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Mon Feb 4, 2013, 12:01 PM

This house believes 'religion has a place' (Report on the Williams - Dawkins debate)

http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/News/This-house-believes-religion-has-a-place-01022013.htm





It was billed as the moral equivalent of an Ali v Foreman title fight. The world’s best known atheist arguing with the man who until a few weeks ago was the Archbishop of Canterbury. Last night, Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, took on Rowan Williams, the new master of Magdalene College, in a debate on religion at the Cambridge Union. And Williams emerged triumphant.

The motion for debate was big enough to attract the very best speakers to the Cambridge Union: Religion has no place in the 21st century.

But the key factor in persuading Professor Richard Dawkins to agree to take part in last night’s setpiece was something else – an admiration for his principal opponent.

“I normally turn down formal debates,” he said. “But the charming Rowan Williams was too good to miss.”

more at link

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Response to cbayer (Original post)

Mon Feb 4, 2013, 01:20 PM

1. I acknowledge religion ...

There is oodles of undeniable evidence throughout human history that many peoples and cultures have developed systems we group together as "religion". Theses systems capture moral imperatives and suggestions, stories to explain things that are otherwise not understood, social rituals,..., all the usual stuff. Cro Magnon Man undoubtedly had some inkling of 'religion', and Neanderthal ... maybe...earlier Hominins ????(I'm no expert). I am confident that there is some genetic basis for 'religious' behavior. Heck, I speculate that the genetic basis may be shared with other mammals ... my dogs appear to express something resembling religious fervor when I offer them a cookie .

Anyway, I am a great admirer of Richard Dawkins as an evolutionary biologist and scientist. I agree with many of his conclusions about the value of science over religion, including the obvious fact that some religious activity today is an impediment to dissemination and advancement of scientific knowledge. However, Dawkins does go a bit over the top in his criticisms and theatrics in attempting to kick religion 'out of the house'.

I think the conversation needs to acknowledge that there is an integral human basis for religion which is expressed in widely different ways and extents by individuals in the human population. What we as a species need to do is 'get our house in order' so that scientific, moral, religious, political, economic, environmental, and other societal facets can develop.

There is one comment cited in the article with which I take strong umbrage:

In his address, Lord Williams said: “Religion has always been a matter of community building, a matter of building relations of compassion, fellow-feeling and, dare I say it, inclusion.

So, what history books has this man been reading?

While I hope Dawkins softens his language, I think it is far more important that the religion proponents in debates like this one acknowledge the major and the minor horrors that religion and religious believers have inflicted on our fellow persons in the course of history.

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Response to DreamGypsy (Reply #1)

Mon Feb 4, 2013, 01:28 PM

2. Agree with much of what you say here (and note that you said

it much better than I could have).

I particularly like your advocacy for both religious and science leaders to acknowledge that they are different and both important in their own way. If a true mutual respect could develop, we may find the middle ground which preserves the best of both.

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Response to cbayer (Original post)

Mon Feb 4, 2013, 02:00 PM

3. A few DUers would do well to pay attention to this paragraph:

It’s become fashionable to knock Dawkins lately – with his most lazy critics falling back on the fallacious argument that he's as much of a fundamentalist as the religious institutions he so energetically demolishes. This is nonsense, of course, because, however passionate the professor may be about his subject, his arguments are always based on one thing: evidence.

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Response to trotsky (Reply #3)

Mon Feb 4, 2013, 06:38 PM

10. I am a believer but I like listening to Dawkins.

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Response to trotsky (Reply #3)

Tue Feb 5, 2013, 02:08 PM

16. I respect Dawkins more than some others. He's also done some important work in

the critique of design, has he not?

I'll go look for whatever it is that I'm thinking of from my graduate research.

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Response to cbayer (Original post)

Mon Feb 4, 2013, 02:31 PM

4. I don't see spirituality as a betrayal of intellect because:

#1 Spirituality IS an effort to identify truth, e.g. John 14:6 "I am the way , the truth and the life ..." "way" in this context refers to a manner of doing, a HOW, i.e. how to live the truth.

#2 Spirituality lives truth by faith, e.g. John 20:26-29 "...blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe ..."

This does not mean that you can just believe, have faith in, whatever and that makes whatever valid. There is a WAY, the path of faith to truth is narrow, the gate is small Mathew 7:13. Faith must be differentiated from non-faith. Non-faith is stuff like: all of our different kinds of idolatry, including self or other worship; all of our different kinds of quid-pro-quos, including "salvation" & "everlasting life"; proofs, rational and otherwise; miracles; logical tricks, e.g. post hoc ergo propter hoc . . . everything that is not faith, must be honestly identified for what its authentic validity is. Too many people of faith don't do this and, HENCE, abuse faith.

This means that that which is not faith CAN be validated for itself, for NOT being faith. If one values faith, it should not be mixed and confused with non-faith. As long as one is completely honest about what you're doing in that validation, that which is not faith achieves its TRUE valence in one's phenomenological universe. This, of course, includes rationalism, by differentiating faith from any form of rationalism, including, especially, sloppy or fuzzy rationalism, one comes to know what one knows and why one knows it and, hence, also what one does not know and that IS good.

The ways of rationalism have for centuries recognized that its processes and procedures do not lead to absolutes, only relativities. That's not a flaw. It's a beautiful thing that rationalism honors what it is and what it does so completely that the precise pattern of the lenses in an insect's eye are found worthy of the necessity we refer to as "knowledge". I would have it no other way, but that does not mean that rationalism claims to be God.

The very point of rationalism is that it is what it is and **IF** there is anything else, if there is anything other than that which is rational, whatever that other non-rational stuff "is", it "is" what it "is". That is, rationalism, though it recognizes some unidentified probability of something beyond itself, regards that probability as ir-relevant, because it is non-rational. Rationalism has nothing to say about anything that isn't rational, other than, IF such things "exist" at all, they are not rational. This is fine with me too; in fact, I LIKE the un-biased objectivity of this perspective, because it leads one step by step within the events of the phenomenological universe, a thing sufficient unto itself, simply by virtue of the fact that it is true.

Now, what does faith have to do with all of that? To me, rationalism takes us as far as one wants to go rationally. You could, at least theoretically, know everything that there is to know rationally by being rational (if you had time, means, and opportunity to do so). One of the things that you might discover along the way is that rational phenomena can have emergent properties, relative to one another. Some people would say emergent properties are "proof" of spiritual truths like god and miracles. Others say this is a matter of synergy due to synchronous properties of systemic processes and, therefore, an appropriate subject of rationally inductive engineering. So be that.

I wonder if there isn't a last step on that way to the fullest extent of all valid deduction plus the fullest extent of all valid induction, if you could get there . . . would that be All? Since we have already established that rational knowledge can't/doesn't validate anything outside of itself, that question cannot be answered from that perspective. And the truth about that truth is that it is a NULL set. Is that otherness there or not? We don't KNOW one way or another.

To me, this condition of indeterminence is the step just beyond the last rational step (wherever that "last" rational step happens to be). It's a fulcrum point maintained by honesty and ever approaching FREE unbiased dynamic balance between what is known and what is not known, between what is the product of motivational drives that have come to be identified as rational and the inclination referred to as "faith". And it is a particular trait of that fulcrum point (with its at least theoretically infinitely long levers) that its dynamics are a product of systemic open-ness, a condition of being receptive, to whatever is, whatever that is, whether it is known/rational or other-than-known/a-rational.

I guess a simpler form of all of this is - knowing : faith dynamically drive one another toward truth. I think faith is often abused by attributing pseudo-rational properties to it, like some of those mentioned in the paragraph following #2. above. Faith is more like a void, but you can't even say that about it either, because any determinance makes it non-faith. I side with rationalists on this critique of faith: people make up pretty stories and then say I believe in that, because I am a person of faith. I'd say no you aren't; you're another pseudo-rationalist messing up rationalism, instead of going the full limit, instead of authentically going as far as rationalism can truly take you and then either committing to that rational truth (tilting the balance in that direction) and/or authentically risking faith, honestly taking a chance on "missing the boat" for other non-rational/non-known truths that may or may not be valid.

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Response to patrice (Reply #4)

Mon Feb 4, 2013, 02:49 PM

5. btw, the post above was triggered by this from Lord Williams part of the debate:

Lord Williams offered a counter argument, saying that religion undoubtedly had a place in the 21st century and that the issue was not whether it should exist, but what our attitude towards it should be.

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Response to tama (Reply #13)

Tue Feb 5, 2013, 02:03 PM

14. That's an interesting read.

I have a few questions about it that I need to work through, though I expect that the problems are inherent to the subject matter itself, so they're no more resolvable than being able to demonstrate what Carl Jung was referring to with the archetypes he proposed. There is no reason to assume that physical systems within physical systems within physical systems . . . would produce consciousness that is a "tabula rasa", so the questions are about what has been written on that tablet and how deep the patterning is.

I like thinking about deduction, which would be like explicit learning to me, and induction, which would be like implicit learning to me. Both can be flawed, resulting in limiting invalidities. Maybe that's what the problem is with replicating implicit learning; an induced result, though demonstrable, could be limited by not being potentiated in enough cognitive mechanisms, for want of a better example, the way that the music of Mozart, or for that matter the abilities of some "idiot savants" are, or like reflexes . . . ?

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Response to patrice (Reply #14)

Wed Feb 6, 2013, 05:14 AM

17. systems within systems

 

I was thinking about that in sleep and half-sleep. Mental images within mental images, thoughts within thoughts... as consciousness happens as thoughts about thoughts, it's movement, energy, jumps between energy levels. So in that sense, a quantum jump of electron inside atom is rudimentary form of consciousness(?) - but what would be the content of that conscious experience???. The limit of the aboutness of consciouss thought as physical thought would be the same finite resolution measurement as generally. Snapshot limit of each content of moment of consciousness would be finite, but the evolutionary aspect and potential would not necessarily be finite.

I'll use word 'awareness' differently from the wiki article, where it's used in similar sense of consciousness described above. Conscious experience is constantly moving from content to content, it can't be still. Awareness which enables also implicit learning need not be and as shown, can be unconscious, without conscious report and narrative. So awareness could be still zero-energy state whole body experience, without trying to consciously define "whole-body" but taking that term as symbolic relation between part and whole.

In that sense still awareness would not be adding anything to the system or removing anything from it, unlike consciousness which moves like ouroboros, snake eating it's own tail, measuring previous (or some other) state as current state, and can contain and measure this state only by jumping to create another state.

So in that sense energetic consciousness has inherent limiting invalidities, which are not inherent in still zero-energy state awareness.

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Response to cbayer (Original post)

Mon Feb 4, 2013, 02:57 PM

6. An important distinction: Does Kirkley mean "cant" or Kant?

In return, he gets vague, well-meaning cant about religion’s “metaphysical commitment to human equality”.

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Response to cbayer (Original post)

Mon Feb 4, 2013, 03:01 PM

7. Thanks very much for this article, cbayer.

I see that I agree honestly with both Dawkins (exclusion) and Williams (inclusion) and perhaps even Kirkley too as he admits his own perspective is biased, though he does then jibe Williams' "crowd of the faithful" for what he admits in himself.

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Response to patrice (Reply #7)

Mon Feb 4, 2013, 03:13 PM

8. You are welcome. It looks like it was a good debate, though I have not listened to it.

They seem to respect each other, despite their very different views.

Of course, they share the role of aging, white patriarch...


I kid! I kid!

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Response to cbayer (Reply #8)

Mon Feb 4, 2013, 03:26 PM

9. & a worthy "kid" it IS too! I wonder if you and I aren't thinking something like the

same thing about that point.

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Response to cbayer (Original post)

Mon Feb 4, 2013, 08:14 PM

11. Here's a link to the debate

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=337_1359955796 - It takes a couple of minutes to load on my laptop.

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Response to Jim__ (Reply #11)

Mon Feb 4, 2013, 08:16 PM

12. Thanks, Jim.

Greatly appreciate it.

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Response to Jim__ (Reply #11)

Tue Feb 5, 2013, 02:03 PM

15. THANK! you, Jim.

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