elusive perfect combination of “science” and “fiction”, you would be more impressed by that statement than I imagine you to be. Believability is the most important factor in my critical judgment of the quality of science fiction, especially that which is made for the screen. Whether the screen belongs to a movie theater, my television, or my gaming device, I can only grant a fully attentive glance to a story which grabs my mind and my heart from its first few frames and leaves me wanting more when the credits roll. If at any point in the storytelling I am distracted by inferior sound, music, visuals, acting, plot, or pacing, then what began as a fully attentive glance degrades into less and less until some mental rubicon is crossed, and I leave that story behind, never to have a positive thought of it again.