Politics, God and Religion vs. Science


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Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Dec 4, 2013 - 05:55pm PT
paul roehl

Boulder climber
Dec 4, 2013 - 06:00pm PT
From an epistemological perspective knowing and believing (FAITH) are two different understandings. One can believe with certainty and therefore believe they know, but this, of course, requires the problematic certainty of their own perspective with no other source of verification.

What is the spiritual life but a participation with something we can’t know except through a deeply personal experience and that experience can never be fully communicated?

That’s why such communication so often rests on the power of the metaphor, and in mythologies those spiritual metaphors, if properly understood, can be remarkably consoling.

What is the Virgin Birth, for instance, but a metaphor for the birth of a spiritual life in each of us? And what is the spiritual life but a recognition of and a desire to relate to the sublime, fascinating mystery of being and consciousness?

I don’t think you have to be religious to appreciate and even employ mythological metaphors, because they so easily function at a psychological level. Just as you certainly don’t have to be a scientist or even a materialist to appreciate and benefit from science.

Similarly, You don’t have to be a Catholic to appreciate the beauty of Notre Dame in Paris or a pagan to enjoy the Pantheon in Rome, because they function at an aesthetic (read psychological) level that transcends religion.

Is there a God? Who the hell knows… was Christ God? Doubt it, but I like what he stands for as a metaphor: death doesn’t conquer all, love is important, suffering is inevitable but universal.

Is there something beyond the forms of sensibility? Conveniently, there can be no material evidence for such a claim so I only have other humans to tell me there is based on their impossible to communicate experience, and though they seem so certain there are so many with so many different approaches the veracity of that claim is compromised.

The best question for this and other religious threads would be: what is God? Seems people are often arguing over a confused nothing (maybe that's a good definition). It would be fascinating to read those definitions. My guess is there are as many individual definitions here as there are individuals.
Ward Trotter

Trad climber
Dec 4, 2013 - 06:16pm PT
what is God?

Good post Paul.
I'd like to address some of your points regarding mythology and symbolism. but I'm gonna go work-out now.
Dr. F.

Trad climber
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 4, 2013 - 06:54pm PT
Fort, I asked Largo the exact same question last year
Do you believe that God exists?

and got the same run around
I guess it just reinforces the truth of "You can't debate something that doesn't exist"

I ended up using a lot of extra qualifiers to help him along, like "Any Possible God that anyone could ever call god", and "a god not defined by me or anything, every possibility of any kind of God could be included, as long as it was the head god"

But he just counters over and over to what he says "that's your concept of God",
I have NO concept of God, so I am allowing any concept!! any conceivable concept of god!

Or Not conceivable!!!!11111111111666

But he still wouldn't commit.

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Dec 4, 2013 - 07:07pm PT
Largo ,you have become such a one-note Johnny on this unwavering subject.

Answer this, then. Do you want to find out the answer to those question you keep asking, or do you want someone to provide you with information you can evaluate? Essentially wanting someting for nothing.

That is a simple question. Quite a bit easier than asking about "God" I should hope.

And while you're at it, is any investigation that does not render quantifable data one can evaluate, worthwhile, or a "waste of time" as John S. believes with all his heart and mind.

And when Craig askes about "God," what he really asks for is some thing he can boil in a beaker. When Craig says: "I guess it just reinforces the truth of "You can't debate something that doesn't exist." If you replace "exists" with "material," does it alter Craig's question at all? Of course it does not.

What's more, what materialist does not believe that every myth ever told cannot be usurped by objective analysis? That myths themselves are just primitive efforts at science?

Lastly, John mentioned a "touchy feely mind melt." This, I believe, is his objective appraisal of what happens in meditataion: first, an emotional state is achieved (touchy feely hippie shite); next, we mind-meld with the very essence of wuwu, whatever the hell that is.

In face someone with vast experience shot this silliness to hell by simply stating what it was about - and if you wanted to find out, simply sit down and try and watch your breath for 30 minutes without your mind pulling you hither and tither. Who has tried to do this and found "touchy feely mind meld" to be the operative term? What you will find, without exception, is the shocking realization that you have virtually no control over where your attention goes, that it gets shanghaied by the most glitter thought that appears in you awareness. This is the honest and empirical fact of the matter.


Boulder climber
Dec 4, 2013 - 07:43pm PT
And What is Mind continues to grind away . . .

It's still more interesting than many threads on this site.

I do concur with JL that some experiential adventures defy adequate description, but that doesn't imply they reflect degrees of reality above and beyond everyday discursive involvements.

Years ago it was tempting for me to think my hypnogogic excursions (art of dreaming) allowed me an enhanced perspective of reality, but they were just mental divertissements that produced a false sense of profundity - as does Zen IMHO. However, they didn't make me a better person, and Zen perhaps has that quality . . . if one is at odds with the world or wants relief from the confines of their own personality. If one is content with their engagement with the world there are other avenues of growth.

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Dec 4, 2013 - 08:17pm PT
Hey, if I'm the 800 pound gorilla, then I'm all for shifting the discussion ENTIRELY to the discursive. If discursive matters are the whole focus, the only thing not a "waste of time," than it is only fitting of scientists that we look very closely at how the discursive actually works. What is involved? How is it that we can evaluate anything at all, and what are the actual processes so far as we can tell as they occur in our lives and our thinking.

Even that dandy poser Sam Harris has some interesting things to say about this. I'd love to hear how Fruity or Ward or Trotter or John G or John S understands the process by which we evaluate some thing or another. What the processes are and how we decide, or not, where our attention goes and how evaluating occurs. Not in some loose theoretical way, but the very act of evaluating itself.

Bring it on. Forget the wuwu and nothingness. Let's get right down to brass tacks: How do we evaluate?


Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Dec 4, 2013 - 08:37pm PT
Given the frequency with which science makes some rather large course corrections
I am quite comfortable with my dualities. I know there's plenty they
can't explain, at least yet, so what's the big deal? It is the weak mind
which needs everything in black and white.

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Dec 4, 2013 - 09:09pm PT

Questions over the years have been put to you simply yet you respond to them in the most abstract twisted rhetorical way. Ultimately without answering them at all.

I'm telling you right now, calling you out, in fact: Ask me anything you want about discursive functioning, anything whatsoever, and I'll do my best to answer as clearly as I possibly can. No more "rhetoric." No more wasting your time. If the discursive is the shizzle, fine by me. I started working on it with neurofeedback and qEEGs and later with other brain mapping modalities and so forth back in undergrad school and have kept my hand in it ever since, just never bothered mentioned it here. But fine by me.

Let's bust a move with the discursive.



The Utility Muffin Research Kitchen
Dec 4, 2013 - 09:52pm PT
So, I'm re-reading the book that this documentary was based on:

First read it twenty or so years ago when the wu was strong in me.

It's very interesting in light of this thread, in that the author sets his sights on, of all things, "the Western discursive mind."


But instead of contrasting it with Zen, he sets it at odds with the the "primal mind" of the [mostly] Native American stripe.

Anyway, the critique is nearly identical. Discursivity is all about analyzing and quantifying and not seeing the forest for the trees, while the "primal mind" is wide open to the true nature of reality, and proves it in all sorts of cultural manners and mores, from the Athabaskans down to the Aztecs.

But just not quite exactly as Rinzai or Soto would have it.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Dec 4, 2013 - 10:02pm PT
But just not quite exactly as Rinzai or Soto would have it.

I've spent decades in both Renzai and Soto camps and the diversity within them is as great as that on an NBA basketball team or in Camp 4. What is you're understanding about how Renzai, say, "would have it," in general terms, and what is your take on how the discursive actually works, in specific terms.


Boulder climber
Dec 4, 2013 - 10:13pm PT
You are one of his chief enablers (Fruity)

Oh, that hurts! I am so ashamed.

(But I can't resist)


we can't have a more substantive thread (Fruity)

We could get so much done that way.

The Utility Muffin Research Kitchen
Dec 4, 2013 - 10:34pm PT
Gotta hit the sack right now, but my point was that the ideas of no-thing and what-not don't come up much per se in this "primal mind" critique of the discursive. There are still some inklings of it, though; he uses the examples of reflections and rainbows, asking all koan-like: "Where are they, really?" Of course, one could answer that they're photons flitting through space and time, but that would obviously be missing the point. Anyway, I thought some might find the video interesting. I haven't watched it all yet, but am just finishing up the book version to pass time in the lodge until we can make more snow. It's supposed to get cold again next week.

Dec 5, 2013 - 12:15am PT
The continual reference to wu wu keeps reminding me of wei wu, which is the action of non-action in the Tao. So every time I see the phrase, I think: "Well, right on! You've got it!"

I can understand just how it seems to materialists that a spiritualist could be an evader or dodger. The latter can't provide the kind of evidence the former demands. So they must be evading.

But look. . . what do you know? You know only what you have direct access to: your experience. And what can you tell anyone of that? Not much. You can't accurately describe it, you can't really grasp it or define it, you can't say what it's parts are, you can't say how it works (neuroscience notwithstanding, Fruity), you can't say what its context is, you can't resolve it, you can't stop it or start it, you seem to have no influence over it in the large (it's always on), etc. Under those unconditional non-conditions, I'd say that makes experience pure and simply . . . spiritual, as much as anything could possibly be. Of course, most people won't see it that way because they take experience to be mundane, commonplace, and identically across the board for all.

I'll grant one that spiritualists come in a great multitude of varieties --and maybe that's one of our problems here. If materialists and science adherents are being lumped into a box, then maybe spiritualists are, too. (That's why I said up-thread about the God question: it would be helpful first to come up with what one means about a category before asking if one is an adherent.) It might simply be better to ask what one believes in first, and then see where that takes a person.

Me? I try to believe in nothing. That's why, for me, spiritualism means to simply see what is, unencumbered by elaborations. Pure awareness. No filters. Just the unvarnished truth, however it shows up. Now, just how wu wu (there's that term again--cool) would that be? Just being able to see what is. That's all.

Now when "I" try to do that, I find I don't seem to see "just what is." What I find I see appears to be an endless set of veils, filters, programs, biases, labels, concepts, abstractions, etc. Hell, I don't need a peeler for that onion; I need a darned atom bomb. Just . . . to . . . see . . . experience . . . as . . . it . . . is . . . appears to be . . . well, difficult.

One more observation: I have yet to meet any practiced zen man or woman that was anything other than grounded--their feet planted about a foot into the earth. Imagining them as some sort of airy fairy, off-the-deep-end, new ager presents a hilarious image to my mind. Sort of like De Niro in a tu-tu.

Social climber
Albuquerque, NM
Dec 5, 2013 - 12:33am PT
Millions of years of human evolution, tens of thousands of years of "discursive thought" ultimately to realize than humans are at the center of precisely nothing. Every step along the way of discursive thought has led to the inevitable conclusion that humans are still not very different than anything else with DNA, and no different than anything else at the atomic level. Even the best science that taxpayers can buy has shown our little blue speck to be no more than the inevitable result of the lucky placement of the right dust, x-distance from the right star.

Some think this a dry, bleak view of our place in "creation", others will see the awe-inspiring monumental achievement of finally recognizing that face in the mirror. Of course, there are those who'll say, "Well of course! We've known this for thousands of years- the one-ness of human/animal/stone!" But really... you didn't know shiht. It sounded good, gave comfort to your ignorance, and justified your laziness to repeat the things your masters told you. So, go ahead and think of your own breathing for 30 minutes. I'm sure you'll accomplish a lot.

Dec 5, 2013 - 11:02am PT
All the chemicals in the soup came together by pure "Chance" a long time ago and eventually thru evolution finally created HFCS .......

Dec 5, 2013 - 11:58am PT
You know only what you have direct access to: your experience.

If it were this bad, you would have a point. But I think you poorly state reality.

If you take some number of individuals, all acting independently, and to within the accuracy of their instruments all of their measurements agree - then we have taken the you out of MikeL's statement. Just have 100 individuals together watch the sun rise. It is that easy.

Now it is possible as members of Homo Sapiens we all share some common defect. Exactly the same defect. But this same defect has to be so consistent we all are identical. For this defect between independent individuals has to yield the same result( within experimental error) anytime randomly selected individuals make any one of tens of thousands of diverse measurements over more than 400 years. For this to be true humans would have to rival the very constants of nature themselves in their consistency. Very unlikely. Even among identical twins we don't get this kind of consistency. Among randomly selected and unrelated individuals over the millennia - very implausible.

An example.

Since 700 AD followers of the prophet Muhammad have rigorously trained the brains of their young, from a common text, to follow a codified and very strict mode of thinking. Individuals have to be very careful to think this way or they are removed by stoning from the gene pool. How similar are the products of this regimen?

They kill each other as they sleep at night. Because they are not thinking right.

It was Galileo who discovered the only way known so far to find our way out the morass created when we think our thought is the basis for knowledge. Anthropocentrism at its worst.

Some day we may find another way. Digging in even deeper to the idea that thought is all there is ain't going to be it.

High priests don't work. Read this thread if you think they do.

Moral psychologists. Ah yes. Those are the people who charge you $200 an hour to say "Um hmm" every once in awhile. This one has clearly not been reading the newspapers.
Dr. F.

Trad climber
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 5, 2013 - 12:27pm PT
Credit: Dr. F.

Dec 5, 2013 - 12:36pm PT
topo cred...

Dec 5, 2013 - 01:03pm PT
When folks talk about meditation here in this thread, they may be thinking of sitting austerely in some room with golden idols, incense burning, and chanting in the background . . . maybe with some teacher hitting them with a stick now and then for better posture. Sure, that can be found.

Folks here will regularly say that meditation or some spiritual activity or the notions that are behind it are wu wu, silly, useless, and unimportant. But I've observed that most of the very same people will also say that they have plenty of room for mystery of the world around them, of life, of the wonder of a stunning sunset, or of topping out on the top of a tall rock formation overlooking miles of backcountry terra firma.

What is the difference between the mystery of a materialist and a spiritualist? I see that materialists don't call those amazing experiences "problems" that need solving. They call them mysteries. Doesn't that signal something that is incomprehensible, something that's impossible to truly describe, something that goes beyond words or labels or mathematics to properly express and understand? Something that transcends our mental-rational worldview?

(Maybe not. I suspect there are people here who sense no mystery or wonder in anything at all.)

In Dzogchen it is said that one should contemplate when rigpa (pristine awareness) shows up on its own, and forget about any effort towards a practice when it doesn't. Just do what shows up. QED.

If you ever feel wonder when you look out at a stunning scene or feel awe in your bones from some event, then that is the time to relax and be with your experience / consciousness. That's meditation, contemplation, wu-wu; that's spirit.

Of course, you can instead jump to proposing all sorts of theories and stories about how the scene, event, or experience works and its value, but I think when you do that, you've only made it less. You've left the experience and created something that's purely speculative.

I think Jstan above has done exactly that. I suspect his theorizing is more interesting and real to him than that sunset experienced by those 100 people.

"Experimental error." "Random sample." "Consistency." "Possible." "Yield the same result." "Diverse measurements." "An example."

Ok, look, if you're going to make a scientific argument, then let's do it right. We need: A theory and hypothesis and the background literature review of good studies; a data set that we can argue is drawn properly from the population; a method for gathering data and then analyzing the data set for the findings, and THEN you can present your findings and settle into your discussion. What you've written here is pure speculation. It sounds scientific and all, but it's empty of any real substance or rigorous thinking in any truly scientific sense. (But hey, we're just talking, right?)

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