Don’t look now, but there’s a Saber-Toothed Tiger stalking you!

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“Goddidit” will save you!

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  1. acilius

     /  March 18, 2009

    “There is nothing unique about religious belief in these brain structures. Religion doesn’t have a ‘God spot’ as such, instead it’s embedded in a whole range of other belief systems in the brain that we use everyday,” Professor Grafman said.

    That was the part that interested me. Philosophers and others have spent a lot of time over the years unmasking apparently secular beliefs as religious doctrines in disguise. This research sounds like it might have the potential to turbocharge that kind of inquiry.

  2. cymast

     /  March 18, 2009

    For example, superstitions?

  3. acilius

     /  March 18, 2009

    For example, all of politics. There’s a school of thought called political theology which holds that every political belief is a religious doctrine in disguise.

    Of course, there are many other thinkers, far less ambitious than the practitioners of political theology, who take a particular idea from politics, or psychology, or philosophy, or economics, or literary theory, or some other field. They analyze the logic of the idea until they find an unspoken religious commitment lurking behind a facade of secular argumentation.

  4. cymast

     /  March 18, 2009

    I suppose the same could be said of taking a particular religious idea and analyzing the logic of the idea until one finds an unspoken psychological, or philosophical, or economical, or literary (or some other secular field) commitment lurking behind a facade of religious argumentation.

  5. acilius

     /  March 18, 2009

    As it happens, political theology started as a riposte to Marxists and others who set out to reduce religious doctrines to commitments in other areas of life. Of course, the two reductionisms aren’t exclusive- you can find that an ostensibly secular argument depends on a suppressed premise that only makes sense within the doctrines of a particular religious system, then analyze that religious system and find behind it presuppositions from still another area of life.

  6. cymast

     /  March 18, 2009

    Yep, same trinket, different bow.

  7. acilius

     /  March 18, 2009

    I wouldn’t go that far. A great many ideas that were originally presented as secular and available to everyone regardless of religious background have in recent decades been exposed as dependent on one or another religious tradition.

  8. cymast

     /  March 18, 2009

    That’s what I’m saying. Using different words to express the same idea.

  9. acilius

     /  March 18, 2009

    Oh, I misunderstood. I thought you were saying that it didn’t matter whether you reduced religious ideas to nonreligious ones or nonreligious ideas to religious ones.

  10. cymast

     /  March 18, 2009

    But that is what I am saying. It doesn’t matter which words you use- it’s the same idea. I’m talking theoretical use, not practical use. Implement the ideas and it’s a whole different story.

  11. acilius

     /  March 18, 2009

    Oh. Then I disagree with you. I’d say that the structural difference between an ostensibly secular argument that is in fact dependent on a suppressed premise from a religious system and a religious doctrine that is in fact a mask for a political or other interest is as clear as the practical difference.

    The first case is an exercise in logic, in the formal analysis of arguments. The analyst who demonstrates that an argument that had been offered as secular is valid only if it includes a premise that is peculiar to some particular religious belief refutes that argument.

    Because unsound arguments can be offered in support of true claims, refuting a particular argument does not prove that the conclusion of the argument is false. So showing that an ostensibly secular argument depends on a religious premise does not dispose of the conclusion. But it does dispose of the argument.

    The second case is not usually an exercise in logic in quite that way, because religious beliefs are not usually arguments. They may be defended by arguments, but are more often stories or images or feelings of some kind.

    Moreover, the fact that people subscribe to a given religious belief as a consequence of some social or psychological phenomenon does not necessarily tell us anything about the truth value of that belief. I know that for my own part I’m perfectly capable of believing a true thing for a silly reason, and of believing a false thing for a good reason. Showing a religious belief to have gained its following for worldly reasons not only fails to dispose of the belief, it doesn’t dispose of anything else either.

  12. cymast

     /  March 18, 2009

    I agreed with your previous statement:

    ” . . you can find that an ostensibly secular argument depends on a suppressed premise that only makes sense within the doctrines of a particular religious system, then analyze that religious system and find behind it presuppositions from still another area of life.”

    Regarding your assertation:

    ” . . religious beliefs are not usually arguments. They may be defended by arguments, but are more often stories or images or feelings of some kind.”

    I guess this is where we disagree on the definition of “arguement.”

    “Moreover, the fact that people subscribe to a given religious belief as a consequence of some social or psychological phenomenon does not necessarily tell us anything about the truth value of that belief.”

    Agreed. But I don’t connect that to either of our original premises.

    Remember, I’m a godless heathen . . I likely don’t have the brain structures that correspond to religiosity. Hence, the disconnect.

  13. acilius

     /  March 18, 2009

    “I guess this is where we disagree on the definition of “arguement.””

    By “argument,” I mean a course of reasoning aimed at demonstrating truth or falsehood. Surely very few religious beliefs would meet this description.

  14. cymast

     /  March 18, 2009

    OK now we’re getting somewhere. By “arguement” I mean a demonstration of truth or falsehood. No reasoning necessary. Many, many Christians I’ve conversed with (I use Christians as an example because I have, by far, had the most experience with them) will use their particular Bible, preacher, or their own “stories or images or feelings of some kind” as “logic.” Now I know what they are using isn’t logic, but they will insist it is logic. That’s the whole premise. The Alpha and the Omega. Arguement A is true because God said so. Arguement B is false because God said so. And how can you refute God? After all, God MADE logic. So there.

  15. cymast

     /  March 18, 2009

    For example, why do I keep on spelling “arguement” with a silent “e”? Because I’m ignorant on the matter and it just “feels right.” Maybe God told me it’s a sin to not spell it that way. That’s my logical arguement.

  16. lefalcon

     /  March 19, 2009

    What I’m sensing in this conversation is that stuff is being thought about in terms of a duality between COGENT LOGICAL REASONING, on the one hand, and IRRATIONAL BELIEF, on the other. I think the first is just a security blanket. Logic, rationality, reason: People who say log., rat., rea., are DA SHIT tend to have a lot of anxiety about engaging with – or even acknowledging – the deeper wellsprings of our existence. I certainly agree that life can drive people to craziness, desperation, etc. But one is not going to find meaning or resolution in just moving pieces around, like the “proofs” they had us doing in high school geometry. Prove that A is perpendicular to B. The Pythagorean Theorem might solve a geometry problem. A lawyer might make brilliant logical arguments (or “arguements,” as they are also known) in the courtroom AND be a real asshole to deal with. You can take a belief and argue logically to justify it. You can also do the opposite and look at logical argument and realize that a belief underlies its premise. Logic has its place: if I drop something on the floor, I don’t expect to find it stuck to the ceiling. But belief is what human beings are all about. Maybe I’m just nit-picking about a difference of nuance. I guess, for me, finding the belief basis of a theoretical system doesn’t carry much of a “charge.” Of course everything at its roots has a belief basis, even some seemingly objective and closely-reasoned theory about politics (or what have you). The exposed belief basis doesn’t automatically “bust” or invalidate the system; and the existence of the belief basis doesn’t make a person exempt from having to study the system’s apparatus of logic if they want to be able to make an informed comment about that system. I guess that’s what was bugging me in our conversation about “I am incapable of discerning a difference between modern scientific thought and the mythology of a band of Neolithic hunter-gatherers.” OK. But if you’re not really grounded in the one or the other, then what’s actually getting said? I think the real point – and maybe I initially misunderstood what you were driving at – is that both systems (old myth, modern science) are structurally similar insofar as they amount to an amalgam of belief and logic / reasoning. Anyhow, just to tie up the loose ends: My central thing that I wish to express is: “Rationality” cannot be God. God is God. “Rationality” is just a little security blanket way of trying to conceptualize God. I am, btw, not accusing anyone here of asserting that “rationality” is God. But I *am* accusing e.g. Mr. Spock of having done so. And it got him a blue velour shirt. Hmm. Possible “furby” tendencies? Could it be that Mr. Spock was a closet PERV?

  17. acilius

     /  March 19, 2009

    Well, certainly “COGENT LOGICAL REASONING” can be a security blanket, and I think that’s one of the things “Political Theology” thinkers and their less ambitious counterparts are driving at when they turn up religious dogmas functioning as suppressed premises in ostensibly secular arguments.

    “The exposed belief basis doesn’t automatically “bust” or invalidate the system”- What it does invalidate is the claim, “I have here an argument that you should accept even if you don’t share my religious commitment.”

  18. cymast

     /  March 19, 2009

    I’m still fond of my first thought- superstitions. I still think it fits with all the political theology and theological politics.

    Having said that, I don’t know about Spock, but Data, I hear, is kinda freaky.

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