Go Back   Bloggingheads Community > Diavlog comments
FAQ Members List Calendar Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read

Notices

Diavlog comments Post comments about particular diavlogs here.
(Users cannot create new threads.)

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 03-22-2009, 04:48 PM
Bloggingheads Bloggingheads is offline
BhTV staff
 
Join Date: Nov 2007
Posts: 1,936
Default Salvaging Religious Spirituality (Adam Frank & Eliezer Yudkowsky)

Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 03-22-2009, 05:48 PM
uncle ebeneezer uncle ebeneezer is offline
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 3,332
Default Re: How Doth an AI Researcher Defineth Religion??

http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/185...1:26&out=11:38
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 03-22-2009, 07:57 PM
Markos Markos is offline
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: NYC
Posts: 334
Default Re: Salvaging Religious Spirituality

I LOVE THIS DIAVLOG.
Even though I do think there is more that could be considered about "mystical" experience than Eliezer seems open to. And maybe Adam could be a bit more open-minded, though I would love to challenge some of his thinking too.
But these guys are great.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 03-22-2009, 08:11 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 7,750
Default Re: Salvaging Religious Spirituality

Quote:
Originally Posted by Markos View Post
I LOVE THIS DIAVLOG.
Even though I do think there is more that could be considered about "mystical" experience than Eliezer seems open to. And maybe Adam could be a bit more open-minded, though I would love to challenge some of his thinking too.
But these guys are great.
Yeah - this was, for me, as good as it gets. Adam's angle of approach wouldn't have occurred to me. Eliezer took it in stride and seemed to put Adam on the defensive pretty often, but he also gave him lots of room to make his points. Just enough tension and disagreement to keep it getting too chummy, and enough meaty, wide ranging speculation to really make it interesting.
__________________
-A. E. M. Jeff (Eponym)
Magnets - We know how they work!
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 03-22-2009, 09:34 PM
Ocean Ocean is offline
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: US Northeast
Posts: 6,784
Default Re: Salvaging Religious Spirituality

Quote:
Originally Posted by AemJeff View Post
Yeah - this was, for me, as good as it gets. Adam's angle of approach wouldn't have occurred to me. Eliezer took it in stride and seemed to put Adam on the defensive pretty often, but he also gave him lots of room to make his points. Just enough tension and disagreement to keep it getting too chummy, and enough meaty, wide ranging speculation to really make it interesting.
My interpretation is that they were talking about two very different aspects of the topic. Although there was some overlap between the two topics, it wasn't always the case. Eliezer's point is about whether science can explain everything, with time, including claims about "reality" that religion makes, as well as, spiritual experiences (as defined by Adam). Adam kept insisting on the experience itself, in its subjective quality, as an emerging property of consciousness, regardless of whether we possess the knowledge about how the brain "forms" it.

A long time ago I was driving and admiring the beautiful colors of the maple trees overhead in the fall. I mentioned this to one of my sons, who was about seven years old. He looked at the trees and unconvincingly said "yes..." When I asked him whether he really liked it he said: "Not so much. But I know why the leaves turn...!"
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 03-22-2009, 11:01 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 7,750
Default Re: Salvaging Religious Spirituality

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ocean View Post
My interpretation is that they were talking about two very different aspects of the topic. Although there was some overlap between the two topics, it wasn't always the case. Eliezer's point is about whether science can explain everything, with time, including claims about "reality" that religion makes, as well as, spiritual experiences (as defined by Adam). Adam kept insisting on the experience itself, in its subjective quality, as an emerging property of consciousness, regardless of whether we possess the knowledge about how the brain "forms" it.

A long time ago I was driving and admiring the beautiful colors of the maple trees overhead in the fall. I mentioned this to one of my sons, who was about seven years old. He looked at the trees and unconvincingly said "yes..." When I asked him whether he really liked it he said: "Not so much. But I know why the leaves turn...!"
Eliezer takes a pretty expansive view of the role of science. Still he carefully emphasizes that what science has to offer is a better map, not any claim at all about the nature of reality. But early in the conversation he talked about his own emotional reaction to a Shuttle launch, and made a pretty direct analogy between that and the sorts of spiritual experiences Adam was referring to.

Even with a full understanding how different frequencies of light are affected by traversal through media of various densities, a perfect sunset can be an awe inspiring thing. Adam's arguments about irreducibility actually struck me as beside the point. Understanding consciousness and experiencing it are two different things - the map is not that which is mapped. So to a certain extent, I think you're right, they weren't always talking about exactly the same thing. But I still enjoyed the ride.
__________________
-A. E. M. Jeff (Eponym)
Magnets - We know how they work!
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 03-22-2009, 11:13 PM
Ocean Ocean is offline
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: US Northeast
Posts: 6,784
Default Re: Salvaging Religious Spirituality

Quote:
Originally Posted by AemJeff View Post
Eliezer takes a pretty expansive view of the role of science. Still he carefully emphasizes that what science has to offer is a better map, not any claim at all about the nature of reality. But early in the conversation he talked about his own emotional reaction to a Shuttle launch, and made a pretty direct analogy between that and the sorts of spiritual experiences Adam was referring to.
I wish Eliezer had used his shuttle launch experience to explore more the subjective experience (as a proxy to the spiritual experiences), instead of depositing the meaning of the experience on the reality of the shuttle. He doesn't have to give up his map to do that.

Quote:
Even with a full understanding how different frequencies of light are affected by traversal through media of various densities, a perfect sunset can be an awe inspiring thing. Adam's arguments about irreducibility actually struck me as beside the point.
I think he was responding to Eliezer's reference to quarks.

Quote:
Understanding consciousness and experiencing it are two different things - the map is not that which is mapped. So to a certain extent, I think you're right, they weren't always talking about exactly the same thing. But I still enjoyed the ride.
I enjoyed the discussion too!
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 03-22-2009, 11:34 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 7,750
Default Re: Salvaging Religious Spirituality

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ocean View Post
I think he was responding to Eliezer's reference to quarks.
Speaking of which... I just don't understand this. Why should "reality" not encompass higher degrees of organization? Are atoms, (as opposed to "quarks and electrons, and so on...") properly viewed as components of reality? Molecules? Other, more highly organized entities? Maybe I'm just missing something obvious here, but just because reductionism is a really good analytical technique, do we need to limit our definition of reality to only the most reduced level?
__________________
-A. E. M. Jeff (Eponym)
Magnets - We know how they work!

Last edited by AemJeff; 03-22-2009 at 11:37 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 03-22-2009, 11:44 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Not Real America, according to St. Sa家h
Posts: 21,798
Default Re: Salvaging Religious Spirituality

Quote:
Originally Posted by AemJeff View Post
Speaking of which... I just don't understand this. Why should "reality" not encompass higher degrees of organization? Are atoms, (as opposed to "quarks and electrons, and so on...") properly viewed as components of reality? Molecules? Other, more highly organized entities? Maybe I'm just missing something obvious here, but just because reductionism is a really good analytical technique, do we need to limit our definition of reality to only the most reduced level?
I'm sympathetic to your view. Whatever you want to call it -- emergent properties is a favored label these days -- there does seem to be something that exists when you get enough components together and it is very hard to see, from looking only at the components, where it came from. I always think of the story about termites -- if you only have a few of them, they never do anything interesting, no matter how long you watch, but put enough together, and they immediately start building amazing structures.

Maybe Eliezer is just trying to stick to what we know we know in these sorts of discussions. That is, maybe he's being a little more rigid as a debate stance.
__________________
Brendan
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 03-22-2009, 11:47 PM
Ocean Ocean is offline
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: US Northeast
Posts: 6,784
Default Re: Salvaging Religious Spirituality

Quote:
Originally Posted by AemJeff View Post
Speaking of which... I just don't understand this. Why should "reality" not encompass higher degrees of organization? Are atoms, (as opposed to "quarks and electrons, and so on...") properly viewed as components of reality? Molecules? Other, more highly organized entities? Maybe I'm just missing something obvious here, but just because reductionism is a really good analytical technique, do we need to limit our definition of reality to only the most reduced level?
I think that was the point of discussion. It seems that for Eliezer it is more important, or perhaps more meaningful that ultimately the airplane is made of quarks. And Adam was emphasizing the higher degrees of organization which contain emerging properties such as those attributed to an airplane. I guess one could go on adding higher levels of organization (abstraction) and think of the attributes of an air float, etc.

Jeff, that's my guess...
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 03-22-2009, 08:12 PM
Ocean Ocean is offline
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: US Northeast
Posts: 6,784
Default Re: Salvaging Religious Spirituality

This diavlog reminds me of the one that Eliezer had with J. Lanier some time ago on the topic of AI.

Very interesting topic! It would be fascinating if Adam could come back for a discussion that includes consciousness.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 03-22-2009, 08:40 PM
travis68 travis68 is offline
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 44
Default Re: Salvaging Religious Spirituality

I have two suggestions for Eliezier. One is don't talk for X minutes and then interrupt the speaker after the speaker has responded for X/10 minutes. It's rude and unenlightening.

Two is don't interrupt by bursting out with little jokes. Humor is something very difficult to get right and unfortunately you can't get it right. Most people can't, so welcome to the majority.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 03-22-2009, 09:09 PM
dankingbooks dankingbooks is offline
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 83
Default Why science can never replace religion

Eliezier just misses the boat. The key to religion is that it is ultimate (e.g., Tillich), and personal (e.g., Dorothy Day). That the universe started with a big bang is interesting, but happened 13 billion years ago, and like who cares. But God Loves You is up close, personal, and ultimate.

How would one translate the following sentence without religion? "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

I, for one, would never accept that statement with "congress" or "science" substituted for a creator that loves me as an individual, and endows me with rights.

This is why people are religious.
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 03-22-2009, 09:17 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Not Real America, according to St. Sa家h
Posts: 21,798
Default Re: Why science can never replace religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by dankingbooks View Post
How would one translate the following sentence without religion? "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
Easily. As: "We take these propositions to be axiomatic: that all people are created equal, endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
__________________
Brendan

Last edited by bjkeefe; 03-22-2009 at 09:20 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 03-22-2009, 09:53 PM
dankingbooks dankingbooks is offline
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 83
Default Re: Why science can never replace religion

Sorry, BJ. You'll have us substitute a Creator with "we", a very thin reed indeed.

But my point still stands: the purpose of religion is never to explain the physical world, but to explain our role within that world. Eliezer misses that completely, and it seems that Adam doesn't hit it square on either. Tillich defines religion as "that which is of ultimate concern." I can't think of any scientific statement that rises to that importance.
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 03-22-2009, 10:18 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Not Real America, according to St. Sa家h
Posts: 21,798
Default Re: Why science can never replace religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by dankingbooks View Post
Sorry, BJ. You'll have us substitute a Creator with "we", a very thin reed indeed.
I don't see how your assertion that it's a "very thin reed" holds. In a democracy, forming a government and writing a constitution are precisely done by "we" (the people) for their (our) own collective benefit. One does not need to imagine the existence of an outside agency for agreement to be reached on founding principles; i.e., axioms. Indeed, "we" are all we have.

Quote:
But my point still stands: the purpose of religion is never to explain the physical world, but to explain our role within that world.
If it works for you, fine. But not everyone needs, or even wants, to have his or her role explained in these terms, and indeed, many are content to discard the notion that we have a role at all. (Apart from the mundane responsibilities that go along with being part of a society, a good parent, and like that, obviously. And here, note carefully that I use mundane in its literal, not pejorative, sense; i.e., "of this world.")

Quote:
Eliezer misses that completely, and it seems that Adam doesn't hit it square on either.
I expect that Eliezer would reject out of hand the notion that our role needs explaining, same as me. I don't agree that Adam didn't hit on it, since that seemed to be most of the point of his book, but I concede that he might not have put things the way you would like them to be put.

Quote:
Tillich defines religion as "that which is of ultimate concern." I can't think of any scientific statement that rises to that importance.
Again, this is a personal preference. I can't think of a scientific statement that I don't value more than any statement about religion. The only concerns I have about religion are how certain of the beliefs, or more precisely, how people hold them and act upon them, threaten society. Apart from this, I don't care about religion at all -- other people's beliefs about how they ought to live their lives due to their religious beliefs matter as little to me as the beliefs that it's important to knock wood after making an optimistic statement or to toss salt over one's shoulder after knocking over the shaker.
__________________
Brendan
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 03-23-2009, 11:29 AM
Bobby G Bobby G is offline
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 728
Default Re: Why science can never replace religion

Just for the record, when Tillich says that religion is that which is of ultimate concern, he doesn't say that only commitment to particular religious institutions fits this role. He thinks that whatever you take to be of greatest importance--religion, money, politics, family--is that which is of ultimate concern to you. He also happens to think that devotion to God is that which is best fit to be the object of ultimate concern, which is where you'd get off the boat.
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 03-23-2009, 12:44 PM
Jay J Jay J is offline
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Little Rock, AR
Posts: 436
Default Re: Why science can never replace religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bobby G View Post
Just for the record, when Tillich says that religion is that which is of ultimate concern, he doesn't say that only commitment to particular religious institutions fits this role. He thinks that whatever you take to be of greatest importance--religion, money, politics, family--is that which is of ultimate concern to you. He also happens to think that devotion to God is that which is best fit to be the object of ultimate concern, which is where you'd get off the boat.
And Tillich also said something to the effect of "God is not a being, God is the ground of all being."

Sorry if this has been brought up already...
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 03-23-2009, 12:47 PM
Bobby G Bobby G is offline
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 728
Default Re: Why science can never replace religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay J View Post
And Tillich also said something to the effect of "God is not a being, God is the ground of all being."

Sorry if this has been brought up already...
It's true that Tillich said that, although I've never been clear on what he means by that. He elaborates on it by saying that God does not exist--to say that God exists makes him one being among many instead of the ground of all being/existence.

For my money, the best explanation of this is the one given by Aquinas (of course, Aquinas wrote 800 years before Tillich), which is that God is not a member of a kind, unlike, say, you and I, who are members of the kind, "human being". I guess I could go on about that, but everyone here thinks that whenever I talk about religion I'm buffoonish, so I'll stop.
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 03-23-2009, 01:00 PM
Jay J Jay J is offline
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Little Rock, AR
Posts: 436
Default Re: Why science can never replace religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bobby G View Post
It's true that Tillich said that, although I've never been clear on what he means by that. He elaborates on it by saying that God does not exist--to say that God exists makes him one being among many instead of the ground of all being/existence.

For my money, the best explanation of this is the one given by Aquinas (of course, Aquinas wrote 800 years before Tillich), which is that God is not a member of a kind, unlike, say, you and I, who are members of the kind, "human being". I guess I could go on about that, but everyone here thinks that whenever I talk about religion I'm buffoonish, so I'll stop.
I understand your stopping Bobby G. I'll just say that you probably know more than me on these matters, but I always thought Tillich was committing to some kind of Eastern/impersonal/vague/mystical force beyond the machinations of the world we see everyday, beyond orthodox Judeo/Christian thought, even beyond personalizing God at all. But that's with not much knowledge of Tillich other than from that quote.
Reply With Quote
  #21  
Old 03-23-2009, 01:11 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 7,750
Default Re: Why science can never replace religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bobby G View Post
...everyone here thinks that whenever I talk about religion I'm buffoonish, so I'll stop.
Seriously? I don't think so. We're all defending our particular points of view, and I guess we're not always careful not to kick sand into each others' eyes - but I for one am pretty happy to have people here who both disagree with me and are capable of coherently defending their points of view. Bring it on, Bobby!
__________________
-A. E. M. Jeff (Eponym)
Magnets - We know how they work!
Reply With Quote
  #22  
Old 03-23-2009, 09:55 PM
Bobby G Bobby G is offline
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 728
Default Re: Why science can never replace religion

Oh, I don't think people would tell me to shut up, or anything. They're nice about it, usually. It's just to 99% of the commenters, theism is about as likely as the claim that the universe is made up primarily of catfish. Obviously, someone who advocated that view, however smart otherwise, would not be worth listening to when it comes to his advancing that view.
Reply With Quote
  #23  
Old 03-23-2009, 10:26 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 7,750
Default Re: Why science can never replace religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bobby G View Post
Oh, I don't think people would tell me to shut up, or anything. They're nice about it, usually. It's just to 99% of the commenters, theism is about as likely as the claim that the universe is made up primarily of catfish. Obviously, someone who advocated that view, however smart otherwise, would not be worth listening to when it comes to his advancing that view.
That's not obvious to me at all. Some of us are atheists, though I suspect fewer than 99%. But that's the joy of open discussion, isn't it? It's no fun arguing with people with whom you agree, don't you think? And if ultimately you don't feel like you have a stake in what you're arguing, what's the point?
__________________
-A. E. M. Jeff (Eponym)
Magnets - We know how they work!
Reply With Quote
  #24  
Old 03-24-2009, 01:35 AM
Bobby G Bobby G is offline
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 728
Default Re: Why science can never replace religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by AemJeff View Post
That's not obvious to me at all. Some of us are atheists, though I suspect fewer than 99%. But that's the joy of open discussion, isn't it? It's no fun arguing with people with whom you agree, don't you think? And if ultimately you don't feel like you have a stake in what you're arguing, what's the point?
I suppose I've been reading selectively. I think I may have noticed another person advocate theism once, but I tend to look at the same commenters over and over (you, BJKeefe, harkin, Wonderment, etc.), and none of the ones I regularly read seem to me to treat theism as worthy of any more consideration than the question of whether leprechauns do anal.

That said, I guess I could present some reasons to believe theism, if you'd be interested in hearing them. Maybe we should private message?
Reply With Quote
  #25  
Old 03-24-2009, 02:10 AM
uncle ebeneezer uncle ebeneezer is offline
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 3,332
Default Re: Why science can never replace religion

Quote:
than the question of whether leprechauns do anal.
Wow, now that's a random analogy!

I find theistic discussions very interesting although I will never be convinced. However, my knowledge of religion and philosophy often makes it so that I don't really have anything valuable to offer to the discussion.
Reply With Quote
  #26  
Old 03-24-2009, 02:21 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Not Real America, according to St. Sa家h
Posts: 21,798
Default Re: Why science can never replace religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bobby G View Post
I suppose I've been reading selectively. I think I may have noticed another person advocate theism once, but I tend to look at the same commenters over and over (you, BJKeefe, harkin, Wonderment, etc.), and none of the ones I regularly read seem to me to treat theism as worthy of any more consideration than the question of whether leprechauns do anal.
That's a true statement, at least as far as I'm concerned. However ...

Quote:
That said, I guess I could present some reasons to believe theism, if you'd be interested in hearing them. Maybe we should private message?
... since this at least the second time you've made this offer, maybe you should just go ahead and present to the entire forum.
__________________
Brendan
Reply With Quote
  #27  
Old 03-24-2009, 03:15 AM
Wonderment Wonderment is offline
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Southern California
Posts: 5,694
Default Re: Why science can never replace religion

Quote:
I tend to look at the same commenters over and over (you, BJKeefe, harkin, Wonderment, etc.), and none of the ones I regularly read seem to me to treat theism as worthy of any more consideration than the question of whether leprechauns do anal.
A funny but weak analogy, Bobby.

True, I don't give God much more credence than leprechauns. But I do think religion/spirituality is very worthy of my attention and respect.

Unlike many atheists, I like religion. I just don't believe in it. I tend to think that the world is generally enriched by the more intelligent, inclusive and compassionate forms of religion. I also think we humans are hard-wired for religious sentiment.

I expect religion will continue to evolve in post-theistic modalities. We can appreciate some of religion's future features when John Horgan suggests that transhumanism is a kind of religious cult, or when Tyler Cowen calls Peter Singer a Talmudic theologian (see last week's "End World Poverty" episode).
__________________
Seek Peace and Pursue it
בקש שלום ורדפהו
Busca la paz y s璲uela
--Psalm 34:15
Reply With Quote
  #28  
Old 03-24-2009, 07:23 AM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 7,750
Default Re: Why science can never replace religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bobby G View Post
I suppose I've been reading selectively. I think I may have noticed another person advocate theism once, but I tend to look at the same commenters over and over (you, BJKeefe, harkin, Wonderment, etc.), and none of the ones I regularly read seem to me to treat theism as worthy of any more consideration than the question of whether leprechauns do anal.

That said, I guess I could present some reasons to believe theism, if you'd be interested in hearing them. Maybe we should private message?
If that's how you're most comfortable, sure, though I think that defeats the idea of having an open discussion, to a great extent. But I should say, I've made my journey from Catholicism. My interest isn't to convert or to be converted. Rather, I'm interested in the the spirit of lively, respectful debate. It's not so much that I want to call you out on this particular issue - though the issue of (e.g.) religious epistemology vs. empiricism is a touchstone for me, and I'll gladly go there - I just hope that if you have a point of view that you feel is worth defending (and obviously you feel strongly about this,) then the probability that your defense will be tested won't convince you not to mount that defense.

Ultimately it's up to you, of course how deeply into the fray you're willing to go. I can say confidently that the smartest people in this forum (a club in which I make no claim to membership) will be happy to have another viewpoint strongly represented. Even if they are likely to occasionally snark in the general direction of that point of view. (What's a little sand in the eyes between friends?)
__________________
-A. E. M. Jeff (Eponym)
Magnets - We know how they work!

Last edited by AemJeff; 03-24-2009 at 07:56 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #29  
Old 03-25-2009, 02:12 AM
Bobby G Bobby G is offline
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 728
Default Re: Why science can never replace religion

Don't worry, I'm going to post an argument for belief in the existence of God. I've been writing it up. Right now it's over two single-spaced pages, however, and I'm doing a little research for it. Unfortunately I also have to grade about 100 6-page essays, hopefully by April 2, so there's only so much time I can devote to it.

That said, I do want to say that I don't expect to convince anyone that they should be theists. I'd like to convince you that it can be reasonable to be a theist, but I doubt I or anyone could. Instead, I just want to convince you that my theism isn't as implausible as believing in leprechauns, unicorns, or other such phenomena.

And Wonderment, I don't think that you disrespect religion. I was just making a claim about how likely you think it is that God exists. I had the feeling that while you may find a form of theological non-realism to be a live option, anyone who thought that God exists, and that furthermore this God is a powerful being with a will, who knows things, who has a causal relationship to the universe, and who exists regardless of what anyone thinks, would be an incredibly silly view (on a par with some weird orc-toyota combination), and perhaps even an anti-religious view.
Reply With Quote
  #30  
Old 03-22-2009, 10:25 PM
EliezerYudkowsky EliezerYudkowsky is offline
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 8
Default Re: Why science can never replace religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by bjkeefe View Post
Easily. As: "We take these propositions to be axiomatic: that all people are created equal, endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
That was awesome.
Reply With Quote
  #31  
Old 03-22-2009, 10:28 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Not Real America, according to St. Sa家h
Posts: 21,798
Default Re: Why science can never replace religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by EliezerYudkowsky View Post
That was awesome.
Thanks!
__________________
Brendan
Reply With Quote
  #32  
Old 03-23-2009, 06:28 AM
Francoamerican
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Why science can never replace religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by bjkeefe View Post
Easily. As: "We take these propositions to be axiomatic: that all people are created equal, endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
Sleight of hand, BJ, as I am sure you know. You can substitute "axiomatic" for self-evident, if you like, but then I would want to see a "proof" based on the axioms of universal equality and inalienable rights that is non-circular. Eliminating the "creator" after endowed is pointless unless you can also find a plausible substitute for "created" in the previous clause. Is creation possible without a creator?

Inalienable rights, as Jeremy Bentham would say, is "nonsense on stilts."
Reply With Quote
  #33  
Old 03-23-2009, 07:20 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Not Real America, according to St. Sa家h
Posts: 21,798
Default Re: Why science can never replace religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by Francoamerican View Post
Sleight of hand, BJ, as I am sure you know. You can substitute "axiomatic" for self-evident, if you like, but then I would want to see a "proof" based on the axioms of universal equality and inalienable rights that is non-circular. Eliminating the "creator" after endowed is pointless unless you can also find a plausible substitute for "created" in the previous clause. Is creation possible without a creator?

Inalienable rights, as Jeremy Bentham would say, is "nonsense on stilts."
Seems to me that creation can be viewed as an act of nature (natural occurrence), but if you insist, we can change it. It lacks the ring of the original, but: "We take these propositions to be axiomatic: that all people are born equal, possess certain inalienable rights, and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Your Bentham line is nothing but an appeal to authority. These are axioms -- we are taking them as given. But if the particular word bothers you, substitute rights that may not be revoked.

Also, I'm not clear on what you're asking concerning the proof you'd like to see, but one does not prove axioms, so I'm not sure where circularity would come in.
__________________
Brendan

Last edited by bjkeefe; 03-23-2009 at 07:28 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #34  
Old 03-23-2009, 07:39 AM
Francoamerican
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Why science can never replace religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by bjkeefe View Post
Also, I'm not clear on what you're asking concerning the proof you'd like to see, but one does not prove axioms, so I'm not sure where circularity would come in.
I didn't say that one proves an axiom. But an axiom always serves as the basis of a proof, doesn't it? What can you prove using the axiom of universal equality and inalienable rights? Nothing. You are simply asserting that they exist.

Bentham's point was, and I think he was correct, is that there is no such thing as a natural right (which is what "inalienable" means: They cannot be taken away by any state or government because men possess them by nature). If you could demonstrate to me that there are such rights, you would not presumably begin with the "axiom" that all men are naturally equal. That is hardly a proof. Moreover, it is false.

Last edited by Francoamerican; 03-23-2009 at 08:06 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #35  
Old 03-23-2009, 08:11 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Not Real America, according to St. Sa家h
Posts: 21,798
Default Re: Why science can never replace religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by Francoamerican View Post
I didn't say that one proves an axiom. But an axiom always serves as the basis of a proof, doesn't it? What can you prove using the axiom of universal equality and inalienable rights? Nothing. You are simply asserting that they exist.

Bentham's point was, and I think he was correct, is that there is no such thing as a natural right (which is what inalienable means: They cannot be taken away by any state or government because men possess them by nature). If you could demonstrate to me that there are such rights, you would not presumably begin with the "axiom" that all men are naturally equal. That is hardly a proof.
I don't understand why you start off agreeing that one does not prove axioms and then end by accusing something of not being a proof. I also don't understand why you expect me to demonstrate something when it's explicitly stated as a starting assumption.

You are correct in saying I am simply asserting universal equality and rights, as you (and Bentham) are simply asserting the contrary. You are incorrect to say that nothing can be derived from them -- they can and do form the basis for our system of government and law. Whether things can be proven, strictly speaking, using them is a starting point I'm not sure, but I'd imagine someone better at logic than I could. It seems to me that you could prove all manner of things - for example, that have to do with the government being wrong when it takes away these individual rights -- but as I say, I don't know enough about formal logic to be sure.

But anyway, I never said I could prove anything. The challenge was to recast a statement from the Declaration of Independence without God being involved, which I did. If you don't believe the worth of these starting assumptions, so be it. I do.
__________________
Brendan
Reply With Quote
  #36  
Old 03-23-2009, 08:51 AM
Francoamerican
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Why science can never replace religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by bjkeefe View Post
I don't understand why you start off agreeing that one does not prove axioms and then end by accusing something of not being a proof. I also don't understand why you expect me to demonstrate something when it's explicitly stated as a starting assumption..
I don't expect you to demonstrate anything since there is nothing you could demonstrate (although that is usually why we use axioms). You are simply repeating the language of the Declaration of Independence while dropping the religious rhetoric that supports it. Since religion, or more precisely Christianity, is the ONLY support for the notion of inalienable natural rights, your restatement stands on thin air.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bjkeefe View Post
You are correct in saying I am simply asserting universal equality and rights, as you (and Bentham) are simply asserting the contrary. You are incorrect to say that nothing can be derived from them -- they can and do form the basis for our system of government and law..
True enough, just as the Declaration of the Rights of Man is the basis of the French Constitution, but that doesn't make the notion of rights empirically true. It is manifestly false that men are naturally free and equal, though they may very well all be free and equal "in the eyes of God," which is apparently what Jefferson meant.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bjkeefe View Post
Whether things can be proven, strictly speaking, using them is a starting point I'm not sure, but I'd imagine someone better at logic than I could. It seems to me that you could prove all manner of things, for example, that have to do with the government being wrong when it takes away these individual rights -- but as I say, I don't know enough about formal logic to be sure..
Fortunately, our governments do not rely on logic or empirical truth.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bjkeefe View Post
But anyway, I never said I could prove anything. The challenge was to recast a statement from the Declaration of Independence without God being involved, which I did. If you don't believe what the statement says, so be it. I do.
Then your credo is: Credo quia absurdum.
Reply With Quote
  #37  
Old 03-23-2009, 09:13 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Not Real America, according to St. Sa家h
Posts: 21,798
Default Re: Why science can never replace religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by Francoamerican View Post
I don't expect you to demonstrate anything since there is nothing you could demonstrate (although that is usually why we use axioms). You are simply repeating the language of the Declaration of Independence while dropping the religious rhetoric that supports it. Since religion, or more precisely Christianity, is the ONLY support for the notion of inalienable natural rights, your restatement stands on thin air.
Since there is no God, this has always been so, and nonetheless, it's worked pretty well as a starting point, hasn't it?

I'd also say that all axioms rest on thin air. If they rested on something more substantial, they wouldn't be the starting axioms. You might as well say the proposition A=A rests on thin air -- it may be true, but so what? It's a good starting point for all sorts of useful work.

Quote:
True enough, just as the Declaration of the Rights of Man is the basis of the French Constitution, but that doesn't make the notion of rights empirically true. It is manifestly false that men are naturally free and equal, though they may very well all be free and equal "in the eyes of God," which is apparently what Jefferson meant.
It is not false, just because you add an adverb. You have no way to disprove these propositions, anymore than I have a way to prove them. What we can say is that assuming them to be true works pretty well as a starting point, and certainly better than any system that starts by declaring one group better than another by virtue of different circumstances at birth.

And please don't try to sneak in a conflation of inequality on the basis of capabilities, if that's what you're trying to do. I agree that people are not equal in this sense. What the statement refers to is how they have to be treated under law.

Quote:
Fortunately, our governments do not rely on logic or empirical truth.
When they're at their best, they do.

Quote:
Then your credo is: Credo quia absurdum.
You've done nothing to establish that my beliefs in universal equality and rights are absurd. Just saying over and over that they're not true doesn't cut it.

You're also seeming to stray off in all sorts of directions, none of which interest me at the moment, so I'll let you have the last word on this.
__________________
Brendan
Reply With Quote
  #38  
Old 03-23-2009, 03:19 PM
Francoamerican
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Why science can never replace religion

BJ, I am not going to take the trouble to respond to your statements one by one since what I have said is perfectly well-known to intellectual historians. Indeed the starting point of much political philosophy since the 17th century is that rights are neither natural nor god-given, but manmade. The Declaration of Independence as well as the Declaration of the Rights of Man start from different premises, but that is because they were documents composed by practical men engaged in the business of overthrowing governments rather than in the business of writing philosophical treatises.

Two questions for you to consider:

1.First the empirical question: Have you ever read ANY history, historical sociology or anthropology? If you had (and I assume you have), you would know that before the American and French Revolutions there were NO societies that recognized the principle of natural rights (=equality and freedom for all). Before the 18th century the quasi-totality of societies known to us were hierarchical, inegalitarian and authoritarian. There is simply no historical or anthropological evidence to the contrary. This is hardly surprising when you consider that even today we accept in principle that some natural inequalities are both inevitable and perhaps even desirable. People sometimes cite ancient Athens, Sparta and Republican Rome, but besides the fact that Athens, Sparta and Rome thought that slavery was perfectly legitimate, even their equal citizens were divided into classes, with very unequal privileges and very unequal degrees of freedom. For most of western history freedom and equality never meant more than freedom and equality in the eyes of God.

2. Now the theoretical question: Have you ever read any political philosophy? Say Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau? Or even Rawls? If you had, you would know that the attempt to think through the principle of equal natural rights (via the thought experiment of the "state of nature" or Rawl's "veil of ignorance") leads to some pretty unself-evident and paradoxical results. Besides the fact that the first three theorists demonstrate that a state of nature in which equal rights were given free play would inevitably culminate in a state of war (and hence be an unsuitable basis for government), they all come to the same conclusion regarding the status of rights: that equal rights DERIVE their validity and scope from the establishment of government....not the other way around. That is, equal rights are not self-evident, inalienable, intuitively known axioms which would somehow justify our revolt against government, if perchance the latter were to "violate" them (but who is the rightful judge of a violation?). There is nothing natural about them, nor would we know how to guarantee our so-called natural rights without a system of law and government that prevents us and everyone else from overstepping them. We may all be more or less equal physically (Hobbes gives as one of his proofs of the physical equality of all men the power of the weakest to kill the strongest), but in almost all other respects we are unequal. Equality thus has to be established by law and convention. The idea, or rather ideal, of equality is, as historians like to say, the secularization of the Christian belief in the equality of all souls in the eyes of God. As for the ideal of freedom, anyone who has thought about the condition of children for the first 15 years or so of their lives, must wonder how far we are willing to let natural freedom go before we impose some order...but a discussion of this problem would take us into metaphysical depths that are beyond me.

Last edited by Francoamerican; 03-23-2009 at 07:09 PM.. Reason: clarification
Reply With Quote
  #39  
Old 03-23-2009, 07:26 PM
Francoamerican
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Why science can never replace religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by bjkeefe View Post
It is not false, just because you add an adverb. You have no way to disprove these propositions, anymore than I have a way to prove them. What we can say is that assuming them to be true works pretty well as a starting point, and certainly better than any system that starts by declaring one group better than another by virtue of different circumstances at birth.

And please don't try to sneak in a conflation of inequality on the basis of capabilities, if that's what you're trying to do. I agree that people are not equal in this sense. What the statement refers to is how they have to be treated under law..
You assert in the first paragraph that my statement about natural inequality is false; then you say in the second paragraph that of course people are unequal, but that they HAVE to be treated equally under law. How do you know this? Could bjkeefe be a clandestine Christian after all?

Quote:
Originally Posted by bjkeefe View Post
You're also seeming to stray off in all sorts of directions, none of which interest me at the moment, so I'll let you have the last word on this.
Most generous of you BJ. Sorry, I can't hold your flickering attention. I know how much you like to trawl for trash on the internet!
Reply With Quote
  #40  
Old 03-23-2009, 07:40 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 7,750
Default Re: Why science can never replace religion

Quote:
Originally Posted by Francoamerican View Post
You assert in the first paragraph that my statement about natural inequality is false; then you say in the second paragraph that of course people are unequal, but that they HAVE to be treated equally under law. How do you know this? Could bjkeefe be a clandestine Christian after all?



Most generous of you BJ. Sorry, I can't hold your flickering attention. I know how much you like to trawl for trash on the internet!
Part of the problem here is that the in-context meaning of "equality" hasn't been agreed on. It's obviously being used in a specific, technical sense. All men are not born equally massive, for instance. I don't believe that the word references attributes of an individual at all. It's intended, instead, to describe the individual's relationship to the state - that all men are inherently to be treated as equal before the law does not require that they be measurably equal in any intrinsic way.
__________________
-A. E. M. Jeff (Eponym)
Magnets - We know how they work!

Last edited by AemJeff; 03-23-2009 at 09:00 PM.. Reason: better word choice
Reply With Quote
 


Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
 
Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -4. The time now is 12:49 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2021, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.