Saturday, August 04, 2007

Point and laugh

Dangerous nonsense, by Christopher Brookmyre:
The notion that faith - belief in spite of an absence of proof or even in the face of compelling contrary evidence - is a form of mental and moral fortitude needs not merely to be challenged, but to be given the full point-and-laugh treatment, so that we can see afresh how this absurdity deserves ridicule rather than reverence.

(h/t to Butterflies and Wheels)

28 comments:

  1. On June 24 I left a rather lengthy comment on my blog which including the following:

    "While there is no reasonable hope for an end of faith, there is much hope that a more enlightened populous will reject those who claim to know anything mystical as an absolute. So my suggestion is to simply snicker at anyone who makes any reference to a personal god. While I like a lot of these folks as individuals, they deserve mild ridicule for their superstitions, and public mockery (at least of the brighter ones) is probably the best way of effecting some level of change."

    I take it that you are advocating the same.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think there's a reasonable hope for the end of faith, just not in our lifetimes.

    And yes, I do advocate a level of public mockery, at least of the more egregious superstitions and claims of supernatural knowledge.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The Bum Said: "I think there's a reasonable hope for the end of faith, just not in our lifetimes."

    Yes, as I was cut and pasting this over to you that's exactly what I was thinking. You are right.

    ReplyDelete
  4. scott gray8/6/07, 3:35 PM

    "The notion that faith - belief in spite of an absence of proof or even in the face of compelling contrary evidence..." this is only one understanding of faith, and not the one most widely held.

    why not ask readers at large what their understandings of faith are?

    mild ridicule and public mockery can be instrumental in conversion (conversion = 'the effecting of some level of change') but is probably not as effective as you might think.

    other strategies are more effective for conversion, if that is really your intent.

    ReplyDelete
  5. What strategies do you suggest, Scott?

    ReplyDelete
  6. scott gray8/6/07, 5:34 PM

    Effective conversion:

    1. care about the people you are converting. Conversion is about your paradigm of truth, but it is also about relationships with others. People listen more attentively if they think you care about their joys and sorrows.

    2. know your subject. To effectively use the authority of the bible, you can’t just cut and paste verses. The authority you experience in the bible is not as evident to others as you might think. the more you know about the historicity, the criticisms (form, redactive, historical), the exigesis, and the original languages (greek and Hebrew) of the bible, the better able you will be to effectively argue from your perception of the bible’s authority and truth.

    3. people are different. I don’t know how you experience conversion, but I bet it’s not the same as 75% of the rest of the world. You have to image yourself in the mind and life of another, to imagine their worldview, before you can ‘say the right things’ to facilitate a conversion in another. That’s why mind games like imagining yourself as an atheist, or a librarian, or a spouse, or the child of an abusive parent, are of value.

    4. know your forum. If you choose to convert others on a debating site, or a blog, know about effective logic, syllogism, and logical fallacies. More people are converted by fallacies than by logical arguments, no matter what thinkers wish were true.

    5. be ready to be changed yourself. If you are truly effective in converting others, through caring about them, through knowing your subject, through imagining the lives of others, and through knowing your forum, you will be changed. If you don’t want your own worldview altered, get out of the conversion business.

    thanks for askin'!!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Scott: These are interesting suggestions. If you were to clean up the punctuation, I'd be interested in publishing your essay on the front page.

    Your comment appears to come from a Christian theist perspective, no? How do you think it would change, especially regarding point 2, from my own naturalistic, atheistic perspective?

    ReplyDelete
  8. scott gray8/6/07, 6:33 PM

    this was a quick dump.

    it was shared with a bible fundamentalist, so the perspective is agnostic-to-christian.

    give me a bit, and i'll make it agnostic-to-atheist.

    ee cummings would disagree with you on the punctuation, but if you must, run it thru a grammar checker.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I'm a big fan of ee cummings; he's one of the few poets I can comprehend (my failing, not other poets'). His punctuation works well for his own poetry, but I think canonical punctuation is better for prose.

    ReplyDelete
  10. scott gray8/6/07, 6:45 PM

    what interesting meaning you give to punctuation...just kidding!!

    ReplyDelete
  11. scott gray8/6/07, 6:46 PM

    an earlier question--

    what is your understanding of 'faith?'

    ReplyDelete
  12. Faith: truth-belief without evidentiary or logical justification.

    ReplyDelete
  13. scott gray8/6/07, 6:59 PM

    so if i have faith in you, i'm believing in you (in your existence, in you as source of authority, in you as intelligent debater) without logical evidence?

    faith for me, is the belief that something good will come of this, when things are going well. (hope, on the other hand, is belief that something good will come of this when things aren't going well). such faith involves trust and expectations. i have faith in you.

    ReplyDelete
  14. scott gray8/6/07, 7:00 PM

    here's a quick redo of the effective conversion, but it's lame; i really wrote it in response to a christian fundamentalist.

    effective conversion:

    1. care about the people you are converting. conversion is about your paradigm of truth, but it is also about relationships with others. people listen more attentively if they think you care about their joys and sorrows.

    2. know your subject. to effectively use the authority of the bible (or any other scriptural text), you can’t just cut and paste verses. the authority you experience in the text is not as evident to others as you might think. the more you know about the historicity, the criticisms (form, redactive, historical), the exigesis, and the original languages (greek and hebrew) of the bible (or whatever text), the better able you will be to effectively argue from your perception of the scripture’s authority and truth. if you personally don’t find any value in a scriptural text (of whatever type), but your target audience places authority in them, a working knowledge of them facilitates conversion.

    3. people are different. i don’t know how you experience conversion, but i bet it’s not the same as 75% of the rest of the world. you have to image yourself in the mind and life of another, to imagine their worldview, before you can ‘say the right things’ to facilitate a conversion in another. that’s why mind games like imagining yourself as an fundamentalist, or a librarian, or a spouse, or the child of an abusive parent, are of value.

    4. know your forum. if you choose to convert others on a debating site, or a blog, know about effective logic, syllogism, and logical fallacies. more people are converted by fallacies than by logical arguments, no matter what thinkers wish were true.

    5. be ready to be changed yourself. if you are truly effective in converting others, through caring about them, through knowing your subject, through imagining the lives of others, and through knowing your forum, you will be changed. if you don’t want your own worldview altered, get out of the conversion business.

    clean up as you see fit.

    ReplyDelete
  15. scott gray8/6/07, 7:04 PM

    ee cummings would tell you that there is meaning in punctuation.

    and i agree.

    my arguments are punctuationally soft-spoken.

    WOULD THEY BE MORE CONVINCING IF I SHOUTED THEM? I'VE SEEN PEOPLE DO THIS!!!

    what does my resistance to convention regarding punctuation tell you about my contrarian nature (pirsig might approve...)

    ReplyDelete
  16. SCOTT, YOU NEED TO CALM DOWN! QUIT THAT YELLING! My ears hurt.

    ReplyDelete
  17. scott gray8/7/07, 9:43 AM

    kelly--

    come play!

    join me in writing fictional naratives about our worldviews.

    ReplyDelete
  18. scott gray8/7/07, 5:04 PM

    barefoot-

    i've been thinking about the conversion model and making it work for agnostic-to-atheist, and i've been doing a little exploring here:

    http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2007/08/anencepahlic-babies-and-problem-of-evil.html

    but no one will play with me.(i've posted about 2/3 of the way down).

    hopoe someone will think with me out loud so i can improve this model.

    i don't know what you mean by your naturalistic perspective--is there something i should read about this?

    thanks--

    scott

    p.s. are we done thinking out loud about faith?

    ReplyDelete
  19. Scott: Regarding the PoE: Remember that my fundamental goal, a position shared by many atheists, is not to convert people. I'd like to convert people, but my fundamental goal is to speak the truth as I see it about what I consider an important topic.

    I mean by my "naturalistic perspective" that metaphysical naturalism is my core metaphysical system: Atheism follows from that metaphysical system and the evidence of my senses. Atheism itself is not, for me, a metaphysical position.

    And I'm a philosopher. I'm never done thinking out loud about anything.

    ReplyDelete
  20. scott gray8/7/07, 6:00 PM

    you've seen kelly's post about ficticious narratives--once you chose to talk, write, or think (you philosopher, you) about a truth, you've begun a ficticious narrative. it is not possible to 'speak the truth;' in the speaking, the truth takes on meaning.

    here's an example of a blog of yours which is rich with meaning:

    http://barefootbum.blogspot.com/2007/07/top-ten-religious-idiots-6.html

    but i'm not sure what truth you are speaking here.

    perhaps you'd be willing to pioneer a new school of philosophy that entails thinking out loud....

    peace

    scott

    ReplyDelete
  21. You'll note that I strongly disagreed with Kelly's basic premise in her essay.

    ReplyDelete
  22. scott gray8/7/07, 6:12 PM

    been looking at some of your other posts, and i think you are seeking to convert others--by deconstructionist metaphysics.

    not 'conversion that just happens in the passing in the business of speaking the truth,' but deliberate converting.

    scott

    p.s. what's the difference between a metaphysical system, and a metaphysical position? is position a subset of system? is it possible to have a non-metaphysical position in a metaphysical system? what should i be reading?

    ReplyDelete
  23. Don't spend too much time parsing my comments in detail, Scott. ;-) I'm not being that careful to speak precisely.

    ReplyDelete
  24. scott gray8/7/07, 6:26 PM

    here's an example of your feelings about conversion:

    "Another huge problem with debate is that people almost never change their minds in public. It's very frustrating to debate someone, completely demolish their arguments—or at least think you've done so—and have them refuse to change their mind."

    from here:
    http://kellygorski.blogspot.com/2007/07/ethics-and-logistics-of-debate.html#comments

    and that's not about willful converting? 'frustrating?' 'completely demolish?'

    sure it is.

    scott

    ReplyDelete
  25. That's precisely why it's not about converting: Even in the absolute best case scenario, you still can't convert people.

    ReplyDelete
  26. scott gray8/7/07, 6:31 PM

    not that way.

    hence my list...lol

    thanks for the wrestle.

    do send me some suggested reading. articles, maybe?

    thanks again

    scott

    ReplyDelete
  27. If you're interested in my views on philosophy, you can start here; the blog has 99% of my relatively mature writing.

    The easiest way is perhaps to look at the categories on my sidebar, click on what interests you, and read it in chronological order (reverse of how it'll be listed).

    Two of my better (IMnsHO) efforts:
    Meta-ethical subjective relativism
    The Scientific Method

    You might also find my writing on Atheist politics of interest.

    ReplyDelete
  28. scott gray8/7/07, 6:44 PM

    give me a few days....thanks again.

    scott

    ReplyDelete

Please pick a handle or moniker for your comment. It's much easier to address someone by a name or pseudonym than simply "hey you". I have the option of requiring a "hard" identity, but I don't want to turn that on... yet.

With few exceptions, I will not respond or reply to anonymous comments, and I may delete them. I keep a copy of all comments; if you want the text of your comment to repost with something vaguely resembling an identity, email me.

No spam, pr0n, commercial advertising, insanity, lies, repetition or off-topic comments. Creationists, Global Warming deniers, anti-vaxers, Randians, and Libertarians are automatically presumed to be idiots; Christians and Muslims might get the benefit of the doubt, if I'm in a good mood.

See the Debate Flowchart for some basic rules.

Sourced factual corrections are always published and acknowledged.

I will respond or not respond to comments as the mood takes me. See my latest comment policy for details. I am not a pseudonomous-American: my real name is Larry.

Comments may be moderated from time to time. When I do moderate comments, anonymous comments are far more likely to be rejected.

I've already answered some typical comments.

I have jqMath enabled for the blog. If you have a dollar sign (\$) in your comment, put a \\ in front of it: \\\$, unless you want to include a formula in your comment.