A Reaction to Sam Harris’ Scientific Morality

Noted atheist author Sam Harris’ recent TED talk has caused a stir on the internet, receiving much criticism, such as this reaction by physicist Sean Carroll. For Harris’ reply and other criticisms, see links at the end of this article.

By Sean Carroll

Sam Harris gave a TED talk, in which he claims that science can tell us what to value, or how to be moral. Unfortunately I completely disagree with his major point.

He starts by admitting that most people are skeptical that science can lead us to certain values; science can tell us what is, but not what ought to be. There is a old saying, going back to David Hume, that you can’t derive ought from is. And Hume was right! You can’t derive ought from is. Yet people insist on trying.

Harris uses an ancient strategy to slip morality into what starts out as description. He says:

Values are a certain kind of fact. They are facts about the well-being of conscious creatures… If we’re more concerned about our fellow primates than we are about insects, as indeed we are, it’s because we think they are exposed to a greater range of potential happiness and suffering. The crucial thing to notice here is that this is a factual claim.

Let’s grant the factual nature of the claim that primates are exposed to a greater range of happiness and suffering than insects or rocks. So what? That doesn’t mean we should care about their suffering or happiness; it doesn’t imply anything at all about morality, how we ought to feel, or how to draw the line between right and wrong.

Morality and science operate in very different ways. In science, our judgments are ultimately grounded in data; when it comes to values we have no such recourse. If I believe in the Big Bang model and you believe in the Steady State cosmology, I can point to the successful predictions of the cosmic background radiation, light element nucleosynthesis, evolution of large-scale structure, and so on. Eventually you would either agree or be relegated to crackpot status. But what if I believe that the highest moral good is to be found in the autonomy of the individual, while you believe that the highest good is to maximize the utility of some societal group? What are the data we can point to in order to adjudicate this disagreement? We might use empirical means to measure whether one preference or the other leads to systems that give people more successful lives on some particular scale — but that’s presuming the answer, not deriving it. Who decides what is a successful life? It’s ultimately a personal choice, not an objective truth to be found simply by looking closely at the world. How are we to balance individual rights against the collective good? You can do all the experiments you like and never find an answer to that question.

Harris is doing exactly what Hume warned against, in a move that is at least as old as Plato: he’s noticing that most people are, as a matter of empirical fact, more concerned about the fate of primates than the fate of insects, and taking that as evidence that we ought to be more concerned about them; that it is morally correct to have those feelings. But that’s a non sequitur. After all, not everyone is all that concerned about the happiness and suffering of primates, or even of other human beings; some people take pleasure in torturing them. And even if they didn’t, again, so what? We are simply stating facts about how human beings feel, from which we have no warrant whatsoever to conclude things about how they should feel.

Attempts to derive ought from is are like attempts to reach an odd number by adding together even numbers. If someone claims that they’ve done it, you don’t have to check their math; you know that they’ve made a mistake. Or, to choose a different mathematical analogy, any particular judgment about right and wrong is like Euclid’s parallel postulate in geometry; there is not a unique choice that is compatible with the other axioms, and different choices could in principle give different interesting moral philosophies.

A big part of the temptation to insist that moral judgments are objectively true is that we would like to have justification for arguing against what we see as moral outrages when they occur. But there’s no reason why we can’t be judgmental and firm in our personal convictions, even if we are honest that those convictions don’t have the same status as objective laws of nature. In the real world, when we disagree with someone else’s moral judgments, we try to persuade them to see things our way; if that fails, we may (as a society) resort to more dramatic measures like throwing them in jail. But our ability to persuade others that they are being immoral is completely unaffected — and indeed, may even be hindered — by pretending that our version of morality is objectively true. In the end, we will always be appealing to their own moral senses, which may or may not coincide with ours.

The unfortunate part of this is that Harris says a lot of true and interesting things, and threatens to undermine the power of his argument by insisting on the objectivity of moral judgments. There are not objective moral truths (where “objective” means “existing independently of human invention”), but there are real human beings with complex sets of preferences. What we call “morality” is an outgrowth of the interplay of those preferences with the world around us, and in particular with other human beings. The project of moral philosophy is to make sense of our preferences, to try to make them logically consistent, to reconcile them with the preferences of others and the realities of our environments, and to discover how to fulfill them most efficiently. Science can be extremely helpful, even crucial, in that task. We live in a universe governed by natural laws, and it makes all the sense in the world to think that a clear understanding of those laws will be useful in helping us live our lives — for example, when it comes to abortion or gay marriage. When Harris talks about how people can reach different states of happiness, or how societies can become more successful, the relevance of science to these goals is absolutely real and worth stressing.

Which is why it’s a shame to get the whole thing off on the wrong foot by insisting that values are simply a particular version of empirical facts. When people share values, facts can be very helpful to them in advancing their goals. But when they don’t share values, there’s no way to show that one of the parties is “objectively wrong.” And when you start thinking that there is, a whole set of dangerous mistakes begins to threaten. It’s okay to admit that values can’t be derived from facts — science is great, but it’s not the only thing in the world.
_____________________

This article originally appeared here.
Replies from Sam Harris to this and other criticisms can be seen here, and here.
And a further follow-up from Sean Carroll.
Other criticisms of Harris’ talk: Apple Eaters, Josh Rosenau.


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57 Responses to A Reaction to Sam Harris’ Scientific Morality

  1. The weakest talk of Harris I have seen. I understand scientific studies can aid in making moral framework based on some measurement indices. But these indices are not based on any ontological reality: you are using scientific studies to help humans decide the optimum happiness( if there such a thing) but morality or happiness cannot be built on the foundations of “science” itself. Science is basically the investigation of nature through empirical studies and finding models to match the result. No law or model can be developed for foundations of morality: some things do invoke universal acceptability ( compassion) and condemnation ( rape, murder) but other things are very variable in every place. Shutting women in bags remark was rhetorical and not very well thought out.

  2. I thought “shutting women in bags” was the most poingnant remark he made in the entire speech. If the words sound blunt, imagine the actual behavior of the actual groups that generate such remark. No one can call actual behavior “rethoric”. Sometimes we are lenient and tolerant for a long while, then suddenly we are faced with a bloody shovel – at those times we know its actually hight time to call a spade a spade.

  3. In many natural human cultures all over the world morality was primarily derived from what was conducive for survival of the group. As our world is increasingly more and more complex and our survival as a group less imminently at risk, is may be somewhat logical to see morality based on science as the logical progression.

    • My God it seems our survival as a group has never been so imminently at risk as it its right now: we find ourselves between two major threats: an ecological catastrophe of planetary proportions and a religious fundamentalist worldwide unstopable terrorist plan. A little rational morality indeed might do us good.

      • My God, you forgot to include naturalism.

      • “My God it seems our survival as a group has never been so imminently at risk as it its right now: we find ourselves between two major threats: an ecological catastrophe of planetary proportions and a religious fundamentalist worldwide unstopable terrorist plan.”

        You obviously never had to live through a rapid onset of ice age, or faced hungry sabre-tooth tigers with only a sharp stick to defend yourself, and you never lived through a nasty outbreak of plague… Now, those were indeed imminent risks to human populations… we tend to get overly dramatic nowadays… 😉

        But your comment about the benefits of rational morality redeems you in my eyes completely… 🙂

        • I am sure we have a better chance to reason with a sabre-tooth tiger than with an islamic extremist – its that bad. Don’t believe me? Do the experiment.

          Swamiji, yes I left many items out but, like the plague, naturalism isn’t really a new threat. Its more like a sabre-tooth tiger melting out of a glacier and about to get a stungun shot right in between the menacing yet old old eyes.

    • But Harris thinks that morality should be derived from what is conducive for the survival of the group because his interpretation of scientific data leads him to this conclusion, an interpretation that he considers absolute.

  4. Regarding science and the idea that it is its driven by rational thought:

    “By painful experience we have learned that rational thinking does not suffice to solve our social problems.”
    —Albert Einstein

    • Vikram Ramsoondur

      How about this one, coming as it does from one of the uber-philosophers of yore par excellence:

      ‘A system of morality which is based on relative emotional values is a mere illusion, a thoroughly vulgar conception which has nothing sound in it and nothing true. – Socrates’

      • Socrates is saying that he wanted a system of morals that was ontologically anchored in transcendence. Harris is against that idea. Einstein is saying that one derived from science alone is insufficient. Harris is also against this idea.

  5. Science can help morality only up to a limited point, at which time religious faith must come in to play for higher elevation. Harris is not totally wrong or totally right. His theory is relevant to a certain class of people, but not everyone fits into that class.

    The morality that evolves from scientific knowledge is really no better than the morality we see in higher animals like cows and primates. It will never lead to love of the Lord. So, it’s value is quite questionable since it cannot lead to love of God.
    Only service, sacrifice and devotion can lead to that.
    Socrates’ remark is a little extreme and fanatical. Higher human emotions are all part of the evolutionary development of the living entity from lowers forms to higher ones.
    Some sciences surely do show such an amazing composition of matter and energy that one cannot but come to a Theistic inquiry regarding it’s engineering.

  6. Another argument for science based morality would be that world religions have a very hard time agreeing on much.

    Deep divisions existing between even closely related religions in the matter of moral standards make it all but impossible to come up with a common standard. Even such a seemingly trivial thing like homosexuality can create impassable chasms between members of the same religion.

    And on top of that many religions cherish the notion that somehow in their case they are exempt from general rules of morality, or that they can bend the rules as they see fit, all in the name of the ‘end justifies the means’ maxime. Our movement had some very serious problems resulting from belief in that maxime.

  7. Harris, Hitchens, and Dawkins came to be as a reaction to Islamic extremism. Actually, to Islam period. And on those grounds, they absolutely cannot be dismissed.

    • One could also ask a question, what is an Islamic extremism a reaction to? Also in terms of morality it is an interesting problem.

      Looking objectively (scientifically) at this issue, Western reactions to the problem of Islamic extremism cost far more innocent people their lives than these terrorists ever managed to kill. The so called cure seems to be worse than the disease. But that is often the case with holy crusades of the Abrahamic religions.

      US is spending well over 500 billion dollars and many hundreds of lives a year for supposedly ‘protecting’ it’s citizens from terrorists while many thousands die because they have no money for medicine or hospital stay. How scientifically moral is that? Illegal immigrants kill far more Americans every year (15 per day) than Islamic terrorists – and where is the objective moral reaction to this problem?

      I would like to see the atheist outrage at scientific immorality of US foreign policy or US budget. I know I can’t expect to see that outrage from the majority of religious Americans as they are obviously biased in their reactions. Maybe once the objective scientific morality becomes the norm, people will direct their resources and attention to the programs that objectively generate most results. IMO that would be the essence of morality.

      • “Objective scientific morality?” This can never be arrived at, for one. Secondly if it is, it will involve ever changing moral laws that over time will reveal that people were condemned wrongly for so called scientific truths of the past that later prove to be half or untruths. Third, it is a frightening idea with no place for morals based on a transcendent ideal. Lastly the pursuit of this in an effort to wean society from religious based morality is based upon a misunderstanding of religion and its actual position on “moral principles” from which laws are to be derived in consideration of time, place and circumstance.

        • “Misunderstanding of religion” – this is precisely what the neo-atheists construct their theories from.

          • this comment nicely sums up the difference between religion and science.

            If someone criticises a scientific hypotheses, then science will review the point raised, test its merits and conclude whether it is right or wrong and so editing of it will follow

            Religion on other the hand just concludes all criticisms against it are wrong by the prima facie of the fact that religion is always right regardless of points raised

            -fundamental difference between truth as fact and truth as faith

            it is sad really, that religions only defence is to say we don’t understand it because the very problem of such a defence is that, it does not answer the question raised; thus making it no defence at all,
            =I raised up very religious background and still came to the conclusion it was wrong, maybe I don’t understand it, but doesn’t mean I cannot make valid points against it

          • There have been many reasonable replies to criticisms of the basic premise of religion. And religion in the least is a theory that works for millions of people. But it cannot be tested in a laboratory in terms of its idea that there is a God that is beyond our control. God does not show up in the classical controlled experiment for good reason. And in my experience religion does edit itself. This is called theology.

            Scientific hypotheses and even working scientific theories work for millions of people. But the working scientific theory of evolution, for example, can not be proven in a laboratory. It can be tested to some extent in terms of how well it works as a theory, but its conclusions cannot be tested and verified.

            And to say that objective facts can be empirically tested but subjective faith cannot be tested by empirical means is not to say much.

          • I think religion will always work for many people because natural resources are limited and desires are limited and unlimited material prosperity for everybody will never be possible. And then people have to turn to something more like religion that adds value to their life.

            On evolution there are parts of evolution like descent from common ancestor for which evidence is very strong. Still we cannot prove that consciousness is derived from matter and many people will admit this. But the arguments of the opposing side are not subtle enough.
            However, if militant atheists force people to choose science or religion, many will indeed turn their backs on science and choose religion.

        • It is not like morality based on religion does not change, or that it does not wrongly condemn people at various times. History shows that rather nicely with lots of gruesome examples.

          And a uniform religion based morality is even more of a utopian idea than objective scientific morality.

          IMO it is not the ‘misunderstanding of religion’ that is the cause of atheistic attempts to arrive at science based morality, but the historical facts of gross abuses of morality by the so called religionists, of which Islamic fundamentalists are but a most recent and pertinent example. I’m not sure that I can entirely blame them. They ARE over-reacting, because in most cases religion produces moraly sound individuals. Yet the religionists are over-reacting as well, arguing that science based morality is a frightening prospect, as there is simply no corelation between immoral behavior and scientific outlook on life.

          Ultimately ALL attempts to lead a moral life should be respected, whatever one’s motivation might be.

          • Of course a religion based morality will change with time as it will with science. My point is thus that science is not the solution to religion and that from science we will not derive absolute moral laws. It is the embrace of moral principles that is the solution, principles that acknowledge the need to change moral laws in consideration of the influence of time, etc. To say that we can make infallible moral laws from science is not true. To say that religion at its heart gives moral laws is untrue. It gives the greatest impetus for moral principles to be adopted because it is ontologically anchored.

            I think there is good potential for a Vedanta based universal morality.

            I am afraid it is the misunderstanding of religion that is cause of atheistic attempts to arrive at a science based morality. But the misunderstanding that the atheists have is drawn from the example of misunderstanding on the part of the so called religious as to what the essence of actual religion is. it is the religious peoples’ misunderstanding of religion that causes the historical facts of abuse.

            As for over reacting with fear of a science based moral code, I think science lends itself to abuse as well as religion does and that could be frightening and lend it self to far more abuse than religion has the power to muster. Religion does not produce nuclear bombs. But you want to take science as content neutral, and perhaps we should. But that then was Gaura-vijaya’s point in the first post on this thread, where he concluded that if you look at science that way then we cannot derive moral laws from it at all.

          • Harris criticizes religion because its moral laws are outdated. But my point is that a science based moral law will also produce outdated moral law at times. While one can argue that science as opposed to religion has a built in mechanism for changing such outdated moral laws of its own creation whereas religion does not, I disagree with such an assessment of religion. Harris is reacting to a misrepresentation of religion. Granted for the most part that is what’s out there to look at. But we should be wise enough to look deeper at religion, for the few actual religions people of world history—Krishna, Sankara, Christ, Caitanya, etc.—have made an indelible mark on human consciousness, both in terms of their objective moral character and their subjective spiritual experience. There will never be a more noble ideal than that which they have exemplified and articulated. No wonder it is difficult to understand, it defies the limits of logic. Confusing? In Vedanta we find a unique form of moral relativity and an absolute reason for adherence to moral principles in pursuit of realizing their relativity. 🙂

          • Maharaja, religions produce far worse things than atomic bombs – they produces fanatics who are capable of destroying millions of lives in the name of their perverted religious ideals. Bombs don’t kill people – people kill people. Religious people kill other people. It happens all the time.

            The idea of scientific world view in the hands of people pursuing ideals of universal morality (standard of behavior producing most good for society) does not scare me at all. Religious fantics (even in my own religion) scare me to the point of accepting the science based standard as superior to the religion based one.

            Yes, there is a potential for a Vedanta based universal morality… but who is going to determine what that standard should be? The enormously deep divisions between various closely related camps make me very sceptical something like that is possible, as much as I might like the idea.

          • If you rid the world of religion, you will not rid the world of fanatics. While religion inherently posits a morally good world, science does not. That is what you mean when you say bombs don’t kill people. But that is like saying that from science one cannot derive morality. Yes, people kill people. Irreligious people kill other people. It happens all the time. But saying that does not make me fan of religious fanaticism. I am very much against that.

            What is a “scientific world view?” In today’s world such a worldview is for the most part equated with naturalism. That is a scary worldview in my mind because it lends it self so readily to absolute moral relativity and is furthermore closed minded to the possibility of the supernatural. And what makes a genuine religious worldview inherently unscientific? It is not inherently unscientific in that it is capable of acknowledging various means of knowing both intuitive and scientific and applying them. Here religion differs here from naturalism. The former is more openminded than the latter.

          • IMO genuine scientific world view is capable of including the possibility of transcendent existence, just like genuine religious world view is capable of including science in it’s composition.

            However, real life being what it is, we seldom see such ideal combinations on either side. Even in our HK society we certainly have examples of strong anti-scientific bias, what to speak of less enlightened religions.

            People who believe that they know it all and have all the answers find little motivation to learn from others, or even acknowledge that others may have a valid point. I find that not only inherently unscientific, but also inherently dangerous. Apparently so do a lot of other people.

          • The world view you describe is a genuinely religions/spiritual one akin to what I refer to as a Vedanta worldview. Rember that the Bhagavatam incorporeted the current scientific understanding (Samkhya for example) into its pages, unlike the Bible. Furthermore the Samkhya of the Bhagavata is not necessarily outdated in essence, as even a cursory reading of quantum cosmology will reveal (Quantum Cosmologist Linde of Stanford may be an example).

            People who believe that they know it all and have all the answers find little motivation to learn from others, or even acknowledge that others may have a valid point. I find that not only inherently unscientific, but also inherently dangerous. Apparently so do a lot of other people.

            Yes no doubt. I just feel that you often emphasize the religious know-it-alls to the point of appearing oblivious to the materialistic one’s who are just as dangerous.

          • Here is an example of Sri Krsna’s dynamic idea of morality as per the Vednata. The citations are from the Mahabharata.

            “It is difficult to grasp the highest understanding [of morality]. One ascertains it by reasoning. Now there are many people who simply claim ‘morality is scripture.’ Though I don’t oppose that view, scriptures do not give rules for every case.”

            “Morality is taught for the progress of living beings. Morality [dharma] derives from the act of sustaining [dharana]. Thus authorities say that morality [dharma] is that which sustains living beings. The conclusion is that whatever sustains is actually dharma.”

            “Whenever people seek to unjustly rob someone, if that person can get free by not uttering a sound, then no sound should be uttered. Or, one should necessarily utter a sound if the robbers will be suspicious of silence. In that situation, it is considered better to speak a lie than to speak the truth.”

          • “It is difficult to grasp the highest understanding [of morality]. One ascertains it by reasoning. Now there are many people who simply claim ‘morality is scripture.’ Though I don’t oppose that view, scriptures do not give rules for every case.”

            I fully agree with the entire passage you quoted, Maharaja. And to me it is entirely logical and scientific.

  8. Have you all seen this hour long “debate” between Harris and Deepak Chopra?

    http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=youtube+does+god+have+a+future+1&aq=f

    (12 parts, about 1 hour long)

    Chopra made a fool of himself.

  9. The argument of Sam Harris gives the hint of the Materialist Science attempts to standardize values on a certain American Model of capitalism/modernism. Well to presume they are most cultured and right is just another excess. These people are plundering the earth of its resources and leading part of the globe into drastic crisis and Sam Harris is their speaker giving a lecture that is good to the ears. He should have given this lecture in Iran or Pakistan or Africa (out of his comfort zone) then he could have understand his limitations.
    These Jet set communities being enriched more than enough by money; now are seeking a philosophy to justify their way of life. This is a violence in a sense to project this message to the face of the world by looking down to the values of other cultures.
    I feel that they are not far from quantifying the values of a culture against their own. I am damn sure that as he says it himself, he is a “ted bundy” but of his own vicious circle’s thinking.
    People can’t attempt to deny God and yet justify Themselves as having values. They can’t stand out proud of their invented rhetoric and yet say that they are moral. By giving a half picture Sam will proclaim in a sense that he have invented quantification of values across a continuum of the size of his PowerPoint slide.

    • Vikram Ramsoondur

      Well, where do I begin? Suffice it to say, whilst I do not for a second hold Harris’s worldview to represent everything there is to be known about the cosmos, my post-modern humanistic, fundamentally secular, sensibilities, compel me to drift in the generic direction followed by him rather than in that of self-appointed religious apologists. Since one earlier commenter, Kulapavana to be specific, has already put forward many of the arguments that I would myself advance in dealing with assertions such as Ram’s, it would be superfluous on my part to repeat essentially the same points.

      It is in fact precisely this self-righteous, holier-than-thou disposition of many a practitioner of Chaitanya Vaishnavism that has more or less rendered me with no option other than to, of my own accord, distance myself from it in recent months. Whilst this charming theology still probably answers more of my questions than any other school of metaphysical thought the existence of which is known to me, the rampant fundamentalism and fanaticism observable in the present Gaudiya landscape seems simply intolerable a condition to live with, at this juncture. In fact, from personal experience and analysis, I’d posit that amongst educated people, at least in the society in which I originate, those who best fit in the current prevailing situation, preponderantly cannot bring themselves to dare to cerebrate independently and compassionately – persons who revel in faultfinding and in castigating anyone sailing in a boat other than their own. The few liberally-minded mavericks of my ilk who may have, for reasons akin to the ones that motivated my exploring this tradition for starters, felt drawn to the mythos, find themselves often marginalised and are seldom capable of carving for themselves and others similar to them a niche in the larger Chaitanyite pie.

      Gratifyingly, there exist open-minded seekers of Tripurari Swami’s stripe, whose fine balance struck between ancient philosophy and aesthetics on the one hand and modern rationalism and pragmatism, on the other hand, purvey a much-needed breather for such individuals. We really do owe an awful lot to the development of technology, considering that sans the World Wide Web and the multitude of advantages it has conferred on that particular count, many would feel utterly disillusioned with spirituality as well as frankly disenfranchised within the wider body of devotees as a consequence of remarks of the kind scattered all over the comment being hereby replied to. Nonetheless, given that the overwhelming majority of believers tend to conform to the rabid, over-zealous type, it is no wonder whatsoever that the Richard Dawkins’s and Christopher Hitchens’s of this world have attained quasi-iconic status, in a global community that, in broad terms, is rapidly being torn towards either of two polarisations, as driven home by Bhaktikanda. The above intellectuals, plus the likes of Sam Harris, after all, provide a vicariously-based but undeniably reasoned, rationalistic, humanistic and democratic forum for the voices of those unable to connect with the predominant opinion gliding from the opposite end of the cerebral spectrum, the one that, to the misfortune of modern-day Krishna Consciousness, predominates in the movement.

      • “In fact, from personal experience and analysis, I’d posit that amongst educated people, at least in the society in which I originate, those who best fit in the current prevailing situation, preponderantly cannot bring themselves to dare to cerebrate independently and compassionately – persons who revel in faultfinding and in castigating anyone sailing in a boat other than their own.”

        What a joke! @ Vikram: To qualify Chaitanya Vaishnavism with fundamentalism and fanaticism. By the way when it come to debate there is no compassion to exert when it comes about saying the truth and it is not seen as castigating anyone as you presume. Also for the atheist there is no heaven or hell and at least everyone choose their boat they want to be.

        • Ram,

          You object to this:

          To qualify Chaitanya Vaishnavism with fundamentalism and fanaticism.

          and I agree with you that Caitanya Vaisnavism is not inherently a fundamentalist or fanatical religious sect. However, even the best religion or the absolute truth can be embraced with a fanatic mindset. Just as we have Christianity and then we have Christian fundamentalism and the two are not the same, similarly there are those who have a fundamentalist take on Gaudiya Vaisnavism. They are not saragrahi Vaisnavas, or essence seeking Vaisnavas to use a term of Thakura Bhaktivinoda.

          • Ok had to reply to this, as not letting reply to first:

            [QUOTE]
            There have been many reasonable replies to criticisms of the basic premise of religion. And religion in the least is a theory that works for millions of people. But it cannot be tested in a laboratory in terms of its idea that there is a God that is beyond our control. God does not show up in the classical controlled experiment for good reason. And in my experience religion does edit itself. This is called theology.
            [/QUOTE]

            -Yes, that is my point summing up the difference between religion and science, is there meant to some rebuttal there or were you generally just agreeing with me?
            -Not being sarcastic, honestly confused because all you have done is sum my reasons why I cannot believe in religion;

            [QUOTE]
            Scientific hypotheses and even working scientific theories work for millions of people. But the working scientific theory of evolution, for example, can not be proven in a laboratory. It can be tested to some extent in terms of how well it works as a theory, but its conclusions cannot be tested and verified.
            [/QUOTE]

            Ok now guess your trying to use inconclusive theory to disprove reliability of science, well lets take your erroneous presupposition that evolution is not yet proven:-
            -I never said science gave quick answers or couldn’t be questioned (in fact, that second point is the exact reason, I prefer science as doctine,) I said science gives falsifiable answers, big different (PS and shows very narrow view of science to present it as just labs when clearly lot more than such, maybe this critical view that all who stand against religion simply don’t understand it, can be applied the other way?)

            [QUOTE]
            And to say that objective facts can be empirically tested but subjective faith cannot be tested by empirical means is not to say much.
            [/QUOTE]

            Oh you sum up with a ontological quote, how nice 🙂
            -completely meaningless because in no way backs what it presents and just takes up a assumption it is correct; much like religion it vainly attempts to prove, still least sounds good.
            -It says a lot actually, because the very reason we don’t believe in things which don’t exist, is because they don’t exist; I cannot prove elves don’t exist, but that is the very reason we don’t believe in their real, because they have no substance in which to refer a reality upon to them, god applies to the same insubstantive logic and the only reason most accept his existence is because we were raised to believe in god as he is so ingrained into our societies,
            -to be honest, I could give host of reasons I don’t believe in god, but that doesn’t matter, I couldn’t care less if you choose to believe in god, what annoys me is when I am told as I am not religious I cannot understand religion, but then not given justifcation for why this is; or that I am told my non-religious based morals are less worthy than morals based on god, now I understand the subjective pretext to morals means going to be different and stand by our beleifs and how came to them, but just because I came to mine without help of something which I know nothing about and never actually guides me, because he….well is not our plain, doesn’t mean my morals are wrong

          • Allen,

            Let’s start wit this: I have replied that first of all religion does edit itself. Your quote implies that unlike science it does not. As I have said, this eidtiing is called theology. Thus the religious acknowledge that some points of religious theology may not be true. They may not be literally true or they may not be absolutely true. And over time the religious thesis does edit itself, distinguishing the absolute from relative and literal from metaphorical, etc. Your quote also portrays religion as being unreasonable, and science by contrast as being reasonable. Thus my reply that the debate as to the existence of the super natural (the basic religious argument/belief) is rationally supportable, as much, for example, as naturalism. It is not that science is reasonable and religion is not. Do you agree? Similarly it is not that religion is without facts and science as we know it practically today is without faith/conjecture.

          • I think there is something in science that makes it unsuitable for taking supernatural explanations. Science looks for a theory that has the maximum explanatory power. For example rain may in fact be a result of a supernatural being but such explanation does not help the scientific method because we can’t predict when it will rain and when it will not rain based on that supernatural entity whose nature is now known completely. Now perhaps we can predict that wherever Vedic sacrifices are performed, it will rain because the rain God is pleased and everywhere else it will not. We can always say this is Kali Yuga, so sacrifices are not performed purely and therefore, they don’t have the desired effect on the rain God. Anyway there is no way to predict where and when it will rain using the scriptural account in modern times as it is in the hands of rain God’s discretion, which is not known. So the scientific method seeks to make models for weather prediction and fit the model to historical data and learn from the history. Just different approaches.
            Religion’s utility lies in giving value, meaning and purpose to human life and not in giving theories with the maximum predictive power empirically.

            Modern study of genetics etc done within the broader framework of evolution has greater explanatory power for scientists than creationism where God who is unknown creates everything. That does not help to empirically identify diseases and genetic mutations that affect people etc.

            So perhaps science cannot give the answers that religion gives because of the difference of approaches.

        • Vikram Ramsoondur

          I guess you don’t open your eyes wide and large enough when you look around, Ram. Maharaja has already responded to you on this one, and I’d also add that bigotry has the uncanny knack of manifesting itself in manifold ways, and not all fanaticism or fundamentalism plays out in say, the Al Qaeda version of events. These dual concepts incarnate themselves variously, and were you to diligently lend your senses to making an informed, objective assessment of the current state prevalent within Krishna Consciousness, you would come out with a view not differing from mine too dramatically.

          Of course, Caitanya Vaisnavism holds in the midst of its bosom interpretations that are positioned over a widely diverse range of philosophy, theology, custom and orthopraxy. Sure, the degree of closed-mindedness changes in a similarly noticeable manner, depending on which peculiar sect or society of practitioners one is concerned with.

  10. Sam Harris came up with this video some time back to talk about moral problems with religions. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmiQGnW8tLI&feature=related

  11. [QUOTE]
    Let’s start wit this: I have replied that first of all religion does edit itself. Your quote implies that unlike science it does not. As I have said, this eidtiing is called theology. Thus the religious acknowledge that some points of religious theology may not be true.
    [/QUOTE]

    =Well first, I said religious doctrine doesn’t change, not that religion change, secondly to say theology edits religion is very narrow, because generally only applies to bigger religions and secondly it doesn’t change the view, it merely repaints in a way it thinks people of peresent day will accept.

    =The point is religion holds onto its doctrines because they are meant to be your link to god and to accept they are wrong is to accept that religions of past were less close to god than thought, thus voiding the reason to follow them in future, because if admit their own lack of premise then undermine themselves and their only basis for belief AKA faith
    -This is very many religions still hold very fundamentalist beliefs on key issues such homosexuality and sexism; I know these are glib examples, but that does not invalidate them (I actually think the catholic’s churches current attempt at a view on homosexuality is most funny one, because also most insulting, if just took a view we think it is wrong, then most (not all) would stomach it and move on, but they tried to repackage it by twisting their own bible passage so, now we are against homosexualities, but them having sex and the church was actually impressed with itself, thinking people would praise them for this new enlightened view….erm no, you can keep view homosexuality is wrong, but can stop telling us about it.

    [QUOTE]
    They may not be literally true or they may not be absolutely true. And over time the religious thesis does edit itself, distinguishing the absolute from relative and literal from metaphorical, etc. Your quote also portrays religion as being unreasonable, and science by contrast as being reasonable.
    [/QUOTE]

    =Religion is unreasonable by its very existence, that is why it often attracts most unreasonable people (now this is not to say all religious people are unreasonable, but “most” unreasonable poeple are religious…..oh course Science has its own morons, AKA Dawkin’s is man who has let his own ego get better of him and does the very thing most atheists are trying to stop religions from doing, which is instituting everyone into doctrinal beliefs and criticise those who don’t follow it)
    -But really the above wasn’t my point just an observation your last comment made me think about, my point is that science is falsifiability, religion isn’t, this doesn’t make science perfect and doesn’t hold all answers but this something science accepts and why I can place my ‘faith’ in it over religion….,this is not saying much because I am not much of science monger believe it or not, but when comes to basis my belief on something, I cannot believe in something like religion which has faith alone, because to use your words, faith is unreasonable without substance…..like I said we generally don’t believe in elves and most of time if poeple say they hear voices in their head when close eyes, we would think their very unreasonable poeple, attract god to it and suddenly…aka ok o_0

    [QUOTE]
    Thus my reply that the debate as to the existence of the super natural (the basic religious argument/belief) is rationally supportable, as much, for example, as naturalism. It is not that science is reasonable and religion is not. Do you agree? Similarly it is not that religion is without facts and science as we know it practically today is without faith/conjecture.
    [/QUOTE]

    =Of course science has faith, you need faith to try and prove your theory; but if it fails to justify said faith, then the theory will be rejected
    -However no spiritualism doesn’t have any facts, it is faith alone, things like bible do not constitute evidence, especially when consider how much was left out of the bible we have today when original Greek orthodox church commissioned it, I mean that scares me, because who knows what didn’t put in.
    -ontological arguments are not evidence, they are twists of logic PS I have read the works of Aquinas, Finnius and co, doesn’t my dissitation (yes know spelt wrong, dyslexia playing up and spell checker is being ineffectual) was looking at religion and law.
    -the supposed factual evidence like people who claim Koran can only be written by higher being is done by bias Muslin scientists and that piece of cloth which depic’s god; whatever call….cannot remember is lot newer than they originally portrayed which means could easily be made by ink burning, I believe was final conclusion.
    -finally historical evidence of cross referring actual know events to those in things like bible is often very flawed because if look hard enough then will find an event to match….well apart from when completely unreasonable, but then bush over it with faith…..and normally entails changing and twisting dates of actual events, such as what ontologist did, where by changing date of one of the local reports (you know the story of having to register yourself at birth town, which only appears in one telling of story…nice continuity guys) and then making it coincide with star flare; could put jesus’s birth on date of 25th of December -_-

    -do not get my intent wrong; like I said if you wish to believe in religion that is your choice, you seem like perfectly reasonable and nice person, and i enjoy debating this stuff, but I think basis of morals from religion is no better than basis of morals from science, because in end religion has no falsifiability, science has failings, but least it has that, meaning has to justify on practical level itself

    • I do not agree with your opinion of theology. But I do admit that sometimes religion is edited to make it more appealing. However, scientific facts neither prove the existence of God nor disprove the existence of God. Naturalism, which you seem to embrace, is but an interpretation of scientific data. Its conclusion has not been proven by science and the theory is edited as much as religion and sometimes for the same reasons you accuse religion of editing itself.

      I also disagree with you when you say religion has no facts and is unreasonable. Most of us on this forum are Vedantists (like Schrödinger), and we have our facts, our experience that corresponds with our theory. Our theory is that consciousness is an ontological reality independent of matter and that this can be experienced. The experiment that follows is the systematic segregation of consciousness from matter, the result of which is that we find consciousness thrives the more it is separated from matter. This experiment is called yoga. When done properly it produces consistent results. Indeed, Sam Harris himself has admitted that the most fulfilled person may very well be a yogi who has lived in cave alone experiencing his inner self for the last 30 years. However, admittedly metaphysical claims as to exactly what that inner experience is cannot be falsified. But neither can they be easily dismissed.

      And you make too much of objective falsifiable reality and too little of first person subjective experience. You can’t prove that you exist, but you conduct yourself as if you do on the basis of first person subjective experience. Your actual life is based upon subjective unverifiable experience, yet your insist that to believe in anything you require third person objective “proof.” You believe that you exist but you can’t prove it. By your own definition you are unreasoable.

      • this why it is impossible to debate a religious person, because once you prove their belief has no basis, they twist logic to say, well nothing has no basis then…no, everything has lot of basis

        [Quote]
        I do not agree with your opinion of theology. But I do admit that sometimes religion is edited to make it more appealing. However, scientific facts neither prove the existence of God nor disprove the existence of God. Naturalism, which you seem to embrace, is but an interpretation of scientific data. Its conclusion has not been proven by science and the theory is edited as much as religion and sometimes for the same reasons you accuse religion of editing itself.
        [/Quote]

        First, once again you imply things into my belief, if you must insist on calling t naturalism I will go with that, but to say I believe in naturalism is like me saying you believe in all religion…..which I doubt, no there are parts of naturalism I agree with, parts I disagree with, I just base it on what has evidence to support it side, whatever that maybe or where it comes from (PS also don’t make a wickerman out of my argument, it undermines you.)
        =And at last we get the argument for god that is pretty much the theoretical version of “look behind you” your right science cannot test to see what god is, because hard to test things which ain’t there, because science is not about testing if something is there, but testing what the there is and so if nothing is there, then nothing to test <<….however as I am sure you will say god is above scientific testing, because he has no physical presence, doesn't physically effect our reality and exists on another plane……all things which allude to him not existing but that religion has somehow cleverly twisted into being very things which prove his existence, I will use equally prurient ponit, that as I said earlier, you cannot prove that elves don't exist, but doubt you believe in them

        [Quote]
        I also disagree with you when you say religion has no facts and is unreasonable. Most of us on this forum are Vedantists (like Schrödinger), and we have our facts, our experience that corresponds with our theory. Our theory is that consciousness is an ontological reality independent of matter and that this can be experienced. The experiment that follows is the systematic segregation of consciousness from matter, the result of which is that we find consciousness thrives the more it is separated from matter. This experiment is called yoga. When done properly it produces consistent results. Indeed, Sam Harris himself has admitted that the most fulfilled person may very well be a yogi who has lived in cave alone experiencing his inner self for the last 30 years. However, admittedly metaphysical claims as to exactl[/Quote]

        =the human mind is an amazing thing, this said without malicious intent as what you are doing is actually probably quite impressive, but misunderstood by those doing it as by everyone ele, but needs to said, just because you believe your having some outerbody experience, doesn't mean you are…the fact is, the thing you believe is your sense of self, essence….soul….etc whatever wish to call it, is in fact nothing more than electric currents, chemicals and other
        mundanely normal things working in a very clever and complex but very unspiritualist way….you know that a study has already proven that religious poeple have really high electric-currents through the front of their pretual cortex..or as now nicknamed, their god spot and it is by allowing mind to concentrate on this point, that you are almost fooled into believing that mind is doing amazing things like talking to a god/leaving body behind.,,….etc whatever is think doing. The interesting thing is this god spot is also part of the brain which actives during the placebo effect <<

        [Quote]
        And you make too much of objective falsifiable reality and too little of first person subjective experience. You can’t prove that you exist, but you conduct yourself as if you do on the basis of first person subjective experience. Your actual life is based upon subjective unverifiable experience, yet your insist that to believe in anything you require third person objective “proof.” You believe that you exist but you can’t prove it. By your own definition you are unreasoable.[/Quote]

        =what is wrong with believing that only put faith in that which proves itself worthy of faith; even god did exist, he has done little to make me think he is so great, but that debate for another day
        -the point is this, personal subjective views are fine, but that is all they are, they have no validation to go beyond this because they are foundless (unless proven otherwise) and tainted with own subjective bias and so if they are to impressed as more than mere "opinion" they need something falsifiable to justify them going beyond this, otherwise opinion they remain, this is not to say opinion is wrong, just it ain't anything more than that
        -A woman was once almost hit by a runaway tracker, however the missed her, she was convinced that she was saved by angel, science proved that she was saved by the degree angle of hill the tracker came down causing it go left of her position…….which side do I believe, the deeply deeply religious woman who merely believed only way she could have been saved was by something holy, without anything to justify this belief, or the science which has evidence of gravity for its stance.
        =As for this I cannot prove my existence agrument……..I really thought you were doing a good job of defending your point, but now coming up with this silly last stand points that religious debaters like return to, when they run out of other stances….no I prove my existence very easily, all I need to do is get a pin and see if I feel something when poke myself…..that enough evidence for me 😉
        =however you will claim isn’t enough for you, because well that proves your poiint, so I will use René Descartes “I think therefore I am point” what does this show, simple I can precive myself, therefore I must exist, so what does this mean? Simple that I must exist and that what you actually meant to say is “I cannot prove that my ‘prescription’ of my existence is right, not that I cannot prove my existence fullstop…” this is important point because what this means is that it is my subjective views of myself which are uncertain, not the objective view that I am infact here writing to you…because existence is a symbolist of being somewhere, which I am, even if my somewhere is not sound, the fact there means I objectively exist, and only my subjective interpretation is unsound, thus refuting your point about upgrading the subjective without justifiable evidence

        • Allen it is clear that you, like many vehement atheists, naturalists, materialists (whatever label you prefer), are reacting to the largest representation of religion and therefore arguing on premises that do not apply here. It is not that you are not a member of our group that cause one to say you do not understand, it is that you simply misunderstand.

          Most participants of this site will readily acknowledge the glaring shortcomings of most religious people, including our own. Shortcomings of intellect, morality, etc. The largest portion of any group will always be the most superficial and devoid of nuanced understandings, scientists included. While you think that your admittedly very religious upbringing lends weight to your opposition, I am inclined to think it biases you. This is because, among other things, most “very religious” people are very religious in all the wrong ways. That is to say they do not approach their religion as a means to deconstructing their identity based on ultimately selfish pursuits. They approach it in an effort to avoid change, resist uncomfortable facts about life, and feel superior and special. I imagine you would agree with that. People like yourself are a bit more perceptive or intelligent or whatever you would like to call it, and are legitimately turned off by the hypocrisy present in so many religious people and groups. But too often, such a person than fails to investigate fully and find that there are far more subtle, substantial points of religion that cannot be invalidated by people’s misbehavior or what appears to be the “problem of evil.” But usually the reactions to these seeming contradictions are too firmly rooted to move deeper.

          But an honest inquirer cannot so matter-of-factly dismiss the issues discussed here as you do. Plenty within the scientific community acknowledge this. You conveniently dodge some very crucial points here and there by saying that they are “silly last stand points that religious debaters turn to” or “you cannot proves that elves don’t exist.” No. It is a fully valid point that you cannot prove you exist. To cite Descartes is interesting because everything else you say goes against him. He said that “he thought therefore he was” in the context of espousing dualism. For you to co-opt that to prove monism while name-dropping seems, well, odd. To equate elves with god is ludicrous as well because the common concept of elves have no relevant qualities to the discussion. A theoretical god, by definition, does. A theoretical god and theoretical elves are not interchangeable in a theoretical scenario. But it does always give the fans a good snicker, and I suppose there is a place for that.

          • [Quote]
            Allen it is clear that you, like many vehement atheists, naturalists, materialists (whatever label you prefer), are reacting to the largest representation of religion and therefore arguing on premises that do not apply here. It is not that you are not a member of our group that cause one to say you do not understand, it is that you simply misunderstand.
            [/Quote]

            =I prefer not to give myself a label, not because I think that makes me cool and edgy, but once you give self name, sort of start defending it, when becomes undefendable, but if you wish to give me a name to make easier to view me or whatever, go for it
            -right now I make point about religion as whole yes, similar to you making point about whatever group you decided to place in, because on some level there is individualisation in all of us, means we cannot account for very point in @generalist@ debate like this, so instead we have to generalise,
            -you are also making assumption I believe religion is bad, where have I ever said such thing? My point was to highlight the difference between religion and science or actually fact and faith, as one is based on faith and the other is evidence (yes I called it irrational and said it irrationality can lead to bad points, but didn’t say religion was bad, because as I admitted, science has its irrational members too)
            -I also highlighting that you can decide to reject faith and make valid points against, and this whole don’t understand is not a defence

            [Quote]
            Most participants of this site will readily acknowledge the glaring shortcomings of most religious people, including our own. Shortcomings of intellect, morality, etc. The largest portion of any group will always be the most superficial and devoid of nuanced understandings, scientists included. While you think that your admittedly very religious upbringing lends weight to your opposition, I am inclined to think it biases you. This is because, among other things, most “very religious” people are very religious in all the wrong ways. That is to say they do not approach their religion as a means to deconstructing their identity based on ultimately selfish pursuits. They approach it in an effort to avoid change, resist uncomfortable facts about life, and feel superior and special. I imagine you would agree with that. People like yourself are a bit more perceptive or intelligent or whatever you would like to call it, and are legitimately turned off by the hypocrisy present in so many religious people and groups. But too often, such a person than fails to investigate fully and find that there are far more subtle, substantial points of religion that cannot be invalidated by people’s misbehavior or what appears to be the “problem of evil.” But usually the reactions to these seeming contradictions are too firmly rooted to move deeper.[/Quote]

            Wow…..you critise me for generalising, then you take two words I said week ago and decide you know my whole life……wow…..ok lets clear this up, my father was born into a Joverher Witness’s (or whatever spell gods name as) family, however he rejected their dogmatic faith and decided to follow god in his personal way, he was finally officially kicked out, when he met my mother, a lady from church of england who was married to a catholic…I won’t go into more detail as that is their personal lives and not mine, so long story short, they fell in love, got married and had me….they raised me to believe what I wanted and said I should take path which suited me, so though technically i was was church of England, I was never baptised or anything, however this did not stop their religious beleifs effecting me, but then I was sent to a catholic school and it was here that I really began to study and view religion seriously, rather than just accept god as fact without regard, I spent 5 years of my life studying Christianity mostly, but did look into Buddhism and many smaller sects; however in the end I came to same conclusion as my father (maybe because of my father….maybe not, however in the end I could not accept major religions past failings still being their centre’s today and could not accept the dogmatic approach of the sects I studied) and so rejected all religion deciding god was personal to me…..however it was about 1 years later that I came to a shocking conclusion; I didn’t even believe in god, and found the idea of him abhorrent for my personal reasons and that when I prayed or thought about god, I felt nothing…..it was like my spiritual side was dead, if it had ever been alive in first place o_0, however I went back to researching for while, not wanting to allow what at time I considered to be a criticise of faith to be taken lightly, but in the end I realised that I felt nothing spiritually because I logically saw god as such an illogical thing, thus I became an atheist or if you ask me as scientist an Apatheist, but that is whole other point, if you still feel I took position so lightly as to do it without reseaching it first and for reasons that you believe, that is fair enough, I cannot prove to otherwise without giving evidence which is silly to give over internet to prove point, but I like to think while not a religious expert, I know more about religion than average church goer

            [Quote]
            But an honest inquirer cannot so matter-of-factly dismiss the issues discussed here as you do. Plenty within the scientific community acknowledge this.
            [/Quote]

            =actually, more apt to say some in scientific community reject this, most just allow themselves to be called
            Apatheists because similar than explaining how silly the you cannot prove god point is.

            [Quote]
            You conveniently dodge some very crucial points here and there by saying that they are “silly last stand points that religious debaters turn to” or “you cannot proves that elves don’t exist.”
            [/Quote]

            =No I called them what they are and then explained why, that is not doguing the point at all, because had disposition as well opinion. The point is religious debators often start with quite nice points but ones which are refutable and in the end turn to several key and silly points as debate goes on and their stances fall
            -PS you can’t prove elves don’t exist, give me evidence that elves don’t exist and that not merely that elves are beyond your simple perception, give me evidence against harry potter being real, give evidence against flying spaghetti monsters….etc Fact is maybe that mystic things are all just beyond testing…..<_< or maybe there not there, but if you accept their not there then need to accept same logic applies to god and only reason accept god is social situation
            -PSS also the whole god being transcendental thing has arisen over last century only to thin defence against this point, before that, god was very physical and effecting dude,

            [Quote]
            No. It is a fully valid point that you cannot prove you exist.
            [/Quote]

            =No it isn't, we exist, our being here validates existence, because here we are existing, even if we doubt our existence, something must be there to doubt it/do the doubting

            [Quote]
            To cite Descartes is interesting because everything else you say goes against him. He said that “he thought therefore he was” in the context of espousing dualism. For you to co-opt that to prove monism while name-dropping seems, well, odd.
            [/Quote]

            =Wow wiki must have been a great research tool for you, actually he wasn't just just linking dualism; yes he took some dualist points, and in the fifth Meditation he tries to prove god, but he was actually a naturalist scientist and rationalist theorist with many ranging and complex theories which you are massively over simplifying; maybe it was erroneous of me to take a singular foundation point he made as a stand alone, but I happen to believe the evidence he put forward proves that point
            =Just because I don't accept all of his theory doesn't mean I think he was completely wrong, I actually think his points to prove man's existence were quite brilliant and I cannot even when I try, prove them, wrong. Its like Aquinas, I don't think everything he said was right, but doesn't mean he did not make interesting points

            =(Ps if you don' know meaning of fancy word like espousing, don't us it, doesn't make point any-more valid)

            PSS not bothered with last part as dealt with it above

          • I do not believe I generalized your whole life. I merely took a point that you had made to add authority to your view and tried to show (admittedly anecdotally) how this point could actually detract from your authority. Seeing as I consider most religious people to fall in a category that makes your aversion more understandable, it is reasonable that I would assume those in your past did as well. Far from conclusive, yes, but I did say “I am inclined to think,” so I don’t see that I was forcing an inordinate amount of absolutism into my point.

            Regarding your study of religion, it does seem more substantial than most and I believe a recent poll illustrated that in America atheists know more about religion than theists. But regardless, the points and rebuttals you offer here, to me, undermine the authority you seek from your studies. I have seen Karen Armstrong completely misunderstand far simpler and extrinsic points of Hinduism. Or Huston Smith, a Vedantin who I very much respect, has never, as I have seen, displayed a theoretical understanding of the idea of an Absolute with form that does not compromise its universality, a key element of devotional Vedanta. My point is that unlike a more physical pursuit, philosophical and theological understanding does not necessarily grow in direct correlation to the time invested in the subject.

            actually, more apt to say some in scientific community reject this, most just allow themselves to be called
            Apatheists because similar than explaining how silly the you cannot prove god point is.

            By the word “plenty” i meant to say “a sufficient number to warrant one to believe there is merit in exploring the issues, and they are real issues.”

            PS you can’t prove elves don’t exist, give me evidence that elves don’t exist and that not merely that elves are beyond your simple perception, give me evidence against harry potter being real, give evidence against flying spaghetti monsters….etc Fact is maybe that mystic things are all just beyond testing…..<_< or maybe there not there, but if you accept their not there then need to accept same logic applies to god and only reason accept god is social situation

            Only a fool argues that you can empirically prove or disprove god, and consequently, the only empirically based rational position is agnosticism. But since atheism believes rationality is by definition exclusively empirically based, it is unreasonable by its own criterion. That being said, elves very well may exist but as far as any conception of them that we have would tell us, their existence is inconsequential. God’s is not. My point is even if we do not say absolutely that God exists, in theory his existence is of the utmost relevance. Every theory we ahve of an elf makes them of little to no significance. That is why equating the two is a silly and distracting tactic.

            PSS also the whole god being transcendental thing has arisen over last century only to thin defence against this point, before that, god was very physical and effecting dude

            perhaps in some schools, but in Vedanta God is wholly transcendental although there is a place for manifestations or avatars interacting with the physical world. But even in these instances those forms of Godhead are considered transcendent.

            No it isn't, we exist, our being here validates existence, because here we are existing, even if we doubt our existence, something must be there to doubt it/do the doubting

            I completely agree, but only on the basis of dualism, as I will explain below. My arguing against this point is only the basis of what seems to be your criterion.

            Wow wiki must have been a great research tool for you, actually he wasn't just just linking dualism; yes he took some dualist points, and in the fifth Meditation he tries to prove god, but he was actually a naturalist scientist and rationalist theorist with many ranging and complex theories which you are massively over simplifying; maybe it was erroneous of me to take a singular foundation point he made as a stand alone, but I happen to believe the evidence he put forward proves that point
            =Just because I don't accept all of his theory doesn't mean I think he was completely wrong, I actually think his points to prove man's existence were quite brilliant and I cannot even when I try, prove them, wrong. Its like Aquinas, I don't think everything he said was right, but doesn't mean he did not make interesting points

            I do not see how you can possibly divorce Descartes dualism from “cogito ergo sum.” The whole point was that thought was substantially different than matter and therefore accomplished what nothing else could: establshing existence. The point simply cannot conform to the dominant school of naturalism. If it did, Descartes could have just as easily said “Cacare ergo sum” (I defecate therefore I am) because modern monism tells us that pondering your existence and defecating are separated only by mechanical complexity. “You” do not exist. You are a robot.

            Now I don’t agree with this and as was mentioned, quantum mechanics has empirically opened other doors, but I think my point holds. It is also worth noting that Vedanta does not consider thoughts to be wholly immaterial, but a more subtle form of matter. The dualism of vedanta is in terms of consciousness and matter, consciousness being the doubter, but not the doubts themselves.

            Lastly, and I do not mean this condescendingly, it would make this exchange easier if you took more time to structure your posts and make them more grammatical.

        • Allen,

          I find your arguments incredibly shallow. For example, you have told us that the god spot is located in the brain as if it were a scientific fact. If that were the case, someone would have won the Nobel prize for proving/discovering it. You write as if the mystery of consciousness has been solved, when in fact neuroscience and philosophy of mind have only numerous and conflicting theories concerning the nature of consciousness. And any simpleton knows that there is a difference between causation and correlation. In other words the correlation of physical action in the brian and states of mind in no way demonstrates conclusively that mind is nothing but brain or that the brain causes the so called mind. In fact it could be just the opposite, and arguably our world is more like and idea than it is a mass of concrete. If we study the mind brain argument through a quantum rather than classical physics approach, there is sufficient empirical evidence to support a logical conjecture for the existence of free will and downward causation arriving at an empirically based credible argument for consciousness being a causal ontological reality. That, my friend, is a far more sophisticated and credible argument for the existence of the soul than your rambling about the “god spot” you think has been found in the brain. In this regard I suggest you read some of the work of physicist Henry Stapp available on the internet.

          As for your existence being provable, I maintain my point that you cannot logically prove that you exist. And you have not proven that you have (hope you don’t think that you have!). But if you insist that you can prove it and that only your particular sense of what exactly you are is subjective and unverifiable, you are left with the same problem I raised: You base your life in an unverifiable, subjective reality for all intents and purposes while insiting that you only believe in that which is falsifiable. I find that unreasonable.

          • ok 4 points:-

            1=actually the god spot was discovered decades ago however its links to religious belief were discovered about 10 years ago, but the funding was cut due to the fact no quite dared publish it until about two years, now if you look it up, there is quite a bit about it,

            2=actually you were one who was talking about how much you new on the human brain, I said it was amazing thing which is very misunderstood and accepted my own lack of concente knowledge about it

            3=Benjamin Libet has already proven your points about the brain and mind being opposite, you know, if you must give yourself soul, say that it is in the brain or something….etc; I personally do not see what is so wrong with just being human, but heh that is me.
            -oh and I never said we did not have free will, though that is complex point which I will not bother getting into with you, unless you really want too, this is nothing against you, but if your honestly willing to ignore all which already proven to try and validate your own beliefs, then you will hate going down this long and conuluted road

            4=If you must call my beliefs shallow, do so, but personally I like living in a world where I check and prove things before I make judgements, it has allowed me to raise quite high from very poor start and it has also allowed me to meet my interesting and fascinating people from around world, because left me open to many beliefs and idea’s rather than allowing me just to accept the first urge based belief I find. It also means I am honestly made to challenge and change my beleifs and review what I think, once a new side comes up proving hole in my original presupposition, if that is shallow way of viewing world, so be it, because until evidence proves otherwise it is one I believe. (and no I am not calling you shallow)

            5= so your smarter than Descartes….fair does, but he still proved we existed, because whether precption of existence is right or wrong, existence is still a state of there which we possess, understand we lack understanding of our state, I understand this hard point to get because means stepping back from we are/ain’t and look to the gray inbetween, but once get it, makes lot of sense

          • 1. It is one thing to say that someone discovered a place in the brain that appears to correspond with religious experience, and quite another to say that the experience of God has been proven to be nothing more than the firing of certain neurons in the brian. This is my point.

            2. I did not say I knew a lot about the human brain. I said that consciousness has not been proven to be a function of the brian alone. It remains a mystery to science. And the conjecture that it is supernatural is not without a scientific basis when the brian/mind discussion is examined from a quantum perspective.

            3. If Benjamin Libet has proven that the mind is not the brian he would have won the Noble prize. Check your facts. But I do agree the mind is not the brain. Do you realize the implications of this in terms of how science has looked at the world for centuries? If mind is not the brian, the realm of matter has just been expanded considerably or the realm of spirit has just been affirmed. If you choose the former or the latter you are outside of mainstream science, which is not a bad place to be. Welcome.

            4. I have simply said that I find your arguments shallow. That is not a judgement on your entire life.

            5. Descartes has not proven that he exists by the falsifiable criterion you say you base you life on. His is a philosophical and epistemological argument. In his proof of his existence he argues in favor of substance dualism, and argument embraced by most religions. But modern science has all but thrown his arguments in the trash bin. Still if you think the “I,” the doubter, is ultimately real, I quite agree. The act of doubting itself cannot be doubted. This is an argument for the fundamental existence of consciousness being independent of and more real than the world of things (matter) that can, unlike consciousness, be doubted/dismissed. Our experience of things is that they are here today and gone tomorrow. The best things in life are not things. The best thing is experience and of course the experiencer—subjective reality/consciousness. Is that objective enough for you?

  12. Why do these arguments have to get more complicated than people from “opposing sides” agreeing on the actual FACT that:

    (Get some consensus going and picture the train of thought)

    1. They are both “human beings”. “check”

    2. All living beings go from birth to death, “activation to deactivation”, “entrance to exit”. (on this plane/world at least) “check”

    3. When one entity dies, the living symptoms in the rest of “reality” continues. (Consciousness is localized and personal, yet within a larger conscious(or already dead ;)) whole) “check”

    4. No matter what anyone thinks or says changes this.(this takes out pretty much all mental speculation and writers thereof)”check”

    5. Scientific and “Religious” language changes constantly. 2000 years ago the word “quantum” meant nothing, yet people still lived fundamentally the same as we do….. Eat/Mate/Defend…..

    6. The external world changes, but the “spiritual/conscious” mellows/relationships do not change (family, friends, neutrality, enmity etc….)

    (I’m cutting it short here,, because frankly, in Srila Prabuphada’s “simplistic” terminology he already said all of this)

    For God’s Sake, how difficult is it to establish consensus between people on these things ?!!!! (“My” little list can go on, but hell, people are so confused by differentiation that they cannot see the essence – I’m even starting to doubt my little list, because linguistically you have to cover so many bases.

    Ultimately, Atheism is just a MENTAL condition, Religion is a COMMUNAL DISCIPLINE and the rest is……..Transcendental Knowledge that is true in EVERY conceiveable case – “Vedanta”. We are already in the Paravyoma, we just literally cannot see it due to our current temporary organic space suit visors we call human eyes.

    So ultimately, science is just a TOOL (like a hammer) and a form of mental entertainment – Science doesn’t make the garden grow, you know? Looking through a microscope and working out equations is the same as painting a landscape with sunglasses on. It doesn’t change the landscape, it just changes your personal opinion of it. “Religion” should at most provide discipline and a sense of community. Transcendental Knowledge is more easily understood if you are disciplined, mentally, physically etc…. “religion” should provide this discipline towards the transcendent ideal.

    Soccer is the biggest “Religion” in the world today in any case. If Christians, Muslims and Jews cannot agree that God is the same, then Krsna may as well become the mascot of FIFA and you’ll see much more transcendental progress.

    So, people must understand the difference between “information” and “knowledge”. People are arguing at extreme lengths about different information systems, but none of them can argue Birth, Death, Old Age, Disease – that, is “knowledge”. You should “KNOW” that. Then, whether a person is a Muslim or an Atheist, he has a mother, father, friends, “enemies”, desires etc….. (That is automatic, that is inherent, that is the system of the soul that happens without mental speculation or “science”.

    In KC, we recognise KRSNA, The Original Entity(GOD)as the originator of these moods/mellows/vibes that are previewed to us in this temporary world. No one can deny these things, because everyone experiences it. It is personal and fundamental to everyone. The variety of the fundamentals shows that all souls are personally experiencing and enjoying in the realm of the absolute.

    There is no point to argue on this level, if the purpose is not to practically civilize humanity. We are “fighting”, thus we are not “civil”, thus we need to “civilize”. The only way to do this, is to agree on certain things, then we can go on living and enjoying properly. It’s a worldly mission anyways, but what else must happen in any case?

    It is about developing a language that describes a unified cosmic understanding that “transcends” the current usage and understanding of the terms “religion” and “science”. These words come from Latin, Greek etc…. People don’t know the original meaning of these words and their intention anymore. It seems that words also carry Karmic Baggage…… Its like the word “gay”.

    People are chewing the chewed with these religion vs. science debate. It seems like Sanskrit remains the King of Cosmic Conception after all….but Krsna is intelligent and creative enough to present a compromise for the time being, isn’t he? Yes he is….

  13. Oh Nat, I thought Van was fun, but you are something else, really you are, ok lets go through this.

    First I am sorry for my late reply, been busy few days: ^^

    [Quote]
    I do not believe I generalized your whole life. I merely took a point that you had made to add authority to your view and tried to show (admittedly anecdotally) how this point could actually detract from your authority. Seeing as I consider most religious people to fall in a category that makes your aversion more understandable, it is reasonable that I would assume those in your past did as well. Far from conclusive, yes, but I did say “I am inclined to think,” so I don’t see that I was forcing an inordinate amount of absolutism into my point.
    [/Quote]

    =Secondly, are you actually trying to justify your stance here???? Really you are too much ^^; well if nothing else, I respect your tenacity, but you seriously cannot deny that you just made a sweeping statement about my whole childhood and its effects on my life, based on stereotypes and two words I said. That is a generalisation of my life and quite a big one at that.
    -And even now you still completely ignore parts of my post to affirm this, like I have said several times, I have no aversion to religion, I have an aversion to people using religion to justify their own bigotry, but that applies to science as well, and so just because I see religion as wrong, doesn’t mean I see it as bad. Religion can be used as a tool for bad things, but so can knife, I would no that that, this makes the knife bad and in my opinion similar logic applies to religion, just on more complex level due to religion mostly being ideology. All this shows is that you have a very stereotyping and generalist view of atheists and seem to think we are all like Dwarkins and though I can only speak for myself here, I can actually I am not like him at all; I would not bring this up so avidly if was not for the fact that in the same breathe you criticise me for generalising religions.

    [Quote]
    Regarding your study of religion, it does seem more substantial than most and I believe a recent poll illustrated that in America atheists know more about religion than theists. But regardless, the points and rebuttals you offer here, to me, undermine the authority you seek from your studies.
    [/Quote]

    =I am hurt, you don’t think I am learned enough 😉 or could it be that you merely don’t understand me…….amazing how that defence is so easy to use and yet still such a woeful; but in all seriousness, I honestly don’t think that you do not understand me, merely that you disagree with me. However I feel that I should point out that you need to understand that there is a massive different to you disagreeing with me and me not knowing what on I am about…something you need to realise is that your opinion is far from as unifiable as you express it to be,; especially in regards to philosophy which is a profound set of theories that cannot be taken as stand alones or a whole. Even if you are taking one theory, you must judge very part of that theory in a painstakingly pedantic way because often there will be theories within theories which must be viewed and valued on their own different positions within theory as whole and this is in my opinion one of the reasons why so many different people have different interpretations upon them; because two different people will judge the same work and weight that works different parts with different levels of importance which means two poeple could look at the same theory and come to very different conclusions about its merits and conclusions.
    =This is why philosophy is not a science and why I have never argued it was. Though I would suggest that some theories such as utilitarian can be used practically and the results of this will present us with some evidence of their validity, even this is admissible evidence on whole, due to the lucid subjectivity imposed on the implementation of said theory.
    -Though I suspect you will still disagree with me, however my university went with my way of viewing philosophy, so I will take that one 😉

    [Quote]
    I have seen Karen Armstrong completely misunderstand far simpler and extrinsic points of Hinduism. Or Huston Smith, a Vedantin who I very much respect, has never, as I have seen, displayed a theoretical understanding of the idea of an Absolute with form that does not compromise its universality, a key element of devotional Vedanta. My point is that unlike a more physical pursuit, philosophical and theological understanding does not necessarily grow in direct correlation to the time invested in the subject.
    [/Quote]

    =Wow you clearly know very little about physical pursuits and if I was a physical person I would be insulted by your arrogant belief, but luckily I suck physically and so could not care less 😉 But my teasing you for your self conflicting beliefs aside, you really should stop making generalist assumptions about what people know, when it is based on very little evidence.

    [Quote]
    By the word “plenty” i meant to say “a sufficient number to warrant one to believe there is merit in exploring the issues, and they are real issues.”
    [/Quote]

    =Well I could argue again that you should really start using correct words if going to make subtle points, but that would be unfair in this case as I you have explained it further, I can actually see your point, so I will go on as if that was the point you made from the start and say this; from actually knowing some of the scientists who believe that, I can say most of them keep their science and religion very separate because they accept their religion is a belief on their part, not a form of evidence.

    [Quote]
    Only a fool argues that you can empirically prove or disprove god, and consequently, the only empirically based rational position is agnosticism. But since atheism believes rationality is by definition exclusively empirically based, it is unreasonable by its own criterion.
    [/Quote]

    =ok this part has so many problems going to be doing it in little parts:-
    -First think you mean to say only a fool would try empirically proving a god when he has no idea what god is, there is sublte difference there.
    -Secondly; while as yet we cannot prove ether way, there is very strong idea of evidence balancing and to me the balance of evidence goes well away from gods side (one of few things I do agree with Dwarkins on)
    -Thirdly, why do you think I said I am a Apatheist if going on science and atheist if going on personality, it is because science long since accepts this point and though any self-respecting scientist (whether he believes in god or not) would consider it a insanely flawed argument, it is one science must take because it can only show the stupidy of the point, not the wrongness of it. It is like one of Zeno’s paradox’s minus all the clever charm.
    PS the term you mean is apatheist, not agnostic which has a slightly different context because of its overreaching termologies, though Atheist agnostic is equally usable now as is agnostic theism.

    [Quote]
    That being said, elves very well may exist but as far as any conception of them that we have would tell us, their existence is inconsequential. God’s is not. My point is even if we do not say absolutely that God exists, in theory his existence is of the utmost relevance. Every theory we ahve of an elf makes them of little to no significance. That is why equating the two is a silly and distracting tactic.
    [/Quote]

    =How do you know elves are of very little consequence and god is of consequence, give me evidence……point still holds and that is the problem isn’t it? I can keep bringing up this argument no matter how silly it sounds and this why the point stands that this not defence for god because it is silly argument based on a theoretical loophole rather than a point.
    -You say god is important, that is only because you “believe” god is important, however lets take the presupposition that you are right, this actually in no way strenghterns your position because it doesn’t in anyway remove my point. This is simply because the fact stands that just because you don’t view the existence of elves as important doesn’t make any difference to the fact that you cannot prove or disprove them to me, yet you still don’t believe in them, because the concept seems stupid to you.

    [Quote]
    perhaps in some schools, but in Vedanta God is wholly transcendental although there is a place for manifestations or avatars interacting with the physical world. But even in these instances those forms of Godhead are considered transcendent.
    [/Quote]

    =As I have said, I am not one to deny when evidence is against me and your point here is valid, so I edit my point to Christianity, Jewish religion and some other ancestral religions (as said, middle eastern religions are my blind spot, which is actually how i came across this site, trying to improve that side of my knowledge)

    [Quote]
    I completely agree, but only on the basis of dualism, as I will explain below. My arguing against this point is only the basis of what seems to be your criterion.
    [/Quote]

    =OK I will take this part slowly; dualism equals part of his theory.
    -Secondly; dualism takes on more forms than religious dualism.

    [Quote]
    I do not see how you can possibly divorce Descartes dualism from “cogito ergo sum.” The whole point was that thought was substantially different than matter and therefore accomplished what nothing else could: establshing existence. The point simply cannot conform to the dominant school of naturalism. If it did, Descartes could have just as easily said “Cacare ergo sum” (I defecate therefore I am)
    [/Quote]

    =Did you honestly, just say this???? Ok no, thinking and defecating are different even to a none duelist, I don’t know about you, but conscious thought has very little to do with what comes out my backside; my body is a little more advanced than needing me to instruct it on that front, well unless I am in the middle of a lecture and I am instructing it to hold it in, but that is a whole other point……ok I know, being silly now, but seriously there is a fundemental difference in both processes and results, which makes them fundamentally different, whether you take the side of body and mind as two or one parts.
    -Two is for obvious reasons
    -One, because even if it is machincal (to use his term) process which separates these things, the process is different and has different results, thereby making it different.

    -And so it follows that because defecating is fundermentally different to thought, it has no place here, because it formed by a fundermentally different process, so unless you are saying a piece of poo has concious thought it cannot in anyway be linked to preceptive thinking.

    =Now I do not know this, but I get the “feeling” from the what you put, that you are an all or nothing person, ether something is all right or all wrong to you, now this is a baseless belief; in that it is based on very limited and circumstantial evidence on my part. But I still get the feeling it could explain why you have such hard time understanding the idea of things which are partly right to someone.

    So here is how it works:-
    =Descarte’s felt that to prove god, he first needed to prove man exists and so he achieved this in the very clever way of saying if I doubt myself, I must exist because my doubt proves something doubting.
    -this mostly acceptable to science, because though science would mostly take mind and body as one identity the logic still works because even if our thought is doubting itself by a machincal process, it is still their to doubt itself, however science would not accept that just because we are able to doubt ourselves, the way we precive ourselves is validated, because even if we prove we exist in some format, we have not proved what said format is.
    -Then there is what Decartes then did next, which was to say, well if my doubt proves me, then my doubt proves god, because if I doubt god he must be there (yes this is the baka guide to decartes so very simplified, but not got time to put it in more fair way) This is where science really has problem with Decartes and where he brings in religious duelism. This is because science thinks he has a missed step somewhere, as to most scientists; just because our doubt proves we are doubting ourselves, that doesn’t mean the logic can be applied to a being which not part of us, well unless accept god is part of us but science doesn’t so moot point.

    [Qupte]
    because modern monism tells us that pondering your existence and defecating are separated only by mechanical complexity. “You” do not exist. You are a robot.
    [/Quote]

    =if you wanted to make this point, word of advise, don’t use robots, they are something man made, therefore structurally defined by man and not merely prima facie defined by man.
    -As we made robots, we made and defined them as fundementally different to us.
    -As for point itself, well first as far as know, robots at this time do not poo, (well unless you count certain children’s dolls as robots <_<) and like said poo is not quite the same as thought because poo is not a Cognitive act.

    [Quote]
    Now I don’t agree with this and as was mentioned, quantum mechanics has empirically opened other doors, but I think my point holds.
    [/Quote]

    =it doesn’t but lets not go back there lol

    [Quote]
    It is also worth noting that Vedanta does not consider thoughts to be wholly immaterial, but a more subtle form of matter. The dualism of vedanta is in terms of consciousness and matter, consciousness being the doubter, but not the doubts themselves.
    [/Quote]

    =While I don’t agree with this, it is an interesting theory and something I may look into when have more time

    [Quote]
    Lastly, and I do not mean this condescendingly, it would make this exchange easier if you took more time to structure your posts and make them more grammatical.
    [/Quote]

    =I love it when people use the words not and condescending in the same sentence, because they are almost certainly doing the act, but I honestly don’t mind ether way, however few points:
    1=I am writing this in about 15 minutes as pastimes between my actual project reteach and so this means I cannot really justify wasting time making them look nice
    2=there is massive difference between american grammar and british grammar (not that my grammar is actually great here, but worth noting if that is form you were taught as lot of poeple taught american grammar really struggle with British writing and so won’t help situation)
    3=I am dyslexic so….meh point self evident
    4=you still use words out of context

    [Quote]
    1. It is one thing to say that someone discovered a place in the brain that appears to correspond with religious experience, and quite another to say that the experience of God has been proven to be nothing more than the firing of certain neurons in the brian. This is my point.
    [/Quote]

    =ok I get what you are getting at now, i misunderstood your misunderstanding before how fun ^^; I was not actually using this to disprove god, I was using it to prove a point that the mind can be some amazing things which are easily misunderstood.
    -I mean yes to me the fact this progress takes place in the same part of brain as the placebo effect is quite striking, however I know many religious poeple who believe this is just gods way of communicating with them, ether way, this is small part of larger puzzle, so even I would hesitate to use it so rashly as to say disproves god.

    [Quote]
    2. I did not say I knew a lot about the human brain. I said that consciousness has not been proven to be a function of the brian alone. It remains a mystery to science. And the conjecture that it is supernatural is not without a scientific basis when the brian/mind discussion is examined from a quantum perspective.
    [/Quote]

    =Well certain experiments have had interesting results in this field IE the closed picture tests and yes I would be wrong to dismiss that this is a field which requires lot more thought and analysing before fair to judge them, but first this does actually prove the mind and body as separate identities and secondly, I think to claim that quantum perspectives and the supernatural go hand in hand is very presumptuous claim

    [Quote]
    3. If Benjamin Libet has proven that the mind is not the brian he would have won the Noble prize. Check your facts. But I do agree the mind is not the brain. Do you realize the implications of this in terms of how science has looked at the world for centuries? If mind is not the brian, the realm of matter has just been expanded considerably or the realm of spirit has just been affirmed. If you choose the former or the latter you are outside of mainstream science, which is not a bad place to be. Welcome.
    [/Quote]

    =Ok, seriously you need lot less faith in noble prize, many great scientists have never received it and some unwarranted people have, don’t get me wrong, it is still a respectable prize and ideal which should hold an important placed in our world, but it should not be your basis of good science.
    -PS As I do not know what you know about Libet, I will explain that he showed that all actions are controlled by certain electric pulses in our brains and depending on how these pulses worked, our reactions would be different, now without going into the hours worth of conclusions and presupposition which arose from this and its effects on our presumptions about free will, what this does mean is that our actions are clearly controlled by brain, in fact Libet was able to get such conclusive readings on this that he was able to predict a persons decision before they even acted based on the readings he got from this pulses o_0, now of course not important question this leads to is where pulses come from and this whole new mine field (think you got my point opposite, I do think our brain is our mind and don’t see why you are against this,)

    [Quote]
    4. I have simply said that I find your arguments shallow. That is not a judgement on your entire life.
    [/Quote]

    =Yes but when I based much of my life around following such a theory, comment has wider meaning, however as I said, it is your right to have such a judgement against me, but I personally think that even if my life doesn’t have some grand and deep underlying god made purpose, still good life

    [Quote]
    5. Descartes has not proven that he exists by the falsifiable criterion you say you base you life on. His is a philosophical and epistemological argument. In his proof of his existence he argues in favor of substance dualism, and argument embraced by most religions. But modern science has all but thrown his arguments in the trash bin. Still if you think the “I,” the doubter, is ultimately real, I quite agree. The act of doubting itself cannot be doubted. This is an argument for the fundamental existence of consciousness being independent of and more real than the world of things (matter) that can, unlike consciousness, be doubted/dismissed. Our experience of things is that they are here today and gone tomorrow. The best things in life are not things. The best thing is experience and of course the experiencer—subjective reality/consciousness. Is that objective enough for you?[/Quote]

    the decarte point is answered above, so will just say this,
    1=while all experience is subjectively judged if judged by man, much of the judgement will be against an objective stance
    2=evidence is good thing to based your reality on; because then you can accept what you do not know and try to learn it and when comes to making a decision on only can you make the decision with some hindsight as to the possible conclusions, you can justify by those conclusions as well…..not full proof but better than stabbing into the dark and hoping only cut beard

    Robotmule, fun post, one thing, though science cannot make the seeds grow, it can certainly improve their productivity 😉

  14. I think Harris is on the right track. Morality is something that is taught to us. Science is a system of investigation that has the ability to adapt change and evolve as the evidence presents itself. Melding ethical behavior into a science based structure would be beneficial to humanity. I would rather adopt a system that does not claim to be perfect, that has the capacity to change than submitting my moral compass to rigid immovable systems such as religion.

    Science is a map of ideas that we try to quantify by empirical evidence. The science of mind and behavior, how we imprint and teach our children. There are value systems that can be examined by using scientific methods and when we don’t know the answer, we say we don’t know. This is much more meaningful than making up arbitrary systems of thought that are supernatural based illusions.

    A science based morality would always need to have at its core a sense of doubt, there are time-lines of thought that we can experiment with to achieve meaningful outcomes. To adopt a systematic approach to morality would open to the door for us to evolve in beneficial ways.

    To teach people how to use reason, critical thinking and common sense based on long term observations on how humans behave, having a hypothesis, building theories that work based on examination and evidence can only be a ‘good’ thing. One concept that is clear to me is that any sustainable civilization would need to be a peaceful one. It needs to work out the details and this is what science excels at.

    Imagine this innovation a system of thought and morality that is based on trial and error that is rigorous. That can be challenged and scrutinized where no one is indoctrinated or coerced into believing, but simply presents the evidence and allows you to decide, one that attempts to maximize your full potential. Now that is a society that I would prefer to live in. Science by itself is flawed without morality just as morality is flawed without science. Using both as a foundation to our behavior would be an impressive advance for humanity.

    • I would rather adopt a system that does not claim to be perfect, that has the capacity to change than submitting my moral compass to rigid immovable systems such as religion.

      This is a misunderstanding of actual religion. For example in the scripture Mahabharata we find Krishna teaching the following essential moral principle:

      “It is difficult to grasp the highest understanding [of morality]. One ascertains it by reasoning. Now there are many people who simply claim ‘morality is scripture.’ Though I don’t oppose that view, scriptures do not give rules for every case.” He then goes on to say, “Morality is taught for the progress of living beings. Morality [dharma] derives from the act of sustaining [dharana]. Thus authorities say that morality [dharma] is that which sustains living beings. The conclusion is that whatever sustains is actually dharma.”

      Thus Krishna teaches that moral principles are to be determined in a dynamic that includes reason and revelation. Revelation may be divine or it may arguably derive from science as well. In either case it must be reasoned about in order to determine the moral good of the hour. Harris makes some good points but his overall argument suffers from his misunderstanding of religion and the attempt to quantify that which is not quantifiable. It is objective to the extreme, and we are at least 50% subjective and arguably more so.

      • When you say this is a misunderstanding of religion what do you mean, when you say the word religion, can you define this term for me? The Mahabharata has about 100,000 verses; you are quoting an ancient text that was written around 400 BCE. When you say morality is scripture and that you do not necessarily oppose that view what do you mean? Do you mean that your scripture is the only one that has validity? Are the truths proposed in the Mahabharata absolute?

        When you state that revelation can be divine or scientific this sounds completely contradictory to me. These are two distinct systems from two different time periods in history how does one compare to the other? It is interesting to me how it transpires that the many gods of Greek and Roman history are relegated to the annals of mythology but the words of the Bible and the Koran are considered absolute by many in today’s society. What do you think of the Bible and the Koran, are they the absolute decrees of the true word of god?

        Can you give me some specific precepts of moral behavior in Hindu philosophy I would like to try to understand the context of which you are speaking? When you say we misunderstand religion please explain in more detail why?

        When you speak of Dharma as morality or the natural order of things is it not influenced by a person’s age, caste, class, occupation, and gender, when we speak of dharma we find a similar view in Buddhist doctrine in terms of the universal laws of nature and the doctrines of Buddha , are they the same?. How can one religion be right or wrong when compared to another religion? You cannot claim that they are all the exactly the same? If they are not all ‘true’ then someone must be wrong.

        If religion is comparable to a diverse bowl of nuts and someone picks up one piece of nut and claims this is the only true nut, it is the only one that tastes good and all the others are false nuts. What does it say about the one nut? What does it say of your experience when you reject all the other nuts in the bowl and claim this is the only good nut to eat? How do you claim superiority of one above the others?

        • Let me cite your words that I commented on once again:

          I would rather adopt a system that does not claim to be perfect, that has the capacity to change than submitting my moral compass to rigid immovable systems such as religion.

          My point was simply that religion properly understood is not a rigid immovable system that claims to be perfect. It claims that perfect or comprehensive knowledge, knowledge that can make one perfectly happy, cannot be arrived at by imperfect means: the finite cannot know the infinite unless the infinite chooses to reveal itself to the finite out of its infinite capacity. It believes that life is purposeful and that consciousness is not merely a brain, and it offers a methodology to experience this.

          Thus I obviously believe that religion is misunderstood by many religious people as well.

          I cited Krishna in Mahabharata to demonstrate that his position on morality was not rigid and inflexible. And so it is will all religious texts at heart, despite being misunderstood by religious adherents. Such texts promote the idea that moral principles that are ontologically grounded make for a better moral system than one that is not ontologically grounded. I agree with that.

          • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rq1QjXe3IYQ
            This is the discussion on the ontological foundations of morality. Here are some comments, which arose as part of the discussion on this video.

            I watched the long video yesterday. I will comment more in detail later.
            First of all “objective” is a overloaded word and I was not happy with the way Harris tries to use it. I would have liked Sam Harris to say that once we have set the objective of maximizing “the objective function defined as overall well being of homo sapeans as we know them now”, science can help us determine the landscape that will lead to the best area under the curve much better than religion can do. However, like Weinberg says, ” The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless…” I don’t know why Harris is worried about admitting it is a subjective concern of human being we are maximizing (the universe is indifferent to that concern) and then we can be “objective” about choosing from the different alternatives available. Again there are difficulties on issues like using euthanasia on on old person to provide organs for 5 young people. Harris says it involves breach of trust and will have long term consequences. I tend to feel it is so hard to really quantify these things. It is a complex mesh.

            So Craig may have a good point that there is no objective ontological ground for moral good (especially for duties and obligations) without God. However, the alternative that is objective (the divine commandments in religions that have to be followed blindly), lead to lesser states of well beings than we could accomplish in the society through our modern sense of well being according to Harris. In ten minutes, we can make a better sense of morality than the bible by removing sectarian and sexist references. So choose between an objectively grounded morality that leads to lesser well being (if there is no scope of changing the morals according to time,place and circumstance) or a subjective grounded morality with more chances of well being. That is if there is anything like choice in the system of Harris. I think the state legal system can be designed keeping Harris’s moral landscape in mind and that will accomplish the desired goal of human well being. I tend to go with the Socratic or Kantian view that good needs to be done for its own sake and flexible legal systems (that may pick and choose things from religion, secular society keeping well being of humans in mind) maybe required to draw out the good from most people. Also there is no “free will” in Harris’s world view nor in some religious systems like the dvaita of Madhva(http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/compatibilism/ It would be misleading to specify a strict definition of free will since in the philosophical work devoted to this notion there is probably no single concept of it. ) The only way to draw a different output from people with prior biases given by their body/brain/mind system is to supply huge amounts of information from outside that force the brain output to change for many people. Some people’s brain may not be elastic enough to change because of strong prior bias.

            On the whole, I felt there was a lot of playing of words by both sides. In Wittgenstein’s words, these are language games. Obviously, humans will be concerned about the well being of their own species even if it is meaningless to the universe. The need to live with some kind of meaning is hard wired in the brain and creating a society of secular humanism is a purpose that is driving Harris and Dawkins and keeping them occupied. That keeps their well being intact, though the underlying universe is meaningless . You have to find some pragmatic purpose to retain good brain states even though those brain states mean nothing from the standpoint of some other species or material nature. Other species will desire their own good brain states. Unfortunately, humans feel that their brain states are more important than the well being states of other animals 🙂 and there is no objective reason to think so.

            Anthropocentric-ism is the idea both religions and Harris have and what else can be done. We are humans and we have to care about our well being. 🙂

  15. wow, I forgot about this place; wonder why my email decided to remind me of it now. Oh well, it was fun here.

    @ Grahame:- What people really mean when say that have misunderstood religion is that, easier to say that than accept religion is faible, because once accept that, religion itself (as in not just those prasticsing it but teaching as well) becomes somewhat redundant. I mean how do you think most Artheists are born haha.
    -As for your point about objectifing morals, sadly I feel the enlighenment period proved the folly of such an ideal. Maybe we can prove the variables which contribute to weight and value we place on our decisions, but at end of day, Gaura is right to the point that all our beleifs are blurred by subjectivity. (Gaura, I am sorry if I have misread your comments and you were not making more indepth and stronger form of that comment.)

    @ Gaura, while I agree the term objective is overloaded and used in that too many people claim to know something, when they believe it and that the fact subjectivity is something humans cannot escape as the utility problem nicely examplified. I must claim this point that everything is unprovable is wrong in that it comes from fundemental and base misunderstanding of the idea of what existence really is. Existence doesn’t need to validate what it is, to know it is something, if that makes sense.

    NOTE=also I am sorry for my spelling, I am currently in a part of England which it seems only just discovered that computers exist and therefore illogically the machine I am using is so old that lacks even a spell checker to save us all from my dyslexia haha.

    • I did not see everything is unprovable. For example it is certain that in human experience and methods sun is x miles away from the earth and we can more of less objectively demonstrate that within some error bounds though some religious people can say that senses are defective and the results are relative compared to the distances or age of the earth derived from the scripture. I don’t know what to say for that. However, aesthetic experience of the transcendent is subjective and we can qualitatively compare different spiritual experiences, but we assign a quantitative value and prove that this experience is 2.56 times better than the other. How do we do that? We will to assign a value to an agreed notion of experience. Sam Harris is trying to do that using an objective function of maximizing (which is subjective to human life) overall states of happiness for humans and assessing the goodness of an activity based on that foundation assumption. Religion have an objective function of pleasing God (theistic religions) or realizing yourself (Buddhism or advaita vedanta) and judge an activity according to that foundation. But you have to start with some foundation and then move on.

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