Objectivism and Christianity


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I thought you were saying that there is a clash between how you experience different things. Some things can be explained with reference to science. Some cannot and may require supernatural explanations (ie: God or spirit). Understanding you this way, I said I don't experience a clash that leads to supernatural explanations.

Paul,

You got the clash part right, but the explanation has nothing to do with my way of thinking. I generally don't care for the term supernatural because it comes with a load that has very little to do with how I approach matters.

When I see such a clash between in here and out there and I cannot explain it, I literally say I don't know and take comfort in the fact that I just used my mind to the best of my ability. I will admit that I feel an urge to explain the clash to myself and I also seek the answer. I report, discuss, read, speculate, keep my mind open to examining all sorts of things, and engage in inquiry where I find an interesting line of thought.

I have found that it is easy to say to yourself short-term about an intense experience, "I don't know what just happened," but it takes courage to live with that admission of ignorance for longer stretches.

Making up something, or accepting something someone else made up that I cannot check, does not satisfy my urge to understand no matter how uncomfortable my doubts get. Neither does pushing the doubt aside and pretending things I observed don't exist. I more or less know why people cave in and I see them do it all the time. (I have seen both Christians and Objectivists do this.)

But I have chosen not to. Even though I am on a harder road to travel, I get great serenity from it. Like I said, I am using my mind and no other.

Michael

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Heh.

Here we go. :)

Michael

Relax, Michael. I'm just stating my view, not making an argument for it. I'm more interested here in the idea that assumptions constitute science.

Regi

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Has it ever occurred to you to ask what possible purpose, "theories about the origins of the universe," objectively serve?

As for, "we assume the laws of light behaviour that we developed here and now apply equally to light billions of years old," that is not an assumption. Light is whatever it is, and has very specific attributes (not completely understood even now, however) and if what we are seeing is light that is truly "billions of years old," then it must have the characteristics it does, or it would not be light.

While the sciences only address what can be directly perceived (what we call the physical) and cannot address what is not directly perceived (life, consciousness, and volition, for example), there is no need for any "assumptions" in any aspect of science, and whatever calls itself "science" but is based on assumptions (psychology, cosmology, and evolution, for example) is not really science.

Regi

Scientists are driven by a desire to understand "how stuff works", this includes the entire universe. I don't know what this "objectively serves" since I don't know what "objectively serves" means.

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Relax, Michael. I'm just stating my view, not making an argument for it. I'm more interested here in the idea that assumptions constitute science.

Assumptions by themselves don't constitute science, but they are required. How do we know the earth will not stop rotating today? We don't. We assume it's behavior (without a 'u', Brant) :-) will follow the "laws" we developed based on vast amounts of human experience. I guess you would argue that, if that happened, then the earth would no longer be a planet since it had stopped exhibiting the attributes of a planet. So light is light unless it isn't light? Excuse me if I say this sounds like playing with words more than anything.

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When I see such a clash between in here and out there and I cannot explain it, I literally say I don't know and take comfort in the fact that I just used my mind to the best of my ability. I will admit that I feel an urge to explain the clash to myself and I also seek the answer. I report, discuss, read, speculate, keep my mind open to examining all sorts of things, and engage in inquiry where I find an interesting line of thought.

I have found that it is easy to say to yourself short-term about an intense experience, "I don't know what just happened," but it takes courage to live with that admission of ignorance for longer stretches.

Making up something, or accepting something someone else made up that I cannot check, does not satisfy my urge to understand no matter how uncomfortable my doubts get. Neither does pushing the doubt aside and pretending things I observed don't exist. I more or less know why people cave in and I see them do it all the time. (I have seen both Christians and Objectivists do this.)

But I have chosen not to. Even though I am on a harder road to travel, I get great serenity from it. Like I said, I am using my mind and no other.

I admire this approach but it is not mine. For me, "I don't know" is a trigger for theory generation. I generate a theory, compare it and actively test it against observation, and always maintain my doubt about it. I have found that doubt about one's theories, combined with constantly evaluating, reevaluating and modifying them, is the the path that takes me closest to certainty. I agree that the doubting can get very uncomfortable but it's a powerful motivator and guide for generating questions.

You got the clash part right, but the explanation has nothing to do with my way of thinking. I generally don't care for the term supernatural because it comes with a load that has very little to do with how I approach matters.

What if we used more specific terms? Are you open to explanations that accept the possibility of unextended entities and disembodied actions? Do explanations that assume that consciousness can exist separately from physical bodies have value in your personal metaphysics? For me, they do not.

Ironically, my assumptions about the basic physical nature of existence-- about the requirement of extension and the connection of actions to bodies that act, and my views on causality, have led me to disagree with supernatural explanations and with elements of modern physics, classical physics and cosmology. Creating theories that run counter to all existing explanations of existence is definitely not the easy path. It definitely creates its share of doubts and generally places me in the category of crank. To quote you: "I am using my mind and no other."

Paul

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As for, "we assume the laws of light behaviour that we developed here and now apply equally to light billions of years old," that is not an assumption.

Of course that is an assumption. Fortunately for us it seems to work well.

Light is whatever it is, and has very specific attributes (not completely understood even now, however) and if what we are seeing is light that is truly "billions of years old," then it must have the characteristics it does, or it would not be light.

That's just meaningless word play, a tautology. If the characteristics of billions of years old light would be different than that of new light, that would be an attribute of light, namely that it characteristics change with time.

While the sciences only address what can be directly perceived (what we call the physical) and cannot address what is not directly perceived (life, consciousness, and volition, for example), there is no need for any "assumptions" in any aspect of science, and whatever calls itself "science" but is based on assumptions (psychology, cosmology, and evolution, for example) is not really science.

That is complete crap. Every science is based on assumptions, without assumptions there cannot be science. The existence of atoms as particles with a nucleus consisting of protons and neutrons and an outer shell of negative electrons had been demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt when no one had ever directly perceived an atom, let alone protons, neutrons or electrons. If you don't believe that, you'll have to reject the complete modern technology. Biology and evolution are also examples of hard science.

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Paul,

I was still not clear. I come up with theories galore. That is part of the seeking process. I think this has not been clear yet because you and I were using the word "explanation" to mean different things—my meaning being something like factual explanation and yours being speculated explanation or possible explanation.

In fact, I do not believe in disembodied consciousness, but I do admit a possibility that we might not have sense organs (or have them but they are not very much developed) for certain parts of reality, whether those parts involve conscious awareness or not. In that case, it would not be that the reality isn't there, but that we would not be aware of it due to biological limitations.

Just a theory (in the popular meaning of the term)...

I am confused about one term you use. What is an unextended entity? Do you mean one that has no category other than its own individual self? No members of a group? Nation of one? (All right, this last one was a quip...) I don't know if I am open to the possibility of an an unextended entity since I don't know what it is.

I am open to the possibility of a singular entity, but I imagine it would be extremely rare. I do not know of any such being.

Michael

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Try to grasp quantum reality with direct perception.

Hi Paul,

Hmmm, "Try to grasp quantum reality without direct perception."

But, I think you may have misunderstood me because I did not make myself clear. I did not say science only uses direct perception, as a method, because that would exclude almost every mode of scientific investigation from microscopes to x-rays, for example. What I said was, "the sciences only address what can be directly perceived," to indicate the physical (material/objective) universe is the subject of science, as opposed to consciousness (non-physical/subjective), for example, which we cannot directly perceive and can only know by introspection.

Even the basis of quantum mechanics, however, is observation. If we were unable to perceive, directly or indirectly (by means of instruments) the characteristics of the photoelectric effect, for example, Einstein would never have made the twin observations that an increase in light intensity does not change the number of electrons being produced, but that a change in the wave length of light does, but not continuously, but rather in little "leaps." Max Planck had already made a similar observation about the discontinuity of black body radiation and noticed that discontinuity had a constant value, for which he had no explanation. It became known as Planck's constant. Einstein simply concluded, since the changes in the photoelectric effect depending of wave length were multiples of Planck's constant, light must be "quantized" in little packets rather than continuous, and that is the basis of all quantum mechanics.

My point is only that in science, assumptions (except as part of the process of developing a hypothesis) is always a bad mistake. The phlogiston theory of combustion is a perfect example. It was observed that some things become lighter when they burn, so it was assumed they must have given something up, which, though never observed, was called phlogiston. It took Lavoisier's very careful observations to put that mistaken assumption away.

To assume quantum characteristic of matter hold everywhere in all contexts would be such a mistake--at absolute zero, in strong magnetic fields, and in some solid-state electronic devices, the behavior of some particles predicted by quantum mechanics is altered, for example.

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Now, before Michael gets upset with me for changing the thrust of this thread...

For many people (which includes many who call themselves Objectivists and think they understand it) philosophy is a very hard subject. It is fine to point out the difference between reason and faith, so long as both are clearly defined, but faith as used by many Christians does not mean what it means to many others when talking about Christians.

I have a Christian friend who believes that philosophical principles like ethics, epistemology, politics, and aesthetics, can all be derived by objective reason, and has total confidence in the objective findings of science. For him, however, neither philosophy or science answer three questions which he thinks are very important: why does everything exist, what is the point of life, and why should consciousness cease at death?

While I personally do not find these questions compelling or unanswerable, I understand why my answers are both difficult, and uncomfortable to grasp, for most people. My friend's values and views about the world are almost identical to mine on all philosophical points and he arrived at them by objective reason. His religion is not a source for those views (although he sees no contradiction between his religion and those views), it is his way of dealing with what he calls, "the abyss of the unknown." Many people have this view, though most would express it differently. I think we would all agree that as much as our philosophy and science has given us real knowledge of life and existence, it has and never will make us omniscient, so there will always be more to learn and know then we have thus far learned.

For someone like me, that unknown constitutes all that I live for; it is all the future, the great frontier of discovery and adventure, the endless source of new experience and learning. For many people, however, that unknown is a terrifying thing, and for some of them, religion provides an answer or explanation which philosophy and science obviously cannot. The questions religion answers for them are not questions I, or probably you, would even regard as legitimate questions, but for those who "need" answers to them, I can see no harm in their accepting the teachings of their religion which can only be held by, "faith," since neither science or philosophy (objective reason) can provide them.

What worries me is the growing hostile movement against religion, especially Christianity, in this country and around the world, which is very strong in some so-called Objectivist circles and is very reminiscint of pre-World War II European antisemitism. The other danger is that Christians who hold the same views of individualism, personal liberty, and values that Objectivists do, or at least the most rational among us do, because of their need to have something more than reason alone can provide (however mistaken that "need" is), and that provides them a reason for living, and working, and finding value and purpose in life, if it is taken away from them, we'll end with a society like Europe's, where people value nothing, have nothing to live for but the pleasure of the moment, resulting in a society that is mostly nihilistic, hedonistic, and collectivist.

Enough!

Regi

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I have a Christian friend who believes that philosophical principles like ethics, epistemology, politics, and aesthetics, can all be derived by objective reason, and has total confidence in the objective findings of science. For him, however, neither philosophy or science answer three questions which he thinks are very important: why does everything exist, what is the point of life, and why should consciousness cease at death?

But your friend assumes religion is not a philosophy--that these are not philosophical questions. This way one can deal with contradictions by putting them in separate compartments, one called "religion" the other "philosophy." "Why does everything exist?" It was created (by God). "What is the point of life?" To serve others and God. "Why should consciousness cease at death?" No afterlife means no point in this life--i.e., no point in religion. All this is easier than actually dealing with and using philosophy, a philosophy "for living on earth." As one doesn't have to think for one's religion (in fact you shouldn't) one can pay lip service to Objectivism by thus equating them. This is just a way to be friendly with Objectivists while neutering Objectivism. (Objectivism, btw, is more Protestant than Catholic, in that Catholicism is more passive and forgiving than Protestantism. More inclusive than exclusive. Catholicism is a license to sin, get forgiveness and sin again. How else could all those priests bugger all those boys for all those centuries past and live with themselves and be tolerated and effectively sanctioned by the Church? This is analogous to those Roman fiests where you ate and threw up and kept on eating and throwing up. Now that it's no longer a perk of the job and marriage is still a no-no, new priests are hard to come by.)

--Brant

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I am open to the possibility of a singular entity, but I imagine it would be extremely rare.

Michael,

Ignoring the irony of that statement (since a singular entity would be the only one), isn't every real existent, as a particular, a singular entity? Every real existent must share some attributes with other existents, but must have some attribute or combination of attributes no other existent has. No two existents can be identical in every way, else they would be the same existent. (Does not apply to existents known only be description; e.g. electrons, though even they must have some qualitative difference, such as position.)

If by "singular" enitity is meant an existent which shares no attribute with any other existent, so that it was totally unique in every way, that would, I'm sure, be ontologically impossible.

Though no proposition can be proved on the basis of what can or cannot be imagined (except propositions about what can or cannot be imagined), how could something with no imagineable attributes, much less knowable ones, exist?

Regi

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My point is only that in science, assumptions (except as part of the process of developing a hypothesis) is always a bad mistake. The phlogiston theory of combustion is a perfect example. It was observed that some things become lighter when they burn, so it was assumed they must have given something up, which, though never observed, was called phlogiston. It took Lavoisier's very careful observations to put that mistaken assumption away.

Science is always based on the development of hypotheses, which are formed by making assumptions. That doesn't guarantee that such a hypothesis is always correct, the falsification of hypotheses is an equally essential part of science. The phlogiston hypothesis was falsified and was therefore replaced by the oxydation theory, which has never been falsified.

To assume quantum characteristic of matter hold everywhere in all contexts would be such a mistake--at absolute zero, in strong magnetic fields, and in some solid-state electronic devices, the behavior of some particles predicted by quantum mechanics is altered, for example.

The behavior of particles in such conditions is in perfect agreement with quantum mechanics. That it may take some time to explain some "anomalous" phenomena doesn't imply that QM is incorrect. It took for example some 50 years to find the explanation of superconductivity, but that explanation is fully compatible with quantum mechanics.

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Catholicism is a license to sin, get forgiveness and sin again. How else could all those priests bugger all those boys for all those centuries past and live with themselves and be tolerated and effectively sanctioned by the Church? This is analogous to those Roman fiests where you ate and threw up and kept on eating and throwing up. Now that it's no longer a perk of the job and marriage is still a no-no, new priests are hard to come by.)

--Brant

LOL, good one. So they don't have confessions in protestant church? If you get caught buggering the altar boys they just castrate you and get it over with?

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All this is easier than actually dealing with and using philosophy, a philosophy "for living on earth."

Yes, of course, and that is the point. Philosophy is not easy, and Rand's is not without its difficulties. I personally think very few understand Rand's philosophy, even those who think they do. Now honestly, do you think most of the people in this world are going to study and learn philosophy or are even capable of doing it?

The following is from an older article of mine, I linked to above. It's only for if you are interested--it is a little long for a post, I think:

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

... there is an aspect of religion, particularly Christianity, that is part of the distinction between America and Western Europe. It is that which I want to identify.

Objective Perspective on Religion

I would gladly take the credit for that identification if it were mine, but it is not. It was Ayn Rand who made that identification, and clarified it in a way that few of those who call themselves by the name of the philosophy she developed, Objectivism, understand. I'm afraid many "Objectivists" find themselves on the wrong side of this issue, siding with those who would tear down all values, that is, on the side of the postmodernists and multiculturalists.

In a Feb. 4, 1963 letter to US Congressman Bruce Alger, she wrote: "In accordance with the principles of America and of capitalism, I recognize your right to hold any beliefs you choose—and, on the same grounds, you have to recognize my right to hold any convictions I choose. I am an intransigent atheist, though not a militant one. This means that I am not fighting against religion—I am fighting for reason. When faith and reason clash, it is up to the religious people to decide how they choose to reconcile the conflict. As far as I am concerned, I have no terms of communication and no means to deal with people, except through reason.

The difference between "not fight against religion" and fighting for reason is profoundly important. She is not just speaking of "freedom of religion" because she has a profound respect for religion, and an equally profound contempt for those who would destroy it. For example, she wrote, in the April 1966 issue of The Objectivist, in the article, "Our Cultural Value-Deprivation," the following:

"From a report on a television discussion in Denver, Colorado, I gather that one member of this movement has made its goal and meaning a little clearer. 'God,' he said, 'is a process of creative social intercourse.'

"This, I submit, is obscene. I, who am an atheist, am shocked by so brazen an attempt to rob religion of whatever dignity and philosophical intention it might once have possessed. I am shocked by so cynically enormous a degree of contempt for the intelligence and the sensibility of people, specifically of those intended to be taken in by the switch.

"Now, if men give up all abstract speculation and turn to the immediate conditions of their existence—to the realm of politics—what values or moral inspiration will they find?"

The answer, of course, is none! Rand is not saying or implying that religion provides men with the right values, only that men embrace religion because they seek values and believe in them. She's not saying religion provides the right inspiration, only that religion is, for those who embrace it, an acknowledgement that principles matter, that there is something to revere, that life is important, and there is an absolute truth. When that is taken from men, they become what all Europeans have become, men who value nothing, reverence nothing, believe in nothing, and live for nothing. Rand described that too:

The Road to Nihilism

"Most people lack [the capacity for] reverence and "taking things seriously. "They do not hold anything to be very serious or profound. There is nothing that is sacred or immensely important to them. There is nothing—no idea, object, work, or person—that can inspire them with a profound, intense, and all-absorbing passion that reaches to the roots of their souls. They do not know how to value or desire. They cannot give themselves entirely to anything. There is nothing absolute about them. They take all things lightly, easily, pleasantly—almost indifferently, in that they can have it or not, they do not claim it as their absolute necessity. Anything strong and intense, passionate and absolute, anything that can't be taken with a snickering little "sense of humor"—is too big, too hard, too uncomfortable for them. They are too small and weak to feel with all their soul—and they disapprove of such feelings. They are too small and low for a loyal, profound reverence—and they disapprove of all such reverence. They are too small and profane themselves to know what sacredness is—and they disapprove of anything being too sacred."

[Journals - Part 1: Early Projects, "The Hollywood Years," circa February 1928, ... her first attempt in English to plan a novel. The working title was "The Little Street."]

The thing that is hated about religion is not what any specific religion teaches so much, but that it is something sacred to men, something worth living for, a source of values and profound reverence. It is that which must be destroyed if men are to be enslaved. Rand puts these words in the mouth of the ultimate collectivist, Ellsworth Toohey:

"Don't set out to raze all shrines—you'll frighten men. Enshrine mediocrity—and the shrines are razed. Then there's another way. Kill by laughter. Laughter is an instrument of human joy. Learn to use it as a weapon of destruction. Turn it into a sneer. It's simple. Tell them to laugh at everything. Tell them that a sense of humor is an unlimited virtue. Don't let anything remain sacred in a man's soul—and his soul won't be sacred to him. Kill reverence and you've killed the hero in man. One doesn't reverence with a giggle. He'll obey and he'll set no limits to his obedience—anything goes—nothing is too serious...."

[FTNI - The Fountainhead "The Soul Of A Collectivist"]

...

"Pride is the recognition of the fact that you are your own highest value and, like all of man's values, it has to be earned—that of any achievements open to you, the one that makes all others possible is the creation of your own character—that your character, your actions, your desires, your emotions are the products of the premises held by your mind—that as man must produce the physical values he needs to sustain his life, so he must acquire the values of character that make his life worth sustaining—that as man is a being of self-made wealth, so he is a being of self-made soul—that to live requires a sense of self-value, but man, who has no automatic values, has no automatic sense of self-esteem and must earn it by shaping his soul in the image of his moral ideal, in the image of Man, the rational being he is born able to create, but must create by choice—that the first precondition of self-esteem is that radiant selfishness of soul which desires the best in all things, in values of matter and spirit, a soul that seeks above all else to achieve its own moral perfection, valuing nothing higher than itself." [Atlas Shrugged, Part Three / Chapter VII, "This Is John Galt Speaking"]

...

Those who call themselves Objectivists or individualists wonder why people are so resistant to their philosophy of objective reason. Most men are not philosophers, but they know the kind of men a right philosophy would produce—men of character, decency, and integrity—that's the kind of philosophy they want. They look around and see the kinds of things men stand for, or stand against, the kind of language they use, the entertainment they enjoy, and how they live their lives, and after they look, they can see no difference between those who call themselves Objectivists, individualists, or libertarians and the rest of corrupt society. Then they look at Christians and find in them all the attributes of character and moral rectitude they expect to find in those whose philosophy is the correct one—and the Christians win.

Before we choose to rid the world of the horrors of religion, especially Christianity, and convert it to our cherished philosophy, we must first tend to our own characters, to ensure we truly seek the "best in all things, in values of matter and spirit," that ours is, "a soul that seeks above all else to achieve its own moral perfection." It does not matter what our arguments are, what we are and what we truly value shows in all we do, and all men can see it. However clear our reason, however vaunted our ethical views, if how we live is no different than how the rest of the world lives, then we are no different from the rest of the world and have no business telling other men what they ought to believe.

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Sorry this was so long. The whole article is linked above in my earlier post to Michael or here:

http://theautonomist.com/aaphp/articles/article80.php

Regi

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Science is always based on the development of hypotheses, which are formed by making assumptions.

Yes, I said so in my post.

It took for example some 50 years to find the explanation of superconductivity, but that explanation is fully compatible with quantum mechanics.

Yes, of course. (Sigh!) Sorry you missed my point.

Regi

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Science is always based on the development of hypotheses, which are formed by making assumptions.

Yes, I said so in my post.

You also wrote: "My point is only that in science, assumptions (except as part of the process of developing a hypothesis) is always a bad mistake. The phlogiston theory of combustion is a perfect example." The point is that the phlogiston theory is a hypothesis, so there is no assumption that is not part of the process of developing a hypothesis. That the hypothesis in this case turned out to be incorrect is not relevant, it does not invalidate the process of making assumptions to form a hypothesis, that also happens with good hypotheses.

It took for example some 50 years to find the explanation of superconductivity, but that explanation is fully compatible with quantum mechanics.

Yes, of course. (Sigh!) Sorry you missed my point.

Really? You wrote: "To assume quantum characteristic of matter hold everywhere in all contexts would be such a mistake--at absolute zero, in strong magnetic fields, and in some solid-state electronic devices, the behavior of some particles predicted by quantum mechanics is altered, for example." The fact that the behavior of particles may change unexpectedly in those situations does not imply that the quantum characteristic of matter doesn't hold everywhere, only that we couldn't foresee the all consequences of QM in particular, complex situations, but the quantum characteristics are still completely valid.

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Catholicism is a license to sin, get forgiveness and sin again. How else could all those priests bugger all those boys for all those centuries past and live with themselves and be tolerated and effectively sanctioned by the Church? This is analogous to those Roman fiests where you ate and threw up and kept on eating and throwing up. Now that it's no longer a perk of the job and marriage is still a no-no, new priests are hard to come by.)

--Brant

LOL, good one. So they don't have confessions in protestant church? If you get caught buggering the altar boys they just castrate you and get it over with?

While I'm culturally a Protestant, I don't know what sects if any have altar boys. The Church of England, which is essentially Catholic(?) without the Pope?

--Brant

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A theory of life on earth such as evolution is built up from rational inquiry, observation and verification. As with any scientific frame of inquiry, there are answers yet beyond the knowledge horizon. Is this true of faithful inquiry into sky-beings within believing communities? Do they ever get to a standard of inquiry and shared, consensual, universals of knowledge?

Is there a similar process of discovery, discernment, and verification attending the supernatural entities and events, and similar universal fruit? Does the process roll on and up in a winnowing, searching, narrowing, unifying expression? Does it provide an edge and force against ignorance, and a vigilant eye at the keyhole of knowledge? Is it always open, alway pushing, always at the edge of current knowledge?

According to Ken Wilber, the answers to these questions is "Yes". If you're interested in pursuing the matter further, check out his book "Eye to Eye: the quest for a new paradigm".

Ken Wilber is on my >gack< list, along with Rupert Sheldrake, Larry Dossey, Deepak Chopra, and other purveyors of woo woo. I don't think you mean Wilber himself provides a similar process and fruit to that of the scientific enterprise.

In this enterprise, there is no equivalent to enduring religious sectarianism. The universalism of science has no equivalent on the spirit side -- in a dominant and accepted spiritual framework for the entire globe. Religious theories neither fit together nor mutually support and reinforce each other. They contradict each other in manifold ways. Gurus contra gurus, Sunni vs Shia, Orthodox versus reformed . . . what is the common ground and common fact that undergirds the panoply of spirit practice?

I don't think there can be a coherent framework that enfolds and supports all the ramifications. In the spirit-raddled enterprise, each sectarian conclusion does not fit into any framework shared with all the others. Theories are not discarded. Syntheses do not abound, technologies do not sprout.

So the unity, the integration that Wilber seeks and pronounces is a false equation, to my mind. His four quadrant model does not test its modeled relationships and leads to no research program. In any case, he seems profoundly ignorant of aspects of science, sneering at evolutionary theories and allying himself, in effect, with intelligent design.** That he prefers Sheldrake to Dawkins tells me the kind of integral knowledge he seems to have the corner on -- woo woo.

Here's an excerpt from a critique of Wilber by a former devotee, Frank Visser.

The trouble with Ken Wilber, if you ask me, is that, for all his academic phraseology, he is not embedded in a corrective academic community. Instead, he has created a community of admirers of his own, in which he rules supreme. As King in his Integral Castle, his stance is isolationist, aloof, authoritarian – integral ideology is then just around the corner. And I don't mean by "embedded in academia" loading your books with academic endnotes, or teaching integral ideas to the younger generation, or offering accredited courses in some universities such as JFK, let alone starting a university of your own (Integral University). I mean opening up your own views to specialists in the various fields (postmodernism, evolutionary biology, political science – anything) who can reflect and respond to your proposals. When it comes to the evaluation of Wilber's work, Wilber himself obviously cannot be the one in charge. A strong urge to promote a certain view of life doesn't go very well with objectivity.

__________________

** Wilber attempting to explain how Behe is the man, from a since-removed thread at Naked Integral.

"Folks, give me a break on this one. I have a Master's degree in biochemistry, and a Ph.D. minus thesis in biochemistry and biophysics, with specialization in the mechanism of the visual process. I did my thesis on the photoisomerization of rhodopsin in bovine rod outer segments. I know evolutionary theory inside out, including the works of Dawkins et al. The material of mine that is being quoted is extremely popularized and simplified material for a lay audience. Publicly, virtually all scientists subscribe to neo-Darwinian theory. Privately, real scientists -- that is, those of us with graduate degrees in science who have professionally practiced it -- don't believe hardly any of its crucial tenets.

Instead of a religious preacher like Dawkins, start with something like Michael Behe's Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. And then guess what? Neo-Darwinian theory can't explain shit. Deal with it."

[Edited to more clearly indicate it is Wilber's opinion that "Darwinian theory can't explain shit."]

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1. I am not "conceding" anything because I am not preaching anything. Let others preach. I want no part of it.

Michael,

I've clearly gotten under your skin, so let me respond to some of your points. You may not be preaching, but you're trying awfully hard to ingratiate yourself to the "Christian Objectivists."

For example, you said:

I am actually writing to you—the thought that prompted me—because I want you to know that there are good people out here in the Objectivist world, Sarah. Good people who believe you have a right to try to integrate Christianity with Objectivism if you think you can. Good people who say, "Go for it." Good people who will face down bullies who mock you (so long as you are good people and not a bully yourself) for no other reason than being a good guy. Good guys do not admit crap like bullying and spite to be held up in public as the good in their world.

You're coming awfully close to giving away the farm here. As has been pointed out, Christianity and Objectivism cannot be integrated at a fundamental level, so I fail to see how it does anyone any good to encourage people to try. Although I do not approve of people mocking the "Christian Objectivists" or others for their philosophical problems, it also does no good to encourage them.

... your letter was wishy-washy enough to make me a little queezy.

Darrell,

Others have thought I was morally wishy-washy, too. They learned otherwise.

I didn't say you were morally wish-washy. I'm sorry if it sounded that way. I only said that your letter sounded wishy-washy. I guess you're not very certain about the existence of God issue and that may have contributed to the wishy-washy-ness of your letter.

It is possible to be firm but gentle. To your credit, you normally exhibit that characteristic on OL. It just seemed to me that in your letter to the "Christian Objectivists" you were trying too hard to be friends with them.

I'll respond to your other points in another post.

Darrell

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I think the issue here with this group of "Objectivists" is not just a simple "atheism is a rational conclusion based on rejection of the arbitrary." Rather that Christianity does not merely represent a "theistic" religion with a default kind of deity that doesn't happen to have any evidence in favor of its existence. The Christian God is a very specific thing, with very defined and specific attributes, which if taken all together as making up the whole that is God, are mutually exclusive and render the existence of a being with all those attributes impossible. Christianity is not deism, nor even theism with an agnostic flavoring. Christianity is the active belief in a being who can not possibly exist, and whose incomprehensibility is one of its attributes(if you take "ineffable" as one of its descriptors.) Belief in a professed contradiction is an active attack on the thinking mind, and renders those with the belief just the way the preachers of Christianity want them: ready to take everything on faith and authority. Once one conclusion is allowed to be taken on faith and without reason, whether its the acceptance of the arbitrary as true or the contradictory as true, then there is no standard left to decide what must be accepted and what must be rejected. If a contradiction is possible, then integration of all knowledge is rendered arbitrary and meaningless; if apples ARE oranges, then the meaning of "fruit" is lost, along with the meaning of everything else, since fruit and non-fruit are one in the same.

This is where the contradiction between being a Christian and being an Objectivist lies. Its either reason or authority, there is no middle ground, and while some Xian O'ists may be or may seem to be exercising their independent judgment in trying to synthesize Objectivism with the existence of the Christian God, they are simply trying to synthesize whim with understanding, reason with faith, existence with non-existence, A with non-A. They aren't exercising independent judgment, they are simply substituting some of the authority of Ayn Rand's with Jesus'. They see everything as dogma, and are simply trying to mix and match, missing the contradictions involved because they aren't trying to have an integrated understanding of reality; their conceptual hierarchy is a mish-mash of disparate beliefs sometimes filed under "things that make sense" and sometimes filed under "things that feel right, or ought to be right." There is no integrating dogma with dogma, only rationalizing the possibilty of coexisting contradictory dogmas.

If "Objectivism" is to have any meaning, it must include the tenet that there is no room for faith in the human mind, whether it be faith in the arbitrary or in the possibility of contradictions existing. If "Christianity" is to have any meaning it must include the tenet that faith in the words of Jesus Christ and his disciples, and belief in an all knowing, all good and all powerful god is mandatory. If these are the meanings of these two terms, then there can be no such thing as a "Chrsitian Objectivist." In as much as they are Christian they aren't Objectivists and vice-versa.

Nice post, Mind-Unchained, whoever you are!

When Nathaniel Branden's Lecture 4 of The Basic Principles of Objectivism -- "The Concept of God" -- appears in print form, there will no longer be any excuse for these woozy-headed attempts to "integrate" Objectivism and Christianity, or any other form of theism. You'd think that Peikoff's discussion in OPAR would suffice, but apparently not.

REB

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But, telling someone that you are an atheist is telling them almost nothing about you.

Darrell,

This is precisely my point in terms of character. If you say you are a Christian or an Objectivist, this tells you almost nothing about a person's character.

I agree, but there are things other than character that are also important. For example, the typical young, naive liberal professes to care about the poor (and probably does find the sight of homeless people heartrending) and tends to favor redistribution of wealth as a solution, thereby doing more harm than good. The typical Christian conservative tends to think that prostitution is a blight on man's soul and therefore wants to make it illegal, leading, paradoxically, to an underground prostitution trade in which women are victimized. Both the conservative and liberal may be honestly concerned about the welfare of other people, but bad premises often lead to bad results.

I am harping on this because I am tired of being involved with a manner of thinking that calls good people bad and assholes good. The standard is wrong when whether a person is good or bad is attributed predominantly to a body of thought.

I want to be involved with good people so a reality check is in order.

I believe all the way to the bottom of my being that once a person has made a commitment to using his mind to the best of his ability and not being one of the bad guys, you can build on that and dangerous/evil ideas will not have much of a chance to spread, irrespective of the body of thought he may adhere to at any particular time in his life.

I wish Objectivism influenced people to choose to be one the good guys, but it doesn't. It only helps with thinking about things. The choice to be a good guy or bad guy is individual and comes way before that.

Michael

Although I am sympathetic to your point of view, I don't think that an honest commitment to using one's mind is enough. One must also be correct. I don't think the Russian radicals imagined the Gulags when they were pushing the Tsarist government to change.

I agree that Objectivism does not have a strong positive influence on people's character, per se. That is because Objectivism, as explicated by Rand and Peikoff has some flaws and deficiencies. However, Objectivism provides a strong philosophical base from which to start. The goal should be to examine "Christian Civilization" (Churchill's term) with a critical eye and to import those ideas that can be rationally justified into the Objectivist framework. The solution is not to embrace a contradiction (or a raft of contradictions) as the "Christian Objectivists" are attempting to do.

Darrell

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