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There's a front page diary up, Hannibal ad portas, in which Mark Summer argues that:

There is a clash of civilizations going on, and it has nothing to do with the Burlington Coat Factory Community Center. It's more fundamental than Christian vs. Muslim. It's reason vs. fear. Civilization vs. anarchy.

That clash is happening right here in America.

Mark is right, and his diary makes many very telling points. But I think the conflict goes deeper than he describes, and has been going for far longer than the recent takeover of the Republican party. It goes back to the Age of Enlightenment, when reason began to overrule faith.

The Enlightenment is a philosophical movement primarily of the XVII and XVIII centuries, beginning (unintentionally) with René Descartes' Discourse on Method (1637). It quickly became a political philosophy promoted by Locke, Hume, Hobbes and others. It had two major impacts on the West:

  1. It established the supremacy of reason over faith, and
  1. It provided the fundamental principles of the American system of government.

The Founding Fathers were well-read in the philosophers of the Enlightenment. Jefferson's "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" is right out of Locke (though Locke used "property"); the Constitution not only stakes its authority on the People rather than God, it ensures that religion - faith - has no special role in the national discourse, and that the making of law and policy is to be achieved through reasoned debate.

This has never sat well with those who, for personal or professional reasons, would rather govern on the basis of faith rather than submit their ideas to the cold light of reason.

This isn't new. The election of 1800 still stands as one of the most vituperative in our history (though it's getting a lot of competition these days) as ministers thundered from their pulpits that Thomas Jefferson was an atheist who had sold his soul to the devil in return for delivering America to hell.

So this is where I differ from Mark. To me, the clash is not so much between reason and fear as it is between reason and faith. Fear is a tool, almost a necessary one, but it is not the true challenger in this conflict.

And by "faith" I do not necessarily mean religious faith. I mean any adherence to a system that depends on an a priori conception of the world, whose adherents suspect or fear or even know that it will not withstand close examination.

For example, the current controversy over California's Prop 8 denying gays and lesbians the right to marry is motivated only partly by religious scruples. Issues of human sexuality are complex, and as we've seen many times, opponents of gay rights are often revealed to be troubled by their own sexuality, and try to avoid dealing with it by forbidding gay sex to everyone. Religion is not the source; it is the tool. When forced to submit their view of the world to reasoned examination, they saw their arguments crumble - as it seems they knew would happen:

During closing arguments, proponents again focused on the contention that "responsible procreation is really at the heart of society’s interest in regulating marriage." Tr 3038:7-8. When asked to identify the evidence at trial that supported this contention, proponents’ counsel replied, "you don’t have to have evidence of this point." Tr 3037:25-3040:4. Perry v Schwartznegger, decision (PDF) [Emphasis added]

That one bolded sentence is the sum and substance of the debate between reason and faith: Reason demands evidence; faith says evidence is irrelevant.

A similar mentality is at work in the current election: Republicans are deliberately offering few if any specifics on their proposals, and often hiding their plans altogether, because they know those ideas are contradicted by the evidence and will not withstand a reasoned examination. Those few GOP candidates who have not learned this, principally Rand Paul and Sharron Angle, are finding their numbers drop as voters become aware of their platform.

Evolution is a myth. Global warming is a hoax. Obama is a Muslim. Health care reform proponents want to kill grandma. Liberals are traitors who want to sell out the country. Corporations will act for the public good if they are left alone to work for their private good. No government above the county level is legitimate. The United States knows what is best for the world, is never wrong, and should never apologize.

Each of the above (and there are many more examples) is an article of faith cherished by some segment of the country, though only a couple of them can be fairly said to have religious origins. (I put it that way because religion has been used in many cases to justify these beliefs.) And none of them can stand when subjected to investigation by reason.

But the supremacy of reason is the foundation principle of our system of government: Elections in which competing ideas battle for the vote; debates in Congress which expect, and generally require, some semblance of reason in order to succeed; examination by an independent judiciary trained in the use of reason and required to explain their reasons in writing.

All of this is under assault in the 2010 elections because all of this is a challenge to faith, whether religious, political, social, prejudicial, superstitious, economic, or national. Mark is correct in calling this election critical - but only partly because it is a test of the appeal of reason against the appeal of fear. It is the appeal to unreasoned faith that is at risk in a fair election, and the adherents of faith fear that risk. So fear both drives their attacks, and becomes a tool for attack.

But underneath it all is, as Al Gore described it, The Assault on Reason.

Originally posted to DanK Is Back on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 10:19 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (21+ / 0-)

    It is not within the powers of the government to help its citizens get into heaven, nor to save them from hell.

    by DanK Is Back on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 10:19:18 AM PDT

  •  Actually I think painting it as reason v faith... (4+ / 0-)

    ...is divisive.

    •  I agree, although the diarist (4+ / 0-)

      is getting to the point: The battle is reason vs. obscurantism.  One can be, and people often are, both religious and reasonable or they can be religious and obscurantist (the taliban, etc.).

      Of course, many are areligious and reasonable but many areligious pepole hold strong superstitions as well.

      From Neocon to sane- thanks to Obama- and Kos.

      by satrap on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 10:31:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think some of the most fascinating (6+ / 0-)

        examples of "revealed" truth have to do with the Reagan legacy on tax cuts, Laffer curves, government revenue, etc.  There is simply no way, NO WAY, to convince the Limbaughian tribe that their perceptions on tax cuts and economic growth and strength have been successfully challenged and essentially refuted.  It's as impossible as pointing out the supernatural aspects of religion to a true believer.

        From Neocon to sane- thanks to Obama- and Kos.

        by satrap on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 10:35:14 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I totally agree (6+ / 0-)

      I think of it more as an integration of reason and faith.  There is a rather superior attitude on the part of some to treat people who have a belief system that includes a higher mind as being childish and intellectually vapid.  I do not believe it is impossible to have a belief system and still be intelligent.  Whenever there is a discussion of belief system, some assume that if you believe in a higher intelligence, you believe in talking snakes.  I think this logical fallacy is unhelpful at best.

      I'm only hard headed when you take me for granite

      by Im a frayed knot on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 10:33:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The term "Faith" itself (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BMarshall

        would certainly drive a reaction that doesn't include all the other 'isms' included by the diarist under that header. But even deeper, 'faith' is just as much a tool of the operator as 'fear' is. The operator is that economically unpredictable (in any probablistic calculation) wild card: the individual.

        Our entire system operates by faith. The oh, so 'reasonable' capitalist edifice is entirely underpinned by the faith of populations in the valuation of its currency (whether that be paper, gold, bits-bytes or cowry shells). Every generation or two - as evidenced by this "richest nation the world has ever known" - they cash out. Deflate the bubbles of fraudulent and overinflated valuation they blew up in the first place, effectively robbing the country (and world, sometimes) down to its automatic reset level to start inflating bubbles for the next cash out. None of it has much to do with the actual productive value of developed properties and manufacturing/service labor.

        Value to individuals is always a product of their faith in the value [to others, mostly in positions of authority] of their lives and work and property and ambitions. This Depression is a clear sign that we've reached another large disconnect between our own valuations-by-faith and the objective truth as it exists. We are not valued at all.

        People are fearful because their faith is revealed as false - it's been wrongly invested. But it's all they've got to make themselves feel good about themselves, so they'll fight - maybe to the death - to preserve their delusion in the face of realities they can't accept and adapt to.

        Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

        by Joieau on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 11:32:34 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  This is why reality has a liberal bias. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Joieau

          People are fearful because their faith is revealed as false - it's been wrongly invested. But it's all they've got to make themselves feel good about themselves, so they'll fight - maybe to the death - to preserve their delusion in the face of realities they can't accept and adapt to.

          This is why I find it so hard to accept that believers in something that can't be proven by evidence (i.e. a deity) can still be intelligent. To me, self-delusion and intelligence are the antitheses of one another - they can't co-exist.

          There is an art to teaching that is independent of the subject matter. - daveinojai

          by Killer of Sacred Cows on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 01:51:10 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Ah, but human beings are (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Killer of Sacred Cows

            most highly adept at deception. They're so good at it that they can even deceive themselves!

            It needn't make any rational sense. Rationality requires the ability to step into an objective frame of reference. In the real world of real people, there is no objective frame of reference. Really.

            That doesn't make it dumb, it makes it blind. There's a difference, you know... ;-)

            Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

            by Joieau on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 01:56:25 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Well, that's as may be (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Joieau

              but I'm going to continue to consider those who reject evidence in favor of self-delusion as not just blind, but unintelligent and frankly idiotic. This is one of my major irritants, really.

              There is an art to teaching that is independent of the subject matter. - daveinojai

              by Killer of Sacred Cows on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 02:06:26 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  My experience has been (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Killer of Sacred Cows

                that while there's certainly a 'bell curve' of relative intelligence, unless there's something wrong with the equipment human beings are so intelligent that they're handicapped. On basic levels you obviously don't count as evidence thereof, but which count in the games human beings play with themselves and each other.

                It's all game theory, you know.

                Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

                by Joieau on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 02:20:27 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

    •  I don't see it as divisive. (7+ / 0-)

      Dank notes that:

      And by "faith" I do not necessarily mean religious faith. I mean any adherence to a system that depends on an a priori conception of the world, whose adherents suspect or fear or even know that it will not withstand close examination.

      It not reason over religion.  It's reason over faith in unexamined belief systems, which may or may not be religious. Like the belief that people should pull themselves up by their bootstraps and not depend on the rest of society to help them out. Or that because America is the land of the free that means they can do whatever they want....and so on.

      A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit. -Greek proverb

      by marleycat on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 10:38:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  FP article said "It's reason vs. fear" (0+ / 0-)

      not reason vs faith.  

      Someone on daily kos called me a poopyhead. My life is SO like Nelson Mandela's.

      by Inland on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 10:55:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Remarkable analysis. (5+ / 0-)

    Spot on. Thank you!

    Nos videntes nolite quiescentes.

    by tapu dali on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 10:30:49 AM PDT

  •  good diary, (3+ / 0-)
    i have to differ with you on your views about faith vs reason.  you need both.  If not, we as a human race could never have accomplished all the amazing things. many defied reason at the time.

    You should never have faith in superficial things like politics, money etc.

    •  It's not an issue of one over the other (6+ / 0-)

      or, at least, it shouldn't be. Faith can have many positive qualities, and the Enlightenment thinkers never set out to deny faith or remove it from human discourse.

      But when people insist, for example, that a Bronze Age attempt to explain the workings of the world is utter and total truth, in the face of all the evidence to the contrary, then it is faith vs. reason.

      It is not within the powers of the government to help its citizens get into heaven, nor to save them from hell.

      by DanK Is Back on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 10:42:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's so true, and (0+ / 0-)

        what IS scary about much of Muslim world.  A very large number does hold the conception of a 7th century Mohammadan ideal.   That's not to say that Christians and the rest don't have their primitivistic biases....

        From Neocon to sane- thanks to Obama- and Kos.

        by satrap on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 11:05:11 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Islam hasn't gone through a reformation yet (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Killer of Sacred Cows, satrap

          and a part of my argument that I didn't get into here is that reactionary Islamic forces, such as Al-Qaida and its progenitor, Wahhabism, are fighting the West because in the West the Enlightenment concept of the supremacy of reason has taken hold. A fundamentalist view of the world that insists on a VII century understanding is not going to withstand that kind of scrutiny.

          I wouldn't say that a very large number hold to that view, at least not yet. It is possible that al-Qaida, the Taliban and similar groups may yet terrorize them into doing so, killing off those who resist (much as the Catholic Church, and for that matter, Lutheranism and Calvinism, did in their heyday). But for now, there's still hope - provided that our own reactionary forces don't push them over the edge with provocations such as the "Ground zero mosque" nonsense.

          It is not within the powers of the government to help its citizens get into heaven, nor to save them from hell.

          by DanK Is Back on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 11:18:33 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  They'll go through a reformation .... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Killer of Sacred Cows, satrap

            ...when the oil runs out in Saudi Arabia.

            •  That's my fear... n/t (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Saxman, Killer of Sacred Cows

              From Neocon to sane- thanks to Obama- and Kos.

              by satrap on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 11:28:02 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  We have been co-conspirators for 65+ years (4+ / 0-)
                1. "At least they're not Communists" was the reasoning from 1945-1990.
                1. From 1990-Present, it was "Yes, they're Wahabi Psychopaths, but they're OUR Wahabi Psychopaths."
                •  Agree. What's interesting (3+ / 0-)

                  about the whole argument is "We can't leave Iraq now! The Iranians will rule the country" is that if Iran wants to try to manage THAT place, then let them.

                  We as a country have no confidence in local politics other than our own.  It's the darnedest thing, especially since it's driven by the right.

                  From Neocon to sane- thanks to Obama- and Kos.

                  by satrap on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 11:35:30 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  We assured that Iraq would become a vassal... (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Killer of Sacred Cows

                    ...state of Iran when we walked in and deposed Saddam and his vicious clan. We didn't have to do that. We had Saddam pinned down between two no-fly zones, and no matter how much he bluffed, Iraq no longer had weapons of mass destruction and that fact was obvious to those without an agenda.

                    Did anyone really think we'd be welcomed with flowers and songs, Anschluss-style? Did anyone think the Iraqis would ask us to manage their oil fields (the real motivating factor behind the Iraq War) when they had an object lesson in what happens when westerners get a "concession" to pump oil in the way the company that became BP ran roughshod over Iran?

                    No, the only winner in Iraq is Ahmedinejad and the bat-turd crazy clerics who give him his marching orders. The Islamic Republic of Iran and Iraq is coming, whether the peoples of both countries like it or not. And we enabled it to happen.

                    The next OneCare Happy Hour will be 8/27/10
                    Tolerance is only a way-station to acceptance.

                    by Pris from LA on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 12:36:54 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Iran may have arranged that (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Pris from LA

                      From memory, and without looking it up, I recall that Ahmed Chalabi, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and Cheney's go-to guy on Iraq, was suspected by State of being an Iranian agent. He certainly got DoD to play into Iran's hands.

                      It is not within the powers of the government to help its citizens get into heaven, nor to save them from hell.

                      by DanK Is Back on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 01:21:54 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  One of the things that bothers me the most (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Pris from LA

                      about the Iraqi war is an ex-friend of mine who was liberal, went into the armed forces due to being given a choice (as a kid) between going to juvenile hll or joining the Army Reserve, went overseas, swallowed the Bush Kool-Aid, and came back a die-hard reactionary Tea Party person.

                      I think the saddest point was when he told me (enthusiastically) that the Iraqi people LOVED us. How did he know? They welcomed American soldiers with the traditional "thumbs up" gesture everywhere they went. This was his version of "flowers and song, Anschluss-style."

                      I didn't have the heart to explain to him that "thumbs up" in the Middle East is the same as "flipping the bird" here in America. It would have either broken his mind (what little there was left of it) or thrown him into a rage. ::sigh::

                      There is an art to teaching that is independent of the subject matter. - daveinojai

                      by Killer of Sacred Cows on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 01:55:05 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

            •  The battle this (3+ / 0-)

              diarist observes, correctly I think,is a very long term one.  We live in a short term reality, though and it's so tough to square these things politically.

              From Neocon to sane- thanks to Obama- and Kos.

              by satrap on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 11:30:26 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  I wish I could tip and rec this diary a hundred (7+ / 0-)

    Times.

    Well written and richly developed argument with perfect context and perspective. Thank you for giving me a format to devolope my next diary on federal tax reform. Most Americans do not have a historical perspective of how we ended up with our tax system where most of the cost of government falls on the middle class and the weathy get all the benefits. I will try to put it in context like you did here.

    Really don't mind if you sit this one out. My words but a whisper -- your deafness a SHOUT. I may make you feel but I can't make you think..Jethro Tull

    by RMForbes on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 10:37:40 AM PDT

    •  You'll do a good job on that. (4+ / 0-)

      When it comes to "delivered truth" the economic plans of the right-wing are nonpareil.  

      The interesting aspect of the NY mosque battle is how the issue displays many of these fluid fault lines.  Opponents of the project are suspicious that the Muslim backers of the project are cryptic taliban sympathizers and that they are only being reasonable in pointing this out.  Proponents are arguing the exact opposite (correctly in my opinion) but the opponents cannot help but call us implacable in our desire to see the "American system" crushed under the weight of non-white, non-Christian belief systems.

      Were just talking past each other.

      From Neocon to sane- thanks to Obama- and Kos.

      by satrap on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 10:46:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I'll look forward to reading it (4+ / 0-)

      Historical perspective is critical, but too many Americans have joined the Henry Ford "school" of history.

      It is not within the powers of the government to help its citizens get into heaven, nor to save them from hell.

      by DanK Is Back on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 10:48:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm afraid most here will continue to hold (3+ / 0-)

        to the beliefs they currently hold and will dismiss the truth of the way we have been misled over the decades.

        The 16th amendment did not amend the Constitution at all. It did not need to because the income tax as it had developed at that time in history affected only the businesses, corporations, their owners, corporate officers and investors. The income of the average American citizen was specificly not taxable. Since the costs of the income tax on business owners and corporations was passed on to others the new federal income tax was an indirect tax consistant with the constitutional prohibitions against taxing the American citizen directly.

        How we ended up with our current system may fly into the face of their belief systems.

        Really don't mind if you sit this one out. My words but a whisper -- your deafness a SHOUT. I may make you feel but I can't make you think..Jethro Tull

        by RMForbes on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 11:12:03 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The role of reinforcement. (6+ / 0-)

    One "strength" of the Right is the relative homogeneity.  If you're ever lived in a "Red" area, you know what I'm talking about.

    Start with the male.  At work, with his white male buddies, they rehash Rush's latest insights at the water cooler.  On the drive home, Rush and Glenn blare from the radio.

    At church on Sunday, he may get a reinforcing message directly from the pulpit, but it's almost guaranteed at coffee hour, in the chit-chat before and after Bible class and in the parking lot.

    At home on the computer are waiting those informative emails that we occasionally get glimpses of here.

    At the coffee shop or the local bar, he only hears opinions like his own.

    If the guy were inclined to question this Right Wing wisdom, he'd have to go looking for a whole new set of friends, a new church, and maybe a new job.

    For the woman, it's much the same, except in her traditional patriarchal household, she also has to put up with her husband's right wing opinions.

    The problem with this pattern is there is no corrective ever applied to false information, even if it's bizarrely false.

    That's why they keep moving more and more into their fantasy world.

    Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men, for the nastiest of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all. - JM Keynes

    by goinsouth on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 10:38:26 AM PDT

    •  Add the impact of the internet as well (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      goinsouth, satrap, marleycat

      When the internet started growing, people said it would facilitate the spread of ideas and make people think. And it can do so.

      But it can also be a tool to reinforce one's preconceptions. Since no one is forced to read anything on the internet, it is easy, even encouraged, to limit one's browsing to websites that provide support for what one has already decided to believe. Possibly the closest thing to a perpetual motion machine we've come up with yet.

      I would even include this site, with the caveat that we do, on occasion, perhaps even most occasions, insist that our arguments be backed up with facts, cites, evidence, and that we are willing to challenge an argument if it goes against reason.

      Even so, dKos does display some of the characteristics of faith when challenged by reason. Caveat lector.

      It is not within the powers of the government to help its citizens get into heaven, nor to save them from hell.

      by DanK Is Back on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 10:47:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  DanK, I actually (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Killer of Sacred Cows, marleycat

        subscribe to, and read fully, a small publication called Liberty, which is a vehemently anti-statist and often well thought journal for libertarians.  

        Anyway, without going on a long soliloquy about it, I'll just say that it helps me keep a compass about my overall political and economic beliefs.

        From Neocon to sane- thanks to Obama- and Kos.

        by satrap on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 11:00:34 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Every community of people sharing a belief system (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BMarshall

        will eventually turn into an echo chamber if it doesn't allow outside input, varying opinions, and challenges to the status quo. DKos does somewhat better than most sites, although it's not perfect here either. But for a real kick, take a look at Redstate and see the censorship and condemnation of anything that upsets their belief system. It's scary to watch.

        There is an art to teaching that is independent of the subject matter. - daveinojai

        by Killer of Sacred Cows on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 02:00:43 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I agree. One of the (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Killer of Sacred Cows, marleycat

      most difficult conundrums about succesful criticisms of majority Eurocentric-type culture (I don't know what else to call the USA, etc.) is that it's been very successful y the metrics that the world uses to measure success- i.e. the victors define the data points:  Economic growth, political stability, etc.

      It's tough to convince a Christian fundamentalist from OK that his belief system is not all that different from an Egytptian Islamist when everything he reads or has read says that a country basically full of copies of himself has done so much "better" than others historically.

      From Neocon to sane- thanks to Obama- and Kos.

      by satrap on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 10:53:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  This is so often the case (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      goinsouth

      with people who live in small, insular communities or attend insular churches or other community groups. Their availability of information is sharply curtailed and censored, and they are instilled with a fear of violation of that censorship. I just taught a class on deviance and social control last week, and we went into some detail about both the megachurch phenomenon and the People's Republic of China and their efforts to censor all outside information.

      The Mormon church does it, too - when my husband told his mother in no uncertain terms that no, he was NOT a Mormon and never would be, her wail was, "But you've STUDIED!" - meaning the Mormon-approved books she'd put in his bedroom every night for fifteen years. The problem for her was, she couldn't keep him completely insulated, and he had access to this thing we call a public library. It didn't take him long to see through the insular mindset of the Mormon church... but because his mother sticks to the books on the Approved List out of fear for her supposed "immortal soul," she'll never understand that. It's sad.

      There is an art to teaching that is independent of the subject matter. - daveinojai

      by Killer of Sacred Cows on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 01:59:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Stupidity uber alles! (0+ / 0-)

    Works great for the top 2%, so we're stuck with it.

    As a scientist, Throckmorton knew that if he ever were to break wind in the echo chamber, he would never hear the end of it. --Bulwer-Lytton Contest entry

    by Wom Bat on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 10:41:42 AM PDT

  •  ??? (0+ / 0-)

    And by "faith" I do not necessarily mean religious faith. I mean any adherence to a system that depends on an a priori conception of the world, whose adherents suspect or fear or even know that it will not withstand close examination.

    We might call that bigotry or bias.  But what you're doing is dismissing viewpoints on the ground the adherents know the views can't stand up to examination....which strikes me as circular.  They aren't professing things "We don't care if it's true or not".  They think it's backed up.  But you've decided, a priori, it's not.

    Someone on daily kos called me a poopyhead. My life is SO like Nelson Mandela's.

    by Inland on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 10:59:02 AM PDT

    •  Backed up? By what? (3+ / 0-)

      If I understand your comment, you are claiming that the adherents of (e.g.) supply-side economics think/believe it is 'backed up'.

      But it is only 'backed up' by more faith-based arguments. No serious analysis of supply-side could pretend to show it does the things that fanatics say it does.

      So they pretend that Ronald Reagan cut spending, or that cutting taxes generated more revenue -- but we can't see it because the Democrats increased spending [blablabla].

      They're 'backed up' is just another layer of delusion.

      Unless you don't believe there is truth or facts. These people are entitled to their opinion; they're not entitled to their own facts.

    •  Not quite (4+ / 0-)

      I am dismissing viewpoints whose adherents refuse to let them be examined. Sharron Angle runs from the press - unless they only ask the questions she feels like answering. More and more GOP candidates and "leaders" will only submit to softball interviews. The Prop 8 backers insist that evidence, and for that matter, the whole trial, were unnecessary. The Republican party refuses to release its agenda.

      And so on.

      It is not within the powers of the government to help its citizens get into heaven, nor to save them from hell.

      by DanK Is Back on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 11:13:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  This started a long time ago (0+ / 0-)

        but one of the most recent iterations was Dubya and his "handlers." He wouldn't answer questions that weren't pre-screened for ideological cleanliness - wouldn't even put himself in that position. I remember seeing a headline once saying "Bush will answer reporter questions in open session," and thinking "Wow, he's going to actually allow them to ask questions?"

        There is an art to teaching that is independent of the subject matter. - daveinojai

        by Killer of Sacred Cows on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 02:03:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I refer to the struggle as Knowlege vs Certainity (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DanK Is Back, satrap

    So does Bronowski.

    http://www.wsu.edu/...

    "There are many truths of which the full meaning cannot be realized until personal experience has brought it home." John Stuart Mill

    by kuvasz on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 11:02:35 AM PDT

    •  nice n/t (0+ / 0-)

      From Neocon to sane- thanks to Obama- and Kos.

      by satrap on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 11:06:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Another good point (3+ / 0-)

      and a valid way of looking at it. I was playing off Mark Sumner's phrasing of reason vs. fear.

      In fact, faith can often be an expression of belief in the face of doubt. When approached that way, it is an acknowledgment that belief is not subject to the tests of reason, at least not at its core. There is always an element of doubt inherent in ideas that cannot be proven or disproven - which is why attempts by Leibniz, Kant, and for that matter, Descartes, to "prove" the existence of God (not to mention proving the Christian version) were all doomed to failure.

      The problem with faith comes in two areas: When faith insists on being in charge, even in opposition to reason, and when faith denies the existence of doubt. At that point, the conflict becomes exactly what you describe it as: Knowledge vs. certainty.

      It is not within the powers of the government to help its citizens get into heaven, nor to save them from hell.

      by DanK Is Back on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 01:26:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  We all want certainty. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kuvasz

      But some of us know that the best we can ever achieve is knowledge.

      There is an art to teaching that is independent of the subject matter. - daveinojai

      by Killer of Sacred Cows on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 02:03:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Soooo much more to the history... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Killer of Sacred Cows

    Particularly glaring is the simple fact that the philosophy followed the science. Descartes had Galileo/Kepler to jump off from, Hume and Kant had Newton, etc.

    To bring it even closer to reality, rather than the cartoon history in the diary, note that Newton absolutely demolished Descartes' swirling-vortices theory of the heavens as the  of his Principia.

    There's a lot more to the history of yesteryear than a soundbite of undergrad level (mis)information would suggest.

    I'm gonna go eat a steak. And fuck my wife. And pray to GOD - hatemailapalooza, 052210

    by punditician on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 11:29:36 AM PDT

    •  "Cartoon history"??? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BMarshall, RMForbes

      Nothing you have said contradicts or even conflicts with anything I wrote. For one thing, I described Descartes as unintentionally setting off the Enlightenment; the fact that Newton disproved his science, or that various philosophers destroyed his attempts at proving God, does not change the argument that he set the process in motion - by arguing from doubt, and starting from man, and attempting to reason his way to faith.

      Further, this is not, and was not intended to be, primarily a history lesson - except to the extent that, historically, the Enlightenment has always been under attack by reactionary forces who wanted to restore the supremacy of faith. I'm writing a diary, not a history textbook.

      It is not within the powers of the government to help its citizens get into heaven, nor to save them from hell.

      by DanK Is Back on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 11:59:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  One more time, slowly, for the dim... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Killer of Sacred Cows

        It was the science that drove the bulk of the stuff you were talking about. Philosophers just jumped on the bandwagon (and they did so rightly). To the extent that your 1. is true at all, it's so in virtue of the science, not the philosophy. Philosophy merely followed along.

        Any history discussion - even soundbite level - leaving out something so fundamental and important deserves to be called "cartoonish". Kant and Hume would have been the first to acknowledge this.

        I'm gonna go eat a steak. And fuck my wife. And pray to GOD - hatemailapalooza, 052210

        by punditician on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 01:23:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You lost your argument (0+ / 0-)

          when you started out with insults. I let it pass the first time, but then you doubled down. That is a sign of someone who is more interested in being clever and in showing off than one who is interested in having a serious discussion.

          It is not within the powers of the government to help its citizens get into heaven, nor to save them from hell.

          by DanK Is Back on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 05:19:05 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Hmmm... faith is just too positive a concept (0+ / 0-)

    to put here.  Not to all, but to enough that it is not the most useful term.

    I'd suggest a subconscious obedience is what you're really after.  And fear drives the urge to obey a powerful protector who propagandaizes the thing to fear and his own ability to stop/prevent/defeat it.

    But I agree that a measure of faith is required to obey that figure or power, in that the figure demands unquestioning loyalty/obedience, and that unquestioned following is one way to define faith.

    Whistleblowing is the highest form of dissent.

    by Leftcandid on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 12:45:07 PM PDT

    •  I don't see anything positive about faith (0+ / 0-)

      Faith is the rejection of reason, evidence, and proof. That's pretty negative in my book.

      There is an art to teaching that is independent of the subject matter. - daveinojai

      by Killer of Sacred Cows on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 02:04:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  that's just one negative concept of it. (0+ / 0-)

        If you have faith in a friend, or a lover, are you rejecting reason?  Or evidence?  No, you have some of that; just not all of it, or any proof of future action.  

        Why consider all faith equal?  Is all love equal?  Why specify blind faith unless that is one type of faith rather than all of it?

        I sympathize with where you are coming from, but I gotta say that you don't really understand faith, probably stemming from a conviction that it doesn't merit understanding.  It's too big a concept to so easily dismiss.  This is in no sense an invitation to any sort of religious conversion, but to philosophical consideration & perhaps meditation.

        Whistleblowing is the highest form of dissent.

        by Leftcandid on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 05:25:36 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Faith in a friend or a lover is backed by (0+ / 0-)

          the evidence of their behavior and actions towards me. It's not the same as religious faith; it's actually backed up by evidence in past behaviors of the lover or friend. There is no evidence or proof to support faith in any deity; there could be a hundred different reasons why someone's prayers "were answered," most of which fall into the areas of either coincidence or confirmation bias, and neither of which convince me for even a split second.

          Look, I've tried to understand faith for years, but I just don't get it. And don't think I haven't tried - much of the writing of CS Lewis and John Shelby Spong is sitting on my bookshelves, and much of it, I even agree with - right up until they start trying to convince me that a deity exists, based solely on their holy book (which, sorry, does NOT qualify as 'evidence') or their deep feelings that something ineffable MUST be out there (which, again, not evidence - feelings are created by chemical reactions). Argument from "Well, it has to be there because otherwise there's no purpose to life" or "Well, my holy book says so, therefore it is" - no. Those are not arguments that fly with me. More to the point, I find these arguments weak and ridiculous, and it reduces my ability to respect or take seriously those who are making them.

          I just can't take seriously a belief in something that you can't see, touch, or experience with the physical senses and never can.  I'm supposed to believe that there's a god because someone had a mind-blowing, powerful hallucination, or because their prayers were coincidentally "answered?" I'm supposed to believe that there's a god based on a book of questionably reported history, biography, genealogy and half-baked theology? Really? You really expect any thinking being to take that seriously? The mind can and does play tricks on you, and self-delusion is one of those things that too many people of faith (in my experience and observations) are prone to participation in, and quite good at rationalizing, because it's too scary to admit that there's no proof of their beliefs.

          Faith is not a "big concept." It's just self-delusion due to fear. That's all it is. Faith is something people use to excuse the fact that they reject evidence and believe their fantasies, nothing more.

          Now, if you can show me evidence that faith is something more than self-delusion in the face of contrary and/or nonexistent evidence, I'm all ears. But right now, that's what it looks like to me.

          There is an art to teaching that is independent of the subject matter. - daveinojai

          by Killer of Sacred Cows on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 09:51:20 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I wan't talking about religion at all; I was (0+ / 0-)

            talking about faith.  Reread what I wrote to confirm this.

            You have focused on religious faith only.  You can have that discussion with yourself all you want, but if you ever decide to separate faith from religion--perhaps by realizing there is a distinction made between faith and blind faith--then reply to this comment.

            Whistleblowing is the highest form of dissent.

            by Leftcandid on Tue Aug 24, 2010 at 05:53:21 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  John Wesley presented four quadrants of FAITH: (0+ / 0-)

    Scripture; Church Tradition; Reason; and Personal Spiritual Experience. Wesley was a man ahead of his time.

  •  I like both diaries and I'm not here to argue... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Killer of Sacred Cows

    but one could claim that faith is a response to fear. Now that I say that it occurs to me that reason is also a response to fear. Hmmm. So it's fear vs fear, or how each of the two sides deals with fear.

    All bullying needs to cease immediately. Be nice or be gone. We are not them.

    by reddbierd on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 02:10:04 PM PDT

    •  While Faith could be described that way (0+ / 0-)

      I think it's too narrow. Certainly faith serves to comfort people in the face of the unknown, particularly death. But faith has other sources: conviction, love, family traditions. (I exclude hate because hate is really fear.)

      I don't see how you get to reason as a response to fear, though. Perhaps you'd like to elaborate.

      It is not within the powers of the government to help its citizens get into heaven, nor to save them from hell.

      by DanK Is Back on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 05:25:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Faith is belief without evidence. (0+ / 0-)

           Whether that belief is the deer coming back (food) or the plants reseeding (life) or the sun rising every day (god). As I see it that belief is a response to the fear that those things may not happen. What evidence does an early human have that the sun will rise again tomorrow? (really, what evidence do I have today?).
           Reason is another way to deal with those same fears. If the deer does not come back this way, maybe I, as a thinking being can devise a plan to find him or replace him. Maybe by tracking. Or setting a trap. Either way I need to think it through. We were afraid of fire at first. At some point, we reasoned our way to taming it.
           Faith and reason are two of the ways we dealt with fear. The other was of course total panic. Those people died off, mostly.
           These are just my opinions and not terribly well argued either.

        All bullying needs to cease immediately. Be nice or be gone. We are not them.

        by reddbierd on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 12:27:44 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  A very unhistorical view of reason (0+ / 0-)

    The enlightenment perverted a traditional understanding of reason and unnecessarily pitted reason against faith.  Reason is the use of the human faculty that discovers truth. Faith is personal conviction to practice principles and orient oneself toward being open to truths that I may not be able to grasp merely from reason. There is nothing at odds between reason and faith, since they both seek truth.  

    The perversion and distrust of reason by the reformation eventually gave rise to an over-assertion of reason by the enlightenment thinkers.  Was there ever a more selfish statement than cogito ergo sum?  Descartes started with the "I" and culture has never ceased being on a trajectory of selfishness since then.

    I think you are trying to apply the scientific method to people who accept ideas that they cannot prove via the scientific method (things accepted without a priori proof).  There are many things outside of religious faith that I do not understand, cannot prove, but accept them and operate by them.  Take my microwavable lunch.  I haven't a clue how a microwave works but I cooked my lunch in it.  By your discussion, in a fit of idiocy I pushed "cooked" because I could not demonstrate the principles that make the microwave cook.

    The scientific method cannot be applied to everything.  It cannot explain the good, and cannot explain love, nor do I have sufficient understanding of my microwave but I use it.  

    •  Why do you call it unhistorical? (0+ / 0-)

      The Enlightenment may have changed the use of reason, and certainly altered the order of reason and faith, and you may not agree with what it did. But that it did so is a matter of historical record.

      The conflict between reason and faith in their pursuit of truth is, as you suggest, not a necessary one, but it has happened anyway, in part because of a confusion over what is truth, or more precisely, which kind of truth is at issue here.

      This is the substance of the fundamentalist attack on, for example, evolution: They apply faith's standard of truth - absolute fidelity to a revealed word - to evolution, the product of reason, whose standard of truth is that it is consistent with observed facts, and which is therefore subject to modification and even dismissal if other facts can be shown to contradict it.

      The point I am trying to make here is not that reason is intruding into matters better left to faith (though unquestionably it has done so), but that faith is being summoned to evict reason from the national discourse, a discourse designed around the supremacy of reason. Compounding the problem, faith is not merely playing on doubt; it is demanding that observed and verified facts be dismissed as irrelevant to the debate because those facts cannot be tolerated by faith (the version of faith that is leading the attack, since there are many faiths that have accommodated themselves to fact).

      Fundamentalists demand that evolution not be taught, or that creationism be taught as equivalent to it, because their faith refuses to accept the facts of evolution. Tea Partiers and some Republicans reject Obama's birth certificate because their faith insists that Obama cannot be legitimate. Same mechanism at work in both instances.

      When I speak of reason overruling faith, I mean primarily in the realm of government, where facts make all the difference.

      It is not within the powers of the government to help its citizens get into heaven, nor to save them from hell.

      by DanK Is Back on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 05:45:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I was with you until the last two paragraphs (0+ / 0-)

        I think your analogy breaks down over the birth certificate question.  The birther issue is precisely a scienetic method issue! Obama has never produced the actual birth certificate but only a state verification of birth in Hawaii. Many people refer to the document as "the" birth certificate, but it isn't "the" birth certificate and you won't hear the WH refer to it as that either.  I don't have doubts about his birth in Hawaii, but there is an aspect of the birther discussion which is not illogical from a modern perspective and rests on a skepticism of taking the state of Hawaii's certificate of existence of a birth certificate as an inadequate substitute for seeing the actual certificate.

        Now, with respect to your other arguments, we may be saying similar things.  However, I don't agree with you that reason is supreme over faith.  Truth is ultimately supreme. There are different methods of getting at truth.  Some methods use reason, some use revelation, some use animal instinct -- there are things an animal can know because of enhanced hearing or smell that we as humans cannot know despite our reasoning abilities.

        You may find interesting Karen Armtrong's recent book, The Case for God.  It is an excellent discuss of the modern misconception of "faith."  Armstrong argues that the contemporary understanding of faith has been inordinately perverted by the reformation and the enlightenment. Faith has been turned into something quasi-scientific -- as in, faith is about revealed facts.  The traditional understanding of faith before the reformation was not that it was conclusionary explanations of truths or a laundry list of things that must be believed despite physical facts, but that faith is an orientation to be open to the other, to be open to what we cannot know by the limitations of humanity.  And importantly, faith involves practicing principles.  Armstrong repeatedly comes back around to St. Augustine's assertion that Scripture was not trying to teach us about science but that many parts of Scripture are allegorical.  Faith provides us an opportunity to search for truth in ways that reason cannot.  

        •  Nothing will satisfy the birthers (0+ / 0-)

          I think you have hung up on a point of semantics and missed the larger point. Yes, Hawai'i released a "verification" of the birth certificate rather than the certificate itself. But that is their standard practice, and has been accepted in court and everywhere else as proof of birth. Hawai'i never releases the original b/c for anyone.

          Furthermore, there were two announcements placed in the Honolulu papers at the time of Obama's birth. This is evidence beyond a reasonable doubt - way beyond it. It would never have been questioned had he been Barry O'Brian rather than Barack Obama. Birther skepticism is not based on the evidence, though they twist semantics to claim that is what they are doing; it is based on their belief.

          The birthers will not accept any evidence, no matter how strong, how irrefutable, how complete, that contradicts their belief. That makes it an example of faith over reason in the sense being discussed here.

          I've read a couple of Armstrong's books, though not that one. Based on your description, I would say it is the religious fundamentalists who demanded that faith be accepted as the answer to scientific questions, much as political fundamentalists are also currently demanding. Such people would deny - and have denied - Augustine's argument that much of Scripture is allegorical.

          It is not within the powers of the government to help its citizens get into heaven, nor to save them from hell.

          by DanK Is Back on Sun Aug 22, 2010 at 06:32:48 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  We may be saying the same thing (0+ / 0-)

            Yes, what I object to in the debate of reason vs faith is the protestant fundamentalist gloss on faith which posits that all of the Scriptures are literal (or near literal). That is not the approach of the Catholic Church or the Orthodox Churches, nor of any thread of Christianity prior to the reformation.  Many of the heresies in the early church were variants of fundamentalism.  But I also object to the elevation of reason over faith and  those today who look down on people of faith.  I find that type of elevation of reason to be arrogant.  This is why I object to the idea of the "supremacy" of reason over faith.  Indeed the enlightenment may have taught that, but that does not mean it is correct.  In the end, it is truth which is supreme.  

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