Dialogue Around Possibilian Quote

“We know way too much through science to commit to any religious tradition, but too little to commit to atheism” David Eagleman

Mystic : Nice! I am of a mystical bent, but I always liked the idea of a scientist who, though s/he may not share my beliefs, doesn’t feel such a need to declare “I CRUSH YOU!!” What’s up with that? 😀 And of course, I know a lot of atheists or agnostics probably feel the same way — if we’re not hurting anyone, live and let live, and let your light shine! Whether scientist or mystic, I bet every honest person on earth is here for a reason and has something to offer to the search for the truth.

Me: “if we’re not hurting anyone”?? “honesty” and “truth”?? Mystics are always looking for a way to squirm through mental worm holes. The feeling that you are being pinned down to reality, and the feeling that you are being crushed, might be indistinguishable.

The question is what are we to commit to, if we can’t commit to atheism, or religious traditions? It seems from the comments that the inability to disprove fantasy, seems to validate living in one. 

First things first. There are people who don’t have enough to eat. This can be scientifically proven. There are basic nutritional requirements, as well as individually measurable caloric needs.

The secret, or a few fishes and loaves, could possibly feed Canada’s hungry, and believing this might possibly ease our collective conscious. God, or the universe might intervene, but in a materialist world, systemic capitalism is provably intervening. And while we may feel powerless, and crushed by the material view, their are people suffering in the material world, while root causes are overlooked.

The consolation of philosophies and religion maintains very real power imbalances. Social sciences are themselves subject to power skewed visions and conclusions. But science in the tradition of the enlightenment should continue to name power biases, and pin us to the material, and the extremely complex clockwork.

When the choice is between a profit-driven world of objectifying science and an authoritarian world of mystifying religion, finding some other possibilities might be a good idea. I’d prefer something democratic, and warm-blooded.
Mystic: Rodger, relax. You sound very testy. I said that OTHERS, among atheists and the religious alike, loved to bellow “I CRUSH YOU!”, in other words, to arrogate or leap to a conclusion that they haven’t supported (such as your conclusion that I was feeling crushed, which I did NOT say, or your certainty that I’m somehow “looking for a way to squirm through mental worm holes,” based on the fact that I–assumed goodwill on the part of those who were attempting to seek answers with honesty and truth?). 

In case it wasn’t clear, I was objecting to such people’s attempts to browbeat others by using high-handed, imperious, sneering, self-congratulatory, and derisive language, rather than demonstrating facts and being certain of their conclusions, before they declare them. This is exactly what you have just done. Since you jumped to two conclusions already, are you quite certain that you haven’t jumped to MANY more, during your life–as indeed we all have?

Again: I did NOT say I felt that I was being crushed; by saying that OTHERS say that, I meant that atheists and believers alike, due to their egotistical need to “win” arguments by verbal bullying, attempt to “crush” others who disagree wit…h them, instead of calmly saying “I disagree with you on this point, and this point, and here’s why:” and reacting like an adult when confronted with dissent, instead of a contestant on a reality TV show and trying to yell down that dissent with belittling language. If your argument is logical and factual enough, you should be able to put it and convince any fair-minded person of its validity. Your inability to assume that I could be such a fair-minded person is far too common. 

Since you mention people who don’t have enough to eat, I think that the idea of charitable work is a perfectly good place to start. If someone is so certain of the correctness either of atheism OR their faith, then I would say that rather than yelling “my side is right!” until one is hoarse, one would do far better by picking the very best atheist, or the very best person of faith, in the world, and trying to do as much as that person has done to help the world, instead of opening one’s mouth merely to assert that one is right, which has no practical use that I can see besides comforting one’s own ego.

Me: Imagine the possibility you are in error. I think this is one of the lines Eagleman uses. There is a practical aspect to correcting error. We see the world through our conditioning. What I think Eagleman is hoping to put forward is a creati…ve scientific outlook. He’s not leaving you alone to be right. He’s reminding you that you live in a world you don’t at all understand. No one understands. 

But we are aware of some things. What I was trying to say, is that the debate between authoritarian mystics and authoritarian scientists sort of misses the point. Eagleman says we can’t commit to any religion or an idea of no god.

This debate, between creationists and evolutionists, has been raging for a while, and sort of misses out on the possibilities. Evolutionists seem to blame creationists for the lack of a general scientific outlook in Western society. I think this lets the capitalists off the hook. I tend to blame the capitalists for most social ills, only because most social policy, and things like roads and buildings are designed and built according to a capitalist logic. Capitalist logic has a mysticism about it as well. We’d do well to consider a materialist human ethic. It’s a warm loving science we need.

If I seem testy with mystics. It’s because I am. Eagleman has no time for them either, but his language seems inclusive, where it is not. He says we don’t know a whole lot about ourselves and the world, which is true, but he is definitely a materialist. He talks about the brain and the organic material contingency of the self and reality. There’s no eternal soul here, no mystic real estate on which to stake our eternal claim. To live as though something that doesn’t exist exists, is to live in error. That we don’t know how the material world works, is a great equalizer, a strong foundation for democracy.

That the mystics keep putting gods, universal minds, truth, morality, money and other forms of external authority in our way is annoying. A line must be drawn between mysticism and materialism. And another line between external authority and collective immanence. With the line drawn, I’ll live on the side of materialism and collective immanence.

Mystic: Well thanks–but you see, now you’ve put an argument that expresses things much more thoughtfully, and even expresses your annoyance, without needing to stoop to contemptuous language like “squirm” and “wormhole,” painting me without ANY ev…idence, as trying to avoid some truth, when you hadn’t ARTICULATED any truth that I’d supposedly seen and run away from. It is completely possible to dissent, even with annoyance, without stooping to the ad hominem or sweeping generalizations such as that mystics are always trying to squirm away from challenges to their ideas. 

My issues were two: first, that though he may well come from a materialistic bent, Eagleman seems to be saying (and again, I know just north of nothing about Eagleman at all, beyond the Wikis I just read, so accent on “he seems to be saying”) that it is as wrong for materialists to arrogate conclusions about faith that they haven’t proven as it is for believers to do so.

Secondly, that I suspect that he came to this feeling partly because of people’s tendency to make vicious war to the knife over these questions, instead of discussing them as a professor would do. Speaking of annoyance, I find it HIGHLY annoying that I can’t listen to a song on Youtube without being treated to a raging, snarling display of bad blood, be it on never so STUPID and trivial an issue, between the listeners, who just HAVE to sneer each other into the dirt, and can’t go to bed without making a new enemy, because one of them got the name of Jethro Tull’s third glockenspiel player wrong. This need everyone seems to have, not to be content with simply dissenting, but with showing absolute contempt for anyone disagreeing with them, is not motivated by any search for truth, clarity or logic, but only by ego. It’s also REALLY simple-minded and idiotic. So those two points were my only main points.

As to your objections in your last paragraph, that, too, contains many sweeping generalizations, with which mystics are tarred by you now. A basic tenet for many mystics is the appeal to the master WITHIN, aka the Still, Small Voice. This is the very opposite of an “external authority.” Furthermore, there’s a basic contradiction in your argument if you object to “truth” as being an “external authority,” to be rejected: it means, of course, that I must reject your entire argument, and everyone else’s, including my own, because there’s no objective truth. This sounds like the relativism of Postmodernism, which sucks, and which was invented to give publishing work to philosophy professors who have forgotten the point of their work. Besides which, if truth is just an annoying “external authority” that someone’s invented, then how can you accuse anyone of squirming to escape it?

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