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Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison) 
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Post Re: Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
Harry Marks wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
The supernatural error that became enshrined in church dogma arose more as a social response to mythic coding of nature, not strictly because of that coding as an evolution from it.

I fear I did not follow that. What is the distinction being made?
The question here is the relation between supernatural error and encoding of cosmic description of nature. I was responding to your paraphrase of my views, where you suggested I was saying “the supernatural error arose because of the use of mythology to express this view of nature, then was installed in power by authoritarian literalism.”

My point was that the errors of Christian myth did not evolve directly from the Gnostic coding of nature, but arose as an ignorant misunderstanding of Gnostic philosophy. The ignorant church wished to use the Christ Myth as the basis for a mass movement, so felt free to distort the original cosmic ideas against their own populist agenda, including through the Big Lie that Jesus really lived.
Harry Marks wrote:
An organising theory does not have to be a single unified theory. It can be a simple notion such as "heavier things have a stronger desire to fall, so they fall faster than lighter things."
This discussion opens up the comparison between religion and science in terms of paradigm theory. You are citing here the obsolete false paradigm of Aristotle as an organising theory for why things fall. While the idea you cited may seem simple, it is untrue, and so generates false predictions.

The same thing happens in religion where people incorrectly believe that mythical fantasies are historically true. There are serious ethical consequences of religious error, such as people believing that going to heaven means it is okay to destroy the earth, not to mention the connections between Islamic ideas on jihad and terrorism.
Harry Marks wrote:
Many disciplines have begun with chaotic observations which gradually gathered evidence, and the organising theories tended to arise because there actually was an organising principle at work.
But as with Aristotle’s false theory of motion, his organising theory arose because he lacked method and interest to test his assumptions. The same thing happens in religion, where people find a theory to be emotionally comforting so lack interest to check its truth.

The actual organising principle is political and emotional comfort, not the truth of the mythical claims. When we apply scientific organising principles, the rationale behind false beliefs emerges as very different from what their adherents think.
Harry Marks wrote:
Kepler's Laws are apparently unconnected observations, gathered from Brahe's data. Newton used Galilean mechanics to put together an overall account of their common structure because he was analyzing the real phenomenon of gravity which actually explained them.
How the modern scientific paradigm of orbital motion evolved is a fascinating case study. Kepler had not theorised the inverse square law which provides such a comprehensive and elegant explanation of planetary motion in the theory of gravity, but what he did have was a rigorous focus on evidence and coherence, such that his laws of elliptical motion were able to accurately predict planetary positions, providing a distinct improvement from Copernicus who stuck to the ancient theory of circular motion.

We are seeing a similar paradigm shift occurring regarding the facts and implications around Christian origins. We are now at something of a Kepler-like stage, with books such as those of Carrier and Doherty cataloging the severe incoherence of the belief that Jesus was historical, and preparing the way for a new overall account of the common structure, much as Kepler did for Newton. My view is that astronomy is central to this emerging overall explanation of ancient religious cultural evolution, and the neglect of astronomy in the analysis explains why a compelling explanation has not yet emerged that proves broadly persuasive.
Harry Marks wrote:
It remains to be shown whether there is such a single natural structure which can make sense of all use of supernatural talk. As I have said, I rather doubt it.
Astronomy does not explain all use of supernatural talk, given that much superstition has other local causes. However, I think there is a compelling argument that astronomy explains Christian eschatology, which in turn provides the intellectual framework for all Christian mythology.
Harry Marks wrote:
Humanistic psychology, as represented by Maslow and Frankl, have gone a long way toward providing a useable framework without the supernatural. Those two were wise enough not to engage the issue of the supernatural, but have a lot to say about the relationship between facts and ultimate sources of meaning.
My reading on the relation between facts and meaning has been more in Rollo May (The Cry for Myth) and Carl Jung (Man and his Symbols). Their work is a line of thinking that does engage the supernatural from a scientific perspective, interpreting mythical claims in a psychological framework.
Harry Marks wrote:
Making the unconscious conscious is a less promising path, in my view, because, like Tillich's "broken myth" it presupposes some internal perspective which is outside the perspective which finds meaning in the old connections.
Theorising a new perspective is exactly what occurs with a paradigm shift, and does always involve bringing material to consciousness which previously was unknown and therefore unconscious. Where the ‘old connections’ as you put it are entirely unreal and mythical, such as for example the virgin birth, or Jesus sitting at the right hand of God in heaven, bringing the underlying meaning of these myths to conscious awareness is a highly promising path for better explanation.
Harry Marks wrote:
I think terms like "unconscious" are going to have to be replaced by more explicit propositions such as "instinctive" or "repressed" or "raw perception".
Unconscious is a perfectly explicit term. For Aristotle and Kepler, the facts of the law of gravity as discovered by Newton were unconscious, even though Newton’s formula operated in the universe before he made it conscious. The same principle applies in paradigm shift in religion, with new analysis able to explain the underlying real drivers of ideation in ways that were previously unknown.
Harry Marks wrote:
The fragmentation brought by modernity's lack of structure is the child of the fragmentation brought by the violence of the pre-modern world, and the denial of the value of that violence by its major religions.
This recognition of cultural trauma appears to be a good explanation of the high value that the modern theory of liberal tolerance places on cultural relativism, the idea that no single truth can reconcile or measure conflicting perceptions of truth. Put in those simple stark terms, relativism is absurd, since contradictory propositions cannot both be true, as proved in logic by the law of the excluded middle. However, relativism has strong cultural drivers from the historical reality that people have claimed access to truth in ways that have been false, so relativism is more a counsel of political humility than a statement of epistemic logic. As is typical with the formation of mythology, cultural relativism bleeds across into epistemic relativism, since advocates of tolerance wish to say that intolerance has no ethical or logical grounds.
Harry Marks wrote:
Astronomy has nothing useful to say about managing aggression, the problem of adultery (cuckolding) for child-rearing, the enforcement of reciprocity in altruism, or the relationship between integrity and enforcement.

My view on this, which I am still gradually forming, is that the key theme in astronomy which is relevant to evolution, including the cultural evolution of values, is the orbital drivers of climate. This is a massive scientific topic which I consider provides the basis for the emerging paradigm shift around mythology. As we start to analyse real questions of how unconscious drivers operate at the level of the slow orbital causes of climate change, we can bring to explicit conscious awareness how these planetary cycles can and do in fact govern the overall instinctive direction of the formation of myth, including enframing our social ethical values.


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Post Re: Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
youkrst wrote:
Harry wrote:
Christianity is compatible with scientific reason, even in its literal, supernaturalist forms.

oh really
"Satan is a fallen angel who rules the world" is compatible with scientific reason?
you might have to break it down for me Harry, because i am having trouble putting it together.

Sure. Self-assertion and aggression are clearly pervasive, and one can make a good case that they "rule the world." That is why setting one power against another, in a system of checks and balances, is the only system which has managed to restrain the arrogance of power.
Satan embodies those forces. Even claiming that there is a literally real supernatural force behind their appearance and success is not a refutable hypothesis. It is not useful for science, but it is compatible with doing science, and believing in science as a viable process.
I would not argue that every fool thing ever said by a cleric is consistent with science, but the whole point of the "god of the gaps" observation is that there are still gaps. There are significant scientists who have also been Christians, and they have to let go of Biblical inerrancy, but that is still possible in a literalist framework.



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Post Re: Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
Robert Tulip wrote:
My point was that the errors of Christian myth did not evolve directly from the Gnostic coding of nature, but arose as an ignorant misunderstanding of Gnostic philosophy.

Okay thanks, I was able to follow you this time.
Robert Tulip wrote:
You are citing here the obsolete false paradigm of Aristotle as an organising theory for why things fall. While the idea you cited may seem simple, it is untrue, and so generates false predictions.
Believe it or not, I knew that. My point was a response to your observation that we need a structure to ask questions and organize information. I am agreeing with you, but pointing out that the structure does not have to be unified or complete. Or, for that matter, correct.
Robert Tulip wrote:
But as with Aristotle’s false theory of motion, his organising theory arose because he lacked method and interest to test his assumptions. The same thing happens in religion, where people find a theory to be emotionally comforting so lack interest to check its truth.

The phrase "emotionally comforting" is rather condescending here. Not that you in particular are guilty of this condescension: I hear it a lot from skeptics. "Giving a valid moral purpose to life" still falls under that category, but it evokes a totally different response, if you see what I mean. If I went around saying you believe in astrotheology because it makes you feel good to think you can replace religion with something ecologically oriented, that would be the same brand of condescension, if you see my point.
Robert Tulip wrote:
The actual organising principle is political and emotional comfort, not the truth of the mythical claims. When we apply scientific organising principles, the rationale behind false beliefs emerges as very different from what their adherents think.
Right. That's what it means to say they are "mythical." It means they function - in my view they link understanding of fact to rationale for meaning and motivation. That may sound easy, but try it some time and you will see it isn't.
Robert Tulip wrote:
We are seeing a similar paradigm shift occurring regarding the facts and implications around Christian origins. We are now at something of a Kepler-like stage, with books such as those of Carrier and Doherty cataloging the severe incoherence of the belief that Jesus was historical, and preparing the way for a new overall account of the common structure, much as Kepler did for Newton.

I don't think that is what we are witnessing. First, "severe incoherence" is not even close to an accurate description. Serious gaps, yes, but ask any historian about gaps and you will come to understand they are more likely than not. Incoherence happens when ad hoc modifications proliferate to explain facts which do not fit with the paradigm. That is not what you find for the work of scholars such as Crossan and Ehrman. They have had to clear out some of the underbrush of apologetics, but that is not the same as spinning ad hoc explanations which do not fit a historicist perspective.
Second, Carrier is scathing about Doherty (not that you don't find similar things between apologists and secularist historicists, or between one historicist and another) and similar inconsistencies breed like rabbits, because there is not a single causal structure just waiting to organize all the observations. By now there may be more theories of how a "Christ-myth" originated, or of apocalypticism in general, than there are theories of who the "historical Jesus" really was. The truth is that the gaps in our data and the complexity of the movements being studied make for a more-or-less impossible task of evidencing the true source of the Christian church.
Robert Tulip wrote:
My reading on the relation between facts and meaning has been more in Rollo May (The Cry for Myth) and Carl Jung (Man and his Symbols) [than in Maslow, etc]. Their work is a line of thinking that does engage the supernatural from a scientific perspective, interpreting mythical claims in a psychological framework.

I haven't read either work, but I have read a lot of R. May and a fair bit of Jung, especially as quoted by Campbell and others, and I think both of them are first-rate interpreters of human seeking and the mysteries around it.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
Making the unconscious conscious is a less promising path, in my view, because, like Tillich's "broken myth" it presupposes some internal perspective which is outside the perspective which finds meaning in the old connections.
Theorising a new perspective is exactly what occurs with a paradigm shift, and does always involve bringing material to consciousness which previously was unknown and therefore unconscious. Where the ‘old connections’ as you put it are entirely unreal and mythical, such as for example the virgin birth, or Jesus sitting at the right hand of God in heaven, bringing the underlying meaning of these myths to conscious awareness is a highly promising path for better explanation.

Well, as I have been saying, time will tell. If you are going to include finding more facts as "making the unconscious conscious" then it is a somewhat shapeless category that tells us little. The point I was trying to make is that the forces at work in myth are not necessarily unconscious in the sense of Freud's libido or Jung's anima and animus.
Yes, if there is a connection to be made between seeing the world a certain way and doing the right thing, there are likely to be some unconscious processes that make it work or there would be no unpacking to do. But a very large share of those connections work consciously. Much of the raw material of religion is "sayings" (such as in the book of Proverbs). These work like Aesop's fables: capturing some useful truth about the world in a simple and memorable package.
And when we are not able to see "the mechanism," as it were, it may not be because of anything unconscious, but is apparent if you simply ask the question. Why did the Church latch onto the Virgin Birth? I doubt if it was an unconscious purity need - I think the urge to claim purity was as plain in that case as in the RCC "immaculate conception of Mary."
Recognizing psychological motivations needn't have anything to do with mysteries or over-arching invisible structures of archetype.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
I think terms like "unconscious" are going to have to be replaced by more explicit propositions such as "instinctive" or "repressed" or "raw perception".
Unconscious is a perfectly explicit term.

Not in my view. Too many things get swept up into that bin. Yours is the first time I have seen an application claiming that scientific truths were present in the unconscious before being recognized, which gives it a fourth category of mechanism.
Robert Tulip wrote:
This recognition of cultural trauma appears to be a good explanation of the high value that the modern theory of liberal tolerance places on cultural relativism, the idea that no single truth can reconcile or measure conflicting perceptions of truth.

Oh, my, now here I think you are seriously off track. Cultural relativism is a fact: driving on the right side of the road is criminal in the U.K. and required in the U.S. Whether it applies to the wide range of things claimed to be a matter of relative values is a more difficult question, but it does to at least some.

This is a general phenomenon about values - two contradictory values can both be correct. Driving on the left is the correct side - in one context. Driving on the left is the wrong side - in a different context.

You may hold out hope that we can someday spell out a complete system of when different values rankings are appropriate, but in the meantime tolerance and relativism are far from absurd. They are necessary! (In a world in which all contingencies are known with certainty, tolerance may be second-best to a system of exact specification of when to use particular values, but in a world in which these are not known, then tolerance is first-best. See how that works? "It depends" is a really useful phrase.)

I think relativism is frequently claimed to be absolute truth, which is not only self-contradictory but overdoes a good thing. But it is rather important that we all recognize that truth about values does not work the same way as truth about facts and causal relations.
Robert Tulip wrote:
However, relativism has strong cultural drivers from the historical reality that people have claimed access to truth in ways that have been false, so relativism is more a counsel of political humility than a statement of epistemic logic.

I will settle for political humility.
Robert Tulip wrote:
As is typical with the formation of mythology, cultural relativism bleeds across into epistemic relativism, since advocates of tolerance wish to say that intolerance has no ethical or logical grounds.

In general "harming others" is not tolerated in any ethical system. The problems are mostly about what we classify as "harm" and when the "others" somehow don't count (such as when they are themselves likely to harm someone.)
Robert Tulip wrote:
My view on this, which I am still gradually forming, is that the key theme in astronomy which is relevant to evolution, including the cultural evolution of values, is the orbital drivers of climate.

I suggest you look instead at the factors which influence the relative value of reproduction with small broods vs. reproduction with large broods. Investment in culture is clearly what pushed humans over the entropy barrier to find lifelong mating, mutual self-restraint and co-operation to be worthwhile goals.



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Post Re: Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
I'm enjoying following (or trying to--no fault of the presenters) the discussion. Just a minor point on Harry's last post. I have the impression that Richard Carrier credits Earl Doherty's Book Jesus, Neither God Nor Man with setting him off on his own quest to show that Christ came first, then Jesus.



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Post Re: Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
DWill wrote:
...Christ came first...


it's interesting (to me at least)

that Christ means

Quote:
The Christ (/kraɪst/; Ancient Greek: Χριστός, Christós, meaning "anointed"


and krst a far earlier egyptian idea

Although KRST wasn’t a title in ancient Egypt meaning anointing, mummies were nevertheless anointed with the most expensive embalming oils. Even Jesus was anointed with these oils after his crucifixion by the women closely associated with him in life. Mark 16:1

not saying anything i've just posted proves anything.

it's just that i find it interesting in the context of the whole seemingly neverending body of material surrounding ancient mythologies.



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Post Re: Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
Harry wrote:
Even claiming that there is a literally real supernatural force behind their appearance and success is not a refutable hypothesis.


there are many hypotheses that are not refutable.

that doesn't mean they are worth considering.

and the particular hypothesis you mention

Harry wrote:
...there is a literally real supernatural force...


seems to be one that has done great damage.

but to me even the word "supernatural" sounds a mild alarm of sorts.

it's unnecessary as i can account for things without resorting to it.

just my thoughts.



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Post Re: Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
Harry wrote:
and they have to let go of Biblical inerrancy


yes, because it is a demonstrably false assertion.



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Post Re: Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
youkrst wrote:
DWill wrote:
...Christ came first...


it's interesting (to me at least)

that Christ means

Quote:
The Christ (/kraɪst/; Ancient Greek: Χριστός, Christós, meaning "anointed"


and krst a far earlier egyptian idea

Although KRST wasn’t a title in ancient Egypt meaning anointing, mummies were nevertheless anointed with the most expensive embalming oils. Even Jesus was anointed with these oils after his crucifixion by the women closely associated with him in life. Mark 16:1

not saying anything i've just posted proves anything.
And I might add to your final statement that using any words at all from the Bible to support even just an observation is a shaky move if one has denied that the work has any information to give us. Now, you may protest that you've never said that. It is, though, a strong impression that I have, sorry if it's a mistaken one.



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Post Re: Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
Harry Marks wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
You are citing here the obsolete false paradigm of Aristotle as an organising theory for why things fall. While the idea you cited may seem simple, it is untrue, and so generates false predictions.
Believe it or not, I knew that.
Hi Harry, you might consider my comment here as a sort of throat-clearing introduction for the mass readership that this thread attracts. :) I do appreciate that you have heard of Aristotle’s ideas. Please forgive me for trying to make this slightly obscure conversation more accessible through this context.
Harry Marks wrote:
My point was a response to your observation that we need a structure to ask questions and organize information. I am agreeing with you, but pointing out that the structure does not have to be unified or complete. Or, for that matter, correct.
Organising evidence on the basis of untrue claims has all sorts of difficult implications. For example if someone tells me that Boston is west of New York, and I don’t know any better, I am liable to go off on a wild goose chase in response to this organising framework if my aim is to drive from New York to Boston. The same principle applies in all scientific and religious study: if our starting premise is false then we suffer from the 'garbage in garbage out' syndrome and our results will be worthless. It worries me that you appear to defend the value of an incorrect theoretical framework for organising information. That is just the problem of incoherence I am critiquing in traditional theology.
Harry Marks wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
But as with Aristotle’s false theory of motion, his organising theory arose because he lacked method and interest to test his assumptions. The same thing happens in religion, where people find a theory to be emotionally comforting so lack interest to check its truth.

The phrase "emotionally comforting" is rather condescending here.
Yes, because religious people believe all sorts of false and dangerous ideas purely on the basis of emotional comfort. The belief in Jesus Christ as personal lord and saviour, simplistic concepts of eternal life, damnation, the virgin birth, creationism, inerrancy, all deserve head-patting condolence for anyone stupid enough to take them seriously. Rational discussion of religious ideas needs to radically exclude literal absurdity, while retaining benefit of the doubt regarding people’s sanity and commitment to polite dialogue where the other party also participates.
Harry Marks wrote:
Not that you in particular are guilty of this condescension: I hear it a lot from skeptics. "Giving a valid moral purpose to life" still falls under that category, but it evokes a totally different response, if you see what I mean. If I went around saying you believe in astrotheology because it makes you feel good to think you can replace religion with something ecologically oriented, that would be the same brand of condescension, if you see my point.
The point about condescension in intellectual discussion is that people have the opportunity to justify their views. I am perfectly happy to respond in detail to polite critique of my views, since I know astral analysis of myth is unusual and most people don’t know the reasons behind it. That is completely different from ignorant religious error, where people have been indoctrinated in a belief whose epistemic foundations are like a house built on sand. Your point about ecology is a very different brand of condescension from my approach to religious fundamentalism. Ecology forms part of a scientific value system, and criticising ecology on principle involves some rather dubious ethical assumptions which can be examined on a logical evidentiary basis.
Harry Marks wrote:
"severe incoherence" is not even close to an accurate description [of the belief that Jesus was historical]. Serious gaps, yes, but ask any historian about gaps and you will come to understand they are more likely than not. Incoherence happens when ad hoc modifications proliferate to explain facts which do not fit with the paradigm. That is not what you find for the work of scholars such as Crossan and Ehrman. They have had to clear out some of the underbrush of apologetics, but that is not the same as spinning ad hoc explanations which do not fit a historicist perspective.
Harry, Carrier’s demolition of Erhman’s Did Jesus Exist? at http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/1026 and elsewhere is comprehensive, and illustrates that “severe incoherence” is a good description for both Erhman and Crossan, who maintain a purely emotional belief in Jesus against all evidence.
Harry Marks wrote:
Carrier is scathing about Doherty
No, you are wrong. Carrier respects Doherty and acknowledges him as a major influence, while disagreeing on points of detail.


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Post Re: Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
youkrst wrote:
there are many hypotheses that are not refutable.
that doesn't mean they are worth considering.

Just to be clear, I was defending "compatible with science" or a scientific outlook, or something like that. Not "worth considering" which is a different kettle of eels.



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Post Re: Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
Harry Marks wrote:
there is not a single causal structure just waiting to organize all the observations.
Continuing my commentary on these really interesting ideas here from Harry, this remark on ‘causal structure’ seems to me to involve a basic misunderstanding of how science works, especially in relation to the theory of paradigm shift as analysed by TS Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

Kuhn explains that a paradigm is an organising theoretical framework to explain data. The classic example of paradigm shift is from Newton’s belief that space and time are absolute to Einstein’s demonstration that space-time is relative. The process of paradigm shift started with the observation of a series of unexplainable anomalies in classical mechanics. A range of ideas were discussed through the nineteenth century, but when Einstein published his theory of relativity it suddenly provided a near-comprehensive explanation, “a single causal structure just waiting to organise all the observations.”

Is such a shift possible in relation to religion? I believe it is.

My view is that a similar paradigm shift is underway to explain the cultural emergence and evolution of Christian faith. The traditional theory that Jesus Christ founded Christianity has always had major anomalies, but until recently these were ignored. The difference with science is that the church never applied rigorous method to assess the truth of its beliefs, and we are now in a position to apply rigorous logic to assess the causal structure of the available evidence.

The result of this assessment process is that the evidence is exactly what we would expect if Jesus Christ did not exist, and not at all what we would expect if Jesus Christ did exist. If so, that presents a major problem for historicism, which cannot be just waved away.

My view on this “single causal structure” for Christianity is that the imagination of Jesus Christ as representing on earth the events seen in heaven can be easily and directly explained by ancient observation of the precession of the equinoxes. That is a theory facing major hurdles to explain and have accepted, including how the range of data, texts, etc fit within it.

Harry Marks wrote:
By now there may be more theories of how a "Christ-myth" originated, or of apocalypticism in general, than there are theories of who the "historical Jesus" really was. The truth is that the gaps in our data and the complexity of the movements being studied make for a more-or-less impossible task of evidencing the true source of the Christian church.
In my study of this material I have not seen many specific theories of how a "Christ-myth" originated, or of apocalypticism in general. Carrier and Doherty only argue for the general proposition that Jesus was imagined as a ‘celestial being’. They do not as far as I have seen discuss apocalypticism much, since it is such a difficult and irrational topic. The main theory on this question touches on the very dubious field of astrology, so putting it into rigorous format is a big challenge. Carrier takes the attitude that anything linked to astrology is simply too dubious in historical terms for him to take an interest. I disagree, but putting that context into a persuasive format is not easy.


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Post Re: Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
My point was a response to your observation that we need a structure to ask questions and organize information. I am agreeing with you, but pointing out that the structure does not have to be unified or complete. Or, for that matter, correct.
Organising evidence on the basis of untrue claims has all sorts of difficult implications.

This has gotten pretty far off into the weeds. The point was supposed to be about structure, as an aid to investigation. If the structure is wrong, investigation should show that. If there is no structure, there is no way to investigate, and so we never learn any more than what was there to start. Obviously it is better to investigate on the basis of a correct structure than an incorrect one.
Robert Tulip wrote:
That is just the problem of incoherence I am critiquing in traditional theology.

Incoherence means the parts do not relate correctly to each other, not inconsistency with evidence. Traditional theology is pretty coherent - it is filtered through centuries of probing by some pretty fine minds. You should be clear in your own mind that lack of evidence is your issue, not incoherence.
Robert Tulip wrote:
But as with Aristotle’s false theory of motion, his organising theory arose because he lacked method and interest to test his assumptions.

That is an example of an incoherent sentence. His theory arose on the basis of casual observation and some thought. Lack of method and interest to test was the reason for him settling for a false theory, not for the arising of the theory in the first place. Your explanation is an explanation of something besides what you claim it explains, and so, incoherent.
Harry Marks wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
The same thing happens in religion, where people find a theory to be emotionally comforting so lack interest to check its truth.

The phrase "emotionally comforting" is rather condescending here.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Yes, because religious people believe all sorts of false and dangerous ideas purely on the basis of emotional comfort.

Failure to follow the scientific method is not a very relevant criticism of mythos. You may feel that Winston Churchill's courage should have been put to the test before anyone rallied around it to oppose the Nazis, but most of us recognize that the inspiration was there whether or not he was really brave.

I tried to use the case of your own interest in astrotheology to point out to you that the motivation is distinct from the truth value, but you missed that point completely. It seems to be a bit difficult to get you to look at the two separately - you seem to consider the motivation to be worthless if the truth value is wrong, and irrelevant when you are still investigating the truth value. However, outside of science the motivation for people's interest in a proposition can be far more important than its truth value, and condescension based on the conclusion you have reached about its truth value may be completely misplaced.

As a simple example, in India these days people are being killed for ostensibly slaughtering cows. You may tell them they are beneath contempt for believing what they do, and just consoling themselves, but they would still kill you for slaughtering beef. The problem is not their beliefs - if they killed you for adding to the world's CO2 by running an air conditioner the effect would be just as serious. The problem (that I am pointing out) is your contempt for their motivations, because you do not agree with their beliefs. You are confusing issues.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
Not that you in particular are guilty of this condescension: I hear it a lot from skeptics. "Giving a valid moral purpose to life" still falls under that category, but it evokes a totally different response, if you see what I mean.
The point about condescension in intellectual discussion is that people have the opportunity to justify their views. I am perfectly happy to respond in detail to polite critique of my views, since I know astral analysis of myth is unusual and most people don’t know the reasons behind it. That is completely different from ignorant religious error,

You again missed the point. Motivation is to be assessed separately from epistemic foundations or factual basis. Factuality can be one element of motivation, and it is certainly one that deserves respect. But it is not overriding, as my example about Churchill was meant to demonstrate.
The reason this distinction (which you seem unable to even see) is important is that the people who are attached to beliefs about the supernatural are looking at it as the difference between civilized life and anarchy, and when you attack that you are not "patting them on the head" you are pointing a spear at their deepest motivations. If you are so blinded by issues of epistemological justification that you cannot see the person and the meaning of the proposition in their life, you become worse than irrelevant.
I do not argue for avoiding dialogue because of this issue, but I do insist that people who consider themselves the smarter side in a discussion have the obligation to understand the people they are discussing with. Dismissing their entire life purpose with a condescending phrase like "emotional comfort" doesn't cut it - that is a rhetorical tactic worthy of Donald Trump, not a serious effort to engage on important issues.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Your point about ecology is a very different brand of condescension from my approach to religious fundamentalism. Ecology forms part of a scientific value system, and criticising ecology on principle involves some rather dubious ethical assumptions which can be examined on a logical evidentiary basis.

Sexual fidelity, which I would argue is the issue at the heart of fundamentalist values, is hardly outside "a scientific value system." The fact that their values are all connected to that through the concept of sin is not mistaken, either. And if you cannot separate evidentiary issues from motivational issues, there is no reason anyone should take your criticism seriously, nor will the people whose behavior is of concern to you.

Perhaps you feel that sexual fidelity is mere "emotional comfort" but I suggest you not talk as if you see life that way when addressing most religious people.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
"severe incoherence" is not even close to an accurate description [of the belief that Jesus was historical].
Harry, Carrier’s demolition of Erhman’s Did Jesus Exist? at http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/1026 and elsewhere is comprehensive, and illustrates that “severe incoherence” is a good description for both Erhman and Crossan, who maintain a purely emotional belief in Jesus against all evidence.

First and foremost, the blog you cite does not address Crossan at all. Second, his criticisms of Ehrman, while apparently valid (I am not an expert), do not establish incoherence. The word Carrier uses over and over, "sloppy", is the correct word. He amply demonstrates that Ehrman was sloppy, and the criticism is fair enough, though it should be kept in mind that Ehrman was writing before OHJ was published, so Carrier was up to his eyeballs in the details of the material while Ehrman was probably tossing off a shallow review in response to someone asking him to give his take on the issue because he was becoming known as a scholar who could be taken seriously by both Christians and skeptics.
Third, his "demolition" is not "comprehensive." Carrier takes crucial liberties himself with the evidence, presumably because of motivated reasoning, and his disgust with Ehrman's sloppiness is nowhere near the same thing as establishing a case for any other interpretation of the evidence.
I am not really in a position to spend long periods of time slogging through OHJ, but when things ease up a bit I will post some of my responses on the thread devoted to that book. It is interesting, and I certainly have learned a lot, including reasons to take the mythicist view seriously, but in the end I still come out thinking Carrier and his ilk see a tiger that isn't there.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
Carrier is scathing about Doherty
No, you are wrong. Carrier respects Doherty and acknowledges him as a major influence, while disagreeing on points of detail.

I stand corrected. I was apparently confusing his treatment of Freke and Gandy (I have seen his response on YouTube) with his response to Doherty (and Price, evidently).
I think you would have trouble substantiating a claim that Crossan is being "purely emotional" in his historicitous approach. Crossan is methodical and avoids apologetics. He does interpret things in light of his overarching hypotheses (motivated reasoning) but that is how good detective work is done, and I don't know of any scholars pinning a charge of bad methodology on his interpretations.



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Post Re: Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
there is not a single causal structure just waiting to organize all the observations.
Continuing my commentary on these really interesting ideas here from Harry, this remark on ‘causal structure’ seems to me to involve a basic misunderstanding of how science works,
Robert Tulip wrote:
it [relativity] suddenly provided a near-comprehensive explanation, “a single causal structure just waiting to organise all the observations.”

Maybe I missed something, but it looks to me like you just used my "remark" as a summary of what happened with recognition of relativity.

My claim is that in science, if there is a causal force out there, it will cause observations to point to it. Facts lead to observation. So I don't see that there is a problem, since the fact of relativity led (eventually - it is an obscure influence that did not show up easily) to the observations which were eventually interpreted as being due to relativity.

What is really interesting is the confirmation, in the observation during an eclipse of the bending of light passing near the sun. In my view when a theory proves itself capable of predicting something we would not have predicted based on all the ad hoc epicycles needed for the old view, then we should take the new theory very seriously indeed.

Robert Tulip wrote:
The traditional theory that Jesus Christ founded Christianity has always had major anomalies, but until recently these were ignored.

Fair enough, but that is not the same as getting a good fit with the alternative theory. Scholars had long ago learned to discount claims of the supernatural, for example, based on the simple principle that many religions and legends make supernatural claims, but unless one takes them all seriously one is in no position to take any of them seriously.

Robert Tulip wrote:
The result of this assessment process is that the evidence is exactly what we would expect if Jesus Christ did not exist, and not at all what we would expect if Jesus Christ did exist.

Well, no. That is not the result. The evidence includes some things that back a mythicist view, and others that do not.

For example, the supposed gaps which motivate a mythicist view in the first place, such as Paul's inattention to biographical material about Jesus, are matched by an equally egregious gap in the form of a lack of reference to the ahistoricist particulars about Christ. Carrier claims that some passages in Paul's epistles refer to a clearly cosmic Christ, (e.g. born of a woman) but the plain reading of these few passages does not support his claim at all. And so we are left with the question, if Jesus was seen as mythical at that point, (and only historicized by Mark later,) why Paul did not say so. One can spin out possible reasons, but the point is the gap, the lack of specificity, is just as serious as the supposed gap in evidence for historicity.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Carrier and Doherty only argue for the general proposition that Jesus was imagined as a ‘celestial being’. They do not as far as I have seen discuss apocalypticism much, since it is such a difficult and irrational topic.

I hope you can appreciate the irony in the juxtaposition of the two statements.



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Post Re: Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
Harry wrote:
Traditional theology is pretty coherent


Image

:lol:

brb, 'scuse me while i kiss the sky :-D

http://rightreason.org/2011/nuts-and-bo ... istianity/

http://www.theaunicornist.com/2012/10/w ... art-3.html

In that link a fellow questions the coherence of traditional theology.

I suppose if coherent means bat shit crazy

http://dustoffthebible.com/Blog-archive ... alf-crazy/

http://universityabbey.org/blog/you-kno ... -theology/

Examples you say? OK, here are some oldies but goodies:

Yes, I’m looking at you, Sola Scriptura. Anyone who has studied the formation of the biblical canon knows scripture is tradition.
Yes, I’m looking at you, Sola Fide. The fact that Luther wanted to chop James from the canon is telling.
Yes, I’m looking at you, Calvinism. Common grace is a superfluous doctrine that only becomes necessary when Total Depravity privileges the fall over the imago dei.
Yes, I’m look at you, Arminianism. Prevenient grace is another response to the same Total Depravity blunder…

Image



Mon Jan 25, 2016 8:32 am
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Post Re: Ch. 8: The Enemy Within ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
Harry Marks wrote:
Making the unconscious conscious is a less promising path, in my view, because, like Tillich's "broken myth" it presupposes some internal perspective which is outside the perspective which finds meaning in the old connections.
Theorising a new perspective is exactly what occurs with a paradigm shift, and does always involve bringing material to consciousness which previously was unknown and therefore unconscious. New thinking is the only promising path for intellectual progress. Where the ‘old connections’ as you put it are entirely unreal and mythical, such as for example the virgin birth, or Jesus sitting at the right hand of God in heaven, bringing the underlying meaning of these myths to conscious awareness is a highly promising path for better explanation.

Paul Tillich’s concept you raise of the ‘broken myth’ presents a superb analysis of the problem of what happens when the unconscious becomes conscious. Tillich introduced this idea in his classic book The Dynamics of Faith, defining broken myth as “A myth which is understood as a myth, but not removed or replaced.”

The wonderful thing in Tillich includes his recognition that we can hold the dignity of symbols even while demythologising them. He also anticipates some mythicist ideas, which I will return to later. I would like to talk more about Tillich and will come back to this excellent book which it seems to me presents an unrivalled philosophical analysis of the role of myth in faith. For now a couple of great introductory links are at http://www.angelfire.com/md2/timewarp/tillich.html and
http://people.uwec.edu/beachea/tillich.html

I don’t know what you meant by ‘internal’ in your phrase an “internal perspective”, unless just the tautology that perspective is always internal to a head. Otherwise you seem to be arguing that we should respect blatantly false assertions on relativist grounds. Traffic rules are not like virgin birth.
Harry Marks wrote:
If you are going to include finding more facts as "making the unconscious conscious" then it is a somewhat shapeless category that tells us little.
Emotional commitments have unconscious drivers which are triggered by symbolic terms that resonate psychologically even though people don’t understand why. Making the unconscious conscious is far more than ‘finding more facts’. More pertinently, analytical psychology discovers that things people used to hold as factual are wrong and can be better explained by things of which they were unaware.

For example, the extent to which Jesus Christ functions like a solar myth is a fact that many Christians are not aware of, even though it subconsciously structures their faith.
Harry Marks wrote:
forces at work in myth are not necessarily unconscious in the sense of Freud's libido or Jung's anima and animus. Yes, if there is a connection to be made between seeing the world a certain way and doing the right thing, there are likely to be some unconscious processes that make it work or there would be no unpacking to do. But a very large share of those connections work consciously. Much of the raw material of religion is "sayings" (such as in the book of Proverbs). These work like Aesop's fables: capturing some useful truth about the world in a simple and memorable package.
Proverbs involve conscious ethical forces at work in religion, but proverbs and fables are not myths, in the sense of stories that are believed to be true. There is obviously conscious intent by the bard who recrafts the mythic content in an old song, but the reasons why his audience find a specific mythical story resonates with them are largely unconscious.

Myth becomes durable and popular when it speaks to the emotional needs of a society. For example Superman and Lex Luthor are mythical symbols that supported the American war against Germany, in ways that may have been deliberately constructed as propaganda but were not understood as such by the mass audience. Generally the power of myth relies on the ability to enter a fantasy world where disbelief is suspended, but its memetic power rests on unconscious factors.
Harry Marks wrote:
And when we are not able to see "the mechanism," as it were, it may not be because of anything unconscious, but is apparent if you simply ask the question. Why did the Church latch onto the Virgin Birth? I doubt if it was an unconscious purity need - I think the urge to claim purity was as plain in that case as in the RCC "immaculate conception of Mary."
But the mythical content in virgin birth dogma is not the purity need, it is the representation of that need in the paradox of the virgin mother as feminine icon, and the belief that the dignity and holiness of the messiah would be diminished by association with the corruption of sexuality. The immaculate conception is a truly bizarre example of unconscious need, which in this case includes social factors such as the patriarchal need for femininity to be controlled by masculinity and the need to have a feminine image of divinity, forcing their way into belief as an impossible gendered myth. As ever, BVM myths endure because their popularity shows they meet a social need.
Harry Marks wrote:
Recognizing psychological motivations needn't have anything to do with mysteries or over-arching invisible structures of archetype.
In the case you raised of the Blessed Virgin Mary that separation from mystery is obviously untrue. A purity motive is necessary for the BVM myth, but it is far from sufficient, since archetypal symbols enter so strongly into the social resonance of the idea that not only Jesus but Mary also was born of a virgin.
Harry Marks wrote:
Yours is the first time I have seen an application claiming that scientific truths were present in the unconscious before being recognized
Unconscious phenomena include repressed feelings, automatic skills, subliminal perceptions, thoughts, habits, automatic reactions, complexes, hidden phobias and desires (wiki). That gives plenty of scope for the action of unrecognised scientific truth. For example sleep is governed by an unconscious daily cycle which involves factors that can be measured in the blood, rather like the study of why we breathe without thinking about it.
Harry Marks wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
This recognition of cultural trauma appears to be a good explanation of the high value that the modern theory of liberal tolerance places on cultural relativism, the idea that no single truth can reconcile or measure conflicting perceptions of truth.

Oh, my, now here I think you are seriously off track. Cultural relativism is a fact: driving on the right side of the road is criminal in the U.K. and required in the U.S.
Sorry Harry, but it is you who is wrong here. (And this point actually remains relevant to Harrison's point that gave rise to this thread, regarding analysis of psychological drivers of bias.)

Your driving example would only be relevant to cultural relativism if someone said one or the other side were better, which never happens (except for practical reasons like in Samoa). A more relevant example to understand relativism is the claim that Islam is just as modern and sensible as Western values. You might like to be more careful that you actually have a point to make when you use rhetorical phrases like ‘oh, my’ which try to draw the reader to your point as if your perspective were obviously true.
Harry Marks wrote:
Whether it applies to the wide range of things claimed to be a matter of relative values is a more difficult question, but it does to at least some.
Cultural relativism is purely about values. It is defined in anthropology as the doctrine that “an individual human's beliefs and activities should be understood by others in terms of that individual's own culture.” (wiki) Acceptance of cultural relativism implies we have no universal standards to judge morality. It is a hotly debated topic in the politics of multiculturalism.
Harry Marks wrote:
This is a general phenomenon about values - two contradictory values can both be correct. Driving on the left is the correct side - in one context. Driving on the left is the wrong side - in a different context.
You are confusing a value (something that is perceived as good) with a rule or convention. Road rules are not moral values.

An example of moral variance in road rules is the Russian belief that seat belts are only for sissies. Relativism would insist there is no independent measure of this value system.
Harry Marks wrote:
You may hold out hope that we can someday spell out a complete system of when different values rankings are appropriate, but in the meantime tolerance and relativism are far from absurd. They are necessary! (In a world in which all contingencies are known with certainty, tolerance may be second-best to a system of exact specification of when to use particular values, but in a world in which these are not known, then tolerance is first-best. See how that works? "It depends" is a really useful phrase.)
My own Christian faith sees tolerance as a high value, and I agree that relativism is often necessary as a matter of practical respect and humility. But the ethics of tolerance become difficult when we are asked to tolerate unacceptable practices on relativist grounds.
Harry Marks wrote:
I think relativism is frequently claimed to be absolute truth, which is not only self-contradictory but overdoes a good thing. But it is rather important that we all recognize that truth about values does not work the same way as truth about facts and causal relations.
Some diversity in values is a good thing, for example with a healthy tension between conflicting values of cooperation and competition. But it would be wrong to insist on principle that values are not amenable to analysis by evidence.


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