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Old 01-08-2006, 08:01 PM   #226
trisherina
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I happened to be reading a book today that said not once, but twice, that one good reason for studying research methods is that there are limits to science and that generalizations are always based in part on a "leap of faith."



It made me very queasy. Not the first part (of course there are limits to science, dammit, it's done by highly compromised humans, see above), but the leap of faith part. Probably it's just a matter of bad writing/interpretation about how scientific inquiry is carried out, but I resisted the urge to be disdainful and went on a muddling frenzy. So I got to wondering, what were they really thinking about, with this leap of faith business? The evaluative step? What? How can you require a leap of faith when new data will get you to change your mind and your perspective in a heartbeat, and happily? That's definitely not what they ask the people I see being baptized to do: "Do you accept Jesus as your personal saviour, until you find that this doesn't quite fit where systems are either extremely large or extremely small?"

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, and this is where people like Paul (above) really chill mah blains. Uh, the very process of shining light on evil dynamically transforms the nature of evil itself? Show me! Let's see... that could work with a laser scope aimed at the forehead of a despot... now, let's see... was it the blazing light of global awareness, or the 101st Airborne that dynamically transformed the nature of the Reichstag? hmmmm I am so sorry but I can't stop myself
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Old 01-08-2006, 08:49 PM   #227
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trisherina
"... really chill mah blains."
OMG, I have GOT to start using that expression! It's even better than "pig-biting mad."
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Old 01-08-2006, 08:55 PM   #228
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From "The Philosopher's Magazine" (emphasis mine)

Philosopher of the Month

September 2001 - Soren Kierkegaard

Jiou Lee-Yang

The biographies of many philosophers rarely merit so much as a mention when explaining their work. This is usually as much due to their tediousness as their irrelevance. With Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), his biography is both significant and interesting.

Casting a long, dark shadow over his whole life was the presence of his father. This is a man who, as Kierkegaard's journal recalls, "as a small boy tending sheep on the Jutland Heath, suffering many ills, famished and exhausted, stood up on a hill and cursed God! And that man was never able to forget it, not even at the age of 82." Nor was Kierkegaard Jr able to forget it, as he inherited the religious fervour and guilt of his father. Before he was twenty-one, no fewer than four of his siblings and his mother had died, convincing Soren that God's retributive curse had fallen on the whole family.

As a young man, Kierkegaard tried to throw oft this melancholy and he did indeed become known as quite a bon viveur in Copenhagen society. However, his journal revealed a darker, suicidal side: "I have just returned from a party of which I was the life and soul; witty banter flowed from my lips, everyone laughed and admired me - but I came away, indeed that dash should be as long as the radii of the earth's orbit wanting to shoot myself."

Perhaps the most important event in his life was his broken engagement to Regine Olsen. This decision caused a great deal of anguish within him, and flimsily revealed references to this event can be found in many of his works, notably Either/or and Repetition. His explanation of the annulment was that married life was incompatible with his dedication to his vocation as a writer. As if to prove the point, over the ten years from 1843, Kierkegaard produced such a volume of work that one can hardly imagine how he had time to eat, let alone fulfil his conjugal duties.

It doesn't require an analyst to see the connection between Kierkegaard's life history and the production of books with titles like Fear and Trembling and The Sickness Unto Death. But, thankfully, as well as being a depressive, Kierkegaard was also a thinker worthy of the accolade "genius". Although his works are not presented systematically and analytically, no-one can deny that they contain a wealth of razor sharp intellectual insights.

At the core of his work is the rejection of systematised, logical thought as a definitive guide to life and meaning. His chief target here was Hegel, whose philosophical system was seen by many in the mid nineteenth century as able to explain virtually everything. Hegel thought that wherever there appeared to be a contradiction, a thesis and antithesis, it would be possible to reach rational harmony by means of a synthesis between the two. What is irrational in the original two positions is thus eliminated and what is rational is preserved. But Kierkegaard argued that the "movement' in the synthesis is not explained. If the synthesis is fully contained in the thesis and antithesis, then the synthesis is no real progression at all. If, on the other hand, there is something novel in the synthesis, then the movement is not strictly rational, as something new must have been introduced that was not contained in the original pairing.

Kierkegaard's point is that no matter how rigorous your logical system, there will always be gaps. As these gaps are logical gaps, it is futile to try and bridge them. Instead, they can only be breached by a leap of faith. What characterises a leap of faith is the absolute uncertainty that underlies it. Faith is by definition that which cannot be proven or disproved. That is why a leap of faith is undertaken in 'fear and trembling".

In moral terms, that meant, for Kierkegaard at least, embracing the religious life. This was Kierkegaard's third sphere of existence. The first was what he called the aesthetic, which was a life dedicated to the instant, perhaps best summed up in the phrase carpe diem - 'seize the day'. The second was the ethical, where one tries to live in accordance with eternal values. For Kierkegaard, both are incomplete, in terms of rationality and of satisfying human needs. But, as we have seen, these gaps cannot be closed through a rational synthesis. Only Christianity, which paradoxically combined the temporal and the infinite in the God-man Jesus Christ, bridges this gap. But embracing Christianity requires leaving rationality behind and taking a bold leap of faith.

The existentialist movement of the early twentieth century was the natural heir to Kierkegaard's thought. Philosophers like Sartre and Nietzsche also emphasised the limits of logic and personal choice. But as critics have complained, once this stance is taken, anything is justifiable. What seems to matter is not what you choose, but that you choose it freely.

Kierkegaard's complex, poetic work, rewards careful reading. But perhaps at its core, the moral of Kierkegaard's philosophy can be summed up in the single sentence of Kierkegaard scholar Michael Collins: "Human existence requires real 'passion' as well as thought."


Suggested reading:
A Kierkegaard Anthology, ed. Bretall
The Mind of Kierkegaard by Michael Collins, both published by Princeton, 10.50.
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Old 01-09-2006, 12:25 AM   #229
trisherina
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Oh, I'm pretty clear on what a leap of faith looks like. But that isn't what happens when generalizations are made as part of scientific method. What happens is that the "gaps" are acknowledged, and subsequent data supports or disproves assumptions in the evaluative step. There's no trepidation, no fear and trembling in the uncertainty. It's part of the process. Doors stay open.

By contrast, I find that faith-based belief systems are very uncomfortable with uncertainty. For instance, where does life begin? What's the deal with the improbable resurrection story? What about the even more improbable virgin birth story? Why do bad things happen to good people? If I'm being watched all the time, where's the help when I need it? The leap of faith is supposed to bridge all these gaps, with great assurance and certainty. Answers are provided, doors are closed. But for anyone with a normally inquisitive, functioning brain, it provides really, really lame answers that don't stand up well to the shining light of evaluation.
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Old 01-09-2006, 11:07 AM   #230
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brynn
It makes the assertion that science and spirituality are not mutually exclusive.
Maybe so, or maybe not. But definitely not for any of the reasons he says.
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Old 01-09-2006, 07:45 PM   #231
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trisherina
If I'm being watched all the time, where's the help when I need it?
I hat that He watches sparrows falling. Poor birdies.
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Old 01-15-2006, 08:23 PM   #232
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Three short clips for your viewing enjoyment:

"Woe unto him who fills the body of Christ with Bavarian cream!"

Clip: Bill Maher guest hosting Larry King Live.

Clip: Richard Dawkins from his BBC documentary, "The God Delusion."
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Old 01-15-2006, 09:26 PM   #233
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The Bavarian Cream video was complete (and was very funny), but the other two videos were hard to watch because of breaking down and having to restart.
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Old 01-15-2006, 11:39 PM   #234
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^^ Hmmm. They work fine on mine. I don't know what's wrong with them. I got them from One Good Move, which also has some background for the two videos you're having trouble with. You might try linking to them from there.

Meanwhile, take the BBC Disbelief Quiz!
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Old 01-22-2006, 06:54 PM   #235
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From today's NY Times Magazine:

---------------
January 22, 2006
Questions for Daniel C. Dennett
The Nonbeliever
Interview by DEBORAH SOLOMON

Q: How could you, as a longtime professor of philosophy at Tufts University, write a book that promotes the idea that religious devotion is a function of biology? Why would you hold a scientist's microscope to something as intangible as belief?

I don't know about you, but I find St. Paul's and St. Peter's pretty physical.

But your new book, "Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon," is not about cathedrals. It's about religious belief, which cannot be dissected in a lab as if it were a disease.

That itself is a scientific claim, and I think it is false. Belief can be explained in much the way that cancer can. I think the time has come to shed our taboo that says, "Oh, let's just tiptoe by this, we don't have to study this." People think they know a lot about religion. But they don't know.

So what can you tell us about God?

Certainly the idea of a God that can answer prayers and whom you can talk to, and who intervenes in the world - that's a hopeless idea. There is no such thing.

Yet faith, by definition, means believing in something whose existence cannot be proved scientifically. If we knew for sure that God existed, it would not require a leap of faith to believe in him.

Isn't it interesting that you want to take that leap? Why do you want to take that leap? Why does our craving for God persist? It may be that we need it for something. It may be that we don't need it, and it is left over from something that we used to be. There are lots of biological possibilities.

Didn't religion spring up in its earliest forms in connection with the weather, the desire to make sense of rain and lightning?

We have a built-in, very potent hair-trigger tendency to find agency in things that are not agents, like snow falling off the roof.

There was so much infant mortality in the past, which must have played a large role in encouraging people to believe in an afterlife.

When a person dies, we can't just turn that off. We go on thinking about that person as if that person were still alive. Our inability to turn off our people-seer and our people-hearer naturally turns into our hallucinations of ghosts, our sense that they are still with us.

But they are still with us, through the process of memory.

These aren't just memories.

I take it you do not subscribe to the idea of an everlasting soul, which is part of almost every religion.

Ugh. I certainly don't believe in the soul as an enduring entity. Our brains are made of neurons, and nothing else. Nerve cells are very complicated mechanical systems. You take enough of those, and you put them together, and you get a soul.

That strikes me as a very reductive and uninteresting approach to religious feeling.

Love can be studied scientifically, too.

But what's the point of that? Wouldn't it be more worthwhile to spend your time and research money looking for a cure for AIDS?

How about if we study hatred and fear? Don't you think that would be worthwhile?

Traditionally, evolutionary biologists like Stephen Jay Gould insisted on keeping a separation between hard science and less knowable realms like religion.

He was the evolutionist laureate of the U.S., and everybody got their Darwin from Steve. The trouble was he gave a rather biased view of evolution. He called me a Darwinian fundamentalist.

Which I imagine was his idea of a put-down, since he thought evolutionists should not apply their theories to religion.

Churches make a great show about the creed, but they don't really care. A lot of the evangelicals don't really care what you believe as long as you say the right thing and do the right thing and put a lot of money in the collection box.

I take it you are not a churchgoer.

No, not really. Sometimes I go to church for the music.

Yes, the church gave us Bach, in addition to some fairly spectacular architecture and painting.

Churches have given us great treasures. Whether that pays for the harm they have done is another matter. <-- Smartypants note: What a great line! Methinks it is my new posting signature!!
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Last edited by Smartypants : 01-22-2006 at 06:56 PM.
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Old 01-23-2006, 01:49 AM   #236
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This is what I think is true, just in general:

Be kind to other people

Be kind to animals

Be kind to yourself

I think the hardest thing is being kind to other people.

That being said, I am a Catholic, converted for about two years. I find the greatest inspiration is Jesus. Jesus accepted anyone on the fringe of society, and he got tons of crap for doing so, even from his own followers. I think the best motto is "Judge not lest ye be judged" or something like that
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Old 01-25-2006, 08:28 PM   #237
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Our universal champion in outer space,

Your identity enjoys the highest rating on a prioritised selectivity scale.

May your sphere of influence take on reality parameters;

May your mindset be implemented on this planet as in outer space.

Allot to us at this point in time and on a per diem basis, a sufficient and balanced dietary food intake, and rationalise a disclaimer against our negative feedback as we rationalise the negative feedback of others.

And deprogram our negative potentialities,

But desensitise the impact of the counter-productive force.

For yours is the dominant sphere of influence, the ultimate capability and the highest qualitative analysis rating, at this point in time and extending beyond a limited time-frame.

End of message.
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Old 01-25-2006, 11:53 PM   #238
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Affirmation of data quality of antecedent conjecture-supplication cluster.
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Old 01-26-2006, 02:05 PM   #239
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Klynne
....I think the best motto is "Judge not lest ye be judged" or something like that
Or as my Mom likes to quote: "take the plank out of your own eye before you examine the splinter in someone else's..."
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Old 01-26-2006, 08:35 PM   #240
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Klynne
This is what I think is true, just in general:

Be kind to other people

Be kind to animals

Be kind to yourself

I think the hardest thing is being kind to other people.
I dunno about that last line... seems to me a lot of people have trouble being kind to themselves... which then makes it hard for them to find the energy to be kind to others. Or they're always doing for others, and not taking care of themselves, so they end up getting sick (like my mom)... But overall - I agree with you wholeheartedly!
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