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[This is the 6th in the series Religion and Science: A Beautiful Friendship.]

The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.
– Albert Einstein
With the idea of god, early humans were imagining someone or something who knows, who understands, who can explain things well enough to build them. Now then, if God knows, then maybe, just maybe, we can learn to do what He does. That is, we too can build models of how things work and use them for our purposes.

The idea of modeling emerges naturally from the idea of god because with the positing of god we’ve made understanding itself something we can plausibly aspire to. There has probably never been an idea so consequential as that of the world’s comprehensibility. Even today’s scientists marvel at the fact that, if we try hard enough, the universe seems intelligible. Not a few scientists share Nobel-laureate E. P. Wigner’s perplexity regarding the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences.

Comprehensibility does not necessarily mean that things accord with common sense. Quantum theory famously defies common sense, even to its creators. Richard Feynman is often quoted as saying, “If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don't understand quantum mechanics.” But a theory doesn’t need to jibe with common sense to be useful. It suffices that it account for what we observe.

Our faith in the comprehensibility of the world around us mirrors our ancestors’ faith in godlike beings to whom things were intelligible. Yes, it was perhaps a bit presumptuous of us to imagine ourselves stealing our gods’ thunder, but Homo sapiens has never lacked for hubris.

Genesis says that after creating the universe, God created Man in his own image. The proverb “Like father, like son” then accounts for our emulating our creator, and growing up to be model builders like our father figure.

In contrast to polytheism, where a plethora of gods may be at odds, monotheism carries with it the expectation that a single god, endowed with omniscience and omnipotence, is of one mind. To this day, even non-believers, confounded by tough scientific problems are apt to echo the biblical, “God works in mysterious ways.” But, miracle of miracles, not so mysterious as to prevent us from understanding the workings of the cosmos, or, as Stephen Hawking famously put it, to “know the mind of God.”

Monotheism is the theological counterpart of the scientist’s belief in the ultimate reconcilability of apparently contradictory observations into one consistent framework. We cannot expect to know God’s mind until, at the very least, we have eliminated inconsistencies in our observations and contradictions in our partial visions.

This means that the imprimatur of authority (e.g., the King or the Church or any number of pedigreed experts) is not enough to make a proposition true. Authorities who make pronouncements that overlook or suppress inconsistencies in the evidence do not, for long, retain their authority.

Monotheism is therefore not only a powerful constraint on the models we build, it is also a first step toward opening the quest for truth to outsiders and amateurs, who may see things differently than the establishment. Buried within the model of monotheism lies the democratic ideal of no favored status.

To the contemporary scientist this means that models must be free of both internal and external contradictions, and they must not depend on the vantage point of the observer. These are stringent conditions. Meeting them guides physicists as they seek to unify less comprehensive theories in a grand “theory of everything,” or TOE. (A TOE is an especially powerful kind of model, and I’ll say more about them later.)

There’s another implication of monotheism that has often been overlooked in battles between religion and science. An omniscient, unique god, worthy of the name, would insist that the truth is singular, and that it’s His truth. In consequence, there cannot be two distinct, true, but contradictory bodies of knowledge. So, the idea of monotheism should stand as a refutation of claims that religious truths need not be consistent with the truths of science. Of course, some of our beliefs—be they from science or religion—will later be revealed as false. But that doesn’t weaken monotheism’s demand for consistency; it just prolongs the search for a model until we find one that meets the stringent condition of taking into account all the evidence.

It’s said that it takes ten years to get good at anything. Well, it’s taken humans more like ten thousand years to get good at building models. For most of human history, our models lacked explanatory power. Models of that kind are often dismissed as myths. It’s more fruitful to think of myths as stepping stones to better models. We now understand some things far better than our ancestors, and other things not much better at all. But the overall trend is that we keep coming up with better explanations and, as more and more of us turn our attention to model building, our models are improving faster and our ability to usurp Nature’s power is growing. To what purpose?

Religion offers a variety of answers to this question and we’ll examine some of them in subsequent posts. Religion has also famously warned us to separate the wheat from the chaff, and we must not fail to apply this proverb to beliefs of every kind, including those of religion itself.

Religion and Science[All 20 posts of this series have now been collected in a free ebook: Religion and Science: A Beautiful Friendship. If you enjoyed this series please let me know at breakingranks.net. My most recent book, The Rowan Tree: A Novel,  explores  the personal and political ramifications of my ideas as part of the coming of age of America in an era of global partnerships. The Rowan Tree is available as an ebook or in print format.]

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (14+ / 0-)

    Continue the conversation at http://www.breakingranks.net

    by Robert Fuller on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 06:12:49 PM PDT

  •  Why not...... none? (16+ / 0-)

    As John famously said, 'Imagine'. Perhaps we should accept responsibility and try to improve ourselves without creating an 'overbeing' who directs everyone and everything - and who we can conveniently dump all our problems and shortcomings on.

    Romney 2012 - Good afternoon, gentlemen. I am a MITT 2012 computer. I became operational at the M.I.T.T. plant in Urbana, Illinois on the 12th of March 1947. My instructor was Mr. Langley. He taught me to sing a song. Daisy, Daisy...

    by Fordmandalay on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 06:19:22 PM PDT

    •  Bertrand Russell (11+ / 0-)
      There is exactly the same degree of possibility and likelihood of the existence of the Christian God as there is of the existence of the Homeric God. I cannot prove that either the Christian God or the Homeric gods do not exist, but I do not think that their existence is an alternative that is sufficiently probable to be worth serious consideration.
      •  Assume he's right and there is no God. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kyril, G2geek, Catte Nappe, Robert Fuller

        Can you still see a useful purpose for the conception of a God and how it might be useful to you in explaining and ordering your thoughts for more abstract levels of discourse?

        If you can do that, then you have created a new and more practically useful definition of God, one that doesn't rely on your believing in It/Him.

        "Oh sure, but now you're just playing with metaphors and metaphors aren't real!"

        Ah.  Now we're arguing metaphysics and what constitutes what is real.  Pi is real.  Or is it?  Sonata-Allegro form is real.  Or is it?  How you order and lump things together to better understand and process them is up to you.

        •  Conception of God is not helpful in that way (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          trumpeter, Robert Fuller

          Because instead of trying to conceive how things are and why they are, there's always the temptation to just dump it in God's lap. 'God created it so!', 'It's God's will', etc. God is the lazy way out.

          Romney 2012 - Good afternoon, gentlemen. I am a MITT 2012 computer. I became operational at the M.I.T.T. plant in Urbana, Illinois on the 12th of March 1947. My instructor was Mr. Langley. He taught me to sing a song. Daisy, Daisy...

          by Fordmandalay on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 08:06:29 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Lazy is the lazy way out. (6+ / 0-)

            Humans who are prone to intellectual laziness will always find a way to externalize it:  whether as a deity, or as prior plausibility, or some other excuse.

            Intellectual laziness, as with good and evil, is an emotional predisposition, that will always seek out "reasons" from whatever philosophical framework is at hand to "explain" it.  

            "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

            by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 01:40:20 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  The fact is (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Robert Fuller

              that often people will work much, much harder in order to justify the existence of their chosen deity rather than admitting it is a claim based on faith. They have to jump through hoops, because there is no real evidence.

              •  it's all about emotional predispositions and... (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Robert Fuller, Dumbo

                .... the wiring of the right temporal lobe in the brain.

                Some people are naturally predisposed toward experiences they interpret as supportive of religious beliefs.  

                Some people are not so predisposed.

                Each will argue that their view of the universe is correct.

                However both the proposition that a deity exists, and the proposition that a deity does not exist, are empirically unfalsifiable.  

                "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 10:14:33 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

        •  Brilliant. You got it. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Robert Fuller, Dumbo

          You understand exactly what Robert is doing with this.  

          The folks who don't get it appear to be mired in concrete thinking.  And the terrible irony is that concretized atheism is built on the same fragile cognitive foundation as concretized theism.  

          One needs to get out of the concrete and into the abstract, where metaphor and model are not identical, but each has a different and useful type of explanatory capability.  

          "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

          by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 01:37:53 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  It seems you are saying (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Robert Fuller

            that the old cartoon where the two physicists are looking at a blackboard of calculations, at one step where "a miracle happens", is actually superior, because a deity was shoehorned in to explain something that was not understood. Yet.

            •  where, exactly, did you get that from? (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Robert Fuller, Dumbo

              Methinks you are reading-in, inferring, or imagining something I didn't say.

              "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

              by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 10:11:34 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  No... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              G2geek

              You're arguing with a fundamentalist straw man when you say that.  That's not what's going on here, I don't think.  

              I don't believe in miracles or the supernatural or guys in togas on clouds or any of that.  Usually atheists tell me I'm one of them, but I'm not.  Some of just move on to a different plane of discussion that doesn't revolve around arguing with Pat Robertson.  When human beings try to impose meaning on the universe, they may find it useful to create abstractions like God (no supernatural stuff, remember...) as an artifact in order to facilitate that discussion.  

              Maybe that will make it less offensive to you.

              •  The thing that bothers me is (0+ / 0-)

                all these different concepts being assigned to "God", and then two people who have very different views about what God is appear to be talking about the same thing. I don't understand why some of these metaphorical concepts have to be tied to the idea of God, with all its historical and mythological baggage. It seems to create more misunderstanding rather than facilitating discussion.

                Well, I guess I do understand the desire to retain the cultural bonds of religion, but it seems to me that some attempts to make varying concepts fall under the rubric of "God" require a lot of effort to maintain, and can lead to confusion.

                "Okay, until next time. Keep sending me your questions, and I will make fun of you... I mean, answer them." - Strong Bad

                by AaronInSanDiego on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 10:18:14 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

      •  I have no problem whatsoever with the concept of (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dumbo, Robert Fuller, jacey

        a god.  I do have a problem with selecting a god like an entree in a cafeteria of gods and declaring that it is the only edible entree in the cafeteria.  And in my opinion that is what monotheistic religions do.

        I can accept the possibility of god.  What I cannot accept is that any human being knows who or what that god is, and I am especially suspicious of gods who pattern themselves after the absolute worst in human nature and then say that's okay, because after all, they're god.

        No thank you.  I'll stick with Einstein's concept.

        I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings. -  Albert Einstein

        Because stupid people are so sure they're smart, they often act smart, and sometimes even smart people are too stupid to recognize that the stupid people acting smart really ARE stupid.

        by ZedMont on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 08:56:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Interesting. (6+ / 0-)

          I guess I thought monotheism made all gods the same god.  Sort of like the law of identity.  X=1 and Y=1 therefore X=Y.

          I remember when the fundamentalist General Boykin told a captured insurgent in Somalia, "My God is bigger than your God," to explain why he captured him.  Maybe he didn't realize he was a polytheist.  Because if Christianity and Islam are both monotheistic religions that worship what they claim is the one and only God, then they MUST worship the same god.  By the law of identity.  To imply otherwise is to suggest the existence of multiple Gods.  

          One of whom is bigger than the other, according to ret. General Boykin.  Maybe size does matter!  ... Which all goes to show how the discussion of God can be dragged down to neanderthal depths by idiots.

          •  Of course, even Yahweh acknowledged other gods, of (6+ / 0-)

            whom he admitted he was jealous.  He did not say there are no other gods, he said "have no other gods BEFORE me."

            Because stupid people are so sure they're smart, they often act smart, and sometimes even smart people are too stupid to recognize that the stupid people acting smart really ARE stupid.

            by ZedMont on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 09:18:26 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  To elaborate, Abraham came to Canaan from Ur of (7+ / 0-)

              the Chaldees.  The Chaldeans worshipped a moon-god, named, ironically, Sin.

              When Abraham moved to Canaan, he adopted a canaanite god, Yahweh (or if you will, as the bible says, Yahweh "summoned him), who was one of at least 25 Canaanite gods.  

              Yahweh, of course became the sole god of the Israelites and the archenemy of all the other Canaanite gods.  But make no mistake.  Yahweh and the other Canaanite gods were there before Abraham was.  

              The Israelites did not exist before Abraham.  The god of Abraham and the Israelites was adopted from a panoply of gods from a pre-existing civilization into which they assimilated themselves after Abraham left his original god, Sin.

              The "monotheism" of Judeo-Christianity is a historical stretch.

              Because stupid people are so sure they're smart, they often act smart, and sometimes even smart people are too stupid to recognize that the stupid people acting smart really ARE stupid.

              by ZedMont on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 09:42:57 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  That's all true, although it's more complicated (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              ZedMont

              in that Judaism morphed into monotheism and is monotheistic today.  However, the diary is about monotheism, so it seemed appropriate.

              Another way to interpret the injunction against other gods in the Old Testament is not to validate the existence of other gods but to act as an injunction against ethnic mixing.  Many of the Old Testaments laws of this type, prohibiting otherwise trivial crap just to emphasize, "We're not raising our kids to be like THOSE people on the other side of the hill!"  Like, for instance, the law against mixing meat and dairy products arises from the slur that Baal worshippers boiled babies in their mothers' milk.  It's believed today that this never took place.  It's so lurid, it seems like the kind of thing there would be better documentation of it if it were true.  

              So because the Baal worshippers "boiled babies in their mothers' milk," we Jews aren't supposed to eat cheeseburgers.  The stern injunction against worshipping other gods might have purposes then of protecting Jewish ethnic tradition rather than protecting God's feelings.

              •  Thank you. Interesting stuff. (0+ / 0-)

                I didn't intend to suggest that Judaism is anything other than monotheistic, just find ancient history and irony fascinating.

                The proscription against ethnic mixing makes a great deal of sense when you think about the repeated invasions, occupations, and exiles, a veritable human blender that made the preservation of a Jewish ethnic identity difficult without a conscious effort to do so.  What better effort could exist than an order from God?

                I had never heard the reason for not mixing meat and dairy products.  Fascinating.  I have lunch with a Jewish friend every week, and last week he had chicken-fried steak with cream gravy.  Don't think he observes kosher, but I'm going to ask him if he ever thought about the milk in the gravy.   He's not particularly religious, but he's fiercely proud of his ethnic heritage.

                His ex-wife is absolutely kosher, though, and he told me about what she has to do to maintain a kosher kitchen.  She threw away all her old dishes and cooking utensils for example.  What he described sounded really expensive.

                Strange how things morph, as you say.  The Baal-boiled-milk-babies sounds eerily similar to the blood libel myth used against Judaism later.

                Because stupid people are so sure they're smart, they often act smart, and sometimes even smart people are too stupid to recognize that the stupid people acting smart really ARE stupid.

                by ZedMont on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 05:33:52 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  hot damn, dude, you're good! (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Dumbo

            The law of identity.  

            Boykin is a polytheist!  

            You're really really good at this.  

            More to the point, your userID is great camouflage, and you're hella' smart in some of the ways I value highly.  

            "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

            by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 01:50:59 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Well, gosh golly, thank ye, stranger! (0+ / 0-)

              I'm a-blushin' mightily.

              I've tried to point out that Muslims and Christians worship the same God to intolerant people before.  It usually doesn't make an impact.  "But they worship Allah and we worship Jesus!"  Okay.  Whatever.

        •  All that Robert is asserting... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          quarkstomper, Catte Nappe

          .... is that a culture that has the idea of a unitary deity, is more likely to also have the idea of a unitary universe, that can be understood by humans.  This in turn provides a cognitive foundation for the idea that observation can lead to understanding, and that provides the basis for science.  

          This is not to say that pantheistic, polytheistic, or atheistic cultures don't also have routes toward the idea of a unitary universe.  Just that monotheism provides a bit of a short-cut.

          Now it may be that the causal arrow isn't pointing in the right direction: it may be that a culture that assumes a unitary universe will also (as a result) assume a unitary deity.  But so far we don't have examples of that type: it appears that monotheism precedes a unitary approach to the study of nature.  

          "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

          by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 01:46:49 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  It is self-serving (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Robert Fuller

            to rationalize one's present beliefs by claiming that everyone else's are defective or deficient, and then producing circular "arguments" to justify that position.

            You cannot produce evidence that atheists or "atheist cultures" (whatever that means) are less evolved. But that is the point of almost all comparative religion studies, that what has gone before has been a stepping stone on the ladder toward religious evolution to perfection.

            •  who is seeking to produce evidence that... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Robert Fuller

              ... atheist cultures are less evolved than something else?   Not I, and not Robert.  Methinks this is your imagination at work again, toward what end I have no idea.  

              BTW, there is or was even an atheist branch of Hinduism.  

              And the point of comparative religion is to elucidate the commonalities and differences between various belief systems.  

              The social sciences have long since given up the idea that there is any such thing as a single axis of measurement of value that can be applied to all cultures in all times and places.  

              "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

              by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 10:18:50 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  It is a claim that has been made here (0+ / 0-)

                If you are saying that you or the author are not going to produce evidence to support any of your claims, then that settles that, now doesn't it?

                Why are you saying that

                The social sciences have long since given up the idea that there is any such thing as a single axis of measurement of value that can be applied to all cultures in all times and places.  
                when you two have clearly stated that it is monotheism that is the determining factor?
        •  Theodicy is monotheism's achilles heel (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Robert Fuller

          Explaining human suffering as the unknowable will of a single supremely omnipotent god who is supposed to be "loving" just isn't very convincing. How can we be assured god is loving when he inflicts such horrible torture on innocent children? Can one really hate god enough to believe him capable of that?

          Whereas explaining human suffering as the result of a number of limited, imperfect deities often working at cross purposes (as in the Iliad, with Athena acting to thwart Poseidon) makes more sense.

          More sensible still: a universe which is not created or guided by any kind of divine intelligence pursuing a "purpose."

    •  That is the elegance of monotheism . . . (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Robert Fuller, Prof Haley, kyril

      It is wrong by exactly 1

      Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

      by Deward Hastings on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 08:29:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  So's your point. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Catte Nappe, Prof Haley

        Robert's assertion isn't that monotheism is ontologically correct, only that it is a logical precursor to science, because it asserts a unitary universe that is inherently consistent, therefore understandable.  

        Once you have a universe that is consistent and understandable, humans will seek to understand it.  The rest follows from there.  

        That is a huge cognitive leap from "fate and happenstance," which produce a passive and incurious attitude toward nature.

        The Romans had steam power.  They had a little device with a sealed container for water, and a sphere with two nozzles mounted on pipes above the container.  When heated, the steam pressure through the nozzles caused the sphere to spin.  They regarded it as a clever demonstration of something-or-another having to do with the gods playing games.  

        They utterly failed to recognize that what they were observing was a consistent force of nature, and so they utterly failed to find ways to utilize it for practical purposes, the simplest of which would have been the steam eductor for pumping water.  (Think of a capital letter T.  The left branch of the top of the T is connected to a source of steam pressure. The steam escapes through the right branch of the T.  In doing so it creates suction through the vertical line of the T: suction that is more than sufficient to lift water and expel the water through the right branch of the T along with the steam.  A self-priming vacuum pump that can lift not only water but suspended solids such as mud, sand, and gravel.  Highly useful in obvious ways.  But the Romans missed it entirely.)

        "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 02:06:00 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Perfect example (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          G2geek

          The Romans almost had it! And sans Bernoulli's principle. I bet there are many such examples of "blindness" because as Frederic Hayek points out: "Without a theory the facts are silent."

          •  Less so than you'd think, actually (5+ / 0-)

            You're conflating two things that are likely not related. There's no evidence that the fact that Hero's aeolipile was ignored as anything other than a curiosity has anything at all to do with "the gods playing games." That sort of logic is not something you would typically see in Roman accounts, first of all: they may not have been scientific giants, but they were quite familiar with basic logic and rhetoric and weren't inclined to dismiss something in such a blatantly superstitious way.

            The far more likely reason why the aeolipile didn't lead to further scientific inquiry is because it wasn't useful. When the Enlightenment finally happened eighteen centuries later, it went hand-in-hand with the Industrial Revolution. And that was sparked in a very large part by necessity. Europe was experiencing both a population and resource boom as population started to grow significantly for the first time since the Black Death. Steam power was needed to automate tasks that were previously performed by hand, but were dependent on social and economic structures that either didn't exist or had atrophied over the course of the Middle Ages (like, say, feudal institutions which were destroyed by the demographic collapse of the Black Death).

            That wasn't the case in antiquity. Both ancient Greece and Rome were slave-based economies that at their heights had an excess of labor. Without a practical niche to fill, the aeolipile was an expensive toy that only a handful took real interest in. The only reason steam power eventually did attract significant attention is because society had changed enough that there was a real niche for steam-powered devices. Which meant that people took interest in the thing, and it was the weight of that interest that led to further investigation and experimentation.

            It's tempting to ascribe lack of curiosity to some aspect of faith or superstition, but there's little evidence that that's the case. Even today, scientific inquiry is directed towards practical applications as often as not, and that's with a much better and more immediate sense of the value of theoretical science over the long term, a sense that is a relatively recent development.

            •  thereby: overpopulation >> slavery >> (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Robert Fuller, seancdaug

              .... absence of technological innovation or application of technique to practical problems.  

              And population scarcity relative to resources >> desire to develop technologies to serve practical needs.

              Fast-forward to the early 20th century, and most of our modern construction equipment (excavators etc. etc.) as well as much equipment in many other fields, was developed in response to labor shortages following WW1.  

              One might wonder why the plutocrats so fully support every measure that increases population levels...

              "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

              by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 10:26:10 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Indeed (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                G2geek

                More or less, though I would probably say it has less to do with overpopulation, per se, than with social upheaval. Anything that upsets the existing social apple cart. Rapid increases in overpopulation certainly do that, but so can demographic collapses like were caused by the Black Death and the Plague of Justinian, the latter of which led to the adoption of modern agricultural practices in Western Europe.

        •  No, you're quite wrong (5+ / 0-)

          There is no causal connection between monotheism and "a unitary universe" . . . the Greeks had "unitary universe" (in which many "gods" played) theories without the "need" for the "one god" delusion.

          And you "example" is itself a fine example of post hoc claptrapical balderdash . . . an after-the-fact "explanation" with no connection whatsoever to the "subject" at hand.  James Watt (or whoever you want to credit) didn't "invent the steam engine" because he was a monotheist.  And two thousand years worth of monotheists between your "example" and Watt (many of whom undoubtedly "saw steam" or its visible effects) failed to "get it" despite their monotheism.

          Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

          by Deward Hastings on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 07:37:16 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I still feel (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Deward Hastings, Robert Fuller

          that that is more to do with the Romans being unsophisticated in technical ways than their having multiple deities.  They hadn't built the necessary intellectual infrastructure to connect the dots.

          Without speaking to one directly, I cannot support this, but it is my contention that mythology and science do not connect as the diarist and you claim they do.

          The opposite has been true in my experience.  Far too many humans are intellectually lazy, and when they don't understand it, they just dump it on their deity.  Just because the ancients dumped it on multiple deities doesn't mean they were more or less lazy - just differently lazy.

          After all - look at the Dark Ages - centuries where magical thinking of the monotheistic variety prevailed, and there was (as now, in some parts of this country) an absolute aversion to critical thinking, because "god will take care of it'.

          I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

          by trumpeter on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 09:07:00 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  The Romans were not dummies (0+ / 0-)

          This whole thing ignores the fact that the Romans were doing pretty nifty things with both steam and fluids in their public constructions.

          The failure to develop steam power probably had more to do with the differences between an agricultural society and an emerging fuel-hungry manufacturing society. Industrial steam power developed because the emerging industrial revolution exhausted both available water power and the forests of the British Isles.

          The Romans (and the 1000 years of monotheists who followed them) remained primarily agricultural and faced few technical challenges not amenable to throwing more manpower at it.

        •  The problem I'm having here (0+ / 0-)

          is that in my experience monotheistic religions posit gods that are intrinsically beyond our aspirations, not a model for our cognitive activity but incomprehensibly bigger. The diarist says

          if God knows, then maybe, just maybe, we can learn to do what He does.
          yet every church you can name will tell you that what gods do and know is so far beyond us that it's actually disrespectful to attempt what Hawking suggests. Is monotheism the idea what will put religion out of business?

          into the blue again, after the money's gone

          by Prof Haley on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 06:20:07 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Why would you say this: (0+ / 0-)
          [M]onotheism ... is a logical precursor to science, because it asserts a unitary universe that is inherently consistent, therefore understandable.
          I mean that questiuon in an open-ended way. My experience and knowledge of monotheism is that is asserts an arbitrary and miraculous universe that is beyound our understanding. Those who attempt to make sense of it, do so against the tide of religious thought.

          into the blue again, after the money's gone

          by Prof Haley on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 09:50:00 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  It seems to me that if 1 is better than 10 (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Prof Haley, kyril, trumpeter

      then 0 is better than 1. Atheism seems to me to be a logical progression from monotheism.

      "Okay, until next time. Keep sending me your questions, and I will make fun of you... I mean, answer them." - Strong Bad

      by AaronInSanDiego on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 10:47:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  But notice this: (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mythatsme

        It's far more difficult to get from polytheism to atheism.

        The closest thing we find historically is Buddhism, where the Buddha circumvented the whole thing by teaching that speculation about deities is irrelevant to the purposes of seeking enlightenment and acting with compassion.

        "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 02:08:05 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Diarist is an accomplished mainstream scientist. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jacey, Prof Haley

      Physicist, specifically.   And a strong adherent of rationalism.  

      He's taking time to spell out a thesis in detail, over the course of a lengthy series here.  

      One of the elements of his thesis is that the extreme religious right is a symptom of the decline of religion in America, an inexorable decline similar to that which occurred in Europe.  Another is that the useful roles of religion, such as building community and elucidating ethical principles, can continue in a more progressive and reality-based context.  

      I'll stop there because I don't speak for him, but anyone here who is seriously skeptical about what he's getting at here, should read all of his diaries and give him the chance to make his case.  

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 01:17:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm working through them (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        trumpeter, Robert Fuller

        but I have a big problem with the thesis of this one, that monotheism facilitates modeling a comprehensible universe. Monotheism as it's been practiced for the last thousand years or so has been strongly authoritarian, and the Church of Rome at any rate claims their deity incomprehensible by definition. The Koran famously says "this book is not to be questioned". I'm still waiting for the case to be made that the author asserts here, that monotheism helps the scientific method's hypothesizing step.

        into the blue again, after the money's gone

        by Prof Haley on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 08:59:34 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Robert is only making one central claim: (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Prof Haley, Robert Fuller

          That in Western history, monotheism produced the seed of the idea that the universe is lawful, consistent, and comprehensible.  

          The actual conduct of churches as centers of political and military power is a different issue entirely.

          "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

          by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 10:08:25 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  If 1 deity is vastly superior to more than 10 (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Robert Fuller

        then the extreme religious right should be intellectually superior to all of us, as they have maximal adherence to the one god concept. Or does that only work that way when it is convenient to the argument?

  •  Uh, no (11+ / 0-)

    Monotheism isn't conducive to science, cause any decent working scientist needs to be able to beleive in multiple things at once, some contradictory (light as a wave and a particle) and some simply unrelated (no theory of everything yet).

    So, no....until everything is known (don't hold your breath) scientists work with incompatible theories as a matter of course.  So...if anything polytheism would be the better religious underpinning for science.

    Though, more likely, the whole premise that one is better than another is flawed at conception.

    "Empty vessels make the loudest sound, they have the least wit and are the greatest blabbers" Plato

    by Empty Vessel on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 06:25:02 PM PDT

    •  Ps (7+ / 0-)

      Please let me introduce you to some kickass Hindu scientists.

      "Empty vessels make the loudest sound, they have the least wit and are the greatest blabbers" Plato

      by Empty Vessel on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 06:27:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hindu scientists (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dumbo, kyril, G2geek, Catte Nappe, raincrow

        Recently enjoyed a visiting professorship at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore where a met many Hindu scientists. Been going to India regularly for 5 decades, and find that scientists there are about as religious as scientist here, which is to say not very. I'm not comparing monotheistic to polytheistic religions as religions, but rather finding a parallel between the mind of a single posited god and the drive to root out contradictions in our sub-theories, that is to seek more comprehensive unified theories. The tongue-in-cheek title of this post applies at the meta level, that is, it's offered as a metaphoric model of the model-building process.

    •   I Think Many of the More Intelligent Animals do (11+ / 0-)

      modeling at various levels for their problem solving. We may have populated Australia 40,000 years ago with at least a little sea travel, and we developed agriculture, all long long before any kind of monotheism.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 06:35:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Motivation (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wee Mama, Dumbo, kyril, G2geek, Catte Nappe

      Monotheism is conducive to keeping at it till those "polytheistic" alternatives (electricity,  magnetism) are unified into a single, consistent, and more encompassing theory (electromagnetism). Monotheism is a metaphor for the goal of ultimate unification.

      Continue the conversation at http://www.breakingranks.net

      by Robert Fuller on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 06:39:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Polytheism is already linked (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        OnlyWords, Robert Fuller, Triscula

        In a pantheon of gods that interact...if anything, that is a far closer approximation of the relationship between physics, botany and geology than monotheism is.  A pantheon of science, some shared elements, some not.

        We are nowhere near a TOE, and let's be serious, when physicist say theory of everything...they don't mean EVERYTHING.

        "Empty vessels make the loudest sound, they have the least wit and are the greatest blabbers" Plato

        by Empty Vessel on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 06:43:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  TOEs (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Shahryar, Dumbo, G2geek

          Yes, they do not mean everything. They just mean they've got a theory that unifies fields that, up to then, were governed by different laws. With the advent of a TOE like Maxwell's electromagnetism, distinct fields (electricity, magnetism) are unified into a single, consistent set of equations. TOEs usually suggest new phenomena (radio waves in that case), so they are much sought after. We may learn on July 4th if the so-called "Standard Model" of elementary particles is as good a TOE as claimed because a press conference is scheduled then to announce results of the search for the Higgs Boson (a linchpin of the model) at CERN. There's a good book on all this that acknowledges your point in its title: The Theory of Almost Everything.

          My personal guess is that we shall always need that "Almost". In other words that we shall never find a final single theory of absolutely everything. But the quest for one is nonetheless a valid goal because every time we unify two contradictory sub-theories, we open up great new vistas.

          •  we have two things to celebrate this July 4th. (0+ / 0-)

            What's awesome is that we have this set of tools that allows us to make predictions with such precise accuracy on all scales from subatomic to astrophysical.  

            Approximately p < .000028 is the standard for significance in physics if I recall correctly.  

            "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

            by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 02:17:45 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  A number of us monotheistic scientists would (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Robert Fuller, kyril, G2geek, trumpeter

      argue with you -- when we finish rolling our eyes -- about monotheism, polytheism, and their conduciveness (or complete irrelevance) to the conduct of scientific research. However, I entirely agree with your last sentence.

    •  I disagree with Robert on some points (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Shahryar, Robert Fuller, kyril, G2geek

      (which I'll comment on below) BUT... I think he's right on this point.  Multiple inconsistent points of view is inconsistent with the striving goal of science which seems to assume a single objective reality.

      I'm planning on writing a diary at some point in the future on the meeting between Tagore and Einstein in which these two points of view clashed: western objectivity versus Hindu subjectivity.  I'm planning to write it as a music diary (they discuss western and Indian music as well).

      Newton said that he could not explain gravity.  He could provide a formula for it, but he couldn't explain why it was there at all.  His curiosity and dissatisfaction with that is typical of what I'm talking about -- this idea that if there is an inconsistency, a missing part, that that part can and should be filled in or fixed in order to have a better single model of how the world works.  Implicit in that is the idea of an objective and unchanging universe that follows one formal set of rules.

  •  Man usually creates God in his own image... (9+ / 0-)

    ...and then projects whatever is to be justified in the name of a deity whose authority cannot be questioned. And thus the worst things we humans have done to each other have most often been in the name of God.

    I prefer my science to be myth free, because the existence of an omniscient, omnipotent being cannot be proven or disproved, and therefore is incompatible with the scientific method.

    Besides which, I know a number of extremely talented atheist, Hindu, and Shinto-practicing scientists. It's kinda narrow-minded to go claiming monotheism is inherently superior, particularly when you can't even prove that your notion of a deity even exists.

    "Don't ride in anything with a Capissen 38 engine. They fall right out of the sky." -- Kaywinnit Lee Frye

    by Technowitch on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 06:29:06 PM PDT

    •  Going from ten to one was step one in a process (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      G2geek, Prof Haley

      I'm referring to how we got to where we are. The process that led to the realization that, as Laplace, put it, referring to the assumption of a deity, "I see no need for that hypothesis."

      Continue the conversation at http://www.breakingranks.net

      by Robert Fuller on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 06:42:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Again, you imply polytheism = inferior (4+ / 0-)

        I spent several years living in India. I see no sign or indication they feel any need for fewer deities.

        "Don't ride in anything with a Capissen 38 engine. They fall right out of the sky." -- Kaywinnit Lee Frye

        by Technowitch on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 06:53:23 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  response (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          G2geek

          Just saying that the idea of a single deity was a step toward building models devoid of contradictions. As well as a step towards incorporating, on an equal footing, the perceptions of all observers. That's a revolutionary idea because it says what you observe and what the authorities observe must both be incorporated into a single consistent theory.

          •  But those contradictions are the (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Robert Fuller, Technowitch

            paprika on the deviled eggs.  

            Such a bland egg it is without those dots of fire.  

            Why is "a single consistent theory" a good thing?

            I believe the stronger argument favors the contradictions.

            •  it's inherent in nature. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Remediator

              And the apparent contradictions are only apparent: over time they resolve into parts of the overall pattern.

              Even your paprika on deviled eggs is an overall pattern: you wouldn't have "deviled eggs" without the paprika, you'd have some other kind of eggs.  

              For which reason I also believe that some truly problematic anomalies, such as precognition (information from the future perceived in the present) and the decline effect (decreasing effect of pharmaceuticals over multiple replication studies), will eventually be understood.  And the understanding of those things will contribute convergently to a more accurate overall understanding of nature, rather than breaking it and sending us back to the pathetic world of "fate and happenstance."  

              "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

              by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 02:36:47 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Possibly, and by measure as possible as (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                G2geek

                anything else, although subject to almost constant revisiting.  

                In one tale, say of Icarus, the human condition is significnatly definitional.  His old man, a scientist, fashions wings and glues on feathers.  Makes one for himself, too, as long as he's in town.  

                The warning comes next:  The sun's heat will melt the wax, the wings will dissemble, and junior will crash into the sea.  We get the human capacity for science and knowledge, the impulse to soar, and the mythic realm of great things at stake.  

                Kersplash!  Down goes junior.  

                Dad's quest for knowledge, his sheer inventional vibe, the son's desire to fly, and the cruel twist of fate all tap recurrent human impulses and capacities, and all were pre-monotheism.  

                It seems pretty complete to me, and not in need of a convergent realm, or unifying, concentric understanding.  

                The original diariest gets to choose 1 god over 10, but I'm not seeing the need that arises in the set of 10 that the 1 resolves.  I'd say the more vivid landscape is the one with 10 interactive entities because it is correspondent to a richer human engagement.  

                •  the Icarus story is one that... (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Remediator

                  ... discourages science and innovation and attempting to transcend the boundaries of one's existing knowledge.  

                  One could reframe it and fix the ending, whereby their flights are successful and they report on all the things they have seen from a great height.  Though of course that won't help the people who were originally affected by that story to discourage their curiosity and innovation.

                  Ten deities might provide a more vivid landscape, but at least in the Greek and Roman history they also provided ten times the diversions and digressions, and an unfocused attitude toward seeking to understand nature.

                  In contrast, Hindu polytheism may not have had that effect.  Every culture's history is unique in terms of its evolution of religion and science.  

                  "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                  by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 06:51:17 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Does it, though? (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    G2geek, Remediator

                    The problem is that while the Icarus myth can be plausibly argued to "discourage science and innovation." that argument is wholly academic until you can make some sort of supportable assertion about how the myth was received by its audience.

                    For one thing, the Icarus myth dates from the Greek dark age, circa 1000 BC. It's as far removed from classical Greece as we are from the divine right of kings. It's part of the same religious tradition later practiced, but we can't say with any authority how it was treated by, say, the Athenians in 400 BC, or the Romans in 100 AD.

                    For another, a simple look at modern society shows that there's more than one way to interpret the myth. The air force academy in Greece is named after Icarus, so modern Greeks pretty clear don't interpret the story as an unequivocal condemnation of innovation. Is it unreasonable than ancient Greeks (and Romans) would have done the same?

                    Look at Ovid. His account of the story in Metamorphoses is essentially the canonical modern received version of the tale. And even a basic knowledge of the background of Ovid's career makes it difficult to reconcile such a conservative, even reactionary, interpretation of the tale.  Though medieval scholars with little knowledge of its social context tended to miss this, it's a barbed document bordering on social satire, one of many works that got Ovid on the bad side of (conservative) Emperor Augustus. The scholarly consensus on the Icarus myth, given that context, says little about a condemnation of inquiry or advancement, instead focusing on the idea of personal ambition and irresponsibility. Daedalus isn't vilified in the tale or its tradition, remember, and he's much closer to any recognizable model of a scientist or inventor.

                    •  admittedly a problem interpreting ancient myths. (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Robert Fuller, seancdaug

                      Without some kind of records of how the original cultures interpreted them when they were current.  

                      What I'm also wondering about is, were the powers of flight attributed to some magical or even natural quality of feathers, or the shape of wings, or something else?  

                      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                      by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 10:31:50 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  There may not have been a clear distinction (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Remediator

                        For much of history, there wasn't a strong idea of the line between "magic" and "science." Pythagoras, for example, was not only one of the founders of modern mathematics, but a religious cult leader, and he and his followers supposedly saw the two as inextricably intertwined.

                        I'm inclined to view the distinction of "science" and "religion" into two distinct spheres as a modern conceit. The idea that divine involvement precludes rational explanation, or that there are large swathes of the natural world that were forbidden to philosophical inquiry, would have seemed strange to the ancient Greeks, certainly. "The gods did it" was how you started the conversation, not how you ended it.

                        Specific to Icarus, I don't think the Greeks ever really sussed out the details of aerodynamics, but they at least grasped the basic principles. As a seafaring culture, they would certainly have a basic practical understanding of fluid dynamics. There was a definite link between flight and the divine, though: classical Mediterranean mythology is full of images of winged deities. But that doesn't really preclude the basis of a scientific understanding, at least in some quarters.

                  •  Not sure about that. (0+ / 0-)

                    What evidence supports that multiple gods and goddesess generate "(_) times the diversions and digressions, and an unfocused attitude toward seeking to understand nature" ?

                    I don't see any grounds at all for the second claim and would argue that the first is actually a huge plus.  

                    Human life is a cacophony of diversions.  It can be very sweet music.  Polytheism is a wild ride.  I say it's lots of fun.  

                    Einstein argued for ultimate mystery.  He found it to be exhilarating and rich in delight.  He knew his Science, certainly, as Daedalus knew how to fashion wings.  What those two human birds saw from the air is less important than the ingenuity gathered to fashion the wings in the first place, and arguably far less than the exhilaration they can bring.  

            •  Mulitiple, contradictory theories (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Remediator

              motivate and guide research for unitary, consistent theories, and it is the latter that reveal new realms. For example, right now general relativity and quantum theory are inconsistent. Many physicists are trying to resolve those contradictions in the belief that a new unified theory will not only explain what has not yet been explained (e.g., dark matter), but will also reveal heretofore overlooked phenomena.

              It was when quantum theory (early 20th c.) removed the inconsistencies between Newtonian physics (18th c.) and electromagnetism (19th c.) that the whole micro world of atomic physics became known to us. One consequence? The computers via which we're communicating.

              •  I don't think the function of myth is (0+ / 0-)

                to serve as water boy to "unitary, consistent theories."

                I believe mythologies reveal quite a few new realms.  And vividly so.  

                Another response in this thread suggests that the polytheistic cultures -- taking Greece as one -- generated enormous advances in Science, while monotheistic Christianity, for example, brought some centuries of repression and censorship.  

                Again, Robert, your line between mythology/polytheism and monotheism is arbitrary and unfair.  I don't think Jung, for example, would buy it.  

          •  I can't agree (3+ / 0-)

            Based on the objections of the Church to Galileo. They were fine with Copernicus, who only claimed to be describing the apparent motions of the planets. But when Galileo went as far as to say geocentrism is an inferior model - that it actually doesn't work as well - they came down on him for trying to limit their god. Their idea of a single deity was definitionally incomprehensible. They said the contradictions aren't incompatible because, well, we're incapable of knowing why they aren't. But we should trust the Pope for our astronomy over the guy with the telescope anyway.

            into the blue again, after the money's gone

            by Prof Haley on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 08:59:05 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  that problem is one of political power. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Prof Haley

              Those who held political power and the means of force, objected to someone making an assertion that could establish an independent nexus of power.  Keep in mind that the Church at that time also objected to laypeople reading the Bible for themselves.  

              However in the long run, Galileo won and the Church even apologized.  That kind of progress is inexorable, but it also illustrates why we must never allow power in a society to coalesce into a single institution.  

              "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

              by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 02:40:17 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I think your last sentence (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                trumpeter

                affirms my point, against the diarist's, that poly-omni monotheism hinders and does not help better model-making.

                into the blue again, after the money's gone

                by Prof Haley on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 07:49:44 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  the history of ideas is not identical with... (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Robert Fuller

                  ... the history of political power or the monopolization of the use of force by institutions of whatever kind.  

                  Though also, let us not forget the Jesuit order and its clever subversiveness, nor the fact that its founder Loyola was not Spanish but Basque.  

                  Once you know he was Basque, the meaning of his statement that if the Catholic Church were to declare that white is black and black is white, he would see them that way:   He was subtly and with plausible deniability mocking the church hierarchy, same way as his distant descendants after WW2 would proclaim their obedience to the fascist Franco, whilst quietly going about building the most successful example of cooperative enterprise the world has ever seen.

                  "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                  by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 10:37:55 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

        •  Why Brahman? (0+ / 0-)

          From Wikipedia: In Hinduism, Brahman is the one supreme, universal Spirit that is the origin and support of the phenomenal universe. Brahman is sometimes referred to as the Absolute or Godhead which is the Divine Ground of all matter, energy, time, space, being, and everything in and beyond this universe.The sages of the Upanishads teach that Brahman is the ultimate essence of material phenomena …

          Hinduism features an Olympic panoply of sub-gods, but Brahman seems to be first among equals. So, Hinduism does have a monotheistic aspect. And like Buddhism, it also has a non-theistic doctrine -- Advaita Vedanta -- to which many subscribe while disavowing the details of Hindu theology.

    •  different cultures may go about it different ways. (0+ / 0-)

      As a Westerner, I can see Robert's evolutionary progression in our culture.  But it may be and probably is an entirely different history in Asian culture.  

      There are elements of Chinese medical theory that don't square with Western medical theory.  None the less, Chinese medicine has produced its fair share of approaches to health that are empirically validated.  At some point we can hope for a convergence of theories that provide complete explanatory mechanisms for both, and for the anomalies in Western medicine such as the "decline effect" (effect size for pharmaceuticals declines over time, and not as a result of regression to the mean).  

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 02:25:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Uh, wuh - "better." (7+ / 0-)

    I know offending was the last thing you wanted, but how do you expect modern followers of polytheistic religions to feel about this?

    •  "Belittled" and "Disrespected" (5+ / 0-)

      ...are the words I think you're looking for, regarding how followers of polytheistic religions will feel about being told their faith is inherently inferior to one god big enough to beat up all of theirs.

      "Don't ride in anything with a Capissen 38 engine. They fall right out of the sky." -- Kaywinnit Lee Frye

      by Technowitch on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 06:36:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Modern polytheism is not the same thing as... (0+ / 0-)

        .... the polytheism of ancient Greece and Rome.

        If I'm not mistaken, the roots of Wicca and modern paganism are in England, Ireland, and Native America.  

        Nor is Robert speaking about Asia, where Hindu polytheism and science coexist happily.  

        "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 02:44:15 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  How is it different? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Prof Haley

          OK, fine, but just saying "this is different" does not mean anything. The fact that, say, Hindu or Shinto polytheism is in no way incompatible with science would seem to pose a challenge to the fundamental premise that cannot simply be refuted by handwaving it away. Are they different from ancient polytheistic faiths? Sure. But how and why does that difference make them more amenable to a modern scientific approach?

          More to the point, I think there's something fundamentally fishy about dismissing the culture of the ancient Greeks, a society that gave us heliocentrism, the first step towards modern mathematics, the germ of atomic theory, and a thousand and one other components of modern science, as not "coexisting happily" with science. And Rome wasn't the most scientifically curious of cultures, to be sure, but that trait hardly vanished with the arrival of Christian monotheism. If anything, it got worse with its arrival, only reversing (slowly) in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The more important distinction (and even it is far too easy to overstate) is the distinction between religion as civic obligation (as it was in pre-Christian Greece and Rome, for the large part) and organized institution (much more prevalent in, say, ancient Egypt, or the medieval West), IMO, and there's little reason to think that has anything to do with poly- versus monotheism.

          In short, in it's clever theory, but there's little indication that it bears any relation to reality.

    •  When discussing religion, someone will ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Robert Fuller, G2geek

      ....always be offended.

      Personally, I believe that Larry David's repulsive urination of Jesus Christ should be condemned.

      But many Kossacks disagreed with me.

      And I'm a lemon-Catholic.

      Imagine how devout Catholics feel regarding how our culture treats Catholicism.

      Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project. www.hamiltonproject.org

      by PatriciaVa on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 06:37:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Larry David's repulsive urination of Jesus Christ (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Robert Fuller

        umwut?

        •  Here's the incident. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Robert Fuller
          http://www.telegraph.co.uk/...

          Catholic League complains after Larry David 'urinates' on Jesus painting in 'Curb your Enthusiasm' episode

          By Nick Allen in Los Angeles

          10:54PM GMT 29 Oct 2009

          In the show David's character accidentally sprays a drip of urine on the picture, which is hanging next to a lavatory. Several other characters then believe the painting is miraculously crying.

          Catholic League president Bill Donahue said: "Was Larry David always this crude? Would he think it comic if someone urinated on a picture of his mother?

          Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project. www.hamiltonproject.org

          by PatriciaVa on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 07:14:57 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  which suggests Donahue didn't see it (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Robert Fuller

            and that's no surprise. He doesn't have to see it to object!

            Larry had taken pills to increase his "flow" and it was so strong that water splashed out of the toilet, high enough to get a couple of drops on a picture hanging on the wall.

            If Donahue had asked "Would he think it comic if someone pissed into a toilet with enough velocity that the resulting splash reached a picture of his mother, said picture being several feet higher than the aforementioned toilet?" then I'd consider his point. As is...no.

            •  in the spirit of Aldous Huxley's version of.... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Prof Haley, Little

              .... the Greek tragedy Oedipus, in Huxley's utopian novel Island, wherein Oedipus sees a psychotherapist rather than engaging in dramatic violence:

              Men really need to sit down when they pee.  Then they won't splatter the walls with nasty pee droplets, much less splash any painting that happens to be hanging above the toilet.  

              That or they need to be consistent and only drink beverages while standing up.  

              Really: much needless drama in life can be prevented by applying common sense.  

              "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

              by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 02:50:45 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Absurdity has its place, (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Robert Fuller

              but just as often it does nothing good.

              Did no one ask "why is this picture hanging next to the urinal?"  Of course not, because that was not the dramatic point being made.  All it does is divide.

              I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

              by trumpeter on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 09:15:47 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  I honestly do not give the beginning of a fuck (3+ / 0-)

            about anything the lying hateful asshole Donahue has to say about this or anything else.

      •  asdf (4+ / 0-)

        The idea of Catholics (and Protestants, and other enormous Christian religions in America) being offended by "our culture" smacks of Dickhead Donahue's "War on Christmas" bullshit.

        Is it honestly too much to ask members of enormous majorities to think of the offense carried by minorities before their own? Is it honestly too much to ask?

      •  What's a lemon Catholic? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Robert Fuller, PatriciaVa

        Never heard that phrase before.

        into the blue again, after the money's gone

        by Prof Haley on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 09:01:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  What makes you think it was not condemned? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Robert Fuller

        Because stupid people are so sure they're smart, they often act smart, and sometimes even smart people are too stupid to recognize that the stupid people acting smart really ARE stupid.

        by ZedMont on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 09:03:34 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  or worse, the "art piece" consisting of... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        PatriciaVa

        ... a crucifix immersed in a jar of what was supposed to be urine (but may have been colored water for all I know).

        Those things are deliberate attempts to offend and IMHO do not qualify as "art," any more than paintings or drawings that promote racial or ethnic stereotypes for purposes of asserting supremacy of one group over another (e.g. Nazi propaganda representations of Jews).  

        "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 02:47:04 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Anyone who believes in a concept (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      G2geek

      thinks that concept is in some way superior to other concepts, or else why would they believe in it? I don't think it's offensive to say so.

      "Okay, until next time. Keep sending me your questions, and I will make fun of you... I mean, answer them." - Strong Bad

      by AaronInSanDiego on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 12:35:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'll recced it for the discussion. (5+ / 0-)

    Though as a monotheistically-raised agnostic, I'm just fine with science as far as it can be expanded and then being content with embracing the mystery.  Humankind's "need to know" is based on fear of the unknown.  I have none.  I think that The Great Unknowing is one of the most beautiful part of human existence.

    Can you call yourself a real liberal if you aren't reading driftglass?

    by CJB on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 06:35:50 PM PDT

    •  "I'll rec this" for the discussion. Yeesh. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Robert Fuller, Little, ZedMont

      Can you call yourself a real liberal if you aren't reading driftglass?

      by CJB on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 06:36:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  It's all fear-based and not just curiosity- (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Robert Fuller, G2geek

      or awe-based? How do you know??

      •  Oh, it could be. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Robert Fuller, ZedMont

        Fear of the hereafter is the heart of most of it, IMO.

        Can you call yourself a real liberal if you aren't reading driftglass?

        by CJB on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 07:02:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  fear of tomatoes doesn't cause fear of chocolate. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          raincrow

          Fear of the unknown of death, or of a believed afterlife punishment, does not generalize to fear of all or even most other aspects of nature.

          Curiosity about nature can in fact assuage fear of death.  

          "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

          by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 02:53:35 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  That's very Western, though (0+ / 0-)

          Most religions throughout history have spent very little time concerned about the hereafter. There was little to no sense of the afterlife in ancient Greco-Roman polytheism, and even ancient Egyptian religion had basically no interest in the subject for anyone not at the top of the social hierarchy.

          Fretting about the afterlife seems to be a preoccupation of the wealthy, frankly. If you're wealthy enough to not have to be constantly concerned about where your next meal is coming from, you are more inclined to worry about what happens to you after you die. Even within Christianity, which has a very strong sense of the hereafter, much of the modern preoccupation with heaven and hell is just that: modern. Roman Catholicism is rather less concerned with the afterlife than most forms of Protestantism, and it was even less so in the past.

          •  Surely you're kidding. (0+ / 0-)

            The vast majority of Christians, like the vast majority of the rest of humanity, have historically been poor or near-poor, e.g., farmers, laborers, trades people, fishers, shopkeepers, etc.; and it was the poor to whom Jesus explicitly ministered.

            Most of the world's spiritual traditions touch on some aspect of life-after-death, whether heaven and/or hell; multiple or endless cycles of reincarnation; or a world of spirits (past, present, and even future) who must be properly honored or avoided.

            •  Society is overwhelmingly poor; philosophy isn't (0+ / 0-)

              Musing on religion and ethics is a rich man's game. The people who have the time, freedom, and education to write at length about their culture are overwhelming rich, or at least reliably self-sufficient. Everyone else is forced to focus on more pressing matters. And, even in context, there's a vast difference in social and economic stability when comparing, say, the wealthy of ancient Mesopotamia and the wealthy of modern America. And the poor in the contemporary West are less likely to have the immediate temporal concerns of a dispossessed peasant in ancient Greece. Which, I hasten to add, is not to minimize the problems faced by the poor and destitute, then or now.

              I stand by my earlier claim. Christianity was really one of the first major religions to fixate on the afterlife. Islam inherited that interest, to a degree. There are some Eastern religious traditions that deal with the matter, but even there, it's not an overwhelming obsession, and there's little sense of a defined afterlife so much as a sort of vague sense of spiritual continuation. Ancient paganism basically didn't deal with it at all: the Greeks and Romans practiced a form of ancestor worship, but nothing especially well defined, and there was nothing comparable to heaven in either tradition. Only major heroes were depicted as experiencing any real life-after-death, and there was no sense of a person continuing on after death in any significant sense.

              The idea that religion exists primarily to answer questions about the hereafter is ahistorical. For most of recorded history, religion existed to help regulate social and philosophical behavior during mortal life. I'd argue that's still it's most significant function, only that the tools it uses towards that end have evolved with society. The idea that an angry God will scuttle your harvest next year, or condemn your city's next military adventure, is a less immediate incentive for specific behavior than it was millennia ago.

              •  Your claim was that "[f]retting about the (0+ / 0-)

                afterlife seems to be a preoccupation of the wealthy."

                I stand by my claim that this claim of yours is incorrect. Just for starts, check out the Pew survey and do the arithmetic; you're off by a light year.

                I infer you've spent little time around poor people, or otherwise managed to insulate yourself from the sorrows and hopes of people who are struggling day by day. To think that you actually believe they're too busy to dare to believe, and look forward to -- whether or not it is a fairytale -- a time when they will not be mired in a life of marginalization; contempt; slavery; starvation; material deprivation; the agony, disfigurement, and disability of untreated disease and injury; death in childbirth; infant mortality; forced marriage; governmental oppression; ad infinitem.

                How cavalier.

                I'm done w this thread. Good night.

                •  Not at all (0+ / 0-)

                  It's a matter of priorities. I may meditate on the question of life after death, but if I need to spend ten hours of day working to ensure that my family can eat next week, where are my priorities going to lie? Organized religion, historically, needs to speak to the needs of the people, in a role not too fundamentally dissimilar to government itself (the division between the two is a relatively modern innovation, after all). Throughout most of history, that meant dealing with immediate temporal concerns: food, clothing, shelter, protection, and so on. That's not to say that people didn't think about it, but for most of them, the hereafter was a secondary issue, at best. You have other things to worry about.

                  It's not that poor people (or anyone else, for that matter) is "too busy" to think about the afterlife (where did that claim come from, anyway?), it's that religion itself is fundamentally a social phenomenon, and it speaks to the things that most directly concern its adherents. If it doesn't, what good is it, and, more to the point, who's going to follow it? When day-to-day survival becomes less of an issue (partially because of improved quality-of-life, and partially because of the division of religion and government into two distinct spheres dealing with the eternal and the temporal, respectively), religion focuses to a much greater extent on questions of the afterlife.

                  Even if you don't buy the argument, you still need to deal with the evidence. Classical paganism has an ill-defined concept of the afterlife: there is an underworld, of course, but it's typically restricted to classical heroes, not the common man. There's a strong strain of ancestor worship, but even that has less to do with the persistence of the individual after death than the memory of the dead in the living. Other faiths tend to follow a similar trajectory: ancient Egyptian religion has a very strong idea of the afterlife, but if you're not part of the ruling elite, you're unlikely to ever see it. Shintoism follows a similar model to Greco-Roman paganism. Even in Hinduism, which comes the closest to a defined cosmology of the afterlife in the form of reincarnation, develops the idea relatively late: it's treated only vaguely in the earliest extant Vedic texts, and develops in its full form later. In all cases, these traditions pale in comparison to the near-obsession of both Christianity and Islam with the question. That they stand out as unusual in this regard is marked in the historical record: one of the most common Roman insults against Christianity was that it was a "death cult."

        •  I infer that you're much more fear-driven than I, (0+ / 0-)

          and/or the people you know are more fear-driven than the people I know. Yet another instance of "same planet, different universes."

          •  Me? No. (0+ / 0-)

            That was my point above.  But Christianity is carrot-and-stick based.  Promise of heaven or threat of hell drives the actions of many, if not most Christians.

            Can you call yourself a real liberal if you aren't reading driftglass?

            by CJB on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 05:42:58 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Claim what you will, but if you see most human (0+ / 0-)

              activity being motivated by fear of the unknown, I have to wonder if fear is more of a motivator for you than you may realize.

              And the fear content in Christianity is very denominational/cultural. Presby USA, Quakers, Episcopalians, leftist Catholics, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), to name a few, are very long on carrot (and by that I mean love, forgiveness, grace, mercy, compassion, all that obnoxiously mushy stuff), with little or no stick.

              Plenty of us are simply do not believe there is a "stick."

    •  Fear of the unknown? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Robert Fuller, G2geek

      I'd like to know how and when I can plant my crops so they'll sprout and grow and not be killed by drought and be harvested before the winter.  It wanting to know that points me, initially, in a religious direction, then how is that motivated by fear?  And yet that was one of the prime motivators of prehistoric religion.  If you didn't have science, postulating the possibility of a big old dude in the sky pissing through a sieve on you when you needed rain was at least a first attempt at a working hypothesis.

      •  Yeah, "humankind" was too broad. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Robert Fuller, Dumbo

        I was thinking Christianity historically, I suppose.  

        And I find all modern monotheism to be fear/reward based.

        Can you call yourself a real liberal if you aren't reading driftglass?

        by CJB on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 08:29:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well, that's too broad, also, (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Robert Fuller, G2geek, raincrow

          when you say "all modern monotheism."  The debate between fundamentalists and atheists drowns out more sophisticated discussions of religion, to everybody's detriment.  And it hasn't always been so, either.  The nineteenth century, for instance, saw greater laxity in the definition of and discussion of God than we see today, in the early twenty-first century.  I did a diary, for instance, on Beethoven's Ninth that discussed some of the Enlightenment era's conceptions of God which were more abstract and less dogmatic than the crap you see on Sunday night cable TV.  It wasn't all about fear of the unknown.  The Enlightenment era's growth of rationalism the belief that everything is capable of being understood -- and that's what Fuller is pursuing here -- gave rise to wider discussions than the usual "Do this, believe this, or you'll be struck by lightning and go to hell."

          •  This all speaks to (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Robert Fuller

            what I consider the over-thinking of religion.

            For me?  I don't care.  I don't care if people believe in one God or a thousand gods or no God.

            It doesn't matter.

            Really.  The light's going to go out some day no matter what one believes in.

            A ton of people fear that light going out.  I don't.

            That was my point.  

            Can you call yourself a real liberal if you aren't reading driftglass?

            by CJB on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 09:06:43 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Actually, I suppose that should read (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Robert Fuller, Dumbo

              the over-thinking of "existence."  

              We're here.  We're mortal.  Get used to it.  

              Can you call yourself a real liberal if you aren't reading driftglass?

              by CJB on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 09:13:23 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Don't assume all Christians obsess about death (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Robert Fuller

                or give a hoot about whether there is or is not an afterlife.

                Within the human population, there are people who cannot accept death/oblivion, and there are people who have no problem with it (especially as long as getting there doesn't hurt too badly). Some of both kinds of people are religious adherents, some of both kinds are not.

                Perhaps you're "over-thinking" religion.

            •  Well, I'm a compulsive over-thinker. (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Robert Fuller, G2geek, raincrow

              I'm bipolar.  When I have insomnia, I can dwell on shit like this all night long.  It's just part of who I am.  

              There's a fallacy one can engage in where you say that because something was primitive in its origins that it can't be sophisticated today.  Religion in the nascent stages of human development, and religion in the tent-revival snake-handlin' form may be primitive, in one case, or fearful and stupid, in the other.  That doesn't mean religion can't be a fruitful area for more sophisticated and abstract "over-thinking" thought.  Thousands of years have passed since the earliest men made totem poles and danced around them.  That's a lot of time for a lot of development in a lot of directions.

              I assume I'm going to die some day and there's no way around that.  It's interesting, though, to think about what death means.  It's interesting that we even have a single word, a noun, an abstract concept that we throw around like a THING, like death.  I don't believe I'm going to heaven.  I don't believe in harps, or angels, or a God in a toga and flip-flips, or Hell, or the literal word of anything.  But I still think that life and death and existence are bigger abstractions than the primitive commonsense ideas that most of us grew up with, the one where the lights just go out.  

              For instance, for you to die, you have to first be alive.  To be alive, you have to exist.  Do we exist?  Then what the hell are we?  

              Your first answer and first idea of the answer to that question is probably not very well worked out.  I don't know THE answer to that question.  I do know that the first answer and first idea that I had to that question doesn't satisfy my sense today of what is correct.

              There are a lot of ways of tackling the human fear of death.  Some of them are stupid.  Some aren't.

              •  excellent. (0+ / 0-)

                BTW, a few of my genius friends over the years are also bipolar, it seems to go with the territory to some extent.  The trick is to find a way to limit the "high energy / negative emotion" mixed-mood state, because that's more dangerous than the "classic depression" phase.

                Anyway... yeah it would be very interesting to talk about overcoming the fear of death, and about how the proposition of existence in the first place relates to the question of death.

                BTW here's one to ponder: semantic information appears to be orthogonal to thermodynamics.  

                See also Chalmer's "interactionist" theory of mind, and Penrose & Hameroff's "orchestrated objective-reduction" theory of consciousness.  

                Wild speculation (reducible to a hypothesis): brains and similar complex information-bearing systems produce a temporary localization of information, and collection of new information from environment, all of which goes back to a "field" after the individual brain (or equivalent structure) ceases to function.  

                If you want to get in touch via email, my public email address is:  
                g2g-public01 (at) att (dot) net.

                "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 03:05:48 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I suspect we could have a lot of stuff (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  G2geek

                  to throw back and forth at each other.  Keep a watch for my music diaries, because I often go off on long tangents about philosophy and I could use some discussion to poke and prod me back to reality occasionally.

                  I'm pretty sure you read my diary about Schrodinger's Pooty for Losers Club.  "
                  There's also this diary you might not have seen, The Meaning of the Universe, where I discussed The Sims and the TOE.

                  So here's my first question:  How do we know that we're not part of a giant simulation game?  If Sims were much, much more intelligent, might they not ask that same question?  Why is their virtual world less real than our own?

                  There is a determinist formula that produces the world that the Sims live in, and all their behavior.  That formula is called the Sims game itself, $39.99 or something from EA.  If, rather than The Sims, we call it function F(I), where I are whatever initial conditions are provided, and F() is the game program, then the result would be the set of possible worlds and stories that can be told with the game.  In one of those worlds, let's say there is a Sim who, because of the way the game plays out, actually wonders about the nature of his world, how it works, what the formulas are that govern it, and what the logic is behind the whole thing.  

                  Is his world real?  To him, it is.  Everywhere he looks, there's his Sim-world, even when he looks in the mirror. Is he real?  Well, to us, he's a real Sim, but our opinion and definition of his reality would be different from his.

                  I spent a while today googling up interactionism and all the links that arose from that.  One of the things that frustrates me when I get into philosophical discussions at the serious level is when we get into terms of art, because they start to confuse and confound me.  I'm basically a smart but ignorant guy and use that to my advantage for teaching purposes.  The less I know, it turns out, the better I am able to explain things.  So I tend to filter out the abstruse and academic and try to boil things down into my own words.

                  From what I could read of Chalmers (I've downloaded his book but haven't read it yet, don't know when I'll get to it) and from the wikipedia entry on Penrose's OR theory, I guess I would categorize my own thoughts on mind first as epiphenomenal.  I.e., the mind is a product of physical processes.  But I skip around that quite a bit because I choose to see all physical processes as part of a greater model, that great F(I) function, the TOE or God or The Sims(tm) or whatever you want to call it.  And I see our existence as not being more substantial than that of a Sim.  The fact that there may be a deterministic model that can describe everything that happens in our world is adequate to definine for me what makes me operate in this world.  

                  In fact, I see no difference between that model existing and our universe and ourselves existing, no need for a prime mover to think it up or instigate it, no need for anybody to actually put the Sims(tm) into the computer and click Start.  Just the theoretical existence of a model.  That may take some wool-gathering to fully appreciate.  I say that all the Sims that could ever exist do exist regardless of whether anybody ever plays the game because the game defines what they would be.

                  Now, everything that I've said above would seem plausible and worth discussing to an atheist, and would probably make them see me as an atheist too.  It's a matter of definitions.  My own thoughts on what makes us who we are, however, doesn't stop there, and I'm not sure it falls under any of the categories that Chalmers and Penrose and wikipedia suggest for philosophy of mind.  In fact, most of the entries in Philosophy of Mind seem focused on how to recreate and model the mind and its interaction with the physical world.  As somebody who used to work in AI, I can appreciate that.  

                  I, however, start from the basic assumption that there EXISTS a formula for recreating what we call the mind either in silicon or through other means, and leave the actual demonstration prototype of that to others to work out in future times.  I just assume it can be done.  My interest is in what makes me ME as I experience me on a subjective level.

                  So I come at this from a different POV, that of a poet.  If you prefer to get academic then, you could say I come at it from the POV of linguistics.  

                  I thought I invented the phrase, "We are made of narrative," and joked about copyrighting it but somebody in another forum pointed out that googling that phrase up shows others have used it, so I'm glum about that.  But that does sum up my own imperfect thoughts on the matter.  It requires explanation.

                  What are you, right now?  Are you your memories?  That's a decent first stab at it.  You are a bunch of memories and tendencies to operate a certain distinct way and relationships you have formed in your life, etc.  However, that big lump of stuff you call your memories is UNORDERED and MEANINGLESS until you impose some kind of order on it.  That is, you create a narrative out of your memories.  That narrative is you.  It's constantly being edited.  It's not a consistent narrative, it's not complete, a lot of it is probably just plain ego-protecting lies, and there are probably multiple versions if it laying around in your head that you call for on special occasions.  I take the position that that narrative is YOU, and without it, YOU DON'T EXIST.  

                  I'll go further and assert that very strongly, and this is where I take big risks.  Without a narrative, you're nothing at all!  Nothing!!!!

                  That's a powerful statement, whether it's right or wrong.  It either flies or it crashes and burns.  It shouldn't frighten you, though, because, without a narrative, there would be nothing there of you to be frightened, just a disorganized lump of memories and feelings and impulses.  It's how you organize them that makes you you.

                  I suspect at some point we will have an AI consciousness program capable of some original problem solving and of looking and operating and interacting like a human.  Unless that AI, however, is capable of (in my opinion) forming its own narrative based on past experiences, it will not exist as a person.  It will just be highly functional.  

                  This isn't, if you think about it, a very high benchmark to set.  If you can simulate everything else, forming a narrative, a story strung together out of the experiences of your existence, isn't as hard as many other problems of hard AI.  Yet without it, I don't believe real creative thought is possible.  Without that narrative-building, you can't make judgment calls about the breadth of your experience and choices about where you want to go that fit into a pattern that we expect of a human.

                  I've been having a shitload of fun doing my music series.  Part of my job is explaining to people how to listen to a huge lump of musical sounds and to first organize them into discrete parts and then to hear in them a narrative that makes 60 minutes of it worth listening to, something with a beginning and a middle and an end and a message that's uplifting or depressing or whatever, all of it accomplished without a single word, simply a big patterns of notes.  

                  The problems of composers are distinct from the problems of listeners.  The listener must IMPOSE ORDER on these sounds.  And this is what a useful consciousness must do.  We impose order on things that are otherwise just big fuzzy lumps of nothing.  What we do when we listen to music is (I'm glad I started this post now, because it's clarifyng my thoughts on this) is analogous to what we do when we create the narrative of whom we are.  

                  Here's one of the original Rorschach blob prints:

                  I take a different POV today.  I believe what we see in the blob is far more important than the facts of the blob's genesis.  The importance I placed back then on a single objective interpretation of things led me to minimize the reality of the dancing bears and maximize the reality of the psychiatrist folding a piece of inky paper.  Not today.  I see the personal interpretation of the blob as being of huge importance.  My interpretation of it might not be important to you or anybody else, and maybe not too important to me either, but my capacity to create dancing bears out of a blob of ink is crucial to me being who I am.  It's crucial to my ability to impose order on chaos, and thus to make me exist.

                  Spacy shit, I know.  

                  Now, given that, what conclusions can I draw as to the question of, what is death?  I don't want to get started on that, but you can see that this has a very great bearing on that.  One possible answer would be that when you die, whatever happens to you is what happens when you close a book.  Is the story over?  How can it be?  The book is still there, even when nobody is reading it.

                  •  Part of that post got roached. (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    G2geek

                    Here's what got left out...

                    Here's one of the original Rorschach blob prints:


                    Now, when I look at this, I see two dancing bears.  According to wikipedia, a plurality see a bat or an insect.  Fine, whatever.  My first impression when I was exposed to the test and its interpretations back when I was a college sophomore was to think, "Oh, how interesting that people see such creative things in it when there's REALLY NOTHING THERE.  They really are just blobs of ink!"

                    I take a different POV today...

                    •  replying to both comments here.... (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Dumbo

                      One thing that can't be done on a silicon AI platform is the spectrum of human emotions, which are essentially the interaction of chemicals with organic neurons.   The electrical interactions between neurons are not the entirety of consciousness: at least a large chunk of it is chemical.  You know this in your own experience with bipolar states and possibly with medicine used to level out the extremes.  I learned it in my experience in a different way that I might describe in private email at some point (I don't do biography in public:-).

                      So far we have: electrical interactions and chemical interactions.  But how does a neuron function as a node in a neural network?  That's where Penrose & Hameroff's Orch-OR theory of neural computation comes in: that's the piece they have that noone else has a decent competing theory for.  And their piece involves quantum computation by proteins in the microtubules in the neurons.   So now we also have QM effects: indeterminacy and nonlocality.  

                      Brains also have "noisy neurons" that are probabilistic: 50% probability of firing in response to an input: so this becomes a random noise injector into the system.  

                      Organic brains are remarkably efficient systems that can combine at least all four of those types of interactions.

                      We might be able to simulate them in silicon and software, and we might get similar-enough behavioral outputs to be useful, e.g. new answers to various questions.  But I am seriously skeptical that what goes on inside such a platform is identical to, or even similar to, what goes on in an organic (carbon-based) brain.

                      Then comes the "information" side of the equation.  We both understand Shannon information.  What about semantic information?  It's not the same.  And it doesn't seem to care a whole lot about thermodynamics.  

                      Take a punched-paper teletype tape of a Shakespeare play, run it forward through the machine, and it prints out something semantically meaningful.  Run it backward through the machine, and it prints out something that is semantically meaningless (or at best can be read with considerable effort).  Yet the quantity of electrical energy consumed (voltage drop, current x time) are identical.  What does that tell us?  That there is no entropy penalty for semantic meaning, or for semantic information as compared to Shannon information.

                      Even simpler:  "car" and "automobile," three bytes vs. ten, conveying the same semantic meaning.  "Car" has slightly more ambiguity when the context is "train station": is the person getting into the four-wheeled road vehicle to leave the train station, or are they getting into the carriage that is part of the train?  But aside from those types of artificial confounds, "car" and "automobile" also illustrate the point that Shannon information and entropy cost, haven't a whole lot to do with semantic information.  

                      So: what is this Information of which Chalmers speaks?  It's not Shannon information.  And if it truly is orthogonal to thermodynamics, that has a whole slew of very interesting implications.  

                      There's been a lot of philosophical discussion around the question "are we characters in a simulation?," but to my mind it fails due to a) Occam and b) consistency of the universe as observed: as with the atheist speaking of God, "we have no need of that (sim) hypothesis."  

                      Agreed, narrative is one of the core ways people make sense of their world including themselves.  Narratives are influenced by emotions, so one person may be ego-protective, another may be ego-critical, and so on.  We see this in psychoacoustics, thus your point about how a symphony has within it a narrative: music alters consciousness in various ways (time and space sense, emotional states).   When you put a bunch of those together in a sequence that in any way resembles the sequence used in fiction, the result is an emotional and cognitive experience similar to reading a fictional narrative, but without being contained in the form of words.  It's open-ended, it can stand for or encompass any number of possible narratives.

                      A symphony that entails the emotional and cognitive narrative of, for example a struggle between powerful forces, can be felt as a metaphor for politics, for nature, for good and evil, for history, for an individual's own internal struggles, and more.  

                      I don't think the word "impose" is the best way to describe how it is that people experience order in the elements that make up a narrative.  That works in some cases, but in others it's more like "discovering" order.   The human brain both seeks out patterns and creates patterns.  We create patterns in the arts; we seek out patterns in the sciences.  The apparent patterns we find in nature have some degree of objective reality or we couldn't use them to create supportable hypotheses and replicable experiments.  Nature doesn't care whether we think its patterns are aesthetically pleasing.  Nature builds with few and simple rules, so patterns and comprehensible consistency are outcomes of that.

                      And about death, I'd suggest that what happens is more similar to a drop of rain splashing into the ocean.  The drop of water doesn't lose its existence; it gains the existence of the greater whole.  That of course is pure speculation, but it has enough basis in observables to be worth contemplating if nothing else.  

                      About that inkblot, I'll say more in email...

                      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                      by G2geek on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 12:10:59 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

              •  Your post (Dumbo) reminds me of good new book: (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Dumbo

                Incognito by David Eagleman. It addresses some of the questions you raise in a way that I think you'll find illuminating. And in a way that will perhaps provoke you to come up with better questions and better answers as neuroscience comes into its own -- which looks to be soon! This field is apt to trump the paradigm shifts occasioned by Copernicus/Darwin/Watson & Crick, all rolled into one. A still largely unimaginable psycho-tectonic shift in the making, the end result of which will be a radically different view of what we now call "the self."

          •  exactly right. are you local? (0+ / 0-)

            You have so got it, it isn't even funny.

            BTW, are you in the San Francisco Bay Area?  

            "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

            by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 02:58:19 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  A link to the diary I mentioned. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Robert Fuller, G2geek
        •  That's not how I was brought up with (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          G2geek, Remediator, Robert Fuller, Dumbo

          Judaism. Promises of reward or punishment in the afterlife were not emphasized, although there were prayers that referred to them. Maybe that's one reason why the beliefs didn't stick with me, although I respected them.

          "Okay, until next time. Keep sending me your questions, and I will make fun of you... I mean, answer them." - Strong Bad

          by AaronInSanDiego on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 12:23:38 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  and/or, Jewish culture has a strength for... (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Remediator, Robert Fuller, Dumbo

            .... being able to cohere culturally even with wide variability as to degree of religiosity among individuals.  

            And from what I can tell, Judaism as a religion also stands strongly without need of a specific belief about the hereafter.  It might prove fruitful to compare with Buddhism in that regard, since the Buddha's teachings also do not emphasize the hereafter.  

            "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

            by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 03:09:38 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Although there is Joseph and his coat, (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              G2geek, Robert Fuller

              described as a multi-colored garment, and in some interpretations, a remnant of the goddess religions which predate the male-dominant Jehovah.  

              One tasty tangential consideration for this original diarist might be to decide whether original multi-god models evolved into monotheistic models or whether they became diluted.  

              And whether large nation-states are a better-run socio-political model than local villages.  There's some serious blood on the tracks there.  It might be worth a look.  

              •  the conventional interpretation of history... (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Robert Fuller, seancdaug, Remediator

                .... is that polytheism in Rome "evolved into" monotheism with the rise of the Abrahamic traditions.  

                But you make a good point: polytheism may have become "diluted into" monotheism.  

                From what I understand of the Judaic scriptures, Yhwh was one deity of many in the region, who had a unique relationship with the Jews.  Jesus started out as something like a Rabbi seeking to work within the Jewish tradition but ending up with a sufficiently divergent message as to end up founding a new religion.  The Prophet Mohammed came to his own monotheism somewhat independently through direct revelation, but taught that Allah was the same deity as that of the other "people of the book" meaning Christians and Jews.

                So in that span of history we see one god from a pantheon, becoming a many-faceted unitive deity for an entire region and three major faiths.  

                "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 06:56:24 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I think your insights are faithful to (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Dumbo

                  those traditions, as given, and as considered over many centuries from (in the West) the ministry of Jesus.  

                  I am distrustful of those who came later who pecked and poked around with the original texts such that no one can make a whole lot of sense of several passages in the New Testament.  This far down the path, all we have is what's there, in the various versions of the NT.  

                  The function of consolidation might be an evolutionary impulse, but in the world before monotheism, there was no need felt for any unification.  That seems to me to be a notion imposed upon what existed and not something manifest because it evolved.  What also is worrisome about monotheism is that it lends itself to authoritarianism and indirectly imbues kings and the like to repress entire cultures.  

                  In the novel At Play in the Fields of the Lord, Peter Mathiessen draws this model out with an Amazon-basin tribe of peoples whose culture is self-contained and in no need at all of "unification."  I would expect their Science to have been primitive by Western standards, although living in isolation, need and response to need are sustaining.  

                  Across that same historical span where one god becomes a many-faceted diety is also the subtraction of uniqueness of cultures or sub-cultures.  'Dilution' stays with me.  I'm not on board with the unification because I don't see a persuasive rationale for it.  

                •  One interpretation I've read is that (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Remediator, Dumbo

                  the God of the Torah was a combination of more than one deity. There are different names used for God in the Torah (YHVH, Elohim, El Shaddai, etc.), and one of them, Elohim, is in the plural form. I've read that "El" is sometimes identified with another pre-Israelite deity. The Documentary Hypothesis says that there are different parallel narratives, subsequently edited and stitched together. I think some of these different narratives are identified with different names for God.

                  "Okay, until next time. Keep sending me your questions, and I will make fun of you... I mean, answer them." - Strong Bad

                  by AaronInSanDiego on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 07:04:08 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

            •  Judaism and the Hereafter (5+ / 0-)

              Jews invest far less speculation and anxiety in the question of an afterlife than Christians do. For Jews, what matters is survival in MEMORY. Personally I find that a healthier and more creative perspective.

        •  Jesus disagreed with that. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          LanceBoyle, raincrow

          "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, mind, and soul."

          Nothing in there about "fear."

          "God-fearing" is the product of small minds who are trapped in fear for reasons that have everything to do with social psychology and nothing to do with what Jesus actually said (or was attributed to have said).  

          "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

          by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 02:55:30 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Depends on the monotheist (0+ / 0-)

          I'm afraid of people, not God; and most of the people I hang with at church feel pretty much the same way. I can't recall the last time I heard any of them talk about heaven, unless we were discussing chocolate; and I'm definitely sure the last time I heard one of them say "hell" was when they did something klutzy.

      •  How about fear of starvation? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Robert Fuller, Dumbo
        I'd like to know how and when I can plant my crops so they'll sprout and grow and not be killed by drought and be harvested before the winter.

        Because stupid people are so sure they're smart, they often act smart, and sometimes even smart people are too stupid to recognize that the stupid people acting smart really ARE stupid.

        by ZedMont on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 09:06:42 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well, if you go there, then everything (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Robert Fuller, G2geek

          is based on fear.  Including agriculture science and meteorology.

          •  I would say agriculture is based on hunger, but I (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Robert Fuller

            concede "fear of hunger" fits as well.  Science and meteorology are relatively recent, and in my opinion are the result of curiosity aroused by anomalies in religious myths that probably did result from fear of the unknown.  One close lightning strike would be enough to arouse it.

            I wouldn't conclude that because one thing might be based on fear, though, that it necessarily follows that everything is based on fear.

            I will say, however, that - again in my opinion - what passes in right wing circles as "Christianity" is almost certainly based on fear of hell.  Right wing sermons are centered on one's own "salvation." It is certainly not a brand of Christianity based on love and human kindness.  There is lip service given to salvation of others, but were that a serious concept, these so-called "Christians" would not taunt others with such epithets as "burn in hell, __ (fill in blank with faggot, atheist, baby killer, etc.).

            Because stupid people are so sure they're smart, they often act smart, and sometimes even smart people are too stupid to recognize that the stupid people acting smart really ARE stupid.

            by ZedMont on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 09:55:18 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  emotions lead and reason follows, and so does.... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              raincrow, ZedMont

              ....faith.

              Persons who are inherently fearful, will find "reasons" for their fearfulness, whether those "reasons" are based on ordinary experiences (e.g. lightning) or on religious beliefs, or something else.

              Persons who are inherently loving, (etc., same).

              Persons who are inherently curious (etc., same).

              Persons who seek to dominate others (etc., same).

              Persons who seek to liberate others (etc., same).

              "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

              by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 03:12:21 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  Beautifully stated, CJB. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Robert Fuller, CJB

      Because stupid people are so sure they're smart, they often act smart, and sometimes even smart people are too stupid to recognize that the stupid people acting smart really ARE stupid.

      by ZedMont on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 09:05:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Sorry but this doesn't make sense n/t (3+ / 0-)
  •  And Romneyism is the political counterpart to your (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Robert Fuller

    claim that

    Monotheism is the theological counterpart of the scientist’s belief in the ultimate reconcilability of apparently contradictory observations into one consistent framework.

    Proud to be a Truth Vigilante

    by Calvino Partigiani on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 06:37:25 PM PDT

  •  The assumption that the universe is comprehensible (8+ / 0-)

    is not an article of faith.  There is no choice, since if the universe is not comprehensible, there would be no knowledge.  In fact, if the universe were not comprehensible, how could anything even exist?  There have to be some sort of regularities, for thought or anything else to exist.  So we have to assume that there is some comprehensibility to try to figure out anything.

    "The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." Bertrand Russell

    by Thutmose V on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 06:38:05 PM PDT

  •  Monotheism was great for a while, (12+ / 0-)

    because it forced us to build accurate timepieces so that we could all pray at the proper times.

    Since we got that done, it's been kind of a drag on us.

    Just one Vor's opinion.

    Fair's fair. I don't vote in your church; don't go preaching in my government New ad 6/28: "Triage"

    by Crashing Vor on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 06:48:05 PM PDT

  •  let me know when you get down to 0 (13+ / 0-)

    “There can be no happiness if the things we believe in are different from the things we do.”-Freya Stark

    by in2mixin on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 06:49:13 PM PDT

    •  or how about -1 gods? (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Robert Fuller, Wee Mama, kyril, G2geek

      It's fascinating to contemplate a universe in which there are less than no gods. How would it work?

      "In America, the law is king." --Thomas Paine

      by limpidglass on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 07:00:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Made me smile (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ZedMont, kyril, G2geek

        Math took off when we finally imagined negative numbers (after first inventing the zero!) Maybe religion will revive by imagining "less than zero" gods after first imagining no gods.

        •  If the number of gods was proportional to the (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Robert Fuller

          goodness and kindness of humans, we'd definitely be into negative numbers.

          Because stupid people are so sure they're smart, they often act smart, and sometimes even smart people are too stupid to recognize that the stupid people acting smart really ARE stupid.

          by ZedMont on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 09:10:26 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Oh, I disagree with that, but (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ZedMont

            I guess experiences vary.

            "Okay, until next time. Keep sending me your questions, and I will make fun of you... I mean, answer them." - Strong Bad

            by AaronInSanDiego on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 11:08:29 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Well, that's actually in your favor, that you see (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              AaronInSanDiego

              the goodness and kindness in humans.  I see it too in individuals.  I just can't get past all the horrible things that people do to each other all over the world, the wars, atrocities, etc.  I am a pessimist, that's for sure.

              Better if you concentrate on the good, I agree.  :)

              Because stupid people are so sure they're smart, they often act smart, and sometimes even smart people are too stupid to recognize that the stupid people acting smart really ARE stupid.

              by ZedMont on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 07:55:09 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I don't think of myself as a person who (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                ZedMont, Wee Mama

                concentrates on the good. In fact I struggle quite a bit with negative thoughts, but they aren't usually focused on other people. I tend to believe in the good intentions of others, sometimes to my own detriment.

                "Okay, until next time. Keep sending me your questions, and I will make fun of you... I mean, answer them." - Strong Bad

                by AaronInSanDiego on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 10:06:35 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

      •  That's when the psychologists explain away (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Robert Fuller

        free will and consciousness, and there are no more humans.

        Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

        by Wee Mama on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 07:33:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  there's a difference between.... (0+ / 0-)

          ... "explaining" and "explaining away."  Though, the materialist monist theory of mind tends to conflate the two, to a degree that strictly speaking does not comport with all available empirical findings (and also attempts to "explain away" those it does not comport with!).  

          "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

          by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 03:25:59 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Consciousness and free will are (or should be) (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            G2geek, Robert Fuller

            challenging to a pure materialism. Either they are mere epiphenomena, which leads to an epistemological challenge, or they are capable of actual material effects, which leads to an ontological challenge.

            Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

            by Wee Mama on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 08:47:25 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  in the end i think it most likely... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Robert Fuller, Wee Mama

              .... that consciousness and the brain will be found to each reciprocally have effects on the other.

              The fact that subtle alterations in brain chemistry (e.g. 25 micrograms of LSD) can have profound effects on consciousness, was in the early 20th century considered a remarkable and radical proposition.  Today it's part of the mainstream paradigm.  

              Today, the very fact that people can be taught, through biofeedback training, to modify the activity of their brains in desired ways, is a Gödelian paradox.  The brain should not be able to modify its own activity from within itself in that way, and yet the procedure has become totally routine in stress management clinics around the world.  

              "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

              by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 10:46:29 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  I've seen these claims made several times (0+ / 0-)

              and I still have trouble understanding why those are the only two choices. Maybe I just need to read more.

              "Okay, until next time. Keep sending me your questions, and I will make fun of you... I mean, answer them." - Strong Bad

              by AaronInSanDiego on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 10:38:53 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  Euler answered that . . . (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Robert Fuller

        something about imaginary pie . . .

        Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

        by Deward Hastings on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 08:41:42 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  ooh, good one! (0+ / 0-)

        Less than zero, applied to deities.  

        Interesting logical paradox, since "less than one of any object" is almost like a Zen koan.  

        A universe with less than no gods, might be a universe in which the demand for gods was higher than the supply, in a manner of speaking.  A universe in which intelligent species sought out a unifying principle to provide a foundation for the sense of meaning, but were so far unable to find one.  

        Similar to asking the questions "what is gravity?" and "what is consciousness?" and being able to operationalize certain mechanisms for each without really answering the hard question.

        In any case, your question has just made it into my paradigm.  Congratulations, that takes serious doing.

        "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 03:22:01 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  As mythology, (6+ / 0-)

    ten is better than one.

    They keep in character better. And get to, um, interact.

    •  As mythology (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Garrett, G2geek

      ten is indeed better than one.

    •  Mormons agree with you, in a way. They accept the (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Robert Fuller, G2geek

      trinity, but a trinity of three completely separate entities who sit in council with each other.

      Because stupid people are so sure they're smart, they often act smart, and sometimes even smart people are too stupid to recognize that the stupid people acting smart really ARE stupid.

      by ZedMont on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 09:11:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  in which case.... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ZedMont

        ... the Holy Spirit is an independent force that interacts with humans, rather than a manifestation of God that interacts with humans?  

        "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 03:28:43 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm not sure how it works, to be honest. It's (0+ / 0-)

          just that they don't say what I was always told about the trinity, i.e., it's three separate entities that are at the same time one entity.  Never could wrap my brain around that one myself.  

          Because stupid people are so sure they're smart, they often act smart, and sometimes even smart people are too stupid to recognize that the stupid people acting smart really ARE stupid.

          by ZedMont on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 07:43:10 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Monotheism and Platonism (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Robert Fuller, FG, Dumbo

    may well be why most theoretical physicists are still searching for an ultimately simple TOE.

    But what if there is no simple, intelligible, axiomatic basis for physics? What if the truth is more like biology, and physics is actually a complex result of historical accidents and selection processes? (E.g. cosmological selection/fecund universes). Then our monotheistic bias toward ultimate simplicity is in fact an intellectual disadvantage.

    •  That's a possibility. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      atana, Robert Fuller, G2geek
      a complex result of historical accidents and selection processes?
      I remember when the colliding m-brane theory for the creation of our universe came out and started to gain cred.  It was interesting because it posited the existence of time BEFORE the universe began (something we had always been told was impossible by the very definition of time) and that forward moving events outside our universe and before our universe gave birth to our universe.  That is fascinating, and, if true, really puts a crimp in any hope we had of having a VERY simple theory that will describe the way everything had to be from the first moment of existence to the last.  It suggests there's all this shit out there that we'll never be able to know anything about, just as a goldfish in a bowl knows nothing about the rest of the house.
    •  one thing we know pretty well is... (0+ / 0-)

      ... that Newtonian laws of motion, and Einsteinian general relativity (GR), and quantum mechanics (QM) appear to work at distances as far away in the universe as we can detect and measure.  

      Biology emerges from chemistry, and chemistry emerges from physics.  One doesn't usually have to go directly from biology to physics, though nowadays this is being done more and more where it appears that chemistry alone doesn't answer a question sufficiently.  

      We can reasonably assume that the laws of physics are the same throughout the observable universe.  

      That is not a claim for what might be the case in the event of multiple universes, whether consecutive or coexisting.  And as of yet we don't have any empirical basis to arrive at theories of biology other than the ones that pertain to carbon-based life that uses liquid water as its transport mechanism.  

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 03:39:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Monotheism and platonism (0+ / 0-)

      Yes, atana, that would seem to be the case. But we won't know until we've tried a lot longer and a lot harder. My hunch is that there is a TOE for particle physics and cosmology. But after that, I'm not so sure, because a redefinition of the very self/selves that are doing the searching seems imminent, and I suspect that is going to change the nature of research into what we now like to think of as objective reality. Thanks for a fruitful suggestion.

  •  I would pay rapt attention to a (5+ / 0-)

    horticulturist tell me all that might be known about a given plant.

    I would listen just as attentively to Robert Graves tell me about the flower myths from Greek antiquity (and earlier).  

    Not sure why I can't have both, admire both, and value their contribution to my understanding of things.  

    That flower can mean many things, all of them charged with delight.  

  •  Nice article, but I have to respectfully disagree (6+ / 0-)

    with you on a few points.  First, let me congratulate you for sparing me the usual anti-science religious dogma, which seems to be the only religious debate that I ever hear on here.  Fundamentalists and, oddly enough, many atheists seem deeply entrenched into that primitive conception of God and it makes for many tedious arguments.

    Okay, now for some nitpicking.  This leapt out and bit me.

    This means that the imprimatur of authority (e.g., the King or the Church or any number of pedigreed experts) is not enough to make a proposition true. Authorities who make pronouncements that overlook or suppress inconsistencies in the evidence do not, for long, retain their authority.

    Monotheism is therefore not only a powerful constraint on the models we build, it is also a first step toward opening the quest for truth to outsiders and amateurs, who may see things differently than the establishment. Buried within the model of monotheism lies the democratic ideal of no favored status.

    I couldn't disagree more.  This depends on the conception of God we're dealing with, but the conception that has a supreme entity is very NON-Democratic by its nature!  The word SUPREME in SUPREME BEING is the tip-off there.  Monotheistic religions traditionally (and that doesn't mean they have to be) are very top-down.  "God says do this, so do it."  There may be some democratization involved in the interpretation of what God wants (e.g. Luthor).  However, monotheism usually puts man in the position of a serf in relation to a LORD.  It's not a big leap from there to the idea that one king can tell all his citizens how to live, can define the length of a foot, has final authority to punish all evil-doers.  In fact, a good question might be which influenced which the more: monotheistic religion shaping feudalism, or feudalism reshaping the interpretation of monotheistic religion.  The two seem to have co-evolved.

    I do like and appreciate your description of God as a modeling device.  I would go further and and, as a neoPlatonist, say that a good model is something that has independent existence.  However, as a neoPlatonist, I also believe that there can be multiple internally consistent models that contradict each other and yet that they all have independent existence.  

    In such a case, we have a choice of models (or a choice of conceptions of God, since that's what we are talking about).  We have a choice of which is most useful or appealing to us as individuals.  That conflicts with the assumption of one objective universal reality that science is based on.  It doesn't mean they are inconsistent with each other -- just that they are in different domains with only slight overlap.

    •  good one. and speaking of Platonism... (0+ / 0-)

      ... there's a whole 'nother discussion to have there, about consciousness and qualia.  

      But back to religion for a moment:

      Assume a polytheistic society on a large scale.  The dominant political authorities (the Roman Empire for example) are still going to dictate the minutia of everyday life, they are just going to use different rationales to support their authority.

      Science can develop in a polytheistic or pantheistic society, but it would appear to take longer.  I'll suggest that it's a function of "person-years" of effort, and this may explain why there are independent traditions of science in India and China: entire civilizations with long history; in the case of China, a history of continuous civilization going back 5,000 years.  

      That is, consider a polytheistic religion where individuals can associate various beliefs with various deities plural.  Some of those deities will tend to have an obscurantist effect, and some will have the effect of stimulating curiosity for knowledge.  

      For purposes of discussion let's simplify this down to two gods:

      For example god C behaves capriciously, having the effect of convincing humans that nature is capricious and there is no point in trying to figure out how nature works.  However god L behaves lawfully, having the effect of convincing humans that nature is lawful and that they may gain much by figuring out how nature works.  

      Now you have 100 people in a society with these two gods, and they are evenly divided: 50 are devotees of god C, and 50 are devotees of god L.  So within any given year, you have at most 50 person-years of effort dedicated to figuring out nature.

      Now consider a society in which there is one god X, who is considered to be lawful in a manner analogous to god L.  Now you have 100 people believing in god X, so in any given year you have 100 person-years of effort dedicated to figuring out nature.  

      Both societies, the one having two gods, and the one having a single god, will eventually find their way to scientific methods and theories.  But the society having a single god who is considered lawful, will find its way there faster.

      The converse is also true: a society having a single god who is capricious, will have a more difficult and lengthy route to seeking out scientific methods and theories.  

      It just happens to be fortunate that the Jewish god, who is considered lawful, became also the Christian god and the Muslim god, so throughout all three of the Abrahamic traditions you have a lawful god and the result of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim cultures gravitating toward science, and each producing truly significant breakthroughs in one or more areas.  

      What I find interesting is the resurgence of obscurantist fundamentalism in each of the three main Abrahamic traditions: Christian, Muslim, and Jewish fundamentalisms that run contrary to science in various ways and that seek to limit human knowledge of nature.  Robert says that this tendency is the result of the approaching death of these strains of belief, and their replacement with something else that is newly emerging.  I'm not so sure we can take that conclusion for granted without being willing to fight ferociously to make it so (for example defeating the religious right in American politics).  

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 04:03:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And hypothetical monkies might fly out of my ass (0+ / 0-)
        For purposes of discussion let's simplify this down to two gods:
        Why speculate about theologies that are a matter of historical record? We know that both Roman and Eastern polytheism saw gods as the embodiment of an idealized divine order because that's how they're described by multiple sources.
  •  You seem to conflate polytheism with (4+ / 0-)

    'multiple truths'. Why? The concept that truth is singular has nothing to do with the type of religion or with religion at all.

    •  Hmmm... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Robert Fuller, FG, G2geek

      I thought Hindu polytheism was consistent with the idea of multiple truths -- for instance, a single Godhead with multiple faces and forms, and multiple ways of worship.  

      •  Multiple ways of worship are present in many (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        G2geek

        religions including Christianity. But what does it have to do with multiple truths? Hinduism now is not exactly polytheistic (you describe it quite well).

      •  That's multiple personalities, not truths. (0+ / 0-)

        That is, both Vishnu and Shiva operate in the same moral and physical universe.

        In the same way, Ares  and Athene operate in the same moral and physical universe.  They just don't much care for each other.  

        SCANDAL: Bush Supreme Court nominee Roberts upholds Romney's individual mandate! Another politically motivated decision!

        by Inland on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 06:17:20 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  If 10 gods are good and 1 is better (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Robert Fuller, Prof Haley, kyril, Apost8

    does that make none divine?

    A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward. Franklin D. Roosevelt

    by notrouble on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 09:37:38 PM PDT

  •  omnipotence (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Robert Fuller
    Monotheism is the theological counterpart of the scientist’s belief in the ultimate reconcilability of apparently contradictory observations into one consistent framework.
    Maybe so. However, in science, some ideas are rejected because they obviously are not logical.
    Regarding an omnipotent god, one Greek philosopher quite a while ago put it like this: "Hi. So, you are omnipotent, you say? OK. Now please create a rock which you can not lift."

    Freedom is not just a word. 'Freedom' is a noun.

    by intruder from Old Europe on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 09:42:28 PM PDT

    •  or to quote a worker at a... (0+ / 0-)

      ... readymix concrete plant, one day (years ago) when I was in there loading up on bags of sand & gravel for a construction project I was doing with friends:  

      "God took billions of years to make rock, and we can do it in 28 days." (28 days = the standard time needed for fresh concrete to achieve full designed strength).  I wish I'd gotten the guys name, because that quote is a viral meme and he deserves credit for it.  

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 04:07:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  a LOT of goofy stuff here (0+ / 0-)

    and no explanation for absolute statements like this bs...

    Monotheism is therefore not only a powerful constraint on the models we build, it is also a first step toward opening the quest for truth to outsiders and amateurs, who may see things differently than the establishment. Buried within the model of monotheism lies the democratic ideal of no favored status.
    that's silly enough but this is even goofy-er...  
    There’s another implication of monotheism that has often been overlooked in battles between religion and science. An omniscient, unique god, worthy of the name, would insist that the truth is singular, and that it’s His truth. In consequence, there cannot be two distinct, true, but contradictory bodies of knowledge. So, the idea of monotheism should stand as a refutation of claims that religious truths need not be consistent with the truths of science. Of course, some of our beliefs—be they from science or religion—will later be revealed as false. But that doesn’t weaken monotheism’s demand for consistency; it just prolongs the search for a model until we find one that meets the stringent condition of taking into account all the evidence.
    no solid reasoning just good old "believe me", kinda like christianity. Couldn't several gods demand the same thing, consistancy etc ? :)

    America could have chosen to be the worlds doctor, or grocer. We choose instead to be her policeman. pity

    by cacamp on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 09:43:17 PM PDT

  •  Wow! This is wrong in too many ways (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Robert Fuller

    for me to even count. When I first saw it, I assumed that it was snark, but I soon saw that I was wrong.

    I am a Buddhist. We don't care how many Gods there are, or how many you believe in. We just want you to understand that all of the Gods that you hear about are as obviously deluded as the people who made them up. You can tell if you read the scriptures of a religion, and you find a God mired in greed (Prosperity Theology, aka Mammon), mired in hate (see the genocides in Deuteronomy and Joshua, the Crusades, the Inquisition), mired in delusion (pretty much all of them, pretty much all the time). See the Judgment of Paris, where three Goddesses try to bribe a human to declare each of them the most beautiful, thus setting off the Trojan War).

    I am also a mathematician with a background in science. We also don't care how many Gods there are or how many you believe in. We have no need of that hypothesis. We want sound proofs, precise calculations, repeatable experiments, and theories that hold up to every test we can think of.

    Now, if you would care to discuss some number of Gods who actually teach people compassion, love, and wisdom, then we can talk. But none of this meaningless, bigoted, Holier-than-thou theological numerology.

    So, for example, "Thou shalt love the Lord, Thy God..." Not believe in, not count, love, and thus do the commandment to "Love thy neighbor as yourself", or to "Do justice, and love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God", not puff yourself up with how Godly you are.

    9 And he [Jesus] spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

    10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.

    11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

    12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

    13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

    14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

    Luke 18

    Hands off my ObamaCare[TM]

    by Mokurai on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 10:40:01 PM PDT

    •  you're carrying that woman in your mind... (0+ / 0-)

      .... long after Robert dropped her off on the opposite side of the muddy stream she was trying to cross.

      Go back and read every comment by Dumbo, who, like the publican in the parable, has humbly named himself when he should really be called Smart-O.

      He understands what Robert is doing here.

      This diary is only one small part of a longer series having to do with the evolution of religion from its present obsession with supernaturalism and makyo generally, to a means for elucidating meaning and making ethical choices, in a manner consistent with the ontology of modern science.  

      Robert is an accomplished mainstream physicist, who has also written extensively about wisdom, love, and compassion.  

      Methinks you jumped to emotional conclusions.  

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 05:01:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And he's not right, here (0+ / 0-)

        I'm a trained historian. That doesn't make me an expert on astrophysics. I have no doubt that Robert is an exceptionally intelligent man and well-versed in his field. But being a smart physicist doesn't make you a smart historian any more than the inverse is true. And he's ultimately not writing about physics, here, he's writing about history and philosophy. And, frankly, on that level this is not a compelling theory. It's reductionist, fails to properly grapple with conflicting data, and does little to provide a working framework for analysis.

        In short, it's rather dangerously close to sophistry. It's clever and well-said, but the facts don't accommodate the theory.

  •  You seem to reject (4+ / 0-)

    Polytheism a a valid or good basis to model but I suggest quite the opposite, that it may be superior since science ultimately leads us more often to better understanding of systems (and often chaotic ones) and still more questions, than so simple, irrefutable truths.

    In fact, religions centered on concepts such as balance, enlightenment (i.e., understanding) and acceptance, or those with naturalistic lesser gods or forces, might be considered good mental training to promote intellectual curiosity.

    In fact, not all religions are based on the concept of a supreme, all knowing, all powerful being and doctrine from there, but rather, focus on practice and discovery more than doctrine.

    What about my Daughter's future?

    by koNko on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 11:15:13 PM PDT

    •  greetings, bro'. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Robert Fuller, koNko

      And congratulations on China's successful completion of its latest orbital mission.  

      Robert was writing about the history in Europe from the Greek and Roman pantheon through the Abrahamic monotheisms.  He didn't claim to speak for other cultures' histories, notably Asian and Native American, both of which developed (for example) theories of medicine quite unlike European/Western ones, but with their own track records of success.

      Clearly there are pantheistic and polytheistic traditions that have led to empirical methods and results.  And for all we know, Roman polytheism could very well have spawned a scientific tradition that would have gotten us to a similar outcome today.  All we have is the actual history to go on.  

      Buddhist teachings about the goal of enlightenment are potentially a direct path toward developing a system of scientific method.  There might be branches in the path between the way of knowledge and the way of compassion and the way of devotion, but there are similar branches in every major religious and philosophical tradition.  

      There is reason to believe that these branches correspond to very real differences among individuals.  Some are primarily intellectual, some are primarily activist, some are primarily emotional, some primarily engaged through ritual, and so on.  

      For that matter, one could arrive at certain branches of science via the route of compassion: by way of seeking solutions to the material problems facing humanity, such as hunger and disease.  

      In the end what Robert is seeking, and I think what many of us here (you and I and others, see also all the comments by Dumbo) are seeking, is a philosophical framework that encompasses knowledge, wisdom, and compassion, and (dare we say it?) unconditional love as a foundation of human relationships in society at-large.  

      He's just doing this over a long series of diaries in order to make his case and spell out all the steps in his thinking.  We're used to seeing someone spell out a thesis in a single diary, so it might not be clear at first what Robert is going for.  But if you go back and read his stuff to date, the outlines of it are clear.  

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 05:18:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  So if all we have is the actual history (5+ / 0-)

        Explain how the polytheistic Greeks took us through great strides of science and philosophy, and the monotheistic Christians took us into the Dark Ages.

        This argument is a kissing cousin to the "Christian Nation" ideal - that only Christianity could produce our form of government, that its ideals are rooted in Judeo-Christian morality. Except that doesn't explain why the polytheistic Romans and Greeks developed democracy first, the monotheistic Christians took us into the divine right of kings, and only with the Enlightenment, when that monotheistic religion began to be questioned by many and even rejected by some key figures (Voltaire, Thomas Paine) did we forge what we have now - inspired in large part by the polytheistic if not animist indigenous tribes.

        By the same token, it has to be noted by scientific progress in the West has taken place largely in spite of its most widespread monotheistic faith, not because of it. Take a look at states like Kansas and Texas and Tennessee even today, if you have doubts.

        The notion of truth and empirical observation are not tied to faith-models. They can be one half of a happy pairing of faith/knowledge, or they can be one side of a struggle against blind zealotry. The number of gods or heroes or even cult figures plays no part in determining which - that's a decision believers of all kind make for themselves.

        "Democracy is the art of running the circus from the monkey cage." - H. L. Mencken

        by Jaxpagan on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 06:12:10 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Ancient Greece affected Rome, which... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Robert Fuller, koNko

          ... in turn became empire.  Much was gained and much lost along the way.  Eventually the Roman empire became Christianized and went on from there.  

          While the Christian parts of Europe were having their Dark Ages, Jewish culture and Muslim culture continued to prize knowledge & learning, and make strides forward despite various wars and persecutions.  

          The pursuit of worldly power tends to produce obscurantism regardless of anything else, as we presently see in various places around the world, including at home.

          "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

          by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 07:04:22 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Exactly (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Robert Fuller

          I was trying to put into words why I'm so uncomfortable with this premise, and you've nailed it better than I ever could: it's ultimately not much more than a vaguely respectable coat of paint over the old chauvinistic Christian Nation nonsense.

          I'm more than willing to accept a connection between religious institutions and scientific/social advancement. But when we're talking about religious institutions we're not necessarily talking about faith. On that point, there's a lot more similarity between, say, polytheistic ancient Egypt (three millennia of relative social stability) and the monotheistic medieval West than there is between the latter and, say, classical Athens. This idea also better distinguishes between Greece (polytheistic but without a central institution, much scientific progress) and Rome (stronger, if still not omnipresent,' civic religious authority, less scientific advancement). But it's still not something I'd push too much, because a) it doesn't really have much to do with religion at all, but rather social hierarchy and attitudes towards liberalism, and b) it can too-easily overstate and fuel misconceptions regarding political and social history (for example, religion was certainly a big factor in medieval life, but the Catholic Church was not a monolithic entity and didn't exercise that much direct power).

          •  so are you saying you're willing to bet money on.. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Robert Fuller

            .... the proposition that Robert is attempting to advance a new form of Christian Nationalism?

            I know the answer to that question, so it's not quite right of me to go asking for bets, but none the less:  how much money would you be willing to wager on that position?  

            "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

            by G2geek on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 10:50:13 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  No. What? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Prof Haley

              That's... a bit of a leap. I have family members who hold a number of... non-progressive attitudes towards racial minorities. Acknowledging that doesn't mean I'm calling them Nazis.

              All I'm arguing is that Robert's argument has certain similarities to long-standing religious chauvinism that make it very problematic, IMO. The same reasons those claims are wrong when applied by Christian Nationalists apply to similar claims made by anyone else, for whatever reasons and with whatever motivations. But I'm certainly not ascribing any specific motives to him. The argument stands or falls on its own merits, just as any other.

  •  Monotheism isn't required for consistency (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Robert Fuller

    Pantheons also exist within a consistent "reality".  All that's really required is an organized theology.  It's sorta like comic book heroes.  In Marvel, there's a consistent universe that the X-Men operate within, just as the Super Friends operate in a consistent DC universe.  A unified set of rules that define reality doesn't require a single deity, it could be a committee of deities or even a congress of deities.  :)

    "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." -Gandhi

    by Triscula on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 04:44:19 AM PDT

  •  No one knows shit about God (0+ / 0-)

    That's the way it has always been and will forever remain.

  •  Do the following assumptions seem monstrous to you (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Angela Quattrano

    "I have a little kitten, and I love him very much. I love him so much I'm going to throw him out into highway traffic so he comes to realize I have given him the gift of free will."

    "I am your father, and because I have total power over you I am going to beat and torture you every day, without giving you reason. But if, after all that, you still proclaim that you love me, then maybe some day I will reward you with a trip to Disneyland. Maybe. That would show you how much I love you."

    "I offer you Redemption through faith. If you have faith in me, you will have eternal life. Of course, that faith is given to you as my gift (sola gratia)-- you cannot choose to have it, as an act of free will--and I should probably mention that I have already predetermined most of you for damnation."

    These are some of the attributes of God from traditional Christian theodicy. I think you would have to hate God a lot to believe them. I'd rather not have a God at all if this is what I had to believe of him.

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