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The philosophical conception of god in the age of reason and science.

 
 
Pyrrho
 
  1  
Reply Fri 22 Jan, 2010 07:17 am
@1CellOfMany,
1CellOfMany;121714 wrote:
...
I suggest that the nature of God is as incomprehensible to us as the nature of a human carpenter is incomprehensible to a cabinet. ...


If that is true, then whenever you use the word "God", you LITERALLY do not know what you are talking about. In other words, whenever you use the word "God", you are just speaking gibberish.
prothero
 
  1  
Reply Fri 22 Jan, 2010 02:53 pm
@prothero,
[QUOTE=jeeprs;121747] Perhaps the task is one of re-imagining the divine reality, while still being aware that this is an impossible task, as all imaginings must be radically incomplete. But taking that into consideration, the mind will nevertheless formulate ways-of-thinking that are consonant with the 'spirit of the times' and generally make use of the 'picture of the world' that is uppermost in the collective psyche. Such was the case with 'deism' and the grand, somewhat masonic architect of the period of the scientific revolution. And I suspect that is the 'classical image' that is being called into question in the OP.[/QUOTE] Humanity has consistently re-imagined the divine from animism, to polytheism, to various forms of monotheism or monism. The one constant has been religion in some form is almost universal. I think religion is a human need and so the task is not one of ridding the world of religious "superstition" but of a divine conception that positively contributes and is not in conflict with the dominant intellectual view and "underlying spirit (or worldview) of the times. The times have changed more radically in the last 200-300 yrs than in most of previous human history and the traditional medieval western rational notion of god is under siege. Something more than transcendent incomprehensibility or ineffable mystery is called for. The masses want to touch and commune with the divine here on earth hence our religious symbols, rituals and practices. Actually I think deism is one of the rational conceptions of the modern world but it does not attract as god is too detached, disinterested and distant in the common presentation of the view. Jefferson, Franklin, and Lincoln were all "deists" although the notion of divine guidance or divine providence played prominently in their thinking and writing so god still "acts" in the world just not by supernatural means.

[QUOTE=jeeprs;121747] I don't really know, however, how to conceive God any more in light of all we now know and see. On a personal level, one desires, or needs, a God who is somehow intimate, which means, is a presence in life - not an image or an icon or an intellectual position. But then, for the purpose of this discussion, I must put that aside, as that is a confessional, or devotional, perspective, and the question requires a 'philosophical' conception.[/QUOTE] The concept of a "personal" god is worthy of discussion in its own right. In the modern worldview it would not appear that god intervenes to save some and forsake others. Intercessionary prayers for divine intervention are not answered. The purpose of prayer is to align oneself with divine will not to seek divine intervention. The purpose of god may be creative advance which may involve creative destruction (the old makes way for the new) (the one is sacrificed for the many). Gods purposes are not mans purposes and gods ways are not mans ways. Gods purpose is creative advance (matter to spirit) which is not the same as human notions of morality.

[QUOTE=jeeprs;121747] OK - so a philosophical conception that can be reconciled with:[/QUOTE] I should say I think there are several different rational philosophical conceptions or speculations that are possible including many eastern monisms. It is just the supernatural personal anthropomorphic deity of classical theism that is no longer tenable; particularly those interpretations that are fundamentalist or literalist. Of course in my case it is the process theology form of pan-en-theism that appeals.



[QUOTE=jeeprs;121747] This puts me in mind of the verse: 'heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away'.[/QUOTE] I think the universe has a striving (a telos) towards order and creativity (in tension) and the universe is rationally intelligible (logos). In the beginning was the "word" (logos). Creativity and free will are not possible without high degrees predictability although complete determinism destroys them.

[QUOTE=jeeprs;121747] Interpretation: Nature itself is amazingly fecund. Where the conditions are right, life seems to just pour out of it. Species, environments and ecosystems seem to be effortlessly generated by the cornucopia which is (in the theistic imagination) the divine intelligence. ....existed. This earth will end, this sun will burn out, in due course: but that which gives rise to suns, to earths, will never cease.[/QUOTE]Galileo moved the earth away from the center of the universe and Darwin removed man from the crown or purpose of creation. Reason together with modern science I think forces us to reconsider our anthropomorphic and anthropocentric conceptions of the divine. We are part of creation not the purpose of creation and we are expendable both as individuals and as a species. Gods purpose I would maintain is creative advance, not personal salvation and not creation, fall, redemption (the classic triad).

[QUOTE=jeeprs;121747] The question of species extinction on account of humans is another thing altogether. The fact that many creatures are being extinguished by our demand for space and resources and careless consumption is regretable in the extreme. So perhaps a new conception of God would be one that demands a minimal carbon footprint, less meat consumption, and unconditional respect for all life on earth. It sounds easy to say it, but if we all tried to actually put it into practise, it would be extremely demanding. So maybe a green God. The Green Man: this was a mythical deity in ancient Europe. (Declaration of interest: I am a member of the Australian Greens.)[/QUOTE] I think once the notion of god moves out of the supernatural interventionist realm, the only realm left is an immanent notion of the divine dwelling within nature and acting through natural law. The modern conception of the divine is much more environmentally friendly as nature is returned into the realm of the sacred whereas some of the traditional notions of a transcendent god made matter the material realm profane and separated god and the spiritual dimension the sacred from the world. The return of notions of god to nature and to a position of immanence (dwelling within) nature is ecology friendly and nature acquires the status of sacredness which it deserves. We become stewards and shepherds of nature not the older dominion; nature is for our use concept.

[QUOTE=jeeprs;121747] As for the death camps - humans have freedom. ..... But even fully aware of the horrors of Auswitzch and Hiroshima, I don't see these as an indictement of any shortcoming of the divine intelligence. ... And I don't expect God to be any certain way. I don't know if we have a right to expectations of that kind. i guess this means I have a different idea of deity altogether - but that is how I see it. [/QUOTE] The degree of evil and suffering in the world calls into question either the "goodness" of god or the "omnipotent power" of god. In my personal theology I readily sacrifice the notion of an all powerful god. The result is that the world is created from the formless void or primordial chaos not "ex nihilo" (literally from nothing). There are aspects of the world which are not of gods making. Creatures and other actualities have their "own freedom" "own power of self determination". Everything that happens is not part of gods doing or the divine plan. God is a persuasive entity (persistently, patiently, tenderly) urging creation forward presenting new possibilities for creative advance at each moment of experience.
Plato would say to god we attribute the good, the true and the beautiful but evil is due to the action of other forces (chaos and the void). The picture would be of a god who struggles to create value in the world and who suffers with his creation when value is destroyed. In this sense god is personal by taking in the experience of the world and feeling the loss when the potential for creative advance is disregarded or destroyed. One can only align oneself with the divine will and heed the divine call or persuasion. Clearly the death camps and the destruction of war is not gods will or gods doing. God does not "permit" evil! To destroy a human life is to destroy that creative potential and is a violation of divine purpose. There is wisdom in the natural order of things. We need to live in harmony with nature.

My conception is probably still too "personal" and too "anthropomorphic" but the inclusion of some such notions are necessary in a "religion" designed for "human" experience. The bottom line for me is "blind pitiless purposeless indifference" neither inspires nor sells.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Fri 22 Jan, 2010 03:33 pm
@Pyrrho,
Pyrrho;121756 wrote:
If that is true, then whenever you use the word "God", you LITERALLY do not know what you are talking about. In other words, whenever you use the word "God", you are just speaking gibberish.


Many people say that, but it is not true. There are ways of relating to the spiritual reality other than the verbal and intellectual. There are ways of understanding with the heart or deeper levels of being. That might be out-of-scope for philosophy. But it is not gibberish. It is not intellectually comprehensible, or describable in purely intellectual terms, but can be seen 'with the eye of the heart' to use a lovely expression from traditional theology. It is also meaningful within a realm of discourse - one who has those experiences, or realisations, can communicate with others who share them, even if what is spoken of is somehow pre-verbal or intuitive (as is happening in this thread.) But one expects, of course, that some will protest by saying 'you're talking gibberish, none of this means anything'. But I don't think this is true - it is quite meaningful within its realm of discourse.

---------- Post added 01-23-2010 at 08:39 AM ----------

[QUOTE=prothero;121848] Galileo moved the earth away from the center of the universe and Darwin removed man from the crown or purpose of creation. Reason together with modern science I think forces us to reconsider our anthropomorphic and anthropocentric conceptions of the divine. We are part of creation not the purpose of creation and we are expendable both as individuals and as a species. Gods purpose I would maintain is creative advance, not personal salvation and not creation, fall, redemption (the classic triad).
[/QUOTE]

I question this perspective. I think the cosmological anthropic theory and the Copenhagen interpretation of QM both graphically illustrate the manner in which our perception of the Universe is essential. The idea that the universe exists as a vast indifferent reality in which we barely feature is another myth, a myth of the modern age. We are the ones who have made the measurements, come up with the theory, and declared it so. We are the universe, figuring itself out. (I am awaiting delivery of a text from the Tibetan Dzogchen tradition, 'You Are the Eyes of the World', which is meditation on exactly this subject. Dzogchen is located within the secular, as distinct from devotional, tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.)
prothero
 
  1  
Reply Fri 22 Jan, 2010 04:19 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;121857 wrote:
I question this perspective. I think the cosmological anthropic theory and the Copenhagen interpretation of QM both graphically illustrate the manner in which our perception of the Universe is essential. The idea that the universe exists as a vast indifferent reality in which we barely feature is another myth, a myth of the modern age. We are the ones who have made the measurements, come up with the theory, and declared it so. We are the universe, figuring itself out. (I am awaiting delivery of a text from the Tibetan Dzogchen tradition, 'You Are the Eyes of the World', which is meditation on exactly this subject. Dzogchen is located within the secular, as distinct from devotional, tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.)
And I thought I was being too anthropomorphic. :bigsmile: Let me bend a little in your direction. We are creatures capable of high degrees of experience and high degrees of creativity. If the divine purpose is the universe becoming conscious of itself or even just creative advance, then we hold a place of high value and are "in the image" in religious terms. All of reality is "an emmanation of spirit" or a "manifestation of the divine" but man is unique in his ability to rationally comprehend and the quality and extent of "experience". Not all things are of equal value, although "everything" has it purpose and its "value".
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Fri 22 Jan, 2010 05:20 pm
@prothero,
There is a very strong emotional commitment to the idea of the 'mind-independent reality' in the typical modern outlook. It is often implicit or tacit. Whenever it is questioned, there is a very emotional reaction, verging on outrage. And that is because, the idea of the 'vast objective indifferent universe' is now the placeholder for the absolute - the space where God used to be. It is the meaning of Sagan's saying 'Cosmos is all there is'. There's this big universe, in which we are tiny insignificant specks on a little chip of a planet.

The principles of the absence of purpose and the insignificance of H Sapiens are virtually sacred to the secular outlook (if you can cope with the irony). Question either and watch the reaction. 'How dare you say humans are anything special. They are just another species! What about the greater south eastern swamp rat, which feeds on its own waste! Miraculous. All of our cultural achievements are puerile compared that.' OK I am exagerating, but you get the drift. All the science guys say this kind of thing. It is an article of faith for them.
0 Replies
 
Pyrrho
 
  1  
Reply Fri 22 Jan, 2010 06:13 pm
@1CellOfMany,
1CellOfMany;121714 wrote:
...

I suggest that the nature of God is as incomprehensible to us as the nature of a human carpenter is incomprehensible to a cabinet. ...



Pyrrho;121756 wrote:
If that is true, then whenever you use the word "God", you LITERALLY do not know what you are talking about. In other words, whenever you use the word "God", you are just speaking gibberish.


jeeprs;121857 wrote:
Many people say that, but it is not true.



People say it because it is obviously true.


jeeprs;121857 wrote:
There are ways of relating to the spiritual reality other than the verbal and intellectual. There are ways of understanding with the heart or deeper levels of being.



That is only a metaphorical use of "understanding", not a literal one at all. You see, the assertion is, that it is not understandable, and now you are wanting to say that it is understood. You are contradicting what was said earlier.


jeeprs;121857 wrote:
That might be out-of-scope for philosophy. But it is not gibberish.



It is exactly gibberish, which means:

Quote:
meaningless or unintelligible talk or writing.

Gibberish Definition | Definition of Gibberish at Dictionary.com

"Incomprehensible" is a synonym for "unintelligible". You may not like the fact that it is gibberish, but it precisely fits the definition regardless of your opinion.


jeeprs;12185 wrote:
It is not intellectually comprehensible, or describable in purely intellectual terms,



Which means it is literally gibberish; see above.


jeeprs;12185 wrote:
but can be seen 'with the eye of the heart' to use a lovely expression from traditional theology.



And can you not see that that is a euphemism, not something that is literally true? And not literally true means, it is literally false.


jeeprs;12185 wrote:
It is also meaningful within a realm of discourse - one who has those experiences, or realisations, can communicate with others who share them, even if what is spoken of is somehow pre-verbal or intuitive (as is happening in this thread.) But one expects, of course, that some will protest by saying 'you're talking gibberish, none of this means anything'. But I don't think this is true - it is quite meaningful within its realm of discourse.

...



On the contrary, it was asserted that it was in no way comprehensible, and now you are pretending that one can comprehend the incomprehensible!


Look, I don't care what conception of god one wishes to discuss, as long as one is chosen, and people do not switch back and forth between different ideas, in order to avoid the unpleasant consequences of the choice they have made. That is called equivocation, and it is fallacious.

If "God" is unintelligible, then talk of "God" is gibberish. This is a simple fact, following straight from the definitions of the terms, whether you like it or not.
Amperage
 
  1  
Reply Fri 22 Jan, 2010 06:22 pm
@Pyrrho,
I would call it indirect inference

The Bible is a form of indirect inference. We may not know the true nature of God but we can indirectly infer aspects of His nature through His inspired word
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Fri 22 Jan, 2010 06:40 pm
@Pyrrho,
Pyrrho;121874 wrote:
If "God" is unintelligible, then talk of "God" is gibberish. This is a simple fact, following straight from the definitions of the terms, whether you like it or not.


I know the definition of gibberish. It is more or less equivalent to 'nonsense'. There are many people who think any mystical or metaphysical writing is gibberish. However there is a very large corpus of such writings, in many languages and traditions, which display considerable coherence and meaning once the time is taken to understand them properly, even if those who don't know how to read them think they are all gibberish. And it is true that many such readings abound in paradox, because the spiritual traditions draw on persepectives other than those available to ordinary empiricism and the profane intellect. But the time must be taken to understand them.

What is your attitude to the question of the existence of Deity, anyway? Is such talk meaningful at all? is there any reality that corresponds to the term? Do you think Deity is intelligible? And if it is, please explain it. If you think there is not, then there is nothing to discuss. That seems to exhaust all the possibilities in this dialog.
Amperage
 
  1  
Reply Fri 22 Jan, 2010 06:50 pm
@jeeprs,
I would also like to point people to post #18 by Fil. Albuquerque just in case it was missed. It may just be me but I don't find anything he said to be in conflict with my personal understanding of Christianity. If anything I think what he said is, in some ways, merely a deeper/higher/different level of understanding of the nature of God. Anyway I just wanted to say that I agree with most of what he said there.

Also I'd like to point out that just because someone thinks something is gibberish does not mean it is gibberish. If I heard someone speaking Swahili I would think it was gibberish but of course I would be false.
0 Replies
 
Pyrrho
 
  1  
Reply Fri 22 Jan, 2010 07:22 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;121879 wrote:
I know the definition of gibberish. It is more or less equivalent to 'nonsense'. There are many people who think any mystical or metaphysical writing is gibberish. However there is a very large corpus of such writings, in many languages and traditions, which display considerable coherence and meaning once the time is taken to understand them properly, even if those who don't know how to read them think they are all gibberish. And it is true that many such readings abound in paradox, because the spiritual traditions draw on persepectives other than those available to ordinary empiricism and the profane intellect. But the time must be taken to understand them.

What is your attitude to the question of the existence of Deity, anyway? Is such talk meaningful at all? is there any reality that corresponds to the term? Do you think Deity is intelligible? And if it is, please explain it. If you think there is not, then there is nothing to discuss. That seems to exhaust all the possibilities in this dialog.


If the term "God" is defined in a meaningful way, then of course it can be the subject of meaningful discussion. But when it is not defined in a meaningful way, then it cannot be. It is as simple as that.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Fri 22 Jan, 2010 07:34 pm
@prothero,
Pyrrho;121891 wrote:
If the term "God" is defined in a meaningful way, then of course it can be the subject of meaningful discussion. But when it is not defined in a meaningful way, then it cannot be. It is as simple as that.


So - please assist in defining the term 'God' in a meaningful way. What do you think such a definition would consist of? So far, apart from accusing a couple of contributors of speaking gibberish, your positive contribution has been zero. So - over to you.
prothero
 
  1  
Reply Fri 22 Jan, 2010 07:51 pm
@prothero,
[QUOTE=jeeprs;121865] There is a very strong emotional commitment to the idea of the 'mind-independent reality' in the typical modern outlook. It is often implicit or tacit. Whenever it is questioned, there is a very emotional reaction, verging on outrage. And that is because, the idea of the 'vast objective indifferent universe' is now the placeholder for the absolute - the space where God used to be. It is the meaning of Sagan's saying 'Cosmos is all there is'. There's this big universe, in which we are tiny insignificant specks on a little chip of a planet. [/QUOTE] Well, the notion of "blind pitiless indifference" is a rational philosophical speculation about the nature of ultimate reality. I accord those who hold that view respect. It does not deny science and fact like many religious views do. The main problem I have with the "purposeless indifference "position is the failure of some to realize that it is a metaphysical assumption or philosophical speculation like any other comprehensive world view about the nature of ultimate reality (i.e. it is not THE only rational view or THE only view with takes science into account). There are religious views which also have rational structure and which do not directly conflict with science. No comprehensive world view which includes experience, aesthetic and value judgments is confirmed by science or by reason alone. We all engage in metaphysical speculation in constructing a comprehensive world view (free will, determinism, ethics, beauty, truth, good, love, etc).


[QUOTE=jeeprs;121865] The principles of the absence of purpose and the insignificance of H Sapiens are virtually sacred to the secular outlook (if you can cope with the irony). Question either and watch the reaction. 'How dare you say humans are anything special. They are just another species! What about the greater south eastern swamp rat, which feeds on its own waste! Miraculous. All of our cultural achievements are puerile compared that.' OK I am exagerating, but you get the drift. All the science guys say this kind of thing. It is an article of faith for them. [/QUOTE] It is a "faith" a "religion" of sorts for some and beyond questioning, in their view THE only worldview reason and science allow. I think religion devalued nature and other creatures for millennium and so in some sense the opposite reaction is a necessary correction. The trend is to see nature itself as sacred, the divine as immanent in the order and structure of the world, and man as part of creation not the purpose of creation. These are all good trends I think but the push to "blind indifference" is a step too far and one that ultimately does not inspire does not cohere and will not hold. The value of our reason to comprehend certain aspects of the universe and our experience of it is I think unique and remarkable. We have Maxwell's equations, Newton's gravity, Einstein's relativity, quantum mechanics and ultimately a theory of everything not to mention music, art, literature. There is no known creature that can approach this level of understanding and experience. We are a marvel of the universe contemplating and understanding itself. It is precisely an alteration in the conception of the divine that does not conflict with science and reason that is needed, and the presentation of which I requested. For those who are fundamentalists in the religion of "blind indifference" no theistic presentation will be meaningful or worthy of consideration. Philosophy is rational speculation and the goal of philosophy is the consideration of alternative ways of thinking about reality, god, the good, the true and the beautiful, to broaden perspectives, possibilities and understanding. Those who already have the "answer" to the nature of ultimate reality are no longer engaging in philosophy just dogmatism of which there are many varieties.
.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Fri 22 Jan, 2010 09:09 pm
@prothero,
Well I don't want to put myself in the same corner as dogmatic religionistas. It is just that in the modern philosophical outlook, the scientific attitude is somewhat over-represented and often taken as grounds for philosphical and spiritual attitudes which are well outside its province. Nevertheless, it behoves us to remember that

Quote:
this age of which materialism was the portentous offspring and in which it had figured first as petulant rebel and aggressive thinker, then as a grave and strenuous preceptor of mankind, has been by no means a period of mere error, calamity and degeneration, but rather a most powerful creative epoch of humanity. Examine impartially its results. Not only has it immensely widened and filled in the knowledge of the race and accustomed it to a great patience of research, scrupulosity, accuracy,- if it has done that only in one large sphere of inquiry, it has still prepared for the extension of the same curiosity, intellectual rectitude, power for knowledge to other and higher fields,- not only has it with an unexampled force and richness of invention brought and put into our hands, for much evil, but also for much good, discoveries, instruments, practical powers, conquests, conveniences which, however we may declare their insufficiency for our highest interests, yet few of us would care to relinquish, but it has also, paradoxical as that might at first seem, strengthened man's idealism. On the whole, it has given him a kindlier hope and humanised his nature. Tolerance is greater, liberty has increased, charity is more a matter of course, peace, if not yet practicable, is growing at least imaginable.


From the 1918 essay Materialism, by Sri Aurobindo

---------- Post added 01-23-2010 at 02:48 PM ----------

Further to which none of it can be made clear, understood, or realized, without a real meditative discipline.
prothero
 
  1  
Reply Fri 22 Jan, 2010 10:50 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;121908 wrote:
Well I don't want to put myself in the same corner as dogmatic religionistas. It is just that in the modern philosophical outlook, the scientific attitude is somewhat over-represented and often taken as grounds for philosphical and spiritual attitudes which are well outside its province. .
It is not to be forgotten that the dominant worldview is still religious. There is in intellectual circles a debate about religious concepts and reason and science but even among scientists some form of spiritual worldview is prominent. It is the traditional established religious notion of a supernatural interventionist "personal" god which fails to cohere, not spirituality itself.

In philosophy analytic philosophy and continental philosophy have been in conflict. The dominance of analysis of language, logical positivism and analytic over synthetic forms of philosophy became a dead end. Philosophy is returning to its original focus as a guide to living and a rational attempt to provide a comprehensive coherent worldview, a query into the nature and purpose of ultimate reality.

There is no reason to think "blind indifference" will become the dominant view and no reason to think science and reason alone will ever be an adequate basis for values and aesthetics. There is no "scientific attitude" towards values and aesthetics for those are matters outside the province of true "science".
There are only those who abuse science for their metaphysical agenda just as there are those who abuse religion for their agenda.
0 Replies
 
1CellOfMany
 
  1  
Reply Fri 22 Jan, 2010 11:30 pm
@Pyrrho,
Pyrrho;121756 wrote:
If that is true, then whenever you use the word "God", you LITERALLY do not know what you are talking about. In other words, whenever you use the word "God", you are just speaking gibberish.


I have said that "... the nature of God is as incomprehensible to us as the nature of a human carpenter is incomprehensible to a cabinet." And you have asserted that if my statement is true, then the word "God" must be gibberish.

But consider: Scientist are constantly observing, asking questions, testing hypotheses, and proposing theories to explain the known evidence about the nature of the world. If they, or anyone, could comprehend the nature of, say, the atom, such research would not be needed. As an example, Earnest Rutherford's 1910 description of the atom was quite simple compared to present atomic theory, but people spoke about atoms even in Ancient Greece. Therefore, we can assert that "we do not comprehend the nature of the atom", and perhaps even that, "we will never completely comprehend the nature of the atom," but we have some evidence and some usable theories about what the atom is. To use the word "atom" obviously is not gibberish.

We have, from scientific observation of the workings of creation, some evidence of the nature of God, just as one can get an idea about who an artist is by looking at his art. We also have the scriptures which give us more clues about the nature of God. Interpretation of scripture is tricky. The literal interpretations that some people spout are naive to the point of turning people away from the scriptures, but an intelligent mind is capable of puzzling out the spiritual meanings from the stories, psalms parables, and other teachings.

Combining the evidence from science, from the scriptures, from meditation, and from practice into a sketchy but consistent theory of the nature of God requires more intelligent study and spiritual practice than most people are willing to exert. But, according to scripture, what we really learn when we develop such an understanding about the nature of God, is an understanding of our true, spiritual selves: our own potential.

So, my statement does not imply that to speak of God is to use gibberish, it only means that, while we can know what seems to be quite a lot about God, that knowledge is only a distant approximation of the Reality of God.
prothero
 
  1  
Reply Sat 23 Jan, 2010 12:24 am
@1CellOfMany,
1CellOfMany;121921 wrote:
So, my statement does not imply that to speak of God is to use gibberish, it only means that, while we can know what seems to be quite a lot about God, that knowledge is only a distant approximation of the Reality of God.
The same could be said about science, "While we can know a lot about the objective features of the world, what we know is only an approximation to the total experience and reality of the universe".
Whereas the changing nature of scientific understanding is taken to be a great strenght
The changing nature of religious understanding is taken to be a sign of its weakness and falsity.
xris
 
  1  
Reply Sat 23 Jan, 2010 05:42 am
@prothero,
Just saying the word or writing the word GOD has implications that we have to consider. If you observe with a free and uncluttered view of our existence, then you would never presume or attempt at looking for god. Its only our not understanding certain mysteries that has ever made man wonder. I find evidence of an engineered universe but does it concur that we have an all mighty mind behind this creation. Its not the evidence that drives us, its the belief that drives us to look for evidence.
Pyrrho
 
  1  
Reply Sat 23 Jan, 2010 08:42 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;121895 wrote:
So - please assist in defining the term 'God' in a meaningful way. What do you think such a definition would consist of? So far, apart from accusing a couple of contributors of speaking gibberish, your positive contribution has been zero. So - over to you.



It is up to people who want to assert something to define their terms. If someone wants to say, god is an immortal being who lives on Mt. Olympus, who throws thunderbolts at his enemies, etc., describing Zeus, then that person is free to do so. We then can examine whether or not there is such a god.

But it is absurd to ask someone to define a term when the person is not introducing it in the first place. This is especially true with a term like "god", that has been used in a wide variety of ways by different people, or in many cases, by the same person at different times. What has happened with many people, they have found their earlier conceptions of God to be problematic (as, for example, not fitting with the actual world we observe), and instead of simply rejecting their false beliefs, because they are emotionally attached to them, they have often just gotten rid of the problem by stripping away the meaning of their term, so that they only have empty words and nothing else. This brings us back to my original post in this thread:
Pyrrho;121105 wrote:
What is the function of this god you are imagining? If it is something that could never conflict with actual experience, what, if anything, are you really talking about? And if it is relevant to actual experience, then it is subject to scientific examination, just like every other experience.

I am reminded of an article about the concept of God being continually diluted until it has no content at all. See:

Antony Flew "Theology and Falsification," 1950

It seems to me that people want to hang onto a notion, even though they find that they cannot accept it as it was originally, as they recognize it as false in its original form. And they even want to hang onto it when it does no "work" and serves no function, beyond making them feel better, because they get to hang onto some small portion of their former ideas. In this case, the small portion appears to be linguistic only, and there does not appear to be any actual thing that remains of it beyond mere words.


---------- Post added 01-23-2010 at 09:55 AM ----------

1CellOfMany;121921 wrote:
I have said that "... the nature of God is as incomprehensible to us as the nature of a human carpenter is incomprehensible to a cabinet." And you have asserted that if my statement is true, then the word "God" must be gibberish.

But consider: Scientist are constantly observing, asking questions, testing hypotheses, and proposing theories to explain the known evidence about the nature of the world. If they, or anyone, could comprehend the nature of, say, the atom, such research would not be needed. As an example, Earnest Rutherford's 1910 description of the atom was quite simple compared to present atomic theory, but people spoke about atoms even in Ancient Greece. Therefore, we can assert that "we do not comprehend the nature of the atom", and perhaps even that, "we will never completely comprehend the nature of the atom," but we have some evidence and some usable theories about what the atom is. To use the word "atom" obviously is not gibberish.



And what phenomenon is it that the term "god" is supposed to explain better than any other idea? Of course, for it to even qualify as an explanation, it must not itself be less intelligible than what it is supposed to explain (because an explanation is "something that explains; a statement made to clarify something and make it understandable").

1CellOfMany;121921 wrote:
We have, from scientific observation of the workings of creation, some evidence of the nature of God, just as one can get an idea about who an artist is by looking at his art.



In that case, if the world was created, the creator obviously does not like Haitians. Indeed, the creator likes killing people in horrible ways on a regular basis, including small children who are too young to have done much of anything to displease anyone. Either that, or the creator was too incompetent to make what it wanted. Or both. So either the creator, if there is one, is evil or stupid or both. Take your pick.


1CellOfMany;121921 wrote:
We also have the scriptures which give us more clues about the nature of God. Interpretation of scripture is tricky. The literal interpretations that some people spout are naive to the point of turning people away from the scriptures, but an intelligent mind is capable of puzzling out the spiritual meanings from the stories, psalms parables, and other teachings.



In order to use "scriptures" as evidence, you need to first establish that your scriptures are correct. Something written in an old book is not, of itself, evidence of any claim contained therein.


1CellOfMany;121921 wrote:
Combining the evidence from science, from the scriptures, from meditation, and from practice into a sketchy but consistent theory of the nature of God requires more intelligent study and spiritual practice than most people are willing to exert. But, according to scripture, what we really learn when we develop such an understanding about the nature of God, is an understanding of our true, spiritual selves: our own potential.

So, my statement does not imply that to speak of God is to use gibberish, it only means that, while we can know what seems to be quite a lot about God, that knowledge is only a distant approximation of the Reality of God.



If it is an approximation, then you were wrong to say "the nature of God is as incomprehensible to us as the nature of a human carpenter is incomprehensible to a cabinet." The cabinet has no understanding whatsoever. So you are contradicting what you stated before.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Sat 23 Jan, 2010 03:37 pm
@xris,
xris;121959 wrote:
Just saying the word or writing the word GOD has implications that we have to consider. If you observe with a free and uncluttered view of our existence, then you would never presume or attempt at looking for god.


Well that depends. Many people have had encounters with what they believe is the holy spirit. I am not one who prays to God for salvation, but I don't believe that all those who do are delusional. Maybe you could say, they want to believe it, and you don't want to believe it. It might be that simple.
prothero
 
  1  
Reply Sat 23 Jan, 2010 11:35 pm
@jeeprs,
[QUOTE=jeeprs;122040]Well that depends. Many people have had encounters with what they believe is the holy spirit. I am not one who prays to God for salvation, but I don't believe that all those who do are delusional. Maybe you could say, they want to believe it, and you don't want to believe it. It might be that simple.[/QUOTE]It might be that simple actually.
To believe in what can be proven or directly demonstrated is not a matter of "faith" only a matter of "reason". If the divine is not coercive but persuasive then coercing "faith" would not be part of the divine nature. In any event the universe remains ordered and rationally intelligible, mathematically expressible and these are fundamental features ontological features really for which there is no direct explanation. Our universe is incredibly beautiful and yields forth life and experience of amazing elegance. I can not see this as "blind pitiless indifference".

I accept that the conception of god authored before the enlightenment, the age of science, the age of reason, before the big bang, Newton, Einstein and Darwin is no longer a coherent or tenable vision of the divine. God does not act by supernatural means. God dwells within nature and the rational structure of the universe. In a way it is a return to the ancient view of nature itself as sacred, enchanted, animated, and en-souled.

I accept atheism and "the blind pitiless indifference of the universe" as a rational philosophical speculation about the ultimate nature of the universe. I do not accept that atheism is confirmed by science or demanded by reason. There are some conceptions of god that conflict with science and do not cohere (are not rational) with the modern worldview. There are other conceptions of god (primarily Eastern monism, mysticism, and Western process theology conceptions) that while not confirmed by science do not directly conflict with science or reason. In my view the universe strives (telos) to order, complexity, life, mind, experience, value and spirit. In my view the universe behaves more like a living thinking enchanted and alive organism than like a blind, mechanical, indifferent, purposeless machine. Your worldview is partly a matter of choice. The parameters include what science tells us, our other experience and reason. There is more than one rational philosophical speculation about the ultimate nature of reality.

Is there a struggle in nature? Yes, there is a struggle between the forces of order, rationality and creativity and the forces of chaos and the void. The parable of the cave is a good one, science shows us partial reality (the shadows), the complete reality is much more complex and much richer. I am with Plato; to god I attribute that which is good. Even if my view is not "true" I look upon the world as permeated with purpose and spirit and I maintain that is a more pragmatic, a more inspiring and a more humanistic view.

I think religion is a product of the human spirit.
I think the human spirit comes from nature.
I think nature comes from god.
0 Replies
 
 

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