Alex Tsakiris, Four Questions About the Future of Skeptiko |414|

The interesting thing about this is that what can seem idiotic to us now can also carry a valid message. I do think a lot of stuff being taught or pushed in schools and unis is overly emotive stuff pushed by adults who probably need therapy and a few more years of maturation. I have listened to some of the tortured angst that passes for academic output - and it needs to be recycled via an intellectual compost bin.

But, I was one of the first environmental protesters against the drowning of Lake Pedder in Tasmania in the 1960s. I also campaigned against the Vietnam war and for women's, gay, and Aboriginal rights. At the time I was ridiculed and reviled. These days I am a leader in promoting the rights of people with disability at work - and I recall when that was not a popular or accepted theme.

There's stuff being pushed today that I find awfully done. But that may be because the people who are driving it are young - and what they are saying is full of naive, ignorant and arrogant angst. There is a real problem that there is a generation of over-sensitive 'snowflakes' being created. But I have to reflect that 40 odd years ago we were tough because we had to be, and it does seem that the world at large is still pretty demanding and would chew up and spit out some of these overly sensitive souls. However things are also changing and the world is softer and gentler than it was - in some areas.

As adults I think we can look at today's youth and wonder if they are being well served in their education - but let's distinguish method from content.
There are reasonable people on all sides of the issues. The problem I think is that politicians and journalists spread fear and anger for their own personal gain by representing the extremists on the other side as if they were the mainstream. People get this wrong impression and it affects their view of the opposition and it becomes self fulfilling with both sides at each others throats. Like a third person going between two friends lying about what they said about each other, creating discord, intentionally ruining a friendship.

If the sensible people were left in charge things would be a whole lot better. The link in your other post referred to Jonathan Haidt. His research has shown that conservatives and progressives share the same values common to people of all cultures. What differs is only how they prioritize those values, which values they think are most important. So the differences are minor but because of hate and fear mongering by politicians and journalists we have degenerated to a very sorry state at the present time.

The educational system should be a moderating force, part of the solution, teaching our children to think and listen and see through demagoguery and demonization. Unfortunately it has become part of the problem doing the exact opposite of what it should.

Another big part of the problem in the US is our primary system where political parties choose candidates to run for office. Most people don't vote in the primaries only in the general election to choose between parties. What happens is that the primary voters are mostly extremists and they are the people who decide which candidate from the political party will run in the general election.

So what a person can do, at least in the US, is vote in the primaries and encourage other sensible people to vote in the primaries, and do what you have to give your children a good education even if it means home schooling them. If someone really wants to do more I think they have to get involved in politics.
 
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There are reasonable people on all sides of the issues. The problem I think is that politicians and journalists spread fear and anger for their own personal gain by representing the extremists on the other side as if they were the mainstream. People get this wrong impression and it affects their view of the opposition and it becomes self fulfilling with both sides at each others throats.
It was ever thus, and the sad thing is that it has not improved. It seems that in the USA that polarisation is becoming worse - same here in Australia, but not so much yet. So long as the input content is so facile there is no capacity to engage with an alternative POV and not see it as an existential threat. Now information has become weaponised in aphony moral war I can't see that changing. I read Haidt's 'The Righteous Mind', but not his later books, which I can't get on Kindle or audiobook here.

The educational system should be a moderating force, part of the solution, teaching our children to think and listen and see through demagoguery. Unfortunately it has become part of the problem.

There is a clear sense that the 'Left' dominates a lot of the education agenda - especially in the humanities - and this has led to a deep imbalance. Hence Haidt's notion of coddling is pertinent. There is no balancing development of robustness - which is not about desensitising so much as authentic self-awareness. Some people call it resilience - but its more than that - its not getting knocked over in the first place, rather than getting back up.
 
Medical schools are having problems training surgeons because kids don't develop the required manual dexterity anymore.

https://www.bbc.com/news/education-46019429
"A professor of surgery says students have spent so much time in front of screens and so little time using their hands that they have lost the dexterity for stitching or sewing up patients. "
 
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"Internet applications are designed to make you use them compulsively because the more the apps are used, the more revenue they generate for the tech companies[Greenwald]. But internet apps can reduce your attention span and harm your intellectual capacity.[Hill] Having captured users' attention, internet applications can be used to manipulate public opinion through targeted advertising[Madrigal] and biases in what they show in search results, suggestions, feeds and monetization[Barrett]. Compulsive use of apps is causing mental illness, self-harm[Chuck] and suicide[Twenge]. Computer games designed to make users play compulsively are also killing people who play until they drop dead.[Spragg] There are an increasing number of injuries and deaths from people using their cell phones compulsively while driving or walking.[Stock et. al.] And tech companies have provided terrorist groups with the use of their compulsion inducing platforms for "'spreading extremist propaganda, raising funds and attracting new recruits'" which has led to the murder of innocent victims.[Carbone] The tech companies are culpable because their apps are designed to make you use them compulsively in order to generate more revenue. The tech companies have blood on their hands.
...
Because many internet applications make money from adverting, they are designed to keep people using them for as long as possible. And they use psychological tricks to produce compulsive behavior[Harris]. These tricks include: alert notifications and sounds to get you to use the application, hiding the clock so you can't tell how long you've been using the application, tracking streaks to make sure you use the application every day, auto playing videos to grab your attention whether you intended to watch a video or not, and games may use repetitive music to put users in a trance-like state. "

Sean Parker, the founding president of Facebook, said[Parker]

... The thought process that went into building these applications ... was all about: 'How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?' And that means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. And that's going to get you to contribute more content, and that's going to get you more likes and comments.​
It's a social-validation feedback loop it's like exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you're exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology. The inventors, creators - it's me, it's Mark [Zuckerberg], it's Kevin Systrom on Instagram, it's all of these people - understood this consciously. And we did it anyway.​
...​
God only knows what it's doing to our children's brains.​

Chamath Palihapitiya, former Facebook vice president for user growth was quoted in a article in The Verge[Vincent]

Chamath Palihapitiya, who joined Facebook in 2007 and became its vice president for user growth, said he feels “tremendous guilt” about the company he helped make. “I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works,”​
...​
“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works,” he said, referring to online interactions driven by “hearts, likes, thumbs-up.” “No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth.​
 
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With all the discussion here about religions and Satan, I'd like to suggest that one fundamental error in Abrahamic (and probably many other) religions, may be that they are built around the idea of an infinitely intelligent, wise, and powerful God.

I think this introduces a number of paradoxes:

1) Why would such a god permit suffering.

2) Why does evil exist - he should be able to just wipe it out at a stroke.

3) Why did he take so much time to evolve life on earth? He could have set it up in one big bang.

4) The Cambrian explosion suggests that the design process involved some trial and error - make a number of basic body designs and see which works best. With infinite powers, this would not be necessary.

5) Even the question of the purpose of life gets muddled in issues of infinity. I mean whatever the purpose is, why didn't an infinitely powerful god short-circuit the process and go directly to the desired end-state.

Mathematics has to tread very carefully with ideas of infinity - otherwise contradictions emerge. Perhaps metaphysics does too?

(I think I have raised this idea before, but I don't think it got discussed).

David
 
With all the discussion here about religions and Satan, I'd like to suggest that one fundamental error in Abrahamic (and probably many other) religions, may be that they are built around the idea of an infinitely intelligent, wise, and powerful God.
God is a word invented by humans to represent their ideas about a creator. Those ideas do not necessarily reflect the truth about the creator. There are reasons, other than faith in a religion, to believe in a creator but they do not tell us much about the purposes or characteristics of the creator. I do not base my belief in God on religion. My beliefs come from mainstream scientific data as interpreted by scientists who study intelligent design, and on the reports of people who have had near-death experiences and on communications from spirits coming through evidential mediums (mediums who routinely provide verifiable information that cannot be explained by materialistic means).

http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/p/articles-and-links-arranged-by-subject.html#articles_by_subject_id
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/p/articles-and-links-arranged-by-subject.html#articles_by_subject_god

I would not assert god is"infinitely" anything just "very very very"

And we don't know the purpose of creation.

But here is one possibility. One entity floating in uniform darkness with nothing other that its own consciousness is dull. So using the powers of consciousness (imagination) it begins to create (imagine) and over vast eons of time it creates non-physical realms and also tries many physical universes and eventually learns to create a universe like ours. (I don't know what time means, except it means something different outside the physical universe.)

(I don't know the origin of consciousness)

I see the physical universe as being like a simulation running in the mind of God (consciousness).

Maybe God is all consciousness developing itself by means of an evolving cosmos of beings: (physical and non-physical realms in which conscious beings exist, learn, and evolve).

I think this introduces a number of paradoxes:

1) Why would such a god permit suffering.
Because the non-physical beings that incarnate and suffer do so voluntarily, they desire suffering because it leads to learning and growth of character.

From our perspective as physical beings, we don't understand what it is like to exist as a non-physical being so we cannot understand their motivations and purposes.

The physical universe was created for non-physical entities to have experiences that cannot be had in the non-physical realms.

We don't know the ultimate purpose of it but if there was no suffering in the physical universe it would be no different from the afterlife and there would be no point to creating it.

Personally the suffering I have experienced has made me more compassionate, I have a better understanding of what others are going through when they suffer because I have suffered myself.

2) Why does evil exist - he should be able to just wipe it out at a stroke.
Evil is due to ignorance. If the purpose is development then it is necessary to start with ignorant beings who must learn to grow and develop.

Personally, my own mistakes have taught me forgive others when they make similar mistakes.

3) Why did he take so much time to evolve life on earth? He could have set it up in one big bang.
We don't know the purpose. We don't know for sure he could set it up in one big bang because he is not infinitely anything. Or maybe he could not accomplish the purpose by setting it up in one big bang - if the purpose is development.

Maybe god wants to learn how different fine tuning factors affect the behavior of the universe. Maybe it is not just about life? Maybe different universes are like works of art or demonstrations of something we don't understand. (I am not suggesting an multiverse with an infinite number of universes - I am suggesting each universe is created deliberately)

4) The Cambrian explosion suggests that the design process involved some trial and error - make a number of basic body designs and see which works best. With infinite powers, this would not be necessary.
If there is a continuously evolving hierarchy of beings, when one rises to a higher level another replaces it from below. This would require a continuous training ground for many beings over eons of time. The universe is vast and there may be many worlds with life in addition to Earth.

5) Even the question of the purpose of life gets muddled in issues of infinity. I mean whatever the purpose is, why didn't an infinitely powerful god short-circuit the process and go directly to the desired end-state.


Mathematics has to tread very carefully with ideas of infinity - otherwise contradictions emerge. Perhaps metaphysics does too?
Yes. Not infinite anything, just "very very very".
(I think I have raised this idea before, but I don't think it got discussed).

David
 
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God is a word invented by humans to represent their ideas about a creator. Those ideas do not necessarily reflect the truth about the creator. There are reasons, other than faith in a religion, to believe in a creator but they do not tell us much about the purposes or characteristics of the creator. I do not base my belief in God on religion. My beliefs come from mainstream scientific data as interpreted by scientists who study intelligent design, and on the reports of people who have had near-death experiences and on communications from spirits coming through evidential mediums (mediums who routinely provide verifiable information that cannot be explained by materialistic means).
Spot on from my perspective.
But here is one possibility. One entity floating in uniform darkness with nothing other that its own consciousness is dull. So using the powers of consciousness (imagination) it begins to create (imagine) and over vast eons of time it creates non-physical realms and also tries many physical universes and eventually learns to create a universe like ours. (I don't know what time means, except it means something different outside the non-physical universe.)
This is often stated, but a universe created to relieve boredom seems a bit off.
Because the non-physical beings that incarnate and suffer do so voluntarily, they desire suffering because it leads to learning and growth of character.

From our perspective as physical beings, we don't understand what it is like to exist as a non-physical being so we cannot understand their motivations and purposes.

The physical universe was created for non-physical entities to have experiences that cannot be had in the non-physical realms.

We don't know the ultimate purpose of it but if there was no suffering in the physical universe it would be no different from the afterlife and there would be no point to creating it.

Personally the suffering I have experienced has made me more compassionate, I have a better understanding of what others are going through when they suffer because I have suffered myself.
That doesn't make too much sense, because without suffering, nobody would need compassion for those who suffer.

Perhaps a better answer would be the Buddhist answer - that good and bad are part of a scale - you can't have one without the other.
Evil is due to ignorance. If the purpose is development then it is necessary to start with ignorant beings who must learn to grow and develop
Again you aren't the only one to say that, but it doesn't seem a very satisfactory answer to me. There are people who suffer in ways that none of us can even empathise with - for example, the people who are nowadays kept alive from childhood with awful mental ans physical retardation.
If there is a continuously evolving hierarchy of beings, when one rises to a higher level another replaces it from below. This would require a continuous training ground for many beings over eons of time. The universe is vast and there may be many worlds with life in addition to Earth.
So are you suggesting that after the Cambrian explosion, the creatures that seemed to vanish were moved elsewhere? I.e. that perhaps life was invented here and then moved to other planets?

Thanks for an interesting response!

David
 
Spot on from my perspective.

This is often stated, but a universe created to relieve boredom seems a bit off.
It is impossible for us to imagine what existence is like outside the physical universe and outside the areas of the afterlife we know of which are also created. So when I write "dull" it is really a place holder for motivations that are beyond our conception, except it gives something plausible to fill in the gap in our understanding.

But, I agree "boredom" is not a very satisfying explanation. Maybe desire for knowledge and increased understanding would be slightly better?

That doesn't make too much sense, because without suffering, nobody would need compassion for those who suffer.

Perhaps a better answer would be the Buddhist answer - that good and bad are part of a scale - you can't have one without the other.
I would rather be with compassionate people even if I was in a vacation resort where everything was fun and pleasant.
There is a term for a heavenly place filled with nasty people. It is called hell.
Again you aren't the only one to say that, but it doesn't seem a very satisfactory answer to me. There are people who suffer in ways that none of us can even empathise with - for example, the people who are nowadays kept alive from childhood with awful mental ans physical retardation.
Now it get's a bit complicated but in the non-physical realms, they can share experiences, so one entity can learn from the experiences of another's incarnation.
So are you suggesting that after the Cambrian explosion, the creatures that seemed to vanish were moved elsewhere? I.e. that perhaps life was invented here and then moved to other planets?
I was suggesting creation of life and directing evolution is training for the entities that do it. And it happens on other planets. I would assume there is an end goal of developing organisms like cats and humans for the purpose of souls incarnating in them. But learning to develop those organisms is also valuable so many entities are involved in many planets over many eons.

The trial and error could be evidence of creators in training. But I don't see it necessarily as trial and error. Maybe there is a certain sequence of life forms that are needed the "terraform" a planet. Maybe to develop a planet with life on it that can support humans the most efficient way still takes billions of years.

Even though many people think of God as omnipotent, I think for one reason or another what happens in the physical world is still largely limited by physical natural laws with a few exceptions for intelligent designers.
Thanks for an interesting response!

David
How could we tell if the universe as it is right now was really created five minutes ago including our memories and all the physical evidence of the big bang and evolution (which is provided so spirits can experience incarnating as materialists).
 
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Heaven the way its described in differing Christian sects is incredibly and quite frankly terrifying. You would essentially be an eternal spirit in heaven. Imagine sitting around all day in heaven not as human but spirit. Making random visitations and or floating around, thinking of this from my limited 3D consciousness it would get stale pretty quick.
 
Heaven the way its described in differing Christian sects is incredibly and quite frankly terrifying. You would essentially be an eternal spirit in heaven. Imagine sitting around all day in heaven not as human but spirit. Making random visitations and or floating around, thinking of this from my limited 3D consciousness it would get stale pretty quick.
Alan Watts take on this subject has always made me chuckle.

If you ask theologians about what they think is going to happen in Heaven, they just dry up. “Why, we are going to play harps!” I mean this is a symbolic meaning of that which I could go into, but the average person’s idea of Heaven is an absolute bore, I mean it’s like being in church forever. Children see this immediately, when they hear a hymn like “Weary of earth and laden with my sin I look to Heaven and long to enter in,” they think, “Oh, God! Heaven is to be in church for always.” And they think “Hell is preferable”, at least some excitement is going on. You see it in medieval art, if you go to the Metropolitan Museum in New York you can see Jan Van Eyck’s painting of The Last Judgment, Heaven on top and Hell below. In Heaven everybody is looking like the cat that swallowed the canary, sitting in rows and very smug. God the Father is present and, oh dear, beneath this there is a winged skull like a bat and squirming bodies, all nude, all being eaten by snakes. There are fantastic things going on; but you see, Van Eyck had a ball painting that, because in a medieval way, it was the only way you could get away with painting nudes and sexy scenes, sadomasochistic. So that’s naturally why hell became much more interesting than Heaven.
 
The Satans of old are not the same as the Satans of modern imagination. But that does not make 'Satanism' meaningless or impotent. Magic lore teaches that the imagined forms generated by believers can be inhabited, or used, by spirits whose character is not known.
interesting... I had not heard it put quite that way but it seems fit the data.
 
interesting... I had not heard it put quite that way but it seems fit the data.
Imagined forms on the metaphysical plane can become vessels of expression for spirits. The forms themselves have no intrinsic character or persona with any strength. So an imagined Jesus is just a hollow form that can be used by 'good' spirits to convey uplifting messages that are then mistaken to be authentically Jesus. Likewise imaginings of Satan or Lucifer can be employed by 'bad' spirits to deliver degrading or stupid messages. Not all deceptions are bad.

Mostly, apparently, such imagined forms are impotent and do not attract serious nasty influences - I gather there are agents of interference who inhibit most serious efforts. This is not to suggest that a satanist will not attract low life spirits and be adversely influenced by them.
 
Heaven the way its described in differing Christian sects is incredibly and quite frankly terrifying. You would essentially be an eternal spirit in heaven. Imagine sitting around all day in heaven not as human but spirit. Making random visitations and or floating around, thinking of this from my limited 3D consciousness it would get stale pretty quick.
I once horrified my Christian fundamentalist brother in law by saying that the prospect of being insipidly nice for eternity was my idea of misery and I'd rather go to hell, where things were at least interesting. I especially had no desire to mix with his mob for eternity - that would be my idea of hell.

I was trying to convey to him that a moment's thought would reveal how stupid an idea it was. But he elected to choose umbrage over reflection.
 
"A professor of surgery says students have spent so much time in front of screens and so little time using their hands that they have lost the dexterity for stitching or sewing up patients. "
Mercifully we have robots now. But, seriously, how long would it take to train hands to do that delicate work? I have no idea. Its a real question.
 
Hey Alex, I went back to the beginning to refresh memory on the 4 questions. Where are they? I didn't write them down. I dragged out one about whether we are innately discontent, and can we change that. Let's visit this.

Are we innately discontent? About some things, yes. Might curious not be a better word than discontent? Or does a woven blend of discontents and contents in a community ensure that there is persistent change - as evolution. Consider that our rudimentary political divide is between conservative (content) and progressive (discontent).

It seems to me that our nature is inherently binary. We have contents and discontents. In a larger community the two interplay, and we call that interplay politics. We can see how this expresses in commerce - right down to the expression of chronic consumerism (neurotic discontent). The religious dimension is more complex, and worth an essay I am not going to write here. Suffice to say there is a distinction between contentment of self-satisfaction and the discontent of the urge for deeper self awareness.

Can we change it? Why would we?

What were the other questions?
 
Let's ask why 'such a god' would not permit suffering. Put up a coherent argument to defend that proposition and you are doing very well. I can give a bunch of reasons why 'such a god' would consider suffering necessary. But why suffering might be not permitted stumps me.
Well why would a god randomly assign suffering to people (because it obviously isn't based on any other criterion)? Yes, you can postulate that the suffering is for crimes in a previous life, but I feel we have become used to engaging in tortuous explanations for this puzzle, assuming the God can do what he likes, but maybe the truth is that he only has finite power - it makes a lot of sense.

David
 
Are we innately discontent?
I don't know about "innate", so let's use the term "normal"
three points about this are important to me
1. this is the claim of science as we know it... this is the claim of psychology as we know it.
2. many spiritual traditions claim that we can change.
3. dr. Jeffrey martin's research supports point number two.
 
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