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semilargeintestine
04-05-2010, 12:45 AM
I am starting this thread at the suggestion of Ruv in the Present Time Awareness thread. It came up in that thread that I used to be a fairly Orthodox Jew up until recently. Anyone who has seen my posts in this forum and even in others is probably aware of that. I walked away from it not too long ago, and Ruv thought it would be interesting if I explained why and maybe fostered some discussion about it. So if this is uninteresting or otherwise stupid, blame him. :D

The best place to start would be what propelled me into orthodoxy, because I didn't grow up that way. I decided to become orthodox several years ago during a free trip to Israel. Before the trip, I didn't really know how to classify myself, but I definitely thought orthodoxy was a bunch of bologna. During the trip, however, I experienced some stuff that I couldn't explain, and the feeling in that country is a very spiritual one. Surrounded by all those people who seemed to know very clearly what the answer was, I was taken in and caught up in it all. I came home 100% orthodox.

I think that my experiences are pretty well represented in this graph, which I present courtesy of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal (http://www.smbc-comics.com/), a great web comic:

http://i71.photobucket.com/albums/i159/drmg01/20100117.gif

So, fast forward to why I walked away. I guess it's a combination of things. My belief in God never really jibed with Orthodox belief. I always viewed "God" simply as being the universe and nature at large--maybe not necessarily a conscious, free-willed being, but more of a collective consciousness made up of everything in the universe. Science and mathematics seemed to me the language of "God" and our feeble attempts to understand how the universe works as getting closer to that from which we ultimately come.

Orthodox Judaism essentially requires one to believe in a separate, non-physical entity that not only is capable of thought, but does think and acts deliberately in the world. It is a philosophical problem in most religions of course why there is suffering, and the answer is simply that our concept of justice does not equate to God's vision of all the universe and all time.

This never made sense to me. Viewing God as some sort of a person who is screwing around with people to teach them lessons or otherwise amuse himself just seemed like an immature understanding of how things work. The more I started to question this and couldn't find answers that made sense, the less faith I had in the God portrayed by Western religions. The Pantheistic view of "God" made far more sense to me, so it wasn't long before I started to view the daily routine of an Orthodox Jew as pointless. I went down to praying twice a day instead of three times, then to not praying at all. I stopped keeping the super strict kosher laws and eventually ate out at a non-kosher restaurant. I took back up meditation to replace praying, and funny enough, I feel closer to "God" now than I did when I was Orthodox.

I still think that Jews have a certain level of spirituality, but I think that it is based on how we are raised as opposed to a difference in our "soul" or something like that. We are raised to believe in a Higher Power, whether we follow the commandments or not, so we just are more in tune with our spiritual side. This may or may not be something natural, I don't know. I also still believe in God, but I don't really like that word. The word implies certain things that do not match my beliefs, but I don't have another word to use.

I just realised how long this is, and I hope it wasn't too boring. I'm totally open to discussing it or answer questions, friendly or not. So if you're curious, just ask. :)

AMCrenshaw
04-05-2010, 12:59 AM
what is the difference, to you, between naturalistic pantheism and atheism?

i personally can see no difference and this is how i identify myself as well. the pan- or a-is really determined by my mood. so i simply say 'nontheist.' when i realized this, that all- and no- are the same to me, the question of the being's existence became irrelevant.

Ruv Draba
04-05-2010, 01:21 AM
The Pantheistic view of "God" made far more sense to me, so it wasn't long before I started to view the daily routine of an Orthodox Jew as pointless. I went down to praying twice a day instead of three times, then to not praying at all. I stopped keeping the super strict kosher laws and eventually ate out at a non-kosher restaurant. I took back up meditation to replace praying, and funny enough, I feel closer to "God" now than I did when I was Orthodox.Thanks for these thoughts, Semi.

It's hardly comparable, but a few days back I was listening to a BBC interview (http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p006xbdp/The_Interview_03_04_2010_Khaled_alBerry/)with Egyptian Khalid al-Berry (http://www.theforgivenessproject.com/stories/Khaled+al-Berry), a former member of the Islamist movement Jama’a Islamiya who was jailed for belonging to a terrorist organisation. Al-Berry authored the book Life is More Beautiful than Paradise: A Jihadist's Own Story (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Life-More-Beautiful-Than-Paradise/dp/9774162943). A former medical student and later a Jihadist, al-Berry is now a writer living in London. He writes:


I was not attracted to the radicals’ brand of religion; I was attracted to them as people. I was 14 and the first time I knew one of them, we were playing football and he was a very decent person who took care of people around him. We built up a relationship as human beings. Then we started talking about religion and going to the mosque. This was 1986 and Egyptian society was not religious. We created a new way of looking at life which stated that this life is very short and real life is after death. They taught us that Islam means you can't argue about text because the text is what God said.

[...]

I used to think there was only one way to know truth – the divine way, the infallible way. But now I believe that the most dangerous thing in life is to let people become convinced that truth has just one face. At the root of forgiveness and tolerance is the belief that truth has MANY different faces and that the face you see of truth is not in any way of better value than the faces others see.

I don’t believe you can have forgiveness without justice, but justice doesn’t mean revenge. A lot of people radicalised in the Islamist movement are locked into this primitive thinking that revenge is justice. [...]

When I was a victim I thought protection meant violence. I thought, why should I be tight-handed when others are hitting at me? I don’t believe that now, but equally I feel guilty if I talk in a humanist way about the lives of people who don’t have the basic right to live safe in peace. There needs to be transparency before forgiveness.



I just realised how long this is, and I hope it wasn't too boring. I'm totally open to discussing it or answer questions, friendly or not. So if you're curious, just ask.It wasn't too long or boring. But the change of view seems huge to me; almost a redefinition of self, but certainly a reshaping of what is important in the world and why. Perhaps that's why I connect it with al-Berry's interview. Does it seem huge to you?

bigb
04-05-2010, 02:07 AM
Thank you for posting Semi.

I'm always curious to why people change points of view where god is concerned.

We all truly change so much simply with aging, and what we find important now, as to what we found important 10 years ago.

It certainly wasn't too short, or boring.

semilargeintestine
04-05-2010, 03:34 AM
what is the difference, to you, between naturalistic pantheism and atheism?

i personally can see no difference and this is how i identify myself as well. the pan- or a-is really determined by my mood. so i simply say 'nontheist.' when i realized this, that all- and no- are the same to me, the question of the being's existence became irrelevant.

As far as having the belief that there is no Creator or higher realms or anything, pantheism and atheism are identical. Additionally, they both have the same respect for evidence-based science, logic, and the progression of knowledge. To me, the major difference is that atheism is the starting point while pantheism takes it further.

Atheism answers the question of whether or not there is a Creator. But that's all it does. Atheism is nothing more than the belief that there are no deities or gods. Any additional view of our purpose here or the meaning of life, etc. goes beyond atheism. To me, pantheism offers an approach for answering those questions (though the major difference between pantheism and religion is that pantheism doesn't profess to have any answers--it simply encourages asking the questions and exploring them using a combination of logic and feeling).

Pantheism--or more specifically, World (or natural) Pantheism--essentially brings a form of spirituality and connectedness to the world and nature without forcing supernatural forces into the equation. It is perfectly okay to feel connected to the universe at large without attributing it to some form of higher being.

So, I would say I am an atheist because I do not believe in a supernatural being, but I would say I'm a pantheist because I believe it is possible to feel as part of a bigger entity that is this world.


Thanks for these thoughts, Semi.

It's hardly comparable, but a few days back I was listening to a BBC interview (http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p006xbdp/The_Interview_03_04_2010_Khaled_alBerry/)with Egyptian Khalid al-Berry (http://www.theforgivenessproject.com/stories/Khaled+al-Berry), a former member of the Islamist movement Jama’a Islamiya who was jailed for belonging to a terrorist organisation. Al-Berry authored the book Life is More Beautiful than Paradise: A Jihadist's Own Story (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Life-More-Beautiful-Than-Paradise/dp/9774162943). A former medical student and later a Jihadist, al-Berry is now a writer living in London. He writes:


While it's not comparable because of the extremes our two experiences were on, the way we found them is pretty similar. It's amazing how being around people you admire can influence even your core beliefs.



It wasn't too long or boring. But the change of view seems huge to me; almost a redefinition of self, but certainly a reshaping of what is important in the world and why. Perhaps that's why I connect it with al-Berry's interview. Does it seem huge to you?

It seemed more of a change to me when I became Orthodox. It seems like less of a change to me now and more like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Realising that there is no sentient individual up there watching my every move has allowed me to enjoy life so much more. I think of it not as a test, but as a chance to explore this huge place and learn as much as possible about myself and the universe. So yes, it feels huge, but in a good way.


Thank you for posting Semi.

I'm always curious to why people change points of view where god is concerned.

We all truly change so much simply with aging, and what we find important now, as to what we found important 10 years ago.

It certainly wasn't too short, or boring.

Thanks. :) I'm fascinated by religion and peoples' beliefs, especially how they evolve over time.

Ruv Draba
04-05-2010, 04:51 AM
what is the difference, to you, between naturalistic pantheism and atheism?Naturalistic pantheism looks to me like mystical atheism. I'm an unmystical atheist. I can admire nature but I don't see it as a unity. The aesthetics that people use to make it look coherent and harmonious seem to ignore the violence, chaos and entropy. Moreover, such aesthetics ofen end up in moral pronouncements, so I'm suspicious that they may be an excuse for moral preference anyway.

semilargeintestine
04-05-2010, 04:59 AM
I think I'd be careful using the term mystical. The word implies something supernatural, and pantheism definitely rejects that. It's more what you said about connectedness--that it's possible to feel connected to the world as a whole and everything in it.

Ruv Draba
04-05-2010, 07:24 AM
I think I'd be careful using the term mystical. The word implies something supernatural, and pantheism definitely rejects that.Mysticism doesn't necessarily mean supernatural, but it does mean mystery -- especially, secret connectivity.

Nature to me is fascinating, complex, wondrous, but from a human perspective it isn't especially benign, directed, purposeful, predestined or harmonious, and while there are unknowns I don't think that there are secret veils to be pierced.

semilargeintestine
04-05-2010, 08:45 AM
Neither do I, and that's why I don't think mystical is a good term. I don't think many pantheists believe there are hidden layers of nature to be explored. I do, however, think nature is harmonious. I think that when it is viewed in parts out of complex, it can appear to be otherwise, but harmonious means to have inner components working pleasingly or appropriately combined. I think that the universe as a whole is ordered in a pretty harmonious way, otherwise we wouldn't be here.

Ruv Draba
04-05-2010, 11:24 AM
I think that the universe as a whole is ordered in a pretty harmonious way, otherwise we wouldn't be here.That's what I mean, though. We happen to be tucked into a remote pocket that however briefly, supports human life, and from that we assume that everything is ordered for the good. It feels like a kind of mystical entitlement to me. I can accept that nature is big and awesome, but I don't accept that it has any special fondness for life, or for humanity. We can choose to love nature all we like, but I don't believe that nature loves us back.

bigb
04-05-2010, 02:53 PM
I don't think appropriately combined means for the good. Nor does harmonious always mean good. It works together because otherwise, it couldn't exist.

So, it doesn't seem all that mysterious to feel apart of that.

AMCrenshaw
04-05-2010, 05:49 PM
That's what I mean, though. We happen to be tucked into a remote pocket that however briefly, supports human life, and from that we assume that everything is ordered for the good. It feels like a kind of mystical entitlement to me. I can accept that nature is big and awesome, but I don't accept that it has any special fondness for life, or for humanity. We can choose to love nature all we like, but I don't believe that nature loves us back.

That is, until we learn to love ourselves.

semilargeintestine
04-05-2010, 07:55 PM
That's what I mean, though. We happen to be tucked into a remote pocket that however briefly, supports human life, and from that we assume that everything is ordered for the good. It feels like a kind of mystical entitlement to me. I can accept that nature is big and awesome, but I don't accept that it has any special fondness for life, or for humanity. We can choose to love nature all we like, but I don't believe that nature loves us back.

I think we're having a communication breakdown. I don't mean that nature is necessarily in a zen-like state with us, or that it's always good to us. By harmonious, I simply mean that everything is working the way it should, and we are just part of that. If a tornado kills my house, well that is just how nature works, and a lot of things had to be appropriately combined for that twister to happen.


I don't think appropriately combined means for the good. Nor does harmonious always mean good. It works together because otherwise, it couldn't exist.

So, it doesn't seem all that mysterious to feel apart of that.

Exactly. We see harmonious as being a good thing, but that isn't the definition of the word. Auschwitz ran harmoniously for years, but I don't think any sane person would say it was a good thing. Harmonious just means that all the cogs are turning in the right direction.

AMCrenshaw
04-05-2010, 08:54 PM
How - without a conscious creator - does there come to be a "right direction" ?

AMCrenshaw
04-05-2010, 09:00 PM
Naturalistic pantheism looks to me like mystical atheism. I'm an unmystical atheist.

Yep. And I'm moody.



I can admire nature but I don't see it as a unity.


I don't think nature exists per se, but the being in discussion I'd refer to as a multiplicity. A manyness. If the manyness is all interconnected, what do you call the being the connectedness creates?



The aesthetics that people use to make it look coherent and harmonious seem to ignore the violence, chaos and entropy.


I disagree with that generalization.



Moreover, such aesthetics ofen end up in moral pronouncements, so I'm suspicious that they may be an excuse for moral preference anyway.


I worship the god of peace and love so I may make peace and love; I worship the god of judgment and punishment so I may judge and punish; I worship the god of reason so I may always claim the truth!

semilargeintestine
04-05-2010, 09:09 PM
How - without a conscious creator - does there come to be a "right direction" ?

How are you defining a "right direction"?




I don't think nature exists per se, but the being in discussion I'd refer to as a multiplicity. A manyness. If the manyness is all interconnected, what do you call the being the connectedness creates?

If nature doesn't exist, than neither do we, since we're part of nature, unless you are defining nature in a more mystical way--which I am not.

I call it god right now, but that's only because I don't have a better word for it yet. We see this kind of thing in nature all the time. A group of cells becomes a tissue, tissues become organs, etc. All the parts do their thing, but the greater whole is working as a single unit, conscious or not.



I disagree with that generalization.

So do I, above.



I worship the god of peace and love so I may make peace and love; I worship the god of judgment and punishment so I may judge and punish; I worship the god of reason so I may always claim the truth!

That reminds me of a Jim Gaffigan bit where he talks about the wars of religion between Protestants and Catholics. He says, "See that guy over there with the almost identical beliefs to mine? I want to kill him--because my god is all about loooooove."

AMCrenshaw
04-05-2010, 10:06 PM
How are you defining a "right direction"?




I hadn't used the term originally. I don't believe in such a thing on a scale so large, and only in a particular way as it concerns the direction of human history or individual history or something like that.



If nature doesn't exist, than neither do we, since we're part of nature, unless you are defining nature in a more mystical way--which I am not.


I simply don't think we ever truly encounter 'nature' itself, but our own constructions, models, and maps. I think most people discuss 'nature' on a practical-level only. It'd be interesting to know what images play through people's minds when they hear the word.

Often I get nothing at all, like a strange emptiness...



I call it god right now, but that's only because I don't have a better word for it yet.


Very interesting. Try these from time to time, at least for fun: "existence" "nature" "the universe" "the way" or "being" ? The "laying that gathers"?



We see this kind of thing in nature all the time. A group of cells becomes a tissue, tissues become organs, etc. All the parts do their thing, but the greater whole is working as a single unit, conscious or not.


I think there's a lot of comfort and also responsibility to be had in the idea of a greater whole working as a single unit. I don't see it that way, but am content to say I have no clue nor care over-much.

But allow me to ask another question: does sentience mean the god you believe in is sentient? Does our collective consciousness 'add up' to something?

semilargeintestine
04-05-2010, 10:23 PM
I hadn't used the term originally. I don't believe in such a thing on a scale so large, and only in a particular way as it concerns the direction of human history or individual history or something like that.

Oh, I think I used it first. I simply meant I was closer to reality, not on a predetermined path set up by a higher power.



I simply don't think we ever truly encounter 'nature' itself, but our own constructions, models, and maps. I think most people discuss 'nature' on a practical-level only. It'd be interesting to know what images play through people's minds when they hear the word.

Often I get nothing at all, like a strange emptiness...

When I hear the word nature, the first image I get is the milky way.



Very interesting. Try these from time to time, at least for fun: "existence" "nature" "the universe" "the way" or "being" ? The "laying that gathers"?


How about Quan?



I think there's a lot of comfort and also responsibility to be had in the idea of a greater whole working as a single unit. I don't see it that way, but am content to say I have no clue nor care over-much.

Well, it is scientific fact that groups of individuals function as a larger individual. It only makes sense to expand that.



But allow me to ask another question: does sentience mean the god you believe in is sentient? Does our collective consciousness 'add up' to something?

I don't think it adds up to living, breathing thing that thinks and acts consciously. I think it just adds up to a larger thing that, if you could view it from outside the universe, would look like a single unit--much in the same way that a liver looks like a single unit even though it is comprised of millions of cells.

bigb
04-06-2010, 02:02 AM
When I hear the word nature, I think natural.

Ruv Draba
04-06-2010, 03:01 AM
How - without a conscious creator - does there come to be a "right direction" ?And why, even if there is a conscious creator, should that creator's direction be the 'right' one?

Ruv Draba
04-06-2010, 03:11 AM
Yep. And I'm moody.Pleased to meetcher! :)


If the manyness is all interconnected, what do you call the being the connectedness creates?I'm not sure that I can accept the premise long enough to speculate on the conclusion. There are lots of reasons why, but to begin with, the only connection I understand is causal, and I only recognise it if it's verified empirically. Theoretically, it may be that a lot of the matter once causally connected in our universe is now causally disconnected due to space expanding faster than the speed of light. I'm not sure how we'd verify that, but if our causal ("observable") universe is losing matter (e.g. to event horizons) then I think that would be evidence against eternal connectedness.

Secondly, I'm not sure what "being" means in this context. I don't think it has the same meaning as "human being", but I'm not sure what else it might mean.


I disagree with that generalization.It's not a generalisation but an observation, albeit a personal one. How is there harmony in an entropic universe, other than transiently? My answer: by imagining that everything is cyclic, or that entropy is reversible, or ignoring entropy entirely.


I worship the god of peace and love so I may make peace and love; I worship the god of judgment and punishment so I may judge and punish; I worship the god of reason so I may always claim the truth!I don't worship any of those things. To me, peace is practical though not always achievable. Judgement is necessary, though not always benign. Reason isn't especially worthy of worship, but it is useful and hard to come by, so it's worth protecting and defending.

bigb
04-06-2010, 03:42 AM
It's not a generalisation but an observation, albeit a personal one. How is there harmony in an entropic universe, other than transiently? My answer: by imagining that everything is cyclic, or that entropy is reversible, or ignoring entropy entirely..

I don't think chaos, or randomness equals mystical.


My god is half Clint Eastwood(Josey Wales style) and Santa Claus.
Incase anybody wanted to know

Ruv Draba
04-06-2010, 03:55 AM
I don't think chaos, or randomness equals mystical.Nor do I, but I think that ignoring entropy to impute harmony is practically indistinguishable from mysticism -- or at least, I can't distinguish it.

But more broadly, it seems to me that concerns of harmony are teleological (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teleology) -- describing observation in terms of some imputed end, e.g. 'The purpose of nature is to generate and preserve life'; 'The purpose of life is to evolve and improve'; 'The purpose of volcanoes is to erupt'; 'The purpose of Gaia is to Maintain Balance'.

I get suspicious when we do that, because I think it creates subjectivity, biases and circular arguments. When we start imputing purpose to fact we end up reaching a point of Secret Plans, Grand Designs and Sacred Ways, and that's mystery and hence mysticism, illustrated by Taoism, for example.

bigb
04-06-2010, 03:58 AM
But when I think of entropy,
I think if energy leaves one place it has to go some place else, which could be harmonious.

semilargeintestine
04-06-2010, 04:50 AM
But more broadly, it seems to me that concerns of harmony are teleological (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teleology) -- describing observation in terms of some imputed end, e.g. 'The purpose of nature is to generate and preserve life'; 'The purpose of life is to evolve and improve'; 'The purpose of volcanoes is to erupt'; 'The purpose of Gaia is to Maintain Balance'.


That's a take on harmony, but it is not the absolute definition of harmony. When discussing harmony in context with the universe, I am using its absolute definition--that things work the way they are supposed to. There is no implication of a higher power or a mystical component unless you project one, which I am not.

Ruv Draba
04-07-2010, 12:27 PM
When discussing harmony in context with the universe, I am using its absolute definition--that things work the way they are supposed to.What does 'supposed to' mean? And how do you know they are?

semilargeintestine
04-07-2010, 08:01 PM
What does 'supposed to' mean? And how do you know they are?

The universe works the way it's supposed to work because if it didn't, it would be a much different place if it was here at all. You seem to keep wanting to put this mystical spin on what I'm saying where none exists. Our understanding of how the universe works is imperfect, but we have a general idea. It works that way because that's how it has to work for everything to exist the way it does. Harmony is when each particle acts according to the physical properties of the universe, which allows it as a unit to exist in the way we know it.

Ruv Draba
04-08-2010, 02:46 PM
The universe works the way it's supposed to work because if it didn't, it would be a much different place if it was here at all.I'm sorry Semi. I'm not trying to be difficult, but I still don't understand what you mean. How do you know that things are working as they're supposed to? Supposed by whom? And with what authority?

If you're saying that things work as they do, then I can understand that -- it's trivially true. But if you're saying that things work as they should, then I don't know a basis from which you can make that assessment if it's not religious dogma or mysticism.

And suppose it were discovered that the speed of light is gradually slowing? Does that mean it's slowing as it should too? Or was its older speed the one it ought to be, and its newer speed somehow wrong? Would it depend on why it was slowing?

I just don't get the 'should'. Yes, it does look mystical to me -- 'should' without an authoritative 'because' looks like mystery. :D But I'm not trying to pick on you here, just trying to get it to sit properly in my head.

semilargeintestine
04-08-2010, 07:12 PM
I'm sorry Semi. I'm not trying to be difficult, but I still don't understand what you mean. How do you know that things are working as they're supposed to? Supposed by whom? And with what authority?

I'm trying to think of another way to explain it, but it's difficult because it makes perfect sense in my head. :D



If you're saying that things work as they do, then I can understand that -- it's trivially true. But if you're saying that things work as they should, then I don't know a basis from which you can make that assessment if it's not religious dogma or mysticism.

Think of it from purely a scientific view. What if general relativity was not one of the basic foundations of the mechanics of the universe? Our whole existence would be much different, no? In fact, the entire universe would be completely different because if gravity did not have such an effect on everything, the universe would not function as it does. But it does work that way, because we're here in this capacity (without delving into multiverse theory or any of that stuff).

So, the universe works the way it does because it has to in order for it to exist in this state. That's the should.



And suppose it were discovered that the speed of light is gradually slowing? Does that mean it's slowing as it should too? Or was its older speed the one it ought to be, and its newer speed somehow wrong? Would it depend on why it was slowing?

The universal speed limit has already been shown to be inaccurate as certain quantum systems exhibit faster than light behavior (see the EPR Paradox (http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/physics/Quantum/bells_inequality.html) for example), and the speed of light is slower than c outside of a vacuum, sometimes considerably so.

Our knowledge of the universe changes all the time. What we think we know about certain things (such as the speed of light) can change at any given time. That does not mean the universe is changing how it works, it just means we didn't fully understand it (not that we ever will).



I just don't get the 'should'. Yes, it does look mystical to me -- 'should' without an authoritative 'because' looks like mystery. :D But I'm not trying to pick on you here, just trying to get it to sit properly in my
head.

That's because it's a common phrase uttered by religious people. I'm taking it back. :D

Ruv Draba
04-09-2010, 01:32 AM
So, the universe works the way it does because it has to in order for it to exist in this state. That's the should.What's so great about this particular configuration? Several configurations might support life of one kind or another... but beyond that, what's so great about supporting life, and why should nature care to do so, and what component of it cares to do so and where is it located?


Our knowledge of the universe changes all the time. What we think we know about certain things (such as the speed of light) can change at any given time. That does not mean the universe is changing how it works, it just means we didn't fully understand it (not that we ever will).It's not our experience that the universe is changing how it works in any significant way (other than its concentrations of matter and heat, and the amount of space it holds), but suppose that it does? Or are you precluding that it won't? How should we know that it won't? If it does, we might judge it good or bad according to whether it's better or worse for us, but how should we judge it to be right or wrong?


That's because it's a common phrase uttered by religious people. I'm taking it back. :DUnderstood, but there's still the thinking under it, which I'm sorry but I still don't understand.

semilargeintestine
04-09-2010, 01:42 AM
What's so great about this particular configuration? Several configurations might support life of one kind or another... but beyond that, what's so great about supporting life, and why should nature care to do so, and what component of it cares to do so and where is it located?

What's the point of this question? Who cares if several configurations could support life? This is the configuration we're in, and we're here in this capacity because it works the way it works. Nature doesn't care because nature isn't a human being with human feelings defined in human terms.



It's not our experience that the universe is changing how it works in any significant way (other than its concentrations of matter and heat, and the amount of space it holds), but suppose that it does?

Then we will have to totally revamp science again. We've had to do it before, and I'm sure we'll have to do it again.



Or are you precluding that it won't?

You're putting words in my mouth.



How should we know that it won't?

We can't, but we can predict that it will or won't. We can't ever know if anything will happen, but we can make predictions based on things we know have happened in the past.



If it does, we might judge it good or bad according to whether it's better or worse for us, but how should we judge it to be right or wrong?

First we should hope that the change is one that allows carbon-based life to continue and then worry about whether it's good or bad later.



Understood, but there's still the thinking under it, which I'm sorry but I still don't understand.

You're thinking about it too much. There is nothing complicated behind what I'm saying, and I've explained it as simply as I can. The universe "should" work a certain way based on our understanding of how the universe works. It works that way because if it didn't, the universe would be much different; however, if the universe doesn't do something it "should," we simply need to shift our view of what it "should" be doing because we didn't quite understand that aspect of the universe's mechanics.

Example: based on Newtonian physics, we could make a prediction about something traveling extremely fast. That prediction is what "should" happen; however, that is not what will happen because Newtonian physics is not accurate at high speeds. So we revise our understanding of physics at high speeds, and then we make another prediction about what "should" happen. What actually happens doesn't change because we don't define how the universe works, we simply explain it.

bigb
04-09-2010, 05:13 AM
I'm sorry Semi. I'm not trying to be difficult, but I still don't understand what you mean. How do you know that things are working as they're supposed to? Supposed by whom? And with what authority?

If you're saying that things work as they do, then I can understand that -- it's trivially true. But if you're saying that things work as they should, then I don't know a basis from which you can make that assessment if it's not religious dogma or mysticism.

And suppose it were discovered that the speed of light is gradually slowing? Does that mean it's slowing as it should too? Or was its older speed the one it ought to be, and its newer speed somehow wrong? Would it depend on why it was slowing?

I just don't get the 'should'. Yes, it does look mystical to me -- 'should' without an authoritative 'because' looks like mystery. :D But I'm not trying to pick on you here, just trying to get it to sit properly in my head.

I think you attach right and wrong to everything.

The universe just does. If the speed of light slowed, it would be because it slowed. It wouldn't be right or wrong, it would just be.

I think the word should, is being used for lack of a better term. Should works in this context simply because I don't know of any authority over the universe to say it shouldn't. I mean we can't slow down the speed of light. If it slowed down would you say god did it. If it slowed, it would be because it should, who would tell it not to.

Ruv Draba
04-09-2010, 05:45 AM
The universe "should" work a certain way based on our understanding of how the universe works. It works that way because if it didn't, the universe would be much different; however, if the universe doesn't do something it "should," we simply need to shift our view of what it "should" be doing because we didn't quite understand that aspect of the universe's mechanics.I think you're saying that we should learn to understand how things work; things shouldn't have to work the way we understand them. :)

That's fine, but saying that the universe works the way it should is saying like the sun rises when in fact the earth turns. :) That doesn't matter to sailors, but it does to astronauts who don't see sunsets; only eclipses.

So please excuse my astronaut-brain. :D

semilargeintestine
04-09-2010, 09:24 PM
I think you attach right and wrong to everything.

The universe just does. If the speed of light slowed, it would be because it slowed. It wouldn't be right or wrong, it would just be.

I think the word should, is being used for lack of a better term. Should works in this context simply because I don't know of any authority over the universe to say it shouldn't. I mean we can't slow down the speed of light. If it slowed down would you say god did it. If it slowed, it would be because it should, who would tell it not to.

You can slow the speed of light by putting it outside a vacuum. ;) Otherwise, I agree with you completely.


I think you're saying that we should learn to understand how things work; things shouldn't have to work the way we understand them. :)

That's exactly what I'm saying.



That's fine, but saying that the universe works the way it should is saying like the sun rises when in fact the earth turns. :) That doesn't matter to sailors, but it does to astronauts who don't see sunsets; only eclipses.

So please excuse my astronaut-brain. :D

A sun rise is the earth's rotation, so they're the same thing. An astronaut sees the same thing as a sailor, just from a different perspective. They both see an eclipse, the sailor is just closer to the interfering body. You can play with semantics all you want, but it is what it is.

So please excuse my physicist-brain. ;) :D

Bartholomew
04-10-2010, 08:44 PM
What's so great about this particular configuration?

I'm in it. :)

So are you. Undermining the importance of this can, to some mindsets, lead to a staggering existential crises.


but beyond that, what's so great about supporting life, and why should nature care to do so, and what component of it cares to do so and where is it located?

Nature as an entity?

Life forms wherever it can. I think why is a question that should only be reserved for sapient entities. Nature is not sapient the way we understand sapience, so asking why questions will lead to empty sets.

semilargeintestine
04-17-2010, 07:23 AM
It isn't just not sapient, it's not sentient. At least not in the way we define it. It just is.

Ruv Draba
04-18-2010, 02:23 AM
So are you. Undermining the importance of this can, to some mindsets, lead to a staggering existential crises.If the natural laws change configuration, we might die. But we die anyway in the current configuration. So does our planet, and the star it circles. So again: what's so important about this configuration?


Nature is not sapient the way we understand sapience, so asking why questions will lead to empty sets.Other than comfort and entertainment, what value is there from imagining it's sentient (acknowledging that Semi doesn't think it is, but you seem to Bart)?

semilargeintestine
04-18-2010, 09:30 AM
I don't think Bart is doing that. I think he's saying that because it isn't sentient, there's no point in asking why. That's like asking why does a tree convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. It just does.

Ruv Draba
04-18-2010, 03:39 PM
I agree. In nature, 'why' questions are all 'how' questions, badly formed.

Among humans 'why' questions are all politics, masquerading as psychology. :D

Gehanna
04-18-2010, 05:34 PM
I agree. In nature, 'why' questions are all 'how' questions, badly formed.

Among humans 'why' questions are all politics, masquerading as psychology. :D

No doubt you have an aversion to why?... Why is that?

Gehanna

semilargeintestine
04-18-2010, 06:21 PM
I suspect that Ruv's aversion to "why" stems from the fact that the very notion of "why" implies that there is some greater, hidden meaning between whatever is happening to cause that question to be asked. In the case of nature, that implies that there is a greater, hidden cause behind our existence. As an atheist, Ruv (and myself) thinks this question is unnecessary and perhaps even a little dangerous because it distracts from what really should be asked, which is how.

Just projecting my own thoughts there though.

Gehanna
04-18-2010, 08:09 PM
If, semilargeintestine, you believe it is unnecessary and even dangerous then why do you invest a great deal of your energies in providing the answer? ... Are you, as Ruv Draba suggests, Poli ..tick...tick....tick...ING!!!

Gehanna

semilargeintestine
04-18-2010, 08:39 PM
I don't invest any energy in providing the answer. There is no answer because there is no question. That's the point of Ruv's post. When someone asks why the universe behaves in a certain way, they are really asking how in a poor fashion. Truly asking why is pointless. It's more appropriate for us to ask how because that gets at the very fundamental nature of the way things work.

Also, Ruv's comment about politics was not directed at me, it was agreeing with me. But, thanks for playing.

Gehanna
04-18-2010, 09:02 PM
Are you saying that you did or did not explain the why of your actions for stepping away from Orthodoxy in this thread? Are you telling me that you have not made many posts explaining the why(s) of your actions and beliefs?

I want my quarter back.

Gehanna

AMCrenshaw
04-18-2010, 09:14 PM
Or how it has come to pass that ...

semilargeintestine
04-18-2010, 09:51 PM
Are you saying that you did or did not explain the why of your actions for stepping away from Orthodoxy in this thread? Are you telling me that you have not made many posts explaining the why(s) of your actions and beliefs?

I want my quarter back.

Gehanna

Oh, I see. You're intentionally confusing two different topics in an effort to make me look foolish. Nice try.

Explaining why a person does something is completely different than explaining why things are they way they are (i.e., why the universe works a certain way), which was the very point of my post, and you know it.

In the future, please refrain from such childish tactics. We're having a grown-up conversation here, so let's act like grown ups.

Gehanna
04-18-2010, 10:19 PM
I am looking for word/behavior consistency in all situations.

Gehanna

AMCrenshaw
04-19-2010, 02:12 AM
Since why often has to do with the stories we tell ourselves, it would seem that explaining human behavior might entail both questions of why and how come. Whereas, when discussing a non-sentient being, which is said off the bat to have no intention or will or individual consciousness, I'm not sure what makes us think that being is formulating stories to explain its own behavior, unless unconsciously. How come is meant to describe what is physically observable. Some pantheists view perception another way: as God or nature looking at itself from countless angles, like different doors (or windows, tunnels, etc.)

semilargeintestine
04-19-2010, 02:45 AM
I am looking for word/behavior consistency in all situations.

Gehanna

l have not been inconsistent. Discussing why I personally did something and saying that you cannot ask why the universe is the way it is not inconsistent.

semilargeintestine
04-19-2010, 02:46 AM
Since why often has to do with the stories we tell ourselves, it would seem that explaining human behavior might entail both questions of why and how come. Whereas, when discussing a non-sentient being, which is said off the bat to have no intention or will or individual consciousness, I'm not sure what makes us think that being is formulating stories to explain its own behavior, unless unconsciously. How come is meant to describe what is physically observable. Some pantheists view perception another way: as God or nature looking at itself from countless angles, like different doors (or windows, tunnels, etc.)

Thank you.

Ruv Draba
04-19-2010, 03:19 AM
No doubt you have an aversion to why?... Why is that?My facaetious answer: why do you care? :D

My serious answer: I don't have an aversion to why, but outside of poetry I think it's a confusing question and not terribly useful.

For example: "why does the sun shine?" is a great question for authors, but a scientist would prefer to ask "how does the sun shine."

Or: "why do you hate peas" is another great question for authors, but outside of fiction the question is more sensibly expressed as either "what would it take to get you to eat peas", "what else do you hate so I know not to cook it too", or if you're a psychologist: "tell me how you feel about peas". :D

Ruv Draba
04-19-2010, 03:24 AM
Applying this to Semi's topic, he's told us how his thoughts and feelings about orthodox Judaism have changed, and that's enough to satisfy my curiosity. I can't really see a 'why' in it either, just a bunch of 'how's.

I suppose there's a use for 'why' in the logical sense though as 'show me your calculations' request. E.g. 'I've concluded that the moon is made if cheese'. But the 'why' there applies to the proof; it's not to the moon and it's not really to the person either. If we see a proof as a logical story then 'why' becomes very much a 'tell me a story' question. Perhaps that's why children ask it so much. :)

semilargeintestine
04-19-2010, 03:32 AM
For example: "why does the sun shine?" is a great question for authors, but a scientist would prefer to ask "how does the sun shine."


Here, they're the same question, which is the point (or at least they have the same answer, which effectively makes them the same question).

Ruv Draba
04-19-2010, 03:42 AM
Here, they're the same question, which is the point (or at least they have the same answer, which effectively makes them the same question).Yep, but in general I find that 'why' has many fictional answers, while 'how' has one factual answer. My poor little pedantic mind gets very confused when people say 'Why don't you like ice-cream?' It goes off searching for a proof that me not liking ice-cream is inevitable. I actually have to switch tracks to realise that the question was meant to be, 'How could you possibly not like ice-cream?' That's much easier to answer: my mouth feels horrible for hours after I eat it, and I associate the flavour of ice-cream with that feeling.

bigb
04-19-2010, 03:48 AM
Yep, but in general I find that 'why' has many fictional answers, while 'how' has one factual answer. My poor little pedantic mind gets very confused when people say 'Why don't you like ice-cream?' It goes off searching for a proof that me not liking ice-cream is inevitable. I actually have to switch tracks to realise that the question was meant to be, 'How could you possibly not like ice-cream?' That's much easier to answer: my mouth feels horrible for hours after I eat it, and I associate the flavour of ice-cream with that feeling.

Do you mean you associate the temperature of ice cream with that feeling.

semilargeintestine
04-19-2010, 04:23 AM
Yep, but in general I find that 'why' has many fictional answers, while 'how' has one factual answer. My poor little pedantic mind gets very confused when people say 'Why don't you like ice-cream?' It goes off searching for a proof that me not liking ice-cream is inevitable. I actually have to switch tracks to realise that the question was meant to be, 'How could you possibly not like ice-cream?' That's much easier to answer: my mouth feels horrible for hours after I eat it, and I associate the flavour of ice-cream with that feeling.

I don't like ice cream because the part of my brain that determines that sort of thing functions in a way that ice cream does not trigger the "like" section.

For the record, I love ice cream--I was just giving what my answer would be.

Ruv Draba
04-19-2010, 05:39 AM
Do you mean you associate the temperature of ice cream with that feeling.No, it's creaminess and sweetness together that I dislike. They both feel repulsive after I've eaten them, and I associate that with the experience of eating them.


I don't like ice cream because the part of my brain that determines that sort of thing functions in a way that ice cream does not trigger the "like" section.

That's a story about how my brain might work, but I haven't done those experiments so I don't know if the story is true, and I couldn't tell you how ice-cream affects my brain. I can tell you how my mind reacts though. :)

semilargeintestine
04-19-2010, 08:16 AM
Yeah, I don't know. I guessed. :D

Gehanna
04-19-2010, 10:13 AM
I like ice cream, but how could I possibly not like Tapioca pudding? .. I still prefer the why, but how has a place in my noggin as well.

Why do I not like Tapioca pudding? ...

I do not like Tapioca pudding because the consistency is inconsistent.

Ruv Draba wrote:
"Yep, but in general I find that 'why' has many fictional answers..."

I agree. Why has many fictional answers, but it also has truth.

Gehanna

semilargeintestine
04-20-2010, 05:17 AM
Why has your perception of the truth. How simply has objective truth.

Gehanna
04-20-2010, 06:59 AM
How now brown cow.

How did I post that versus Why did I post that?

How is frequently too mechanical for me although, once again, I do understand the importance of how.

Gehanna

Ruv Draba
04-20-2010, 08:13 AM
How did I post that versus Why did I post that?It's more how does it communicate vs. why do you want to communicate that.

How invites us to collect many logical stories and analyse them. Why invites us to settle on a single emotional story and sympathise with it. How is mechanical; why is political.

Gehanna
04-20-2010, 06:30 PM
Seldom do I receive invites to sympathize with the truth. I have also found that how too easily becomes a logical excuse for the truth of why. A thing that I used to hate, but now realize to be a formality.

I can agree that why is political and may be so by nature. How is not exempt from politics. Skills development is required to prevent the political utilization of how. The skills I refer to involve the ability to acknowledge why (regardless of any disdain or esteem attributed by self and/or others), and detach from it while also working with it. To disregard why for how sacrifices the soundness of judgment as does the disregard or political utilization of how for why.

Gehanna

semilargeintestine
04-20-2010, 08:07 PM
How only is contaminated by politics when people let their own biases or agendas encroach upon the question. The very nature of the question, however, is free from that. You're not asking a subjective question, you're asking to understand the mechanism of the way something works, and that is not something that can be changed depending on your desires.

Lambda is a great example. Einstein included a cosmological constant in his field equations because he did not like the idea of a non-static universe; however, observations proved that the universe actually is expanding, and Einstein admitted his huge mistake. The largeness of his mistake was not making a mathematical error, it was allowing his own personal feelings to cloud the objectivity of how. But what he wanted wasn't the truth, so the actual how remains pure.

When you ask why in a way that is not simply a crude wording of how, there is no true answer. The universe does not have a reason for doing things beyond how, as it is not a sentient creature as we understand it. Perhaps our universe as a whole is a larger entity that is part of something bigger (multiverse theory), but even if that were true, its "sentience" would not be as we understand it, and so why is still moot.

Ruv Draba
04-21-2010, 01:38 AM
Seldom do I receive invites to sympathize with the truth.'How' truths tend not to be very sympathetic things, though we can sometimes be grateful for them.

How can I fix my car? How does this disease progress? How can it be treated?' How will edcation help my child's future? How will age affect my mind and body?'
By contrast:

Why won't my car start? Why am I sick? Why should my child get go to college? Why do people get old?'
All are political questions -- they relate to the exercise of power, and how we feel when we can't exercise power, or when it's exercised on us. All invite us to throw our sympathy somewhere.


I have also found that how too easily becomes a logical excuse for the truth of why. A thing that I used to hate, but now realize to be a formality.If 'why' questions have a definitive, truthful answer I don't think I've ever seen it. They have many answers, some supported by demonstrable 'hows' and some not. E.g.

My car won't start because I don't maintain it; because it's old; because it's cheap; because the guy who sold it to me was a shonk.

I'm sick because I'm always eating junk food; because I'm stressed; because the kids brought a bug home from school.

My child should go to college because he'll get a good job; because he'll be respected; because he has no clue what to do with his life.

People get old so they can move aside for the young; because otherwise the young would kill them; because life's a bitch and then you die.
The answers to why make great fiction; they can be very compelling. They're also a strange mixture of the provable (i.e. supported by a demonstrable how), the disprovable (a how will refute them), and the unprovable. They're also full of value-judgements, biases and assumptions. They're great at telling us who we are, but not great at telling us what's real and what's not.


I can agree that why is political and may be so by nature. How is not exempt from politics. Skills development is required to prevent the political utilization of how.I think you're right -- in the sense that it's only if we have competent hows that we can stop the whys taking over. :) Copernicus and Galileo both had a credible how (how it is that celestial bodies seem to move) that got smacked around by the whys of the time (why the earth isn't at the centre of the universe). In modern times, opinions about how man may be changing climate are being smacked around by why we should do anything about it.


The skills I refer to involve the ability to acknowledge why (regardless of any disdain or esteem attributed by self and/or others), and detach from it while also working with it. To disregard why for how sacrifices the soundness of judgment as does the disregard or political utilization of how for why.I think you have a point here, Gehanna. Because why relates to our sense of who we are, it captures our moral, political and ethical sense. In that respect, how informs why, and why should guide how (or at least 'what'). But I still think we over-use why in physics, and under-use how in morality. But in fairness, perhaps we under-use why in logistics, and over-use how in technology too. :)

Gehanna
04-22-2010, 06:41 AM
To Semilargeintestine and Ruv Draba,

A quick courtesy post to let you know that I have read each of your replies. I will get back to posting when I have some down time.

Gehanna