Tuesday, October 22, 2013

497: The [non] existence of religiosity

When I first introduced this project on Eastern Philosophy one of the first reactions was "But isn't that most of all religion?"

And when I announced to continue with Buddhism the discussion came onto religion and religiosity again.

In my newspaper there is for some weeks now a discussion going on. It started with an article, written by a well known atheist, again stating that God does not exist.

Such a statement still works like a red flag on a Spanish bull and two days ago a hit again. Now is the headline "Suppression of religiosity has lasted long enough".

The fist sentence of the article already contains in interesting mistake.
" Philosophers and theologians already knew it since long ago, but now there is scientific proof: man is religious by nature."

In my eyes this is complete nonsense and begging the question. If the authors of the article had written: man shows by nature some peculiar behavior, I would have agreed.

What is the case: Over the last decade, there have been many calls in the secular community for increased criticism of religion, 

and increased activism to help loosen its grip on the public. But what if the human brain itself is aligned against that endeavor?

That's the argument made by cognitive scientist Robert McCauley in his new book, Why Religion is Natural and Science is Not. If McCauley is right, spreading secularism and critical thinking may always be a difficult battle.

Dr. McCauley is University Professor and Director of the Center for Mind, Brain, and Culture at Emory University.

What is the question here? Let me give you an example, an hilarious one actually but it really has happened.

I have a small plastic box with little pills in it, that I use in my coffee, well..the pills I mean, in stead of sugar. I guess you know what I mean. You press on the button and one little white pill is released.

But what happened? In stead of one there dropped TWO pills. I wasn't pleased with that at all and I thought "I'll get you!". And as a punishment I threw the extra pill in my trash. "There! Your own fault!"

Should I go and see my psychiatrist now? Treating inanimate objects as sensing beings? OMG!

The fun is, I dare to bet with each of you, that you have acted the same. When was the last time you talked to your car, or berated some object, which almost made you stumble? Let alone the abuse you used in response to the behavior of your computer.

Is this so surprising? Not at all. McCauley just reinvents the wheel, kicking open an opened door. Why? Quite simple, because what he says we already know for decades.

For that you have to turn to one of the founding fathers of cognitive psychology, a Swiss scientist  (1896 – 1980). He found the secrets of human learning and knowledge hidden behind the cute and seemingly illogical notions of children.

He developed a model of stages of cognitive development. What is interesting for us is the cognitive stage between 2 and 6 years, in which we discover that we are an individual and that there is the rest of the world.

It is the period in life that all things around you are animated: your doll, your stuffed bear, your cat and dog, the trees…name it.

The mistake we make is to believe that this cognitive state gradually is replaced by common sense. Sure, for 99% it is, but yet it stays a part of our brain.

In the adult stage it leads to the attitude, that we don't like questions. We like answers. Thence we developed science and where science can't offer answers , we invent answers ourself.

One organized answer with deep cultural and historic roots is called religion:  yet the product of the brain itself. It helps us to see the world as an organized, meaningful and destiny oriented system.

 And here I only can quote Bertrand Russell: "The value of philosophy is, in fact, to be sought largely in its very uncertainty. The man who has no tincture of philosophy goes through life imprisoned in the prejudices derived from common sense, 

from the habitual beliefs of his age or his nation, and from convictions which have grown up in his mind without the co−operation or consent of his deliberate reason."

So  the quintessence of life becomes how to live with uncertainty. And maybe Buddhism is an answer…who knows. For that …attend the next lectures:-))

The Discussion

2013/10/17 13:21]  herman Bergson: Thank you:-))
[2013/10/17 13:21]  CONNIE Eichel: :)
[2013/10/17 13:22]  herman Bergson: If you have questions or remarks...the floor is yours :-))
[2013/10/17 13:22]  Corronach: I don't think we *can* live with uncertainty.
[2013/10/17 13:22]  Corronach: I think we create logic and structure to survive.
[2013/10/17 13:22]  herman Bergson: yes indeed Corronach
[2013/10/17 13:23]  Corronach: Religion serves a function
[2013/10/17 13:23]  Corronach: for example...
[2013/10/17 13:23]  Corronach: it alleviates fear of death for many people
[2013/10/17 13:23]  herman Bergson: yes...
[2013/10/17 13:23]  Corronach: perhaps that fear would be too great otherwise
[2013/10/17 13:23]  Corronach: a mortal terror
[2013/10/17 13:23]  herman Bergson: in the article I referred to they even say it ois good for your health :-)
[2013/10/17 13:23]  Corronach: well, apparently prayer has been proven in some research to improve mental health
[2013/10/17 13:24]  herman Bergson: yes like meditation....
[2013/10/17 13:24]  herman Bergson: However...to pray for a sick person doesn't help the sick person at all, research also shows...
[2013/10/17 13:24]  herman Bergson: but it might help the other dealing with the feelings about a sick friend or relative indeed
[2013/10/17 13:25]  Dagg (daggash.bayn): alright, there is no solution to this dilemma.. or is there ?
[2013/10/17 13:25]  herman Bergson: what is the dilemma Dagg?
[2013/10/17 13:26]  Dagg (daggash.bayn): to see the fear or the void and not to be able to get rid of it
[2013/10/17 13:26]  herman Bergson: hmmm...yes...
[2013/10/17 13:26]  Dagg (daggash.bayn): i don't want to escape in some belief
[2013/10/17 13:26]  herman Bergson: That is what I am always wondering about....
[2013/10/17 13:26]  Dagg (daggash.bayn): yes
[2013/10/17 13:26]  Dagg (daggash.bayn): me too
[2013/10/17 13:27]  herman Bergson: I mean..what is so scaring about  this "void"?
[2013/10/17 13:27]  Corronach: both science and religion can be viewed as our need for control. whether we want control, as with science, or whether we want someone else to have it, as in religion.
[2013/10/17 13:27]  herman Bergson: Life is or is not....that is all we know...
[2013/10/17 13:27]  Corronach: either way, as long as there is control, we are contained.
[2013/10/17 13:27]  Corronach: secure.
[2013/10/17 13:28]  herman Bergson: Yes Corronach...but religion controls the masses perhaps...but it doesnt help the individual to control his personal life...
[2013/10/17 13:29]  Corronach: it can do, depending on the beliefs i suppose.
[2013/10/17 13:29]  herman Bergson: But indeed it all is about control...about understanding your life....the meaning of it...
[2013/10/17 13:29]  Corronach: the void, or the after-death, without religion is complete loss of control.
[2013/10/17 13:30]  herman Bergson: for some it appears to be indeed....
[2013/10/17 13:30]  Toubanua T'Kreth (toubanua.tairov): Not for you?
[2013/10/17 13:30]  herman Bergson: Imean..I dont mind....
[2013/10/17 13:30]  herman Bergson: I exist..and someday I stop existing ...what is the big deal there :-))
[2013/10/17 13:31]  Toubanua T'Kreth (toubanua.tairov): Well, I like existing :)
[2013/10/17 13:31]  CONNIE Eichel: its sad
[2013/10/17 13:31]  herman Bergson: Oh yes me too....^_^
[2013/10/17 13:31]  Toubanua T'Kreth (toubanua.tairov): So not existing anymore is a big deal.
[2013/10/17 13:31]  herman Bergson: I wouldnt say so...
[2013/10/17 13:32]  herman Bergson: because you only can be aware of not existing when you are aware of your existence :-))
[2013/10/17 13:32]  Dagg (daggash.bayn): but then we have another belief there, that life is meaningless..is that the conclusion ?
[2013/10/17 13:32]  herman Bergson: when you die awareness just simply stops
[2013/10/17 13:32]  Dagg (daggash.bayn): we don't know that
[2013/10/17 13:32]  Toubanua T'Kreth (toubanua.tairov): It may be irrelevant to me when I don't exist. But since I currently exist, it matters to me that I might stop :)
[2013/10/17 13:33]  Dagg (daggash.bayn): no one came back to tell, but we can assume so
[2013/10/17 13:33]  herman Bergson: yes..the idea not to have another day is unpleasant...
[2013/10/17 13:34]  herman Bergson: but realistic...it can happen...is absolutely normal that it will happentoo
[2013/10/17 13:34]  Toubanua T'Kreth (toubanua.tairov): Just because something is normal doesn't mean I have to like it.
[2013/10/17 13:34]  herman Bergson: but then the remark....if looked at it this way ...life is meaningless???
[2013/10/17 13:34]  herman Bergson: No....
[2013/10/17 13:34]  herman Bergson: Because that idea is deeply connected with teleological thinking....
[2013/10/17 13:35]  herman Bergson: Life must lead to something....to some goal...
[2013/10/17 13:35]  herman Bergson: is the life of your cat meaningless???
[2013/10/17 13:35]  herman Bergson: Does it expect to be reborn in some afterlife?
[2013/10/17 13:35]  Corronach: cat gives me joy :)
[2013/10/17 13:36]  CONNIE Eichel: we make that question when we are "born" in SL... what is the goal here?
[2013/10/17 13:36]  herman Bergson: Yes...Corronach...
[2013/10/17 13:36]  Dagg (daggash.bayn): I dont know, lets talk about humans , is hard enough lol
[2013/10/17 13:36]  herman Bergson: thus you give meaning to the life of your cat
[2013/10/17 13:36]  herman Bergson: as an organism...
[2013/10/17 13:36]  Toubanua T'Kreth (toubanua.tairov): I wouldn't argue that the absence of an afterlife makes life meaningless. In fact, if there is no afterlife, then corporeal life is the only life with any meaning.
[2013/10/17 13:36]  Corronach: i see two main purposes to SL, Connie. People come here for sex, or they come here to escape. Or both. :)
[2013/10/17 13:36]  herman Bergson: what is the difference between humans and all other creatures on this planet?
[2013/10/17 13:37]  Dagg (daggash.bayn): the difference is ...
[2013/10/17 13:37]  Toubanua T'Kreth (toubanua.tairov): We smoke cigarettes.
[2013/10/17 13:37]  CONNIE Eichel: coinscience... however it spells
[2013/10/17 13:37]  herman Bergson: Our consciousness...our self awareness...
[2013/10/17 13:37]  Dagg (daggash.bayn): that humans have an individuality , I guess
[2013/10/17 13:37]  herman Bergson: yes CONNIE :-)
[2013/10/17 13:37]  herman Bergson: Primates have an individuality too Dagg....
[2013/10/17 13:38]  Toubanua T'Kreth (toubanua.tairov): Oh, some also smoke cigarettes . . .
[2013/10/17 13:38]  herman Bergson: no two chimps are alike as individual for instance
[2013/10/17 13:38]  Dagg (daggash.bayn): not sure about that herman, sorry
[2013/10/17 13:38]  Toubanua T'Kreth (toubanua.tairov): I've heard there's been some interesting results recently to research in regards to dog consciousness.
[2013/10/17 13:39]  herman Bergson: oh...read Frans de Waal on that subject Dagg...
[2013/10/17 13:39]  Dagg (daggash.bayn): alright I will
[2013/10/17 13:39]  herman Bergson: well it is a proven fact that some animals have some level of self awareness...
[2013/10/17 13:40]  herman Bergson: The most famous test is the mirror test....
[2013/10/17 13:40]  herman Bergson: does an animal recognize himself in a mirror...?
[2013/10/17 13:40]  herman Bergson: A cat doesn't for instance....it goes looking behind the mirror
[2013/10/17 13:41]  herman Bergson: But an elephant does as a chimpansee does...
[2013/10/17 13:41]  CONNIE Eichel: /me vanishes for rl...
[2013/10/17 13:41]  herman Bergson: bye CONNIE :-)
[2013/10/17 13:41]  Dagg (daggash.bayn): what about the morality.. lets take the question of human rights..can animals go as far as we do ?
[2013/10/17 13:42]  herman Bergson: Of course not that far Dagg, but again....
[2013/10/17 13:42]  herman Bergson: Frans de Waal has demonstrated that even Bonobos have a sense of fairness....
[2013/10/17 13:43]  herman Bergson: His latest book is on this subject...
[2013/10/17 13:43]  herman Bergson: even these primates have some rudimentary sense of justice....
[2013/10/17 13:43]  xtc yonimyxtc (windows.bhalti): i need to doubt some of Piaget because i have two early memories, one i was in a baby's crib and the other i was crawling - i knew then what was inanimate and what was alive
[2013/10/17 13:43]  herman Bergson: but indeed nothing compared to what we have...
[2013/10/17 13:44]  Toubanua T'Kreth (toubanua.tairov): Ray Bradbury claimed to remember being in the womb.
[2013/10/17 13:45]  herman Bergson: you can claim what you like....of course...
[2013/10/17 13:45]  Toubanua T'Kreth (toubanua.tairov): lol
[2013/10/17 13:45]  xtc yonimyxtc (windows.bhalti): bradbury is been found unreliable
[2013/10/17 13:45]  herman Bergson: the peculiar thing with such claims however is that hardly anyone has such experiences, tho we are with billions of people on this planet...
[2013/10/17 13:46]  herman Bergson: it is always just one , maybe a few persons...
[2013/10/17 13:46]  herman Bergson: I would say it is complete nonsense what this Ray says..but that is my personal evaluation of his claim
[2013/10/17 13:47]  herman Bergson: Anyway...the point is....
[2013/10/17 13:47]  herman Bergson: can a philosopher deal with religious thinking...?
[2013/10/17 13:48]  herman Bergson: My answer is yes. of course, for it is a product of the same brain the philosopher uses....an aspect of human behavior
[2013/10/17 13:48]  Toubanua T'Kreth (toubanua.tairov): I should think a philosopher could analyse anything he or she wants :)
[2013/10/17 13:48]  xtc yonimyxtc (windows.bhalti): i am reading an article on consciousness, i am sorry, the title and author is not at my fingertips, that is leading me away from a deep theological belief
[2013/10/17 13:49]  herman Bergson: Yes indeed Toubanau...that is what is the value of philosophy as Russell indicates
[2013/10/17 13:49]  Dagg (daggash.bayn): I think that Plato f.i. was somehow religious..not in the sense of a dogma but in spiritual sense
[2013/10/17 13:50]  Toubanua T'Kreth (toubanua.tairov): I'm sorry but rl is calling me too. Nice meeting you folks :)
[2013/10/17 13:50]  herman Bergson: he was metaphysical indeed Dagg....
[2013/10/17 13:50]  xtc yonimyxtc (windows.bhalti): *leading me away from spiritual beliefs
[2013/10/17 13:50]  herman Bergson: because he tried to solve an epistemological problem...
[2013/10/17 13:50]  Toubanua T'Kreth (toubanua.tairov): Ciao, all :)
[2013/10/17 13:51]  herman Bergson: He wondered ..how can we know what we know...
[2013/10/17 13:52]  xtc yonimyxtc (windows.bhalti): this article i am reading explains the workings of the chemical/biologiacl brain
[2013/10/17 13:53]  herman Bergson: oh there is a lot of research on that subject XTC....
[2013/10/17 13:53]  xtc yonimyxtc (windows.bhalti): it is fascinating and wholly explainable
[2013/10/17 13:53]  herman Bergson: just google on 'godhelm'
[2013/10/17 13:53]  herman Bergson: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_helmet
[2013/10/17 13:54]  herman Bergson: it explains a lot about what saints experienced in the catholic tradition....
[2013/10/17 13:54]  xtc yonimyxtc (windows.bhalti): the saxon chieftan?
[2013/10/17 13:54]  herman Bergson: Like Jean d'Arc shows all characteristics of what is now know as a mental disorder
[2013/10/17 13:55]  xtc yonimyxtc (windows.bhalti): ahh yes
[2013/10/17 13:55]  xtc yonimyxtc (windows.bhalti): ty
[2013/10/17 13:55]  herman Bergson: Well..
[2013/10/17 13:55]  Mikki Louise (mikkilouise): I must go.. thank you for the class and discussion
[2013/10/17 13:55]  Dagg (daggash.bayn): bye Mikki
[2013/10/17 13:55]  herman Bergson: I have tortured you long enough, I guess :-))
[2013/10/17 13:55]  Mikki Louise (mikkilouise): lol
[2013/10/17 13:55]  Dagg (daggash.bayn): no it was quite interesting herman
[2013/10/17 13:56]  herman Bergson: so..see you next lecture on Buddhism :-)
[2013/10/17 13:56]  xtc yonimyxtc (windows.bhalti): i am lagging very bad - i am not on my powerful pc :-(
[2013/10/17 13:56]  herman Bergson: You look perfectly ok to me, XTC...and your legs too :-))
[2013/10/17 13:56]  Corronach: thanks herman
[2013/10/17 13:56]  xtc yonimyxtc (windows.bhalti): haha :-))!
[2013/10/17 13:57]  herman Bergson: Thank you all again....class dismissed :-)
[2013/10/17 13:57]  xtc yonimyxtc (windows.bhalti): but i have pants on
[2013/10/17 13:57]  Dagg (daggash.bayn): thank you
[2013/10/17 13:57]  Dagg (daggash.bayn): bye bye all
[2013/10/17 13:57]  xtc yonimyxtc (windows.bhalti): byby, professor bergson
[2013/10/17 13:57]  herman Bergson: Bye Dagg
[2013/10/17 13:57]  Corronach: bye
[2013/10/17 13:57]  xtc yonimyxtc (windows.bhalti): byby
[2013/10/17 13:57]  xtc yonimyxtc (windows.bhalti): fare well until we meet again...
[2013/10/17 13:57]  xtc yonimyxtc (windows.bhalti): oxo...
[2013/10/17 13:58]  xtc yonimyxtc (windows.bhalti): Enjoy traveling around Second Life...
[2013/10/17 13:59]  xtc yonimyxtc (windows.bhalti): thank you for hosting, for teaching and for your time :-)
[2013/10/17 13:59]  herman Bergson: my pleasure XTC :-))

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