Politics, God and Religion vs. Science

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cintune

climber
The Utility Muffin Research Kitchen
Mar 1, 2013 - 02:40pm PT
There are some obscure commentaries on the Tibetan Book of the Dead that I read a long time ago but can't remember a citation for; they made a distinction between the exoteric and esoteric nature of the whole bardo cosmology. In so many words, the exoteric teaching was described as a metaphor, a symbolic work of art that presumed a literal truth to the reincarnation doctrine, while the esoteric one, that the monks kept to themselves, was more concerned with non-transcendental psychological realities, all the little deaths and rebirths that we experience every day. These commentaries were from the early 1900s, but judging from this Dalai Lama's contemporary public statements, it seems like this is still the case. He hardly ever talks about baroque doctrine, is more focused on the here and now, and how our mindsets and behaviors matter for their own sake, not in terms of the allegory. That was tailored for a specific audience, and we're not it.
jogill

climber
Colorado
Mar 1, 2013 - 05:25pm PT
Hilbert Space. I had to look that one up. My math and physics is limited to ten hours of physics and three calculus classes. I never heard a mention of Hilbert Space...ever...until JL started talking about it. Did you pick that one up in your carpool, JL?

I didn't encounter Hilbert space until I took two courses in functional analysis in graduate school. It is kind of a trippy thing to say, isn't it?
Hilbert space . . . The physicists picked it up and off they went.

JL does seem well acquainted with the concept, doesn't he?


;>)
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
Mar 1, 2013 - 07:45pm PT
From my experience, difficult concepts are best conveyed in simple words.

When you start nabbing complicated concepts and tossing them around like raindrops, you are almost certainly going to step on your dick.
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Mar 1, 2013 - 08:29pm PT
Bruce-

It's obvious that there is nothing about religion that you like. If someone says their religion has the truth, you jump on them for ignorance and bigotry. If they don't advocate one or the other based on dogma but on social effects, you accuse them of using religion like a commodity. And then to further commodify religion you compare it to cigarettes and poison. Werner steps in and says that reincarnation is a fact, and instead of lauding him for looking for truth instead of social effect, you predict that his belief will collide with fact to the detriment of truth and society. Pretty hard to please it seems.
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Mar 1, 2013 - 08:30pm PT
Cintune-

I think, you are interpreting the Tibetan book of the dead to suit your western secular outlook, which is ok because as you point out, it is still useful at that level as a psychological guide to the unconscious.

However, Buddhist teaching has always stressed that the spiritual world exists in three dimensions, of which the bardo is one part of the second dimension. All three interpenetrate so that there is no separation of the spiritual and physical and all three realms are present continuously. The Dalai Lama definitely teaches this but not at western conferences full of secular science types. If you want the full dose, go to his multi day Kalachakra ceremony in India every year. Mostly Tibetans there but plenty of Indians and Westerners also.

What I like about eastern teachings is that they don't talk about one way or straight and narrow path, but allow for multiple levels within levels. Everybody and everything has a place. Ed is a jnana yogi and you are specializing in the nirmanakaya level of the bardo. It's all cool.

Of course a very large part of the reason eastern thought is so tolerant is the belief in reincarnation. If we all have multiple lifetimes to get it right, there is no pressure to convert or force people onto a specific path. Belief systems do have social effects.
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Mar 1, 2013 - 11:22pm PT
I see no difference between the Zendo and Scientology, other than Zen is older.
-


It's these kind of remarkable statements - based on no direct experience whatsoever - that makes me leave off the thread for days at a time. Instead of asking questions about what someone has no idea about at all - other than what they might have picked up on he net - we now have Zazen and Scientology on equal footing.

If you only knew.

Re Hilbert Space: This one is fun: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRn_GNcglKo

JL
Captain...or Skully

climber
Mar 1, 2013 - 11:25pm PT
You're guessing. Ha!
climbski2

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
Mar 2, 2013 - 12:11am PT
can an Idea change the world for the better?

Is a good Idea an unstoppable force?

Yep

BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
Mar 2, 2013 - 01:16am PT
What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?

That was a Carl Sagan example of a meaningless question.
Bruce Kay

Gym climber
BC
Mar 2, 2013 - 12:16pm PT
It's obvious that there is nothing about religion that you like. If someone says their religion has the truth, you jump on them for ignorance and bigotry.


Well I suppose I can understand how you see my criticism that way, but I'm surprised to see it coming from you. I can see you regard me as needlessly critical and belligerantly disrespectful of all the good that religion has and continues to be responsible for. I won't go on at length but I have stated before and will state again that there is much that religion has contributed that I admire, in fact religious moral code has to date been the backbone of societal moral code, without which things may well be much worse than they are. I fail to see how my critical observations negate this.

In other words I do have respect for religion, but this does not automatically translate to deference. I am not anti - authoritarian in the sense that authority is earned. My strong criticism of some religion has much to do with the assumption that respect and deference are synonymous. I respect much that religion has contributed to moral philosophy but when they say they hold the high ground (the truth) I say demonstrate and prove it. If they can then they retain my respect, which in many regards they do. Others not so much yet it is implied by some - perhaps even you - that due to their long standing authority in the matter I must defer to that authority.

Note that it is in the matter of moral authority that I hold the greatest criticism of religion, not the rather academic concept of "god". My analogy and reference to cigarettes and commodity was principally an analogy, even with reference to "poison". I suggest to you that just like our knowledge of the "truth" about cigarettes has evolved, so has our knowledge of the moral authority of various religions. What we know as fact now bears little resemblance with what we knew as fact 100 or even twenty years ago. This may be not so true in other cultures, but one could speculate that that has much to do with an authoritarian suppression of competing knowledge, rather than an earned respect for the "Certainty of Truth".

I think you are vastly over simplifying ( and re-packaging and selling as a commodity) my criticism of various religious dogma / edicts / behaviors as a blanket condemnation of "Religion".
In fact, I thought you in particular would understand what I was getting at as you seem to often reference the benefit of religion to "societal outcomes". As that goes I can also see the benefit as I see most political powers - vote for that which will do the least damage. In that context, in western civilizations at least, I think that religion is less and less deserving of anyones vote if you are really interested in societal outcomes.

Bruce Kay

Gym climber
BC
Mar 2, 2013 - 03:47pm PT
Jan - if you are still mystified and aghast at my drift you may like (or not) to check out this, courtesy of Rockermike's thread:




Although not directly a critique of Religions per se, much that CH has to say about the current state of politics and corporate domination of our affairs, as well as the pathetic aquiesence of the liberal political power structure ( a good analogy for the Religious Power Structure) can be directly applied to this thread topic. Even if you just listen to 30 odd minutes you might become less certain about the sanctity of religious morality.

healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Mar 2, 2013 - 04:10pm PT
Jan: The answer in this case is not based on respective dogma but rather, their societal outcomes.

This seems utterly bizarre to me. "Societal outcomes"? Divorcing religious belief from it's impact? Look, a belief in reincarnation is a belief in reincarnation - i.e. past lives, as in more than one life. "Societal outcomes" seem utterly irrelevant - one either believes or one doesn't. I don't really see what societal outcomes has to do with it.
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Mar 2, 2013 - 08:56pm PT
You guys are asking a social scientist what societal outcomes has to do with belief?

First of all, I will say again that the science types with few exceptions, have enabled the religious fundamentalists to be victorious by letting the fundamentalists succeed in dictating your views of religion, enabling you to make sweeping statements about all religion based on your dislike of fundamentalism. You have allowed the fundamentalists to give you an irrational prejudice against religion. Prejudice of course is when you make sweeping judgements based on limited or no evidence.

I agree with Largo that if you can't tell the difference between Scientology and Zen, there's hardly any point in trying to have a discussion. Likewise when Paul declares that religion is poison, apparently oblivious to the historical fact that Stalin and Mao also declared it poison and millions died as a result, and then a social scientist is asked what belief has to do with social effect, the response can only be incredulity from the social point of view.

But for the record, I will say once again that fundamentalism is one small part of Christianity and Christianity is only one part of the religious world. All Abrahamic religions together are less than half the world's people by far.

But I think the problem goes deeper. I think because fundamentalists claim to have the truth and science is looking for the truth (although recognizing that it is provisional until a better explanation comes along), science then gets led astray by focussing on its truth versus the fundamentalists' truth and misses out on the other 99% of religion.

This seems to me to be a major failing of the scientific mind set when applied to human life. Science has had great success at breaking problems down to their component parts. However, human life is more complicated than that. We don't understand either the individual brain and consciousness or society by looking at the smallest component parts. We have to look at the whole complex package.

Looking at a few component parts like creationsism versus evolution or reincarnation versus oblivion and drawing conclusions about all religion based on that is a major flaw of the scientific method.

And this is my view is exactly why scientists should not be running society any more than religious fundamentalists should. Both views are too narrow and too extreme for the complexity of human life.

healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Mar 2, 2013 - 09:09pm PT
No, I am asking wtf does 'societal outcomes' have to do with the distinction between two religions' belief in reincarnation. I mean, how many definitions of reincarnation are there in practical terms? Last time I checked there was just one - a belief that we have multiple lives. In that context 'societal outcomes' is wholly irrelevant.

So while I have no doubt it is relevant in a comparison of religions on the basis of the [real world] impact of this or that religion's beliefs, it seems a very strange application of the concept indeed to apply it in comparing and contrasting said beliefs.
rrider

climber
Mckinleyville, Ca
Mar 2, 2013 - 09:11pm PT
^ ^ well done, Jan.

personally, I think the humans all got way off route, but I'd like to know where and when it happened.

and how do we get back on.
WBraun

climber
Mar 2, 2013 - 09:11pm PT
scientists should not be running society any more than religious fundamentalists should.


But they're both doing it.

And that's why the world is hell .......
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Mar 2, 2013 - 09:13pm PT
Werner: But they're both doing it. And that's why the world is hell ......

But wait, you're one of the most fundamentalist folks on ST. Is that hell for you?
MH2

climber
Mar 2, 2013 - 09:22pm PT
Looking at a few component parts like creationsism versus evolution or reincarnation versus oblivion and drawing conclusions about all religion based on that is a major flaw of the scientific method.


From behind the duck blind here I would like to pose a re-wording:

Looking at a few component parts like creationsism versus evolution or reincarnation versus oblivion and drawing conclusions about all religion based on that is unjustified.


I don't see anyone here using "the scientific method." This is just a conversation where people often don't listen to each other.

I thought that by societal outcomes Jan was referring to the possibility that if people believed in reincarnation, and would rather NOT come back to this world, and thought that good behavior would help them achieve that, then they would try to behave well.
Bruce Kay

Gym climber
BC
Mar 2, 2013 - 10:15pm PT
Likewise when Paul declares that religion is poison,

I'm wondering if you meant that I made this declaration as I was the last person to mention "poison"? If so I'm puzzled where you get this idea as I have stated emphatically that that is not true. I would agree if you said "certain religious dogmas are poison" or words to that effect but that does not translate literally to declaring all religion is poison. come to think of it, i mentioned poison only in reference to cigarettes that was only linked as an analogy to religion.

Aside from that Jan, I think you said something about science types straying from scientific method that made me think about the various theories of religious origin. I believe there is a fair bit of generally respected theory supported by understandings of psychology, that could account for the formation and perpetuation of religious belief. Are you familiar with such theory? I always thought it interesting that seemingly every known human culture has developed a form of spiritual belief, often in complete isolation. I assume the religious have formed a fairly predictable reason for this, but is it equally valid that it is explainable through our understanding of psychology and human behavior?

I googled origins of faith and found amongst a mountain of stuff this, which I thought interesting as it suggests that some higher form non humans could have the capacity for developing something like religious belief. It sounds like it jives with the Freuds theory of the components that make up human personality, including the parental influence of super ego.




Morality and group living
Main articles: Evolution of morality and Morality#Evolutionary_perspectives

Dr. Frans de Waal and Barbara King both view human morality as having grown out of primate sociality. Though morality awareness may be a unique human trait, many social animals, such as primates, dolphins and whales, have been known to exhibit pre-moral sentiments. According to Michael Shermer, the following characteristics are shared by humans and other social animals, particularly the great apes:
"attachment and bonding, cooperation and mutual aid, sympathy and empathy, direct and indirect reciprocity, altruism and reciprocal altruism, conflict resolution and peacemaking, deception and deception detection, community concern and caring about what others think about you, and awareness of and response to the social rules of the group".[13]
De Waal contends that all social animals have had to restrain or alter their behavior for group living to be worthwhile. Pre-moral sentiments evolved in primate societies as a method of restraining individual selfishness and building more cooperative groups. For any social species, the benefits of being part of an altruistic group should outweigh the benefits of individualism. For example, lack of group cohesion could make individuals more vulnerable to attack from outsiders. Being part of a group may also improve the chances of finding food. This is evident among animals that hunt in packs to take down large or dangerous prey.
All social animals have hierarchical societies in which each member knows its own place. Social order is maintained by certain rules of expected behavior and dominant group members enforce order through punishment. However, higher order primates also have a sense of reciprocity and fairness. Chimpanzees remember who did them favors and who did them wrong. For example, chimpanzees are more likely to share food with individuals who have previously groomed them.[14]
Chimpanzees live in fission-fusion groups that average 50 individuals. It is likely that early ancestors of humans lived in groups of similar size. Based on the size of extant hunter-gatherer societies, recent Paleolithic hominids lived in bands of a few hundred individuals. As community size increased over the course of human evolution, greater enforcement to achieve group cohesion would have been required. Morality may have evolved in these bands of 100 to 200 people as a means of social control, conflict resolution and group solidarity. According to Dr. de Waal, human morality has two extra levels of sophistication that are not found in primate societies. Humans enforce their society’s moral codes much more rigorously with rewards, punishments and reputation building. Humans also apply a degree of judgment and reason not otherwise seen in the animal kingdom.
Psychologist Matt J. Rossano argues that religion emerged after morality and built upon morality by expanding the social scrutiny of individual behavior to include supernatural agents. By including ever-watchful ancestors, spirits and gods in the social realm, humans discovered an effective strategy for restraining selfishness and building more cooperative groups.[15] The adaptive value of religion would have enhanced group survival.[16] [17] Rossano is referring here to collective religious belief and the social sanction that institutionalized morality. Individual religious belief is initially epistemological, not ethical, in nature.
WBraun

climber
Mar 2, 2013 - 10:15pm PT
But wait, you're one of the most fundamentalist folks on ST.

By saying that you proved what we knew all along.

You know absolutely nothing about the subject matter .....
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