A defense of religious claims


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Shmuel Boteach writes here

http://www.jpost.com....aspx?id=227917

Atheism is a philosophy of nihilism in which nothing is sacred and all is an accidental.

While it has some brief, flashy moments, life is purposeless and meaningless.

There is no soul to illuminate and no spirit to enliven – just decadent flesh. Human love is a prank played by our genes to ensure the propagation of the species, and poetry and faith are shallow distractions masking the inevitability of death .

It seems to me that the author is more a rhetorican than a philosopher.

But,

I think a large part of it is true, in the sense that these are the logical consequences of the metaphysical assumptions of what many people believe today they intend or not.

By metaphysics I mean

(a) What is "really real", "the most real thing".

For example, one can think that the group is "really real", while individuals are just parts of it. Or, one can think that individuals are "really real", and groups do not "really exist".

Or, one can believe that the whole universe is not "really real", and that there is another one waiting for us after death".

Or, one can believe that he himself and all the experiences he has is "really real", and what other people think of him is not.

I realize this isn't a good philosophic definition, it is part literary, part philosophic. But I think it is a good one in order to explain what I mean.

(b) The values that one believes in, as a consequence of what thinks to be "really real".

If one believes Humanity to be more real than the individual, he will have values consequently. If one believes individuals to be real, and groups not, he will have other values. If one will believe this universe to be "really real", he will love it.

-------------------------------------

To the arguments :

According to the metaphysics commonly held by most atheists :

(1) The existence of Man, the specie, and of the self (ego in Rand's terminology) is contingent. It could have arisen, but could have not.

(2) There is no natural law that Man in general, or the self, in specific, are parts of the universe. Both came to be by chance.

. (There is no natural law according to which evolution must lead to an intelligent specie. It is a matter of chance, in the end. Of course, it is not just chance, it is chance and natural selection. But it is chance in the end, according to what most biologists tell me).

(3) The metaphysical primary is matter. Matter is eternal and non-contingent. Man, and the self is not.

(4) We have an eternal annihilation waiting in the end. So, metaphysically, life is meaningless, it cannot have a ultimate goal. It cannot have even a ultimate personal goal. One could say "I dedicate my life to the glory of Man", (Rand), or to building scycrapers. But, it is a goal only during your life, it isn't a ultimate goal.

A ultimate goal would be possible if you could dedicate your life to something, and then enjoy its fruits after death.

As nowdays people think, you can only dedicate your life to something during your life, but then it isn't really a goal. Just something to do during your life. A temporary, good, personal goal. But ultimately - in the end, it is all nothing.

(5) Metaphysically, life indeed is meaningless. Coming from nothing, we go back to nothing.

-----------------------

I am not saying that all atheists are going to lead shallow lives, but that

these are the consequences of their philosophy.

To the extent that atheists will have meaningful lives, they won't live on the premises of their own philosophy.

For objectivists, the self is supposed to be the higher value, but how can it be a value if it disintegrates at the end of your life?

I am not denying that from the existential point of view it isn't the best value. I think it is. But when you think of metaphysics, of "what is really real in the universe", then it makes no sense to posit that the self is, or life is, or the individual is.

As far as I understand the buddhist point of view, according to it, consciousness is eternal, just as matter. The self (a combination of our body and our consciousness) is at least in some sense eternal, since we reincarnate without a beginning. What happens to us in the following reincarnation, is a consequence of our actions, so our goals are not ultimately futile.

Sadly, I do not really believe the buddhist point of view. But I am bringing it here to show that compared to buddhism (Which somehow builds man into the nature of the universe), atheism is really gloomy.

Can anyone show where I am mistaken? I would really love to be.

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It seems to me that the author is more a rhetorican than a philosopher.

Sam:

Out of curiosity, how do you define "rhetorician?" Here is mine...

The True Rhetorician

"Within true rhetoric [according to Aristotle], the true rhetorician is almost always someone who does not give and does not purport to teach others how to give persuasive speeches. Inside true rhetoric, the rhetorician knows how to dispute the essence and the ontology of rhetoric."

(Jasper P. Neel, Aristotle's Voice: Rhetoric, Theory & Writing in America, SIU Press, 1994)

Adam

Post Script: Aristotle's definition of rhetoric is...

"the faculty of discovering in any particular case all of the available means of persuasion [in the given case]."

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One that pretends to reasoning about truth, but instead deals with persuasion.

"pretends" ???? as opposed to "...dedicated to..." ????

So, your definition implies a negative connotation, correct?

Additionally, are you implying that persuasion does not deal with "truth?"

Adam

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Yes, a negative connotation, and I am implying that persuasion doesn't deal with truth (as the final goal).

You can persuade someone using reason, but the final goal can be either him agreeing with you, either him being rational, and believing in what he considers rational.

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Yes, a negative connotation, and I am implying that persuasion doesn't deal with truth (as the final goal).

You can persuade someone using reason, but the final goal can be either him agreeing with you, either him being rational, and believing in what he considers rational.

Ok, I thought so. Unfortunately, I disagree with your definition.

However, being a rhetorician, I wil still engage.

Before we get to your "arguments," I dispute your dichotomy which is false.

Groups are real and individuals are real. Groups are composed of individuals and, in some demonstrable cases, sub groups.

Your attempt to force a distinction with your proposed dichotomy fails.

Adam

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I think there is something about the perception of individualsts and collectivists about groups that is different, I am not sure what.

Perhaps, that collectivists think that there is something in the group more than just the sum of its individuals?

You can have many individuals. But, when people talk for example of "The nation of Israel", they don't mean just the many individuals together.

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For objectivists, the self is supposed to be the higher value, but how can it be a value if it disintegrates at the end of your life?

Your error is that you're treating the concept "value" in an Intrinsic manner (i.e. as if it were a mind-independent stuff like matter).

The problem is that the concept of value emerges from human life (the lives of individual human beings).

Without the self, there would be no human life. Human life is an inherently individual thing because only individuals can be meaningfully described as alive or dead.

Far from making human life "meaningless" or "valueless," this argument makes our lives the origin of value.

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For objectivists, the self is supposed to be the higher value, but how can it be a value if it disintegrates at the end of your life?

Your error is that you're treating the concept "value" in an Intrinsic manner (i.e. as if it were a mind-independent stuff like matter).

The problem is that the concept of value emerges from human life (the lives of individual human beings).

Without the self, there would be no human life. Human life is an inherently individual thing because only individuals can be meaningfully described as alive or dead.

Far from making human life "meaningless" or "valueless," this argument makes our lives the origin of value.

It seems you are right. Cool.

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Yes, a negative connotation, and I am implying that persuasion doesn't deal with truth (as the final goal).

Now that I think about it, I agree with this sentiment.

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Shmuel Boteach writes here

http://www.jpost.com....aspx?id=227917

Atheism is a philosophy of nihilism in which nothing is sacred and all is an accidental.

While it has some brief, flashy moments, life is purposeless and meaningless.

There is no soul to illuminate and no spirit to enliven – just decadent flesh. Human love is a prank played by our genes to ensure the propagation of the species, and poetry and faith are shallow distractions masking the inevitability of death .

It seems to me that the author is more a rhetorican than a philosopher.

The author is a religious believer using the personal value he derives from his belief as the basis for his argumentation.

The fallacy of his argumentation lies in denying those elements of reality which don't fit into his belief system.

In short, it is wrongly asserted that X cannot exist because it ought not to exist.

For an atheist deriving purpose and meaning from his/her life obviously constitues an emotional threat to Boteach's religious belief. Therefore Boteach, to 'arm' his psyche against this, declares atheism to be nihilism.

Like the German poet Ch. Morgenstern put it: "Weil, so schließt er messerscharf, nicht sein kann, was nicht sein darf." :smile:

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I should keep my trap shut, no longer being young myself, but heck, this thread sounds like late night high school / freshman college discussions from around the late nineteen sixties.

The holiday season is upon us and we hope things will improve for you Sam. Or more likely, it will depress you more. Smile! Happy Holidays!

Peter

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Here are some old Holiday / Religious letters youse guys might enjoy.

Peter Taylor

From: Douglas Wagoner <dwagoner@douglaswagoner.com>

To: atlantis@wetheliving.com

Subject: Re: ATL: Re: A word to the Wise

Date: Fri, 28 Dec 2001 15:02:42 -0500

At 02:57 PM 12/28/2001, you wrote:

From http://www.donder.com/:

"The eight reindeer first appeared in American literature in 1823 in the famous poem by Clement

Clarke Moore (we thought), called "A Visit from St. Nicholas", popularly known as 'Twas the Night Before Christmas". You can read the entire poem at the link above. I quote here from the text<snip>

Very cool! I didn't know that.

Douglas Wagoner

The Donder Home Page

"You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen Comet and Cupid and Donner and ..."

WHOA !!

Did you say "Donner"?

The name is "DONDER".

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The eight reindeer first appeared in American literature in 1823 in the famous poem by Clement Clarke Moore (we thought), called "A Visit from St. Nicholas" , popularly known as 'Twas the Night Before Christmas". You can read the entire poem at the link above. I quote here from the text:

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came, And he whistled and shouted, and called them by name; "Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder, and Blitzen! To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall! Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

One hundred and twenty three years later, this "Donner" goof began, with publication of the 1949 song Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, written by Johnny Marks and sung by Gene Autry, in which they mistakenly misnamed poor ol' Donder in the opening stanza.

"Donner" is Thunder and "Blitzen" is Lightning in German. So, I understand how the mistake occurred.

Nevertheless, as investigators in this Washington Post article point out, Moore's intent was to use the Dutch, not the German word for "Thunder". Besides, the poem is available in any local library for all to read the original reindeer names. Shame on Mr. Marks for not doing his research properly. What right had he to change an American classic?

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Donder's Honor Roll

In his 1996 TV movie starring Angela Lansbury called Mrs. Santa Claus, author Mark Saltzman correctly named the eight reindeer after doing his homework and finding this web page. We salute Mr. Saltzman for his scholarship.

Hats off to Roland McElroy, who also researched the Donder/Donner question before publishing his Christmas tale The Great Mizzariddle, (published by McElroy & Associates, Falls Church, VA, 1999).

Kudos to Charles and Debra Ghigna, for making sure Donder was named correctly in their book of Christmas poems Christmas is Coming! , (published by Charlesbridge Publishing, Watertown, MA, 2000).

Poet Jeff Mondak, while writing the poem A Reindeer Holiday, made sure Donder got the recognition he deserved. Read some of Jeff's hilarious poems on his site Jeff's Poems for Kids.

However, we must not reduce our vigilance because of these small, but important victories. Pass the word! Take back our cultural heritage, and return Donder's true name to Christmas lore!

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Crusade to Restore Donder's True Name

Diane Walter's Home Page

From: "Reidy, Peter" <Peter.Reidy@usa.xerox.com>

To: "'Monart Pon'" <monart@starshipaurora.com>, OWL Posting <objectivism@wetheliving.com>, Atlantis <atlantis@wetheliving.com>

Subject: ATL: RE: Christmas: Re: 'Tis the Season

Date: Fri, 07 Dec 2001 08:32:06 -0800

I'm all for an irreligious Christmas, too, but according to what I've read "Xmas" is not as secular as people think. It X comes from the Greek letter chi, which looks like our x but is the hard "ch" as in "Christ" or "psycho". It's been a standard abbreviation for Christ since ancient times.

Calling Christmas a celebration of the nativity is also historically questionable. Most of our seasonal customs come either from pre-Christian Jewish, Roman or northern-European winter solstice observations (the Jews, like the Christians, have some other explanation), or from the secular, commercial culture of the last century or two. Peikoff has pointed out the latter at length.

Peter

From: Andre Zantonavitch <zantonavitch@yahoo.com>

Reply-To: Starship_Forum@yahoogroups.com

To: Starship_Forum@yahoogroups.com

Subject: [starship_Forum] Merry Christmas!

Date: Tue, 24 Dec 2002 14:04:41 -0800 (PST)

Everyone knows, or everyone ~should~ know, that Christmas is all about worshipping Santa Claus --

not Jesus (who's he?). Christmas is focused on life, joy, and personal pleasure, not some black religious afterlife and self-sacrifice.

This holiday ~does~ feature "sharing" but as a kind of natural, normal, "cup runneth over" generosity and magnanimity which gives gifts and happiness to loved-ones mostly in order to enhance ~personal~ pleasure. Christmas does ~not~ feature a corrupt and bizarre "sharing" along the lines of religious charity and mercy to the downtrodden and defeated.

Christmas is a proud, confident Saturnalia-type holiday which occurs on the Winter solstice -- when the dark days of Winter finally start to retreat and there is the promise of renewed plant life, as well as every other kind. And all the historical evidence indicates that the birthdate of Jesus was nowhere ~near~ December 25th. Those evil deviants and religious barbarians shamelessly ~stole~ the date from the civilized Romans around 400 AD.

Christmas also rather nobly worships ~justice~ with that song about "he knows if you've been bad or good, so you better be good for goodness' sake!"

Thus Christmas is --ideally, and even currently -- a 100% rational, healthy, happy, non-religious, holiday and festival in celebration of a rich, hopeful, verdant life and future. So it's flat wrong for any atheist or

Objectivist to be nervous or uncertain about having a, or saying, "Merry Christmas!"

Zan'

From me, Peter Taylor

Andre Zantonavitch wrote about Christmas:

“Everyone knows, or everyone ~should~ know, that Christmas is all about worshipping Santa Claus -- not Jesus (who's he?). Christmas is focused on life, joy, and personal pleasure, not some black religious afterlife and self-sacrifice.”

End quote

And consider the psychological impact of the mythical Santa on a child along with the corollary of Christian Religious training. Adults and older children claim Santa exists, and adults and Religious teachers claim Christ exists. What happens to a child’s *acceptance of belief with little proof* when they find out, as they are supposed to do, that Santa Claus does not exist? Though the sense of betrayal cannot be good, does it not follow that instilling skepticism and then disbelief in a child will create a healthier psycho-epistemology?

In the back of their minds won’t children put 2 and 2 together and question the validity of other supernatural deities? Is a healthy human consciousness going to accept the notion that Santa was for kids but this fellow Jesus is the “real deal” and adults should believe in the existence of Jesus?

And will they *believe* that the proof is in the New Testament, if you will just open your heart and mind? No, they will think, "Ho hum, what a bore. I was fooled once . . . . "

Or that the proof pours out of some child molesting priest’s lying mouth? Not bloody likely. The discredited notion of *Santa* in children nullifies the notion of *Jesus* in adults.

There are stories and pictures about Santa and Jesus throughout our Christian culture. Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is a graphic and wonderful depiction of the essence of a person’s life: “It is the only life you will ever have so don’t screw it up!”

And the beautiful music. I think the Christmas music and songs of German, English, and American composers (including the happy, irreverent songs of rock and roll) are unsurpassed in beauty. No music the other religions create is quite so beautiful! Just consider the implicit benevolence in neighborhood, strolling carolers.

Zan wrote:

“Christmas also rather nobly worships ~justice~ with that song about "he knows if you've been bad or good, so you better be good for goodness' sake!"

end quote

And of course the Christian corollary in morality is the Ten Commandments, threats of hell, admonitions about a rich man being unable to pass through the eye of a needle and a thousand other sayings and parables. And though Christian Conservatives try to reconcile Christianity and Capitalism they fail miserably. As Nikita Khrushchev observed, a true Christian must be a communist.

There are physical manifestations of Santa’s existence. He eats the cookies you leave out on Christmas Eve and He leaves you presents. And Christians claim they can feel the presence of Jesus, but are they just fooling themselves? They ask, “What would Jesus do in this situation?” and recently there appeared an advertisement asking, “Would Jesus drive an SUV?” Thinking humans masquerading as “True Believers” would not allow themselves to be depicted as being so silly if they had not been inoculated with a healthy dose of the “Santa Virus.”

I agree with Zan when he wrote:

“Christmas is a proud, confident Saturnalia-type holiday which occurs on the Winter solstice -- when the dark days of Winter finally start to retreat and there is the promise of renewed plant life . . . .”

end quote

Christmas is a good thing for everyone in our glorious Western culture. It has really caught on throughout our whole culture, though we all may have begun as Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, or even Puritans :o)

As two wonderful Jewish composers wrote: “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas” with “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire . . . .”

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Merry Christmas!

And

Live long and prosper,

Peter Taylor

From: Steve Reed <SteveReed@earthling.net>

To: Atlantis <atlantis@wetheliving.com>

Subject: ATL: Not the slightest bit about determinism

Date: Tue, 17 Dec 2002 16:45:01 -0800

Yes, drastic times call for drastic measures, and since I am, per the determinists, a piece of ethereal flotsam compelled to such things, I pretend that I am pushed over the edge into holiday madness by ... yet another printing of the (in)famous Letter to the "New York Sun." This time in running across it being regurgitated in "Dear Abby" next to the comics page, wherein I'm much more interested in Michael Patterson's new baby.

You want some of the strongest roots of irrationalism in popular culture? Here they are. And since 18-frigging-97, to boot. In the spirit of the unreformed Ebenezer Scrooge, who provided employment to -lumpen- like Bob Cratchit, I send along a bracketed Objectivist commentary on this ho-ho-hokum. I doubt you've actually READ this whole thing in decades ... right?

=====

"Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus"

We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of "The Sun":

"I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.

Papa says, 'If you see it in The Sun, it's so.' Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?" -- Virginia O'Hanlon

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a sceptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds.

[Discarding science in its entirety, for pronouncing something to be "not comprehensible" is a claim of omniscience.]

All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

[Ever see any evidence of this supposed celestial omniscience? In any event, this is said in order to abase and devalue the human intellect as such -- presumably, with the exception of blitherers on newspaper staffs.]

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.

[How much "love" is genuinely shown by telling children lies?]

Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.

[so much for the practice of science. It was certainly more "dreary" in 1897, without even such innovations -- in most of the world, outside a few blocks in cities like New York -- as water spigots. Physical existence is far more "tolerable" and comfortable now, and has been for decades -- at least since the "New York Sun" expired in 1949.

Romance and poetry can be created by clear minds, not made woozy with the drug of faith, pretending that what does not exist nonetheless exists.]

We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

[Any light that comes from the young properly comes from the -confidence,- rationally based, of understanding and mastering what is around them. Not from being force-fed imaginary creatures.]

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove?

[That her father wasted money on absurdities, that's what.]

Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus.

[A principle does exist of -the burden of proof,- but that hasn't entered this writer's consciousness.]

The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

[Again, burden of proof. That last sentence may be poetic, but nonetheless is irrational as a principle and flawed as a description of reality. Should Virginia have built her life on the "unseeable"?]

You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart.

[An electron microscope might manage some of it ... but we don't need science, do we?]

Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond.

[imagination creates reality, apparently.]

Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

[The smallpox vaccination you got last year, Virginia, is an illusion. You don't need it. You'll never die.]

No Santa Claus? Thank God he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

[As long as children are taught to not question authority -- which 10 times 10 years from then, is pretty fairly entrenched in this, once the most anti-authoritarian culture on Earth.]

====

Here endeth the lesson. No, I'm not a cynic, and I can still enjoy a classic (please, the B&W original ONLY) such as "Miracle on 34th Street." This calls for -- okay, muted outrage, not cynicism.

Something like this fabled "explanation," working its way into the public consciousness, does more harm to generations of children being able to think clearly than 100 million published volumes of Marx's collected works. Or, for that matter, 47 years of Virginia O'Hanlon going on to teach in the New York City government schools.

Try to counteract it. Buy some kids telescopes, microscopes, or chemistry sets. Don't get mad when they blow up the kitchen. And do have a merry Christmas.

--

* SteveReed@earthling.net *

"Ignorance is preferable to error, and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing than he who believes what is wrong."

Thomas Jefferson ("Notes on Virginia," 1782)

From: atlantis-admin@bomis.com [mailto:atlantis-admin@bomis.com] On

Behalf Of Santos

Sent: Tuesday, December 24, 2002 5:31 AM

To: atlantis@wetheliving.com

Subject: ATL: The Night Before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas when all through this site,

Members of Atlantis settled down for the night.

George is nestled all snug in his bed,

Weary but certain God is still dead.

Debbie sleepily disagrees with that thought,

"I may be a deist, an atheist I'm not."

Bill in his slumber dreams of his mission,

To boldly dismiss all posts on volition.

Ellen-M calls upon the ghost of Ayn Rand,

"Help me, dear lady, make Merlin understand."

While Merlin attempts to engage in a truce,

Falls asleep muttering, "Oh, what's the use!"

Jeff-O dreams fitfully of satires that bite,

Concocting his stories during a long, restless night.

Jeff-R has visions of posts written with care,

For Roland's adventures await those who err.

Jason imagines he's guiding Santa's sleigh,

Shouting, "Onward and upward, onward, I say!"

Ellen-S wrestles with "should be’s" and "ought’s",

Wishing for more time to post all her thoughts.

Dennis lies awake bemused and distressed,

The thoughts in his head cannot be expressed.

Roger can't sleep though the night's still and quiet,

It must be the carbs and coke-with-wine diet.

Mike Hardy sleeps soundly, his deeds are completed,

He's checked all the posts, made corrections as needed.

Peace and joy to all ye posters during this holiday season,

Libertarians and Objectivists and all who love reason.

Hail to Atlantis, the philosophical site,

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Patricia Santos

From: Ellen Lewit <elewit@mindspring.com>

To: objectivism@wetheliving.com, atlantis@wetheliving.com, BBfromM@aol.com

Subject: OWL: A little something for December 25, Light Bulb Day.

Date: Tue, 24 Dec 2002 10:39:38 -0500

Hello Guys,

I haven't been writing or sad to say (guilty look) reading the lists for some time. I just had other things on my mind and have collected the posts for later.

But, at this time of year, I thought you might enjoy this short piece I presented to a local group early in December. Perhaps you will remember the discussion here a couple of years ago, that gave me the idea.

To each of you also, A Happy Light Bulb Day!

Today is the second day of the holiday of Hanukah. No, I'm not going to talk about freedom fighters or terrorists. I mention it because it is a festival of lights with roots older than the Macabees.

This is the season of the winter solstice. All over the Northern Hemisphere especially in the non-tropical areas, people have for as long as history has existed, celebrated festivals of lights.

Humans have noticed the shortening of the days and that around the latter part of what we now call December they begin to get longer. Winter has just begun and our world will continue to get colder until nearly spring but the days will be getting longer. Druid, Roman, Greek and other pagan customs were incorporated into Christmas. Hanukah incorporated older traditions along with historical facts to form a festival of lights.

So, I find it an appropriate time to celebrate as heroes, two of the men who shed a warming light on the rest of mankind. Isaac Newton was born on December 25, 1642.

Alexander Pope, poet and art and social critic, said of him,

Nature and nature's laws lay hid in night.

God said let Newton be and all was light.

I'm not going to talk of his life, which was paradoxical, both happy and sad, highly rational yet mystical. I only want to mention two of his most important contributions and how they continue to influence us.

The first were his experiments with prisms that split light into various color components of the rainbow. He developed theories about the nature of light that still provide the basis of today's commonly accepted ones. His discoveries added to an interest in color that found its way into the painting, poetry and prose of that time that continues today.

His second great discovery began with an important question. One that allowed him to take the current ideas of his time and incorporate many of the discoveries of others into a coherent theory. He asked what would happen if he threw an object hard enough to escape the earth's pull. This led to the theories of gravity and motion that we use still constantly. To do so he invented a new mathematics he called fluxions, we call it calculus after Liebnitz' version. Newton's laws and the calculus make modern engineering possible.

The second man is more recent and better known. He was a tireless inventor and innovator. His record for 1093 patents is still unbroken and likely to remain so. He worked on so many inventions either as the primary inventor or more often on improvements that it seems impossible to escape his influence. The phonograph, motion pictures, numerous improvements on the telephone and telegraph, the power company and of course many versions of the light bulb we owe to the laboratories and team that Thomas Alva Edison put together in Menlo Park.

As I mentioned he invented and built the first practical power company and perfected a useful light bulb.

Therefore, on December 25, the birthday of Isaac Newton, who said he stood on the shoulders of giants to see farther and who gave us the theoretical basis of the industrial age, I wish you all a celebration of his accomplishments and those of Mr. Edison - a Very Happy Light Bulb Day.

Ellen Lewit

From: "Barbara Branden" <BBfromM@aol.com>

To: aynrand@wetheliving.com

Subject: Re: AYN: Technicalities on charity

Date: Mon, 10 Dec 2001 19:52:56 EST

Matt Totten believes that there can be no selfish reason for giving to charity, that it is an act of altruism.

Matt, there are circumstances in which it is an act of altruism, and circumstances in which it is not.

If I give to a charity because I believe it is my moral duty to do so, even though that charity is giving money to people I disapprove to -- say, to socialist organizations -- then that is altruism. More than that, it specifically goes against my rational self-interest.

But say I give to an organization I believe in, whose cause also is my cause -- say, the Institute of Justice or The Objectivist Center -- then I am helping to serve my own interests; I very much want certain ideas to be spread, and they are spreading them.

But again, say I give to a medical research organization, or to one that gives toys to poor children at Christmas. I do this out of a motive of benevolence, not self-sacrifice, simply because medical research is important to me and to everyone else and I wish to help make it possible, and/or because it pains me to think of children going without toys at Christmas. The motive of benevolence toward other human beings -- assuming they are not people I cannot and do not feel benevolence toward -- is a perfectly reasonable motive. It means that, in the absence of reasons to the contrary, one wishes other people well, and that if one can assist them without self-sacrifice -- sacrifice of oneself or one's values -- one will do so. And this is wholly consistent with Objectivism.

Barbara

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Sadly, I do not really believe the buddhist point of view. But I am bringing it here to show that compared to buddhism (Which somehow builds man into the nature of the universe), atheism is really gloomy.

Buddhism is a good deal gloomier than atheism. For it is based on the premise that all life is suffering.

As opposed to Buddhism (and all other religions), the basis of atheism is epistemology. Atheism is a thought system using Occam's razor, which means it does not work with epistemologically unrequired elements like god or karma.

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Thank you Angela. That link to The Jerusalem Post was thought provoking, though I more readily agree with Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. Religion is a form of self-imposed mental slavery for adults and a form of child abuse for the wee ones. Zeus and his other idiotic manifestations are figments of whimsical opportunistic or evil minds. As Cervantes said, “The first priest was the first rogue who met the first fool.”

I liked the author’s point that religion in America is “the best sermon wins” and the more commercial or entrepreneurial church gathers a bigger flock, rather than the church in England or Israel where “the state religion stagnates.”

Xray wrote:

Buddhism is a good deal gloomier than atheism. For it is based on the premise that all life is suffering . . . Whereas the basis of atheism is epistemology. Atheism is a thought system using Occam's razor, which means it does not work with epistemologically unnecessary factors like god or karma.

end quote

Those statements are very perceptive. Most NON-theists are pro reason. What you term “unnecessary factors like god or karma” are untrue, fabricated myths. All of the conflicting “holy books” are mind paralyzing, drivel who’s intent is to create respected masters and docile servants.

In a 1947 entry in “The Journals of Ayn Rand,” (Rand 1997, 551) Ayn wrote:

“And, to go to the roots of the whole vicious error, blast the separation of man into “body” and “soul,” the opposition of “matter” and “spirit.” Man is an indivisible entity, possessing both elements — but not to be split into them, since they can be considered separately only for purposes of discussion, not in actual fact. In actual fact, man is an indivisible, integrated entity . . .”

end quote

So why do so many orthodox Objectivists fall into the trap of authority: the failure to do their own critical thinking and religious obsequiousness?

Objectivism embraces causality, logic, syntax, and reason. This makes Religiosity, Soft Determinism (or Compatibilism) perplexing. Study Science, The Talmud, The Koran, The Book of Mormon, or the Holy Bible, they say, and the truth will be revealed.

Determinism is especially perplexing to me, though it has its parallel in the religious world – predestination, prophecy, and “God Knows All.” Determinism supposedly uses the same human capacities for logic and syntax to arrive at conclusions different from those of a person who understands and agrees with free will and volition. It examines a human’s thought processes and says that if you use logic or even whims to make choices, then this proves causation within the electro-chemical processing machine we call consciousness. If one thought leads to another, then we are determined. If the outside world provides a stimulus, then we are reacting to causality and therefore we are determined.

So, if we are determined what do the Soft Determinists have in store for us? If the fictional Elsworth Tooey or the real Emmanuel Kant were trying to destroy the Volitional, and the very concept of the Heroic, he would first need to undermine REASON. If these two villains could use self-evident truths to cause confusion and doubt wouldn’t they use whatever tools were handy to befuddle clear thinking people? Sure, they would. If they can claim that a genius of Ayn Rand’s caliber was simply doing what was inevitable because the world and her very thoughts were “conditioned” and caused her to innovate, won’t this make them feel good about themselves? Unfortunately, the Second Handers do derive pleasure and esteem from tearing down the good. Simple thoughts and language do not make Determinism a Philosophy of “Semper A Priori” or “The Always Self-evident.”

We do hear about great religious leaders like Luther, Gandhi, or Martin Luther King. Their rebuttals of authority and social good works are OK but they were not great thinkers.

Contrarily, have you ever heard of any great Determinists? Are there any great Determinist composers, artists, or authors? Would Deterministic music sound like Mozart? Would its whimsical (free-will) music sound like Rock and Roll? I don’t think so. I think Deterministic music would sound like a tinny music box cranking out the same elevator music, derived from previously published note sequences, hour after hour. A Deterministic artist would be ‘caused’ to paint realistically and not Romantically. The Romantic could never be combined with the Realistic. I won’t even bother with the Determinist author idea because the concept of Determinism simply lowers, demeans, and debases whatever it touches.

Soft Determinism is nit-picking logic divorced from experience. A Deterministic Theology might involve Scientology’s Thetans camping out in our brains and determining our every thought. “Keep your E Meters on high voltage, Comrades!”

Rant over? Just a bit more indulgence please, Miss.

A Deterministic Scientist might be B.F. Skinner spouted such profundities as, “Never do we say that the physical structure of the organism we call our brains in which we introspect as feeling agitated or happy or reminiscent or deliberative is itself these things. Those various things we experience internally as ourselves, and external objects are objective, they are the product of interactions between things that emit patterned energy and receptive tissues at various places in our brains.”

Got that, you Nitwits? In the case of introspection, the thing emitting patterned energy and the thing with tissues receptive to that energy are one and the same entity -- the causal human nervous system. that almost sounds like an Objectivist! Doctor Skinner then turns to his two children who he is ‘growing’ in Skinner Boxes and says, “How can you have your pudding, if you don’t eat your meat, you disgusting little disappointments!?!”

Soft Determinism is Frankenstein’s Lawyer, forever perfecting the foolproof scam that treads between the legal and the illegal, while shedding any sense of responsibility: “You can’t blame me! My genes, my upbringing, my Mother, my teacher, the devil, my ‘thoughts’ - all made me do it. Frankenstein’s lawyers will write a new constitution repudiating freedom from responsibility.

What bull#$%@. We should choose our higher level Concepts with caution. If one reduces Determinism (or religion) to its roots, it leads to a mechanistic world of non-innovation and robotic thoughts with no one good or decent, and certainly no one heroic. It cuts the Philosophy of Objectivism off at its roots of Existence, Identity, and Consciousness and replaces it with something like Predestination, Obedience, and Reactive Neural Networks (some with more RAM than others 8 -)

There is a better philosophy than religion or pseudo-scientific garbage. You know it Angela . . . and its name is Objectivism.

Semper cogitans fidele,

Peter

Notes:

Leonard Peikoff,

The Philosophy of Objectivism lecture series, Lecture 3

Volitional

“Volitional” means selected from two or more alternatives that were possible under the circumstances, the difference being made by the individual’s decision, which could have been otherwise.

Leonard Peikoff, The Philosophy of Objectivism lecture series, Lecture 1

Determinism

Determinism is the theory that everything that happens in the universe—including every thought, feeling, and action of man—is necessitated by previous factors, so that nothing could ever have happened differently from the way it did, and everything in the future is already pre-set and inevitable. Every aspect of man’s life and character, on this view, is merely a product of factors that are ultimately outside his control. Objectivism rejects this theory.

“Representation Without Authorization,” The Ayn Rand Letter, I, 21, 1

Dictatorship and determinism are reciprocally reinforcing corollaries: if one seeks to enslave men, one has to destroy their reliance on the validity of their own judgments and choices—if one believes that reason and volition are impotent, one has to accept the rule of force.

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Thank you Angela. That link to The Jerusalem Post ...

Peter:

For the record, the link to the Jerusallem Post was samr's and it was in the sublink to what Angela was commenting on.

Adam

keeper of the OL history which can be revised for the proper bribe in keeping with revisionist history standards

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Dear Comrade, keeper of the OL history which can be revised for the proper bribe in keeping with revisionist history standards, Adam.

Thank you! If I see an error I also try to contact the person, or I will fix their error if I quote them. (usually just spelling or double “word word”)

OL traffic is really down for the holidays and I have not looked here in a couple of days myself.

Peter

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Dear Comrade, keeper of the OL history which can be revised for the proper bribe in keeping with revisionist history standards, Adam.

Thank you! If I see an error I also try to contact the person, or I will fix their error if I quote them. (usually just spelling or double “word word”)

OL traffic is really down for the holidays and I have not looked here in a couple of days myself.

Peter

Peter:

Ixnay on the comradeski!!

How do you feel about Newt, who I can certainly support?

Adam

code name malocchio

8246325.jpg

as you know, this is where we came from, keep it quiet!

Evil Eye Galaxy

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Adam wrote:

How do you feel about Newt, who I can certainly support?

end quote

He needs to change his name to something more imposing. I could suggest Crocodile Gingrich or Komodo Gingrich though NOT Chameleon Gingrich.

Peter

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