Sunday, February 10, 2013

Thoughts on the last post



**Note: Lent begins with Ash Wednesday this week! 
Go here for a brief Lenten rules refresher!**


Soooooo…

The 400+ comments on the last post attest to the liveliness of the debate, most all of it respectful! It's a fascinating read, and I encourage you to sit down with a cup of tea and read through the comments if you have time. Be sure to hit the "load more" link at the end of the first two hundred comments, and thereafter, to access them all.

Some comments really stood out to me, deserving of a second posting, so I'm reviving the old and rarely used meme:





First, a comment from our own Dr. Stacy Trasancos to Andre, an agnostic, on the question of whether the "brain" and the "mind" are different:
Catholic doctrine says man is created of body and soul. The body (which includes our brains) processes sensory data. The soul is comprised of our intellect (also called the mind) and will (also called the heart). Those two powers are what allow us (unlike all other animals) to reason, to think rationally, to choose to love or not love, to do good or evil. 
Therefore, as Catholics, we do acknowledge that the mind is not 100% a manifestation of the brain. It is affected by the brain (i.e. being hungry will also make us grumpy), but no matter what sensory data we receive, we can override it with our intellect and will because they are immaterial things that exist beyond the body. 
You can't have it both ways. Either you've got the gift of free will and free thought, or you don't. But if you DO, then you must think of higher things beyond yourself, and seek the truth of where that gift came from because your soul is eternally responsible for your choices. 
This is a tough question to confront, but seeing yourself as more than a slave to your body is true freedom, and once you start to understand yourself and others in this way, so much about human behavior starts to make sense. 
"And unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required…"

Isn't that beautifully simple? Not simplistic at all, but simple.

Stacy did it again later in the conversation, when speaking to an atheist, Longshanks (slightly edited here):
Longshanks, 
There are huge problems with your philosophy, which only highlights the travesty of how Descartes’ philosophy is twisted. 
“I think, therefore I am.” 
You describe that each of us makes up our own objective morality based on Descartes' one-liner. While that may be how your mind in retrospect thought it worked, it is not how the human mind really works. 
A newborn's first rational thought is NOT, “Gee, I exist! I can think. I am me, the someone that I am, is me.” No, they start out noticing the world around them, per Aristotle. They receive sensory data (I am hungry, I am cold, I am sleepy, I want my mommy) and they process it, eventually moving beyond the imagination (which is mental images of things sensed) to conceptualizing things with their intellect. (It is worth noting many adults today do not even know how to control their imagination so they can exercise their intellect.) 
http://www.acceptingabundance.com/atheism-and-the-wild-imagination/
Only after some maturity does a child become able to, for instance, forego a meal even when he’s hungry to charitably give it to another person who is starving. 
So, what you describe as the path to discovering objective morality is flawed. If that were true, no one would need to raise children and teach them to be virtuous and sometimes self-sacrificing for a greater good.

Using your interpretation of philosophy, they could just as easily grow up to be tyrants because they have convinced themselves that everyone else really did want to be ruled by them. 
Descartes (who should have stuck with mathematics) tried to describe the mind-body as dualistic, sort of like his coordinate planes. The mind is one thing. The body is another. What you’ve got is the opposite of our friend, Andre, who has admitted he’s a zombie because he's not sure he has a soul. 
With Descartes you have a mind that knows truth independently of the body and its senses, and you have people, like yourself, trying to fit your whole life into “I think, therefore I am” when you do not actually even remember your first thought. (Hint: It wasn’t that.) 
That philosophy leads people to assume, again as you did, that you can know all truth by consulting your mind and listening real hard. 
What we actually do is more as Aristotle described, and later St. Aquinas elaborated on in connection with Catholic theology. We are body and soul, inextricably intertwined. The senses feed the mind, and the mind can move beyond them. We saw circles, we discovered pi using our intellect. 
Objective morality lies outside of us. It is something we stand under, look up and try to rise toward. That is what we call “understanding.” 
What is the danger in going down the road of “objective morality is whatever I think it is”? We’re supposed to seek higher things beyond ourselves. The people who think they are in charge of objective morality are the ones in danger of the delusion that they are god.

If you didn't soak that all in the first time, read it twice, slowly, like I did. (And we didn't even have to pay tuition!)

To my mind, the most jarring comment from an atheist on the thread came after many folks on both sides referenced "meaning" in one's life vs. the "meaning" of life. I often stress the concept of "ultimate meaning" when making a point about human life in a theistic vs. atheistic world, and it has often caused confusion. This comment by Longshanks helped me understand why:

Who cares about "ultimate meaning?" 
That phrase doesn't make any sense to me...

To which I responded:
Exactly. And it is everything to me. So, we hit upon the irreconcilable difference between the atheist and the Christian. (And why we often talk right past each other.)

The idea that a man would not care about the ultimate meaning of life is a foreign concept to me. And aside from God's grace, I don't know how to bridge that gap.

But all in all, it was a worthwhile discussion (even though I'm not sure the questions in the original post were answered?), and when I am rested up (oh, in about six months!), perhaps we can have another go at some of these great philosophical divides separating atheists and Catholics. 

+++++++

I will leave you with an excellent clip from Fr. Barron's Catholicism series (which you know I love for the number of times I've plugged it!).

If I remember correctly from watching the DVDs, the section below picks up right after Fr. Barron debunks the false image of God that our atheist friends like to present as the Christian God (a straw man that really derails productive discussion). As Fr. Barron explains, "God is not one being among many. God is not the highest being: God is the sheer act of 'to be.' God is the ground where we are being created." Did you get that? God is not some big man in the sky that just happens to be the strongest, biggest man hanging around the universe, despite the popular conception.

I wish there were access to that part of the video online, but this subsequent clip will have to do. I think you will like it:



Have a wonderful week as we begin the Lenten season!




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59 comments:

  1. I knew the comments had started off slow the first few hours of that day, and I didn't think a discussion had come about of that post. And then the next day that I checked in, it was already past 100 and then more so every time I checked! I love the discussion, and you're right, it was refreshing that it was respectful on both sides, even if those sides were not agreeing with one another. It's so nice because we (the spectators), who may also want to read along, don't feel distracted by snarky remarks that often ruin the discussion with hurt pride and feelings. So thank you for that to basically everyone that joined in the discussion!

    As for Stacy's comments, I loved it. I will re-read it again, as my mind processes information slowly :-) But as you said, she said it very simply and yet the simplicity does not take away the depth of it's meaning. Great job, Stacy!

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  2. BTW, not to get off the subject, but I just heard that the Pope has resigned???

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  3. That debate really helped me to sharpen my thinking. I'm going to read a lot of the links people posted and the book by Kevin Vost. I want to be better prepared next time around.

    On your OP, I think only Ashley argued for more beauty in atheism. While I understand the reasoning behind her position, I didn't find it convincing.

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  4. Leila,

    This whole round-up is a great example of why I - and I assume some of the other voices - choose to end our dialogue with you.

    Before I even address the quotes you used, I have to point out something that I feel really is representative of your greatest “sin” in these discussions, your constant effort to rephrase things:

    “Stacy did it again later in the conversation, when speaking to an atheist, Longshanks (slightly edited here):”

    I’m sorry, that might not seem to be a large issue on it’s own (though I’ll point out where I think it’s important below), but in the context of your other repeated attempts to put words into mouths, and otherwise draw ridiculous conclusions, it’s a big problem. I know we’re not writing dissertations here, but it’s not intellectually honest to do editing without both indicating where you’re editing and explaining why you’re editing. That you’re editing the writing of somebody who supported your argument is doubly suspicious (though might make more sense in a bit). I mean, at the end of the day, it’s your blog, do whatever...but I’m just telling you that should be a red-flag.

    ---

    On to the quote from Stacy addressing me re: the separation of mind and brain (PS, Stacy, if you feel I’m misrepresenting you here at any point, please correct me).

    For context: Stacy had been trying to establish whether or not I thought the ‘mind’ was material, I granted that it wasn’t, and then she asked me how I thought something immaterial could be measured empirically. Being relatively certain I understood the broad scientific view of gravity, I answered that while gravity was immaterial, its effects on the material could be measured empirically.

    Here are relevant quotes leading up to the one in question:

    S: “No, they would say that gravity can be measured using matter. They can “believe” gravity exists because they can see objects fall and measure the rates. Again, it’s empirical (observable and measurable).

    We are talking about the “mind.” You say it is immaterial. You say it can be measured empirically, but you don’t say how. How? How do you empirically measure the mind if it is the immaterial product of the material brain?”

    [These seem like strange questions to ask. In response to my naming what I feel is a pretty clear and accepted example on an immaterial phenomena that we can measure empirically, she seems to not accept that gravity itself is immaterial, and/or sees no way this could be applied to the case of the mind.]

    Cont...

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  5. A: “I would say you can measure aspects of the mind empirically by observing the impacts that certain states of mind can have on the brain, through the various neuroimaging techniques we have.”

    S: “Yes, somewhat. If someone says "I'm happy" you can measure brain activity and look for patterns. That is neuroscience. But (sorry to be insistent) it really doesn't explain what you (or Sam Harris) think the "mind" is, and that's what I'm trying to get out.”

    [Again, if I’m wrong about this, please correct me, but science can’t really tell us what gravity ‘is’, right? We have a working knowledge of how it affects other things, how it relates directly to mass, and how to predict/model those effects...but we don’t know what gravity ‘is’ outside of that. I don’t see Christians positing supernatural aspects to gravity.]

    S: “Is the mind a complete function of the brain? [Bolding hers]

    To clarify, or ask another way: Is there any aspect of the mind that is not a manifestation of the brain?”

    A: “I mean, ANY aspect? I don't know, and I don't think anyone could ever claim to know that as a certainty. For the purposes of this discussion, I will say that I don't think there's any evidence so far to support the idea that the mind is anything other than a manifestation of the brain.”

    S: “Thank for that answer. You don't know for sure, but you're leaning to "mind is complete manifestation of the brain."

    Here's why that question matters:

    If the mind is not 100% a manifestation of the brain, then there is a spiritual aspect to us, something beyond our matter.

    If the mind is a complete manifestation of brain matter (atoms and molecules obeying the laws of physics), then we have no free will to choose what to think, and we can never be free-thinkers.”

    [As I’ve made clear, I’m no neuroscientist. However, from the little I know about what science is telling us about the mind/brain, the two positions she posits concerning whether or not the mind is a complete manifestation of the brain are not accurate reflections of the fields’ best theories.]

    S: “Catholic doctrine says man is created of body and soul. The body (which includes our brains) processes sensory data. The soul is comprised of our intellect (also called the mind) and will (also called the heart). Those two powers are what allow us (unlike all other animals) to reason, to think rationally, to choose to love or not love, to do good or evil.
    Therefore, as Catholics, we do acknowledge that the mind is not 100% a manifestation of the brain. It is affected by the brain (i.e. being hungry will also make us grumpy), but no matter what sensory data we receive, we can override it with our intellect and will because they are immaterial things that exist beyond the body.
    You can't have it both ways. Either you've got the gift of free will and free thought, or you don't. But if you DO, then you must think of higher things beyond yourself, and seek the truth of where that gift came from because your soul is eternally responsible for your choices.”

    [Again, I’m not sure science would take such a black-and-white approach to the notion of free will, and I’m certainly not bound by her evidence-free notions. If Stacy wants to rely on what Catholic doctrine has to say to try to make a point about how I should feel about neuroscience...I don’t know what to say, other than I don’t think she’s making a great argument as far as science is concerned.]

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  6. Now we get to the part where I fold in my criticism of your selective editing.

    Here’s your version of Stacy’s response to Longshanks, followed by Stacy’s actual response, with the edited lines noted:

    Edited:

    “There are huge problems with your philosophy, which only highlights the travesty of how Descartes’ philosophy is twisted.
    “I think, therefore I am.”
    You describe that each of us makes up our own objective morality based on Descartes' one-liner. While that may be how your mind in retrospect thought it worked, it is not how the human mind really works.
    A newborn's first rational thought is NOT, “Gee, I exist! I can think.”

    Original:

    “There are huge problems with your philosophy, which only highlights the travesty of Descartes’.
    “I think, therefore I am.”
    What you describe wouldn’t make sense to any parent who has raised an infant. While it may be how your mind in retrospect thought it worked, it is not how the human mind really works.
    I can tell you firsthand that a newborn's first rational thought is NOT, “Gee, I exist!”


    Now you might not think these are important distinctions, maybe just jazzing things up a little for effect. However, I’m not sure that was your only intent, and the bolded bits are especially egregious to me. With me, Stacy had been arguing strongly for the notion that the mind is immaterial and thus unmeasurable empirically. With Longshanks, she turns around and claims that parenthood has afforded her the ability to know (firsthand!) what a newborn’s first thoughts are. She is now able to measure her newborns immaterial mind. At least, that’s what she says in her actual post, which would seem to contradict much of what she’d gone to some length to establish with me (unless maybe parents are given this knowledge by spiritual means). In the version you present, we see that the 1st bolded sentence has been swapped out for something completely different. Not only that, you rephrase the 2nd bolded sentence to remove claim that Stacy had firsthand knowledge of her newborn’s mind. This is slight editing? You’ve taken what was previously a strange and (to my knowledge) undocumented phenomena about parents being able to read their newborn’s minds, and altered it to the point where it seems Stacy is merely making a general claim about the likely way our minds develop from infancy. Again, maybe it’s just a happy accident that Stacy no longer seems like a telepath thanks to your edits, but it is sketchy. You don’t seem to be doing these things to gain the clarity you’re so often boasting about, you seem to do them to twist things for your purposes.

    I did find it quite amusing that Stacy’s might have actually thought my exasperation with her was a real admission that I was a zombie (along with your embellishment of the same “because he's not sure he has a soul” - definitely never said anything about a soul), I had missed that in the previous post.

    Anyways, long story short, maybe this will help you understand why so many people you argue with just give up. It’s got nothing to do with your actual arguments, and everything with how poorly and disingenuously you do so. You don’t do your cause any good this way, and the people who share your views don’t do you any good by not calling you out for it.

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  7. Looks like the formatting didn't carry over for the bolding, sorry. Hopefully you'll be able to figure it out.

    Good night!

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  8. Andre, for your information and so that nothing is misrepresented, when I told Stacy I was reprinting her comments, she asked if she could edit and clean up the one about Descartes. I had nothing to do with the edits, and none of the edits change the meaning of her points. She had written the original, as she said, while wrangling a three-year-old. I can sympathize! I agreed to let her, and I also left the original comments in the combox, untouched, for anyone to see. Nothing has been hidden, and the sentiments are the same.


    Blessings!

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    Replies
    1. I did find it quite amusing that Stacy’s might have actually thought my exasperation with her was a real admission that I was a zombie (along with your embellishment of the same “because he's not sure he has a soul” - definitely never said anything about a soul), I had missed that in the previous post.

      Sorry, what does this mean? I couldn't find my words that you have in quotes attributed to me?

      Delete
    2. Sorry, I didn't mean to hit reply on that, above.

      I also wanted to say that you might take note of the fact that the first thing I said in this post was that readers should grab a cup of tea and take time to read through all the comments. I certainly would not have said this (and left the offending comment stand!) if I were trying to pull anything over on anyone.

      Don't you agree that would be counter-productive?

      My point in posting her comments here (one slightly edited by her) was not to show the entire debate as it played out, but to get the readers to think about some of these philosophical points themselves. I thank Stacy for her brevity and clarity. I learn a lot from her. And yes, I learn from my secular readers, too.

      Delete
  9. Leila,

    "Andre, for your information and so that nothing is misrepresented, when I told Stacy I was reprinting her comments, she asked if she could edit and clean up the one about Descartes."

    Oh, now you tell me. That's cool, in that case the specific criticisms of the editing go to her. The lack of citing the nature and reason for the edits can be shared between you two, and the overall criticism of your habits of rephrasing remains.

    "I had nothing to do with the edits, and none of the edits change the meaning of her points."

    I think I point out exactly how they change things.

    "She had written the original, as she said, while wrangling a three-year-old."

    Perhaps I was wrestling a bear, what's the point?

    "I agreed to let her, and I also left the original comments in the combox, untouched, for anyone to see."

    Oh good, you didn't erase the paper-trail. You're really going above-and-beyond with that.

    "Nothing has been hidden"

    If that had been the case, we wouldn't be having this exchange.

    "and the sentiments are the same."

    Have we retreated to the sentiments now?

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  10. Leila,

    "I did find it quite amusing that Stacy’s might have actually thought my exasperation with her was a real admission that I was a zombie (along with your embellishment of the same “because he's not sure he has a soul” - definitely never said anything about a soul), I had missed that in the previous post.

    Sorry, what does this mean? I couldn't find my words that you have in quotes attributed to me? "

    Quite right, it's now clear (?) that these were part of Stacy's "edits", not yours.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Andre,

    Here's an explanation of the edits. They were for clarity or to remove repetitiveness.

    -----

    Longshanks,

    There are huge problems with your philosophy, which only highlights the travesty of how Descartes’ philosophy is twisted. [Was: Descartes’ (edited because it sounded as if there was a problem with all of Descartes' philosophy, and it really is just a problem with how people, unaware of his fuller philosophy, misuse that one line)]

    “I think, therefore I am.”

    You describe that each of us makes up our own objective morality based on Descartes' one-liner. [Was: What you describe wouldn’t make sense to any parent who has raised an infant. (Changed for clarity since LS's original comment isn't included)] While that may be how your mind in retrospect thought it worked, it is not how the human mind really works.

    [Was: I can tell you firsthand that (unnecessary words)] A newborn's first rational thought is NOT, “Gee, I exist! I can think. [Was: omitted I can think (I can think is part of the one-liner, needs to be included)] I am me, the someone that I am, is me.” No, they start out noticing the world around them, per Aristotle. They receive sensory data (I am hungry, I am cold, I am sleepy, I want my mommy) and they process it, eventually moving beyond the imagination (which is mental images of things sensed) to conceptualizing things with their intellect [Was: i.e. beyond the imagination (repetitive)]. (It is worth noting many adults today do not even know how to control their imagination so they can exercise their intellect.)

    http://www.acceptingabundance.com/atheism-and-the-wild-imagination/

    Only after some maturity does a child become able to, for instance, forego a meal even when he’s hungry to charitably give it to another person who is starving.

    So, what you describe as the path to discovering objective morality is flawed. [Was: What you describe as objective morality is flawed.] If that were true, no one would need to raise children and teach them to be virtuous and sometimes self-sacrificing for a greater good. [Removed: They are rational beings, capable of learning and understanding, but they need parents to guide them. (repetitive)]

    Using your interpretation of philosophy [Was: Without that (unclear)], they could just as easily grow up to be tyrants because they have convinced themselves that everyone else really did want to be ruled by them.

    Descartes (who should have stuck with mathematics) tried to describe the mind-body as dualistic, sort of like his coordinate planes. The mind is one thing. The body is another. What you’ve got is the opposite of our friend, Andre, who has admitted he’s a zombie because he's not sure he has a soul. [“Because he’s not sure he has a soul” added for clarity]

    With Descartes you have a mind that knows truth independently of the body and its senses, and you have people, like yourself, trying to fit your whole life into “I think, therefore I am” when you do not actually even remember your first thought. (Hint: It wasn’t that. [Was: It wasn’t “I am.” (repetitive)]

    That philosophy leads people to assume, again as you did, that you can know all truth by consulting your mind and listening real hard.

    What we actually do is more as Aristotle described, and later St. Aquinas elaborated on in connection with Catholic theology. We are body and soul, inextricably intertwined. The senses feed the mind, and the mind can move beyond them. We saw circles, we discovered pi using our intellect.

    Objective morality lies outside of us. It is something we stand under, look up and try to rise toward. That is what we call “understanding.”

    What is the danger in going [Was: “No – we don’t want to go (unclear)] down the road of “objective morality is whatever I think it is”? We’re supposed to seek higher things beyond ourselves. The people who think they are in charge of objective morality are the ones in danger of the delusion that they are god.

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    1. Stacy,

      In the instances I cited, what you did wasn't clarification or simplification. You fundamentally changed the meaning of what you said. You went from a self-contradicting telepath, to something completely different.

      Delete
  12. Leila,

    "I also wanted to say that you might take note of the fact that the first thing I said in this post was that readers should grab a cup of tea and take time to read through all the comments."

    Maybe everyone read all +400 comments, or at least the ones in question, or maybe they didn't. That's why it's important to cite when changes have been made.

    "My point in posting her comments here (one slightly edited by her)"

    Again, you call them "slightly edited", but those edits changed things in important ways and we've been afforded no reason why.

    Anyways, if for no other reason than to not sit through massively long, blowhard responses from the likes of me, it might behoove you to be more upfront when re-posting comments with edits.

    Love,
    Zombie Dre

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    Replies
    1. "...it might behoove you to be more upfront when re-posting comments with edits."

      More upfront than saying this is a comment with edits?

      Delete
  13. Andre,

    I've had the free will discussion with many atheists, including those who claim to know about neuroscience. I've read what the atheists neuroscientists argue, I've studied Catholic doctrine, I've formed my conclusions carefully.

    I've never met an atheist who could explain free will and free thought. All have conceded that if our minds are 100% a function of our brains obeying the laws of physics that there is no free will.

    It perplexes me how anyone can think freely (as freethinkers claim to do) if they cannot chose freely what to think about.

    You ducked out of the conversation with a flippant response about being a zombie, which followed several appeals to your not being a neuroscientist.

    Yes, sorry, I took your response to be a signal that you were done with the discussion since you made a joke rather than a serious grappling with the issue.

    I do take this issue seriously because neuroscientists have argued that we do not have free will, and therefore, citizens who think in ways destructive to society are criminal without being able to control it, and should be treated as such. I've also had many atheists tell me that religious thinking should be eradicated. Add that with the mega-phoned cry that religious people are bad for society and perhaps you understand why I take the issue from these so-called freethinkers seriously.

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  14. Stacy,

    “You ducked out of the conversation with a flippant response about being a zombie,

    I was the one ducking questions? How many questions of yours should I be expected to answer when you seemingly:

    -don't think that gravity is an immaterial force that can be empirically measured
    -don't think the same could conceivably be done with the mind
    -do think that free will is all-or-nothing
    -posit that science (so often known these days for the black-and-white stances it takes on things) thinks it's nothing (care to cite the scientific consensus on this?)
    -cite only your discussions with atheists as evidence of the above

    I argued in good faith for as long as I could, and longer than I cared to.

    “which followed several appeals to your not being a neuroscientist.”

    Yes, how odd that I should not claim knowledge I don't have. I realize this trait puts me at a great disadvantage.

    “Yes, sorry, I took your response to be a signal that you were done with the discussion since you made a joke rather than a serious grappling with the issue.”

    In response to me questioning your all-or-nothing view of free will, you responded with “You are like a talking dead body. I couldn't even trust you to tell the truth.” If one were to look for signals of somebody being done with the serious discussion of the issue, I think they might start there, if not earlier.

    “I do take this issue seriously because neuroscientists have argued that we do not have free will”

    Fantastic, care to show your work? On the science I mean, I don’t really care what Catholic doctrine says.

    “I've also had many atheists tell me that religious thinking should be eradicated. Add that with the mega-phoned cry that religious people are bad for society”

    Shall we play the game of which group is more historically marginalized (the believer vs. the non/other believer)? Shall I tell you the various reasons I was told I was going to hell growing up?

    ReplyDelete
  15. Andre,

    Funny, you accuse me of saying things I did not, even after you quoted my actual response above. Why would you do that?

    According to you I think this:

    -don't think that gravity is an immaterial force that can be empirically measured
    -don't think the same could conceivably be done with the mind"

    According to what you quoted me as saying, I actually think this:
    http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2013/02/thoughts-on-last-post.html?showComment=1360649425343#c3583283135891315291

    I never said gravity was material, I said we study the effects of gravity by measuring the rate of falling objects. And in the part you quoted from me above, I said that to some extent we can measure the effects of mental states (being happy) on the brain.


    "-do think that free will is all-or-nothing"

    Again, please read the quotes you took issue with in this original post. The state of the body affects the will, but the will can override it. Thus the description of a child sharing a meal with a starving person even if he is hungry.


    "-posit that science (so often known these days for the black-and-white stances it takes on things) thinks it's nothing (care to cite the scientific consensus on this?)"

    No, it is your fellow atheists and neuroscientists who posit such a thing. I disagree with them.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/victor-stenger/free-will-is-an-illusion_b_1562533.html


    "-cite only your discussions with atheists as evidence of the above"

    Would you rather I pull stuff out of my...ahem, would you rather I make up stuff that was never my actual experience?

    "Yes, how odd that I should not claim knowledge I don't have. I realize this trait puts me at a great disadvantage."

    It seems you were not even willing to do a Google search to gain some knowledge about what you were dismissing.


    "On the science I mean, I don’t really care what Catholic doctrine says."

    If you don't really care what Catholic doctrine says, then never, ever again try to argue against it. That makes about as much sense as someone denying evolution ever occurs because they "don't really care" what the experts say. Not a terribly impressive way to conduct arguments.

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  16. Andre,

    "Shall we play the game of which group is more historically marginalized (the believer vs. the non/other believer)? Shall I tell you the various reasons I was told I was going to hell growing up?"

    I was told such things too. The thing is -- I'm a grown up now. I questioned what I was told, and instead of saying "I don't really care" or implying I can't be bothered to read the opinions of experts outside my own expertise, I began a search for truth so I could form my own opinions on substance rather than emotions.

    ReplyDelete
  17. To be fair:

    "-do think that free will is all-or-nothing"

    I did say either we have free will or we do not. It is true, you must pick one. That is not to say that nothing ever affects our will, even though we can override it with our intellect.

    And I stand by that.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Stacy, thanks for painstakingly going through the edits like that (I know you have a ton of little kids running around, and I know how hard it is to find the time and patience to get something like that done!). I think it's clear to most readers now why the edits were made, although I don't think most folks were concerned in the first place. (If I learned that my quickly-typed comments were being used in a post of their own to teach the readers something about philosophy, I would have cleared up my writing, too; I remember my 9th grade wonderful English teacher, Mrs. Kolb, repeating endlessly: "Omit needless words!" and "brevity is the soul of wit!" Wish I followed that more closely!)

    And now that I know that at least one reader took your original words to mean that you actually believe yourself to be telepathic, I am even more convinced that the edit for clarity was a very good idea. (But I still think 99% of folks knew that's not what you were implying there.)

    Andre, my apologies, I should have said, "The ideas are the same" rather than "sentiments". I think most folks understood my point, but I am happy to clarify for those who did not understand. And strangely, I am reminded of the Brady Bunch episode when Greg Brady decides to live by "exact words"! Thanks for the memory and the smile. :)

    ReplyDelete
  19. Andre,

    When you posted that hour long video of Sam Harris, and I stopped three minutes into it (though I watched most of it later) to ask you the question about defining the "mind" it was because Sam Harris argues that we have no free will. He wrote a book on it. When he said we needed a growing scientific understanding of the mind, I rightly wanted to know what you thought that meant.

    You brought up neuroscience, linked a neuroscientist's lecture to give an explanation of what you believe. I guess I thought that meant you were ready to have a discuss things related to that topic.

    This is from the Victor Stenger link above, he also references Sam Harris:

    "Is free will an illusion? In his recent book titled Free Will, neuroscientist Sam Harris pulls no punches. He tells us in no uncertain terms: "Free will is an illusion." We don't exist as immaterial conscious controllers, but are instead entirely physical beings whose decisions and behaviors are the fully caused products of the brain and body."

    Care to weigh in on that? Was I insane for attributing the claims of the man you cite as representing your beliefs to your beliefs? Or did you link to a lecture given by a man whose views you haven't really considered? Were you appealing to an authority without trying to understand what that authority really thinks? I'm trying to make sense of your response here.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Andre, just a couple lines above the "sentiment" line, I said this:

    "I had nothing to do with the edits, and none of the edits change the meaning of her points."

    So I'm even more convinced that most reasonable people understand exactly what I meant.

    You've taken all this time and energy to imply that Stacy actually thinks she is telepathic, or that the edits for clarity and brevity are a conspiracy to change meaning and trick the reader, but why don't you respond to something still unanswered (and actually compelling), like Sharon's last comment to you?

    ReplyDelete
  21. Perhaps I was wrestling a bear, what's the point?

    The point is that if you were wrestling a bear (or a third-grader), you might not have had time to edit cleanly at that moment of writing, or check for redundancies.

    "Nothing has been hidden"

    If that had been the case, we wouldn't be having this exchange.


    We are only having this exchange because you see conspiracy where there is none. Show me where anything has been hidden? Everything from the OP remains exactly as it always was (nothing was hidden or swept away), and the new post includes the very obvious notation that the comment has been edited.

    Hidden means "Kept out of sight; concealed."

    I've kept what out of sight? I have concealed what?

    This is a very odd conversation.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Leila,

    "but why don't you respond to something still unanswered (and actually compelling), like Sharon's last comment to you?"

    I'd make a joke about free will, but my body overrode my brain and forced me onto a bus against my will. Relax, make yourself some tea, I'll respond in my own time. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Sounds good, Andre! And, my chemicals are going downstairs to have breakfast now… ;)

    ReplyDelete
  24. /LOUDEST OF SIGHS

    Stacy,

    First, I linked to the Sam Harris video in response to somebody asking me what my framework for objective morality might be. I linked to said video which was primarily focused on his notion of a ‘moral landscape’. I also made clear that this was an approximation of my views, not that you could merely substitute all of Harris for all of Boillot. You chose to latch onto something he says early in the video and try to hold me to that. I’ve gone back and rewatched the beginning, Harris does say something to the effect of: science can tell us a great deal about human values, and that what we mean by values, questions of good/evil, has to rest in the context of a growing scientific understanding of the mind. He doesn’t mention free will in the early section (I’ve not rewatched the entire video), and in any case, I was using the video as it related to moral frameworks.

    ---

    “According to you I think this:

    -don't think that gravity is an immaterial force that can be empirically measured
    -don't think the same could conceivably be done with the mind"

    Here I do owe you an apology. That was bad. I mistook your insistence to get my views on what the ‘mind’ is (in spite of my admitting a lack of expertise), and more broadly science’s inability to define exactly what the ‘mind’ is. In light of my trying to point out that we don’t know exactly what ‘gravity’ is, I crossed some wires. Those were not your thoughts.

    Cont.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Stacy,

    “"-do think that free will is all-or-nothing"

    Again, please read the quotes you took issue with in this original post. The state of the body affects the will, but the will can override it. Thus the description of a child sharing a meal with a starving person even if he is hungry.”

    I was referring to this:

    “If the mind is not 100% a manifestation of the brain, then there is a spiritual aspect to us, something beyond our matter.

    If the mind is a complete manifestation of brain matter (atoms and molecules obeying the laws of physics), then we have no free will to choose what to think, and we can never be free-thinkers.”

    I don’t know how else to take ‘either we’re spiritual and have free will, or we’re not and have no free will’. That seems all-or-nothing.

    ---

    “No, it is your fellow atheists and neuroscientists who posit such a thing. I disagree with them.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/victor-stenger/free-will-is-an-illusion_b_1562533.html”

    You take an article about the neuroscientific view of free will and reduce it to “Free will is an illusion”. Here’s what else it says:

    “But here's some consolation. Even though at the quantum level there is no rigid determinism, the compatibilists are correct in viewing the operations of the brain as causal processes. They also make another good point when they argue that even if our thoughts and actions are the product of unconscious processes, they are still our thoughts and actions. In other words, "we" are not just our conscious minds, but rather the sum of both conscious and unconscious processes. While others can influence us, no one has access to all the data that went into the calculation except our unique selves. Another brain operating according to the same decision algorithms as ours would not necessarily come up with the same final decision since the lifetime experiences leading up to that point would be different.
    So, although we don't have libertarian free will, if a decision is not controlled by forces outside ourselves, natural or supernatural, but by forces internal to our bodies, then that decision is ours. If you and I are not just some immaterial consciousness (or soul) but rather our physical brains and bodies, then it is still "we" who make our decisions. And after all, that's what the brain evolved to do, whatever role consciousness might play. And, therefore, it is "we" who are responsible for those decisions.
    And that's what it all boils down to. Who cares whether we call an action "free will" or not?”

    Cont.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Stacy,

    S: “which followed several appeals to your not being a neuroscientist.”

    A: "Yes, how odd that I should not claim knowledge I don't have. I realize this trait puts me at a great disadvantage."

    S: “It seems you were not even willing to do a Google search to gain some knowledge about what you were dismissing.”

    You misunderstood, I wasn’t dismissing neuroscience, I was explaining my repeatedly noting that I wasn’t an expert in the field you seemed bent on cross-examining me on, and a field I didn’t think a Google search would make me an immediate expert on.

    ---

    “If you don't really care what Catholic doctrine says, then never, ever again try to argue against it.”

    Deal. Promise not to bring up Catholic doctrine as if it had relevance to science? What I was pointing out was that, if we’re having a scientific discussion about the nature of the mind, I care not what the Holy Church has to say. Just like I don’t care what it has to say about gravity. You brought it up originally as an alternative view to the scientific one. Also, this is the closest I came to arguing against Catholic doctrine (on this topic):

    S: "How can we have free will if our minds are manifestations of our brain matter obeying the laws of nature?"

    A: How can you have free will if you're born broken and in sin?

    I would say I have as much control over my actions (in light of my genetic pre-dispositions), as you do over yours (in light of your original sin).”

    ---

    “Was I insane for attributing the claims of the man you cite as representing your beliefs to your beliefs? Or did you link to a lecture given by a man whose views you haven't really considered? Were you appealing to an authority without trying to understand what that authority really thinks? I'm trying to make sense of your response here.”

    I think I covered most of this above. To reiterate, no I don’t think you’re insane, but I do think you took a video I meant as an approximation of my views on one topic - of how to construct science-based moral frameworks - and instead took that to mean I agree with what Harris says about a different topic - free will. I’m much less familiar with his thoughts in this area, and with what science tells us about it in general.

    I’d like to apologize again for my error re: your views on gravity, I have no idea how I get that.

    Fin

    ReplyDelete
  27. Andre,

    "You chose to latch onto something he says early in the video and try to hold me to that."

    >>>No, I asked you what you thought he meant by "mind."

    "I was using the video as it related to moral frameworks."

    >>>That has everything to do with free will. Sam Harris wrote a book title Free Will. His position is that free will is an illusion, and that our understanding of that affects everything in life, especially moral frameworks. His position is that the mind is 100% a function of the brain. Maybe you did not know this when you linked the video, which is why I asked.


    "Here I do owe you an apology."

    >>>Thanks. No problem. Lots of comments to keep up with. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  28. Andre,

    "I don’t know how else to take ‘either we’re spiritual and have free will, or we’re not and have no free will’. That seems all-or-nothing."

    >>>OK. I do not see how it can be otherwise.

    "You take an article about the neuroscientific view of free will and reduce it to 'Free will is an illusion'."

    >>>That was not my summation. That is the title of the article given to it by the atheist Ph.D. neuroscientist and best-selling author. It is also the conclusion of Sam Harris.

    To this quote:

    ~~~“But here's some consolation. Even though at the quantum level there is no rigid determinism, the compatibilists are correct in viewing the operations of the brain as causal processes. They also make another good point when they argue that even if our thoughts and actions are the product of unconscious processes, they are still our thoughts and actions. In other words, "we" are not just our conscious minds, but rather the sum of both conscious and unconscious processes. While others can influence us, no one has access to all the data that went into the calculation except our unique selves. Another brain operating according to the same decision algorithms as ours would not necessarily come up with the same final decision since the lifetime experiences leading up to that point would be different.

    So, although we don't have libertarian free will, if a decision is not controlled by forces outside ourselves, natural or supernatural, but by forces internal to our bodies, then that decision is ours. If you and I are not just some immaterial consciousness (or soul) but rather our physical brains and bodies, then it is still "we" who make our decisions. And after all, that's what the brain evolved to do, whatever role consciousness might play. And, therefore, it is "we" who are responsible for those decisions. And that's what it all boils down to. Who cares whether we call an action "free will" or not?”~~~

    Here's what that says in plain English:

    ~~~Our thought and actions are the sole result of our brains. (He calls them Newtonian machines later in the article.) Even so, we own them, so a person's thoughts and actions belong to him alone, and he is responsible for them.~~~

    Now, let's pretend such an atheist is in charge of law enforcement. Let's pretend he believes religious people to be dangerous because they oppose abortion. Let's pretend he even calls them terrorists for thinking unborn children should be protected.

    What does this person of authority say to himself? Something like this: "That religious person is a danger to society, but can't help it. It's his brain, which means he will never be able to change his dangerous behavior, which means that we have no choice but to incarcerate him to protect society - or better yet, kill him."

    That -- Andre -- is precisely what he means and it is precisely why I argue with people like you who have not fully thought through the consequences of your developing convictions.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Andre,

    "You misunderstood, I wasn’t dismissing neuroscience, I was explaining my repeatedly noting that I wasn’t an expert in the field you seemed bent on cross-examining me on, and a field I didn’t think a Google search would make me an immediate expert on."

    >>>I do not expect an expert. I expect a serious examination of the claims of people you cite.


    "Deal. Promise not to bring up Catholic doctrine as if it had relevance to science?"

    >>>No deal. Your ignorance of the history of science in no way obligates me to agree to unreasonable terms. :-) (Not trying to be snarky, I don't know how else to put it.)



    "To reiterate, no I don’t think you’re insane, but I do think you took a video I meant as an approximation of my views on one topic - of how to construct science-based moral frameworks - and instead took that to mean I agree with what Harris says about a different topic - free will. I’m much less familiar with his thoughts in this area, and with what science tells us about it in general."

    And to reiterate, you cannot separate the two, free will and morality.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Stacy,

    ">>>I do not expect an expert. I expect a serious examination of the claims of people you cite."

    How long do you think a serious examination should take, I mean, after I go look up these quite simple issues we've been discussing on Google. In the middle of several other conversations I'm having? And, because Harris also makes claims about free will (which I absolute agree is related to morality), I need to go seriously examine those claims too...because I what I said was "I agree 100% with Sam Harris on this, and everything else he's ever written about." Eh?

    "Your ignorance of the history of science in no way obligates me to agree to unreasonable terms."

    Let's grant that I'm massively ignorant of the history of science (though I would hope that's overstating it at least a tad), tell me again what bearing Catholic doctrine has on the scientific study of the mind?

    ReplyDelete
  31. Andre,

    How long? No specific time, a few days isn't too much to ask I think.

    I learned this simple rubric designing experiments in the lab (from an atheist professor).

    Imagine a 2x2 grid.

    Top left: Correct question, wrong test
    Top right: Correct question, correct test
    Bottom left: Wrong question, wrong test
    Bottom right: Wrong question, correct test

    If you spend time one three of those boxes, you waste time. Only one will advance your search for truth (which science is).

    That's why I full-stop on the mind question. Not one step further until we decided whether it is just the brain, or something beyond it. I could spend 20 years researching an assumption that the mind is the sole product of the brain, and I could come up with a lot -- but it would all be meaningless if it were untrue.

    It's a self-defeating argument anyway. If we don't have a free mind beyond the brain, then we aren't even able to examine that claim freely and determine whether it is true or not.

    "...tell me again what bearing Catholic doctrine has on the scientific study of the mind?"

    In a nutshell...

    The study of the mind used to be an extension of the whole person, as defined by Catholic theology. Since the 5th-6th century the word for person has been developed from the understanding of the revelation of the Holy Trinity, an individual substance of a rational nature. (See Boethius, the Christian martyr)

    Long before "science" as we know it today became the field of matter and motion, it was a word that referred to any and all bodies of knowledge, united under theology. (Science comes from the Latin scientia, which means knowledge)

    That's where the University got its name - universitas, student and teacher united, bodies of knowledge united, because God made us with intellect and will, to know and learn and love and serve.

    The disciplines of psychology and psychiatry (from the word phyche, adapted from Greek for person) developed under that understanding of the human person as a body possessing a rational soul, an immaterial and free mind.

    To approach neuroscience (a branch of biology which is supposed to only deal with the nervous system, a material thing) as if it will give us answers to our souls (minds), and heal us is to reduce the human person to an individual substance of an irrational nature, like any other ass. (Well, that's how St. Thomas put it!)

    I acknowledge that you, me, and all the rest of us are more than Newtonian machines (and asses). Thus, I refuse to accept your deal that I pretend modern neuroscience, having lost its mind, ought to be taken seriously without any regard for the history of Catholic doctrine. :-D

    ReplyDelete
  32. Stacy,

    "How long? No specific time, a few days isn't too much to ask I think."

    Harris has written 5 books. Even if we assume each examines only one discrete concept, we're talking a minimum of...hang on now...you know this isn't my forte...carry the two...AH HA!: Many days of serious examination before you think I can hold up Harris' view of a moral landscape as something that approximates my own thoughts? Gotcha, will do. See you in weeks.

    "In a nutshell...

    The study of the mind used to be an extension of the whole person, as defined by Catholic theology. Since the 5th-6th century the word for person has been developed from the understanding of the revelation of the Holy Trinity, an individual substance of a rational nature. (See Boethius, the Christian martyr)"

    It's well know that science still holds to much, nay most, of what it thought in the 5th-6th centuries. God reveals himself slowly, you see.

    "Long before "science" as we know it today became the field of matter and motion, it was a word that referred to any and all bodies of knowledge, united under theology. (Science comes from the Latin scientia, which means knowledge)"

    This is getting good. I'm going to go look all the big words up later. After I consider everything you mention for a couple of days, of course.

    "That's where the University got its name - universitas, student and teacher united, bodies of knowledge united, because God made us with intellect and will, to know and learn and love and serve."

    Careful, students and teachers 'uniting'...that's a touchy subject. Sorry, poor choice of words. Delicate topic. Shoot, I mean...nevermind.

    "The disciplines of psychology and psychiatry (from the word phyche, adapted from Greek for person) developed under that understanding of the human person as a body possessing a rational soul, an immaterial and free mind."

    And we've made no advances since!

    "To approach neuroscience (a branch of biology which is supposed to only deal with the nervous system, a material thing) as if it will give us answers to our souls (minds), and heal us is to reduce the human person to an individual substance of an irrational nature, like any other ass. (Well, that's how St. Thomas put it!)"

    Oh look, mind = soul now, and St. Thomas is the best understanding of the mind we have today.

    "I acknowledge that you, me, and all the rest of us are more than Newtonian machines (and asses). Thus, I refuse to accept your deal that I pretend modern neuroscience, having lost its mind, ought to be taken seriously without any regard for the history of Catholic doctrine. :-D"

    I think most of the time one could swap out 'understanding' from your quotes and insert 'non-scientific assumption' in order to get a much better picture of where things in retrospect. Modern neuroscience doesn't seem, even from what little I've read, to reduce us to mere Newtonian machines.

    Snark aside, you point to the history of a lot of concepts which are interesting and important in terms of charting the early progress of knowledge, but most of which, along with the notions of humors and spirits, have no relevance in modern science. As Longshanks mentioned, they were our first and crudest attempts to understand the world, and many are best now remembered for how inaccurate they were. We should no more hold those concepts, or those who authored them, in contempt than we would a child learning to walk. However, show me the scientific discipline that continues to rely on Catholic doctrine, and has not moved on to offer a better reason for the way things are.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Andre, your last comment instantly brought to mind the words of Dr. Kevin Vost, former avowed atheist, doctor and professor of psychology, and "a Research Review Committee Member for American Mensa, which promotes the scientific study of human intelligence". He wrote on my blog:

    As for the "new atheists" who are popular today, when I've read their books I've been stunned by their lack of awareness or acknowledgement of the wisdom of the past. They seem to think reason came into the world when they attained their own reasoning capacity in their own teenage years. I remember in 2010 when an atheistic group put up an anti- Christmas billboard in New York, their message included a phrase about their group being "reasonable since 1963." I thought I'd like to see a billboard from the Catholic Church stating "reasonable since 33."

    I find a huge intellectual hubris or overweening arrogance among some of the new atheists. They dismiss religion despite the slimmest acquaintance with religious history and its philosophical and theological underpinnings that have the deepest roots in human intellectual history. Ironically, at the same time, they promote the idea that truly smart and well-educated people do not believe in God. Forgive me for quoting myself, but I summed it up this way in From Atheism to Catholicism: "How grand it must be to so confidently declare that the profound questions which so taxed the greatest minds in human history are mere child's play for one's own."


    Thoughts?

    ReplyDelete
  34. Leila,

    "Andre, your last comment instantly brought to mind the words of Dr. Kevin Vost,
    [...]
    "Thoughts?"

    1) You sure seem to plug this guy a lot, 2) "I thought I'd like to see a billboard from the Catholic Church stating "reasonable since 33." is the FUNNIEST thing I've ever heard.

    I really only had the one thought, but I put two there because the question implies plural.

    ReplyDelete
  35. BORING!!!! This is the kind of "discussion" we used to do in college over a pitcher of beer. Pondering life or belly button lint they call it.

    I don't think anyone has been converted by the 400+ comments. The "discussion" has really been a debate between a few people going on ad nauseum. This is one that should have been aborted (pun intended).

    I don't see how this type of exchange benefits anyone. I am surprised that Andre has had the patience to stick with it this long. There are really better/more productive ways to use one's time. I did not read all 400+ comments; after the first 15 on this post I got bored with the sniping and nitpicking.

    ReplyDelete
  36. 1) Yep, in the hopes that you might at some point have a response (hopefully a rational one) to his thoughts, or that you might one day pick up his book (you know, just to have a good laugh).

    2) Why is it funny? And, is that a thoughtful response to the whole of what he said?

    ReplyDelete
  37. fRED, then why on earth are you reading? My goodness, aren't there other blogs for you, then? Many of us (many) find this kind of discussion fascinating! You should see my email inbox.

    You may want to read the first tab at the top of this blog so that you can be well aware of what we're all about here. Otherwise, you would do well to keep your insulting comments to yourself, or go haunt another blog (you sure do keep popping in, for someone who finds this a complete waste of time).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Leila,
      Thanks for your "kind" words. That's the kind of Catholic spirit that definitely will save souls. The New Evangelization I guess.

      If you think that sniping at and attacking those that don't agree with your perspective is good Christianity, then count me out. You can stay in your little ol bubble but I'm on to see God.

      Delete
    2. Dear fRED, take care! I will not miss your trolling comments, nor your gratuitous, hit-and-run insults.

      Many blessings, and I hope you find the non-boring blog of your dreams. There are so many out there for you to frequent.

      Delete
    3. Wow, Fred! Pop in, rudely insult and poke and then jump back and condemn when the one you attack responds to your rudeness? Then blame Catholicism?! Typical...

      Delete
    4. Wow, Fred! Pop in, rudely insult and poke and then jump back and condemn when the one you attack responds to your rudeness? Then blame Catholicism?! Typical...

      Delete
  38. Andre,

    "Harris has written 5 books."

    >>>See 2x2 rubric. He's wasted his time. Made money, but wasted time. He's advanced nothing but himself, with followers who post his videos but don't even know his basic tenets.


    "It's well know that science still holds to much, nay most, of what it thought in the 5th-6th centuries."

    >>>Like any other discipline, it has built on itself. The scientific method is ancient. Does that render it meaningless?


    "And we've made no advances since!"

    >>>I would argue that advances in understanding and treating mental health have been seriously hindered by ideologies like Harris' and Stenger's that treat the human person as a machine. All you need is medicine if that is true. If we are body and soul, then you need to treat both.

    http://catholiclane.com/a-brief-catechesis-on-mental-illness-and-violence/

    I know the author, he and his wife are friends of mine. In case you don't know what "psychometrician and research statistician in the standardized testing industry" means, it means he designs those standardized tests you have to pass to graduate or become accredited in a field.


    "Oh look, mind = soul now..."

    >>>See the comment Leila copied in the OP. I explained that a long time ago.


    "...and St. Thomas is the best understanding of the mind we have today."

    >>>Oh! I didn't realize you'd read him. Wonderful! Which part are you referring to?


    "Modern neuroscience doesn't seem, even from what little I've read, to reduce us to mere Newtonian machines."

    >>>Harris and Stenger, both atheist best-sellers and modern neuroscientists, do.


    "...continues to rely on Catholic doctrine..."

    >>>I never said it relies on it, I said the history of doctrine has a relevance to science.

    Science is a sphere unto itself with its own methods, but it falls under the umbrella of theology. You surely will disagree, but even atheists let their atheist atheology guide their scientific conclusions.

    But -- why even do science if you don't believe man can freely search for truth?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Science is a sphere unto itself with its own methods, but it falls under the umbrella of theology. "

      Are you making this statement based on a quote from Richard Hooker where he defines theology as the "science of things divine"? The term "science" in latin means "knowledge", in that case, wouldn't Hooker be stating that theology is the knowledge of things divine?
      If that is the case, how would theology, from the greek meaning "God" and "study of" pertain to the sphere of science? I don't see how the two relate nor how science, most notably modern science including the laws of nature, physics and chemistry, could fall under the umbrella of "knowledge of things divine"?

      Thanks for any clarification.

      Delete
    2. Jennifer,

      As promised, but later than promised.

      http://www.acceptingabundance.com/how-does-theology-protect-science/

      Delete
    3. Thank you Stacy. I did read through the entire piece, including the comments. I noted in several responses that you pulled away from the original statement: "Science is a sphere unto itself with its own methods, but it falls under the umbrella of theology."

      Within the comments you responded to Andre:

      "As I’ve repeated, forget the part about science being born from Catholicism. I don’t want to focus on that, I don’t expect any atheist to seriously consider it. I’m not conceding the point (I’m still studying it myself), I’m just smart enough to know when to drop something because it is not conducive to dialogue."

      Would you consider clarifying your original statement, perhaps here or as an addendum to your post on your blog?

      Delete
  39. Stacy,

    ""Modern neuroscience doesn't seem, even from what little I've read, to reduce us to mere Newtonian machines."

    >>>Harris and Stenger, both atheist best-sellers and modern neuroscientists, do."

    Sorry for responding before doing months of research and serious contemplation. Having taken the easy route and merely listened to Harris' give a lecture on free will, it's true he certainly discounts the notion of traditional free will. However, he doesn't argue that this means our choices are meaningless, or that we can't make choices at all, and he certainly doesn't reduce things to a notion of Newtonian machines. A lot of what he's saying is that our choices are either being made by our sub-conscious mind before we're aware of them, or that the range of choices our conscious mind makes is limited by the sub-conscious.

    For example, he asks you to pick your favorite movie. Whatever answer you come up with, your conscious mind likely didn't weigh every movie you've ever seen, so that you might freely decide which was your favorite. The selection you choose from was restricted by something else.

    Now, he could be right or wrong on this (or any number of things), and he and Stenger may, or may not, represent the consensus of modern neuroscience (and Harris is quick to point out another atheist scientist who disagrees with his take on free will). I just don't think you've given an accurate account of what they're advocating.

    "You surely will disagree, but even atheists let their atheist atheology guide their scientific conclusions."

    Yes, it turns out it's quite useful to not wed oneself to assumptions in the face of evidence to the contrary (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYPapE-3FRw).

    "But -- why even do science if you don't believe man can freely search for truth?"

    Well, if I'm bound by your notions and qualifications of what the search for truth is, then I suppose there's no point. Lucky for this zombie, I'm bound by no such notions.

    Anyhow, it's been real, Stacy. I think we're back to the ol' impasse, and fRED is starting to make a little too much sense. Sorry again for misstating your points re: gravity, quite uncool.

    ReplyDelete
  40. I could not read all 400 comments, for some reason I can't seem to find a computer I own or use that will "load more" so I'm confused by a few things.
    Are you arguing that free will is tied to morality or the soul. Or both?
    So is the argument we cannot have free will without a soul, or we cannot have it with a soul?
    And we cannot have a mind without a soul?

    ReplyDelete
  41. Andre, there is and I suspect always will be a bias toward the catholic, and their points. It's to be expected given this is a blog written by a catholic for catholics.

    You did well to stick out as long as you did.

    Leila as for the original post I cannot respond because of previous mentioned cannot get load more to work.

    I know you don't understand why aethist might think living life without a greater meaning is more beautiful, but as you want people to stop and really dig deep I'd have to ask you to do the same now.
    You live this life "morally" because you want a reward. Some of us don't. Wouldn't that lend itself to living unconditionally because there is no greater agenda?

    As I am not an atheist I don't see that either way is more beautiful than the other. I think I'll stick with the sayin "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" on this one.

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  42. Leila, I stopped being able to "load more" yesterday, either.

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  43. Jennifer,

    "I don't see how the two relate nor how science, most notably modern science including the laws of nature, physics and chemistry, could fall under the umbrella of "knowledge of things divine"?"

    I'll write it up on my blog today. It comes from St. Thomas' explanation in the very beginning of the Summa Theologica. Will drop a link here later.

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  44. Alan, hi!

    I only knew your posts were here because someone told me. For some reason I never, ever get your comments in my email inbox. I have no idea why, but it's frustrating to me, and maybe to you, too. I hope you never think I am ignoring you if I don't respond sometimes; that's why.

    Anyway, Nubby gave these questions to pose:

    1) For clarify - does that bolded text above indicate some don't want to live morally? Or some don't want a reward?
    2) Because I'd argue that if people want to live morally, then they are indeed getting a reward. It's built in to operating for the good of self and neighbor already. Moral living is healthy for everyone. There is an inherent reward in "right living". So everyone benefits from moral living.
    3) Clarify "living unconditionally". If there are no conditions, how is that healthy? Living morally means living conditionally. There are conditions implicit to living morally. Restrictions apply. For the good of everyone.
    4) Per his last paragraph, we can all agree that living as an atheist isn't "more" beautiful than living without God, then. Good..
    5) I've still got no satisfactory answer on this whole suffering = morals bit. There is no correlation to suffering equating to any logical, evolved, chemical state of the human brain. Morals aren't biologically inherited.


    I have my own thoughts…. hang on….

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  45. Alan, first: If a Christian is a Christian simply and only to get the "goodies" that come with the ultimate reward, then that's a very low level of morality. So, let's look to the ideal, the highest level of morality, that of the saints. They wanted the "reward" of total union with their Beloved. They love God for love's sake alone. Since they are (and we all are) literally made for union with the Beloved, then it's a very good and rightly ordered thing to long for and strive for this "reward".

    Now, atheists want a "reward" too, but it's a reward on this earth that they seek. For example, why does an atheist architect do what he does? Either 1) for the satisfaction and love of the art and work of it (that feeling of satisfaction and happiness is the "reward" that motivates him), or for the "reward" of a salary, so that he can live a good life, or at least put food on the table. These are "rewards". No one is knocking them, or the desire for the reward.

    Would a sewer worker or a coal miner work if there were no paycheck? Or no satisfaction in the job? No. If there were no monetary "reward" at the end of the day, or no benefit of joy/satisfaction/fun, then of course no one would do those jobs. Who do you know that lives "unconditionally"? I don't know a single person who does. Honestly, I don't even know what that means.


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  46. Jennifer,

    "I noted in several responses that you pulled away from the original statement: 'Science is a sphere unto itself with its own methods, but it falls under the umbrella of theology.'"

    The only thing I will clarify is that I absolutely did not pull away from the original statement.

    I pulled away from a discussion with someone unwilling to challenge his atheist orthodoxy.

    Hope that's clear enough.

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