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 Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?

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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Tue 08 Jul 2014, 22:30

Temperance and Nordmann,

reading all your utterings about Marcus Aurelius and all that and Nordmann's additions of quotes, names and tendencies that I never heard from...I feel very humble with my bit of chemistry that I have studied...even with my six years of Latin humanities all these philosophical subjects were never discussed...perhaps because it was a Roman-Catholic college Wink ...?

I have to say I feel humble in such a company...

But at the end we seem, if I understand it right, to agree that the inquiring curious mind can find some ways of thinking in studying the several searches of other historical "thinkers"...?
Perhaps the only difference with you two or certainly Nordmann that I also reckon the so-called revealed religions (as I still see them as the result of "human" "thinkers") as an interesting basis for my study...and Nordmann, these religions without the human aberrations and without the worldly organisational excesses...just the philosophical common human basics...in comparison...it is not because there are stupid excesses that one has to condemn the whole constellation...

Kind regards and with high esteem to you both,

Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Wed 09 Jul 2014, 08:06

There is much actual philosophy embedded in religious theology but it tends to be inarticulate in the sense that its logic is often disjointed or simply not there whenever this suits the theological claim being made. That is not to say it is without value, if only as a starting point or a spur for further inquiry. However unlike philosophy at least as typified by the ancient Greek model, which always maintained an aspiration to draw conclusions using theory based on observation, theology tends to draw conclusions based on pure assertion, however dressed up that assertion might be in the jargon of metaphysics. The two blend awkwardly always - the theologian intent on keeping the subject within the realm of metaphysics where assertion can thrive and the philosopher hoping to expose pure assertion where it arises to circumvent it or even discard it in pursuit of a common theory.

The subject of the thread - religious people doing physical harm to themselves and others - is actually a crude but effective indication of the huge gap between the two disciplines. The snake wrigglers of the Appalachians and their like can, if they wish, justify their behaviour theologically. However philosophically their behaviour serves best for the questions it poses, not any conclusion it suggests or claims on its own behalf religiously.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Wed 09 Jul 2014, 12:16

Temp wrote:
The early Pentecostal Christians must have been an infuriating bunch - no arguing with them whatsoever, and their "contumacy" was a potential political nightmare.

Yes. Marcus Aurelius was a dab-hand at the old philosophy but he was first and foremost an emperor and a military man. Refusal to obey a diktat from him, however capricious, was treason as far as he was concerned. Sedition had only one punishment and to leave oneself open to being even accused of it, let alone convicted of it, was proof of suicidal tendencies or stupidity (or both) in Roman eyes.

However it also has to be said that for all his bad reputation as a persecutor of Christians he showed remarkable latitude to those of the community who otherwise proved themselves good or useful Romans. He had no problem recruiting Christian soldiers (a class of individual which is discreetly ignored often by church historians) and even his most famous suicide-by-beheading victim, Justin Martyr, had previously been allowed operate around Rome with quite a high profile and in charge of various properties, something that would have been much more typical of a conventional Roman citizen making good headway in life. Justin's problem was that he got into a row with Crescens, we think, but in any case appears to have pissed off the cynics of which Crescens was the local spokesman. The story is that Crescens reported him to the authorities on a kind of blasphemy charge (rich coming from a cynic), though in fact if it's true then it was a case of Crescens getting the boot in before Justin could do the same to him. Cynic philosophy was one of the ones MA didn't like at all and the emperor, if Crescens had been the one reported, might well have had the cynic on the chopping block instead.

The Crescens story may not be accurate (Eusebius's sources were dubious and he was never above a little embellishment of the truth) but if Tatian is to be believed then Justin at one point had both the power and the temerity to haul Crescens in for public interrogation, the action of a wealthy citizen and the normal precursor to a civic law suit. Not the image of the poor Christian Roman, skulking in basements and back-alleys in fear of discovery, as is often advanced by Christian historians today. Contumate he might have been at the end but really he had also played himself into a corner where he could not back-track and recant anyway.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Thu 10 Jul 2014, 08:17

@nordmann wrote:
...(Eusebius's sources were dubious and he was never above a little embellishment of the truth)...


Embellishment? Wasn't Eusebius the dreadful old fraud who made things up willy-nilly? Talking of which, wasn't he the early Church Father who claimed that Origen, in a rather overenthusiastic fit of piety, castrated himself? Eusebius claimed that Origen, agonising over Matthew 19:12 (like you do), took things just a bit too literally. Here is a picture of Origen holding up his bits.

Gibbon reckoned the story was true, but it's disputed now.

Why do so many religious people not understand figurative language? This is what has led to so many of these unfortunate incidents, I feel. Metaphor is lost on them.



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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Thu 10 Jul 2014, 08:24

What great parties they had in those days. Having been at several "nattspill" here in Norway ("night play" - friendly post-pub gatherings in someone's apartment but which in Norway also involves copious quantities of jagermeister, psychoses and what one only hopes might be hallucinations) the image actually rings a hazy bell.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Thu 10 Jul 2014, 08:34

I wish I'd found that picture before - it would have been a great one for the Captions thread.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Thu 10 Jul 2014, 09:08

To be serious again, my comment about the inability to appreciate figurative language has got me thinking now about a possible connection between religiously-inspired self-harm and Asperger Syndrome. People with this condition are often enormously intelligent, but take everything literally. Metaphor really is a mystery to them. Found this:

I'm an Aspie and I've been a hardcore atheist all my life. I need evidence and cannot force myself to believe, no matter how hard I try. The thing is my fundamentalist Christian father (now deceased) was very likely an undiagnosed Aspie, given his single-minded militant obsession with religion, which he interpretated as strictly historical and factual, without a trace of emotion or mysticism. He was an extreme fundamentalist, a serpent handler and poison drinker. Dad was every bit as socially inept as I am, but was raised in a military academy which ideally suited his rules oriented structured thinking.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Thu 10 Jul 2014, 09:33

There is a growing body of research linking Aspberger's with cortical nueropathological malfunction. While this of course cannot be held up as a potential cause for investment in "faith-based" belief it could, as you say, certainly figure as a factor in the manner in which the subject interprets that faith with regard to what specifically can be believed and then how one goes about expressing it, even if that behaviour contradicts more usual instinctive attitudes regarding self-preservation and the avoidance of injury.

However I can think of a few extreme sport enthusiasts who could well have the same charge levelled against them regarding suspect cause. And in fact maybe the similarity between the two is worth investigation. (a very real sensation of happiness bordering on the spiritually sublime induced by partaking in dangerous activity)
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Thu 10 Jul 2014, 14:27

@nordmann wrote:
There is a growing body of research linking Aspberger's with cortical nueropathological malfunction. While this of course cannot be held up as a potential cause for investment in "faith-based" belief it could, as you say, certainly figure as a factor in the manner in which the subject interprets that faith with regard to what specifically can be believed and then how one goes about expressing it, even if that behaviour contradicts more usual instinctive attitudes regarding self-preservation and the avoidance of injury.



Your mention of "cortical neuropathological malfunction" is very interesting and it links to something I have been reading recently. The "Holy Anorexics" were a baffling bunch - especially in Darwinian terms, as not only does anorexia have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, it also destroys - often permanently - a girl's fertility. Recent studies - from your own university and researches elsewhere -  are suggesting that this distressing condition could be caused by a malfunctioning insula:


http://www.oslo-universitetssykehus.no/SiteCollectionDocuments/Fagfolk/Forskning%20og%20utvikling/RASP/RASP,Insula%20theory%20published%20version1.pdf

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/anorexic-brain


Emma Woolf (Virginia Woolf's great-niece and the daughter of biographer Jean Moorcroft Wilson) mentions this in her 2012 book, "An Apple a Day". She also recounts how her consultant psychiatrist, Dr Paul Robinson at the Royal Free Hospital in North London, "casually observed that in the Middle Ages I might have been a nun, an ascetic devoted to denying the demands of the flesh...It was raining heavily as I left the hospital, but I cycled home in a trance. All the way, I thought of the medieval literature I had studied at Oxford; I conjured up vivid images of Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe, those nuns and mystics mortifying the flesh, starving and praying in their lonely cells. Dr Robinson had identified something about me that I had never realised: that the anorexia (even more than the thinness) satisfies a yearning for something clean and empty...I've since found out that my "purity" feeling does make sense. There was a research study in Ghana several years ago which investigated secondary school girls with abnormally low body weight (Bennett et al. 2004 The British Journal of Psychiatry). None of these girls displayed a desire to be thin or a morbid fear of fatness - even weirder, none reported amenorrhoea. The study reports that they viewed their food restriction positively and in religious terms; they believed in self-control and denial of hunger...the Ghanaian girls didn't have any problem with body image: they just wanted to be more religious and holy."

Something else that Emma Woolf says which is extremely disturbing is her admission that: "A part of me fears being womanly, fleshy, excessive...Being a woman is messy: being a woman involves blood and fat. Anorexia seems very pure and I like that." What would Darwin make of such an admission?

@nordmann wrote:
However I can think of a few extreme sport enthusiasts who could well have the same charge levelled against them regarding suspect cause. And in fact maybe the similarity between the two is worth investigation (a very real sensation of happiness bordering on the spiritually sublime induced by partaking in dangerous activity).


The crazy high - similar to the high induced by starvation? That "very real sensation of happiness bordering on the spiritually sublime" - male and female versions of the same thing? Of course Holy Anorexics were not all nuns and not all female.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Thu 10 Jul 2014, 17:00

PS The mention of the insula and the response to pain is interesting too (mentioned in second link above) -  volunteers not responding to heat.


Sensory underload

One trait Kaye has focused on is anorexics’ sense of awareness of their bodies. Peel back the outer lobes of the brain by the temples, and the bit that handles body awareness pops into view. These regions, little islands of tissue called the insula, are one of the first brain areas to register pain, taste and other sensations. When people hold their breath, for example, and feel the panicky claws of air hunger, “the insula lights up like crazy,” Kaye says.

Kaye and colleagues have shown that the insulas of people with anorexia seem to be somewhat dulled to sensations. In a recent study, his team strapped heat-delivering gadgets to volunteers’ arms and cranked the devices to painfully hot temperatures while measuring insula activity via fMRI.

Compared with healthy volunteers, bits of recovered anorexics’ insulas dimmed when the researchers turned up the heat. But when researchers simply warned that pain was coming, other parts of the brain region flared brightly, Kaye’s team reported in January in the International Journal of Eating Disorders. For people who have had anorexia, actually feeling pain didn’t seem as bad as anticipating it. “They don’t seem to be sensing things correctly,” says Kaye.



Which martyr was it that didn't seem too fazed about being grilled alive? St. Lawrence?



How bizarre all this is. No wonder religion gets such a bad press these days.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Thu 10 Jul 2014, 17:41

St. Lawrence indeed ... martyred on a grid-iron, and so, following Catholic logic, he is now the patron saint of all chefs. But now surely he's the especial patron of all those, untrained, under-age, naive, al fresco, ad hoc cooks, that are employed, worldwide to tend rotisseries, bbqs, clam bakes, planchas and all other dangerous outside cooking systems, ... whether in countires that are Catholic or not.

Or is the patron saint of cooks the martyr who was condemmed to be boiled to death ... but then, just as his bain-marie got to temperature, he said it wasn't hot enough, and so tricked the Sultan into putting his own hand into the boiling water ... and so scalding himself!

Martyrdom .... it was just all a big joke to those laugh-a-minute early christian guys wasn't it?

No

Sorry .... wandering orf topic again.

EDIT : St Lawrence is also apparently the official patron saint of comedians .... perhaps just to show the the Holy See does have some sense of humour!!
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Thu 10 Jul 2014, 23:36

Intellect Health warning: Prosaic post coming up.

Partially understanding some of the above posts I assume that altruism is still marked as being action that promotes self satisfaction in one's goodness, so  then does dedicated cruelty promote a sense of satisfaction with evil? I may have misread early posts about evil not existing other than that it is used as a form religious counterbalance but there have been instances when I have sensed it - and fearfully, once in a child.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Fri 11 Jul 2014, 08:07

But it is also true (as if one needed further evidence of the ineffective semantic application of "evil" as a term) that the worst deeds are performed by people who never gave off the "evil vibes" you refer to at all, Priscilla, prior to proving themselves thoroughly rotten people. It's almost a cliché in itself, isn't it - the "we never suspected he was capable of such a thing" line and variants thereof? Which of course should lead one also to the view that maybe these premonitionary feelings of evil that certain creepy people indubitably exude may actually say much more about our own fears, biases and thought processes than theirs.

How much "satisfaction" doing bad things might engender for the perpetrator is also an extremely moot point. I imagine it's so hard to answer that puzzle that one is probably best avoiding the term "satisfaction" at all and sticking with the concept of short and long term reward when analysing the 'why's of their behaviour.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Fri 11 Jul 2014, 10:23

I used 'sensed' wrongly. I meant being aware of something other than diagnosed mental illness that has driven a person to (witnessed) deliberate cruelty - the results of which revealed a sadistic relish that only  be could be described as evil. And that is an awful label to apply because surely one strives hard to find  rational cause whilst keeping fear,  bias and judgment subject.  And it seems to me that evil has a strong following. If all awful acts are a result of mental imbalance are all very good acts  likewise? It is an odd paradox that  doing something 'good' often takes an effort of will, doing bad seems a much easier option.  The human condition is such a trial.
Here endeth  this prosaic post.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Fri 11 Jul 2014, 10:35

Evil - it's such a useful little word for insulating those who employ it from the need to do anything more than shuddering and turning away. Just by designating someone or some deed as 'evil', it puts it/them into the category of the inexplicable, the incomprehensible, the inhuman and implies acting under the compulsion of some force, internal or external, that doesn't act on the rest of humanity.
Describing anything as evil just eliminates the need to acknowledge that even the most barbaric, sadistic and horrible action has an internal logic to the perpetrator in those reward systems that nordmann talks about and that there are traces, however faint, of those systems in all of us.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Fri 11 Jul 2014, 14:01

@ferval wrote:
Evil - it's such a useful little word for insulating those who employ it from the need to do anything more than shuddering and turning away. Just by designating someone or some deed as 'evil', it puts it/them into the category of the inexplicable, the incomprehensible, the inhuman and implies acting under the compulsion of some force, internal or external, that doesn't act on the rest of humanity.
Describing anything as evil just eliminates the need to acknowledge that even the most barbaric, sadistic and horrible action has an internal logic to the perpetrator in those reward systems that nordmann talks about and that there are traces, however faint, of those systems in all of us.


Of course it acts on "the rest of humanity" and of course there are traces of "those systems" in all of us. That's what I meant when I rambled on about St. Paul and his letter to the Romans.

Drat, said I wouldn't get involved in God stuff again, not here anyway. No time now, but will be back later. I'm like a frantic and foolish moth, blundering repeatedly into the flame.

PS I know exactly what Priscilla means. We had a horribly ugly situation here recently that led me to snarl at one woman (a Catholic, ex-member of Opus Dei, a terrifying woman) that 400 years ago she would no doubt have been happily organising a spectacular auto-da-fe (always such good fun) for us in the village. I wasn't the heretic she was gunning for in her witch-hunt oddly enough - this dangerous woman leaves me alone. But there was evil let loose in our sleepy little Devon village, believe me, and someone vulnerable was very nearly destroyed - and I mean destroyed - in the process. It was like something out of Miller's The Crucible. Sounds crazy? Maybe. But this bad business certainly brought out the worst in me, I'm sad to say, although at the time I liked to call it righteous anger. Pretty unholy anger, actually, but I don't like vicious Opus Dei bullies. The whole affair would make/is making a good short story. Not a tale about a Hitler, a Stalin or some  mass murderer, but a nice example of what in To Kill a Mockingbird is called the simple hell people give one another every day. And we all do it. Not on an industrial scale, maybe, but enough to cause real suffering and despair. Ape and essence indeed. But essence of what?  

P. In mad rush at the moment. Will reply later.


Merciful heaven,
Thou rather with thy sharp and sulphurous bolt
Splits the unwedgeable and gnarlèd oak
Than the soft myrtle; but man, proud man,
Dress'd in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he's most assur'd—
His glassy essence—like an angry ape
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As makes the angels weep; who, with our spleens,
Would all themselves laugh mortal.

Measure For Measure Act 2, scene 2, 114–123


EDIT: Priscilla - treacle and glass jars and flawed things - lovely bit of imagery. Couldn't agree more.


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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Fri 11 Jul 2014, 21:39

Temperance,

"P. In mad rush at the moment. Will reply later."

So eager to comment again to this very interesting thread. But, as you, always in a mad rush too...and one has to "think" if one wants to reply, especially in the company of such erudite contributors.

Although above the seventy, still for hire all those appartments...lot of work...every year worser people...thinking to sell some but that too is work and is not arranged in one day...

Kind regards and with esteem to you and Priscilla.

PS. Where Meles Meles find the time to post all these interesting comments with his workload is beyond me...
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Sun 13 Jul 2014, 10:19

Temp, like ferval I am still not convinced that "evil" is a very useful term when describing such people's behaviour except - as ferv pointed out - it allows us to actually avoid a proper analysis of their behaviour at all. One aspect to this person's behaviour that you allude to - the fact that she and you through fellow membership in a group actually share certain beliefs, aims and practices - could almost on its own explain a reticence on your part to dig deeper into her motives and thought processes. Another is a very natural and instinctive fear of "contagion". To an extent we are all nervous about actually attempting to understand such people, not just because of what we might learn we have in common, but because we also know deep down that much of what we "know" has been learnt from others, some of which has been imparted so subliminally as no longer to be understandable to us as learnt through that process, and therefore exposure to something we hold in distaste carries a risk of traits and thoughts becoming "part" of us too should this same arcane process be used against us malevolently. This has been a frequently explored theme in stories from Pandora to Star Wars, the common element being our natural susceptibility to corruption even when the "evil" is apparent.

Maybe sometimes such a dismissal as "evil" is probably the more intelligent reaction in that it helps people "move on with their lives" as the cliché goes. However the part of me that also thinks understanding something is the only way to prevent it reoccurring rebels at this notion. The Pandora story was designed to warn people like me of course that this reliance on comprehension and the curiosity employed to pursue it could be detrimental. However there is much that transpired from Pandora's action (a metaphor for education in a very important sense too) which also has ultimately benefited us all in the long run, if only in helping us understand that the universe has no more justification to be seen as benign as it has to be considered "evil", even in part. The terms just aren't necessary and in fact impede understanding rather than help it. The same is true of understanding people.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Sun 13 Jul 2014, 16:28

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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Sun 13 Jul 2014, 16:53

Your empathy with the woman should merely underline the inadequacy of the word "evil" in such contexts, I would have imagined. Your realisation, like Capote's, that there is a fine line between the character of the psychopath or otherwise anti-social individual and that of the person who regards themself as "well adjusted" and socially functional is a valuable step to comprehension, but not comprehension itself. What defines the boundary may be difficult to identify, and probably even more difficult to accept for some people, but attempts to understand what lies beyond that boundary are not well served by defining them as evil. And nor is pursuit of such understanding much helped by Buddhists calmly telling you in a manner implying they feel they must be right that you have a feeling you should be right too, thereby making both of you on a par with the fundamentalist who also must be right. An analysis of the difference between the actions your desire to be correct leads you to and where the other woman is taken by such convictions would have been equally as wise an interjection, and if not more intelligent at least more helpful.

The notion of "cold blooded" is an interesting one, especially given the extremes of violence and hatred which can be exhibited by "hot blooded" individuals. Thankfully I am assured by medical science that all our blood temperatures are pretty much uniform so these are simply euphemisms for something else that we are unwilling (or unable) to describe or accept for what they actually are.

Or are they?
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Sun 13 Jul 2014, 18:44

@nordmann wrote:

The notion of "cold blooded" is an interesting one, especially given the extremes of violence and hatred which can be exhibited by "hot blooded" individuals.

It's not the temperature of the blood that's important, it's the colour of the bile. An excess of yellow bile from the gall bladder, especially in summer time, makes a person choleric ... well at least that's what Hippocrates said and why should we disregard a treatise that has been dogmatically believed in and used for well over 2000 years, just because there's no evidence that it's true.

And the established cure? ... just like everything else: "a good course of leeches!".

There you go Temp - all you need is a few Hirundo medicinalis.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Sun 13 Jul 2014, 18:52

Wouldn't venting one's spleen be more effective? It is for me.

Mind you, it takes guts to do so!
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Sun 13 Jul 2014, 18:57

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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Sun 13 Jul 2014, 19:20

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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Sun 13 Jul 2014, 23:10

And now I wanted to "construct" a meaningful and "well thought-out" comment to the Nordmann-Temperance debate...but sadly time is up...midnight...the start of the witching hour...

With esteem to all the contributors,

Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Sun 13 Jul 2014, 23:58

Hesiod used the Pandora story to underline his opinion that women were the cause of the ills of the world; a metaphor for education, you say - mm -? As a 'don't knower' about most things and therefore without the anchor ropes of belief, after a lifetime of thinking that altruism was sublimated self interest, thinking much on the content of many threads on this site  -and matching it against personal witness, I am at last convinced that it is not so
Nordmann, you will make a practising Christian of me yet!  Regards, P.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Mon 14 Jul 2014, 08:26

Practice makes prefects, P!

Don't shoot the messenger though, by which I mean Hesiod. He didn't write the story, he just recounted it. Pandora is simply the Jewish Eve (though with a better filled-out character and according to the story more obvious intelligence). As with Eve she places pursuit of knowledge above blind trust in authority and unquestioning obedience - an essential principle behind education of all description (with the exception perhaps of the British Public School model). In Greek mythology knowledge itself is the "punishment", though by the time the Athenian misogynists had taken over interpreting the myths it had become a "good thing" again, if really only for men, and therefore credited Prometheus with the "gift" (as it had now again become - see under), who gave it to mankind as a part of the Titan's general peeve against Zeus & Co. The Greeks had obviously got to a point between the 7th and 3rd centuries BCE where the benefits of actually knowing stuff had become obvious. Pandora had gone from villain to "silly girl". Which is a pity either way - her name (and I am sure the original intention of the story) means "all endowing", "super generous", "gift giver". She had only ever done bad in the eyes of the Olympus crew, not mankind. Crucial difference. And once she (or later Prometheus) had done the deed the gods regarded it as spilt milk anyway and simply got on with other stuff.

In Jewish mythology (aka Christian/Muslim etc) a vengeful god takes umbrage at such presumption to want to know stuff and punishes everyone. For eternity. Ouch.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Mon 14 Jul 2014, 09:55

Ah but 'elpis' is at hand...... which begs that other debate. Is hope a good or a bad thing?
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Mon 14 Jul 2014, 10:11

It's eternally springing - that's all I know. A bit like Zebedee. Handy if you're stuck in a jar.

Leaving Elpis in the jar, according to Hesiod, meant that we were still in some small crucial way at the mercy of Zeus's will. Why this should be so however even the ancient Greeks used to waste time over, debating the issue ad nauseum on whatever passed for internet message boards in their day. Is it hope or maybe just expectation that binds us to the will of the gods? The cynics (and I agree with them) reckoned that everyone had got it wrong anyway - Elpis was foolish hope based on ignorance or blind belief that we could do without in any case. We were quite capable of creating that one for for ourselves!
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Mon 14 Jul 2014, 12:14

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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Mon 14 Jul 2014, 12:59

I'm sorry - I don't mean to lower the intellectual tone; it's just I'm desperately trying to see the funny side of all this today. Probably not a good idea, but it's either that or go quite mad. And I like the moggy on the left - she's obviously got a sense of humour at least.

Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch'entrate. So  Dante tells us of hell. Was he right? Is hell simply a state of being where there is no hope? But hope of what? Or was Sartre nearer the mark when he said, "Hell is other people"? (Although he probably didn't mean it to mean hell is other people, if you see what I mean. I don't really know what he meant. Or Dante for that matter. Oh bugger it all. I'm going to deadhead my geraniums.)
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Mon 14 Jul 2014, 13:37

I wouldn't worry about it - "hell" like "evil" is yet another of those semantic red herrings which exercise the minds of the religious but are, by design, never going to be resolved through logical analysis. Etymologically the English word is actually one of those with a strongly discernible track back through linguistics to an Indo-European root (giving it close relatives in many other languages). The root meant "to cover" or "to hide". Go figure ...

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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Mon 14 Jul 2014, 14:19

@nordmann wrote:
I wouldn't worry about it - "hell" like "evil" is yet another of those semantic red herrings which exercise the minds of the religious but are, by design, never going to be resolved through logical analysis. Etymologically the English word is actually one of those with a strongly discernible track back through linguistics to an Indo-European root (giving it close relatives in many other languages). The root meant "to cover" or "to hide". Go figure ...


But I do worry about it - human misery, I mean.

And surely it is a "red herring" that has exercised the minds of many thoughtful people, and not just the "religious"? Sartre wasn't religious - was he? "Hell" is just a word for a state of mind, a state of being, surely: misery - despair - hopelessness? Or is that just too simplistic for words? No doubt it is. How awful all this is. Talking to you is sometimes like trying to talk to First Utility about my gas bill.

And I hate that expression, "Go figure..." Go figure what? That we are all cowering, hiding from one possible version - your version - of the truth? I'm just asking questions; isn't that what we are all supposed to do? I have no idea of what the truth is. I wish I did.

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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Mon 14 Jul 2014, 14:35

Temp wrote:
"Hell" is just a word for a state of mind, a state of being, surely: misery - despair - hopelessness?

You see the problem already? And you could even have expanded that list with a few other words associated with suffering without even pausing for thought!

Sartre might well have used it as a synonym for misery, even a mixture of misery, despair and hopelessness - we all do from time to time - but as an existentialist he explored also the phenomenon of humans lending a notion of existence to things which defied accurate description (normally a clue to their non-existence) and that they do it most often when talking about religious concepts. And you do have to admit - the Abrahamic religions have a love affair with this particular existential quandary (well, it's a quandary for them anyway).

Your gas bill will be in the post presently. (I hate that word "presently" - surely "futurely" is what they mean?)

Go figure ... (an expression which to me means "your guess is as good as mine" - go figure!)
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Mon 14 Jul 2014, 14:50

I found this nice summary of Sartre's notions of reality and how we deduce things exist when there's nothing to be actively conscious of or which lie beyond our experiential capabilities. The object of our consciousness must ipso facto therefore have these properties:

The object of consciousness exists as “in-itself,” that is, in an independent and non-relational way. However, consciousness is always consciousness “of something,” so it is defined in relation to something else, and it is not possible to grasp it within a conscious experience: it exists as “for-itself.

Without this application of consciousness learning is almost impossible (as is also the notion of "nothing") - everything would have to be experienced and the experience intrinsically understood before it could even begin to be regarded as real, let alone learned. We must therefore all, whether we know it or not, imbue concepts and things outside our consciousness with the quality of existence in order to include them and remember them within that which we already believe exists. These become the tools which then allow us to repeat the exercise again and again, the outcome being a construction of reality containing much that is "real" but which has never actually been experienced at all. Yet it has to be real or the other realities dissolve immediately.

You can see how religion can prosper amongst people with minds that are wired to work this way. We appear to be subjectively building realities with huge room for inclusion of things that have never been and can never be real by objective standards. They exist "in-themselves" and "for-themselves". We just store them, and are required to store them to keep a grip on reality at all. Religion simply encourages us to use them beyond their planned function in that model.

Some of us wriggle snakes because of them, but that's another story. No wait - that's the theme of the thread!
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Mon 14 Jul 2014, 18:46

Yet Sartre also wrote: “That God does not exist, I cannot deny. That my whole being cries out for God I cannot forget.” A startlingly honest admission from such a man.

I've puzzled over the very difficult quotation you give above, and, if I have understood it properly (unlikely), it has made me wonder whether our capacity to conjure up the idea of God - illusion or delusion or figment of an imagined reality or whatever such a concept is - is actually a very clever evolutionary hard-wiring for many of us: to keep us from despair or suicide?  We can't all be as brave as the average French intellectual after all.

Probably quite irrelevant, but Voltaire's famous comment that if God did not exist it would be necessary to invent Him, and Hamlet's equally famous agonising about suicide keep going round in my head.

Or, as Kenneth Williams, facing the utter bleakness of an indifferent universe and the dreadful  realisation that he was indeed "condemned to be free", put it: "Oh, what's the bloody point?"

Perhaps folk like me can be forgiven our foolish delusions, so long as we don't inflict them - with or without violence -  on others - and so long as we leave those poor snakes alone.

PS Genuine query - Voltaire did believe in God, didn't he? Sort of? Just a different God from the one the Pope believed in?

PPS I had far too much to drink yesterday (hence emotional ramblings), but I'm still going to have a glass of a good red now. That usually means I shall delete my messages: this one will probably go at around 11.43pm.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Mon 14 Jul 2014, 20:22

Temp wrote:
 ... it has made me wonder whether our capacity to conjure up the idea of God - illusion or delusion or figment of an imagined reality or whatever such a concept is - is actually a very clever evolutionary hard-wiring for many of us: to keep us from despair or suicide? 

This may be true for you. As a universal truth it's more shaky - what about those who use the concept of god to justify sadism, oppression and other very horrible anti-social practices? Are they doing this to stave off depression and despair? Maybe. Is it worth keeping an investment in the concept on that basis? Well, maybe not.

God is the ultimate semantic red herring in the universe.

Sartre was a great fan of the red/yellow test: You see red as red. I see a colour that I call red, and we are both looking at the same colour so therefore we are in total agreement that we are both looking at red. But what if we swapped eyes and suddenly we both realised that what we were looking at had been yellow all the time - at least yellow as our previous eyes and brain perceived it? This is not so abnormal a phenomenon (we know many ways in which the retina's rods and cones can confuse the relay to the brain in just such a manner so as to produce this dilemma). But the question then is "what is red?" or "what is yellow?". They are perceptions which pass many tests on the way to being accepted as reality but at the first hurdle of "what is perception?" they fail. (Even if we both, after swapping eyes, are content that "red" is still the "red" we knew how can we know that this is not only true for us two? Perhaps the rest of humanity has another, maybe even thousands of ways of perceiving the colour, but this in no way preculdes nominal agreement amongst us all). Tests to "prove" reality are always prone to being disqualified by the failure to establish exactly how perception works for more than one individual at a time.

God doesn't even make it that far. We have so much evidence that god is a subjective perception and that this perception is put to many different, often quite opposite, applications that it raises another question entirely. Why pretend it's real at all? And yet the religious injunction is that it must never be called anything else.

So no - Sartre wasn't religious. He was human, and knew the flaws that this incorporates regarding understanding things as real better than most.

He was also very funny.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Mon 14 Jul 2014, 20:40

Sartre funny? Don't you mean Voltaire?



I'm still digesting the rest of your post.

EDIT: "If God did not exist, he would have to be invented." But all nature cries aloud that he does exist: that there is a supreme intelligence, an immense power, an admirable order, and everything teaches us our own dependence on it. Voltaire quoting himself in his Letter to Prince Frederick William of Prussia (28 November 1770), translated by S.G. Tallentyre, Voltaire in His Letters, 1919
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Mon 14 Jul 2014, 22:51

Nordmann,

started already again too late in this discussion this evening. And yes the original post are "the snakes", but that is rather Priscilla's thread where I can't contribute for fear that I write under my own name (and my fear is confirmed at the French history message board as in the discussion on the new califat, there is an on the first sight rational contributor...but gradualy...and his opponent writing under a nom de plume...)

"Sartre was a great fan of the red/yellow test: You see red as red. I see a colour that I call red, and we are both looking at the same colour so therefore we are in total agreement that we are both looking at red. But what if we swapped eyes and suddenly we both realised that what we were looking at had been yellow all the time - at least yellow as our previous eyes and brain perceived it? This is not so abnormal a phenomenon (we know many ways in which the retina's rods and cones can confuse the relay to the brain in just such a manner so as to produce this dilemma). But the question then is "what is red?" or "what is yellow?". They are perceptions which pass many tests on the way to being accepted as reality but at the first hurdle of "what is perception?" they fail. (Even if we both, after swapping eyes, are content that "red" is still the "red" we knew how can we know that this is not only true for us two? Perhaps the rest of humanity has another, maybe even thousands of ways of perceiving the colour, but this in no way preculdes nominal agreement amongst us all). Tests to "prove" reality are always prone to being disqualified by the failure to establish exactly how perception works for more than one individual at a time."

Don't know if that is a good example...in the time I was a colour specialist...colours are measured in the three composing colours and expressed in three values, and the coordinates makes one point in a threedimensional coordinate system. And yes everybody will see from a particular "l a b" worth another shade (especially if he is colour blind), but statistically the test done by thousands of participants seeing red as red and not yellow, one shall have to admit that, if he sees this particular "l a b" worth as yellow instead of red, he has something in the transmitting of his eye to his brain that is quite otherwise than the average man's brain...

Just to say that we can't be lurred by all our perceptions....as there are also indirect measurements which can confirm our perception...

But somewhere (and I am as Temperance, if I understood you well) you said if we start to speculate what is beyond our consciousness, we make also a "reality" of it? and bring this "reality" in our consciousness?

No for me, when I speculate about what is beyond my consciousness, I make some models and try to make a consistent rational reasoning around it. Always saying you never know...but waiting for a scientific support for it...if that ever will be possible...
In the meantime sticking to that consciously earthly life...and yes without hope on a hereafter...what is for most people, and there I agree to Priscilla and Temperance, not such a conforting prospect...with such a philosophy one has have to do it all in the short lifespan here on earth...

But still, and that is another paragraph, wrestling with the notion of good and evil in humankind...trying to answer to you, Temperance and Priscilla...but, as said, started too late this evening....

Kind regards and with esteem to the three of you,

Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Mon 14 Jul 2014, 23:09

I'm afraid you are missing the point about colour and perception, Paul. It is not about interpreting the same stimuli as two different things. It is about the same stimuli being interpreted the same way as far as the two interpreters can know. However this is not proof that it is so. The perception cannot be tested, only agreed.

If you find that difficult to grasp I won't even begin with the extrapolation of the idea into an infinite number of stimuli being interpreted by an infinite number of interpreters and the very real possibility that none of them share the same perception. But it follows the same logic.

Temp seems to have got stuck in "but even atheists believe in god" mode, which is a shame. It's almost as if red and yellow didn't exist at all. The point I had hoped to address was not what others might or might not have said about god but what is meant by god. Temp's red, my yellow and Voltaire's beige - it's immaterial what each believes in relation to the other if the perception cannot be definitively tested. The evidence however suggests - without testing - that we're all just making it up as we go along. God is truly made in the likeness of man, the only problem for god being that there are so many doing the making and even when we think we agree we could be creating quite different perceptions in reality.

I don't understand the rest of your post actually. You seem to be putting forward the idea that no prospect of an afterlife somehow accentuates the gloominess of one's life, at least the one of which we are conscious. I cannot agree with that. After all, what on earth is an afterlife? That's another one that fails the red/yellow test.


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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Tue 15 Jul 2014, 07:04

@nordmann wrote:


Temp seems to have got stuck in "but even atheists believe in god" mode, which is a shame. It's almost as if red and yellow didn't exist at all. The point I had hoped to address was not what others might or might not have said about god but what is meant by god. Temp's red, my yellow and Voltaire's beige - it's immaterial what each believes in relation to the other if the perception cannot be definitively tested. The evidence however suggests - without testing - that we're all just making it up as we go along. God is truly made in the likeness of man, the only problem for god being that there are so many doing the making and even when we think we agree we could be creating quite different perceptions in reality.



Temp hasn't got stuck - or rather she has, but not because she doesn't understand what you are saying above - unhappily it makes complete sense - but because she is wondering about the implications of all this, not just for herself, but for us all. Where do we go from here? What you say may make complete sense, but it is the stuff of madness. You won't see it that way, of course: for you it is the stuff of sanity.

I'm getting the same "I'm going crazy" feeling I had a couple of years ago when listening to that young philosopher's brilliant analysis of Edward Thomas's Adlestrop. I can still see his icy, intelligent, uncomprehending stare when I asked him, "Can't we just agree that it's about a blackbird singing? You may well be right in what you are saying, but perhaps we are losing something very precious in the translation."


PS Temp is also trying to link all this to Plato's Forms and St. John and the idea that "God is spirit" - a human ideal embodied in the concept of the Christ. The Logos - reason? -  made flesh. But of course that won't do either. This is indeed very troubling, but interesting. Actually, I think I am stuck.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Tue 15 Jul 2014, 07:50

It is most definitely not the stuff of madness. The construction of a perceivable reality is a vital aspect to consciousness that has no "right way" or "wrong way" about it. Neither is there choice about it. We are only conscious when we also accommodate concepts that exist "in themselves" and "for themselves", which is why god etc can so easily be inserted in any form by anyone at any time, whether the concept is uniform or not. The question is not what function god serves (though to theologians - who are also stuck - this is probably the only question that presents itself to be discussed in existential terms) but what reality can exist without it? I would suggest that the evidence - again untestable - points to humans being more inclined to share a reality that includes semantic red herrings than share one lacking them; after all they invent them consistently. These logical sophisticalities fail every cognitive measure by which reality is normally established except the crucial one - they are perceived as such. Therefore they must be playing a role in our general cognitive function. Much like the concept of "nothing" in fact. God and nothing have much in common.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Tue 15 Jul 2014, 08:57

@nordmann wrote:
God and nothing have much in common.


"Nothing will come of nothing". Nothing is a dreadful word that is echoed throughout King Lear. Shakespeare was also very influenced by Florio's translation of Montaigne at the time apparently; maybe he was looking for some help as he too struggled with the temptation to nihilism. I'm sorry to drag WW into this, but it's really all I know.

You are too clever for me, nordmann, and I am not being sarcastic when I say that. I need to stick with what I do know and can at least try to understand, not attempt to discuss these difficult philosophical concepts with you. I'm lost here. I'm not chickening out, just trying to be honest - I think.

But may I be allowed one last bit of poetry? Emily Bronte refused to go to her father's church, but she wrote this. It may be full of red, yellow and beige herrings, but it's terrific stuff - and more helpful perhaps to the ordinary person than all the French philosophers in the world. But perhaps she was just "stuck" too.


No Coward Soul Is Mine.  


No coward soul is mine

No trembler in the world's storm-troubled sphere

I see Heaven's glories shine

And Faith shines equal arming me from Fear


O God within my breast

Almighty ever-present Deity

Life, that in me hast rest,

As I Undying Life, have power in Thee


Vain are the thousand creeds

That move men's hearts, unutterably vain,

Worthless as withered weeds

Or idlest froth amid the boundless main


To waken doubt in one

Holding so fast by thy infinity,

So surely anchored on

The steadfast rock of Immortality.


With wide-embracing love

Thy spirit animates eternal years

Pervades and broods above,

Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates and rears


Though earth and moon were gone

And suns and universes ceased to be

And Thou wert left alone

Every Existence would exist in thee


There is not room for Death

Nor atom that his might could render void

Since thou art Being and Breath

And what thou art may never be destroyed.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Tue 15 Jul 2014, 09:20

It is neither helpful nor unhelpful to any person however ordinary they may be, unless of course in the sense that if the ordinary person assumes to share the perception the nature of the reality presented can then be examined. Then it "helps" define consciousness and can never be unhelpful. But this is also why, beautiful as it is, it cannot contribute to any discussion about the existence of god, merely one concerning the characteristics of the perception of reality already shared by writer and reader. Like all the best poetry its only real meaning is the one subjectively embraced by the reader/listener (as my English teacher in school used often say - poems are not cryptic crosswords and must never be "solved", despite what the exam system says).
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Tue 15 Jul 2014, 10:52

Great stuff, Temps and I thank you for it. That poem attempts to express the awe with  which   many  strive to comprehend the majesty of total creation that our limited human minds have developed to but glimpse. That ol' clever-clogs bats it away from his fragile wicket of proof that it is all a nonsense  is to be expected. Far, far less able than both of you, I also withdraw from the thread - but I'm taking this poem with me.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Tue 15 Jul 2014, 11:01

@Priscilla wrote:
That ol' clever-clogs bats it away from his fragile wicket of proof that it is all a nonsense is to be expected.

Nonsense? I would call it anything but.

There is nothing less nonsensical than existence!

It is a nice poem, isn't it?
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Tue 15 Jul 2014, 11:21

Yes, ever such a nice poem, ducky. Now I really must go - mustn't outstay our welcome, must we, deary.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Tue 15 Jul 2014, 11:31

Ducky? Deary? Outstay our welcome?

Clever-clogs is struggling here ...
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Tue 15 Jul 2014, 12:23

Oh dear. Look. You are the last person I would want to offend - but you are still on my list - as they say.

Struggle on and you might just reach the other side.  Now I must away to try to make a fried egg lunch look better than it is....... by the way - clue 'nice' when attached to poem.... or anything else, grates somick orful..
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Tue 15 Jul 2014, 12:35

Ah, I see.

Good poem, wasn't it?

And quite seriously - that has been one thing for which we all should be grateful that god exists as a concept. Exploration of that concept by poets has produced some of the most sublime poetry (a medium which lends itself to that kind of exploration much more readily than any existentialist philosophy could hope for). I have always liked Blake's:

To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
All pray in their distress;
And to these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.

For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is God, our father dear,
And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is Man, his child and care.

For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.

Then every man, of every clime,
That prays in his distress,
Prays to the human form divine,
Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.

And all must love the human form,
In heathen, Turk, or Jew;
Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.

God made man make god make man make god make man make god ... and so what? Does it matter who gets the credit for Mercy, Love and Pity? They're the real constant. A wonderfully affirmative sentiment for faith in humanity.
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PostSubject: Re: Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?   Tue 15 Jul 2014, 12:53

@nordmann wrote:
God made man make god make man make god make man make god ... and so what? Does it matter who gets the credit for Mercy, Love and Pity? They're the real constant. A wonderfully affirmative sentiment for faith in humanity.


Good grief, nordmann has said something a) that I really understand and b) I agree with!  Smile 


And I think both our poems are everso nice. (Let him off for "nice" just this once, Priscilla - he seems to be on the right track at last.  Smile )
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Risking your life (and others') for faith - Darwinian theory in practice?

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