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Christianity a copy cat religion?
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Posted 7/29/12 , edited 7/29/12

ATHEIST-ANARCHIST wrote:

I chose to not believe in god or gods. My main argument is against religion. And as far as interpretation goes, a lot of the bible needs no interpretation. Its written plainly. If you believe that the book of genesis is given by god or god inspired then you can't believe in evolution. The creation story and the story of noah are plainly written with detail. And as far as culture, yes america was just recently allowing children to be married to grown men. But the negative affects that sex have on a young girl is proof that knowledge is power. A little girl isn't physically ready or mentally ready to have sex or give birth. Therefore it's wrong. Grown men having sex with children is harmful to the children no matter what culture. But things like this go on where there is no knowledge of the harm. And religion is not ignorance. Ignorance is not knowing. If one person tells a lie that hides a fact the lie itself is not ignorance. The fact that's being hidden is not ignorance. The person being lied to is not stupid but simply ignorant of the fact that is hidden by the lie. And yes, history does not prove that there is no god. Nor does history prove to make one religion better than the other. But history does prove that the stories in the bible were taken from previous religions. Ignorance is also harmful. Like keeping a sick person from needed medical attention to perform rituals on them. Like blaming serial murder on a monster such as a vampire or werewolf. A child with a mental disorder or a physical deformity is not being cursed by a god because of some unknown sin of the parents. I cannot prove whether we have a spirit or not. I cannot prove whether there is a god or not. But there is far too much evidence stacked against religion. And just to let you know, my knowledge of eastern religions is very limited.


Lucidity and clarity of language does not, in any way, indicate that we should take it on the surface level. It is a common device in literature, to hide deeper meaning beneath text and language, no one would suggest, for example, reading Moliere's Tartuffe simply on a literal level, or Shakespeare's King Lear for the story, though nothing in the languages of these two works, no matter how plain or oblique, to indicate that we shouldn't take it literally. Take, for example, this passage from Guilliver's Travel, by Dean Swift:



It is allowed on all hands, that the primitive way of breaking eggs, before we eat them, was upon the larger end; but his present majesty's grandfather, while he was a boy, going to eat an egg, and breaking it according to the ancient practice, happened to cut one of his fingers. Whereupon the emperor his father published an edict, commanding all his subjects, upon great penalties, to break the smaller end of their eggs. The people so highly resented this law, that our histories tell us, there have been six rebellions raised on that account; wherein one emperor lost his life, and another his crown. These civil commotions were constantly fomented by the monarchs of Blefuscu; and when they were quelled, the exiles always fled for refuge to that empire. It is computed that eleven thousand persons have at several times suffered death, rather than submit to break their eggs at the smaller end. Many hundred large volumes have been published upon this controversy: but the books of the Big-endians have been long forbidden, and the whole party rendered incapable by law of holding employments. During the course of these troubles, the emperors of Blefusca did frequently expostulate by their ambassadors, accusing us of making a schism in religion, by offending against a fundamental doctrine of our great prophet Lustrog, in the fifty-fourth chapter of the Blundecral (which is their Alcoran). This, however, is thought to be a mere strain upon the text; for the words are these: 'that all true believers break their eggs at the convenient end.'


Would you, using the same argument you have used for the bible, insist that there is no need for interpretation of this passage, that we should take it as it is, as an account of the culture of Lilliput and Blefusca? Surely you would allow that it is more than that, even excluding the reputation of its author. You exempt the Bible from interpretation, but the account on which you exempt the bible would excise many works of literature which clearly is meant to be taken on a deeper level.

Additionally, Religion is comprised of the beliefs of its believers. All works, all assortment of words, require interpretation. We interpret the word 'elephant', for example, to a Large, grey, land Mammal with a long trunk, though that assortment of letters, in itself, means nothing. Therefore, when one man read something, he is interpreting it, you are interpreting my responce just as I am yours. Religion, however, is based entirely on the interpretation of their holy writ, to exclude their interpretation is to exclude the religion itself, and attacking a strawman of that religion based upon your own interpretation of their holy words.

Therefore, to say that interpretation doesn't matter, and you can only choose between Genesis and Evolution, is false in all respect. The Catholic Church, for example, embraces Evolution, as do most Religions, even those that follow the Bible.

Likewise, you make the same mistake, to judge the action of one in the past with our own standards, when they simply do not apply. We do not censure Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Thucycides, or any other of the Hellenes for their love of young boys and their pederasty, and this does not invalidate their philosophy or their works. Furthermore, the concept of adult has changed, therefore, to say that Mahomet was having 'sex with children' is achronistic, it puts the 21st century definition of Adult in 7th century context, and is just as foolish as applying the reverse, that is, to justify marriage to a nine-year old in the twentith-first century by envoking the seventh century- nay-even victorian definition of adulthood.

You also have manage to muddle your distinction of religion and ignorance as well, if if everyone who believes in religion is ignorant, then, as religion is comprise of these believers, then religion must, itself, be ignorant. To use your example, if the man who tells the lie is ignorant of the truth, and the other man who believes the lie as the truth, then, as both are ignorant of the answer, it follows that they both are ignorant.

Finally, of precedents, I have already shown that history does not disprove religion. Precedent does not make a thing less true, the example of Platonism and Stoicism, for example, or, to use a different example, Cynicism and Stoicism. Cynicism, for example, is a known influence on Stoic philoshopy, yet, the fact that certain Stoic principles originate in the beliefs of the Cynics does not invalidate the former. So too is it with religion, if certain principles are found in other religion as well as this religion, it does not invalidate that religion. The Bible's Noah, for example, is predated Gilgamesh's Utnapishtim, however, that does not mean that they draw from the same source, and that Noah is a truer telling of the event than the Epic of Gilgamesh. The presence of precedents does not invalidate it, nor does it provide proof.
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Oh my bad. So doing wrong out of ignorance is ok ?? So if a person does an evil act without the knowledge of its evil then is the act no longer evil ?? So what you are implying is that being a cannibal is ok if you live in a tribe of head hunters ?? Also according to you beating a child is ok as long as abuse is viewed as discipline to the majority. So having sex with a child is ok if you're in the right century. I get it now. Thx
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And you have misquoted me horribly. Please read slowly........ If a man tells a lie. And the man telling the lie is completely aware of the truth. The lie being told is not, in itself, ignorance. The man telling the lie is not ignorant of the truth that his lie hides. But if the person listening to the lie is unaware of the facts and chooses to believe the lie then that person is found to be ignorant of the truth that the lie hides. The person doesn't have to be a complete idiot to believe the lie. The lie isn't ignorance. In order to be ignorant of something you must have the capability to be aware of something. The lie itself is incapable of thought and therefore incapable of ignorance.
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And since we can't seem to get past the discussion of interpretation maybe you can help me with something. Interpret this. (Leviticus 25:44-46) Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids. Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them ye shall buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigour.
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Posted 8/3/12

ATHEIST-ANARCHIST wrote:

Oh my bad. So doing wrong out of ignorance is ok ?? So if a person does an evil act without the knowledge of its evil then is the act no longer evil ?? So what you are implying is that being a cannibal is ok if you live in a tribe of head hunters ?? Also according to you beating a child is ok as long as abuse is viewed as discipline to the majority. So having sex with a child is ok if you're in the right century. I get it now. Thx


Mr Ahteist-Anarchist first assumes that there is a universal moral principle that somehow aligns with his own personal views, which qualifies him to just the action of the past or of other culture within his own term. A famous example of why this would be fallacious is the Hindoo or the Buddhist watching us, westerners, as we eat beef, or any meat in general in the case of the Buddhist, and then pronouncing us evil. He has viewed our society through his own lens, and then makes an universal moral pronouncement based upon his distorted lens. What of cannibalism? In ancient China, during era of famine, people would cannibalize all the time to stave off hunger. What of 'having sex with a child'- the definition of adulthood and childhood is different within cultures- the age of consent in France, for example, is 15, in China, 14, and in Japan, 13. Surely they must all be savages to allow such low age of consent. If the definition of an adult within Mahomet's time happens to be impossibly young, and if his own marriage to a girl of nine happen to offend us in the present day, it is only because we are seeing it from our own lens, our own culture. Thousands of years from now, people will look upon Mr Atheist Anarchist, and see something he does that is objectionable within the context of their culture, and then they would readily pronounce him evil- yet, that would still be fallacious, as they are viewing it from their own context, when their context does not apply to Mr Atheist Anarchist.

What is good and bad is determined by the society we live in, our society views so and so thing as good and so and so thing as bad, and so, we say those things are good and bad. Different Cultures or Cultures of the past had different values, such as these things are good and these things are bad, they say those things are good and bad. Yet, these values sometime contradict one another, the emphasis on Submissiveness of women within one culture contridicts the emphasis of women freedom in another- both can't be right, yet, it is also arrogant to say that the one that matches my culture is the right one, it assumes, implicitly, on the superiority of my own culture. So, what Mahomet did is paedophilia within Modern Context, however, within his own context, there is nothing good or evil in it. It was simply normal behaviour.

Additionally, the act of being evil involves, in part, knowledge that the action is evil, and still acting on it. If a man does not know that the building he destroyed is filled with many people, and he cause their lives to be loss, we cannot say that he is morally responsible, because he was ill informed of the whole affair. To actually be evil, one must knowingly do an evil act, for example, the man who sends other people into the gas chambers is evil, because he knowingly sent them to their deaths. A murderer who planned the killing of his wife is evil because he knowingly choose to act and kill his wife. So no, being without knowledge about the evilness of a certain action does mitigate the fact that one has performed it.

So, yes, Mr Atheist-Anarchist should apologize, he should back up his statement with proof of a universal moral code that somehow conforms to his own personal code. He should also do well to address the other portion of my rebuttal.
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Posted 8/3/12 , edited 8/3/12

ATHEIST-ANARCHIST wrote:

And since we can't seem to get past the discussion of interpretation maybe you can help me with something. Interpret this. (Leviticus 25:44-46) Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids. Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them ye shall buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigour.


That is simple, slavery is permissible, as I have said, provided you follow a certain code of behaviour and treatment of slaves. It is not, as you seem to want to make of it, a condonation of slavery, with the various laws and stipulations, it is saying slavery is permissible so lonag as one follows the regulations which are listed throughout Leviticus and Deuteronomy.
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Which thou shalt have clearly gives permission. And making reference to eating beef in comparison to having sex with a child is ridiculous. Just because its widely accepted does not make it right. And a so-called man of god, or child of god would know better. Or does god change with culture ?? Does god have to update his rules and regulations according to mans growth ??
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ATHEIST-ANARCHIST wrote:

And you have misquoted me horribly. Please read slowly........ If a man tells a lie. And the man telling the lie is completely aware of the truth. The lie being told is not, in itself, ignorance. The man telling the lie is not ignorant of the truth that his lie hides. But if the person listening to the lie is unaware of the facts and chooses to believe the lie then that person is found to be ignorant of the truth that the lie hides. The person doesn't have to be a complete idiot to believe the lie. The lie isn't ignorance. In order to be ignorant of something you must have the capability to be aware of something. The lie itself is incapable of thought and therefore incapable of ignorance.


THe first statement is false, and terribly false. A man need not know the truth, nor, indeed, know the falsity of his statement to lie. When Plotemy provided an account of the movenment of the stars based upon his observation. Now, there is no doubt that he was ignorant of the truth, as modern Astronomy would tell you, there is also no doubt that he didn't know what he proposed was, in fact, false. When his theory spread, for example, many people who knew nothing of the stars before, were now convinced of his theory- the believers of the Plotemic system, one may say, is ignorant, and the whole Plotemic system is, in itself, also ignorant, because the founder is ignorant, and his followers are ignorant, and they all forged the theory, that is now, in itself, ignorant. Many wise people believed in this theory, for example, the various scholars throughout the Europe and the Middle East, until Conpernicus set forth a new model, which was refined and edited by the various scholars after him. Thus, your example fails on its own account. You then say that the lie cannot be ignorant, because it is lacking in thought. Ignorance, however, is simply defined as the lack of knowledge, something insentient can, indeed, lack knowledge, just as ideas can be lacking in knowledge of what is actually real. Therefore, your objections, for the most part, are absurd.
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Posted 8/3/12 , edited 8/3/12

ATHEIST-ANARCHIST wrote:

Which thou shalt have clearly gives permission. And making reference to eating beef in comparison to having sex with a child is ridiculous. Just because its widely accepted does not make it right. And a so-called man of god, or child of god would know better. Or does god change with culture ?? Does god have to update his rules and regulations according to mans growth ??


First, I have not compared eating beef to having sex with children, it is an analogy to show that viewing the behaviour of another through your own context is ridiculous.

Secondly, you have yet to show if there is a universal set of right and wrong which agrees with your idea of right and wrong. Thus, your moral pronouncments amount to absolutely nothing. You say this and this are evil, why are they evil? Is there some greater moral code that governs what is good and bad, and it matches your beliefs entirely?

Third, God does not change with culutre, only the application of his laws change with culture. If a stipulation is made irrelevent, then it becomes irrelevent, and it still holds when it does become relevent.
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The system that is proven false can not be ignorant. The person making the system may be ignorant. The people that believed in the system may be ignorant. But the system is a tool and can not be ignorant. Maybe what you mean to say is that the system is made up of ignorance. If you I would agree with you. But a lie being told is of a different context and can't compare to a person creating a system with flaws do to his ignorance. And you most certainly did compare eating beef to having sex with a child. Science proves that a girls body is not ready for birthing a child properly. And psychology proves that a child is not mentally ready for sex. So with that knowledge comes the responsibility to create laws to protect those children. That is the exact reason a lot of child molesters go to other countries that are either ignorant of these facts or just don't care to protect children because its not profitable. Men with the knowledge of what they are doing go to foreign countries to have paid sex with children. How would this be viewed in your gods eyes ??
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And to make reference to Leviticus 25:44-46. Is it ok today to own a slave ?? In America it is wrong. In remote areas of the world it it still viewed as acceptable to sell and buy children. So does god allow this in some countries today just like he allowed it in a different century ?? Does time and space affect what sin is to be defined as ?? If god doesn't change with time as men do then why was it ever ok to commit genocide ?? Or to rape a captive woman and make her your wife ?? Or to kill children and babies ?? And pregnant women ?? All written in the old testament. Are these things still ok in the eyes of god today ?? Or is that book called the bible a load of shit ?? If it was ok then but not now then god changes, and is therefore man made. If god does not change then either the bible is complete refuse or our current morals are complete refuse.
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ATHEIST-ANARCHIST wrote:

The system that is proven false can not be ignorant. The person making the system may be ignorant. The people that believed in the system may be ignorant. But the system is a tool and can not be ignorant. Maybe what you mean to say is that the system is made up of ignorance. If you I would agree with you. But a lie being told is of a different context and can't compare to a person creating a system with flaws do to his ignorance. And you most certainly did compare eating beef to having sex with a child. Science proves that a girls body is not ready for birthing a child properly. And psychology proves that a child is not mentally ready for sex. So with that knowledge comes the responsibility to create laws to protect those children. That is the exact reason a lot of child molesters go to other countries that are either ignorant of these facts or just don't care to protect children because its not profitable. Men with the knowledge of what they are doing go to foreign countries to have paid sex with children. How would this be viewed in your gods eyes ??


The word Ignorant means to not know something, to be lacking in knowledge. The system is ignorant if it lacks knowledge of how the real world really does work- the Plotemic system is, in that respect, ignorant. The argument, it seems, is one of language, and one which I am supported by various authorities, such as MW, American Heritage, OED, etc. Likewise, you are bit muddle with the language, when someone speaks a falsity, it is a lie, but that lie does not need to come out of knowingly telling something that is false. Thus, if someone were to tell me that so and so distinguished guest would come over at five, when the guest, in fact, came at four, that person has lied to me, but he did not lie knowingly.

Second, you insist that I compared Child sex with eating beef, if you insist on doing so, you are either mentally retarded, or else being daft for the hell of it, there is no kinder way of phrasing it. First, the Hindu analogy was to show that viewing something from the perspective of another culture is absurd and ridiculous. We would fault the Hindu for applying his cultural context to our different cultural context. Thus, you are not in a position to put your moral views, of what you think is good and evil, to a different context. Science proves that a modern American child's body is not ready for sex, it does not prove that the body of a 7th century girl (who is not a child within their cultural context) is unready for sex. It is a well known fact that diet and social environment affects the physical and mental development respectively. Thus, while Scientific Date and Psychological data shows that 21st century American Children are not ready for sex (please show these studies), they do not show that 7th century Arabian ten year olds are not- it is a well known fact that, for most of human history, 'Children' were treated, for the most part, as adult in miniature. Therefore, it behoves you to admit defeat, as you are just making yourself more and more absurd.

You say that the reason why Child Molesters go to other countries is to take advantage of their low Age of Consent laws- this is absurd. Within the nation of Cambodia, the age of Consent is 15, however, many western tourist go there to have sex with children under that age. It is not so much the low age of consent laws that attracts them, it is, however, because Cambodia's poverty and police corruption allows the condition whence Child Prostitution arises. You are ill informed about these sort of things, aren't you?

Lastly, you have yet to show how your morals reflect some sort of universal moral that is applicable everywhere and at all times.
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Exodus 21:20-21 And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, witha rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished.
Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money.
Exodus 21:1-4 If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing.
If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him.
If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters: the wife and her children shall be her master's,
and he shall go out by himself.
Are these rules and regulations fair ?? Why is a Hebrew slave released after 6 years of service but a non Hebrew slave is a slave forever ??
Why is it ok to keep a woman and her children forever but a hebrew man must be allowed to leave after 6 years ??
These are rules and regulations written by Moses. And Moses was believed to be the man that god gave these rules to. Moses wrote down what god told him. Does god hold more value over men then women ?? Does god hold more value on the life of a hebrew man than men of other nationalities ??
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Posted 8/3/12 , edited 8/3/12

ATHEIST-ANARCHIST wrote:

And to make reference to Leviticus 25:44-46. Is it ok today to own a slave ?? In America it is wrong. In remote areas of the world it it still viewed as acceptable to sell and buy children. So does god allow this in some countries today just like he allowed it in a different century ?? Does time and space affect what sin is to be defined as ?? If god doesn't change with time as men do then why was it ever ok to commit genocide ?? Or to rape a captive woman and make her your wife ?? Or to kill children and babies ?? And pregnant women ?? All written in the old testament. Are these things still ok in the eyes of god today ?? Or is that book called the bible a load of shit ?? If it was ok then but not now then god changes, and is therefore man made. If god does not change then either the bible is complete refuse or our current morals are complete refuse.


It is permissible to own a slave, but condoned. America doesn't play into this, your typical American arrogance assumes American Values apply all time and all places. First, what is the context of slavery? In biblical times, the Israelites were mostly agrarian, where status and wealth were deterimined, mostly, by land cultivated. The Rich, obviously, would inevitably buy slaves to work those land, or draw them from debtors. The Bible permits this economic necessity, only it provides a sort of safety net for the slaves- it provides conditions under which people may own a slave. Likewise, to make a captive women your wife is also, within that context, probably the kindest thing you may do to her- the death of her husband at that time meant that she would be without livelihood or income, and left destitute. By forcing the captor to marry said women, she is provided with some form of security. In addition, while it is recorded that God kills children and women and all that, and bitter poets wishing death upon their enemies, it no where tells us to outright do it. I wonder, is there any end to your arrogance? You say you don't believe in the Bible, read a few verses, and when someone interprets it differently, you say that his interpretation is wrong, and then say that yours is right and that the bible is a load of cock and bull.
Posted 8/3/12 , edited 8/3/12

ATHEIST-ANARCHIST wrote:

The system that is proven false can not be ignorant. The person making the system may be ignorant. The people that believed in the system may be ignorant. But the system is a tool and can not be ignorant. Maybe what you mean to say is that the system is made up of ignorance. If you I would agree with you. But a lie being told is of a different context and can't compare to a person creating a system with flaws do to his ignorance. And you most certainly did compare eating beef to having sex with a child. Science proves that a girls body is not ready for birthing a child properly. And psychology proves that a child is not mentally ready for sex. So with that knowledge comes the responsibility to create laws to protect those children. That is the exact reason a lot of child molesters go to other countries that are either ignorant of these facts or just don't care to protect children because its not profitable. Men with the knowledge of what they are doing go to foreign countries to have paid sex with children. How would this be viewed in your gods eyes ??

ATHEIST-ANARCHIST wrote:

And to make reference to Leviticus 25:44-46. Is it ok today to own a slave ?? In America it is wrong. In remote areas of the world it it still viewed as acceptable to sell and buy children. So does god allow this in some countries today just like he allowed it in a different century ?? Does time and space affect what sin is to be defined as ?? If god doesn't change with time as men do then why was it ever ok to commit genocide ?? Or to rape a captive woman and make her your wife ?? Or to kill children and babies ?? And pregnant women ?? All written in the old testament. Are these things still ok in the eyes of god today ?? Or is that book called the bible a load of shit ?? If it was ok then but not now then god changes, and is therefore man made. If god does not change then either the bible is complete refuse or our current morals are complete refuse.
What you don't get is that your bad attitude is no different than those who you claimed to be "ignorant", when you simply took your own cultural upbringing for granted, by yourself internalizing the modern sense of morality and ethics uncritically. Since change is the only constant, then anything that's subject to change is neither good nor bad, it just simply is. However, that doesn't mean your own superiority/god(s) complex is justified. Especially when you're behaving just like your so-called "ignorant" masses are.

Tim Harford: Trial, error and the God complex
Economics writer Tim Harford studies complex systems -- and finds a surprising link among the successful ones: they were built through trial and error. In this sparkling talk from TEDGlobal 2011, he asks us to embrace our randomness and start making better mistakes.

Now I'm not telling you this story because I think Archie Cochrane is a dude, although Archie Cochrane is a dude. I'm not even telling you the story because I think we should be running more carefully controlled randomized trials in all aspects of public policy, although I think that would also be completely awesome. I'm telling you this story because Archie Cochrane, all his life, fought against a terrible affliction, and he realized it was debilitating to individuals and it was corrosive to societies. And he had a name for it. He called it the God complex. Now I can describe the symptoms of the God complex very, very easily. So the symptoms of the complex are, no matter how complicated the problem, you have an absolutely overwhelming belief that you are infallibly right in your solution.

Now Archie was a doctor, so he hung around with doctors a lot. And doctors suffer from the God complex a lot. Now I'm an economist, I'm not a doctor, but I see the God complex around me all the time in my fellow economists. I see it in our business leaders. I see it in the politicians we vote for -- people who, in the face of an incredibly complicated world, are nevertheless absolutely convinced that they understand the way that the world works. And you know, with the future billions that we've been hearing about, the world is simply far too complex to understand in that way....

.... So this is the complexity of the world that surrounds us. This perhaps is why we find the God complex so tempting. We tend to retreat and say, "We can draw a picture, we can post some graphs, we get it, we understand how this works." And we don't. We never do. Now I'm not trying to deliver a nihilistic message here. I'm not trying to say we can't solve complicated problems in a complicated world. We clearly can. But the way we solve them is with humility -- to abandon the God complex and to actually use a problem-solving technique that works. And we have a problem-solving technique that works. Now you show me a successful complex system, and I will show you a system that has evolved through trial and error....

.... But Cochrane would do that kind of thing. And the reason he would do that kind of thing is because he understood it feels so much better to stand there and say, "Here in my own little world, I am a god, I understand everything. I do not want to have my opinions challenged. I do not want to have my conclusions tested." It feels so much more comfortable simply to lay down the law. Cochrane understood that uncertainty, that fallibility, that being challenged, they hurt. And you sometimes need to be shocked out of that. Now I'm not going to pretend that this is easy. It isn't easy. It's incredibly painful.

And since I started talking about this subject and researching this subject, I've been really haunted by something a Japanese mathematician said on the subject. So shortly after the war, this young man, Yutaka Taniyama, developed this amazing conjecture called the Taniyama-Shimura Conjecture. It turned out to be absolutely instrumental many decades later in proving Fermat's Last Theorem. In fact, it turns out it's equivalent to proving Fermat's Last Theorem. You prove one, you prove the other. But it was always a conjecture. Taniyama tried and tried and tried and he could never prove that it was true. And shortly before his 30th birthday in 1958, Yutaka Taniyama killed himself. His friend, Goro Shimura -- who worked on the mathematics with him -- many decades later, reflected on Taniyama's life. He said, "He was not a very careful person as a mathematician. He made a lot of mistakes. But he made mistakes in a good direction. I tried to emulate him, but I realized it is very difficult to make good mistakes."
And that's your problem with this hubris and ethnocentric attitude of yours, because it's holding yourself and those like you back within mankind's infancy, whenever you retreated back into a bubble of superstitious and dangerous cultural memes.

Dan Dennett: Ants, terrorism, and the awesome power of memes
Starting with the simple tale of an ant, philosopher Dan Dennett unleashes a devastating salvo of ideas, making a powerful case for the existence of memes -- concepts that are literally alive.

Yesterday, Amory Lovins spoke about "infectious repititis." It was a term of abuse, in effect. This is unthinking engineering. Well, most of the cultural spread that goes on is not brilliant, new, out-of-the-box thinking. It's "infectious repetitis," and we might as well try to have a theory of what's going on when that happens so that we can understand the conditions of infection. Hosts work hard to spread these ideas to others. I myself am a philosopher, and one of our occupational hazards is that people ask us what the meaning of life is. And you have to have a bumper sticker, you know. You have to have a statement. So, this is mine.

The secret of happiness is: Find something more important than you are and dedicate your life to it. Most of us -- now that the "Me Decade" is well in the past -- now we actually do this. One set of ideas or another have simply replaced our biological imperatives in our own lives. This is what our summum bonum is. It's not maximizing the number of grandchildren we have. Now, this is a profound biological effect. It's the subordination of genetic interest to other interests. And no other species does anything at all like it.

Well, how are we going to think about this? It is, on the one hand, a biological effect, and a very large one. Unmistakable. Now, what theories do we want to use to look at this? Well, many theories. But how could something tie them together? The idea of replicating ideas; ideas that replicate by passing from brain to brain. Richard Dawkins, whom you'll be hearing later in the day, invented the term "memes," and put forward the first really clear and vivid version of this idea in his book "The Selfish Gene." Now here am I talking about his idea. Well, you see, it's not his. Yes -- he started it. But it's everybody's idea now. And he's not responsible for what I say about memes. I'm responsible for what I say about memes.

Actually, I think we're all responsible for not just the intended effects of our ideas, but for their likely misuses. So it is important, I think, to Richard, and to me, that these ideas not be abused and misused. They're very easy to misuse. That's why they're dangerous. And it's just about a full-time job trying to prevent people who are scared of these ideas from caricaturing them and then running off to one dire purpose or another. So we have to keep plugging away, trying to correct the misapprehensions so that only the benign and useful variants of our ideas continue to spread. But it is a problem. We don't have much time, and I'm going to go over just a little bit of this and cut out, because there's a lot of other things that are going to be said.

So let me just point out: memes are like viruses. That's what Richard said, back in '93. And you might think, "Well, how can that be? I mean, a virus is -- you know, it's stuff! What's a meme made of?" Yesterday, Negroponte was talking about viral telecommunications but -- what's a virus? A virus is a string of nucleic acid with attitude. That is, there is something about it that tends to make it replicate better than the competition does. And that's what a meme is. It's an information packet with attitude. What's a meme made of? What are bits made of, Mom? Not silicon. They're made of information, and can be carried in any physical medium. What's a word made of? Sometimes when people say, "Do memes exist?" I say, "Well, do words exist? Are they in your ontology?" If they are, words are memes that can be pronounced.

Then there's all the other memes that can't be pronounced. There are different species of memes. Remember the Shakers? Gift to be simple? Simple, beautiful furniture? And, of course, they're basically extinct now. And one of the reasons is that among the creed of Shaker-dom is that one should be celibate. Not just the priests. Everybody. Well, it's not so surprising that they've gone extinct. But in fact that's not why they went extinct. They survived as long as they did at a time when the social safety nets weren't there. And there were lots of widows and orphans, people like that, who needed a foster home. And so they had a ready supply of converts. And they could keep it going. And, in principle, it could've gone on forever, with perfect celibacy on the part of the hosts. The idea being passed on through proselytizing, instead of through the gene line.

So the ideas can live on in spite of the fact that they're not being passed on genetically. A meme can flourish in spite of having a negative impact on genetic fitness. After all, the meme for Shaker-dom was essentially a sterilizing parasite. There are other parasites that do this -- which render the host sterile. It's part of their plan. They don't have to have minds to have a plan.

I'm just going to draw your attention to just one of the many implications of the memetic perspective, which I recommend. I've not time to go into more of it. In Jared Diamond's wonderful book, "Guns, Germs and Steel," he talks about how it was germs, more than guns and steel, that conquered the new hemisphere -- the Western hemisphere -- that conquered the rest of the world. When European explorers and travelers spread out, they brought with them the germs that they had become essentially immune to, that they had learned how to tolerate over hundreds and hundreds of years, thousands of years, of living with domesticated animals who were the sources of those pathogens. And they just wiped out -- these pathogens just wiped out the native people, who had no immunity to them at all.

And we're doing it again. We're doing it this time with toxic ideas. Yesterday, a number of people -- Nicholas Negroponte and others -- spoke about all the wonderful things that are happening when our ideas get spread out, thanks to all the new technology all over the world. And I agree. It is largely wonderful. Largely wonderful. But among all those ideas that inevitably flow out into the whole world thanks to our technology, are a lot of toxic ideas. Now, this has been realized for some time. Sayyid Qutb is one of the founding fathers of fanatical Islam, one of the ideologues that inspired Osama bin Laden. "One has only to glance at its press films, fashion shows, beauty contests, ballrooms, wine bars and broadcasting stations." Memes.

These memes are spreading around the world and they are wiping out whole cultures. They are wiping out languages. They are wiping out traditions and practices. And it's not our fault, anymore than it's our fault when our germs lay waste to people that haven't developed the immunity. We have an immunity to all of the junk that lies around the edges of our culture. We're a free society, so we let pornography and all these things -- we shrug them off. They're like a mild cold. They're not a big deal for us. But we should recognize that for many people in the world, they are a big deal. And we should be very alert to this. As we spread our education and our technology, one of the things that we are doing is we're the vectors of memes that are correctly viewed by the hosts of many other memes as a dire threat to their favorite memes -- the memes that they are prepared to die for.
Let me demonstrate how your prized modern "child protection law" is in fact a stupid mistake that only perfect(not protect) an unrealistic and idealized childhood, yet nonetheless it's a toxic idea that's making children more vulnerable than ever before.

Brene Brown: The power of vulnerability
Brene Brown studies human connection -- our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk at TEDxHouston, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity. A talk to share.

And we perfect, most dangerously, our children. Let me tell you what we think about children. They're hardwired for struggle when they get here. And when you hold those perfect little babies in your hand, our job is not to say, "Look at her, she's perfect. My job is just to keep her perfect -- make sure she makes the tennis team by fifth grade and Yale by seventh grade." That's not our job. Our job is to look and say, "You know what? You're imperfect, and you're wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging." That's our job. Show me a generation of kids raised like that, and we'll end the problems I think that we see today. We pretend that what we do doesn't have an effect on people. We do that in our personal lives. We do that corporate -- whether it's a bailout, an oil spill, a recall -- we pretend like what we're doing doesn't have a huge impact on other people. I would say to companies, this is not our first rodeo, people. We just need you to be authentic and real and say, "We're sorry. We'll fix it."

But there's another way, and I'll leave you with this. This is what I have found: to let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen; to love with our whole hearts, even though there's no guarantee -- and that's really hard, and I can tell you as a parent, that's excruciatingly difficult -- to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we're wondering, "Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?" just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, "I'm just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I'm alive." And the last, which I think is probably the most important, is to believe that we're enough. Because when we work from a place, I believe, that says, "I'm enough," then we stop screaming and start listening, we're kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we're kinder and gentler to ourselves.
And make no mistake, there's no characters of kindness, gentleness, nor gratitude towards those who challenge your claim in your comments insofar. But only superstitious and self-righteous attitude. And when you decide to just ignore my observation about your behavior altogether, than you'll indeed be no fundamentally different than those you claimed to despise, and not an "atheist 2.0".

Alain de Botton: Atheism 2.0
What aspects of religion should atheists (respectfully) adopt? Alain de Botton suggests a "religion for atheists" -- call it Atheism 2.0 -- that incorporates religious forms and traditions to satisfy our human need for connection, ritual and transcendence.
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