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Author Topic:   Jazzns' History of Belief
Straggler
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Posts: 9939
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006
Member Rating: 3.1


Message 34 of 140 (636925)
10-12-2011 8:28 AM
Reply to: Message 33 by Phat
10-12-2011 7:15 AM


Re: Give Us A Break
Phat writes:

Personally, even as a believer, I am unafraid of such a concept.

Why?

If you believe hell exists isn't it something to be feared and avoided?


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 Message 33 by Phat, posted 10-12-2011 7:15 AM Phat has not yet responded

  
Straggler
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Posts: 9939
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006
Member Rating: 3.1


(1)
Message 37 of 140 (636954)
10-12-2011 1:26 PM
Reply to: Message 36 by GDR
10-12-2011 11:05 AM


Re: What is truth?
GDR writes:

The question is how the Bible is to be understood. As with many atheists it seems that the Bible has to be read as if dictated word for word by God to be relevant and as it clearly isn't then the whole thing is discarded.

I don't think that is exactly what people are saying.

What we mean is that there comes a point when the interpretation of something so far outweighs it's explicit meaning that the original text is of barely any consequence at all. It becomes simply a pointless prop for what one believes anyway.

You don't seem to be so much basing beliefs on interpretations of the bible as interpreting the bible to be in line with your already held beliefs. In which case that it is the bible becomes irrelevant. I could interpret Lord of the Rings and come up with something that matches my pre-existing moral stance.


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 Message 36 by GDR, posted 10-12-2011 11:05 AM GDR has responded

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 Message 39 by GDR, posted 10-12-2011 7:54 PM Straggler has responded

  
Straggler
Member
Posts: 9939
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006
Member Rating: 3.1


Message 41 of 140 (637050)
10-13-2011 5:40 AM
Reply to: Message 39 by GDR
10-12-2011 7:54 PM


Re: What is truth?
That the bible has acted as some sort of catalyst for you personally I don't think is being disputed. But others have read the bible and it has acted as a catalyst for very different conclusions. If you torture it for long enough you can make the bible support pretty much any moral philosophy. From gay hating war mongering fundamentalism to peace and love hippy liberalism. It’s just a matter of interpretation. So how do we decide who is right and who is wrong? Who really has an insight into what God really means?

GDR writes:

God cares for all nations.

How do you know?

GDR writes:

Actually my understanding of the Bible has formed my beliefs more than the other way around. I think I mentioned in another thread about how my beliefs have changed because of my understanding of God from the Bible.

What you call your "understanding" of the bible and God is your interpretation. This comes from within you. And what makes you "you" is in turn a product of various factors.

We'll never know now but I'd bet that if it hadn't been the bible something else would have inspired you along a similar path at some point. Because you were obviously receptive to the sort of compassionate message you advocate as biblical.

Don't give God all the credit.


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 Message 42 by GDR, posted 10-13-2011 11:35 AM Straggler has responded

  
Straggler
Member
Posts: 9939
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006
Member Rating: 3.1


Message 43 of 140 (637105)
10-13-2011 12:20 PM
Reply to: Message 42 by GDR
10-13-2011 11:35 AM


Re: What is truth?
GDR writes:

Again IMHO if it wasn't for this spark of the divine in all of us we would still be living in a world where survival of the fittest would be the rule and it would be all about me.

I think you misunderstand the term "survival of the fittest". The "fittest" can (and indeed very often does) mean most co-operative, altruistic and all those other things you rightly hold in high regard.


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 Message 44 by GDR, posted 10-13-2011 1:26 PM Straggler has responded

  
Straggler
Member
Posts: 9939
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006
Member Rating: 3.1


Message 54 of 140 (637216)
10-14-2011 6:25 AM
Reply to: Message 44 by GDR
10-13-2011 1:26 PM


Altruism
But reciprocal altruism is a pretty well established component of evolutionary biology isn't it?

The world is a complex, volatile and unpredictable place. And “fitness” is a relative and situation dependent term. Unless one can guarantee to always be the “fittest” at all times and in all situations it pays to altruise if one is part of an interdependent social species.

Also – Given our discussions on Robert Wright previously – It is worth pointing out that the entire basis of his objective morality argument is based on evolved altruism.


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 Message 44 by GDR, posted 10-13-2011 1:26 PM GDR has responded

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 Message 55 by GDR, posted 10-14-2011 10:53 AM Straggler has responded

  
Straggler
Member
Posts: 9939
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006
Member Rating: 3.1


Message 56 of 140 (637256)
10-14-2011 12:21 PM
Reply to: Message 55 by GDR
10-14-2011 10:53 AM


Re: Altruism
I am now unclear as to whether you agree that altruism is something that has evolved or whether you still consider it to be something that cannot evolve.....?

GDR writes:

Once again though what you are talking about isn’t altruism. In your line of thinking you are considering that the one who temporarily weakens himself is thinking of the possibility that some day he will be the weaker being and is looking for an insurance policy, (reciprocal altruism), in case that happens.

Yes - That is the root of it. Instinctive altruism. But like our propensity to seek out fat and sugar it doesn't really have the evolved-for effect in modern society. Our altruistic tendencies apply in ways that don't really make sense in a modern society because they evolved in a small hunter gathere community. But that doesn't make us any less altruistic.


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 Message 55 by GDR, posted 10-14-2011 10:53 AM GDR has responded

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 Message 57 by GDR, posted 10-14-2011 1:43 PM Straggler has responded

  
Straggler
Member
Posts: 9939
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006
Member Rating: 3.1


Message 58 of 140 (637276)
10-14-2011 1:51 PM
Reply to: Message 57 by GDR
10-14-2011 1:43 PM


Re: Altruism
You now seem to be applying a fairly unique definition of "altruism" to make it sound like something that requires exactly the sort of God you believe in.

The sort of altruism we actually observe is well accounted for in evolutionary terms. In fact the altruism we observe is absolutely at the root of the sort of arguments (as espoused by Robert Wright) that you have previously advocated as leading to some sort of non-zero-sum objective morality.

Take away evolved altruism and any mathematical notion of morality of the sort you have championed previously goes out the window too.

Edited by Straggler, : No reason given.


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 Message 59 by GDR, posted 10-14-2011 2:46 PM Straggler has responded

  
Straggler
Member
Posts: 9939
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006
Member Rating: 3.1


Message 62 of 140 (637402)
10-15-2011 10:32 AM
Reply to: Message 59 by GDR
10-14-2011 2:46 PM


Re: Altruism
If you don't accept altruism as an evolved trait then I don't see how you can accept any of Robert Wright's argument that there is an objective morality or definite direction to moral progress. Reciprocal altruism forms the entire basis of his arguments on this.

If you do agree that altruism is an evolved trait then I am not sure what the disagreement is here.

Robert Wright writes:

Thanks to reciprocal altruism, people are “designed” to settle into mutually beneficial relationships with other people, people whom they can count on for things ranging from food to valuable gossip to social support, and who in turn can count on them. We enter these alliances almost without thinking about it, because our genetically based emotions draw us in. We feel gratitude for a favor received, along with a sense of obligation, which may lead us to return the favor. We feel growing trust of and affection for people who prove reliable reciprocators (aka “friends”), which keeps us entwined in beneficial relationships. This is what feelings like gratitude and trust are for—the reason they’re part of human nature.

GDR writes:

Straggler writes:

Take away evolved altruism and any mathematical notion of morality of the sort you have championed previously goes out the window too.

I’m afraid this time you’ve gone well over my head which isn’t really much of a challenge.

Have a look at this vid.

Robert Wright on Non-zero-sum game theory and compassion


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 Message 59 by GDR, posted 10-14-2011 2:46 PM GDR has responded

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 Message 64 by GDR, posted 10-15-2011 11:52 AM Straggler has responded

  
Straggler
Member
Posts: 9939
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006
Member Rating: 3.1


(1)
Message 63 of 140 (637407)
10-15-2011 11:05 AM
Reply to: Message 61 by GDR
10-15-2011 2:44 AM


Altruism - The Big Mac Effect
GDR writes:

I won’t be punished if I don’t participate in supporting third world countries and I can’t see where not doing it is bad game theory.

We are evolved to seek out attractive mates, high calorie food and adrenaline inducing pursuits. The modern day result of these tendencies is pornography, Big Macs and the XBox. Not quite what nature intended.

Likewise our evolutionary past results in altruistic behaviour. Which means that when images of people starving on the other side of the world are beamed into our sitting rooms in many cases we feel compelled to do something about it.

If you are going to give God credit for making us altruistic to strangers in faraway lands you should also blame him for making us want to stuff our faces with burgers and cheesecake. Because it is all part of the same misplaced evolved natural tendencies at work.


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 Message 61 by GDR, posted 10-15-2011 2:44 AM GDR has responded

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 Message 65 by GDR, posted 10-15-2011 12:00 PM Straggler has responded

  
Straggler
Member
Posts: 9939
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006
Member Rating: 3.1


Message 67 of 140 (637427)
10-15-2011 2:23 PM
Reply to: Message 64 by GDR
10-15-2011 11:52 AM


Re: Altruism
So you agree that altruism is a trait that is a product of biological evolution but you can't believe that certain acts of altruism are the result of purely physical biology at work.

You seem to be having your (high calorie) cake whilst scoffing it.

GDR writes:

As has been pointed out, even though there might be a reciprocal aspect to a particular act of altruism it isn’t necessarily conscious.

I thought that was my entire point regarding the evolved nature of altruism. Most of it is instinctive. Evolved from an evolutionary past when we were in closely related hunter gatherer communities. Thus making altruism, reciprocal or otherwise, very far from a conscious calculation of anything at all.

GDR writes:

So I agree that the process of reciprocal altruism is built into our nature, whether it be spiritual or genetic, but it requires pure altruism to make it work. Again, it certainly has the appearance of intelligent moral design.

You keep making this distinction between "reciprocal altruism" and "pure altruism". This kinda indicate that you are missing the entire point of how altruism has evolved.

GDR writes:

I am in agreement with Wright’s hypothesis completely.

But Wright's entire materialist hypothesis is based on altruism having evolved. There is no non-evolved divine "pure altruism" innate in humans because if there were the entire non-zero-sum game theory aspect would be utterly redundant. Wright's talk of a moral direction and objective morality is based on the maths of non-zero sum game theory. Not on inner "pure altruism" shaping things somehow separately.

GDR writes:

By the way, did you notice his closing remark.

Yes - But what exactly does Wright mean by "god"......?

Edited by Straggler, : No reason given.


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Straggler
Member
Posts: 9939
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006
Member Rating: 3.1


Message 68 of 140 (637429)
10-15-2011 2:30 PM
Reply to: Message 65 by GDR
10-15-2011 12:00 PM


Re: Altruism - The Big Mac Effect
How on Earth are you deciding which human natural tendencies to credit God with and which not to?

Is he responsible for all such proclivities or only the ones you happen to consider godly and positive about?


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 Message 65 by GDR, posted 10-15-2011 12:00 PM GDR has responded

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 Message 70 by GDR, posted 10-15-2011 5:21 PM Straggler has responded

  
Straggler
Member
Posts: 9939
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006
Member Rating: 3.1


Message 71 of 140 (637441)
10-15-2011 6:21 PM
Reply to: Message 70 by GDR
10-15-2011 5:21 PM


Re: Altruism - The Big Mac Effect
I am not convinced you understand the role of non-zero-sum game theory in Wright's analysis. It forms the entire basis of his objective morality and moral compass analysis. What he calls "divine" is essentially a form of mathematical truth. It shares more in common with the Platonic notion of a perfect circle than it does the Christian (or indeed any religious) notion of God when you really look at it. It isn't even really deistic in any sense that I understand deism as realting to some sort of supernatural being of some sort.

Robert Wright writes:

All these elements of human nature—all these ingredients of the sense of contact with a personal and sometimes judgmental God—are the product of non-zero-sum logic as realized via evolution; they are natural selection’s way of steering us toward fruitful relationships; they embody natural selection’s “recognition” that by cooperating with people (some people, at least) we can serve our own interests. And this non-zero-sum dynamic, remember, is central to the “Logos,” the underlying logic of life that Philo of Alexandria, for one, considered a direct extension of God. So you might say that the evolution of the human moral equipment by natural selection was the Logos at work during a particular phase of organic aggregation; it was what allowed our distant ancestors to work together in small groups, and it set the stage for them to work together in much larger groups, including, eventually, transcontinental ones.

If you accept this argument—if you buy into this particular theology of the Logos—then feeling the presence of a personal god has a kind of ironic validity. On the one hand, you’re imagining things; the divine being you sense “out there” is actually something inside you. On the other hand, this something inside you is an expression of forces “out there”; it’s an incarnation of a non-zero-sum logic that predates and transcends individual people, a kind of logic that—in this theology of the Logos, at least—can be called divine. The feeling of contact with a transcendent divinity is in that sense solid.

Wright writes:

There’s an even deeper association between love and the moral order. The expanding moral compass sponsored by the moral order, as we’ve seen, is a manifestation of non-zero-sumness, of the fact that cultural (and in particular technological) evolution leads more and more people to play non-zero-sum games at greater and greater distances. And natural selection’s invention of love, it turns out, was itself a manifestation of non-zero-sumness. Love was invented because, from the point of view of genetic proliferation—the point of view from which natural selection works—close kin are playing a non-zero-sum game; they share so many genes that they have a common Darwinian “interest” in getting each other’s genes into subsequent generations.

Of course, the organisms aren’t aware of this “interest.” Even in our species—smart, as species go—the Darwinian logic isn’t conscious logic; we don’t go around thinking, “By loving my daugher I’ll be more inclined to keep her alive and healthy until reproductive age, so through my love my genes will be playing a non-zero-sum game with the copies of them that reside in her.” Indeed, the whole Darwinian point of love is to be a proxy for this logic; love gets us to behave as if we understood the logic; the invention of love, in some animal many millions of years ago, was nature’s way of getting dim-witted organisms to seek a win-win outcome (win-win from a gene’s-eye view), notwithstanding their inability to do so out of conscious strategy.

Wright writes:

Then, having been spawned by this biological non-zero-sumness, sympathy could be harnessed by a later wave of non-zero-sumness, a wave driven by cultural, and specifically technological, evolution. As interdependence, and hence social structure, grew beyond the bounds of family—and then beyond the bounds of hunter-gatherer band, of chiefdom, of state—the way was paved by extensions of sympathy. This sympathy didn’t have to involve its initial sponsor, love; you don’t have to love someone to trade with them or even to consider them compatriots. But there has to be enough moral imagination, enough sympathetic consideration, to keep them out of the cognitive category of enemy; you have to consider them, in some sense, one of you.

Now I don't completely buy into this whole analysis - It seems to be very subjectively picking and choosing which human evolved traits to consider special in some sense - And I certainly wouldn't use the words "god" or "divine" to describe any non-zero-sum game theory abstractions. No matter how mathematically "true" they may arguably be. But I think I understand what he is saying.

Frankly I think his terminology is a bit of an act of appeasement.

GDR writes:

Straggler writes:

How on Earth are you deciding which human natural tendencies to credit God with and which not to?
Is he responsible for all such proclivities or only the ones you happen to consider godly and positive about?

IMHO God gave us choices.

Let's for the sake of argument accept this as true. Do you then accept that God has also given us psychological proclivities? Is he responsible for ALL human psychological tendencies? Or just the ones you think are positive?


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 Message 70 by GDR, posted 10-15-2011 5:21 PM GDR has responded

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 Message 72 by GDR, posted 10-15-2011 8:29 PM Straggler has responded

  
Straggler
Member
Posts: 9939
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006
Member Rating: 3.1


Message 73 of 140 (637559)
10-16-2011 1:36 PM
Reply to: Message 72 by GDR
10-15-2011 8:29 PM


Re: Altruism - The Big Mac Effect
Nowhere that I have seen does Wright equate his description of "god" or "divinity" or "purpose" with anything other than the mathematical Platonic notion of non-zero-sumness. Whilst the language he uses certainly provides the leeway theists desire he never explicitly advocates anything that could be considered an intelligent conscious designer of any sort. That you interpret his arguments in a way that is compatible with your theism points to his non-explicit appeasement of such beliefs. I would argue that his language is misplaced. By the terms of his own argument you might as well call Pythagoras theorem "divine".

Furthermore his examples are deeply selective. One could equally argue that selfishness is as innate and necessary as altruism for evolutionary success. An entirely selfless species wouldn't last long would it? So actually it is the balance between individual selfishness and evolved altruism that is the interesting question here. This question of balance and how it is achieved he entirely ignores in his thesis. Instead he focuses entirely on the altruistic aspect because, he like you, consider this "special".

GDR writes:

Straggler writes:

Let's for the sake of argument accept this as true. Do you then accept that God has also given us psychological proclivities? Is he responsible for ALL human psychological tendencies? Or just the ones you think are positive?

All of them.

OK. Do you agree that humans are psychologically predisposed to various things which are not particularly positive in a modern day context (food choices, sexual urges etc.)?


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 Message 74 by GDR, posted 10-16-2011 5:12 PM Straggler has responded

  
Straggler
Member
Posts: 9939
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006
Member Rating: 3.1


Message 75 of 140 (637624)
10-17-2011 8:18 AM
Reply to: Message 74 by GDR
10-16-2011 5:12 PM


Re: Altruism - The Big Mac Effect
GDR about Robert Wright writes:

He writes this in “The Evolution of God”.

Indeed he does. But all of my quotes from Message 71 were from later on in the same chapter you are quoting the beginning of. A chapter called "Afterword: By the way what is God". And what is being called "god" ultimately amounts to little more than the abstract existence of non-zero-sum logic jazzed up with some (IMHO) inappropriate terminology.

GDR writes:

Frankly I think he leans towards theism but that is just my opinion.

His language certainly follows that path. But the concepts he applies such language to don't seem to be any more godly than perfect circles, Pythagoras theorem or some mathematical notion of the electron.

Straggler writes:

OK. Do you agree that humans are psychologically predisposed to various things which are not particularly positive in a modern day context (food choices, sexual urges etc.)?

GDR writes:

I know a trap when I see one but we’ll go with it.

Not so much a trap as me seeing how far and how consistently you will follow the logic of your thinking.

GDR writes:

Yes, but predisposed is maybe a bit strong. I think a lot of those things are partly, and in some cases largely culturally driven. We also are given the same predisposition to reject less than positive urges. We have free will. We make choices. Life is just a constant sting of choices.

But humans do have evolved psychological predispositions. Right?

Would you agree that humans are instinctively altruistic at times?
Would you agree that humans are instinctively selfish at times?
Would you agree that humans are predisposed towards certain food types?
Would you agree that humans possess instinctive sexual urges which are not always conducive to lifetime monogamy?

Which of our psychological proclivities should we give God credit for? All of them? Some of them?

GDR writes:

We have free will. We make choices.

Do we? In fact who is "we"....? Link. Increasingly it seems that common conceptions of freewill are illusory.

Edited by Straggler, : Chnage link to message 71


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 Message 76 by GDR, posted 10-17-2011 1:43 PM Straggler has responded

  
Straggler
Member
Posts: 9939
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006
Member Rating: 3.1


Message 79 of 140 (637814)
10-18-2011 5:07 AM
Reply to: Message 76 by GDR
10-17-2011 1:43 PM


Re: Altruism - The Big Mac Effect
GDR writes:

You can also make the argument that there doesn’t have to be purpose but Wright clearly comes down on the side that it appears that there is.

But his use of "purpose" again simply seems to be referring to directionality that is the result of non-zero-sum logic. If that qualifies as "purpose" then I am not entirely unsympathetic to the idea of "purpose" myself. But the fact that Wright invokes Dan Dennett (of all people!!!) to his cause rather emphatically tells me that what he means by "purpose" and what you mean are not the same thing here. At the very least there is some serious conflation going on. To invoke Paley and Dennet as advocates of "purpose" in the same sentance is frankly intellectually unjustifiable.

But whilst people like Dennett are unequivocal in their use of such language I can certainly see why you see Wright as essentially theistic. He conflates and equivocates and implies a great deal. Terms such as "purpose" and "designer" and "transcendental" and "divine" (and even "god") are used in ways that can easily be construed to be very theistic indeed. But if you actually look at the concepts he is applying these terms to they are not at all recognisably godly. More like Platonic logical entities vaguely mathematical in nature. All of it derived from non-zero-sum logic.

Straggler writes:

Which of our psychological proclivities should we give God credit for? All of them? Some of them?

GDR writes:

I’ll try and deal with them all together if that’s ok. I agree that it appears that we have socially evolved psychological predispositions. I’m doubtful that there is a genetic component but maybe there is. I would say yes to the idea that we behave instinctively to be selfish or altruistic but IMHO there is a bit of a difference. I think that we have a basic pre-disposition to instinctively act selfishly but that we also have an aspect of our nature that we usually call a conscience. If we listen to that conscience and act on that, and do it consistently then over time it will become instinctive to act altruistically. I same thing can be said for food or sexual urges.

So it's all cultural/social as far as you are concerned?

They call prostitution "the oldest profession". It has existed in every society and culture ever known to man. Do you think this is simple coincidence? Or does it tell us something rather fundamental about human psychology?

I put it to you that if a particular behaviour is humanly universal throughout history then it is not coincidence at all. Rather it is the product of common human psychology. Ultimately a product of evolutionary "design".

So - If we are going to give some sort of conscious intelligent designer credit for things like altruism - We should also blame them for things like the the obesity epidemic and the promiscuous nature of our species.

GDR writes:

The first is that we have choices.

Sure we do. So why is it you want to eat that cheesecake when you know you should be eating that broccoli? Why is it that advertisers fill their advertisements with sexually attractive young women when their target market is married middle aged men? We have choices. But we are indisputably "designed" to find some choices more tempting than others.

Who or what designed us that way?


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 Message 76 by GDR, posted 10-17-2011 1:43 PM GDR has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 88 by GDR, posted 10-18-2011 11:28 AM Straggler has responded

  
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