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  #1  
Old 06-17-2009, 10:08 AM
Bloggingheads Bloggingheads is offline
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Default The Evolution of God (Robert Wright & Tyler Cowen)

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  #2  
Old 06-17-2009, 11:33 AM
holyworrier holyworrier is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God

Karen Armstrong comes immediately to mind as I listen to Bob talk about his book, which I haven't read. I have read Armstrong's A History of God and her biography of Muhammad. Both books I would have to brush up on to be able to comment on any similarities between her and Bob's ideas. Just wondering if she wouldn't be a good partner in a discussion of this nature. Whatever. Here we go with Mr. Cowen.

I understand what Bob is trying to say in his comments about Unitarian Universalist appeal to recruits, but "fail" is the wrong term to use when speaking about how UU doesn't offer its members the "consolation of ... a god watching out for you".

Last edited by holyworrier; 06-17-2009 at 10:00 PM.. Reason: spell 'Cowen' correctly
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  #3  
Old 06-17-2009, 05:20 PM
Tyrrell McAllister Tyrrell McAllister is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God

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Originally Posted by holyworrier View Post
Karen Armstrong comes immediately to mind as I listen to Bob talk about his book, which I haven't read. I have read Armstrong's A History of God and her biography of Muhammad. Both books I would have to brush up on to be able to comment on any similarities between her and Bob's ideas. Just wondering if she wouldn't be a good partner in a discussion of this nature.
Bob interviewed Karen Armstrong for his old website meaningoflife.tv.
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  #4  
Old 06-17-2009, 06:35 PM
bkjazfan bkjazfan is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God

I second Armstrong's "History Of God" and also suggest "God: A Biography" by Jack Miles. The latter focuses on the personality of God and won a pulitzer.

John
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  #5  
Old 06-17-2009, 12:03 PM
Stapler Malone Stapler Malone is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God

Did Bob create BhTV Commenters, or did BhTV Commenters create Bob?
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  #6  
Old 06-17-2009, 01:12 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God

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Originally Posted by Stapler Malone View Post
Dingalink of the week!
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  #7  
Old 06-17-2009, 01:16 PM
claymisher claymisher is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God

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Dingalink of the week!
And how!

Yes Bob, we exist, and we are judging you.
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  #8  
Old 06-17-2009, 01:25 PM
uncle ebeneezer uncle ebeneezer is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God

And we are REALLY FREAKIN' MOODY!!! (thunderclaps)

Awesome DL, Stapler!
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  #9  
Old 06-17-2009, 01:27 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God

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And we are REALLY FREAKIN' MOODY!!! (thunderclaps)
We work in mysterious ways, our wonders to perform.
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  #10  
Old 06-17-2009, 07:06 PM
Wonderment Wonderment is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God

There's something to that. Jack Miles in his book says that Western atheists may well not believe in God, but the God they don't believe in is unmistakably the Judeo-Christian Bible character who parts the sea, kicks Adam and Eve out of the Garden and eventually has a boy named Jesus.

It behooves us to understand Him (and thus understand ourselves), even though He is fictional.
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  #11  
Old 06-17-2009, 01:23 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God

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If we didn't exist, Bob would have had to create us.
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  #12  
Old 06-18-2009, 10:11 PM
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Default Re: The Evolution of God

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If we didn't exist, Bob would have had to create us.
No doubt.
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  #13  
Old 06-17-2009, 12:16 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God

Haven't watched yet, but I am reminded of when we were discussing -- before Bob's book came out -- who should be his interlocutor. I don't remember if anyone came up with Tyler's name, but I think (I'm predicting) that it's a really good choice.
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  #14  
Old 06-17-2009, 01:10 PM
uncle ebeneezer uncle ebeneezer is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God

You mean IF Me&theBoys isn't available to grill him ;-)
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  #15  
Old 06-17-2009, 01:11 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God

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Originally Posted by uncle ebeneezer View Post
You mean IF Me&theBoys isn't available to grill him ;-)
Excellent point.

I should have said Tyler was a great choice for first interlocutor.
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  #16  
Old 06-17-2009, 12:42 PM
KausFan4Life KausFan4Life is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God

All this talk about "The Evolution of God", and no mention of "The Evolution of Dog"? Shameful.
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  #17  
Old 06-17-2009, 01:17 PM
claymisher claymisher is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God

Haven't listened to it yet, but I bet we'll hear about signaling.

Time to rev up the Extreme Ironic Commulibertarianism.
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  #18  
Old 06-17-2009, 02:14 PM
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Default Re: The Evolution of God

bob, there "are some hallmarks...."? what's the point in hedging? i say "show me the money" or just let go 'cuz if it's not there then it's not there. it's kind of like saying "we're probably not alone." whenever anyone says this i think: "ok, then where are the aliens?" there very well could be some out there but until we see some scrap of evidence i really don't see the point of trying to hedge your bets. there's really nothing wrong with saying "there's no solid evidence for it."
you can't really be mostly rational about this question....it's either all or nothing. it's somewhat similar to michael moore railing against lies and deception in Farenheit 9/11 and then proceeding to be extremely misleading in his own movie.

Last edited by I'm SO awesome!; 06-17-2009 at 02:19 PM..
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  #19  
Old 06-17-2009, 02:19 PM
uncle ebeneezer uncle ebeneezer is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God

The cashier at the super market yesterday looked at a concert tee shirt I was wearing that features UFO's and she said "I think there are aliens out there...at least I hope there are." I think that says it all.
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  #20  
Old 06-17-2009, 02:25 PM
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Default Re: The Evolution of God

exactly! and hell, i want there to be aliens (as long as they don't torture us It'd be the most bad ass youtube video of all time. but wanting isn't enough. i suspect that bob, being somewhat old school, is doing a bit of "wanting" when it comes to the god question. and, oh yeah, where's all this "evidence" he keeps mentioning? is he just talking about the CC still or what?

Last edited by I'm SO awesome!; 06-17-2009 at 02:27 PM..
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  #21  
Old 06-17-2009, 10:48 PM
osmium osmium is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God

Quote:
Originally Posted by uncle ebeneezer View Post
The cashier at the super market yesterday looked at a concert tee shirt I was wearing that features UFO's and she said "I think there are aliens out there...at least I hope there are." I think that says it all.
If the band was UFO itself, i think you win 900 points. (If it was Boston, you maybe lose 1?)
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  #22  
Old 06-17-2009, 10:19 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God

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Originally Posted by I'm SO awesome! View Post
bob, there "are some hallmarks...."? what's the point in hedging? i say "show me the money" or just let go 'cuz if it's not there then it's not there. it's kind of like saying "we're probably not alone." whenever anyone says this i think: "ok, then where are the aliens?" there very well could be some out there but until we see some scrap of evidence i really don't see the point of trying to hedge your bets. there's really nothing wrong with saying "there's no solid evidence for it."
you can't really be mostly rational about this question....it's either all or nothing. [...]
While I am inclined to think Bob is seeing patterns that are likely illusory (a common human failing), I don't agree with your reaction as a general principle. It seems to me irrational to say it's "all or nothing," and much more rational to admit at least the logical possibility of existence. It might be the best strategy to live your life under the assumption that something doesn't exist if you've never seen evidence for it, but it is probably not the best strategy to close your mind to the possibility that evidence might appear in the future, particularly in the case of alien life.

[Added] Or, for that matter, the possibility that we will discover something that undermines our current belief of how well we think we understand how the universe works.
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  #23  
Old 06-17-2009, 10:24 PM
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Default Re: The Evolution of God

yeah, it was just an example
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  #24  
Old 06-17-2009, 03:41 PM
Ideophile Ideophile is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God (Robert Wright & Tyler Cowen)

Did you notice at the end when Bob talked about Tyler being godlike, Bob's face was suffused with a bright white light, while Tyler's was shrouded in darkness? Was this a proxy diavlog between the forces of good and evil? Order and disorder (note the disheveled books behind Tyler)? Clearly Bob's book has garnered him some sort of divine mandate.
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  #25  
Old 06-17-2009, 04:35 PM
uncle ebeneezer uncle ebeneezer is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God (Robert Wright & Tyler Cowen)

I'm not saying TC is a plagiarist or anything, he just obviously isn't a rabid reader of our comments:

From my Close Encounter thread:
Quote:
(Oh I just remembered, I asked if he had considered including Buddhism in his framework and he said he wrote a little about it in the book but that largely it's spread wasn't as easily traced or matched to the nonzero idea. I added that Buddhism also isn't nearly so exclusive as the Abrahamic faiths are which he agreed with. He did say that he thought Buddhism is really on the mark as far as just teaching people how to deal with stuff and have healthy, happy lives and not get caught up in our mental shackles that the brain so naturally provides us and mentioned the retreat he did (at Sharon Salzberg's center I added, and he nodded but continued on for the rest of the people around us. Did I detect a little mini eyeroll...that woulda been pretty cool.) And he pointed out the challenge between being mostly designed to look out for our personal interests, and yet realizing when it's better to see things from another person's perspective (something that I really agree with.) And he suggested the exercise of going into a crowded place like a subway station etc., and rather than focusing on the people normally I would (in my case the cute girls or the rival dudes), to pay attention and be aware of the ones we usually are oblivious to (like the elderly and children.) This happens to be an exercise I try to do on a somewhat regular basis, though I look at it simply as trying to be "mindful." I mentioned at that point whether perhaps the fact that the elderly/young are not direct competitors for most of us, would help explain our more affectionate and positive feelings towards them relative to the way we approach our peers. Although I would bet that the fact that they are also people that generally need our assistance plays a huge role as well. But an interesting question.)
Or my question was so good that TC wanted to get it on video record ;-)
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  #26  
Old 06-17-2009, 05:07 PM
geoffrobinson geoffrobinson is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God (Robert Wright & Tyler Cowen)

If atheism is true & what they were saying about self-deception is true, we can't know anything. We can't trust our reason.

And this multiverse hypothesis leads to all sorts of silliness, which is nice to see the blogger admit. But some honesty is needed. The main driver for accepting the multiverse is to avoid the theistic implications of the fine-tuning of the universe.
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  #27  
Old 06-17-2009, 05:15 PM
Markos Markos is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God (Robert Wright & Tyler Cowen)

I like Tyler's version of agnosticism, I think, because I have a similar view. I think absolutist atheists throw a lot of very significant questions out with the bath water. Whereas, a lot of the speculations made by some contemporary physicists seem to leave open a lot of possibilities. And those set against the logically impossible fact that we exist demand, I think, a very open mind about the true nature of reality and our world.
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  #28  
Old 06-17-2009, 07:02 PM
Wonderment Wonderment is offline
 
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Default Bravo, Tyler

Another great interview in the Tyler tradition. Just as he did with Peter Singer, Tyler was able to pose deep questions to the authors and get them to reveal aspects of their spiritual and intellectual journeys they otherwise might not have. (Not that Bob is very reticent to begin with).
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Last edited by Wonderment; 06-17-2009 at 07:07 PM..
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  #29  
Old 06-18-2009, 10:03 PM
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Default Re: Bravo, Tyler

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Originally Posted by Wonderment View Post
Another great interview in the Tyler tradition. Just as he did with Peter Singer, Tyler was able to pose deep questions to the authors and get them to reveal aspects of their spiritual and intellectual journeys they otherwise might not have. (Not that Bob is very reticent to begin with).
I'm very much in agreement with this. This was a great diavlog. Tyler's thoughts about the dilemma between our conceptual understanding of reality through common sense and the immediacy of what's available to our senses, and comprehending what isn't that readily available to everyday experience, was compelling. I found myself nodding as I was listening to the last part of the diavlog when Tyler reflects on this issues.
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  #30  
Old 06-17-2009, 08:21 PM
emmanuel9 emmanuel9 is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God (Robert Wright & Tyler Cowen)

I have just started reading "The Evolution of God". I found this intriguing in light of the aformentioned commitment to a materialist approach to religion: "(1) The story of this evolution points to the existence of something you can meaningfully call divinity; and (2) the "illusion," in the course of evolving, has gotten streamlined in a way that moved it closer to plausibility."

I am interested to see how he pulls this off. His evolutionary approach to religion and God is not unlike the belief in the Baha'i Faith of "progressive revelation". They both believe that religion must needs evolve to meet the progressive evolutionary capacity of humans. They also both believe that the purpose of religion in this day is the promotion of a universal ethic of peace and unity, as well as promote moral growth more generally.

If indeed religions best days are ahead of us, instead of behind us, as Andrew Sullivan suggests in his review of this book, it seems to me it will be not unlike the Baha'i Faith.

Last edited by emmanuel9; 06-17-2009 at 08:25 PM..
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  #31  
Old 06-17-2009, 08:51 PM
osmium osmium is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God (Robert Wright & Tyler Cowen)

I'm looking forward to reading it, Bob. When I first heard the electron comparison, I was like eh sure why not. But then I thought about it and realized that I'm an electrochemist. This means I deal every day with matter dissolving and yielding a current, which is electrons.

Before physicists got a hold on electrons, people had guessed the charge wrong, so for example they thought it was a positive current to the right, rather than a negative current to the left. But, whether it is one or the other, I don't think the reality of electrons could ever really be in doubt. Perhaps the mass is in doubt, perhaps the wave-particle nature, but the part you can easily observe in daily life, the fact that your batteries work, it is not a question.

I'm sure the analogy is more complex than that, so I am full of it at this point. But: that's what the internet is for. Thinking out loud in an embarrassing fashion.
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  #32  
Old 06-18-2009, 12:25 AM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God (Robert Wright & Tyler Cowen)

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I'm looking forward to reading it, Bob. When I first heard the electron comparison, I was like eh sure why not. But then I thought about it and realized that I'm an electrochemist. This means I deal every day with matter dissolving and yielding a current, which is electrons.

Before physicists got a hold on electrons, people had guessed the charge wrong, so for example they thought it was a positive current to the right, rather than a negative current to the left. But, whether it is one or the other, I don't think the reality of electrons could ever really be in doubt. Perhaps the mass is in doubt, perhaps the wave-particle nature, but the part you can easily observe in daily life, the fact that your batteries work, it is not a question.

I'm sure the analogy is more complex than that, so I am full of it at this point. But: that's what the internet is for. Thinking out loud in an embarrassing fashion.
I guess the question would be whether if you could believe another explanation, other than "electrons" and QED. Just because you observe an effect, and you understand a theory that seems to consistently account for it - should you assume, therefore, that the theory accounts for reality? It seems like there's a fair distance between the "observables" you deal with professionally and the specific reality of electrons.
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  #33  
Old 06-18-2009, 09:30 AM
osmium osmium is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God (Robert Wright & Tyler Cowen)

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I guess the question would be whether if you could believe another explanation, other than "electrons" and QED. Just because you observe an effect, and you understand a theory that seems to consistently account for it - should you assume, therefore, that the theory accounts for reality? It seems like there's a fair distance between the "observables" you deal with professionally and the specific reality of electrons.
I agree that's an important point, and I haven't spent all that much brainpower on it. But electrons do have observables. So it's something, even if it's not the exact thing we're envisioning that fits all our data so far. But what are God's observables then? I'm having trouble thinking the metaphor is good. There's no natural selection to account for charged electric current.

If it's not "electrons" then fine, it'll be something else we discover called electroniums. I think God is one extra step removed from the material world than electrons, which have a definition that can shift to match reality. An electron is as an electron does. God, however, has requirements baked into the cake we call "God."

I know Bob's God isn't G-O-D. I'm gonna read the book. Maybe then, dot dot dot.
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  #34  
Old 06-17-2009, 09:53 PM
BornAgainDemocrat BornAgainDemocrat is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God (Robert Wright & Tyler Cowen)

A modern-day version of the God of Abraham as described in Genesis: the fairest and most beautiful possible thing consistent with everything we know about the world. The last part is crucial.

What would that be? How about poetic justice: everybody gets what they deserve in the end? You get back what you put out, if not while you live when you die?

Dostoevsky once pointed out (or did he report) that it is possible to have an experience in a single instant that makes up in intensity what it lacks in duration, sufficient to counterbalance an entire lifetime of ordinary experience. Who is to say that the last moment of life might not be like that?

The mere neurological possibility is enough to give a bad person pause. And faith that it is indeed (or probably) the case could inspire good people to heroic sacrifice.

OTH, if we could prove there was a God everyone would behave and life would be a bore. Somehow a mixture of uncertainty and possibility are required in order to give life the possibility of any moral grandeur.

I think this is what William James was getting at in his essay on "the will to believe." The question of omnipotence -- or, indeed, of a personal God who can be propitiated by prayer -- does not enter in. Nor is it necessary to invoke an intelligent designer, or life after death. A kind of equity could be built into the very nature of pleasure and pain themselves. Why knows? Symmetry is everywhere in nature.
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  #35  
Old 06-17-2009, 11:00 PM
holyworrier holyworrier is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God (Robert Wright & Tyler Cowen)

Like you, Bob, I grew up in a fundamentalist environment. I was baptized when I was nine in the Church of Christ, the denomination which insists it isn't a denomination, but the True Church, in which you have to be a member in order to go to heaven. You Baptists are going to Hell because you play the piano in church and don't baptize for the forgiveness of sins.

Once I finally came to grips with the fact that I'd lost my faith, the fallout for me and my family was cataclysmic.

Perhaps the question of whether religion has any redeeming social value or not depends on how one has been schooled in religion as a child. For myself, I have come to regard certain aspects of my early religious schooling as tantamount to abuse. The taboos on sexual contact and teaching about eternal damnation were instrumental in my making a foolish decision to marry at twenty because I was a virgin and wanted to fuck. I had no idea what I was doing, and I didn't want to go to Hell. Again, the fallout was eventually cataclysmic in my and my ex's families. You never get over shit like that.

Bob, you've got to come to grips with the fact that we as human beings attribute value to ultimately valueless things and concepts in an absurd universe. You like the neat little moral package in which religious people are able to tie up their moral values? Do you imagine that moral sensibilities emanated from religion or were handed down from the mountaintop pre-fabricated?

You understand that biological evolution is an emergent, bottom-up process. You understand that the emergence of life on the planet was inevitable, a foregone conclusion, given the conditions which existed, which conditions were inevitable as well. Can you not imagine that our moral sensibilities have emerged in the same way?

I understand what it's like to live with the feeling that you are being watched at all times by some divine scold. The kind of indoctrination that you and I experienced can never be fully left behind. We were abused as children. It took years for me to come to terms with the feelings of resentment I felt at having been treated in such a way as a child. Imagine what kind of feelings my devout little brother had when he attempted to come to terms with his homosexuality. He was suicidal for years. Fuck that and fuck them.

Last edited by holyworrier; 06-17-2009 at 11:05 PM..
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  #36  
Old 06-17-2009, 11:11 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God (Robert Wright & Tyler Cowen)

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Originally Posted by holyworrier View Post
[...]
Still think the "New Atheists" are being shrill, Bob?

Thanks for that post, HW. I know exactly where you're coming from, even though the consequences of my religious upbringing and transitions away from belief weren't as drastic. The residuals that remain after being indoctrinated when you're too young to make up your own mind are very hard to get rid of, especially the bad ones.
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  #37  
Old 06-18-2009, 02:13 PM
uncle ebeneezer uncle ebeneezer is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God (Robert Wright & Tyler Cowen)

Another thing that bothered me in this diavlog was this continuing of the Evil New Atheists meme, which Tyler and Bob both embraced. First of all, judging all atheists by the words and actions of a half-dozen authors who are trying to sell books (sound familiar Bob?) is about as fair as judging all Christians based on the rants of Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson. The head speakers of a "movement" which I don't really see the new Atheism as in the classic sense of the word, don't necessarily speak for the people who read their books. But you also run into the mistake of conflating the actions of a few with the beliefs of many. This idea that Atheists are rude and judgmental and mock the other faiths, therefore we should disregard them or look down upon them is rich in that it willfully neglects the fact that those same annoying tendencies (yes, I agree they are annoying and counter-productive) can be seen in spades in every other religion too. Turn on the televangelists sometimes and tell me you don't see the same thing only in MUCH greater numbers, with the added benefit (for them) of vastly greater political influence over the laws of all of us. To say that a group of people are judgmental is to say that they also breathe air. All people are judgmental when it comes to their beliefs. It's kinda built in to the very idea of having a belief. One cannot believe that X is the truth, without also believing that Y and Z are not. Atheists do have a bad habit of ridiculing the intelligence of the faithful, which doesn't really help anything, but there is no lack of judgment on the side of the faithful or hesitation to brand non-believers in moral terms "immoral" actually. Which is worse calling somebody stupid or saying that they are evil?

On a more salient point about the book (I haven't read it yet). My question is: Bob uses the directionality of history, science, progress etc and the ever-increasing complexity as evidence of some purpose or higher power. On the other hand, if things weren't this way, if natural selection worked in a way that was less efficient and allowed things to reach a certain level of complexity and then simply stop, or allowed certain systems to devolve and become less complex, would it not be just as easy to use that as evidence for God as well. IE- that system reached optimum complexity/efficiency etc., so it just stayed where it's at. "God saw that it had reached the perfect balance and stopped the process." Or this system wasn't working so it devolved. In either case, it's just as easy to slip God into the story. This is my main problem with God. We have routinely slipped him into everything we possibly could, from the sun rising and setting, to our procreation, to the layout of our solar system etc., etc. And that's aside from the overtly ridiculous attempts to credit God with the lottery or a strange looking grilled cheese sandwich, or in a terrible case, the spread of aids among the homosexual community. We are obsessed with slipping God into the story at every turn. I believe this is a function of how our minds evolved. As one of the recent Sci Sat diavlogs discussed (Josh Knobe I believe) there have been experiments that suggest that supernatural beliefs exist in children on an innate level. Given the fact that we appear designed to think (or feel) this, I see most attempts to justify the existence of God as the predictable exercise of reinforcing what we mostly already believe.

I did enjoy this diavlog though. Tyler asked good questions and was even dryer than Bob, which is pretty amazing.

Last edited by uncle ebeneezer; 06-18-2009 at 02:15 PM..
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  #38  
Old 06-18-2009, 04:05 PM
osmium osmium is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God (Robert Wright & Tyler Cowen)

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Originally Posted by holyworrier View Post
Like you, Bob, I grew up in a fundamentalist environment. I was baptized when I was nine in the Church of Christ, the denomination which insists it isn't a denomination, but the True Church, in which you have to be a member in order to go to heaven. You Baptists are going to Hell because you play the piano in church and don't baptize for the forgiveness of sins.
You and I may be from the same hometown, holyworrier. I'm serious.

Ever since I moved up north 17 years ago, no one else has ever heard of the Church of Christ.
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  #39  
Old 06-18-2009, 05:12 PM
claymisher claymisher is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God (Robert Wright & Tyler Cowen)

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Originally Posted by osmium View Post
You and I may be from the same hometown, holyworrier. I'm serious.

Ever since I moved up north 17 years ago, no one else has ever heard of the Church of Christ.
And not to be confused with the liberal United Church of Christ.
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  #40  
Old 06-18-2009, 07:31 PM
osmium osmium is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God (Robert Wright & Tyler Cowen)

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Originally Posted by claymisher View Post
And not to be confused with the liberal United Church of Christ.
Absolutely night and day.
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