Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A big thinker at Big Think engages in Small Think about religion

One would think that at the Big Think they would know how to do it a little better than this. But this is always the thing with atheists (or skeptics or rationalists or whatever else they call themselves): they don't actually engage in rational thought or discourse; rather, they strike a rationalist pose.

I just want to know when we're going to see these great rational atheistic thoughts we're always being promised instead of the disappointingly vague and logically questionable pronouncements we keep getting.

Derek Beres, one of the resident Big Thinkers, in his "Is Religion the Problem?", writes about the role of the religious mindset in the recent Baton Rouge police shootings:

In many ways, religion is born out of this idea: the soul is what really matters; eschew the physical and focus on the moral prescriptions arising from your prophet (or the ‘voice’ inside your own head).

Well maybe some religions do this, but strangely enough, the most major major world religion, Christianity, is certainly not born out of this idea. Apparently Beres forgot that part about the resurrection of the body and the new Heaven and earth.

But somehow, in some vague sense never actually identified by Beres, the belief in an afterlife constitutes an "ideology" that has some bad influence on people:

... a body is necessary for consciousness to occur. While it is not only our brain producing it, without a body what we term ‘consciousness’ does not exist. Neuroscientists and researchers quibble over what that term actually defines. They do not argue about an ethereal version of it ‘out there’ invading what is ‘in here.’

How could he possibly know that a body is necessary for consciousness? Because all the consciousnesses he knows inhabit bodies? If there was a consciousness that existed outside a body, how could he know it? This reminds me of C.S. Lewis' dialog in which one of the characters asks another how a scientist could possibly know anything about what or whether anything existed outside of nature, given the fact that the only thing scientists study is nature. How can you pretend to know anything about something you, by definition, do not study?

There is also the problem that anyone who denies the existence of anything metaphysical has to have a physical account of consciousness. Well, good luck with that. We're still waiting for some clever materialist to come up with a purely physicalist account of something that is, by definition, not physical.

Don't hold your breath.

He says:

A metaphysical philosophy on what we are always ends in disappointment and, too often these days, violence. The meat and bones of our being is the reality of the planet we share.

Umhmm. Is there, like, any evidence that metaphysical systems are any more conducive of disappointment or violence than non-metaphysical systems? If so, does this evidence include Marxism and Nazism?

And I'm not exactly sure of what we're talking about when we start using expressions like the "meat and bones of our being" being the "reality of the planet." It's not a bad metaphor, but it's not exactly clear what it means. It sounds like some sort of attempt to talk about being (a metaphysical concept) in some physicalist way, but unfortunately, the thought is stillborn.

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