Religion
#21
So, I know this thread was inactive for a long time, and then it was active again and I didn't post then, but I still feel compelled to respond the responses to my original post. Apologies that this is so stupidly late. I was going to respond to them way back when this thread was still active, but, I dunno, I guess I was busy or whatever.

(02-14-2015, 12:19 PM)KathiraNarae Wrote: My view on the soul is based on the subjective, on faith, on a distinct LACK of hard data. Yet I hate dealing with the subjective, I want cold hard answers, I want hard data. This contradiction is annoying but I don't want to let go of my current subjective beliefs until the data proves they don't work. I hate to be cliche here, but at this time, you cannot prove a soul DOESN'T exist. If this makes me feel a little more comfortable, so be it. Just hurry up with that research!

I can respect this position, even if I don't agree with it. The main difference between this view and mine is mostly a matter of attitude; you acknowledge the role of hard neuroscience and point out its current shortcomings, and based on that choose to embrace subjective viewpoints. For me, the most important thing is the acknowledgement that neuroscience could one day (in the far, far future) explain all the functions of the brain that have been attributed to the soul. What you choose to believe in the meantime is your business. I personally prefer to not rely on theories that can never be proven true or false at all. Put bluntly: to do so is just bad science. Vulcan, remember?

I would like to make an uncomfortable point, however, but before I do so I must first give the disclaimer that I'm not 100% sure of the facts I'm about to cite. I'm pretty sure I learned them in a psychology class, but I may be remembering wrong. However, I'm fairly confident of its overall validity as an argument. To my knowledge, at one time philosophers/scientists (there wasn't much of a distinction back then) believed that the incorporeal soul was physically "housed" in some part of the body. I don't remember who exactly believed this, but for a long time scientists conducted a thorough "search" for the physical body part in which the soul could theoretically be detected. Obviously, they didn't find any such organ. Additionally, scientists once believed that body heat was the direct result of the soul. Once again, obviously disproven. My point is that if we go back through history, we may find that the soul has not always been defined as the completely ethereal, undetectable essence that it is now. To my (again, insufficient and suspect) knowledge, the soul was once given physical, detectable qualities that have since been disproven. Perhaps, the reason that the soul is impossible to prove or disprove is because it has already been disproven. Everything that we once thought we knew about the soul has been stripped away until all that is left is the core concept, which we hold on to because... we want to? This gets to the heart of much of my problem with religion; when you get down to it, many of the beliefs seem to exist (and continue to exist) simply because people want them to be true. That is the absolute worst possible basis for an argument.

Now having said that, yes, I acknowledge that this argument is super sketchy and just generally inadequate, mostly because I have not done the required research to sufficiently back it up. Also, yes, just because certain aspects of a theory turn out to be false doesn't mean the whole thing is bad. But any scientific theory (which the soul apparently was, at one point) that has had this much damage done to it would need to be majorly reconstructed, if not rejected altogether. And finally, yes, I'm aware that I'm probably picking out a single conception of the soul from one culture at one period in history, when the there have been countless independent conceptions all across the world, throughout history. My overall argument does not live or die on this point. Not yet, anyway.

(02-14-2015, 12:34 PM)Dazel Wrote:
(02-14-2015, 04:29 AM)BlackInfinityEE129 Wrote: But it's also an admission that I'm exactly that cold and calculating - at least in terms of philosophy. I view the world entirely and exclusively through the uncompromising lens of logic and reason. I simply don't accept the inverse, faith, as a viable means of understanding the world.
This... is somewhat confusing as well. You're suggesting that faith is the direct opposite of logic, which is really not true at all. Logic is the use of deductive reasoning and consideration of precedents to draw solid conclusions, and that can indisputably happen spiritually as well.

Right you are. I apologize, this was a case of poor terminology. By "logic and reason" I don't so much mean the use of deductive reasoning in coming up with conclusions, I mean an entire school of thought governed by scientific principles and philosophies. I mean the use of testable hypotheses to assess to validity of proposed theories. The keyword here being "testable." This IS the inverse of faith because by definition, such matters have to be believed without hard evidence, because such theories are by nature untestable. So I guess instead of "logic and reason" I can just say science.

(02-14-2015, 12:34 PM)Dazel Wrote:
(02-14-2015, 04:29 AM)BlackInfinityEE129 Wrote: This is a little example of how I think: consider this basic, ultra watered down argument. "God is real!" "No, God is not real!" The actual views displayed here are irrelevant, as my issue has nothing to do with them, and indeed, I see this problem everywhere, in a huge variety of topics. My entire problem with these arguments is the word "real." What does "real" mean? No seriously, what does it mean? Consider: "That's not real." "Well, it's real to me." The fact that both these sentences make sense to us reveals the inadequacy of the word "real" as a term with which to qualify the topic of discussion. Specifically, this shows "real's" ambiguity of definition. How can you qualify something if you don't know what your qualifier means? Now consider: "That doesn't exist." "Well, it exists to me." You can't use "exist" with the same double meaning as you can "real." By using stronger, more easily definable terms to qualify the topic of discussion, you build a stronger argument. That is the first step. The second is defining those terms, and providing that definition as a reference point of the discussion.
This is a valid standpoint, I suppose, but a lot of it goes down the drain when you take into account that not everyone is correct. When someone says, "It's real to me," that's because they believe it's real so strongly that they've accepted it to be so, but that doesn't necessarily mean it is. The same is true for the opposite: you could be "positive" that there is no God, but just because you feel so strongly about it doesn't mean it's true, because humans are fallible, and more often than not, we're wrong. If each side of the argument was without a shadow of a doubt true, then the word "real" would begin to lose its meaning, but this is by no stretch of the imagination the case. "Exist" and "is real" are roughly synonymous; perhaps, if you delved too deeply into the semantics, you could find differences, but for the sake of this conversation, if something is real, it exists, and if it exists, it is real.

I'll be honest, I'm not a 100% sure what you're dissension is here. You seem to be saying that choosing your terminology carefully is useless because people can still use that terminology to argue subjective points, but the entire point of choosing the best terminology and then defining it rigorously is too eliminate subjective arguments. Choose definable terms and then define them objectively, and they won't depend on subjective beliefs, and thus they can be discussed productively by anyone of any background. Again, this just simple scientific principle. All I'm doing is applying scientific practices to philosophical arguments, which I'm sure has been done countless times for hundreds of years already. And as for semantics not mattering for "the sake of this conversation," well, it's not a conversation. It's a discussion, a debate, an argument. In such discourses, semantics do matter a whole lot.

(02-14-2015, 12:34 PM)Dazel Wrote:
(02-14-2015, 04:29 AM)BlackInfinityEE129 Wrote: My logic is that if you come up with a definition of "exist," no matter what it is, then you can simply consider whether God fits in that definition, and whether He does or does not, YOU WILL ALWAYS BE RIGHT - within that definition of "to exist."
Here's the thing, though: you don't get to come up with what "exist" means. And, even if you could, so much of the scientific community is based around hypotheticals (you know, things that aren't calculable, for if they were, there would be very little speculation surrounding them); for example, if black holes were proven not to exist (which is still possible; there are plenty of people asserting this claim), a good amount of the conclusions we've reached would crumble. We build fragile "what ifs" on top of other, somewhat sturdier "what ifs," and all it would take is one yank at the bottom block to bring the entire tower crashing down. With the logic you're using, I can make literally any claim about anything, because I can change the meaning of a word to suit my needs. For example, perhaps my hand is bright green. You might protest that it isn't really; it couldn't be! No one on this world is born with a bright green hand. But to me, bright green is the same as skin colour. My argument loses credibility very quickly because I'm changing generally accepted terminology and twisting it grossly to suit my needs, which basically causes the entire argument to crumble. Just because you can, doesn't mean that you should, and it certainly doesn't mean that your argument remains valid just because you say so. Again, humans are innately fallible, and that's not a matter of religion.

You misunderstand me. I'm not proposing that any one person can decide the definition of any word/term. I AM saying that any person can PROPOSE a definition of any word/term. Again, that's called science. Just substitute "definition of a word/term" for "hypothesis/theory." The idea is one person proposes their definition for a term, and then everyone else debates the validity of that definition, while the proposer can only defend their definition. It's the same as saying "God does/does not exist!" and then arguing over that, just more productive.

(02-14-2015, 12:34 PM)Dazel Wrote:
(02-14-2015, 04:29 AM)BlackInfinityEE129 Wrote: I'm still working on that part of this definition. God is actually difficult to compare to this definition, so I will start with an easier example. The soul. As of present, we have never been able to detect, measure or calculate the presence of the soul. Sorry, we haven't, and there is no arguing that we have. Is there the possibility that we could detect it in the future with higher levels of technology? This is, admittedly, something of a grey area in my argument, as I cannot say what technology we will have in the future. But there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that our failing in this manner is for lack of technology. I can't hold out doubt because it "could be out there." There are infinitely many things that "could be out there" but which there is no evidence for; why is the soul any different? So the soul is undetectable, unmeasurable, and uncalculable. By my definition of "exist," the soul does not exist. That is an objectively true statement. Thus, even if the soul is real, it does not exist - again, by my definition of the term.
This, too, is an understandable opinion; however, it becomes a bit trickier when you take into consideration that neither you nor anyone else actually knows what a soul is; if anything, it's more of a symbol than an actual thing that people think dwells inside them. You're not going to extract some body part and suddenly find a soul there; it's not physical.

You probably aren't going to like this, but the universe is definitely not a physical thing. Gravity is calculable, which you seem to like, but it's not something we can touch or feel. You can't point at gravity and say, "Yep, this is gravity." We've all generally accepted it to valid because there's so much evidence for it, but can you see it? Is it really physical?

You can calculate whatever you wish, if you create a scale for it, so the ability to calculate something doesn't really prove its existence. We can calculate equations, but when was the last time you saw a number walking around? Would you argue that mathematics are real, even though their physical existence is no less detectable than that of a soul?

You claim that no one can provide solid, unbreakable evidence for the existence of a God, but even if they did, would you really accept it? Or would you dismiss it as religious nothingness and search for a scientific explanation? It's a strange but widely-accepted generality that God reveals himself in magical, breath-taking, divine ways, but why? Why can't God be a scientific God? Why can't there be a bridge? Surely, if God is as omnipotent as his followers say, surely he's omniscient as well. Couldn't he have staged this himself? Why should he feel the need to give you solid proof? What are you to a God who created an entire universe? Requesting solid proof is a human thing to do, and I'm no better; even now, as someone who claims to be at least somewhat religious, I'm digging for scientific answers. The difference between you and I, however, is that I haven't dismissed religion altogether just because God hasn't given us some kind of stone evidence that he exists. It's been made somewhat clear that that's not what he's ever going to do, and that's where faith comes in. The ability to draw a conclusion even though you can't point at it and say, "Hey, it's God!" or, "Hey, it's a black hole!"

Faith is just as abundant in science as it is in religion.

This is a lot. I've broken up your response into several separate passages, and my responses to each passage are similarly broken up.

This seems like an argument I'd use. If we don't know what it is, how do we know it's there? Why/how is it there? What is it? Why should I believe in something I can't even define?

Except that it is? Gravity is not only calculable, it is detectable and measurable. You absolutely can point to something and say it's gravity, that's what Isaac Newton did when the apple fell on his head and he invented the concept. More importantly, you can be in space and point to your buddy floating through the void and say, "that's the absence of gravity." And why would I depend on my senses to determine what exists? As you pointed out multiple times, we are fallible. What we physically sense does not constitute the extent of the universe. As for your question, "Is it really physical?", I define "physical" as having a detectable, measurable, calculable physical effect on the physical universe. By that definition, yes, gravity is indisputably physical.

You're ignoring the other two conditions of my definition of "to exist," that it also be detectable and measurable. As for whether mathematics exist, that's actually irrelevant. This is something of a special case, because mathematics is a tool. An infinitely useful tool, regardless of whether or not it exists by any definition. It's like asking if complex numbers exist. We don't care, because without it a whole bunch of science would be a whole lot harder. It's proven useful, so we use it. You can't use the soul in any comparable way, so the comparison is moot.

I don't really have answers to these questions, because they're just plain speculation. You attribute hubris to me because I demand solid evidence of a God, that if exists, needs give no such evidence. I don't really have a cogent response to this either. All I can do is repeat what I've already said. I'm a mind anchored in science. I explain the world with science because that has proven to be the most effective means of explaining the world. You can choose the middle ground and go to both schools for answers, but I don't see what faith contributes, other than peace of mind in an uncertain world. I don't feel I need such a source of comfort, so I feel I don't need religion. It's not so much that I don't believe in religion and God and the soul, as I see no reason to concern myself with it's existence.

This may be true, but faith in science is a temporary crutch, and science always seeks to cast it off. That's the point of science: to find strongly supported answers to questions carefully structured such that science is able to find those answers. Like I said to Kath, what you believe in the meantime is your business, and none of mine.
कालो ऽस्मि लोकक्षयकृत् प्रवृद्धो लोकान्समाहर्तुमिह प्रवृत्त
“Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
-Bhagavad Gita (XI, 32), as quoted by J. Robert Oppenheimer

Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, Caspar David Friedrich. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/co...of_fog.jpg

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