Can materialistic science answer life’s big questions? |317|

Discussion in 'Skeptiko Shows' started by Alex, May 27, 2016.

  1. Ah true, fair enough. The show title's a misnomer for sure.

    As for super heroes, it's just a modern fiction on archetypal ideas humanity seems to come back to. It doesn't have anything to do with Laird's beliefs, I just like Kirby is all. :)
     
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  2. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    Remember I am just expressing a possibility - not asserting anything. Isn't it possible that in this life they might change their mind, but when they can see the full picture they would feel satisfaction - I don't know. All I really want to point out is that there is a the seeds of the idea that people agree to suffer right here with people on the Earth - so is that magnified when they get the full picture?

    Really I think we may not know enough to be able to judge it all. For example, what is it like to enter a timeless realm - we can't really judge from that perspective!

    David
     
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  3. Maybe it's just revisiting Kirby and his (IMO) New Gods successor Grant Morrison but I've been wondering about Universe A & Universe B recently...

    [​IMG]

    ...Though Gordon White brought it up recently as well.
     
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  4. Laird

    Laird Member

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    What could be satisfactory about knowing that an omnipotent God could have saved you from ghastly suffering, and supposedly loves you enough to desire to do so, but did not? What "fuller" picture could alter the answer to that rhetorical question?

    That presupposes the necessity of suffering in the first place - but what could necessitate it given an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God?

    Well then we certainly don't know enough to give God the qualities of omnipotence, omniscience and omnibenevolence. Do we?
     
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  5. Laird

    Laird Member

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    I see this as essentially the metaphysical backdrop to such a scenario as described by George Orwell in his book, 1984 (from which I quoted earlier).
     
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  6. Laird

    Laird Member

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    Just to come back to this: the original question was at once broad and specific. The broad question was, "Can a generally 'scientific' approach be applied to 'the big questions'?", but the specific one was, "Which model, when approaching in 'scientific' model-fitting terms the 'big question' of why we are incarnated, best fits the data?", and I think that we have been in this discussion addressing that specific question. You seem to be suggesting that the best fit is Christianity, and I am suggesting that it is ditheistic moral dualism. We don't seem to be approaching it particularly scientifically, but hey, a good back-and-forth can later be distilled into a more rigorous analysis.
     
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  7. gabriel

    gabriel New

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    The original question was can materialistic science answer life's big questions. It depends what those questions are and what denotes proof. If it's that consciousness may be capable of existing outside the body, then it would require one well-attested veridical case to convince neutrals. Materialist science requires a mechanism, not just exemplars, and not only mechanisms, but ones consistent with materialism. In such a closed metaphysic it's difficult to envisage materialism answering such questions. Even if anomalous information were collected, or an object could be moved without physical contact, it would tell us nothing about the nature of survival or the mechanics of quantum connectedness - if indeed it is a quantum effect.

    Alternatives to scientific materialism is a vast subject and I don't feel minded to move beyond that deficiency into vying forms of belief.
     
  8. Laird

    Laird Member

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    Mmm, yes, well, the choice to include "materialistic" in the title was the publisher's (Alex's); the article itself is concerned simply with a "broadly 'scientific'" approach, admitting that at this level, the lines between "science", "philosophy" and "generally rational thought" are very blurry - after all, Western science started off as a branch of philosophy.

    I thought the article made it clear that the big questions were not so much questions of parapsychology or the relationship of consciousness to the body but more fundamentally existential questions: what is this place in which we find ourselves and why are we here? Who, if anybody, put us here, and how did that being come to exist? Etc etc.
     
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  9. gabriel

    gabriel New

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    If that was the original question, the chances of providing an unequivocal answer on an internet forum are slim. I don't contribute to promote Christianity, or even to answer why I find it compelling, but to address the more obvious misrepresentations of it. The disparity between its theories and practice over the previous millennia are sufficiently challenging, without making things up about it.
     
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  10. Yeah, Darkseid could very easily be described as personification of 1984.

    Based on my prior comments in this thread I'm still wary of thinking that any being has to be inherently Good or Evil....however it does seem arguable that if you have conscious entities interacting with limitations you can have shifts toward either pole. And if an entity could literally feed on suffering or even immorality whole "spirit nations" could shift...getting us to Alice Bailey's Black & White Lodges...

    (Which isn't to necessarily suggest Bailey really did speak with ancient Tibetan masters, but rather that the same archetypal story shows up yet again. Though as per Michel's excellent thread on the Imaginal, the line between fiction and reality may be as blurry as subject/object & mind/matter...)
     
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  11. hypermagda

    hypermagda Member

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    But may I ask you a very straightforward question, given that you are a Christian: why in YOUR very personal opinion did the creator God you believe in create beings capable of extreme evil, and / or why does he choose not to protect at least the innocent from them? Example: this couple but certainly their 3-year old son. I make this example (I could have made gazillions more) because I'm truly interested in how you are able to deal with something like this and still love and worship your God and be grateful for his creation. Since he's omnipotent, why did he choose to create a world with beings capable of this? And why in your opinion does he not intervene to protect the innocent at least? Thank you in advance for your reply.

    http://www.foxnews.com/world/2016/0...e-to-isis-kills-french-police-chief-wife.html
     
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  12. Alan Amsberg

    Alan Amsberg New

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    I don't know the answer and I don't want to diminish the horror of the example. But there is a possibility that sometimes some are "spared". For example, handicapped children.

    Below is the words of a purported angel talking to Frank Oski (from http://www.near-death.com/paranormal/angels.html):

    "The angel (I don't know what else to call her) said that life is an endless cycle of improvements and that humans are not perfect yet. She said that most people have this secret revealed to them when they die, but that handicapped children often know this and endure their problems without complaining because they know that their burdens will pass. Some of these children, she said, have even been given the challenge of teaching the rest of us how to love. It stretches our own humanity to love a child who is less than perfect," said the angel. "And that is an important lesson for us."

    Just a data point. I am not trying to prove any point.
     
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  13. hypermagda

    hypermagda Member

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    Why would some be spared while other not and, even more importantly, why is there such a system where we need to "learn lesson" in such horrific ways (see Laird's brilliant intro to this thread for a confutation of this consolatory but unprovable and frankly disconcerting theory)? Why would an omnipotent God make holes (imperfect beings) in order for us to fill them (to become perfect)? Why, if he's omnipotent (as those who believe in the Christian God maintain), did he choose to create such imperfect beings (among other imperfect things)?
     
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  14. Alan Amsberg

    Alan Amsberg New

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    All good questions. I merely present the data point. I have the same questions. I don't have an angel in my dining room to ask (and God never returns my emails).
     
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  15. hypermagda

    hypermagda Member

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    It's very ahem... "generous" of you to call that a data point.....
     
  16. Alan Amsberg

    Alan Amsberg New

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    We all would like some straight answers to these difficult problems. I have often wanted an angel in my living room to give me some straight answers. Frank Oski is an interesting example because:
    -He seems a credible guy.
    -He asked an important and difficult question.
    -It would appear he got a straightforward answer.
     
  17. hypermagda

    hypermagda Member

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    Yes but there are lots of people getting lots of different "answers" often in contradiction with each other. Also, for me this is not an answer at all because we are not given an answer as to WHY it has to be so, even if things were as this (purported) angel (allegedly) said. Basically he just said: it is as it is, just learn your lessons in pain and shut up.
     
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  18. Arouet

    Arouet Member

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    In these discussions the focus is often on the value of human suffering in order to learn certain lessons, but I think we need to remember that humans are only a tiny percentage of living creatures on this planet. We're a tiny fraction of the number of life forms. Even accepting for the sake of the argument that there is a positive benefit that can come out of the life lessons humans learn on earth, we have to ask: at what cost? For the vast majority of non-human living creatures life is a constant predator prey battle for survival. Even within our own bodies there are billions upon billions of life forms (bacteria) in a constant battle for supremacy. And even if creatures like bacteria don't actually suffer, there are plenty of living creatures who do have much more awareness and must be on guard for being eaten and must look out for other creatures to eat. And this has gone on for millions of years. This planet saw a tremendous amount of suffering before the first human showed up.

    At what point should one say: no matter how much my spirit may benefit one day from the lessons I learned on this harsh planet, it's not worth it if it's built on oceans of suffering.

    Think about this: say upon death you are presented with two options: enjoy the benefits that you have earned and learned forevermore or give up those benefits and suddenly all life forms on earth able to meet all their energy needs simply through drinking water and absorbing sunlight, saving all future generations of all life forms from needing to survive by eating one another (put aside for the thought experiment issues related to overpopulation and the like).
     
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  19. EthanT

    EthanT Member

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    Couple thoughts on all this. First, seems like this is always phrased like it's ALL on God, because "He" is "omnipotent". (Really, it's the Western interpretation of God, as some omnipotent old bearded man in the sky, which begs this question as much as it does). On the other hand, if any of us believe (i) there is a God (any God) AND (ii) we have free will ... well, we showed up on scene, so despite the morally confusing appearance to life, somehow we ALL signed up for this by the fact we're here.

    I think Eastern thought is better at getting to the heart of this (while still leaving something to be desired ...) Good/Evil, especially the way they're being talked about here, rely heavily on Cause/Effect. Both those pairs of opposites are dependent on before/after, or existence in linear time (like all pairs of opposites, really) . I'm of the opinion, God is beyond linear time. (Aren't most of the forum members on here of similar opinion?) God ultimately transcends the tension of opposites, which are characteristic of the experience of linear time, i.e. being incarnated in the flesh. So, it's not like good/evil and the acts thereof can be added on to creation, or removed, like some bonus feature when shopping for a car. They are a direct ramification of signing up for the experience of being alive. This is where things happen, this is where things are hashed out.

    The artistic depictions of the Gods in India cover all this fairly well, like the following. "The following piece of Indian art from 8th century AD also illustrates all of these ideas. It is of Shiva Maheshvara - the personification of the fullness of the Absolute. The two heads on either side are male and female, and are representative of all pairs of opposites. The head down the middle is the ground of all being beyond all pairs of opposites, but also the eviternal source from which they all spring"

    [​IMG]


    Depending on your perspective - as one who is incarnated, or as viewed from the "eviternal source" - this issue may even fade away. I think my post demonstrates that depending on your interpretation of reality (meaning which religion you are more, or less, predisposed to take with some truth) this issue may be of greater, or lesser, importance to the individual. (Of course, all religions are referencing the same transcendent reality. We just get too wrapped up on the symbol, rather than what it's referring to)

    So, I'm not even sure the right question to ask is, "Why is Evil allowed in the world". It pretty much has to be here (to greater, or lesser, extents). So, maybe better question would be, why did we choose to participate in the first place? What exactly are we getting out of this experience?

    Even there, I think the answer might be summed as simply as ... we're here for the experience. Is there a rational answer to an experience that transcends the rational? According to many (all?) mythologies, life does just that. Is this what the Buddha meant when asked during the famous Flower Sermon, 'What is the Meaning of Life", and he just held up a flower? What is the meaning of a flower? Why did God create flowers? Is there a rational answer to that question? Because, there are an infinite number of questions like this one could ask about "creation". None of them really have a rational answer from what I can tell. Perhaps the reason the Buddha used no words in answering. Only one Monk was said to have understood and achieved enlightenment that very moment.

    Since we're all still talking about this, I'm assuming we haven't quite hit Nirvana yet ;-)

    This all relates to Indra's Many Jeweled Net too, another theme that can touch on this. When you see a flower, a flower implies water, and soil, and the Sun, and even the Big Bang itself. Everything in life, implies everything else. Hot implies Cold. Male implies Female. Before Implies After. Cause Implies Effect. And, yes, Good implies Evil. And, it goes on and on and on. It's all Interdependent and connected (like Indra's Net). It's still the Big Bang Banging. Each Now is a moment of Interdependent Creation, which we all take part in, creating what we see out there in the world, including all the Evil (and Good). It's a participatory Universe, as Quantum Mechanics seems to hint at to some extent.

    Anyhow, I've blabbed on long enough ...

    (EDIT: Wow, that photo turned out huge. Sorry!)
     
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  20. gabriel

    gabriel New

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    I think you'd have to go further back and ask why a supposedly benevolent God makes creatures that have to die at all? Whether we expire under a hail of bullets or misjudging the height of a step, at the age of 104 or in the first hours of infancy, the most diverting factor is we all biologically die. From a material perspective it's game over, the best you can hope for is bug food and fertiliser, and some materialists promote that as a noble exit and wax poetic on its benefits and the conceit of anything grander. I demur from tar and canker for the roses (Sir Henry at Rawlinson End) as the best of all possible outcomes. Does compost contain the dreams of Shakespeare, Einstein and Aquinas? It requires unusual cynicism to believe it so, which does not mean it's not true of course.

    An alternative point of view is that death is not the worst that can happen. Saints, mystics and heroes have forfeited their lives on nothing higher than principle. There was an example of a German soldier in WW2 (whose name escapes me for the moment) who was charged with the job of executing villagers in the East suspected of resistance. It was reprisal obviously, a back off warning as everyone knew the individuals had been randomly selected and in all likelihood had nothing to do with events. Rather than see such retribution exacted, even in the insane logic of war with hundreds dying each day, he chose to put himself before the firing squad and save a single innocent life in the line up. From a materialist perspective this is simply madness. It was war and if they didn't die someone else would, but our German found living in a world of disproportionate and unwarranted violence a worse prospect than succumbing to a bullet from a fellow soldier. History is full of such heroism/futile gestures.

    If death is not the worst but as some NDE accounts suggest, the best kind of homecoming, why are we here? I have no idea. Any answer would be on a human scale from the limited purview of thinking I know what's best for me, a comfortable existence marked by success, affection and good health before dying quickly at a great age would be most peoples' preferred life story. We know enough to say that is the exception rather than the rule, even in the West. Elsewhere such a life is the preserve of a tiny minority. Many thinking people come down on the idea of life as a kind of school, or possibly a boot camp. Again, I have no idea why this might be. Perhaps attaining perfection is an uphill struggle in which we must lose all earthly attractions, some historic deal struck on our future reflected in the legends of The Fall, the first stage in knowing what we truly are? The alternatives are limitless. Whatever myth you choose, alien transpermia, multiverses, the ascendance of the ape, Eden, it requires a sufficiently compelling backstory to provide comforts in the best and worst that life can throw at us. Whichever it is it seems there has to be something, even if only scientific progress for its own sake and academic jousting on the journey into darkness, because the pressing meaningless of impending nothing is too bleak a prospect for limitless mind to absorb uncontested by hope.
     
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