Sunday, March 19, 2006

A reply, never written

On another blog, there was a very passionate comment against torture, based on the religious belief with the usual “self-evidences”.

But “self-evidence” doesn’t exist.

Since she came to the same conclusion as I do – no torture (remember the Stanford Prison Experiments)! – i decided, not to reply. Mainly because i didn’t want to offend her, but also, because i fear, my comments kill conversations and...

because i fear, religious people didn’t want to hear it.

Nevertheless, to remain silent is to let you think I approve or support your actions. I do not. - Joseph W. DuRocher

So here my reply as part of the neverending (already lost?) fight for reason and against the “self-evidences”, which seem to prove God or the need for religion, inevitably leading to the next “proofs”: that my God is better than yours, that i have to defend him against your wrong beliefs and so on and on...

She said:
All religions begin with a loving God, a Father, a Creator

that's only the end of the sacral drift - particularly the Abrahamic religions know a human-like Father-Creator.

The ancient "religions" began as educational systems to teach "new" skills like medicine. To be able to teach you have to be able to understand and to present, so the ancient people had to invent symbols/writing - e.g. the lions represented the color "yellow", representing fire/warmth/home/health, but also fire/heat/destruction (therefore the seemingly inconsistent "responsibilities" of ancient lion goddesses: medicine and war) - symbols were created to store information to be able to teach it, but also for the persons teaching and using the skills, who presumably were highly respected: That was the beginning of the sacral drift.

She said:
We know the difference between right and wrong, that IS religion

"right or wrong" is mostly used regarding human interactions, you do "right", when you act as "good guy"

Altruistic Helping in Human Infants and Young Chimpanzees:
"Here we show that human children as young as 18 months of age (prelinguistic or just-linguistic) quite readily help others to achieve their goals in a variety of different situations. This requires both an understanding of others' goals and an altruistic motivation to help. In addition, we demonstrate similar though less robust skills and motivations in three young chimpanzees."

Seems to me more an evolutionary process.

So many people think like that – think, that humans need God to be good, to be able to be a moral based entity. But that’s simply not true.

You just have to be a highly intelligent autonomous “object”, than you will develop an “Ego” – you will recognize yourself in the mirror.

And it means, that you must develop better communication – since high intelligence destroys information like a black hole. If you are not able to dense communication, your race/intelligence will not be able to evolve.

Do you see what that means?

That means, that “altruism” is a necessary part of our progression – because only communication prevents the destruction of information, but communication needs a listener. Look around yourself – when the others don’t want to discuss with you, you can talk, talk, talk without effect, isn’t it?

So you need to make them listen – and don’t be stupid: in a group with other “autonomous objects”, brute force don’t work. You have to respect them, to be “moral”, “decent” and “just”.

No gods needed.

So ask yourself: Cui Bono?


9 Comments:

Blogger JasonJ said...

Once again, you make a good point here. There is no self-evident truths, but of course,you understand that such tautological debate killers are the foundation of religious faiths. Indeed, if you can accept anything Dawkins has proposed about the ideas of memes as the new replicators, then you will see just why these are such effective tools to their own survival in modern human consciousness.

Religiosity is a self serving idea. Like many, It doesn't take much imagination to understand where and when it had its value in explaining the mysterious aspects of the world that a newly evolved curiosity encountered. What makes it unique is the lasting psychological effects of the fear that has been instilled into virtually all of us about eternal hellfire and damnation for the slightest hint of skepticism. It is my opinion that this alone is what has managed to pull all Abrahamic religions this far into such an advanced culture as we live in today.

Yes, you are correct. There is no need for a benevolent diety to guide man's destiny. No need for divine intervention for mankind to behave in an altruistic manner towards his fellow man. I find that most of my fellow atheists are much more truthfully altruistic and genuainely concerned about the welfare of his fellow man than any religious faithful I have met thus far. While this is not an empirical statement and I have no scientific proof to support such a claim, I can say this with a clear conscience. I personally have no stake in an afterlife. I believe in no diety to whom I can beg forgiveness when I behave in a manner unbecoming. I understand that we are a product of nature and a mere roadside attraction in evolutionary history; and as such our biological urges are selfish when viewed from the gene's eye view. But given all that, we are fairly uniquely conscious. We can stand here and say 'I am', even when there is no one inside our heads to be calling 'I'. So it is I/We, this collection of thoughts, memes, ideas, emotions, memories of events that can sit here and say 'I want to make the world a better place because I can; not because anyone told me I had to' and it is I who can reject the notion that I am guided by a mystical power that can control everything and create everything from afar but yet is jeolous of even the slightest scrutiny.

Ok, so sometimes I carry on, but the point is that peaceful co-existence with religious ideology is a tricky subject at best. While I would debate that there is any clear genetic link to altruism in any species, I do believe something akin to communication and altruism co-evolving culturally in a symbiotic relationship. To suggest that character traits may evolve genetically would be a bit Lamarckian, but to suggest that a perpensity toward such behavior was passed on by organisms(us) that happened to learn it as a good trick and as such these traits were passed on because the possessors were more likely to survive long enough to procreate is another discussion. I'm not entirely clear where you stand on this issue, but I have a hunch that you are looking at it from the same point of view I am.

I'd love to talk about it more though.

6:07 PM, March 29, 2006  
Blogger Again said...

I'd love to talk about it more though.

agree ;-)

sorry to be so late, but i pondered about your post since yesterday morning - so much to say...

my problem: i'm something like a perfectionist, especially in words, and i try to be understandable and complete even in English, which i master only with a lot of time, sorry

so to be able to answer you i decided to pick just one thing to start with, although it was hard to set priorities ;-)

To suggest that character traits may evolve genetically...possessors were more likely to survive long enough to procreate is another discussion. I'm not entirely clear where you stand on this issue, but I have a hunch that you are looking at it from the same point of view I am.

hmmm - but how do you think the information about the behavior is passed from parent to child?

think about language - the last step in the evolution of information processing systems - a very important step because it allowed further progress in intelligence, therefore pushing (genetically) brain's explosive growth in the last million year

think of the physically observable representation of learning in neurons - obviously there is a connection between mind and body, a physical connection, such able to be stored in DNA

that's because information is physics and to store it you have to have a physical storage - the way to find and use the store is Evolution, as you say: "more likely to survive long enough to procreate"

that you are looking at it from the same point of view I am.

100% - because of our different experiences we sometimes use other ways, but the conclusions are the same - truth isn't divisible, that's the reason why so many philosophers use so many different sounding words, but if you understand them, you see, that - in case they are right - they talk always about the same ;-)

look at Nietzsche! His great words about the urgent need for humans to progress (the "Superman" isn't a flying muscle man) - and power:

"One pays heavily for coming to power: power makes stupid"

despite the fact that the man didn't know anything about behavioral experiments (the alpha chimp is the ONLY chimp no more able to recognize his own image in the mirror) - he observed his fellow men and saw it

and where he didn't know enough, he erred - that's the power of information ;-)

but sorry, i digress...

Lamarckian

do you know the experiments about the individual learning of parents found in children (without the usual way of education)?

there seem to be some circumstances in which DNA - or maybe even other parts of body-memory - are able to learn in just one generation...

but i really can't remember that well, don't know how reliable that study/studies are...

11:03 PM, March 30, 2006  
Blogger JasonJ said...

Perhaps you would benefit from spending a little time reading up on what is called the 'Baldwin Effect'

I guess it's up to you if you would prefer the long story or the short story here. I looked up Baldwin Effect on Wikipedia and there is an entry that is adequate as a simple answer but for a more in-depth discussion I would refer you to http://www.kcl.ac.uk/ip/davidpapineau/Staff/Papineau/OnlinePapers/SocLearnBald.htm
or to read Richard Dawkins "The Bllind Watchmaker". which gives a very good laymens' interpretation of how it works.

Basically, we are talking evolutionary 'good tricks' at two different levels and that is why I made the reference to the Chevalier de Lamarck. I'm not sure if you know his significance in this story or not but you are correct in stating that he assumed that traits could be passed directly through learning by one generation into the genes of the following generation. All in all, not such a bad call given the period he lived in, but not exactly how things work in the real world. While the outcome is the same given the much more plausible Baldwin Effect, the route is different. Many behaviors in organisms are hard-wired into them, this is a given. How they end up that way is another story. Let us just say for simplicity's sake that an organism has a perpensity to be good at doing something slightly better than the rest of the population, or more likely a percentage of the population finds the good trick to varying degrees. Now this causes them to survive longer and reproduce more offspring that also carry the gene that helps develop the special skill. This is a subtle difference from Lamarck but an important one. Now say that it is something like the Peacock's tail length that peahens find attractive. Maybe it is functional or maybe flatout ornamental. The difference is not important if it causes more procreation. Now let us also suppose that this gene is part of a gene pair that affects male tail length and effects female preference for tail length. I think you can see where this is going.

This is the idea in a nutshell. I doubt I do it much justice in the space I have used, but I hope you get the idea anyhow. Dawkins devotes much time in "The Selfish Gene" to the subject of altruism in the same context just for good measure. I realize that even in the evolutionary circles Dawkins isn't everybodys' favorite 'go to guy' but I have been talking to some of these very people and I find the biggest argument is the fact that he pisses off the creationists so much that the more conservative scientists fear tha he and Dennett chase away the fencesitters and by doing so hurt the cause.

4:51 PM, April 03, 2006  
Blogger Again said...

jasonj:
Baldwin Effect

thanks for the links - discussing the results of "my" information which match so well with other science disciplines is amazing

actually, that's the reason why i know that i'm right - because even in the unknown areas of science (unknown to me) there are no contradictions...

I find the biggest argument is the fact that he pisses off the creationists so much that the more conservative scientists fear tha he and Dennett chase away the fencesitters and by doing so hurt the cause.

do i understand you right, that "the more conservative scientists" avoid (citing/discussing) knowledge to please anti-scientists?

Didn't they understand, that you can't argue with believers and that it doesn't matter what you do and what you say as long as it isn't what they want to hear?

sorry, i'm frustrated, because yesterday i heard a woman say, that it is just waste of time to discuss about decency and about global warming and about 2005's explosion of doomsday-observations - they want to live in the "now and here", they are not interested in caring for the future, even (!) if this "now and here" may be gone in 2-3 years and even if this short time is the last time offering acceptable living conditions - they don't care about as long as they are not starving. Then, yes, then they cry for help to their Almighty "Father" like underage children ...

to please such willingly infantile people is to support suicide and even the "more conservative scientists" should have learnt enough to understand that

5:32 AM, April 08, 2006  
Anonymous RJHall said...

Very interesting reading! You're clearly a "bright" - a "a person who has a naturalistic worldview" - so you all might be interested in checking out their home page http://the-brights.net/ and maybe even self-identifying if you're so inclined. The term "bright" (consciously analogous to the term "gay" instead of "homosexual") took a while to grow on me, but it is an alternative to terms like "atheist" that get such bad press. Indeed, their forums, where I hang out most of my online time (http://the-brights.net/forums/) have discussed in two threads (http://www.the-brights.net/forums/forum/index.php?showtopic=4744&hl= and http://www.the-brights.net/forums/forum/index.php?showtopic=4764&hl=) the latest survey showing atheists to be the most distrusted minority in America and also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry, so we do need some better press!

On this here subject of torture, another thread on the forum (http://www.the-brights.net/forums/forum/index.php?showtopic=4763&hl=)discusses another survey that showed that Catholics were most likely to support torture and those identifying themselves as secular were least likely to support it.

Meanwhile, now that I've discovered this blog, I have some more reading to do! :)

7:26 AM, April 10, 2006  
Blogger JasonJ said...

...yesterday i heard a woman say, that it is just waste of time to discuss about decency and about global warming and about 2005's explosion of doomsday-observations...

This, my friend, is the danger of keeping quiet during this whole, can we call it 'religious revival', thing. I may have mentioned it before but I work for a bunch of evangelicals; and I can honestly say that I have heard much of this talk before. I'm not sure if the recent explosion in rapture ideology is a post-traumatic symptom of the World Trade Center bombing manifesting the way it seems to be or if it is something even murkier than that. I have talked with you before about Cognitive Dissonance Theory and still see this notion as a possible player in the collective psyche of my fellow Americans. To further this line of reasoning I cite the recent Zogby International poll done of US soldiers fighting in Iraq

http://www.zogby.com/news/ReadNews.dbm?ID=1075

While, it is interesting to note that I large percentage of troops on the ground in Iraq are reserve soldiers who do not agree with our reasons to be there, and would like for the conflict to end; what is more interesting is that 85% of soldiers polled believed that we were in Iraq because of Saddam Hussein's 'involvement' in the 9-11 attack. I found this a staggering number given the information we have in hand. While I would expect our soldiers to be guided by propaganda, I did not expect these numbers. There is something more here and it points to me as a product of our old friend cognitive dissonance.

As far as the conservative types, I assure you they are out there and I am in an arguement currently as to why it is not a good idea to cater the argument to these people and why I feel that Dawkins and Dennett do not in fact do science a dissevice, but I am finding that when I bring up points to support my intuition on the subject, it turns out to be a dialogue killer in its own right.

Such is the way things are.

6:52 PM, April 10, 2006  
Blogger Again said...

rjhall:

welcome, great to see you

You're clearly a "bright" - a "a person who has a naturalistic worldview"

i guess, i'm the truest bluest true-blue naturalist you've ever seen ;-)

the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry, so we do need some better press!

who cares? Sorry, the older i get the lesser i can stand what Kant called "Unmündigkeit" (immaturity and dependence)

and if i can't stand people like that ("lack[ing] of determination and courage to think without the direction of another") why should i want to marry them?

btw: what do you think about Fata Morgana - i guess, you should like it ;-)

2:52 AM, April 11, 2006  
Blogger Again said...

jasonj
This, my friend, is the danger of keeping quiet during this whole, can we call it 'religious revival', thing.

yes, i guess, that's the main reason why i rage against "hope" - because "hope is christian" and if you believe in a loving god, you can't be desperate...

it's so easy - behave like an underage child and daddy will come and rescue you

it turns out to be a dialogue killer in its own right.

maybe they simply don't understand you - so they have only two alternatives: to accept it or to ignore it (and i guess, ignoring makes them feel smarter ;-) ) - but in both cases they can't reply

I have talked with you before about Cognitive Dissonance Theory and still see this notion as a possible player in the collective psyche of my fellow Americans

i guess, not only in the collective psyche and not only of Americans - because that "cognitive dissonance" is nothing else than a contradiction in your information processing system - and therefore proves, that something's wrong with your worldview - and because contradiction is part of the fundamental strategy of information processing to detect information in a chaotic world (sort by time and kind to create a hypothesis of interacting particles, then use contradiction to differ reality and theory), a contradiction is always "dangerous", because the first goal of each information processing system is...

to survive

and because information allows you to better your prognosis/your decisions - made in conjunction with this goal - each contradiction shows perfectly, that your evalution of the situation isn't that good and therefore your decisions aren't that good - that you simply risk to fail, maybe even fail in trying to survive

so the survival instinct itself forces people to reduce "cognitive dissonance" - problem is in human cultures, that the buffer of human activities around each information processing entity against reality is "thick" enough to allow a delay in solving the contradiction - this time you can "use" to lie to yourself...

but if you don't solve the contradictions according to reality to improve your "image" of the world (due to the real world, not just like you wanted it to be) - later or earlier the buffer will crash - and than you have to pay...

remember Global Warming and the Revenge of Gaia?

it doesn't matter how many people "hope" that God will save us - reality trumps and beats wishes like that always - that's why we got our "Ego" - to see our own wishes and needs to be able to know, how they "color" our evaluation and decision

3:44 AM, April 11, 2006  
Blogger Again said...

PS:

RJHall
willing to allow their children to marry

sorry, needed more than a second glance - to read another detail:

"allow their children to marry"? What does that mean? Do children marry nowadays or do parents decide whom their sons and daughters marry?


jasonj

sorry, if i repeated myself, it's sometimes hard to know what i posted/wrote where ;-)

5:07 AM, April 11, 2006  

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