Thursday, November 17, 2005

A Feeling of Understanding

In several preceding blogs, I have noted that the view being expressed was highly influenced by a Rice professor, Trent Wann, I took a seminar from one year. I should acknowledge that the substance of the previous blog is also owed to him in the sense that I came to his class as a philosophical "realist" and left as a skeptic. We battled and battled and battled and he won I am happy to say.

There is another contribution he made to my thinking and that is the thesis that what people believe is what gives them a feeling of understanding. A person's feelings of understanding reflect his or her intellectual history (the propositions they are taught to believe or acquire through independent reasoning), as well as their experiences, the enviornments in which they grew up, and hosts of other things. Persons of different ages will have different intellectual histories, of course, and different experiences. Inevitably people of different races, genders, sexual orientations, religious backgrounds, ethnicities, financial interests, etc. won't have had the same intellectual histories and will inevitably disagree. And nothing is going to change this though people who do not have frozen brains may be vulnerable to rational argumentation.

I'm quite sure that those who wish to hold on to the Biblical claims about the origins of the universe and of humans will have taken comfort from my arguments that sciences are inevitably limited both in their scope and susceptability to being proved correct. They shouldn't. Those who advocate Biblical theories of the origin of humans, for instance, are in vastly worse shape than are those who advocate Darwinian theories since their evidence is extremely limited, consisting primarily of ancient texts subject to multiple interpretations. Meanwhile Darwinians, however problematic their theory is (and will be, possibly forever), have human bones older than the Bible seems to say humans have been on earth (my Bible reading days ended 45 years or so ago so I might get some things wrong). Since Creationists make no empirical claims that could be tested by digging up the ground somewhere to find who knows what or doing anything else that would resemble empirical evidence independent of these texts (someone's having had a vision or seen something they believe to have been a miracle would not be empirical evidence), they could, of course, say that God planted these bones in the ground and gave them the properties they would need to have to seem much older than they really are given our means of dating such things. But why in hell would he do that?

Naturally, Creationists will normally have had a different intellectual history from the typical Darwinian. A Creationist might have learned the tenets of this belief system at home as well as in church while a Darwinian might have learned these tenets at church but be taught at home not to take the Bible literally. This is why Creationists are so desperate to get Creationsim (Intelligent Design) taught to the young as a viable theory before the children being indoctrinated have developed sufficient critical abilities to defend against it. Creationism (Intelligent Design) isn't a theory at all as scientists use the term. It is a belief system. Nothing more; nothing less. There is nothing wrong with belief systems so long as one does not confuse them with the truth.

Separation of church and state is a good thing. It protects religions as much as and possibly even more than it protects the state. History abounds with instances of religous groups suppressing other religions once they grab a political foothold. Jews, Christians, Muslims, members of the Bahá'í faith, and others have all been persecuted at one time or another with the implicit or explicit approval of the state. And in the case of China and the former Soviet Union and other communist states, all religons were suppressed. It is too bad that militant Creationsts don't understand this simple fact.

In any event, we are all inevitably going to disagree with others on one thing or another whether the issue is the origin of humans or which flavor of ice cream is best. There is nothing to be done about this state of affairs. The only "remedies" occur in totalitarian states.

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Blogger concerned citizen said...

L. Guy your paragraph about 'feelings of understanding' struck a cord w/me.
As you know i am uneducated & barely literate. But, it has never stopped me from expressing my 'feeling of understanding'
being what I call a independant thinker my whole life as long as i can remember.
My respect for you has risen, because you reconize this. I know many people are predujuced against the uneducated, but i hope they see that we do have a brain capable of reasoning.
the trouble is most uneducated people don't realize their own power.

10:45 AM

Blogger Doofi said...

I think the point is that evolution is Science and creationism (intelligent Deisgn) is Theology. These are two different topics that deserve separate discussions.

11:27 AM

Blogger The MetaKong said...

;-) nice catch J_G, i'm sick and half delusionsl so i didn't catch the mistake; but, i still understood what you "meant" to say...

i have mixed feelings in regards to language in general -

i appreciate it b/c it strengthens communication, which, at least for now, seems necessary to promote understanding...

for the first time, i feel this blog has offered me a chance to promote understanding between the two worlds of J_G and Fresh Parmesan (me)...

could it be that all the anger over the intelligent design/evolution debate is the manifestation of the public's general disgust with our government funded public education system and its MANY inadequacies???

both andyt and myself, in previous posts, stated we thought it would be a good idea (in order to promote understanding amongst the general populous) to offer public instruction in ALL religious belief...

I think that if we did, it would be tax dollars wisely spent...

However, we'd have to make drastic changes to our Republic (which is fast turning into a totalitarian state) in order to create something closer to a true democracy-and, J_G, I know you're a fan of our founding fathers/the constitution--know that i am as well, i just take into account the "psychology" of our founding fathers and the implications provided by the fact that many of them practiced slavery through the workweek, then yelled, "FREEDOM," on Sundays to their followers...

they were, at the time, great Americans, but as is the case for evolution, we should be expected to improve upon that...and, our declaration of independence practically commands us to change the government when it is no longer serving the people, when it is no longer conducive to allowing the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness...

i dislike language b/c, at times, we become so obsessed over the way it is used that we stop trying to understand the communicator and focus on correcting his/her grammar instead (remember, psych student, my job/nature is to analyze/understand/empathize with people regardless of how they communicate their deepest thoughts/feelings)

miscommunication has, at least, two primary causes, failure to properly express meaning and failure to adequately infer meaning from available symbols/gestures

my general "belief" is that most humans are intelligent enough, have experienced enough of life, to analyze/empathize/understand nearly all expressions of meaning regardless of how faulty they are because, after all, our experiences prove beyond a reasonable doubt that we are all human - we often forget that the people around us go through many different gradations of the same joys/hardships that we do - and, we're often WILLING to forget that in order to take a position where we APPEAR superior to the person we are REFUSING to understand...

call me selfish if you will, but i'm the type of American that believes, when it comes to government, we should take care of our own first...

leave it to individuals to make the individual decision to volunteer time/finances to other impoverished nations--to do so with our tax dollars is the equivalent of FORCING someone to support a cause that they may not believe in, which is very UnAmerican...

for the record, i'd also like to note that, if it weren't for our unjust laws regarding marijuana, i would have departed for India the same summer i was arrested and thrown out of school; in other words, i don't just preach, i act on it; despite the fact i could barely afford ramen noodles for my 135 pound frame, i was going to spend 6 months volunteering for people who i UNDERSTOOD had a much worse life than me...ironically, amongst my many christian friends, i know of only 2 who partook in missions to impoverished countries...unfortunately, because so many believe it is OKAY to force their "beliefs" about how to live upon me to the point where it is OKAY to strip away my mode for improving my own life as well as the lives of others, well, because of that fact, my "God-given" talents are going to waste under a rapidly growing pile of debt; shit, i can't get a job because of my record unless i move to one of the most liberal cities in the country, Madison

everybody else is hung up on the fact i smoke pot and willing to deny employment because of it, never mind the fact many Wisconsinites are violent alcoholics, which, is easily a greater danger to society than any stoner too lazy to throw a punch...

J_G..you're also correct to note that scare tactics do not generally work as a part of an education that was not chosen by the learner..i submit the D.A.R.E. program as a perfect example...

the fact is that positive reinforcement, through encouragement or reward is the best way to mold behavior...by that i guess we could infer that, if the religous "right"eousness ever really wanted people to choose God, they never would've taken up the acts of judgment/punishment of those who disagree

i'm an agnostic, i feel perfectly comfortable refusing to "believe" or "know" God one way or the other primarily because i'd like to think that IF there is a God, he/she would understand the fact that positive reinforcement is best - and, therefore, there probably is no Hell, after all, according to the scripture I read in my efforts to understand, forgiveness and love seem to be His/Her most predominant traits...

i think it's time we start focusing on practical solutions - we need to get our own country to a point where our own citizens have achieved a greater understanding of their own diverse population before we go about the business of proudly screaming,


then, we can lead by example; right now, we can't even do that, let alone claim that the punishment we dole out is "right"eous...

peace n whatnot,


1:18 PM

Blogger Le vent fripon said...

Thanks LG, for reminding us that there is no empirical evidence for the existence of a god. I think the position could be made much stronger. If there were a god, in the sense that people like Bush might use the word--i.e. one who might affect what happens here on earth--there would be no such thing as evidence at all. There would be no theories, because the world wouldn't follow rules. Scientists, who, I hope, are most interested in finding out the truth (although the goal will never be reached) can only view belief as a kind of obstacle. Belief gives answers where science should be asking questions. The responsible science teacher, then, must tell his/her pupils, for example, that there is no such thing as a miracle.

On the other hand, it may very well be that humans have some sort of need for or disposition to religion. I think Europe is the only place in the world where a significant percentage of the population are atheists. There is a deep conflict between science, then, and humanism.

3:43 PM

Blogger Full Metal Attorney said...

"[T]hey could, of course, say that God planted these bones in the ground and gave them the properties they would need to have to seem much older than they really are given our means of dating such things. But why in hell would he do that?"

Answer: it's not like he planted it there.

The Bible says God created man, not baby. It's safe to assume He created chicken, not egg. Therefore, he did not create a world in a state of infancy, but rather he picked a stage of maturity within the processes identified by science.

4:33 PM

Blogger Full Metal Attorney said...


Sorry, I should have put this in the same comment, but here you go anyway.

If I'm not mistaken, the majority of languages have approximately the same number of words in the generally used lexicon. The distinction that English has, however, is that the total number of words with different meanings is far greater. Therefore English allows for greater precision than any other (living) language.

LG, please correct me if I'm wrong on that.

4:41 PM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

L.G. regarding your last paragraph.
To disagree is fine, to disregard is not.
This administration has shown the lest regard for my opinions, life style & future of my family.
They certainly will not get my support. The only type of goverment to get my support will have to reverse the trend of criminalizing everyone that does not agree w/their 'standards'.
If they think filling up the prisons & trying to make this country a police state is going to straight'n us all up, they are delusional.

4:42 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

KELLY SAID:"The Bible says God created man, not baby. It's safe to assume He created chicken, not egg. Therefore, he did not create a world in a state of infancy, but rather he picked a stage of maturity within the processes identified by science."

No!! it is not safe to assume this... Science shows that it did start from infancy. Fact is fact, God or no God.

7:32 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Know what is annoying? People who use the comments area to hump their own/favorite blog.
If you don't have a pertinent remark just click on down the road.

8:51 PM

Blogger The MetaKong said...

relevant to past posts backslid...
and i love these people, so it works...

funny thing about hypocrisy...

you didn't post anything pertinent...




ps-the pertinent stuff was in the 1st post i authored

9:25 PM

Blogger Full Metal Attorney said...

I think your post shows a clear misunderstanding of what I wrote. The idea that I posit is that even though evolution and all other processes described by science are the way things happen, God picked a point in time to bring the world into being. It's like when the NBA playoffs run late and cut into the next show. Generally, they join that show "already in progress."

This is not to say that I necessarily buy that idea, but it's an attractive one nonetheless.

9:32 AM

Blogger Full Metal Attorney said...

I know I'm double-posting again (sorry), but I find the following comment to be hypocritical:

" Know what is annoying? People who use the comments area to hump their own/favorite blog.
If you don't have a pertinent remark just click on down the road."

Backslid Buddhist is clearly contributing much.

I know this post is the same, but I like to point out inconsistencies like that.

9:42 AM

Blogger Marc André Bélanger said...

Kelly said that "The distinction that English has, however, is that the total number of words with different meanings is far greater. Therefore English allows for greater precision than any other (living) language." That is simply an assumption based on no real evidence.

10:28 AM

Blogger Full Metal Attorney said...

marc andre belanger:
That was not something I am positing. It was something I was told a long time ago by (I think) an English teacher in high school.
Or was it my anthropology teacher in college?

12:16 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sure a Russian would argue that point. They have multiple words just to describe an emotion or feeling. That is why their literature is probably their greatest legacy to the world. They have like 10 or more different ways just to describe snow.

12:17 PM

Blogger Sean said...

First, "we are all inevitably going to disagree with others on one thing or another whether the issue is the origin of humans or which flavor of ice cream is best." Hmm.. while chalking up disagreement as inevitable seems to unnecessarily take the wind out of the sails of the concept of discussion, I will ignore and say this; the origin of humanity has ramifications, and for that reason it should be taken seriously. The "best" flavor of ice cream does not, apart from the fight you may have with your spouse over what tub you're going to buy, and one would hope the buying of TWO tubs could solve the problem. Putting the two together seems to imply they are on equal ground. While I find both to be pretty unimportant, people seem to be willing to harm others over the first problem, if you kill your partner because of the choice of Rocky Road over Strawberry I think you can be considered insane and dismissed as a fluke. Millions of crazies can't be so easily dismissed.

I find this fight over intelligent design/evolution to merely be religious insecurity in disguise. Evolution is irreconcilable with most Christian theological tenets, so to have evolution be regarded as truth is to have your religion attacked at its core, something most religious people don't care for. So these people either try to A) reconcile evolution and religion with ideas such as "he picked a stage of maturity within the processes identified by science" (I could just as easily claim that my dog created it all, you’ll have just as good a time disproving it) or that God could have started it all and uses evolution as his tool, or B) try to debase and destroy it as the work of the devil. Intelligent design falls someplace in between, and the arguments for it have always struck me as wildly distasteful, like stuffing ones bra or slipping your date a rufi.

So let's cut to the chase, no more debate over the water on the basement floor and go straight to the leaky pipe; does God exist and is the Bible the unerring word of God? or are we a mass of chemicals and electricity who has had the fortune (or misfortune) to gain consciousness, with all the problems that entails. I personally fall firmly on the side of "I don't care". God, or at least his Church, has never played a part in my life and somehow I seem to get by pretty well. My decisions are not made on scriptural teachings or by consulting my fashionably colorful W.W.J.D. bracelet, but by consulting reason, compassion, and empathy toward my fellow man, my world, and myself. Did God give me all those abilities? Perhaps, but again, I don't care. Until he shows up at my door and demands some thanks I'm going to assume that evolutionary principles decided that to be intelligent would be a benefit and that I came up with them myself. I figure I'm open-minded enough to change my mind if he does come knocking. Hopefully he'll speak English or German, 'cause I regrettably don't do well with the others.... but that’s another story.

2:00 AM

Blogger Nietzsche's Girl said...

I'm loving your blog. Thanks!

2:40 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's funny is that people don't seem to realize the importance of religion in other peoples lives. Perhaps the only thing keeping some people from being total deviants is the teachings of Jesus and reading the bible. You need to see the world for what it is. Yes, maybe many horrible things have happened in the name of Jesus. I'm not arguing that pint. We are human and tend to justify our actions with religious beliefs or otherwise. Some people believe that they can get others to do their bidding by offering the promise of 70 virgins waiting for them in the afterlife. Some people just aren't designed nor do they have the mental capacity to think for themselves. They need a preacher or a politician or a media talking head to tell them what to believe. It's just the way it is. Then there are people like the readers of this blog who can think for themselves, but they still admonish those who can't. So if you truly are compassionate with reason and empathy as you claim, then you would understand that maybe religion and the belief in God or a higher power is a necessary tool for mankind to coexist peacefully. Look, the Chinese and the Soviets tried to administer a totalitarian state and you can see that it did not work very well. Besides, why would God, assuming that He does exist, want you to be with Him anyway? You deny His very existence and everything that He stands for until you have undisputable evidence that He exists. Until you have that proof, you will mock Him, you will bash Him, you will make every effort to dismiss Him and His followers as heretics who border on insanity. Fine, do as you wish. That is what freewill is all about, but don't expect Him to come knocking on your door. And when He doesn't knock on your door and tell you to come join Him, you will curse Him for leaving you behind. Keep in mind that this is just speculation.

All in all, I agree that religion can really be twisted in ways that seem unbecoming. It is sad that our president has used religion to manipulate the minds of supposedly good Christians. But also keep in mind that there are a few that do not fall prey to that kind of manipulation be it by politics or the pulpit. There are some who can believe in God and do so in a manner that doesn't hinder your way of life. I for one have many liberal views and not many think about God the way I do. But I also have some conservative views too. I personally don't have a problem with evolution or Creation. You just have to think outside the box and not be weighed down by rhetoric. You see, if all Christians thought like I did, then our adored churches would not make very much money at all. That would be bad for business. It is in their best interests to stay the course and teach stuff like Creationism without expanding on that idea. It is in their best interests to tell you that we as Christian should be charitable, and what better way to be charitable than to give the church 10% of your income. Church is a business nowadays. If it wasn't then they wouldn't have to pass that damn tray around the aisles to compell to to give after a prayer that praises the giving to ones church. In my opinion, they should just have a donation box in the vestibule just like a suggestion box. And if people feel compelled to give, then it is by their own freewill. But, sadly, this is not the case. These churches need your money just like these politicians need your money. I have gotten long-winded here but just understand that religion and a belief in God is OK when used and administered properly. It certainly doesn't hurt. But like all things that involve money. It can be and certainly is abused in many different and imaginative ways.

2:27 PM

Blogger Sean said...

"You deny His very existence and everything that He stands for", let me clarify what it is that I do; I don't care whether He/She/It exists or not, it has no impact on my life one way or another. Secondly, and correct me if I’m wrong, from what I understand He stands for quite a few things I'm quite fond of, like love, forgiveness, hard work, and stoning people to death for various infractions. Oh wait, I don't like the last one, that's just God who's into the stoning.

I like to give people more credit than you do, pf. I believe that people would not become anarchical animals if they didn't have religion or the bible. Do they need socializing? Most certainly, we don't need a Lord of the Flies incident occurring. Up until this point in history much of our societies socializing happened at home and at the church, with school bringing up a strong third. Somehow I managed to become a fully functioning, non-sociopathic adult with only home and school (and perhaps my own mind) for socializing. I really think others could do the same. Perhaps I have more faith in humanity though.

What I did see as I was growing up was my religious friends becoming more and more exclusionary, increasingly judgmental, making statements such as "we think you're a great guy, we really wish you were Christian!" and "you will curse Him for leaving you behind."

You speculate far beyond your abilities here, pf. I don't dismiss god or his followers, that would be foolish. I pay attention to each bit of information I get about god and I follow the actions of all his followers I can witness. At the end of the day the disturbing observations far out way the heartening observations, and it makes me uneasy. This may be “just the way it is”, as much as a cop out of responsibility that that statement is, but I’d like to think that, because of freewill, WE choose “the way it is.” I believe we has a human race are quite capable of choosing the right way. I usually see religion perverting that way more than exalting it.

4:47 PM

Blogger Ripple said...

I understand your point of view, Sean. I also see a great number of disturbing observations, but that doesn't disspell what I 've learned from reading the bible. We are all human, and maybe I don't give people enough credit. I tend to be more pessimistic about the human spirit. I believe that men and women are inherently no good. But that's just me being me. All my friends are agnostics or atheists. I'm not afraid to tell them I'm Christian. I don't judge them or preach to them. I believe in Jesus words because nobody else has shown me a better way to think about things. But that's just me being me. Even my wife is agnostic. I'm OK with it because that is her choice, but even being agnostic, she lives a very "Christian" style life. She may not believe, but she respects the teachings of the bible from a philosophical standppoint. So think what you want because I think my speculations aren't too far off base.

11:15 PM

Blogger Lauren said...

Personally, I was raised with the teaching that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God and that He created all things. Over the years, I have developed a different understanding of the Universe. I found beauty and truth in many of the world's religions and came to the conclusion that if God was the loving God I thought he was, then surely he would not "doom" the majority of his creation to a fiery pit -- but that's MY journey.

I think every soul has its own journey to take and the energy that exists in each of us is indestructible. That energy, I have come to believe, is the source of everything.

I think that the Bible can teach many valuable lessons regarding charity (love in the newer translations) and care for one's fellow man. Do I take it as THE word of God -- no, I do not. Too many men's hands have touched it for it to have remained incorrupt - if, indeed, it ever was breathed forth by a divine spirit.

So, what's my point? My point is that even the theory of evolution has it's problems -- missing links and all -- and that man, over the centuries, has always sought to explain that which was unexplainable. That was the birth of faith. I don't think anyone has all of the answers -- not even science. Just think, not so very long ago, we all believed that the atom was the smallest thing there was!

7:51 AM

Blogger The MetaKong said...

in the spirit of a "feeling of understanding," i'd just like to steer this raft upstream into one of my tributaries...

paul, sean, lauren...

i've come to call myself agnostic as well and believe i live a more "christian" life style than most christians themselves, hence all my frustration with them.

i was raised by the bible and catholic schools, that's where my conditioning came from during my most important periods of development.

later on, from a philisophical/psychological standpoint i came to see the TREMENDOUS practical value of this Jesus character's advice:

live, love, forgive, forget...

you cannot love someone without being willing to forgive them...and,

ironically enough, the simple act of forgiveness has a much greater chance of "rehabilitating," or "correcting" a "sinner," or "criminal."

my biggest beef with christians, and any religion, for that matter, is that they don't realize the TREMENDOUS practical value of forgiveness;

they don't realize the PROFOUND consequences of unnecessary punishment, which include, but are not limited to, rebellion, disobedience, rage, vengeance, etc...

they don't realize the PROFOUND consequences of their actions and how their own actions are largely the CAUSE of the things they wish to irradicate from the world, thus causing a never ending cycle of war and degredation that ALL PEOPLE, not just religions, inherently seek to eliminate...

despite being misperceived at times as a cynical, bitter, pessimist; i'm actually quite optimistic about the human spirit and our ability to better ourselves...in that, i hope and see the very real possibility of "fixing ourselves," and "fixing the system," at very least, before i die, so that we see the beginnings of true democracy and a world where we are truly free and able to appreciate all these things that were randomly placed/intelligently designed for us to live in...

2:14 PM

Blogger ATDI said...

SANTIAGO.- Recientemente se realizó en la Universidad Diego Portales de
Chile el Tercer Congreso Iberoamericano de Periodismo Digital http://www.periodismodigital.udp.cl,
en el que se discutieron diversos temas
relacionados con la nueva forma de hacer y entender el periodismo, en un
mundo donde predominan los sitios web, los blogs, el iPod y otras
tecnologías al servicio de la información.
Protagonistas de este encuentro fueron, más allá de los exponentes, los
propios estudiantes de Periodismo, ávidos por conocer el qué, quién, cuándo
y cómo de los rápidos cambios que vive el mundo gracias a la tecnología e

Es por eso que, en una iniciativa única, alumnos de la Universidad del
Desarrollo de Chile http://udd2005.blogspot.com
realizaron una completa cobertura al evento, subiendo notas,
entrevistas, audio e incluso videos a un blog. http://www.arturocatalan.cl/congreso

Dentro del material destacado está las entrevistas a la española María José
Cantalapiedra, periodista y docente, quien discutió en el congreso la
evolución de la pirámide invertida y cómo ésta sigue siendo la mejor forma
de redactar una noticia a pesar del nuevo periodismo y las nuevas

Sobre esto último expuso el chileno Carlos Osorio, ingeniero del MIT, quien
habló de la relación entre periodismo y medios tecnológicos.

El también español Gumercindo Lafuente, del diario El Mundo, se
refirió a los desafíos de los medios online, mientras que el peruano
Diego Peralta, del diario Perú.21 señaló que el periodismo digital al
informar antes ha obligado al periódico ser más de análisis.
Del diario peruano El Comercio, habló en forma especial para el blog de la
cobertura del congreso de los alumnos de la Universidad del Desarrollo el
periodista Juan Carlos Luján, quien se refirió al fenómeno blogs, que
definió como de gran utilidad para los periodistas.

Otra de las cosas interesantes de este sitio web de los futuros periodistas,
es que incluyeron archivos de audio y video, por lo que quienes lo visiten
pueden enterarse de lo ocurrido a través de formatos multimedia. También se
pueden bajar desde el blog algunas presentaciones.

Un abrazo desde lo más austral del mundo: Chile

2:43 PM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

Wha...T? no abla espanyoul.
L. Guy, am missing the stimulation of your intellect. Grace us w/your presance.

8:46 PM


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