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  #1  
Old 06-27-2010, 11:37 AM
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Default Values Added: Technology and Faith (Jim Martin & Bill McGarvey)

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  #2  
Old 06-27-2010, 02:15 PM
Ocean Ocean is offline
 
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Default Re: Values Added: Technology and Faith (Jim Martin & Bill McGarvey)

I found roughly the first half of this diavlog enjoyable. It was easy to abstract the discussion away from the religious vein, and think about how the new way of interacting with others through internet media, has taken away from direct interaction AFK. I am, as a matter of fact, questioning exactly the same issue right now. There’s perhaps a lot that can be discussed on this topic, which, is not limited or even intuitively linked to religious practice.

Towards the end, the talk started to be directed into more problematic topics.

This segment captures one of those polemic topics.

Perhaps the problem here is that religious people are not used to having their views challenged. Obviously in a church, it isn’t just that the lack of anonymity buffers opinions, but that the people in attendance are religious. As bad as critical and antagonistic views may feel, it’s been long due that communication starts to go both ways. For centuries (many) if not millennia, religious voices have had the unchallenged upper hand. It’s time to listen and reflect. Listening, really carefully, with open eyes and full attention, may reveal the darkness that lies within the church. Welcome criticism; correcting mistakes may be the only way to move forward.

I found that James’ statements about how anonymity in the blogosphere has fostered vicious attacks and ad hominem against religion, is at best, disingenuous. The Catholic Church (and most organized religions for that matter), has been the master in vicious attacks. Throughout history the entitlement that religious representatives adopt has become the justification for the most vicious attacks against those who have dared to dissent . An attitude of humility and reflection is what is called for. So, again, welcome that criticism. It’s been long due.

Overall this was a very interesting conversation.
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  #3  
Old 06-27-2010, 02:35 PM
BornAgainDemocrat BornAgainDemocrat is offline
 
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Default Does technology get in the way of faith?

T.V. evangelists are Satan's spawn. Who needs enemies with friends like these? They make faith look ridiculous.
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  #4  
Old 06-27-2010, 11:23 PM
thprop thprop is offline
 
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Default Re: Does technology get in the way of faith?

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Originally Posted by BornAgainDemocrat View Post
T.V. evangelists are Satan's spawn. Who needs enemies with friends like these? They make faith look ridiculous.
Faith does not need help to look ridiculous - it does that on its own. As Mark Twain said:
Quote:
Faith is believing what you know ain't so.
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  #5  
Old 06-28-2010, 12:02 AM
chamblee54 chamblee54 is offline
 
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Default Re: Values Added: Technology and Faith (Jim Martin & Bill McGarvey)

This diavlog on silence and religion was fun to listen to. I was (of course) multi tasking, and suspect that I missed a good bit of the show by not seeing the expressions on the two faces. Mr. Martin especially seemed to be chewing on a plug of tobacco. In a case like this, I wonder what we could learn from the body language, the way they conduct themselves out of the sight of the camera.
This was between two proponents of the Catholic path. As a recovering Baptist living in the south, this is not the viewpoint I am most familiar with. The type of Jesus that gets shoved in your face in the south, on a daily basis, is more emotional, less intellectual, and with even less appreciation of silence than these guys.
Yes, the modern Jesus Worship church is in dire need of silence. Many of these people are, imo, afraid of silence. They keep shouting, as if they were afraid of what will happen when they no longer have the floor. It is good to remember that prayer is talking to G-d, and meditation is listening. This has a chicken and egg relationship with our society as a whole...people love to talk, but don't like to listen.
Another difference with these two men, and the Jesus mongers that poison our society, is the emphasis on G-d rather than Jesus. Up to a certain point in the diavlog it occured to me that neither man had even mentioned Jesus, and in the next minute someone did mention Jboi. It should be noted that the first commandment says to have no other G-d before you. This does not say anything about a so called son of G-d. At the very least, the hysterical shouting about Jesus, and his death, takes attention away from G-d. It also creates ill will, both for G-d and Jesus.
I may recycle this comment on chamblee54, along with some historic pictures. The pictures from the last hour were taken in depression era California by Dorothea Lange. Since they were sponsored by the US government, they are public domain. Anyone who says big government is good for nothing should check out the pictures collection at the Library of Congress. Or just look at my blog, for a few tweaked shots a day.
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  #6  
Old 06-28-2010, 08:55 AM
BornAgainDemocrat BornAgainDemocrat is offline
 
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Default Re: Does technology get in the way of faith?

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Originally Posted by thprop View Post
Faith does not need help to look ridiculous - it does that on its own. As Mark Twain said:
From a recent review of William James:

James was not unsympathetic to religion, and on occasion he was prepared to call himself a Christian, though in a thoroughly secular and untheological sense. His abiding intellectual passion was a love of open-mindedness and a corresponding distrust of dogmatism and metaphysics. We should never forget, he said, that all our opinions – even our “most assured conclusions” – are “liable to modification in the course of future experience”. But he warned against allowing a distrust of dogmatic metaphysics to harden into a metaphysical dogma of its own, as seemed to be happening with some of the evangelising atheists of his day. He admired the evolutionary biologist T H Huxley and the mathematician C K Clifford, for example, but when they used the idea of “science” as a stick to beat religion with they were in danger of behaving like high priests of a new religion – “the religion of scientificism” – and defending it with the same intolerant zealotry as any old-style religious fanatic. Knowledge, for James, was not so much the pre-existing premise of human inquiry as a hoped-for future product, and science was more like a tissue of fortuitous insights than a monolith of solid fact. We would not have much chance of stumbling into truth if we let ourselves get too anxious about falling into error, and the first rule of an unillusioned epistemology should simply be: Relax! “Our errors are surely not such awfully solemn things,” James wrote: “in a world where we are certain to incur them in spite of all our caution, a certain lightness of heart seems healthier than this excessive nervousness.”
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Old 06-28-2010, 09:19 AM
Simon Willard Simon Willard is offline
 
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Default Re: Values Added: Technology and Faith (Jim Martin & Bill McGarvey)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ocean View Post
This segment captures one of those polemic topics.
...
I found that James’ statements about how anonymity in the blogosphere has fostered vicious attacks and ad hominem against religion, is at best, disingenuous. The Catholic Church (and most organized religions for that matter), has been the master in vicious attacks. Throughout history the entitlement that religious representatives adopt has become the justification for the most vicious attacks against those who have dared to dissent. An attitude of humility and reflection is what is called for...
I wouldn't say this indicates disingenuousness on James' part. His observation about anonymity is unaffected by any viciousness on the part of the Catholic hierarchy, which is quite identifiable as the Catholic hierarchy. The thrust of James comment was directed not at dissent, but the complete mindlessness of some anonymous comments.
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  #8  
Old 06-28-2010, 10:34 AM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: Does technology get in the way of faith?

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Originally Posted by BornAgainDemocrat View Post
From a recent review of William James:

James was not unsympathetic to religion, and on occasion he was prepared to call himself a Christian, though in a thoroughly secular and untheological sense. His abiding intellectual passion was a love of open-mindedness and a corresponding distrust of dogmatism and metaphysics. We should never forget, he said, that all our opinions – even our “most assured conclusions” – are “liable to modification in the course of future experience”. But he warned against allowing a distrust of dogmatic metaphysics to harden into a metaphysical dogma of its own, as seemed to be happening with some of the evangelising atheists of his day. He admired the evolutionary biologist T H Huxley and the mathematician C K Clifford, for example, but when they used the idea of “science” as a stick to beat religion with they were in danger of behaving like high priests of a new religion – “the religion of scientificism” – and defending it with the same intolerant zealotry as any old-style religious fanatic. Knowledge, for James, was not so much the pre-existing premise of human inquiry as a hoped-for future product, and science was more like a tissue of fortuitous insights than a monolith of solid fact. We would not have much chance of stumbling into truth if we let ourselves get too anxious about falling into error, and the first rule of an unillusioned epistemology should simply be: Relax! “Our errors are surely not such awfully solemn things,” James wrote: “in a world where we are certain to incur them in spite of all our caution, a certain lightness of heart seems healthier than this excessive nervousness.”
Meh. Science is not a "stick" with which one can beat religion. The "Church" of scientism is fabrication by the faithful used to duck the arguments science (more generally: empiricism) poses, and for which the faithful have no answers: What is the epistemic basis for belief based on faith? In what sense does an ontology based on scripture have any claim to truth? "It's in the book" is a terrible answer for the question "Why do you believe what you believe?". "Because it seems right to me" is an even worse answer. Science, of course, makes no claim to provide final answers. That humility, so utterly lacking from most religious points of view, provides the best reason to prefer one point of view over the other.
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  #9  
Old 06-28-2010, 01:08 PM
BornAgainDemocrat BornAgainDemocrat is offline
 
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Default Re: Does technology get in the way of faith?

Dear AemJeff: Historically Christian faith has never been a matter of epistemology (of what we can and cannot know) but of finding (or, if you prefer, of desperately seeking) some kind of emotional order or sense in a world filled with violence, poverty and injustice. For those born into a world of bourgeois or upper-class comfort this has never seemed like much of a problem, and I can sympathize with that. But try to imagine getting through life if you were born in a country like Haiti today. In those circumstances the emotional need to believe in at least in the possibility of meaning or justice in life becomes physical, and not just for the individual but for the group. And who's to say what dying is like? It must be like something, and may turn out to be a "meaningful" event in the same way that the experience of music, art, or poetic justice in a novel or a love affair can seem "meaningful." And even if it does not turn out that way the hope may have been valuable, even indispensable. (The modern world was built on such hope "for things unseen".) So maybe what we are talking about is more like semantics than epistemology. Notoriously there is no "science" of semantics even though no one doubts that words have "meaning". But that is at best an analogy. And only part of the story. I recommend James's essay The Will to Believe for a much more articulate discussion of the issues. It is a classic.

Last edited by BornAgainDemocrat; 06-28-2010 at 01:23 PM..
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  #10  
Old 06-28-2010, 02:24 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: Does technology get in the way of faith?

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Originally Posted by BornAgainDemocrat View Post
Dear AemJeff: Historically Christian faith has never been a matter of epistemology (of what we can and cannot know) but of finding (or, if you prefer, of desperately seeking) some kind of emotional order or sense in a world filled with violence, poverty and injustice. For those born into a world of bourgeois or upper-class comfort this has never seemed like much of a problem, and I can sympathize with that. But try to imagine getting through life if you were born in a country like Haiti today. In those circumstances the emotional need to believe in at least in the possibility of meaning or justice in life becomes physical, and not just for the individual but for the group. And who's to say what dying is like? It must be like something, and may turn out to be a "meaningful" event in the same way that the experience of music, art, or poetic justice in a novel or a love affair can seem "meaningful." And even if it does not turn out that way the hope may have been valuable, even indispensable. (The modern world was built on such hope "for things unseen".) So maybe what we are talking about is more like semantics than epistemology. Notoriously there is no "science" of semantics even though no one doubts that words have "meaning". But that is at best an analogy. And only part of the story. I recommend James's essay The Will to Believe for a much more articulate discussion of the issues. It is a classic.
There's certainly a science of linguistics. Semantics is partly empirical - meaning has little a priori basis, and grammar is, to a certain extent, arbitrary - and partly logical (even if referential logic can seem to transcend [or parody] any sort of formal understanding.)

Hope may be a perfectly good reason to abandon the pursuit of coherent epistemology, but it's certainly no substitute for that aim. I did spend some time reading James as a college freshman, and (translations of) Kierkegaard; but the "will to believe" is insufficient, just as introspection ultimately tells us very little about that which is not ourselves. Which isn't to say that we find meaning in metaphor - but, I prefer The world moves on a woman's hips! to In the beginning God created.... Who's to say the old rock song contains any less of the truth?
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  #11  
Old 06-28-2010, 02:37 PM
Wonderment Wonderment is offline
 
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Default Re: Does technology get in the way of faith?

Quote:
There's certainly a science of linguistics. Semantics is partly empirical - meaning has little a priori basis, and grammar is, to a certain extent, arbitrary - and partly logical (even if referential logic can seem to transcend [or parody] any sort of formal understanding.)
Semantics, a branch of linguistics, does not claim that meaning has "little a priori basis." "Chair" is a word we use to mean the object you're probably sitting on. Some words can be less ambiguously defined than others, and some words refer to non-existent things, but semantics doesn't challenge meaning; semantics is the scientific study of meaning.

Grammar (syntax and morphology) isn't arbitrary either. It follows logical rules that make linguistic communication possible.

You probably mean that natural language has arbitrary elements in this sense: In different languages horse is Pferd, caballo, soos, and so on. English nouns do not have gender, Spanish has two genders and German has three. But none of that means language is arbitrary; it's still a logical, rule-based system with some outlying exceptions (i.e. noise or bugs in the system).
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  #12  
Old 06-28-2010, 02:48 PM
Florian Florian is offline
 
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Default Re: Does technology get in the way of faith?

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Originally Posted by AemJeff View Post
Which isn't to say that we find meaning in metaphor - but, I prefer The world moves on a woman's hips! to In the beginning God created.... Who's to say the old rock song contains any less of the truth?
No one. The will to believe is strong in you AemJeff.
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  #13  
Old 06-28-2010, 03:18 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: Does technology get in the way of faith?

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Semantics, a branch of linguistics, does not claim that meaning has "little a priori basis." "Chair" is a word we use to mean the object you're probably sitting on. Some words can be less ambiguously defined than others, and some words refer to non-existent things, but semantics doesn't challenge meaning; semantics is the scientific study of meaning.

Grammar (syntax and morphology) isn't arbitrary either. It follows logical rules that make linguistic communication possible.

You probably mean that natural language has arbitrary elements in this sense: In different languages horse is Pferd, caballo, soos, and so on. English nouns do not have gender, Spanish has two genders and German has three. But none of that means language is arbitrary; it's still a logical, rule-based system with some outlying exceptions (i.e. noise or bugs in the system).
I mean that a token, such as "chair," has an arbitrary basis. There are relationships between languages, certainly; and "chair" certainly has precursors and siblings - but if you're coming from somewhere outside the system - the proverbial Martian - you would need to begin to develop your understanding of meaning from direct observation. So, you're right: "no a priori basis" was too strong. But, with the exception of occasional onomatopoeia, those hierarchies of symbols aren't likely to resolve themselves into some concrete relationship to what they denote.

Also, I think I acknowledged the logical, rule based nature of grammatical systems. But each of those systems is based on a subset of the logical space they inhabit. The specific configuration of any particular grammar is arbitrary, also based on historical accidents (and largely unconscious choices.)
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Old 06-28-2010, 03:20 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: Does technology get in the way of faith?

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No one. The will to believe is strong in you AemJeff.
I'm not sure what you're trying to say; but the sentence you quoted was missing a word:

Quote:
Which isn't to say that we can't find meaning in metaphor - but, I prefer The world moves on a woman's hips! to In the beginning God created.... Who's to say the old rock song contains any less of the truth?
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Old 06-28-2010, 03:27 PM
Florian Florian is offline
 
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Default Re: Does technology get in the way of faith?

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Originally Posted by AemJeff View Post
I'm not sure what you're trying to say; but the sentence you quoted was missing a word:
That clears up everything. Now I know that your will to believe anything, however preposterous, is as strong as your will to say anything, no matter how nonsensical.
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Old 06-28-2010, 03:44 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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That clears up everything. Now I know that your will to believe anything, however preposterous, is as strong as your will to say anything, no matter how nonsensical.
Good grief, Florian. You're about twice as bright as most people and one-tenth as good as you think you are. But you're also a humorless prick, and you always look bad when you engage in this sort of back and forth exchange of online insults. Let's see if you can find a way to say something with more actual semantic content than "Jeff is stupid," this time; because, after you've exhausted your repertoire - asserting that your interlocutor is dumber than you, name-checking Kant, and complaining about the quality of your opponent's grammar - you generally begin to sputter and repeat yourself.
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Old 06-28-2010, 03:45 PM
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Default Re: Does technology get in the way of faith?

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Originally Posted by AemJeff View Post
...but, I prefer The world moves on a woman's hips! to In the beginning God created.... Who's to say the old rock song contains any less of the truth?
Let seed be grass, and grass turn into hay:
I'm martyr to a motion not my own;
What's freedom for? To know eternity.
I swear she cast a shadow white as stone.
But who would count eternity in days?
These old bones live to learn her wanton ways:
(I measure time by how a body sways.)

-Roethke

http://gawow.com/roethke/poems/122.html
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Old 06-28-2010, 03:53 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: Does technology get in the way of faith?

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Originally Posted by look View Post
Let seed be grass, and grass turn into hay:
I'm martyr to a motion not my own;
What's freedom for? To know eternity.
I swear she cast a shadow white as stone.
But who would count eternity in days?
These old bones live to learn her wanton ways:
(I measure time by how a body sways.)

-Roethke

http://gawow.com/roethke/poems/122.html
Perfect.



since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;

wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don't cry
- the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids' flutter which says

we are for each other; then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

e.e. cummings
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Old 06-28-2010, 04:00 PM
look look is offline
 
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Default Re: Does technology get in the way of faith?

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Originally Posted by AemJeff View Post
Perfect.



since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;

wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don't cry
- the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids' flutter which says

we are for each other; then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

e.e. cummings
Perfecter
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Old 06-28-2010, 04:02 PM
Florian Florian is offline
 
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Default Re: Does technology get in the way of faith?

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Originally Posted by AemJeff View Post
Good grief, Florian. You're about twice as bright as most people and one-tenth as good as you think you are. But you're also a humorless prick, and you always look bad when you engage in this sort of back and forth exchange of online insults. Let's see if you can find a way to say something with more actual semantic content than "Jeff is stupid," this time; because, after you've exhausted your repertoire - asserting that your interlocutor is dumber than you, name-checking Kant, and complaining about the quality of your opponent's grammar - you generally begin to sputter and repeat yourself.
You said nothing. So what more can I say? I am always willing to engage in an intelligent discussion with an intelligent interlocutor. Alas, you do not qualify.
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Old 06-28-2010, 04:16 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: Does technology get in the way of faith?

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Originally Posted by Florian View Post
You said nothing. So what more can I say? I am always willing to engage in an intelligent discussion with an intelligent interlocutor. Alas, you do not qualify.



Florian not think him smart. Jeff have a sad.
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Old 06-28-2010, 04:22 PM
Florian Florian is offline
 
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Florian not think him smart. Jeff have a sad.
Mildly but only mildly amusing, aemjeff, but you should be sad for littering this forum with your inanities.
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Old 06-28-2010, 04:39 PM
Florian Florian is offline
 
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Mildly but only mildly amusing, aemjeff, but you should be sad for littering this forum with your inanities.
Let me add that I have no interest in defending religious beliefs or anything that I heard in this somewhat rather odd diavlog. But your comments about James' "will to believe" are idiotic. James did not think that ANY belief, however preposterous, is justifiable. And the fact that you think that some stupid rock lyrics are the equivalent of what James meant by the will to believe speaks volumes about the quality of American education.
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Old 06-28-2010, 05:03 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Originally Posted by Florian View Post
Let me add that I have no interest in defending religious beliefs or anything that I heard in this somewhat rather odd diavlog. But your comments about James' "will to believe" are idiotic. James did not think that ANY belief, however preposterous, is justifiable. And the fact that you think that some stupid rock lyrics are the equivalent of what James meant by the will to believe speaks volumes about the quality of American education.
Like I said, you have no sense of humor. And you read way too much into a couple of words that were meant as a gambit, and little else.

And, to be sure - I equated the rock lyric (actually quite a beautiful lyric at that) to Genesis, not to James. Let's keep our sense of impiety to scale.
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  #25  
Old 06-28-2010, 05:09 PM
BornAgainDemocrat BornAgainDemocrat is offline
 
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Default Re: Does technology get in the way of faith?

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Originally Posted by Wonderment View Post
Some words can be less ambiguously defined than others, and some words refer to non-existent things, but semantics doesn't challenge meaning; semantics is the scientific study of meaning.
As I indicated, semantics is, at best, an analogy. I would apply that analogy to the meaning of whole sentences, especially complex ones, as opposed to individual words. I think it is interesting that, so far, machine translation from one language to another has proven impossible. Heck, Google can't even answer a simple factual question in the form of a sentence beginning with what, why, how, etc., with a question mark at the end.

Anyway, the linguistic case is just an analogy: There is no meaning in science. As Steven Weinberg, the physicist, famously remarked, the more you know about physical law the more pointless it all seems. That is not the way ordinary people feel about life; basic emotions are the most powerful reality for almost everyone, far outstripping the pleasures of acquiring empirical knowledge (though personally I enjoy those pleasures very much). As Dostoevsky once remarked, a single instant of emotion can counterbalance an entire lifetime of ordinary experience, making up in intensity what it lacks in duration. He knew that from first-hand experience. (So do I as it happens.) The brain is an amazing place, as William James knew very well.

Last edited by BornAgainDemocrat; 06-28-2010 at 05:28 PM..
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  #26  
Old 06-28-2010, 05:12 PM
Florian Florian is offline
 
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Like I said, you have no sense of humor. And you read way too much into a couple of words that were meant as a gambit, and little else.
"As I said...." or didn't you learn in highschool that "like" is a preposition and thus followed by a noun, not a verb?

I have a sense of humor, but it is far beyond yours.
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Old 06-28-2010, 05:17 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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"As I said...." or didn't you learn in highschool that "like" is a preposition and thus followed by a noun, not a verb?

I have a sense of humor, but it is far beyond yours.
You also have an apparent need to tell us all about it.

And, Jesus, Florian - have you ever seen an idiom directly transcribed into written language that didn't twist your panties?
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Old 06-28-2010, 05:23 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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You also have an apparent need to tell us all about it.

And, Jesus, Florian - have you ever seen an idiom directly transcribed into written language that didn't twist your panties?
And, also... I think I've achieved a hat-trick, albeit based on a technicality or two. This time, you've asserted a better sense of humor than mine, instead of a higher I.Q. - but that amounts to nearly the same thing. You didn't name-check Kant, but you did slip in an empty reference to James (with a thin excuse); and, you just can't stop mentioning my grammatical inadequacy.
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Old 06-28-2010, 05:43 PM
Florian Florian is offline
 
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And, also... I think I've achieved a hat-trick, albeit based on a technicality or two. This time, you've asserted a better sense of humor than mine, instead of a higher I.Q. - but that amounts to nearly the same thing. You didn't name-check Kant, but you did slip in an empty reference to James (with a thin excuse); and, you just can't stop mentioning my grammatical inadequacy.
Empty reference to James? Hmm... I should have thought it rather obvious that when someone says he believes the "world moves on a woman's hips," that the will to believe is in play. How else is such a statement to be construed? As a statement of fact?

Of course, I knew from the beginning that you were trying to be humorous, so I am not sure why you found my first remark puzzling and took offense. Lack of humor, perhaps?

The confusion of "like" and "as" seems to be almost universal in the US. So you are in good, or bad, company.
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Old 06-28-2010, 05:52 PM
Wonderment Wonderment is offline
 
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The specific configuration of any particular grammar is arbitrary, also based on historical accidents (and largely unconscious choices.)
I don't know what you see as the arbitrary part. Chomsky and others have pretty well established that grammar is universal and has a deep rule-based structure and biological base that generates the specifics of each natural language. But you don't need Chomsky to observe that there are language universals. For example, virtually all known languages have a Subject Verb Object syntax. It may be structured SVO, OVS, SOV, OSV, VSO, VOS, but all grammars have to express SVO somehow. Verb tense is another universal. All grammars must have rules for past, future, present at the most basic.

Saying grammar is arbitrary is something like saying plants are arbitrary because there are many different kinds. But photosynthesis and DNA are not arbitrary. Evolution is not arbitrary.
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Old 06-28-2010, 06:04 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Empty reference to James? Hmm... I should have thought it rather obvious that when someone says he believes the "world moves on a woman's hips," that the will to believe is in play. How else is such a statement to be construed? As a statement of fact?

Of course, I knew from the beginning that you were trying to be humorous, so I am not sure why you found my first remark puzzling and took offense. Lack of humor, perhaps?

The confusion of "like" and "as" seems to be almost universal in the US. So you are in good, or bad, company.
I certainly didn't take offense to your opening remark. I clarified because the missing word nearly reversed the meaning of what I'd intended to say.

And, to be clear, my original point was that I prefer the metaphor I proffered (somewhat capriciously) to scripture, and I tried to imply that I think such choices are personal and arbitrary.
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Old 06-28-2010, 06:23 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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I don't know what you see as the arbitrary part. Chomsky and others have pretty well established that grammar is universal and has a deep rule-based structure and biological base that generates the specifics of each natural language. But you don't need Chomsky to observe that there are language universals. For example, virtually all known languages have a Subject Verb Object syntax. It may be structured SVO, OVS, SOV, OSV, VSO, VOS, but all grammars have to express SVO somehow. Verb tense is another universal. All grammars must have rules for past, future, present at the most basic.

Saying grammar is arbitrary is something like saying plants are arbitrary because there are many different kinds. But photosynthesis and DNA are not arbitrary. Evolution is not arbitrary.
I understand what you're saying, and I know for sure that you're the expert here. But, I'd argue, first, that in every way that matters, evolution is arbitrary. Evolution is a feedback process - textbook chaos. Order only appears because there are semi-stable configurations (strange attractors, in the parlance) that the patterns within the process will tend toward. But there are lots of those patterns, and they're really sensitive to minute changes in a huge number of parameters. I'm not a mathematician, but to my knowledge, predicting the progress of such systems has a lot in common with trying to predict objectively stochastic systems. Photosynthesis and DNA are unlikely to be the only mechanisms possible to produce the functions they have in terrestrial life. They happen to be the lottery winners in a long process that has probably tried trillions of of other things. Under other conditions, possibly even under the same conditions - had some early accidents gone another way - things could conceivably be very different.

I'd guess that the same holds true for language. It's hard to imagine that every possible configuration has been tried and had the opportunity to compete fairly. I don't know about a biological basis for the underlying structures - so far as I know that's an informed hunch, not a direct observation. (Even if it's so, you can't rule out the possibility that other, equivalent, configurations could have evolved.) But, if you consider language in the abstract, it's not too hard to imagine, for example, other sets of tenses that could accomplish everything that human languages can do. Off the top of our heads, they're not likely to be as good as what we already have. But it's just not possible to rule out the idea that there could exist other patterns, possibly bizarrely unlike what we understand, that could do the job even better.

But, my prejudice is to view language, and morals, among other things, as formal systems like arithmetic and chess - just bigger and messier and vastly more complicated. I'm open to being shown that's not the case, but I'm pretty skeptical about that.
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Old 06-28-2010, 08:02 PM
Wonderment Wonderment is offline
 
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But, I'd argue, first, that in every way that matters, evolution is arbitrary.
Ok, I get what you're saying now that you've spelled it out. Thanks.
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Old 06-29-2010, 09:13 AM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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The specific configuration of any particular grammar is arbitrary, also based on historical accidents (and largely unconscious choices.)
Please explain further. It seems that the configuration of grammar is anything but arbitrary.
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Old 06-29-2010, 09:24 AM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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Let me add that I have no interest in defending religious beliefs or anything that I heard in this somewhat rather odd diavlog. But your comments about James' "will to believe" are idiotic. James did not think that ANY belief, however preposterous, is justifiable. And the fact that you think that some stupid rock lyrics are the equivalent of what James meant by the will to believe speaks volumes about the quality of American education.
1) In his lecture “The Will to Believe,” William James (1842-1910) announces to his audience that his purpose will be to present “a justification of faith, a defence of our right to adopt a believing attitude in religious matters, in spite of the fact that our merely logical intellect may not have been coerced

2) William James (1842-1910) disagreed, arguing that sometimes refraining from belief is impossible. If there isn’t sufficient evidence either way, belief without evidence is inevitable. James argues that, in such a situation, you have the moral right to choose which way you believe, even though you will believe without evidence. James suggests that most religious beliefs are like this. Since it turns out that neither “side” has sufficient evidence, one has the right to hold (or reject) belief in God even without evidence.

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Old 06-29-2010, 09:42 AM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Please explain further. It seems that the configuration of grammar is anything but arbitrary.
I have a post to Wonderment trying to explain that. But, in short, I didn't say "grammar is arbitrary." Rather, there are an infinite number of possible grammars, and the particular ones we understand are arbitrary examples out of that much larger set of possibilities.
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Old 06-29-2010, 10:15 AM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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I have a post to Wonderment trying to explain that. But, in short, I didn't say "grammar is arbitrary." Rather, there are an infinite number of possible grammars, and the particular ones we understand are arbitrary examples out of that much larger set of possibilities.
Yes, I read it. What you did say is that the configuration of grammar is arbitrary. In your post to Wonderment you go back to evolution and say that is arbitrary. I would say, not entirely so. There are characteristics common to the things which survive, one of which is that the characteristic favors survival.

I guess you said that there could be other characteristics that by pure chance either didn't emerge or didn't survive and that is what makes the whole process arbitrary. I just think the word arbitrary denotes something like 'it really doesn't matter' rather than the way you lay it out.
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Old 06-29-2010, 10:31 AM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Yes, I read it. What you did say is that the configuration of grammar is arbitrary. In your post to Wonderment you go back to evolution and say that is arbitrary. I would say, not entirely so. There are characteristics common to the things which survive, one of which is that the characteristic favors survival.

I guess you said that there could be other characteristics that by pure chance either didn't emerge or didn't survive and that is what makes the whole process arbitrary. I just think the word arbitrary denotes something like 'it really doesn't matter' rather than the way you lay it out.
Not "it doesn't really matter," but "it can't be predicted."

That is, we have no way to reliably understand the relationships between inputs and outputs. I mean arbitrary as in seemingly random. (Of course it is possible to make local predictions sometimes - as long as a particular equilibrium remains in force - but it's those shifts from one apparent equilibrium to another (e.g. [in fairly simple terms] dinosaurs as the dominant terrestrial lifeform, to dominance by mammals, to dominance by a single hominid species) that are especially hard to get a handle on.
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Old 06-29-2010, 11:08 AM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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Not "it doesn't really matter," but "it can't be predicted."

That is, we have no way to reliably understand the relationships between inputs and outputs. I mean arbitrary as in seemingly random. (Of course it is possible to make local predictions sometimes - as long as a particular equilibrium remains in force - but it's those shifts from one apparent equilibrium to another (e.g. [in fairly simple terms] dinosaurs as the dominant terrestrial lifeform, to dominance by mammals, to dominance by a single hominid species) that are especially hard to get a handle on.
I think I answered this but it isn't showing up. But I have some more thoughts. I'm still having trouble with the word arbitrary. I think you may be fudging when you say seemingly random as opposed to random.
I also don't think it's true to say one can't reliably understand the relationship between inputs and outputs. Surely evolution can be understood in this way.

gotta go to work.
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Old 06-29-2010, 11:16 AM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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I think I answered this but it isn't showing up. But I have some more thoughts. I'm still having trouble with the word arbitrary. I think you may be fudging when you say seemingly random as opposed to random.
I also don't think it's true to say one can't reliably understand the relationship between inputs and outputs. Surely evolution can be understood in this way.

gotta go to work.
I'm not sure what you think I'm fudging here. I do (as always) recommend James Gleicks's masterpiece. It's an engaging read, and an eye opener in regard to the nature of the world.
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