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Ch. 15: Final Thoughts 
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Post Ch. 15: Final Thoughts
Ch. 15: Final Thoughts

Please use this thread for discussing Ch. 15: Final Thoughts. :happy2:



Wed Aug 13, 2008 6:25 pm
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I started off with some skepticism about his topic and confusion about his labeling. Gradually he put all the pieces together into a satisfying whole. I think the book is a perhaps a rarity, in that through science it reaches a fully humanistic conclusion. Burton thinks he gives us a scientific basis for ending the battles between science and religion or between skepticism and belief. I agree that he does, and I appreciate his optimism. However, I am pessimistic on another score: that the opposite sides are interested in listening to anything that would lessen their antagonism. The culture war is a war of choice. The sides like to divide into camps, that is the unfortunate truth.

I'm glad Chris chose this book (I think it was he, anyway). I don't know if he realized when choosing it that it presents a critique of rationality and objectivity, two "pillars" that hold up the world for many intelligent booktalk members. It was my belief previously that reason is not always sufficient or reliable. Burton helps me to understand why this is in neuroscience terms. He tells us to question the phrase "I know." Say, "I believe" instead. He also emphasizes the need to be properly skeptical of "felt knowledge"--the hunches and gut feelings that we often think are equivalent with truth. Unless we submit our claims to empiric testing and have our claims confirmed, what we have are personal visions, nothing more. Our beliefs about science and reason also fall into the personal vision category, since they cannot be empirically tested.

Some quotes:
"Science must be seen as a more attractive and comforting alternative to deeply embedded superstition, not as inflammatory exhortation with a none-too-subtle whiff of condescension."

"Such beliefs, no matter how counter to the evidence, provide a majority of Americans with a personal sense of meaning."

"Science needs to maintain its integrity at the same time as it must retain a compassionate respect for aspects of human life that ren't 'reasonable.'"

"We must learn (and teach our children) to tolerate the unpleasantness of uncertainty."



Wed Oct 01, 2008 8:49 pm
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It was a reasonable book, though I was less impressed with it than DWill does. His general beliefs generally coincided with my own. While that made the book agreeable, I didn't learn that much from it.

However, I hadn't though about the "feeling of knowing" before in those words. That focus did provide a refreshing and unconventional perspective, even though many of his points were familiar.



Fri Nov 07, 2008 10:31 pm
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Post I sum up Burton's conclusion differently.
If you believe there is an absolute truth, in finite or infinite matters, you limit your ability to think critically in the area to which the absolute truth applies.



Thu Dec 11, 2008 12:00 pm
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Post Re: I sum up Burton's conclusion differently.
Lawrence wrote:
If you believe there is an absolute truth, in finite or infinite matters, you limit your ability to think critically in the area to which the absolute truth applies.

Yes, I think he did say that this useful, necessary feeling of certainty is also our greatest obstacle to mental flexibility. Of course, he didn't use the term absolute truth, which is a slippery term, but my guess is that he would want to wave a caution flag at such words, as well he should, I believe. His approach is brain-centered. My brain may be aflame with certainty about truth, which is fine I suppose, but what gets me into problems is when I proclaim that certainty to have a universal application, for everyone. That's what tags the "absolute" onto truth.



Thu Dec 11, 2008 12:52 pm
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Terrific, thought provoking book. I will be thinking about Burton's ideas for a long time to come.

I once tried very hard to get Soc. 101 students (I taught for just one semester) to see that everything they thought about and reacted to was colored by there own worldview. I had them do weekly exercises to help them develop the skill of identifying a person's worldview by having them try to identify a writer's bias or worldview in journal and newspaper articles. I do not think a single student got it. As a kick off demonstration, to give them a concrete idea of what I meant, I showed the students a ruler made of a thick rubber band -- the kind on broccoli. The stretchy ruler represented the need to strive for objectivity and our inherent lack of it. Sometimes, maybe always, we are rubber bands when we evaluate.


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Sat Mar 28, 2009 4:43 pm
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A funny last connection. I was just having another look at a section of The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell. He is speaking about the grail myths and says that one of the grail legend begins with a poem that says, "Every act has bot6h good and evil results." Campbell goes on to say that the grail quest is really a quest to unite body & spirit/mind/self, so that one can live an authentic life. I think this is akin to what Burton is saying about thinking we can know absolute truths and how that can cripple ones ability to be flexible.


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Mon Mar 30, 2009 8:22 pm
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